Saturday, March 25, 2017

The News is Real, The Leak Was Fake?

So, I mentioned this a little bit as an aside on Wednesday, but Rep. Devin Nunes gave a presser then that did not do exactly what it looked like he was trying to do. It looked like he had received some kind of information that clarified the "wiretapping by the Obama Administration claim" made by President Trump, by virtue of Trump transition folks after the election apparently being caught up incidentally in lawfully FISA'd wiretaps that were just ordinary old SIGINT on foreign nationals.

This sort of made me wonder just who all were the Trump insiders regularly in contact with that might be under surveillance--but that is still a "no big whoop" kind of speculation. Doubtless, Trump and associates got congratulatory calls post-election. Despite our Logan Act, no small number of representatives of other governments might have wanted reassurances and to start "talking shop". Not every call a Trump associate might have gotten swept up in was as dodgy as the "General Flynn calling Russia all the time" thing. Gosh--we can't already be forgetting how Trump got a call from Taiwan that turned into a tempest in a teacup!

But all the same--there is something kind of weird about why Rep. Nunes went out of his way to make his Wednesday statement when he didn't really seem to be carrying too much in his hands on this one. The Daily Beast kind of suggests he got some kind of shadowy summons and disappeared off this mortal plane for a minute while spooky shenanigans went down. I wouldn't know about that.  What I would say is, if Nunes received some kind of ameliorating intelligence to spin to make the Trump investigation look better, he handled it like a drowning man thrown a life preserver who goes on to try to eat it. It doesn't help that he described what he was doing as being out of a sense of "duty and obligation" to Trump--when that isn't his job. Figuring out if Trump did something grossly wrong, is.

So, he walked back even as much as he had said on Wednesday, on Friday--a thing that might have gotten overshadowed by the health-care bill-fail. The upshot of which is, still spinning, nope, no wiretap,  and maybe we aren't even talking about people from the Trump transition being spoken to, but spoken about.

So, what looked like Rep. Nunes possibly leaking classified information to make Trump look right about the wiretap and to undermine the credibility of the Trump/Russia investigation, turned out to sort of be just a case of him making "fake news"?  As in--not news, just performing for Trump's benefit? And maybe most of the journalists sort of knew that was what he was doing, except the RW media that tried to say this all backed up the "wiretap" claim?

Hmpf. The MSM is real. But Nunes' leak should be regarded as "fake". Except the bits where he reiterated that Trump Tower was not wiretapped. Seems to me he would have made that case, too, if he could.

Trump Can't Always Get What He Wants

Although, like everything else in this drama-saturated Trump era, the timeline seems off, it really is only a smidge less than three weeks ago that Press Secretary Sean Spicer stood next to a little stack of paper and a bigger stack of paper to explain why the GOP plan was better. Three weeks! And we were today assured that President Trump had "left everything on the field" in his fight to get a "repeal and replace" deal done. After three weeks! Everything! On! The! Field!

(Long weekends was it? Talking with people across the aisle and hearing from constituents about their concerns? Or was it just a bit of bullying his own party? All the same, it sounds like a positively exhausting three weeks!)

And so the bill got pulled Friday (after down-to-the wire tinkering that only seemed to make the bill worse), and this is obviously the Democrats' fault. I would say this is roughly the Democrats' fault in that they got together seven years ago and passed a better plan than what the GOP House threw together just now, as if the Republicans were not expecting they would have to for the last seven years. Beyond that though, the majority party in the House did not pull together the number of votes needed for their side to win, or, did not craft a plan they could sanely expect any Democrat to want any part of.

That definitely sounds like a Republican problem, to me. But what is perplexing is, why did this "vote" seem so rushed? It was not impossible to either get a deal with the right number of House votes or a deal that might have interested Democrats if they could be genuinely convinced that the ACA was in imminent danger--it just would have taken some more months' doing.  What seems to have happened is that President Trump somehow got the idea that this was going to be an easy one to cross off his agenda. After all, he made the positively gob-stopping comment "Nobody knew health care could be so complicated" just four weeks ago. (Four weeks!) Where had he been the last 25 years, one might wonder.

Not in Washington DC--which is one of the drawbacks of having a total outsider in the Oval Office, and instead, in a boardroom where he was "boss", which is another entire cultural problem. The thing is, the President of the United States isn't the boss of Congress, not even of members of Congress of his own party. It's a co-equal branch of government, and he just can't always get what he wants.

Now, he's happy to let the matter of health care fade into the rearview while he moves on to tackle something easy, like, say, major tax reform.  Oof. He made comments today about having learned a lot from this health care process. I am just not sure that's so. We'll have to see.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Bad Medicine Is What They Need!

As near as I can tell, the Trump Administration would like to get a "repeal and replace" thing done very quickly because they need a win--but I really don't think they care at all what is in it, because the original version didn't even fulfill Trump's campaign promises regarding health care. He even went so far as to imply that not voting for the repeal and replace measure could cost GOP House members their seats.

VP Mike Pence worked on them, too, but so many members simply failed to be as ecstatic as Speaker Paul Ryan was over the prospect of 24 million Americans losing their coverage and several millions more having their premiums go up.

So what are they doing? Why, they are diluting the mandatory coverage so that premiums stay low enough for people to accept weak tax credits for shittier coverage, meaning that tax money will go to providing people with the kind of coverage that should be a shame to offer at any price. No one at this rate will know what exactly is in the bill until it passes, and it's guaranteed to still cover less people and do less for them. But to what extent we won't know, because there will be no CBO score on that at all.

And for all I know, this crazy unhealthy unpopular nonsense might even succeed. Not that I think congresspeople up for re-election should want getting this wrong on their c.v. But didn't Trump tell them this was important? And to never mind the people showing up at their townhalls?

I am interested in the outcome--not in the same way a person with pre-existing condition(s) is, or who knows someone or is someone who could easily exhaust a cap right at the beginning of a year, or who has health care only because the exchanges plus a subsidy were available to them. Not in the same way a person who might be penalized by Medicaid by having to pay back benefits for having a body with leukemia tastes on a laryngitis budget would. But as a person who really wants to know who will take the leap with Trump and Ryan over this bad medicine bill. And who wonders just where that will get them.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

And Now it Looks Worse

In case anyone's memory needs to be refreshed, Paul Manafort was Donald Trump's campaign manager and also consulted with the transition. It seems like he had an interesting plan in the hopper that would be pretty beneficial to the Putin government:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics, The Associated Press has learned. The work appears to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests.

Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.

That's, um. Well. Pretty much the sort of thing that sounds like proposing to have operatives fiddle with elections through massaging news coverage. If only we could connect him to the Trump Campa...


So, I said I believe that this all looked bad because it is bad? I also do not think it will start looking better.

UPDATE: And this presser by Rep. Nunes only seems to reiterate that the Trump campaign wasn't directly wiretapped, but that they seemed to be in contact an awful lot with people who (quite lawfully) were under surveillance. Great try though!

UPDATE 2: I wonder if what Rep. Nunes is talking about was classified? And why he has to run'long and brief POTUS on it right sharpish. Not at all like you'd think an investigation would work, right?

This SCOTUS Hearing Just Isn't Right

In light of the several things that have been somewhat irregular about this past election cycle, I just can't even get interested in the Neil Gorsuch hearing for SCOTUS because I simply can't view his nomination as legitimate. When the position on the bench became open with the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, this seat on the bench simply should have been President Barack Obama's position to fill.

Full stop. I do not think that Sen. Mitch McConnell's blocking of Obama's choice, Merrick Garland, was anything but pure partisanship.  His statement about "giving the people a voice" denied the voice of the people who elected and then re-elected Obama. Obama's successor lost the popular vote, and many people are not with him.

And then there is that gray cloud that Rep. Devin Nunes spoke of--the idea that we have in office a person under FBI investigation for possibly colluding with a foreign power to gain that office. I am with Sen. Elizabeth Warren on this one--leaving aside that Gorsuch would be unacceptable to a liberal on the basis of his privileging corporate power over people power, there is no reason this hearing needs to continue while uncertainty over Trump's legitimacy remains.

Perhaps I see the light now in what Sen. Ted Cruz said back in October--this court can function with eight justices.  It would be better that it did, than that Senate Democrats accepted a nominee under these conditions--even if Senate Republicans do not seem to understand the problem.

It just wouldn't be right. The "people" McConnell was referring to, may not have entirely had their say.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

It Looks Bad Because it is Bad

Based on the Tweets that President Trump was offering up to the Internets a short while before FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director, Adm. Mike Rogers gave their testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, it seems like he already suspected this day would make the Administration look kind of bad.

And it did. FBI Director Comey shot down the case that the Trump campaign had been the subject of wiretapping at President Obama's direction, and acknowledged that there is an ongoing investigation into the Russian interference in the US election via hacking of the DNC and the possibility of the Trump campaign colluding in this effort. Adm. Rogers rejected the possibility floated by the Trump Administration that GCHQ performed the surveillance instead.  The FBI investigation is also looking into how Russian "bots" and "trolls" helped spread stories favorable to Trump (and negative stories about Clinton) on various websites.

I'm sure House GOP Reps who tried to steer attention to "leakers" and the shameful journalists who published leaks as if they were stories were trying to help, but I'm not sure it really does--after all, the Trump campaign "lived by the leak", with Trump going all in on praising WikiLeaks when it was damaging his opponent. Also, there is a limit to how much you can blame the press for bad news when it turns out not to be fake, but true!

It does seem to me that Rep. Devin Nunes was guilty of trying too hard by mournfully bemoaning the "big, gray cloud" that the Trump Administration was now under (of their own doing, I might add) and then, and somewhat bizarrely, saying he did not know who Carter Page or Roger Stone were when asked by Mother Jones' David Corn. That just doesn't even sound likely. Work in DC much, Rep. Nunes? (Actually, he was on the Trump transition team. So there's that.) I think Press Secretary Sean Spicer might have overstrained credulity in claiming Paul Manafort only had a limited role in the Trump Campaign. Oh, really?  (And that Gen. Flynn was a campaign volunteer. You know. The kind who is a top foreign policy adviser during the campaign and then becomes National Security adviser and who sits in on intelligence briefings. Practically just an envelope-stuffer!) I know they are trying to make things look a little better for President Trump, but, it doesn't really. The denials just sound more like covering up to me.

These things look and sound bad because they are bad.  This President had been under investigation since late July. Trump deflects criticism with wild, unfounded claims that are damaging to his credibility. His party has not yet reconciled themselves to the damage he is doing, but it can't really be denied forever--

Can it? When Trump tweets mischaracterizations of testimony so that it can be debunked in real time, can anyone say this is a misunderstanding? Does it not become clear that his credibility--essential to leadership--is perhaps fatally impaired? The state of this presidency is certainly, if not bad, not good. At some point, following the "lead" of a Tweet to suppose, perhaps, that "leaks" are the real issue (and not the damaging information they reveal) or setting up a straw man of Russian hacking of electoral votes, not seriously claimed by anyone, also looks, if not bad, certainly not good.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Leaks are Real. The News is Fake. 2

Classified information is being leaked to news organizations and then is transubstantiated into FAKE NEWS. Or something. I feel like Tweeting about this is a sign of very poor self-control.