Hell’sinki, Finland

To All the Readers of tarbabys.com.

The presidents and interpreters. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Sorry for the lull but I’ve been super busy moving. Chaos is the new word. Hope to be back up to speed by next week. Had to change Internet providers so I’m working out of the library temporarily. I’ll do my best to keep my 9,000 monthly followers informed as best I can, with the monumental changes impacting our environment and our politics. Stay strong progressives and critical thinkers, we’re winning the war against our American Democracy. The latest trump assault in Finland yesterday surprised none of us. But I hope the Republi-cons in congress will finally find the courage to rain in this despot and Putin wannabe. John Hanno

Trump-Putin Summit Is Over. The Head-Scratching? Not So Much

How Trump Dodged Questions About Russian Election Meddling

During a news conference with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, President Trump would not say whether he believed Russia meddled with the 2016 presidential election.

By THE NEW YORK TIMES on Publish Date July 16, 2018. Photo by Doug Mills/The New York Times. Watch in Times Video »

The president’s trip to Europe is over. The head-scratching? Hardly.

Mr. Trump closed out a trip that began with a NATO summit in Brussels with a meeting with Mr. Putin. Afterward, the men held a remarkable news conference where both addressed accusations that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Putin denied it — and Mr. Trump appeared to stop just short of saying he believed the Russian leader more than he did his own intelligence aides.

And although international affairs was expected to dominate the session, Mr. Trump turned again and again to a defense of his own political legitimacy. “It’s a shame that there can even be a little bit of a cloud over” his election victory, he said.

Here are some of the latest developments.

• Mr. Putin sat down with Chris Wallace of Fox News and rejected accusations of Russian misconduct. Mr. Trump sat down with Sean Hannity.

• And just hours after the two presidents met with the press, American prosecutors brought charges against a Russian woman accused of trying to influence U.S. politics. Just before Mr. Trump left for his trip, 12 Russian intelligence agents were indicted on similar charges.

• The New York Times offered live coverage of the seven-day, three-nation trip from our White House reporters and European correspondents. Photographs from the trip are here.

Putin points a finger at the Democratic Party

Pressed in his interview with Mr. Wallace on Fox about accusations that Russia hacked into Democratic National Committee computers during the presidential campaign, Mr. Putin was defiant.

“Was it some rigging of facts?” he said. “Was it some forgery of facts? That’s the important thing.” He said: “Was this — any false information planted? No. It wasn’t.”

The hackers, Mr. Putin noted, are said to have targeted “a certain email account, and there was information about manipulations conducted within the Democratic Party to incline the process in favor of one candidate. And as far as I know, the entire party leadership resigned. They admitted the fact of their manipulations. So, that’s one thing — that manipulation is where public opinion should stop, and an apology should be made to the public at large.”

Trump refuses to say if he believes Russia interfered in election

Photo

“President Trump mentioned the so-called interference of Russia in the American elections,” Mr. Putin said at the news conference. “I had to reiterate things I said several times: that the Russian state has never interfered, and is not going to interfere, in internal American affairs, including the election process.”CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

Asked whether he believes his own intelligence agencies, which say that Russia interfered in the 2016 United States election, or Mr. Putin, who denies it, Mr. Trump refused to say, but he expressed doubt about whether Russia was to blame.

“They think it’s Russia,” he said. “I have President Putin — he just said it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Mr. Trump raised the matter of Russian electoral meddling, the two leaders said at the news conference, and Mr. Putin reiterated his denial of Russian involvement.

Asked directly whom he believes, Mr. Trump changed the subject to what he said was misconduct by Democrats during the campaign.

Mr. Putin took a more transactional approach: “As to who is to be believed, as to who is not to be believed, you can trust no one. Where did you get this idea that President Trump trusts me or that I trust him? He defends the interests of the United States of America and I defend the interests of the Russian Federation. We do have interests in common and we are looking for points of contact.”

[Mark Landler on the norm-shredding president.]

The president’s ambivalence, after the indictments of 12 Russian intelligence agents over the election hacking, and after the findings of congressional committees, represents a remarkable divergence between Mr. Trump and the American national security apparatus.

Mr. Putin said: “President Trump mentioned the so-called interference of Russia in the American elections. I had to reiterate things I said several times: that the Russian state has never interfered, and is not going to interfere, in internal American affairs, including the election process.”

He offered to have Russian intelligence agencies work with their American counterparts to get to the bottom of the matter.

“What he did is an incredible offer,” Mr. Trump said. “He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer.

Mr. Coats, the intelligence director, appeared to offer a different take from his boss’s after the news conference. “We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy,” he said in a statement, “and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.”

In a tweet later in the day, Mr. Trump wrote: “As I said today and many times before, ‘I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.’ However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past — as the world’s two largest nuclear powers, we must get along!”

Back home, some Republicans were taking another view

“I never thought I would see the day when our American president would stand on the stage with the Russian president and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful,” Jeff Flake, the retiring Arizona senator, said on Twitter.

Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, joined in. “This is bizarre and flat-out wrong,” he said. “The United States is not to blame.

“America wants a good relationship with the Russian people but Vladimir Putin and his thugs are responsible for Soviet-style aggression. When the president plays these moral equivalence games, he gives Putin a propaganda win he desperately needs.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan said: “There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world. That is not just the finding of the American intelligence community but also the House Committee on Intelligence. The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally.

Representative Justin Amash, a libertarian-minded Republican from Michigan, weighed in more tepidly, but with eyebrows arched: “A person can be in favor of improving relations with Russia, in favor of meeting with Putin, and still think something is not right here,” he wrote on Twitter.

Democrats were not so circumspect.

Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts called Mr. Trump’s performance a “national embarrassment.”

And John O. Brennan, who was C.I.A. director under President Barack Obama, spoke of impeachment: “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???”

[The Trump-Putin session left veteran news anchors agape, writes Michael M. Grynbaum.]

Donald Who? Trump wasn’t on Russia’s radar, Putin says

In a feisty 30-minute interview with Mr. Wallace on Fox News, Mr. Putin denied that his nation interfered with American elections, dismissed concerns about the deaths of his political opponents and said he had no compromising materials on President Trump. The former businessman, he said, “was of no interest for us” before he ran for president.

“There’s plenty of rich persons in the United States,” Mr. Putin told Mr. Wallace during an interview taped on Monday in Helsinki. “He was in the construction business. He organized the beauty pageants. But no, it would never occur to anyone that he would think of running for president.”

Photo

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia during an interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News.CreditFox News Channel

Mr. Putin found himself pressed by the Mr. Wallace on several sensitive topics. At one point, the “Fox News Sunday” anchor tried to hand the Russian leader a copy of the indictment brought by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, against 12 Russian military intelligence officers accused of hacking Democratic Party emails in 2016.

Mr. Putin declined to accept the document.

In the interview’s most pointed exchange, Mr. Wallace — whose late father, Mike Wallace, was famed for his interviews of dictators and other celebrities on “60 Minutes” — asked point-blank why “so many of the people that oppose Vladimir Putin end up dead or close to it?”

“First of all,” Mr. Putin said, “all of us have plenty of political rivals. I’m pretty sure President Trump has plenty of political rivals.”

“But they don’t end up dead,” Mr. Wallace rejoined.

“Well, haven’t presidents been killed in the United States?” Mr. Putin said. “Have you forgotten about — well, has Kennedy been killed in Russia or in the United States? Or Mr. King? What — and what happens to the clashes between police and, well, civil society, and some ethnic groups? Well, that’s something that happens on the U.S. soil. All of us have our own set of domestic problems.”

At several points, Mr. Putin used false equivalencies and blatant mis-truths to avoid questions. When Mr. Wallace asked about a video released by Mr. Putin’s government showing a nuclear missile hitting an area of Florida close to Mr. Trump’s estate, Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Putin simply denied the claim.

“There was not a caption saying Florida,” he said.

“You can see it on the map,” Mr. Wallace pointed out.

“It couldn’t be seen on the map,” Mr. Putin insisted. “Just take a closer look, and don’t try to scare your population with make-believe threats.” — Michael M. Grynbaum

Commiseration from a fellow president

In his interview with Mr. Hannity on Fox News, Mr. Trump once again denounced the investigation into Russian political meddling. “Ninety percent of the nuclear power in the world between these two nations, and we’ve had a phony, witch hunt deal drive us apart,” he said.

Mr. Putin was sympathetic, he said.

“It’s the thing that he told me when he went in,” Mr. Trump said. “He said ‘What a shame.’ He felt it was very hard for me to make a deal because of, you know, all of this nonsense.”

A new era of cooperation — but on what?

The two leaders seemed to agree to disagree on Russia’s annexation of Crimea and on the Iran nuclear deal.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin expressed confidence that Russia and the United States were entering a period of better relations and cooperation on global problems, but they did not cite any examples, and their news conference exposed continued areas of disagreement.

Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and continues to support Russian separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine, aggression that the West has condemned. Mr. Trump did not address the matter publicly, either before or after the meetings on Monday, but Mr. Putin was asked whether his American counterpart had made any concessions.

“The posture of President Trump on Crimea is well known and he stands firmly by it,” Mr. Putin said. “He continues to maintain that it was illegal to annex it. Our viewpoint is different.”

Mr. Putin made a point of noting that the two leaders still disagree strongly on the Iran nuclear deal, which Mr. Trump withdrew from in May, and which the Russian president hailed as a great success.

Speaking to reporters before the meetings, Mr. Trump cited the reduction of nuclear arsenals as a major item on his agenda. “We have 90 percent of the nuclear, and that’s not a good thing, it’s a bad thing,” he had said.

He raised the issue again at the post-summit news conference, but Mr. Putin did not, and it was not clear that the matter had been discussed, much less that any progress had been made.

Mr. Putin said that the war in Syria could be “the first showcase example of the successful joint work” between the two countries. But with Russia supporting the Assad regime, and the United States backing a rebel faction, it is not clear what room there is for cooperation there.

It was also not clear whether the two presidents had discussed another area of conflict: the British government’s assertion that the nerve agent poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in England in March had been carried out by current or former agents of a Russian intelligence service, the G.R.U. The United States has supported Britain’s claim, and expelled dozens of Russian Embassy and Consulate employees.

Trump blames United States for tensions with Russia

President Trump and other American officials during breakfast on Monday in Helsinki with the Finnish president. CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

Mr. Trump began the day of the meeting by blaming the United States for its poor relationship with Russia, casting aspersions on the federal investigation into Moscow’s cyberattack on the presidential election, and saying he felt “just fine” about meeting with Mr. Putin.

In a pair of tweets sent on Monday before he headed for breakfast at Mantyniemi Palace, a residence of the Finnish president, Mr. Trump twice branded the special counsel investigation into Russia’s election interference the “Rigged Witch Hunt.”

That investigation, and “many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity,” he wrote, are why the United States’ relationship with Russia “has NEVER been worse” — a bold claim, given that the history includes periods like the Cuban missile crisis, and the wars in Korea and Vietnam.

The president’s tweet drew praise and a “like” from the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Mr. Trump did not mention factors that are usually cited in the West as causes for friction with Moscow: Russia’s annexation of Crimea, its support for rebels in Ukraine and for the Assad regime in Syria, its meddling in the elections of the United States and in those of other countries, and the nerve agent poisonings in England.

Asked at the news conference later, asked if he held Russia at all responsible for conflict with the United States, Mr. Trump did say: “Yes, I do, I hold both countries responsible. I think the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish.”

He also said: “Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago. I really believe that.”

Trump says it’s a shame there’s even a ‘little bit of a cloud’ over his victory

Full Video: Trump and Putin Speak

President Trump and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia held a joint news conference after their sit-down meeting in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday.

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Photo by Doug Mills/The New York Times. Watch in Times Video »

Mr. Trump, asked at the news conference whether he had warned Mr. Putin not to interfere in the election, instead used the opportunity to lash out at opponents who had suggested that Russian meddling was in any way responsible for his victory or tainted his legacy.

“There was no collusion at all,” said Mr. Trump.

He dismissed as largely irrelevant the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence agents in connection with the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton presidential campaign.

“I beat Hillary Clinton easily and, frankly, we beat her,” he said. “We won that race, and it’s a shame that there can even be a little bit of a cloud over it.” (He did not mention that she won the popular vote.)

The comments came after Mr. Trump lashed out at former President Barack Obama for the second day in a row, tweeting that his predecessor had failed to intervene to stop Russia’s hacking because he “thought that Crooked Hillary was going to win the election.”

— Julie Hirschfeld Davis

Putin targets a London-based investor (and longtime foe)

William F. Browder, a London-based investor, in Madrid in May. CreditFrancisco Seco/Associated Press

During his news conference with Mr. Trump, Mr. Putin took advantage of his time on the world stage to target a longtime Kremlin foe, William F. Browder, a London-based investor, and repeat an accusation that Mr. Browder sent large amounts of money to Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign.

“Business associates of Mr. Browder have earned over $1.5 billion in Russia,” Mr. Putin said. “They never paid any taxes. Neither in Russia nor in the United States. Yet, the money escaped the country. They were transferred to the United States. They sent huge amount of money, $400 million as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton.”

Mr. Putin was drawing on material cited in opposition research that Natalia V. Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer, offered to members of the Trump campaign in 2016.

Mr. Browder is a longtime target of Mr. Putin’s. The investor was the driving force behind the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 American law that freezes the assets held in the United States by Russian officials responsible for human rights abuses.

Russia has repeatedly requested Mr. Browder’s arrest through Interpol, but in 2013 the international agency issued a rare statement in opposition, saying the effort was of a “predominantly political nature.”

— Katie Rogers

Trump is fidgety, and Putin stony, at start of meeting

Mr. Trump made an upside-down triangle with his hands, a gesture he has made in the presence of other leaders in high-stakes settings. The Russian president’s eyes rarely left the floor. CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

Mr. Trump’s body language on this trip alternated between aloof and uncomfortable, with brief moments of warmth — and that was when meeting America’s closest allies.

As he sat with Mr. Putin before their private meeting on Monday, Mr. Trump, who often gesticulates and jokes while making his points, seemed to keep himself uncharacteristically restrained — except for the moment he inexplicably winked in the Russian president’s direction.

Still, Mr. Trump appeared fidgety while seated next to his stony Russian counterpart, whom he has repeatedly tried to flatter before meeting him in Helsinki. In his opening remarks, he did it again.

“First of all Mr. President, I’d like to congratulate you on a really great World Cup,” Mr. Trump said. “One of the best ever from what everybody tells me. And also for your team, itself, doing so well.”

During the five-minute photo opportunity and brief remarks, Mr. Trump hunched forward in his chair, tapped his fingers together with his hands making an upside-down triangle — a gesture he has made in the presence of other leaders in high-stakes settings. His head swiveled back and forth between the news cameras and his interpreter, but he rarely looked at the Russian president.

Compared with Mr. Trump, who leaned forward toward the cameras, his eyes darting back and forth, Mr. Putin appeared clamped into his chair. The Russian president’s eyes rarely left the floor, and if they did, they were focused on Mr. Trump. His hands rarely left two fixed positions — one on his lap, the other curled backward, gripping the chair.

Mr. Trump, who has called journalists the enemy of the people, did not answer questions from the news media. When a journalist shouted a question about Russia tampering with the 2016 election, Mr. Putin’s face appeared to curl into a smirk. — Katie Rogers

New York Daily News Scorches ‘Treason’ Trump With Brutal New Cover

HuffPost

New York Daily News Scorches ‘Treason’ Trump With Brutal New Cover

Rebecca Shapiro     July 16, 2018

Critics slam Trump’s appearance with Putin at summit
Yahoo News Video

The New York Daily News hammered President Donald Trump  with its Tuesday cover, suggesting that his refusal to publicly condemn Russian leader Vladimir Putin was treason.

During a news conference Monday in Helsinki, Finland, Trump would not blame Russia or Putin for interference in the 2016 U.S. election, saying “we’re all to blame” for poor relations between the two countries. U.S. intelligence and government officials have concluded that the Kremlin meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

So the New York Daily News reacted to Trump’s remarks with a brutal illustration and headline, accusing the president of siding with an enemy over his own country. The illustration alluded to a statement Trump made during his presidential campaign that he could shoot someone on New York’s Fifth Avenue and not lose voters.

Trump’s comments after his meeting with Putin sparked outrage Monday, with even Republican leaders and Fox News hosts slamming the president.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said, “No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.” Fox Business host Neil Cavuto called Trump’s behavior “disgusting.”

Trump Didn’t Forget to Pack His White Supremacy for His U.K. Trip

Esquire

Trump Didn’t Forget to Pack His White Supremacy for His U.K. Trip

The president has made a biblical mess through his European tour.

By Jack Holmes      July 13, 2018

Getty Images

It’s comforting to wake on a Friday morning knowing your Large Adult President is stomping around Europe, making things great again. Having done wonders for the NATO alliance—particularly over breakfast—Donald Trump, American president is now in the United Kingdom. He’s there to touch base with our old allies through world war and more, and we can safely assume that, despite his penchant for innovation when it comes to foreign policy, Trump will seek to safeguard the U.S.-British friendship.

Right.

To coincide with his arrival, Trump did an interview with Britain’s trashiest newspaper, The Sun, and trashed British Prime Minister Theresa May throughout. On the subject of Brexit, Trump complained May hadn’t followed his advice and was instead pursuing a “soft” Brexit, in which the U.K. would maintain close ties to the European Union. This, he explained, would have profound implications on whether the U.K. can strike a separate trade deal with the U.S.:

TRUMP: If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the U.K., so it will probably kill the deal … The deal she is striking is a much different deal than the one the people voted on.

So the United States and Great Britain just won’t have a formal trade relationship if Trump doesn’t like Britain’s deal with the E.U.? Oh, and you might have noticed that splintering Western Europe by getting Britain as far as possible from the Union is—like undermining NATO—a priority of Vladimir Putin.

But Trump had more to say about May—or, more precisely, about who he thinks would be a great a prime minister. The answer is not Prime Minister Theresa May:

Trump praised Boris Johnson as a future Prime Minister. The US President described the former Foreign Secretary as “a very talented guy”, adding: “I like him a lot.”

“I have a lot of respect for Boris. He obviously likes me, and says very good things about me. I was very saddened to see he was leaving government and I hope he goes back in at some point. I think he is a great representative for your country.”

Asked if the ex-minister could be in No 10 one day, he replied: “Well I am not pitting one against the other.”

Certainly not.

Johnson, of course, is the Brexit clown with Trumpian hair who just resigned as foreign secretary in what many believe is a prelude to challenging May, who is incredibly weak at present as her cabinet fractures over Brexit plans. This is an amazing way to announce your arrival in a country and kick off your summit with its leader. When you take into account the U.K. is one of our closest allies, it’s simply shocking. The United States president just shivved the leader of Britain on his way into town.

But the real shock was still to come. Our big strong president is steering clear of London during his visit because of mass protests that include a giant inflatable baby version of him. London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, approved the balloon’s deployment on free speech grounds—but has his own history with Trump, which includes when Trump attacked Khan in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack in his city, because leadership and civility. When Khan criticized Trump’s Muslim Ban—which the Supreme Court now assures us is, in its newest form, No Longer a Muslim Ban—Trump responded by challenging Khan to an IQ test.

Naturally, Trump’s response in this case was to…blame Khan, who is Muslim, for terror attacks in London:

“I look at cities in Europe, and I can be specific if you’d like. You have a mayor who has done a terrible job in London. He has done a terrible job. Take a look at the terrorism that is taking place. Look at what is going on in London. I think he has done a very bad job on terrorism. I think he has done a bad job on crime, if you look, all of the horrible things going on there, with all of the crime that is being brought in.”

Khan responded by pointing out that the Home Office—a division of the national government—is responsible for immigration policy. But it seems hopeless to point out these distinctions to the world’s most powerful man, who elsewhere in the Sun interview veered into the kind of rhetoric you might find among bona fide white nationalists:

Chris Hayes

“I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was and I don’t mean that in a positive way.”

“So I think allowing millions and millions of people to come into Europe is very, very sad.”

“I think you are losing your culture. Look around. You go through certain areas that didn’t exist ten or 15 years ago.”

This is exactly the kind of cultural anxiety—which most often manifests as xenophobia and racism—that fuels all far-right movements in the West. The message is clear: If you allow non-white people from Africa and the Middle East to migrate to Europe, the continent as you know it will cease to exist.

Of course, this is predicated on the idea that a country like Britain is defined by ethnicity more than values like free expression, equality before the law, and self-determination. (Or that non-white migrants cannot assimilate to a society that has these values.) It also clings to the delusion that the U.K., like the U.S., has not been a thoroughly multicultural place for decades and can still be refashioned into an Anglo-Saxon ethnostate.

It is not a coincidence that Trump attacked London’s Muslim mayor, or tried to tie him to Islamic extremist terrorism and crime, or tried to tie all of that to the migration issue. This is the methodology of white nationalism.

But there was still time for a run-of-the-mill batshit presidential moment.

Matthew Garrahan: Trump tells The Sun he’s more popular than Abraham Lincoln

Some have pointed out already that one reason Lincoln might not have fared so well in opinion polls is that he was assassinated a decade before the method of conducting them, known as “the telephone,” was invented. But sure, whatever. Keep on winning.

Having made a biblical mess in the lead-up to the summit, Trump of course arrived expecting to field questions about it.

MSNBC: President Trump reacts to question about his recent comments to The Sun while sitting next to British PM May.

Oh, you believed that? No, he decided to lend some credence to that baby blimp caricature instead. Then, in a subsequent press conference, he called the whole thing Fake News:

Trump made secret deal with Kennedy over retirement, replacement

ThinkProgress

White House doesn’t deny report Trump made secret deal with Kennedy over retirement, replacement

It’s not supposed to work like this.

Aaron Rupar     July 10, 2018

CREDIT: SCREENGRAB
CREDIT: SCREENGRAB
During an CNN interview on Tuesday morning, White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah did not deny an NBC report that outgoing Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy “received assurances” from President Trump that if he retired, Judge Brett Kavanaugh — one of Kennedy’s former clerks — would be nominated to be his replacement

Asked repeatedly if some sort of deal between Trump and Kennedy was struck before Kennedy announced his retirement, Shah dodged, saying things like “I’m not going to read out private conversations that Justice Kennedy had with either members of the White House or the president,” and, “Justice Kennedy can speak for himself.” But what Shah didn’t do is deny the NBC report.

If NBC’s report is accurate, it means Kennedy would effectively have been given control over a SCOTUS seat for 60 years — the 30 years he served, and the 30 or so the 53-year-old Kavanaugh will likely serve on the court if confirmed.

At another point during the CNN interview, Shah was asked if Trump was familiar with an article Kavanaugh’s wrote that could become relevant to SCOTUS as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump campaign unfolds — a 2009 law review article in which Kavanaugh argued that sitting presidents are above the law.

“The indictment and trial of a sitting president… would cripple the federal government, rendering it unable to function with credibility in either the international or domestic areas,” Kavanaugh wrote. “Such an outcome would ill serve the public interest, especially in times of financial or national security crisis.”

Shah again dodged, saying that “the president and the White House are aware of all of Judge Kavanaugh’s public record, but what we are focused on is that if you look at his opinions, if you look at his writings, there are some that would emphasize greater power for the executive, some that would limit the power. Some that would put a ruling on one or another side of a specific issue. But the constant strain through all of the rulings, through all the opinions, through all the writings is an individual who interprets the law and the Constitution as it was written and doesn’t legislate from the bench.”

“Does the president agree with the 2009 writing?” host John Berman followed up.

“I haven’t asked the president about that writing,” Shah said.


UPDATE (7/10, 2:24 p.m.) — Later Tuesday, NBC sought to clarify that whatever deal the White House had with Kennedy had a bit of wiggle room.

“I am told by a source who was not directly part of the talks that Kennedy provided Pres. Trump/ WH a list of acceptable replacements,” Leigh Ann Caldwell reported on Twitter.

Leigh Ann Caldwell: I’ve deleted this tweet because it incorrectly implies a transactional nature in Kennedy’s replacement. I am told by a source who was not directly part of the talks that Kennedy provided Pres. Trump/ WH a list of acceptable replacements.

In another tweet, Caldwell added that while Kennedy’s list contained a number of names, “Kavanaugh was the only one who was thought conservative enough to consider.”

We’re “on the cusp” of “losing the American constitutional republic forever”

Salon

Malcolm Nance on Trump: We’re “on the cusp” of “losing the American constitutional republic forever”

Former intelligence officer turned author says Putin is Trump’s “handler” and we’re in a “Benedict Arnold moment”

Chauncey DeVega             July 9, 2018

The crisis that has befallen America under Donald Trump’s presidency is not ripped from the pages of a John le Carré or Jason Matthews spy novel. It is all too real.

The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee has unanimously endorsed the intelligence community’s conclusion that the Russian government interfered with the 2016 presidential election, with the goal of electing Donald Trump and undermining American democracy.

Former CIA director John Brennan agrees that Vladimir Putin commanded his spies and other agents to assist Donald Trump so that he would defeat Hillary Clinton. Brennan also believes that Putin may be blackmailing Trump as a means of forcing the president to do his bidding.

Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted numerous people in connection with Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and related criminal behavior.

Trump openly encouraged Putin and his agents to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Trump continues to publicly praise Putin and make excuses for his apparent efforts to subvert American democracy. Trump now plans to meet privately with Putin later this month. It has been reported that no American advisers or other observers will attend these meetings.

If what now seems apparent is indeed true, Putin has successfully conducted one of the greatest covert operations in modern history. He and his agents have undermined the United States’ standing in the world and apparently now control a president, the Republican Party, and tens of millions of Americans who have embraced authoritarianism and betrayed their own country’s democratic values and institutions.

How was Russia able to accomplish this? Is Donald Trump actively working for Vladimir Putin and Russia or is he just a “useful idiot”? What social cleavages did Russia exploit in order to do so much damage to the United States? How does Russia’s support of Trump and American fascism fit into a much larger global plan?

In an effort to answer these questions I recently spoke with Malcolm Nance, a career intelligence and counterterrorism officer for the United States government. In his more than three decades working in that capacity, Nance served with U.S. Special Operations forces, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies. He has worked in the Middle East, North Africa, the Balkans, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. A frequent guest contributor on MSNBC, Nance has authored several books, including the bestselling “The Plot to Hack America: How Putin’s Cyberspies and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election.

Nance’s new book is “The Plot to Destroy Democracy: How Putin and His Spies Are Undermining America and Dismantling the West.” This conversation has been edited for clarity and length. A longer version can be heard on my podcast.

It has been about a year since we last spoke about President Trump and Russian interference in the 2016 election. At this point are matters better, worse or about what you expected in terms of how Trump is behaving and his impact on the country?

Things are happening as expected. But who would have thought that Donald Trump would be feeling so much pressure about being caught working with the Russians that he would feel the need to start paying them off so greatly? Trump is now warning that he may eliminate or downgrade NATO.

It’s just insane. We created NATO. It was a United States invention for the collective security of Europe. It has been a Russian desire since 1947 to break up NATO. Trump also wants to remove the United States from the World Trade Organization. He is doing this all before his summit meeting with Putin.

But in some ways Donald Trump is way worse than I thought he would be at this point. He is acting like a guy who has to rob a bank to pay off the Colombian drug lord. Every day that he wakes up alive is like a blessing. This is the level of debt and peril that I think Donald Trump is in — that he would literally take a sledgehammer to everything the United States has built in an effort to save himself.

Donald Trump is acting like Putin’s vassal. The public evidence that Trump and his inner circle colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 presidential election is overwhelming. Yet Trump’s voters, the Republican Party and the right-wing news media keeps denying the facts.

Putin is his handler. There are too many people who keep saying that they are “sick of hearing about Russia.” These people refuse to acknowledge the  evidence. There is a national counterintelligence investigation targeting the White House. The president and all of his staff are implicated.

We have Michael Flynn, the [former] national security adviser to the president, pleading guilty to lying to the FBI because he covered up secret contacts with a foreign government and lied about it when confronted with the facts. The evidence is now in the realm of the Justice Department, and they’re not going to just come out and give it to you. This is what all these Republican congressmen are trying to do. For example, Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy. They’re trying to get the evidence so that they can use it to try to exonerate Donald Trump.

This is obstruction of justice on a grand scale. I suspect that when it’s all said and done and the sum total of the evidence comes out, it’ll be overwhelming and undeniable. As I told you last year, we’re entering a Benedict Arnold moment in American history. Robert Mueller is not playing games here. He cannot accelerate things because Donald Trump is taking a sledgehammer to government, although I’m certain he will accelerate things in order to make sure that justice is served. There will be more indictments, some of them very high profile. For example, Jared Kushner lied when he was asked about using Russian secret communications in an effort to hide his communications with Russia from the NSA and CIA.

Where is the mass protest and outrage among the American people? There should be massive  protests and marches that disrupt day-to-day life. Is this passivity and perhaps exhaustion also part of Russia and Putin’s psy-op against the American people?  

I think they chose their asset well. Donald Trump knows how to play this game. He understands that his only salvation is to manipulate the public. He doesn’t care if he destroys the fundamental infrastructure of the FBI. He has Rudy Giuliani telling him the good guys are the average field officers and the leadership needs to be completely redone because Trump wants to control the Justice Department. This is Trump’s way of obstructing justice and expanding his power.

Republicans are so taken by and loyal to Trump that they will believe and do anything he says. A good example of that is the Harley-Davidson factory and the nail factory that were shut down or may go away due to his tariffs. There have been interviews with people who said, “Well, we know it’s going to affect us firstly, but if Donald Trump says it’s for the best, then OK.” That’s cultism. Lo and behold, they actually say, “Well, Donald Trump didn’t do that. That’s the Europeans or that’s the liberals or that’s the Democrats that made me lose my job.”

We’re entering a very dangerous period in American history. It is terrifying. I was rereading my book last weekend and I really had no idea that putting all of this together in one solid package would lead to the conclusion that there is, in fact, a plot. The Russians have a plan and a strategy. They have been executing the strategy for 15 years, by finding Donald Trump and building him up as a character and fostering his betrayal of the United States of America. They clearly set out to destroy American democracy and Donald Trump is the man to do it. We are, as of this November, on the cusp of possibly losing the American constitutional republic forever.

The Russians have been doing this in Europe with ultra-right-wing groups, fascist groups and others that have their origins with the Nazis. The Russians aren’t Communist anymore. They are ultra-conservative Christian nationalists.

Their goal is to use democracy to destroy democracy. You want to get rid of democracy, have an election. But this is an election where they vote away your rights. This is an election where you lose to voter suppression and aid from a foreign power. But at the end of that loss, these enemies of real democracy then say, “Oh, no. It was all fair and square.” The Republicans want an autocracy where the rights of minorities and others are not protected. Vladimir Putin, with Donald Trump and with the European conservative movements, are building an axis of autocracies, and the United States is on the relatively quick road to becoming an autocracy and no longer a constitutional republic.

Were American conservatives particularly vulnerable to being manipulated because they are anti-intellectual and already predisposed towards authoritarianism? Or was the Russian plan just that masterful and devious?  

The Russians watch very carefully. We have to recognize their president is a former career KGB officer. The goals of Russia since 1917 have been to destroy capitalism, discredit democracy and show that Communist collectivism was the greatest social and political system in the world.

The Russians realized that that the American right wing, with its hatred of Barack Obama, was a natural ally. So the Russians went about co-opting these right-wingers. I call them the “American beachhead.” Since 2005 the Russians have been hammering almost every conservative political movement in Europe — they are now funded by Moscow, particularly the neo-Nazi and the fascist ones.

The Russians really invest in these organizations because their goal is to create autocracies. To re-engineer the world away from a Washington-centric European alliance to a Moscow-centric, autocratic one.

Steve Bannon was just in Europe speaking to right-wing and fascist groups, telling them to be proud of being called racists. Trump’s former adviser Sebastian Gorka actually wore a literal medal that was awarded by a Hungarian group allied with the Nazis. 

In my book I call Steve Bannon “the American Goebbels.” He is the evangelist of the American alt-right. In Europe there are groups such as Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West), which is the rabid anti-foreigner movement in Germany who got power through the AFD (Alternative für Deutschland), and went from something like 3 percent of the polls last year to now being the second-largest party in Germany with 30 percent of the vote.

Trump is pretty much riding a high wave with 40 or so percent support. Hitler won with 37 percent. Bannon was just in Europe meeting with the Hungarian government and the Jobbik Party. Bannon also went to meet with the Five Star Movement in Italy whose foreign minister, Matteo Salvini, just threatened to deport and put on trains all of the Roma people — the “gypsies” — in Italy. The last guy who put the Roma out of a country and round them up on trains was Adolf Hitler and he sent them straight to Auschwitz.

So this is really dangerous talk that’s going on in Europe. We may be one or two elections in Europe from seeing the complete collapse of the European order that we established at the end of World War II.

In effect, Trump’s immigration policy amounted to putting the families of black and brown refugees in concentration camps. The United States has withdrawn from the United Nations’ Human Rights Council. How do these images of crying babies and broken families help Vladimir Putin’s plot against America?

This all works out for the Russians. First, note how the Russians have now shifted. Remember, last year they were starting to criticize Trump by saying that he had been consumed by the swamp. Now it is all completely reversed. Trump is a strong leader. Trump is closing his borders. Middle East and African immigration into Europe is the No. 1 platform for European conservatives. Trump is the Johnny-come-lately to the story. So Trump saying the same is a double thumbs-up for the Russians and their strategy of inciting nativism and racism and chaos.

Trump has been on Fox News and elsewhere joking about Putin and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Is he a  “useful idiot” for Putin’s spies? Or is Trump actually afraid of being caught by Robert Mueller and his behavior reflects that? Either way he is acting like a guilty person.

I’m certainly been pretty vocal on this point. “Useful idiot” is a technical term. It’s a person who is an unwilling dupe, who through their own actions helps your cause. I think Trump started out as a useful idiot when it came to selling apartments and getting money from Russians who were liquidating their assets from the Soviet Union. I think he then became a willing asset when they started using him when he wanted to run for president. Trump knows everything is being done in his benefit. He is one step from being an agent. We may find out with Donald Trump that is the case. Who knows?

There are multiple examples of Trump and his confidants meeting with Russian representatives in private without American translators or media present. Trump will meet with Putin again in a few weeks. Again, this conversation will be private. How unusual is this?

It’s extremely unusual and people that should know better, like Gen. [John] Kelly, are not alarmed. They think this is just Trump’s way of doing things. But Trump meeting Putin in private is like him going in for his quarterly evaluation. I would not doubt if it actually comes out to effectively be that. As I said, I think this nation is in a Benedict Arnold moment.

Moreover, I think that there will be multiple Benedict Arnolds in the story. No other president would ever do this. No other president would be allowed to do this. Trump is getting away with this behavior because he has cowed the Republican Party with fear that they’ll be put out of office by his cult members. There is nothing Trump cannot do at this point.

Matters are very dire. I think this “blue wave” in the midterms is much exaggerated. Trump will win in 2020 — if he runs again — for a variety of reasons. What will America look like if Trump continues to get his way in terms of serving Putin’s and Russia’s interests, rather than those of the United States and the American people?

You will not recognize the United States. The country will vote itself into an autocracy. Trump and the Republican Party will suspend parts of America’s representative democracy. They will amend the Constitution. And America will see 65 percent of its people living under subjugation. Now, I don’t say that lightly. That’s an intelligence analysis based on the empirical data. I say that with experience honed with humility. Donald Trump makes no secret of his desires in that regard. His biggest problem has been democracy. I disagree with you, however, on one point. I do believe there will be a “blue wave.”

The problem with the progressives and liberals right now is that they are still treating this situation like we are in a state of normalcy.

Vladimir Putin actually warned that if Trump wins, he has to be careful of an American backlash like the one that swept the pro-Moscow government out of power in the Ukraine. He’s terrified of democracy. He’s terrified of people power. That’s my message. We have got to mobilize.

It has to be made clear that American democracy may go away this November because if the Democrats don’t win the House of Representatives, it’s done. Trump will get whatever he wants. I don’t think he will win in 2020, because at that point I hope a hero will emerge.

Michael Moore recently said that the American people must be prepared to die to stop Trump’s authoritarian and fascist movement. Do you think Moore is just being hyperbolic? Or is he correct?  

I think he’s a little hyperbolic. Look, when the alt-right killed Heather Heyer the response from law enforcement has essentially run the alt-right underground. They had no idea that punching Nazis is a pretty deep-seated American value.

What would you tell people who are terrified or afraid of Trump and what he is doing to America? What advice would you give them?

I get those types of questions every day. The first thing I tell people is: “Stand fast. We will win this.” You have to understand that we are not up against one man. We are up against 40 percent of the American public who don’t understand what’s going on because they only believe Donald Trump. What we must do now is commit ourselves to the American democratic experiment and the best spirit of the founding.

If we turn out this year like it was a presidential election year, then we will win in a phenomenal landslide. You must vote like your life depends on it, because it could, if you’re a woman that might need an abortion. It could, if you’re a Latino. It could, if you’re a young black man where shootings can now essentially be written off with a rubber stamp.

When this nation was built out of my city, Philadelphia, the odds were simple. They win or they hang. And now it’s simple again. We win or we lose American democracy. We lose it forever, and I don’t think we’ll come back from autocracy.

Study links declining union strength to more workplace deaths

Salon

Study links declining union strength to more workplace deaths

There is a small but growing body of research highlighting the health benefits of unions

Eli Wolfe      July 9, 2018

Getty Images

It’s no secret that the waning power of American unions has contributed to stagnant wages. But a new study suggests that this trend hasn’t affected just worker income. It also may have cost thousands of lives.

The portion of the U.S. work force covered by unions has fallen for decades, and the labor movement suffered another major setback Wednesday when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down public-employee contracts requiring workers to pay union dues.

The new study focuses in particular on the extent to which state “right to work” laws — which barred mandatory union dues for non-union members even before Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling — translate into more workplace deaths. Using mathematical modeling techniques, the study found that the rate of job-related deaths among U.S. workers from 1992 through 2016 was 14.2 percent higher than it would have been if union membership had not been undercut by right to work laws.

That equated to roughly 7,300 extra workplace deaths over the 25-year period, according to author of the analysis, Michael Zoorob.

The conclusions of the study, published in the medical journal BMJ, in some respects buck conventional wisdom. Workplace deaths generally have declined over the years, thanks in part to outsourcing of dangerous jobs to other countries, technological advances and a rise in less hazardous service employment.

But after falling below the 4,600 level annually during the Great Recession, on-the-job fatalities have risen since 2013, reaching 5,190 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Zoorob said this uptick roughly coincided with a rise in the adoption of state right to work laws. Twenty-eight states now have such laws up, from 21 in 2000.

“The implication is that this results in changes in workplace policies that increase occupational mortality,” said Zoorob, a PhD candidate at Harvard University’s Department of Government.

There is a small but growing body of research highlighting the health benefits of unions. Zoorob’s study cited a 2016 report in the American Journal of Public Health that union contacts provide, among other benefits, protections against workplace hazards.

“The overarching point is that unions are important in workplace protections, and the fact that they’re declining because of public policies like right to work is concerning,” he added. Harvard was the sole source of funding for Zoorob’s study.

Supporters of right to work laws weren’t persuaded by Zoorob’s findings. James Hohman, director of Fiscal Policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a think tank that promotes free-market principles, said occupational injuries and deaths have actually dropped in some states following the passage of anti-union laws.

He cited as one example Michigan, which has experienced a 17 percent decline in non-fatal injuries and illnesses since passing a right to work law in 2012. In a related example, Indiana has reported an 18.6 percent decline in non-fatal injuries since passing similar legislation in 2012.

“Workplaces have become safer over time even as unionization has declined,” Hohman said in an email.

Yet both Michigan and Indiana have seen a spike in occupational fatalities, despite the decline in injuries, since passing right to work laws.

In general, though, occupational fatalities have fallen. They declined nationally from 6,217 in 1992, when the BLS began keeping a comprehensive count, to 5,190 in 2016.

Zoorob and other scholars attribute most of that decline to a combination of technological progress and the outsourcing of dangerous jobs. He calculated that the death toll for workers would have been 131,436 during the 1992-2016 period instead of 138,736 if it hadn’t been for the adoption of right to work laws. Union membership in the U.S. declined from 15.7 percent of the workforce in 1992 to 10.7 percent in 2017.

Labor advocates say the right to work movement has ignored the role played by unions in reducing occupational fatalities.

“Most employers do want to do the right thing, but you have a number who will cut corners on health and safety,” said Jordan Barab, who was deputy assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health in the Obama administration. “It’s the unions that are there to push them and ensure they comply with the law.”

Barab also credited unions with improving workplace safety by lobbying for important legislative and regulatory changes – although, as labor organizations lose dues-paying members, they have increasingly had to eliminate the staffers who handle health and safety campaigns.

The Service Employees International Union, for example, plans to terminate its sole remaining national staffer for health and safety on July 1. Other major labor groups, like the American Federation of Teachers, have opted to not hire new officials when long-term staffers retire.

“We just don’t have the bodies to go up to the hill and lobby Congress or testify at hearings,” he said. He noted that President Donald Trump has twice tried to axe OSHA’s Susan Harwood Training Grant Program, which trained many of the health and safety staff employed by unions.

While right to work laws have undermined private sector unions, they have not had as much success eliminating the power of public sector unions, which represent 34.4 percent of public workers. But that could change very soon.

On Wednesday the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in the landmark case of Janus v. AFSCME Council 31. (AFSCME is the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees). In a 5-4 ruling, the court overturned a 1977 precedent that allowed public unions to collect fees from non-union workers to pay for collective bargaining efforts.

As a result, all state and local government workplaces could effectively become right to work sites, said Catherine Fisk, a law professor at University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in labor issues. Fisk, who spoke about the case shortly before the ruling came down, said it’s easy to see how the decision could quickly undermine worker health and safety.

“One expects that union membership will drop because workers will figure they don’t have to pay for dues,” Fisk said. “Therefore, unions will have less money to spend doing what they do, and one of the things they do is monitor workplace safety.”

There are an estimated 5 million non-union workers employed by state and local governments who no longer have to pay these fees.

The Janus decision also could increase the likelihood of the Supreme Court reviewing litigation that challenges similar mandatory fee arrangements for non-members in private sector unions.

What trump has done this past week?

July 8, 2018

The Trumpiest thing Trump has done this week!

The Trumpiest thing Trump has done this week!

Posted by Wake Up America on Sunday, July 8, 2018

Big Oil Knew: Denial and Distraction

War On Our Future  June, 2018

Big Oil Knew: Denial and Distraction

The oil industry discovered the links between fossil fuels and climate change back in the 1960’s. Here’s what they did when they found out… #YEARSproject #BigOilKnew

Big Oil Knew: Denial and Distraction

The oil industry discovered the links between fossil fuels and climate change back in the 1960s. Here's what they did when they found out… #YEARSproject #BigOilKnew

Posted by War On Our Future on Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Through Our Eyes: Teachers Living on the Brink of Bankruptcy

NowThis Reports

June 28, 2018. Being a full-time teacher shouldn’t mean working multiple jobs and still turning to food pantries just to feed your family. But in Oklahoma, it does.

Through Our Eyes: Teachers Living on the Brink of Bankruptcy

Through Our Eyes: Teachers Living on the Brink of Bankruptcy

Being a full-time teacher shouldn't mean working multiple jobs and still turning to food pantries just to feed your family. But in Oklahoma, it does.

Posted by NowThis Reports on Tuesday, June 12, 2018