ON THE RECORD. . .
Despite Trump’s spending only eight days in Trump Tower as president so far, the government has spent $130,000 per month since April to lease space in the building for a military office that supports the White House. -- WSJ
“Our back up strategy is to f*ck her (Hillary) up so bad she can’t govern. My goal is that by November eighth, when you hear her name, you’re going to throw up.” -- Steve Bannon a year ago, from Devil’s Bargain by Joshua Green.
“Contrary to what it still wants you to believe, the GOP — the political party that once supported “pay-as-you” go rules and balanced budget amendments to the U.S. Constitution and still routinely excoriates Democrats for what it says is their profligate ways — today is not the political party of fiscal responsibility and reduced deficits.” -- Stan Collender saying the Republican party should be considered a synonym for the word "fraud."
Nixon, 1973: “I’m not a crook.”
Trump, 2017: “I’m not a moron.” -- Jon Cooper (@joncoopertweets)
Trump is treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III. ... like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something. He concerns me. He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation. I don’t know why the president tweets out things that are not true. You know he does it, everyone knows he does it, but he does.” — Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)
IN THIS ISSUE
1. Andy Borowitz: Trump Knocked Out in First Round of White House I.Q.-Test Tournament After Losing to Betsy DeVos
In an I.Q.-test tournament devised by Donald Trump to determine the smartest person in his Administration, Trump suffered a humiliating defeat on Tuesday, getting knocked out in the first round by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Elsewhere in the I.Q. tournament, other members of the Trump family were knocked out in the first round as well, with Ivanka Trump falling to Vice-President Mike Pence; Donald Trump, Jr., losing to Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders; and Jared Kushner reportedly suffering a lopsided defeat at the hands of Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.
Trump’s son Eric did not participate in the tournament. “That would have been cruel,” the source said.
ELSEWHERE: Attempting to pour cold water on reports of a rift between him and Donald Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters on Wednesday that he remains “fully committed to this moron’s agenda.”
“There will always be people in Washington eager to stir controversy when there is none,” Tillerson said, at a hastily called press conference at the State Department. “I am standing here today to tell you that I am on the same page as this idiot.”
Elaborating on that point, the former oil-company C.E.O. stressed that he and Trump were in agreement on a broad range of issues. “From North Korea to Iran to China, there is no daylight between me and this imbecile,” he said.
Tillerson also took pains to deny that he was ever close to resigning from his Cabinet post. “When I promise a cretin that I am going to do a job, I stay until the job is finished,” he said.
Asked to confirm reports that Vice-President Mike Pence had to persuade him not to quit last summer, the Secretary of State refused. “Let’s leave that other moron out of this,” he said.
ELSEWHERE 2: Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos offered a spirited defense of her boss’s intelligence on Friday, bluntly asking reporters, “Would a moron hire me?”
“My intelligence can be very intimidating,” DeVos said. “And if Donald Trump was a moron, he would not want to be around people who are intelligenter than him.” Read more at https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/
2. The Fantasyland of Tax Reform
The baffling assumption in Washington and in the markets these days is the persistent optimism that major tax reform or a big tax cut will be enacted this year or next. Why should anyone think this is realistic? First, let’s talk about tax reform and then tax cuts. It’s important to note the distinction.
The truth is that reforming, streamlining, or simplifying the tax code is incredibly difficult under the best of circumstances, and circumstances today are worse than usual. Even passing a big tax cut, which sounds easy (who turns down free candy?), is problematic because it either drives up the deficit or shifts the tax burden to other payers.
An increase in the budget deficit runs the risk of dividing the Republican Party even more than it already is. The only way to square the circle would be through aggressive dynamic scoring, which in a previous era was known as “voodoo economics” (see Bush, George H.W.). In any event, the Congressional Budget Office is highly unlikely to calculate that new revenue from economic growth will be enough to keep the deficit level. As for shifting the tax burden, that means an increase in levies on some Americans. And raising taxes on anyone requires more intestinal fortitude than is evident on Capitol Hill today. Read more at http://cookpolitical.com/analysis/national/national-politics/fantasyland-tax-reform
3. ACA premiums blame game may turn against Republicans
For years, Democrats have been on the receiving end of political attacks about rising Affordable Care Act premiums. But the roles are about to be reversed — and it’s not clear whether Republicans will be able to avoid the blame.”
Not only has the GOP failed to fulfill a key campaign promise, but it’s also going to get slammed for allowing things to get worse for voters.”
Said economist Doug Holtz-Eakin: “As of now, they own the whole issue. Read more at https://www.axios.com/the-premium-blame-game-has-likely-turned-against-republicans-2493006130.html
4. Bannon’s Next Victim
Steve Bannon and his allies are planning a hostile takeover of the Republican Party. And only one Senator running in 2018 will get a free pass: Ted Cruz.”
Breitbart’s Washington Editor Matt Boyle writes today that conservatives are ‘running or actively seeking out’ serious primary challengers for every incumbent Republican senator running in 2018 except the Texan. Read more at https://www.axios.com/steve-bannons-next-victims-2494566949.html
5. Google uncovers Russian-bought ads on YouTube, Gmail and other platforms
Google for the first time has uncovered evidence that Russian operatives exploited the company’s platforms in an attempt to interfere in the 2016 election,.
The Silicon Valley giant has found that tens of thousands of dollars were spent on ads by Russian agents who aimed to spread disinformation across Google’s many products, which include YouTube, as well as advertising associated with Google search, Gmail, and the company’s DoubleClick ad network.”
The discovery by Google is also significant because the ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated troll farm that bought ads on Facebook — a sign that the Russian effort to spread disinformation online may be a much broader problem than Silicon Valley companies have unearthed so far. Read more at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/10/09/google-uncovers-russian-bought-ads-on-youtube-gmail-and-other-platforms/
6. The DAILY GRILL
"You have a responsibility to tell the truth" -- White House spokesman to press
"Mexico will pay for the wall"
"I saw thousands of Muslims cheering on 9/11"
"I'm the least racist person you've ever seen.""Believe me, there's no problem"
"I'm like a really smart person."
"If I'm president I won't have time for golf."
"We woulda passed ACA repeal but a Senator was in the hospital."
"Obama founded Isis."
"Mexico is sending rapists."
"Obama wire-tapped me." -- Mikel Jollett @Mikel_Jollett
...Hence, I would fully expect Corker to be a negative voice and stand in the way of our great agenda. Didn't have the guts to run! -- Donald J. Trump ✔@realDonaldTrump
It's a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning. -- Senator Bob Corker @SenBobCorker
"Look, 92% of the people agree on DACA." -- Trump
"92%?" While polls indicate that most Americans want "Dreamers" to remain in the country, no poll backs up Trump's "92%" claim. -- CNN
I stand with @POTUS Trump, I stand with our soldiers, and I will always stand for our Flag and our National Anthem. -- Vice President Pence @VP
-- Do you stand with Sen. McCain, who was unfortunate to be captured? Where was your outrage when your boss insulted him and all POW's?
-- Where is his outrage now that four Green Berets were killed in Niger and the so-called president hasn't even given them a mention?
-- Why aren't you condemning the KKK and Nazis who marched on C-Ville over the weekend...again?
-- . . . in a White House-APPROVED, taxpayer-paid, $250,000 political stunt.
-- So technically you are like...a paid protester?
-- Calling a Technical Foul on your NFL stunt. Unnecessary distraction from real issue of broken criminal justice system. 15 yds & loss of face https://twitter.com/VP/status/917078269077413888
7. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)
Why Isn't the Senate Intel Committee looking into the Fake News Networks in OUR country to see why so much of our news is just made up-FAKE! -- Donald J. Trump ✔@realDonaldTrump
Trump calling for congressional investigation into U.S. news outlets. https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2017/10/05/authoritarian-watch-trump-calls-congressional-investigation-us-news-outlets/218139
White House press secretary equates unflattering press accounts of Trump to fake news peddled by Russians. https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2017/10/05/white-house-press-secretary-equates-unflattering-press-accounts-trump-fake-news-peddled-russians/218145
St. Louis' Sinclair station replaced local news with unhinged conspiracy theories from a wannabe Sean Hannity. https://www.mediamatters.org/research/2017/10/09/st-louis-sinclair-station-replaced-local-news-unhinged-conspiracy-theories-wannabe-sean-hannity/218076
Fox contributor equates fake news farms with US media outlets while defending Trump's call to investigate the press. https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2017/10/08/fox-contributor-equates-fake-news-farms-us-media-outlets-while-defending-trumps-call-investigate/218175
Jeffrey Lord: is reason for mass shootings like Las Vegas. Lord: "If we have a culture that disrespects human life and teaches people to have disrespect for human life, how else are we going to wind up than we did with this guy in Las Vegas who had no respect for human life?" https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2017/10/06/jeffrey-lord-abortion-reason-mass-shootings-las-vegas/218170
8. From the Late Shows
Miley Cyrus & Tonight Show's Female Writers Read Thank You Notes to Hillary Clinton: https://youtu.be/SpzeQ1Z3Ut0
Weekend Update on the Las Vegas Shooting - SNL: https://youtu.be/j7OQpRLDM9I
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon: Madea Is Trump's New Communications Director. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRkdV_xmYOI
9. Late Night Jokes for Dems
I am so worried about Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Yesterday, NBC News reported Tillerson was on the verge of resigning his position this summer and had openly disparaged President Trump, referring to him as a “moron.” That’s usually something you say right before you quit. “Hey boss, can I have five minutes of your time? You moron.” -- Stephen Colbert
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, it looks like Congress might finally do something about gun control. Yesterday, congressional Republicans signaled that they would be open to banning gun conversion kits called “bump stocks,” which take advantage of a semiautomatic gun’s natural recoil, allowing it to bounce back and forth off a shooter’s trigger finger and unleash up to 100 rounds in seven seconds. It’s great for hunting – if you’ve got seven seconds to kill every animal in the forest. -- Stephen Colbert
The Senate Intel Committee, by the way, is busy right now looking into the fake news stories the Russians made up to help Trump win the election. The other irony is no one, no breathing human on planet Earth, produces more fake news than Donald Trump. This is Donald Trump’s rating on PolitiFact, the nonpartisan fact-checking organization: According to them only 5 percent of the things that come out of his mouth are true. More than two-thirds, 69 percent, are either mostly false, false, or pants on fire false. -- Jimmy Kimmel
This is another chart, from The Washington Post. Over the last 232 days, Donald Trump has made 1,145 claims that are false or misleading. And that’s just the stuff he says in public. Donald Trump is a tornado of fake news. He’s the Michael Jordan, Elvis Presley, and Great Wall of China of fake news combined. Donald Trump criticizing fake news is like Hugh Hefner criticizing fake breasts. -- Jimmy Kimmel
Vice President Pence said in an op-ed yesterday that the U.S. will “lead in space again” under the Trump administration. Space? It took him two weeks to figure out how to get to Puerto Rico. -- Seth Meyers
Following yesterday’s story that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a moron, this morning Donald Trump went on a Twitter rant, saying, “This is fake news put out by NBC. Low news and reporting standards.” Now, he may be right about NBC having low standards. They did air 14 seasons of “The Apprentice.” -- James Corden
After posting the initial story about Tillerson calling Trump a moron, NBC journalists then shot back, saying that Tillerson actually called him a [bleeping] moron. I take it back about them having low standards. I think this is NBC’s greatest comeback since “Will & Grace.” -- James Corden
Also in that NBC story, this is the best of it, it was reported that Tillerson had called Trump a "moron." Yeah. So I guess Tillerson isn't so much secretary of state as he is secretary of stating the obvious. -- James Corden
Tillerson said he has never considered leaving the post? If you work in the Trump White House and you haven't considered leaving, you're either asleep or you're Ben Carson. -- Jimmy Kimmel
10. Trump nominates a coal lobbyist to the number two spot at EPA
The White House announced Thursday that President Donald Trump has officially nominated Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, to be deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Until August 11th, Wheeler was a registered lobbyist for Murray Energy, the country’s largest privately owned coal company; it’s CEO, Bob Murray, is an ardent Trump supporter who hosted an invitation-only fundraiser for Trump during the presidential campaign and donated $300,000 to his inauguration. Read more at https://thinkprogress.org/trump-nominates-coal-lobbyist-epa-ef0918d640fd/
11. Temperature Report: September 2017
Boosted by warmer than normal water in the equatorial eastern Pacific Ocean that peaked in June and July, global average temperatures in the atmosphere rose to record levels in September, according to Dr. John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. Not only was it the warmest September on record, it was also the warmest month (compared to seasonal norms) in the 38-year satellite temperature record that wasn’t associated with an “officially recognized” El Niño Pacific Ocean warming event. Read more at http://www.newswise.com/articles/global-temperature-report-september-2017
12. Stoking Islamophobia and secession in Texas -- from an office in Russia
On May 21 2016, a handful of people turned out to protest the opening of a library at an Islamic Center in Houston, Texas. Two held up a banner proclaiming #WhiteLivesMatter. A counter-protest began across the street; video shows a noisy but non-violent confrontation.
The rally -- called "Stop Islamization of Texas" -- was called and promoted by a Facebook page called Heart of Texas, which had wrongly alleged that the Islamic library had received public funding. But the Heart of Texas page listed no contacts in the Lone Star state. In fact, it was operated by a "Troll Factory" called the Internet Research Agency thousands of miles away in St Petersburg Russia, CNN has learned.
The Houston rally sheds light on an effort originating in Russia to sow discord in the U.S. through social media; in this case it had real impact on the ground.
Generating anti-Muslim sentiment in the US was one of the goals of the Russian campaign. CNN reported Tuesday that some ads bought on Facebook were aimed at reaching voters who might be susceptible to anti-Muslim messages, even suggesting that Muslims were a threat to the American way of life.
On October 26, 2016, Heart of Texas raised the issue of voter fraud, warning: "There are many grounds for believing the Liberals are going to usurp power in the White House and push into it Hillary Clinton at any cost." Read more at http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/05/politics/heart-of-texas-russia-event/index.html
13. Video: Russian Operatives Sent IdahoTown Into Fake News Tailspin
A small town in southern Idaho that finds itself at the center of a fake news media storm. Earlier this month, it was revealed that an anti-refugee Facebook page — which organized an anti-refugee rally in Twin Falls — was operated not by locals, but by fake accounts based in Russia. https://youtu.be/wbqehf1bKvQ
14. Russia Recruited YouTubers to Bash ‘Racist B*tch’ Hillary Clinton Over Rap Beats
According to the YouTube page for “Williams and Kalvin,” the Clintons are “serial killers who are going to rape the whole nation.” Donald Trumpcan’t be racist because he’s a “businessman.” Hillary Clinton’s campaign was “fund[ed] by the Muslim.”
These are a sample of the videos put together by two black video bloggers calling themselves Williams and Kalvin Johnson, whose social media pages investigators say are part of the broad Russian campaign to influence American politics. Across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, they purported to offer “a word of truth” to African-American audiences.
“We, the black people, we stand in one unity. We stand in one to say that Hillary Clinton is not our candidate,” one of the men says in a November video that warned Clinton “is going to stand for the Muslim. We don’t stand for her.”
The discovery of living, breathing, real-life avatars for Kremlin talking points deepens and complicates the emerging picture of how Russian propaganda reached what Facebook alone estimated last week were 10 million users in the United States—a number considered by many outside experts to be a lowball estimate. Read more at https://www.thedailybeast.com/russia-recruited-youtubers-to-bash-racist-btch-hillary-clinton-over-rap-beats
15. While Republicans slash Medicaid, Trump’s golf outings have cost taxpayers an estimated $72 million
In only nine months, Donald Trump has taken at least 68 golf outings. One hundred percent of those trips were to golf courses he owns in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia. The website Trump Golf Count has been using publicly available data and news reports to track the number of times and the expense of Trump’s golf trips and they estimate taxpayers have spent at least $72,057,931 thus far. Given that Trump owns the properties where this money is being spent, how much of that went straight into Donald Trump’s pocket? Staff, security personnel, all eating, drinking, sleeping at Trump-owned properties every weekend. Read more at https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/10/6/1704713/-While-Republicans-slash-Medicaid-Trump-s-golf-outings-have-cost-taxpayers-an-estimated-72-million
16. Shifting attitudes among Democrats have big implications for 2020.
A few days ago, the Pew Center released a comprehensive survey on the widening gap between Republicans and Democrats. The bottom line is summed up by one of the opening sentences in the report: “Republicans and Democrats are now further apart ideologically than at any point in more than two decades.”
This poll is the latest in a series of surveys dating back to 1994. Together they provide not just snapshots in time, but also an arc of the changes in public opinion. Republicans moved to the right harder and earlier than Democrats began moving left, and their base remains more uncompromising. But on a number or questions, the biggest recent movement has been among Democrats.
In its new survey, Pew found the widest partisan gap ever on the question of whether government should help those in need — primarily because of recent shifts among Democrats. From 2011 to today, the percentage of Democrats who say government should do more to help those in need has jumped from 54 percent to 71 percent.
Only a minority of Republicans (24 percent) say government should do more for the needy, and that figure has barely moved in the past six years. The Republicans shifted their views from 2007 through 2011, the early years of the Obama presidency, during which their support for a government role dropped by 20 percentage points. Read more at https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/shifting-attitudes-among-democrats-have-big-implications-for-2020/2017/10/07/a1741398-aae1-11e7-850e-2bdd1236be5d_story.html
17. Trump approval hits record-low 32 percent in AP poll
Trump's approval rating has sunk to a new low in a new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey.
Thirty-two percent of Americans polled said they approved of Trump's handling of his job nine months into his presidency, while 67 percent of those polled said they disapproved. Read more at http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/354325-poll-trump-approval-hits-32-percent
18. The Trump-Russia Dossier Grows More Significant By The Day
Nine months after its first appearance, the set of intelligence reports known as the Steele dossier, one of the most explosive documents in modern political history, is still hanging over Washington, casting a shadow over the Trump administration that has only grown darker as time has gone by.
The fact that Steele’s reports are being taken seriously after lengthy scrutiny by federal and congressional investigators has far-reaching implications.” Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/oct/07/trump-russia-steele-dossier-moscow
19. GOP Abandons Any Pretense of Fiscal Responsibility
“The Republican Party has largely abandoned its platform of fiscal restraint, pivoting sharply in a way that could add trillions of dollars in federal debt over the next decade.
Cutting spending to balance the budget was almost religion to the Republican Party for much of the past eight years. But all year long, despite their control of the White House and Congress, Republicans have not taken steps to balance the budget, to overhaul entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, or to arrest the growth of the country’s $20 trillion in debt. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/in-a-switch-gop-deserts-its-budget-cutting-mantra/2017/10/07/5a62b8be-a943-11e7-850e-2bdd1236be5d_story.html
20. 52 Environmental Rules on the Way Out Under Trump
Since taking office in January, President Trump has made eliminating federal regulations a priority. His administration — with help from Republicans in Congress — has often targeted environmental rules it sees as overly burdensome to the fossil fuel industry, including major Obama-era policies aimed at fighting climate change.
To date, the Trump administration has sought to reverse more than 50 environmental rules, according to an analysis by The New York Times. The list is at https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/10/05/climate/trump-environment-rules-reversed.html
21. Democrats Headed for a McGovern Redux?
We’re a long, long way from 2020, but it’s abundantly evident that Trump will again run a Nixonian campaign, tearing down his opponent and presenting himself as the champion of an aggrieved coalition that Nixon called the ‘silent majority’ and Trump calls ‘the forgotten men and women’ of America.
Consumed by internecine battles and the idea of opposition, Democrats run the risk of again nominating someone like McGovern who pleases progressives but steers a course too far from the country’s center of political gravity to win, even as Trump continues his funhouse mirror impression of Nixon as the avatar of white cultural-grievance politics.
Maybe 2020 won't be a repeat of 1972 after all, but could end up more like 1976, with a scandal-fatigued country ushering Republicans out of the White House. But Democrats shouldn’t count on it. Read more at http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/10/09/democrats-mcgovern-1972-trump-nixon-2020-215687
22. Trump on Track for 2,000 Misleading Claims In First Year
The Washington Post Fact Checker has completed two-thirds of their year-long project analyzing, categorizing and tracking every false or misleading claim by Trump, as well as his flip-flops. As of our latest update Oct. 10, 2017, or his 264th day in office, Trump has made 1,318 claims over 263 days. He has averaged five claims a day, even picking up pace since the six-month mark.”
With almost exactly 100 days left to go in our year-long project, Trump is inching ever closer to breaking 2,000 claims. Read more at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/10/10/president-trump-has-made-1318-false-or-misleading-claims-over-263-days/
23. Brookings Institution study: Presidential obstruction of justice: The case of Donald J. Trump
In this paper Barry H. Berke, Noah Bookbinder and Norman Eisen break down and analyze the question of whether President Trump may have obstructed justice and explain the criminal and congressional actions that could follow from an obstruction investigation.
I. What are the relevant facts?.
II. What is the case that President Trump obstructed justice?..
III. What actions might Special Counsel Mueller take?..
V. What actions might Congress take?
23. EPA head met with a mining CEO -- and then pushed forward a controversial mining project
Within hours of meeting with a mining company CEO, the new head of the US Environmental Protection Agency directed his staff to withdraw a plan to protect the watershed of Bristol Bay, Alaska, one of the most valuable wild salmon fisheries on Earth, according to interviews and government emails obtained by CNN.
The meeting between EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Tom Collier, CEO of Pebble Limited Partnership, took place on May 1, Collier and his staff confirmed in an interview with CNN. At 10:36 a.m. that same day, the EPA's acting general counsel, Kevin Minoli, sent an email to agency staff saying the administrator had "directed" the agency to withdraw an Obama-era proposal to protect the ecologically valuable wetland in southwest Alaska from certain mining activities. Read more at http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/22/politics/pebble-epa-bristol-bay-invs/index.html
24. For Trump, the Reality Show Has Never Ended
Over the weekend, President Trump was accused by a Republican senator of running the White House like a ‘reality show.’ In the 48 hours that followed, this is how the president rebutted the characterization,
He called out the offending senator for being short and sounding like ‘a fool.’ He challenged his secretary of state to an I.Q. contest and insisted he would win. He celebrated the downfall of a critic who was suspended from her job. And his first wife and third wife waged a public war of words over who was really his first lady.
Mr. Trump’s West Wing has always seemed to be the crossroads between cutthroat politics and television drama, presided over by a seasoned showman who has made a career of keeping the audience engaged and coming back for more. Obsessed by ratings and always on the hunt for new story lines, Mr. Trump leaves the characters on edge, none of them ever really certain whether they might soon be voted off the island. Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/10/us/politics/trump-corker-feud-tweet-liddle-bob.html
25. Inside Bannon’s Plan for a GOP Civil War
Stephen Bannon is building a nationwide coalition that — in the words of a former Trump White House official — could “wreak havoc” across the map “if Bannon is even halfways successful.
Some of Bannon’s candidates for Republican primaries have privately pledged they’ll oppose Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. It’s becoming a de facto litmus test in Bannon’s recruitment.
Bannon vows to support primary challengers against every incumbent Republican senator running for re-election in 2018 — with the sole exception of Ted Cruz. So that could mean seven Bannon GOP challengers, and he has as many as eight Democratic senators in his sights. Bannon is also exploring gubernatorial and House races.”
As Bannon told Sean Hannity: “Nobody’s safe. We’re coming after all of them.” Read more at https://www.axios.com/the-gops-uncivil-war-2495463633.html
26. Trump Wanted Tenfold Increase in Nuclear Arsenal
President Trump “said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest ranking national security leaders.
Trump’s comments, the officials said, came in response to a briefing slide he was shown that charted the steady reduction of U.S. nuclear weapons since the late 1960s. Trump indicated he wanted a bigger stockpile, not the bottom position on that downward-sloping curve.
According to the officials present, Trump’s advisers, among them the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, were surprised. Officials briefly explained the legal and practical impediments to a nuclear buildup and how the current military posture is stronger than it was at the height of the build-up. In interviews, they told NBC News that no such expansion is planned.
The July 20 meeting was described as a lengthy and sometimes tense review of worldwide U.S. forces and operations. It was soon after the meeting broke up that officials who remained behind heard Tillerson say that Trump is a ‘moron.' Read more at https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/trump-wanted-dramatic-increase-nuclear-arsenal-meeting-military-leaders-n809701?cid=public-rss_20171011
27. How Israel Caught Russian Hackers Scouring the World for U.S. Secrets
It was a case of spies watching spies watching spies: Israeli intelligence officers looked on in real time as Russian government hackers searched computers around the world for the code names of American intelligence programs.
What gave the Russian hacking, detected more than two years ago, such global reach was its improvised search tool — antivirus software made by a Russian company, Kaspersky Lab, that is used by 400 million people worldwide, including by officials at some two dozen American government agencies.
The Israeli officials who had hacked into Kaspersky’s own network alerted the United States to the broad Russian intrusion, which has not been previously reported, leading to a decision just last month to order Kaspersky software removed from government computers. Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/10/technology/kaspersky-lab-israel-russia-hacking.html
1. Jamellie Bouie: The Incredible Corrupting White House
Amid the chaos and dysfunction that marks Washington in the age of Trump, it can be easy to miss that this White House is corrupt. Remarkably, unbelievably, corrupt.
Compared with other crises and controversies enveloping this administration, mere graft seems minor. It’s not a natural disaster, an FBI investigation, or an open display of sympathy for white supremacists. Still, the corruption shouldn’t be dismissed. Not just because it’s wrong, but because it puts serious stress on our democratic institutions at exactly the time they need support.
At the center is President Trump himself, who treats the treasury like a slush fund. Trump takes regular trips to his properties in Florida, New Jersey, and Virginia. At last look, according to the New York Times, he spent 85 days visiting at least one of his properties out of a total of 249 days on the job as president. These trips aren’t cheap. Definitive numbers are hard to come by, but in August, the left-leaning Center for American Progress Action Fund estimated that Trump had spent more than $31 million on trips to his hotels, golf courses, and resorts, which includes expenses for his staff and security. What makes this graft and not just waste is the fact that it goes directly from taxpayers into the president’s own pockets—Trump refuses to divest from his businesses, meaning he has a financial stake in their use by the government. These expenditures don’t even account for the fact that, because he occupies the Oval Office, Trump has been able to charge more at his clubs and hotels, cash that flows to his bank accounts.
In any other administration, this abuse of public resources would be a defining scandal.
Democracy needs trust to survive, and corruption erodes that trust. The longer it continues, the more it becomes just the background noise of our politics, the harder it is to plot a correction and restore the democratic faith necessary to tackle collective problems. If, like many in the Republican Party, one does not believe in collective action for public good, then this is not a problem. For those of us who do, however, it is a crisis. Read more at http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/10/the_
2. Charles M. Blow: Blood Pact With the N.R.A.
We are once again in the throes of a worn and increasingly fruitless post-massacre protocol that ritualizes our stages of grief and anesthetizes our expectations of action.
On Sunday night, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, taking a sniper’s position on the32nd floor of a hotel, rained bullets down on a country music concert, killing 59 at latest count and injuring over 500 others.
We have had our initial shock and outrage. We have had our sending of prayers, our thoughts-are-with-yous, moments of silence and mournful vigils.
We have had our recognizing of heroes, honoring of emergency medical workers and praising of community spirit.
We have had — and continue to have — our partisan thirst to understand the motive, but just as important, to see if we can hang the murders like an albatross around the neck of political opponents.
And we have had the ridiculous debate about when the right time is to talk about the American gun fetish and how to help prevent future attacks.
I call this part ridiculous because there is not another word for it. What does it mean to say “Don’t politicize the shooting”? Politics is why there has been no substantial federal movement on gun control in recent decades. Politics is why the National Rifle Association greases palms and raps knuckles. Politics is why we are here. Everything in America is political.
Also, anytime an American uses a gun to kill another American, that is precisely the right time to talk about how to prevent that from happening again. Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/05/opinion/vegas-shooting-nra-politicize.html
3. NY Times Editorial: Donald Trump’s Foreign Policy Circus
Another day, another embarrassing foreign policy circus in the nation’s capital that can only further erode trust in American leadership at home and abroad. At its center is Rex Tillerson, who traded his job as top dog at the oil giant ExxonMobil to become secretary of state, only to find himself substantively and personally undercut by President Trump as recently as Sunday on the issue of Korea, where Mr. Tillerson wanted negotiations as Mr. Trump threatened war.
On Wednesday, after NBC News reported that Mr. Tillerson was on the verge of resigning last summer, the secretary quickly called a news conference in which he asserted that he never considered doing so, though he did not personally deny a report that he had grown so disenchanted with the man in the Oval Office that he once called him a “moron” at a Pentagon meeting with the national security team and cabinet officials. Mr. Tillerson was said to be particularly upset by Mr. Trump’s highly politicized speech to the Boy Scouts of America, an organization the secretary once led. Various other Trump officials reportedly urged him to stay on at least until the end of the year, and Vice President Mike Pence counseled him on ways to ease tensions with the president.
The conflicts between Mr. Trump and Tillerson are numerous and mounting. Last week, in Beijing, Mr. Tillerson described efforts to explore contacts with North Korea over the nuclear issue, only to have Mr. Trump scorn the initiative as a waste of time, leaving the impression that he was focused mainly on military options. In June, Mr. Tillerson called on Saudi Arabia and other gulf states to ease their blockade of Qatar, only to have Mr. Trump endorse the crackdown. The Trump administration has twice certified that Iran is complying with the terms of the nuclear deal that was one of former President Barack Obama’s major diplomatic achievements. Mr. Trump has left little doubt about his contempt for the deal.
Mr. Tillerson certainly has his weaknesses. He has often seemed detached and remote and has advocated severe budget cuts that are decimating the State Department and threatening its operations abroad. But those weaknesses are nothing compared to those of an inexperienced, self-absorbed, bombastic and impulsive president. Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/05/opinion/editorials/tillerson-trump-moron.html
4. Jonathan Chait: The Debunked IRS Targeting Scandal Shows There Is No Sane Wing of the GOP
Four and a half years ago, the IRS revealed that it had subjected numerous conservative political groups to excessive scrutiny, delays, and demands for paperwork. A scandal was born. President Obama apologized, newspaper headlines confirmed the agency’s guilt, and Congress scheduled investigatory hearings to confirm its suspicion that the Obama administration has sicced the agency on its enemies — just like Nixon, whose name was invoked with frequency.
Last night supplied the latest and probably final proof that the entire scandal was a fever dream. The Obama administration didn’t use the agency to target its opponents; indeed, as we now know conclusively, the IRS did not target conservatives at all. The sorry episode reveals a great deal about Washington but nothing whatsoever about a liberal bureaucratic plot.
Nobody has ever told the Republican base there is no IRS scandal. Pro-Trump and Never Trump Republicans are united in their fixed belief in this unicorn. Charlie Sykes’s new book, How the Right Lost Its Mind, which is primarily dedicated to the rise of the right-wing fever swamp and the role of the conservative media in allowing its fantasies to swell unchallenged, casually mentions — in the section explaining why conservatives have some legitimate grievances — “IRS targeting of Tea Party groups.” Fervently anti-Trump conservatives like Michael Gerson, George Will, Noah Rothman, and many others continue to cite the nonexistent scandal as if it were a real thing.
It has become a cliché to point to some long-standing feature of right-wing politics and conclude this is why Trump won. But it is also a point with a high degree of truth. Conservatives spent decades building a closed epistemology of alternative facts, and Trump repurposed it for his own ends. Read more at http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/10/debunked-irs-scandal-shows-theres-no-sane-wing-of-the-gop.html
5. The NY Times Editorial Board: The Republican’s Guide To Presidential Etiquette
In 2017, there’s a whole new bar for tolerable conduct by the commander in chief. Our original guide cataloged several dozen examples. Almost five months later, it’s clear that an update is necessary. This expanded list is meant to ensure that Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and other congressional Republicans never forget what they now condone in a president.
So, if you are the president, you may:
Mock a foreign leader with a demeaning nickname and threaten his country with nuclear annihilation over Twitter
Call for the firing of “son of a bitch” athletes who choose to exercise their right to free speech
Refer to the White House as “a real dump”
Spend the weekend golfing at your private club while the mayor of an American city wades through sewage-filled water to help citizens after a catastrophic hurricane, then accuse that mayor of “poor leadership” when she criticizes your administration’s slow response to the storm
Criticize victims of that hurricane still living without drinking water or electricity by saying they “want everything to be done for them”
During a visit to some of those victims, throw rolls of paper towels at them and tell them they should be “very proud” that only 16 people have died so far, unlike in a “real catastrophe”
Attack a senator battling terminal cancer
Pick nominees to the federal bench who call a sitting Supreme Court justice a “judicial prostitute” and refer to transgender children as part of “Satan’s plan”
Campaign hard for a Senate candidate; then when he appears likely to lose, say “I might have made a mistake” and later delete your tweets supporting him
Behave so erratically and irresponsibly that senators of your own party resort to saying you’re treated like an adult day-care student to keep you from starting World War III
Spend one of every three days as president visiting at least one of your own properties
Publicly and privately humiliate your own attorney general for recusing himself from an investigation into your campaign
Tell a lie, on average, more than five times a day
6. Kurt Andersen: America’s Gun Fantasy
Three percent of the nation owns half the firearms—to prepare for an ultraviolent showdown that exists only in their imagination.
When the founders wrote the Constitution, they envisioned a very small permanent national military. If Americans needed to fight wars, the states would assemble their militias. And so the Second Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” For more than two centuries, the Supreme Court avoided making any sweeping decision about what the Second Amendment meant. It just didn’t come up that much. Increasingly it seemed an artifact of another time.
After the NRA’s apoplectic-fantasist faction took control in the late 1970s, it turned its dial up to 11 and kept it there, becoming the center of a powerful new political movement that opposed any and all regulation of firearms—the types and numbers of guns and accessories and ammo people could buy, who could buy them and how easily, registration, licensing, even a requirement to use safety locks. Nevertheless Congress in the 1990s managed to enact two laws—one requiring most gun buyers to pass an FBI background check to screen out criminals and another banning the manufacture of certain semi-automatic guns and of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
That leads to an even more fantastical narrative: After the full police-state erasure of liberty, well-armed Americans will be obliged to launch an uprising against the U.S. government.
By presenting an even crazier new fantasy of armed patriots’ self-defense. “Right now,” LaPierre told them, “we face a gathering of forces that are willing to use violence against us … some of the most radical political elements there are. Anarchists, Marxists, communists, and the whole rest of the left-wing socialist brigade.” Does he know this is madness? After 39 years with the NRA, is he really itching for an actual civil war, or are his horrific movie-trailer visions just good for business? “Make no mistake, if the violent left brings their terror … into our homes, they will be met with … full force of American freedom in the hands of the American people, and we will win.” Read more at https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2017/10/fantasyland-book-excerpt-the-nra-won-the-gun-rights-debate-and-made-americans-fear-their-own-government.html
7. Javier Corrales: Polarize and Conquer
The president of the United States is now certifiably our “hater in chief.” Lashing out at people is what he seems to do best and enjoy most. Twitter, we now know, is his weapon of choice. He uses it to target people and institutions in the news. Just Thursday, he used Twitter to criticize the Senate Intelligence Committee for investigating him instead of the media. Before that, he lashed out at the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, for her “weak leadership.” Days before, he was targeting football players and team owners. Before that, it was Stephen Colbert, and before that, Senator John McCain, and before that, Senator Mitch McConnell. The list goes on.
Bickering with people who are in the news has a political logic: It deepens the country’s polarization — and this can work to the president’s advantage. Spewing hate toward celebrities is part of his game plan.
The main objective of hating is to incense your critics so that they hate you back even more. Insults tend to provoke more extreme postures. A result is that Mr. Trump successfully transforms the targets of his hate, and those who come to their defense, into an even more extreme image of what the president’s base already despises.
Given that Mr. Trump’s survival strategy is to polarize, his critics need to learn to play his war of words carefully. They must take a stand, while still avoid emulating the president’s escalation tactic, so as not to validate the image that the president wants to portray of them.
But self-restraint is of course hard to sustain, especially if the president is the chief polarizer. At some point, some of his targets will also do something imprudent or even extreme. If that happens, the most likely winner will be Mr. Trump. Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/08/opinion/political-polarization-trump.html
8. Joy-Ann Reid: The Enormous Emotional Toll of Trumpism
At a certain point, the distaste becomes exhaustion. Donald Trump’s presence in our national life has been alternately infuriating, embarrassing, revolting, gross and bizarre. His non-stop assaults on our political norms are testing our capacity to sustain constant outrage without giving in to despair.
I meet victims of Trump fatigue everywhere. They stop me in airports and restaurants and on the street and ask how long we’ll have to put up with this madness – when will Bob Mueller finally bring him down, and how much more can our systems bend before they break. When I tell them Trump is likely to clamor on until either the 2018 election slows him down or the 2020 election stops him (or if Russian interference, non-white voter suppression and liberal perfectionism succeed again, ‘til he terms out in 2024), the look on their faces is something akin to terror.
For many Americans – many humans – Trump’s presidency can often feel unbearable.
Try as you might to put him out of your mind, he blunders back into your consciousness. He lumbers across your television and cellphone screens in his giant Trump suits, squinting and pouting with his silent, sullen wife or exhausted looking cabinet members in tow. One minute he’s tearing up international agreements. The next, he’s tweeting out his inner demons, mocking people of color, taunting unstable dictators with stupid nicknames and generally wreaking havoc. The Trump Show is the reality TV train wreck you can’t turn off, no matter how badly you want to. No sooner does he ruin one thing (so much for empathetic hurricane response being Presidenting 101) than he’s on to the next one (stay tuned to find out what our “tease to commercial break” president means by “the calm before the storm!”) Read more at https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-enormous-emotional-toll-of-trumpism
9. Frank Bruni: Yes, Steve Bannon Should Terrify You
Remember all the talk, before Steve Bannon was expectorated from the Trump administration, that he’d be a worse menace on the outside than on the inside?
Turns out it was true.
He popped up last week in a picture as unsettling as any image from Puerto Rico, North Korea or Las Vegas. It showed the potbellied Pygmalion beside a new protégé, Michael Grimm, who is hoping to reclaim, from a fellow Republican, the congressional seat that he had to vacate a few years back when he was convicted of felony tax fraud and sent off to the clink. Bannon apparently wants to help.
Why? Excellent question. Grimm’s botched effort to enrich himself by hiding $1 million of his restaurant-business earnings doesn’t exactly scream populism. He has as much to do with draining the swamp as Cheetos do with nutrition.
But he’s loud, obnoxious and a thorn in the side of the Republican establishment, and those are the real criteria to be a minion in Bannon’s motley brigade. That picture of the two of them in Bannon’s Washington townhouse — the Breitbart Embassy, it’s called — was a declaration of Bannon’s real intent, which is to inflict as much pain and ugliness on the G.O.P. as he can. He’s not an ideologue. He’s an arsonist. And he doesn’t care who or what is reduced to ashes. Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/07/opinion/sunday/steve-bannon-agenda.html
10. Charles E. Cook, Jr.: The Fantasyland of Tax Reform
The baffling assumption in Washington and in the markets these days is the persistent optimism that major tax reform or a big tax cut will be enacted this year or next. Why should anyone think this is realistic?
Does the party in power have large majorities? No. If not large, is the majority cohesive enough to get something big and consequential passed? No. If not, is there a cooperative minority party willing to help? No. Do the current leaders have as much influence as the 1986 heavyweights? No. Is the president strong enough to ram something through on his own, or does he have close enough ties with members to persuade them to back a major reform? No.
Add to these negatives the parochial question of how many Republicans in states like New York and California would be willing to vote for a bill that ends the deductibility of state and local taxes, which are among the highest in the nation in their states. Keeping in mind that almost a dozen GOP House members there are already facing competitive races, the answer would be very few.
The truth is that reforming, streamlining, or simplifying the tax code is incredibly difficult under the best of circumstances, and circumstances today are worse than usual. Even passing a big tax cut, which sounds easy (who turns down free candy?), is problematic because it either drives up the deficit or shifts the tax burden to other payers.
My bet is that if any kind of tax bill is passed, either reform or a cut, it will be fairly modest, leaving Republicans with the challenge of having to pass lots of small things and convincing the electorate next year that they actually did something big. Read more at http://cookpolitical.com/analysis/national/national-politics/fantasyland-tax-reform
11. Nancy Armour: The real mockery of national anthem was by Vice President Mike Pence
A mockery was made of the national anthem all right.
But it wasn’t by the San Francisco 49ers.
Vice President Mike Pence turned the anthem into a prop Sunday, co-opting it for a stunt that served no other purpose than to sow division, further enrage the administration’s conservative base and try to cow NFL owners. That it likely deflected attention from yet more neo-Nazi protests in Charlottesville was all the better.
Please, though, tell me again how it’s the players who are so disrespectful.
Pence knew what he would see and he knew what his response would be. Trump confirmed that, saying on Twitter that he “asked (Pence) to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespected our country.”
Some of the 49ers knelt, but the disrespect came from Pence. In a shameless bid for political points, he tried to play the country for a fool. Read more at https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/columnist/nancy-armour/2017/10/08/real-mockery-national-anthem-vice-president-pence/744537001/
12. Jonah Shepp: Corker’s Alarm About Trump Starting ‘World War III’ Is Spot-on — and Overdue
In the past year, many left-leaning Americans have had the strange experience of finding themselves vigorously nodding along with a handful of right-wingers with whom they never thought they’d agree about anything. We can now add Tennessee senator Bob Corker to that list, for the same reason as the rest: He has said something obviously true but politically taboo about the incompetence of Donald Trump.
In their escalating war of words on Sunday, Corker, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tore into Trump in a New York Timesinterview, accusing the president of acting “like he’s doing The Apprentice or something” and putting the country “on the path to World War III” with his reality-show mentality and Twitter antics.
While President Trump’s unconventional leadership has elicited concern and rebuke from his fellow Republicans before, Corker may be the first to explicitly label his behavior a threat to national security. “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” Corker told the Times.
Earlier in the day, Corker referred to the Trump White House as an “adult day care center” where “somebody obviously missed their shift” after the president hurled a string of insults at him on Twitter. Corker had incurred Trump’s wrath by saying last week that Chief of Staff John Kelly, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were helping “separate our country from chaos” by reining in their boss. Read more at http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/10/corkers-alarm-about-trump-is-spot-on-and-overdue.html