Janitorial Duties

A member of the European press asks why leaders in the EU should believe Pence’s conciliatory remarks over Trump’s inflammatory ones:

Shorter Pence: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis had to do clean-up duty while visiting Iraq today:

As a part of his global tour to clean up after President Trump, Defense Secretary James Mattis stopped in Baghdad Monday where he sought to reassure Iraqi’s feeling skittish about Trump’s continued insistence that the U.S. should have already taken Iraq’s oil and his suggestion that “we’ll have another chance.”

“We’re not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil,” Mattis flatly told reporters. The secretary said his visit to Baghdad was to “get current on the situation there, the political situation, the enemy situation and the friendly situation.” But as with several of his recent stops in Europe, Mattis had to spend some of his time in the country smoothing over some of Trump’s more controversial remarks.

As noted in this space many times, everything Trump touches turns to shit, very much including the reputations of people who willingly associate with him, not that Dense Pence had much of a reputation to preserve. Interestingly, Pence seems to be defying gravity better than other Trump admin lackeys thus far, possibly because he started from such a low place — awaiting his firing by the state of Indiana — and because establishment Repubs have a vested interest in keeping Pence relatively unsullied in case Trump’s presidency implodes in scandal.

Speaking of scandal, Josh Marshall and others seem to believe this Felix Sater business is a BFD. I hope so, but it’s certainly looking like Congressional Republicans will countenance any malfeasance to secure tax cuts for billionaires and an opportunity to slash the social safety net.

Still, drip, drip, drip. The mop buckets are a’slosh, and we’re only a month in.



WASF Open Thread – Epidemiology Edition

They’re not rejecting science — they’re just raising questions! Because terrible tragedies — like having an autistic child — shouldn’t happen to nice people! In our complicated world, how can we know what’s true, and what’s spin?

I’m old enough to remember when the Romanovs were regarded as a couple of under-educated inbreds for letting a plainly demented charlatan take effective control over their government, not that one would expect any better from a regime where a tiny group of oligarchs ruled the teeming mass of serfs via a combination of hereditary religious bigotry and a militarized state police…



Open Thread: Things Are Progressing Not Necessarily to the Trump Administration’s Best Advantage

The great blogger Billmon used to remind us, when official sources tried to obfuscate the consequences of their own incompetence, that the Emperor in 1945 is supposed to have announced Japan’s unconditional surrender by saying something like “The situation has progressed not necessarily to our kingdom’s best advantage.”

The GOP, and its handmaidens in the management suites at the Grey Lady, are attempting a similar circumlocution. The NYTimes reporters are starting to edge towards the exits, though:

For days, a frustrated and simmering president fumed inside the West Wing residence about what aides said he saw as his staff’s inadequate defense and the ineffectiveness of his own tweets. Over the objections of some top advisers who wanted to steer him away from confrontation, Mr. Trump demanded to face the media, determined to reject the narrative that his administration is sinking into chaos, scandal and incompetence.

In a rowdy, free-for-all news conference hastily staged in the East Room, Mr. Trump attempted to deflect attention from news coverage about Russian intelligence, the resignation of his national security adviser, the defeat of his labor secretary nominee, and deepening questions about his ability to govern.

“I turn on the T.V., open the newspapers and I see stories of chaos,” Mr. Trump said as he attempted — with little discipline — to read from prepared remarks listing his accomplishments since being inaugurated one month ago. “Chaos. Yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.”…

For his supporters, the performance was certain to be energizing. Mr. Trump turned sober questions from journalists into, at times, mesmerizing television. He attempted to reassert his command of “dishonest” journalists at a time when the news media is questioning his capacity to lead. It all made the brooding boss feel better, people close to Mr. Trump said…

Still, it is unlikely that Mr. Trump’s 77-minute performance will divert much long-term attention from questions about his campaign’s relationship with Russia, or reassure wavering Republicans on Capitol Hill that their agenda is on track. Yet Mr. Trump’s close allies said he had met his more immediate goal of soothing himself with a sense of control over his own administration…

Even the NotSoLiberal Fox News!



Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

I saved a screenshot of this morning’s CNN home page the way my mother once squirreled away newspapers covering events like the Kennedy assassination, the moon landing and the Watergate denouement:

We’re not there yet. But to me, anyway, it feels like something historical is afoot, that I must not only bear witness but maybe save clippings for posterity. (At least my news pack-rattery won’t demand drawer space from my descendants!)

Twitler was on a tear this morning. Maybe he has that “history in the making” feeling too. It might be wishful thinking, but I could swear I detected a faint whiff of flop sweat and desperation emanating from the pixels below:

Tell me that most recent tweet doesn’t sound like something Greenwald would say. And the fuck of it is, I would normally agree: We don’t want the intel community mucking around in our politics.

It was an outrage when Comey stuck his big, fat, morally upright thumb on the scales in the waning days of the election. So why cheer the intel community on now, hoping they dump enough dirt to bury the Trump admin?

Because this isn’t a normal administration. Trump referred to me and the 65 million other Americans who didn’t vote for him as “enemies” in his New Year “message.” He’s done nothing to reach out to anyone other than his rancid fan base. He’s stocked the government with racists, misogynists and bigoted kooks, and his top advisers are openly fomenting a global white nationalist effort to undermine Western democracies.

The Republicans who control Congress are willing to go along with Trump’s anti-American agenda if doing so will allow them to cut taxes for billionaires and take away people’s access to affordable healthcare. They’ve said so outright, so they can’t be trusted to do their job and keep our government from being controlled by a hostile foreign power.

The judicial branch is the last leg on the wobbly-ass stool of American democracy, but Trump is doing his best to saw that off too and has real power to shape it for the future. Anyone think he’ll ensure its independence?

So, spooks it is. No, I don’t trust them completely. No, I don’t think it’s a good idea for the intel community to manipulate domestic politics (and I wish we’d mind our own business abroad too).

But desperate times call for desperate measures. If it takes leaks to force the Republicans in Congress to work with the Democrats and do their goddamned jobs, then bring on the drip, drip, drip.

PS: The media is unanimously reporting that Dense Pence was in the dark about Flynn’s actions. Are y’all aware of any independent corroboration of that? I haven’t seen it.

It looks like they’re taking the administration’s word on that, and this administration lies constantly and shamelessly. On camera. All the fucking time. We shouldn’t take their word for anything.



Late Night Scumbags Open Thread: If This Is History Repeating, Did It Have to Be Such A Lousy Farce?

The call logs and intercepted communications are part of a larger trove of information that the F.B.I. is sifting through as it investigates the links between Mr. Trump’s associates and the Russian government, as well as the hacking of the D.N.C., according to federal law enforcement officials. As part of its inquiry, the F.B.I. has obtained banking and travel records and conducted interviews, the officials said….

The intercepted calls are different from the wiretapped conversations last year between Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, and Sergey I. Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States. In those calls, which led to Mr. Flynn’s resignation on Monday night, the two men discussed sanctions that the Obama administration imposed on Russia in December…

Given his short stay at the top, Mr. Flynn’s case might be quickly forgotten as an isolated episode if it did not raise other questions, particularly about what the president knew and when. Even more broadly, it underscores lingering uncertainty about the relationship between the Trump administration and Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia, a subject of great interest given American intelligence reports of Moscow’s intervention in last year’s elections in the United States.

As leaders of both parties said on Tuesday that they expected the Senate to investigate and probably even summon Mr. Flynn to testify, more details emerged about a drama that played out largely in secret inside a White House riven by competing power centers. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, revealed that Mr. Trump had known about concerns that Mr. Flynn lied for more than two weeks before demanding his resignation on Monday night. But Vice President Mike Pence was kept in the dark and did not learn that Mr. Flynn had misled him about his Russia contacts until reading news accounts late last week…

(Somewhere in Hell, dead Spiro Agnew weeps at the GOP’s reduction to the likes of ‘Mike Dense’.)

“The mountain has labored, and brought forth a mouse. But did it have to be a wall-eyed mouse in a clown suit?”



GOP Venality Open Thread: REMAIN CALM! ALL IS WELL!

Sooo… let me see if I have the timeline correct… when Acting Attorney General Sally Yates ordered her Dept. of Justice lawyers not to enforce Trump’s totally-not-a-Muslim-ban Executive Order, she already had a pretty good idea his minions were looking for an excuse to fire her? As they did?

How many of us expected the Trump Administration to reach Nixon-post-Watergate levels of corrupt incompetence during its very first month?

And the leading lights of the GOP Congress step forward to cover themselves with… well, it ain’t glory…



Open Thread: What’s the Japanese Translation for “Grifter-in-Chief”?

CNN [warning: autoplay]:

Swanning through the club’s living room and main dining area alongside Abe, Trump was — as is now typical — swarmed with paying members, who now view dinner at the club as an opportunity for a few seconds of face time with the new President.

But as he sat down for the planned working dinner with Abe, whose country is well within range of North Korea’s missiles, it was clear his counterpart felt it necessary to respond to the test. The launch occurred just before 8 a.m. on Sunday morning in Japan.

Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and chief strategist Steve Bannon left their seats to huddle closer to Trump as documents were produced and phone calls were placed to officials in Washington and Tokyo.

The patio was lit only with candles and moonlight, so aides used the camera lights on their phones to help the stone-faced Trump and Abe read through the documents…

Eventually Trump and Abe, along with their collection of aides, stood and moved from the dining terrace and toward a marble-trimmed ballroom, whose gilded columns were concealed by more sober-looking black drapes.

Standing in front of an American and Japanese flag, a stern-faced Abe called the launch “absolutely intolerable,” and insisted North Korea adhere to United Nations Security Council resolutions barring it from testing of ballistic missiles.

Trump, in his short remarks, didn’t mention the launch. He used a short statement to vow support for Japan instead…

He declined to read from a set of prepared remarks, which photographers captured images of, that were resting on his podium. Those remarks did mention the missile test specifically and vowed cooperation between allies to “safeguard and protect” against North Korea’s “provocative acts.”…

Trump left the impromptu briefing room without taking questions, having delivered the first emergency foreign policy statement of his presidency.

But even as he confronted one of the gravest matters of his office, Trump nonetheless found it impossible to resist dropping in on a nearby wedding reception, already underway in his treasured Grand Ballroom. Trump designed and built the space himself after purchasing Mar-a-Lago in the 1980s.

Entering the ornate room, Trump took a photo with the bride and her bridesmaids, who posed in red gowns next to the commander in chief, mimicking his signature thumbs-up.
Then he grabbed a microphone.

“I saw them out on the lawn today,” Trump said of the bride and groom, who were standing nearby. “I said to the Prime Minister of Japan, I said, ‘C’mon Shinzo, let’s go over and say hello.’ ”

“They’ve been members of this club for a long time,” Trump said of the newlyweds. “They’ve paid me a fortune.”

Yeah, Trump knows just how to handle an international crisis — now that he’s President-Asterisk, membership fees at Mar-a-Largo have doubled.

The Japanese government must be nostalgic about the good old days, when the worst diplomatic faux pas was Bush Sr. vomiting on the Prime Minister during a state dinner.