Monday, October 30, 2017

Seth Abramson on Sanders Presidential Presser - 10/30/2017 - By Tweet

Trump has no intention or plan to fire Mueller. FALSE. Trump told the NYT that if Mueller crosses a certain "red line" he could be fired.

The charges and plea announced today had "nothing to do with the President's campaign or campaign activity." FALSE. And here's why:
·         Manafort lied to the FBI *while Trump's Campaign Manager* and used his illegally gotten, Putin-linked funds to work for Trump "for free."
·         So Trump was the direct beneficiary—to the tune of saving *many millions* in consulting fees—of the fact Manafort got money from Russia.
·         All Papadopoulos' lies—which he's pled to—involved high-ranking Trump officials, Trump campaign activity, and protecting Trump himself.

"There's clear evidence" Clinton colluded with Russian intelligence. FALSE. This is false on almost too many grounds to mention. A start:
·         Clinton's camp *continued* payments started by *Republicans* to a firm that contracted with *another* firm whose sources were *non-FSB*.

The dossier "influenced" the election. FALSE. Barring 1 article, the dossier wasn't reported on in any significant way until January '17.

The dossier "smears" the President. FALSE. Every piece of information in the dossier that can be confirmed so far *has* been confirmed.
·         Clinton's camp didn't know what research they would receive and had nothing to do with its collection. And—the FBI believes the dossier.

There's been no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion. FALSE. Not only is the Papadopoulos plea a smoking gun—Sessions' perjuries were too.
·        Indeed—both the ongoing secret sanctions negotiations between Trump and Russia and the GOP platform change were the result of collusion.

Papadopoulos is in trouble only for not telling the truth. FALSE. The WH implies the underlying activities were all okay. They were not.
·         Papadopoulos plead to Making False Statements so that he *wouldn't* have to plead to greater charges and *could* cooperate with the FBI.

There's no "official capacity" in which the campaign was involved with Papadopoulos' acts. FALSE—his actions were *campaign-sanctioned*.

The Manafort/Gates indictments deal with crimes in a time "well before" the Trump campaign existed. FALSE. Both were ongoing in 2015.

Papadopoulos had a "limited" campaign role. FALSE. He was a top adviser and a primary liaison to other nations on Trump's Russia policy.
·         Papadopoulos went overseas for Trump and was one of the *only* NatSec team members kept on when the team disbanded in late July of 2016.
·         Papadopoulos was giving interviews on Trump's Russia policy to Russian media as late—possibly later—than *late September of 2016*.
·         All told, George Papadopoulos worked for Trump for *at least* seven months of the eleven-month campaign primary/general "voting" season.

Papadopoulos' outreach on the Kremlin's behalf was "repeatedly denied." FALSE. At all turns he was openly, clearly encouraged by emails.

Papadopoulos had no role in extra-campaign outreach. FALSE—he went to Israel for Trump, talked to Russian media for Trump and much else.
·         And of course we know from his sworn plea docs that "high-ranking campaign officials" authorized him to speak to (other) Kremlin agents.

"We expect Mueller to conclude his work soon." FALSE. Recent articles confirm Trump and his lawyers are battening down for a long haul.

Sanders says Trump's last Manafort contact was in February. TRUE/FALSE? In this case it doesn't matter—because it's damning. Here's why:
·         We were told Manafort called Priebus just before the inauguration—to urge Trump to release dirt on HRC—because he couldn't access Trump.
·         The campaign wanted to distance Trump from Manafort *and the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting* by saying Manafort *could not access* Trump.
·         Today Sanders inadvertently revealed that Manafort was still able to talk to Trump—and we know his subject was "HRC dirt"—in *February*.

Sanders now says that Donald Trump can't recall *anything* about his March 31st, 2016 meeting at Trump International Hotel in DC. FALSE.
·         Trump is always lauding his perfect memory and appears to have excellent recall for (for instance) any person who has ever slighted him.
·         Moreover, others at the TIHDC meeting have excellent recall: they told The Daily Caller Trump was "flattered" by Papadopoulos' proposal.

Sanders says she's had "no conversations" with Trump on pardons. FALSE. We know Trump has discussed the pardon power with his top aides.

Sanders: it's "not clear how Sessions could be said to be involved" in the Papadopoulos case. FALSE—Sessions was the kid's *supervisor*.
·         Moreover, Sessions received at least some—maybe all—of Papadopoulos' March (and April, and May) emails. And he *heard him at the TIHDC*.

Sanders says she's not sure when Trump first heard of the stolen emails. Possibly TRUE, but Papadopoulos implies it was in *April 2016*.

Sanders: the indictments/plea "don't have anything to do with us." FALSE. See preceding tweets—this is, simply put, an *outrageous* lie.

Papadopoulos "volunteered" for Trump's NatSec Advisory Committee. FALSE. He was recruited by Sam Clovis; he didn't come out of nowhere.
·         Papadopoulos was *chosen* by Trump's team, then *featured* by Trump in print/pictures, then *promoted* by Trump to a larger Russia role.

Trump's NatSec Committee "met only once"? FALSE. They were in constant contact via email threads—so this is a *deeply* misleading claim.

"He [Papadopoulos] wasn't responded to in any way when he reached out"—FALSE—for *months* he was responded to *throughout* the campaign.

Sanders says the dossier is "fake information" and the Clinton campaign knew that. FALSE. The dossier is substantially verified *and*...
·         ...everyone who's looked at the dossier, including Steele, Fusion GPS, FBI, and others in law enforcement have *believed it to be true*.
·         So the idea the Clinton campaign was in a position to know "false" a dossier that (a) is *true* and (b) the FBI believed true, is crazy.

Trump was "without a lot of reaction" when he learned of Mueller's indictments. FALSE. And—uh—I'm just going to post this picture here:

SHS says when Trump hired Papadopoulos, the latter was a "seasoned operative." FALSE. All accounts say he lacked meaningful credentials.

"We have indications" the probe will wrap up soon, Sanders says. FALSE. They're relying on Christie, it seems, who has/cites no sources.

Trump called Papadopoulos an "excellent guy" in a pro forma way. FALSE. He said his team was the best, and "sold" Papadopoulos as such.

·         The other possibility is that he was lying about knowing who Papadopoulos was—which he was claiming to—but that's *not* the WH line now.

Sanders says she's "not aware" of Trump aides speaking with Papadopoulos about Kremlin meetings. FALSE—she read Papadopoulos' affidavit.

Sanders: "we haven't asked for any leak investigations." FALSE. Trump has done precisely this on Twitter in the past, and she knows it.

Sanders: "I don't know" if Trump thinks Mueller has overstepped. FALSE. Trump calling the probe a "witch hunt" makes exactly that claim.

So those are all the lies Sanders told America—on the most important federal criminal probe of our lifetimes—in a *very* short briefing. As Americans, we mustn't just expect but be *prepared for* at *least* that many lies from the White House on this—every day—from now on. It already was a massive disinformation op, but we have to understand that now the WH press office is acting to undermine legal process. When a complex criminal investigation is unfolding, *any* disinformation can obstruct or otherwise impede the work of law enforcement. So the cynicism that causes us to say, "Oh, every White House lies!"—true enough—must be set aside in these extraordinary circumstances. The appropriate thing for the White House press office to do—if it's otherwise going to lie—is to say it has "no comment" on the probe. And make no mistake, Huckabee Sanders isn't saying "no comment"—which would be easier than lying—because Trump is *pressing* her to lie. In other words it's not just the volume of Huckabee Sanders' lies, but the fact she's lying at *all* that is enormously newsworthy.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Game Is Over, and North Korea Has Won

Foreign Policy --- by Jeffrey Lewis

Donald Trump can whine all he wants, but we're now living in a world where American power is less relevant than ever.
The Washington Post reported yesterday that North Korea has a large stockpile of compact nuclear weapons that can arm the country’s missiles, including its new intercontinental ballistic missiles that are capable of hitting the United States. That’s another way of saying: game over.
Also: I told you so.
There are really two assessments in the Post’s report. One, dated July 28, is that the intelligence community — not just the Defense Intelligence Agency, contrary to what you may have heard — “assesses North Korea has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, to include delivery by ICBM-class missiles.” The other assessment, published earlier in July, stated that North Korea had 60 nuclear weapons — higher than the estimates usually given in the press. Put them together, though, and its pretty clear that the window for denuclearizing North Korea, by diplomacy or by force, has closed.
These judgments are front-page news, but only because we’ve been living in collective denial. Both intelligence assessments are consistent with what the North Koreans have been saying for some time, for reasons I outlined in a column here at Foreign Policy immediately after the September 2016 nuclear test titled, “North Korea’s Nuke Program Is Way More Sophisticated Than You Think: This is now a serious nuclear arsenal that threatens the region and, soon, the continental United States.”
Authors rarely get to pick titles, and almost never like them, but I think the editors at FP got this one about right. It is about as subtle as a jackhammer, although even so the message didn’t seem to sink in.
Let’s walk through the evidence.
North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests. That is really quite a lot. Looking at other countries that have conducted five nuclear tests, our baseline expectation for North Korea should be that it has a nuclear weapon small enough to arm a ballistic missile and is well on its way toward testing a thermonuclear — yes, thermonuclear — weapon.
A lot of people got the wrong idea after North Korea’s first nuclear test failed, and subsequent nuclear tests seemed smaller than they should be. There was a common view that the North Koreans, well, kind of sucked at making nuclear weapons. That was certainly my first impression. But there was always another possibility, one that dawned on me gradually. According to a defector account, North Korea tried to skip right toward relatively advanced nuclear weapons that were compact enough to arm ballistic missiles and made use of relatively small amounts of plutonium. That should not have been surprising; both Iraq and Pakistan similarly skipped designing and testing a more cumbersome Fat Man-style implosion device. The disappointing yields of North Korea’s first few nuclear tests were not the result of incompetence, but ambition. So, while the world was laughing at North Korea’s first few nuclear tests, they were learning — a lot.
And then there is the issue of North Korea’s nuclear test site. North Korea tests its nuclear weapons in tunnels beneath very large mountains. When my research institute used topography data collected from space to build a 3-D model of the site, we realized that the mountains are so tall that they may be hiding how big the nuclear explosions are. Some of the “disappointments” may not have been disappointments at all, and the successes were bigger than we realized. I think the best interpretation of the available evidence is that North Korea accepted some technical risk early in its program to move more quickly toward missile-deliverable nuclear weapons.
The fact that North Korea’s nuclear weapons used less fissile material than we expected helps explain the second judgment that North Korea has more bombs than is usually reported. The defector claimed that North Korea’s first nuclear weapon contained only 4 kilograms of the limited supply of plutonium North Korea made, and continues to make, at its reactor at Yongbyon. (For a long while, experts claimed the reactor was not operating when thermal images plainly showed that it was.) The North Koreans themselves claimed the first test used only 2 kilograms of plutonium. Those claims struck many people, including me, as implausible at first. But they were only implausible in the sense that such a device would probably fail when tested — and the first North Korean test did fail. The problem is North Korea kept trying, and its later tests succeeded.
We also must take seriously that North Korea has perhaps stretched its supply of plutonium by integrating some high-enriched uranium into each bomb and developing all-uranium designs. North Korea has an unknown capacity to make highly enriched uranium. We’ve long noticed that the single facility that North Korea has shown off to outsiders seems smaller than North Korea’s newly renovated capacity to mine and mill uranium; we naturally wondered where all that extra uranium is going. (My research institute thinks it might be fun to estimate how much uranium North Korea enriches based on how much it mills, if you know anyone with grant money burning a hole in her pocket.)
Unless the intelligence community knows exactly where North Korea is enriching uranium and how big each facility is, we’re just guessing how many nuclear weapons the country may have. But 60 nuclear weapons doesn’t sound absurdly high.
The thing is, we knew all this already. Sure, sure it isn’t the same when I say it. I mean, I am just some rando living out in California. But now that someone with a tie and real job in Washington has said it, it is news.
The big question is where to go from here. Some of my colleagues still think the United States might persuade North Korea to abandon, or at least freeze, its nuclear and missile programs. I am not so sure. I suspect we might have to settle for trying to reduce tensions so that we live long enough to figure this problem out. But there is only one way to figure out who is right: Talk to the North Koreans.
The other options are basically terrible. There is no credible military option. North Korea has some unknown number of nuclear-armed missiles, maybe 60, including ones that can reach the United States; do you really think U.S. strikes could get all of them? That not a single one would survive to land on Seoul, Tokyo, or New York? Or that U.S. missile defenses would work better than designed, intercepting not most of the missiles aimed at the United States, but every last one of them? Are you willing to bet your life on that?
On a good day, maybe we get most of the missiles. We save most of the cities, like Seoul and New York, but lose a few like Tokyo. Two out three ain’t bad, right?
I kid — but not really. Welcome to our new world. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Trump's Scam is Revealing Itself

The enormity of Trump’s scam is coming into view

Washington Post 
The Congressional Budget Office will release its score of the GOP health-care bill today, and whatever the details, it will confirm once again that the Republican plan would cut hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicaid, leaving many millions uncovered. This, plus continued discussion of President Trump’s budget — which would heap a whole array of other cuts on top of that — will demonstrate that Trump is fully committed to a truly transformative downsizing of social programsthat help lower-income people, packaged with an enormous tax cut for the rich.
But the evidence is mounting that Trump’s economic blueprint — whatever considerable harm it would do to people who didn’t vote for Trump — is also likely to hurt untold numbers of people who did vote for him.
First, I’ve obtained some new polling data from the Kaiser Family Foundation that shows large numbers of Trump voters and their families rely on Medicaid, and large numbers of them oppose cutting the program. Click to enlarge:
This polling, which comes from Kaiser’s February tracking poll and was broken down at my request, shows that 42 percent of Trump voters, and 51 percent of people who approve of Trump, say Medicaid is somewhat or very important to them and their families. More to the point, only 24 percent of Trump voters and 20 percent of people who approve of Trump want to decrease spending on Medicaid, while majorities of both want to keep it the same and many more want to increase it. (A recent Quinnipiac poll also found that 54 percent of Republicans oppose cutting Medicaid.)
Trump’s budget would transform the structure of Medicaid and cut spending on the program by hundreds of billions of dollars on top of the GOP health-care plan’s hundreds of billions in cuts to the Medicaid expansion over 10 years. This would chop down the program by nearly half. It’s hard to know how many Trump voters would be hit by these cuts, but judging by Kaiser’s polling, we’re talking about a lot of them.

Meanwhile, other data suggests many Trump voters in the Rust Belt would be hurt by the Trump budget’s huge cuts to other social programs. Ron Brownstein reports on a new analysis finding that in four key Rust Belt states that flipped from Barack Obama to Trump, large percentages of those who benefit from food stamps and Social Security Disability Insurance — both of which would get slashed by Trump — are non-college whites, a core Trump constituency. Those states are Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Other data shows that large percentages of those who stand to lose health coverage under the GOP health plan in those states are also blue-collar whites. Many of them are likely on Medicaid, and this toll would undoubtedly be made worse by the Trump budget.
Trump took great pains to distinguish himself from Paul Ryan and limited-government Republicans by vowing no cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, staking out an ideologically heterodox posture that likely helped boost him among working-class white voters. Obviously, that’s no longer operative.
The White House has an explanation for Trump’s reversal on Medicaid. Asked by John Harwood to explain the flip, budget director Mick Mulvaney claimed the promise was supplanted by Trump’s promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. This is nonsense: As Brian Beutler explains, Mulvaney “layered a lie of his own on top of Trump’s,” because Trump’s budget cuts to Medicaid “go hundreds of billions of dollars beyond phasing out Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.”

I’d go further still: There are numerous Trump lies being forced out into the open right now. Trump claimed he would not touch Medicaid and simultaneously that he’d repeal Obamacare and replace it with something better for all. It was a lie for Trump to claim he wouldn’t touch Medicaid; it was a lie to suggest preserving Medicaid and repealing Obamacare were compatible; it was a lie to claim that his repeal-and-replace plan would result in better coverage for everybody. If anything, the White House’s justifications only throw the scale and audacity of these intertwined scams, lies and betrayals into even sharper relief.
The scam may end up running even deeper than this. One might argue that Trump promised his voters something better than safety-net protections: good jobs with benefits. Indeed, as Catherine Rampell reports, the White House is defending its cuts by arguing that the true measure of success is “the number of people we get off of those programs.” This is compatible with Trumpism’s promise to restore an old economic order via a revival of manufacturing and coal — jobs are better than government help, and surely many of his voters made this calculation. But what if those jobs don’t ever materialize? Trump’s renegotiated trade deals and his infrastructure plan are a long way off. If this promise of Trumpism never comes to pass, all that would be left behind is the massive downsizing of the safety net, justified by conventional GOP rhetoric about freeing people from Ryan’s version of the safety net, the dreaded “hammock” of “dependency.” This isn’t what Trumpism was supposed to be about, on many levels.

The hardest job for the C.B.O. is estimating the effects of the MacArthur Amendment, which allows states to waive several insurance regulations … the office’s economists must … estimate how many states will decide to pursue the waivers, how many people live in those states, and which rules they will choose to waive … Some experts have said the waivers will be unpopular, and only a few states will pursue them. Others have argued that they are likely to become widespread. Our panel estimated a wide range of effects, saying as few as 10 percent of Americans would be affected or as many as half.
One big question: what the CBO will project on how many states will waive the prohibition on jacking up rates on preexisting conditions. This could make the bill politically more dangerous.
* TRUMP PRAISES PHILIPPINES PRESIDENT: The Post has obtained a transcript of a call that Trump held with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, and this is notable:
In their call he praised Duterte for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.” … “Many countries have the problem, we have the problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that,” Trump said, according to the transcript.
Duterte has been criticized by human rights observers for killing thousands in his war on drugs, and this praise fits into a broader pattern of Trumpian affection for authoritarian strongmen.
* SCHIFF: WE MAY TRY TO FORCE FLYNN’S COOPERATION: Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the probe of the Russia affair, tells CNN that his committee is considering new steps to force Michael Flynn to turn over relevant documents, as he has refused to do:
“It was our preference initially to get these documents and testimony voluntarily,” Schiff said. “It’s now going to be necessary to subpoena it, and if the General refuses and does so without a good legal basis, then I think we do have to explore the use of contempt.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee is now taking similar steps. Yesterday I laid out some of the options that investigators can deploy to try to compel Flynn’s cooperation.
* TRUMP LAWYERS UP: The Post reports that Trump has hired attorney Marc Kasowitz, who has known him for decades and represented him numerous other times, to “help him navigate” the various Russia probes:
In recent days, Trump has been looking at pulling together a unit of lawyers outside the White House to guide him as he responds to the ongoing federal probe and to congressional investigations … The outside legal team would be separate from the White House Counsel’s Office, which is led by Donald F. McGahn, who served as the Trump campaign’s attorney.
Bright spot: Because Joe Lieberman is senior counsel at Kasowitz’s firm, picking him as director of the FBI (which is probing the Russia affair) could present a conflict, so it might not happen.
The Trump administration, determined to overhaul and modernize the nation’s infrastructure, is drafting plans to privatize some public assets such as airports, bridges, highway rest stops and other facilities, according to top officials and advisers … two driving themes are clear: Government practices are stalling the nation’s progress; and private companies should fund, build and run more of the basic infrastructure of American life.
The big question here will be whether his plan will actually involve a substantial public expenditure designed to create jobs. This suggests the opposite. And whether this can pass is anyone’s guess.
* TRUMP VOWS TO READ POPE’S TRACT ON CLIMATE CHANGE: Trump met with Pope Francis this morning, and per Reuters, this happened:
Francis also gave Trump a signed copy of his 2017 peace message whose title is “Nonviolence — A Style of Politics for Peace,” and a copy of his 2015 encyclical letter on the need to protect the environment from the effects of climate change.
“Well, I’ll be reading them,” Trump said.
Whether he reads them or not, in Trump’s imagination, climate change will forever remain a hoax, or more precisely, not worth spending much time thinking about.
Republican leaders are coming to the bleak conclusion they will end summer and begin the fall with ZERO significant legislative accomplishments … they see the next four months as MORE troublesome than the first four. They’re facing terrible budget choices and headlines, the painful effort to re-work the healthcare Rubik’s Cube in the House (presuming it makes it out of the Senate), a series of special-election scares (or losses) — all with scandal-mania as the backdrop.

Are you tired of all the winning yet?