July 19, 2018


“I have the utmost respect for Congress’s oversight role, but I truly believe that today’s hearing is just another victory notch in Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.” — FBI agent Peter Strzok rejecting accusations that he let his private political views bias his official actions and criticizing Republican attacks on him.

“No, that’s other people that do that. I don’t. I’m very consistent. I’m a very stable genius.” --  Trump responding to a Croatian reporter who asked if he'd change his tone on Twitter regarding the NATO once he'd boarded Air Force One.

“I think that Donald Trump likes to describe this as a witch hunt—well we just found some witches, and they were indicted.” -- Former Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta reacting to the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officials for hacking into various computers, including Podesta’s.

“You know, a poll just came out that I am the most popular person in the history of the Republican Party — 92 per cent. Beating Lincoln. I beat our Honest Abe.” -- Donald Trump

“The warning lights are blinking red again. Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.” -- Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

“Donald Trump is not welcome here. The horrific scenes at the Mexican border are a repudiation of decent human values. Caging children like animals is barbaric. We cannot roll out the red carpet for a US president that treats human beings this way.” -- Leaders of Scottish Labour and the Scottish Greens, Richard Leonard and Patrick Harvie’s joint statement urging the Scottish government to prevent the US president landing at Prestwick airport, a Scottish government owned airport.

“I hadn’t thought of that. But I certainly, I’ll be asking about it. But again, this was during the Obama administration. They were doing whatever it was during the Obama administration.” -- Trump when asked about extraditing the indicted intelligence agents.

Trump’s dishonesty has been a central story of his presidency, a daily problem that has confounded members of Congress and foreign leaders, confused policy debates and made it difficult for many members of the American public to trust the commander-in-chief. -- The Toronto Star

“They said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin — he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this — I don’t see any reason why it would be. . . . I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.” -- Trump responding to an Associated Press reporter who asked Trump whether he believes U.S. intelligence officials or Putin.


“I’ve seen Russian intelligence manipulate many people over my professional career and I never would have thought that the US President would become one of the ones getting played by old KGB hands.” -- Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), a former CIA officer, said on Twitter that President Trump was “getting played” by Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“Yes, I did, yes I did, because he talked about bringing U.S.-Russia relations back to normal.” — Vladimir Putin on whether he wanted Trump to win the 2016 presidential election.

Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you??? -- Former CIA Director John Brennan

"This was not a golf outing. This was not a real estate transactional kind of arrangement. ... Engagement must be connected to a strategic interest, a strategic purpose. I don't know what that strategic purpose was. I am now convinced we didn't have one ... The meeting with Putin marked "a sad day for America" and "a sad day for the world." -- Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel

“We can no longer completely rely on the White House. To maintain our partnership with the USA we must readjust it. The first clear consequence can only be that we need to align ourselves even more closely in Europe.” — German foreign minister Heiko Maas.

I just have no words. As press in this room, we are all sitting in here speechless and stunned. Trump cast doubt over the U.S. intelligence community and endorsed Putin’s denial. Trump was given an opportunity to denounce the meddling and he didn’t; he just pivoted to lines about the missing server and Hillary’s emails. While Putin spoke forcefully, lying, Trump nodded along. There’s no way of sugar coating or spinning this. -- Jonathan Swan sums up the reaction from Helsinki


“Unfortunately, too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. People just make stuff up… We see the utter loss of shame among political leaders where they’re caught in a lie and they just double down.” — Barack Obama, delivering the 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in Johannesburg.

“Mr President, you should be ashamed. To deny your own country and government in favor of a foreign leader whose country has, for decades, tried to undermine the United States is irrational and dangerous. Please step down, you are not fit to lead this great nation.” -- Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R) calling on Trump to resign after he refused to stand up to Russian president Vladimir Putin over election meddling.

“I never saw or imagined so uneven a handover of American security interests and principles with nothing in return… It was like watching the destruction of a cathedral.” — Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter about Trump’s press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I have full faith in our intelligence agencies. There is a need for some clarification. It should have been obvious, it ought to have been obvious. In a key sentence in my remarks I said the word “would” instead of ‘wouldn’t.’ … The sentence should’ve been, and I thought it would be maybe a little but unclear on the transcript … ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.’ Sort of a double negative. You can put that in and I think that probably clarifies things by itself.” -- Trump to reporters Tuesday, reading from a prepared statement.



1. Satire from The Borowitz Report: Merkel Asks Mueller If There’s Anything She Can Do to Help

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, took a break from the NATO summit in Brussels on Wednesday to ask the independent counsel, Robert Mueller, if there is anything she can do to help.

According to those familiar with the phone conversation, Merkel told Mueller that she would take a leave of absence as leader of the German government and move to Washington to work full-time for Mueller “if that would be of assistance.”

Touting her credentials, Merkel told Mueller that she was fluent in Russian and could be helpful in translating the thousands of Russian-language documents that the special counsel has in his collection of evidence.

“I will work for free and pay my for my own food,” Merkel said. “I just want to make this stop.”

Mueller reportedly thanked Merkel for her offer but told her he had to wrap up their conversation because he had “Emmanuel Macron on the other line.” https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/

2. Detaining immigrant kids is now a billion-dollar industry

Detaining immigrant children has morphed into a surging industry in the U.S. that now reaps $1 billion annually — a tenfold increase over the past decade, an Associated Press analysis finds.

Health and Human Services grants for shelters, foster care and other child welfare services for detained unaccompanied and separated children soared from $74.5 million in 2007 to $958 million dollars in 2017. The agency is also reviewing a new round of proposals amid a growing effort by the White House to keep immigrant children in government custody.

Currently, more than 11,800 children, from a few months old to 17, are housed in nearly 90 facilities in 15 states — Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington. https://apnews.com/289b015df6e94ac6b2a35c28b11365b5/Detaining-immigrant-kids-is-now-a-billion-dollar-industry


3. $111 Billion in Tax Cuts for the Top 1 Percent

The top-earning 1 percent of households — those earning more than $607,000 a year — will pay a combined $111 billion less this year in federal taxes than they would have if the laws had remained unchanged since 2000. That’s an enormous windfall. It’s more, in total dollars, than the tax cut received over the same period by the entire bottom 60 percent of earners, according to an analysis being published today.

Think of it this way: Income inequality has soared in recent decades, with the wealthy pulling away from everyone else and the upper-middle-class doing better than the working class or poor. Yet our federal government has responded by aggravating these trends. It has handed huge tax cuts to the small segment of Americans who need those tax cuts the least. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/11/opinion/trump-republicans-tax-cuts-inequality.html

4. The Crisis Facing America

Russia helped Donald Trump into the presidency, as Robert Mueller’s indictment vividly details. Putin, in his own voice, has confirmed that he wanted Trump elected. Standing alongside his benefactor, Trump denounced the special counsel investigating the Russian intervention in the U.S. election—and even repudiated his own intelligence appointees.”

This is an unprecedented situation, but not an uncontemplated one. At the 1787 convention in Philadelphia, the authors of the Constitution worried a great deal about foreign potentates corrupting the American presidency. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/07/trump-putin/565310/

5. Is Trump Committing Treason?

According to the law, the federal crime of treason is committed by a person ‘owing allegiance to the United States who… adheres to their enemies, giving them aid or comfort.’ Misprision (abetting) of treason is committed if a person ‘having knowledge of the commission of treason conceals and does not disclose’ the crime.

Today the evidence of Russian cyberattacks against the US democratic process is overwhelming… The president’s hostility to the US investigation of Russian cyberattacks, his failure to impose a cost on Russia for the attacks, his denigration of US alliances, and his eagerness to have ‘an extraordinary relationship’ with the Russian leader all point toward giving aid and comfort to an enemy. https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2018/07/16/donald-trump-committing-treason/IwvTjJW4rvDdZD1vhvYMlI/story.html

6. The moment called for Trump to stand up for America. He chose to bow

When the history of Donald Trump’s presidency is ultimately written, July 16, 2018, will have a special entry. On a day when the setting called for a show of strength and resolve from an American president, Trump instead offered deference, defensiveness, equivocation and weakness.

If anyone can recall a performance by a U.S. president that rivaled the one seen around the world Monday, let them come forward. In the meantime, Trump’s extraordinary joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin will stand on its own, for sheer shock value and for the reality of an opportunity lost.

“One can only imagine Putin’s satisfaction at the way things have turned out. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/after-a-jaw-dropping-news-conference-what-does-america-first-really-mean/2018/07/16/2b728b12-892e-11e8-a345-a1bf7847b375_story.html


7. Read the Russian election meddling indictment

A federal grand jury on Friday indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for a concerted effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election by hacking Democratic political organizations and releasing troves of stolen files. Read the indictment at: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4599146-Netyksho-Et-Al-Indictment-Copy.html

8. GOP Braces for Trump Tariff Pain

Congressional Republicans think President Trump’s tariffs are going to hurt the economy, undoing some of their economic wins — but they’re not ready to cross the president until their voters feel the pain.

“While some Republicans think Trump has a plan up his sleeve, most think there’s no good ending here. But they think the GOP base — which is fiercely loyal to Trump — needs to feel the impact of the new trade policies before Congress will have the voters’ permission to do something. https://www.axios.com/republicans-wait-to-act-on-trump-tariffs-85c531e5-845b-497d-9f48-c7d62ed26def.html



“Many countries owe us a tremendous amount of money for many years back, where they’re delinquent, as far as I’m concerned, because the United States has had to pay for them.” —  Trump on July 11


“There are no arrears owed to the U.S. or NATO. President Trump is under the delusion that Allies pay the U.S. for protection, or is feigning ignorance on how NATO works.” -- Former deputy secretary general of NATO, Alexander Vershbow


The stories you heard about the 12 Russians yesterday took place during the Obama Administration, not the Trump Administration. Why didn’t they do something about it, especially when it was reported that President Obama was informed by the FBI in September, before the Election?-- Trump


It was Barack Obama who wanted to issue a joint statement condemning Russian election meddling with Republicans, but Mitch McConnell refused to cooperate. It was the Obama administration that secured documents relating to the Russia investigation so that they couldn’t be destroyed by Trump and the Republicans. It was Obama who warned for years that America’s election system and infrastructure needed to be upgraded and repaired. (A warning that was ignored by Republican state and local election officials.) -- Jason Easley in Politicus


“You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I’ve been asking it for months and months. Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying?” -- Trump in the press conference with Vladimir Putin


The short answer is that “the server” that Trump is referring to is sitting in a DNC office in Washington, DC—the New York Times has a photo of it here -- Jason Koebler

10. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don't have to)

NRA's Dana Loesch on Fox: Abortion is "infanticide ... not health care, nor is it a constitutional right.” https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/07/12/nras-dana-loesch-fox-abortion-infanticide-not-health-care-nor-it-constitutional-right/220649

Right-wing media praise Trump after he snubbed the British prime minister and voiced white nationalist views. https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2018/07/13/right-wing-media-praise-trump-after-he-snubbed-british-prime-minister-and-voiced-white-nationalist/220667

Lou Dobbs: Mueller indictments are "based on hearsay." Judicial Watch's Chris Farrell: "Let's be 100 percent clear. This is a publicity stunt"https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/07/13/lou-dobbs-mueller-indictments-are-based-hearsay/220676

After Mueller indicts 12 Russians, Sean Hannity blames "stupid" Americans for letting hack happen, says we don't know who leaked to Wikileaks. Hannity: "It could have been any of them, China, Russia, North Korea, the Iranian mullahs" https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/07/13/after-mueller-indicts-12-russians-sean-hannity-blames-stupid-americans-letting-hack-happen-says-we/220672

Fox’s Newt Gingrich refuses to walk back claim that murdered DNC staffer was responsible for DNC email hacks even after 12 Russians were indicted. CNN’s Oliver Darcy: When asked to apologize for “peddling the conspiracy theory that Rich was killed for supposedly leaking the DNC docs to Wikileaks,” Gingrich said “No. Goodbye!” before hanging up. https://www.mediamatters.org/blog/2018/07/13/fox-s-newt-gingrich-refuses-walk-back-claim-murdered-dnc-staffer-was-responsible-dnc-email-hacks/220675

Fox's Neil Cavuto: "Jet lag and time differences" may be behind Trump's disgraceful press conference with Putin. https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/07/16/Foxs-Neil-Cavuto-Jet-lag-and-time-differences-may-be-behind-Trumps-disgraceful-press-confe/220683

Fox's Jeanine Pirro: "What was [Trump] supposed to do, take a gun out and shoot Putin?"https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2018/07/17/foxs-jeanine-pirro-what-was-trump-supposed-do-take-gun-out-and-shoot-putin/220699

11. From the Late Shows

Jimmy Kimmel on Trump/Putin Summit: https://youtu.be/SNmnPbzVKPY

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon:Trump Meets with Putin - Monologue: https://youtu.be/N_i8KWTo8Tg

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah: Trump’s Disastrous Summit with Vladimir Putin:: https://youtu.be/iPh1gFp1vBs

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Trump On Russia's Election Meddling: 'We're All To Blame': https://youtu.be/Kk6uNlSkLj4

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Trump's Summit with Putin: A Closer Look: https://youtu.be/3nso_KfY6AQ

12. Late Night Jokes for Dems

Trump had a meeting today with his KGB BFF, Vladimir Putin, and in an interview with CBS yesterday he said he was going into this meeting with low expectations. Yeah, we all were. -- Jimmy Kimmel

If you’re wondering whether Vladimir Putin has an incriminating video of Donald Trump, we now know beyond a treasonable doubt that he does. -- Jimmy Kimmel

This wasn't a good day for Donald Trump. We haven't seen an American so owned by a Russian since “Rocky IV.” -- Jimmy Kimmel

Today, President Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland. Trump was pretty nervous, which makes sense, because most people are nervous when meeting their boss. -- Jimmy Fallon

They met one-on-one and the meeting lasted for two hours — or about one hour and 58 minutes longer than his meeting with Stormy Daniels. -- Jimmy Fallon

According to experts, Trump and Putin had a lot to negotiate in their meeting. Trump says the negotiations went great. Putin now controls New York and California, and in exchange, Trump got three magic beans. -- Jimmy Fallon

But after their time together, Putin did say that the meeting went very well. In fact, it went so well that Putin said he might make Trump president for another four years. -- Jimmy Fallon

Trump and Putin also held a press conference where Trump actually defended Putin and seemed to side with Russia over his own intelligence agencies. After the press conference, CNN, MSNBC, and even Fox News slammed Trump for his performance. Trump said he shouldn't jump to any conclusions until we hear what Cartoon Network has to say. -- Jimmy Fallon

13. Russian Influence Campaign Sought To Exploit Americans' Trust In Local News

“Russia’s information attack against the United States during the 2016 election cycle sought to take advantage of the greater trust that Americans tend to place in local news,” NPR reports.

“The information operatives who worked out of the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg not only sought to pose as American social media users or spread false information from purported news sources… They also created a number of Twitter accounts that posed as sources for Americans’ hometown headlines. https://www.npr.org/2018/07/12/628085238/russian-influence-campaign-sought-to-exploit-americans-trust-in-local-news

14. Democrats Look Good Again on Key Midterm Polling Numbers

The Democratic lead in the generic congressional ballot (asking respondents which party that want to control the U.S. House of Representatives) hit 8 percent for the first time in nearly four months.

Last time RCP showed Democrats up by eight or more points was in mid-March. Since then the lead slowly trended downward, hitting a low of 3.2 percent on the last day of May. But the rebound has been quick. At FiveThirtyEight, where a slightly different mix of polls are weighted for reliability and adjusted for partisan bias, the Democratic lead is up to a similar 8.5 percent. These are numbers considered consistent with pretty sizable net gains in House seats, and according to many analysts, probably enough to flip control, particularly since history usually shows the party not controlling the White House making gains late in the cycle during midterms.

In the June NBC/WSJ poll, 65 percent of Democratic women and 61 percent of whites with college degrees expressed the highest possible levels of interest in the midterm elections. However, only 43 percent of Latinos and 30 percent of young voters (18 to 29) did.

This explains why so far, the “blue wave” is gathering more strength in professional, upscale suburban districts where women are mobilized against Trump than in young, diverse districts where Democratic base turnout is less reliable. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/07/democrats-looking-good-again-on-key-midterm-polling-numbers.html

15. It’s clear why Republicans interrogated Peter Strzok

The purpose of interrogating Strzok for 10 hours Thursday (after 11 hours in a private session) was clear: ritual humiliation. In fairness, the vast majority condemned Strzok over his texts to his lover without invoking the affair.

If Republicans really want to go there, they’ll need to investigate the vulnerabilities of some of Strzok’s inquisitors on their glass-house committee:

Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), who needled Strzok about “text messages with your friend.” DesJarlais, according to divorce filings, had multiple extramarital affairs and encouraged his ex-wife and a patient with whom he had an affair to get abortions.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who is battling the allegations of former Ohio State wrestlers who said he ignored sexual abuse while coaching there.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who has been under investigation by the House Ethics Committee over payments to a former staffer accused of sexual harassment.

Other members of the panel are Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), who was sentenced last year to community service and anger-management classes for assaulting a reporter, and Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), whose infidelity as governor of South Carolina made national headlines.

Judging Strzok also would have been Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.), but he recently resigned after revelation of a taxpayer-funded sexual harassment settlement.

And there’s Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex), who defended Jordan against the wrestlers’ allegations and who remained on Trump’s leadership team through the “Access Hollywood” scandal.


16. Illinois Governor Profits Off ICE Detention Centers

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) “this year reported a profit from a private equity fund that owns a health care group servicing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers, including facilities that hold immigrant families with children

In his most recent statement of economic interests, the multi-millionaire Illinois Republican governor disclosed earnings from a fund that owns Correct Care Solutions, a for-profit health care provider that has millions of dollars in government contracts with jails and prisons across the country, including immigrant detention centers. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/07/09/illinois-governor-detention-centers-702293

18. Putin must wonder what else America knows about Russia

Putin’s elite spy world has been penetrated by U.S. intelligence. That’s the implication of the extraordinarily detailed 29-page indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence (GRU) officers handed up by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigators on Friday. The 11-count charge includes names, dates, unit assignments, the GRU’s use of ‘X-agent’ malware, its bitcoin covert funding schemes and a wealth of other tradecraft.

Putin must be asking himself: How did the Americans find out all these facts? What other operations have been compromised? And how much else do they know? https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2018/07/15/putin-must-wonder-what-else-america-knows-about-russia/

19. Japan, EU sign trade deal to eliminate nearly all tariffs

The European Union and Japan signed a landmark deal on Tuesday that will eliminate nearly all tariffs on products they trade.

The ambitious pact signed in Tokyo runs counter to President Donald Trump’s moves to hike tariffs on imports from many U.S. trading partners. It covers a third of the global economy and markets of more than 600 million people. https://www.apnews.com/bb26231767374debafda43f4d99d5bba/Japan,-EU-to-sign-trade-deal-eliminating-nearly-all-tariffs

20. Russia-NRA Arrest: This Is as Close as It Gets to Collusion

It’s the first time the Justice Department has explicitly claimed that a Russian spy (Maria Butina) working to influence the 2016 campaign had deliberate assistance with her efforts from a U.S. citizen. On Monday, the DOJ arrested and charged a Russian national who courted the NRA and the Republican Party with secretly working as a foreign agent.

The criminal complaint already has geopolitical implications, with the Russian Embassy calling for access to the alleged spy. And its implications for domestic politics also could be tectonic: The case is as close as it gets to collusion. According to the Justice Department, at least one American helped her with her influence operation. https://www.thedailybeast.com/russia-nra-arrest-this-is-as-close-as-it-gets-to-collusion


21. Senator Calls For Hearing With U.S. Interpreter In Trump-Putin Meeting

Nobody knows what President Donald Trump told Russian President Vladimir Putin in their private, two-hour meeting on Monday, after which he publicly trashed U.S. intelligence and praised the Russian dictator.

Well, almost nobody. At least one U.S. interpreter was in the room with the two leaders. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) says she wants to bring in that interpreter to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on what, exactly, Trump shared with Putin.

“That translator is an official of the U.S. government,” Shaheen told reporters Tuesday. “It is imperative that the American people and this Congress know precisely what the president shared or promised the Kremlin on our behalf.” https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/senate-hearing-interpreter-trump-putin_us_5b4e4d86e4b0de86f487a4e3

22. Trump tells wild lies about Brexit, NATO and Obama, in 57-false-claim week

This was an especially dishonest week, filled with bizarre lies in addition to his usual fudges and exaggerations. Trump made 57 false claims in all, tied for fifth-most of any week of his presidency.

The U.S. president is on a kind of dishonesty binge. Three of his six most dishonest weeks as president have come in the last four weeks.

He is now up to 2,029 false claims for the first 542 days of his presidency, an average of 3.7 per day. https://www.thestar.com/news/world/analysis/2018/07/18/trump-tells-wild-lies-about-brexit-nato-and-obama-in-57-false-claim-week.html


23. What Trump Didn’t Take Back

Although President Trump took back one word from his news conference with Vladimir Putin, claiming he misspoke, First Read highlights what he didn’t try to clean up:

“I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish.”

“I think that the [Mueller] probe is a disaster for our country. I think it’s kept us apart. It’s kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it.”

“You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the [DNC’s] server. Why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I’ve been wondering that.”

“What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails? Thirty-three thousand emails gone — just gone. I think, in Russia, they wouldn’t be gone so easily. I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails.”

“So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

“And what [Putin] did is an incredible offer; he offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 [indicted Russians]. I think that’s an incredible offer.” (By the way, Putin’s condition for that offer? That Americans and U.S. residents who Russia believes have committed illegal actions should be questioned, too.)


24. Trump's military parade expected to cost nearly as much as 'tremendously expensive' canceled war games

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump's military parade in DC is likely to cost nearly as much as the now canceled military exercise with South Korea that Trump called "tremendously expensive" and said cost "a fortune," three US defense officials tell CNN.

The parade, which is now scheduled to take place on November 10, is currently estimated to cost approximately $12 million, the officials said. One official called the number "a planning figure," saying cost estimates could still change as planning develops. https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/18/politics/trump-military-parade-cost/


1. Thomas L. Friedman: A President With No Shame and a Party With No Guts

If your puppy makes a mess on your carpet and you shout “Bad dog,” there is a good chance that that puppy’s ears will droop, his head will bow and he may even whimper. In other words, even a puppy acts ashamed when caught misbehaving. That is not true of Donald Trump. Day in and day out, he proves to us that he has no shame. We’ve never had a president with no shame — and it’s become a huge source of power for him and trouble for us.

And what makes Trump even more powerful and problematic is that this president with no shame is combined with a party with no spine and a major network with no integrity — save for a few real journalists at Fox News like the outstanding Chris Wallace.

When a president with no shame is backed by a party with no spine and a network with no integrity, you have two big problems. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/17/opinion/trump-putin-republicans.html


2. Michelle Goldberg: Trump Shows the World He’s Putin’s Lackey

While I was as shocked as everyone else, I shouldn’t have been. Trump’s behavior on Monday recalled his outburst at Trump Tower after the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, when he insisted there were “very fine people” among the racist demonstrators. Both times, everything Trump said was in keeping with things he’d said before. The shocking part was his frankness. Then, as now, it forced, if just for a moment, a collective apprehension of just what a repulsive abomination this presidency is.

It’s always been obvious that Trump does not hold Russia’s hacking of the 2016 election, which he publicly encouraged and gleefully benefited from, against Putin. None of us yet know the exact contours of Trump’s relationship with Russia, whether Putin is his handler, his co-conspirator or just his hero. But it’s clear that Trump is willing to sell out American democracy for personal gain. After all, on July 27, 2016, he publicly called for Russia to find Clinton’s emails, and, thanks to Friday’s indictments, we now know Russia started trying to hack the domain used by her personal office that very day. Trump’s collusion with Russia has always been out in the open, daring us to recognize what’s in front of our faces. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/16/opinion/trump-putin-summit-russia-collusion.html


3. Observer editorial: The Observer view on Donald Trump

It is almost one year since Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th US president. Will he last another 12 months? Day after tumultuous day since 20 January 2017, Trump has provided fresh evidence of his unfitness for America’s highest office.

It is not only that his politics and policies, from tax cuts and climate change to Palestine and nuclear weapons, are disastrously wrong-headed. It is not just that his idea of leadership is divisive, confrontational and irresponsible. Nor does the problem lie solely with his blatant racism, misogyny and chauvinism, though these are indeed massive problems.

His latest foul-mouthed outrage – describing developing countries as “shitholes” – is appalling even by his crude standards.

The fundamental failing underlying Trump’s presidency is his wilful ignorance. His frequently petulant, childish behaviour combines with a staggering lack of knowledge and contempt for facts to produce serial, chronic misjudgments. Trump, in power, cannot be trusted. He has been exposed as lacking in empathy, shamelessly mendacious, cynical and unversed or uninterested in the enduring human and constitutional values his office is sworn to uphold. Trump is the first and hopefully the last of his kind: an anti-American president. He is a disgrace and a danger to his country. The sooner he is sent packing, the better. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/14/observer-view-on-donald-trump

4. George F. Will: This sad, embarrassing wreck of a man

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and others might believe that they must stay in their positions lest there be no adult supervision of the Oval playpen. This is a serious worry, but so is this: Can those people do their jobs for someone who has neither respect nor loyalty for them?

Like the purloined letter in Edgar Allan Poe’s short story with that title, collusion with Russia is hiding in plain sight. We shall learn from Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation whether in 2016 there was collusion with Russia by members of the Trump campaign. The world, however, saw in Helsinki something more grave — ongoing collusion between Trump, now in power, and Russia. The collusion is in what Trump says (refusing to back the United States’ intelligence agencies) and in what evidently went unsaid (such as: You ought to stop disrupting Ukraine, downing civilian airliners, attempting to assassinate people abroad using poisons, and so on, and on).

Americans elected a president who — this is a safe surmise — knew that he had more to fear from making his tax returns public than from keeping them secret. The most innocent inference is that for decades he has depended on an American weakness, susceptibility to the tacky charisma of wealth, which would evaporate when his tax returns revealed that he has always lied about his wealth, too. A more ominous explanation might be that his redundantly demonstrated incompetence as a businessman tumbled him into unsavory financial dependencies on Russians. A still more sinister explanation might be that the Russians have something else, something worse, to keep him compliant.

The explanation is in doubt; what needs to be explained — his compliance — is not. Granted, Trump has a weak man’s banal fascination with strong men whose disdain for him is evidently unimaginable to him. And, yes, he only perfunctorily pretends to have priorities beyond personal aggrandizement. But just as astronomers inferred, from anomalies in the orbits of the planet Uranus, the existence of Neptune before actually seeing it, Mueller might infer, and then find, still-hidden sources of the behavior of this sad, embarrassing wreck of a man. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/this-sad-embarrassing-wreck-of-a-man/2018/07/17/d06de8ea-89e8-11e8-a345-a1bf7847b375_story.html


5. Jonathan Chait: At Summit With Russia, Trump Betrays His Country in Plain Sight

Standing next to Vladimir Putin, after a meeting Putin had requested, President Trump was asked by a reporter if he believed the findings of his own intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election. He began by floating unfounded accusations that the FBI had ignored his opponent’s misdeeds. Then he proceeded to express his doubts. “All I can do is ask the question,” said Trump. “My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I’ll say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Trump told the world he trusts the denial of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin — the very man who did the deed! — over his own government’s intelligence. Trump can’t think of a reason why Putin would have interfered in the election. The fact that Russia has interfered in multiple elections, the fact its propaganda arm had broadcast its preference for Trump, the fact American intelligence concluded Russia intervened, that Robert Mueller has produced multiple indictments detailing evidence of this interference, all mean less to him than Putin’s say-so. Putin admitted at this press conference he wanted Trump to win.

My recent story argues that we have underestimated the possibility that the Russia scandal is much worse than it looks, that the depth and extent of the president’s covert ties to Russia might run deeper and longer than many people expect. Even for those of us harboring serious suspicions about this, Trump’s performance in Helsinki was stunning. I expected some artifice, some superficial gestures of Trumpian independence, perhaps some finger-wagging for show at Russia’s naughty behavior, and assurances it would not recur. What transpired instead was far worse, and far more blatant. Trump is engaged in an act of open betrayal against his own country. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/07/trump-betrays-his-country-for-russia-in-plain-sight.html


6. Dan Balz: The moment called for Trump to stand up for America. He chose to bow.

When the history of Donald Trump’s presidency is ultimately written, July 16, 2018, will have a special entry. On a day when the setting called for a show of strength and resolve from an American president, Trump instead offered deference, defensiveness, equivocation and weakness.

If anyone can recall a performance by a U.S. president that rivaled the one seen around the world Monday, let them come forward. In the meantime, Trump’s extraordinary joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin will stand on its own, for sheer shock value and for the reality of an opportunity lost.

Here was a president turning his back on the collective work of U.S. intelligence agencies, looking the other way at indictments returned last week by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III against 12 Russian military intelligence officers who sought to undermine American democracy during the 2016 election, and falling back as he so often has on attacks against Hillary Clinton, criticism of Democrats and boasts about the size of his electoral college victory. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/after-a-jaw-dropping-news-conference-what-does-america-first-really-mean/2018/07/16/2b728b12-892e-11e8-a345-a1bf7847b375_story.html

7. Brian Beutler: Trump And Putin Colluded In Public

President Trump hosted a bilateral press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday and colluded with him on a global stage.

In examining such a varied and unhinged performance, it’s important to filter out background noise, which tells us nothing new, and isolate new and specific signs of corruption that can’t arguably be characterized as twisted forms of statecraft.

Trump has left a key under the mat for Putin to meddle in future elections on behalf of Republicans, and continued to welcome more interference today, with Putin standing by his side, but this time he hinted that he’d be willing to reciprocate for such illegal assistance by allowing Putin to breach American intelligence.

The press conference went fully off the rails near the end, when rather than defend the U.S. election system against Russian meddling, Trump spouted anti-Democratic conspiracy theories, and cut the legs out from under his intelligence chiefs—particularly Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats—by accepting Putin’s election-sabotage denials over their conclusions.

Coats, et al, “said they think it’s Russia,” Trump noted. “I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Because Trump humiliated his own cabinet, he has revived questions about whether his comments will prompt resignations, or whether his aides and allies will remain complicit in Russian cyberattacks on the American political system. But our predicament is actually bleaker than that, and the fact that Republicans in Congress will almost certainly do nothing about what just happened effectively guarantees that Trump and Putin will soon consummate a new corrupt bargain to further subvert American democracy. https://crooked.com/article/trump-and-putin-colluded-in-public/

8. ‘Disgraceful’ and ‘tragic’: John McCain’s excoriation of Trump on Russia.

“Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naivete, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake.

“President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin. He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world.

“It is tempting to describe the press conference as a pathetic rout — as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbors, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world.

“Coming close on the heels of President Trump’s bombastic and erratic conduct towards our closest friends and allies in Brussels and Britain, today’s press conference marks a recent low point in the history of the American presidency. That the president was attended in Helsinki by a team of competent and patriotic advisers makes his blunders and capitulations all the more painful and inexplicable.

“No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are — a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad. American presidents must be the champions of that cause if it is to succeed. Americans are waiting and hoping for President Trump to embrace that sacred responsibility. One can only hope they are not waiting totally in vain.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2018/07/16/disgraceful-and-tragic-john-mccains-excoriation-of-trump-on-russia-annotated/


9. James Fallows: This Is the Moment of Truth for Republicans

There are exactly two possible explanations for the shameful performance the world witnessed on Monday, from a serving American president.

Either Donald Trump is flat-out an agent of Russian interests—maybe witting, maybe unwitting, from fear of blackmail, in hope of future deals, out of manly respect for Vladimir Putin, out of gratitude for Russia’s help during the election, out of pathetic inability to see beyond his 306 electoral votes. Whatever the exact mixture of motives might be, it doesn’t really matter.

Or he is so profoundly ignorant, insecure, and narcissistic that he did not  realize that, at every step, he was advancing the line that Putin hoped he would advance, and the line that the American intelligence, defense, and law-enforcement agencies most dreaded.

Conscious tool. Useful idiot. Those are the choices, though both are possibly true, so that the main question is the proportions. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/07/moment-of-decision/565289/


10. Andrew Sullivan: U.S. Democracy’s Hastening Demise

A small update on the dynamic nature of democratic collapse into tyranny, as we reel from Trump’s week abroad. It is never a straight or gradual line. And it is often an accelerating one. Tyrants respond to their early successes not by resting on their laurels but by constantly upping the ante more and more, purging the disloyal, and forcing the loyal to submit to more and more ludicrous positions. Tyrants’ claims to power get progressively more grandiose, their fantasies more delusional, their follies more transparent, as their self-confidence expands. They never moderate. And with Trump, all of this is self-evident, textbook, and getting worse every day. For those with eyes to see, we have the forms of democracy, but it is the strongman who now rules us. We are putty in his hands.

In the last few weeks, Trump’s outright lies seem to be more frequent and he repeats them ever more shamelessly. They are now pure expressions of power, open demonstrations that his followers will accept anything he says, obey anything he commands, abandon any belief that he opposes. This is not representative democracy; it’s submission to a king. It’s not just an attack on the bedrock American principle of self-government; it’s a determination to extinguish it. And it is more ascendant now than at any time since the inauguration.

The fantasies now dominate foreign policy as never before. Trump keeps insisting, for example, that there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea, that he has solved the problem, that Kim is embarking on total nuclear disarmament, and that he deserves a medal for this spectacular achievement, which somehow eluded every previous president. He says that 200 MIA bodies have been returned to the U.S. Yesterday, Trump tweeted out a letter from Kim lavishing praise on him, as evidence that his delusion is reality. But the letter was dated July 6, just as Pyongyang was humiliating Pompeo on his recent trip. And it was dated before the North Koreans were a no-show at the first scheduled talks on POW remains. No remains have been returned, even as the president says 200 have. This is now the insane world we live in. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/07/did-trump-just-help-stop-brexit.html


11. Jonathan Chait: Trump Still Pretending Fake North Korea Nuclear Deal Is Real

In the wake of his summit with Kim Jong-un, President Trump began issuing a series of pronouncements about how the problem of a nuclearized North Korea had been solved. By him, through the sheer force of his negotiating prowess. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” he tweeted, adding that the public should “sleep well tonight!” He told reporters, “I have solved that problem … Now we’re getting it memorialized and all, but that problem is largely solved.”

When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled recently to Pyongyang to turn the gauzy assurances of a beautiful, denuclearized future into some specific steps, North Korea blew him off. An official statement called demands for steps forward “gangster-like.” The meeting went “as badly as it could have gone,” a source confessed. At a meeting today to discuss the return of the remains of American soldiers who died in the Korean War, North Korean officials did not even show up.

It is possible Trump will continue to insist in the face of all evidence that his deal is working right through the end of his presidency. At this point, that is probably the best-case scenario. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/07/trump-still-pretending-fake-north-korea-nuclear-deal-is-real.html

12. Tom Toles: Trump imagines a mandate to obliterate the record of America’s favorite recent president

One of the few threads of consistency in President Trump’s tangle of brain wiring is that if Barack Obama did it, he must undo it. This began on Day One, when Trump looked out and imagined an inaugural crowd of unmeasurable size chanting for him to demolish Obama’s legacy.

Trump had counted up imaginary ballots in his head and found he got way more votes than Obama, and also the biggest mandate in history. And that mandate was to repudiate everything Obama stood for. The only problem with this beautiful dream of his was how to convince everybody else. Obama, as it turns out, is America’s favorite recent president, by a lot.

But Trump has his own ideas. If Obama extended health-care coverage to millions of uninsured Americans, then that coverage must be taken away. If Obama signed anything to slow climate change, then Trump must burn those documents to produce more carbon pollution. Trump has no choice. The imaginary voices he hears in his head demand it. And those voices also are clamoring for him to increase the divisiveness in the United States. Don’t forget that Obama said “there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America.” Well, that idea will have to go. And Trump hasn’t stopped at saying there is in fact a liberal America and a conservative America. He’s edited that to say there is only a conservative America. And further, that conservative America is whatever Trump tells it to be. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/opinions/wp/2018/07/12/trump-imagines-a-mandate-to-obliterate-the-record-of-americas-favorite-recent-president/

13. Paul Krugman: For Trump, Failure Is the Only Option

So Donald Trump went to a NATO summit, insulted our allies, then made the absurd demand not just that they increase defense spending — which they should — but that they raise it to 4 percent of G.D.P., much higher than the bloated military spending in his own budget. He then claimed, falsely, to have won major concessions, and graciously declared that it is “presently unnecessary” to consider quitting the alliance.

Was there anything our allies could have done that would have mollified him? The answer, surely, is no. For Trump, disrupting NATO doesn’t seem to be a means to an end; it’s an end in itself.

Does all of this sound familiar? It’s basically the same as the story of the escalating trade war. While Trump rants about other countries’ unfair trade practices — a complaint that has some validity for China, although virtually none for Canada or the European Union — he hasn’t made any coherent demands. That is, he has given no indication what any of the countries hit by his tariffs could do to satisfy him, leaving them with no option except retaliation.

So he isn’t acting like someone threatening a trade war to win concessions; he’s acting like someone who just wants a trade war. Sure enough, he’s reportedly threatening to pull out of the World Trade Organization, the same way he’s suggesting that the U.S. might pull out of NATO.

It’s all of a piece. Whatever claims Trump makes about other countries’ misbehavior, whatever demands he makes on a particular day, they’re all in evident bad faith. Mr. Art of the Deal doesn’t want any deals. He just wants to tear things down. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/12/opinion/trump-nato-failure.html


14. Jonathan Chait: Mueller’s New Indictment Points to Collusion With Russia

On July 27, 2016, Donald Trump denied Russia was the likely culprit in the email hacks, but also announced, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think that you’ll be rewarded mightily by our press.”

In what is possibly an astonishing coincidence, but probably not, that very night, according to the new indictments from the Department of Justice, Russian hackers “attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office. At or about the same time, they also targeted seventy-six email addresses at the domain for the Clinton campaign.” Trump asked Russia to hack his opponent, and Russia did “[f]or the first time,” as the indictment says.

The indictment charges that the conspirators “received a request for stolen materials from a candidate for the U.S. Congress,” and “sent the candidate stolen documents.” The Wall Street Journal reported a year ago that “Guccifer 2.0,” one of the Russian hackers, communicated with Florida-based Republican operative Aaron Nevins. Nevins is not named in this indictment, but the revelation that a candidate also communicated with Russian hackers indicates yet another point of contact in a conspiracy that went beyond Trump’s campaign. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/07/mueller-indictment-suggests-trump-colluding-with-russia.html


15. David Rothkopf: The Way Trump and the GOP Deal with Russian Attacks is ‘Textbook Treason’

We have been the target of the most successful cyber and information warfare operation in history and that operation is ongoing. We have great capabilities to defend ourselves as the indictments’ bravura act of naming names and specific military units revealed. But the Russians are gaining know-how daily, too.

At stake are the results in our 2018 and 2020 elections and the integrity of our political system. This enemy seeks not only to put puppets, or weak or deficient leaders in place, it seeks to gain leverage over them as they come to realize they are not the beneficiaries of the Russian attacks. (We now know clearly how that works.)

They seek to use them to advance their interests on a broad international front (consider their success in achieving this goal thus far in this administration … you need to look back no further than this week's NATO Summit.)

If they succeed, America will be profoundly weakened, our standing, our alliances and the international system we built may be irreversibly damaged.

What is more, at this point, given the success the Russians have had to date and the power of their defenders within our system, we simply do not know whether this ambitious campaign of theirs will continue to succeed. Their collaborators could kill the investigation that is revealing the scope and nature of their plans. Their colluders could win victory after victory. And so can the Russians. https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-way-trump-and-the-gop-deal-with-russian-attacks-is-textbook-treason


16. Damon Linker: The enfeebling of America

Donald Trump ran for president promising to "Make American Great Again." But the result of his presidency is almost certain to be a massive, unprecedented decline in American economic strength and geopolitical status.

Can anyone doubt that his policies, combined with the president's insulting, mendacious, selectively obsequious words and behavior, will have the consequence of leaving the United States vastly weaker than it was before his election?

The U.S. has single-handedly started a global trade war that will sap our economic power — and we've done it with no clear aim beyond the amorphous goal of securing "better deals," with our clueless and feckless commander in chief in charge of the negotiations.

Trump has deliberately sabotaged the military alliance that has bound together the powers of the Western world for 70 years of unprecedented peace and prosperity and that has given the U.S. immeasurable leverage to further our national interests without having to resort to military force. His actions over the past 18 months are sure to set us on a path of vastly diminished influence around the world. 

Trump has publicly prostrated America before Vladimir Putin, turning the U.S. into a global laughingstock that gladly welcomes meddling in our political system by hostile and flagrantly anti-liberal foreign powers. http://theweek.com/articles/785374/enfeebling-america