Clash of the titans

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told Senate lawmakers that the US intelligence community does not believe Iran is currently undertaking “key activities” needed to produce a nuclear bomb — an assessment at odds with longtime administration claims that Iran is an immediate nuclear threat.

Donald Trump, in a remarkable rebuke that was reminiscent of his past criticisms of law enforcement officials, said the intelligence chiefs were “extremely passive and naive” on the matter.

Trump claimed that his intelligence chiefs, including Coats and CIA Director Gina Haspel, told him that “they said they were totally misquoted and totally taken out of context.” Their testimony was televised, and their written assessment of global threats was made public. Two people misquoted? Must be a first.

Trump tweeted “When I became President Iran was making trouble all over the Middle East, and beyond. Since ending the terrible Iran Nuclear Deal, they are MUCH different, but a source of potential danger and conflict. They are testing Rockets (last week) and more, and are coming very close to the edge. There economy is now crashing, which is the only thing holding them back.”

Aside from another punctuation error [“there” instead of “their”], Trump admits that things are getting worse since he killed the nuclear deal [“they are testing Rockets….”].

Scratching your head time. Trump declared that “ISIS was out of control in Syria” when he took over but later then said that when his term began, ISIS was already on the decline, with the US declaring 75% of ISIS fighters killed by December 2016.

Trump said he was “very disappointed” to see the FBI’s arrest of his long-time associate Roger Stone “go down that way,” About a dozen officers with tactical vests and heavy weapons fanned out across the lawn. Law enforcement shined a flashlight into Stone’s front door, and one officer rapped against it, shouting “FBI. Open the door.” The agent shouted seconds later: “FBI. Warrant.” Are they supposed to wait until he wakes up and has breakfast? Trump inflated saying there were 29 people in armored vehicles.

[A former senior FBI agent said that federal arrests typically occur at 6 am. This is the usual course of action is designed to rouse groggy suspects who are less prepared to resist arrest. It is typical to have 10 agents at a scene of an arrest for every individual that would be arrested. As they were gathering evidence and the importance of the individual, additional personnel were needed such as a crisis negotiator, log keeper, public affairs and evidence photographer.]

Trump blamed the Russians for the demise of the Cold War-era pact, known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty. He claims the Russians have been developing missiles that are against the agreement. But some European are not convinced. Yet, it is the US that has halted the treaty. Some analysts worry its demise could fuel a new arms race. In addition, China [not part of the pact] are allowed to build the missiles.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing an amendment to a Middle East policy bill that would acknowledge “al Qaeda, ISIS and their affiliates in Syria and Afghanistan continue to pose a serious threat to us here at home,” a move seen as a sharp rebuke to Trump’s push to withdraw US troops from Syria.

It’s been over 40 days since Trump originally ordered a rapid withdrawal of troops from Syria on December 19 within 30 days. He later extended it to 4 months.

Are you sitting down? According to White House press secretary Sarah “Simpleton” Sanders: “I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times and I think that he wanted Donald Trump to become president, and that’s why he’s there.”

She also said “Look, the President’s made clear that we support Christians, that we support the Kurds,” Sanders said, adding Trump has “made that clear to Turkey.” If you are another faith, you’re screwed.

Remember how Trump boasted that Taiwan manufacturer Foxconn would build a huge plant in Michigan including flat screens with at least 3,000 jobs and up to 13,000? Definitely not 13,000 as Foxconn as they won’t build the flat screens there. Former Republican Gov. Scott Walker lost his re-election in November because the state and local governments gave Foxconn $4 billion in tax help. Foxconn said the US plant “can’t compete” with lower-cost flat panel plants elsewhere in the world.

But Foxconn says it is returning to its original plan to make flat screen panels at a new plant in Wisconsin following a whiny appeal from Trump. Foxconn will probably have to either raise prices for them or a lower profit from them. A company spokesperson said she was not aware of any additional incentives or inducements that were offered to the company in the conversation with Trump. Uh huh.

Trump blamed former House Speaker Paul Ryan for not getting funding for the wall, saying that Ryan assured him congressional Republicans would get the money when the Trump agreed not to veto the omnibus spending bill last year.

A list of treaties and agreements that Trump has pulled the US out of in the last 25 months:

  • Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty
  • Paris Agreement [climate pact]
  • Trans-Pacific Partnership [Pacific free trade]
  • South Korean trade deal [renegotiated]
  • NAFTA [North American free trade] [renegotiated but not ratified]
  • UN Human Right Council
  • UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization
  • Iran nuclear deal

In addition, Trump has questioned or threatened to pull out of:

  • NATO
  • World Trade Organization

Electrolux is shutting down its Memphis plant which builds Frigidaire and Electrolux ovens partially because of the Sears bankruptcy and partially because of high steel prices from Trump’s tariffs. There goes 530 jobs. Trump said [at the time of the tariff slapping] the tariffs was meant to boost domestic production of the materials.

An undocumented Guatemalan worker fired from Trump’s Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, will be in attendance at Trump’s State of the Union address next week after being invited by a Democratic Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman. The woman claimed that managers helped her obtain fake documents for employment.

Ummm. Trump tweeted “In the beautiful Midwest, windchill temperatures are reaching minus 60 degrees, the coldest ever recorded. In coming days, expected to get even colder. People can’t last outside even for minutes. What the hell is going on with Global Waming? Please come back fast, we need you!” Moron. “Waming”? Related to Covfefe? “…the coldest ever recorded.” And he’s a meteorologist expert. Let’s not forgetting the difference between global waming [errr… warming] and climate change.

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Some miscellaneous Trump stuff

Well, I decided to issue a mid-week report just so I can release some lesser new items in Trumpland.

In an interview, Donald Trump said he doubts lawmakers will reach a deal over new border wall funding that he would accept and said he will build the wall anyway with emergency powers if necessary. Another government shutdown is “certainly an option.”

Trump also doubts he would agree to a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US illegally when they were children, known as Dreamers, in exchange for new border wall funding. Yes. Already giving up on the talks probably before they began. He has no faith.

Congressional Budget Office said that delayed paychecks, reduced working hours, and stalled contracts led to a loss of about $11 billion in gross domestic product over the five-week shutdown. About $8 billion of that will be recovered as workers return, but $3 billion or 0.02% of gross domestic product in 2019 will never be recovered. Still more than what Trump wanted for the Trump Wall.

Despite repeated claims by the Trump administration that ISIS has been defeated, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats assesses that the terror group “very likely will continue to pursue external attacks from Iraq and Syria against regional and Western adversaries, including the United States.” ISIS may be down to two pockets [or towns] in Iraq but they are also elsewhere.

Looks like another wall is falling apart: Trump is backing away from his knowledge of what former advisor Roger Stone did for him saying he didn’t do much. Stone himself has said he may work with special counsel’s Robert Mueller’s investigation. It is typical that when Trump sees his association with one of his allies could cause him problems, he then tries to show that the [former] ally didn’t do much. Just happened with Stone. Previously happened with Cohen and others.

Stone has pleaded not guilty. Meanwhile, Mueller may subpoena Stone aide Andrew Stone who may be able to add further information in the investigation.

GOP booster Ann Coulter, speaking to a mostly liberal audience on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” said that if they want to “get Trump,” focus on the wall: “He promised something for 18 months and he lied about it. That’s how you get Trump. It’s not this Russia nonsense.”

She wasn’t the only right-wing commentator who wasn’t happy with Trump giving in. But there are also some who think Trump actually had the advantage in the deal saying  that Trump relieved the pain and suffering of the shutdown and now has a stronger hand in negotiations for border wall funding. Ummm. The man who caused the pain and suffering saved the same people?

Despite repeated claims by the Trump administration that ISIS has been defeated, US intelligence assesses that the terror group “very likely will continue to pursue external attacks from Iraq and Syria against regional and Western adversaries, including the United States.”

Someone created a fake Washington Post newspaper here as a PDF – fast forwarded to May 1st.

You can also read the web version here.

At a Washington annual dinner of big shots in the US where Trump didn’t show up [again], former Secretary of State, John Kerry, had a few jokes in his speech:

  • “Donald Trump could be the first President to go to the inaugural of his successor in a limo with license plates made by his campaign manager.”
  • “I got to tell you, you all look incredibly dapper tonight in your ball gowns, your tuxedos, your bow ties and your cummerbunds, or as we call it at our house: workout gear. Or as we call it at our other house: pajamas. Or as we call it at our other house: swimming costumes. But tonight it looks like I’ve done something Donald Trump can only dream of: finishing my term.”
  • “I think we’ve all noticed, there’s been a lot of turnover in this administration. Secretary (Ryan) Zinke was fired. Reince Priebus was fired. Rex Tillerson, Gen. McMaster, Jeff Sessions — all fired. One thing you can say about the Trump people — they’re not quitters.”

By the end of last year, Trump had accumulated more than 7,600 untruths during his presidency — averaging more than 15 erroneous claims a day during 2018, almost triple the rate from the year before.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll published Jan. 13 found that 54 per cent of Americans oppose a wall along the border, while 42 per cent express support for it. Fully 87 per cent of Republicans favour the wall, compared with about as many Democrats [84 per cent] who are opposed.

Sales of existing homes fell by 6.4% last month, according to the National Association of Realtors. Existing home sales fell 10.3% for the year. A sign that the economy isn’t doing too well.

According to a CBS News poll, the percentage of Americans who believe the investigation is justified stands at 50% while 45% believe it is politically motivated. The numbers represent a change from where they stood in late November, when CBS found that 46% of Americans thought the investigation was justified and 51% believed it was politically motivated.

As of April 2018, white evangelical support for Trump was at an all-time high: 75%. This is from a man who is on his third wife, fathered 5 children from the 3 wives, paying off a porn star and a Playboy model, has commented about grabbing women by the p___y, groping allegations, etc. Evangelists believe only in a marriage between a man and a woman, no premarital sex, extramarital sex, homosexual or lesbian activity, polygamy, etc. So how did he get to 75%?

A CBS News released showing Trump with 36% approval, his lowest of all polls this month. Additionally, 71% of Americans said that building a wall along the border with Mexico isn’t worth shutting down the government, and most (61%) said the border can be secured without building a wall. A majority of 56% of Republicans said the wall is worth shutting the government down and 43% said it isn’t.

In a light-hearted item, Trump does away with signing executive orders [for example] the traditional way. Presidents prior to him would sign one letter at a time. After each letter, he would give the pen to an individual nearby. Trump, signs his name and then passes out that pen [or marker in his case] and others. Trump claims that the signatures of the previous presidents were horrible. His is a mess.

A bit of humor [or is it]: If you want to know what the US could turn to [or at least some of it], The Handmaid’s Tale reminds me a bit of what it would be like if Mike Pence ever became president.

So below freezing temps to cover 75% of US. Expect at least one of:

  1. Americans blame Canada causing the US to recall their ambassador.
  2. Trump to add tariffs because of the weather.
  3. Trump to ask where global warming is?

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.