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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

What are the five main claims about Donald Trump and his team from the alleged Russian dossier?

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump listens to questions from reporters in the lobby at Trump Tower

It is time for us to revisit the allegations made in the Russian Dossier.   The claims made seem even more credible than they did initially and they were believable then.

"At some point in 2016, a Washington DC based investigative agency began working with a former British foreign intelligence officer to look into Donald Trump's ties with Russia. 

Together they compiled a report, purportedly based on testimony from a network of high-placed sources in the Russian government and Mr Trump’s entourage. 

Over the summer, the document passed through the hands of senior Democratic party officials, the Republican senator John McCain (who was handed a copy by a former British diplomat who had served in Moscow and passed the document on to the FBI), and several Washington-based journalists.

The Telegraph first heard of some of the allegations in August, when a US former intelligence source said the Russians had material to blackmail Mr Trump. He cited a different source to the former British intelligence officer.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Mr Trump dismissed all of the claims, calling them "nonsense that was released by, maybe the intelligence agencies, who knows, but maybe the intelligence agencies ... It should never have been written, it should never have been released."

"It's all fake news. It didn't happen. It's phony stuff. It was a group of opponents who got together, sick people, who put that out."

These are the five central claims made in the report, which at the time of writing has not been independently verified.

1: Donald Trump’s family has been a Russian intelligence asset for at least five years 

The report says that the Russian relationship with Mr Trump works both ways. In exchange for assistance against Mrs Clinton’s campaign, Mr Trump has been gathering intelligence on the financial and other activities of Russian businessmen in the US, and passing it back to the Kremlin.

In a report dated June 2016, the author cites two anonymous sources – one a senior figure in the foreign ministry, the other an ex-Russian intelligence officer “still active in the Kremlin” – saying the relationship goes back at least five years.

That would mean Mr Trump’s relationship with Russia began in 2011. In a separate dispatch, dated to July 2016, the author cites a “Russian émigré” source on Mr Trump’s team who repeats the claim of gathering information about Russia businessmen, but says the relationship actually began eight years ago – in other words, 2008.

It is not made clear how this relationship was supposedly established, nor how it benefited Mr Trump prior to his election bid. As the report notes, his efforts to entice the Russian real estate sector have met will little success. 

Mr Trump said: “Russia just said the unverified report paid for by political opponents is "A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FABRICATION, UTTER NONSENSE." Very unfair!” He presumably meant that the substance of the report, not the Russian denial of it, was unfair.

2: The Kremlin holds “Kompromat” on him

The report claims the Russian government has gathered “kompromat” – embarrassing material that can be used for blackmail – on Mr Trump, including his alleged use of prostitutes in Moscow and St Petersburg.

One set of allegations, regarding a visit to Moscow in 2013, is very specific.

This claim is consistent with a few publicly known facts: it is true that Mr Trump visited Moscow that year to host a beauty pageant. It is also true that the Russian secret services have used embarrassing sex videos for political means in the past.

But there is no public evidence that stands up these particular allegations about what happened in the Ritz Moscow’s presidential suite in 2013. 

The dossier (perhaps conveniently) claims the Kremlin promised not to use the material in view of Mr Trump’s helpfulness over the years, and that witnesses of the St Petersburg escapades have been ‘silenced’. 

Mr Trump tweeted on Wednesday:  “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA - NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”

3: Trump's team knew about, paid for, and helped cover up the Russian hacking of the DNC

Not only did the Kremlin order hackers to steal and leak embarrassing emails from the Democratic Convention in order to damage Hillary Clinton, the dossier claims. 

According to the author’s host of anonymous sources, Mr Trump’s team was aware of the operation, partially paid the hackers, and cooperated on contingency plans for a cover up should it be found out.

The key claim is that Michael Cohen, a lawyer for Mr Trump, met with Kremlin contacts in Prague to discuss how to funnel the payments and cover up the trail. Responding to the allegations, Mr Cohen said he had never visited Prague in his life.

Investigative journalists with the Czech weekly Respek say they have found no record of him arriving in the city by air (he could conceivably have driven in from another European country, however, thanks to the Schengen zone’s open borders). 

The man he is said to have met, Oleg Solodukhin, is a serving diplomat at the Russian embassy there who is well known to in Prague think tank circles.  He denied meeting Mr Cohen when approached by reporters from Respekt.

4: The Kremlin “offered Trump an oil deal to drop sanctions”

Another claim centres on a much reported, but never proven (or disproven) meeting between Carter Page, a one-time Trump adviser, and Igor Sechin, Mr Putin’s long-time ally and the head of state oil company Rosneft.

The alleged meeting with Mr Sechin was first reported by Yahoo news, citing “intelligence reports” in September. It is unclear, but seems likely, that Yahoo’s source was the same report published by Buzzfeed.

The dossier claims Mr Sechin offered Mr Trump’s associates brokerage of 19 percent of Rosneft in a privatization plan in exchange for the suspension of sanctions against Russia should he win the election.

Mr Page did indeed visit Moscow in July, where he gave a speech at the New Economic School.

But both he and spokesmen for Rosneft have denied the “secret meeting” ever occurred.

Mr Page in September called the claim  “completely false and inconceivable”.

5: The operation caused an earthquake in the Kremlin

Vladimir Putin sacked Sergei Ivanov, his long serving chief of staff, for wrongly predicting the leaks would not be traced back to Russia, the dossier claims. 

Sources cited by the author say Mr Ivanov, a former KGB spy, and the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service, persuaded Mr Putin to authorise the DNC leaks despite warnings from the Russian foreign ministry that it could be counter productive.

When the foreign ministry proved to be right, Mr Ivanov had to go, according to this account.

Like all Kremlinology, this claim is neither entirely implausible nor easily verifiable.

Mr Ivanov’s resignation in August did indeed come as a shock for Kremlinologists, and led commentators to propose several  lurid  (and utterly unsubstantiated) theories, including the idea that he was plotting a coup.

There are, however, much more mundane explanations.

For example, Kremlin spin doctors briefed journalists at the time that Mr Ivanov retired because he was exhausted, ill, and badly affected by the death of his only son.  That may well be a political cover story, but it is at least as plausible as any other tale.

The dossier is also inconsistent.

Another source quoted in a different memos says Mr Ivanov was furious at the leaks, which were actually coordinated by Mr Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov.

The sources even claim the fallout from the hacking scandal sparked a three-way conflict between Mr Peskov, Mr Ivanov, and Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister.

This kind of juicy insider detail is the bread and butter of Kremlinology. And because the Kremlin is so opaque, it will probably be years before we know whether it is true or false.

Mr Peskov called the claims “pulp fiction.”  “This is an absolute canard, an absolute fabrication, and it’s complete nonsense,” he said in a statement on Wednesday. “The Kremlin does not engage in collecting kompromat.”

What are the five main claims about Donald Trump and his team from the alleged Russian dossier?

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Border Wall: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Why Is Trump So Friendly Toward Russia and Putin? - The Atlantic

Why Is Trump So Friendly Toward Russia and Putin? - The Atlantic

Bill Maher on MSNBC: ‘It’s About Time’ We Call Trump a ‘Traitor’

Bill Maher on MSNBC: ‘It’s About Time’ We Call Trump a ‘Traitor’

Mueller probe a focus of Barr confirmation hearing - The Washington Post

"Attorney general nominee William P. Barr is due to face tough questions Tuesday at his Senate confirmation hearing, as he pledges not to hamper or kill special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Donald Trump’s political campaign.

The hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m., and it promises to be a public showdown between Barr — whose prepared remarks show he is willing to pledge that there will not be political interference with the Justice Department’s work — and Democrats seeking to extract several ironclad assurances.

[Read Barr’s written testimony]

“If confirmed, I will not permit partisan politics, personal interests, or any other improper consideration to interfere with this or any other investigation,” Barr said in his prepared testimony, made available Monday. “I will follow the special counsel regulations scrupulously and in good faith, and on my watch, Bob will be allowed to complete his work.”

Democrats are expected to press Barr about whether he would recuse himself from the Russia investigation if such a move is recommended by Justice Department ethics officials.

Some have called for Barr, who served as attorney general during the George H.W. Bush presidency in the early 1990s, to bow out of the Russia case because of public statements he has made about the investigation and a private memo he sent to Justice Department officials in 2018 highly critical of part of Mueller’s investigation.

In that memo, Barr wrote that Mueller’s apparent theory of possible obstruction of justice by the president was “fatally misconceived.”

[Read Barr’s full 2018 memo here]

The Barr hearing is expected to be a partisan battle over the future of the Mueller investigation, but that by itself is unlikely to affect Barr’s chances of becoming the nation’s top law enforcement official because Republicans have majority control of the Senate.

Still, the hearing will allow for a public airing of two years of tension between the White House, the Justice Department and Congress over the future of the special counsel’s work and the broader independence of federal law enforcement.

In his written testimony, Barr vowed to maintain the Justice Department’s independence and said that Trump — who has been publicly critical of the FBI and Justice Department — “sought no assurances, promises, or commitments from me of any kind, either express or implied, and I have not given him any, other than that I would run the department with professionalism and integrity.”

Mueller probe a focus of Barr confirmation hearing - The Washington Post

The FBI Investigated Whether Trump Worked for Russia: A Closer Look

Old Tappan Zee Bridge comes down in demolition |

Old Tappan Zee Bridge comes down in demolition |

William Barr’s slick performance shouldn’t fool anyone. He needs to recuse from the Mueller probe.


William Barr’s slick performance shouldn’t fool anyone.:

National Security Officials Alarmed Over President Donald Trump NATO Tal...

Trump Discussed Pulling U.S. From NATO, Aides Say Amid New Concerns Over Russia - The New York Times

"WASHINGTON — There are few things that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia desires more than the weakening of NATO, the military alliance among the United States, Europe and Canada that has deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.

Last year, President Trump suggested a move tantamount to destroying NATO: the withdrawal of the United States.

Senior administration officials told The New York Times that several times over the course of 2018, Mr. Trump privately said he wanted to withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Current and former officials who support the alliance said they feared Mr. Trump could return to his threat as allied military spending continued to lag behind the goals the president had set.

In the days around a tumultuous NATO summit meeting last summer, they said, Mr. Trump told his top national security officials that he did not see the point of the military alliance, which he presented as a drain on the United States.

At the time, Mr. Trump’s national security team, including Jim Mattis, then the defense secretary, and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, scrambled to keep American strategy on track without mention of a withdrawal that would drastically reduce Washington’s influence in Europe and could embolden Russia for decades.

Now, the president’s repeatedly stated desire to withdraw from NATO is raising new worries among national security officials amid growing concern about Mr. Trump’s efforts to keep his meetings with Mr. Putin secret from even his own aides, and an F.B.I. investigation into the administration’s Russia ties.

A move to withdraw from the alliance, in place since 1949, “would be one of the most damaging things that any president could do to U.S. interests,” said Michèle A. Flournoy, an under secretary of defense under President Barack Obama.

“It would destroy 70-plus years of painstaking work across multiple administrations, Republican and Democratic, to create perhaps the most powerful and advantageous alliance in history,” Ms. Flournoy said in an interview. “And it would be the wildest success that Vladimir Putin could dream of.”

Retired Adm. James G. Stavridis, the former supreme allied commander of NATO, said an American withdrawal from the alliance would be “a geopolitical mistake of epic proportion.”

“Even discussing the idea of leaving NATO — let alone actually doing so — would be the gift of the century for Putin,” Admiral Stavridis said.

Senior Trump administration officials discussed the internal and highly sensitive efforts to preserve the military alliance on condition of anonymity.

After the White House was asked for comment on Monday, a senior administration official pointed to Mr. Trump’s remarks in July when he called the United States’ commitment to NATO “very strong” and the alliance “very important.” The official declined to comment further.

American national security officials believe that Russia has largely focused on undermining solidarity between the United States and Europe after it annexed Crimea in 2014. Its goal was to upend NATO, which Moscow views as a threat.

Russia’s meddling in American elections and its efforts to prevent former satellite states from joining the alliance have aimed to weaken what it views as an enemy next door, the American officials said. With a weakened NATO, they said, Mr. Putin would have more freedom to behave as he wishes, setting up Russia as a counterweight to Europe and the United States.

An American withdrawal from the alliance would accomplish all that Mr. Putin has been trying to put into motion, the officials said — essentially, doing the Russian leader’s hardest and most critical work for him.

When Mr. Trump first raised the possibility of leaving the alliance, senior administration officials were unsure if he was serious. He has returned to the idea several times, officials said increasing their worries.

Mr. Trump’s dislike of alliances abroad and American commitments to international organizations is no secret.

The president has repeatedly and publicly challenged or withdrawn from a number of military and economic partnerships, from the Paris climate accord to an Asia-Pacific trade pact. He has questioned the United States’ military alliance with South Korea and Japan, and he has announced a withdrawal of American troops from Syria without first consulting allies in the American-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State.

NATO had planned to hold a leaders meeting in Washington to mark its 70th anniversary in April, akin to the 50-year celebration that was hosted by President Bill Clinton in 1999. But this year’s meeting has been downgraded to a foreign ministers gathering, as some diplomats feared that Mr. Trump could use a Washington summit meeting to renew his attacks on the alliance.

Leaders are now scheduled to meet at the end of 2019, but not in Washington.

Mr. Trump’s threats to withdraw had sent officials scrambling to prevent the annual gathering of NATO leaders in Brussels last July from turning into a disaster.

Senior national security officials had already pushed the military alliance’s ambassadors to complete a formal agreement on several NATO goals — including shared defenses against Russia — before the summit meeting even began, to shield it from Mr. Trump.

But Mr. Trump upended the proceedings anyway. One meeting, on July 12, was ostensibly supposed to be about Ukraine and Georgia — two non-NATO members with aspirations to join the alliance.

Accepted protocol dictates that alliance members do not discuss internal business in front of nonmembers. But as is frequently the case, Mr. Trump did not adhere to the established norms, according to several American and European officials who were in the room.

He complained that European governments were not spending enough on the shared costs of defense, leaving the United States to carry an outsize burden. He expressed frustration that European leaders would not, on the spot, pledge to spend more. And he appeared not to grasp the details when several tried to explain to him that spending levels were set by parliaments in individual countries, the American and European officials said.

Then, at another leaders gathering at the same summit meeting, Mr. Trump appeared to be taken by surprise by Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general.

Backing Mr. Trump’s position, Mr. Stoltenberg pushed allies to increase their spending and praised the United States for leading by example — including by increasing its military spending in Europe. At that, according to one official who was in the room, Mr. Trump whipped his head around and glared at American officials behind him, surprised by Mr. Stoltenberg’s remarks and betraying ignorance of his administration’s own spending plans.

Mr. Trump appeared especially annoyed, officials in the meeting said, with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and her country’s military spending of 1 percent of its gross domestic product.

By comparison, the United States’ military spending is about 4 percent of G.D.P., and Mr. Trump has railed against allies for not meeting the NATO spending goal of 2 percent of economic output. At the summit meeting, he surprised the leaders by demanding 4 percent — a move that would essentially put the goal out of reach for many alliance members. He also threatened that the United States would “go its own way” in 2019 if military spending from other NATO countries did not rise.

During the middle of a speech by Ms. Merkel, Mr. Trump again broke protocol by getting up and leaving, sending ripples of shock across the room, according to American and European officials who were there. But before he left, the president walked behind Ms. Merkel and interrupted her speech to call her a great leader. Startled and relieved that Mr. Trump had not continued his berating of the leaders, the people in the room clapped.

In the end, the NATO leaders publicly papered over their differences to present a unified front. But both European leaders and American officials emerged from the two days in Brussels shaken and worried that Mr. Trump would renew his threat to withdraw from the alliance.

Mr. Trump’s skepticism of NATO appears to be a core belief, administration officials said, akin to his desire to expropriate Iraq’s oil. While officials have explained multiple times why the United States cannot take Iraq’s oil, Mr. Trump returns to the issue every few months.

Similarly, just when officials think the issue of NATO membership has been settled, Mr. Trump again brings up his desire to leave the alliance.

Any move by Mr. Trump against NATO would most likely invite a response by Congress. American policy toward Russia is the one area where congressional Republicans have consistently bucked Mr. Trump, including with new sanctions on Moscow and by criticizing his warm July 16 news conference with Mr. Putin in Helsinki, Finland.

Members of NATO may withdraw after a notification period of a year, under Article 13 of the Washington Treaty. Such a delay would give Congress time to try blocking any attempt by Mr. Trump to leave.

“It’s alarming that the president continues to falsely assert that NATO does not contribute to the overall safety of the United States or the international community,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat who is among the lawmakers who support legislation to stop Mr. Trump from withdrawing from the military alliance. “The Senate knows better and stands ready to defend NATO.”

NATO’s popularity with the public continues to be strong. But the alliance has become a more partisan issue, with Democrats showing strong enthusiasm and Republican support softening, according to a survey by the Ronald Reagan Institute.

Kay Bailey Hutchison, Washington’s ambassador to NATO and a former Republican senator, has sought to build support for the alliance in Congress, including helping to organize a bipartisan group of backers.

But even if Congress moved to block a withdrawal, a statement by Mr. Trump that he wanted to leave would greatly damage NATO. Allies feeling threatened by Russia already have extreme doubts about whether Mr. Trump would order troops to come to their aid.

In his resignation letter last month, Mr. Mattis specifically cited his own commitment to America’s alliances in an implicit criticism of Mr. Trump’s principles. Mr. Mattis originally said he would stay through the next NATO meeting at the end of February, but Mr. Trump pushed him out before the new year.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan is believed to support the alliance. But he has also pointedly said he thinks that the Pentagon should not be “the Department of No” to the president.

European and American officials said the presence of Mr. Mattis, a former top NATO commander, had reassured allies that a senior Trump administration official had their back. His exit from the Pentagon has increased worries among some European diplomats that the safety blanket has now been lost."

Trump Discussed Pulling U.S. From NATO, Aides Say Amid New Concerns Over Russia - The New York Times


Opinion | Donald Trump: The Russia File - The New York Times

"Americans deserve to know what the president and Vladimir Putin are talking about.

The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

If, beleaguered or bemused by the onrush of scandal and political antics, you’re searching for some index of just how truly not-normal American governance has become, you might consider this: Standing on the White House lawn on Monday morning, his own government shut down around him, the president of the United States was asked by reporters if he was working for Russia.

He said that he was not. “Not only did I never work for Russia, I think it's a disgrace that you even asked that question, because it's a whole big fat hoax,” President Trump said.

Yet the reporters were right to ask, given Mr. Trump’s bizarre pattern of behavior toward a Russian regime that the Republican Party quite recently regarded as America’s chief rival. Indeed, it’s unnerving that more people — particularly in the leadership of the Republican Party — aren’t alarmed by Mr. Trump’s secretive communications with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and reliance on his word over the conclusions of American intelligence agencies.

The Times reported last week that the F.B.I. started a counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Trump in 2017 after he fired James Comey, the bureau’s director, to determine whether Russia had influenced him. The Washington Post reported over the weekend that the president has concealed details about his meetings with Mr. Putin even from officials of his own administration — going so far, on at least one occasion, as to confiscate his interpreter's notes.

These revelations joined a long list of suspicious incidents and connections between Mr. Trump and the Russian government.

The Russian government interfered in the 2016 election in order to get Mr. Trump elected, of course. America’s intelligence community agrees on that. The special counsel, Robert Mueller, is examining what happened before and after Election Day between the campaign and Mr. Putin’s government.

But Mr. Trump’s behavior simply since he’s been in office hasn’t given any peace of mind even to those willing to give him the benefit of the doubt — at least, those outside the Republican leadership.

In the past month, the president announced that American troops would pull out of the conflict in Syria, something that the Russians have long called for. Mr. Trump subsequently said the Soviet Union was right to invade Afghanistan in 1979, parroting Russian revisionist history by claiming it was seeking to quell terrorism.

This month, it was revealed that federal prosecutors had accused Mr. Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort of sharing political polling data in 2016 with an associate linked to Russian intelligence, the most direct evidence to date that the campaign may have tried to coordinate with Russia.

Meanwhile, the Treasury Department is pushing to end sanctions against companies owned by Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch closely tied to Mr. Putin. Those sanctions were put in place in 2018 in retaliation for Russian meddling with the election.

Despite Mr. Trump’s insistence that he has been “much tougher on Russia” than previous presidents, he sure has a strange way of showing it. Throughout his time in the White House Mr. Trump has praised leaders aligned with Mr. Putin, like Marine Le Pen in France and Viktor Orban in Hungary. He has praised Mr. Putin outright.

At the same time, the president has fired broadside after broadside at the twin pillars of stability in Western Europe: the European Union and NATO. He reportedly suggested that France leave the bloc and repeatedly called into question whether the United States would stand by its commitments to the military alliance. Weakening Western unity, as evidenced by those organizations, has long animated Russian foreign policy.

Some of these moves are consistent with Mr. Trump’s isolationism and pronounced yen for authoritarians, and perhaps also with his demonstrated ignorance of history.

It’s harder to come up with a rational excuse for Mr. Trump’s secrecy about his dealings with Mr. Putin, or for why, in 2017, he shared highly classified information from Israel with the Russian foreign minister in a meeting in the Oval Office while also boasting about relieving heat from the investigation into his possible Russia ties by firing the F.B.I. director. Mr. Trump has also sided with Mr. Putin and against the conclusions of American intelligence agencies by denying that the Russian government tampered with the election.

While Mr. Trump has plenty of kind words for a foreign leader who doesn’t have America’s best interests at heart, he seems to be willing to heap no end of abuse on his fellow Americans, particularly those in the F.B.I. and the Justice Department who have sworn to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

On Monday, Mr. Trump lashed out at F.B.I. agents for opening the counterintelligence investigation against him, calling them “known scoundrels.”

With the House of Representatives newly under Democratic control, Mr. Trump might finally receive meaningful oversight that could help either uncover wrongdoing or put Americans’ minds at ease about their president.

On Sunday, the new Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, urged his Republican colleagues to back his effort to obtain notes or testimony from the interpreter present at the meetings between Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump.

“Shouldn’t we find out whether our president is really putting ‘America first?’” Mr. Schiff tweeted.

This is not a new or unexplored possibility, even among Republicans at one time.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” Kevin McCarthy, who was then House majority leader, told his fellow Republicans at a closed-door meeting, The Washington Post first reported, shortly before Mr. Trump won his party’s nomination for the White House in 2016.

Dana Rohrabacher, a 15-term congressman from California who lost his bid for re-election in November, was such a staunch supporter of Moscow on Capitol Hill that the F.B.I. concluded that Russian spies were trying to recruit him.

Mr. McCarthy said later that his line about Mr. Trump being paid by Moscow was a quip that landed flat.

What’s no laughing matter is the unwillingness of the Republican Party to cast a critical eye upon a sitting president who has so flouted accepted practice for dealing with any foreign leader — not to mention one as adversarial as Vladimir Putin."

Opinion | Donald Trump: The Russia File - The New York Times

Monday, January 14, 2019

Impeach Trump!

Why Trump Is the most fact-checked president

President Donald Trump arrives at a rally on Nov. 4, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn. (AP Photo)

"It’s astounding even now, two years into Donald Trump’s presidency, how many things he says on a daily basis that just aren’t true.
Here are some of the president’s most frequent falsehoods: U.S. Steel is opening six plants (it’s not); Barack Obama’s administration had the same policy as Trump’s of separating children from adults at the border (it didn’t); Trump signed the largest tax cut in history (Ronald Reagan, among others, has him beat); a caravan of migrants was stirred up by Democrats offering health care and food benefits paid for by taxpayers (not quite); other countries owe the U.S. a lot of money for nato (this is false); the building of a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border is well under way (nope). None of this is true.  
Other presidents have spun whoppers to the American people for political advantage before Trump, and some of those untruths—regarding the realities of the Vietnam War, for example—were hugely consequential.
Trump’s falsehoods haven’t caused the deaths of thousands or any immediate calamity. Instead, it’s the drip-drip-drip of Trump’s exaggerations—and the reinforcement they get on social media—that makes his rhetoric unprecedented. That, plus his unabashed willingness to repeat falsehoods in the face of direct contradiction.
Take, for example, Trump’s justification for one of the most controversial policies of his presidency, the separation of children and adults at the southern border. Previous administrations had occasionally split up families, but Trump and his then–attorney general, Jeff Sessions, pursued a zero-tolerance policy on prosecuting all illegal crossings that made the separations common. Trump’s response to public outcry? He said the Obama administration had done the same thing. That was not true.
In October 2018, Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes grilled Trump on the separation policy. His response: "Yeah, well, that was the same as the Obama law. You know, Obama had the same thing."
Stahl challenged him: "It was on the books, but he didn't enforce it. You enforced it. You launched the zero-tolerance policy to deter families with children [from] coming."
Stahl and Trump then parried back and forth, with Trump persisting until he got the last word: "It’s the same as Obama."
Weeks later, Trump was again asked about the policy, and he said it again: "Obama had a separation policy; we all had the same policy." This time he was challenged by the CBS reporter Paula Reid: "Sir, it was different. You decided to prosecute everyone at the border." Trump simply moved on to another reporter’s question about the European Union and Brexit.
Those interactions are pretty typical for Trump on any topic. He seems to repeat the same talking points over and over, going for whatever sounds best to his ear in the moment. It’s hard to tell whether Trump even believes what he’s saying himself. Sometimes he seems completely sincere; other times, it sounds as if he’s making a joke for his own amusement. Accuracy seems irrelevant.
Why does Trump lie so much? Only he can answer that question, but it’s certainly a long-standing behavior that dates back to his time in luxury real estate and reality television. In his 1987 book, The Art of the Deal, Trump said truth-bending was strategic: "People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration—and a very effective form of promotion."
As president, Trump has perfected rolling out one outrageous falsehood after another, then riding the wave of media attention to the next controversy. He almost never apologizes or backtracks.
Fact-checkers have had the opportunity to both debunk important falsehoods and spend hours correcting small ones. As the editor of PolitiFact, I know firsthand what this is like.
At the end of 2018, PolitiFact curated Trump’s most politically significant falsehoods and came up with a list of 10 substantive statements, from disputing Puerto Rico’s death toll after a devastating hurricane hit the island to saying how much Saudi Arabia was spending on American-made weapons. The Washington Post has a project to document every false or merely misleading thing Trump has said; it is at more than 7,000 misstatements and counting. has dubbed Trump the "King of Whoppers" for his repeated falsehoods.
This coverage infuriates Trump’s fans. They are right to say that no president has been fact-checked more than Trump. So many Trump falsehoods have been analyzed, debunked, and explained by fact-checkers and journalists. And that’s the double-edged sword of our time. In the internet age, whatever a president says is sure to find a home full of believers with startling speed. But also: Those who do the checking can use the same technology to pull the curtain back on a president’s words. The public that wants the truth has access to entire databases of facts and analysis documenting the veracity (or lack thereof) of so much of what Trump has said, all just a few clicks away. Whether facts and evidence hold sway in our current political debates is a serious question. But for voters who want to make decisions based on facts, there’s an ample supply. " 
Why Trump Is the most fact-checked president

Shutdown threatens housing funds for low-income senior citizens

Shutdown threatens housing funds for low-income senior citizens

Rep. Steve King's racism begins to catch up with him among GOP

Rep. Steve King's racism begins to catch up with him among GOP

Trump Confronts the Prospect of a ‘Nonstop Political War’ for Survival - The New York Times

Trump Confronts the Prospect of a ‘Nonstop Political War’ for Survival - The New York Times

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Rudy Giuliani’s Mystery Trips to Russia, Armenia and… — ProPublica

Rudy Giuliani’s Mystery Trips to Russia, Armenia and… — ProPublica

Sen. Lindsey Graham on Fox News: Government Shutdown is ‘Inconvenient‘

"Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and close ally of the White House, went on Fox News Sunday and described the impact of the government shutdown on federal workers as “inconvenient.”

On Dec. 23, funding about about a quarter of federal government operations ran out because President Donald Trump refused to sign legislation keeping the government open. He would have signed it, he said, if it included billions of dollars to build a wall on the southern border.

For more than three weeks now, the government has been partially closed. On Friday, hundreds of thousands of federal workers got paychecks for $0.00. On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace pressed Graham about the predicament..."

Sen. Lindsey Graham on Fox News: Government Shutdown is ‘Inconvenient‘

Trump's relationship with Putin under scrutiny after new reports

Let’s Talk This Out - Bryan Cranston’s Controversial Casting in “The Ups...

Trump and medieval ideas | Drawn by Jake Tapper

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Trump has concealed details of his face-to-face encounters with Putin from senior officials in administration - The Washington Post

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President Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Russian President Vladi mir Putin, including on at least one occasion taking possession of the notes of his own interpreter and instructing the linguist not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials, current and former U.S. officials said.

Trump did so after a meeting with Putin in 2017 in Hamburg that was also attended by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. U.S. officials learned of Trump’s actions when a White House adviser and a senior State Department official sought information from the interpreter beyond a readout shared by Tillerson.

The constraints that Trump imposed are part of a broader pattern by the president of shielding his communications with Putin from public scrutiny and preventing even high-ranking officials in his own administration from fully knowing what he has told one of the United States’ main adversaries.

As a result, U.S. officials said there is no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump’s face-to-face interactions with the Russian leader at five locations over the past two years. Such a gap would be unusual in any presidency, let alone one that Russia sought to install through what U.S. intelligence agencies have described as an unprecedented campaign of election interference.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is thought to be in the final stages of an investigation that has focused largely on whether Trump or his associates conspired with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. The new details about Trump’s continued secrecy underscore the extent to which little is known about his communications with Putin since becoming president."

Trump has concealed details of his face-to-face encounters with Putin from senior officials in administration - The Washington Post:

Kamala Harris Is Hard to Define Politically. Maybe That’s the Point. - The New York Times










"If Senator Kamala Harris’s book tour is a preview of her likely presidential campaign, the early signs point to a catchall message meant for Democrats across the spectrum.

Speaking Friday night at the 92nd Street Y on New York’s Upper East Side, Ms. Harris covered many bases: her origin story from Oakland to Capitol Hill, what drew her into public life and the importance of voters “seeing themselves” reflected in the nation’s array of leaders. She cited her work to reform the juvenile criminal justice system in California as one of her biggest policy accomplishments. She talked about the necessity for Democrats to work in a bipartisan fashion while standing strong against a White House that many of their voters view as corrupt.

It was a broad, biography-heavy message — not a rigid ideological mantra — meant to lay groundwork for a national profile as she prepares a next possible step: joining a growing field of Democrats who will compete to take on President Trump.

“Anything worth fighting for is a fight worth having,” Ms. Harris said. “There is a democracy in place, and if we fight — maybe we won’t win all the time — but it will matter.”
But as some audience members noted after her remarks, and voters nationwide may learn soon, almost everything about Ms. Harris is more complex than it appears.

Though rated as one of the most liberal members of the Senate, Ms. Harris speaks less about Wall Street corruption and economic populism than do Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, two fellow senators who are also looking to a 2020 matchup against Mr. Trump. Ms. Harris has built a devoted following because of her Senate committee interrogations of Trump administration officials, but she remains disliked by some criminal justice activists who say her policies as California attorney general and San Francisco district attorney helped increase the state’s prison population.

Even her race and her life story — she is often described as one of two African-American women to have served in the Senate — are more textured in context: She has a Tamil Indian mother and a Jamaican father and spent some of her teenage years in Montreal.

Ava Leegant, a surgeon from San Francisco who came to the event skeptical of Ms. Harris’s presidential chances, said she left bullish about her appeal.

“I didn’t think someone from California could speak to all parts of the country,” Ms. Leegant said, “but I was impressed.”
“She’s my first choice to be my first choice,” said Betsy Kagen, a 33-year-old film editor who attended the talk.

The themes of Ms. Harris’s new book, “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey,” could help her stand out in a crowded Democratic presidential primary. More than a dozen candidates are expected to join the presidential race in the coming months, and as the party searches for its next iteration after two decades of dominance by the Clintons and Barack Obama, questions of policy, identity and tone in the campaign will be paramount.

Longtime strategists and admirers of Ms. Harris believe she is well positioned to create electoral coalitions among Democrats desperate to beat Mr. Trump, partly because she is not tethered to any one of the divergent and sometimes warring factions of the party. On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Friday morning, Ms. Harris was asked, “Why would you want to be president?” and responded by citing the need for leaders who have a “vision of our country in which everyone can see themselves.”

“Her message of unity, that’s the key,” said Valoree Celona, a 50-year-old insurance executive who came to the 92nd Street Y with friends. “If she can get people to have that hope again, that’s what’s important. That’s what President Obama did.”

But Ms. Harris would also need to grapple with Democratic rivals who are more ideologically liberal and may try to move the debate to the left in ways that could force difficult choices for her.

Mr. Sanders, the Vermont senator and 2016 presidential candidate who is considering running again, has demonstrated an ability to shift conversation toward more populist themes like free public colleges and campaign finance reform. Ms. Warren, the Massachusetts senator who became the first major candidate to announce presidential intentions and head to Iowa, has drawn attention for challenging Democratic candidates to propose a more broad restructuring of American society that would address economic inequality. Ms. Warren rarely mentioned Mr. Trump on the campaign trail, and is pushing primary candidates to have a more policy-driven discussion.

“We need change,” Ms. Warren said at multiple stops during her Iowa trip. “And not just one statute here or one law there. We need big structural change.”
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Rebecca Katz, a progressive political consultant based in New York who is not working for a 2020 candidate, said she believes that women and nonwhite candidates are scrutinized more than white male politicians, yet hopes that Ms. Harris will embrace bold ideas and tell more of her personal story even if it seems risky. Mo Elleithee, the former spokesman of the Democratic National Committee who now leads Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service, said that much of the country is still unaware of Ms. Harris, and that she has time to refine a national narrative that resonates with many groups of Democrats.

Reviews of Ms. Harris’s book have been mixed, as critics have accused her of not adequately grappling with several controversial stances she took as California attorney general and others have characterized it as overly reliant on political clichés.

In the memoir, which was released simultaneously with a children’s book by Ms. Harris called “Superheroes Are Everywhere,” she repeatedly writes that she does not believe in “false choices.” This can mean both meaningful workers’ rights and a strong economy, she writes at one point, but she also applies the concept to police accountability and public safety.

“I know how hard it is for the officers’ families, who have to wonder if the person they love will be coming home at the end of each shift,” Ms. Harris writes. “I also know this: It is a false choice to suggest you must either be for the police or for police accountability. I am for both. Most people I know are for both. Let’s speak some truth about that, too.”

Sean Clegg, a longtime political adviser who is expected to play a senior role in any presidential campaign from Ms. Harris, said that if she ran she would discuss issues like income inequality, but that the message would be coupled with a call for partisan healing.

Paul Berkman, a 72-year-old New Yorker who attended the book talk, said he wished Ms. Harris talked about more policy ideas during her conversation, which was moderated by the poet Cleo Wade. Mr. Berkman said he left not knowing her answer to the “why-are-you-running-for-president” question every candidate faces.

“She seems like a likable person, but there’s so many candidates — I want someone to verbalize why it should be them,” he said.
Sarah Weiss, a 33-year-old book editor, said she was disappointed by Ms. Harris’s talk, especially after the heavy policy focus of Ms. Warren’s trip to Iowa.

“My concern is that she’s not liberal enough, and she talks in clichés that are kind of meaningless,” Ms. Weiss said of Ms. Harris. “She keeps saying there’s more that connects us than divides us, but at this time in politics, it seems like that’s not enough.”

At that point her friend Rachel Steinberg chimed in: “She is not running for president yet! She doesn’t need a platform.”

They agreed to disagree."

Kamala Harris Is Hard to Define Politically. Maybe That’s the Point. - The New York Times:

Opinion | I’m a Dreamer and a Rhodes Scholar. Where Do I Belong? - The New York Times










"A person shouldn’t have to be a “genius” or “economically productive” to have access to equal opportunity."

By Jin Park

"In November, I became the first Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals beneficiary to win the Rhodes scholarship. The news was bittersweet.

In 2017 the Trump administration rescinded the option for overseas travel for those with DACA status, the Dreamers who were brought to this country illegally as children. This means that when I leave the country in October to study at Oxford with my fellow Rhodes scholars, I may not be able to come back.

This is a perpetual reality of being undocumented: I never know if I have a place in America — my home — even after receiving one of the most esteemed scholarships in the world.

My family left South Korea during the Asian financial crisis in 1997. I remember being whisked away in the middle of the night when I was 7 and boarding a flight for what my parents said was “a magical place” called America. At the time, I was unaware of the economic forces that had compelled my parents to make the journey to a new country.
We settled in a Korean enclave in Flushing, Queens. The language, people, smells and flavors reminded us of home, and that helped ease our transition into our new life. My mother found work in a beauty salon, providing manicures and facials. My father was hired as a line cook in a Korean restaurant, working 12-hour shifts six days a week.

I started going to a school in a nearby Korean church. I slowly began adapting to my new life. I found comfort in learning how to speak English. Despite their demanding workload, my parents were resolute and nurturing. When my father learned that playing baseball was an American rite of passage, we’d go out to the sidewalk in front of our apartment complex to play. He didn’t know how to pitch, but he tried to teach me anyway. In 2012 I received DACA status, which allowed me to apply to Harvard. I graduated in December with a degree in biology and government.

These days the conversation around immigration is centered on conspiracy theories and racially charged statements. I’m reminded daily that I don’t belong here, and find myself having to justify why I should be allowed to remain.

I can argue that I am smart, driven and able to contribute to this country, just like my fellow undocumented immigrants. We pay taxes to help keep systems such as Medicare and Social Security solvent — systems that we may never directly benefit from.

According to a 2017 study, 91 percent of Dreamers are employed and will contribute $460.3 billion to the gross domestic product over the next decade. Over 65 percent of us are pursuing a degree in higher education.
And yet I resist citing my “intelligence” or “abilities” to defend my presence here, because a human being need not be a Rhodes scholar to be treated with basic fairness and decency. A human being shouldn’t have to be a “genius” or “economically productive” to have access to equal opportunity.

We are your co-workers, your friends, your classmates and your fellow Americans — we work, learn and laugh alongside you.

As I attempt to make sense of what it means to be an undocumented immigrant, I often retreat into the Pusey Archives at Harvard to pore through the personal library of John Rawls. Rawls, considered the most important philosopher in the 20th century, concentrated on one crucial question: How can a society establish just institutions when there are seemingly irreconcilable differences among its members? He argues that we must recognize first and foremost those who stand among us, who are members of the union, and who therefore must be treated fairly.

I plan to use my time at Oxford to think about how undocumented immigrants can urge this country to recognize that we are American — we stand among you and we are embedded in this country, its practices and its institutions. I hope to start a dialogue about how we as Americans can collectively forge a common identity that respects human rights.

When I step on that plane in October and leave the United States for the first time since I arrived 16 years ago, I will think of the bustling flea market on 41st Street and Union Avenue in Flushing, and of the smell of freshly made spicy tteokbokki rice cakes in Korean eateries along Northern Boulevard that I pass on my way to the 7 train. These are my roots. These are the sights and sounds that nurtured me as I became the person I am today.

Walking through those streets has taken on a new meaning as I grapple with the knowledge that soon it may very well be the last time I do so.

There’s a Korean adage that warns that, “What becomes far from the eyes becomes far from the heart.” Yet I have no doubt that these sights and sounds will carry me and remain with me wherever I go, because that’s the nature of home: It stays with you even if the country you call home won’t accept you.

Jin Park is a 2018 graduate of Harvard."

Opinion | I’m a Dreamer and a Rhodes Scholar. Where Do I Belong? - The New York Times:

F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia - The New York Times

"WASHINGTON — In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.

The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.

The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice.

Agents and senior F.B.I. officials had grown suspicious of Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign but held off on opening an investigation into him, the people said, in part because they were uncertain how to proceed with an inquiry of such sensitivity and magnitude. But the president’s activities before and after Mr. Comey’s firing in May 2017, particularly two instances in which Mr. Trump tied the Comey dismissal to the Russia investigation, helped prompt the counterintelligence aspect of the inquiry, the people said.

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, took over the inquiry into Mr. Trump when he was appointed, days after F.B.I. officials opened it. That inquiry is part of Mr. Mueller’s broader examination of how Russian operatives interfered in the 2016 election and whether any Trump associates conspired with them. It is unclear whether Mr. Mueller is still pursuing the counterintelligence matter, and some former law enforcement officials outside the investigation have questioned whether agents overstepped in opening it.

The criminal and counterintelligence elements were coupled together into one investigation, former law enforcement officials said in interviews in recent weeks, because if Mr. Trump had ousted the head of the F.B.I. to impede or even end the Russia investigation, that was both a possible crime and a national security concern. The F.B.I.’s counterintelligence division handles national security matters.

If the president had fired Mr. Comey to stop the Russia investigation, the action would have been a national security issue because it naturally would have hurt the bureau’s effort to learn how Moscow interfered in the 2016 election and whether any Americans were involved, according to James A. Baker, who served as F.B.I. general counsel until late 2017. He privately testified in October before House investigators who were examining the F.B.I.’s handling of the full Russia inquiry.

“Not only would it be an issue of obstructing an investigation, but the obstruction itself would hurt our ability to figure out what the Russians had done, and that is what would be the threat to national security,” Mr. Baker said in his testimony, portions of which were read to The New York Times. Mr. Baker did not explicitly acknowledge the existence of the investigation of Mr. Trump to congressional investigators.

No evidence has emerged publicly that Mr. Trump was secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian government officials. An F.B.I. spokeswoman and a spokesman for the special counsel’s office both declined to comment.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, a lawyer for the president, sought to play down the significance of the investigation. “The fact that it goes back a year and a half and nothing came of it that showed a breach of national security means they found nothing,” Mr. Giuliani said on Friday, though he acknowledged that he had no insight into the inquiry.

The cloud of the Russia investigation has hung over Mr. Trump since even before he took office, though he has long vigorously denied any illicit connection to Moscow. The obstruction inquiry, revealed by The Washington Post a few weeks after Mr. Mueller was appointed, represented a direct threat that he was unable to simply brush off as an overzealous examination of a handful of advisers. But few details have been made public about the counterintelligence aspect of the investigation.

The decision to investigate Mr. Trump himself was an aggressive move by F.B.I. officials who were confronting the chaotic aftermath of the firing of Mr. Comey and enduring the president’s verbal assaults on the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt.”

A vigorous debate has taken shape among some former law enforcement officials outside the case over whether F.B.I. investigators overreacted in opening the counterintelligence inquiry during a tumultuous period at the Justice Department. Other former officials noted that those critics were not privy to all of the evidence and argued that sitting on it would have been an abdication of duty.

The F.B.I. conducts two types of inquiries, criminal and counterintelligence investigations. Unlike criminal investigations, which are typically aimed at solving a crime and can result in arrests and convictions, counterintelligence inquiries are generally fact-finding missions to understand what a foreign power is doing and to stop any anti-American activity, like thefts of United States government secrets or covert efforts to influence policy. In most cases, the investigations are carried out quietly, sometimes for years. Often, they result in no arrests.

Mr. Trump had caught the attention of F.B.I. counterintelligence agents when he called on Russia during a campaign news conference in July 2016 to hack into the emails of his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Mr. Trump had refused to criticize Russia on the campaign trail, praising President Vladimir V. Putin. And investigators had watched with alarm as the Republican Party softened its convention platform on the Ukraine crisis in a way that seemed to benefit Russia.

Other factors fueled the F.B.I.’s concerns, according to the people familiar with the inquiry. Christopher Steele, a former British spy who worked as an F.B.I. informant, had compiled memos in mid-2016 containing unsubstantiated claims that Russian officials tried to obtain influence over Mr. Trump by preparing to blackmail and bribe him.

In the months before the 2016 election, the F.B.I. was also already investigating four of Mr. Trump’s associates over their ties to Russia. The constellation of events disquieted F.B.I. officials who were simultaneously watching as Russia’s campaign unfolded to undermine the presidential election by exploiting existing divisions among Americans.

“In the Russian Federation and in President Putin himself, you have an individual whose aim is to disrupt the Western alliance and whose aim is to make Western democracy more fractious in order to weaken our ability, America’s ability and the West’s ability to spread our democratic ideals,” Lisa Page, a former bureau lawyer, told House investigators in private testimony reviewed by The Times.

“That’s the goal, to make us less of a moral authority to spread democratic values,” she added. Parts of her testimony were first reported by The Epoch Times.

And when a newly inaugurated Mr. Trump sought a loyalty pledge from Mr. Comey and later asked that he end an investigation into the president’s national security adviser, the requests set off discussions among F.B.I. officials about opening an inquiry into whether Mr. Trump had tried to obstruct that case.

But law enforcement officials put off the decision to open the investigation until they had learned more, according to people familiar with their thinking. As for a counterintelligence inquiry, they concluded that they would need strong evidence to take the sensitive step of investigating the president, and they were also concerned that the existence of such an inquiry could be leaked to the news media, undermining the entire investigation into Russia’s meddling in the election.

After Mr. Comey was fired on May 9, 2017, two more of Mr. Trump’s actions prompted them to quickly abandon those reservations.

The first was a letter Mr. Trump wanted to send to Mr. Comey about his firing, but never did, in which he mentioned the Russia investigation. In the letter, Mr. Trump thanked Mr. Comey for previously telling him he was not a subject of the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation.

Even after the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, wrote a more restrained draft of the letter and told Mr. Trump that he did not have to mention the Russia investigation — Mr. Comey’s poor handling of the Clinton email investigation would suffice as a fireable offense, he explained — Mr. Trump directed Mr. Rosenstein to mention the Russia investigation anyway.

He disregarded the president’s order, irritating Mr. Trump. The president ultimately added a reference to the Russia investigation to the note he had delivered, thanking Mr. Comey for telling him three times that he was not under investigation.

The second event that troubled investigators was an NBC News interview two days after Mr. Comey’s firing in which Mr. Trump appeared to say he had dismissed Mr. Comey because of the Russia inquiry.

“I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it,” he said. “And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself — I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”

Mr. Trump’s aides have said that a fuller examination of his comments demonstrates that he did not fire Mr. Comey to end the Russia inquiry. “I might even lengthen out the investigation, but I have to do the right thing for the American people,” Mr. Trump added. “He’s the wrong man for that position.”

As F.B.I. officials debated whether to open the investigation, some of them pushed to move quickly before Mr. Trump appointed a director who might slow down or even end their investigation into Russia’s interference. Many involved in the case viewed Russia as the chief threat to American democratic values.

“With respect to Western ideals and who it is and what it is we stand for as Americans, Russia poses the most dangerous threat to that way of life,” Ms. Page told investigators for a joint House Judiciary and Oversight Committee investigation into Moscow’s election interference.

F.B.I. officials viewed their decision to move quickly as validated when a comment the president made to visiting Russian officials in the Oval Office shortly after he fired Mr. Comey was revealed days later.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to a document summarizing the meeting. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia - The New York Times

Friday, January 11, 2019

Before Trump, Steve King Set the Agenda for the Wall and Anti-Immigrant Politics - The New York Times

"Years before President Trump forced a government shutdown over a border wall, triggering a momentous test of wills in Washington, Representative Steve King of Iowa took to the House floor to show off a model of a 12-foot border wall he had designed.

And long before Mr. Trump demonized immigrants — accusing Mexico of exporting criminals and calling for an end to birthright citizenship — Mr. King turned those views into talking points, with his use of misleading data about victims of undocumented immigrants and demeaning remarks about Latinos.

Immigration is Mr. Trump’s go-to issue, his surest connection to his most faithful supporters, and his prime-time address on Tuesday night underscored his willingness to use fear and misleading statements to appeal to voters — just as he did with warnings about a migrant caravan before the midterm elections.

The Republican Party hadn’t always intended to go this route: Officials tried for years to come up with broad-based immigration reform that would appeal to growing numbers of Latino voters. But Mr. Trump’s preoccupation with the wall and anti-immigrant politics reflects how he has embraced the once-fringe views of Mr. King, who has used racist language in the past, promotes neo-Nazis on Twitter and was recently denounced by one Republican leader as a white supremacist.

With the federal government in a third week of paralysis over a border wall, Mr. Trump’s positions are a reminder of how Mr. King’s ideology and his language maligning undocumented residents helped shape the Republican message in 2016 and 2018 and define Mr. Trump’s agenda and prospects for re-election. Mr. King may have been ostracized by some Republicans over his racist remarks and extremist ties, but as much of the nation debates immigration, his views now carry substantial influence on the right.

Early in Mr. Trump’s term, the president invited Mr. King — who was long snubbed by establishment Republicans like the former House speaker John A. Boehner — to the Oval Office. There, the president boasted of having raised more money for the congressman’s campaigns than anyone else, including during a 2014 Iowa visit, Mr. King recalled in an interview with The Times.

“Yes, Mr. President,” Mr. King replied. “But I market-tested your immigration policy for 14 years, and that ought to be worth something.”

Mr. King, a 69-year-old former bulldozer operator with a combative manner, who has been elected nine times, helped write the book on white identity politics that are ascendant in Mr. Trump’s Republican Party. That provides both a template for Mr. Trump and a warning.

Mr. King, left, in March 2006. He has denounced immigration reform efforts under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama as “amnesty.”

Photo by: Doug Mills/The New York Times

Mr. King’s full-throated embrace of nativism has long found a supportive constituency in the rural Midwest, the region that was a key to Mr. Trump’s 2016 victory and represents his most likely path to re-election.

But at the same time, Mr. King’s margin of victory in 2018 shrank to its narrowest in 16 years. He made national headlines for endorsing a Toronto mayoral candidate with neo-Nazi ties and for meeting with a far-right Austrian party accused of trivializing the Holocaust. On Twitter, he follows an Australian anti-Semitic activist, who proposed hanging a portrait of Hitler “in every classroom.” And in October, the chairman of the Republican House elections committee, Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio, condemned Mr. King, saying, “We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms.”

Mr. King lost corporate agriculture donors like Purina, Land O’Lakes and Smithfield. He dropped from an 18-point lead over his Democratic opponent in his internal polls to barely squeaking out a three-point win on Election Day. On Wednesday, Mr. King drew a formidable challenger for his Fourth District seat in the 2020 Republican primary: Randy Feenstra, an assistant majority leader in the State Senate, who said Mr. King had left Iowa “without a seat at the table” because of “sideshows” and “distractions.’’

Mr. King, in the interview, said he was not a racist. He pointed to his Twitter timeline showing him greeting Iowans of all races and religions in his Washington office. (The same office once displayed a Confederate flag on his desk.)

At the same time, he said, he supports immigrants who enter the country legally and fully assimilate because what matters more than race is “the culture of America” based on values brought to the United States by whites from Europe.

“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” Mr. King said. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

After this article was published Thursday, Mr. King issued a public statement calling himself a “nationalist” and defending his support of “western civilization’s values,” and said he was not an advocate for “white nationalism and white supremacy.” “I want to make one thing abundantly clear: I reject those labels and the evil ideology they define,” he wrote.

Mr. King’s influence over national politics derives from his representation of the reddest district in the first presidential nominating state. Nearly all the 2016 Republican presidential contenders sought his blessing at a forum he hosted in Des Moines in January 2015, Mr. Trump included.

Mr. King graduated from Denison High School in 1967 with an all-white senior class. The school now has a Hispanic majority.

Photo by: Mary Mathis for The New York Times

“Donald Trump came to Iowa as a real nonideological candidate,” Mr. King recalled. Mr. Trump’s first hire in Iowa, Chuck Laudner, was a former chief of staff to Mr. King. Mr. Trump’s first Iowa rally directly followed a visit to the Mexican border.

The previous year, Mr. Trump had visited to endorse Mr. King’s re-election. As the congressman warned of scenarios like Islamic State terrorists or even Africans with ebola illegally entering the country, Mr. Trump listened and nodded. When he stepped to the microphone, he echoed Mr. King.

“Well, border security is a very big issue,” he said. “People are just flooding across.”

Tom Tancredo, a former Colorado congressman who once held the most conservative views in official Washington on immigration, calling for a moratorium on even legal immigrants, said he “handed the baton to Steve King” when he left the House in 2008.

David Johnson, a former Republican state senator from Mr. King’s district, said he heard in the president’s rhetoric a direct echo of Mr. King. “They belong to the same subset of white nationalists who are afraid of how the country is changing,” he said.

Mr. King was born in Storm Lake, Iowa, and attended high school in nearby Denison, then a nearly all-white rural farming region, where his father managed a state police radio station.

After founding an earth-moving company, Mr. King ran successfully for the State Senate in 1996. His most notable legacy from six years in the Legislature was a law making English the official state language. It was a time when packinghouses and other agricultural employers had dropped wages, and Latino migrants increasingly were taking jobs that no longer attracted native-born Iowans.

Elected to Congress in 2002, Mr. King attracted the attention of hate-watch groups like the Anti-Defamation League as he spoke increasingly about preserving “Western culture” or “Western civilization.” The groups consider those buzzwords that signal support to white nationalists, along with an obsession with birthrates and abortion rates among different ethnic groups.

“He uses the concepts of either ‘culture’ or ‘civilization’ to obfuscate that he’s talking about whiteness and race,” said Lawrence Rosenthal, chairman of the Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies.

Mr. King has been elected to nine terms, but his margin of victory shrank to his narrowest ever in November.

Photo by: Scott Morgan/Reuters

In 2011, Mr. King objected to the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to cover contraception. “That’s not constructive to our culture and our civilization,” he said in a speech in the House. “If we let our birthrate get down below the replacement rate, we’re a dying civilization.”

Mr. King seems further emboldened during the Trump presidency.

In an interview in August with a far-right web publication in Austria, Mr. King displayed a deep familiarity with racist tracts and ideas embraced by white supremacists.

He spoke of “the Great Replacement,” a conspiracy theory on the far right that claims shadowy elites are working behind the scenes to reduce white populations to minorities in their own countries.

“Great replacement, yes,” Mr. King said in the interview. “These people walking into Europe by ethnic migration, 80 percent are young men.”

The accusation that a “great replacement” of whites is underway — which conspiracy theorists often link to prominent Jews like George Soros — animated the torch-carrying white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, who chanted, “You will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us.”

Mr. Trump’s refusal to condemn the marchers, and his insistence that there were “very fine people on both sides,” was cheered by neo-Nazi websites.

In Mr. King’s interview with the Austrian website, he repeated his yearslong critique of multiculturalism.

“What does this diversity bring that we don’t already have? Mexican food. Chinese food,” he said. “Those things, well, that’s fine, but what does it bring that we don’t have that is worth the price?”

While serving in the Iowa Legislature in the 1990s, Mr. King helped pass a law making English the state’s official language.

Photo by: Mary Mathis for The New York Times

In recent years, Mr. King has forged alliances with far-right European leaders, including Marine Le Pen of France and Geert Wilders of the Netherlands, one of the most anti-Muslim politicians in Europe, who calls for closing mosques.

Ahead of Dutch elections in March 2017, Mr. King endorsed Mr. Wilders in a tweet, saying, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

Amid an ensuing controversy, he claimed the tweet wasn’t about race. Virulent white supremacists, however, heard otherwise.

“Steve King is basically an open white nationalist at this point,” wrote Andrew Anglin, the founder of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer.

Mr. Anglin and others celebrated that Mr. Trump’s election had made once-fringe beliefs about ethnonationalism acceptable to mainstream politicians.

As Republicans have morphed from the party of George W. Bush, who sought legal status for 12 million undocumented immigrants, to the party of Mr. Trump and Mr. King, some party leaders fear for the future in a nation where Hispanic voters are a rapidly growing electorate.

“Great damage has been done,” said Carlos Curbelo, a moderate Republican who lost a South Florida congressional seat in the midterms. “For anyone who cares about having a small-government, free-enterprise party in America that can aspire to win national elections, it’s a real concern.”

Mr. Curbelo, who tried to forge compromise on immigration in the House last year, said Mr. Trump told him privately, including on Air Force One, that he wanted a deal with Democrats.

But the president is paralyzed by the far right, Mr. Curbelo said. “He’s terrified of losing his base and the so-called conservative media.”

Last week, as the new Congress was sworn in, Mr. King sat on his side of a chamber sharply delineated by demographics. The Democratic majority included record numbers of African-Americans and women, including the first Native American and the first Muslim women. Mr. King’s side was mostly people who look like him.

“You could look over there and think the Democratic Party is no country for white men,” he said."

Before Trump, Steve King Set the Agenda for the Wall and Anti-Immigrant Politics - The New York Times

Michael Cohen's lawyer on how Cohen will expose Trump to Congress

Michael Cohen's lawyer on how Cohen will expose Trump to Congress

Trump Goes to the Border Amid Shutdown: A Closer Look

Shutdown Day 20: Trump Heads to the Border | The Daily Show

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Opinion | Borderline Insanity. President Trump rained cruelties on immigrants and asylum seekers and now wants hundreds of millions of dollars to address the humanitarian crisis he caused. - The New York Times











By The Editorial Board

The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

Giulia Sagramola
As the government shutdown over President Trump’s demand for border-wall funding moves through week three, the administration is looking to cut a deal with Democrats by emphasizing the deepening humanitarian crisis at the border — a crisis caused in large part by this administration’s inhumane policies, political grandstanding and managerial incompetence.

In a letter Sunday to lawmakers, the White House laid out its latest proposal for addressing the border tumult. The administration called for more immigration and Border Patrol agents, more detention beds and, of course, $5.7 billion to build 234 new miles of border wall. The White House also demanded an additional $800 million for “urgent humanitarian needs,” such as medical support, transportation and temporary facilities for processing and housing detainees.

Translation: Mr. Trump’s mass incarceration of migrant families is overwhelming an already burdened system that, without a giant injection of taxpayer dollars, will continue to collapse, leading to ever more human suffering.

The situation is an especially rich example of the Trump Doctrine: Break something, then demand credit — and in this case a lot of money — for promising to fix it.
Late last week, frustrated by his standoff with Democrats, Mr. Trump even threatened to declare a national emergency in order to get his wall built without Congress’s approval — a move guaranteed to prompt a ferocious legal challenge.

Any attempt to sell Mr. Trump’s cruel immigration agenda with a veneer of humanitarian measures should be viewed with skepticism. This administration has long held that the best way to deal with asylum seekers fleeing the horrors of their home countries is to increase their suffering upon reaching the United States to discourage others from even trying.

There is no question but that the administration remains ill equipped to cope with the fallout from its narrow fixation on deterrence. Migrant children are being piled into holding cells where they fall ill — or worse. The number of detainees at Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities has swelled to unprecedented levels, requiring periodic mass releases. Without preparation or planning, hundreds of migrants are simply dropped off at bus stations in border cities. The Times found that, in the final week of December, some 600 migrants were unceremoniously released onto the streets of El Paso.

Mr. Trump’s spiteful choice to shut parts of the government is only making the situation messier. Immigration judges are being furloughed, further slowing the processing of asylum requests. Border Patrol agents are working without pay, eroding morale. In perhaps the choicest twist of fate, some $300 million in new contracts for wall construction cannot be awarded until the shutdown ends.

With Democrats now controlling the House, the president is right to assume that he will need a new negotiating approach. But the answer isn’t for lawmakers to throw good money after bad, or to try to prettify a retrograde agenda with humanitarian trimmings.
The Trump administration is asking Congress and the American public to embrace warped logic, that its policies are going to continue and that the only question is whether any money should be spent on measures to ease the suffering caused by those policies.

After two years of watching this administration run amok, surely Democratic lawmakers can come up with a better approach."

Opinion | Borderline Insanity - The New York Times:

Monday, January 07, 2019

Rep. Lieu: Trump’s national emergency is ‘made up’

Rep. Lieu: Trump’s national emergency is ‘made up’

This is the legal provision which prohibits Trump from legally using the military to build a wall. I don't believe that conservative judges will support the President in this legal violation.

343 U.S. 579 (1952)
No. 744.
Supreme Court of United States.

Argued May 12-13, 1952.
Decided June 2, 1952.

"...The President's power, if any, to issue the order must stem either from an act of Congress or from the Constitution itself. There is no statute that expressly authorizes the President to take possession of property as he did here. Nor is there any act of Congress to which our attention has been directed from which such a power can fairly be implied. Indeed, we do not understand the Government to rely on statutory authorization for this seizure. There are two statutes which do authorize the President 586*586 to take both personal and real property under certain conditions.[2] However, the Government admits that these conditions were not met and that the President's order was not rooted in either of the statutes. The Government refers to the seizure provisions of one of these statutes (§ 201 (b) of the Defense Production Act) as "much too cumbersome, involved, and time-consuming for the crisis which was at hand."

Moreover, the use of the seizure technique to solve labor disputes in order to prevent work stoppages was not only unauthorized by any congressional enactment; prior to this controversy, Congress had refused to adopt that method of settling labor disputes. When the Taft-Hartley Act was under consideration in 1947, Congress rejected an amendment which would have authorized such governmental seizures in cases of emergency.[3] Apparently it was thought that the technique of seizure, like that of compulsory arbitration, would interfere with the process of collective bargaining.[4] Consequently, the plan Congress adopted in that Act did not provide for seizure under any circumstances. Instead, the plan sought to bring about settlements by use of the customary devices of mediation, conciliation, investigation by boards of inquiry, and public reports. In some instances temporary injunctions were authorized to provide cooling-off periods. All this failing, unions were left free to strike after a secret vote by employees as to whether they wished to accept their employers' final settlement offer.[5]

587*587 It is clear that if the President had authority to issue the order he did, it must be found in some provision of the Constitution. And it is not claimed that express constitutional language grants this power to the President. The contention is that presidential power should be implied from the aggregate of his powers under the Constitution. Particular reliance is placed on provisions in Article II which say that "The executive Power shall be vested in a President . . ."; that "he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed"; and that he "shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States."

The order cannot properly be sustained as an exercise of the President's military power as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. The Government attempts to do so by citing a number of cases upholding broad powers in military commanders engaged in day-to-day fighting in a theater of war. Such cases need not concern us here. Even though "theater of war" be an expanding concept, we cannot with faithfulness to our constitutional system hold that the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces has the ultimate power as such to take possession of private property in order to keep labor disputes from stopping production. This is a job for the Nation's lawmakers, not for its military authorities.

Nor can the seizure order be sustained because of the several constitutional provisions that grant executive power to the President. In the framework of our Constitution, the President's power to see that the laws are faithfully executed refutes the idea that he is to be a lawmaker. The Constitution limits his functions in the lawmaking process to the recommending of laws he thinks wise and the vetoing of laws he thinks bad. And the Constitution is neither silent nor equivocal about who shall make laws which the President is to execute. The 588*588 first section of the first article says that "All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States . . . ." After granting many powers to the Congress, Article I goes on to provide that Congress may "make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof."

The President's order does not direct that a congressional policy be executed in a manner prescribed by Congress —it directs that a presidential policy be executed in a manner prescribed by the President. The preamble of the order itself, like that of many statutes, sets out reasons why the President believes certain policies should be adopted, proclaims these policies as rules of conduct to be followed, and again, like a statute, authorizes a government official to promulgate additional rules and regulations consistent with the policy proclaimed and needed to carry that policy into execution. The power of Congress to adopt such public policies as those proclaimed by the order is beyond question. It can authorize the taking of private property for public use. It can make laws regulating the relationships between employers and employees, prescribing rules designed to settle labor disputes, and fixing wages and working conditions in certain fields of our economy. The Constitution does not subject this lawmaking power of Congress to presidential or military supervision or control.

It is said that other Presidents without congressional authority have taken possession of private business enterprises in order to settle labor disputes. But even if this be true, Congress has not thereby lost its exclusive constitutional authority to make laws necessary and proper to carry out the powers vested by the Constitution 589*589 "in the Government of the United States, or any Department or Officer thereof."

The Founders of this Nation entrusted the lawmaking power to the Congress alone in both good and bad times. It would do no good to recall the historical events, the fears of power and the hopes for freedom that lay behind their choice. Such a review would but confirm our holding that this seizure order cannot stand.

The judgment of the District Court is