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Name: Don
Gender: Male
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
Home country: USA
Current location: Greenfield, MA
Member since: Sat Sep 1, 2012, 03:28 PM
Number of posts: 25,472

Journal Archives

Schiff urges Trump to avoid baseless accusations

Source: The Hill


The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee urged President Trump to listen to his advisers and avoid making groundless accusations.

“Mr. President, I implore you, the country implores you, you have chosen two superb people to guide you, in (Defense Secretary) Gen. (James) Mattis and (National Security Adviser) Gen. (H.R.) McMaster. Seek their counsel. Listen to what they have to say," said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) during the Democratic weekly address. “And cherish the trust and hope that was placed in you by virtue of your office, by never again advancing claims that you know – or should know – are simply not true," he added, referring to Trump's claim that former President Obama wiretapped the Trump Tower during the 2016 election.

Schiff maintained that the intelligence findings that show Russia's attempt to interfere in the election do not automatically "undermine his legitimacy or credibility." He said only the president "is capable of doing that, and regrettably, he is at great risk of doing so."

“Presidential credibility, once squandered, may never be fully regained," he said.
The lawmaker also reiterated his long-standing call for Congress to conduct an independent investigation into the alleged Trump-Russia ties.

Read more: http://thehill.com/homenews/house/325754-schiff-to-trump-i-implore-you-to-listen-to-your-advisers-and-avoid-baseless

Has Putin already won? He divides US intel from political leaders


On Capitol Hill this week, we witnessed the much anticipated questioning of FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers by the House Intelligence Committee on Russia's intelligence operations against the United States during the 2016 elections.

Was it Putin’s objective to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. elections? Or was his objective to generally undermine confidence in our electoral system and our democracy? These, and many other questions, must be asked and answered.

However, there is another, equally nefarious objective that Putin has also pursued through his covert influence operations, but it has yet to be discussed in any meaningful way among our political leadership. It is Putin’s goal to undermine his enduring adversary: the U.S. Intelligence Community.

While Putin’s objectives through these “active measures” have been multi-faceted, I believe one of Putin’s key, strategic goals from the get-go has been to drive a wedge between the U.S. Intelligence Community and U.S. political leadership — not to mention the American public. By creating this wedge, Putin likely surmised that new constraints would be placed on the U.S. Intelligence Community by our political leadership — thereby providing him more freedom of maneuver to pursue his other objectives.

There are three bits of information over the last two weeks that demonstrate to me that Putin may already be winning.

First, on March 7, Wikileaks dumped the “biggest ever” leak of classified documents that outlined alleged CIA hacking tools and capabilities. This is significant because it was intended to subtlety raise questions about whether the CIA uses these capabilities against Americans — given the common nature of the products that it alleged the CIA could hack: Apple's iPhone, Google's Android, Microsoft's Windows, and Samsung smart TVs.


With Epic GOP Failure, Dems Urged to Go Bold with Medicare-for-All

Americans rallied against the GOP to defend their right to healthcare, Democrats are being urged to seize on the moment

by Lauren McCauley, staff writer

With the Republican attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) going down in flames Friday as Americans rallied to defend their right to healthcare, Democrats are being urged, both by experts and constituents, to seize on the moment and counter with a plan that will truly provide coverage for all.

Uproar over the GOP's American Health Care Act (AHCA), which was estimated to strip 24 million people of their healthcare by 2026, prompted a political firestorm as it drove voters across the nation to town halls and local legislative offices to demand that House Republicans vote against the bill.

After the White House called on House Speaker Paul Ryan (Wis.) to withdraw Friday's scheduled vote (after an aggressive lobby effort on the part of both President Donald Trump and Ryan), many are looking to what happens next.

Though the Republican narrative that Obamacare is "imploding" has been proven to be an unfounded talking point, The Week's Ryan Cooper argued Friday that Democrats "shouldn't sit idly by and wait for Republicans to slowly bleed Obamacare to death by other means."

"They need a counter-offer," Cooper writes, "one that's more compelling than the creaky status quo. They need a single-payer, Medicare-for-All plan."


Joy Reid goes off on GOP pundit blaming Democrats: Remember 'I alone can fix it?'


Trump and Ryan Lose Big - by Frank Bruni

For seven years — seven years — Republicans thundered about the evils of Obamacare, yearned for the day when they could bury it and vowed to do precisely that once the ball was in their hands.

Last week proved that this had all been an emotional and theatrical exercise, not a substantive one. The ball was in their hands, and they had no coherent playbook. No real play. They scurried around the Capitol with their chests deflated and their tails between their legs.

For the entirety of his campaign, Donald Trump crowed about his peerless ability to make deals, one of which, he assured us, was going to be a replacement for Obamacare that would cut costs without leaving any Americans in the lurch.

Last week proved that there was no such swap, that he hadn’t done an iota of work to devise one and that he was spectacularly unprepared to shepherd such legislation through Congress. As his promise lay in tatters at his feet, he gave a delusional interview to Time magazine about what an infallible soothsayer he is, then tried to shift the blame to Democrats.

He’s not delivering Americans from cynicism about government. He’s validating that dark assessment, with a huge assist from Paul Ryan and a cast of House Republicans who had consistently portrayed themselves as sober-minded, mature alternatives to those indulgent, prodigal Dems, if only they had a president from their party who would let them work their magic.


The Trump Administration Clears Trump's Washington Hotel - By the NYT Editorial Board

Since the election, it has been clear that Donald Trump cannot both be president and maintain a lease on the government-owned Old Post Office building in Washington, where he opened an opulent hotel last year. Now, a federal official who works for the agency that negotiated the lease (and that, conveniently, reports to the president) has come up with a bizarre, tortured and ultimately dishonest rationale for why Mr. Trump can keep it.

Mr. Trump’s 2013 lease with the General Services Administration stipulates that no elected official “shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom.” Legal experts say the president is clearly in violation of that clause and the government should either terminate the lease or force Mr. Trump to transfer it to somebody else. On Thursday, however, an agency contracting official, Kevin Terry, declared that the president was not in violation because he had agreed not to receive any profits from the hotel until after he leaves office.

Mr. Terry engages in legal gymnastics that no lawyer could credibly defend. It should not matter when Mr. Trump accepts the profits from the hotel; he benefits even if he waits until after he leaves the White House to pocket them. Mr. Terry argues that as long as Mr. Trump’s profits are reinvested in the hotel, rather than deposited in his bank account, there is no violation. But by reinvesting the profits, Mr. Trump is increasing the value of the hotel and its ability to earn more money in the future. He has a 60-year lease on the building, and not pocketing profits for a few years is hardly a sacrifice.

Then there’s the not-so-little matter of the Constitution, which Mr. Trump is violating by owning the hotel. Article I of the Constitution prohibits all federal government officials from accepting gifts, profits and other payments from foreign governments without the approval of Congress. As it happens, foreign governments have been booking rooms and hosting events at the Trump hotel. In addition, Article II of the Constitution specifically bars the president from earning any emoluments, or profits, from the federal government or state governments in addition to his salary. Experts say that clause prohibits Mr. Trump’s Washington hotel and his other businesses from earning money or receiving other benefits from federal or state agencies — including Mr. Terry’s decision to let Mr. Trump keep the lease.

As we have argued before, Mr. Trump can resolve these problems by divesting all of his businesses and putting the proceeds into a blind trust. But he refuses to do that, and indeed appears to be retreating from an earlier promise that he would have nothing to do with his business while in office. The president’s son Eric recently told Forbes that he would be giving Mr. Trump regular updates.


The TrumpRyanCare Debacle - By the NYT Editorial Board

Repealing the Affordable Care Act was meant to be the first demonstration of the power and effectiveness of a unified Republican government. It has turned out to be a display of incompetence and cruelty.

Republican leaders withdrew the American Health Care Act before a vote scheduled for Friday afternoon after it became clear that they did not have the votes to pass it. Many far-right conservatives opposed the bill because it would not have completely repealed the A.C.A., or Obamacare. And some more moderate Republicans said they would vote no because the bill would cause immense damage — 24 million people would lose health insurance over 10 years and millions of others would be hit with higher premiums and higher out-of-pocket costs. Surely, many of them were also thinking about a recent Quinnipiac University poll showing that 56 percent of American voters opposed the legislation and just 17 percent supported it.

When Barack Obama was president, Republicans in the House voted dozens of times to repeal the health care law in a symbolic exercise meant to appeal to their base. But never did they present a plan that could improve on the law for their constituents. Still, G.O.P. leaders imagined that with the House, Senate and White House in their hands, what had once been a hollow threat could become actual policy. That they failed in this legislative effort could well affect the rest of their agenda — tax cuts for the rich, changing the corporate tax structure and new infrastructure spending. The debacle shows President Trump and Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, that they can’t count on automatic Republican majorities, especially when they’re offering a destructive, incoherent measure.

Which is pretty much what happened here. Despite their ceaseless attacks on the health care act since Mr. Obama signed it into law in March 2010, Mr. Trump, Mr. Ryan and their colleagues have never had a workable plan that could gain the support of a congressional majority. That is why they rushed their turkey of a bill to the floor without going through the laborious process of holding hearings and building coalitions. The last-minute wheeling and dealing did nothing to disguise the bill’s underlying and increasingly obvious purpose, which was to reduce taxes for the wealthy by cutting benefits for the needy.


The real way Republicans can deal with Obamacare? Actually fix it. - By WaPo Editorial Board

THE NEXT time someone argues that a businessman would manage the country better than an experienced politician, remember this past week. The attempt by President Trump and House Republicans to force through a health-care bill scorned by experts across the spectrum, projected to be a disaster for aging and low-income people and opposed by a large majority of Americans ended in debacle. Now the danger is that a wounded president and his GOP allies will act on their sore feelings by irresponsibly attacking the existing health-care system in other ways.

The right course for Mr. Trump and congressional Republicans following their decisive defeat would be to ensure that the system created by President Barack Obama is properly overseen, for the sake of the millions who depend on it. That would mean abandoning their unilateral and unpopular legislative push to replace Obamacare with a radically different scheme. None of the major repeal-and-replace proposals they have offered would improve the system — and repealing Obamacare without a replacement would invite disaster in health-care markets.

Unfortunately, there are signs that Mr. Trump will act rashly on his own, without Congress, weakening Obamacare on purpose or by sheer incompetence. Several times in recent weeks, Mr. Trump suggested that it would be savvier for Republicans to let the system persist — and collapse. Independent experts, including the Congressional Budget Office just this month, predict no such crumbling. Yet they may not have satisfactorily considered the likelihood of administrative sabotage: The Trump administration has already undermined federal enrollment efforts and the individual mandate that holds the system together. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who would lead any executive-branch regulatory overhaul, has shown himself to be a rigid ideologue on health-care policy.

Mr. Trump should not imagine that angry Americans will blame Democrats, who are totally locked out of power, if he presides over an unraveling of the system. Public reaction to the replacement effort, including in polls, showed substantial support for Obamacare and rejection of the Republican effort to destroy it.


It's time for the feds to follow the Russian money - By Colbert I. King

By Colbert I. King

As the Watergate probe was heating up in the summer of 1973, the special prosecutor’s office gained a silent partner: the Treasury Department’s Internal Revenue Service. The Watergate scandal had engulfed the activities of corporations and corporate officials. An IRS investigation found tax violations committed with campaign contributions to the 1972 presidential campaign of Richard M. Nixon.

With information gained from the IRS, the special prosecutor’s probe resulted in 18 corporate officials and 17 corporations pleading guilty to violations of campaign contribution laws.

This week, FBI Director James B. Comey told Congress that the bureau is “investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”

Based upon what has come to light thus far, expect the FBI to be joined by Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and the IRS. They are the agencies best equipped to conduct financial investigations into any possible crimes dealing with or motivated by money — as in money laundering.

Case in point: The Post’s March 21 article on a Ukrainian lawmaker’s release of financial documents allegedly showing that former Trump aide Paul Manafort laundered payments from the party of an ex-leader of Ukraine with ties to Russia using accounts in Belize and Kyrgyzstan.


Brace yourself, taxpayers: Trump's plutocracy doesn't come cheap - By Dana Milbank

How many Americans does it take to keep President Trump and his family in the lifestyle to which they are accustomed?

Well, think of it this way. The Post this week had a scoop on the Secret Service requesting an additional $60 million in its next budget: $27 million to protect the president’s wife and son in their three-floor penthouse at Trump Tower in New York, where they live instead of the White House, and $33 million for additional travel costs.

The average family of four in the United States pays about $4,000 a year in federal income taxes. That means the entire tax bill for 15,000 families for the year will go toward these additional protection measures for Trump. And the Secret Service is just a slice of the overall expense. Figure in costs incurred by authorities in Florida and New York, the Pentagon and others, and costs related to the Trump sons’ international business trips, and we’re well over $100 million a year.

That’s the annual federal income-tax bill for some 25,000 American families. Each trip Trump takes to his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, where he has gone most weekends since his inauguration, is estimated to cost taxpayers in excess of $3 million. And an unknown chunk of the taxpayers’ money subsidizes Trump businesses in the form of rent, restaurant bills and publicity. In April, Trump will host Chinese leader Xi Jinping at what Trump dubs the “Southern White House,” which is a Trump property where the initiation fee has doubled to $200,000 since Trump won the presidency.

The taxpayer subsidization of Trump’s rich-and-famous lifestyle is but one of the bait-and-switch maneuvers by Trump, who said during the campaign that “I would rarely leave the White House because there’s so much work to be done.” The man ran as a populist and is governing as a plutocrat.

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