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Jamal Khashoggi murder: Saudi Arabia refuses to extradite suspects to Turkey

Kingdom hits back at Turkey’s handling of investigation into death of journalist

Bethan McKernan in Beirut and agencies
Mon 10 Dec 2018 10.19 GMT

Saudi Arabia has ruled out extraditing suspects held over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, as alleged details giving the fullest picture of the journalist’s last moments yet emerged.

In Riyadh on Sunday, the Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, reiterated that the kingdom had no extradition policy for citizens, after fresh arrest warrants were issued by Turkey last week for two top Saudi officials since sacked over their alleged role in the dissident writer’s killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

He also criticised Turkey’s handling of the investigation into Khashoggi’s death, saying the authorities in Ankara had “not been as forthcoming as we believe they should have been”.

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, says the operation to kill Khashoggi was ordered at the highest levels of the Saudi establishment, and has strongly suggested that the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was involved, steadily leaking information from the investigation to pressure his rival in Riyadh.

Riyadh has maintained the killing was a rogue operation carried out without the powerful crown prince’s knowledge.

More than two months since Khashoggi’s disappearance, Saudi Arabia is still facing international condemnation over his brutal murder and alleged dismemberment at the hands of a Saudi hit team. The 61-year-old’s body has still not been found and is thought by Turkish investigators to have been dissolved in acid.

According to a purported transcript of an audio recording of Khashoggi’s killing central to Turkey’s case against Saudi Arabia and shared with CNN, the journalist recognises someone whom CNN identifies as Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a former Saudi diplomat and intelligence official working for Prince Mohammed.

After an exchange in which Mutreb allegedly says, “You’re coming back” and Khashoggi replies, “You can’t do that, there are people waiting outside for me”, the transcript describes noises consistent with a scuffle and Khashoggi says, “I can’t breathe” several times.

The recording then captures the sounds of screams and gasps and then noises identified as “sawing” and “cutting”.

A voice that Turkish authorities have previously identified as Dr Salah Mohammed al-Tubaigy, the head of forensic medicine at Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry, says, “If you don’t like the noise, put your earphones in or listen to music like me” during the dismemberment.

Mutreb makes several phone calls, including one Turkey says was made to a member of the Saudi royal court, in which he says “tell yours”, believed to mean Prince Mohammed, “The thing is done, it is done.”

Turkey has refused to say how the audio recording was obtained, although its existence has been confirmed by Erdoğan and western officials, who also say they have listened to it.

The office of a US senator briefed on the ongoing investigation by the CIA director, Gina Haspel, told CNN the transcript was consistent with that briefing.

Monday’s revelations came after a Republican senator rebuked the White House over its handling of the affair, after reports that Jared Kushner had counselled Prince Mohammed over the fallout from the journalist’s murder.

“We don’t need direct evidence that [the Saudi crown prince] ordered the code red on this thing,” Marco Rubio said. “The bottom line is that there is no way that 17 people close to [Prince Mohammed] got a charter plane, flew to a third country, went into a consulate, killed and chopped up a man and flew back, and he didn’t know about it, much less order it.”

He added: “Saudi Arabia is not a de-centralised country. That in a country like that, a man with his power, his influence and his control did not know it and did not order, it’s just not believable.”

On Saturday, a New York Times report said Kushner, senior adviser to his father-in-law, the president, had become “the prince’s most important defender inside the White House”.

The administration has acknowledged one call between the two men since Khashoggi’s disappearance, on 9 October, joined by the national security adviser, John Bolton. Citing “American officials and a Saudi briefed on their conversations”, the NYT said Kushner and Prince Mohammed have “continued to chat informally”.

Citing the unnamed Saudi source, the paper said, “Kushner has offered the crown prince advice about how to weather the storm, urging him to resolve his conflicts around the region and avoid further embarrassments”.

The US Senate is due to vote on Monday on a resolution to direct the removal of American forces from the Saudi-led war in Yemen, unless authorised by Congress. A resolution condemning Bin Salman is also expected to be voted on.


Transcript revealed of assassinated Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s final moments as he screams for his life

Raw Story

The transcript of the horrifying recording of Jamal Khashoggi’s has been released in an exclusive CNN report Sunday.

According to the CNN report, Khashoggi exclaimed that he couldn’t breathe and then screamed as the transcript revealed the sound of a saw could be heard.

When Khashoggi first entered the embassy, he was told he was “going back,” the transcript claims. He then told them that they can’t do that because there are people waiting outside for him.

“I can’t breathe,” Khashoggi can be heard saying. “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”

The transcript quoted “the sounds of Khashoggi’s body being dismembered by a saw, as the alleged perpetrators are advised to listen to music to block out the sound,” CNN reported.

According to the source that released the transcript, “a series of phone calls are made, briefing them on progress. Turkish officials believe the calls were made to senior figures in Riyadh.”

CNN said that this was only a partial transcript and the full one might reveal more identifying characteristics about who might have been involved.

The CIA briefed top Intelligence Committee Senators this week, leaving many horrified and others scrambling to excuse the bizarre responses coming out of the White House defending Saudi officials.


Rubio slams White House on Khashoggi after report Kushner counselled prince

    New York Times says Trump adviser coaching Saudi prince
    Senator: Prince Mohammed likely ‘ordered code red’ on killing

Martin Pengelly
10 Dec 2018 20.08 GMT

A Republican senator has rebuked the Trump White House over its handling of the Jamal Khashoggi affair after it was reported that Jared Kushner had counselled Mohammed bin Salman over the fallout from the journalist’s murder.

“We don’t need direct evidence that [the Saudi crown prince] ordered the code red on this thing,” Marco Rubio said.

Khashoggi, a journalist and critic of the Saudi regime, was a Saudi national resident in the US who wrote for the Washington Post. He was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October. His body is believed to have been dismembered.

Citing the importance of the Saudis as allies, and standing contrary to the conclusions of the CIA, Donald Trump and his aides have steadfastly refused to say Prince Mohammed was responsible for Khashoggi’s death. The White House has levied sanctions against 17 Saudi individuals deemed to have been involved.

Prince Mohammed is the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia. Its government has given contradictory explanations for the death and denied the prince knew of it.

Rubio, a member of the Senate foreign relations committee, spoke to CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. He said: “The bottom line is that there is no way that 17 people close to Prince Mohammed got a charter plane, flew to a third country, went into a consulate, killed and chopped up a man and flew back, and he didn’t know about it, much less order it.”

He added: “Saudi Arabia is not a de-centralised country. That in a country like that, a man with his power, his influence and his control did not know it and did not order, it’s just not believable.”

Rubio backed a Senate resolution on the matter that was introduced on Wednesday. The other Republican sponsors were Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Todd Young of Indiana. The Democrats were Dianne Feinstein of California, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Chris Coons of Delaware.

The resolution says Prince Mohammed is “complicit” in and should be “held accountable” for the “abhorrent and unjustified murder”. It also says the prince has contributed to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, the blockade of Qatar and the “jailing and torture of dissidents and activists”.

On Saturday, a sweeping New York Times report said Kushner, senior adviser to his father-in-law, the president, had become “the prince’s most important defender inside the White House”.

The administration has acknowledged one call between the two men since Khashoggi’s disappearance, on 9 October and joined by national security adviser John Bolton. Citing “American officials and a Saudi briefed on their conversations”, the Times said Kushner and Prince Mohammed have “continued to chat informally”.

Citing the unnamed Saudi source, the paper said, “Kushner has offered the crown prince advice about how to weather the storm, urging him to resolve his conflicts around the region and avoid further embarrassments”.

Rubio was asked if such White House behaviour constituted a defence of American values. He said he couldn’t say if the Times story was accurate, but added: “This story is as much about America as it is about Khashoggi. Obviously what happened to that man was terrible, but it’s also about who we are as a nation.

“This is a crown prince that is a reckless individual,” he said. “He’s going to continue to test the boundaries of what he can get away with internationally and within our alliance, until those boundaries are set.”

He added: As a nation we cannot say that if our allies do something horrifying, we’re going to look away.

In an interview with the Atlantic published on Friday, the outgoing United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley said the US would not give the Saudis “a pass” and said that as Prince Mohammed’s “government did this … so he technically is responsible”. She added that “the administration needs to decide” what steps it will take.

On Sunday, Rubio was asked if he thought Haley’s nominated replacement, former Fox News host and state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, was qualified for such a senior job.

He told CBS’s Face the Nation he thought “she has the ability to do the job well”. But he added: “Does she have detailed knowledge of foreign policy to a level that will allow her to be successful at the United Nations? I don’t know.”

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Trump 'at center of massive fraud against Americans', top Democrat says

    Incoming House chair Nadler promises investigations
    Payments to women ‘would be impeachable offenses’

Erin Durkin in New York
12 Dec 2018 16.50 GMT

New court filings show Donald Trump was “at the center of a massive fraud” against the American people, the incoming chair of the House judiciary committee said on Sunday.

Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat set to take over the panel in January, said Trump would have committed impeachable offenses if it is proven that he ordered his lawyer to make illegal payments to women to keep quiet about alleged sexual encounters.

“What these indictments and filings show is that the president was at the center of a massive fraud – several massive frauds against the American people,” Nadler said on CNN’s “State of the Union”.

Another top Democrat, the California representative Adam Schiff, said Trump “could face the very real prospect of jail time”.

Federal prosecutors said in court filings on Friday that Trump directed his then lawyer, Michael Cohen, to commit two felonies: payments made to women who said they had sex with Trump in return for their silence, in an effort to influence the 2016 election.

“They would be impeachable offenses,” Nadler said, though he added it would still be a judgment call for lawmakers whether the offenses were important enough to warrant impeachment proceedings, which should only be launched in the gravest circumstances.

“Whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question,” he said. “But certainly, they’d be impeachable offenses, because even though they were committed before the president became president, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office.”

    The Republican Congress absolutely tried to shield the president. The new Congress will not try to shield the president
    Jerrold Nadler

After Democrats take control of the House, Nadler said, they will aggressively investigate what happened during the campaign.

“The Republican Congress absolutely tried to shield the president,” he said. “The new Congress will not try to shield the president. It will try to get to the bottom of this in order to serve the American people and stop this massive fraud on the American people.”

Perhaps consciously echoing a famous phrase from the Watergate scandal which brought down Richard Nixon, he added: “What did the president know and when did he know it about these crimes?”

Schiff, the incoming chair of the House intelligence committee, said the filings indicate prosecutors may move to indict Trump as soon as he leaves office. The justice department has taken the position that a sitting president cannot be indicted and prosecuted, though the point is disputed among legal scholars and politicians.

“There’s a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the justice department may indict him – that he may be the first president in quite some time to face the very real prospect of jail time,” Schiff said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

The California Democrat said the “powerful case” prosecutors made for Cohen to serve a prison sentence would apply “equally” to the man identified in filings as “Individual 1”: the president.

“To have the justice department basically say that the president of the United States not only coordinated but directed an illegal campaign scheme that may have had an election-altering impact is pretty breathtaking,” he said.

Schiff also said the intelligence committee will call Cohen to testify before Congress again. Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in prior testimony. Schiff said the committee has already been in touch with Cohen’s lawyer.

Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, said Trump’s alleged actions were “things that cannot and should not be ignored”.

“We want to know everything, and we will know everything that has happened here at some point,” Rubio said, also on CNN. “If someone has violated the law, the application of the law should be applied to them like it would be to any other citizen in the country.”

Appearing on CNN, ABC and CBS, Rubio repeatedly said a presidential pardon for Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chair whose links with Russia were also detailed in court filings on Friday, would not be a good idea. Trump has publicly declined to take the idea off the table.

“I believe it’d be a terrible mistake,” he told ABC’s This Week. “Pardons should be used judiciously. They’re used for cases with extraordinary circumstances.”

Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine who caucuses with Democrats, sounded a note of caution about the possibility of impeachment, saying there is not yet evidence that would broadly convince Americans they are warranted.

“If impeachment is moved forward on the evidence that we have now, at least a third of the country would think it was just political revenge and a coup against the president,” he told NBC’s Meet the Press. “That wouldn’t serve us well at all. The best way to solve a problem like this, to me, is elections.”

“You’re overturning the will of the voters,” he said. “I’m a conservative when it comes to impeachment. I think it’s a last resort and only when the evidence is clear of a really substantial legal violation … we may get there, but we are not there now.”


Extremely unusual’: At least 14 Trump associates interacted with Russians during the campaign and transition

Elizabeth Preza, AlterNet

The Washington Post on Sunday published a stunning analysis on the interactions between members of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia citizens, including those who offered to help is nomination and bolster his real estate business.

“Repeatedly, Russian nationals suggested Trump should hold a peacemaking sit-down with Vladi­mir Putin — and offered to broker such a summit,” the Post reports.

Michael McFaul, a former ambassador to Russia, called the interactions “extremely unusual.”

“Both the number of contacts and the nature of the contacts are extraordinary,” McFaul said.

The communications reveal a “sustained effort by the Russian government to interfere with the U.S. presidential election,” according to prosecutors who are working on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Those interactions were likewise verified by a top Kremlin official in 2016, who told the Interfax news agency that “a whole array of [Trump associates] supported contacts with Russian representatives.”


‘Out of his mind or stupid?’ MSNBC’s Mika destroys Trump’s increasingly frantic ‘no collusion’ denials

Raw Story
10 Dec 2018 at 07:15 ET

MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski said President Donald Trump is either “stupid” or mentally ill if he believes he can talk his way out of the gathering threat from special counsel Robert Mueller and other investigators.

The president was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in his attorney Michael Cohen’s sentencing documents, and he’s under investigation by state and federal authorities for a variety of allegations.

“I feel like Donald is sort of lost in this parallel universe that used to work, when what he said 100 times could finally become — partially, maybe — what people thought, and now he’s in Washington with a special counsel breathing down his throat and he thinks he can say ‘no collusion,’ and that means no collusion,” Brzezinski said.

MSNBC contributor Donny Deutsch said the president’s denials had become “laughable and pathetic,” and the “Morning Joe” co-host said there were really only two explanations for his behavior — neither of them good.

“The other option is that he’s lost his mind or he’s completely, completely — what’s the word for stupid that’s more polite?” Brzezinski said.

Deutsch said both options were correct.

“I think it’s a little bit of both,” he said. “We’ve talked ad nauseam on this show about this. This is a man who has lived his entire life without checks and balances, and he’s living in a town that was built on checks and balances and Madisonian principles. I think we’re going to see up close and personal a guy, a man, a president completely unravel.”

“We have a guy who, at best, is not playing with a full deck and now is under a pressure he’s never seen his entire life — and it’s just the beginning,” Deutsch added.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jgat6zGtGm4


Conservative columnist crushes GOP leadership for enabling Trump and the most ‘incompetent’ administration ever

Raw Story

Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin used the announcement that President Donald Trump wants the Senate to approve former “Fox & Friends” newsreader Heather Nauert as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to rip into the GOP leadership for rubber-stamping Trump’s incompetent nominees.

In a scathing column for the Washington Post, Rubin essentially told Republican leaders that enough is enough and to do their jobs.

“When Trump nominates Heather Nauert for ambassador to the United Nations — a woman who was until a year ago a Fox News personality and as a State Department spokesperson with zero experience in diplomacy — we can expect that, once more, the Republican-controlled Senate will issue its stamp of approval,” Rubin wrote.

“We shouldn’t be surprised that the least qualified president in history — with a long record of bankruptcies, refusal to pay his bills and schemes such as Trump University — should select unqualified and ethically challenged advisers and/or retain those whose ethical misdeeds and incompetence become apparent once in office,” she lectured before getting to the heart of the matter.

“However, we cannot blame Trump alone for lousy appointments and staffing the government with unfit characters,” Rubin accused. “The Constitution provides a check on the president’s ability to put shady characters in positions of power. It’s the current Republican Party that rejects that role and decides its job description is to enable Trump’s worst instincts.”

Asking, “Why is the Senate bringing and confirming candidates with questionable track records — on race or otherwise — to a vote on the floor?” Rubin stated that they need to man up and defy the president.

“If Senate Republicans started dinging just a few of the lousy nominees, the White House would get the message and be compelled to find more-qualified people,” she wrote. “Senate Republicans would do themselves a favor (diminishing the perception they are invertebrates) and Trump a favor as well if they started saying ‘no’ once in a while.”

You can read the whole piece here including her listing of a rogue’s gallery of Trump appointment misfires.


James Comey: The only reason Trump isn’t being indicted right now is because he’s president

Raw Story

It’s nice work if you can get it, former FBI Director James Comey said during an interview with MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace at the 92nd Street Y on Sunday.

In a clip MSNBC ran, Comey explained what it was like briefing President Donald Trump and hearing the request about letting retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn go.

“I was to tell him what the threat is inside the United States and I had some pretty hair-raising stuff to tell him and he seemed distracted,” Comey told Wallace. Trump didn’t ask a single follow-up question, Comey recalled. That’s when the president asked everyone else to leave.

“He said he wanted to talk about Mike Flynn and then in substance in that conversation he asked me — which I took as a direction — to let it go,” Comey recalled.

He later explained that the request is obviously “evidence of obstruction of justice. So, how to handle that was something we struggled with and we decided to keep it tight for two reasons. First, we didn’t want to infect the investigative team and didn’t want them to know the president just said drop that investigation.”

Comey spoke in a closed-door session of Congress Friday morning, saying it was a waste of time and shouldn’t have been secret because nothing they talked about was classified.

He noted that the first thing he wondered was why Flynn would be lying about interactions with the Russian ambassador.

“I still don’t know the answer to that,” Comey said, noting that there are probably more things he can say about Flynn now that the case is almost finalized. “It was clear that he was lying. He lied to two FBI agents on the 24th of January in the Situation Room in a conference room. And it was clear that he was lying. But, the ‘why’ was really interesting to us and I didn’t get that answer — I wouldn’t tell you that answer if I found it. But I didn’t get it before I left because I was fired in May.”


Pompeo and Mattis just parrot whatever nonsense Trump’s gut believes

Terry H. Schwadron, DCReport - COMMENTARY
10 Dec 2018 at 11:06 ET                  

I have been struck by the strong pushback among Senate Republicans to the president in deciding that the CIA’s sources nail Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman for ordering the death of journalist and U.S. permanent resident Jamad Khasshogi in Turkey last month. For two years, these guys have remained silent as one foreign policy faux pas has followed the previous one.

It’s not that this criminal finding is really controversial, but for these senators to speak out in what is a slap of Trump, who has decided to defend the Saudis no matter what, well, that seems notable.

Indeed, the problem underscored here is that most of the president’s men merely repeat Trump’s ill-founded conclusions, even if they ignore whatever evidence has been gathered. Days before, Secretary of State Mike 'just one more hamburger' Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis insisted that there was no strong conclusion reached by the CIA about the Saudi leader’s involvement in the murder. Now here came CIA Director Gina Haspel, appointed to replace Pompeo, with the actual information, and Republican senators were challenging the president as a result.

Here’s the question: Are these important cabinet members merely toadies to Trump? Can we believe anything they say?

Both Pompeo and Mattis are considered substantial, thinking people on their own and for the representation of their agencies. Certainly, their considered opinion would be weighty even with another sort of president, but especially so when the president is Trump, someone who gleefully insists that his gut outthinks all the brains around him, absolving him from any responsibility to listen to actual fact-gathering even by his own intelligence agencies.

So, in recent days, Pompeo announced that the administration would begin the formal process of dumping the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty within 60 days unless Russia proves it is complying. Pompeo also used a speech to NATO to trash a host of international treaties, alliances or international institutions to promote the Trump proclamation of American nationalism.  Along the way, he threw the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the European Union and the African Union under the bus.

For someone like Pompeo, whose job it is to engage other countries towards the support of American and democratic values, these incidents impressed me as being particularly undiplomatic and, well, shallow in substance.

Likewise, Mattis, picking his fights, has allowed for the deployment of active U.S. military troops to the southern border to help in anti-immigration efforts and slow-walked orders to weed out transgender troops, just to placate his boss.

My question, again, is whether this is Pompeo or Mattis themselves, or merely the cabinet puppets sent out there to speak words for a president who is increasingly being isolated by world leaders.

The toady issue is not inconsequential.  John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, is out in front saying that the president is–and should be–meeting again with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, even though North Korea has failed to follow through with promises to start dismantling its nuclear weapons. Again, Bolton is a hawk on many issues, but, in the end, he is an informed hawk, not a dupe.

Or there was Larry Kudlow, the White House’s top economic adviser, this week sent out to praise the would-be deal that Trump supposedly wheedled with China on trade, only to have to acknowledge moments later that there really is no such deal, there may not be more than “aspirations” to such a deal. In the meantime, the vacillations prompt the stock market to drop by nearly 800 points in a single day as a reflection of what happens in times of economic uncertainty.

My argument is not that cabinet members should be “disloyal” to the president or his messages. Indeed, we expect that these secretaries are dispatched to televised interviews to explain and perhaps to persuade the public. The comparisons this week with George H.W. Bush were impossible to ignore: It is hard to think of James Baker or Dick Cheney merely going out there and uttering a slogan without substance. Of course, Bush knew how to back up at least most of his opinions with some fact-gathering.

But it is a starting point in these interviews that cabinet members are offering a realistic, true reflection of the White House’s understanding.

More importantly, in a time in which Republican senators generally have decided to give the president’s hold on truth a wide berth, we want to believe that someone in the Trump administration has a working understanding of what the country actually is facing – whether in national security, economic, environment, immigration or whatever front is being recognized today might be problematic.

In this time when our senators are still figuring out how to react appropriately to a president who ignores science, intelligence-gathering, analysis, diplomacy, protocol, tradition or even humane behavior, we should remind them that we expect to hear some realism from the Cabinet even if we cannot get it from the Oval Office.


Washington Post deputy editor unleashes epic mockery on Mike 'just one more hamburger' Pompeo’s failed ‘swagger’ campaign at the State Department

Raw Story

In a hilarious editorial titled “Mike 'just one more hamburger' Pompeo swaggers his way to failure,” Washington Post deputy editorial page editor Jackson Diehl unleashed an epic syntactic slam of the newish Secretary of State.

Pompeo has been in the State Department just shy of eight months, but no amount of arrogance can overcome the diplomatic flubs of President Donald Trump’s administration.

“Pompeo has managed to worsen the State Department’s already abysmal standing with every significant constituency. Legislators, major allies, the media, career staff, even North Korea are alienated,” Diehl wrote Sunday. “The only satisfied customer may be President Trump — and even he has grounds for grievance.”

Pompeo said that he would get “back our swagger” in the State Department after the president butted heads with former Sec. Rex Tilson. It didn’t exactly work out, however. The Republican Congress wasn’t impressed.

Already the Senate voted to stop support for Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen. The head of the International Monetary Fund said Pompeo had no clue what he was talking about. Worst for the U.S. was when the European Union voted for ways to circumvent new Trump sanctions against Iran.

The latter was the most difficult part Trump clashed with Pompeo.

“Trump proclaimed that he was ‘ready, willing, and able’ to negotiate a new deal, and probably he meant it; after all, he has pivoted from confrontation to negotiation with North Korea and China,” Diehl wrote.

The reality was something else. After outlining 12 conditions for Iran to meet that would put Trump in a position to denounce Pompeo or, if Iran resumes nuclear activity, go to war.

Diehl wondered if something similar happened in the North Korea negotiations as well. Pompeo was responsible for taking over for Trump after the June summit with Kim Jong Un. The first visit was a disaster, and talks ceased for months while others tried to clean up Pompeo’s mess.

“Evidently, the North Korean ruler has decided he can’t do business with Pompeo. Maybe that’s because the secretary is refusing to give in to Kim’s unreasonable demands for sanctions relief and a peace declaration. But perhaps the dictator is also put off by the #swagger,” Diehl noted.

Meanwhile, the State Department is still woefully understaffed and important posts remain unfilled. Those that are there were hopeful Pompeo would disagree with Tillerson’s desire to leave so many positions staffless. He hasn’t.

“Pompeo greets most questions about his performance with a tight smirk and a few dismissive words. It’s a manner that appears calculated to offend. It has won him few friends or allies in Congress or anywhere else. But then, he is performing for an audience of one: a president who loves #swagger,” Diehl closed.


Republicans are scared ‘and they should be’: CNN’s Ana Navarro by warns GOP will pay a price for complicity with Trump

Raw Story

Members of the Republican Party are starting to fear what President Donald Trump might do to the party as his disregard for lawless behavior is catching up to him.

CNN Republican commentator Ana Navarro explained that if the GOP doesn’t act, they could go down with the ship.

“It’s damaging to the GOP. They paid a high price already; over 40 seats have been lost,” Navarro continued. “Maybe over 40 after the North Carolina situation is resolved, governor seats and legislatures. They paid a high political price for silence and complicity with Donald Trump.”

She went on to say that the GOP is scared and she thinks “they should be scared.”

“Donald Trump is a guy who has no qualms about coming after other Republicans,” she continued. “He prefers to lose the seat to a Democrat. For example, Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) here in Miami than to have a Republican who dares speak up against him or confront him.”

She also noted that there is a whole group of Republicans who hide and refuse to even speak about Trump until they’re absolutely forced to, at least until special counsel Robert Mueller’s full report is given to the Justice Department.

“I think they are procrastinating and avoiding and in happy silence as long as they can possibly be,” she said.

Former Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) agreed, noting Republicans lost by 12 points in the midterm election.

“I have always been surprised that so many are willing to stand next to the president knowing his approval is so dismal and so many more shoes are about to drop,” Dent said, explaining that it seems in the short-term they still stick with Trump.

In the long-term, however, it might not be the best strategy.

“Many Republicans are in safe seats and barely won their elections,” he recalled. “Many others are not in such safe seats lost elections.”

Meanwhile, the president seems to be in meltdown mode.

Watch their full take: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6yo5s5


Historian explains why Trump administration is completely ‘unraveling’ over not being able to find a chief of staff

Raw Story

President Donald Trump has been tweeting that the recent sentencing memos vindicate him of all involvement in the Russia scandal. It isn’t clear if Trump is being fed information that is inaccurate or is trying to convince himself that everything is OK. Former Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio, however, thinks Trump is nothing more than a shady car salesman trying to feed a line to the American people. Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley thinks this might be a major reason Trump can’t get a chief of staff to commit to work with him.

In a Sunday CNN panel discussion, host Ana Cabrera wondered if Trump was intentionally staying in the dark so he could have plausible deniability about special counsel Robert Mueller’s memos.

D’Antonio didn’t think Trump was likely to be able to not know what was happening.

“I think he is alert to what is in the newspapers,” D’Antonio explained. “I think the Washington Post and New York Times are on his bed every morning as he is tuning into Fox News. So, he is aware of what is going on. he is just trying to persuade us and persuade himself that it is not as bad as it really is.”

Brinkley noted that it isn’t necessary for Mueller to indict Trump to be impeached, but the president will try and claim that it’s all political if Congress files impeachment charges. The investigation in the Senate will likely be a joke if Congress moves forward with impeachment.

When it came to a brief discussion about Nick Ayers turning down the chief of staff gig, D’Antonio said the only person that gets along with Trump at this point is Mike Pence, but it might just be because he stays out of Trump’s way.

“I think if he could appoint Mike Pence, that might be a good choice because he is about the only one that seems to be able to get along with the president consistently,” the biographer said. “And he may do that just by staying out of his way. It is hard to say that there is one personality type that would work here. Kelly and Reince Priebus were very different, but they both failed. For all the wonderful things that people were saying about Kelly, now that he is a dead man walking, he was not able to bring order to the White House. He wasn’t able to get over the tweeting, and he wasn’t able to get control or access to the president.”

D’Antonio said that Ayers seems to understand that it’s a “losing proposition” to even try to go up against Trump.

Cabrera wondered if it was all simply typical changing of the guard, but Brinkley said no.

“This is a Trump administration unraveling,” he said. “Nobody wants to have the name Donald Trump next to them on their resume. We just had multiple felony charges against the president by the Department of Justice. And it will only get worse. Who wants to go sit in the White House with Donald Trump fuming and tweeting as this were in a crisis mode, perhaps Constitutional crisis, in the coming months?”

He assumed that Ayers thought he could do it for a few months to give the White House some time, but he doesn’t want to be the one to handle Trump through the next two years of legal nightmares.

Watch the full discussion below: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6yoa9y

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Watch MSNBC panelists destroy Fox News’ Judge Jeanine for her pro-Trump rants: ‘Is she for real or an SNL skit?’

Tom Boggioni
10 Dec 2018
Raw Story               

The entire panel on MSNBC’s AM Joy all got in their shots at the slavish coverage Fox News has bestowed upon President Donald Trump but saved their most biting comments for Judge Jeanine Pirro who is safely tucked away by the conservative network on Saturday nights where she can’t do much damage.

After running a series of clips of Pirro’s flamboyantly over-the-top pro-Trump rants — including one attacking the latest Mueller bombshells — fill-in host Jonathan Capehart got the ball rolling.

“Earth to Fox News, when a damaging court filing finds you ‘Individual-1,’ that’s a bad thing — it’s a really bad thing,” he began. “President Donald Trump’s favorite news outlet has actually gone out of its way to actually not cover the bombshell Mueller filings.”

Sharing more clips of Fox News giving blanket coverage this week to Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, Capehart turned to journalist Gabriel Sherman and asked, “Soooo– was that really Jeanine Pirro on Fox News or a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit?”

“You know, sometimes it is so hard to see the line between reality and satire on Fox, yet they make it so easy,” Sherman replied. “For me, the highlight of this alternate reality was a segment that Fox & Friends did on a nine-year-old girl who fought to overturn a law banning snowballs.”

“Just listening to Jeanine Pirro, I couldn’t help thinking she sounds like something [Washington Post columnist] Dana Milbank would write in columns satirically to prove a point about how off-the-deep-end Republicans have gone, but she is doing this for real!” Capehart suggested.

“No, yeah, I give up on satire, I’m going to write about that snowball law,” Milbank quipped. “Fox is at a point now where they are, you know, trying to maintain things in this suspended animation.”

“Even the Fox News viewers will be seeing with their own eyes it is not all fake news that actually we are in a whole world of hurt right here,” he continued. “I think you’re already beginning to see cracks in it. I think the whole notion of having this parallel reality is breaking down.”

What followed was a dissection of Fox News coverage of Trump, with Sherman stating it will destroy the network one day.

You can watch the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsCsqKfp_KY

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Suffering pickaxes and dog poop, Trump’s Hollywood star has become a symbolic spectacle

By Rob Kuznia
WA Post
December 10 2018

LOS ANGELES — On the Hollywood Walk of Fame one summer night, a man with a neck tattoo knelt over Donald Trump’s star, armed with a black Sharpie.

The piece of plywood concealing the newly repaired star was already a sorry sight, defiled by spat-out gum, littered potato chips and scrawled words: “MAGA,” “SAD,” “Q-Anon.” The young man had come to add his own message.

“What’s he writing?” somebody in the bevy of onlookers murmured as Juan Larrazabal began tracing out letters.

The message slowly came into focus: “Latinos 4 Trump!”

Over scattered groans, the lanky, 26-year-old Los Angeles native sprang to his feet and began to argue with onlookers.

“Just letting you know, Trump’s out to help. I swear to God,” he shouted over objections. “I love Trump, and so do all my Mexican family members!”

“F--- Donald Trump!” responded a passerby.

Since Trump announced his campaign for the Oval Office in 2015, his Walk of Fame star has been a constant source of conflict and spectacle. The pink pentagram has been destroyed twice, obliterated by a pickax two weeks before the 2016 election and again this past July. It has been a regular target of lesser vandalism: stomping, spitting and dog-pooping. It has been scrawled with pejoratives and spray-painted with swastikas.

On Sept. 20, a few weeks after the shattered star was replaced, a street artist covered it with bars resembling a jail cell.

This has become ground zero for the West Coast’s grass-roots war over the Trump presidency, a sidewalk attraction for pro- and anti-Trumpers alike. The war intensified when the West Hollywood City Council voted in August to request that the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce permanently remove the shrine to the reality star turned leader of the free world. Instead, the Hollywood Chamber — which has jurisdiction over the Walk of Fame — reinstalled it once again at a cost of $2,500.

“The stars, once installed, are considered part of the historic fabric of the Walk,” chamber president and chief executive Leron Gubler said in a statement announcing the replacement, funded by the Walk’s charitable foundation, the Hollywood Historic Trust.

“When people are angry with one of our honorees, we would hope that they would project their anger in more positive ways than to vandalize a California State landmark,” he said. “Our democracy is based on respect for the law. People can make a real difference by voting and not destroying public property.”

Located near Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue — not far from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood Wax Museum — the emblem has been a draw for artists, parodists and other creative types. Installed in 2007, Trump’s star has been guarded by fake Russian soldiers, crowned by a golden toilet and enclosed by a mini-wall lined with mock barbed wire.

Saul Gomez, a 52-year-old balloon twister who sports a rainbow wig and sells his wares on the Walk, says he once saw a deranged woman hammering it with a golf club.

“She was crazy,” Gomez said. “Man, she was banging on the thing for, like, 10 minutes.”

The day after it was smashed by a pickax in July, the star became the site of a bloody brawl between pro- and anti-Trump clans. Two weeks later, a right-wing street artist known as “The Faction” responded with an act of counter-vandalism: He covered the Walk of Fame in dozens of fake Trump stars.

“I’m tired of the ‘you didn’t build that,’ and how ‘straight-white-male-ism’ is a pejorative now,” the 30-something Los Angeles resident, who declined to give his real name, told The Washington Post. “Christians are being insulted, and the rich are being vilified.”

The Hollywood Chamber has found itself at the epicenter of the firestorm. Spokeswoman Ana Martinez said she has been getting nasty notes from Trump opponents and supporters, some confusing the chamber with the city council after its call for the star’s removal.

“We’ve had a couple of threats, too,” Martinez said. “It’s giving me gray hairs.”

Stars for other celebrities also have been subjected to protest-related vandalism and notes of adoration from fans. All of the 2,500-plus coral, terrazzo and brass markers are under video surveillance, Martinez said.

But never has one been so frequently and intensely targeted as Trump’s.

A question of eligibility

Some detractors question whether Trump should have gotten a star in the first place. To be eligible, a person must have been a celebrity in the film, television, music, radio or theater industry for at least five years.

“Reality stars are not supposed to have [eligibility],” said Mieke ter Poorten, attorney for James Lambert Otis, who took a pickax to Trump’s star in 2016. “That is one of the things that enraged me. He is not in any category that would allow him to be on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.”

Skepticism about Trump’s eligibility heightened in 2013, when Kanye West said on the “Jimmy Kimmel Live” show that his wife, Kim Kardashian West, deserved a star. Martinez, the Walk of Fame spokeswoman, responded that the chamber does not award stars to reality television personalities.

Martinez publicly stated that Trump earned a place on the Walk for producing the pageant shows Miss Universe and Miss USA. But during the 2007 ceremony, remarks by Trump and the emcee largely focused on reality show “The Apprentice,” which Trump hosted and launched to fame with the catchphrase “You’re fired.”

“We’ve taken this beauty pageant — it’s become sort of a hot thing,” Trump said during the ceremony. “But this is ‘The Apprentice,’ and this is ‘The Apprentice’s’ day.”

To receive a star, a celebrity must be nominated by a third party, such as a fan, friend or relative. The selection committee weighs the nomination based on the celebrity’s career accomplishments and charity work. About 10 percent of the roughly 300 yearly applicants are approved.

If approved, the celebrity or the sponsor must pay $40,000 to the Hollywood Historic Trust and Hollywood Chamber for the cost of the ceremony and the star’s creation, installation and maintenance.

Martinez said Trump was nominated by an older man from New York who called himself a fan of the real estate developer. The man also paid the fee for the star, $15,000 at that time.

Martinez said that she could not remember the fan’s name and that the paperwork has been misplaced.

President Trump’s star, shown vandalized on July 25, has been replaced. (Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)
Twice pulverized

The first person to destroy Trump’s star was Otis, a 54-year-old L.A. resident who defaced it in October 2016, soon after The Post released an “Access Hollywood” recording of Trump making lewd comments about women. Otis tried to organize a news conference with five women who said they had been sexually assaulted by Trump, but it never took place.

A descendant of the founder of Otis Elevator, he made headlines in 2009 for auctioning off some of Mahatma Gandhi’s possessions, such as the Indian peace activist’s steel-framed spectacles and a pair of sandals. He told the New York Times he planned to donate the $1 million in proceeds to pacifist causes.

Otis received three years’ probation for his crime against Trump’s star, paid $4,400 to fix the damage and put in 20 days of community service. He was later spotted by TMZ wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt while picking up trash along the L.A. freeways.

Otis’s sentence also required him to see his psychiatrist and continue to follow the doctor’s recommendations, said ter Poorten, his attorney. Otis couldn’t be reached for comment.

On July 25, Trump’s star was pulverized again.

“I am proud of what I did,” said Austin “Sonny” Clay, a 24-year-old bartender, who pleaded not guilty to a felony vandalism charge. His argument: Hacking the star was “rightful and just,” not criminal. He was sentenced in November to pay more than $9,400 to the Hollywood Chamber, serve three years’ probation and receive psychological counseling, according to the Associated Press.

Clay said he was persuaded to do the deed by his girlfriend’s father, Rory Emerald, a serial prankster who made headlines for numerous hoaxes in the 1990s and early 2000s. In 1993, Emerald was arrested in Beverly Hills and jailed for posing as Mia Farrow’s personal shopper.

After deciding that Clay should destroy the star, he and Emerald, along with Clay’s girlfriend, Elektra Emerald, hitched a ride with a friend to the Hollywood Walk of Fame from a suburb in the San Fernando Valley.

They found the star defaced by graffiti and smeared with excrement.

“I could tell it was already loose,” Rory Emerald said. “Enough people had stomped on it. . . . I told him, ‘If you don’t take this star out tonight, somebody else is going to do it.’ ”

A few hours later, Clay put on headphones and took from the car a guitar case that contained the pickax. He had initially planned to listen to patriotic music while executing his mission but changed his mind.

“I decided I need something aggressive,” he recounted. He chose a song by the Death Grips,an industrial hip-hop group from Sacramento.

Around 3:30 a.m., as Clay approached the star, Elektra Emerald held up her smartphone and began filming. Her father saw sparks fly. An onlooker yelled, “What did Donald Trump ever do to you?”

“When I was bringing the pickax down, it felt cathartic,” Clay said. “Like I was removing him not only from the Walk of Fame, but in a way, symbolically, from California, from the United States, from the cultural subconscious.”

Clay said he turned himself in to the Beverly Hills Police Department that night and spent about 20 hours in jail.

“I can’t think of a stronger message from Los Angeles and California to send to Donald Trump, who right now is trying to build his wall — which is a lunatic’s idea,” Clay said during an interview. “I can’t think of a stronger message than ‘We’re taking your star off the boulevard.’ ”

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