Tuesday, December 11, 2018

CoS candidates taking the Trump Jump

In another post this morning I asked “Who is left to take a bullet for Trump?” In a different way of expressing it, John Cassidy in the New Yorker asks Are the Rats Preparing to Jump Off the Trump Ship?

What motivates our questions is the on-again, off-again attempt by Trump to replace outgoing Chief of Staff John Kelley with Nick Ayers, the young chief of staff to Vice-President Mike Pence. Trump was well along toward making the announcement when Ayers “spurned” the President.

Even in this news-addled Trump era, Sunday afternoon usually marks a lull: a time for reporters and politicos to indulge their social-media habits by tweeting about football, or even, perish the thought, to spend some time with their families. Not this week. Just before 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, the political class was jerked back to attention when Nick Ayers, the youthful chief of staff to Vice-President Mike Pence, let it be known on Twitter that he had turned down the chance to replace John Kelly as the White House chief of staff. “Thank you @realDonaldTrump, @VP, and my great colleagues for the honor to serve our Nation at The White House,” Ayers wrote. “I will be departing at the end of the year but will work with the #maga team to advance the cause. #Georgia.”

That triggered a bout of damage control. For instance, KellyAnne Conway, explained: "Those of us with young kids very well understand the personal decision he made.”

To say that the inhabitants of the media-political bubble greeted this explanation with skepticism would be an understatement. Summing up the general reaction, John Podhoretz, the New York Post columnist and editor of Commentary, said on MSNBC, “That’s a lot of crap. I don’t know Nick Ayers. I’m not saying he’s a liar, but people don’t get offered the White House chief-of-staff job very often. He was the Vice-President’s chief of staff. This is the center of the action. This is the red-hot center of world politics and world power. And he is going back to Georgia after being the chief of staff to the less-important guy? I am not buying it.”

Neither am I, John. Regardless of Ayers’s personal situation, the takeaway here is that a savvy, ambitious young Republican—one with strong links to the donor class that plays such a key role in the Party—has spurned the President. This just two days after federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York said that Trump had directed Michael Cohen, his former fixer and personal lawyer, to carry out two campaign-finance felonies, and the special counsel, Robert Mueller, said that Cohen had provided his team with“useful information concerning certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation.”

In a party in which allegiance to Trump among many elected officials has long been based on fear and self-interest rather than any genuine liking, this decision sends an alarming signal to Trump and his allies. After all, Ayers wasn’t in any sense an outsider. According to all reports, he had a good relationship with Trump, and with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who supported his promotion to Kelly’s job. If a figure this connected has decided to hop off the Trump train—or at least to move to a carriage farther back—how long will it be before other Republicans follow his lead?

Steve Bannon is warning that it might not take long at all. Over the weekend, the former Trump strategist told the Washington Post that 2019 would be a year of “siege warfare” for the White House, and he went on, “The president can’t trust the GOP to be there when it counts… . They don’t feel any sense of duty or responsibility to stand with Trump.”

Bannon isn’t a wholly reliable observer, of course. But, in this instance, what he said may well be true. Trump didn’t win over the Republican Party: he conquered it. And, over the weekend, in the wake of Mueller Friday, there was a notable shortage of senior Republicans coming to the President’s defense.

The task was largely left to Senator Rand Paul, a longtime critic of the Russia probe, and Chris Christie, an ally of the President. And even Christie, who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the White House chief-of-staff job, wasn’t all that reassuring. Appearing on “ABC News This Week,” the former New Jersey governor, who also served for eight years as a federal prosecutor, conceded that if he were one of the President’s lawyers he would be concerned about the Southern District’s sentencing memorandum. “The language sounds very definite, and what I’d be concerned about is, what corroboration do they have?” he said.

From what I’ve observed, my guess is that prosecutors have substantial corroboration.

Another potential nominee, reported this morning on ABC’s Good Morning America, is (gasp) KellyAnne Conway, spouse of frequent Trump critic, George Conway. Really.

Surreally, already another potential candidate for the CoS job has not survived one of Trump’s tantrums reports New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz: Trump Names TV Remote New Chief of Staff.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Having been turned down by several previous choices for the job, Donald J. Trump broke with tradition on Monday by picking his television remote to be his new chief of staff.

While some in Washington wondered whether an inanimate object was up to the rigors of working for the mercurial Trump, the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, defended the unorthodox selection. “The President and the remote have demonstrated an excellent ability to work together, often for ten or twelve hours a day,” Sanders said.

But even as the White House touted the remote’s qualifications, its tenure as chief of staff appeared to get off to a rocky start on Monday morning.

After the remote got stuck and failed to change the channel when CNN’s Jim Acosta appeared on the television screen, Trump reportedly threw his new chief of staff across the room, narrowly missing Mike Pence’s head.

“I’ll be surprised if the remote makes it through the year,” a White House source said.

The remote would be well advised to follow Ayers and take the Trump Jump.

A 'smocking gun' - Trump's Towering Tawdry Tabloid Trickery

In his morning email, Judd Legum (popular.info) tells us if we are To understand Mueller, follow the money.

There was a flurry of activity in the Mueller investigation last week, including sentencing memos for three key players – Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, and Michael Cohen. A lot of the critical information in these documents was redacted, suggesting that Mueller isn’t quite ready to show his entire hand because more indictments are forthcoming.

But there is a key piece of information from Mueller’s office in the sentencing memo for Cohen. In his testimony before Congress, Cohen stated that plans for a Trump tower in Moscow were shelved by January 2016. This was false.

Cohen continued working on the project until at least June, after Trump had secured the Republican nomination, and discussed it with Trump. Notably, Mueller asserts that the project, if completed, would have netted Trump “hundreds of millions of dollars from Russian sources.”

Ethically, Mueller could not include the value of the Moscow Project to Trump if he could not provide it in court. So he is almost certainly not just relying on Cohen’s testimony. He likely has documentary proof of the value of the Moscow Project to Trump.

What’s striking is that the Moscow deal was worth exponentially more to Trump than a typical transaction. At TPM, Josh Marshall runs through some examples:

In 2016, Trump got $1 million in licensing fees from his Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto.

For his building in Vancouver for 16 months between January 2016 and April 2017 he received “more than $5 million.”

For a Trump Tower in Baku, Azerbaijan, the Trump Org got $2.5 million in 2014.

Trump was paid $1 million for a licensing deal in the country of Georgia in 2011. The project was later canceled.

One of the key questions, especially after Trump’s humiliating performance in Helsinki, is why Trump consistently carries water for Russia. The enormous value of the Moscow Project appears to be a significant factor.

Trump has consistently denied that he ever had any business dealings with Russia. The New York Times reports that “on at least 23 occasions since the summer of 2016, Mr. Trump has said either that he had ‘nothing’ to do with Russia, or that he has ‘no deals,’ no investments and no ‘business’ in Russia.”

Russia knew that was a lie and, therefore, had leverage over Trump.

Tawdry Trickery

All that’s important stuff, but let’s not forget a parallel issue playing out in another court case: the hush money paid out by Trump in order to hide his affairs. Here too we are well advised to follow the money.

Trump’s Tawdry Tabloid Sagas Reveal Weightier Themes reports Jim Rutenberg at the NY Times.

The stories were tawdry, and the news coverage sometimes veered toward clickbait, but there were important questions hiding beneath the sheets.

Has the presidential election process become so cynical that players in a campaign can surreptitiously blow through legal limits on spending to deceive the public?

Are they free to coordinate with a media organization that behaved in a manner antithetical to the role the founders envisioned for a free press by paying to hide information about a presidential candidate, rather than share it with the public?

On Friday, federal prosecutors in New York answered those questions with a resounding No.

In making their stand against Mr. Cohen, they were arguing for the legitimacy of United States campaign finance law — which, for all its loopholes, may have some teeth, after all — and for the value of truth and transparency in campaigns.

Mr. Cohen has pleaded guilty to two sets of criminal campaign violations. By secretly paying Ms. Daniels $130,000 for her silence in October 2016, he was flouting the law that limits individual campaign contributions to $2,700 in a general election.

And by arranging for The Enquirer’s parent company to squelch Ms. McDougal’s affair accusation by buying the exclusive rights to her story for $150,000 and then sitting on it — a practice known in the tabloid trade as “catch-and-kill” — Mr. Cohen was inducing A.M.I. to violate a law that prohibits corporations from spending any money in campaigns in coordination with candidates or their agents.

When prosecutors proposed a “substantial” prison sentence for Mr. Cohen on Friday, they cited those violations ahead of other crimes to which he has pleaded guilty, including tax evasion and lying to Congress.

“Cohen’s commission of two campaign finance crimes on the eve of the 2016 election for president of the United States struck a blow to one of the core goals of the federal campaign finance laws: transparency,” the prosecutors wrote in the sentencing memo. “While many Americans who desired a particular outcome to the election knocked on doors, toiled at phone banks or found any number of other legal ways to make their voices heard, Cohen sought to influence the election from the shadows.”

People following the yarn may not have expected that a story centered on a porn star and a onetime Playboy model would end up with prosecutorial paeans to American ideals. But here we are.

It was easy to understand … why so many pundits were skeptical that federal prosecutors would pursue a case related to the hush-money deals involving Ms. Daniels and Ms. McDougal. Across the television news networks, the experts expressed doubt that anything would result from what was referred to as “just a campaign finance violation.”

Beneath their words was a world-weary knowingness. Wasn’t this how the game was played?

On Friday, the law answered back.

But Trump, of course, returned fire. Payments to silence women were a ‘simple private transaction,’ not illegal campaign contributions, he said. John Wagner at the Washington Post reports.

In morning tweets, Trump sought to counter assertions in a court filing Friday that he had directed his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to try to silence the women in a bid to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Cohen has pleaded guilty to the alleged crime, saying he acted at Trump’s direction.

In his tweets, Trump suggested that the payments were being scrutinized only because investigators have not been able to find evidence of collusion between his 2016 campaign and Russia.

He also blamed Democrats for the scrutiny — a day after some high-profile members of the party appeared on Sunday talk shows and suggested Trump faces serious legal jeopardy.

"So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly call it a campaign contribution, which it was not,” Trump wrote.

He further asserted that even if the payments could be considered campaign contributions, he should be facing a civil case rather than a criminal case. And he said, Cohen should be held responsible, not him.

In the tweets, Trump also twice misspelled “smoking gun” as “smocking gun” as he quoted a commentator on Fox News talking about the Russia probe by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Trump’s tweets were criticized Monday by several lawyers, both for their substance and for his public airing of a defense that could complicate matters if charges are ever brought against him.

Among those weighing in was George Conway, the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and a frequent critic of the president on Twitter and in op-eds. He seized on Trump’s assertion that Democrats were behind the scrutiny of the payments.

"No, the criminal campaign-finance violations were found by professional line prosecutors in a Republican-controlled United States Department of Justice,” Conway wrote. “It looks like a pretty good case. Kudos to them.”

At issue are the payments to two women who alleged sexual relationships with Trump before he ran for president.

In August 2016, Playboy model Karen McDougal reached an agreement with American Media Inc., publishers of the National Enquirer, that ensured she would not share her story about a lengthy relationship with Trump. In October of that year, adult film actress Stormy Daniels received $130,000 to similarly stay quiet about a liaison that she said had occurred a decade before.

Both of those agreements were facilitated by Cohen, as he admitted in court in August when he pleaded guilty to two campaign-finance charges, among others.

Prosecutors argue that because Cohen was an agent of the Trump campaign, the payments to McDougal and Daniels were campaign contributions in excess of federal limits and not unrelated expenditures.

“With respect to both payments, Cohen acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election,” Friday’s filing from prosecutors in New York says. “Cohen coordinated his actions with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments. In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual–1.”

We now know that Individual–1 is Trump. We also know, from Cohen’s own admission, that the intent of his actions - at the direction of Trump - was to influence the 2016 election. Cohen says he paid hush money at candidate Trump’s direction. The statement came as part of a plea deal that Cohen struck Tuesday afternoon [8/21/18] with federal prosecutors in New York.

… Cohen, Donald Trump’s combative former personal lawyer, on Tuesday [8/21/18] implicated the president in hush money payments he said were designed to sway the election, as part of a plea deal he struck with federal prosecutors on fraud charges.

Cohen, who once stated he would take a bullet for Trump, flipped on his former boss in a dramatic courtroom appearance …

“I participated in the conduct for the purposes of influencing the election” Cohen said about his payments to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal, two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump in the past …

That makes the payments, as George Conway put it, “criminal campaign-finance violations”.

It seems that Trump’s legal troubles multiply each day. Who is left to take a bullet for Trump? I’ll answer that in another post.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Wishing Trump a Mueller Christmas and other Illustrated Gnus

Here are today’s themes, schemes, memes, and falemes from AZBlueMeanie’s faves at Blog for Arizona - and a bonus breaking gnus report.

Mars to earth
  • Trump goes to war with Planet Earth. Martians consider building a wall.
  • Iconic image: Putin high-fives with MBS, Trump on sidelines.
  • Trump: "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and not lose support …
  • MBS: “and I could have a journalist dismembered in Turkey and not lose his.”
  • NYSE reacts to Trump tweets: “Aaaiiiiieeeeeeeee!” The rest of us react to NYSE: “Aaaiiiiieeeeeeeee!”
  • Faster than a sinking stock market: Tariff Man .
  • GOP cheats to win and cheats when they lose.
  • 41: 1000 points of light. 45: one point of light (his cell phone).
  • Bush lies in state. Trump lies in every state.
  • Mueller opens DC cabaret. Flynn sings.
  • Speaking of singing: Trump does not react well to carolers singing “We wish you a Mueller Christmas.”
  • And just in: John Kelly Departs White House with Nuclear Codes Hidden in Pants reports New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—The outgoing chief of staff, John Kelly, departed the White House with the nation’s nuclear codes hidden in his pants, General Kelly has confirmed.

Kelly, whose illustrious military career spanned five decades, called his absconding with the nuclear codes “my greatest act of service to my country.”

Speaking to reporters from his home, Kelly said that he had planned the heist of the nation’s nuclear codes with the pinpoint timing of a clandestine military mission.

“I went into the Oval Office on Friday when I knew Trump would be distracted because ‘Fox & Friends’ was on,” he said. “Then, when he started tweeting something that one of the hosts told him to do, I slipped the codes into my pants, as quick as lightning.”

Kelly revealed that, in order to prevent Trump from retrieving the codes, he was keeping them in his pants for safekeeping.

“Let’s see that draft-dodging coward try to get them off me,” he said, his eyes gleaming with malice.

Climate change pits those worried about the end of the month against those worried about the end of the world

As negotiators from around the world gathered in Poland to discuss how to lower carbon emissions, the Trump Administration unveiled two schemes promoting fossil fuels.

That’s one of the many climate developments reported by Elizabeth Kolbert in Coal for Christmas at the U.N. Climate Conference appearing in the New Yorker.

Last week, representatives from around the world gathered to begin another round of climate negotiations in Katowice, a city in the heart of Poland’s coal-mining country. Delegates arriving at the meeting, known in United Nations-speak as a Conference of the Parties, or cop, were treated to an outdoor performance by a Polish coal miners’ band. Inside the convention pavilions, they found mounds of coal displayed behind glass, like objets d’art, as well as arrangements of coal-based cosmetics and coal-encrusted jewelry. Poland gets about eighty per cent of its electricity from coal, the most carbon-intensive of carbon-based fuels, and the Polish President, Andrzej Duda, noted in his opening remarks that the country had enough as yet unmined supplies to last another two centuries. “It would be hard not to use them,” he said.

So one impediment to solving problems triggered by climate change is the plentiful fossil fuels. The time horizon for running out is centuries; the time horizon for massive extinctions, displacements, and economic hardships is merely decades. Policy makers are falling into one horizon or the other. They need to address both.

Depending on how you look at things, a coal-stuffed climate summit is either completely absurd—“beyond parody,” as one commentator put it—or merely appropriate. With each passing month, the threat posed by global warming grows clearer. And so, too, does the world’s failure to take that threat seriously. “We are in trouble,” the United Nations’ Secretary-General, António Guterres, said at the cop’s opening session. “It is hard to comprehend why we are collectively still moving too slowly—and even in the wrong direction.”

I just gave you one reason for our sluggish movement in the wrong direction: the consequences are not believed to be iminent. Here is another.

Last week, just as the session in Katowice was getting under way, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, suspended plans to raise that nation’s gasoline and diesel-fuel taxes. The increase had been intended to speed the transition to cleaner cars; the postponement came in response to violent protests by the so-called “yellow vest” movement. Demonstrators complained that Macron was worried about the end of the world, while they were worried about the end of the month.

Constrained by these two divisions the world talks while the planet burns in spite of the panic button hit by climate scientists

In October, a report from an international team of scientists warned that the planet was closer to dangerous warming than had previously been believed, and that a critical threshold could be crossed within a matter of years. To avoid this, a rapid and total overhaul of global energy systems would be needed. Such a transformation, the team observed, has “no documented historical precedent.”

Then, in November, a study put together by experts from thirteen U.S. federal agencies laid out the extent to which warming is already wreaking havoc in this country—via drought, intensifying storms, and an increasing number of wildfires. The study predicted that, as temperatures continue to rise, the country will experience “losses to infrastructure and property” that could run to hundreds of billions of dollars annually. (The Trump Administration did not tamper with the contents of the study, a version of which must, by law, be presented every four years. Instead, it sought to bury the assessment, by releasing it the day after Thanksgiving.) In the brief interval between the publication of the two reports, the deadliest wildfire in California’s history, the Camp Fire, claimed the lives of at least eighty-five people.

As these alarms were going off, one nation after another reached for the snooze button. Last month, the President-elect of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, chose as his Foreign Minister a climate-change denier, Ernesto Araújo. (Araújo has described climate science as part of a plot by “cultural Marxists” to cripple Western economies.) The incoming government promptly announced that Brazil was reneging on its offer to host the next cop, which is scheduled for November, 2019.

And the Trump administration in the United States actively pursues actions in the wrong direction - undermining climate science while promoting fossil fuels.

The Trump Administration, meanwhile, has already made plain its intention of undermining the whole cop process. Last week, the Administration basically flipped off negotiators in Poland by unveiling not one but two new schemes for promoting fossil-fuel use. The first was a proposed rollback of an Obama-era rule that effectively blocked new construction of coal-fired power plants. (The rollback was presented by the acting head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal-industry lobbyist.) The second was a plan to open some nine million acres of public lands in Western states to oil and gas drilling by sweeping aside protections for the greater sage grouse. Environmentalists—justifiably—labelled this move a “giveaway” to the fossil-fuel industry. As the Times noted, it would “open more land to drilling than any other step the administration has taken.”

This year’s cop—the twenty-fourth in the series—is supposed to resolve procedural questions left hanging when the Paris Agreement was negotiated, three years ago, at cop21. Under the agreement, each country was asked to formulate its own emission-reduction plan. The aim of this give-what-you-can approach was to nudge developed and developing countries toward a consensus. It was hoped that nations would, over time, push one another to increase their commitments. Back in 2015, this might have been a reasonable expectation. Now, in the era of America First, it looks increasingly like wishful thinking.

On Wednesday, even as negotiators in Poland were debating how to monitor CO2 reductions, researchers at the University of East Anglia and a group called the Global Carbon Project announced that emissions are again on the rise. Worldwide, they are expected to have increased by almost three per cent in 2018, to more than forty billion tons. In the United States, emissions rose by about 2.5 per cent, following a decade of decline. The message from this year’s tally “is more brutal than ever,” David Reay, a climate scientist at the University of Edinburgh, told the Guardian. “We are deep in the red and heading still deeper.”

Even gloomier was the assessment of a trio of prominent researchers at universities in California and Texas, which appeared last week in Nature. They argued that, while the latest warnings have been dire, they have not been dire enough. Owing in part to the recent uptick in emissions, warming will be “faster and more furious” than predicted. “For decades scientists and policymakers have framed the climate-policy debate in a simple way: scientists analyse long-term goals, and policymakers pretend to honour them,” they wrote. “Those days are over.”

If they’re right, this year’s carbon-friendly cop may indeed mark a turning point—the moment when climate negotiations can no longer be considered even a useful fiction.

The time for talk is over; we need action. We should consider treating our response to more rapid climate change as an infrastructure imperative, one that supersedes the need for bridges and roads, one that creates new economic opportunities while reducing carbon emissions. That approach might let us deal with “end of the month” issues while still addressing our very real concerns about the “end of the world.”

The same kind of approach can be deduced from futile efforts to bail out the coal industry. Mark Sumner at Daily Kos reports that Coal falls to level not seen since 1979, as Trump prepares final effort to bail out failing industry. Here are his introduction and conclusion.

Donald Trump has done everything he can think of to try and make it appear as if he’s “saving coal.” He’s signed a bill to allow more coal waste to be dumped into streams and rivers without remediation. He’s halted a study on the health issues of coal miners and another on the health effects of surface mining on nearby residents. He’s relaxed regulations on emissions from coal power plants, killed the entire Clean Power Plan, opened up new areas of federal land for mining, relaxed emissions standards, and put forward a plan that would simply nullify most federal regulations over coal power plants. He’s disbanded the EPA’s air pollution panel and proposed allowing power plants to send more mercury and heavy metals into the atmosphere. Along with can-you-believe-he’s-still-Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, Trump even tried to use emergency powers not touched since the 1950s to force utility companies to use more coal. That last attempt was stopped at the last minute, because Trump’s own advisers finally convinced him—for the moment at least—that it was both idiotic and illegal.

But in spite of all Trump’s promotion, coal plants closed at a record pace in both 2017 and 2018. And on Wednesday, the Energy Information Administration reports that coal consumption has plunged to levels not seen since 1979.

<[snip]

At this point, Trump could roll back every requirement for building a coal power plant — not just Obama-era regulations, all regulations. It wouldn’t result in a single new plant. Because not only is no one convinced that coal plants will be around to collect their first check in 2058, even right now it is cheaper to build new solar or wind power, from scratch, than it is to simply operate an already existing plant.

Forget rolling back regulations. Trump could be handing out ready-made plants. For free. And no one would sign up to operate them. However, if Trump starts handing off money to plan for new coal plants, there are plenty of operators who will be happy to take the cash and pretend, until he is gone.

Coal is going to finish out 2018 at a level 44 percent below where it was in 2007. 529 coal generation units have been retired since then. The one new unit coming on line next year represents 17 megawatts of power. However, there are already 11 gigawatts of coal-based generation slated to end next year, and that number is steadily increasing. Still, those planned retirements for 2019 and 2020 are much smaller than the numbers that closed in 2017 and 2018. That’s not because Trump is “saving coal.” It’s because, now that it’s less than 30 percent of electrical generation, there’s not that much coal left to save.

The biggest issue utilities face now is simply building out new wind and solar quickly enough to replace coal, and doing it before the falling demand brings on an ultimate crisis that makes it impossible to supply remaining plants.

Elizabeth Kolbert won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction for “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.” Mark Sumner is a staff writer at Daily Kos.

Trumpian Troubles with Making America Great Again - 'anyone can grow up and become Individual-1'

The title of this post is inspired by a tweet from Preet Bharara, the fired U.S. attorney from the Southern District of New York - with thanks to George Conway for resistance to Trump. George Conway, you probably know, is husband to KellyAnne Conway, one of Trump’s reiterators. Now Cleve Woodson at the Washington post reports thatGeorge Conway blasts Trump’s claim that Cohen filing ‘totally clears the President’.

On Friday, as The Washington Post’s Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky reported, federal prosecutors offered new evidence that implicated the president in plans to buy the silence of two women Trump allegedly had affairs with as far back as 2014. The documents also spoke of Russian efforts to forge a political alliance with Trump before he became president.

Trump tweeted that the investigation “Totally clears the President. Thank you!”

But Conway was among the most vocal in pointing out how wrong the phrase “totally clears the president” is.

George Conway
@gtconway3d
Except for that little part where the US Attorney’s Office says that you directed and coordinated with Cohen to commit two felonies. Other than that, totally scot-free.

Conway then proceeded to spend the rest of his Friday night focusing his Twitter on the Trump-as-potential-felon theme.

He retweeted a link from satirical site the Onion: “Giuliani Insists Breaking the Law Not a Crime.” He shared a Nixon-era headline “President: ‘I’m not a crook,’ retweeting presidential historian Michael Beschloss’s analysis: “What’s old is new again.” He also retweeted former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal, who said “The real news . . . is about the conclusion by federal prosecutors that Donald J. Trump has committed a serious felony.” And he shared a lengthier take by former assistant attorney general Jack Goldsmith: “One struggles to see how a document that alleges that such conduct took place at the direction of Individual–1 ‘totally clears the president.’”

Even Conway’s correct spelling of “scot-free” may have been a dig at Trump and his head-scratching use of the phrase “Scott Free” earlier in the week.

walter dellinger
@walterdellinger
Corrected: The United States Department of Justice filing today with the court leads to the unmistakable conclusion that President of the United States has committed felonies. This will mark the beginning of the end.

Friday’s criticism was one-sided, but it hasn’t always been that way. This week, for example, the president’s son Eric Trump wrote on Twitter that Conway’s constant criticism of the president shows “utter disrespect” to his wife.

"Of all the ugliness in politics, the utter disrespect George Conway shows toward his wife, her career, place of work, and everything she has fought SO hard to achieve, might top them all,” Eric Trump wrote on Twitter.

Kellyanne Conway is a “great person,” he added, and her husband’s actions “are horrible.”

As The Post’s Antonia Noori Farzan reported, Eric Trump’s words came shortly after Conway accused the president of witness tampering during a Monday morning tweetstorm where he seemed to be discouraging longtime adviser Roger Stone from testifying against him.

But Conway’s words on Friday weren’t all doom and gloom and indictments and impeachment. He also included a sardonically inspiring tweet from Preet Bharara, the fired U.S. attorney from the Southern District of New York:

“Inspiring reminder: In America anyone can grow up and become Individual–1”

Even Donald Trump.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Trump to Tillerson- Nyah, nyah, nyah-nyah, nyah, you're a moron too

Rex Tillerson on Trump: ‘Undisciplined, doesn’t like to read’ and tries to do illegal things reports Aaron Blake (Washington Post/The Fix). Tillerson made those remarks in a sit-down with CBS’s Bob Schieffer.

This post has been updated with Trump’s response, at bottom.

Rex Tillerson came a little bit closer Thursday [Dec. 6th] to saying what he actually thinks of President Trump.

The fired secretary of state, who while in office reportedly called Trump a “moron” (and declined to deny it), expounded on his thoughts on the president in a rare interview with CBS News’s Bob Schieffer in Houston.

It wasn’t difficult to read between the lines. Tillerson said Trump is “pretty undisciplined, doesn’t like to read” and repeatedly attempted to do illegal things. He didn’t call Trump a “moron,” but he didn’t exactly suggest that Trump was a scholar — or even just a steady leader.

“What was challenging for me coming from the disciplined, highly process-oriented ExxonMobil corporation,” Tillerson said, was “to go to work for a man who is pretty undisciplined, doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports, doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things, but rather just kind of says, ‘This is what I believe.’ ”

That’s the guy whose gut is bigger than his brain. “Challenging” is a sub for “frustrating.,”

[snip]

Perhaps the most damning quote came when Tillerson talked about how Trump as president regularly attempted to do things that violated the law.

“So often, the president would say, ‘Here’s what I want to do, and here’s how I want to do it,’ ” Tillerson said, according to the Houston Chronicle, “and I would have to say to him, ‘Mr. President, I understand what you want to do, but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law.’ ”

Tillerson also appeared to take a shot at Trump’s chief method of communication, Twitter.

“I will be honest with you: It troubles me that the American people seem to want to know so little about issues — that they are satisfied with 128 characters,” Tillerson said.

He was quick to say that that wasn’t meant as a shot at Trump but our political system more broadly. Next to his other comments, though, it wasn’t difficult to see he was lumping Trump with all those Americans who aren’t intellectually curious enough about policy and the actual details of U.S. government.

Update: Trump has responded by calling Tillerson both dumb and lazy.

Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump
Mike Pompeo is doing a great job, I am very proud of him. His predecessor, Rex Tillerson, didn’t have the mental capacity needed. He was dumb as a rock and I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. He was lazy as hell. Now it is a whole new ballgame, great spirit at State!
1:02 PM - Dec 7, 2018

Hence the title of my post.

And here is an addendum from Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) who weighs in with Doing himself no favors, Trump lashes out at ‘dumb’ former cabinet sec:

I don’t doubt that the president found this satisfying. Someone who saw how Trump tries to govern told the public some unflattering truths, so Trump found it necessary to lash out and insult his new critic. He gets hit, he impulsively hits back.

But if the president assumes these little outbursts make him look better, he has this exactly backwards. In fact, Trump’s tweet leads to a fairly obvious follow-up question: if Rex Tillerson is “dumb,” “lazy,” and lacking in “mental capacity,” why exactly did the president make him the secretary of state?

Remember, it was just a few years ago when then-candidate Trump vowed to surround himself “only with the best and most serious people” if elected. It was right around the time he promised via Facebook to “hire the best people.”

Either he’s succeeded on this front or he hasn’t – and according to Trump, there’s a fair amount of evidence for the latter.

I’m not just talking about all of the many, many members of his team who’ve left; I’m thinking more about the members of his team who’ve left, only to face public ridicule and condemnations after their departures.

The Atlantic’s David Frum had a good Twitter thread along these lines this afternoon, highlighting the president’s needlessly acerbic rebukes of all kinds of former allies, from his former attorney general (Jeff Sessions) to his former personal attorney/fixer (Michael Cohen) to his former chief White House strategist (Steve Bannon).

Maybe “the best and most serious people” were too hard to find?

Paul Waldman on the Russia probe - 'accountability is on its way'

Paul Waldman (Washington Post/The Plum Line) has a succinct version of the legal happenings this last week in The latest filings show that nobody can save Trump now.

At the end of the day Friday, we learned what federal prosecutors in New York think of Michael Cohen:

Federal prosecutors said in a new court filing that President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen should spend significant time in prison — saying his assistance to investigators probing the president does not outweigh his past crimes.

The filing was made Friday as Cohen prepares to be sentenced next week in two separate cases, one involving campaign finance violations and lying to a bank, and another in which he admitted to lying to Congress about efforts during the 2016 presidential campaign to get a Trump Tower built in Moscow.

Cohen had asked for a sentence of no prison time, citing his cooperation with investigators, but prosecutors for the Southern District of New York filed a memo arguing that he should serve significant time, possibly years, in prison.

This is bad news for Cohen, but there’s something else interesting in the filing: Prosecutors explicitly state that Cohen coordinated with President Trump on hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal over his alleged affairs with them: “as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual–1.” That’s Donald Trump.

We knew this already — and we knew that Trump lied about it, claiming not to know about the payments — but this says that prosecutors believe that Trump ordered Cohen to commit a crime.

That brings us to the second document that dropped at the same time, from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office. In contrast to the New York prosecutors, Mueller states that Cohen’s cooperation in his investigation was substantial and helpful. But much of what Mueller has to say is vague. For instance:

Cohen provided the [special counsel’s office] with useful information concerning certain discrete Russia-related matters core to its investigation that he obtained by virtue of his regular contact with [Trump Organization] executives during the campaign.

What does that refer to? We don’t know. That means that there is more to this story that Mueller has yet to reveal.

And he will reveal it. One of the remarkable things about the discussion we’ve been having lately is that the president still seems to think that he can be saved from whatever this investigation uncovers. He just announced that William Barr will be his next attorney general, and the New York Times reported that in private, “Mr. Trump has also repeatedly asked whether the next pick would recuse himself from overseeing the special counsel investigation into whether his campaign conspired with Russia in its interference in the 2016 election.” It’s as though he thinks this investigation is in its early stages and can be quashed by a properly loyal underling.

Waldman counters with this prognostication:

But at this point it doesn’t matter. It’s far too late. Trump’s former aides have cooperated, they’ve conducted their interviews with the special counsel, they’re being sentenced, the documents have been reviewed, the connections have been traced, and the full picture is soon to be revealed.

This scandal can’t be hidden away. Republicans in Congress can’t save Trump, his attorney general can’t save him, and no amount of desperate tweets can save him. Accountability is on its way, and it’s arriving very soon.

AZBlueMeanie (Blog for Arizona) has more from other sources; he thinks Impeachment is coming.