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#361

Interesting interview with former US Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul about his views on the Mueller Report.

Foreign Policy: What’s your overall response to what you’ve read and heard about the Mueller report?

Michael McFaul: I have a couple of reactions. I’ve been skimming, so I haven’t read every word closely yet. One, on the part I’m most interested in, Volume I [which deals with Russia and collusion], I’m impressed by the level of detail and comprehensiveness that Mueller and his team have provided us on what the Russians did.

On the principal two operations—the IRA [Russia’s Internet Research Agency] and the GRU operation against the DNC [Democratic National Committee] and [Hillary Clinton campaign chairman] John Podesta—I think that should be celebrated by everyone both for what he [Mueller] did but also what our intelligence community is capable of doing.

My second reaction is this is only a partial investigation of what happened in 2016. The full investigation of everything that the Russians did, and more importantly what we as a government did or did not do, was not part of Mueller’s mandates. So I have questions about many other things that he didn’t cover. And the biggest piece Mueller left out, of course, is now what do we do as a country to prevent this in the future? Two or three years ago, some of us were arguing that we needed a bipartisan commission, not unlike what we had after 9/11, to look at everything that happened—including the Obama administration, by the way, and the social media companies, and the media itself—and this not that.

FP: Can you be more specific about what you think the special counsel didn’t cover?

MM: One is when they look at IRA, they’re looking at a very specific operation by one entity in Russia, but they’re not looking at general behavior by Russian actors on social media platforms that also have an impact. How do you somehow discern that one entity was important in meddling and the other one was not. … The other piece was Russia media itself. RT, Sputnik … what impact did they have? We don’t have any assessment of that. I’d like to know more about that. Third, they do this in an indirect way in talking about the meetings but I was hoping we would learn more about the Russian strategy for engagement with all these people, and was it an attempt to influence the outcome of the elections? … To me that’s one more piece of Putin’s playbook, and it’s not just about conspiracy with the Russians.

And then the money part feels incomplete. There were all kinds of hypotheses about Russian money [laundering] floated about last couple of years, and I don’t feel that somebody’s tied a bow under that. … I expected there would be more discussion of that. The money trail is the most important part of the unanswered questions. Were these just innocent transactions, or were these done by Russian proxies to gain influence?

FP: Referring to Russian investment in Trump Organization businesses and buildings?

MM: Yeah. But not only. And then one other thing—and this is not Mueller’s fault—it’s just the policy part. What were the Russians doing in those 21 states—and why did they choose not to be disruptive on election day, even though they had capacity to do so?


#362

After reading the report and taking some time to reflect, I believe the national security implications revealed by the report indicate that in order to remove the threat we have a national duty to begin impeachment proceedings. I’ve been thinking a lot about the theory of obstruction being part of collusion and the attempted cover-up by Barr and the only thing I can conclude is that we’re still witnessing Obstruction of Justice.

At no time has the AG or the President offered statements or actions that would indicate that the Russian threat has been nullified or that preventive measures will be enacted. As far as I can tell the President shows no interest in protecting our election process and campaigns from interference or attacks by foreign actors.

The Mueller report isn’t actually close to a full account of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller. That’s not just because of the redactions. When he was hired, Mr. Mueller inherited supervision of an F.B.I. counterintelligence investigation. That is the missing piece of the Mueller report.

President Trump may claim “exoneration” on a narrowly defined criminal coordination charge. But a counterintelligence investigation can yield something even more important: an intelligence assessment of how likely it is that someone — in this case, the president — is acting, wittingly or unwittingly, under the influence of or in collaboration with a foreign power. Was Donald Trump a knowing or unknowing Russian asset, used in some capacity to undermine our democracy and national security?

The public Mueller report alone provides enough evidence to worry that America’s own national security interests may not be guiding American foreign policy.

The counterintelligence investigation is not necessarily complete, but from the glimpses we see in the Mueller report, it should set off very serious national security alarm bells.

Update:
It seems foolish that we keep these people in office because we didn’t have enough evidence to charge them with a federal felony for coordinating with Russian spies. The Mueller report shows they are already compromised and have been trying to cover it up in public for over two years.


#363

Here is, as Bill Barr might call it, “the bottom line”: The Mueller Report describes, in excruciating detail and with relatively few redactions, a candidate and a campaign aware of the existence of a plot by a hostile foreign government to criminally interfere in the U.S. election for the purpose of supporting that candidate’s side. It describes a candidate and a campaign who welcomed the efforts and delighted in the assistance. It describes a candidate and a campaign who brazenly and serially lied to the American people about the existence of the foreign conspiracy and their contacts with it. And yet, it does not find evidence to support a charge of criminal conspiracy, which requires not just a shared purpose but a meeting of the minds.

Here is the other bottom line: The Mueller Report describes a president who, on numerous occasions, engaged in conduct calculated to hinder a federal investigation. It finds ample evidence that at least a portion of that conduct met all of the statutory elements of criminal obstruction of justice. In some of the instances in which all of the statutory elements of obstruction are met, the report finds no persuasive constitutional or factual defenses. And yet, it declines to render a judgment on whether the president has committed a crime.

Now, the House must decide what to do with these facts. If it wants to actually confront the substance of the report, it will introduce a resolution to begin an impeachment inquiry.


#364

Thx for posting…want to read Benjamin Wittes’ takes…just noticed now how much he has written on this. Morning read.


#365

Me too. I’m running catch up on my other feeds and pods. I blocked out all Op-Ed from Tuesday’s night until last night. I really wanted to inform my own opinion and get some distance from the groupthink. I feel very relieved to read these stories today.


#366

This WaPo editorial by Ronald Klain was an uncomfortable read for me, but I’m now admitting to myself that it expresses how my assessment of Mueller has changed since he finished his report.

While Klain is critical of Mueller, he also admonishes House Democrats to continue a vigorous investigation of Trump. Absolutely! I feel let down by Mueller, but I’m even more discouraged by what I sense to be a weak response by many Democrats. We gave you a majority so you would fight for us. Damn the torpedoes – full speed ahead! Now, more than ever, we must uncover the truth about Trump’s financial and political connections to Putin’s inner-circle of Russian oligarchs – and we must relentlessly pursue investigations in the areas of money laundering, tax evasion, banking fraud, and insurance fraud for which the nation has seen abundant probable cause.

Robert S. Mueller III is a distinguished public servant. But his much-anticipated report comes up short in many respects, and Democrats made a mistake to put so much confidence in it as the touchstone of accountability for President Trump and his campaign.

Congress’s choice to “wait for Mueller” before pressing an investigation of Trump wrongly elevated a report that was always — by design — going to use a narrow aperture and a very specific standard to examine the events of 2016 and their aftermath. As a result, some Democrats on Capitol Hill are foolishly pointing to the report as a rationale for not pursuing a thorough investigation of the president and his team — a letdown for democracy resulting from a misguided buildup of Mueller.

The oft-repeated wisdom that Mueller “knew things we did not know” turned out to be vastly overestimated. Many of Trump’s worst acts — his encouragement of Russia to illegally spy on his opponent; his repeated use of materials stolen by foreign intelligence assets as fodder for the campaign; the firings, inducements and intimidations to shut down investigations — were all known; the anticipation that Mueller still had “a smoking gun” in his pocket unfortunately normalized the ghastly things that were already public. It turns out — thanks to a combination of ongoing indictments and brilliant journalism — we had Mueller’s key findings months ago; their public release was more reprise than reveal.

But if expectations were too high for Mueller’s report, the inevitable disappointment was exacerbated by how Mueller fell short in what he delivered.

This starts with his failure to get Trump to answer questions in person. There was ample precedent for insisting on such an interview: Bill Clinton testified before a grand jury in the Whitewater investigation; George W. Bush submitted to an interview with special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald about the Valerie Plame matter. In this case, with uncertainty about what the president knew about his son Donald Trump Jr.’s coordination with foreign hackers and meddlers; with the president at the center of lies about dealings and meetings with Russians; and with doubts about why the president did so many things to try to derail Mueller’s probe — commonly seen as indications of guilt — why didn’t Mueller press harder to question the president directly?

Some have argued that Mueller did not question Trump because it is common for prosecutors not to question targets of their probes; others suggest that it was because Mueller believed that Trump would assert his Fifth Amendment rights. But Mueller’s report does not offer either of these rationales — and if the sitting president’s intent was to take the Fifth, that should have been put on the record.

Instead, Mueller only offers the wan explanation that — by the time he formally asked for an interview with Trump (Dec. 3, 2018) — he already had “substantial evidence” about the events being investigated, and therefore, “the costs of potentially lengthy constitutional litigation, with resulting delay in finishing our investigation, [outweighed] . . . the anticipated benefits for our investigation and report.”

This reflects two mistakes of historic proportion. First, by delaying the question of Trump’s interview until month 19 of his tenure, Mueller allowed Trump to run out the clock — a grave tactical error. And second, in an investigation of this public import, getting “substantial evidence” but not the word of the president himself fails to fulfill the special responsibility of a special counsel. In a run-of-the-mill criminal case, a prosecutor’s decision to bypass questioning a difficult figure might make sense; when we are seeking to learn whether a presidential candidate worked with a hostile foreign power to win an election, the public deserves to have that candidate answer questions under oath.

Finally, some of Mueller’s other decisions should be publicly debated. His determination not to bring campaign finance charges against Trump Jr. for soliciting foreign assistance to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been blasted by one of the foremost election law experts, as it turned on a curious view that Mueller could not prove the value of the assistance Russians dangled in front of Trump Jr., and that a prosecution for solicitation of foreign election assistance raised “First Amendment concerns.”

Most important, Mueller’s decision not to also bring charges against Trump Jr. — a private citizen, not protected by any Justice Department policy against prosecution — for conspiring with WikiLeaks (either as a violation of campaign finance laws or other statutes) remains a mystery given the extensive evidence of direct interactions between Trump Jr. and the WikiLeaks team. It is this Mueller decision — which enabled Trump’s “no collusion” boast — that merits the greatest scrutiny in the days ahead.

In sum, Mueller has served our country well for decades and deserves respect. But he might not have met the full measure of his duty in this latest assignment. If Congress allows his report to be the last word about accountability for the president and his people, it will fail its duty as well.


#367

Tim Ryan is not yet calling for impeachment, but it sounds like he is warming up to it. (BTW, Ryan is a Democrat – CNN erroneously identifies him as a Republican in the above link.)

Ryan pulls no punches when he accuses the President of obstruction of justice. He’s very specific and even speaks to “intent” – he doesn’t actually use that word, but he says Trump took actions that White House legal counsel warned would constitute obstruction – it’s my understanding that acting in this way establishes “intent” which is an important part of proving obstruction. Ryan also accuses the President of directing people to lie to the public, to lawyers, and to Congress.

Most telling to me is that Ryan encourages Nadler to pursue the investigation of Trump and that Nadler is one of the “smartest guys in the United States Congress.”

I’m encouraged by Ryan’s remarks regarding obstruction, but come on, Democrats, get it together and start building momentum for impeachment!


#368

If you need a boost, check out this one-minute video. Based on what Bharara says, I’m convinced Trump will face prosecution for multiple crimes once he leaves office.

Now if Congress would just boot him out office before 2020 that process could be accelerated… :balance_scale:


#369

I’m feeling the need to fire it up too ffs! This podcast episode linked below was good for me to sort thru the mush in my brain, it helped to hear someone put into words what I was feeling/thinking but couldn’t express.

This is the latest episode of Gaslit Nation podcast hosted by Sarah Kendzior and Andrea chalupa. There are quite a few places this could go but decided it felt right to place in the op-eds since these ladies are bringing their :fire: in opinion form. I like how they add in Action Section to give a list of possible ways to get involved, that part was new.

Couple paraphrased highlights in case you’d rather not listen altho i do recommend getting into their firehose flow of information and (mostly) reigned in anger, it goes by fast (not just bc i have my app set to 1.5x speed lol) and they go carefully thru the timeline and bring their various points to a final big picture which helps keep me sane sorting my own thoughts.

  • the point of impeachment is not to worry that it will get hung up by R-controlled senate, of course it fucking won’t pass there. But indictments and investigations from Congress will bring to light more information and draw connections btwn the puzzle pieces for public consumption on a GLOBAL scale, which has the added benefit of helping tarnish the drumpf brand he thinks he can spread all over everywhere
  • Speaker Pelosi is an intelligent, savvy badass and I really respect her but I also agree with Kendzior that her saying “he’s not important enuf to impeach” meant that the ppl being affected (kids in cages, broken laws, LGBTQ+, people of color, women, etc etc etc were the ones who didn’t matter, aren’t worth fighting for

  • we need nazi hunters (the female whistleblowers who have come forward so far, and also politicians calling for impeachment, at least in this post-Mueller Report scenario), not institutionalists (like Robert Mueller, whose Report speaks for itself)

  • to ppl saying “vote him out;” these two hosts (and experts in authoritarian states) do not have high confidence that there will be a free and fair election, or, even if there is, he might very well not cede power and leave. (I thought this was ridiculous at first then it just keeps hitting me that every time I think “surely THIS will be the bottom…” it is indeed fucking not.) But we’re got to keep trying and fighting, and the best way forward is starting impeachment hearings.

  • drumpf and crew actually LOVE being caught breaking laws so they can flaunt that they’re getting away with it — it’s the investigations (LIKE THE STAIN OF IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS) and consequences they fear (but very few have really had to face much this far)

Yes, we know drumpfs base will support him no matter what, and all the same ole shit we’ve been dealing with these past two years. I am aware of all the stumbling blocks and broken laws and all the yadas yadas yadas.

First “they” said it was too soon to impeach, wait for Mueller he will save us (pfffft lol), and now “they” say it’s too late and will affect the 2020 election. That smells like a ginormous pile of bullshit, I don’t really know what else to say about that.

But the Mueller report, as frustrating as it was, at least was a clear roadmap and a punt towards Congress and they have to FUCKING GET THEIR SHIT TOGETHER AND MOVE ON IMPEACHMENT.

(And now I’m gonna tell ya how I REALLY feel lol.)


#370

I’m going to have to give Comey a :100: on this Op-Ed

People have been asking me hard questions. What happened to the leaders in the Trump administration, especially the attorney general, Bill Barr, who I have said was due the benefit of the doubt?

How could Mr. Barr, a bright and accomplished lawyer, start channeling the president in using words like “no collusion” and F.B.I. “spying”? And downplaying acts of obstruction of justice as products of the president’s being “frustrated and angry,” something he would never say to justify the thousands of crimes prosecuted every day that are the product of frustration and anger?

How could he write and say things about the report by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, that were apparently so misleading that they prompted written protest from the special counsel himself?

How could Mr. Barr go before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and downplay President Trump’s attempt to fire Mr. Mueller before he completed his work?

And how could Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, after the release of Mr. Mueller’s report that detailed Mr. Trump’s determined efforts to obstruct justice, give a speech quoting the president on the importance of the rule of law? Or on resigning, thank a president who relentlessly attacked both him and the Department of Justice he led for “the courtesy and humor you often display in our personal conversations”?

What happened to these people?

I don’t know for sure. People are complicated, so the answer is most likely complicated. But I have some idea from four months of working close to Mr. Trump and many more months of watching him shape others.

Amoral leaders have a way of revealing the character of those around them. Sometimes what they reveal is inspiring. For example, James Mattis, the former secretary of defense, resigned over principle, a concept so alien to Mr. Trump that it took days for the president to realize what had happened, before he could start lying about the man.

But more often, proximity to an amoral leader reveals something depressing. I think that’s at least part of what we’ve seen with Bill Barr and Rod Rosenstein. Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from. It takes character like Mr. Mattis’s to avoid the damage, because Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites.

It starts with your sitting silent while he lies, both in public and private, making you complicit by your silence. In meetings with him, his assertions about what “everyone thinks” and what is “obviously true” wash over you, unchallenged, as they did at our private dinner on Jan. 27, 2017, because he’s the president and he rarely stops talking. As a result, Mr. Trump pulls all of those present into a silent circle of assent.

Speaking rapid-fire with no spot for others to jump into the conversation, Mr. Trump makes everyone a co-conspirator to his preferred set of facts, or delusions. I have felt it — this president building with his words a web of alternative reality and busily wrapping it around all of us in the room.

I must have agreed that he had the largest inauguration crowd in history because I didn’t challenge that. Everyone must agree that he has been treated very unfairly. The web building never stops.

From the private circle of assent, it moves to public displays of personal fealty at places like cabinet meetings. While the entire world is watching, you do what everyone else around the table does — you talk about how amazing the leader is and what an honor it is to be associated with him.

Sure, you notice that Mr. Mattis never actually praises the president, always speaking instead of the honor of representing the men and women of our military. But he’s a special case, right? Former Marine general and all. No way the rest of us could get away with that. So you praise, while the world watches, and the web gets tighter.

Next comes Mr. Trump attacking institutions and values you hold dear — things you have always said must be protected and which you criticized past leaders for not supporting strongly enough. Yet you are silent. Because, after all, what are you supposed to say? He’s the president of the United States.

You feel this happening. It bothers you, at least to some extent. But his outrageous conduct convinces you that you simply must stay, to preserve and protect the people and institutions and values you hold dear. Along with Republican members of Congress, you tell yourself you are too important for this nation to lose, especially now.

You can’t say this out loud — maybe not even to your family — but in a time of emergency, with the nation led by a deeply unethical person, this will be your contribution, your personal sacrifice for America. You are smarter than Donald Trump, and you are playing a long game for your country, so you can pull it off where lesser leaders have failed and gotten fired by tweet.

Of course, to stay, you must be seen as on his team, so you make further compromises. You use his language, praise his leadership, tout his commitment to values.

And then you are lost. He has eaten your soul.


#371

The position that Dems find themselves in after a wholehearted endorsement by Barr of T’s innocence and T’s need to have the USA get past this Mueller investigation is quite a stalement. Dems can not do what they want to do, even with the fact that it is violating laws…and the President changing the narrative.

“But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.”

James Madison, Federalist No. 51

Mr. Madison’s plan for the survival of popular government was nowhere to be seen last week, as Republican members of Congress put their loyalty to a president of their own party ahead of their sworn duty to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

By abandoning the role the Constitution assigns them, to jealously defend the power of their branch of government against encroachments by other branches, Republicans in Congress surrender their duty, their power and their part in defending American democracy.

Ambition no longer counteracts ambition.

And for what?

To get themselves on the good side of a chief executive who is so clearly corrupt, engaging in obstruction, campaign and ethics violations, using the presidency as a cash cow for his personal business interests, who disrespects the separation of powers, freedom of the press, the rights of minorities and immigrants and our long-standing international alliances.

Some will look at the situation and argue that the Democrats are being as partisan in their questioning of the president and his attorney general as the Republicans are in their defense of both.

Maybe. But there can be no question that, at least in the matter that was before the Senate Judiciary Committee the other day, these blind squirrels have come upon a very large cache of nuts.

Senate Republicans, including Utah’s Mike Lee, spent the day feeding Attorney General William Barr softball questions and trying to make the case that there was nothing to see, there’s no collusion and no corruption and no obstruction of justice. Time to move along.

These are arguments that can only come from willful partisan ignorance of the facts as they are before us.

The report from special counsel Robert Mueller laid out a litany of fishy contacts during the campaign and acts by the new president that would have been obstruction of justice if anyone had carried out the president’s orders. Or if it were considered possible, as Justice Department guidelines faithfully followed by the Mueller team says it is not, to indict a sitting president.

Mueller’s handicap through all of this is that he is an honorable man who stands by the rule of law, operating in a city that is neither. Investigating a president through the federal grand jury system is difficult because prosecutors are used to assembling and presenting their evidence in secret and only making it public if there is an indictment — which triggers a process in which the accused is able to defend himself.

No indictment, because the president can’t be indicted, means no trial. Means no chance for the president to defend himself. Means it all gets packed up and delivered to the attorney general and then, maybe, to Congress and to the American people.

One bright spot in all of this — small but important — is the call from Utah’s other senator, Mitt Romney, for Congress to hear from Mueller directly. That is exactly what should happen, and soon.

It may be painful for the special counsel to publicly call out the attorney general for willfully misrepresenting — that is, lying about — the conclusions of his report and the underlying evidence.

But Mueller can handle it. Even if the Republicans in Congress cannot.


#372

Mr. Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, is a co-chairman of the Economic Security Project and a senior adviser at the Roosevelt Institute.

Mark’s influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government. He controls three core communications platforms — Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — that billions of people use every day. Facebook’s board works more like an advisory committee than an overseer, because Mark controls around 60 percent of voting shares. Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook’s algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive, and he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it.

Quit the Book! :fist:


#373

This Is a Constitutional Crisis, Act Like It.

In the face of an administration that is trying to amass dictatorial powers, Democrats need to bring to bear all the powers of their own. Trump’s outright rejection of congressional authority makes impeachment proceedings necessary, but even impeachment alone is not sufficient.

https://nyti.ms/2PXyuCN


#374

Yes QUIT THE BOOK.


#375

"The current state of the Department of Veterans Affairs is absolutely unacceptable,” presidential candidate Donald Trump said when speaking at a rally on Oct. 31, 2015, in front of the retired battleship USS Wisconsin in Norfolk, Va.

“Over 300,000 — and this is hard to believe, and it’s actually much more than that now — over 300,000 veterans died waiting for care,” said Trump.

Trump’s strong condemnation of the Obama administration’s handling of the backlog of hundreds of thousands of veteran benefits claims made him the overwhelming choice for many veteran voters in 2016.

But after two years in the White House, the Trump administration has decided to execute a plan to purge 200,000 applications for VA healthcare caused by known administrative errors within VA’s enrollment process and enrollment system — problems that had already been documented by the Office of the Inspector General in 2015 and 2017.

In purging this massive backlog of applications, the VA is declaring the applications to be incomplete due to errors by the applicants, despite the OIG findings and in violation of the promise Trump made to fix the system. This purge has the dual effect of letting the VA avoid the work of processing the applications and absolving the agency of any responsibility for veterans’ delayed access to health and disability benefits.

Disgraceful. Trump dodged the draft and then had the audacity to insult war heroes. Now he denies treatment to hundreds of thousands of veterans who were promised healthcare in return for serving their country. He just keeps on trashing his base. I hope they wake up by 2020.


#376

Must read profile on Papadopoulos

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/magazine/wp/2019/05/20/feature/the-surreal-life-of-george-papadopoulos

My favorite passage:

I had been through many potential narratives of Papadopoulos, but now a simple one was starting to emerge: that an ambitious young man with a strong desire to impress people had most likely embellished his way into a world of trouble, relaying common rumors (e.g., that the Russians had damaging information about Hillary Clinton) as firsthand information to people like Alexander Downer. If this theory was true, then Papadopoulos’s story wasn’t about how a vital campaign operative fell into traps laid by deep-state conspirators. It was about how, in a time of Trump-Russia hysteria, a minor player could set off global earthquakes because he wanted to look big.


#377

Some searing words from Maureen Dowd

“Well, I don’t know about the videos,” the president told reporters as he left on his trip to Japan.

“He does outrageous, nasty, destructive things, knowing full well he’s crossing a line, and then he pretends he didn’t,” said Trump biographer Tim O’Brien. “He has spent five decades going to gossip columnists, radio shows, TV interviews and newspapers to stick a knife into almost anybody who crosses his path that he doesn’t like and he revels in it. There is something amazing in the Energizer Bunny aspect of his nastiness and his ignorance. He doesn’t care what people think about how mean or dumb he is. He just keeps going.”

O’Brien said Pelosi “hit on something that is core to his con. His whole life is about the cover-up. He has covered up his academic record, his health reports, his dalliances with women, his finances, his family history. Even while he was saying he was the most transparent president in history, his Treasury secretary was across town telling Congress, ‘I’m not giving you the president’s tax returns.’

“One of the biggest motivating factors in Trump’s life — other than food, greed, sex and revenge — is mythmaking. Deep down, he knows he’s a pathological liar and he’s not the person he says he is. But any time anyone pierces that veil, it sends him into a rage.”

It’s wearing, not letting this petulant man wear us all out.


#378

@dragonfly9

Some searing words from Maureen Dowd

Dowd nailed it. My favorite lines:

There is something amazing in the Energizer Bunny aspect of his nastiness and his ignorance.

It’s wearing, not letting this petulant man wear us all out.


#379

Yes…it is all too bizarre, isn’t it? To see in words what this con man is and how he operates.

Thanks for the individual quotes - I just put them in bold! :100:


#380

This op-ed piece pulls no punches calling out the heartland for its hypocrisy.

Memo to all you “small government” conservatives in the farm states: Send back your latest federal subsidy checks.

Go on. Tell Donald Trump — and all us taxpayers — that you don’t want the money.

You don’t want it. Don’t need it. And, yes, don’t deserve it. If you can’t sell your products on the open market, isn’t that your problem?

After all, you’ve been railing for years against “runaway federal spending” and massive federal budget deficits. It’s time to put your money where your mouth is.

Or was all that Tea Party stuff just a big, fat lie?

Midwestern riches

The Ag Racket was in Washington on Thursday collecting another $16 billion of our money, courtesy of the man the farmers put in the White House. Apparently, it’s our job to compensate them for the effects of Trump’s policies. (Trump doled out $11 billion in “aid” last year.)

Don’t you just love these people? Farmers lean Republican by about three to one. Trump swept the farmland states by wide margins. He won Iowa by 10 percentage points, Kansas by 21 and Nebraska by 25.

You can hardly throw a soybean anywhere in the Midwest without hitting small-government conservatives who rail against government spending, bailouts, “welfare” and “socialism.”

But I guess it’s not “welfare” if you’re white.

They’re all in favor of “free markets” — at least for something simple, like, say, health insurance.

It’s when you start to deal with things that are really complex, like wheat or soybeans, that you need the government to step in.

Of course in a truly free market they’d respond to plunging prices by, er, planting something else. But, then, we’ll never know, will we?

Betting (on) the farm

It takes a lot of chutzpah to complain about poverty while making bigger returns than Wall Street.

But then, the Ag Racket has never been shy — at least when it comes to money.

The returns on farmland were a hefty 6.7% last year, according to the National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries (NCREIF).

How’d your 401(k) do? The S&P 500 Index of the biggest U.S. stocks dropped 7%.

But by all means, let’s tax the rest of us to help them out. Where’s that violin?

Farmland returns haven’t had a single negative year since at least the 1990s, according to NCREIF. Farmland was actually in the black in the year of the 9/11 attacks. They were up 15% in 2008, when the Lehman Brothers-induced stock-market crash wiped out half your savings.

This was no anomaly. Over 20 years, farmland has produced twice the average annual returns of the S&P 500: 12.4% versus 5.9%.

And $100 invested in U.S. farmland 20 years ago would be worth more than $1,000 today. The same amount in the U.S. stock market: Just over $300.

Farm revenues have doubled over that time, rising much faster than inflation.

Good for them, right? Well, sure. The laborer is worthy of the hire. Honest profits are a good thing.

Subsidies galore

But during that time they’ve been pocketing billions of subsidies from taxpayers. Since 1999 the direct payments alone have totaled an astonishing $370 billion in today’s money. That figure, incidentally, is straight from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

So if we have to compensate them when there’s a “trade war,” why did we have to compensate them when there isn’t one? And are we going to compensate everyone else too? Should the rest of us get federal credits when we buy a new iPhone?

No wonder Gladstone Land, a Virginia-based publicly traded farmland real estate investment trust, has actually risen during the past month — even while the rest of the stock market has slumped.

So much for the alleged trouble in “farm country.” The stock, a useful proxy for the farming industry, is up 45% including dividends since Donald Trump was elected.

The S&P 500: Just 30%.

Who should be subsidizing whom here?

Brett Arends is a MarketWatch columnist.