Can Trump’s presidency get any worse?

Maybe.

Between this past week and the week before, it is probably the worst two week stretch since the Nixon presidency.

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, was sentenced to three years in prison. Cohen was sentenced for eight criminal counts he pleaded guilty to in August. The judge gave him an additional two months for the special counsel charge, to be served concurrently with the US attorney’s New York office term. He has been ordered to surrender on March 6. The judge imposed $500,000 in forfeiture to Cohen, and $1.39 million in restitution.

“I take full responsibility for each act that I pled guilty to: The personal ones to me and those involving the President of the United States of America,” Cohen said. “Recently the President tweeted a statement calling me weak and it was correct but for a much different reason than he was implying. It was because time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds.”

“I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law,” Trump tweeted. Trump was privately seething about Cohen’s sentencing, telling associates that Cohen is a “liar,” according to one administration official. The problem is that Cohen was hired by Trump and Trump is ultimately responsible for anyone he hires.

“He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence,” Trump tweeted about Cohen the week before the sentencing. Will the same be said when he is sentenced because of his multiple lies?

After charges brought on to Cohen, Trump and current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani [we haven’t heard much from him lately] both said there is no collusion with Trump tweeting “Time for the Witch Hunt to END!” And yet, if you look at the evidence, clearly Trump could be involved. But what Trump has said could be illegal – tampering with an investigation related to him.

Then Trump also quoted noted constitutional expert [I’m kidding here] Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera, saying “this is collusion illusion” and “there is nothing impeachable here.”

Not surprising, Trump GOP supporters are downplaying the implications by prosecutors in two crimes committed by Cohen. Either they are saying until Mueller releases all the facts or the fact that the payoffs were done prior to Trump getting elected or that Cohen is a liar.

However while the payoffs were done prior to the election, they may have involved campaign money which is illegal if not listed in the expenses. As well the fact that the payoffs were kept quiet just prior to the election. Interesting that Cohen is a liar now but not a month or so ago.

The owner of the parent company of magazines including the National Enquirer, Us Weekly and In Touch has admitted to engaging in a journalistically dubious practice known as “catch-and-kill” [exclusive rights but not use the story] in order to help Trump become president.

Federal prosecutors revealed they had agreed not to prosecute American Media Inc. for secretly assisting Trump’s campaign by paying $150,000 to Playboy model Karen McDougal for the rights to her story about an alleged affair with Trump. The company then intentionally suppressed McDougal’s story until after the election.

Trump tweeted: “Democrats can’t find a Smocking Gun tying the Trump campaign to Russia after former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony. No Smocking Gun…No Collusion.” If you missed it, twice he used the work “Smocking” instead of “Smoking”. I wouldn’t be surprised if late night talk show hosts or political cartoonists make some comments on this.

But then he said in part 2 of the tweet “So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly call it a campaign contribution….” So Trump is admitting that Stormy Daniels was paid off. Now special counsel Robert Mueller just needs to see if the money came from the campaign. Even if it didn’t, is this enough to be considered some type of election tampering?

Trump lashed out at Comey over testimony he gave to the House Judiciary and Oversight committees, accusing the former FBI chief, without evidence, of lying to lawmakers and questioning his inability to recall events related to certain questions. “On 245 occasions, former FBI Director James Comey told House investigators he didn’t know, didn’t recall, or couldn’t remember things when asked.”

At least 16 associates of Donald Trump had contacts with Russians during the 2016 campaign or transition, according to public statements, court filings, and reporting from news outlets. These communications came in the form of face-to-face meetings, phone calls, text messages, emails and video chats.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi privately questioned Trump’s “manhood” after a contentious meeting bout funding his wall at the southern border. She also compared Trump  to a skunk. Vice President Mike pence sat through the whole thing without saying a word.

Pelosi also told members that she and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer got Trump to take full accountability for the possible partial shutdown. Government funding runs out for about 25% of federal government spending on December 21. “If we don’t get what we want, one way or the other … I will shut down the government,” Trump said.

After the meeting, Pelosi revealed to Democrats that Trump had claimed in their private session that Mexico would pay for the wall — his oft-stated campaign promise that he has abandoned since taking office. Trump said Mexico will pay through the new NAFTA – money that would go to American workers and the economy.

It is now official: Chief of Staff John Kelly will be out of the White House by the end of the year. Trump has announced his final choice in the chief of staff sweepstakes: Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. He will be the “acting” chief of staff even though he is permanent. I guess with the number of people who left the administration, nobody is permanent probably other than family members.

One of the leading potential replacement to Kelly is Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff. But supposedly because of family commitments, he would only accept the job for a short term. Chris Christie had a meeting for the vacancy be he claimed he didn’t want the job. So why go to the meeting then?

New York Yankees President Randy Levine was reportedly in consideration to become Trump’s chief of staff and is a “wild card” for the post, according to MSNBC.

Trump said this week that he might intervene in the Huawei case [where the Chinese CEO has been held in Canada on a US arrest warrant and caused political problems] if it would help clinch a trade agreement with China, upending U.S. efforts to separate the court proceeding from U.S.-China trade talks and contradicting Canadian officials who said the arrest was not political. China has since arrested two Canadians on most likely bogus charges [in retaliation].

Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee is currently being investigated by federal prosecutors in New York for possible financial abuses related to the more than $100 million in donations raised for his inauguration, according to sources familiar with the matter. Prosecutors are also looking into whether the committee accepted donations from individuals looking to gain influence in or access to the new administration.

White House press secretary Sarah “Simpleton” Sanders said, “That doesn’t have anything to do with the President or the first lady.” She’s laying the groundwork to cover Trump from any activity so blame can be laid on the organizers. The committee reported had raised a record-setting $107 million, received much of its funding from wealthy donors who gave $1 million or more.

Trump’s inaugural committee spent funds on hotel rooms and meals at the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC and also rented space there at rates negotiated partly by Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump. A Saudi-backed veterans’ group booked nearly 500 nights at the hotel in the months after Trump’s inauguration.

The inaugural committee organizers complained to Ivanka Trump that the hotel was attempting to charge $175,000 per day for use of a ballroom and other meeting rooms. That is one heck of an overcharge. So Trump is benefiting financially for the inaugurations with money possibly coming from potential illegal donations to pau for the inauguration.

Trump always claimed his senior staff is “a fine tune machine” but the turnover rate is 62% and that’s more than any “modern” presidency. This includes the most “permanent” Chiefs of Staffs of any modern presidency as well [President Obama had 3 but one was known to be temporary].

During President Clinton’s impeachment proceedings, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch said in a statement that “committing crimes of moral turpitude such as perjury and obstruction of justice go to the heart of qualification for public office… This great nation can tolerate a president who makes mistakes,” Hatch said. “But it cannot tolerate one who makes a mistake and then breaks the law to cover it up. Any other citizen would be prosecuted for these crimes.”

But with evidence of Trump covering up the payouts, “The Democrats will do anything to hurt this president.” When reminded that it is not the Democrats, but the Southern District of New York, making the allegations, Hatch said, “I don’t care, all I can say is he’s doing a good job as president.”

Some Democrats are saying they may not be able to impeach him while in office but will get him indicted once he leaves. Of course you’ll have those who said he can’t be impeached because it happened out of office will then say he can’t be indicted for something he may have done in office!

Trump has expressed concern that he could be impeached when Democrats take over the House, said source close to Trump. The source said Trump sees impeachment as a “real possibility.” But Trump isn’t certain it will happen. Trump remains confident at this point that, while he could be impeached in the House, he doesn’t believe he would be convicted in the Senate as the GOP remains in control there.

Trump tweeted “We would save Billions of Dollars if the Democrats would give us the votes to build the Wall.” Exactly how would billions be saved? Is there a limited time offer on substandard steel? There is some talk to allow $5 billion over two years but considering the Trump Wall already received $1.6 billion and what exactly has come out of it except to spruce up some walls that are already there.

Trump seized on an apparent terrorist attack in France to promote his border wall, the latest example of Trump using fear to push his political agenda. “Another very bad terror attack in France. We are going to strengthen our borders even more,” Trump tweeted. “Chuck and Nancy must give us the votes to get additional Border Security!” The suspect sought in the attack was born in France.

Trump posted a series of tweets threatening that if Democrats do not provide enough votes to build the wall, “the Military will build the remaining sections.” He did not elaborate on how that would be funded.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker [GOP] plans to offer a measure as soon as Tuesday to rebuke Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the first formal response to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and an implicit rebuke of Trump’s handling of the killing. This will guarantee result in Trump making some nasty comments about Corker.

The Trump administration is doing everything it can to cut the Affordable Care Act costs by slashing advertising by 90% and cut funding for enrollment assistance by 80%. The average number of people signing up daily on the federal exchange, healthcare.gov, for 2019 is down roughly 8% as of December 1 from the same period a year ago.

The Trump administration will reverse an Obama-era coal emissions rule as part of its effort to loosen restrictions on the coal industry, just days after a US government report warned that aggressive action is needed to curb greenhouse gases and ease the impact of global warming.

The demonstrations in Paris have erupted into the worst riots France where a movement began as a rebuke of the country’s fuel price hikes and evolved to a broader protest against the cost of living pressures and anger at Macron’s government. And yet Trump blamed the Paris climate accord [which has nothing to do with the demonstrations] as well he claims in a tweet people are “Chanting ‘We Want Trump!'”. Laughable.

The lawyer for four women who claim they were undocumented workers at Trump National Golf Club is calling for state and federal investigations into the Trump Organization’s hiring practices. One claims that managers at the club arranged for fraudulent documents to keep her employed. They don’t believe Trump knew of what was going on. After hired, another one was taken off the club premises to an off-site location and provided with a bogus Social Security card and ID.

Top law enforcement officials pushed back on comments from Trump suggesting the prosecution of a Chinese telecommunications executive from Huawei could be used as leverage in trade negotiations. “What I do, what we do at the Justice Department, is law enforcement. We don’t do trade,” assistant Attorney General John Demers, the department’s top national security official said.

The Trump administration is planning to announce the indictments of multiple hackers suspected of working for a Chinese intelligence service and participating in a long-running espionage campaign targeting the U.S. Additionally, the government is planning to declassify intelligence relating to the breaches, which date back to 2014.

Outgoing US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said she used Trump’s “unpredictable” behavior to her advantage in order to “get the job done” as ambassador. “He would ratchet up the rhetoric, and then I’d go back to the ambassadors and say ‘you know, he’s pretty upset. I can’t promise you what he’s going to do or not, but I can tell you if we do these sanctions, it will keep him from going too far,'” Haley said in an interview.

As if lagging sales in Apple’s new iGadgets are hurting them, Trump is considering widening the tariffs on Chinese-made imports to the US, which could mean new duties on Apple products of between 10 and 25 percent. Trump said the tariffs could impact Apple iPhones and laptops that were made in China, arguing that, “I can make it 10 percent, and people could stand that very easily.”

Trump wants the iPhones to be built in the U.S. If not, he will slap on a 25% tariff. But building them in the U.S. could at as much as 35% to the cost – on a line of phones already faltering because of low sales and high costs to the consumer.

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Trump’s world is beginning to unravel

Federal prosecutors said for the first time that Michael Cohen acted at the direction of Donald Trump when Cohen committed two election-related crimes in 2016, as special counsel Robert Mueller outlined new contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian nationals. Mueller also revealed that a Russian national who claimed to be well-connected in Moscow spoke with Cohen in 2015 and offered “political synergy” with the Trump campaign.

And yet Trump tweeted, “Totally clears the President. Thank you!” He did not offer further explanation of his comment. Go figure that one out.

Trump tweeted “He [Cohen] lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence” after Cohen is working with the prosecution and has asked for no prison time. We will see if and what Trump says if he is convicted and is required to spend prison time.

“He makes up stories to get a GREAT & ALREADY reduced deal for himself, and get……his wife and father-in-law (who has the money?) off Scott Free,” People are wondering who “Scott Free” is. Should be “scot-free”.

After Trump canceled his meeting with Vladimir Poutine at the G20 [Trump claiming it was because of Russia’s capturing of Ukrainian navy boats and sailors], various pro-Poutine surrogates in the media [a.k.a. puppets] went after Trump claiming Poutine was in fact the real leader of the free world, Trump is a flunky, untrusted, unbalanced, old, etc. [Stuff we already know.]

One actually used an interesting name: Donald Fredovych Trump. Fredovych would mean “son of Fred” but also could imply “Fredo” as in the disloyal Fredo Corleone who disappointed “the Godfather.”

Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have agreed to halt new trade tariffs for 90 days to allow for talks. At a post-G20 summit meeting in Buenos Aires, Trump agreed not to boost tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods from 10% to 25% on January 1st. Not surprising National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow corrected Trump, stating that the 90-day clock on trade negotiations with China began December 1, not January 1.

The administration says China agreed to “purchase a not yet agreed upon, but very substantial, amount of agricultural, energy, industrial, and other products from the United States to reduce the trade imbalance between our two countries”. Of course ” very substantial” could mean really a lot or not that much.

The administration also says Beijing agreed to designate Fentanyl as a controlled substance. The opioid – much of it thought to be made in China – is driving a huge rise in drug addiction in the U.S.

Trump claims that China has agreed to cut tariffs on cars it imports from the United States as part of their deal which currently stand at 40%. But the Chinese government has made no mention of cutting car tariffs as a result of the meeting between the two leaders in Buenos Aires.

The original NAFTA deal has landed back atop Trump’s hit list, with Trump again declaring he intends to terminate the 24-year-old trade pact — a move that appears designed to pressure lawmakers on Capitol Hill into approving its recently negotiated successor. That move would give lawmakers six months to approve its replacement once formal notice is delivered.

“It’s caused us tremendous amounts of unemployment and loss and company loss and everything else,” said Trump. Exactly what is the unemployment rate in the US again? Recent job losses have been mounting under his administration but have been low for a while.

A number of Democrats in Congress said they won’t support it without more stringent enforcement mechanisms for new labour rules and environmental protection. Some Republicans say they, too, are disinclined to support the agreement in its current form.

Trump, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto signed the new U.S.-Canada-Mexico Agreement during an awkward ceremony at the outset of G20 meetings Friday in Argentina.

When Trump tweets “‘I will never testify against Trump.’ This statement was recently made by Roger Stone, essentially stating that he will not be forced by a rogue and out of control prosecutor to make up lies and stories about ‘President Trump.’ Nice to know that some people still have ‘guts!'”

Stone is telling congressional committees that he would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights in order to not testify in response to requests for documents and testimony. In 2016, Trump criticized those who invoke their Fifth Amendment right.

But George Conway, who is a lawyer and not a Trump supporter and Kellyanne “The Witch” Conway’s husband, said that under the portion of the US Code that deals with witness tampering in a federal investigation that Trump was doing just that in his tweet praising Stone for publicly refusing to testify against him.

But expect Trump to go after Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser. Mueller told a federal court that Flynn has given “substantial assistance” to the Russia investigation and should not get jail time. His early cooperation gave prosecutors a road map for their Russia investigation and may have helped to encourage others to cooperate, the filing states.

There is talk that White House chief of staff John Kelly will be leaving very soon. It has gone to the point where he doesn’t talk to Trump even though it is a job requirement that Kelly to do so. When hired, Kelly curbed access and ruled over staffing. But recently Trump began circumventing many of the policies and protocols he enacted. Daily staff meetings became weekly.

The leading potential replacement is Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff who is known to be quite loyal. He’s climbed up the political ladder to the point where Ayers would even join Trump and Pence for lunch. Several of Trump’s top advisers, including Kellyanne “The Witch” Conway, have voiced concerns to him about Ayers, with some threatening to quit if he is tapped for the job.

Kelly was also interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team in recent months where he responded to a narrow set of questions from special counsel investigators after White House lawyers initially objected to Mueller’s request to do the interview earlier this summer.

The Mueller questions to Kelly centered on a narrow set of issues in the investigation of potential obstruction of justice, chiefly Kelly’s recollection of an episode that took place after new reporting emerged about how Trump had tried to fire Mueller.

Trump has decided to nominate former attorney general William Barr to be the next permanent head of the Justice Department, Trump told reporters. Barr, a former attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, has been emerging this week as a consensus candidate to succeed Jeff Sessions as attorney general.

As news about Trump administration shuffles involving the attorney general, Trump is tweeting about a different shakeup from months ago as he called former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “dumb as a rock” and “lazy as hell,” while he praised his replacement, Mike Pompeo. Trump fired Tillerson back in March and nominated Pompeo, then the CIA director, for the role.

Emails from top officials at the National Republican Congressional Committee were hacked before the 2018 midterm elections, exposing the GOP’s House campaign arm to an intrusion by an “unknown entity.” So why announce it now? Trump has mocked his political opponents when they got hacked by foreign actors, and he has praised Republicans for investing in stronger cyber protections.

Trump said in a tweet “Looking forward to being with the Bush Family to pay my respects to President George H.W. Bush.”. You don’t really look forward to a funeral! And you didn’t respect him in life either!

“I have read every piece of intelligence that’s in the possession of the United States government,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. “And when it is done, when you complete that analysis, there’s no direct evidence linking him to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Maybe on their own there is no smoking gun, but according to experts, when you add them all up, it becomes more likely.

CIA has a high confidence of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s involvement. The Wall Street Journal also reports that the intelligence agency’s assessment includes electronic communications the crown prince sent to a close adviser who oversaw the 15-man team that killed Khashoggi.

Bin Salman had reportedly said “we could possibly lure him outside Saudi Arabia and make arrangements [to go to a consulate]” in a recording. Reportedly, they tried to do the same luring to another Saudi activist living in Montreal but the activist was smart enough not to go to a consulate when offered.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced at a NATO meeting that Washington will suspend its obligations under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) in 60 days, citing Russian “cheating.” Russian officials the day after warned of unspecified “retaliation” to the U.S. decision to walk out of a key arms treaty.

The House of Representatives approved a two-week extension for a government funding deadline in an effort to avert a partial government shutdown this week but setting the stage for a partial one on December 21. Congressional leaders in both parties have indicated they do not want a partial shutdown, but Democrats and Republicans remain at an impasse over Trump’s demand for $5 billion for his long-promised Trump Wall.

Trump earlier tweeted “We would save Billions of Dollars if the Democrats would give us the votes to build the Wall” and yet he doesn’t explain how billions will be saved by building a wall. There will surely still be border guards.

A federal judge has finalized the schedule for when state challengers suing Trump over proceeds from the Trump International Hotel get to seek evidence for their case. They allege in the lawsuit that Trump violated a constitutional clause banning gifts and advantages from foreign and domestic governments because of his family company’s stake in the Trump hotel in Washington.

Subpoenas have been served on the Trump Organization and a dozen linked entities in a lawsuit challenging Trump’s ongoing business ties while in office. The lawsuit by DC and Maryland claims Trump is in violation of the Constitution’s ban on emoluments, or payments, from foreign or domestic government entities to the President because of his continued interest in the Trump International Hotel.

DC and Maryland have said the Trump International Hotel’s operations put other nearby hotels and entertainment properties at a competitive disadvantage, and that the Trump hotel got special tax concessions. The hotel won its lease on federally owned property before Trump’s election.

Trump gets hit on two sides

[He was so busy with these two issues, he didn’t have time for anything else!]

In a new book by Pulitzer prize winner, Bob Woodward, multiple current and former Donald Trump administration officials called Trump “unhinged”, “liar”, a “fifth grade” intellect and an aggrieved and abusive “Shakespearean king” raging in the Oval Office. Even worse, unlike most other books, Woodward has them recorded saying so.

“The already discredited Woodward book, so many lies and phony sources, has me calling Jeff Sessions “mentally retarded” and “a dumb southerner.” I said NEITHER, never used those terms on anyone, including Jeff, and being a southerner is a GREAT thing. He made this up to divide!” Trump tweeted. But how does he answer what has been recorded? All doctored? Who discredited the book? Those accused of saying nasty things about him?

“It’s just another bad book. He’s had a lot of credibility problems,” Trump said of Woodward, who has reported on multiple presidents and alongside Carl Bernstein broke news of the Watergate scandal that ultimately led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation.

Woodward sought through multiple White House officials and others close to Trump to secure an interview with him but Trump said he was never notified.

The denials have started. Chief of staff John Kelly denied calling saying “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in crazytown,” Kelly is quoted as saying at a staff meeting in his office. “I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”

Trump’s former lawyer John Dowd refuted a claim that he had warned that his client’s lies would end up with him in an “orange jump suit” and calling Trump “a fucking liar,” Secretary of Defense James Mattis said he had never used “contemptuous” words about Trump or  had the intellect of a fifth- or sixth-grader. Trump as calling Sessions, who is frequently a target of his rage, as a “dumb southerner” and “mentally retarded.” Former chief of staff Reince Priebus is “like a little rat. He just scurries around.”

“Rudy [Giuliani], you’re a baby,” Trump told the man who is now his attorney. “I’ve never seen a worse defense of me in my life. They took your diaper off right there. You’re like a little baby that needed to be changed. When are you going to be a man?” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson once said after a meeting that “He’s a fucking moron.”

“This book is nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the President look bad,” White House press secretary Sarah “Simpleton” Sanders said. And what about those still in office?

Woodward claims that Trump’s closest aides [Cohn and disgraced former staff secretary Rob Porter] have taken extraordinary measures in the White House to try to stop what they saw as his most dangerous impulses, going so far as to swipe and hide papers from his desk so he wouldn’t sign them. They and others acted with the acquiescence of Priebus. Is that even legal?

Kelly, former top economic adviser Gary Cohn and Mattis have been intervening regularly to avert national security disasters. Former [but brief] White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci says “Maybe it’s all true” and “So, what?”

Trump, showing his outrage over Woodward’s book, supposedly is ordering a real witch hunt in the West Wing and throughout his administration, asking loyal aides to help determine who cooperated with the book. And if that doesn’t push a witch hunt, the new item below will add to it. Wouldn’t be surprised if lie detectors are brought in.

As if things can’t get even more nuts, an unnamed senior Trump administration official assailed Trump’s “amorality” and reckless decision-making in a New York Times op-ed published and said he is part of a “resistance” working to thwart Trump’s worst impulses.

Trump’s “instability” is so profound, the author suggests, that there were “early whispers within the cabinet” about invoking the 25th Amendment, a constitutional mechanism to remove him from office. It’s an idea that was shelved for fear of creating a national crisis.

In the 25th Amendment, if the vice president and a simple majority of cabinet members agree then a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate. The vice-president would be temporarily invested with all the powers of the presidency. But if Trump objected, Congress would need to debate and ratify his removal by a two-thirds majority within 21 days.

[In my opinion, obviously not as an expert in this stuff, it is the duty of the vice-president and cabinet members to use the amendment if there is enough evidence that the president isn’t fully capable of doing his job. We only learned after that President Ronald Reagan wasn’t all there in his second term. So in a sense, someone (or people) were running the country and weren’t authorized to do so.]

“The dilemma — which (Trump) does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations,” the Times piece reads. “I would know. I am one of them.”

Not surprisingly, Trump dismissed the op-ed as “really a disgrace” and “gutless editorial” assailing the author and The Times for publishing the anonymous opinion piece. Like most of his tweets he then switch to mention his so-called accomplishments, claiming that “nobody has done what this administration has done in terms of getting things passed and getting things through.” Like?

He later called it “treason” in a one word tweet. But he doesn’t know the constitution or the law. Can’t be charged for treason for what the individual did according to Sen. Lindsey Graham.

“The individual behind this piece has chosen to deceive, rather than support, the duly elected President of the United States,” “Simpleton” Sanders wrote. “He is not putting country first, but putting himself and his ego ahead of the will of the American people. This coward should do the right thing and resign.” So I guess she prefers to keep quiet for all the potentially illegal activities in the administration.

Trump said he wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate and uncover the identity of the senior administration official who penned an anonymous op-ed in The New York Times. “Yeah, I would say Jeff should be investigating who the author of this piece was because I really believe it’s national security,” Trump told reporters.

Trump argued the column presents a national security concern because this person still is in the government and shouldn’t be attending high-level meetings. Except we really don’t know how high the author’s access is.

Neither Trump nor the White House have identified a specific crime that has been committed although Trump has used the word “treason” which doesn’t fit the issue. Unless there is specifically something in their that involves classified information, the Department of Justice won’t have much to do. And of course than means Trump will go after Sessions again for not doing anything [unless Sessions stretches the investigation until after the elections – which he should.

[An unofficial rule, which James Comey broken in 2016, is that no investigations are announced or the results announced from 60 days before an election until after the election. We are within the 60 days as of this weekend.]

“I don’t mind criticism, I handle it and I fight back,” he said. “But here’s criticism where you can’t fight back. ‘Cause you have somebody doing it anonymously.” Isn’t he fighting back? He’s using the government’s security agencies to fight his battles – the same one he berates.

White House aides believe they have narrowed the search to a select few who could of written the op-ed.

Trump sought to heighten the sense of urgency for his base in Billings, Montana when he told supporters that if he is impeached, “it’s your fault, ’cause you didn’t go out to vote.,,, But I say, how do you impeach somebody that’s doing a great job, that hasn’t done anything wrong?” Trump said Then the threats came. Trump later warned the United States would turn into a “third world country” because of the precedent his hypothetical impeachment would set. And of course he will lose his job.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the Justice Department “has taken the position … that the appropriate remedy for presidential misbehavior is impeachment.” Not a good sign when it comes from your own party.

Trump is also fuming that White House deputy chief of staff for communications Bill Shine has mishandled the messaging on the Woodward book. Trump believes the rapid response to the book has been handled poorly and he blames Shine for that.

Trump said he’s poised to slap additional tariffs on $267 billion in Chinese goods, widening a trade war between the two countries. Yet another round of tariffs on $267 billion in goods would bring the total imports from China subject to tariffs to more than $500 billion. That’s roughly the same as the $505 billion in goods that the US imported from China last year. Unsure what brought on the latest tariff talks but with someone this unstable, it could be anything.

Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos was sentenced to spend 14 days in prison, pay a $9500 fine, and perform community service. This is part of a plea deal to give special counsel Robert Mueller information he wants.

A government photographer told investigators that he intentionally cropped photos of Trump’s inauguration to remove empty space and make the audience look larger, according to newly released documents. The admission, contained in newly released records from a 2017 investigation, shed new light on what happened after the National Park Service shared a social media post comparing the crowds that attended the inaugurations of Trump and former President Barack Obama.

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”.

 

From another mass shooting to a huge deficit projected for infrastructure

Donald Trump unveiled a US$4.4 trillion budget for next year that heralds an era of $1 trillion-plus federal deficits and — unlike the plan he released last year — never comes close to promising a balanced ledger even after 10 years.

The growing deficits reflect the impact of last year’s tax overhaul, which is projected to cause federal tax revenue to drop and does not yet reflect last week’s two-year bipartisan $300 billion pact that wholly rejects Trump’s plans to slash domestic agencies.

Trump’s budget includes money to start building 65 miles of border wall in south Texas as well as money to bring immigration jails up to a capacity of 47,000 and add 2,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees and 750 Border Patrol agents. [He just has to get his money for The Trump Wall any way he can.] A deficit of $1.2 trillion is more plausible after last week’s budget pact and $90 billion worth of disaster aid is tacked on. That’s more than double the 2019 deficit the administration promised last year. The new budget sees accumulating deficits of $7.2 trillion over the coming decade; Trump’s plan last year projected a 10-year shortfall of $3.2 trillion.

The Trump administration is making a push to sell off federal assets as part of its infrastructure plan. Among the targets: Reagan National and Dulles International airports and two major parkways serving the Washington region, as well as power assets around the country, according to a copy of the proposal. It was not immediately clear what public or private entity might buy those roads, whether they might be tolled, or other details. Same with the two airports in Virginia, which are leased from the federal government.

The White House says its plan will create $1.5 trillion for repairing and upgrading America’s infrastructure. Only $200 billion of that, however, would come from direct federal spending, according to White House aides. The rest is supposed to come from state and local governments, which are expected to match any federal allocation by at least a four-to-one ratio.

To help pay for the infrastructure, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has proposed hiking the federal gas tax, which hasn’t gone up since 1993, to raise $394 billion over 10 years. Over the past year, Democrats have accused Trump of seeking to create the $200 billion infrastructure fund by proposing cuts to other infrastructure-related programs.

Trump tweeted “This will be a big week for Infrastructure. After so stupidly spending $7 trillion in the Middle East, it is now time to start investing in OUR Country!” He then rambles on how that money could have been used for America’s infrastructure. That amount is inflated as experts say after anticipated future spending on veterans and other factors related to the wars so far are added it would be $5.6 trillion. Most of that money went to American businesses [fighter jets, tanks, etc.]as well as the military [paying personnel, training, etc.]. It’s not like it all went directly to the Middle Eastern countries.

Over the past 40 years, the deficit has averaged about 4% of gross domestic product, the measure of the nation’s total economic output. The Congressional Budget Office recently projected that the recently passed tax-cut bill will move the deficit up to 5% of GDP. But that was before the deal, which slaps on another $300 billion and puts us on track to have deficits as high as 7% of gross domestic product.

Trump, in a speech and in tweets, mentioned only that the shooter in Florida had a mental illness but mentioned nothing about guns [his friends at the NRA must have been happy]. Meanwhile, the leader of a white nationalist militia called the Republic of Florida said the shooter was a member of his group and participated in exercises in Tallahassee but did the shooting on his own without the group’s knowledge.

Trump tweeted “Am also working with Congress on many fronts.” Where have we heard this before. He will probably announce some initiative regarding his Trump Wall or maybe immigration. Somehow equating that the alleged shooter wasn’t born in the US. And that will be it.

Student Sarah Chadwick, who survived the high school shooting that left 17 dead in Florida, wants Trump and Congress to “do something” about gun control, rather than simply offering thoughts and prayers to the victims of America’s latest mass shooting. “I don’t want your condolences you f—ing (piece) of s—, my friends and teachers were shot. Multiple of my fellow classmates are dead,” Chadwick wrote. “Do something instead of sending prayers. Prayers won’t fix this. But gun control will prevent it from happening again.”

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the shooting a “tragic event”, adding: “We’re going to work on it in many ways to do something about it.” Good luck there….

Sessions spoke in generalities, and did not address reports that the weapon used in the shooting was acquired legally. Instead, he spoke of gang violence and the threat it poses to children. I don’t think the mass murderer was part of a gang. You don’t need a permit or license to buy a gun in Florida and you don’t have to register it either.

Amid renewed debate over gun control after the school shooting in Florida, House Speaker Paul Ryan is arguing that now is not the time to wage political battles.

“This is one of those moments where we just need to step back and count our blessings,” he told reporters at a news conference at the Capitol. Sure Paul. And that’s what the government has said probably after every mass shooting in the last 20 years and then after “stepping back” nothing happens and then there is another mass shooting.

The Trump administration was working to kill a bipartisan deal on immigration that could be the best chance to get a bill through the Senate. The legislation from a group of 16 bipartisan senators would offer nearly 2 million young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children before 2012 a path to citizenship over 10 to 12 years. The deal and three others were defeated in the end. Wasn’t it trump who wanted more bipartisan deals?

The plan would also place $25 billion in a guarded trust for border security, would cut a small number of green cards each year for adult children of current green card holders, and would prevent parents from being sponsored for citizenship by their US citizen children if that child gained citizenship through the pathway created in the bill or if they brought the child to the US illegally. Some of these parts were endorsed by Trump in a previous plan.

Former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates is finalizing a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, indicating he’s poised to cooperate in the investigation, according to sources familiar with the case. Gates has already spoken to Mueller’s team about his case and has been in plea negotiations for about a month. He’s had what criminal lawyers call a “Queen for a Day” interview, in which a defendant answers any questions from the prosecutors’ team, including about his own case and other potential criminal activity he witnessed.

Nearly a year into Trump’s administration [based on last November’s information], senior-level staffers — including Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Rob Porter — remained on interim clearances even as other senior advisers were granted full security access. It requires those with full permanent clearances to remain vigilant about what information is shared with those still operating on an interim basis.

Now there are still more than 100 staffers in the Executive Office of the President who were operating on interim clearances more than a year after Trump was elected. Some officials who started on January 20, 2017, and were without permanent clearances by November include a special assistant to the president for national security affairs and the National Security Council’s senior director for international cybersecurity.

Some others had been approved for permanent access to top secret information but were still working off interim access to Sensitive Compartmented Information including Don McGahn, the White House counsel, and Sarah Sanders, the press secretary. Other notable staffers, like former NBC “Apprentice” star Omarosa Manigault-Newman, who has since left the White House, had no security clearance nor applied for one.

In a five-page memo to the White House counsel, national security adviser and deputy chief of staff for operations, chief of staff John Kelly called for all background check investigations into potential top White House officials to be delivered directly to the White House Counsel’s office by the FBI and for the FBI to share “significant derogatory information” uncovered in the course of investigations into senior staff with the White House within 48 hours.

Kelly also directed his staff to discontinue top level security clearances for any staffer whose background investigation or adjudication process has been pending since before last June.

Porter was involved in serious discussions to be promoted when he abruptly resigned from the White House last week amid allegations that he abused his two ex-wives. Porter had been actively lobbying to take on new policy portfolios outside the traditional scope of the staff secretary. One of the areas Porter was set to delve further into was trade policy, according to the person. Porter was a regular attendee at a weekly trade meeting among top-level administration officials. He was also being considered for the deputy chief of staff position.

The FBI obtained photos of the bruised face of Colbie Holderness [ex-wife of Porter] seven days after Trump’s inauguration last year raising questions about what information McGahn had at his disposal regarding Porter.

Several White House officials, including Kelly, were receptive to promoting Porter. Kelly had told associates that Porter was one of the few competent professionals on his staff and wanted to ensure that he was being used to his full potential. Senior advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump also viewed Porter as a professional, competent staffer and worked to elevate his standing inside the West Wing.

White House Press Secretary Sarah “Simpleton” Sanders claims that Trump and the White House takes “domestic violence very seriously”. But Trump never said anything. He never addressed the victims – just Porter and very positively [such as have a great career elsewhere].

Ryan said the “Vetting system needs fixing” as the House Oversight Committee’s investigation of the White House’s handling of Rob Porter’s employment following domestic violence allegations. Maybe they should apply Trump’s “extreme vetting”.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is saying he needs to fly first class because of unpleasant interactions [“incidents”] with other travelers. Pruitt used a $1,641.43 first-class seat for a short flight in June from Washington to New York City. Pruitt’s ticket cost six times what EPA paid for his aides seated in coach. Federal regulations allow government travelers to fly business class or first class when no cheaper options are “reasonably available” or if there are exceptional security circumstances.

Pruitt is the first EPA administrator to have a 24-hour security detail that accompanies him at all times, even at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. He has also taken other security precautions, including the addition of a $25,000 soundproof “privacy booth” to prevent eavesdropping on his phone calls and spending $3,000 to have his office swept for hidden listening devices. Is his job more secretive than the chief of staff or even the President?

Records show Pruitt has taken at least four flights on non-commercial aircraft, costing more than $58,000. EPA has said all of those flights were necessary and pre-approved by ethics lawyers. Nominated by Trump, Pruitt has previous had issues with his travel arrangements as well as “winning” the job considering his anti-environment stance he has.

Fannie Mae, the government-controlled mortgage company, said its net worth sank to a negative $3.7 billion after it had to “remeasure” its deferred tax assets to the tune of $9.9 billion as required by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law by Trump just before the end of the year.

Puerto Rico’s Housing Department said Wednesday it will suspend a $133 million deal with a U.S. company hired to repair homes damaged by Hurricane Maria because a review board found the contract was improperly awarded. But a company vice-president, Daniel Craig, had been nominated by Trump to the No. 2 position at FEMA but later withdrew from consideration. As an ex-FEMA official under former President George W. Bush, had faced a 2011 federal investigation that concluded he falsified government travel and timekeeping records — findings he has rejected as being the result of a poor investigation.

Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, said that he paid $130,000 of his own money to porn star, Stormy Daniels, who allegedly had a sexual encounter with the President before his time in office. “Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly.” I guess Melania Trump won’t be happy.

Just weeks before the 2016 election, Cohen reportedly created a private LLC to pay Daniels following an alleged July 2006 encounter with Trump, The Wall Street Journal reported in January. He says he neither told Trump nor anyone else in the Trump Organization he was making the payment. And he was not paid back in any way, shape or form.

Why would he spent $130,000 to make Daniels go away — and not tell her story — if her story was fundamentally without merit? It has been reported that Cohen was shopping a book proposal that would touch on Daniels’ story.

Meanwhile, The New Yorker published a report based on a handwritten account from Karen McDougal who detailed her alleged affair with Donald Trump for nine months from June 2006 to April 2007, when Trump was two years into his marriage with Melania Trump.

More than one in three Trump administration staffers have left the White House in its first year, a pace that far eclipses the rate of departures in the previous five White Houses, according to a study done by Kathryn Dunn Tenpas of the Brookings Institute. The pace of resignations, firings and other assorted departures from the Trump White House is twice what it was in George W. Bush’s first year as president and triple that of Barack Obama’s first year in office.

Trump administration is proposing to replace nearly half of poor Americans’ monthly cash benefits with a box of food. It would affect households that receive at least $90 a month in food stamps, or roughly 38 million people.

Instead of receiving all their food stamp funds, households would get a box of food that the government describes as nutritious and 100% grown and produced in the U.S. The so-called USDA America’s Harvest Box would contain items such as shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, cereals, pasta, canned meat, poultry or fish, and canned fruits and vegetables. The box would be valued at about half of the SNAP recipient’s monthly benefit. The remainder of their benefits would be given to them on electronic benefit cards, as before.

The proposal would save nearly $130 billion over 10 years, as well as improve the nutritional value of the program and reduce the potential for fraud, according to the administration. Consumer advocates questioned whether the federal government could save that much money by purchasing and distributing food on its own. Also, families would not know what food they would get in advance nor have any choice regarding what they receive and it could be difficult for families to pick up the box, especially if they don’t have a car.

The wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Louise Linton, goofed again by posing in the March issue of ELLE in a provocative poses [see also here]. Remember that not only did she emerge from a government jet in designer clothes [whose labels she initially tagged in her photo] she got into a spat with a commenter who questioned whether such a display of wealth was appropriate. She’s since apologized, but she still regrets how she handled it.

Trump tweeted “4.2 million hard working Americans have already received a large Bonus and/or Pay Increase because of our recently Passed Tax Cut & Jobs Bill….and it will only get better! We are far ahead of schedule.” With the tax cuts, shouldn’t every worker in the US [and not just 4.2 million] have received tax cuts in their paychecks by now? And what schedule?

No to Democratic memo, a few resignations, but no shutdown [for now]

The spending bill Donald Trump signed only ensures that the government is funded through March 23 — which means there could be another shutdown in just six weeks. The bill also raises the debt ceiling by the appropriate amount until March 2019.

Trump tweeted “This Bill is a BIG VICTORY for our Military, but much waste in order to get Dem votes. Fortunately, DACA not included in this Bill, negotiations to start now!” Shouldn’t that be “Unfortunately” or he doesn’t want DACA in any legislation. I’m almost sure that anything the Democrats proposed will help people in the US.

Senate leaders unveiled a two-year budget deal, but the plan needed to pass the House where it’s already facing strong headwinds. Some senators from the  Republicans [adding to debt] and Democrats [DACA/Dreamers] are opposed to the bill.

“The other thing is there is a huge hypocrisy factor here,” said Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul. “Republicans lambasted President Obama to no end for trillion dollar deficits and now they have put forward a trillion dollar deficit. And I don’t know I think the American people are going to be surprised, upset, hurt that so the so-called conservatives got elected and turned out not to be much different than the people they were criticizing.” Paul is pushing for an amendment to maintain budget caps, but Senate sources say leaders have no plan to give Paul such a concession.

Trump said he supports a government shutdown if Democrats won’t agree to tighten immigration laws, undercutting ongoing bipartisan negotiations on Capitol Hill. Not much of a negotiation if you are trying to force a deal down someone’s throat. “We’ll do a shutdown and it’s worth it for our country. I’d love to see a shutdown if we don’t get this stuff taken care of.” Ummm. “Worth it?”

Trump won’t release the Democratic rebuttal to the Republican intelligence memo alleging FBI abuses of its surveillance authority at this time, and has sent it back to the House Intelligence Committee for changes. The claim is that the Democratic rebuttal contains numerous classified and sensitive sections. But earlier in the day Trump told reporters at the White House “It’s gonna be released soon.”

The FBI and Department of Justice were supposed to verify the Democratic rebuttal didn’t contain anything that could cause a security problem before it got sent to Trump to sign. So if it got sent to Trump, then the FBI and Department of Justice approved of it – which means the rejections is nonsense and/or just political.

Senior aides to Trump knew for months about allegations of domestic abuse levied against top White House staffer Rob Porter by his ex-wives, even as Porter’s stock in the West Wing continued to rise. Trump himself supposedly first learned of the allegations this week but has expressed no sympathy towards the women who are accusing Porter of abuse.

Porter’s ex-wives detailed the allegations to the FBI over the course of a routine background check. A year into the administration, Porter does not hold a security clearance. Porter has now resigned.

By early fall, it was widely known among Trump’s top aides — including chief of staff John Kelly — both that Porter was facing troubles in obtaining the clearance and that his ex-wives claimed he had abused them. No action was taken to remove him from the staff. Instead, Kelly and others oversaw an elevation in Porter’s standing. He was one of a handful of aides who helped draft last week’s State of the Union address. Even an ex-girlfriend from 2016 complained about abuse.

Fox News barely mentioned Porter’s issues and resignation unlike other news outlets. [Fox News spent much of the day hyping a debunked story suggesting that former President Barack Obama had waded into the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.]

Add to this mess is that White House communications director Hope Hicks was dating Porter. Hicks helped defend Porter with a supportive statement that was put out in chief of staff John Kelly’s name. Hicks is also caught up in Robert Mueller’s investigation into obstruction of justice and other matters. She was dating ex-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski earlier in 2016. [Those on Twitter imagine Keri Russell or Allison Williams someday playing Hicks in a movie about how she sabotaged Trump and saved the country.]

Trump seemed to like Porter calling him a very smart person who has a Rhodes Scholar and a law degree. Unsure if true [probably] or a joke [less likely], Trump said he could be a Supreme Court nominee.

Questions will need to be answered such as if Trump knew about Porter’s past as well as how many more staff member in the White House still don’t have the appropriate security credentials [an estimation of between 30-40 require a clearance]. Did Kelly, a former general, ignore this as if he was in the military where abuse tends to sometime go unnoticed?

Speech writer, David Sorensen, who worked for the Council on Environmental Quality, which is part of the Executive Office of the President, has resigned for alleged spousal abuse. He denied the allegations though. His position did not require a security clearance.

To add to the weirdness, after Trump was impressed with the parade in Paris in July, he now wants a parade in Washington – as if there was none before. In Paris, he called it “one of the greatest parades” he had ever seen. Military planners will now look not only at dates and locations for the parade, but also costs, logistics and whether it is feasible to hold a parade displaying large weaponry such as tanks on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Robert O’Neill, the former Navy SEAL, who claims he fired the shot that killed Osama bin Laden is blasting Trump’s desire for a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. “A military parade is third world b——-. We prepare. We deter. We fight. Stop this conversation,” O’Neill tweeted. Will Trump go after the guy who supposedly killed Bin Laden and face a probably backlash?

Jared Kushner is trying to have a request of exactly who are the major foreign shareholders in Kushner Cos, the holding company primarily controlled by his family.

District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, whose impartiality was questioned by then-candidate Trump because of his Mexican heritage, is set to hear a case involving the Trump’s border wall. The case, which is being brought by the state of California and multiple groups, challenges the Department of Homeland Security’s power to waive environmental laws in their construction of a border wall.

Rachel L. Brand, the No. 3 official at the Justice Department, plans to step down after nine months on the job as the country’s top law enforcement agency has been under attack by Trump. Brand’s profile had risen in part because she is next in the line of succession behind the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein – who has been under attack by Trump on the Russian investigation. Brand’s assistant, Currie Gunn, has also left the department.

Twitter announced that more Russia-backed troll accounts were active during the 2016 US presidential election than previously thought. The social network also announced that it plans to notify some 677,775 users who either followed, retweeted or liked a tweet from more than 50,000 automated bots Russia-backed Twitter accounts during the 2016 election cycle. Add Internet Research Agency (IRA) with a total of 3,814 accounts.

Mike Revis, a 27 year old, won a state House seat in a Missouri district Trump won by 28 points, making this the 35th legislative seat Democrats have flipped nationally since the inauguration. Missouri is a deep “red” state.

In a series of hypothetical 2020 one-on-one contests conducted by SSRS, Trump trails Sen. Bernie Sanders by a 55% to 42% margin among registered voters. He lags further behind former Vice President Joe Biden by a wide 57% to 40% split, and trails television personality Oprah Winfrey by a 51% to 42% divide. Neither Sanders, 76, and Biden, 75, has ruled out a presidential bid in 2020.

While unemployment is quite low in the US, it is the Democratic leaning counties that are scooping up most of the jobs. Of the 30 counties that generated the largest share of new jobs from 2014 through 2016, Trump carried only two.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton won fewer than 500 counties and Trump won more than 2,600. But the counties that Clinton carried accounted for 72% of the nation’s increased economic output from 2014 through 2016, the most recent years for which figures are available, according to Brookings. The Clinton counties accounted for 66% of the new job growth over that period as well.

Trump has found an excuse not to go to England with all the backlash: He is complaining that the cost of the new embassy in London was too much. Yup.

With all the hoopla regarding the US announcing that their embassy will move to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv against the majority of the international community, Trump claims that they are “way ahead of schedule by years.” He said the US anticipates “having a small version of it open sometime next year.” How does he define this? Well, the embassy will be moving into another building the US currently occupies in Jerusalem.

Basically, it looks like a “token” embassy housing minimal staff while [for a while at least] most of the embassy staff will still be in Tel Aviv. This is basically the equivalent of saying you moved to a new house and just dropped off a box in the new house but still live in the old one.

Microsoft said in its earnings report that it took a $13.8 billion charge in the final three months of 2017 due to the Trump tax bill signed into law in December. With the charge, Microsoft posted a $6.3 billion net loss for the quarter. Without the charge, Microsoft’s profits hit $8.7 billion, up 10% from the same period a year earlier. Microsoft did not specify whether the charge was due to a new repatriation tax.

In November, Moody’s estimated that U.S. companies held about $1.4 trillion in cash overseas. Five large tech companies — Microsoft, Apple, Google, Oracle and Cisco — accounted for nearly $600 billion of that.

 

The shutdown [part 1] fallout

Well, with a week off, I won’t be going over some of the things that came up in Trumpland.

Now onto business real – not fake – business.

The shutdown has been finished – well for 3 weeks. On February 8th, another shutdown could occur. The agreement says that immigration issues will be tackled very soon.

There are some on the Republican side who suggest that the Democrats lost when they “caved in” to the Republicans. When in fact they got their way. It will force the republicans to settle the DACA issue while looking good by ending the shutdown after one business day.

And if the Republicans don’t settle the DACA issue by February 8th [the next scheduled possible shutdown] it will paint the Republicans as a part that can’t be trusted or to negotiate in good faith. If Trump allows DACA recipients to stay, it could be a move that could hurt him with some of his most fervent supporters. Trump said during his campaign that he would “immediately terminate” what he called President Barack Obama’s illegal executive amnesties.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to resume negotiations over the future of DACA and other issues. If those talks don’t yield a deal in the next three weeks, the Republican promised to allow the Senate to debate an immigration proposal — even if it’s one crafted by a bipartisan group and does not have the backing of the leadership and the White House Senate passed the final bill by the same 81-18 vote but some members of both parties opposed it.

Well, the US government was in shutdown mode. And of course you know that the Democrats will blame the Republicans and vice versa.

Consider House Speaker Paul Ryan’s comments that what has DACA got to do with the shutdown. Ummmm. What legislation in any government doesn’t include pieces that have nothing to do with the main chunk? In fact, even Trump’s Wall is included in the mess.

McConnell must be losing it. He kept on repeating the same thing over and over again about 12 hours after the shutdown – blaming Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.

Schumer withdrew funding for Trump’s border in negotiations over immigration issues with the White House. A staffer who works for Schumer called the White House on Monday and said the proposal, which Schumer put on the table during a Friday meeting with Trump, was no longer operative. Meanwhile, Trump had a framework for an agreement with Schumer on Friday but two hours later, Trump changed his mind. Trump later said there will be no DACA funding if there is no wall funding.

The Republicans failed to remind others that it wasn’t just DACA that the Democrats wanted to be included but as well the same increase in funding the military is receiving to be applied elsewhere.

In order to protect the Dreamers, Democrats will have to agree to the White House immigration wish list — scrap the diversity lottery program, end so-called chain migration and give greater latitude to immigration officials to deport people who are apprehended.

A more recent plan calls for 1.8 million people []so not only DACA people] to gain citizenship eventually but another 1 million or so other immigrants. In exchange, Trump wants $25 billion fund for the wall plus drastic changes to the immigration lottery using “merit” [not diversity] and preventing people from sponsoring their parents, adult children, or siblings to immigrate to the US. The staunch conservatives are upset of the extra immigrants added to the total. Some democrats are upset over the other concessions and changes to the immigration lottery.

Trump only seemed to have time for a short mid-day meeting with Schumer. That’s it. Is that what you call leadership? [Seems White House Press Secretary Sarah “Simpleton” Sanders thought so.] Unlike the useless [probably photo-op] meeting, Schumer at least negotiated. At the last shutdown in 2013, with President Obama in office, Trump then said it is the President that is lacking leadership.

The Republicans released right after a TV ad which called Democrats “complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants.” Last I checked, with exception of the DACA issue and Trump’s Wall funding, there is no connection. [Even if the government added money for Trump’s Wall that wall won’t go up overnight and the way it looks, it won’t go up for a long while.] Even Ryan said “I don’t know if that’s necessarily productive.”

Trump tweeted at one point his call for McConnell to invoke the so-called nuclear option and thereby remove leverage for Senate Democrats. Senate Republican Conference does not support changing the 60-vote rule. Senate rules impose a threshold of 60 votes to break a filibuster, and Senate Republicans currently hold a slim majority of 51 votes.

Eliminating the 60-vote threshold to break a legislative filibuster would remove significant powers for the minority party in the Senate, and party leaders have been reluctant to do so in the past because of the consequences it would pose when their party returns to the minority. Wonder if Trump knows this or cares. He could be a head of a probably minority in the senate after November and even in the house.

With the shutdown, Trump canceled his appearance at his first inauguration anniversary at Mar-A-Lago where Republican donors shelled out $100,000 a seat to be there. Instead, they will get Eric Trump and his wife. Is that an improvement?

When calling the White House at one point you would get the message: “Unfortunately, we cannot answer you call today because congressional Democrats are holding government funding – including funding for our troops and other national security priorities – hostage to an unrelated immigration debate. Due to this obstruction, the government is shut down.” Isn’t the White House supposed to be neutral?

A recent re-election campaign ad from Trump, released just hours after the shutdown began, that called Democrats “complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants.”

Trump has hinted that he may push the DACA deadline in March back further. There goes another promise.

Meanwhile on the first anniversary of Trump’s inauguration, aside from the shutdown, tens of thousands were protesting across the US in anti-Trump rallies mixed in with Women’s rallies across the world.

Trump supposedly said “I’ve got another nut job here who thinks he’s running things.” This is about his White House chief of staff John Kelly. It’s not just because of Kelly’s interview on Fox News recently, in which Kelly said Trump’s policy for the US-Mexico border wall had “evolved.” But the day after the interview Trump reportedly said “He is great, I think he is doing a great job.”

Round 6 of talks for updating NAFTA will began in Montreal. Trump made NAFTA a core campaign issue. He argues that Mexico is taking jobs and billions of dollars in commerce away from the United States. He also believes a new deal will help the U.S. finance payment for the border wall. [How’s that?] Trump also wants NAFTA to be terminated every five years unless all three countries agreed to sign on for another five years. Mexico and Canada object to this.

Trump’s trade team wants to raise that threshold up to 85% from 62%. The problem is that Trump’s negotiators are proposing that half of auto parts sourced from North America come specifically from the United States. About 14 million U.S. jobs in about two-thirds of the states depend on trade with Canada and Mexico with a potential 300,000 jobs lost if NAFTA is killed.

Trump’s legislative affairs director, Marc Short, said that the immigrants in question are law-abiding and “productive to our society.” Short said the administration wants to “find a pathway for them” to stay in the U.S.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s request to question Trump, and news that his team has already interviewed fired FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, indicate that the special counsel has a clear picture of where he is headed in what could turn into an obstruction of justice case, legal experts said.

If called upon, a poll says the 95% of Democrats, 75% of independents and 59% of Republicans think Trump should testify.

Trump called for Mueller’s firing last June, White House counsel Don McGahn refused to order the Justice Department to fire Mueller because he disagreed with Trump’s reasoning, the source said. However, according to the source, McGahn did not threaten to resign directly to Trump.

Rick Gates, the former Trump campaign staffer who pleaded not guilty in October to eight charges of money laundering and failing to register foreign lobbying and other business, may be ready to cooperate with Mueller.

The White House said Trump was ready to declassify a memo written by GOP committee staff in the House claiming misconduct by FBI officials investigating Trump. [But remember, they haven’t yet. Is there a memo?]

FBI Director Chris Wray threatened to resign as Attorney General Jeff Sessions called on him to fire his outgoing Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who is eligible to retire in March and to clean out senior leadership figures dating from the Comey era who the President believes are biased against him. Trump has publicly called on McCabe to step down over the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation and his connections to anti-Trump messages sent between two FBI employees during the campaign.

Trump had asked acting FBI director Andrew McCabe who he voted for in the 2016 election in an introductory Oval Office meeting in May 2017, The Washington Post reported. McCabe responded by telling Trump that he didn’t vote.

McCabe’s wife, when she was a candidate for state Senate in 2015, got a $467,000 contribution from a super PAC associated with then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Yes, McAuliffe is a long-time friend of the Clintons.

This is laughable. Conservative media is aflame of late with talk of a “secret society” within the FBI which has as its goal the undermining of Donald Trump’s presidency. This all starts with text messages exchanged between two senior FBI officials named Peter Strzok and Lisa Page during and after the 2016 election.

Republican South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy said that he had seen a text message between the two officials on the day after the November 2016 election that said [jokingly], “Perhaps this is the first meeting of the secret society.” Another Republican also threw in the Department of Justice as part of this “society”. A third GOP says that “we have an informant talking about a group that was holding secret meetings off-site” but never mentioned who.

All this on top of 5 months of missing texts between FBI agents on government phones which according to the Department of Justice, this is actually normal but it is not from specific people but everyone at the FBI – an estimated 10% of all texts. The texts have since been recovered.

“As a business person I was treated well by the press … I’ve always had a good press. It wasn’t until I became a politician that I realized how nasty, how mean … how fake the press can be, as the cameras start going off in the background,” Trump said at the World Economic Forum in Davos. He was booed by the press.

Trump claims that 84 stock market “records” were set this past year in his first year in office. This is the equivalent of saying that a baseball player hits 75 home runs [breaking the record of 70 in a season] that the player set 5 records [one for each home run] when in fact it is just one record.

With no real facts, Trump claims that the stock market would be down 50% if Hillary Clinton won.

He also said that a few people [he never named anyone of course] said Davos this year was harsher [or rougher] than previous years and equated it to the Academy Awards.

In case you missed it, there are allegations that porn actress Stormy Daniels and Trump engaged in a sexual affair in the 2000s and she was paid $130,000 in hush money just prior to the 2016 elections. She has kept mum on the subject but never really denied. Trump, obviously, denies it [it would of happened while he was just at the beginning of his marriage to Melania].

If the affair never existed, then why did Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal lawyer, set up a company in Delaware [a state notorious for its lack of corporate transparency] and make a $130,000 payment to Daniels right before the 2016 election? Cohen did not deny making the payment.

The president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said “These alleged affairs, they’re alleged with Trump, didn’t happen while he was in office.” Oh sure, he’s in office for just a year but has 70+ years otherwise out of office. Probably no proof he hasn’t had anything since in office. And this from a man who’s made various vulgar comments and on his third wife.

Trump approved tariffs on both washing machines [but not dryers?] and solar panels in order to protect U.S. manufacturing. Prices could jump 15% to 20%. Because washers and dryers are typically sold as a pair, prices for both appliances could go up.

In Zurich, according to a New York Times photographer in the press pool, someone had written “CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL” in the snowy patch next to the landing zone in Davos so it was visible from the air.