Today's News (2020/2/13)

REVEALED: White House budget office misled Congress on Trump’s Ukraine scheme
February 11, 2020


A new batch of unredacted emails shows the White House Office of Management and Budget misled congressional investigators about administration actions toward Ukraine.

The Trump administration had already released redacted versions of those emails Jan. 22 to the nonprofit group American Oversight under a court order, but Just Security obtained unredacted versions of the documents under the condition that they not be reprinted.

The emails “confirm that OMB, including the general counsel’s office, was fully in the loop about the Pentagon’s concerns and took active steps to bury them,” reported Just Security’s Kate Brannen.

The newly revealed documents also show that OMB lied to and misled the Government Accountability Office, a congressional investigative body, about President Donald Trump’s efforts to withhold Ukraine funding.

“OMB is continuing its efforts to keep its knowledge of the Pentagon’s legal worries a secret, blacking out the portions of the emails where DoD officials voiced their concerns and where OMB staffers acknowledged them,” Brannen reported. “The Washington Post reported earlier this month that Paoletta reviewed the redactions before the documents were released.”


'Manosphere' Communities Are Becoming More Toxic, Showing 'Nihilistic and Extreme Anti-Women Ideologies,' Study Shows
By Jason Murdock On 2/12/20


Members of fringe groups espousing anti-women rhetoric are migrating from milder online communities and becoming more toxic, data research suggests.

A recent study into the so-called "manosphere"—a network of Reddit pages, social network accounts, YouTube channels and message boards—used a machine learning tool from Google to help track the "toxicity" of user comments, and detailed a clear rise in hate speech over time.


"A tight overlap exists between the 'alt-right,' white supremacist and male supremacist circles, which feed each other's narratives of the dispossession and oppression of white men, which is blamed on minorities, immigrants and women," the fact sheet read. "Both the alt-right and the manosphere agree that feminism is the cause of Western civilizational decline. In fact, the misogyny intrinsic to the 'alt-right' might very well be one of its distinctive features."


Chris Matthews warns of ‘executions in Central Park’ if socialism wins
By Jon Levine
February 8, 2020


Better dead than red … said Chris Matthews.

The MSNBC host went into a protracted monologue after the Democratic debate in New Hampshire Friday night in which he condemned the evils of socialism and warned of public executions in Central Park if it ever came to the United States.

“I have my own views of the word socialist and I’ll be glad to share them with you in private and they go back to the early 1950s,” he told a post-debate analysis panel.


John Kelly Finally Lets Loose on Trump
The former chief of staff explained, in the clearest terms yet, his misgivings about Trump’s behavior regarding North Korea, immigration, and Ukraine.
Peter Nicholas
1:05 AM ET - 13 January 2020


MORRISTOWN, N.J.—Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the former National Security Council aide and impeachment witness President Donald Trump fired Friday, was just doing his job, former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told students and guests at a Drew University event here Wednesday night.


Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, said that Vindman is blameless and was simply following the training he’d received as a soldier; migrants are “overwhelmingly good people” and “not all rapists”; and Trump’s decision to condition military aid to Ukraine on an investigation into his political rival Joe Biden upended long-standing U.S. policy.

[EDITOR here cannot help but note he wasn't saying such factual things about refugees when he was actually on staff. Could've said it then. Might've meant more.]


Trump attacks federal judge, prosecutors in Twitter tirade defending Roger Stone
By Allyson Chiu
Feb. 12, 2020 at 4:02 a.m. PST


As the fallout from the controversy surrounding Roger Stone’s prison term continued Tuesday night, President Trump defended his longtime confidant by firing off a barrage of heated tweets attacking the federal judge and prosecutors involved in the case.

Over the course of roughly two hours, Trump cranked out six blasts about the handling of Stone’s sentencing, including one that targeted U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is presiding over the case.

He implied that Jackson harbored some broad bias, linking the Stone case to her role in the sentencing of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and her dismissal of a lawsuit against former secretary of state Hillary Clinton related to Benghazi, Libya.


Trump says military may consider disciplinary action against Vindman
The comments came days after the star impeachment witness was ousted from the White House.


President Donald Trump on Tuesday said the military will likely look at disciplinary action against Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, just days after the National Security Council official was ousted from the White House after giving damaging testimony during the House impeachment hearings.

“That’s going to be up to the military, we’ll have to see, but if you look at what happened, they’re going to certainly, I would imagine, take a look at that,” Trump said in response to a follow-up question about what he meant when he said, “the military can handle him.”

[Additional from whatthefuckjusthappenedtoday.com - to which I have donated - "A U.S. official, however, said that neither the Army nor the Defense Department is investigating Vindman."]


Trump’s words, bullied kids, scarred schools
The president’s rhetoric has changed the way hundreds of children are harassed in American classrooms, The Post found
By Hannah Natanson, John Woodrow Cox and Perry Stein
Feb. 13, 2020

Two kindergartners in Utah told a Latino boy that President Trump would send him back to Mexico, and teenagers in Maine sneered "Ban Muslims" at a classmate wearing a hijab. In Tennessee, a group of middle-schoolers linked arms, imitating the president's proposed border wall as they refused to let nonwhite students pass. In Ohio, another group of middle-schoolers surrounded a mixed-race sixth-grader and, as she confided to her mother, told the girl: "This is Trump country."

Since Trump’s rise to the nation’s highest office, his inflammatory language — often condemned as racist and xenophobic — has seeped into schools across America. Many bullies now target other children differently than they used to, with kids as young as 6 mimicking the president’s insults and the cruel way he delivers them.

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Today's News (2020/2/12) Early Edition? Maybe. Probably more later.

Okay, so, very busy yesterday, didn't get around to a post, sorry for that. There's a lot! All of it _terrible_. Mostly Bill Barr is just being an enforcer now for Trumpkins and letting Trump's friends off and opening fake investigations into everybody, just like I said he would.

Also, the Republicans just blocked three more election security bills in the Senate.


Elizabeth Warren [Senator]


Congress must act immediately to rein in our lawless Attorney General. Barr should resign or face impeachment. And Congress should use spending power to defund the AG’s authority to interfere with anything that affects Trump, his friends, or his elections.

[THREAD, up and down]


Four prosecutors quit Roger Stone case after DOJ sentencing reversal
By John Kruzel - 02/11/20 04:11 PM EST


The four Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors who recommended Roger Stone be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison left the case Tuesday after top officials sought to reduce their sentencing request.

Prosecutors Michael Marando, Adam Jed, Jonathan Kravis and Aaron Zelinsky all asked the judge in the case for permission to withdraw. Kravis left the DOJ entirely, announcing his resignation as an assistant U.S. attorney.

The four were involved in providing the initial sentencing guidance for Stone. But in a rebuke to the career prosecutors, the DOJ on Tuesday told the judge in the case to apply "far less" to Stone's sentence.

"The government respectfully submits that a sentence of incarceration far less than 87 to 108 months’ imprisonment would be reasonable under the circumstances," the DOJ wrote in a memo late Tuesday afternoon.


Barr takes control of legal matters of interest to Trump, including Stone sentencing
Attorney General William Barr's intervention in Roger Stone's case wasn't the first time senior political appointees reached into a case involving an ex-Trump aide, officials say.
Feb. 11, 2020, 4:55 PM PST
By Carol E. Lee, Ken Dilanian and Peter Alexander


WASHINGTON — The U.S. attorney who had presided over an inconclusive criminal investigation into former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe was abruptly removed from the job last month in one of several recent moves by Attorney General William Barr to take control of legal matters of personal interest to President Donald Trump, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

A person familiar with the matter confirmed to NBC News that Trump has rescinded the nomination of Jessie Liu, who had been the U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., for a job as an undersecretary at the Treasury Department.

Liu also supervised the case against Trump associate Roger Stone. On Tuesday, all four line prosecutors withdrew from the case — and one quit the Justice Department altogether — after Barr and his top aides intervened to reverse a stiff sentencing recommendation of up to nine years in prison that the line prosecutors had filed with the court Monday. (Liu left before the sentencing recommendation was made.)


Trump Fires Defense Official for Refusing to Break the Law on His Behalf
New York Magazine / the national interest
Feb. 11, 2020


What’s especially chilling about this move is the reason for the retaliation. McCusker is losing her job because she attempted to follow the law. There’s no cover story to rationalize it. That is the cover story. “This administration needs people who are committed to implementing the president’s agenda, specifically on foreign policy, and not trying to thwart it,” a White House official tells the paper.

McCusker’s crime is quite literally having attempted to follow the law. Over the summer, the Office of Management and Budget was trying to hold up aid for Ukraine that Congress had passed into law, because it was trying to extort Ukraine to investigate Trump’s rivals. Defense Department officials, who were supposed to allocate the funds, attempted to implement the policy. Just Security obtained the email chain.


The Justice Department becomes a political hit squad for an unleashed president
By Jennifer Rubin
Feb. 11, 2020 at 3:16 p.m. PST


President Trump, empowered by acquittal in his impeachment trial and allowed free rein by his Republican Senate allies, has waged a war of vengeance and retribution against those who declined to enable his impeachable conduct. Now he has taken a club to the Justice Department.

The Post reports on the four prosecutors who refused to go along with their boss’s directive to reduce the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone following Trump’s tweet criticizing the seven- to nine-year sentence recommendation:


Senate GOP blocks three election security bills
By Jordain Carney - 02/11/20


Senate Republicans blocked an effort by Democrats to unanimously pass three election security-related bills Tuesday, marking the latest attempt to clear legislation ahead of the November elections

Democrats tried to get consent to pass two bills that require campaigns to alert the FBI and Federal Election Commission (FEC) about foreign offers of assistance, as well as legislation to provide more election funding and ban voting machines from being connected to the internet.


Judge Voids UNC's Controversial Settlement Over Confederate Statue 'Silent Sam'
February 12, 2020


A judge has overturned a contentious settlement that the University of North Carolina system reached with the Sons of Confederate Veterans over the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam.

The November 2019 agreement required the UNC system to give Silent Sam to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, along with $2.5 million for its preservation and display. It was announced within minutes of a lawsuit filed by the group.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour — who originally signed off on that settlement — ruled Wednesday that the group lacked standing to bring its lawsuit in the first place.

The judge announced his decision at a hearing in Hillsborough, N.C., as five UNC students and a faculty member, represented by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, intervened to try to stop the settlement.

Silent Sam had stood in a prominent location on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill for more than a hundred years. The Confederate monument was toppled by protesters in August 2018, amid a wave of similar actions across the country.


Trump Calls For End To Student Loan Forgiveness Program
Zack Friedman - February 11, 2020


President Trump wants to end a popular student loan forgiveness program.

Here’s what you need to know.

End Student Loan Forgiveness

Trump’s new annual budget calls for several changes to student loans, which are part of a $5.6 billion cut in funding to the U.S. Education Department. As in previous years, Trump repeated his call to end public service loan forgiveness. Under Trump's proposed budget, if passed by Congress, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program would be eliminated.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is a federal program created in 2007 by President George W. Bush that forgives federal student loans for borrowers who are employed full-time (more than 30 hours per week) in an eligible federal, state or local public service job or 501(c)(3) nonprofit job who make 120 eligible on-time payments over ten years.


Trump takes credit for McCain-Sanders veterans bill signed by Obama: “One of my greatest honors”
Trump falsely claims leaders "tried for decades" to pass the bill but "failed." Obama signed it into law in 2014

[NOTE: This was January 2nd, 2020. But it's just the kind of blatant, complete-reality-disconnect he'll be selling all campaign.]


President Donald Trump falsely claimed that one of his "greatest honors" was helping pass a veterans health bill, which was actually authored by the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and signed into law by former President Barack Obama.

"One of my greatest honors was to have gotten CHOICE approved for our great Veterans," Trump incorrectly claimed in New Year's Eve tweet. "Others have tried for decades, and failed!"

It is a lie which has been repeated in the past by Trump.


Trump says supporters could 'demand' he not leave office after two terms
Nicholas Wu
June 16, 2019

[NOTE THIS IS LAST SUMMER, but I don't think it's any less relevant]


WASHINGTON — In tweets on Sunday morning, President Donald Trump suggested supporters might not want him to leave office after two terms.

"The good news is that at the end of 6 years, after America has been made GREAT again and I leave the beautiful White House (do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? KEEP AMERICA GREAT)," Trump wrote.

The president had also been criticizing the Washington Post and the New York Times, calling them "both a disgrace."

Trump has talked about the issue before. In March last year, according to a recording obtained by CNN, he told a closed-door fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago that "maybe we'll have to give that a shot some day," in reference to Chinese President Xi Jinping's abolishment of term limits. It was unclear if the comments were made in jest.

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In the Beginning, there was an Armourer and a Living Weapon

In the Beginning, there was an Armourer and a Living Weapon is an Of Gods and Monsters prequel novel derived from The Armourer and the Living Weapon, which itself originally spawned Of Gods and Monsters. The snake eats its own tail.

Basically, it was kind of dumb to tell readers, "well, if you want the full story, you have to go read this other, apparently-unrelated novel, but don't read these bits or the ending, and also, here are some notes you'll want to read in comments." So I fixed it, making a new novel closely based on the original, but with the appropriate changes, new chapters, and a very different ending. Basically, a prequel.

Words: 57647
Rating: M
Warnings: Explicit violence, major character death.
Pairings: Gingerspider, Widowtracer, Pharmercy

Someone had to be the template for Widowmaker, and that someone was an armourer, materials engineer, and former field sniper, all for Talon, named Emily Gardner. She loves her work, just as much her blue counterpart does, and together they make one of the more formidable weapons in Talon's arsenal.

But good things can't last forever, can they?

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Today's News (2020/2/10)

"Barr acknowledges Justice Dept. has created ‘intake process’ to vet Giuliani’s information on Bidens" is particularly important, as is "The Trump Official Who Could Obliterate Public Lands," which is much worse than it looks, because what they're doing is giving actual legal credence to the Constitutionalist movement, a.k.a. the Sovereign Citizen movement, which is a conspiracy theory going back to the Art Bell days that if you say the right magic words, Federal law doesn't apply to you.

It's completely fucking insane and the same people who were big into that in the 90s were also big into chemtrails and UFOs.

That's where we are.


How can the media earn back the trust of viewers? Stop playing by Trump's rules for coverage
Time for TV newsrooms to stop trying to win over GOP viewers. Stand up and band together for a free press instead

Melanie McFarland
February 8, 2020 8:30PM (UTC)


Last Monday a group of political journalists showed up to a renowned seat of power to attend a press briefing. An aide to the nation's leader asked several journalists from within the group to stand on one side of a rug, according to a report, while security asked for the other journalists to remain on the other side.

After the separation, the aide told the group that wasn't on their list of invited reporters to leave. Upon hearing this, the rest of group joined their dismissed colleagues and walked out collectively.

Provided you've been keeping up with events, obviously this did not happen in the United States. Described above is British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's failed attempt to employ tactics that Donald Trump's administration has successfully used to bring the press to heel – failed, I should say, for the time being.


Republicans highly distrust political and election news from most media outlets except for, in order, Fox News (trusted by 65% of respondents who identify as Republican or Republican leaning), Sean Hannity's radio show (30%), Rush Limbaugh's radio show and PBS (both logging in at 27%), the Wall Street Journal which, like Fox News, is owned by the Murdoch family (24%), the BBC (21%) and Breitbart (12%).

The network that fares the best among Republicans, but is still distrusted (to the tune of 37%) more than trusted (33%), is ABC News.

Democrats and Democrat-leaning respondents, meanwhile, expressed a high level of trust in many more mainstream news sources than their Republican counterparts, with CNN (67%), NBC (61%), ABC (60%, CBS (59%) and PBS (56%) taking the top five slots.

All in all, Democrats expressed trust in 13 out of the 30 sources presented, with six trusted by at least 50% of those responding. In large, Republicans trust Fox News, ABC . . . and that's pretty much it.

How, exactly, is all of this a silver lining? For starters, provided journalists and their bosses wake up to the concept of defining fairness not in the framework of false equivalency or equal time but in the light of truth, they might rediscover their ethical backbone.

If the data is telling you that a certain sector of viewers will never trust you, stop trying to win them over by bending to the will of an unrepentant habitual and frequent liar bent on destroying fact-based reality.


Schumer calls on 74 inspectors general to investigate witness retaliation after Vindman ouster
By Zachary Cohen and Paul LeBlanc, CNN
Updated 10:41 AM ET, Mon February 10, 2020


Washington (CNN)Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter on Monday to all 74 federal government Inspectors General requesting investigations into "any and all instances of retaliation" against witnesses who have made "protected disclosures of presidential misconduct."

The letter comes days after President Donald Trump fired two key impeachment witnesses, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert at the national security council, and US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. An adviser to Trump told CNN the firings of the major impeachment witnesses was meant to send a message that siding against the President will not be tolerated.


Barr acknowledges Justice Dept. has created ‘intake process’ to vet Giuliani’s information on Bidens


By Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett
Feb. 10, 2020 at 2:58 p.m. PST

Attorney General William P. Barr acknowledged Monday that the Justice Department would evaluate material that Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney, had gathered from Ukrainian sources claiming to have damaging information about former vice president Joe Biden and his family — though Barr and other officials suggested Giuliani was being treated no differently than any tipster.

At a news conference on an unrelated case, Barr confirmed an assertion made Sunday by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) that the Justice Department had “created a process that Rudy could give information and they would see if it’s verified.”

Barr said he had established an “intake process in the field” so that the Justice Department and intelligence agencies could scrutinize information they were given.


Sheldon Adelson to donate $100m to Trump and Republicans, fundraisers say

Billionaire casino magnate, a staunchly pro-Israel conservative, expected to give to Super Pacs and ‘dark money’ groups


The billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson, an ardent pro-Israel conservative, is expected to donate at least $100m to boost Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election efforts and Republican congressional candidates this fall, say three Republican fundraisers familiar with Adelson’s initial plans.

Adelson’s hefty checks are expected to be written to several Super Pacs – political groups that have to disclose their donors – as well as “dark money” not-for-profit organizations that can keep their donors secret, say the fundraisers.


Trump administration delaying arms transfers worth $30M to Ukraine: report
February 6, 2020


President Trump’s administration is delaying an arms transfer to Ukraine worth $30 million, BuzzFeed News reported Thursday.

At least six commercial sales of guns and ammunition have faced delays of at least a year and continue to remain frozen, three current Ukrainian officials and one former senior U.S. official told BuzzFeed News. Now, Ukraine is requesting its money back.

The export license for the “most critical” of the pending sales was submitted in November 2018 for $10 million in ammunition, two Ukrainian officials told the news outlet. The five other sales, which include products like lethal weapons and amount to about $20 million, were prepaid between January and March 2019.

The officials have said the Trump administration has not provided any reasoning about why the commercial orders are being delayed. U.S. sales between companies and foreign buyers need licensing approved by the State Department, which typically takes about two months, according to BuzzFeed News.

“It might be wise for the Ukrainians to look for other sources,” the U.S. official told BuzzFeed News, saying White House and State Department officials have told him the sales are still being “evaluated” even though Ukraine has already made payments on them.


Appeals court tosses Democrats' emoluments lawsuit against Trump
CNN Digital Expansion 2018 Katelyn Polantz

By Katelyn Polantz, CNN

Updated 12:19 PM ET, Fri February 7, 2020


Washington (CNN)A federal appeals court on Friday dismissed a lawsuit by congressional Democrats alleging President Donald Trump violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution by refusing to allow lawmakers to review and approve his financial interests.

The ruling is a major triumph for the President, who's intensely sought to keep his business affairs in private, just days after the Republican-held Senate voted to acquit him on impeachment charges for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The case's dismissal effectively kneecaps one of several attempts Democrats have made to dig up more information about Trump's business holdings.

Before Friday's ruling the lawsuit was paused just as Democrats began subpoenaing the Trump Organization.

This emoluments case was one of three ongoing constitutional challenges to Trump and his business, alleging that the President is violating the anti-corruption emoluments clause. Two other emoluments cases attack Trump for his alleged competitive advantage at the Trump-branded real estate empire. Those cases are still moving through the court system.


The Trump Official Who Could Obliterate Public Lands
Bureau of Land Management Director William Perry Pendley believes the oil and gas industry should be allowed to plunder the country's natural resources.
By Christopher Ketcham
February 3, 2020


It’s a natural fit for an administration as chaotic and corrupt as President Donald Trump’s that William Perry Pendley, who loathes America’s public lands, was picked last September, and reappointed in January, to manage them. The Bureau of Land Management, which Pendley now directs, oversees more acreage of the public domain than any other federal agency. Thus far, protests from outraged environmentalists—who view the move as “akin to naming a notorious arsonist as chief of the local fire department,” in the words of Jeff Ruch of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C.—have failed to disrupt his tenure.


In an op-ed published last November in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Pendley stated it is now policy that BLM law officers will defer to self-proclaimed “constitutionalist” county sheriffs who have vowed not to enforce federal environmental laws on public lands. Pendley’s Review-Journal piece was “a dog whistle to the extremists of the anti-public-lands movement,” wrote Erik Molvar, executive director of the Western Watersheds Project, an environmental nonprofit in Idaho. That’s in part because of the belief system of the “constitutionalist” sheriffs, not mentioned in Pendley’s piece. The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, which Pendley has long claimed as an ally, declares on its website that “federal agencies now claiming control of land within a state should be drastically downsized and/or dismantled. County sheriffs in these states should take their rightful position and use their authority to assist in the transfer of control of the land.”

There’s also a more immediate reason to be worried about the new BLM position. “That stuff Pendley said about being subservient to sheriffs is downright dangerous,” John Freemuth, the Cecil Andrus endowed chair of Environment and Public Lands at Boise State University, told me. “When you’re a BLM ranger out there in the middle of nowhere, and you run into these crazy public lands people, like the followers of the Bundys, I wonder what’s going to happen when they say, ‘Your boss says you’re subservient, and I’m going to do whatever I want, and you’re not going to stop me.’ It’s one of the most irresponsible things I’ve seen in public lands management.”

The risk of physical conflict isn’t merely hypothetical. In a study published last May, Zoe Nemerever, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego, found counties run by constitutionalist sheriffs were 50 percent “more likely to have violence against BLM employees than other counties, even when controlling for other factors.” The decisions and pronouncements of elected and appointed officials, Nemerever wrote, “may promote political violence against federal employees.”


Over 100 US troops have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries following Iran strike
Barbara Starr-Profile-Image

By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent


(CNN) Over 100 US service members have been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injuries in the wake of the January 8 Iranian missile attack on the al Asad military base in Iraq, according to a US official with knowledge of the latest information.

Later on Monday the Pentagon released a statement confirming that 109 service members had been diagnosed, an increase of 45 from the end of January when they said 64 service members had been suffered injuries.

The statement added that nearly 70% of the injured service members have returned to duty.

"We are grateful to the efforts of our medical professionals who have worked diligently to ensure the appropriate level of care for our service members, which has enabled nearly 70 percent of those diagnosed to return to duty. We must continue to address physical and mental health together," Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah said in a statement.


Exclusive: Justice Department anti-human trafficking grants prompt whistleblower complaint
Sarah N. Lynch
February 10, 2020


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Justice Department anti-human trafficking grant program is facing internal complaints, after two nonprofits were denied funding in favor of two less established groups whose applications were not recommended by career DOJ officials.

The awarding of more than $1 million total to the two groups, Hookers for Jesus in Nevada and the Lincoln Tubman Foundation in South Carolina, has triggered a whistleblower complaint filed by the Justice Department’s employee union to the department’s Inspector General.

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Today's News (2020/2/9)

Trump team is trying to bury the evidence against them
Opinion by David M. Perry
February 7, 2020


Over the past few months, the Trump administration has done everything possible to obfuscate the facts of the misconduct with Ukraine. With the willing assistance of Republican Senators who refused to call witnesses, even those like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney with first-hand knowledge of the President's conduct, and likewise refused to subpoena the documents that the Trump administration has been withholding, Republicans are clearly hoping to sweep the detritus of impeachment behind them.


Trump Withholding $823 Million for Clean Energy, Democrats Say
By Ari Natter
February 5, 2020, 9:23 AM PST


The Trump administration is withholding nearly a billion dollars for a clean energy program it has unsuccessfully tried to cut, congressional Democrats said Wednesday, raising the specter of political interference.

The unspent funds now amount to $823 million in the Energy Department’s office that provides grants and other financial assistance for alternative energy, electric vehicles and energy efficiency, according to Democrats on the House Science Committee, which is holding a joint subcommittee hearing on the topic.

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which has a $2.85 billion budget, was targeted for 80% cuts in the last White House budget request -- only to see Congress increase its funding instead. The office has also recently canceled funding of proposed projects and left scores of staffing positions unfilled, said Illinois Democrat Bill Foster.

“When Congress passes a budget, we expect that budget to be followed,” said Foster, chairman of the panel’s Investigations and Oversight subcommittee. “It’s unclear to many of us there has been a completely good-faith effort.”


Trump slammed the phone down on Boris Johnson after an 'apoplectic' call with the prime minister


President Donald Trump reportedly hung up on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson after what officials described as an "apoplectic" call last week.

Trump ended the call by "slamming the phone down," a source told the Evening Standard.

The call, which one source described to the Financial Times as "very difficult," came after Johnson defied Trump and gave the Chinese telecoms company Huawei the rights to develop the UK's 5G network.

Trump's fury was triggered by Johnson backing Huawei despite Trump and his allies' threats that the United States would withdraw security cooperation with the UK if the deal went ahead.

Trump's threats reportedly irritated the UK government, with Johnson frustrated at the president's failure to suggest any alternatives to the deal.


Trump publicly admits he fired White House official as retaliation for impeachment testimony: ‘He was very insubordinate’

US president lashes out at Lt Col Alexander Vindman hours after Ukraine expert escorted from office

Tom Embury-Dennis
Phil Thomas
February 8, 2020


Donald Trump has appeared to admit he fired a senior White House official in part for the aide’s involvement in the impeachment inquiry.

Lt Col Alexander Vindman, a Russia and Ukraine expert on the National Security Council (NSC), was escorted from the White House on Friday after the US president ordered his removal.

He had given evidence to House committee hearings which led to Mr Trump being impeached on charges of abuse of power and obstructing Congress relating to a campaign by the president to pressure Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden, a political rival.

“Fake News @CNN & MSDNC keep talking about ‘Lt. Col.’ Vindman as though I should think only how wonderful he was,” the US president tweeted on Saturday morning.

“Actually, I don’t know him, never spoke to him, or met him (I don’t believe!) but, he was very insubordinate, reported contents of my ‘perfect’ calls incorrectly, & was given a horrendous report by his superior, the man he reported to, who publicly stated that Vindman had problems with judgement, adhering to the chain of command and leaking information. In other words, ‘OUT’.”


Duncing About Architecture
The ignorance and racism behind the right-wing push for “classical” federal buildings.
By Kate Wagner
February 8, 2020


On February 4, 2020 the Architectural Record reported that it had obtained a draft copy of a proposed executive order titled “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again.” The order would, essentially, force a re-write of the 1962 Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture which mandated that “an official [architectural] style must be avoided” for Federal buildings and that new buildings should be exemplary of the time in which they are built. The proposition put forth by this new executive order—which is spearheaded by the National Civic Art Society, a conservative non-profit—would essentially scrap the old guidelines in favor of a mandate that establishes a “classical style” inspired by Greek and Roman architecture as the default.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA)—along with several other institutions, architecture critics, and publications—swiftly published vehement denunciations to this plan, on the grounds that it would stifle architecture and violate the free thought and artistic expression that are essential to a democracy. Comparisons have already been made to Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin. Everyone is very mad online, except for Ross Douthat, who loves the idea.

The abrupt aesthetic reversal heralded by this executive order has some obvious underpinnings, beginning with the fact that the reversion to a mandatory classical style reflects the architectural philosophies of online white supremacists online, as well as the doings of a developer-president and a right-wing thinktank making what is explicitly a political move. But this is also the inevitable result of an architectural faux-populism that has been sown in the conscience of American architecture since Postmodernism.

The effort to stifle aesthetic expression in public architecture by instating a mandatory style is wrong for all the reasons the AIA and the Chicago Sun Times editorial board lay out in opposition. The proposal would allow Trump to create a “President’s Committee for the Re-Beautification of Federal Architecture” which would enforce this design mandate, and this panel would exclude “artists, architects, engineers, art or architecture critics, members of the building industry or any other members of the public that are affiliated with any interest group or organization” involved in architecture. Speaking as an architecture critic, this is insane and borderline-totalitarian. But as with all the insane and borderline-totalitarian things Trump does, it can be partially explained by the man himself.


American democracy is dying
Ryan Cooper


This past week was a litany of democratic disasters. First, on Monday, the Iowa Democratic Party catastrophically botched its caucus. Second, on Wednesday, President Donald Trump was acquitted in the Senate impeachment trial, after the Republican majority voted to hear no new witness testimony. Every Democrat voted to convict, and every Republican except Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah voted to acquit. What's more, we learned the attempt of a Wall Street billionaire, Mike Bloomberg, to straight-up buy the Democratic presidential nomination has a real possibility of success, as he rockets past Pete Buttigieg in national polls.

A nakedly corrupt president who blatantly tried to rig the 2020 election now has full license to try the same trick again, and the Democratic Party has proved itself incapable of carrying out elementary electoral procedures every democratic nation mastered decades (if not centuries) ago. And now a case of behind-the-scenes oligarchic corruption has metastasized into full-blown democracy for sale.

American democracy is cracking up.


'Operation Chaos': Republican voters aim to skew South Carolina Democratic primary
Mike Ellis
The Greenville News


GREENVILLE, S.C. – At least two Republican groups in South Carolina are organizing efforts to skew South Carolina's Democratic presidential primary to make a point and to help reelect President Donald Trump.

They are urging loyal Republicans to vote in the Democratic primary Feb. 29 for candidates perceived to be weak in opposition to Trump – for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in one case and for "the worst Democrat" in another, dubbed "Operation Chaos."

Since South Carolina has open primaries where voters do not have to register by political party, voters can cast ballots in either race.

Changing that to create closed primaries requiring party registration has been a goal of some conservatives. And since the state's Republican presidential primary was canceled this year with Trump running for reelection, this year's Democratic primary provides opportunity both to help Trump by influencing the choice of his opponent and to make the case for closing primaries by casting meddlesome ballots.

"Rules are rules, and fair is fair," said Karen Martin, a Spartanburg Tea Party official who helped set up a Facebook page promoting the effort for Republicans to vote for Sanders.


Mike Bloomberg Is Paying ‘Influencers’ to Make Him Seem Cool

The Bloomberg campaign is trying an ad strategy familiar to every other startup with a ton of cash and a questionable business model: Paying influencers to make it seem cool.


One day after the Iowa caucuses were effectively botched by the disastrous rollout of a new vote-counting app, billionaire Mike Bloomberg announced that he intended to capitalize on chaos from the Hawkeye State by doubling the advertising budget of his presidential campaign.

But in addition to a flood of traditional advertising on television, radio, and online outlets targeting Super Tuesday voters, the campaign’s advertising budget includes a strategy familiar to every other startup with a ton of cash and a questionable business model: paying influencers to make it seem cool.


Here’s a new abuse of power by Trump that should alarm you
By Greg Sargent
Feb. 7, 2020 at 7:11 a.m. PST


The big danger emerging from President Trump’s acquittal isn’t just that he has learned his whole party is unprepared to constrain any future abuse of power he undertakes. It’s that he has learned his party will, with a few stray exceptions, wholeheartedly support and even actively participate in it.

So what will this look like going forward?

In the immediate future, even if we don’t see a single, monstrous new scandal emerge, we might instead witness a slow accumulation and acceleration of insidiously incremental abuses of power that, taken together, continue to erode the rule of law.

Here’s a case in point, one that will take on increasing salience as the 2020 election churns forward: Trump’s abuse of the classification process.


“What we know is that the president sees classification as a way to advance his political interests,” Murphy told me in an interview. “He sees that he can use classification to keep embarrassing information from the public.”

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Today's News (2020/2/8)

Antarctica just hit 65 degrees, its warmest temperature ever recorded


By Matthew Cappucci
Meteorologist, Capital Weather Gang
February 7 at 10:56 AM

Just days after the Earth saw its warmest January on record, Antarctica has broken its warmest temperature ever recorded. A reading of 65 degrees was taken Thursday at Esperanza Base along Antarctica’s Trinity Peninsula, making it the ordinarily frigid continent’s highest measured temperature in history.

The Argentine research base is on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Randy Cerveny, who tracks extremes for the World Meteorological Organization, called Thursday’s reading a “likely record,” although the mark will still have to be officially reviewed and certified.

The balmy reading beats out the previous record of 63.5 degrees, which occurred March 24, 2015.


Fox Doctor: Preventable Illnesses Are Running Rampant Because Obamacare Covers People When They’re Sick
February 7, 2020 Crackpots, State Television


“Americans are dying younger, from largely preventable disease and bad health policy decisions. And the problem that I have with this is heart disease alone costs about $230 billion to the United States, and the Affordable Care Act did nothing to help that except take away.

“They took away the incentivizations for good behavior choices, by saying that however you act, whatever you do, everything’s going to be covered.


Key impeachment witness Alexander Vindman expects to leave White House post in coming weeks, source says
Kaitlan Collins byline

By Kaitlan Collins, CNN

Updated 1:51 PM ET, Fri February 7, 2020

(CNN)Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key witness in President Donald Trump's impeachment inquiry, has told colleagues he expects to leave the White House's National Security Council in the coming weeks to return to the Defense Department, a source tells CNN.

Vindman said his departure from the council could come as soon as this month, the source said. That would be well ahead of the scheduled end of his time at the White House, which was originally slated to last until July. Vindman was appointed to his post in July 2018 and was asked to stay for two years.

The source did not say whether Vindman's departure was voluntary or at the behest of the White House, though aides inside the West Wing had speculated it could come soon as the impeachment trial was over.

Trump on Friday would not directly answer whether he wanted Vindman out of the White House, only telling reporters on the South Lawn, "Well, I'm not happy with him."

"You think I'm supposed to be happy with him? I'm not," Trump said, adding, "They'll make that decision. You'll be hearing. They'll make a decision."


Kaitlan Collins [CNN White House Correspondent]
12:47 PM · Feb 7, 2020


News — Lt. Col. Vindman was just escorted out of the White House by security and told his services were no longer needed.


Key Impeachment Witness Vindman 'Escorted' From White House, His Lawyer Says
February 7, 20203:58 PM ET


Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the Ukraine expert at the National Security Council who became a star witness in the House impeachment hearings on President Trump's dealings with Ukraine, was escorted out of the White House on Friday, his lawyer said, adding Trump had "decided to exact revenge."

"There is no question in the mind of any American why this man's job is over, why this country now has one less soldier serving it at the White House. LTC Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth," David Pressman of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP said in a statement.

"The truth has cost LTC Alexander Vindman his job, his career, and his privacy. He did what any member of our military is charged with doing every day: he followed orders, he obeyed his oath, and he served his country, even when doing so was fraught with danger and personal peril. And for that, the most powerful man in the world - buoyed by the silent, the pliable, and the complicit - has decided to exact revenge," Pressman said.

The White House and National Security Council were not immediately available for comment.


Jennifer Jacobs [Bloomberg News]


NEWS: Alex Vindman’s twin brother Army Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, an ethics lawyer for the NSC, was also dismissed from his job today, sources tell me.


Lt Col Yevgeny Vindman, lawyer at NSC and Iraq veteran, was escorted off WH grounds “suddenly and with no explanation, despite over two decades of loyal service to this country,” his lawyer says. He “deeply regrets” that he will not be able to continue service at the WH.


Payback: Trump ousts officials who testified on impeachment
Feb. 7, 2020 at 9:37 am Updated Feb. 7, 2020 at 4:44 pm


The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Exacting swift punishment against those who crossed him, an emboldened President Donald Trump on Friday ousted two government officials who had delivered damaging testimony against him during his impeachment hearings. The president took retribution just two days after his acquittal by the Senate.


Robert Maguire


There's literally a Deutsche Bank whistleblower who came forward to say that suspicious activity reports involving Trump and Kushner were never filed with Treasury, but instead of looking into that, a Republican senator says we need to find out if Hunter Biden has any


Daniel Dale [CNN]


Trump says he'll do rallies even after he wins the 2020 election.


What President Trump’s company charges the Secret Service
By David A. Fahrenthold Feb. 7, 2020


President Trump’s company charges the Secret Service for the rooms it uses while protecting Trump at his properties. The charges have been as high as $650 per night for a Mar-a-Lago Club hotel room, or $17,000 a month for a cottage at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster.

Who pays these bills? U.S. taxpayers. That means Trump has a business arrangement with his own government. But the details of that relationship remain largely hidden.


The Post tried to decode this list. One surprise: at least 20 of the payments to "Trump National Golf Club" — worth $63,700 — weren’t to a golf club at all. Other documents, already released, showed they were payments to Mar-a-Lago. The Post learned that many of them were hotel bills for $650 per night — a rate far higher than the usual limits on federal hotel spending. There is no legal limit on what the Secret Service may spend on hotel rooms while its agents are protecting the president.


RNC Funded Roughly 11,000 Automated Calls to Jam Up House Democrats' Phone Lines Amid Impeachment Battle: Report
By Christina Zhao On 11/4/19 at 8:52 PM EST


The Republican National Committee (RNC) in recent weeks have reportedly funded thousands of automated phone calls to jam up the offices of dozens of House Democrats amid the fight surrounding the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Two unnamed sources briefed on the effort told The New York Times that the coordinated phone blast tactic aimed to shape public opinion of the investigation, as well as simply to tie up the phone lines of the elected officials. Approximately 11,000 calls were reportedly made as part of the scheme.

The calls were recently discussed at the so-called "Off the Record" dinner, an event attended by more than 12 Republican elected politicians, advisers and aides. Two unnamed sources who were briefed about the event told the Times that RNC officials discussed the phone jamming efforts during the dinner, suggested the calls were automated and admitted it was done to tie up the Democrats' phone lines.

RNC officials said the calls were not prerecorded "robocalls," and asserted that they used a vendor to survey voters. The voters that opposed Trump's official impeachment inquiry were then automatically offered to be connected to the offices of their congressional representatives, according to the officials.


Trump’s quest for revenge could mean the end of whistleblowing
He and his allies are killing a crucial tool of democracy


[This is one of those cases where you can seriously say "Obama did it first," and some of us were protesting it loudly at the time. This is part of his legacy, along with giving Bush and the GOP a pass on torture - a crime belonging both to him and to Pelosi - helping set the stage for where we are now. See:



Feb. 7, 2020 at 7:58 a.m. PST

President Trump and some of his allies in the Senate are kicking off the post-impeachment era with vengeance on their minds. In a speech on Thursday, Trump condemned “leakers and liars” and declared that “this should never, ever happen to another president, ever.” On Capitol Hill, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Republicans plan to launch an investigation of the whistleblower who disclosed President Trump’s effort to coerce Ukraine to investigate a political rival. Graham threatened that they are “going to get to the bottom of all of this to make sure this never happens again.”

If they carry out this threat of state-sponsored retaliation, whistleblowing as we know it may be over. That would be a disastrous blow to government integrity.

Do not doubt that the eyes of our nation are watching this situation unfold. Federal officials will now think twice before reporting any wrongdoing they witness. Their reticence will only be magnified if Republicans exact a price by grilling the Ukraine whistleblower in a Senate hearing “to make sure this never happens again.” The same will be true if Congress lets executive branch officials fire or otherwise punish the whistleblower — as the Trump administration did to Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine.


King Donald to GOP: And Now—and Forever—You Shall Be My Servants
Trump’s performances Thursday told the world that corruption had triumphed. He learned exactly the opposite lesson of the one Republicans imagined.
Rick Wilson, Editor-at-Large
Updated Feb. 07, 2020 6:21AM ET


Are you not entertained?

In two speeches today, the recently acquitted and utterly guilty president of the United States, King Donald the Malevolent, let his rage, manias, and petty vengeances out to play, bellowing like a third-world warlord in a display of political performance art that was almost unbearably grotesque in its affront to American values, the law, and our collective sanity.

Like me, your first thought was likely that after today, only Americans fed on a daily drip of IV agitporn from Fox and Facebook believe Trump is morally or mentally fit for the task at hand. Trump is, QED, a man more suited to a padded cell, and a place to write his manifesto.


Seth Abramson


[THREAD, starting here]

The GOP is ignoring the grave danger inherent in Trump retaliating against the Vindmans, Sondland, Volker, Taylor, and Yovanovitch—whether or not he had authority to do so. Not only is there no evidence of wrongdoing by these folks, they're being harmed to *scare* whistleblowers.


Joyce Alene


Trump really learned that lesson: Trump is discussing firing Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community, w/advisors. Why? Trump is upset he let the whistleblower complaint get to Congress-in other words, that he followed the law.


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Today's News (2020/2/6)

Trump bans New Yorkers from enrolling in 'trusted traveller' programmes in retaliation over sanctuary cities law
Tom Embury-Dennis,The Independent•February 6, 2020

The Trump administration has immediately barred New York residents from enrolling in “trusted traveller programmes” (TTP), in retaliation for a new state law which blocks federal immigration officials from accessing motor vehicle records.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed the move on Thursday, the morning after acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf first announced the measure on Fox News.

The drastic change came just hours after Mr Trump attacked New York’s sanctuary city status during his State of the Union address.

Sanctuary cities are localities that provide added protection to immigrants and refuse to cooperate with federal officials and federal law enforcement, which has only escalated since Mr Trump took office.


'Clog the lines': Internet trolls deliberately disrupted the Iowa caucuses hotline for reporting results
Several officials at caucuses attended by NBC News reporters struggled with lengthy hold times that made it impossible for them to report results over the phone.


The phone number to report Iowa caucus results was posted on a fringe internet message board on Monday night along with encouragement to “clog the lines,” an indication that jammed phone lines that left some caucus managers on hold for hours may have in part been due to prank calls.

An Iowa Democratic Party official said the influx of calls to the reporting hotline included “supporters of President Trump who called to express their displeasure with the Democratic Party.” The party official’s comments were first reported late Wednesday by Bloomberg News.

Users on a politics-focused section of the fringe 4chan message board repeatedly posted the phone number for the Iowa Democratic Party, which was found by a simple Google search, both as screenshots and in plain text, alongside instructions.


Treasury Department sent information on Hunter Biden to expanding GOP Senate inquiry


The Treasury Department has complied with Republican senators’ requests for highly sensitive and closely held financial records about Hunter Biden and his associates and has turned over “‘evidence’ of questionable origin” to them, according to a leading Democrat on one of the committees conducting the investigation.

For months, while the impeachment controversy raged, powerful committee chairmen in the Republican-controlled Senate have been quietly but openly pursuing an inquiry into Hunter Biden’s business affairs and Ukrainian officials’ alleged interventions in the 2016 election, the same matters that President Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani unsuccessfully tried to coerce Ukraine’s government to investigate.


The senators’ requests to the Treasury have borne fruit, according to the ranking Democratic senator on the Finance Committee, Ron Wyden of Oregon, who contrasted the cooperation given to the Republican senators with the pervasive White House-directed stonewall that House Democrats encountered when they subpoenaed documents and witnesses in the impeachment inquiry.


New conservative climate plans are neither conservative nor climate plans
They are mainly designed to protect fossil fuels.


There is a convenient story about Republicans and climate policy circulating in Washington, DC, right now.

It goes like this: After years of denying climate science and under pressure from young voters, Republicans have finally turned to the task of designing policy to address climate change. They are developing measures in line with conservative ideals that will focus on markets, shrink the federal government, and avoid picking winners and losers. With such a policy offering, voters will have a choice between two different approaches to solving the climate crisis, rather than a choice between a party that wants to address the problem and one that doesn’t.


That leaves “objective” reporters in a difficult situation, though — a story without two sides. For those reporters, word of GOP climate policy comes as a great relief. They can leave the one-sided science story and return to ground they know and understand: two sides with dueling policies, economists, experts, and think-tank reports. In other words, he said, she said.

The story is convenient for many denizens of the Beltway. There’s just one problem: It’s mostly horse shit.


The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President
How new technologies and techniques pioneered by dictators will shape the 2020 election
Story by McKay Coppins


One day last fall, I sat down to create a new Facebook account. I picked a forgettable name, snapped a profile pic with my face obscured, and clicked “Like” on the official pages of Donald Trump and his reelection campaign. Facebook’s algorithm prodded me to follow Ann Coulter, Fox Business, and a variety of fan pages with names like “In Trump We Trust.” I complied. I also gave my cellphone number to the Trump campaign, and joined a handful of private Facebook groups for MAGA diehards, one of which required an application that seemed designed to screen out interlopers.

The president’s reelection campaign was then in the midst of a multimillion-dollar ad blitz aimed at shaping Americans’ understanding of the recently launched impeachment proceedings. Thousands of micro-targeted ads had flooded the internet, portraying Trump as a heroic reformer cracking down on foreign corruption while Democrats plotted a coup. That this narrative bore little resemblance to reality seemed only to accelerate its spread. Right-wing websites amplified every claim. Pro-Trump forums teemed with conspiracy theories. An alternate information ecosystem was taking shape around the biggest news story in the country, and I wanted to see it from the inside.


I was surprised by the effect it had on me. I’d assumed that my skepticism and media literacy would inoculate me against such distortions. But I soon found myself reflexively questioning every headline. It wasn’t that I believed Trump and his boosters were telling the truth. It was that, in this state of heightened suspicion, truth itself—about Ukraine, impeachment, or anything else—felt more and more difficult to locate. With each swipe, the notion of observable reality drifted further out of reach.

What I was seeing was a strategy that has been deployed by illiberal political leaders around the world. Rather than shutting down dissenting voices, these leaders have learned to harness the democratizing power of social media for their own purposes—jamming the signals, sowing confusion. They no longer need to silence the dissident shouting in the streets; they can use a megaphone to drown him out. Scholars have a name for this: censorship through noise.


What South Dakota Doesn’t Get About Transgender Children
Here’s how their medical care really works.
By Jack Turban
Dr. Turban is a resident physician in child and adolescent psychiatry.


Early in my medical training, I read a landmark case study about a 12-year-old boy who wrote a suicide note to his mother saying he would rather die than go through puberty. I later met teenagers who tightly bound their chests — knowing that it could result in fractured ribs — because the emotional pain of seeing their breasts was much worse than any imaginable physical pain.

These children are transgender, and they account for almost 2 percent of youth in the United States. They are suffering from the psychological pain of having a body that doesn’t match their gender identity. I’ve dedicated my medical and research career to better understanding their mental health.

Over the past few decades, physicians have learned how to help these young people. In the past, doctors tried to force them to be cisgender, to identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. New research shows that this approach is associated with their attempting suicide. Having learned from these mistakes, we now follow new protocols that guide us to accept and affirm transgender youths in their transgender identities. We often use medications that prevent some of the physical changes of puberty that cause these adolescents distress.


Report Finds at Least 138 Killed After Deportation From U.S. to El Salvador
By Elliot Hannon


The cost of President Donald Trump’s blinkered and punitive American immigration policy isn’t just measured in dollars or dignity; it’s costing people their lives. We, of course, already knew that to be true, but a new report from Human Rights Watch adds new data to help articulate the literal human cost of America’s increasingly restrictive immigration stance—one that has all but eliminated migrants’ right to asylum. The nongovernmental organization’s investigation into the fate of deported Salvadoran migrants, forced to return to the country they fled, found that at least 138 Salvadorans—and likely many, many more—were killed shortly after being deported.


Trump Is Blowing Up a National Monument in Arizona to Make Way for the Border Wall
Ryan Devereaux
February 6 2020


Contractors working for the Trump administration are blowing apart a mountain on protected lands in southern Arizona to make way for the president’s border wall. The blasting is happening on the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a tract of Sonoran Desert wilderness long celebrated as one of the nation’s great ecological treasures, that holds profound spiritual significance to multiple Native American groups.

In a statement to The Intercept, U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed that the blasting began this week and will continue through the end of the month. “The construction contractor has begun controlled blasting, in preparation for new border wall system construction, within the Roosevelt Reservation at Monument Mountain in the U.S. Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector,” the statement said, referring to an area also known as Monument Hill. “The controlled blasting is targeted and will continue intermittently for the rest of the month.”


Dr. Sunny Moraine PhD in Awful Things


I hate quote-RTing this fucker but I’m going to this time because it’s important: Look for attempts to delay the election or cancel it outright. I’m not saying he’ll succeed but I wouldn’t be surprised if he tries. Right now he’s feeling—reasonably—like he can get away w/anything


[Mostly interesting because of the 'Trump is most dangerous when he feels bulletproof, not when he's cornered.']


In Private, Republicans Admit They Acquitted Trump Out of Fear
One journalist remarked to me, “How in the world can these senators walk around here upright when they have no backbone?”

By Sherrod Brown
Mr. Brown is a Democratic senator from Ohio.


Not guilty. Not guilty.

In the United States Senate, like in many spheres of life, fear does the business.

Think back to the fall of 2002, just a few weeks before that year’s crucial midterm elections, when the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq was up for a vote. A year after the 9/11 attacks, hundreds of members of the House and the Senate were about to face the voters of a country still traumatized by terrorism.


For the stay-in-office-at-all-cost representatives and senators, fear is the motivator. They are afraid that Mr. Trump might give them a nickname like “Low Energy Jeb” and “Lyin’ Ted,” or that he might tweet about their disloyalty. Or — worst of all — that he might come to their state to campaign against them in the Republican primary. They worry:

“Will the hosts on Fox attack me?”

“Will the mouthpieces on talk radio go after me?”

“Will the Twitter trolls turn their followers against me?”

My colleagues know they all just might. There’s an old Russian proverb: The tallest blade of grass is the first cut by the scythe. In private, many of my colleagues agree that the president is reckless and unfit. They admit his lies. And they acknowledge what he did was wrong. They know this president has done things Richard Nixon never did. And they know that more damning evidence is likely to come out.


Jennifer Jacobs


BREAKING: White House is weighing plan to dismiss Alexander Vindman from National Security Council after he testified in impeachment inquiry, a move that will be part of a broader effort to shrink Trump admin foreign policy bureaucracy, sources tell me & twitter.com/nwadhams. Story out soon


NBC News


AG Barr notifies federal agents and lawyers that they cannot open investigations of 2020 presidential candidates, their campaigns, or advisers without his approval.


Barr says no investigations into 2020 candidates, campaigns without his approval
His directive follows a report by the Justice Department's inspector general that harshly criticized the FBI's investigation of the 2016 Trump campaign.
by Pete Williams


Attorney General William Barr notified federal agents and lawyers Wednesday that they cannot open investigations of presidential candidates, their campaigns, or advisers without his approval.

His directive follows a report by the Justice Department's inspector general that harshly criticized the FBI's investigation of the 2016 Trump campaign. It recommended an evaluation of the kind of sensitive matters that should require high-level approval, particularly those involving politics.

Barr told NBC News in December that "there has to be some basis before we use these very potent powers in our core First Amendment activity." He suggested in January that changes were coming, saying at a news conference that he and FBI Director Chris Wray agreed that opening a counterintelligence investigation of a presidential campaign "would be something that the director of the FBI would have to sign off on and the attorney general would have to sign off on."

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Today's News (2020/1/5) Very Late Edition

After Romney votes to convict, Donald Trump tweets video alleging Mitt Romney threw the 2012 election and has secretly been a Democrat his entire career.

Can't make this stuff up.

Won't link directly to 45, but here's a RT with relevant commentary:



Gregg Lagerquist
Just spoke with Sen. Collins


She now says she probably shouldn't have said that she "believes" Pres. Trump has learned his lessons from the fallout from his dealings with Ukraine and #Impeachment

She now says a better word would have been "hopes"


Senator Joe Manchin

Voting whether or not to remove a sitting President has been a truly difficult decision, and after listening to the arguments presented by both sides, I have reached my conclusion reluctantly. My full statement:



Kaitlan Collins
[CNN White House Correspondant]


Romney's vote to convict Trump on Article 1 puts one person in a very awkward position: his niece, and RNC chair, Ronna McDaniel. She's close to Trump and his campaign manager Brad Parscale, and speaks with both often. Trump regularly complains to her about her uncle.





Yes, a public university paid neo-Confederates to sue them.

If you think that doesn’t sound right, wait until you find out about the $2.5m they agreed to send 15 minutes after being sued.

[Links to:]

T. Greg "Discount Popehat Redux" Doucette


BREAKING: Boyd Cathey – the "political advisor" to the SCV – confirms the twitter.com/dailytarheel's reporting that the $74,999 paid by the UNC system Board of Governors was to enable the SCV to sue them

[SCV: Sons of Confederate Veterans]


[Christ, thread]

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Today's News (2020/2/4) Late Edition

I'm going to lead off by combing a couple of stories because they make the most sense with each other.

First, Senator Susan Collins says she'll vote to acquit on Wednesday because, and I quote: "I believe that the president has learned from this case... the president has been impeached, that's a pretty big lesson."

Three hours later:

Rush Limbaugh awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom at State of the Union

When he was asked about Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) saying he had learned a lesson during impeachment, the president said he’d done nothing wrong: “It was a perfect call.”

Some items are harder to take than others. This is one. It's not so much the idiotic, benighted, blindly stupid lying itself, as the sheer contemptuousness needed to think anyone would believe it. It's just absolutely monstrous on every level.

Anyway, here's the rest of today's news.


Murkowski rebukes Trump, Senate, but says she will vote to acquit


Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said in a speech on the Senate floor Monday that she "cannot vote to convict" President Trump, but condemned his actions toward Ukraine as "shameful and wrong."

Why it matters: The moderate senator was thought to be among the likeliest of the Republicans to vote to convict Trump. During her speech Monday, which followed the conclusion of closing arguments in the impeachment trial, Murkowski also tore into the House for rushing through the process and the Senate for what she called "rank partisanship."


GOP Strategist Says Trump Will 'Likely' Try to Imprison John Bolton After Impeachment Vote
By David Brennan On 2/4/20 at 6:23 AM EST


A prominent Republican political strategist has warned that President Donald Trump may lean on the Justice Department to get revenge on former National Security Advisor John Bolton once the Senate has voted not to remove him from office this week.

Bolton has become a central figure in the impeachment debate surrounding Trump, with Democrats keen to have him testify in front of senators—while the political world eagerly awaits his tell-all memoir detailing his time in Trump's turbulent White House.

But according to a Vanity Fair article published Monday, Bolton's prominent role has put him squarely in Trump's crosshairs and at the top of an enemies list to be addressed once Republican senators acquit the president.

Rick Wilson, an author, analyst and long-time Republican operative, suggested that Bolton's only chance now was to leak his explosive book manuscript before the Senate vote, which is expected to take place Wednesday.

"As I predicted. Bolton blew his one shot," Wilson wrote. "Unless the manuscript leaks before the vote, he's f****d and Trump will likely use [Attorney General William] Barr to put him in prison. Just a reminder that knowing about grand strategy doesn't mean you know about political strategy."


Democrats walk out of Trump's address: 'It's like watching professional wrestling'
By Tal Axelrod - 02/04/20 10:34 PM EST


A handful of Democrats walked out of the chamber in the middle of President Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday.

Reps. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) hammered the president in statements when explaining their decision to leave the address early.

“I just walked out of the #StateOfTheUnion. I’ve had enough. It’s like watching professional wrestling. It’s all fake,” Ryan tweeted.


Nancy Pelosi rips up speech after Trump completes State of the Union

By Alix Martichoux, SFGATE Updated 8:32 pm PST, Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi didn't need to say a word to show what she thought of President Donald Trump's State of the Union on Tuesday night.


Here's what Democrats were chanting in protest during the State of the Union

By Alix Martichoux, SFGATE Updated 7:47 pm PST, Tuesday, February 4, 2020


There was much applause during President Donald Trump's 2020 State of the Union, but for at least a few seconds, Democrats interrupted the fanfare with chants of protest.

After Trump called on lawmakers to deliver him a piece of legislation to dramatically lower drug prices in order for him to sign it, many Democratic lawmakers stood, held up three fingers and chanted "H.R.3."


It passed the House with a 230-192 vote.

The bill was declared "dead on arrival" in the Senate, and the White House indicated the president would have vetoed the bill if it had landed on his desk, the Washington Post reported in December.


‘He misled everyone!’ Israeli leader fumes at Kushner as Trump’s ‘peace plan’ spirals down the drain
By Brad Reed


Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner is taking heat from key allies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the “peace plan” he helped design spirals further down the drain.

While the plan had previously been praised by the Israeli government even as it was widely panned by neighboring Arab governments, the Washington Post reports that Yesha Council Chairman David Elhayani is furious about the White House’s efforts to discourage Netanyahu from immediately annexing large portions of the West Bank from the Palestinians.

“Kushner took a knife and put it in Netanyahu’s back,” Elhayani tells the Washington Post. “Kushner misled the prime minister. He misled everybody. He knew for a long time that Netanyahu wanted to declare sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea — he said it many times over the last year. Gentlemen just don’t act this way.”

Elhayani also worried that putting a temporary halt on the annexations could do political damage to Netanyahu and cause him to lose upcoming elections that are scheduled for next month.


The Racism at the Heart of Trump’s ‘Travel Ban’

Adding Nigeria to the expanded list of excluded countries just makes it more obvious.


It’s happening a little bit out of public consciousness — swamped by impeachment, the coronavirus and the Democratic presidential race — but on Friday President Trump announced further restrictions on immigration and foreign entry to the United States. Citing security concerns, the administration has slammed the door on immigrants from the African nations of Sudan, Tanzania and Eritrea, as well as Myanmar in Southeast Asia and Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia. These countries, which have large Muslim populations, join seven others on the president’s ever-developing travel ban.

There’s one other country on the expanded list — Nigeria. Home to more than 200 million of Africa’s 1.2 billion people, Nigeria has the largest economy on the continent and has worked with the American military on joint operations. But given an “elevated risk and threat environment in the country,” administration officials say there’s a chance Nigeria could become a vector for terrorists who want to enter the United States. Nigeria’s government has long struggled with the Islamist group Boko Haram, which is responsible for multiple kidnappings and dozens of attacks that amount to mass slaughter.

But there’s little to no evidence that this group is a threat to Americans, nor is there any history of Nigerian terrorism on American soil. From 1975 to 2015, according to an analysis from the libertarian Cato Institute, just one Nigerian national was implicated in a terrorist attack against the United States. And, it should be said, the administration has not banned all entry from Nigeria — only applications for permanent residence. Tourists can still visit America, an odd loophole if the White House is actually worried about terrorism.

But I don’t think President Trump is actually worried about Nigerian terrorism.


Top Navy SEAL commander resigns after apparent disagreements with Trump


* The officer responsible for US Navy special-operations forces will step down from his position in September, The Intercept reported over the weekend.

* Rear Adm. Collin Green's retirement follows the controversial court-martial of Special Warfare Operator Chief Eddie Gallagher.

* President Donald Trump, who supported Gallagher, disagreed with Green's pursuit of a peer review for Gallagher's case.


Charities steered $65M to Trump lawyer Sekulow and family
January 31, 2020


WASHINGTON (AP) — Jay Sekulow, one of President Donald Trump’s lead attorneys during the impeachment trial, is being paid for his legal work through a rented $80-a-month mailbox a block away from the White House.

The Pennsylvania Avenue box appears to be the sole physical location of the Constitutional Litigation and Advocacy Group, a for-profit corporation co-owned by Sekulow. The firm has no website and is not listed in national legal directories. The District of Columbia Bar has no record of it, and no attorneys list it as their employer.

But Sekulow, 63, is registered as chief counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice, a non-profit Christian legal advocacy group based in an expansive Capitol Hill row house a short walk from the Senate chamber.

A half dozen lawyers employed by the non-profit ACLJ are named in recent Senate legal briefs as members of Trump’s defense team — including one of Sekulow’s sons. The ACLJ, as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, is barred under IRS rules from engaging in partisan political activities.

The Republican National Committee has paid more than $250,000 to Sekulow’s for-profit CLA Group since 2017, when he was first named to Trump’s legal team as special counsel Robert Mueller was leading the Russia investigation, according to campaign disclosures.


Pompeo says denying credentials to NPR sends "perfect message about press freedoms"


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the State Department's decision to deny NPR press credentials for his trip to Europe following his confrontation with reporter Mary Louise Kelly, stating in an interview in Kazakhstan Sunday that it sends "a perfect message about press freedoms" to the world.


Rand Paul reads alleged whistleblower's name and Republicans 'fine' with it

The Kentucky Republican's comment on the Senate floor was met with shrugs by most Senate Republicans.


02/04/2020 01:16 PM EST
Updated: 02/04/2020 08:28 PM EST

Sen. Rand Paul read aloud the name of the alleged whistleblower who first raised alarms about President Donald Trump's conduct toward Ukraine. And most Republicans didn’t seem to care.

After being denied by Chief Justice John Roberts last week, Paul used a period reserved for senators’ impeachment speeches to read aloud the name of an intelligence community official alleged to be the whistleblower.

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Today's News (2020/2/3) Late Edition

All of this is bad. The first most obviously immediately most bad. The second quite possibly worse, but maybe just issues with data collection.


“It’s Payback Time”: With Acquittal Certain, Trump Plots Revenge on Bolton, Impeachment Enemies

Trump, says a source, wants Bolton to be criminally investigated for possibly mishandling classified information. Romney, Schiff, and Nadler are also in West Wing crosshairs.


With Senate Republicans on track to acquit Donald Trump on Wednesday, Washington is bracing for what an unshackled Trump does next. Republicans briefed on Trump’s thinking believe that the president is out for revenge against his adversaries. “It’s payback time,” a prominent Republican told me last week. “He has an enemies list that is growing by the day,” another source said. Names that came up in my conversations with Republicans included Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, Mitt Romney, and John Bolton. “Trump’s playbook is simple: go after people who crossed him during impeachment.”

Several sources said Bolton is at the top of the list. Trump’s relationship with Bolton was badly damaged by the time Bolton left the White House in September. Trump has since blamed his former national security adviser for leaking details of his forthcoming memoir that nearly derailed the impeachment trial by pressuring Republicans to call witnesses. In the book Bolton reportedly alleges Trump told him directly that Ukraine aid was tied to Ukraine announcing investigations into the Bidens (Bolton has denied being a source of the leak).


Climate Models Are Running Red Hot, and Scientists Don’t Know Why

The simulators used to forecast warming have suddenly started giving us less time.


There are dozens of climate models, and for decades they’ve agreed on what it would take to heat the planet by about 3° Celsius. It’s an outcome that would be disastrous—flooded cities, agricultural failures, deadly heat—but there’s been a grim steadiness in the consensus among these complicated climate simulations.

Then last year, unnoticed in plain view, some of the models started running very hot. The scientists who hone these systems used the same assumptions about greenhouse-gas emissions as before and came back with far worse outcomes. Some produced projections in excess of 5°C, a nightmare scenario.


Seth Abramson


[Direct link to first tweet:

So @RepAdamSchiff now knows he's giving a closing argument in a fake trial. The jurors and defense attorneys are both fake (as many are defense witnesses) and the judge is an unstuffed scarecrow. I'd give a closing today that brings in *all* the evidence and allegations. Why not?

PS/ There are no rules in this trial besides how long you can speak for. So let's have a closing that gives America the full scope of the evidence. Let's talk Naftogaz, Mueller obstruction, secret Venezuela diplomacy, the interference invite to China, the Turkey quid pro quo...

PS2/ ...and I'm not talking about scurrilous allegations. I'm talking about truth. I'm saying America should know the House fought this battle with both hands tied behind their back, because they didn't talk about other items in public reporting and narrowly limited the evidence.

PS3/ We never heard about how Trump and Giuliani personally engineered the reporting on the Bidens by John Solomon of THE HILL. We never heard about how Yuri Lutsenko conducted a full Biden investigation in early 2019 at giuliani's request and then *recanted everything in June*.

PS4/ America never got a rundown of the lies Trump told about not knowing Parnas/Fruman, nor an accounting of all the times we know they interacted with Trump well beyond a photograph. No accounting of Trump's public Ukraine lies (which suggest consciousness of guilt) was given.

PS5/ Though the House had ample evidence of the modus operandi Trump used in this case, because he had done the same thing with Russia previously and was doing the same thing with China and Venezuela concurrently, those topics were wrongly deemed "outside the scope" of the trial.

PS6/ So many things were not stated as clearly as they could've been, e.g. whatever info Trump had suggesting Biden wrongdoing, he soon learned was false via Lutsenko. Trump's team never presented any evidence Trump cared about any Ukrainian company not tied to a political rival.

PS7/ By making their defense that Trump was an anti-corruption fighter, Trump's team opened the door to a catalog of every corrupt thing Trump has done and every corrupt person he has coddled, as a way of proving this is the *last man in the world* who'd *ever* fight corruption.

PS8/ Democrats have played nice for four years, under the assumption reasonable Republicans still existed in Washington. Now we know they don't, and that it's not just that they're unreasonable, it's that the whole party is irreparably corrupted. Maybe it's time to *act* like it?

PS9/ It's time for Democrats to let loose the dogs of war (rhetorically), and it seems to me the closing arguments in an impeachment trial, especially when media has already decided they won't be exciting or be worth much reporting on, is the perfect time to *release the hounds*.

PS10/ There's middle ground between safe DNC messaging that seems like it hails from last century and the no-holds-barred deep-fake route Bill Maher advocates. You can destroy a man on the internet and do it without telling a lie. Democrats need young folks who know how to do it.


The Downfall of the Republican Party

To see men and women who had a positive vision beaten down and broken by Trump is a poignant thing.


On Friday, Republicans in the United States Senate—with the exception of Mitt Romney and Susan Collins—voted to prevent John Bolton, Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, from testifying in the impeachment trial of the president.

The reason they did so is undeniable: They did not want to hear from the most credible fact witness of all, one whose account would further implicate the president in his corrupt scheme—his “drug deal,” in Bolton’s words—to pressure the Ukrainian government to open an investigation to harm Trump’s main political opponent.

Republicans, from beginning to end, sought not to ensure that justice be done or truth be revealed. Instead, they sought to ensure that Trump not be removed from office under any circumstances, defending him at all costs. The job of Senate Republicans was to make their acquittal of the president as quick and painless for them as possible. In this particular case, facts and evidence—reality—were viewed as grave threats, which is why they had to be buried.

This is simply the latest act in an unfolding political drama, one in which the party of Lincoln and Reagan has now become, in every meaningful sense, the party of Trump.

I have written before about the massive moral and ethical defects of the president; there’s no need to rehearse them here. The point I want to make is a somewhat different one, which is that Trump’s takeover of the GOP has happened not because he is widely loved or admired by Republican lawmakers but because he is feared; not because most of the people in the Republican Senate Conference aspire to be like him, but because they are too timid to challenge him.


Billings legislator insists Constitution says it’s OK to shoot socialists


HELENA — A Billings Republican legislator said Saturday he believes the U.S. Constitution calls for the shooting or jailing of those who identify as socialists.

State Rep. Rodney Garcia, from House District 52 on the South Side, first made a statement in the form of an unprompted question at a state party gathering in Helena Friday meant to kick off election season and offer training for party members and candidates.

In his question after a speech by former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who was Montana’s representative in the U.S. House for two years, Garcia said he was concerned about socialists “entering our government” and socialists “everywhere” in Billings, before saying the Constitution says to either shoot socialists or put them in jail.


Does It Matter Who the Democrats Choose?
In terms of actual policy, probably not very much.


At this point, the Democratic presidential nomination is very much up in the air. Not only is it unclear who will be the nominee; it’s unclear whether the nominee will be a centrist like Joe Biden or Amy Klobuchar, or a representative of the party’s left like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. Whoever wins, there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the other side.

So I’d like to offer an opinion that will probably anger everyone: In terms of actual policy, it probably doesn’t matter much who the Democrats nominate — as long as he or she wins, and Democrats take the Senate too.


In 2016 Trump ran as a different kind of Republican, promising that unlike other candidates, he wouldn’t slash social programs and cut taxes on the rich. But it was all a lie. Aside from his trade war, Trump’s economic policies have been straight right-wing orthodoxy: huge tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, attempts to take health care away from tens of millions of Americans. And lately he has been talking about possible cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

The point is that even though Trump commands humiliating personal subservience from his party, he hasn’t caused any significant shift in its policy priorities.

Now, the Democratic Party is very different from the G.O.P. — it’s a loose coalition of interest groups, not a monolithic entity answering to a handful of billionaires allied with white nationalists. But this if anything makes it even harder for a Democratic president to lead his or her party very far from its political center of gravity, which is currently one of moderate progressivism.


Hannity’s ugly meltdown at Romney: Wanting the truth is ‘Trump hatred’


It was inevitable that the Cult of Trump would ultimately settle here. Any Republican who dares to acknowledge the relevance of facts outside the disinformation bubble that President Trump and his propagandists have constructed in his defense — facts they are unable to control — can be driven only by Trump “hatred.”

Fox News’s Sean Hannity staged a spectacular meltdown at Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Tuesday night, over Romney’s desire to hear testimony from John Bolton, the former national security adviser whose forthcoming book relates that Trump didn’t want to release nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine until its president carried out Trump’s political bidding.

Hannity’s performance illustrates how preposterously weak Trump’s defenses have become, and how heavily they depend on insulating Trump’s extraordinary corruption, and the lies justifying it, from contrary facts and legitimate outside scrutiny.

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