Thursday, January 17, 2019

Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

Nothing says congratulations better than a cold burger. It was the least he could do, so he did it. With his government shutdown in full swing, President Basket Case could have had his hotel next door cater the affair, but no. So, when it came time to recognize the NCAA Football Championship winning Clemson Tigers on Monday, Trump invited them up to the White House for some fast, and no doubt, cold, fast food from the shameless likes of Wendy's, Burger King, McDonalds, etc. He even boasted that he paid for it himself. Yeah, whatever. I bet he tries to have Taco Bell pay for the whole soiree or maybe he'll try to lift some hurricane relief funds to pay for it all. Could have been worse. Apparently, there was no Chipotle and nothing from the number one choice of typical Republican homophobes Chick-Fil-A; probably just an oversight.

My favorite thing about this picture, though, is that I see what could be a noose hanging right over Trump's head. Could be a case of wishful thinking. The Liberace candelabras are a nice touch; probably a suggestion from Pence, not that there's anything wrong with that, other than the hypocrisy.

Here's hoping that the shot of a gleeful Trumpanzee surrounded by fast food becomes his Official Presidential Portrait, very, very soon!

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Special Elections-- Special Opportunities


This week, Erik Loomis' essay at Lawyers, Guns & Money, The Big Electoral Story of 2019 reminds us that "we don’t pay nearly enough attention to how power is actually built–through local and state races and organizing. So at the very least, we need to spend a ton of attention this year supporting Democrats in Virginia to take over the state legislature this fall. It’s going to be a referendum on Trump anyway and this is how we build a bigger bench in this critical state. Virginia’s progressive lieutenant governor Justin Fairfax: "We were the beginning of the blue wave that has swept the nation. It was the first sign to people post-2016 that things could be different."

Someone who very much does pay lots of attention to local races across the country is 90for90 executive director Fergie Reid, who agreed to give us a closer look at what's at stake in Virginia this year. This is his guest post:

2019-- Virginia... And Beyond
by Fergie Reid

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D-VA)

Every year is an election year in the Commonwealth of Virginia. All of Virginia’s 140 General Assembly seats will be on the ballot in November 2019:
100 State House seats, and 40 State Senate seats.
In the House of Delegates, Republicans currently hold a 51 - 49 majority over Democrats; while in the State Senate, Republicans outnumber Democrats 21 - 19.

Obviously, these are razor thin margins. An added wrinkle in the State Senate: 20 - 20 vote ties are broken by the Lt. Governor, who also holds the title, “President of the Senate.” The current Lt. Governor of Virginia is a Democrat, The Honorable Justin Fairfax. If Democrats flip one seat in this year’s election, they will gain effective control of the State Senate; (a 20 - 20 tie, with the Democratic Lt. Governor’s tie breaking vote).

A two seat flip is necessary for Democrats to take the House Majority; should this occur, (it almost certainly will), the Virginia House could have the first female speaker in its ~ 400 year history; since the “House of Burgesses.” Eileen Filler-Corn, (HD 41 - Fairfax Co.), was recently elected minority leader by her caucus, and would likely be elected Speaker should Dems pick-up the necessary seats this year. Virginia is a “target-rich environment” for Dems this year; great “ROI” (return on investment) opportunities will be found within the Virginia Democratic slate of candidates this cycle, all the way down to County Board of Supervisors, School Board, Soil and Water Board, etc.

Democrats have enjoyed great results in Virginia over the past few cycles for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is, “running candidates, in as many races as possible.” Some recent Va. results:
All 5 Statewide Electeds are Dems-- Gov. Northam, Lt. Gov. Fairfax, Att. Gen. Herring,
U.S. Senators Warner and Kaine;
Electoral College Votes went to the Dems in 2008, 2012, 2016;
2015: 1 State House seat flip, causing Republicans to lose a veto proof Majority;
2016: 1 CD flip (due to court ordered district boundary change), resulting in 7 R - 4 congressional ratio, (Don McEachin took the redrawn 4th CD seat);
2017: 15 House seat flips! Resulting in the current 51 R - 49 D split;
2018: 3 CD flips-- Luria defeated Taylor in CD 2, Spanberger defeated Brat in CD 7, and Wexton defeated Comstock in CD 10.
All of this is fantastic!

It’s Awesome and Phenomenal!

And it can still get a lot better. started in Virginia during the early 2015 cycle, honoring the 90th birthday of one of Virginia’s “favorite son” political trailblazers; a civil rights, voting rights icon who has, for several decades, graciously and humbly helped Virginia’s elected officials and grassroots activists maximize the effectiveness of their political pursuits. Some might say he’s a mensch; now and always.

The request of the project honoring this man, to all those who might choose to participate, is to “Register and Educate Voters-- ALL YEAR LONG.” An arbitrary goal of 90 new voters per precinct, per year, was established to honor his 90th birthday. In Virginia, with 2567 precincts, that works out to roughly 250,000 new Virginia voters per year (rounded up to set the goal higher).

Since 2015, over 1.1 million new voters have been registered in Virginia; the results are evident. Clearly, the increasingly populated voter rolls help; but, the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is a very significant reason for recent Virginia Democratic success.

Activist groups and local committees are busting out with new members, eager to volunteer their time; many are inquiring about candidacy themselves.

Most recently, HD 86 D incumbent Jennifer Boysko won a Special Election to fill the SD 33 (Loudoun and Fairfax Co.s) seat vacated by Jennifer Wexton, who defeated Barbara Comstock to take Va.’s 10th CD seat. Don’t cry for Comstock, she’ll be welcomed on K Street. Boysko put a “beat down” on her well known, well liked Republican opponent, 70% - 30%. Most of the district is in previously Republican Loudoun County. Loudoun County is not a Republican stronghold today.

Dr. Ibrahim Samirah, a Northern Virginia Dentist, won a firehouse caucus in HD 86 (Fairfax County) over the past weekend, and will likely take this HD 86 seat in the Feb. 19 Special Election. Please stay focused on Virginia as 2019 progresses.

Florida will hold Special Elections soon, to replace Republican State House incumbents who will be taking leadership roles in the new Ron DeSantis administration.

HD 38 is entirely in Pasco Co., where the incumbent Danny Burgess will move on to head the Florida Veterans Affairs Department. Fortunately, Florida Democrats have recruited Kathy Lewis to run for this seat. Kathy Lewis is a strong voice within the Florida Disability Rights Advocacy Community; she is the mother of two daughters, one a Fulbright scholar, one a lifetime recipient of Florida’s Special Needs services.

Kathy grew up in inner city Baltimore, MD, witnessing first hand the senseless gun violence pandemic still raging in every corner of American society; she excelled in school and graduated from Johns Hopkins University. In the 2018 cycle, Kathy ran for SD 20 in Hillsborough, Pasco, and Polk Counties, against incumbent State Senator Tom Lee, one of Florida’s most powerful, experienced GOP legislators. Mr. Lee has held leadership positions in both of Florida’s legislative chambers throughout his term-limited years in office.

Accordingly, Kathy was given poor odds of success, little support, and scant attention by the know-it-alls and Grand Poobahs in the Party infrastructure, media, and “consultantocracy.”
“Nevertheless, She Persisted.”
(Good one Mitch! )
On a shoestring budget, and with a team of dedicated volunteers, Kathy overperformed, taking 46.52% of the total vote. What might she have accomplished with a tiny morsel of Statewide Party support? By the way, Kathy is African-American. In fact, one of Hillsborough County’s most successful, well known Democratic Black male elected officials, Les Miller, openly endorsed and fundraised for Kathy’s Republican opponent, Senator Tom Lee. (When asked by local media, why he was supporting Mr. Lee instead of the Democrat, Kathy Lewis, Mr. Miller replied, “I didn’t realize she was running.”)

Senator Tom Lee in turn, openly endorsed and fundraised for Congressman Ron (“..don’t monkey this up..”) DeSantis, the new Florida Governor. Many of Florida’s statewide Democratic candidates made the calculated decision to remain neutral in Kathy’s SD 20 race. Yes, the Democratic Statewide candidates chose not to endorse the SD 20 Democratic challenger running in this Democratic vote-rich Hillsborough County (Tampa area) District.

Maybe they were worried about irritating a powerful Republican Florida Senator, from whom they might need cooperation to move their bills through the committee process? They may have been reluctant to associate themselves too closely with a candidate and campaign deemed a, “sure loser” by the omniscient punditocracy?

As it turns out, all but one of the Democratic statewide Florida candidates lost in 2018; all but Nikki Fried. Nikki Fried is Florida’s new Agriculture Commissioner; a powerful job in Florida. She is also the new titular head of the Florida Democratic Party, and the front-runner in any discussion about higher Statewide elected office; Governor or U.S Senator.

As for the other Democrats who lost their races; “Karma” may not be the fastest horse out of the gate, but it sure has a knack for closing in on you down the back stretch. Senator Bill Nelson lost by ~ 10,000 votes; that’s ~ 1.5 votes per precinct. Mayor Andrew Gillum lost by ~ 30,000 votes; or, ~ 4.5 votes per precinct. The Nelson and Gillum campaigns DID endorse the favored Democratic candidates in the “winnable-- flippable” districts-- of which there were ~ 7 or 8 in the state house slate; and ~ 5 to 6 in the state senate slate.

For the most part, the statewide Democratic candidates, the State party, and the National Party, assiduously shunned, ignored, and were essentially non-existent to 59 state house Democratic challengers, 9 state senate Democratic challengers, and 9 Democrats challenging for Congressional seats.

Some quick math: That’s 
~ HALF of Florida’s State House Districts’ voters/geography;
~ a QUARTER of Florida’s State Senate Districts’ voters/geography;
a THIRD of Florida’s Congressional Districts’ voters/geography, who were willfully ignored and dismissed because they were deemed,
“Sure Losers” and “A Waste of Time and Resources.”
“Why even try to compete in those overwhelmingly Republican districts?”
“Those races are a waste of our limited and valuable resources.”
“Why is she/he running ? She/He hasn’t raised enough money.”
“Don’t they have sense enough to know they can’t win that race?”
“It’s not a winnable district.”
“We can’t support losers; our donors will stop giving to our organization.”
“We don’t want to get the ‘Stink’ of ‘Loserism’ on us.”
It’s infuriating to listen to otherwise intelligent humans regurgitate the same old idiotic, tired, rote, dead, lame-ass talking points over and over. It’s pretty basic:

If you cede to your opponent:

HALF of the State’s geography-- represented in the ~ 59 ignored State House races, an overlapping QUARTER of the State’s geography-- represented in the 9 - 10 ignored State Senate races, and an overlapping THIRD of the State’s geography-- represented in the ignored 9 Congressional races, YOU ARE IGNORING TOO MUCH OF THE STATE, and you will lose.

Conversely, if these 77 races (59 House, 9 Senate, 9 CD) are seen as “statewide ground game opportunities”; and as an, “Advancing Front into the opponent’s Strongholds”; as an insurgent effort to limit the opponent’s ability to achieve their historically slim margin of statewide victory, (60,000 votes in 2010 and 2014, 30,000 for DeSantis v Gillum; 10,000 for Scott v Nelson), then these 77 races can truly be seen as the “Answer to the Problem”;rather than “annoying curiosities” or “‘some dude’ rookies on a quixotic mission”, they are the key to the “Florida Riddle.” Instead, in 2018 Florida, these 77 races were missed opportunities; Kathy Lewis’s SD 20 race was one of them.
“Nevertheless, She Persisted.”
And she continues to persist, in the HD 38, Pasco Co. Special Election.

Special Elections are Wild cards; anything can happen. Organized campaigns with motivated volunteers can deliver unexpected outcomes. If you feel so inclined, check out Kathy Lewis, FL HD 38, in Pasco Co.; the Special Election date will be announced very soon. Phone banking, postcarding, texting, emailing, hollering, small dollar donations are all very helpful to candidates. Do what you can, please.

FL HD 7 GOP incumbent, Halsey Beshears, has taken the job running Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation. HD 7 includes Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf, Jefferson, LaFayette, Liberty, Madison, Taylor, Wakulla Counties, and a portion of Leon County.

Ryan Terrell is the Democratic candidate; Republicans have a primary. Ryan is the National Young Democrats, Southeast Regional Director, a member of the Florida Democratic Party LGBTQA Caucus, a past Legislative Aide in the State House, and a cancer survivor. This district surrounds the southern, eastern, and western outskirts of Tallahassee, stretching though Hurricane ravaged counties of the 2nd CD, down to the “Big Bend” area of the Gulf coastline. Special Elections are wild cards; anything can happen. Ryan is ready; support him if you can.

On March 12, the voters of Tennessee State Senate district 32 will elect a new Senator to replace incumbent Republican Mark Norris, who is now a Federal Judge. The Democratic candidate is Eric Coleman; Republicans have a primary. Eric Coleman is a retired U.S. Navy Senior Chief, eager to begin a new chapter of service to his neighbors in civilian leadership at the Tennessee State Capitol. TN SD 32 includes the eastern end of Shelby County, and all of Tipton County, north of Shelby.

During Eric’s active-duty Navy service he suffered a severe back injury. He continues his rehabilitation while in a wheelchair. He is a strong advocate for Women’s Rights, ERA passage, sensible gun laws, voting rights, Veteran’s issues, and Disability Rights. He is endorsed by, and is organizing a tremendous GOTV effort in his Shelby and Tipton precincts. The Tennessee State Senate has 33 members; 5 of these are Democrats. Let’s help Eric make it 6 Democrats.

Please support Eric Coleman for TN SD 32-- March 12 Special Election, in any way you can. is a “Voter Promoter” Initiative, honoring the 90th birthday, and life of one of Virginia’s most historic living political figures; he’ll be 94 in just a few weeks. Commitment to year round voter registration and education is it’s goal; it should be a way of life for any politically aware citizen or activist group. We call it, “Good Voter Hygiene.” Please get involved in this project; visit the website, follow the FB and Twitter pages, tell your friends and family; especially if you live in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin; Arizona, Maine, Florida; Georgia, North Carolina, Kansas, Texas, Ohio, Iowa... you get it.
                                     GET BUSY. GET INVOLVED.

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There Are Democrats... And Then There Are Democrats-- They're Not Interchangeable


Rolling Stone's politics guy, Matt Taibbi welcomed the new version of the Weekly Standard (RIP), The Bulwark by noting that "Neoconservatives, the architects of the War on Terror, are the political version of Jason in Friday the 13th: You can never bank on them being completely dead. They just hide under a log until the next funder appears."
Neocons began as liberal intellectuals. The likes of Bill Kristol’s father, Irving (who famously said a neoconservative was a liberal who’d been “mugged by reality”), drifted from the Democratic Party in the Seventies because it had become insufficiently hawkish after the Vietnam debacle.

They abhorred realpolitik and “containment,” hated Richard Nixon for going to China and preferred using force to spread American values, even if it meant removing an existing government. Reagan’s “evil empire” gibberish and semi-legal muscle-flexing in places like Nicaragua made neocons tingly and finalized their defection to the red party.

The neocon-Republican marriage wasn’t exactly smooth. After all, it required sanctimonious, left-leaning intellectuals to get into political bed with the Jerry Falwells of the world and embrace all sorts of positions they plainly felt were absurd. But they believed pretending to support religiosity or other popular passions was fine for ruling elites. This was supposedly a version of Plato’s “noble lie” concept, as Irving Kristol wrote in Commentary half a century ago:
“If religion is an illusion that the majority of men cannot live without…let men believe in the lies of religion… and let then a handful of sages, who know the truth and can live with it, keep it among themselves,” Kristol wrote, adding: “Men are then divided into the wise and the foolish, the philosophers and the common men.”
Using this strategy, this self-appointed “handful of sages” rode the mule of Republican politics all the way to the White House. By the early 2000s they achieved such status that David Frum, the speechwriter who coined George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil,” felt confident in publicly calling for the excommunication of libertarians, isolationists, nationalists and all sorts of other breeds from the Church of the GOP.

“Antiwar conservatives” had “turned their backs on the country,” Frum wrote. “Now we turn our backs on them.”

Having alienated big chunks of the Republican coalition, the group then sank the mainstream GOP politically with the idiotic prosecution of the Iraq war.

Because they started this Middle East disaster on a lie and even bragged about doing so-- “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality”-- they undermined faith in a smorgasbord of American institutions, from the news media to the presidency to the intelligence community to their own party.

This was a huge reason for the rise of Trump, who ran against “elites” and capitalized on voters’ loss of trust in institutions like the press. Conveniently, neocons had already begun tacking back to the Democrats by then.

...[L]ongtime Democratic Party advisers are once again triangulating against their party’s own progressive wing, which was the core strategy of the original “Third Way” Democrats in the early Nineties. Party leaders now want to kick out populist, antiwar liberals in the same way Frum once wanted to excommunicate antiwar conservatives.

This overlaps nicely with neocons’ efforts to stake out the same turf between Trump and Sanders.

This is becoming a little like watching two people pretending not to be attracted to one another even though everyone knows they make each other horny. I’d say the Bulwark neocons and their Democratic allies need to get a room, except they already have MSNBC (as noted by recently resigned reporter William Arkin, who complained the network had become a forum for a “single war party”).

As Glenn Greenwald noted in the Intercept last year, the “most extreme and discredited neocons” began uniting with Democrats “long before the ascension of Donald Trump.”

These two groups came together over a common enemy: the insufficiently bloodthirsty Barack Obama. In July 2014, in “The Next Act of the Neocons,” New York Times writer Jacob Heilbrun predicted the future union:
“Even as they castigate Mr. Obama, the neocons may be preparing a more brazen feat: aligning themselves with Hillary Rodham Clinton and her nascent presidential campaign, in a bid to return to the driver’s seat of American foreign policy.”
Democracy Journal ran a similar piece in 2015, in which Robert Kagan talked about a union with Democrats, hoping to replace the term “neoconservative” with the less-infamous-sounding “liberal interventionist.”

The union achieved formal expression in 2016 with groups like the Alliance for Securing Democracy, which is backed by neocons like Kristol and Jamie Fly as well as former Joe Biden and Clinton campaign security adviser Jake Sullivan. These are the same people advising Facebook about which sites to zap (last week, Revolutionary Left Radio was the latest alt media voice to get the axe).

Both groups praised Trump’s early missile strikes on Syria (Kristol, echoing his dad, said Trump had been “mugged by reality”; Kagan said the strikes should just be an “opening salvo”). Both were horrified by Trump’s recent tweet about withdrawing from the Middle East.

The neocons are trying to create with Democrats a true political movement of shared goals and common adversaries. Apart from “liberal interventionism,” they’re emphasizing stridently anti-populist leanings, making little distinction between Trump and “mouth-breathers” like Rep. Steve King on the one hand, and Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the other.

Onetime neoconservative icon Max Boot even went so far as to compare Ocasio-Cortez to Sarah Palin, bemoaning the fact that she has more Twitter followers than Nancy Pelosi-- more evidence of democracy’s imperfections!

Both groups get starry-eyed around generals and spooks and mourned the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis like music-lovers after the death of Prince (“I am shaken,” said Nancy Pelosi). There were even shared fantasies about a presidential run by the Nosferatoid ex-Defense Secretary, whose greatest achievements to date had been grimacing with military severity while standing next to Trump, and clamoring for an increased role in the bombing of Yemen.

If you’re not concerned about undead neocons making a comeback while Trump is in office, that’s understandable. Many people will take allies against Trump from wherever they can.

Just don’t be surprised if “liberal interventionists” are sitting in the White House once Trump leaves the scene. These are determined revolutionaries who’ve been scheming for years to throw a saddle on the Democratic Party after decades in bed with Republicans. Sadly, they have willing partners over there.

OK-- time for an OpEd from The Guadian by Bhaskar Sunkara on one of my favorite topics: These 2020 hopefuls are courting Wall Street. Don't be fooled by their progressive veneer. I've been dealing with this in a series of posts called Worst Democraps Who Want To Be President. So we have Bernie, Elizabeth Warren, Marianne Williamson and Jeff Merkley on the one hand and then a bunch of others who are running as conservative Democrats (Bloomberg, McAuliffe, Delaney, the Starbucks guy, Biden, Klobuchar) or who are conservative but have decided to run as progressives or progressive-lite candidates (Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, Beto). I'm guessing Gillibrand's focus group testing isn't complete but she'll get back to us what mix of right and left she "is." And everyone's running on an anti-Trump platform, of course, hoping that's all that's needed to make it over the finish line and then "be" the president.
"[M]ainstream Democrats, such as the likely presidential hopefuls Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand," wrote Sunkara, have "been steadily moving to the left to keep pace with a leftward-moving Democratic party. Booker, Harris and Gillibrand know that voters demand action and are more supportive than ever of Medicare for All and universal childcare. Gillibrand, long considered a moderate, has even gone as far as to endorse abolishing US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and, along with Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders’ single-payer healthcare bill. Harris has also backed universal healthcare and free college tuition for most Americans.

But outward appearances aren’t everything. Booker, Harris and Gillibrand have been making a very different pitch of late-- on Wall Street. According to CNBC, all three potential candidates have been reaching out to financial executives lately, including Blackstone’s Jonathan Gray, Robert Wolf from 32 Advisors and the Centerbridge Partners founder Mark Gallogly.

Wall Street, after all, played an important role getting the senators where they are today. During his 2014 Senate run, in which just 7% of his contributions came from small donors, Booker raised $2.2m from the securities and investment industry. Harris and Gillibrand weren’t far behind in 2018, and even the progressive Democrat Sherrod Brown has solicited donations from Gallogly and other powerful executives.

When CNBC’s story about Gillibrand personally working the phones to woo Wall Street executives came out, her team responded defensively, noting her support for financial regulation and promising that if she did run she would take “no corporate Pac money.” But what’s most telling isn’t that Gillibrand and others want Wall Street’s money, it’s that they want the blessings of financial CEOs. Even if she doesn’t take their contributions, she’s signaling that she’s just playing politics with populist rhetoric. That will allow capitalists to focus their attention on candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who have shown a real willingness to abandon the traditional coziness of the Democratic party with the finance, insurance and real estate industries.

...Big business is likely to bet heavily on the Democratic party in 2020, maybe even more so than it did in 2016. In normal circumstances, the Democratic party is the second-favorite party of capital; with an erratic Trump around, it is often the first.

The American ruling class has a nice hustle going with elections. We don’t have a labor-backed social democratic party that could create barriers to avoid capture by monied interests. It’s telling that when asked about the former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper’s recent chats with Wall Street political financiers, a staff member told CNBC: “We meet with a wide range of donors with shared values across sectors.”

Plenty of Democratic leaders believe in the neoliberal growth model. Many have gotten personally wealthy off of it. Others think there is no alternative to allying with finance and then trying to create progressive social policy on the margins. But with sentiments like that, it doesn’t take fake news to convince working-class Americans that Democrats don’t really have their interests at heart.

Of course, the Democratic party isn’t a monolith. But the insurgency waged by newly elected representatives such as the democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ro Khanna and others is still in its infancy. At this stage, it isn’t going to scare capital away from the Democratic party, it’s going to make Wall Street invest more heavily to maintain its stake in it.

Men like Mark Gallogly know who their real enemy is: more than anyone else, the establishment is wary of Bernie Sanders. It seems likely that he will run for president, but he’s been dismissed as a 2020 frontrunner despite his high favorability rates, name recognition, small-donor fundraising ability, appeal to independent voters, and his team’s experience running a competitive national campaign. As 2019 goes on, that dismissal will morph into all-out war.

Wall Street isn’t afraid of corporate Democrats gaining power. It’s afraid of the Democrats who will take them on-- and those, unfortunately, are few and far between.

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Steve King-- The Republican Party's Sacrificial Lamb? Do They Think That Will Protect Trump?


The GOP has long had a habit of putting it's most extreme members on the House Judiciary Committee-- crackpots like Matt Gaetz (FL), Louie Gohmert (TX), Andy Biggs (AZ), Ken Buck (CO), Jim Jordan (OH), Darrell Issa (CA) and, as you probably know by now, Steve King. Monday evening, the Republican Policy and Steering Committee voted unanimously to kick King off all his committees. At Judiciary he served on the subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security and, ironically enough, had just been confirmed by Kevin McCarthy as ranking member on the subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice. Since Jamie Raskin (D-MD) has been doing fantastic work on that same subcommittee, I asked him what it means that King will no longer be with them. He didn't mince any words: "While spouting the venom of AltRight white nationalism and the delusions of anti-George Soros paranoia on the Judiciary Committee, Steve King has also been a major whiner and fabricator about how right-wing conservatives face discrimination on Facebook, Twitter, Google and so on. It’s amazing to me how far King and his brethren have gotten with the social media by browbeating them about imaginary political discrimination while the Republicans remain completely silent about the paranoid conspiracy theories of Alex Jones et al.  And it's fascinating to watch the GOP Members now try to distance themselves from King knowing that we are going to denounce him when they did not utter a peep when they were in the majority and could have controlled him. King is a perfect reflection of the white nationalism Trump has set loose in the land with the acquiescence or endorsement of most Republicans."

Another member of the House Judiciary Committee who was serving with King, Ted Lieu, had a similar perspective and mentioned that "Stark, raving racist Steve King was not so dumb as to say stark, raving racist things during most House Judiciary Committee hearings. But he wasn't smart enough to figure out that the US Constitution prevents Republicans from regulating the free speech of Google, and that Apple-- not Google-- makes the iPhone. He asked the Google CEO last year about the iPhone, to which Mr. Pichai simply stated 'Congressman, iPhone is made by a different company.' But when Steve King is left unfiltered, such as when writing his posts on Twitter, his hateful rhetoric comes out in spades. I am very pleased Republican Leadership finally took action against Mr. King. Now I urge Republican Leadership to look at that person in the White House..."

No doubt McCarthy is aware that when John Boehner removed right-wing extremist Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) from his Agriculture Committee assignment it was dooming him to political extinction in Kansas' humongous-- and humongously rural-- first district. He had to have that in mind this week when deciding to kick King-- who represents Iowa's biggest and most rural district as well-- off the Agriculture Committee (and its subcommittees on Nutrition and on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture). Throwing him off the Small Business Committee and its subcommittees on Agriculture, Energy and Trade and on Contracting and Workforce, were just icing on the bye-bye, Steve cake.

Monday night, Pelosi has a meeting of her leadership team. Some of the more conservative members opposed naming King by name in the Resolution of Disapproval, proposing the Democrats just condemn racism in a more general way. Pelosi shot down that idea instantly suggesting some serious manning-up was needed on her own team. Yet when the Resolution was presented on the floor it did not name King and was so pusillanimous that even King himself voted for it. I guess manning up wasn't something Pelosi's team was interested in doing. My guess? Conservative freshmen New Dems and Blue Dogs said it would jeopardize their reelection shots-- and someone without two brain cells to rub together and pretend to have a brain considered that meaningful. (Someone in Pelosi's office told me that culprit was Clyburn and that there's a "deal" but isn't sure what the deal is.)

In Republicanville there certainly seems to be a desire to separate the party from King's overt racism and neo-fascist politics without confronting the issue of how King's agenda is now the GOP's agenda. So Chris Hayes did it for them:

The Washington Post's Michael Gerson made a similar point-- albeit more targeted at Individual One than at the party as a whole-- in his column Monday. "In their criticism of Rep. Steve King, you get the sense that Republicans are actually relieved to be in the position of attacking racism for a change, instead of being forced to defend it from the president. They seem to be signaling that they are not really the bigots they appear to be. Republicans seem desperate to explain that they are normal and moral-- despite all the evidence. Attacking King reveals some sense of shame at what they have become. Yet, in the end, Republican critics of King manage to look worse rather than better. If racism is the problem, then President Trump is a worse offender. And the GOP’s relative silence on Trump is a sign of hypocrisy and weakness. By any standard, Trump says things that are reckless, wrong, abhorrent, offensive and racist. Until Republicans can state this reality with the same clarity and intensity that they now criticize King, they will be cowards in a time crying for bravery."

As Seung Min Kim and Mike DeBonis reported for the same paper early yesterday morning, "Trump professed ignorance" about the whole King racism scandal roiling his party and Washington. That also noted that "Trump had no qualms about engaging in racially offensive comments of his own over the weekend" and that "the fresh controversies underscored the GOP’s ongoing struggles over the issue of race, even as condemnations from senior Republicans of King’s remarks grew louder on Monday and lawmakers argued that his voice didn’t represent the party." So punishing King while ignoring the herd iff elephants in the room-- and the one-eyed aunt in the attic-- looks too be official GOP policy on this.

It reads better if you click on the image

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Some Congressional Democrats-- Not All-- Are Eager To Start Dealing Seriously With Climate Change


Ted Lieu invited all the House Dems to a special session of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, of which he was recently elected co-chair. Tomorrow's session is to go over the art of social media, particularly twitter-- and how members can use it effectively in their jobs. As special guests, Lieu invited freshman member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a representative from Twitter to work with some of the less tech-savvy, old school members. Some members of Congress, like Bernie (8.06 million twitter followers), Elizabeth Warren (4.75 million twitter followers), Ocasio (2.4 million twitter followers) and Lieu (914K twitter followers), have been able to advance policy ideas and bring large numbers of people into the national conversation through social media. I love the idea of long-serving members-- who are perpetually whining about how freshmen (particularly freshmen from the Bronx, Detroit, Boston and Minneapolis) should keep quiet and learn what makes Congress one of America's most hated institutions before they offer their perspectives, are going to learn something from one of those brand new freshmen. It's good for them and it's good for her. In fact, who knows what will happen... one day they may even be open to learning what a popular marginal tax rate is and what the Green New Deal means.

And... speaking of the Green New Deal and Lieu, we haven't really discussed his Climate Solutions Act here. He introduced it on January 9 and it is now one of five climate bills pending, in some ways the strongest of them and a great way to help drive the conversation. Take my word for it-- there is going to be a lot of discussion (fighting) within the House Democratic Caucus over what actions Congress can take on climate. When I first met Lieu, a happy California state senator with a family, I asked him why he would want to move to DC's corrupt den of vipers. He didn't hesitate for a moment: it was all about climate and environment, for his two young sons and for the people of California, the U.S. and beyond. There's plenty he wants to accomplish, but that appeared to be his top motivator.

So it didn't surprise me to see him go on record with an extremely ambitious bill.  More than most members he gets what a real national (global) emergency we're facing (now) and he's told me that if we don't start pushing the envelope now in what we are asking for, we won't get there in time to-- literally-- save the world. The bill had 10 immediate co-sponsors, all Democrats:
Nanette Barragan (CA)
Matt Cartwright (PA)
Steve Cohen (TN)
Rosa DeLauro (CT)
Jimmy Gomez (CA)
Barbara Lee (CA)
Grace Napolitano (CA)
Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC)
Harley Rouda (CA)
Mark DeSaulnier (CA)
Basically, what the bill does-- you can read the whole thing here-- is encourage strong renewable energy standards by requiring that 100% of electricity sold in the U.S. is generated from renewable sources by 2035, while aggressively targeting greenhouse gases by requiring such emissions to be 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. This is a more aggressive version of bills be introduced in both the 114th and 115th Congress, each of which was bottled up in the House Energy and Commerce Committee by an on-the-take Republican chairman. It will be interesting to see what an on-the-take Democratic chairman, Frank Pallone, will do now.

"There is no threat greater to our nation’s security," said Lieu when introducing the bill, "than climate change. Failing to protect our planet will endanger the lives of millions, hurt our economy and jeopardize our children’s future. The wildfires in my district were worsened by drought conditions and are a sliver of what is in store if we fail to act. My bill is bold because we need to be bold on climate change. Now that Democrats are in the majority, we can and will be more aggressive on curbing the impact of climate change and creating a sustainable future for generations to come."

There are other excellent climate bills out there by Peter Welch (D-VT), one sponsored by Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), one sponsored by Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and, of course, the Alexandria Ocasio-sponsored Green New Deal from the Sunrise Movement, which has been endorsed by pretty much all the sponsors of the other bills as well.

I guess it would be out of the question for Pelosi to disinvite the illegitimate fake "president" from giving a State of the Union address based on his actions hastening the end of mankind of this planet. But for something more targeted, like the government shut down? That works.

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"Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery"-- Or Did Wilde Get That Wrong?


Luke Savage has a very good question for Jacobin readers this week: Who Will Be the American Justin Trudeau? "With a restless Democratic base leaning left," he wrote, "party centrists are looking for their Justin Trudeau-- a candidate who will seem progressive while preserving the status quo." I offered 4 pretty obvious possibilities in a twitter poll yesterday:

The question wasn't who's as good looking as Trudeau, but it was always a neck and neck race between Beto and Kamala anyway. A friend of mine was making fun of Trevor Noah Monday for referring to Julian Castro as "a progressive candidate." I almost defended Noah, explaining to my friend that although Castro's record shows him to be nothing more than a garden variety establishment Democrat, he is running as a progressive. All those popular Bernie ideas and Elizabeth Warren ideas just floating around out there, makes it much easier for clueless political hacks to redo themselves as "progressive," progressive-lite or progressivish.

Luke Savage is no fan of Prime Minister Trudeau's. Trudeau may look dreamy to some and especially awesome in contrast to the lump of stinking crap sitting in the Oval Office but... he and his Liberal Party made a deliberate decision before the 2015 Canadian elections to "embrace left-leaning rhetoric around taxes, spending, the economy, and social policy. Unlike other recent efforts from the political center (notably Hillary Clinton’s ill-fated 2016 presidential run), Trudeau made a professed desire to tax the rich and fight inequality a central theme of his campaign, and reaped the electoral rewards. When examined in detail the Liberal program was in fact fairly modest and has only grown tamer in government. Yet by embracing the language of redistribution and activist government, albeit in vague and qualified terms, Trudeau successfully convinced large numbers of Canadians that they were voting for a progressive, left-wing agenda-- a narrative that came to be channeled in media coverage both during and after the election."

Savage seems certain "some centrist Democrats will very likely look to Trudeau’s charade as a model to be emulated." It's too late for Biden, Bloomberg, McAuliffe, Frackenlooper or that Starbucks guy to pretend to be anything but right-of-center, but just take a look at the ultimate political opportunist, Kirsten Gillibrand if you want to see someone turn on a dime.

The Liberal campaign of 2015, for all the hype it generated, was anything but radical in tone. Nevertheless, a carefully crafted platform incorporating language about taxing the rich, spending more on public goods, and rejecting austerity gave many ordinary Canadians a different impression while simultaneously reassuring elites they had nothing to fear.

For one thing, it promised to raise taxes on “the wealthiest 1% while cutting them for the middle class” and closing loopholes benefiting the rich. In the realm of social policy, Trudeau championed the Canada Child Benefit-- a means-tested cash transfer-- as a way to help low-income families. The platform’s biggest theme was arguably deficit-financed investment in “social infrastructure,” supposedly signalling a break from prevailing economic orthodoxy and (for some commentators) a bold embrace of activist government.

Parts of the plan were mostly illusion from the get-go. While the language of the “1 percent” vaguely hinted at Occupy-inflected class rhetoric, the corresponding policy actually amounted to a net reduction in income taxes. Though the government did create a new bracket for incomes over $200,000 a year at a marginal rate of 33 percent, its “middle-class tax cut” also lowered taxes on incomes between $45,282 and $90,563, a move whose biggest beneficiaries were ultimately those in the top 10 percent of incomes-- hardly the “middle class” as most people understand it, and certainly not the poor. Tax loopholes, such as one that allows compensation earned through stock options to be taxed at half the regular rate (mainly used by lushly paid corporate executives) have remained open despite the Liberal commitment to close them. Late last year, supposedly in response to Trump administration policy, the government also unveiled billions in corporate tax cuts-- hardly the behavior of a left-populist administration.

With childcare widely inaccessible and cripplingly expensive across the country, the Canada Child Benefit was a particularly resonant campaign promise. While it is indeed a cash transfer to low-income families and an improvement on the Conservative-era benefit it replaced, Trudeau advanced the policy in explicit opposition to the universal public model being championed by his rivals in the NDP, declaring, “When it comes to child benefits, fair doesn’t mean giving everyone the same thing, it means giving people what they need.” While this no doubt sounded intuitively correct to some voters, it in effect meant leaving Canada’s inefficient, pricey, and market-driven childcare model intact while offering subsidies to some families worth a maximum of a few thousand dollars a year (childcare in Canadian cities outside Quebec can easily cost $1,000 a month or more).

Trudeau’s supposed embrace of deficits and Keynesian economics employed a similar sleight of hand. While the government is indeed running deficits and pursuing an infrastructure program, it has channeled billions into an infrastructure bank designed to attract private capital and even hinted at the mass privatization of public assets. The once-promised “social infrastructure” and stimulus spending that enabled Trudeau to rhetorically repudiate austerity has therefore taken a back seat to an effectively neoliberal model of public spending.

What was innovative about this strategy was the way it channeled widespread concern about poverty, inequality, and an economy rigged towards the rich while ultimately offering little to meaningfully address those problems. For some, it appeared to reflect the same priorities as the NDP platform-- which included among other things the creation of national childcare and prescription-drug benefit programs-- allowing the Liberals to absorb and neutralize competition to their left. (The NDP, for what it’s worth, needlessly compromised its own program and created space for the Liberals by promising balanced budgets).

After more than three years in government, Trudeau’s Liberals have done little if anything to alter the economic fundamentals of the country or significantly improve material conditions for most of its people. Nevertheless, the prime minister has made a regular habit of issuing pronouncements about inequality at international conferences that seem deliberately choreographed to maintain his 2015 brand. In a similar vein, his government has also introduced rather misleadingly titled “national strategies” for both poverty and housing that are far less grand in scope than their labeling suggests (essentially amounting to a series of small subsidies and new metrics).

A combination of superficial gestures, bad-faith promises, skillful branding, and political sleights of hand, Trudeau’s inequality scam has proven a resounding success.

How might an opportunistic Democratic politician looking to win over the base while reassuring corporate America launch their own phony war on inequality in the 2020 primaries and beyond? Justin Trudeau’s strategy offers us some clues.

Instead of simply ignoring or rendering poverty, inequality, and public goods secondary to his brand, Trudeau has made them central, even faintly invoking the language of class to that end. But despite going to great lengths to show how much he recognizes people’s problems he has always remained assiduously vague about how he intends to solve them and adopted a decidedly nonconfrontational posture towards corporate Canada and other powerful interests in the process. While appearing to embrace core progressive concerns, particularly around taxes and social policy, he has quietly doubled down on all-too-familiar neoliberal shibboleths and policy thinking-- rejecting universality and leveraging a phony language of activist government.

With potentially transformative proposals such as a Green New Deal and Medicare for All on the table in the US ahead of the 2020 presidential election, and an anxious donor class tugging in the opposite direction, it’s all too easy to imagine centrist Democrats looking to Trudeau’s example. If the American left, broadly defined, wants to avoid a repeat of Canada’s experience it should be vigilant about the prospect of phony wars on inequality-- and settle for nothing less than the real thing.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

Hmmm, I wonder what Putin is whispering to his fluffer. Could it be:

A) Don't worry about McConnell. I've got him covered.

B) Thanks for making those tariff moves on your farmers I wanted. I was able to make a sweet deal with the Chinese for Russian soybeans.

C) Don't forget, I have a pee tape, all the records of the cash we've given your family, and a copy of the notes to our meetings.

D) Got anymore top secret Israeli intelligence you can pass my way?

E) Pissing off Mexico is working great for both of us. They've stopped buying U.S. corn and get it from Brazil now. Thanks again!

F) Thanks for pulling out of Syria and giving me a clear path. My friends in Iran thank you too!

G) Don't forget, you need to destroy NATO so I can grow my influence in Europe. Plenty of rubles and Russian girlies in it for you!

H) Keep attacking the European Union! The more destabilized it gets the better!

I) Your help in destabilizing your own country for me will always be appreciated in Mother Russia.

J) Good thing you sided with me instead of your own intelligence agencies. Get my drift?

K) Your shutdown is going great! It's the answer to my prayers!

L) How's our friend Paul Manafort doing?

M) I know your son Eric said you have all the money you need from us, but there's more waiting for you in a briefcase back in your hotel room.

N) Don't worry Little Donnie, you'll always be my #1 Asset, my favorite spy! You've been a friend of Russia for a long time. You've been a great investment!

O) All of the above and more.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

No One Let Christie Finish


As the legal authorities close in on Trump, Kushner-in-law has been trying his best to keep away from the media and out of sight. Today Guardian reporters Ed Pilkington and Martin Pengelly reminded everyone who and what he is: Chris Christie accuses Jared Kushner of political 'hit job' in explosive new book. He doesn't want to go to prison like his father did and his father-in-law soon may. Chris Christie, who put his dad behind bars, may have other ideas. Pilkington and Pengelly make sure their readers recall that Christie was ousted as chairman of Trump’s White House transition team in 2016 before writing "a blistering attack on Jared Kushner, whom he accuses of having carried out a political 'hit job' on him as an act of revenge for prosecuting his father, Charles Kushner, a decade ago." They wrote that "in his soon to be published book, Let Me Finish, Christie unleashes both barrels on Trump’s son-in-law, who remains a senior White House adviser with responsibilities for Middle Eastern peace, sentencing reform and 'American Innovation'."

If I remember correctly, Christie was the first "serious" 2016 presidential contender to drop out and endorse Trump. It was somewhat shocking because people were still looking at Trump as a joke candidate doing a publicity stunt for his many shady business endeavors. And Christie was-- albeit a slob-- a legitimate politician. It was assumed Trump was paying him off. In the new book Christie blames his downfall in Trumpworld-- what they call an ignominious dismissal-- on the Kush. Confirmation that Kushner had done him in came directly from Steve Bannon, then heading up Operation Trump For Prez.
As Bannon was carrying out the firing, at Trump Tower in New York, Christie forced him to tell him who was really behind the dismissal by threatening to go to the media and point the finger at Bannon instead.

“Steve Bannon… made clear to me that one person and one person only was responsible for the faceless execution that Steve was now attempting to carry out. Jared Kushner, still apparently seething over events that had occurred a decade ago.”

The political assassination was carried out by Kushner as a personal vendetta, Christie writes, that had its roots in his prosecution, as a then federal attorney, of Charles Kushner in 2005. The real estate tycoon was charged with witness tampering and tax evasion and served more than a year in federal prison.

Even for a White House that has generated an extraordinary cornucopia of hypercritical kiss-and-tell books, Christie’s is exceptional for its excoriating description of events at which he was present. As he points out in Let Me Finish, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian ahead of publication on 29 January, none of the other authors “has known Trump for as long or as well as I have-- or was right there in the room when much of this occurred.”

It is also exceptional as a chronicle of the score-settling and animosity that drove key decision-making in Trump’s nascent presidency. As political scientists look for the roots of the mayhem in the current White House, the book provides new clues.

At the heart of it is Christie’s desire to tell the American people that had his transition plan been adopted after Trump’s shock victory on election night in November 2016, the Trump White House would be a much more effective place today. Once he had been tossed overboard, the new transition team led by Vice President-elect Mike Pence had a “thrown-together approach” that led to appalling choices of senior personnel “over and over again.”

But the emotional heart of the book is Christie’s account of the actions of Jared Kushner. In this telling, Christie was ditched by a young man who made it his business to discredit and denounce him because of what he had done to his father.

“The kid’s been taking an ax to your head with the boss ever since I got here,” Bannon confessed at Christie’s dismissal.

Christie was the US attorney in New Jersey when he spearheaded the prosecution of Charles Kushner for witness tampering. The case arose out of a bitter family feud.

The elder Kushner hired a sex worker to seduce his brother-in-law Bill Schulder, then filmed them having sex in a motel and sent the tape to his own sister, Esther. The bizarre plot was an attempt to blackmail the Schulders into keeping their silence about Bill’s knowledge of Charles’s fraudulent activities.

Charles Kushner pleaded guilty to 18 charges and served 14 months in a federal prison in Alabama.

In one of the most visceral passages of the book, Christie recounts for the first time how Jared Kushner badmouthed him to Trump in April 2016, pleading with his father-in-law not to make Christie transition chairman. Remarkably, he did so while Christie was in the room.

“He implied I had acted unethically and inappropriately but didn’t state one fact to back that up,” Christie writes. “Just a lot of feelings-- very raw feelings that had been simmering for a dozen years.”

Kushner went on to tell Trump that it wasn’t fair his father spent so long in prison. He insisted the sex tape and blackmailing was a family matter that should have been kept away from federal authorities: “This was a family matter, a matter to be handled by the family or by the rabbis.”

Trump, in an effort to settle the dispute, proposed a dinner between him, Jared and Charles Kushner, and Christie. Much to Christie’s relief, Jared didn’t acquiesce.

In the end, Trump gave Christie the job. But according to Let Me Finish, Kushner had the final say.

Let Me Finish bears all the hallmarks of classic, brash Chris Christie. Its language is blunt, caustic and at times self-satisfied, much like his political reputation.

It has its lighter moments. At his first meeting with Trump in 2002, at a dinner in the Trump International Hotel and Tower, in New York, Trump ordered his food for him. He chose scallops, to which Christie is allergic, and lamb which he has always detested. Christie recalls wondering whether Trump took him to be “one of his chicks.”

At another dinner three years later Trump told the obese Christie he had to lose weight. Addressing him like one of the contestants in Miss Universe, the beauty contest organisation that he owned, Trump said “you gotta look better to be able to win” in politics.

Trump returned to the theme of girth during the 2016 presidential campaign, exhorting Christie to wear a longer tie as it would make him look thinner.

Meanwhile, Kushner is not the only subject of Christie’s wrath. The author is scathing about Michael Flynn, the retired general who was briefly national security adviser before resigning over his dealings with Russia, and who is now cooperating with the special counsel and awaiting sentencing for lying to the FBI.

In one of the book’s more memorable put-downs, Flynn is dubbed “the Russian lackey and future federal felon.” Christie also calls the former general “a train wreck from beginning to end … a slow-motion car crash.”

However, one central character escapes relatively unscathed: Trump himself. The president is utterly fearless and a unique communicator Christie writes-- and his main flaw is that he speaks on impulse and surrounds himself with people he should not trust.

Christie gives a detailed account of his effort to be named as Trump’s vice-presidential running mate in the summer of 2016, after his own bid for the Republican nomination for president failed. He detects yet again the hand of Kushner-- and that of his wife and Trump’s beloved daughter, Ivanka Trump-- working against him. An anonymous “high-ranking Trump staffer” is depicted calling to warn that “the family is very upset that he says it will be you.” A mollifying call from son Eric Trump follows but that is as close as Christie gets. Trump chooses ultra-conservative Indiana politician, Mike Pence, after a mystifying wait. Christie repeatedly says he was not disappointed.

US attorney general, the other role Christie would have accepted, also eluded him. As with most appointments he is scathing about the man who got the job, Jeff Sessions, whom he calls “not-ready-for-prime-time” and whose recusal from the Russia investigation he blames for its ever-growing scale. Trump did apparently offer Christie “special assistant to the president in the White House,” which he turned down, prompting from the president-elect “an expression that said maybe he hadn’t heard me right.”

Christie would have taken chair of the Republican National Committee and seemed poised to get it. But according to Christie, once again Trump’s family worked against him. In a near-comic scene, Reince Priebus, the RNC chair who would become Trump’s first chief of staff, offers him role after role in a frantic attempt to fulfil the directive from Trump to “make Chris happy.” One by one, Christie turns down labor secretary, homeland security secretary and ambassadorships in Rome and the Vatican.

Christie is relatively forgiving of Kushner in the context of the infamous June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between the candidate’s son-in-law, his son Donald Jr, his campaign manager and a group of Russians, some with Kremlin ties, offering “dirt” on his Democratic presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton. Bannon memorably told the author Michael Wolff the meeting was “treasonous” but Christie writes that taking the meeting was merely “dumb” or, in the case of Kushner and Trump Jr, a “sign of profound inexperience.” He faults Trump’s response to Robert Mueller’s investigation into links with Russia, but does not go into detail about the work of the special counsel.

He does, however, contend that Kushner misjudged two Russia-related firings: that of Flynn in February 2017 and most famously that of the FBI director James Comey in May the same year. According to Christie, Kushner thought firing Flynn would end talk of links between the Trump campaign and Russia-- it did not-- and that firing Comey would not provoke “an enormous shit-storm” in Washington. It did.

“Again,” Christie writes, having detailed conversations with Kushner in which he was acting in an informal capacity, “the president was ill served by poor advice.”

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