Archive

February 18th, 2017

President Trump just escalated his war with the intelligence community - bigly

    President Donald Trump's latest round of early morning tweets Thursday go well beyond the usual bluster about his opponents. He is now basically calling for the use of the government's investigative machinery to be turned loose on them.

    Trump tweeted angrily about the leakers who have disclosed to the press that intelligence officials have determined that there were contacts between Russia and Trump campaign officials during the past year. Trump was also presumably referring to leakers who revealed that the Justice Department warned that former national security adviser Michael Flynn communicated inappropriately with the Russian ambassador, making him vulnerable to blackmail. Trump tweeted:

    The spotlight has finally been put on the low-life leakers! They will be caught!

    Leaking, and even illegal classified leaking, has been a big problem in Washington for years. Failing @nytimes (and others) must apologize!

 

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Face Trump's unfitness sooner, not later

    Let's not mumble or whisper about the central issue facing our country: What is this democratic nation to do when the man serving as president of the United States plainly has no business being president of the United States?

    The Michael Flynn fiasco was the entirely predictable product of the indiscipline, deceit, incompetence and moral indifference that characterize Donald Trump's approach to leadership.

     Even worse, Trump's loyalties are now in doubt. Questions about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and Russia will not go away, even if congressional Republicans try to slow-walk a transparent investigation into what ties Trump has with Putin's Russia -- and who on his campaign did what, and when, with Russian intelligence officials and diplomats.

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Wheels coming off the Trump steamroller

    The resignation under fire of President Trump's national security adviser, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, has capped the first weeks of perhaps the most chaotic rollout of an American presidency in history.

    It comes on the heels of the judicial branch's rejection on constitutional grounds of Trump's bid to suspend immigration by refugees and entry into the United States by people from seven designated Muslim countries. His actions already have stirred unprecedentedly early and widespread street protests in cities and towns across the country and abroad.

    Flynn was forced to step down explicitly for having lied to Vice President Michael Pence, denying he had discussed the fate of sanctions against Russia in an FBI-recorded conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak before Trump took office.

    The discussion came in the context of then-President Barack Obama's order to expel Russian intelligence officials from the United States in response to interference with the American presidential election.

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What Did Trump Know, and When Did He Know It?

    During the Watergate scandal, until now the most outrageous political scandal in American history, the crucial question was drawled by Sen. Howard Baker of Tennessee: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”

    Today the question is the same.

    This is not about Mike Flynn. It is about the president who appointed him, who earlier considered Flynn for vice president. The latest revelation of frequent contacts between the Trump team and Russian intelligence should be a wake-up call to Republicans as well as Democrats.

    When Vice President Mike Pence was asked by Chris Wallace of Fox News on Jan. 15 if there had been any contacts between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, he answered: “Of course not. Why would there be any contacts?”

    Great question, Mr. Vice President.

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Well, Trump Watchers, Things Could Be Worse

    I know a lot of you were saying in December that this administration wouldn’t last a month. But I’ll bet you didn’t actually have “worry about collapse of the government” written down on your schedule for February.

    Americans who went into a state of shock after the election are now floating in new, hitherto-uncharted realms of worry. We’ve learned that Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, talked with the Russians before the inauguration. And, sources told The New York Times, other Trump associates also talked with Russian intelligence officers during the campaign.

    What about Trump himself? Any chance that he encouraged Flynn to chat with the Russian ambassador about policy before he was president? Wouldn’t that be, um, super-illegal?

    Wow. If you thought a successful President Trump was the worst possible scenario, imagine an egomaniac who feels threatened with being a “loser,” back to the wall. In the interest of public tranquillity we will not dwell on the nuclear codes in his office.

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Trump Administration's Actions Reads Like A Bad Spy Novel

    If the late, great Donald Westlake had written spy thrillers instead of crime capers, they'd read a lot like the opening weeks of the Trump administration. My favorite Westlake novel is "Bank Shot," in which a gang conspires to steal a temporary bank building by towing it off with a truck, only to confront the reality -- oops! -- that Long Island is indeed an island, and they can't haul the thing to the upstate boondocks without encountering police roadblocks.

    That's when things get complicated.

    Well, things have suddenly gotten complicated for the Trump White House and its timid enablers among congressional Republicans.

    Let's put it this way: The simplest explanation that fits the facts could be that President Trump encouraged national security adviser Michael Flynn to sweet-talk the Russian ambassador about U.S. sanctions imposed by President Obama for interfering in our presidential election, and then urged him to brazen it out when word of their improper conversations leaked to the press.

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February 17th

James Comey's behavior looks worse and worse

    If Republicans had any remaining excuses for not investigating the relationship between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian officials, Tuesday night's news obliterated them. "Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials," reported the New York Times. "Among several senior Trump advisers regularly communicating with Russian nationals were then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and then-adviser Michael Flynn," said CNN.

    Then again, as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Tuesday, it's not "useful to be doing investigation after investigation, particularly of your own party." So perhaps the country will have to wait while the GOP decides which matters more -- the party or the truth. In the meantime though, Tuesday also destroyed any excuse for FBI Director James B. Comey's conduct during the election.

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Rejecting fear as a transgender woman

    I spent the past five years leading a team of intelligence analysts charged with combating arms smuggling and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

    I am also a transgender woman - born biologically male and raised by my family as a boy.

    Being a transgender woman has taught me a few things about the divisions in our society. Many people believe fear and hate in the United States have risen to such levels that these challenges are impossible to overcome. But my story demonstrates that good is possible when you look across our divisions as I have.

    As a child growing up in New Haven, Connecticut, I knew I was different. As puberty hit, I came to understand that I was a female inside. I withdrew to protect against people learning what I dared not share. On Sept. 11, 1994 - when I was 17 - my father died in a car accident. While mourning him, I lashed out in fear and hate against my identity, throwing out my hidden stashes of women's clothes and purging my plans to tell my parents that their son was a daughter inside. Fear and hate won that day.

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Flynn scandal magnifies the Republican divide

    The first day of fallout from the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn showed that the White House, Senate and House, all run by Republicans, are thoroughly out of sync.

    The White House, where Flynn managed to hang on for weeks after it was known he had engaged in what appears to have been inappropriate communications with a Russian ambassador, is divided against itself. Within hours of Flynn's resignation, Breitbart News, home base of White House ideologist Stephen Bannon, had published an attack on White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, blaming Priebus for the deluge of leaks that plague President Donald Trump.

    Given Trump's chaotic insecurities, and longstanding habit of pitting subordinates against one another, the White House team is unlikely to be cohesive soon -- or possibly ever.

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President's credibility gap extends globally

    President Donald Trump's novel forms of aggression, including his ferocious assault on democratic norms, continue to batter the political system. He has inspired a lively resistance. But he remains popular in Republican districts and states, and his White House will improve its chaotic performance. An inexperienced, fractious and mediocre staff and a spectacularly unknowledgeable president will get better at planning and execution in the months ahead. If nothing else, they will learn to fake competence.

    Faking credibility may be harder.

    White House counselor Kellyanne Conway often does not tell the truth. White House press secretary Sean Spicer often does not tell the truth. White House national security adviser Michael Flynn appears to have been untruthful on a crucial matter of his communications with a hostile foreign power. And, of course, Trump himself states so many falsehoods, with such unrepentant regularity, that political reporters now tabulate the daily hits and misses like a box score.

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