Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Man Who Would Be King Has Needs

Kevin Necessary
Has it been only 100 days? Why, seems like only yesterday that we had a president who exhibited dignity and grace. Now we have some kind of weird hybrid with bad impulse control, poor judgment, and the emotional stability of a rich, spoiled brat.

Trump wants more power. He's talking about getting it via doing away with the Senate filibuster. There have been times when we've all hated the filibuster, but no one hates it more than Trump-the-Impulsive.

In Trump's interview with Fox News that aired Friday night, it was pretty clear what -- and who -- he's prepared to declare war on to consolidate and expand his own power:
“We don't have a lot of closers in politics, and I understand why: It's a very rough system. It's an archaic system.”
“You look at the rules of the Senate, even the rules of the House — but the rules of the Senate and some of the things you have to go through — it's really a bad thing for the country, in my opinion. They're archaic rules. And maybe at some point we're going to have to take those rules on, because, for the good of the nation, things are going to have to be different.”
“You can't go through a process like this. It's not fair. It forces you to make bad decisions. I mean, you're really forced into doing things that you would normally not do except for these archaic rules.”
Trump is hungry for more power, and the Senate -- the whole Congress, for that matter -- stands in his way. Back in February (you might remember), Trump implied that the judiciary doesn't -- or shouldn't -- have the power to question him as president. He has said that he admires Putin because he's a strong man who brooks no opposition, and he put in the famous call to President Erdogan of Turkey congratulating him for expanding and consolidating his power over the Turkish people. "Atta boy!"

True, many Republican senators are terrified of T Rex. Witness the craven waffling of Sen. Dick Burr who couldn't bring himself to take even preliminary steps to secure information about the Russian interference in our election and the collusion of the Trump campaign in that project. But others may not be so compliant, like McCain and Graham and even Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Trump is putting pressure on the Senate to do away with the filibuster so that a simple Republican majority can give him everything he wants. But there may not actually be anything like "a simple Republican majority" in the Senate currently, not with this imperialistic ego in the White House. Republican senators who value the historic role of that body, and the valuable "cooling down" of hurtful impulses that the filibuster provides, may not be so ready to release the Kraken.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

UPDATE: The Battle to Control Boards of Election

N&O, late yesterday:
RALEIGH -- Three judges who already have ruled against one legislative attempt to take away control of elections oversight from the governor’s political party issued an order late Friday that temporarily blocks the latest law with that aim.
The steps leading up to that temporary injunction issued yesterday:

Step 1: In December, after Roy Cooper's election as governor but with Pat McCrory still occupying the office, the Republicans in the General Assembly pass a law combining the State Board of Elections with the Ethics Board, taking away the governor's ability to appoint the members of that board, and putting Republicans in charge of elections in even-numbered years. McCrory signs the bill. The real stinger in the new law: the state BOE would have a 4-4 partisan split, and local county BOEs would have a 2-2 partisan split, and the law provides that in the event of deadlock -- no majority vote -- over Early Voting plans, Early Voting will be greatly curtailed to local BOE offices only. The intent is not just to limit Gov. Cooper's appointive power; the real intent is to cripple Early Voting and ballot access generally.

Step 2: A three-judge panel rules the law unconstitutional.

Step 3: With Cooper now in office, the Republicans in the General Assembly try again to pass the same law with some minor tweaking. For example, they generously decide that Republicans will control BOEs only in presidential years, but they decide to make it practically impossible to replace state BOE Executive Director Kim Strach, whose husband has been a prominent Republican lawyer, most recently famous for defending voter suppression in North Carolina. Roy Cooper vetoes the new bill; the Republican majority in the NCGA overrides the veto. Cooper sues.

Step 4: See above.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Trump Goes "Duh"

"I loved my previous life. I had so many things going," Trump said during an interview with Reuters. "This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier."

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Trump -- Terrible Negotiator and a Bad Bluffer

Trump slouched to victory last November partly on his ability to rouse an ugly xenophobia. Typical call-and-response at his rallies:

"I'm going to build the wall. And who's going to pay for it?"

"Mexico!" shouted back his reality-deprived followers.

So, naturally, Trump sent out his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, last week to declare that any temporary government-funding bill must include funding for Trump's wall. Shutdown looms this weekend without a funding bill; presumably, rapists and murderers loom without a wall. Do the math, bitches!

The bluff didn't work, so throughout last weekend, Trump admin officials (including Mulvaney) upped the threat level: Trump might veto any funding bill without wall money in it.

Trump chief-of-staff Reince Preibus said Trump meant business. No funding for the wall, no signing of a funding bill.

Some 24 hours later -- yesterday, Monday, to be exact -- Trump caved: "In the face of fierce Democratic opposition to funding the wall’s construction, White House officials signaled Monday that the president may be open to an agreement that includes money for border security if not specifically for a wall, with an emphasis on technology and border agents rather than a structure."

By Monday afternoon -- yesterday -- Trump was telling a gathering of conservative media mavens "that he was open to delaying funding for wall construction until September, a White House official confirmed."

They called his bluff. He folded. Again. Just like he did about repealing Obamacare. Those bragged-about negotiating skills are just more snake oil.

Though in this case we can be glad if the xenophobic symbol of Trump's inner demons is delayed into infinity and then completely forgotten.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Republican Appeals Court Judge Suddenly Retires So Gov. Cooper Can Appoint His Replacement

Talk about a powerful Republican giving the middle finger to the power-grabbing Republicans in the General Assembly!

Dough McCullough
Republican Court of Appeals Justice Doug McCullough just retired from the Court today (weeks ahead of his mandatory forced retirement) so that Governor Roy Cooper could appoint his replacement today, ahead of the Republican majority in the General Assembly's overriding Cooper's veto of a law which takes away Cooper's ability to appoint replacements to the Court of Appeals.

Are you following this?

If this were a novel, you'd throw it against the wall as too, too improbable and far-fetched.

Cooper appointed John Arrowood, who is openly gay, to replace McCullough.

Cool move, Judge McCullough! It will take Republicans with honest, fair minds to push back the overwhelming arrogance of the Republicans in the General Assembly. And a Democratic governor willing to go there.

Cooper went there!

Trump's TV-Watching Addiction Explains a Lot

WashPost photo illustration
We realize that science doesn't matter in the Age of Trump, but there are scientific studies ("neuroimaging" research) which proves that excessive TV-watching shrinks the brain, impedes verbal abilities, and lessens "impulse control."

Trump is a notorious TV-addict. He's known to always have cable shows playing in any room he occupies, including on Air Force One. Not just an addict. He's a narcissistic addict:

According to Ashley Parker and Robert Costa, "On his campaign plane, Trump watched television on full volume — usually Fox News, sometimes CNN — almost constantly, said someone who flew with him, shushing his aides whenever he himself came on the screen and listening with rapt attention."

If excessive TV-watching shrinks the brain and cripples impulse control, I think we've seen ample evidence of it in Trump's first 100 days (not to mention the 10 thousand days that preceded January 20).

He's all about surfaces. How things look, not what they in truth are. He wants to be noticed, like the child that never got enough hugs from his mother. He's all impulse, will tweet out (we know!) something he just saw on TV, whether or not it's tethered to any provable reality. Because he sells snake oil himself, he's very prone to buy it from others, if they look good on TV.

Government Shutdown This Friday Because of Trump's Wall?

Campaign-speak: "And Mexico will pay for it!"

Reality: We the taxpayers will pay for it, or it won't get built.

Trump to Congress today: "Fund my wall, or I'll shut down the government."

The Unseen Hand: "The First 100 Days," the self-imposed benchmark for presidential success that Trump himself bragged about over and over -- how much he was going to get done immediately. The 100 days deadline is Saturday. Government shutdown is Friday, if temporary funding to run the government isn't voted on.

Shorthand: Trump needs a win by Saturday, something to put in his 1st 100 days plus column, and he seems to have decided that a Congressional appropriation of enough money to lay about a mile of wall footings will give him enough to brag and strut about, so he's demanding it. Members of Congress from both parties, including every Republican who represents real estate abutting the proposed wall, are saying "You've got to be kidding!"

So if there's a government shutdown, it's all on Trump. If he can't sell his snake oil, he'll make everyone suffer.

Friday, April 21, 2017

NC Gen'l Assembly Squashing Some of the State's Best Entrepreneurs

The defeat of House Bill 500, which would have allowed North Carolina's craft brewers to build their businesses without fealty to wholesale overlords, is a very big deal, mainly for what it reveals about the corruption of the General Assembly when it comes to the campaign scash flow.

Kevin Siers got it exactly right in the Charlotte Observer:

NCGOP Counts Its Four Eggers Before They Hatch

So ... you know that the special session rewrite of elections boards in NC got struck down by a three-judge panel as an unconstitutional infringement on the executive branch of state government.

You may not know that the Republicans in the General Assembly rejiggered that law (to pass constitutional muster, they think), which still strips authority from the governor. That Senate Bill 68 passed both houses of the General Assembly and is sitting on Governor Cooper's desk. Cooper has already announced that he will veto it, but he hasn't yet.

The NCGOP under Chair Robin Hayes isn't waiting. He's named his choices for the new State Board of Elections and Ethics, one of whom would be Stacy C. Eggers IV ("Four"), that Watauga County paragon of open elections and sparkling ethics.

Four Eggers.

Four Eggers.

Four Eggers -- on the State Board of Elections and Ethics.

The man famous in Watauga County for much malfeasance but most famous for this: "One County Attorney, Two Hats: Documents Show Attorney as "Author" Behind Key Resolutions."

The lawyer who worked non-stop for years to suppress the vote of Appalachian State University students.

Yes. That guy. The guy who forced Elections Supervisor Jane Ann Hodges into early retirement, who schemed behind the scenes with Paul Foley, and who got his brother Luke appointed to the Watauga BOE when his own nomination was rejected by the State BOE because of an obvious conflict of interest.

Four Freakin' Eggers.

Of course, S68 will be passed over Roy Cooper's veto, but then it'll be back in court. So we figure that Four Eggers gets the publicity without the job. You're welcome!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Constitutionality of Last December's NCGA Special Session Challenged

The lawsuit filed yesterday by Common Cause North Carolina in Wake Superior Court seeks remedy for what was called an out-and-out coup d'etat last December 16, when the Republicans in the General Assembly sprung a sudden and totally unannounced special session of the legislature to bollix boards of elections and severely limit other abilities of a newly and duly elected governor of our state.

It was all done without public notice, without warning, without the ability of the public to know or to object. It was done cynically -- two sweeping changes to the structure and process of state government had been written well in advance and in secret, testifying to the appalling lack of honesty of the Republican leaders in the General Assembly.

Republicans are reacting to the lawsuit like Republicans always react -- with the howling of struck dogs.

More coverage of the lawsuit in this morning's N&O.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Watauga's Stella Anderson Is a Plaintiff in Law Suit To Overturn NCGA's Special Session Last December

Video of the press conference today announcing this lawsuit can be viewed here:

By GARY D. ROBERTSON, Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. — Laws approved by the Republican-dominated legislature that reduced powers of North Carolina's new Democratic governor are getting challenged again — this time on arguments that the December special session in which they were approved was illegal.

Government reform group Common Cause and 10 state residents sued Wednesday in Wake County Superior Court alleging that legislative leaders violated the state Constitution when the session convened Dec. 14 after only two hours' notice that it would occur. Republican lawmakers have said the session was called properly.

Lawmakers had quietly accumulated colleagues' signatures to convene themselves almost immediately after another session ended that had been called by then-GOP Gov. Pat McCrory for that week and in which they approved a Hurricane Matthew relief and recovery package.

By the time the second session had ended Dec. 16, GOP lawmakers had passed laws shifting control over administering elections from incoming Gov. Roy Cooper to themselves and subjecting his Cabinet to Senate confirmation.

Other laws approved under a compressed parliamentary schedule also reduced the number of employees Cooper could hire compared to McCrory, made appeals court elections officially partisan races and moved powers from the State Board of Elections to the state schools superintendent.

Cooper and others already have sued over the laws, with mixed results to date. While the elections administration changes were struck down by a three-judge panel last month, the confirmation mandate was upheld. Wednesday's lawsuit takes a different tact by arguing rights to due process and for the people to "instruct their representatives" within the state Constitution were violated by the swift session.

NCGOP's Use of "Voter Fraud" Exposed as Fraud

If you'll recall those dark days last November when Pat McCrory and the NC Republican Party were alleging all sorts of voter fraud to explain his loss of the governorship to Roy Cooper, some 600 voters in the state were accused of explicit wrong-doing.

DemocracyNC conducted a five-month investigation into all those charges of voter fraud and are now calling on prosecutors to charge the real villains: Pat McCrory and the NC Republican Party:
Democracy North Carolina talked with dozens of voter-victims, county election officials, and the Republicans involved in filing charges of fraud in various counties. This report, based on those interviews and a review of public records, reveals that the McCrory campaign and NC Republican Party engaged in a coordinated legal and publicity crusade to disrupt, and potentially corrupt, the elections process with what amounted to fraudulent charges of voter fraud. 

And more:
The crusade [to overturn the election of Roy Cooper] did not stop even after McCrory’s attorneys were told by some elections officials that their claims were wrong, that they were confusing voters’ names with other people, that they were using bad data. Instead of stopping, the attorneys caused more charges to be filed that maligned more innocent voters. And, in conjunction with the NC Republican Party, they continued a coordinated attack on the legitimacy of certain ballots and the election outcome, despite the clear harm inflicted on individual voters and the election process.
According to the N&O, DemocracyNC is sending its report to district attorneys in the 23 counties where the most protests were filed and to federal prosecutors in North Carolina.

Trump: "Everyone Must Buy American ... Except for Me and My Family"

Hypocrisy Watch: Trump went to Wisconsin yesterday to demand that everyone "buy American" while he and his family are very notorious foreign shoppers.

1. Trump's own clothing line is made overseas. His famous ties are made in China. Last July, he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he “bid out” production for his ties: "You have companies over in different countries where they devalue their currency and they make it impossible for American companies to compete.”

2. During the campaign, Trump said he would label China "a currency manipulator" as soon as he was sworn in (for the reason cited immediately above). But earlier this week, Trump decided against that, soon after he and daughter Ivanka had dinner with China's leader.

3. At the same time that Trump and Ivanka were having dinner with China's leader, Trump was also being awarded trademark protection for his name in China, something he had sought for more than a decade. Money, money, money!

4. Ivanka "has imported 56 shipments of Ivanka Trump products from China and Singapore, part of a total of 215 shipments from Asia since Jan. 1, 2016” (NBC News).

5. Cheap steel for Trump hotels comes from overseas -- we've all known that -- but the Business Insider reports that hotel furnishings and toiletries are also bought from foreign suppliers: ice buckets from Thailand, headboards from China, slippers from Hong Kong, shower gel from Italy, etc.

6. "Hire American"? Not that, either. According to the Washington Post, since 2013 Trump properties -- including Mar-a-Lago, Trump Vineyards, and Trump National Golf Club -- have sought to fill more than 500 positions with foreign workers under the H-2A visa program. "In total, those positions would have earned almost $1 million a month in salary over their durations."

If a Democratic president were this obviously hypocritical, can you imagine the uproar? If a Democratic president had achieved No. 3 alone, impeachment proceedings would already be underway in a Republican congress.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Trump's Taxing Problem

At least 100,000 citizens took to the streets last Saturday to demand that Trump release his taxes, including a crowd in Raleigh. A growing number of Republican lawmakers are beginning to agree with those citizens: Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Reps. David Young of Iowa, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, Ted Yoho of Florida, Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, and Justin Amash of Michigan — all have publicly agreed that Trump should release his returns.

It's become clear that his other big campaign promise to "reform the tax system" ain't going anywhere unless he does release his own returns ... not that Trump has a coherent plan for "reform." According to Alan Rappeport,
The president’s own vision for a new tax system is muddled at best. In the past few months, he has called for taxing companies that move operations abroad, waffled on the border tax and, last week, called for a “reciprocal” tax that would match the import taxes other countries impose on the United States.
Those tax protestors last Saturday, and everybody else for that matter, want to know how any tax code rewrite will benefit Trump and his family. He's certainly not been shy about which House Republican proposals he hates, like the Republican idea to get rid of a rule that lets companies write off the interest they pay on loans. Doing so would reportedly raise $1 trillion in revenue. But it would also reduce the appeal of one of Trump’s favorite business tools: debt.

Funny how that conflict of interest thingy works, ain't it?

Assessment of the Week

He knows little, believes in little, and shows signs of regretting what has happened to him.
--Sarah Ellison, evaluating Donald Trump at the conclusion of her piece of essential reporting, "The Inside Story of the Kushner-Bannon Civil War"

Monday, April 17, 2017

Don't You Even Look at Him, You Peasants!

Donald Trump is arguing in a Louisville, Ky., lawsuit that he can't be sued for inciting violence against protestors because he won the election. No kidding.

"Immune am I, because I am king of all I behold," sez the man with the authoritarian left brain.

The Kentucky lawsuit was brought by three protestors who were roughed up at a Trump rally while the candidate himself barked "Get 'em outta here!" from the podium. Federal Judge David J. Hale has already ruled that Trump can be sued, despite his current gilding as POTUS. Judge Hale noted that speech inciting violence is not protected by the First Amendment ("free speech" was Trump's first line of defense) and ruled that there is plenty of evidence that the protesters' injuries were a 'direct and proximate result' of Trump's words.

To complicate things for Trump, one of his supporters, who is also being sued for assault at that same rally, has explicitly said he punched a woman protestor "in response to — and inspired by — Trump and/or the Trump Campaign’s urging to remove the protesters.”

Hmmm. Dunno about the merits of the case itself -- at this distance it looks weak -- but Trump's newest claim that he's immune from prosecution because he's the emperor is just so much buffalo dust.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The President's Daughter and the Male Manikin

Interesting article in today's NYTimes about the Jared-Ivanka lock on power at the White House. They have risen as the only antidote to Steve Bannon.
"Even allies acknowledge Mr. Trump is impulsive, indifferent to preparation and prone to embracing the last advice offered."
--Peter Baker, Glenn Thrush, and Maggie Haberman
Jared Kushner
Son-in-law Jared Kushner is now in charge of so much he looks like Swiss Army Man. He's "fixing" everything, apparently, from the Middle East to your cousin's hydrocodone addiction. He can't be fired. Neither can Ivanka, who apparently made the case against Bannon most effectively: "He's puffing himself up, Daddy, at your expense."

Footnote: Stephen Miller, the young white nationalist from Duke University who wrote much of that Day of Doom inauguration speech, has pulled away from Bannon and attached himself to Ivanka. That's a rat leaving a sinking ship if we've ever seen one.

The Snake Oil Salesman and His Liniment

snake oil salesman -- someone who knowingly sells fraudulent goods or who is himself a fraud, quack, or charlatan
We've never had a fraud in the presidency like Donald Trump. He said all sorts of things during the campaign to make himself popular with the groundlings, but those promises proved to be mere quackery. Lydia Pinkham's Vegetable Compound, a concoction for menstrual cramps sold widely in the 19th century, made women feel better temporarily -- it was mainly whiskey.

"Drain the swamp." That was the snake oil salesman's main cry to the masses, who kept pushing toward the stage for a taste of that sweet, sweet relief. Here's what "drain the swamp" has turned out to contain:
WASHINGTON — President Trump is populating the White House and federal agencies with former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants who in many cases are helping to craft new policies for the same industries in which they recently earned a paycheck.
The potential conflicts are arising across the executive branch, according to an analysis of recently released financial disclosures, lobbying records and interviews with current and former ethics officials by The New York Times in collaboration with ProPublica.
In at least two cases, the appointments may have already led to violations of the administration’s own ethics rules. But evaluating if and when such violations have occurred has become almost impossible because the Trump administration is secretly issuing waivers to the rules.
Trump "eliminated an ethics provision that prohibits lobbyists from joining agencies they lobbied in the prior two years," and the recent decision to keep White House visitor logs secret will allow the swamp creatures to come out and play without fear of exposure.

The fact that most of Trump's supporters haven't yet tasted anything suspiciously oily in his concoction of lies and misinformation does not fill us with despair, because there are more of us than there are of them. The 2018 elections are coming.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Lovely News for the Health of the Republic

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The White House announced Friday that it would cut off public access to visitor logs revealing who is entering the White House complex and which officials they are meeting....
Because secrecy is the hallmark of a free society, yes?

Because shielding your activities from scrutiny is an essential part of "draining the swamp," no?

Why would the public even want to know what donors and lobbyists and foreign agents are gaining access to the president and his top advisors, huh?

But this newest decision is totally in keeping with that other decision not to release Trump's tax returns, so a foolish consistency is now the hobgoblin nesting in Trump's orange thatch.

And what justification is Trump's mouthpiece offering for the secrecy? Why, the last dodge of an authoritarian mind-set ... "national security." You can't know who's going in and out of the White House on a daily basis because of "national security."

This decision for official cover-up follows closely on the White House's refusal to release the visitor log for Congressman Devin Nunes' midnight stroll on White House grounds to pick up classified information that might have helped Trump prop up his lie that President Obama had wiretapped him. It's a piece of the same cloth.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Sobering Thoughts, But Then I'm Not the One Drunk with Power

About that Kansas special election Tuesday night, and the shifting of votes:
Republican Mike Pompeo last won that district in 2016 by 30 points.
Republican Ron Estes won it Tuesday night by 7.
Yikes. That's a 23-point diminution of fortune.

Some people good at math applied that sudden reversal to all the House races of a few months ago, which would have given us a Democratic majority in the U.S. Congress. If the trend continues into 2018, and if Trump remains a pinball caroming off every electric bumper, then his mid-term congressional elections could be the whirlwind that rips the sheet.

We will know better if it's a trend after next Tuesday's special election in Georgia.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

All Eyes on Kansas Tonight

Maybe Republican Ron Estes, Kansas state treasurer, will win the special election today in the 4th Congressional District to replace Mike Pompeo (who's become Trump's CIA director), and maybe not.

The Republican National Committee is suddenly pumping all kinds of money into southern Kansas to try to save Estes. His Democratic opponent, James Thompson, is just a whisker behind him in some polls. In other polls, he's a whisker ahead.

So Vice President Mike Pence cut a robocall for Estes. So did Trump, signaling panic: “Ron Estes needs your vote and needs it badly.” Sen. Ted Cruz did a fly-in. The Kansas 4th District is home to Koch Industries, so you would think....

According to David Weigel, "Estes rarely mentions Trump," and that alone tells us a great deal about Republican panic in this year of His Orangeness. Every special election this year for Republican Congressional seats -- and there are about to be four of those, starting with the Kansas 4th District -- is going to be a virtual referendum on Trump.

Ron Estes
Among other things hurting Estes, despite his rugged good looks, is the deeply unpopular Republican Governor Sam Brownback, polling below 25%. That's gotta hurt Republican turn-out.

Even if Thompson loses, the near-death experience for Estes might provide a sobering prophecy for Republicans who allowed Trumpism to take them over.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Donald Trump Ain't No Christian

Wake Forest pastor John Pavlovitz has written a piece on his personal blog that's gone viral (I found out about it because of an article in today's News&Observer): "It's Time We Stop Calling Donald Trump a Christian."

It's certainly time that a Christian pastor called out all those other Christian pastors who decided for purely political reasons to crown Caesar and bow to him.

Between a Rock and an Even Rockier Rock

Mike DeBonis, appreciating the blind alley that the Republicans have cornered themselves in:
Recent opinion polls have found dismal public ratings for the GOP health-care bill, while the Affordable Care Act’s approval is at an all-time high, according to Gallup. But for a variety of reasons, Republicans are loath to give up efforts to repeal former president Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement — most important, out of fear of alienating a conservative base that has elected GOP lawmakers for seven years expecting them to repeal Obamacare.
 Okay, all together now: We feel your pain, you poor deers dears!

Saturday, April 08, 2017

How To Train Your New Puppy

Rule # 1: Never reward your new puppy for peeing on the rug. Next he'll be peeing on the couch.

Rule # 2: Don't let the tail wag the dog.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Devious Devin

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)
The Beav has left the building!

Republican Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, has temporarily stepped aside from the probe of Russian interference into our election, mainly, he said, because mean liberals have caused the House Ethics Committee to investigate allegations that “Nunes may have made unauthorized disclosures of classified information, in violation of House Rules, law, regulations, or other standards of conduct.”

The ethics probe is all about that Nunes midnight visit to the White House "grounds" to look at secret stuff that could then be divulged to the press in order to distract everyone from the Russian investigation.

Maybe the House Intelligence Committee can get something done now ... but not holding our breath. Trey Gowdy is one of the Republicans on the Intelligence Committee who'll be taking over for Nunes. Trey Gowdy also sits on the Ethics Committee. How convenient is that?

Kushner Beating Bannon in the White House Power Struggle?

Back on January 10, ten days before the Inauguration, I wrote here that I had decided that the appointment of Jared Kushner to a White House job was something I considered hopeful, at a time when all hope seemed lost.

Kushner -- who may actually be an escaped upscale department store mannikin -- appears to be on the ascendancy in the Trump White House, with Steve Bannon in eclipse. Bannon lost his seat on the National Security Agency. Bannon opposes any intervention in the Middle East. Kushner's for intervening, which makes the Tomahawk strikes last night possibly some of his work.

Leaked details this morning of a verbal confrontation between Bannon and Kushner in the White House concludes: "Finally, Mr. Bannon identified why they could not compromise, according to someone with knowledge of the conversation. 'Here’s the reason there’s no middle ground,' Mr. Bannon growled. 'You’re a Democrat.' ”

Yes, Kushner is, though what kind of Democrat marries himself to this administration is left to your fantasy works. Bottomline for us: Whatever kind of Democrat Kushner is must be shades better than the kind of Dementor that Mr. Bannon is.

The awesome warfare in the air of mighty competing powers. According to Maggie Haberman and her colleagues:
On one side are Mr. Bannon’s guerrilla warriors, eager to close the nation’s borders, dismantle decades of regulations, empower police departments and take on the establishment of both parties in Washington. On the other are Mr. Kushner’s “Democrats,” an appellation used to describe even Republicans who want to soften Mr. Trump’s rough edges and broaden his narrow popular appeal after months of historically low poll numbers.
Between Kushner and Bannon is the man in the Oval Office, who doesn't know what he's doing, who relies on first one and then the other of these competing forces, which produces chaos and uncertainty and horrible public policy. Better hope that Kushner prevails.

Russian Collusion To Elect Trump -- Ain't Going Away

Eric Lichtblau is reporting this morning:
WASHINGTON — The C.I.A. told senior lawmakers in classified briefings last summer that it had information indicating that Russia was working to help elect Donald J. Trump president, a finding that did not emerge publicly until after Mr. Trump’s victory months later...
 Other findings:

1. A split developed last summer between counter intelligence agents at CIA and the FBI, with the FBI resisting analysis that Russia was actually trying to help elect Trump rather than just disrupting our election process.

2. The CIA director at the time became so concerned about the Russian interference that he briefed the top Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, along with leaders of both chambers' intelligence committees 10 weeks before the election. Mitch McConnell knew. Paul Ryan knew.

3. Based on CIA briefings, Sen. Harry Reid wrote the FBI in August, asking Director Comey to open an investigation into collusion between Trump associates and the Russians. Unknown to Reid, the FBI had done just that a month earlier, but the FBI inquiry into connections between the Trump campaign and the Russians "was kept secret even from members of Congress."

4. "It was not until early December, a month after the election, that it became publicly known in news reports that the C.I.A. had concluded that Moscow’s motivation was to get Mr. Trump elected."

5. "Last month, Mr. Comey publicly acknowledged the continuing investigation for the first time at a House hearing on Russia’s influence on the election and said the F.B.I. was examining possible links between Trump associates and Russia for evidence of collusion."

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Oh What a Marvelous Distraction

Steve Bannon's Wings Clipped

On the farm we regularly clipped the wings of our laying hens -- Leghorns, usually -- who decided to fly the coop and raid the vegetable garden. That put a stop to marauding scratchers.

Trump appears to have done something similar to his most powerful laying hen, Steve Bannon. Bannon's been kicked off the National Security Council.

Haven't decided what is more startling ... the fact of Bannon's sudden demotion or the cover story the White House is telling to explain why Bannon ever got that seat on the NSC with cabinet-level people in the first place: "Mr. Bannon had been put on the principals committee to keep an eye on Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn...."

That's some chicken scratch right there, boys!

Trump put as head of the National Security Council a retired general (and agent for foreign governments) who needed to have someone keeping an eye on him? Holy crap. And the guy they chose to keep that eye on him was the man who's publicly said his goal is to dismantle government as we know it? Holy crap on a stick.

According to leakers in the White House, Bannon threatened to quit the whole clown car and let Jared Kushner drive. Bannon is now denying that. "Lately, Mr. Bannon has been conspicuously absent from some meetings," like yesterday's Trump presser in the Rose Garden.

That Bannon's demotion may be a by-product of Trump's imperial ego is just icing on this particular cake: "Mr. Bannon’s Svengali-style reputation has chafed on a president who sees himself as the West Wing’s only leading man. Several associates said the president had quietly expressed annoyance over the credit Mr. Bannon had received for setting the agenda — and Mr. Trump was not pleased by the 'President Bannon' puppet-master theme promoted by magazines, late-night talk shows and Twitter."


Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Gosh. Didn't See That One Coming

President Donald Trump defended Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly amid revelations that O'Reilly and the network paid out millions to settle sexual harassment claims by five women.

"I think he shouldn't have settled; personally I think he shouldn't have settled," Trump told the New York Times on Wednesday. "Because you should have taken it all the way. I don't think Bill did anything wrong," he said.

"I think he's a person I know well — he is a good person," he said.

[Source: NBC News]

Monday, April 03, 2017

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Trump Learning the Hard Way That Words Have Consequences

In March 2016, during a campaign rally in Louisville, Ky., Trump exhorted his audience about some protestors: "Get 'em outta here!" Trump repeatedly rasped, and the crowd responded. They punched, kicked, and shoved the protestors.

And the protestors then sued Trump for inciting violence.

According to Aaron Blake, "Trump's attorneys sought to have the case dismissed on free speech grounds, arguing that [Trump] didn't intend for his supporters to use force. But [Federal Judge David J.] Hale noted that speech inciting violence is not protected by the First Amendment and ruled that there is plenty of evidence that the protesters' injuries were a 'direct and proximate result' of Trump's words."

There were worse examples than that Louisville rally. Will there be more lawsuits?

Let's Not Forget This Other Trump Scandal

Posted March 31, in the Washington Post:
A federal judge has given final approval to a $25 million settlement to litigation against Trump University, a now-defunct real estate seminar program once owned by Donald Trump.
Trump had agreed not long after his election to settle two class-action suits filed by former customers of the program in California, as well as a New York state lawsuit. The suits argued that Trump University defrauded customers, some of whom paid more than $30,000 to participate in the seminars, with false advertisements promising that they would learn Trump's personal real estate tricks and that Trump had hand-picked seminar leaders. In depositions, Trump acknowledged he did not choose instructors.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Trump Presidency: Wrapping Itself Around Its Own Axle

There's no keeping up any more. Trump and his guys are stonewalling the investigation into Russian collusion, and every day chunks of that stone wall crack, crumble, and silt down into a pile of useless dust. It'll be that slow process of dissolution that ultimately destroys this administration. Trump already seems well past his sell-by date. That Gallup tracking poll smells of soured and curdled milk.

Trump now seems desperate to distract people from the other truth: He's a loser. A loser with the magic touch: He turns others into losers too.

Sean Spicer.

Devin Nunes.

General Michael Flynn.
“If you’re not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for, right?”
--Donald Trump last September, at a campaign rally in Orlando 
“Mike Flynn should ask for immunity...."
 --Donald Trump, yesterday morning
Devin Nunes is the perfect deer in the headlights. Leave it to Beaver to get called up to the White House to look at some secret papers that kind of, maybe, might suggest that Trump was spied on before the election and then trot back up to the White House to brief the White House on what the White House just showed him. Devin Nunes has ruined himself. When will he join Sean Spicer as a caricature on Saturday Night Live?

Seen on Facebook recently: "Dammit, Trump should not be allowed to appoint a justice his last year in office."