The Russia Connection: Stay Focused

As we come to the end of Trump’s first 100 days in office, it is more than ever important to stay focused on what we know and don’t know about the Russia connection.  The last few days have brought important revelations.

Yes, there’s also been a terrible Executive Order on climate change; yes, there’s also been a terrible move away from customer privacy on the internet.  Those stories are worth following, too, and worth phone calls to our Senators and Representatives.

But the Russia connection is a story about dishonesty and disloyalty — even the possibility of treason, because the story raises the possibility of Trump in his connections with Russia working more to enrich and protect those interests than working to uphold his Constitutional oath.

The president and his companies have been linked to at least 10 wealthy former Soviet businessmen with alleged ties to criminal organizations or money laundering.

That’s from reporting in yesterday’s USA Today by Oren Dorell, Trump’s business network reached alleged Russian mobsters.  Dorell itemizes the many connections.

In The Atlantic, David Graham, tells the story of Paul Manafort’s Mysterious Millions.  The thread through the story is the question of whether Manafort’s many recent Russia-related dealings involve him in money-laundering schemes.

Senate Committee to Question Jared Kushner Over Meetings With Russians.  A letter to the Times later that day from Kevin Kane of the Bronx remarked, “Those meetings would be suspicious even if those two men were in fact diplomats representing their respective governments. They are not diplomats, and it will be interesting to learn why they were meeting and just whose interests they represent.”

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RyanFail: No Victory for Democrats

Now the fight begins in earnest.

The collapse of the House Republicans w(h)ealthcare bill on Friday was a debacle for Paul Ryan, the Republican leadership, and Trump.  Trump and others may try to blame the Democratic Party for the ‘failure’, but there is not truth in that.  Ryan et al went into this effort on February 16 with no expectation that they would ever have a single Democratic vote.  The Republican leadership made no effort whatsoever to involve House Democrats in any of their discussions.  Thus, the failure was entirely engineered by the Republican leadership.

But by the very same token, the failure is no victory for Democrats.  It wasn’t pushback from Democrats, it wasn’t the prospect of ‘no’ votes from House Democrats, it wasn’t even particularly the resounding ‘no’ from an energized Democratic base that led Ryan to pull the proposal.  It was mostly division and discord among House Republicans that led to the abrupt withdrawal of the legislation.

We need to remember this in days and weeks ahead.  The fight over affordable, accessible healthcare for all Americans is not over.  The current system needs to be improved, and we can expect fresh efforts to undermine what we do have.

Remember that on his very first day in office, Trump promulgated an Executive Order entitled Executive Order Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal.

Pending repeal:  Trump has staked out that ground.

From the ACA’s signing through the end of President Obama’s second term, Congressional Republicans did everything they could to undermine the bill (defunding risk corridors, blocking Medicaid expansion, etc.). Now with Trump in the White House, the Republican leadership has yet more tools at its disposal to severely damage the protections of the Affordable Care Act.

With RyanFail, now the fight begins in earnest.

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Three Ring Circus: House, Senate & Trump/Putin

This week in Washington DC is proving a three ring circus.  Hard to know where to focus your attention, and perhaps that’s some of the point.  Those opposed to the Trump/House Republican domination of our government need to stay focused on all rings.three ring circus

Ring 1: Health Care in the House

In no way is the Republican bill in the House of Representatives truly a health care bill.  It serve only the continuing need of the Republican Party to say they repealed the Affordable Care Act.  (Don’t call it Obamacare: it’s our health care that’s under threat, yours and mine and our neighbors’.)

This proposed legislation (a) reduces the percentage of Americans with health care, (b) makes it less affordable for most Americans, and (c) does nothing to reduce medical or pharmaceutical costs.  The bill only makes health care worse.  It is a Wealthcare bill: as it shreds coverage and affordability, it enriches the wealthy with further tax cuts.  Urge your Representatives to vote no.

Ring 2: Treason Investigation of the Trump Campaign

In the middle, the two elephants trunk to tail: Trump to Putin.  After FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, there are only larger and more profound reasons to suspect collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents in the 2016 election campaign.  Comey confirmed there was an ongoing investigation.  We already know of contacts between Russian agents and Michael Flynn (briefly National Security Advisor), Paul Manafort (Campaign Director) and Jeff Sessions (confirmed Attorney General, now recused from the investigation).  Devin Nunes, Republican Chair of the House Intelligence Committee has shown himself unfit to lead a proper investigation.  As Adam Schiff (ranking minority member of the House committee) put it, “There is more than circumstantial evidence now.” We need to press for appointment of a bipartisan Select Committee, and insist we get to the bottom of this swamp.

Ring 3: Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings in the Senate.

We’re toward the end of hearings to consider Neil Gorsuch as “President Trump’s nominee for Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court seat,” as E. J. Dionne properly described it.  Garland should have been confirmed by the Senate.

Tell your Senator to vote no on Gorsuch at least until the treason charges have been fully heard. And if the Trump campaign has been shown to have colluded with Russian agents, Gorsuch should be withdrawn as a nominee. We won’t know whether we have a legitimate U.S. President until we reach the end of a proper investigation.  No nominee of an illegitimate president should be confirmed, especially not a Supreme Court Justice.

Talk to your members of Congress about all three.

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Secrets or Lies? Two Presidents on Trial

This morning I’m watching the House Intelligence Committee hearings with FBI Director James Comey as the lead witness.  (Also testifying is Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the Director of the National Security Agency.)  Republican and Democratic members of the committee are asking about intelligence information and investigations bearing on the 2016 Presidential elections, especially possible involvements of Russian agents.

Comey is being very careful not to disclose any specific information about ongoing investigations, but Comey has disclosed that there is indeed an ongoing investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election.  There is a striking contrast in the questions that the majority and minority members of the committee are asking.

Republicans are asking about leaks of intelligence information, leaks whose content suggest collusion or coordination between members of the Trump campaign apparatus and Russian agents.  These members of Congress want to expose that leaks of classified intelligence information are improper and serious.

Democrats are asking whether Comey has any knowledge of any wiretapping of Trump or his campaign by U.S. intelligence agents.  Comey has specifically denied any such knowledge, thus exposing those Trump claims as lies, reckless lies.  Similarly he has denied any knowledge of cooperation of British intelligence agents in any wiretapping of the Trump campaign, again exposing this as a lie, one that slanders a trusted ally.

The testimony is vindicating Obama from Trump’s charges, and affirming Trump’s lies. It also is calling attention to leaks by U.S. officials of classified intelligence secrets.

The question for any citizen is whether you are more concerned about leaks of secret intelligence information, or whether you are more concerned about slanderous lies by the President of the United States.

Me, I’m more concerned about the lies by a sitting American President.

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I Want Leadership From the Democratic Party

ADDENDUM below 17.3.12

I’m not getting it, and neither are you.

Today I get the survey below from the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee).  The e-mail is ostensibly from Nancy Pelosi.

DCCC Survey 17.3.10

They forgot to ask “Have you stopped beating your wife?”

They don’t want me to do any thinking whatsoever.  And there’s no indication of what I should do other than contribute money via the certain-to-follow “chip in” screen that will follow if I submit responses.  What do they do with that money? And what do they do with all of all these polls and petitions they are forever sending?  (Am I seriously to believe that Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan care about those petitions?)

I respond: “This is a stupid survey.  Treat me like a serious person or don’t bother at all.  I want leadership, not condescension from the Democratic Party.”  But I have no confidence whatsoever they are listening.

We have serious work to do.  We have a crazy President and a Congress dominated by leaders who have no regard at all for the welfare of the vast majority of citizens.  I want a Democratic Party that channels the ready-to-mobilize energies and talents of those citizens.

Dear DCCC:  What should I read? Who should I call? What should I tell them?  What are the most effective things I can do today?  And you might occasionally ask me what I think in a way that anticipates I might have something to say.


ADDENDUM.  a day later, having failed to complete the survey, having told them why, I receive the further e-mail, below.  The link takes me to the exact same survey.  “Personalized?”  “(just for you!)” A seven-pack of BVD briefs would be more personalized.  Wow.  I don’t think they are getting it:

DCCC Survey 17.3.10 response


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What To Make of Trump This Week?

Oh, what a long strange trip it’s been, and we’re only a month and a half into the four years of the Trump presidency.

Today, on the intelligent conservative side of the political spectrum:

Here’s Eric Posner saying he’s your crazy uncle listening to Fox News with the volume up.

And yet here’s Ross Douthat saying maybe he’s the most politically savvy Republican of our time.

From the journalism, just-the-honest-facts world, here’s the New York Times reporting that none of the president’s political allies want to back him in his tweet storm alleging President Obama wiretapped him.

And on the progressive side of the political spectrum here’s Steve Almond (of Cognoscenti) dressing Trump as a second coming of McCarthy (complete with Roy Cohn whispering in his ear), seeing Trump as doubling down on the maxim that the best defense is a virulent, smeary offense.

All saying this at the same point in time.  Got your head spinning?  Could they all be correct?

Time to remind us of Doug’s Rule #1: Pay as little attention to what Trump says as possible.  Rather, pay attention to those he puts in positions of authority and responsibility, and pay attention to the Republicans in Congress.

From that perspective, I like what Almond says at the end of his post:

But the day will surely come when a foreign enemy, or enemies, attempts to exploit Trump’s fatal flaws: his brittle vanity, his reflexive aggression, and his towering ignorance of the damage he might do in using American military might to settle his scores.

The journalists who have bull-horned the president’s every intemperate tweet will have to face their own complicity in having helped usher a wave of McCarthyism into the Oval Office.

And the Republicans in Congress who have stood by and watched him trash the integrity of the American presidency, in the naked hope of passing a rich man’s legislative agenda, will rue their cowardice. If any of them have even a speck of decency, they do already.

Do they? That’s the question we need to ask: do they embrace him, still empower him, or are they prepared to separate themselves from this unfit president? The Republicans he has appointed and the Republicans in the Congress need to hear that question every hour of every day.  We need to be asking.

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What Are We For? Healthcare (1)

As we resist the Trump/Republican political cyclone domination of national political institutions, it is important to say what we are for.  (Not just what we are against.)  Here’s a first contribution.

With Healthcare, it is relatively easy to say what we are for.  (There will be some difficult issues.)  At the present moment we want to preserve the Affordable Care Act.  Yes, it has problems.  Yes, a single payer system (Medicare for everyone) would be better.  But for the present, simply defending the ACA is essential.  That’s what we’re for.

The Republican Congressional leadership has just released their ‘replacement’ for the ACA for their repeal and replace strategy.  There will be lots to read, but for starters I suggest:

The New York Times provides a useful graphic that summarizes the current ACA and how the Republican bill would change it.

Ezra Klein, The GOP health bill doesn’t know what problem it’s trying to solve; After seven years of drafting a replacement plan, we get … this?  Klein links to several other pieces worth reading.  I am especially drawn to this observation:

“In general,” writes Peter Suderman, “it’s not clear what problems this particular bill would actually solve.” This is a profound point. It is difficult to say what question, or set of questions, would lead to this bill as an answer. Were voters clamoring for a bill that cut taxes on the rich, raised premiums on the old, and cut subsidies for the poor? Will Americans be happy when 15 million people lose their health insurance and many of those remaining face higher deductibles?

Russell Berman gives a good preview of the problems that the Republicans will have in getting their bill through the Congress in The Conservative Uprising Against the Republican Healthcare Bill.   There will be opposition from within the Republican ranks to this proposal, and that opposition will come from both directions, too much and not enough.

We shouldn’t conclude that Republican disagreement will sink this plan.  We need to keep the pressure on Congress.

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