U.S. Politics

Mitch McConnell Didn’t Just Steal A Supreme Court Seat

Mitch McConnell Didn’t Just Steal A Supreme Court Seat

 

THE NATIONAL MEMO

When history gathers the men who made the presidency of Donald Trump possible, lingering in a corner behind the blinding glare of Julian Assange and the massive 6’8” frame of James Comey will be Mitch McConnell, his corners mouth shaped into a smile that resembles a twisted mustache.

McConnell will want you to believe that history owes him credit for his strategic brilliance. And it’s undeniable that his campaign of massive obstruction topped off by the historic robbery of a Supreme Court seat, helped unite a GOP that was fracturing like a fissured fibula and make Trump’s improbable rise to the White House possible.

The Senate Majority Leader calls not allowing the appointment of Merrick Garland, President Obama’s pick to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a fair hearing “the most consequential decision I’ve ever been involved in.” And as usual, he’s being both self-congratulatory and deceptive.

Yes, Trump did better with evangelical voters than Mitt Romney, John McCain and even an actual evangelical George W. Bush, according to an analysis from Pew.

This is a result so unlikely that it’s almost unmistakable from satire.

Trump is a thrice married accumulator of failed casinos, stolen valor from other people’s charity and sexual harassment allegations. For him to even be nearly as competitive with the religious right as devout believers like Romney and Bush or even McCain, who the poster boy for the Reagan Revolution, is a monumental victory for both hypocrisy and tactical politics. Trump proved that the right’s feigned concerns for other people’s marriages was absolutely negotiable as long what it was offered in return was up to four revanchist Supreme Court Justices who will reshape and regress America for as long as half a century.

McConnell understands that since Brown v. Board of Education, the Court has been the defining issue for a conservative movement that fully comprehends our justice system’s power to remake or restore old biases. Holding a seat as a lure for the right was an opportunity Trump seized by putting out a list of Heritage Foundation-approved Justices and picking Mike Pence, a walking proof point for the argument that his agenda could be captured by the religious right.

It was a brilliant strategy from a man who has led a movement that recognizing the dusk of its demographic advantages decided to drop all pretenses of pomp and statesmanship for the pure embrace of power politics.

The Senate minority led by McConnell used the filibuster to block 79 of Obama’s nominees by 2013. That’s 79 in less than five five years, “compared with 68 in the entire previous history of the Republic,” Dana Milbank notes. When Senate Republicans refused to confirm anyone to the D.C. appeals court just after President Obama became the first president elected with 51 percent of the popular vote twice, Senate Democrats went nuclear and ended the filibuster for all appointments, except the Supreme Court. McConnell completed the nuclear fallout he made inevitable last week by denying the minority the right to block a young far right Justice selected by a man who lost the popular vote by 3 million usurping an older compromise pick from a genuinely popular president.

McConnell sees shredding of tradition as no vice in the pursuit of preserving privilege.

Nothing was going to stop him from taking Garland’s seat — not even the interference of a foreign government in our election.

This takes us to what Brian Beutler reveals as the real mostconsequential decision of McConnell’s career” and that’s the decision to shut down any attempt to make the public aware of Russia’s interference into our elections, which had been invited and embraced by Trump himself.

Beutler notes that “leaders of the U.S. intelligence community sought a united front ahead of the fall against Russian election interference—whatever its nature—and McConnell shot it down.” And not only shot it down, promised to impugn any effort to expose Putin’s efforts as false and partisan. This was threat that the Obama Administration calculated would harm both the Clinton campaign and the fabric of our democracy.

“The upshot is that McConnell drew a protective fence around Russian efforts to sabotage Clinton’s candidacy, by characterizing any effort to stop it as partisan politicization of intelligence at Trump’s expense,” Beutler wrote.

So as the FBI investigated a presidential campaign for possible collusion with foreign power, the public only learned of the possible existence, in the days just before the election, of some emails that may have validated the hazy, wild accusations being flung at Hillary Clinton by Donald Trump and his foreign allies.

Rather than broaden its message or revamp its failed policies, the GOP has declared war on democracy. And when history notes who made this strategy and unchecked madman it elected possible, much of the credit should go to Mitch McConnell.

That will be one thing he didn’t steal.

U.S. Politics

CNN analyst: Sources say Mike Flynn may have turned on Trump and become a witness for the FBI

Gen. Michael Flynn speaks to NBC (screen grab)

RAW STORY

As of Saturday evening, rumors are swirling that Pres. Donald Trump’s ousted national security adviser Mike Flynn has cut a deal with the FBI and is now informing on his old boss, the president.

CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem discussed the possibility in a panel discussion on Friday night when she said that former Trump foreign policy consultant Carter Page, ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort and longtime Trump ally Roger Stone will all testify before the House Intelligence Committee regarding their ties to Russia.

“It’s not that interesting to me because I don’t think they’ll be under oath,” Kayyem said. “The one name not mentioned is a name I mention often on this show: Mike Flynn, the former national security adviser.”

“It is starting to look like — from my sources and from open reporting — that Mike Flynn is the one who may have a deal with the FBI and that’s why we have not heard from him for some time,” she said.

Flynn, a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General, was forced to step down from the Trump administration when it came to light that he lied to Vice President Mike Pence and the public about his contacts with Russian Ambassador and former FSB spy recruiter Sergey Kislyak.

This week, retired CIA Director James Woolsey said that he sat in on a secret meeting with Flynn and officials from Turkey’s authoritarian Erdogan regime in which Flynn entertained the idea of illegally sidestepping U.S. diplomatic protocols to return a fugitive Muslim cleric to Turkey. Woolsey describe the proposed operation as a “dead of night” mission to “whisk away” Fethullah Gulen and return him to Erdogan’s far-right government.

Watch the video, embedded below:

U.S. Politics

‘There’s a Smell of Treason in the Air’

FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers appear in front of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Monday, March 20, 2017  (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

MOYERS & COMPANY

FBI and NSA chiefs verify a Russia probe and refute the president’s claims as Republicans scramble to pretend the “drip, drip, drip” hasn’t started.

Monday’s hearing of the House Intelligence Committee was proof positive of the absolute need for both a special prosecutor and an independent, bipartisan commission with subpoena power to conduct a full investigation of the Trump campaign’s connections with Russian intelligence — as well as Russia’s multi-pronged attack on our elections and Trump’s business connections with that country’s oligarchs.

(Note that there was agreement that leaks are illegal but no one mentioned that it’s the media’s complete and constitutionally guaranteed right to report on them. Nor was anyone asked how many times GOP members of the committee have done their own leaking.)

Trump did what he could to distract as well, firing a volley of five heated early-morning tweets just before testimony began, reiterating claims that disgruntled Democrats manufactured charges about Russia’s involvement in the election and contact with Trump aides. There were more during the hearing itself — from Trump or someone at the White House tweeting in his name — twisting the day’s testimony by Comey and National

Security Agency chief Mike Rogers. Bizarrely, the two men then were placed in the position of having to rebut Trump’s allegations while they still were in the witness seats, correcting and putting the president in his place — virtually in real time.

Not only did Comey verify that the FBI was actively investigating Trump and his associates, he also flatly denied on behalf of his agency and the Justice Department that prior to January’s inauguration now-former President Obama had ordered eavesdropping on Trump Tower. Under normal circumstances this would seem to neutralize yet another of Trump’s wacky tweet storms, this one from two weeks ago, but as we’ve learned so well, the truth has never been a barrier to the social media madness of King Donald I.

And yet, as presidential historian Douglas Brinkley told The Washington Post, “There’s a smell of treason in the air. Imagine if J. Edgar Hoover or any other FBI director would have testified against a sitting president? It would have been a mindboggling event.”

But here we are, adrift in a Cloud Cuckoo Land of prevarication and incompetence in which little seems capable of boggling or driving our minds agog these days and where the truth shall not set you free but subject you to ridicule from the rabid trolls of the right.

And still there is hope. Even though neither Comey nor Rogers would reveal much of what they are discovering — continually citing the confidentiality they said was necessary to an ongoing investigation — the questions asked, despite the “no comment” answers, suggested ongoing areas of inquiry not only for investigating committees but also for the press.

For it is the free and independent media that continue to provide our clearest window into the extent of the investigation and the possible interface among the Trump campaign, Russia and the right. Late Monday, for example, McClatchy News reported:

“Federal investigators are examining whether far-right news sites played any role last year in a Russian cyber operation that dramatically widened the reach of news stories — some fictional — that favored Donald Trump’s presidential bid, two people familiar with the inquiry say.

“Operatives for Russia appear to have strategically timed the computer commands, known as ‘bots,’ to blitz social media with links to the pro-Trump stories at times when the billionaire businessman was on the defensive in his race against Democrat Hillary Clinton, these sources said.”

McClatchy reports that most of the stories were linked from social media posts and many of them connected to stories at Breitbart and Alex Jones’ InfoWars, as well as Russia Today and Sputnik News:

“Investigators examining the bot attacks are exploring whether the far-right news operations took any actions to assist Russia’s operatives. Their participation, however, wasn’t necessary for the bots to amplify their news through Twitter and Facebook.”

The spin machines are twirling at cyclonic speeds as the White House and the Republican Party counterattack or try to act as if none of this is happening. Like the refugee couple in Casablanca, they pretend to hear very little and understand even less. At the end of Monday’s testimony, intelligence committee chair Nunes actually told David Corn of Mother Jones that he had never heard of Roger Stone or Carter Page, two of the Trump/Russia story’s most prominent and tawdry players. Ingenuous or ignorant? You be the judge.

“Is it possible that all of these events and reports are completely unrelated and nothing more than an entirely unhappy coincidence?” Adam Schiff asked at Monday’s hearing.

“Yes, it is possible. But it is also possible, maybe more than possible, that they are not coincidental, not disconnected and not unrelated, and that the Russians use the same techniques to corrupt US persons that they employed in Europe and elsewhere. We simply don’t know. Not yet. And we owe it to the country to find out.”

During Schiff’s questioning on Monday, Comey seemed to nod toward agreeing that Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee was not unlike the 1972 physical break-in at the DNC. You know, the one that precipitated the revelations, resignations and prison convictions of Watergate. Drip, drip, drip…

MICHAEL WINSHIP

U.S. Politics

Comey, Justice Department at odds over Trump’s bizarre claims

FBI Director James Comey testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, March 1, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty)

FBI Director James Comey testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, March 1, 2016 in Washington, DC. | Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty

MSNBC – The Maddow Blog

The day before Donald Trump was inaugurated as president, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and then-CIA Director John Brennan wanted to tell the incoming White House team that Michael Flynn had been lying about his contacts with Russia. FBI Director James Comey disagreed.
As the Washington Postreported last month, Comey pushed back against the idea “primarily on the grounds that notifying the new administration could complicate the agency’s investigation” into Russia’s intervention on Trump’s behalf. Quoting a source familiar with Comey’s thinking at the time, the FBI director didn’t think the bureau should be “the truth police.”

“In other words, if there’s not a violation of law here, it’s not our job to go and tell the vice president that he’s been lied to,” the source said.

A month later, Donald Trump apparently started lying to the nation about former President Obama wiretapping the Republican’s phone line before the election. According to the New York Times’reporting, Comey believed in this case that the FBI should be the truth police.

The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, asked the Justice Department this weekend to publicly reject President Trump’s assertion that President Barack Obama ordered the tapping of Mr. Trump’s phones, senior American officials said on Sunday. Mr. Comey has argued that the highly charged claim is false and must be corrected, they said, but the department has not released any such statement. […]

Mr. Comey’s request is a remarkable rebuke of a sitting president, putting the nation’s top law enforcement official in the position of questioning Mr. Trump’s truthfulness. The confrontation between the two is the most serious consequence of Mr. Trump’s weekend Twitter outburst, and it underscores the dangers of what the president and his aides have unleashed by accusing the former president of a conspiracy to undermine Mr. Trump’s young administration.

It’s worth pausing to appreciate the circumstances the nation finds itself in. The sitting president of the United States, apparently after reading some nonsense on a right-wing website, seems to have lied to the nation about a conspiracy involving his predecessor. The director of the FBI – a Republican appointed by Obama – concluded that the president was lying and asked the Justice Department to tell Americans the truth.

The Justice Department ignored the request, allowing Trump’s apparent deception to stand.

There’s no reason to assume Comey was motivated by a desire to defend Obama. On the contrary, this is about the bureau he leads: if federal officials conducted illegal surveillance against Trump during the election, the misdeeds would’ve been conducted by the FBI.

In other words, Comey had an incentive to push back against Trump’s bizarre conspiracy theory, not because of Obama, but to defend the bureau.

The Justice Department, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who appears to have given false testimony about his own contacts with Russia, made no effort to correct the record over the weekend. If the Times’ reporting is accurate, it suggests the DOJ simply blew off Comey’s plea.

A White House spokesperson, meanwhile, was asked on ABC News this morning whether Trump accepts Comey’s findings. “No, I don’t think he does,” White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of the president’s perspective.

So the president is at odds with the FBI director, and the FBI director is at odds with the Justice Department, all in response to Donald Trump’s latest conspiracy theory, which offers evidence that the president is more inclined to believe Breitbart News over James Comey.

Among the many questions on my mind this morning: does Comey have any regrets for intervening in the presidential election last October and helping put Trump in the Oval Office?

U.S. Politics

Report: Manafort part of intelligence review of intercepted Russian communications

Report: Manafort part of intelligence review of intercepted Russian communications

Getty Images

THE HILL

American intelligence and law enforcement agencies are looking at intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of an investigation into possible ties between Donald Trump’s associates and the Kremlin, the New York Times reports.

The report, published less than 24 hours before Trump is inaugurated, is reportedly focused on examining the business dealings that some of Trump’s closest confidants and operatives have had in Russia, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, already the subject of an FBI inquiry into his dealings in Russia and Ukraine.

At least two other campaign advisors, Carter Page and Roger Stone, are also being examined, according to The Times report.

The investigation is being conducted by the FBI, the National Security Agency, the CIA and the financial crimes unit of the Treasury Department. But it is unclear whether the intercepted communications had anything to do with Trump or his campaign, the Times noted. It’s also unclear whether it is related to the investigation into hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Russian attempts to interfere with the election.

Manafort told The Times that he has never had any interaction with the Russian government and called the allegations “a Democratic Party dirty trick and completely false.”

Trump has repeatedly disputed that the Kremlin tried to influence the 2016 presidential election in his favor, despite overwhelming agreement by the U.S. intelligence community on that point.

The counterintelligence investigation is not tied to an unverified 35-page dossier that’s said to show Russia has compromising information on Trump. That dossier — the subject of another FBI probe — became the subject of news reports earlier this month, when CNN reported that Trump and outgoing President Barack Obama were briefed on a summary of the memos.

MAX GREENWOOD

U.S. Politics

Irony Alert: Comey Refuses To Comment Publicly On Possible Trump-Russia Investigation

Irony Alert: Comey Refuses To Comment Publicly On Possible Trump-Russia Investigation

Screenshot

POLITICUS USA

“I would never comment on investigations  …  in an open forum,” the FBI director said, straight face intact.

During a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Tuesday, FBI Director James Comey refused to comment on whether his agency is investigating any connection between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia.

“I would never comment on investigations  …  in an open forum,” Comey responded, straight face intact.

The remark comes amid reports that Russia has damaging financial and personal information on Trump.

The irony of the FBI director’s refusal to answer the question posed by Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden did not go unnoticed by Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine.

Video:

When King pressed Comey on why he wouldn’t answer Wyden’s initial question on whether the FBI was investigation a possible Trump campaign-Russia connection, Comey repeated himself.

“I don’t, especially in a public forum, we never confirm or deny a pending investigation,” Comey said.

King shot back, with a chuckle: “The irony of your making that statement here, I cannot avoid, but I’ll move on.”

The irony, of course, is that Comey weighed in publicly about the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails twice in two weeks just before last year’s presidential election.

Luckily, Comey was called out for his clear change of heart when it comes to publicly discussing his agency’s investigations. But the American people still deserve to know whether Trump – who will formally become president in 10 days – was coordinating with a foreign state in order to win a presidential election.

U.S. Politics

PANIC MODE: TRUMP RAGES AT ‘RIGGED’ FBI

THE HUFFINGTON POST

Associated Press

Clinton Cleared… Report: Nearly Every Email Was A Duplicate!…
Hillary ‘Rolls Her Eyes, Shrugs’…
Finding Doesn’t Stop Republican Attacks…EARLIER: FBI Renegades Reportedly Trying To Sink Clinton… Kaine: ‘Absolutely Staggering’…  Franken: Comey Should Face Senate Hearings…

U.S. Politics

Fox’s Jeanine Pirro: Comey Disgraced And Politicized The FBI

CROOKS AND LIARS

Hell must have frozen over because I actually agree with something Fox’s wingnut “judge” Jeanine Pirro had to say. I disagree with her about whether or not Clinton should have been indicted, but she’s actually right when it comes to Comey politicizing the FBI.

Here’s more on her latest rant from Fox’s blog:

Saturday on Justice, Judge Jeanine Pirro said that FBI Director James Comey’s decision to send a letter to Congress notifying them of the discovery of further email evidence in the probe into Hillary Clinton’s alleged mishandling of classified information “disgraces and politicizes” the bureau.

“[This] is symptomatic of all that is wrong in Washington,” she said.

“One of the most revered agencies in our nation’s history–now seen as putting its finger on the scales of justice–should not now be front and center,” Pirro said, “You know I support Donald Trump and want him to win, but whether it’s Hillary Clinton or anyone else, Comey’s actions violate not only longstanding Justice Department policy…but the most fundamental rules of fairness and impartiality.”

Pirro discussed her own similar situation involving the DOJ: In 2006, she ran on the Republican/Conservative/Independent ticket for New York State Attorney General.

“In the home stretch of a statewide campaign, the Justice Department and the FBI violated their own policy against making public statements that could affect an election, and announced to the press they were opening an investigation of me,” she said.

“It was mean-spirited and nothing came of it, except the adverse publicity cost me at the polls.”

Regarding Clinton’s case, Pirro said that if Comey administered a thorough investigation, “we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“Hillary Clinton should have been indicted a long time ago–she and Bill’s scandals have done nothing but soil our nation’s image,” she said.

By Heather