Solarbird (solarbird) wrote,
Solarbird
solarbird

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good morning, it's 17 may 2017

Well, if we didn't know already, this is the crux of the matter.

If meaningful, _critical_ actions are not taken _now_, the GOP will take no action, at all, ever.

We _have to_ assume that Mr. Trump could order tanks into the streets and the Republican Party would be fine with it. We _have to_ assume he could shoot people down in cold blood and they'd go along. We have to assume there will be no help from the ruling party. _None_.

The institutions that could act meaningfully have failed, because, in the end, is is not the institutions, but the people who occupy them. And the occupants are looters, criminals, and traitors who have one, single goal: the strip-mining of all value available, to themselves, or the masters they serve.

This doesn't mean we can't resist, because we can. But it means the two-year war will not be short-circuited, and must be fought heavily at the state level. The Republicans will do _everything_ in their power to suppress votes, to gerrymander beyond anything we've seen even so far, and steal the next election, by hook or by crook. _If you want there to be elections in the future_, you _have to_ oust Republicans, en masse, in 2018. I don't care about how big a sellout your local Democrat is - stow it. You want to primary some people from the left, go for it, but when the primary is over, _get the fuck in line_, because this is existential to the _goddamn republic_.

News follows.

Trump, Russia, and Treason:
  • Trump Revealed Highly Classified Intelligence to Russia, in Break With Ally, Officials Say
  • ‘Far worse than what has already been reported’: Trump’s Russian disclosures so serious Senate had to be alerted
  • Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation
  • Republicans Demand More Detail on Trump’s Meeting With Russians
  • Source: There is "whole lot of interfering" in Russia investigation
  • Trump on Comey 'tapes': 'I can't talk about that'
  • Authoritarians thrive on ritual humiliation.
  • I have lived through nearly 4,500 weeks in my life, and I have never seen a week like the one we just had.
  • Clapper: Putin did it to demean Clinton and help elect Trump
  • Trump/Comey: What's this week's political firestorm actually about?
  • Here’s Why There Won’t Be An Independent Investigation Into Russia Anytime Soon
  • ‘He Doesn’t Give a Crap Who He Fires’
  • Donald Trump's tax law firm has 'deep' ties to Russia
  • Trump must be impeached. Here’s why.
Trump, Authoritarianism (and neofascism), and Corruption:
  • Trump Is Trying to Control the FBI. It’s Time to Freak Out.
  • The Law Can’t Stop Trump. Only Impeachment Can.
  • Americans are witnessing a slow-motion coup
  • Telling Trump Fans He’s Betraying Them Won’t Work
  • Card handed out at #RPW2017 by @wisgop US Senate hopeful John Schiess.

Good luck out there.


----- 1 -----
‘Far worse than what has already been reported’: Trump’s Russian disclosures so serious Senate had to be alerted
Noor Al-Sibai | Raw Story | 15 May 2017

http://www.rawstory.com/2017/05/far-worse-than-what-has-already-been-reported-trumps-russian-disclosures-so-serious-senate-had-to-be-alerted/

After the Washington Post released a bombshell report claiming that President Donald Trump divulged ‘highly classified’ information to Russian officials during an Oval Office meeting last week, Buzzfeed News confirmed the reports — and added that the disclosures were so serious that they required a Senate Intelligence Committee briefing.

According to one anonymous source who spoke with Buzzfeed, the disclosures were “far worse than what has already been reported”.

Buzzfeed confirmed that there was at very least a Senate Intelligence Committee briefing, though it appears that other officials were briefed as well.

Following the meeting, White House staffers allegedly “moved quickly to contain the fallout” of the information Trump revealed to Russia’s US ambassador Sergei Kislyak and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, which included classified informational about ISIS that not even American allies were privy to.


----- 2 -----
Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation
By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT | The New York Times | MAY 16, 2017

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/16/us/politics/james-comey-trump-flynn-russia-investigation.html

WASHINGTON — President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.

The existence of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.

Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. The memo was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.

Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of the memo to a Times reporter.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey that Mr. Flynn had done nothing wrong, according to the memo.

Mr. Comey did not say anything to Mr. Trump about curtailing the investigation, only replying: “I agree he is a good guy.”

In a statement, the White House denied the version of events in the memo.


----- 3 -----
Republicans Demand More Detail on Trump’s Meeting With Russians
By JENNIFER STEINHAUER and EMMARIE HUETTEMAN | The New York Times
MAY 16, 2017

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/16/us/politics/republican-senate-mcconnell-white-house.html

WASHINGTON — Top lawmakers, including the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, demanded on Tuesday that the White House provide details concerning President Trump’s meeting last week with Russian officials during which he revealed sensitive intelligence information.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who has been largely silent on the president’s increasing troubles concerning Russia, carefully pleaded with the administration to stop impeding the Republican agenda. Even as he tried to change the conversation to health care, the focus remained firmly on the president and Russia.

“I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House on a lot of things so that we can focus on our agenda,” Mr. McConnell said in an interview on Bloomberg Television on Tuesday morning, reflecting an increasingly frustrated Republican majority over the White House mishaps.

Later, during a news conference on Capitol Hill, when asked if he was concerned about Mr. Trump’s competence in handling intelligence information, Mr. McConnell paused for several beats before responding, “No.”


----- 4 -----
Source: There is "whole lot of interfering" in Russia investigation
By Jeff Pegues - CBS News - May 11, 2017, 6:10 PM

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/source-there-is-whole-a-lot-of-interfering-in-russia-investigation/

Although President Trump has now stated and written that fired FBI Director James Comey told him on three separate occasions that he was not the subject of an investigation, sources cast doubt on that claim.

It would be out of character for Comey to have made that statement even once, much less three times, to the president, one law enforcement source told CBS News. Along with his firing, the source noted a high level of "interfering" in the Russia probe.

As for the White House assertions that "countless" FBI rank-and-file employees wanted Comey out, the source said that was a "load of cr*p" to think that agents wanted to see him ousted. That sentiment is shared by acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe in less colorful language. He told a congressional panel Thursday, "Director Comey enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day. We are a large organization. We are 36,500 people across this country, across this globe. we have a diversity of opinions about many things, but I can confidently tell you that the majority, the vast majority of employees enjoyed a deep and positive connection to Director Comey."

This was the case in spite of the divided opinion within the agency over Comey's July 2016 announcement that he would not recommend Hillary Clinton be charged for mishandling classified information, in the investigation into her use of a private server for her email.

Within the FBI, the Russia investigation is considered to be "a crisis," the source said, and "there is a whole lot of interfering." The succession of events surrounding Comey's firing is not considered to be a coincidence by the agency. In the week before he was terminated, Comey asked Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein for additional resources to pursue the Russia investigation.

Further, his firing came a day after former acting Attorney General Sally Yates had testified before a Senate panel that she had warned the White House that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn "essentially could be blackmailed" because he apparently had lied to his bosses about his contacts with Russian Envoy Sergey Kislyak.

On the same day that Comey was fired, federal prosecutors probing Russian meddling issued grand jury subpoenas for business records of Flynn associates.


----- 5 -----
Trump on Comey 'tapes': 'I can't talk about that'
By Mark Hensch - The Hill - 05/12/17

http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/fbi/333222-trump-on-comey-tapes-i-wont-talk-about-that

President Trump during a new interview refused to discuss his tweeted warning to former FBI Director James Comey.

“Well, that I can’t talk about,” Trump told Fox News’s Jeanine Pirro in the clip released Friday. “I won’t talk about that. All I want is for Comey to be honest and I hope he will be, and I’m sure he will be, I hope.”

Trump also denied that he demanded Comey’s loyalty to him during a January dinner, something that has been reported by The New York Times and The Associated Press.

“No, I didn’t,” he said when asked if he gave that request. “But I don’t think it would be a bad question to ask. I think loyalty to the country, loyalty to the United States is important."

“You know, I mean it depends on how you define loyalty, number one. Number two, I don’t know how that got there, because I didn’t ask that question.”

Trump earlier Friday issued a cryptic threat to Comey amid a flood of leaks to the media from the White House.

“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” he said.

It is unclear what "tapes" Trump is referring to. White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Friday declined to clarify, and would not say whether Trump records conversations in the Oval Office.


----- 6 -----
Authoritarians thrive on ritual humiliation.
Ruth Ben-Ghiat‏ on Twitter | 14 May 2017

1/Authoritarians thrive on ritual humiliation. Submitting to them only sets you up for worse treatment (Tillerson, Pence, WH staff)
https://twitter.com/ruthbenghiat/status/863739523804659712

2/Mussolini would read aloud "letters of submission" from former critics in his all-Fascist Parliament, mocking their acquiescence.
https://twitter.com/ruthbenghiat/status/863741219817619456

3/Here there's another layer: by laughing w Russians in WH Trump mocked all of America & esp GOP. Expect more signs of such empowerment.
https://twitter.com/ruthbenghiat/status/863749395623313408

4/Authoritarians create a culture of threat to keep ppl in subjection. Everyone is expendable, and no one knows who will be the next target.
https://twitter.com/ruthbenghiat/status/863943842113957888

5/Yet threat is not enough: authoritarians also need allies who can give respectability. That’s where the co-optation of elites comes in.
https://twitter.com/ruthbenghiat/status/863944501328584704

6/ They attract a broad-based group of clerics, mainstream politicians, financiers and propagandists with incentives. Each uses the other.
https://twitter.com/ruthbenghiat/status/863945446909194241

7/The authoritarian tests these potential allies, and the public and the press, to see their tolerance for violence and extralegality.
https://twitter.com/ruthbenghiat/status/863946362416660480

8/What can he get away with? His aggressive speech and acts show allies the grey zone between legality and illegality they will inhabit.
https://twitter.com/ruthbenghiat/status/863946993344892929

9/Trump tested during campaign, esp with remark about shooting someone on 5th Ave without losing voters. He told us he was above the law.
https://twitter.com/ruthbenghiat/status/863947768146132998

10/We can hardly be surprised when he shoves his Russian collusion in our faces. He knows the GOP is too invested in the deal he made w them
https://twitter.com/ruthbenghiat/status/863948485103583233

11/We must seek allies of our own, appealing to those who are patriotic rather than transactional and immune from his charisma.
https://twitter.com/ruthbenghiat/status/863950017060630528

12/We must be vocal, visible, steadfast, and principled. It is a long game but one worth playing - together.
https://twitter.com/ruthbenghiat/status/863950323693604867


----- 7 -----
Trump Revealed Highly Classified Intelligence to Russia, in Break With Ally, Officials Say
By MATTHEW ROSENBERG and ERIC SCHMITT
The New York Times | MAY 15, 2017

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/15/us/politics/trump-russia-classified-information-isis.html

WASHINGTON — President Trump boasted about highly classified intelligence in a meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador last week, providing details that could expose the source of the information and the manner in which it was collected, a current and a former American government official said Monday.

The intelligence disclosed by Mr. Trump in a meeting with Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, was about an Islamic State plot, according to the officials. A Middle Eastern ally that closely guards its own secrets provided the information, which was considered so sensitive that American officials did not share it widely within the United States government or pass it on to other allies.

Mr. Trump’s disclosure does not appear to have been illegal — the president has the power to declassify almost anything. But sharing the information without the express permission of the ally who provided it was a major breach of espionage etiquette, and could jeopardize a crucial intelligence-sharing relationship.

In fact, the ally has repeatedly warned American officials that it would cut off access to such sensitive information if it were shared too widely, the former official said. In this case, the fear is that Russia will be able to determine exactly how the information was collected and could disrupt the ally’s espionage efforts.

The Washington Post first reported Mr. Trump’s disclosure. White House officials denied that Mr. Trump shared sources and methods of intelligence gathering but did not address whether he talked about the Islamic State plot itself.


----- 8 -----
I have lived through nearly 4,500 weeks in my life, and I have never seen a week like the one we just had.
Dan Rather on Facebook | 12 May 2017

https://www.facebook.com/theDanRather/posts/10158660944630716

I have lived through nearly 4,500 weeks in my life, and I have never seen a week like the one we just had.

I have seen weeks of far greater darkness, of war, and death, and economic despair. I have seen weeks of more confusion and uncertainty. But I have never seen a week where a president of our nation has behaved with such a cavalier disregard for the norms and institutions of our democracy. And it now seems like the investigation is expanding into Trump's business dealings. The comparisons with Richard Nixon are plentiful these days, but even he did not seem so untethered from our basic governance. And I have never seen so many members of a political party rally around incompetence, intemperance, and inanity.

The threats, the lies, the willful disregard for the rule of law should be limited to the world of Hollywood caricature. To see this played out each night on the news, to read about ramblings and inconsistencies in justifications for actions that should never have been taken, is to see a moment of great peril for our nation.

I remain, however, an optimist. I see the swellings of civic engagement and action. I hear the voices of those who demand that this subversion of our national ideals shall not stand. I have covered social movement of the past, and never have seen one where so much power and numbers lie on the side of the opposition. This is a clash for the values of our nation. Our destiny is in our hands.


----- 9 -----
Clapper: Putin did it to demean Clinton and help elect Trump
By Juliette Kayyem, CNN National Security Analyst
May 9, 2017

http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/08/opinions/yates-was-headliner-but-clapper-stole-the-show-kayyem/index.html

So much has been written about former acting Attorney General Sally Yates since President Donald Trump fired her in January for declining to enforce his travel ban, that her testimony to a Senate judiciary subcommittee Monday was met with great anticipation. Few had ever actually heard her voice.

And as a headliner she did not disappoint. In the hearing -- on Russian meddling in the US election -- she described her direct contacts, in calls and meetings, with the White House and White House counsel Donald McGahn, and her growing concerns about the potential that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn could be compromised because of his undisclosed contacts with the Russians.

Calm and direct, she invoked the Constitution to argue that her concerns were pressing because they involved Vice President Michael Pence and whether he had been lied to. And she easily dispatched gotcha questions from Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn.

But she did not steal the show.

That was left to James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence. In his direct opening, and his clarifying questioning, he deployed his typical composure (along with a hint of annoyance that he was drawn out of retirement for this) to answer key questions and put to rest some lingering suspicions about the investigation.

...

Finally, Clapper ended his statement with a reminder to the American public and the Senators of what this investigation is really about: Russia did, without doubt and with little consequence, deploy resources and tactics to disrupt America's presidential election -- to undermine Hillary Clinton, and to help Trump's campaign. Stated without drama or emotion, it was nonetheless sobering.

Here is what he said: "The Russians used cyber operations against both political parties, including hacking into servers used by the Democratic National Committee and releasing stolen data to WikiLeaks and other media outlets. Russia also collected on certain Republican Party-affiliated targets, but did not release any Republican-related data. The Intelligence Community Assessment concluded first that President Putin directed and influenced campaign to erode the faith and confidence of the American people in our presidential election process. Second, that he did so to demean Secretary Clinton, and third, that he sought to advantage Mr. Trump. These conclusions were reached based on the richness of the information gathered and analyzed and were thoroughly vetted and then approved by the directors of the three agencies and me."


----- 10 -----
Trump/Comey: What's this week's political firestorm actually about?
13 May 2017 | BBC News

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39900199

At well over 2m tall and serving as head of the FBI as the US president sparred openly with the agency, James Comey was, until Tuesday, a significant figure in all senses of the word.

His downfall has caused a seismic reaction in Washington that is continuing to reverberate, and it appears the dust will not settle for some time.

If you've been tuned out of the news in the last few days, or are simply feeling lost amid the maelstrom of headlines, conflicting explanations, leaks and speculation (and who could blame you), we're here to set you straight.

Put your feet up, and let's go back to the basics of this complex story.


----- 11 -----
Here’s Why There Won’t Be An Independent Investigation Into Russia Anytime Soon
Despite growing calls for an independent commission to take over the Russia investigation, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who controls what happens in the Senate, has made clear he won’t let that happen.
Tarini Parti | May 10, 2017 | Buzzfeed News

https://www.buzzfeed.com/tariniparti/heres-why-there-wont-be-an-independent-investigation-into

President Donald Trump’s sudden dismissal of FBI Director James Comey in the midst of the bureau’s investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia has renewed calls for an independent investigation. But one Republican with the power to stop that idea in its tracks — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — has made clear he won’t let that happen.

An independent investigation — either through the creation of an independent commission outside of Congress or a special congressional committee — would require congressional approval, meaning McConnell, who controls which legislation comes to the Senate floor for a vote, would have to green-light the probe for it to even move forward. Some members are also calling for a special prosecutor to take up the case, but that would require approval from the Department of Justice or another complicated, and also unlikely, bill.

Hours after Comey's firing, McConnell said in his opening remarks on the Senate floor that he was going to continue to rely on the Senate Intelligence Committee to continue its investigation rather than look into starting an independent one.

"Today we will no doubt hear calls for a new investigation which could only serve to impede the current work being done to not only discover what the Russians may have done, but also to let this body and the national security community to develop the countermeasures and warfighting doctrine to see that it doesn't occur again,” McConnell said.


----- 12 -----
‘He Doesn’t Give a Crap Who He Fires’
The only people who aren’t surprised by Trump’s dismissal of James Comey are the people who’ve watched his whole career.
By Michael Kruse | Politico | May 10, 2017

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/05/10/donald-trump-fires-james-comey-215123

Totally unprecedented. Totally unsurprising.

When President Donald Trump on Tuesday fired FBI Director James Comey, people steeped in presidential and legal history sounded alarms. “No president has ever dismissed an FBI director under such circumstances,” bestselling author Jon Meacham said on Twitter. “It’s a constitutional crisis,” David Cole of the Georgetown University Law Center wrote. “This is the kind of thing that goes on in non-democracies,” Jeffrey Toobin said on CNN.

People who know Trump didn’t disagree, but they also responded with a combination of relative resignation and seen-it-all-before shoulder shrugs.

“Outrageous,” former Trump Organization vice president Barbara Res said when I reached her at her home shortly after the news of the firing broke.

But was she shocked? “No,” she said.

“This is an act of insanity,” a former Trump inner-circle associate told me, “but it’s how he functions.”

“Completely consistent, yes,” with his pattern of behavior, a onetime Trump political aide added.


----- 13 -----
Trump Is Trying to Control the FBI. It’s Time to Freak Out.
By Jonathan Chait | New York Magazine | 11 May 2017

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/05/trump-is-trying-to-control-the-fbi-its-time-to-freak-out.html

It seemed for a while that, while Donald Trump’s presidency has proven less competent and more right-wing than expected, it has also defied the fears of authoritarianism that circulated after the election. But the importance of the two newest revelations from the Comey episode change that fundamentally.

First, Trump boasts to NBC’s Lester Holt not only that he decided to fire Comey himself, regardless of the advice from the Department of Justice, but that he did it specifically to strike back at the FBI’s Russia investigation. (“When I decided to [fire Comey], I said to myself, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,” Trump said.) Reports from numerous media organizations have confirmed the centrality of the Russia investigation in Comey’s firing. Now Trump is admitting it in public.

Second, the New York Times reports that Trump, in January, asked Comey to promise his loyalty. (Comey said he could only offer “honesty.”) Two Comey friends heard this account at the time, and have felt free to share it since. This is not only wildly improper, it is a window into Trump’s disregard for basic democratic norms surrounding law enforcement. If the FBI is operating out of loyalty to the president, then one of the most important barriers between a democratic government and an authoritarian one has fallen.

Donald Trump’s most consistent belief — even more consistent than his skepticism of international trade, which has waned on occasion — is his worship of power. He is not merely willing to do business with despots, as most presidents have been. He admires them because of, not despite, their despotism. His repeated refusal during the campaign to accept the legitimacy of the election (“rigged”), his promises to jail his opponent, and his intermingling of state power and personal profit all suggested a threat to the health of the republic. Now that threat has arrived. And if Republicans in Congress continue to cover for his actions, the damage to the health of American government may be longstanding.


----- 14 -----
The Law Can’t Stop Trump. Only Impeachment Can.
By Jonathan Chait | New York Magazine | May 15, 2017

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/05/the-law-cant-stop-trump-only-impeachment-can.html

Shortly after the Washington Post’s devastating report that President Trump “revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador” and “jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State,” Republicans in Congress began to weigh in. “We certainly don’t want any president to leak classified information but the president does have the right to do that,” insisted Senator John McCain. “It’s no longer classified the minute he utters it,” explained Senator Jim Risch.

The argument was eerily familiar. Trump, as his supporters pointed out, had a legal right to fire FBI Director James Comey. Likewise legal, Trump’s decision to hold on to his vast and non-transparent business empire, the value of which he can increase through his powers as president. (“The law’s totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest,” he exulted.) That is true, and the legality Trump enjoys extends much further than even his supporters have suggested. Since the president can pardon anybody, probably including himself, he can operate with hardly any legal restraint at all.

The president has a massive amount of leeway because the system is set up with the unstated presumption that the president is a responsible person who will act in a broadly legitimate, competent fashion. Trump’s brief tenure in office so far has supplied a constant stream of evidence that this reasoning does not apply. Fears that Trump could not be trusted with classified intelligence have circulated among allies and the American intelligence community since his election. “U.S. officials and analysts fear other countries will hesitate to share information with a Kremlin-friendly Trump administration,” reported Politico’s Nahal Toosi in January. “Israeli intelligence officials are concerned that the exposure of classified information to their American counterparts under a Trump administration could lead to their being leaked to Russia and onward to Iran,” reported Haaretz that same month.” Now those fears have been vindicated. As one former senior intelligence official tells conservative Weekly Standard editor Stephen Hayes, “Sharing of another country’s intel w/o permission is one of the brightest red lines in the intel world.”


----- 15 -----
Americans are witnessing a slow-motion coup
Rule of law be damned, President Trump was mad as hell and casting around looking for a reason to fire James Comey
Lucian K. Truscott IV | Salon | 10 May 2017

http://www.salon.com/2017/05/10/americans-are-witnessing-a-slow-motion-coup

Less than a day after the firing of FBI Director James Comey, it’s becoming clear that Trump has conspired with his attorney general and deputy attorney general to make any sort of realistic oversight or investigation of him and his administration as difficult as possible, if not impossible.

All political power is being concentrated in the office of the president. All law enforcement power is being concentrated in the office of the attorney general and, when it comes to enforcing the law regarding the Trump campaign and its contacts with elements of the Russian government, in the office of the deputy attorney general. The letters justifying Comey’s firing were generated by a man who had been in office less than two weeks and acted upon only hours after their receipt by the White House without any sort of reasonable consultation with anyone else but these three men. They have turned their offices into black holes into which things are meant to disappear without investigation or enforcement.

Unless the three men occupying these offices decide otherwise, there are no mechanisms to enforce the laws with respect to the Trump administration and contacts by Trump or his people with elements of the Russian government. Without, as the Constitution mandates, the “equal protection of the law,” we don’t really have a government and our democracy is crippled. What we have instead is an authoritarian regime run by a few men for the personal and political benefit of one man, President Trump. No one else benefits — not the citizens, not the systems by which we have until now governed ourselves, not the people who staff those systems, not the people occupying the other elective offices of the government. Only Trump.

With the powers he has aggregated to himself, he can rule by fiat. He doesn’t have to listen to anyone. He doesn’t have to make any excuses. He doesn’t have to explain his decisions. He is free to make up shit like they did today with the letters justifying Comey’s firing. He is not answerable for the entirely transparent lies behind his actions. He is free to fire Comey in order to bring the Russiagate investigation to a halt and sit back and tell an entirely absurd lie that it’s all about what happened with Hillary Clinton and her emails almost a year ago. The only thing standing between Trump and a form of absolute rule heretofore unknown in this country is the power to impeach.

By this morning television anchors and commentators on the cable news shows were using the word impeachment not just as a possibility but as a realistic topic of political discourse in the nation. It’s dawning on even the dimmest of dim bulb talking heads that this is a constitutional crisis with the rule of law at stake. I heard “not a nation of men but of laws” more than once. Political analysts and not a few congressmen and senators are astounded by Trump’s obvious political cluelessness. They are openly calling him a demagogue. Historian John Meacham referred to Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ appearance on “Morning Joe” as “the talking points of a strongman . . . strongman as one word, not two.”


----- 16 -----
Donald Trump's tax law firm has 'deep' ties to Russia
By Pete Madden and Matthew Mosk
May 12, 2017, 2:33 PM ET
ABC News

The lawyers who wrote a letter saying President Trump had no significant business ties to Russia work for a law firm that has extensive ties to Russia and received a “Russia Law Firm of the Year” award in 2016.

Sheri Dillon and William Nelson, tax partners at the law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, which has served as tax counsel to Trump and the Trump Organization since 2005, wrote a letter in March released by the White House on Friday stating that a review of the last 10 years of Trump’s tax returns “do not reflect” ties to Russia “with a few exceptions.”

In 2016, however, Chambers & Partners, a London-based legal research publication, named the firm “Russia Law Firm of the Year” at its annual awards dinner. The firm celebrated the “prestigious honor” in a press release on its website, noting that the award is “the latest honor for the high-profile work performed by the lawyers in Morgan Lewis’ Moscow office.”

According to the firm’s website, its Moscow office includes more than 40 lawyers and staff who are “well known in the Russian market, and have a deep familiarity with the local legislation, practices, and key players.” The firm boasts of being “particularly adept” at advising clients on “sanction matters."

Following the release of the letter, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn) noted the firm’s connection to Russia, calling it “unreal."


----- 17 -----
The Republican Party appears to be a zombie party at this point.
Craig Mazin on Twitter | 12 May 2017

1) The Republican Party appears to be a zombie party at this point. Meaning, it has no pragmatic purpose beyond its own survival.
https://twitter.com/clmazin/status/863064915568771074

2) It has many stated purposes, and surely it has many unstated purposes. Let's consider those for a moment.
https://twitter.com/clmazin/status/863065030878568448

[Follow the rest of the thread at the links, it's long]


----- 18 -----
Trump must be impeached. Here’s why.
By Laurence H. Tribe | The Washington Post | May 13, 2017

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-must-be-impeached-heres-why/2017/05/13/82ce2ea4-374d-11e7-b4ee-434b6d506b37_story.html

The time has come for Congress to launch an impeachment investigation
of President Trump for obstruction of justice.

The remedy of impeachment was designed to create a last-resort
mechanism for preserving our constitutional system. It operates by
removing executive-branch officials who have so abused power through
what the framers called “high crimes and misdemeanors” that they cannot
be trusted to continue in office.

No American president has ever been removed for such abuses, although
Andrew Johnson was impeached and came within a single vote of being
convicted by the Senate and removed, and Richard Nixon resigned to
avoid that fate.

Now the country is faced with a president whose conduct strongly
suggests that he poses a danger to our system of government.

Ample reasons existed to worry about this president, and to ponder the
extraordinary remedy of impeachment, even before he fired FBI Director
James B. Comey and shockingly admitted on national television that the
action was provoked by the FBI’s intensifying investigation into his
campaign’s ties with Russia.

Even without getting to the bottom of what Trump dismissed as “this
Russia thing,” impeachable offenses could theoretically have been
charged from the outset of this presidency. One important example is
Trump’s brazen defiance of the foreign emoluments clause, which is
designed to prevent foreign powers from pressuring U.S. officials to
stray from undivided loyalty to the United States. Political reality
made impeachment and removal on that and other grounds seem premature.

No longer. To wait for the results of the multiple investigations
underway is to risk tying our nation’s fate to the whims of an
authoritarian leader.


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Telling Trump Fans He’s Betraying Them Won’t Work
By Ed Kilgore | New York Magazine | 9 May 2017

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/05/telling-trump-fans-hes-betraying-them-wont-work.html?mid=twitter-share-di

In the temporary unity fostered by “the resistance” to Trump and a Republican-dominated Congress, Democrats have engaged in much side-talk about which voters to target in 2018 and beyond. It may not matter much now, but as Ron Brownstein notes, it will matter a lot going into 2020, when a single presidential nominee’s strategy and vision will determine the face and voice of the Democratic Party.

Though Trump’s agenda has unified Democrats in near-term opposition, clear fault lines have quickly emerged about the party’s long-term strategy to regain power. On one side are those—largely affiliated with Senator Bernie Sanders—arguing for a biting message of economic populism, which is intended largely to recapture working-class white voters that stampeded to Trump in 2016. On the other are party strategists who want Democrats to offer a more centrist economic message, aimed primarily at reassuring white-collar suburbanites drawn to the party mostly around cultural issues.

While this long-simmering argument arouses all sorts of discussion about whether Democrats have betrayed white working class voters by pursuing Wall Street money or upper-income voters, there are some hard, cold facts that present big challenges to any reconquista project aimed at that demographic. Frank Rich bluntly described the problem with Trump’s white working class base voters over a month ago:

They will stick with him even though the numbers say that they will take a bigger financial hit than Clinton voters under the Republican health-care plan. As Trump himself has said, in a rare instance of accuracy, they won’t waver even if he stands in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoots somebody.

Recent polling has shown that Rich was not exaggerating. Despite the many missteps and flip-flops and examples of sheer floundering incompetence committed by the Trump administration in its first 100 days, only four percent of Trump voters would reconsider their support for the mogul, according to an ABC/Washington Post survey. Trump voters also see the media differently: “critical media scrutiny of him and his administration also is a sign that he’s doing something right — that he’s on their side, and the news media is the enemy,” as Greg Sargent puts it.

In other words, Trump’s hard-core white working class base isn’t weighing the evidence for and against his record in office and making a decision as to whether he still deserves their support. They literally are not listening to criticism of the president, and to the extent they are, it simply reinforces their affection for him.

An acute observer of white-working class voters, Thomas Edsall, offers a fresh warning to Democrats who count on “Trump’s broken promises” producing a backlash among his biggest fans:

[T]he bulk of Trump’s supporters have nowhere else to go, nor do they want to go anywhere. They experience themselves as living in a different world from liberals and Democrats….
Trump’s basic approach — speaking the unspeakable — is expressive, not substantive. His inflammatory, aggressive language captures and channels the grievances of red America, but the specific grievances often feel less important than the primordial, mocking incivility with which they are expressed. In this way, Trump does not necessarily need to deliver concrete goods because he is saying with electric intensity what his supporters have long wanted to say themselves.


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Card handed out at #RPW2017 by @wisgop US Senate hopeful John Schiess.
Greg Neumann‏ on Twitter - 13 May 2017

Card handed out at #RPW2017 by @wisgop US Senate hopeful John Schiess.
https://twitter.com/gneumann_wkow/status/863508870597152769
[See image at link]

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Tags: #rpw2017, fascism watch, politics
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