“39 Minutes”: The Comey Memos Leak


 
That’s how long it took the Repubs to spill the entire file… (15-page PDF at the link):


 

Excellent explainer: The Washington Post, “What the Comey memos say”.

Choice Axios pullquote:

During their private dinner: “The conversation, which was pleasant at all times, was chaotic, with topics touched, left, then returned to later, making it very difficult to recount in a linear fashion…It really was a conversation-as-jigsaw-puzzle in a way, with pieces picked up, then discarded, then returned to.”…

 
Different areas of expertise, same question:


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Civic Obligations Open Thread: Tax Reax

You can tell a country is sinking into kleptocracy / kakistocracy when basic bureaucratic systems break down under predictable stress, and everybody’s reaction is {shrug emoji}…

Couple interesting tax-related pieces:

From Governing, “Why Low-Tax States Could Come to Dislike the New Tax Law, Too”.

When Congress capped the state and local tax deduction at $10,000 as part of its tax overhaul late last year, it was mostly officials from high-tax states such as California, New Jersey and New York that cried foul. But new research shows that taxpayers in more than one-third of states — some with relatively low income taxes — could be negatively affected by the change.
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Happy News: Trump’s Voter Suppression Czar Loses Another One

Per the hometown Topeka Capital-Journal:

U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson on Wednesday ruled Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was in contempt of court for failing to comply with her orders in a lawsuit over the state’s voter registration law.

Robinson ordered Kobach to pay for attorney fees for litigating the contempt motion, with additional remedies to be determined later.

American Civil Liberties Union attorneys complained Kobach routinely defied a temporary injunction issued by Robinson in 2016 to block enforcement of the state’s proof of citizenship law.

Kobach’s office refused to update language on its website suggesting that new voter applicants may not be able to vote after November 2016 elections. Kobach also failed to follow through on a promise to Robinson that counties would send postcards notifying voters they could participate in elections, even if they failed to show a birth certificate or other documents when they registered.

“The judge found that Kris Kobach disobeyed the court’s orders by failing to provide registered voters with consistent information, that he willfully failed to ensure that county elections officials were properly trained, and that he has a ‘history of noncompliance and disrespect for the court’s decisions,’ ” said ACLU attorney Dale Ho. “Secretary Kobach likes to talk about the rule of law. Talk is cheap, and his actions speak louder than his words.”

Kobach for years has championed the need for strict voter registration laws as a way of keeping noncitizens from voting. At a trial last month, he struggled to provide evidence to support claims of widespread voter fraud.

Kobach’s chief legal counsel, Sue Becker, continued to argue in the weeks leading up to the trial that it wasn’t necessary to send postcards. It wasn’t until the contempt hearing that Kobach “changed course,” Robinson wrote, and “claimed he had personally directed his staff to ensure that postcards be sent.”…

She also said Kobach was disingenuous in arguing her orders were ambiguous. Kobach admitted during the contempt hearing that he understood individuals covered by the preliminary injunction should be treated no differently than other registered voters.

She pointed to an ACLU witness who testified that when he called the Sedgwick County elections office, he was told it wasn’t clear whether he was registered.

Kobach’s “confusing notices, and his patent failure to fully inform and monitor compliance with the preliminary injunction order, caused confusion and misinformation,” Robinson said.

A day after the contempt hearing, Kobach said it was clear his office had bent over backward to comply with the judge’s orders. As a candidate for the GOP nomination for governor, Kobach rallies supporters by telling them he likes makes the ACLU unhappy.

“As soon as the ACLU sues, I know we have made the right decision,” Kobach said during a debate last week…

Preliminary twitter reports seem to indicate that “the office” — in other words, Kansas taxpayers — will be on the hook for whatever Kobach ends up paying in fines. Perhaps this may change a few Kansas voters’ minds about the ‘massive threat’ of (nonexistent) ‘voter fraud’?

 
Related reading:



Late Night Russiagate Open Thread: Maybe Mitch McConnell Is the GOP Green Lantern?


 
Elsewhere in the twitterverse…


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Lest We Forget Open Thread: Paul Ryan — Bad Man, “Good” German Republican

(Jim Morin via GoComics.com)
.

Paul Waldman, at the Washington Post, “A scam of a party says goodbye to its top fraud”:

The proximate cause of Ryan stepping down is that his party looks increasingly likely to suffer an electoral disaster in November’s midterm elections. He is facing an unusually strong challenge from Randy Bryce, the likely Democratic nominee in his Wisconsin district, so he probably calculated that there were two realistic outcomes for him. The worse one would be that he is defeated while his party loses the majority, as happened to then-speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) in 1994. The better one would be that he holds on to his seat while Republicans lose the majority, which might not be better at all. Being speaker may have meant plenty of headaches for Ryan, but being House minority leader is a total drag; you still have to manage your unruly caucus, but you have no real power and can’t make any progress on your agenda…

For years, Ryan has presented himself as someone deeply concerned with fiscal discipline, committed to getting America’s books in order. As anyone with any sense realized, this was a scam: Like all Republicans, he used the deficit as a bludgeon against Democratic presidents, then forgot all about it while a Republican was in office.

At the same time, Ryan — a lifelong admirer of Ayn Rand, the philosopher of selfishness — dreamed of destroying the safety net, eviscerating Medicaid, privatizing Medicare, slashing food stamps, and generally making life in America more cruel and unpleasant for all those who aren’t wealthy.

But as Paul Krugman observed, Ryan failed at both his pretend goal and his real goal. He will leave office after setting the deficit on a path to exceed $1 trillion in 2020, and yet, he failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act and didn’t even bother to wage an assault on Medicare, almost certainly because he knew how disastrous it would be for his party.

So what does he mean when he says “I have accomplished much of what I came here to do”? He can only mean the tax cut Republicans passed last year. In other words, engineering a giant giveaway to corporations and the wealthy was enough for Ryan to say “My work here is done.”

Osita Nwanevu, at Slate, on “The Wolf in Wonk’s Clothing”:

[I]t’s worth revisiting now, as Ryan prepares his exit from politics, the thrust of the argument that the tale advanced—that, in general, the 20 million children in this country who receive free lunches have parents who clearly don’t care about them and that in providing food to those children, the government enables bad parenting. That sweeping judgment is impossible unless one considers poverty and economic hardship themselves personal failings. For about a decade now, Ryan has demonstrated that he believes precisely this—that those who have trouble making their way in the world are personally defective, that those immiserated by circumstance have willingly surrendered their lives to dysfunction, and that the best remedy society can offer to those who lack is to deprive them, in cuts to already meager social programs, of even more.

Shaping that dogmatism into pseudo-wonkery has taken years of wild and reckless obfuscation. Most of the analyses of where Trump “came from” have sought and found precedents for his open xenophobia, conspiracymongering, and boorishness in the rhetoric and behavior of Republican politicians in the recent past. But his mendacity and the constant consequence-free dissembling of his administration still baffle all those who’ve wondered aloud, over the past year and a half, how we so suddenly entered a new age of “post-truth” politics. We haven’t, really. Paul Ryan understood, like Trump, the extent to which the norms governing conventional political journalism have always been poorly equipped to handle naked and persistent dishonesty and disingenuousness. His speech to the 2012 Republican National Convention was littered with blatant lies…
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Sunday Evening Open Thread: Everything Old Is… Still Pretty Stale


 
Not that the Repubs won’t keep trying


 
But unlike professional ratfvckers such as Ari Fleischer, Trump is an old-school grifter:



Excellent Read: “Michael Cohen and the End Stage of the Trump Presidency”


 
Adam Davidson, disaster reporter, in the New Yorker:

This is the week we know, with increasing certainty, that we are entering the last phase of the Trump Presidency. This doesn’t feel like a prophecy; it feels like a simple statement of the apparent truth. I know dozens of reporters and other investigators who have studied Donald Trump and his business and political ties. Some have been skeptical of the idea that President Trump himself knowingly colluded with Russian officials. It seems not at all Trumpian to participate in a complex plan with a long-term, uncertain payoff. Collusion is an imprecise word, but it does seem close to certain that his son Donald, Jr., and several people who worked for him colluded with people close to the Kremlin; it is up to prosecutors and then the courts to figure out if this was illegal or merely deceitful. We may have a hard time finding out what President Trump himself knew and approved.

However, I am unaware of anybody who has taken a serious look at Trump’s business who doesn’t believe that there is a high likelihood of rampant criminality…

… It has become commonplace to say that enough was known about Trump’s shady business before he was elected; his followers voted for him precisely because they liked that he was someone willing to do whatever it takes to succeed, and they also believe that all rich businesspeople have to do shady things from time to time. In this way of thinking, any new information about his corrupt past has no political salience. Those who hate Trump already think he’s a crook; those who love him don’t care.

I believe this assessment is wrong. Sure, many people have a vague sense of Trump’s shadiness, but once the full details are better known and digested, a fundamentally different narrative about Trump will become commonplace…

The narrative that will become widely understood is that Donald Trump did not sit atop a global empire. He was not an intuitive genius and tough guy who created billions of dollars of wealth through fearlessness. He had a small, sad operation, mostly run by his two oldest children and Michael Cohen, a lousy lawyer who barely keeps up the pretenses of lawyering and who now faces an avalanche of charges, from taxicab-backed bank fraud to money laundering and campaign-finance violations.

Cohen, Donald, Jr., and Ivanka monetized their willingness to sign contracts with people rejected by all sensible partners. Even in this, the Trump Organization left money on the table, taking a million dollars here, five million there, even though the service they provided—giving branding legitimacy to blatantly sketchy projects—was worth far more. It was not a company that built value over decades, accumulating assets and leveraging wealth. It burned through whatever good will and brand value it established as quickly as possible, then moved on to the next scheme…

Of course Trump is raging and furious and terrified. Prosecutors are now looking at his core. Cohen was the key intermediary between the Trump family and its partners around the world; he was chief consigliere and dealmaker throughout its period of expansion into global partnerships with sketchy oligarchs. He wasn’t a slick politico who showed up for a few months. He knows everything, he recorded much of it, and now prosecutors will know it, too. It seems inevitable that much will be made public. We don’t know when. We don’t know the precise path the next few months will take. There will be resistance and denial and counterattacks. But it seems likely that, when we look back on this week, we will see it as a turning point. We are now in the end stages of the Trump Presidency.