By Doug Porter
The appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead investigations into Trump/Russia/Corruption has not, as some Republicans hoped, slowed the flow of revelations and accusations concerning the administration. The number of leaks is almost too much to keep up with, which is why I’m listing a few of the big ones in today’s column.
Leaks and lots of them are to be expected when the Commander-in-Chief all but declares war on the intelligence/industrial complex. Trump thought coal miners were pissed about losing their jobs; now he’s seeing the fury of the FBI faithful.
The good news here is, For the foreseeable future, there will be no movement on tax reform, infrastructure, restructuring Medicaid in the states, or his big, beautiful border wall. The Koch brothers are so concerned about ‘tax reform’ they’re funding a lobbying blitz and ad campaign. Let them waste their money.
The Score Thus Far
**No, No, No! Former Trump administration national security adviser Lt. General Michael Flynn will apparently not be honoring a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to the Associated Press. How this will play out should provide many hours of entertainment on CSPAN, so remember to add extra popcorn to the shopping list.
PRO-TIP: Actually doing something about contempt of Congress isn’t gonna happen. Remember that former Obama administration officials including Atty General Eric Holder, IRS Director Lois Lerner, and IT Director Bryan Pagliano were all found to be in contempt of Congress. And what once were Congressional jails are now being used as a snack bar and post office.
** Awkward? Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the top investigative body in the chamber is quitting, effective June 30. He recently subpoenaed James Comey’s memos and expects to hear testimony next week from the fired FBI director. In his next life, Chaffetz is reportedly going to work for Fox News. (Really!)
**Another Presidential Pivot? Nope. I just loved the ABC News headline about the ‘measured response’ of the White House to news of the appointment of a special counsel. When will the mainstream media stop falling for the spooned out crap coming out of the White House press office?
This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 18, 2017
**Ha! House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was, we’re now being told, just joking when he spoke of politicians likely to be on Putin’s payroll during a private GOP leadership meeting. Except that the ‘joke’ explanation didn’t come up until the Washington Post made it clear there was a recording of the conversation.
“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016, exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.
Before the conversation, McCarthy and Ryan had emerged from separate talks at the Capitol with Ukrainian Prime Minister Vladimir Groysman, who had described a Kremlin tactic of financing populist politicians to undercut Eastern European democratic institutions.
**White House Decision Buys Time for ISIS. So much for the tough on terror routine.
From the McClatchy:
One of the Trump administration’s first decisions about the fight against the Islamic State was made by Michael Flynn weeks before he was fired – and it conformed to the wishes of Turkey, whose interests, unbeknownst to anyone in Washington, he’d been paid more than $500,000 to represent.
The decision came 10 days before Donald Trump had been sworn in as president, in a conversation with President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, who had explained the Pentagon’s plan to retake the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa with Syrian Kurdish forces whom the Pentagon considered the U.S.’s most effective military partners. Obama’s national security team had decided to ask for Trump’s sign-off, since the plan would all but certainly be executed after Trump had become president.
Flynn didn’t hesitate. According to timelines distributed by members of Congress in the weeks since, Flynn told Rice to hold off, a move that would delay the military operation for months.
**Flynn’s Foibles No Surprise. The Trump administration knew Michael Flynn was under investigation for secretly serving as a paid agent of Turkey prior to his appointment as National Security Advisor, according to the New York Times. The transition team, headed by Vice President Pence, knew because the retired General told them.
Mr. Flynn’s disclosure, on Jan. 4, was first made to the transition team’s chief lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, who is now the White House counsel. That conversation, and another one two days later between Mr. Flynn’s lawyer and transition lawyers, shows that the Trump team knew about the investigation of Mr. Flynn far earlier than has been previously reported.
Jan. 15: Pence denies Trump campaign talked to Russia at all. (video)
May 18: Reuters says at least 22 contacts between campaign and Russia pic.twitter.com/OxNUhXAyjN
— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) May 18, 2017
But Wait! There’s More! For those of you who need to catch up on earlier developments there’s this summation of all things Flynn via the Huffington Post:
The Trump administration protected Flynn despite repeated warnings from people inside and outside the government that he was compromised. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates told the White House a week after the inauguration that Flynn “could essentially be blackmailed by the Russians” after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about meetings he had with the Russian ambassador, she testified to a Senate subcommittee earlier this month. It took Trump 18 more days to fire Flynn.
Trump fired Flynn on Feb. 13, several weeks after the Raqqa recommendation. He then pressured FBI Director James Comey the next day to close the investigation into Flynn, according to Comey’s notes, the Times reported Tuesday.
Comey did not.
Trump fired Comey on May 9. The same day, media reports emerged that the president had changed his mind about Syria: He had decided there was only one way to defeat the Islamic State without involving large numbers of U.S. troops. He would arm the Syrian Kurds after all.
**Ooops! Eighteen times. Reuters is now reporting that Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race, according to current and former U.S. officials. (Emphasis mine)
Six of the previously undisclosed contacts described to Reuters were phone calls between Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, and Trump advisers, including Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, three current and former officials said.
Conversations between Flynn and Kislyak accelerated after the Nov. 8 vote as the two discussed establishing a back channel for communication between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that could bypass the U.S. national security bureaucracy, which both sides considered hostile to improved relations, four current U.S. officials said.
** Putin Trolls Trump. The Russians are reportedly loving every minute of the whirlwind of scandal in Washington.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered to send Congress and the Senate records from U.S. President Donald Trump’s May 10 meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, dismissing the furor in Washington as “political schizophrenia.”
** Off to See the Saudis President Trump is supposed to embark on a nine-day international tour… except that he asked to have the trip shortened to five days, according to yet another leak at the White House.
The president reportedly had “expressed dread” about the upcoming trip, which will include stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican.
While in Saudi Arabia, the President is expected to make a speech on Islam before an audience of representatives of more than 50 Muslim countries. Included in this select group will be Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.
And then there’s this, from New York Magazine:
Yes, that’s right: The president, a man who has espoused openly Islamophobic views and is known for his less-than-subtle thinking and speaking, will go to the birthplace of the religion, as a guest of a regime whose entire legitimacy derives from its role as the guardian of Islam’s Holy Places, and presume to lecture Muslims on their obligation to fight “radical Islam.”
What could possibly go wrong?
Before answering, one should be aware of another fact about this speech: It is reportedly being written by Senior Policy Adviser Stephen Miller, who has a record of Muslim-baiting as long as your arm. He is the close White House ally of former Breitbart executive Stephen Bannon and former Breitbart writer Julia Hahn, two people who appear to believe Muslim refugees are an existential threat to America. Miller did not let his lack of legal training get in the way of drafting the Trump travel-ban order that caused horrific chaos before being stopped by the courts. His own casual words identifying the travel ban with Trump’s call for an unconstitutional “Muslim ban” during the campaign became a central part of the rationale for said judicial intervention.
**A New Sheriff in Town. Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is headed to Washington to be the assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security in charge of coordination with local law enforcement agencies.
This is the guy who took to twitter last October to warn the world about ISIS joining with Black Lives Matter to “bring down the Republic.” From Think Progress:
“Let me tell you why blacks sell drugs and involve themselves in criminal behavior instead of a more socially acceptable lifestyle — because they’re uneducated, they’re lazy, and they’re morally bankrupt,” Clarke said. “That’s why.”
The next month, Clarke made a mysterious NRA-funded trip to Moscow and met with a deputy of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Since Trump’s election, Clarke has mocked women who participated in anti-Trump marches the day after the inauguration.
I’ll steal a phrase from Bette Davis…
They say you should never speak ill of the dead, only good. So I’ll say this: Roger Ailes is dead. Good.
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