Government re-opens after Trump caved in

Congressional leaders and Donald Trump agreed to reopen the federal government, that includes a short-term continuing resolution that would fund the government through February 15. The agreement includes a furloughed employees back pay provision and money to fix the current border wall but not build the Trump Wall. Trump has said he may declare a national emergency if no deal is reached on what to do with the Trump Wall.

[So, Trump caved in. With this agreement, Trump didn’t gain anything. He didn’t get funding for the Trump Wall. Even after February 15th, it could be another shutdown. Trump hinted at going nuclear by going with the national emergency option (see below) but that could be bad for him.]

It is possible that the White House is preparing a draft proclamation for Trump to declare a national emergency along the southern border and has identified more than $7 billion in potential funds for the Trump Wall. As mentioned previously, lawsuits could by flying all over as many [including in the Republican Party] do not feel that this constitutes a national emergency.

According to options being considered, the administration could pull: $681 million from treasury forfeiture funds, $3.6 billion in military construction, $3 billion in Pentagon civil works funds, and $200 million in Department of Homeland Security funds.

Some land to be used for the Trump Wall fall on private property which the government would expropriate. Of note, the last time a wall was built, in 2006, there was a bunch of legal action by the property owners.

Trump had a proposal which includes funds for humanitarian assistance, technology, border agents, law enforcement personnel, and immigration judges. Trump laid out additional concessions that include providing three years of deportation relief to about 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children and 300,000 immigrants with temporary protected status.

Trump’s new proposal would not provide a pathway to citizenship for those DACA recipients and would provide $5.7 billion for physical barriers. 10 months ago, Democrats supported a bipartisan bill that would have not only provided a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients but also provided $25 billion in border security which would contribute to a border wall and border-related security.

The Democrats want the Trump Shutdown to end and provide a pathway to citizenship for those DACA recipients.

Trump tweeted “If we create a Wall or Barrier which prevents Criminals and Drugs from flowing into our Country, Crime will go down by record numbers!” He will [of course] have no data to back up this false claim.

GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked legislation for the fourth time that would reopen most of the government currently closed during the partial Trump Shutdown. McConnell claims that he doesn’t want any Senate vote if he know that Trump won’t agree. But it could be embarrassing to McConnell and Trump if quite a few Republican senators agree to end the shutdown. McConnell finally allowed 2 votes but both were defeated in the Senate – almost along party lines.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who just wrote a letter to Trump saying she will not pass a resolution to hold the State of the Union in House chambers, said she did so “because the government is closed.” Trump responded saying the Democrats “become radicalized.” Radicalized? Does he know the definition? White House officials said having the State of the Union outside of Washington is possible.

Trump said he is postponing his state of the union address until the partial government shutdown ends, yielding after a weeklong showdown with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. With the shutdown now over [for now], I guess the address is now on for January 29th.

Trump conceded that “no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber” and that he was not looking for an alternate option after Pelosi served notice that he won’t be allowed to deliver the address to a joint session of Congress next week.

Trump tweeted “She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date.” She changed her mind but only because she didn’t expect the record Trump Shutdown to last this long. From her original letter from earlier this month, Pelosi denied Trump the chance to have the speech at the House.

When Pelosi told Trump the House wouldn’t approve a resolution allowing him to address Congress until the shutdown ended. Trump shot back that Pelosi was afraid of hearing the truth about the need for better border security.

A president cannot speak in front of a joint session of Congress without both chambers’ explicit permission. A resolution needs to be approved by both chambers specifying the date and time for receiving an address from the president.

Trump claimed this has never happened before. There is no precedent for a state of the union invitation being rescinded but there has been times when the State of the Union address was either delayed, filmed/printed or sent in print.

Trump tweeted “Nancy Pelosi has behaved so irrationally & has gone so far to the left that she has now officially become a Radical Democrat. She is so petrified of the “lefties” in her party that she has lost control…And by the way, clean up the streets in San Francisco, they are disgusting!” there is a party called Radical Democrat? And I don’t think it is the responsibility of a Congressperson to clean streets but the municipality.

Protesters packed the Senate’s Hart Office building to protest the Trump Shutdown. Many held signs made out of paper plates, with slogans demanding an end to the shutdown so furloughed federal employees can go back to work.

About 5,000 IRS workers cited hardships and did not show up for work and 9,000 others were not able to be reached. Meanwhile, 12,000 thousand of the 26,000 in the division who were called back from furlough showed up for work. The average time to answer the phone was 25 to 40 minutes. But in the last filing season it was 7 to 10 minutes.

This past week, the last of the food stamps were released. As well, the number of Transportation Security Administration that didn’t work this past Sunday was 10% of the work force. They took the “day off” because of financial issues [although I’m sure some wanted to watch the (American) football games or hunker down from the bad weather].

Trump ally and advisor, Roger Stone, has been indicted by a grand jury on seven counts brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, who alleges that the long-time Trump associate sought stolen emails from WikiLeaks that could damage Trump’s opponents at the direction of “a senior Trump Campaign official.”

Stone has maintained publicly that he did not know in advance about what WikiLeaks would release. That alleged lie, which he also told to Congress, forms the basis for some of his other criminal charges in the indictment. The indictment also alleges that Stone lied to Congress about “his communications with the Trump Campaign about Organization 1.” In the indictment, Organization 1 is WikiLeaks.

Stone said at one point that the charges are false even as people were chanting “lock him up”. He also lied to Congress which may be hard to deny. White House press secretary Sarah “Simpleton” Sanders threw Stone under the bus saying it has nothing to do with Trump. Uh huh.

Unsure where his brains are: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says he doesn’t “really quite understand why” federal workers who have missed paychecks due to the partial government shutdown don’t just take out loans to cover the gap. Ross who made his fortune buying distressed debt.

Previously, White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said earlier this month that furloughed federal workers who are not getting paid during the partial government shutdown are “better off” because they won’t be docked vacation days and will eventually get paid anyway.

Even Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, says federal employees currently furloughed or working without pay due to the partial government shutdown are experiencing a “little bit of pain” for the “future of our country.”

Trump told advisers that he felt his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, had obscured what he believed was a public relations victory: the special counsel’s rare public statement disputing portions of a BuzzFeed News story that Trump instructed his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie before Congress. Giuliani’s media blitz was filled with a dizzying array of misstatements and hurried clarification. Some of Trump’s allies have suggested that Giuliani be barred from evening interviews because of concerns that he was going on TV after drinking.

“I am afraid it will be on my gravestone. ‘Rudy Giuliani: He lied for Trump.’ Somehow, I don’t think that will be it,” Giuliani told The New Yorker. “But, if it is, so what do I care? I’ll be dead. I figure I can explain it to St. Peter.”

Cohen was subpoenaed to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in mid-February. Senate Intelligence traditionally does their interviews behind closed doors, not publicly.

Cohen announced he is postponing his public congressional testimony that was scheduled for February 7, citing “ongoing threats against his family from President Trump” and his attorney.

Cohen’s wife and father-in-law feel threatened by comments by the Trump and Giuliani. Trump suggested without evidence that he was aware of damaging information about Cohen’s family. Trump suggested that Cohen had cut a deal “to keep his wife out of trouble,” as well as his father in law. A sked if it was OK to go after Cohen’s father-in-law, Giuliani responded, “it is, if the father-in-law is a criminal. Isn’t this witness tampering or something?

Cohen’s taxi business was linked closely to his family members, including his father-in-law, from whom Cohen bought some medallions. During the course of his taxi medallion purchases, Cohen and his wife took out several loans of unspecified value. His father-in-law pleaded guilty in 1993 to a financial crime relating to the taxi business, according to court records.

The House Oversight Committee has opened a probe where there were “grave breaches of national security at the highest levels of the Trump administration” and alleges that the White House and the Trump transition team “appear to have disregarded established procedures for safeguarding classified information.” The probe could yield information about how Jared Kushner gained high-level security clearances despite myriad concerns.

The Supreme Court allowed Trump’s transgender military ban to go into effect, dealing a blow to LGBT activists who call the ban cruel and irrational. The policy blocks individuals who have been diagnosed with a condition known as gender dysphoria from serving with limited exceptions. It also specifies that individuals without the condition can serve, but only if they do so according to the sex they were assigned at birth.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court once again did not act on the Trump administration’s effort to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, leaving protections for nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children in place for at least the next several months.

Tower in Trump’s Washington hotel is technically a monument and requires federal workers. So they aren’t getting paid but are working.

The many lawsuits filed against Trump [let alone by him and other lawsuits] are on hold because of the shutdown. They are not essential – but it seems the Supreme Court is.

At Capitol Lounge, federal employees who walk in after midnight can order cocktails for $5. Some of the lounge’s highlights? “Nothing Really Mattis,” “Butina’s on the Rocks,” and “Border Wall Banger.”

As a major snow storm is dumping snow over a big chunk of the US, Trump tweets “Wouldn’t be bad to have a little of that good old fashioned Global Warming right now!” Yup. This coming from that climate expert. We already know, he doesn’t know the difference between global warming and climate change. Did he comment about Australia where a city was hit with over 3 weeks of over 40C/104F. Certain areas hit 50C/122F.

Supposedly, White House adviser Jared Kushner was rejected for a security clearance by two White House security specialists after red flags raised by the FBI background check about potential foreign influence raised concerns, but their supervisor overruled them and approved Kushner’s top secret clearance. That supervisor overruled at least 30 others granting them clearance. Prior to the supervisor’s arrival, it happened once in 3 years.

As one of Trump’s top aides, he was seeking an even higher clearance known as “sensitive compartment information.” That clearance is granted by the CIA. A CIA agent wondering how Kushner got even a top secret clearance. The CIA has not granted the “sensitive compartment information” clearance.

Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform has launched his investigation into the White House’s security clearance process citing “grave breaches of national security at the highest levels of the Trump Administration.”

Pope Francis has taken another shot at wall-building politicians, telling thousands of Catholics in Panama and taking a jab at Trump, “This is the criteria to divide people: The builders of bridges and the builders of walls, those builders of walls sow fear and look to divide people.”

In his upcoming book, Trump supporter, former New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie, dubbed former national security adviser Michael Flynn a “Russian lackey and future federal felon,” former Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt “greedy and inexperienced,” former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price — who was ousted in 2017 for using private jets for multiple government business trips — “high flying,” former Attorney General Jeff Sessions “not-ready-for-prime-time” and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “a stranger.”

Trump tweeted “The reason Sarah Sanders does not go to the ‘podium’ much anymore is that the press covers her so rudely & inaccurately, in particular certain members of the press.” Inaccurately? If she says something, how can the media report something else with so many news outlets [including pro-Trump] reporting. If she said “train”, the media can’t report “airplane”. As for rudely, look back at any “daily” [or should I say monthly] briefing. It has always been like that. Everybody yelling for her to pick them and for her to actually respond to the question with a real answer.

There are two endorsement resolutions that are circulating by some Republicans. One resolution would also declare Trump the party’s “presumptive nominee” more than 18 months before the 2020 nominating convention, and it would specifically authorize the party to re-elect Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence. The second, offered by RNC insiders, would declare the committee’s “undivided support” for Trump.

Trump gives a no confidence vote to the FBI and DoJ

House Republicans, with the approval of Donald Trump, released a disputed GOP intelligence memo that alleges FBI abuses of its surveillance authority. The memo from the GOP and House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes alleges that then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe told the House Intelligence Committee that no surveillance warrant would have been sought for a Trump campaign aide without a disputed opposition research dossier on Trump and Russia.

The memo alleges that ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele had an anti-Trump financial and ideological motivations that were not included in the FISA application. Senior DOJ officials knew about Steele’s anti-Trump bias, according to the memo. Nunes admits he did not read the FISA applications before writing the memo.

A FISA court granted a warrant to monitor former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page and approved three subsequent renewals during the Trump administration, according to the memo. A judge has to approve of the warrant and renewals which includes verifying the evidence.

The memo alleges that the FISA application cited a September 2016 Yahoo News article on Page’s July 2016 trip to Moscow, but the application “incorrectly assesses that Steele did not provide information to Yahoo News. … The article does not corroborate the Steele dossier because it is derived from information leaked by Steele himself to Yahoo news,” the memo states. They and discussed quid-pro-quo deals relating to sanctions, business opportunities and Russia’s interference in the election.

The Nunes memo glaringly omits any revelation of what other supporting information might have been submitted to the FISA judge, choosing instead to focus on cherry-picked alleged omissions.

Former FBI Director James Comey signed three applications, and McCabe and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates signed at least one. But the memo also states that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein signed off on at least one FISA application for Page. Rosenstein’s role in renewing the FISA warrants has sparked Trump’s ire. Dana Boente, who is currently the FBI general counsel and was appointed by Trump’s FBI director, signed off as well on one or more of the applications.

Trump believes the purported bias was a “disgrace” and said certain people should be “ashamed of themselves.” When asked whether he retained confidence in Rosenstein or if he planned to fire him, Trump said “You figure that one out.” What he is forgetting that many he is blaming were appointed by himself or his administration. This includes McCabe and Rosenstein.

Trump continues to tell his associates he believes the highly controversial Republican memo would expose bias within the agency’s top ranks and make it easier for him to argue the Russia investigations are prejudiced against him. [Must be interesting to be a FBI agent when the president of the US doesn’t trust you. Would you want to take a bullet for him?]

House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff is accusing Nunes of sending a different version of the memo, crafted by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, alleging FBI surveillance abuses to the White House than what the committee approved. This would now make four versions of the same memo are around.

Justice Department and intelligence community, both of which opposed the release of the document, which is based on classified intelligence.

Sen. John McCain blasted Trump for approving the release of the highly controversial GOP-Nunes memo, saying “if we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.” McCain characterized the memo and its release as “partisan attacks” on the FBI and the Department of Justice.

FBI Director Christopher Wray sent a striking signal to the White House, issuing a rare public warning that a controversial Republican memo about the FBI’s surveillance practices omits key information that could impact its veracity. Trump had already been angered by a letter that the Justice Department sent to the House Intelligence Committee last week warning the release would be “extraordinarily reckless.”

“With regard to the House Intelligence Committee’s memorandum, the FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”

Specifically, these intelligence officials are concerned that the memo will reveal what goes into a decision to monitor targets, including what kinds of communications are targeted, and how those communications are intercepted.

Trump slammed McCabe, who has resigned, and said that he didn’t remember asking who the long-time law enforcement official voted for in 2016 in May 2017. McCabe did not vote in the 2016 presidential general election, but did vote in the 2016 Republican presidential primary. McCabe was set to leave the FBI later in the year.

The Dow closed down 666 points [hmmmm], or 2.5%, its biggest percentage decline since the Brexit turmoil in June 2016 and steepest point decline since the 2008 financial crisis. The drop is on the same day as the memo being released by the Trump administration.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley says Russia did meddle in the US election – going against Trump’s beliefs.

Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller and the Russia investigation, could be next to be fired. Trump is frustrated with the way the investigation has gone and may put the blame on him. He could argue that Rosenstein failed to scrutinize the information initially used to request the warrant and therefore didn’t do his due diligence.

The Trump administration has released a sweeping list of prominent Russian business and political figures, in defiance of Moscow and implementing a Congressional law designed to punish Russia for election meddling. It listed every senior member of the political administration at the Kremlin, and every Russian oligarch with a net worth of $1 billion or more. The administration stopped short of imposing any new punishments, saying the legislation was already doing its job.

Russia said a US Treasury report that could extend sanctions against Moscow for meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections is “a direct and obvious attempt” to interfere in its own upcoming presidential vote. They claim this because the Treasury must send Congress a list of rich Russian business figures and detail their ties to Russian President Vladimir Poutine.

Former Trump team legal spokesperson Mark Corallo had concerns that White House communications director Hope Hicks could be considering obstructing justice after a comment she reportedly made about emails between Donald Trump Jr. and Russians, according to a New York Times story. Hicks allegedly told President Donald Trump on a conference call that the Trump Jr. emails “will never get out.”

Unsure how US sanctions [in the US] affect some billionaires in Russia and their election unless the billionaires are using their US money to support Poutine. Russian elections are not for another 7 weeks or so in which Poutine is expected to easily win a fourth term in office [the main opposition leader is barred from running as he has a conviction for embezzlement, a charge that critics say is politically motivated.].

Haley is rumored to have an affair with Trump. The Grammy Awards had a skit of various celebrities who were reading from Michael Wolff’s best seller about Trump, Fire and Fury. She tweeted her disapproval over a skit involving Hillary Clinton candidate “auditioning” to perform the audio version of the book. She didn’t seem to care about the others in the skit.

Donald Trump Jr., tweeted his displeasure as well as some snark at Clinton claiming it was “a great consolation prize for losing the presidency”.

As if Trump’s end of the week wasn’t busy enough, Trump threatened to cut off aid to countries that allow drugs into the United States during a visit to the Customs and Border Protection National Training Center in Virginia. Trump specifically name-checked El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico in his criticism of countries whose citizens are coming into the United States illegally. [Maybe it’s cheaper if those countries cracked down on smuggling than him building his wall. Note that Guatemala is/was in Trump’s good graces when they agreed to move their embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following the US’ decision].

Trump’s campaign website is offering this chance for a few seconds of fame to supporters who donate to his re-election effort. The campaign’s original pitch was $35, but a subsequent email from the Trump campaign provided a link for donors to contribute as little as $1 to have their name displayed during a livestream of President Trump’s State of the Union address.

Melania Trump went to the State of the Union before her hubby. White House Press Secretary Sarah “Simpleton” Sanders claims it is to greet various politicians [as if she knows them by name] while the hubby can walk straight in.

Almost half of Americans who watched President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address [48%] say they had a “very positive” impression of the speech, down from 57% of speech-watchers after his first address to match Barack Obama’s rating after his first State of the Union address, according to a conducted by SSRS. There were more Republican voters who were watching the speech as SSRS conducted the poll only for those watching

Where have we heard this before? Trump said the 45.6 million people who watched his State of the Union was “the highest number in history.” Obama, Bush and Clinton had higher. He did tell the truth [for once] when he said Fox “beat every other Network, for the first time ever, with 11.7 million people tuning in.”

Trump, in remarks at a Republican congressional retreat in West Virginia, knocked Democrats for a lack of applause or standing up during his State of the Union address and “To get it done we’ll have to make some compromises unless we elect more Republicans.”

Outside lawyers created a limited liability company called the Patriot Legal Expenses Fund Trust, which will raise money from donors to pay legal expenses for multiple individuals, according to emails between those attorneys and a government agency. This is for White House officials and former Trump campaign aides embroiled in the Russia investigation.

It will “pay for or help defray legal expenses, which can include attorneys’ fees, court filing fees, litigation costs or other related fees and costs,” according to a draft document.

This week was so busy [particularly with the memo], that expect another blog posting sometime early next week.

 

Obama hampered by the Republicans

So President Obama had his big State of the Union address last night on most major US TV channels [why not CW and the others] and on many non-US news channels as well.

He decided that since the Republican controlled House only accepted 2 of 41 legislative initiatives [one was to stop the government shutdown], he will push his own unilateral actions with the first being to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour for employees of federal contractors.

Would you believe the Republican did not want any increase and in fact some suggested lowering the minimum wage to just $3. The Republicans say that an increase in minimum wage would result in job loses. The old minimum wage has been below the poverty line since 2008. [Do the Republicans like having citizens in poverty?]

Obama may also push for some type of amnesty for illegal immigrants – maybe not full citizenship but something more official to the estimated 11 million illegal workers who do jobs that some Americans don’t want to do. That includes agriculture pickers, construction workers, etc. Republicans are against the plan.

Obama’s approval rating has dropped 11% since the previous State of the Union address. That is better than Congress at 13% and Republicans at 24%.

So while the Republicans are hampering Obama’s efforts to run an effective government, they are actually shooting themselves in the foot by doing so. It is their plan to cause legislative problems and at election time say Obama was ineffective. Of course he was ineffective – the Republicans blocked 95% of the initiatives.

Obama tried to push gun control and tax reform but the former was blocked primarily by the Tea Party elements and the National Rifle Association – this even after major gun shooting events called for more gun control. Just last week there was at least one major shooting incident each day of the week.

The biggest problem with the US political system is if the President does not have at least a slight majority in the House and the Senate, nothing can be properly passed.

Those who voted Democrats out of office in the previous elections are probably having second thoughts now.

[And why is it the Republican Party has a sub-party, the Tea Party?]