Monday, April 30, 2018

Can A Democrat Defeat Devin Nunes?


Alas, it looks likely that the $1,390,505 Andrew Janz has managed to generate in anti-Nunes contributions may power him into Congress. Why "alas?" Janz is a dreadful candidate who will undoubtably make a dreadful member of Congress. How do I know? I spoke to him right after he declared he's running-- before he rented any Beltway consultants who taught him how to speak like a Democrat. How he, more or less, speaks like a Democrat. But when I spoke with him, he didn't. When I asked him if he supports single payer healthcare he didn't know what it is. I said, Medicare for All and he got snippy... "Can I just tell you what is motivating me to run?," he asked. Sure, I said. He had two motivations, he volunteered. One was to make sure the death penalty was used more frequently. The other was to protect the Second Amendment. I thought he might be joking around. He wasn't. He said Valley Democrats aren't like you people on the coasts. Oy!

While I was regaining my equilibrium, I asked him a real softball-- if there were any members of Congress he admires and would like to work with on legislation. He had an instant reply: Jim Costa, another Valley Democrat. Costa's voting record is the worst of any Democrat in California. He's an especially wretched Blue Dog who ProgressivePunch has not just rated an "F," but whose 2018 crucial vote score (32.97) is actually worse than some Republicans' scores.The next worst Democrats' scores are Blue Dog Lou Correa (51.02) and New Dem Scott Peters (52.58). At least those two reactionaries vote with the Democrats around half the time-- unlike Costa.

Goal ThermometerWill Janz be a better member of Congress than Nunes? Of corse he will-- just like Costa is. But on almost two-thirds of votes he's likely to be exactly as bad as Nunes. And Janz-- like Costa-- will be able to do something Nunes never can: drag the Democratic caucus further to the right in everything it does. He'll be shitting on the party brand at every opportunity, confusing voters and people who have given up on voting at all. And-- for the sake of the primary-- there happens to be a better, a much better, candidate running for the Nunes seat, Ricardo Franco. He's an actual progressive who would make a stellar member of Congress. Right now Nunes has a campaign warchest of $4,535,099, to Janz's $612,273 and Franco's $2,188.

If anything defeats Nunes, it will be his disgraceful involvement in covering up for Trump. Yesterday Jim Comey dismissed the findings of Nunes' absurd report purporting to have found no evidence Señor Trumpanzee's campaign colluded with Russians. On Meet The Press Sunday, Comey referred to Nunes' report as "a political document... That is not my understanding of what the facts were before I left the FBI and I think the most important piece of work is the one the special counsel's doing now." Comey pointed out that Nunes and his work "wrecked the committee, and it damaged relationships with the FISA Court, the intelligence communities. It's just a wreck."
Nunes has transformed the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence into "a beachhead" to gather support for President Donald Trump against his enemies, according to an article published this week in the New York Times Magazine.

Written by contributor Jason Zengerle, "How Devin Nunes Turned The House Committee Inside Out" looks at the Tulare Republican's rise from Central Valley farming roots to leading one of the nation's most powerful congressional oversight bodies.

Zengerle writes how Nunes' close ties to Trump were forged after an August 2016 fundraiser the then-presidential candidate held in Tulare, "cementing a political alliance that would have become one of the most consequential of the Trump era."

According to the article, after the election Nunes and Trump had discussed the possibility of him becoming director of national intelligence, overseeing a reorganization of the intelligence community.

However, Trump's circle saw Nunes as more valuable in Congress leading the Intelligence Committee.

"Some 17 months later, that looks to have been a remarkably prescient decision-- as Trump appears to have been able to influence Nunes to a remarkable degree. So much so that during Trump's time in the White House, Nunes has transformed the Intelligence Committee into a beachhead from which to rally his fellow Republicans in support of the president against his perceived enemies-- not just the Democratic Party but also the FBI, the Department of Justice and the entire intelligence community."

Zengerle also wrote Nunes has begun "laying the groundwork" to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into whether there was collusion between Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia before Mueller's report is completed.

The article mentions how Nunes earlier this year pushed for the release of a memo he wrote that describes alleged Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice bias against Trump during an investigation of his campaign.

Additionally, Republicans on the Intelligence Committee in March concluded there was no collusion or coordination between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia.

In the article, Nunes spokesman Jack Langer responded by saying the facts sent by the New York Times Magazine to check for the piece are "filled with laughable fictional stories and some entertaining conspiracy theories" that "are great examples of why so few people trust theNew York Times anymore."
So what paper does Nunes trust? Certainly not the biggest newspaper in his own district, the Fresno Bee. A few days later, it pointed out that Nunes is in jeopardy of losing his reelection bid. Yes, even to as crappy a candidate as Janz. CA-22, which goes from Clovis and Fresno and it's northern and eastern suburbs down through Dinuba and Visalia past Tulare, has a PVI of R+8. Obama lost both times he ran and Trump beat Hillary 52.1% to 42.6%. That's off for a district where just 41.9 of the population is white. Perhaps someone will persuade the DCCC about the efficacy of voter registration someday. Opps... no-one will since the corrupt staffers who run the DCCC haven't figured out how to line their own pockets with voter registration drives. The Fresno Bee was informing its readers that Nunes' district, CA-22, had been downgraded by Sabato's Crystal Ball from safe Republican to likely Republican.

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A Progressive Candidate for San Diego District Attorney… And She Can Win


Geneviéve Jones-Wright

by RNK and RJP

This year San Diego Democrats have reason to cheer. We have an extraordinary Democrat running for District Attorney: Geneviéve Jones-Wright, who has been serving since 2006 as a Deputy Public Defender, will bring a fresh and welcome perspective to the District Attorney’s office.

A native of San Diego, first generation college student and graduate of Howard University School of Law, Jones-Wright has inspired audiences with her natural charisma and passionate advocacy for groups long neglected by San Diego’s political establishment. See her in action speaking out against criminalization of homelessness, insisting that we cannot "arrest our way out" of this problem. She has also boldly criticized police brutality and reached out to youth in our county who have been subjected to unjust and excess force. Finally, her criticism of mass incarceration as both "expensive" and "inhumane," and her advocacy of a criminal justice system "informed by scientific research into the human condition," has won her the support of activist Shaun King’s Real Justice PAC. Viewing district attorneys as the "gatekeepers of America’s justice system" Real Justice aims to elect progressive individuals like Jones-Wright as a means of reforming our criminal justice system from the ground up.

Jones-Wright can win: San Diego is no longer the "moderate" Republican stronghold that it was twenty-five years ago, when a clique of developers and other provincial conservatives controlled city politics without much opposition. Although progressive Bob Filner’s eventual resignation as mayor under a dark cloud of sexual harassment was a blow to the city’s progressive movement and Democratic Party, his 2012 election demonstrated just how much San Diego politics had changed. Even the more conservative county has lately been moving in a progressive direction.

Still, Jones-Wright faces an uphill struggle and needs all the support she can muster. San Diego’s last elected District Attorney-- scandal-plagued, Republican Bonnie Dumanis-- resigned her office in order to run for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. However, she cleverly appointed the person who is currently running as her replacement. In other words, the Republican candidate for District Attorney, though never elected, will be able to run as the incumbent in the June election. That will give her a big advantage. If the Republican wins it will be business as usual. Poor San Diegans, and black and brown San Diegans will remain marginalized or worse, and that will be unfortunate for the county as a whole.

Not only will Jones-Wright be a wonderful District Attorney; she also has the talent, passion and moral vision to play a major role in California’s progressive movement for years to come. She needs all the help she can get.

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Right After Halloween Trump Will Come Back To Haunt Republican Candidates Everywhere


Republican strategists are counting on this to defeat Democrats

Yesterday, a group of Jess King allies in Pennsylvania, People’s Action, sent out an e-mail reminding their supporters that "We live in a populist moment. More and more Americans understand that the economy has been rigged against them. They know that our politics has been corrupted by big money. Rural and small town America have taken some of the hardest hits. Jobs lost, plants closed, water fouled, family farms crushed, the relentless spread of the afflictions of despair-- divorce, suicide, depression, addiction. Trump and the Republicans consolidated their hold on these regions with race-bait politics. They blame 'those people'-- blacks, Latinx, immigrants, 'limousine liberals'-- for what has been lost."

And now Trump and a GOP with its head planted firmly up his ass will pay the piper. And Trump doesn't have a clue he's leading his party towards the gates of hell. As the NY Times put it on Saturday, Trumpanzee "is privately rejecting the growing consensus among Republican leaders that they may lose the House and possibly the Senate in November, leaving party officials and the president’s advisers nervous that he does not grasp the gravity of the threat they face in the midterm elections. Congressional and party leaders and even some Trump aides are concerned that the president’s boundless self-assurance about politics will cause him to ignore or undermine their midterm strategy. In battleground states like Arizona, Florida and Nevada, Mr. Trump’s proclivity to be a loose cannon could endanger the Republican incumbents and challengers who are already facing ferocious Democratic headwinds. Republicans in Washington and Trump aides have largely given up assuming the president will ever stick to a teleprompter, but they have joined together to impress upon him just how bruising this November could be for Republicans-- and how high the stakes are for Mr. Trump personally, given that a Democratic-controlled Congress could pursue aggressive investigations and even impeachment."

And it isn't just in the richer, whiter, better educated suburban seats that Hillary managed to do well in and was the theory behind DCCC 2018 strategy where Democrats look like winners this cycle. Democrats are even competitive in rural districts now. Thanks to Trump, Democratic candidates came very close in rural districts in South Carolina, Kansas and Arizona and actually won in Pennsylvania-- districts the DCCC wasn't even looking at (as they wasted tens of millions off dollars in an Atlanta suburban district on a Hillary-like status quo candidate).

Last week, in an interview he did with The Economist Rubio admitted that the Republican tax scam isn’t helping American workers like his party promised it would. "There is still a lot of thinking on the right that if big corporations are happy, they’re going to take the money they’re saving and reinvest it in American workers. In fact they bought back shares, a few gave out bonuses; there’s no evidence whatsoever that the money’s been massively poured back into the American worker." You think Trumpanzee would ever/could ever admit that?

That Trump refuses to accept reality will help Democratic candidates far, far more than the bungling DCCC ever will. The 2018 midterms will be a referendum on Trump-- and everyone knows it. Trump seems to think that the only voters will be the racists and gullible morons who were cheering for him at his campaign rally at Total Sports Park in Washington, an all-white suburb north of Detroit, Saturday. His prediction about bringing people "crystal clean water" was as likely as his prediction that "We're going to win the House."

New York Magazine's Benjamin Hart had his finger right on the heart of the GOP's problem: Trump’s Reality Distortion Field. "One of President Trump’s most bedrock character traits," he wrote, "is his refusal to truly reckon with any piece of information that reflects poorly on him. This self-aggrandizing, reality-denying flavor of egotism has defined Trump for decades, through his roller-coaster business career and into political life. In recent months, it has sometimes veered into the straight-up delusional, as when he reportedly claimed last year that it wasn’t actually his voice on the Access Hollywood tape." And now it's catching up with him Señor Trumpanzee's "unwavering confidence may finally be about to take a serious electoral toll." What makes it worse is that his pollster, Brad Parscale, "is feeding him inaccurate, Trump-friendly poll numbers."
In election after election over the last year and a half, Democrats have vastly overperformed their expected vote share, largely thanks to animus toward the president. They have triumphed in a Pennsylvania Congressional district where Trump won by more than 20 points, picked up a Senate seat in ruby-red Alabama, dominated state races in Virginia, and made close several contests that almost certainly would have been Republican landslides in previous years.

...Why does this matter? Most presidents, even if they claim not to be obsessed with polls the way Trump is, have a pretty good idea of their own political currency, and adjust their alignment with their parties accordingly. Sometimes, presidents realize that they are not welcome by members of their own party in certain areas; for example, a then-struggling Barack Obama avoided red states in 2014, and George W. Bush was not always welcomed with open arms on the stump, even in Republican-friendly districts, circa 2006.

Something different is going on this time around. President Trump remains enormously popular within the Republican Party; most Republican members of Congress have made the calculation that even if Trump is underwater in their state, defying the president would be a political loser, since it leave them without any reliable constituency.

The problem is not only that Trump refuses to believe that Republicans will lose, but that, even if he were sufficiently worried, he doesn’t care enough about his own party to bother helping. He is connected enough to the GOP that he sees it as an extension of his own electoral prowess, but not so connected that he will muster the focus and energy needed to boost candidates who aren’t him. (Granted, this may be impossible for him on a cellular level.)

Establishment Republicans reportedly want Trump to flog the GOP’s unpopular tax law on the campaign trail. The president is pushing back on this directive-- which he is right to do, since the unpopular law probably isn’t galvanizing anyone to vote.

But the president’s own, predictably unpredictable routine is unlikely to work much better. He might attack vulnerable Republican Senators he disagrees with; he might serve more as a distraction than a cheerleader, the way he did when he suddenly started complaining about Colin Kaepernick at a campaign rally for Luther Strange in Alabama; he might just ramble about himself. In other words, he’ll put on the Trump show, which is the only thing he knows how to do.

This routine won’t turn off voters who already love the president. But it’s more likely to spark another Trump news cycle than rally much-needed enthusiasm for Republican candidates.

...Republicans seem to have grasped the lesson that Trump needs to be personally invested in their election results. They are trying to make the stakes of the election startlingly personal, reportedly telling Trump that if he doesn’t help them out this fall, they may not have his back if and when Democrats initiate impeachment proceedings next year. That stark warning may perk Trump’s ears up, but it’s just as likely to be perceived as an unacceptable intramural threat, not as motivation to work for the party.

However Trump performs on the campaign trail, and however Republicans fare this fall, the president will continue living in a bubble of his own making. Because Trump was right to dismiss the concerns of the many, many people who insisted he couldn’t win in 2016, he can now perennially point to that shocking election result as proof that his instincts, not some politico egghead’s, are always correct. And if Republicans lose big this year, he’ll just say they didn’t stick by him closely enough.
This is a recipe for gigantic-- perhaps unprecedented (at least in our lifetimes)-- GOP disaster, one that will fail to take advantage of the serial DCCC incompetence that has worked for them over and over for longer than a decade. The DCCC isn't doing anything different than what has lost them dozens and dozens of seats in Congress-- but now the GOP is burdened with Trump, hanging like an insistent, flapping, snapping albatross around their collective necks.

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Our Communities Are Scaled and Built for a Climate That No Longer Exists


"Landslides forced the closure of Kuhio Highway from the area north of Hanalei known as Waikoko to the end of the road at Haena. That left residents and tourists stranded with no way in or out... This home was in the path of one of those slides in Wainiha" (source).

by Gaius Publius

This is your periodic reminder that:
  • The global warming wolf is already at the door, and
  • The people who rule this world will never drive him away.
Which means:
  • People who want to fix this problem will have to use force. That's just a fact.
If you remember nothing else from this piece, remember this. Force them to fix it or remove their control — those are the only choices for strong, effective climate action, and given the state of our government, wholly captured by wealth and its interests, those two options are the same.

We can despair or take control. Those are the choices. It's going to take force to fix this.

The Global Warming Wolf Is at the Door

Kauai is one of the wettest islands in the Hawaiian Island chain. Its residents have experienced devastating hurricanes, but nothing like the torrent of rain that fell last April 14 and 15.

From the LA Times (emphasis added):
Since the 1940s, the Hawaiian island of Kauai has endured two tsunamis and two hurricanes, but locals say they have never experienced anything like the thunderstorm that drenched the island this month.

"The rain gauge in Hanalei broke at 28 inches within 24 hours," said state Rep. Nadine Nakamura of the North Shore community. "In a neighboring valley, their rain gauge showed 44 inches within 24 hours. It's off the charts."

Actually, it was even worse. This week the National Weather Service said nearly 50 inches of rain fell in 24 hours.

Now, as Kauai continues to recover, scientists warn that this deluge on April 14 and 15 was something new — the first major storm in Hawaii linked to climate change.

"The flooding on Kauai is consistent with an extreme rainfall that comes with a warmer atmosphere," said Chip Fletcher, a leading expert on the impact of climate change on Pacific island communities.
According to Kawika Winter, a natural resource manager, "This is the most severe rain event [in Hawaii] that we know about since records started being kept in 1905.... Climate change is affecting us, and has been for some time. There are striking similarities with the flooding that we experienced on Kauai and the recent flooding in California. The warmer atmosphere is holding more moisture and that builds up until it meets with cold dry air, creating this massive unstable system, which causes what some meteorologists are now referring to as a 'rain bomb.'"

As Chip Fletcher, a professor at the University of Hawaii, put it, "Just recognize that we're moving into a new climate, and our communities are scaled and built for a climate that no longer exists."

Meanwhile, Atmospheric CO2 Is Now Above 410 ppm

The climate organization was founded in 2007, when the goal was to reduce atmospheric CO2 from 385 ppm to 350 ppm, a target already well above the range of atmospheric CO2 for the last 5 million years.

Since the founding of 350org, atmospheric CO2 touched 400 ppm in 2013 and breached it solidly in 2014. Last year, atmospheric CO2 touched 410 ppm and this year will breach it solidly. Note in the animation below, CO2 reaches its peak in May. This year, CO2 reached 410 ppm in March, with May still two months ahead.

Note also that this is average monthly data. The weekly averages are much worse. According to NOAA, in the week beginning April 22 the weekly average was 411.68, with one daily average spiking above 412.

The increase is relentless, and if you do the math, it appears to be accelerating. In 2015, the Scripps Institute at UCSD wrote (emphasis mine):
The rate of growth in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere has accelerated since the beginnings of the Keeling Curve. The rate has gone from about 0.75 parts per million (ppm)/yr in 1959 to about 2.25ppm/yr today.
That was written in 2015. The recent increase in CO2 from 400 ppm to 410 ppm, which occurred between 2014 and 2018, took just 4 years, at a rate of 2.50 ppm/year. This is already significantly higher than the rate of 2.25 ppm/year noted by the Scripps Institute in 2015. For comparison, consider that the rate of increase in 1959 was just 0.75 ppm/year.

It's Going to Take Force

If there's any hope at all, it's going to take force to fix this problem. Mayer Hillman, an 86-year-old fellow emeritus of the Policy Studies Institute, and a man renowned for his forward-looking prescriptions, has famously said, in effect, it's over.

Why does he say that? “Standing in the way is capitalism. Can you imagine the global airline industry being dismantled when hundreds of new runways are being built right now all over the world? It’s almost as if we’re deliberately attempting to defy nature. We’re doing the reverse of what we should be doing, with everybody’s silent acquiescence, and nobody’s batting an eyelid.”

It's true that many are complacent, and true as well that a strong structural force stands in the way (in my view, the pathological greed of the very very rich). But unlike Hillman, I see a clash of forces on the horizon, not no action at all.

Today, people are either complacent ("We have time; the next generation will help out") or resigned ("It's not bad now, so nobody's doing anything"). What happens when it gets "bad now"? What happens when this generation realizes it's paying the price today, with this generation's money and this generation's lives? What happens when this war "comes home," as the other one will as well?

What happens when, in Vietnam Era terms, the whole of a generation is directly affected by the self-serving policy of its elites, and the bodies of the victims pile higher and higher? As that era taught us, complacency turns quickly to anger and conflict.

Now consider what happens when the generation affected is global, encompassing everyone alive? Expect a battle that will enter the books as the greatest global war ever fought.

Now Is the Time. Non-Violence Is the Way.

As we move forward, my suggestion is this. If you're among those who haven't given up, start that battle now, and wage it non violently. Let the violence of the wealthy and their governments remove the last veil of legitimacy from their actions, and let your non-violence entice their enemies to join you. If both sides' combatants are violent, the ensuing chaos will make any further solution completely impossible. In this conflict, when violence erupts on all sides, it truly is Game Over.

Some global warming cannot now be prevented; too much is "baked in" already for a return to Holocene days, when a predictable human-friendly climate arrived, after hundreds of thousands of years, to give us agriculture and the iPhone. Much of the gift of that climate is going to be lost forever.

But not all of it. With effective applications of force, global warming can be made to stop at a far friendlier place than it otherwise would if carbon emissions are allowed to continue unchecked.

After all, we'll either stop or be stopped. The natural stopping place for human-caused global warming, sans deliberate intervention, is after our species is either pre-industrial ... or extinct. That's not a friendly place at all.


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Why The DCCC Always Fails-- And How They Can Turn The Beat Around


If Pelosi, Hoyer, Ben Ray Lujan, Dan Cena and Jason Bresler read one piece of journalism this month, it should be this piece by Daniel Marans at HuffPo: Paul Ryan’s Exit Is A Reminder That Democrats Always Need Good Candidates. Marans introduced the good news by pointing out that "they" already have one. "They" do, but who is "they?" It sure ain't the DCCC. It's the people of southeast Wisconsin's first district. It's the people of Wisconsin. It's the labor movement. It's America's veterans. It's every single working family in this country. [You can contribute to Randy "IronStache" Bryce here.]

The DCCC had as much to do with recruiting (or nurturing) Randy Bryce as they did with creating (or nurturing) the Blue Wave. And that would be zero. No... less than zero-- less than zero for Bryce and less than zero for the Blue Wave. Instead the DCCC recruits and nurtures bags of shit they insist are the only candidates who can win-- the only ones.

The DCCC's candidates couldn't win-- and haven't for over a decade-- without the wave that Trump is creating. It's as if they are out scouring the land from coast to coast looking for the worst possible candidates they can find-- Jeff Van Drew in New Jersey, Jason Crow in Colorado, Gil Cisneros in Orange County, Susie Lee in Nevada, Ann Kirkpatrick in Arizona, Brad Ashford in Nebraska, and Anthony Brindisi and Juanita Perez Williams in New York... to name a few that just pop into one's mind with no effort at all.

Reminder-- Democrats in most of these districts voted for Bernie, not Hillary in the 2016 primaries... so the DCCC is taking it into their own hands to force status quo, establishment garbage candidates on the districts. Last time the Democratic establishment made something like that happen... we wound up with Trump.

In his piece Marans quotes DCCC alum and campaign consultant, Mike Mikus: "Run strong candidates everywhere, because you never know what’s gonna happen. If you do that, you can take advantage of situations like [Ryan dropping out]." What Mikus and the DCCC don't understand is that Bryce isn't just there to take advantage of Ryan suddenly deciding he needs to leave Congress so he can teach little Charlie and Sammy to use bow and arrows. Bryce drove Ryan out of Congress. Now that's what I call a good candidate/ Another DCCC (and Hillary) alum, Jesse Ferguson noted that there is nothing to lose and everything to gain from running candidates in tough seats. "You don’t win a fight if you don’t show up for it. By having candidates in these districts, we might have a shot to win in a place we didn’t think we would-- or we might have a shot to make our case and convince some voters even if we come up short." Jesse's a smarter guy that most of his political colleagues.

Marans reminds his readers that "a state supreme court’s redrawing of the Pennsylvania congressional district boundaries in February suddenly made the Keystone State ripe for a raft of Democratic pickups. But as recently as 2016, the national Democratic Party did not even try to compete in many districts, including some that were genuinely competitive." Yep... that's the DCCC-- one of their fields of expertise... surrendering before the first shots can be fired at them. You think they would ever in a million years have recruited someone to run against Paul Ryan? They never had and until he was already winning they just smiled benignly at Randy Bryce, laughing up their sleeves. Marans:
No official Democratic Party organ tried to recruit Bryce, according to Lauren Hitt, his campaign’s communications director. Instead, it was the Working Families Party, an electoral organization that functions as a progressive faction of the Democratic Party, that approached him about running.

Bryce, who was active in his local union’s political work, was initially skeptical of the opportunity, recalled Rebecca Lynch, political director of the Wisconsin Working Families Party. At that point, Bryce had already run for state and local offices three times and lost.

But Bryce, who eventually relented to the Working Families Party’s entreaties, immediately drew a positive response. He became famous overnight in June after announcing his candidacy in a viral introductory video that depicted his struggle to care for his chronically ill mother.

The image of a burly hard hat-clad ironworker taking on a polished Ryan, the GOP’s chief apostle of trickle-down economics, proved to be an irresistible formula for the Democratic Party’s energized grassroots.

Bryce has since raked in $4.75 million in donations-- 75 percent of it in increments of $200 or less, according to his campaign. (The latest official financial disclosures, which date to the end of 2017, show him with a $2.7 million haul.)

And in an era of ideological division, Bryce’s bid has earned the backing of both establishment-aligned groups like NARAL Pro-Choice America and End Citizens United, as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and more left-leaning outfits like Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America.
But it wasn't hard for Marans to find a moron to quote-- although almost anyone at the DCCC would have done as well: Zac McCrary, a partner at ALG Research, a top Democratic polling firm said "Was Bryce and his energy and resources the main reason Ryan is calling it quits? Probably not." What a fucking idiot. This is the DCCC and the Democratic establishment and why it has been losing and losing and losing for over a decade. How many millions of dollars has the DCCC and their rotgut candidates paid McCrary's firm. You don't want to know.
For Lynch, Bryce’s ability to defy the standard candidate formula not only gives a boost to Democrats, but also the party’s progressive wing, which has sometimes fought for the party to get behind candidates without deep pockets and a more traditional pedigree.

“There is a need to make space at the table in the Democratic Party for candidates that represent working people who would normally not be recruited to run for a seat like this by XYZ establishment organization,” Lynch said.

...Now the party has the benefit of both an energized voter base and at least one candidate in the district with a sophisticated organization and substantial name recognition, according to McCrary.

...Republicans are eager to paint Bryce as too liberal for the district. Bryce’s support for “Medicare for all” and recent announcement that he backed the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency put him firmly on the party’s left wing.

“With positions like those, it sounds like he’d be a better fit for San Francisco than Janesville,” deadpanned Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Ahrens.

Ferguson argued that Bryce’s progressive views at the very least are not a liability.

“The right question in most districts is not whether a candidate is too far to the left or too far to the center, but rather whether the candidate comes across as genuine, honest, authentic, and comfortable in his or her own skin,” Ferguson concluded. “One of the powers of Randy Bryce’s candidacy is that voters know why he’s in it, they know what he’s about and they don’t have any doubt that he believes what he’s saying.”
Goal ThermometerWhat Ferguson is talking about is AUTHENTICITY and SOLIDARITY, the 2 words that have fueled Bryce's campaign from the day he started running-- two words that frighten Pelosi, Hoyer, Ben Ray Lujan, Dan Cena and Jason Bresler... two words that Pelosi, Hoyer, Ben Ray Lujan, Dan Cena and Jason Bresler try to root out of the equation when they're looking for candidates to run... and since taking over the DCCC they've been largely successful at just that. Is it too soon to suggest that Speaker Lieu-- as far as I know, the first member of Congress to contribute to Bryce's campaign-- back Bryce for the 2020 DCCC chairmanship? And that ActBlue congressional thermometer on the right has another to do with the DCCC, nor with Pelosi, Hoyer, Ben Ray Lujan, Dan Cena or Jason Bresler. They may have glommed onto Bryce's came, but there are also candidates the DCCC hasn't recognized at all there-- from Kaniela Ing (HI), Jenny Marshall (NC), Dan Canon (IN) and Tom Guild (OK) to Lillian Salerno (TX), Levi Tillemann (CO), Sam Jammal (CA) and Katie Porter (CA)-- there as well. And more; give it a tap. Please.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

Ain't no maybe about it! Yes, you may have read such things on Facebook. No doubt you heard them on FOX "News," too. Sean Hannity devoted hours and hours promoting the conspiracy that Seth Rich was murdered by the Clintons, presumably when they weren't running that child sex slave ring in that Maryland pizza joint; if you watch FOX "News" that is.

If you believe this kind of stuff (As we know, there's tons more than just the four things in this meme's list), you'd probably readily believe your glassy-eyed weirdo neighbor who has a Trump lawn sign, a MAGA hat, and an Ann Coulter blow-up doll, when he tells you that the saucer people landed in his backyard yesterday so he had them in for some dinner and Jesus talk.

For Republicans, it's all just a day in the life.

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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Trump Tries Smearing Tester


Señor Trumpanzee has never been one for nuance, so when Putin's moron disguised as a president tweeted to his equality stupid supporters that Jon Tester should resign... well what more could anyone expect. He's un-nuanced and he's a more... but he has an instinct for savagery... and he senses what he perceives as blood in the water. He was bellowing on Saturday morning that the "great people of Montana will not stand for this kind of slander when talking of a great human being. Admiral Jackson is the kind of man that those in Montana would most respect and admire, and now, for no reason whatsoever, his reputation has been shattered."

So why doesn't Trumpanzee renominate him to be head of the Veterans' Administration? Sam Stein made the same argument:

Johnny Isakson of Georgia is chairman of the veterans’ affairs committee and a pretty right wing Republican. On Saturday, while Trump was smearing Tester and demanding he resign, Isakson was voicing support for Tester. Trump won Montana 279,240 (56.2%) to 177,709% (35.7%). In 2012 Tester was barely reelected-- 236,123 (48.6%) to 218,051 (44.6%) against Republican Denny Rehberg. He originally defeated Republican incumbent Conrad Burns in 2006 even more narrowly, 198,302 votes (49%) to 195,455 (48%). Trump's goal Saturday was to fire up the Republican base in Montana so they would come out and vote against Tester in November.

In fact, right-wing groups allied with Trump have already been smearing Tester with misleading ads, like this one:

Isakson may or may not have found out that Trump was spreading his poison by tweet when his office said he didn't have a problem with how Tester had handled the Ronny Jackson affair.
“Senator Isakson has a great relationship with Senator Tester,” a spokeswoman for Isakson told CNN following Trump's tweets on Saturday. “He doesn’t have a problem with how things were handled. I don’t know for sure but highly doubt he’s seen the president’s tweets this morning.”

Tester’s staff compiled a report on the allegations against Jackson, which cited claims made by more than 20 people, including an accusation that Jackson "wrecked" a government vehicle after becoming intoxicated at a Secret Service going-away party, and a claim that he drunkenly banged on the hotel door of a female staffer during an official overseas trip during the Obama administration.
Trump, of course, is trying to imply the allegations against Jackson were made by Tester. They weren't-- and Tester made that clear at every point. They testimony against Johnson were made by men and women who worked under him and they were being investigated by the committee. "Tester, against Trump's criticism and backlash from other GOP lawmakers, has maintained that his actions are 'not political.' ...I am focused on making sure that we have the best person possible to run the VA,' he told Politico. 'It’s a very, very important agency.'"

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How Closely Together Did The Kremlin And The NRA Work To Saddle America With Trump? Follow The Money


As we've reported for months, the Kremlin operations to saddle America with the most incompetent president in history included money laundering millions of dollars into his campaign through the NRA. The mainstream media is starting to sniff around a story that's been out there for quite some time-- the Putin-Torshin-NRA-Trumpanzee connection. CNN took a look on Friday evening, reporting that the NRA is collecting internal documents related to its role in Putin-Gate, at the request of congressional investigators, certainly pointing to the fact that Mueller has already been there.
The NRA has faced fresh scrutiny from congressional investigators about its finances and ties to Alexander Torshin, one of the 17 prominent Russian government officials the US Treasury Department recently slapped with sanctions. The gun-rights group has said it is reexamining its relationship with Torshin, who is a lifetime NRA member, in the wake of the sanctions.

The renewed attention has highlighted the close-knit if sometimes uneasy alliance between top NRA officials and Torshin-- a relationship that ensnared members of Trump's team during the presidential campaign, inviting further congressional scrutiny.

Those inquiries could shed light on the tightly held fundraising practices and political activities of the NRA. The political powerhouse shelled out more than $30 million in 2016 to back Donald Trump's candidacy-- more than it spent on 2008 and 2012 political races combined, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Vice President Mike Pence is slated to speak at the National Rifle Association's annual convention in Dallas next Friday, an official told CNN.

The NRA recently found itself facing allegations that the FBI was investigating whether Torshin illegally funneled money through the group to bolster Trump, according to a McClatchy report. The NRA has publicly denied any contact from the FBI and insisted it hasn't accepted illegal donations.

Despite the public denials, officials at the gun-rights group have been anxiously preparing as if they were already under investigation, sources said. Some employees have been tasked with preserving years of documents mentioning Torshin or his associate, Maria Butina, who runs a pro-guns group in Russia, a source familiar with the situation said. Privately, some officials have expressed anxiety about a potential investigation and the group's Russian ties.

The NRA's precautions could be little more than due diligence as the group faces inquiries from congressional investigators and the media about its relationship with Torshin. But the feeling among some officials internally is that the group appears to be readying for an investigation.

"True believers to the cause are getting very antsy," said a person privy to the NRA's internal deliberations. "They were definitely preparing, they were bracing themselves."

The NRA declined to comment.

Torshin, the deputy head of Russia's central bank who served for years as a senator in the Russian parliament, began making inroads into the NRA with the help of Tennessee lawyer G. Kline Preston. Preston, who said he has known Torshin for about a decade, said the Russian wanted to meet the leadership of the NRA, so Preston cold-called then-NRA President David Keene. In other media interviews, Preston said that call took place around 2011.

"I can certainly say without any reservation that Torshin's intent was purely about helping with the expansion of gun rights," Preston said. "Infiltrating to influence the NRA politically is a red herring."

But even some within the NRA viewed the partnership warily.

When Donald Trump Jr. arrived for a dinner on the sidelines of the NRA's 2016 annual meeting in Louisville, some attendees-- including NRA officials-- were startled to discover Torshin and Butina already present at the restaurant where the reception was being held, according to sources familiar with the event. Torshin and Butina weren't invited to the dinner, but they were asked to stay and speak anyway.

"Donald J. Trump Jr. was attending an NRA convention and having dinner when an acquaintance asked him to say hello to Torshin and made an introduction," said Alan Futerfas, an attorney for Trump Jr. "They made small talk for a few minutes and went back to their separate meals. That is the extent of their communication or contact."

The seemingly impromptu encounter left some officials at the gun-rights group wondering whether it was a setup by the Russians, sources said.

Throughout the campaign, a number of people made overtures to Trump campaign aides on Torshin's behalf. Those emissaries sometimes touted their NRA connections as they aimed to helped Torshin quietly facilitate a relationship between then-presidential candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In one such email, a conservative activist reached out on Torshin's behalf to say his goal was "cultivating a back-channel to President Putin's Kremlin."

The activist added, "Putin is deadly serious about building a good relationship with Mr. Trump," according to the House Intelligence Committee reports.

The outreach efforts reached Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, campaign manager Paul Manafort, his deputy Rick Gates, then-campaign adviser Rick Dearborn and Jeff Sessions, then a foreign policy adviser and now the attorney general, according to emails reviewed by the House Intelligence Committee.

In at least some of the cases their overtures were rebuffed. Torshin was unable to schedule a meeting with candidate Trump at the 2016 NRA meeting, but ultimately managed to meet Trump Jr.

Trump Jr. told congressional investigators he didn't speak to Torshin about the upcoming presidential election, according to the House Intelligence Committee's Russia report.

In an interview with Bloomberg News nearly a year after the event, Torshin touted his dinner with Trump Jr. at the NRA meeting and claimed he had known Trump for nearly five years.

It's unclear whether the outreach to Trump aides attracted the attention of special counsel Robert Mueller. But he and his team have been delving into the possibility that Russians may have injected foreign money into the 2016 race to influence the election.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson for the Trump campaign declined to comment.

The skepticism among some NRA officials about the pair of gun-loving Russians may have been well-founded.

Torshin's years-long involvement with the NRA had all the hallmarks of a Russian influence operation, Russia experts said. Russian operatives often look to build relationships with polarizing groups -- on either end of the political spectrum-- to breed division and advance the Russian agenda.

"We could give them the benefit of the doubt and say this is just a natural interest and affinity; this guy Torshin and this woman Butina are just gun aficionados," said Alina Polyakova, a Russia expert and foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution.

But given Torshin's stature-- a former Russian senator and now a deputy head at the Russian central bank-- that is exceedingly unlikely, experts said.

"To me this seems like part and parcel of an influence operation," Polyakova said.

Torshin did not respond to requests for comment.

Prolific on Twitter, he has tweeted that the report of an FBI investigation was little more than a rumor. Preston, the Tennessee lawyer, said Torshin was similarly dismissive of those reports when the two men saw one another on Preston's recent trip to Moscow.

"A lot of it, I think, he sees as comical," Preston said of Torshin's reaction. "It's absurd."

If some NRA officials were surprised to encounter Butina and Torshin awaiting Trump Jr. at that private event in 2016, one prominent NRA official was not: David Keene.

Keene, now an NRA board member, said there was a small birthday dinner for him that evening, which Torshin and Butina attended. It happened to take place at the same restaurant as the NRA gathering, he said, and someone brought Trump Jr. by to say hello.

Keene played a central role in fostering the relationship between Torshin and the NRA.

In 2015, Keene brought a delegation of NRA backers to Moscow for a flurry of events with Torshin and Butina, who had founded her own version of the NRA-- Right to Bear Arms-- in Moscow.

The group went sightseeing, toured a Russian gun manufacturer and met with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin -- one of the first Russians the Obama administration slapped with sanctions after Russia annexed Crimea. One of the members of the tour group, former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, rose to become a prominent Trump surrogate during the campaign. In an ethics filing, he disclosed that the Russian Right to Bear Arms group shelled out $6,000 for his meals, lodging and excursions on the trip.

Butina shared a photo of the group of Facebook, which described the excursion as an official visit from an NRA delegation.

That's exactly what the NRA's leadership was hoping to avoid.

Ahead of the trip, top NRA officials had expressed concern that the Moscow visit could invite political backlash, according to sources familiar with their thinking. They pulled the NRA president at the time from the trip, which he was slated to attend, and encouraged Keene to treat it as an independent excursion.

Keene declined to comment on the Moscow trip.

In a recent letter to Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who is examining the NRA's finances, the NRA once again downplayed its association with the 2015 Moscow junket. It insisted one of the attendees-- a top NRA donor-- traveled to Russia "in his personal capacity," rather than as a representative of the organization. The GOP-controlled committees have shown little interest in investigating the NRA, but some Democrats are clamoring for additional information.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee "refused to investigate whether Russian-linked intermediaries used the NRA to illegally funnel money to the Trump Campaign, to open lines of communication with or approaches to Trump or his associates, and how those approaches may have informed," Russian interference in the 2016 election, Democrats on the committee wrote in their rebuttal to their GOP colleagues' assessment that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Meanwhile, Russia experts said the Russian gun-rights group appears to mainly be a facade to build ties with the NRA. It has little influence in Russia, which has strict gun laws and little public support for loosening them.

"It doesn't exist really in Russia," Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and an expert on economic policy in countries including Russia, said of the group. "This is the old Soviet fashion of operating through front organizations. The purpose is to infiltrate the NRA and, probably, also transfer money."

By 2016, both Torshin and Butina had become fixtures at the NRA's high-dollar donor events, according to attendees.

The pair has popped up at the Golden Ring of Freedom Dinner, an exclusive event for donors who have given $1 million or more, and hospitality suites for lifetime members. Butina has also attended the women's luncheon hosted by the wife of Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's executive vice president. Tickets start at $250 a head, according to sources familiar with the event.

Sometimes the Russians attended as guests of other members or alongside corporate sponsors.

As for Keene, he said he was not aware of any donations to the NRA from either Torshin or Butina. He said he has not been contacted by the FBI.

The NRA has said that Torshin paid membership dues but said he has not made any additional contributions.

The NRA has also acknowledged that it accepts donations from foreign donors and entities, which it is legally allowed to do. The group would only run afoul of US law if it used foreign donations for certain election-related purposes. In the letter to Wyden, the NRA said it found "no foreign donations in connection with a United States election, either directly or through a conduit."

The NRA's general counsel also said no Russian nationals have ever been members of the Golden Ring of Freedom program for million-dollar donors, according to the letter to Wyden.

Wyden appeared unconvinced, peppering the group with an additional round of questions.

In its latest response, the NRA said it no longer plans to cooperate with Wyden's inquiries.
Was there ever a CSpan White House Correspondents' Dinner like this before Putin put Trump into the White House? This was last night... and pretty amazing and unique. Just watch it.

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KKK Triggers Concern Over Political Correctness In Virginia


Colonial Beach, Virginia-- on Virginia's Northern Neck-- is closer to DC than it is to Richmond and people can commute to DC to work. It's part of the solidly red first congressional district, which went for McCain and Romney and in 2016 gave Trump a 53.6% to 41.2%% win over Hillary. The district PVI is a daunting R+8. Colonial Beach was founded-- as Monrovia in 1650-- by the great, great grandfather of James Monroe and George Washington was born just outside the town. It's a small town, with a median income of $31,711, and just over 3,500 inhabitants.

It's part of Westmoreland County, which has its own newspaper, the Westmoreland News, which decided to report on how KKK recruitment flyers and DVDs had started appearing in Colonial Beach. And now the paper is in trouble-- well not in real trouble, but in small town trouble. Some of the readers are upset because the paper ran a Klan recruitment flyer-- racist language and all-- on the front page. It was an illustration for the story but... you know what a trigger warning? There wasn't one... and not everyone understands the difference between running a Klan flyer as advocacy and running a Klan flyer as exposure.

Some residents considered it giving the KKK and its heinous ideas free ad space. "It even had the number on flyer to contact the head of the KKK," complained one reader. But the “Westmoreland News ran a disclaimer saying it "in no way condones or supports the content or message of this flyer, nor does it condone or support any branch of the Loyal White Knights, or the KKK." That wasn't enough for some, who are on Facebook calling for a boycott.
“When I look into a newspaper from my community, I expect to be informed about the happenings of my local atmosphere. I don't expect to feel threatened, belittled, and unwanted,” Facebook user J Lemar Smith wrote. “There is no problem with making the locals aware of the events surrounding these advertisements, but submitting a free advertisement on the front page is unacceptable.”

Jeremy Edouard Whitfield added: “This story could have been told without promoting these lunatics. Them and any other racially biased hate group have no business on the front page of any paper. Or any page for that matter. It is utterly ridiculous that you would print something like this without thinking of the repercussions.”

Colonial Beach Police Chief Danny Plott was also unhappy with the paper after admitting he was the one who handed them the flyer to help cover the story, not expecting to see it on the front page.

Plott told WTVR he called the paper’s editor, Brittlynn Powell, demanding an explanation. “She explained that she wanted to put it in to show people that those of us in Colonial Beach who may think there’s not racism…I think she didn’t expect for this to blow up the way it did,” Plott said.
The congressman from the area, since 2007, is Rob Wittman, who's never had a serious opponent. Although there are 3 Democrats vying for the nomination to go up against him, none are raising enough money to mount a competitive campaign. The likeliest to win the primary is John Suddarth who's running on a progressive platform:
"I believe single payer healthcare insurance—Medicare for all—is the best and most efficient solution"
Ban on assault weapons
"Accepting climate change and taking action to mitigate it essentially means reducing carbon emissions and preparing the infrastructure for more intense storms and a more severe climate."
"I will work diligently with both Democratic and Republican colleagues in Congress who will work in good faith want to reduce the overwhelming influence of money in politics."
"I and other progressive Democrats want to raise the minimum wage over time to $15 per hour. Someone working 40 hours per week should be able to earn a living."

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Who Keeps Trying To Burn Down Trump Tower, Baku? As Trump Said, The Mob Takes The Fifth


Yesterday's fire at Trump Tower Azerbaijan isn't being covered correctly by the media. The real story is that Trump and his Mafia buddies have been trying to burn the building down-- for insurance purposes-- for a couple of years. I'll get to that in a moment. First, though, let's look at what's being so shoddily reported this weekend.

A skyscraper that was slated to become a Trump International Hotel in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku has caught fire.

The Azadliq newspaper reported that the blaze broke out on the middle floors of the 33-storey building, which is locally known as Trump Tower, and spread.

Etibar Mirzoev, deputy head of the Emergency Situations Ministry, said there were no injuries and authorities were working to establish the cause of the of the fire.

He said it took more than three hours to extinguish the flames and suggested the response was delayed because of road closures put in place for Sunday’s Grand Prix, on the Baku City Circuit.

It came after an apartment fire at Trump Tower in New York left a prominent art dealer dead and six firefighters injured earlier this month.

Development was started on the tower in Baku a decade ago but it has never opened.

Originally planned as a luxury apartment building by local developers, the project was taken over by the future US President’s company in 2012.

The Trump Organisation announced that a hotel would occupy the first 13 floors, with flats on the storeys above, but pulled out of the project in December 2016 following Mr Trump’s election.

There was controversy over affiliation between the company that owned the project, Baku XXI Century, and a local family associated with corruption. Every paragraph has at least one mistake, some so shockingly incorrect that it destroys the meaning of what actually happened. So... let me go back to
a post we wrote over a year ago.

Monday, both Rachel's researchers and New Yorker writer Adam Davidson made a few small-- but significant-- errors (and omissions) in the report that each filed on the Trump Azerbaijan scandal. Maddow's long, circuitous dramatic report-- once she got to it-- was just based on Davidson's article. As usual, she had nothing substantive to add, just some entertainment-value drama and random superfluous facts barely-- at best-- related to the matter at hand. The video above came after the long circuitous thing, which I won't bore you with, and is her interview with Davidson who spent more time in Baku than I did-- but must have not talked to the right people there... which I did... back in June.

Last summer I visited Azerbaijan for the first time, at the suggestion of first Alan Grayson and later Ted Lieu. Both had been there and both recommended it highly, especially since I was going to be in the "neighborhood" (Moscow) anyway. I did a few posts here and a few posts at my travel blog. The top takeaway was that Trump was in business-- not just in Azerbaijan, but literally everywhere in the world-- with the most corrupt criminal elements in the world. Both Davidson and Maddow got that.

What Davidson missed (he got it wrong) was that Trump Tower Baku did open (albeit without a "Grand Opening") and did start renting out rooms-- and was almost immediately shuttered-- and that eventually-- after it was clear it would not be in business in time for the week long festivities around the Formula 1 Race (the 2016 European Grand Prix), the Mammadov mafia tried burning it down, presumably for the insurance money. Davidson messing up on that caused Maddow to go off on her theory about how if the business was never meant to make any financial sense, it must have had another reason to exist. She isn't necessarily wrong about the money-laundering aspect from Iran's Revolutionary Guard-- the CIA had been talking about that and that relationship with Trump's partners, the Mammadovs, for years. But Trump Tower Baku was very much meant to be-- at least by Trump and Ivanka-- a profitable, on-going enterprise.

What they didn't quite understand was that Baku is a "with it" cosmopolitan and highly-educated and connected city/society. Other than the politics of a kleptocracy/kakistocracy, the city is not some impoverished backward backwater. As soon as Trump went on a campaign-related rampage against Muslims, this progressive and relative secular city realized he was shit-talking them. And that was the end of any chance Trump Tower Baku could be a success. By the time I got there, they were already debating how long it would take before they could change the name and re-open.

Here's the stuff Davidson missed that my sources in Baku told me. A team claiming to be part of the Trump Organization went through Baku's 5-star hotels hiring away many of the best employees. How could that have happened? They offered to pay people high salaries that included 6 month advances. Nothing like that had ever happened in the Baku hotel industry and Trump Tower was soon far more filled with employees than Trump doddering administration has been.

Now, remember, the crooked Transportation Minister, Ziya Mammadov, who went from a lowly railway worker to a billionaire/Mafioso, owns a lot of Azerbaijan. His son, Anar, is a shady character and a perfect fit for The Donald. It was only a matter of time before they found each other, which they did when Anar decided to rent Trump's name for his glitzy new hotel. He paid Trump between $2.5 and $2.8 million for the right to slap "Trump Tower" on his building and to get some "consultations" from Ivanka. In November, 2014, the Trump Organization announced that Trump Tower Baku was part of it's hotel empire and The Donald himself boasted that "Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku represents the unwavering standard of excellence of The Trump Organization and our involvement in only the best global development projects. When we open in 2015, visitors and residents will experience a luxurious property unlike anything else in Baku-- it will be among the finest in the world." Ivanka added that "This incredible building reflects the highest level of luxury and refinement, with extraordinary architecture inspired by the Caspian Sea and sophisticated interiors that seamlessly blend contemporary style with timeless appeal. We are looking forward to bringing our unparalleled Trump services and amenities to Azerbaijan.”

It sort of opened. Trump's partner, Anar, has been described by U.S. diplomats as "notoriously corrupt" and as working to launder money for the Iranian military. The hotel hired a full staff and started renting rooms but never had a promised grand opening. Everyone in the Baku hotel industry knows someone who worked there... briefly.

Trump often talks of hiring the best people and surrounding himself with people he can trust. In practice, however, he and his executives have at times appeared to overlook details about the background of people he has chosen as business partners, such as whether they had dubious associations, had been convicted of crimes, faced extradition or inflated their resumes.

...In the Azerbaijani case, Garten said the Trump Organization had performed meticulous due diligence on the company's partners, but hadn't researched the allegations against the Baku partner's father because he wasn't a party to the deal.

"I've never heard that before," Garten said, when first asked about allegations of Iranian money laundering by the partner's father, which appeared in U.S. diplomatic cables widely available since they were leaked in 2010.

Garten subsequently said he was confident the minister alleged to be laundering Iranian funds, Ziya Mammadov, had no involvement in his son's holding company, even though some of the son's major businesses regularly partnered with the transportation ministry and were founded while the son was in college overseas. Ziya Mammadov did not respond to a telephone message the AP left with his ministry in Baku or to emails to the Azerbaijan Embassy in Washington.

Garten told the AP that Trump's company uses a third-party investigative firm, which he did not identify, that specializes in background intelligence gathering and searches global watch lists, warrant lists and sanctions lists maintained by the United Nations, Interpol and others.

...Any American contemplating a business venture in Azerbaijan faces a risk: "endemic public corruption," as the State Department puts it. Much of that money flows from the oil and gas industries, but the State Department also considers the country to be a waypoint for terrorist financiers, Iranian sanctions-busters and Afghan drug lords.

The environment is a risky one for any business venture seeking to avoid violating U.S. penalties imposed against Iran or anti-bribery laws under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

...Garten said the Trump Organization had performed background screening on all those involved in the deal and was confident Mammadov's father played no role in the project.

Experts on Azerbaijan were mystified that Trump or anyone else could reach that conclusion.

Anar Mammadov is widely viewed by diplomats and nongovernmental organizations as a transparent stand-in for the business interests of his father. Anar's business has boomed with regular help from his father's ministry, receiving exclusive government contracts, a near monopoly on Baku's taxi business and even a free fleet of autobuses.

"These are not business people acting on their own-- you're dealing with daddy," said Richard Kauzlarich, a U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan under President Bill Clinton in the 1990s who went on to work under the Director of National Intelligence during the George W. Bush administration.

"Whatever the Trump people thought they were doing, that wasn't reality," Kauzlarich said.

Anar Mammadov, who is believed to be 35, has said in a series of interviews that he founded Garant Holdings' predecessor-- which has arms in transportation, construction, banking, telecommunications and manufacturing-- in 2000, when he would have been 19. Anar received his bachelor's degree in 2003 and a master's in business administration in 2005-- both from a university in London.

Mammadov's statement that he founded the business in 2000 appeared in a magazine produced by a research firm in partnership with the Azerbaijani government. In other forums, he has said he started the business in 2005, though several of its key subsidiaries predate that period.
As Davidson wrote, "After Donald Trump became a candidate for President, in 2015, Mother Jones, the Associated Press, the Washington Post, and other publications ran articles that raised questions about his involvement in the Baku project. These reports cited a series of cables sent from the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan in 2009 and 2010, which were made public by WikiLeaks. In one of the cables, a U.S. diplomat described Ziya Mammadov as 'notoriously corrupt even for Azerbaijan.' The Trump Organization’s chief legal officer, Alan Garten, told reporters that the Baku hotel project raised no ethical issues for Donald Trump, because his company had never engaged directly with Mammadov."

Late in the presidential campaign, after he had beaten all the Republicans and was facing Clinton, Trump had a visit from American intelligence officials who explained to him the ramifications of being in business with Mammadov was so overwhelmingly disqualifying that he had to end the relationship immediately. I don't know what they showed him exactly, but Trump Tower Baku completely disappeared from Trump World.
No evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump, or any of his employees involved in the Baku deal, actively participated in bribery, money laundering, or other illegal behavior. But the Trump Organization may have broken the law in its work with the Mammadov family. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, passed in 1977, forbade American companies from participating in a scheme to reward a foreign government official in exchange for material benefit or preferential treatment. The law even made it a crime for an American company to unknowingly benefit from a partner’s corruption if it could have discovered illicit activity but avoided doing so. This closed what was known as the “head in the sand” loophole.

...Even a cursory look at the Mammadovs suggests that they are not ideal partners for an American business. Four years before the Trump Organization announced the Baku deal, WikiLeaks released the U.S. diplomatic cables indicating that the family was corrupt; one cable mentioned the Mammadovs’ link to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. In 2013, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project investigated the Mammadov family’s corruption and published well-documented exposés. Six months before the hotel announcement, Foreign Policy ran an article titled “The Corleones of the Caspian,” which suggested that the Mammadovs had exploited Ziya’s position as Transportation Minister to make their fortunes.

...To this day, the Trump Organization has not provided satisfying answers to the most basic questions about the Baku deal: who owns Baku XXI Century, the company with which they signed the contracts; the origin of the funds with which Baku XXI Century paid the Trump Organization; whether the Mammadovs used their political power to benefit themselves and the Trump Organization; and whether the Mammadovs used money obtained from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to fund the Trump Tower Baku.

...More than a dozen lawyers with experience in F.C.P.A. prosecution expressed surprise at the Trump Organization’s seemingly lax approach to vetting its foreign partners. But, when I asked a former Trump Organization executive if the Baku deal had seemed unusual, he laughed. “No deal there seems unusual, as long as a check is attached,” he said.
Remember, the first significant piece of legislation Trump signed was a bill repealing an Obama administration rule focring energy and mining companies to disclose any payments (bribes) they made abroad. Trumpanzee: "This is a big signing, a very important signing. And this is H.J. Resolution 41, disapproving the Securities and Exchange Commission's rule on disclosure of payments by resource extraction issuers. It's a big deal. And I want to thank Speaker Paul Ryan for being here. He's been tremendous. Jeb Hensarling very, very important and really worked hard. Representative Bill Huizenga and all of the friends-- Peter-- all of my friends are up here. And we really appreciate it." I'm sure he did-- and what's good enough for the Oil barons is certainly good enough for the hotel developing mobsters, no?

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