While you console yourself with all of Trumps failures, remember he’s still a wrecking ball swinging through our country

Trump has been paralyzed on healthcare and tax reform, but his administration has been active in eroding safeguards and protections elsewhere

 

Six ways Trump is ‘dismantling’ the US after six months in office

Business and the economy

Given all that Donald Trump promised the business world during his bombastic campaign, it’s tempting to dismiss the president’s first six months with a “meh”. It would also be myopic.

While protesters are worried about the future, the president has so far failed to pass his tax reforms, which business wanted. But at the same time fears that his China rhetoric, threats of trade wars and Tweets about penalties for US businesses who ship jobs overseas, have not amounted to much.

The economic trends started under Obama have continued: stock markets have continued their giddy ride to uncharted highs, unemployment has continued to drift down and interest rates have remained low.

Trump’s overture may seem a little weak but the president has already made significant moves and still more may be happening in the wings. Trump has ordered a review of Dodd-Frank, the regulations brought in to tame US financial institutions after they triggered the worst recession in living memory. He has appointed a sworn enemy of net neutrality over at the Federal Communications Commission who is now working to dismantle Obama-era open internet protections. He has freed up energy firms to start polluting rivers again and scrapped a rule which barred companies from receiving federal contracts if they had a history of violating wage, labor or safety laws.

After years of gains for consumer, environmental and worker rights groups, the pendulum is being swung the other way – but most often those changes are happening behind closed doors.

In March, Trump pledged to “remove every job-killing regulation we can find” and deregulation teams have been set up to comb through the statutes looking for rules to cull. A recent ProPublica and New York Times investigation found Trump’s deregulation teams were being conducted in the dark in large part by appointees with deep industry ties and potential conflicts of interest.

It’s hardly surprising given that the Trump administration has literally removed the White House visitors book, so we may never know who has been whispering in the president’s ear. Six months in, it is hard to tell what is being cut and by whom. We may never know the consequences of Trump’s regulation death squads until it’s too late. Dominic Rushe

The environment

In the past week, both Emmanuel Macron and Sir Richard Branson have claimed that Donald Trump has been gripped by regret over his decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement. But hopes that the US president will reverse this decision sit uneasily with the consistency of his administration’s environmental rollbacks.

In Scott Pruitt, Trump has an Environmental Protection Agency chief who understands how the agency works and how to hobble it. Pruitt, who has dismissed the mainstream scientific understanding of climate change, has spearheaded a concerted effort to excise or delay dozens of environmental rules.

Emissions standards for cars and trucks, the clean power plan, water pollution restrictions, a proposed ban on a pesticide linked to developmental problems in children, regulations that stop power plants dumping toxins such as mercury into their surrounds – all have been targeted with efficacious zeal by Pruitt.

The EPA administrator was also a fierce proponent of a US exit from the Paris accord, ensuring that Trump wasn’t swayed by doubts raised by Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, and Ivanka Trump, his daughter and adviser. The US won’t be able to officially pull out until 2020, but the decision has dealt a hefty blow to the effort to slow dangerous global warming and provided a tangible victory for the nationalist, climate change denying elements that now roam the White House.

Elsewhere, public land has been thrown open to coal mining – an industry repeatedly fetishized by Trump – and oil and gas drilling is being ushered into America’s Arctic and Atlantic waters. Two dozen national monuments are under review, several may be shrunk or even eliminated. In less than six months, Trump has begun to tear up almost all of the key planks of Barack Obama’s environmental agenda. This blitzkrieg is likely to slow now that it faces a thicket of legal action launched by enraged environmental groups and some states, such as New York. But to Trump’s supporters, the president, who pledged during the campaign to reduce the EPA to “tidbits”, is delivering on his crusade to transport the environmental and industrial outlook of the late 19th century to the modern day. Oliver Milman

Immigration

Donald Trump’s bluster over his harsh immigration reform – namely the implementation of a diluted Muslim-targeted travel ban and a crackdown on undocumented immigrants – belies the cost these self-proclaimed victories have had on both the fundamental institutions of democracy and the most vulnerable communities in the United States.

Take the travel ban, which targets refugees and visa applicants from six Muslim majority countries. The president’s first failed order, haphazardly issued in January, provoked scenes of chaos at airports around the country – temporarily separating families, canceling legitimately issued visas and propelling the country towards a constitutional crisis, before a series of federal courts intervened to block it.

After his second attempt in March was blocked again in the lower courts, the president, seemingly without care for due process or respect for the co-equal branches of government, threatened to simply abolish the federal appeals court he incorrectly identified as responsible for the decision.

‘I have the right to be here’: becoming an American under a Trump presidency

Trump’s bullish perseverance on the ban, which has left many in Muslim and refugee communities around the US living in fear, has resulted in a temporary ruling in the supreme court that allows a much-diluted version of the order to come into effect. Although the president heralded the decision a victory, the ultimate test comes in autumn when the country’s highest court will ultimately rule on the ban’s constitutionality.

The president has also moved quickly to supercharge efforts to round up and deport undocumented immigrants. By empowering Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), the federal agency responsible deportations, to target essentially anyone in the country without legal paperwork, the number of immigration arrests has soared. Although the administration has celebrated this uptick, it has actually been able to deport people at a much slower rate due to the crippling backlog inside America’s immigration courts.

Trump’s attempt at a solution to this has been to create a network of new courts, attached to remote detention centers and far from the reach of immigration attorneys. The strategy, plagued with due process concerns, has enjoyed mixed success. But, once again, it is those most vulnerable – many of whom have lived in America without paperwork for decades and have no criminal history – who have paid the highest price. Oliver Laughland

no one wants to sit next to the mean kid

Diplomacy

First, the good news. Donald Trump has not started a war. He has, therefore, so far, avoided the worst case scenario that some predicted for his presidency. One-eighth of the way through his term, he does not yet have a stain on his record like George W Bush has with Iraq. Instead, his Twitter spats with cable TV hosts and their indulgence by the media are a luxury of peacetime.

But in other, important ways, the US president has set about diminishing America’s global leadership role and diplomatic standing. He has emphasized the defense of America and western civilization and downplayed democracy and human rights. He has warmed to authoritarian leaders in China, the Philippines, Russia, and Saudi Arabia while going cold on Britain (still no visit), the European Union and Australia. His attacks on the press send an alarming message to dictators everywhere.

The world has noticed. A major survey of 37 countries by Pew Research last month found that just 22% of respondents had some or a great deal of confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs. After his performance at Nato and G7 meetings, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said pointedly: “The times in which we could completely depend on others are, to a certain extent, over. I’ve experienced that in the last few days. We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.” At the G-20, he cut a lonely, isolated figure.

Trump appears to push aside Montenegro PM at Nato photocall

This damage could be undone relatively quickly but the “America first” president’s proposed 30% cut to the state department, where many top staff have left and not been replaced, threatens to be a lasting legacy. Max Bergmann, a former official, wrote in Politico: “The deconstruction of the state department is well underway… This is how diplomacy dies. Not with a bang, but with a whimper. With empty offices on a midweek afternoon.”

The outlier in Trump’s foreign policy came on 6 April, when the US launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at an airfield in Syria in retaliation for the regime’s use of chemical weapons against civilians. It was a move welcomed by hawks and loathed by “anti-globalists” in Trump’s support base. But the most urgent issue, enough to test any US president, is North Korea. There is little evidence so far to suggest he will succeed where others have failed. David Smith

 

Gender and Equality

Trump’s White House has wasted little time erasing many of the changes that advocates for trans rights, reproductive rights and survivors of sexual assault achieved under the Obama administration.

The Trump team is in the middle of sharply reversing how the federal government enforces laws against gender bias. In February, the administration withdrew the Obama-era guidelines requiring schools to give transgender students unfettered access to bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity. And Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, may restrict the federal government’s ability to intervene when colleges and universities do a questionable job of handling students’ complaints of sexual assault.

Trump is also attempting to dismantle the nation’s public safety net for family planning, with an assist from his party in Congress. The president has signed legislation encouraging states to withhold federal family planning dollars from Planned Parenthood. The latest version of Republican’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act would eliminate the birth control mandate – which is also under fire from Trump’s health department – not to mention maternity coverage requirements.

Every repeal attempt has contained a measure to block women on Medicaid from using their insurance at Planned Parenthood – measures that would shutter scores of Planned Parenthood clinics across the country. And the administration is poised to give the green light to states, like Texas, that axe Planned Parenthood from their Medicaid programs.

The White House also has aims to zero out funding for the government-funded Legal Services Corporation, which is the main source of legal assistance for women attempting to escape domestic violence, when Congress passes a budget this fall.

Finally, there’s US supreme court justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s pick to replace the late Antonin Scalia, who observers say “has all the makings of an extreme anti-abortion justice”. Trump named Gorsuch eleven days into his presidency, fulfilling a longtime campaign promise to nominate justices who will vote to overturn Roe v Wade. Molly Redden

 

Criminal justice

Much of what the federal government can do on criminal justice is left to Congress since most criminal justice happens at state and local, rather than federal levels. However, Trump’s administration hasn’t spared much time doing what it can to reverse a roughly decades long retreat from the peak of tough-on-crime, mass-incarceration dogma.

So far, efforts on criminal justice have been much more sizzle than steak, but the prospect of dramatic policy change looms just around the corner. Stuffed in a suite of executive orders signed in February, Trump commissioned a task force to make recommendations on combating “the menace of rising crime”, which has been an enduring theme of the administration despite being debunked by experts. That task force, which reportedly, and curiously, does not include police chiefs or criminologists is scheduled to make its recommendations on 27 July.

“If you’re going to see anything from the Trump administration proposing new [or longer] mandatory minimums and a general return to the tough on crime tactics, I think you’ll see those recommendations made by the task force,” said Ames Grawert, a criminal justice researcher with the Brennan Center for Justice.

It remains unclear how much support there might be in Congress for taking up such recommendations. As recently as December there was real momentum behind a bipartisan bill to make sentencing less punitive, not more.

In the interim, attorney general Jeff Sessions has instructed federal prosecutors to seek the highest possible penalty in every case and has championed initiatives to push state cases for federal prosecutors to obtain harsher sentencing.

In another reversal from the Obama era, Sessions has also signaled that the DoJ will not use its authority to investigate or reform local police departments, even in cases where gross negligence, or rampant civil rights violations may be occurring. Sessions tried and failed, to pause a consent decree negotiated in Baltimore after the Freddie Gray unrest, and his department has so far flaked-out of a similar effort that was slated for Chicago under the previous administration.

“We will not sign consent decrees for political expediency that will cost more lives by handcuffing the police instead of the criminals,” Sessions wrote in an April 18 op-ed in USA Today. Jamiles Lartey

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/19/six-ways-trump-is-dismantling-america-after-six-months-in-white-house?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+USA+-+Collections+2017&utm_term=235673&subid=9599609&CMP=GT_US_collection

Even the Wall Street Journal is completely embarrassed by Donny

The Wall Street Journal unloaded on President Donald Trump late Monday night, lambasting the president for being mired in an investigation into Russian involvement in his campaign and for continually hiding damaging details that inevitably are leaked.

Following a weekend when Trump’s attorney attempted to put out the fire – and failed spectacularly — the Journal editorial board finally had enough.

Under the heading “The Trumps and the Truth,” they wrote, “Even Donald Trump might agree that a major reason he won the 2016 election is because voters couldn’t abide Hillary Clinton’s legacy of scandal, deception and stonewalling. Yet on the story of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, Mr. Trump and his family are repeating the mistakes that doomed Mrs. Clinton.”

“Don Jr. released his emails that showed the Russian lure about Mrs. Clinton and Don Jr. all excited—’I love it.’ Oh, and son-in-law Jared Kushner and Beltway bagman Paul Manafort were also at the meeting. Don Jr. told Sean Hannity this was the full story,” they continued. “But then news leaked that a Russian-American lobbyist was also at the meeting.”

“Even if the ultimate truth of this tale is merely that Don Jr. is a political dunce who took a meeting that went nowhere—the best case—the Trumps made it appear as if they have something to hide. They have created the appearance of a conspiracy that on the evidence Don Jr. lacks the wit to concoct,” they wrote.

The Journal then brought the heat.

“Don’t you get it, guys? Special counsel Robert Mueller and the House and Senate intelligence committees are investigating the Russia story. Everything that is potentially damaging to the Trumps will come out, one way or another. Everything. Denouncing leaks as “fake news” won’t wash as a counter-strategy beyond the President’s base, as Mr. Trump’s latest 36% approval rating shows,” the editorial continued.

According to the Journal, Trump needs to come clean, releasing “every detail that might be relevant to the Russian investigations.”

“That means every meeting with any Russian or any American with Russian business ties. Every phone call or email. And every Trump business relationship with Russians going back years,” they wrote.”This should include every relevant part of Mr. Trump’s tax returns, which the President will resist but Mr. Mueller is sure to seek anyway.”

Writing, “Mr. Trump will probably ignore this advice,” the editors concluded, “Mr. Trump somehow seems to believe that his outsize personality and social-media following make him larger than the Presidency. He’s wrong. He and his family seem oblivious to the brutal realities of Washington politics. Those realities will destroy Mr. Trump, his family and their business reputation unless they change their strategy toward the Russia probe. They don’t have much more time to do it.”

http://www.rawstory.com/2017/07/dont-you-get-it-guys-wsj-eviscerates-oblivious-trump-over-russia-scandal-in-devastating-editorial/

New low after new low. If this is what “making America great” looks like, God help us.

So This Is What American Greatness Really Looks Like?

Russian nesting dolls Trump and Putin

This week, Garry Kasparov, former Russian chess champion and perennial critic of Vladimir Putin, tweeted about what autocrats do when caught:

1: Deny, lie, slander accusers.

2: Say it was a misunderstanding.

3. Say ‘What are you going to do about it?

The day after that tweet, Donald Trump stood on a dais in Paris beside the French president and said of his son’s now-confirmed willingness to receive campaign help for his father from Russia: “I think it’s a meeting that most people in politics probably would have taken.”

That would be jaw dropping and bizarre coming from a mob boss at his pretrial hearing, let alone from the president of the United States. But that line is now standard issue among much of Trump’s political party, which has come around to the notion that collusion with a foreign power—even an adversarial one like Russia—is no big deal.

Trump, his family, and his defenders in the once Grand Old Party have mounted various defenses for his campaign’s collusion with Russians and their cutouts to win the 2016 presidential election. They have tried to ignore Russiagate. They have said collusion with Russia never happened. They have blamed Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Loretta Lynch (Trump now says the Russian government lawyer who met with Donald Jr. was only in the country because Lynch let her in. It will surprise no one to discover that’s not true.) And they have landed on the notion that even if collusion did happen, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. Check off all three of the Kasparov boxes.

With Trump’s ascension, the Russification of the Republican Party, which once supported apartheid-era South Africa and continues to back a Cuba embargo, both on the basis of keeping countries out of Russia’s sphere of influence, is complete. Trump, who in the 1980s complained that Ronald Reagan was too tough on the Soviets, and who has used Russians, including reputed mobsters, as everything from bailouts to buyers to brokers for the expansion of his hotel and pageant franchises, has officially brought kakistocracy to Washington. None but the most unmoored to any recognizable morality need apply. He has made fools of his own spokespeople. He has exposed the religious right’s leaders as very much men of this world, with all its hatred and avarice. He has unleashed the forces of white nationalism and even neo-Nazism in our country. And he has revealed an America that is far less than we thought we were eight years ago when the United States became the first former slave republic to make a member of its once entrapped minority population its national leader.

One wonders whether this democracy, as fragile as it has been revealed to be, and whether the presidency as an institution is entirely salvageable, now that Trump has exploded the norms we thought constrained the office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Since becoming president, Trump has flouted the emoluments clause and openly profited from his office, taking payments from all comers, from the State Department to foreign governments at his golf courses, hotels and his private Florida club. He has encouraged his children to treat the White House as a marketing tool for the Trump businesses, and allowed them to commingle their business activities and ongoing involvement in his government. He has turned American foreign policy into a Santa’s workshop for Saudi and Russian interests and goals, from the needless fight with Qatar to pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate accords to attempting to return the Kremlin’s spy facilities, which the Obama administration seized in retaliation for Russian interference in our election, to giving Russian oligarchs direct financial interest in the Keystone pipeline boondoggle to having his administration lean on House members to soften a Russia sanctions package. (He even briefly floated the outrageous and absurd notion of cybersecurity cooperation with the Kremlin.) He has invited the Russian foreign ministry into the Oval Office out of the eye and earshot of the American media, who now are reduced to audio-only press briefings where they take a back seat to Trump sycophant right-wing blogs, and he has now canoodled with Putin himself, taking the murderous Russian autocrat’s word for it that no election meddling occurred.

Trump has made political thuggery the new American political standard; throwing allies overboard and cuddling up to dictators and autocrats around the world. He has diminished American influence and credibility every day he has been in office.

Meanwhile, he has stripped the presidency of its basic dignity, tweeting his every thought at all hours of the day. He presents America in his world travels as a troglodyte nation, led by an ill-mannered, ill-tempered, praise-needy buffoon—a real life Joffrey Baratheon—who still thinks he’s a television performer, and whose attention to duty lasts only as long as his favorite Fox shows aren’t on.

Domestically, he has thrown the country into chaos, from his Muslim travel bans to his utter incoherence on health care, which he and his party are threatening to strip from up to 23 million people so they can fork over a trillion dollars to America’s own oligarchs. Putin must be positively gleeful at the damage his little ruse—tricking the arrogant ignoramuses of the Trump campaign into believing Russian hackers had the goods on Hillary, and then reeling them in—has wrought.

And so, a political party that long prided itself on a particular kind of patriotism now welcomes foreign interference, so long as it helps them win. A nation that dragged itself, painfully, from slavery to the Voting Rights Act now faces a federal government that is the single biggest threat to the right of all people to vote. A country that stuck out its chest in promoting a particular kind of greatness now wallows in defunding public education, gutting scientific research, and promoting basic ignorance about the planet in the service of bygone industries belching pollution into the air and water, as if American innovation that could create new industries and new jobs for those displaced workers is no longer possible.

Meanwhile, our children are learning that bullies do indeed prosper; that cruelty and narcissism can be a pathway to power, that one of our two major parties believes the poor and struggling do not deserve health care, and that according to the president of the United States, women essentially have no value beyond their looks and dress sizes.

One wonders whether the presidency can recover, or whether we’re doomed to live in an endless cycle of lowbrow celebrity autocracy—America remade in the image of Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi.

Already, other entertainers are bellying up to the bar, eager to follow Trump’s grubby example and take their turn at political powerball. We could soon have a national leadership that includes The Rock, Kid Rock, and who knows, maybe Ted Nugent, now that white nationalism and public vulgarity have gone mainstream.

What hope is there for a country that has reduced itself to this? What future? For now, it’s hard to see a particularly bright one. If this is what making America great looks like, God help us when greatness ensues.

JOY-ANN REID in the Daily Beast

 

Trump Jr keeps lying and the right wants to get their way no matter what the price

A Russian American lobbyist and veteran of the Soviet military said Friday that he attended a June 2016 meeting between President Trump’s oldest son and a Kremlin-connected attorney.

The presence of Rinat Akhmetshin adds to the number of people in attendance at the Trump Tower gathering that emerged this week as the clearest evidence so far of interactions between Trump campaign officials and Russia.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Akhmetshin said he participated in the session with several others. His role in the meeting was first reported by NBC News and the Associated Press.

Akhmetshin, a U.S. citizen, was lobbying at the time against U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia for human rights violations.

Trump Jr. has waved away concerns about the 30-minute session, which he agreed to because he was promised negative information about his father’s political opponent, Hillary Clinton. He was joined at the meeting by Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, then chairman of the Trump campaign.

Trump Jr. has said that he did not receive the negative information on Clinton that he was promised by an acquaintance, Goldstone, and that he did not know the people with whom he was meeting.

Veselnitskaya said she and Akhmetshin were working at the time defending a Russian businessman from federal charges of money laundering in a suit that was settled early this year.

Akhmetshin was born in Russia, served in the military and told people he had worked in intelligence, according to one person who said he worked with Akhmetshin in the past but asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak about it.

Akhmetshin emphatically denied to The Washington Post that he ever worked as an intelligence agent though he did confirm that he served as an 18-year-old draftee for two years in a unit of the Soviet military that had responsibility for law enforcement issues as well as some counterintelligence matters.

He said that he became a U.S. citizen in 2009 and is also still a Russian citizen.

According to AP, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the Kremlin knows nothing about Akhmetshin.

Akhmetshin’s participation raises the level of the concern about the meeting. The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said he was disturbed by the news.

“Today’s report that a former Russian counterintelligence officer was also present during the meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, if accurate, adds another deeply disturbing fact about this secret meeting,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said in a statement.

 

 

Rinat Akhmetshin is a Hacker and a spy

Rinat Akhmetshin, the former Russian intelligence officer who took part in Donald Trump Jr.’s infamous meeting at Trump Tower last June 9, has been accused of masterminding an international hacking conspiracy.

The Daily Beast reports that a case filed with New York Supreme Court in 2015 alleges that Akhmetshin successfully orchestrated the hacking of two computer systems and stole documents from International Mineral Resources (IMR), a Russian mining company.

“The U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. was told in July 2015 that Akhmetshin had arranged the hacking of a mining company’s private records — stealing internal documents and then disseminating them,” the Daily Beast reports. “The corporate espionage case was brought by IMR, who alleged that Akhmetshin was hired by Russian oligarch Andrey Melinchenko, an industrialist worth around $12 billion.”

Akhmetshin denied that he orchestrated any hacking of the company, but acknowledged that he “found” a hard drive that just happened to contain sensitive IMR documents.

Akhmetshin, a registered congressional lobbyist, has in the past also done work on behalf of Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, who was also present at the June 9 meeting at Trump Tower.

The Right wants to get their way no matter what the price

To many, the revelation that Donald Trump Jr. was anxious to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russians will not come as a surprise. It is but the latest example of the take-no-prisoners, anything-goes politics of our day. Sure, soliciting help from a hostile foreign power is exceptional, and it is certainly true that the Trumps have taken “unconventional” politics to new heights. But how we do politics in the United States, the boundaries of acceptable behavior, has been shifting for two decades.

The real surprise – the part of the story that we should be gravely concerned about – is that this disclosure will not matter to a great many American voters. After thinking and writing about politics for two decades, I have come to the conclusion that the real issue we face is not the conduct of public officials or their surrogates, but how nefarious acts are now sanctioned, and even applauded, by so many on both sides of the partisan fence.

So what’s changed in our politics?

Fear and loathing

For one, the nature of partisanship is different. Until about a decade ago, one’s attachment to a party was centered around policy disputes or cues from groups and associations. But today’s version is grounded in the fear and loathing of the other side. Trunkloads of data, much of it from the Pew Research Center, suggest each side sees the other party as crazy and certainly dangerous. So it does not matter what your side does so long as it keeps the nut jobs on the other side at bay.

A new volume by political scientists Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels further helps to fine-tune our understanding how people vote and which party they identify with. Their book, “Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government,” suggests “issue congruence [between voters and parties], in so far as it exists, is mostly a byproduct of other connections, most of them lacking policy content.” In other words, we don’t think through issues, policies and candidate characteristics, but instead see elections as “us versus them.” These scholars argue voters tie themselves with racial, ethnic, occupational, religious, recreational and other groups, with partisanship as the byproduct. Our group identity, not policy concerns or ideology, determines vote choice. That is to say, we gather comfortably with our tribe and tune out other points of view.

A central force propelling hostility toward the “other” party is the partisan media. Many such outlets have figured out a sustainable business model. Smaller audiences can be profitable, so long as they remain loyal. Loyalty springs from “crisis” and, of course, “menace.” This leads to treating every issue as a true threat to our existence or a usurpation of fundamental “rights.” The other party is always the villain, and your side can do no wrong – so long as it is for the grand struggle.

And then there is the online world. Voters rarely explore new ideas and perspectives, but share, like and retweet concordant ones. We fence in and we fence out. As recently noted by journalist and author Megan McArdle, “Social media, of course, makes this problem worse. Even if we are not deliberately blocking people who disagree with us, Facebook curates our feeds so that we get more of the stuff we ‘like.’ What do we ‘like’? People and posts that agree with us.”

Sorting and filtering

Is the filtering of information really a new development? It is not at all clear that voters have ever absorbed a broad range of information or shifted though competing evidence. It is likely party bosses, elected officials, candidates and even media elites have always been able to manipulate mass opinion to a degree. Cognitive time-saving cues, especially party identification, have always been used to sort and filter.

But something very different is happening today. In the recent past, news was more widely viewed as objective, leading to a high degree of accepted facts and authority. When the news media unraveled the story of Watergate, for example, citizens of all partisan stripes accepted it as fact. What scholars dubbed “short-term influences” could override partisan leanings.

Which leads us to “alternative facts,” the aggressive spinning of policies and arguments regardless of contrary verifiable information. This may be a game-changer in our politics. The barrier for evidence has, it seems, evaporated, and emotion-rich information is used to draw more viewers, readers and listeners. If we add the continual drive for fresh “news” and the high costs of creating traditional journalism, we are left with little consensus or authority. New York Times blogger Farhad Manjoo put it this way: “We are roiled by preconceptions and biases, and we usually do what feels easiest – we gorge on information that confirms our ideas, and we shun what does not.”

Finally, popular culture has also probably contributed to our growing indifference to nefarious acts. We pick our reality show contestant and applaud every backhanded, despicable move that gets him across the finish line. There can’t be two winners or a collective good, only a sole survivor. Or shall we say that only one apprentice can get the job? And the best part of the show – the segment that really gets the producers juiced – is when things get truly ugly.

Democratic accountability

The latest Trump team revelation is a shocker, but even more stunning is the meager impact it will likely have on his supporters. As noted in a recent USA Today story, in Trump country the Russia disclosure is no big deal.

As voters, citizens are called to judge those in power. But there must be an objective standard for the assessment, which is why the framers of the Constitution put so much stock in a free press. The governed in a democracy must be willing and able to fairly judge the acts of the governors. But today “your side” has always done a good job and the “other” party has always failed. Any contrary revelation can be explained away as fake news.

The key ingredient in the democratic accountability process – objectivity – is disappearing, and the foundation of our limited government has been shaken. In Federalist #51 and elsewhere, James Madison wrote, “A dependence upon the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government…” Many are starting to wonder if Americans are up to the job – and whether the fate of the grand experiment is at risk.

excepts From the Washington Post,  Raw Story and The Conversation

Another astoundingly dumb “deal” by Donny Dealmaker; a cybersecurity deal with his BFF Putin

We might as well mail our ballot boxes to Moscow!

Congressman Adam Schiff

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) blasted President Trump’s idea of working together with Russia on election hacking, saying if that were to happen, “we might as well mail our ballot boxes to Moscow.”

“I don’t think we can expect the Russians to be any kind of credible partner in some cyber security unit. I think that would be dangerously naïve for this country. If that’s our best election defense, we might as well just mail our ballot boxes to Moscow,” Schiff told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”

Trump said in tweets earlier Sunday that he had pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin on Russian election meddling, but said the two leaders discussed forming “an impenetrable Cyber Security unit.” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on the same show called for further cooperation with the Russians on cyber security, despite a lack of trust between Washington and Moscow.

“We need them, you know, what we think should happen, shouldn’t happen, and if we talk to them about it, hopefully we can get them to stop,” Haley said on CNN.

“It doesn’t mean we ever take our eyes off of the ball, it doesn’t mean we ever trust Russia. We can’t trust Russia, and we won’t ever trust Russia. But you keep those that you don’t trust closer, so that you can always keep an eye on them and keep them in check,” she continued.

Vladimir Putin could be of “enormous assistance”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sunday joked that he thinks Russian President Vladimir Putin could be of “enormous assistance” regarding cybersecurity because he is the one doing the hacking.

During an interview on CBS’s “Face The Nation,” McCain was asked about President Trump’s earlier tweet in which the president said he talked with Putin during their meeting about creating an “impenetrable Cyber Security unit” to guard against election hacking.

“I’m sure that Vladimir Putin could be of enormous assistance in that effort since he is doing the hacking,” McCain said, laughing.

Valdy casts a loving glance at Donny

Mobbed up Russian operative Felix Sater rats on his former business partner Trump

The Financial Times reported Thursday morning that Felix Sater, former business partner of President Donald Trump with deep ties to the Mafia and the Russian government, is cooperating in an international investigation into an alleged money-laundering network. Sater has a history of channeling money from prominent families in the Eastern bloc into Trump properties. This could pose problems for Trump, given Sater’s history of outing former close associates in exchange for immunity.

Dumbo Don with reputed Russian mobster Felix Sater

According to recent reports from The New York Times and Bloomberg, these financial connections are also being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia.

Sater is undoubtedly one of the more unsavory people the president has conducted business with. He was famously involved in a clash at a bar where he stabbed another man in the face with the stem of a martini glass, an assault that landed him in prison for a year. He pleaded guilty to racketeering as part of a $40 million stock fraud scheme orchestrated by the Mafia but avoided jail time by becoming a valuable federal informant for the FBI and CIA. Andrew Weissmann, the prosecutor who negotiated that plea deal, has been hired by Robert Mueller.

Then-U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch said in a letter to Sen. Orrin Hatch during her confirmation as Barack Obama’s Attorney General that Sater provided “information crucial to national security and the conviction of over 20 individuals, including those responsible for committing massive financial fraud and members of La Cosa Nostra.”

In 2002, Sater reinvented himself, working at a real estate development firm called Bayrock Group. Bayrock’s offices are conveniently located on the 24th floor of Trump Tower in New York, which is where the paths of Sater and Trump cross. In a 2008 sworn deposition Sater said he would pitch Trump business deals (“just me and him”) on a “constant basis.”

By around 2005, Trump began licensing his name for real estate developments in New York and Florida. He struck up an exclusive deal with Bayrock to develop a property in Russia, a deal which later fell through while the others remained.

The same 2008 deposition reveals more of the casual nature of the business relationship between Sater and Trump. Sater says he would “pop [his] head into Mr. Trump’s office” to tell him how the Russia deal was coming along. According to Sater, Trump asked him to escort Donald Jr. and Ivanka Trump during their 2006 trip to Moscow.

Looming in the background of all this, however, is Sater’s murky and checkered past. In 2007, Bayrock Group became a partner in Trump’s SoHo property. The property offering plan to New York State says that there were “no prior felony convictions of Sponsor [Bayrock], or any principals of Sponsor.” In December of 2007, The New York Times ran an article unearthing Sater’s criminal history. Two days later, Trump was deposed in a lawsuit. He stated multiple times that he had “very little” interaction with Sater. Despite this, in 2010 Sater toted around a business card that read he was a “senior adviser” at the Trump Organization.

 

Trump has stated repeatedly that he doesn’t know who Sater is and denied any meaningful relationship, maintaining that all deals were done directly with Bayrock, not Sater (who was employed by Bayrock.) In a 2013 deposition tape for a lawsuit about alleged fraud in a Fort Lauderdale condo Sater helped develop, Trump said he wouldn’t recognize Sater if he were sitting in the same room with him.

When asked in a 2013 BBC Panorama interview about why Trump remained in a deal with Sater considering his past with the Mafia, Trump walked off set.

Trump has a troubling pattern of distancing himself from close associates, whether it be a business deal or a presidential campaign, as soon as their dark history is revealed to the public.

Take for example Carter Page, the investment banker who had a brief stint as a foreign policy adviser on the Trump campaign. Page had traveled multiple times to Russia, met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and often spoke favorably of the Russian government and called for warmer U.S.-Russia relations.

As soon as reports came out in September of 2016 that U.S. investigators were looking into Page’s potential ties to the Russian government, the Trump campaign distanced themselves from Page. Kellyanne Conway appeared on CNN and said that he was “certainly not involved” in the campaign she was running, despite Page being one of the first national security advisors on the Trump team. In late September Page announced he would be taking a “leave of absence” from the campaign.

Although Trump attempted to distance himself from Page, last spring, when many foreign policy experts wanted nothing to do with the Trump campaign, Trump volunteered Page’s name when asked who had advised him on the topic.

This distancing also occurred when former campaign manager Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn were scrutinized for their undisclosed relationships with Russian officials. In a press conference, White House press secretary Sean Spicer even went so far as to say Manafort played a “very limited role” in the campaign while Flynn was just a “volunteer.”

Trump’s connections with Russia continue to haunt him despite his attempts to dismiss the story. A NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released Thursday morning found that a majority of Americans believe that Trump either acted illegally or unethically with Russia.

https://thinkprogress.org/https-thinkprogress-org-felix-sater-news-bad-for-trump-99e4ebe9a1ad

Where’s all that macho bravado now? Lil’ Donny snowflake hides out in Poland

President Snowflake: Trump Needs a Safe Space in Europe

He’s a self-proclaimed brawler, but Trump didn’t head straight for the handshake-snubbing Macron or mean lady Merkel at the G-20. No, first he needed an adoring hug from Poland.

“Fuck your feelings” was a resonant refrain among many Trump supporters during the 2016 campaign.

In their view, we were living in a country where the coddling of youthful sensitivities had run amok, and Donald Trump was the unvarnished antidote to the left’s assault on American toughness. Can’t handle it? Then leave, snowflake.

But President Trump, champion of fuck your feelings, has proved to be the most delicate snowflake of all. While every modern president has favored sympathetic media outlets and friendly crowds, Trump is different in the degree to which his promises differ from his actions. Unlike his predecessors, his appeal is built around a bravado he won’t or can’t exhibit.

In the first six months of his presidency, the self-professed brawler has dodged the press, favoring pillow fights with Fox & Friends over substantive exchanges with critical journalists.

He’s lived in denial of his unpopularity, choosing instead to fluff his insatiable ego before campaign-style rallies where he makes wild claims he then sends his unprepared lackeys to defend.

He pulled out of the Paris climate deal reportedly because his feelings were hurt by French President Emmanuel Macron’s handshake snub.

He responds to negative news coverage with tantrums and personal insults on social media, where he can duck behind his army of anonymous affirmers.

He fired the FBI director and a U.S. attorney after both reportedly rebuffed his inappropriate overtures.

His closest aides fear exposing him to unflattering news coverage, lest they bruise their boss’ ego.

The man never apologizes.

The president’s true-believing base and the suckling underlings who see him as a means to an end still publicly express support for him. His social-media coordinator and barking sons, loyal to Trump as a trio of undersocialized rescue dogs, have never met a pro-Trump conspiracy theory they wouldn’t help spread.

But beyond that, the number of people who are willing to tell Donald Trump that he is wonderful is dwindling. Stateside, all the polling has him at a sub-40 percent approval rating, with no rally in sight. Internationally, it’s worse. In Europe, it’s abysmal.

Given Trump’s complete inability to process dissent, this week’s G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, puts President Snowflake directly in harm’s way. Thankfully, there’s Poland.

Poland is not on the way to Hamburg from the United States. It’s an overshoot. But it’s the closest place to the G-20 the president could land with the reasonable expectation that he wouldn’t be triggered by hordes of protesters the second he landed.

Just to be on the safe side, Polish officials bused extra Trump fans into Warsaw from across the countryside, armed with cheers and enthusiasm, and none of that scary dissent that frightens Donald so very much. Just what a brave president would want. Trump delivered a speech worthy of a B- from a middle-school civics teacher, and the crowd lost its mind. Stateside, Morning Joe, recently the target of one of Trump’s cowardly lobs, tiptoed around Trump’s ineptitude, apparently aware of what’s at stake globally if Trump’s in a bad mood on international trips.

Who knows what would have happened if the president had visited, say, Stockholm or Nice. Feelings could have been hurt! Feelings with nuclear launch codes!

The rest of this week promises to be even rougher for President Trump and his eggshell emotions. At the G-20, he’ll have to face the aforementioned Macron, the rude handshaker, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a mean lady who refuses to praise him even though he has done everything he is capable of as president, which is nothing.

Trump will have to face a harsh world, one far from the safe space of his office with the enormous TV screen and the approving hedgehog face of Sean Hannity.

Trump will also have a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Trump once halfway invited to a Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. Apart from governing from the same city where a Miss Universe pageant once occurred, Putin is also a tiny despot, the sort of man Trump believes himself to be in the same way a cat watching a nature show on TV believes itself to be a lion. Incidentally, Russia is one of the only places in the world where Trump is popular.

Putin is also the sort of man most of America would hope the president would have the stones to confront, if given the opportunity. Putin is also behind an attempt to meddle in the 2016 American presidential election, according to every intelligence organization.

Trump will not be dwelling on this fact, according to The New York Times, because Russia meddling in the U.S. election undermines Trump’s electoral win, which he is apparently more proud of than he is in the continued integrity of the American electoral system. His fear of the disapproval of a masculine caricature is greater than any feeling of obligation to serve the interests of the country that elected him.

A normal person would take mass disdain—of the U.S., of Europe, of the industrialized world as a whole—as a clue that they, perhaps, are personally doing something wrong.

Not Donald Trump. Trump could drive northbound in the southbound lane of an expressway and interpret the other drivers’ honks as affronts to his inherent rightness, so fearful is he of being wrong.

It’s hard to fathom a person who demands so much personal toughness of those around him yet displays so little. Trump’s critics have called this behavior childlike, immature, id-driven. Even his supporters would find fault in a man so frightened by confrontation that he’s willing to fly several hundred miles out of the way to avoid it.

Trump is a wimp, a baby, a wuss, a chicken, a cupcake. To borrow from the vocabulary of the “Fuck your feelings” crowd: a puppet. Or something else that starts with a “p.”

ERIN GLORIA RYAN The Daily Beast