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White House Under Siege As Russia Revelations Continue

White House Aerial View

With the stream of new reports about contacts between Russian officials and people close to President Trump seemingly coming on a daily basis, and an investigation by two Congressional committees and a Department of Justice out there gathering information, The New York Times reports that tensions are rising inside the White House:

WASHINGTON — If President Trump emerged from his meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia last week hoping he had begun to “move forward” from the controversy over the Kremlin’s election meddling, as advisers put it, his flight home the next day made clear just how overly optimistic that was.

As Air Force One jetted back from Europe on Saturday, a small cadre of Mr. Trump’s advisers huddled in a cabin helping to craft a statement for the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., to give to The New York Times explaining why he met last summer with a lawyer connected to the Russian government. Participants on the plane and back in the United States debated how transparent to be in the statement, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Ultimately, the people said, the president signed off on a statement from Donald Trump Jr. for The Times that was so incomplete that it required day after day of follow-up statements, each more revealing than the last. It culminated on Tuesday with a release of emails making clear that Mr. Trump’s son believed the Russian lawyer was seeking to meet with him to provide incriminating information about Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

The Russia story has become the brier patch from which the president seemingly cannot escape. It dominated his trip to Europe last week and, after he leaves on Wednesday night for a couple of days in France, it may dominate that trip as well. Every time Mr. Trump tries to put the furor behind him, more disclosures thrust it back onto the Washington agenda.

Even before the latest reports, Mr. Trump’s head-spinning willingness on creating a joint cybersecurity team with Russia fueled criticism. Now people close to the president and to his legal effort are engaged in a circular firing squad, anonymously blaming one another for the decisions of the last few days.

(…)

Advisers said the president was annoyed not so much by his son as by the headlines. But three people close to the legal team said he had also trained his ire on Marc E. Kasowitz, his longtime lawyer, who is leading the team of private lawyers representing him. Mr. Trump, who often vents about advisers in times of trouble, has grown disillusioned by Mr. Kasowitz’s strategy, the people said.

The strain, though, exists on both sides. Mr. Kasowitz and his colleagues have been deeply frustrated by the president. And they have complained that Mr. Kushner has been whispering in the president’s ear about the Russia investigations and stories while keeping the lawyers out of the loop, according to another person familiar with the legal team. But one person familiar with Mr. Kasowitz’s thinking said his concerns did not relate to Mr. Kushner.

The president’s lawyers view Mr. Kushner as an obstacle and a freelancer more concerned about protecting himself than his father-in-law, the person said. While no ultimatum has been delivered, the lawyers have told colleagues that they cannot keep operating that way, raising the prospect that Mr. Kasowitz may resign.

Also, the president has fumed to close allies that he is mulling a staff change, and some members of his family have zeroed in on the chief of staff, Reince Priebus. But most Trump advisers privately concede that major changes are unlikely anytime soon.

Politico has similar reports:

White House aides feel blindsided by the bombshell revelations around Donald Trump Jr.’s campaign meeting with a Russian lawyer, while the president is using his relatively light schedule to watch TV and fume about the latest scandal, according to interviews with half a dozen White House officials and advisers.

Unlike prior Russia-related controversies, the White House is not minimizing the political ramifications of Trump’s eldest son’s decision to meet with the Kremlin-linked lawyer after being offered information that he was told would “incriminate” Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.

But top West Wing aides are exasperated by their limited ability to steer the damage control and the risk that more damaging news has yet to emerge.

One Trump adviser said the White House was “essentially helpless” because the conduct happened during an “anything goes” campaign that had few rules. This person said he had spoken to several people in the White House on Tuesday and that “none of them knew anything about Donald Trump Jr.’s meetings,” despite the fact that top adviser Jared Kushner was also present for the controversial Trump Tower sit-down.

Many of the White House aides had previously dismissed the Russia stories as “conspiracy bullshit,” this person said, but that this development was not being dismissed as that.

Trump had been silent for days about the controversy around his son. His first public response came in the form of a brief statement delivered by White House principal deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday: “My son is a high-quality person, and I applaud his transparency.”

On Tuesday evening, Trump encouraged his Twitter followers to watch his son on Fox News host Sean Hannity’s show, adding, “He is a great person who loves our country!”

One White House aide said the president’s light public schedule was a function of his upcoming trip to France on Wednesday — and that “it makes sense that you have a couple days off between the one last week and this one.”

But a second official said Trump’s schedule was unusually light — and that he had been watching TV news and venting about the investigation. He hadn’t expressed any specific opinions about Trump Jr., this person said, but didn’t like that it was generating more negative coverage.

Others in the White House have been more explicit about their frustration with Trump Jr., who served as an adviser and surrogate for Trump’s campaign but has no official role in his father’s administration. Instead, he and his brother Eric Trump have taken over the day-to-day operations of the Trump Organization.

Some in the West Wing have seen Trump Jr.’s defenses — including his decision to post the damning email chain setting up the meeting — as tone deaf and naive about the political ramifications, according to a White House official.

And since Trump Jr. is not a White House employee and is represented by his own lawyer, the White House communications operation has had to take a back seat, while holding its breath for the next batch of revelations.

What the core issue will be going forward, the Trump adviser said, is that the “Russia story will get worse and worse, and you can’t just really say anymore, ‘fake news.'”

This person said the White House has “very little to no role” in coordinating a response.

There’s also tension inside the White House as Vice President Mike Pence’s communications team issued its own statement, appearing to distance Pence from the president. Some West Wing aides felt particularly bruised by the line that he’s “not focused on stories about the campaign, particularly stories about the time before he joined the ticket,” seeing it as an admission of guilt on the part of the campaign, according to a White House official.

While chief of staff Reince Priebus and top adviser Kellyanne Conway initially offered full-throated defenses of Trump Jr., the White House has since been less vigorous. The White House has not held on-camera briefings, instead pushing out Sanders to hold shorter off-camera sessions with reporters.

Many of Trump’s aides feel that knowing less is more when it comes to the Russia probe, as many staffers don’t want or have the extra resources to spend on lawyers. Some have linked the White House press shop’s relatively laid-back response to the latest scandal as a product of their fear of being entangled in the Russia probe.

The lack of full-throttle response from the White House has lowered morale internally, especially among those who are worried about policy initiatives, including health care and tax reform, falling to the wayside, according to one White House official.

“How much longer can we assume that the American people don’t care about Russia?” the official mused.

Given the extent to which this White House has been bombarded by reports about ties between campaign officials and others close to Trump and Russia, not to mention other issues that have become tied to this investigation such as the firing of Jim Comey and the President’s apparent efforts to attempt to persuade law enforcement officials to drop the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia, it’s not surprising that White House aides would feel like they’re trapped in a never ending soap opera. President Trump has not even been in office for 180 days, and we’re already at the point where there are multiple ongoing investigations of the White House, including the appointment of a special counsel at the Department of Justice due to the fact that the Attorney General had to recuse himself because of his own failure to disclose contact with the Russian Ambassador to the United States while working as an informal adviser to the Trump campaign. Additionally, they’re working for a President whose Twitter and television habits, both of which have been well-documented over the past six months, have managed to detract from the White House’s messaging strategies more times than can be counted at this point. For those who may have taken jobs at the White House out of some honest belief that they could accomplish something, or those on Capitol Hill who backed Trump thinking the same thing, all of this must be frustrating. Of course, it’s not as if there weren’t people out there trying to warn Republicans about the dangers of getting behind a man like Trump to begin with.

In any case, while previous White Houses have undergone crisis moments before, what’s happening to the Trump White House is historically unusual precisely because it is happening so early in Trump’s Presidency. Watergate didn’t really become a problem for President Nixon until well into his second term, for example. The same was true about the Iran/Contra affair during the Reagan Administration and Whitewater during the Clinton years, which was little more than an annoyance until special prosecutor Ken Starr became aware of the President’s affair with Monica Lewinsky and the fact that he may have lied under oath with regard to that matter, and that was after Clinton had been in office for nearly five years. In Trump’s case, we’re dealing with a President who has only been in office for 173 days whose job approval numbers are at an historical low for newly elected Presidents, and who is already facing an investigation that will likely define the first term of his Presidency and remain an albatross around the Administration’s neck for the balance of the next three years. Before long, I’d suspect this is going to become a problem for many inside the White House and we’ll start seeing people depart for greener pastures. It will be interesting to hear what kind of stories they have to tell.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. MarkedMan says:

    “interesting to see what kind of stories they have to tell”

    I wonder if Trump had any success in locking down the White House Staff with the kind of non-disclosure agreements that he uses in his business for everyone from gardeners to house-maids to assistants?

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  2. CSK says:

    Trump’s having a really, really bad day.

    Two Democratic representatives have filed an article of impeachment (obstruction of justice) against him.

    It won’t go anywhere, but we can hope it makes him crazy. Or crazier.

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  3. Modulo Myself says:

    I’m wondering how far outside the WH this whole thing goes. If the McClatchy story is to be believed (and why not?) then the campaign was sending info to Russian whatever so they could send fake news to vulnerable areas. If they were doing that they were probably doing a dozen other things. It would be difficult to believe in this case that nobody outside the Trump campaign knew. It’s not like these guys seem to be good at keeping it together.

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  4. Kylopod says:

    In any case, while previous White Houses have undergone crisis moments before, what’s happening to the Trump White House is historically unusual precisely because it is happening so early in Trump’s Presidency. Watergate didn’t really become a problem for President Nixon until well into his second term, for example.

    But Watergate was something that actually happened the year Nixon was running for reelection, and it was part of a direct attempt by the Nixon team to influence the election’s outcome through nefarious means. The scandal started to unravel from practically the moment he began his second term. That in many ways parallels what’s happening now.

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  5. ptfe says:

    Possible Trump lines of defense:

    “Quid it have happened? I don’t quo what you’re talking about.”
    “It’s not illegal – it turned out to be quo/unquo information.”
    “How can it be quid pro quo? We don’t hire pros.”
    “Junior was only quidding.”

    (I’ll quid while I’m ahead.)

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  6. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Well, looky, looky here. Apparently the Democrats have sent a letter to Jeff Sessions asking why a money laundering case against a Russian company was abruptly dismissed in May and wondering if the company’s lawyer – Putin’s best gal Nathalia V. – was involved somehow:

    http://www.businessinsider.com/why-was-russian-money-laundering-case-dismissed-house-dems-2017-7

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  7. grumpy realist says:

    What I can’t understand is how people like Kellyanne can stand up and spout out the incredible BS she does, day after day, in the face of all the evidence that shows she’s doing nothing but spouting spin. At some point, I wish someone would slap her in the face and ask her: “is there anything that Trump could do that you wouldn’t find an excuse for? Where’s your dignity?”

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  8. CSK says:

    Ha! I was right! It was Jared’s legal team that “discovered” Donny’s emails–and no doubt provided them to the NYTimes.

    I’d loooooovee to be a fly on the wall in the West Wing now.

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  9. Bill says:

    Russia helped get Trump elected. Now we have a weak politically imbalanced Presidency that could throw this country into chaos. Looks like to me that’s what Russia wanted all along.

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  10. Janis Gore says:

    Now, wait a damn minute.

    Others in the White House have been more explicit about their frustration with Trump Jr., who served as an adviser and surrogate for Trump’s campaign but has no official role in his father’s administration. Instead, he and his brother Eric Trump have taken over the day-to-day operations of the Trump Organization.

    I thought that was already the case.

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  11. grumpy realist says:

    One question–somewhere I remember reading Veselnitskaya doesn’t speak English.

    I really really don’t think that Lil’ Trump or Jared speak Russian.

    So who was there doing the translation during that meeting?

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  12. Mu says:

    Will we have as many failed impeachment proceedings as we had failed Obamacare repeals? Someone should run a tally.

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  13. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @grumpy realist:
    Yes…she brought her own translator.
    But that made no impression on these guys.
    They forgot all about the meeting!!!!!!

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  14. MarkedMan says:

    @grumpy realist:

    is there anything that Trump could do that you wouldn’t find an excuse for? Where’s your dignity?

    Read more: http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/179673-2/#ixzz4meXe3ZK9

    “No”, and “I have none”. I’m not being facetious here. She and many, many more seem to be addicted to air time. Like a reality TV star she doesn’t seem to care whether people are only aware of her because she’s a fool or a toady. I believe she sees success simply as people being aware of her.

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  15. Janis Gore says:

    @Janis Gore: Okay, now. A misreading on my part. Funny tense structure there.

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  16. M. Bouffant says:

    @grumpy realist: I read that Veselnitskaya brought her own translator.

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  17. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    She had to have a translator for her interview with NBC.

    Doesn’t Manafort speak Russian? He’s been doing business with them a long, long time.

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  18. CSK says:

    @Bill:

    I would say that having an easily manipulated buffoon/oaf who’s also susceptible to blackmail for financial chicanery–bonus point!–would be precisely whom the Russians would want as U.S. president.

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  19. Stormy Dragon says:

    White House Under Siege As Russia Revelations Continue

    At this point, I think things may have gotten so bad that the White House Under Siege 2: Dark Territory.

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  20. grumpy realist says:

    @CSK: That’s why I’m wondering. If Manafort was playing with his phone instead (as one article reported), then HE wasn’t the translator…..so who WAS the translator….and can that person be hauled in front of the investigators?

    People always forget that translators are human beings as well.

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  21. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I suppose we could also ask if there were a secretary present to take notes on he meeting and later provide a transcript.

    Believe me, people like Kushner and Junior do not regard support staff as human beings.

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  22. grumpy realist says:

    @CSK: It would be awfully cute if the smoking affidavit were to come from someone whose presence Kushner/Junior were totally oblivious to.

    (I’m going to have to use that as a plot device in a legal thriller somewhere….hmmm.)

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  23. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Take it from a writer: Fiction has to sound real, or at least plausible, particularly if one is writing a mystery or a thriller.

    I don’t know if there’s a poetic license that can be stretched to cover this assemblage of malignant dullards.

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  24. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Take it from a professional writer: Fiction has to sound real, or at least plausible, particularly if one is writing a mystery or a thriller.

    I don’t know if there’s a poetic license that can be stretched to cover this assemblage of malignant dullards.

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  25. grumpy realist says:

    @CSK: Oh, I’m classifying this all under the cliche “truth is stranger than fiction.”

    Just the translator bit. I’ve got an idea for a legal thriller based on some bits of patent law and this would fit in there nicely.

    (Still have to finish working on my other thriller, which I’ve been working off and on for several years. I was so annoyed by The Da Vinci Code that I decided I wanted to write something equivalently ridiculous, albeit with better writing. So far I’ve managed to shove together the occult, the Russian mafia, a hurricane, hedge funds, Malta, the Turks and Caicos, a mysterious death, codes, a stolen will, and a huge amount of art history from the Renaissance.)

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  26. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Yes…she brought her own translator.

    Curious as to who the translator was, perhaps someone from the SVR RF

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  27. Kylopod says:

    @grumpy realist:

    What I can’t understand is how people like Kellyanne can stand up and spout out the incredible BS she does, day after day, in the face of all the evidence that shows she’s doing nothing but spouting spin. At some point, I wish someone would slap her in the face and ask her: “is there anything that Trump could do that you wouldn’t find an excuse for? Where’s your dignity?”

    You really need to hone your cynicism. You won’t survive without it today; your jaw will break from dropping open too many times.

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  28. CSK says:

    Roger Stone says the person who leaked the information about the Trump Tower meeting to the NYT has the initials “J.K.”

    Gee, I wonder who he meant.

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  29. Sleeping Dog says:

    @CSK:

    Kushner seems to be at the middle of much of the most damning incidents and the one who is desperate to shift the blame to someone else. Of course what works in business isn’t effective when you’re dealing with federal prosecutors investigating criminal behavior.

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  30. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Don’t forget the super-killer virus that escapes from an underground laboratory in Siberia. And your female lead had damn well better be plucky yet vulnerable–and great in the sack.

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  31. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Kushner seems not to have been very effective in business, either.

    Don’t you find it fascinating how many of those who claim to be thisclose to Donald Trump appear to be actively engaged in sabotaging his administration?

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  32. MarkedMan says:

    Matt Yglesias over at Vox has an interesting take on how all this lying makes the Trump cronies subject to Russian blackmail. After all, the Russians know they are lying and can most likely prove it. Here’s an excerpt:

    But Veselnitskaya — a Moscow-based attorney and lobbyist for Russian interests in the United States — knew it all along.

    She knew it when Donald Trump Sr. stood before the cameras and openly asked Russian hackers to try to find Clinton’s missing emails. She knew it when Trump stood on a debate stage and denied having anything to do with the Russians. She knew it when the Flynn story was roiling Washington. She knew it the morning after James Comey was fired. Since she knew it, it’s very likely that the Russian government knew it, and it’s something they could have used to increase the legal and political jeopardy facing both father and son at any moment.

    Why did these emails come out now?
    Indeed, though this seems somewhat far-fetched, it’s at least possible that the whole reason these emails are coming to light now is that the Russians wanted them out.

    Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, after all, just had a somewhat unorthodox summit meeting that was held to a very small group of people — so small as to exclude National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and other conventional members of the American national security establishment. We don’t really know what went down at that meeting, or what inspired Trump’s tweets about a joint US-Russian cybersecurity task force, or what spurred Trump to counter-tweet shortly thereafter disavowing the idea.

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  33. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @grumpy realist: Kellyanne is a pro flack. She gets the big bucks and Presidential appointments because she can spout complete BS with a straight face.

    Where’s her dignity? In a medical waste disposal facility somewhere in upstate NY for all we know–she had it surgically removed some time ago.

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  34. Kylopod says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker:

    Kellyanne is a pro flack. She gets the big bucks and Presidential appointments because she can spout complete BS with a straight face.

    The first time I ever heard of her was in 2009 when I was collecting quotes for a Daily Kos diary listing the many pundits and bloggers who had predicted Obama would lose the 2008 election. (Alas, my post looks a little foolish in retrospect, given the many pundits and bloggers who said the same thing about Donald Trump last year.) One of the quotes I dug up was from a Newsmax contributor named Ronald Kessler, who wrote:

    “John McCain will win the presidential election, Kellyanne Conway, one of the country’s most respected Republican pollsters, tells Newsmax.”

    That quote is dated to Sep. 22, 2008–more than a week after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, when McCain’s poll numbers went into a death spiral. And this was at a time when even a lot of Republicans were admitting that McCain was probably toast. Karl Rove, who was one of McCain’s advisors, admitted Obama was the likely winner. Even Rasmussen showed Obama winning, and indeed its final projection of his margin of victory (52-46) ended up being quite accurate.

    Therefore, the fact that Conway was still predicting a McCain victory at that point suggests one of two things: (1) She was a lying hack who said whatever she thought would help the candidate she was backing (2) She was wildly delusional.

    My wager is the first possibility.

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  35. AndrewBW says:

    “Before long, I’d suspect this is going to become a problem for many inside the White House and we’ll start seeing people depart for greener pastures. It will be interesting to hear what kind of stories they have to tell.”

    It will be even more interesting to see if there’s anyone willing to take their place.

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  36. CSK says:

    @AndrewBW:

    Trump will have to find people willing to commit career suicide in return for…nothing, really.

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  37. DrDaveT says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I’m going to have to use that as a plot device in a legal thriller somewhere….hmmm.

    G, K. Chesterton based one of the Father Brown stories on a similar premise: The Invisible Man.

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  38. al-Alameda says:

    I admit it: I want this to drag out, in the same manner that a cat plays with a wounded rat. That cat bats the rat around for a while, then, bored, finishes the rat off. I want Trump batted around for while, to the point where he’s regularly tweeting out (even by his low standards) incoherent middle school level messages.

    I definitely want this dumpster fire to be an impediment to implementation of the radical Republican Agenda, and I most certainly do not want Mike Pence in the White House before the 2018 mid-term elections.

    Burn on dumpster, burn on.

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  39. Sleeping Dog says:

    @CSK:

    There is an interpersonal dynamic that is going on within the Trump family. Kushner and Dopey Donnie JR, being of similar ages and having taken over the family NY real estate businesses are natural frenimies and Kushner being married to Dopey’s sister is the spice. There is a strong appearance that Kushner has been using his position as a senior Trump adviser to promote the family business. Whatever the special prosecutors office does about Russia-gate, they will be pursuing the corruption, starting with influence peddling, that permeates the Trump and Kushner enterprises.

    Earlier, Josh Marshall (IIRC), expressed that the Trumpkins didn’t understand the seriousness of being in the sights of a federal prosecutor and all the tricks that beat civil litigation are useless. My thought is the Kushner, has more insight that Dopey Donnie and is trying to throw him under the bus, but he still doesn’t understand that Mueller is coming for him.

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  40. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    I agree that Kushner is marginally shrewder than Donnie Jr.–though that’s a very low bar. And yes–they don’t understand the implications of what’s happening. They’re arrogant and stupid, which is a deadly combination.

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  41. Gustopher says:

    Senator Chuck Grassley wants to know why Natalia Veselnitskaya was in the country. Apparently she is a bad hombre, and it’s all Obama’s fault for letting bad hombres into the country. How was Fredo Jr., et al., supposed to avoid a Russian who was in the country?

    I mean, seriously, were there any Russian nationals in the country that the Trump campaign didn’t meet?

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  42. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @al-Alameda: That’s where my issue with a quick impeachment comes into play. Democrats and supporters of sanity in government need to have this thing drag on for at least another year–all the way through the mid-term elections would be better. The vast unwashed undecideds tend to tilt slightly center right, so for them to abandon the loons in the current Congress enough to decide to vote in a mid-term election and against the party in power to boot, they need to still be angry about what a dumpster fire the country actually is. If Trump gets thrown under the bus too soon, everyone will forget or, even worse, support the current power structure for “rescuing us from both Hillary and our long national nightmare.”

    Not a good endgame.

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  43. mwh191 says:

    @grumpy realist:
    It’s time for the collective media (which doesn’t include fox “news”) to place an embargo on the ever-lying kellyanne. There’s no productive purpose in giving her a venue to spout her venom. Confine her to fox “news” where she belongs.

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  44. SC_Birdflyte says:

    My ingrained cynicism tells me this won’t really become a disaster for the White House until it dawns on GOP congressional leaders that Trump’s unpopularity is dragging them down and threatens their majorities in both houses.

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  45. MarkedMan says:

    @SC_Birdflyte: Congress critters might care about whether their party is in the majority, but that concern is nothing in comparison to how much they care about their own seat. And if Trump sets the Fox News watchers against them they will lose their seat. So there is nothing that will make them speak ill against Trump, or take any action that could be seen as disrespectful by his fans.

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  46. scott says:

    Is it sexist that no one here mentions Ivanka as the possible source of info or as a member of the central cabal? Does everyone assume the little lady is just an innocent bystander?

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  47. Jen says:

    @scott: I don’t think it’s sexist as much as it is unlikely. She, more than the two brothers, appears to have business interests that she’s cultivated outside of the family venture (crappy knock-off shoes, etc.) so she probably has some stake in keeping the family name from going too far down the loo. It’s also pretty clear from some of the reporting that this particular leak came from Kushner’s legal team.

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  48. JKB says:

    @grumpy realist: One question–somewhere I remember reading Veselnitskaya doesn’t speak English.

    Well, if that is true, then it is all the more interesting that she was only in the country by special dispensation of Loretta Lynch having been denied a visa through regular channels.

    She allegedly was to help with a asset forfeiture case involving a Russian individual. Yet, there are photos of her sitting right behind the US ambassador to Russia during Congressional testimony and of her inside John McCain’s Senate offices.

    All allegations of collusion with Russia seem to lead back to Obama or the DNC.

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  49. CSK says:

    Trump’s lawyers now want a “wall” (they really should have found a better word) between Kushner and Trump. They do not want Kushner discussing anything Russia-related with his father-in-law.

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  50. grumpy realist says:

    @JKB: people CAN be let into the country to assist in court cases where they have specialized knowledge, you know. Even if they don’t speak English.

    Ever heard of an individual called an interpreter?

    Looks like the DOJ at present isn’t releasing its notes on the visa. And that’s the TRUMP DOJ, may I point out.

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  51. Neil Hudelson says:

    @JKB:

    As i started to see the “It’s Obama’s fault for letting in Veselnitskaya” pop up in the fever swamps of Breitbart, Drudge, etc., I wondered how long it would be until one of our resident Trumpsters started repeating this talking point as if it was his original idea.

    Glad you didn’t disappoint, JKB.

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  52. Jen says:

    @CSK: That really does seem to be closing the barn door well after the horses and all other livestock have already left the building, doesn’t it?

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  53. teve tory says:

    (Still have to finish working on my other thriller, which I’ve been working off and on for several years. I was so annoyed by The Da Vinci Code that I decided I wanted to write something equivalently ridiculous, albeit with better writing. So far I’ve managed to shove together the occult, the Russian mafia, a hurricane, hedge funds, Malta, the Turks and Caicos, a mysterious death, codes, a stolen will, and a huge amount of art history from the Renaissance.)

    Major League Baseball.

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  54. teve tory says:

    @CSK:

    Roger Stone says the person who leaked the information about the Trump Tower meeting to the NYT has the initials “J.K.”

    Gee, I wonder who he meant.

    Jimmy Kimmel.

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  55. ptfe says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Actual defenses I’ve seen:

    – The lawyer was let in by Obama!
    – The lawyer was just offering to expose Hillary’s corruption!
    – Hillary met with Ukrainians to talk about Russia’s government influencing their election => equivalent collusion!
    – Everyone does oppo research!
    – Jared and PM didn’t know what was going on! It’s just DJTjr!
    – DJTjr is just a kid!

    None of these addresses why a campaign operative would think it appropriate to have a private meeting with a representative of a foreign government who has offered confidential information gathered by that government. And yet, here we are.

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  56. al-Ameda says:

    @JKB:

    All allegations of collusion with Russia seem to lead back to Obama or the DNC.

    Or Vince Foster

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  57. CSK says:

    @Jen:

    It does seem like too little too late, doesn’t it?

    There’s concurrent rumor/speculation that Kasowitz is thinking of throwing in the towel.

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  58. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @CSK:

    I saw that. What seemed yesterday like it just had to be suggestive of a broader, well coordinated scheme to undermine Trump in order to eventually create the pretext for shoving him out the nearest door now seems to be something else entirely.

    It now seems like it’s nothing more than a collection of late era cut-rate Borgia wannabes hustling for position by stabbing rivals in the back as Florence rots around them.

    I liked the conspiracy theory better; it’s far less depressing.

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  59. Neil Hudelson says:

    @ptfe:

    DJTjr is just a kid

    This has been my favorite so far. He’s a 40 year old man running an international real estate company valued in the billions, and they act like he’s a wee lil’ tyke playing big boy for the first time.

    Our poor widdle Juniors just don’t deserve all this harsh attention for pretending to be a real man! I’m calling it the ‘participation trophy’ defense.

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  60. al-Ameda says:

    @CSK:

    Roger Stone says the person who leaked the information about the Trump Tower meeting to the NYT has the initials “J.K.”

    @teve tory:

    Jimmy Kimmel.

    Jason Kidd
    Jack Kerouac
    Jackie Kennedy
    and, for a curveball … JK Rowling

    We’re never going to get to the bottom of this

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  61. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @SC_Birdflyte: [Shhh! Keep it down! They’re going to hear you.]

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  62. ptfe says:

    @al-Ameda: Given Roger Stone’s apparent intelligence, we can’t even rule out, e.g., George Carlin.

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  63. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Neil Hudelson: I’m not clear on something, how does her appearance at Sen. McCain’s office–one of JKB’s points of evidence–point back to the Obama administration?

    I’d ask J himself, except that I’d just get some arcane quote about Socialism and Weimar Germany from the von Mies website offered as though that explains everything.

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  64. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @MarkedMan: I’m afraid you’re right.

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  65. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker:

    I’d just get some arcane quote about Socialism and Weimar Germany from the von Mies website offered as though that explains everything

    You’re missing the forest for the trees. Being able to goad him into doing that is the main attraction of him being here in the first place.

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  66. Jen says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: Ignore it. It’s Gateway Pundit ramblings, regurgitated.

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  67. CSK says:

    You all might want to visit the Associated Press website and read their article on Trump’s imaginary/invisible friend Jim.

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  68. CSK says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    Here’s the thing: Trump’s henchmen and henchwomen may not be deliberately sabotaging their boss, but they’re doing a hell of a job of it nonetheless.

    And Trump has only himself to blame for this. He judges the strength of an underling’s loyalty to him by the strength of the willingness of that underling to backstab another underling.

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  69. James Pearce says:

    @JKB:

    All allegations of collusion with Russia seem to lead back to Obama or the DNC.

    You’re probably right. A former game show host certainly wouldn’t have the skills needed to collude with Russia….

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  70. MarkedMan says:

    @CSK: “Invisible Friend Jim”? Ok, you lost me there.

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  71. wr says:

    @JKB: Good play. Nothing works better in court than “I’m rubber, you’re glue.”

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  72. CSK says:
  73. SenyorDave says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Well 40 is apparently just a kid for Republicans. From Wikipedia, this golden oldie about Henry Hyde:

    In 1998, the Internet magazine Salon.com published “This Hypocrite Broke Up My Family” which stated that from 1965 to 1969, Hyde conducted an extramarital sexual affair with Cherie Snodgrass. At the time, Snodgrass was married to another man with whom she had three children. The Snodgrasses divorced in 1967. Hyde said the affair ended when Snodgrass’ husband confronted Mrs. Hyde. The Hydes reconciled and remained married until Mrs. Hyde’s death in 1992. Hyde was married and 41 years old when the affair occurred. He admitted to the affair in 1998 and attributed the relationship to “youthful indiscretions”.[12] The revelation of his affair was exposed while Hyde was spearheading the impeachment hearings of President Bill Clinton over charges of perjury in the Monica Lewinsky affair.

    Hyde was 41 when his “youthful indiscretions” occurred! I’ve personally decided that any mistakes I make in judgment will be covered under “youthful indiscretions” until I turn 85. After that I’ll take responsibility.

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  74. KM says:

    @SenyorDave:
    Hey, 85 is the new 30! Don’t you know it’s how young you feel, not the years your body’s clocked?

    I love watching commercials that pander to aging Boomers stating that they can still do all these wild things because they’re not *really* old. All those Vegas ads of what Happens Here, Stays Here rarely have college-aged hopefuls ready to party like is 2099. At what point does one get old anymore?

    50 bucks Trump still thinks his shenanigans qualify as “youthful indiscretions” so Jr must be basically a toddler.. Aww look at his first steps into corruption and no one with a camera!

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  75. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @JKB:
    I see you finally got the talking points. You clearly enjoy having people tell you exactly what to think. I guess it does save you a lot of effort, that the rest of us expend.

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  76. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    The latest Senate Health Care Tax Cut Bill is out…little changed. Hopefully DOA.

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  77. JohnMcC says:

    From the Original Post: “For those (WH Staffers) who might have taken jobs at the White House out of some honest belief that they could accomplish something, (sic) or those on Capital Hill who backed Trump thinking the same thing….”

    Doug! Who knew you were so naïve? You should take that act to TV.

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  78. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:
    I’m curious. Are you actually so fwcking stupid you think that makes sense? That it’s Hillary’s fault that three senior Trump people met with a Russian mob lawyer for the express purpose of finding (nonexistent) dirt on Hillary and then lied about it? Is your brain actually that damaged? Or are you just regurgitating imbecilities out of some bizarre sense of party loyalty?

    Stupid as hell or just a liar? Which are you? Because if you’re actually stupid enough to believe that, we have to start pitying you.

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  79. JohnMcC says:

    @grumpy realist: I have also reflected on the obvious presence of a translator. As I recall from the cable news talkers she brought her own translator to the meeting. I’ve wondered if the identity of that person would be significant. Maybe someone would recognize her/him from previous translation chores as an ‘official’ or ‘usual’ Kremlin choice?

    Probably one of those little items of history that we’ll only know when the 900-page history books get written about this.

    Geez, this makes the Zimmerman Telegram really small potatoes. It’s gotta be worth 900 pages.

    Of course, that assumes the good guys win. We might — just might — never read anything about this again. It might become an official “WHAT?! WHO TOLD YOU THAT?” in some future Trump Dynasty America.

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  80. Kylopod says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Jason Kidd
    Jack Kerouac
    Jackie Kennedy
    and, for a curveball … JK Rowling

    What about JKB?

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  81. the Q says:

    If we change Donald Jr to Podesta and replace Russian with Al Qaida and replace Hillary with trump will wingnuts like JKB believe, like Donald Sr., “that anyone would take that meeting”.

    Again, Trump aint the scary one – its the 35% that support him that worry me.

    Seriously, with that crowd, you get as close to anything in American history, the possibility of ovens in death camps.

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  82. teve tory says:

    @michael reynolds: I just wonder which moscow apartment he’s posting from.

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  83. Guarneri says:

    How goes it with the soiled pants crowd today?

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  84. grumpy realist says:

    @Guarneri: Hey, it’s not our side who is going to use made-up numbers to score the latest Helcare bill.

    You’re probably too young to remember this, but one of the problems the USSR had was the made-up statistics which contaminated all of their planning and made it impossible for them to make any projections. Contributed to the final collapse of the USSR because garbage in, garbage out–especially important in a planned economy. And it was all garbage….

    If you want to lie to yourself about what the strength of a containment vessel is, go ahead and do so. Just don’t be surprised when your new nuclear reactor blows up in your face and renders many square miles uninhabitable. .

    Lying to yourself about what reality is always ends up with karma biting you in the bum. Mother Nature will Not Be Fooled.

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  85. grumpy realist says:

    Anyone seen Kasowitz’s latest little gem?

    As a method of convincing people that you don’t go for the booze late at night and bang out angry email messages, I’d say you’re batting 0.0000000001

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  86. Jen says:

    I think this is called “circling the wagons.” It’s all part of “a broad conspiracy,” and therefore clearly the Trumps aren’t to blame, etc.

    Good grief.

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  87. CSK says:

    @grumpy realist: @grumpy realist:

    I saw that. The lawyers willing to work for Trump all seem to run to type.

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  88. Barry says:

    @Sleeping Dog: “Earlier, Josh Marshall (IIRC), expressed that the Trumpkins didn’t understand the seriousness of being in the sights of a federal prosecutor and all the tricks that beat civil litigation are useless. ”

    Civil litigation against punks. I imagine that if they p*ssed off Goldman Sachs, that they’d find out what really mean lawyers are like.

    The Trump family’s experience has been bottom-feeding.

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  89. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Kylopod: Dun Duuunnn Duuuuunnnnnnnn! And he would have gotten away with it–if it wasnt for you meddling OTBers!

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  90. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @CSK: Yeah, I heard about Jim today on a local radio show. Apparently Trump threw poor Jim under the bus, renouncing all of the things he’d quoted Jim on during the campaign. I feel so sad for Jim :-(

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  91. de stijl says:

    It is shocking how naive and unprofessional and inefficient his team is.

    Predictable, but seeing it in real time is eye-opening. This is what ineptitutude in the Oval Office feels like rather than how you think it will feel. The reality is chaotic and unfocussed. You sorta predict that evil will be efficient.

    You assume that they have a goal, plans and backup plans to execute the plan and those actions are goal-directed.

    Not so much.

    Trump himself I can understand.

    But his staff is laughably / lamentably inept.

    His advisors make things worse at every turn. His comm staff seems predicated on accentuating and underlining the worst impulses of the principle. Every time they interact with the WH press corps they undercut themselves and make Trump look like a dangerous naif.

    His political staff are clearly in-fighting.

    Popularity is the coin. Trump is negative. He has no / limited leverage. His threats only work in the primaries.

    Unless Trump gets above 45% before August 2018, this will be known as the era when the Republican Party imploded.

    The dog caught the car.

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  92. J-Dub says:

    NBC is reporting this morning that there was a fifth person in the meeting with Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort. A Russian-born American citizen who served in the Russian Army as a counter-intelligence officer.

    Everything about this meeting has been a lie but we are supposed to believe that nothing came of it.

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  93. CSK says:

    @J-Dub:

    And here’s the update on that: Donald Jr.’s lawyer has just told NBC that there was a third person with Velnitskaya.

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  94. MarkedMan says:

    David Brooks has a fairly on-the-nose column in the NYTimes this morning discussing the Trump families multigenerational lack of any moral values whatsoever.

    The one very small benefit to this fiasco is no thinking person is ever obligated again to listen to an Evangelical prattle on and on about morality. Their morality is now clearly shown to be “I, me, mine and means justify that end.” The latest Evangelical talking point is that Trump may be “flawed” but so are we all and God is working his will through a damaged vessel.

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  95. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @J-Dub:

    Everything about this meeting has been a lie but we are supposed to believe that nothing came of it.

    Donnie Jr. on Hannity before this latest revelation came out:

    “I just want the truth to get out there,” Trump Jr. said. “And that’s part of why I released all the stuff today, I wanted to get it all out there.”

    Donald Trump responding to Donnie Jr. on Hannity::
    My son Donald did a good job last night. He was open, transparent and innocent. This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!

    https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/885081181980590084

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  96. CSK says:

    The fifth person has been identified as Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian immigrant and possible spy. The sixth person still hasn’t been named.

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  97. de stijl says:

    @MarkedMan:

    There is an alignment matrix from D&D that assigns a chatacter to one of nine categories measuring behavioral “lawful” to “chaotic” and also moral “good” vs. “evil”.

    So nine slots:

    Lawful good
    Lawful neutral
    Lawful evil
    Neutral good
    (True) neutral
    Neutral evil
    Chaotic good
    Chaotic neutral
    Chaotic evil

    I’m writing from my phone so I can’t easily link the Wikipedia article. TV Tropes also has an awesome page. If some kind soul could post those links they would be total mensch.

    And there are traits associated with each alignment.

    The exercise is to assign Trump and team to the best match alignment. For example: Trump is obviously chaotic on that axis, but is his moral dimension neutral or evil?

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  98. CSK says:

    This morning there’s an article in The Week entitled “Trump Wants His Border Wall to Have Holes in it So Americans Don’t Get Crushed by Falling Bags of Drugs.”

    No, this is not a parody. You have to read it to believe it. Trump claims that he’ll need windows in the wall so that when the dealers on the Mexican side toss their 60-pound bags o’ drugs over a 30 foot wall, innocent Americans walking along the U.S. side on the wall won’t get hit by them. Presumably h Mexican dealers will look through the windows to check that no one’s in the vicinity before they throw the drug bags.

    Ladies and gentlemen, this is the president of the United States speaking.

    http://www.theweek.com

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  99. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JKB:

    All allegations of collusion with Russia seem to lead back to Obama or the DNC.

    Forget Kevin Bacon,the right is now playing 6 degrees of Obama.

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  100. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK:

    Trump claims that he’ll need windows in the wall

    That is not what he is talking about, this is. It is plenty stupid on it’s own, but we don’t need to misinterpret what the idiot is “proposing”.

    There are already about 650 miles (1,046 km) of fencing along the border, all of which is see-through.

    Trump also said the wall “needs transparency”.

    “You have to be able to see through it,” Trump said, adding that border agents need to know what or who is on the other side of the fence to avoid being hit by sacks of drugs and other contraband.

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  101. SenyorDave says:

    @de stijl: When in doubt assign evil to anything relate Trump. He is malevolent. He has pretty much stated in interviews his biggest driver in life is revenge. This revenge is directed against anyone he perceives has wronged him. In his twisted view, anyone who isn’t with him 100% of the time is someone who needs to exact revenge against. A health plan that hurts people is desirable to him, it is taking revenge on those who opposed him.

    He is an evil person with no redeeming qualities. IF not resignation or impeachment, I’m hoping that he has some type of health problem that removes him from office. Pence is awful but Trump as person is as bad as gets.

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  102. de stijl says:

    There is a debate (yes, it really is a thing) as to whether Trump is Neutral Evil, Chaotic Neutral, or Chaotic Evil.

    You need to read the full definitions with examples to make a proper classification. There is a taxonomy.

    Again this really is a thing being debated. The distinctions are subtle.

    I lean Chaotic Neutral at this point. But I could persuaded.

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  103. de stijl says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: @CSK:

    Basically, what’s happening here is that they are laying the groundwork for building a fence rather than a wall. And then bailing on actually building a fence.

    And that is if the can actually finance the thing at all. This will be the process:

    – we need visibility
    – we don’t have visibility with a wall so let’s build a fence
    – building a fence in certain areas is cost-prohibitive i.e. in the Big Bend
    – building a fence in areas well-patrolled yet not heavily broached is inefficient
    – this will cost trillions
    – let’s build 50 miles and call it good

    Then wait for two months and then it’s:

    “We can’t talk about comprehensive immigration reform until we secure our borders.”

    Rinse and repeat.

    Rs don’t want to actually solve problems – they want to politicize them for electoral gain. For perpetuity.

    There are those that say that Rs aren’t actually conservative. In this arena they are; they conserve wedge issues they can exploit in the future until the curve of diminishing returns nudges them to move on to a new wedge issue.

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  104. Moosebreath says:

    Back to the topic at hand.

    AP is reporting that at the meeting between Manafort, Kushner, Uday Trump and multiple Russians (not just the attorney Uday fessed up to), one of the other Russians indicated that a folder of documents was handed to the Trump side:

    “While Trump Jr. has confirmed that Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya was in the meeting, he did not disclose Akhmetshin’s presence. The president’s son has tried to discount the meeting, saying that he did not receive the information he was promised.

    In a statement Sunday, Trump Jr. said the attorney said that she had information that people tied to Russia were funding the DNC and supporting Clinton, a description that Akhmetshin backed up in his interview with the AP.

    In his first public interview about the meeting, Akhmetshin said he accompanied Veselnitskaya to Trump Tower where they met an interpreter who participated in the meeting. He said he had learned about the meeting only that day when Veselnitskaya asked him to attend. He said he showed up in jeans and a T-shirt.

    During the meeting, Akhmetshin said Veselnitskaya brought with her a plastic folder with printed-out documents that detailed what she believed was the flow of illicit funds to the Democratic National Committee. Veselnitskaya presented the contents of the documents to the Trump associates and suggested that making the information public could help the Trump campaign, he said.”

    And who is the additional Russian at the meeting:

    “Rinat Akhmetshin confirmed his participation to The Associated Press on Friday. Akhmetshin has been reported to have ties to Russian intelligence agencies, a characterization he dismisses as a “smear campaign.” He told the AP he served in the Soviet military in a unit that was part of counterintelligence but was never formally trained as a spy.”

    Ka-boom!

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  105. teve tory says:

    Trump campaign adviser admits they’d have erased Russian emails if they’d broken the law
    By Kaili Joy Gray |
    JULY 14, 2017
    If they’d done anything wrong, they would have tried to cover it up better.

    linky

    After the last 6 months, anybody who calls hillary corrupt can suck my balls.

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  106. de stijl says:

    @teve tory:

    Wow!

    That is the worst spin I’ve seen since Baghdad Sarah yesterday or Donald Jr. also yesterday.

    Shameless and inept is a bad combination.

    To be fair, I only heard Baghdad Sarah since the Trump commo team has decided that cameras at the daily briefing are unfair.

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  107. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl: And the fence they finally build will be a chain link fence, YUUUUGE, and very classy, trust me, with gold gilt and roses.

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  108. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @teve tory: Well of course, because they are so competent. They would never hire someone to be Nat Sec Advisor who was under investigation. NEVER!

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  109. de stijl says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Yuuge, yes. Classy, obvs.

    And still, the next thing outta their mouths will be:

    “We can’t look at comprehensive immigration reform until we secure our borders.”

    Guaranteed.

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  110. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    Remember the old Captain & Tenille song “Muskrat Suzie and Muskrat Sam?” actually called Muskrat Love?

    I’m thinking new lyrics only Baghdad Sarah and Baghdad Sean.

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  111. teve tory says:

    holy shit i cant believe I’m agreeing completely with jennifer rubin:

    The GOP’s moral rot is the problem, not Donald Trump Jr.

    “Let’s dispense with the “Democrats are just as bad” defense. First, I don’t much care; we collectively face a party in charge of virtually the entire federal government and the vast majority of statehouses and governorships. It’s that party’s inner moral rot that must concern us for now. Second, it’s simply not true, and saying so reveals the origin of the problem — a “woe is me” sense of victimhood that grossly exaggerates the opposition’s ills and in turn justifies its own egregious political judgments and rhetoric. If the GOP had not become unhinged about the Clintons, would it have rationalized Trump as the lesser of two evils? Only in the crazed bubble of right-wing hysteria does an ethically challenged, moderate Democrat become a threat to Western civilization and Trump the salvation of America.”

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  112. de stijl says:

    @teve tory:

    I want the “Siberian Candidate” meme pushed myself. Siberian kinda rhymes with Manchurian. Frank Luntz would have run with it.

    Trot it out. Try it on for size.

    Yeah, Jennifer Rubin. Bad paladin.

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  113. de stijl says:

    If you’re feeling cheeky the “Cyberian Candidate”

    I should trademark that.

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  114. de stijl says:

    The “Cyberian Candidate”

    I wonder if Tenzing Norgay felt this way.

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  115. de stijl says:

    Suck it, Alan Turing!

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  116. Kylopod says:

    @teve tory: Rubin’s level of harshness toward the entire Republican Party surprised me. Many of the trends she rails against have been part of the party since long before Trump’s rise, yet I don’t recall her criticizing the party this adamantly before.

    Now, to be fair, she’s long been a supporter of same-sex marriage and immigration reform and was never shy about attacking conservatives who opposed those things. Those are exceptions, however. I did a Google search of her columns and I couldn’t find one instance up to now in which she attacks climate change denialism much less criticizes the party for embracing it. I didn’t find one instance before this column where she criticizes Islamophobia. I found no criticisms of Fox News in any her columns over the years until recently when the network started to become a mouthpiece for Trump. I found no columns in which she criticized the party for its anti-Obamacare rhetoric; indeed, she engaged in much of that rhetoric herself, repeatedly claiming the law was failing when it wasn’t and even defending Sarah Palin’s death panels lie. And speaking of Sarah Palin, can anyone forget Rubin’s piece “Why Jews hate Palin” in which this Jewish columnist, writing for a Jewish publication, engaged in a stream of anti-Semitic stereotypes to explain American Jews’ revulsion toward Palin?

    Ever since the rise of Trump I’ve wondered if there’d be any conservatives who experienced a moment of truth and began to rethink their entire worldview. That’s basically what happened to Andrew Sullivan during the Bush years. But I find it hard to trust commentators like Rubin who have spent so many years behaving as a flagrant shill for the party they only now express reservations about.

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