January 1, 2019

Jan 01 2019

Washington, D.C. January 1, 2019: “Three weeks ago, someone showed up in Washington with a lengthy file of papers. This consisted of a long Russian intelligence report on Donald Trump. It was in Russian, covered with official office stamps and attached was an English translation. This eventually ended up in the hands of Mr. Mueller with the idea that it could also be send around to all the Democratic members of the House. Washington is the Gossip Capitol of the country and within a week, rumors, threats of rumors and intimations of postings swarmed like bees in the summer. What comes next no one knows but anyone betting on Trump leaving the Oval Office in the near future would have a sure thing in his pocket. The only problem foreseen is the anger and probable violence erupting in the ranks of his far-right supporters, many of whom are very militant and even more who are armed, mostly with semi-automatic AK47-style assault rifles that can easily be converted to full automatic. No one wants a reprise of the rigged Charlottesville episode and the Department of Defense has its own agenda if called out to respond to violence. They shoot first and explain later.”

The Table of Contents

  • 815 false claims: The staggering scale of Donald Trump’s pre-midterm dishonesty No 5
  • How the War Party Lost the Middle East
  • Democrats unveil bill to end shutdown – without money for Trump’s wall
  • Democrat-controlled House faces question: what not to investigate?
  • The top Democrats set to make Trump’s life miserable in 2019
  • Steve Mnuchin Is a Dunce
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

815 false claims: The staggering scale of Donald Trump’s pre-midterm dishonesty No 5

November 15, 2018

by Daniel Dale Washington Bureau Chief

Toronto Star

WASHINGTON—It took Donald Trump until the 286th day of his presidency to make 815 false claims.

He just made another 815 false claims in a month.

In the 31 days leading up to the midterm elections on Nov. 6, Trump went on a lying spree like we have never seen before even from him — an outrageous barrage of serial dishonesty in which he obliterated all of his old records.

How bad have these recent weeks been?

  • Trump made 664 false claims in October. That was double his previous record for a calendar month, 320 in August.
  • Trump averaged 26.3 false claims per day in the month leading up to the midterm on Nov. 6. In 2017, he averaged 2.9 per day.
  • Trump made more false claims in the two months leading up to the midterms (1,176), than he did in all of 2017 (1,011).
  • The three most dishonest single days of Trump’s presidency were the three days leading up to the midterms: 74 on election eve, Nov. 5; 58 on Nov. 3; 54 on Nov. 4.

As always, Trump was being more frequently dishonest in part because he was simply speaking more. He had three campaign rallies on Nov. 5, the day before he set the record, and eight more rallies over the previous five days.

But it was not only quantity. Trump packed his rally speeches with big new lies, repeatedly reciting wildly inaccurate claims about migrants, Democrats’ views on immigration and health care, and his own record. Unlike many of his lies, lots of these ones were written into the text of his speeches.

Trump is now up to 3,749 false claims for the first 661 days of his presidency, an average of 4.4 per day.

If Trump is a serial liar, why call this a list of “false claims,” not lies? You can read our detailed explanation here. The short answer is that we can’t be sure that each and every one was intentional. In some cases, he may have been confused or ignorant. What we know, objectively, is that he was not telling the truth.

  • Oct 12, 2018

“Excuse me. My military folks all over this arena. And how do you like the fact that the V.A. now has Choice, right? I said it. But, you know, I skip over it. For 44 years, they’ve been trying to get Choice, and we got it done. That means instead of waiting for 10 days or 5 days or 22 days or 33 days, or 2 months, our great veterans, some of them would be fine, just not feeling so good by the time they saw the doctor. It took so long, they would have a terminal illness. That’s how bad it was. And I got done what they’d been trying to do for 44 years, I think. Forty-four years. Now when they have to wait, they go out, they get the services of a good private doctor, we pay the bill, and they’re all better, and that’s nice. Forty-four years. It took 44 years to get that done.”

Source: Campaign rally in Lebanon, Ohio

in fact: The Veterans Choice health program was created in 2014 under Obama. The law Trump signed merely modified the program.

“We’d go — I’ll never forget — we went to Michigan, final stop. I got there 1 o’clock in the morning. There was actually Election Day, 1 o’clock in the morning. There were 32,000 people. I see some people there, they were there. It was unbelievable, 32,000 people. I started speaking at 1 o’clock in the morning. I got home at 4 o’clock in the morning. And I said, you know, we had 32,000. Crooked Hillary had, like, 500. And I said, why aren’t we going to win the great state of Michigan? And guess what? We did. We did. And it hadn’t been won in decades by a Republican. And now they like me even more. You know why?”

Source: Campaign rally in Lebanon, Ohio

in fact: Clinton had a capacity crowd of 4,600 at her rally at Michigan’s Grand Valley State University, near Trump’s rally in Grand Rapids, the day before the election.

“We’d go — I’ll never forget — we went to Michigan, final stop. I got there 1 o’clock in the morning. There was actually Election Day, 1 o’clock in the morning. There were 32,000 people. I see some people there, they were there. It was unbelievable, 32,000 people. I started speaking at 1 o’clock in the morning. I got home at 4 o’clock in the morning. And I said, you know, we had 32,000.”

Source: Campaign rally in Lebanon, Ohio

in fact: Trump did not have a crowd of 32,000 people in Michigan on the eve of the 2016 election. The capacity of his venue in Grand Rapids, Michigan was 4,200. Local newspapers reported that the room was over capacity, and that there was a large crowd outside, but the total was nowhere near 32,000. Nick LaFave, a news anchor for WZZM 13 television in Grand Rapids, wrote on Twitter: “I covered that rally. The place was definitely beyond capacity. I think we estimated 8k. Many more outside who never got in. But, no way that got to 32k. None. No way.”

“I hate to disappoint you, but we went to Mississippi, we went to Missouri, we went to Nevada, we went to — every place, and we have crowds, we have tens of thousands of people outside of every arena.”

Source: Campaign rally in Lebanon, Ohio

in fact: There have not been tens of thousands of people outside Trump’s rally venues unable to get in. For example, he has claimed that 44,000 and 45,000 people were stuck outside his rally in Springfield, Missouri, but the city’s public information chief, Cora Scott, told us in an email that only 1,000 people were unable to get in.

“And for all of the companies that are moving back in to the United States, we will finally have a merit-based system of immigration. Not just lump — not a lottery, pick them out of a hat. Who the hell are they? Who is he? Pick them out of a hat. We’re letting people come in on merit, where they can help you, where they can help these companies grow. Right now, we have a system, lottery, a lottery. Think of it, lottery. Oh, pick ’em, I wonder? What people do you think these countries are putting in? Do you think they’re putting in their finest? I don’t think so. I don’t think so. So we’re going to end it. We’re going to have a merit-based system.”

Source: Campaign rally in Lebanon, Ohio

in fact: This is, as usual, an inaccurate description of the Diversity Visa Lottery program. Foreign countries do not “put in” anyone to the lottery. Would-be immigrants sign up on their own, as individuals, of their own free will, because they want to immigrate. Also, it is not true that the U.S. does not know anything about the people it accepts through the lottery. Anyone whose name is picked by the State Department is subjected to a background check process before being allowed to enter the U.S.

“Hispanic Americans and Asian-Americans likewise have the lowest unemployment in the history of our country.”

Source: Campaign rally in Lebanon, Ohio

in fact: The unemployment rate for Hispanics was indeed at a record low, at least for the period since the government began releasing data for this group in the 1970s. The Asian-American unemployment rate, however, was not close to a record. It briefly dropped to a low, 2.0 per cent, in May — a low, at least, since the government began issuing Asian-American data in 2000 — but the most recent rate at the time Trump spoke, for September, was 3.5 per cent. This was higher than the rate in Obama’s last full month in office — 2.8 per cent in December 2016 — and in multiple months of George W. Bush’s second term.

“We’ve added nearly 600,000 brand-new beautiful manufacturing jobs. Right?”

Source: Campaign rally in Lebanon, Ohio

in fact: The economy added 378,000 manufacturing jobs between January 2017 and September 2018.

“Since the election — which is incredible. If I would have said this — I’ve been to Ohio so many times, been to every part of Ohio. The people are great. But if I would have said this, the fake news would have said, how dare he say that: since the election, we’ve created over 4.2 million new jobs.”

Source: Campaign rally in Lebanon, Ohio

in fact: Trump would not have been silenced if he had predicted there would be 4.2 million jobs added in the 22 months after the election. Over the previous 22-month period, under Obama, 4.7 million jobs were added.

“The new platform of the Democrat Party is to abolish ICE. Think of that.”

Source: Campaign rally in Lebanon, Ohio

in fact: There is new Democratic momentum behind the movement to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but that is not the position of “the Democrat Party” as a whole. While a smattering of Democratic House members and two prominent senators, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren, have joined the call for abolition at the time Trump spoke, the party’s leadership remains opposed to the proposal. Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters: “Look, ICE does some functions that are very much needed. “Reform ICE? Yes. That’s what I think we should do. It needs reform.” Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi, through a spokesperson, has called for a “drastic overhaul of its immigration functions,” but has not endorsed abolition.

“Also at stake in this election is Medicare. Democrats have signed up for a socialist takeover of American health care that would utterly destroy Medicare and rob our seniors of the benefits they paid into their entire lives. Republicans want to protect Medicare for our great seniors who have earned it and they’ve paid for it.”

Source: Campaign rally in Lebanon, Ohio

in fact: Democrats’ “Medicare for all” proposals tend to be vague, but they would not take Medicare health insurance away from seniors. Rather, they would extend similar government-provided health insurance to younger people as well, and they would give current Medicare recipients additional coverage for things like vision and dental services.

“Cordray spent $250 million federal dollars trying to renovate a headquarters, his agency, that they didn’t even own, more than twice what the entire building was worth. They didn’t own it. And then it became a big scandal. But because it was a Democrat, the fake news didn’t want to write about it. Then after spending like $50 million on some elevators, it turned out that they didn’t work.”

Source: Campaign rally in Lebanon, Ohio

in fact: There is no apparent basis for this claim about the elevators. “This is a firm fixed-price contract, so there is not a specific line item for the elevators, but the cost to renovate the 9 existing elevators and build a new one was not $50M,” the Bureau said in an email.

“Cordray spent 250 million federal dollars trying to renovate a headquarters, his agency, that they didn’t even own, more than twice what the entire building was worth. They didn’t own it. And then it became a big scandal. But because it was a Democrat, the fake news didn’t want to write about it. Then after spending like $50 million on some elevators, it turned out that they didn’t work.”

Source: Campaign rally in Lebanon, Ohio

in fact: Cordray, the Democratic candidate for governor of Ohio and former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, did not spend $250 million on the renovations. Republicans in Congress have criticized him for the cost of the renovation, but they have said the renovation cost $145 million, not $250 million; $145 million is the figure news outlets including the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg have used in the last year.

“In fact, I’ve been going around lately saying the Democrats are the party of crime. And nobody even challenges me, not even the fake news media. They don’t even challenge me.”

Source: Campaign rally in Lebanon, Ohio

in fact: Various people in the media have challenged Trump’s claim, some of them noting that several people in Trump’s personal circle have been convicted of crimes.

“The Democrats want to erase America’s borders and let drugs, gangs and crime pour into our country.”

Source: Campaign rally in Lebanon, Ohio

in fact: Democrats do not want to erase the country’s borders.


“We won it by a lot. In fact, you know the way, if it’s close, they have to take hours and hours and hours, right? So with Ohio, I’ll never forget, they said the polls have closed in Ohio. Donald Trump has won the state of Ohio. Crazy. We won Ohio by so much that it took one second before they called it, OK? We won by a lot.”

Source: Campaign rally in Lebanon, Ohio

in fact: It did not take merely “one second” before media organizations called Ohio for Trump in the 2016 election. The Associated Press called the state for him after 10:20 p.m. Eastern time, nearly three hours after voting closed there.

“But they constantly would say on these phony networks, you cannot win unless you win the great state of Ohio. And then they started doing polls, and I was way up. And I think we won it by 9 or 10 points. A lot.”

Source: Campaign rally in Lebanon, Ohio

in fact: This was a slight exaggeration. Trump won Ohio by eight percentage points in the 2016 election.

“We just got poll numbers for some of the Senate races. And you look at some of these Senate races where we weren’t even going to contest…We were figuring in — you know, we’re winning with candidates that are — we’re winning. We’re beating people that we weren’t going to contest. So it’s been amazing.”

Source: Campaign rally in Lebanon, Ohio

in fact: This is an exaggeration. Republicans had improved in the polls in some Senate races, but they did not take the lead in any races the party wasn’t even going to contest.

“One of the things we’re most proud of — look, steel was dead. Steel was dead. I came into office, steel was a dead business. Now they’re opening up plans, U.S. Steel, Nucor.” And: “And you know what happens? After the industry dies — would have died within two years.”

Source: Campaign rally in Lebanon, Ohio

in fact: No expert on the steel industry believes the industry was “dead” or that it would have been nonexistent “within two years” if Trump had not imposed tariffs. The American Iron and Steel Institute said before Trump imposed the tariffs: “The steel industry directly employs around 140,000 people in the United States, and it directly or indirectly supports almost one million U.S. jobs.”

“And I’ll soon sign into the law the largest legislative effort in history to address the opioid crisis where just this year we got $6 billion from Congress — thanks to Rob Portman and a lot of others — thank you, Rob — but Rob and so many others helped. Very little Democrat support.”

Source: Campaign rally in Lebanon, Ohio

in fact: As the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler noted, Democrats overwhelmingly supported the opioid bill: “The vote was 98 to 1, with only Utah Sen. Mike Lee (R) opposing it. The House passed it 393 to 8.”

“No, but think of it. If you remember the previous administration said manufacturing jobs…But remember, they said manufacturing jobs, they’re gone, they’re dead. Remember the expression, ‘you’d need a magic wand to bring ’em — bring ’em back?’ We’re bringing them back. I guess we have the magic wand.”

Source: Campaign rally in Lebanon, Ohio

in fact: The Obama administration did not say “manufacturing jobs, they’re gone, they’re dead.” Rather, at a televised PBS town hall in Elkhart, Indiana in 2016, Obama said that certain manufacturing jobs “are just not going to come back” — but also boasted that some manufacturers are indeed “coming back to the United States,” that “we’ve seen more manufacturing jobs created since I’ve been president than any time since the 1990s,” and that “we actually make more stuff, have a bigger manufacturing base today, than we’ve had in most of our history.” Obama did mock Trump for Trump’s campaign claims that he was going to bring back manufacturing jobs that had been outsourced to Mexico, saying: “And when somebody says — like the person you just mentioned who I’m not going to advertise for — that he’s going to bring all these jobs back, well, how exactly are you going to do that? What are you going to do? There’s no answer to it. He just says, ‘Well, I’m going to negotiate a better deal.’ Well, how exactly are you going to negotiate that? What magic wand do you have? And usually the answer is he doesn’t have an answer.” But, again, Obama made clear that he was talking about a certain segment of manufacturing jobs, not all of them.

“Well, we had it in Erie, Pennsylvania the other night with 25,000 people outside of a 12,000-seat arena. It’s been amazing.”

Source: Interview with 700WLW Cincinnati

in fact: Trump his Erie rally in a 9,000-seat arena, not a 12,000-seat arena. Erie police estimated that 3,000 people gathered to watch his speech on a screen outside the venue, according to the local Erie Times-News, not 25,000 people.

“We lost, over the last few years, an average of $800 billion a year on trade. We lose with everybody. Those days are over, Bill.”

Source: Interview with 700WLW Cincinnati

in fact: The U.S. does not have a trade deficit with “everybody.” While the U.S. has a substantial overall trade deficit — $566 billion in 2017 — it had surpluses in 2017 with more than half of its trading partners, according to data from the U.S. government’s own International Trade Commission, including Hong Kong, Brazil, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Australia, Chile, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Kuwait and dozens more countries and territories. And while Trump is free to claim his actions will eventually reduce deficits, they have not done so yet: the overall 2017 deficit was the largest for any year since 2008.

“We lost, over the last few years, an average of $800 billion a year on trade. We lose with everybody. Those days are over, Bill.”

Source: Interview with 700WLW Cincinnati

in fact: The U.S. has not once had an $800 billion trade deficit in any one year during the last five years, let alone having an average trade deficit of $800 billion. The $566 billion deficit in 2017 was the largest for any year since 2008. (Trump habitually ignores trade in services when he talks about trade deficits, choosing the number that refers only to trade in goods. The U.S. had a goods-trade deficit of $810 billion in 2017, a services-trade surplus of $244 billion.)

“And I have a very good relationship with President Xi but I said we can’t do it. Very simple, ‘We can’t do it anymore.’ We’re not going to do it anymore. So we’ve now put on $250 billion worth of tariffs. And by the way, there’s been no impact, there’s been no effect.”

Source: Interview with 700WLW Cincinnati

in fact: You can argue how significant or insignificant the effect of Trump’s tariffs on Chinese products have been, but “no effect” is false. Numerous businesses have raised prices as a result, and major retailers from Walmart to Home Depot to The Gap have warned of future price increases. The tariffs, moreover, have prompted China to impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural products, causing major problems for U.S. soybean farmers among others; the Trump administration has felt compelled to spend billions bailing out affected farmers.

“So, China has been taking out $500 billion yet people have no idea what that is. $500 billion. We have rebuilt China.”

Source: Interview with 700WLW Cincinnati

in fact: The U.S. has never once had a $500 billion trade deficit with China, according to U.S. government data. The deficit was $337 billion in 2017, $375 billion if you only count trade in goods and exclude trade in services.

“We met with them (the European Union), I told them I’m going to start taxing your cars, because Obama they wouldn’t even talk to him. They said, ‘We’re very happy the way we are.’ And that’s — that was it. Obama just went away.”

Source: Interview with 700WLW Cincinnati

in fact: It is false that the European Union refused to talk to Obama about trade. In fact, during the Obama presidency, the U.S. and European Union engaged in three years of extensive negotiations on a possible free trade agreement, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Talks stalled in late 2016, with the U.S. election approaching, amid opposition from factions in key European countries like France and Germany.

“So we charge them (the European Union) virtually nothing and they send millions and millions of cars. If we want to send a piece of grain, okay, if we want to send a piece of grain, we can’t do it into the European Union. So it’s unfair.”

Source: Interview with 700WLW Cincinnati

in fact: It is not true that the U.S. can’t export any grain to the European Union: the U.S. Grains Council points out that in their 2017-2018 tracking year, the U.S. exported $1.1 billion worth of grain to the European Union, an increase from $716 million the year prior. Floyd Gaibler, director of trade policy abd biotechnology for the council, says there are significant EU barriers to American grains, such as long delays before the EU Food Safety Authority will approve certain items. But the EU does not simply refuse all American grains, as Trump was suggesting.

“So the European Union they formed and they are very unfair to us. They have barriers where we can’t sell into their — into their countries. They have tremendous tariffs that make it impossible and yet they sell Mercedes-Benz and BMWs, by the millions they come in. Millions. And we charge them, essentially no tax. It’s 2.5 per cent, but for the most part they don’t even collect it.”

Source: Interview with 700WLW Cincinnati

in fact: The U.S. does indeed collect the 2.5 tariff on imported European cars.

“Now we’re working on China and we’re working on the European Union, which have absolutely taken advantage of our country. The European Union has been brutal in the way they took advantage of the United States for many years. I mean, they were formed to take advantage of the United States. That was the reason they were formed.”

Source: Interview with 700WLW Cincinnati

in fact: Experts on the EU say that competing with the U.S. economically was not even on the list of the top reasons for the original formation of the European coalition or its evolution into the official European Union in 1993 — let alone “taking advantage” of the U.S. “That effort was never to compete with the United States,” said Maxime Larivé, associate director of the European Union Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Its original incarnation, an economic “community” created in the 1950s, was intended “to simply foster peace through trade and economic exchange” of coal and steel, Larivé said.

“It was a terrible deal. So essentially, we terminated that deal and we made a new deal with South Korea. So we’re doing a lot.”

Source: Interview with 700WLW Cincinnati

in fact: Trump did not terminate the U.S. free trade deal with South Korea (KORUS), though his administration had hinted he might do so. Trump did negotiate changes to the deal, but he never initiated the withdrawal process. It is inaccurate even to argue that the changes “essentially” mean he terminated the previous deal; the changes were too insignificant even to require congressional approval.

“Now we just made a deal with South Korea, which is — much — a much improved — approved deal, you know, improved. I will say that Hillary Clinton, you remember, she made that deal and she said it’s 250,000 jobs, and she was right, for South Korea. So they got 250, we didn’t get 250.”

Source: Interview with 700WLW Cincinnati

in fact: Clinton did not claim that the trade deal with South Korea would produce 250,000 new jobs. Neither did anyone else in the Obama administration. Obama said that deal would “support at least 70,000 American jobs.” (It is also probably a stretch to say the deal was a “Hillary Clinton catastrophe.” George W. Bush’s administration negotiated the original version of the deal. When Congress refused to ratify it, it was revised by the Obama administration when Clinton was secretary of state.)

“I’ll give you an example: Idlib. I met with a person at a big rally in Ohio. It was a person backstage where various people were saying hello. And a woman came up. She was Syrian. She said, ‘Sir’ — this is five weeks ago — she said, ‘Sir, my sister lives in Idlib province and sir she is going to be killed. Russia, Iran and Syria are surrounding it and they are going in and they are going to kill the 3 million people or a million people but tremendous amounts of people. They’re going to kill my sister and they’re going to kill my family.'”

Source: Interview with TIME

in fact: We cannot determine whether this story is true or false on the whole, but at least one part is false: this encounter did not take place at an Ohio rally “five weeks ago,” because Trump had not had an Ohio rally for more than two months. (He also spoke at a Republican Party dinner in Ohio seven weeks prior.) Trump had previously claimed that this encounter happened not backstage at a rally but when “I was at a meeting with a lot of supporters, and a woman stood up.”

“Obama paid (Iran) $1.8 billion and he gave $150 billion.”

Source: Interview with TIME

in fact: The “$150 billion” figure has no basis. Experts said Iran had about $100 billion in worldwide assets at the time; after the nuclear deal unfroze Iranian assets, Iran was able to access a percentage of that $100 billion, but not all of it. PolitiFact reported: “The actual amount available to Iran is about $60 billion, estimates Garbis Iradian, chief economist at the Institute of International Finance. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew pinned it at $56 billion, while Iranian officials say $35 billion, according to Richard Nephew, an expert on economic sanctions at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.” It is also an exaggeration to say Iran was “taking over the Middle East” before Trump took office, though it exerted significant influence in several countries.

“Look at Iran. They’re a weakened nation now. Look at them after what I did. They are a weakened nation. They have riots all over, in every city, the people are rioting. They are pulling back military. They have a lot of problems. The day before I came in, Iran was taking over the Middle East, it was just a question of which week will it be. Now they have everything they do to save themselves.”

Source: Interview with TIME

in fact: “Riots all over, in every city” is an exaggeration; there have been sporadic protests this year in various Iranian cities, not everywhere and not consistently. It is also an exaggeration to claim “Iran was taking over the Middle East” before Trump took office. Hussein Banai, a professor who studies Iran at the international studies school at Indiana University, said in an email: “The claim that Iran was on the verge of taking over the Middle East prior to Trump taking office is utterly false. In fact, quite the opposite was the case, as the Sunni-majority Arab states in the region — most vocally led by Saudi Arabia and with the expressed support of the US and Israel — had already begun to curb Iran’s influence in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. There is no question that the perception of many of Iran’s rivals in the region after the nuclear deal was that the Islamic Republic had emerged with a stronger geopolitical hand. But the reality was that Iran had merely emerged from nearly 40 years of isolation from which many of these rivals had benefited. So, I would say that the major grievance at the time was that the Obama administration had allowed for the Islamic Republic to become a ‘normal’ country. The issue was never Iran’s military might — its defense expenditures and capabilities are dwarfed by those of Israel and Saudi Arabia — but the fact that it was on the verge of a major economic boom in a post-sanctions world.”

“Look, our politicians have been nice for many years, for decades. And look what’s happened. Look what I’ve done with North Korea. When I came in, the day before I came in, if you look, we were going to war with North Korea. President Obama said it was by far his biggest problem.” And: “You look at North Korea. We were going to war with North Korea before I came in. That was going to be a war. President Obama said it was by far his biggest problem. That was going to be a major war. Millions of people would have been killed. Now, and the media gives me no credit for it, and that’s fine because I’m used to them. Obviously they don’t mean as much as I used to think.”

Source: Interview with TIME

in fact: U.S. news outlets have reported that Obama did indeed tell Trump that North Korea was going to be his biggest or most urgent problem, but there is no evidence Obama was ever ready to go to war with North Korea or that, as Trump has previously claimed, he told Trump such a thing; such a remark would be a total departure from Obama’s long-held views on North Korea. Obama’s office has declined to comment on Trump’s previous claims about Obama supposedly making this statement at his post-election meeting with Trump, but Ned Price, a former special assistant to Obama and spokesperson for the National Security Council, called Trump’s remark “absolute revisionist history,” saying, “I’ve never heard anything even remotely like that coming up during that session.” Obama’s strategy of “containment and deterrence” was “predicated in part on the understanding that a military conflict on the (Korean) Peninsula would be nothing short of catastrophic,” Price said.

“There is nothing nice in telling China that we are not going to allow you to take $500 billion a year out of the United States.”

Source: Interview with TIME

in fact: The U.S. has never once had a $500 billion trade deficit with China, according to U.S. government data. The deficit was $337 billion in 2017, $375 billion if you only count trade in goods and exclude trade in services.

“That’s a mouthful, Brian, but you understand what I’m saying. I’ve had people say to me, I’ve had generals say to me, ‘Sir, we do this for trade.’ I said, really? We lost $151 billion with the European nations, you know the Union…” And: “Well, if I don’t talk that way, I’m never going to get the point across and I’m never going to be able to make the deal. There is nothing nice about telling a country that we aren’t going to allow you to make $151 billion against the American taxpayer.”

Source: Interview with TIME

in fact: Including all kinds of trade, the U.S. had a $102 billion trade deficit with the European Union in 2017, according to U.S. government statistics. The $151 billion figure counts only trade in goods and ignores trade in services, in which the U.S. has a significant surplus.

“But it’s still unfair, NATO. Because we’re paying for 80 per cent the cost of NATO in order to protect Europe and on top of everything else Europe takes advantage of us on trade.”

Source: Interview with TIME

in fact: Eighty per cent is an exaggeration. According to NATO’s 2018 annual report, U.S. defence spending represented 72 per cent of alliance members’ total defence spending in 2017. Of NATO’s own direct budget, the U.S. contributes a much smaller agreed-upon percentage: 22 per cent.

“But if you take a look at NATO, last year they paid $44 billion more. I said you’re going to have to pay folks. Because payments were going down every day for 10 years.”

Source: Interview with TIME

in fact: Military spending by NATO members was not “going down every day for 10 years” before Trump took office: it rose by 1.84 per cent in 2015 and 3.08 per cent in 2016, official NATO figures show.

“But if you take a look at NATO, last year they paid $44 billion more.” And: “You could speak to Secretary General Stoltenberg. And last year I went in, I said, ‘Look, you’re either going to pay or you’re going to have a problem.’ And they paid $44 billion more. This year it’s the same thing. They’re paying billions more.”

Source: Interview with TIME

in fact: This is a slight exaggeration. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said in July that the increase was $41 billion, not $44 billion, since Trump took office: “In fact, since President Trump took office, European allies and Canada have added an additional $41 billion to their defence spending.”


How the War Party Lost the Middle East

January 1, 2019

by Patrick J. Buchanan

“Assad must go, Obama says.”

So read the headline in The Washington Post, Aug. 18, 2011.

The story quoted President Barack Obama directly:

“The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. … the time has come for President Assad to step aside.”

France’s Nicolas Sarkozy and Britain’s David Cameron signed on to the Obama ultimatum: Assad must go!

Seven years and 500,000 dead Syrians later, it is Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron who are gone. Assad still rules in Damascus, and the 2,000 Americans in Syria are coming home. Soon, says President Donald Trump.

But we cannot “leave now,” insists Sen. Lindsey Graham, or “the Kurds are going to get slaughtered.”

Question: Who plunged us into a Syrian civil war, and so managed our intervention that were we to go home after seven years our enemies will be victorious and our allies will “get slaughtered”?

Seventeen years ago, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban for granting sanctuary to al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden.

U.S. diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad is today negotiating for peace talks with that same Taliban. Yet, according to former CIA director Mike Morell, writing in The Washington Post Monday, the “remnants of al-Qaeda work closely” with today’s Taliban.

It would appear that 17 years of fighting in Afghanistan has left us with these alternatives: Stay there, and fight a forever war to keep the Taliban out of Kabul, or withdraw and let the Taliban overrun the place.

Who got us into this debacle?

After Trump flew into Iraq over Christmas but failed to meet with its president, the Iraqi Parliament, calling this a “U.S. disregard for other nations’ sovereignty” and a national insult, began debating whether to expel the 5,000 U.S. troops still in their country.

George W. Bush launched Operation Iraq Freedom to strip Saddam Hussein of WMD he did not have and to convert Iraq into a democracy and Western bastion in the Arab and Islamic world.

Fifteen years later, Iraqis are debating our expulsion.

Muqtada al-Sadr, the cleric with American blood on his hands from the fighting of a decade ago, is leading the charge to have us booted out. He heads the party with the largest number of members in the parliament.

Consider Yemen. For three years, the U.S. has supported with planes, precision-guided munitions, air-to-air refueling and targeting information, a Saudi war on Houthi rebels that degenerated into one of the worst humanitarian disasters of the 21st century.

Belatedly, Congress is moving to cut off U.S. support for this war. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, its architect, has been condemned by Congress for complicity in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the consulate in Istanbul. And the U.S. is seeking a truce in the fighting.

Who got us into this war? And what have years of killing Yemenis, in which we have been collaborators, done to make Americans safer?

Consider Libya. In 2011, the U.S. attacked the forces of dictator Moammar Gadhafi and helped to effect his ouster, which led to his murder.

Told of news reports of Gadhafi’s death, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joked, “We came, we saw, he died.”

The Libyan conflict has since produced tens of thousands of dead. The output of Libya’s crucial oil industry has collapsed to a fraction of what it was. In 2016, Obama said that not preparing for a post-Gadhafi Libya was probably the “worst mistake” of his presidency.

The price of all these interventions for the United States?

Some 7,000 dead, 40,000 wounded and trillions of dollars.

For the Arab and Muslim world, the cost has been far greater. Hundreds of thousands of dead in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Libya, civilian and soldier alike, pogroms against Christians, massacres, and millions uprooted and driven from their homes.

How has all this invading, bombing and killing made the Middle East a better place or Americans more secure? One May 2018 poll of young people in the Middle East and North Africa found that more of them felt that Russia was a closer partner than was the United States of America.

The fruits of American intervention?

We are told ISIS is not dead but alive in the hearts of tens of thousands of Muslims, that if we leave Syria and Afghanistan, our enemies will take over and our friends will be massacred, and that if we stop helping Saudis and Emiratis kill Houthis in Yemen, Iran will notch a victory.

In his decision to leave Syria and withdraw half of the 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, Trump enraged our foreign policy elites, though millions of Americans cannot get out of there soon enough.

In Monday’s editorial celebrating major figures of foreign policy in the past half-century, The New York Times wrote, “As these leaders pass from the scene, it will be left to a new generation to find a way forward from the wreckage Mr. Trump has already created.”

Correction: Make that “the wreckage Mr. Trump inherited.”


Democrats unveil bill to end shutdown – without money for Trump’s wall

  • Sources say House to vote on package on Thursday
  • Monday represents 10th day of government shutdown

December 31, 2018

by Martin Pengelly and agencies

The Guardian

Democrats on Monday unveiled legislation designed to re-open the federal government, without providing money for Donald Trump’s border wall.

According to an anonymous aide quoted by the Associated Press, the House is preparing to vote on the package on Thursday, when the new Congress will convene with Democrats in the majority in the lower chamber for the first time since 2010. It will include one bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security at current levels through 8 February, with $1.3bn for border security. Trump has demanded $5bn.

The package will include six other bills to fund the departments of agriculture, interior, housing and urban development and others closed by the partial shutdown. Some bills have already passed the Senate. Those will provide money through the remainder of the fiscal year, to 30 September.

Monday was the 10th day of the partial government shutdown forced by Trump’s demand for a wall. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers face increasing hardship and key government functions are cast into ever-increasing doubt.

Over the weekend, confusion reigned about whether Trump actually wants a physical wall along the border with Mexico. Three people close to the president suggested on Sunday he does not. On Monday the president returned to tweeting, stridently, that he does.

Trump campaigned on the promise to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it. He and his allies have claimed a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada, being supposedly better for the US than its predecessor, fulfils the second part of the promise. Over the weekend, the Trump camp tried to explain the president’s thinking on the first.

First, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, chief of staff John Kelly said Trump abandoned the notion of “a solid concrete wall early on in the administration”.

“The president still says ‘wall’,” said Kelly, whose last day on the job is Monday. “Oftentimes frankly he’ll say ‘barrier’ or ‘fencing’, now he’s tended toward steel slats. But we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration, when we asked people what they needed and where they needed it.”

Senior adviser Kellyanne Conway then told Fox News Sunday: “There may be a wall in some places, there may be steel slats, there may be technological enhancements. But only saying ‘wall or no wall’ is being very disingenuous and turning a complete blind eye to what is a crisis at the border.”

Senator Lindsey Graham completed the job, telling reporters at the White House after lunch with Trump “the wall has become a metaphor for border security”.

So far, so unclear. And on Monday morning, Trump duly announced: “An all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED, as has been reported by the media. Some areas will be all concrete but the experts at Border Patrol prefer a Wall that is see through (thereby making it possible to see what is happening on both sides). Makes sense to me!”

Graham also said he thought a deal with Democrats might be possible, by which congressional leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi would provide Trump’s money in return for action on the legal status of Dreamers, undocumented migrants brought to the US as children, and other migrant groups.

Saying the president was “open-minded”, Graham added: “Democrats have a chance here to work with me and others, including the president, to bring legal status to people who have very uncertain lives.”

But a previous attempt to reach such a deal broke down, thanks to White House demands. Furthermore, Graham had also told CNN’s State of the Union, before his lunch with Trump: “There will never be a deal without wall funding.”

The president remains at the White House, meeting allies, criticised for not reaching out to Democrats who have happily pointed to an 11 December Oval Office meeting in which Trump said he would be proud to force a shutdown.

A proposed deal for $2.5bn, advanced via the vice-president, Mike Pence, and the Alabama Republican senator Richard Shelby, went nowhere. Conway claimed on Sunday that “the president has already compromised” by dropping his request from $25bn, and called on Democrats to return to the table.

“It is with them,” she said.

Democrats were unmoved.

“It’s clear the White House doesn’t know what they want when it comes to border security,” Justin Goodman, Schumer’s spokesman, told reporters. “While one White House official says they’re willing to compromise, another says the president is holding firm at no less than $5bn for the wall. Meanwhile, the president tweets, blaming everyone but himself for a shutdown he called for more than 25 times.”

Polling shows the public backs the Democrats. But any legislation passed by a Democratic House will have to be backed by the Republican Senate – and Trump.


Democrat-controlled House faces question: what not to investigate?

After two years of a compliant Congress, Trump can expect scrutiny into alleged collusion, obstruction and corruption

December 31, 2018

by Sabrina Siddiqui in Washington

The Guardian

When Democrats formally assume the US House majority in January for the first time in eight years, they will contend with a president long dubbed by most members of their party as unfit and unqualified to serve.

But for the first time in the two years since Donald Trump’s inauguration, Democrats will no longer be watching or protesting from the sidelines.

Fresh off a major victory in the November 2018 midterm elections – which saw the party gain 40 seats in the House – Democrats are preparing to fully utilize the investigative authorities afforded to Congress as legal troubles continue to mount for the president and his inner circle.

And unlike their Republican counterparts, who were reticent to levy the powers of congressional oversight against Trump, nothing appears to be off limits.

The question before Democrats appears to be what not to investigate – and whether there’s any room for negotiation with a president who is anathema to the party’s base.

Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader who is poised to retake the speaker’s gavel in January, declared on the night of the 7 November midterm elections that it was the responsibility of lawmakers in Washington to find common ground.

“We will strive for bipartisanship, with fairness on all sides,” Pelosi said in a victory speech after the House was called for Democrats.

“A Democratic Congress will work for solutions that bring us together, because we have all had enough of division. The American people want peace. They want results.”

But Pelosi, who in 2007 became the first woman to serve as House speaker, also issued a sharp warning to the White House, stating the election was “about restoring the constitution’s checks and balances to the Trump administration”.

Trump has largely avoided scrutiny under a Republican-controlled Congress, despite a litany of issues that have alarmed government and ethics watchdogs since he took office.

Among the avenues Democrats plan to pursue are potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice; Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns; hush money paid by the president’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen to women who alleged they had affairs with Trump; and the misuse of taxpayer dollars by members of the Trump cabinet.

There are also the president’s business dealings and efforts by foreign countries to influence his administration, as well as the increasingly blurred lines between Trump’s family business and the public office he now holds.

“The American people have a right to know that their president is working on their behalf, not his family’s financial interests,” Adam Schiff, the incoming chairman of the House intelligence committee, stated in a recent interview. “Right now, I don’t think any of us can have the confidence that that’s the case.”

Schiff, a Democrat from California, publicly sparred with his Republican counterpart, Devin Nunes, who continued to hold close ties to the White House while overseeing the House intelligence committee’s own investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Other incoming Democratic chairmen have similarly vowed to fulfill the oversight responsibilities of Congress.

Elijah Cummings, a congressman from Maryland who is expected to take over the House oversight committee, issued 64 subpoenas over the last two years. But because he was in the minority, they went nowhere absent Republican support.

Now, he will have considerably more power and has said his mandate is to simply follow “what the constitution says I’m supposed to do”.

Arguably the most grave responsibility could fall on the New York representative Jerrold Nadler, the incoming House judiciary committee chairman. If special counsel Robert Mueller recommends charges against Trump in the Russia investigation, any potential impeachment hearings would occur on Nadler’s watch.

Earlier this month, Nadler said court filings stating that Trump directed Cohen to pay hush money – a violation of campaign finance law that amounts to a federal crime – “would be impeachable offenses”.

Nadler said the alleged crimes, if true, “were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office.”

Bracing himself for the onslaught of investigative peril, Trump has threatened to respond to Democrats with “a warlike posture”.

The already contentious climate has cast major doubts over whether there is any prospect of dealmaking.

Although Trump has touted a massive infrastructure bill and an immigration compromise, he has so far demonstrated antipathy toward the legislative process.

Donna Edwards, a former congresswoman from Maryland, said the most realistic strategy for Democrats would be to try to strike common ground with the Republican-led Senate and send legislation directly to the president’s desk.

“I don’t think they have a choice but to try to work with the president,” she said. “But there’s a limit, and the president goes into all of these negotiations [saying] ‘my way or the highway’

“He clearly doesn’t understand what happens in legislation.”

Jim Manley, a longtime Democratic aide, said any semblance of cooperation “would require a radical shift in the president’s tone and tenor”.

“He made it clear that if Democrats conduct oversight, he’s going to refuse to work with them,” said Manley, who served as a top aide to the former Senate majority leader Harry Reid and the late Senator Ted Kennedy.

“No Democrat was cowed by that threat then, and no Democrat is going to be cowed by that threat now.”


The top Democrats set to make Trump’s life miserable in 2019

With Democrats now in the majority in the House, five committee chairs will wield considerable power to investigate the president

January 1, 2018

by Lauren Gambino in Washington

The Guardian

The midterm elections brought an end to a period of one-party rule in Washington. In January, Donald Trump will face a newly empowered House Democratic majority eager to take on his administration.

The incoming Democratic committee chairs have vowed rigorous oversight of Trump, his family and his administration. Armed with committee gavels, they will have the power and resources to pursue investigations, issue subpoenas and compel testimony.

Trump in response has threatened to adopt a “warlike” posture, signaling a tumultuous end to an already-volatile first term.

Here are the men and women most likely to torment the president.

Elijah Cummings

Incoming chair of the House committee on oversight and government reform

As the ranking Democrat on the committee, Cummings has sat through his share of Republican-led investigations into the Obama administration. Now the outspoken 67-year-old will wield one of the most powerful gavels in Washington.

The son of two former sharecroppers who moved from the south, Cummings was born and raised in Baltimore, a city he now represents in Congress. He practiced law and served for 14 years in the Maryland house of delegates before being elected to Congress in 1996.

In January, Cummings will become one of the Democrats’ chief investigators into the Trump administration.

He describes his approach as having “two tracks”. One track will scrutinize the executive branch, including whether Trump has profited from the presidency; a decision to add a citizenship question to the US census; and hush payments made to women with whom Trump allegedly had affairs. A second track will focus on reforms such as overhauling the US postal service and lowering prescription drug prices.

Cummings has been wary of calls to impeach Trump. Rather than issuing subpoenas “like somebody’s handing out candy on Halloween”, the Democrat says he prefers a more judicious approach.

“I’m not looking for retribution,” Cummings told ABC News. “Life is too short.”

Adam Schiff

Incoming chair of the House permanent select committee on intelligence

Schiff is one of Trump’s most combative political opponents.

Mocked by the president as “Liddle Adam Schiff” – a barb that was recently modified to “Little Adam Schitt” – the California Democrat was at the center of the House’s deeply partisan investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Schiff began his career as a prosecutor with the Los Angeles division of the US attorney’s office in 1987. He gained prominence by prosecuting a case against the first FBI agent to be indicted for espionage against the United States. (The agent was convicted of passing classified information to the Soviet Union for money.) He was elected to Congress in 2000 after serving in the California state senate.

Schiff, 58, is a leading attack dog on the Russia investigation and obstruction of justice.

The Democrat has said he will examine whether Russia has financial leverage over the president through its investments in Trump’s business empire, something Trump says would “cross a red line”.

Schiff recently said: “If the president’s business is trying to curry favor with the Kremlin, we can’t ignore that.”

The congressman has also signaled that he will seek more information about whether Trump sought to obstruct the FBI’s investigation into the president’s dealings with Moscow when he fired its director James Comey. He also hasn’t ruled out calling Trump’s son, Donald Trump

Jerrold Nadler

Incoming chair of the House judiciary committee

The New York Democrat, universally known as “Jerry”, will chair the House judiciary committee, which has jurisdiction over key policy areas but will be watched closely for its role in any impeachment proceedings.

Nadler’s political career began in 1977 as a New York assemblyman while he was still attending Fordham Law School. He was elected to Congress in 1992, and represents Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Wall Street and parts of Brooklyn.

Long before Trump came to Washington, he and Nadler sparred over a real estate venture proposed by Trump that Nadler forcefully opposed. In his book The America We Deserve, Trump later described Nadler as “one of the most egregious hacks in contemporary politics”.

Known as a steady hand, Nadler had been careful about broaching the topic of impeachment, dismissing such discussions as “premature”. However, in December Nadler said court filings stating that Trump directed Cohen to pay hush money “would be impeachable offenses”.

Nadler, 71, has outlined an expansive list of subjects his committee will scrutinize, including Russian interference in the 2016 election; the policy on separating immigrant families at the southern border; the justice department’s failure to defend the Affordable Care Act; the allegations of sexual misconduct and perjury by the supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh; a rise in antisemitic and hate crime incidents since Trump’s election, and the appointment of acting US attorney general Matthew Whitaker after the forced resignation of Jeff Sessions.

Maxine Waters

Incoming chair of the House financial services committee

Waters, or “Auntie Maxine” as she is affectionately known by her supporters in the anti-Trump “resistance” movement, is a frequent target of the president.

Insulted by Trump as “crazy” and an “extraordinarily low IQ person”, the 80-year-old Democrat from California has earned her hard-charging reputation by fighting fire with fire. She has called Trump an “immoral, indecent, & inhumane thug” who “loves Putin” and “genuflects for Kim Jong-un”.

The verbal volleys may only get worse as she assumes the top spot on the House financial services committee next year.

Waters has consistently demanded information about Trump’s private bank dealings and possible connections to Russia. As chairwoman, she will have the power to demand answers from Trump’s biggest lender, Deutsche Bank.

She could also increase scrutiny on the nation’s biggest banks and Wall Street. Waters has called for more regulation of banks and could use her power to slow efforts by the Trump administration to roll back regulations on the financial institutions.

Waters was one of the first Democrats in Washington to call for the president’s impeachment.

She will be the first woman to chair the financial services committee.

Richard Neal

Incoming chair of the House ways and means committee

As chairman of the powerful tax-writing committee, the long-serving Massachusetts Democrat is preparing to lead the fight for the release of Trump’s tax returns.

Neal told the Washington Post that he will start by requesting Trump voluntarily release his tax returns.

In the likely event Trump does not acquiesce, Neal, 69, says he will file a legal request with the treasury department to release the returns to a select group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Neal expects the effort will ultimately end up in federal court.

Neal will also use his perch to defend social security, Medicare and Medicaid, federal programs that have personal resonance with him. His parents died when he was young, and Neal and his sisters relied on social security survivor benefit checks.

He was elected to Congress in 1988 after serving as a city councilor and mayor of Springfield. He became the ranking Democrat on the committee in 2016.

An outspoken opponent of the Republican tax overhaul, Neal has said he also plans to convene hearings on tax policy as well as healthcare and trade.


Steve Mnuchin Is a Dunce

January 1, 2019

by Rebecca Burns and David Dayen

The Intercept

The stock market has experienced its worst performance in December since the early 1930s. Despite brisk holiday shopping, the usual Santa Claus rally was canceled, in part thanks to a grinch named Steve Mnuchin.

The treasury secretary’s inexplicable maneuver on Christmas Eve eve, announcing that he convened meetings — by phone, from Cabo — with the six largest banks and was reassured that America faced no liquidity problems, when nobody was particularly concerned that we did, sent markets into a volatile tailspin. It was as if the contractor you hired to fix a sticky door told you that your roof was probably in no immediate danger of collapse; that wasn’t your preoccupation before, but it is now.

The stock market is not the economy, as long as jobs and paychecks continue to be strong. This was an unforced error that temporarily snagged the 16 percent of America that actually own stocks. But Mnuchin’s boneheaded actions reflected his dominant characteristics. He is a sycophant willing to debase himself, no matter how strongly, at the altar of Donald Trump. The president has convinced himself that the Federal Reserve is ruining his economy (and, like a stopped clock, he’s not totally wrong), and Mnuchin’s pronouncement of financial stability made no sense outside of a vain need to show his boss that everything was actually fine — or, at least, that Mnuchin was doing things.

But the sycophancy in this case mashed up with Mnuchin’s other main trait: He’s a rather dim gentleman. Anyone who doesn’t recognize the implications of springing on the public an  announcement that banks most certainly have ample liquidity isn’t operating with a shed full of all the tools needed to do this job. And, sadly for the country, this is part of a pattern.

This is a man who tried to block the University of California, Los Angeles from releasing video of an embarrassing public event where he was heckled by students over shepherding through tax cuts for the rich. Of course, this had the opposite effect, ensuring that the otherwise low-profile incident remained in the news cycle for weeks. After several news organizations filed public records requests, the university posted the video nearly three weeks later, saying that it had received Mnuchin’s consent. The massive, unforced error seems to have been caused only by the treasury secretary’s vanity.

Another low point came during the debate over the tax bill, when Mnuchin recited with religious conviction the claim that the $1.5 trillion overhaul would pay for itself through increased economic growth. Asked to provide any evidence of this, he repeatedly claimed that more than 100 employees were “working around the clock on running scenarios for us.”

Time and again, reporters and policymakers asked for this Treasury Department analysis of the deficit impact of tax reform. In late November, as a vote on the bill approached, an anonymous economist at the Office of Tax Policy confirmed what most of us expected by that point: There was no such analysis. The details of what was actually going on, gleaned by the New York Times’s Alan Rappeport, would almost be funny if they hadn’t heralded utter disaster:

Those inside Treasury’s Office of Tax Policy, which Mr. Mnuchin has credited with running the models, say they have been largely shut out of the process and are not working on the type of detailed analysis that he has mentioned.

An economist at the Office of Tax Analysis, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to jeopardize his job, said Treasury had not released a “dynamic” analysis showing that the tax plan would be paid for with economic growth because one did not exist.

Instead of conducting full analyses of tax proposals, staff members have been running numbers on individual provisions or policy ideas, like lowering the tax rate on so-called pass-through businesses and figuring out how many family farms would benefit from the repeal of the estate tax.

In fact, it’s already estimated that just 20 farms a year are subject to any inheritance tax at all — not exactly tough math. But even after it was exposed that Mnuchin’s corps of number-crunchers were basically just chilling and counting gold coins, he persisted with the fiction by releasing a one-page, 500-word document and passing it off as the thing we’d all been waiting for. The so-called analysis could have been simplified further by just writing, “Trust us.”

The document was “embarrassing to all of us,” an unnamed senior official told Politico.

Of course, it didn’t matter in the end: Republicans in Congress passed a tax bill and parroted Mnuchin’s shaky claim that the deficit impact would be nonexistent. But after collecting sharply lower tax revenues in 2018, the deficit — get this — went up. Worse things can certainly happen in this world, but Mnuchin’s hard-to-watch failure to “prove” that the tax cuts would pay for themselves slamming into reality further indicates the lack of gravitas behind the Coke-bottle glasses and Bond-villain smile.

It’s worth noting who actually did the intellectual heavy lifting on tax reform. In the weeks before the administration released its tax outline in April 2017, Mnuchin met with Apple CEO Tim Cook and the executives of a host of other tax-dodging corporations that are getting deep tax cuts and a reprieve in the form of a one-time, 15.5 percent tax on profits stashed overseas. The next month, when the Treasury released its recommendations for further tax regulatory changes, they were almost entirely copied from a U.S. Chamber of Commerce memo on the same subject. And when it came to figuring out withholdings under the new tax bill, Mnuchin announced that the IRS would set up an online calculator for workers to check that the right amount of money was being withheld from their paycheck, shifting responsibility from the government to taxpayers.

Even Mnuchin’s fellow political travelers frequently underscore that he is not the sharpest knife in the Cabinet. For example, in a March FOX News interview he urged Congress to give Trump the power to veto line items on future spending bills. The Supreme Court has previously ruled this unconstitutional, forcing the host to explain sheepishly to Mnuchin that Congress cannot just ignore the court’s ruling, because that’s not how the whole “checks and balances” thing that we learn about in eighth grade works. A Yahoo Business profile claims that Mnuchin’s former Goldman Sachs colleagues consider him “if not especially book smart, then street-savvy,” but let’s be honest: It’s exceptionally difficult to imagine him being either.

Luckily for Mnuchin, intelligence is no obstacle when you have massive, unearned privilege on your side. Mnuchin got his start out of college at Goldman Sachs. His father, Robert Mnuchin, was a legendary Goldman Sachs partner who headed up the firm’s trading division in the 1970s. His brother, Alan Mnuchin, was also a 12-year Goldman veteran, arriving at the firm a few years ahead of the younger Steven. Even going back another generation doesn’t do much to dial up the rags-to-riches factor: Mnuchin’s grandpa was an attorney who co-founded a yacht club in the Hamptons, New York.

While Mnuchin rose steadily through the ranks at Goldman, some of his colleagues suspected that this had little to do with his own merits. His promotion to partner in 1996 came at the expense of Kevin Ingram, a black trader from a working-class background who had gotten an engineering degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before landing at Goldman. Ingram “was livid,” a former colleague tells author William D. Cohan in his 2011 book “Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World.” “He was much smarter than Steven, had accomplished a lot more, but his dad wasn’t Robert Mnuchin.”

Perhaps the peak Mnuchin moment to dominate the news cycle thus far involved a familiar activity for the uberrich Trump cabinet: using their lofty positions to feed at the public trough.

In August 2017, the secretary’s actress wife, Louise Linton, posted an Instagram photo of the couple deplaning from a government jet. The caption doubled as an advertisement for the designers she was wearing: “Great #daytrip to #Kentucky! #nicest #people #beautiful #countryside #rolandmouret pants #tomford sunnies, #hermesscarf #valentinorockstudheels #valentino #usa.”

The tacky factor jumped when Linton berated an Instagram user who criticized her in the comments. And the incident turned into a full-fledged scandal when it turned out that Mnuchin may have chartered a government plane simply to take his wife to see the solar eclipse. (It would end up being one of a series of allegations of Mnuchin’s taxpayer-funded jet-setting: He reportedly requested a $25,000-per-hour military escort for his honeymoon, and cost the government nearly $1 million on plane travel in 2017 alone.)

The treasury secretary responded to the eclipse dust-up in characteristically dickish fashion. “People in Kentucky took this stuff very seriously,” Mnuchin told the Washington Post. “Being a New Yorker, I don’t have any interest in watching the eclipse.”

A recently obtained photo of Mnuchin and Linton gazing up at the heavens says otherwise. ThinkProgress, which got it hands on this smoking gun through a public records request, learned that the U.S. Mint had even procured their eclipse glasses for them.

A request for comment from the Treasury Department on whether or not Steve Mnuchin is a dunce was not returned.


The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

January 1, 2019

by Dr. Peter Janney


On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal, Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment.

Three months before, on July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.

After Corson’s death, Trento and the well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks,”: Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas  in 1993  when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publications.


Conversation No. 88

Date: Thursday, June 19, 1997

Commenced: 2:30 PM CST

Concluded: 3:01 PM CST

GD: Are you in the mood for several fairly sensitive questions, Robert?

RTC: Why, Gregory, I am always ready for sensitive questions. Of course, I might not answer them but I will if I can.

GD: I have been reading about Gottlieb and Cameron and some stuff on your development of LSD and using it on unsuspecting people….

RTC: Like Olson…

GD: Yes. Interesting to note that the rapidly descending Olson worked up at Detrick. Question, if you want to get rid of an inconvenient person, how is it done?

RTC: Of course there is just taking them out into the woods and shooting them in the head. That is one method. Fake suicides are another. You know about those. And getting someone else to nail your person is another. Say we leak to a terrorist or criminal group we have infiltrated that the mark is a stool pigeon. They do it for us. And there are more technical means as well.

GD: Such as killing Hunt’s wife by crashing a commercial plane she was on?

RTC: Yes. Regretful collateral damage there. And sometimes, if we have access to a person who, let us say, is not dangerous now but could become dangerous later on or who has to be removed to make room for someone else, more friendly to us, to move into his place. We got rid of a British Prime Minister that way. Wilson. Too left-leaning for a lot of us so he suddenly got dementia and vanished from the scene.

GD: How ever did you accomplish that bit. Harold Wilson, of course. How?

RTC: Well, the people up at Deterick are very good at such things so, as I recall, they got up a solution that had a lot of mercury and aluminum in it and we got one of doctors on MI6’s payroll to inject him. Can’t have him just drop in his tracks so the injections come over a period of time as he gets dottier and dottier. It works so don’t knock it. That’s the long, slow but very safe way. They tell me that an autopsy won’t show it. They just figure the poor fool went around the bend and bought the farm,  And if the mark is too well protected and we don’t have anyone close enough to him to put a nice additive in his food or drink, we just shoot him in the head when he takes an open car trip through Dallas.

GD: Yes, I have that one down.  How about slow poison?

RTC: No, that might have worked back in the Borgia’s day but not now. We don’t want anything detected at the post so it has to appear natural. Regretful, saddening but natural.

GD: You could have tried that on Nixon, couldn’t you?

RTC: Oh, God no. Dick was batty enough without additives. And off the record, Henry Kissinger, his evil genius, is only a step behind him. A little push is all it takes, sometimes. Now our beloved President just calls up his friends and inconvenient people get shot in public lavatories by unknown gunmen, have ugly, disfiguring car accidents or whatnot. Brother Clinton is direct and not too subtle.

GD: The Foster business.

RTC: There old Vince was…by the way, Vince was getting religion and the Imperial Couple was starting to worry about him developing a conscience…and old Vince, lying on another grassy knoll in one of our lovely parks, shot through the head, gun in hand but the dried blood trail on his poor head was running up while his feet were down.. Of course Vince was shot elsewhere and dumped. They should have taken the elevation into account but of no matter. All we do then, or what they do, is to have the story tellers come up with complex, stunning theories, stuff them into the drooling idiot brigades just waiting for some new weird story and off they go.

GD: Camouflage.

RTC: I think distraction is a better word. The media is under tight control these days and we plant whatever sensational story we want and kill any story that might prove to be embarrassing to us. That used to be one of my jobs. Cord had it once but he is such an arrogant, threatening asshole that we had to replace him with someone like myself who is more political.

GD: And the Cameron torture palaces…

RTC: Oh, please, leave the poor doctor in peace. Completely nuts and starting to show it so he passed away, very quickly, while on a hiking trip. Once the local wildlife gets at them, there really isn’t much left over for a good autopsy.

GD: Well, I suppose you could analyze a pile of bear shit but I doubt if anyone would be that through. One would have to find the bear first and waiting around…well, you get my drift.

RTC: Well, our mark really just can’t vanish forever into the foundation of a stadium like Hoffa but then the people we send to Heaven are usually known. They have jobs, families and so on and if one of them just vanishes, there are annoying questions asked by wives and relatives. Actually, since most marriages go flat after a time, we are doing the wife a favor by doing her mate so the body can be found and wills can be probated. And new husbands located. And it’s nice for the children too. Tell me, Gregory, how many people have you sent off to play pool with Jesus?

GD: Now, Robert, what a leading question. Not at all nice. I would like to think that Jesus was happy with my pool-playing friends but I don’t have the resources your people do. I usually get someone else to do the job. Like you, get the bad people to find a motive and then go to the movies and watch a religious picture. But be sure to go with friends. Now that’s of course if your bad people let you know just when they are going to effect the transfer from the mundane life here to the rapturous one there.

RTC: We all sleep better, knowing we have helped a fellow to better himself.

GD: Yes, and think of the bears, the foxes, the various insects and flies or perhaps the fish as in the case of the Paisley fellow.

RTC: He fed quite a few marine creatures before they found him.

GD: Yes, heartwarming how considerate the CIA can be of our wild creatures.

RTC:  Colby…

GD: The cheese? No, the DCI.

RTC: Yes, but the former DCI.

GD: No, Robert, the late DCI. He might he been late to his own dinner but not to the bottom feeders.

RTC: Memories.

GD: Yes. I don’t like to have flu shots, Robert, and now I have an excellent reason to stop getting them.

RTC: Oh, Gregory, as much as I like you, I must tell you that you are only a nuisance, not a menace.

GD: Well, better to be a live dog than a dead lion. As they say. Fellow in England used to insure his new wife, lure her into a bathtub and then grab her ankles and pull the legs straight up. Drowned her almost instantly. Brides-in-the bath Smith they called him.

RTC: Got caught?

GD: Yes, and hanged. Interesting technique, however. We learn from the mistakes of others, Robert.

RTC: Yes I suppose we do.

GD: Whatever happened to Dr. Gottleib”

RTC: The Goat Boy? His real name is Scheider. Grandfather was a rabbi. That one is as vicious as they come and crazy. He believes in out of body intelligence work. The what…the remote viewing crazies. Yes, I am sorry to say we put good taxpayer’s funds into the strangest things.

GD: Ah, for a moment there, Robert, I thought you were going to say your pockets but strange things are more interesting. You know, what with all this equal opportunity crap the lefties are preaching, I suppose the next target will be the telephone company operators. They’ll have to start hiring hairlips next.

RTC: (Laughter) Or epileptic brain surgeons?

GD: Oh, those flashing lights, Robert. I’ve heard of epileptic whores before…

RTC: Catch-22…

GD: I see you are a well-read person. Yes, I do recall that charming book. The next grand-mal is just for you, sweetie, and hang on for the ride.

RTC: I’m glad Emily went out to shop, Gregory. It would distress her to overhear me.

GD: She seems very conventional.

RTC: Most of the CIA wives are. If we talked shop with them, they would tell everyone at the beauty parlor and then our wet teams would be awfully busy. What brought this up, by the way?

GD: Oh I was reading a tell-all book about Cameron and Gottleib.

RTC: Both of them were worse, ever, than the mythical Mengele. You should walk around this one, Gregory. No one cares any more but the Goat Boy is still alive and he could send you a virus laden box of candy.

GD: Just give it to the church for the poor. There are too many of them, anyway


(Concluded at 3:01 PM CST)




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