“Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed.”

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.

No Respect

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.

Kushner’s Business Got Loans After White House Meetings

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.

Mueller team asks about Trump’s Russian business dealings as he weighed a run for president

From CNN:

Investigators asked one witness when Trump became serious about running for President, a person familiar with the matter said, adding that investigators seemed very interested in when Trump actually decided to run and how that coincided with his business ventures.

The source said the witness told Mueller’s team his impression was that Trump was serious about running back in 2014. Trump tweeted earlier this month that he “didn’t know” that he was going to run for president in 2014.

This witness was also asked whether Russians had been seen in the office at Trump Tower New York prior to 2015. The answer was no.

Questions have also touched on the possibility of compromising information that Russians may have or claim to have about Trump, according to two sources familiar with the matter. That subject matter echoes claims in a controversial dossier written by a former British spy who was paid by an opposition research firm underwritten by Trump’s Democratic opponents.

The pee tape is real:

A second area of focus was what happened during the event. The source said questions also focused on meetings Trump had with Russian business people or government officials, leading the source to believe the investigators were probing the possibility of “kompromat,” or compromising material, on Trump.

Along these lines, the source said, investigators were interested in logistics surrounding Trump’s hotel room in Moscow: Who was there? Who would have access to it? Who was in charge of security? Who was moving around with him during the trip?

Maybe this woman was around.

And finally:

About two years after the pageant, Trump Organization attorney Michael Cohen began negotiations with another Russian company for a Trump Tower in Moscow. Trump even signed a non-binding letter of intent in October 2015. But Cohen says he cut off negotiations in January 2016. One of the sources said Mueller’s team has also asked about this project, in addition to the potential Agalarov deal.

Trump did not mention during the presidential campaign that his company explored these two business deals in Russia. Instead, he insisted that he had “nothing to do with Russia.” Even when talking about his past dealings with Russians — like the Miss Universe pageant — Trump never referred to the prospective deal that fell through a few weeks before the Iowa caucuses.

Another example of the casual lying Trump engages in on a daily basis.

He Didn’t Make Me Feel Better in the Slightest”

Today’s entry in the “Trump is human garbage” department comes to us from The New York Times:

Samantha Fuentes, who was shot in both legs during the Parkland assault, said she had felt no reassurance during a phone call from the president to her hospital room last week.

“He said he heard that I was a big fan of his, and then he said, ‘I’m a big fan of yours too.’ I’m pretty sure he made that up,” she said in an interview after being discharged from the hospital.“ Talking to the president, I’ve never been so unimpressed by a person in my life. He didn’t make me feel better in the slightest.”

We elected our worst person to the presidency.

Social Pathology

David Simon:

School teachers carrying firearms and readied for gun battles in grade school classrooms is a level of social pathology that signals the end of any viable, coherent society. Travel such a path, and the barbarism and fearmongering of the American abattoir can only accelerate.

America’s Failure to Protect Its Children from School Shootings Is a National Disgrace

John Cassidy:

On Twitter, President Donald Trump offered his “prayers and condolences to the families of the victims,” adding that “no child, teacher, or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.” Fox News interviewed Marco Rubio, Florida’s junior senator, who has an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association. “I hope people reserve judgment…. The facts of this are important,” Rubio said. As soon as the facts are clear, Rubio went on, “we can have a deeper conversation about why these things happen.” The forty-six-year-old Republican added, “It’s a terrible situation. It’s amazing the amount of carnage that one individual can carry out in such a short period of time.”

Yet some pertinent facts are already known. According to local police, Cruz was armed with an AR-15 assault-style rifle—the same type of gun that Adam Lanza used to kill twenty-six pupils and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in December, 2012. Evidently, Rubio still isn’t aware of the power of such weapons, which fire bullets that can penetrate a steel helmet from a distance of five hundred yards. When fired from close range at civilians who aren’t wearing body armor, the bullets from an AR-15 don’t merely penetrate the human body—they tear it apart. It “looks like a grenade went off in there,” Peter Rhee, a trauma surgeon at the University of Arizona, told Wired.

To spare the families of the victims—and the public at large—additional anguish, these sorts of details are often glossed over in the aftermath of mass shootings. But it’s surely long past time that we acknowledged these facts, and that we begin to more fully discuss the complicity of N.R.A.-backed politicians like Rubio, and Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, in maintaining the environment that allows these tragedies to happen again and again and again.


“Turn on your televisions right now and you are going to see scenes of children running for their lives,” Chris Murphy, the junior Democratic senator for Connecticut, said on the Senate floor on Wednesday afternoon. “Let me just note once again for my colleagues: this happens nowhere else other than the United States of America. This epidemic of mass slaughter, this scourge of school shooting after school shooting, it only happens here. Not because of coincidence, not because of bad luck, but as a consequence of our inaction. We are responsible for a level of mass atrocity that happens in this country with zero parallel anywhere else.”

The key concept in that excellent peroration was responsibility. Even with the blood of defenseless children flowing along the corridors of schoolhouses, the U.S. government has abdicated its duty to protect. And that, it bears repeating ad nauseum, is a national disgrace.

Reading the Mueller Indictment

In a New Yorker article reviewing the Mueller indictments, an important note about Americans’ inability to correctly understand the news they’re reading:

The power of news illiteracy. At the heart of the Russian fraud is an essential, embarrassing insight into American life: large numbers of Americans are ill-equipped to assess the credibility of the things they read. The willingness to believe purported news stories, often riddled with typos or coming from unfamiliar outlets, is a liability of today’s fragmented media and polarized politics. Even the trolls themselves were surprised at what Americans would believe. According to the indictment, in September, 2017, once U.S. authorities had begun to crack down on the fraud, one of the defendants, Irina Viktorovna Kaverzina, e-mailed a family member, saying, “We had a slight crisis here at work: the FBI busted our activity (not a joke). So, I got preoccupied with covering tracks together with the colleagues.” She went on, “I created all these pictures and posts, and the Americans believed that it was written by their people.”

Mueller Knows All

From Axios this morning:

  • We’ve only been reading about Mueller’s interviews with Trump associates and White House officials — because these are the folks that Washington reporters talk to.
  • But Mueller has been picking apart complicated, secretive and well-funded Russian networks that could only have originated from the Kremlin.
  • Mueller’s indictments are not the work product of some frivolous fishing expedition to indict Trump, as some of Trump’s conservative allies have claimed.
  • This shows that Trump was wrong when he said during a debate that the DNC hacker “could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.” It’s not fake news.
  • This shows Mueller has been doing consequential work, not just sniffing around the White House looking for an excuse to indict Trump. 
  • President Trump is either woefully ignorant, or deliberately lying, about the scope of Kremlin influence. This was a major Kremlin operation.

Those comments during the first debate that the DNC hacker “could have been somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds” were so deeply disingenuous at the time (he was receiving intelligence briefings then, so he knew better). Now that he’s president, he’s violating his oath of office if he does nothing to respond.

The essence of Trump though is that he only ever cares about himself. In the context of Russia (assuming he’s innocent of any collusion and assuming he’s not being blackmailed or otherwise unduly pressured by Russia), what that means is avoiding accepting any conclusion or taking any action that calls into question the legitimacy of his election.