Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Mueller report a month after the Ides of March - we hope.

The Ides of March has come and gone but in the background, on or about that day, history was being made, “made” in the sense of fabrication.

Leading up to the Ides, Mueller told Barr, Rosenstein 3 weeks ago he would not make decision on obstruction. That occurred in a meeting on March 5. “Attorney General Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein were surprised by Mueller’s lack of a determination, said a person familiar with the [March 5] meeting.” And then, a week after the Ides (March 22), Mueller report sent to attorney general, signaling his Russia investigation has ended.

Then, after taking heat because of Barr’s non-summary summary, the Mueller report will be delivered by ‘mid-April, if not sooner,’ attorney general tells Congress. So we, public and Congress, should expect a month after the Ides to receive a redacted report. But what if the volume of redacted text exceeds that of the volume of un-redacted text? What if the evidence implicates the president in obstruction of justice? What if the report is never sent to Congress?

In answer to the last of those questions, The Trump Constitutional Crisis Has Arrived opines Michael Bryan at Blog for Arizona. Here are some snippets.

Let me be the first to say, if Trump releases the Mueller Report in full, I’m dead wrong about most of what I’m saying. I hope that happens, and that I’m just wrong. But if Trump doesn’t release the Report and starts to make excuses, the crisis is coming.

Barr’s summary was a whitewash; the Report is political kryptonite and can never be released without permanently crippling Trump’s Presidency. So they won’t. Ever. It might be true that Mueller decided that Trump’s actions did not rise to the evidentiary standard required to indict Trump, as Barr claims, or Mueller may have concluded that he could not indict a sitting President, but the House would happily commence an impeachment inquiry (even if they don’t call it that…) on all the evidence Mueller has collected over the past 22 months.

Congress has demanded the Report, but gotten only silence and excuses. Congress may subpoena it, but will get stonewalled. The Courts may order it released, but Trump will stand fast and try his luck in his newly-packed Supreme Court. Perhaps he may try to release only non-damaging fragments of the Report. He will assert executive privilege, Grand Jury secrecy, classified status, anything, to withhold the worst of it. He cannot release it, because it will end his Presidency. So he won’t. I don’t think this stance is ultimately sustainable for the next two years, but I’ve underestimated Trump before.

I can’t guarantee that our current House and Senate have what it takes to face down an unleashed and irresponsible President. It is possible that the confrontation will just drag on into the 2020 election, which would then become a referendum on whether the President has to continue following the Constitution; if Trump wins, he essentially becomes a dictator, if he loses, he’s going to jail. Not because of the Mueller Report, but because of his decades of lawless behavior that is now catching up with him in Courts across the country. He can’t afford to stop being President, because law enforcement is nipping at his heels. Michael Cohen’s testimony warning that we may never see another peaceful transfer of power might become a Cassandrian prophecy.

However the Constitution crumbles, one thing is for sure, the crisis is here and we’ve got to recognize that and prepare to back the forces of Constitutional governance in the coming confrontation.

Bryan suspects that the “coming confrontation” “might even result in violence from the very far-right criminal element among whom Trump has inspired a spike of White Nationalist terrorism in this country.”

A day after the Ides of March, I posted this: Getting the Last Word - Trump fans imaginary flames over transfer of presidential power. Again I’ll let Lawrence O’Donnell have “TheLast Word.”

[Trump] is already guilty of inciting murderous violence in America. And we will probably see more of that kind of violence in the age of Trump. Another Synagogue, another group of protesters against white supremacy, a reporter Donald Trump calls an enemy of the people, we don’t know.

But that, that is worth worrying about. Not the next presidential transition of power. Let’s not help Donald Trump fan his imaginary flames.

So, if you read about or hear about fears of a civil war, let Lawrence’s last words put you at ease. And recall the words of Nancy Pelosi about Trump: “He’s just not worth it.”

Friday, March 29, 2019

High drama at House Intelligence Committee as Chairman Schiff lectures Republicans on evidence of a compromised president - 'You might think that’s OK. I don’t.'

House Intel Republicans call on Schiff to resign as chairman after Mueller report. Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended Schiff by saying “Republicans are afraid of the truth.”

All nine Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee have signed a letter calling for its chairman, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, to step down, citing his claims that there was evidence that President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russians during the 2016 race.

Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, introduced the scathing letter during a public committee hearing Thursday and then read it aloud.

“Your willingness to continue to promote a demonstrably false narrative is alarming,” Conaway said. “The findings of the special counsel conclusively refute your past and present exertions, and have exposed you of having abused your position to knowingly promote false information.”

“Your actions both past and present are incompatible with your duty as chairman of this committee,” Conaway added. “As such, we have no faith in your ability to discharge your duties in a manner consistent with your constitutional responsibility, and urge your immediate resignation as chairman of the committee.”

What godawful nonsense. Trump created this sh!t out of nothing and the Republicans on the committee slurped it up and regurgitated it in a public hearing.

The key item in their letter is this: “The findings of the special counsel conclusively refute your past and present exertions,…” In fact, the findings of the special counsel have not been revealed to Congress nor to the general public. They have only been seen by the Attorney General - and I have serious doubts that he was was able to evaluate Mueller’s report in just two days. So Conaway and his co-signatories were spewing nonsense.

Schiff was having none of it. Steve Benen (MSNBC/Maddlow Blog) has a good summary, saying that Under partisan fire, Adam Schiff presents his case without apology.

Donald Trump this morning insisted that the California Democrat acted “unlawfully” – the president didn’t say which laws Schiff allegedly broke – and “should be forced to resign from Congress.” A few hours later, every Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, which used to be a relatively non-partisan panel, issued a letter calling on Schiff to surrender the chairman’s gavel.

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) then read the letter aloud during a committee hearing.

Given the intensity of the GOP crusade, one might assume that Schiff has been caught up in a horrible scandal, perhaps even facing a criminal indictment. But what’s bewildering about the offensive is its inanity: the Republican outrage that’s been manufactured out of whole cloth.

Schiff’s unforgivable misdeed was arguing that there was coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016 – an assertion Republicans believe has been discredited by the Mueller report, despite the fact that they have no idea whether the Mueller report supports their argument or not.

To his credit, the Intelligence Committee chair, who seems to realize he’s done nothing wrong, isn’t backing down. On the contrary, he’s sticking to his guns and doing his best to remind everyone, friend and foe alike, that the arguments he’s made and the evidence he’s pointed to remains fully intact.

It was against this backdrop that Schiff laid out his case during this morning’s Intelligence Committee hearing, shortly after the panel’s GOP members called for his ouster.

I’m going to quote the remarks at length, because I think the details are relevant to the larger debate:

And Benen does that below in the text of his post. But I advise you to skip the quotes, go to Benen’s post, and play the video of Schiff’s rebuttal. If he was not angry he sure was a good actor. It seems to me that Schiff knew what was coming and sprung a trap into which the Republicans foolishly stepped. Because here is the thing (quoting Benen’s conclusion): “Each of the factual points the chairman raised are supported by evidence, and as best as I can tell, none of the factual assertions have been contested by Trump, any of his allies, or the contents of Attorney General Bill Barr’s memo.” So the Republicans must have known they were spewing Trump’s BS and did it anyway. Another thing you might see in the video was an attempt by one of the Republicans to get equal time to respond to Schiff - a request Schiff gaveled down as he proceeded with the hearing.

“My colleagues might think it’s OK that the Russians offered dirt on the Democratic candidate for president as part of what’s described as the Russian government’s effort to help the Trump campaign. You might think that’s OK.

“My colleagues might think it’s OK that when that was offered to the son of the president, who had a pivotal role in the campaign, that the president’s son did not call the FBI; he did not adamantly refuse that foreign help – no, instead that son said that he would ‘love’ the help with the Russians.

You might think it’s OK that he took that meeting. You might think it’s OK that Paul Manafort, the campaign chair, someone with great experience running campaigns, also took that meeting. You might think it’s OK that the president’s son-in-law also took that meeting. You might think it’s OK that they concealed it from the public. You might think it’s OK that their only disappointment after that meeting was that the dirt they received on Hillary Clinton wasn’t better. You might think that’s OK.

“You might think it’s OK that when it was discovered, a year later, that they then lied about that meeting and said that it was about adoptions. You might think that it’s OK that it was reported that the president helped dictate that lie. You might think that’s OK. I don’t.

“You might think it’s OK that the campaign chairman of a presidential campaign would offer information about that campaign to a Russian oligarch in exchange for money or debt forgiveness. You might think that’s OK, I don’t.

“You might think it’s OK that that campaign chairman offered polling data to someone linked to Russian intelligence. I don’t think that’s OK.

“You might think it’s OK that the president himself called on Russia to hack his opponent’s emails, if they were listening. You might think it’s OK that later that day, in fact, the Russians attempted to hack a server affiliated with that campaign. I don’t think that’s OK.

“You might think it’s OK that the president’s son-in-law sought to establish a secret back channel of communication with the Russians through a Russian diplomatic facility. I don’t think that’s OK.

“You might think it’s OK that an associate of the president made direct contact with the GRU through Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks, that is considered a hostile intelligence agency. You might think it’s OK that a senior campaign official was instructed to reach that associate and find out what that hostile intelligence agency had to say in terms of dirt on his opponent.

“You might think it’s OK that the national security adviser designate secretly conferred with the Russian ambassador about undermining U.S. sanctions, and you might think it’s OK that he lied about it to the FBI.

“You might say that’s all OK, that’s just what you need to do to win. But I don’t think it’s OK. I don’t think it’s OK. I think it’s immoral, I think it’s unethical, I think it’s unpatriotic and, yes, I think it’s corrupt – and evidence of collusion.”

“Now I have always said that the question of whether this amounts to proof of conspiracy was another matter. Whether the special counsel could prove beyond a reasonable doubt the proof of that crime would be up to the special counsel, and I would accept his decision, and I do. He’s a good and honorable man, and he is a good prosecutor.

“But I do not think that conduct, criminal or not, is OK. And the day we do think that’s OK is the day we will look back and say that is the day that America lost its way.”

“And I will tell you one more thing that is apropos of the hearing today: I don’t think it’s OK that during a presidential campaign Mr. Trump sought the Kremlin’s help to consummate a real estate deal in Moscow that would make him a fortune – according to the special counsel, hundreds of millions of dollars. I don’t think it’s OK to conceal it from the public. I don’t think it’s OK that he advocated a new and more favorable policy towards the Russians even as he was seeking the Russians’ help, the Kremlin’s help to make money. I don’t think it’s OK that his attorney lied to our committee. There is a different word for that than collusion, and it’s called ‘compromise.’

“And that is the subject of our hearing today.”

Each of the factual points the chairman raised are supported by evidence, and as best as I can tell, none of the factual assertions have been contested by Trump, any of his allies, or the contents of Attorney General Bill Barr’s memo.

In theory, this should represent the end of the Republican tantrum over Adam Schiff.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

A not-well nation accepts an armed autocracy as 'the price of freedom'

Dear Leader
GOP pays homage to Dear Leader

The nation is not well. As one piece of evidence I offer South Carolina’s Graham Cracker.

The AZBlueMeanie has an extensive list of autocratic actions taken by Trump and his courtiers in The Party of Trump promises to go full banana republic for their ‘Dear Leader’. Some of these actions comes from Sen. Lindsey Graham. You know - John McCain’s BFF. But now that McCain is dead …

The Blue Meanie opines on the specter of autocracy.

I warned you earlier this year that if Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not recommend action against President Donald Trump for obstruction of justice (here is a compendium of instances from the New York Times, Intimidation, Pressure and Humiliation: Inside Trump’s Two-Year War on the Investigations Encircling Him), that Trump would be unbound and feel emboldened to pursue his authoritarian dream of turning this country into a banana republic with him as its autocratic “Dear Leader.”

Trump and his sycophant cult followers are using this window between Barr’s letter and the release of the public version of the Mueller report to establish a media narrative, and just as they did with the GOPropaganda to falsely lead this nation into the Iraq war, the media is playing along and again failing the American people.

Trump and his sycophant cult followers are pursuing their “deep state” conspiracy theories and seeking revenge against his political opponents, federal law enforcement, and the media — all hallmarks of authoritarianism. What they are not doing is taking any action to protect the United States against foreign interference in our elections, as detailed by the Special Counsel.

The Littlest Rebel, Little Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Trump’s loyal lap dog, promises to carry out Trump’s revenge against his political opponents and federal law enforcement, pursuing his “deep state” conspiracy theories. Roll Call reports, Lindsey Graham calls for a special counsel investigation on ‘the other side of the story’ following Mueller report:

Sen. Lindsey Graham called for further investigation into “the other side of the story,” referring to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant allowing the Justice Department to surveil Trump campaign associate Carter Page.

“[It] is at a minimum disturbing,” that the FISA warrant may have been based on an unverified dossier of salacious allegations against the president, Graham said.

The Hill adds, Senate GOP eyes probes into 2016 issues ‘swept under the rug’:

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is signaling that he’ll use his high-profile panel to dig into areas he believes his colleagues have largely “swept under the rug” in the wake of the 2016 election.

The goal of the authoritarian Party of Trump is to silence its political opponents and to cower, if not silence, the critical news media. The authoritarian Party of Trump is undemocratic and un-American, and represents the single greatest threat to our American democracy. Trumpism is the new American fascism, and it must be defeated and consigned to the ash heap of history.

School shootings are just OK with us

All that is terrible and terribly important. But it overshadows other things that afflict the nation. One of those other things is America’s excuses for its standing as the deadliest of developed nations as indexed by its rate of deaths by guns.

Leonard Pitts Jr. tells us that Gun violence isn’t an act of God, or ‘the price of freedom’.

"This is the price of freedom.” — Bill O’Reilly on the Las Vegas massacre

“Freedom to be afraid is all you won.” — Gil Scott-Heron from “Gun”

Originally, this was going to be a column about Sydney Aiello. She was 19 years old, a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida, and she was buried Friday after committing suicide. Her parents said she lost friends in last year’s shooting at her school. They said she carried survivor’s guilt and had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Then the column about Sydney became a column about Sydney and a boy, his identity not yet released, who died of an apparent suicide the day after her funeral. He was a sophomore at her old school.

Then the column changed yet again. Jeremy Richman, the father of 6-year-old Avielle Richman, who was killed in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, was found dead of an apparent suicide on Monday. It seems reasonable to suspect, though at this point not possible to know, that proximity to tragedy played a role in the deaths of the man and boy, as it evidently did with Sydney.

So this is a column about the three of them. And the 328 million of us. And the singularly grotesque thing Bill O’Reilly said two years ago after 58 people died and over 500 were wounded in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, a thing that has hovered like smoke over every mass shooting since.

“This is the price of freedom,” he said.

Which is, of course, ridiculous. Canada is free. Australia, Spain and Finland are free. As the nation that gave us the Magna Carta, England might fairly be said to have invented freedom.

None of them has anywhere near the level of gun violence America does.

But it is not the inaccuracy of O’Reilly’s statement that gives it such grim resonance in the wake of this triple suicide. It is, rather, the substance, that idea of paying a price for so-called “gun rights.”

We think of that price in terms of fallen bodies, blood shining on asphalt. Truth is, that’s only the beginning.

Long after the bodies have been recovered and the asphalt scrubbed, after the media fold their tents and the nation turns its restless attention elsewhere, there are people left learning to walk again, or talk again. And there are families with holes shot through them, hearts that grieve behind sunny smiles, invisible wounds bleeding. Because each bullet that finds flesh injures not just its victim, but everyone around her until eventually, the whole country is walking blood stained and wounded.

We have second-graders with PTSD. We have preschoolers practicing active-shooter drills. In South Carolina, a 7-year-old survivor takes to pulling out her eyelashes and clawing her own skin. In Arizona, a 4-year-old cries “active shooter” as fireworks burst overhead. In Florida and Connecticut, three people are dead by their own hands. This is our new American normal.

And for what?

“This is the price of freedom,” O’Reilly said, trying to imbue mass murder with a sheen of patriotic sacrifice. His absurd words reflect a nation that resolutely refuses to do anything but think and pray about an ongoing national disaster. We regard gun violence like earthquakes and windstorms, acts of God we cannot prevent, but only learn to live with.

But gun violence is no act of God. And we can’t live with it. That’s the whole point.

“The price of freedom,” he says. Well, that price keeps going higher.

And whatever we’re buying, freedom isn’t it.

Not only does the price keeps going higher, a vast swath of our society thinks it’s just OK that children must die so that we can have unrestricted access to the deadliest of firearms. Like I said:

The nation is not well.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Mueller Mystery deepens on obstruction - no crime but no exoneration

The great mystery about the Mueller investigation was his failure to come to a decision on the obstruction of justice charge. Mueller wrote "While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

That turned what was supposed to be an apolitical process into a political mess; political circus is not too strong a descriptor. The ever-lying Donald Trump trumpeted “EXONERATE” even though Mueller did not exonerate Trump on the obstruction question. In the absence of a release of Mueller’s full report, Scriber’s usual sources have lots to speculate about.

In Barr memo leaves much unanswered about Mueller report findings “Rachel Maddow reviews Attorney General William Barr’s memo to Congress about the conclusions of the Mueller Report and asks some of the questions that are not addressed and also newly raised.” Indeed, she enumerates 15 of them.

The most important, at this stage, is why Mueller left unresolved the question of obstruction of justice by the president. Did he or didn’t he?

More Questions Emerge About Mueller’s Punt on Obstruction of Justice writes New Yorker columnist John Cassidy.

Why didn’t the special counsel, Robert Mueller, reach a judgment on whether Donald Trump has obstructed justice? Forty-eight hours after William Barr sent his four-page letter to Congress, in which he revealed that the special counsel had punted on one of the two central issues of his investigation, we still don’t have a clue. Indeed, the mystery has deepened.

… Mueller’s inaction also startled some veterans of the Justice Department. “I was shocked and remain somewhat bewildered as to why the special counsel did not conduct the customary balancing tests set out by the principles of federal prosecution, the guidebook for all prosecutors, by assessing whether there was sufficient admissible evidence to charge the President with obstruction,” David Laufman, a Washington lawyer who has held a number of senior jobs at Justice, including heading up its national-security division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Monday night. “We just don’t have any visibility as to what his reasons were.”

Maddow asked Laufman if Mueller might have believed, for whatever reason, that he didn’t have the option of issuing a judgment. “It is a possibility,” Laufman replied. “But . . . then why go through the exhaustive effort of conducting one of the most probing criminal investigations in the history of the Department of Justice, and leave it in an unresolved state—in essence, putting at risk the work he did by committing it to the discretion of the two most senior political appointees in the Department of Justice, who, not unexpectedly, filled that void by substituting their judgment for the judgment we expected the special counsel to exercise?”

… before resolving the question of impeachment, we need to learn much about what Mueller’s team found, what it didn’t find, and why he determined not to decide whether the President obstructed justice. To be sure, Mueller may have had some defensible arguments for his inaction. But it’s hard to sustain the claim that a judgment from him wouldn’t have had any practical value.

It would have had an enormous impact. If Mueller had said the evidence wasn’t sufficient to establish that Trump obstructed justice, the White House’s victory would have been complete. If Mueller had said the balance of evidence indicated that Trump did obstruct justice, impeachment would have been back on the table, although still unlikely to succeed, given the President’s grip on the G.O.P. In any case, though, a statement from an independent prosecutor that there were sufficient grounds for prosecution would have had great political and symbolic importance. It would have shown that, even if a President can’t be frog-marched into court while he is in office, he is still not above the legal process.

Rather than reaching a decision, the special counsel wrote, “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” That left the entire thing up in the air. I’m sticking with my original opinion: it looks like a cop-out.

The Daily Star reprinted this Editorial: Even as Trump campaign is cleared on Russian interference coordination, obstruction cloud remains in absence of full report - from the NY Daily News. I’ve identified three facts we need to keep in mind.

[Fact #1:] Barr relays Mueller’s own words, saying while the report “does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Further, Barr writes that this judgment was based on a close look at a number of actions, “most of which” have been aired publicly. [Fact #2:] Most, not all: That means there are instances of interference beyond the catalog already in public view.

But wait, say Trump’s most strident defenders, it’s nonsensical to obstruct an inquiry when there’s no underlying crime.

[Fact #3:] Not so. A president need not fear the revelation of the specific offense to worry about what a lawman digging around might turn up, and then improperly act on those fears.

That is, it is possible to obstruct justice even in the absence of a crime.

[Fact #4:] Trump will continue to lie about Fact #3.

So, two years of impartial investigation resulted in an open question, and two presidential appointees — Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — were left to render a conclusion favorable to the president?

What does the report actually say?

It is imperative that the full report be made available to Congress and delivered to the American people.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Following the money from a Chinese connection to Mar-a-Lago

Chinese connection
A Chinese Connection

Trump is Trumpeting his exoneration by AG Barr’s incomplete report on Mueller’s investigation. But there are many other law suits and investigations underway at both federal and state levels. Here’s another.

In A $50,000 photo with Trump, Judd Legum (popular.info) follows the money from Chinese to Mar-a-Lago.

Why we get from this pricey pair of photos …

One of the biggest rackets in politics is selling access to candidates at high-dollar fundraisers. For many people, however, meeting the candidate isn’t enough. They want to be able to leverage the meeting as proof of their power and connections. So campaigns started selling “photo opportunities.”

It’s an unseemly but perfectly legal practice used by politicians on both sides of the aisle.

But a pair of photos with Trump at a December 2017 fundraiser, which required a $50,000 donation each, hints at a much deeper scandal. Trump appears in the photos with two Chinese-born tech moguls, Ryan Xu and Lucas Lu.

… to a conclusion about another potential Trumpian pay-for-play scandal - The Chinese government connection.

Xu and Lu were brought to the event by Li “Cindy” Yang, who gained notoriety as the former owner of a massage parlor that sold sex to powerful men, including New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft. Yang, who has become a fixture at Republican political events in recent years, snapped a selfie with Trump at his Super Bowl watch party in Mar-a-Lago in February.

Why did Yang, who does not seem to have been involved in politics at all until 2015, suddenly emerge as a prominent Republican fundraiser?

We don’t know for sure. But Yang is “an officer of two groups with ties to China’s Communist government,” according to a report by Mother Jones. The groups are “the Florida branch of the Council for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China (CPPRC) and the Miami chapter of the American arm of the Chinese Association of Science and Technology.”

This suggests that, if Yang’s activities were not directed by the Chinese government, Chinese intelligence would at least have been aware of her high-level contacts with Trump, his administration, and his family.

Yang’s actions do not just represent possible campaign finance violations but also an espionage and blackmail risk. Top Congressional Democrats have written a letter to the FBI, asking the bureau to open a counterintelligence investigation into Yang and her companies. Democrats also asked the FBI to investigate whether any other foreign governments are using access to Trump at Mar-a-Lago and elsewhere for intelligence operations.

Check out Legum’s reporting for more details about Yang and her company.

Gallego will not run for U. S. Senate leaving Mark Kelly to challenge Trump's 'loyal handmaiden' Martha McSally

The short story:Gallego declines to run for Arizona Senate seat reports Jonathan Cooper at the Arizona Capitol Times.

Congressman Ruben Gallego says he won’t run for the U.S. Senate, likely avoiding a contentious fight for the Democratic nomination to finish John McCain’s last term.

Gallego told The Arizona Republic Monday that it’s not in the best interests of the state or the Democratic Party for him to engage in a bitter primary fight with retired astronaut Mark Kelly.

Gallego is well-connected to the liberal base of the Democratic Party. Kelly jumped into the race last month and has signaled he’ll run a centrist campaign like the one waged in 2018 by his fellow Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

The Arizona race is expected to be one of the top Senate contests in the country. Republican Sen. Martha McSally was appointed to the seat and is looking to keep it.

The longer story was reported by Politico (among several others) in Democrats could dodge messy Arizona primary after Gallego passes on Senate bid. Here is some of Gallego’s reasoning.

Gallego told reporters Monday he had seen recent polling showing that his path to victory in the primary was to run a negative campaign, which would have been a “bitter, bitter primary” and would have hurt Democrats’ chances to win the seat. The primary is in late August 2020, making it difficult for candidates in competitive intraparty fights to pivot to a competitive general election. McSally struggled to gain ground after her GOP primary last year, and Democrats were eager to avoid a similar situation.

“Republicans want a bitter primary between Democrats so they can hold this seat, and if they want that they’re going to have to find another race,” Gallego said. “I’m not going to be part of their tool.”

Unless there is another power-house politician out there willing to be such a tool, Mark Kelly appears to be the candidate to take on McSally. He has Scriber’s endorsement.

The loyal handmaiden

Jim Nintzel (Tucson Weekly), responding to Kelly’s February announcement, provided more reasons why Kelly is an excellent candidate to take on McSally: Here’s Why Democrat Mark Kelly Could Knock Appointed Sen. Martha McSally out of Her Orbit.

Kelly’s entry into the race is McSally’s worst nightmare. She’s already lost one Senate race and only has her seat because she cooked up an insurance plan with Jon Kyl and Gov. Doug Ducey. Kyl, who took a break from his lobbying career to accept an appointment to the late Sen. John McCain’s seat, stepped down at the end of last year so McSally could have a consolation prize after falling to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

Team Kelly knows McSally inside and out. Many of his most trusted advisors are veterans of campaigns run by Giffords and Ron Barber, the former congressman who won the seat Giffords gave up in 2012 to focus on her recovery. Barber narrowly won a race against McSally in 2012 and lost one to her by a mere 167 votes in 2014.

McSally lost her Senate race because she went from Trump skeptic to Trump true believer in 2018. She hasn’t veered from that course, remaining a loyal foot soldier to Trump from her Senate perch. For example, while a handful of Republicans (including newly elected Utah Sen. Mitt Romney) voted alongside Democrats to end the government shutdown last month, McSally remained a team player, voting only for the GOP plan.

Kelly-McSally
Kelly vs. McSally

At this point, it’s gonna be hard for McSally to break up with Trump, who will remain at the top of the ticket in 2020. But even if she remains his loyal handmaiden, she’s still got problems with the Arizona Republican Party, which is now under the control of one of her political rivals, Kelli Ward, who lost to McSally in the 2018 GOP primary for Senate. And despite McSally’s allegiance to Trump, it’s entirely possible that she’ll have a primary challenge because many conservative Republicans still think she’s too lib.

Finally, for now, here is David Fitzsimmons’ take on the Kelly-McSally square-off.

Monday, March 25, 2019

READ THIS FIRST - the joy will help you cope with the rest of the crap

Nicholas Kristof has an update on the 8-year-old chess whiz Our Chess Champion Has a Home. The 8-year-old refugee who last week was thrilled to have a trophy suddenly has so much more. (h/t Sherry Moreau)

Tanitoluwa Adewumi, age 8, skidded around the empty apartment, laughing excitedly, then leapt onto his dad’s back. “I have a home!” he said in wonderment. “I have a home!”

A week ago, the boy was homeless, studying chess moves while lying on the floor of a shelter in Manhattan. Now Tani, as he is known, has a home, a six-figure bank account, scholarship offers from three elite private schools and an invitation to meet President Bill Clinton.

“I think I am still dreaming,” said Tani’s dad, Kayode Adewumi. “I hope I don’t wake up.”

After my column about this hard-working family, a GoFundMe drive raised more than $200,000 for Tani, his parents and his brother. A half-dozen readers offered housing … Immigration lawyers offered pro bono assistance to the Adewumis, who are in the country legally and seeking asylum. Three film companies are vying to make movies about Tani.

The family settled on one of the more modest and practical housing offers: An anonymous donor paid a year’s rent on a two-bedroom apartment near Tani’s current school. The apartment is clean, comfortable and freshly painted, without being luxurious …

The Adewumis have decided that they will not spend a cent of the $200,000 GoFundMe money on themselves. They will take out a 10 percent tithe and donate it to their church, which helped them while they were homeless, and the rest will be channeled through a new Tanitoluwa Adewumi Foundation to help African immigrants who are struggling in the United States the way they were a week ago.

I asked them how they could turn down every penny of such a huge sum. Didn’t they want a celebration dinner? New iPhones? A vacation?

“I’m a hardworking guy,” Mr. Adewumi explained. He has two jobs: He drives for Uber with a rented car and sells real estate through Brick & Mortar. Someone has now offered him a free car so that he can keep more of the money he makes driving, and Tani’s mom was just offered a job as a health care aide at a hospital.

I asked Tani if he was O.K. with seeing the $200,000 disappear. He shrugged. “I want to help other kids,” he said. “I don’t mind.”

The family was tempted by the offers of full scholarships at top private schools. But Tani and his parents decided that while he might accept such a scholarship for middle school, he would be loyal and stick with the public elementary school, P.S. 116, that taught him chess and waived his fees for the chess club.

“This school showed confidence in Tanitoluwa,” his mom, Oluwatoyin Adewumi, told the P.S. 116 principal, Jane Hsu. “So we return the confidence.” And then, overcome with emotion, the mom and the principal hugged.

There’s a risk that a triumph like this leaves the impression that charity is the solution rather than a way to fill gaps: Fundamentally we need comprehensive systems in place to support needy kids. We would never build a bridge or subway with volunteers and donations, so why entrust an even more urgent cause — homeless children — to charity?

Tani thrived because everything fell into place: a good school, a dedicated chess teacher and devoted parents committed to taking their son to every chess practice. The challenge is to replicate that supportive environment for all the other Tanis out there with public services and private philanthropy alike.

Now pause and reflect on your own life and the every-things that, for you, “fell into place”. Like me, you will find that exercise informative and humbling.

Gnus and other bad guys in the Illustrated News

FLASH: AG Barr releases his version of Mueller report. GOPlins whoop and holler. Dems want full report. Newsweek reports: MUELLER DID NOT EXONERATE’ TRUMP, ‘DEMOCRATS WILL CALL ON AG WILLIAM BARR’ TO TESTIFY, SAYS HOUSE JUDICIARY CHAIR.

ex·on·er·ate
/iɡˈzänəˌrāt/
verb
(especially of an official body) absolve (someone) from blame for a fault or wrongdoing, especially after due consideration of the case.
“they should exonerate these men from this crime”
synonyms: absolve, clear, acquit, declare innocent, find innocent, pronounce not guilty, discharge;

That’s not what Mueller did.

Responding to the [AG Barr] summary, Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York argued that there must be a reason why Mueller’s findings didn’t explicitly exonerate the president.

“There must be full transparency in what Special Counsel Mueller uncovered to not exonerate the President from wrongdoing,” the New York congressman tweeted. “DOJ owes the public more than just a brief synopsis and decision not to go any further in their work.”

“Special Counsel Mueller worked for 22 months to determine the extent to which President Trump obstructed justice,” Nadler added in another tweet. “Attorney General Barr took 2 days to tell the American people that while the President is not exonerated, there will be no action by DOJ.”

Due to the “very concerning discrepancies and final decision making at the Justice Department,” Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee chair, said, "we will be calling on Attorney General Barr to testify” before the committee sometime “in the near future.”

Even though Barr’s summary stated that Mueller was unable to determine whether Trump or anyone in his 2016 campaign team had obstructed justice, the president finally commented on the news in a post to Twitter this afternoon, writing: “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!”

Bull.

Shooting a dead guy
How did our nation get to this place?

Here are the other Mournday Mourning themes, schemes, memes, and falemes from AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

  • The first 16 toons are about Trump’s trashing John McCain. The score: McCain 16, Trump 0.
  • What does it say about the character of those who are OK with trashing a deceased hero? (Lindsey “Groveling” Graham, for example.)
  • Trump fans the flames of white supremacy among his fans.
  • The U. S. is still influential on the world stage. The New Zealand shooter thought so when he marked Trump as a symbol for his murderous mission.
  • Wouldn’t it be fun to have breakfast with the Conways?
  • Messaging in ’Merica. On the left: study hard, get good grades. On the right: bribe an cheat.
  • Beto, Biden, Better? (Hey! Don’t shoot the messenger. Go read AZBlueMeanie’s post for those toons.)
  • America needs a break from diverse, young, female presidents. Instead, 40% of Americans will opt for re-electing a white, old, draft-dodging, crazed, corpulent, corrupt male.
NZ vs. US
Question: How did our nation get to this place?

Answer: By willing to see our children massacred time after time after time, all so we can preserve our “right” to own military weapons.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Crazed Corpulent Commander-in-Chief Feuds with a Corpse

Is Trump the Commander-in-Chief? Check.

Is Trump corpulent? Check.

Is he obsessing over a dead hero? Check.

Is he just plain crazy? Circle the best answer: Yes or No.

New Yorker columnist John Cassidy , I suspect, would circle “Yes”. Let’s read on, shall we, to find out as Cassidy describes Donald Trump’s Unhinged Obsession with “a Man Named John McCain”. During a speech in Ohio, Donald Trump railed against the late Senator McCain, who died of brain cancer.

For the first ten minutes or so, the speech that Donald Trump delivered at the Lima Army Tank Plant in Fort Shawnee, Ohio, on Wednesday afternoon, was standard fare. Standing in front of several M1A1 tanks and a huge American flag, Trump told the assembled workers that they should love him because he had kept the plant open when its future had been in doubt. … Etc. Etc. Yada yada.

Then he jumped from tanks to John McCain.

“A lot of people are asking, because they love me, and they ask me about a man named John McCain,” he said. “And if you want, I could tell you about … should I or should I not?” A few people in the crowd, or perhaps in Trump’s entourage, shouted yes, and Trump went on. “So I have to be honest, I’ve never liked him much—hasn’t been for me.” He flicked his right wrist in a gesture of dismissal. “I’ve really, probably never will, but there are certain reasons for it, and I’ll tell you.”

With that, the forty-fifth President launched into a five-minute disquisition on why he so loathes McCain, who died seven months ago, and whom he has been attacking periodically ever since, including several times in the days before his trip to Ohio. The recent attacks have caused distress to McCain’s family and have irked some senior Republicans. On Wednesday afternoon, just a couple of hours before Trump spoke in Ohio, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, tweeted: “Today and every day I miss my good friend John McCain. It was a blessing to serve alongside a rare patriot and genuine American hero in the Senate.”

Perhaps McConnell’s tweet bothered Trump, and prompted him to escalate his assault on McCain’s legacy. His comments, however, were detailed enough that they appeared to have been prepared in advance. “Did you hear about the dossier?” he began, referring to the notorious Trump-Russia document put together by Christopher Steele, a former British spy. “It was paid for by Crooked Hillary Clinton, and John McCain got it. What did he do? He didn’t call me. He turned it over to the F.B.I. hoping to put me in jeopardy, and that’s not the nicest thing to do.”

The next entry on the rap sheet was McCain’s late-night vote, in the summer of 2017, against a Republican bill targeting the Affordable Care Act. “He said two hours before he was voting to repeal and replace, then he went thumbs down,” Trump said, affecting a tone of disgust. He also claimed that McCain “didn’t get the job done” for military veterans. Finally, Trump turned to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, accusing McCain of pushing George W. Bush to enter conflicts that “have been a disaster for this, our, country.”

When the long wars started, Trump supported them along with McCain and most of the U.S. establishment, of course. The failure to disclose this fact was the least of his offenses on this occasion. Here was the Commander-in-Chief, who dodged the Vietnam draft with the assistance of a doctor who knew his rich father, denigrating and dismissing a former prisoner of war and five-term Republican senator who died from brain cancer. It wasn’t just unseemly. It was kind of demented.

As Trump’s diatribe continued, the members of the crowd, who had been chanting “U.S.A., U.S.A.” when he took the stage, mostly fell silent. He didn’t take the hint. Instead, he brought up yet another beef with McCain that has been festering somewhere in his fragile psyche, one that he hadn’t mentioned in public before. “I gave him the kind of funeral he wanted, which as President I had to approve,” he said. “I don’t care about this—I didn’t get ‘Thank you,’ ” he said, referring to the elaborate memorial service last summer, to which he wasn’t invited. “That’s O.K. We sent him on the way, but I wasn’t a fan of John McCain… . Not my kind of guy, but some people like him and I think that’s great.”

That last statement was almost certainly not true, and neither was a lot else of what Trump said. A fact-checking piece published by the New York Times on Wednesday night concluded that his description of McCain’s role in handling the Trump-Russia dossier and his claim that veterans groups took his side against McCain were both “misleading.” The article also said that Trump “exaggerated” his role in authorizing McCain’s funeral. That was a gentle way of putting it.

It was Congress that allowed McCain’s body to lie in state at the Capitol, and the Episcopal Church runs the Washington National Cathedral, where the funeral service was held. For his part, Trump didn’t order the flag at the White House to be lowered to half staff until almost forty-eight hours after McCain’s death, and he “stubbornly refused repeated requests from officials as senior as Vice President Mike Pence and John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, to acknowledge Mr. McCain’s death with a formal and unifying statement,” the Times reported at the time.

It should never, ever be forgotten what a resentful, self-absorbed, petty, and insecure husk of a man is occupying the Oval Office, and it never, ever will be forgotten. As he demonstrated again on Wednesday, Donald Trump won’t allow it.

There’s one more vote being cast in favor of Trump having some mental problem, and that’s from George Conway, husband to Trump advisor KellyAnne Conway. (See my post The pathological products of a preening president.) Conway thinks Trump is afflicted with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Cassidy thinks Trump is “kind of demented.” The thing is, none of the three of us are psychiatrists or clinical psychologists so I’ll let Trump’s behavior go as “just plain crazy.” Only through that lens could we make sense of a president of the United States feuding with a corpse.

Finally, Michael Bryan at Blog for Arizona shows us how AZ Sen. Martha McSally Acts Like Trump’s Battered Wife Responding to McCain Attack.

Here’s what McSally tweeted.

**Martha McSally
@SenMcSallyAZ
John McCain is an American hero and I am thankful for his life of service and legacy to our country and Arizona. Everyone should give him and his family the respect, admiration, and peace they deserve.
11:13 AM - Mar 20, 2019

Why not call out Trump directly? Compare this example of what other notables have said.

Others who knew McCain, such as Arnold (yes, that one) were much more direct and vocal in their condemnation of Trump’s attack.

“He was just an unbelievable person,” Schwarzenegger said. “So an attack on him is absolutely unacceptable if he’s alive or dead—but even twice as unacceptable since he passed away a few months ago. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to do that. I just think it’s a shame that the president lets himself down to that kind of level. We will be lucky if everyone in Washington followed McCain’s example, because he represented courage.”

That’s how to defend a dead friend and mentor.

But that’s not what McSally did. Why not? The Huffington Post found the likely reason in [Senator Martha McSally Praises John McCain But Doesn’t Rebuke Trump For His Attacks][huff]. McSally, who holds McCain’s former U.S. Senate seat, stopped short of condemning Trump’s behavior directly.

An op-ed published in the Arizona Republic on Wednesday suggested that McSally’s decision not to directly condemn Trump is likely because she faces election in 2020 to maintain control of her seat.

“She’s afraid that if she speaks honestly about Trump, he’ll turn on her,” the op-ed accused, while further describing her response to Trump as disappointing. “She’s scared. Sad, but understandable.”

Sad, but understandable? Here’s what I understand. Because of her fear of Donald Trump, Martha McSally has traded off her political career against the interests of state and country.

ACTION ALERT - Senate committee scheduled for hearing on Interior nominee - McSally is on that committee

Here is another instance of Trump’s approach to governance - another instance of X/AntiX. He nominated David Bernhardt as Interior Department secretary. In brief, “Bernhardt has a long history of working to weaken protections for public lands and endangered species. He mastered his behind-the-scenes skills as a lobbyist and high-level official in the Interior Department.”

Please contact member Sen. Martha McSally and Chairwoman Sen. Lisa Murkowski of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources that is scheduled for a March 28th hearing. The full membership is appended below.

Contact information
McSally, Martha - (R - AZ)
B40D Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
202–224–2235
Contact: www.mcsally.senate.gov/contact_martha

Murkowski, Lisa - (R - AK)
522 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224–6665
Contact: www.murkowski.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact

You can cull talking points from the following two opinion pieces.

The Center for Biological Diversity shares a letter from 29 Retirees, With 737 Years of Service, who Oppose Confirmation of Trump’s Interior nominee: Retired Interior Department Employees Urge Senators to Block Bernhardt.

WASHINGTON— Retired employees with a combined 737 years of service at the U.S. Department of the Interior today urged senators Lisa Murkowski and Joe Manchin to oppose President Trump’s nominee David Bernhardt as Interior Department secretary. The senators are chairwoman and ranking member of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, respectively.

Bernhardt will face the committee in a confirmation hearing on March 28. In their letter the 29 retirees write that Bernhardt, in his current position as the agency’s deputy secretary, “has been at the center of a culture of corruption that has been the Interior Department’s hallmark under the Trump administration.”

“Confirming Bernhardt as Interior secretary would be like dropping a bomb on America’s national parks and imperiled wildlife,” said Chris Nagano, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity who spent 27 years at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protecting endangered species. “He’s already twisted the law so powerful corporations can pollute our environment and suck up water from our rivers for agribusiness. The Senate shouldn’t endorse this guy’s appalling efforts to wreck America’s beautiful public lands.”

The former Interior employees who signed the letter worked at positions as high-ranking as national park superintendent. They spent their careers at the Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey and the Office of the Solicitor.

Bernhardt has a long history of working to weaken protections for public lands and endangered species. He mastered his behind-the-scenes skills as a lobbyist and high-level official in the Interior Department.

As a longtime lobbyist for the Westlands Water District in California, he fought hard to block wildlife safeguards. After moving to Interior, he recused himself from working on Westlands issues. But just days after the recusal expired, in the summer of 2018, he began work on a controversial plan to roll back environmental protections and send more water to Central Valley farmers, including those in the Westlands Water District. This plan, if executed, would decimate threatened Delta smelt, Sacramento River salmon runs and the entire Bay Delta ecosystem.

While Bernhardt was Interior’s top lawyer under George W. Bush, he authored policies that sharply limited protections for endangered species. Just last year, with Bernhardt as its deputy secretary, the Interior Department proposed sweeping regulatory changes that would severely undermine the Endangered Species Act. The Act is credited with successfully keeping 99 percent of listed species from going extinct, including grizzly bears, California condors and Florida panthers.

Bernhardt oversaw the assault on a previously approved plan to protect tens of millions of acres in the Great Basin that are critical for imperiled sage grouse. The new plan will strip protection from more than 30 million acres of the bird’s sagebrush habitat, while significantly expanding oil and gas drilling and other harmful activities.

One Bernhardt policy precluded species like polar bears from protection against greenhouse gases, the primary threat to their survival. Another of his directives resulted in a rushed environmental review to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.

“The American people want an Interior secretary who will stand up for them, not big corporations representing the 1 percent,” said Gail Kobetich, who was one of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s first endangered species biologists during a 31-year career with the Interior Department. “The Senate should vote against the confirmation of Bernhardt and send a message to Donald Trump that he must protect our public lands, wildlife and endangered species, not exploit and kill them.”

Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) published this opinion piece, Trump’s choice for Interior Secretary is fox at hen house. Here it is in full.

From our deepest canyons to our distinctive rock formations and mountain ranges, Arizonans love their public lands and outdoor spaces. According to the 2019 Conservation in the West poll, nearly 70 percent of Arizona voters want more emphasis on protecting sources of clean water, air quality and wildlife habitat while providing opportunities to visit and recreate on our national public lands. Only 20 percent preferred that Congress place more emphasis on producing more domestic energy by maximizing the amount of national public lands available.

That is why the prospect of David Bernhardt – whose Senate confirmation hearing approaches on March 28 – as Secretary of the Interior should be cause for great alarm in the Grand Canyon State.

The record shows that Mr. Bernhardt could not be farther away from the balance Arizonans want, where wildlife protections, clean waterways and appropriate energy development work in concert. His record as a former lobbyist for fossil fuel companies and now a leader at the Interior Department driving policies to expand drilling and strip wildlife protections, reveals so many conflicts of interest that Bernhardt admits he carries around a card to remind him of what they are. Nevertheless, since Bernhardt rejoined the Interior Department in 2017, it has made at least 15 policy changes, decisions or proposals that would directly benefit Bernhardt’s former clients.

In Arizona, from 2011 to 2015, Bernhardt lobbied on behalf of Rosemont Copper Co. for a proposed open-pit copper mine 30 miles southeast of Tucson. The EPA warns that the mine will pollute surrounding air and water supplies with toxic metals, which would severely impact local economies dependent on outdoor recreation and tourism. The mine has faced more than 11 years of legal battles from understandably concerned environmentalists and tribal nations.

Regionally, in his role as Deputy and now Acting Secretary of Interior, he has among other things taken aim at weakening the Endangered Species Act, reversing protections for the imperiled sage grouse; offered oil and gas leases next to national parks, national monuments, and national historical sites; and played an important role in the reduction of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. In his tenure as DOI Solicitor in the Bush administration, he spearheaded the campaign for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Veterans, who often find that the great outdoors is a medicine that helps to heal the after effects of battle, have taken particular notice of the threat posed to the quality of outdoor experiences. In nature, veterans experience a sanctuary, free of stresses and uncertainties, a place with no worries where they can relax. Many returning from military duty to their favorite outdoor places find a release they haven’t known for a long time. It’s often a transformative experience and the first page in a new beginning.

With David Bernhardt defending energy interests for decades, it’s highly unlikely he will suddenly change his views overnight to become equally interested in land conservation and wildlife protection, let alone transformative experiences. The evidence shows he is far too skewed to lead Interior with any kind of balanced decision-making.

Arizonans across generations, faiths and political affiliations make it clear in numerous bipartisan polls they want their precious public lands and outdoor recreation access protected. We remember Interior Secretaries Stewart Udall and Bruce Babbitt, Arizona voices who genuinely cared about the lands they were charged with administering. With David Bernhardt leading Interior we will be confronted with the opposite: an appalling imbalance of energy development policy over sensible conservation. We ask members of the Senate to carefully examine his record of long-standing energy industry ties and seriously consider whether David Bernhardt is at all capable of fulfilling Interior’s mission: to conserve and manage the Nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage for the benefit and enjoyment of the American people.

Kate Hoit is the California State Director for the Vet Voice Foundation.

Dan Shilling is former executive director of the Arizona Humanities Council, a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran and Arizona resident since 1980.

Here is the membership of the Senate committee scheduled for a hearing on the 28th.

Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
http://www.energy.senate.gov/
Total Members: 20

Majority Members (11)
Murkowski, Lisa (AK), Chairman; Barrasso, John (WY); Risch, James E. (ID); Lee, Mike (UT); Daines, Steve (MT); Cassidy, Bill (LA); Gardner, Cory (CO); Hyde-Smith, Cindy (MS); McSally, Martha (AZ); Alexander, Lamar (TN); Hoeven, John (ND)

Minority Members (9)
Manchin, Joe (WV), Ranking Member; Wyden, Ron (OR); Cantwell, Maria (WA); Sanders, Bernard (VT); Stabenow, Debbie (MI); Heinrich, Martin (NM); Hirono, Mazie K. (HI); King, Angus S. (ME); Cortez Masto, Catherine (NV)

Judging success in the age of Trumponomics - an example being Tax Cut Fever

Judd Legum (popular.info) looks at the economy, what Trump promised, and what he did not and cannot deliver. But Trump most likely will pronounce that Failure is the new success.

The only major legislative accomplishment of Trump’s presidency is the tax cut package passed in December 2017. That legislation featured very large cuts for corporations and the wealthy. But Americans were told that it would usher in an age of sustained economic growth – more than 3% each year for a decade or more – that would benefit everyone.

[You might recall that:]… Just before the tax bill became law in 2017, [Trump] predicted runaway growth. “I think we could go to 4, 5 or even 6 %, ultimately. We are back. We are really going to start to rock,” Trump said.

It’s been just over a year and the Trump administration has quietly acknowledged it was wrong.

The economy grew 2.9% last year – when the impact of the tax cut was at its apex. In a report released this week, the Trump administration now predicts economic growth will decline in 2019 and for years to come. …

The Trump administration’s prediction of growth just shy of 3% in 2019, while short of what was promised, is substantially more optimistic than other predictions. Jason Furman, Obama’s chief economic adviser, says growth will be far lower this year:

Given the large amount of fiscal stimulus in 2018 is unlikely to be repeated and the labor market has less room than it did a year ago, [it] is very likely this is a high water mark for the recent period. Growth in 2019 is tracking around 1% and potential growth is around 1.75%.

Other economists are predicting a recession in 2020.

And even that growth was financed by increased debt, an instance of voodoo economics that is not likely to recur.

Trump promised to balance the budget and pay down the national debt within 8 years. Instead, he’s racked up record deficits. It’s rising deficits that are spurring growth. Those deficits, however, won’t keep going up forever. Justin Fox of Bloomberg explains:

Last year’s growth was spurred in part by a federal deficit increase of $190.5 billion, which amounts to 0.9 % of 2018 GDP. While the deficit is expected to keep growing in coming years, it’s not expected to grow nearly that much on an annual basis. That means less stimulus, and presumably less chance of four-quarter growth cracking 3 % again.

Trump’s advisers have a solution to their projections of slow growth: more tax cuts. …

In other words, the failure of the tax cuts to deliver the promised economic growth is proof that more tax cuts are needed.

It looks like the administration has “got a fever and the only prescription is more tax cuts.”

(For this post Scriber rearranged and shortened some quotes.)

Speaking of fever, one of the smash hits of the late 50’s was Peggy Lee singing Fever. I’ve provided lyrics more suited to our economy under Donald Trump.

Never knew how much Trump loves me
Never knew how much he cares
When he wraps the flag around him
I get a fever that’s so hard to bear
He gives me fever from my tax cut
Fever when he promised more
Tax cuts in the offin’
Fever ever more

Everybody wants more money
That is somethin’ Pres’dents know
Tax cuts aren’t such a new thing
That fever started long ago

Reagan cut my taxes
Bush gave me even more
Trump put us all in debt
All to give us fever
Fever in the mornin’
Fever all through the night
Fever!
What a lovely way to burn

I’ll save Saturday Night Fever for another occasion … and there will be one.

Trump accomplishments - on track to score most advisors indicted

Indictments

Ari Melber (The Beat) reports “It’s common to compare Trump’s legal problems to Nixon’s, but that itself is a low legal bar. More broadly, Trump has now had more advisers indicted earlier in his term than any President in history.”

That’s something that one might trumpet. Or maybe not. If Trump looks at the numbers without reference to their meaning, he could claim success. On the other hand he may want to duck this one because that chart suggests that he is a lousy judge of character.

See my source, the Daily Kos post, This chart of Trump’s presidential ‘accomplishments’ is beautiful. “Glorious, isn’t it? And he’s just getting started! Stay tuned.”

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Trump vs. General Welfare Part 1 - The Unconstitutional President

Of the founding documents, none may be more important than the Preamble of the United States Constitution.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

You would think that those officials in our government, from the president on down the hierarchy, would behave in such a way as to do those things. Of course, given what we learn each passing day, our president and his courtiers have no intention of honoring their obligation , for example, to promote the general welfare.

In this series of posts, I’ll rely on reporting from Judd Legum at popular.info. In Part 2, Legum exposes the Trump administration’s relation to white nationalism; it’s not just that they are doing little to combat it, they are actively suppressing attempts to prevent attacks by domestic terrorists. In Part 3, Legum chronicles the rise and fall of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau; Trump rewards the payday lenders while making life much more difficult for those living on paycheck-to-paycheck.

Trump vs. General Welfare Part 2 - the threat of white nationalism

In General Welfare Part 2, Judd Legum at popular.info reports on the rise of white nationalism

Violent white nationalists think Trump is a white nationalist.

Fifty-one Muslims were murdered in New Zealand last week by a white nationalist. The suspect scrawled racist slogans on his semi-automatic rifles and streamed the attack live on Facebook.

In a lengthy manifesto, published online just before the attack, the alleged killer touts Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”

Back at the White House, Trump was asked if he viewed white nationalism as a “rising threat”:

I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. I guess if you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that’s a case. I don’t know enough about it yet. They’re just learning about the person and the people involved. But it’s certainly a terrible thing — terrible thing.

Note that Trump not only denies that white nationalism is a growing threat but also casts doubt on whether the attack in New Zealand was even motivated by racial hatred.

At the same event, Trump vetoed a resolution from Congress that would have overturned the “national emergency” Trump declared to seize funds for a border wall. Trump justified the veto by citing the “invasion” of immigrants across the southern border, parroting the rhetoric of white nationalists globally.

The President of the United States is dismissing the threat of white nationalism, using white nationalist rhetoric, and aggressively pursuing policies favored by white nationalists.

Just the facts

First, let’s get our facts straight. Donald Trump says white nationalism is not a growing threat. He’s wrong.

Over the last ten years, according to data analyzed by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), “73.3% of all domestic extremist-related killings have been perpetrated by right-wing extremists, compared to 23.4% perpetrated by terrorists motivated by Salafi-jihadism and 3.2% by left-wing extremism.”

Last year, domestic extremists killed at least 50 people in the United States and “every one of the perpetrators had ties to at least one right-wing extremist movement,” and “[w]hite supremacists were responsible for the great majority of the killings.” These attacks are on the rise. “The number of terrorist attacks by far-right perpetrators rose over the past decade, more than quadrupling between 2016 and 2017,” according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

So what is Trump and his administration doing to ward off these threats? Well, of course he tweets. This one was directed at Fox News.

Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump
….must stay strong and fight back with vigor. Stop working soooo hard on being politically correct, which will only bring you down, and continue to fight for our Country. The losers all want what you have, don’t give it to them. Be strong & prosper, be weak & die! Stay true….
March 17th 2019 21,115 Retweets 79,628 Likes

It could be a coincidence, but “be strong and prosper” is a phrase featured in a text important to white supremacists. The 1683 Battle of Vienna is extremely significant to white nationalists because the victory of Christians over the Ottoman Empire is viewed as a prelude to the current “battle” against Islam. The New Zealand shooter even scrawled “Vienna 1683” over his weaponry and posted the photo on social media

There is a contemporaneous account of the Battle of Vienna, which has been translated into numerous languages. The first line of the text concludes: “[b]e strong and prosper in thy way on behalf of the Christian faith.”

Another thing they are doing is denying the obvious.

Appearing on Fox News, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was asked whether Trump would deliver a speech condemning white nationalism. “The president is not a white supremacist. I’m not sure how many times we have to say that,” Mulvaney replied, not answering the question.

“I don’t think anybody can say that the president is anti-Muslim,” Mulvaney added on CBS’ Face the Nation.

Mulvaney’s defensiveness is the result of working for a man who, from the outset of his presidential campaign, has sought to exploit racial grievances against Muslims and others.

In his first speech as a candidate, Trump referred to Mexican immigrants as rapists. In a September 15, 2015 townhall in New Hampshire, Trump told a member of the audience that he was looking at ways to “get rid” of Muslims in America.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one.
TRUMP: Right. We need this question!
AUDIENCE MEMBER: When can we get rid of ‘em?
TRUMP: We’re gonna be looking at a lot of different things. A lot of people are saying that.

What are those different things?

Defunding counter-extremism

The Trump administration has dismantled the modest efforts by the federal government to counter right-wing extremism. The Obama administration created a small pool of grant money to counter white nationalism and other extremist ideologies. The money went to fund Life After Hate, “one of the only programs in the U.S. devoted to helping people leave neo-Nazi and other white supremacy groups” and researchers “helping young people develop media campaigns aimed at preventing their peers from embracing white supremacy.” Trump immediately canceled both grants shortly after taking office.

The Office of Community Partnerships, which administered the grants, saw its budget slashed from $21 million to $3 million. An interagency task force “on Countering Violent Extremism, or CVE, that included officials detailed from the FBI, the National Counterterrorism Center, and the Departments of Justice, Education, and Health and Human Services” was disbanded.

The Trump administration was open in its belief that white supremacists were not a problem. Former Deputy Assistant to President Trump Sebastian Gorka falsely claimed that in the United States “[t]here has never been a serious attack or a serious plot that was unconnected from ISIS or al Qaeda.”

Many people, citing Oklahoma City and other incidents, pointed out that he was wrong. Gorka was incensed. “It’s this constant, ‘Oh, it’s the white man. It’s the white supremacists. That’s the problem.’ No, it isn’t,” Gorka said on August 10, 2017.

Two days later, a protester was intentionally killed by a motor vehicle at a white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump later declared that many of the people participating in the violent march were “very fine people.”

Trump vs. General Welfare Part 3 - payday heyday

Goodbye Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, Hello payday lenders. It looks very much like pay to play in the land of Trump.

Judd Legum at popular.info reports on the Payday Party.

This week, the payday lenders are gathering at Trump National Doral Miami for the Community Financial Services Association of America (CFSA) annual conference.

They have plenty to celebrate. After years of lobbying and litigation, the Trump administration gutted an Obama-era rule that would have cracked down on the industry’s most abusive practices.

Although Trump’s resort is expensive, it’s the second year in a row the CFSA has selected Doral for its conference. Patronizing the president’s property turned out to be a pretty good investment. The decision to rollback payday lending regulations by Trump’s Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) will be worth $7.3 to $7.7 billion to the industry every year. (emphasis added)

That will pay for quite a few rounds of golf — even at Doral where it costs $450 to play 18 holes.

How payday lending works now

In a typical payday loan, a customer is expected to pay the money back in two weeks with his or her next paycheck. Payday lenders charge outrageous fees. For example, a “customer who borrows $500 would typically owe around $575, at an annual percentage rate of 391 percent.”

Obviously, no one with access to a credit card or a home equity line of credit would pay fees that high. It’s a product that preys on people who have no other choice. Every year, around 12 million people take out payday loans.

Payday lenders typically secure repayment by automatically debiting the amount owed from the borrower’s bank account. But that’s where the trouble really starts. Most people who take out payday loans can’t afford to repay them in two weeks and still keep up with their basic expenses. So they take out another payday loan to cover the first loan.

This cycle continues. “Over 60 percent of loans are made to borrowers in the course of loan sequences lasting seven or more loans in a row. Roughly half of all loans are made to borrowers in the course of loan sequences lasting ten or more loans in a row,” the CFPB reported during the Obama administration.

Many borrowers end up paying more in interest and fees than the original amount of the loan.

Some states have stepped into the void and effectively banned these kinds of abusive lending practices. But in the 36 states that haven’t, the payday lending industry is a thriving, multi-billion dollar business.

What the Obama administration wanted to do

The payday lending industry entices people to take out loans they can’t afford to pay back, trapping them in a cycle of high-interest debt. The CFPB under the Obama administration proposed to rein in the industry by making payday lenders verify a borrower’s income and basic expenses. The loan could only proceed if the lender made a “reasonable determination” that the borrower could pay back the loan when was due. (This is a common practice in traditional banking known as “underwriting.”)

[snip]

A 2018 poll showed the payday lending rule was broadly popular. It garnered support from 79% of Americans, including 82% of Republicans, 83% of Independents, and 77% of Democrats.

How the Trump administration is shafting paycheck-to-paycheck workers

But then …

Payday lenders, who viewed the proposed Obama regulations as an existential threat, were enthused about the possibilities under a Trump administration. They opened up their wallets. Payday lenders contributed over $1.2 million to Trump’s inauguration and over $1 million to his political committees.

Their investment was handsomely rewarded. The arch enemy of the CFPB, Mick Mulvaney, went after the agency’s rules.

Things started looking up for payday lenders after Richard Cordray, the director of the CFPB under Obama, resigned in November 2017,. Mick Mulvaney, currently Trump’s Chief of Staff, took over the agency on an interim basis. While in Congress, Mulvaney opposed the creation of the CFPB, calling it a “sick, sad joke,” and received over $65,000 in contributions from payday lenders.

And, under Mulvaney’s “leadership” the CFPB went to war against itself.

The payday lending industry filed suit to block the implementation of the Obama-era rule, which was supposed to take effect this year. In an extraordinary move, after Mulvaney took over, the CFPB joined the lawsuit on the side of the payday lenders, opposing its own rule. Mulvaney argued the rule should be delayed until the lawsuit was fully resolved. This was widely seen as an effort to “delay the restrictions long enough for the bureau’s new leadership to kill them before they take effect.”

In December, the Senate confirmed Kathleen Kraninger as the new CFPB director in a 50 to 49 vote. Kraninger had no experience in consumer protection or financial regulation. She worked with Mulvaney in the Office of Management and Budget, where she focused on the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.

Kraninger was accused by Democrats during her confirmation of helping implement “a policy by Trump that had separated children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.” She refused to answer questions about her role.

Her first major act as CFPB director was to gut the Obama-era regulations on the payday loan industry. She eliminated the requirement for lenders to verify borrowers ability to repay and the limitation on the number of consecutive loans.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

U. S. Senator Martha McSally courts Scriber with 'Null'

Certificate
Certificate of appreciation
received from Sen. Martha McSally

Yesterday I received this certificate in the mail. Note that it was addressed to “William Maki Null”. The fine print identifies me as “a patriotic American and Republican leader.” Come on. Stop snickering. It gets better. The certificate fingers me as “serving as a committed and valued member of McSally for Senate …”

That fancy certificate was accompanied by a “Delivery Confirmation Receipt.” It repeated my name “William Maki Null” and doubled down with the first address line being “Null”. It then begs for a “most generous gift” with amounts listed ranging from $35 to $2,800 and a “Best Gift” left blank. My signature was again “William Maki Null.” It ended with “Make checks payable to McSally for Senate, Inc.”

Where to start? “Null” refers to missing data cells in databases. So some of my information, apparently, was not in whatever database the McSally staff was using. (But how did they get me in the first place?) Printing a document with the missing cells flagged as “Null” is a serious amateurish newbie error. And what’s with "McSally for Senate, Inc.? Since when is a candidate committee a corporation? Does the senator have articles of incorporation on file?

Back at the beginning of February I posted how McSally runs afoul of campaign finance laws - again. At the time, I thought her problems with campaign finance laws might have been intentional attempts to evade such laws by accepting excess contributions. Now, given the mailing I received yesterday, I am more convinced that all McSally’s legal troubles are attributable to rank incompetence and carelessness. Null? Inc? And this was sent to her constituents?

Here’s what I will send back to McSally. Best gift? Null. Confirmation receipt? Null. My signature? Null. Credit card number? Nulll. Name as it appears on card? Null.

This performance is a clear signal why she does not deserve to be in the U. S. Senate - or any other government post. Vote for McSally? Null. Never.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The statistical scoop on the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament

I know that many of you are intensely interested in the NCAA Women’s basketball tournament. So here’s the 538 Guide To The 2019 NCAA Women’s Tournament by Jenn Hatfield who tells you about The favorites, the Cinderellas and the teams to avoid when filling out your bracket.

You can thank me for this later.

Biden-Abrams in 2020, Republicans now a cult, and Proposed Rosemont Mine.

In this post from the Daily Star opinion, March 19th, 2019: Biden-Abrams in 2020, Republicans now a cult, and Proposed Rosemont Mine.

Dahleen Glanton: One could dream for a dream presidential ticket: Biden-Abrams in 2020.

He is a charismatic, experienced statesman with a knack for mixing serious politics with the perfect amount of humor.

She is relatively new to the national scene, but in the Republican-dominated state of Georgia, she has firmly established herself as a Democrat to be reckoned with.

He is an old-school moderate, a Washington insider, entrenched in the traditional values of the late 20th century Democratic Party. She is a symbol of the party’s future — a diverse, progressive wing that is forcing Democrats to move in a fresh direction.

He is a 76-year-old white male, a lifelong politician and former vice president with an unmatched political resume. She is a 45-year-old African-American who recently came very close to becoming the nation’s first black female governor.

Without a doubt, they would make a stunning political couple. And last week, they met for lunch.

There once was a time that Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams might have seemed an unlikely pair to be at the helm of a presidential ticket. But in the era of Donald Trump, the two of them together would comprise a dream ticket for the Democrats in 2020.

Of course, we don’t know what they talked about over lunch. But for the purpose of this column, let’s assume that Biden asked Abrams about being his running mate should he win the party’s nomination.

Democrats are anxiously awaiting the former vice president’s decision as to whether he will run for president this time. Abrams, a former Georgia state House minority leader , also is weighing her options.

Some might argue that she should be the one heading the ticket. Biden has had two unsuccessful runs at the presidency, and he is getting up in age. The newly appointed darling of the Democratic Party, Abrams is seeing lots of opportunities dangled in her face — a U.S. Senate seat or perhaps her own presidential bid.

An Abrams presidency likely would be an insurmountable long shot. Biden would have to be at the top of the ticket. As broad-minded as Americans like to think we are, we have yet to prove that we can elect a woman as president. So it isn’t really a stretch to think that the next U.S. president probably will not be an African-American female.

Some might argue that she should be the one heading the ticket. Biden has had two unsuccessful runs at the presidency, and he is getting up in age. The newly appointed darling of the Democratic Party, Abrams is seeing lots of opportunities dangled in her face — a U.S. Senate seat or perhaps her own presidential bid.

An Abrams presidency likely would be an insurmountable long shot. Biden would have to be at the top of the ticket. As broad-minded as Americans like to think we are, we have yet to prove that we can elect a woman as president. So it isn’t really a stretch to think that the next U.S. president probably will not be an African-American female.

In order to unseat Trump next year, Democrats will need someone who not only Democrats feel comfortable with, but also independents and Republicans who are on the hunt for somebody other than Trump.

The safest bet would be an older white man with a proven track record. Like it or not, that’s the type of leader many Americans trust the most.

There are many excellent qualities about a Biden-Abrams ticket. Their contrasting ideologies would give each faction of the party a voice. It could lead to a much-needed discussion about the direction of the party and how to best address the needs of the nation’s changing demographics. This is a conversation that America is in dire need of, and it will not happen under Republicans.

But more than that, choosing a white man and a black woman would give Americans a chance to make amends for the horrible mistake of electing Trump.

Contrary to how America has looked the last few years, it would paint us, in the eyes of the world, as a racially progressive nation after all. It would send a message that, while we have some serious flaws, Americans — for the most part — are tolerant people. And it would reaffirm our belief that inclusiveness is the only way to build a strong nation.

Republicans now a cult

Again we see Republicans violating their oaths of office to support and defend the constitution in order to support the lying President who leads them. Its clear the Republican party is now more a cult than a political party as we see in Arizona with the Chair sending out emails that are almost fascist in nature. Lying is now endemic with Republicans who cant seem to tell Social Security and Medicare from Communism. Hype is one thing but outright lying has now become a habit the Republican party just can’t resist. We all benefit from social endeavors like Hoover dam. Salt river project, CAP which we get water out of daily and friends that is all part of a social fabric welding America together. Think about it: weigh no Medicare or Social Security and how that would affect us all.

Donald Shelton
Northwest side

Proposed Rosemont Mine

My kids have grown up camping in the Santa Rita’s and Cienega Valley southeast of Tucson, climbing trees, playing in the creeks, and running through the grasses trying to spot prairie dogs. For my Mom’s 70th birthday last year, my brother and his wife came in from San Diego and we spent the day hiking in Patagonia and picnicking at the Sonoita vineyards. The drive along the incredibly scenic highway to Sonoita takes less than an hour from downtown Tucson, yet it is worlds away. This is a place so naturally special that it’s visited by jaguars and contains one of the few creeks in Arizona designated by the State as an Outstanding Water. Don’t be fooled. The proposed Rosemont Mine is not about copper, it’s about greed. There are places in Southern Arizona suitable for copper mines, and places not. Don’t give up yet.

Nicole Fyffe
West side

The pathological products of a preening president

Over the weekend, Donald Trump, president of the United States and supposed leader of the free world, went on a nonstop binge of unhinged tweets leading to speculations about his declining mental health. For example:

Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump
What the Democrats have done in trying to steal a Presidential Election, first at the “ballot box” and then, after that failed, with the “Insurance Policy,” is the biggest Scandal in the history of our Country!
111K 4:16 PM - Mar 17, 2019

You see? What the hell is that about? I defy you to make sense of it.

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin could not in her observations that Trump is getting worse. And Republicans’ rationalizations are getting weaker.

Whether meant seriously or not, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein’s alleged consideration of the 25th Amendment seems, in retrospect, not to have been irrational at all. Since President Trump’s firing of James B. Comey as FBI director and the appointment of a special counsel, Trump’s mental and emotional health has seemed to fray. The pace of lies and nonsensical accusations, the resort to conspiracy theories and refusal to conduct himself like an adult (let alone the president) often pick up in the wake of bad news from the special counsel and widespread criticism of the president’s unhinged behavior. So it was this weekend following his refusal to directly condemn white nationalism in the wake of the New Zealand massacre and the defection of 12 Senate Republicans last week on the resolution repealing the emergency declaration.

But Trump was not the only entity making little to no sense. The Grand Old Party Party of Trump failed, miserably, cowardly, to stand up to his ranting falsifications. Trump attacked a deceased national hero and the GOP leaders did nothing, nada, in response.

Trump attacked deceased senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), whom he falsely accused of leaking the Steele dossier and who he falsely said finished “last in his class" at Annapolis. (He finished fifth from last. Since Trump’s attorney went around allegedly threatening schools Trump attended, we have no way of knowing how Trump performed in school.) Anti-Trump activist Sarah Longwell observed that the worst part of this was “the way so many Republicans just let them slide or even cheer them. John McCain was tortured in a prison camp for five years in service to this country. The least his party could do is defend him from Trump’s dishonorable smears.” That’s beyond the moral capacity of nearly all elected Republicans these days.

[In a message to those Republicans,] NeverTrump leader and Bulwark editor at large Bill Kristol tweeted:

Bill “Slightly Dangerous” Kristol
@BillKristol
To Republicans who’ve been inclined to acquiesce in a Trump re-nomination in 2020: Read his tweets this morning. Think seriously about his mental condition and psychological state. Then tell me you’re fine with him as president of the United States for an additional four years.
40.8K 6:56 AM - Mar 17, 2019

… Trump’s manic tweeting and wild accusations have George Conway, husband of presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway, convinced that “his condition is getting worse.”

Here’s some history on George Conway’s deteriorating support for Trump and because of Trump’s deteriorating condition from John Harwood at CNBC, George Conway, husband of Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, has an urgent warning about the president’s mental health.

At first, it looked like a package deal: Kellyanne Conway would join President Donald Trump’s White House staff, her husband, George, the new administration’s Justice Department.

The former happened, but the latter did not. And now, in a Washington spectacle unseen since the wife of Richard Nixon’s attorney general sounded alarms about Watergate, the spouse of a top presidential advisor is issuing urgent public warnings about Trump’s mental health.

… Conway publicly mused about the fate of a business executive behaving similarly.

“What if a CEO routinely made false and misleading statements about himself, the company, and results, and public attacked business partners, company ‘divisions’ (w/scare quotes!), employees, and analysts, and kowtowed to a dangerous competitor?” Conway tweeted.

Kellyanne Conway bristles at questions about her husband’s words as unrelated to her White House work. Trump accuses George Conway of seeking attention.

Washington cynics dismiss his stance for a different reason. While she retains Trump’s favor through unyielding public advocacy, they reason, he courts the president’s foes with an eye toward life after the administration.

But recent days make it more difficult to ignore the substance of what Conway says about the most powerful man in the world. Last week, Conway questioned Trump’s mental fitness while excoriating him for false claims about federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson.

“Have we ever seen this degree of brazen, pathological mendacity in American public life?” Conway tweeted. “Whether or not impeachment is in order, a serious inquiry needs to be made about this man’s condition of mind.”

“His condition is getting worse,” Conway tweeted.

Monday he got more specific. Conway circulated medical criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

“Don’t assume that the things he says and does are part of a rational plan or strategy, because they seldom are,” Conway tweeted. “Consider them as a product of his pathologies, and they make perfect sense.”

“All Americans should be thinking seriously now about Trump’s mental condition and psychological state, including and especially the media, Congress – and the Vice President and Cabinet,” Conway tweeted.

Returning to Jennifer Rubin for concluding observations …

Unfortunately, most Republicans are fine with Trump, or say they are. They have tax cuts and some judges, so what do they care if the presidency is sullied, racial anger builds, the United States’ reputation in the world is damaged, decency and objective truth are obliterated, and none of our real challenges (e.g. income inequality, climate change) are addressed? Republicans will still tell you that they are victims of liberal elites. In their minds, Trump is just evening the score on their behalf.

There is no moral or intellectual reason that will persuade them. There is no respectful conversation to be had with people who argue in bad faith. The only solution is to defeat Trump and his party so thoroughly that Trumpism is permanently discredited. A party that continues to defend this president is simply beyond redemption.