Saturday, May 25, 2019

How Many Democrats Will Win Seats Because Of The GOP Anti-Choice Jihad?


Not likely to vote Republican this cycle

I don't usually turn to Charlie Cook for words of wisdom, but after the sheer nonsense I read the other day from Jeremy Peters at the New York Times-- Republicans’ Messaging on Abortion Puts Democrats on the Defensive, any palliative will do. Peters, obviously drunk or on crack, wrote that the their brilliant anti-Choice messaging is a 2020 winner for the GOP. No, really, he wrote whole column on that. "The unusually forceful, carefully coordinated campaign has created challenges that Democrats did not expect as they struggle to combat misinformation and thwart further efforts to undercut access to abortion. And advocates of abortion rights fear it is succeeding in pressuring lawmakers in more conservative states to pass severe new restrictions, as Alabama did this week by approving a bill that would essentially outlaw the procedure... Much to the distress of abortion rights supporters, their own polling is showing that the right’s message is penetrating beyond the social conservatives who make up a large part of the Republican base. Surveys conducted for progressive groups in recent weeks found that more than half of Americans were aware of the “infanticide” claims that President Trump and his party have started making when describing abortions that occur later in pregnancy." Peters is a fool... and wrong.

Cook, on the other hand, sees the GOP anti-Choice insanity as leading to a possible Democratic takeover of the Senate, something that has looked impossible for 2020 until Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, Missouri, et al decided to end abortion in their states. "[T]he Senate 'should' be reasonably safe for Republicans in 2020 and," he wrote, "for now, it is. While there are 22 GOP seats up compared to 12 seats for Democrats, none of them are behind enemy lines in solidly blue states. Not a single Republican seat up in 2020 is nearly as endangered as five Democratic seats up last year. Sure, Sen. Susan Collins is seeking reelection in Maine, which Hillary Clinton won by 3 points in 2016, and Sen. Cory Gardner is up in Colorado, which Clinton carried by 4.9 points, but these are hardly vertical cliffs. Four more Republicans in states that President Trump won by single digits—Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas—all have to be careful, but none are exactly the walking wounded." Cook has that right. Even if the Democrats hold their House majority and win the presidency-- they would still have to deal with an intransigent McTurtle in 2021.
Put it this way: No Republican senator is in the same hemisphere of vulnerability as Democratic Sen. Doug Jones is in Alabama. Even if Republicans in the Yellowhammer State are crazy enough to nominate former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore again, now that allegations of Moore’s interest in underage girls is “old news,” it is questionable whether in a presidential year Jones could even beat him. This is not a knock on Jones, but being a Democrat defending a statewide office in Alabama in a presidential year is a real challenge.

It sure seemed last year that things couldn’t get much worse for Republicans in many suburbs. Democrats’ majority-makers came straight out of suburbs around Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, and Oklahoma City, along with four districts in Orange County, California and elsewhere. Many of the gains came not from career politicians moving up the traditional ladder of elected offices, but from outside of politics, with 10 coming out of either military or intelligence-community backgrounds, unencumbered by much of the ideological baggage and voting records that kept Democrats from winning in recent years and decades in much of the South and border south. But as bad as it was last year in suburban districts for the GOP, there are still more that they could lose, perhaps if a better Democratic challenger is in place or if the seat becomes open.

And Republican-controlled states enacting laws that effectively ban all abortions threatens to make a bad situation worse for Republicans in many suburbs. This is not to make a moral, ethical, or legal statement, just a political one. A third of the electorate, at most, supports measures this aggressive. It’s been said that Americans are antiabortion and pro-choice. Most don’t like the idea of abortion-- many believe there should be some limits and are extremely uncomfortable with late-term abortions-- but still take a very dim view of outlawing all or almost all abortions, given the many different circumstances that might lead a woman to contemplate one.

President Trump is a heavy enough lift with many college-educated, suburban, white women. The perception of overwhelmingly male state legislatures telling women what they can and can’t do in very absolute terms is highly problematic.

There was a time when the decisions to set up court tests of abortion laws were made carefully by antiabortion lawyers and strategists on the national level, picking cases very carefully to maximize their chances of victory. Today the decision-making is both decentralized and organic, and apparently by tone-deaf people who seem to oblivious of the consequences to their cause. When the Rev. Pat Robertson thinks an antiabortion measure goes too far, there is a fair chance it’s too far. There isn’t a pro-choice bone in Robertson’s body, but the Yale Law School class of 1955 graduate knows a bad case when he sees one.

This is all a long way of saying that while the Republican majority in the Senate probably shouldn’t be in much danger, if one were going to construct a scenario in which Democrats reach a 50-seat majority (with a White House win) or 51 (without one), an uncompromising assault on legal abortion would likely be an element of it.

Republicans lost a bunch of suburban districts last year. With actions like these, we may find out how many more there are to lose.
It's official: Charlie Cook is smarter than Jeremy Peters. Let's move along as long as we're talking the GOP ceding the suburbs-- and an even greater share of independent voters than they gave to the Democrats in 2018-- and take a quick glimpse at the House. Leave out-- for the sake of argument-- the willful incompetence of the DCCC and the fact that the damage the DCCC does to the Democratic efforts normally will be even greater with the unfathomably bad leadership of moron Blue Dog Cheri Bustos. The Democrats are in a position to take even more Republican-held seats in 2020 than the 40-some-odd ones they won in 2018. If Cheri Bustos were to disappear tomorrow and be replaced with someone competent-- say Ted Lieu for example, who showed what he could do in California as DCCC regional vice chair for the West Coast-- the party would be on the way to win not another 40 seats but as many as 50 seats.

Goal ThermometerBustos is all about playing a defensive game, hoping to protect hopeless cases like Blue Dogs Kendra Horn (Oklahoma), Ben McAdams (Utah) and Joe Cunningham (South Carolina). She's going to waste over $10 million trying to protect those 3 losers, who have voted with the GOP on crucial issues more than with the Democrats. Meanwhile, she's running around recruiting horrible conservatives to run against progressives who have built strong campaigns. Good examples of progressives Bustos is knifing in the back include Kara Eastman (NE-02) and Mike Siegel (TX-10). You can contribute to their campaigns by clicking on the Blue America thermometer on the right. Bustos is killing their ability to raise money and putting up weak candidates who won't be able to win. If I didn't know better, I'd say she was a paid employee of the NRCC. They could hardly do any better than she's already doing for them.

Anyway, if Bustos were to disappear, the Democrats would have a better than even shot at these 50 GOP-held House seats, especially because of Republicans efforts to end women's choice (next to the name of the incumbent, is percentage of the vote that incumbent won with in 2018):
Alaska- Don Young- 53.3%
AR-02- French Hill- 52.1%
CA-01- Doug LaMalfa- 54.9%
CA-04- Tom McClintock-54.1%
CA-22- Devin Nunes- 52.7%
CA-50- Duncan Hunter- 51.8%
CO-03- Scott Tipton- 51.7%
FL-15- Ross Spano- 53.0%
FL-16- Vern Buchanan- 54.6%
FL-18- Brian Mast- 54.3%
GA-07- Rob Woodall- 50.1%
IL-12- Mike Bost- 51.8%
IL-13- Rodney Davis- 50.5%
IN-02- Jackie Walorski- 54.8%
IA-04- Steve King- 50.4%
KS-02- Steve Watkins- 48.1%
KY-06- Andy Barr- 51.0%
MI-03- Justin Amash- 54.4%
MI-06- Fred Upton- 50.2%
MI-07- Tim Walberg- 53.8%
MN-01- Jim Hagedorn- 50.2%
MN-08- Peter Stauber- 50.8%
MO-02- Ann Wagner- 51.3%
Montana- Greg Gianforte- 50.9%
NE-02- Don Bacon- 51.0%
NY-01- Lee Zeldin- 52.5%
NY-02- Peter King- 53.3%
NY-24- John Katko- 53.1%
NY-27- Chris Collins- 49.4%
NC-02- George Holding- 51.4%
NC-09- ?
NC-13- Ted Budd- 51.6%
OH-01- Steve Chabot- 51.8%
OH-12- Troy Balderson- 51.6%
PA-01- Brian Fitzpatrick- 51.3%
PA-10- Scott Perry- 51.4%
PA-16- Mike Kelly- 51.5%
TX-02- Dan Crenshaw- 52.9%
TX-03- Van Taylor- 54.3%
TX-06- Ron Wright- 53.1%
TX-10- Michael McCaul- 51.1%
TX-21- Chip Roy- 50.3%
TX-22- Pete Olson- 51.4%
TX-23- Will Hurd- 49.2%
TX-24- Kenny Marchant- 50.7%
TX-25- Roger Williams- 53.6%
TX-31- John Carter- 50.6%
VA-05- Denver Riggleman- 53.3%
WA-03- Jaime Herrera Beutler- 52.9%
WI-01- Bryan Steil- 54.6%
Fly in the ointment?

Note: Bustos was forced by enraged and overwhelming public opinion to cancel her Chicago fundraising event for anti-Choice zealot and fellow-Blue Dog Dan Lipinski. Lipinski then went on an embarrassing tirade, accusing Democrats of being "intolerant." That from a congressman who is the most anti-LGBTQ and anti-immigrant bigot in the Democratic caucus! Intolerant of intolerance? Ro Khanna (D-CA) has contributed a $1,000 from his own reelection campaign to help Marie Newman replace Bustos ally Lipinski. You can help Newman as well at that Blue America thermometer above-- or by clicking on this link. If you're excited about electing a transformative president-- basically either Bernie or Elizabeth Warren (or-- please God-- a ticket with them both), then it's essential we have a Congress supportive of a transformative agenda, not Blue Dogs, not New Dems and not any Cheri Bustos recruits.

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Welcome To The Weekend--And Don't Forget: Biden Is Better Than Trump, Biden Is Better Than Trump, Biden Is Better Than Trump, Biden Is Better Than Trump


The visceral hatred most people I know have for Trump sometime drives them crazy. I'm not joking. People I would have never expected it from wish him dead. They wish his family dead. The reactions shock me-- and I'm the one who's supposed to be the furthest left! Almost all of them are so infuriated by Trump that they're actually willing to entertain helping elect the worst possible Democratic alternative, Status Quo Joe Biden. That's a real shame, since it was a series of essentially worthless presidents very much like Biden that drove desperate voters to saddle the country with Trump.

Among historians, the 5 great American presidents are George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson-- all transformational presidents. There is also a consensus about some extraordinarily bad presidents: Trump, Warren G. Harding (the Biden of his day), Andrew Johnson, James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce. But mostly there were mediocrities-- lots and lots and lots of mediocrities: Richard Nixon, Calvin Coolidge, Gerald Ford, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter...

Among Democrats today, at least according to one shaky source, Obama is more popular than Jesus. And, unfortunately, for these involved souls, God plucked a rib out of Obama and created Status Quo Joe in 2008. He didn't exist before 2008-- none of the ugly racism, the disgusting misogyny, the lying, the sucking up to corporate interests... there was no Joe Biden the war monger, no Joe Biden the arch conservative, no Joe Biden the corrupt corporate whore, no Joe Biden the man whose instincts get everything wrong every single time... No, for them there is just OBAMA's disciple. Maybe they're not as stupid as a Trump supporter; or maybe they are.

Biden has no reason to be president of the United States except he's a life-long politician-- in his case a really, really bad one with a long putrid record--and that being president is what he's wanted his whole life. What's the opposite of transformational. Biden would be that. Will be be disastrous as a president-- another Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Warren G. Harding or, worse yet, Trump? Or merely another mediocrity. Mediocrity is what we can hope for from Biden. I suspect worse. Even Biden's moron supporters use the Warren Harding campaign there-- a "back to normalcy"-- to describe their man.

Bernie's the opposite; he's driven by ideas, not by ego. "I understand that our campaign is unique in the sense that we're going to try to win the Democratic primary, that we are going to try to beat Trump, but you know what else we're going to try to do? We're going to try to transform the United States of America... So our campaign has a different goal. It's to transform this country, and we're taking on the entire establishment when we do that." That establishment he's taking on very much includes Status Quo Joe and the garbage Democrats behind him.

A week ago, Status Quo Joe told his supporters at a rally in Philadelphia, "I'm going to say something outrageous: I know how to make government work... I helped make this government work before. And I can make it work again. To me, our principles must never be compromised. But compromise itself is not a dirty word. Consensus is not a weakness-- it's a necessity. It's how this government was designed to work." Work for who? The credit card companies? Corporate America? The political class? Work to accomplish what? Biden knows how to make government work in a way that drove tens of millions of voters to such despair that we now have a genuine fascist in the White House. We elected a fucking fascist because people like Biden thought they knew how to compromise and make government work... for someone.

There's only one thing stupider than a Biden supporter among the Democratic coalition-- an identity politics supporter. Snd those are the 3 lanes: the progressive, fundamental transformative change lane (Bernie and Elizabeth Warren), the status quo, conservative lane (Biden)and the identity politics lane (Kamala Harris, McKinsey Pete).

Lookin' forward to the debates? They could change everything... I'm told.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

Spy vs. Spy: White House CSI Edition:

So... Trump was right all along! There was a spy working for the Eric Holder-run DOJ during the 2016 campaign! Little did Trump know that the spy was often standing right by his side. Now that the spy's identity has been revealed, it might be time to investigate who sent her to chat up Trump and latch onto him all those years ago. Who else was she reporting to?

And how pathetic is it that Trump is still trying to hold her hand? Look at that picture. She's having none of it. If only she had the guts to kick him in the balls and proceed to mash them into the ground with those spike heels, and do it in public, too. Damn. Mike Pence would get all bigly hot and bothered. Go ahead, Melania. Do it. Be Best, Melania! Do it for the world!

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Friday, May 24, 2019

Republicans Justin Amash, Bill Weld And Tom Coleman Use Thursday To Pound Trump


What Would Freud Do? by Nancy Ohanian

Pelosi and Trump were attacking each other yesterday after his temper tantrum and walk-out from the infrastructure talks at the White House. Pelosi said Trump "needs an intervention" and called him "villainous," while Trump kept referring to Pelosi as "crazy Nancy." But Pelosi wasn't the only one attacking the orange imbecile yesterday.

The Washington Post published an interview Jacob Bogage did with McKinsey Pete yesterday. And Pete, a military vet tore into the draft-dodger-in-chief. Pete accurately described Trump as using his "privileged status to fake a disability" in order to avoid the Vietnam War. "This is somebody, who I think it is fairly obvious to most of us, took advantage of the fact that he was a child of multimillionaire in order to pretend to be disabled so that somebody could go to war in his place... I don't have a problem standing up to somebody who was, you know working on season 7 of Celebrity Apprentice when I was packing my bags for Afghanistan."

Justin Amash was pounding Trump again for his criminal behavior and talking about the need to impeach him. Here's his twitter storm in narrative form:
Mueller’s report describes a consistent effort by the president to use his office to obstruct or otherwise corruptly impede the Russian election interference investigation because it put his interests at risk.

The president has an obligation not to violate the public trust, including using official powers for corrupt purposes. For instance, presidents have the authority to nominate judges, but a president couldn’t select someone to nominate because they’d promised the president money.

This principle extends to all the president’s powers, including the authority over federal investigations, federal officials, and pardons.

President Trump had an incentive to undermine the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which included investigating contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign.

The investigation threatened to uncover information, including criminal activity, that could put Trump’s interests at risk. Ultimately, the investigation did uncover very unflattering information about the president, his family, his associates, his campaign, and his business.

It also revealed criminal activities, some of which were committed by people in Trump’s orbit and, in the case of Michael Cohen’s campaign finance violation, on Trump’s behalf.

The investigation began before the president was elected and inaugurated. After Trump assumed the powers of the presidency, Mueller’s report shows that he used those powers to try to obstruct and impede the investigation.

Some excuse Trump’s conduct based on allegations of issues with the investigation, but no one disputes the appropriateness of investigating election interference, which included investigating contacts between the Trump campaign and people connected to the Russian government.

Some examples in Mueller’s report of the president’s obstructing and impeding the investigation include:
1. Trump asked the FBI director to stop investigating Michael Flynn, who had been his campaign adviser and national security adviser, and who had already committed a crime by lying to the FBI.

2. After AG Sessions recused himself from the Russian investigation on the advice of DoJ ethics lawyers, Trump directly asked Sessions to reverse his recusal so that he could retain control over the investigation and help the president.

3. Trump directed the White House counsel, Don McGahn, to have Special Counsel Mueller removed on the basis of pretextual conflicts of interest that Trump’s advisers had already told him were “ridiculous” and could not justify removing the special counsel.

4. When that event was publicly reported, Trump asked that McGahn make a public statement and create a false internal record stating that Trump had not asked him to fire the special counsel, and suggested that McGahn would be fired if he did not comply.

5. Trump asked Corey Lewandowski, his former campaign manager, to tell AG Sessions to limit the special counsel’s investigation only to future election interference. Trump said Lewandowski should tell Sessions he was fired if he would not meet with him.

6. Trump used his pardon power to influence his associates, including Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, not to fully cooperate with the investigation.
Trump, through his own statements-- such as complaining about people who "flip" and talk to investigators-- and through communications between his personal counsel and Manafort/Cohen, gave the impression that they would be pardoned if they did not fully cooperate with investigators.

Manafort ultimately breached an agreement to cooperate with investigators, and Cohen offered false testimony to Congress, including denying that the Trump Tower Moscow project had extended to June 2016 and that he and Trump had discussed traveling to Russia during the campaign.

Both men have been convicted for offering false information, and Manafort’s lack of cooperation left open some significant questions, such as why exactly he provided an associate in Ukraine with campaign polling data, which he expected to be shared with a Russian oligarch.

Some of the president’s actions were inherently corrupt. Other actions were corrupt-- and therefore impeachable-- because the president took them to serve his own interests.

And Amash wasn't the only Republican criticizing Trump. Former Governor Bill Weld (R-MA), Trump's GOP primary opponent mentioned that he celebrates "that America has always been a melting pot. It seems he would prefer an Aryan nation... a nation with no immigrants." And Aryan Nation? That has some pretty strong connotations.

Also yesterday, a third Republican, former Missouri Congressman Tom Coleman penned an OpEd for the Kansas City Star calling for Trump's and Pence's impeachment. Coleman served as Missouri's Assistant Attorney General from 1969 to 1972. He was then elected to the state House of Representatives and, when the district's Democratic congressman suddenly died, he flipped the district from blue to red in 1976 and served in Congress until 1993, becoming a lobbyist in a Republican firm after that. His OpEd doesn't sound like what any currently-serving Republican elected official would dare write.
According to the redacted Mueller report, candidate Donald Trump, along with members of his team, on multiple occasions welcomed Russian interference on his behalf during the 2016 presidential campaign. For example, the report details a meeting between the Trump campaign chairman and a Russian intelligence asset where polling information and campaign strategy were shared... the net effect was that the Trump campaign encouraged a foreign adversary to use and misrepresent stolen information on social media platforms to defraud U.S. voters. Because the presidency was won in this way, the president’s election victory brought forth nothing less than an illegitimate presidency.

What should be done now?

...Contemplate the possible behavioral problems of a Trump untethered from the law and who is frequently untethered from reality. Would we be surprised if he were to repeatedly brandish his get out of jail card while breaking, at will, democratic norms, presidential precedents and criminal statutes? Trump said early in his campaign that he “could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?” Are we now at that point?

Because DOJ regulations put a president above the law while in office, I believe the only viable option available is for the House of Representatives, under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, to open its own investigation, hold public hearings and then determine if they should pursue removal of the president through impeachment. There is a trove of evidence in the Mueller report indicating Trump has committed multiple impeachable offenses, including abuse of power and lying to the American public. Both were part of the articles of impeachment brought against President Richard Nixon. This process would allow a full public review of wrongdoing, while providing Americans an opportunity to obtain a better understanding of the consequences to our national security and the lingering threat to our democracy.

If this process leads to impeaching Trump in the House of Representatives and also results in convicting him in the Senate, his illegitimacy would survive through Vice President Mike Pence’s succession to the presidency. Because the misdeeds were conducted to assure the entire Trump-Pence ticket was elected, both former candidates-- Pence as well as Trump-- have been disgraced and discredited. To hand the presidency to an illegitimate vice president would be to approve and reward the wrongdoing while the lingering stench of corruption would trail any Pence administration, guaranteeing an untenable presidency. If Trump is impeached, then Pence should not be allowed to become president. The vice president should resign or be impeached as well if for no other reason that he has been the chief enabler for this illegitimate president.

...What if House Democrats decide not to embark on impeachment? If that were the case, I believe the public would conclude Democrats are no better than the Republicans who have enabled Trump for the past two years, putting party above country. It could hand Trump a second term. Failure to pursue impeachment is to condone wrongdoing. To condone wrongdoing is to encourage more of it. To encourage wrongdoing is to give up on the rule of law and our democracy. To give up on the rule of law and democracy invites autocracy and eventually dictatorship. History has taught us this outcome. In my lifetime, it has occurred in other places including the Soviet Union and Germany, as well as in Russia and Venezuela today.

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Tales From The Trumpanzee Swamp


Calk (left) with Swamp Monster (right)

As Bess Levin wrote yesterday for Vanity Fair, "scoring a presidential favor or a gig in the administration is fairly straightforward: simply kiss the ring and/or line Trump’s pockets. Last week, disgraced businessman Conrad Black received a coveted pardon, and all he had to do to get it was write a fawning book about Trump. William Barr was hired as Attorney General after sending an unsolicited letter to the Justice Department decrying Robert Mueller’s obstruction probe. Three Mar-a-Lago members are secretly running the V.A. for the low, low cost $200,000, and the same goes for handbag designer Lana Marks, who was nominated to be the U.S. ambassador to South Africa last November. A $20 million donation to Trump’s presidential campaign was a small price for Sheldon Adelson to pay considering it meant the president personally lobbied the Prime Minister of Japan to give his buddy a coveted $25 billion casino license."

If Trump campaign advisor Stephen Calk was unsuccessful in his attempt to bribe the Trump Regime, he is one of the few who failed that low bar. Yesterday, the Washington Post's Renae Merle and Rosalind Helderman reported that the Chicago bank CEO was indicted for approving $16 million in loans to Manafort in exchange for his help seeking a top post in the regime. Calk "illegally used the bank’s resources to curry favor with Manafort, ignoring internal standards and lying to regulators, according to the indictment unsealed in the Southern District of New York. Calk gave Manafort a list ranking the administrative jobs he wanted, starting with Treasury Secretary."

Calk, who contributed a mere $2,700 to the Trumpanzee campaign, was a realist though and wrote that if a cabinet position was too much of a stretch he would be fine being appointed ambassador to the U.K. And just in case that was also a stretch, he included 18 less prestigious ambassadorships that Trump was selling. Manafort got him an interview as the perspective Undersecretary of the Army but he didn't get the gig.
“Stephen M. Calk abused the power entrusted to him as the top official of a federally insured bank by approving millions of dollars in high-risk loans in an effort to secure a personal benefit,” Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement.

Manafort was not named in the indictment, but the description of the borrower in the court filing matches that of the former Trump campaign chairman.

The indictment is a reminder of the financial crush that was facing Manafort during the same months when he was working as Trump’s campaign chairman, a job he won in part by arguing to Trump that he was independently wealthy and thus able to work for free.

At Manafort’s trial last year, prosecutors presented evidence that he was swimming in debt while working for the campaign and struggling to juggle mortgages on several pricey properties.

According to Calk’s indictment, Manafort took a break from his duties running Trump’s campaign on July 27, 2016, to attend an initial meeting in New York with a loan officer to discuss a multimillion-dollar loan. Calk joined by video and, according to prosecutors, told Manafort he would be interested in work on Trump’s campaign. That same day in Florida, Trump asked at a news conference if Russia could locate deleted emails belong to his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Calk did not testify at Manafort’s 2018 trial for bank and tax fraud, but other officers from his bank took the stand to describe the unusual process by which the bank approved a loan for Manafort.

Manafort was convicted at trial and later pleaded guilty to additional charges, including acting as an unregistered foreign agent while working for a Ukrainian politician before joining Trump’s campaign.

Manafort is now serving a 7½-year prison sentence. He began cooperating with authorities after his guilty plea. Prosecutors have told a judge that he provided evidence both to the special counsel’s investigation and to matters being handled by other prosecutors. References to those other investigations have been redacted from documents filed so far in Manafort’s case, but it is likely that Manafort provided evidence in Calk’s case.

Transcripts show that during a bench conference at Manafort’s trial last year, prosecutor Greg Andres described Calk as a “co-conspirator” who faced possible “criminal liability.”

Calk faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of the charge of financial institution bribery.

In order of preference, these were the countries where Calk wrote the ambassadorship would be suitable for him:
The Holy See
How embarrassing for Switzerland and Austria! Manafort sent the list to Kushner-in-law (AKA- "Transition Official-1") with a note explaining that "Calk willingly risked his national professional and personal reputation as an active, vocal, early supporter of President-Elect Trump," and therefore should be rewarded. Makes sense, right? And, sure enough, Kushner replied "On it!" He didn't even ask, as far we we know, for a taste.

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European Elections Began Yesterday, End Sunday


They do NOT like being called Nazis

This morning Theresa May announced she will be resigning as Prime Minister on June 7th. She wasn't given any real choice-- just resign or be ousted. Meanwhile, there are 28 counties in the EU-- with around 350 million qualified voters for elections that began yesterday... in the U.K. and Holland. Voting ends Sunday. 751 seats in the European parliament are at stake-- and, of course, the direction of the EU itself. Trump/Putin-influenced neo-fascist groups across Europe are expected to make gains at the expense of mainstream parties, probably winning about a third of the seats. Example: in the U.K., Nigel Farage's far right party is expected to come in first-- largely at the expense of the Conservative Party, with is polling in 4th place, after the Brexit Party, Labour and the Lib-Dems. For the first time, parties that are critical and even opposed to the EU itself are going to have a real say in how it's run.

Are the Russians up to no good again? What do you think?

Avaaz founded over a decade ago (by, among others MoveOn Executive Director Eli Pariser and former Virginia congressman Tom Perriello), is a U.S.-based nonprofit that promotes global activism on climate change, human rights, corruption, poverty, conflict and election integrity. Avaaz's advocacy work to identify major networks of disinformation and get Facebook (and other social media platforms) to actually take these down has been surprisingly successful. They have identified networks that were intentionally using dangerous disinformation around the European elections and effectively got Facebook to take them down-- 77 pages and groups, 230 profiles removed or under investigation, 154 posts/links removed-- takedowns that already had over 5.9 million followers and over 13.3 million interactions in the last 3 months! And they were gearing up to take their disinformation to new heights before the European elections. Now they're down but it's only the tip of the ice berg-- a major tip and it was on the front page of The Guardian this week: Far-right Facebook groups 'spreading hate to millions in Europe'.
A web of far-right Facebook accounts spreading fake news and hate speech to millions of people across Europe has been uncovered by the campaign group Avaaz.

Facebook, which is struggling to clean up the platform and salvage its reputation, has already taken down accounts with about 6 million followers before voting in the European elections begins on Thursday. It was still investigating hundreds of other accounts with an additional 26 million followers, Avaaz said.

In total, the group reported more than 500 suspect groups and Facebook pages operating across France, Germany, Italy, the UK, Poland and Spain. Most were either spreading fake news or using false pages and profiles to artificially boost the content of parties or sites they supported, in violation of Facebook’s rules.

The networks were far more popular than the official pages of far-right and anti-EU populist groups in those countries. The pages taken down by Facebook so far had been viewed half a billion times, Avaaz estimated.

“The pages [uncovered by Avaaz] have high levels of interactions. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have if there are no interactions,” said Christoph Schott, the groups’s campaign director. “They have over 500 million views just on the pages taken down, that’s more than the number of voters in the EU.”

However, while some had been taken down, including a large network in Spain also uncovered by Avaaz, many had not.

Activity ranged from French accounts sharing white supremacist content, to posts in Germany supporting Holocaust denial, and false pages promoting the Alternative für Deutschland party (AfD) party.

In Italy, tactics included setting up general interest pages for beauty, football, health or other interests, then after followers signed up, transforming them into political tools.

The researchers traced how a page, ostensibly set up for an association of agricultural breeders, slowly morphed into one supporting the far-right League, sharing a video that purported to show migrants smashing up a police car. It is actually a scene from a film and has been repeatedly debunked.

The pages were not just targeted at upcoming elections, Schott said, but aimed to change politics by giving a false impression of grassroots support for their content.

“We feel [these networks] have a significant impact, they run disinformation campaigns that go on for years, for example, making a specific issue seem more important.”

The investigation was carried out by independent investigators and journalists hired by Avaaz after an online funding drive. More than 47,000 people donated small sums, making the project financially independent.

Facebook had followed up on the investigation, but at no point did the Avaaz team work with the social media firm, it said. Instead, it handed over its findings for Facebook to verify and take action, and investigations were still under way.

“We think Facebook did a good job so far of acting, but should have done a better job of detecting these pages,” Schott said. “They should do this themselves. We are around 30 people, they have over 30,000 in their safety and security team.”
And, yeah, there's a Facebook problem here too. Yesterday, Facebook released a report that claims that they "banned 2.19 billion fake accounts in the first quarter of 2019, up from 1.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2018." Facebook VP of Integrity, Guy Rosen: "The amount of accounts we took action on increased due to automated attacks by bad actors [плохие актеры] who attempt to create large volumes of accounts at one time."

Facebook estimates that 5% of its 2.4 billion monthly active users are fake accounts.

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Is Trump Going To Bomb The Shit Out Of Everyone?


A few days ago, Alex Kane wrote a post for In These Times, Here’s Exactly Who’s Profiting from the War on Yemen. As the poverty-stricken Yemenis and their children die, "U.S. arms merchants have grown rich." In one horrific bombing attack, "fragments of the bombs were documented by journalists and HRW with help from Mastaba villagers. An HRW munitions expert determined the bombs were 2,000-pound MK-84s, manufactured by General Dynamics. Based in Falls Church, Virginia, General Dynamics is the world’s sixth most profitable arms manufacturer. One of the bombs used a satellite guidance kit from Chicago-based Boeing, the world’s second-most profitable weapons company. The other bomb had a Paveway guidance system, made by either Raytheon of Waltham, Massachusetts., the third-largest arms company in the world, or Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Maryland, the world’s top weapons contractor. An In These Times analysis found that in the past decade, the State Department has approved at least $30.1 billion in Saudi military contracts for these four companies."

The war in Yemen has been particularly lucrative for General Dynamics, Boeing and Raytheon, which have received hundreds of millions of dollars in Saudi weapons deals. All three corporations have highlighted business with Saudi Arabia in their reports to shareholders. Since the war began in March 2015, General Dynamics’ stock price has risen from about $135 to $169 per share, Raytheon’s from about $108 to more than $180, and Boeing’s from about $150 to $360.

Lockheed Martin declined to comment for this story. A spokesman for Boeing said the company follows “guidance from the United States government,” while Raytheon replied, “You will need to contact the U.S. government.” General Dynamics did not respond to inquiries. The State Department declined to comment on the record.

The weapons contractors are correct on one point: They’re working hand-in-glove with the State Department. By law, the department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs must approve any arms sales by U.S. companies to foreign governments. U.S. law also prohibits sales to countries that indiscriminately kill civilians, as the Saudi-led military coalition bombing Yemen did in the Mastaba strike and many other documented cases. But ending sales to Saudi Arabia would cost the U.S. arms industry its biggest global customer, and to do so, Congress must cross an industry that pours millions into the campaigns of lawmakers of both parties.

...Saudi Arabia’s precision-guided munitions are responsible for the vast majority of deaths documented by human rights groups. In These Times found that, since 2009, Saudi Arabia has ordered more than 27,000 missiles worth at least $1.8 billion from Raytheon alone, plus 6,000 guided bombs from Boeing (worth about $332 million) and 1,300 cluster munitions from Rhode Island-based Textron (worth about $641 million).

About $650 million of those Raytheon orders and an estimated $103 million of the Boeing orders came after the Saudi war in Yemen began.

The ink was barely dry before $500 million of the deal was threatened by a bill, introduced by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) in May 2017, to block the sale of bombs to Saudi Arabia. In response, Boeing and Raytheon hired lobbying firms to make their case.

In the end, five Democrats-- Joe Donnelly (IN), Claire McCaskill (MO), Joe Manchin (WV), Bill Nelson (FL) and Mark Warner (VA)-- broke with their party to ensure arms sales continued, in a 53-47 vote. [Donnelly, McCaskill and Nelson were subsequently all defeated for reelection due to low-than-expected Democratic turnout in their races.] The five had collectively received tens of thousands in arms industry donations, and would receive another $148,032 in the next election cycle from the PACs and employees of Boeing and Raytheon. Nelson and McCaskill pulled in $44,308 and $57,230, respectively. Weapons firms are aided by a revolving door with the Trump administration. Then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a former General Dynamics board member, warned Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that the Rand Paul bill would be a boon for Iran. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan served as a senior vice president of Boeing prior to coming to the Defense Department, though it’s unclear whether he’s championed U.S.-Saudi arms deals.

...This spring, the Senate and House passed a bill championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) requiring the United States to stop giving the Saudi coalition intelligence and to prohibit the in-air refueling of Saudi warplanes. It was the first time in U.S. history that both chambers of Congress invoked the War Powers Act, designed to check the president’s war-making powers by requiring congressional authorization to deploy troops overseas. Trump vetoed the bill on April 16.
We asked Ro Khanna, who-- with Bernie Sanders-- put so much effort into getting Congres to pass bipartisan legislation to prevent Trump from doing exactly this, what he thought about this newest developments. This is what he said, in a written statement, last night:
Every bomb sold to Saudi Arabia is another bomb for Saudi bomber jets to drop on Yemeni hospitals, weddings, markets, and school buses. President Trump’s claim that selling weapons to Saudi Arabia constitutes an ‘emergency’ is a farcical attempt to obscure the shameful reality that ‘made in the U.S.A’ bombs are killing innocent civilians and fueling the world’s worst humanitarian crises in Yemen.

If this happens, the Trump admin. is resorting to the most desperate of measures out of concern they don’t have the votes in Congress to approve such arms sales. The historic passage of the bipartisan and bicameral Yemen War Powers Resolution highlights that congressional opposition to U.S. backing for the Saudi-led coalition’s barbaric war continues to grow.

Congress must seize every available opportunity to stop the delivery and transfer of bombs to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other coalition countries for their barbaric war in Yemen. Through this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, the Defense Appropriations bill, and other forms of legislation, I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress and with peace and humanitarian groups to stop bomb sales and end all forms of U.S. participation in this war.

And now what? Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) was speaking for many Democrats (and some Republicans) when he warned this week that the Trump Regime (Bolton) is considering a move to bypass Congress and push through the sale of bombs to Saudi Arabia by declaring a national security emergency. "I am hearing that Trump may use an obscure loophole in the Arms Control Act and notice a major new sale of bombs to Saudi Arabia (the ones they drop in Yemen) in a way that will prevent Congress from objecting. Arms control law allows Congress to reject a sale to a foreign country. But Trump would claim the sale constitutes an ‘emergency’ which means Congress can't take a vote of disapproval. It would go through automatically."

Jim Himes (D-CT) is a senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on Strategic Technologies and Advanced Research. He's closely allied with Murphy and he told me yesterday that "By any standard, the Saudi-led war on Yemen is a moral disgrace. Congress spoke loud and clear on the matter and despite his veto, the President would be wise not to thumb his nose at the Congress or at basic standards of decency."

Directly across the Long Island Sound from Murphy's and Himes' constituencies, Tom Suozzi is the congressman for most of northern Long Island. He was revolted by the same things Murphy was warning about. "Awful," he told me this morning. "There is an unmitigated humanitarian disaster of epic proportions taking place in Yemen. We should not be supplying weapons to the Saudi’s to make things worse. More important, the president cannot act as though he is a sole proprietor who can act based upon his sole discretion. He is the chief executive of a nation governed by a constitution that requires him to work with the Congress in matters involving federal funds (which is just about everything) and actions that involve war powers."

Himes and Suozzi are both New Dems and both Pelosi supporters. But I get the feeling that little by little, their support for her "no impeachment diktat" is beginning to crumble. If she loses backers like Tom Suozzi and Jim Himes, she's on her own with Steny Hoyer, a bunch of Californians and Hakeem Jeffries.

Mike Siegel is running for Congress in gerrymandered district that goes from Austin the the Houston exurbs. The incumbent is Trump rubber stamp Michael McCaul, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Relations Committee-- and Trump's partner in enabling the genocide in Yemen. Since first being elected, McCaul has taken $478,100 from weapons makers. This cycle alone, McCaul has already taken $128,000 from arms manufacturers. He backs all of Trump's worst policies. Siegel, who came close to defeating him in 2018 pointed out that "Trump's threat to ignore Congress and facilitate the continuing massacre in Yemen is unconscionable and unconstitutional. I pray that Republicans and Democrats alike will take decisive action to ensure that the United States is not aiding and abetting war crimes."

Since 2012 Northrop Grumman has spent $32,163,165 bribing members of Congress with legalistic campaign contributions. Last cycle, the top recipients in the House (among those still saving in Congress) were:
Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD)- $42,010
Don Beyer (New Dem-VA)- $30,850
Adam Smith (New Dem-WA)- $25,400
Jim Langevin (D-RI)- $23,800
Steve Scalise (R-LA)- $23,475
Devin Nunes (R-CA)- $22,004
Matha Roby (R-AL)- $22,000
Mac Thornberry (R-TX)- $21,400
Pete Aguilar (New Dem-CA)- $20,042
Boeing has spent nearly the same amount on legalistic congressional bribes-- $32,578,312 since 2012. And this past cycle the top recipients in the House were:
Adam Smith (New Dem-WA)- $31,250
Kim Schrier (New Dem-WA)- $27,690
Debbie Dingell (D-MI)- $17,900
Ann Wagner (R-MO)- $17,025
Martha Roby (R-AL)- $15,500
Vicky Harzler (R-MO)- $15,400
John Katko (R-NY)- $15,400
Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO)- $15,400
Since 2012 Lockheed Martin's congressional bribery bill has been more: $39,683,044. Top recipients in the House last cycle were:
Kay Granger (R-TX)- $131,940
Pete Visclosky (New Dem-IN)- $49,800
Roger Williams (R-TX)- $20,400
John Carter (R-TX)- $17,500
Marc Veasey (New Dem-TX)- $17,500
Steve Scalise (R-LA)- $17,000
John Larson (D-CT)- $16,200
Martha Roby (R-AL)- $15,000
Congressional bribes from General Dynamics since 2012 amounted to $23,530,163. Top recipients among House members:
Jim Langevin (D-RI)- $41,000
Joe Courtney (New Dem-CT)- $35,400
Adam Smith (New Dem-WA)- $20,700
Ken Calvert (R-CA)- $16,800
Pete Visclosky (New Dem-IN)- $16,000
Tom Graves (R-GA)- $15,400
Martha Roby (R-AL)- $15,000
Last, but not least, comes Raytheon, which spent $26,268,302 in congressional bribes since 2012. Last cycle, their biggest recipients in the House were:
Mac Thornberry (R-TX)- $36,900
Richard Neal (R-MA)- $31,650
Martha Roby (R-TX)- $16,700
Pete Visclosky (New Dem-IN)- $13,700
Jim Langevin (D-RI)- $13,250
Tom O'Halleran (Blue Dog-AZ)- $13,010
Seth Moulton (New Dem-MA)- $12,720

UPDATE: Murphy Was Right!

Disregarding the Constitution, Trump invoked a nonsensical "emergency" to sell billions of dollars of advanced weapons to the Saudis and the Emeratis. According to CNN, Pompeo formally told lawmakers Friday of the administration's plans. The overwhelming response on Capitol Hill was anger. "Once again the Trump Administration is subverting the constitutional authority of Congress," Ted Lieu told me today. "An overwhelming bipartisan bicameral message was sent that Congress opposes further U.S. support of the Saudi coalition in the war in Yemen. This includes the sale of munitions to be used in that conflict. Congress has a legitimate role to play in approving foreign arms sales-- and now the Trump Administration seeks to override Congress and sell advanced weapons to Saudi Arabia anyway."

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Problem Solver Donald Trump And His Blue Dog/New Dem Allies Play The Blame Game... Poorly


Trump ally Marc Penn owns and operates the ridiculous Problem Solvers Caucus, ostensibly run by Congress' most far right Democrat, Josh Gottheimer (Blue Dog-NJ) and Trump rubber-stamp Tom Reed (R-NY). Although the Cuacus is supposed to be equally divided between the two parties, most of the Republican members were defeated in 2018 and lots of corrupt conservative Democrats were elected who insisted on joining. This is the current roster:
Sanford Bishop (Blue Dog-GA)
Anthony Brindisi (Blue Dog-NY)
Julia Brownley (New Dem-CA)
Salud Carbajal (New Dem-CA)
Tony Cardenas (New Dem-CA)
André Carson (New Dem-IN)
Earl Carter (R-GA)
Jim Cooper (Blue Dog-TN)
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)
Charlie Crist (Blue Dog-FL)
Joe Cunningham (Blue Dog-SC)
Debbie Dingell (D-MI)
Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA)
Mike Gallagher (R-WI)
Vicente González (Blue Dog-TX)
Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon (R-Puerto Rico)
Josh Gottheimer (Blue Dog-NJ), co-chair
Dusty Johnson (R-SD)
David Joyce (R-OH)
John Katko (R-NY)
Derek Kilmer (New Dem-WA)
Peter King (R-NY)
Adam Kinzinger (R-IL)
Susie Lee (New Dem-NV)
Dan Lipinski (Blue Dog-IL)
Dan Meuser (R-PA)
Stephanie Murphy (Blue Dog-FL)
Eleanor Norton (D-D.C.)
Tom O'Halleran (Blue Dog-AZ)
Jimmy Panetta (New Dem-CA)
Scott Peters (New Dem-CA)
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)
Dean Phillips (New Dem-MN)
Tom Reed (R-NY), co-chair
Max Rose (Blue Dog-NY)
Bradley Schneider (Blue Dog-IL)
Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR)
Lloyd Smucker (R-PA)
Darren Soto (New Dem-OR)
Abigail Spanberger (Blue Dog-VA)
Tom Suozzi (New Dem-NY)
Glenn Thompson (R-PA)
Fred Upton (R-MI)
Jeff Van Drew (Blue Dog-NJ)
Steve Watkins (R-KS)
Peter Welch (D-VT)
Why bother listing all those assholes? If you've heard any of them-- or at least any iff the New Dems and Blue Dogs-- discussing why they don't want to impeach Señor Trumpanzee, you probably noticed a common thread. Some examples: Staten Island Blue Dog Max Rose: "Then they should warm to the idea of going back to the minority. Right now we’re in this incredibly childish game of impeachment chicken, and everyone has to start acting like adults... let’s go back to actually doing the work of the American people that they sent us here to do." New Jersey Blue Dog Jefferson Van Drew: "If there really isn’t something significant enough there to impeach-- which I don’t think there is at this point-- then let’s move on and get the work of the people done." A Problem Solvers Caucus ally, Michigan New Dem Elissa Slotkin: "The thing that I’m concerned about is that we constantly risk losing focus on the legislation that affirmatively helps people’s lives, not going in the right direction right now."

Two Problem Solvers: Josh Gottheimer with Trump

And that Problem Solver lingo about doing the job the people sent us to DC to do... look who else is using it: Mr. Problem Solver himself. Team Chuck Todd: The owner of Washington gridlock, Señor Trumpanzee, tweeted this to his drooling followers Thursday morning: "The Democrats are getting nothing done in Congress. All of their effort is about a Re-Do of the Mueller Report, which didn’t turn out the way they wanted. It is not possible for them to investigate and legislate at the same time. Their heart is not into Infrastructure, lower... drug prices, pre-existing conditions and our great Vets. All they are geared up to do, six committees, is squander time, day after day, trying to find anything which will be bad for me. A pure fishing expedition like this never happened before, & it should never happen again!" A couple of hours later, he was back with the same false narrative: "When the Democrats in Congress refinish, for the 5th time, their Fake work on their very disappointing Mueller Report finding, they will have the time to get the REAL work of the people done. Move quickly!"

What a coincidence-- the Blue Dogs, New Dems and the rest of the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, pushing the same phony-baloney excuse for dropping the inconvenient impeachment investigation of the worst criminal to ever occupy the White House. The Problem Solvers should be very proud. CNN's Stephen Collinson pointed out that Trump "is doing what he always does when he's in a dark political corner: fight harder than any man alive, adopting a relentless strategy of total political warfare and lashing out in a way that may ultimately be self-defeating." He ran to the TV cameras with his grievances about how unfair it all is to him, complaining "about taking hits from the courts, from Democrats, from the press, from enemies old and new. He bemoaned the treatment of his son, Don Jr., who he said was a 'good young man who's gone through hell.'... Trump's Wednesday walkout marked a clear strategic shift. He's decided that as long as he's under investigation, his hopes of finding any common ground with Democrats on issues that could help both sides in 2020 are a busted flush."
"You can go down the investigation track, and you can go down ... the track of let's get things done for the American people," he said.

"We're going to go down one track at a time. Let them finish up," Trump said, adopting an absolutist position that could strip his legacy of badly needed domestic achievements.

By Thursday morning, the President was trying to spin the stalemate to his advantage, painting Democrats as uncooperative on issues important to Americans including health care, infrastructure and high prescription drugs prices.

"All they are geared up to do, six committees, is squander time, day after day, trying to find anything which will be bad for me," Trump tweeted.

"The Democrats have become known as THE DO NOTHING PARTY!"

Trump's strategy of torching a meeting, turning on his heel and raising the stakes is familiar from his life as a real estate magnate. But there is increasing evidence that walking away from the table doesn't work as well for a President as it can for businessmen.

He tried it with North Korea, and the Stalinist state still has its nuclear weapons. He did it with China, and a trade war is deepening. A previous walkout also killed off a nascent immigration deal with Democrats that could have funded his border wall, the centerpiece of his 2016 campaign.

"To watch what happened in the White House would make your jaw drop," said another old Trump foe, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, twisting the knife.

...In theory, it is possible for a President who is under scrutiny from a hostile Congress to still get things done. Bill Clinton proved that in the 1990s even as he was impeached.

"The President is, frankly, taking a position that no other president in history has ever taken, which is that somehow if you are being investigated by the Congress you can't do anything else," said Clinton's former chief of staff Leon Panetta.

"Bill Clinton did not always agree with what Speaker (Newt) Gingrich's Republicans were doing in the House. But at the same time, he was working with Speaker Gingrich on getting legislation passed," Panetta told CNN's Jake Tapper.

But Trump lacks Clinton's supernatural capacity to compartmentalize bad news. The current President showed Wednesday that he's driven by emotion and grievance. And he's just being true to himself in responding to perceived insults by striking back hard.

The result of Wednesday's angry exchange is a Washington facing the prospect of a prolonged period of complete breakdown between the Congress and the White House.

Infrastructure reform may always have been a pipe dream. It's been a consistent punchline after multiple failed efforts during the Trump administration. But there is crucial business that Democrats and the President need to get done. If they don't, there could be grave economic and even global reverberations.

On Tuesday, hope rose in Washington for a budget deal that would stave off $120 billion in automatic cuts, head off a fiscal cliff over raising the debt ceiling and set spending levels for two years.

But it's not clear whether such an agreement between House and Senate Republicans and Democrats and the White House would survive Trump's refusal to stop working with Democrats until they stop investigating him.

And the President's aspirations of finally passing his replacement deal with Canada and Mexico for the North American Free Trade Agreement-- a plank of his 2020 reelection platform-- could also fizzle in a prolonged estrangement between the White House and the Democrats on Capitol Hill.
Now watch Maddow as she skillfully and dramatically put all this into some historical context omg Wednesday night:

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