Trump cherry picks Cohen ‘truth’ from ‘lies’, ignores chain of collusion

This is very funny.

Newshub:  Trump says Cohen telling the truth about collusion

US President Donald Trump has criticised his former lawyer Michael Cohen for lying in testimony to Congress but found reason to praise him, too, for not alleging Mr Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in 2016.

Mr Trump, speaking at a news conference in Vietnam after failing to achieve a peace deal with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, called the blockbuster hearing back in Washington “fake” and said it should not have been scheduled during his trip.

“He lied a lot, but it was very interesting because he didn’t lie about one thing – he said no collusion with the Russian hoax,” Mr Trump said.

“I wonder why he didn’t lie about that too like he did about everything else. I was actually impressed that he didn’t say, ‘well, I think there was collusion for this reason or that’. He didn’t say that.”

And even with this cherry picking Trump is making a false claim – “he said no collusion with the Russian hoax” is false. Cohen said he hadn’t seen evidence of Trump colluding with Russia. Cohen’s testimony:

“Questions have been raised about whether I know of direct evidence that Mr. Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia. I do not. I want to be clear. But, I have my suspicions.”

That’s quite different to “he said no collusion with the Russian hoax”. Trump made that up, as is his habit.

‘Collusion’ seems to have become the key phrase in discussing the Mueller investigation (more about that soon). Trump and most others don’t yet know exactly what Mueller has discovered. But there is evidence of a chain of collusion.

Trump obviously colluded with Cohen, with Paul Manafort, with Roger Stone. The first two have been convicted in relation to that, Stone is still being processed through court.

Stone colluded with WikiLeaks (with Trump’s knowledge according to Cohen), and it is claimed that WikiLeaks colluded with Russia.

Fox News:  Michael Cohen testifies about Trump, Roger Stone-WikiLeaks plot at House hearing

Fox News:  Cohen lobs bombs at Trump during fiery hearing

He waded into the investigation over Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, accusing Trump of knowing that an adviser, Roger Stone, was reaching out to WikiLeaks about the publication of stolen Democratic National Committee emails during the campaign. Trump has denied advance knowledge.

On Wednesday, Stone denied the claim, telling Fox News: “Mr. Cohen’s statement is not true.” WikiLeaks also released a statement saying, “WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange has never had a telephone call with Roger Stone.”

We will find out more about all this in time. But I think there is another issue as  important that Mueller is investigating – did Russia interfere in the US election.

Cohen claims that Trump didn’t think he would win the GOP nomination, and didn’t think he would win the election. Trump was trying to leverage his campaign to advance a hotel project in Moscow – it was mostly business he was after.

I suspect that Russia realised this and suckered Trump – they played him with the hotel deal carrot, and used Trump to put the election campaign into turmoil, and helping Trump get elected was a way to discredit the presidency and the US and democracy.

So far I think Russia has been quite successful. Trump has floundered in a game he was unfamiliar with.

Trump and his associates have done some stupid things in all of this, but I think the stupidest may turn out to be being suckered by the Russians.

There’s a lot more complexity to this than ‘did Trump collude with Russia,’

Trump blinked then caved on shutdown

Donald Trump failed to secure funding for a border wall with Mexico for the two years that the republicans held majorities in both Congress and the Senate. He blames the then speaker Paul Ryan (and probably a lot of others).

He seemed to think he could heavy the new Democrat House leadership into funding his wall, so he precipitated a partial Government shutdown and demanded it. And the new House leader Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t budge. If she had given in it would have probably set the scene for ongoing heavy handed demands from Trump.

It resulted in the longest government shutdown ever. Trump, already viewed by a majority unfavourably, started to tank in approval polls.

Pelosi withdrew her invitation to Trump for the annual State Of The Union speech in Congress until after the impasse was resolved. Trump threatened to speak elsewhere, but ended up blinking and postponing it.

The shutdown continued, and the bad press continued, and the polls dipped more.

Then on Friday Trump caved in, for now anyway.

Reuters: Backing down, Trump agrees to end shutdown without border wall money

President Donald Trump agreed under mounting pressure on Friday to end a 35-day-old partial U.S. government shutdown without getting the $5.7 billion he had demanded from Congress for a border wall, handing a political victory to Democrats.

The Republican president’s agreement to end the shuttering of about a quarter of the federal government without securing wall money – an astonishing retreat – came three days after he had insisted, “We will not Cave!”

But Trump vowed that the shutdown would resume on Feb. 15 if he is dissatisfied with the results of a bipartisan House-Senate conference committee’s border security negotiations, or he would declare a national emergency in order to get the wall money without congressional approval.

He has been threatening to declare a national emergency for some time – but if it was actually an emergency why wait? It hasn’t suddenly become an emergency.

With polls showing most Americans blamed him for the painful shutdown – the longest of its kind in U.S. history – Trump embraced a way out of the crisis that Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had been pushing for weeks. The shutdown, which pitted Pelosi against Trump, was her first test since assuming the post three weeks ago.

Democrats remained unyielding in their opposition to a wall, one of Trump’s signature campaign promises that they call ineffective, costly and immoral.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden on a chilly, sunny winter day, Trump said he would act to ensure that federal workers get their back pay “very quickly, or as soon as possible.”

That’s a change in stance for Trump.

But this doesn’t end the problem, it just postpones it. And it may make Trump’s problems bigger. He had been encouraged into talking and tough on wall funding by some on the hard right, and they are not happy.

Fox News: 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.

Before appearing on the show, Coulter spent a good part of Friday blasting Trump on Twitter for accepting a temporary funding bill to reopen the government without money for the border wall.

“Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States,” she wrote in a series of tweets.

On the Maher show:

“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.”

“I’m telling you how to get Trump,” Coulter said. “He promised something for 18 months and he lied about it. That’s how you get Trump. It’s not this Russia nonsense.”

This may damage Trump’s core support.

As is his habit Trump claimed some sort of victory on twitter:

“I wish people would read or listen to my words on the Border Wall. This was in no way a concession. It was taking care of millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!”

His words on the border wall have been a moving target as he fails to get funding.

He diidn’t care about the millions of people getting hurt by the shutdown when he made it happen – he even claimed that many unpaid workers supported what he had inflicted on them.

This has also inflicted a lot of damage on Trump’s ego. This sort of report won’t help: Art of the cave: Trump folds, finally

The man whose name graces the cover of “The Art of the Deal” called it a compromise, but let’s be clear: His agreement with Democrats to end the punch-yourself-in-the-face government shutdown was a complete capitulation, brought on in a panic when the gears of American air travel began grinding to a halt.

A less pigheaded politician would learn a hard lesson from how the embarrassing standoff backfired; he found himself unable to squirm out of responsibility for a cataclysm he had proudly announced was of his own making.

With Trump, the capacity for evolution is very much an open question. He spent most of his Rose Garden remarks repeating fearmongering tropes, most of them apocryphal, about the urgent need for a 30-foot-high wall along 1,000 miles of southern border.

It would be insane to think that we could be back in the same mess three weeks from now, but remember who sits in the Oval Office.

With Pelosi and the Democrats standing up to him until he blinked then caved. he next couple of years are going to be challenge for Trump, especially if the hard core right also turn against him.

Trump threatens Turkey with economic devastation

Donald Trump recently announced that the United States would be withdrawing their troops from Syria. This raised questions about the fate of the Kurds who had been supported and used by the US, but are opposed by Turkey.

Trump has answered in his typical bluster and threat style, via Twitter:

“Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms. Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds. Create 20 mile safe zone…Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey.”

What if the Kurds attack Turkish forces? Should Turkey not respond for fear of economic devastation?

What if Russia…? What if Iran…?

What would economic devastation mean for Turkey and the Middle East and the Mediterranean?

Reuters: Trump threatens Turkey with economic devastation if it attacks Syrian Kurd militia

U.S. President Donald Trump threatened Turkey with economic devastation if it attacks a U.S.-allied Kurdish militia in Syria, drawing a sharp rebuke from Ankara on Monday and reviving fears of another downturn in ties between the NATO allies.

Relations between the United States and Turkey have long been strained by Washington’s support for the Kurdish YPG, which Turkey views as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that is waging a decades-long insurgency in Turkey.

Speaking in Riyadh, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he did not think the threat would change plans to withdraw troops from Syria. Asked what Trump meant by economic devastation, he said: “You’ll have to ask the president.”

“We have applied economic sanctions in many places, I assume he is speaking about those kinds of things, Pompeo said, adding he had not spoken with Ankara since Trump’s comment.

So it sounds like Trump’s Secretary of State doesn’t know what the hell Trump is playing at. This isn’t an unusual situation for Trump’s administration. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned over Trump’s Syrian withdrawal announcement.

Trump has already impacted significantly on the Turkish economy.

Ankara is well aware of the cost of strained ties with the United States. A diplomatic crisis last year, when Trump imposed sanctions on two of President Tayyip Erdogan’s ministers and raised tariffs on Turkish metal exports, helped push the Turkish lira to a record low in August.

Things are getting crazier, with Trump letting loose on Twitter making seemingly impulsive, destablilising (for his Administration and for the world) and potentially devastating pronouncements.


Reuters Explainer: Where do the Kurds fit into Syria’s war?

The future of Kurdish-led swathes of northern and eastern Syria has been thrown into doubt by President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops who have helped secure the territory.

The region, roughly a quarter of Syria, is the largest chunk of the country still outside the control of President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran.

Syrian Kurdish leaders fear Turkey, which sees them as a threat, will use a U.S. pullout as an opportunity to mount an assault into northern Syria.

This has driven them to talk to Moscow and Damascus in the hope of agreeing a deal to protect the region and safeguarding their political gains.

The Russians will be quietly looking for any advantage they can take over the Us withdrawal from Syria.

HOW DID THE KURDS EMERGE AS A FORCE?

The main Syrian Kurdish faction, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), began to establish a foothold in the north early in the war as government forces withdrew to put down the anti-Assad uprising elsewhere. An affiliated militia, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), secured the region.

Early in the conflict, their control was concentrated in three predominantly Kurdish regions home to roughly 2 million Kurds. Kurdish-led governing bodies were set up.

The area of YPG influence expanded as the fighters joined forces with the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State (IS), becoming the spearhead of a multi-ethnic militia alliance, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

SDF influence widened to Manbij and Raqqa as IS was defeated in both. It has also reached deep into Deir al-Zor, where the SDF is still fighting IS. The SDF, which also includes Arab and other groups, says it has more than 70,000 fighters.

Kurdish leaders say their aim is regional autonomy within a decentralized Syria, not independence.

The Syrian Government would probably not react well to an bid for full independence.

WHY DOES TURKEY VIEW THEM AS A THREAT?

The PYD is heavily influenced by the ideas of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, a founding member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a 34-year insurgency in Turkey for Kurdish political and cultural rights. Ocalan has been in jail since 1999 in Turkey. He is convicted of treason.

The PKK is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. Turkey says the PKK is indistinguishable from the PYD and YPG.

So the US has been supporting an organisation they have designated terrorists?

Turkey has a Kurdish minority equal to 15 to 20 percent of its population, mostly living in eastern and southeastern areas bordering Syria. Wary of separatistism, Turkey views the PYD’s Syrian foothold as a security threat.

Turkey has already mounted two cross-border offensives in northern Syria as part of its efforts to counter the YPG.

Now Trump has threatened Turkey not to do that.

FOR KURDS, IS ASSAD A FRIEND OR FOE?

Syria’s Baathist state systematically oppressed the Kurds before the war. Yet the YPG and Damascus have broadly stayed out of each other’s way during the conflict, despite occasional clashes. They also have been seen to cooperate against shared foes, notably in and around Aleppo.

The YPG has allowed the Syrian state to keep a foothold in some of its areas. The YPG commander told Reuters in 2017 it would have no problem with the Assad government if Kurdish rights are guaranteed in Syria.

But Damascus has long opposed Kurdish autonomy demands and talks between the two sides last year went nowhere.

It’s complicated. And difficult to see a lasting solution.

WHAT WOULD AN ASSAD-KURD DEAL MEAN FOR THE WAR?

The territory held by Damascus and the Kurdish-led authorities accounts for most of Syria. A political settlement – if one could be reached, perhaps with Russian help – could go a long way to stitching the map back together.

Anti-Assad insurgents, though defeated across much of Syria by the government and its allies, still have a foothold in the northwest stretching from Idlib through Afrin to Jarablus. Turkey has troops on the ground in this area.

The rebels include Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army groups and jihadists.

Assad also wants Turkey out as he vows to recover “every inch” of Syria.

It’s very complicated.

I don’t think Trump can deal with complexities, apart from making them more complex with his ad hoc impulsiveness and threats.

Some good may accidentally emerge from his approach, but there is a far greater likelihood he will make things worse.

Russia will be seeing how they can benefit from all of this. I can’t see Trump deliberately aiding Russia here, but that is a highly likely inadvertent outcome.

 

Trump has surprise visit to Iraq

From Gezza:

In a surprise trip to Iraq, late on Christmas Night US President Donald Trump defended his decision to withdraw US forces from Syria where they have been helping battle Islamic State militants.

“We’re no longer the suckers, folks,” Trump told American servicemen and women at a base in western Iraq. “We’re respected again as a nation.”

Trump said it’s because of US military gains that he can withdraw 2000 forces from Syria. During his first visit to a troubled region, Trump also said he has no plans to withdraw US forces from Iraq.


Members of the military cheer as Trump speaks

He said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to take out “any remnants” of Isis left in Syria. The US presence in Syria was not meant to be “open-ended,” he said, adding that other wealthy nations should pay for rebuilding Syria.

“The nations of the region must step up and take more responsibility for their future,” said Trump, who said there would be a “strong, deliberate and orderly withdrawal” of US forces from Syria.

More (quite a lot more) …
https://www.stuff.co.nz/world/americas/109612177/president-donald-trump-makes-surprise-visit-to-iraq

Trump’s “enemy of the people’ attacks teetering on tyranny

Donald Trump has frequently attacked ‘the media’, interchanging ‘fake news’ and ‘enemy of the people’. The latter puts him in quite bad company. Lenin Stalin, Mao, Mugabe, and Hitler, and more recently in Venezuela, Myanmar and Zimbabwe.

Trump has been doing it since the start of his presidency.

NY Times (17 February 2017): Trump Calls the News Media the ‘Enemy of the American People’

President Trump, in an extraordinary rebuke of the nation’s press organizations, wrote on Twitter on Friday that the nation’s news media “is the enemy of the American people.”

Even by the standards of a president who routinely castigates journalists — and who on Thursday devoted much of a 77-minute news conference to criticizing his press coverage — Mr. Trump’s tweet was a striking escalation in his attacks.

USA Today (24 February 2017): Trump again calls media ‘enemy of the people’

President Trump turned his speech before a conservative convention into a full-throated attack on journalism Friday, saying some reporters make up unnamed sources for “fake news” and again describing them as “the enemy” of the American people.

“A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are — they are the enemy of the people,” Trump told the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

While praising some reporters as honest, and pledging fealty to the First Amendment, Trump claimed that “the fake news media doesn’t tell the truth.” He said reporters should not be allowed to use anonymous sources, and “we’re going to do something about it.”

And on Friday (2 August 2018):

So Trump has hept portraying ‘a large percentage of the media’ (media that doesn’t say what he wants) as “the enemy of the people”.  This is an insidious assault on an imperfect and essential part of a free and open democracy.

And it is a tactic that has been done by tyrants and dictators in the past.

Brookings: Enemy of the People

In Enemy of the People, Marvin Kalb, an award-winning American journalist with more than six decades of experience both as a journalist and media observer, writes with passion about why we should fear for the future of American democracy because of the unrelenting attacks by the Trump administration on the press.

Shortly after assuming office in January 2017, President Donald Trump accused the press of being an “enemy of the American people.” Attacks on the media had been a hallmark of Trump’s presidential campaign, but this charge marked a dramatic turning point: language like this ventured into dangerous territory.

Twentieth-century dictators—notably, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao—had all denounced their critics, especially the press, as “enemies of the people.” Their goal was to delegitimize the work of the press as “fake news” and create confusion in the public mind about what’s real and what isn’t; what can be trusted and what can’t be.

Image result for cartoon enemy of the people

@BriaanKlaas:

Trump continues to call the press “the enemy of the people,” which is both disgusting and dangerous. To understand why, let’s look at the history of that sinister phrase, who has used it in the past, why, and how it fosters a higher likelihood of violence against journalists.

The modern origins of the phrase are from the French Revolution’s “reign of terror,” when people were beheaded en masse. But it resurged during the Nazi era, when Hitler referred to the “lying press” and called Jews “the enemy of the people.” But, it keeps getting worse.

It’s a Soviet phrase too, something Lenin started and Stalin continued. For Stalin, labeling someone an “enemy of the people,” meant internment at a forced labor camp and sometimes death. The term was *too extreme* for Nikita Khrushchev, who denounced it *in the 1950s.*

Mao used the phrase regularly too to label anyone who opposed his rule as an “enemy of the people.” The consequences of that label were also dire and often led to death. Mao was a murderous dictator who killed nearly 40 million people.

In modern times, other dictators have used the phrase too. Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez labeled critical media outlets as “enemies of the homeland,” in the same vein. Are you beginning to see a pattern in what type of regime calls its critics the “enemy of the people?”

The phrase has also been deployed against the press in places as diverse as Myanmar (when it was ruled purely by a military junta) and Zimbabwe (when it was ruled by longtime dictator Robert Mugabe)

There is a reason that the phrase “enemy of the people” has been almost exclusively deployed by murderous dictators. To use it to describe the free press, which is a pillar of every democracy, is particularly sinister. Trump is borrowing a phrase from the worst of the worst.

In my field research, I’ve interviewed several authoritarian leaders who admit that they do *what they can get away with* when it comes to destroying the press. The White House used to be the deterrent, threatening consequences to regimes that harassed or attacked journalists.

Calling the press “the enemy of the people” encourages violence against journalists in the US. Keep in mind that he has also called the free press “a stain on America,” and “scum.” People listen to him. And a lot of crazy people with guns listen to him too.

Trump’s anti-press rhetoric puts him in a category with Stalin, Mao, Mugabe, Hitler & Chavez. This isn’t partisan. Democracy can’t survive without a free press. Authoritarianism requires the press to be crushed or cowed. Trump’s rhetoric is disgusting, dangerous, and must end.

I doubt it will end. Trump plays by his own rules as much as he can.

And it isn’t just Trump. He has his lackeys supporting his attacks on media – see Sarah Huckabee Sanders refuses to dispute claim that media is ‘enemy’ of the people.

And Trump has recruited an army of supporters who make excuses and defend his assaults on the media, and attack ‘the media’, and denigrate and try to discredit those who condemn his insidious attacks.

So does he see media that holds him to account is an enemy of his ambitions? Or an enemy of his ego?

I think it’s both. His presidency is teetering on tyranny.

Trump visiting United Kingdom

Donald Trump’s controversial visit to the United Kingdom has begun, at the same time a poll has been released saying that 50% of British people polled don’t want him to visit, but with Trump claiming “I think they like me a lot in the UK’.

BBC – Donald Trump: US president heads to dinner with Theresa May

The event at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, is expected to focus on post-Brexit trade, and comes days after Mr Trump said the UK was in “turmoil”.

Protesters have gathered outside the US ambassador’s residence in London, where the Trumps are staying tonight, and near Blenheim Palace.

Extra security is in place to police the protests, but Mr Trump has said that Britons “like me a lot” and that he feels “fine” about any such protests.

Speaking at the Nato summit in Brussels before he arrived, Mr Trump said the UK was a “hot spot right now”.

Trump has had a say on Brexit – Donald Trump: Brexit is turning out ‘a little bit differently’

The US president said “Brexit is Brexit” but it was turning out “a little bit differently” with the UK “partially involved” with the EU.

“Maybe they’re taking a little bit of a different route,” he went on.

Mr Trump backed a Leave vote ahead of the 2016 EU referendum, when he was a US presidential candidate, and he was asked for his views at the Nato summit press conference.

“It’s not for me to say,” the US president said.

“I’d like to see them be able to work it out so it can go quickly, whatever they work out.”

Guardian: ‘I think they like me a lot in the UK’, says Donald Trump – video