solarbird: (korra-on-the-air)
[personal profile] solarbird
Lots on the Russia situation - first, on Nunes's continuing interference-run on behalf of the Trump administration. "Nunes met source at White House before surveillance announcement," "Chairman and partisan: The dual roles of Devin Nunes raise questions about House investigation," "Nunes’ Surveillance Claim: It’s Coming From Inside the White House," "House Democrats Ask Devin Nunes to Recuse Himself From Russia Inquiry." Good luck with that last one.

I wish I could expect more out of "Senate Committee to Question Jared Kushner Over Meetings With Russians." But, as we've seen, lying to Congress doesn't mean anything anymore, so even if he's truthful, we can't really know that, right? (Another version of that story, more partisan but not paywalled: "Trump’s son-in-law had undisclosed meeting with Putin crony with KGB ties.")

In "so much for breathing" news, "Trump moves decisively to wipe out Obama’s climate-change record."

An opinion piece states the obvious: "The All-Male Photo Op Isn’t a Gaffe. It’s a Strategy." The channers loathe women. I cannot overstate how much they hate, despise, loathe women. It's the ocean in which they swim. And that extends well into Trump's larger base.

"White House keeps up sanctuary cities pressure with funding threat" and "King, Snohomish counties may be targets in Justice Dept. threat against ‘sanctuary cities’" are - well, the latest version of threats and stories made before. Still, keep an eye on it. Also in economic war news, "Next up for Trump Amateur Hour: NAFTA?" Cascadia is a net exporter. Hell, Cascadia runs a surplus with fucking MAINLAND CHINA. Or did, last time I saw figures. I can't wait to see how the Trumpists manage to screw that up.

"Seven Ways the Trump Administration Could Make Obamacare ‘Explode’" goes into detail about some of the ways the GOP will continue to play sabotage over the next few years.

In corruption news, we have a trifecta: "Carl Icahn Is Apparently Profiting Enormously From His Role as an Adviser to Donald Trump," "Finally, a Cure for Government Dysfunction: Nepotism," and "Why Republicans Are Ruling With Utter Incompetence." Well, okay, the last one isn't really... no, it is. "Trump keeps demanding credit for Obama’s successes" kinda is - let's call that the Plus4.

"Trump Repeals Regulation Protecting Workers From Wage Theft" is self-explanitory. "AP Exclusive: 'Bathroom Bill' to Cost North Carolina $3.76B" is kind of a lowball estimate, but is pretty solid as such and I'm good with that.

Finally, an historical: "How resistance overcame hate in Hood River" in World War II and after.


----- 1 -----
Nunes met source at White House before surveillance announcement
By Byron Tau | Marketwatch and The Wall Street Journal | Published: Mar 27, 2017

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/nunes-met-source-at-white-house-before-surveillance-announcement-2017-03-27

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes met with an anonymous source on White House grounds last week shortly before announcing publicly that U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted information about President Donald Trump and his staff during the presidential transition.

A spokesman for Nunes said a California Republican, charged with overseeing the politically sensitive task of investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, used a secure facility on the White House grounds to meet with his source. That was shortly before he announced to the media last week that he had concerns about the way that U.S. intelligence agencies handled information related to Trump and his staff.

That announcement came weeks after Trump made unsubstantiated accusations on Twitter that former President Barack Obama had ordered that his successor be wiretapped while living at Trump Tower in New York during the transition.


----- 2 -----
White House keeps up sanctuary cities pressure with funding threat
By Dan Merica and Tal Kopan, CNN
Updated 3:53 PM ET, Mon March 27, 2017

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/27/politics/jeff-sessions-trump-sanctuary-cities/

Attorney General Jeff Sessions outlined Monday how the Trump administration will use federal funds to crack down on "sanctuary cities" and states that choose not to comply with federal immigration laws, as it has threatened to do since January.

The comments came after the Trump administration has made a concerted effort to pressure the so-called "sanctuary" jurisdictions as part of its aggressive push to enforce immigration laws.

The term refers to jurisdictions like major cities including Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia that have policies in place that limit cooperation in enforcing federal immigration laws and protect local immigrant populations. One of the biggest areas of disagreement between cities and the federal government is over allowing federal immigration officers to make arrests in local jails and prisons.

On Monday, Sessions reiterated that cities and states hoping to receive federal funds or grants must comply with federal law requiring local authorities to share citizenship or immigrant status of individuals to the Immigration and Naturalization Service if requested. The attorney general did not specify which cities or which funds the department may claw back as it has threatened.


----- 3 -----
Chairman and partisan: The dual roles of Devin Nunes raise questions about House investigation
By Greg Miller and Karoun Demirjian | The Washington Post | March 26, 2017

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/chairman-and-partisan-the-dual-roles-of-devin-nunes-raise-questions-about-house-investigation/2017/03/26/2c95ade2-1096-11e7-9b0d-d27c98455440_story.html

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee was on his way to an
event in Washington late Tuesday when the evening’s plans abruptly
changed. After taking a brief phone call, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)
swapped cars and slipped away from his staff, congressional officials
said. He appears to have used that unaccounted-for stretch of time to
review classified intelligence files brought to his attention by
sources he has said he will not name.

The next morning, Nunes stepped up to a set of microphones in the
Capitol complex to declare that he had learned that U.S. spy agencies
had “incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in
the Trump transition.”

Within hours President Trump was declaring that he had been vindicated
for his tweets alleging that Trump Tower had been wiretapped by his
predecessor, Barack Obama. Public attention on the revelation that the
FBI was investigating possible coordination between the Trump campaign
and Moscow had shifted to questions about whether Trump officials were
victims of spying abuse. And by week’s end, a congressional probe
capable of threatening Trump was consumed in partisan fighting and
scheduling turmoil.

That sequence was largely engineered by a conservative lawmaker from
California’s Central Valley who has emerged as one of Trump’s most
tenacious allies on Capitol Hill.

Nunes, 43, has said he is committed to leading an impartial inquiry
into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election, and search for
any evidence of coordination with Trump or his associates. But Nunes,
who served as an adviser on Trump’s transition team, has also at times
used his position as chair of the intelligence committee in ways that
seem aligned with the interests of the White House.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) speaks to
journalists about an upcoming investigation hearing on Capitol Hill on
March 24. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

The committee’s course so far has raised concerns about whether it can
serve the mission it was given when it was created in the 1970s,
putting critical matters of national security above partisan politics.

...

Nunes’s latest move came Friday, when he made a flurry of announcements
that on the surface signaled promising new investigative paths,
including an agreement to hear testimony from Trump’s former campaign
chairman, Paul Manafort. But to Democrats, Nunes’s actions again seemed
to show the hidden agenda of the White House.

Most immediately, Nunes canceled an open hearing that had been
scheduled for Tuesday with former senior officials who have battled
Trump. Among them is former acting attorney general Sally Q. Yates, who
was fired by Trump; former director of National Intelligence James R.
Clapper Jr., who publicly disputed Trump’s wiretapping claim; and
former CIA director John Brennan, who has said that Trump should “be
ashamed of himself” over his behavior toward U.S. spy agencies.


----- 4 -----
Nunes’ Surveillance Claim: It’s Coming From Inside the White House
By Joshua Keating | Slate | March 27 2017

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/03/27/it_s_coming_from_inside_the_white_house.html

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes threw his own investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election into a tailspin on Wednesday by announcing that he had seen documents showing that there had been incidental surveillance of people connected to the Trump campaign during the presidential transition, not related to the ongoing Russia investigation. Who the people were and what the surveillance entailed was unclear, but Nunes evidently found it concerning enough that he went to brief the White House without sharing any of this information with members of his own committee.

Now, in a further turn toward the ridiculous, it turns out that the night before he made the announcement, Nunes was meeting with his source on White House grounds (not the White House itself):

...

So who was Nunes’ source? White House spokesman Sean Spicer declined Friday to categorically rule that it was someone from the White House, saying, "I don't know where he got it from."

On Wednesday, Nunes would only say that the documents he had seen were brought to him by “sources who thought that we should know it.” He said that he was heading to the White House that day because “they need to see it, if they don’t have it, they need to see it.” But this latest statement suggests that on Wednesday, Nunes went to the White House to brief the administration about very sensitive information he himself had been briefed on the night before … at the White House.

Update: March 27, 2017: Nunes is now saying the source he met with "was not a White House staffer and was an intelligence official," reports Eli Lake of Bloomberg.


----- 5 -----
Seven Ways the Trump Administration Could Make Obamacare ‘Explode’
by Maggie Fox | NBC News

http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-care/seven-ways-trump-administration-could-make-obamacare-explode-n738916

The GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare has fallen apart, but President Donald Trump says the Affordable Care Act will "explode" on its own, anyway.

But many health experts say the opposite. They've presented strong evidence that Obamacare is not in a "death spiral," and there is no denying that the law has gotten more than 20 million people covered who had no health insurance before.

But Trump has signaled that he does not plan to defend the law or its provisions. Hours after he was inaugurated, he signed his first executive order directing government departments to stop enforcing any part of Obamacare that might pose a financial burden.

The vague order leaves a lot to the discretion of department heads, but Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, a former member of Congress and a physician, is no fan of the ACA, either.

"The ACA marketplaces weren't collapsing, but they could be made to collapse through administrative actions," said Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, which researches health policy.

Here are some ways the administration can weaken Obamacare, making Trump's declaration a self-fulfilling prophecy:


----- 6 -----
King, Snohomish counties may be targets in Justice Dept. threat against ‘sanctuary cities’
By Daniel Beekman | March 27, 2017 | The Seattle Times

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/king-snohomish-counties-may-be-targets-in-justice-dept-threat-against-sanctuary-cities/

King and Snohomish county officials Monday shrugged off remarks by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatening so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions for not doing more to help the Trump administration capture and deport people living in the U.S. illegally.

Sessions said the Department of Justice will turn up the pressure by withholding grants from cities and counties not in compliance with a federal law that covers communication between local governments and federal immigration authorities.

He said the jurisdictions have policies “designed to frustrate” immigration enforcement, adding, “Such policies cannot continue. They make our nation less safe.”

Sessions singled out local governments that reject at least some requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold people in jail for possible immigration violations beyond when they would otherwise be released.

King and Snohomish counties were on a list of those jurisdictions published by the Department of Homeland Security last week.

But King County Sheriff John Urquhart said his office is in no danger of missing out on money because its policies and practices are in line with the federal law in question, U.S. Code Section 1373.

“We’re not violating 1373, no way,” Urquhart said. “1373 requires us to talk to immigration officials and it requires them to talk to us, and we do that.”


----- 7 -----
Carl Icahn Is Apparently Profiting Enormously From His Role as an Adviser to Donald Trump
By Josh Voorhees | Slate | March 27 2017

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/03/27/carl_icahn_is_latest_ethics_red_flag_in_trump_white_house.html

Trump administration conflicts of interest come in many forms. There are those created directly by the president himself, those raised by his family members both inside and outside the White House, and those posed by his most senior advisers, such as Kellyanne Conway. But the New York Times on Monday highlighted yet one more area of concern: Trump’s informal, unpaid advisers—specifically billionaire investor Carl Icahn.

During his presidential transition, Trump named Icahn as a special adviser on regulatory matters and has kept him on in that role this year. “His help on the strangling regulations that our country is faced with will be invaluable,” Trump said in a December statement lauding Icahn, who was an early supporter of Trump’s unlikely presidential campaign and has an estimated net worth of $16.6 billion. It appears that, in his new role, Icahn has already proved to be a valuable asset to himself. Among the red flags spotted by the Times:

...

All that understandably has Democrats and like-minded watchdog groups furious. “This is a mile out of bounds by any standard,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse told the Times. “Were the shoe on the other foot, Republicans would be having fits about any Obama relationship like this.” Whitehouse and several of his fellow Democrats are sending a letter to the Office of Government Ethics and the Justice Department this week to object to Icahn’s ongoing roles. The OGE, however, can’t do much more than ask nicely that the White House behave, and the DOJ ultimately reports to President Trump—so, yeah, good luck with that.


----- 8 -----
Trump keeps demanding credit for Obama’s successes
By Steve Benen | MSNBC | 03/27/17

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/trump-keeps-demanding-credit-obamas-successes

Desperate for a little good news, Donald Trump seemed eager to boast on Friday about a company called Charter Communications moving forward with plans to add 20,000 jobs in the United States. Soon after, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer bragged about the news from the briefing room podium, and the White House’s communications office sent out a press release, pointing to the news as proof of a president who’s “delivering on jobs for the American people.”

Just on the surface, this entire approach makes Trump appear more like a mayor than a president. It’s a massive country with the world’s largest economy, and individual companies are going to sometimes hire and fire people. Trump seems to think he can claim credit for every piece of positive economic news, which is plainly silly.

But in the case of Charter Communications, it’s actually worse, because as the Washington Post noted, these jobs were actually announced in the Obama era, and had nothing to do with Trump.

...

Worse, this keeps happening.


----- 9 -----
Trump Repeals Regulation Protecting Workers From Wage Theft
The regulation was meant to ensure that shady employers don't benefit from taxpayer dollars.
By Dave Jamieson | The Huffington Post | 03/27/2017

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-repeals-regulation-wage-theft_us_58d9408ee4b03692bea814c9?8o0h8irugwjdims4i

WASHINGTON ― Companies that commit wage theft and put their workers in harm’s way just received a favor from the Trump administration.

President Donald Trump signed a bill Monday repealing a regulation that had encouraged federal contractors to follow labor laws. Under the Obama-era rule, companies with an egregious record of violating wage and safety laws would lose their government contracts if they didn’t come into compliance.

The idea behind the rule was to make sure unscrupulous employers didn’t receive taxpayer dollars. But Republicans in Congress thought the rule was too punitive and unfair to businesses. They used an arcane tool known as the Congressional Review Act in an effort to kill the regulation, which was called the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule.

By approving the legislation sent to him by the Senate, Trump has ensured not only that the regulation will die, but also that no similar regulation can be put forth by the Labor Department again. Trump signed the legislation at a White House ceremony in front of the press.


----- 10 -----
Why Republicans Are Ruling With Utter Incompetence
Their dysfunction is the result of years of bad-faith opposition to Obama.
By Brian Beutler | March 27, 2017 | The New Republic

https://newrepublic.com/article/141619/republicans-ruling-utter-incompetence

Congressional Democrats kicked off the first term of the Obama administration having controlled the House and Senate for just two years. Consecutive landslide elections, in 2006 and 2008, left their caucuses overrun with unseasoned legislators, steeped in opposition politics and beset by conflicting priorities. Yet somehow they devised and passed the most far-reaching legislative agenda in half a century, without the luxury of a cooling off period.

As Paul Ryan sees it, this was some kind of miracle. At a Capitol briefing on Friday, he explained the failure of the GOP’s American Health Care Act as a consequence of “growing pains” that come with “moving from an opposition party to a governing party.”

This is a comforting thought for a House speaker who, despite Republican control of all levers of government, is staring into the policy void. But as the Democratic majorities of 2009 and 2010 show, “growing pains” are not an immutable fact of legislative politics. Republicans controlled the House for six years, and the Senate for two, before Donald Trump became president. If anything, the transition from opposing to governing should’ve been easier for them than it was for Democrats eight years ago. And yet it is proving much harder.

There is a coherent story that explains why Republicans, at their historical apex of power, are also historically dysfunctional, and health care is a huge part of it. But it isn’t a story Ryan will be able to piece together until he accepts the central role he played in it.


----- 11 -----
Finally, a Cure for Government Dysfunction: Nepotism
Jared Kushner rears his head.
By Charles P. Pierce | Mar 27, 2017 | Esquire

http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a54149/jared-kushner-white-house-nepotism/

Let Jared do it!

Solve the crisis in the Middle East, which has defeated generals and clerics, emperors and kings, democrats and autocrats?

Let Jared do it!

Refashion the federal government into a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Trump Organization so everybody can get a sweet slice of the pie before the whole clan winds up playing pinochle together in Danbury?

Let Jared do it!

Allow The Washington Post to show you the genius of the whole thing.


----- 12 -----
Next up for Trump Amateur Hour: NAFTA?
Originally published March 27, 2017
Jon Talton | The Seattle Times

Shoot, ready, aim. This is Donald Trump’s approach. It works with gullible voters and real-estate partners. It doesn’t with real deal-makers, such as House Speaker Paul Ryan, who quickly had Trump break his campaign promise of essentially universal health-care insurance to support the cruel Republican plan that would have kicked 24 million Americans off their Obamacare coverage. Thankfully, it blew up (for now).

As Trump distracts today by putting his unqualified son-in-law in charge of reorganizing government (rather like a banana republic strongman), another big Trump promise looms: NAFTA. Like Bernie Sanders on the left, Trump campaigned on ending “free trade” (deals such as NAFTA are managed trade) that put America at a disadvantage. He promised to either renegotiate NAFTA or pull out of it entirely.

Like the Affordable Care Act, this is serious business.

In place since 1994, NAFTA created a seamless, low-or-no tariff economic condominium among the three North American nations. More than $1 trillion worth of trade happens every year thanks to NAFTA. For a majority of states, Mexico or Canada rank as their largest trading partners. And although Trump emphasized dislike of Mexico in the campaign, don’t forget NAFTA also includes Canada.

Even in Asia-facing Washington state (Trump promises to confront China, too), NAFTA’s footprint is large.

Canada was Washington’s third-largest trading partner last year, with nearly $7 billion in merchandise trade representing 8.8 percent of the state’s total. Unlike many nations, Canada buys a gamut of Washington products. Transportation equipment (read airplanes and airplane parts) is only 15.6 percent of the total.

...

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in economics to predict with confidence that a U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA would cause a recession (and give China a big opening with our spurned trading partners).


----- 13 -----
AP Exclusive: 'Bathroom Bill' to Cost North Carolina $3.76B
by Emery P. Dalesio and Jonathan Drew, Associated Press | March 27, 2017

http://www.meetings-conventions.com/News/Other-News/North-Carolina-Bathroom-Bill-HB2-Local-Economy-Cost/

Despite Republican assurances that North Carolina's "bathroom bill"
isn't hurting the economy, the law limiting LGBT protections will cost
the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years,
according to an Associated Press analysis.

Over the past year, North Carolina has suffered financial hits ranging
from scuttled plans for a PayPal facility that would have added an
estimated $2.66 billion to the state's economy to a canceled Ringo
Starr concert that deprived a town's amphitheater of about $33,000 in
revenue. The blows have landed in the state's biggest cities as well as
towns surrounding its flagship university, and from the mountains to
the coast.

North Carolina could lose hundreds of millions more because the NCAA is
avoiding the state, usually a favored host. The group is set to
announce sites for various championships through 2022, and North
Carolina won't be among them as long as the law is on the books. The
NAACP also has initiated a national economic boycott.

The AP analysis -- compiled through interviews and public records
requests -- represents the largest reckoning yet of how much the law,
passed one year ago, could cost the state. The law excludes gender
identity and sexual orientation from statewide antidiscrimination
protections, and requires transgender people to use restrooms
corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates in many public
buildings.

Still, AP's tally of lost events is likely an underestimation of the
law's true costs. The count includes only data obtained from businesses
and state or local officials regarding projects that canceled or
relocated because of HB2. A business project was counted only if AP
determined through public records or interviews that HB2 was why it
pulled out.


----- 13 -----
How resistance overcame hate in Hood River
by Michelle Nijhuis | Crosscut | 27 March 2017

http://crosscut.com/2017/03/japanese-internment-resistance-hood-river-oregon/

On the evening of November 29, 1944, in the small town of Hood River, Oregon, the members of American Legion Post 22 performed what they later described as a patriotic act: They went to the county courthouse and blacked out 16 names on the plaques honoring local soldiers. All 16 men were still overseas, fighting on behalf of the United States. All 16 were of Japanese descent.

The United States government, in the midst of the racist paranoia that followed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, had already “removed” some 120,000 Japanese-Americans from their homes on the Pacific Coast to internment camps in the Interior West. In Hood River, hundreds of families had been forced to abruptly sell or lease their land and board a train bound for the camps, not knowing when or if they would return.

By the fall of 1944, with the end of the war in sight, the hysterical hatred directed at Japanese-Americans had begun to subside. In Hood River, however, it was about to reach new heights.


----- 14 -----
House Democrats Ask Devin Nunes to Recuse Himself From Russia Inquiry
By MATTHEW ROSENBERG and EMMARIE HUETTEMAN | The New York Times | MARCH 27, 2017

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/27/us/politics/devin-nunes-house-intelligence-committee-white-house-wiretap.html

WASHINGTON — Top House Democrats on Monday called on the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee to recuse himself from the panel’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, thrusting the entire inquiry into jeopardy amid what they described as mounting evidence he was too close to President Trump to be impartial.

The demands followed revelations that the committee’s chairman, Representative Devin Nunes of California, had met on White House grounds with a source who showed him secret American intelligence reports. The reports, Mr. Nunes said last week, showed that Mr. Trump or his closest associates may have been “incidentally” swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies.

The new revelation that the information actually came from a meeting held on the grounds of the White House intensified questions about what prompted Mr. Nunes to make the claim about the intelligence gathering, and who gave him the information.

Representatives Adam B. Schiff of California, the committee’s top Democrat, and Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, suggested that Mr. Nunes, who served on the Trump transition team, was simply too close to the White House to run an independent, thorough inquiry.

“The public cannot have the necessary confidence that matters involving the president’s campaign or transition team can be objectively investigated or overseen by the chairman,” Mr. Schiff said on Monday night.


----- 15 -----
Trump moves decisively to wipe out Obama’s climate-change record
By Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis | The Washington Post | March 27, 2017

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/trump-moves-decisively-to-wipe-out-obamas-climate-change-record/2017/03/27/411043d4-132c-11e7-9e4f-09aa75d3ec57_story.html

President Trump will take the most significant step yet in obliterating his predecessor’s environmental record Tuesday, instructing federal regulators to rewrite key rules curbing U.S. carbon emissions.

The sweeping executive order also seeks to lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing and remove the requirement that federal officials consider the impact of climate change when making decisions.

The order sends an unmistakable signal that just as President Barack Obama sought to weave climate considerations into every aspect of the federal government, Trump is hoping to rip that approach out by its roots.

“This policy is in keeping with President Trump’s desire to make the United States energy independent,” said a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the directive Monday evening and asked for anonymity to speak in advance of the announcement. “When it comes to climate change, we want to take our course and do it in our own form and fashion.”

Some of the measures could take years to implement and are unlikely to alter broader economic trends that are shifting the nation’s electricity mix from coal-fired generation to natural gas and renewables. The order is silent on whether the United States should withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, under which it has pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions between 26 and 28 percent by 2025 compared to 2005 levels, because the administration remains divided on that question.

The order comes after several moves by Trump to roll back Obama-era restrictions on mining, drilling and coal- and gas-burning operations. In his first two months as president, Trump has nullified a regulation barring surface-mining companies from polluting waterways and set aside a new accounting system that would have compelled coal companies and other energy firms to pay more in federal royalties.


----- 16 -----
The All-Male Photo Op Isn’t a Gaffe. It’s a Strategy.
Jill Filipovic | The New York Times | MARCH 27, 2017

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/27/opinion/the-all-male-photo-op-isnt-a-gaffe-its-a-strategy.html

During the great Republican health care debacle, President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence met with the far-right congressional Freedom Caucus to discuss, among other things, stripping out requirements for insurance companies to cover maternity, newborn and pregnancy care. After the meeting, Mr. Pence tweeted a photo of two dozen men sitting around a table. Kellyanne Conway was reportedly in the room, but in the picture the vice president circulated, there was not a woman in sight.

For liberals, the photo seemed like an inadvertent insight into the current Republican psyche: Powerful men plotting to leave vulnerable women up a creek, so ensconced in their misogynistic world they don’t even notice the bad optics (not to mention the irony of the “pro-life” party making it harder for women to afford to have babies). Political analysts treated the photo as a gaffe, the kind of rookie mistake we’re used to seeing from the Trump White House.

I’m not so sure.

This isn’t the first celebratory photo the White House has released of men cutting health care for women. When Mr. Trump signed the global “gag rule,” which pulls United States funding from organizations abroad that so much as mention the word “abortion” (even organizations that don’t provide abortions), he did it flanked by a half-dozen white men in suits. The rule is an order that primarily affects women in developing countries, who will see their access to contraception and even basic services like malaria treatment constrained by funding cuts that politicize global health. That image was similar to one of President George W. Bush surrounded entirely by grinning men as he signed a ban on a rare abortion procedure.

At some point, we have to ask: Is this really a pattern of errors? Maybe these aren’t tone-deaf mistakes at all, but intentional messages to right-wing supporters.

...

Mr. Trump oozes male entitlement, from his brash insistence that he’s the best at everything despite knowing very little about anything to his history of crass sexism. Liberal political analysts, and even some conservative ones, assumed that would hurt him in a more feminist world. With women, it did, though not as much as people might have expected. It didn’t hurt him with men, though — Mr. Trump won them with the biggest gender gap since the advent of exit polling. That he was running against Hillary Clinton, the quintessential Hermione outsmarting the boys in class, brought this white masculinity message into sharper relief: Trump supporters didn’t just oppose Mrs. Clinton, they hated her with unchecked phallic rage, wearing “Trump That Bitch” T-shirts.

Mr. Trump promised he would make America great again, a slogan that included the implicit pledge to return white men to their place of historic supremacy. And that is precisely what these photos show. The same kind of men who have been in charge of the United States since its founding, so very proud of themselves for trying to ax the rights that make it possible for women to chart their own futures — and to compete with men. If women can’t decide for themselves when and if to have children and are instead at the mercy of men and nature, there will simply never be 50 percent of us at that table, or in any halls of power. The men of the Republican Party know this just as well as women do.


----- 17 -----
Trump’s son-in-law had undisclosed meeting with Putin crony with KGB ties
By Leah McElrath | ShareBlue | March 27, 2017

http://shareblue.com/trumps-son-in-law-had-undisclosed-meeting-with-putin-crony-with-kgb-ties/

The Senate Intelligence Committee has called Donald Trump's son-on-law, Jared Kushner, for questioning over several meeting with Russian officials, including a "banker" affiliated with Russia's current KGB-equivalent.

The Senate Intelligence Committee plans to question Donald Trump’s son-in-law and close advisor, Jared Kushner, over his multiple undisclosed meetings with Sergey Gorkov — a Russian banker and high-level government official trained by the current-day KGB, known as the FSB, who has the trust of Russian President Vladimir Putin — and with Sergey Kislyak, the same Russian ambassador who met with both former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and then-Senator Jeff Sessions.

Gorkov graduated in 1994 from the Academy of the Federal Security Service of Russia, the training academy for Russian intelligence agents, and was involved in the reorganization of Russia’s domestic development bank, Vnesheconombank, which required a multi-billion dollar bailout after incurring bad debts related to hosting the Sochi Olympics and rescuing Russian oligarchs from their financial missteps. At the same time, Gorkov was promoted by Putin over Gorkov’s own boss to become the bank’s chairman, indicating a very high degree of trust and confidence by Putin in Gorkov. Prior to being appointed to chair Vnesheconombank, Gorkov was CEO of the largest state-owned bank in Russia, Sberbank.

In December 2016, the same month Gorkov met with Kushner, Gorkov also met with Putin in public, and in August 2016, Gorkov met one-on-one with Putin to discuss the progress at Vnesheconombank.

Former National Security Agency counterintelligence officer John Schindler has described Vnesheconombank, the bank of which Gorkov is now chair, as an organization “commonly used as a front for espionage.”


----- 18 -----
Senate Committee to Question Jared Kushner Over Meetings With Russians
By JO BECKER, MATTHEW ROSENBERG and MAGGIE HABERMAN
The New York Times | MARCH 27, 2017

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/27/us/politics/senate-jared-kushner-russia.html

Senate investigators plan to question Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and a close adviser, as part of their broad inquiry into ties between Trump associates and Russian officials or others linked to the Kremlin, according to administration and congressional officials.

The White House Counsel’s Office was informed this month that the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, wanted to question Mr. Kushner about meetings he arranged with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, according to the government officials. The meetings, which took place during the transition, included a previously unreported sit-down with the head of Russia’s state-owned development bank.

Until now, the White House had acknowledged only an early December meeting between Mr. Kislyak and Mr. Kushner, which occurred at Trump Tower and was also attended by Michael T. Flynn, who would briefly serve as the national security adviser.

Later that month, though, Mr. Kislyak requested a second meeting, which Mr. Kushner asked a deputy to attend in his stead, officials said. At Mr. Kislyak’s request, Mr. Kushner later met with Sergey N. Gorkov, the chief of Vnesheconombank, which the United States placed on its sanctions list after President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia annexed Crimea and began meddling in Ukraine.

Continue reading the main story
A White House spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, confirmed those meetings, saying in an interview that nothing of consequence occurred and portraying them as routine diplomatic encounters that went nowhere. But Mr. Gorkov, who previously served as deputy chairman of the board at Sberbank, Russia’s largest state-owned bank, said in a statement issued by his bank that he met with Mr. Kushner in his capacity as the then-chief executive of Kushner Companies, his family’s sprawling real estate empire.
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