Must Read Op-Ed and Profiles


#261

Another Op-Ed piece from the NYT’s Editorial Board on why we don’t need Matthew Whitaker. Seems to ring true to many of us, doesn’t it?!

The reason Mr. Trump replaced Mr. Sessions with Mr. Whitaker seems clear. When The Daily Caller, a conservative news website, asked Mr. Trump last week for his thoughts about the man now running the Justice Department, the president volunteered, “As far as I’m concerned, this is an investigation that should have never been brought. It should have never been had. It’s something that should have never been brought. It’s an illegal investigation.”

Mr. Whitaker is an avowed antagonist of Mr. Mueller — he has called the investigation a witch hunt, said Mr. Mueller’s team should not investigate Mr. Trump’s finances and suggested that an attorney general could slash the special counsel’s budget.

As if concerns about the Constitution, the law and Mr. Whitaker’s judgment weren’t enough, the broader picture that has emerged about Mr. Whitaker is even more disturbing. He has expressed skepticism toward Marbury v. Madison, the landmark case that established the concept of judicial review; he would support the confirmation of federal judges who hold “a biblical view of justice”; he may have prosecuted a political opponent for improper reasons when he was a federal prosecutor in Iowa; and then there’s the fiasco of his business involvement with a company accused of scamming customers that is being investigated by the F.B.I.

Justice Department regulations governing the day-to-day operations of the special counsel’s office allow for Mr. Whitaker to be read in on many of its inner workings, including that the acting attorney general be given “an explanation for any investigative or prosecutorial step” that Mr. Mueller decides to take. So there is nothing to keep Mr. Whitaker from being the president’s eyes and ears inside the most closely guarded investigation in the history of American politics.

On Thursday morning, the president rage-tweeted that Mr. Mueller was a “highly conflicted” person, leading a legal team that is “a total mess.” “They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want,” Mr. Trump wrote.


(Renee) #262

Bullet point #3… is that the Masculine Toilet? Sheesh… and here it was just me thinking if you could look up dickhead in the dictionary his picture would be next to the defination.


(Renee) #263

sorry definition…


#264

Pulitzer prize winning Washington Post writer Eugene Robinson has never particularly liked T, but this Op-Ed goes FULL THROTTLE on him.

We are at a turning point, in fact waaaay past it for 3/5th’s of the country, who can not stand this man, and see a mad man telling lies, insulting our vaunted military personnel, and avoiding his commitments as Commander-in-Chief.

And we’re hearing a lot of “Come January…Democrats will…” and January can not come too soon. :statue_of_liberty:

Read on…

Like a television show that has jumped the shark, President Trump’s frantic act grows more desperate and pathetic by the day.

Asked by Chris Wallace of “Fox News Sunday” to grade his presidency, Trump absurdly replied: “Look, I hate to do it, but I will do it, I would give myself an A-plus. Is that enough? Can I go higher than that?”

Much closer to the mark is the assessment by Republican lawyer and operative George Conway, the husband of one of Trump’s closest White House aides, counselor Kellyanne Conway: “The administration is like a s—show in a dumpster fire.

No wonder that multiple news reports describe the president as angry, frustrated and even less rational than usual. He has neglected his ceremonial duties, declining to join other world leaders at a ceremony in France commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I and failing to lay a wreath at Arlington National Ceremony for Veterans Day.

I probably, you know, in retrospect I should have, and I did last year,” Trump told Wallace about going to Arlington. Fact check: He didn’t. On Veterans Day 2017, Trump was in Vietnam.

It is mystifying why Trump, at a moment when he should be licking his wounds, seems intent on alienating veterans and the military. In that same interview with Wallace, who generally managed to keep a straight face, Trump went out of his way to attack retired Adm. William H. McRaven, who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Republicans who might be inclined to sign up for another season of Trump’s fading reality show should pause and take stock. There should be no doubt, at this point, that the man is a giant loser who will drag the GOP down with him.

I wasn’t on the ballot,” he whined to Wallace. But he spent weeks on the campaign trail, begging supporters to vote as if he were. At almost every stop, he said that a vote for the GOP candidate would be “a vote for me.” The result? Millions more voted against Trump than for him. And this was just a warm-up for 2020.

Trump has already robbed the GOP of any coherent philosophy. The party that once supported the military now abuses it as a scapegoat. The party that once stood for fiscal responsibility now manages the nation’s finances in a manner that drunken sailors would find imprudent. The party that once claimed to champion personal rectitude and Christian morality now winks at payoffs to paramours and porn stars. The party that once valued order now celebrates Sybaritic chaos.

Come January, a Democratic House will begin performing the oversight duties that Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) neglected. Does anyone believe that proper scrutiny of, say, the Trump family’s international business dealings is likely to improve the president’s political standing? I don’t.

In the Churchillian sense, the midterm election was the “end of the beginning.” My understanding is that rats tend to leave a sinking ship.


#265

Wes Clark - retired 4-star General, former NATO commander

I served under 8 commanders in chief. Trump doesn’t grasp the role.

@GenClark

The problems with @realdonaldtrump’s tenure as Commander in Chief go beyond just his petty insults of those who served. On almost every level, Donald Trump just does not “get it” when it comes to leading our military and veterans. My op-ed: https://t.co/0muGouwj6C


#266

The CIA’s announcement that it knows the MBS did in fact call for the murder of Khashoggi was meant to put a wedge between the T Admin and the Saudi’s. Other countries, Germany in particular have taken the stance of not selling arms to them, and now internally, Republican (T lacky and flip-flopper) Lindsay Graham now believes we should have nothing to do with MBS.

Some thoughts on what impact this may have…

There are some parallels with the Khashoggi murder. Officials, including President Donald Trump himself, seem keen to shield Prince Mohammed, better known as MBS, on the grounds that he is crucial to the administration’s ambitions in the Middle East, and especially to the confrontation with Iran. An investigation in Riyadh has pointed to senior Saudi officials, including a close MBS aide. But on this occasion, the CIA has taken a few weeks to finger the prince himself for the killing of the Washington Post columnist.

This tells us a few things. First, the CIA must be sure it has powerful evidence of the prince’s alleged responsibility — tapes and phone intercepts included. Second, the agency must believe that MBS isn’t essential to American security interests in the region. Had the spies agreed with the president’s assessment, it is unlikely they would have leaked their conclusion of MBS’s guilt. This is significant because the CIA works closely with its Saudi counterparts, and would not have made such a determination lightly. And third, the CIA is determined not to be involved in a shabby cover-up.

What now? Despite Trump’s efforts to equivocate about the CIA’s conclusion (“Who can really know?” he said in a Fox News interview) MBS’s name is now firmly in the frame. In Congress, there is a growing bipartisan clamor for action against the prince. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, long a vocal supporter of Saudi Arabia and a leading candidate to lead the Senate judiciary committee, has declared MBS “unhinged,” and has promised punitive measures. If the congressmen take their outrage to its natural conclusion, they could demand that the Trump administration’s sanctions on 17 Saudi nationals over the Khashoggi murder be extended to MBS himself.

With the CIA and Congress now of one mind on MBS, other governments might feel emboldened to take action as well. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already suspended arms sales to Saudi Arabia and made her opinion known directly to MBS’s father, King Salman bin Abdulaziz. Germany has also said it will bar 18 Saudis from entry, citing their alleged links to the Khashoggi murder. Expect more sanctions from Europe.

There will undoubtedly be other, more unpredictable consequences of the CIA’s assessment of MBS’s responsibility. Unlike General Pinochet, the prince doesn’t have America’s spies in his corner.

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-11-20/america-s-cia-won-t-let-donald-trump-shield-mbs-over-khashoggi


#267

Op Ed by the publisher of the Washington Post on WTF T is doing giving a ‘pass’ to MBS when we know from CIA that Kashoggi’s death was planned and oked by MBS.

Fred Ryan is publisher and chief executive of The Washington Post. He served as assistant to President Ronald Reagan.

A clear and dangerous message has been sent to tyrants around the world: Flash enough money in front of the president of the United States, and you can literally get away with murder.

In a bizarre, inaccurate and rambling statement — one offering a good reminder why Twitter has character limits — President Trump whitewashed the Saudi government’s brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In the process, the president maligned a good and innocent man, tarring Khashoggi as an “enemy of the state” — a label the Saudis themselves have not used publicly — while proclaiming to the world that Trump’s relationship with Saudi Arabia’s 33-year-old crown prince was too important to risk over the murder of a journalist. Whatever objections people may have to our turning a blind eye to Khashoggi’s assassination, the president argued, they do not outweigh the (grossly inflated) revenue we can expect from U.S.-Saudi arms deals.

For many at The Post, Khashoggi’s murder is personal. He was a well-respected colleague, and his loss is deeply felt. But we are also mindful of our mission of public service. When officials here in Washington abandon the principles that the people elected them to uphold, it is our duty to call attention to it. For our part, we will continue to do everything possible to expose the truth — asking tough questions and relentlessly chasing down facts to bring crucial evidence to light.

Throughout this crisis, the president has maintained that he’s looking after our “national interests.” But Trump’s response doesn’t advance the United States’ interests — it betrays them. It places the dollar values of commercial deals above the long-cherished American values of respecting liberty and human rights. And it places personal relationships above the United States’ strategic relationships. For more than 60 years, the U.S.-Saudi partnership has been an important one based on trust and respect; Trump has determined that the United States no longer requires honesty and shared values from its global partners.

Security, as Trump noted in his statement, is an important U.S. interest. But we do not make the world safer by setting a double standard for diplomacy under which the United States abandons our values for anyone who offers to buy enough of our weapons.

We do not make the world safer by abandoning our commitment to basic freedoms and human rights. Under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has committed atrocities that, if perpetrated by other countries, would draw a strong rebuke from the United States. Its intervention in Yemen has created a humanitarian disaster. Female activists have been imprisoned and brutalized simply for demanding the right to drive. Inconvenient Saudi business leaders were tortured inside a Ritz-Carlton hotel. Lebanon’s prime minister was kidnapped. The crown prince, in the role for barely 17 months, has led a reign of terror and has already established a dark legacy of opposing press freedom.

Failing to demand accountability for these crimes does not make the United States more secure. Stable, peaceful societies, governed by leaders who respect the rights of their people, need journalists who can expose wrongdoing and hold the powerful to account. It is no mere coincidence that many of the worst abusers of press freedom are also some of the world’s most dangerous actors.

The CIA has thoroughly investigated Khashoggi’s murder and concluded with high confidence that it was directed by the crown prince. If there is reason to ignore the CIA’s findings, the president should immediately make that evidence public.

In the absence of such evidence, and given this failure of leadership from Trump, it now falls to Congress to truly put America first by standing up for America’s sacred values and lasting interests. As we’ve seen from the strong support of both Republicans and Democrats, this is not a partisan or political interest; it is an American interest. Congress should demand more than scapegoating and slaps on the wrist. Instead, it should use its investigative and subpoena powers to press for an independent, thorough inquiry — no matter where it leads. It should use its power of the purse and authority to regulate foreign commerce to impose effective penalties on Khashoggi’s murderers and suspend the sale of U.S.-made weapons to the Saudis.

Presidents from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan — and many before and after — took courageous stands for human rights and press freedom when much more than weapons sales were at risk. Through these acts of presidential leadership, the world has come to know that America’s power is derived from America’s principles.

On Thanksgiving Day, Americans can be grateful that we live under a Constitution that ensures the rule of law rather than the rule of one capricious man, and that it enables one branch of government to correct the failure of another. We are eternally thankful for the brave men and women whose military service has long preserved those rights, and for the courage of first responders who are there to protect us when disasters strike at home.

We can also be thankful that we have a vibrant press, protected by the First Amendment, that relentlessly seeks to hold the powerful to account. We can trust that they will fulfill this mission in the case of Jamal Khashoggi. This pursuit of truth and justice is what an innocent man, brutally slain, deserves — and what America’s real values demand.


#268

President Donald Trump has thus far had a very different experience. For the past two years, Republican control of Congress has protected him from the public exposure Nixon and his staff had to endure. Now that the Democrats have taken back the House, the Trump administration will face a challenge from which it has been immune thus far: a far-reaching, aggressive, and highly public investigation of the kind that brought down Nixon.

Trump’s approval ratings stand at 40 percent overall and 89 percent among Republicans. In September 2017, we wrote, “It is tough for a special prosecutor alone to bring down an administration. That feat is more readily accomplished in the court of public opinion, where an opposition-led Congress can rain hellfire and brimstone upon a troubled presidency.”


#269

Just came across this remarkable info-graphic about the U.S.-Mexico border. It allows you to “fly” the entire length of the border and pick up facts about the geography and border crossing points along the way.

My biggest takeaway: While making the “virtual flight,” it really sinks in that most of the border is comprised of vast tracts of empty land. What a criminal waste of taxes to build a wall across thousands of miles of desolation when air and vehicle patrols combined with high-tech sensors would be much more effective. Inevitably there will be debates about the need for barriers in urban locales, but that should be a separate discussion – when it comes to the wide open areas crossed by the border, there can be absolutely no doubt that building a wall in those regions is just plain stupid.


#270

Republicans and conservative media did their best Thursday to give the impression that the latest revelations in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation pose little threat to the administration and their party. But the signs are clear that there’s one person who isn’t buying this story: President Donald Trump.

The president tried to brush off the news Thursday morning that Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about efforts to build a Trump Tower Moscow with Kremlin officials. Cohen said he did so out of loyalty to the president. In response to this plea, Trump called Cohen a “liar” and “weak.”

Whenever threatened, it’s Trump’s instinct to lash out. But this attack made little sense.

Cohen is admitting that he lied — and now he says he’s telling the truth. Meanwhile, Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani is saying that the president’s answers about Trump Tower Moscow given to Mueller “match” Cohen’s. But if that’s true (which is highly doubtful), then that means it’s the Trump team’s official position that Cohen is being honest now when he gives his account of the Trump Tower Moscow project — which means he was lying to Congress earlier, at a time when he was still working for Trump and serving his interests. So in their desperation to respond to this story, the Trump team is providing incoherent and damaging answers.

And after the news broke about Cohen’s guilty plea, Trump left for Argentina to attend the G-20 summit. He had had plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the summit, but announced on the Twitter that he was canceling those plans because of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine. Many argued it was more likely that he was avoiding the bad optics of meeting with Putin in the light of the new developments in the probe.

Trump later also canceled formal meetings with South Korea and Turkey — suggesting he is truly scrambling. Clearly, the latest Mueller news is not sitting well with Trump.

Michelle Kosinski, a CNN diplomatic correspondent, reported on Twitter that a source told her Trump was in a “terrible mood” and “spooked and completely distracted”.


#271

Charles M Blow makes some excellent points in his column this week.

Nixon had no propaganda arm. Trump has one. It’s called Fox News. There is little daylight between the network’s programming and the White House’s priorities. If Trump goes down, so too does Fox, in some measure. So the network has a vested interest in defending Trump until the bitter end, and that narrative-crafting could impede an otherwise natural and normal disaffection with Trump.

Furthermore, Trump does not strike me as a man amenable to contrition or one interested in the health and stability of the nation.

I expect Trump to admit nothing, even if faced with proof positive of his own misconduct. There is nothing in the record to convince me otherwise. He will call the truth a lie and vice versa.

I also don’t think that Trump would ever voluntarily leave office as Nixon did, even if he felt impeachment was imminent. I’m not even sure that he would willingly leave if he were impeached and the Senate moved to convict, a scenario that is hard to imagine at this point.

I don’t think any of this gets better, even as the evidence becomes clearer. I don’t believe that Trump’s supporters would reverse course in the same way that Nixon’s did. I don’t believe that the facts Mueller presents will be considered unassailable. I don’t believe Trump will go down without bringing the country down with him.

In short, I don’t believe we are reaching the end of a nightmare, but rather we are entering one. This will not get easier, but harder.

The country is about to enter the crucible. This test of our republic is without a true comparison. And we do not have a clear picture of how the test will resolve. But, I believe damage is certain.


#272

Well, this explains why Putin and Salman are high-fiving each other. They own a mole and a sycophant in Trump’s inner-circle at the White House. It also explains why Trump has been so soft on the Saudi’s heinous torture and dismemberment of Khashoggi. Hard to stay mad at a guy who’s BFF with your favorite daughter’s husband.

Senior American officials were worried. Since the early months of the Trump administration, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, had been having private, informal conversations with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the favorite son of Saudi Arabia’s king.

Given Mr. Kushner’s political inexperience, the private exchanges could make him susceptible to Saudi manipulation, said three former senior American officials. In an effort to tighten practices at the White House, a new chief of staff tried to reimpose longstanding procedures stipulating that National Security Council staff members should participate in all calls with foreign leaders.

But even with the restrictions in place, Mr. Kushner, 37, and Prince Mohammed, 33, kept chatting, according to three former White House officials and two others briefed by the Saudi royal court. In fact, they said, the two men were on a first-name basis, calling each other Jared and Mohammed in text messages and phone calls.

The exchanges continued even after the Oct. 2 killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was ambushed and dismembered by Saudi agents, according to two former senior American officials and the two people briefed by the Saudis.

And so on, and so on. Appalling. How many of our nation’s vital secrets has Kushner leaked to Salman who has then passed them to Putin? Hard to imagine it isn’t happening in light of these revelations.


#273

Good point @Keaton_James …Jared only was able to shore up that 666 Fifth Ave debt in the last 6 months…and his security clearance was not fully cleared until perhaps the same last 7 months. But we know that Kushner was digging into a lot of top secret intel, and I believe he was all to happy to pass it along as you say. This more than suspicious alliance with MBS is very disheartening…aligning himself with power and money sources, despite MBS’s immoral character.

Same can be applied to the Chinese…with Jared being very friendly with Wendi Deng, who is Chinese and the ex-wife of Murdoch.

Early in 2017 US officials urged Kushner, who is a senior adviser to the US president, to exercise caution around Murdoch, according to the Wall Street Journal. Murdoch is a close friend of Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump.

Concerns were raised by US officials about a counter-intelligence assessment that Murdoch was lobbying for a high-profile construction project in Washington funded by the Chinese government, anonymous sources told the US paper.

Wendi Deng Murdoch is former wife of Rupert Murdoch, who owns the Wall Street Journal.

The construction project was a proposed $100m (£73m) Chinese garden, which was reportedly declared a national security risk because the design included plans for a tall tower that officials were concerned could be used for surveillance. The garden was planned to be built less than five miles from both the Capitol and the White House.


#274

Here it comes…a plea from former Senators, albeit mostly Democratic are sending out a SOS for the current Senate to take heed and protect our democracy. They are asking them to stand up and fight for it.

Opinion

We are former senators. The Senate has long stood in defense of democracy — and must again.

Dear Senate colleagues,

As former members of the U.S. Senate, Democrats and Republicans, it is our shared view that we are entering a dangerous period, and we feel an obligation to speak up about serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security.

We are on the eve of the conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and the House’s commencement of investigations of the president and his administration. The likely convergence of these two events will occur at a time when simmering regional conflicts and global power confrontations continue to threaten our security, economy and geopolitical stability.

It is a time, like other critical junctures in our history, when our nation must engage at every level with strategic precision and the hand of both the president and the Senate.

We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld.

During our service in the Senate, at times we were allies and at other times opponents, but never enemies. We all took an oath swearing allegiance to the Constitution. Whatever united or divided us, we did not veer from our unwavering and shared commitment to placing our country, democracy and national interest above all else.

At other critical moments in our history, when constitutional crises have threatened our foundations, it has been the Senate that has stood in defense of our democracy. Today is once again such a time.

Regardless of party affiliation, ideological leanings or geography, as former members of this great body, we urge current and future senators to be steadfast and zealous guardians of our democracy by ensuring that partisanship or self-interest not replace national interest.

Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), Richard Bryan (D-Nev.), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), Max Cleland (D-Ga.), William Cohen (R-Maine), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Al D’Amato (R-N.Y.), John C. Danforth (R-Mo.), Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), David Durenberger (R-Minn.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Wyche Fowler (D-Ga.), Bob Graham (D-Fla.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Gary Hart (D-Colo.), Bennett Johnston (D-La.), Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Paul Kirk (D-Mass.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), Larry Pressler (R-S.D.), David Pryor (D-Ark.), Don Riegle (D-Mich.), Chuck Robb (D-Va.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.), Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), John W. Warner (R-Va.), Lowell Weicker (I-Conn.), Tim Wirth (D-Colo.)