Tuesday, July 25, 2017

New Yorker -- Donald Trump, John McCain, and the Politics of Decency

The dignity of our country, our place as a leader among nations, respect, honesty, integrity, health care for all Americans, environmental protections, public education, regulations, a free press, preserving our democracy are a just a few things that are at stake under the leadership of President Donald Trump and the Republican Party. We are a government and a nation in crisis right now.

“Donald Trump, John McCain, and the Politics of Decency” by the New Yorker’s Jeffery Frank tells of one more thing that is at stake. Although all over America there is a desperate need for decency and a need to respect others. We sorely need leadership that sets examples of best behavior and practice.

This is how Frank ends his piece, but it in its entirety is a worthwhile read:

“We’ve often heard statesmanlike views from John McCain, the Arizona senator. He’s been capable of hawkish overreach, and political missteps, but he has risen to a level of decency -- of generosity and courage -- when it was called for. One celebrated moment came in the midst of the 2008 Presidential campaign, when people in a crowd questioned Barack Obama’s legitimacy and McCain set them straight. Five years ago, after Michele Bachmann, then a congresswoman, made the baseless, and scurrilous, charge that Huma Abedin, the longtime aide to Hillary Clinton, had “ties” to the Muslim Brotherhood, McCain, on the Senate floor, said, ‘Huma Abedin represents what is best about America: the daughter of immigrants, who has risen to the highest levels of our government on the basis of her substantial personal merit and her abiding commitment to the American ideals that she embodies.’ He added, ‘I am proud to know her, and I am proud, even maybe with some presumption, to call her my friend’ -- another win for decency.

“In his autobiography, ‘Faith of My Fathers,’ published in 1999, McCain wrote that ‘nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself, something that encompasses you but is not defined by your existence alone’—a theme that became part of his brief, joyful Presidential campaign, in 2000, and is bound to be recalled as people root for him in the wake of a brain-cancer diagnosis. The thing is, McCain really meant it. Could anyone imagine Donald Trump, or anyone in his orbit, fighting for, speaking up for, or defending any cause larger than himself? The question, alas, for all of us, answers itself.”

By Jeffrey Frank

NY Mag -- The 14 Most Inappropriate Moments From Trump’s Speech at the Boy Scout Jamboree

By Margaret Hartmann

Like usual, the President’s speech to an audience of mostly pre teen boys at the National Boy Scouts Jamboree in West Virginia on Monday was disturbing, inappropriate and an embarrassment. It was shocking, even by the Trump standards we all know and have come to expect.

Trump even told the crowd of youngsters a story about real estate developer William Levitt who he saw at a cocktail party, old and sitting by himself, saying, “it was very sad because the hottest people in New York were at this party.

He reiterated his stance regarding the “War on Christmas,” telling them that when they go shopping, they’ll “be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.

Trump encouraged the crowd to boo for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. He spoke about polling, bragged about his 2016 election, and spoke in incoherent tangents about his rich friends.

And the “Boy Scouts of America faces backlash from leaders and parents after President Trump turns their Jamboree into a political rally that may even have broken the group's rules.”

Monday, July 24, 2017

Washington Post -- Jared Kushner just threw Donald Trump Jr. under the bus. Bigly

In his statement this morning to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jared Kushner claims

(1) he attended the notorious June meeting without having any idea why it was being held (even though Donald Jr. exulted in the email chain that “I love" the prospect of dirt on Hillary from the Russians, and even though Trump’s then-campaign chair Paul Manafort was also present,

(2) he arrived at the meeting just late enough to miss the incriminating part of the meeting, where the Russian lawyer brought up the campaign.

Here is Kushner’s statement about the meeting:

"In June 2016, my brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr. asked if I was free to stop by a meeting on June 9 at 3:00 p.m. The campaign was headquartered in the same building as his office in Trump Tower, and it was common for each of us to swing by the other’s meetings when requested. He eventually sent me his own email changing the time of the meeting to 4:00 p.m. That email was on top of a long back and forth that I did not read at the time. As I did with most emails when I was working remotely, I quickly reviewed on my iPhone the relevant message that the meeting would occur at 4:00 PM at his office. Documents confirm my memory that this was calendared as 'Meeting: Don Jr.| Jared Kushner.' No one else was mentioned.

"I arrived at the meeting a little late. When I got there, the person who has since been identified as a Russian attorney was talking about the issue of a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children. I had no idea why that topic was being raised and quickly determined that my time was not well-spent at this meeting. Reviewing emails recently confirmed my memory that the meeting was a waste of our time and that, in looking for a polite way to leave and get back to my work, I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for ten or so minutes and wrote 'Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting.'

"I had not met the attorney before the meeting nor spoken with her since. I thought nothing more of this short meeting until it came to my attention recently. I did not read or recall this email exchange before it was shown to me by my lawyers when reviewing documents for submission to the committees. No part of the meeting I attended included anything about the campaign, there was no follow up to the meeting that I am aware of, I do not recall how many people were there (or their names), and I have no knowledge of any documents being offered or accepted. Finally, after seeing the email, I disclosed this meeting prior to it being reported in the press on a supplement to my security clearance form, even if that was not required as meeting the definitions of the form. After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton."

Is Kushner throwing his brother-in-law under the bus?

 By Greg Sargent

Vox -- Is Trump trying to force Jeff Sessions out so a new AG can squelch the Russia investigation?

It’s apparent that Donald Trump is putting the pressure on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign.The President is ramping up his rhetoric against Sessions so there can be no doubt that the President wants his attorney general to go. “But he doesn't do it to Sessions directly; he does it via a serious of public statements and leaks.

This morning Trump tweeted, “So why aren't the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillary's crimes & Russia relations?

In a recent interview with The New York Times, Trump said Sessions shouldn’t have recused himself from oversight of the Russia investigation, saying It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president. At the time of Sessions’ recusal, Trump was furious and said he would never have hired him if he had known that was his intention.

Trump is considering Rudy Giuliani as Attorney General, according to people close to the situation. It could only mean Trump is making plans to replace Sessions. That’s because a new Attorney General could do what Sessions could not: oversee the Russia investigation.

By Andrew Prokop

The Daily 202: Trump marginalizes experts, debases expertise

Donald Trump, the first president in American history to take office with no prior governing or military experience, has appointed someone with no professional communications experience to be White House communications director.

But that should not surprise anyone. “Elevating nonexperts who lack relevant experience into important jobs across the federal government” has been a “hallmark of the president’s first six months in power.”

Robert Reich summarizes some examples from James Hohmann’s Washington Post article:

Throughout modern history, tyrants have sought to turn the public against expertise and science. Trump is ramping up his attacks on:

1. The intelligence agencies. Making his debut on the Sunday shows, former hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci said yesterday Trump still doesn’t accept the consensus of professionals in the intelligence community that Russia attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election.

2. Housing experts. Last month he appointed party planner Lynne Patton, who helped plan Eric Trump’s wedding to head HUD’s office for the region that covers New York and New Jersey.

3. Agriculture scientists. Last week Trump nominated someone who is not a scientist to be the Agriculture Department’s chief scientist. Sam Clovis has described himself as “extremely skeptical” about the expert consensus on climate change.

4. Climate scientists. Trump will nominate a prominent coal lobbyist, Andrew Wheeler, to serve as the No. 2 at the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has already removed several agency websites that contained detailed climate data and scientific information, including one that for nearly two decades has explained climate change.

5. Economists. Knowing the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office's estimate of the revised Senate Republican health-care bill would be awful, Trump’s White House placed an op-ed preemptively dismissing the economist's forecast as “fake news.”

And on it goes. Trump wants no experts and no facts so the American public will believe his lies. It’s an attack on democracy.

By James Hohmann

BBC -- Charlie Gard parents end legal fight as time runs out for baby

The parents of Charlie Gard, the 11-month-old terminally ill baby at the center of a legal attempt to keep him alive, now accept that further intervention will not help him.

Connie Yates and Chris Gard had fought against a decision by Great Ormond Street Hospital in London to turn off the life support machine keeping their son, Charlie, alive.

Barrister Grant Armstrong, representing the couple, told the court that "time has now ran out for Charlie" and the family is now withdrawing their challenge.

Politico -- Trump on Twitter: Republicans 'do very little to protect their President'

Donald Trump tweeted on Sunday, "It's very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their President."

But Republicans should not protect the President from the truth, which can be nothing else but the kind of protection he is asking for.

Donald Trump is highly critical of U.S. intelligence, our federal judges, labels Democrats as “enemies,” admonishes the news media and his own party. Yet, the President of the United States has nothing but good things to say about Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the Russian government.


We will most likely find out when special counsel Robert Mueller completes his investigation. It can’t come soon enough. We need to end this circus of uncertainty once and for all.

Donald Trump is the most un-American President the United States has ever had. Who, despite all of his bluster about making America great again, acts against its interest and has managed to turn the world against our country and away from the values America has represented.

By Rebecca Morin

Sunday, July 23, 2017

AP -- Trump’s new message man deletes inconvenient tweets

President Donald Trump announced Friday that he had hired Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci as White House Communications Director to help the White House sharpen its public message.

Like in love and war, evidently all is fair in politics too. Trump’s new communications director announced Saturday that he’s deleting old tweets, saying his own views have evolved.

That’s nonsense. It’s being deceptive. It’s not because his thinking has evolved. It’s because it’s politically expedient. How will anyone believe what he says?

Trump can sharpen his public message by being honest. Hiring someone to communicate his message who will repeat the same lies is not sharpening his message.    

By the way, Anthony Scaramucci has a very appropriate nickname: Mooch.

Social media users quickly did a deep dive and recirculated past tweets by Scaramucci that were at odds with Trump’s views, including one that praised Hillary Clinton’s competence. Trump defeated Clinton for president last year and continues to criticize her, including in several tweets Saturday.

Other repurposed Scaramucci tweets expressed support for stronger gun laws, which he tweeted about in August 2012. In May 2016, he expressed displeasure with individuals who believe climate change is a hoax.

The politics of “gotcha” are over. I have a thick skin and we’re moving on to @POTUS agenda serving the American people.’

By Darlene Superville

AP -- Trump asserts all agree he has 'complete power' to pardon

Trump claimed in a Saturday morning barrage of tweets that he has “complete power to pardon.”

Reports say that Trump has inquired about the authority he has as president to pardon aides, relatives or even himself in connection with the widening investigation into Russian interference.

Apparently, Trump is giving a lot of thought to how he might handle the ongoing probe into his campaign's contacts with Russian officials.

A few days ago Trump and his legal team discussed his power to pardon aides, family members -- and even himself if it’s determined that he acted illegally.

It’s “Rubbish, comments Robert Reich. No person is above the law in the United States. No one can get away with violating the law by pardoning himself or his family members. No president has the complete power to pardon, because no president is above the law. That’s why we have a Constitution.”

In Saturday’s 10 tweets Trump commented not only about pardons, but about former presidential rival Hillary Clinton, his son Don Jr., health care, the USS Gerald Ford, the attorney general, and other issues as well.

By Darlene Superville

Saturday, July 22, 2017

USA Today -- In break with Trump, top Intel, Homeland Security officials affirm Russia's election meddling

President Trump still won't say whether he believes the Russian government meddled in the 2016 presidential election. But his top intelligence and homeland security officials this week affirmed the intelligence community's unqualified assessment that it did.

Trump’s counter-terrorism adviser Thomas Bossert said there was no reason to doubt the findings.

So why doesn’t Trump unequivocally agree with the findings of intelligence agencies? Why does Trump have such a clear affinity for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and why does he object to an investigation that will vindicate him of any wrongdoing?

Now that we have affirmation of meddling in the election, they are some of the remaining questions that need to be answered.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly

By Kevin Johnson