Senate Intelligence Committee

The Blind Chaos of Futility

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. President Donald Trump pauses as he talks to members of the travel pool aboard Air Force One during a trip to Palm Beach, Florida, while flying over South Carolina, 3 February 2017. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

Somewhere between the joke about how conservatives in general cannot tell the difference, particular observations about the breathtaking naïveté we are supposed to believe about the Trump administration—

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Thursday dodged questions about the existence of possible recordings of conversations between President Trump and former FBI Director James Comey.

Kellyanne Conway speaks at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, 4 March 2016. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)“I can’t comment on that,” Conway said on Fox News before moving to discuss other portions of Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier in the day.

Pressed twice more about the existence of possible tapes, Conway responded, “I can’t comment on that and actually the president himself has said he won’t comment any further on that.”

(Byrnes)

—we might find echoes of Sen. Martin Heinrich’s (D-NM) point to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats when the latter decided he simply did not feel like answering: “You realize how simple it would be to simply say no, that never happened?”

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Something About Getting Stoned … Rogered … Trumped … (Never Mind)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Roger J. Stone Jr. in La Quinta, California, in March, 2017. (Photo: Jenna Schoenefeld/The New York Times)

Via the New York Times:

Roger J. Stone Jr., an informal adviser to President Trump, has been asked by the Senate Intelligence Committee to preserve any records he may have in connection to a broader inquiry into Russian attempts to interfere with United States elections.

The letter sent to Mr. Stone, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, represents the first public indication of the scope of the committee’s inquiry, and possible connections to Mr. Trump’s campaign.

The Senate committee asked Mr. Stone, who is also under scrutiny from other federal investigators, to “preserve and retain all hard copies and electronically stored information as specified below in furtherance of the committee’s ongoing investigation into Russian actions targeting the 2016 U.S. elections and democratic processes globally.”

Mr. Stone confirmed the existence of the letter, which was dated Feb. 17. However, he said he had received it only on Friday, by email. Mr. Stone has acknowledged trading messages over Twitter with Guccifer 2.0, the online persona that officials believe was actually Russian intelligence officers.

Part of the trick is if you squint enough, you can focus on just one aspect of the #PutiTrump scandal and make it stand out just enough to say it’s actually nothing at all. If you stare hard enough, everything else becomes a blur, and then this bit in focus seems the only thing there is, and therefore nothing of any significance at all.

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The Trump Fantastic (#trumpstyle)

#trippingthetrumpfantastic | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the Central Intelligence Agency, 21 January 2016, in Langley, Virginia. (Photo: Olivier Doulier/Pool/Getty Images)

“Usually, even the laziest of partisans aren’t quite so ridiculous when dealing with the legislative branch’s oversight role over the executive branch.”

Steve Benen

Something goes here about striking decay. And something unfortunate about how that sounds about right. No, really: In what universe?

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The Dance (Trumping the Line Fantastic)

Detail of cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz, via Daily Kos, 9 December 2015.

Vicki Needham of The Hill offers this glimpse:

A top Senate Republican called Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the United States a “huge mistake” that would fuel terror recruitment in the United States.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that the move could damage vital alliances in the region.

“I think this sends the wrong message to people that have to be part of our partnership for a solution,” Burr said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

“Yes, it does serve as fuel [for recruitment].”

Indeed; it’s a point Lalo Alcaraz made quite clearly last week.

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The Marco Rubio Show (Gaffe Rig)

Marco Rubio: A New American Century

There are so many places to go and bizarre spectacles to see, but for the moment these paragraphs from Steve Benen ought to be devastating:

Rubio, a member of both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee, is basing much of his campaign on his alleged expertise on international affairs. The far-right Floridian would love nothing more than to be seen as the candidate who has a “deep understanding” of “the threats that the world is facing.”

But Rubio has run into Trump-like problems of his own. Just last week, in a big speech on foreign policy, the GOP senator told an embarrassing whopper about military preparedness, touching on an issue Rubio should have understood far better.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., arrives for the Senate Republicans' policy lunch in the Capitol on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty)In June, Rubio was asked about his approach towards Iraq. Told that his policy sounds like nation-building, the senator responded, “Well, it’s not nation-building. We are assisting them in building their nation.”

Just this year, Rubio has flubbed the details of Iran’s Green Revolution. His criticisms on the Obama administration’s approach towards Israel were quickly discredited as nonsense. His statements of nuclear diplomacy were practically gibberish.

In the spring, Rubio had a memorable confrontation with Secretary of State John Kerry, which was a debacle – the senator stumbled badly on several key details, and Kerry made him look pretty foolish.

Soon after, Rhonda Swan, a Florida-based journalist, wrote that the Republican senator “should be embarrassed.” Swan added, “By his own standard that the next president have a ‘clear view of what’s happening in the world’ and a ‘practical plan for how to engage America in global affairs,’ Rubio fails the test.”

What’s more, as readers may recall, when Rubio has tried to articulate a substantive vision, he’s relied a little too heavily on shallow, bumper-sticker-style sloganeering, rather than actual policy measures. Rubio declared “our strategy” on national security should mirror Liam Neeson’s catchphrase in the film “Taken”: “We will look for you, we will find you and we will kill you.”

Soon after, the candidate’s team unveiled the “Rubio Doctrine”, described by Charles Pierce as “three banalities strung together in such a way as to sound profound and to say nothing.”

And yet the narrative leads with Donald Trump.

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The Best Blurb Ever

Detail of cartoon by Brian McFadden, 24 December 2014, via Daily Kos Comics.Okay, not really, but, you know, we needed an excuse.

The image is a detail from Brian McFadden’s look at holiday cinema, via Daily Kos Comics.

Not Quite the Obvious Question

Milt Priggee, 14 December 2014.  (via Cagle Post)What Milt Priggee asks is not quite the obvious question. Rather, it presumes the obvious question answered obviously, and moves on to a necessary corollary.

But that merely begs its own subsequence: To whom is it a major revelation? Why is it such a surprise? What are the implications of such ignorance about stupidity?

As history repeats itself it also becomes more apparent that while nobody can be perfect, there really is a substantive difference between one frailty and the next as shown from one human being to the next.

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Priggee, Milt. “Stupid Voters”. The Cagle Post. 16 December 2014.

A Quote: Steve on Dick

Former Vice President Dick Cheney (Getty Images, undated)

“It’s a curious argument: ‘We didn’t do anything wrong, but for the love of God, please don’t tell anyone what we did.'”

Steve Benen

In a separate post for msnbc, Steve Benen noted:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the committee’s chairwoman, summarized the four key findings of the report this way:

1. The CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” were not effective.

2. The CIA provided extensive inaccurate information about the operation of the program and its effectiveness to policymakers and the public.

3. The CIA’s management of the program was inadequate and deeply flawed.

4. The CIA program was far more brutal than the CIA represented to policymakers and the American public.

As to Mr. Cheney, Benen writes:

Leading the charge, not surprisingly, is former Vice President Dick Cheney, who has not read the report, but is nevertheless comfortable dismissing it as “hooey.”

“What I keep hearing out there is they portray this as a rogue operation and the agency was way out of bounds and then they lied about it,” he said in a telephone interview. “I think that’s all a bunch of hooey. The program was authorized. The agency did not want to proceed without authorization, and it was also reviewed legally by the Justice Department before they undertook the program.”

Referencing CIA officials responsible for executing the administration’s torture policies, Cheney told the New York Times, “They deserve a lot of praise. As far as I’m concerned, they ought to be decorated, not criticized.”

It should not require a lifetime attending politics to comprehend the differences between the two approaches.

One can certainly try arguing that the four points attributed to Feinstein are wrong, but Cheney’s argument is such that it doesn’t really matter; for God and country, anything is justified, and deserving of praise.

Sen. Feinstein, asked about the possibility that the Senate report will inspire violence around the world, responded, “I think the greatness of this country is that we can examine mistakes and remedy them, and that really is the hallmark of a great and just society.”

One wonders what Mr. Cheney is so afraid of.

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Benen, Steve. “Cheney blasts torture report he hasn’t seen as ‘a bunch of hooey'”. msnbc. 9 December 2014.

—————. “Intel Committee releases report on Bush-era torture”. msnbc. 9 December 2014.