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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Short Answer to a Stupid Question

by tristero

Headline in the NY Times:

Is It Possible to Serve Honorably in the Trump Administration?

The man who was there in the beginning

by digby

Former Trump staffer Sam Nunberg will be meeting with Robert Mueller's office tomorrow. ABC speculates that it's because he spoke with Michael Wolff for "Fire and Fury." Maybe. But Nunberg was around Trump in the early stages of the campaign and might have some interesting things to say about that:

He toyed with mounting a campaign in 2000 on the Reform Party ticket, and again in 2012 as a Republican (this was at the height of his Obama birtherism). Two years later, Trump briefly explored running for governor of New York as a springboard to the White House. “I have much bigger plans in mind — stay tuned,” he tweeted in March 2014.

Trump taped another season of The Apprentice that year, but he kept a political organization intact. His team at the time consisted of three advisers: Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, and Sam Nunberg. Stone is a veteran operative, known for his gleeful use of dirty tricks and for ending Eliot Spitzer’s political career by leaking his patronage of prostitutes to the FBI. Cohen is Trump’s longtime in-house attorney. And Nunberg is a lawyer wired into right-wing politics who has long looked up to “Mr. Trump,” as he calls him. “I first met him at Wrestle­Mania when I was like 5 years old,” Nunberg told me.

Throughout 2014, the three fed Trump strategy memos and political intelligence. “I listened to thousands of hours of talk radio, and he was getting reports from me,” Nunberg recalled. What those reports said was that the GOP base was frothing over a handful of issues including immigration, Obamacare, and Common Core. While Jeb Bush talked about crossing the border as an “act of love,” Trump was thinking about how high to build his wall. “We either have borders or we don’t,” Trump told the faithful who flocked to the annual CPAC conference in 2014.

Meanwhile, Trump used his wealth as a strategic tool to gather his own intelligence. When Citizens United president David Bossie or GOP chairman Reince Priebus called Trump for contributions, Trump used the conversations as opportunities to talk about 2016. “Reince called Trump thinking they were talking about donations, but Trump was asking him hard questions,” recalled Nunberg. From his conversations with Priebus, Trump learned that the 2016 field was likely to be crowded. “We knew it was going to be like a parliamentary election,” Nunberg said.

I have no idea why Nunberg might be of interest to Mueller. But Trump has been insistent in recent days that he wasn't running in 2014 so the Russian campaign that began that year couldn't have had anything to do with him. It's not true ...


Trump and "Death Wish"

by digby

In October of 2015 we had a horrific mass shooting at a college in Oregon that left ten people dead a numerous others wounded. Trump gave a speech the next day in Tennessee.

Here's a youtube of the six minutes of the speech in which he talked about gun violence. He was having a lot of fun:

Trump said in a rally in suburban Nashville that he has a handgun carry permit in New York. He added that any attacker would be “shocked” if he tried to assault him, because he would emulate Bronson in the vigilante film Death Wish.

Trump criticized “gun-free zones”, saying that the Oregon shootings could have been limited if instructors or students at Umpqua Community College had been armed. He said better mental health care would help curb future shootings.

“Many states and many cities are closing their mental health facilities and closing them down, and they’re closing them because they don’t have the funding,” he said. “And we have to start looking much stronger into mental health.”

While Trump warned that “no matter what you do, you will always have problems”, he argued that it doesn’t make sense to limit access to firearms.

“It’s not the guns,” Trump said during his hourlong speech. “It’s the people, it’s these sick people.”

“I’m a very, very big second amendment person,” Trump said on Saturday. “This is about self-defense, plain and simple.”

Trump reminisced about Bronson’s Death Wish and got people in the crowd to shout out the title of the 1974 film in unison. In the movie, an affluent, liberal architect embarks on a vigilante mission after his life is shattered by thugs who kill his wife and rape his daughter.

“Today you can’t make that movie because it’s not politically correct,” Trump said.

He even did a little acting, gleefully quoting the thug in the movie saying "I'm gonna cut you up, I'm gonna cut you up." He's clearly seen that movie many times.

Trump has not learned a new thing since 1978 and he has not learned anything new about gun violence in the last week. Don't count on him.

Everyone has to vote out Republicans who are all beholden to the NRA if we want to stop gun violence. And that's at the state and local level too. But Donald Trump is bought and paid for by the NRA and he will never do anything they don't want him to do. That's just a fact.

The Trump-Russia conspiracy is a political problem

by digby

Josh Marshall responded to the recent spate of "hot takes" from the latest iteration of beltway kewl kidz who dismiss the idea that Trump could have conspired with the Russians to win the election for reason ranging from the fact that he's too stupid and disorganized to the idea that he couldn't have kept his mouth shut about it if he'd done it. And because there has been no "smoking gun/silver bullet" that emerges yet to prove it, and there may never be one, the whole thing is overblown and people need to stop talking about it.

Among other things, Marshall writes:

... the manifest disorganization of the Trump operation and whether they had their shit together enough to conspire with anyone. This has always struck me as a basic misunderstanding of how spy work operates. Perhaps also human nature. Spies looking to infiltrate, compromise and direct a foreign organization look precisely for chaotic and disorganized contexts. They look for gullible people. They look for pleasers. They look for people who are desperate, broke, blackmail-able. These are all features, not bugs. This must have made the Trump campaign an irresistible target for Russia. Because it had all the key vulnerability points in spades. I think anyone who makes this argument really doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

The shambling character of the Trump campaign does suggest that the campaign itself likely wasn’t a foreign intelligence operation – as in, Vladimir Putin called up Donald Trump one day, told him he was running for president and that he would be setting him up with a crew of trained operatives to staff out his campaign. But this is of course a ludicrous theory and almost insanely high bar for what counts as a problem.

As I wrote a month ago, one thing that makes me think the fix wasn’t totally in from the start is precisely the evidence we have of all the contacts. If Trump had a firm understanding or partnership with Russian spies or Vladimir Putin at the outset, why all the cold approaches? That doesn’t quite fit. If anything it’s a potential source of danger. Why send a cut-out to meet with Don Jr. at Trump Tower or strike up a connection with George Papadopoulos? All these pieces of evidence, among the most damning we know of, suggest the relationship was being built over the course of the campaign, regardless of Trump’s pre-existing relationships in Russia.

But the biggest problem with this skeptics argument is this idea that if that explicit and formal agreement doesn’t exist – the “smoking gun” as skeptic Blake Hounshell puts it – that there’s “nothing there.” This strikes me as entirely wrong, not only as a legal matter but far more as a civic matter. This is for many reasons but the principal one is that corrupt transactions are often tacit. You’re helping me. I’m helping you. It’s a good thing for both sides. No need to complicate it.

We already know that Russian spies and cut outs made numerous approaches to Trump campaign staffers and, as far as we know, always got a positive reception. As Don Jr. put it, when presented with the possibility of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton from what was explicitly described as the Russian government trying to help elect Trump President, “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

The Trump campaign, through multiple channels that we know about, made it clear repeatedly that they wanted to play ball. Repeatedly with a consistent message. Did Donald Trump himself know about or approve these contacts? I don’t know or rather don’t have proof. But you have to be terribly naive to think that Trump’s comically approval-starved son Don Jr didn’t loop his dad in on this great opportunity he’d come up with.

But none of these are the key thing. That is this: For the second half of 2016 Donald Trump himself and his campaign knew that Russia was engaged in a wide ranging effort to subvert the 2016 campaign and to work to get him elected. Yet despite this knowledge he and his campaign continued to approve numerous contacts with Russian government officials, clandestine meetings, receive offers of assistance. He also continued to push a decidedly Russia friendly policy agenda, even to the point of threatening to short-circuit or abandon the NATO alliance – probably Russia’s principal foreign policy goal not only today but decades back into the Cold War. They continued to authorize all of this, continued to feel out the possible dimensions of the relationship and, critically, made no effort to contact the FBI or other relevant federal agencies about a plot they knew these agencies were tracking and trying to combat.

Now, key question: How do I know they knew this? First, they knew because the Russians told them. Explicitly told them. Second, they knew what all of us knew. Remember: from late July through November there was a constant stream of reportage detailing Russian efforts. At the time that was mainly tied to the theft and distribution of emails. But the Russian use of social media bots and sock puppets as well as Russian-state owned English language media were apparent too. A lot was public in the fall of 2016. But the critical thing is this: starting in August, Donald Trump personally, as well as various high-ranking members of his team were briefed on the Russian interference effort by US intelligence and law enforcement officials. We know this, Mr. Trump and we want to make sure you know.

If hearing it from the Russians themselves wasn’t enough, if seeing the numerous press reports wasn’t enough, the US government’s intelligence leaders telling him certainly should have been. Repeatedly. Notably, they likely included a number of key details we in the public only learned as much as a year later.

He knew. He 100% knew. And yet they continued on with the contacts and clandestine discussions and public policy promises right up to election day and intensified them during the transition. Not once, as far as we know, did anyone associated with the Trump campaign or Trump himself speak to anyone from law enforcement or the intelligence community and say, “Hey, you told us about that interference campaign. This one guy contacted us and we had a few conversations with him. Just wanted you to know.”

Not once.

Of course, Trump or Jared Kushner or Paul Manafort or Don Jr might have said, “Hey, now that you mention it, we actually took this meeting in Trump Tower in June. And someone said it was the Russian government itself trying to give us dirt. We just wanted you to know.”

Not once. None of that happened. To me this shows a clear consciousness of guilt and more specifically a desire to participate – ‘collaborate’ is probably the better word – in the Russian operation out of the view of the US government which was trying to prevent it. Note here that I haven’t even gotten into the after the fact obstruction, calling in the the Russia Foreign Minister and sharing the most closely held US intelligence secrets or the continued refusal to impose sanctions mandated overwhelmingly by Congress.

I don’t know what this means as a legal matter. That involves facts I don’t know and legal knowledge I lack. As a civic matter, however, it is already a scandal almost unparalleled in American history. They knew they were playing ball and they did play ball. To say that only a signed contract (the ‘smoking gun’) will mean there’s a there there is both a wild and unparalleled goalpost moving but also a basic misunderstanding of how subversion efforts and information operations work.

Read on for the rest.

I confess that I'm astonished that anyone would think this is not a very big deal. That the president refuses to acknowledge that another nation sought to help him win the presidency by using social media and illegal hacking is bad enough. And that he has refused to take any action to prevent it happening in the future is appalling. But it seems to me that he has actually fulfilled his side of the bargain openly and without shame by constantly praising its leadership and refusing to implement laws passed by congress for the purpose of deterring future action.And now he is blaming his predecessors for failing to do what he is failing to do, even threatening to prosecute Hillary Clinton for colluding with Russia!

People dismissing this as "Oh that's just Trump being Trump" are missing the point. This is the most corrupt administration ever --- they are literally making millions off of the presidency while in the White House. The president also has the most authoritarian temperament in modern memory, constrained so far only by the rickety institutions of the courts and some rump aspects of the Department of Justice and the military. This is a very, very unhealthy situation that will not be made better by shrugging our shoulders at how this man managed to con his way into power.

If laws were broken, we'll find that out. We all must be skeptical about that because we simply do not have all the facts yet. He is innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of the law. But we already know that Donald Trump is politically, culturally and socially corrupt on an unprecedented scale. All you have to do is read his damned twitter feed to see it. And, worse, his party is falling right into line behind him. Just look at the pathetic spectacle of MItt Romney groveling and genuflecting to the man he once despised.

Adopting a jaded, world weary attitude about what he's doing to this country and the rest of the world isn't being a "skeptic" or a "contrarian." It's being part of the problem.

Why DID Trump spend the last months of the campaign insisting it was rigged?

by digby

Remember when he said this on the day after the final debate when he refused to promise to accept the results of the election?

"I would like to promise and pledge to all of my voters and supporters and to all of the people of the United States that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election --- if I win."

I've always thought it was weird for Trump to suggest that the vote was rigged before the votes were even cast. It's come back to bite him since he's the one now fighting the charge that his victory was tainted.

Everyone says that he just assumed he would lose. If that's the case, this "rigging" talk would all make more sense if he knew that the Russians were doing everything they could to taint Clinton's victory. Had he lost under those circumstances he would have been in a perfect position to capitalize on this "rigged" narrative and make tons of cash in the process since he'd become the most famous Clinton hater on the planet. Imagine how he would have monetized MAGA as a private citizen.

I guess he didn't need to technically conspire to see how to take advantage of this situation. But I can't help but recall the famous scene in the Robert Redford movie "The Candidate":

After managing an unsuccessful senatorial campaign in the Midwest, Marvin Lucas flies to California to convince legal aid activist Bill McKay to run for the senate against the "unbeatable" Republican incumbent, Crocker Jarmon. Lucas, who enjoys the money and perks that come with managing a political campaign, drives to San Diego to meet Bill, the handsome, privileged son of former California governor John J. McKay. Estranged from his father, Bill proclaims that he hates politics and is not interested in running for anything, but his wife Nancy enthusiastically suggests that Bill has both the looks and the power to be a successful candidate.

Lucas assures the skeptical Bill that he will have the perfect platform to get out his social and political message without encumbrance and writes his guarantee on the inside cover of a matchbook, "You lose."

By the time of the election, Bill has turned into a slick candidate, even making a political deal to gain support from an old crony of his father, union boss Starkey. Preparing for bed the night before the election, Bill wistfully looks at the matchbook on which Lucas wrote "You lose."

On election day, Bill and Nancy vote early in the morning, smiling before the cameras, just as a worried Jarmon and his wife do the same. All day, Bill's young, eager campaign volunteers work to get the vote out, despite the constant rain, and that night, as election returns show that Bill is starting to take the lead, his San Francisco campaign headquarters becomes the scene of a jubilant party. When television newscasters finally announce that Bill has been elected, he feels isolated and pleads with the elated Lucas for a moment alone.

While Nancy, Klein and others talk about the success of the campaign and living in Washington, Bill has only a few moments alone with Lucas to ask, "Marvin, what do we do now?" before a crowd of joyous supporters swarm into the room.


Nice for the upper earners

by digby

This is special:

"...40 percent of voters who earn more than $100,000 said they have noticed a pay increase in the past several weeks. In contrast, 33 percent of voters who earn between $50,000 and $100,000 and 16 percent of voters who earn under $50,000 said the same."

There's a simple explanation for all this: most of the tax cuts went to upper earners and those tax cuts were significant.

But we knew that. The Republicans are counting on those folks to come out and vote next November to thank them while everyone else will be demoralized and over worked.

It's all they've got. But it may not be enough:

Democrats hold a 15 percentage point lead over Republicans in a generic House ballot, according to a new Quinnipiac University Poll released Tuesday.

A majority of those polled, 53 percent, said they would like Democrats to win control of the House in this year’s midterm election. Thirty-eight percent said they would like the GOP to keep control of the lower chamber, while nine percent said they did not know or did not provide an answer.

The 53 percent is up from the 49 percent who said earlier this month they would like the Democrats to take control of the House. In that previous survey, 40 percent said they wanted the Republican Party to win a majority in the lower chamber.

I wouldn't get over-confident. But the grassroots energy seems to be growing and the Democratic pick-ups so far have been ... wave-like.

Trump Jr, cretin ambassador

by digby

I wrote about Trump Jr's "business trip" for Salon this morning:

There's a lot going on with the Mueller investigation this week, with a previously unknown Dutch lawyer pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about his phone calls with Trump's deputy campaign manager and shady Ukrainians and all. These latest charges from the special counsel are among the most obscure we've seen yet: They seem to be connected to some ugly episodes that took place in Ukraine in recent years under the direction of Paul Manafort, who later wormed his way into the Trump campaign and is now under indictment. There is no clear indication of exactly where this is going, which is certainly intriguing. Stay tuned for more.

Meanwhile, President Trump is still tweeting away, pretending to care about gun violence (along very careful lines obviously dictated by NRA head Wayne LaPierre) and publicly calling out women who have taken offense to his odious habit of kissing and groping them against their will. Meanwhile, the battles within the White House over the inability of half the staff to qualify for the security clearances they need to do their jobs continue, with everyone wondering whether Trump will grant his son-in-law Jared Kushner a clearance anyway so Kushner can get on with bringing about world peace.

It's a busy time for the president, so it's got to be a relief that the family business is in good hands and he doesn't have to give it his full attention from the Oval Office. After spending the weekend egging on his dad's Twitter rages and advising him strongly not to give an inch on gun control, Donald Trump Jr. immediately jetted off to India to sell condos and access to the highest reaches of the U.S. government in the most blatant way possible:

The AP reported:
The ads, which have run repeatedly in the past few days, herald the arrival not of the American president but of his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., who is in New Delhi to sell luxury apartments and lavish attention on wealthy Indians who have already bought units in a Trump-branded development outside the Indian capital.
The Trump Organization had agreed not to do any "new" deals overseas during Donald Trump's presidency, but it's still working the ones that were in progress and overseeing the existing contracts and properties. This project in India was in the works during the campaign, which may help explain the unusual amount of time and attention Trump paid to the Indian-American community. During the transition, Trump stunned observers by inviting his business partners to meet with him at Trump Tower to chat about the new opportunities available to them. The New York Times reported on it at the time:
“We will see a tremendous jump in valuation in terms of the second tower,” said Pranav R. Bhakta, a consultant who helped Mr. Trump’s organization make inroads into the Indian market five years ago. “To say, ‘I have a Trump flat or residence’ — it’s president-elect branded. It’s that recall value. If they didn’t know Trump before, they definitely know him now.”

When I wrote about this for Salon back in November of 2016, it seemed absurd to think this might continue once the president took office. But since Trump had done nothing to divest himself of the business before he ran, as other candidates had done before him, it was clear he wouldn't be able to do so in any kind of orderly fashion after he won. Still, at the time it was hard to imagine just how blatantly corrupt the family would be -- and how little interest anyone would take in their massive conflicts of interest. After all, Trump had just won the election by tarring his opponent as "crooked."

When Don Jr. hit India on Tuesday, the first thing he did was pose for photos with Kalpesh Mehta, the same gentleman with whom the president posed back in November of 2016. He immediately stuck his foot in his mouth, as the Los Angeles Times reports:
Asked to compare India with China as a place to invest, President Trump's eldest son — and acting head of his business empire — told journalists: "As a businessman, I feel things here are substantially more aboveboard." 
"I think the mentality of the people is the same," the Press Trust of India quoted Trump Jr. as saying. "I think there is probably little bit more honesty."
That might be fine for a businessman flattering his Indian partners, who see themselves as rivals to the Chinese. But the son of the president dissing China for being "dishonest" (as fatuous as that is coming from a Trump) carries a whole different meaning.

Trump Jr. says this is purely a business trip, but he will be giving a big policy address on Friday at an event with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and finance minister Arun Jaitley. Junior's speech is entitled "Reshaping Indo-Pacific Ties," which the State Department insists is just his personal view and has nothing to do with official American policy. You can imagine that the attendees might not understand that. He will speak right after the prime minister.

Oh, and Don Jr. also plans to attend lavish dinners to thank the Trump-brand condo buyers, which some people think looks like selling access to the White House by putting money directly into the family's personal coffers. This is, after all, a regular occurrence in the U.S. Just last weekend, Trump hobnobbed with the members of his exclusive Florida golf resort, asking them about the issues of the day. Those people pay $200,000 a year for the privilege of personally telling the president about their concerns. It's just how the Trump family rolls.

As Salon's Matthew Rosza reported on Tuesday, the billionaire scion went out of his way to compliment India for its nice poor people, who he says are very happy, unlike the unpleasantly solemn poor folks elsewhere in the world. It could have been worse. He didn't call India a "shithole," or at least not yet.

This week The New Yorker published an interesting story by Jeffrey Toobin about the ways the senior Donald Trump used his ownership of the Miss Universe pageant to advantage his business deals in various countries. The pageant didn't get great ratings and wasn't a big moneymaker in its own right, but it served Trump's purposes in other ways. For instance, he unilaterally changed the votes so contestants from nations with whom he wanted to curry favor would win, and would locate the pageant in places where he was trying to make branding deals. That's the Trump business strategy. His family-owned business is doing the same thing today, but rather than using beauty-pageant contestants as bait, it's using the United States of America.



Reading, writing and reloading

by Tom Sullivan

What kind of country, The New York Times asks, sends children off to school with bulletproof book bags strapped to their backs? The kind that would ask teachers to carry sidearms and add reloading to reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic, obviously. But it is also the kind where decades ago students maligned as "unwashed, longhaired traitors" mounted a movement to extract it from a disastrous military intervention in southeast Asia. Perhaps this generation can liberate the country from its obsession with guns:

To be effective, any movement needs a realistic program, not mere emotion. Otherwise, it risks coming and going in a flash with little to show for itself. A tighter federal system of background checks is a start, to better monitor would-be gun buyers with mental illness, for example, or histories of gun violence. Such a program should also include reinstating a nationwide ban on assault weapons — a state measure died in the Florida Legislature Tuesday — and ending an absurd prohibition against using federal public health funds to study gun violence.
Well, yes. Perhaps the Parkland, Florida shootings have tipped the balance, broken the camel's back, etc., on gun control, as the Times hopes, but that remains an open question. The activist tide that rose to resist Donald Trump will need to cohere like laser light and not, as so often happens on the left, quickly diffuse into a constellation of issue silos. The Russians sought to divide and conquer America in 2016. The left often does that to itself without help.

But there are signs the time is right. An organized #Resistance is already energized and in place. The public is primed for change. A Quinnipiac poll released yesterday finds that support for more gun control is at record levels:
Support for universal background checks is itself almost universal, 97 - 2 percent, including 97 - 3 percent among gun owners. Support for gun control on other questions is at its highest level since the Quinnipiac University Poll began focusing on this issue in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre:
67 - 29 percent for a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons;
83 - 14 percent for a mandatory waiting period for all gun purchases. It is too easy to buy a gun in the U.S. today, American voters say 67 - 3 percent. If more people carried guns, the U.S. would be less safe, voters say 59 - 33 percent. Congress needs to do more to reduce gun violence, voters say 75 - 17 percent.
The trick will be to capitalize on the moment before it is gone.

Last night, a Kentucky Democrat won a special election to fill a state legislative seat left vacant by the suicide of Rep. Dan Johnson days after being accused of molesting a 17-year-old girl. Former state Rep. Linda Belcher defeated Johnson's widow 68 percent to 32 percent in a district Trump won by 49 points. It was the 37th such flip for Democrats since November 2016.

The NRA has been knocked back on its heels. The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is downplaying the appearance at this year's conference of the NRA's CEO and executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre. He will still speak, the Washington Examiner reports, but without any advance notice to draw attention or loud protests.

But yesterday, the Florida state House voted down a motion to take up legislation that would ban assault rifles in the state, killing the effort for this session. Moving quickly, Parkland students were on their way to Tallahassee to lobby for the measure. Opponents were quicker.

The state House instead passed a resolution declaring pornography a public health risk. The porn industry needs better-funded lobbyists, one supposes.

Public opinion may be on their side, but to beat the gun lobby, students just getting their feet wet in political action will need to be quick studies.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Coddle the wingnuts. Or else.

by digby

I just don't have the heart to write anything about this disgusting response to Parkland by the right wing gun nuts so I'll just let Charlie Pierce say it for me:

The inhuman—and utterly indecent—quick-twitch muscles of the conservative media apparatus already are at work on two fronts as regards the most recent schoolhouse massacre. First, in a take so hot it melted ice on Krypton, the ruminations of the Gateway Pundit, a.k.a. The Dumbest Man On The Internet (copyright Wonkette LLC) have managed to stumble drunkenly into the mainstream, courtesy of former congresscritter and Trump apologist Jack Kingston, who has managed to score a gig with the endless roster of pundits on CNN. From HuffPost:

“Their sorrow can very easily be hijacked by left-wing groups who have an agenda,” former Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) told CNN’s “New Day” on Tuesday, specifically naming billionaire and liberal activist George Soros. “Do we really think 17-year-olds on their own are going to plan a nationwide rally?” the conservative activist continued.

The Florida kids have fought back, of course, as well they should. But they weren’t who Kingston was talking to. He was talking to the people who log onto TDMOTI every morning over their Wheatena and unfiltered Marlboros while listening to the local wingnut radio host and watching Fox and Friends. And by emphasizing George Soros, Kingston also was bigot-signaling to anti-Semites as well. In short, he was talking to the people to whom David Brooks has said we’ve all been terribly unkind, as he argues in his Monday column in Mother Times.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it is that guns have become a cultural flash point in a nation that is unequal and divided. The people who defend gun rights believe that snobbish elites look down on their morals and want to destroy their culture. If we end up telling such people that they and their guns are despicable, they will just despise us back and dig in their heels. So if you want to stop school shootings it’s not enough just to vent and march. It’s necessary to let people from Red America lead the way, and to show respect to gun owners at all points. There has to be trust and respect first. Then we can strike a compromise on guns as guns, and not some sacred cross in the culture war.

It’s not enough that the Times has visited every damn diner in every damn town between Philadelphia and Des Moines in order to interview every crank who voted for the current president*. It’s not enough that I have to understand everyone who cloaks their bigotry in incense and Scripture. It’s not enough that I have to respect every backwater burg in which the people blame the opioid epidemic on godlessness and rap music and the undocumented Mexican who sells them their six-pack at the Gas ‘n Go every Friday night. Where is it written that I have to buy all of these people a cookie before I can disagree with them?

It's is written on stone tablets on Mt Sinai, I'm pretty sure. One must coddle and nurture the poor white wingnuts who feel oh so threatened by all the change they can't understand.

Personally,I think they should just turn off Rush and Laura and Hannity and one day they'll wake up and feel refreshed, like it's the first day they don't have a hangover after drinking a six pack every night for a couple of decades. Fox News is as bad for the body politic as opioids.

Anyway, Pierce has more. Just read it ..

Oh, by the way:

Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, has been assuring his dad that the right move was to stay strong on gun rights and draw a hard line on the issue that helped propel him in the 2016 election. He is among the host of people talking to the president in the wake of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which resulted in the death of 17 people. But the fact that he is family makes his access more personal and his guidance more trusted.

For those hoping to turn the latest national tragedy into a robust legislative response on guns, this isn’t a good thing. While some friends have urged Trump to adopt a more balanced approach, or even for the revival of an assault-weapons ban, Trump Jr. has argued that there was no time for even a hint of reversion to the more restrictive views on guns that Trump espoused years before he became leader of the Republican Party.

According to three sources with knowledge of their conversations, the president and Trump Jr. repeatedly discussed gun control over the long Presidents’ Day weekend, often as they both closely watched a TV airing footage in real-time of young Parkland students savaging the president for his inaction.

When polled on his opinions on the matter, the first son emphatically replied that the president must not waver on his pro-gun stance, whatever the impassioned calls for reform. Trump Jr., according to these sources, reminded his father that inching toward gun control would be immediately taken by his conservative base—as well as major donors and motivated activist networks, including the National Rifle Association—as an unforgivable betrayal.

Eric Trump, his middle son, readily agreed.


Dear Florida Gun Fighters. Prepare For The NRA Hammer! 
By Spocko

Dear Emma and Cameron:

I'm so encouraged by your bravery and activism in the face of your tragedy.  Today I heard you and some of your classmates are meeting with Florida’s attorney general, House speaker, and Senate president in Tallahassee.
Emma González

Cameron Kasky
 Rhona Wise / AFP / Getty Images
I have experience with politicians and professional spokespeople so I can tell you what to expect today, and then in the weeks and months to come. I think it will be enlightening for the general public to see how the Florida legislative system responds, so please share your experiences with politicians, the gun lobby and their supporters on social media.

One thing you will find about politicians--and the gun lobby that supports them--is that they are not stupid. They have short and long-term methods and strategies to prevent legislative change they don't like, while at the same time getting the change they want.

Here are some of the state politicians you are meeting today:

Pam Bondi, Florida Attorney General, Republican @AGPamBondi  
NRA Grade A 
Bondi's position on guns 

Richard Corcoran, Florida House Speaker, Republican @richardcorcoran
NRA grade A 
Corcoran's voting record and endorsements on guns

Joe Negron, Florida Senate President, Republican @joenegronfl
NRA Grade A+ 

These people know that you are angry and upset so they will let you "vent" your feelings.  They will express their deepest sympathy and offer sincere thoughts and prayers for your dead classmates and teachers.

They will look like they are listening to you. They are not. They will be waiting to talk. They will answer you in a way that will slow you down and appease you, but not upset the powerful gun lobby and their followers.  The politicians won't deny your requests right away. They might set up a commission to look into the problem, they might even ask you to be on it!

They will have "solutions" such as:
  • Raising the age of people who can get rifles and 3 day waiting periods for rifles
  • More funding for mental health services
Then they will talk about the only answer that the NRA, and their passionate voting base, deem acceptable; more guns.

At that point you can expect proposals for:
  • More money for school resource officers in schools across the state
  • Bills to allow more people to carry concealed weapons in and around your school. Teachers, administrators and staff will be offered advanced training and guns.
Here's the deal. The politicians are not monsters, they are not ignorant of others' suffering. They will come up with proposals, but they will be ones that keep the money they get from the NRA and the power they get from the NRA voting block. They will want you to spend your time beating back the NRA guns in schools proposals.

Politicians know that the majority of the public support you right now. In public the politicians you meet with will sound supportive. In the next few weeks pay attention to the ones who won't meet with you or won't do it in public. Then dig into what all of them say when they aren't talking to people like you. What do they say at the NRA fundraisers?  Is it different from what they told you? This is where you can use your Google research and social media skills.

You might wonder, what kind of people refuse to pass gun laws that the majority of the country support? I said these people weren't monsters, but their continued inaction in the face of death make them unfit to be in positions of power.

Your leverage includes passion and the ability to expose the politicians who refuse to act in the face of constant gun deaths and injuries. If they don't act, they need to be removed from office. 

I'd like to suggest that you read this series of great articles that Mike Spies wrote for The Trace called The Gunfighters.  Yeah, I know it sounds like I'm giving you homework, but these are really good. It will help you get an idea of the power you are up against and how the NRA uses it. You can listen to a podcast of his interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air  here.  @MIKESPIESNYC

Spies examined the National Rifle Association's influence on state policy and politics. The articles describe how over the last decade the NRA has successfully lobbied state legislatures to roll back many gun restrictions.  One also describes what is happening in your state and the most powerful NRA lobbyist in the country Marion Hammer. In that article Spies documents that if Republican NRA politicians don't support the NRA to the level Hammer demands, they will be removed from office.

Marion Hammer, 78, handles the NRA's legislative affairs in Florida,
 and is the most successful gun lobbyist in the United States.

While you are busy going to funerals, talking to reporters and meeting with legislators, Marion Hammer is telling your state legislators what to do. While you tug on your lawmakers' heart strings to get change, Hammer will be yanking on their purse strings to stop it.

The NRA and their passionate voter base don't think any of your proposals will get passed. There are millions of us rooting for you and want to help you succeed. Keep going.



Does Trump really want to take a look in the rearview mirror? #hiMitch

by digby

Greg Sargent examines the possible unanticipated fallout from Trump blaming of Barack Obama for his failure to stop the Russian interference:

The problem for Trump is that this line of inquiry also leads right back to the conduct of his fellow Republicans in the face of this Russian effort to undermine our democracy — conduct that was undertaken on his and the GOP’s behalf.

It is true that the Obama administration failed in key ways to safeguard the 2016 election. But it has also been established by dogged reporting that leading congressional Republicans rebuffed top Obama officials who wanted them to show a united, bipartisan public front against that Russian sabotage. As The Post has reported, when those officials made that request of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), he refused, claiming (in The Post’s words) that “he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.”

Former CIA director John Brennan has gone on the record about these efforts. “In those briefings of Congress, some of the individuals expressed concern that this was motivated by partisan interests on the part of the [Obama] administration,” Brennan recently said in a “Frontline” documentary. “I took offense to that. I told them that this is an intelligence assessment; that this is an intelligence matter.”

In the light of Mueller’s new indictment, we should revisit this. Before, we didn’t really have any idea just how extensive a case for Russian meddling was presented to GOP lawmakers. But now we have a much clearer sense of just how elaborate the Russian scheme really was — and a much clearer sense of the degree to which it was aimed at tipping the election to Trump. Indeed, the Mueller indictment doesn’t touch the role of WikiLeaks and the cybertheft aimed at top Democrats, which suggests that it only scratches the surface of what is known.

All this makes it more likely that a credible, detailed case was presented to GOP lawmakers in those meetings — not just of the scope of the Russian plot but also that its aim was to help install Trump in the White House, as part of a “strategic effort to sow discord in the U.S. political system,” as the indictment puts it. And so, Trump’s new spin in the face of the indictment — that it reveals Obama’s failure to act in the face of the threat — also invites more scrutiny of their conduct in the face of that threat.

Writing at Crooked Media, Brian Beutler points to a deep tension in the media debate over the Mueller indictment. Observers are struggling to come to terms with how extensive the Russian sabotage effort really was, while simultaneously avoiding grappling with whether it might have helped tip an extremely close election to Trump — an uncomfortable topic, because that might place a question mark over Trump’s legitimacy.

And that raises another related uncomfortable question — a forward-looking one. Trump and his media allies have gone to enormous lengths to discredit and hamstring a full reckoning into what happened. Numerous Republicans in Congress have perverted and weaponized the oversight process to lend an assist to that effort. Because Trump refuses to take Russian sabotage of the 2016 presidential election seriously, Trump is conspicuously failing to organize a response to the threat of Russian meddling in upcoming elections, even though intelligence officials warn this effort is already upon us.

Republicans such as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) have greeted the Mueller indictment by claiming our election security must be taken seriously. But how many Republicans are openly calling out Trump’s inaction in that regard, which the indictment gives us ample grounds for taking even more seriously? As the Atlantic’s David Frum suggests, we need to discuss a “bigger and darker question,” namely whether Trump — and, crucially, congressional Republicans — may not particularly care about this threat if they stand to benefit from it.

Much of this is speculative, which provides a way for those who find these topics awkward to avoid reckoning directly with them. But the specific conduct of GOP lawmakers in declining to show a united front against Russian sabotage of our democracy is a topic that needn’t remain speculative. It can be fully fleshed out and established with empirical, journalistic inquiry. Trump has unwittingly invited this inquiry. We should take him up on it.

Again. They seem awfully confident that further Russian interference will accrue to their benefit. Why else would they be so blase about it?

Maybe it's time to take a look at that DCCC hack again ...

Doubling down on the low point

by digby

It's hard to believe but this is now the official White House line but it seems they are sticking by the horrifying presumption that if the FBI had not been wasting time investigating Trump's collusion with Russia they would have stopped the Parkland shooter.

Essentially they are blaming the FBI for those deaths.

Oh, and you'll note that she lied blatantly about what the administration has been doing to prevent future interference and tried to lay it off on Obama.

She is the worst press secretary in history and she gets more dishonest by the day.


"A thorny choice"

by digby

Remember when Mike Flynn was trying to sell nuclear reactors all over the middle east and forgot to mention it anyone? I'm sure you'll be happy to learn thatthe Trump administration still likes the idea:

Next month, Saudi Arabia will announce the finalists of a sweepstakes. The prize? Multibillion-dollar contracts to build a pair of nuclear power reactors in desolate stretches of desert along the Persian Gulf.

For Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, the reactors are a matter of international prestige and power, a step toward matching the nuclear program of Shia rival Iran while quenching some of the kingdom’s domestic thirst for energy.

For the Trump administration, the contest poses a thorny choice between promoting U.S. companies and fighting nuclear proliferation. If the administration wants to boost the chances of a U.S. consortium led by Westinghouse, it might need to bend rules designed to limit nuclear proliferation in an unstable part of the world. That could heighten security risks and encourage other Middle Eastern countries to follow suit.

“If the Saudis were to get an agreement without restrictions, it would set a dangerous precedent in the region and [be] a significant break with American nuclear policy for the last 50 years,” said Jon Wolfsthal, a consultant on nuclear weapons who was a director for arms control and nonproliferation at the National Security Council under President Barack Obama.

The issue is a test of President Trump’s foreign policy and his self-professed bargaining prowess. Trump, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry have made pilgrimages to Riyadh to cozy up to the young crown prince and win big contracts for U.S. firms. Yet little has come to fruition.

Is that really a "thorny choice"? To me it seems like a very easy, simple obvious choice.

No, we should not heighten nuclear security risks in the most volatile region on the planet. Not. No a good idea.

Westinghouse will just have to make some more toasters. I'll buy two. But no nuclear proliferation. Bad idea.
The Spartacus tactic

by digby

In light of Trump's twitter meltdown over the week-end and the fact that he has now had to admit that Russian election interference did take place Walter Shapiro makes a strong case for reporters to band together and ask President Trump the same question over and over again: “Mr President, if your claim that there was no collusion with Russia is correct, then why do you refuse to condemn Vladimir Putin or enforce sanctions against Russia?”

He writes:

Like a small child being introduced to board games, Trump’s instinct is to knock over the table whenever he is challenged. These daily uproars and Twitter tantrums all but erase memories of the prior week’s outrages. The result: the news media has lost its ability to declare that one topic (Russian interference) is of far more lasting importance than Trump’s assaults on random targets like Oprah Winfrey.

Given the leak-proof nature of the Mueller investigation, there is as yet no way to know whether the special counsel has uncovered convincing evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Putin’s puppets. And it remains likely that most Trump insiders and the troll farmers in Moscow never expected the bilious billionaire to actually become president.

But the innocent explanations for Trump’s willful inaction in the face of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election are beginning to seem implausible.

For a long while, I clung to the notion that Trump has a fan-boy crush on Putin, admiring the Russian leader’s bare-chested brazenness, his contempt for democracy and unashamed cronyism.

Another familiar argument is that Trump bristles at any challenge to the legitimacy of his election. That’s why losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton prompted Trump to go off on half-baked conspiracy theories about five million illegal votes and to appoint his ill-fated commission on voter fraud.

When Steve Bannon was riding high, there was talk of his dream of an alliance with Russia against the Muslim world. In such a geopolitical fantasy, the religious links between American evangelicals and Russian Orthodoxy would erase cold war memories as Putin and Trump marched off into the sunset arm-in-arm.

But Bannon has been exiled to Elba. And the president’s unhinged tweets last weekend – excoriating everyone from his national security adviser HR McMaster to the FBI – suggest that there is far more at stake than Trump’s disappointment in his role model in the Kremlin.

Everyone has a private list of what Trump might have to hide. But what matters at the moment is the president’s abdication of any interest in safeguarding the 2018 elections from Moscow’s meddling.

He has no interest in doing so and is, in fact, tacitly inviting it to be done again.

And, lest we forget, so are the Republicans in congress. They refuse to do a real investigation or even make any kind of definitive statement about what happened and produce some plan to prevent it from happening again.

As I have been saying for the past year --- they know it happened and they know it will happen again. You have to wonder why they seem so blithely confident that it will never hurt them.

What do they know that we don't know?

Trump's week-end meltdown created a big question he can't answer

by digby

I wrote about his accidental admission for Salon this morning:

Last Friday, Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller handed down grand jury indictments of 13 Russian nationals for interference in the 2016 presidential election. It detailed a campaign to use American social media to disparage Hillary Clinton and Republican candidates while boosting Donald Trump. These indictments will probably never result in a trial, since it is not likely the Russian government will feel moved to extradite these people to face the music for their alleged crimes. After all, on the night Trump won the election, senior Russian government officials were reportedly celebrating wildly.

Legal analysts have been poring over the indictment and have as many theories as there are Russian bots about what it says about the overall investigation. There is something for everyone in it, from the diehard Hillary fans who still feel raw over the Democratic primaries to the never-Trumpers on the right who know their instincts were correct. The evidence shows that a Russian troll farm used social media to spread propaganda and organize events, spending millions on the program and reaching millions of American voters.

The indictments were announced by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, which was seen as a sign by many commentators that he wanted to take ownership of the case and ensure it was taken seriously. Rosenstein's message was clear: Here is proof that Russians interfered in in the 2016 election, and did it to help Donald Trump win.

There can be no more debate about whether it happened. The only question now is what effect it had on the exceedingly close outcome. That's a debate that will never be truly resolved, although there are experts who make a pretty convincing case that the effect of Russian meddling was substantial.

Rosenstein also went out of his way to state that these indictments do not assert that there was any collusion with the Trump campaign, which was immediately seen as vindication by his supporters. That's premature, to say the least: The hacking of Democratic Party and Clinton campaign emails, and the curious timing of their release -- as well as all those meetings with Russians -- were not addressed. Nonetheless, the entire Trump machine immediately went into high gear, saying "I told you so" and declaring that the president and his campaign were off the hook.

Fox News ran the story as a Trump victory on a loop, and the president tweeted:

(Actually, Trump was known to be anticipating a run for president in 2014. It was even assumed to be a done deal by certain Russians he'd worked with on the 2013 Miss Universe pageant.)

Unfortunately, Trump's celebration was dampened by the necessity of visiting victims of our latest bloody school slaughter, which meant that he couldn't spend his holiday weekend on the golf course as he'd planned. So he stayed inside and watched TV with his sons Eric and Donald Jr. instead, and they got "riled up" by the media coverage, precipitating one of the most unhinged tweetstorms we've seen from the president yet.

Trump blamed the Democrats for gun violence because they hadn't been able to pass gun safety legislation when they had a majority. (Mitch McConnell led the filibuster against the bipartisan bill after Newtown.) He claimed that the investigationswere playing into the hands of the Russians. He chastised Gen. H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, for saying it was "incontrovertible" that the Russian government had interfered in the election without adding that there was no collusion with the Trump campaign. He capped this all off by saying that "the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems. Remember the Dirty Dossier, Uranium, Speeches, Emails and the Podesta Company!"

Trump called Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., of the House Intelligence Committee a "monster." He attacked Oprah Winfrey. In the low point of a truly alarming public tantrum, the president blamed the FBI and the Mueller investigation for the Parkland shooting:

But amid all the raving and the ranting, there was a significant shift in Trump's previous position. Now that there is real evidence of a Russian attempt to interfere in the 2016 election, he is claiming that he never called it a hoax in the first place:

There are, of course, dozens of examples of Trump insisting that the entire scandal was made up by Democrats as an excuse for their defeat. Here's one from a Time magazine interview:
I don’t believe they interfered. That became a laughing point, not a talking point, a laughing point. Any time I do something, they say "oh, Russia interfered."
More recently, after Trump met with Vladimir Putin he said afterwards that Putin told him he didn't interfere in the election, and that Trump took him at his word.

Now Trump has been forced to admit that this happened and that the Russian government was apparently behind it. Whether he realizes it or not, this presents a whole new set of problems for him.

Obviously, Trump has known about this since long before the election, when he started getting security briefings. He has been president for more than a year and he has done nothing about this. He has not held one Cabinet-level meeting about this issue, and according to the directors of his intelligence agencies has not told them to ensure it never happens again. In fact, Trump has not only obstructed the investigation into what happened, he has tried to stop congressional committees from doing anything to prevent future attacks. And then there are his repeated attempts to lift the sanctions imposed by the Obama administration, and his refusal to implement the ones mandated by Congress as punishment for the interference.

None of that has anything to do with allegations of "collusion." If he didn't think the Russia interference itself was a hoax, then what is his excuse for inaction? Even if you want to grant him the widely-held assumption that he is just a pathological narcissist obsessed about the legitimacy of his victory, this is a dereliction of duty and he's accidentally admitted to it.

But Trump being Trump, he's found a way to pass the buck. You could almost see the light bulb going off in his head when he tweeted on President's Day, “Obama was President up to, and beyond, the 2016 Election. So why didn’t he do something about Russian meddling?”

Our intelligence agencies all say this will happen again in 2018. Who will Trump blame then?



Mapmaker, mapmaker, make me a map

by Tom Sullivan

That "surgical precision" Republican legislators used to ensure congressional majorities is busting a lot of stitches. Pennsylvania's Supreme Court Monday issued its redrawn map for the state's gerrymandered districts to make them comply with its findings that the districts were “clearly, plainly, and palpably” out of compliance with the state Constitution.

The Washington Post reports:

The new map more closely reflects the partisan composition of the state, all but ensuring that Democrats will pick up several new U.S. House seats in November. It's also more compact than Republicans' original map, and it splits fewer counties and municipal areas — a key concern of the court as it sought to ensure voters' ability to participate in “free and equal” elections.

The original Republican-drawn map had become the butt of national jokes due to its reliance on strange, sprawling shapes to create a balance of electoral power heavily tilted toward the GOP. While Democratic candidates for the state's 18 U.S. House seats tend to capture about half of the statewide popular vote, that's translated into just five of the 18 seats in each election held since the 2011 redistricting.
A 2017 Brennan Center analysis estimated that gerrymandering in Pennsylvania gave Republicans an additional 3 seats in Congress. The study found:
• Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania consistently have the most extreme levels of partisan bias. Collectively, the distortion in their maps has accounted for seven to ten extra Republican seats in each of the three elections since the 2011 redistricting, amounting to one-third to one-half of the total partisan bias across the states we analyzed.

• Florida, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia have less severe partisan bias but jointly account for most of the remaining net extra Republican seats in the examined states.
The new map splits just 13 counties. The 2011 map drawn by the Pennsylvania GOP split 28. The new map is slated to be in place for the May 15 primary.

Republican lawmakers are expected to challenge the map in federal court, arguing that only lawmakers and the governor may draw legislative maps. But that argument has already failed in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati (R) and House Speaker Michael Turzai (R) issued a joint statement Monday, the Huffington Post reports. Implementing new map they say would create a “constitutional crisis.”

[I'll note again for the record that owing to similar rulings against North Carolina's "near surgical" gerrymander, I voted in NC-10 in the 2016 primary and (without changing address) in NC-11 in the November election and survived the constitutional crisis. Granted, the NC primary was on March 15.]

Sam Levine writes at Huffington Post:
Mimi McKenzie, legal director at the Public Interest Law Center, which helped represent the 18 Democratic voters who filed the suit, said voters in other states should be encouraged to bring similar suits.

“This case was always about the right to have your vote count. The Court’s order and remedial plan has restored Pennsylvania voters’ right to choose their congressional representatives in free and equal elections in 2018. We hope this remedial plan will inspire other states to protect their own voters from partisan gerrymandering,” McKenzie said in a statement.
Meanwhile, we await the Supreme Court's ruling in cases involving Wisconsin, Maryland and Texas on whether partisan gerrymanders are by definition unconstitutional.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Monday, February 19, 2018

QOTD: An unnamed White House staffer

by digby

Press staffers cited the tragedy as a reason to cancel on-camera briefings for the remainder of the week, allowing them to avoid questions about the swirling controversies. The White House could hold its next briefing on Tuesday, a full week since press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders last faced reporters.

“For everyone, it was a distraction or a reprieve,” said one White House official, speaking anonymously to reflect internal conversations. “A lot of people here felt like it was a reprieve from seven or eight days of just getting pummeled.”

Trump's gigantic conflict of interest nobody cares about

by digby

I don't think I'll ever get over the fact that Trump called his rival in 2016 "Crooked Hillary" because she supposedly took contributions to a charitable foundation from people who had issues before the Secretary of State (not true, of course) and he is getting away with stuff like this:
The largest American office of China's largest bank sits on the 20th floor of Trump Tower, six levels below the desk where Donald Trump built an empire and wrested a presidency. It's hard to get a glimpse inside. There do not appear to be any public photos of the office, the bank doesn't welcome visitors, and a man guards the elevators downstairs--one of the perks of forking over an estimated $2 million a year for the space.

Trump Tower officially lists the tenant as the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, but make no mistake who's paying the rent: the Chinese government, which owns a majority of the company. And while the landlord is technically the Trump Organization, make no mistake who's cashing those millions: the president of the United States, who has placed day-to-day management with his sons but retains 100% ownership. This lease expires in October 2019, according to a debt prospectus obtained by Forbes. So if you assume that the Trumps want to keep this lucrative tenant, then Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. could well be negotiating right now over how many millions the Chinese government will pay the sitting president. Unless he has already taken care of it: In September 2015 then-candidate Trump boasted to Forbes that he had "just renewed" the lease, around the time he was gearing up his campaign.

It's a conflict of interest unprecedented in American history
. But hardly unanticipated. The Founding Fathers specifically built this contingency into the Constitution through the Emoluments Clause, which prohibits U.S. officials from accepting gifts, titles or "emoluments" from foreign governments. In Federalist 75, Alexander Hamilton framed the threat thus: "An avaricious man might be tempted to betray the interests of the state to the acquisition of wealth." Scholars have been debating what exactly constitutes an "emolument" since the moment Trump won the election, and nearly 200 congressional Democrats sued the president over possible violations in June. Much of the yammering in this area surrounds Trump's hotels, especially the one in Washington, D.C., which has billed $268,000 in hotel rooms and catering to the Saudi government, and his international licensing deals, which allow foreign tycoons and hucksters, many with connections to their local governments, to pay the Trump Organization more than $5 million a year in order to profit from the president's name in far-flung locales.

But that's all small potatoes. The real money in the Trump empire comes from commercial tenants like the Chinese bank. Forbes estimates these tenants pay a collective $175 million a year or so to the president. And they do so anonymously. Federal laws, drafted without envisioning a real estate billionaire as president, require Trump to publicly disclose the shell companies he owns--but not the hundreds of businesses pouring money into them or even the extent of the money involved.

Maybe you think Trump has too much integrity to do anything as president that would benefit his tenants who pay him millions of dollars a year. That's certainly what all the people in Bizarroworld think. But if you have any suspicion that Trump might not be a guy who understands or cares about the idea of using his office for profit, this would seem to be a problem.

Here's my favorite thing about all this. Nothing will be done about Trump's massive corruption. He will be allowed to use his office for his family's enrichment throughout his term and that will be that. There will, however, be a major crackdown going forward. And Democrats will bear the brunt of it as Republicans energetically use the weapon they refused to wield against Trump against their rivals. And Democrats, perpetually afraid of being accused of hypocrisy, will join them

All Democrats had better be aware that even they are the cleanest candidates in history, it won't be enough to stave off the onslaught.

Just a little warning of what's to come.

In the meantime, contemplate just how malignant Trump's open corruption really is. He brags about it. Nobody cares.


What could go wrong?

by digby

The picture above is from a Serbian far right demonstration before the election. They seem nice.

I hate to be alarmist but ...

Maybe this rise of the far right is a flash in the pan. I certainly hope so. But it is worth noting that these far right parties all over the world really love Donald Trump.