American history is peppered with moments that test the moral core of our collective humanity. Moments where there is a clear distinction between right and wrong. Moments that present stark choices between decency and depravity. Human rights and oppression. Truth and deceit.
Freedom defeated bondage in the Civil War. Democracy defeated genocidal fascism in World War II. And Civil Rights defeated “Jim Crow” in the 60s. (Although remnants of each of these still exist today.)
All of us have read about these moments. Some of us have even lived through them. I’m 25, so when reading American history I’ve always wondered, what would I do in one of these paradigm-shifting historical moments?
You, reading this right now, are living through one of those important moments in history.
The Trump administration has long eroded democratic norms, undermined the rule of law, and degraded human rights. But with this policy of prosecuting immigrant parents and ripping their children from their hands at the border is crossing a very dangerous line.
Many of these migrants are asylum seekers, fleeing violence and cruelty from Central America only to be welcomed by more cruelty from the country that has “
I’ve written about this administration every day for almost 500 days straight. I’ve seen it all, but this is a startling escalation. This White House, the DOJ, and DHS have weaponized an already out of control ICE in a manner that echoes human rights violators of the past and present. Couple this with President Trump’s dehumanizing rhetoric of Latino immigrants and you have a presidency behaving more like a 1930s authoritarian regime than a 21st-century democratic administration.
This is one of many policies from the Trump administration and Republican Party that trample on human rights in favor of the wealthy, white, male, and privileged. And that’s just the half of it. This administration poses a unique threat to the rule of law with their deceptive campaign to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s legitimate investigation. Not to mention the stunning conflicts of interest that drive President Trump’s domestic and foreign policy.
Yes, America has done unconscionable things in the past from slavery to Japanese internment camps to unjustified wars, but we must learn from that historical indecency, not embrace it.
The beauty of America is that despite who we were in the past or who we are today, we as a people have the power to choose who we will be tomorrow.
To you, the American reading this article, I don’t care if you are a Democrat or Republican, ask yourself, what will you do during this significant historical moment?
Will you choose to support inhumane policies that harm your fellow human being and deface the moral core of America?
Will you choose to sit on the sidelines and feign neutrality, pretending cruelty isn’t happening right before your eyes?
Will you choose to rise to the historical occasion and stand firmly on the right side of history?
Donald Trump and the Republican Party have made their choice.
Day 487: Monday, May 21
Collusion And Obstruction
Over the weekend, President Trump ordered the Justice Department to investigate the investigators, under the guise of seeking whether or not his campaign was wrongfully spied on (it wasn’t). This was clearly yet another attempt to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and an abuse of power. But before we discuss that further, let’s dive into the story that appeared to trigger President Trump’s unhinged behavior.
On Saturday, a bombshell story from The New York Times was published on yet another Trump Tower meeting where the Trump campaign was open to help from foreign nationals. It revealed that in August 2016 (three months before the election) Donald Trump Jr. and now-White House Adviser Stephen Miller held a meeting at Trump Tower that indicates the campaign was willing to accept help from more foreign nations than just Russia…
Three months before the 2016 election, a small group gathered at Trump Tower to meet with Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son. One was an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation. Another was an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes. The third was a Republican donor with a controversial past in the Middle East as a private security contractor.
The meeting was convened primarily to offer help to the Trump team, and it forged relationships between the men and Trump insiders that would develop over the coming months — past the election and well into President Trump’s first year in office, according to several people with knowledge of their encounters.
Erik Prince, the private security contractor and the former head of Blackwater, arranged the meeting, which took place on Aug. 3, 2016. The emissary, George Nader, told Donald Trump Jr. that the princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president. The social media specialist, Joel Zamel, extolled his company’s ability to give an edge to a political campaign; by that time, the firm had already drawn up a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort to help elect Mr. Trump.
The company, which employed several Israeli former intelligence officers, specialized in collecting information and shaping opinion through social media.
The piece goes on to say that Donald Trump Jr. “responded approvingly” to the offer but it wasn’t clear whether it was acted on. But it does indicate one of Zamel’s companies was paid after the election.
After Mr. Trump was elected, Mr. Nader paid Mr. Zamel a large sum of money, described by one associate as up to $2 million. There are conflicting accounts of the reason for the payment, but among other things, a company linked to Mr. Zamel provided Mr. Nader with an elaborate presentation about the significance of social media campaigning to Mr. Trump’s victory.
Zamel’s companies also have ties to two Russian Oligarchs that we are all too familiar with.
Companies connected to Mr. Zamel also have ties to Russia. One of his firms had previously worked for oligarchs linked to Mr. Putin, including Oleg V. Deripaska and Dmitry Rybolovlev, who hired the firm for online campaigns against their business rivals.
Mr. Deripaska, an aluminum magnate, was once in business with the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who has pleaded not guilty in the special counsel investigation to charges of financial crimes and failing to disclose the lobbying work he did on behalf of a former president of Ukraine, an ally of Mr. Putin. Mr. Rybolovlev once purchased a Florida mansion from Mr. Trump.
The Trump family has paid their way around the law their entire lives
I’m unsurprised at the lengths they are willing to go to win—no matter how illegal or unethical
Thus far they’ve bailed themselves out of consequences, so they believe they’re above the law
They are mistaken
— Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) May 19, 2018
It’s important to note that Nader is reportedly cooperating with Robert Mueller’s investigation.
This came mere months after June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, then-Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, Natalia Veselnitskaya (a Russian lawyer and self-described informant), and Russian operatives. It revealed that Donald Trump Jr. was very eager about the prospect of receiving dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Federal law, Section 30121 of Title 52, states that it is a crime for a foreign national to contribute money or other items of value to an American election, as well as making it illegal for an American to solicit such a contribution.
Then, today, the Associated Press even further compounded this story:
After a year spent carefully cultivating two princes from the Arabian Peninsula, Elliott Broidy, a top fundraiser for President Donald Trump, thought he was finally close to nailing more than $1 billion in business.
Broidy and his business partner, Lebanese-American George Nader, pitched themselves to the crown princes [Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates] as a backchannel to the White House, passing the princes’ praise — and messaging — straight to the president’s ears.
In return for pushing anti-Qatar policies at the highest levels of America’s government, Broidy and Nader expected huge consulting contracts from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to an Associated Press investigation based on interviews with more than two dozen people and hundreds of pages of leaked emails between the two men. The emails reviewed by the AP included work summaries and contracting documents and proposals.
Summaries written by Broidy of two meetings he had with Trump — one of which has not been disclosed before — report that he was passing messages to the president from the two princes and that he told Trump he was seeking business with them.
Whether or not help was accepted from these various regimes, one thing is clear: President Trump has taken a very friendly stance with all of the nations who have reportedly offered to help his campaign.
- So back to the demand that President Donald Trump made of the DOJ and his claim the informant spied on his campaign. Like much of what Trump says, that is not exactly true. Former FBI counterintelligence agent Asha Rangappa explains how the informant was not spying on the Trump campaign, but as part of the counterintelligence operation may have been trying to protect the campaign.
But Trump and his backers are wrong about what it means that the FBI reportedly was using a confidential source to gather information early in its investigation of possible campaign ties to Russia. The investigation started out as a counterintelligence probe, not a criminal one. And relying on a covert source rather than a more intrusive method of gathering information suggests that the FBI may have been acting cautiously — perhaps too cautiously — to protect the campaign, not undermine it.
So now we’ve cleared that up, it may explain why Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein responded to Trump’s order on Sunday by referring the manner to the DOJ’s Inspector General. Perhaps he’s very aware that the probe will find no wrongdoing. It’s also important to point out that Rosenstein’s response to Trump’s demand specified that it was indeed a counterintelligence investigation, further creating the distinction that Rangappa points out above.
- Rosenstein, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats met with President Trump today. The President is officially involved in an investigation that he is a subject of. CNN reported:
Top officials at the Justice Department, the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence agreed Monday to share highly classified information with lawmakers related to the Russia investigation amid an escalating controversy over the bureau’s use of a confidential intelligence source during the 2016 presidential campaign.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday that chief of staff John Kelly planned to “immediately” schedule a meeting with the officials and leaders of Congress to “review highly classified and other information they have requested.”
- Politico reported a story that makes Trump’s claims that Hillary Clinton mishandled classified intelligence look even more hypocritical.
Trump uses a W.H. cell phone that isn’t equipped with sophisticated security features designed to shield his communications, two senior admin officials tell Politico.
Trump has gone as long as 5 months without having the phone checked by security experts.https://t.co/KsEIBCGsTW
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 21, 2018
Gonna be wild when the WH cancels the North Korea summit and NK responds by uploading sound files of every phone conversation Trump has had over the last year and a half.
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) May 21, 2018
Day 488: Tuesday, May 22
Debunking Donald’s Deceptive Narrative
President Trump, in coordination with House Republicans, has concocted numerous schemes to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation – which he is a subject of. There was last year’s White House-engineered “unmasking” scandal fueled by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA). There was this year’s dubious memo alleging FISA warrant abuses against Trump Campaign Adviser Carter Page (who was suspected of being a Russian agent), pushed by none other than Devin Nunes. And there was the scandal surrounding the anti-Trump text messages from the FBI’s Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, a charge also led by Devin Nunes and other Republicans. All of these ended up being hot air, but nevertheless, they persisted.
Now, we have this claim:
Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president. It took place very early on, and long before the phony Russia Hoax became a “hot” Fake News story. If true – all time biggest political scandal!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 18, 2018
Which led to this abuse of power:
I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2018
The President of the United States just demanded the Justice Department investigate his political opponents in an effort to undermine the Justice Department’s Russia investigation–a probe he is a subject of
Trump backs his autocratic rhetoric with actionhttps://t.co/ODaFtMNsbf
— Rantt Media (@RanttMedia) May 20, 2018
Trump’s narrative that this campaign was “infiltrated” for “political purposes” is quite the inflammatory claim and one that he has no evidence of. But that did not stop him from intervening in the Justice Department’s investigation that he is a subject of. Not only did he make this demand, which Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein then referred to the DOJ’s Inspector General, Trump met with Rosenstein, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. In that meeting, President Trump got these officials to agree to share classified information with Republican lawmakers about this informant. The name has been published elsewhere, but Rantt Media has decided not to participate in the doxing of a U.S. Intelligence source.
This all comes as House Republicans call for a second special counsel to investigate the FBI.
If you only listen to President Trump and the GOP propaganda machine, then you’d think the FBI literally embedded someone into the Trump campaign as part of a deep state conspiracy to take down a presidency that hadn’t even begun and looked unlikely at the time. Like almost everything this President says, the known facts don’t agree.
What has been reported is that this FBI informant met with at least three Trump campaign advisers who the FBI believed were having contacts with Russian nationals. This was during the counterintelligence phase of the investigation and is typical in an operation of this nature.
As I noted on Monday, Former FBI counterintelligence agent Asha Rangappa explained that the informant was not spying on the Trump campaign, but, as part of the counterintelligence operation, may have been trying to protect the campaign.
I love it when the @nytimes verifies my op-ed theory. The idea that the FBI was trying to “do in” Trump is hogwash. They were being cautious and slow (perhaps too much so, IMO) so as not to draw attention to their investigation. pic.twitter.com/pTmNwqOqBa
— Asha Rangappa (@AshaRangappa_) May 19, 2018
Just to be clear, the big NYT and WaPo pieces explaining the real story with the FBI informant have reduced the narrative being pushed by Trump, Nunes and their loyal propagandists to a pile of smoking rubble. https://t.co/6wfNUydHrz
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) May 19, 2018
None of the known evidence indicates this was politically motivated. And if it were, wouldn’t the FBI have leaked the fact that the Russia investigation was underway before the election, rather than send a letter relating to the Clinton email probe?
This, like many of Trump’s other baseless efforts to undermine a legitimate investigation, has been allowed far too much oxygen. There isn’t enough universal pushback from the Democrats, and some in the media have failed to successfully fact-check and give proper context to Trump’s claims.
For those who need an update, in its first year, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election has already yielded 75 charges filed against 22 people or companies, at least 5 guilty pleas (3 of which came from Trump’s associates), and 1 person sentenced. It’s also discovered other foreign nationals seeking to provide help to the Trump campaign, found evidence of potential criminal wrongdoing which sparked a separate investigation into Trump’s “fixer” Michael Cohen (now being handled by the Southern District of New York), and appears to have compiled a pretty solid case for obstruction of justice. We haven’t even touched on Trump’s potential money laundering and election law violations.
This is 99% accurate.
My quibble is continuing to call it the Russia investigation. This is the Russia, UAE, Ukraine, Saudi, Turkey investigation. This is international corruption on a global scale. Trump’s candidacy was up for sale. The highest bidders are reaping the rewards. https://t.co/K6g5Dm0yE8
— Adam (@aalali44) May 23, 2018
With so much more to uncover, keep your eye on the ball and never take anything you see at face value.
- President Trump hosted South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the White House and signaled a potential delay in the planned June summit with North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un and backed away from one of his biggest demands. The New York Times reported:
President Trump opened the door on Tuesday to a phased dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, backing away from his demand that the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, completely abandon his arsenal without any reciprocal American concessions.
The president’s hint of flexibility came after North Korea declared last week that it would never agree to unilaterally surrender its weapons, even threatening to cancel the much-anticipated summit meeting between Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump scheduled for next month in Singapore.
- The New York Times reported:
A significant business partner of Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer, has agreed to cooperate with the government as a potential witness, a development that could be used as leverage to pressure Mr. Cohen to work with the special counsel examining Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Under the deal reached with the New York attorney general’s office, the partner, Evgeny A. Freidman, a Russian immigrant who is known as the Taxi King, specifically agreed to assist government prosecutors in state or federal investigations, according to a person briefed on the matter.
The broadened scope of Mr. Freidman’s cooperation may prove worrisome not only to Mr. Cohen, who is the target of a continuing federal investigation, but also Mr. Trump.
- The Environmental Protection Agency did something very concerning.
— Chris Megerian (@ChrisMegerian) May 22, 2018
At what point do we start to call this administration a regime? https://t.co/wL6zNUouXu
— Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) May 22, 2018
- The Daily Beast reported:
At the same time Elliott Broidy was cashing in on his access to President Trump by pitching him on behalf of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, he was also receiving the biggest payouts in the history of his company from the U.S. government.
Monday, the Associated Press reported on the months-long 2017 lobbying effort carried out by Broidy and George Nader that brought the pair close to securing nearly $1 billion in contracts with the Saudis and the Emiratis in exchange for lobbying against their enemy, Qatar. Also during the pair’s lobbying blitz in the fall of 2017, Broidy’s company received its largest payouts to date from the federal government on contracts it had been seeking to secure for years, The Daily Beast has learned.
The company, a Virginia-based security firm called Circinus LLC, is owned by Broidy and has secured at least $800 million in foreign defense contracts since Trump took office. All of those payouts came after Broidy reportedly worked his contacts in D.C.—including Trump—to advocate for positions favorable to the countries that Circinus now lists as clients.
- Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee agreed with the U.S. Intelligence Community’s conclusion that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election with the intention to help elect Donald Trump. Today, the DHS Secretary claimed she wasn’t aware of this conclusion.
Woah —> DHS Sec. Nielsen said she hasn’t seen the Intelligence community report that claims Putin preferred President Donald Trump win the US election over Hillary Clinton.
“I don’t believe I’ve seen that conclusion. I’m not aware of that,” she said on the Hill.
— Marianna Sotomayor (@MariannaNBCNews) May 22, 2018
- NBC News reported:
The Trump administration is moving to reverse Obama-era rules barring hunters on some public lands in Alaska from baiting brown bears with bacon and doughnuts and using spotlights to shoot mother black bears and cubs hibernating in their dens.
- The Supreme Court dealt a blow to worker’s rights. NPR reported:
In a case involving the rights of tens of millions of private sector employees, the U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, delivered a major blow to workers, ruling for the first time that workers may not band together to challenge violations of federal labor laws.
Writing for the majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch said that the 1925 Federal Arbitration Act trumps the National Labor Relations Act and that employees who sign employment agreements to arbitrate claims must do so on an individual basis — and may not band together to enforce claims of wage and hour violations.
- Stacey Abrams made history.
Breaking News: History in Georgia: Stacey Abrams became the first black woman to be a major party’s nominee for governor after winning her Democratic primary https://t.co/y9jsLwUlcw
— The New York Times (@nytimes) May 23, 2018
Day 489: Wednesday, May 23
Since Donald Trump took the oath of office, one thing has been clear: this administration’s foreign policy would effectively be up for sale. We’ve long seen the President’s personal business interests influence America’s foreign policy and the nations that offered his campaign help during the election receive preferential treatment. And today, the level of corruption continued to escalate with this bombshell report from the BBC:
Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, received a secret payment of at least $400,000 (£300,000) to fix talks between the Ukrainian president and President Trump, according to sources in Kiev close to those involved.
The payment was arranged by intermediaries acting for Ukraine’s leader, Petro Poroshenko, the sources said, though Mr Cohen was not registered as a representative of Ukraine as required by US law.
Mr Cohen denies the allegation.
The meeting at the White House was last June. Shortly after the Ukrainian president returned home, his country’s anti-corruption agency stopped its investigation into Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
The BBC also goes on to cite a report that indicated the following:
The report states that Poroshenko returned from Washington and, in August or September, 2017, decided to completely end cooperation with the US agencies investigating Manafort. He did not give an order to implement this decision until November 2017.
The order became known to the US government after scheduled visits by Poroshenko’s senior aide to see Mueller and the CIA director, in November and December, were cancelled.
The report says that an “element of the understanding” between Poroshenko and Trump was that Ukraine agreed to import US coal and signed a $1bn contract for American-made diesel trains.
These deals can only be understood as Poroshenko buying American support, the reports say.
In March, the Trump administration announced the symbolically important sale of 210 Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.
Even under President Obama, the US did not sell arms to Ukraine.
And there you have it. Donald Trump’s “fixer” Michael Cohen being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to set up a meeting between the President of Ukraine and the President of the United States. Not only that, the dropping of Manafort’s case was reportedly a direct appeal to obtain the President’s patronage.
7/ What the article shows is that a desperate nation paid Cohen at least $400,000 and killed a Manafort probe to help Trump because he’s the President of the United States. Russia bet on Trump and won, so Russia’s enemy had to change its stance to get “non-aggression” from Trump.
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) May 23, 2018
The piece goes on to report that Felix Sater helped Cohen in this endeavor. Aside from one of the failed Trump Tower Moscow deals, Cohen and Sater also collaborated on the Ukraine peace deal…
On January 27, 2017, Cohen, and Sater met with Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Artemenko at a dinner in New York in an attempt to create a back-channel peace deal with Ukraine and Russia. A move many saw as a covert method to lift sanctions. Artemenko left the sealed plan with Cohen who was supposed to deliver it to former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Artemenko claims he “got confirmation” from Sater that his plan was delivered to the White House. Artemenko confirmed the dinner took place and that the intention was to create this deal. Cohen confirmed the dinner took place but denies this was the content discussed. Because of this deal with Cohen and Sater, Artemenko has since been stripped of his citizenship and accused of treason…
I bring this other deal up because it further bolsters my next point. Michael Cohen did not register as a foreign agent before working on behalf of a foreign government. Given the fact Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged Rick Gates and Paul Manafort under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, this adds another worry to Cohen’s mountain of legal issues.
To cover both sides of this story, here is Ukrainian media using some familiar language.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko calls reports that his staff paid Michael Cohen $400,000 fake news and “an attack on Ukraine and America, and their partnership.” https://t.co/nSx7ufKaV3
— Greg Fish (@GregAFish) May 24, 2018
- President Trump went on a tweetstorm, continuing his false conspiracy theory about his campaign being spied on.
Look how things have turned around on the Criminal Deep State. They go after Phony Collusion with Russia, a made up Scam, and end up getting caught in a major SPY scandal the likes of which this country may never have seen before! What goes around, comes around!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2018
If you interview someone perpetuating the false “Criminal Deep State” narrative, shut them down with facts
If you run a story on @realDonaldTrump‘s lies, provide fact-checking context
When an argument is dishonest, do not treat it as equalhttps://t.co/arcEz7YL2X
— Rantt Media (@RanttMedia) May 23, 2018
Trump’s false “criminal deep state” narrative should be covered for what it is: another baseless scheme to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation—which he is a subject of.
Dems need to combat this.
Media needs to push back on his lies. https://t.co/Blph2HqqVt
— Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) May 23, 2018
- It was revealed that President Trump’s son-in-law, and White House Adviser, Jared Kushner was interviewed by Mueller for seven hours in April. As we know, Kushner is of interest to Mueller because:
- The firing of James Comey.
- The Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Russian operatives where dirt on Hillary Clinton was sought.
- The December Trump Tower meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Michael Flynn where a back channel line of communication with Russia was proposed.
- The December meeting with Sergey N. Gorkov who runs VneshEconomBank (VEB), a Russia owned bank that is currently under U.S. sanctions that were put in place in 2014.
- Speaking of Kushner, he received his permanent security clearance today. This came in spite of the fact Kushner has had to amend his SF-86 at least three times, adding over 100 meetings with officials from over 20 countries and over 100 foreign contacts — willful omission on an SF-86 is a felony.
- President Trump’s Twitter blocking has been deemed unconstitutional.
Breaking News: President Trump’s practice of blocking Twitter users who criticize him violates the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled https://t.co/TL4BnizlyO
— The New York Times (@nytimes) May 23, 2018
- The NFL will fine players who kneel (protest racial injustice) during the national anthem.
- Robert Mueller has requested to begin sentencing for Trump’s campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying about his contacts with Russians.
This likely means Mueller won’t use Papadopoulos as a trial witness. Whether that’s because he won’t be indicting anything he could be useful for, because the case is tight without him and/or because there is an issue with putting P on the witness stand isn’t clear yet. https://t.co/NBUEM7qwZo
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) May 23, 2018
- Lesley Stahl shed light on the reasoning behind Trump’s war on the media.
Lesley Stahl says @realDonaldTrump explained to her why he continues to attack the media: “You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.” Video: https://t.co/A9jzC7LDkI
— Hadas Gold (@Hadas_Gold) May 22, 2018
- Ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Adam Schiff (R-CA) claimed that the controversial meeting slated for tomorrow between DOJ and members of Congress would also include Democrats, after they weren’t initially invited.
Breaking: DoJ meeting on Trump Russia investigation will include “Gang of 8” according to Rep. Schiff. pic.twitter.com/MReVRyO9WB
— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) May 24, 2018
But there’s a catch.
But Nunes and Gowdy will get their briefing first. Then the Gang of Eight will attend in the afternoon. Gowdy, who is NOT in the Gang of Eight, gets to attend that briefing as well. And John Kelly will be at BOTH meetings. Sarah Sanders said yesterday WH would NOT attend meeting
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) May 24, 2018
Day 490: Thursday, May 24
I thought long and hard about what story should lead today’s Rundown.
Should we start with the canceled North Korea summit? Should we start with Roger Stone seeking Clinton emails from Wikileaks? Should we start with the White House’s effort to see classified information on an investigation the President is a subject of?
I’ll get to all that in a moment, but why don’t we start with the migrant woman who was shot and killed by a border patrol agent this week? Or the immigrant children being separated from their families at the border?
I lead with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and President Trump’s corruption scandals every day. But today, I want to highlight what should be one of the biggest scandals plaguing this presidency: the dehumanizing cruelty the Trump administration has been unleashing on Latino immigrants.
Today, President Trump said of unaccompanied minors who are crossing the border: “They look so innocent. They’re not innocent.” Trump said this in spite of the fact that only 56 out of 250,000 unaccompanied minors apprehended by border patrol were suspected or confirmed to have gang ties. Last week, President Trump once again conflated MS-13 with Latino immigrants, calling them “animals.” This fear-mongering rhetoric goes back years. But this dehumanization has moved far beyond rhetoric and has gone even further than the inhumane ICE raids we’ve seen.
A few weeks ago, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued an order, which DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen implemented, that requires all undocumented immigrants crossing the border be referred for criminal prosecution…including migrants seeking asylum from violence.
The move would also mean that even if immigrants caught at the border illegally have valid asylum claims, they could still end up with federal criminal convictions on their record regardless of whether a judge eventually finds they have a right to live and stay in the US.
Many of these immigrants are seeking refuge from cruelty, only to be welcomed by cruelty. NBC News reported:
From October 2017 to mid-April, before the new prosecution strategy officially went into effect, more than 700 children were reportedly separated from their parents at the border. The federal government has not released figures from May, but those who work on immigration cases have observed a large increase in the number of children affected. Nogueras said he previously saw only one or two such cases a week in the McAllen courtroom in the Southern District of Texas; last week, he saw about 33 cases.
Here are some specific examples:
Border Patrol agents arrested Esteban Pastor and prosecuted him for coming back into the country illegally. They took away his 18-month-old son, telling him he was ‘somewhere in Texas.’ Three months later, the father was deported. Alone. https://t.co/3pWX0da74k via @HoustonChron pic.twitter.com/qEnNeNdpM5
— lomikriel (@lomikriel) May 24, 2018
A weeping mother has been forced to wear a yellow insignia (bracelet) as she is ripped away from her children indefinitely.
In the United States. By policy.
— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) May 25, 2018
Make no mistake; this is a new policy. Children have never been systematically separated from their parents at the border, as was noted in a segment on Chris Hayes’ show:
“this is unprecedented, this is the worst thing I’ve seen in 25+ years of doing this civil rights work” — ACLU immigrant rights lawyer https://t.co/L1P0y3aOQE
— ryan cooper (@ryanlcooper) May 26, 2018
And last year, 1,500 migrant children were misplaced (Important to note the children were placed into foster care before then.)
These people aren’t animals. They aren’t criminals. These are mothers, fathers, and children. Some are seeking refugee or opportunity in America only to be met with tragedy.
There are countless examples of Latino Americans feeling the fallout from this dehumanization as well.
Border patrol questioned these 2 U.S. citizens in Montana because they were speaking Spanish. This is America in 2018. pic.twitter.com/GZKliyg6WZ
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) May 22, 2018
U.S. citizen detained at the border. Agents thought she had drugs so they:
– Pat down search. No drugs.
– Dog sniff. No drugs.
– Strip search. No drugs.
– X-rays. No drugs.
– Pelvic exam. No drugs.
– Rectal exam. No drugs.
Finally, they concluded she had no drugs and let her go. pic.twitter.com/Pb5HtTD8bA
— Brad Heath (@bradheath) May 24, 2018
I shouldn’t have to remind you of the historical parallels here. That’s a story for another piece.
We have to shed light on this. Especially when Trump questions whether undocumented immigrants should have the right to a trial at all. Hopefully, these actions of the Trump administration treating Latino immigrants like animals will begin to garner as much outrage as his “animal” comments received.
- We reported:
Today, in a letter addressed to Kim Jong-un, President Trump pulled out of the June 12th summit that was set to be held in Singapore. In his letter, Trump cited that his decision to withdraw was the result of the “tremendous anger and open hostility” exhibited in yesterday’s statement from vice-foreign minister and nuclear negotiator, Choe Son Hui.
Choe’s statement warned, “we can also make the US taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined up to now” and referred to Vice President Mike Pence as a “political dummy.”
But his reasoning is not as simple as Trump claims.
Trump was unprepared for the summit.
He thought his bluster is what brought North Korea to the table.
He continued this tactic with the “Libya model” rhetoric.
— Rantt Media (@RanttMedia) May 24, 2018
- To use his phrase, it appears Roger Stone may have his time in the barrel.
New: Roger Stone sought information damaging to Hillary Clinton from Julian Assange during the 2016 campaign: https://t.co/1lcLLFG93g
— Shelby Holliday (@shelbyholliday) May 24, 2018
In an email to his longtime friend Randy Credico, Stone wrote, ““Please ask Assange for any State or HRC e-mail from August 10 to August 30–particularly on August 20, 2011.”
He was seeking info that might confirm a narrative that Clinton botched an alleged peace deal in Libya.
— Shelby Holliday (@shelbyholliday) May 24, 2018
This contradicts Roger Stone’s denials in his congressional testimony, making him susceptible to perjury charges.
- The Justice Department briefed members of the House and Senate on the FBI informant that President Trump has been falsely smearing as a spy. And some White House folks crashed the briefings.
Wow — @LauraAJarrett saw Emmett Flood leaving the Department of Justice alongside Nunes, Gowdy, Ryan and Kelly. Flood replaced Ty Cobb on Trump’s legal team earlier this year.
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) May 24, 2018
For the record, the President’s Chief of Staff and his attorney in an ongoing criminal investigation into the President’s campaign have no business showing up to a classified intelligence briefing.
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) May 24, 2018
And in his typical style, Rudy Giuliani admitted what everyone suspected their strategy is.
RUDY tells @dsamuelsohn that today’s briefing will inform Trump’s legal defense:
“We want to see how the briefing went to today and how much we learned from it. If we learned a good deal from it, it will shorten that whole process considerably.”
Exactly what Dems feared.
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) May 24, 2018
- President Trump started his day with a blatant lie, further perpetuating his conspiracy theory in an effort to undermine Mueller’s investigation.
Clapper has now admitted that there was Spying in my campaign. Large dollars were paid to the Spy, far beyond normal. Starting to look like one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history. SPYGATE – a terrible thing!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 24, 2018
THIS IS A LIE@realDonaldTrump is lying
James Clapper NEVER said this https://t.co/JU2z4DxNNr
— Stephanie Ruhle (@SRuhle) May 24, 2018
- President Trump signed a rollback of Dodd-Frank.
- President Trump said that NFL players who protest shouldn’t be in the country.
- The Daily Beast reported:
FBI agents armed with a court order have seized control of a key server in the Kremlin’s global botnet of 500,000 hacked routers, The Daily Beast has learned. The move positions the bureau to build a comprehensive list of victims of the attack, and short-circuits Moscow’s ability to reinfect its targets.
- The chickens came home to roost for Harvey Weinstein.
“One phone call and you’re done.”
“I have eyes and ears everywhere.”
“I’m Harvey Weinstein, you know what I can do.”
Not anymore. https://t.co/j3x8njJZWJ
— jodikantor (@jodikantor) May 24, 2018
Day 491: Friday, May 25
Lordy, There Are Tapes
Friday: May 25, 2018
Donald Trump Jr. is no stranger to sketchy meetings with foreign nationals offering help in an effort to gain influence over his father.
There was the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, then-Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, Natalia Veselnitskaya (a Russian lawyer and self-described informant), and Russian operatives. Donald Trump Jr.’s emails and own testimony confirmed that he was eager to receive dirt on Hillary Clinton, and quite a few other revelations as well.
Then, there was the August 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., now-White House Adviser Stephen Miller, Blackwater Founder Erick Prince, George Nader (acting as an emissary for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), and Israeli Social Media manipulation specialist Joel Zamel. Nader indicated that the Saudis and UAE were willing to help his father get elected, as Zamel offered help with social media manipulation.
As has been reported, Donald Trump Jr. was very receptive to both offers. And as we can see, Donald Trump Jr. appears to have lied about his contacts with foreign nationals offering help in his congressional testimony.
This is from Don Jr’s SJC transcript.
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) May 23, 2018
Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) of the Senate Judiciary Committee is demanding answers.
Based on new information we learned this week, I’m very concerned that Donald Trump Jr. provided false testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
I’m asking the Committee Chairman to bring Trump Jr. back in to testify-in public this time. Here’s the letter I sent yesterday pic.twitter.com/QRzxOkyZtV
— Senator Chris Coons (@ChrisCoons) May 25, 2018
Now, we have a report regarding a previously reported meeting. The FBI has reportedly obtained wiretaps from a Russian oligarch who is under U.S. sanctions, has ties to the NRA, and met with Donald Trump Jr.
FBI obtains Spanish wiretaps of Alexander Torshin, the Russian banker and Putin ally who met with Donald Trump Jr. at the NRA convention in 2016. “Trump’s son should be concerned,” says Spanish prosecutor. https://t.co/VJ3OD0620t
— Michael Isikoff (@Isikoff) May 26, 2018
José Grinda, who has spearheaded investigations into Spanish organized crime, said that bureau officials in recent months requested and were provided transcripts of wiretapped conversations between Torshin and Alexander Romanov, a convicted Russian money launderer. On the wiretaps, Romanov refers to Torshin as “El Padrino,” the godfather.
“Just a few months ago, the wiretaps of these telephone conversations were given to the FBI,” Grinda said in response to a question from Yahoo News during a talk he gave at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington. Asked if he was concerned about Torshin’s meetings with Donald Trump Jr. and other American political figures, Grinda replied: “Mr. Trump’s son should be concerned.”
The comments by Grinda were the first clear sign that the FBI may be investigating Torshin, possibly as a part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Torshin — a close political ally of Vladimir Putin — had multiple contacts with conservative activists in the United States during the election, seeking to set up a summit between the Russian president and then candidate Trump. Although the summit never transpired, Torshin did meet briefly with the president’s son at a private dinner in Louisville during the May 2016 annual convention of the NRA. A member of the NRA since 2012, Torshin has been a regular attendee of the group’s conventions in recent years and hosted senior members of the group in Moscow.
It’s important to add that the FBI is reportedly looking into whether Torshin “illegally funneled” money through the NRA to help Trump.
I’ll leave this story by reiterating Grinda’s quote: “Mr. Trump’s son should be concerned.”
- We learned more about what should be one of the bigger scandals of this administration, especially if Trump was involved in the decision-making – which it seems he may have been.
A source familiar with efforts by the Israeli intel firm Black Cube to dig up dirt on @brhodes & me (& target our families) says the contract started shortly after Trump’s visit to Israel last May & that whoever hired them made clear it was “for Trump.” https://t.co/NUeTkzNNiV
— Colin Kahl (@ColinKahl) May 25, 2018
Wow! @RichardEngel got his source to speak on camera that it was Trump that hired Israeli intelligence firm Black Cube to target former Obama’s officials and supporters of the #IranDeal (including myself) in order to discredit and silence us…
— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) May 26, 2018
A deeply unsettling contrast:
Congress’s obsession over the FBI’s (likely lawful) use of a foreign counterintelligence informant vs. its deafening silence with respect to claims that US government officials may have hired a foreign intelligence firm to spy on American citizens. https://t.co/tWWhpbW1JG
— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) May 25, 2018
- Last we heard of Columbus NOVA, they paid Trump’s “fixer” Michael Cohen $500,000 and Russian Oligarch Viktor Vekselberg tried to distance himself from the decision to pay Cohen. Now, we have a report indicating a higher amount and that Vekselberg was more than just aware of the payment…
11 days before the inauguration, Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg visited Trump Tower to meet with Michael Cohen to discuss “Russia’s relations with the U.S.,” NYT reports.
Weeks later, Columbus Nova awarded Cohen a $1,000,000 consulting contract. https://t.co/G8lBCBiFBZ
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 25, 2018
Remember what else happened that month?
On January 27, Michael Cohen, and Felix Sater met with Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Artemenko in New York to create a back-channel peace deal with Ukraine and Russia (Russia sanctions relief).
Artemenko said the plan was delivered to Flynn… https://t.co/qufCFHlHGe
— Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) May 25, 2018
- The Trump administration told lawmakers that a deal has been reached to put Chinese tech company ZTE back in business. Yes, that’s the same company who was banned from doing business in the US for violating sanctions and the NSA, FBI, and CIA believes tried to use their technology to spy on American consumers. Important to note that less than two weeks ago, a Trump-branded resort received hundreds of millions in loans from the Chinese Government. Not to mention a letter reportedly circulated among wealthy entrepreneurs in China, soliciting money for Republicans and Trump’s reelection campaign in exchange for access to the President.
- At least three people were injured in a school shooting…this time in a middle school.
Over The Weekend…
As #WhereAreTheChildren trended on Saturday, President Trump falsely blamed this policy on Democrats.
Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there parents once they cross the Border into the U.S. Catch and Release, Lottery and Chain must also go with it and we MUST continue building the WALL! DEMOCRATS ARE PROTECTING MS-13 THUGS.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2018
President Trump is lying. He is falsely blaming Democrats for his policy.
The Trump administration is making every child at the border an unaccompanied minor by ripping them from the hands of their parents (who are then prosecuted)https://t.co/Lw1NXRz2zLhttps://t.co/snvL8curh5
— Rantt Media (@RanttMedia) May 26, 2018
Sessions’ new policy of prosecuting all migrants spiked child separations but it’s happened for months
“From October 2017 to mid-April, before the new prosecution strategy…more than 700 children were reportedly separated from their parents at the border” https://t.co/Lw1NXRz2zL
— Rantt Media (@RanttMedia) May 26, 2018
The following day, Trump whined about the Russia investigation, and we reminded him whose lives are truly being destroyed.
Who’s going to give back the young and beautiful lives (and others) that have been devastated and destroyed by the phony Russia Collusion Witch Hunt? They journeyed down to Washington, D.C., with stars in their eyes and wanting to help our nation…They went back home in tatters!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2018
Who’s going to give back the young and beautiful lives (and others) that have been devastated and destroyed by the Trump administration’s immigration policies? They journeyed to America, with stars in their eyes and wanting to help our nation…They went back home in tatters! https://t.co/ljt8bAEKBP
— Rantt Media (@RanttMedia) May 27, 2018
When it comes to the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant parents from their children, keep up the pressure. It’s working.
The fact @realDonaldTrump felt the need to lie to his base about his inhumane decision to take immigrant children shows he’s aware of its perception
Keep up the pressure
Call your lawmakers
We should plan a march & show the world we won’t stand for this https://t.co/jgEwMLJDV3
— Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) May 26, 2018