• Team Flynn No Longer Cooperating with Team Trump
• Donald Trump Jr. Reacts to Russiagate with Defiance
• Trump's Approach to Sexual Harassment Is Entirely Political
• Israeli Intelligence Was Warned that the Russians Have Leverage over Trump
• Obamacare Enrollments on the Upswing
• Ball Wins Feud with Trump
McClatchy is reporting that Donald Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, traveled to Moscow at least 18 times during a decade of work for Russian oligarchs and pro-Kremlin parties. He has also been to Ukraine an astonishing 138 times between late 2004 and 2015, including 19 trips within a year and a half after the demise of Russian puppet Viktor Yanukovych in Feb. 2014. These trips were made when he was working for a different pro-Russian party. All these contacts suggest that Manfort has had long and deep contacts to people in Russia who are close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Former Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried summed up Manafort's ties to Russia by saying: "He's at best got a conflict of interest and at worst is really doing Putin's bidding."
A question special counsel Robert Mueller would undoubtedly like to know is whether Manafort helped Russia undermine Hillary Clinton's campaign in any way. Of particular interest was a deal he offered Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska several weeks after he became Trump's campaign manager. He would give Deripaska, who is in Putin's inner circle, "private briefings" in return for being "made whole." The suggestion here is that Manafort owed Deripaska a lot of money as a result of a failed business deal, and by giving Deripaska (and thus, Putin) secret information from the campaign, Deripaska would forgive his debt. Needless to say, when Deripaska has been asked about this, he denies everything. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, put it this way: "It certainly looks like Mr. Manafort viewed his position on the campaign as a way of further profiting personally from the work that he was doing on behalf of Russian interests." (V)
Since the Robert Mueller investigation got underway, lawyers for former NSA Michael Flynn and lawyers for current president Donald Trump had been working together and sharing information. Not any more, though. According to reporting from the New York Times, which spoke to four different people familiar with the situation, Flynn's lawyers have advised Team Trump that there will be no more cooperation.
This change in direction almost certainly means that Flynn is speaking directly to prosecutors, and is discussing a plea deal. If that is indeed the case, then it would be a conflict of interest for his lawyers to maintain the information-sharing arrangement. Exactly how far along such discussions are is anyone's guess; they could just be getting underway right now, or they could be nearing completion. There's no guarantee that an actual plea bargain comes out of the conversations, though Flynn is reportedly very concerned that his son might end up taking the fall for him, and so appears to be highly motivated to get something done.
The possible prosecution of Flynn's son to pressure Flynn has prosecutor Andrew Weismann's fingerprints all over it. During his prosecution of the Enron case, Weismann indicted the wife of Enron CFO Andrew Fastow on tax fraud charges and got Fastow to testify against the CEO, Jeffrey Skilling, leading to Skilling's conviction. Odds remain good that Flynn Sr. will flip on Trump before the year is out, leaving two of the most dialed-in members of the Trump campaign (Flynn and Manafort) working for Robert Mueller. (Z)
Even as Donald Trump Jr. is coming under more scrutiny for his ties to Russia, he is getting increasingly defiant about the attention he is getting. After he confirmed that he had been in contact with WikiLeaks during last year's campaign, he wrote on Instagram: "More nothing burgers from the media and others desperately trying to create a false narrative. Keep coming at me guys!!!" He has also attacked Hillary Clinton, George Takei, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Joe Biden of late.
In public, he has adopted a caustic tone and has mocked critics. For example, last month he gave a speech in Texas (for which he was paid $100,000), in which he attacked "liberal imperialists," media "vitriol," and universities that "train your children to hate our country." This is an unusual strategy for an amateur caught up in a high-stakes game of poker, with professionals like Robert Mueller carefully recording every word he says. (V)
Donald Trump has a very simple formula for dealing with sexual harassment: If the perpetrator is a Democrat, it is a horrible crime but if it is Republican, it's a lie or no big deal. Axios has compiled list of how he has reacted to some recent charges, summarized as follows:DEMOCRATS
- Harvey Weinstein: "I've known Harvey Weinstein for a long time. I'm not at all surprised to see it."
- Al Franken: "The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words."
- Bill Clinton: "There's never been anyone more abusive to women in politics than Bill Clinton."
- Roy Moore: "He denies it. Look, he denies it. ... He totally denies it. He says it didn't happen."
- Bill O'Reilly: "I don't think Bill did anything wrong."
- Roger Ailes: After Ailes was ousted from Fox News, Trump brought him in as an unofficial campaign adviser
The pattern is pretty clear here. When Democrats are accused, they are guilty, but when Republicans are accused, they are all innocent. Including, of course, the Republican who currently occupies the White House. Facts and morality play no role in Trump's world. Only politics matter. (V)
Israeli spies were warned by CIA officials back in January that Russia had "leverage" over Donald Trump and they should be careful. The implication was that sensitive information the Israelis gave to the CIA might be given to Trump, who would then give it away to the Russians. Something like that did happen earlier this year, when Trump leaked highly classified information to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The nature of the leverage has not been specified, although the report by former British spy Christopher Steele suggests the Russians may have unflattering videos of Trump. (V)
Barack Obama generally spent Thanksgiving Eve serving food to the homeless. Donald Trump spent his first Thanksgiving Eve in office holed up in Mar-a-Lago. Aides were concerned, because that kind of down time primes the pump for a Thanksgiving Day Twitter jag. They were right to worry, because that is exactly what happened. There was, for example, a vaguely threatening sub-tweet directed at a reporter who suggested that Trump has a pattern of racist verbiage. There was also this:
ObamaCare premiums are going up, up, up, just as I have been predicting for two years. ObamaCare is OWNED by the Democrats, and it is a disaster. But do not worry. Even though the Dems want to Obstruct, we will Repeal & Replace right after Tax Cuts!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 23, 2017
There is much to be said about this, as the President makes full use of the new 280-character limit. To start, he may well believe that the Democrats "own" anything that goes wrong with Obamacare, and his base may believe it, but what really matters is if the swing voters believe it. Polls suggest that they do not. Meanwhile, he has either forgotten—or does not understand—that the current tax bill would effectively kill Obamacare all by itself. Similarly, he has either forgotten—or does not understand—that if the current attempt to kill Obamacare doesn't work, the tool that would be needed to do so next year—specifically, budget reconciliation—would not be available.
Most significant of all is that, despite Trump's efforts to kill Obamacare—and his constant propaganda campaign in support of that goal—the program appears to be thriving. The administration cut the number of days for people to enroll for 2018, and also cut the budget for publicizing the enrollment period; both maneuvers were executed with an eye toward reducing enrollments. However, there has actually been a record number of sign-ups since the enrollment period opened—in excess of 2.2 million. Whether that translates into more enrollments overall remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that a great many people are utilizing the program, and will be displeased to see it go away unless a better option is put in its place. Among the many realities that Trump chooses to ignore, that is one that he ignores at his own peril. (Z)
Donald Trump and LaVar Ball, father of shoplifting UCLA basketball player LiAngelo Ball, did not resume their ongoing feud on Thursday. So, maybe it's over. Whether it continues or not, however, one thing is clear: Ball is the winner. Not because he made better points, or swayed more hearts and minds. No, because he is interested, first and foremost, in promoting himself and his brand, and he did so with great success. Specifically, Apex Marketing Group estimates that Ball netted himself $13.2 million in free publicity. LaVar will undoubtedly be delighted to learn that, while The Donald loves to complain about ungrateful black folks, so there's every chance they both take a few more shots at each other in the next week. Or month. Or three years. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov23 Half of All Voters Think Franken Should Resign
Nov23 Calls for Conyers to Step Down or Resign Are Starting
Nov23 Trumps Cut Ties with SoHo Building
Nov23 Trump-Ball Feud Continues
Nov23 One Megadonor Funded a Huge Campaign to Support Making the Courts Conservative
Nov23 DNC Having Trouble Raising Money
Nov23 Schneiderman Is Probing Fake Net Neutrality Comments
Nov23 The Shortest Thanksgiving...Ever?
Nov22 Trump Supports Moore
Nov22 New Poll Shows Moore Slightly Ahead of Jones
Nov22 House Moves to Investigate Conyers
Nov22 Murkowski Says She's Open to Killing Obamacare Mandate
Nov22 Say Farewell to Net Neutrality...Maybe
Nov22 Trump's Likely Pick to Oversee the Census is Dubious
Nov22 Democrats Have a Fighting Chance in PA-18 Special Election
Nov22 The Russians Love Rohrabacher
Nov21 Leigh Corfman Gives Her First Television Interview
Nov21 Kellyanne Conway Wants Moore's Vote on Taxes
Nov21 GOP Tax Plan Gets Another Bad Review
Nov21 Another Woman Accuses Franken
Nov21 Two Journalists Accused of Harassment
Nov21 Trump Administration Working Hard to Fulfill Anti-Immigrant Agenda
Nov21 McMaster Said Trump's Intelligence is Comparable to that of a Kindergartner
Nov21 Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti May Run for President
Nov21 Virginia House of Delegates Still Up in the Air
Nov20 Alabama's Biggest Newspapers Endorse Jones
Nov20 Moore Is Already Affecting the 2018 Races
Nov20 Franken Won't Resign
Nov20 Seven Senators Are on the Fence on the Tax Bill
Nov20 White House: Tax Bill Trumps Repealing Obamacare
Nov20 Republicans Desperately Want the Tax Bill to Pass; Democrats, Too
Nov20 Trump Fires Back at Ball
Nov20 How to Keep Trump Happy? Lie to Him
Nov20 NRCC Lottery Offers a Weekend at Trump's Hotel in D.C. as the Prize
Nov19 Trump Jr. Linked to Yet Another Friend of Putin
Nov19 What is Donald Trump's Foreign Policy?
Nov19 USA No Longer Number One
Nov19 Trump's Ability to Launch Nukes May Be Limited
Nov19 Donald Trump to Pay Donald Trump's Legal Bills
Nov19 Alabama Pastors Slam Moore
Nov19 It's Ball Vs. Trump
Nov18 Murkowski Wants to Stabilize Health-Care Market Before Voting on Tax Bill
Nov18 Russiagate Plot Thickens Even More
Nov18 Trump Building in Panama Under Scrutiny
Nov18 Jones' Strategy in the Alabama Senate Race
Nov18 Moore's Polling Is Trending Downward
Nov18 Would a 51-49 Senate Be Different from a 52-48 Senate?
Nov18 Cook Political Report Predicts a Democratic Wave in 2018
Nov18 Female Staffers Rush to Franken's Rescue