This alone should be an impeachable offense

The Pentagon leaks an explosive story of Trump’s dereliction of duty — widening the rift between the military and the White House

The news was chilling: Russians have been paying Taliban militants to kill Americans in Afghanistan even as peace talks with the Taliban were underway, intelligence sources told The New York Times. Actually, the more you roll this disclosure over in your mind, the worse it gets.

Protecting U.S. troops is Job One for any president, but particularly this one who insists on its primacy. And he isn’t doing his job to protect our sons and daughters in the field. U.S. troops were attacked and we did nothing about it.

This alone should be an impeachable offense.

But it says more, much more about Trump’s turn away from real-world problems that affect the rest of us, from pandemic to income inequality to racism. Thanks to coronavirus and joblessness, the disclosure wasn’t even considered the most important news of the day.

The Times said U.S intelligence has evidence that a Russian military spy unit has been paid Islamic militants linked to the Taliban to target Americans and other coalition troops. The Times account was quickly confirmed by The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. Just why Russia is doing this remains murky: Perhaps Russia wanted to break up peace talks with violence against Americans, perhaps it was in retaliation for a U.S. attack in Syria that unintentionally killed Russian soldiers.

Whatever it was or is, no one knows how many of the 20 Americans killed last year in Afghanistan were targeted this way. It’s a different picture than Trump appearing with U.S. troops for a celebratory photo.

What we do know is that U.S. troops were attacked and we did nothing about it.

The disclosure emerged as The United States finally was telling British allies about it this week. Does that mean that the United States officially was withholding these developments from allies—another abridgment of presidential duty or at least moral responsibility?

Is this not an escalation of anti-American, anti-allied interests at a time when we’re talking about pulling troops from Europe?

Note, too: The leak didn’t come from the White House. That normally closed-mouth U.S. defense and intelligence folks would discuss this with these reporters who cover these areas seems a direct reflection of the growing rift between the Pentagon and Trump over national security policy-making. According to The Times, military officials offered a range of anti-Russia alternatives in March, and Trump has sat on them.

For the United States apparently to do nothing at all is stunning all by itself.

We’ve seen the White House interfere with the military hierarchy over assignment and promotion of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who spoke out after Trump’s impeachable blackmail attempts of the Ukraine president. We’ve seen Trump moving to manipulate military justice courts in the cases involving former SEAL Edward Gallagher and the Navy captain who tried to help a virus-infected crew.

We’ve seen the generals increasingly willing to split publicly with Trump, and Trump, in turn, insulting and belittling people like James Mattis, the former secretary of defense; John Kelly Jr., the former chief of staff; and others. Only Trump himself knows the answers on foreign policy.

Except on issues involving Russia, and once again, we find ourselves scratching the head wondering whether Trump is not acting here—even issuing some formal knock-it-off message to the Kremlin out of some long, never-fully disclosed loyalty to the Kremlin.

With the extraordinary Trump administration effort this week to overturn criminal charges against the twice-admitted liar Michael T. Flynn, unsubstantiated “treason” calls against former President Barack Obama, we find ourselves still steeped in the Trump-Russia question.

Quite to the contrary of Trump’s self-proclaimed toughness on Russia, we are hearing of Trump’s maneuvering to get Russian leader Vladimir Putin back into the Group of Eight meetings. There is no more talk of sanctions against Russia—only acquiescence to Russian control of Syria, acceptance of ending Russia nuclear weapons treaties, proposed withdrawal of American troops from Europe, and constant diminution of NATO.  Russia is still in Ukraine, Russia is still supporting Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, Russia is still reportedly active in seeking to disrupt U.S. elections.

Where is the so-called Trump toughness?

Yes, we’re in a pandemic, an economic tsunami and widespread protests for social justice. But Trump has found time for anti-immigration moves and an attack on the U.S. health system along with personal promotion, campaign rallies, and golf.

Do you think he could spend a few minutes on protecting Americans in uniform?

We’re seeing that the need to declare Afghanistan over, when it is not, in time for the Trump re-election campaign apparently outweighs the lives of our troops.

 

Edited story from AlterNet by Terry H. Schwardon / DC Report

Russia offered a bounty for killing US troops! …..Putin loving Trump is cool with it

Outrage has greeted media reports that say American intelligence officials believe a Russian military intelligence unit offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing foreign soldiers in Afghanistan, including targeting Americans.
New York Times, citing its sources as unnamed officials briefed on the matter, and followed up by the Washington Post. The reports said that the US had come to the conclusion about the operation several months ago and offered rewards for successful attacks last year.
The Times wrote: “The intelligence finding was briefed to Trump, and the White House’s National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March.” White House officials apparently drew up several possible options to retaliate against the Kremlin, ranging from a diplomatic reprimand right through to fresh sanctions. However, the White House has so far not taken any action.
It is not be proven yet if bounties were paid out for successfully killing American soldiers.

As the news broke it triggered a fierce response from top Democrats, especially those who have long pointed to what they say is Trump’s overly close relationship to Russia’s autocratic leader, Vladimir Putin. Virginia Senator Tim Kaine: “Trump was cozying up to Putin and inviting him to the G7 all while his administration reportedly knew Russia was trying to kill US troops in Afghanistan and derail peace talks with the Taliban.”

Michael McFaul, a former ambassador to Russia and a professor of political science at Stanford University, said: “I hope the American people will be as outraged as I am over Trump’s complacency. After he knew about these Putin-ordered contracts to kill US soldiers, Trump invited Putin to the G7.”

John Weaver, a Republican political consultant who helped found the anti-Trump Lincoln Project group, also expressed outrage.

John Weaver@jwgop
Trump knew Russia was paying bounties on the lives of American servicemen in Afghanistan. He took no action against Putin. Instead, @realDonaldTrump REWARDED Putin by trying to insert Russia back into the G-7. And, not enough, withdrawing 25,000 American troops from Germany.

The news comes after the US reached an initial peace deal with the Taliban, which aimed for the full withdrawal of the US military from the war-torn country within just over a year. The pact was supposed to kickstart talks between the rebels and the Afghan government but they have not materialized.

The unit that US officials have reportedly identified as responsible for the bounties has also been linked to the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy, in Britain in 2018, which triggered a huge diplomatic dispute between Moscow and London.

Trump’s relationship with Russia has been the source of much scandal and frustration with US allies, especially in Europe.

Russia’s attempts to interfere with the 2016 US election were part of the basis of the Robert Mueller investigation that dogged much of Trump’s time in office. He has repeatedly flown in the face of his own intelligence briefings to say that he believes Russian denials of meddling in US affairs and has touted his close friendship with Putin as a benefit to the US. He has also pushed for Russia to be allowed back into the G7 group of major industrial powers, while at the same questioning the role of NATO.

from The Guardian

Bolton the Coward’s karma, is messing with his greedy plans

For one brief moment, the eyes of the nation were on Chicken Hawk and former National Security Adviser John Bolton. The impeachment of Donald Trump was ongoing, and Bolton was known to have played a critical role behind the scenes of the Ukraine scheme at the heart of the proceedings’ charges. Reports indicated that his potential testimony would be explosive.

But greedy and cowardly Bolton refused to testify before the House of Representatives’ impeachment hearing, later saying he was only willing to testify for the Senate, knowing he wouldn’t be called. The shameless Republican Party that would ultimately acquit Trump in the Senate refused to call any witnesses, so Bolton’s voice was never heard. At a critical moment in the nation’s history, Bolton chose to withhold potentially vital information from the public and from the officials tasked with adjudicating the president’s fitness to serve.

Now that cowardice has come back to bite him in the ass.

Bolton has sought to publish a book recounting his time in the White House, which will delve into key events in the Ukraine saga. But with impeachment over and that scandal in the rearview mirror, interest in Bolton’s recollections has seriously waned. So when his lawyer, Chuck Cooper, took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to complain that the White House is preventing Bolton from publishing his book, few observers were overflowing with sympathy. In fact, most of us are laughing at him.

Cooper whined: Tyrant Trump doesn’t want John Bolton to publish his book, “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir.” It was supposed to come out in March, but Simon & Schuster was twice forced to push the publication date back more than three months, to June 23, while the manuscript underwent “prepublication review” by the National Security Council (NSC).

The purpose of the prepublication review is to protect national-security secrets. Regulations disallow its use “to prevent embarrassment to a person.” Yet that’s how the White House has used the process in this case. The effort violates those regulations and Mr. Bolton’s First and Fifth Amendment rights. He should have testified before the House Impeachment hearing the White House couldn’t have stopped him.

Pointing to public reports and Bolton’s own extensive efforts with administration officials to ready the book for publication, Cooper suggested that the book is being blocked to save Trump from any damaging information it contains. But he said it won’t work. “This is a transparent attempt to use national security as a pretext to censor Mr. Bolton, in violation of his constitutional right to speak on matters of the utmost public import,” he wrote. “This attempt will not succeed, and Mr. Bolton’s book will be published on June 23.”

This is, to be sure, a clear abuse of power. As Cooper pointed out, the federal government is not supposed to use the pre-clearance process to prevent former officials from publishing unclassified claims for the purpose of protecting the administration from embarrassment.

And while we should never brush off Trump’s abuses of power, as numerous as they are, Bolton is in the worst possible position to complain. He could have participated in the impeachment proceedings, as was his civic duty, but he hid behind the White House as a shield. So he enabled Trump’s tactics to avoid punishment for his previous abuses of powers. And if Bolton had testified, much of the content the White House is so concerned about becoming public would already be public, so it would have a much weaker excuse to delay publication.

Many speculated at the time, though, that Bolton was afraid of revealing the juiciest details in his book, fearing they would dampen sales. In fact, it may have had the opposite effect. Interest in Bolton and in the impeachment drama has since faded as the pandemic, recession, and nationwide protests have overwhelmed the country.

Former DOJ spokesperson Matthew Miller was sharply disdainful of Cooper’s piece in the Journal:” John Bolton would like us to know Trump is abusing his power to retaliate against an opponent, and because this time it’s him, he’s happy to have his lawyer share details with the press.” https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-white-house-vs-john-bolton-11591813953?shareToken=stcb2c954e0f0e4ac3adaabd1bb598810d&reflink=share_mobilewebshare …

Bolton may yet get his book published, though the White House could move once again to block him. But his struggle to get it to the presses would probably have been much easier if he had just done the right thing and testified in the first place.

 

Edited from Alternet story

 

Time to finally get rid of the “Criminal” Attorney General Bill Barr

Barr is seen here with the rest of the Trump insane crime posse (fifth from the left behind Trump)

Trump Thug Attorney General Bill Barr personally ordered federal police forces to clear Lafayette park of protesters shortly before Donald Trump staged a photo-op at St. John’s church.  This unconstitutional order set in motion a brash use of force where federal law enforcement used tear gas, rubber bullets, and mounted officers to push protesters out of the square across the street from the White House. This outrageous move led to howls of protest from Trump critics – but not his traditional allies – after Trump staged a photo-op in front of St. John’s church just minutes after the use of force.

News of his role comes as the Trump flunky, acting chief of the U.S. Park Police lied and claimed in a statement that his forces did not use tear gas, despite eyewitness accounts and a priest at St. John’s who says she was ‘coughing with tear gas in my clergy collar.’

Officials made the decision to extend the perimeter around the White House Sunday night, the Washington Post reported, amid clashes between police and protesters.

Then, not long before Trump was to make remarks to the nation from the Rose Garden at the White House on Monday, Barr turned up to survey the scene. Noticing that the order had not yet been executed, he gave the go-ahead. ‘He conferred with them to check on the status and basically said: ‘This needs to be done. Get it done,’ an official told the paper. The forces who carried out the action were U.S. military police and U.S. park police. Neither report to the attorney general, as well as Arlington County police who were immediately pulled out after local officials objected to the way they were used.

The decision led to the odd spectacle of Trump vowing to use the military to crush looters while the sound of flash-bang devices and tear gas firings could be heard inside the Rose Garden. But the police action was taken against people who were acting peacefully and were not in defiance of a 7 pm curfew.

The Criminal Barr is a Trump loyalist whose controversial moves on behalf of Trump have included his four-page summary of the Mueller report, his expansive view of executive power, and his refusal to hand over documents sought by House Democrats in their impeachment inquiry.

The report on Barr’s role comes as Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia demanded documents from the Secret Service. He cited reports the agency was involved in or ‘may have directed’ the operation. Connolly wants all documents about the brief trip by the president as well as anyone who objected to ‘the targeting of peaceful protesters.’

The move was conceived as a way to allow Trump to demonstrate his self-proclaimed role as the ‘law and order president’ and – came after the president vowed to use the military to restore order in cities across the country.

Trump used force against American citizens, not to protect property, but to soothe his own insecurities. We will all move on to the next outrage, but this was a true abuse of power and should not be forgotten,

This comes right after Trump henchman Barr floated a new conspiracy theory that foreign actors could disrupt mail voting with counterfeit ballots. Voting experts quickly responded that it was nonsense. “I haven’t looked into that” theory, Barr told The New York Times, but without citing any evidence said it was “one of the issues that I’m real worried about.”

“We’ve been talking about how, in terms of foreign influence, there are a number of foreign countries that could easily make counterfeit ballots, put names on them, send them in,” Barr said. “And it’d be very hard to sort out what’s happening.”

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., said that Barr’s claim was impossible since “mail ballots are bar-coded to prevent fraud.”

“Bill Barr is a liar. Our nation’s chief law enforcement officer is trying to burn down American democracy to prop up a corrupt impeached executive,” he tweeted. “Barr’s debasement of our justice system and his assaults on American democracy have been so relentless I’ve been calling for his impeachment and the revocation of his law licenses since last year.”

A chronicle of lies, misinformation and stupidity about Covid 19 from Trump

Donald Trump has been comprehensively misinforming the public about the coronavirus. 

Trump has littered his public remarks on the life-and-death subject with false, misleading and dubious claims. And he has been joined, on occasion, by senior members of his administration.

We’ve counted 28 different ways Trump and his team have been inaccurate. Here is a chronological list, which may be updated as additional misinformation comes to our attention.

February 10: Trump says without evidence that the coronavirus “dies with the hotter weather”

Trump said on Fox Business: “You know in April, supposedly, it dies with the hotter weather.” He told state governors: “You know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat — as the heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April.” And he said at a campaign rally: “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away. I hope that’s true.”

Facts First: Experts were not saying this. They were saying, rather, that it was too soon to know how the coronavirus would respond to changing weather. “It would be reckless to assume that things will quiet down in spring and summer,” Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, told CNN. “We don’t really understand the basis of seasonality, and of course we know we absolutely nothing about this particular virus.” You can read a longer analysis here.

February 24: Trump baselessly claims the situation is “under control”

Trump tweeted: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.”

Facts First: “Under control” is subjective, but by any reasonable definition, the coronavirus was not under control in the US — and there was no way for the government to fully understand how dire the problem was given how few Americans were being tested. There were 53 confirmed cases and no deaths on the day of Trump’s tweet; as of March 11, there were more than 1,000 cases and 31 deaths.

February 25: A senior White House official falsely claims the virus has been “contained”

White House National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow said, “We have contained this, I won’t say airtight but pretty close to airtight.” Kudlow said again on March 6 that the coronavirus “is contained” in the US. Counselor to Trump Kellyanne Conway made similar though less definitive comments the same day, saying the virus “is being contained.”

Facts First: Experts said the US has not come close to containing the coronavirus. They also said the small number of tests conducted in the United States had prevented the government from getting an accurate picture of how widespread the virus truly is.

“In the US it is the opposite of contained,” said Harvard University epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch, director of Harvard’s Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics. “It is spreading so efficiently in so many places that it may be difficult to stop.”

February 25: Trump falsely claims Ebola mortality was “a virtual 100%”

In comments to journalists on both February 25 and February 26, Trump contrasted the fatality rate for the coronavirus with the fatality rate for the Ebola outbreak of 2014 to 2016, saying “in the other case (Ebola), it was a virtual 100%” and that “with Ebola — we were talking about it before — you disintegrated. If you got Ebola, that was it.”

Facts First: While the Ebola outbreak of 2014 to 2016 certainly had a much higher death rate than the coronavirus, the Ebola rate was never “virtually 100%”; for the entire epidemic, it was about 40% overall in the three African countries at the center of the situation. It was higher in the early stages of the outbreak, but it was never true that every infected person “disintegrated.”

There were 28,616 “suspected, probable, and confirmed cases” and 11,310 deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of mid-September 2014, World Health Organization (WHO) researchers reported that there was an estimated fatality rate of 70.8%. But the rate “fell later in the epidemic with lessons learned in improving treatment,” said Julie Fischer, associate research professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Georgetown University and director of the Elizabeth R. Griffin Program. Still, even at 70.8%, death was never guaranteed for infected people, as Trump suggested.

“It was never 100%. That is just patently untrue,” Fischer said.

February 25: Trump falsely claims “nobody had ever even heard of Ebola” in 2014

Comparing the coronavirus outbreak with the Ebola situation of 2014, Trump said, “At that time, nobody had ever even heard of Ebola.”

Facts First: Some Americans certainly didn’t know a whole lot about Ebola before 2014, but the claims that “nobody” had ever even heard of Ebola and that “nobody” knew anything about it are absurd. Ebola was discovered in 1976. It had been the subject of considerable media coverage in the next three decades, not to mention scientific study.

February 26: Trump wrongly says the coronavirus “is a flu”

Trump, contrasting the coronavirus with Ebola, said: “This is a flu. This is like a flu.”

Facts First: While Trump may have simply meant that the coronavirus has a fatality rate more like the flu than like Ebola, experts have emphasized that the coronavirus is, simply, not the flu. They are different viruses with different characteristics, though they share symptoms, and the coronavirus has a higher mortality rate.

Experts say the mortality rate for the coronavirus is much higher than the approximately 0.1% rate for the seasonal flu, though the exact rate for the coronavirus is not yet known. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Congress on March 11 that it is “10 times” that of the flu’s 0.1%.

As World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said March 3, the coronavirus “causes more severe disease than seasonal influenza. While many people globally have built up immunity to seasonal flu strains, COVID-19 is a new virus to which no one has immunity. That means more people are susceptible to infection, and some will suffer severe disease.”

Also, the behavior of the flu over the course of a year is pretty well-understood, while the behavior of the coronavirus over time is not yet known. And while there are flu vaccines available, there is no vaccine available for the coronavirus (and no proven treatment).

February 26: Trump baselessly predicts the number of US cases is “going very substantially down” to “close to zero”

Trump said: “I think every aspect of our society should be prepared. I don’t think it’s going to come to that, especially with the fact that we’re going down, not up. We’re going very substantially down, not up.” And he said: “And again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”

Facts First: Clearly, the number of US cases and deaths was going up, not down. As the New York Times noted in its own fact check, both Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Principal Deputy Director Dr. Anne Schuchat said at the same press conference that they expected “more cases.”

There were 60 total cases in the US on the day Trump spoke here. The “15 people” referred to the cases that did not involve people who had been on the Diamond Princess cruise ship or who had been repatriated from China.

February 26: Trump wrongly says the flu death rate is “much higher” than Dr. Sanjay Gupta said

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN chief medical correspondent, told Trump, “… you talked about the flu and then in comparison to the coronavirus. The flu has a fatality ratio of about 0.1%.” Trump said, “Correct.” But Trump later disputed the figure, saying, “And the flu is higher than that. The flu is much higher than that.” — February 26 coronavirus press conference

Facts First: Gupta was right, Trump was wrong. Even if Trump meant that the flu has a “much higher” fatality rate than 0.1% — rather than meaning that the flu’s mortality rate is “much higher” than that of the novel coronavirus — he was wrong, according to Fauci, other experts and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

February 27: Trump baselessly hints at a “miracle”

Trump said: “It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear. And from our shores, we — you know, it could get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away. We’ll see what happens. Nobody really knows. The fact is, the greatest experts — I’ve spoken to them all. Nobody really knows.” He made similar comments later in the outbreak, saying on March 10, “It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”

Facts First: There was no apparent basis for Trump’s claim that the virus will miraculously “disappear.” (He did immediately soften the claim by saying “nobody really knows,” but still.)

February 28: Trump baselessly hints at an immigration link to the virus

Trump said: “The Democrat policy of open borders is a direct threat to the health and well-being of all Americans. Now you see it with the coronavirus, you see it. You see it with the coronavirus.”

Facts First: Prominent Democrats do not support “open borders,” literally unrestricted migration. Aside from that, though, there was no evidence from the coronavirus situation that Democrats’ preferred immigration policies would be harmful to Americans’ health. There was no known US case in which someone brought the virus to the US while immigrating or making an asylum claim.

February 29: Trump exaggerates Tim Cook’s comments about Apple and China

Trump said: “And if you read, Tim Cook of Apple said that they are now in full operation again in China.” Trump also said: “You probably saw that — as I mentioned, Tim just came out and he said Apple is back to normal in terms of production in their facilities in China. They’ve made a lot of progress.”

Facts First: Trump was overstating what Cook told Fox Business. Cook had not said Apple’s production in China was “back to normal” or that plants in China were in “full operation.” Rather, he said that plants in China were “getting back to normal.”

“When you look at the parts that are done in China, we have reopened factories, so the factories were able to work through the conditions to reopen. They’re reopening. They’re also in ramp, and so I think of this as sort of the third phase of getting back to normal. And we’re in phase three of the ramp mode,” Cook said.

March 1: Azar wrongly says 3,600 people have been tested

Azar said: “In terms of testing kits, we’ve already tested over 3,600 people for the virus.”

Facts First: Politico reported: “Two days later, CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat told the Senate health committee that her agency had tested more than 3,000 specimens taken from roughly 500 people — a fraction of what Azar claimed.” Politico reported that a Health and Human Services spokesperson explained that Azar had meant to say that the CDC had processed more than 3,600 tests, not that it had tested more than 3,600 people.

March 2: Trump falsely claims “nobody knew” the number of US flu deaths

Trump said: “You know, three, four weeks ago, I said, ‘Well, how many people die a year from the flu?’ And, in this country, I think last year was 36- or 37,000 people. And I’m saying, ‘Wow, nobody knew that information.'” He said at a campaign rally: “So when you lose 27,000 people a year, nobody knew that. I didn’t know that.”

Facts First: Trump might not have known the number of annual flu deaths in the US, but that doesn’t mean “nobody” else did. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publishes annual estimates on its website.

The CDC estimates that between 12,000 and 61,000 people have died in the US in each flu season between 2010-2011 and 2018-2019; its preliminary figure for 2018-2019 is 34,157 deaths.

March 2: Trump says a vaccine is coming “relatively soon”

Trump said: “We had a great meeting today with a lot of the great companies and they’re going to have vaccines, I think relatively soon. And they’re going to have something that makes you better and that’s going to actually take place, we think, even sooner.”

Facts First: “Relatively soon” is too vague a phrase to call this claim false, but Trump did not mention that Fauci had told him earlier that day that a vaccine was “a year to a year and a half” away. Fauci similarly told the Senate the next day that the process of getting a vaccine ready to deploy “will take at least a year and a year and a half.”

March 4: Trump falsely claims Obama impeded testing

Trump claimed he had reversed a decision by President Barack Obama’s administration that had impeded testing for the coronavirus, saying that “the Obama administration made a decision on testing that turned out to be very detrimental to what we’re doing. And we undid that decision a few days ago so that the testing can take place in a much more accurate and rapid fashion. That was a decision we disagreed with.” He said on March 5: “They made some decisions which were not good decisions…We undid some of the regulations that were made that made it very difficult, but I’m not blaming anybody.”

Facts First: There is no Obama-era decision or rule that impeded coronavirus testing. The Obama administration did put forward a draft proposal related to lab testing, but it was never implemented.

When asked what Obama administration decision Trump might be referring to, Peter Kyriacopolous, chief policy officer at the Association of Public Health Laboratories, said: “We aren’t sure what rule is being referenced.”

Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, who was principal deputy commissioner of the FDA under Obama and is now professor of the practice at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said, “There wasn’t a policy that was put into place that inhibited them. There was no Obama policy they were reversing.”

March 4: Trump wrongly says as many as 100,000 people died of the flu in 1990

Speaking about deaths from the flu, Trump said on March 4: “I think we went as high as 100,000 people died in 1990, if you can believe that.” He said on March 6 that as many as 77,000 people might die in a given year, then added: “And I guess they said, in 1990, that was in particular very bad; it was higher than that.”

Facts First: While the 1989-1990 flu season was considered bad at the time — the CDC declared that it was an epidemic — Trump greatly overstated the number of deaths. A CDC analysis in 2010 estimated that there were 26,582 deaths from the seasonal flu in 1989-1990. (The same analysis found that this number of deaths was exceeded in nine of the 17 subsequent flu seasons through 2006-2007.)

March 4: Trump says “the borders are automatically shut down”

Trump said during a meeting with airline chief executives: “And we’re talking about the effects of the virus on air travel and what they see. In a certain way, you could say that the borders are automatically shut down, without having to say ‘shut down.’ I mean, they’re, to a certain extent, automatically shut down.”

Facts First: Trump did not explain what he meant by “the borders are automatically shut down.” Trump’s travel restrictions on China do not constitute a complete border closure even on China in particular.

Trump’s China policy prohibits entry into the US by non-Americans who have been in China within 14 days — but it makes exceptions for immediate family members of American citizens and permanent residents. And American citizens themselves are free to go back and forth.

Returning citizens who have been in Hubei Province in the previous 14 days are subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine, while citizens who have been in the rest of mainland China in the previous 14 days “will undergo proactive entry health screening at a select number of ports of entry and up to 14 days of monitored self-quarantine,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said. Still, this is not a shutdown.

March 4: Trump says he believes there was a coronavirus death in New York, though there hadn’t been one

Trump said: “And then when you do have a death, like you have had in the state of Washington like you had one in California — I believe you had one in New York…”

Facts First: There had not been any New York deaths attributed to the coronavirus at the time. (There still had not been any as of the morning of March 11, seven days later.)

March 4: Trump falsely claims the Obama administration “didn’t do anything” about H1N1

Trump said of H1N1, also known as swine flu: “And they didn’t do anything about it.”

Facts First: The Obama administration did respond to H1N1. On April 26, 2009, less than two weeks after the first US cases of H1N1 were confirmed, the Obama administration declared a public health emergency. Two days later, the Obama administration made an initial $1.5 billion funding request to Congress. (Congress ultimately allocated $7.7 billion). In October 2009, Obama declared a national emergency to allow hospitals more flexibility for a possible flood of H1N1 patients.

The Obama administration did face criticism over the pace of the government’s vaccination effort, but “they didn’t do anything” is clearly false.

March 5: Trump misleadingly describes a Gallup poll

Trump tweeted: “Gallup just gave us the highest rating ever for the way we are handling the CoronaVirus situation.” Pointing to the Gallup poll again at a Fox News town hall the same day, he said the administration got “tremendous marks” in the poll “for the way we’ve handled it.”

Facts First: The Gallup poll was positive for Trump, as 77% percent of respondents did say they had confidence in the federal government’s ability to handle a coronavirus outbreak. But it was not a poll about how the administration had handled the situation: the poll asked about confidence in the federal government’s future acts, not about its actual work to date. Critically, it was conducted from February 3-16, when there were far fewer reported cases and reported US deaths; Trump was still, at minimum, 10 days away from appointing Vice President Mike Pence as his point man on the response.

A Quinnipiac University poll conducted March 5-8 found that 43% of registered voters approved of the way Trump was handling the coronavirus response, 49% disapproved. When the poll asked about confidence in “the federal government” to handle the response, 53% said they had confidence, 43% said they didn’t.

March 5: Trump wrongly claims the virus only hit the US “three weeks ago”

Trump said, “We got hit with the virus really three weeks ago if you think about it, I guess. That’s when we first started really to see some possible effects.”

Facts First: The US had its first confirmed case of the coronavirus on January 21, more than six weeks before Trump spoke here.

March 6: Azar wrongly claims there is no test shortage

Azar said: “There is no testing kit shortage, nor has there ever been.”

Facts First: Vice President Mike Pence had said the day prior: “We don’t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward.” Doctors, health authorities and elected officials in various locations around the country indeed said they did not have enough tests.

March 6: As the number of cases and deaths in Italy rises, Trump says the number is “getting much better”

Trump said: “…I hear the numbers are getting much better in Italy.”

Facts First: The number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths in Italy was continuing to increase at the time Trump made this comment. As of Saturday, March 7, the day after Trump spoke here, Italy had 5,883 confirmed cases and 233 deaths; as of Monday, March 9, there were 9,172 cases and 463 deaths. (The Italian government announced a national lockdown on Monday.)

March 6: Trump falsely claims anybody can get tested if they want

Trump said: “Anybody that wants a test can get a test. That’s what the bottom line is.”

Facts First: That wasn’t true. There were an insufficient number of tests available, as Pence said the day prior, and Americans could not get tested simply because they wanted to get tested. “You may not get a test unless a doctor or public health official prescribes a test,” Azar said the day after Trump’s remark. (Azar claimed Trump was using “shorthand” for the fact that “we as regulators, or as those shipping the test, are not restricting who can get tested.”)

March 6: Trump exaggerates the number of people on the Grand Princess cruise ship

Trump said, of the Grand Princess cruise ship being kept in limbo over coronavirus concerns, “We do have a situation where we have this massive ship with 5,000 people and we have to make a decision.” He later amended the claim slightly, “It’s close to 5,000 people.”

Facts First: Trump was overstating the numbers. There were 3,533 people aboard the Grand Princess: 2,422 guests and 1,111 crew members.

March 6: Trump falsely says US coronavirus numbers “are lower than just about anybody”

Trump said that “we have very low numbers compared to major countries throughout the world. Our numbers “are lower than just about anybody.”

Facts First: Trump was exaggerating. The US did have fewer confirmed coronavirus cases than some countries, including China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, France and Germany. But it had more confirmed cases than big-population countries like India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil, Russia and Nigeria, plus neighbors Mexico and Canada, plus many other high-income countries.

In addition, the number of confirmed cases is dependent on how many people are tested. The US was conducting fewer tests than some countries with much smaller populations.

March 6: Trump baselessly muses that “maybe” the coronavirus improved US jobs numbers

Trump touted the jobs report for February, which showed a gain of 273,000 jobs. He then said that, instead of traveling abroad, “I think, you know, a lot of people are staying here and they’re going to be doing their business here.” He continued, “And maybe that’s one of the reasons the job numbers are so good. We’ve had a lot of travel inside the USA.”

Facts First: We can’t definitively call this false, but there’s no evidence to back it up. Reports suggest the domestic travel industry is also being hurt by the coronavirus.

In March, US airlines announced they were reducing domestic flights as well as international flights in March, and companies called off US conferences and limiting corporate travel. While industry experts said some particular domestic travel destinations could possibly benefit if the virus causes travelers to opt for local trips rather than international trips, there is no hard evidence for that yet.

March 9: Pence says Trump’s “priority” was getting Americans off the ship

Vice President Mike Pence said “Trump made the priority to get — to get the Americans ashore.”

Facts First: Trump may have eventually been convinced to get the Americans ashore, but he had said three days prior to this Pence claim that he wanted passengers to stay on the ship so that “the numbers” of US coronavirus cases would stay low.

“I have great experts, including our Vice President, who is working 24 hours a day on this stuff. They would like to have the people come off. I’d rather have the people stay, but I’d go with them. I told them to make the final decision. I would rather — because I like the numbers being where they are. I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship,” Trump said on March 6. “That wasn’t our fault, and it wasn’t the fault of the people on the ship, either. OK? It wasn’t their fault either. And they’re mostly Americans, so I can live either way with it. I’d rather have them stay on, personally. But I fully understand if they want to take them off. I gave them the authority to make the decision.”

From CNN

https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/11/politics/fact-check-trump-administration-coronavirus-28-dishonest/index.html

Will the real Soviet-style socialist please step forward

It once seemed unimaginable, but a proven socialist looks quite likely to win the 2020 presidential election. No, We’re not talking about that “democratic” socialist. We’re referring to the soviet style socialist who already occupies the White House.

For three years, “Never Trump” Republicans told us that Trump was so despicable, so corrupt, so contemptuous of the rule of law that they’d hold their noses and vote for anyone the Democrats nominated to challenge him. Lately, many Never Trumpers have become Hardly-Ever Trumpers, deciding that one Democratic candidate is beyond the pale: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the self-proclaimed democratic socialist.

But if you oppose Sanders because you fear a socialist president, ask yourself: Wouldn’t actually be a step back from what we have now?

Trump loves to red-bait “Crazy Bernie.” Unlike his preferred boogeymen (and boogeywomen) on the left, though, Trump has actually implemented anti-market, Soviet-style, centrally planned policies, and he has used the power of the state to punish political enemies.

In some ways, in fact, Trump has proved himself a more successful old school soviet socialist than Sanders is likely ever to be. Trump has brainwashed his supposedly free-market party into backing a command-and-control-style economy. When it’s commanded-and-controlled by Trump, anyway. With nary a peep from his party, Trump has tried to prop up pet industries, such as coal, by government fiat. Indeed, other Republicans have since copied his strategy at the state level.

Likewise, in a move that once would have had Republicans screaming bloody murder, Trump has slapped tariffs on virtually every major trading partner around the world to protect favored industries, such as steel. This not only failed to rejuvenate steel but also led to widespread retaliation, including tit-for-tat tariffs aimed at farm country, a key part of the Republican base.

Trump then decided even more central planning was in order. Again, his party didn’t stop him. First, Commissaire Trump unilaterally decided to use taxpayer funds to bail out farmers hurt by his trade wars. When that didn’t work, he did it again. In a tweet Friday, he suggested that a third bailout might yet be necessary. Already, Trump’s farmer trade bailouts are more than double the size of the 2009 auto bailout. We he endlessly derided President Obama for. A decade ago — with the global economy on the verge of another depression — Republicans howled that this U.S. auto industry rescue package was “the leading edge of the Obama administration’s war on capitalism” and would set us on “the road toward socialism.”

Today, these same zombie Republicans seem curiously unperturbed.

Republicans once argued that we should encourage China to become more market-oriented. But Trump has demanded that China engage in even more centralized economic planning — through minimum purchase commitments of U.S. goods regardless of market conditions. It’s as if Trump is trying to provide proof of concept for President Dwight Eisenhower’s domino theory. Republicans’ response? Stand by and praise him.

Conservatives complain that Sanders and his socialist allies wish to bloat budget deficits. Under Trump, of course, this has already happened. The deficit in fiscal 2019 was a whopping 48 percent higher than it was in fiscal 2017, thanks to GOP policies. And while “Crazy Bernie” does intend to jack up tax rates to (partly) offset his spending, Trump has raised some taxes on Americans, too — he’s just done it more regressively, through taxes on imports rather than income.

Trump’s version of socialism soaks the poor, not the rich.

If conservatives are genuinely frightened by Sanders’s proposed downward redistribution of wealth, they might consider the sort of redistribution practiced by Trump — in particular, the many ways Trump has used his office to redistribute taxpayer dollars into his own pocket. Just last week, during a tour of western states, Trump elected to fly his entourage back to his hotel in Las Vegas each night rather than stay in the other cities he was visiting.

Whatever Sanders’s flaws, at least he doesn’t try to steal everything that’s not nailed down.

 

 

Rewritten version of an opinion piece by Catherine Rampell in WaPo

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-socialist-is-likely-to-win-the-2020-election-no-not-bernie-sanders/2020/02/24

Trump/Putin in 2020

 

Fox News is continuing to provide enormous spin for Donald Trump. Earlier this week they twisted the news that Trump was angry an intelligence official briefed Congress on Russia attacking the 2020 election to help get him re-elected, by claiming “Trump Upset Over Kremlin Trying to Re-Elect Him.”

The irony, of course, is our intelligence agencies brought the information to leaders in our government. House Republicans were furious upon hearing the news – furious that they were being told the truth, and wanted to stomp it out. So Rep. Devin Nunes told Trump, who then fired his Director of National Intelligence.

Predictably the Kremlin is laughing off claims they are once again interfering in the 2020 election, saying the very notion is “paranoid.”  “The Kremlin said on Friday that allegations from U.S. intelligence officials that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election campaign and trying to boost Donald Trump’s re-election chances are false and the result of paranoia, ” before adding Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, “These are more paranoid announcements which, to our regret, will multiply as we get closer to the (U.S.) election.”

However, in a report for the Daily Beast, Russian media expert Julia Davis explains that, despite Donald Trump’s disavowals, his presidency has been highly beneficial to the Kremlin, they could not be happier and the state-run press has no qualms about boasting about it.

With reports coming out that the Russians are once again interfering in the presidential race, and Trump’s fury that intelligence community has been briefing Democrats about it, Davis claimed that you don’t need an intel briefing to know who they support in 2020 — and why.

Writing that Russian state media has “consistently conveyed the message that Trump’s election has proven exceedingly beneficial for the Kremlin, Davis writes, “Indeed, Trump’s presidency is so valuable for President Vladimir Putin that even ‘tough’ sanctions are minor by comparison. The Chekist( the first of a succession of Soviet state security organizations). in the Kremlin is willing to make temporary sacrifices in order to keep such a disruptive figure in charge of the mightiest country in the world, and Russian state media repeatedly make the point that Russia’s gamble will continue to pay off since the Kremlin is holding, as it were, the trump card.”

“Russian experts and pundits on state television frequently express their desire to see Donald Trump re-elected,” she continued. “Appearing on Russia’s popular state television news talk show 60 Minutes last October, political analyst Mikhail Sinelnikov-Orishak gushed: ‘I look at Trump and think: ‘May God grant him good health—and another term.’ This is a great situation for Russia… may he flourish and get re-elected…Trump is a great candidate. I applaud him… For America, this isn’t a very good president.’”

According to her report, Russian officials fully expect to cash in on another four years of Trump, “… from the removal of sanctions imposed after Putin annexed the Crimean Peninsula and backed a separatist war in Ukraine, to restoration of access to diplomatic compounds the U.S. seized after Russia’s effort to murder a defector in Britain.”

“Normally, spymasters seek to shroud in secrecy their relations with those who wittingly or unwittingly serve their interests,” she wrote. “But Russian state media openly gloat about the Kremlin’s influence over Trump, believing that he can endure the exposure without repercussions, and by flaunting the Kremlin’s sway with the White House, Russia further weakens U.S. democracy, which has always been one of its main pursuits.”

“The Kremlin wants to be perceived as a force to be reckoned with, fostering an atmosphere devoid of accountability for Russia’s human rights violations, foreign invasions, land grabs, and assassinations. In the style of ‘fake it till you make it,’ Putin is determined to persuade the world that resistance is futile and the Kremlin is omnipotent,” she warned. “Every denial of Russian election interference coming out of the White House brings Putin one step closer to the fulfillment of his goals. Every election security bill that is blocked by the GOP in the Senate gives an advantage to our foreign adversaries—and they are not sick of winning.”

Raw Story

Sabotaging any hope of justice

Senate Majority Leader “Moscow” Mitch McConnell reportedly is close to finalizing a rule that would allow Trump’s clown-car legal team to move to dismiss the articles of impeachment in the Senate quickly after some evidence has been presented, as a sort of safety valve in case the trial starts going bad.

The discussions came as Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” that the trial could extend “to six to eight weeks or even longer” if the Senate decided to hear from additional witnesses.

McConnell, R-Ky., wouldn’t be obligated to publicize the final version of his resolution setting the parameters of the impeachment trial until Tuesday, but top Republicans have said they supported affording Trump the opportunity to cut the trial short.

Republican Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, for example, said he would be “very, very surprised” if McConnell’s resolution didn’t include that kind of kill switch.

“I am familiar with the resolution as it stood a day or two ago,” Hawley told Axios. “My understanding is that the resolution will give Trump’s clown-car legal team the option to either move to judgment or to move to dismiss……..”

Trump, Hawley wrote on Twitter after Axios’ article was published, “deserves the right during Senate trial to ask for a verdict or move to dismiss – otherwise trial will become endless circus run by Adam Schiff.”

Democrats, meanwhile, have voiced frustration that McConnell was holding the final rules for the trial secret.

“The House managers have absolutely no idea what the structure of the trial two days before the trial begins,”

For his part, Trump suggested earlier this month that an “outright dismissal” might be appropriate.

This whole strategy may end up being moot because whacky Law professor Alan Dershowitz, is set to present an argument against impeachment during the Senate trial, said Sunday it will be clear there will be “no need” for witnesses if his presentation were to succeed. “Criminal-like conduct,” Dershowtiz said, was required for impeachment.

Anything to avoid a fair trial, right?

from Fox News and The Associated Press

We don’t trust John “chickenhawk” Bolton

 

Why would anybody trust “chickenhawk” John Bolton to tell the truth about his buddy Donald Trump? These belligerent bullies are cut from the same cloth. Bolton’s not going to turn on Trump unless it makes him some serious money.

Even rightwing republican apologist Joe Scarborough doesn’t trust John Bolton’s intentions when it comes to testifying before Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. The “Morning Joe” host said he believes the former national security adviser has cut a behind-the-scenes deal with the White House on his offer to testify.

“Forgive me for being cynical, but I think John Bolton wants to sell his book,” Scarborough said. (no shit!) “These people who were saying, you know what? We’ll give you Bolton. You give us, fill in the blank. I mean, whoever else is called, if the Republicans call (anyone), will not talk about executive privilege, but I guarantee you John Bolton will.”

“You talk about drug deals,” he said. “I think there’s a smaller drug deal going on between Bolton and the White House right now, where there’s a nod and a wink. Yes, I’m going to say that I’ll testify, knowing perfectly well the second he gets there to testify the White House will claim executive privilege, and he’ll say, you know what? I came here to testify, but this really does fit under executive privilege, and I’m not going to weaken the presidency and so then Republicans call who they want to call. I think the fix is already in here.”

We think Scarborough is right, this is Bolton injecting meth into his book sales. He’s teasing testimony knowing he’ll never give it so people will be forced to by his book.

John Bolton who always wants to send people to their deaths fighting in some war he’s provoked is a POS and always will be.

The Media is enabling the Trump cultists with their war propaganda

Last Thursday evening, Trump ordered the assassination of the commander of Iran’s Quds Force Maj. Gen. Qassem Solemani. Following the attack, many Fox false news figures heaped absolute praise on Trump’s decision to commit an act of war.

The war fervor escalated further on Friday when Fox host and Trump adviser Sean Hannity fantasized about a further strike inside Iran which would (somehow) prompt Iranians to overthrow their government. (same crap he said about Iraq) Hannity also told Trump to disregard rules of engagement and to “bomb the living hell” out of Iran. A day later, Trump threatened to do exactly that.

Mainstream outlets run with Trump propaganda statements on Iran which are later seriously undermined.

Later Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the rounds, but the hosts of the five major Sunday news shows fell short in questioning and pushing Pompeo in two major ways.

As Pompeo seemingly pivoted away from the claim that Soleimani presented an imminent threat to the U.S. following reports that the administration greatly exaggerated intelligence, the hosts failed to press him on the exact nature of intelligence the administration claimed to have.

Pompeo was also not challenged when he consistently blamed the Obama administration and specifically the Iran nuclear deal (also known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) for actions that Iran has taken since Trump withdrew from the nuclear agreement.

Again major mainstream news outlets continued to unquestionably repeat the Trump administration’s purported justification for the attack in their headlines. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo posted on Twitter an overarching justification for the strike, saying it warded off “imminent threats to American lives.” (no proof has been offered)

CNN, USA Today, The New York Times, Axios, ABC News, and The Hill all put Pompeo’s claim into a headline. Multiple pundits on all cable news channels said that they had no reason to doubt the administration’s claims. (WTF!)

And yet, less than a day later, that bogus claim collapsed. New York Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi found that the justification was “razor-thin.” According to emerging reporting, the Iraqi Prime Minister has said that Soleimani was on a diplomatic mission to meet with him regarding a Saudi attempt to de-escalate tensions in the region.

The facts are still not settled, but that’s even more reason to not take seriously the word of the Trump administration and Pompeo, who are known liars.

Recent revelations that government officials lied about the Afghanistan War underscore that the media should be aggressively skeptical about war against Iran.

Don’t forget what Trump and Fox said about Obama and Iran: Trump repeatedly spoke with Fox personalities at the time about how Obama would start a war with Iran in order to get re-elected. He made similar claims in a video he posted to his website. In response to Trump, Sean Hannity said that would be “the single most chilling abuse of power in American history.”

Meet the Press doesn’t disclose guest talking about Iran is Lockheed Martin board member

Jeh Johnson, who was secretary of homeland security under President Barack Obama, appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press to discuss President Donald Trump ordering the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Neither Johnson nor host Chuck Todd disclosed that Johnson is a board member of defense contractor Lockheed Martin, which reportedly paid him over $300,000 in 2018 alone.

Right-wing media already accusing Democrats who question Trump of being aligned with Iran

On Friday, several Fox personalities accused Democrats critical of the decision the kill Solemani of being aligned with Iran. On Fox and Friends the morning after the attack, retired Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata expressed offense that Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) had called America’s targeted killing of Soleimani an “assassination,” accused Murphy of “jumping on the side of Iran,” and complained that “Democrats will support, you know, Hamas, or Hezbollah, or Iran” over American and Donald Trump. Trump himself retweeted a claim from far-right pundit Dinesh D’Souza comparing Sen. minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to Iranians.

 

edited from Media Matters