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Department of Justice Says It's Not Illegal to Discriminate Against Homosexuals' in the Workplace

Posted on Jul 27, 2017
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(Andrew Harnik / AP)
In a disheartening break from progress in workplace policies, the Department of Justice filed a brief on Wednesday claiming the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect "homosexual" workers from discrimination. The brief says that discrimination based on sexual orientation is not sex discriminationdirectly contradicting Title VIIof the Civil Rights Act, which "makes it unlawful to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex (including pregnancy and gender identity) or religion."
The brief was filed in response to the lawsuit Zarda v. Altitude Express, in which a male skydiving instructor claimed he was fired by his employer because he was gay. After the case was initially dismissed by a district judge, it was appealed and taken to federal court this year.
"The essential element of sex discrimination under Title VII is that employees of one sex must be treated worse than similarly situated employees of the other sex, and sexual orientation discrimination simply does not have that effect," the DOJ brief states.
The ACLU released the following statement:
The Supreme Court has explained that sex discrimination occurs whenever an employer takes an employee's sex into account when making an adverse employment decision. Courts have applied this principle to countless forms of employer bias, from cases involving a ban on hiring mothers of preschool-aged children to bias against Asian-American women to the failure to promote a Big Eight accounting firm partnership candidate because she was considered to be macho.' Time and again, courts have refused to allow generalizations about men and women or about certain types of men and women to play any role in employment decisions.
This does not seem to be what the DOJ is arguing. Rather, it claims that it is acceptable to discriminate against LGBT people in the workplace, based on statements in two main bullet points:
While Title VII seems straightforward in protecting workers from discrimination based on sex, including pregnancy and gender identity, its lack of specific language in regard to sexual orientation has allowed for workplace discrimination against LGBT people. However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency that handles civil rights disputes, has insisted for years that anti-gay discrimination is based on sex stereotyping and amounts to discrimination on the basis of sex.
The DOJ's statements will not yet have concrete effects on actual workplace policy because the brief was in response to a court argument. But the comments set a dangerous precedent, given that the DOJ was not asked to participate or comment on the casein addition to the fact that the department released the statement the same day President Trump announced a ban on transgender people performing military service.


[Image: image2-15-700x470.jpg]Photo credit: Khan Lo / YouTube and C-SPAN
It's the convergence of the profound with the ironic. I'm referring to a remarkable 20-year old document that surfaced this week.
To understand the ironic part, a short trip in the wayback machine is necessary.
Those old enough will recall that, during the Bill Clinton presidency, Republicans worked day and night to get him impeached and, if possible, criminally prosecuted. To that end an independent prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, was appointed and he went to work with a passion.
The tireless efforts to remove Clinton failed. The House impeached, but the Senate did not convict.
But before the curtain fell on that drama, a serious question needed to be answered: could a sitting president be indicted for a crime? And, if indicted, could a sitting president be tried while in office?
To get to the answers. Starr hired a prominent conservative legal scholar, Ronald Rotunda.
On May 13, 1998, Rotunda submitted his findings. It was a detailed 56-page report chock full of legal citations and Supreme Court decisions. Once the impeachment fever ended, so too did any interest in pursuing the matter, and this report spent the next 20 years tucked away in a file at the National Archives.
Last week that changed, when New York Times reporter Charlie Savage used the Freedom of Information Act to get his hands on it.
And here's where the irony comes in. Though Republicans never got a chance to indict Bill Clinton, the report Starr commissioned to nail Clinton is front and center again, this time regarding their own sitting president.
In his report, Rotunda concluded that, yes, current law and past rulings concur that a sitting president is not above the law and can be both indicted and tried while in office.
Clearly, Trump's ever-growing legal team is also aware of Rotunda's findings, which likely explains why Donald Trump's attention in recent days has switched from denouncing "fake news" to "Who can I pardon?" And why his lawyers are now searching for information they could use to cut down independent counsel Robert Mueller.
[Image: image1-19-1024x682.jpg]Photo credit: Document Cloud

I will include a link to the entire Rotunda report at the end. But here's a cheat sheet of his findings:
QUESTION: Can a sitting president be indicted and prosecuted for a crime while in office?
The parallels between the current Office of Independent Counsel (OIC) investigation of Trump and Starr's investigation of Bill Clinton are robust, though the allegations against Trump are far more serious if proven. Rotunda was singularly clear on this question a sitting president is only immune from prosecution as long as he is engaged in his "constitutionally allowed official duties."
"The Office of Independent Counsel is investigating allegations that do not involve official duties of President Clinton. (Which) include serious allegations involving witness tampering, document destruction, perjury, subornation of perjury, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and illegal pay-offs; these counts in no way relate to President Clinton's official duties, even though some of the alleged violations occurred after he became President. ….Indeed, the alleged acts involved here are not only outside the outer perimeter of the President's official responsibility, they are contrary to the President's official responsibility to take care that the law be faithfully executed." (Emphasis mine)
Whether or not Trump's attempted intimidation and later firing of FBI Director James Comey and verbal and tweeted warnings regarding Robert Mueller's investigation into Trump family business affairs rise to the level of attempted obstruction of justice, those actions clearly lie outside the "official duties of the president," thereby making them fair game for a grand jury and, if proven, indictment.
QUESTION: What about crimes a sitting president committed before taking office?
Kenneth Starr was not just interested in nailing Clinton for what he had done in office, but what he and Hillary Clinton had allegedly done before coming to Washington...(Whitewater real estate deal, Paula Jones, etc.) So Starr wanted to know if he could indict Clinton for those alleged crimes. Clinton's lawyers argued against indictment, claiming that indicting and trying a sitting president would "significantly burden the time of the president."
Rotunda roundly disagreed:
"…you have asked my legal opinion as to whether it is constitutional to indict a sitting president for actions that occurred both before he became president and while he was under investigation. If the president is indicted for acts that occurred prior to the time he became president and for acts that were not taken as part of his official duties then the fact that a federal court's exercise of its traditional Article III jurisdiction may significantly burden the time and attention of the Chief Executive is not sufficient to establish a violation of the Constitution….In short, the extent that case law discusses this issue the cases do not conclude that the President should have any immunity, either absolute or temporary, from the law. On the contrary, they point to the conclusion that, since the birth of the Republic, our constitutional systems rejected the fiction that the King can do no wrong."
In fact, Rotunda added that the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution provided a seamless process to address the matter of an incapacitated President:
"The 25th Amendment, in the unlikely event that the defense of a civil case or the defense of a criminal case, would prevent the President from performing his duties. The Executive branch does not simply shut down. The 25th Amendment provides a procedure for the Executive Branch to continue to function…This procedure is clearly not limited to cases of illness."
[Image: image3-8-1024x682.jpg]President Trump speaking to a joint session of Congress, February 28, 2017. Photo credit: The White House

QUESTION: Must impeachment precede any criminal indictment?
It has long been assumed that, a president who has committed crimes in office, must first be impeached and removed from office before he or she could be criminally prosecuted. But, after closer examination of applicable law and accepted constitutional interpretations, Rotunda concluded otherwise:
"The purpose of the OIC (Office of Independent Counsel) investigation and grand jury is to determine whether the president has, or has not, engaged in serious crimes…….all (previous rulings) lead to the same conclusion: it is proper, constitutional, and legal for a federal grand jury to indict a sitting president for serious criminal acts that are not part of, and are contrary to, the president's official duties. …Before or after indictment, Congress could exercise its independent judgement as to whether to begin impeachment proceedings or await the conclusion of the criminal proceedings. Neither the criminal proceeding nor the impeachment proceeding will control the other."
QUESTION: Can a sitting president be arrested while in office?
But those hoping that they may someday see President Trump frog-walked out of the Oval Office, Rotunda had some disappointing news:
"If the president is convicted, the punishment may not include imprisonment, and, if it does, any imprisonment can be stayed until he is no longer a sitting president….A criminal indictment and even a trial do not compete with the impeachment device by working a constructive removal of the president from office. (Nixon v Sirica) However, imprisonment may be a constructive removal of the president from office,' and if it is, that sanction cannot be imposed on a sitting president. But indictment and trial are not the same as imprisonment….If he is convicted, the sanction may not include imprisonment, and if it does, that sanction can be stayed until after the presidential term has ended."
Of course, should Trump be indicted and convicted, it is inconceivable, even under this quisling GOP-led Congress, that he will not also be promptly impeached and removed from office…after which he could face imprisonment. (In such matters it's good to remember that "revenge is a meal best served cold.")
In short those were Donald Rotunda's findings. And, while they proved inoperative in Clinton's case, they are once again in play as the Trump investigations grind on. Which explains more precisely why Trump is so furious with Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself and sparking the appointment of an Independent Counsel, Robert Mueller.
Under extant law an IC has the power to impanel a Federal Grand Jury to hear evidence against a sitting president. And, has the power to indict a sitting president. And the power to try and convict a sitting president.
As you read the entire Rotunda report (here) it's important to focus on the key operative phrase: "a sitting president is only immune from prosecution as long as he is engaged in his constitutionally allowed official duties." Therein lays Trump's achilles heel. Never have we had a President who acts most of the time in his own privateinterest. Tweeting threats to those investigating his alleged wrongdoing(s), is NOT part of his official duties, for example.
What Trump might have done before coming to office is also clearly fair game for Mueller's investigators.
These are the reasons the Rotunda report deserved far more media coverage than it's gotten so far. And why this report will drive all future decisions and actions by both the independent counsel and Trump's legal team.
FINAL QUESTION: Does a sitting president have the power to pardon his co-conspirators, or even himself?
Rotunda was not asked to opine on this particularly sticky issue. While there are lots of "best guesses" floating around right now, no one knows the real answer though we may find out soon enough.
Entire Rotunda report here:
Scaramucci declares war on Priebus, Bannon

The newly appointed communications director is intent on fixing' the West Wing and ousting other top aides.

07/27/2017 06:05 PM EDT
Updated 07/27/2017 08:37 PM EDT

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One person who talked to Anthony Scaramucci said he talks openly about getting rid of Reince Priebus.

[B][B] Anthony Scaramucci, the flashy and sometimes profane Wall Street financier, was brought on as White House communications director last Friday. It's already clear he's a lot more than that.
In six days, he has launched a brutally edged campaign to identify White House leakers, threatened to "fire everybody" in the communications shop, and has declared war on chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Scaramucci, who boasted that he reports directly to President Donald Trump, has described his role as "fixing the place," said one person who spoke with him this week.
And he's wasting no time.
In a vulgar interview with The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza on Wednesday night, Scaramucci laced into Priebus for trying to
"cock block" [size=12]him from a job in the White House, called him a "fucking paranoid schizophrenic," and questioned Bannon's loyalty.
"I'm not Steve Bannon, I'm not trying to suck my own cock,"
[/SIZE] he said.
One person who talked with Scaramucci said he talks openly about getting rid of Priebus, the former Republican National Committee chairman whose job has appeared to be in jeopardy for months.
"He's got to go," this person said, summarizing Scaramucci's comments about Priebus.
[B][B]It's unclear how the New Yorker interview will impact Scaramucci's standing with Trump, but the president has already praised Scaramucci's brawler instincts, including his ability to get a retraction from CNN on an article that linked Scaramucci to the Russia investigations. But his attacks on fellow aides are sure to draw some condemnations and questions about his own future in the West Wing.
Scaramucci suggested in a tweet on Thursday evening that he would pull back on the profanities, but he did not apologize. "I sometimes use colorful language. I will refrain in this arena but not give up the passionate fight for @realDonaldTrump's agenda. #MAGA," he wrote.
Later in the evening, he appeared to push some of the blame on Lizza. "I made a mistake in trusting in a reporter. It won't happen again," he tweeted.
Lizza, however, wrote in his piece that Scaramucci did not ask for the conversation to be off the record or on background.
One White House official described the incident as a bump in the road for Scaramucci and said that there was no expectation that he would be fired or punished for the interview. Nor any expectation that Trump will be inflamed by it.
"He didn't say anything negative about Trump," this person said.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders offered a defense of Scaramucci on Fox News on Thursday evening, saying he's someone who's "very passionate" about Trump.
"This is a guy who sometimes uses colorful, and in many circles probably not appropriate language," Sanders said. "He's very passionate about the president and the president's agenda, and I think he may have let that get the best of him in that conversation."
Scaramucci's arrival was described by one adviser as "a cannonball from a diving board into a pool." With his brash outer-borough New York ethos and flair for showmanship, Scaramucci is perhaps more like Trump himself than anyone else on the White House staff and his appointment is a clear signal that the president is walking away from his initial embrace of establishment Republicans familiar with Washington.
Instead, Trump is choosing the gut-driven approach that won him the presidency. And that especially doesn't bode well for Priebus.
The chief of staff has seen his power base steadily erode, losing first his deputy Katie Walsh, who departed the administration in March and recently returned to the RNC, and then press secretary Sean Spicer, who resigned after it was clear that Scaramucci would be above him in the West Wing.
Some in the West Wing had thought it would be Priebus who would leave once the news of Scaramucci's hiring broke.
In a potentially ominous sign, Priebus' usual defenders in the White House seemed subdued on Thursday, a noticeable shift from earlier in the administration, when public criticism of the chief of staff was met with a rapid response. No one seemed empowered to defend Priebus, unlike in the early days, when two paragraphs in a story about him could prompt six or more phone calls.
One person who spoke with Priebus over the weekend said he'd wanted to make it to one year in the White House, but has settled for staying "at least through health care."
One reason Priebus and his allies opposed Scaramucci coming on board was that they knew "he wouldn't just be a comms person going on TV," one West Wing official said.
Priebus has begun calling allies and asking for advice on whether he should stay in the job and how he should handle the situation, according to people familiar with the talks. One such call went to Speaker Paul Ryan earlier this week, who advised Priebus to stay and that the president needed him. "They speak often," said Doug Andres, a Ryan spokesman, who declined to comment further.

Quote:Ryan Lizza

Anthony Scaramucci Called Me to Unload About White House Leakers, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon

He started by threatening to fire the entire White House communications staff. It escalated from there.

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By Ryan Lizza


[FONT=&amp]July 27, 2017[/FONT]

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[FONT=&amp]The new White House communications director has become obsessed with leaks and threatened to fire staffers if he discovers that they have given unauthorized information to reporters.

Photograph by Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post / Getty

On Wednesday night, I received a phone call from Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director. He wasn't happy. Earlier in the night, I'd tweeted, citing a "senior White House official," that Scaramucci was having dinner at the White House with President Trump, the First Lady, Sean Hannity, and the former Fox News executive Bill Shine. It was an interesting group, and raised some questions. Was Trump getting strategic advice from Hannity? Was he considering hiring Shine? But Scaramucci had his own questionfor me.
"Who leaked that to you?" he asked. I said I couldn't give him that information. He responded by threatening to fire the entire White House communications staff. "What I'm going to do is, I will eliminate everyone in the comms team and we'll start over," he said. I laughed, not sure if he really believed that such a threat would convince a journalist to reveal a source. He continued to press me and complain about the staff he's inherited in his new job. "I ask these guys not to leak anything and they can't help themselves," he said. "You're an American citizen, this is a major catastrophe for the American country. So I'm asking you as an American patriot to give me a sense of who leaked it."
In Scaramucci's view, the fact that word of the dinner had reached a reporter was evidence that his rivals in the West Wing, particularly Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, were plotting against him. While they have publiclymaintained that there is no bad blood between them, Scaramucci and Priebus have been feuding for months. After the election, Trump asked Scaramucci to join his Administration, and Scaramucci sold his company, SkyBridge Capital, in anticipation of taking on a senior role. But Priebus didn't want him in the White House, and successfully blocked him for being appointed to a job until last week, when Trump offered him the communications job over Priebus's vehement objections. In response to Scaramucci's appointment, Sean Spicer, an ally of Priebus's, resigned his position as press secretary. And in an additional slight to Priebus, the White House's official announcement of Scaramucci's hiring noted that he would report directly to the President, rather than to the chief of staff.
Scaramucci's first public appearance as communications director was a slick and conciliatory performance at the lectern in the White House briefing room last Friday. He suggested it was time for the White House to turn a page. But since then, he has become obsessed with leaks and threatened to fire staffers if he discovers that they have given unauthorized information to reporters. Michael Short, a White House press aide considered close to Priebus, resigned on Tuesday after Scaramucci publicly spoke about firing him. Meanwhile, several damaging stories about Scaramucci have appeared in the press, and he blamed Priebus for most of them. Now, he wanted to know whom I had been talking to about his dinner with the President. Scaramucci, who initiated the call, did not ask for the conversation to be off the record or on background.
"Is it an assistant to the President?" he asked. I again told him I couldn't say. "O.K., I'm going to fire every one of them, and then you haven't protected anybody, so the entire place will be fired over the next two weeks."
I asked him why it was so important for the dinner to be kept a secret. Surely, I said, it would become public at some point. "I've asked people not to leak things for a period of time and give me a honeymoon period," he said. "They won't do it." He was getting more and more worked up, and he eventually convinced himself that Priebus was my source.
"They'll all be fired by me," he said. "I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I'll fire tomorrow. I'll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebusif you want to leak somethinghe'll be asked to resign very shortly." The issue, he said, was that he believed Priebus had been worried about the dinner because he hadn't been invited. "Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac," Scaramucci said. He channelled Priebus as he spoke: " Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the fucking thing and see if I can cock-block these people the way I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months.' " (Priebus did not respond to a request for comment.)
Scaramucci was particularly incensed by a Politico report about his financial-disclosure form, which he viewed as an illegal act of retaliation by Priebus. The reporter said Thursday morning that the document was publicly available and she had obtained it from the Export-Import Bank. Scaramucci didn't know this at the time, and he insisted to me that Priebus had leaked the document, and that the act was "a felony."
"I've called the F.B.I. and the Department of Justice," he told me.
"Are you serious?" I asked.
"The swamp will not defeat him," he said, breaking into the third person. "They're trying to resist me, but it's not going to work. I've done nothing wrong on my financial disclosures, so they're going to have to go fuck themselves."
Scaramucci also told me that, unlike other senior officials, he had no interest in media attention. "I'm not Steve Bannon, I'm not trying to suck my own cock," he said, speaking of Trump's chief strategist. "I'm not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President. I'm here to serve the country." (Bannon declined to comment.)
He reiterated that Priebus would resign soon, and he noted that he told Trump that he expected Priebus to launch a campaign against him. "He didn't get the hint that I was reporting directly to the President," he said. "And I said to the President here are the four or five things that he will do to me." His list of allegations included leaking the Hannity dinner and the details from his financial-disclosure form.
I got the sense that Scaramucci's campaign against leakers flows from his intense loyalty to Trump. Unlike other Trump advisers, I've never heard him say a bad word about the President. "What I want to do is I want to fucking kill all the leakers and I want to get the President's agenda on track so we can succeed for the American people," he told me.
He cryptically suggested that he had more information about White House aides. "O.K., the Mooch showed up a week ago," he said. "This is going to get cleaned up very shortly, O.K.? Because I nailed these guys. I've got digital fingerprints on everything they've done through the F.B.I. and the fucking Department of Justice."
"What?" I interjected.
"Well, the felony, they're gonna get prosecuted, probably, for the felony." He added, "The lie detector starts" but then he changed the subject and returned to what he thought was the illegal leak of his financial-disclosure forms. I asked if the President knew all of this.
"Well, he doesn't know the extent of all that, he knows about some of that, but he'll know about the rest of it first thing tomorrow morning when I see him."
Scaramucci said he had to get going. "Yeah, let me go, though, because I've gotta start tweeting some shit to make this guy crazy."
Minutes later, he tweeted, "In light of the leak of my financial info which is a felony. I will be contacting @FBI and the @TheJusticeDept #swamp @Reince45." With the addition of Priebus's Twitter handle, he was making public what he had just told me: that he believed Priebus was leaking information about him. The tweet quickly went viral.
Scaramucci seemed to have second thoughts. Within two hours he deleted the original tweet and posted a new one denying that he was targeting the chief of staff. "Wrong!" he said, adding a screenshot of an Axios article that said, "Scaramucci appears to want Priebus investigated by FBI." Scaramucci continued, "Tweet was public notice to leakers that all Sr Adm officials are helping to end illegal leaks. @Reince45."
A few hours later, I appeared on CNN to discuss the overnight drama. As I was talking about Scaramucci, he called into the show himself and referenced our conversation. He changed his story about Priebus. Instead of saying that he was trying to expose Priebus as a leaker, he said that the reason he mentioned Priebus in his deleted tweet was because he wanted to work together with Priebus to discover the leakers.
"He's the chief of staff, he's responsible for understanding and uncovering and helping me do that inside the White House, which is why I put that tweet out last night," Scaramucci said, after noting that he had talked to me Wednesday night. He then made an argument that journalists were assuming that he was accusing Priebus because they know Priebus leaks to the press.
"When I put out a tweet, and I put Reince's name in the tweet," he said, "they're all making the assumption that it's him because journalists know who the leakers are. So, if Reince wants to explain that he's not a leaker, let him do that."
Scaramucci then made a plea to viewers. "Let me tell you something about myself," he said. "I am a straight shooter."


Psychopathy equal to his boss!!! They are not draining any swamp - expect in US society generally to trawl for such lowlifes as this and the rest of the Trumpf team. They make Mafia dons look like choirboys. This drivel by a horrible journalist interviewing a horrible communications whatever is what passes for 'news' and 'news analysis' in the USA. Bullshit from CNN and bullshit from Scaramucci = bullshit to the second power......perhaps cubed. ::vomit:: The idiots have taken control...the end result of the dumbing down of the USA.

[Image: image1-20-700x470.jpg]The Plot to Scapegoat Russia: How the CIA and the Deep State Have Conspired to Vilify Russia by Dan Kovalik. Photo credit: Skyhorse Publishing and Dan Kovalik / Twitter
In this week's WhoWhatWhy podcast, Jeff Schechtman talks with Dan Kovalik, the author of The Plot to Scapegoat Russia: How the CIA and the Deep State Have Conspired to Vilify Russia. (Skyhorse Publishing, June 2017)
Kovalik argues that Russia is not and should not be our enemy. That the vilification of Russia and its President Vladimir Putin only serves the purposes of both the Pentagon and Congress. He talks about the recent rush to sanctions, the push for more military spending, and the degree to which President Donald Trump's one and only uptick in the polls came as he was cheered on for the bombings in Syria.
Even though he is a critic of Trump, Kovalik views the president's desire to reset relations with Russia as a positive. Nonetheless, he argues that both the media and the intelligence communities seem committed to preventing a rapprochement at all costs. He is most surprised by how aggressive liberals have been in helping with the demonization.
Even if Trump's business dealings have been with corrupt and unsavory Russians, Kovalik wonders if this justifies the kind of relentless hostility that could lead to war.

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Full Text Transcript:
As a service to our readers, we provide transcripts with our podcasts. We try to ensure that these transcripts do not include errors. However, due to a constraint of resources, we are not always able to proofread them as closely as we would like and hope that you will excuse any errors that slipped through.
Jeff Schechtman:
Welcome to Radio WhoWhatWhy. I'm Jeff Schechtman. Not since duck and cover drills, Sputnik, the U2, the Berlin Wall, the missiles in Cuba, has Russia been so much a part of the everyday dialog of the United States. What happened? The Soviet Union fell. We were supposed to see the end of history, certainly the end of conflict with Russia. They were thought to be a natural ally after the Cold War ended, just as Germany and Japan became allies after the second World War. The Russian economy is still smaller than that of California, yet our fear, obsession, and vilification of Russia has never been greater.
Yes, Russia's guilty of many things, Syria, Chechnya, hacking US elections, Ukraine, are all true, but we actively and currently support many governments that have done worse. It all begs the question as to whether some are singling out Russia in order to have a national enemy, and/or is Russia simply the best way to get at Trump given what certainly seems like a career of unethical and corrupt business dealings with unsavory Russians. To try and put all of this in perspective, I'm joined by Dan Kovalik. He teaches International Human Rights at the University of Pittsburgh Law School, and he's the author of a new book The Plot to Scapegoat Russia: How the CIA and the Deep State Have Conspired to Vilify Russia. Dan Kovalik, thanks so much for joining us.
Dan Kovalik:
Hey, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Jeff Schechtman:
Great to have you here. I want to go back a little bit to the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Soviet Union, and a little bit about what the perception was at the time about what was going to happen vis-a-vis our relationship with Russia.
Dan Kovalik:
Well, as you hinted at in your opening remarks, I think the view was certainly from both sides that we would be friends, that Russia would be re-admitted to the community of nations, and more specifically, we know that an agreement was made between Secretary of State James Baker and Mikhail Gorbachev that if the Berlin Wall came down, and Germany was reunified, that NATO would not move, and the agreement was one inch east of Germany. As we know, that changed very quickly, but in any case, the idea was that we were going to have peace between nations. It is very clear that Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev firmly believed that, and obviously things did not turn out that way.
Jeff Schechtman:
Then we go to 2012, in the election in 2012, long before we got to the current situation, and you have Mitt Romney in 2012 talking about Russia being the greatest existential threat to the United States.
Dan Kovalik:
Yes. Even before that, so again, this promise was made that NATO would not move east of Germany, and even under George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and then George W. Bush, NATO began to creep farther and farther east to the point where now, of course, NATO is on the border of Russia, which they see is very threatening and very aggressive on NATO's part. Yes, as the years have gone by, you've had various periods in which the US began to not only, again, violate that agreement about NATO, but to start to paint Russia as somehow a revived enemy of the United States. There seemed to be a bit of a honeymoon period in terms of that under Boris Yeltsin, and even under Putin, because you'll recall, in fact, that shortly before 9/11, George W. Bush met Vladimir Putin for the first time, and he said, "I looked into his eyes and saw his soul." You might recall that.
Jeff Schechtman:
Dan Kovalik:
Then after 9/11, he called George W. Bush, the first leader to call George W. Bush, offer his condolences, offered to help in Afghanistan. Initially, there's this honeymoon period even with Putin, but as you say, as the years go by Mitt Romney and even Obama, of course Hillary Clinton began to say that Russia was this threat to the United States.
Jeff Schechtman:
In your view, talk about how that happened. How did that transformation take place?
Dan Kovalik:
It's interesting because it's come in fits and starts. One event, of course, was in 2014, you had the … really, a coup in the Ukraine, which was very divisive in the Ukraine. One of the first acts of the new government, which the US supported was to outlaw Russian as the second language, which was seen very negatively to say the least by the ethnic Russians in Ukraine, particularly in the east. There was a lot of unrest in the east as a result, and some folks in the east took up arms against the government. Ultimately Putin did support those armed groups in eastern Ukraine, and as we know, he also sent troops into Crimea. There was a referendum in Crimea which most countries did not recognize where the Crimeans did vote to rejoin Russia. They have been there ever since. This set of events in 2014 was obviously a huge inflection point that people still point to as some evidence that Putin is somehow our enemy. I would say that that is a big event.
Another big event, if we go back even a little further was in 2011, you may recall the United States ended up invading Libya, and it did so after it urged a resolution by the Security Council, which allowed the creation of a no-fly zone over Libya by NATO. Now, the Chinese and the Russians agreed to abstain from that resolution under the understanding that there would be a no-fly zone, but that NATO would not move towards regime change. In fact, as we know, the NATO very quickly moved towards regime change. Gaddafi ends up dying in this grizzly way, which is on videotape, it's on YouTube. Putin felt very betrayed by this act. He thought this was another broken promise by the west, and ultimately this leads to his decision to intervene in Syria on behalf of Assad. But even back in 2011, Putin was making it very clear that he found what NATO and the United States did in Libya was reprehensible, and this upset a lot of people in Washington.
These are some events anyway that have led us to where we are today, or at least that people point to as justification for this aggressive stance towards Russia, though I suspect there are other deeper reasons for those positions.
Jeff Schechtman:
I want to talk about what you think some of those deeper reasons are, but before that, I want to talk about the difference in vilification that's been going on between the vilification of Russia on the one hand versus Putin on the other, and the two are not always linked together.
Dan Kovalik:
No, that is correct. I think initially when the new Cold War, and I think it's a Cold War that we're in, a new one post-collapse of the Soviet Union. I think the initial beginnings of the new Cold War really were focused on the person of Vladimir Putin. In fact, we know that Barack Obama as President said he wanted to have a reset of relationships with Russia when Medvedev became President. I believe that was in 2008. Medvedev is seen, I guess, by the west as some good guy. Yeltsin was seen as a good guy. Putin was initially seen as a good guy again by George W. Bush, but ultimately he became the focus of this vilification as you say, and that it wasn't so much about how bad Russia was, but it was how bad Putin was, including as an authoritarian leader who was also abusing his own Russian people. But as time has gone on, and it's natural that this happens, and this is why it's dangerous to vilify people, of course Putin and Russia, and the Russians have become conflated.
Now, every Russian is a potential enemy or suspect somehow, and anybody who meets with the Russians is somehow suspect. I even saw a bizarre story … I guess it's true. You know, you never know whether these stories are definitely true, but I saw someone on a Delta Airline flight in the last couple days, when he was discovered that the person sitting next to him was a Russian national complained and said he didn't want to fly with a Russian national because Russia invaded Crimea and Syria, and that the guy ultimately was kicked off the plane by Delta. You definitely see this initial vilification of Putin moving towards, really, racism, or against Russian people and the country of Russia.
Jeff Schechtman:
You talked a little while ago about deeper reasons for this. Talk about what you see as those deeper reasons.
Dan Kovalik:
I believe that the United States … If you go back to the old Cold War, and I mention some of this in my book, The Plot to Scapegoat Russia, even during the old Cold War, which was justified, or claimed to be justified by the fact that Russia was communist at that time, there was a lot of … a couple phenomenon could be noted. One, that the US would often attribute crises or problems in various countries to Soviet intervention when there was none, or when it was minor in order to justify an invasion of that country. We can name numerous cases, Nicaragua was certainly a case, even Vietnam was an example of this, where the Soviet intervention and support comes later, but initially, we claimed that we were there to fight to Soviet Union when, again, they're either not there or barely there.
Again, the Soviet Union bugaboo was used as a justification for wars that otherwise would have very little justification. The other thing the US did was to overstate many times the military might, in particular, the nuclear capability of Russia, again, to justify our own military buildup. I think you see a similar phenomenon today, where the US, there is a bipartisan agreement on this issue. There is a bipartisan agreement that we need to continue this permanent war footing, that we need to spend more military aid, or more military money than almost every other country in the world combined. Even now you see that Trump had asked for significant increase in the US military budget when he came into office. In fact, the increase he wanted was equal or is equal to 80% of Russia's entire military budget. Meanwhile, by the way, Putin was calling for a 25% reduction of military spending in Russia.
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly, with 60% of the democrats voting for it, gave Trump more money than he even asked for for the military, so I do believe that when you're in a situation when you're spending money on a military, that frankly is unjustifiable to the extent that we don't have money for healthcare as we see. We don't have money even to fix infrastructure. You have kids that are going to bed hungry in the richest country on Earth. There's no justification for that. So you look for enemies, as we've done for a long time, and I think Russia is a convenient enemy, in part because of the first Cold War. Most of us have loathing in response to Russia. Even to this day, there's movies showing … In fact, I heard the next Wonder Woman movie, she's going to be fighting the Soviet Union. It's going to take place in the '80s.
Point being, they are our forever enemy, right? Even post Soviet Union and post communism. I just think it's an easy target to drum up support for the military and for war, but also I think, and you see the sanctions that were just passed by the House, also is a glimmer into the next thing, and that is that the US … Look, I think the world economy is in crisis. The US economy is in crisis. You have more and more people in the world, more and more nations competing for less and less resources. Of course, this oftentimes does lead to conflict, including military conflict, and so countries use various machinations to get at these resources, or to muscle their way into other markets. These sanctions, one of the big things they're going to do is try to force the European nations to stop buying their natural gas from Russia. Right now Russia provides most of the natural gas to Europe, with the goal being, of course, that they'll get their natural gas from us.
This is just frankly a classic Mafia-like muscling in to a new market, having … Again, they claim it's because Russia hacked the election, or Russia did this, Russia did that, but it's an old style maneuver to gain a bigger market for our resources. I think that is part of it too. I think it's very cynical is what it comes down to. I think it is a cynical maneuver to justify things that the American people otherwise wouldn't go for. I'm not sure they go for this, by the way, anyway. The polls that I've been seeing, anyway, suggest that while the media's very excited about the whole Russia-gate scandal that the American people are becoming less and less interested in it, even democrats are more inter … The rank and file are more interested in the bread and butter issues like jobs and healthcare, and not Russia, and yet it continues to be pushed on a constant 24/7 basis.
Jeff Schechtman:
It is also interesting you mentioned the bipartisan aspect of it before in an environment in which everything, literally everything is as polarized as it is, everything in society, everything related to politics, culture, et cetera, that the one thing there seems to be unanimity on are these sanctions against Russia.
Dan Kovalik:
Sanctions and war. The one uptick that Trump experienced in his polls was when he ordered the Tomahawk Missile attack upon Syria, you might recall. There is the one thing that unifies both parties, and it is war. Even amongst the so-called resistance against Trump, you rarely hear people critical of the fact that Trump sold $110 billion of weapons to Saudi Arabia, which is using those weapons in what I would call a genocidal war in Yemen. Millions of people are going to die because of that war. It is the greatest humanitarian conflict in the world. One, you don't hear a peep about it in the media, and you don't hear a peep about it from the democrats, and you don't hear a peep about it from the protester on the street. This issue of war and peace appears to be off the table in terms of debate, even though, of course, as I mentioned, it obviously affects all these other issues, because the money spent, the trillions we've spent, trillions on these wars in Iraq, Afghanistan alone is money that's taken out of the mouths of people in this country. That's an obvious point, and yet that sort of spending is not even up for debate.
Jeff Schechtman:
The other part of this is that if it were not for the fact that Russia and Russian business dealings didn't seem to be the Achilles heel of Trump and many people surrounding him, I wonder the degree to which Russia would be in the news as much as it is today.
Dan Kovalik:
It's a good question, of course. Certainly, that has something to do with it, though of course, there's some argument that the Clintons themselves had their own business dealings with Russia, and with other countries that were questionable monies that they got for their foundation, for example from Saudi Arabia, then Secretary of State Clinton, shortly after that was part of the approval process for selling fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, even had this case where Bill Clinton himself got a 500 … One of his biggest payouts forever for a speech, 500 grand from, I believe, a Russian investment company. Shortly after that, Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State actually came out against sanctions against Russia. This was in 2012. The point being that a lot of people have connections with Russia. A lot of people have connections with a lot of countries, very unsavory ones, much, much more unsavory ones like Saudi Arabia, and yet no one seems particularly concerned about that. I don't know. I just don't know what it would be like if …
Obviously there's enough smoke there for people to latch onto in terms of the Trump people's connections with Russia, though a lot, frankly, just seem silly to me. The idea that people during the transition period can't meet with the Russian Ambassador to maybe lay the groundwork for their policy when they take office after being elected. That just seems incredible to me, the idea that Trump can't have a private meeting with Putin at the G20, I just … What can I say? That people would think that that's somehow treasonous. We're in silly-time at this point. I'm no fan of Trump, believe me. I think he's terrible, but some of these so-called allegations aren't really allegations at all, and yet, again, if you just meet with a Russian, you're somehow tainted. That's how crazy it's gotten.
Jeff Schechtman:
Of course, that begs the question of the perception at least, that they're constantly trying to hide something with respect to Russia.
Dan Kovalik:
Well, true, although it is a bit of a chicken and the egg thing. That is the Russian issue is obviously so toxic now, and has been for some time, I could see that leading people to hide things that may not even be … that shouldn't be … what's the word? That shouldn't be viewed as wrong, but is now viewed wrong because every interaction with the Russians is wrong, if you know what I mean. The very high-pitched nature of the Russia-gate issue may be leading to more secrecy about Russian contacts, whether those contacts really should be considered a problem or not. I don't know. As I say, I think that's a bit of a chicken and an egg thing. If I were in Trump's position right now, I certainly would not be broadcasting any of my Russian contacts, given the reaction people are having to them.
Now, I understand in the end, you get in trouble for the coverup more than you do the substance. That may happen here with Trump, but also people get in trouble for it because that's what they do when they're under attack and so …
Jeff Schechtman:
In a broader context, talk a little bit about what happens in your view if this vilification of Russia goes too far.
Dan Kovalik:
Well, I mean I think the worst case scenario is war, obviously. I don't think that is off the table. I think most people would say, "Well, that's not going to happen. That would be crazy, two nuclear powers having a war. That didn't even happen during the first Cold War." Yet, there's some indications that that is not off the table. I saw there's a Rand Corporation white paper where they tell NATO that they have to be … to prepare for a possible first strike attack on Russia's military installations in Kaliningrad. Meanwhile, a couple weeks ago, a NATO fighter jet actually intercepted a Russian plane carrying their defense minister over Kaliningrad. You had the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists concluding that the current modernization, trillion dollar modernization of the US nuclear weapons is designed for first strike capability, not for defensive purposes, so I think people need to be cognizant of the fact that when you vilify a country like Russia to this extent, it does make the possibility of war greater.
I think people should be very concerned about that. These sanctions could also push us closer to war. You threaten a country's livelihood. Russia depends greatly on its market for oil and natural gas. You start to threaten that, and that is what leads to wars. Countries view such things as acts of war. I think people need to take a breath here and really ask themselves what are the possible consequences of these actions.
Jeff Schechtman:
What do you see the role of the CIA and US Intelligence in all of this?
Dan Kovalik:
Well, I think that they, at least parts of them have a vested interest in continuing this confrontation with Russia. We know it, because some of the CIA officials have even publicly spoken, for example, during the transition period, saying that Trump better not think about détente with Russia. Clearly there are folks in the intelligence community who don't want détente with Russia for, I'm sure, various reasons, but including the ones that I've already indicated, that it's good for business, and good for … It used to be the business of America was business, but I think the business of America is war at this point. There's a lot of people invested in that.
Jeff Schechtman:
Dan Kovalik. His book is The Plot to Scapegoat Russia: How the CIA and the Deep State Have Conspired to Vilify Russia. Dan, thanks so much for spending time with us here on Radio WhoWhatWhy.
Dan Kovalik:
Thank you, and I'd love to do it again.
Every Person In The White House Who's Been Fired Or Quit Since Trump Took Office

[/URL]Ezra Schwarzbaum
May 30, 2017 4:54pm


[Image: protest_against_donald_trump_32470391995.jpg]

President Donald Trump has set a major White House shake-up into motion, including bringing back former campaign officials, hiring a crew of outside lawyers to work on the Russia investigation and having his tweets monitored by White House advisors, reported the Wall Street Journal.
With point of focus being personnel changes, let's take a look back at the White House officials who have been fired or quit under the Trump administration.
[B]Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary Of State For Management Quit January 1[/B]

Kennedy's resignation came just days into the Trump presidency. He'd been angling to keep that job under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, according to the Washington Post.
On the same day, Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce Anne Barr, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele Bond and Director of the Office of Foreign Missions Gentry O. Smith all resigned as well, leaving nearly the entire State Department senior administrative staff empty.
[B]Sally Yates, United States Deputy Attorney General Fired January 30[/B]

Then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates was fired hours after ordering the Justice Department not to defend Trump's executive order on immigration and refugees from seven majority-Muslim nations. The White House described Yates as having "betrayed the Department of Justice."
[B]Michael Flynn, National Security Advisor Fired February 14[/B]

Michael Flynn was fired after it was revealed that he'd lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the extent of his secret communications with Russian officials. The controversy following centered both around the content of his communication and why Trump waited 18 days to ask for his resignation.
[B]Craig Deare, National Security Council Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs Fired February 17[/B]

Deare was "abruptly dismissed" after the White House learned he had been harshly criticizing Trump and Steven Bannon at a private event held by the Woodrow Wilson Center, reportedPolitico. In particular, Deare's concerns were about national security aides lacking access to the president.
[B]Preet Bharara, United States Attorney For The Southern District Of New York Fired March 11[/B]

Trump ordered Attorney General Jeff Sessions to request the resignations of 46 U.S. attorneys, a request Bharara promptly refused. Bharara is known for investigating cases of insider trading and was considered a Wall Street's "enforcer." He was fired shortly after he refused to leave his post.
[B]Angella Reid, White House Chief Usher Fired May 5[/B]

Reid's dismissal may have been one of the most surprising, as chief usher is as far away from a political role as any in the White House. Chief ushers typically stay on through presidencies; there have been only nine since the beginning of the 20th century. Reid had no comment for the Washington Post, which first reported the news, and the White House said they parted on very good terms.
[B]James Comey, Director Of The FBI Fired May 9[/B]

The firing of now-former FBI director James Comey was another shock, and the most controversial. Trump told Russian diplomats that he fired "nut job" Comey to ease the pressure of the mounting investigation into his campaign's ties to Russia, according to a report from the New York Times.
[B]Michael Dubke, White House Communications Director Resigned May 18, Effective May 30[/B]

Dubke quietly offered his resignation before Trump took his first overseas trip as president offering to stay on until the end of the trip which was immediately accepted. There is wide speculation that the former-communications director is the first to leave in a looming set of White House personnel changes.
[B]Sean Spicer, White House Press Secretary - Resigned July 21[/B]

Sean Spicer resigned in response to Trump's hiring of Anthony Scaramucci as communications director. Spicer was "vehemently" opposed to Scaramucci's nomination, according to a New York Times report. Trump reportedly asked Spicer to stay on, despite regularly presenting conflicting statements. Spicer had been handling the responsibilities of both press secretary and communications director, but Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had been conducting White House press conferences in recent months.
Michael Short, Assistant Press Secretary - Resigned, July 25

Michael Short resigned after Scaramucci named him the first in what will be as many firings as necessary to stop leaks from the White House. Short denied having been involved in any leaks. Initial reports had Short being fired, but Axios' Jonathan Swan reportedly received a textfrom Short saying he resigned, perhaps in an effort to beat the White House to the announcement.
Reince Priebus, White House Chief of Staff - Fired July 28

Reince Priebus was fired just days after Scaramucci, who had been a verbal adversary, joined the administration. Trump had been convinced that someone with stronger leadership skills was needed to control a West Wing full of leakers and push his agenda. Trump announced Priebus' firing and former-general John F. Kelly's hiring simultaneously via tweet, adding that he was "proud of [Priebus]."
CNN reported that Priebus privately resigned on Thursday.
[B]Officials On The Ropes[/B]

The following White House officials have all been rumored to have their positions at risk.

[*]Jeff Sessions, Attorney General
[*]Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State
[*]Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to the president and son-in-law to Trump
[*]Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president
[*]Steven Bannon, White House Chief Strategist

[*]Donald Trump, President of the United States of America


Trump's Get-Tough Speech to Police Touches Off a Backlash

Posted on Jul 29, 2017
[Image: TrumpMS13Speech_590.jpg]
President Trump speaking on Long Island, N.Y., on Friday. (Screen shot via CNN)

The president gave a troubling speech at New York's Suffolk County Community College on Friday, referring to gang members as "animals" and encouraging police officers to be "rough." The speech was part of a discussion on how to combat the MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha) gang, which has particularly affected New York's Long Island community. Trump has long cited the gang's brutal tactics and its ties to Central America to push his immigration policies.
"Together we're going to restore safety to our streets and peace to our communities and we're going to destroy the vile, criminal cartel MS-13 and many other gangs," Trump said in the speech. Reports CNN:
The speech was laced with violent imagery, with Trump saying MS-13 has rendered the suburb into "blood-stained killing fields."
"They kidnap. They extort. They rape and they rob," Trump said. "They stomp on their victims. They beat them with clubs, they slash them with machetes, and they stab them with knives. They have transformed peaceful parks and beautiful quiet neighborhoods into bloodstained killing fields. They're animals."
Trump repeatedly pledged in his speech, delivered in front of law enforcement officers at Suffolk County Community College, to have the backs of police and law enforcement.
"We're going to enforce our laws, protect our borders and support our police like our police have never been supported before," Trump said.
He also praised the "rough" officers of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and suggested that suspects need not be protected when arrested.
"When you see these thugs thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you see them thrown in, rough. I said, Please don't be too nice,' " Trump told the crowd, mentioning he had seen the prisoners' heads shielded by officers when the arrested persons were bending to enter police vehicles. "I said, You can take the hand away.' "
He also threatened gang members, saying: "We will find you, we will arrest you, we will jail you and we will deport you." His rhetoric implied that all MS-13 gang members are immigrants. Critics, however, argue that his speech shows how little he understands the nuances of immigrationthe centerpiece issue of his presidential campaign.
The gang certainly presents a real problem: In the past 18 months, it has been implicated in 17 murders on Long Island. But Trump's fixation on the group is perhaps inappropriate. J. Weston Phippen of The Atlantic reports:
MS-13 is indeed a useful monster. It recruits almost exclusively young men and women with Central American roots. It has a well-known, feared name. And its history associates it with illegal immigration. But statistically, Trump's fixation is hard to justify. If you measure the gang's threat by recruitment, more recent Department of Justice figures say it has about 6,000 members nationwide (though, I was told several times that counting gang members is an imperfect science). Gang-specific crime is recorded by individual police departments, so no one could tell me if MS-13 has robbed, extorted, or killed more people now than it did five, six, 10 years ago. It also seems to make up only a fraction of deported criminals. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's division that focuses on gangs, Homeland Security Investigations, deported 114,434 individuals last year, according to data given to CNN. MS-13 made up only 429 of those.
Additionally, political leaders in El Salvador have held emergency meetings to discuss what they will do if Trump follows through on his promise of mass deportations, which could further destabilize the country and lead to increased migration to the U.S.ultimately negating Trump's deportation policy.
Numerous police departments from around the country have condemned Trump's speech, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police also put out a statement. The New York Daily News writes:
The International Association of Chiefs of Police issued a statement shortly after the President's address saying law enforcement officers are "trained to treat all individuals, whether they are a complainant, suspect, or defendant, with dignity and respect."
"This is the bedrock principle behind the concepts of procedural justice and police legitimacy," the statement said.
Trump's remarks have also been condemned by civil rights groups. According to The Washington Post:
Vanita Gupta, who ran the Justice Department's civil rights division during the Obama administration, decried the comments and said they ran counter to efforts from local police agencies to repair relationships with their communities.
"Trump's remarks today are unconscionable," Gupta, who is now president and chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said in a written statement. "The President of the United States, standing before an audience of law enforcement officials, actively encouraged police violence. His remarks undermine the positive efforts of local law enforcement agencies and communities around the country working to address police misconduct and build community-police trust."
Homeland Security's John Kelly is unhinged
[Image: eb7ca11fdf9f47e2926221ed9f20cae3-eb7ca11...cae3-0.jpg]
Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly.
By Michael A. Cohen APRIL 25, 2017
IDENTIFYING THE WORST member of Donald Trump's Cabinet is no easy task. From Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently mocking the state of Hawaii to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson being completely over his head to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and HUD Secretary Ben Carson being, well, Betsy DeVosand Ben Carson, the competition is fierce.
This week, however, a new strong contender emerged: Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.
[B]Trump abruptly replaces chief of staff, naming John Kelly[/B]

When Kelly, a former decorated Marine general, was nominated to be head of Homeland Security many hailed the pick and said Kelly would bring competence and sanity to an administration lacking in both qualities.
Not so much.
Last week he delivered one of the more unhinged speeches that you will ever hear from a Cabinet secretary. It was a terrifying reminder of the depths this administration will sink to in order to sell its toxic policies.
[/URL]Kelly's remarks garnered headlines for his statement that if members of Congress "do not like the laws they've passed" and that Department of Homeland Security is "charged to enforce" then they should either "change the laws" or "shut up."
He also claimed that morale issues at the department are a result of a "default to believing the self-serving accusations of a wrong doer" rather than department officials. Because really nothing inspires greater confidence in law enforcement than the notion they should be a) above criticism and b) assumed to always be acting in good faith.
But then Kelly jumped out of the crazy tree and hit every branch on the way down. In discussing his agency's mission, Kelly said this (slightly annotated).
"Make no mistake we are a nation under attack."
No, we're not.
"We are under attack from criminals who think their greed justifies raping young girls at knifepoint, dealing poison to our youth, or killing just for fun."
Crime rates have been declining for decades.
"We are under attack from people who hate us, hate our freedoms, hate our laws, hate our values, hate the way we simply live our lives."
Since 9/11, approximately 94 people have been killed on US soil by jihadist terrorists a bit more than the number of Americans killed every single day in gun violence.
"We are under attack from failed states, cyber-terrorists, vicious smugglers, and sadistic radicals."
Cyber-terrorists have never killed an American citizen, no failed state threatens America and more Americans are killed by lightning strikes than sadistic radicals.
"And we are under attack every single day. The threats are relentless."
No, they're not.
On Sunday Kelly continued the onslaught.
"We have tremendous threats, whether it's drugs, people, potential terrorists coming up from the south," he said
There's pretty much no evidence that terrorists are using the southern border as a transit point for entering America.
He also said the thing that "keeps me literally awake at night is the threat against aviation," even though there is literally no safer form of travel and no element of American life more solidly protected from the threat of terrorism than flying on a plane.
But Kelly is in a bind here. When you work for a xenophobic president intent on building a wall that America doesn't need and deporting non-violent immigrants to win over white nationalist supporters, then hyping security threats, particularly from terrorism, is the only way to rationalize these policies. It's like justifying a $600 billion military budget by portraying the world as being more "dangerous" than ever; or selling a foreign war by overstating the danger to America from weapons of mass destruction.
This kind of threat inflation is basically the default foreign policy mantra in Washington. Dangers are always growing; America is always under attack; the world is always dangerous; conflict is always looming . . . except for the myriad ways none of this nonsense is true. In fact, the world has never experienced a combined period of greater freedom, safety, health, and raised living standards than right now; and America, which faces no serious military rival, is probably the safest great power in history.
Kelly is simply following a path well tread by other snake oil salesmen who've misused the authority that comes with public office to scare Americans into supporting bad policies.
Kelly may not be the worst of Trump's Cabinet picks, but he is definitely the scariest and his willingness to make comments so utterly divorced from reality and so clearly untrue should embarrass us all.

[FONT=&amp]Trump removes Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director[/FONT][FONT=&amp]

David Smith, Ben Jacobs and Lauren Gambino in Washington
[FONT=&amp]Monday 31 July 2017 19.52 BSTLast modified on Tuesday 1 August 2017 00.55 BST[/FONT]

White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci has been removed from his job after just 10 days in a move that has only increased the sense of chaos at the heart of the Trump administration.

The shock development follows a turbulent series of media appearances over the last week by the combative former Wall Street financier, capped by a foul-mouthed tirade to a New Yorker journalist on Thursday.
News of his rapid political demise came less than six hours after the appointment of former US marine Gen John Kelly as Donald Trump's new chief of staff.
"Anthony Scaramucci will be leaving his role as White House communications director," said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a statement on Monday afternoon. "Mr Scaramucci felt it was best to give chief of staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team. We wish him all the best."
The decision to remove Scaramucci, nicknamed "the Mooch", came at Kelly's request, the New York Times reported.
His removal may take some pressure off Steve Bannon, the longtime Trump aide whose position has been under threat in recent weeks. Scaramucci made Bannon a target in his rant to the New Yorker and, in response, was the subject of repeatedly negative articles on Breitbart, the publication Bannon once ran.
Scaramucci was hired on 21 July, months after the departure of Michael Dubke, who had struggled to craft a coherent communications strategy as the administration spun from one controversy to the next. Sean Spicer reportedly opposed the hiring of Scaramucci and resigned as White House press secretary the same day.
Spicer was spotted by reporters in the West Wing apparently helping to shape the statement announcing Scaramucci's removal from office.

Who is Anthony Scaramucci? The Mooch' profiledScaramucci's appointment was also reportedly opposed by chief of staff Reince Priebus, who immediately came under fire from the new communications chief for alleged leaks, and was forced out on Friday and replaced by Kelly. As his first act, Kelly in turn seems to have forced out Scaramucci.
Asked if Scaramucci had any role now in the White House, the press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, told a media briefing: "He does not have a role at this time."
Turning to Scaramucci's New Yorker interview, she said: "The president felt his comments were inappropriate."
[FONT=&amp]Analysis Scaramucci exit after 10 turbulent days shows chaos reigns at the White House[/FONT]
[FONT=&amp]Scaramucci got his marching orders from the new chief of staff John Kelly, whose military experience now seems invaluable in this melee of warring factions[/FONT]

She would not say whether Scaramucci was fired or had resigned, but added that he had felt "he did not want to burden Gen Kelly with that line of succession".
Kelly had been given full authority by the president over the White House staff and "all staff will report to him", she said.
A Long Island native with an affinity for the spotlight, Scaramucci had long drawn comparisons to Trump himself. Both men have deep ties to New York, and Trump was said to admire Scaramucci's unflinching loyalty.
A graduate of Harvard law school and a former Goldman Sachs banker, Scaramucci founded the global hedge fund SkyBridge Capital in 2005, but sold it in 2017 in preparation for a role in the Trump administration. He founded the Salt conference, named after his company, which attracts big name speakers from Washington, Hollywood and Wall Street.
Though Scaramucci became a critical fundraiser for the Trump campaign, it was not his first choice. Before the presidential campaign of 2012, Scaramucci expressed early support for Hillary Clinton. "I hope she runs [in 2016], she is incredibly competent," he apparently wrote in a deleted tweet from April 2012, according to screenshots published by the Daily Beast. He also called her "the real deal."

But when the campaign actually arrived, he first donated to Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's campaign until it collapsed, and then he joined Jeb Bush.
Before he joined the Trump campaign, Scaramucci called Trump "anti-American" and "another hack politician".
"I'll tell you who he's gonna be president of, you can tell Donald I said this: the Queens County Bullies Association," Scaramucci said during a segment on Fox Business in August 2015. "You are an inherited-money dude from Queens County. Bring it."
After being hired by Trump, he deleted a number of his old tweets that contradicted the president's policy positions.
His most controversial moment during his short tenure as communications chief was undoubtedly his remarks to a New Yorker interviewer that the then-chief of staff, Reince Priebus, was "a fucking paranoid schizophrenic" who would be asked to resign (he later was), and that Scaramucci was not like Steve Bannon, the chief strategist, because "I'm not trying to suck my own cock".
The Washington Post reported that Kelly was "dismayed" by the interview and found it "abhorrent and embarrassing for the president".
Chinese conglomerate HNA Group is currently in negotiations to buy SkyBridge Capital. Scaramucci announced the sale at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, which was meant to free him of potential conflicts of interest before an official appointment.
But that sale believed to be worth $250m is being held back pending a government review, reportedly by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the agency charged with evaluating the impact on America's national security of the sales of US businesses.

Scaramucci's wife Deirdre filed for divorce recently while nine months pregnant with their second child. Scaramucci missed the birth last Monday because he was traveling with Trump on Air Force One.
The firing met with some swift praise on Capitol Hill. Carlos Curbelo, a moderate Republican from Florida who did not support Trump in 2016, tweeted: "General Kelly is 1 for 1. Let's keep it going," tweeted Curbelo.
Trump tweeted this morning: "Highest Stock Market EVER, best economic numbers in years, unemployment lowest in 17 years, wages raising, border secure, SC: no WH chaos!"


things Trump did while you weren't looking: Week 8

Behind the Obamacare votes, the Trump administration continues to change policy.

07/28/2017 12:44 PM EDT

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At first glance, the past week in Washington looks like a lot of noise about nothing. Three versions of the Republican Obamacare repeal effort failed in the Senate, the last in a dramatic early morning vote Friday, leaving the national health care law intact after months of GOP efforts to kill it. President Donald Trump surprised Pentagon officials by tweeting that he was banning transgender troops from the military, but neither the White House nor the Department of Defense appears to have a policy in place, so the status quo holds for now. And despite Trump's social-media war on his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions remains in his job.
Still, behind the blizzard of White House infighting and drama on Capitol Hill, the Trump administration has steadily been pushing policies behind the scenes, rolling back Obama's legacy in favor of a new national regulatory regime friendlier to businesses and tougher on undocumented immigrants. Here's the eighth installment of The Agenda's weekly series on how Trump is quietly changing policy in America.
1. Trump targets Obama's fuel economy standards
On January 13, Obama's Environmental Protection Agency attempted to lock in its 2022-2025 fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks, issuing a finding that wasn't due for another 15 months. The goal was clear: block Trump from weakening the standards. But this week, the Trump administration made clear that those standards aren't going to last.

On Tuesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began the process to write fuel efficiency regulations for years 2022-2025, [url=]seeking comment
on an upcoming environmental review. Within the notice, the agency also offered clear signs that it is likely to weaken Obama's fuel economy standards: It is considering freezing the fuel efficiency targets, instead of raising them each year as the Obama administration had proposed. It may also go back a year and review the 2021 fuel efficiency standards, which NHTSA issued in 2012.

How can NHTSA issue new fuel efficiency standards if the EPA already issued them in January? Because the standards are, in fact, a dual effort between the EPA and NHTSA; the EPA issues a rule on greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks while NHTSA issues a rule on fuel efficiency. So while the EPA attempted to lock in the 2022-2025 standards through its January rule, NHTSA must still go through a full rule-making process on its own to set the fuel economy standards, giving Trump an opening to weaken those rules. And it appears he's going to do just that.
[B]2. DOJ takes another swing at sanctuary cities
For Sessions, the week was dominated by Trump's repeated attacks on his job performance and questions about whether the president was setting the gears in motion to fire him. But at the Department of Justice, he was busy implementing Trump's immigration agenda, imposing new restrictions on so-called sanctuary citiesstates and localities that refuse to help the feds enforce immigration laws.

[B][B]The new policy, released Tuesday, imposes new restrictions on cities that receive certain grants from the DOJ. Cities that seek money under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Programknown as "Byrne JAG"must comply with two new conditions: They must give officials at the Department of Homeland Security at least 48 hours notice before releasing an undocumented immigrant from custody, and allow DHS authorities to visit state and local jails.[/B][/B]
[B][B]The new policy is Trump's first real attempt to crack down on sanctuary cities, a top campaign promise. With $347 million in funding this year, the Byrne JAG program is the largest federal grant for state and local law enforcement; cutting funding to sanctuary cities could leave a real budgetary hole for police departments. Will that actually happen? Political leaders of many sanctuary cities, such as San Francisco and Chicago, have already said they won't change their immigration policies based on the new threat; they are also certain to sue the DOJ, arguing that the coercive use of grants is an unconstitutional use of government power. Like nearly all of Trump's immigration agenda, the fate of his sanctuary city effort will likely be decided by the courts.[/B][/B]
[B][B][B]3. Obama's overtime rule is in trouble
In May 2016, Vice President Joe Biden announced a huge expansion of the Department of Labor's overtime rule, which requires employers to pay employees time-and-a-half their regular wages for more than 40 hours of work. The revised rule expanded the definition for who qualified for overtime pay and raised the salary threshold under which most workers are required to receive overtime, from $23,660 to $47,476. The effort represented a top second-term priority for Obamaa unilateral attempt to give American workers a raise.

[B][B]But businesses hated the rule and sued the administration over it; when Obama left office, the rule hadn't taken effect and remained in legal limbo. This week, the Trump administration sent a strong message that it will never take effect: The Labor Department kicked off the process to rewrite the rule, publishing a "request for information" that seeks comments from the public about further changes. The notice wasn't exactly a surprise, since last month, the Trump administration declined to support the rule in a legal brief it filed in the ongoing lawsuit. But Tuesday's news still represents the clearest sign that the Trump DOL doesn't support Obama's overtime rule and intends to roll it back.[/B][/B]
[B][B][B]4. Repealing Obama's fracking rule
In March 2015, the Interior Department released a high-profile rule governing hydraulic fracturing on public lands. The process, known as "fracking," involves pumping millions of gallons of water into the earth to release oil and gas; it has helped make the U.S. one of the world's leading oil and gas producers, but environmentalists have criticized it for worsening climate change, polluting groundwater and causing earthquakes. The rule was intended to impose stronger safety measures on fracking on public lands, requiring producers to safely store waste fluids and disclose what chemicals they use.

[B][B]But the rule never actually took effect, due to lawsuits from the oil and gas industry. Now, it's on the verge of death. The Interior Department on Monday released a 33-page proposed rule to repeal the fracking regulation, saying the Obama-era rule was "unnecessarily duplicative of state and some tribal regulations and imposes burdensome reporting requirements and other unjustified costs on the oil and gas industry." The agency is accepting comments for 60 days and will release a final rule soon thereafter. But it's clear how this will end: The fracking rule is dead.[/B][/B]
[B][B][B]5. Ending an Obama retirement program
In 2014, the Treasury Department created a new way for Americans to save for retirement, allowing people without access to a workplace retirement plan to open a starter account, known as a "myRA." It was designed to encourage all Americans to save for retirementwithout feesand participants could contribute up to $5,500 a year from pre-tax earnings, a savings account or a federal tax refund.

[B][B]The Obama administration heavily promoted the program, but myRA never garnered much interest: Only about 20,000 people have opened accounts since it launched at the end of 2015. On Friday, the Treasury Department announced it was shutting down the myRA program; participants' funds would be transitioned into Roth IRA accounts. The death of myRA isn't a huge deal, given the limited enrollment. But Friday's news still marks the end of a top Obama effort to expand retirement savings opportunities.[/B][/B]