Friday, May 18, 2018

Inside the Barbaric U.S. Industry of Dog Experimentation

https://theintercept.com/2018/05/17/inside-the-barbaric-u-s-industry-of-dog-experimentation/
"Often, the experimentation has nothing to do with medical research, but rather trivial commercial interests, and in almost all cases, dogs provide little to no unique scientific value."

Sunday, May 13, 2018

We’re Supposed to Believe Michael Cohen’s One-Person Shell Company Provided “Consulting” Services Worth Millions of Dollars

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/05/michael-cohen-essential-consultants-corporate-explanations-fail-laugh-test.html
"So, these four entities paid a former personal-injury lawyer’s zero-employee paper company millions of dollars for advice about accounting standards, telecom reform, tax policy, antitrust law, the Affordable Care Act, and high-end investment opportunities in the same period that said company was also involved in nondisclosure payments to a pornographic actress and a Playboy playmate. Also, one of the companies that paid Cohen is now downplaying a previously disclosed connection to a Russian billionaire who has been affected by the type of sanctions that have been the subject of several suspicious interactions between Trump advisers and agents of the Russian government."

How Michael Cohen’s Apparent Russia Payment Might Help Prove Collusion

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/05/how-michael-cohens-apparent-russia-payment-might-help-prove-collusion.html
"These allegations are not just about a hush payment and campaign finance felonies. This is a significant step toward establishing quid pro quo bribery and conspiracy against the United States. First, Vekselberg recently increased his share to 26.5 percent in the aluminum firm Rusal. That firm was owned by Oleg Deripaska, the Russian billionaire whose ties to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort are under scrutiny by special counsel Robert Mueller. Two of Vekselberg’s American partners, meanwhile, donated more than $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee and Vekselberg also had business ties to Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross. Now, Congress has been legislating tougher sanctions against Putin and Russia over the past year by sweeping, close-to-unanimous bipartisan majorities. But the Trump administration has been softening or delaying those sanctions at every turn. Last month, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control finally implemented congressional sanctions against Deripaska and Rusal, in addition to other Russians. The Treasury Department cited allegations that Deripaska ordered the murder of a businessman and had links to a Russian organized crime group. But on April 23, the Trump administration announced major delays on implementation, “slow-rolling” the sanctions seemingly to give Rusal time to minimize the damage and to appeal the sanctions. Treasury gave Rusal an extension to next October, and Reuters reported the department would “consider lifting [the sanctions] if United Company Rusal PLC’s major shareholder, Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska, ceded control of the company,” which he soon did. “Given the impact on our partners and allies, we are … extending the maintenance and wind-down period while we consider RUSAL’s petition,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. Given the outrageous conduct of Putin and Deripaska, and given the almost unanimous votes in Congress to impose tough sanctions, these accommodations should have been considered stunning."

The Grifter-in-Chief Has An Administration Full of Thieves, Fixers and Money Grubbers @alternet

The Grifter-in-Chief Has An Administration Full of Thieves, Fixers and Money Grubbers @alternet:

"The favorite hang-out of lobbyists and fixers these days is the “lobby bar” at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Conveniently, the President of the United States, who maintains ownership of the hotel while in office, pockets a percentage of every dime they spend there."

Sen. Blumenthal: 'Pattern' Of Cohen Linking Trump To Russians

Mueller Is Asking Questions About Trump’s Inaugural Fund. There’s a Lot to Investigate There.

https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2018/05/mueller-is-asking-questions-about-trumps-inaugural-fund-theres-a-lot-to-investigate-there/
"Robert Mueller has questioned witnesses about millions of dollars in donations to President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, according to a new report from ABC News—and that’s likely to be a very deep, dark hole for the special counsel’s team to dig into.  The committee raised a record $107 million in the months between the 2016 election and Trump’s inauguration, but questions have lingered about where all the money came from and what ended up happening to it. While corporations are not allowed to give to political campaigns, inaugurations are a different story, and the inaugural committee picked up at least $45 million from donors that were not people. The source of funds behind at least one donor, a company called BH Group LLC that was set up in Virginia in August 2016, is still unknown. BH Group donated $1 million to the event. According to ABC, Mueller’s team has questioned several witnesses about donors with connections to Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. The questions have also focused on at least two additional donors: Len Blavatnik, a Ukrainian-born billionaire who donated heavily to Republicans in the 2016 elections, and Andrew Intrater, the chief executive officer of Columbus Nova, the investment firm with ties to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg that paid Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen $500,000 after the election. Columbus Nova donated $250,000 to the event, and Vekselberg and Intrater attended.  The inaugural committee’s finances have been curious from the start. Prior administrations placed limits on donations in an effort to tamp down accusations of influence buying, but the Trump administration enthusiastically raised money—with no limits. The effort was led by California billionaire Tom Barrack, a longtime friend of Trump, but little is known about how the committee accomplished its record-breaking haul or how it spent its money."

Republicans Line Up Against Justice, Invite The Rod Rosenstein Showdown

Summarizing Trump’s Defense for Links to Multiple Potential Crimes: I’m Incompetent

https://forwardprogressives.com/summarizing-trumps-defense-for-links-to-multiple-potential-crimes-im-incompetent/
"When his former national security advisor Michael Flynn called Russia and discussed sanctions that Barack Obama had just issued against the Russian government for their cyber attack against the 2016 election — then lied about what he discussed — Trump claimed ignorance. Flynn’s actions were his own and were in no way the result of any orders Trump had given him. After Trump’s second campaign manager Paul Manafort abruptly left the campaign following reports of his ties to pro-Russia groups in Ukraine, naturally this “president” claimed he knew nothing about any of that and began to downplay his former campaign manager’s role — in his campaign.  To me that one is particularly funny because it thoroughly supports the point I’m getting at. In one instance, Trump’s claiming that he ran his own campaign. That he’s such a “hands-on” person, his campaign manager had very little to do with what was going on during his time as part of “team Trump.” Yet he’s still effectively claiming ignorance as it relates to Manafort’s ties to pro-Russia groups. He’s “super hands on” — until being hands-on no longer benefits him. Then he’s apparently surrounded by people who act completely independent of him without his knowledge of anything they’re doing. Such as the infamous meeting his eldest son, campaign manager, and son-in-law had with Russians promising the campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton from Russia’s government that was held in Trump Tower. Nope, Trump never knew about that, either. He found out about that meeting at the same time all of us did. His son, son-in-law, and campaign manger set all of this up — in his building — and kept it secret for over a year, never once mentioning anything about it to him. Uh huh.  Then there’s the payment his lawyer Michael Cohen made to former adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about an affair he had with her on his current wife. Once again, Trump claims he knew nothing about the payment or the deal she signed to not speak publicly about their affair."

Suspicions, Demands and Threats: Devin Nunes vs. the Justice Dept.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/12/us/politics/devin-nunes-justice-department-documents-special-counsel.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news
"Devin Nunes has escalated his confrontation with law enforcement officials, who have expressed concern that he is trying to undermine the special counsel inquiry."

Steve Schmidt: Titanic Fraud Pence Shows Donald Trump Slobbering Servility

President Donald Trump Attacks Stop After Michael Avenatti Revelation

After Saying He’s Too Busy To Meet With Mueller, Trump Goes Golfing

https://www.politicususa.com/2018/05/12/mueller-trump-golfing.html
"Donald Trump isn’t too busy. This is a man who has spent the bulk of his presidency tweeting, golfing, going to his Florida club, and watching Fox News. Trump has been in office for less than two years, but has spent 5 months of his presidency at one of his properties"

Ukraine Computer Involved In Tennessee Elections Attack

https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/ukraine-computer-involved-tennessee-elections-attack
"Investigators found evidence of a “malicious intrusion” into a Tennessee county’s elections website from a computer in Ukraine during a concerted cyberattack, which likely caused the site to crash just as it was reporting vote totals in this month’s primary."

Dubious Explanations Follow Revelation Of Payments To Michael Cohen

Oliver North Worked With Cocaine Traffickers to Arm Terrorists. Now He’ll Be President of the NRA.

https://theintercept.com/2018/05/12/oliver-north-nra-iran-contra/
"This reality about North has been largely covered up, first by North himself and then by Fox News and the passage of time. Thirty years later, it’s been almost totally forgotten. But the facts remain genuinely appalling. North was an active-duty Marine when he joined the Reagan administration’s National Security Council in 1981. One of Reagan’s top priorities was organizing and funding the Contras, a guerrilla military force, to overthrow the revolutionary socialist Sandinista government of Nicaragua. But the Contras engaged in extensive, gruesome terrorism against Nicaraguan civilians. Congress gradually reduced and then eliminated appropriations supporting them, leading the Reagan administration to secretly search for money elsewhere. According to the report from a later congressional investigation, North was put in charge of this operation, which participants dubbed “The Enterprise.” North enthusiastically looked for cash wherever he could find it, and led many of the clandestine schemes that later became known as the Iran-Contra scandal. The Sultan of Brunei donated $10 million (which North’s secretary Fawn Hall accidentally wired to the wrong Swiss bank account), and Saudi Arabia ponied up as well. North also pushed what he called “a neat idea”: selling U.S. military equipment to Iran, with the proceeds passed along to the Contras. Meanwhile, the Contras had a neat idea of their own: facilitating cocaine trafficking through Central America into the U.S., with a cut going toward supporting their war against the Sandinistas. Some Contras were themselves cocaine traffickers, and others were simply happy to make alliances of convenience with drug cartels. There’s no evidence North actively wanted cocaine to be smuggled into the U.S. It was simply that he had other priorities. But was he aware of the Contras’ drug trafficking? Yes. Did he try to shield one of “his” cocaine traffickers from consequences from the other branches of the U.S. government? Yes."

Donald Trump’s shady ’80s: Back then he didn’t cry about “fake news,” he worked it

https://www.salon.com/2018/05/12/donald-trumps-shady-80s-back-then-he-didnt-cry-about-fake-news-he-worked-it/
"This was not the first time the trio of Cohn, Friedman, and Trump had worked together to bilk New York taxpayers out of tens of mil­lions of dollars for Trump’s benefit."

President Donald Trump Filled Swamp With Former Lobbyists

Trump and His Administration Are a Parasite on American Government

https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/a20631712/cohen-russian-oligarch-payment-trump-corruption/
"The revelations on Tuesday that Michael Cohen, the president*’s personal lawyer, was one of the most ambitious bagmen in American political history all emerged from an improbable source: a lawsuit lodged against the president* by an adult-film actress with whom he allegedly had an affair. We discovered that Cohen reportedly got a half-million dollars from a Russian oligarch with “links” to Vladimir Putin, as though you could even be a Russian oligarch and stay alive without some kind of “links” to the newly re-elected goon-in-chief. We also learned that a shell company set up by Cohen took in $200,000 in “consulting payments” from AT&T for, as the leaked documents put it, “insights into understanding the new administration.” They could’ve paid me half that and I would have told them all they needed to know: that these people are all a bunch of crooks and that the companies should adjust their payment schedules accordingly. I mean, really. Trump. Nixon. AT&T. ITT. Where have you gone, Dita Beard? A president* turns his greedy eyes to you. Robert Mueller’s team already has interviewed Victor Vekselberg, Cohen’s buddy from Moscow, so we can probably assume there’s more there than we already know."

State Department couldn’t explain anything about Trump’s withdrawal from Iran deal

https://thinkprogress.org/state-department-briefing-couldnt-explain-trump-withdrawal-iran-deal-a72f79b0fdf3/
"After President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that the United States would withdraw from the Iranian nuclear agreement, the State Department held a background briefing with reporters. During that briefing, they had a really tough time explaining Trump’s decision."

Lawrence: Paying Michael Cohen Is Filling The Swamp With Money

1998 Giuliani debunked 2018 Giuliani on presidents evading subpoenas

https://thinkprogress.org/1998-rudy-giuliani-debunked-2018-rudy-giuliani-on-presidents-evading-subpoenas-5e14e567f6c7/
"Rudy Giuliani claimed over the weekend that the president of the United States need not comply with a subpoena to testify if he is called by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But this dubious legal argument was clearly rebutted, back in 1998, by then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani."

Jailed: Mueller Puts Lawyer Tied To Trump Campaign Behind Bars

‘Exactly what the Christopher Steele dossier said’: Ex-Watergate prosecutor follows the Michael Cohen money

‘Exactly what the Christopher Steele dossier said’: Ex-Watergate prosecutor follows the Michael Cohen money:

"Former Watergate assistant special prosecutor Nick Ackerman explained how the latest news reports on Michael Cohen show the exact behavior former MI6 spy Christopher Steele warned of in his infamous Steele Dossier, during a Wednesday interview with MSNBC’s Ali Velshi. The MSNBC host began the segment by documenting all of the reported links between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russians. “It’s absolutely dynamite,” Ackerman observed. “What you have here — when you put it in context of all the evidence — is evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians"."

The last time atmospheric carbon dioxide was this high humans didn't exist

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/5/4/1762050/-The-last-time-atmospheric-carbon-dioxide-was-this-high-humans-didn-t-exist
"The average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 410.31 parts per million (ppm) for the month of April, according to the Keeling Curve measurement series made at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. This marks the first time in the history of the Mauna Loa record that a monthly average has exceeded 410 parts per million. This also represents a 30-percent increase in carbon dioxide concentration in the global atmosphere since the Keeling Curve began in 1958. In March, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego observed the 60th anniversary of the data series, the first measurements of which were 315 ppm. The headline comes from Eric Holthaus, who puts it in context: The last time atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were this high, millions of years ago, the planet was very different. For one, humans didn’t exist."

Greatest Feminists In Feminism Herstory: Sarah Sanders

Trump administration ends critical NASA greenhouse gas monitoring program

https://thinkprogress.org/trump-nasa-greenhouse-gases-f782c723936d/
"The Trump administration has sought repeatedly to undermine climate efforts, rolling back a number of Obama-era environmental initiatives and announcing a U.S. withdrawal from the Paris agreement last June. NASA has served as a source of ire before for the White House, which has sought to cut funding for the agency’s Earth Science division twice. That division is associated with measuring climate trends. The decision to end the CMS marks a major swipe at NASA’s climate efforts and indication of what the agency may look like under Jim Bridenstine, who took over last month. Bridenstine’s confirmation process took seven and a half months, the longest time NASA has ever gone without a permanent leader. A Republican Oklahoma congressman, Bridenstine is the first elected official to serve in this position, something Democratic lawmakers worry will make him too political. He is also a climate science denier without any scientific credentials."

Trump and His Associates Are Holding the Great American Yard Sale

https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a20645915/cohen-influence-peddling-trump/
"It increasingly seems that the Russian oligarchy was interested in sinking its talons into Trumpworld from every angle. In this case, they simply exploited his associate's greed."

Trump Freaks Out As He Realizes Mueller Is Ten Steps Ahead Of Him

Here's How Saudi Arabia Took Donald Trump for a Ride @alternet

Here's How Saudi Arabia Took Donald Trump for a Ride @alternet:

"The friendship has clearly paid off handsomely for the Saudis. Kushner was reportedly the main advocate for having Trump make his first foreign visit to that country -- over the objections of Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who felt it would send the wrong signal to allies about Trump’s attitudes towards democracy and autocracy (as indeed it did). Kushner also strongly urged Trump to back a Saudi-UAE blockade and propaganda campaign against the Gulf state of Qatar, which Trump forcefully did with a tweet: “So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to horror of terrorism!” Trump later changed his mind on this issue -- after learning that Qatar hosts the largest U.S. military air base in the Middle East and after Qatar launched a PR and lobbying offensive of its own. That small, ultra-wealthy state hired nine lobbying and public relations firms, including former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s, in the two months after the Saudi-UAE blockade began, according to filings under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Most notably, the Qataris agreed to spend $12 billion on U.S. combat aircraft just weeks after Trump’s tweet. Wherever Trump ultimately ends up on the campaign against Qatar (driven in part by a Saudi belief that its emir hasn’t sufficiently toed a tough enough line on Iran), Kushner’s role in the affair gives new spin to the old phrase "The personal is the political." According to a source who spoke to veteran reporter Dexter Filkins, Kushner’s antipathy toward Qatar may have been driven in part by anger over its unwillingness to bail his father out of a bad Manhattan real estate investment with a massive loan."

Trump's Fixer, Michael Cohen, Had a Secret Slush Fund: A Closer Look

Top Fox News Legal Analyst: Devin Nunes Putting U.S. at Risk Playing Politics with Classified Intel (Video)

https://forwardprogressives.com/top-fox-news-legal-analyst-devin-nunes-putting-u-s-at-risk-playing-politics-with-classified-intel-video/
"How Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) still has a job — or at least isn’t currently under investigation — is baffling. As the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, he’s spent the last year serving as Donald Trump’s stooge trying to undermine the on-going investigations into this “president’s” campaign. Last year he even went as far as to hand deliver “evidence” to Trump, hoping to provide something to back his claims that Barack Obama had his office illegally “wiretapped.” Lately he’s been threatening members of the Department of Justice with impeachment, in what’s basically been nothing more than his attempts to bully and harass them, if they don’t turn over classified information that he’s obviously wanting to use for political purposes. That’s something which Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano said was very “dangerous” and puts the U.S. at risk. “They have top secret security clearances so they can see these things,” Napolitano stated. “The question is, will they use them for law enforcement and intelligence purposes or will they use them for political purposes?” He then explained why investigators understood how to deal with classified intelligence more than elected officials due to their backgrounds handling such sensitive information. “Congress’ investigators are usually retired or former CIA, FBI, Secret Service, so they know exactly what they’re doing,” Napolitano explained. “But they have a law that requires them to protect the names of sources and protect the means that the sources use. Otherwise, the source of the source contact in a foreign country — gone.” In other words, Nunes is putting this country, and potentially American lives, at risk all because he’s spent the last year trying to do whatever he can to undermine the credibility of the investigations looking into whether Trump’s a criminal or possibly even a traitor."

Michael Cohen Has Been Selling Access To The President

'This Is the Moment to Fight': FCC Announces Net Neutrality Will Officially Die on June 11

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2018/05/10/moment-fight-fcc-announces-net-neutrality-will-officially-die-june-11
"Open internet advocates urged Americans to "ramp up" pressure on their senators on Thursday after FCC chair Ajit Pai announced in a press release that the widely popular net neutrality rules his agency voted to repeal last December will officially die on June 11."

Trump Says Giuliani Will 'Get His Facts Straight'

Republican Insider Explains How Religion Destroyed the GOP @alternet

Republican Insider Explains How Religion Destroyed the GOP @alternet:

"All around us now is a prevailing anti-intellectualism and hostility to science. Politicized religion is the sheet anchor of the dreary forty-year-old culture wars."

This Week In Scott Pruitt's Scandals

Republicans Fill Court Seat They Denied To Obama For 6 Years

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/michael-brennan-ron-johnson-trump-judges_us_5af47bcbe4b04d3b2c91818f
"The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Michael Brennan to a lifetime seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ― a vacancy that Republicans prevented President Barack Obama from filling for six years."

Trump Threatens To 'Get Involved' In Mueller's Investigation

As Vice President Calls for Mueller to 'Wrap It Up,' Video Mash-up Shows Pence Echo Nixon on Watergate

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2018/05/10/vice-president-calls-mueller-wrap-it-video-mash-shows-pence-echo-nixon-watergate
"As Pence's "Today" show interviewed aired, critics and historians took to Twitter to note how the current vice president had apparently taken a page out of the "Nixon Playbook"."

Michael Cohen Wiretap Cold Open - SNL

Weekend Update on Rudy Giuliani's Confessions - SNL

Meet the Parents Cold Open - SNL

Letters reveal how Pruitt hired an unqualified lobbyist to head one of EPA's most important offices

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/5/11/1763587/-Letters-reveal-how-Pruitt-hired-an-unqualified-lobbyist-to-head-one-of-EPA-s-most-important-offices
"Bill Wehrum is the Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. The OAR is responsible for developing programs that promote energy efficiency, as well as dealing with regulations on both air quality and industrial pollution. Its regulatory reach extends for rules on radon on basements to ozone depleting chemicals and acid rain from power plants. It’s also the office that’s responsible for collecting information connected to climate change. It’s one of the EPA’s most critical offices. Which is why the previous administrator of the office had both a degree in biology from Yale and a degree in public policy from Harvard. So what exactly are Wehrum’s qualifications? It’s hard to determine, because although previous versions of the page showing the leadership team of the OAR included biographies of the principal officials, the new version of that same page has ditched all information about the backgrounds of the people in charge. As it turns out, Wehrum had two excellent qualifications. First, he was a lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry who had continued to act as a lobbyist even when he failed to register as a lobbyist. Second, he had been turned down for exactly the same position in the past over conflicts of interest and simply lack of qualifications. Writing for one of his clients, Wehrum requested a meeting with Pruitt. After that meeting was held, Pruitt did more than just hear out the lobbyist’s concerns—he put Wehrum in charge of the entire area, even though Wehrum lacked any qualifications, and even though hiring him meant directly violating rules against hiring lobbyists to work in areas where they had clients. Wehrum is far from the only lobbyist hired by Pruitt. In fact, he’s staffed both the EPA’s leadership and what had been the scientific review boards with industry lobbyists cheering on the destruction of environmental protections."

Steve Schmidt: Michael Cohen Is Like A ‘Goodfellas' Character

As CO2 Levels Soar Past 'Troubling' 410 ppm Threshold, Trump Kills NASA Carbon Monitoring Program

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2018/05/11/co2-levels-soar-past-troubling-410-ppm-threshold-trump-kills-nasa-carbon-monitoring
"As the Trump administration charges forward with its war on science by canceling a "crucial" carbon monitoring system at NASA, scientists and climate experts are sounding alarms over atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) that just surpassed a "troubling" threshold for the first time in human history."

The sadism of the modern Republican Party

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/5/13/1763274/-The-sadism-of-the-modern-Republican-Party
"Trump wants Congress to cut funding for a children's health program, and for years he and the Republicans have been trying to take health care from tens of millions of people. Trump's proposed budget slashes Medicaid spending, while the Centers for Disease Control under his administration is gutting spending on global disease prevention. Trump also wants to cut Food Stamps, because making American great again apparently means making more Americans hungry. And because educated Americans vote more Democratic and against Trump, he naturally wants to follow in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan and cut spending on education, while making it harder for people who need student loans. For his part, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan's sole purpose in politics seems to be to cut Medicare and Social Security, and he's openly admits he’s been dreaming of cutting Medicaid since he was in college. Trump's cruel policies of racism, xenophobia, and exclusion are so consistent and comprehensive one would need to a daily tally to keep up. And House and Senate Republicans support all of it. Whether it’s punishing immigrants to the point of tearing their families apart, or cynically and hypocritically claiming to wage war to protect the same people Trump banned from entering the country as refugees, or rolling back all manner of civil rights protections in a blatant attempt to hurt the same minorities who have suffered historic bigotry and discrimination, Trump and the Republicans attempt to validate their sorry existences by imposing cruel policies that structurally and institutionally Other, not just dividing this nation along demographic lines but shredding it. This is who the Republicans are. This is what they do. Their agenda and values are not about helping people, or making the United States stronger from within. Their policies are designed to hurt people. Women and minorities first, but everyone else in due time."

Why Coal Is "Retiring" Faster Than Anyone Thought

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Trump Presidency: Oligarchs, Billionaires, Corporations, and Porn Stars

The Trump Presidency: Oligarchs, Billionaires, Corporations, and Porn Stars:

"If you think the point of the Trump presidency is hatred of women and people who are not white, I couldn’t blame you. The evidence appears to be ample. Just this week we heard Attorney General Jeff Sessions promise to take away the children of refugees fleeing violence in Central America who cross into the United States to seek asylum. Put mothers in detention and take away their babies. Hard to find a case more demonstrative of performative hatred. But the hate is not the point of this presidency. It’s a tool for protecting the massive looting of the public commons currently under way, and most importantly, the shady network of Russian oligarchs, U.S. billionaires, Kremlin cronies, hapless lawyers, and privately held corporations that brought Donald J. Trump to power. The U.S. billionaires and privately held corporations are in it for the looting. Some publicly traded Fortune 500 companies are along for the ride. The Kremlin and its oligarchs are in it for the chaos Trump has wreaked upon Russia’s geopolitical foe, the United States of America. And the Republican Congress not only knows on which side its bread is buttered; its members know who’s doing the buttering. That would be the U.S. billionaires and privately-held corporations invested in Trump’s Plunder Project™. On April 27, the Republican majority on the House Intelligence Committee released a report that basically said, yeah, the Trump campaign had contacts with some Russians. So what? No evidence of collusion. And, by the way, the FBI sucks for having collected potential evidence of a possible conspiracy between the Trump campaign and agents of a foreign government. But despite the best efforts of the House Intelligence Committee, led by its sycophantic chairman, Devin Nunes, each day brings new revelations that suggest conspiratorial relationships between Russian oligarchs and the president’s closest associates. And you don’t get to be an oligarch in Russia without the approval of the Kremlin’s top dog, the authoritarian Vladimir Putin."

Russian Leverage Over Trump Is Not Just a Theory. It’s Now Fact.

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/05/russian-leverage-over-trump-fact-michael-cohen-stormy-daniels-devin-nunes.html
"The New York Times has confirmed the explosive claims made by Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, that Columbus Nova, a New York investment firm whose biggest client is a company controlled by a Russian oligarch, deposited half a million dollars into a secret account set up by attorney Michael Cohen to pay off Donald Trump’s sexual partners. The possible reasons for this arrangement run from brazenly corrupt to far worse (Columbus Nova said it was a “consulting fee,” hardly a benign explanation). The payments, by Viktor Vekselberg – who, like all Russian oligarchs, operates in cooperation with the Putin government – gave Russia several sources of possible leverage over Cohen and Trump. First the payment itself amounts to some kind of bribe, in return for which a favor would be expected. Second, Russia had knowledge of the secret payoff, which it could always expose. Third, the possibility (at minimum) exists that Russia knew the account was being used to silence Trump’s mistresses, yet another source of kompromat. For all the speculation about the existence of the pee tape, the latest revelations prove what is tantamount to the same thing. Russia could leverage the president and his fixer – who, recall, hand-delivered a pro-Russian “peace plan” with Ukraine to Trump’s national security adviser in January 2017 – by threatening to expose secrets they were desperate to keep hidden. Whether those secrets were limited to illegal payments, or included knowledge of sexual affairs, is a question of degree but not of kind. Perhaps even more alarming has been the response of the political system to this crisis. The House of Representatives has assigned Devin Nunes, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, as its point man to defend Trump against the Mueller investigation. The Department of Justice has a longstanding policy of keeping Congress out of acting investigations, for the obvious reason that elected officials have a powerful incentive to interfere."

Michael Cohen's shell company appears to have funneled bribes from both Russia and US

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/5/8/1762998/-Michael-Cohen-s-shell-company-appears-to-have-funneled-bribes-to-Trump-from-both-Russia-and-US
"A shell company that Michael D. Cohen used to pay hush money to a pornographic film actress received payments totaling more than $1 million from an American company linked to a Russian oligarch and several corporations with business before the Trump administration, according to documents and interviews. Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg made the New York Times last week with news that he had been interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Federal agents working with Mr. Mueller stopped Mr. Vekselberg, a billionaire businessman, at a New York-area airport this year, searched his electronic devices and questioned him, according to people familiar with the matter. They confronted him after he stepped off a private plane about two months ago, according to one of the people. Exactly why Vekselberg was singled out for this treatment was something of a mystery. He was known to have attended Donald Trump’s inauguration, and his ownership of multiple companies made him a potential target, but there appeared to be no special reason for the billionaire to get pulled in for FBI questioning shortly after stepping off a plane. But on Tuesday evening, Michael Avenatti, lawyer for Stormy Daniels in her legal conflict with Trump and Cohen, provided an answer."

Newly Exposed Payments To Donald Trump Confidant Cohen Add Depth To Case

Why AT&T’s $200,000 payment to Michael Cohen is a bombshell

https://thinkprogress.org/why-atts-payment-to-michael-cohen-is-a-bombshell-edaa3a6acf4e/
"On Tuesday, AT&T acknowledged that it paid $200,000 to Essential Consultants, a shell company set up by Donald Trump longtime attorney, Michael Cohen. The payments were first revealed in a document released by Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels. In the weeks leading up to the 2016 election, Essential Consultants was also used to pay $130,000 in hush money to Daniels, who claims to have had an affair with Trump in 2006. Shortly after Avenatti released his document, AT&T confirmed the payments. Essential Consulting was one of several firms we engaged in early 2017 to provide insights into understanding the new administration. They did no legal or lobbying work for us, and the contract ended in December 2017 In addition, Avenatti’s document revealed that Essential Consultants received payments from Columbus Nova — a company linked to a Russian oligarch named Viktor Vekselberg — as well as Novartis, a large pharmaceutical company based in Switzerland. But AT&T’s payment is a stunning development that is likely to create a thicket of legal problems for Cohen and Trump himself. AT&T tries to justify the payments as a legitimate consulting expense, saying that the firm provided “insights.” But Essential Consultants is not a real company. It was set up on October 17, 2016. According to financial records, the company exists as a “real estate consulting company that collects fees for investment consulting work.” But Cohen immediately used it to make the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. The funding for that payment, Cohen had claimed, came from a mortgage on his house. The shell company has no website, no known employees, and no public facing presence of any kind. It raises the question of how AT&T could have even possibly known about Essential Consultants. We know that the impetus for the creation of Essential Consultants was the Stormy Daniels payment."

Trump tries to fix deficit caused by tax cuts by cutting billions from children’s health care

https://thinkprogress.org/trump-quietly-proposes-slashing-billions-from-childrens-health-care-86300b9989c6/
"This is Trump's response to a deficit he exploded with massive corporate tax cuts."

Rudy Giuliani: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Trump was asked the most basic question about his Iran deal decision. He had no answer.

https://thinkprogress.org/trump-iran-nuclear-deal-cant-say-how-it-makes-america-safer-918b75b12305/
"After publicly signing a memorandum to violate the Iran nuclear deal by reinstating the “highest levels” of U.S. sanctions against the country, President Trump was asked a very basic question by a reporter who was in attendance at the White House for the ceremony. “Mr. President, how does this America safer?” she said. “How does this make American safer?” Trump gathered his thoughts for a moment, then just restated the question in the form of an assertion. “This will make America much safer,” he said, before getting up for the table on which he signed the memorandum. The president’s inability to answer the most basic question about his decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement is indicative of why many experts question the wisdom of doing so in the first place. Under the Joint Cooperation Plan of Action (JCPOA), the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency could regularly inspect Iran’s nuclear program to make sure that it is for peaceful purposes. By all accounts, that process was working. But now that Trump has pulled the U.S. out, it’s unclear what will come next."

Trump Just Violated the Iran Deal. Welcome to Renege Nation.

https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/a20528186/iran-deal-trump/
"Welcome to Renege Nation, people. Everything having to do with the United States government, up to and including its word among nations, now functions on the basic principle that has animated the president*’s entire business career–“Yeah? So, sue me.” So he went on TV with his Serious World Leader face screwed on tightly, and he told the world that the good faith of the United States is now worth as much as a degree from his phony university. You all know that he had no fcking clue what he was talking about, right? If he’s read the text of the agreement with Iran past the first comma, I am Xerxes of Persia. The whole speech was abject gibberish; it was framed as though Iran already has nuclear weapons, which they bought with the bags of cash that Barack Obama personally delivered to Tehran. He was handed some truthless lunacy from some crackpot like John Bolton, and he read it on television. And, just like that, the credibility of the United States sank to the bottom of a sinkhole golf course in Florida. Most of our primary allies are free to go their own way with Iran, the president* having just dragged their credibility down, too. For its part, if this deal falls apart, Iran could go right ahead with a nuclear-weapons program and the only solution would be some sort of catastrophic military action, which far too many people in and out of this administration want. To name only one, Bibi Netanyahu found a prime mark for the ludicrous seventh-grade social-studies project he delivered last week. The Saudis took a break from slaughtering people in Yemen to praise the president*, which I’m sure warmed his orb for him. And, finally, if we haven’t mentioned it, the president* had no fcking clue what he was talking about."

Jim Himes Slams GOP Russia Probe After Avenatti Revelations

Trump Just Torpedoed Obama's Signature Diplomatic Achievement, and Obama Just Responded

https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a20527399/obama-response-iran-deal-trump/
"President Trump announced the United States was "pulling out" of the Iran nuclear agreement Tuesday. As many have pointed out, the more accurate language would be that the U.S. violated the agreement, since we abandoned it without cause. There is no evidence at this point that Iran was in violation of the agreement by restarting its nuclear program. Our closest European allies have said as much, denouncing Trump's decision and declaring they will remain in the accord."

Steve Schmidt Slams JCPOA Withdrawal As Foreign Policy 'Concocted In Fever Swamps Of Fox News'

Steve Schmidt Slams JCPOA Withdrawal As Foreign Policy 'Concocted In Fever Swamps Of Fox News':

"President Obama has condemned the action and offered some facts, but Trump doesn't need no stinkin' facts, and it is his fondest dream to piss on Obama and his legacy at every opportunity. Which brings me to MSNBC's panel on Nicolle Wallace's show, where Elise Jordan led things off by saying flatly that Trump was 'giving the middle finger to our closest allies.' Good call, Elise, and great lead-in to Steve Schmidt, who had a rant to offer. "With Donald Trump's unilateral abrogation of this international agreement he has achieved a remarkable result of giving the high ground on issues of national trust and credibility to the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world's number one leading exporter of terror, over the United States of America, isolating us from our allies on of all days V.E. day, the anniversary of the end of World War II," Schmidt thundered, "Where the United States in cooperation with its great allies saved the world from tyranny." Moving on to what Trump has done, he continued, "What he has shown is that the word of the United States in an international agreement means nothing. Secondly, the breaker of this agreement is not Iran, who has been compliant with it, but in fact our country, the United States of America." "And lastly, this moves the world closer to war," he warned. "This is what policy looks like when it's concocted in the fever swamps of Fox News and the alternate reality of Sinclair Broadcasting and the alternate reality of talk radio," he said. "Almost everything that the president represented was materially false." Everything Trump says is a lie. Everything he touches dies. Every Republican who still calls themselves a Republican is no better than the felon Don Blankenship, the p*ssygrabber Donald Trump, or the lying liars under indictment for selling our country out to Russians. And they can take their little dogs Fox News and Sinclair Broadcasting with them when we finally exile them to Gitmo."

Michael Avenatti: Suspicious Payments To President Donald Trump Lawyer

'Worst Mistake I Ever Made': Union Support Nosedives as Workers Express Regret for Trump Votes

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2018/05/04/worst-mistake-i-ever-made-union-support-nosedives-workers-express-regret-trump-votes
"Many American union workers who voted for President Donald Trump in the 2016 election are increasingly beginning to regret their decision—and realize that Trump has been firmly on the side of the rich all along."

The Art of the Regime Change

http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/05/08/the-art-of-the-regime-change/
"As long expected, Donald Trump has bowed to his ego, his petulant envy of Barack Obama, his hard-line donors, his new set of hawkish advisors, and above all his own ignorance and walked away from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the international agreement that prevents Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Together with his foolish decision to abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership, this is likely to be his most consequential foreign-policy blunder yet. It is important to understand what’s really going on here. Trump’s decision is not based on a desire to keep Iran from getting a nuclear bomb; if that were the case, it would make much more sense to stay firmly committed to the deal and eventually negotiate to make it permanent. After all, both the International Atomic Energy Agency (which monitors and inspects Iran’s facilities) and U.S. intelligence agree that Iran has been in full compliance with the JCPOA since it was signed. Indeed, as Peter Beinart points out, it is the United States that has arguably been failing to live up to its own commitments. Nor was Trump’s decision motivated by a desire to counter Iran’s various regional activities, such as its support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon. If that were his goal, the sensible course of action would have been to stay in the deal (which keeps Iran from going nuclear) and to line up other countries to join the United States and pressure Iran on these matters of concern. Not only will Trump find it impossible to assemble the same multinational coalition that produced the JCPOA, but Iran is going to be doubly reluctant to negotiate with the United States now that Trump has shown that America’s word simply cannot be trusted."

Without Iran Plan,Donald Trump Destroys US Credibility, Betrays Allies

Trump Officially Breaks Iran Nuclear Deal

Franklin Graham’s Astonishing Ungodly Hypocrisy @alternet

Franklin Graham’s Astonishing Ungodly Hypocrisy @alternet:

"Franklin Graham in 1998 condemned President Bill Clinton's sins. In 2018, he's defending President Donald Trump's."

The Financial Hardships of Trump’s Friends

The Financial Hardships of Trump’s Friends:

"In reality, Trumponomics is a thin veneer of an excuse for giving America’s rich—already richer than ever—whatever they want, while sticking it to everyone else."

Trump Dictated His Own Tremendously Healthy Doctor's Note

As Wisconsin’s and Minnesota’s lawmakers took divergent paths, so did their economies: Since 2010, Minnesota’s economy has performed far better for working families than Wisconsin’s

As Wisconsin’s and Minnesota’s lawmakers took divergent paths, so did their economies: Since 2010, Minnesota’s economy has performed far better for working families than Wisconsin’s:

"Since the 2010 election of Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Governor Mark Dayton in Minnesota, lawmakers in these two neighboring states have enacted vastly different policy agendas. Governor Walker and the Wisconsin state legislature have pursued a highly conservative agenda centered on cutting taxes, shrinking government, and weakening unions. In contrast, Minnesota under Governor Dayton has enacted a slate of progressive priorities: raising the minimum wage, strengthening safety net programs and labor standards, and boosting public investments in infrastructure and education, financed through higher taxes (largely on the wealthy).  Because of the proximity and many similarities of these two states, comparing economic performance in the Badger State (WI) versus the Gopher State (MN) provides a compelling case study for assessing which agenda leads to better outcomes for working people and their families. Now, seven years removed from when each governor took office, there is ample data to assess which state’s economy—and by extension, which set of policies—delivered more for the welfare of its residents. The results could not be more clear: by virtually every available measure, Minnesota’s recovery has outperformed Wisconsin’s."