The Washington Post

Not What We Mean When We Say Foreign Service

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

A protester holds a photo of journalist Jamal Khashhoggi, later acknowledged to have been slain by the Saudi government. (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo)

Annieli, at Daily Kos, writes:

Those who wonder why we should care about Khashoggi’s death should ask whether we want an autocratic thug to be directing US foreign policy? Why is America’s president covering up a brutal extra-territorial murder? All this whabboutery serves MBS. Is that what we want?

And this is an important question: All of President Trump’s equivocation and excuses serve foreign interests.Remember that Donald Trump still thinks he is doing business, and this is reflected in conservative language; among Republican excuses for the President’s behavior, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), often seen as a critic of the administration, mewled and rolled over:

A key consideration in the administration’s mind, according to Republican Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), is the belief that the crown prince can salvage Kushner’s stalled peace plan between Israelis and Palestinians. “A lot of the Middle East peace plan is based upon their support. They feel like they have a lot of equity there,” Corker said.

(Dawsey, Hudson, and Gearan)

“Equity” is a curious word. Certes, the Trump family has invested tremendous “political capital”. There are a handful of Congressional Republicans willing to speak against President Trump, and the general criticism runs that tweeting disapproval is pretty much all they do compared to their voting records. And in this moment, Mr. Corker, the retiring U.S. Senator, is lending his voice in aid and comfort to presidential pandering on behalf of foreign interests. The Washington Post goes on to explain:

Trump allies acknowledged that the White House’s equivocations would probably result in growing calls from Congress for a more credible accounting of events from Saudi Arabia, but they doubted it would damage the president politically.

Equity. This is just an investment. And if Sen. Corker, a Republican, wishes to be seen in opposition to President Trump, “equity” is the wrong word. Consider an actual Trump ally, such as evangelical preacher Pat Robertson:

“We’ve got to cool the rhetoric,” Robertson said. “Calls for sanctions and calls for punitive actions against the Saudis is ill-advised … You’ve got a hundred billion dollars worth of arms sales—which is, you know, that’s one of those things—but more than that, we’ve got to have some Arab allies. We have to have it! We cannot alienate a biggest player in the Middle East who is a bulwark against Iran.”When Robertson’s co-host Wendy Griffith argued that we cannot have governments killing critical journalists with impunity, Robertson dismissed those concerns.”We’ve had so many people killed,” he responded. “We’ve had CIA people killed in Lebanon. People have been taken hostage over the years. I know it’s bad, but we’ve had all kinds of stuff, but you don’t blow up an international alliance over one person. I mean, I’m sorry.”

(Mantyla)

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The Laughingstock

#AmercianPrestige | #WhatTheyVotedFor

United States President Donald Trump reacts to being laughed at during a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, 25 September 2018. (Image credit: CNN)

Some remind there is an audience of one. And it is not unheard of to suggest that the tone is set at the top. These points are not exclusive of one another. Steve Benen, for instance, notes:

... just as odd was Haley’s explanation for diplomats laughing at Donald Trump during his remarks to the General Assembly yesterday.

United States ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting on the situation in Myanmar at UN Headquarters in New York, 28 August 2018. (Photo by Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images)UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said Wednesday that world leaders who laughed during President Donald Trump’s speech to the United Nations did so because “they loved how honest he is.” […]”They love that he’s honest with them and they’ve never seen anything like it, so there’s respect there,” she said. “I saw that the media was trying to make it something disrespectful. That’s not what it was. They love to be with him.”

Look, I realize people in the president’s orbit feel the need to be sycophantic toward him, if for no other reason than to protect their job security. This is especially true when it comes to officials appearing on “Fox and Friends”—a program Trump has been known to effectively live-tweet.Haley must’ve known that her boss was watching, so she wasn’t in a position to be candid about foreign diplomats’ opinions of the controversial American leader.But that hardly justifies the ambassador’s rhetoric.

There is a certain obvious point to be made; the one and only Dana Milbank headlines the highlight, that President Donald J. Trump “is the laughingstock of the world”. (more…)

What They Voted For: Grotesque Dishonesty

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. President Donald Trump announces a trade agreement with Mexico, 27 August 2018, at the White House in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Fact checkers at the Washington Post note:

On Sept. 7, President Trump woke up in Billings, Mont., flew to Fargo, N.D., visited Sioux Falls, S.D., and eventually returned to Washington. He spoke to reporters on Air Force One, held a pair of fundraisers and was interviewed by three local reporters.

In that single day, he publicly made 125 false or misleading statements — in a period of time that totaled only about 120 minutes. It was a new single-day high.

That such grotesque dishonesty is precisely what Trump voters wanted makes its own point. Steve Benen noted, yesterday, in consideration of yet another Trump administration travel scandal, “If you voted for the Republican ticket in 2016 because you hoped to avoid four years of ethics controversies, I have some very bad news for you.” The upside for those voters is that nobody really voted for Donald Trump in hope of avoiding a scandal-ridden presidency. To the other, or, rather, toward the more useful, we might wonder when it will be acceptable to stop pretending this was ever about anything other than graft and supremacism.

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Image note: President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, D.C., 27 August 2018 (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Benen, Steve. “FEMA director faces investigation at an inconvenient time”. msnbc. 13 September 2018.

Kessler, Glenn, Salvador Rizzo, and Meg Kelly. “President Trump has made more than 5,000 false or misleading claims”. The Washington Post. 13 September 2018.

A Quote: Kansas Cluck

Great Seal of Kansas (detail)

“The KFC bucket came with a side of Republican panic.”

Hunter Woodall and Bryan Lowry

It takes two, or perhaps some occasions simply beg a hook in lieu of a lede, but still, Woodall and Lowry do eventually get around to such niceties ‘twixt cluckin’ buckets:

Anxiety over the GOP’s weakened grasp on Kansas’ 2nd congressional district, which includes Topeka and Lawrence, was on full display during last month’s state party convention.

Kansas Congressional candidate Paul Davis [D-02]. (Photo: Associated Press)GOP Rep. Lynn Jenkins is retiring. Republicans lack a clear front runner in the race to replace her, while Democrats have coalesced around Paul Davis, a former state lawmaker who won the district during his unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2014.

“If the election were held today, (there’s) a 70 percent chance Davis gets elected,” Mike Stieben, co-chair of Kansans For Life’s political action committee, told the crowd at a convention prayer breakfast.

He passed an empty KFC bucket around the room, urging people to drop in donations so his anti-abortion group could start campaigning in the district.

“We cannot elect Paul Davis,” Stieben said. “And he’s ahead. Wake up. We need your help.”

There is a great moment in which we might toss coins or play some obscure dice game to decide between “now more than ever”α, and why not pitch for one’s own anti-abortion group. This is, after all, Kansas.   (more…)

Something About Sam Nunberg

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Special Counsel Robert Mueller (AP Photo)

“Let him arrest me. Mr. Mueller should understand I am not going in on Friday.”

Sam Nunberg

This is, y’know, one of those things. Josh Daswey brings the lede for the Washington Post:

Sam Nunberg. (Photo: Uncredited)Former Trump aide Sam Nunberg said Monday that he has been subpoenaed to appear in front of a federal grand jury investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election but that he will refuse to go.

In a nutshell, Mr. Nunberg’s rationale runs, approximately, that “Putin is too smart to collude with Trump”, “I’m not spending eighty hours going over my emails”, and, “there is nobody who hates [Donald Trump] more than me”.

Constitutional precedent is, admittedly, unclear on these points, but still, we might expect such arguments will fail to suffice. Still, though, the impressively unimpressive Nunberg did say, “Let him arrest me.”

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Image note: Top — Special Counsel Robert Mueller (AP Photo)  Right — Sam Nunberg (Photo: Unknown)

Dawsey, Josh. “Former Trump aide Sam Nunberg called before grand jury, says he will refuse to go”. The Washington Post. 5 March 2018.

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.

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The Killer Death Wish Perjury Trap Suicide Mission

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

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

That Special Counsel Robert Mueller might wish to speak with President Donald Trump is no particular surprise; nor is the president’s cheap façade of confidence unexpected. Late paragraphs in Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey’s report for the Washington Post, however, are worth the moment, at least:

However, some of Trump’s close advisers and friends fear a face-to-face interview with Mueller could put the president in legal jeopardy. A central worry, they say, is Trump’s lack of precision in his speech and his penchant for hyperbole.

People close to Trump have tried to warn him for months that Mueller is a “killer,” in the words of one associate, noting that the special counsel has shown interest in the president’s actions.

Roger Stone, a longtime informal adviser to Trump, said he should try to avoid an interview at all costs, saying agreeing to such a session would be a “suicide mission.”

“I find it to be a death wish. Why would you walk into a perjury trap?” Stone said. “The president would be very poorly advised to give Mueller an interview.”

Laura Silverman asks the obvious: “Does this sound like they’re talking about a ‘stable genius’ who is innocent?”

To the other, this is Roger J. Stone we’re talking about. It doesn’t really matter to Mr. Stone whether what he says is helpful; his priority seems to be elsewhere and otherwise.

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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.

Leonnig, Carol D. and Josh Dawsey. “Mueller seeks to question Trump about Flynn and Comey departures”. The Washington Post. 23 January 2018.

Silverman, Laura. “Does this sound like they’re talking about a ‘stable genius’ who is innocent? It doesn’t to me. Yikes.” Twitter. 23 January 2018.

A Very Interesting Question

#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)

Yes, that Jack Goldsmith, for Lawfare:

One puzzle that deepens with Mike Schmidt’s New York Times story on “Trump’s Struggle to Keep [a] Grip on [the] Russia Investigation” is why Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has not recused himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation.

In short, before the Schmidt story, we knew that Rosenstein was intimately involved in the president’s decision to fire Comey. Rosenstein’s memo was used as a pretext to fire Comey;Rod Rosenstein is shown during his confirmation hearing to become deputy attorney general on 7 March 2017. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press) Rosenstein knew that the president wanted to fire Comey; and he read the Bedminster draft before he wrote his own memorandum.

In this light, it has been very puzzling for a while why Rosenstein does not have a conflict of interest in the Mueller investigation. The Washington Post reported unequivocally that Mueller’s investigation includes “whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice,” including, as a central issue, in his firing of Comey. Rosenstein was in the middle of that firing. He possesses information about the president’s beliefs and motives in firing Comey, and quite possibly a personal interest in how those beliefs and motives are construed, since he appeared to many to have been used by the president (and was reportedly very angry about it). Rosenstein would thus would very likely be a fact witness in any obstruction inquiry in connection with the Comey firing. It is hard to understand why he did not have a conflict of interest the moment Mueller’s investigation turned to obstruction in the firing of Comey.

File under, he might have a point, y’know.

Just sayin’.

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Image notes: Top —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)  Right — Rod Rosenstein is shown during his confirmation hearing to become deputy attorney general on 7 March 2017. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Barrett, Devlin, Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Sari Horwitz. “Special counsel is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, officials say”. The Washington Post. 14 June 2017.

Goldsmith, Jack. “Why Hasn’t Rod Rosenstein Recused Himself from the Mueller Investigation?” Lawfare. 5 January 2018.

Schmidt, Michael S. “Obstruction Inquiry Shows Trump’s Struggle to Keep Grip on Russia Investigation”. The New York Times. 4 January 2018.

Not Quite Nostalgia (Easy Pickings)

#familyvalues | #WhatTheyVotedFor

This is a candidate for Freudian Slip of the Year:

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore responds Wednesday, 27 April 2016, to complaints made in January by various groups protesting his administrative order explaining the legal status of the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Act and the Alabama Marriage Protection Act in Montgomery, Alabama. (Detail of photo by Julie Bennett)The former judge condemned the Washington Post story during a campaign speech in Huntsville, Alabama. Earlier, another fellow Republican, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, urged Moore to drop out of the race, saying Moore’s explanations had been inadequate.

In a Huntsville gym, Moore assured supporters that the Post story was “a desperate attempt to stop my political campaign” and that the allegations that he was “involved with a minor child are completely unfalse and untrue and for which they will be sued.”

(Associated Press; accent added)

Just sayin’.

Once upon a time, there was this short, angry man touring the daytime talk show circuit, cosplaying a Grand Something of the Kaykaykay, and to be honest when he got all worked up he reminded of a skinny, embittered, ranting garden gnome, and then someone would talk back to him and he would really go off, to the point we could not understand the words coming out of his mouth.

Whenever these good ol’ boys get themselves so worked up as to stop making any sense whatsoever, the beady-eyed joke in a robe, the unbelievable stereotype of what it takes to be a supremacist, finds time for a comeback tour. Or maybe Cartman is more accessible; imagine one of these angry, Southern, white supremacists getting so screechy and incomprehensible that you never realized until that moment the South Park character was actually a stereotype and not parody.

Oh.

Er … ah … well, now you know.

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Image note: Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore responds Wednesday, 27 April 2016, to complaints made in January by various groups protesting his administrative order explaining the legal status of the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Act and the Alabama Marriage Protection Act in Montgomery, Alabama. (Detail of photo by Julie Bennett)

Associated Press. “The Latest: Moore dismisses allegations, says suit to come”. 12 November 2017.

The Republican Character (Even More Fuckless)

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks to employees in Washington, D.C., 21 February 2017. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

This is unsurprising, though perhaps saying so risks overstating the point. Via Washington Post:

The EPA inspector general’s office announced in August that it had opened an inquiry into Pruitt’s frequent travel to his home state of Oklahoma. The internal watchdog at the time said its investigation was triggered by “congressional requests and a hotline complaint, all of which expressed concerns about Administrator Pruitt’s travel—primarily his frequent travel to and from his home state of Oklahoma at taxpayer expense.”

The probe was triggered in part by findings from the Environmental Integrity Project, a nonprofit group that detailed through public records that Pruitt had spent nearly half of the days in March, April and May in Oklahoma. Initially, EPA investigators said they planned to audit Pruitt’s travel records, as well as those of his security and top aides, through the end of July.

But on Friday, the inspector general’s office said it would expand that inquiry to include all of Pruitt’s travel through the end of September, and not just trips to Oklahoma.

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