Open Thread: An Unprecedented Drain on the National Coffers

Nearly half of the additional money, $26.8 million, would pay to protect President Trump’s family and private home in New York’s Trump Tower, the documents show, while $33 million would be spent on travel costs incurred by “the president, vice president and other visiting heads of state.”

The documents, part of the Secret Service’s request for the fiscal 2018 budget, reflect the costly surprise facing Secret Service agents tasked with guarding the president’s large and far-flung family, accommodating their ambitious travel schedules and fortifying the three-floor Manhattan penthouse where first lady Melania Trump and her son, Barron, live…

The budget requests reflect a potentially awkward contrast between Trump’s efforts to cut federal spending in many areas and the escalating costs of his freewheeling travel itinerary. Trump jetted to Mar-a-Lago on Friday for his fifth post-inauguration weekend trip, one day after the White House released a federal budget proposing deep cuts to many government programs.

Former agents said the requests indicate that the agency had to adapt to offer full protection for a president and first family who appear to have placed few limits on their personal travel and living arrangements….

Some of the public funding could potentially become revenue for Trump’s private company, the Trump Organization, which owns the Trump Tower that agents must now protect. The Defense Department and Secret Service have sought to rent space in Trump Tower but have not said how much space they’re interested in, or at what cost. Neither the Secret Service nor the Trump Organization have disclosed how much public money, if any, is being spent toward Trump Tower space or other costs…

The Secret Service’s protection costs are only a fraction of the total public spending devoted to safeguarding Trump properties. New York police spent roughly $24 million toward security costs at Trump Tower between the election and inauguration, according to police figures provided to The Post.

At Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach County officials say their sheriff’s office has spent more than $1.5 million toward overtime for deputies guarding the exclusive resort Trump has taken to calling “the southern White House” and “winter White House.”

County officials have proposed levying a special fee on the resort, saying they would have to otherwise raise taxes on local residents to help cover its high security costs. The Coast Guard has also paid to provide round-the-clock patrols of the resort’s two coastlines, including through the use of a gun-mounted response boat that, according to agency budget documents, costs $1,500 an hour…

SO MUCH FOR FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY, REPUBS!



No Standards = Infinite Possibilities (Open Thread)

Good news, friends: I’ve decided to launch an eponymous upscale fashion and jewelry brand!

Those of you who know me in real life might protest, “But Betty, since you’re frequently mistaken for a bag lady, what makes you think you have the fashion cred to pull this off?” Or, “But you have no money, and no one has ever heard of you — why would anyone buy your crappy products?”

Those might have been valid criticisms in 2016, but in Trump’s America, everything has changed — via WaPo:

Although Ivanka Trump lacks a formal White House job, the president’s older daughter is moving into her own West Wing office, an administration representative said — a move that increases her profile as an influential, although unofficial, adviser to her father.

Ivanka Trump will not be on the government payroll or officially bound by its ethics rules, but she said in a statement to Politico that she will “voluntarily” follow those restrictions. She also acknowledged the unusual nature of her emerging role…

President Trump has named Ivanka, 35, the mastermind behind his child-care and maternity- leave plans, the first proposals on such issues from a Republican president. Since the election, she has sat in meetings with world leaders, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Politico reported that she is also working to obtain a security clearance and this week will receive government communications.

If the Trump spawn and Mr. Ivanka are qualified to jointly serve as de facto Secretaries of State (and the former as the official handler of “women’s issues”) by dint of their membership in the lucky sperm club, I don’t see why my dearth of fashion sense, relative lack of funds and personal obscurity should be obstacles to my dream of founding a rag-and-bauble empire.

So what role for which you are completely unqualified do you see yourself occupying over the next three years and 10 months (barring impeachment)?

I keed, but seriously, I don’t see how we reestablish standards once this debacle ends. It’s all very decline-and-fallish.

This is an open thread, and feel free to use it to discuss the Gorsuch hearings if you’re so inclined. I don’t give a good goddamn what Gorsuch says about the law since he’s the appointee of a crook and is angling to be the recipient of stolen goods. I’ll confidently assume the worst.

Should the Democrats blow up the filibuster in an almost certainly futile attempt* to block him? I say yes. It’s going to happen eventually anyway. Might as well keep their fingerprints off any Trump-associated enterprise. Anyhoo, open thread.

*Italicized text added for clarification; I think there’s almost zero chance the Democrats can successfully block Gorsuch, but I hope they try.



Tuesday Morning Open Thread: You Repubs Think You’re Sick of This Crap?


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Apart from saying I TOLD YOU SO, what’s on the agenda for the day?

The testimony of Mr. Comey and that of Adm. Michael S. Rogers, his National Security Agency counterpart, will most likely enervate and distract Mr. Trump’s administration for weeks, if not longer… But it’s the obsessiveness and ferocity of Mr. Trump’s pushback against the Russian allegations, often untethered from fact or tact, that is making an uncertain situation worse.

Mr. Trump’s allies have begun to wonder if his need for self-expression, often on social media, will exceed his instinct for self-preservation, with disastrous results both for the president and for a party whose fate is now tightly tied to his.

And Mr. Trump’s fixation on fighting is undermining his credibility at a time when he needs to toggle from go-it-alone executive action to collaborative congressional action on ambitious health care, budget and infrastructure legislation…

The problem, from the perspective of Mr. Trump’s beleaguered political fire brigade, is that the president insists on dealing with crises by creating new ones — so surrogates, repeating talking points the president himself ignores, say they often feel like human shields….

Focus groups and polls conducted by two Democratic strategists this month have shown that many voters, even some who support Mr. Trump, have grown weary of his tweets as president. That was also borne out by a Fox News poll last week, showing that a mere 35 percent of Trump voters approve of his Twitter habits, and that only 16 percent of all voters approve of them. Some 32 percent said they “wish he’d be more careful” with his feed.

“His tweeting defines him, and not in a good way,” said Geoff Garin, a veteran Democratic pollster. “Voters not only think Trump’s use of Twitter is unpresidential, they also see the tone and content of his tweets as an indication that he is lacking in self-control.”…

COULD NOT HAPPEN TO A MORE DESERVING BUNCH OF GONIFFS.



Early Morning Open Thread: Not Lookin’ Good Right Now, Our Roger

Politico, “Roger Stone takes center stage as Congress lines up Russia probe witnesses”

On Monday, Schiff placed Stone front-and-center as he questioned FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers.

Schiff made the most of his opportunity Monday during the committee’s first public hearing of its probe into whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow officials on the alleged digital meddling campaign that bruised Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

The lawmaker pressed Comey on whether he knew who Stone is and if he was aware of Stone’s interactions with suspected hackers.

Comey said he was “generally” aware of who Stone is but wouldn’t comment on his reported activities.

“I’m worried we’re going to a place I don’t want to go, which is commenting on any particular person,” Comey added. “So I don’t think I should comment. I’m aware of public accounts.”…

Stone, who is in the midst of promoting a book on last year’s election, has a ready explanation for each action that has drawn the attention of lawmakers. He will gladly share them if asked.

“I don’t have to be subpoenaed,” Stone told POLITICO in an interview last week. “I’d come voluntarily, but if they want to issue a subpoena to get a headline, that’s fine, too. I’m anxious to speak, the sooner the better. I would like to put an end to this myth about collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.”…

The document sent to Stone requests he retain pertinent documents from the campaign. However, [Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr] Burr said there is no timeline yet for bringing in Stone.

“Sometimes the people that want to talk the most are not the ones who are the most valuable,” he said.

CNN has a helpful timeline of every incident where “Trump adviser Roger Stone repeatedly claimed to know of forthcoming WikiLeaks dumps”.

I’m quite sure ol’ Roger is busy at what he does best — massaging his every source, promising to rat out all his associates, attempting to make sure that never happens. Still, like Mr. Pierce, I can dream!



Long Read(s): Kellyanne Conway Is Having A Moment

It may be, as some Conway-skeptics have hinted, that she’s pushing her narrative hard because she’s feeling “shut out” in the latest battles among the Trump cabal’s inner circle. It may be that her husband has just been, per the NYTimes, chosen to head the civil division of the Justice Department… placing him in charge of a crucial office charged with defending Mr. Trump’s contentious travel ban and lawsuits alleging that his business activities violate the Constitution.” (And the photo of the happy couple the Times picked for its header speaks volumes.) Or it may just be the exigences of long-form journalism, where multiple stories on the same subject emerge simultaneously because such reporting takes time.

In any case, here’s hoping (/snark) that her sudden celebrity doesn’t lead her boss and idol to feel overshadowed, because we know how he’s prone to lashing out under such circumstances .

Olivia Nuzzi, in NYMag, on “The Real First Lady of Trump’s America“:

On the third floor of the West Wing, one flight past the stairwell portrait of President Donald Trump talking on his Android phone, is an office once occupied by Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to Barack Obama; Karl Rove, senior adviser to George W. Bush; and First Lady Hillary Clinton. By cramped White House standards, it’s an expansive space, complete with a desk, a conference table, a couch, a bookshelf stocked with a single copy of The Art of the Deal, a duffel bag full of family photos and a couple of pairs of Spanx — and, through the blinds, a view of the Washington Monument. And on this February day, its current tenant, Kellyanne Conway, was explaining how her life had changed in the nine months since she joined the campaign of the man who would ultimately become the 45th president of the United States — for one thing, she now answers to “Blueberry.”

That’s because she’s one of the only officials in the White House, other than President Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence, to have Secret Service protection — which staffers receive at the special request of the president, who has famously referred to her as “my Kellyanne.” She got the protection, Conway said, after she was sent a suspicious white substance. And then there were the threats. “Most of them are online,” she remarked, “and most of them are very explicit and graphic, and they’re sometimes people who have a history of following through but for whatever reason weren’t prosecuted.”…

Conway laughed with her assistant, a 26-year-old College Republicans alum named Catharine Cypher, as she tried to explain the absurdity of hearing the stoic armed men who follow her around refer in all earnestness to the whereabouts of one Miss Blueberry… “Oh my God, there’s no privacy! It’s crazy, it really is crazy.” And it can get complicated. “I have two friends, who both — well, one is Ann Coulter. She started dating her security guard probably ten years ago because she couldn’t see anybody else,” Conway said. “And you know Rebekah Mercer?” she asked, referring to the Republican megadonor who, with her father, Robert, bankrolled Trump’s campaign and pushed to install Conway as its campaign manager. “Her younger sister, Heather Sue, married her security guard. She was like, ‘Well, I didn’t see anybody else, so one night, I, you know, I invited him in!’ ” Conway’s got a running joke about one of her own agents. “If Blueberry has an affair, it’s with Secret Service! It’s with Joe.” She deepened her voice to mimic his: “ ‘Ma’am? Blueberry, horsepower!’ ” (Coulter and the Mercer family did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)
Read more



Early Morning Open Thread: NATO Is Not Mar-A-Largo, You Two-Bit Hustler

Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO explains:


Read more



Saturday Evening Open Thread

My favorite twit-pic of the day:

Courtesy of @Yogi47951368, via @bluegal.

Sad news: Chuck Berry has died at age 90. That’s a damn good run. Rock on, Chuck.

Open thread.