Open Thread: Notes from the “President”‘s “Listening Session”


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Of course he likes it — he’s on the teevee, and other people have to do all the hard work!

Daniel Dale, of the Toronto Star, live-tweeted the whole performance. Click on any tweet for the whole spool:


(Note the recurrent Wingnut trope: I have a godgiven First Amendment right to be stupid! And if you attempt to point out how stupid my idea is, that’s censorship!)
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Russiagate Open Thread: Exposing the Tinpot Dictator Squatting in the Oval Office

(Matt Davies via GoComics.com)
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It’s a tragic status that’s getting noticed more & more…

The Pentagon is considering soliciting donations to fund the President’s requested military parade, which could cost between $3 million and $50 million, according to preliminary estimates from a defense official who spoke with CNN.

Because there is currently no money set aside for a parade in the military budget, the Pentagon would likely use those private donations to offset the cost of the non-military components of the event, according to CNN. Budget director Mick Mulvaney said Wednesday that he estimates the parade could cost between $10 million to $30 million.

Defense officials are also concerned about the lack of available troops to attend a parade, CNN reported. A large-scale parade would require weeks of planning and the transportation of equipment, like tanks, to Washington, D.C. days ahead of time in order to prepare, according to the official who spoke with CNN…

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Hey, remember how offended the Trumplodytes were when the South Korean government was nice to Kim Jong-un’s sister?…

The government is preparing a VIP welcome for U.S. President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who comes to Korea for the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Feb. 25. The government apparently wants to soften her up so Trump agrees to a mooted visit to Pyongyang by President Moon Jae-in…

Trump runs the White House like a private fiefdom and has levered both Ivanka and her husband Jarred Kushner into ill-defined foreign-policy roles.

Technically, Seoul has no diplomatic obligation to roll out the red carpet for the child of a U.S. leader, and even the head of a U.S. presidential delegation does not receive the treatment given to a head of state…

Moon himself seems minded to greet her cap-in-hand. A Cheong Wa Dae official said, “Ivanka enjoys sports and especially skiing, so we are discussing having the president travel to Pyeongchang with her to watch a skiing competition.”

Ivanka Trump is the mother of two sons and a daughter, whom the government wants to lavish with presents.

The government has to calibrate the red-carpet treatment so it meets at least the welcome given to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister Yo-jong, who visited the opening ceremony. The first daughter has repeatedly been treated as a virtual head of state during visits to other countries, not least to Germany, where she shared a stage with Chancellor Angela Merkel…


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BREAKING…

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s interest in Jared Kushner has expanded beyond his contacts with Russia and now includes his efforts to secure financing for his company from foreign investors during the presidential transition, according to people familiar with the inquiry.

This is the first indication that Mueller is exploring Kushner’s discussions with potential non-Russian foreign investors, including in China…

It’s not clear what’s behind Mueller’s specific interest in the financing discussions. Mueller’s team has not contacted Kushner Companies for information or requested interviews with its executives, according to a person familiar with the matter.

During the presidential transition, Kushner was a lead contact for foreign governments, speaking to “over fifty contacts with people from over fifteen countries,” according to a statement he gave to congressional investigators…



Russiagate Open Thread: Has Manafort’s Crony Rick Gates Flipped?

Well, it would explain some of pants-pissing tantrums on His Short-Fingered Lordship’s twitter feed this morning (especially if Trump’s not the only one sending them.) Per the L.A. Times:

A former top aide to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign will plead guilty to fraud-related charges within days – and has made clear to prosecutors that he would testify against Paul J. Manafort Jr., the lawyer-lobbyist who once managed the campaign.

The change of heart by Trump’s former deputy campaign manager, Richard W. Gates III, who had pleaded not guilty after being indicted in October on charges similar to Manafort’s, was described in interviews by people familiar with the case…

Gates’ defense lawyer, Thomas C. Green, did not respond to messages left by phone and email. Peter Carr, a spokesman for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, declined on Saturday to comment…

The imminent change of Gates’ plea follows negotiations over the last several weeks between Green and two of Mueller’s prosecutors – senior assistant special counsels Andrew Weissmann and Greg D. Andres.

According to a person familiar with those talks, Gates, a longtime political consultant, can expect “a substantial reduction in his sentence” if he fully cooperates with the investigation. He said that Gates is apt to serve about 18 months in prison.

The delicate terms reached by the opposing lawyers, he said, will not be specified in writing: Gates “understands that the government may move to reduce his sentence if he substantially cooperates – but it won’t be spelled out.”

One of the final discussion points has centered on exactly how much cash or other valuables – derived from Gates’ allegedly illegal activity – that the government will require him to forfeit as part of the guilty plea.

Gates, 45, who is married with four children, does not appear to be well positioned financially to sustain a high-powered legal defense…

According to the indictment, Gates and Manafort “laundered the money through scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts” and took steps to evade related U.S. taxes.

If Manafort maintains his not-guilty plea and fights the charges at a trial, the testimony from Gates could provide Mueller’s team with first-person descriptions of much of the allegedly illegal conduct. Gates’ testimony, said a person familiar with the pending guilty plea, would place a “cherry on top” of the government’s already-formidable case against Manafort.

The same individual said he did not believe Gates has information to offer Mueller’s team that would “turn the screws on Trump.”

In mid-August 2016, Trump fired Manafort following reports of possibly improper payments he had received from a pro-Russia political party aligned with his longtime client, Viktor Yanukovych, who was Ukraine’s prime minister from 2010 to 2014.

Gates, however, remained with the Trump campaign through the election, serving as a liaison to the Republican National Committee. He also assisted Trump’s inaugural committee.

My emphases. “Mistakes were made. Just not by Mr. Trump.” Uh-huh…



Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: Who Does the NRA Actually Represent?


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Ever wonder if maybe the monsters are already here on Maple Street?


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And speaking of politicians who are neither Democrats nor helpful when it comes to gun safety measures…
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Russiagate Open Thread: Into the Wayback Machine…

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Yeah, but at least the Democrats aren’t actively abetting our foreign enemies…



Open Thread: I’d Endorse Romney’s Solution…



Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: Maybe They’ll Call It ‘Brown Apron’

Mick Mulvaney’s brill idea seems to have evaporated overnight, but Repubs never give up on a proposal that looks like a chance to screw The Undeserving while allowing a little free-market looting… er, “privatization”… of the common treasury. So I figure we’ll soon be seeing sketches of the proposed Versace-designed uniforms for the troops of the ‘SNAP czar’ in charge of seeing those people are humiliated and starved for the crime of being poor:

The Trump administration is proposing a major shake-up in one of the country’s most important “safety net” programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. Under the proposal, most SNAP recipients would lose much of their ability to choose the food they buy with their SNAP benefits.

The proposal is included in the Trump administration budget request for fiscal year 2019. It would require approval from Congress…

Currently, SNAP beneficiaries get money loaded onto an EBT card they can use to buy what they want as long as it falls under the guidelines. The administration says the move is a “cost-effective approach” with “no loss in food benefits to participants.”

The USDA believes that state governments will be able to deliver this food at much less cost than SNAP recipients currently pay for food at retail stores — thus reducing the overall cost of the SNAP program by $129 billion over the next 10 years.

This and other changes in the SNAP program, according to the Trump administration, will reduce the SNAP budget by $213 billion over those years — cutting the program by almost 30 percent.

Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, a hunger advocacy group that also helps clients access food-assistance services, said the administration’s plan left him baffled. “They have managed to propose nearly the impossible, taking over $200 billion worth of food from low-income Americans while increasing bureaucracy and reducing choices,” Berg says…

It isn’t clear how billions of dollars’ worth of food each year would be distributed to millions of SNAP recipients who live all over the country, including dense urban areas and sparsely populated rural regions. The budget says states will have “substantial flexibility in designing the food box delivery system through existing infrastructure, partnerships or commercial/retail delivery services.”

Critics of the proposal said distributing that much food presents a logistical nightmare. “Among the problems, it’s going to be costly and take money out of the [SNAP] program from the administrative side. It’s going to stigmatize people when they have to go to certain places to pick up benefits,” says Jim Weill, president of the nonprofit Food Research and Action Center…

According to Dean, from CBPP, the Trump administration wants to trim an additional $80 billion from the SNAP program by cutting off about 4 million people who currently receive food assistance. Most of them live in states that have decided to loosen the program’s eligibility requirements slightly. Under the administration’s proposal, states would no longer be able to do so…

Of course, the biggest beneficiaries of SNAP are American farmers and local food retailers, both of whom need those ‘food stamp moochers’ as paying customers.

For more background, Simon Maloy at Media Matters has a good summary of the “decades of conservative lies about welfare” behind “Trump’s SNAP attack”.

(Fifty-four more excellent questions from Lowrey here.)


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