Trump keeps trashing his Attorney General

As others have expressed here, it is easy to become numb to what Donald Trump says. Incredulity is turning into boredom due to the number of outrageous things he says.

Media don’t help as they keep reporting on stupid but trivial things, like his comments on the hurricane Florence flooding “One of the wettest we’ve ever seen, from the standpoint of water”. Mocking Trump is like breathing air.

But Trump’s ongoing involvement and interference in judicial matters and investigations is (or should be) a major concern.

Like Trump says ‘hard to imagine’ Kavanaugh guilty of allegation

Trump conceded that “we’ll have to make a decision” if Ford’s account proves convincing.

“I can only say this: He is such an outstanding man. Very hard for me to imagine that anything happened,” Trump said.

This is mild involvement by Trump’s standards, but it would normally be prudent for President stay right out of things like this (Trump us not known for prudence).

However some of the most serious interference from Trump is his ongoing attacks on his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.

Hill.TV INTERVIEW EXCLUSIVE: Trump eviscerates Sessions: ‘I don’t have an attorney general’

“I don’t have an attorney general. It’s very sad,”

“I’m so sad over Jeff Sessions because he came to me. He was the first senator that endorsed me. And he wanted to be attorney general, and I didn’t see it”

“And then he went through the nominating process and he did very poorly. I mean, he was mixed up and confused, and people that worked with him for, you know, a long time in the Senate were not nice to him, but he was giving very confusing answers. Answers that should have been easily answered. And that was a rough time for him.”

“He gets in and probably because of the experience that he had going through the nominating when somebody asked him the first question about Hillary Clinton or something he said ‘I recuse myself, I recuse myself”.

“And now it turned out he didn’t have to recuse himself. Actually, the FBI reported shortly thereafter any reason for him to recuse himself. And it’s very sad what happened.”

What Trump seems to be sad about is that Sessions is acting for the United States of America, as he absolutely should be, and not in Trump’s own personal interests.

And as is common, Trump is wrong in the recusal.  Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee:

“I recused myself not because of any asserted wrongdoing on my part during the campaign, but because a Department of Justice regulation, 28 CFR 45.2, required it.”

Trump appears to see himself as above the law.

He has been trashing Sessions for some time, because Sessions is not doing what he wants, and doesn’t do what Trump says he wants him to do.

Trump has the power to sack Sessions. That he hasn’t done that despite his ongoing criticism suggests that it has been made clear to him that it would likely lead to a crisis in his presidency, and would possibly making his own position untenable.

If Trump sacked sessions it may (and should) precipitate mass resignations from his administration, and it may even force Republican politicians to stand up for their country rather than rolling over for Trump.

Manafort pleads guilty, to cooperate with Mueller investigation

Signalled yesterday, confirmed today (Friday US time) – Paul Manafort, who was soon to face further charges, has entered a guilty plea after a deal of “full cooperation” with  prosecutors investigating whether any Trump associates played a role in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

Manafort already faces a possible lengthy prison sentence after being found guilty on eight counts of federal tax and banking crimes last month.

Fox News:  Paul Manafort pleads guilty, agrees to cooperate in deal with Mueller team

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guilty in federal court Friday as part of a plea agreement that involves cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller and allows him to avoid a second trial.

“I plead guilty,” Manafort, 69, told U.S. District Judge Amy Berman in Washington.

Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told the judge that Manafort’s deal includes a cooperation agreement with prosecutors, who are investigating whether any Trump associates played a role in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. That could include interviews with prosecutors and testifying in court.

A defense attorney for Manafort told Fox News the deal includes “full cooperation.”

Manafort, in a trial set to begin Sept. 24, had been facing seven counts of foreign lobbying violations and witness tampering in federal court in Washington.

Manafort faces up to 10 years on these charges in Washington.

Manafort attorney Kevin Downing told reporters after the court hearing it was a “tough day” for his client, “who has accepted responsibility.” He said Manafort “wanted to make sure that his family was able to remain safe and live a good life.”

The case was brought by Mueller’s team, which is probing potential crimes related to the 2016 election. But Manafort has not been charged with anything related to the campaign.

There were the predictable denials and distancing from Trump spokespeople:

“Once again an investigation has concluded with a plea having nothing to do with President Trump or the Trump campaign,” Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said in a statement to Fox News. “The reason: the president did nothing wrong.”

Bloomberg: Mueller Wins Manafort’s Cooperation in Plea Deal

The White House, which has repeatedly played down Manafort’s role on the campaign, responded to news of his guilt. “This had absolutely nothing to do with the president or his victorious 2016 presidential campaign. It is totally unrelated,” said Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary.

Perhaps this is because Trump is innocent of any electoral crime. Perhaps thou doth protest too much.

Manafort certainly worked with at least one foreign government (before he worked for Trump).

After a year of withering financial pressure and a jury conviction in another case, Manafort admitted Friday that he laundered more than $30 million earned over a decade while working as a consultant for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine, cheated the U.S. government of $15 million in taxes and tampered with a witness.

As part of his plea, Manafort admitted that he conspired to violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act by not telling the Justice Department about a multimillion-dollar campaign to improve the image of Yanukovych and his Party of Regions in Europe and the U.S. Prominent U.S. firms like the Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs LLC were hired to help him, along with several European former elected officials.

Manafort organized the European politicians, known as the Hapsburg Group, to lobby U.S. senators in a campaign to defeat a resolution that criticized Yanukovych’s treatment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was convicted and imprisoned. Manafort never told the senators that the lobbyists or Hapsburg Group members were paid by Ukraine.

In May 2013, one Hapsburg Group member met with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the Oval Office. They also met with senior U.S. officials in the executive and legislative branches, according to the filing.

One of the potential witnesses against Manafort was Sam Patten, who pleaded guilty on Aug. 31 to failing to register as a Ukrainian agent. He also helped a pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch gain access to Trump’s inauguration.

Manafort’s legal team had repeatedly challenged Mueller’s authority to investigate business activities related to Ukraine before joining the Trump campaign. Prosecutors said they had to examine whether Russia-backed politicians and oligarchs served as a back channel to members of the Trump campaign.

The investigation looked at such interactions “before and during the campaign to plumb motives and opportunities to coordinate and to expose possible channels for surreptitious communications,” prosecutors wrote. “And prosecutors would naturally follow the money trail from Manafort’s Ukrainian consulting activities.”

Prosecutors will ask Manafort about his months running Trump’s campaign. In June 2016, he attended the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in which Kremlin-backed attendees promised to offer damaging information about Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr., and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also attended the meeting.

Manafort faced the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison. Perhaps he still will, but hoovering over this is the possibility that Trump will pardon him.

As part of his guilty plea, Manafort agreed to brief prosecutors, produce documents and testify if warranted. Asked by the judge whether he understood that his deal with the government required him to cooperate “fully and truthfully,” Manafort replied, “I do.”

Trump may (or may not) be innocent of anything, but some of his family at least may be feeling a tad more nervous now that Manafort has agreed to full cooperation with the Mueller investigation.

More US views (from RealClear Politics):

Denials as Trump train wreck continues

When quotes from ‘White House sources’ were published in advance of the public release of from Bob Woodward’s book on Donald Trump there were some denials from those claimed to have said to have provided quotes (Woodward claims to have recordings of all his sources).

Following the New York Times publishing of an anonymous op-ed by a ‘senior White House official’ – see The White House ‘resistance’ and what the hell is happening – there have been a number of inevitable public denials from senior White House officials.

New York Times: It Wasn’t Me: Pence, Pompeo, Mattis and Mnuchin Deny Writing Anonymous Op-Ed

A day after a senior administration official described President Trump as amoral, impetuous, petty and ineffective in an anonymous essay, the denials from the upper echelon of the administration started to roll in.

The mystery writer is not Vice President Mike Pence, a spokesman said Thursday. “Our office is above such amateur acts,” the vice president’s spokesman, Jarrod Agen, said

“It is not mine,” Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, said.

“Patently false,” said Dan Coats, the national intelligence director, responding to rumors that he or his principal deputy wrote the piece. “We did not.”

Press officers for the secretaries of the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Treasury and Housing and Urban Development also issued denials on behalf of their bosses.

They will feel bound by principles of journalism to publish these denials, but a few at the NY Times knows who it is.

The author, whose identity is known to The Times editorial page but was not shared with the reporters who cover the White House, describes him or herself as one of many senior officials in the Trump administration who are “working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”

Predictably Trump has tweeted on it.

Typical bluster and attempted diversion by attacking NYT, but he has attacked the media so many times because he hasn’t liked what they say about him it comes across as wailing wolf, again.

Bloomberg: Pence’s Office Says He Didn’t Write the Anonymous New York Times Op-Ed

Mike Pence’s office said the vice president wasn’t the author of an anonymous New York Times op-ed claiming key administration officials were secretly working against President Donald Trump, calling the article false and “gutless,” as Trump demanded the paper reveal the writer’s identity.

The denial by Pence came as other Republicans, notably Trump’s Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Senator Marco Rubio, came to the president’s defence and said the writer should have resigned before making the accusations.

Fair call – if Trump is as bad as the editorial writer suggests (and Bob Woodward’s book suggests) then it should be untenable for them to work there.

However given the attack they would have faced from Trump and others it is perhaps justifiable to keep their identity out of it in the short term. It seems inevitable their identity will become known anyway, probably soon.

“America has one duly elected president. Anybody serving at his pleasure should do so faithfully,” Rubio said in a Twitter posting. “When they feel they no longer can, they should resign & speak in their own name so the country can evaluate their insights with a full understanding of where they are coming from.”

On Wednesday evening, before demanding that the Times unmask the writer, Trump tweeted one word: “TREASON?”

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do,” he said in tweet early Thursday. “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

That is playing to the conspiracy theory crowd, but it is unlikely to convince others that he is of sound mind.

And in other news yesterday: Kim Kardashian West visits White House to discuss clemency reform

Does she qualify as a senior White House official?

One thing is indisputable – something highly unusual is going on with Trump’s presidency. If Woodward’s book  and the op-ed are coincidental it suggests major problems, and if they were coordinated it also suggests major problems.

The White House ‘resistance’ and what the hell is happening

A day after quotes from Bob Woodward’s book on Donald Trump hit the headlines, the New York Times stirred things up even more with an anonymous editorial claimed to be by a senior person from the White House – I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration

The Times today is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers. 

President Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader.

The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

I would know. I am one of them.

We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.

But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.

The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.

Trump and others from the White House have predictably slammed this, and he has been referred to as gutless and a coward.

Others have said this person may have caused more problems, creating more paranoia and  possibly pressuring Trump into doing something foolish with major consequences (as opposed to his frequent relatively ineffective foolishness).

David Frum at the Atlantic – This Is a Constitutional Crisis

A cowardly coup from within the administration threatens to enflame the president’s paranoia and further endanger American security.

If the president’s closest advisers believe that he is morally and intellectually unfit for his high office, they have a duty to do their utmost to remove him from it, by the lawful means at hand. That duty may be risky to their careers in government or afterward. But on their first day at work, they swore an oath to defend the Constitution—and there were no “riskiness” exemptions in the text of that oath.

The author of the anonymous op-ed is hoping to vindicate the reputation of like-minded senior Trump staffers. See, we only look complicit! Actually, we’re the real heroes of the story.

But what the author has just done is throw the government of the United States into even more dangerous turmoil. He or she has enflamed the paranoia of the president and empowered the president’s willfulness.

What happens the next time a staffer seeks to dissuade the president from, say, purging the Justice Department to shut down Robert Mueller’s investigation? The author of the Times op-ed has explicitly told the president that those who offer such advice do not have the president’s best interests at heart and are, in fact, actively subverting his best interests as he understands them on behalf of ideas of their own.

He’ll grow more defiant, more reckless, more anti-constitutional, and more dangerous.

There’s an obvious risk of that, unless there is a real revolt in the White House as consciences kick in.

But here is another take on things from @AmandaMarcotte:

Administration officials have two goals: Convincing you Trump isn’t *really* in charge, so people feel safe voting for him him again, and protecting their own careers after this all implodes. Keep that in mind when reading any anonymous statements, articles, etc.

It seems weird to liberals, but trust me. Conservatives are soothed by the idea that Trump is just the face and that someone else, someone more responsible, is running things. And yes, they believe this justifies voting for him.

And this goes back to Reagan. You hear the same justifications for Reagan, i.e. that it was fine voting for him for emotional reasons, because there were adults in the room protecting us from his incompetence.

And we can be assured that this op-ed is not courageous or principled because the author does not share any critical information about Trump’s private utterances on racial issues, nor does he/she say anything about administration officials with white nationalist views.

Instead, the message is largely about reassuring readers: Yes, Trump is an idiot, but that is a GOOD thing and you are safe because adults are secretly in charge. The message is not to worry. So be very skeptical.

And while Trump, a narcissist, will be upset, understand that this op-ed helps him. He’s safer if people think of him as an irrelevant sideshow instead of what he is, a deeply evil would-be fascist who is incredibly powerful.

Also today Vice President Pence (who would take over if for some reason Trump could no longer continue in office) took a different side to trump over Attorney general Sessions:

There must have been a reason for the timing. Is pence attempting a coup? He won’t be able to do it on his own.

Any of these moves – Pence, the NY Times editorial, providing Woodward with quotes and then publicly denying them – could be part of some sort of a plan, some scheming, some attempt to minimise the damage.

So what is it? I think it’s impossible for most of us to know. All we can tell is that it seems to be getting crazier and more chaotic dysfunction in the US presidential and political systems.

Trump could get worse, he could do something, or precipitate something, really bad.

Or he could get worse and force others to force him out of office to try to restore some semblance of order.

All we can do from here is watch and hope that it doesn’t become a disaster.

 

Bob Woodward on Donald Trump – Fear and Crazytown

Bob Woodward has been a reporter and editor since 1971. he shot to prominence in 1972 when with Carl Bernstein did a lot of reporting that led to Watergate and the eventual resignation of Richard Nixon.

A number of parallels have been suggested between Nixon and Donald Trump, but there are also significant differences.

Woodward has written a book on Trump called fear. The Washington Post reports: Bob Woodward’s new book reveals a ‘nervous breakdown’ of Trump’s presidency

…“Fear,” a forthcoming book by Bob Woodward that paints a harrowing portrait of the Trump presidency, based on in-depth interviews with administration officials and other principals.

Woodward writes that his book is drawn from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand participants and witnesses that were conducted on “deep background,” meaning the information could be used but he would not reveal who provided it. His account is also drawn from meeting notes, personal diaries and government documents.

The president called Woodward in early August, after the manuscript had been completed, to say he wanted to participate. The president complained that it would be a “bad book,” according to an audio recording of the conversation. Woodward replied that his work would be “tough,” but factual and based on his reporting.

A central theme of the book is the stealthy machinations used by those in Trump’s inner sanctum to try to control his impulses and prevent disasters, both for the president personally and for the nation he was elected to lead.

Woodward describes “an administrative coup d’etat” and a “nervous breakdown” of the executive branch, with senior aides conspiring to pluck official papers from the president’s desk so he couldn’t see or sign them.

Again and again, Woodward recounts at length how Trump’s national security team was shaken by his lack of curiosity and knowledge about world affairs and his contempt for the mainstream perspectives of military and intelligence leaders.

This is fairly credible because it’s fairly obvious that this is a fairly plausible explanation for Trump’s statements and behaviour.

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly frequently lost his temper and told colleagues that he thought the president was “unhinged,” Woodward writes. In one small group meeting, Kelly said of Trump: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”

Some one has to do it to try and keep the United States on the rails.

At a National Security Council meeting on Jan. 19, Trump disregarded the significance of the massive U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula, including a special intelligence operation that allows the United States to detect a North Korean missile launch in seven seconds vs. 15 minutes from Alaska, according to Woodward. Trump questioned why the government was spending resources in the region at all.

“We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told him.

After Trump left the meeting, Woodward recounts, “Mattis was particularly exasperated and alarmed, telling close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader.’ ”

Reince Priebus, Kelly’s predecessor, fretted that he could do little to constrain Trump from sparking chaos. Woodward writes that Priebus dubbed the presidential bedroom, where Trump obsessively watched cable news and tweeted, “the devil’s workshop,” and said early mornings and Sunday evenings, when the president often set off tweetstorms, were “the witching hour.”

The devil’s workshop has been getting busier and more bizarre as time goes on. One reaction yesterday to ongoing attacks on the US Attorney General: Trump shows why he is unfit for office. From ‘Fear’:

A near-constant subject of withering presidential attacks was Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump told Porter that Sessions was a “traitor” for recusing himself from overseeing the Russia investigation, Woodward writes. Mocking Sessions’s accent, Trump added, “This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner. … He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama.”

Trump has been a particular concern in the volatile Middle East.

After Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad launched a chemical attack on civilians in April 2017, Trump called Mattis and said he wanted to assassinate the dictator. “Let’s fucking kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the fucking lot of them,” Trump said, according to Woodward.

Mattis told the president that he would get right on it. But after hanging up the phone, he told a senior aide: “We’re not going to do any of that. We’re going to be much more measured.”

Other officials manipulated Trump.

Cohn, a Wall Street veteran, tried to tamp down Trump’s strident nationalism regarding trade. According to Woodward, Cohn “stole a letter off Trump’s desk” that the president was intending to sign to formally withdraw the United States from a trade agreement with South Korea. Cohn later told an associate that he removed the letter to protect national security and that Trump did not notice that it was missing.

Cohn came to regard the president as “a professional liar” and threatened to resign in August 2017 over Trump’s handling of a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

Trump was sharply criticized for initially saying that “both sides” were to blame. At the urging of advisers, he then condemned white supremacists and neo-Nazis, but almost immediately told aides,

“That was the biggest fucking mistake I’ve made” and the “worst speech I’ve ever given,” according to Woodward’s account.

On North Korea:

Woodward recounts repeated episodes of anxiety inside the government over Trump’s handling of the North Korean nuclear threat. One month into his presidency, Trump asked Dunford for a plan for a preemptive military strike on North Korea, which rattled the combat veteran.

On family and advisers:

The president’s family members, while sometimes touted as his key advisers by other Trump chroniclers, are minor players in Woodward’s account, popping up occasionally in the West Wing and vexing adversaries.

Woodward recounts an expletive-laden altercation between Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter and senior adviser, and Stephen K. Bannon, the former chief White House strategist.

“You’re a goddamn staffer!” Bannon screamed at her, telling her that she had to work through Priebus like other aides. “You walk around this place and act like you’re in charge, and you’re not. You’re on staff!”

Ivanka Trump, who had special access to the president and worked around Priebus, replied: “I’m not a staffer! I’ll never be a staffer. I’m the first daughter.”

The Mueller inquiry:

The book vividly recounts the ongoing debate between Trump and his lawyers about whether the president would sit for an interview with Mueller. On March 5, Dowd and Trump attorney Jay Sekulow met in Mueller’s office with the special counsel and his deputy, James Quarles.

Dowd then explained to Mueller and Quarles why he was trying to keep the president from testifying: “I’m not going to sit there and let him look like an idiot. And you publish that transcript, because everything leaks in Washington, and the guys overseas are going to say, ‘I told you he was an idiot. I told you he was a goddamn dumbbell. What are we dealing with this idiot for?’ ”

“John, I understand,” Mueller replied, according to Woodward.

But Trump, concerned about the optics of a president refusing to testify and convinced that he could handle Mueller’s questions, had by then decided otherwise.

“I’ll be a real good witness,” Trump told Dowd, according to Woodward.

“You are not a good witness,” Dowd replied. “Mr. President, I’m afraid I just can’t help you.”

The next morning, Dowd resigned.

There will no doubt be more on Woodward’s book.

But remarkably there is little about Trump that will shock, because he has been such a train wreck that the absurd and the outlandish and the scary have become normal Trump news.

It could be that ‘Fear’ tips Trump over the edge, demanding something be done about his dysfunctional presidency, but the odds are that the White House will stagger on while Trump increasingly obsesses over Twitter. Some oof his recent tweets:

Some will applaud these tirades as Trump telling things as they are, but they are a telling indication of John Kelyu’s observations from having to deal with him:

“He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown.”

How the Obama handling of the Financial Crisis enabled Trump

An article by Joshua Green on how the Obama administration’s handling of the Global Financial Crisis – protecting financial institutions responsible rather than publishing – built deep resentment that was exploited successfully by Trump’s campaign. And how Trump is taking similar risks of resentment by favouring big business and lauding the Wall Street bull run that continues.

Bloomberg: The Biggest Legacy of the Financial Crisis Is the Trump Presidency

(Treasury Secretary Timothy) and Obama saw the crisis primarily as a macroeconomic event that could be solved through a series of aggressive technical fixes. As they arranged the mergers, bailouts, and Fed lifelines that rescued corporations from Citigroup to General Motors to Goldman Sachs, they prided themselves on their ability to tune out the public’s justified anger at the greed and recklessness exhibited by financiers and mortgage lenders. This extended even to some clear-cut abuses of the public trust that occurred on their watch, such as when American International Group Inc.—by then a ward of the state—decided to hand out bonuses.

What was so surreal about this period was not Obama’s conviction that growth was a magical elixir that would set everything right. It was his belief that achieving it required him to protect, rather than punish, those who’d driven the economy into the ground.

Summoning the chief executive officers of the major banks to the White House in the spring of 2009, Obama told them, “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.” Like flagellants, he and his economic team were willing to absorb the lashing that should rightfully have been directed at his Wall Street guests, in the belief that shielding them advanced a higher purpose.

Ten years after the crisis, it’s clear Obama was foolish to think public sentiment could be negated or held at bay.

Millions of people lost their job, their home, their retirement account—or all three—and fell out of the middle class. Many more live with a gnawing anxiety that they still could. Wages were stagnant when the crisis hit and have remained so throughout the recovery. Recently the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that U.S. workers’ share of nonfarm income has fallen close to a post-World War II low.

…a substantial number of Americans saw the rising stock market not as a gauge of economic revitalization but as an infuriating reminder that the financial overclass responsible for the crisis not only got off scot-free but was also getting richer in the bargain.

Some political irony there given it happened under a Democrat presidency.

The story of American politics over the past decade is the story of how the forces Obama and Geithner failed to contain reshaped the world. The day-to-day drama of bank failures and bailouts eventually faded from the headlines. But the effects of the disruption never went away, unleashing partisan energies on the Left (Occupy Wall Street) and the Right (the Tea Party) that wiped out the political era that came before and ushered in a poisonous, polarizing one.

The critical massing of conditions that led to Donald Trump had their genesis in the backlash.

The biggest effect of the financial crisis and its aftermath was a loss of faith in U.S. institutions.

Antipathy toward Wall Street eventually became distrust of the government, which not only struggled to mitigate the effects of the meltdown but also began producing its own crises, including a debt default scare in 2011 and a shutdown two years later.

In 2013, five years into the recovery, Gallup discovered that Americans no longer considered “economic issues” to be the most pressing national problem: “Government” had replaced them as the top concern.

And the Republicans stoked this flame.

The other reason the financial crisis became such a powerful shaping force in our politics is that Republicans (and later Democrats such as Bernie Sanders) weaponized it for their own ends. The architect of this strategy was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

McConnell made the cold-eyed calculation that public anger over the crisis could be harnessed for political gain.

The ensuing polarization helped Republicans win the House in 2010 and the Senate four years later. McConnell failed to achieve his goal of making Obama “a one-term president,” mainly because Democrats flipped the script in 2012 and painted Mitt Romney as a Wall Street-friendly “vulture capitalist.”

So both Obama’s Democrats and the Republicans, and ‘the swamp’ were jointly seen as badly tarnished.

By the time Trump declared his candidacy in 2015, Americans of every persuasion had soured on the “elites” running both parties, something his Republican opponents didn’t understand until far too late. Today, his campaign is remembered as having been driven mostly by anti-immigrant animosity.

But at Steve Bannon’s insistence, Trump spent loads of time attacking Wall Street on behalf of the forgotten little guy and fanning the suspicion that a cabal of political and financial eminences was screwing ordinary people.

His closing message in the campaign consciously evoked the disgust so many people had come to feel toward Wall Street and Washington.

His final ad on the eve of the election flashed images of Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and sought to implicate them, and Hillary Clinton, in what Trump called “a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth, and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.”

He added, “The only thing that can stop this corrupt machine is you.” It’s no surprise this message struck a chord: What is Trump if not the embodiment of a balled fist and a vow to deliver Old Testament justice?

Trump succeeded despite his obvious weaknesses and failings because he was seen by enough ordinary voters as anti-Government and anti-establishment.

Since his inauguration, of course, Trump has proved to be anything but the scourge of Wall Street. His central legislative achievement is a tax cut for corporations and the wealthy that has delighted financial elites and pushed markets higher, even as it polls so badly with rank-and-file voters that GOP politicians are hesitant to campaign on it.

Trump keeps pushing the financial markets and Wall Street as a sign of success for him. Recently:

Lately, the energy on the Left has been around big, budget-busting ideas such as free college tuition and Medicare for all that are themselves a response to the crisis—a ratcheting up of demands on the government by those unhappy with the narrowness of the recovery.

Lurking among these proposals is a long-thwarted desire to square accounts with the Wall Street-Washington establishment that has steered the political economy since the crisis.

It’s hard to know whether people will turn sour over Trump’s favouring of the financial establishment and his claims that he is responsible for their success. A difference with Trump is the level of blind belief in him by many people, who see him as doing no wrong no matter what he does.

Predicting how this energy will further shape our politics is all but impossible. When Geithner and I sat in his office back in 2010 contemplating what might lie ahead, neither of us could have fathomed (nor could anyone else) that one consequence of the financial wreckage would be President Donald Trump.

The lesson that stands out all these years later is the same one Geithner was just coming to appreciate: Ignoring popular sentiment always has political consequences, and they’re often ones we can’t possibly imagine.

Right now it is hard to imagine how the Trump presidency will turn out. Perhaps he can survive his financial establishment duplicity while the markets are doing well, but if the record length bull market goes belly up then Trump may end up being trashed like those before him who enabled his rise.

Trump accuses China of hacking Clinton server, no evidence

Donald Trump initiated circus has tweeted claims from a right wing media source of ‘mixed’ factual reliability that China hacked Hillary Clinton’s server, and has urged the FBI to act or “their credibility will be gone forever!”, but the FBI have responded with this very brief statement:

“The FBI has not found any evidence the servers were compromised.”

Two contrasting headlines:

Fox News: Chinese company reportedly hacked Clinton’s server, got copy of every email in real-time

A Chinese state-owned company reportedly hacked former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email server, then inserted code that forwarded them a copy of virtually every email she sent or received after that — a revelation President Trump is demanding be investigated.

The Daily Caller reported that the firm operating in the D.C. area wrote code that was then embedded in the server and generated a “courtesy copy” for almost all her emails — which was then forwarded to the Chinese company.

The code reportedly was discovered in 2015 by the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG), which then warned FBI officials of the intrusion.

A source briefed on the matter confirmed to Fox News the details of the Caller’s reporting, and said that the ICIG was so concerned by the revelation that officials drove over to the FBI to inform agents — including anti-Trump agent Peter Strzok — of the development after it was discovered via the emails’ metadata.

The source told Fox News the hack was from a Chinese company, describing it as a front for Chinese intelligence.

A second source briefed on the matter told Fox News that officials outside of the FBI indicated code on the Clinton server suggested a foreign source was receiving copies of emails in real time.

The hacking report caught the attention late Tuesday of President Trump, who warned that the FBI and DOJ should act or “their credibility will be forever gone.”

NPR had a different angle: Trump Says Without Evidence That China Hacked Clinton Email Server

President Trump tweeted early Wednesday that China was behind a hack of former presidential opponent Hillary Clinton’s emails, in an apparent reference to an article published by the conservative Daily Caller website.

China denied the allegation.

The article, by reporter Richard Pollack, cites two anonymous sources and says a Chinese-owned company based outside of Washington, D.C., “hacked Hillary Clinton’s private server throughout her term as secretary of state and obtained nearly all her emails.”

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia was behind a campaign to influence the 2016 election and was responsible for the hacking of emails of the Democratic National Committee as well as for Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.

The subject of the Daily Caller’s article is separate from that hack.

So the allegation seems to be that China hacked Clinton’s email server as well as Russia.

“The FBI spent thousands of hours investigating, and found no evidence of intrusion. That’s a fact,” the Daily Caller quoted Clinton spokesperson Nick Merrill as saying. “But in an age where facts are alternative and truth isn’t truth, it’s no surprise that an outlet like the Daily Caller would try to distract us from very real and very immediate threats to our democracy brought by the man occupying the White House.”

“This isn’t the first time we’ve heard similar kinds of allegations,” Hua Chunying, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday. “China is a staunch defender of cybersecurity. We firmly oppose and crack down on any forms of Internet attacks and the stealing of secrets,” she added, according to Reuters.

Trump said in April 2017 that it “could have been China, could have been a lot of different groups” behind the hack of Democratic emails that has been blamed on Russia.

Washington also reported on this initially, but followed up a few hours later: FBI pushes back on unfounded Trump claim that China hacked Hillary Clinton’s email

The FBI on Wednesday pushed back on an unfounded claim by President Trump that Hillary Clinton’s emails were hacked by China, saying it had found no evidence that the private servers she used while secretary of state had been compromised.

Trump provided no details about the alleged hacking, but his tweets came shortly after the online publication of a story by the Daily Caller asserting that a Chinese-owned company operating in the Washington area hacked Clinton’s private server while she was secretary of state and obtained nearly all her emails. The publication cited “two sources briefed on the matter.”

Fox News, which is frequently watched by the president, aired a segment on the report Wednesday night, with a guest calling it a bombshell if true.

Asked about the president’s assertions, the FBI provided a statement Wednesday afternoon that simply said: “The FBI has not found any evidence the servers were compromised.”

An FBI spokesman declined to comment on Trump’s call for the bureau to make a “next move.” A spokesman for the Justice Department also declined to comment.

In a July 2016 statement, Comey said the FBI “did not find direct evidence that Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail domain, in its various configurations since 2009, was successfully hacked.” But, he added: “Given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence.”

A lengthy Justice Department inspector general report released in June criticized the latter part of Comey’s statement, saying that while forensics agents could not say with 100 percent confidence that Clinton’s servers had not been compromised, they were “fairly confident” that there wasn’t an intrusion.

Trump’s calls to investigate Clinton and other real and perceived political adversaries have grown louder as the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election continues.

Media Bias/Fact Check on Daily Caller:

These media sources are moderately to strongly biased toward conservative causes through story selection and/or political affiliation. They may utilize strong loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes), publish misleading reports and omit reporting of information that may damage conservative causes.

Factual Reporting: MIXED

Trump has also tweeted over the last few hours:

New Poll – A majority of Americans think that John Brennan and James Comey should have their Security Clearances Revoked. Not surprised!

“The Obama people did something that’s never been done…They spied on a rival presidential campaign. Would it be OK if Trump did it next? I am losing faith that our system is on the level. I’m beginning to think it is rotten & corrupt. Scary stuff Obama did.” DOJ

“Hillary Clinton and the DNC paid for information from the Russian government to use against her government – there’s no doubt about that!”

Tucker Carlson is on Fox.

“Anonymous Sources are really starting to BURN the media.” The fact is that many anonymous sources don’t even exist. They are fiction made up by the Fake News reporters. Look at the lie that Fake CNN is now in. They got caught red handed! Enemy of the People!

When you see “anonymous source,” stop reading the story, it is fiction!

That’s quite ironic given that the Chinese hacking claims made by Daily Caller and Fox were based on anonymous sources.

It seems curious that Fox seems to be getting ‘briefed’ by similar or the same sources as Daily Caller.

Me on Donald Trump:

Factual tweeting: very mixed, very biased towards trump causes and conspiracies.

 

Preliminary US-Mexico trade deal, Canada uncertain

The United States and Mexico have reached a preliminary trade agreement designed to replace NAFTA, but there is uncertainty over where this puts Canada, who were also a part of NAFTA.

Fox (via Christian Whiton, whowas a senior advisor in the Donald Trump and George W. Bush administrations): Trump replaces NAFTA and triumphs — New trade deal with Mexico is YUGE win for both countries

President Trump won a major victory on trade on Monday, supplanting the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and replacing it with something far more beneficial. The new deal will help American workers and manufacturers. It’s also a win for Mexico.

One of the most fundamental parts of Trump’s campaign for president was his promise to change America’s deeply flawed trade arrangements.

Second only to the booming economy, Monday’s announcement of a deal with Mexico is the most visible manifestation of Trump’s fulfilment of his campaign promises.

This victory will lead to others.  The leftwing government of Canada, the other member of NAFTA, had refused to negotiate seriously, perhaps believing their friends in the progressive commentariat predicting Trump’s demise.

Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, spent most of her time on visits to the U.S. lobbying governors and congressmen rather than talking seriously to our trade negotiators.  Her boss, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, even though it was a good idea to antagonize Trump at his failed G7 summit in June.

Canada must now return, hat in hand, for a deal.  If not, Trump will advance the deal with Mexico and leave Canada behind.

The European Union and China will also be greatly concerned about the Mexico deal—and more likely to negotiate seriously.

I’m not sure why the European Union and China will be concerned by this.

The deal with Mexico and Canada’s likely about-face puts pressure on Europe to level the playing field for trade or face higher tariffs.

The same factors apply to China, which is dependent on selling goods to the USA and stealing our companies’ intellectual property.

Trump has utterly flipped the script with China, which our elite effectively told us would supplant us economically and strategically, and with which we had to accept unfair trade factors. Now, China is reeling and American is ascendant. Those who bet on China over the USA chose poorly.

I’m not sure that repairing relations with Mexico and reaching a preliminary trade agreement with them will have that much impact.

New York Times has less of a cheerleader report: Preliminary Nafta Deal Reached Between U.S. and Mexico

The United States and Mexico have reached agreement to revise key portions of the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, a crucial step toward revamping a trade pact that has appeared on the brink of collapse during the past year of negotiations.

The agreement with Mexico gives Mr. Trump a significant win in a trade war he has started with countries around the globe but it falls far short of actually revising Nafta. The preliminary agreement still excludes Canada, which has been absent from talks held in Washington in recent weeks.

“They used to call it Nafta,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re going to call it the United States Mexico Trade Agreement,” adding that the term Nafta had “a bad connotation” for the United States, which he said had been taken advantage of by the trade deal.

Typically odd comments from Trump. NAFTA was a three country agreement, this is a two party agreement.

In a series of tweets on Monday, Mr. Nieto said that he had also spoken to Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, and that he was working toward a three-way agreement with the United States and Canada by the end of the week.

“I expressed the importance of his reinstatement in the process,” Mr. Peña Nieto said in Spanish about Mr. Trudeau, “in order to conclude a trilateral negotiation this week.”

Odd also that this has been announced before agreement has been reached with Canada. Their inclusion may be some time away.

Mr. Trump, however, seemed to hedge the possibility, saying “we’ll see if Canada can be part” of any deal, and that separate negotiations would start soon.

Mr. Trump said that he would be calling Mr. Trudeau “very soon” but then immediately groused that the country issued 300 percent tariffs on American dairy products. The president suggested that the United States might add tariffs to Canadian car imports in response, reiterating a threat he has used frequently to push trade partners to the negotiation table.

While Canada has not been a party to recent discussions, the potential for a two-country deal appears highly unlikely, given opposition by Mexico, American lawmakers and North American industries whose supply chains rely on all three countries.

Instead, Mr. Trump’s threats against Canada could prove to be a negotiating tactic.

On Monday, Adam Austen, a spokesman for Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, said that Canada is “encouraged” by progress between Mexico and the United States but that “we will only sign a new NAFTA that is good for Canada and good for the middle class.”

On Friday, Ms. Freeland said that Canada would be “happy” to rejoin the talks once the United States and Mexico had made progress on their specific issues. “Once the bilateral issues get resolved, Canada will be joining the talks to work on both bilateral issues and our trilateral issues,” Ms. Freeland said.

This sounds like an odd way to work towards a three country trade agreement.

Both the Mexicans and Americans have been eager to reach a fully revised Nafta deal by the end of August, a date that would give the Trump administration enough time to notify Congress that a deal had been finalized and still have that deal be signed by the outgoing Mexican administration of Enrique Peña Nieto. That goal now looks doubtful, given Canada’s recent absence from the negotiating table.

Still, progress in the negotiations with Mexico will come as a relief to American businesses that depend on trade agreements and have been shaken by Mr. Trump’s confrontational approach to America’s biggest trading partners.

So this looks like a promising step, but it hardly looks likely to lead to a world trade revolution.

Tributes for McCain, tribulations for Trump

There have been many tributes for John McCain, from across the political spectrum in the US to around the world. He was widely respected person and politician.

Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.): John McCain Was a Legend Even Before He Was a War Hero. His Legacy Is Vital in Today’s World

All of that matters in understanding the man. But what is most important to me about John McCain — more than every other aspect of his long and eventful life — is how well he represented the seemingly forgotten center in American politics. We are so bitterly polarized today, but McCain could credibly reach out to both the left and the right. He could see both east and west, but he resolutely followed his own compass to true north. There are precious few in the American body politic who could claim that so truly as John McCain, and we are poorer for his passing in that regard above all else.

He is being accorded high honours:  John McCain to lie in state at U.S. Capitol, an honor bestowed on only 30 other people

Sen. John McCain will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol on Friday, a rare honor bestowed on only 31 people in 166 years.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the decision of congressional leaders from both parties Sunday, calling McCain “a great American patriot, a statesman who put his country first and enriched this institution through many years of service.”

The last person to lie in state at the Capitol was Sen. Daniel Inouye, president pro tem of the Senate, who died in office in December 2012. Others have included 11 U.S. presidents dating to Abraham Lincoln, including four who were assassinated; two vice presidents; six other members of Congress; three military leaders; and the unknown soldiers from World Wars I and II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

However McCain had a rock relationship with President Donald Trump, and that was bound to come up.

Guardian: Trump-McCain rift clear as president sends brief tweet and heads to play golf

The rift between Donald Trump and John McCain remained painfully evident on Sunday, as tributes for the late senator poured in from world leaders and past presidents.

The White House issued no statement and Trump followed up a brief Twitter condolence to McCain’s family – sent amid the first rush of tributes on Saturday – with complaints about the Russia investigation and boasts about the economy. Then he headed for the golf course.

McCain’s wish that Trump not receive an invitation to his funeral, made public some months ago, remained unchanged upon his death from brain cancer on Saturday, at his home in Arizona and with his family by his side.

Instead, George W Bush, who beat McCain for the Republican nomination in 2000, and Barack Obama, who beat him soundly for the White House in 2008, have been asked to speak at the event, which will take place at the United States Naval Academy in Maryland on a day as yet unannounced.

In a statement on Saturday, Obama saluted McCain’s “fidelity to something higher – the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched, and sacrificed”.

Bush praised a “man of deep conviction” and a “public servant in the finest traditions of our country”.

News Corp (Australia): Donald Trump slammed for ‘narcissistic’ tribute to Senator John McCain

DONALD Trump has been hung out to dry by furious social media users over his “narcissistic” and “fake” condolences in response to the tragic passing of US Republican Senator John McCain.

Taking to Instagram to express his sympathy to the grieving family of Senator McCain, who died overnight at 81 years old after a battle with brain cancer, the US President wrote: “My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!”

But the message lost any good intention when Mr Trump accompanied it with a photo of himself.

Next to the words, the President featured a full-length photo of himself looking pensively into the distance — and people are disgusted.

McCain’s death was always going to be a difficult thing for Trump to deal with.

That doesn’t sound flash but will be to do with complying with McCain’s wishes – one of the United States most respected politicians didn’t want trump at his funeral.

This is even more awkward now that McCain will lie in state.

Dysfunctional democracies

There seems to be growing dysfunction in democracies with important associations with New Zealand.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom continues to struggle with it’s exit from the European Union after a controversial referendum in 2016 chose Brexit by a fairly close margin. It is claimed that the referendum was unduly affected by social media manipulation similar to what happened in the US election, also in 2016.

Prime Minister Theresa May made a disastrous decision to have a snap election and seems to have gone downhill from there. Her Conservative Party has been in a close contest with the opposing Labour Party in the polls for some time, largely because of the arguably equally unpopular leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Not only does UK politics look in dire straits, their future as a country, especially as a trading nation, looks precarious. They are struggling to sort out an exit of the European Union, and that is delaying attempts to negotiate with alternate trade partners.

The Telegraph: Theresa May is showing how thorny a ‘clean Brexit’ could be so voters reconsider her plan

The Telegraph: Who do you think should be the next leader of the Conservative Party?

Over the past few months notable Conservative politicians and outside voices have questioned Theresa May’s ability to lead the party through Brexit and beyond. This in turn has cast doubt over the stability and longevity of the Prime Minister’s position in the top job.

 

United States

Who is in the most disarray, the Republicans or the Democrats? Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton deserved to lose the 2016 presidential election, and it’s arguable that the worst person won.

Trump has had some short term wins with some policies, especially with huge tax cuts, but the effects of resulting huger debts may case major problems in the future, especially if the record length bull run in the markets hiccups, as it inevitably will at some stage. the odds are that that will be soonish.

Trump has had a shambolic approach to trade ‘negotiations’, and a high risk approach to international relations. He often seems to work (or tweet) at odds with his top officials, and has questionable inclinations towards appeasement with Russia (while his country increases sanctions for interference in their democracy).

National Security Adviser John Bolton: U.S. sanctions to stay until Russia changes its behavior

Trump’s claims of great success in his meeting with Kim Yong Un seem to have been premature: Trump says Pompeo won’t go to North Korea, criticizes denuclearization progress

And his potential legal problems grow. Graham: Trump Will “Very Likely” Fire Sessions After Midterms – sacking everyone who won’t support his attempts at interference is unlikely to save him in the long run.

Much of the world watches in wonder at what the most powerful democracy in the world has become.

While many stupid and troubling things are by Trump there’s hope that his big mouth and little fingers won’t work there way towards the big button – however there are risks that Trump might escalate attempts to divert from all his problems by choosing a military sideshow, a common ploy of tyrants who can make their people revere them.

But the Democrats look in disarray after the disastrous Clinton presidential campaign. Hillary may be considering another shot at the presidency, which would likely dismay many, and there is no clear alternative (although in US politics it’s a long time until the next presidential election (2020). Trump was just an unlikely contender in a crowd of wannabe candidates two years before he won.

Australia

Our relatively) close neighbours the Aussies have a new Prime Minister that most Kiwis are unlikely to have heard of (Scott Morrison, after two leadership votes in a week. The deposing of Malcolm Turnbull adds to the procession of Australian Prime Ministers who have failed to see out a term in office.

See Out with the not very old Aussie PM, in with the new.

The change of leadership looks like a bit of a move right, but looks likely to be tested at an election soon, if Turnbull resigns and the Government loses it’s one seat majority.

Labour’s left has been riven by ructions in the not very distant past.

Depressing

This could be quite depressing for those who yearn for healthy democracies and competent politicians and parties. Is democracy self imploding, or can it recover?

Meanwhile, New Zealand

Here we have a three party government that has it’s challenges, and it’s critics, but the big local political stories of the week have been about the leak of expenses details several days before they were due to be released, and the semi-demotion of a Minister who didn’t properly record or advise having a meeting with someone who could potentially be a big benefit to the country.