Monday, May 29, 2017

Denny Hastert Was Screwing 10 Year Old Boys & House Republicans Protected Him The Same Way They Protect Trump Today


Most of the pages and other boys Mark Foley was having sex with were in their late teens. He was careful to bring them to states where whatever age they were was the legal age of consent. Mark's smart. And, exerting some kind of power over a 17 year old doesn't seem nearly as big a deal as what the guy who was protecting Foley was doing. The guy who was protecting Foley was then-Speaker Denny Hastert (R-IL) and what Mr. Republican was doing that was so much worse was screwing 9 or 10 year olds. Over the weekend, the Chicago Tribune painted quite a picture, just as former Hastert aide, Randy Hultgren, who now represents a chunk of Hastert's old district, is about to get into a fight for his political life.
Less than three months before Dennis Hastert's scheduled release from prison, a new accuser has come forward with allegations saying he was sodomized by Hastert decades ago, according to a lawsuit filed in Kendall County on Friday.

The lawsuit comes nearly two years after an explosive indictment into secret hush-money payments brought down Hastert, a local coaching legend who became one of the country's most powerful politicians. Federal prosecutors said the former U.S. House speaker touched at least five male students when he was a Yorkville High School coach from 1965 to 1981.

Hastert, 75, did not face sex-related charges because prosecutors said the statute of limitations had long expired. He instead admitted to committing a financial crime-- withdrawing more than $950,000 from banks in a way that would avoid detection, in an effort to keep the victim quiet.

That victim, known as Individual A, is now a middle-age married man whom Hastert coached decades ago at Yorkville High School. He said Hastert agreed in 2010 to pay him $3.5 million if he didn't speak out about Hastert molesting him in the 1970s, when he was 14, while the two stayed overnight in a hotel room as part of a wrestling trip. The boy was not yet in high school at the time, but Hastert was close friends with his parents.

The new accuser, referred to in the lawsuit as Illinois resident "Richard Doe," is seeking $50,000 in damages from Hastert and Yorkville Community Unit School District 115 for charges including battery, negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The accuser said that during the spring or summer of 1973 or 1974, he stopped by the Game Farm Building, now the Yorkville High School parking lot, to use the bathroom after riding his bike along Game Farm Road. He was 9 or 10 at the time, in fourth grade, the lawsuit alleges.

The accuser entered the bathroom and, while sitting on the toilet in a stall, heard a male voice mutter something outside the stall door, according to the lawsuit. The stall door opened, and he alleges he was sodomized.

When the assault was over, the attacker left. The accuser said he saw the man's face, but didn't recognize him.

Several weeks later, when the boy was in gym class at Yorkville Grade School, he saw a large man enter and walk diagonally across the gym toward the teacher. The boy recognized the man and, upon seeing him, began to shake and cry, according to the lawsuit.

The man spoke with the gym teacher and then approached the boy, taking him by the neck into the hallway, according to the lawsuit. The man dropped to his knees and asked the boy if he told anyone about the sexual assault. The boy, crying, said he hadn't. The man warned the accuser against reporting the attack and threatened that since his father was the sheriff, he could put the boy's parents in jail if he said anything.

The incident caused the accuser severe mental and emotional distress, which was only exacerbated by his fear of talking to someone about the attack, according to the lawsuit.

In 1984 or 1985, about a decade after the attack, the accuser visited the Kendall County State's Attorney's office to report the crime. He was 20 or 21 at the time, according to the lawsuit. He spoke with a longtime friend and political mentor to Hastert.

Upon hearing the accuser's story, a man there allegedly threatened to charge the accuser with a crime and accused him of slandering Hastert's name, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit argues that the threats were intended to benefit Hastert, whose political career was just taking off.

As Hastert rose to political prominence, the accuser attempted to suppress memories of the assault. But when Hastert was indicted in 2015, and as news stories began to circulate about Hastert's abuse of male students, the accuser realized he may have a claim against Hastert for his injuries, according to the lawsuit.
Most House Republicans knew about Foley and Hastert molesting underage boys and closed ranks to protect them-- just like they've closed ranks today to protect Patrick McHenry (R-NC) from similar adventures and just like they've closed ranks today to protect Señor Trumpanzee from far more serious and existentially threatening charges. The law and order party indeed!

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How Senile Is Trump?


In the clip above, David Parkman makes the case that Trump, the oldest person to ever occupy the White House, may be suffering from Alzheimer's disease-- like his neo-Nazi father-- or some other form of dementia. Last week Sharon Begley posted a piece at STAT headlined Experts Say Trump's Deteriorating Speech Could Be Sign of Early Dementia. "STAT," she wrote, "asked experts to compare Trump's speech from decades ago to that in 2017. All noticed deterioration, which may signal changes in Trump's brain health." This is also the only plausible reason I can think of for why Trump has made himself so dependent on Ivanka and Kushner-in-law, who are hardly brain surgeons but are family members who he can count on to abide by the Code of Omertà.

It was the kind of utterance that makes professional transcribers question their career choice:
" … there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself-- and the Russians, zero."
When President Trump offered that response to a question at a press conference last week, it was the latest example of his tortured syntax, mid-thought changes of subject, and apparent trouble formulating complete sentences, let alone a coherent paragraph, in unscripted speech.

He was not always so linguistically challenged.

STAT reviewed decades of Trump's on-air interviews and compared them to Q&A sessions since his inauguration. The differences are striking and unmistakable.

Research has shown that changes in speaking style can result from cognitive decline. STAT therefore asked experts in neurolinguistics and cognitive assessment, as well as psychologists and psychiatrists, to compare Trump's speech from decades ago to that in 2017; they all agreed there had been a deterioration, and some said it could reflect changes in the health of Trump's brain.

In interviews Trump gave in the 1980s and 1990s (with Tom Brokaw, David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey, Charlie Rose, and others), he spoke articulately, used sophisticated vocabulary, inserted dependent clauses into his sentences without losing his train of thought, and strung together sentences into a polished paragraph, which-- and this is no mean feat-- would have scanned just fine in print. This was so even when reporters asked tough questions about, for instance, his divorce, his brush with bankruptcy, and why he doesn't build housing for working-class Americans.

Trump fluently peppered his answers with words and phrases such as "subsided," "inclination," "discredited," "sparring session," and "a certain innate intelligence." He tossed off well-turned sentences such as, "It could have been a contentious route," and, "These are the only casinos in the United States that are so rated." He even offered thoughtful, articulate aphorisms: "If you get into what's missing, you don't appreciate what you have," and, "Adversity is a very funny thing."

Now, Trump's vocabulary is simpler. He repeats himself over and over, and lurches from one subject to an unrelated one, as in this answer during an interview with the Associated Press last month:
"People want the border wall. My base definitely wants the border wall, my base really wants it-- you've been to many of the rallies. OK, the thing they want more than anything is the wall. My base, which is a big base; I think my base is 45 percent. You know, it's funny. The Democrats, they have a big advantage in the Electoral College. Big, big, big advantage. … The Electoral College is very difficult for a Republican to win, and I will tell you, the people want to see it. They want to see the wall."
For decades, studies have found that deterioration in the fluency, complexity, and vocabulary level of spontaneous speech can indicate slipping brain function due to normal aging or neurodegenerative disease. STAT and the experts therefore considered only unscripted utterances, not planned speeches and statements, since only the former tap the neural networks that offer a window into brain function.

The experts noted clear changes from Trump's unscripted answers 30 years ago to those in 2017, in some cases stark enough to raise questions about his brain health. They noted, however, that the same sort of linguistic decline can also reflect stress, frustration, anger, or just plain fatigue.

Ben Michaelis, a psychologist in New York City, performed cognitive assessments at the behest of the New York Supreme Court and criminal courts and taught the technique at a hospital and university. "There are clearly some changes in Trump as a speaker" since the 1980s, said Michaelis, who does not support Trump, including a "clear reduction in linguistic sophistication over time," with "simpler word choices and sentence structure. … In fairness to Trump, he's 70, so some decline in his cognitive functioning over time would be expected."

Some sentences, or partial sentences, would, if written, make a second-grade teacher despair. "We'll do some questions, unless you have enough questions," Trump told a February press conference. And last week, he told NBC's Lester Holt, "When I did this now I said, I probably, maybe will confuse people, maybe I'll expand that, you know, lengthen the time because it should be over with, in my opinion, should have been over with a long time ago."

Other sentences are missing words. Again, from the AP: "If they don't treat fairly, I am terminating NAFTA," and, "I don't support or unsupport"-- leaving out a "me" in the first and an "it" (or more specific noun) in the second. Other sentences simply don't track: "From the time I took office til now, you know, it's a very exact thing. It's not like generalities."

There are numerous contrasting examples from decades ago, including this - with sophisticated grammar and syntax, and a coherent paragraph-length chain of thought-- from a 1992 Charlie Rose interview: "Ross Perot, he made some monumental mistakes. Had he not dropped out of the election, had he not made the gaffes about the watch dogs and the guard dogs, if he didn't have three or four bad days-- and they were real bad days-- he could have conceivably won this crazy election."

The change in linguistic facility could be strategic; maybe Trump thinks his supporters like to hear him speak simply and with more passion than proper syntax. "He may be using it as a strategy to appeal to certain types of people," said Michaelis. But linguistic decline is also obvious in two interviews with David Letterman, in 1988 and 2013, presumably with much the same kind of audience. In the first, Trump threw around words such as "aesthetically" and "precarious," and used long, complex sentences. In the second, he used simpler speech patterns, few polysyllabic words, and noticeably more fillers such as "uh" and "I mean."

The reason linguistic and cognitive decline often go hand in hand, studies show, is that fluency reflects the performance of the brain's prefrontal cortex, the seat of higher-order cognitive functions such as working memory, judgment, understanding, and planning, as well as the temporal lobe, which searches for and retrieves the right words from memory. Neurologists therefore use tests of verbal fluency, and especially how it has changed over time, to assess cognitive status.

Those tests ask, for instance, how many words beginning with W a patient can list, and how many breeds of dogs he can name, rather than have patients speak spontaneously. The latter "is too hard to score," said neuropsychologist Sterling Johnson, of the University of Wisconsin, who studies brain function in Alzheimer's disease. "But everyday speech is definitely a way of measuring cognitive decline. If people are noticing [a change in Trump's language agility], that's meaningful."

Although neither Johnson nor other experts STAT consulted said the apparent loss of linguistic fluency was unambiguous evidence of mental decline, most thought something was going on.

John Montgomery, a psychologist in New York City and adjunct professor at New York University, said "it's hard to say definitively without rigorous testing" of Trump's speaking patterns, "but I think it's pretty safe to say that Trump has had significant cognitive decline over the years."

No one observing Trump from afar, though, can tell whether that's "an indication of dementia, of normal cognitive decline that many people experience as they age, or whether it's due to other factors" such as stress and emotional upheaval, said Montgomery, who is not a Trump supporter.

Even a Trump supporter saw and heard striking differences between interviews from the 1980s and 1990s and those of 2017, however. "I can see what people are responding to," said Dr. Robert Pyles, a psychiatrist in suburban Boston. He heard "a difference in tone and pace. … What I did not detect was any gaps in mentation or meaning. I don't see any clear evidence of neurological or cognitive dysfunction."

Johnson cautioned that language can deteriorate for other reasons. "His language difficulties could be due to the immense pressure he's under, or to annoyance that things aren't going right and that there are all these scandals," he said. "It could also be due to a neurodegenerative disease or the normal cognitive decline that comes with aging." Trump will be 71 next month.

Northwestern University psychology professor Dan McAdams, a critic of Trump who has inferred his psychological makeup from his public behavior, said any cognitive decline in the president might reflect normal aging and not dementia. "Research shows that virtually nobody is as sharp at age 70 as they were at age 40," he said. "A wide range of cognitive functions, including verbal fluency, begin to decline long before we hit retirement age. So, no surprise here."

Researchers have used neurolinguistics analysis of past presidents to detect, retrospectively, early Alzheimer's disease. In a famous 2015 study, scientists at Arizona State University evaluated how Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush spoke at their news conferences. Reagan's speech was riddled with indefinite nouns (something, anything), "low imageability" verbs (have, go, get), incomplete sentences, limited vocabulary, simple grammar, and fillers (well, basically, um, ah, so)-- all characteristic of cognitive problems. That suggested Reagan's brain was slipping just a few years into his 1981-1989 tenure; that decline continued. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 1994. Bush showed no linguistic deterioration; he remained mentally sharp throughout his 1989-1993 tenure and beyond.

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Can Randy Hultgren Be Defeated In 2018? Not If The DCCC Inserts Another "Ex"-Republican As The Nominee


When the DCCC announced that IL-14 (Randy Hultgren) was on their target list there was a lot of snickering. For Chicagoland, it's a pretty Republican suburban district (primarily McHenry, Kane, Lake, Will and Kendall counties with a bit of DeKalb and a bit of DuPage). The PVI is R+5 and, although Obama edged past McCain in 2008 (50-49%), Romney won in 2012 (54-44%) and Señor Trumpanzee beat Hillary 48.7% to 44.8%. Hillary was the wrong candidate for much of the district and, in fact, Bernie beat her in the primary with a strong 58%.

The GOP incumbent, Hultgren, is a hapless backbencher and knee-jerk religious nut and shill for the GOP leadership. He started his shameful political career working for serial child molester Denny Hastert. First elected to Congress in 2010 against worthless New Dem Bill Foster, his 3 reelection bids have been by huge numbers (59%, 65% and 60%), the DCCC sitting out all 3 races. He beat Foster 51-45% in 2010 despite being massively outspent by the corporate Democrat $3,737,519 to $1,552,578. In 2012, 2014 and 2016 the Democrats who opposed him had no resources. Last year, for example, Jim Walz spent $19,745 to Hultgren's $1,297,836.

The DCCC-- and a couple of conservative Democratic congressmemembers from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- Blue Dog Cheri Bustos and New Dem Bill Foster-- are recruiting Montgomery mayor Matt Brolley-- another of those repulsive "ex"-Republicans corrupt conservative Democrats are so fond of. Brolley doesn't live in the district and doesn't live in the Democratic Party. He pulled Republican ballots in 2010, 2014 and even last year! Now, of course, Brolley is pretending to be a Democrat with progressive stands. That's not how he smells though. There is also some chatter about another DCCC-favored candidate, Lauren Underwood, who says the DCCC is asking her to run and just moved to the district in order to run for Congress. And progressive Jim Walz is running again as well.

The DCCC is especially eager to pass Brolley off as a viable candidate because their worst nightmare-- a pragmatic progressive Democrat, Victor Swanson-- is already running for the seat. For all the bullshit about how the DCCC supports veterans-- Swanson served in the Navy-- the DCCC only supports Republican-lite veterans, not progressive veterans. Swanson has been working as a social studies teacher for 17 years. His wife is also a public school teacher. We spoke with him yesterday and asked him if he's aware of what a difficult task he's taken upon himself. He was very aware of it. "When I began to think about running for Congress," he told us, "I began to have conversations with a variety of people whose lives revolve around the political arena including campaign staffers, congressional staffers, and even Members of Congress. Everyone of them said the same thing, I could not be successful because I had a real job, as a teacher. Those conversations just reinforced my feelings about how broken our Congress is. I decided to forge ahead with this campaign no matter what the naysayers thought. Congress needs to look like America and would greatly benefit from having at least a few members who have worked a real job. I am looking forward to this challenge and I want to help reinvent the political process by bring back real representative government to the People's House."

I'm hearing some chatter in the district that there's a strong move to draft John Laesch, the dedicated Berniecrat who was originally responsible for driving Hastert out of office by running against him-- in the face of concerted and vicious DCCC sabotage-- in 2006 and exposing his myriad... vulnerabilities. Stay tuned. This field is starting to get very crowded.

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Señor Trumpanzee Goes To Europe-- Putin Victory Dance


No matter how much it cost Putin to first bribe and then install Trump in the White House, it has paid off for him... in spades. Trump's first disastrous foray into Europe couldn't have gone better for Russia if Putin scripted it himself. Since the late 40's, Russia's top strategic goal in Europe has been to break up the German-American alliance. Nothing the Soviets tried worked but then Putin unleashed his secret weapon, a moronic, greed-driven TV game show host, on the world. On Joy Reid's MSNBC show yesterday, David Frum pointed out that "Putin could not have achieved out of this trip more of what he wanted if he had paid for it." Later in the day, Frum wrote that "Trump is doing damage to the deepest and most broadly agreed foreign-policy interests of the United States. He is doing so while people associated with his campaign are under suspicion of colluding with Vladimir Putin’s spy agencies to bring him to office. The situation is both ugly and dangerous. If it’s to be corrected, all Americans... must at least correctly name it for what it is."

As the ugly American was flying back to Washington after his widely reviled few days in Europe was finally over, headlines all over the continent was German chancellor Angela Merkel's statement about Europeans no longer being able to depend on the U.S. because of Putin's American puppet.
Speaking at a campaign event in Bavaria, Ms Merkel emphasised the need for friendly relations with the US, Britain and Russia, but added: "We Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands."

She said that, as the traditional western alliance is threatened by the new US presidency and Brexit, "the times in which we can fully count on others are somewhat over, as I have experienced in the past few days."

While Germany and Europe would strive to maintain relations with America and Britain, Ms Merkel said Europeans "have to fight for our own destiny."

Its not all about Trump's undermining of the Paris accords on Climate either. It's worth reading Axios' Sunday morning report though about how Señor Trumpanzee has been gossiping with his cronies that he's taking the U.S. out of the agreement. The disgusting Trumpanzee "has privately told multiple people, including EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, that he plans to leave the Paris agreement on climate change. Publicly, Trump's position is that he has not made up his mind and when we asked the White House about these private comments, Director of Strategic Communications Hope Hicks said, 'I think his tweet was clear. He will make a decision this week.'"
Caveat: Although Trump made it clear during the campaign and in multiple conversations before his overseas trip that he favored withdrawal, he has been known to abruptly change his mind — and often floats notions to gauge the reaction of friends and aides. On the trip, he spent many hours with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, powerful advisers who back the deal.

Behind-the-scenes: The mood inside the EPA this week has been one of nervous optimism. In a senior staff meeting earlier this week, Pruitt told aides he wanted them to pump the brakes on publicly lobbying for withdrawal from Paris.
Instead, the EPA staff are quietly working with outside supporters to place op eds favoring withdrawal from Paris.
The White House has told Pruitt to lay off doing TV appearances until Trump announces his decision on Paris. (In past weeks, the EPA Administrator has gone on TV to say the U.S. needs to quit Paris, but Pruitt told aides he'll be keeping a lower profile. He doesn't want a Paris withdrawal to be seen as his victory. "It needs to be the President's victory," one source said, paraphrasing what Pruitt has told aides.)
Pruitt's aides have told associates in recent days that they remain confident the President will withdraw from Paris but they've been worried about him being overseas and exposed to pressure from European leaders and the environmentalist views of his top aides like Ivanka and economic adviser Gary Cohn. Top EPA staff were relieved when Trump refused to join the other six nations of the G7 in reaffirming "strong commitment" to the Paris agreement.
Merkel told reporters that "The entire discussion about climate was very difficult, if not to say very dissatisfying. There are no indications whether the United States will stay in the Paris Agreement or not." The other G7 leaders-- "other" meaning everyone but Señor Trumpanzee-- issued a statement that included "The United States of America is in the process of reviewing its policies on climate change and on the Paris Agreement and thus is not in a position to join the consensus on these topics. Understanding this process, the heads of state and of government of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom and the presidents of the European Council and of the European Commission reaffirm their strong commitment to swiftly implement the Paris Agreement."

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Not Even Impeaching Trump Would Save The House Republicans From Angry Voters


I've never been a big fan of Nate Silver's or his brand of research. But sometimes-- like this time-- he hits the nail right on the head. His point last week is that conventional wisdom about the solidity of Trump's core support is incorrect and that Trump's base is already looking shaky and starting to shrink.
A widely held tenet of the current conventional wisdom is that while President Trump might not be popular overall, he has a high floor on his support. Trump’s sizable and enthusiastic base-- perhaps 35 to 40 percent of the country-- won’t abandon him any time soon, the theory goes, and they don’t necessarily care about some of the controversies that the “mainstream media” treats as game-changing developments.

It’s an entirely reasonable theory. We live in a highly partisan epoch, and voters are usually loyal to politicians from their party. Trump endured a lot of turbulence in the general election but stuck it out to win the Electoral College. The media doesn’t always guess right about which stories will resonate with voters.

But the theory isn’t supported by the evidence. To the contrary, Trump’s base seems to be eroding. There’s been a considerable decline in the number of Americans who strongly approve of Trump, from a peak of around 30 percent in February to just 21 or 22 percent of the electorate now. (The decline in Trump’s strong approval ratings is larger than the overall decline in his approval ratings, in fact.) Far from having unconditional love from his base, Trump has already lost almost a third of his strong support. And voters who strongly disapprove of Trump outnumber those who strongly approve of him by about a 2-to-1 ratio, which could presage an “enthusiasm gap” that works against Trump at the midterms. The data suggests, in particular, that the GOP’s initial attempt (and failure) in March to pass its unpopular health care bill may have cost Trump with his core supporters.

...During last year’s presidential primaries, Trump received about 14 million votes out of a total of 62 million cast between the two parties, which works out to 23 percent of the total. So perhaps it’s not a coincidence that 20 to 25 percent of the country still strongly supports Trump; they were with him from the start.

But 20 to 25 percent isn’t all that large a base-- obviously not enough to win general elections on its own. Instead, Trump won the White House because most Republicans who initially supported another GOP candidate in the primary wound up backing him in the November election. Trump has always had his share of reluctant supporters, and their ranks have been growing as the number of strong supporters has decreased. If those reluctant Trump supporters shift to being reluctant opponents instead, he’ll be in a lot of trouble, with consequences ranging from a midterm wave against Republicans to an increased likelihood of impeachment.
Last night I was on the phone with one of the strategists putting together the plan to defeat Paul Ryan. He seems worried that Trump could be impeached quickly-- which is really unlikely-- and damage the chances for a an anti-Trump wave turning into a more general anti-GOP tsunami. I tried to calm him down. As we've pointed out many times in the past, Paul Ryan's toxicity among voters is nearly as strong as Trump's-- even in his own Wisconsin district.

Yesterday, writing for the Capital Times in nearby Madison, John Nichols explored one of the biggest reasons why Ryan's approval has been collapsing in WI-01. And it's not just about Trumpanzee. Ryan is being recognized nationally and locally as a bold-faced liar whose deceptions are actually insulting to the intelligence of the people he's attempting to deceive.

When the Congressional Budget Office issued its assessment of the American Health Care Act, House Speaker Paul Ryan responded with this announcement: “This CBO report again confirms that the American Health Care Act achieves our mission: lowering premiums and lowering the deficit.”

That is a lie on so many levels that it is hard to know where to begin.

But let’s start here: The CBO report specifically explains that in many states, “community-rated premiums would rise over time, and people who are less healthy (including those with pre-existing or newly acquired medical conditions) would ultimately be unable to purchase comprehensive non-group health insurance at premiums comparable to those under current law, if they could purchase it at all.”

So what Ryan is saying about premiums is wrong.

But the bigger concern is with what he is not saying.

Ryan's lie of omission is a serious one, as it avoids the fundamental fact revealed by the CBO report: Whatever savings might be achieved come at immense human cost. As the Los Angeles Times notes, “According to the budget office, which both parties in Congress look to for estimates on the impact of complex legislation, the bill would cause 23 million fewer people to have health insurance by 2026. Many additional consumers would see skimpier health coverage and higher deductibles, the budget office projected.”

The CBO review says that “less healthy people would face extremely high premiums.” And that “out-of-pocket spending on maternity care and mental health and substance abuse services could increase by thousands of dollars.”

Bottom line: Paul Ryan is proposing to provide Americans with less health care at greater cost. And he is not even delivering as much deficit relief as previously promised. As CBS News notes: “The House-passed legislation would also reduce federal deficits over the next 10 years by $119 billion, CBO said Wednesday, which is less than the $150 billion CBO projected in a score of an earlier version of the bill.” And, by all accounts, only a small percentage of the supposed “savings” would be applied to budget reduction.

So Paul Ryan is spouting nonsense.

That's bad.
Bad, but hardly new. Now it's finally being exposed. The DCCC has systematically protected Ryan over the last decade by discouraging and-- when that didn't work-- sabotaging prospective and actual Democratic challengers. Democratic activists in Wisconsin are ready for Pelosi and Lujan and their bullshit this time and are putting together a plan to take Ryan down without any participation from the DCCC, the DNC, Pelosi or any of the corrupt elements that have soiled the Democratic brand among the kind of working Americans who delivered states like Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Michigan to Trump in 2016. There's no room for any characters like Debbie Wasserman Schultz or Rahm Emanuel in their plans-- Trump or no Trump.

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Far Fewer People Are Coming To The U.S. As Tourists-- A Side Effect Of Trumpism That Will Cost Billions Of Dollars


My favorite hotel in Taormina was once a nunnery

I once spent the better part of a month driving around Sicily; I loved it. And, even though it's really touristic, Taormina was one of my favorite places-- stunningly beautiful well-kept little town south of Messina, the perfect place to head after the half hour ferry ride from Reggio Calabria on the mainland. Now that Trump has sullied it though... Nah, Taormina has too much to offer to be permanently damaged by the memories of the Trumpanzee presence. Just check in to the Belmond Villa Sant'Andrea or the San Domenico Palace Hotel and Trumpy-the-Clown will be the absolute last thing that ever pops into your mind.

In fact, if Señor Trumpanzee is going to hurt tourism anywhere, it's right here in the U.S.A. He already has-- drastically. Jeff Glueck, writing for Foursquare Direct, warned that international tourism to the U.S. is down by double digits.
Our findings reveal that America’s ‘market share’ in international tourism started to decline in October 2016, when the U.S. tourism share fell by 6% year-over-year, and continued to decrease through March 2017, when it dropped all the way to -16%. Currently, there is no sign of recovery in the data.

The share of international tourism to leisure locations in America has been steadily declining since October 2016, after small YoY growth in August and September. Over the full October 2016 to March 2017 timeframe, there was an average decrease of 11% YoY...
The U.S. is losing tourist activity to foreign destinations. Share of visits for leisure categories in other countries is up year-over-year by about 6%, by definition at the expense of the U.S. since we are talking about market share.
California, and in particular L.A. and San Diego, was most impacted by the decrease in international travelers. Both cities saw strong YoY gains in fall 2016, but international tourism has dropped sharply in Q1 2017.
Business trip activity is up in the U.S. by about 3% (as a share of international traveler global activity), but that trend line is not as high as elsewhere in the world, where YoY trends are closer to 10%. Relative to business travel gains globally, business travel to the U.S. is suffering.
When it comes to an impact on the economy, did tourism to the U.S. slow from different countries at the same rate, or did specific regions stay away in greater numbers?

From our data, residents of the Middle East and Central/South America are avoiding the U.S. more than residents of Asia, Europe and elsewhere. It goes without saying that some of the current administration’s most controversial policies have been focused on countries within the Middle East and Latin America, and that we’re seeing a greater impact in travel from these nations.

...[T]he downturn in tourism came months before the new President came into office, and before changes to visa procedures, restrictions on travel from certain Muslim countries, the ban on certain electronics during flights from select countries and more. This timing may align with the heated rhetoric of the height of the Presidential election last fall, as the big dip began in October. International travelers may have determined that the America within their sights was less appealing or welcoming. Trend lines become even more steep in January when Trump took office, and have continued up through the end of Q1 2017.

What’s the impact of these trends? It’s early and hard to say, but the impact could be material. Tourism in the U.S. is a big business, and not just for hotels and airlines.

According to our data, international travelers generally make up 10.7% of all visits to leisure categories. In the past six months, the above-discussed 11% YoY drop in U.S. market share for tourism activity thus adds up-- impacting domestic businesses. This means that the drop in international tourism to the U.S. is resulting in an opportunity cost of about 1.2% in total visits to U.S. shops, restaurants, attractions and the like. And it’s a fair bet that international shoppers spend more than the average domestic shopper.

So though the impact may sound small, it could mean an additional 1–2% YoY sales hit to U.S. retailers already operating on thin margins and besieged by competition from Amazon, e-commerce as a whole, and a generally competitive and “over-stored” economy. It represents significant damage to a hurting sector.

For hotels in Q4 and Q1, international visitors made up about 15% of hotel visits, so that sector will also feel an impact.

Others have begun to forecast what a tourism slowdown could mean. One analysis by the firm Tourism Economics reported that Trump’s travel ban could cost the U.S. economy more than $18 billion and about 107,000 jobs.

As a Location Intelligence company, we leave the policy conclusions to others. But we do believe better data makes for a more well-rounded debate, and that is where our role centers. Proponents of President Trump’s new policies might argue that the President intended to reduce visitors from certain countries, and that the economic cost is outweighed by claimed security needs. Critics of the administration may question the effectiveness of these new tactics. Either way, we believe that the direct economic impact from these policies should be in the conversation, just as they are for discussions about the coal sector, pipeline construction, or manufacturing sectors.


Polls Predict Defeat For Paul Ryan In His Home District


The GOP has worked to denigrate Pelosi for over a decade. Nationally her approval rating is an abysmal 30%-- with 50% disapproving of her. That's godawful! It has made her a liability for many Democratic candidates. But you know who's even more disliked-- and with no set-up by the Democrats? Flimflam Speaker Paul Ryan. The same new Quinnipiac poll that looks so devastating for Pelosi is even worse on Ryan. Only 27% approval and a 54% disapproval. He's in much worse shape, politically, than McConnell of Schumer. People have finally recognized what a dick-head he is-- thanks to his TrumpCare bill. By the 2018 midterms he'll be so toxic that any politician photographed with him will be in jeopardy.

Only 20 percent of American voters say they are more likely to vote for a Senator or member of Congress who supports the revised Republican health care plan, while 44 percent say they are less likely and 31 percent say this issue won't affect their vote, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today.

American voters disapprove of the new health proposal 57 - 20 percent, compared to a 56 - 21 percent disapproval in a May 11 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe- ack) University, shortly after the revised plan passed the House of Representatives. Republicans in the House cancelled a vote on the first attempt to "repeal and replace" Obamacare on March 23, the day a Quinnipiac University poll showed voters opposed the idea 56 - 17 percent.

Among independent voters, a key bloc, only 17 percent are more likely to support an elected official who backs the health care plan, while 41 percent are less likely. Republicans are the only listed party, gender, education, age or racial group to support the health care plan, by a lackluster 42 - 24 percent, and the only group where more voters say they would support a candidate for reelection who backs the latest health care plan.

"Advisory to Republicans who support the replacement for Obamacare: Backing this bill could be very hazardous to your political health," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

"What was heralded as a cure for a failing plan could have toxic side effects."

Under the Republican health care plan, their health insurance costs will go up, 44 percent of American voters say, while 12 percent say they will go down and 33 percent say they will stay the same.

Fewer Americans will be covered under the GOP plan, 57 percent of voters say, while 11 percent say more will be covered and 21 percent say it will be about the same.

Voters disapprove 62 - 32 percent of the way President Donald Trump is handling health care and say 50 - 45 percent that he should not support efforts to repeal Obamacare. Attitudes on Democrats, Republicans in Congress.
Worse yet for Ryan-- unlike the other congressional leaders, who are at least liked by their own constituents-- voters in southeast Wisconsin (WI-01)-- seem almost as fed up with Ryan as the rest of the country. PPP released a poll May 16 showing Ryan's job approval at 25% nationally (with 59% disapproving)-- and showing that 49% of Americans would vote for a Democratic congressional candidate with only 38% ready to vote for a Republican. Far worse for Ryan though were the numbers coming out of his district. His re-elect numbers-- among his own constituents-- are dismal. Only 44% said they would vote for him again. 51% said they want someone new.

We asked union and veteran activist Randy Bryce, an iron worker who is being actively recruited by several progressive groups to run against Ryan, how he sees the way voters in his part of Wisconsin turning against Ryan and the GOP. He wanted to talk about issues rather than Ryan. "A health care plan isn’t a health care plan when the reason it is being implemented is to give tax breaks," he began. "The fact that RyanCare needed to be in place before any tax reforms helps prove this point."
To begin with, a Paul Ryan sighting these days in WI-01 is "Breaking News." Wisconsinites are more likely to see an albino buffalo crossing the expressway than they are to see Paul Ryan. It’s painfully obvious that he no longer cares about us. We don’t make enough money. I’ve participated in "FaceTime" events from Wisconsin (thanks to the wonderful folks at Working Families Party) where I can at least see the faces of people in places like Rhode Island and New York as they tell him to "go home" while he collects fat checks that enable him to keep taking away what little is left to help working people just get by in tough times.

When Paul Ryan did pretend to care about the hard working people in the 1st CD years ago, he sounded like a Democrat. While he was promising to save Medicare, Medicaid, and, Social Security, he was listening to his real constituents-- Wall Street and corporate donors. As Malcolm X said, "If you stick a knife nine inches into my back and pull it out three inches, that is not progress." What Paul Ryan is doing involves inserting the knife, then lying about pulling it back out. He has dark money groups spending hundreds of thousands (guessing by the frequency-- to be honest I haven’t seen total cost) saying that he’s not the one who stabbed us.

Commercials can spout all of the lies that they feel. Fortunately, Betsy DeVos hasn’t been in her position long enough to have us forget how to read.

We know what you’re doing, Paul. You can run to your masters for donations. You can hide in D.C.

You can not avoid being repealed and replaced in November of 2018.

I know what twenty years of hard work feels like, and, I am committing myself to working harder than ever to make sure that my neighbors-- the fine hard working people of southeastern Wisconsin-- have a voice. We work too hard to need to worry about taking a knife in the back.

With your tax break/health care legislation, we can’t afford surgery to have a knife removed. We also can’t afford to have you destroy what’s left of not just WI-01, but the entire United States. "Remember remember on the 6th of November (2018)."

Let’s roll up those sleeves. We have work to do...

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Better Than Electing More Backbenchers-- How About An Actual Leader? From Pennsylvania!


Suburban Philly's PA-07-- one of the country's most bizarrely gerrymandered districts-- was once the Delaware County district. Joe Sestak was the congressman. But Republicans cut out many of the African-American and minority neighborhoods and wound up drawing an embarrassing-looking hodgepodge that twists and turns from Valley Forge Park through Radnor, Wayne Marple Township, Springfield, Upper Providence and Chester Heights up and down and all around, avoiding as many Democrats as possible while heading out from Delaware and Montgomery counties into GOP bastions in Chester, Berks and even Lancaster County. It's a purple district that still has some swing to it but it leans Republican and the current congressman is a garden variety knee-jerk conservative, Pat Meehan. Many of the voters there, though, just unable to cast their ballots for Trump and Hillary won the district 49.3% to 47.0%, out-performing Obama when he faced Romney there in 2012.

After the DCCC decided to sabotage the progressive Democrat running there in 2016, Mary Ellen Balchunis-- who had had the temerity to beat their handpicked shill in a primary (74-26%)-- they basically just gave Meehan a free pass to reelection, a real class act by Pelosi and Lujan. He won 59.7% to 40.3%, outspending Balchunis $2,155,483 to $198,954.

This cycle, the DCCC is doing what they always do: search for wealthy Republican-lite, self-funders and "ex"-Republicans. They do this all over the country and they seem to be trying to hide their choices from Democratic activists so as to not draw the withering fire they know will follow. So far there are at least half a dozen Democrats running in what promises to be a fierce primary. It isn't clear who the DCCC supports but one, Elizabeth Moro, is an "ex"-Republican and she fits their profile. Most of the candidates son't live in the district and have nothing to do with it, like Dan Muroff, who was last seen running for a Philly congressional seat, which is where he lives. Other candidates include Paul-David Perry II, Molly Sheehan, John McGinty. Mary Ellen is thinking about running again and so is another sterling progressive, our old friend, state Senator Daylin Leach, who lives in the Montgomery County part of the district.

Last week, the Philadelphia News broke the story that Daylin may give it a shot. There are several people in the district-- and in Washington-- trying to recruit him to run. Jonathan Tamari announced to the paper's readers that "State Sen. Daylin Leach, an outspoken liberal who once called President Trump a 'fascist, loofah-faced, shit-gibbon' is considering challenging Republican Rep. Patrick Meehan next year, potentially setting up a clash of two well-known political figures as Democrats try to capitalize on the left’s anti-Trump fervor."

Daylin told me he's leaning towards a run and I gather he said the same thing to Tamari.
Leach said constituents had encouraged him to run as a check on the president.

“I was reluctant to take on that large of a project, frankly, but as things have unfolded I have become increasingly concerned that we are facing way beyond what is the normal angst that one feels when there’s a president of the other party,” Leach said. “We are actually facing an existential threat to many of the basic rights we enjoy in this country and to our way of life in a lot of ways.”

Leach, 55, said he wanted to be “thoughtful” about his decision and hoped to decide on a run by the first week of June.

“I still go back and forth, sort of on a daily basis,” he said.

Leach would join a crowded field. Five Democrats have already filed papers to run against the four-term Republican congressman, and even more have said they are considering jumping in, said David Landau, chairman of the Delaware County Democrats.

One, Philadelphia ward leader Dan Muroff, touted an endorsement last week by former Gov. Ed Rendell [something a normal Democrat might be embarrassed to share voluntarily].

Some Democrats immediately raised concerns about Leach’s potential candidacy. Several said they think the liberal senator-- who drew international attention when he tweeted the profane insult at Trump in February-- could win a primary, but struggle with a more moderate electorate in the general election. Republicans hold a voter registration advantage in the district, 49 percent to 36 percent, so any Democrat would likely need crossover votes.

Leach argued that voters will be more concerned with resisting Trump than typical conservative vs. liberal ideology.

“This is going to be an election about authenticity and about what kind of America you want to see-- not in terms of what the tax rate should be, but in terms of, ‘Do we have freedom of the press? Do we treat all religions the same? Do we adhere to the rule of law?’ ” he said.
Leach is exactly the kind of strong, principled, values-driven Democrat the party needs as a candidate. The DCCC usually shies away from candidates with records... but voters don't. His record in the state legislature is outstanding and he has been one of the Senate's most effective champions of women's rights. He has also fought hard for reform of the marijuana laws and for redistricting reform. He's going to be making up his mind in the next week or so but this morning he told me that "I've been saying for months that given the utter insanity of the Trump administration, we all have a moral obligation to do all we can to resist and rescue our country. The one thing we need more than anything is some actual checks and balances, which in this case means a Democratic Congress in 2018. I am giving careful thought to whether or not I am the best candidate for PA-07. If I conclude that I am, I will do everything I can to fight for the progressive values that are risk in so many ways today. If I run, it's because this is no time to abandon our battle against climate change, or our fight for free college, paid family leave, a $15 minimum wage and criminal justice reform. Our problems are too serious to take a vacation from addressing them while some narcissistic plutocrat destroys everything we've fought for."

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Is Selling The Saudi Dictator $110 Billion Worth Of Very Deadly Advanced Weaponry A Good Idea?


Señor Trumpanzee is already bragging about how historic and profitable his failed and embarrassing trip abroad was. For me the lasting image will be the fast food-eating, exercise-free, out of shape 71 year old (June 14) slob in Golf Cart One, following behind all the international leaders out for a nice invigorating stroll through Taormina. What a clown! He wants to think his trip generated millions of jobs. He's just catering to the easily-duped morons who still support him. Presumably the "millions of jobs" will come, in part, from selling even more advanced weapons-- $110 billion worth-- to the oppressive Saudi dictatorship. But Congress is already starting to wonder how bad of an idea that is for America.

Michigan Republican Justin Amash is leading an effort to stop the sale-- and he's been joined by a strong bipartisan coalition that initially was made up of Mark Pocan (D-WI), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Walter Jones (R-NC) and Jim McGovern (D-MA). Federal law gives Congress 30 days to review arms deals to non-NATO countries and Amash and his colleagues are focussing in on the sale of precision-guided munitions and other advanced offensive weapons in the deal. They proposed a joint resolution of disapproval (H.J. 102).

Many in Congress are concerned that there will be nothing left of Yemen if the Saudis get these weapons. On Thursday Amash said in a statement that "Saudi Arabia has one of the worst human rights records and has supported many of the extremists terrorizing the people of the Middle East and the world. These arms sales extend a reckless policy from the Obama administration and prior administrations, and they come at a time when the Saudi government is escalating a gruesome war in Yemen."

Madison, Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan is the lead Democratic co-sponsor. He added that "Trump's proposed $110-billion weapons sale sends the wrong message to Saudi Arabia. In addition to regularly dropping U.S. bombs on Yemeni civilians, Saudi Arabia appears to have every intention of using the U.S. weapons from this sale to enforce a blockade on Yemen that prevents food and medicine from reaching millions of people on the brink of starvation. For months, my colleagues and I have been demanding answers to the most basic questions on the U.S. role in the disastrous war in Yemen and have been met with deafening silence from the White House. As we introduce a resolution of disapproval against this unprecedented weapons sale, we are concerned about U.S. complicity in the world’s largest humanitarian crisis now consuming Yemen. Our bipartisan group of lawmakers will be urging our colleagues to take seriously our constitutional duty to vigorously debate the merits of arming the Saudis even further."

Amash, who was very outspoken in his opposition to Obama selling the Saudis one billion dollars worth of these deadly weapons, noted that Trump's deal is a hundred times bigger (and more deadly).

Goal Thermometer A bipartisan companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Rand Paul (R-KY), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Al Franken (D-MN). We asked two of our favorite southern California congressional candidates, Katie Hill in a district just north of L.A. and Doug Applegate in a San Diego/Orange County district he nearly won against Darrell Issa (1,600 vote gap) in 2016. Katie asked a key question we all need to ask ourselves-- even if Trump and her opponent, Steve Knight won't: "This deal goes against our values as a country. How can we be fighting a war on terrorism and then provide weapons that we know will be used against civilians-- all in the name of profit?"

Doug Applegate, was a Marine colonel and is a very savvy national security expert who worries about Trump's lack of experience and chops in this crucial area. He told us this morning that "U.S. weapons should come with binding obligations to adhere to the Law of War and Geneva Conventions. That contingency should also include appropriate training of Saudi armed forces. To do otherwise makes America the world’s arms dealer no different than Russia. Once again Darrell Issa is MIA despite having Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base in the middle of his Congressional District. What do you say to the Marines, Darrell?"

Bonus: Jimmy Kimmel has been ON FIRE lately:

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Was It Bannon Who Blew The Whistle On Kushner-in-Law?


While monkey man was in Europe whining to the EU leaders how hard it is for him to set up golf courses in their countries-- at least he wasn't lobbying them to allow him to open Trump Unibersities (as far as we know)-- his Regime was collapsing around his ears back home. Secretary of Everything Kushner-in-law appears to be guilty of treason. ""I don’t want to overstate this because obviously there is a lot we don’t know," said former CIA Director John McLaughlan on MSNBC's The Last Word Friday evening. "We don’t know the exact content of the conversation. We don’t know the objective that was a part of the conversation-- those things we don’t know. But I can’t keep out of my mind the thought that, if an American intelligence officer had done anything like this, we’d consider it espionage." That's serious enough for our art director to have... well, you see it above.
Mark Kramer, the program director of the Project on Cold War Studies at Harvard's Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, said Saturday that Kushner's reported backchannel plan is "a huge red flag."

"If the report accurately recounts what Kislyak transmitted, and if Kislyak's transmission accurately reflects what Kushner was seeking, then it's a very damaging piece of evidence," Kramer said.

He added: "A back channel in itself would not be suspicious, but a back channel relying solely on Russia's facilities would be egregiously unwise and dangerous. It's a huge red flag, and it's not surprising that the FBI investigators would have been taken aback by it."

Carle said that while this reported back channel is "explosive," it is worth questioning who [Bannon] tipped off The Post to the story. The Post said it received an anonymous letter in December tipping it off to the Kushner-Kislyak meeting.

Additionally, as a longtime diplomat, Kislyak would have known that his communications were being monitored. So the possibility remains, Carle said, that the Russians used the meeting with Kushner to distract the intelligence community and the public from potentially more incriminating relationships between the campaign and Moscow.

Indeed, "FBI investigators are examining whether Russians suggested to Kushner or other Trump aides that relaxing economic sanctions would allow Russian banks to offer financing to people with ties to Trump," Reuters reported on Friday, citing a current US law enforcement official.

Kushner met with the CEO of Russia's state-owned Vnesheconombank, Sergey Gorkov, in December 2016, The New York Times reported in late March. The meeting-- which had not previously been disclosed and came on the heels of Kushner's meeting with Kislyak at Trump Tower-- caught the eye of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting its own investigation Russia's election interference.

Kislyak reportedly orchestrated the meeting between Kushner and Gorkov, who was appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in January 2016 as part of a restructuring of the bank's management team, Bloomberg reported last year.

The Kremlin and the White House have provided conflicting explanations for why Kushner met with Gorkov.

Former CIA Director John Brennan, in testimony last week before the House Intelligence Committee, said that "the information and intelligence" he saw before leaving office in January "revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and US persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals."

"It raised questions in my mind about whether the Russians were able to gain the cooperation of such individuals," he said.
It would have been Señor T to have seem the Politico headline, Russia scandal casts uncertainty over Kushner’s future role-- and strange for the rest of us to hear the conversation between el Señor and Kushner-in-law and Natasha about the Code of Omerta and who it is who's allowed to pardon anyone he wants for any reason-- or no reason at all. "Once the untouchable son-in-law," wrote Annie Karnie and Josh Dawsey, "in a White House where top aides jockey for the president’s ear, Jared Kushner has now been cast in a new role: reassuring people that he’s not going to resign, while colleagues question whether he can survive politically." Bannon must be laughing his ass off... with his office door shut.

The news of Kushner trying to set up communications directly with the Kremlin that American intelligence agencies couldn't listen in on "puts Kushner squarely in the middle of a wide-ranging FBI investigation into whether Trump campaign advisers were working with Russian operatives to influence the results of the 2016 election... 'It’s clear that Jared Kushner will be under intense scrutiny at a time when his father-in-law has named him everything but Chief Cook and Bottle Washer,' said Democratic strategist David Axelrod, a former top White House adviser to President Barack Obama. 'It’s bad for the prospects of calm at the White House.'"
A senior administration official said there was widespread concern, predating the foreign trip, that Kushner was in trouble-- but “no one that I know has been asked to provide documents” and that it wasn’t talked about openly in the White House or staff meetings.

“No one knows what to make of it because he’s there every day, making decisions, in the Oval,” this person said. “So everyone just tries to act normal.”

A White House spokesman declined to comment.

But outside of Kushner’s small circle of trust-- a group that includes Kushner’s wife Ivanka Trump, and advisers Hope Hicks, Josh Raffel, Dina Powell, Gary Cohn, Chris Liddell and Reed Cordish-- many West Wing advisers are simultaneously rattled by the backchannel revelations, and feeling a sense of schadenfreude.

The focus on a family member also brings the Russia-related heat closer to Trump. Kushner has risen so quickly in the White House that his colleagues grumble about “principal confusion”-- when a staffer thinks that the reflected spotlight of the boss is actually shining on him. Colleagues have rolled their eyes that Kushner has hired a communications adviser to work on his own portfolio. That aide, Raffel, traveled abroad with him to Riyadh, Jerusalem and Rome.

Kushner, who some say has sealed himself off from the competing White House power centers, may now be in a position of needing allies. And the pool of people in New York City eager to come to his defense has shrunk.

Internally at the White House, according to multiple sources, there is a feeling of resentment among people about Kushner’s special status as a family member, and a feeling that it’s about time for him to have a turn under the gun.

There is also a sense of uncertainty about how long Kushner and Ivanka Trump-- who associates say likes, but doesn’t love, Washington-- are planning to stick it out. Some have noted that they rent their Kalorama mansion, which allows them to keep their options of moving back to Manhattan more open.

But for now, according to a person familiar with the situation, Kushner isn’t going anywhere.

On Friday, a White House official said, Kushner was back in his West Wing office and had a working lunch with chief of staff Reince Priebus to recap the trip.

Kushner, who flew home from Rome commercial on Thursday with his wife, Ivanka, after deciding a week earlier to cut his trip short, is not easily ruffled, this person said. His plan moving forward is to keep his head down and focus on his work, including turning his attention back to building his Office of American Innovation now that the foreign trip is behind him.

The news about Kushner, whose face blanketed cable news on Saturday, overshadowed Trump’s foreign trip on its final day [a cardinal sin in Trumpanzee World].

...[M]any outside observers pointed to Kushner’s naiveté in understanding the need for caution when it comes to handling relationships with Moscow.

The spotlight on Kushner’s involvement with the Russians comes at a time when the powerful son-in-law has been telling associates that he is frustrated with his job.

Two associates who have spoken to Kushner in recent weeks described him as “unhappy” and “miserable,” in part because he has not been able to make the changes he wants to under his father-in-law. Kushner, the source said, has recently seemed resigned to the fact that the internal dysfunction that has defined the first months of Trump’s administration is unlikely to pass. “He’s still trying to tell people it will improve but he seems like he was trying to convince himself,” the source said.

... Meanwhile, Democrats said they are planning to make Kushner a focus in the coming weeks.

“There is no way Jared Kushner should have a top-level security clearance right now,” said Brian Fallon, who served as press secretary to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and before that as a spokesman for the Department of Justice. “In light of what we now know he discussed with Kislyak, it is impossible to believe Kushner’s omission of that secret meeting from his clearance application form was an accident. His clearance should be stripped at least until the FBI gets to the bottom of this.”

He added: “If Republicans will not join in demanding this of the White House, Democrats would be more than justified in grinding the Senate to a halt and opposing any new Trump nominees.”

And Senate Democrats said that they were planning to use the latest Russia-related crisis to increase pressure on attaching Russia sanctions to the Iran sanctions bill that passed the Foreign Relations Committee last week. One source on the Hill said many Democrats don’t want that bill to move without Russia sanctions bill alongside it, and that pressure will now only increase.

UPDATE: Is Bannon Orchestrating Anti-Kushner-in-law Campaign?

This morning, ABC News' Jon Karl reported that Regime officials close to Trumpanzee are pushing Kushner to "take a leave of absence."

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