Trump fires two in one week – for now a first

You know that for every week, there has to be at least one major bombshell. It is sort of like a law.

Donald Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and said he would nominate CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace him, ending Tillerson’s difficult tenure by tweeting an ouster that had been long expected and yet was shocking in its abruptness.

The writing was probably on the wall when Trump announced the potential meeting with Kim Jun Un and Tillerson new nothing about it. The two had their differences in polities and Tillerson supposedly called Trump a “moron” at one point.

Trump said he was nominating the CIA’s deputy director, Gina Haspel, to take over for Pompeo at the intelligence agency. Pompeo may surely approved in the senate as he was already confirmed for CIA director as the confirmation will be in April. Haspel may have an issue because she ran a secret prison in the Middle East where she approved the use of waterboarding in 2002. Trump has previously said he supports waterboarding.

Haspel, first woman nominated as CIA director, also helped carry out an order that the agency destroy its waterboarding videos. That order prompted a lengthy Justice Department investigation that ended without charges.

How was Tillerson fired? Trump asked Chief of Staff John Kelley to call Rex Tillerson on Friday night. Kelly told Tillerson that he will be replaced but did not specify the timing. Trump tweeted the firing Tuesday morning. “This is how the President wanted to do it,” said a senior White House official.

Just after Tillerson’s sudden firing, American diplomats at posts spanning the globe were surprised to receive guidance from Washington telling them not to post or retweet the statement from Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein on how Tillerson was fired by Trump.

Goldstein said Tillerson found out he was fired that morning in a tweet from Trump; Goldstein himself was then fired after that statement conflicted with the White House’s official line that Tillerson was notified by Kelly three days earlier in a late-night phone call.

“There was tremendous leaking, lying and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI, Justice & State,” Trump tweeted as he fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Well Attorney General Jeff Sessions did the actual firing, but you know who really did it. McCabe was set to officially retire on March 18, but he will lose his pension after a more than two-decade career at the bureau. He was out just under 48 hours before his retirement. That would be typical of this administration.

His dismissal was recommended by a panel of career disciplinary officials [FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility] at the bureau after they found he had shown a lack of candor under oath, a career killing lapse for any FBI officer. The issue stems from findings in an internal Justice Department watchdog report that claims he misled investigators about his decision to authorize FBI officials to speak to the media about an investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

Revelations that McCabe had both kept [fired FBI Director James] Comey-style memos of his conversations with Trump, and that McCabe had been interviewed by the special counsel’s team, stoked new intrigue around the question of whether Trump obstructed justice by firing his first FBI director, who was leading the inquiry into whether his campaign colluded with Russia.

“This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally,” McCabe said. “It is part of this Administration’s ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation [Robert Mueller], which continue to this day.”

Trump’s attorney John Dowd called for the end of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election meddling. Dowd said he was speaking on his own behalf, although he had earlier told the Daily Beast, which first reported the statement, that he was speaking on behalf of Trump. Now they are saying Dowd’s comment wasn’t authorized by Trump. If Trump did authorize the comment, he could be in trouble for interfering with the investigation.

As if this isn’t enough, Trump has apparently grown sick of H.R. McMaster and is preparing to jettison his national security adviser in the not-too-distant future. Stories came out late in the week that Trump wants him out and already has someone waiting to take his place in John Bolton. Unlike Tillerson, who was fired through a tweet, is this better? Waiting to be fired? Or maybe Trump wants McMaster to do the honorable thing and resign [or fall on his sword like a 3 star general should].

Bolton is known as an architect of the Iraq War, an enemy of multilateralism and foe of the United Nations, where he served during the George W. Bush administration through a recess appointment when he could not win Senate confirmation. He is also a harsh critic of the Iran nuclear deal and of North Korea, and is seen as someone who might promote conflict in both cases.

With Tillerson gone there are still potentially up to 8 in the cabinet [including McMaster] who could be fired. Trump has hinted for some major changes. And yet he said back in October that he was very happy he was with the cabinet he selected.

Trump’s personal aide Johnny McEntee was also fired because he is currently under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for serious financial crimes which caused problems in getting a security clearance. But the Trump campaign announced McEntee would be joining the reelection effort as a senior adviser for campaign operations. So they hire crooks in the campaign?

Trump addressed UK PM Theresa May’s comments that it is “highly likely” Russia poisoned a former spy, saying if it is fact “we will condemn Russia.” So meanwhile, not surprising, he’s siding with Russia. But UN Ambassador Nikki Haley ignored Trump and went with a scathing speech at the UN going after Russia.

Only days later, Trump is asked about the spy poisoning: “It certainly looks like the Russians were behind it”. So after Haley said so at the UN, Trump finally caved in and admitted it.

The Trump administration announced it is enacting new sanctions on Russia, including individuals indicted last month by special counsel Robert Mueller, in a sweeping new effort to punish Moscow for its attempts to interfere in the 2016 US election. The measures come a month-and-a-half after the administration missed a congressionally mandated deadline to impose the new sanctions.

The Trump administration has accused Russia of remotely targeting the US power grid, as part of its newly unveiled sanctions on the country. It also included sanctions on the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm that produced divisive political posts on American social media platforms during the 2016 presidential election. Russia has attempted to attack targets that include “energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors” since March 2016 said the Department of Homeland Security.

Raise your hand if you are surprised ion this bit of news: The Trump administration backpedaled on the idea of increasing the minimum age to buy certain firearms — a policy Trump had said he would support. But at least they are still providing some school personnel with “rigorous” firearms training and backed a bill to improve criminal background checks. The NRA has filed a lawsuit claiming that a Florida law violates 2 amendments. Is the administration nervous they could be next?

In not so good news for the Republicans, Democrat candidate Conor Lamb has squeaked out a slim majority win in Pennsylvania’s 18th district. This was a district won by Trump by 20 points in the last election. The Republicans and White House claimed they had a “weak candidate” in Rick Saccone. Notice they said this after he lost. [So basically they are running Saccone over with a bus a few times followed by a steamroller for good measure.] Here’s a crackpot. The losing Saccone says his political opponents hate Trump, America and God.

Do you think Trump’s popularity had anything to do with the loss? Nah. Just a thought. Surely he won’t take any blame in the loss. Even if Saccone would of won by a slim majority, it wouldn’t be good. The Republicans are also saying they aren’t nervous as it is just one loss. They still have a huge majority. Sure. Trump even claims that Lamb won because Lamb is like him. Sure.

At an event in Pennsylvania supporting Saccone, Trump touted his role in South Korea’s hosting of the Winter Olympics, claiming credit for temporarily reducing the nuclear threat posed by North Korea. “It’s little hard to sell tickets when you think you’re going to be nuked,” he said. Problem is that he had nothing to do with North Korea joining the Olympics.

At the same event, Trump claims that it was he who got North Korea to join talks with him when in fact South Korea got them together.

Trying to get some kind of win, Trump may soften his stance to get the NAFTA deal renegotiated before July 1st when Mexico has their elections. Otherwise than man behind “The Art of a Deal” will look like [another] failure. He has also hinted that he may try to join the Trans Pacific Partnership – the same trade deal he left right after taking office.

Trump boasted at a private fundraiser of making up trade claims [no surprise there] during a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau before knowing whether they were true. Trump claimed they had a deficit but according to figures provided by the Commerce Department, the US ran a $2.77 billion surplus with Canada for 2017.

During the fundraiser, Trump also reportedly called the North American Free Trade Agreement a disaster and blamed the World Trade Organization for allowing other nations to box in the US on trade. Trump mocked other politicians for supporting NAFTA, attacking Mexico as “spoiled” and arguing that Canada had outsmarted the US.

Now it seems porn star Stormy Daniels has faced physical threats for going after Trump according to her lawyer. Her lawyer also said that six additional women have come forward alleging sexual relationships with Trump — including some he says who also claim to have nondisclosure agreements. Her lawyer alleges also that some of the accusations she’s making against Trump occurred while Trump was in office.

Trump accused Japan of using a “bowling ball test” to cheat US auto companies out of selling cars to Japanese consumers. The test is when a bowling ball is dropped to the hood of the car, if dents, fails.

Facebook has announced it is suspending Cambridge Analytica, a data firm with ties to President Donald Trump’s campaign, over concerns about violations of the social media site’s policies. Facebook claimed a University of Cambridge psychology professor, Aleksandr Kogan, had passed Facebook user data he gained through an app on to third-parties, including Cambridge Analytica.

A poll of leading economists from the University of Chicago has found rare unanimity on the topic, with a newly released survey showing that zero per cent of economists surveyed believe tariffs will help Americans.

Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, someone who has little experience in this field, stumbled her way through a tense interview, struggling to answer some basic questions about schools in her home state of Michigan and admitting that she does not “intentionally” visit underperforming schools. Biased? Not doing her job?

Russian President [for life] Vladimir Poutine, in an interview on NBC, suggests that Jews or Tatars or other minorities in Russia were behind the alleged election meddling in 2016. Maybe they were paid by Americans or maybe on their own. No proof of course. And while just about everyone in congress condemned the comments, one individual didn’t. Take a guess who?

Trump’s approval rating in a new poll conducted by SSRS stands at 35%, down five points over the last month to match his lowest level yet. Overall, 80% of self-identified Republicans say they approve of Trump, one point below his previous low mark of 81%, hit in late September of last year. Just 13% of Republicans say they disapprove of Trump’s performance. Approval for the President stands at just 5% among Democrats and 35% among independents.

Almost three-quarters (72%) say they are concerned about foreign government interference in US elections generally, including 90% of Democrats, 68% of independents and 53% of Republicans, and 60% say they are not confident the president is doing enough to prevent foreign countries from influencing future American elections, according to a new poll conducted by SSRS.

Hundreds of parishioners gathered at a Pennsylvania church got married Wednesday holding AR-15s as church members say the ceremony was scheduled months before the Parkland shooting, and they were following God’s will to honor the Second Amendment. Guns were zip-tied at the door and ammunition was not allowed in the church.


Intel to release updated microcode going back at least 5 years

To fix the problems associated with the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities, Intel will be releasing microcode [i.e. BIOS] updates going back quite far. How far? Initially they said going back to the 4th generation Core processors but now they are planning to go even farther. At least back as far as Core 2 Duo days. Updates will be available from OEMs and not Windows Update.

You can find the announcement here.

[Update 2018/03/05:] Microsoft will slowly be offering microcode update though Windows Update Catalog. One update will cover them all. If your CPU is not supported at the time, it will notify you.

The catch is that the update will not be through Windows Update but through the Windows Update Catalog. So you will have to manually download the update.

[Update 2018/03/16:] Microsoft added more CPUs (6th through 8th generation) now to the update. Updated 8th generation as well as the upcoming 9th generation CPUs will have the fix in addition to other protections, so Intel says.


Trump goes off script – people laugh

In an event recently in Pennsylvania to promote a Republican for a special congressional election, after maybe 5 minutes, Donald Trump went wildly off script. Among the thing he said:

  • “And a lot of steel mills are now opening up because of what I did.” Trump signed the steel tariff measure just days before. So that’s fast work.
  • “President Moon of South Korea said without Donald Trump, the Olympics would have been a total failure. That’s true. True.” So exactly what did Trump do?
  • “By the way, if we coasted for two-and-a-half years, we did a hell of a job.” Trump claiming, if he did nothing in the final 30 months, he would easily win.
  • Talked about Arnold Schwarzenegger failure to have decent ratings when he took over The Celebrity Apprentice. This is politics?
  • “We got 52%, right, 52.” 52% among white women [which isn’t good] in the last election but 41% of women overall.
  • “Did you see the other day, 96% of what they do, all I do is good stuff, the economy is the best it’s ever been.” 96% of who?
  • “I would love to beat Oprah. I know her weakness.” He must know her very well.
  • “Martha Stewart failed.” She’s in politics?
  • “He was a great cheerleader for the country. But not great on the trade.” On Ronald Reagan, I’m sure many Republicans weren’t happy.
  • “I hear he’s better looking. I think I’m better looking than him. I do. I do.” He is Democratic challenger Conor Lamb who is less than half of Trump’s age.
  • “[Democrats] are getting killed now by the DACA recipients. They are getting killed.” We assume in some type of poll but there hasn’t been any poll on that.
  • “Did I do a good job? Atlanta?” Trump is talking here about the Republican victory in the Georgia 6th district special election last year. But what have the Republicans done since?
  • “I’ve got all the big builders, the best ones in the world. I know the best builders….” For the Trump Wall. All the builders in the US?
  • “We have done more than any first term administration in the history of our country.” How do you measure that?
  • “They all want to be on councils. They call them blue ribbon councils where we take Melania — great, great first lady. She’s great.” Can you figure this sentence out?

So exactly how much did he talk about the Republican running in the special election? Yes. That much.

Notice how he loves to use third person to talk about himself?


Trump and Kim Jun Un to meet, or will they

North Korea, it seems, is looking to do some negotiations for possible peace talks. When Donald Trump was asked who should take credit for the change of heart by North Korea, Trump said “Me”. Wow. No American president has ever met with a North Korea leader.

Trump immediately approved of a meeting by May with Kim Jun Un even before most of his cabinet knew. For example, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson didn’t know. He also agreed even before there were any plans for the meeting. All we know is that there will be no missile testing [but nothing about research] at least until the meeting and the North Koreans aren’t expecting any sanctions to be lifted.

No matter what is the outcome of this expected meeting [after all, you got two men with huge egos and histories of scrapping plans], Kim Jun Un will be the real winner as it will put him on the world stage diplomatically. Unlikely but if the meeting is held on US or North Korean soil, it will be a bigger win for Kim Jun Un.

Trump accused the Obama administration of using the investigation into potential ties between his campaign and Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. He tweeted “Why did the Obama Administration start an investigation into the Trump Campaign (with zero proof of wrongdoing) long before the Election in November?” It’s unclear exactly what pre-election investigation Trump was referring to.

The surveillance of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and campaign associate Carter Page was approved by the secret court that oversees domestic surveillance of American citizens under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. In Page’s case, the FBI and Justice Department presented enough evidence to the court to convince Republican-appointed judges to continue the surveillance into mid-2017.

Trump also tweeted “Obama did NOTHING about Russian meddling”. Except Obama applied new economic sanctions on the Russian government, ordered the State Department to shut down Russian compounds in Maryland and New York, and expelled 35 Russian diplomats that he described as “intelligence operatives.”

Former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg said he refuses to comply with a grand jury subpoena in the Russia investigation. “Screw that. Why do I have to go? Why? For what?” He blamed the investigation’s existence on Trump’s firing of James Comey as FBI director including an interview where Trump said he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he fired Comey and the fact that he held a meeting with top Russian officials in the Oval Office. “Donald Trump caused this because he’s an idiot.”

Nunberg said that he would not appear before a grand jury or spend time reviewing his communications in order to comply with the subpoena. “No I’m not protecting him, but he didn’t do anything,” Nunberg said. “You know what he did? He won the election.” The Trump campaign fired Nunberg in August 2015 after a series of racist Facebook posts came to light.

A Middle East specialist named George Nader with ties to Donald Trump’s team attended secret meetings during the presidential transition between the United Arab Emirates and Trump associates, and is now cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller. Nader is a low-profile diplomatic go-between who has forged close ties to the Emirates, was stopped and questioned by the FBI at Dulles International Airport in January.

The Trump team says it views jobs in the steel industry as an economic-security issue, and therefore a national-security issue. Trump has excluded Canada and Mexico for steel and aluminum tariffs for now while the NAFTA talks continue. Previously he said that if Trump didn’t get his say during those talks, he would impose tariffs on them. But NAFTA is unrelated to national security, and excluding Canada and Mexico for that reason could prompt legal challenges at the World Trade Organization.

Trump has lobbed a grenade of uncertainty onto the NAFTA negotiating table, suggesting that tariffs on Canadian and Mexican steel are now dependent on whether the countries agree to a new trade pact. He will implement the tariffs under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, a little-known trade law from 1962. To do that, Trump must claim that steel and aluminum imports hurt the country’s national security.

Trump escalated threats of a trade war, saying he would slap a new tax on European cars if the EU retaliated against his proposed steel and aluminum tariffs. “We will simply apply a Tax on their Cars which freely pour into the U.S.,” he tweeted. I’m sure they don’t come into the US without any type of tax. If imposed, they would target, as retaliation, tariffs on the main industries for key [mostly] Republican Congressmen and Senators. Trump has declared that trade wars are “easy to win”.

A February 22 SEC filing shows Carl Icahn sold off his $31.3 million stake in the Manitowoc Company a week before Trump’s announcement, which is a leading global manufacturer of cranes for heavy construction based in Manitowoc, Wis., according to the company’s website. Since Trump’s announcement, Manitowoc’s stock has plummeted to about $26. Icahn had sold his shares for about $32 to $34 each, according to the SEC disclosure. Icahn is a major Trump supporter. Coincidence?

Trump actually claimed [as a great economist] that trade wars are actually a good thing. In a news conference, Trump promised his proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum will be applied in a “very loving way.” Whatever that “loving” means. Maybe he said he may exempt some other countries while some may see increases or decreases in percentages.

General Motors and Ford could each take a US$1 billion profit hit if the tariffs are put in place, according to analysts at Goldman Sachs and layoffs could be in cards as companies adjust to changing prices as much as 45,000 jobs.

Trump’s top economic adviser Gary Cohn is resigning. Cohn, who had been rumored just weeks ago as a potential next chief of staff, will leave the White House in the wake of his fierce disagreement with Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

A new lawsuit filed by the porn star known as Stormy Daniels claims Trump never signed a hush agreement regarding an alleged sexual encounter between the two and therefore the agreement is void. Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, signed the document on behalf of the President instead. She claims in the lawsuit to have had an affair with Trump several years prior to his presidency. The lawsuit says Cohen has continued his attempts at silencing Clifford — including as recently as February 27, 2018. Cohen also used a Trump Organization Email account when negotiating the payoff.

Trump is upset with White House press secretary Sarah “Simpleton” Sanders over her responses regarding his alleged affair with porn star Daniels. Sanders told reporters that the arbitration was won “in the President’s favor.” In fact it is a temporary restraining order last week to prevent a pornographic film star from speaking out about her alleged affair with Trump. The statement is an admission that the nondisclosure agreement exists and that it directly involves the President. It is the first time the White House has admitted Trump was involved in any way with Daniels.

Lawrence S. Rosen, a lawyer representing Trump’s legal counsel Michael Cohen, said in a statement that an arbitrator, who “found that Ms. Clifford had violated the agreement,” barred her from filing her lawsuit and making other disclosures of confidential information. Daniel’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said that he did not consider the restraining order, dated Feb. 27, valid because it was brought on behalf of Cohen not Trump.

Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 of his own money using his home equity line, which he admitted to in February. Cohen and Sanders has said Trump “vehemently denies” any sexual encounter between the two. Then why pay her that amount?

When adult film star Jessica Drake accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct a month before the presidential election, Trump said through a spokesperson that he didn’t know the woman and had “no interest in ever knowing her.” Less than a week later, a woman named Angel Ryan was listed in a secret settlement agreement negotiated by Cohen. They are the same person – confirmed by Ryan’s lawyer.

The US Office of Special Counsel announced that White House aide Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act on two occasions by “advocating for and against candidates” in last year’s Alabama Senate special election. The agency said Conway “impermissibly mixed official government business with political views about candidates in the Alabama special election.” The agency sends its results to Trump for “punishment”. Good luck there!

Plans by the Trump administration to rescind an Obama-era rule that allows spouses of thousands of H-1B visa holders to work in the United States has been delayed until June, according to a court filing from the Department of Homeland Security.

Several tech companies – including Etsy, Kickstarter, Foursquare and Shutterstock – filed a petition challenging the Federal Communications Commission’s rollback of net neutrality protections. Many states are also taking the FCC to court over the issue.

A ProPublica report claims that the Trump Organization placed an order for golf tee markers displaying the presidential seal, which may be a violation of federal law.

Trump tweeted: “Lowest rated Oscars in HISTORY. Problem is, we don’t have Stars anymore – except your President (just kidding, of course)!” He was actually right regarding the ratings. I won’t comment on his other comment. Oscar host Jimmy Kimmel responded with his own tweet “Thanks, lowest rated President in HISTORY.”

A day before the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived at the White House, Jared Kushner, who was the lead negotiator for the US paid him a visit. Remember that Kushner has lost some of his security clearance access.

he administration has hinted they are close to revealing a plan. Problem is that the Palestinian negotiators have refused to meet with the US following Trump’s announcement that the US embassy will move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem but that hasn’t stopped the US from moving forward with the plan.

Diamonds from first daughter Ivanka Trump’s now-defunct fine jewelry line were allegedly used in a massive money-laundering and fraud scheme. The Commercial Bank of Dubai in late June sought and later got permission to subpoena Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry, claiming its diamonds were vehicles in a scheme to hide about $100 million owed to the financial institution. This was based on filings at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York made over the summer.

Chinese President Xi Jinping recently consolidated power. Trump told a luncheon for Republican donors: “He’s now president for life. President for life. And he’s great.” Trump added, “I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll give that a shot someday.”

Trump had a meeting with the top executive is the video game industry in the unproven thought that violent video game users could be a contributing factor for mass shootings in the US. Of course, Trump has suggested rating both games and movies for violence. Such ratings already exist.

The Trump administration has quietly decided once again to allow Americans to import the body parts of African elephants shot for sport, despite presidential tweets decrying the practice as a “horror show.” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke issued a letter dated March 1 announcing that the importation of elephant trophies will now be approved on a “case-by-case basis.” Trump’s two adult sons are trophy hunters.

After nearly a year of threats, the Trump administration made its most aggressive move to date against a familiar target of its ire: California and its immigration policies. The Department of Justice filed a federal lawsuit against the state and its top officials to stop a cluster of so-called “sanctuary state” bills — a move that puts the administration on offense but is nonetheless likely to generate heated litigation over the boundaries of immigration authority.

It wasn’t a good week or so for the Trump administration last week:

  • Joseph Yun, a top U.S. diplomat overseeing North Korea policy, announced his retirement.
  • Elaine Duke, the deputy secretary of Homeland Security, announced her retirement.
    Sally Donnelly, a prominent adviser to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, is resigning.
  • Reed Cordish, a senior aide to Jared Kushner, announced his departure from the White House.
  • George David Banks, a special assistant to Trump for international energy and environmental policy on the National Economic Council, resigned because of reported difficulties with his security clearance.

The National Rifle Association is suing the state of Florida after Gov. Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 7026 into law, the first gun control legislation enacted in the state after the Parkland school massacre on February 14. The NRA says it goes against the Second Amendment.

The new Florida law raises the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21 from 18, bans the sale or possession of bump fire stocks, gives law enforcement greater power to seize weapons and ammunition from those deemed mentally unfit, and provides additional funding for armed school resource officers.

Trump reached a presidential milestone at his Palm Beach County, Florida, golf club recently with one hundred days in office at a golf club that bears his name. So roughly a quarter of his term has been spent at that specific golf course [true, he probably did SOME work that he was voted in to do on most of those days]. The same man who said in 2014 “Can you believe that, with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf” and during the 2016 campaign he said “I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to go play golf.”

Since Trump entered office the number of GOP leaning independent voters have dropped at least 6% but those went to the “undecided” as the Democrats barely picked up anything.

People easily disgusted by body odors seem to prefer authoritarian leaders and were likelier to support Donald Trump, an unusual study into the origins of ideology. The seemingly obscure link, it said, may be rooted in a deep-seated instinct to avoid disease — whether in individuals whose smell suggests they are germ-carriers, or “unfamiliar” people such as immigrants or minorities.

A 2015 report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence pegged the total at 2,885,570 people for confidential and secret clearances and 1,363,483 for top secret clearances.

The 2018 Presidents and Executive Politics Presidential Greatness Survey and found Abe Lincoln the best president ever and Trump dead last. In fact, the first 7 presidents in the survey didn’t change from the same order when the survey was done 4 years ago. In order, the best 7 were Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Harry S. Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.

Trump even ranked 40 out of 44 presidents when looking at Republicans and conservatives voters. Bill Clinton, who fell to 13th best after being ranked eighth in 2014. Obama came in eighth, up 10 spots from 18th in 2014. George W. Bush moved up five spots, from 35th to 30th. Reagan also moved into the top 10, ranking ninth. In 2014, he was at 11.

In a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, sixty-two percent of respondents said Trump is not doing enough to prevent mass shootings and 77% say Congress is doing an inadequate job on the issue. 57% said mass shootings in the United States were more of a reflection of problems identifying and treating people with mental health problems, while 28% blamed “inadequate gun laws.” Nine percent blamed both equally. Some 58% of those polled said stricter gun control laws would have prevented the Florida shooting.

No action from the Trump administration on guns

About 3 weeks ago, 17 people – mostly teenagers – were murdered at a Florida school buy an unstable individual.

Donald Trump and other politicians had promised that there will be changes but aside from some token responses from various states [ban bump stock, increase the age to purchase a gun], the federal government has failed to do anything other than blowing hot air.

On the day after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, Trump told confidants and aides that he was moved to do something his predecessors had failed to do. Like? We are waiting. {tap. Tap.]

Trump has already at least partially backed away from raising the age limit to 21 years old for any gun. As it is you can buy an assault rifle [such as the AR-15 model that was used in the shootings] at the age of 18 but for a hand gun, you need to wait until 21.

Then we have the problem of trying to keep guns away from those who are mentally unstable. Even the NRA is against this arguing that any American has the right to bear arms even if not quite all there. They also thing those of lower age than 16 should also be able to use a gun – and yet they can’t vote which is guaranteed under the constitution.

Trump and most Republicans had campaigned during the primaries and election campaign with policies that mirrored the NRA’s stances on guns.

Remember that the Republicans control the House and Senate and all but 6 of these Republican politicians received money from the NRA [some of them in the millions over their political life]. You think they want to cut off their food source by voting on something that goes against the NRA’s policies?

Family problems and more departures

The Washington Post published a bombshell report that at least four countries had discussed how to use White House senior adviser Jared Kushner’s sparse experience, financial troubles and intricate business arrangements to manipulate him.

The security clearance of Kushner has been downgraded. Kushner had been operating with an interim clearance at the “top secret/sensitive compartmented information” level for more than a year. Now he is only authorized to access information at the lower “secret” level.

The news set off rampant speculation among Donald Trump allies that Kushner’s days in the White House might be numbered. Another announcement saw the departure of a top Kushner aide in the White House, deputy communications director Josh Raffel, the third departure of a Kushner ally in the West Wing in as many months.

With the downgrade in clearance, Kushner may not be able to fulfill his job as a foreign policy advisor such as the Middle East peace process – which itself went from not good to worse since Trump announced that it would move the US embassy to Jerusalem. Is that advising? He also can’t be in any room where a higher security clearance is required.

He can’t even see intercepted communications or the most secret CIA information about their informants. Unless Kushner is cleared by the FBI to receive a permanent security clearance or gets a waiver from Trump [I can see that happening!], his diminished role will spur fresh speculation about his longevity as a White House staffer.

He also worked on trade deals for the United States’ relationships in Asia has been dying a slow death over the last year due to a combination of his lack of experience, lack of respect from world leaders and the actions of his boss and father-in-law, President Donald Trump. The drop in clearance will also affect Ivanka Trump.

Trump pledged to hire the most qualified people in the world to serve in his administration, and made the alleged mishandling of classified material by his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton a key argument of his campaign. But yet, his “qualified” people have either resigned [more likely fired] or can’t get a top secret security clearance. Yet many others also can’t get a clearance approved.

White House press secretary Sarah “Simpleton” Sanders insisted that the change in Kushner’s security clearance would not impact his standing in the White House. “He is a valued member of the team and will continue to do the important work he has been doing since he started in the administration,” she said. He won’t be too valuable if he doesn’t have the access needed to do his job – maybe except for maintenance work [gardener, pick up trash from baskets, etc.] Trump has the ability to declassify information and could do so in order to allow Kushner to see certain documents, which might not fly well with the national security and intelligence communities. But he doesn’t care about them since has already degraded them in the past.

Kushner’s family real estate group obtained business loans after Kushner met with the company heads in his official government capacity where Kushner met with Joshua Harris, one of the founders of Apollo Global Management, on multiple occasions while advising the Trump administration on infrastructure policy. The size of the loan was triple the size of their average property loan.

As well, Citigroup’s chief executive, Michael Corbat, met with Kushner in the spring of 2017 and a short time after, the group lent Kushner Companies $325 million for some of its Brooklyn properties.

The chief White House calligrapher has greater access to sensitive information than Kushner with a top secret clearance. The clearance is supposedly required because of the knowledge of the President’s schedule, as well as the calligrapher’s proximity to world leaders.

Not to be outdone by her hubby, US counterintelligence officials are scrutinizing one of Ivanka Trump’s international business deals. The FBI has been looking into the negotiations and financing surrounding Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver. The scrutiny could be a hurdle for the first daughter as she tries to obtain a full security clearance in her role as adviser to President Donald Trump. Wonder how her father will respond to this news. Twitter storm against the FBI?

Adding to this is that Trump was already under ethical fire for breaking anti-nepotism conventions by hiring family members.

Trump indirectly notified Chief of Staff John Kelly against removing Kushner’s clearance. So instead, Kelly reduced his clearance. But with Kushner’s job requirements, it is the same as removing as Kushner will now be mostly useless at his job. This could push Trump to remove Kelly from his job. If you remember, Kushner had to adjust his security clearance at least three times to add further information previously left out.

Trump has begun floating possible names for a future chief of staff in conversations with outside advisers. This includes budget director Mick Mulvaney, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Mark Meadows and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

So now Communications Director Hope Hicks has resigned. Hicks explained her decision saying she told colleagues that she had accomplished what she felt she could with a job that made her one of the most powerful people in Washington, and that there would never be a perfect moment to leave.

But one day after she spent hours testifying in front of the House Intelligence Committee regarding its investigation into Russia’s attempted meddling in the 2016 presidential election where she acknowledged that she sometimes told white lies for Trump but insisted that she had never done so in regard to the Russia investigation.

Supposedly Trump berated Hicks after her testimony to the House Intelligence Committee. She was considered one of his closest allies. And now? Betrayal?

During Hicks’ testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, she reportedly admitted to telling white lies on behalf of Trump, but said she never had to lie on substantial issues for him. But “It truly was just a setup of this witness [Hicks], who was trying to be forthright and honest,” according to Utah Rep. Chris Stewart. Funny how no one else complained and why 3 days later?

The Supreme Court said that it will stay out of the dispute concerning the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for now, meaning the Trump administration may not be able to end the program March 5 as planned.

Trump right away blamed the Democrats on inaction. Trump has previously claimed his plan will allow 3 times more DACA people than the previous Obama administration. The current DACA program could help protect potentially 1.9 million people [1.3 million at this time] who are eligible – the same as Trump’s plan.

Trump called Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson [the deputy who didn’t enter the school building in Parkland] a “coward” as well as other comments. Not only did Peterson, the armed school resource officer, had not entered the building, but three other deputies were also outside the school and had not entered. The deputies had their pistols drawn and were behind their vehicles and not one of them went into the school. Maybe because you don’t go up against a shooter with a handgun while the shooter has an AR15. Why isn’t Trump going after them?

While Trump is pushing for teachers to be armed at schools, the majority of state governors, at a meeting are against that though saying that teachers are there to teach – not police.

Trump hilariously said he would have stormed into the Florida high school to stop the gunman perpetrating the nation’s latest mass shooting “even if I didn’t have a weapon” as he lambasted the inaction of a sheriff’s deputy assigned to the school.

Trump raised eyebrows in a meeting by suggesting that law enforcement officials should be able to confiscate people’s firearms without a court order to prevent potential tragedies. Guarantee the NRA won’t like that or Second Amendment hawks.

Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign used a photo of a survivor of the Parkland, Florida, shooting in an email that asks its recipients to donate money to the campaign. The email contains a photo of 17-year-old survivor in a hospital bed surrounded by her family, Trump and the first lady. Very tacky. A privacy issue?

Trump appears to be backing away from his call to increase the age limit to 21 for some weapons. Surprised? There was a bipartisan bill to “raise the minimum purchase age for non-military buyers from 18 to 21.” But now Trump has indicated how a soldier could be told he or she could use an assault weapon on the battlefield but not at home to protect his or her family.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said he isn’t supportive of the proposals to impose new restrictions on gun purchases, telling reporters “we shouldn’t be banning guns for law abiding citizens.” But then he said “we should be focusing on making sure that citizens who shouldn’t get guns in the first place don’t get those guns.” That last part was right but he is assuming like just about every pro-NRA politician that new rules would apply to those who haven’t been in trouble before.

Asked about arming teachers, Ryan suggested that the issue was not something Congress should take the lead on. But Trump is suggesting to do just that and both are gun related which is probably a federal jurisdiction.

The House passed a bill was attached to another a proposal that loosens gun regulations and allows those with permits to carry concealed weapons to legally travel with those firearms to other states. Take them on airplanes?

Florida state House approves only one part of a gun bill – ban bump stocks [sale and possession]. Failed to ban assault weapons, arm teachers or mental health background check.

Donald Trump Jr. liked a tweet promoting a false conspiracy theory that claimed that Parkland survivor Lauren Hogg’s older brother, David, had been coached by his father — a former FBI agent — to speak out against President Donald Trump.

Of all the congress members only 6 Republicans did NOT receive any financial support from the NRA. In comparison only 24 Democrats did receive support from them – with the most at just $49,000 for his career. Eight Republican lawmakers have been on the receiving end of at least $1 million in campaign contributions from the NRA over the courses of their careers. Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio is among them.

The state of Georgia is threatening to kill a tax break on jet fuel for Delta airlines after Delta abandoned its relationship with the NRA unless delta goes back to the status quo. Blackmail? Just over a dozen individuals used Delta’s NRA discount.

Georgia Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, a frontrunner in the state’s gubernatorial race this year, vowed to “kill any tax legislation” that helps Delta unless it reverses course. “Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back,” he tweeted. We know where he is getting some of his donations from.

Vermont is home to the nation’s most permissive gun laws saying all you have to do was Google “AR-15 Vermont,” get in touch with a seller, and a few emails later and you could had arranged to exchange the weapon in a parking lot — no ID, background check, license, or wait required.

While some expect Kelly to leave the administration, White House national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster could leave his position in the White House by the end of the month and more likely that McMaster will not return to the military and ultimately will retire as a three-star general.

Out of the blue, Trump wants to impose a 25% tariff on steel imports and 10% tariff on aluminum. Unsure what brought this on [but with him does anything have a reason?]. It was not immediately clear whether Trump would exempt some countries from the tariffs, as his national security advisers have urged him to do to avoid hurting key US allies. Already the move has divided top advisors and caused the Dow Jones to drop 400 points.

He had tweeted “Our Steel and Aluminum industries (and many others) have been decimated by decades of unfair trade and bad policy with countries from around the world. We must not let our country, companies and workers be taken advantage of any longer. We want free, fair and SMART TRADE!” If you look at the tweet, it is basically the same word he uses when he thinks the US has had a bad deal. For example, with NAFTA he complains about Canada taking advantage of the US but yet it is Canada that has a trade deficit.

Aside from the industries that use Canadian aluminum and steel, various Trump backers and politicians have already complained about how it will actually hurt Americans in the end. For example, American companies will have to purchase more American steel and aluminum which is more expensive. The extra costs would be passed on those that use them. Molson Coors [which uses aluminum for beer cans] are estimating it will add 10% to the price of a beer can. That could cause job loses because of probable loss in beer sales.

According to a report, special counsel Robert Mueller is asking questions about Trump’s business dealings with Russia before Trump’s campaign, a potentially significant development in the investigation. Mueller is also taking a look at Trump’s finances in the run-up to his decision to run for president.

Trump publicly chastised Attorney General Jeff Sessions again over an investigation into alleged surveillance abuses. He tweeted “Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!” Isn’t this meddling in investigations that involve himself? The attorney general is supposed to be independent – not take orders from the President every time things don’t go his way or has nothing else to tweet about.

Trump’s personal pilot, John Duncan, is on a short list to head the Federal Aviation Administration. [Can Homer Simpson be the new Secretary of the Department of Energy?]

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has called off an official trip to Washington to meet with Trump after a tense phone call brought the two leaders to a policy-driven standstill. Peña Nieto called off the trip in March after Trump would not agree to publicly affirm Mexico’s position that it would not fund construction of a border wall. At least one Mexican official said Trump “lost his temper.”

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has firmly denied reports about its involvement in secret negotiations with a “Russian intermediary” from whom the agency, along with the NSA, allegedly tried to retrieve a trove of stolen hacking tools. “The fictional story that CIA was bilked out of $100,000 is patently false,” the CIA said in a statement. The agency added that the only “people swindled here were James Risen and Matt Rosenberg,” the authors of the Friday reports in the New York Times and the Intercept.

The vague descriptions of the alleged spy saga described how the US spies were conned by a man they believed was linked to Russian intelligence, who fed them $100,000-worth of ‘gossip’ about Trump instead of the material they were after. The National Security Agency (NSA) has not yet officially commented on the issue.
Former adviser to Trump’s campaign Carter Page claims that the US government [i.e. Obama administration] meddled in more on the last election than the Russians. Page always wasn’t working with a “full deck”.


US Politicians and the NRA

“Legislative proposals that prevent law-abiding adults aged 18-20 years old from acquiring rifles and shotguns effectively prohibits them for purchasing any firearm, thus depriving them of their constitutional right to self-protection,” the National Rifle Associated said in a statement.

Why stop at 18? How about a 12 year old? 10? 5? The NRA is then depriving those under 18 of their constitutional right to self-protection. Who are they to say a 16 year old [for example] isn’t as mature as an 18 year old? What is the NRA’s lowest age that is acceptable to them.

The current federal minimum age for buying or possessing handguns is 21, but the limit is 18 for rifles including assault-type weapons such as the AR-15 used in the Florida mass shootings. All the killings done in Las Vegas came from assault weapons – not handguns. In some states — mostly rural states with a strong tradition of hunting — young people can buy a rifle at age 14 or 16.

So someone can use an assault rifle at a younger age than someone with a handgun – the former can be fired quite fast – especially with the Bump Stocks.

Expect Donald Trump to flip flop on the what he has promised and what he will do. He gets his backing from the NRA but has promised to tighten laws regarding guns. He will get some flak from the NRA if he tries to reduce their clout. [Did Trump talk to the NRA before making his latest decision so they’d agree to it or maybe not agree and change their minds?]

Senator Marco Rubio, who has an A+ rating from the NRA, refused to answer a question from a student who survived the Florida school’s mass shooting on whether he would take money from the National Rifle Association. He tried to change the subject – talking about his agenda and how he would fix gun laws – but the student persisted. He never did answer the question.

There are quite a few [mostly] Republican politicians who count on the NRA’s support at election time.

NRA vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre criticized independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, California Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren and other high-profile Democrats, whom he accused of backing European style socialism as well creating new victimized groups and hurling insults at conservatives. “If they seize power … our American freedoms could be lost and our country will be changed forever,” he said. “The first to go will be the Second Amendment.”

The gun lobbies and other right wing groups still send out the threat that the Democrats would repeal the second amendment with their “they’ll take away your Second Amendment” lies. To do that, two thirds of the House of Representatives and two thirds of the Senate and three-quarters of the 50 states would have to agree to the change. Good luck there.

LaPierre said the NRA will provide support and guidance on how schools can protect themselves free of charge. He argued that was “more” than the Democratic Party or news organizations were doing. Hmmm. Isn’t guidance what the government does?

LaPierre is calling those who have spoken out about gun control in the wake of the shooting “opportunists” who are exploiting a tragedy.

The NRA claims that they’ve worked to try and fix the country’s background check system by encouraging lawmakers to fight to incentivize states to enter records into the National Criminal Background Checks system. Yes. We can see the great job. More and more mass shootings than ever.

The NRA, at CPCAC, actually accused the [left leaning] media of wanting mass murders to boost their revenue from increased advertizing and ratings.

United Airlines, Best Western, MetLife and at least a dozen other companies — one after another — are doing away with discounts and perks for NRA members.

First National Bank of Omaha, one of the largest private banks in the United States, announced that it would discontinue its “NRA Visa Card,” which had given the organization’s members 5 percent back on gas and sporting-goods purchases.

Then add Enterprise, Hertz, Avis Budget Group and TrueCar as would North American Van Lines and Allied Van Lines. Then Symantec and Chubb.

After the Sandy Hook campaign in 2012 to move away from NRA, the NRA’s contributions to Democratic politicians dropped to almost nothing. By 2017, the NRA was producing apocalyptic videos that had almost nothing to do with guns and instead accused Democrats and reporters of tilting the United States into “organized anarchy.”