Tag Archives: democratic

Meet the Latest Trump Aide Who’s Even Worse Than All the Other Trump Aides

Mother Jones

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The White House is like a rotten onion these days: every time we peel back a layer, it smells worse and worse. First we all heard about Steve Bannon, the Breitbart News CEO who plays the Rasputin role in the West Wing, whispering in Donald Trump’s ear about Muslim terrorists and Mexican rapists. Then we all learned about Stephen Miller, the 31-year-old wunderkind who is, if anything, even more glib and hardcore than Bannon. Now we’re all learning about Sebastian Gorka:

For years, Gorka had labored on the fringes of Washington and the far edge of acceptable debate as defined by the city’s Republican and Democratic foreign policy elite. Today, the former national security editor for the conservative Breitbart News outlet occupies a senior job in the White House and his controversial ideas — especially about Islam — drive Trump’s populist approach to counterterrorism and national security.

….For him, the terrorism problem has nothing to do with repression, alienation, torture, tribalism, poverty, or America’s foreign policy blunders and a messy and complex Middle East. “This is the famous approach that says it is all so nuanced and complicated,” Gorka said in an interview. “This is what I completely jettison.”

For him, the terror threat is rooted in Islam and “martial” parts of the Koran that he says predispose some Muslims to acts of terror. “Anybody who downplays the role of religious ideology . . . they are deleting reality to fit their own world,” he said.

Last month, as he celebrated at the inaugural ball…Gorka said he had one last message for America’s troops — “the guys inside the machine” — and its enemies. He turned toward the host, his medal glinting in the TV lights. “The alpha males are back,” he said.

It’s a sewer in there. But here’s the funny thing: Gorka might well be right but for entirely the wrong reasons. Young men who live in a wide swath of the world stretching from North Africa to Central Asia probably are more prone to violence than they are in the developed North. But it has nothing to do with Islam. That’s just the handiest thing to latch onto. It’s all about lead:

The Trumpies got struck down for temporarily banning immigration from a set of seven seemingly arbitrary countries, so instead they should create a rule that temporarily bans immigration from any country that phased out leaded gasoline later than, say, 2001. They might have to fiddle a bit with the numbers, which they have plenty of experience doing, and maybe add some weird second condition in order to get only the countries they want, but with a little creativity they could make it work. And it’s not based on ethnicity, religion, or even nationality. You’re welcome!

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Meet the Latest Trump Aide Who’s Even Worse Than All the Other Trump Aides

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Reality Begins to Set in on Obamacare—For Both Sides

Mother Jones

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Reality is setting in:

For seven years, few issues have animated conservative voters as much as the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. But with President Barack Obama out of office, the debate over “Obamacare” is becoming less about “Obama” and more about “care” — greatly complicating the issue for Republican lawmakers.

….As liberals overwhelm congressional town hall-style meetings and deluge the Capitol phone system with pleas to protect the health law, there is no similar clamor for dismantling it, Mr. Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment. From deeply conservative districts in the South and the West to the more moderate parts of the Northeast, Republicans in Congress say there is significantly less intensity among opponents of the law than when Mr. Obama was in office.

Intensity is the key word here, since actual opinions about Obamacare don’t seem to have changed more than a eyelash over the past seven years:

But the intensity of opinion has changed. With Obama out of office, the Republican base doesn’t care as much. Hating Obamacare was mostly just a way of hating Obama. Likewise, the Democratic base cares more. They spent the past seven years griping about how weak Obamacare was—no public option, too friendly to insurance companies, subsidies too low, blah blah blah—under the apparent assumption that it didn’t matter that practically no one was passionately defending the law. With Trump in office, Democrats have finally figured out that it matters, and congressional phones are now ringing off the hook.

So reality has set in for everyone. The Republican rank-and-file has finally figured out they never really cared all that much about taxing the rich an extra three points to provide health care for everyone. The Democratic rank-and-file has finally figured out that Obamacare is a pretty good program and it’s worth fighting for.

But did we really have to elect Donald Trump to figure this out?

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Reality Begins to Set in on Obamacare—For Both Sides

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NYT: Trump Team Had "Repeated Contacts" With Russian Intelligence During the Presidential Campaign

Mother Jones

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ZOMG!

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 in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time that they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee….The intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Mr. Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin….The officials said the intercepted communications were not limited to Trump campaign officials, and included other associates of Mr. Trump.

….Officials would not disclose many details, including what was discussed on the calls, which Russian intelligence officials were on the calls, and how many of Mr. Trump’s advisers were talking to the Russians.

This is from Michael Schmidt, Mark Mazzetti, and Matt Apuzzo at the New York Times. If Trump thought that firing Michael Flynn was going to stop the recent bloodletting, he thought wrong.

Just to make this clear: At the same time that Russian intelligence was hacking various email accounts in order to sabotage Hillary Clinton, multiple members of the Trump team had repeated phone calls with senior Russian intelligence officials. And during this entire time, Trump himself was endorsing a foreign policy that appeared almost as if it had been dictated to him by Vladimir Putin.

As a number of people have pointed out, the American intelligence community has all but declared war on Trump since his inauguration. I hardly need to spell out why this is dangerous. At the same time, it’s sure becoming a lot clearer why they’re so alarmed by the guy.

And by the way, I shouldn’t miss this chance to flog my favorite hobbyhorse again: FBI Director James Comey, who knew all about this, pushed hard not to make it public during the campaign. Instead he considered it more important to inform Congress that he had discovered additional copies of Hillary Clinton’s emails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. Priorities.

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NYT: Trump Team Had "Repeated Contacts" With Russian Intelligence During the Presidential Campaign

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Here’s the Real Reason Democrats Spent So Much Energy Trying to Defeat Betsy Devos

Mother Jones

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Why were Democrats so hellbent on stopping the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education? Jonathan Chait reviews the possibilities today and points out that the federal government has a fairly small impact on education. This is true:

So if the Department of Education doesn’t have that much klout, why worry so much about DeVos? Here is Chait’s conclusion:

Her candidacy struck an authentic note of fear in the Democratic grassroots….DeVos frightened middle-class Democrats because she seemed to pose a threat to their children and their schools (a threat she is unlikely to carry out). Meanwhile, Price will be trying to snatch health insurance away from millions of Americans too poor or sick to buy it, Puzder will be grinding labor rights into dust, Sessions will be attacking voting rights and protections from police abuse for minorities, and Pruitt will be turning the EPA into a vassal of oil and coal interests.

Meanwhile, over on the right, it’s an article of faith that Democrats are puppets of the teachers unions, and that’s why they spent a lot of political capital opposing DeVos rather than other, far more dangerous characters.

I think this is all wrong. On a policy level, opposition to DeVos mostly centered on her devotion to vouchers and charter schools. But if DeVos had been defeated, Trump would simply have sent up another pro-voucher-pro-charter nominee. Defeating DeVos wouldn’t have changed anything.

The real reason Democrats spent so much energy on DeVos is pretty simple: she badly fluffed her Senate testimony, and came out looking like an idiot. Because of this, there was a realistic chance of finding three Republicans to join in opposing her, and thus defeating her nomination. In the end, only two Republicans stepped up, but for a while it looked like Democrats had a real chance at claiming a scalp.

This hasn’t been true of any of the others. There were never any Republicans who might have voted against Sessions or Pruitt or Price, and it’s hard to get the masses psyched up for battle when there’s really no chance of winning. That’s why, relatively speaking, Democrats haven’t mounted as big a campaign against any of Trump’s other nominees.

Depending on how Nannygate and a few other things turn out, it’s possible that Andy Puzder might also look vulnerable when his hearings start. If so, I expect that we’ll see a full-court press similar to what we saw with DeVos. The key variable here is not badness—Trump’s nominees are all bad from a liberal perspective—nor demonstrating loyalty to teachers unions—that’s just gravy—but the realistic possibility of defeating one of Trump’s nominees. That’s where most people want to spend their energy.

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Here’s the Real Reason Democrats Spent So Much Energy Trying to Defeat Betsy Devos

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The Mysterious Disappearance of the Biggest Scandal in Washington

Mother Jones

The biggest election-related scandal since Watergate occurred last year, and it has largely disappeared from the political-media landscape of Washington.

According to the consensus assessment of US intelligence agencies, Russian intelligence, under the orders of Vladimir Putin, mounted an extensive operation to influence the 2016 campaign to benefit Donald Trump. This was a widespread covert campaign that included hacking Democratic targets and publishing swiped emails via WikiLeaks. And it achieved its objectives. But the nation’s capital remains under-outraged by this subversion. The congressional intelligence committees announced last month that they will investigate the Russian hacking and also examine whether there were any improper contacts between the Trump camp and Russia during the campaign. (A series of memos attributed to a former British counterintelligence officer included allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.) Yet these behind-closed-doors inquiries have generated minimum media notice, and, overall, there has not been much outcry.

Certainly, every once in a while, a Democratic legislator or one of the few Republican officials who have bothered to express any disgust at the Moscow meddling (namely Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Marco Rubio) will pipe up. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi days ago called on the FBI to investigate Trump’s “financial, personal and political connections to Russia” to determine “the relationship between Putin, whom he admires, and Donald Trump.” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), responding to Trump’s comparison of the United States to Putin’s repressive regime, said on CNN, “What is this strange relationship between Putin and Trump? And is there something that the Russians have on him that is causing him to say these really bizarre things on an almost daily basis?” A few weeks ago, Graham told me he wanted an investigation of how the FBI has handled intelligence it supposedly has gathered on ties between Trump insiders and Russia. And last month, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) pushed FBI Director James Comey at a public hearing to release this information. Yet there has been no drumbeat of sound bites, tweets, or headlines. In recent days, the story has gone mostly dark.

Look at the White House daily press briefings. Since Trump entered office, there has been far more back-and-forth between reporters and Press Secretary Sean Spicer on the inauguration crowd size, Trump’s bathrobe, and Melissa McCarthy than the Russia scandal. Trump associates are perhaps being questioned by House and Senate intelligence committee investigators, and the FBI, which according to news reports has looked at possible ties between Trump advisers and Russia, might also still be on the case. Yet this has not been a top priority for White House reporters.

Here are two questions that could have been posed to Spicer at his first briefing:

* Have any past or present Trump associates, inside or outside his administration, been contacted or questioned by the intelligence committees, the FBI, or any other government body investigating the Russian hacking or interactions between Trump’s circle and Russia?

* During the presidential campaign, did Trump or any of his political or business associates have any interactions with Russian officials or Russian intermediaries?

That did not happen. At Spicer’s first briefing, Anita Kumar of McClatchy did ask, “Has the president spoken to any of the intelligence agencies about the investigation into the Russian connections? And will he allow that to go on?” Spicer replied, “I don’t believe he has spoken to anyone specifically about that and I don’t know that. He has not made any indication that he would stop an investigation of any sort.” This was an important question that warranted a response that was less equivocal—and reporters could have pointed that out.

At the next day’s briefing, on January 24, Margaret Talev of Bloomberg asked Spicer about reports that Comey was remaining in his post and whether Comey and Trump had discussed “the Russia investigation and the parameters of that.” Spicer responded, “I don’t have anything on that.” Spicer’s nonresponse didn’t prompt any news.

In the fortnight since, the key twin questions—what is Trump doing regarding the Russian hacking, and are Trump associates being investigated for interactions with Russia?—have not been regular items on the agenda during the White House briefings. When Trump spoke to Putin by phone on January 28, subsequent media reports noted that the call focused on how relations could be improved. There was no public indication that Trump had said anything to Putin about the Russian intervention in the US election. And in the following days, White House reporters did not ask Spicer about this apparent omission.

There have been plenty of significant topics for journalists to press Spicer and the administration on—the travel ban on refugees and immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, Trump’s plan to dump Obamacare, various nominations and a Supreme Court pick, Trump’s fact-free charge of widespread voter fraud, Steve Bannon’s participation on the National Security Council, Trump’s contentious calls with foreign leaders, the president’s erratic behavior, and much more. But the lack of media attention to the Russia story, at the White House briefings and beyond, is curious. It is true that the intelligence committee probes are being conducted secretly, and there are no public hearings or actions to cover. (Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, hoping to confine this scandal, succeeded in preventing the creation of a special committee or an independent commission to probe this affair—either of which would have probably sparked more coverage than the highly secretive intelligence committees.) Still, in the past, pundits, politicians, and reporters in Washington have not been reluctant to go all-out in covering and commenting upon a controversy subjected to private investigation.

In this instance, the president’s own people may be under investigation, and Trump has demonstrated no interest in holding Putin accountable for messing with US elections in what may be considered an act of covert warfare. Still, there has been no loud demand from the DC media (or most of the GOP) for answers and explanations. This quietude is good news for Putin—and reason for him to think he could get away with such an operation again.

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The Mysterious Disappearance of the Biggest Scandal in Washington

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