A reassuring take in The Atlantic:
“Mattis is the last brake on a president that makes major life-and-death decisions by whim without reading, deliberation, or any thought as to consequences and risks,” said a senior U.S. national-security official on Thursday, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to talk freely. “The saving grace is that this president has not been tested by a major national-security crisis. But it will come, and when it does, we are fucked.”
From today’s Axios Newsletter:
Axios has obtained a spreadsheet that’s circulated through Republican circles on and off Capitol Hill — including at least one leadership office — that meticulously previews the investigations Democrats will likely launch if they flip the House.
Why this matters: Publicly, House Republicans are putting on a brave face about the midterms. But privately, they are scrambling to prepare for the worst. This document, which catalogs requests Democrats have already made, is part of that effort.
It has churned Republican stomachs. Here are some of the probes it predicts:
- President Trump’s tax returns
- Trump family businesses — and whether they comply with the Constitution’s emoluments clause, including the Chinese trademark grant to the Trump Organization
- Trump’s dealings with Russia, including the president’s preparation for his meeting with Vladimir Putin
- The payment to Stephanie Clifford — a.k.a. Stormy Daniels
- James Comey’s firing
- Trump’s firing of U.S. attorneys
- Trump’s proposed transgender ban for the military
- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s business dealings
- White House staff’s personal email use
- Cabinet secretary travel, office expenses, and other misused perks
- Discussion of classified information at Mar-a-Lago
- Jared Kushner’s ethics law compliance
- Dismissal of members of the EPA board of scientific counselors
- The travel ban
- Family separation policy
- Hurricane response in Puerto Rico
- Election security and hacking attempts
- White House security clearances
This is my dream come true. If the Democrats win the House in November, I don’t think moving forward with impeachment makes much sense. They won’t convict in the Senate (they need to win a two-thirds vote), trying gives Republicans a political rallying point, and, frankly, the administration has not been discredited enough in the eyes of the public to justify impeachment.
If Democrats take the House, though, they have subpoena power. Trump’s business dealings have been dirty for years, and with subpoena power they can open up tons of investigations and have them all bear fruit. There will be new revelations in the press almost weekly. It will totally bog down the administration, and put congressional Republicans in a very awkward spot of having to defend what Democrats are exposing.
Hopefully months and months of these investigations will whiddle down Trump supporters to the most devoted followers and not much else. I don’t need impeachment if that means a path to victory in 2020.
A great set of stories from John Carmack on his interactions with Steve Jobs over the years:
One time, my wife, then fiancée, and I were meeting with Steve at Apple, and he wanted me to do a keynote that happened to be scheduled on the same day as our wedding. With a big smile and full of charm, he suggested that we postpone it. We declined, but he kept pressing. Eventually my wife countered with a suggestion that if he really wanted “her” John so much, he should loan John Lassiter to her media company for a day of consulting. Steve went from full charm to ice cold really damn quick. I didn’t do that keynote.
When I was preparing an early technology demo of Doom 3 for a keynote in Japan, I was having a hard time dealing with some of the managers involved that were insisting that I change the demo because “Steve doesn’t like blood.” I knew that Doom 3 wasn’t to his taste, but that wasn’t the point of doing the demo.
I brought it to Steve, with all the relevant people on the thread. He replied to everyone with:
“I trust you John, do whatever you think is great.”
(Not all the stories are this nice.)
Great piece in The New Yorker today by Adam Davidson on what’s likely to unfold from here regarding Trump’s various legal problems:
I know dozens of reporters and other investigators who have studied Donald Trump and his business and political ties. Some have been skeptical of the idea that President Trump himself knowingly colluded with Russian officials. It seems not at all Trumpian to participate in a complex plan with a long-term, uncertain payoff. Collusion is an imprecise word, but it does seem close to certain that his son Donald, Jr., and several people who worked for him colluded with people close to the Kremlin; it is up to prosecutors and then the courts to figure out if this was illegal or merely deceitful. We may have a hard time finding out what President Trump himself knew and approved.
However, I am unaware of anybody who has taken a serious look at Trump’s business who doesn’t believe that there is a high likelihood of rampant criminality. In Azerbaijan, he did business with a likely money launderer for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. In the Republic of Georgia, he partnered with a group that was being investigated for a possible role in the largest known bank-fraud and money-laundering case in history. In Indonesia, his development partner is “knee-deep in dirty politics”; there are criminal investigations of his deals in Brazil; the F.B.I. is reportedly looking into his daughter Ivanka’s role in the Trump hotel in Vancouver, for which she worked with a Malaysian family that has admitted to financial fraud. Back home, Donald, Jr., and Ivanka were investigated for financial crimes associated with the Trump hotel in SoHo—an investigation that was halted suspiciously. His Taj Mahal casino received what was then the largest fine in history for money-laundering violations.
Listing all the financial misconduct can be overwhelming and tedious. I have limited myself to some of the deals over the past decade, thus ignoring Trump’s long history of links to New York Mafia figures and other financial irregularities. It has become commonplace to say that enough was known about Trump’s shady business before he was elected; his followers voted for him precisely because they liked that he was someone willing to do whatever it takes to succeed, and they also believe that all rich businesspeople have to do shady things from time to time. In this way of thinking, any new information about his corrupt past has no political salience. Those who hate Trump already think he’s a crook; those who love him don’t care.
I believe this assessment is wrong. Sure, many people have a vague sense of Trump’s shadiness, but once the full details are better known and digested, a fundamentally different narrative about Trump will become commonplace. Remember: we knew a lot about problems in Iraq in May, 2003. Americans saw TV footage of looting and heard reports of U.S. forces struggling to gain control of the entire country. We had plenty of reporting, throughout 2007, about various minor financial problems. Somehow, though, these specific details failed to impress upon most Americans the over-all picture. It took a long time for the nation to accept that these were not minor aberrations but, rather, signs of fundamental crisis. Sadly, things had to get much worse before Americans came to see that our occupation of Iraq was disastrous and, a few years later, that our financial system was in tatters.
The narrative that will become widely understood is that Donald Trump did not sit atop a global empire. He was not an intuitive genius and tough guy who created billions of dollars of wealth through fearlessness. He had a small, sad operation, mostly run by his two oldest children and Michael Cohen, a lousy lawyer who barely keeps up the pretenses of lawyering and who now faces an avalanche of charges, from taxicab-backed bank fraud to money laundering and campaign-finance violations.
Most frustrating to me is the long list of shady business dealings the Trump Organization is known to participate in for decades, and yet there has been little to no public attention on them since Trump announced his candidacy. As mentioned above, Trump has known associations with New York mob figures, and it’s hard to see how someone could do meaningful real estate business in New York and Atlantic City without maintaining such ties. It seems to be common knowledge among reporters in Washington that Trump has been involved in money laundering for quite a while, maybe for Russian oligarchs. Yet there have been no public exposés, no investigative reports, no nothing. Just the usual obsession with the controversy of the day. It’s the same mistake that was made during the election when Hillary Clinton’s emails was inflated to be something akin to the political scandal of the decade.
Mother Jones captured some choice quotes from a Trump-supporting Congressman:
He may be an idiot, but he’s still the President and leader of my party and he is capable of doing some things right. But dammit he’s taking us all down with him. We are well and truly fucked in November….It’s like Forrest Gump won the presidency, but an evil, really fucking stupid Forrest Gump. He can’t help himself. He’s just a fucking idiot who thinks he’s winning when people are bitching about him.
….If we get to summer and most of the primaries are over, they just might pull the trigger if the President fires Mueller. The shit will hit the fan if that happens and I’d vote to impeach him myself. Most of us would, I think. Hell, all the Democrats would and you only need a majority in the House. If we’re going to lose because of him, we might as well impeach the motherfucker.
….I say a lot of shit on TV defending him, even over this. But honestly, I wish the motherfucker would just go away. We’re going to lose the House, lose the Senate, and lose a bunch of states because of him. All his supporters will blame us for what we have or have not done, but he hasn’t led. He wakes up in the morning, shits all over Twitter, shits all over us, shits all over his staff, then hits golf balls. Fuck him. Of course, I can’t say that in public or I’d get run out of town.
Fox News contributor quits and denounces the network:
I feel compelled to explain why I have to leave. Four decades ago, I took an oath as a newly commissioned officer. I swore to “support and defend the Constitution,” and that oath did not expire when I took off my uniform. Today, I feel that Fox News is assaulting our constitutional order and the rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers. Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed.
In my view, Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration. When prime-time hosts–who have never served our country in any capacity–dismiss facts and empirical reality to launch profoundly dishonest assaults on the FBI, the Justice Department, the courts, the intelligence community (in which I served) and, not least, a model public servant and genuine war hero such as Robert Mueller–all the while scaremongering with lurid warnings of “deep-state” machinations– I cannot be part of the same organization, even at a remove. To me, Fox News is now wittingly harming our system of government for profit.
As a Russia analyst for many years, it also has appalled me that hosts who made their reputations as super-patriots and who, justifiably, savaged President Obama for his duplicitous folly with Putin, now advance Putin’s agenda by making light of Russian penetration of our elections and the Trump campaign. Despite increasingly pathetic denials, it turns out that the “nothing-burger” has been covered with Russian dressing all along. And by the way: As an intelligence professional, I can tell you that the Steele dossier rings true–that’s how the Russians do things.. The result is that we have an American president who is terrified of his counterpart in Moscow.
We’re not ditching any constitutional protections simply because the last person the president talked to today doesn’t like them.
Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, talking openly about the president of the United States like he’s a child. There is no respect for this president’s policy positions, not even within his own party.
Just another day that ends in y for this White House. From The New York Times:
Early last year, a private equity billionaire started paying regular visits to the White House.
Joshua Harris, a founder of Apollo Global Management, was advising Trump administration officials on infrastructure policy. During that period, he met on multiple occasions with Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, said three people familiar with the meetings. Among other things, the two men discussed a possible White House job for Mr. Harris.
The job never materialized, but in November, Apollo lent $184 million to Mr. Kushner’s family real estate firm, Kushner Companies. The loan was to refinance the mortgage on a Chicago skyscraper.
Even by the standards of Apollo, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, the previously unreported transaction with the Kushners was a big deal: It was triple the size of the average property loan made by Apollo’s real estate lending arm, securities filings show.
It was one of the largest loans Kushner Companies received last year. An even larger loan came from Citigroup, which lent the firm and one of its partners $325 million to help finance a group of office buildings in Brooklyn.
That loan was made in the spring of 2017, shortly after Mr. Kushner met in the White House with Citigroup’s chief executive, Michael L. Corbat, according to people briefed on the meeting. The two men talked about financial and trade policy and did not discuss Mr. Kushner’s family business, one person said.
So far today we’ve had Trump’s public attacks on his attorney general (again); Hope Hicks resigns as White House communications director; Trump failing to master basic facts of the gun control debate, not to mention infuriate members of his own party; and now this, rank corruption once again laid bare. This is one day.
In any normal administration, this story alone would prompt almost immediate resignations. But not this White House, where ethics consideratios are routinely ignored and personal and public corruption and enrichment is expected. Who can pay attention even if they wanted to with so much chaos swirling constantly. Every hour it’s something new.
Note though that it’s not just Kushner wrapped up in this particular story, but Trump too:
Shortly after Kushner Companies received the loan from Apollo, the private equity firm emerged as a beneficiary of the tax cut package that the White House championed. Mr. Trump backed down from his earlier pledge to close a loophole that permits private equity managers to pay taxes on the bulk of their income at rates that are roughly half of ordinary income tax rates. The tax law left the loophole largely intact.
Watch the video attached to this Tweet:
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 28, 2018
It’s been 3 weeks since the Parkland shooting and Trump still doesn’t understand the basic contours of the gun control debate.