Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Trump's Train Wreck

Josh Marshall with the latest from the White House follies on Talking Points Memo.


We now have a story from The Washington Post ("The first days inside Trump’s White House: Fury, tumult and a reboot") to match yesterday's from The Times ("Rocky First Weekend for Trump Troubles Even His Top Aides"). They are each a classic type for a major newspaper. Throw your biggest reportorial names at the story, talk to every one and put together an over-arching from-the-inside narrative. They are each fascinating, occasionally comic and in some ways horrifying reads. But there is an underlying, not-made-explicit message to both which is perhaps the most important. We are three days into the administration and the Trump White House leaks not so much like a sieve as a bucket with no bottom.


The Trump White House not only leaks like crazy. It casually leaks the most intimate and humiliating details about the President - hurt feelings, ego injury, childlike behavior, self-destructive rages over tweets, media failure to credit his own grandiosity. We have simply never seen this level of leaking, with this little respect for the President's dignity or reputation, this early.


There is, to put it mildly, a rather clearly recurring theme: a torqued up man-child, alternatively rageful and fragile, both grandiose and profoundly insecure. To a degree it is difficult to maintain perspective since the contrast between the departed and incoming Presidents could simply not be any greater - either in the composure and steadiness of the man in question or in his associates' willingness to share his secrets with the press. Would it even be possible to mount a leak investigation when everyone seems to be leaking?


It is a bracing picture, chilling and hilarious. But don't lose the point: no White House leaks like this, leaks this much or leaks this casually about the President's emotional weakness.


Is anyone surpised?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Trump vs. Facts

Donald Trump says he is at war with the media. Ezra Klein argues he is actually trying to de-legitimize facts on vox.com.

Speaking at the CIA this afternoon, President Donald Trump said, “I have a running war with the media.”
Like much that Trump says, this isn’t quite true. His war isn’t with the media. Trump lives off media attention and delights in press coverage. His war is with facts. And it’s there that his tactical skirmishes with the press begin to make sense. Delegitimizing the media is important to Trump because delegitimizing certain facts is important to Trump.
The topic today — and trust me, it feels as strange to write this as it does to read this — is crowd size. Trump’s inaugural was sparsely attended compared with President Obama’s inaugural. We don’t have exact estimates yet, but aerial shots are clear on this point, as is secondary data, like Metro ridership and television ratings.
But it soon came clear that this wasn’t an off-the-cuff comment from the new president. Trump then had press secretary Sean Spicer call an impromptu briefing in which Spicer lashed the press for estimating crowd size. “Nobody had numbers, because the National Park Service does not put any out,” he insisted. Seconds later, he said: “This was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, both in person and around the globe.”
This, along with much else Spicer said, was plainly untrue. But there’s a strategy at work here. The Trump administration is creating a baseline expectation among its loyalists that they can’t trust anything said by the media. The spat over crowd size is a low-stakes, semi-comic dispute, but the groundwork is being laid for much more consequential debates over what is, and isn’t, true.
Delegitimizing the institutions that might report inconvenient or damaging facts about the president is strategic for an administration that has made a slew of impossible promises and takes office amid a cloud of ethics concerns and potential scandals.
It also gives the new administration a convenient scapegoat for their continued struggles with public opinion, and their potential future struggles with reality. This kind of “dishonesty from the media,” Spicer said, is making it hard “to bring our country together.” It’s not difficult to imagine the Trump administration disputing bad jobs numbers in the future, or claiming their Obamacare replacement covers everyone when it actually throws millions off insurance.
Spicer ended the statement on a warning. “There has been a lot of talk in the media about the responsibility of holding Donald Trump accountable. I am here to tell you that it goes two ways. We are going hold the press accountable as well.”

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Today's Marches Matter

Jonathan Chait describes the wave on New York Magazine.

Of the many reasons a man like Donald Trump managed to win the presidential election, ranging from the 22nd Amendment to James Comey, an important one was the imbalance in political passion between the two sides. Not only did many Democrats distrust or dislike Hillary Clinton, but eight years of Democratic control of the White House had created complacency (as it did in 2000). Republicans were starving for power and willing to overlook their candidate’s glaring, grotesque flaws. A number of Democrats would not forgive Clinton’s smaller ones. The events of the last two days have made clear that Trump’s victory wiped those conditions away overnight.
It matters that Trump drew a sparse crowd to inaugural festivities that he had billed beforehand as a historic, Jacksonian uprising of The People. And it matters much more that millions of Americans came out on a Saturday to register their protest. It is not only catharsis, though catharsis is better than depression. The message has been heard by the political class, Republican and Democratic alike.
It might be easy to assume that Trump and his allies feel insulated from accountability. It is not quite so simple. Republicans in Congress have thus far given Trump near-total cooperation of the assumption that they could move quickly and with little resistance to implement their agenda. Democrats did not really wake up from their late-Clinton slumber until the middle of Bush’s term, after which a lot of legislation had already passed. Republicans assuming they could rush through Paul Ryan’s agenda, while allowing Trump to obliterate long-standing governing norms, will rethink. The kind of backlash Democrats eventually mounted against Bush, which drove landslide victories in the 2006 midterm and the 2008 election, is a plausible possibility. In those elections, many seemingly safe red states turned blue.
One of the great weaknesses of American liberalism is a congenital tendency toward depression when their party holds power. The demobilization of the Democratic base is over. The prospect of a Democratic wave may not stop Republicans, and it may not even give them pause. But the governing party had probably assumed the clock would not start for months on the liberal backlash. Now the clock is ticking already.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

McClatchy on Trump Campaign and Russia

Peter Stone and Greg Gordon report on a multi-agancy investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russiam attempts to imflience the election for McClatchyDC.com.

The FBI and five other law enforcement and intelligence agencies have collaborated for months in an investigation into Russian attempts to influence the November election, including whether money from the Kremlin covertly aided President-elect Donald Trump, two people familiar with the matter said.


The agencies involved in the inquiry are the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and representatives of the director of national intelligence, the sources said.
Investigators are examining how money may have moved from the Kremlin to covertly help Trump win, the two sources said. One of the allegations involves whether a system for routinely paying thousands of Russian-American pensioners may have been used to pay some email hackers in the United States or to supply money to intermediaries who would then pay the hackers, the two sources said.
The informal, inter-agency working group began to explore possible Russian interference last spring, long before the FBI received information from a former British spy hired to develop politically damaging and unverified research about Trump, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the inquiry.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/article127231799.html#storylink=cpyThe BBC reported that the FBI had obtained a warrant on Oct. 15 from the highly secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court allowing investigators access to bank records and other documents about potential payments and money transfers related to Russia. One of McClatchy’s sources confirmed the report.Susan Hennessey, a former attorney for the National Security Agency who is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution, said she had no knowledge as to whether a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant had been issued in the investigation of Russian influence. However, she said such warrants were issued only if investigators could establish “probable cause” that the target was a foreign power or its agent and that the surveillance was likely to produce foreign intelligence. She said the information in Steele’s dossier couldn’t have met that test.The BBC reported that the FBI had obtained a warrant on Oct. 15 from the highly secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court allowing investigators access to bank records and other documents about potential payments and money transfers related to Russia. One of McClatchy’s sources confirmed the report.
Susan Hennessey, a former attorney for the National Security Agency who is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution, said she had no knowledge as to whether a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant had been issued in the investigation of Russian influence. However, she said such warrants were issued only if investigators could establish “probable cause” that the target was a foreign power or its agent and that the surveillance was likely to produce foreign intelligence. She said the information in Steele’s dossier couldn’t have met that test.
“If, in fact, law enforcement has obtained a FISA warrant, that is an indication that additional evidence exists outside of the dossier,” she said.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/article127231799.html#storylink=cpy


Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/article127231799.html#storylink=cpy


Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/article127231799.html#storylink=c




Investigators are examining how money may have moved from the Kremlin to covertly help Trump win, the two sources said. One of the allegations involves whether a system for routinely paying thousands of Russian-American pensioners may have been used to pay some email hackers in the United States or to supply money to intermediaries who would then pay the hackers, the two sources said.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/article127231799.html#storylink=cpy
ead more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/article127231799.html#storylink=cpy