Jul 21 2017

The Russian Connection: Sessions Lied. No Kidding

It’s Friday night. It’s late July and really hot n Washington DC and the Trump administration is getting really desperate to find a way to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But, he has to fire Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. After Trump’s interview with the New York Times where he trashed Sessions, it looks like Sessions days are numbered clearing the way for a new Attorney General that can fire Mueller. The new front page story in the Washington Post is that Sessions did discuss the campaign with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and it may well have been leaked by the White House to push Sessions to resign.

Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show
By Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller, The Washington Post

Russia’s ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, according to current and former U.S. officials.

Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions — then a top foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump — were intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, which monitor the communications of senior Russian officials both in the United States and in Russia. Sessions initially failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said that the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.

One U.S. official said that Sessions — who testified that he has no recollection of an April encounter — has provided “misleading” statements that are “contradicted by other evidence.” A former official said that the intelligence indicates that Sessions and Kislyak had “substantive” discussions on matters including Trump’s positions on Russia-related issues and prospects for U.S.-Russia relations in a Trump administration.[..]

Russian and other foreign diplomats in Washington and elsewhere have been known, at times, to report false or misleading information to bolster their standing with their superiors or to confuse U.S. intelligence agencies.

But U.S. officials with regular access to Russian intelligence reports say Kislyak — whose tenure as ambassador to the United States ended recently — has a reputation for accurately relaying details about his interactions with officials in Washington.

Don’t you just love Friday?

Jul 21 2017

Reshuffling the Deck Chairs: Three More Overboard

Well, folks it’s Friday and the news dump has started early. This morning Press Secretary Sean “Spicey” Spicer resigned his position in a pique over the appointment of former transition team official and Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci as the new communication director. The office has been empty since the resignation of Mike Dubke in May after just three months in the position. Sarah “Huckleberry” Sanders takes over for Spicey as press secretary.

Trump said in the statement that his administration has “accomplished so much and…given credit for so little.” The “people get it even if the media doesn’t,” Trump said.

Scaramucci, who took the podium in the White House briefing room for the first time, thanked Spicer for deciding to leave so that Scaramucci could start his job with a clean slate and said he hopes that he goes on to “make a lot of money.”

One source with direct knowledge of the situation told NBC News that Spicer informed people last night he would resign if Scaramucci, a Wall Street financier, were hired.

According to the source, Spicer had doubts about Scaramucci’s ability to do the job. Another source said Spicer didn’t present an ultimatum, but that he was not happy about the president’s decision.

During Trump’s bid for office, Scaramucci helped with fundraising and often appeared on cable TV to defend the candidate. Scaramucci first supported Scott Walker and then Jeb Bush.

Trump’s legal team also took a hit:

President Donald Trump is reshuffling his legal team as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation moves full steam ahead.

The developments come one day after Trump suggested an aggressive pushback against his investigators, telling The New York Times that Mueller’s office had widespread conflicts of interest while warning investigators any examinations of his family’s finances would be improper. Sources told CNN, however, that these moves were well in the works before the Times interview took place.

Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s longtime personal attorney who has been the lead lawyer on the Russia investigation, will see his role recede, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter.

A third source said Kasowitz’s role is changing because the needs are more Washington-centric and Kasowitz has done his primary job of putting the team together

Instead, attorney John Dowd, along with Jay Sekulow, will now be the President’s primary personal attorneys for the investigation, according to the two sources with knowledge of the situation. Dowd will take the lead.

Attorney Ty Cobb will take the lead from inside the White House on the Russia investigation when he formally starts his job on July 31.

As CNN reported earlier this month, Cobb will help manage this crisis from a legal and communications perspective.

One source with knowledge disputed reports Thursday night in The New York Times and The Washington Post that the legal team is seeking to undermine the Mueller investigation and stressed the intention is to cooperate fully.

Meanwhile, Mark Corallo has resigned from his position as spokesman and communications strategist for Trump’s legal team.

Corallo told CNN Friday morning, “I resigned yesterday” and declined to comment further about his departure.

His resignation comes after weeks of simmering tension between the White House and the President’s legal team.

Jul 21 2017

The Russian Connection: Desperation

In his interview with New York Times reporters Peter Baker, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman Donald Trump said that Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigating his family’s finances would be a “red line.”

SCHMIDT: Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia — is that a red line?

HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?

TRUMP: I would say yeah. I would say yes.

Despite the implied threat, Mueller is expanding his investigation by looking into Trump’s and his family’s accounts and business dealings with Deutsche Bank.

After a string of bankruptcies in his casino and hotel businesses in the 1990s, Mr. Trump became somewhat of an outsider on Wall Street, leaving the giant German bank among the few major financial institutions willing to lend him money.

Now that two-decades-long relationship is coming under scrutiny.

Banking regulators are reviewing hundreds of millions of dollars in loans made to Mr. Trump’s businesses through Deutsche Bank’s private wealth management unit, which caters to an ultrarich clientele, according to three people briefed on the review who were not authorized to speak publicly. The regulators want to know if the loans might expose the bank to heightened risks.

Separately, Deutsche Bank has been in contact with federal investigators about the Trump accounts, according to two people briefed on the matter. And the bank is expecting to eventually have to provide information to Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel overseeing the federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

It was not clear what information the bank might ultimately provide. Generally, the bank is seen as central to understanding Mr. Trump’s finances since it is the only major financial institution that continues to conduct sizable business with him. Deutsche Bank has also lent money to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and to his family real estate business.

Trump’s reaction to this news was to gather with his consiglieres to find ways to discredit Mueller and his team, investigate their backgrounds and explore his pardon options for his co-conspirators and himself.

The New York Times and the Washington Post both published stories Thursday evening detailing efforts by President Donald Trump’s legal team to cripple and de-fang Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia and possible collusion with that country in meddling with the 2016 election.

The Times piece, written by Michael S. Schmidt, Maggie Haberman and Matt Apuzzo, detailed efforts by the White House legal team and Trump’s personal lawyers to dig up potential conflicts of interest to use as disqualifying factors and impugn Mueller’s objectivity in the case.

In the Post, Carol D. Leonnig, Ashley Parker, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger said that not only are Trump’s attorneys looking for ways to undermine Mueller’s authority, but are also exploring the legal minutiae of presidential pardons.

The Trump administration is setting itself on course for a showdown with Mueller rather than quietly submitting to the investigation. Trump and his attorneys would clearly rather attack and sabotage the workings of the investigation rather than hope his arguments will survive on their merits. {..]

However, given what we know about investigations into former Trump 2016 campaign manager Paul Manafort’s connections to Russian money laundering and clues from intelligence services that Russia was pumping money into the 2016 election through elaborate shell companies and other entities, it is entirely possible that it is within Mueller’s purview to examine those records.

Trump’s last western creditor, Deutsche Bank agreed Thursday to hand over its financial records of Mr. Trump’s dealings with the bank, something it has previously declined to do citing privacy laws.

Jul 21 2017

Pondering the Pundits

“Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: Health Care in a Time of Sabotage

Is Trumpcare finally dead? Even now, it’s hard to be sure, especially given Republican moderates’ long track record of caving in to extremists at crucial moments. But it does look as if the frontal assault on the Affordable Care Act has failed.

And let’s be clear: The reason this assault failed wasn’t that Donald Trump did a poor selling job, or that Mitch McConnell mishandled the legislative strategy. Obamacare survived because it has worked — because it brought about a dramatic reduction in the number of Americans without health insurance, and voters didn’t and don’t want to lose those gains.

Unfortunately, some of those gains will probably be lost all the same: The number of uninsured Americans is likely to tick up over the next few years. So it’s important to say clearly, in advance, why this is about to happen. It won’t be because the Affordable Care Act is failing; it will be the result of Trump administration sabotage.

Eugene Robinson:Don’t get distracted: The GOP’s cruel health-care plan isn’t dead yet

Focus, America, focus. The most urgent task right now is to make sure a stake is driven through the heart of the Republican effort to gut Medicaid and balloon the ranks of the uninsured.

I know that the Russia investigations are charging ahead, with Capitol Hill appearances by members of President Trump’s inner circle scheduled for next week. I know that Trump gave an unhinged interview to the New York Times on Wednesday, bizarrely undermining his own attorney general. I know that one of the few remaining giants in Washington, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), has received a tough medical diagnosis.

There will be time to digest all of that. At present, however, health care is still the main event.

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Jul 21 2017

The Breakfast Club (Sparks of Madness)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo stress free zone_zps7hlsflkj.jpg

This Day in History

First major battle in America’s Civil War fought at Bull Run in Virginia; Scopes ‘Monkey Trial’ concludes; Peace deal ends Indochina War; Author Ernest Hemingway and actor-comedian Robin Williams born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.

Robin Williams

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Jul 20 2017

Things continue to get weirder.

 

Mr. Harris, we have your fingerprints on the safe. A photo of you opening the safe. A post using the hashtag #JustRobbedTheSafe. So, what are we supposed to think?

#HipperThanThou: Yeah, so you were going for that The Shining reference Stephen. Wake Up! It’s 2017 not 1991. We call it The Black Lodge.

Jul 20 2017

Transvaginal Ultrasound

In case I haven’t made it crystal I don’t have one and of the other I’ve had more than enough.

The thing about Ultrasound is that they smear you up with K-Y Jelly and send you back home sticky and icky. I much prefer MRIs (where the receptionist and I chat about our SAD, she has a smoker’s cough as many health care professionals do which indicates the beginning of COPD). Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, hold your breath, breath normally.

Now we do it again with contrast.

I’m not claustrophobic and I close my eyes. I’ve been stuck enough that I only notice when they’ve done a bad job (last time they had to do it twice and mop the floor, more a problem for them than me). If I didn’t have to follow directions I could take a nap (best to get it done first thing, that way you don’t have to wait).

At the end, as a party favor, you get to keep your non-slip socks which are handy if you have cats that don’t like shoes.

Actually, being a dick is an impeachable offense. As no less a luminary than Gerald R. Ford pointed out, impeachment is whatever Congress says it is.

Good luck getting a majority in the House and 2 thirds of the Senate.

Jul 20 2017

Pondering the Pundits

“Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Charles M. Blow: Trump Is His Own Worst Enemy

I have finally found something about Donald Trump’s arrogation of the presidency in which to take comfort: his absolute ineptitude at legislative advancement.

The country may well be saved from some of Trump’s most draconian impulses by some of Trump’s most pronounced flaws: his lack of seriousness, his aversion to tedium and his gnat-like attention span.

The embarrassing faltering of the Republicans’ plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act might be both history lesson and harbinger. Republicans in Congress weren’t prepared with a workable plan, and Trump never had any plan. He campaigned on applause-line policies: Anything that roused a response from his rabid adherents, he repeated and amplified. He never gave details because the details didn’t exist, and he wouldn’t have been able to understand and articulate them if they did.

Trump was simply a megaphone for the primal screams of Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton haters flipping out over the cultural anxiety accompanying the ascension of women and minorities.

Amanda Marcotte: How to sell single payer health care: It’s a great policy, but has a huge political drawback

The very public battle over Trumpcare — which seems like it may, fingers crossed, be collapsing due to the public rejecting the ejection of millions of people from the health care system — seems to have had the side benefit of increasing public interest in the idea of a single payer government-run health insurance system. Polling shows that anywhere from 33 percent to 44 percent to 58 percent of voters back the idea of single payer, and in blue states that theoretically have the tax base to pull off statewide system — such as New York or California — single payer likely could garner more support.

And yet one of the bluest of states, California, has once again failed to get a single payer bill off the ground, in no small part because it was, as David Dayen at the Intercept argued, “a shell bill that cannot become law without a ballot measure approved by voters.” [..]

When one looks at the players involved, it’s hard to deny Dayen’s accusation. But it’s also worth pointing out that single payer, as it’s currently constructed, faces a major political obstacle that even a lot of electoral hustle may not be able to overcome: People really do not want to see their taxes raised to pay for it. Proponents of single payer aren’t doing enough to address that objection.

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Jul 20 2017

The Breakfast Club (6 Months And Counting)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo stress free zone_zps7hlsflkj.jpg

This Day in History

The first men to walk on the Moon; Viking One lands on Mars; Nazi Germany’s dictator Adolf Hitler wounded in an assassination attempt; Mountaineer Edmund Hillary and musician Carlos Santana born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Everybody sooner or later has to drop the luggage and the baggage of illusions.

Carlos Santana

Read the rest of this entry »

Jul 19 2017

Not Good News At All

Glioblastoma is the most common type of cancerous tumor originating in the brain. The prognosis is dire. It is nearly 100% fatal with survival from time of diagnosis ranging from weeks or months to just 3 years.

I don’t report this because I take any joy in it, but it seems from initial reporting that Legacy Media is going to dance around the brutal truth and pretend everything is fine.

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