One wacky nut job to another – Trump v Coulter

Once a strong support of Donald trump for president and as president, Ann Coulter has turned against him. In the weekend she blasted Trump over lack of progress on the US-Mexico border wall, and as he does when criticised, Trump has turned on her. In a recent tweet he called Coulter ‘a wacky nut job’, which is pot, kettle stuff.

Fox News has also been a strong supporter of Trump, and this is playing out on Fox.

Fox News in January:  Ann Coulter rips Trump over border wall on Bill Maher’s show after attacking president via Twitter

Conservative pundit Ann Coulter both blasted and defended President Trump during an appearance on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” on Friday night — hours after she ripped into the president on Twitter for cutting a deal with Democrats to temporarily end the partial government shutdown without funding for his border wall.

“I promise you the country would be run much better if I had a veto over what Donald Trump is doing. It’s crazy that I expect a president to keep the promise he made every day for 18 months”.

“Why hasn’t Trump been able to get it through for the first two years? Because the Republicans don’t want it.”

She also said “someone has got to read the Constitution to him” when asked if she thought Trump would declare a national emergency on the southern border in order to get work started on the wall.

During Trump’s State of the Union address to Congress in February, Coulter labeled the speech as “the lamest, sappiest, most intentionally tear-jerking SOTU ever.”

During the weekend:

Coulter, a far right commentator, may only have a relatively small support base, but Trump seems to be gradually pissing off more and more former supporters.

Jess Watters and Donald J. Trump aren’t being very honest. Trump’s approval rating dropped from 45.5 (aggregate) soon after he took office and hasn’t recovered since, peaking at 43.1 last October and now on 41.8.

https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-approval-ratings/

Meanwhile  In budget, Trump to ask Congress for $8.6 billion for border wall

President Donald Trump on Monday will ask the U.S. Congress for an additional $8.6 billion to help pay for the wall he promised to build on the southern border with Mexico to combat illegal immigration and drug trafficking, officials familiar with his 2020 budget request told Reuters.

The demand is more than six times what Congress allocated for border projects in each of the past two fiscal years, and 6 percent more than Trump has corralled by invoking emergency powers this year.

Democrats, who oppose the wall as unnecessary and immoral, control the U.S. House of Representatives, making it unlikely the Republican president’s request will win congressional passage.

Asked on Fox News Sunday about the new funding request and if there would be another budget fight over Trump’s wall, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said, “I suppose there will be … He’s going to stay with his wall and he’s going to stay with the border security theme. I think it’s essential.”

Trump’s wall request is based off a 2017 plan put forward by Customs and Border Protection officials to build or replace 722 miles (1,162 km) of barrier along the border, which in total is estimated to cost about $18 billion.

So far, only 111 miles (179 km) have been built or are underway, officials said. In fiscal 2017, $341 million in funding was allocated for 40 miles (64 km) of wall, and in 2018, another $1.375 billion was directed to 82 miles (132 km).

For fiscal 2019, Trump demanded $5.7 billion in wall funds, but Congress appropriated only $1.375 billion for border fencing projects.

Following the rejection of his wall funding demand, Trump declared the border was a national emergency – a move opposed by Democrats and some Republicans – and redirected $601 million in Treasury Department forfeiture funds, $2.5 billion in Defense Department drug interdiction funds and $3.6 billion from a military construction budget, for total spending of $8.1 billion for the wall.

Trump’s wall spending is being contested from the left, and the lack of wall building is being slammed from Coulter on the right.

The first Manafort sentencing

Paul Manafort was sentenced on eight counts including tax and bank fraud in the US yesterday. He received a much lighter sentence than prosecutors had asked for, which was seen by some as some sort of victory, or a defeat for the Mueller inquiry, but it was still substantial. It included:

  • 47 months imprisonment
  • $50,000 fine
  • Must pay $25 million in restitution
  • 3 years of supervised release after his prison term

The Monetary penalties may not be a big deal if Manafort can afford to pay them, but I think the prison sentence is actually substantial and onerous. Especially for someone who has never been in trouble with the law before, nearly four years in prison is a very big deal.

Prison sentence numbers get thrown around these days as if years don’t matter. For someone who has never been there before months in prison would be a big deal, let alone years.

CBS News: Manafort sentenced to under 4 years in prison, far less than prosecutors sought

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis handed down the sentence in federal court in Virginia Thursday afternoon. He said Manafort committed “undeniably serious” crimes and expressed surprise that he did not “express regret for engaging in wrongful conduct.”

But Ellis also said the government’s recommendation of 19.5 to 24 years behind bars was “unwarranted” and “excessive,” adding that Manafort has “lived an otherwise blameless life.”

Perhaps ‘an otherwise uncaught life’ would be closer to the mark.

An attorney from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office told the court Manafort “failed to accept responsibility and is not remorseful.” In recent weeks Manafort’s legal team had requested a “significantly” lower sentence than the length recommended by prosecutors.

Before learning his fate, Manafort addressed the court, telling Ellis his life is in “shambles” and asking for leniency.

“The last two years have been the most difficult of my lif. To say I am humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement.”

After his conviction in Virginia, Manafort struck a plea deal to avoid a second trial on conspiracy charges in Washington, D.C. A federal judge determined in Februaryhe had breached his plea agreement by lying to the government.

Judge T.S. Ellis said Manafort committed “undeniably serious” crimes and expressed surprise that Manafort did not “express regret for engaging in wrongful conduct.”

“You should have remorse for that,” Ellis said.

Some seem to think that celebrations are in order for a relatively light sentence, but while I think Manafort may be relieved, he won’t have much to celebrate about for quite a while. Time already in custody will come off the time left to serve, but it will still be a tough time ahead for him.

Cohen: Trump is a racist, conman, cheat

Michael Cohen, an ex lawyer and so called ‘fixer’ for Donald Trump, is testifying before the US congress.

MSNBC – Michael Cohen: ‘I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist. He is a conman. He is a cheat.’

For a preview of Cohen’s statement see this thread on Twitter:

In typical fashion Trump has responded in advance.

With help from family:

That’s rather ironic.

Cohen is answering questions through the day. Lunchtime summary (Guardian live)

In explosive public testimony before Congress, Donald Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen has cast the president as a “racist” and a “conman” who engaged in criminal activity after taking office as president to cover up an illegal hush money payment to an adult film actor.

  • Cohen said Trump had prior knowledge that his longtime adviser, Roger Stone, was communicating with WikiLeaks during the 2016 election regarding the release of hacked Democratic emails.
  • He also said Trump was aware of the infamous Trump Tower meeting between members of his presidential campaign and a Russian lawyer.
  • Cohen, who spent a decade as the president’s fixer, testified publicly for the first time in detail about a six-figure sum that was paid to silence adult film actor Stormy Daniels, who alleged an affair with Trump.
  • Cohen presented checks he said were signed by the president and his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, to reimburse him for the hush money payments.
  • Cohen also added that he was instructed by Trump to lie about the affair to the president’s wife, Melania Trump, stating: “Lying to the first lady is one of my biggest regrets because she is a kind, good person.”

Questioning is continuing.

Michael Cloud, Republican of Texas, takes over, and asks Cohen if he is aware of the significance of the date May 6.

Yes, Cohen says. It’s the day he is going to prison for three years.

Cloud runs through Cohen’s crimes, sticking to that trusty Republican playbook. How are we supposed to find anything out today, Cloud says, “when the best witness” we can summon has “already been convicted of lying before us”.

And then we’re back to this book deal. According to Cloud the deal – which Cohen does not currently have – will be worth millions of dollars.

The GOP plan seems to be two-pronged:

a) Cohen is a criminal, we can’t trust him and it’s a disgrace that he’s here,

b) Cohen is only doing this because he thinks he can make money from it.

Raja Krishnamoorthi, Democrat from Illinois: Nothing at the Trump organization was done unless it was run by Donald Trump, is that correct?

Cohen: “That’s 100% certain.”

Cohen says he cannot discuss that as it is being investigated by the Southern District of New York.

Krishnamoorthi asked Cohen for details on when he last spoke with Trump or his agents:

Cohen: “Unfortunately this topic is actually something that’s being investigated right now by the Southern District of New York, and I’ve been asked by them not to discuss and not to talk about these issues.”

Krishnamoorthi asks if there is any other wrongdoing or illegality by Trump that Cohen is aware of:

“Yes and again those are part of the investigation that’s currently being looked at by the Southern District of New York.”

Trump and Kim predict success in Vietnam, media excluded

It’s hard to know what will actually come out of the meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Young Un in Vietnam. It will take time to see what progress is made.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pose before their meeting during the second U.S.-North Korea summit at the Metropole Hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

An odd looking pair – photo from Reuters

Reuters:  Trump and North Korea’s Kim predict success in high-stakes nuclear summit

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump met in Vietnam on Wednesday for a second summit that the United States hopes will persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for promises of peace and development.

Kim and Trump shook hands and smiled briefly in front of a row of their national flags at the Metropole before heading to dinner together.

Trump told reporters he thought the talks would be very successful, and when asked if he was “walking back” on denuclearization demands, said “no”.

Kim said they had overcome obstacles to hold the second summit and praised Trump for his “courageous decision” to begin a dialogue.

“Now that we’re meeting here again like this, I’m confident that there will be an excellent outcome that everyone welcomes, and I’ll do my best to make it happen,” Kim said.

Trump and Kim held a 20-minute, one-on-one chat before sitting down to dinner with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Trump’s acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Kim’s top envoy, Kim Yong Chol, and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho.

Reuters:  White House excludes reporters from Trump-Kim dinner after they asked questions

The White House barred reporters from Reuters, the Associated Press and Bloomberg from covering a dinner between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Wednesday after two of them asked Trump questions during his initial interactions with Kim.

The pool was present when Trump and Kim first met and shook hands. During that short initial meeting, while cameras were rolling, Reuters correspondent Jeff Mason asked Trump what he wanted to achieve at the summit and whether he had backed away from his demand for North Korea’s denuclearization.

Reporters in the pool regularly shout out questions to leaders and on Wednesday they asked Trump about the summit and the testimony in Congress of his former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, in two separate opportunities known as “pool sprays.”

The reporters were later excluded from covering the dinner because of what White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said were “sensitivities over shouted questions in the previous sprays,” the Washington Post reported.

It’s unlikely media will get much from answers from Trump and Kim, but this looks petty from the White House. And it iis an attack on the freedom of the press and their essential role in reporting and holding to account.

Reuters said it was “deeply troubled” by the exclusion of Mason and other reporters from covering the dinner.

“We believe it is essential that government provide access to – and the ability to ask questions of – officials and hold them to account,” Reuters said in a statement.

The Associated Press said it opposed White House efforts to restrict access to the president.

“It is critically important that any president uphold American press freedom standards, not only at home but especially while abroad,” said AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton.

While Trump appears to be working on peace with North Korea he looks a long way from making peace with US media.

Manafort ‘repeatedly and brazenly’ violated law

The Robert Mueller investigation has filed a new sentencing memo for Paul Manafort, saying he ” chose repeatedly and knowingly to violate the law”, with leniency unlikely as it was found that Manafort lied to investigators after making a plea deal.

CNBC: Ex-Trump campaign boss Paul Manafort could get 22 years in prison, special counsel Mueller says in massive 800-page filing

  • Paul Manafort could get nearly 22 years in prison when he is sentenced next month in just one of his criminal cases, special counsel Robert Mueller said in a court filing unsealed Saturday.
  • The special counsel called for a stiff sentence, highlighting his “bold” criminal actions and extensive pattern of deceit that “remarkably went unabated even after indictment.”
  • But Mueller did not recommend that Judge Amy Berman Jackson impose a particular prison sentence on the longtime Republican operative.

Fox News:  Mueller sentencing memo says Manafort ‘repeatedly and brazenly’ violated law

FBI special counsel Robert Mueller’s office accused former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of “repeatedly and brazenly” violating the law, according to a redacted sentencing memo filed on Friday in a Washington court.

“Manafort committed an array of felonies for over a decade, up through the fall of 2018,” the memo says. “Manafort chose repeatedly and knowingly to violate the law — whether the laws proscribed garden-variety crimes such as tax fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice, and bank fraud, or more esoteric laws that he nevertheless was intimately familiar with, such as the Foreign Agents Registration Act.”

Manafort pleaded guilty in September to two counts of conspiring stemming from his Ukrainian political consulting work. As part of a plea deal in the case, Manafort admitted to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

The memo filed Friday also said that some of his crimes were particularly “bold” as some were committed “while under a spotlight due to his work as the campaign chairman and, later, while he was on bail from this Court.” It goes on to allege that “Manafort represents a grave risk of recidivism” if released from jail.

Prosecutors aren’t expected to recommend leniency because a judge found earlier this month that Manafort lied to investigators after agreeing to cooperate. They are not taking a position about whether the sentence should run consecutively or concurrently with the separate punishment that Manafort faces in a bank and tax fraud case in Virginia. In that case, where Manafort was convicted on eight counts of bank and tax fraud, Mueller’s team recommended a sentence of up to 24 years in prison and as much as a $24 million fine.

It is thought likely Manafort will effectively get a virtual life sentence. He is 69 years old.

Trump declares national emergency to get border wall built

President Donald Trump has been promising for years to build a wall because of security threats. He has been threatening for weeks to declare a national emergency over border security in order to get funds to build more wall between the US and Mexico.

There must be a sudden emergency, because he has just declared one.

President Donald Trump plans to spend about $8 billion on border barriers, far more than Congress has given him for that purpose.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney says Trump will tap various other sources of money beyond the nearly $1.4 billion in a government funding bill that Congress passed. Trump is expected to sign the bill.

Besides the money from Congress, Mulvaney said Friday that Trump plans to spend $600 million in Treasury forfeiture funds and $2.5 billion in Defense Department counterdrug money. Trump is also tapping about $3.6 billion worth of funds set aside for military construction projects.

BBC:  ‘Walls work’: Trump confirms emergency move

President Trump confirms he’ll use emergency powers to build a wall on Mexico’s border, saying “walls work”.

But it’s far from certain if his declaring an emergency will work.

Reuters – Explainer: Trump risks legal fight with emergency threat on wall

President Donald Trump will almost certainly face legal challenges over his decision to declare a national emergency to get additional funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall, circumventing the power of Congress to set spending policy.

Legal scholars say it is unclear how such a step would play out, but they agree a court test would likely focus on whether an emergency actually exists on the southern border and on the limits of presidential power over taxpayer funds.

Trump is unhappy with a bipartisan border security bill that is going through Congress to avert another government shutdown, because it contains only a fraction of the funds he demanded for his promised border wall. The White House said Trump would sign the bill but declare a national emergency to try to obtain funds for the wall.

That will likely trigger a long legal fight possibly stretching into Trump’s 2020 re-election bid, and embolden critics who already accuse him of authoritarian tendencies and unpredictable swerves in policy-making.

Congressional Democrats are already vowing legal challenges.

They have balked at giving Trump money for what they say is a wasteful and unnecessary wall.

CNBC:  Trump will sign spending bill, declare a national emergency and ‘other executive action’ to build wall

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “may” file a legal challenge and will review her options, she told reporters Thursday.

“Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that President Trump broke his core promise to have Mexico pay for his wall,” she and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement Thursday. They added: “This is not an emergency, and the president’s fearmongering doesn’t make it one.”

As Trump moves to declare national emergency to build wall, border crossings at record lows

“He redefined the usually underpowered Vice Presidential role to affect a practical coup-by-stealth”

Requested repost:


Movie Review: VICE (2018)

“A week is a long time in politics” is a well worn phrase and is even more outdated in the age of Trump and the internet. When you have a political leader who is all about constant self-promotion and when the news cycle changes so rapidly, its hard to keep up with what’s happening. This no doubt effects collective memory too. Trump is sometimes seen as sui generis and makes his predecessors look highly capable, whether they were or not.

Its worth remembering that as little as nearly 20 years ago, people were decrying another President with shallow understanding and who had an even more devastating effect on the world. George W Bush was inarticulate and superficial and headed a regime that went to war on spurious grounds, a war that in one form or other is still going. Michael Moore has made a bio-doc of Trump, Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018) in his now very tiresome ‘gotcha’ style, but nobody has made a feature film yet. Bush received attention in W (2008) but its about time somebody went back to re-visit the period, now that a new generation has come-of-age since then. That wish has been answered in the suggestively titled film VICE (2018).

This movie doesn’t look at Bush himself, but covers the personal and to a greater degree political life of his Vice-President Dick Cheney (Christian Bale). As portrayed in this account, the still little known Cheney began life as a young tear away with intelligence but limited academic aptitude. Through the intervention of his more astute wife Lynne (Amy Adams) (not God as supposedly was the case with Bush), he turned his life around and found his way into the Washington bureaucracy. There he came under the wing of Donald Rumsfeld, played with great relish by Steve Carell as an almost ideology-free player of personal realpolitik in the scandal riddled Nixon White House.

Various ups and downs ensue, with Cheney working steadily and mole like in various positions, resurfacing briefly as a possible candidate for President himself at one point. Simply put, he was so poor in the limelight, this option was never going to be realistic. In probably the best segment of the movie, ‘Dubya’ (Sam Rockwell) appears as an alternative for President and seeks out Cheney as a Vice President. Cheney initially turns the offer down. Then in a scene that employs internal monologue and an extended visual metaphor, we see a master fisherman luring in a flashy but dumb ‘fish’ onto his line. In some ways its a bit of a blunt idea but the acting of Bale helps carry it.

The central thesis of the film when it covers the time in power is simply that it was Cheney himself who had that power. It wasn’t that he acted as some kind of Svengali or Caligari figure, controlling W as a puppet master behind the throne. The claim is more that using a highly authoritarian interpretation of executive power and a team of underlings as Machiavellian as himself, he redefined the usually underpowered Vice Presidential role to affect a practical coup-by-stealth that by-passed the normal checks and balances. How much of this is speculation and how much can be backed up, is probably still open for some debate. Even if some of it proves not to stand up, it is an interesting take on things and makes you sit up and notice all such grey, bland figures who lurk in the corridors of power around the world.

In his previous movie The Big Short (2015) Director Adam McKay took the equally important and dull subject of the prime mortgages scandal and decked the story out with a series of flashy techniques that served the story well. For example, breaking the fourth wall by having famous personalities speaking to the audience as themselves, helping to explain the otherwise banal aspects of the financial crisis. In that film it worked. Here, he resurrects similarly ostentatious methods, including an unreliable narrator who offers the viewer direct-to-camera soliloquies, a false mid-story ‘ending’ with a re-wind and most absurdly a surreal interlude where the main protagonists launch into Shakespearean dialogue while in bed. Unfortunately in this case, it works contrary to the greater good of the story and runs right up against the very effective acting Christian Bale injects into his central character. Bale has a long career and has sometimes gone overboard in his method approach. In VICE, he does a good job of portraying somebody who is largely an enigma, but holds a calm power and some of the techniques described undercut this.

To conclude, VICE is a good reminder that a power structure is an edifice with many components. It doesn’t consist solely of the flashy front-man who distracts the crowds. There are often others behind the scenes who we need to be made aware of. Despite some faults, this movie serves that important function and is worth watching to remind us that the past is still with us.

http://awsm.nz/2019/02/15/movie-review-vice-2018/

Manafort lied to prosecutors, McCabe ordered obstruction of justice probe of Trump

Two bits of major news on the ongoing ‘Russian collusion’ investigation and related legal issues relating to Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency.

Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort has been found by a judge to have “”made multiple false statements to the FBI, the OSC and the grand jury concerning matters that were material to the investigation.” This breaches a plea agreement he had made as he awaits sentencing on multiple charges.

And Andrew McCabe has revealed that as acting director of the FBI he had ordered an obstruction of justice probe into President Trump.  Trump later sacked McCabe, and as has become typical he has slammed McCabe via Twitter.

NY Times:  Manafort Found to Have Lied to Prosecutors While Under a Cooperation Agreement

A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, had breached his plea agreement by lying multiple times to prosecutors after pledging to cooperate with the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

The decision by Judge Amy Berman Jackson of United States District Court in Washington may affect the severity of punishment that awaits Mr. Manafort. Judge Jackson is scheduled to sentence him next month on two conspiracy counts, and he is also awaiting sentencing for eight other counts in a related fraud case.

After Mr. Manafort agreed in September to cooperate with the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, the judge found, he lied about his contacts with a Russian associate during the campaign and after the election. Prosecutors claim that the associate, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, has ties to Russian intelligence, and have been investigating whether he was involved in Russia’s covert campaign to influence the election results.

The judge also found that Mr. Manafort had lied about a payment that was routed through a pro-Trump political action committee to cover his legal bills, and about information relevant to another undisclosed investigation underway at the Justice Department.

Mr. Manafort joins a string of former Trump aides who have been found to have lied to federal investigators about their involvement with Russians or their intermediaries, including Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser; George Papadopoulos, a former campaign adviser; and Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s longtime fixer and lawyer.

I think it’s fair to wonder why so many of Trump’s associates have lied in the investigation into his campaign. Trump himself lies frequently and brazenly so those working for him could have been following his example, but lying to obstruct the investigation is legally a very serious matter – as Manafort is likely to discover when sentenced,

The judge’s ruling (CNN): Judge rules on Manafort plea deal

Meanwhile parts of a CBS Andrew McCabe interview: McCabe says he ordered the obstruction of justice probe of President Trump

Soon after speaking to President Trump about the firing of his boss James Comey, Andrew McCabe, who became the bureau’s acting director, began obstruction of justice and counterintelligence investigations involving the president and his ties to Russia. In his first television interview since his own firing, McCabe tells 60 Minutes’ Scott Pelley he wanted those inquiries to be documented and underway so they would be difficult to quash without raising scrutiny.

“I was very concerned that I was able to put the Russia case on absolutely solid ground, in an indelible fashion. That were I removed quickly, or reassigned or fired, that the case could not be closed or vanish in the night without a trace.”

“I wanted to make sure that our case was on solid ground and if somebody came in behind me and closed it and tried to walk away from it, they would not be able to do that without creating a record of why they made that decision”.

In typical fashion Trump attacked the messenger:

Disgraced FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe pretends to be a “poor little Angel” when in fact he was a big part of the Crooked Hillary Scandal & the Russia Hoax – a puppet for Leakin’ James Comey. I.G. report on McCabe was devastating. Part of “insurance policy” in case I won.

Many of the top FBI brass were fired, forced to leave, or left. McCabe’s wife received BIG DOLLARS from Clinton people for her campaign – he gave Hillary a pass. McCabe is a disgrace to the FBI and a disgrace to our Country. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

A lot of irony in that.

These are the days of the lives of some of the world’s most powerful people.

Trump hasn’t attacked Manafort. It looks increasingly likely that Manafort is taking a fall for Trump to try to hide something.

Jennifer Rubin (Washington Post): Paul Manafort’s day in court spells trouble for Trump

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s lies caught up with him in federal court on Wednesday. The result was a decision that likely means, absent either a deal or a presidential pardon, he’ll spend the rest of his life in jail.

In previous court filings that were inadvertently released, we learned that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III had evidence that Manafort gave Kilimnik private polling data. This exchange, according to what federal prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told a federal judge last week, went “to the heart” of the Mueller investigation.

“Manafort is either the most self-destructive, irrational liar in history, or he is still protecting a secret so dark that exposing it would kill his chance for a pardon,” former Justice Department spokesman Matt Miller tells me.

This, in short, was collusion — Trump’s top campaign official giving material to a suspected agent of a hostile foreign government that the campaign had already been warned was attempting to interfere with our election. Whatever you call it — direct or indirect evidence — this now is one link proven in court between the campaign and the Russians. We know of others, of course, including the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 designed to get dirt on Hillary Clinton, Trump’s public call for Russia to go after Clinton’s emails, and more than 100 contacts between Russian figures and members of the Trump circle.

It’s difficult to think of an explanation for Manafort’s lying that doesn’t open new avenues for Mueller to explore. “There is no non-nefarious explanation for the chairman of a presidential campaign secretly meeting with a suspected Russian agent in the midst of an election that the Russians are actively trying to influence and then lying about it to the prosecutor after agreeing to cooperate.,” says Max Bergmann of the Moscow Project. “The only reason for Manafort to lie at this point is to cover up something truly devastating.”

Those speculating that Mueller is wrapping up soon better reset their clocks. With Manafort now under extreme pressure, he could for the first time tell us what exactly is the deep dark secret about Russia and the Trump operation that so many people have lied to cover up.

Perhaps, but up until now there has been no indication that Manafort will open up. Perhaps he sees no chance of anything other than a lifetime sentence regardless. Or perhaps he is banking on a pardon from Trump – but that would open up another big area of concern in the US.

 

Trump lies bigger than Texas

Donald Trump is well known for lying and making false claims, and he often keeps repeating them.

El Paso is on the US-Mexico border and has taken issue with comments Trump made in his State of the Union address last week.

The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime — one of the highest in the country, and considered one of our Nation’s most dangerous cities. Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities.
Simply put, walls work and walls save lives. So let’s work together, compromise, and reach a deal that will truly make America safe.

Simply put, Trump is making false claims again to try to get support for his wall.

El Paso Times – State of the Union: Facts show Trump wrong to say El Paso dangerous city until fence

President Donald Trump used El Paso as an example of a safe city to bolster his argument that the United States needs to construct a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border during the State of the Union on Tuesday.

This isn’t the first time the White House has tried to make this argument about El Paso, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton shared a similar comment with Trump during his visit to Texas in early January.

They debunk Truimp’s claim in detail. And also similar claims by Trump spokespeople and associates.

Houston Chronicle editorial: Welcome, Mr. President. Here’s the truth about El Paso

At nearly every turn, Trump’s statements and actions before and after he took office two years ago have revealed an ignorance of even the most basic aspects of life in Texas. Recall when he talked, absurdly, about the thousands of pleasure-boating Texans during Harvey who had to be saved by the Coast Guard. In fact, they were braving storm-tossed waters to rescue neighbors.

Trump seems even more confused when he talks about the border. Take his recent comments about El Paso and the border fence completed there in 2009.

The quote from his SOTU speech as above.

That’s unequivocally wrong. All Texans know that El Paso lies directly across the border from Juarez, where murder and kidnappings have at times overwhelmed local authorities. We also know that El Paso itself has for decades been universally considered one of the safest cities in America.

The border fence completed in 2009 didn’t make that so. The crime rate, and especially the rate of violent crimes, had been falling for nearly 20 years before that fence was completed.

That El Paso has been safe for decades is borne out by more than FBI stats. Elected officials from both parties have called out Trump’s falsehood repeatedly in recent days.

Does any of any this really matter? We wish it didn’t. But sadly, Trump has a powerful hold on a significant swath of Americans — and their congressional representatives — who want so badly to believe his promises of greatness that they don’t bother to check the fine print. They believe quickly and blindly. And by the time the fact-checkers weigh in, Trump will have moved to the next rally.

But Trump bullshit isn’t in the fine print. He blares it all over Twitter.

More concerning perhaps is that his speech writers have presumably played a hand in his SOTU script, which is more bullshit.

MediaFiled:  Was The Media’s SOTU Fact-Check Fair?

Along with the typical suspects–like Snopes and FactCheck.org–most mainstream, reputable news sources took a deep dive into the logical fallacies and falsehoods they claimed the President espoused in his 82-minute-long speech.

Outlets like The New York Times took the time to break down substantive policy claims on international affairs, immigration, abortion and the economy with nuance, specifying whether a claim was true, false or misleading.

Forbes pushed back on Trump’s economic statistics, pointing out that he fibbed facts on created jobs, wage and economic growth. The El Paso Times clarified that saying their city’s violent crime rate makes a case for “walls working” is untrue. CNN refuted Trump on undocumented crime in general, with most point-by-point analyses painting Trump’s narrative as incorrect.

While most of these fact-checks weren’t partisan commentary, the sheer volume of articles published created a sense of anti-Trump bias for some. That’s without mentioning the sources that FOX interpreted as “nitpicking.”

The sheer volume of articles pointing out Trump lies has something to do with the number of times Trump lies.

Pundits like Brian Stelter went further in their defense, expressing frustration at “Trump’s [worsening] level of lying, of deceit” and calling for news organizations to be more equipped to tackle falsehoods during “the Super Bowl of fact-checking.”

But on the other hand, in an age where a whopping 75 percent of conservatives don’t feel like the media even understands them, nitpicking against conservative champions isn’t the best look.

Ah, having a president who is a compulsive liar isn’t the best look.

“The ‘fact-checkers’, Hell-bent to prove Trump wrong, have become just another tool of advocacy journalism.”

Fact checking what the president says is ‘advocacy journalism’? I would say it is a fundamental role of political journalism.

Just because some people that poor Donald is being unfairly criticised doesn’t negate the need for or validity of criticism.

David Harsanyi, Senior Editor of The Federalist, points out what seems to him to be partisan media hysteria, describing how fact-checking subjective assertions and talking points with hyper-precision can, itself, obscure information.

“There are plenty of legitimately misleading statements worthy of fact-checkers’ attention,” wrote Harsanyi in a column for the New York Post.

“Yet, with a veneer of impartiality, fact-checkers often engage in a uniquely dishonest style of partisanship.”

Whether you think that Trump compulsively lies or that the media’s narrative of him constantly lying has gone too far, it’s clear that the press need to hold government accountable now, as it always has.

But in order for it to do so, journalists must also hold themselves to a higher, objective standard and reflect on whether or not partisan biases are clouding their judgment.

It seems remarkable that fact checking journalists are being held to ‘a higher, objective standard’ (fair enough to call for that) because they keep pointing out how dishonest President Trump is. This suggests Trump’s tactic of diverting from his lies to the media reporting those lies has been in part successful.

 

Second Trump-Kim Yong Un summit announced, North Korea “will become a great economic powerhouse”

After the location for a second summit between Donald Trump and Kim Yong Un was announced (It will take place in Hanoi, Vietnam, on February 27 and 28) Trump tweeted that “North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Yong Un, will become a great economic powerhouse”.

NY Times: Trump says North Korea talks productive, summit will be in Hanoi

President Donald Trump said on Friday that U.S. diplomats had a “very productive meeting” with North Korean officials, and he announced his summit later this month with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would be held in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi.

“My representatives have just left North Korea after a very productive meeting and an agreed upon time and date for the second Summit with Kim Jong Un. It will take place in Hanoi, Vietnam, on February 27 & 28,” Trump said on Twitter.

“I look forward to seeing Chairman Kim & advancing the cause of peace!” he said.

Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, held three days of talks in Pyongyang to prepare for the summit, the State Department said on Friday.

In their talks in Pyongyang, from Wednesday to Friday, Biegun and Kim Hyok Chol “discussed advancing President Trump and Chairman Kim’s Singapore summit commitments of complete denuclearization, transforming U.S.-DPRK relations, and building a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula,” the State Department said.Its statement, which referred to North Korea by the acronym for its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, gave no indication of any progress in the talks.

While in the U.S. view North Korea has yet to take concrete steps to give up its nuclear weapons, it complains that Washington has done little to reciprocate for its freezing of nuclear and missile testing and dismantling of some facilities.

North Korea has repeatedly urged a lifting of punishing U.S.-led sanctions, a formal end to the war, and security guarantees.

Trump, eager for a foreign policy win to distract from domestic troubles, has been keen for a second summit despite a lack of significant moves by North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. He and Biegun have stressed the economic benefits to North Korea if it does so.

One can only wonder what thoughts are behind this tweet.