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“This is exactly the Watergate model…” by @BloggersRUs

"This is exactly the Watergate model..."

by Tom Sullivan

Image by Philip Cohen via Flickr.

All Thursday long, pundits reacting to Rudy Giuliani's antics on CNN's "Cuomo Prime Time" Wednesday insisted they fit a pattern.

"I never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or people in the campaign," the president's attorney told Chris Cuomo, remarkably implying in public that the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin to win the 2016 election. There was just no collusion by the now-President of the United States, Giuliani insisted.

Pundits suggested Giuliani may not simply be crazed or the worst presidential lawyer ever. He knows something bad is coming out and wants to distract from it or in part inoculate his client from it. Last night after 10 p.m. Eastern, they were proved right.

In yet another BussFeed News scoop, Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier reported, "President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter."

If true, that is conspiracy by the President of the United States to suborn perjury and obstruct justice in the Russia investigation. Plus, perjury and lying to Congress by Cohen.

Former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks reacted on MSNBC's "The Last Word," saying, "This is exactly the Watergate model..." that brought down the Nixon presidency.

For context, BuzzFeed adds:

On the campaign trail, Trump vehemently denied having any business interests in Russia. But behind the scenes, he was pushing the Moscow project, which he hoped could bring his company profits in excess of $300 million. The two law enforcement sources said he had at least 10 face-to-face meetings with Cohen about the deal during the campaign.
BuzzFeed's sources report the evidence for the accusation is not simply Cohen's statements:
The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office.

This revelation is not the first evidence to suggest the president may have attempted to obstruct the FBI and special counsel investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

BuzzFeed claims, however, this is "the first known example of Trump explicitly telling a subordinate to lie directly about his own dealings with Russia." Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel) contests that characterization, tweeting there is other evidence extant that Trump suborned perjury from subordinates, and that seems right. Expect more on that from Wheeler this morning. This onion has just begun peeling.

It is important to remember, Trump was a private citizen when these Trump Tower Moscow negotiations involving Cohen took place. Those discussions were not illegal. Yet, Trump lied about the deal and, if reports are confirmed, directed Cohen to lie about it to Congress. One might suspect there is a reason Trump and associates might have committed crimes to conceal it.

Leopold and Cormier have been tracking that, giving a close look to a series of suspicious 2016 money transfers. Following the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 and immediately after Trump's election, two "bursts" of transactions occurred between foreign and U.S. banks connected to "at least two people who attended the Trump Tower meeting," federal investigators found. Those cash transfers and their timing might be innocent. So might be Trump's reasons for his unprecedented confiscation of his translator's notes of his meeting with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Hamburg. And his concealment of what was said in four other of their conversations.

Mueller will tell. Before then, the House Intelligence Committee will investigate whether Cohen lied to Congress at the behest of the sitting President of the United States. (I use that phrase to remind myself this presidency too will pass. It seems even more likely this morning to expire before its due date.)


Somebody’s been studying their Leni Riefenstahl

Somebody's been studying their Leni Riefenstahl

by digby

Imagine if you saw this from another country. Would you not assume it was some fascist regime?

To think they made this film and are now disseminating during a government shutdown.

Just creepy in every way.


Models of the Atom

J.J. Thompson won a Nobel Prize for his work in electricity in gases, but was passed over for his

Fox and Friends has a live audience now. Oh my.

Fox and Friends has a live audience now

by digby

It went as you might expect:

This is where Trump gets his daily briefing.


Trump didn’t really know Bill and Bob were best buds. Ooops.

Trump didn't know Bill and Bob were best buds. Ooops.

by digby

Remember this?

“Are you best friends with Robert Mueller?” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, asked Comey, according to a transcript of the hearing released Saturday by Goodlatte and Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).

“I am not,” Comey said. “I admire the heck out of the man, but I don't know his phone number, I've never been to his house, I don't know his children's names.”

Comey added: “I think I had a meal once alone with him in a restaurant. I like him. I am not a — I'm an associate of his who admires him greatly. We're not friends in any social sense.”

Hours before Comey’s session with members of Congress, Trump tweeted: “Robert Mueller and Leakin’ Lyin’ James Comey are Best Friends, just one of many Mueller Conflicts of Interest.” The president went on to call the special counsel’s investigation “A total Witch Hunt” in that same post.

Trump previously referred to Mueller as Comey’s “best friend” in a September interview with The Daily Caller, and claimed to have “100 pictures of him and Comey hugging and kissing each other.”

Then there's this:

The president’s pick to replace Jeff Sessions at the helm of the Justice Department has known and admired the president’s bête noire, Robert Mueller, for 30 years — and somehow President Donald Trump seems fine with that.

The relationship, which Barr described in public Tuesday during his Senate confirmation hearing, is both a source of reassurance to Democrats worried about Barr’s attitude toward Mueller’s probe and a reminder of the small size of Washington’s legal and law enforcement worlds.

Why it isn’t more troubling to Trump, who, Barr said, is aware of the relationship, remains a mystery.

Barr and Mueller first crossed paths at the Justice Department during the George H.W. Bush administration. But the relationship goes further: Their wives are close friends who attend Bible study together, and Mueller attended the weddings of two of Barr’s daughters.

“They have a high level of respect for each other,” said Paul McNulty, a former senior DOJ official who led the department’s policy and communications shop while Barr was attorney general and Mueller served as the head of its Criminal Division. “They have maintained a good friendship ever since.”

He must have been focused on a Fox News story about him when Barr told him this because it turns out he didn't know about it:
President Donald Trump was startled Tuesday as he watched television coverage of his nominee for attorney general describing a warm relationship with the special counsel Robert Mueller in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to three people familiar with the matter.

During the first day of his confirmation hearing, William Barr described telling the President the first time he met him in June 2017 that he was friends with Mueller, referring to him on a first name basis.

"I told him how well I knew Bob Mueller and that the Barrs and Muellers were good friends and would be good friends when this was all over," Barr said. "Bob is a straight-shooter and should be dealt with as such."

While Barr said during his hearing that Trump "was interested" in hearing about the friendship, the details that emerged this week caught the President off guard, the three sources said. He bristled at Barr's description of the close relationship, complaining to aides he didn't realize how much their work overlapped or that they were so close.


They report that Trump subsequently rationalized this by saying that Barr and Mueller were just part of the GOP establishment from way back and at this point he doesn't want to withdraw his name.

I wondered about this when Lindsey Graham first mentioned it. It was hard to believe Trump would be ok with it. And he isn't. You know he isn't ...


People think Trump is a self-made millionaire. They change their minds about him when they learn the truth.

People think Trump is a self-made millionaire. They change their minds about him when they learn the truth.

by digby

I can't say I'm surprised about this. Throughout the campaign I heard his supporters say they trusted him becuse he was such a successful businessman. Many were "Apprentice" fans, of course. But Trump ran as the greatest businessman in the world and dismissed his father's involvement in his career as being irrelevant.

This article discusses a study showing that when people find out that Trump was a trust fund baby who had to be bailed out repeatedly by his daddy, some, at least, are disillusioned:

Who is Donald Trump? Ask Americans and many of them will describe a self-made billionaire, a business tycoon of unfathomable success. In research recently published in Political Behavior, we found that voters are not simply uninformed about President Trump’s biographical background, but misinformed—and that misinformation has serious political consequences.

Large swaths of the public believe the Trump myth. Across three surveys of eligible voters from 2016 to 2018, we found that as many as half of all Americans do not know that he was born into a very wealthy family. And while Americans are divided along party lines in their assessment of Trump’s performance as president, misperceptions regarding his financial background are found among Democrats and Republicans.

The narrative of Trump as self-made is simply false. Throughout his life, the president has downplayed the role his father, real estate developer Fred Trump, played in his success, claiming it was “limited to a small loan of $1 million.” That isn’t true, of course: A comprehensive New York Times investigation last year estimated that over the course of his lifetime, the younger Trump received more than $413 million in today’s dollars from his father. While this exact figure was not known before the Times’ report, it was a matter of record that by the mid-1980s, Trump had been loaned at least $14 million by his father, was loaned at least $3.5 million more in 1990, had borrowed several more million against his inheritance in the 1990s after many of his ventures failed, and had benefited enormously from his father’s political connections and co-signing on loans early in his career as a builder.

Of course, someone born into wealth may have great business acumen, and the question of whether Trump is “a great businessman” is a subjective evaluation. The focus of our work, however, is on whether indisputable facts regarding candidate biographies—which are often invisible to voters over the course of a campaign—affect public opinion.

It turns out that they do. Using a 2017 University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll, we found that believing Trump was not born “very wealthy” leads to at least a 5-percentage-point boost in the president’s job approval, even after considering the many factors that can influence public approval ratings. This shift is rooted in the belief that his humble roots make Trump both more empathetic (he “feels my pain”), and more skilled at business (he is self-made and couldn’t have climbed to such heights without real business know-how).

What happens when Americans learn of the president’s privileged background? In a 2018 survey, we provided half the respondents the following question, which was intended to impart Trump’s biographical information: To what extent were you aware that Donald Trump grew up the son of wealthy real estate businessman Fred Trump, started his business with loans from his father, and received loans worth millions of dollars from his father in order to keep his businesses afloat?

As the figures below show, attitudes toward Trump may be polarized along party lines, but this information does have noticeable and statistically significant effects on evaluations of Trump’s character. For Democrats, who already see Trump as lacking empathy, this information makes them think of him as even less empathetic. But among Republicans, the information is even more damning, reducing perceptions of empathy by more than 10 percentage points.

On perceptions of business acumen, which are higher across both parties, the information regarding Fred Trump’s role in his son’s business success is equally important. Democrats reduce their perceptions of Trump as a good businessman by 6 points, while Republican perceptions decline by 9 points.

These effects may seem small, but the results demonstrate that this misperception was consequential. And among undecided voters or those on the fence, they could make a serious difference in the 2020 election.

Many Americans were and remain misinformed about the central aspect of Trump’s business career, which was his sole credential in his bid for office. Why are so many Americans so mistaken on this seemingly basic point? Given that a significant—if smaller—minority of Democrats answered incorrectly, we cannot attribute it entirely to partisan rationalization.

Many studies have shown that, for better or worse, candidates’ race, gender and incumbency affect voters’ assessments. Voters also care about less visible characteristics of candidates—such as their religion, occupational background and veteran status—but may be less aware of the facts concerning them. This is made worse when there is a concerted effort to build a counternarrative.

Trump’s persona in the 2000s—the image of him as a world-conquering tycoon—was not shaped by his business record, which was pockmarked with bankruptcies, but by his hit TV show, “The Apprentice.” As The New Yorker recently put it, the show “mythologized him anew, and on a much bigger scale, turning him into an icon of American success.” As a politician, Trump built on this narrative, claiming, “I built what I built myself, and I did it by working long hours and working hard and working smart.”

Another factor is media coverage of Trump. A LexisNexis search of leading newspapers from January 1, 2016, until Election Day 2016 found more than six times as many articles referring to Trump’s divorces than those mentioning his father. The problem is not just that the media prefers the salacious to the substantive; the practices of even serious journalists may not always produce an informed public. By 2016, Fred Trump’s aid to his son was in the distant past. It had been reported over the years, so barring revelations like those in the 2018 New York Times exposé, it just wasn’t “news” to reporters. Yet without repeated coverage, many voters who do not follow politics closely will not absorb the facts that journalists take for granted. Similarly, reporters are often reactive, and Trump’s rivals in 2016 seldom noted the centrality of Fred Trump’s financial support in keeping his son’s businesses afloat.

They point out the fact that the media neglected to cover this aspect of his history or confront him with facts about it. That was a big failure.

Now we can all see with our own eyes how inept he is. (Well, most of us anyway.) This shouldn't besomething people need to know about going forward. But it wouldn't hurt to make sure it's out there anyway. As long as people think this guy was some kind of yuge success by dint of his own talents he maintains some undeserved power.


Look at all these awesome women

Look at all these awesome women

by digby

All but a handful are Democrats.

Just sayin'


The case for impeachment

The case for impeachment

by digby

I am glad to see that there are others out there coming around to the idea that Trump should be impeached, regardless of whether or not we know in advance that Republicans in the Senate will convict him.  I was not one who thought Democrats should run on it --- I thought they should run on holding investigations and public hearings and letting the chips fall where they may. But I always figured that it would likely lead to impeachment hearings, based as much on the obvious, ongoing corruption, abuse of power and ineptitude as the Russia scandal.

I believe that if Democrats lay out a strong, clear, detailed case for impeachment and the Republicans in the Senate refuse to act on it, it will not help Trump and the Republicans in 2020. I'm not sure why people think it would. This isn't Bill Clinton being impeached over a sexual affair after years of failed investigations into many petty matters that never added up to anything serious. This is a completely different scenario --- this president is a danger to the country and the world.

An Atlantic cover story by Yoni Applebaum lays out the case in detail. It's well worth reading.

An excerpt:

On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump stood on the steps of the Capitol, raised his right hand, and solemnly swore to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. He has not kept that promise.

Instead, he has mounted a concerted challenge to the separation of powers, to the rule of law, and to the civil liberties enshrined in our founding documents. He has purposefully inflamed America’s divisions. He has set himself against the American idea, the principle that all of us—of every race, gender, and creed—are created equal.

This is not a partisan judgment. Many of the president’s fiercest critics have emerged from within his own party. Even officials and observers who support his policies are appalled by his pronouncements, and those who have the most firsthand experience of governance are also the most alarmed by how Trump is governing.

“The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naïveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate,” the late senator and former Republican presidential nominee John McCain lamented last summer. “The president has not risen to the mantle of the office,” the GOP’s other recent nominee, the former governor and now senator Mitt Romney, wrote in January.

The oath of office is a president’s promise to subordinate his private desires to the public interest, to serve the nation as a whole rather than any faction within it. Trump displays no evidence that he understands these obligations. To the contrary, he has routinely privileged his self-interest above the responsibilities of the presidency. He has failed to disclose or divest himself from his extensive financial interests, instead using the platform of the presidency to promote them. This has encouraged a wide array of actors, domestic and foreign, to seek to influence his decisions by funneling cash to properties such as Mar-a-Lago (the “Winter White House,” as Trump has branded it) and his hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. Courts are now considering whether some of those payments violate the Constitution.

More troubling still, Trump has demanded that public officials put their loyalty to him ahead of their duty to the public. On his first full day in office, he ordered his press secretary to lie about the size of his inaugural crowd. He never forgave his first attorney general for failing to shut down investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and ultimately forced his resignation. “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty,” Trump told his first FBI director, and then fired him when he refused to pledge it.

Trump has evinced little respect for the rule of law, attempting to have the Department of Justice launch criminal probes into his critics and political adversaries. He has repeatedly attacked both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller. His efforts to mislead, impede, and shut down Mueller’s investigation have now led the special counsel to consider whether the president obstructed justice.

As for the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, Trump has repeatedly trampled upon them. He pledged to ban entry to the United States on the basis of religion, and did his best to follow through. He has attacked the press as the “enemy of the people” and barred critical outlets and reporters from attending his events. He has assailed black protesters. He has called for his critics in private industry to be fired from their jobs. He has falsely alleged that America’s electoral system is subject to massive fraud, impugning election results with which he disagrees as irredeemably tainted. Elected officials of both parties have repeatedly condemned such statements, which has only spurred the president to repeat them.

These actions are, in sum, an attack on the very foundations of America’s constitutional democracy.

There's more. If you are on the fence about this I urge you to read it.

Who’s the big winner, Mikey?

Who's the big winner, Mikey?

by digby

He loved those onine polls.

The real polls showed something different:

A Morning Consult poll released Wednesday found 49 percent of respondents thought Clinton won, while 26 percent though Trump won. Another 25 percent were undecided.

A Public Policy Polling survey found 51 percent thought Clinton won, while 40 percent thought Trump won.

Guess what?
Michael Cohen hired an IT firm to rig online polls in favor of Donald Trump ahead of the 2016 election and instructed the company to create the @WomenForCohen Twitter account to laud how sexually attractive he is, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Trump’s then-attorney—who has since spectacularly fallen out with the president—promised to pay $50,000 to the small tech firm run by a Liberty University staffer to help distort online polls on CNBC and the Drudge Report.

Cohen has confirmed the bombshell report to CNN, and claimed it was carried out “at the direction and for the sole benefit of Donald J. Trump.”

The report says that this effort was early in the campaign and wasn't very successful. I'd guess that Trump's digital director (and 2020 campaign manager) Brad Parscale was better at it.


Slipping with the faithful

Slipping with the faithful

by digby


A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds Trump's approval rating down and his disapproval rating up from a month ago. He currently stands at 39 percent approve, 53 percent disapprove — a 7-point net change from December when his rating was 42 percent approve, 49 percent disapprove.

He's losing altitude even with some of those non-college educted white men and evangelicals.

This seems to be related to the shutdown although I don't know that it isn't a "last straw" situation rather than a specific reaction to that issue. It may just be that some of his people are starting to realize that it's not working.

Maybe ...

The president also faces some significant headwinds for re-election in 2020. Just 30 percent of registered voters said they will definitely vote for Trump in 2020, while 57 percent said they will definitely vote against him.

Just 76 percent of Trump supporters, 69 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of white evangelicals say they will definitely vote for him. Many, if not most, of them will likely vote for the president, but their softness in supporting him for re-election is a sign of vulnerability.

For context, in 2010, when asked about then-President Barack Obama, just 36 percent said they would definitely vote for him, while 48 percent said they would not. Obama went on to win with 51 percent of the vote.

But for Trump to have more than half the country already saying it definitely won't vote for him indicates he is facing a difficult re-election.

"The president has had his base and not much else," Miringoff said, "and when you look ahead to the election ... he enters with a significant disadvantage. His re-election prospects would definitely be in jeopardy at this point."

Trump has a lot of work to do to be able to reassemble the coalition that voted for him narrowly to win in the Electoral College in 2016. He lost the popular vote by almost 3 million votes and won just 46 percent of the vote. He won by about 70,000 votes combined between Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, all states that have trended away from the president during his first two years in office.

Of course, much depends on who he will face.


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