Thursday/ the Mu███r Rep█rt is out██

The redacted Mueller report is out, and .. it confirms what we already know, with more details. Trump stonewalled and ultimately refused to be interviewed by Mueller. Trump lied to the public. His campaign staff lied to Mueller.  Mueller could not get to all the key evidence to prove obstruction of justice, and a conspiracy with the Russians. It was unavailable, encrypted or probably deleted or shredded (so much for the Presidential Records Act).

It’s now clear that Attorney-General Barr from the Dept of Justice is acting as Trump’s personal lawyer (he is not, and he should not).

It also looks as if the calculus of the Democrats to not call for impeachment until they know they will succeed in the Senate, is unchanged. Trump should be impeached, let’s just be clear about that – but maybe the Trumpkins (that used to be Republicans) deserve him as an albatross around their neck, all the way to the 2020 elections.

Here is a page from the Mueller Report (the blue highlight is mine) where it is explicitly pointed out that Congress can criminalize unacceptable conduct by the President (that would be Trump), because the US Constitution actually says so.
And here is a page with lots of redactions. ‘Harm to Ongoing Matter’ is one type of redaction. The others are ‘Personal Privacy’, ‘Investigative Technique’ and ‘Grand Jury’ (ongoing grand jury investigations into related matters). It looks like Congress is going to have to subpoena the Dept of Justice to get the full report. Is AG William Barr committing obstruction of justice by not giving Congress the full report? The law is an ass and this is a mess.

Sunday/ meet Pete

Well, it’s official: Pete Buttigieg (say ‘Boot-Edge-Edge’) kicked off his 2020 Presidential campaign today, in his hometown of South Bend, Indiana.

As the New York Times notes: ‘If elected, Mr. Buttigieg, a 37-year-old Rhodes scholar and veteran of the war in Afghanistan, would represent a series of historic firsts: the youngest president ever and the first who is openly gay’.

Not to mention that there will be a First Husband in the White House for the first time. (Of course: that will also be the case if one of the women candidates is elected as President).

It’s a very crowded race for the Democratic nomination for President in 2020. We don’t know where the stock market will end up in 2020, and we certainly do not know at this point who will oppose Donald Trump and run him out of office. Here they are, the 18 Democrats that have officially announced that they are running for President for 2020. Notably missing, still: Joe Biden, VP under President Obama. It does not matter to me who wins the nomination: you sir, or you madam, you have my vote already. And I think my front lawn will look spectacular with each and every one of these campaign signs on it. [Pictures of candidates from a report in the New York TImes; lawn signs from a report on]

Thursday/ Brexit .. will we ever see it?

So Brexit is now delayed until Oct 31 this year (yes, Halloween).
Will it be a trick or a treat?
The UK must participate in the upcoming elections to the European Parliament (if it fails to do that, the UK will leave the EU on June 1). The European Council also reiterated that there can be no reopening of the withdrawal agreement negotiations.

I propose, that we call it Brexit’, says this German ‘astrophysicist’ of the long-awaited, elusive image of a black hole. [Cartoon from German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, by cartoonist Schwalme].

Monday/ another candidate for 2020 .. go Democrats!

Wow, the Democratic candidates for President of the United States for the 2020 campaign have been jumping into the fray by the dozen and more. Tonight there was another, on Stephen Colbert’s Late Night Show. His name is Eric Swalwell and he is represents California’s 15th congressional district.  He is only 38 yrs old (got to be 35 to run for President), but he’s been a Congressman for 6 yrs, so that will help. I like him a lot. He’s been a regular guest on the cable news programs that I watch.

P.S. Psst! And for the first time ever, there will be a gay candidate running for President of the United States as well. I will write about him later. He is expected to announce his candidacy on Sunday April 14.

Congressman Eric Swalwell is on the left, with late night talk show host Stephen Colbert on the right. Swalwell will try to distinguish himself from the other Democratic Party candidates (and there may be as many as 20!), by making gun reform in the United States the primary issue that he will run on. (Background checks with no exceptions, ban assault rifles and start buying them back, start programs to try to prevent gang violence).

Friday/ release the report, Mr Barr

Two weeks later — and still no release of the Mueller report (not to Congress and not to the public). AG William Barr has now issued four statements about the report. So some stonewalling is going on. The New York Times and Washington Post both reported that the Mueller team is grumbling about Barr’s (mis)characterization of the findings. Trump promptly called their reporting ‘fake news’.

Then again, does it really matter what’s in the Mueller report?
Trump’s corruption, cruelty, lies and incompetence are plain to see.  He broadcasts it on Twitter and blabbers non-stop lies to the press, in the Oval Office, or before he flies off, to go play golf. Any given day of the week.

Friday March 29 2019 has come and gone

Cartoon by Peter Brookes of The Times.

What happens now — now that the apocalyptic Brexit deadline of March 29 has come and gone?

Will British PM Theresa May resign?
Will there be a second referendum?

The Daily Mail newspaper was having none of it (not moving forward with Brexiting, that is). In a full-page editorial they called the Members of Parliament ‘utterly beneath contempt‘. (Shout-out to the MP looking up from his phone and waving at the camera in that last picture! He looks like a friendly guy, even though I don’t know his politics).

Saturday/ bollocks* to Brexit

*bollocks: a word of Middle English origin, in this context meaning blatant lies or unfathomable rubbish

There was a big anti-Brexit protest in London today. Protesters are demanding a second referendum, something that Prime Minister Theresa May has resisted until now.

The original March 29 deadline for Brexit is now on the doorstep, and here is the latest. A short delay for Brexit until May 22 is available if lawmakers in the House of Commons approve May’s overall withdrawal deal next week. If May loses that vote, the UK must make a decision by Apr 12 to take part in the European parliamentary elections in May to seek a delay to Brexit, or leave on Apr 12 without any deal.

Throw us a bone here. [Picture: AP, posted on The Independent online]

Friday/ the Mueller Report is in

Headlines from the New York Times online tonight.

Word broke at 5 pm Eastern Time that Robert Mueller had just submitted his long-awaited report about his inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 elections to Attorney-General William Barr.  No further indictments are recommended or to be made by Mueller himself, we are told, but we don’t know much more than that right now. It is nevertheless quite possible that information damaging Trump, or pointing to collusion with the Russians, or obstruction of justice, may be described in the report.

It is worth remembering that Mueller have already secured guilty pleas or convictions of Trump’s campaign manager, Trump’s deputy campaign manager, Trump’s campaign foreign policy adviser, Trump’s national security adviser and Trump’s longtime lawyer.

AG Barr will provide the principal conclusions of the report to Congress as soon as this weekend.
How much of the report will the public see? Will Trump fight releasing its contents, and precipitate a constitutional crisis?
We will soon find out.

Mon 3/25: Here are the surprising conclusions of the Mueller Report, with what could be gleaned from AG Barr’s letter sent to Congress on Sunday.  Barr only quoted fragments of sentences from the full Mueller Report.

1. Russia meddled with the 2016 elections (we knew that already).
2. Russia tried to get Trump & company to collude but did not succeed/ succeed completely (hey: the Trump campaign & Trump Jr did meet with them in June 2016 .. and did Trump not call out to Russia on camera, to ‘see if they can find’ Hillary Clinton’s e-mails?).
3. Mueller could not/ did not want to decide if Trump obstructed justice. So it was left up to AG William Barr & Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, who decided not to prosecute. Was it because there was no underlying crime? Was it because Trump displayed his obstruction on national television? (He admitted why he fired FBI Director James Comey, lied about Trump Jr meeting the Russians, lied about his payment to Stormy Daniels, vilified the DOJ, the FBI and the media, for two years).

Thursday/ far-right a force in Dutch elections

The Dutch provincial elections of Wednesday yielded unexpected, strong results for Thierry Baudet’s far-right Forum for Democracy (FvD) party.
The Green Left party did very well too, though, but their support is strongest in the urban areas and among highly educated voters. (A familiar theme in western liberal democracies, not?).

Front page of the NRC Handelsblad newspaper of Thursday. ‘Monster victory for Baudet. In a fractured political landscape, his Forum for Democracy (FvD) party with 12 seats in the House of Representatives is now a force to be reckoned with’. Top Right: Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s VVD-People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, in blue, also have 12 seats. He will have to form a new governing coalition and look to the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA, light green, 6 seats), GreenLeft (GL, purple, 9 seats), and Democrats 66 (D66, green, 6 seats).

Tuesday/ how will Trump’s presidency end?

There is increasing chatter on cable news here in the US, and among watchers of the Mueller Investigation, that the investigation is wrapping up and that its report is imminent. Several high-profile Mueller team members have departed from the investigation. Trump’s weekend tweet storms seem to become increasingly unhinged.

House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi has taken a Trump impeachment (with what we know now), off the table. She’s right that it’s no use that the House vote to impeach him, only for impeachment to die in the Senate (2/3 majority needed).

Senate Republicans used to stand for decency, for law and order, and for upholding the Constitution. Now they are all Trumpsters, and they belong to the Trump Party.

I made a pie chart of the results of an informal 100-person poll, conducted by New York magazine on the streets of New York.  (So some 2/3 of those polled, think Trump will lose or not even make it to 2020 to run again. Well. Count me among the 9 that said ‘I have no idea’).

Thursday/ don’t do it, Howard

Howard Schultz (65) was CEO of Starbucks from 1986 to 2000 and again from 2008 to 2017.

Howard Schultz, billionaire ex-CEO of Starbucks Coffee Co. has been making the rounds on morning shows and talk shows, announcing that he is thinking of entering the 2020 presidential race as a ‘centrist independent candidate’.

He is not off to a good start. Democrats fear he will draw away critical support needed to defeat Trump, from the Democratic candidate in a three-way race. Schultz also criticized liberal Democratic policy positions right out of the gate (healthcare for all, free college, more taxes on the rich).
Others say that a being a billionaire in the 2020 race is a non-starter – given how spectacularly out of touch the billionaire-in-chief in the White House and his billionaire Wall Street cronies are, with the plight of most Americans trying to make a living*.

*Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross ‘just did not understand’ last week why federal employees missing two paychecks would visit food banks, when they could ‘simply take out loans to pay their bills during this time of a liquidity crisis’.

I found this somewhat bizarre Starbucks-themed objets d’art at the Starbucks Roastery here on Capitol Hill. The Starbucks mermaid with the Simpsons’ googly eyes can be had for $4,500, and the other two smaller ones are $476 each. (I like the coffee-drinking rabbit with the pig snout). ‘Celebrating the new Milano roastery’ says the sign in the front. OK .. but seems it would also be ideal for a billionaire coffee-lover wanting to celebrate the New Gilded Age we are said to be living in.

Friday/ Trump gets nothing

Early this morning the FBI arrested yet another Trump campaign adviser.
Later in the day, with airport delays reported due to Day #35 of the government shutdown, Trump gave in and surrendered to the insistence of the Democratic leadership that he open the government before discussions about border security can start. He got no money for his wall, and no concessions.

Remarked NBC reporter Peter Alexander: Question for the President- How can you cast this as anything other than a wasted five weeks of (financial) pain for Americans, caused by you? 

Dirty trickster and gadfly Roger Stone (in the middle on the left) was arrested this morning by the FBI. He faces charges for witness tampering, obstruction of an official proceeding and making false statements. He worked on the Trump campaign and has been a Trump supporter and confidante for decades. Said WH Press Secretary Sarah Sanders today: ‘Stone’s arrest has nothing to do with Trump’. Oh really? We don’t believe you, Sarah. [Graphic by the New York Times from a report by ].

Thursday/ Venezuela’s turbulence

Wow .. not good, the riots in the streets in Caracas over the disputed presidential elections of 2018.  By many accounts, interim president Nicolás Maduro stole the 2018 elections with widespread fraud and support from the military. He and his supporters are refusing to let the National Assembly’s declaration & swearing in of Juan Guaidó stand.

The Trump Administration declared support for opposition leader Guaidó (so not the dictator Maduro – a surprise. Why is that? wonder observers, given that Trump fawns over and supports dictators Putin, Erdoğan, Duterte & Kim Jong-un).

In the meantime, the citizenry has to deal with an utterly destroyed economy. Nine out of ten Venezuelans live in poverty, despite the country’s vast oil reserves. Inflation in 2018 was 1,300,000%. So your money there is not worth the paper it is printed on.

From the New York Times online, Friday 1/25.
History is repeating itself, says cartoonist Eduardo Sanabria (aka Edo) in this cartoon. On Jan 23, 1958, a civilian-military movement overthrew the government of Gen. Marcos Pérez Jiménez. La Vaca Sagrada (The Sacred Cow) was the name of the airplane with which he flew to the Dominican Republic. Come Jan 23, 2019, and the rioting citizens in the streets aim to chase out two ‘sacred cows’ again. The big guy with the moustache is Nicolás Maduro which by many accounts stole the 2018 election. The little guy might be Diosdado Cabello, a supporter & Venezuelan politician.

Tuesday/ Day 32 of the Trump Shutdown

The US government shutdown dragged on into Day 32 on Tuesday, and come midnight, the deadline had passed for issuing another pay period’s checks to hundreds of thousands of essential government workers.

Trump had thrown a sham proposal on the table on Saturday, ‘offering’ to end the shutdown and to ‘protect’ DACA recipients (immigrant children). These are simply reinstating protections he had stripped from them in 2017. Other changes in the proposed bill with funds for his stupid wall, include massive reductions of the asylum rules in place for Central Americans.

A reminder: this manufactured ‘border crisis’ for the 2018 midterm elections had failed to impress the voters. And it wasn’t enough that the Trump Administration took kids from families seeking asylum, and lied to Congress about it. No – Trump & Senate Leader Mitch McConnell shut down the United States government. They impact and stress out hundreds of thousands of federal workers directly, including TSA officials and air traffic controllers, food inspectors, FBI investigators, federal court judges, environmental protection agents, and more. What a mess.

Thursday/ foreign agent or useful idiot .. which one?

There have now been so many revelations about the Trump 2016 campaign’s collusion with the Russians, and so many pro-Russia, pro-Putin actions that Trump had taken in plain sight, that it really appears that the President of the United States can only be 1. an agent for Russia or 2. a useful idiot.

Writes Garrett M. Graff in Wired magazine:
In short, we’ve reached a point in the Mueller probe where there are only two scenarios left: Either the president is compromised by the Russian government and has been working covertly to cooperate with Vladimir Putin after Russia helped win him the 2016 election—or Trump will go down in history as the world’s most famous “useful idiot,” as communists used to call those who could be co-opted to the cause without realizing it.

So we are in a place way, way beyond Nixon.

Tuesday/ deal or no deal?

Now there is political chaos on both sides of the Atlantic, with the historic defeat of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal in the House of Commons today – and with the United States Government shutdown deadlock dragging on to Day 26.

Only time will tell what happens next, in both cases.

Reporting from the New York Times, Jan 15.
Tweets from Donald Tusk (President of the European Council), and Jean-Claude Junker, President of the European Union Commission, responding to the vote in the House of Commons that soundly rejected May’s deal with the EU.

Monday/ Trump’s ‘Bottomless Pinocchio’ statements

From The Washington Post today: ‘The Fact Checker’ has evaluated false statements President Trump has made repeatedly and analyzed how often he reiterates them. The claims included here – which we’re calling “Bottomless Pinocchios” – are limited to ones that he has repeated 20 times and were rated as Three or Four Pinocchios by the Fact Checker.

  • The Trump tax cut was the biggest in history – Trump repeated some version of this claim 123 times
  • Overstating the size of U.S. trade deficits – Trump repeated some version of this claim 117 times
  • The U.S. economy has never been stronger – Trump repeated some version of this claim 99 times
  • Inflating our NATO spending – Trump repeated some version of this claim 87 times
  • The U.S. has started building the wall -Trump repeated some version of this claim 86 times
  • The U.S. has the loosest immigration laws in the world — thanks to Democrats – Trump repeated some version of this claim 52 times
  • Democrats colluded with Russia during the campaign – Trump repeated some version of this claim 42 times
  • The border wall will stop drug trafficking – Trump repeated some version of this claim 40 times
  • U.S. Steel is building many new plants – Trump repeated some version of this claim 37 times
  • The U.S. has spent $6 trillion (or more) on Middle East wars – Trump repeated some version of this claim 36 times
  • Thousands of MS-13 members have been removed from the country – Trump repeated some version of this claim 33 times
  • McCain’s vote was the only thing that blocked repeal of the Affordable Care Act – Trump repeated some version of this claim 30 times
  • Robert S. Mueller III is biased because of conflicts of interest – Trump repeated some version of this claim 30 times
  • Inflating gains from a 2017 trip to Saudi Arabia – Trump repeated some version of this claim 23 times

Saturday/ 2019, as a Star Wars opening crawl

A someone on Twitter says, this summary of Trump & his presidency heading into 2019, from the Washington Post (by Robert Costa and Philip Rucker), reads like a Star Wars opening crawl:
‘Facing the dawn of his third year in office and his bid for reelection, Trump is stepping into a political hailstorm. Democrats are preparing to seize control of the House in January with subpoena power to investigate corruption. Global markets are reeling from his trade war. The United States is isolated from its traditional partners. The investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into Russian interference is intensifying. And court filings Friday in a separate federal case implicated Trump in a felony’.

‘Trump Wars’ The Year 2019. The Washington Post reporting as a Star Wars opening crawl. (I popped the text into a tool online that creates Star Wars opening crawls, with dramatic music in the background). Will we live in ‘interesting times’, as the old Chinese curse says?

Thursday/ more (really big) Trump lies exposed

Trump had lied for years about his dealings with the Russians, after his visit there in 2013 at the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. (Repeatedly saying ‘No business with the Russians’, ‘I have no connections to the Russians’).

Today, Michael Cohen (ex-Trump Right Hand Man & Fixer) pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about Trump’s connections to Russia. Cohen had in fact been negotiating with the Russians about the Trump Moscow Tower hotel all the way through June 2016.  Trump was already the Republican nominee for President at that time.

Also, from Buzzfeed News: President Trump’s company planned to give a $50 million penthouse at the proposed Trump Tower Moscow to Vladimir Putin, as the company negotiated the luxury real estate development during the 2016 campaign.

The point is that beside these shady business dealings (sanctioned Russian state bank VTB Bank was to finance Trump Tower), we also know the Russians had hacked the Clinton campaign’s e-mails, and that the Trump campaign & Don Jr met with them to discuss it in June 2016. The Russians exploited Facebook to interfere mightily with the 2016 presidential election. How extensive was Trump’s involvement and knowledge of all this?

Reporting from today’s New York Times. History might very well look back at April 2018 (when Michael Cohen’s home was raided by the FBI), as the start of Trump’s undoing as President.