It Is Mueller Time: Who Will Be Indicted And What Are The Charges?

Often news is dropped on a Friday to limits its coverage. In this case, the news that Mueller is preparing his first charges in the Trump investigations, is dominating the news this weekend. As CNN reported:

A federal grand jury in Washington on Friday approved the first charges in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to sources briefed on the matter.

The charges are still sealed under orders from a federal judge. Plans were prepared Friday for anyone charged to be taken into custody as soon as Monday, the sources said. It is unclear what the charges are.

The first obvious question is who will be charged. Paul Manafort,  Michael Flynn, and Carter Page lead the lists in speculation. I don’t think anyone will be surprised if one or more of them are indicted next week. There will be greater surprise if Jared Kushner, Donald Trump, Jr., or perhaps even a Democrat is indicted now that we have learned that the Podesta Group is also under investigation.

The next question is what the actual charges will be. From what has been released to the public so far, we have see much more evidence of a cover-up and obstruction of justice than we  have seen of the original crimes. There have been indications that Mueller is conducting the investigation more as would be expected if the concentration is on financial crimes including money laundering.

The evidence released to date for collusion leading to an actual change in the presidential election result  looks quite weak–with indications that this was more an excuse from Hillary Clinton to deflect blame for her own mistakes which caused her to lose. The stronger case for any sort of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia might involve Paul Manafort who allegedly offered to give a Russian billionaire private briefings on the campaign. However there is no evidence that such briefings took place and past speculation has also primarily been on an indictment for financial crimes such as money laundering or tax evasion.

There is also the meeting which both Donald Trump, Jr. and Kared Kushner attended with Russians, which they were lured to attend with promises of information on Hillary Clinton. However it appears that was only to get them to attend with the Russians reportedly having nothing to offer. While it indicates a willingness on their part to collude with Russia, there is no evidence that such collusion actually occurred. There very well could be legal violations in their actions, but this falls far short of Clinton’s claims of Trump and Russia working together to alter the election results.

Whatever indictments are issued, this means that the matter moves from a primarily political fight to a legal battle where rules of evidence prevail and Donald Trump’s cries of a witch hunt are even more meaningless. As occurred with Watergate, early indictments might lead to deals which ultimately result in evidence against those higher up. Also as with Watergate, a big question will be what did the president know and when did he know it.

Update: First Indictments Involve Money Laundering But Plea Bargain By Papadopoulos Could Be More Important

Further Reaction To Revelation That Trump Russia Dossier Was Commissioned By The Clinton Campaign

Yesterday’s revelations that Clinton and the DNC were behind the Trump Russia dossier has resulted in objective observers agreeing that this should create considerable skepticism as to the validity of the report, much of which could not be verified despite efforts of many in the media (and presumably now Robert Muller). Some Clinton partisans have tried to ignore the significance. It is amazing how they will ignore well documented evidence of Clinton’s dishonesty while saying we should believe a report about Donald Trump which was commissioned by the Clinton campaign and which could not be verified by independent sources. Besides, there is enough evidence as to how rotten Donald Trump is in his own Twitter feed, leaving no reason to make up more.

Aaron Blake has discussed some of the ramifications. Here is a  portion:

Yes, the dossier was funded by Democrats

Some of the pushback on the left has focused on the fact that a still-unidentified Republican client retained Fusion GPS to do research on Trump before the Clinton campaign and the DNC did. Thus, they argue, it’s wrong to say the dossier was just funded by Democrats.

But The Post is reporting that the dossier’s author, Steele, wasn’t brought into the mix until after Democrats retained Fusion GPS. So while both sides paid Fusion GPS, Steele was only funded by Democrats.

Trump’s allegation of FBI payments is still dubious

After the story posted, some on the right seized upon The Post noting the FBI had agreed to pay Steele for information after the campaign. The argument seemed to be that the FBI was engaged in a witch hunt against Trump using Democrats’ sources.

But The Post originally reported on the FBI’s agreement back in February. At the time, it also reported it never actually paid for the work after the agent was identified in news reports:

The former British spy who authored a controversial dossier on behalf of Donald Trump’s political opponents alleging ties between Trump and Russia reached an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him to continue his work, according to several people familiar with the arrangement.

Ultimately, the FBI did not pay Steele. Communications between the bureau and the former spy were interrupted as Steele’s now-famous dossier became the subject of news stories, congressional inquiries and presidential denials, according to the people familiar with the arrangement, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.
>Despite there being no proof the FBI actually paid Steele, Trump suggested it might have in a tweet last week — along with “Russia . . . or the Dems (or all).” Of those three groups, only Democrats have been reported to have actually paid Steele. And again, that was already kind-of known.

The appearance problems for Democrats

There is, presumably, a reason Democrats haven’t copped to funding the dossier — something they still haven’t publicly confirmed. Fusion GPS threatening to plead the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination raised eyebrows last week, for instance.

First among those reasons is paying a foreigner for opposition research for an American political campaign. Given Democrats’ argument that Russia’s interference on Trump’s behalf was beyond the pale, the Clinton camp and the DNC paying a Brit for information would seem somewhat problematic.

(The Clinton campaign has also, notably, denied working with the Ukrainian government to dig up dirt on Trump. Republicans have pushed dubious comparisons between the Ukraine allegation and Russia’s alleged Trump advocacy.)

It is also notable that this revelation of a second episode of the Clinton campaign working with foreigners to affect the election results also came shortly after a new report on the Clintons accepting bribes from Russia.

Yesterday I updated the post with this opinion from Vox, a normally pro-Democratic Party source:

Now, however, we know that the dossier’s research during much of 2016 was funded by a top lawyer working for the Clinton campaign itself. That of course doesn’t necessarily mean the information in it is deliberately false — campaigns usually try to dig up opposition research that is true, if they can.

But it certainly presents the possibility that the research of the dossier and subsequent circulation of it were more akin to a dirty trick than a genuine, disinterested effort to find the truth about Trump and Russia. After all, if a campaign hires a firm to find dirt on their opponent, that is what that firm will try and deliver, even if what they turn up is dubious or thinly-sourced.

Overall, viewing this uncorroborated document very skeptically was always a good idea, and the fact that its funders were Trump’s biggest opponents only makes that more the case.

While biased pro-Trump, Michael Goodwin could very well could be correct in arguing at The New York Post that The Trump dossier was Clinton’s dirtiest political trick:

Now it’s Democrats’ turn in the barrel.

The explosive report in the Washington Post goes a long way to explaining how the dossier was so widely spread among political reporters during the election. The Clinton camp must have passed it out like Halloween candy to its media handmaidens.

News organizations tried for months to confirm the salacious details, but couldn’t. The document became public when BuzzFeed, a loud Clinton booster, published it 10 days before the inauguration, while acknowledging it couldn’t verify the contents.

The Post report provides possible answers to other questions, too. Because Clinton’s team paid for the dossier, it’s likely that she gave it to the FBI, where James Comey planned to hire the former British agent who had compiled it to keep digging dirt on Trump.

The finding also raises the possibility that the dossier is what led the Obama White House to snoop on members of Trump’s team, and leak the “unmasked” names to the anti-Trump media in a bid to help Clinton.

In short, we now have compelling evidence that the dossier was the largest and dirtiest dirty trick of the 2016 campaign. And Clinton, who has played the victim card ever since her loss, was behind it the whole time.

This all basically provides further evidence of what I argued throughout the election that the race was between two of the worst people in America. It also casts further doubt on the validity of Clinton’s claims regarding Trump and Russia.

Update: The Campaign Legal Center has filed a complaint with the FEC arguing that the Clinton campaign’s failure to disclose their funding of this report is a violation of campaign finance laws.

Washington Post Reveals That Trump-Russia Dossier Was Commissioned By Clinton Campaign And DNC

The Washington Post today revealed that the dossier complied with accusations including ties between Donald Trump and Russia (along with more salacious claims) was funded by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. From their report:

The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund research that resulted in a now-famous dossier containing allegations about President Trump’s connections to Russia and possible coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin, people familiar with the matter said.

Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained Fusion GPS, a Washington firm, to conduct the research.

After that, Fusion GPS hired dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with ties to the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community, according to those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, retained the firm in April 2016 on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Prior to that agreement, Fusion GPS’s research into Trump was funded by a still unknown Republican client during the GOP primary.

The Clinton campaign and the DNC, through the law firm, continued to fund Fusion GPS’s research through the end of October 2016, days before Election Day.

This may or may not have any bearing on the accuracy of the information released, but knowing that this was paid opposition research from the Clinton camp could cast doubts on its credibility. We will hopefully know more about the accuracy of the report after investigations by Robert Muller and the Congressional investigations are completed. At this time questions about money laundering and other financial crimes involving Donald Trump, his family, and associates appear to be more credible than claims of collusion between Trump and Russia to alter the election results (not that Trump’s family wasn’t interested if Russia had something to offer).

While some items have been found to be true, much of the information in the dossier has not been independently verified. Today’s revelation of Clinton’s involvement in funding the dossier must cast doubt as to whether its claims such as ties between Russian intelligence and the Trump campaign are true, especially in light of how Shattered revealed that Clinton had latched onto the claim that Russia was responsible within twenty-four hours of her loss to distract from the many mistakes made by her campaign which were the more likely cause of her loss. Even former Clinton strategist Mark Penn recently disputed the claims that Russia caused Clinton to lost the election.

The Russia hysteria being generated by Clinton’s claims has undermined the credibility of the US electoral process with Clinton and many of her supporters making unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen, been used as justification for restrictions on internet freedom, and has fueled Cold War style hostilities which feed into the goals of Clinton’s neocon allies for increased hostilities towards Russia.

As opposition research can be biased towards the desired conclusions of those paying for the report, the information in the dossier now must be considered to be based upon partisan bias until the claims are independently verified. On the other hand, the decisions announced today by the House to launch two investigations of Hillary Clinton will also be seen as based upon partisanship. This includes investigations regarding the Justice Department’s handling of the Clinton investigation and the sale of uranium mines. The later comes after a recent report providing new accusations of Russian bribes to the Clintons while the matter was being reviewed at the State Department.

While there is undoubtedly plenty to investigate in the conduct of Hillary Clinton, especially her influence peddling at the State Department, it is questionable whether the Republican House can be trusted to conduct a meaningful hearing after how they handled Benghazi.

Update: Vox takes a similar line in recommending skepticism towards the dossier:

Now, however, we know that the dossier’s research during much of 2016 was funded by a top lawyer working for the Clinton campaign itself. That of course doesn’t necessarily mean the information in it is deliberately false — campaigns usually try to dig up opposition research that is true, if they can.

But it certainly presents the possibility that the research of the dossier and subsequent circulation of it were more akin to a dirty trick than a genuine, disinterested effort to find the truth about Trump and Russia. After all, if a campaign hires a firm to find dirt on their opponent, that is what that firm will try and deliver, even if what they turn up is dubious or thinly-sourced.

Overall, viewing this uncorroborated document very skeptically was always a good idea, and the fact that its funders were Trump’s biggest opponents only makes that more the case.

Update II: Further Reaction To Revelation That Trump Russia Dossier Was Commissioned By The Clinton Campaign

Debunking Misinformation From Hillary Clinton On Wikileaks & The Mainstream Media On Russia

Much of the talk about “fake news” misses the fact that two of the most prominent sources of false information these days are Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Despite the belief of seventy-six percent of Republicans (and forty-six percent of the entire sample polled) that the media fabricates stories about Donald Trump, most of what the media publishes about him is generally true, while much of what he says is not. Hillary Clinton might not lie as much as Donald Trump (nobody does), but she has also been frequently caught lying, including repeating the same lies after exposed. The latest fact checking of Clinton worth noting came from Caitlin Johnstone fact checking Hillary Clinton’s recent attack on Wikileaks.

I would recommend reading Caitlin’s entire post as it is extensively documented with links, including from major media sources. She debunked the following lies from Clinton:

  • Lie 1: Claims WikiLeaks never publishes anything about Russia

  • Lie 2: Podesta leaks were timed to eclipse the Access Hollywood “grab them by the pussy” October surprise.

  • Lie 3: Implying that there was nothing incriminating in the Democratic party emails that WikiLeaks published.

  • Lie 4: Julian Assange is “a tool of Russian intelligence” who “does the bidding of a dictator.”

  • Lie 5: Claiming WikiLeaks helped spread lies and is therefore not protected by the First Amendment.

We expect Clinton to lie about Wiklleaks because lying about those who present evidence against her is what Hillary Clinton has done throughout her career. The fifth is the most disturbing as Clinton, who has a terrible history on First Amendment issues, is once again supporting censorship against those who criticize her or express dissent.

While Trump and Clinton are huge distributors of false information, I do not mean to suggest that the media is perfect. While I oppose the attacks on the First Amendment and attempts by Trump and Clinton to censor the media, the media does make mistakes. One has been to fall for Clinton’s fabricated claims blaming Russia for her loss and the other hysteria about Russia being spread. Glenn Greenwald and Tucker Carlson, who generally do not agree on much, discussed how the media is falling for a number of unsubstantiated claims on Carlson’s show last night. Following is an excerpt, with more here:

CARLSON: So, you and I don’t agree on a lot of issues but I think we share the same concern about this story, and that is that American journalists are being manipulated for whatever reason by the intelligence community in the United States, and I’m wondering why after years of having this happen to American journalists, they are allowing this to happen again.

GREENWALD: Well, that’s the thing I would refrain that a little bit. I don’t actually think so much that journalists are the victims in the sense of that formulation that they’re being manipulated. I think at best what you can say for them is they are willingly and eagerly being manipulated.

Because what you see is over and over they publish really inflammatory stories that turn out to be totally false and what happens in those cases? Nothing. They get enormous benefits when they publish recklessly. They get applause on social media from their peers, they get zillions of re-
tweets, huge amounts of traffic, they end up on TV. They get applauded across the spectrum because people are so giddy and eager to hear more about this Russia and Trump story.

And when their stories get completely debunked, it just kind of, everybody agrees to ignore it and everyone moves on and they pay no price. At the same time, they are feeling and pleasing their sources by publishing these sources that their sources want them to publish. And so, there is huge amounts of career benefits and reputational benefits and very little cost when they publish stories that end up being debunked because the narrative they are serving is a popular one, at least within their peer circles.

CARLSON: Gosh! That is so dishonest. I mean, I think all of us and journalism have gotten things wrong, I certainly have. If you feel bad about it, I mean, you really do and there’s a consequence. Do you really think there’s that level of dishonesty in the American press?

GREENWALD: I think what it is more than dishonesty is a really warped incentive scheme bolstered by this very severe groupthink that social media is fostering in ways that we don’t yet fully understand.

CARLSON: Yes.

GREENWALD: Most journalists these days are in Congressional Committees or at zoning board meetings or using — they’re sitting on Twitter talking to one another and this produces this extreme groupthink where these orthodoxies arise in deviating from them or questioning them or challenging, believe me, results in all kinds of recrimination and scorn. And embracing them produces this sort of in group mentality where you are rewarded, and I think a lot of it is about that kind of behavior.

New FBI Information Released On Russian Bribes In Uranium Deal

There’s another major news story today regarding a 2016 candidate colluding with Russia, except this time it is Hillary Clinton and not Donald Trump. The Hill reports:

Before the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.

Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.

They also obtained an eyewitness account — backed by documents — indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow, sources told The Hill.

The racketeering scheme was conducted “with the consent of higher level officials” in Russia who “shared the proceeds” from the kickbacks, one agent declared in an affidavit years later.

Rather than bring immediate charges in 2010, however, the Department of Justice (DOJ) continued investigating the matter for nearly four more years, essentially leaving the American public and Congress in the dark about Russian nuclear corruption on U.S. soil during a period when the Obama administration made two major decisions benefiting Putin’s commercial nuclear ambitions.

The first decision occurred in October 2010, when the State Department and government agencies on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States unanimously approved the partial sale of Canadian mining company Uranium One to the Russian nuclear giant Rosatom, giving Moscow control of more than 20 percent of America’s uranium supply.

While the American public was left in the dark about these specifics, there have been many reports (such as this one at The New York Times) regarding a Uranium deal and payments to the Clinton Foundation. While there is no documentary evidence of a quid pro quo between Clinton and the Russians (possibly due to to Clinton having destroyed half of her emails from when she was Secretary of State in violation of the laws in effect in 2009), there have been multiple such episodes in which the Clinton have been found to have unethically received payments from parties with decisions before the State Department. This included both donations to the Clinton Foundation and unprecedented payments for speeches to Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton also ignored the ethics agreement she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State to disclose such contributions.

Once again we see how little difference there really is between Donald Trump and the Clintons.

Latest Russian Hysteria Says That Russian Trolls Studied House Of Cards

There is yet another article spreading hysteria about Russia which is at least slightly less silly than the recent warnings about the Russians using unknown rappers, puppies, and Pokémon Go. The latest warning is that Russians were using lessons they learned from watching House of Cards.

A central theme of this messaging was demonizing Hillary Clinton by playing up the past scandals of her husband’s administration, her wealth and her use of a private email server, according to the interview with the agency worker, identified only as “Maksim,” with his face concealed.

“Maksim” says he worked for the agency during 2015, the year before the election, when it was already focusing its attention on Clinton.

“The main message is: Are not you, my American brothers, tired of the Clintons? How many have they already been?” Maksim says, adding that he and his colleagues were told to emphasize the Clintons’ past “corruption scandals.”

But more broadly, the instructions given to employees of the English language department were to stoke discontent about the U.S. government and the Obama administration in particular. “We had a goal to set up the Americans against their own government,” he says. “To cause unrest, cause discontent [and] lower [President] Obama’s rating.”

Just how effective “comments” placed on the websites of American news organizations are in influencing public opinion, if they do anything at all, is far from clear. Still, the interview is potentially significant. Although other Russian language trolls who worked in the agency’s domestic departments have spoken out in the past, Maksim appears to be the first member of the highly selective English language section to describe the agency’s meticulous methods. This is the same department that Facebook has said covertly placed over 3,000 messages on its platform — one component in the Russian “influence campaign” during last year’s election that is getting increased attention from the House and Senate intelligence committees.

These scare stories almost always contain a disclaimer, such as this one saying that the effectiveness is “far from clear.” Realistically there is so much material out there from US sources alone on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that adding comments to websites is hardly likely to have any impact on public opinion.

Has anyone ever changed their opinion based upon comments on news organization web sites?

Clinton was hurt during 2016 both because she deserved to be hurt from her scandals, and as she kept these scandals alive by repeatedly lying about them. The Russians did not make Clinton use the private server and lie about it, or make her violate the ethics agreements she entered into before becoming confirmed as Secretary of State.

One sign that factors other than Russian actions affected approval of politicians is that while Clinton’s approval fell (and has continued to fall even after the election), Obama’s popularity increased.

As for using House of Cards, it is not necessary for the Russians to draw the comparison. Series creator Lord Dobbs said back in 2015 that Claire Underwood was based upon Hillary Clinton, and many people have seen the comparisons to the Clintons without needing  Russians to point it out. I also wonder what warped views anyone learning about American politics would have from watching House of Cards, making them more difficult to persuade others in web comments.

Hillary Clinton’s Double Standard On Sexual Harassment

To Hillary Clinton and her apologists, bad things are only bad if done by Republicans, or sometimes other people if the case is strong enough, but are not bad when they do them. We have seen this double standard for years in the acceptance of Clinton’s policies and her unethical conduct in public office. We are seeing another example with the fall of Harvey Weinstein. Hillary Clinton has tried to deflect from the actions of a supporter like Weinstein by comparing his actions to Donald Trump’s. While this is certainly valid, Clinton’s double standard was seen when Bill was mentioned during an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr. From the interview (with video below):

HILLARY CLINTON: I was shocked and appalled because I’ve known him through politics, as many Democrats have, he’s been a supporter.

ANDREW MARR, BBC: A funder.

CLINTON: He’s been a funder. For all of us. You know, for Obama, for me, for people who have run for, you know, office in the United States.

So, it was just disgusting and the stories that have come out are just heartbreaking. And I really commend the women who have been willing to step forward now and tell their stories.

But I think it’s important that we not just focus on him and whatever consequences flow from these stories about his behavior but that we recognize that this kind of behavior cannot be tolerated anywhere, whether it’s in entertainment, politics. After all, we have someone admitting to be a sexual assaulter in the Oval Office. There has to be a recognition that we must stand against this kind of action that is so sexist and misogynistic.

MARR: And this depends on women coming forward and the courage to come forward. And yet in your book the three women, brought onto the stage by Trump, attacking your husband and you kind of dismissed them. Was that the right thing to do, are you sure about that?

CLINTON: Well, yes, because that had all been litigated. That was the subject of a huge investigation as you might recall in the late ’90s and there were conclusions drawn and that was clearly in the past. But it is something that has to be taken seriously — as I say for everyone, not just for those in entertainment right now.

Sorry Hillary. If it is valid to bring Donald Trump into the discussion of sexual harassment after Harvey Weinstein’s fall (as you did) then it is also valid to bring Bill Clinton into the discussion (which you falsely claim is not valid as it happened in the past).

It is also rather sad that many Democrats will justify Bill’s actions (as quickly occurred when I first commented on this on Facebook). While Clinton’s hypocritical response is being criticized by some on the right such as Fox and Michelle Malkin (who admittedly would also attack her even if she had not said something wrong), many Democrats will look the other way. (Sometimes sources on the left do hold both Donald Trump and Bill Clinton to the same standard. Back in November, CounterPunch posted that  At Least 40 Women Have Accused Bill Clinton or Donald Trump of Sexual Assault. Vox has also looked into one of the accusations of rape by Bill Clinton volunteer Juanita Broaddrick against Clinton.)

Of course the Clinton double standard extends far beyond Bill’s behavior. Hillary Clinton described the email practices under Bush as shredding the Constitution, and then she went further in violating the law.  Many Democrats will criticize every unethical action under Republican administrations while ignoring how Clinton ignored the ethics agreements she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State. Many Democrats who attacked the Iraq war ignore Clinton’s history of lying to promote foreign interventionism. Many Democrats who protested violations of civil liberties under Bush totally ignore Hillary Clinton’s far right wing record on First Amendment issues. Many Democrats who opposed the infringements on separation of church and state by Republicans have ignored Clinton’s support for an increased role for religion in public policy.

Donald Trump Meets With The President Of The Virgin Islands & Other Briefs

Donald Trump is talking about having met with the President of the Virgin Islands (who technically would be himself). He says that tomorrow he will meet with the Commander-in-Chief of the US armed forces. He has also suggested that Mike Pence schedule a meeting with the President of the Senate. This is the guy who was boasting about his IQ earlier in the week.

Columbia is talking about hiring Hillary Clinton to be a professor. Can they afford her speaking fees? Do university’s have any form of ethics agreements before hiring someone? If so, they should know that she totally ignored the ethics agreement she entered into before taking her last job as Secretary of State.

Question of the Day: Which organization is more wracked in scandal and chaos: The Weinstein Co. or the Trump White House?

It makes perfect sense that Bernie Sanders was picked instead of Hillary Clinton to speak at the Women’s Convention. Unlike Clinton, Sanders has not promoted bombing of women around the world, has not defended the use of cluster bombs where women live, and has not backed taking welfare benefits away from women.

Eighteen states are suing the Trump administration over stopping the ObamaCare subsidies. The Pottery Barn Rule should now take effect with regards to Donald Trump and the Affordable Care Act–You Break It, You Own It.

I’ve been saying all along that the real Russia story is about the money, not altering the 2016 election results. NBC News is reporting that Paul Manafort had a $60 million relationship with a Russian oligarch.

Quote of the Day: “For the last 24 hours, Donald Trump has been the president of busy town. This morning, he signed an executive order to get rid of some key provisions of Obamacare. For instance, the care part.” –Stephen Colbert

Donald Trump May Have Reached A New Low With Attacks On Mayor Of San Juan

Donald Trump has done so many despicable things that I’m no longer sure where to rank his latest feud with the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico. His mishandling of this situation is reminiscent of George Bush’s mishandling of Katrina. The New York Times described his latest atrocious statements criticizing someone during a time of crisis:

President Trump lashed out at the mayor of San Juan on Saturday for criticizing his administration’s efforts to help Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, accusing her of “poor leadership” and implying that the people of the devastated island were not doing enough to help themselves.

As emergency workers and troops struggled to restore basic services in a commonwealth with no electricity and limited fuel and water, Mr. Trump spent the day at his New Jersey golf club, blasting out Twitter messages defending his response to the storm and repeatedly assailing the capital’s mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz, and the news media.

“The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,” the president wrote on Twitter. “Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help.”

Mr. Trump said the people of Puerto Rico should not depend entirely on the federal government. “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort,” he wrote. “10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job. The military and first responders, despite no electric, roads, phones etc., have done an amazing job. Puerto Rico was totally destroyed.”

The president’s stream of Twitter bolts appeared repeatedly over the course of 12 hours and touched off a furious day of recriminations that fueled questions about his leadership during the crisis. Although Mr. Trump earned generally high marks for his handling of hurricanes that struck Texas and Florida recently, he has been sharply criticized for being slow to sense the magnitude of the damage in Puerto Rico, an American territory, and project urgency about helping.

He has explained that the challenges are different because Puerto Rico is “an island surrounded by water — big water, ocean water,” as he put it on Friday, but in recent days he has stepped up his public statements and dispatched a three-star general to take over the response. Mr. Trump’s aggressive Twitter messages on Saturday were in keeping with how he has acted during other moments of crisis, notably when he assailed the mayor of London, who is Muslim, after a terrorist attack, asserting that he did not take the threat seriously enough.

The Washington Post has described her record far more favorably, and objectively, than Trump has. Attacking her during this crisis must fall among the worst statements from Trump. James Fallows calls it a new low:

…his Twitter outburst this morning — as he has left Washington on another trip to one of his golf courses, as millions of U.S. citizens are without water or electricity after the historic devastation of Hurricane Maria, as by chance it is also Yom Kippur — deserves note. It is a significant step downward for him, and perhaps the first thing he has done in office that, in its coarseness, has actually surprised me. (I explained the difference, for me, between shock and surprisewhen it comes to Trump, in this item last week.) Temperamentally, intellectually, and in terms of civic and moral imagination, he is not fit for the duties he is now supposed to bear…

A man who can say these things—from a golf course, while millions of his fellow citizens are in dire straits, and during an emergency that is worse because of his own narcissistic inattention—does not understand the job.

This has not happened before. It is not normal. It should not be acceptable. The United States is a big, resilient country, but a man like this can do severe damage to it and the world — and at the moment, he is leaving many Americans in mortal peril.

During the campaign, I argued that the greatest responsibility for Trump’s rise lay not with the man himself—he is who he is, he can’t help it—but with those Republicans who know what he is, and continue to look the other way. Their responsibility for the carnage of this era increases by the day, and has grown by quite a lot this weekend.

As it happens, I wrote and published that preceding paragraph a week ago.  The Republicans’ responsibility is all the graver now, and deepens by the day.

Of course similar criticism can be made about Democratic partisans who ignore how Hillary Clinton has spent her career undermining liberal values, repeatedly promoting unnecessary, lying almost as much as Donald Trump (nobody is likely to surpass Trump here), and (like Trump) using her public positions for personal financial gain. Democratic partisans who excuse Clinton’s disregard for government transparency, lying to the American people, and probable obstruction of justice with slogans like “but her email” are hardly any different than Republican partisans who support Trump. Ignoring evil out of partisanship is wrong regardless of party.

I don’t see much hope for improvement in our government until more people from both parties judge politicians by both higher standards and by the same standards, regardless of whether they are from their party or the opposing party.

Update: Vox writes, Puerto Rico is all our worst fears about Trump coming real–A real crisis comes and Trump can’t handle it.

Jared Kushner Failed To Disclose Private Email Account To Senate Intelligence Committee

We have significant new information regarding Jared Kushner’s use of private email. As I discussed earlier in the week, if his attorney has been telling the complete truth (which is a big if), then Kushner does not appear to have violated the rules regarding the use of personal emails as Hillary Clinton did. The differences were that Clinton exclusively used a private server, destroyed over half the email with claims later shown to be false that she only destroyed private email, discussed classified information in her private email, and failed to turn the email over to be archived as required. Kusher’s lawyer had claimed that he primarily used government email and that he has turned over copies of private email discussing government business to be archived.

CNN reports a new aspect which of the case with Kushner being accused of failing to disclose the private email account when testifying before the Senate:

In his closed interview with the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, White House senior adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner did not share the existence of his personal email account, which he has used for official business, CNN has learned.

CNN has also learned that the chair and vice chair of the committee were so unhappy that they learned about the existence of his personal email account via news reports that they wrote him a letter via his attorney Thursday instructing him to double-check that he has turned over every relevant document to the committee including those from his “‘personal email account’ described to the news media, as well as all other email accounts, messaging apps, or similar communications channels you may have used, or that may contain information relevant to our inquiry.”

The emphasis in the letter on “all other” personal accounts not known by the committee would seem to be a reflection of the frustration the committee leaders feel with that fact that Kushner was not up-front about the existence of his personal email account and their desire for him to cover the bases of all his possible communications avenues when responding to their letter. This issue could become more serious if there emerge any emails or communications related to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election that Kushner has not turned over, and whether he did so with the express purpose of concealing information from the committee.

If this is true, it would not be the first time Kushner failed to disclose relevant information:

Kushner has been criticized in the past for initially not disclosing more than 100 contacts with foreign leaders including those from Russia, as well as ownership of a multimillion dollar tech company with links to Goldman Sachs and businessmen Peter Thiel and George Soros. Kushner was also one of three top campaign officials or surrogates who failed to disclose a June 2016 meeting with a woman billed as being with the Russian government and having incriminating information on Hillary Clinton.

Of course Hillary Clinton was also far from honest in her testimony before Congress. Her testimony to the FBI, when she faced a more serious risk of perjury and was therefore more likely to be honest, differed significantly from what she had been saying before Congress and to the American people.