Tuesday, March 20, 2018

John Oliver turns his attention to Vice President Mike Pence. Poor Mike Pence.

Courtesy of the AV Club: 

With the chaos at the Trump White House mounting every single day to what seems like an inevitable flashpoint involving a constitutional crisis, impeachment, indictment, diversionary declaration of war, or simply a White House staffed with no one but Trump relatives and their wedding planners, it’s tempting to look ahead to the theoretically more stable prospect of President Mike Pence. But, as John Oliver lays out in the main story of Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, be very fucking careful what you wish for.

Oliver, calling Pence “the opposite of whatever a silver fox is” (settling on “ashen weasel”), takes a hard, typically incisive and hilariously pissed off look at exactly how extreme the positions of the (current) Vice President are. From his vocal opposition to women in the military, his prayer-based non-response to an HIV outbreak in Indiana when he was governor, to his ongoing abetting and excusing of literally every ignorant, hateful, or outright lunatic and untrue thing that dribbles out of his boss’ mouth, Oliver presents a portrait of a man whose outward appearance of un-Trump-ian sanity barely conceals the frothing, right wing loon within. Especially when it comes to the LGBTQ community, where Pence’s long history of bigotry includes overt, verifiable support of one James Dobson and the organization Focus on the Family, your go-to zealots for “shock ‘em ‘til they’re not gay anymore” “conversion therapy.”

Of course the point Oliver is trying to make is that Mike Pence is a fucking three car pile up, which we all seem completely oblivious to because he is always standing next to the human train wreck.

Look I want Trump out of office at least as much as the next guy, probably more actually, but if we take him out and leave Pence in place we may simply find ourselves exchanging one walking nightmare for another.

Two men injured outside a Utah gun show after their weapon exercised its 2nd Amendment rights.

Courtesy of KUTV: 

Two men are recovering from gunshot wounds after an accidental discharge in the parking lot of the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy where the International Sportsmen's Expo was being held. 

According to Jason Nielsen from the Sandy Police Department, the two adult men were sitting in their car at 3:45 p.m. on Saturday when one tried to hand a firearm off to the other. 

The gun discharged hitting one man in the hand, ricocheting and hitting the other man in the leg. 

Both were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The report does not say that the men just purchased the gun at the Sportsmen's Expo but that is likely the case. 

Which would mean that almost immediately after purchasing a weapon for protection they were injured by gun fire which could have potentially ended their lives.

There has got to be a lesson here somewhere.

Monday, March 19, 2018

After Donald Trump attacked him on Twitter James Comey's book moves to number one on Amazon.

Courtesy of The Hill:

Former FBI Director James Comey’s unreleased book has landed at the No. 1 spot on the Amazon best-sellers list just one day after he told President Trump that “the American people will hear my story very soon.” 

Comey’s book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership," rocketed up the list over the weekend, after starting at No. 15 on Saturday. 

The book is scheduled to be released on April 17. 

The fired FBI director is expected to use the upcoming book tour to challenge attacks on him and the FBI by Trump and some Republicans.

Speaking of attacks it appears that Comey's book got a boost after this tweet from Trump.
In response Comey tweeted this out.
You know I am going to go broke trying to keep up with all of these new must read books. 

So I think we know why Donald Trump suddenly decided to attack the Mueller investigation publicly.

Courtesy of the New York Times:  

The president’s tweets, posted on a Saturday in which he remained inside the White House with no public schedule, came as Mr. Mueller is said to have sent questions to Mr. Trump’s legal team as part of negotiations over an interview with the president. Mr. Mueller is seeking the interview, according to two people close to the White House, in order to ask follow-up questions, but put forward the list as a start. 

Mr. Dowd’s remarks about Mr. Mueller’s investigation represented an extraordinary shift in public strategy for the Trump legal team. Since taking over the case last summer, Mr. Trump’s lawyers have urged a strategy of restraint, in which the president avoids discussing Mr. Mueller or criticizing him, and the lawyers had done nothing publicly until now that could agitate the special counsel’s team. 

The comments by both Mr. Trump and Mr. Dowd lent credence to Mr. McCabe’s assertion that the president sees his firing as directly tied into Mr. Mueller’s case. Mr. McCabe, who is a potential witness in the investigation, declared that his dismissal was an attempt to undermine it.
According to Axios these are the questions that Mueller sent to Trump's attorneys:

Axios has learned that special counsel Robert Mueller has focused on events since the election — not during the campaign — in his conversations with President Trump's lawyers. The top two topics that Mueller has expressed interest in so far: the firings of FBI director James Comey and national security adviser Michael Flynn. 

That suggests a focus on obstruction of justice while in office, rather than collusion with Russia during the campaign. But both sagas are interwoven with Russia: Trump himself has linked Comey's firing to Russia, and Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador during the transition.

In other words Mueller may have Trump locked down both coming and going.

It has been clear for awhile that Trump's attorneys have barely managed to rein him in when it comes to tweeting out his frustrations with Mueller's investigations, but now having seen the questions that Mueller intends to ask him, and realizing that answering them under oath will be very bad for his presidency, I think that Trump is losing his shit entirely and only sees the firing of Robert Mueller as his only possible way out.

Of course if he actually does finagle a way to get rid of Mueller that will essentially e an admission of guilt, and then this whole things ramps way up.

Cambridge Analytica, who stands accused of stealing data from over 50 million Facebook users, is working overtime to stop media outlets from issuing reports revealing their tactics.

Courtesy of The Hill: 

Cambridge Analytica is trying to prevent an undercover report by London’s Channel 4 News that shows the firm’s CEO Alexander Nix speaking candidly about the firm’s practices from airing, according to the Financial Times. 

Reporters for Channel 4 posed as prospective clients and secretly filmed a number of meetings with the firm. 

The Financial Times's report did not make clear how the data firm was working to stop the report from airing. 

Cambridge Analytica also threatened to sue the Guardian to stop this story about the guy who blew the whistle on their Facebook data theft from being published: 

The Observer also received the first of three letters from Cambridge Analytica threatening to sue Guardian News and Media for defamation. We are still only just starting to understand the maelstrom of forces that came together to create the conditions for what Mueller confirmed last month was “information warfare”. But Wylie offers a unique, worm’s-eye view of the events of 2016. Of how Facebook was hijacked, repurposed to become a theatre of war: how it became a launchpad for what seems to be an extraordinary attack on the US’s democratic process. 

Wylie oversaw what may have been the first critical breach. Aged 24, while studying for a PhD in fashion trend forecasting, he came up with a plan to harvest the Facebook profiles of millions of people in the US, and to use their private and personal information to create sophisticated psychological and political profiles. And then target them with political ads designed to work on their particular psychological makeup. 

“We ‘broke’ Facebook,” he says. 

And he did it on behalf of his new boss, Steve Bannon.

Clearly that didn't work.

In another piece by the Guardian that I am sure Cambridge Analytica would like to make go away, we learn that the guy who orchestrated the data mining on Facebook has ties to Russia: 

Aleksandr Kogan, the Cambridge University academic who orchestrated the harvesting of Facebook data, had previously unreported ties to a Russian university, including a teaching position and grants for research into the social media network, the Observer has discovered. Cambridge Analytica, the data firm he worked with – which funded the project to turn tens of millions of Facebook profiles into a unique political weapon – also attracted interest from a key Russian firm with links to the Kremlin. 

Energy firm Lukoil, which is now on the US sanctions list and has been used as a vehicle of government influence, saw a presentation on the firm’s work in 2014. It began with a focus on voter suppression in Nigeria, and Cambridge Analytica also discussed “micro-targeting” individuals on social media during elections. 

The revelations come at a time of intense US scrutiny of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, with 13 Russians criminally charged last month with interfering to help Donald Trump.

Man no matter what the story, it always links back to Russia in some way or another. 

By the way Robert Mueller has requested all emails between the Trump campaign and Cambridge Analytica, so this party is far from over.

Interesting that not only is the Trump White House all super double secret about what they are up to, but so is just about everybody who helped them to get there in the first place.

Donald Trump had senior staff sign NDA's, which would extend beyond their time in the White House.

Courtesy of WaPo: 

In the early months of the administration, at the behest of now-President Trump, who was furious over leaks from within the White House, senior White House staff members were asked to, and did, sign nondisclosure agreements vowing not to reveal confidential information and exposing them to damages for any violation. Some balked at first but, pressed by then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and the White House Counsel’s Office, ultimately complied, concluding that the agreements would likely not be enforceable in any event.

The nondisclosure agreements, said a person who signed the document, “were meant to be very similar to the ones that some of us signed during the campaign and during the transition. I remember the president saying, ‘Has everybody signed a confidentiality agreement like they did during the campaign or we had at Trump Tower?’ ” 

At that time, in February or March of 2017, the source said, “There was lots of leaking, things that just weren’t true, and a lot of things that were true and should have remained confidential. The president’s point was that they [staff] would think twice about that if they were on the hook for some serious damages.” 

Moreover, said the source, this confidentiality pledge would extend not only after an aide’s White House service but also beyond the Trump presidency. “It’s not meant to be constrained by the four years or eight years he’s president — or the four months or eight months somebody works there. It is meant to survive that.” 

This is extraordinary. Every president inveighs against leakers and bemoans the kiss-and-tell books; no president, to my knowledge, has attempted to impose such a pledge. And while White House staffers have various confidentiality obligations — maintaining the secrecy of classified information or attorney-client privilege, for instance — the notion of imposing a side agreement, supposedly enforceable even after the president leaves office, is not only oppressive but constitutionally repugnant.

The draft of the NDA seen by the reporter for this story levied a fine of 10 million dollars for every unauthorized revelation about Trump or the Trump Administration.

That is beyond punitive, that his draconian.

It is also not enforceable, as explained by this professor of political science:
I am having a hard time getting over the fact that Trump is treating White House personnel in the same way that he treats an adult film actress with whom he had an extra marital affair.

After he does something criminal or despicable, they are just loose ends to be tied up by his attorneys.

Really makes you wonder exactly what Donald Trump is so concerned with people finding out about him, doesn't it?

New NBC poll shows that Democrats have a 10 point lead going into 2018, while Donald Trump's numbers have ticked up four points. Wait, what?

Courtesy of NBC News:  

Democrats enjoy a 10-point advantage over Republicans in congressional preference for the 2018 midterm elections, even as President Donald Trump's job approval rating has ticked up, the latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds. 

Fifty percent of registered voters say they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, while 40 percent want a GOP-controlled one. 

That double-digit lead — typically a sign of strong Democratic performance for the upcoming election — is up from the party's 6-point edge in January's NBC/WSJ poll, which was 49 percent to 43 percent, though the change is within the poll's margin of error.

That falls in line with other polling that shows the Democrats with a substantial lead going into the 2018 election.

But then there is this: 

Meanwhile, the NBC/WSJ polls finds that Trump's approval rating stands at 43 percent among all Americans — up four points from January. 

Fifty-three percent of adults say they disapprove of the president’s job, down from 57 percent two months ago. 

The improvement for Trump comes from Republican respondents (who went from 78 percent approve in January to 84 percent this month), white men (52 percent to 59 percent) and independents (33 percent to 45 percent).

Man am I embarrassed to be a white man some days.

I am trying to work it out in my head exactly what Trump has done in the last month or so that could have improved his image even by four points.

Could it be his blatant attacks on our Justice Department?

The constant turnover in his White House?

Or was it the fact that he has definitely been outed as banging a porn star right after his wife gave birth to his last child, and his attempts to keep her quiet?

Yeah, I simply don't get it.

But who cares? Because once we get enough Democrats into office we can shut his ass down hard!

During Trump rallies there was an increase in violence. I know, color me surprised.

Courtesy of the New York Times:  

A study published on Friday appears to confirm what news reports suggested long ago: President Trump’s campaign rallies were associated with a rise in violence when they came to town. 

A city that hosted a Trump rally saw an average of 2.3 more assaults reported on the day of the event than on a typical day, according to the study, led by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and published in the journal Epidemiology. The authors found no corresponding link between assaults and rallies for Mr. Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. 

“It appeared to be a phenomenon that’s unique to Donald Trump’s rally,” said Christopher Morrison, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania and the lead author of the study. 

It may come as little surprise that the rallies were associated with increased violence, as the often volcanic clashes between Mr. Trump’s supporters and opponents were widely covered at the time.

Yeah I think we all knew this even without a study.

And most of that violence probably happened right there at the rally.

So now that Trump is elected it appears that uptick in violence is now spreading across the country.

Natasha Bertrand ties it all together.

This my friends, is evidence of collusion.

I think that Mueller probably has all that he needs to make Donald Trump eat these words.