foreign policy

Not Exactly Subtle

#PutiPoodle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

#PutiTrump: Protest image of Vladimir Putin, artist unknown. Donald Trump in detail of photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for msnbc, 2016.

This is all ritual, right?

When asked—three times—at a White House press briefing about Russia’s link to the poisoning or any possible repercussions for the country from the U.S., Sanders carefully did not say “Russia”—or otherwise address who may have been responsible for the attack. She characterized it as an “indiscriminate” attack, although British authorities have concluded that Skripal was clearly targeted.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)“We’ve been monitoring the incident closely, take it very seriously,” Sanders said. “The use of a highly lethal nerve agent against U.K. citizens on U.K. soil is an outrage. The attack was reckless, indiscriminate and irresponsible. We offer the fullest condemnation.”

“So you’re not saying that Russia was behind this?” a reporter asked.

“Right now, we are standing with our U.K. ally,” Sanders said again. “I think they’re still working through even some of the details of that.”

Pressed a third time, an annoyed Sanders answered, “Like I just said, we stand with our ally and we certainly fully support them and are ready if we can be of any assistance.”


That is, just to be clear: We put up with the lying farce that is the Trump administration every day according to some pretense that we all recognize what is happening and it ought to be over, eventually, when Mueller and the American Way of Truth and Justice finally come through.




About as Stupid as We Might Expect

#PutiPoodle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher [R-CA48]. (Photo by Maria Danilova/Associated Press)

This is not a joke:

Blackwater founder Erik Prince will host a fundraiser for California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher as the Republican faces a tough re-election.


No, really, it’s not a joke.


Not a Word Game: The Seychelles and the Mercenary

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

This is not a word game. I dare you to put all these words and strings of words together in some way that makes sense:

• Mercenary
• Brother of future Secretary of Education
• Unofficial Trump envoy
• Secret meeting
• The Seychelles
• Russia
• United Arab Emirates
• Qatar
• Failed loan negotiation
• President’s family
• Blockade
• UAE hired mercenary army to invade Qatar

And remember: This is how the news cycle has gone over the last week, in terms of what we learn about the #trumpswindle.

In the moment we might pause to imagine a photo of Erik Prince tacked to a wall amid a network of yarn connecting him to other photos of people in some vast conspiracy theory, we could easily also admit it is rather quite a strange prospect to say, So that’s what he was doing in the Seychelles.

It might also behoove us to wonder at the spectacle of such intrigue; to some degree it really does seem melodramatic adventure complete with villanous buffoonery—or is it buffoonish villainy?—is #WhatTheyVotedFor.

A Tremor in the #TrumpSwindle

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, attends an American Leadership in Emerging Technology roundtable in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., 22 June 2017.  (Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

This is just one of those moments worth noting, because it will either be important or not.

Asked about the loans Jared Kushner received after meeting in the WH with the execs who approved those loans, Sarah Sanders says the WH has no comment and refers reporters to Kushner’s lawyer.

(Caroline O)

It is in the moment tempting to wonder if we witness some manner of disengagement beginning as the Special Counsel’s Office swirls around one of the most obvious exposures in the White House. To the other, disengagement is possibly impossible by circumstance of who has done what, and, furthermore, it seems very much an extraordinary proposition to watch the Trump family cabal fracture down this particular fault line.


What They Voted For: Princess Envy

#AmericanRoyalty | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Schooley (@Rschooley): "I'm constantly amazed at how Ivanka comports herself like she's the spunky princess of a beloved royal family."  [via Twitter, 25 February 2018]

These days, everybody loves Schooley, or something:

I’m constantly amazed at how Ivanka comports herself like she’s the spunky princess of a beloved royal family.



A Matter of Perspective (Poodlefinger Mix)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, 14 May 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP Photo)

This is important:

When Donald Trump makes ridiculously untrue comments, few are surprised. The president has a reputation for breathtaking dishonesty, which is well deserved. Making matters much worse, however, is the degree to which his White House makes no real effort to be more trustworthy.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)For example, the White House issued a formal written statement late Friday responding to the federal indictment of 13 Russian operatives who are accused of attacking our elections to help put Trump in power. A Washington Post analysis described the statement as “extremely dishonest,” and documented several demonstrable falsehoods—none of which has been corrected.

But West Wing officials weren’t content to stop there. On Twitter, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “Unlike Obama, [Trump] isn’t going to be pushed around by Russia or anybody else.” That might be slightly less laughable if Obama hadn’t imposed sanctions on Russia, which is the opposite of what Trump did.

In a certain way it does not matter what the esteemed Steve Benen finds laughable. There is a long story, of course, behind the statement that, brain chemistry is brain chemistry, or that brain chemistry will as brain chemistry does, but the proposition of laughability depends on circumstantial norms observably not in effect.

When the Press Secretary says President Trump will not be “pushed around by Russia or anybody else”, we need to consider what that means to her. Because either Sarah Huckabee Sanders believes what she says or she does not. The latter is actually the extraordinary alternative, so the question becomes how she believes such a seemingly ridiculous statement.

And to this the answer is actually straightforward:

• President Trump will not be pushed around by Russia because Russia is not pushing him around.

• President Trump will not be pushed around by anybody else because he will not be pushed around by Congress or the Special Counsel’s Office.


Jim and the Buried Lede (Mattis Matters for America)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President-elect Donald Trump shakes hands with retired United States Marine Corps general James Mattis after their meeting at Trump International Golf Club, 19 November 2016, in Bedminster Township, N.J. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

It seems worth noting that we are actually through a particular looking glass:

One tense moment came last May as officials grew increasingly concerned about aggressive Iranian behavior.

For weeks, Mattis had been resisting requests from the White House to provide military options for Iran. Now Trump made clear that he wanted the Pentagon to deliver a range of plans that included striking Iranian ballistic missile factories or hitting Iranian speedboats that routinely harassed U.S. Navy vessels.

“Why can’t we sink them?” Trump would sometimes ask about the boats.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster and his staff laid out the president’s request for Mattis in a conference call, but the defense secretary refused, according to several U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations. At that point, McMaster took Mattis off speakerphone, cleared his staff from the room and continued the conversation.

“It was clear that the call was not going well,” one official said. In the weeks that followed, the options never arrived.

(Jaffe and Ryan)

Something about buried ledes might go here, but, to be explicit: We are nine months into the period during which the National Security Advisor, a retired Marine Corps general, keeps the peace by refusing or ignoring the president.


Important and Inevitable

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Special Counsel Robert Mueller (AP Photo)

This is one of the important parts:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was questioned for several hours last week by the special counsel’s office as part of the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the election and whether the president obstructed justice since taking office, according to a Justice Department spokeswoman.

The meeting marked the first time that investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, are known to have interviewed a member of Mr. Trump’s cabinet.

Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) in Washington, D.C., on 29 November 2016. (Molly Riley/Associated Press)In response to questions from The New York Times, the spokeswoman, Sarah Isgur Flores, confirmed that the interview occurred. Mr. Sessions was accompanied by the longtime Washington lawyer Chuck Cooper to the interview.


The New York Times article goes on to sketch the drama so far, including a declaration that, “Mueller’s interest in Mr. Sessions shows how the president’s own actions helped prompt a broader inquiry”, but this is also part of setting up a seemingly obvious statement:

For Mr. Mueller, Mr. Sessions is a key witness to two of the major issues he is investigating: the campaign’s possible ties to the Russians and whether the president tried to obstruct the Russia investigation.


A Mystery in #DimensionTrump

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

The White House (Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Jonathan Swan and Axios offer up a scoop:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team has been talking with George Nader, a little-known Bannon associate who boasts of his well-placed connections in the Middle East, Axios has learned.

Nader has spoken with Mueller’s team at least twice, according to a source briefed on the investigation. A second source briefed on the investigation confirmed that Mueller’s team has brought Nader in for questioning in the past week. The Special Counsel’s office declined to comment.

Will that be nuts, or a cherry on top? Time will tell. To wit, the “mysterious White House visitor”, Mr. Nader, is said to allege personal ties to the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, who is also the Deputy Supreme Commander of the armed forces in the United Arab Emirates; to the other, as Mr. Swan reports, “well-connected and experienced Middle East hands in Washington” said they “never heard of Nader”.   (more…)