Saturday, May 27, 2017


Time to assess Trump's first overseas trip
Trump’s behavior at NATO summit makes a bad trip even worse
Trump Turns First Foreign Trip Into a Disaster
To our allies’ dismay, Donald Trump appears lost in Europe
The odd man out on the world stage

Undoing damage:
WH Official: Trump Said Germany Is ‘Very Bad On Trade,’ Not In General

The pix
Trump's ally-angering trip abroad, explained in 7 images

The pictures from Donald Trump’s romp through Europe, which show a long parade of political and spiritual leaders looking visibly uncomfortable in his presence or even snickering to themselves as he spoke, make the point more forcefully than a thousand think pieces: Most Europeans are horrified by the president. They cannot stand his ignorance or his bellicosity, his plebeian manners or the constant bragging about his wealth. And yet, for all of their loudly proclaimed indignation, the barely concealed secret is that Trump makes them, well, happy. In representing everything Europeans hate about America, Trump simultaneously confirms everything they want to believe about themselves . . . [read on]

Can you imagine Trump grabbing one of the Saudis and shoving him aside so he could get in front for a photo op?

Things he says
Trump Says His Trip to Europe Has Already Saved ‘Millions of Jobs’

Hmmm. Barack Obama made 52 overseas trips during his presidency, and employment climbed 12 million during the same period. That's about 200,000 jobs per trip. Trump says he's responsible for millions just in one trip. That's pretty remarkable, no? But Trump is a remarkable man.

I'm sure there's a PERFECTLY innocent explanation for this
"The Washington Post" citing US Officials briefed on intelligence reports reporting that Jared Kushner and Russia's ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak, discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump's transition team and the Kremlin using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration monitoring. According to the post, Ambassador Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications, and reportedly Kislyak was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate. . . .So it appears that Jared Kushner met with the Russian ambassador in secret, reportedly to set up a back channel possibly in Russian diplomatic facilities. Kushner then omitted this meeting on his SF-86 security clearance form. And when he was called on it months later in April of this year, his lawyers called it an error. But if Kislyak's account is accurate, how likely is it that Jared Kushner just forgot about a cloak and dagger meeting with a foreign agent to set up a secret back channel? How likely is it that his omission of that meeting to US Officials was simply an oversight? Jared Kushner could have read on the clearance form he filled out, that knowingly falsifying or concealing information is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
I’m still forming my opinions about what this means. But it makes all the most ominous reads about what is at the heart of Trump/Russia story considerably more plausible. What exactly did the Trump team need so urgently to discuss with the Russian government? Why the need for such absolute security?
"For employee-security rules, the U.S intelligence community treats visiting a foreign embassy like visiting a foreign country. Many of the most significant examples of U.S. espionage all occurred through foreign embassies," said Susan Hennessy, a Brookings fellow and a former attorney in the National Security Agency’s office of general counsel. "Like Flynn, there's the possibility that Kushner put himself in a position to be compromised, because the Russians knew he tried to set up a secret channel.". . .  National-security officials expressed surprise at Kushner’s reported move, which would circumvent the federal government’s established methods for communicating with foreign powers, including Russia.  "Why would Kushner want a secret channel? What information would the Trump team want to make sure is hidden from U.S. intelligence?" asked Clint Watts, a former FBI agent and a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
Things are looking very bad for Jared Kushner, and by extension the entire Trump presidency. Just days after it was discovered that Kushner is a top target of the FBI due to possible financial crimes and ties to Russia, came yesterday’s explosive revelation that the President’s son-in-law requested a secret, secure channel to the Kremlin during the transition period. This request was so extraordinary alarmed even the Russians, as it would have entailed giving an American access to communications equipment specifically designed to evade American eavesdropping. The news is bizarre and the move by Kushner so brazen that the worst possible motives seem too stupid for the Keystone Cops, but no innocent or even semi-innocent explanations present themselves. . . .
The idea of discussions between Russia and the incoming administration seems innocent enough on its own terms, but the apparent effort to set up a line of communications that would be concealed from the American government suggests something more sinister. . . .
Jared Kushner had STILL MORE undisclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador

Intelligence expert: Kushner's security clearance must be pulled 'right now'

I hope he tries. Really
Trump staffer hints he may be open to softening Russia sanctions

Trump's "Russia mania" started in the 80's -- when he offered to become a special ambassador and end the Cold War "within one hour"

Michael Flynn is getting every bit of what he deserves

The time line:

Trump wants to set up a "war room" to fight back against the investigations -- and they do mean "war"

FBI won't share Comey memos with Congress

Comey KNEW the Lynch/Clinton emails were fake 

Trump's statement on Ramadan -- meant to make friends, but can't resist references to terrorism

What Trump's Ramadan Message Was Really About  

Does Trump lack legitimacy? What then?

The only honest Republican in the country
Boehner Calls Trump Presidency ‘A Complete Disaster’

More rumored WH staff shake-ups -- and a "filter" on Trump's tweets

Sean Spicer and the rest of Trump’s press team iced out during first foreign tour 

The end of the blue slip?

The kind of people they are
Texas Republicans look to pass bill that could make driving a woman to an abortion a crime

Clinton at Wellesley
“Just log on to social media for ten seconds; it will hit you right in the face. People denying science, concocting elaborate, hurtful conspiracies theories about child abuse rings operating out of pizza parlors,” she said. “Drumming up rampant fear about undocumented immigrants, Muslims, minorities, the poor. Some are even denying things we see with our own eyes. Like the size of crowds. And then defending themselves by talking about, quote, unquote, alternative facts.” . . .  “Let’s call it what it is. It’s a con. They don’t even try to hide it,” she said. “Why does all this matter? It matters because if our leaders lie about the problems we face, we’ll never solve them.” . . . “As the history majors among you here today know all too well, when people in power invent their own facts and attack those who question them, it can mark the beginning of the end of a free society,” she said. “That is not hyperbole. It is what authoritarian regimes throughout history have done. They attempt to control reality. Not just our laws and our rights and our budgets, but our thoughts and beliefs.”


It's becoming a thing
Texas Governor Abbott Jokes About Shooting Reporters
Trump's weird handshake habits

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Friday, May 26, 2017


Reince Priebus is scared to death that James Comey has notes on a conversation they had (which he almost certainly does)
Three White House officials told The Daily Beast that Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has privately expressed worry about a possible Comey memo specifically involving one of their reported chats, and how it might play in the press and to investigators. . . .

Jared Kushner has "significant information"


The Trump gang is ready to wage "a years-long war" against intelligence agencies and investigators looking into their misdeeds
Said one Trump ally: “The White House is embracing the fight, which is going to last as long as Donald Trump is president. We’re getting street fighters ready to go.”


Trump vows to "get to the bottom" of leaks -- except the ones he is guilty of

Trump blurts out classified info again, worrying Pentagon officials

Do you buy Jeff Sessions' excuse for not disclosing his conversations with the Russian ambassador?

The first clear case of collusion
A Republican political operative in Florida asked the alleged Russian hacker who broke into Democratic Party organizations’ servers at the height of the 2016 campaign to pass him stolen documents . . . In return, that operative received valuable Democratic voter-turnout analyses, which the newspaper found at least one GOP campaign used to its advantage. The hacker went on to flag that same data to Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of Donald Trump’s who briefly advised his presidential campaign, and who is currently under federal investigation for potential collusion with Russia.


Why Republicans can't fix health insurance 

The Republican Party Alone Owns This Health-Care Disaster 

Trump insults NATO
This was a touch awkward, given Trump’s tense relationship with the Western alliance. And you can see it when you watch the uncomfortable, pained looks on the faces of the leaders of America’s allies. Just watch . . .
Expectations were low for the European leg of President Trump’s first trip abroad, but it turns out they weren’t low enough. . . .

Alpha males
President Trump met newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron for the first time. From the pool report: "The two presidents, each wearing dark suits and blue ties (Trump’s was thick and royal blue; Macron’s was skinny and navy) sat in antique cream-upholstered arm chairs, with two American and French flags behind them. They shook hands for an extended period of time. Each president gripped the other’s hand with considerable intensity, their knuckles turning white and their jaws clenching and faces tightening."

Watch the orange-haired monster shove another NATO leader out of his way to get in front, then preen smugly

Trump thinks he can shut down German car sales in the US

While Trump is protested in Brussels, Obama is cheered by huge crowds in Berlin

Appeals court refuses to reinstate Trump's travel ban. Big loss!

There is no $1 trillion Trump infrastructure plan—and there never was
Will Trump do another photo op?
Carrier Sends Jobs to Mexico, Workers Say Trump ‘Misled’ Them

Trump BRAGS about a Rasmussen poll that shows him at 48% approval. First of all, that poll is out of line with most other polls that show him at about 40%, sometimes down even into the 30's. Second, 48% is still pretty bad!

Betsy DeVos wants to give public money to schools that won't admit kids from gay households

The Gianforte assault on a reporter (a) is part of a pattern of disrespect and abuse by him and (b) grows out of an anti-press climate that Trump has encouraged
Last month, the Missoulian newspaper took Gianforte to task for his attitude toward the press. At an event hosted by the Advancing Conservatism Society, an audience member reportedly said: “Our biggest enemy is the news media. How can we rein in the news media?” Gianforte responded by pointing at a reporter and saying: “We have someone right here. It seems like there is more of us than there is of him.” . . .

The GOP’s war on the press 

Gianforte wins anyway

Seth Meyers:

Sean Hannity loses advertisers, takes an early vay-cay 

As critical coverage of Trump among the mainstream media and political insiders has reached a crescendo, CNN and especially MSNBC have become appointment viewing for the politically engaged. Each day now seems to bring new plot twists that rival those of any scripted TV drama. Leakers said Trump shared information he shouldn’t have with Russians. A memo surfaced suggesting that he fired Comey because of his frustration with the FBI’s Russia investigation. He reportedly pushed top intelligence officials to refute charges of Russian collusion. And it has made for nothing if not great TV. Yet Fox News’ prime-time hosts—led by its most prominent remaining personalities, Carlson and Hannity—have presented viewers with an alternate reality in which stories embarrassing to the administration can be waved away as either a figment of the “fake news media” or the product of machinations by leakers and liars embedded in the shadowy anti-Trump “deep state.” By steadfastly pooh-poohing the lies, scandals, outrage, and intrigue that have dominated the first months of Donald Trump’s remarkable presidency, the network is all but sitting out the most fascinating domestic political saga of our time. And increasingly, viewers are changing the channel. . . .

Bonus item: Paul Simon and Stephen Colbert, feelin' groovy

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Thursday, May 25, 2017


It's an old truth, and a relevant one. Conservative Byron York, who doesn't get quoted a lot here, analyzes how Trump has screwed himself
[York] Before Trump fired Comey, a likely conclusion of the Russia affair was coming into view. Flynn would be in trouble for his connections to Turkey and possible violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Former Trump campaign head Paul Manafort would be in trouble for some sort of shady business dealings in Ukraine. Maybe another figure or two from TrumpWorld would get into trouble, as well, but in ways tangential to the investigation. There would be scalps for Democrats to celebrate, but the most consequential issue — collusion — would end in nothing. . . .

First, the White House portrayed the firing as 1) not Trump’s doing, and 2) not related to the Russia investigation. Then Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt that he had in fact decided to fire Comey because “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.” Then, with accusations of obstruction in the air, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed a special counsel to investigate the Russia affair… Then the New York Times reported that Comey wrote contemporaneous memos of his interactions with the president and that during one of those interactions Trump asked Comey to drop the investigation into fired national security adviser Michael Flynn. Then the Times reported that Trump, in an Oval Office meeting, bragged to Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador that firing Comey relieved Trump of “great pressure” in the Russia investigation.
[York] Now, rather than focusing on alleged collusion, the thrust of leaks in recent days has been directed almost exclusively toward building a case of obstruction of justice against the president, charging that he actively tried to derail the investigation into his campaign and his associates. More and more, day after day, Trump’s adversaries believe that, when it comes to bringing down the president, it might not matter if collusion occurred or not. A cover-up would be enough to do the job.

President Trump can’t seem to leave the Russia investigation alone, even though doing so might’ve let the story die down. First he fired FBI Director James Comey, and now he’s reportedly trying to quash special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation with an obscure ethics rule; he keeps feeding the story, to his own detriment. But here’s the thing: Trump might not know how else to get what he wants. . . . The key here is that Trump believed he controlled them, and because of that, he could use them to get what he wanted. Fast-forward to the present, and Trump is using these tools to interfere with the Russia investigation: He’s fired people, he’s reportedly asked people to make public statements for him, and now he’s reportedly trying to find ways to declaw the man in charge of the investigation.

Trey Gowdy, the master of moving the goalposts (and the man of a thousand hair cuts), now experiments with the line that if TRUMP HIMSELF wasn't personally colluding with the Russians, then it's all okay 

Trey Gowdy Is the Perfect Trump Stooge 

Another huge revelation - and the question yet again: WHY DIDN'T WE KNOW THIS BEFORE THE ELECTION?
“American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald Trump through his advisers,” the New York Times reports.  “The conversations focused on Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, a retired general who was advising Mr. Trump.”  “Details of the conversations, some of which have not been previously reported, add to an increasing understanding of the alarm inside the American government last year about the Russian disruption campaign.” 

Wow. Looks like James Comey was fooled by a Russian fake document to go public with the Hillary email story
The Russian document mentioned a supposed email describing how then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch had privately assured someone in the Clinton campaign that the email investigation would not push too deeply into the matter — a conversation that if made public would cast doubt on the inquiry’s integrity. Current and former officials have said that document played a significant role in the July decision by then-FBI Director James B. Comey to announce on his own, without Justice Department involvement, that the investigation was over. That public announcement — in which he criticized Clinton and made extensive comments about the evidence — set in motion a chain of other FBI moves that Democrats now say helped Trump win the presidential election. . . .

This Is Huge, Astonishing 

The screws tighten on Michael Flynn
Michael Flynn gets more subpoenas, and more subpoenas, and a bonus reminder: No immunity 

Does Flynn have something he is holding over Trump?

SO smart
Manafort Advised Trump Team on Russia Scandal  

Trump's hiring Marc Kasowitz as his personal lawyer means Joe Lieberman is out as a potential FBI Director, which is just fine with me 

Kasowitz also represents OJSC Sberbank of Russia, the country's largest bank . . .

What is it with Trump associates and Russian amnesia? Hmmm. . .

Trump's "read my lips" moment

The 15 heartless proposals in Trump’s budget
Trump Doesn’t Really Care About His Budget 

The CBO score finally comes out on the GOP health care bill, weeks after they voted to approve it. The numbers are damning
CBO: Republican plan would take health coverage from 23 million
CBO: Republican health care bill raises premiums for older, poor Americans by as much as 850%
Trump: My bill protects people with preexisting conditions. CBO: No, it doesn’t.
The most devastating paragraph in the CBO report . . .
The Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare would cause 23 million more people to become uninsured over a decade and reduce the deficit by $119 billion, $32 billion less than previous projections . . .

As you can see, under old AHCA the number of poor with no insurance rose from 15-20 percent under Obamacare to 30-40 percent under AHCA. But under new AHCA, it's more like 29-39 percent. Hot diggity! Here are a few other numbers:
  • Old AHCA reduced the deficit by $150 billion (over ten years). New AHCA reduces the deficit by $119 billion.
  • Old AHCA took away insurance from 24 million people (by 2026). New AHCA takes it away from 23 million.
  • Old AHCA cut Medicaid by $839 billion (over ten years). New AHCA cuts Medicaid by $834 billion.
  • Under old AHCA, a low-income 64-year-old pays a premium of $14,600. Under new AHCA, the bill is $16,100. On the bright side, states that take advantage of new AHCA's permission to gut essential benefits can get that premium all the way down to $13,600. This compares to $1,700 under Obamacare.
Those are some mighty big changes, aren't they? You can certainly understand why the (former) head of Republican "moderate" caucus worked so hard to revive AHCA and make these adjustments. It's like a whole new bill. 

The Senate is now struggling with the same health care dilemmas that tore the House apart

McConnell: ‘I Don’t Know How We Get To 50’ Senate Votes To Pass ACA Repeal 

Let's see. Trump called the FBI Director "crazy" and now also calls Kim Jong Un "crazy," while talking with Rodrigo Duterte, ruling thug of the Philippines, as if he was a stable, dependable expert on China and North Korea.

And the orange-haired blabbermouth told him where our nuclear subs are

Trump Told Duterte US Has Two Nuclear Subs Near Korean Peninsula

They just don't respect ANY boundaries at all
President Donald Trump’s Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, has apparently used a Goldman Sachs banker to help manage the Treasury Department — even though he had not officially departed from Goldman Sachs itself yet. . . .
A top Mar-a-Lago employee is also working for the government to help prepare for President Trump’s visit to Taormina, Italy, for the G-7 Summit — an unconventional arrangement that further blurs the line between the president’s business empire and the White House,” BuzzFeed reports. “Heather Rinkus, the guest reception manager at Trump’s ‘Winter White House,’ is working with the president’s advance and logistics team, while Trump’s exclusive club, Mar-a-Lago, closes for the summer. She has an official White House email and government-issued phone.”
The Cesspool
“Just days before taking office, President Trump promised to donate all profits earned from foreign governments back to the United States Treasury to avoid the appearance of impropriety.” “But MSNBC has learned the Trump Organization  is not tracking all possible payments it receives from foreign governments, according to new admissions by Trump representatives. By failing to track all foreign payments it receives, the company will be hard-pressed to meet Trump’s pledge to donate foreign profits, and could even increase its legal exposure.”


What is this Seth Rich story you keep hearing about?
The life of Seth Rich, a 27-year-old Democratic National Committee staffer, ended nearly a year ago when he was shot to death near his house in Washington, DC. Then came the tragic and bizarre afterlife: Since July, Rich has been the focus of intense right-wing conspiracy theories that have only escalated as the Trump administration’s scandals have deepened. . . . [read on]

Dr. Magoo - the dumbest brain surgeon you will ever meet
“I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind.”  
         — HUD Secretary Ben Carson

Hmmm. . .  Melania won't wear a traditional head scarf in Saudi Arabia. But she and Ivanka wear archaic (and ridiculous looking) headwear to meet the Pope. And look at the faces! Twitter has a field day

"Thank you so much," President Trump said to Pope Francis when they shook hands. After shaking hands, the pope and POTUS walked into the pope's private study, which is just off the room where they shook hands. When pool entered the study, the pope and the president were seated across from each other at the pope's wooden desk. POTUS told the pope it's "a very great honor." The pope did not say anything. He did not smile. He looked at pool several times. We were quickly ushered out at 8:33am. [read on]

By the way, this is just assholish. Sean Spicer is a devout Catholic and was excited to meet the Pope. He got cut out because there was "no room" -- but look who DID get a chance

Good news for the Dems in turning some Red seats Blue
Democrats pick up two GOP-held legislative seats
New Poll Shows Dem Jon Ossoff Opening Up 7-Point Lead In Georgia House Race
19 House Races Shift Towards Democrats 

In Montana, the GOP candidate is charged with the assault of a reporter the night before the vote. Will it affect the outcome?
Montana’s special election — with a wild, 11th-hour twist

An eyewitness account:
Horrifying: Audio of Montana Republican Greg Gianforte assaulting reporter Ben Jacobs
Greg Gianforte (R), the Republican candidate in a hotly contested special House election in Montana, “was charged with assaulting a journalist on Wednesday at what was to be a final rally in Bozeman on the eve of the vote,” the New York Times reports. “Three of the state’s largest newspapers, The Billings Gazette, The Missoulian and The Helena Independent Record, quickly rescinded their endorsements of Mr. Gianforte. But prospects that the altercation could tip the race to the Democrat, Rob Quist, were complicated by Montana’s early-voting tradition: Over half the estimated total ballots in the contest had been returned by Wednesday.”

The conventional wisdom is that Trump's hard-core support is locked in concrete. Turns out, it isn't
Trump’s base seems to be eroding. There’s been a considerable decline in the number of Americans who strongly approve of Trump, from a peak of around 30 percent in February to just 21 or 22 percent of the electorate now. (The decline in Trump’s strong approval ratings is larger than the overall decline in his approval ratings, in fact.) Far from having unconditional love from his base, Trump has already lost almost a third of his strong support. . .  [read on]

Bonus item: No comment necessary

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sharing its URL ( with others via email or social media.

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I don’t get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don’t run ads, etc.). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a “mission,” it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***