Solarbird (solarbird) wrote,

  • Mood:

good morning, it's 29 march 2017

So let's see where we are today.

Look, a story! Made of headlines. Looks like the "Trump administration sought to block Sally Yates from testifying to Congress on Russia," but got a letter saying they couldn't because it wasn't going to include confidential data, as "NBC obtains letter from Yates lawyers to WH stating her intent to testify despite attempt to block her." Upon hearing this, "Devin Nunes canceled Russia hearing same day Sally Yates promised she’d talk about Mike Flynn." "Was today's open hearing cancelled because WH did not want Sally Yates to testify re Gen Flynn's deception? Didn't want to assert privilege?" Good question! Particularly made more relevant after we hear from Rep. "Schiff: Yates would have testified on Flynn ‘cover-up’".

Trying to throw some spin on things, the "White House denies it sought to prevent Yates' testimony," but the "White House evasive as House Intelligence Committee grinds to a halt." Which suits their purposes of course. Meanwhile, "House intel panel chief Nunes says he will not divulge his sources," not even to members of his own committee. Well, that's neat. "Swalwell on Nunes fallout: ‘This is what a cover-up to a crime looks like’" begins our current-status analysis, on "How the White House and Republicans Blew Up the House Russia Investigation." And Representative Nunes's own hometown paper says, "Russia-Trump probe is in chaos, and Rep. Devin Nunes is to blame."

So that's a clusterfuck.

Meanwhile, oh good, the "Affordable Care Act Repeal Is Back on the Agenda, Republicans Say." I presume they have no more ideas than they have had for the last seven years. But people are increasingly convinced they'll complete their sabotage of the ACA without changing the law - it's not like they haven't been doing that already. See also: "U.S. judge finds that Aetna deceived the public about its reasons for quitting Obamacare."

In "The Offender of the Free World" news, "Trump Signs Executive Order Unwinding Obama Climate Policies." But that isn't even enough; "Climate Deniers Are Winning—and Getting Greedy" and trying to move to convincing people that air pollution has no real effect on human health. So don't think this will stop with carbon dioxide and methane, but even if it doesn't, the "Worst humanitarian crisis hits as Trump slashes foreign aid" - worst since World War II.

"Google tries to define a valid family. Predictable awfulness ensues." speaks for itself. And you're not imaging things: "Research Shows Donald Trump Is Making Men More Sexist." That isn't what they were trying to study, even, but that's what they found in the data. We actually got a heads up on this, because a Trump-like misogynist became PM in Italy last decade, and things got much worse. For everyone - even the men becoming more misogynistic - but that didn't stop it.

Over in corruption news, "Trump's business network reached alleged Russian mobsters." Neat! It isn't nearly as well sourced, but reportedly, "In Dec, Kushner met with head of SANCTIONED Russian bank favored by Putin" and a whole lot of things fell out of that - see the thread. But don't worry, there'll be no investigations; "Republicans vote to block resolutions on Trump's tax returns" late yesterday.

And finally, "Antiabortion activists face 15 felony charges over undercover videos that targeted Planned Parenthood." I doubt they'll get much and it'll make them a rightist cause celebre again, I fear - lying about who you are to make secret recordings of people without their permission is illegal in California, but nobody will care.

Good luck.

----- 1 -----
Google tries to define a valid family. Predictable awfulness ensues.
Boing Boing / Cory Doctorow / 9:19 am Tue Mar 28, 2017

Ten years ago, a group of engineers and media executives sat down to decide what was, and was not, a real family. The results were predictably terrible.

The effort resulted from a trendy idea in DRM circles: the "authorized domain," which would be a "family's worth" of devices that could be authorized to share content. The first attempt to implement this was in European digital TV standardisation at the DVB's CPCM working group.

I was at those meetings, and we had some absurd arguments that would have been hilarious if they hadn't been so grotesque.


Well, bad ideas never die, they just re-emerge at Google. The Google Play store has just defined a "family" who can share their apps, and along with this, they've set out the criteria for who can be a "family manager," recapitulating every stupidity of CPCM and then some, including:

----- 2 -----
Affordable Care Act Repeal Is Back on the Agenda, Republicans Say
By ROBERT PEAR and JEREMY W. PETERS | The New York Times | MARCH 28, 2017

WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders and the White House, under extreme pressure from conservative activists, have restarted negotiations on legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, with House leaders declaring that Democrats were celebrating the law’s survival prematurely.

Just days after President Trump said he was moving on to other issues, senior White House officials are now saying they have hope that they can still score the kind of big legislative victory that has so far eluded Mr. Trump. Vice President Mike Pence was dispatched to Capitol Hill on Tuesday for lunchtime talks.

“We’re not going to retrench into our corners or put up dividing lines,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said after a meeting of House Republicans that was dominated by a discussion of how to restart the health negotiations. “There’s too much at stake to get bogged down in all of that.”

The House Republican whip, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, said of Democrats, “Their celebration is premature. We are closer to repealing Obamacare than we ever have been before.”

It is not clear what political dynamics might have changed since Friday, when a coalition of hard-line conservatives and more moderate Republicans torpedoed legislation to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement. The replacement bill would still leave 24 million more Americans without insurance after a decade, a major worry for moderate Republicans. It would also leave in place regulations on the health insurance industry that conservatives find anathema.


Mr. Ryan said House Republicans were determined to use the next version of the repeal bill, like the first version, as a vehicle to cut off federal funds for Planned Parenthood clinics.

----- 3 -----
The Offender of the Free World
Roger Cohen | March 28, 2017 | The New York Times (Opinion)

When Donald Trump met Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany earlier this month, he put on one of his most truculent and ignorant performances. He wanted money — piles of it — for Germany’s defense, raged about the financial killing China was making from last year’s Paris climate accord and kept “frequently and brutally changing the subject when not interested, which was the case with the European Union.”

This was the summation provided to me by a senior European diplomat briefed on the meeting. Trump’s preparedness was roughly that of a fourth grader. He began the conversation by telling Merkel that Germany owes the United States hundreds of billions of dollars for defending it through NATO, and concluded by saying, “You are terrific” but still owe all that dough. Little else concerned him.

Trump knew nothing of the proposed European-American deal known as the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, little about Russian aggression in Ukraine or the Minsk agreements, and was so scatterbrained that German officials concluded that the president’s daughter Ivanka, who had no formal reason to be there, was the more prepared and helpful. (Invited by Merkel, Ivanka will attend a summit on women’s empowerment in Berlin next month.)

Merkel is not one to fuss. But Trump’s behavior appalled her entourage and reinforced a conclusion already reached about this presidency in several European capitals: It is possible to do business with Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, with Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, but these officials are flying blind because above them at the White House rages a whirlwind of incompetence and ignorance.

----- 4 -----
Trump Signs Executive Order Unwinding Obama Climate Policies
By CORAL DAVENPORT | The New York Times | MARCH 28, 2017

WASHINGTON — President Trump signed on Tuesday a much-anticipated executive order intended to roll back most of President Barack Obama’s climate-change legacy, celebrating the move as a way to promote energy independence and to restore thousands of lost coal industry jobs.

Flanked by coal miners at a ceremony at the Environmental Protection Agency, Mr. Trump signed a short document titled the “Energy Independence” executive order, directing the agency to start the legal process of withdrawing and rewriting the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s policies to fight global warming.

“C’mon fellas. You know what this is? You know what this says?” Mr. Trump said to the miners. “You’re going back to work.”

The order also takes aim at a suite of narrower but significant Obama-era climate and environmental policies, including lifting a short-term ban on new coal mining on public lands.

The executive order does not address the United States’ participation in the 2015 Paris Agreement, the landmark accord that committed nearly every country to take steps to reduce climate-altering pollution. But experts note that if the Trump program is enacted, it will all but ensure that the United States cannot meet its global warming commitments under the accord.

----- 5 -----
Climate Deniers Are Winning—and Getting Greedy
With Trump in the White House, an anti-environmental conference in D.C. should have been a celebration. Instead, there was fear and loathing.
By Emily Atkin | The New Republic | March 27, 2017

It was supposed to be “the climate skeptic victory tour,” in the words of one prominent attendee. Last week, hundreds of enthusiastic climate change deniers convened in the Grand Hyatt Washington hotel in Washington, D.C., for the Heartland Institute’s twelfth annual conference. Now that one of their own—President Donald Trump—had taken the White House, the conference promised to be a festival of gloating. Marc Morano, the Matt Drudge of climate denialism, told me the political situation has “everyone grinning ear to ear.”

But something was amiss. Though sentiments like Morano’s were common, I also met apprehensive attendees who worry that “swamp creatures” at the Environmental Protection Agency are undermining attempts to hobble the agency. These alleged swamp creatures aren’t just the career staffers who have openly protested Scott Pruitt, the agency’s new administrator. They’re the people whom Pruitt has hired—and even Pruitt himself.

“The relationship has not been a smooth one. And it should be,” said Becky Norton Dunlop, an EPA transition team member and fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “We may need some marriage counseling.”


Steve Milloy, a transition team member and a prominent denier of the scientific consensus that air pollution can cause death, said he had also heard the “rumor” that Pruitt has not read the transition team’s document. “He should have seen it. It’s president-approved,” he said. “These are the marching orders.” Stevenson agreed: “There’s some trepidation, to be honest with you, about whether some of this stuff is going to follow through.”


Meanwhile, the “Woodstock of climate skeptics,” as Morano describes Heartland’s conference, is a place for people who not only deny the scientific fact that humans cause climate change, but consider the science itself to be a conspiracy. To them, the EPA is an inherently corrupt entity—a “jackass factory,” in the words of one audience member—and environmentalism is the “greatest threat to freedom.”

These differing approaches have created drama between Pruitt’s EPA and members of Trump’s transition team. David Schnare, a transition member who stayed at EPA as a temporary political appointee, abruptly stepped down earlier this month over what InsideEPA described as “endless infighting.” Schnare said his resignation was a matter of “integrity” and promised to write a tell-all account in which he would “name names and go into specifics.” According to the Washington Post, Trump also hired a political appointee to keep watch over EPA, who annoyed Pruitt so much that the administrator started shutting him out of meetings.


Pruitt’s stated priorities also seem to be different than those of some transition team members. Pruitt has never once mentioned that he doubts the scientific consensus that air pollution can kill you, while Stevenson considers this consensus “the single biggest piece of science that we need to go back and look at.” Pruitt also has not expressed a desire to undo the EPA’s 2009 determination under the Clean Air Act that greenhouse gases are a threat to human health—a top policy priority for leading climate deniers.

----- 6 -----
Worst humanitarian crisis hits as Trump slashes foreign aid
Justin Lynch, Associated Press | Updated 11:32 am, Tuesday, March 28, 2017

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The world's largest humanitarian crisis in 70 years has been declared in three African countries on the brink of famine, just as President Donald Trump's proposed foreign aid cuts threaten to pull the United States from its historic role as the world's top emergency donor.

If the deep cuts are approved by Congress and the U.S. does not contribute to Africa's current crisis, experts warn that the continent's growing drought and famine could have far-ranging effects, including a new wave of migrants heading to Europe and possibly more support for Islamic extremist groups.

The conflict-fueled hunger crises in Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan have culminated in a trio of potential famines hitting almost simultaneously. Nearly 16 million people in the three countries are at risk of dying within months.

Famine already has been declared in two counties of South Sudan and 1 million people there are on the brink of dying from a lack of food, U.N. officials have said. Somalia has declared a state of emergency over drought and 2.9 million of its people face a food crisis that could become a famine, according to the U.N. And in northeastern Nigeria, severe malnutrition is widespread in areas affected by violence from Boko Haram extremists.

"We are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations," Stephen O'Brien, the U.N. humanitarian chief, told the U.N. Security Council after a visit this month to Somalia and South Sudan.

At least $4.4 billion is needed by the end of March to avert a hunger "catastrophe" in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in late February.

But according to U.N. data, only 10 percent of the necessary funds have been received so far.

Trump's proposed budget would "absolutely" cut programs that help some of the most vulnerable people on Earth, Mick Mulvaney, the president's budget director, told reporters last week. The budget would "spend less money on people overseas and more money on people back home," he said.

----- 7 -----
Trump administration sought to block Sally Yates from testifying to Congress on Russia
By Devlin Barrett and Adam Entous | The Washington Post | March 28

The Trump administration sought to block former acting attorney general Sally Yates from testifying to Congress in the House investigation of links between Russian officials and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, The Washington Post has learned, a position that is likely to further anger Democrats who have accused Republicans of trying to damage the inquiry.

According to letters The Post reviewed, the Justice Department notified Yates earlier this month that the administration considers a great deal of her possible testimony to be barred from discussion in a congressional hearing because the topics are covered by the presidential communication privilege.

Yates and other former intelligence officials had been asked to testify before the House Intelligence Committee this week, a hearing that Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) abruptly canceled. Yates was the deputy attorney general in the final years of the Obama administration and served as the acting attorney general in the first days of the Trump administration.

President Trump fired Yates in January after she ordered Justice Department lawyers not to defend his first immigration order temporarily banning entry to the United States for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees from around the world.

----- 8 -----
REVEALED: Devin Nunes canceled Russia hearing same day Sally Yates promised she’d talk about Mike Flynn
Travis Gettys | Raw Story | 28 Mar 2017 at 10:28 ET

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) abruptly canceled this week’s House Intelligence Committee hearings on the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia hours after the former acting attorney general notified the White House she would discuss her concerns about Michael Flynn.

Sally Yates had been called to testify before the committee chaired by Nunes, and she agreed not to discuss classified information or other details that could compromise an ongoing investigation, reported the Washington Post.

But the White House notified her attorney Thursday that Yates could not discuss her conversations with Trump administration officials about her concerns over Flynn, then the national security adviser, and his communications with the Russian ambassador.

The following day, Friday, another Justice Department official, Scott Schools, notified Yates and her attorney that the conversations about Flynn were privileged and therefore confidential.

“The president owns those privileges,” Schools wrote. “Therefore, to the extent Ms. Yates needs consent to disclose the details of those communications to [the House intelligence committee], she needs to consult with the White House. She need not obtain separate consent from the department.”

Yates’ lawyer responded by arguing that claim of privilege had been “waived as a result of the multiple public comments of current senior White House officials describing the January 2017 communications.”

The attorney told the White House counsel that Yates planned to testify about those conversations.

Nunes, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, then canceled the hearings at which Yates would have testified.

----- 9 -----
Was today's open hearing cancelled because WH did not want Sally Yates to testify re Gen Flynn's deception? Didn't want to assert privilege?
Representative Adam Schiff‏ | @RepAdamSchiff | Seen on Twitter | 28 March 2017

Was today's open hearing cancelled because WH did not want Sally Yates to testify re Gen Flynn's deception? Didn't want to assert privilege?

----- 10 -----
Schiff: Yates would have testified on Flynn ‘cover-up’
By Austin Wright and Martin Matishak | Politico | 03/28/17 11:51 AM EDT

Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, says a hearing set for Tuesday with former acting Attorney General Sally Yates — which was canceled by Republicans — would have featured explosive testimony on Michael Flynn’s efforts to "cover up" his conversations with Russia’s ambassador.

The intelligence panel was scheduled to hold a public hearing with members of the Obama administration, including Yates, but Republicans nixed the session last week after the Trump administration raised concerns about Yates' possible testimony.

Schiff said Yates planned to testify on phone conversations between the Russian ambassador and Flynn, who was fired as national security adviser last month after it became clear he misled his colleagues about the nature of those conversations.

“Today's hearing would also have provided the opportunity for former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates to testify about the events leading up to former National Security Advisor Flynn's firing, including his attempts to cover up his secret conversations with the Russian Ambassador,” Schiff said in a statement.

“We would urge that the open hearing be rescheduled without further delay,” Schiff continued, “and that Ms. Yates be permitted to testify freely and openly so that the public may understand, among other matters, when the president was informed that his national security advisor had misled the vice president and through him, the country, and why the president waited as long as he did to fire Mr. Flynn.”

----- 11 -----
White House denies it sought to prevent Yates' testimony
By Jeremy Diamond, CNN | Tue March 28, 2017

The White House on Tuesday rejected allegations that it sought to prevent former acting Attorney General Sally Yates from testifying before Congress in the House Intelligence Committee's investigation of ties between Russian agents and Trump campaign officials.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday the White House did not seek to block Yates' testimony and denied that the White House had pressured the House Intelligence Committee to cancel her scheduled testimony.

"I hope she testifies. I look forward to it," Spicer said during the White House briefing. "We have no problem with her testifying, plain and simple."

The statement came after The Washington Post reported that the Trump administration sought to block Yates' testimony before Congress, citing a Justice Department letter to Yates' attorney that said Yates' communications with the White House counsel "are likely covered by the presidential communications privilege."

The letter was sent on the same day that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes canceled a previously scheduled hearing where Yates was scheduled to testify about ties between Trump advisers and Russian officials. Yates briefed Trump's White House counsel on former national security adviser Michael Flynn's meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

----- 12 -----
White House evasive as House Intelligence Committee grinds to a halt
By Tom LoBianco, Sara Murray and Manu Raju, CNN | 28 March 2017

The Trump administration is refusing to provide details Tuesday to who signed House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes into offices on White House grounds, as the House investigation into Russia's interference in the US elections is stalled, the victim of a partisan showdown.

All meetings of the House Russia investigators were canceled this week shortly before the top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, said Nunes must recuse himself in order for the investigation to continue.

Schiff also said Tuesday that he wants Republicans to agree to reschedule a pair of hearings that had been set for today -- including one where former acting Attorney General Sally Yates was expected to testify about communications between former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak -- before agreeing to move forward with their investigation.

"We certainly welcome the director coming back at any time, but not as a substitute for the open hearing that he agreed to," Schiff told reporters Tuesday.

Nunes, however, told CNN Tuesday morning he was "moving forward" with the investigation and said he won't recuse himself.

"It moves forward just like it was before," Nunes told reporters.

----- 13 -----
House intel panel chief Nunes says he will not divulge his sources
Reuters | Tue Mar 28, 2017

U.S. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said on Tuesday he will not divulge - even to other members of his panel - who gave him intelligence reports that indicated President Donald Trump and his associates may have been ensnared in incidental intelligence collection.

Asked by a Fox News reporter whether he would inform the other committee members about who gave him the reports he viewed on the White House grounds last week, Nunes said: "We will never reveal those sources and methods."

----- 14 -----
Swalwell on Nunes fallout: ‘This is what a cover-up to a crime looks like’
By Louis Nelson | Politico | 03/28/17

House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes’ announcement last week that officials from the transition team of President Donald Trump had been inadvertently surveilled by the U.S. intelligence community came at the behest of the White House, Rep. Eric Swalwell said Tuesday morning.

Nunes (R-Calif.) confirmed Monday that he had traveled to the White House to meet with his still-unnamed source on the day before he made his announcement but denied that the public disclosure was coordinated in any way with Trump administration officials. The White House, Nunes said in a CNN interview, simply served as a secure location for reviewing classified information and “I’m quite sure that I think people in the West Wing had no idea that I was there.”

But Swalwell (D-Calif.), also a member of the House Intelligence Committee, disputed the chairman’s argument Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “It’s not an internet cafe. You can’t just walk in and receive classified information,” Swalwell said of the White House, adding that when a member of Congress visits, “everyone in the building knows that you’re there in the building.”

“This is done because the White House wanted it to be done,” the California Democrat said. “And this is what a cover-up to a crime looks like. We are watching it play out right now.”

If Nunes wanted to view classified materials, Swalwell said, there are secure facilities for doing so at the Capital, making a trip to the White House unnecessary. “If this was done the proper way, they could have brought it over, shared it with both parties of the committee,” he said.

Swalwell also wondered aloud why Nunes has been unwilling to share the source of his information when committee members have “always been on the same team up until now.”

----- 15 -----
Research Shows Donald Trump Is Making Men More Sexist
Wharton concludes that its most-famous alum is behind an increase in male aggressiveness.
by Bess Levin | Vanity Fair | March 27, 2017

[I'm including this in part because when a similar, Trump-like PM was elected in Italy, the same thing happened - and over his years in power, the situation for women there in ordinary culture grew steadily worse. I even saw news reports of Italians warning us about this before the election.]

Over the course of the presidential election, one of Donald Trump’s common refrains—in addition to the ones about Hillary Clinton needing to be locked up and Mexicans being “rapists” and ”criminals”—was how much he respects women. “Nobody has more respect for women than Donald Trump,” he tweeted on March 26, 2016. “I have more respect for women than Hillary Clinton has,” he claimed on Fox News that January. “My daughter Ivanka always says, ‘Daddy, nobody respects women more than you, Daddy, what are they talking about?‘“ he said, disturbingly, at a May 2016 rally in Oregon. Perhaps Trump felt the need to repeatedly mention his respect for women to offset the vast body of evidence suggesting the opposite: that women exist only to become future ex-wives or to be unceremoniously grabbed when the mood strikes. (There is also a third category of woman, those too ugly to grope.)

All this was bad enough when Trump was a mere carnival barker with presidential aspirations. But now that he’s actually, improbably, occupying the White House, are his Trumpian ways rubbing off on his fellow Americans? Has the fact that Trump was elected despite bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy” emboldened men to drop the act of treating their fellow humans with respect and follow the president’s example? A study by Donald Trump’s alma mater suggests the answer is yes. Per the Knowledge @ Wharton blog (via Dealbreaker):

"Wharton business economics and public policy professor Corinne Low and Wharton doctoral student Jennie Huang have been researching the differences in the communication styles of men and women, and how their tactics change depending on which gender they are negotiating with. Over a series of lab experiments, conducted before and after Election Day, they observed a striking result: post-election, study participants were less cooperative, more likely to use adversarial strategies, and less likely to reach an agreement with a partner. The effect was driven by an increase in men acting more aggressively toward women."

"The lab sessions involved men and women, most of whom were Penn students, playing a “Battle of the Sexes” game in which they had to divide $20 with a partner. In some cases, participants were told the gender of their partner; in other cases, that information wasn’t provided. Each round had only two options for splitting the money: one partner would get $15, and the other would get $5, or vice versa; or, if they couldn’t agree, both would walk away with zero. Before the election, men were less likely to use aggressive negotiation tactics when they knew their partners were woman—a pattern that could be classified as chivalry or a kind of “benevolent sexism,” Low says. “This tells us that if women’s outcomes were dependent on men’s whims, those whims could change. We could see the turning of the tide, and suddenly men are more aggressive.”"

"While an uptick in sexual harassment would be among the most serious manifestations of that kind of change, Low notes that there are also plenty of potential implications for our everyday lives—in and out of the office. When study participants became more aggressive, for example, they left more money on the table because they couldn’t reach a compromise. Payoffs went down by an average of $1 after the election. “People’s behavior changed in a way that was less productive,” she says."

And in case anyone is wondering if the researchers had it out for Trump—who many Wharton students and alums are embarrassed to be associated with—let them disabuse you of that notion: it was merely a happy coincidence.

“We didn’t know Trump was going to be elected; we didn’t set out to study Trump’s election,” said Low. “We had the [lab experiment] sessions on the calendar already, and post-election, we looked at the data and saw that people’s behavior was profoundly different.”

----- 16 -----
Trump's business network reached alleged Russian mobsters
Oren Dorell , USA TODAY Published 5:05 p.m. ET March 28, 2017

To expand his real estate developments over the years, Donald Trump, his company and partners repeatedly turned to wealthy Russians and oligarchs from former Soviet republics — several allegedly connected to organized crime, according to a USA TODAY review of court cases, government and legal documents and an interview with a former federal prosecutor.

The president and his companies have been linked to at least 10 wealthy former Soviet businessmen with alleged ties to criminal organizations or money laundering.

Trump's Russian connections are of heightened interest because of an FBI investigation into possible collusion between Trump's presidential campaign and Russian operatives to interfere in last fall's election. What’s more, Trump and his companies have had business dealings with Russians that go back decades, raising questions about whether his policies would be influenced by business considerations.

Trump told reporters in February: "I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia. I have no loans with Russia at all."

Yet in 2013, after Trump addressed potential investors in Moscow, he bragged to Real Estate Weekly about his access to Russia's rich and powerful. “I have a great relationship with many Russians, and almost all of the oligarchs were in the room,” Trump said, referring to Russians who made fortunes when former Soviet state enterprises were sold to private investors.

Five years earlier, Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. told Russian media while in Moscow that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets" in places like Dubai and Trump SoHo and elsewhere in New York.

----- 17 -----
In Dec, Kushner met with head of SANCTIONED Russian bank favored by Putin.
Twitter thread by Polly Sigh (@dcpoll) | March 27, 2017

[This is related to the article above. I don't know the OP. But there are lots of links. Not all of them are to sources I consider first-teir. (Business Insider being the worst of them.) But several sources are good. I consider this questionable but am including it under the circumstances. Take with salt.]

In Dec, Kushner met with head of SANCTIONED Russian bank favored by Putin.
[links to ]

AFTER Gorkov's covert Dec meeting w/Jared Kushner, Putin appointed him head of VEB bank

Kushner met w/ banker whose bank financed NYC Russian Spy Ring busted by FBI in 2015.

2015: Russian spy's US legal fees paid by VEB bank Dec 2016: Kushner meets w/ VEB chief
[links to ]

Mar 2016: Russian banker for VEB pled guilty in @PreetBharara spy ring case. Kushner's screwed.

VEB bank chief Jared Kushner met w/ in Dec 2016 was a graduate of Russian FSB Academy. Seriously.

2016 Espionage Case: VEB bank, whose chief met w/Kushner in Dec, provided cover for Russian spy
[links to: ]

In 2016 Russian spy ring case, intercepted convo revealed VEB bank (whose chief met w/Kushner) works closely w/ SVR.

Russian spy/VEB banker from 2016 NYC spy ring case, among other things, attempted to recruit NYC residents.

Gorkov, who met w/ Kushner, was recommended to Putin for VEB job by his former Sberbank boss.

VEB bank, whose chief met w/Kushner Dec 2016, was formerly chaired by Putin. Nothing to see here.

Russian spy/VEB banker convicted in 2016 will be released this Sat – early – via @CBSNews. Quid pro quo w/Kushner?


----- 19 -----
U.S. judge finds that Aetna deceived the public about its reasons for quitting Obamacare
Michael Hiltzik | Los Angeles Times | January 23, 2017

Aetna claimed this summer that it was pulling out of all but four of the 15 states where it was providing Obamacare individual insurance because of a business decision — it was simply losing too much money on the Obamacare exchanges.

Now a federal judge has ruled that that was a rank falsehood. In fact, says Judge John D. Bates, Aetna made its decision at least partially in response to a federal antitrust lawsuit blocking its proposed $34-billion merger with Humana. Aetna threatened federal officials with the pullout before the lawsuit was filed, and followed through on its threat once it was filed. Bates made the observations in the course of a ruling he issued Monday blocking the merger.

Aetna executives had moved heaven and earth to conceal their decision-making process from the court, in part by discussing the matter on the phone rather than in emails, and by shielding what did get put in writing with the cloak of attorney-client privilege, a practice Bates found came close to “malfeasance.”


The judge’s conclusions about Aetna’s real reasons for pulling out of Obamacare — as opposed to the rationalization the company made in public — are crucial for the debate over the fate of the Affordable Care Act. That’s because the company’s withdrawal has been exploited by Republicans to justify repealing the act. Just last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) cited Aetna’s action on the “Charlie Rose” show, saying that it proved how shaky the exchanges were.

Bates found that this rationalization was largely untrue. In fact, he noted, Aetna pulled out of some states and counties that were actually profitable to make a point in its lawsuit defense — and then misled the public about its motivations. Bates’ analysis relies in part on a “smoking gun” letter to the Justice Department in which Chief Executive Mark Bertolini explicitly ties Aetna’s participation in Obamacare to the DOJ’s actions on the merger, which we reported in August. But it goes much further.

----- 20 -----
NBC obtains letter from Yates lawyers to WH stating her intent to testify despite attempt to block her
Same day: Nunes canceled her hearing
Bradd Jaffy‏ (@BraddJaffy) on Twitter | 28 March 2017

[Copies of letters at link: ]

----- 21 -----
How the White House and Republicans Blew Up the House Russia Investigation
By Ryan Lizza | The New Yorker | 28 March 2017

The evidence is now clear that the White House and Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, have worked together to halt what was previously billed as a sweeping investigation of Russian interference in last year’s election. “We’ve been frozen,” Jim Himes, a Democratic representative from Connecticut who is a member of the Committee, said.

The freeze started after last Monday’s hearing, where James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, revealed that the F.B.I. has been investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia since last July. Comey also said that there was no evidence to support Trump’s tweets about being wiretapped.

Today, the House panel was scheduled to hear from three top officials who had served under the Obama Administration: Sally Yates, the former Deputy Attorney General, who briefly served as acting Attorney General, before being fired by President Trump; John Brennan, the former head of the C.I.A.; and James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence. But last week Nunes cancelled today’s hearing.

“The Monday hearing last week was, I’m sure, not to the White House’s liking,” said Himes. “Since Monday, I’m sorry to say, the chairman has ceased to be the chairman of an investigative committee and has been running interference for the Trump White House, cancelling hearings.”

----- 22 -----
Antiabortion activists face 15 felony charges over undercover videos that targeted Planned Parenthood
Matt Hamilton | The Los Angeles Times | 28 March 2017

Two antiabortion activists whose controversial undercover videos accused Planned Parenthood doctors of selling fetal tissue were charged Tuesday with 15 felonies by California prosecutors.

State Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra’s office alleges that David Daleiden and his co-conspirator, Sandra Merritt, filmed 14 people without their consent at meetings with women’s healthcare providers in Los Angeles, Pasadena, San Franciso and El Dorado.

The edited videos were published online, prompting outrage among abortion foes and triggering a wave of threats to abortion providers and those who were secretly recorded.

Prosecutors filed 14 felony counts of unlawfully recording people without their permission — one count for each person — as well as one count of conspiracy to invade privacy.


Although the organization said it never has and never would sell fetal tissue, it did apologize for some of the remarks that Daleiden’s camera’s captured. It also restricted affiliated clinics from accepting legal reimbursement for making fetal tissue available to researchers.

After the videos’ release, authorities in a dozen states opened investigations. None of the inquiries found wrongdoing by the organization.

In January 2015, a grand jury in Houston cleared Planned Parenthood and instead indicted Daleiden and Merritt on felony charges of tampering with government records. The charges against the pair were fully dismissed in July.

----- 23 -----
Republicans vote to block resolutions on Trump's tax returns
By Naomi Jagoda - 03/28/17 - The Hill

The House and its tax-writing committee voted on Tuesday to block Democratic resolutions demanding President Trump’s tax returns.

The votes were latest of many Democratic attempts to get Congress to request Trump’s tax returns. While none of the attempts have been successful so far, Democrats are pushing the topic to force Republicans to go on the record about Trump.

During a markup that got heated at times, the House Ways and Means Committee rejected a measure to direct the Treasury Department to provide the House with President Trump’s tax returns and other financial information.

The panel voted to report the measure to the House floor “unfavorably” on a party-line vote of 24-16.

----- 24 -----
Russia-Trump probe is in chaos, and Rep. Devin Nunes is to blame
EDITORIAL | The Fresno Bee | March 25, 2017

[Included because this is Rep. Nunes hometown paper]

By our yardstick, Rep. Devin Nunes had a terrible week fulfilling his duties as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

In fact, the performance of the Tulare Republican was so inept and bewildering that a fellow Republican, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, told MSNBC’s Greta Van Susteren on Wednesday that a bipartisan special select committee should investigate Russia’s meddling into the 2016 presidential campaign.

“It’s a bizarre situation, and what I think, the reason why I’m calling for this select committee or a special committee, is, I think that this back-and-forth and what the American people have found out so far that no longer does the Congress have credibility to handle this alone,” McCain said.

We have some things to add to McCain’s request. One, the bipartisan special select committee must have ample authority and resources. Two, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself from the investigation after his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. were revealed, a special prosecutor is needed.

We are not alone in thinking this way. According to a Quinnipiac University national poll released Friday, two out of three Americans want an independent commission to investigate the possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Given the emotional reaction of Democrats to Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in the election, Nunes had to know that he would be under intense scrutiny as chair of the investigation and that both his and the Intelligence committee’s credibility would be at stake.

Nothing he did last week served the nation’s best interests.

Also posted to ソ-ラ-バ-ド-のおん; comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth.

Tags: fascism watch, political
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