Of Russia, Panama and Moore

Well after a fairly quiet week as he was in Asia, Trump was back in full force.

Sen. John McCain slammed Donald Trump for saying he believes Russian President Vladimir Poutine over senior US intelligence officials when he says his country didn’t interfere in the 2016 election. “There’s nothing ‘America First’ about taking the word of a KGB colonel over that of the American intelligence community,” said McCain.

“He said he didn’t meddle. He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One. “I think he is very insulted by it,” Trump added. Do Americans care that Poutine is?

A new report shows that for 10 years, a Trump property in Panama City collected millions of dollars from the Russian mafia and Colombian drug cartels. An investigation from Global Witness, an international NGO that probes corruption and money laundering, reveals how the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower turned a blind eye to crime lords looking for a safe haven to stash their blood money.

The property, with lead broker Alexandre Ventura Nogueira, listed units for three times the going rate in Panama City, thanks to the Trump name. Nogueira worked closely with the Trump family; he claims he attended at least 10 meetings with Ivanka Trump, who challenged him to sell 100 units in the building.

Nogueira later fled Panama after he was arrested for unrelated charges of real estate fraud. From his European asylum, he told NBC that at least half of his Trump Ocean Club customers were Russians, including some with “questionable backgrounds.” Only later did he learn of their ties to Russian organized crime circles.

Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore reiterated his denials against what he said were allegations of sexual misconduct, adding that “revelations” regarding the charges will surface over the coming days. Will he follow Trump’s lead by not actually announcing those “revelations”? He added that the alleged incidents happened nearly 40 years ago. Does that make a difference?

A former co-worker of Moore says it was ‘common knowledge’ that Moore dated high school girls.

Counselor to Trump, Kellyanne Conway, says that actions allegedly committed by Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore “should disqualify anyone”.

“I’ve been investigated more than anyone in this country,” claims Moore. Very Trump sounding. He is complaining that it is the Democrats who are after him and yet even Republicans [other than the hard conservatives] are against him now.

Keurig pulled its advertising from Sean Hannity’s Fox News show after his interview with Moore. In protest, some Twitter users posted videos of themselves destroying their Keurig coffee makers. Critics of the interview said Hannity went too easy on Moore. By Saturday, other companies including 23andMe and E-Trade all announced they would also pull their ads.

House Speaker Paul Ryan called allegations leveled against Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore about pursuing relationships with teenage girls and committing sexual assault “credible” and that he should step aside.

The Republican National Committee has withdrawn from a joint fundraising agreement with Moore, according to a Federal Election Commission filing, as the GOP establishment continues to break ties with the Alabama Senate candidate.

A man who worked at the local mall in Moore’s hometown of Gadsden says Moore was on a mall watch list because he was “bothering girls in the mall.”

While Trump has stayed quiet on the Moore matter, Conway addressed the situation briefly on Fox and Friends by saying “The president will make a statement when he wants to make a statement.” Which is code word/phrase for never.

Moore allies will wonder if Trump dumped him because of the allegations. It’s not the first time he turned his back on fellow Republicans. The state’s party are still supporting him. Fearing a lawsuit and backlash, they are keeping him on the ballot. The governor’s office and entire state Legislature will be up for grabs in a year.

Moore’s attorney is trying to cast doubt at one of Moore’s accusers claiming a signature is fake in a high school yearbook. But what about the other 5 [so far]. Gloria Allred, the accuser’s attorney, later said her client would allow the yearbook to be examined only if Moore is questioned under oath by a Senate committee. So far, Moore’s side hasn’t agreed.

It’s too late to remove Moore’s name from the ballot, so fielding a Republican write-in at this point would almost certainly hand the election to the Democrats unless he should withdraw and persuade his supporters to vote for that substitute.

Trump, who has stayed quiet on the allegations of sexual abuse against Moore, blasted Democratic Sen. Al Franken after a woman said he groped and kissed her without her consent. The accuser accepted Franken’s apology. Franken said he would welcome an ethics probe into his conduct.

Back in October 2016, Trump said all the accusations against him from the 12 accusers were false and he would take them all to court after the election. Guess how many he took to court 13 months later? None.

A group of Alabama women in Montgomery were backing Moore saying the [at least] six accuses are liars and are in just for the money and fame. You don’t get fame for accusing someone and none asked for money or launched a lawsuit.

Trump’s repeated public comments attacking the Justice Department have not influenced the department or ongoing investigations, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said during a contentious House judiciary committee hearing. “To announce recusal from any investigation would confirm the existence of that investigation, and top officials have advised me I should not do so,” Sessions said.

Sessions said although his Justice Department will consider investigations into Hillary Clinton, he could not say whether he would recuse himself from the matter, contradicting his previous statements on the matter. News broke that Sessions has asked senior federal prosecutors to “evaluate certain issues” presented by House Republicans, including alleged ties between the Clinton Foundation and the sale of Uranium One.

Senate judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and ranking member Dianne Feinstein sent a letter requesting more information on Trump’s son-in-law and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner related to his security clearance and questions over whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 election.

The two senators specifically requested “transcripts from other committee interviews, additional documents from previous requests, communications with (former national security adviser) Michael Flynn and documents related to his security clearance,” according to their statement.

Kushner told congressional Russia investigators that he did not communicate with WikiLeaks and did not recall anyone on the Trump campaign who had. But Kushner did receive and forward an email from Donald Trump Jr. about contact Trump Jr. had with WikiLeaks, according to a new report this week and a letter from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte “briefly” discussed human rights and the Philippine’s bloody war on drugs during their closed-door conversation, the White House said. But a spokesman for the Philippine President told reporters that “human rights did not arise” during the meeting.

While Trump did nothing about the human rights abuses in the Philippines with Duterte, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau directly raised human-rights concerns with Duterte — including extrajudicial killings carried out by security forces in his country — in a confrontation that the Philippine president later derided as a “personal and official insult.” Duterte also seemed to have a different recollection regarding the conversation. Who would you believe…. [Trudeau was the only leader to talk with Duterte about the issue.]

Before the vote, House GOP thinks it has the votes for tax overhaul. You would figure with an easy majority this would be a no brainer in any normal presidency.

The House of Representatives passed major tax reform legislation along party lines, advancing a key agenda item for President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans. The vote was 227-205, with no Democrats backing the bill. But expect an uphill battle in the Senate.

Senate Republicans plan to include a repeal of the individual mandate — a key piece of the Affordable Care Act — in their tax reform efforts. The mandate requires nearly all Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty. But getting rid of it has a cost.

Roughly 4 million fewer people would be covered in the first year the repeal would take effect, the Congressional Budget Office said last week, rising to 13 million by 2027, as compared to current law. Premiums would also rise by about 10% in most years of the decade, “Republicans just can’t help themselves,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “They’re so determined to provide tax giveaways to the rich that they’re willing to raise premiums on millions of middle-class Americans and kick 13 million people off their health care.”

Already the America’s Health Insurance Plans, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, and the Federation of American Hospitals are against the plan.

The House leadership is now pressing those same suburban representatives [that did badly in last week’s elections] to back a tax reform bill that independent analysts say will raise taxes on many of their constituents, particularly in Democratic-leaning states and around the major metropolitan areas with the highest real estate values.

Already GOP Sen. Ron Johnson has come out against the current version of the bill. If two more GOP senators go against the bill [assuming all Democrats vote against the bill and that’s very likely], this bill will be dead in the water.

In the Senate tax plan, senate Republicans are proposing significant excise tax reductions for wine, liquor and beer — including one that slashes in half the rate for craft brewers. But the party could be short lived. Even if it passes, the proposed tax reductions are set to expire after two years. Coincidently the first day is New Year’s Eve 2017 and the last day is Year’s Eve 2019 [so it goes through 3 “Eves”].

House Democrats introduced articles of impeachment against Trump, though they acknowledged their efforts have no chance of success while Republicans control both houses of Congress. Democrat Rep. Steve Cohen introduced five articles of impeachment that include obstruction of justice for Trump’s decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey, two emoluments clause violations, undermining the independence of the federal judiciary and undermining the freedom of the press.

Sanders responded in a statement, saying time spent calling for Trump’s impeachment “would be better spent focusing on tax relief for American families and businesses. It’s disappointing that extremists in Congress still refuse to accept the President’s decisive victory in last year’s election.” Seems only the Republicans think that the Democrats are disgruntled because they lost the election.

The Trump administration is lifting a federal ban imposed by the Obama administration on the importation of body parts from African elephants shot for sport. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a written notice saying that allowing elephants in Zimbabwe to be killed will enhance the survival of the threatened species by raising money for conservation programs from the wealthy trophy hunters who pay to shoot them.

In probably a rarity this year, Republican and Democratic senators have joined forces on legislation to strengthen the FBI database of prohibited gun buyers after the Air Force failed to report the criminal history of the gunman who slaughtered more than two dozen people at a Texas church. The bill would ensure that federal agencies, such as the Defense Department, and states accurately report relevant criminal information to the FBI. The bill faces an uncertain future in the GOP-run House.

North Korea has reacted angrily to Trump’s recent comments [“fat and short”] about Kim Jong-un, saying, “the worst crime for which he can never be pardoned is that he dared [to] malignantly hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership. He should know that he is just a hideous criminal sentenced to death by the Korean people.”

With just 46% approval by Rasmussen’s polling, Trump says of Rasmussen that it was “one of the most accurate polls last time around.” Rasmussen survey only likely voters – not all voters. Rasmussen tends to be give trump 10% more approval percentage over other polls. Even then, most Presidents wouldn’t be excited if under 50%. With Trump, he’ll take anything.

Then Trump’s tweet adds a very Trumpian comment: “Some people think numbers could be in the 50’s.” “Some people” or “many people” is Trump’s traditional way of saying “nobody, but wouldn’t it be nice if.”

Trump tweeted “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!” The three players are accused of shoplifting during a trip to China to play a game. Trump told the media that he spoke directly to Chinese President Xi Jinping about the case and were supposedly released right after. Demanding to be praised by three teenagers for what you did for them isn’t exactly presidential. [Do convicted shoplifters in China actually get 10 years?]

Trump has selected former pharmaceutical executive Alex Azar as his newest pick to lead the department of Health and Human Services. Trump tweeted while overseas of his intentions to tap Azar, writing that Azar “will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices!” There’s another billionaire added to the cabinet.

With Trump threatening to tear up the NAFTA agreement, possibly preferring bilateral agreements, at the Asia-Pacific summit, the remaining countries in the currently failed Trans-Pacific Partnership [the US dropped out] are working on reviving it without Trump and the US. As Mexico is part of TPP, should Trump scrap NATFA, Canada and Mexico would still have agreements, leaving the US out.

400 wealthy Americans, which include doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs and CEOs signed a letter, say the GOP is making a mistake by reducing taxes on the richest families at a time when the nation’s debt is high and inequality is back at the worst level since the 1920s and are urging Republican lawmakers not to cut their taxes. The legislation which would add $1.5 trillion to the debt to pay for widespread tax cuts for businesses and individuals.

“I don’t believe that we’ve set out to create a tax cut for the wealthy,” Gary Cohn, the head of Trump’s National Economic Council, said in an interview last week. “Everything in our tax system is meant to encourage investment.” At the moment only 5,000 families a year end up paying the estate tax. Under the Senate plan, that would drop to just 1,800 families.

The letter specifically criticizes Congress for attempting to repeal the estate tax, which is only paid on assets worth over $5.49 million ($11 million for couples) that are left to heirs. The House bill would eliminate the estate tax entirely. The Senate plan would double the threshold so people could inherit up to $11 million for individuals ($22 million for couples) tax free.

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The swamp becomes a toxic pool

Donald Trump said he’d drain the swap min Washington. Instead, in 10 months, the US is worse off in Washington – a toxic pool.

A small energy outfit from Montana, Whitefish Energy Holdings, that won a $300 million contract to help rebuild Puerto Rico’s tattered power grid had few employees of its own, so it did what the Puerto Rican authorities could have done: It turned to Florida for workers. Six electrical workers from Kissimmee are earning $42 an hour, plus overtime.

The senior power linemen from Lakeland are earning $63 an hour working. Their 40 co-workers from Jacksonville, also linemen, are making up to $100 earning double time, public records show. Other utility companies say they would charge up to $100/hour including labor, overhead, lodging, meals, etc.

Whitefish Energy Holdings, had a contract that allowed it to bill the Puerto Rican public power company, known as PREPA, $319 an hour for linemen, a rate that industry experts said was far above the norm even for emergency work – and almost 17 times the average salary of their counterparts in Puerto Rico. Whitefish claims the hourly amount includes overhead costs and premium pay to entice labour to come to Puerto Rico to work.

Two weeks after PREPA abruptly withdrew the contract from Whitefish following strong criticism by federal and congressional officials of the company’s expected ability to perform the work needed, more questions are being raised about the deal, including how much it will actually cost. Whitefish will keep repairing power lines until Nov. 30.

In the deal was $3 million for hotels and $80 a day for each employee for food. The company is also billing about $4,000 an hour to rent a helicopter; companies that specialize in transmission line construction said that price is more than double what they charge. Whitefish is also charging PREPA another $412 a day per worker for food and lodging.

PREPA is receiving federal government relief money. Multiple investigations are under way including from the FBI. 54 days later, the grid was working at 47.8 percent of capacity.

I’m in the wrong line of work….

 

Even when Trump is on a trip, still plenty of Trump issues

In elections, Democrats took both Virginia [almost a slaughter – 20 point difference compared to 5 points in 2013 in some areas] and New Jersey [the latter was once Republican]. Democrats also won the lieutenant governor in Virginia and won all major contests including close mayoral races.

Trump tweeted “@EdWGillespie will totally turn around the high crime and poor economic performance of VA. MS-13 and crime will be gone.” Problem is that Gillespie has ignored using Trump’s support in his campaign. Almost never mentioning him. Gillespie himself had made comments that could rival Trump.

But after Virginia’s Ed Gillespie lost, Donald Trump tweeted “Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for….” And yet, Trump tweeted many times to support him. Now he throws him under the bus since he thinks he’s not part of the blame.

A trove of leaked documents made public purport to show financial ties between Russia and commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, a member of President Trump’s cabinet. They also reportedly show how state-run Russian companies funded large investments in Twitter and Facebook.

Ross has retained a multimillion-dollar stake in Navigator, a shipping company whose top customers include the Russian energy firm Sibur. Sibur’s owners include a member of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s family and a Russian oligarch which also says the firm itself was created by the Russian government.

Much of Ross’s wealth, which is estimated to total around $2 billion, is supposedly tied up in secretive offshore investments.

The New York Times reported that two state-run Russian companies secretly and indirectly poured millions of dollars into Twitter and Facebook. Both of the transactions allegedly involved Yuri Milner, a Russian tech mogul who has business ties to Trump’s son-in-law, White House adviser Jared Kushner.

The newspaper said the Russian oil and gas company Gazprom lent money to another firm that invested in Milner’s multimillion-dollar Facebook deal and Russian-owned VTB Bank invested in Twitter.

Former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page told the House intelligence committee last week that he floated the idea of then-candidate Donald Trump taking a trip to Russia in May 2016, according to transcript of his interview. Page appeared recently  before the House intelligence committee under an unusual arrangement that he requested where the interview was conducted in the committee’s secure spaces, but the transcript was made available publicly. [I’ve seen Page interviewed on TV and he is a bit out there.]

Firing Mueller would be too much, a stepping beyond the bounds by Trump for Speaker Paul Ryan. If Trump did take that course of action, Ryan — and presumably the Republicans loyal to him in Congress — would have no choice but to disavow Trump for good. Of course Ryan has “drawn” previous lines in the sand only for Trump to go over them and Ryan did nothing.

Trump says the mass shooting at a Texas church “isn’t a guns situation,” but is a “mental health problem at the highest level.” And then “This was a very, based on preliminary reports, a very deranged individual. A lot of problems over a long period of time.” The gunman was discharged from the Air Force several years ago for allegedly assaulting his spouse and a child. There is nothing mentioned yet about long term issues the gunman had.

Not surprised, while the US flag is lowered in Texas and elsewhere, the NRAS flag is still at full mast.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell initially said “nobody in the middle class is going to get a tax increase” under the Senate bill that was unveiled but then backtracked the day after.

Remember when Trump’s candidate for the Alabama primary lost to the candidate, Roy Moore, who was backed by Breitbart editor Stephen Bannon. Well, Bannon came out swinging defending Moore when 4 women accused Moore of sexual harassment including one who was 14 years old at the time. Moore, of course, denied the accusations. “The forces of evil will lie, cheat, steal — even inflict physical harm — if they believe it will silence and shut up Christian conservatives like you and me,” he said and also blaming the “lapdog” Democrats and left wing media.

Former White House national security adviser Mike Flynn and his son are alleged to have been offered as much as $15 million to forcibly remove from the US a Muslim cleric wanted by Turkey. The FBI questioned at least four people in regards to a mid-December meeting in New York at the “21” Club. Discussions between Flynn and Turkish representatives supposedly took place there.

Already, at least 25 Republicans have announced they are retiring [12], running for another office [10] or resigning outright [3]. Many of those are in areas where the GOP barely won in 2016. There are 2 Democrats retiring and 8 running elsewhere for office. For both parties, most of those running for another office is for governors.

Ross got hit with some issues. It seems a dream of his was to be on Forbes top 400 Americans in worth. The poorest on the list is around $2 billion. He claimed that he has $2.7 billion of which $2 billion was put in a trust and given to his immediate family when he joined Trump’s cabinet. Problem is by doing that there are taxes to be paid [which it seems he hasn’t paid]. In addition, between various filings and reporting, his fortune has also change drastically from one amount to another.

“It was great victory, and a victory that made a lot of people very happy,” Trump said in Seoul, South Korea, his second stop on a five-country visit to Asia. He also still comments about Hillary Clinton. This 10 months after his election win. I guess he has really little else he can boast.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump’s focus is on the fact that “the stock market has hit record highs, unemployment has hit a 17-year low, and (the Islamic State) is on the run.” Employment can also drop when some people stop looking. ISIL may be on the run, but they are still around. Look at the Taliban – they left but more like went under cover for a while and then came back.

Trump finally appears to have stopped handing out colored copies of the Electoral College map, something he did on occasion during his first few months in office.

He also tweeted “Republicans won 4 out of 4 house seats.” Yes. Those are previous special elections for people who left the House to take positions in his administration. So they were expected to win undisputable Republican seats. And there were 5 with Utah as the latest.

“Try building your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over. Is that possible to ask? That’s not rude. Is that rude? I don’t think so,” Trump told executives from local automakers during a trip to Japan. Ummm. They already do make cars in the US. Three out of four Japanese cars sold in the U.S. last year were built in North America.

A Syrian official says the war-ravaged country plans to sign the Paris climate accord. Until now, it had been the only United Nations member state not to have done so. It means the United States would be the sole UN member country outside the deal if Trump makes good on his threat to pull out. Of course this may just be a token signing for a country with a dictator and an internal conflict. [I’m talking about Syria – not the US.]

Princeton University recently announced that it has joined forces with Microsoft to file a federal lawsuit to preserve DACA. This is all following the Trump administration’s September 2017 decision to roll back the government program protecting undocumented immigrants. In the new lawsuit, Princeton and Microsoft allege that DACA’s termination violated both the United States Constitution and federal law.

Police in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad are doing a last-minute sweep to get beggars off the streets ahead of Ivanka Trump’s visit later this month. The unprecedented order was given by the city’s police commissioner earlier this week and will last for two months.

Trump tweeted “Stock market hit yet another all-time record high yesterday. There is great confidence in the moves that my Administration….” What has he done and if so great, why have 7,000 stores closed so far this year [breaking the previous yearly record in 2008]? If the economy is doing so well, why does Trump want to give big companies tax breaks?

According to news reports, nearly 200 web domains at the Trump Organization were compromised in 2013. The compromised addresses redirected visitors to malicious servers in Russia. The Trump organization said the domains were not compromised despite Internet records that say otherwise. The Trump Organization and its affiliates own at least 3,300 in all.

Another slight reduction in the unemployment rate but the biggest chunk of new jobs came from places like restaurants and bars where the wages tend to be lower and not all are full time employment. In addition, the wage growth is about 0.4% less than it was the same time last year. Trump will still take claim saying the stock market has still gone up well. I’m guess if unemployment rate went up but so did the stock market, he would still say the economy is doing well.

Generally, when the economy is doing well, the president’s approval ratings go up – but not in this case.

The RNC is “seeing record fundraising and support of Trump and his agenda,” Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said on Fox’s “America’s Newsroom” morning. Uh huh. Scripted from Trump?

The Department of Justice’s antitrust chief gave AT&T a choice: to get your purchase of Time Warner done, either sell off CNN’s parent unit or DirecTV, or we’ll see you in court. The DOJ is demanding that AT&T divest all of Turner, the unit of Time Warner that includes CNN as well as TNT and TBS or definitely CNN. With that speculation that the Trump administration is trying to retaliate against CNN for its coverage of the president.

The Wall Street Journal report that the government is “actively considering” an antitrust lawsuit to block the impending acquisition. When asked whether Trump has had any involvement, Kellyanne “The Witch” Conway said “we’re not going to interfere with that here.”

Sam Clovis had withdrawn from consideration as Agriculture Department Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics. He may have had some type of relationship with George Papadopoulos.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia issued an injunction blocking enforcement of the ban on transgender people from serving in the military until the case was resolved. That returns situation to status quo, pending the outcome of the case.

There are still a few of Trump’s nominees who have to go through Senate confirmation in order to take on their posts. One of those is Sam Clovis, the non-scientist who is rump’s pick for a USDA scientist job. Supposedly Clovis has some ties and communications with Papadopoulos.

Trump was instrumental in creating a fan group called 12th Man Thunder, which specifically undercut Jon Bon Jovi’s bid to buy the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and “exploited already rampant speculation Bon Jovi planned to move the franchise to Canada.” The group gave fans signs that read “Bon Jovi Free Zone” and called for a broad boycott of Bon Jovi’s music.

Article II of the constitution includes a rather specific responsibility: a president “…shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” But in late June, Trump hosted a group of Native American tribal leaders at the White House and urged them to “just do it” and extract whatever they want from the land they control. [I’m wondering if he is going to entrap them.]

It was the middle-finger salute seen around the world. Juli Briskman’s protest aimed at the presidential motorcade that roared past her while she was on her cycling path in Northern Virginia in October became an instantly viral photo. Akima LLC, a government contracting firm, fired her after she warned them that she was the one who did it. Briskman wasn’t wearing anything that connected her to the company when she was on her ride, nor is there anything on her personal social media accounts.

If you go to the company’s Facebook page and open some the posts by them, you’ll find plenty of protesting.

Trump tweeted, “The decision on Sergeant Bergdahl is a complete and total disgrace to our Country and to our Military” after news that Bergdahl received a dishonorable discharge from the US Army but will avoid prison time for desertion and misbehavior before the enemy after abandoning his outpost in Afghanistan in 2009.

About 60% of Puerto Rico, which is home to approximately 3.4 million US citizens, is still without power – approximately 50 days since the hurricane struck the island.

After Michael Moore finished a limited ruin show on Broadway, Trump starter a Twitter-storm by saying “While not at all presidential I must point out that the Sloppy Michael Moore Show on Broadway was a TOTAL BOMB and was forced to close. Sad!” I guess Trump doesn’t know that it is a limited run as Moore has a movie to work on right after the 12 week run. Moore also tweeted “It was the highest grossing play (non-musical) of the summer, despite my offering $29 cheap seats + free student tix so ALL could afford” and “You must have my smash hit of a Broadway show confused with your presidency — which IS a total bomb and WILL indeed close early. NOT SAD.”

Would Pence be better than Trump?

With Mike Pence, former governor of Indiana, as Vice-President and the man would succeed Donald Trump when Trump gets impeached, here is some highlights of Pence’s political career and who helped him rise to nearly the top.

Pence likes to say of himself, “I am a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.”

Kellyanne Conway, the Trump advisor, who became a pollster for Pence in 2009, says he is “a full-spectrum conservative” on social, moral, economic, and defense issues. Pence leans so far to the right that he has occasionally echoed A.C.L.U. arguments against government overreach. He has, as an example, supported a federal shield law that would protect journalists from having to identify whistle-blowers in court.

According to former Chief of Staff and current Breitbart editor, Steve Bannon, Pence is “the outreach guy, the connective tissue” between the Trump Administration and the most conservative wing of the Republican establishment. “Trump’s got the populist nationalists. But Pence is the base. Without Pence, you don’t win.”

Pence has the political experience, the connections, the composure, and the ideological mooring that Trump lacks. He also has a close relationship with the conservative billionaire donors who have captured the Republican Party’s agenda in recent years.

At the time, as he declared his candidacy, he did not need support from “rich donors” because of his real-estate fortune and he denounced super pacs, their depositories of unlimited campaign contributions, as “corrupt.” While Trump disliked big donors because he has the money, Pence’s political career has been sponsored at almost every turn by those same big donors. Chief among them are the Koch brothers.

The Koch brothers [second largest private company in the US and worth an estimated $90 billion], along with several hundred of their donors, had amassed almost $900 million dollars to spend on the Presidential election, but they declined to support Trump’s candidacy. At one point, Charles Koch, at one point, described the choice between Trump and Hillary Clinton as one between “cancer or heart attack.”

The Koch brothers support an anti-tax and anti-regulatory agenda as it is good for their businesses and it is also something Trump is pushing for [but failing]. But Trump is not conservative enough to get their support and dislike the way he handles himself.

Democrat Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island has previously accused the Kochs of buying undue influence. He said “if Pence were to become President for any reason, the government would be run by the Koch brothers.”

Bannon is also nervous at the prospect of a Pence Presidency by saying that “I’m concerned he’d be a President that the Kochs would own.”

An editor for an Indiana newspaper said “Mike Pence wanted to be President practically since he popped out of the womb. He’s very ambitious, even calculating, about the steps he’ll take toward that goal.”

In 1990, Pence tried and failed for the second time to beat a Democrat for Congress, waging a campaign that is remembered by many as especially nasty. One ad from Pence featured an actor dressed in Middle Eastern clothing and sunglasses, who falsely accused Sharp of being a puppet of Arab oil companies. But Pence’s campaign tanked when the press announced that he had used election donations toward personal expenses, for example, his mortgage.

In 2000, Pence used the tobacco industry talking points by saying “Smoking doesn’t kill. In fact, two out of every three smokers doesn’t die from a smoking-related illness.”

Pence pushed for policies that intruded on people’s private lives. There is a far-right group that supported the criminalization of abortion, unmarried women should be denied access to birth control and campaigned against equal rights for homosexuals called Indiana Family Institute. In the early .nineties, he joined the board.

As well in 2000, Pence ran as the favorite when a Republican congressman in Indiana vacated his seat. Pence ran on a platform that included a promise to oppose “any effort to recognize homosexuals as a discrete and insular minority entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws.” He won, by 12 percent.

In 2002, he declared that “educators around America must teach evolution not as fact but as theory,” alongside such theories as intelligent design, which argues that life on Earth is too complex to have emerged through random mutation.

As he was now in Washington, appeared on Sunday talk shows as well as the conservative speaking circuit. He was invited to talk in front of property-rights groups, pro-life groups, and gun owners’ groups. But throughout his twelve years in Congress, but never authored a single successful bill.

Mike Lofgren, a former Republican congressional staff member  and a critic of Trump said “He was as far right as you could go without falling off the earth. But he never really put a foot wrong politically. Beneath the Bible-thumping earnestness was a calculating and ambitious pol.”

In addition he was an early voice of the Tea Party movement. That group opposed taxes and government spending with an angry edge.

But in 2011, he threatened to shut down the federal government unless it defunded Planned Parenthood. He pushed harder than most if not all the other Republicans on that subject.

He unsuccessfully sponsored an amendment to the Affordable Care Act that. That amendment would allowed for a government-funded hospitals to turn away an abortion by a dying woman. In a few years later, as governor of Indiana, he signed a bill barring women from aborting a physically abnormal fetus. That bill said a miscarriage would also require fetal burial or cremation. A federal judge would eventually find the law unconstitutional.

When the Koch brothers enlisted Pence to kill the bill when they felt threatened with the “cap and trade” bill in 2009. A Koch supported group called  Americans for Prosperity called the bill “the largest excise tax in history.” Meanwhile, Pence called it “the largest tax increase in American history.” [Neither statement was true.]

Pence became Charles Koch’s favorite potential candidate for President in 2012, but he instead ran for governor of Indiana and won with only forty-nine per cent of the vote. Not too impressive. After Pence was elected, he began taking controversial far-right stands. Some critics believed they were geared more toward building his national profile than toward serving Indiana voters.

At one point, he pushed for a tax cut for Indiana residents earning fifty thousand dollars a year received a tax cut of about $3.50 per month. Pence claimed that the cut stimulated the economy and “the largest income-tax cut in the state’s history” [shades on Donald Trump!].

He killed an application for an eighty-million-dollar federal grant to start a statewide preschool program. Education officials in Pence’s own administration favored the grant, but conservative opponents of secular public education had complained. It was killed because the federal government had attached “too many strings”. There weren’t any.

The Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the Koch brothers’ Virginia-based membership group for big conservative donors,  serves as a dark-money bank, allowing donors to stay anonymous while distributing funds to preferred campaigns and political organizations. [During the past decade, the group gave out an estimated billion and a half dollars in contributions.]

As Indiana governor, in the spring of 2015, Pence signed a bill called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Pence claimed it protected religious freedom, but then a photograph of the closed signing session surfaced which showed Pence surrounded by monks and nuns, along with three of the most virulently anti-gay activists in the state. The image went viral and  Indiana residents discovered that what it really did was to essentially legalized discrimination against homosexuals by businesses in the state.

At that time, Pence was interviewed by George Stephanopoulos and asked him five times during the interview if it was now legal in Indiana for a business to discriminate against homosexuals. Each time Pence was asked, he tried to deflect the question. Pence also would not answer weather he personally supported discrimination against gays.

Even with a PR firm using gays and others in the various ads, there was a huge backlash to the bill. Conventions in the state were canceled, tourist stayed away and companies that were willing to expand in the state held off. Pence finally gave in and signed a watered down bill. With such a huge defeat, he felt the best he can do now is be on Trump’s ticket instead of running for President.

As well, In 2015, there was a big outbreak in HIV diagnoses – blamed primarily on the opioid users sharing needles. Pence’s campaigning against Planned Parenthood had contributed to the closure of five clinics in the region. None of them actually performed abortions, but all had offered HIV testing.

In the legislature, there was talk about studying the possibility of legalizing a syringe exchange, but the right wing blocked the idea. Pence threatened to veto any such legislation and  he scheduled his own event, where he announced that he would pray about the syringe-exchange issue. On the following day, he said that he supported allowing an exchange program on a limited basis as an emergency measure but only in Scott County where there would be no state funding. The number of HIV case dropped after in that county. Surprised Pence did not credit his praying for the change.

After the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, Pence would issue a controversial executive order barring the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana – even with the pressure of the Bishop of Indianapolis. Pence told him, “I need to protect the people of the state” even though a family from Syria was vetted for two years. Eventually, federal courts struck down Pence’s executive order as discriminatory. The now Cardinal said “No” when asked if there was a Christian argument in support of turning the refugees away.

When it was proven that a man who spent nine years in prison for an armed robbery that he didn’t commit should be released, Pence left him to rot in prison with no pardon. Pence finally left the decision to his successor, another Republican governor who granted Cooper a pardon within weeks of taking office.

As governor, he proclaimed his opposition to any expansion of the gaming industry but used executive orders to quietly grant several of the gambling industry’s wishes, such as allowing riverboat casinos to expand onshore. Gaming companies channeled money to various Republican groups who then gave the money to Pence’s team.

In 2016, when it came time for a running mate, Trump was worried because Pence had little money and one bank account according to a campaign-finance disclosure form which held less than fifteen thousand dollars. Recognizing that Trump was susceptible to flattery, he told the media that Trump “beat me like a drum.”

After left hanging for days, Trump called Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie [Trump’s second choice for vice president] and said, “They’re telling me I have to pick him. It’s central casting. He looks like a Vice-President.” Unsure who the “they” are unless the same “establishment” he was fighting not to be connected to.

After Trump’s “grab her by the p?ssy” comments, Pence refused to take Trump’s calls for a while and sent him a letter saying that he and Karen, as Christians, were deeply offended by his actions and needed to decide whether to remain with the campaign. Pence, of course, stayed even if it was a bit against his religion. It is ambition over religion for him.

After the election Trump dumped Christie who was in charge of the transition team. Christie’s team had been quietly gathering résumés and making plans for months. But Pence’s team threw out the research, dumping thirty binders of material into the trash. Right after, very religious conservative groups started to weigh in on the choices that Pence brought to the table.

Trump began to appoint many people with ties to the Kochs and to Pence in positions that affected Koch Industries financially, such as those dealing with regulatory, environmental, and fiscal policy. Dozens of Koch friends and employees quickly got jobs in the new administration in all areas including Scott Pruitt to head the EPA after he came from the oil industry.

With most nonpartisan analyses saying that it would favor the very wealthy, the Kochs enthusiastically support the White House’s proposed tax-cut package. [The proposed elimination of the estate tax alone would give the Koch brothers’ heirs a windfall of billions of dollars.]

When officials were discussing laying charges against Mike Flynn, several law professors have argued that the Pence as Vice-President could be vulnerable to charges of obstructing justice, or “misprision of a felony,” for participating in a meeting about shutting down the federal investigation and then providing a false cover story to the public.

Unlike most Vice-Presidents, Pence has never been given any particular portfolio of issues or projects. He’s continued to serve as the key contact for conservative groups and campaign donors.

Pence readily complied when Trump asked him to stage a protest at an NFL game in Indianapolis on October 8th, by leaving the stadium when some players refused to stand for the national anthem. They knew the players would protest. [Pence’s trip reportedly cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.]

Pence’s religious fundamentalism exceeds others who have been in the White House. Pence has been hosting a Bible-study group for Cabinet officers, led by an evangelical pastor named Ralph Drollinger who has said “women with children at home, who either serve in public office, or are employed on the outside, pursue a path that contradicts God’s revealed design for them. It is a sin.” Drollinger also describes Catholicism as “a false religion”, calls homosexuality “a sin”, and believes that a wife must “submit” to her husband.

So the question is: Is Pence considered overall an improvement over Trump or will make things worse if Trump is impeached.

[Primarily with information from The New Yorker magazine.]

 

Indictment hits Trump people, Trump whines again

[I hate it when there is more than one major Trump related story in a week….]

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Manafort business associate, Rick Gates, turned themselves in to Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller as he was indicted. Manafort previously denied financial wrongdoing regarding his Ukraine-related payments, his bank accounts in offshore tax shelters and his various real-estate transactions over the years.

They were indicted on felony charges of conspiracy against the United States, acting as an unregistered foreign agent, and several other financial counts involving tens of millions of dollars routed through offshore accounts. Manafort’s indictment doesn’t reference the Trump campaign or make any allegations about co-ordination between the Kremlin and the president’s aides to influence the outcome of the election in Trump’s favour.

How Manafort spent “his” money? Luxury cars at roughly a quarter-million dollars. Landscaping in the Hamptons at more than $820,000. An antique rug store at about $1 million. Add a home lighting and entertainment company in Florida for $1.3 million. A men’s clothing store in New York for $849,215 and another in Beverly Hills, California for $520,440.

A condominium in New York’s SoHo neighborhood for $1.5 million, a Brownstone in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens neighborhood for $3 million and a House in Arlington, Virginia for $1.9 million.

The indictment accuses Manafort of using the money to buy multi-million-dollar homes and then using those homes as collateral to get more cash. Manafort lied to banks about how the homes were used so he could obtain more generous loans.

Manafort currently has three US passports, each under a different number. He has submitted 10 passport applications in roughly as many years, prosecutors said. This year, Manafort traveled to Mexico, China and Ecuador with a phone and email account registered under a fake name. Both Manafort and Gates were frequent travelers to Cyprus.” Cyprus is known to be light on regulations.

Manafort wrote on loan applications and other financial documents that his assets were worth between $19 million in April 2012 and $136 million in May 2016. In August 2016 he said his assets were worth $28 million, then wrote he had $63 million in assets on a different application. Gates opened 55 accounts with 13 financial institutions.

George Papadopoulos also pleaded on October 5 and was unsealed. In court papers, he admitted to lying about the nature of his interactions with “foreign nationals” who he thought had close connections to senior Russian government officials. Papadopoulos tried to arrange meetings between Trump and the Russian government.

So Trump was “seething” [according to a White House staffer] during the morning when the indictments broke and spend all morning watching the news. Surely it wasn’t Fox as they tried to avoid the subject.

Trump, was too busy commented about his fake collusion theories instead of trying to defend them. Just throw them under a steamroller and drive over then a few times. He tweeted “Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus” The indictment on Manafort continues up until February 2017. By then, Manafort was in the campaign as well and within his government.

Trump said that George Papadopoulos, a former campaign aide, thrust into the centre of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe “has already proven to be a liar.” Trump named Papadopoulos to his foreign policy advisory council in March 2016 and a March 21, 2016 meeting with The Washington Post editorial board, Trump called Papadopoulos an “excellent guy”. Trump tweeted a photo of his advisory council meeting, with Papadopoulos among a handful of advisers at the president’s table.

But, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders [taking a cue from her lying boss] said his role was “extremely limited” and that “no activity was ever done in an official capacity on behalf of the campaign”.

Former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo also claims Papadopoulos had a limited role with the Trump campaign, calling him a “coffee boy”. A coffee boy doesn’t sit next to the president-elect as well as senior officials [as seen in Trump’s picture].

Walter Shaub Jr., former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, called White House allies’ attempts to distance Trump from George Papadopoulos “baloney sandwiches.”

Sanders did her job by downplaying all three indictments my saying they were “volunteer” positions. Does being a volunteer make a difference? Did anyone believe her?

Manafort and Gates will be tried on May 7th in court.

“I don’t remember much about that meeting,” Trump responded when asked about Papadopoulos suggestion to have a meeting with Vladimir Poutine. “It was a very unimportant meeting, took place a long time [ago], don’t remember much about it.” But then he said a week prior that he had “one of the great memories of all time”.

Trump has repeatedly used an “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” defense when he was deposed in a number of lawsuits he has faced over the years.

Julian Assange said that WikiLeaks received a “request for information” from Cambridge Analytica. That request came prior to last November and was rejected. Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix reached out to Assange during the presidential campaign about the possible release of 33,000 of Hillary Clinton’s missing emails. Those emails have never been publicly released. Robert Mercer, a billionaire Trump supporter, is a backer of Cambridge Analytica.

Democrat Virginia Sen. Mark Warner said “Members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, must also make clear to the President that issuing pardons to any of his associates or to himself would be unacceptable, and result in immediate, bipartisan action by Congress.”

While Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said “The president must not, under any circumstances and in any way, interfere with the special counsel’s work”.

Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal lawyer, shot down both possibilities of firing Mueller and pardons in an interview Tuesday with ABC’s Good Morning America.

Trump’s claim that it is “It is now commonly agreed, after many months of COSTLY looking, that there was NO collusion between Russia and Trump” but intelligence committee member Angus King said there’s still plenty of investigating left to do. King isn’t sure where Trump got that idea from since the committee isn’t finished and committee will still be reviewing evidence for months.

Trump continues to deflect the “heat” from his campaigns possible collusion with the Russians by continuing to use the Hillary Clinton’s campaign as the target of his criticisms. In a bunch of tweets Trump said “Never seen such Republican ANGER & UNITY as I have concerning the lack of investigation on Clinton made Fake Dossier (now $12,000,000?), the Uranium to Russia deal, the 33,000 plus deleted Emails, the Comey fix and so much more. Instead they look at phony Trump/Russia, ‘collusion,’ which doesn’t exist.”

The $12 million mention, it is unclear on that amount on how Trump got that figure [except he way over estimated it]. The Clinton campaign paid Perkins Coie maybe 8 million in legal fees since June 2015 for maybe 18 months. But it’s impossible to tell from the filings how much of that work was for other legal matters and how much of it related to Fusion GPS.

In 2016, conservative Free Beacon [with a major GOP donor] paid the Washington, D.C., firm Fusion GPS to investigate Trump’s background and, eventually, his business ties to Russia. After the Free Beacon stopped paying Fusion GPS, the research firm offered in April 2016 to continue researching Trump for the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. [Did they stop because nothing was there or something nasty against Trump was found?]

Trump’s other attach against Clinton, when she was secretary of state, involving a uranium deal that increased Russia’s share of the U.S. nuclear market by buying a chunk of a Canadian owned Uranium company. What Trump fails to mention is that the uranium can’t leave the US.

Trump, less than 24 hours after a 29-year-old Uzbek national allegedly drove a truck down a bike path and killed at least eight people, blamed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democrats for immigration policies he claims allowed the suspect to enter the United States. Very classy. Taking a tragedy and using it for political gains.

When Sanders, asked about gun control policy the day after the shooting in Las Vegas, dismissed the idea of talking about policy so soon after a shooting. But when Trump brought up the travel ban hours after shootings in Orlando and San Bernardino, Sanders added at the time, “I think there’s a difference between being a candidate and being the President.”

The alleged killer came into the US via the Diversity Visa Lottery Program and was radicalized while in the US. Schumer was a major player in that legislation but also part of a 2013 bill that would of removed the program. The program was signed in by George H. W. Bush – not a Democrat president.

Trump blamed the Democrats but in the 9 months in office, what has he done? Just release travel bans – all of which ran into legal issues. Did he kill the diversity program? Nope. You think the diversity will still be around in 6 months? I’d day definitely yes. Meanwhile no legislation on the bump stock “add-on” for guns after over a month.

Trump says that it is not surprising terror attacks happen because the way the United States punishes terrorists is “a laughing stock”. So why doesn’t he do something instead of whine about it.

“I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program,” said Trump. You think he did?

“About the Diversity Visa Lottery Program Sounds nice, it is not nice, it is not good. It hasn’t been good”. And he know it hasn’t been good, how? How many of these immigrants have done something illegal.

Diversity recipients specifically must have at least a high school education or equivalent and must have had at least two years of experience working a job that requires at least two years of training or experience within five years of the date of the application. They must also be admissible to the US.

“… Guantanamo Bay, which by the way, which by the way, we are keeping open. Which we are keeping open … and we’re gonna load it up with some bad dudes, believe me, we’re gonna load it up,” Trump an audience in February 2016. 9 months in his term, how many new detainees?

Attorney General Sessions said he does not rule out the use of Guantanamo to prosecute terrorists. “Terrorists should know: this Administration will use all lawful tools at our disposal, including prosecution in Article III courts and at Guantanamo Bay.”

Trump was more harsh against the alleged New York attacker saying “This animal who did the attacking” than the Las Vegas shooter saying “The wires were crossed pretty badly in his brain. Extremely badly in his brain. And it’s a very sad event.” Was it because the New York killer is not born in the US?

For unknown reasons [except maybe related to the alleged New York killer, Trump tweeted about “chain migration”. “CHAIN MIGRATION must end now! Some people come in, and they bring their whole family with them, who can be truly evil.” The term “chain migration” refers to immigrants coming to a country based on a connection to family.

Trump wants his tax bill ready to be signed by Christmas – so he can pass one real piece of legislation for the year. Some are doubting it.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker continued his criticism of Trump saying Trump is pressuring the Justice Department to “pursue cases against his adversaries and calling for punishment before trials take place.”

For 11 minutes, Trump’s account was disabled. It seems that just before leaving Twitter on his last day, an employee disabled the account. In some tweets, some called the former employee a hero without a cape. Another claimed the former employee should get the Nobel Peace Prize. Wonder if criminal charges will be laid.

White House chief of staff John Kelly says he will “absolutely not” apologize for his comments on Rep. Frederica Wilson, where Kelly claimed Wilson had boasted of securing “$20 million” in federal funding to build a new FBI field office in Miami during the dedication ceremony for the building in 2015. He also called the congresswoman an empty barrel. “I stand by what I said. John Kelly owes the nation an apology because when he lied about me, he lied to the American public,” she said.

Kelly spoke to the “good” and “not so good” parts of US history, speaking highly of Confederate general Robert E. Lee and attributing the origin of the American Civil War to a “lack of an ability to compromise.” He called Lee “an honorable man” who chose duty to his state over loyalty to a federal government.

 

Trump’s troubles continue…

… But if he kept his mouth shut, he wouldn’t have half of them.

Donald Trump urged House members to adopt the Senate’s budget and follow through on tax reform during a House GOP conference call. “We are on the verge of doing something very, very historic,” Trump said. Trump claimed the plan “will bring back trillions” of American dollars currently overseas. Something historic like another failure in passing this legislation? Money back from overseas? Never explains his “thinking”.

The Republican tax reform framework proposes eliminating the State and Local Tax deduction, a popular tax break that affects nearly one-third of filers but 30 GOP members may balk at it. Assuming no Democrats agree, if more than 22 GOP disagree, the budget will fail.

But in the end the House of Representatives narrowly passed a budget resolution that clears the path for Congress to fast-track tax reform legislation. The vote was 216-212, with 20 Republicans joining Democrats in opposing the measure. Not a good sign even though it passed. The budget includes reconciliation rules that will allow the Senate to pass tax reform with only a simple majority rather than the usual 60 to overcome a filibuster. Cheating again.

John Kelly, before he was Chief of Staff, warned Trump at the beginning of his term not to call the widows of servicemen who died. Kelly also said that [without saying it] Trump was wrong. All presidents have written the widows but very few have called because no matter what they say, it won’t help in grieving.

Trump continue to go after Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson saying “Wacky Congresswoman Wilson is the gift that keeps on giving for the Republican Party, a disaster for Dems. You watch her in action & vote R!”. “Niger is @realDonaldTrump’s Benghazi. He needs to own it,” Wilson tweeted after. Wilson claims she heard Trump call a serviceman’s widow and said to her “[he] knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt.” Sanders backtracked her “inappropriate” comments later after defending Kelly.

In an interview with Good Morning America, the widow of the serviceman who spoke to Trump said “I was very angry at the tone of his voice and how he said it. He couldn’t remember my husband’s name.” She said she also wants to know why she hasn’t been allowed to see her husband’s body. “The phone was on speaker phone. Why would we fabricate something like that?”

I’m sure it was after that interview that Trump tweeted “I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!” Why doesn’t he give up. He lied again.

Everything in the White House, from phone conversations to Emails, are recorded. So why doesn’t Trump release the recording of his conversation with the widow to finally put this issue to rest and see who told the truth and who didn’t. I can guess who didn’t.

Then Trump said “Sen.[Bob] Corker is the incompetent head of the Foreign Relations Committee, & look how poorly the U.S. has done. He doesn’t have a clue as…..” Do you have a clue? And then “People like liddle’ Bob Corker have set the U.S. way back…”

The he tweeted “Corker dropped out of the race in Tennesse when I refused to endorse him, and now is only negative on anything Trump. Look at his record!” [Does he know how to spell Tennessee?] and “Isn’t it sad that lightweight Senator Bob Corker, who couldn’t get re-elected in the Great State of Tennessee, will now fight Tax Cuts plus!” [Corker has said he is retiring from the Senate and not seeking re-election.]

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake announced that he will not seek re-election in 2018, and then promptly took the Senate floor and began a lengthy screed against the state of Republican politics in the Trump era. Among other things he talked about “the flagrant disregard for truth or decency”, “the degradation of our politics”, and “such mercurial behavior”.

With Flake, Bob Corker and John McCain all claiming that they probably will not vote in favor of any Trump legislation, the probably of any legislation passing with at least a few Democrats is unlikely.

Then Trump dismissed scathing criticism by Republican Sens. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, saying the real reason they are retiring is because of unfavorable election odds, not dissatisfaction with their party’s standard-bearer. [So Trump admitted that Corker was retiring and not running again. Finally.]

Trump tweeted “The meeting with Republican Senators yesterday, outside of Flake and Corker, was a love fest with standing ovations and great ideas for USA!” Multiple standing ovations at a lunch? Wish there was video footage to confirm.

Hillary Clinton, on a 15 city book tour promoting her book “What Happened” came to the Montreal stop with a fractured her right foot talking about her book and explaining what did happen. She blames a number of reasons why she didn’t win: from her campaign errors to the Email server to the FBI investigation and others. [Yes, Trump, she did blame her campaign for mistakes made which includes herself.]

So surprising was Trump’s victory to her that she had not prepared a concession speech, she said, and was not prepared to deliver one in the early hours of November 9th. Clinton said that attending Trump’s inauguration was like a “root canal on steroids. I really did not want to go.”

She does not think Trump was qualified to be president, she said. But what she came to realize in time was that “this was the reality-TV campaign and he was the reality-TV candidate. I was the candidate of reality — and I was just not as entertaining.”

White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders is really drinking the Trump Kool-Aid. After both Presidents Barrack Obama and George W. Bush made comments about Trump without using Trump’s name, Sanders claims that both were not talking directly about Trump in their speeches as they would of used Trump’s name. Unsure about Obama but Bush has not said anything about Trump in probably over a year.

Huckabee also claimed Trump “helped defeat ISIS”. Unfortunately, ISIS abandoned Raqqa [their quasi-capitol] but are still fighting. She also said Trump “brought unemployment to a 16-year low” but it has been Obama’s final years that helped drive the drop in the unemployment rate according to experts.

With all the cases brought up of sexual harassment [and worse], a reporter asked Sanders if the White House officially thought those women were lying. Sanders offered a very short non-answer: “We’ve been clear on that in the beginning and the President’s spoken on that.”

The allegations from the White House come amid news that the Clinton campaign and DNC helped fund research that led to the dossier that included salacious allegations about Trump, his conduct in Russia and included allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Sanders sought to turn the Russia spotlight on Democrats, arguing that “if any collusion took place, it would be between the DNC and the Clintons.” She declined to answer a follow-up asking what evidence Trump has to accuse Hillary Clinton of colluding with the Russians.

Trump invited some of the kids belonging to the media and asked the kids “How does the press treat you?” I think the kids didn’t know what to say.

Trump is claiming by reducing the corporate tax it will also give an extra $4000 [and at one point he said up to $5000] to each US households. He is getting this from the economic council of advisors. But all this was based on a study from Harvard but the author says maybe $800 but under the right conditions? Trump likes to increase things.

The judge sentencing Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had to delay his decision following Trump’s comments about the case could affect the public’s perception of the military justice system. Trump’s recent comments are preventing a fair proceeding.

Five former Presidents got together in Texas at a relief concert to help Texas. Trump? Sent a video message that was very stoic and scripted. No expression.

Trump tweeted “…9 months than this Administration. Over 50 Legislation approvals, massive regulation cuts, energy freedom, pipelines, border security….” Not 50 Legislative approvals as they were executive orders. Does he know the difference? Border security? Travel bans continue to be shot down by courts. Everything else from executive orders.

Trump also tweeted “It is finally sinking through. 46% OF PEOPLE BELIEVE MAJOR NATIONAL NEWS ORGS FABRICATE STORIES ABOUT ME. FAKE NEWS, even worse! Lost cred.” Wonder where he got that percentage from. I guess he wanted high enough to make it slightly believable and not say 76% which sounds like a dictatorship percentage.

An early Happy Halloween to The Witch, KellyAnne Conway.

Seems the Trump administration doesn’t want a NAFTA deal with Canada and Mexico. The administration wants [for example] auto content made in the US up at a least 50%. This would increase the cost and the price of autos [higher US labor costs at least] which would probably decrease auto sales and maybe even reduce jobs. Even various experts such as the US Chamber of Commerce want a proper NAFTA deal.

“This epidemic is a national health emergency,” Trump said. “Nobody has seen anything like what is going on now….. We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic. We can do it.” Worse than the 60s and early 70s with the drugs? He declared a nationwide health emergency, a designation that will not automatically be followed by additional federal funding for the crisis.

In just 9 months, Trump has personally attacked 1 in 5 GOP senators.

Democratic mega-donor and billionaire Tom Steyer is spending more than $10 million on a national TV ad campaign calling for Trump’s impeachment.

Sen. Thom Tillis went to a lunch with Republican lawmakers carrying a bag of popcorn, ready for Trump’s visit to Capitol Hill after Trump feuded with Sen. Bob Corker.

Trump wished country singer, Lee Greenwood, a happy birthday – except he tweeted to the wrong Lee Greenwood [a New York lawyer]. Trump then deleted the original tweet [is he embarrassed?] and tweeted the right one. [Deleting a tweet by the “president” is probably illegal under American laws.]

While not even at the end of the year, Trump’s administration added $80 billion to the country’s deficit which will hit $666 billion this year [hmmm – 666]. Of note, corporate income taxes fell by $2.5 billion year over year to $297 billion while individual income taxes rose by $41 billion to $1.587 trillion.

The State Department’s inspector general has looked into complaints that the US ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, Scott Brown, made inappropriate comments to women during an official visit to the Samoan capital of Apia. He was appointed by Trump.

Alexander Nix, the chief executive of Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics company, linked to the Trump campaign contacted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2016 regarding thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails kept on a private server while she was secretary of state.

Fox News leads the number of Trump interview with 19. All the others combined have one more than Fox News. The New York Times has had four interviews with the President, NBC and Reuters have had three each, and the Wall Street Journal has had two.

According to an early analysis by the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, a think tank in Washington, bottom 95% of households, by contrast, would get a bump of just 0.5% to 1.2% [average]. Compare that to the top 1% [those making $730,000+] who would see a 8.5% increase and the top 0.1% [those making $5+ million] who’s after tax income would jump 10%. But 13.5% of middle income filers as well as some in a higher bracket would actually pay primarily because the GOP framework calls for the repeal of most itemized deductions, including the lucrative state and local tax deduction.

Of course, if you reduce taxes to just about everyone, someone has to pay. Otherwise, it will be added to the debt.

Trump accidentally referred to the Virgin Islands’ governor as their President during a speech saying “I met with the President of the Virgin Islands” — even though he is technically their President.

Trump has endorsed Republican Ed Gillespie in the Virginia gubernatorial race. But the candidate appears to go out of his way to avoid mentioning his most prominent supporter. Trump’s endorsement isn’t mentioned anywhere on Gillespie’s campaign website or his social media pages. Gillespie doesn’t discuss Trump unless he’s prompted to do so. He doesn’t criticize the President, but he also doesn’t make an effort to embrace him, either.

[When was there ever a governor who didn’t want the sitting President’s endorsement before? Another first.]

CNN had a former Republican politician who claims that 1800+ false or exaggerated claims by Trump since January [as researched by the NY Times] are all exaggerated because she thinks the way they were checked. All 1800+? In addition, she claims that the period under Obama was the slowest growth in economy. This after digging out of the recession with George W. Bush. Towards the end of 2008, in Bush’s final term, it hit a low of -8%. During Obama’s 8 years it hit a high of about 5.5% in 2014.

New Yorkers with views of the East River may have spotted a row of bright-red digital numbers affixed to a building on the Queens waterfront. The mysterious display is actually a clock counting down the time left in Trump’s first term. Can it tick down faster?

A slim majority of Americans (52%) oppose Trump’s recent tax reform proposals, according to a poll, while only one-third (34%) say they support the Trump plan.

In a poll taken in mid-October, overall, 37% of Americans approve of the way Trump is handling the presidency, 57% disapprove — virtually identical to his marks in late September. But the percentage who say things in the country are going well has fallen from 53% in August to 46% now, about the same as after Trump’s tumultuous first weeks in office.

38% say the policies Trump has proposed will move the country in the right direction, 56% say the wrong direction. 32% approve of the way the President is handling his relationship with Republicans in Congress while 54% disapprove. Nearly half (47%) overall say they have more confidence in the GOP in Congress to handle major issues facing the country vs. 30% who say they have confidence in Trump. A sizable 17% trust neither.

 

Trump and his [dis-] like for Republicans

Donald Trump blamed Senate Republicans, not himself, for the stalled GOP agenda ahead of a crucial White House lunch meeting with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on getting make-or-break tax legislation back on track.

“They’re [the Senators] on another vacation right now. I think that we would all be a lot better off if the Senate would stop taking vacations and start staying here until we actually get some real things accomplished,” Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders had said. In other words, Trump is trying to get all the available time in Congress to try and pass his first major piece of legislation.

Trump said he feels “closer than ever before” to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a man he’s publicly criticized for his handling of the GOP agenda and on whom the President is relying for getting a legislative accomplishment in the first year of his term. Come back within a couple of weeks. That “closer” won’t be that close. Remember that over the August recess, Trump publicly bemoaned McConnell’s leadership ever since the Senate failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in July.

San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich says that “Unfit intellectually, emotionally, & psychologically to hold this office & the whole world knows it.” He’s also a “soulless coward” following his false assertion former Presidents Barrack Obama and George W. Bush did not reach out to families of fallen soldiers. This after Trump said about the soldiers killed in Niger: “President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls … I call when it’s appropriate.”

Trump, in defense of his claim that President Obama didn’t call the loved ones of fallen soldiers, said that Obama did not call his chief of staff, retired Gen. John Kelly, after his son died in Afghanistan. I’m suspecting the President does not call every family after someone dies – even John Kelly who was a lieutenant general at the time. 466 American troops died in Iraq and Afghanistan in Obama’s first year, compared to 25 in Trump’s first 9 months.

Trump “wasn’t criticizing predecessors, but stating a fact,” Sanders said even though her boss went back on his comments. Is she on the same page as her boss?

It took Trump 12 days to personally publicly say something regarding the 4 soldiers who died in Niger. A statement was ready but never released. Spokeswoman Sanders did give condolences the day after but not specifically from Trump.

Trump called the widow of one of the 4 soldiers and, according to Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson [who was with the widow at the time of the call], Trump said that the serviceman killed “knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt.”

But Trump tweeted “Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!” The widow had already sided with the “Democratic” Congressman and said that Trump did say his comments. The soldier’s mother also confirmed he said it. I would guess there is proof from Trump. [In fact, the conversation should be recorded as all communication is.]

Trump said he’d written letters to the family of the for that were killed but the letters had not yet been mailed. Supposedly they had been awaiting information before proceeding

Trump sent a $25,000 personal check to the family of a fallen soldier the same day that The Washington Post reported that he had promised the soldier’s father a personal donation during a June condolence call but never followed through. According to the Post, Trump called Chris Baldridge in June, weeks [not days] after his son was killed. During the call, the Post reported, Trump offered him $25,000 and said he would instruct his staff to establish an online fundraising page for the family.

Kelly is starting to sound like his boss. He accused Wilson of claiming credit for securing $20 million in federal funding to build a new FBI field office in Miami in 2015. In fact, in her speech at the dedication ceremony, she took credit for shepherding legislation naming the FBI building. Kelly digging up things that have nothing to do with the issue at hand?

Trump, hours after Sen. John McCain delivered a speech that repudiated Trump, warned the Arizona Republican to “be careful” because at some point he will “fight back.” He hasn’t already? McCain warned the United States against turning toward “half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.”

Trump sent this tweet “Workers of firm involved with the discredited and Fake Dossier take the 5th. Who paid for it, Russia, the FBI or the Dems (or all)?” He is suggesting that a dossier prepared by a former member of British intelligence has not only been totally discredited but that it might have been funded by some combination of Russia, the Democratic Party and, wait for it, the FBI!

Trump has personally interviewed candidates for US attorney positions in New York and Washington, but since these particular candidates for US attorney positions are the chief federal prosecutors who are going to decide whether to indict Trump campaign advisers or staff if there’s collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians proven and possibly consider criminal charges against Trump himself.

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon implored conservative activists at a Washington gathering to continue fighting the GOP establishment, attacking a number of Republican members of Congress by name, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Bob Corker. “Right now, it’s a season of war against a GOP establishment.”

Bannon is recruiting conservative candidates for the 2018 midterm election and forming a donor network to back them in primary races against incumbent Republican senators – those against Trump. Bannon backed former Judge Roy Moore to oust Sen. Luther Strange in an Alabama Republican primary last month. Oddly Trump backed Strange, who lost to Moore. Moore, a former judge, has defied federal court orders, described Islam as a false religion and called homosexuality evil.

In a speech to religious conservatives recently, Bannon suggested that GOP incumbents may avoid challengers from the right flank of the party if they disavow McConnell and meet other conditions. Looks like Bannon is pushing for hard conservatives who may be a bit too right/strong for soft leaning Republicans and those undecided.

So with the wildfires in California killing at least 40 people and destroying many acres of land including the now devastated wine industry, Trump said he had spoken with Gov. Jerry Brown and that the federal government would stand with the “people of California and be there with you in this time of terrible tragedy and need.” No visiting, no help, nothing since. Not even a condolences to those families who have suffered.

A federal judge in Hawaii issued an order blocking major parts of Trump’s newest travel ban, suggesting it violated immigration law. Challengers to the ban said it would hurt Hawaii’s state university system, which has students, professors and visitors from the blocked countries, as well as the Hawaii tourism industry. Individuals who sued said the ban would prevent their relatives from immigrating to the U.S. and visiting.

Larry Flynt, best known as the publisher of the pornographic magazine Hustler, placed a full page ad in the Sunday edition of The Washington Post with no pictures, just bold, all-caps text dominating the top third of the page: ” Million For Information Leading To The Impeachment And Removal From Office Of Donald J. Trump.” [Smaller text below it.] I guess Trump won’t be “reading” his magazine anymore.

According to Forbes, Trump’s fortune fell by $600 million to $3.1 billion. As a result he dropped to #248 on the American list, after coming in at #156 last year. The magazine attributed his decline in wealth to “a tough New York real estate market, particularly for retail locations; a costly lawsuit and an expensive presidential campaign.” On Bloomberg’s worldwide billionaires list, his net worth at $2.86 billion.

Of note, Trump has two golf resorts in Scotland and their combined losses was $25 million in 2016. They have lost a combined $53 million since Trump acquired them in 2014 even after he supplied both businesses with huge loans: at the end of 2016 they owed him $200 million. He is still the owner.

Trump tweeted “I was recently asked if Crooked Hillary Clinton is going to run in 2020? My answer was, ‘I hope so!'” This even though Clinton in September “I am done with being a candidate.” Hopefully he doesn’t. Does he bother with the news other than what someone says about him?

When asked what kind of rating Trump would give his administration on the response to Puerto Rico, Trump gave the administration a 10. [OK. Stop laughing. You are laughing too much.] San Juan mayor responded by saying Trump got a 10 – but out of 100.
It could take at least 2 months or more for some in Puerto Rico to have power. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said he hopes that power will be restored to 95% of the island’s energy grid by December 15. Right now it’s 22%. Some said it could be between 6 months and a year for all. In comparison, power was restored to close to all Floridians a week after Hurricane Irma.

In mid-September, 64% of Americans said they approved of Trump’s handling of the US hurricane response. Now, as many Puerto Ricans remain without access to clean water or electricity nearly a month after Maria hit, just 44% say they approve. {And surely most of those are the people who choose to side with Trump no matter what he has done.] His ratings are down 9 points among Republicans, 22 points among independents and 25 points among Democrats. [That 64% approval rating was the highest approval in any poll since he took office.]

Looks like Trump’s wish to have one piece of good news before the end of the year will not happen. The negotiations to renegotiate NAFTA won’t be completed by year end. US negotiators are pushing for changes in the current agreement that Canada and Mexico won’t agree to. This includes 50% of parts in vehicles made in the US. Trump had already warned he’d kill the agreement and this could be a way.

In an article in The New Yorker, Mike Pence’s anti-LGBTQ stance is highlighted, as well as a joke made by Trump to a legal scholar that the scholar shouldn’t ask Pence about gay rights because Pence wants to “hang them all.” The article also talks about how Trump often mocks Pence’s religious beliefs. Denied, of course, by Pence spokeswoman.
In his speech to GOP donors, Nick Ayers, chief of staff to Pence, served up a dim projection for the midterms: “We’re on track to get shellacked next year,” he said.

With Trump’s decision to halt funding for the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing subsidies, many states had already allowed insurers to steeply hike Obamacare premiums for 2018, anticipating that Trump may cut off federal support for the subsidies. The federal government will have to spend an estimated $7.2 billion more next year because it will have to shell out more in premium subsidies to cover these higher rates.

Rep. Tom Marino, a Pennsylvania Republican, has withdrawn his name from consideration to become the nation’s next drug czar. This comes after a joint CBS “60 Minutes” and Washington Post report revealed that Marino took nearly $100,000 from the pharmaceutical lobby while sponsoring a bill that made it easier for drug companies to distribute opioids across American communities and thwart the Drug Enforcement Agency. Trump claims it was a “conflict of interest”.

NFL’s Colin Kaepernick’s lawsuit against the NFL will heavily discuss the impact of Trump. The quarterback has claimed teams colluded to keep him out of the league this season, and his recent lawsuit suggests Trump helped foster this negative culture toward him.

In September, the president said NFL teams should fire players who take a knee during the national anthem, which Kaepernick had done since the start of last season. Trump followed up his thoughts with a series of tweets discussing those who kneel during the national anthem and recently stated these players should be suspended. Trump has relationships with the owners of the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys among others.

“Because we’re going to have a major announcement, probably next week, on the drug crisis and on the opioid massive problem,” Said Trump but in August that he was on the verge of declaring the opioid crisis a national emergency. He never did.

“We are getting close to health care. We’ll come up in the early- to mid-part of next year. We’re going to have a vote; I think we already have the votes,” said Trump. If he had the votes, wouldn’t he vote now?

Even after CNN Jake Tepper told Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that by not actually denying [or said that he did say it] that he called Trump a “f?cking moron” must people would assume he said it. Tillerson again said he didn’t want to be caught up in petty comments like this – a bit similar to Senator bob Corker calling the White house a daycare center.

An FCC Commissioner stated that Trump’s suggestion that the FCC should challenge NBC’s license due to their coverage. But in fact the FCC only gives out licenses to TV stations and not a network. So once again, Trump doesn’t know what’d he’s talking about.

A Yahoo correspondent said that Russians who worked for a St. Petersburg “troll factory” were required to watch Netflix’s “House of Cards” to help them write messages that would influence Americans against their own government. The trolls were used to influence the election to get people to vote for Trump by pushing negative comments about Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton.

Lawyers for one of the women who have accused Trump of sexual assault subpoenaed his campaign for all documents relating to her, all communications with or about her and “all documents concerning any woman who asserted that Donald J. Trump touched her inappropriately.” This comes in the case of Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice” who accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in 2007. The accusations were made in October of last year at a news conference.

Trump’s re-election campaign spent more than $1 million on legal consulting from July through September. Most of the reelection effort’s legal spending went to the law firm Jones Day and the offices of lawyer Alan Futerfas, with tens of thousands directed to a handful of other offices, including more than $25,000 to the Trump Corporation.  Republican National Committee spent more than $230,000 in August to cover legal fees for Trump, including more than $130,000 to his personal attorney Jay Sekulow.

According to Forbes, Trump’s fortune fell by $600 million to $3.1 billion. As a result he dropped to #248 on the American list, after coming in at #156 last year. The magazine attributed his decline in wealth to “a tough New York real estate market, particularly for retail locations; a costly lawsuit and an expensive presidential campaign.” On Bloomberg’s worldwide billionaires list, his net worth at $2.86 billion.

Of note, Trump has two golf resorts in Scotland and their combined losses was $25 million in 2016. They have lost a combined $53 million since Trump acquired them in 2014 even after he supplied both businesses with huge loans: at the end of 2016 they owed him $200 million. He is still the owner.

Trump defaulted on his payments for his golf course in Puerto Rico a long while ago [dumping $32.7 million to them] but then he commented about the territory’s debt.