Trump versus US Attorney General

Donald Trump has again ignored the principle preserving judicial and prosecutorial independence with another attack on the US Attorney General. Jeff Sessions, who had been a strong support of Trump for the presidency, hit back in his defence.

Howard Kurtz at Fox News: Trump’s tweet on ‘disgraceful’ DOJ puts Jeff Sessions in a bind

That last word is just remarkable.

As an old Justice reporter, let me pose this question:

How credible would it be if Sessions, a big Senate supporter and surrogate of the Trump campaign, who’s recused himself from the Russia probe, was overseeing an investigation of how the Obama DOJ handled a surveillance request against a Trump adviser who had contacts with Russia?

That’s why you have an independent inspector general.

Is Trump trying to embarrass Sessions into quitting? He’s not a big fan of Rod Rosenstein, who would become acting AG, and the No. 3, Rachel Brand, recently quit. The battle for the Senate to confirm a new DOJ chief would be a drawn-out spectacle.

For the moment, the president has left his attorney general little choice but to defend his department.

Reuters: Trump flays Sessions for ‘disgraceful’ decision, sparking new clash

It is a disgraceful decision by Trump to spark a clash with the AG.

Long-simmering tensions between U.S. President Donald Trump and his attorney general erupted anew on Wednesday after Trump lambasted Jeff Sessions’ decision on a surveillance abuse investigation as “DISGRACEFUL.”

Sessions, one of Trump’s earliest supporters in his 2016 presidential campaign, responded to the public rebuke with an uncharacteristically terse statement in which he pledged “to discharge my duties with integrity and honor.”

The latest fracas began with Trump flaying Sessions for having Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz – not prosecutors – examine how the agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation obtained a warrant to monitor a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page.

“Why is A.G. Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate massive FISA abuse,” Trump wrote on Twitter, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which regulates government monitoring of the communications of suspected foreign agents.

“Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey, etc.,” Trump continued. “Isn’t the IG an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!”

Horowitz was sworn into his post in 2012, during the Obama administration, after serving on a sentencing policy commission to which he was nominated by Republican President George W. Bush.

Trump’s tweet appeared to reveal a lack of understanding of the function of Horowitz’s office, which serves as an independent watchdog that investigates misconduct in the Justice Department and can refer wrongdoing to prosecutors.

Many of Trump’s tweets reveal a lack of understanding of many things.

In his statement, Sessions called the referral to Horowitz “the appropriate process that will ensure complaints against this department will be fully and fairly acted upon if necessary.”

“As long as I am the attorney general, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution,” he said.

Sessions’ statement was his strongest defense against repeated attacks from Trump.

Republican politicians have backed Sessions.

“Not to incur the president’s wrath, but I wouldn’t do that. Jeff Sessions is loyal to the president,” Representative Peter King, a Republican member of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, told Fox News.

Trey Gowdy, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, defended Sessions’ decision to refer the matter to Horowitz.

Horowitz “has been fair, fact-centric and appropriately confidential with his work,” Gowdy said in a statement. “I have complete confidence in him.”

Fox News: Trump’s punching bag: How much longer will Sessions endure the thrashing?

President Trump’s latest outburst against Attorney General Jeff Sessions – escalating a year-long public flogging of the mild-mannered former senator – is raising the question: How much longer will Sessions endure?

Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey backed Sessions’ decision to ask the IG to investigate FISA abuse, calling the move “precisely the right choice.”

“If anyone at DOJ should look into the circumstances of this FISA application, it is the IG, who reports to both the Attorney General and Congress,” he said in a statement.

Trump’s attack was the latest in a long line of public swipes at the AG, who was one of Trump’s earliest supporters and is otherwise aligned with Trump’s base on issues like immigration and crime.

But their relationship soured within months of Trump taking office, largely over Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia meddling investigation.

If the attorney general chooses to stay, it would seem unlikely Trump would look to fire him outright, especially given the chaos that followed the ouster of FBI boss James Comey.

Doing so could fire up the already-piqued interest of FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who the Post reports is already investigating a period last summer where Trump tried to push Sessions out, amid concerns Trump was looking to replace him with someone who would exercise control over the Russia probe.

Image result for trump train wreck

Debate on guns in US schools

The Parkland, Florida shooting last week has stirred up debate about access to firearms and gun violence, a major problem in the United States.

From the Gun Violence Archive 2018:

  • Total number of incidents 7,803
  • Number of deaths 2,138
  • Number of injuries 3,651
  • Deaths from mass shootings 34
  • Deaths from defensive use 224
  • Unintentional shooting 248

Number of deaths, past years:

  • 2014 – 12,556 (271 from mass shootings)
  • 2015 – 13,516 (333 from mass shootings)
  • 2016 – 15,094 (383 from mass shootings)
  • 2017 – 15,594 (346 from mass shootings)

Horrendous and rising alarmingly. Per population, that rate of deaths would equate to about 230 gun deaths per year in New Zealand.

Students across the country are protesting –  After Parkland, Students Across the U.S. Are Holding Protest Walkouts Over Gun Violence

In a wave of demonstrations reaching from Arizona to Maine, students at dozens of U.S. high schools walked out of class Wednesday to protest gun violence and honor the victims of last week’s deadly shooting in Florida.

The protests spread from school to school as students shared plans for their demonstrations over social media. Many lasted 17 minutes in honor of the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Hundreds of students from Maryland schools left class to rally at the U.S. Capitol. Hundreds more filed out of their schools in cities from Chicago to Pittsburgh to Austin, Texas, often at the lunch hour. Thousands walked out in Florida.

At the protest in Washington, students held a moment of silence in memory of those killed in Parkland and listened as the names of the dead were recited.

While some groups have worked to organize national demonstrations in the coming weeks, students say gatherings Wednesday were mostly impromptu and organized out of a sense of urgency to find solutions to gun violence.

Many of the protests were accompanied by chants of “Never again,” which has been a rallying cry since the Florida shooting.

However the voice of well organised resistance to gun control has also been heard: NRA’s Wayne LaPierre at CPAC: Gun Control Advocates Are Exploiting the Florida School Shooting Tragedy

Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association’s Executive Vice President, told the Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday that politicians and the media are exploiting the Florida school shooting to expand gun control and ultimately abolish the second amendment, striking a defiant tone in his first public remarks since the mass shooting that killed 17 people and reignited the gun control debate in the U.S. to a fever pitch.

“As usual, the opportunists waited not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain. Chris Murphy, Nancy Pelosi, and more, cheered on by the national media, eager to blame the NRA and call for more government control.”

“They hate the NRA. The elites don’t care one wit about school children. If they truly cared, they would protect them.”

“It’s not a safety issue, it’s a political issue. They care more about control. Their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms so they can eliminate all individual freedoms.”

“They don’t care if their laws work or not. They just want get more laws to get more control over people. But the NRA, the NRA does care.”

He concluded this year’s speech by reiterating the advice he provided in the wake of Newtown five years ago: “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Having less bad guys and less guns would help too.

President Trump has been criticised for proposing to arm thousands of teachers to protect schools. He ‘clarified’ his suggestion on Twitter:

I never said “give teachers guns” like was stated on Fake News @CNN & @NBC.

What I said was to look at the possibility of giving “concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience – only the best. 20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions.

There are about 3.2 million public school teachers in the US. 20% of that is 640,000 teachers. That is a lot of people to arm and train to a high level on an ongoing basis.

An armed policeman heard the shooting at Parkland but never went inside. Miami Herald: “A school campus cop heard the gunfire and rushed to the building but never went inside — instead waiting outside for another four agonizing minutes as Cruz continued the slaughter.” He has since resigned. What should one person do in that situation? very difficult to know.

Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this. Far more assets at much less cost than guards. A “gun free” school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END!

History shows that a school shooting lasts, on average, 3 minutes. It takes police & first responders approximately 5 to 8 minutes to get to site of crime. Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!

If a potential “sicko shooter” knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school. Cowards won’t go there…problem solved. Must be offensive, defense alone won’t work!

Armed police and offensive tactics have not solved a huge death toll from gun violence in the US.

And teachers don’t seem to be very keen.

The culture of gun ownership and gun violence in the US is so ingrained and staunchly defended it is hard to see any easy fixes, especially when the President proposes escalation.

And when the NRA is so financially influential in US politics.

When 17-year-old student Cameron Kasky took the microphone at CNN’s town hall on Wednesday night, he put Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio on the spot when he asked: Would you refuse to accept further campaign donations from the National Rifle Association?

After a moment, Rubio gave his answer: No, he wouldn’t.

Rubio has been on the receiving end of some of the largest financial support from the NRA over the years.
His hesitancy to distance himself from the organization shows how many in Congress have come to rely on the NRA’s largesse to help them remain in office — and their fear of crossing a group legendary for its ability to get its supporters out to vote.

According to federal election data compiled by the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, eight lawmakers have been on the receiving end of at least $1 million in campaign contributions from the NRA over the courses of their careers, Rubio among them.




Trump proposes more guns to combat too many guns

President Donald trump has a proposal to combat shootings in schools – let teachers carry concealed handguns. In a country with far too many firearms and far too many killings, he has proposed more firearms.

He said this in front of people who went to the White House to implore him to do something to prevent more shootings.

In the shooting in Las Vegas last October where 58 people were killed and 851 injured, concealed handguns were no use.

Chicago Tribune: Trump’s solution for school shootings: arm teachers, post veterans with guns

Seated between teenage survivors of the Florida school shooting, President Donald Trump said during an Oval Office listening session Wednesday that arming teachers and posting gun-toting veterans in schools could deter or stop school shooters.

His comments came during an emotional meeting that included Vice President Mike Pence, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and school-shooting survivors and families who had lost children to gun violence, including a father who buried his daughter just last week. They poured out grief and anger over the lack of efforts to stem school shootings.

Trump talked about strengthening background checks and increasing mental health resources. But his most pointed and specific remarks came when he spoke about adding security to schools by arming teachers and posting gun-equipped veterans.

Trump posited that if Aaron Feis, a popular football coach, has been armed, he could have stopped the gunman who killed Feis and 16 others last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“If the coach had a firearm in his locker when he ran at this guy – that coach was very brave, saved a lot of lives, I suspect – but if he had a firearm he would not have had to run. He would have shot and that would be the end of it,” Trump said.

He then proposed to arm 20 percent of schoolteachers and to hire veterans as armed school guards.

“A teacher would have a concealed gun on them. They’d go for special training and they would be there and you would no longer be a gun-free zone,” Trump said. He suggested that an armed teacher on campus could reach a school shooter faster than responding police officers. “You’d have a lot of people that would be armed, that’d be ready.”

His proposal to make 20 percent of public schoolteachers ready to fire back at a school shooter would mean training and arming about 640,000 people nationwide.

I’m not sure how much ongoing training the 640,000 armed teachers would require. There’s also likely to be a reluctance by many teachers and schools to become armed fortresses.

The idea got a warm reception among some parents, but was met with swift backlash from teachers’ groups nationwide.

“Bringing more guns into our schools does nothing to protect our students and educators from gun violence. Our students need more books, art and music programs, nurses and school counselors; they do not need more guns in their classrooms,” said Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, the largest teachers union. The group represents 3 million educators in K-12 schools and on college campuses. “We need solutions that will keep guns out of the hands of those who want to use them to massacre innocent children and educators. Arming teachers does nothing to prevent that.”

“This is bar none, the worst theory of action I’ve ever heard,” said Shanna Peeples, a former educator who worked in Texas when she won the 2015 National Teacher of the Year award. She shared her thoughts on Twitter. “Texas law allows schools to arm their teachers. That’s not a good thing. None of us are trained to respond to threats in the way law enforcement is.”

Strictly limiting the number of high capacity assault weapons that can be bought and owned would be a more sensible approach.

GOP senators versus Trump’s TPP and trade tirades

Yesterday in New Zealand the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) was released. Next month it is likely to be signed by the eleven countries who renegotiated some parts of the agreement after Donald Trump pulled the United States out soon after becoming president.

Trump had strongly criticised the TPP during the presidential campaign. It’s hard to know whether he thought it was a ‘bad bad deal’ or it was an attempt to sound tough on trade in order to get more favourable deals.

If it was a bluff it failed, because the TPP is proceeding without the US.

Last month (26 January 2018) Trump appeared to soften his stance on the TPP in an interview with CNBC while at DAVOS: Read President Trump’s full remarks on trade deals to CNBC

  • In an interview with CNBC, he says he could rethink the Trans-Pacific Partnership if the U.S. can secure a better deal.

Trump’s remarks on the TPP:

Trump: I like bilateral, because if you have a problem, you terminate. When you’re in with many countries — like with TPP, so you have 12 if we were in — you don’t have that same, you know you don’t have that same option. But somebody asked me the other day, ‘Would I do TPP?’ Here’s my answer — I will give you a big story. I would do TPP if we made a much better deal than we had. We had a horrible deal. The deal was a horrible deal. NAFTA’s a horrible deal, we’re renegotiating it. I may terminate NAFTA, I may not — we’ll see what happens. But NAFTA was a — and I went around and I tell stadiums full of people, I’ll terminate or renegotiate.

(NAFTA is an agreement between the US and two TPP countries, Canada and Mexico. Trump insisted on it being renegotiated, but that appears to be bogged down. See below.)

Kernen: So you might re-enter, or? Are you opening up the door to re-opening TPP, or?

Trump: I’m only saying this. I would do TPP if we were able to make a substantially better deal. The deal was terrible, the way it was structured was terrible. If we did a substantially better deal, I would be open to TPP.

Kernen: That’s interesting. Would you handicap … ?

Trump: Are you surprised to hear me say that?

Kernen: I am a little bit, yeah, I’m a little taken aback.

Trump: Don’t be surprised, no, but we have to make a better deal. The deal was a bad deal, like the Iran deal is a bad deal, these are bad deals.

Yesterday the Washington Post reports: 25 GOP senators urge Trump to restart TPP trade talks, a deal he called a ‘disaster’

Twenty-five Republican senators, including Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.), sent President Trump a letter Friday asking him to “re-engage with the Trans-Pacific Partnership.” It’s the latest attempt by Republican lawmakers to get Trump to take a softer stance on trade, even though his administration is gearing up to erect more trade barriers. Trump withdrew from the TPP in his first week in office after calling the trade deal a “disaster” and a “rape of our country” during his presidential campaign.

“We encourage you to work aggressively to secure reforms that would allow the United States to join the agreement,” the senators wrote. “Increased economic engagement with the 11 nations currently in TPP has the potential to substantially improve the competitiveness of U.S. businesses, support millions of U.S. jobs, increase U.S. exports, increase wages, fully unleash America’s energy potential, and benefit consumers.”

There is a sharp divide between congressional Republicans and the Trump administration on how to handle trade. Trump blasted America’s trade deals during his campaign and vowed he would either renegotiate many deals or scrap them, but many senators believe harsh action on trade would backfire, causing the loss of U.S. jobs and businesses.

Ripping up the TPP was a key talking point of Trump’s campaign. He portrayed it as a deal that President Barack Obama and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton concocted. It would lower tariffs — better known as taxes — on goods traded between the United States and 11 other countries in the Pacific Rim (Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Brunei).

Supporters of free trade, including many Republicans, worried that Trump had made a mistake. They feared the United States was giving up its leadership role and ceding even more power to China. China was excluded from the TPP in an attempt to counter the communist country’s growing influence on the global economy.

After the United States pulled out of TPP in January 2017, Canada took over the leadership role.

Actually Japan probably took over more of a leadership role, and Canada caused a few hiccups in Vietnam last November, but eventually agreed on the CPTPP.

Many of the GOP senators who signed the letter are from states with a lot of agriculture, including Joni Ernst of Iowa, John Barrasso of Wyoming and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

“Farm states were a lot of the big losers from the United States not going ahead with TPP,” said Chad Brown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “TPP would have lowered agriculture tariffs in a couple of countries where they had been high.”

Perhaps the best example is that Japan was willing to lower its tariffs on U.S. beef, opening a potentially lucrative market for American farmers. But now that the TPP is moving forward without the United States, Australian and New Zealand farmers probably will be the biggest beneficiaries.

Yesterday the Canadian Globe and Mail reported in Where do NAFTA talks go from here?:

“We got a blunt and sobering message last week from Steve Verheul, Canada’s head NAFTA negotiator, telling us that negotiations with the Americans are bogged down and, apart from some agreement on peripheral things, there’s absolutely no movement on the really tough issues.

The fundamental problem, Mr. Verheul said, is that the United States isn’t approaching the negotiations with the objective of concluding a balanced deal. The Trump administration’s position is “America First” and “America Only,” reflecting the tone of the President’s bellicose inaugural address.

As a result, the United States has tabled one-sided, intransigent positions, non-starters for Canada from day one. U.S. negotiators have no room to compromise because of orders from the White House. It’s clear that there’s a long, slow and painful road ahead in trying to achieve a North American free-trade deal, with agreement pretty remote at this stage.”

The US also faces trade problems in Europe. Forbes – EU Tells Trump: No Paris Climate Deal, No Free Trade

When Donald Trump took office last year, the assumption was that the transatlantic trade and investment partnership was dead.

The controversial free trade deal between the EU and the U.S., known as TTIP, was already years in development and was a big focus in Europe, particularly with left-wing protesters who said the EU would necessarily have to lower its environmental, health and safety standards to American levels. When Trump was elected on an anti-free-trade platform in 2016, these activists found themselves in the uncomfortable position of being on the same side as the new U.S. president.

Work on TTIP has come to a halt, although the European Commission has been keen to stress that it is not officially dead and talks could continue if the U.S. administration were to indicate interest. No such signal from Washington has been forthcoming.

It is in this context that France’s foreign affairs minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne told the French Parliament last week that his country will insist that TTIP never be revived if Trump carries through on his promise to leave the Paris Agreement.

“One of our main demands is that any country who signs a trade agreement with EU should implement the Paris Agreement on the ground,” Lemoyne said. “No Paris Agreement, no trade agreement. The U.S. knows what to expect.”

The US under Trump’s leadership is at risk of isolating itself on trade as the rest of the world continues to negotiate and make trade agreements.

Trump on Twitter

Donald Trump has been busy on Twitter over the weekend.

From Gezza: The last 24 hours of twitter thoughts from Trump:

Thank you to KenStarr, former Independent Counsel, Whitewater, for your insight and powerful words on FISA abuse, Russian meddling etc. Really great interview with ‪@MariaBartiromo‬

Great Pollster John McLaughlin now has the GOP up in the Generic Congressional Ballot. Big gain over last 4 weeks. I guess people are loving the big Tax Cuts given them by the Republicans, the Cuts the Dems want to take away. We need more Republicans!

‪The Fake News of big ratings loser CNN. ‬
Ivan Trumpovic (Anti-Blitzer Cartoon)

If it was the GOAL of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the U.S. then, with all of the Committee Hearings, Investigations and Party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America!

‪Big night. Largest-ever Dallas County GOP Reagan Day Dinner. As I told the crowd, under President @realDonaldTrump: Promises Made, Promises Kept! America is back and we’re just getting started! ‬

I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said “it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer.” The Russian “hoax” was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia – it never did!

Finally, Liddle’ Adam Schiff, the leakin’ monster of no control, is now blaming the Obama Administration for Russian meddling in the 2016 Election. He is finally right about something. Obama was President, knew of the threat, and did nothing. Thank you Adam!

Never gotten over the fact that Obama was able to send $1.7 Billion Dollars in CASH to Iran and nobody in Congress, the FBI or Justice called for an investigation!

‪General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems. Remember the Dirty Dossier, Uranium, Speeches, Emails and the Podesta Company!‬

Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!

Just like they don’t want to solve the DACA problem, why didn’t the Democrats pass gun control legislation when they had both the House & Senate during the Obama Administration. Because they didn’t want to, and now they just talk!

“I have seen all of the Russian ads and I can say very definitively that swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal.”
Rob Goldman
Vice President of Facebook Ads

The Fake News Media never fails. Hard to ignore this fact from the Vice President of Facebook Ads, Rob Goldman!
Rob Goldman
‪The majority of the Russian ad spend happened AFTER the election. We shared that fact, but very few outlets have covered it because it doesn’t align with the main media narrative of Tump and the election.‬

‪Funny how the Fake News Media doesn’t want to say that the Russian group was formed in 2014, long before my run for President. Maybe they knew I was going to run even though I didn’t know!‬

Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein stated at the News Conference: “There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.

“Charges Deal Don A Big Win,” written by Michael Goodwin of the ‪@nypost‬, succinctly states that “the Russians had no impact on the election results.” There was no Collusion with the Trump Campaign. “She lost the old-fashioned way, by being a terrible candidate. Case closed.”

Melania and I met such incredible people last night in Broward County, Florida. Will never forget them, or the evening!

Our entire Nation, w/one heavy heart, continues to pray for the victims & their families in Parkland, FL. To teachers, law enforcement, first responders & medical professionals who responded so bravely in the face of danger: We THANK YOU for your courage!

One could wonder how he finds the time to run the country.

More on US school shootings

Following yesterday’s post: Florida school shooting


Open letter from shooting victim’s aunt: ‘We don’t want your prayers” – NZHerald …

Powerful stuff … “My friends and fellow citizens, your guns are not protecting you. Your guns are killing our kids … Why is your hunting hobby more important than my niece’s life? Don’t you see that your “second amendment” rights have been twisted and distorted beyond any rational interpretation? Why should my niece have been sacrificed at the altar of your “freedoms?”

Why don’t you trust our police to protect us from crime? Don’t you realise that mental illness has been and always will be a part of the human condition and that weapons of war should not be available to those among us who dream of mayhem and death? Don’t you see the blood on all of our hands?” – Abbie Youkilis MD

Gezza: (Relevant to a comment I posted yesterday about screwed up competitive US mass shooters who want to beat someone else’s record.)

16 February 2018 – Washington State

“A US student has been arrested after his grandmother reported his plans to attack a high school to police. The decision about where to shoot and kill was based on the flip of a coin.

During a search at the house, authorities said that investigators seized a rifle that had been hidden in a guitar case, as well as military-style inert grenades. “This was a student that nobody would have suspected,” Mukilteo School District spokesperson Andrew Muntz told Fox affiliate KCPQ following the news.

O’Connor is being held on charges of attempted murder in the first degree, robbery and assault on an officer, according to online booking records.

Police said in a statement on Wednesday (Thursday NZT) that dispatchers received a call early Tuesday morning (Wednesday NZT) from a grandmother who said she believed her teenage grandson had plans to launch an attack on his school. She told police she had read about the plans in his journal.

In his writings, according to the probable cause documents, O’Connor said he was preparing for a school shooting, boasting, “My aim has gotten much more accurate.”
“I’ve been thinking a lot,” he added, according to the court records. “I need to make this shooting/bombing at Kamiak infamous. I need to get the biggest fatality number I possibly can. I need to make this count.

“I’ve been reviewing many mass shootings/bombings [and attempted bombings] I’m learning from past shooters/bombers mistakes, so I don’t make the same ones.”

The journal then mentions the coin flip between Kamiak High School in Mukilteo, Washington, and nearby ACES Alternative High School, according to the court records.

Officers met with O’Connor’s grandmother and were “alarmed at the statements and detailed plans to shoot students and use homemade explosive devices,” according to the statement from police.

Officers alerted administrators at ACES Alternative High School on Tuesday and had O’Connor pulled from class, according to the court records. The records state that officers found marijuana and a knife in his possession and took him into custody.

The incident unfolded just miles from Marysville, Washington where another teenager opened fire in 2014 at Marysville Pilchuck High School. Jaylen Fryberg lured students around a lunch table and then gunned them down, killing four before killing himself, police said.”

The politician problem (not just Trump) in Don’t look to Trump for leadership after the Florida school shooting

This is no time to talk politics, we’re told by gun-loving conservatives.

This is a time for prayers, we’re told by Donald Trump.

“There really are no words,” we’re told by the local sheriff.

So it’s OK, everyone. We can get back to the latest blather about tax cuts for corporations or billions for a border wall. Those are the things that politics, and presidents, and words, can handle.

But if we can’t talk about saving the lives of our children, if our politics can’t keep our schools safe, if we can’t talk about the mass murder of innocence, then what on earth are we talking about? What’s the point of any politician if they can’t do this one simple thing: protect our youngest citizens?

If this was the eighth terrorist attack of 2018, don’t you think every member of Congress – not just Democrats – would bleat on about taking urgent action?

If Isis-inspired gunmen had just mown down 17 high school students in their classrooms, how long would it take before our president spoke in front of the nation’s TV cameras?

If an ISIS inspired gunman (it’s almost always men) had just mown down one child at school it would have got more urgent attention. But red-white-blue on red-white-blue is far more politically awkward when one of the biggest, most generous (financially) lobby groups is the National Riflemens’ Association.

Instead, we’ll have to settle for a tweet. Because when we need leadership the most, there’s no point in raising your hopes with the man who watches Fox News all day inside the White House.

It’s so heartwarming to hear this from the man who promised to end “this American carnage” in his inaugural address. Of course, at the time he was talking about gang murders, just as he did in his State of the Union address last month.

He must have forgotten to mention school shootings with assault weapons, like the AR-15 used at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida. It was the same assault weapon used at the Sutherland Springs church in Texas in November. It was the same assault weapon used in the Las Vegas massacre the month before that.

It’s as if no politician could talk about protecting airplane cockpits after 9/11 because all we could was pray and send our condolences.

There have been many attempts to tackle assault weapons like the AR-15. When Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat, tried to do that in 2013, one month after the Sandy Hook school massacre, there were 60 no votes that killed the effort, including those of 15 Democrats.

Among those no votes was one Marco Rubio, the Florida senator, who told Fox News on Wednesday that now wasn’t the time to talk about gun control. “I think you can always have that debate,” he said. “But if you’re gonna have that debate about this particular incident you should know the facts of that incident before you run out and prescribe some law that you claim could have prevented it.”

Senator Rubio: save yourself the trouble. You don’t need to know the facts because the last time you heard the facts, you voted against regulating the very gun that massacred all those schoolchildren at Sandy Hook. It’s so funny how you need to be 100% sure about the impact of gun control laws when you are prepared to throw any amount of legislation and spending at the far less deadly terrorist threat to the United States.

Enough is enough is enough. If you care about our children, do something to protect them. If you want a politician who talks about our greatest threats, vote for someone who isn’t terrified of the National Rifle Association.

And if you want to make America great again, make our schools safe again.

A focus on mental health may be appropriate, if it includes the mental state of those politicians who refuse to consider that the US gun laws are hopeless and contribute significantly to one of the most dangerous problems in the US.


34% staff turnover at White House

Working at the White House will always be high pressure and hard. This seems to be more so under Donald trump’s presidency, where there has been an unusually high staff turnover of 34%, and many positions remain vacant.

NY Times: A Whirlwind Envelops the White House, and the Revolving Door Spins

The doors at the White House have been swinging a lot lately. A deputy chief of staff moved on. A speechwriter resigned. The associate attorney general stepped down. The chief of staff offered to quit. And that was just Friday.

All of that came after the departure of Rob Porter, the White House staff secretary who cleared out his office last week amid accusations of spousal abuse. The White House had overlooked reported problems with his security clearance last year in part, officials said, because of a reluctance to lose yet another senior aide, particularly one seen as so professional and reliable.

An eventful week.

More than a year into his administration, President Trump is presiding over a staff in turmoil, one with a 34 percent turnover rate, higher than any White House in decades. He has struggled to fill openings, unwilling to hire Republicans he considers disloyal and unable to entice Republicans who consider him unstable. Those who do come to work for him often do not last long, burning out from a volatile, sometimes cutthroat environment exacerbated by tweets and subpoenas.

“We have vacancies on top of vacancies,” said Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has studied White House turnover over the last six administrations. “You have initial vacancies, you have people who left in the first year and now you have people who are leaving in the second year.”

According to a report by Ms. Tenpas, Mr. Trump’s 34 percent turnover rate in his first year is more than three times as high as President Barack Obama’s in the same period and twice as high as President Ronald Reagan’s, which until now was the modern record-holder. Of 12 positions deemed most central to the president, only five are still filled by the same person as when Mr. Trump took office.

Mr. Trump is on his second press secretary, his second national security adviser and his third deputy national security adviser. Five different people have been named communications director or served in the job in an acting capacity. The president has parted ways with his chief strategist, health secretary, several deputy chiefs of staff and his original private legal team. He is on his second chief of staff — and some wonder whether a third may be in the offing soon.

Some administration officials privately spend much of their time trying to figure out how to leave without looking disloyal or provoking an easily angered president. Others, like Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, stubbornly resist what seem like clear signals that they are no longer welcome.

It is a mixture of staff wanting to leave, and Trump wanting staff to leave.

Grueling in the best of times, an administration job now seems even less appealing to many potential recruits. Republican operatives said they worry not only about the pressure-cooker, soap-opera atmosphere and the danger of being drawn into the special counsel investigation of Russia’s election interference but also about hurting their careers after the White House.

“There isn’t a huge appetite from many Republicans on the outside to explore job opportunities in this administration,” said Ryan Williams, a former spokesman for Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee. “While there are a lot of vacancies and usually a position in the White House is one of the most prestigious jobs in Washington, that’s just not the feeling with this administration, given the turmoil and the chaos.”

The ‘You’re Fired!” reputation of Trump probably doesn’t help.

The staff churn will make a difficult job harder, for the President, and for the staff that remain working for him.

The memo is shocking, but just a small part of the whole mess

The release of the intelligence committee memo may lead to a reckoning for FBI surveillance practices, and the influence of investigations on elections, but if it is to do any real good it should lead to a reckoning of the whole political intelligence mess in the United States, a country that seems to be in a worsening state of disunity. The Russians must be laughing in disbelief.

Wall Street Journal:  A Reckoning for the FBI

The House memo reveals disturbing facts about the misuse of FISA.

The four-page memo released Friday reports disturbing facts about how the FBI and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court appear to have been used to influence the 2016 election and its aftermath.

I think that at this stage, that is highly debatable without more facts – any FBI or Intelligence actions involving campaign conduct could affect an election, but “used to influence” is a contentious claim.

James Comey certainly influenced the election by releasing a letter – see The Comey Letter Probably Cost Clinton The Election – but it’s debatable whether he released the letter to deliberately influence the election, or because he felt he had a duty to the voters to reveal information he thought they should know.

However WSJ does point out some real problems revealed by the memo.

The White House declassified the memo Friday, and you don’t have to be a civil libertarian to be shocked by the details. The memo confirms that the FBI and Justice Department on Oct. 21, 2016 obtained a FISA order to surveil Carter Page, an American citizen who was a relatively minor volunteer adviser to the Trump presidential campaign.

The memo says an “essential” part of the FISA application was the “dossier” assembled by former British spy Christopher Steele and the research firm Fusion GPS that was hired by a law firm attached to the Clinton campaign. The memo adds that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told the committee in December 2017 that “no surveillance warrant would have been sought” without the dossier.

This is troubling enough, but the memo also discloses that the FBI failed to inform the FISA court that the Clinton campaign had funded the dossier. The memo says the FBI supported its FISA application by “extensively” citing a September 2016 article in Yahoo News that contained allegations against Mr. Page. But the FBI failed to tell the court that Mr. Steele and Fusion were the main sources for that Yahoo article. In essence the FBI was citing Mr. Steele to corroborate Mr. Steele.

Unlike a normal court, FISA doesn’t have competing pleaders. The FBI and Justice appear ex parte as applicants, and thus the judges depend on candor from both. Yet the FBI never informed the court that Mr. Steele was in effect working for the Clinton campaign.

So the memo does raise serious questions. But after claiming “facts about how the FBI and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court appear to have been used to influence the 2016 election” in it’s opening paragraph it later says:

We don’t know the political motives of the FBI and Justice officials, but the facts are damaging enough.

What the memo says about what the FBI did looks shoddy for sure, but it doesn’t necessarily mean what they did was shady.

As the saying goes, cock-up trumps conspiracy most of the time.

No matter its motives, the FBI became a tool of anti-Trump political actors. This is unacceptable in a democracy and ought to alarm anyone who wants the FBI to be a nonpartisan enforcer of the law.

The FBI was caught between political actors from both sides, plus political interference from a foreign power.

It should be remembered that investigation that led to the Steele dossier was originally funded by a conservative group who opposed Trump, until Democrats took it over.

Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes is doing a service by forcing these facts into the public domain where the American people can examine them, hold people accountable, and then Congress can determine how to prevent them in the future.

Sort of a service – it is a very selective revelation by Nunes. He will have done a real service if this release leads to further releases that give a much more comprehensive picture.

Democrats are howling that the memo, produced by Republican staff, is misleading and leaves out essential details. They are producing their own summary of the evidence, and by all means let’s see that too. President Trump should declassify it promptly, along with Senator Chuck Grassley’s referral for criminal investigation of Mr. Steele.

If all of this is damaging to the reputation of the FBI and Justice Department, then that damage is self-inflicted. We recognize the need for the FBI to sometimes spy on Americans to keep the country safe, but this is a power that should never be abused.

Its apparent misuse during the presidential campaign needs to be fully investigated.

I agree.

Toward that end, the public should see more of the documents that are behind the competing intelligence memos to judge who is telling the truth. Mr. Trump and the White House should consider the remedy of radical transparency.

Is that likely? I doubt it.

The other political misdirection is that the memo is designed to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible Trump collusion with Russia. We doubt Mr. Mueller will be deterred by any of this. The question of FISA abuse is independent of Mr. Mueller’s work, and one that Congress takes up amid a larger debate about surveillance and national security.

Mr. Trump would do well to knock off the tweets lambasting the Mueller probe, and let House and Senate Republicans focus public attention on these FISA abuses.

But Trump is unlikely to stop his tweeting. His attempts at political interference from the highest level in investigations by the FBI should be at least as concerning as FBI misconduct in it’s investigations.

So why is he so divisive?

“When Americans are united, nothing, nothing at all, nothing can stop us. We win.”

Talking about being united in a speech is hot air if he keeps being deliberately divisive, and that’s largely how he operates (although the Democrats do a lot to help him on that).

And claiming that nothing can stop the US from winning suggests there needs to be losers. Uniting America, dividing the world?

It is true, as Trump recently tweeted in all-caps to Jay-Z, that the black jobless rate has declined to the lowest rate since the government began monitoring it in the 1970s. That’s awesome.

But the black jobless rate was dropping long before Trump took office, from a high of 16.5 percent in 2011 to 7.8 percent when Obama left the White House.

It’s good that it’s kept dropping to 6.8 percent today, but Trump has done nothing to change its trajectory. He’s merely stopped calling that trajectory a catastrophe, and started calling it evidence that he’s made America great again.

It’s common for politicians to claim credit for things they have had little if any influence over.

I can’t verify this quote but it’s doing the rounds on Twitter:


Trump’s State of the Union speech

President Donald Trump has given his ‘State of the Union’ speech.

RCP: Full Replay/Transcript: President Trump Delivers 2018 State Of The Union Address

It will please some, who would have been pleased regardless.

It will dismay some, who would have been dismayed regardless.

It will have angered some, who would have been angered regardless.

I really can’t be bothered checking it out, but here’s something on it from Politico: Trump offers same policies in new bipartisan packaging

In his first State of the Union address, the president positions immigration and infrastructure proposals as unifying initiatives.

In his first State of the Union address to Congress, President Donald Trump struck an upbeat, optimistic tone and promised to move forward with a “clear vision and a righteous mission — to make America great again for all Americans.”

Much of the speech sought to paint a portrait of a country moving ahead in a united fashion to ensure Americans a better political and financial future — a contrast in tone to the president’s often divisive rhetoric during the 2016 presidential campaign where his opponents received derogatory nicknames.

But Trump focused largely on familiar policy proposals, including on immigration and infrastructure, which he positioned as common-sense, mainstream ideas — even though Democrats have been cool or outright rejected them.

Nowhere has that been clearer than in the immigration plan outlined last week by the White House, which Trump said “generously” outlines a path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants, twice as many as are currently covered under President Barack Obama’s DACA program. He committed to ending the visa lottery system and eliminating immigration preferences for extended family in favor of what he described as a merit-based system, ideas Democrats say upend the tradition of immigration laws in this country.

“It is time to reform these outdated immigration rules, and finally bring our immigration system into the 21st century,” Trump argued.

But the immigration policy details spoke to the hawkish side of Republican party — breaking with the speech’s theme of bipartisan cooperation.

Trump devoted the first part of the speech to the historic tax legislation passed in December along a party-line vote. He spoke fondly of its details, including a doubling of the child tax credit and an increase in the standard deduction; and of a skyrocketing stock market that he said has helped pad Americans’ 401(k) accounts, pensions, and college savings plans.

“The era of economic surrender is over,” he declared.

Absent from Trump’s speech was any direct mention of his predecessor — even though much of Trump’s work over the past year has involved undoing Obama’s legacy, or defining himself in contrast to his 2016 campaign rival, Hillary Clinton.

Trump also made no mention of Russia or the ongoing investigations into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, a probe that has expanded to include the question of whether Trump or people close to him obstructed justice by firing former FBI Director James Comey.

The format of the speech played to Trump’s strengths by blending policy promises and prescriptions with stories of real Americans affected by the changes his administration has made — in an attempt to turn a prime-time speech into one slightly more connected to average Americans.

The Hill: Trump makes case he’s stoking American dream

President Trump called for bipartisan action on immigration and infrastructure in his first State of the Union address on Tuesday, asking a deeply divided nation to come together after a tumultuous first year in office.

The president said his agenda is working, arguing a growing economy that he linked to the tax-cut bill passed by Congress in December has created “a new American moment.”

“To every citizen watching at home tonight, no matter where you have been or where you come from, this is your time,” Trump said. “If you work hard, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in America, then you can dream anything, you can be anything, and together, we can achieve absolutely anything.”

The address comes against the backdrop of a partisan divide in Washington that has deepened since Trump’s inauguration.

Democrats, many of whom brought “Dreamers” as guests to the president’s speech, booed and hissed when the president mentioned his plans to slash the number of people who immigrate to the U.S. through family connections — a practice Trump has decried as “chain migration.”

Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), a key Democratic negotiator on immigration, shook his head when Trump mentioned his plan to eliminate the via lottery, which allows people

Virtually no Democrats applauded any aspect of Trump’s plan, which he called a “fair compromise — one where nobody gets everything they want, but where our country gets the critical reforms it needs.”

Representative Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) delivered the Democratic response.