Also, Flynn resigned, but you know that, so I've not bothered including the story. What's more interesting is Item 13, and the possibility that Acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates was fired less over the refusal to defend Mr. Trump's illegal EO, and more over her warnings about Mr. Flynn.
----- 1 -----
Is Trump Advisor Steve Schwarzman The Missing Link In The Rosneft Scandal?
The Huffington Post
Accompanied by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, Donald Trump attended the extravagant 70th birthday party of long-time friend Steve Schwarzman in Palm Beach, Florida on Saturday night. According to reports, Schwarzman, who is the CEO of global private equity firm The Blackstone Group, is committed to serving as a key advisor to Trump with the intention of meeting “frequently” on issues of strategy and policy. Schwarzman made headlines recently for having traveled with Trump on Air Force One, and after his family housekeeper was pushed in front of a subway car and killed in Times Square back in November.
In recent days, a great deal of media attention has been paid to Trump’s National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn for his possibly illegal discussions with the Kremlin prior to Inauguration Day in which he may have projected the Trump administration’s intention to lift sanctions on Russia once Trump assumed office. However, the real story here may in fact be Schwarzman.
After weeks of sifting through financial disclosures and filing records, our independent investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia has uncovered evidence to suggest that Schwarzman’s Blackstone Group may now hold a stake in Rosneft, Russia’s government-owned oil company that famously sold 19.5% of its stock to two investors this past December: the first was Glencore, to which evidence suggests the Koch Brothers are connected, and the second, a mysterious Qatar-based nest doll of shell corporations, which evidence suggests is ultimately owned by Schwarzman.
The Money Trail
The Panama Papers, which leaked in 2016, revealed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s penchant for pilfering assets into off-shore shell companies.
On Sunday, December 11, 2016, Reuters reported that Russia signed a deal with Glencore, a commodities trader based out of London, and the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), Qatar’s government-owned holding company that conducts foreign investments, to sell a 19.5 percent stake in oil major Rosneft. The privatization deal was called the “largest in Russia’s history” by Rosneft Chief Executive Igor Sechin.
Right off the bat, it should be noted that none other than the Koch Brothers have an investment with Glencore.
On January 10, according to a Russian news publication known as RBC, 19.5 percent of Rosneft shares were moved to a Singapore-based company known as QHG Shares Pte Ltd, which Rosneft confirms owns 19.5 percent of its shares as of February 1, 2017. This company represents a consortium of Glencore and QIA.
----- 2 -----
Oklahoma Lawmakers Want Men to Approve All Abortions
by Jordan Smith | The Intercept
But to Chowning and other members of the coalition, it was the second bill, HB 1441, that was even more disturbing, devoid of any nuance and completely unconstitutional. Written by another of the chamber’s freshmen, Rep. Justin Humphrey, the legislation would require a woman seeking an abortion first to obtain written permission from her sexual partner. It would also require her to provide his name to her doctor and would forestall the procedure if the man wanted the opportunity to challenge paternity.
“I understand that they feel like that is their body,” [Humphrey] said of women. “I feel like it is a separate — what I call them is, is you’re a ‘host.’ And you know when you enter into a relationship you’re going to be that host and so, you know, if you pre-know that then take all precautions and don’t get pregnant,” he explained.
----- 3 -----
Trump ignoring California request for disaster declaration?
13 February 2017
[I wrote this]
There's a lot of speculation going around that the Trump administration is ignoring California's request for disaster declaration. There has been a fake news report that it was explicitly denied; that's not true, as far as I can tell. (The source for the version going around is a fake news site identifying itself as the Sacramento Dispatch; said newspaper does not exist, the domain was registered on January 17th, it's fake, do not quote.)
However, California did request declaration on the 10th, as can be seen here, on real news sites:
And there has as yet been no response. By contrast, Louisiana also requested declaration on the 10th, due to tornadoes, as can be seen here:
And that was approved by Mr. Trump on the 11th, as can be seen here:
Rank-and-file in the GOP have been agitating against - and in Congress, actively voting against - disaster relief for Democratic controlled states for some time, such as Hurricane Sandy in New York, while voting for disaster relief in their own states. Is this now executive policy as well?
Representative Lamaifa (R-CA) repeats the request around 1:45pm (13 February):
And now both Senators (13 February - a bit later - 2:30?):
Governor Brown submits second request (13 February - 7pm?):
----- 4 -----
The Trump Administration’s Lies About Voter Fraud Will Lead to Massive Voter Suppression
Twenty-one states are now considering new laws to make it harder to vote.
By Ari Berman
13 February 2017
[I would call it _more_ massive voter suppression, since that's been their bailiwick for years, but]
After falsely alleging that 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally in 2016, Donald Trump debuted a new lie about voter fraud in a meeting with senators on Thursday, saying, according to Politico, that “thousands” of people were “brought in on buses” from Massachusetts to “illegally” vote in New Hampshire. Trump claimed that’s why he and former GOP senator Kelly Ayotte lost their races in the state.
White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller repeated Trump’s latest lie in an interview with ABC’s This Week on Sunday. “This issue of busing voters in New Hampshire is widely known by anyone who’s worked in New Hampshire politics,” Miller said. “It’s very real. It’s very serious.” When pressed for evidence by George Stephanopoulos, Miller said, “This morning, on this show, is not the venue to lay out all the evidence.”
“For the record, you have provided absolutely no evidence,” Stephanopoulos responded.
Miller could provide no evidence for Trump’s claim because there is none.
Republicans in New Hampshire have made similar claims for years with no evidence. “The Democrats are very sly.… [in New Hampshire] we have same-day voter registration, and to be honest, when Massachusetts elections are not very close, they’re busing them in all over the place,” gubernatorial candidate Chris Sununu said five days before the election. Politifact called Sununu’s statement “ridiculous” and gave it a “Pants on Fire” rating.
Yet here’s why Trump’s lies about voter fraud are so dangerous: Republicans in New Hampshire, who now control the state government, have introduced 40 bills in the 2017 legislative session that would make it harder to vote.
----- 5 -----
Brazil’s Two Largest Newspapers Forced by President and Judge to Delete Reporting; We’re Publishing It Here
A major assault on basic press freedom occurred today in Brazil, perpetrated by the government of President Michel Temer, his wife, Marcela, and a Brazilian judge. As a result, the nation’s two largest newspapers — Folha de S.Paulo and O Globo — were forced to delete a news article that each had published about a matter of great public interest.
Because one of the goals in creating The Intercept was to defend and vindicate press freedom around the world, we are publishing the censored materials so that the public can see them (see below). Few things are more dangerous than politicians and courts joining to tell newspapers what they can and cannot report, and we will do what we can to rectify that attack on the public’s right to know.
The case in question arises out of the attempted blackmail of the first lady and the president by a hacker who last April cloned her iPhone and stole all of its data. The hacker, Silvonei Jose de Jesus Souza, was sentenced to five years and 11 months in prison for the attempted blackmail, after he demanded that Marcela pay him R$ 300,000 (US$ 90,000) to avoid disclosure of the materials. He was also convicted of having used his access to her iPhone to defraud her brother out of a R$ 15,000 (US$ 4,500) payment.
On Friday, Folha published an article describing some of the blackmail messages sent by the hacker to the first lady via WhatsApp. The newspaper explained that the hacker warned that the materials, if disclosed, would severely harm the reputation of President Temer — would “drag his name through the mud” — as they would show that he has engaged in lowly and perhaps even illegal conduct. The paper also included several of the WhatsApp text messages sent by the hacker.
Both President Temer and his wife deny that the hacked material reveals any wrongdoing. But on Friday, 11 minutes after Folha published its article, the president dispatched his lawyers to request, in the name of his wife, a judicial order requiring the newspapers to remove their reports and refrain from publishing any future materials about the contents of these conversations. The court not only issued the censorship order but imposed a fine of R$ 50,000 per day (US$ 15,000) in the event of noncompliance.
----- 6 -----
Of Course Trump's Health Secretary Is a Friend of Big Tobacco
Tom Price has taken tobacco money and voted against rules on cigarettes.
Patrick Caldwell - Feb. 9, 2017
The man Donald Trump has chosen to direct health policy for the federal government has close ties to the tobacco industry he will be charged with regulating. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), who was confirmed as health and human services secretary by a 52-47 vote in the Senate early Friday morning, has repeatedly voted against bills that could harm big tobacco. At the same time, he's received thousands of dollars in political contributions from the industry and held investments in tobacco companies—investments he says he didn't know about.
Early in Barack Obama's presidency, Congress renewed the State Children's Health Insurance Program. In order to pay for the program, lawmakers raised cigarette taxes by 62 cents per pack and cigar taxes by 40 cents per cigar. Price blasted the new fees. "Today's tax hike serves as a useful reminder that the president is comfortable raising taxes on hard-working Americans to feed his reckless agenda," Price said in an April 2009 statement. "President Obama has done nothing to demonstrate that he is a responsible steward of taxpayer money. Yet, he is forcing the American people to burn through even more of their income in the name of more government."
A few months later, Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which empowered the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products. (The Supreme Court had ruled in 2000 that the FDA did not have that authority under existing law.) The legislation has enabled the agency to ban certain flavored cigarettes that might entice young people to begin smoking. It also allows the FDA to require additional warnings on packages.
Price joined most Republicans in voting against the FDA legislation. But thanks to that bill, as health secretary, he will now have immense influence over how the tobacco industry operates. (The FDA is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.) In 2011, the Obama administration proposed adding graphic warning labels—including images of diseased mouths and lungs—to the top half of cigarette packs. After a drawn-out legal battle, the courts ultimately upheld the FDA’s ability to regulate tobacco packaging but struck down that specific version of the rule.* Following several years of inaction by the administration, a collection of medical and public health groups, including the American Cancer Society, sued the government last fall in an attempt to force it to finalize the new label requirements. Once he's in place at HHS, Price can ask the FDA to move forward with the new rules, weaken them, or abandon them altogether.
----- 7 -----
What It’s Like to Work for Donald Trump
A series of leaks paint a picture of what it's like inside the White House.
Emma Sarran Webster - Teen Vogue - Feb 13, 2017 2:27PM EST
Since Donald Trump took office, there has been a pretty steady stream of leaks coming out of the White House and being reported in various news outlets (something White House press secretary Sean Spicer says is being looked into), according to The Hill. Some have to do with policy or official matters, like the president’s phone call with Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, but others are focused on Trump’s behavior in the White House and his interactions with staff. The Huffington Post reports that some people believe the leaks are coming from a place of concern. “I think it’s a cry for help,” Elizabeth Rosenberg, a counterterrorism expert at the Treasury Department under Obama, told the Huffington Post. She said the leakers’ motivation is “incredulity, and the need to share it.”
Though Ron Kaufman, who worked in George H.W. Bush’s White House, told the Huffington Post that the leaks aren’t unusual (“There’s always leaks,” he said), if they are true, they paint a fascinating picture of not only what it’s like to work for Trump but also what it’s like for the president himself in the White House.
It seems to be a struggle to keep Trump from watching too much news — like CNN. The Associated Press reports that, though his advisers do try to roll back the amount of news he digests during the day, it’s harder to do so once he retires for the night: “There are no limits when the president returns to the residence. During another recent telephone conversation, Trump briefly put down the phone so he could turn up the volume on a CNN report. When he returned to the call, he was complaining about ‘fake news.’”
Sean Spicer gets regular feedback. President Trump makes sure Spicer knows how he feels about the day’s news and Spicer’s own work, according to The New York Times. “[Trump] often has to wait until the end of the workday before grinding through news clips with Mr. Spicer, marking the ones he does not like with a big arrow in black Sharpie — though he almost always makes time to monitor Mr. Spicer’s performance at the daily briefings, summoning him to offer praise or criticism, a West Wing aide said.”
Trump wants briefing materials to be short. The Huffington Post reports, “The commander in chief doesn’t like to read long memos,” according to a White House aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “So preferably they must be no more than a single page. They must have bullet points but not more than nine per page.”
----- 8 -----
Yale historian warns America only has a year — maybe less — to save the republic from Trump
Erin Corbett | Raw Story | 13 Feb 2017
In an interview with German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, Yale history professor Timothy Snyder located some of the Donald Trump hysteria in a historical context. In particular, Snyder touched on Trump’s actions in the first three weeks of his administration, as well as what to expect moving forward.
President Trump has jumped right into the presidency these last few weeks, issuing executive orders left and right. Snyder explained, “the institutions have not thus far restrained him. He never took them seriously, acts as if they don’t exist, and clearly wishes they didn’t.”
Commenting on the mass movements and marches that came to fruition on day one of the Trump administration, Snyder discussed the urgency of acting right now, rather than waiting four years for another election. “That sort of initiative has to continue,” he said. “I think things have tightened up very fast, we have at most a year to defend the Republic, perhaps less. What happens in the next few weeks is very important.”
----- 9 -----
Trump holds court at Mar-a-Lago, and his rich customers get what they paid for
By Greg Sargent February 13 at 3:58 PM
The Washington Post
Everybody is having fun with CNN’s amazing report detailing Donald Trump’s trip to Mar-a-Lago with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe. As Trump sat with Abe in the resort’s dining room, the call came in to Trump that North Korea had tested a ballistic missile, and the two men proceeded to have a crisis conference right there in full view of Mar-a-Lago’s rich patrons:
As Mar-a-Lago’s wealthy members looked on from their tables, and with a keyboard player crooning in the background, Trump and Abe’s evening meal quickly morphed into a strategy session, the decision-making on full view to fellow diners, who described it in detail to CNN….
Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and chief strategist Steve Bannon left their seats to huddle closer to Trump as documents were produced and phone calls were placed to officials in Washington and Tokyo.
The patio was lit only with candles and moonlight, so aides used the camera lights on their phones to help the stone-faced Trump and Abe read through the documents.
This raises all kinds of security concerns, as Philip Bump details right here.
But Norm Eisen, the chief ethics czar under President Obama who has emerged as a major critic of Trump’s business arrangement and the unprecedented conflicts of interest it has produced, points out another interesting angle on the story: Here is the most dramatic example yet of Trump’s use of the White House to promote his businesses — whether instinctual or deliberate — potentially doing harm to the United States.
----- 10 -----
Donald Trump Is Selling Access to the ‘Winter White House’ for $200,000
Sensitive national-security operations are being conducted in plain view of Mar-a-Lago club members and guests.
By George Zornick | The Nation | 13 February 2017
As President Donald Trump headed to his private resort in Florida this weekend—his second trip in two weeks, and probably not his last this month—ethics experts and multiple senators voiced serious concerns about the president’s conducting business in a bustling, elite, members-only club.
Over the past 48 hours, Trump validated those concerns with gold-plated gusto. He hashed out a response to a North Korean missile launch on a busy patio, as people snapped photos and waiters cleared his salad. He hobnobbed with members and visitors at the club, making it clear that paying the $200,000 member fee at Mar-a-Lago was an easy way to parlay with the most powerful man on earth. And passerby were apparently able to get close to classified documents and the presidential limo whenever they pleased.
Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Tom Udall called earlier this month for more transparency during the president’s visits to Mar-a-Lago, and in particular more information about security arrangements. They released a joint statement Monday that said: “Now we have unknown and unvetted Mar-a-Lago members looking over the President’s shoulder as he conducts our foreign policy. This is America’s foreign policy, not this week’s episode of Saturday Night Live.
“We urge our Republican colleagues to start taking this Administration’s rash and unprofessional conduct seriously before there are consequences we all regret,” the duo wrote.
----- 11 -----
‘Neo-Nazis’ beat up brothers over ‘anti-fascist’ sticker: cops
By Tina Moore and Daniel Prendergast
The New York Post
February 12, 2017 | 4:31pm
A group of “neo-Nazis” beat up two twin brothers and menaced them with a knife in front of a Lower East Side bar Saturday morning when they took offense to an “anti-fascist” sticker on one of the men’s cellphone cases, police said.
The beatdown happened when the brothers, both 27-year-old Columbia graduate students, noticed the large group of “skinheads” hanging inside one of their usual haunts called Clockwork on Essex Street and decided to head for the exits around 12:30 a.m.
On the way out the door, they ran into a group of smokers outside who noticed the sticker on one of their phones reading “New York City Anti-Fascists.”
“One of the guys … sees [my brother’s] phone, grabs it and starts screaming, ‘I know what the f— that means, I know what the f— that sticker is, you need to get the f— out of here,’” said one of the victims, who asked to remain anonymous.
----- 12 -----
Flynn apologizes to Pence: report
By Mark Hensch - The Hill - 02/13/17 04:38 PM EST
National security adviser Michael Flynn has apologized after reportedly discussing U.S. sanctions with Russia’s ambassador before President Trump entered office, according to a new report.
Flynn directed most of his remorse to Vice President Mike Pence, USA Today said Monday, after Pence defended him and told CBS last month that Flynn never spoke about sanctions during his calls to Russia.
USA Today said it confirmed the Flynn-Pence phone call with a White House official speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation.
----- 13 -----
Justice Department warned White House that Flynn could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail, officials say
By Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Philip Rucker | The Washington Post
February 13, 2017
The acting attorney general informed the Trump White House late last month that she believed Michael Flynn had misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States, and warned that the national security adviser was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail, current and former U.S. officials said.
The message, delivered by Sally Q. Yates and a senior career national security official to the White House counsel, was prompted by concerns that Flynn, when asked about his calls and texts with the Russian diplomat, had told Vice President-elect Mike Pence and others that he had not discussed the Obama administration sanctions on Russia for its interference in the 2016 election, the officials said. It is unclear what the White House counsel, Donald McGahn, did with the information.
In the waning days of the Obama administration, James R. Clapper Jr., who was the director of national intelligence, and John Brennan, the CIA director at the time, shared Yates’s concerns and concurred with her recommendation to inform the Trump White House. They feared that “Flynn had put himself in a compromising position” and thought that Pence had a right to know that he had been misled, according to one of the officials, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.
A senior Trump administration official said that the White House was aware of the matter, adding that “we’ve been working on this for weeks.”
The current and former officials said that although they believed that Pence was misled about the contents of Flynn’s communications with the Russian ambassador, they couldn’t rule out that Flynn was acting with the knowledge of others in the transition.
----- 14 -----
Stephen Miller on MSNBC
13 February 2017
"The powers of the president are very substantial, and they will not be questioned." Along with doubling-down for various lies, calling the "millions" of illegal votes "100% true."
----- 15 -----
Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn resigns after lying about Russian contact
Flynn admits he gave 'incomplete information' to VP Pence about discussions with Russian ambassador
The Associated Press Posted: Feb 13, 2017
President Donald Trump's embattled national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned late Monday night, following reports that he had misled vice-president Mike Pence and other officials about his contacts with Russia. His departure upends Trump's senior team after less than one month in office.
In a resignation letter, Flynn said he held numerous calls with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. during the transition and gave "incomplete information" about those discussions to vice-president Mike Pence. The vice-president, apparently relying on information from Flynn, initially said the national security adviser had not discussed sanctions with the Russian envoy, though Flynn later conceded the issue may have come up.
Trump named retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg as the acting national security adviser. Kellogg had previously been appointed the National Security Council chief of staff and advised Trump on national security issues during the campaign.
The Justice Department warned the Trump administration weeks ago that contradictions between the public depictions and the actual details of the calls could leave Flynn in a compromised position, an administration official and two other people with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press Monday night.
One person with knowledge of the situation said the Justice Department alerted the White House that there was a discrepancy between what officials were saying publicly about the contacts and the facts of what had occurred. Pence — apparently relying on information from Flynn — initially said sanctions were not discussed in the calls, though Flynn has now told White House officials that the topic may have come up.