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« Reply #3750 on: Jan 19, 2019, 06:04 AM »

Robert Mueller’s office issues cryptic statement in response to BuzzFeed’s reporting

Raw Story

Special prosecutor Robert Mueller has issued a cryptic statement about BuzzFeed’s blockbuster report about Trump ordering his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to give false testimony to Congress.

“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony is not accurate,” the statement from Mueller spokesman Peter Carr said.

As Chris Matthews of MSNBC noted as he read the statement, the wording was very specific in its denials—saying it pertained to “this office” but not catergorically—and the very fact that Mueller’s team issued a statement while remaining quiet about so many other reports was interesting.

As spokesman, Carr’s dealings with the media, in which he reveals almost nothing, has made him a figure of intense interest among Beltway reporters.

Mueller’s team has had precious few leaks to the media.


BuzzFeed issues defiant statement after Robert Mueller’s carefully worded denial

Raw Story

On Friday, Buzzfeed News issued a statement saying that they stand by their reporting that President Donald Trump directed his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress.

In a rare move, Special prosecutor Robert Mueller issued a statement refuting parts of the story.

“In response to the statement tonight from the Special Counsel’s spokesman: We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing,” Buzzfeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith tweeted.

    In response to the statement tonight from the Special Counsel’s spokesman: We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing.

    — Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen) January 19, 2019

This story is still developing.


Mueller’s Buzzfeed story statement: Legal experts and former government officials weigh in

David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement
19 Jan 2019 at 06:51 ET                  

Many were stunned to learn that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office Friday night issued an extremely rare statement disputing aspects of Buzzfeed’s Thursday bombshell. That bombshell, as you know, says that President Donald Trump instructed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress.

First, it’s important to read the statement issued by Mueller’s spokesperson, Peter Carr.

“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate.”

So, to be clear, Mueller is not stating the story itself, that the President told Cohen to lie to Congress, is false. He’s saying the way Buzzfeed described “specific statements,” documents, and testimony “are not accurate.”

Here’s what Buzzfeed’s Editor-in-Chief, Ben Smith, told Rachel Maddow Friday night:

Embedded video

    Maddow Blog

    ✔ @MaddowBlog

    Rachel #Maddow‘s full interview with @BuzzFeedBen , editor-in-chief of buzzfeed

Also on Maddow, former U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg, who served as the the acting head of the DEA says point blank: “the core of the Buzzfeed story is accurate.”

And here’s what some other legal and experts and former government officials are saying.

Mariotti is a former federal prosecutor and currently a CNN Legal Analyst:

    FWIW my take as a former government spokesman: the statement from the Special Counsel’s office tonight is not a full-throated denial of the @BuzzFeed story, but a way of saying to the public: “the arc of the story has merit but we disagree with the nuance.”

    — George Little (@georgelittledc) January 19, 2019

Former Chief Spokesperson for the U.S. Dept. of Defense:

    FWIW my take as a former government spokesman: the statement from the Special Counsel’s office tonight is not a full-throated denial of the @BuzzFeed story, but a way of saying to the public: “the arc of the story has merit but we disagree with the nuance.”

    — George Little (@georgelittledc) January 19, 2019

Former National Security Council Spokesperson:

    Take it from me, this is how a gov spox says “Parts of the story are wrong and parts are right, but I can’t tell you which parts are which because it would require confirming some things or refuting with info that I don’t want to reveal (because it’s sensitive or damaging).” https://t.co/aDjCcnRaZf

    — Caitlin Hayden (@CaitlinHayden) January 19, 2019

National security journalist Marcy Wheeler:

    If I’m right that BF’s sources are in the vicinity of SDNY, then Mueller is likely even more pissed at them than BF (tho they prolly hate BF bc they’ve gotten parts of the story no one else has).

    — emptywheel (@emptywheel) January 19, 2019


Maddow breaks down the four times Mueller has commented — and what the Buzzfeed statement means

Raw Story

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow noted that although special counsel Robert Mueller’s rare public statement denying BuzzFeed’s reporting is shocking, it’s not the first time his office has done so.

Earlier in the evening, Mueller’s office said BuzzFeed News’ report about former Trump attorney Michael Cohen being ordered by the president to lie to Congress was “not accurate.”

“I have on the air previously expressed envy and jealousy for [Mueller spokesperson] Peter Carr because that seems like a great job if you’re a spokesman for the special counsel’s office,” the host said. “Your job is to never say anything, right? The special counsel’s office almost never makes public comments.”

Maddow said that when her team researched how many times the Mueller office has gone on record, they were only able to find three such instances.

In one instance, Carr refuted claims that Mueller was involved in a sexual misconduct scandal. In another, the spokesperson alerted media that the special counsel investigation is soon to come to a close.

But the first time Carr went on record since the investigation began was to release a statement similar to the one he issued tonight.

Maddow noted that in April 2018, McClatchy reported that Mueller had evidence of Cohen being in Prague in 2016 — a key allegation made in the infamous Steele dossier published by BuzzFeed in December 2016.

That “unprecedented” statement, the host said, was not “directly disputing the story but giving a sort of general warning that there had been inaccuracies out there and every journalist should be careful about their sources.”

In a statement to the Tucker Carlson-owned Daily Caller, a spokesperson for Mueller’s office pushed back against the McClatchy report.

“What I have been telling all reporters is that many stories about our investigation have been inaccurate. Be very cautious about any source that claims to have knowledge about our investigation and dig deep into what they claim before reporting on it,” the spokesperson said. “If another outlet reports something, don’t run with it unless you have your own sourcing to back it up.”


Michael Cohen’s got the receipts for Trump’s tower in Moscow — and the evidence is more damning than ever

Amanda Marcotte, Salon - COMMENTARY
19 Jan 2019 at 13:44 ET                  

Late on Thursday night, BuzzFeed News dropped a bombshell report alleging that, finally, there’s documentary evidence of Donald Trump committing a crime.

This article was originally published at Salon

“President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter,” reporters Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier write.

They also claim that Trump worked with Cohen to set up a personal meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to make the Moscow Trump Tower deal happen.

Perhaps most important, Leopold and Cormier report that there are text messages, internal memos and emails to prove this — throwing a wrench in Trump’s legal strategy of writing Cohen off as a liar and turning the issue into a “he said/he said” standoff.

Talk of impeaching Trump has already been on the rise in the past month, as Democrats have taken control of the House of Representatives and now have the ability to file articles of impeachment. A new cover story in The Atlantic, published before the latest revelation, features senior editor Yoni Appelbaum arguing that the Democratic House majority “must immediately open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump.”

Thursday night’s revelations increased the pressure, with Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., tweeting “it is time for the House Judiciary Committee to start holding hearings to establish a record of whether @POTUS committed high crimes” and Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, even tweeting the I-word: “If the @BuzzFeed story is true, President Trump must resign or be impeached.” Joel Mathis at The Week argues that if the latest Cohen allegations are true, “Congress will have no choice but to commence impeachment proceedings, and soon.” Slate revived its Impeach-O-Meter feature, arguing: “You’ve got to believe that some Republican senators are at least thinking about” dumping Trump at last.

I’m on the record as bearish on impeachment. I believe there’s no chance that the Republican-controlled Senate will convict Trump. (Even if every member of the Democratic caucus votes to convict, it would take at least 20 Republican senators to remove Trump from office.) With no real prospect of conviction, I worry that an impeachment trial could backfire and allow Trump to claim he had been exonerated.

Does this new story change the equation? Does written evidence that Trump committed crimes — and there’s little doubt that  instructing your lawyer to lie to Congress is a crime — somehow change the willingness of Senate Republicans to back Trump no matter what?

I’m skeptical. The assumption that this might change Republican minds assumes that there are any Republicans on Capitol Hill still clinging to the hope or belief that Trump is actually innocent of conspiring with the Russians, as well as many other offenses, and that they could be persuaded otherwise with solid evidence. I think the opposite is true. I doubt there’s anyone in Congress, Democrat or Republican, who believes Trump is innocent, if they ever really did. The likelier story is that most Republicans, probably all of them, already believe Trump is guilty and are simply committed to shielding him from justice, regardless of the cost.

In the churn of the daily news cycle, it can sometimes be hard to remember the overwhelming weight of circumstantial evidence against Trump, going back to the campaign. Hillary Clinton accused Trump of being Putin’s “puppet” during a presidential debate, a word the normally cautious Clinton likely wouldn’t have used unless she were sure of it — something that even her Republican detractors on the Hill likely understand. In June of 2016, Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy, now House minority leader, was recorded saying he believes that “Putin pays” Trump, a remark he tried to pass off as a joke when it was later revealed. Everyone in politics knew in 2016 that Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, had unsavory Russian ties and was working for free while injecting the policy preferences of his Russian-backed benefactors into the Republican Party platform.

Since then, Trump has not been shy about showing his strings, as evidenced by his extremely public bootlicking of Putin at their infamous press conference in Helsinki last year, following a private meeting that Trump showily made sure was as secretive as possible. Trump has resisted the same Russian sanctions that Putin has been fighting against for years, and uses the same coded language about “adoptions” that Putin uses to talk about the sanctions issue. And then there’s Trump’s weird habit of spooling out elaborate conspiracy theories about Russian politics that have no apparent U.S. sources — but are heavily promoted by Putin’s government.

All the obstruction of justice hasn’t been particularly well concealed, either. Trump basically admitted to NBC News reporter Lester Holt that he fired FBI director James Comey because of “this Russia thing with Trump.” He has also admitted to dictating the letter supposedly written by his son, Donald Trump Jr., in which the latter tried to minimize the purpose of the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with Russian operatives who promised “dirt” on Clinton. Trump has pressured officials for loyalty in private, fired people he clearly fears might turn up dirt on him, and used public channels to intimidate witnesses.

There’s plenty more evidence, carefully compiled in New York magazine and the Washington Post. While it’s true that plenty of Republican politicians are white-dude doofuses who failed upwards into positions of power, it’s impossible to believe that anyone could be stupid enough or blind enough at this point to believe Trump is actually innocent in the face of all that evidence.

Instead, what’s almost certainly going on is that Republicans on the Hill simply don’t care whether Trump is being controlled by Putin and, beyond that, are eager to help him in the cover-up. In fact, the majority of Republican senators, just this week, voted to lift some Russian sanctions, which goes beyond just a cover-up and edges into complicity territory.

The reason is simple enough, and dovetails with the likely reason that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is actively backing Trump’s government shutdown, even though he clearly knows that a border wall is a stupid idea. Republicans are terrified to cross Trump because he remains wildly popular with the Republican base. They’re afraid of being primaried from the right and afraid of losing elections in red states, so they will go along with Trump on anything, even betraying the country, to pander to the red hat brigade.

There’s always the hope, of course, that having secret documentary evidence evidence of Trump committing crimes revealed will change the equation. The blatant and public nature of Trump’s corruption, the argument goes, has worked as something of a shield. It can be hard for people to imagine that what he’s doing could be all that bad when it’s right out in the open. Secret communications instructing his lawyer to lie to Congress more closely resembles what people expect crimes to look like. That might just move the needle of public opinion — and with it, change the political equation for Republican politicians.

Maybe. Let’s hope so! But I remain extremely skeptical that the all-important “base” — the only voters Trump and his fellow Republicans care about — will be moved by secret emails and text messages. They have shown an endless capacity to forgive any Trump transgression, as long as he keeps delivering racist policies meant to prop up white Christian nationalism. I worry that even if Russia invaded the U.S., 35 percent of Americans would cheer their new overlord in Moscow, as long as he empowered Trump to keep building a wall against an imaginary “invasion” of Latino immigrants.

Trump is certainly betting that’s the case. He reacted to the story that Cohen has receipts to back up his story of criminal corruption by going on a racist Twitter rampage, declaring “Another big Caravan heading our way” and spreading a right-wing urban legend about “prayer rugs” being found on the “Southern Border.”

To be certain, Democrats need to move quickly to open up their own investigations regarding the Trump-Russia conspiracy concerns. Waiting on Robert Mueller to finish his report is increasingly looking like a bad idea, especially as Trump’s attorney general nominee, William Barr, has strongly hinted that he intends to keep Mueller’s findings confidential. But those investigations can be conducted without moving immediately to impeachment.

In time, those investigations may churn up enough substantial evidence to change the equation. Perhaps we will get to the point where Republicans start flipping on Trump. Or maybe it will simply become necessary to force Republicans into a formal vote to save Trump in the face of overwhelming evidence of his guilt. At that point, it will be time for impeachment.

I’m just not sure we’re there yet, and I continue to be wary of getting the public’s hopes up that there’s some way to save ourselves from Trump that doesn’t go through the ballot box in November of 2020. The possibility of impeachment just got a little closer, but right now, the fundamentals haven’t changed: Republicans are still corrupt and don’t care about the evidence against Trump, and still have the power to shield him from justice. If that doesn’t change, then 2020 remains our surest and best hope for bringing the Trump era to an end.


How Russia ‘collected receipts’ to blackmail Trump before he even won a primary: National security expert

Raw Story

On Friday, the fallout continued from a report alleging President Donald Trump instructed his personal lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about when the Trump Tower Moscow deal concluded.

If the report is accurate, it could mean that Trump pursued business ventures in Russia far longer than he previously claimed.

Security analyst Marcy Wheeler dug deeper into the timeline of events, concluding that Trump may have been compromised by Putin far earlier than the Trump tower meeting between Russian agents and Donald Jr. and Jared Kushner.

As Michael Cohen negotiated the Trump Tower deal on behalf of then-candidate Trump in January of 2016, he spoke with someone in Dmitry Peskov’s office—Vladimir Putin’s press secretary—detailing their plans for the project, including land acquisition and financing construction. Putin’s office contacted Felix Sater, a former mobster and real estate developer, the next day.

The financial institution Cohen would have considered is either VTB or GenBank, according to a Buzzfeed article from May. Both had been officially sanctioned by the US.

Wheeler notes the import. “While Sater (who seems to have knowingly set this trap) dismissed the import of the sanctions, Cohen clearly knew — and left record that he knew in communications with Sater — that they were the intended funders.”

A former GRU spy also facilitated the deal.

“Obtaining funding from GenBank would have relied on Putin and Peskov,” Wheeler says.

“All of which is to say that when Cohen called Peskov’s assistant, he would have told her that he was speaking on behalf of Donald Trump, that Trump remained interested in a Trump Tower in Moscow (as he had been in 2013, the last time Putin had dangled a personal meeting with Trump), and that on Trump’s behalf Cohen was willing to discuss making a deal involving both a sanctioned bank (whichever one it was) and a former GRU officer,” Wheeler writes.

“Even before the GRU hacked John Podesta, even before Don Jr told his June 9 visitors that his dad would consider lifting sanctions if he got elected, Michael Cohen let a key Putin deputy know that Trump would be happy to discuss real estate deals that involved both partnering with the GRU and with sanctioned banks,” she concludes.

“And Putin has been sitting on that receipt ever since.”


Trump plans to offer Dems a new deal and not declare emergency in Saturday speech: CNN report

Raw Story

President Donald Trump plans to offer Democrats in the House of Representatives a new deal in the shutdown standoff, not declare a national emergency in an effort to build his wall unilaterally, CNN reports.

Trump tweeted to declare that he would make a “big announcement” from the White House on Saturday afternoon at 3 pm, leading many to suspect he’d declare an emergency.

However, according to a senior administration official who spoke to CNN, Trump will make “his third offer to end the shutdown.”

“The official told CNN that Trump’s idea is to put something on the table to get Democrats to engage with negotiations,” the report said. “Trump is not expected to back down from his demand for a border wall, but the plan will seek to entice Democrats by offering other concessions.”


McConnell is a ‘complicit little coward’: Former senator unloads on Senate Majority Leader for dragging out shutdown

Raw Story

Retired California Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer on Friday took a swipe at Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch 'i have no soul, only a rancid abscess' McConnell, telling MSNBC that the Kentucky Republican was “a complicit little coward” who was just as responsible for the shutdown as President Donald Trump.

“The two people who are responsible? Donald Trump, because he could not successfully come through with his campaign promise that Mexico would pay for the wall,” Boxer said. “He agreed to put that aside, Rush Limbaugh told him no, so he got into this jam.” She noted that Trump “said he would be delighted” to take the blame for the shutdown.

“Then you have Mitch 'i have no soul, only a rancid abscess' McConnell. I served him for many years, he’s tough and strong,” she said. “All of sudden he’s this little complicit coward and saying ‘I’m not doing anything until the president tells me what he wants?'” She added that McConnell’s refusal to move a continuing resolution was an unconstitutional abdication of the Senate’s authority and slammed both men for trying to divert the public’s attention.

“All these diversions of turning this into a ‘Pelosi-Trump battle’, that’s a diversion,” she said. “Turning it into ‘let’s look at North Korea’, another meeting with another tyrant, so what? Open up the government. Open it up.”

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« Reply #3751 on: Jan 19, 2019, 06:16 AM »

HBO’s Bill Maher brutally mocks Trump-Putin bromance: ‘Forget collusion I want to know if there’s penetration’

Martin Cizmar
Raw Story
19 Jan 2019

Bill Maher returned to his HBO show, Real Time, on Friday after a two-month hiatus.

The host’s opening monologue covered a lot of ground, starting with the revelation that the FBI opened an investigation into whether President Donald Trump acted as an agent of the Russian government.

“Spoiler alert: he is,” Maher said.

Trump met with Vladimir Putin five times with nobody else around, and has been deferential to him on all occasions, Maher noted.

“Nobody can ever know what they’re doing,” Maher said. “Forget collusion, I want to know if there’s penetration.”

Maher also mocked Trump’s standoff with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, in which she is “kicking his a**” and the fact that Trump stopped Pelosi from visiting troops overseas but allowed his wife to take Air Force One to vacation in Florida.

“It’s their wedding anniversary this week,” Maher said. “And Trump says he remembers the first time he ever laid eyes on Melania and clicked ‘Add to cart.'”

Watch the monologue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhHoGEDqlvs

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« Reply #3752 on: Jan 20, 2019, 06:35 AM »

WATCH: Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi face off in a hilarious ‘Deal or No Deal’ game on SNL

Martin Cizmar
Raw Story
20 Jan 2019 at 23:46 ET                   

Saturday Night Live has been on hiatus since before President Donald Trump’s shutdown showdown started.

SNL opened its first show of 2019 with a skit that found Trump playing Deal or No Deal over the re-opening of the government.

Kenan Thompson played show host Steve Harvey, taking Alec Baldwin’s Trump character through negotiations with Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell and a Clemson football player.

“Earlier today you went on TV and you told the American people that you wanted to make a deal,” the host said. “So we decided to do this in the only format you understand: a TV game show with women holding briefcases.”

Pelosi, played by the always dead-on Kate McKinnon, offered Trump a billion “to say Nancy’s my mommy,” which Trump rejected.

“One billion, that’s a lot of money,” said the Harvey character.

“Yes, but it’s not $5 billion and I need $5 billion because—it’s the first random number I said,” Trump answered.

Later in the skit, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez makes her SNL debut.

“Trump and the GOP are just terrified of me because I’m under 100 and I’m good at Instagram,” she said.

In the end, Trump does strike a deal to end the government shutdown “and release the kids from cages.”

Watch: https://vimeo.com/312336580


Pelosi rejects Trump shutdown deal before president announces it

    President offers temporary concessions and demands wall
    Little chance of progress as House speaker says no

Sabrina Siddiqui in Washington and Martin Pengelly in New York
20 Jan 2019 23.00 GMT

Donald Trump forged ahead on Saturday and proposed a deal to end the US government shutdown, despite Democrats having rejected it before he began to speak.

If its timing was striking, the rejection was no surprise. In exchange for temporary concessions on the status of threatened migrant groups, the president doubled down on his demand for a border wall. A senior House Democratic aide told the Guardian the party, which has vowed not to give Trump funding for any wall, was not consulted.

Speaking from the White House, the president outlined a plan that would extend protections for young undocumented migrants brought to the US as children, known as Dreamers, and individuals from some Central American and African nations, in exchange for $5.7bn for a wall on the US-Mexico border.

“A wall is not immoral,” he said, adding: “The radical left can never control our borders. I will never let that happen.”

“As a candidate for president,” he said, “I promised I would fix this crisis, and I intend to keep that promise one way or the other.”

    The radical left can never control our borders. I will never let that happen
    Donald Trump

Trump spoke as the partial shutdown of the federal government, the longest in US history, rolled through its 29th day. Prompted on 22 December over Trump’s demand for a wall, the partial closure of departments and services has left around 800,000 federal workers without pay. Hundreds of thousands of contractors are also going without a check.

Before the president took the podium, House speaker Nancy Pelosi panned his proposal.

“Democrats were hopeful that the president was finally willing to re-open government and proceed with a much-need discussion to protect the border,” she said in a statement.

“Unfortunately … his proposal is a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives, each of which is unacceptable and in total do not represent a good faith effort to restore certainty to people’s lives. It is unlikely that any one of these provisions alone would pass the House, and taken together, they are a non-starter.”

Democrats put forward their own offer: $1.3bn in border security funding and hundreds of millions for immigration judges and improving ports of entry.

They also pointed out that the White House was not embracing a permanent solution for Dreamers, from whom Trump rescinded protections in 2017, but offering only three years in which they could obtain work permits and not fear deportation.

Trump’s plan would also allow those with “Temporary Protected Status”, a program for migrants from countries afflicted by violence and natural disasters, to remain in the US. The fate of hundreds of thousands of TPS holders from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan, the subject of Trump’s infamous alleged remark about “shithole countries”, has been left uncertain after the president moved to terminate their status.

Republican leaders threw their support behind Trump. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell announced plans to move corresponding legislation next week.

“Everyone has made their point – now it’s time to make a law,” he said in a statement issued as Trump wrapped his speech in the Diplomatic room of the White House, following symbolic participation in a naturalization ceremony for new US citizens.

“The situation for furloughed employees isn’t getting any brighter and the crisis at the border isn’t improved by show votes,” McConnell said. “But the president’s plan is a path toward addressing both issues quickly.”

The move was designed to build pressure on Democrats in the House, who have spent two weeks passing bills that would reopen the government one department at a time but did not include money for a wall.

    His proposal is a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives, each of which is unacceptable
    Nancy Pelosi

McConnell has refused to bring any of those bills up for a vote, even as several polls show a majority of the public blames Trump for the shutdown and disagrees with his insistence on a wall.

The House Democratic aide who spoke to the Guardian indicated that McConnell’s bills will not pass, saying: “The president must agree to reopen government and join Democrats to negotiate on border security measures that work, and not an expensive and ineffective wall that the president promised Mexico would pay for.”

Trump campaigned on a promise to build the wall with concrete and have Mexico pay for it. He said again on Saturday he now wants sections of “see-through” wall made of steel slats. He claims Mexico will still pay, thanks to an as yet unratified trade deal. That claim is widely contested.

On Saturday, Trump faced pushback from some of his most ardent supporters, who decried his offer as “amnesty” for undocumented migrants.

“100 miles of border wall in exchange for amnestying millions of illegals,” far-right commentator Ann Coulter tweeted. “So if we grant citizenship to a BILLION foreigners, maybe we can finally get a full border wall.”

The anti-immigration group NumbersUSA dismissed Trump’s plan as “a loser for the American workers who were central to his campaign promises”.

“This kind of amnesty deal will incentivize more caravans, more illegal border crossers and more visa overstayers at the expense of the most vulnerable American workers who have to compete with the illegal labor force,” group president Roy Beck said in a statement.

Trump tried to frame his proposal as an attempt to “break the logjam”, adding: “Both sides in Washington must simply come together.” But the shutdown is the third on his watch.

Many federal workers and contractors affected have said they are struggling to pay for everyday items, some forced to choose between mortgages and other bills. Key government services, including air travel security, food and drug inspections and nutritional assistance, are inoperative or facing mounting problems.

Republicans initially backed a compromise that would have funded the government and punted a broader debate to February. Trump signaled he would sign such a bill, then abruptly changed course.

Some analyses suggest a wall would do little to curb illegal immigration, the rate of which has fallen sharply over the past decade.


Nancy Pelosi hands Donald Trump a lesson in the art of politics

Trump delights in inventing nicknames for political adversaries but he refers to the House speaker as ‘Nancy’, a sign he may have met his match

David Smith in Washington
Sun 20 Jan 2019 06.00 GMT

He has come up with “Crooked Hillary”, “Little Marco”, “Lyin’ Ted”, “Crazy Bernie”, “Sloppy Steve” and “Cryin’ Chuck”. Donald Trump is the master of branding his opponents with crude names that somehow paint them into a corner. But so far one has eluded him: the woman he calls only “Nancy”.

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has emerged as his nemesis, the face of opposition to the president. As a partial government shutdown enters a record fifth week, the Democrat has been implacable in denying him $5.7bn to help build a border wall. This week she out-Trumped Trump, by effectively rescinding his invitation to deliver the State of the Union address.

Then, on Saturday, she released a sharply worded statement rejecting Trump's proposed deal to end the closure – shortly before the president announced it from the Diplomatic Room of the White House.

“She’s not only outmanoeuvring him, she’s outraging him,” said Michael Cornfield, associate professor of political management at George Washington University in Washington. “She’s taunting him. She’s the matador, he’s the bull. He has no idea what he’s doing. He’s a genius of the publicity arts, not the political arts. In this he’s an absolute novice.”

Now 78, Pelosi’s life and career have prepared her for this battle of wills. She was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the youngest of six children and the only girl. Her father was a US congressman turned city mayor, a political education she has never forgotten. Her own daughter, Alexandra Pelosi, said recently: “She’ll cut your head off and you won’t even know you’re bleeding.”

Pelosi became a California fundraiser and party activist and was elected to Congress in 1987, the year New York wheeler-dealer Trump published The Art of the Deal. She was the first woman to become House speaker, from 2007 to 2011, and recently regained that position, putting her second in line to the presidency.

Thrice-married Trump, who once boasted about grabbing women by the private parts, relished the chance to run against a female rival, Hillary Clinton, in 2016. Then he had a two-year honeymoon in the White House as Republicans controlled the House and Senate. But now the House is in Democratic hands and Pelosi – disciplined, shrewd, unflappable and steel-spined – threatens to expose his lack of political experience.

The new balance of power became evident on 11 December when Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader in the Senate, met Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence in the Oval Office.

“We should not have a Trump shutdown,” said Pelosi, leaning forward on the sofa’s edge.

Trump looked up. “A what? Did you say a Trump – ?”

Had he been drinking a glass of water, it was the moment Trump would have done a spit-take. The tables had been turned, the master brander outbranded. More than a month later, the label “Trump shutdown” has clung more than any other. The president did not help himself by telling Schumer he would be “proud to shut down the government” in the name of border security.

When he claimed that “Nancy’s in a situation where it’s not easy for her to talk right now,” she put him in his place: “Mr President, please don’t characterise the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats, who just won a big victory.”

After the meeting, Pelosi reportedly told House Democrats it was like “a tinkle contest with a skunk” and that Trump’s insistence on building a wall was “like a manhood thing for him”.

It must have come as a shock to a man who has spent the past two years being surrounded by yes men and yes women, the latter including Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Sanders. Cornfield said: “We will look back on 11 December as the day he met his match. She has mastered two political skills he doesn’t even know he’s deficient in.

“One is she knows how to count votes. That’s how she got healthcare through, that’s how she got the speakership back and that’s how she’ll get impeachment through. She stays in touch with every one of the Democrats and most of the Republicans. She knows when she has to compromise and when to hold the line.

“Second, she knows how to take advantage of the process. She knows that every day the shutdown goes on, she and the Democrats gain and Trump and the Republicans lose. She’s going to deny him TV time: she really knows how to jab him with a needle.”

‘I know a temper tantrum when I see one’

Over Christmas and into the new year Trump’s Twitter account and his allies in conservative media have blamed Democrats for the shutdown, falsely claiming they favour open borders that allow drugs and violent criminals to flood into the country.

Pelosi has opted for precision strikes that prove more deadly. In one exchange with reporters, she suggested Trump lacks empathy for furloughed workers and “thinks maybe they could just ask their father for more money”, a reference to the president’s inherited wealth.

After Trump walked out of a meeting, Pelosi mused: “It’s a temper tantrum. I’m the mother of five, grandmother of nine. I know a temper tantrum when I see one.”

This week, as Trump continued to tweet back in anger, Pelosi suggested he delay his State of the Union address – the ultimate showcase for any president – until the government reopens. In a surprise letter, Pelosi said the Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security had been “hamstrung” by furloughs so should not bear the burden of securing the event on 29 January on Capitol Hill.

In an interview with the Washington Post, the Democratic congressman Steve Cohen called Pelosi’s letter her “Gene Hackman moment”, comparing it to an inspirational speech the actor delivers to a basketball team in the film Hoosiers.

“It’s smart for two reasons,” he said. “Number one, Pelosi would be right behind him, and she’d have to sit there as he put the onus on her for the shutdown. Number two, it gives him a reason to end the shutdown, because he loves the TV audience and the attention.”

The president tried to strike back on Thursday with a letter deriding a planned visit by Pelosi and other Democrats to Afghanistan as a “public relations event” and saying it would be better if she remained in Washington to negotiate reopening the government.

“Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative,” Trump wrote in a letter addressed to “Madame Speaker” – a peculiar detour into French.

The ball was back in Pelosi’s court. She countered by accusing Trump of putting troops and civilians working in Afghanistan in danger by publicising the planned trip. When a reporter asked if she considered it retaliation for her letter, she replied with no little irony: “I would hope not. I don’t think the president would be that petty, do you?”

As the stalemate continues, Pelosi seems to be winning in the court of public opinion. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found Trump’s approval rating stands at 39% approve, 53% disapprove, a seven-point net change from December. Pelosi’s favorability rating, meanwhile, is up 13% among Democrats since the midterms (59% to 72%) in Civiqs polls, with virtually no shift among Republicans.

It is tempting to see the duel through the prisms of age, gender, party or personal wealth – both Pelosi and Trump are rich. But for the speaker, it is not necessarily personal so much as devotion to the institution she has served for more than three decades.

Cindy Simon Rosenthal, author of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the New American Politics, published in 2007, says: “There are people who see it as power politics, a back and forth between a Republican president and Democratic speaker, but you can also see it as the re-emergence of one half of the legislative branch showing it’s not going to be rolled in deference to the White House.

“Nancy Pelosi is trying to send a clear message that they’re going to reassert themselves. And he’s not sure how to handle that.”

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« Reply #3753 on: Today at 05:05 AM »

New plant-focused diet would ‘transform’ planet’s future, say scientists

‘Planetary health diet’ would prevent millions of deaths a year and avoid climate change

Damian Carrington Environment editor

The first science-based diet that tackles both the poor food eaten by billions of people and averts global environmental catastrophe has been devised. It requires huge cuts in red meat-eating in western countries and radical changes across the world.

The “planetary health diet” was created by an international commission seeking to draw up guidelines that provide nutritious food to the world’s fast-growing population. At the same time, the diet addresses the major role of farming – especially livestock – in driving climate change, the destruction of wildlife and the pollution of rivers and oceans.

Globally, the diet requires red meat and sugar consumption to be cut by half, while vegetables, fruit, pulses and nuts must double. But in specific places the changes are stark. North Americans need to eat 84% less red meat but six times more beans and lentils. For Europeans, eating 77% less red meat and 15 times more nuts and seeds meets the guidelines.

The diet is a “win-win”, according to the scientists, as it would save at least 11 million people a year from deaths caused by unhealthy food, while preventing the collapse of the natural world that humanity depends upon. With 10 billion people expected to live on Earth by 2050, a continuation of today’s unsustainable diets would inevitably mean even greater health problems and severe global warming.

Unhealthy diets are the leading cause of ill health worldwide, with 800 million people currently hungry, 2 billion malnourished and further 2 billion people overweight or obese. The world’s science academies recently concluded that the food system is broken. Industrial agriculture is also devastating the environment, as forests are razed and billions of cattle emit climate-warming methane.

“The world’s diets must change dramatically,” said Walter Willett at Harvard University and one of the leaders of the commission convened by the Lancet medical journal and the Eat Forum NGO. The report, published in the Lancet and being launched to policymakers in 40 cities around the world, also concluded that food waste must be halved to 15%.

“Humanity now poses a threat to the stability of the planet,” said Prof Johan Rockström at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden, another author of the report. “This requires nothing less than a new global agricultural revolution.” Farm yields in poorer nations must be improved to create a sustainable, healthy world, the report found.

The planetary health diet is largely plant-based and allows an average of 2,500 calories a day. It allows one beef burger and two servings of fish a week, but most protein comes from pulses and nuts. A glass of milk a day, or some cheese or butter, fits within the guidelines, as does an egg or two a week. Half of each plate of food under the diet is vegetables and fruit, and a third is wholegrain cereals.

Willett said these provide the ingredients for a flexible and varied diet: “We are not talking about a deprivation diet here; we are talking about a way of eating that can be healthy, flavourful and enjoyable.
Planetary health diet suggestions.

“The numbers for red meat sound small to a lot of people in the UK or US,” he said. “But they don’t sound small to the very large part of the world’s population that already consumes about that much or even less. It is very much in line with traditional diets.”

The planetary health diet resembles those already known to be healthy, such as the Mediterranean or Okinawa diets, the researchers said.

“The planetary health diet is based on really hard epidemiological evidence, where researchers followed large cohorts of people for decades,” said Marco Springmann at Oxford University and part of the commission. “It so happens that if you put all that evidence together you get a diet that looks similar to some of the healthiest diets that exist in the real world.”

The report acknowledges the radical change it advocates and the difficulty of achieving it: “Humanity has never aimed to change the global food system on the scale envisioned. Achieving this goal will require rapid adoption of numerous changes and unprecedented global collaboration and commitment: nothing less than a Great Food Transformation.”

But it notes that major global changes have occurred before, such as the Green Revolution that hugely increased food supplies in the 1960s. Moves to tax red meat, prevent the expansion of farmland and protect swathes of ocean must all be considered, the commission said.

Prof Guy Poppy, from the UK’s University of Southampton, and not part of the commission, said: “This ‘call to arms’ with its clear solutions is timely, comprehensively researched and deserves immediate attention.”

“This analysis is the most advanced ever conducted,” said Prof Alan Dangour, at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and also not part of the team. “But there is a major question about the ability of populations to shift to such dietary recommendations and their wider public acceptability.”

Prof Nigel Scollan, at Queen’s University Belfast and part of the industry-backed Meat Advisory Panel, said: “This report tells us what we have known for millennia: an omnivorous diet is optimal. In the UK, encouraging people to eat less red meat and dairy will have little impact on the environment and is potentially damaging to people’s health.”

But Richard Horton and Tamara Lucas, editors at the Lancet, said in an editorial that global changes as set out by the planetary health diet were essential: “Civilisation is in crisis. We can no longer feed our population a healthy diet while balancing planetary resources. If we can eat in a way that works for our planet as well as our bodies, the natural balance will be restored.”

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« Reply #3754 on: Today at 05:07 AM »

Founders of plastic waste alliance ‘investing billions in new plants’

European NGO says firms are likely to be at centre of global boom in plastic production

Sandra Laville
Mon 21 Jan 2019 08.00 GMT

The founding companies behind a self-styled alliance to end plastic waste are among the world’s biggest investors in new plastic productions plants, according to a European NGO.

A majority of the firms which announced this week they were collaborating to try to help tackle plastic pollution are likely to be at the heart of a global boom in plastic production over the next 10 years.

Together the companies have committed $1bn (£778m) over the next five years to reduce plastic production and improve recycling, with an aspiration to raise that to $1.5bn if more members join.

But most of the founding firms have tens of billions of dollars riding on the need for global plastic production to continue growing over the next decade and more.

Shell, one of the signatories, is building a multibillion-dollar plant in Pennsylvania in the eastern US, using shale gas as its fuel to produce 1.6m tonnes of polyethylene – the world’s most common plastic – each year.

ExxonMobil, another leading figure in the alliance, is building a new polyethylene production line at its plant in Mont Belvieu, Texas, to increase plastic production to more than 2.5m tonnes a year. When completed it will be one of the largest plastic production units in the world.

Saudi Arabia’s state oil company Saudi Aramco and the country’s chemical giant SABIC are building one of the world’s largest oil-to-petrochemicals factories as they – like other fossil fuel companies – move away from reliance on crude oil revenues.

Many of the production plants are linked to fracking. Fossil fuel companies have invested more than $180bn since 2010 in new “cracking” facilities that will produce the raw material for everyday plastics for use in packaging, bottles, trays and cartons, helping to fuel a 40% rise in plastic production over the next decade.

Rob Buurman, the director of environmental NGO Recycling Netwerk, said: “It is interesting to see [the plastics industry] finally acknowledge that there is a problem with their plastics.

“But unfortunately, this initiative does not tackle the problem at its source: the gigantic production of 400m tonnes of plastic each year, with 60m metric tonnes produced in Europe alone.”

More than 8.3bn tonnes of plastic have been produced globally since large-scale production began in the 1950s, creating almost 6bn tonnes of plastic waste. Only about 9% of this has been recycled. The rest has been burned and contributes to climate change or is still polluting the environment. Most plastics are used for the production of packaging, which is often single-use.

Buurman said street, river and beach cleanups would not work as long as there was a steady stream of new plastics being produced and collected in a half-hearted way.

“These kind of actions want to cure the image of plastic. But plastics don’t have an image problem – the exaggerated use of it in products with a short lifespan is a problem in itself,” he said.

About 8m tonnes of plastic waste is dumped in the seas annually, according to the UN. Plastic in the seas can choke fish and other marine creatures, destroy habitats and enter the food chain. But despite increasing public awareness of the problem, highlighted by Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II programmes, there has been little sign of it abating.

A spokesman for the alliance said: “Reducing the amount of plastic required to create products while preserving the benefits people rely on and making plastics easier to recycle is definitely part of the solution. Not all alliance members produce plastic. Some of the members do produce plastic, and some have announced expansions to meet the demands of a growing population.

“Plastic provides many critical health, safety and sustainability benefits that help improve and maintain living standards, hygiene and nutrition around the world and replacing it could, in the end, do more harm than good.”

He said a study by the firm Trucost in 2016 found that replacing plastic packaging with other materials would increase the amount of packaging generated in the US by 55m tons annually and increase energy use and carbon emissions by 82% and 130%, respectively.

“Even as we work aggressively to reduce plastic waste in the environment, we must maintain the critical benefits that plastics bring to people and communities. It is not either/or. With a thoughtful, comprehensive and strategic approach, we can do both,” he said.

The founding members of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste are: BASF, Berry Global, Braskem, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LLC, Clariant, Covestro, Dow Chemical, DSM, ExxonMobil, Formosa Plastics Corporation, Henkel, LyondellBasell, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, Mitsui Chemicals, NOVA Chemicals, OxyChem, PolyOne, Procter & Gamble, Reliance Industries, SABIC, Sasol, SUEZ, Shell, SCG Chemicals, Sumitomo Chemical, Total, Veolia, and Versalis.

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« Reply #3755 on: Today at 05:09 AM »

This Common Preservative in Processed Food May Be Making You Tired

By Brian Mastroianni

Is it hard to motivate yourself to get off the couch and go exercise?

Well, a common food additive you're unknowingly consuming in large quantities might be to blame.

New research sheds light on inorganic phosphate—an additive and preservative found in up to 70 percent of the foods in the common diet in the U.S.—and the impact it could be having on your health.

The study, published in the journal Circulation, aimed to look at the adverse impacts of consuming too much phosphate in one's diet by examining lab mice that were given a high-phosphate diet.

The researchers measured the rodents' oxygen uptake during exercise, showing not just less capacity for movement but also the inability to produce enough fatty acids needed to feed their muscles.

While the mice were being observed for a 12-week period, the researchers wanted to draw a comparison to humans, so they looked at the data of people who were enrolled in the Dallas Heart Study.

These individuals ranged from 18 to 65 years old, were not on any medications, and had no history of kidney or heart issues.

They wore physical activity monitors for seven days, which tied higher phosphate levels in their diets to less time spent carrying out moderate to vigorous exercise.

As with the mice, inactivity increased when phosphate levels were higher.

Lead researcher Dr. Wanpen Vongpatanasin, professor of internal medicine and director of the Hypertension Fellowship Program at UT Southwestern Medical Center, told Healthline that she was struck by how closely the human and mice response to phosphates mirrored one another.

"Study in humans provides support for the animal studies by showing that people with high phosphate in the blood tend to spend less time in working out and more time in sedentary activity," she wrote in an email.
What Exactly Are Phosphates?

A phosphate is the charged particle that contains the mineral phosphorous, which the body requires to help repair and build your teeth and bones, make your muscles contract, and assist in nerve function, according to the Merck Manual.

Phosphates are found naturally in a wide range of healthy foods like meat, fish, dairy, fruits and vegetables.

However, it is the inorganic form, saturated in many of the processed foods and drinks Americans consume, that is the problem.

"The average consumer would not know to be aware of this commercial food additive," said Dana Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, a senior dietitian at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Medical Center. "It is commonly used to prolong the shelf life of many foods, and also may enhance the flavor of some others. It is likely a very inexpensive ingredient/additive which would explain its nearly ubiquitous usage."

It is estimated that between 40 and 70 percent of the best-selling grocery items out there like cola drinks and prepared frozen foods contain these inorganic phosphates, she told Healthline.

"That is a huge proportion of foods many Americans buy. In fact, I remember a recent Nutrition Action Newsletter article that said that even bottled orange juices—such as 'Simply Orange'—contain added inorganic phosphates," Hunnes said. "In many instances, food additives are used either to provide a nutrient (like a vitamin or mineral), flavor (like MSG or salt), or some other non-nutritive property including inorganic phosphates."

She added, "We don't know about them because phosphates are not usually a nutrient we are told to be concerned about. Most people, unless they have kidney disease, tend to be aware of or worried about calories, fats, and types of fats, carbohydrates, and protein."

Tamika Sims, PhD, director of food technology communications at the International Food Information Council Foundation, said that even though inorganic phosphates might be unfamiliar to many, they should be something people should have on their radar.

"In healthy adults, inorganic phosphate is metabolized as needed, but phosphate is also used in the body for nerve, bone, and muscle function. The amount of phosphate in the body is regulated by kidneys. People with kidney disease or malfunction can be at risk of phosphate level irregularity," Sims told Healthline.

When it comes to the study, Vongpatanasin wrote that while it is necessary that our bodies process energy in the normal amounts, if that energy is used too much, it can limit the ability to burn fat into useful fuel needed during exercise.

The average consumer may be unaware that an overabundance of these particles are even in many of the foods on their dinner table. They might be annoyed to hear that not much comprehensive information has been made available by food regulators.

On current food labels, check out any mention of "phos-," like "calcium phosphate," for example.

Vongpatanasin added that there are no official mandates or regulations for the food industry to label exactly how much inorganic phosphates are out there circulating in the food chain.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are the ones who set requirements for food labels throughout the nation, and Vongpatanasin asserted that it is clear much more comprehensive research needs to be done.

"Although it is well known that high-phosphate diet is dangerous in patients with kidney failure, the impact of high-phosphate diet on cardiovascular heath in normal population without kidney failure has not been widely studied or recognized until now," she wrote.
What You Can Do

If you're reading this and hearing about inorganic phosphates for the first time, what should you do when you go shopping for this week's groceries?

"In general, if you can purchase fresh or nonpackaged foods, all the better—you will not have to fear that inorganic phosphates have been added to the foods," Hunnes said. "Otherwise, just like everything else, it seems we need to be cognizant of this ingredient in foods. Look at food labels, and search for anything containing added phosphate. You would find it in the ingredient list, anything with the word 'phos,' or 'phosphate' in it."

She added that she would caution consumers about eating these kinds of foods, especially if they're athletes or someone hoping to maintain an exercise regimen.

"It sounds like this would hamper your progress, work against you, and may make your workout session that much harder," she said.

Vongpatanasin said similar thoughts are also on her mind as she moves forward with her research.

She stressed that a person should not consume more than 700 mg of inorganic phosphates per day.

She and her team are planning on carrying out a randomized study next, to see if lowering the phosphate content in the diet to 700 mg each day could be helpful in lowering blood pressure and boosting physical activity.
The Bottom Line

A new study published in the journal Circulation aimed to look at how the prevalence of inorganic phosphates in America's processed food-heavy diet could be lowering a person's willingness to stay physically active.

Over a 12-week period, lab mice were given a phosphate-heavy diet, with the mice's activity levels declining once inorganic phosphates were increased. This was compared to data on healthy adults enrolled in the Dallas Heart Study.

As with the mice, adults with a more phosphate-rich diet saw exercise and activity drop off as phosphate levels were increased.

Experts recommend that people look for "phos" or "phosphate" on food labels, steer away from processed foods, and choose fresh, nonpackaged foods, instead.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

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« Reply #3756 on: Today at 05:20 AM »

Our oceans broke heat records in 2018 and the consequences are catastrophic

Rising temperatures can be charted back to the late 1950s, and the last five years were the five hottest on record

John Abraham
21 Jan 2019 11.00 GMT

Last year was the hottest ever measured, continuing an upward trend that is a direct result of manmade greenhouse gas emissions.

The key to the measurements is the oceans. Oceans absorb more than 90% of the heat that results from greenhouse gases, so if you want to measure global warming you really have to measure ocean warming.

There are other ways to measure climate change, but none are as convincing as the oceans. Air temperatures are most commonly reported in the media as evidence of global warming, but the problem with these is they are very erratic. While there is certainly a long-term trend of higher air temperatures, any given year may be warmer or colder than the last.

So oceans are key, and they are telling us a clear story. The last five years were the five hottest on record. The numbers are huge: in 2018 the extra ocean heat compared to a 1981-2010 baseline amounted to 196,700,000,000,000,000,000,000 joules. The current rate of ocean warming is equivalent to five Hiroshima-size atomic bombs exploding every second.

The measurements have been published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences in an article by Lijing Cheng, the lead author, and his colleagues from the Institute for Atmospheric Physics in China. His collaborators, of which I am one, included researchers from around the world. The article charts ocean heat back to the late 1950s, showing a steady increase.

Ocean warming is incontrovertible proof of global warming, and there are real consequences to a warming ocean. Firstly, warmer water expands, and this expansion causes sea levels to rise. Approximately a third of the rise in ocean waters is a result of the heat absorbed by the oceans. Scientists expect about one metre of sea level rise by the end of the century, which would be enough to displace 150 million people worldwide.

The warming waters also make storms more powerful. In the US recently, we have seen hurricanes pass over extremely warm ocean waters, which has supercharged them and increased the damage they cause. Other kinds of storms are also being made stronger. Heavier downpours of rainfall are increasing flooding around the world. Simply put, our emissions of greenhouse gases have caused loss of life and property. We are all responsible, but the people who have denied the science and the solutions own a special responsibility that history will judge harshly.

It isn’t just humans that are suffering and will suffer more in the future. The heating of oceans is causing tremendous problems for sea life, particularly coral reefs. If we continue to warm the planet, we can expect to lose much of these reefs. We can also anticipate reductions in fish and sea life populations.

We scientists sound like a broken record. Every year we present the science and plead for action. Not nearly enough is being done. We can still tackle climate change, but we must act immediately. We have the means to make a difference, we lack only the will.

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« Reply #3757 on: Today at 05:26 AM »

France in shock at gang-rape trial of police from famous BRI unit

Court hears how Canadian woman was allegedly raped by terrorism officers at 36 Quai des Orfèves

Kim Willsher in Paris
21 Jan 2019 18.07 GMT

Emily Spanton grew up with police officers – her father had been a high-ranking officer in the Toronto force – so when two French officers she met while drinking in a Paris bar invited her to see their famous headquarters, she agreed.

Spanton was, she says, drunk and shaky on her feet. “I knew I wasn’t in a state to find my hotel. And I thought that going to a police station would sober me up as there would be plenty of lights and people,” the Canadian said.

But after she went upstairs at the celebrated 36 Quai des Orfèvres to the fifth floor and entered room 461, Spanton said she walked into “the worst night of my life”.

What allegedly happened in the next 80 minutes in the early hours of 23 April 2014 is at the centre of an ongoing court case in chamber three of the assize court in Paris’s imposing Palais de Justice, and has left France shocked.

On Wednesday, Spanton, 39, cried as she told the three judges and nine members of the jury she was gang-raped by at least two men. As she tried to leave, she says, she was dragged into another office and raped again.

In the dock are two members of the Brigade de Recherches et d’Intervention (BRI), an elite unit specialising in tracking down gang members and terrorists. Maj Nicolas R, 49, and Capt Antoine Q, 40,
The shock in France is as much over the details of the case as the idea that the allegations are not just targeted at individual officers but at the reputation of this prestigious police unit.

L’Express magazine suggested the case had “poisoned” the Paris police force for almost five years and nearly signed the death warrant of the BRI.

Spanton’s legal team had battled to have the officers brought to trial after investigating judges decided there was no case to answer, citing “inconsistencies” in her testimony. After the Paris public prosecutor stepped in, this decision was overturned on appeal.

Police colleagues had suggested that because Spanton had allegedly been flirting and kissed the two officers during the evening, they believed she was happy to go further. “Their mistake was to have let the truth come out bit by bit because they were afraid of the consequences on their families and their careers,” one police officer told L’Express. “This has led to questions about their credibility.”

Spanton’s lawyer said the judges had travelled to Canada to interview her friends and family and “dig around” in her personal life, but had not done the same for the accused.

The building at 36 Quai des Orfèvres is a place of fact and fiction. Known to officers simply as “36”, its mythical reputation was immortalised by Georges Simenon’s celebrated detective Maigret and in French films. For real-life police, “36” is the top rung of the career ladder.

Attached to the Palais de Justice, the building was home to the Paris police force from 1913, when officers chased criminals on horses or bicycles, until 2017, when it moved to more modern buildings.

Spanton, who was working as an estate agent, said she had been drinking in Le Galway, an Irish bar near 36, when some time around midnight she agreed to go to the officers’ headquarters.

“They explained the police station had been the subject of films and made it sound like something I would want to see,” she said.

Even the softly spoken translator was unable to diminish the violence of the testimony of what happened after Spanton entered room 461. “Someone was forcing himself inside my mouth,” Spanton said. “Someone penetrated me. Then someone else. When it finished, I gathered up my belongings, but I couldn’t open the door. I was pulled into another office and everything happened again.”

Spanton said she remembered being raped by up to three men, but said she could not identify the third. She told the jury her glasses were taken from her and she was unable to see clearly.

“I just gave up; just wanted it to be over … I kept my eyes closed.”

She was, she insists, in “no fit state to consent” to anything. She says when she left the building 90 minutes later, barefoot and without her tights, she told the guards at the door she had been raped and they told her to “go home”.

DNA from both the accused was found on Spanton’s underwear. Her DNA was found on Antoine Q’s. No match was found for the DNA of a third man.

The two accused wiped all messages and videos from the night off their mobiles, but one found on a colleague’s phone read: “She likes an orgy, hurry up.”

Asked by the public prosecutor on Friday if it was “usual to take young women to your office”, Antoine Q, replied: “Not at all”. He said room 461 was his office and admitted having sex in it. Both men have returned to work in the police force. They face a jail sentence of up to 20 years if convicted.

After reading a medical report of Spanton’s injuries, the presiding judge, Stephane Duchemin, asked Spanton what she expected from the court. “I just want to stand up and publicly confront these men. Then I want to move on, close this chapter.”

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« Reply #3758 on: Today at 05:29 AM »

'It's a very big torture': the children growing up in hiding in Dubai

With sex outside marriage punishable by jail, migrant workers who become pregnant are often forced to keep their babies locked away

Katie McQue
21 Jan 2019 09.00 GMT

A sweltering, windowless room in an old district of Dubai, no more than 5 metres by 3 metres in size, is home to nine people from the Philippines. Eight are adults, working long hours in low-paid jobs so they can send money home to their families. The ninth is a six-year-old boy.

His name is Jerry and he shares a tiny bed with his mother, Neng. Jerry loves dancing, Peppa Pig and doughnuts. This small dark room is the only home he has known, as he’s spent his life in hiding as a stateless child. Growing up without a birth certificate or any other identification means he has no access to education and has never visited a doctor. Officially, this little boy does not exist.

Of the UAE’s 9.4 million inhabitants, about 70% are low-paid migrant labourers. As a vital part of the economy, they normally work in construction or retail, or as maids and taxi drivers.

Neng was one of them. A decade ago she came to the UAE from the Philippines to work as a domestic maid but ran away because her employers were abusive, she says. Having no job meant losing her visa and living in the country illegally. She got involved with a man who took her into his home but then he threw her out after she got pregnant.

Now pregnant outside of marriage, Neng knew she had broken the law in the UAE for a second time. Having sex outside of marriage is a crime under the country’s Islamic laws, with convictions resulting in prison terms of up to one year.

“The moment that you get pregnant, and you cannot tell anyone and you don’t know what to do, it’s a very big torture,” says Neng.

The legislation prohibiting sex outside marriage in the UAE is known as the Zina law and is often rigorously enforced. In some cases, even reporting a rape has been regarded by the authorities as illicit sex, and has led to victims being jailed.

Doctors in the country who diagnose an unmarried woman as pregnant are obliged to turn them over to the police. They can then face jail and deportation.

Some women opt to leave the UAE before the pregnancy becomes visible and backstreet abortions are also common.

Figures supplied by the Philippines Consulate in Dubai indicate several hundred migrant workers a year like Neng make the decision to go into hiding after they become pregnant outside of marriage.

“They are afraid of losing their jobs because that’s the only means to support their family back home. To them, deportation is like the end of their life,” says Barney Almazar, a lawyer at Gulf Law, who provides legal aid to migrant workers in UAE.

After carrying her baby to term having accessed no healthcare services, Neng gave birth to Jerry in a friend’s apartment with the help of an informal midwife and without any pain relief.

Unable to find a job through official channels, Neng eventually managed to find work as a housekeeper and nanny for a fellow Filipino family, who live in a house 10 minutes’ walk from her home. Her employers know she’s illegal and can therefore get away with paying her just AED 1,000 per month (£216) for working 10 hours a day, five days a week. Often she is not paid on time. But she has no rights and cannot complain to the authorities.

With rent for their bed costing AED 500, the mother and son struggle to make ends meet. When she can, Neng tries to send AED 190 home to her family, who live in Zamboanga Sibugay, one of the Philippines’ poorest provinces. This small amount of money is enough to compel her to stay in Dubai.

Neng and Jerry’s bed is a lower bunk, just under a metre wide. Makeshift curtains made of bedsheets hang over the front of the bunks to provide a little privacy. Meals are eaten in the room, and cockroaches and other bugs scuttle across the floor.

These living conditions have blighted Jerry’s childhood. He is often overwhelmed with worry, which makes him ill. “I don’t feel anything. I’m sick but I can’t get better,” he says.

Neng is preparing to surrender to the authorities, which will allow her to leave after serving a jail sentence, and obtain exit visas for herself and Jerry. Despite her difficult life in Dubai, she is reluctant to return home. The future there seems even more bleak to her. Her extended family don’t have room to accommodate them and extreme poverty in her province will make life difficult.

Fearful of being caught by the police and unable to look after their children while working, many of these unmarried new mothers resort to abandoning their babies, leaving others in the community to look after them.

One such informal adoptive mother is Joanna*. She is a Filipina nurse and has been living in Dubai for 10 years. For the past 15 months she’s been bringing up a baby girl called Rosamie*.

Joanna lives in a room with five other women in the Al-Karama area of Dubai. A year-and-a-half ago a newborn baby girl appeared in the room. The mother was a friend of her roommate and, after leaving the baby, she became uncontactable. “It was 1am and [the baby] was crying and had been left alone,” says Joanna. The baby was gone the next day, but she reappeared one month later and then again the next month, Joanna says.

“During that time she had been passed around to other houses. The third time I saw her she was covered in a rash.” Joanna started to look after the child, expecting her mother to collect her soon.

“It was difficult that the baby is with us without documents. After two weeks I asked the Philippines Consulate what to do. I was told, ‘Just wait, the mother will come,’” she says. “At this point, I decided that maybe this baby is for us.”

Through Joanna’s work, Rosamie has access to medical care. She is also very well looked after. The talkative little girl can sing her ABCs and speak English in sentences. She loves wearing dresses and her favourite toy is a doll that she calls Baby Princess. Each night Rosamie and Joanna sing You Are My Sunshine to each other before going to sleep.

“I’m proud of being her mother. I always tell her that I love her very much,” Joanna says. “She’s so very sweet, she’s lovely. I want her to have a normal future, not like this.”

Joanna is very aware she could be jailed for keeping a baby that is not legally hers. She is desperate to find a way to legally adopt Rosamie but only Emirati nationals are permitted to adopt children in the UAE.

Other women looking after abandoned children in Dubai have approached Joanna, looking for advice. “So many kids here don’t have documents,” she says.

It is almost impossible to know how many parents and children are in the same position as Neng and Jerry across the country. Each month, about 40 mothers with children born out of wedlock seek advice and assistance from the Philippines Consulate in Dubai and the embassy in Abu Dhabi, according to a spokesperson for the consulate. This figure is likely to be a fraction of the number of mothers who are living in hiding in the country with their children, Almazar says.

At present, child and baby facilities in Dubai’s jails are full, because of the high number of mothers who have come forward to surrender, so that they could leave the country after completing a custodial sentence. This has created a backlog of cases, the spokesperson says.

Yet there are signs of hope for these families. The Dubai Foundation for Women and Children is a government-run charity and shelter, which, in addition to rehabilitating human trafficking victims and caring for abandoned or orphaned children, deals with “tens” of cases of mothers who have had babies out of wedlock a year, says Ghanima Hassan Al-Bahri, its care and social services director. In all of the cases the foundation has worked on, the courts have been flexible and the mother has not served a jail term. This approach could be rolled out for wider implementation, she adds.

“I cannot speak about the police or the prosecution about whether they arrested women, I don’t know. But from our experience, at the foundation, whenever a woman has called us, it is not like that,” says Al-Bahri. “I do believe there is room for improvement … What’s the point of putting them in jail?”

*Names changed to protect identities

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« Reply #3759 on: Today at 05:31 AM »

World's 26 richest people own as much as poorest 50%, says Oxfam

Charity calls for 1% wealth tax, saying it would raise enough to educate every child not in school

Larry Elliott
Mon 21 Jan 2019 00.01 GMT

The growing concentration of the world’s wealth has been highlighted by a report showing that the 26 richest billionaires own as many assets as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of the planet’s population.

In an annual wealth check released to mark the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the development charity Oxfam said 2018 had been a year in which the rich had grown richer and the poor poorer.

It said the widening gap was hindering the fight against poverty, adding that a 1% wealth tax would raise an estimated $418bn (£325bn) a year – enough to educate every child not in school and provide healthcare that would prevent 3 million deaths.

Oxfam said the wealth of more than 2,200 billionaires across the globe had increased by $900bn in 2018 – or $2.5bn a day. The 12% increase in the wealth of the very richest contrasted with a fall of 11% in the wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population.

As a result, the report concluded, the number of billionaires owning as much wealth as half the world’s population fell from 43 in 2017 to 26 last year. In 2016 the number was 61.

Among the findings of the report were:

    In the 10 years since the financial crisis, the number of billionaires has nearly doubled.

    Between 2017 and 2018 a new billionaire was created every two days.

    The world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, saw his fortune increase to $112bn. Just 1% of his fortune is equivalent to the whole health budget for Ethiopia, a country of 105 million people.

    The poorest 10% of Britons are paying a higher effective tax rate than the richest 10% (49% compared with 34%) once taxes on consumption such as VAT are taken into account.

Oxfam’s director of campaigns and policy, Matthew Spencer, said: “The massive fall in the number of people living in extreme poverty is one of the greatest achievements of the past quarter of a century but rising inequality is jeopardising further progress.

“The way our economies are organised means wealth is increasingly and unfairly concentrated among a privileged few while millions of people are barely subsisting. Women are dying for lack of decent maternity care and children are being denied an education that could be their route out of poverty. No one should be condemned to an earlier grave or a life of illiteracy simply because they were born poor.

“It doesn’t have to be this way – there is enough wealth in the world to provide everyone with a fair chance in life. Governments should act to ensure that taxes raised from wealth and businesses paying their fair share are used to fund free, good-quality public services that can save and transform people’s lives.”

The report said many governments were making inequality worse by failing to invest enough in public services. It noted that about 10,000 people die for lack of healthcare and there were 262 million children not in school, often because their parents were unable to afford the fees, uniforms or textbooks.

Oxfam said governments needed to do more to fund high-quality, universal public services through tackling tax dodging and ensuring fairer taxation, including on corporations and the richest individuals’ wealth, which it said were often undertaxed.

A global wealth tax has been called for by the French economist Thomas Piketty, who has said action is needed to arrest the trend in inequality.

The World Inequality Report 2018 – co-authored by Piketty – showed that between 1980 and 2016 the poorest 50% of humanity only captured 12 cents in every dollar of global income growth. By contrast, the top 1% captured 27 cents of every dollar.
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Oxfam said that in addition to tackling inequality at home, developed nations currently failing to meet their overseas aid commitments could raise the missing billions needed to tackle extreme poverty in the poorest countries by increasing taxes on extreme wealth.

China’s rapid growth over the past four decades has been responsible for much of the decline in extreme poverty but Oxfam said World Bank data showed the rate of poverty reduction had halved since 2013. In sub-Saharan Africa, extreme poverty was on the increase.

Oxfam said its methodology for assessing the gap between rich and poor was based on global wealth distribution data provided by the Credit Suisse global wealth data book, covering the period from June 2017 to June 2018. The wealth of billionaires was calculated using the annual Forbes billionaires list published in March 2018.

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« Reply #3760 on: Today at 05:33 AM »

China's economic growth slowest since 1990 amid trade war with US

Fears China may not be able to help shore up weakening global growth as GDP figures are slowest nation has reported in 28 years

Lily Kuo in Beijing
Mon 21 Jan 2019 02.23 GMT

China’s economy grew 6.6% in 2018, its slowest pace in almost 30 years, confirming a slowdown in the world’s second largest economy that could threaten global growth.

After years of breakneck expansion, the world’s second largest economy is losing steam, official data on Monday confirmed. China’s growth in 2018 was the country’s slowest reported rate since 1990 and down from 6.8% growth in 2017.

China’s economy grew 6.4% in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, levels last seen in early 2009 at the height of the global financial crisis.

“We see that there are changes in stability, concern about these changes. The external environment is complicated and severe. The economy is facing downward pressure,” said Ning Jizhe, director of China’s National Statistic Bureau, adding that China’s economy remained “steady overall”.

Monday’s data, while in line with expectations, puts pressure on Beijing to reach a deal with Washington to end the bruising trade war. “China-US conflict is indeed affecting China’s economy, that is true, but the impact is manageable,” Ning said.

The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.4% while Japan’s Nikkei gained 0.5%. China’s CSI300 index rose 0.97%.

The latest economic figures suggest China may no longer be able to help shore up weakening global growth, as it has in the past.

A government campaign to rein in risky debt has been compounded by a trade war with the US, hitting consumer and business confidence. Over the past few months consumer spending, manufacturing output, and investment have reached record lows.

So far China has held back from massive the stimulus measures used in 2009 that resulted in a binge of infrastructure projects and bad debt taken on by companies and local governments. Analysts say stimulus measures would not only undo government efforts lower risk in the financial system, such methods are not as effective anymore in spurring growth.

“The data confirm a challenging period for China’s economy, with weakness discernible across different sectors,” said Tom Rafferty, principal economist for China at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Rafferty said stimulus measures would likely be mild and investor confidence would remain fragile as trade frictions continue. The group predicts even slower growth of 6.3% in 2019 and a further weakening in 2020.

“The first half of 2019 is likely to be equally difficult, with headline growth likely to recede further. China’s economy is unlikely to experience a rebound similar to past business cycle expansions,” he said.

Most economists doubt China’s official GDP figures, with some estimating that real figure could less than half the rate reported by the government. China’s latest data comes at a time when international attention is focused on the Chinese economy.

“China’s official GDP number is always a fiction, but fourth quarter data was a particularly aggressive fiction,” said Leland Miller, chief executive officer of China Beige Book.

Chinese vice premier Liu He will visit the United States on 30 and 31 January for the next round of trade talks with Washington. Vice president Wang Qishan is attending the World Economic Forum in Davos later this month.

“A decision was clearly made to avoid any possible suggestion that China’s slowdown isn’t firmly under Beijing’s control,” Miller said.

Monday’s economic data included some indications the downturn may not be as severe as initially thought. The country’s industrial output rose 5.7%, while retail sales increased 8.2% in December, compared to a year earlier.

The country’s traditional economic drivers, infrastructure, real estate and exports, grew marginally last year, yet other areas like advanced technology and services expanded.
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“China’s economy still expanded a lot in absolute terms, and the economy is now almost 3.5 times the size it was a decade ago,” said Scott Kennedy, a trade expert focused on China at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

US President Donald Trump said on Saturday there has been progress toward a trade deal with China, but denied reports that he was considering lifting tariffs.

“Things are going very well with China and with trade,” he told reporters at the White House.

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« Reply #3761 on: Today at 05:36 AM »

Hungary: pithy insults fly as anti-Orbán protesters resort to ridicule

Use of ‘O1G’ expletive illustrates rising anger at PM’s ‘slave law’ and anti-migrant rhetoric

Shaun Walker in Budapest
Mon 21 Jan 2019 05.00 GMT

Visitors to Budapest in recent weeks may have noticed the proliferation of a strange three-character code all across the city: “O1G”.

Graffitied on to walls and fences: O1G. Traced into the snow on car windscreens every time a wintry flurry falls: O1G. The abbreviation is short for Orbán egy geci, a pithy phrase deriding the prime minister, Viktor Orbán, using a Hungarian expletive that literally means sperm but is used as a catch-all insult.

The code has been adopted by anti-government protesters who have been holding demonstrations for the past six weeks against Orbán’s nativist government, accusing Orbán of increasing authoritarianism and a crackdown on the media. Causing particular anger is a so-called “slave law” that increases the overtime employers can demand from workers and allows them to delay pay for up to three years.

With the exception of a few scuffles, neither side has shown any appetite for violence. Orbán, whose Fidesz party won a third successive term in office last April on a far-right anti-migration platform, appears secure. But the rhetorical aggression is certainly rising.

At the latest anti-government protest, held by the Danube in central Budapest on Saturday, those in attendance could purchase slices of bread with O1G drawn on in blood-red spicy paprika paste. Later in the evening, a group of women were scrawling O1G repeatedly in chalk on the tiled walls of the 1850s tunnel that runs underneath Buda Castle.

Hungarian politics has hardly been a place of polite decorum for some time. For a number of years, government-linked media outlets have spewed out a diet of hatred and fear-mongering when it comes to migrants and refugees. Orbán’s media machine has painted opposition politicians and other critics as anti-patriotic puppets of the billionaire George Soros.

A recent questionnaire on the Hungarian website 444.hu offered readers a series of quotes and invited them to guess if they were from Hungarian media outlets talking about migrants, or from Radio Rwanda on the eve of the country’s genocide in the 1990s. With Hungarian examples referencing “filthy rats” and “inevitable bloodshed”, it was difficult to correctly guess which quote was from which country.

Perhaps the most illustrative example of the recent escalation in the war of words is the case of Blanka Nagy, a 19-year-old in her final year of high school in the town of Kiskunfélegyháza. A speech she gave from the stage to a small crowd at a December protest in the town of Kecskemét went viral recently, a month after the event.

“There is a disgusting, contagious epidemic in this country. It is not plague, Ebola or mad cow disease, though it is a bit similar to the latter. The name of this epidemic is Fidesz,” she said in the video. She also referred to the president, János Áder, an Orbán ally, as “the dick with the moustache”.

In response, government-linked media have gone on the offensive, launching deeply personal attacks on Nagy over the past week. “Dear Blanka! The thing is that you are not a hero but a miserable, wretched, vile little prole,” said Zsolt Bayer, a controversial pro-Orbán television host.

“Those who speak like street hookers should not be surprised at being talked to like street hookers,” wrote András Bencsik, the editor of the pro-government magazine Demokrata, in a Facebook post he later deleted. Other outlets have questioned her grades and insinuated she could be kicked out of school.

“It was strange to wake up one day and see my face all over the internet, but it hasn’t affected me negatively. A lot of people have stopped me in the street to offer their support,” said Nagy, who spoke at Saturday’s protest in Budapest.

“It expresses an increasing frustration. The biggest fear of authoritarian politicians is being ridiculed, and they can’t handle it,” said Péter Krekó, a Budapest-based political analyst.

The most recent protests have been different to previous rounds of anti-Orbán demonstrations over the years, gaining traction in smaller towns as well as among Budapest liberals. Opposition figures hope anger over the slave law could galvanise a broader spectrum of protesters. However, plans for a general strike look unlikely to succeed, and there is little sense of what the end goal of the protests may be.

At this weekend’s rally in Budapest, the crowd of a few thousand was less than those in December, and already there was a sense that the protest mood could be beginning to drift. One speaker attempted to get a chant of “We are not going home” going in the crowd, but the response was half-hearted.

Nagy admitted that among her generation, there were few politically active individuals but said she had hope that the protests would achieve some kind of change, starting with the European parliament elections in May.

“There are many options. More and more towns are getting involved. Hopefully we’ll see the opposition do much better at the European elections.”

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« Reply #3762 on: Today at 05:51 AM »

FAIL: Video shows 80 migrants easily crawling under Trump-style border wall in Arizona

Raw Story

A border wall in a remote section of the Mexican border failed last Monday after a group of 84 migrants crawled under it, a video posted by NBC News shows.

Video shot by a night camera set up by the border patrol showed families from Central America crawling under the border wall near Quitobaquito Springs, an area of Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Park.

According to border control agent Fernando Grijalva, the group simply got out of a tour bus and walked into the U.S.

“An agent saw a bus stop on the Mexican side of the border,” Grijalva said. “The bus driver got out, opened the doors and then proceeded to have approximately 80 people exit the bus and cross into the United States.”

It does not appear that the border patrol agent, who is working without pay because of the shutdown, was able to detain any of the migrants.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that walls are effective at stopping undocumented migrants, a position that has been echoed by columnists such as the Hill’s Ford O’Connell who cited the wall in this section of the Arizona border as an example of why walls work and should be funded with billions of dollars.

Watch: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/border-agents-working-without-pay-see-large-groups-migrants-crossing-n960631


President admits Trump Tower Moscow deal was ‘going from the day I announced to the day I won’: report

Raw Story

President Donald Trump told his lawyer Rudy Giuliani that he “may” have spoken to Michael Cohen before his Congressional testimony but doesn’t recall what was said. Phone logs or records could probably jog the president’s memory, but it doesn’t seem the White House has yet consulted those.

Cohen lied to Congress about whether there was a Trump Tower, Moscow deal. Giuliani denied that there was a deal. When he acknowledged there were talks about it, Giuliani said that there was never a signed letter of intent or anything official. When the signed letter of intent was revealed, Giuliani pivoted to change Trump’s story again.

Trump and Giuliani are now both denying that Trump told Cohen to lie to Congress, though the president has no idea what all was discussed, because he was too busy, according to Giuliani.

“The best he could do is, ‘We talked about it, I knew he was running with it, I honestly didn’t pay much attention to it,’” Giuliani said of Trump’s recollection. Giuliani added that Trump recalled, “‘It was all going from the day I announced to the day I won.’”

Trump previously said that there was no deal. His take then evolved to say that there was a deal and everyone knew about it.

“The president couldn’t tell you the exact day it started and the exact day it ended; he remembers it started and he remembers it ended,” Giuliani told the New York Times. “It never got to anything concrete.”

Giuliani alleged to CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday that Cohen was trying to get a reduced sentence. Cohen was convicted of lying to Congress, however. He’s also previously received a sentence for his guilty pleas, so it’s unclear what sentence Giulian is talking about.

The lawyer also said that Trump would never have directly told Cohen to lie. It’s unclear if there were unspoken instructions to do so, however. Giuliani refused to answer a question about it when Tapper asked.

The special counsel’s office reported that the initial BuzzFeed report claiming Trump told Cohen to lie is not accurate according to their records.


Legal scholar explains what to expect from Mueller’s ‘potentially most explosive investigation in U.S. history’ — and why he’s ‘incapable of saving us’

Andrew O'Hehir, Salon - COMMENTARY
21 Jan 2019 at 15:13 ET                  

Will special counsel Robert Mueller indict President Trump for any of the numerous crimes the latter has plausibly committed? Almost certainly not. Will Mueller file a report with the Justice Department — likely meaning Trump’s incoming attorney general, William Barr — that forms the basis for impeachment? Of course we don’t know that yet, but I wouldn’t bet the ranch on that outcome. In fact, I’d be reluctant to bet five bucks that anything in Mueller’s report will change the political calculus around Trump’s presidency, or hasten his departure from office in any way.

Almost everything University of Arizona law professor Andrew Coan had to say in our Salon Talks conversation was worth hearing. Coan is the author of “Prosecuting the President: How Special Prosecutors Hold Presidents Accountable and Protect the Rule of Law,” a fascinating study of the role played by special prosecutors in America’s legal and political history that could not possibly be better timed.

But I think Coan’s most important observation about Robert Mueller’s investigation came in the form of a warning, right at the end of our discussion. Here’s the spoiler:

I think it’s become really an article of faith among liberals that if Mueller’s allowed to complete his investigation he’s going to produce a really damaging report. I think conservatives secretly share this belief, which is why we see them attacking Robert Mueller so relentlessly. I mean, you don’t typically attempt to destroy the person that you think is about to exonerate you. But I don’t think we know enough to be confident that this report will in fact be as damaging as either side assumes.

Maybe that sounds like a buzzkill to many members of the anti-Trump “resistance,” but the message of Coan’s book is remarkably clear, even in his detailed study of special prosecutors past. In the most famous example, Coan provides a detailed and highly compelling account of how Leon Jaworski, the cautious and conservative Watergate special prosecutor, brought down Richard Nixon by naming the president as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the Watergate cover-up and laying out a “road map” that would likely have led to Nixon’s impeachment in the House and conviction in the Senate.

In a less savory example, Coan describes how Ken Starr’s investigation of a failed real estate deal in Arkansas escaped containment and turned into the Monica Lewinsky scandal, ending with Bill Clinton’s impeachment over lies he told to cover up an extramarital affair. He also explores the instructive failure of Iran-Contra independent counsel Lawrence Walsh, who spent years untangling the complex history of the Reagan administration’s clandestine deals with Iran and the Nicaraguan rebels but was ultimately unable to bring any of the major figures involved to justice. (That’s not all! Earlier special prosecutors took on scandals within the administrations of Harry Truman, Teddy Roosevelt, Warren G. Harding, James Garfield and Ulysses S. Grant. It’s a treasure trove for history mavens.)

Across all these examples, circumstances, laws and political climates varied immensely, but in exactly none of them did the appointed outside prosecutor ride in on a white charger, clean everything up and dispense justice to all parties. It’s always politics, meaning public scrutiny and public vigilance, that decides whether special prosecutors are allowed to do their jobs and determines what sort of justice (if any) will be dealt to high officials accused of criminal conduct or corruption. That’s certainly what will determine the outcome of the Mueller investigation as well.

There is a strong upside visible here amid the confusion, Coan believes. The fact that special prosecutor investigations continue to happen and are allowed to proceed — including this one — is itself a testament to the enduring strength of our visibly damaged democracy. There is no doubt, in legal or constitutional terms, that Trump has the authority to fire Robert Mueller — or that every previous president afflicted by a special prosecutor could have dismissed that person, limited his powers or crippled his investigation.

Nixon famously fired Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor who preceded Jaworski, a decision that did not end well for the president. Trump has clearly been itching to fire Mueller since virtually the instant the latter was appointed. Trump has rid himself of numerous other officials he believed were disloyal, including the FBI director and the attorney general — but even the most rule-breaky, norm-scorning president in our history has been convinced by aides and underlings that the political cost of cashiering a special prosecutor is simply too high.

As Coan puts it, that illustrates the fact that “the American people are still capable of doing their job.” If we ever see a Mueller report, at the end of all this, and if it ever leads to something resembling justice for a manifestly corrupt president, that will be because we insist on it.

My conversation with Andrew Coan has been lightly edited for length and clarity. You can watch the full interview embedded above.

Andrew, we may need to investigate you for possible collusion with the Senate Judiciary Committee or the office of special counsel Robert Mueller. Given that these issues are in the news, especially with William Barr up for confirmation as the next attorney general, you could not possibly have timed this better.

It was just sheer luck. I assure you.

This book is, among many other things, a fascinating history of the role of special prosecutors in American history. I assume you began writing this after Mueller had been appointed to investigate Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, right?

I did. I started writing this book last February, so I was very well aware of the special counsel’s current investigation. That was a big part of my motivation.

But the past history is definitely relevant, especially the history of the Watergate investigation and special prosecutor Leon Jaworski and the history of the Bill Clinton investigation, the Lewinsky matter, and Ken Starr — whatever he was, a special prosecutor or an independent counsel. The terminology keeps shifting, which is something you talk about in the book.

That’s right. “Special prosecutor” is a generic term that refers to any kind of outside prosecutor appointed to investigate the president or his administration. “Independent counsel” is a specific term that refers to a kind of special and especially powerful special prosecutor that existed for only 20 years, between 1978 and 1998, as the result of a post-Watergate law which was then allowed to lapse after Bill Clinton’s impeachment.

Largely because of the Ken Starr investigation.

Because of the Ken Starr investigation, although also because of Republican concerns about Lawrence Walsh’s investigation of the Iran-Contra affair. Each side had a reason. They could demonstrate exhibit A for why the special counsel, or the independent counsel as it was then called, had grown too powerful.

Could you possibly have imagined the current situation when you started to write this book? You’ve obviously studied this stuff; you understood what Mueller’s brief was and what he was supposed to investigate. Could you have anticipated that he was going to investigate the president of the United States as a possible Russian agent?

Well, I think that has been on the table from the very beginning of this investigation. I think it’s important to emphasize that we don’t know yet what he has found in that investigation or even whether that aspect of his investigation remains ongoing.

The New York Times, of course, confirmed [earlier this month] that senior officials in the FBI opened what they call a subfile, a special investigatory file, to investigate whether the president was acting either wittingly or unwittingly — there’s another important distinction — on behalf of Russian interests when he fired FBI director James Comey. When Rod Rosenstein shortly thereafter appointed Robert Mueller as a special counsel, then Mueller inherited that investigation. We don’t know, since Mueller’s operation has been basically leak-proof, whether that investigation remains ongoing or exactly what it has turned up.

I think it is fair to say that it is shocking and unprecedented to think that the senior leadership of the FBI concluded that there was sufficient factual basis to at least begin an investigation on this front. That’s a pretty big deal.

I don’t want to come off as overly partisan here, and I know neither do you. But doesn’t that make this the most explosive of all of the special prosecutor investigations? I mean, Richard Nixon was clearly going to be impeached and probably convicted in the Senate. But look: He covered up a burglary. No one ever accused Nixon of being the agent of a foreign government, wittingly or unwittingly.

This is potentially the most explosive special prosecutor investigation in U.S. history, but we’re really not going to know the answer to that question until Robert Mueller files his report with the attorney general. It seems like that that attorney general will be William Barr by the time the report is complete. Of course, then there will be a question about what Barr does with that report.

As many senators pushed him on [at last week’s confirmation hearings], under the current special counsel regulations, which date all the way back to 2000 and the post-Clinton impeachment era, the special counsel is required to file a confidential report with the attorney general at the conclusion of his investigation.

That was in part a response to the perceived excesses of Ken Starr during the Clinton investigation. Ken Starr published a thick and salacious report on the Monica Lewinsky affair. He forwarded it to the House of Representatives and did not himself make it public. But Newt Gingrich and the House Republicans at that time immediately did choose to make it public, and there were a lot of people who thought that really didn’t serve the public interest. There was a lot in that report which was simply of prurient interest, rather than legitimate investigative interest.

So in response to those concerns, the current special counsel regulations, drafted by Bill Clinton’s Justice Department staff, require the special counsel to submit a confidential report. Then it’s up to the attorney general, who is of course accountable to the president and will face significant political pressure to release this report, to make a decision.

How do you read what Barr told the Senate committee about his intentions with regard to the Mueller report?

It’s a little bit hard to parse the testimony of William Barr on this point. He definitely made some strong opening commitments to transparency. He strongly suggested that he believe that the American people need to see a credible resolution to the issues that Robert Mueller is investigating. But he also would not commit to releasing the full report and offered various caveats about what he might disclose or not disclose, both to the public and to Congress.

I read Barr as being extremely careful. He’s a former attorney general, way back in the first Bush administration. He obviously knows the law. He is also suspected of having a strong partisan interest and identifies as a conservative Republican. He has seemed to endorse possible investigations of Hillary Clinton, based on right-wing fringe conspiracy theories. It struck me that he was trying to walk a very fine line between “I’m going to be an attorney general for this embattled Republican president who has a very strong constituency on the right,” and “I’m going to follow the letter of the law, and I’m a guy who knows about that.”

I think that’s basically a fair characterization. He’s certainly an extremely careful lawyer. He served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush and as a senior official in the Justice Department for many years before that. He is, in many ways, one of the most qualified and experienced nominees to the position of attorney general.

On the one hand, I think it would be unwise to overlook the wiggle room that he has left himself, and it will be important for the public to be vigilant, if he is eventually confirmed, to make sure that he adheres to both the spirit and the letter — and maybe the spirit and not just the letter — of his testimony before Congress. Because he could adhere to the literal meaning of what he said to the Senate and withhold substantial portions of the Mueller report and, in fact, exercise his supervisory powers over the investigation in various ways that would substantially hamper Robert Mueller’s work. I think the hope has to be — and public pressure will play a large role in determining whether this hope is realized — that Barr really means what he says and that he lives up to the spirit of his remarks and not just the letter.

I’ve always believed that regardless of what the Constitution says or doesn’t say it was extremely unlikely, bordering on impossible, that Mueller was going to indict President Trump for anything. You generally subscribe to that view as well.

That’s right. There’s a current Justice Department policy, first established during the Nixon administration and reaffirmed during the Clinton administration, that a sitting president may not be charged with or indicted for a crime. It’s also quite clear that a president who has left office, because his term’s expired or as the result of impeachment and removal by the Senate, can be charged with a crime. But as long as Trump is the sitting president, I think it is virtually inconceivable to imagine Robert Mueller indicting him for a crime.

To clarify that a bit, possible crimes committed while holding the office of the president would not be immunized once you are no longer president. Is that fair?

Well, it depends on exactly what the crime in question is. One of the things that got William Barr in hot water in the months leading up to his confirmation hearing was a controversial memo that he wrote in June of last year as a private citizen and sent to the Department of Justice, as well as the president’s own personal legal team, arguing that a president cannot commit the crime of obstruction of justice when — these are the exact words of the memo, I think — he is “exercising the discretion vested in him in the Constitution.” This would include things like firing the FBI director or ordering the FBI director to drop an investigation into national security adviser Michael Flynn for his role in possible collusion with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign.

On the views expressed in Barr’s memos, the Constitution protects the president’s ability to make those decisions for any reason whatever. So the president could argue that he was acting under his constitutional authority in taking those actions, if he were to be charged with obstruction of justice.

But just as a blanket matter, there is no immunity. There is no prohibition on the indictment of a sitting president for his conduct while in office, although it’s never happened in American history.

One of the famous details of the Watergate scandal that always fascinated me was when Richard Nixon was named by the grand jury as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the Watergate cover-up, which was the intellectual and legal compromise that Leon Jaworski and his team came up with. So the president was not directly charged with a crime, but was effectively accused of one. Now, as I learned from your book, current Justice Department regulations discourage that device and that language.

But here’s my question: Haven’t we already come pretty close to that in the Michael Cohen case? Cohen has testified that when he made an illegal payment to Stormy Daniels, he was doing so at the bidding of the president of the United States. So while Donald Trump was not directly named, it strikes me that the unindicted co-conspirator in that case is perfectly obvious to all of us.

Well, the identity of the person that Michael Cohen says directed him to make the payments, referred to as “Individual 1” in the court documents, is perfectly clear. Everybody knows that is Donald Trump. But I don’t think we’ve quite crossed the line of Trump being named as an unindicted co-conspirator. In some of the media commentary in the immediate aftermath of the sentencing memos that the Manhattan prosecutors filed, some eminent legal scholars said, yes, this is in fact amounts to the president being named an unindicted co-conspirator.

I think they overlooked one crucial fact. It’s really close, and it’s really damning for the president. But the sentencing memo does not address Donald Trump’s state of mind, and that’s a crucial element of these campaign finance offenses. It seems likely, based on the sentencing memo and on the statement that Cohen made when he pled guilty in this case, that prosecutors probably have sufficient evidence to establish that the president had a guilty state of mind and therefore did violate criminal federal campaign finance laws. But because this isn’t a charging document aimed at the president, it does not directly address that question, which is likely to be the crucial one if these charges ever were to come before a court.

I note that Congressman Jerry Nadler, who’s now the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has said he believes that is probably an impeachable offense, while adding that doesn’t mean Congress should impeach the president for it. There’s a couple of ways to read that. One possibility is that Nadler is saying, well, let’s wait and see what else there is before we go down that track, maybe something that’s even more clearly impeachable is still to come. Or maybe he’s just being cautious and factual: Yes, a campaign finance violation is clearly against the law, but it might not rise to the threshold of being worth trying to kick the guy out of office.

I think that’s basically right. I interpret him as saying, look, this offense meets the legal threshold under the Constitution for impeaching the president. We would be acting within our constitutional authority if we impeached the president for committing this offense, if we concluded that there was a factual basis to believe that he committed it.

But the Constitution doesn’t obligate the House of Representatives to impeach a president who has committed crimes and misdemeanors, or for the Senate to remove that president. It gives them the discretion. It imposes or creates a judgment call for both houses of Congress, and it’s a very serious decision, one with enormous consequences for the country. I think it’s probably wise for someone in Nadler’s position to approach this matter cautiously, because, either way, however it comes out and whatever side you’re on politically, impeachment is a wrenching process for the nation.

It’s worth noting that no president has ever actually been removed from office through that mechanism. I suppose we all assume that would have happened to Nixon, but we can’t know that.

It seemed like a virtual certainty in Nixon’s case. The writing really was on the wall. In the summer of 1974, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in United States v. Nixon and ordered Nixon to turn over those famous White House tapes, including the smoking gun tape which featured him ordering the CIA, through his chief of staff, to shut down the FBI’s Watergate investigation, the House Judiciary Committee had already voted articles of impeachment out to the full House.

When they voted, 13 Republican members of that committee voted against impeachment. Several Republicans actually voted in favor of impeachment, which seems kind of remarkable today, but 13 voted against it, which was a majority of the Republican members of that committee. But after those tapes came out, which clearly showed Nixon trying to squash the FBI’s Watergate investigation based on a bogus national security rationale, all 13 of those Republicans issued a public statement saying that they had changed their minds, that in light of this new evidence even they would have voted to impeach the president. That made it pretty clear to Nixon that he could not survive any longer, and he resigned very shortly thereafter.

It’s difficult to imagine anything like that ever occurring with President Trump, isn’t it?

There are some key differences between the American political landscape in 1974 and today. I think the most important is what political scientists call the hyper-polarization of American politics. This means that the American people and their elected representatives in Congress tend to see almost every issue through a partisan lens, and they see politics as a zero-sum game between the two parties. This makes it very hard both for individual voters who are trying to think about these questions and for members of Congress who have to worry about their constituents and a primary challenge in the next election, to really examine their conscience and examine the evidence and try to look at these things through a nonpartisan lens.

The other key structural change to American politics since 1974 is this populist moment that we’re living through, in which the president has a direct and visceral personal relationship with a large subset of Republican voters, his base, his core constituency. This has allowed President Trump to transgress political norms that no other president could ever have gotten away with. Any Republican thinking about abandoning the president and voting for impeachment or voting to remove him from office is going to have to think about those voters.

On the other hand, what Watergate illustrates, I think, is that the American people are capable of changing their mind. When Richard Nixon was inaugurated for his second term in January of 1973, he had just won re-election by what was then the largest popular vote margin in American history. His public approval rating was 67 percent at the time of his inauguration. By the summer of 1974 when he resigned the presidency, his approval rating had fallen to 24 percent, which means, of course, that tens of millions of Republican voters had changed their mind about the president in light of the evidence unearthed by the special prosecutor.

Our political environment is very different today than it was in 1974, but I don’t think we should rule out the possibility that something in Robert Mueller’s report might be capable of changing the public’s mind and changing Congress’ mind.

How much or how carefully do you think Robert Mueller has studied the history of previous special prosecutors and the outcomes of their investigations? What lessons would you suspect he has taken from those?

I have no idea how closely Robert Mueller has studied the history of those investigations. If he’s interested, I’ve got a great book that I could recommend to him. [Laughter.]

Have you sent him a copy?

I have not sent him a copy. That seemed a little presumptuous to me, but I think he can find one if he’s looking for it. I think the principal lesson of this history is really not so much a lesson for Robert Mueller, although it has implications for him, but a lesson for the country, which is that special prosecutors like Robert Mueller are incapable of saving us from ourselves.

At the end of the day, whether the president is above the law is ultimately a question for the American people. I think we’re having a moment like that right now — really at this very moment, during these Barr hearings — where public scrutiny has forced the president to nominate a basically credible attorney general candidate, and has forced that candidate to make some significant commitments on the record to allow the special counsel to complete his investigation.

As I mentioned earlier, there are certainly some reasons for concern about Barr as a nominee. Based on his testimony, he’s left himself some wiggle room, as you would expect a careful lawyer to do. But I think the big takeaway from these hearings is that Barr has committed to allow Mueller to complete his work.

He has said, in response to a direct question, that he would not fire Robert Mueller without good cause, even if the president ordered him to — that he would resign before he would take that action. That is a big deal, and I think we have gotten to this place, improbably, because the American people have been paying attention. Not all of them, of course, have been analyzing these issues through a nonpartisan lens. But enough of the American people have been paying attention that it has placed substantial pressure, even on this unorthodox, norm-smashing president, to allow these investigation to go on despite his own obvious desire to fire Robert Mueller, as far back as June of 2017.

It’s really quite remarkable, when you think about it, that all this time President Trump has had the power to get rid of Robert Mueller, to squash his investigation. He is the most powerful man in the most powerful country on Earth, and yet Robert Mueller has managed to survive. The reason he’s managed to survive is because even Trump knows that the political consequences of firing Robert Mueller or significantly interfering with his investigation would pose a grave threat to his presidency. That, I think, is an example, an illustration that the American people are still capable of doing their job, although there have been some really close calls and we’re not out of the woods yet.

What do you think will come out of the Mueller investigation? What do you hope will come out of it?

I’m going to punt on that. It would be irresponsible to speculate on that question. But I will say that the reason we have these investigations is to find out what happened. I think that both liberals and conservatives have tended to think about this in the wrong way. I think it’s become an article of faith among liberals that if Mueller’s allowed to complete his investigation he’s going to produce a really damaging report. I think conservatives secretly share this belief, which is why we see them attacking Robert Mueller so relentlessly. I mean, you don’t typically attempt to destroy the person that you think is about to exonerate you.

But I don’t think we know enough to be confident that this report will in fact be as damaging as either side assumes. There are a lot of key questions that we don’t yet know the answers to. There’s a huge amount of smoke here, and there seems almost certain to be some kind of fire. But exactly how big that fire is, who’s involved and who started it, we really don’t know yet.


Latest Trump bombshells prove he knew Don Jr and Manafort colluded with Russians: ex-prosecutor

Raw Story

According to former New York City homicide prosecutor Paul Callan, there is no way Donald Trump could not have known that his 2016 presidential campaign was working with the Russians to get him elected.

Speaking with CNN host Jim Sciutto, Callan — a CNN legal analyst — was asked about Trump legal adviser Rudy Giuliani confirming there may have been collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians.

Callan began by noting the money that was reportedly paid to the president’s alleged mistress Stormy Daniels at Trump’s behest was small potatoes for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators before turning to campaign chairman Paul Manafort serving up polling data to the Russians.

“The question becomes, does Mueller have evidence that ties anyone who may have colluded on the Trump team back to the president?” host Sciutto asked. “How hard of a line is it to draw and how significant?”

“Well, it is a difficult thing to do although I think if you step back, most people say, ‘how could the president not know his campaign manager is slipping polling information to the Russians?” Callan replied. “How could the president not know when his own son orchestrated a meeting in the Trump Tower with Russian representatives to get dirt on Hillary Clinton? It all looks like the president knew a lot.”

“But the defense here is: he didn’t know,” he continued. “We’ll have to see what Mueller has. I’m assuming there may be other things because the Mueller investigation has been thorough and detailed in every case when an indictment is filed.”

Watch the video via CNN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dmz2AFIGzFQ


Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo belong to a doomsday cult — and may be trying to bring on the apocalypse

Raw Story

President Donald Trump’s vice president and secretary of state appear to have a conflict between their private religious beliefs and their public duties, according to a financial journalist.

Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo are each a “genuine, end-of-days, believer in the apocalypse,” and Financial Times journalist Edward Luce said their religious beliefs about the end times exerts a troubling influence on their duties.

“Generally I believe a public figure’s beliefs should be irrelevant to their job,” Luce wrote. “Whether they’re atheist, Opus Dei, Buddhist or Muslim, should have no bearing on our assessment of their fitness for office. Yet I can’t help but feel anxious that both of Donald Trump’s main global envoys, Pompeo and Pence, have a conflict between their private beliefs and what they publicly claim to be doing.”

Luce argued that both Trump administration officials were part of a “millenarian cult,” and he worried their “militant creed” would influence their public policies to spark a “final conflagration in which the righteous will vanquish the wicked.”

“Call me a serial fretter, but I don’t take comfort from the fact that Pence is a heartbeat away from being commander-in-chief,” Luce wrote. “Nor do I see Pompeo as one of the grown-ups restraining Trump. He’s an enabler, not a preventer. Where Trump goes, Pompeo will follow. Let’s hope Trump never gets religion.”


‘Cornered animal’ Trump is ‘afraid’ in a way never seen before: former Trump Organization executive

Raw Story

Former executive vice president of the Trump Organization Barbara Res told CNN on Friday that President Donald Trump used to ‘roll with the punches’ — but the stress of his mounting scandals and investigations has the president ‘afraid’ in a way she’s never seen.

“Typically and historically, he always rolled with the punches,” Res told host Brianna Keilar. “He used to say all press is good press. Now I don’t see that. I see him going into a corner, I see him scratching back like a cornered animal. I think he’s afraid.”

Res added that Nancy Pelosi was getting under the president’s skin, and mocked Trump’s retaliatory cancelation of the House Speaker’s military flight to Afghanistan.

“What’s kind of funny about it is he likes to hit back, where you shoot him with a water pistol and he’ll shoot you back with a Magnum or something,” she laughed.

“He likes to hit back ten times harder than he’s been hit or more, and he’s got nothing to hit her back with,” Res added. “This is silly. It looks ridiculous.”


A party built on lies: Here’s why Donald Trump is the perfect GOP leader

Lucian K. Truscott IV, Salon - COMMENTARY
21 Jan 2019 at 08:36 ET                  

It’s hard to put your finger on the foundational lie of the modern Republican Party, there are so many contenders. But I would date it back to Ronald Reagan and the lie of supply side economics. Remember that whopper? Even George Bush the First called it “voodoo economics” before he embraced it. The idea that lowering taxes would raise revenue was as close to a perfect Republican lie as there ever was. It simultaneously lined the pockets of the wealthy, “starved the beast” of government (in the immortal words of Grover Norquist), and laid the groundwork to attack the so-called “entitlements” of Social Security and Medicare as the culprits when the deficit inevitably blew up. That the arguments for lowering taxes were spurious if not entirely fact free was just icing on the cake.

This article first appeared on Salon.

The only thing Republicans have learned from Donald Trump is that they no longer have to lie strategically. They don’t need a rationale behind a lie. Trump has taught them that all lies, all the time is the way to go. They didn’t even bother trying to defend the Trump/Ryan tax cuts of 2017 with lies about increased revenues and lowered deficits. They just sat back and threw money at their rich donors and let Trump sign the tax cuts into law, and then of course immediately went after Social Security and Medicare for blowing up the deficit.

They’ve been looking for a professional liar like Donald Trump to lead them for decades. Remember how they turned on George Bush the First when he went back on his pledge of no new taxes? Bush had the gall to actually take stuff like the budget and the deficit into account when he raised taxes half way through his term. That was it for Bush. Enough Republicans stayed home on election day in 1992 that Bill Clinton turned Bush into a one-term president.

The arrival of Slick Willie in White House opened the door for the lie that was the Whitewater investigation. Whitewater begat an early embrace by the Republican Party of far-right conspiracy mongers who floated the story that White House aide Vince Foster had been murdered by the Clintons. Foster committed suicide by shooting himself in the mouth, but that wasn’t good enough for loons like Republican Congressman Dan Burton of Indiana, who shot a watermelon in his own backyard to prove that the FBI didn’t know anything about investigating a murder.

It wasn’t far from Dan Burton’s theories about the Clintons murdering Vince Foster to the lie that Hillary Clinton was running a pedophile sex ring out of a Washington D.C. pizza place. Shades of Whitewater, they managed to spend a couple of years and about $8 million investigating Hillary for Benghazi. It’s not really necessary to go into all the lies they floated because pretty much all they did was yell “Benghazi! Benghazi!” and that was all the evidence they needed that somehow Clinton was responsible for a terrorist attack on a State Department outpost in Libya. Even Trey Gowdy’s own committee’s report had to admit there was nothing to the charges. But that didn’t stop them from  using “Benghazi” as a battle cry against Clinton during her 2016 run for president.

It was during Bill Clinton’s presidency that Republican leader Newt Gingrich put into practice his infamous list of words to use against Democrats. Looking for a way to take back the House of Representatives after some four  decades of Democratic rule, Gingrich counseled Republican candidates not to attack Democratic policies, but simply to say they were working to undermine America and American values. They were to say Democrats were “undermining” our “values.” They were “radicals” and “traitors” set on “betraying” their country. Democrats were “anti-flag,” “sick,” “permissive,” “corrupt,” and “destructive.”

It was a strategy of lies and name-calling, lacking even a nod in the direction of ideas or truth, and it was a harbinger of things to come.

They elected George W. Bush in 2000 on a campaign of lies about Al Gore claiming to have invented the internet. When the attacks of 9/11 happened, they launched the blizzard of lies that got us into invading Iraq. WMD’s, mobile chemical weapons labs, Saddam’s close ties to al-Qaeda — they went on and on, each lie bigger and better than the last. But perhaps the biggest of them all was when they sold the war in Iraq by saying it would “pay for itself.” Remember that Paul Wolfowitz jewel?Some six trillion dollars later, (according to estimates by Brown University), what are they doing? Trump sold the wall by saying Mexico would pay for it. When that one fell apart, Republicans are of course assuring us it will “pay for itself.”

By the time Bush was running for re-election in 2004, things were sufficiently upside down in Iraq and Afghanistan that Republicans couldn’t run on having “won,” so they turned loose the loons and went after Bush’s opponent John Kerry with the “Swift Boat” lies. Kerry, who had been decorated for valor in combat with a Bronze Star and Silver Star and was awarded not one, but two Purple Hearts, was attacked in a blizzard of lies orchestrated primarily by John O’Neill and Jerome Corsi. Recognize that name? Corsi’s back in the news with new lies about his and Roger Stone’s connections to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and what they did to aid Trump’s campaign for president. These guys just don’t go away, do they? Nor do the Republicans who use their lies to achieve and remain in power.

It turned out that the Swift Boat campaign against Kerry was just a practice run for what they had in store for Barack Obama when he won the presidency.

Republicans didn’t bother with “facts” at all, fake or otherwise, when they went after Obama for not being born in this country and practicing the Muslim religion. They just threw the lies out there and kept repeating them. And you know who repeated them the most, don’t you? Donald Trump. Remember him calling for Obama’s birth certificate? And remember what he did when Obama produced it? He wanted another. When he got that one, he announced that he was sending detectives to Hawaii to uncover the conspiracy behind Obama’s birth certificate. When his fake investigation in Hawaii didn’t turn up anything, he just kept lying.

That was when Republicans finally took notice of Trump. Here was a guy who was untethered to either facts or morals. He was the perfect Republican. He was like a one-note Newt Gingrich. He didn’t have to say anything other than Obama was not an American. He didn’t care that it was a lie. He just kept repeating it over and over and over again.

Every single Republican in congress, every single Republican thinking about running for president, every single Republican Party official knew it was all a lie, every last syllable uttered by Trump. But try finding a Republican who would say it. They were busy lying at top speed about the Affordable Care Act. It would explode the deficit! They were lying about Obama’s attempts at stimulus to recover from the Great Recession. Inflation! The deficit!

Meanwhile, Trump was out there undermining Obama every day for them with his nonsense about the birth certificate, and his father was an anti-colonial socialist, and he’s a Muslim and whatever else came out of his mouth. Republicans were happy Trump was out there doing their dirty work for them.

What they didn’t see coming was Trump doing his dirty work on them. Remember the Republican primaries? More than a dozen candidates for president, some of them establishment figures like Jeb Bush and John Kasich, others like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio at least marginally respectable. Remember how weird Trump looked up on those debate stages at first? He would just stand there, looking kind of lost. He stepped in it with stuff like not knowing what the “nuclear triad” was, and the rest of them got self-satisfied smiles on their faces.

Then Trump went after them the same way he went after Obama. No facts. No policies. Just name calling and derision. They had as little idea as Obama did about how to get him to back off. It turned out they couldn’t, and one by one they fell. In retrospect, it was blindingly fast. One day there were a dozen or so on the stage. The next, three.

Trump’s empty, bottomless lies worked. At first, the Republican “establishment” was appalled. The National Review devoted an entire issue to anti-Trump diatribes. Then they decided to get  on board. Hey, wait a minute, they seemed to say. This guy is one of us after all! He’s willing to lie about anything! And when his lies are proven false, he just doubles down! And then he repeats them!

Republicans don’t have anything to run on that anyone actually likes. Tax cuts for the wealthy? Nope. Killing Obamacare? Not that either. The misbegotten wars in Iraq and Afghanistan they got us into and spent us into the poorhouse with? I don’t think so.

What they needed was somebody who didn’t stand for anything, who didn’t care about boring stuff like “issues” and “policy,” who was willing to take every lie they’d been pushing for 40 years and make them his own. They wanted someone at the head of their party and in the White House who didn’t care about who he appointed to his cabinet, who didn’t care if the government stopped doing stuff like taking care of the air and the water and inspecting food and testing drugs for safety, who would let predatory lenders rip off poor people while Wall Streeters ran amok, who wasn’t afraid to take the leash off the racist and xenophobic fringe in the party, who cared even more than they did about getting rich off the fat of the land and fuck everybody else.

They wanted a perfect Republican, and they’ve got him in Donald Trump.

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