Barack Obama

Something of an Update (Crackpottery Wrapped in Tinfoil Wrapped in a Bad Suit)

#trumpfoil | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President-elect Donald Trump delivers his first official news conference since winning the November election, 11 January 2017 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

If it feels somehow familiar, yes, there really is a reason.

The Justice Department confirmed in a court filing late Friday that neither it nor the FBI has evidence that Trump Tower was the target of surveillance efforts by the Obama administration during the 2016 presidential election.

(Greenwood)

Six months. How strange it feels to look back to March as if the upcoming six-month mark should feel like some chapter from ancient history. What should have been breathtaking in its time might well have been, but how far down the #trumphole have we fallen, since?  (more…)

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The Obvious Point (Among Stars in the Sky)

#trumpswindle | #resist

Sarah Wood (@sarahwoodwriter): "That's not how feminism works. It's not about supporting any woman. She's still speaking for a misogynist." [via Twitter, 24 July 2017]

This is perhaps as good a moment as any to remind that, generally speaking, when conservatives describe politics they disdain, they tend to appeal to their own mockery. A deeper examination might compare and contrast the manner in which Republicans viewed black voters during the Obama years, that it can only be the skin color and not the quality of politician, with Charlie Kirk’s apparent idea that a woman achieving prominence ought to be celebrated in a special way with no regard for what makes her prominent.

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Some 2020 Democratic Presidential Speculation, Just Because

The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

It would be easy enough to overplay the drama in an early look toward the 2020 election by Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin of the New York Times:

In a largely leaderless party, two distinct groups are emerging, defined mostly by age and national stature. On one side are three potential candidates approaching celebrity status who would all be over 70 years old on Election Day: Mr. Biden, and Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Competing against the Democrats’ senior cohort is a large and relatively shapeless set of younger candidates who span the ideological spectrum: governors, senators, mayors, wealthy executives and even members of the House. They are animated by the president’s turbulent debut and the recent history, from Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 to Mr. Trump’s last year, of upstart candidates’ catching fire.

In the Senate alone, as much as a quarter of the Democrats’ 48-member caucus are thought to be giving at least a measure of consideration to the 2020 race, among them Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kamala Harris of California. All are closer to 40 than 80.

For now, however, it is the party’s septuagenarian trio that is casting the longest shadow over 2020, and all three have taken steps to extend or expand their leadership status in the party.

In between, for good measure, is discussion of an amorphous non-faction we might consider as the collected other, including Rep. Seth Moulton (MA-06), Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Before booking the orchestra for a dramatic score, we should remember this is merely April, 2017; Democrats need to to read the midterm map, first. That is to say, it seems a bit early to see who lands where in relation to what. And, admittedly, it is hard to account for the proverbial known unknowns in the time of Trump; the unknown unknowns seem extraordinary at this time, too.α

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#DimensionSteve (Just Another Day)

#wellduh | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of frame from FLCL episode 1, 'FLCL'.

From the mixed up files of Steve Benen:

#somethingterrific: “They’re ready, and arguably eager, to break their commitments, but they’re reluctant to talk about it.”

#artofthedeal: “It’s apparently Team Trump’s way of effectively saying, ‘Remember, we can re-take this hostage again at some point.'”

#ruleoflaw: “When a president with autocratic tendencies goes after courts for upholding the law, repeatedly questioning the legitimacy of decisions that go against him, it should make Americans a little nervous.”

#wellduh: “Never mind the incompetent failures, marvel at the ‘robust agenda of activity.'”

#wellduh: “Apparently, however, some took Team Trump’s rhetoric quite literally and reportedly started calling the hotline to report crimes committed by aliens—as in, extra-terrestrials.”

#wellduh: “What he refuses to appreciate is the fact that an American president says something, the world notices.”

#wellduh: “A woman in North Carolina illegally voted for Trump last year, casting a ballot in her dead mother’s name. A local Republican prosecutor has decided not to bring charges.”

#compromise: “But what’s striking to me is how much the larger conversation has changed since Obama left office.”

#wellduh: “We’re occasionally reminded that Sean Spicer isn’t great at his job”.

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A Steady Drip (Carter Page)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Composite — Donald Trump: Detail of photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for msnbc; Carter Page: AP Photo; Puti-Toots: Artist unknown.

Something goes here about the headlines that drop in the evening; in the week before President Trump’s infamous tweetstorm accusing President Obama of wiretapping him, evening headlines kept the White House running ragged night after night. And, yes, there is some irony that we have now come far enough ’round the circle that Carter Page might well be the answer to what the president was on about. Or, as the evening headline from the Washington Post has it, “FBI obtained FISA warrant to monitor Trump adviser Carter Page”:

This is the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump campaign adviser was in touch with Russian agents. Such contacts are now at the center of an investigation into whether the campaign coordinated with the Russian government to swing the election in Trump’s favor.

Page has not been accused of any crimes, and it is unclear whether the Justice Department might later seek charges against him or others in connection with Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The counterintelligence investigation into Russian efforts to influence U.S. elections began in July, officials have said. Most such investigations don’t result in criminal charges.

Rachel Maddow spent some effort on msnbc last night driving a point about how unusual it is that we should see leaked such details of a FISA warrant. In that context perhaps it behooves us to consider whether or not the prospect of leaking this FISA warrant would come about at all were it not for President Trump’s twitterpated tantrum after a week of bad evening headlines.

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Rather Quite Obvious (Priorities)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in Mexico City on 22 February 2017. The visit is the second foreign trip of Tillerson’s tenure at the State Department. (Carlos Jasso/Reuters)

The lede from Reuters:

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to skip an April 5-6 meeting of NATO foreign ministers for a U.S. visit by the Chinese president and will travel to Russia later in the month, U.S. officials said on Monday, a step allies may see as putting Moscow’s concerns ahead of theirs.

And a bit of the detail:

State Department spokesman Mark Toner had no immediate comment on whether Tillerson would skip the NATO meeting or visit Russia. Two U.S. officials said Tillerson planned to visit Moscow on April 12.

“It feeds this narrative that somehow the Trump administration is playing footsy with Russia,” said one former U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“You don’t want to do your early business with the world’s great autocrats. You want to start with the great democracies, and NATO is the security instrument of the transatlantic group of great democracies,” he added.

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Waning Tacitry

#AmericanPrestige | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President-elect Donald Trump delivers his first official news conference since winning the November election, 11 January 2017 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Via msnbc:

Ordinarily, a half-way competent president would manage to avoid quite so many international incidents, but Trump has managed to create these problems after just two months—in many cases, for reasons that are only obvious to him.

Remember, as we discussed a month ago, Republicans spent years investing enormous energy into the idea that President Obama hurt the United States’ international standing. The opposite was true, but GOP officials nevertheless argued, with unnerving vigor, that America had forfeited the admiration of the world.

During the Republican presidential primaries, for example, Jeb Bush insisted that during the Obama era, “We have lost the trust and confidence of our friends.” Around the same time, Scott Walker and Donald Trump had a chat about “how poorly” the United States is now “perceived throughout the world.” Mitt Romney added, “It is hard to name even a single country that has more respect and admiration for America today than when President Obama took office.”

The point is pretty much the same, whoever makes it: For all Republicans complained about American prestige during the Obama presidency, it seems, like so many of their other complaints, precisely strange that they should have backed President Donald Trump. Then again, perhaps we should consider what that really means.

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A Headline That Should Not Be

#trumpfoil | #WhatTheyVotedFor

A Yoma feeds. (Detail of frame from 'Claymore the Series', episode 1, "Great Sword".)

‘Tis a grim headline: “Trump wiretapping controversy goes global”. The lede is pretty straightfoward: “President Trump can’t seem to get past the wiretapping controversy,” writes Niall Stanage. “It’s not even clear that he wants to do so, despite Republican lawmakers joining Democrats in rejecting his claims.”

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump answers a question at a news conference before a campaign rally in Hampton, New Hampshire, 14 August 2015. (Detail of photo by Reuters/Brian Snyder)The whole thing is a mess. The Trump presidency, that is. To wit, the problem is not that Stanage, of all people, gets that headline, or anything like that. It has an iconic ring, and his coverage of Donald Trump for The Hill managed to pull that one out. Somebody eventually would have, and it’s easy enough to say Stanage deserves it.

During the previous day’s White House media briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer had read remarks from a Fox News commentator, Judge Andrew Napolitano, who claimed that GCHQ—a British intelligence facility—had been “used” by Obama to get “transcripts of conversations” involving Trump.

This has sparked fury in London. GCHQ itself, which generally refrains from public comment, called the allegations “nonsense.”

But Trump insisted on Friday that “we said nothing,” and instead sought to put full responsibility for the claim onto Fox News. “You should be talking to Fox,” he told the German reporter who had asked about the episode.

Soon afterward, a Fox anchor, Shepard Smith, said on-air that the network “cannot confirm” what Napolitano had alleged, and added, “Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now-president of the United States was surveilled at any time, any way. Full stop.”

Or, rather: Whatever. The problem is that anyone gets to write that headline. It is some manner of thing that should not be.

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Image notes: Top ― A Yoma feeds: Detail of frame from Claymore the Series. Right ― Detail of photo by Reuters/Brian Snyder.

Stanage, Niall. “Trump wiretapping controversy goes global”. The Hill. 17 March 2017.

The Story So Far (#crackpottery)

#crackpottery | #WhatTheyVotedFor

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

While the damage assessment remains uncertain, President Trump’s weekend twitterpation certainly raised the Beltway beyond murmur and buzz, and near to open clamor. As distractions go, it is certainly a handful of headlines to follow, but the problem with news derived from fantasy is often that it is rather quite difficult to discern what portions of the noise are which. Steve Benen offers the Monday morning overview, and we would not so much complain that it does not help as, rather, point out that even still, the situation is a messy patchwork of speculation, insinuation, and mystifying whatnot:

Why does Trump believe Obama had his “wires tapped” before the election? Perhaps the better question is why Trump believes anything he says about any subject. In this case, the president said on Saturday that he “just found out” about the alleged Obama scheme, but by all accounts, this didn’t come from any official sources. It’s likely the Republican president relied on a report from Breitbart, a right-wing website his former strategist used to run. (It’s also possible Trump saw a piece in the National Enquirer about Obama being out to get him and started filling in the gaps with imagined evidence.)

Is it possible Obama really did tap Trump’s phone? Well, that’s where this gets interesting. Whether Trump understands this or not, a president doesn’t have the authority to unilaterally order a tap on an American’s phone calls. An administration can, however, get a warrant if there’s credible evidence that’s brought before a judge.

It creates an awkward dynamic: either there was no secret surveillance, in which case the president is starting to appear delusional, or there was secret surveillance, in which case there’s evidence that Trump is suspected of serious crimes and/or is an agent of a foreign government. Either way, the Republican isn’t doing himself any favors with tantrums like these.

What are members of Trump’s White House team doing about this? As is often the case, the West Wing is starting with ridiculous comments from the president, and then reverse-engineering their way through the process.

The New York Times reported, “[A] senior White House official said that Donald F. McGahn II, the president’s chief counsel, was working to secure access to what Mr. McGahn believed to be an order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizing some form of surveillance related to Mr. Trump and his associates. The official offered no evidence to support the notion that such an order exists.”

And this is how it goes: Louise Mensch → Mark Levin → Breitbart → Donald Trump → Twitter → headlines.

Yes, really, this starts with a Tory.

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

Benen, Steve. “Trump targets Obama with wild-eyed wiretapping conspiracy theory”. msnbc. 6 March 2017.

What Sounds Like a Tacit Confession

#confession | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald Trump delivers remarks at a press conference in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, D.C., 16 February 2017. (Photo: Associated Press)

The Washington Post reports―

President Trump on Saturday angrily accused former president Barack Obama of orchestrating a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to tap the phones at his Trump Tower headquarters last fall in the run-up to the election.

While citing no evidence to support his explosive allegation, Trump said in a series of four tweets sent Saturday morning that Obama was “wire tapping” his New York offices before the election in a move he compared to McCarthyism. “Bad (or sick) guy!” he said of his predecessor, adding that the surveillance resulted in “nothing found.”

Trump offered no citations nor did he point to any credible news report to back up his accusation, but he may have been referring to commentary on Breitbart and conservative talk radio suggesting that Obama and his administration used “police state” tactics last fall to monitor the Trump team. The Breitbart story, published Friday, has been circulating among Trump’s senior staff, according to a White House official who described it as a useful catalogue of the Obama administration’s activities.

―and a pressing question arises: Did Donald Trump just confess to something?

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