Weekly Newsletter

Vol. 27: What a Tangled Ushanka We Weave

May 21, 2017 – Day 193 Post Election

The TrumpShaker Top Three
May 21, 2017 – Take Your Parents to the Playground Day – Day 193 P.E.
Top Secret!
Just a reminder that last week began with one of the biggest White House scandals in decades – the day after firing the FBI Director investigating him, Trump shared highly classified information to the Russians in the Oval Office – and we’ve already forgotten about it!

To refresh your memory, Trump wanted to show off to his Russian buddies that he had a really good intelligence hook-up. So, he showed them information about ISIS that according to one U.S. official “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.” Releasing this information may not only threaten the lives of the sources, but also greatly endanger U.S. access to future information from allies. This bit of info was from the Israelis who are a bit put out aboutTrump’s loose lips.

Naturally, you’d expect long time champions for the proper treatment of classified information to hold Trump accountable. Well, shame on you.

  • Senator Jim Risch (R-ID): “It’s no longer classified the minute he  [Trump] utters it.” That is technically true, but there’s a difference between between whether you can and whether you should do something.
  • Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT):  When asked if he still trusts Trump with classified information, he replied, “Of course.”
  • Senator Marco ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (R-FL): “Certainly it’s less than ideal, but it is what it is.”
And for those of you who are not will to just take the word of the The Washington Post on what Trump may have shared, you’ll be happy to hear that Putin offered on Wednesday to share his records on those Oval Office conversations.
When You Come at Comey, You Best Not Miss
The big news in our last issue was that Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in the midst of an FBI investigation into collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Well, Comey didn’t go gently into that good night.  Suddenly, like someone has been sitting on them for months for just such an occasion, troubling details on Trump and Russia started coming fast and furious this week:
 
Comey’s Comeback

  • Comey had been taking notes on his conversations with Trump like a young Marcia Brady. These formerly secret notes made their way to The New York Times . They were worth the wait. Comey wrote in his Moleskine (that’s how I imagine it) that at the end of a meeting one day, Trump asked VP Pence and Attorney General Sessions to leave the room. Finally, alone with Comey, Trump looked deep into his eyes and spoke sweet, sweet impeachment talk to him. First, Trump commented that perhaps, if he had the time, Comey could put reporters in jail for publishing classified information. But discussing breaking the First Amendment was just an appetizer. Trump then moved on to the main course of obstruction of justice. Trump told Comey, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
  • In another report, Comey was so creeped out by Trump, that he reportedly wore a blue suit to a ceremony in the White House Blue Room and tried to blend his whole 6’8” frame into the curtains in hopes that Trump wouldn’t see him. Comey failed; Trump ended up blowing him a kiss (seriously).
  • Apparently, Comey’s feelings towards Trump are mutual. While taking a break from showing off his collection of Israeli intelligence to the Russians in that Oval Office meeting, Trump told the Russians, “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” If that sounds to you like a) obstruction of justice and b) he told the Russians the truth about why he fired Comey while his staff lied to the American people about it, you’d be right.
  • Comey is set to testify before the Senate after Memorial Day — get the Jiffy Pop.

Flynn File

  • Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn continues to be at the center of all things Russian. However, Trump just can’t quit him. On April 25, Trump told Flynn to “stay strong.” Some may interpret that as Trump telling Flynn to take his pinch like a man and keep his mouth shut. They would be right.
  • The New York Times reported that as early as January 4, Trump’s team knew that Flynn was under FBI investigation for secretly lobbying for Turkey. They decided to make him National Security Adviser anyways.
  • Vice President Pence, who led the transition, continues to position himself as just a poor fool caught up in this whole thing and stuck to his story that he didn’t know about Flynn and Turkey or Russia until March 9. This despite the above Times report, a letter to Pence directly warning him about Flynn from Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) dated November 18, and the fact that even I knew about all this before March 9.
  • The final Flynn shoe to drop last week was a Reuters report that there were at least 18 calls or emails between Flynn and others associated with Trump and the Russians during the final months of the campaign. Reuters notes, “Conversations between Flynn and [Russian ambassador] Kislyak accelerated after the Nov. 8 vote as the two discussed establishing a back channel for communication between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that could bypass the U.S. national security bureaucracy.”

Robert Mueller Returns

  • On Thursday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation. Those interested in the truth about Russia, welcome Mueller’s appointment as a competent and principled investigator. Rosenstein only gave the White House a 30 minute heads-up that he was making the appointment, which is another welcomed development.
  • The investigation has been reclassified from counterintelligence to criminal and has been authorized to see if there was cover-up by the White House as well. The Washington Post also reported on Friday that investigators were looking at a senior White House office as a “significant person of interest.” No word on who it is, but rumor has it his name rhymes with Shmared Shmushner.
  • In no way related news, the White House is said to be considering using an ethics rule to keep Mueller from investigating Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort. Since Mueller’s former law firm represented both men (Mueller didn’t personally), it could trigger an ethics rule that prevents government lawyers from investigating their prior law firm’s clients for one year. Needless to say, this ethics rule was not in place for this type of scenario. The Department of Justice can waive this ethics rule if it wishes.

Trump has taken all of this in stride as always. At the Coast Guard commencement, he said, “No politician in history . . . has been treated worse or more unfairly.” This is false even if you only limit it to politicians that Trump has personally treated worse and more unfairly in the past 12 months.

Senate Republicans see the appointment of a special counsel as an opportunity. An opportunity to finally found out the truth about . . . Hillary Clinton’s emails. I’m not kidding. Senator Lindsey Graham said that the Senate can basically stop its investigation of Trump now since there’s a special counsel (not true) and turn its attention back to Hillary.

In the “I hope history repeats itself” file, the appointment of a special counsel occurred on the 44thanniversary of the first day of the Watergate TV hearings.

You’re a Regular Yakov Smirnoff
A tape leaked this week of a GOP leadership meeting back in June. At this little shindig, which happened the day after The Washington Post reported the Russians had hacked the Democratic National Committee’s computers, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: [Congressman Dana] Rohrabacher and Trump.” He followed that up with, “Swear to God.”

McCarthy, first denied ever saying those words. Then after he was confronted with the tapes, said it was a “bad attempt at a joke.” I would have dismissed that as just some more GOP good ol’ locker room talk, but, then I read Paul Ryan’s response to McCarthy’s knee-slapper. Ryan stopped the conversation and said, “No leaks . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

I honestly (and perhaps foolishly) don’t believe they thought that Trump was receiving money. However, what the tape does show is that the Republican leadership knew the Russians were hacking the Democrats and didn’t care (and still don’t). Also, the Republican leadership had concerns before the GOP convention, before the Republican platform was changed by Trump to not speak out against Russia taking Crimea, that Trump was in cahoots with Putin. They didn’t care then and don’t care now. They made the decision to protect their party over their country months ago and have not wavered.

Quick TrumpShakes
Chronic Pain – Just because it’s been bumped off the front page, don’t worry, the Republicans are still working tirelessly to take health care away from 24 million people. While Republican senators continue their secret meetings to come up with a compromise plan, the White House is doing all it can to kill the current Affordable Care Act. On Friday, seven national organizations, including the insurance lobby, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the American Medical Association, sent a letter to Congress stating that the Trump administration’s continuing coyness about whether it will continue to pay insurance carriers subsidies for low income policy holders is “the single most destabilizing factor causing double-digit premium increases for 2018.”
 
There are two items on the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) and American Health Care Act’s (AHCA) respective health charts to watch this week. For the ACA, on Monday the White House has to declare if it will continue to defend the ACA against a suit from the House of Representatives (attorney generals from 15 states and the DC are asking the courts if they can take over the defense, since you know, the White House hates it). For the AHCA, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score is scheduled to be released, which will tell us how much the House bill will cost and how many will lose insurance. According to people who get really excited about legislative minutiae, if the CBO score shows that the AHCA doesn’t reduce the deficit by $2 billion the House will need to vote again. It would likely pass again, if for no other reason than that would mean another GOP Bud Light kegger on the White House lawn. However, since it is polling at 21%, Trump is under investigation, and the few Republicans that held town halls got the full Cersei Lannister treatment, there is a chance a handful of Republicans change their minds and kill the bill.
 
Speak Ill of the Dead – Fox News’s ex-CEO, sexual harasser Roger Ailes died this week. Perhaps no one, not even his benefactor Rupert Murdoch, can be blamed as much for the current hellscape of rampant bipartisanship, scoreboard politics, and entertainment news that we live in. His creation, Fox News, trapped millions in the paranoid conspiracy world of his creation and likely ruined countless Thanksgiving dinners.  Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone says it well, “Roger Ailes Was One of the Worst Americans Ever”.
 
What’s Algonquin for the Bad Sheriff? Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, perpetual finalist for America’s worst law enforcement officer and the closest person we have to a real life version of Dave Chapelle’sClayton Bigsby (nsfw), announced he was named assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. His greatest hits include: 4 deaths in 6 months in his jail last year – including a baby born after the inmate was forced to give birth alone in her cell and someone who had died from profound dehydration after being denied water for a week; advocating to round up an estimated (by him) 1 million terrorist sympathizers in the U.S. and put them in Guantanamo without a trial; and declaring, “there is no police brutality in America. We ended that back in the ’60s.”
 
Oh but wait, there’s more! In December 2015, Clarke ventured far away from the hometown of Shotz Brewery. He was in . . . I’ll give you one guess . . . you’re right, Russia! He was part of an NRA delegation that met with Dmitry Rogozin, Putin’s deputy who was under sanction for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Unknown if he shared a cab from the airport with Michael Flynn and Jill Stein, who were also in Russia at the exact same time to attend a dinner with Putin.
 
I Know Nothing, Nothing! – When Trump took office, there were 195,245 public data sets on data.gov on everything from climate change to animal abuse. This week, The Washington Post reported that there are 40,000 fewer data sets now available as the Trump administration plays hide and seek with government information.
 
This Week’s Headlines from Panem – While we are all caught up in the sturm und drang of Trump’s self-destruction, the authoritarian state continues to creep up on us from the shadows. This week The Detroit News reported that the FBI is using a cellphone snooping device designed to catch terrorists to instead track down undocumented immigrants. In New Jersey, Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) told the board member of a local bank that “one of the ringleaders [of those trying to stop the GOP] works in your bank.” He was talking about Assistant General Counsel Saily Avelenda, who belongs to a progressive group called NJ 11th for Change. In the wake of the letter and subsequent discomfort in her work environment, Avelenda resigned. Lastly, in our nation’s capital, a reporter from CQ Roll Call, which is the most benign news outlet in the entire country this side of your Aunt’s annual Christmas letter, was intimidated and then restrained by FCC security guards when he dared attempt to pose a question to FCC Commissioner Michael O’Reilly.

Trump Pardons Turkey (country, not the bird) – If American citizens are beaten by a gang of foreigners, but Trump didn’t tweet about it, did it actually happen? To get inside tips on how to turn a democracy into an autocracy, Trump invited Turkish President Erdoğan to the White House this week. Protestors greeted Erdoğan outside of the Turkish ambassador’s residence. Erdoğan unleashed his bodyguards, who then burst through a D.C. police line and beat the protesters. Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle called for a quick response, ranging from demanding an apology to pursuing criminal charges. On behalf of the Trump administration, the State Department only mustered a kindergarten teacher response of “violence is never an appropriate response.”
 
Counter-programming for the Crazy Demographic
While every other news outlet featured whatever the RussiaTrump scandal dujour was this entire week, Fox News took a dive off the deep end into the made-up Seth Rich scandal. Rich, a young DNC staffer, was tragically murdered this past summer walking home late at night. The far-right world quickly added him to the tally of noted serial killer, Hillary Clinton, claiming she killed him to cover-up Rich, not Russia, being the source of the DNC documents shared with WikiLeaks. I’ll spare you the rest of the details, since they are a lie and not even an interesting one. The Rich family has demanded an apology from Fox News for slandering their dead son. Fox News has kept him front and center though, only interrupting their Rich coverage to express their disgust at the elites for speaking poorly of deceased Roger Ailes.
 
Re: Muslim I mean Travel Ban
The Trump administration ignored a court order to turn over Rudy Giuliani’s memo detailing how to succeed in banning Muslims without really looking like you’re trying.

Information Super Toll Road
In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued its Open Internet Order, which maintained the approach of Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality means that all data on the Internet needs to be treated equally – whether it’s a kitten chasing a laser, a Presidential address, or The TrumpShaker. Your internet service provider can’t make a deal with Hulu, so that it comes to you much faster than Netflix or slow down The New York Times website to curry favor with Trump. This past week, the Republican-ledFCC took the first step to reverse Open Internet Order. We now have just a couple of months to save the Internet, with comments due on July 17 on the FCC’s proposal. Democrats are taking a hard standagainst this proposal. Educate and humor yourself by watching John Oliver’s segment and then speak up on his website- gofccyourself.com!

Featured Articles of the Week

Three great articles for you this week:
ProPublica sent an investigative team out to see how secure Mar-a-Lago’s technology is. The answer: Your 14 year-old cousin could hack in.

Matt O’Brien in The Washington Post interviews Harvard’s Daniel Ziblatt on “Why liberal democracy only dies when conservatives help.”

The Intercept paints a portrait of a town “plagued by pollution” as an example of what lies ahead for many poor towns as Trump and Scott Pruitt gut the EPA.

Action Center
Big Election in Big Sky
The Special Election for Montana’s only seat in the House of Representative is this Thursday. Cowboy-poet Democrat Rob Quist has a shot at winning and sending a message to Trump and his supporters. Donate today to help get Mr. Quist to Washington.
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