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Rod Rosenstein Was Infuriated that Trump 'Manipulated Him' to Help in Comey's Firing: Report

June 29, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

One person told the New York Times Rosenstein was “frantic, nervous, upset and emotionally dis-regulated.”


Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was furious after President Donald Trump used a memo he wrote to justify firing then-FBI Director James Comey back in May 2017, according to a new report from the New York Times.

Trump's decision to fire Comey led Rosenstein to appoint Robert Mueller as a special counsel in charge of the investigation of the president, Russia's interference in the 2016 election, and potential collusion with the Trump campaign.

The Times reports that Rosenstein “alternately defended his involvement, expressed remorse at the tumult it unleashed, said the White House had manipulated him, fumed how the media had portrayed the events and said the full story would vindicate him,” according to four people familiar with the “outbursts.”

People described Rosenstein after the firing as “shaken,” “unsteady,” “overwhelmed,” as well as “frantic, nervous, upset and emotionally dis-regulated,” the Times reports. 

Rosenstein's memo detailed a list of Comey's offenses, recently echoed in a report from the Department of Justice inspector general, in the handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails. Rosenstein did not explicitly call for Comey's removal, but he strongly condemned the director's choice to comment publicly about the investigation in July 2016 and to announce the reopening of the probe shortly before the election — a choice many believe cost her the presidency.

As the Times notes: “Mr. Trump has long argued that Mr. Comey was too soft on Mrs. Clinton, but the memo and subsequent White House statements suggested that Mr. Comey was fired for actions that hurt her candidacy.”

Initially, many observers were critical of Rosenstein's involvement in the Comey firing. But more recently, he has been portrayed as a bulwark against presidential interference into Mueller's investigation, especially as the president's allies in Congress ramp up their attacks against the probe. 

While Rosenstein's involvement in the drafting of the memo could be seen as a reason for him to recuse from the case, the deputy attorney general has thus far said he is not conflicted and can appropriately oversee the investigation.

<Img align="left" border="0" height="1" width="1" …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Hope Hicks May Return to the White House — As Chief of Staff: Report

June 29, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

She's an unlikely choice — but another top candidate comes with major baggage.


Former White House communications director Hope Hicks may soon be returning to the administration as chief of staff John Kelly's replacement, according to a new report from Vanity Fair's Jake Sherman.

Sherman calls Hicks a “dark horse” candidate for the job. A more likely candidate for the position is Bill Shine, the former co-president of Fox News who recently joined the White House to help manage communications — though he appears hesitant to accept the high-profile job.

Shine has more depth of experience than Hicks, but he comes with significantly more baggage. As Sherman reports, he is implicated in the coverup of former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes' years of sexual misconduct. As one source colorfully told Sherman of Shine, “This guy is up to eyeballs in shit.”

But neither Shine nor Hicks has much experience in politics. (Mick Mulvaney, current head of the Office of Management and Budget, is also reportedly under considerations for the job and has substantial political experience.)

Trump himself even once noted at a rally that Hicks was a political neophyte when he hired her.

“She knew nothing,” he said. “And she was there the first day, and she was fantastic.”

The president, though, was himself completely inexperienced in politics when he launched his bid for the presidency, so he may not see her lack of qualifications as a negative.

Hicks did not respond to Sherman's request for comment. He says that a source has confirmed that she is interested in the job if it is offered to her.

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Source: ALTERNET

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An Agenda for the Trump-Putin Summit

June 29, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

President Donald Trump will meet Russia’s Vladimir Putin next
month in Helsinki, Finland. President Trump long sought this summit
and talking is better than silence. However, without a change in
U.S. policy it isn’t clear what positives will result.

Much of Washington has fixated on the Russian Federation as
America’s most dangerous enemy. Democrats who dismissed Mitt Romney
when he fingered Moscow in 2012 now treat the White House as
Russian-occupied territory. Republicans outraged by any nation
which resists U.S. authority see Putin as a leader of the global
resistance. American policymakers bizarrely treat Russia as the
threat it wishes to be.

The president should approach the summit with a realistic
assessment of Moscow’s capabilities and intentions. Putin is no
friend of Western-style liberalism, but then, many U.S. allies are
no less authoritarian. There is no evidence that he bears any
ideological animus toward America or Europe. KGB officers were
among the most worldly and cynical Soviet officials. Although Putin
regrets the geopolitical wreckage left by the USSR’s collapse, he
has done little to recreate the Evil Empire. Retaking Crimea and
gaining influence in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and the Donbass don’t
count for much.

What Moscow views as
offenses might not justify its actions, but its bill of particulars
certainly helps explain Russia’s aggressiveness.

Putin’s policies suggest that his ambitions are those of a
modern-day czar. A globe-spanning empire is unrealistic and
unnecessary. Instead, he insists on respect for his nation’s
interests, expects secure borders, seeks to deter potential
military threats, and desires to sit in global councils of power.
Nothing suggests plans for aggression against Europe. And the
Europeans don’t believe so either: even the countries squealing for
U.S. troops spend barely two percent of GDP on their militaries,
ludicrous levels if they really fear attack.

The United States might prefer the embarrassingly weak Russia of
the 1990s, but it is gone forever. Moscow no longer is a
superpower-it lacks the necessary population and economy. Russia
is, however, capable of asserting itself, as evidenced by its
confrontational policy toward Georgia and Ukraine. Yet even there
the Putin government’s ambitions were limited: seize control of
select territories and freeze conflicts to prevent the two nations’
admission to NATO. In this Putin’s behavior has been ugly but
effective, and no worse than that of such U.S. allies as Saudi
Arabia, which is waging a brutal and self-serving war, with
American support, against Yemen.

While many in the West deride Moscow’s security fears,
that perspective is easier to maintain with America’s history
than Russia’s history. Add to that Washington’s
widespread attempts at regime change, support for “color
revolutions,” and calculated mendacity concerning NATO
expansion: Russian skepticism …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Price for Making Justice Kennedy the Top Court's Kingmaker

June 29, 2018 in Economics

By Walter Olson

Walter Olson

The throne has fallen vacant.

Anthony Kennedy is retiring after 30 years on the
Supreme Court
, and we’ll soon learn who will don his
all-but-ermined robes in resolving the social conflicts of an
oft-divided nation, from abortion to zoning.

My own personal opinion is that if someone had to reign from the
court’s swing seat, I’m glad it was Kennedy. A champion
of individual liberty and strong constitutional restraints on
government, Kennedy has been a staunch guardian of the Bill of
Rights, including both First Amendment and Second.

“Most terms he agreed with Cato’s position more than
any other justice,” writes my Cato Institute colleague Ilya
Shapiro, though usually it’s more the Californian’s
results than the reasoning he has used to get there that merit the
label of “libertarian.”

But even after a king we regard as benign steps down, we might
want to reflect whether kingship is a good thing.

Both Kennedy and O’Connor
were famously reluctant to lay down clear rules for future cases,
preferring to leave options open for the exercise of their sense of
fairness.

The court’s varied constituencies were to Kennedy as iron
shavings to a magnet. Lawyers for both sides in the partisan gerrymandering cases this year
adjusted their pitches to fit his past pronouncements. Briefs in a
2016 abortion case, reported Time, “seem to be directly aimed
at Kennedy.” Advocates in the Fisher II affirmative-action
case in 2016 spent much of oral argument trying to master
Tony-talk.

Courts themselves joined the game: The late Ninth Circuit Judge
Stephen Reinhardt was said to have crafted his opinion striking
down California’s Proposition 8 to appeal to Kennedy. Even
presidents get drawn in: Some advised Barack Obama to choose
nominees for court vacancies who might skillfully woo Mr.
Middle.

Kennedy wasn’t the first to play this role on the high
court. During the reign of his predecessor Sandra Day
O’Connor, professors Susan Estrich and Kathleen Sullivan
wrote a law-review article announced by its title to be directed at
an “audience of one” — the Arizona-born justice.
Now that Kennedy is stepping down his scepter is likely to pass to
Chief Justice John Roberts, at least assuming President
Trump’s second pick is a staunch conservative like Neil
Gorsuch.

For years, Roberts has been drifting toward the court’s
center, most famously joining the liberals to uphold as constitutional a key provision of
ObamaCare
. Last week, he sided with them to rule that cops need to get a warrant if they want extended
access to cellphone-location records
.

Court gossip suggests Roberts did not discourage Kennedy from
retiring, perhaps relishing the chance, enjoyed by neither
O’Connor …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Trump Unleashed a 'Profanity-Laced Tirade Against' John Kelly as Rumors Swirl that His White House Days Are Numbered: Report

June 28, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Trump has reportedly been speaking to his allies about Kelly's potential replacements.


White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is once again reported to be on the outs with President Donald Trump.

The pair has feuded frequently in their year together, according to multiple reports, but previous predictions that Kelly was about to be fired have failed to come true. The infamously mercurial president is once against reportedly going back and forth on whether to keep his chief of staff around, and his communications staff's denials of any tension between the two lack credibility. 

Trump recently delivered a “profanity-laced tirade against his chief of staff” while talking with an ally, according to a new report from CNN's Kaitlan Collins.

But, true to his nature, Collins says he was praising Kelly to staff members the very next day.

Collins, confirming other reports, says that Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Vice President Mike Pence staffer Nick Ayers are under consideration as Kelly's replacement, should he be fired.

When White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters was asked about the rumors of Kelly's imminent termination, she said: “I spoke to the president who refuted this article. He said it is absolutely not true and that it is fake news.”

However, New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman pointed out that Trump has a habit of lying about coming terminations.

“Trump did same when Kelly wanted to fire [former national security adviser H.R.] McMaster,” she tweeted. “McMaster was gone only a few days later.”

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Source: ALTERNET

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Milo Yiannopoulos Offers Pathetic Excuse After Newsroom Shooting for His Wish that 'Vigilante Death Squads' Would Kill Journalists

June 28, 2018 in Blogs

By AlterNet

A local paper in Maryland was attacked by a mass shooter.


Milo Yiannopoulos, a far-right supporter of President Donald Trump and white supremacist, tried to back away Thursday from violent comments he gave to a newspaper threatening journalists after a mass shooter attacked a local newsroom in Maryland.

“I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight,” Yiannopoulos told the Observer in a text message earlier in the week.

Many noted that repugnant as such comments were in the first place, they looked even more vile and dangerous in the aftermath of the shooting.

But Yiannopoulos tried to pass it off as a joke.

“I sent a troll about 'vigilante death squads' as a *private* response to a few hostile journalists who were asking me for comment, basically as a way of saying, 'F—k off.' They then published it,” he said in a Facebook post.

“Amazed they were pretending to take my joke as a 'threat,' I reposted these stories on Instagram to mock them – and to make it clear that I wasn’t being serious,” he added.

Of course, many in the so-called “alt-right” have long used the guise of “humor” to defend their indefensible views. The problem is there are just some things decent people don't find funny — like political ideologues calling for violence on the free press. The ambiguity between genuine threat and joke also serves a nefarious purpose: to intimidate critics while maintaining a sheen of deniability.

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Source: ALTERNET

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How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Beat a Democratic Incumbent Who Ran a Campaign from the Previous Century

June 28, 2018 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, Independent Media Institute

From issues to campaign techniques, Joseph Crowley was left in the dust.


There are many reasons why working-class champion Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won the biggest political upset of 2018 so far—a first-time candidate badly beating Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-NY, who was one of the Democratic Party’s top leaders in Washington, a prodigious fundraiser and boss of the Queens County Democratic Party.

But beyond her deeply resonant pledges to work on behalf of her district’s overlooked working-class voters, Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in this week’s New York congressional primaries would not have been possible without her sophisticated use of online tools to organize, communicate, motivate and turn out voters.

Crowley’s campaign, as one insider told the New York Times, was from an earlier pre-internet era, one dominated by big dollar fundraising, and mass marketing via mailings of campaign flyers, and TV and radio ads. “We had people running this like a 1998 City Council race and not a 2018 congressional primary,” the staffer said.

While Ocasio-Cortez also used Crowley’s ties to corporate money, institutional power and residence in Virginia against him, there may be no better current example of how cyberspace has remade political campaigning: changing the tone, tactics and mechanics of participation. While Ocasio-Cortez spent the first part of the campaign speaking to people in their homes and holding coffee parties, she and her staff used tools like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to send out messages seen by much larger audiences than comparable efforts by Crowley.

“The scope of the digital effort for a campaign like this was massive,” said Jake DeGroot, who helped manage her digital campaign. That effort included: using volunteers creating private online groups to coordinate social media posts; testing and refining messages in multilingual formats; purchasing nearly twice as many Facebook and Instagram ads as Crowley’s campaign; and creating a video that went viral—with help from progressive filmmakers. In short, her insurgency used technology to bypass the historic benefits of incumbency by building her own small donor base and independent media operation.

Ocasio-Cortez is expected to easily win the November general election, making her, at age 28, the youngest …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Fox News' Sean Hannity Is Already Blaming Democrats for the Shooting at a Local Maryland Paper

June 28, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Conservative commentators were aghast at a California Democrat's call to protest Trump administration members.


Fox News' Sean Hannity wasted no time trying to blame Democrats Thursday for a mass shooting at the Capital Gazette, a local Maryland newspaper, even as there was limited information about the crime, its victims, and its perpetrator. 

Hannity began by saying on his radio show, “It's so sad that there are so many sick, demented, and evil people in this world.” He immediately said that a mass shooting carried out with a firearm has nothing to do with guns.

But then his comments became really absurd.

“You know, as I've always said, I mean honestly – I've been saying now for days that something horrible was going to happen because of the rhetoric,” he said. “Really [Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)]? You want people to create — 'call your friends, get in their faces,' and [President Barack Obama] said that too. 'Get in their faces, call them out, call your friends, get protesters, follow them into restaurants and shopping malls,' and wherever else she said.”

Despite multiple sources misrepresenting Waters' recent remarks, the Democratic lawmaker only called for direct protests of Trump administration officials in a recent statement. Even in his comments on Thursday, though, Hannity didn't imply that she promoted any form of violence — just protest, which is protected by the First Amendment.

It's not at all clear what calling for protests has to do with a violent attack on a newspaper, but Hannity drew the connection anyway.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has, in fact, used wildly inflammatory statements about American journalists, recently declaring them the “enemy of the people.” Even still, it's far too early to draw a causal connection between that rhetoric and Thursday's shooting. But Hannity didn't even mention these incendiary remarks or any other potential role the president has played in stoking tensions in the United States.

Listen to Hannity's remarks below:

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'A Patriot': GOP Strategist Slams 'Menace and Arrogance' of FBI Agents Targeting ICE Spokesman Turned 'Whistleblower'

June 28, 2018 in Blogs

By Chris Sosa, AlterNet

The agent began banging on the former ICE spokesperson's door and behaved aggressively when he answered.


A CBS interview with former Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson James Schwab was interrupted by men who showed up at his home and identified themselves as agents from the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General's Office.

Schwab resigned from ICE after reportedly being told by the administration to lie about an incident involving the mayor of Oakland. California.

The agents who surprised Schwab at the door behaved aggressively toward CBS News' Jamie Yuccas when she asked about why they were on the private premises and took Schwab outside to talk.

Former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, a key figure in the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), responded to a tweet from Philip Rucker at the Washington Postby defending Schwab and blasting the government response.

“Watch the menace and the arrogance of the agent knocking on the door. It is as amazing as it is frightening and ominous,” Schmidt wrote on Twitter. “This Ice whistleblower is a patriot and his courage is worthy of respect. He will need legal help. Decent people should chip in and help fund it.”

 

Schwab said the agents wanted to speak with him about a leak involving the mayor of Oakland, California.

He said the agents were engaging in a blatant act of “intimidation” and that he's never even met the mayor.

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Source: ALTERNET

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Turkey’s Revolution Continues

June 28, 2018 in Economics

By Mustafa Akyol

Mustafa Akyol

More than 55 million Turks went to the polls on Sunday to elect
the country’s new president and to form its new parliament. As has
happened repeatedly since 2002, the winner was President Recep Tayyip
Erdogan
. With more than 52 percent of the vote, Mr. Erdogan
secured a mandate to rule Turkey until 2023 — the centennial
of the founding of the Turkish Republic after the fall of the
Ottoman Empire in World War I.

To many, especially in the West, yet another victory for Mr.
Erdogan seems hard to understand. The economy has been gloomy. The
Turkish lira is in free fall against other currencies. Democracy is
in precipitous decline, too. Moreover, the usually fractured
opposition seemed to get its act together this time, forming a
coalition and putting forth Muharrem Ince, a charismatic
candidate. All this led to a widespread expectation that Mr.
Erdogan could lose this time, or at least would face a major
setback.

But Turkey’s strongman proved as strong as ever. The reason for
this is not ballot rigging. It is not even just the way that Mr.
Erdogan holds a grip on power with his command of the news media.
The truth is, most people who voted for Mr. Erdogan will vote for
him no matter what. They didn’t see this election as a competition
between politicians promising better governance. They viewed it as
an act of defiance against a century-old existential enemy.

The story goes back to modern Turkey’s 1923 founding by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, whose top-down
secularist reforms created a Westernized urban population that
viewed him as a savior. But the same “Kemalist Revolution” left
behind a traumatized conservative class, which felt itself as “a
stranger in your own home, a pariah in your own land,” as the
Islamist poet Necip Fazil put it in 1949.

When multiparty elections were introduced in 1950, the
conservatives began to enter the system. But they were repeatedly
punished by “the regime’s guardians,” as the secular elite proudly
called itself. Only with Mr. Erdogan’s election and solidification
of power in the early 2000s was this secular hegemony fully
broken.

This is what Turkey’s religious conservatives are thinking about
when they vote for Mr. Erdogan and his Justice and Development
Party, not his flaws, which they may silently admit he has. They
aren’t thinking about newspapers that have been taken over or
professors who have been put in jail, but about how the Arabic call
to prayer was outlawed in the 1930s and the head scarf was banned
in the 1990s. Against …read more

Source: OP-EDS