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TBR News December 28, 2018

Dec 28 2018

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. December 28, 2018: “In considering the bizarre behavior of Donald Trump, there are two basic schools of thought. Either he suffers serious mental problems or he has been bribed by the Russians to do everything in his power to discredit the Amerian state. Trump is not an honest man, lies constantly, is unable to work with others, betrays his fellow workers and has been involved in a constant pattern of deceit, lies and gross personal behavior. It is possible to get away with this sort of negativity for a length of time but eventually the house built on sand encounters a strong wind and collapses. Perhaps Mr. Muller is the strong wind but there certainly are more storms waiting impatiently in the wings.”

 

The Table of Contents

  • 815 false claims: The staggering scale of Donald Trump’s pre-midterm dishonesty No 1
  • Mueller closes in: what will the Trump-Russia inquiry deliver in 2019?
  • More Americans blame Trump for government shutdown: Reuters/Ipsos poll
  • Trump threatens to close Mexico border, blames Democrats over shutdown
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations
  • Stolen, burned, tossed in the lake: e-scooters face vandals wrath

 815 false claims: The staggering scale of Donald Trump’s pre-midterm dishonesty No 1

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 5, 2018

 

“The very rude elevator screamers are paid professionals only looking to make Senators look bad. Don’t fall for it! Also, look at all of the professionally made identical signs. Paid for by Soros and others. These are not signs made in the basement from love! #Troublemakers”

Source: Twitter

in fact: There was no evidence that George Soros, the billionaire who has spent heavily on liberal causes, paid for protesters to protest Brett Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill, or that more than a small percentage of the protesters were paid in any way to be present. Both sides of the fight had paid professional organizers helping to organize average people passionate about the cause, but these average people were not paid. The slight factual basis for Trump’s allegation was that Ana Maria Archila, one of the sexual assault survivors who confronted Sen. Jeff Flake in an elevator, is the co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy, a group that has received significant donations from Soros’s Open Society Foundations. Jennifer Flynn Walker, director of advocacy and mobilization for the Center, told the Washington Post that it was not paying protesters and that Soros was not involved in its efforts to fight Kavanaugh.

 

  • Oct 6, 2018

 

“The crowd in front of the U.S. Supreme Court is tiny, looks like about 200 people (& most are onlookers) – that wouldn’t even fill the first couple of rows of our Kansas Rally, or any of our Rallies for that matter! The Fake News Media tries to make it look sooo big, & it’s not!”

Source: Twitter

in fact: There is no precise crowd count available, but the crowd in front of the court was far bigger than “200 people.” Kyle Cheney, a reporter for Politico, said on Twitter that “the crowd was easily in the low thousands.”

 

“Women for Kavanaugh, and many others who support this very good man, are gathering all over Capitol Hill in preparation for a 3-5 P.M. VOTE. It is a beautiful thing to see – and they are not paid professional protesters who are handed expensive signs. Big day for America!”

Source: Twitter

in fact: While many average women were supportive of Kavanaugh, the official “Women for Kavanaugh” group was organized by the Concerned Women for America, a Christian conservative advocacy group. People affiliated with the group were given matching pro-Kavanaugh shirts to wear. That is not to say that they were all “professional protesters”: contrary to Trump’s suggestion, both the pro-Kavanaugh side and the anti-Kavanaugh side included both a small number of paid professional organizers and a much larger number of unpaid people passionate about the cause.

 

“And the embassy (in Jerusalem) — which was going to cost over a billion dollars. We built it for about $400,000, right. You know that. And the billion would have taken probably 20 years before you ever got to build it. And we took a piece of land that owned, already owned. And it had a building on it. OK building. We fixed the building up a little bit. We took the big space in the corner. We used even Jerusalem stone which is a very expensive if you’re a builder – Jerusalem stone is beautiful. How nice is that. And you know Jerusalem stone in Jerusalem sounds about right. And we got it for the right price. And we built it for less than $500,000. Think of it. And we opened it immediately — it’s open now, we have our embassy. So we saved a billion dollars and 20 years, and we have our embassy.”

Source: Campaign rally in Topeka, Kansas

in fact: The renovations required by the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem will cost far more than $400,000. ABC News reported in July: “Documents filed with the official database of federal spending show that the State Department awarded the Maryland-based company Desbuild Limak D&K a contract for $21.2 million to design and build an ‘addition and compound security upgrades’ at the embassy. These updates will be made to the former consular building in Jerusalem — the embassy’s temporary location.” The ABC article continued: “A State Department official told ABC News today that President Trump’s estimates only factored in that first phase of modifications to the former consular building, not this second round of renovation.”

 

“You know the rhetoric was extremely tough that first couple of months, and President Obama said, at my meeting with him, he said the biggest problem we have by far is North Korea. They would have gone to war. Millions and millions of people would have been killed, millions of people. And I said to somebody in their administration, ‘Have you ever talked, have you ever agreed to meet. Have you ever, like, let’s sit down and talk?’ ‘Well we haven’t thought about –.’ ‘Oh I see, you’re going to war you’re not going to talk?’ We’ll meet anybody.”

Source: Campaign rally in Topeka, Kansas

in fact: There was no indication that the U.S. was close to going to war with North Korea in the Obama era or that, as Trump has 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. In the past, Trump has confirmed what news outlets have reported: Obama told him North Korea was the biggest or most urgent problem he would face, not that war was inevitable.

 

“I withdrew the United States from the horrible, one-sided Iran nuclear deal. You know before I became president I looked at what was happening with Iran. They were taking over the Middle East. They were taking Syria. They were taking Yemen. They were going into Iraq. They were taking everything. Now. They just want to make it they just want to surv — they have riots in every city since I took over that operation, that horrible, horrible deal that was — think of it: the previous administration gave $150 billion.”

Source: Campaign rally in Topeka, Kansas

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.

 

“We’ve secured a record $700 billion and the next year $716 billion to rebuild our military.”

Source: Campaign rally in Topeka, Kansas

in fact: This $700 billion military spending bill was not a record even if you ignore inflation. Obama signed a $725 billion version of the same bill in 2011.

 

“We also passed Veterans Choice: 44 years. Giving our veterans the right to see a private doctor. And pay for it. So they don’t have to wait on line for 25 days. 38 days, 14 days, six days. They go out and they see a private doctor. They get themselves a good doctor. We pay the bill. It’s frankly so simple. But it took 44 years to get it done. We got it done. I’m good at getting things done.”

Source: Campaign rally in Topeka, Kansas

in fact: The Veterans Choice program, which allows some veterans facing long waits in the veterans’ health system to see private doctors, was passed in 2014 under Obama. The law Trump signed in 2018 simply made changes to the existing program.

 

“But Da Nang Dick. And then I see him yesterday talking about a man (Brett Kavanaugh) who’s number one at Yale, has like this perfect record. The most incredible record. One of the reasons I picked him. He’s like a perfect person.”

Source: Campaign rally in Topeka, Kansas

in fact: As a Yale undergraduate, Kavanaugh graduated cum laude, which means he was not first in his class; other students graduated summa cum laude and magna cum laude. Yale Law School’s grading system does not allow the calculation of class rankings at all.

 

“And I used to think wow this guy (Richard Blumenthal) is a pretty brave guy. And then I found out he’s a fraud. He never was in Vietnam. And he stopped campaigning because there was no way you could win. No way. And because it’s Connecticut, where I guess only a Democrat–only a Democrat wins–”

Source: Campaign rally in Topeka, Kansas

in fact: Blumenthal won his 2010 Senate race by 12 percentage points, 55 per cent to 43 per cent. In that race, in which his dishonesty about supposedly serving in Vietnam was exposed, “he never dropped out of the race. He never stopped campaigning,” said Ronald Schurin, a University of Connecticut political science professor (who was also a delegate at the state convention where Blumenthal was selected as that year’s nominee). Schurin said the polls tightened after the scandal erupted, but Blumenthal never gave up. “None of this happened,” he said.

 

“Da Nang Dick. He’s a Da Nang Dick. That’s Blumenthal. He talked about, ‘When I was in Da Nang province in Vietnam. And I was fighting up the hill and men are going left and right of me they’re dying, they’re being struck by bullets. But I went back to their rescue. I went back and I got them. And then I made a second attempt and bullets are going left and right and over my shoulders and they’re hitting my men.’ And I used to think wow this guy is a pretty brave guy. And then I found out he’s a fraud. He never was in Vietnam.” And: “But Da Nang Dick. And then I see him yesterday talking about a man who’s number one at Yale has like this perfect record. The most incredible record. One of the reasons I picked him. He’s like a perfect person. And Da Nang Dick, who, who said he was a great war hero and he never saw the country. This wasn’t like saying, ‘Hey I was in the army.’ This is a guy that said he was charging up Da Nang. Da Nang province, right. Da Nang province. He’s up that hill and he’s taking bullets left and right and he never saw the place. He was in the reserves, though, remember that.”

Source: Campaign rally in Topeka, Kansas

in fact: Trump was correct that Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal lied about having served in Vietnam. But Trump was also lying: Blumenthal never claimed to have served in Da Nang, to have been a war hero, or to have fought in battles in which people died. He simply claimed to have served in Vietnam during the war, when he served in the Marine Corps Reserve in the U.S.

 

“Well, Sleepy Joe Biden. Who, who ran for president two or three times. You know, they say only twice. I think I remember a third time in there.”

Source: Campaign rally in Topeka, Kansas

in fact: Biden has run for president twice before, in 1988 and 2008.

 

“I’m taking out so many of these people (potential Democratic opponents in 2020), I’m hitting them so hard that they’re disappearing, and I don’t want to do that because I may get somebody that’s actually good to run against me, and that would not be good. I’ll take out all the easy ones and maybe I’ll get stuck with somebody that’s actually good. But I don’t see any on that side.”

Source: Campaign rally in Topeka, Kansas

in fact: Trump’s attacks on his potential opponents have not made any of them “disappear.”

 

“And right now we are going so fast we are the fastest-developing country in the world. Can you believe it. Boom. Fastest in the world.”

Source: Campaign rally in Topeka, Kansas

in fact: The New York Times explained why this is false: “The United States does have one of the fastest growing of the world’s largest economies. But it is not the fastest growing in the whole world. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development compiles quarterly growth in real gross domestic product for its 36 member nations and nine other major economies like China, India and Brazil. The United States had the eighth-highest rate in the second quarter of 2018 out of this group. Its rate was the highest among the Group of 7, the largest of the industrialized democracies. Among the entire world, however, the United States is nowhere near ‘the fastest-growing economy.’ Growth rates among developing nations, while volatile, often exceed those of the big industrialized countries. In 2017, the United States’ GDP annual growth rate ranked in the bottom third out of more than 180 countries, according to data from the World Bank. The International Monetary Fund’s projections for GDP growth rate for 2018 place the United States among the bottom half of about 190 countries. Similarly, Harvard University’s Atlas of Economic Complexity projects that the United States will reach an annual growth rate of 3.07 percent by 2026, placing it No. 104 out of 121 countries.”

 

“Hispanic American and Asian-Americans, likewise: their unemployment rates have also reached all-time historic lows, the lowest.”

Source: Campaign rally in Topeka, Kansas

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 August, was 3.0 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. Later in the week Trump spoke, the government released a new jobs report, for September, that showed the rate had increased further, to 3.5 per cent.

 

“Remember the leakin’, right, the leakin’ Dianne Feinstein. ‘Did you leak. Did you leak Dianne. Dianne. Did you?’ ‘No. No no. No I didn’t. I don’t think. Wait. Did we leak? No, he said — no no, we didn’t leak.’ Oh. Was that the worst body language you’ve ever seen. Was that the worst.”

Source: Campaign rally in Topeka, Kansas

in fact: Trump did not accurately recount the answer Feinstein gave when Republican Sen. John Cornyn pressed her, at a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on the leaking of Christine Blasey Ford’s letter accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Feinstein didn’t say “No. No no. No I didn’t. I don’t think. Wait. Did we leak?” She vehemently said she did not leak the letter; asked if her staff leaked it, she said, “Oh, I don’t believe my staff would leak it. I have not asked that question directly, but I do not believe they would.” When Cornyn followed up, she said, “The answer is no. The staff said they did not.”

 

“Every single Democrat in the U.S. Senate has signed up for the open borders — and it’s a bill. It’s called the Open Borders Bill. What’s going on? And it’s written by guess who: Dianne Feinstein…If the Democrats’ bill ever becomes law, a tidal wave of drugs and crime would pour into our nation like never ever before.”

Source: Campaign rally in Topeka, Kansas

in fact: There is no bill called the Open Borders Bill. Feinstein’s bill is called the Keep Families Together Act. It was intended to prohibit Trump’s policy of separating children from their parents at the border. Some Republicans argued that the bill was so vaguely drafted that it would inadvertently prohibit standard immigration enforcement efforts, effectively creating “open borders.” But Trump was wrong to suggest that this was the very purpose of the bill, indeed its very name.

 

“We’re working on a deal with China. We’ll see. We’ll see. Look they’ve been hitting us hard for a long time. We’ve never had a president that did anything about it. Five hundred billion dollars a year. That’s a big one. They take out. So right now we’re doing extremely well with China.”

Source: Campaign rally in Topeka, Kansas

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.

 

“And you know wages, right now, for the first time in 19 years, wages are going up for people.”

Source: Campaign rally in Topeka, Kansas

in fact: Wages have been rising since 2014. As PolitiFact reported: “For much of the time between 2012 and 2014, median weekly earnings were lower than they were in 1979 — a frustrating disappearance of any wage growth for 35 years. But that began changing in 2014. After hitting a low of $330 a week in early 2014, wages have risen to $354 a week by early 2017. That’s an increase of 7.3 percent over a roughly three-year period.” FactCheck.org reported: “For all private workers, average weekly earnings (adjusted for inflation) rose 4% during Obama’s last four years in office.”

 

“Essentially they (Democrats) want to impose socialism — Venezuela — dismantle law enforcement and eliminate our borders.”

Source: Campaign rally in Topeka, Kansas

in fact: Democrats are not proposing anything like Venezuela-style socialism, though that is more subjective than the other two claims here, which are objectively false. Democrats do not want to dismantle law enforcement or eliminate U.S. borders.

 

Mueller closes in: what will the Trump-Russia inquiry deliver in 2019?

The special counsel investigation into Russian meddling and possible collusion is notoriously leak-proof but it could soon touch Trump directly or members of his family

Decenber 28, 2018

by Tom McCarthy in New York

The Guardian

After two years of the Donald Trump presidency, the national stores of civic goodwill are depleted. That could make for a testy 2019, because it appears that the country’s defining political tensions are about to break into open clashes.

One field of battle will be Congress, where Democrats say they will use their control of the House of Representatives to mount investigations of Trump and his coterie. Another will be the campaign trail, where Democrats (and maybe some Republicans) will begin to compete to replace Trump.

But perhaps overshadowing them all is special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election, and links between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Mueller is expected to advance significant new aspects of his investigation, which could end up targeting Trump himself in a very public way in the new year, according to legal experts and observers.

Analysts interviewed by the Guardian uniformly warned that Mueller’s velocity and vector are basically unknowable, because his team does not leak private information, while salient public information, such as Mueller’s willingness to move to the sentencing phase for cooperative convicts such as Michael Flynn, is open to interpretation.

But the broadest possible question about what the next year might hold in store for Mueller pertains to his core investigation of alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and obstruction of justice by the president, analysts said.

“I think the biggest question is, is he going to present evidence that Trump committed crimes?” said Alex Whiting, a Harvard law professor and former prosecutor on the international criminal court. “Either obstruction of justice or collusion. He wouldn’t bring an indictment because justice department policy won’t permit it. But whatever evidence would be handed off, I think, to the Congress, and it will have to be considered.

“That’s as big as it gets. I think that’s really – that’s the ultimate question.”

A basic obscurity and air of secrecy still attend Mueller’s work. For all the major developments in the Mueller investigation in 2018 – from the April raid on former Trump fixer Michael Cohen’s home to the fiery Flynn sentencing hearing earlier this month – the public gained a relatively limited view on the progress of Mueller’s core investigation of election tampering and potential obstruction.

A Mueller memo describing Flynn’s “valuable” cooperation was almost entirely redacted in sections describing Russia-related matters. Likewise, a Cohen memo was adamantly non-specific in its description of “core” investigative matters that Cohen helped with.

One of the most revealing Mueller documents to emerge was a draft plea agreement with the conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi revealing that Mueller alleged that Corsi helped Trump political adviser Roger Stone communicate with WikiLeaks, which served during the election as a Russian cutout.

“For now, he appears to be building charges against Corsi and Stone,” former US attorney Renato Mariotti said of Mueller.

If Trump himself would be the biggest target Mueller might approach in 2019, and Corsi or Stone would be lower-level, Mueller might also target someone just short of the president, such as Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr, or his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, analysts said. Both men appear to be legally exposed to charges of making false statements either to investigators (as Flynn did) or to Congress (as Cohen did).

Barb McQuade, a University of Michigan law professor and former US attorney, pointed to Mueller’s description of Cohen’s cooperation and noted that Cohen had “described the circumstances of preparing and circulating his response to the congressional inquiries” – a response he later admitted was false.

“That suggests there were others who were trying to get their story straight,” said McQuade. “And I imagine that that would be an area that Mueller would look at, to say: ‘Well, Michael Cohen told a lie. Did anyone else tell the same lie?

“And if they did tell that lie, number one, there are going to be charges against them for lying to Congress but, number two, why did they lie?

“People tend to lie under a situation as serious as that only if they believe that the truth would be worse. And so if they’re lying about the Trump tower Moscow, what truth about that is worse?”

Major incidents before or after the last US presidential election could emerge as focal points for Mueller in the new year. The special counsel might reveal new evidence about the circumstances surrounding a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, or a February 2017 meeting between Trump and Comey, at which Comey said that Trump encouraged him to drop an investigation of Flynn.

Further criminal charges might emerge in the case of hush payments made to the porn actor Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, or new details might emerge of projects or prospective projects advanced by Trump and his family in Moscow or the Middle East. In the background would be questions about the nature of the Trump campaign’s relationships at the time with any foreign backers.

Foreign countries and nationals are not supposed to be involved in US campaigns or elections.

“We all at this moment know very little about where Robert Mueller’s investigation will lead, because it has been so leak-free and they have been so careful about keeping their cards very close to the vest, and admirably so,” said Lisa K Griffin, a law professor at Duke University with a focus on federal criminal justice policy.

“I don’t think anyone knows, and I think most of the conjecture about it has been wishful thinking in both directions.”

Whiting said: “Trump has tried repeatedly to minimized this investigation, to delegitimize it, to dismiss it, and that hasn’t worked and it’s not going to work.

“I think this investigation and the consequences are going to be significant and they’re here to stay, and there’s nothing he can do about it.”

 

More Americans blame Trump for government shutdown: Reuters/Ipsos poll

December 27, 2018

by Chris Kahn and Ginger Gibson

Reuters

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – More Americans blame President Donald Trump than congressional Democrats for the partial U.S. government shutdown, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Thursday, as the closure stretched into its sixth day with no end in sight.

Forty-seven percent of adults hold Trump responsible, while 33 percent blame Democrats in Congress, according to the Dec. 21-25 poll, conducted mostly after the shutdown began. Seven percent of Americans blamed congressional Republicans.

The shutdown was triggered by Trump’s demand, largely opposed by Democrats and some lawmakers from his own Republican Party, that taxpayers provide him with $5 billion to help pay for a wall that he wants to build along the U.S.-Mexico border. Its total estimated cost is $23 billion.

Just 35 percent of those surveyed in the opinion poll said they backed including money for the wall in a congressional spending bill. Only 25 percent said they supported Trump shutting down the government over the matter.

In a statement on Thursday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said, “The president has made clear that any bill to fund the government must adequately fund border security.”

The statement made no mention of Trump’s proposed wall.

Showing little sense of urgency, both chambers of Congress convened for mere minutes late on Thursday, but neither took any action to end the shutdown before adjourning until next week.

Democrats and Republicans were still very far apart on resolving the impasse, said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer’s spokesman Justin Goodman in a statement.

Democratic Representative Jim McGovern tried to interrupt the brief Republican-run session in the House of Representatives by offering a measure to reopen shuttered government agencies and keep them running through Feb. 8. But he was ignored and his microphone was soon cut off. The House session lasted less than three minutes.

“That was a legitimate request and I should have been recognized,” McGovern told reporters later. “They wouldn’t even recognize me. This is the way they’ve been running this place.”

SHUTDOWN CONTINUES

Inaction in Congress put the shutdown on track to continue into next week and possibly to drag well into January.

While its impact has been limited so far, partly due to holiday-season vacations underway for the 800,000 or so federal workers affected, that could change soon.

Government agencies began notifying the public on Thursday about service disruptions. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said the shutdown means it cannot process new flood insurance policies, possibly disrupting home sales.

The Office of Personnel Management, which oversees the federal workforce, offered advice to government employees on staving off creditors if paychecks lapse.

The wall dispute coincided with the expiration of funding for about 20 percent of the government. The remaining 80 percent is fully funded and is unaffected by the shutdown.

The departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Agriculture, Commerce, and other agencies, shut down “non-essential” operations on Saturday after a tentative funding deal collapsed over Trump’s renewed insistence that wall funding be provided.

The House has approved a shutdown-ending spending measure that includes Trump’s demand for $5 billion, but its prospects in the Senate are seen as poor.

The next firm action on the issue is likely to come on Jan. 3, when the Democrats take over majority control of the House. At that time, McGovern said, Democrats expect to offer a spending measure “plus probably disaster relief funding.”

Speaking to reporters after the brief Senate session, Senator Pat Roberts said, “We on the Republican side do not want to vote for a bill the president won’t sign.”

‘PROUD TO SHUT DOWN’

Trump argues that his wall is needed to stem illegal immigration and drugs entering the country – a key plank in his 2016 presidential campaign.

Earlier this month, he said he would be “proud to shut down the government” over wall funding. On Twitter, since the shutdown started, he has tried to blame the Democrats.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online in English across the United States. It gathered responses from 2,440 adults, including 946 Democrats and 846 Republicans. It has a credibility interval, a measure of the poll’s precision, of two percentage points for the entire sample and four points for members of either political party.

Reporting by Chris Kahn in New York and Ginger Gibson in Washington; additional reporting by David Morgan, Makini Brice, Jason Lange; writing by Kevin Drawbaugh; editing by Alistair Bell, Grant McCool and Rosalba O’Brien

 

Trump threatens to close Mexico border, blames Democrats over shutdown

December 28, 2018

by David Morgan and James Oliphant

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump threatened on Friday to close the southern U.S. border unless Congress agrees to provide $5 billion in taxpayer funds for a border wall with Mexico, blaming Democrats for a partial government shutdown that he previously said would be on him.

A dispute over funding for Trump’s proposed wall has led to “non-essential” operations at numerous agencies being closed for lack of funding, and with Congress adjourned until next week there was no prospect of a quick resolution.

“We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely if the Obstructionist Democrats do not give us the money to finish the Wall & also change the ridiculous immigration laws that our Country is saddled with,” Trump tweeted.

“Either we build (finish) the Wall or we close the Border,” he added.

The standoff over Trump’s demand for money to help fund the border wall, estimated to cost about $23 billion in total, was in its seventh day and was widely expected to drag into January when Democrats take control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Asked about Trump’s border-closing threat, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told reporters it was an internal U.S. government matter. “We take great care of the relationship with the government of the United States,” Lopez Obrador said.

“Of course we will always defend our sovereignty … We will always protect migrants, defend their human rights,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Republican president said he would be “proud” to shut down the government over border security.

In television interviews on Friday, Trump aides sought to blame Democrats for the continuing shutdown, contending that they have refused to negotiate since the White House made an offer last weekend.

“We’re here, and they know where to find us,” Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, said in an interview with Fox News Channel. “Where is Chuck Schumer? Where is Nancy Pelosi? They’re not even talking right now,” he said. Schumer is the top Democrat in the Senate and Pelosi is the incoming speaker of the House of Representatives.

A spokesman for Schumer said the White House has been told that there are three existing federal funding proposals containing funds for border security that could pass both the House and the Senate – and that Trump should accept one of those.

At present, however, the two sides remain far apart, Schumer’s office said.

Democrats have offered support for $1.3 billion in funding for general border security, but have long opposed the building of a wall.

THREE OPTIONS FOR FEDERAL FUNDING

If the stalemate persists, House Democrats, led by Pelosi, plan to immediately offer a funding measure to re-open the government when they take office on Jan. 3.

Pelosi and Schumer have been discussing three general options for that legislation, according to a senior Democratic aide.

The options are a stop-gap funding bill that would run through Feb. 8; six full 2019 appropriations bills for all but the Department of Homeland Security, which would instead be funded through a measure known as a continuing resolution maintaining current funding through Sept 30; or a continuing resolution for all shuttered government agencies that would expire on Sept 30.

The aide said the legislation expected for a full House vote on Jan. 3 could be a variation on any of the three options but added that no decision has been made.

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Thursday, 47 percent of Americans hold Trump responsible for the shutdown, while 33 percent blame Democrats in Congress.

The shutdown affects about 800,000 employees of the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Agriculture, Commerce, and other agencies.

Most of the federal government, which directly employs almost 4 million people, is unaffected. Even agencies that are affected never totally close, with workers deemed “essential” still performing their duties.

Trump, who scrapped plans to spend Christmas in his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and stayed in Washington due to the shutdown, had now also canceled his New Year’s plans, Mulvaney said.

Chris Krueger, an analyst at financial firm Cowen’s Washington Research Group, said in a commentary note, “We see little chance of a breakthrough before the Democrats take control of the House on January 3.”

Reporting by Mohammad Zargham and David Morgan; Additional reporting by Anthony Esposito in Mexico City; Writing by Jim Oliphant; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Frances Kerry

 

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

December 28, 2018

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. 5

Date:  Friday, March 22, 1996

Commenced:  8:15 AM CST

Concluded: 8:45 AM CST

RTC: Up early, aren’t you, Gregory?

GD: Actually, I haven’t been to bed yet, Robert. Been reading a really interesting paper someone sent me about the Clintons. Such lovely people. Of course, I can’t do anything with it but I will make Xerox copies and send them off. Costs money and no paper would dare to even ask questions. Such sleazy crooks, Robert. Roosevelt stole but he had some class after all.

RTC: Do you think they shot that Foster man?

GD: I have no idea. It was the convenient death of a man who knew far too much, Robert. Have you any comments?

RTC: Bill is utterly ruthless and his shrew of a wife is one step behind him. They would have ordered it, for certain, but one does not know.

GD: I saw the in situ pictures from the Virginia park police of the body. Poor Vince. His last act was to defy the law of gravity. He was lying in the park with his head pointing down a hillside but the dried blood all ran up. Isn’t that wonderful?

RTC: Some of those people are mindless, Gregory. But that doesn’t mean he was murdered. Someone might have dumped the stiff there to get him out of the White House.

GD: Well, false in one thing, false in all, as they used to say. Frau Clinton looks like a bimbo who could put kittens into a microwave and have a real laugh. She was tied up with the Black Panthers in Oakland some years ago. I have a California police report about that. A friend in Sacramento sent me a copy about a day before the FBI came and removed the original. Caught in the sack with a nice black lassie, she was. They went to Sacramento, the Panthers and the gun moll, and they sported guns there and terrified people. The late night motel raid was the result. Well, I could send that around too but we would never hear a word about it.

RTC: Our people had connections with Bill when he was the governor there. Used to bring drugs in from Mexico and land them downstate. Arkansas is about as backwards as Kenya these days and Bill had no problem sticking a bag full of cash in his sock drawer. Oh, well, if it weren’t for the crooked pol, none of us could make an honest buck.

GD: Ah, Robert, that’s just what the Indian hooker said when the bank teller told her one of her twenties was counterfeit.

RTC: Now that’s a good one, Gregory.

GD: I thought so, Robert. Oh how about the whore who, when told by another teller in another bank, that a hundred was fake, ‘My God, I’ve been raped!’

RTC: Fun and games so early in the day.

GD: Yes, I suppose so. When I’m working…doing research…I’m very quiet and very focused on my work but all of the nasty comments and so on are just a form of relief. I have known a few CIA people in my life but you are the first one with whom I can have a nice talk. The others like to think that their feces smell like lilacs in bloom. They ask much and give little.

RTC: I see your point but you don’t fully grasp the techniques. No one wants to talk with you, Gregory, because while they are interrogating you, you are interrogating them and, let me be very clear on this as Nixon would have said, you are way and above any of them and certainly their superior  in the interrogation business. If one of them makes the slightest slip, you pounce on the knowledge and he loses control. You have a phenomenal memory and the ability to use it in a very abstract and very deadly manner. You know this, naturally, but always complain that people behave like swine around you. I agree they do. Kimmel is an example of this. Actually, they are afraid of you, Gregory, really afraid. I don’t mean that you’ll pull a knife or gun and do them but they cannot control you and when they cannot control a person or a situation, they panic. They live by rule books and you do not. May I ask you a question here?

GD: Surely.

RTC: Do you work for anyone?

GD: Like the Germans or the Russians? Or the Chinese? No, I work for myself. I hate working for other people who only want you to support the views of their superiors. If they want this or that to be a certain way and I see very clearly that they are wrong, I have to be silent or become a toady. For example, Gehlen told me that in ’48, the Army…he worked for them just before your people took him over…Critchfield that is…Gehlen told me that the Army wanted him to prepare a paper showing that the Russians were going to attack Western Europe. Gehlen said this was impossible. He said the Russians had torn up all the railroad lines in their Zone and sent the rails back to Russia. Obviously, they could not rush troops to the border except on bicycles or mules. And of the 135 Russian armored units technically…note that I said technically…stationed in their Zone, almost all of them were just cadre with perhaps ten officers and men and no armored units. No, our people needed a dangerous enemy against whom to arm. Revisiting the business heyday of the war was the right idea but, of course, without real dangers. We knew the Russians were not going to attack but the report, lies that it contained, was deliberately leaked by the Army to Congress and others. Hey presto! A Cold War starts. We had to rearm and stop the reduction of our Army. Oh yes, the Generals did not want to lose their cushy jobs and the American industrial people were cooing with delight over all the contracts for aircraft, bombs, rifles, tanks and battleships that they all knew would never be used. No, that was all a deliberate sham and designed to make the elite people richer. Of course the film industry and the media cranked out horror stories about the evil Stalin’s plans to attack us. Christ, they were terrified we would nuke Moscow like we nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I can see the first attack but the second was not needed. The Japanese immediately indicated they would surrender but the military wanted to try out another bomb with a different approach. Just for fun as it were.

RTC: Well, and here we are, Gregory. Reagan played high stakes poker with the Russians and made them fold their hand. We beat them. No war, no destruction, was there?

GD: No there was not but what do we do now? Our greedy businessmen now try to loot Russia and strip her of her natural resources. We could try to make an ally of her, why not? No one needs an enemy.

RTC: Too many people in power remember the propaganda of the Cold War, Gregory and their mind sets are so strong that logic would scarcely move them.

GD: It’s too bad I am not in control. Can you see that, Robert?

RTC: You would be dead in a week, Gregory.

GD: Not if I got to them first.

RTC: Well, what would you do?

GD: Divide and conquer and the ones who wanted a turf war, would quickly end up under it. My main crime is a faint conscience. You can’t be moral when dealing with dung-munchers.

 

(Concluded at 8:45AM CST)

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Conversations+with+the+Crow+by+Gregory+Douglas

Stolen, burned, tossed in the lake: e-scooters face vandals wrath

Environmentalists raise concern as Lime and Bird vehicles pile up in California lake

December 28, 2018

by Vivian Ho in San Francisco

The Guardian

It was a sight as common at Oakland’s Lake Merritt as the ducks paddling on the water or the seagulls fighting over scraps: a bright green motorized Lime scooter was submerged just feet off the murky shore.

“Aw man, the Lime person just came by this morning,” James Robinson, executive director of the Lake Merritt Institute, said when he found out about the latest scooter deposit.

It was just one of nearly 100 Lime and Bird scooters that have been dumped in the lake since late September, Robinson said. In October alone, he said, his volunteers counted 60.

This year may go down in the history books as the year of the scooter: the year all different brands and colors began appearing along sidewalks around the world, seemingly out of nowhere.

To those who hate them, they’re like an invasion from a dystopian robot future. To their fans, they’re the future of urban transport: green, high tech and fun.

What is undeniable is that the rollout could hardly be described as smooth, with vigilantes, decrying what they describe as typical tech industry hubris of companies profiting off of public spaces, expressing their displeasure through vandalism.

Some have defaced the vehicles with profane stickers and feces. Others have tossed them into trash cans and trees.

And then, of course, there’s the dumping in waterways. A website tracking scooters tossed in the Willamette river counted 17 in August alone. San Francisco Baykeeper, an environmental watchdog group, has recorded at least two scooters that have ended up in the San Francisco Bay since May. The organization has since taken up the cause against the dumping in Lake Merritt, near its offices.

“We’ve just been so frustrated,” said the Baykeeper executive director, Sejal Choksi-Chugh. “They’re just not taking this seriously.”

Meanwhile, few scooter companies will say for sure how many scooters have been vandalized, stolen, or damaged in the past year – or even how many scooters they’ve launched worldwide. Scoot Networks told the Wall Street Journal that more than 200 of the 650 scooters in San Francisco had been stolen or irreparably destroyed within two weeks of their launch, but Lime did not respond to questions on this particular topic. A Skip spokesperson says the company does not disclose numbers when it comes to theft but that Skip has seen an overall decrease.

Bird issued a statement: “Vandalism of all types of property is a problem that should not be tolerated by communities or local law enforcement.”

“We do not support the vandalism or destruction of any property and are disappointed when it takes place,” a Bird spokesperson said. “Nor do we support the encouragement, celebration or normalization of this behavior. Bird encourages people in communities to report incidents of vandalism to Birds, and irresponsible behavior on Birds, to local authorities and to the company. We investigate all reports directed to Bird and take appropriate measures, including removing people from the Bird platform.”

But through social media, the documentation of the destruction has been vast. A number of accounts exist on Instagram dedicated to posting videos and photos of all sorts of scooter vandalism.

Bird Graveyard, an account run by three friends in west Los Angeles, has more than 66,000 followers and receives anywhere from 50 to 100 submissions of scooter vandalism a day via direct message, from all around the world.

The first post, on 23 June, shows a pile of Bird scooters, one visibly broken. From there, the posts steadily escalate with videos of people throwing scooters off of buildings, scooters on fire, scooters that had been run over by a car, and dogs defecating on scooters.

The three men who run the account have never disclosed their names because of the nature of the material, but one who spoke to the Guardian said they were shining a light on a problem.

“At the beginning, it was just a joke, to bring attention to it,” he said. “But we obviously feel a very certain way about it.”

He said while he could appreciate the premise behind the scooters – an eco-friendly urban transportation alternative – he was put off by how the companies went about introducing the idea. In a way, the dockless nature of these scooters that these companies celebrate – the freedom to pick up and leave them wherever – can give the impression that the companies don’t care, whether it be about their product or the cities where it appears.

“They just started popping up one day and nobody really asked for it,” the person behind Bird Graveyard said. “We weren’t really told it was going to happen. And this has happened everywhere.”

The account was suspended once, he said, and it has had posts taken down – one video from Nashville of a car running a red light to run over a scooter was removed because Instagram told Bird Graveyard that it promoted violence. But the team say they are not worried about legal repercussions because they are not committing the vandalism: “We identify with the anger and how it’s being expressed, but we’re in our 30s almost,” he said. “If I was 18, hell yeah. I’d be out there scratching scooters because I wouldn’t know any better.”

Their hope, they say, is that the vandalism will push a conversation and force the companies to consider their behavior when it comes to rolling out these scooters in different cities.

Some companies have already done just that, especially following enforcement in some of the flagship cities. San Francisco, one of the first battlegrounds for the scooter war of 2018, impounded 503 scooters in the first incursion in the spring – 208 from Lime, 193 from Bird, and 102 from Spin, said Rachel Gordon, a spokeswoman for the city’s department of public works.

The city returned the scooters to their respective companies after they paid their fees, Gordon said – Lime paid $15,784.50, Bird $15,547.17, and Spin $14,189.06.

San Francisco has since launched a pilot scooter program, granting permits to Scoot and Skip in October. In the first six months, each company will be allowed a maximum of 625 scooters, with the potential to increase in the following six months to a cap of 2,500.

“Skip’s strategy is to work closely with cities to be the best regulatory brand and leverage our co-founders’ experience to build the best scooters in the market,” said the company’s chief marketing officer, Julie Supan. “We only enter cities with local support.”

While companies will work with local law enforcement when it comes to property damage and vandalism of their scooters, few work with community groups in seeking measures to curb environmental damage.

According to Robinson, the executive director of the Lake Merritt Institute, only Lime is actively working with his organization, sending a representative to weekly cleanups to better understand the lake and how to retrieve the scooters. Robinson and his volunteers have been instructed by both Lime and Bird not to touch the scooters, which is frustrating, because company representatives don’t always end up locating the scooters in a timely manner.

Lime has agreed to make the area around the lake a no-parking zone for its scooters, but at least two were still parked along the perimeter one recent day – and dozens more were located feet away.

Robinson said he believed the solution was for the scooters to get some sort of locking and docking mechanism, like the Ford rental bicycles in the region. When the bicycle program first launched, he said, a few ended up in the lake, but the dumping stopped once permanent docking stations were put in place.

“We have to, at some point, put the environment above profits,” Robinson said. “The community cares about the lake and it’s disheartening for them to come out week after week and see these products out in the lake and not harbor some kind of bad feelings toward these companies.”

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