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'Collusion Involves at Least Four Crimes': MSNBC Host Explains Why Giuliani's Latest Defense of Trump Is So Wrong

July 31, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The president's lawyer has been insisting “Collusion is not a crime.”


President Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani made waves in recent days by arguing that collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016 would not have been a crime — seeming to switch defense strategy away from the usual flat denials from the president and others that “no collusion” occurred.

But many pointed out that while “collusion” only technically refers to anti-trust laws, the wider sense of “collusion” refers to several crimes that the members of the Trump campaign may be guilty of.

“Colluding with foreigners to impact a U.S. election is a crime,” explained MSNBC host Ari Melber Tuesday night. “Let's go through it breifly. One: It's a crime to get anything of value from a foreigner. Two: It's a crime to defraud the United States. Three: It's a crime to steal things, whether you steal objects, like everything that was ripped off in Watergate, or you steal email, which is what is at issue in Mueller's latest indictment.”

He continued: “And finally, four: It's a crime to engage in a conspiracy of any of those other crimes. So collusion is not only a crime; collusion involves at least four crimes. Those are the legal facts.”

A guest on Melber's show later pointed to a fifth possible collusion crime: bribery of public officials. If Trump accepted help from the Russians on the conditions of a quid pro quo — that he would give something in return as a part of his official capacity — then that could also be a crime.

Watch the clip below:

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'He's Masking Cowardice and Weakness': Ex-DOJ Official Slams Trump's Blustering Foreign Policy as a Danger to the Country

July 31, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Trump “is the quintessential Wizard of Oz,” Matthew Miller said.


As more evidence emerges that President Donald Trump has been deceived by the North Korean regime, his complete ineptness at developing a proactive and effective foreign policy is becoming clear, as a former Justice Department official argued Tuesday on MSNBC's “Deadline: White House.”

“He's a fraud,” said Matthew Miller, who is now an MSNBC analyst. “He is the quintessential Wizard of Oz, who blusters and pretends that he's doing something strong when, in fact, he's masking cowardice and weakness. He goes and has these summits where he likes to play on the world stage, but you know, anyone can get a good deal with North Korea if you don't ask for anything in return. Anyone can get a good deal with Putin if you don't ask for anything in return, not only that, but you make excuses and grovel in front of him.”

Host Nicolle Wallace noted that Republicans are largely “AWOL” on foreign policy issues, despite Trump's floundering.

“And I think it won't be a big part of the midterms. The midterms will be fought over health care and other issues. But the next Democratic presidential candidate is going to have to figure out a message to project that Donald Trump, because of his bluster and his recklessness and, ultimately, his lying, is making the country less safe,” said Miller.

Watch the clip below:

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Here Are 5 Far-Right Pro-Trump Evangelists Who Could Drive GOP Voter Turnout in 2018

July 31, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

Evangelical leaders will be urging their unquestioning followers to go out and vote for pro-Trump candidates.


Whether Democrats retake the U.S. Senate and/or the U.S. House of Representatives in November will come down to one thing about all else: turnout. Opponents of President Donald Trump are motivated, but so are Trump supporters—and that includes far-right evangelists, who will be urging their unquestioning followers to go out and vote for pro-Trump candidates. Not all right-wingers are fans of the Christian Right; for example, Gary Johnson, former Republican governor of New Mexico and the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate in 2012 and 2016, believes that the Christian Right has been terrible for the GOP brand and the conservative movement. But Trump, although hardly a religious scholar, has been more than happy to pander to the Christian Right—and he knows that fanatics like Tony Perkins and James Dobson could get numerous social conservatives to the polls in November, especially with the future of the U.S. Supreme Court hanging in the balance.

Here are five pro-Trump Christian fundamentalists who could do a lot to drive evangelical voter turnout in 2018.

1. Tony Perkins 

In 2016, Tony Perkins—president of the Family Research Council—endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz for president and campaigned for him aggressively. But when Trump received the GOP’s presidential nomination, it didn’t take Perkins long to form a bond with the brash real estate developer and reality TV star. And Perkins remains one of Trump’s most ardent supporters despite allegations that he had extramarital affairs with a porn star (Stormy Daniels) and a Playboy model (Karen McDougal) and paid them hush money to keep quiet. As Perkins sees it, Trump deserves a “mulligan” because—as he told CNN’s Erin Burnett in an interview—he “has followed through on his promises to evangelicals.” And that includes nominating severe social conservatives of the Antonin Scalia/Clarence Thomas variety for the U.S. Supreme Court: first Neil Gorsuch, now Brett Kavanaugh. Perkins considers Trump the most pro-Christian president in recent memory, and he is hoping that Congress will have even more Trump-supporting theocrats after the midterms.

2. …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Watch These Trump Officials Refuse to Answer Whether They'd Lock Their Own Children in Migrant Family Jails

July 31, 2018 in Blogs

By Gabe Ortiz, Daily Kos

There was a lot of stammering.


Trump administration officials stammered and refused to answer U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono’s question about whether they would send their own children to the migrant family jails that Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Matthew Albence tried to claim during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday are like “summer camps.”

“You would send your child to these centers?” the bad-ass from Hawaii asked Trump officials who were testifying about the administration’s barbaric “zero tolerance” policy kidnapping children from parents at the border. “Yes? No?”

“I—I—it’s—that’s a—that’s a difficult question to answer,” stammered Jennifer Higgins of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), who instead tried to blame parents for their children getting kidnapped, saying that “it’s difficult to put myself in the position of an individual who takes a dangerous journey in which their children would be harmed.”

“Mr. Albence,” Hirono said, moving on to Mr. Summer Camp himself, “would you send your child to [family residential centers]?”

”Again, I think we’re—we’re missing the point,” he replied, taking the baton from Higgins to accuse families fleeing violence of putting themselves into this position.

We get it, guys. Despite the fact that you won’t answer the question, we know that the truth is that not for 10 minutes would you incarcerate your family in these hellholes your administration is trying to pass off as “summer camps,” nor would any other decent human being. And, in carrying out these orders, you’re as guilty as the top officials who created them.

Watch their stammering in the video below.

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Source: ALTERNET

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Forget the Wall Already, It's Time for the U.S. to Have Open Borders

July 31, 2018 in Economics

By Jeffrey Miron

Jeffrey Miron

President Donald Trump’s recent tweets against open borders come
as no surprise. Indeed, even fervent immigration advocates worry
that open borders would lower the wages of low-skilled natives,
erode national security, and overburden the social safety net.
Trump doubled down, tweeting that he would be “willing to
‘shut
down’ government
” unless Congress approves funding for a border
wall with Mexico.

Trump, however, has it exactly backwards: The solution to
America’s immigration problems is open borders, under which the
United States imposes no immigration restrictions at all. If the
U.S. adopts this policy, the benefits will far outweigh the
costs.

Legalize ALL immigration

Illegal immigration will disappear, by definition. Much
commentary on immigration — Trump and fellow travelers aside
— suggests that legal immigration is good and that illegal
immigration is bad. So, legalize all immigration.

America has nothing to
fear, and much to gain, from open borders.

Government will then have no need to define or interpret rules
about asylum, economic hardship, family reunification, family
separation, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and so
on. When all immigration is legal, these issues are irrelevant.

he question of fairness about who enters first — those who
waited in line or those who entered illegally — disappears.
Amnesty for existing illegal immigrants also becomes a non-issue.
Or an open borders policy could require anyone who entered
illegally to exit the country — for exactly five minutes
— and then re-enter legally.

Think about the money we could save and
make

Expenditure on immigration enforcement would shrink to nothing,
because open borders means no walls, fences, screening at airports,
ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), deportations, detention
centers or immigration courts. A
2013 report
estimated that immigration enforcement cost more
than $18 billion annually, and standard indicators suggest costs
have grown further since then.

Last year, U.S. employers filed over 336,000 petitions for H1-B
visas for highly skilled foreign workers, but
only 197,129 were approved
. Complicated visa rules – for
tourists versus job-seekers, STEM (science, technology, engineering
and math) workers versus agricultural laborers, and students versus
non-students – would all vanish. This would save resources and give
employers new access to talented human capital.

The time people waste re-entering the country will evaporate.
How often do you face long delays when entering Oklahoma from
Texas? Never. But how often do you experience delays when you leave
other countries for the United States? Almost always. One study
pegs the cost of wait times at the U.S.-Mexico border alone to be

more than $12 billion a year
.

Economic efficiency will increase both in the USA and in
immigrant-sending countries, because different kinds of labor will
be better …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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IMF Produces Another Bogus Venezuela Inflation Forecast

July 31, 2018 in Economics

By Steve H. Hanke

Steve H. Hanke

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has done it again. In an
attempt to garner some press, the head of the IMF’s Western
Hemisphere Department Alejandro Werner forecasted that
Venezuela’s annual inflation rate will reach
1,000,000%
by year’s end. By my calculations, this
inflation forecast implies that the exchange rate will reach 923
million VEF/USD by December 2018. To put this into context, the
exchange rate at the end of July was 3.3 million VEF/USD, and at
the end of June it was 3.1 million VEF/USD.

No one has ever been able
to accurately forecast the course or the duration of an episode of
hyperinflation.

The IMF’s most recent inflation forecast is, to put it
mildly, stunning. It is also bogus. No one can forecast the course
or duration of a hyperinflation with any degree of accuracy. Never
mind. The IMF just keeps on making forecasts of Venezuela’s
inflation. And the press keeps on
uncritically reporting
the IMF’s bogus numbers as if they
were credible. The IMF and the press are clearly unaware of the
fact that hyperinflation can be measured, and measured very
accurately, but it cannot be forecasted.

To get a handle on the IMF’s production of bogus forecasts
for Venezuela’s inflation, consider that, during the past
year and a half, the IMF has reported a variety of numbers for the
annual inflation rate in Venezuela. None of the IMF’s numbers
can be replicated. This is a
problem
— one that renders all of the IMF’s
inflation numbers unusable because, among other things, they fail
to pass the scientific smell test. The following is a catalogue of
the IMF’s inflation numbers for Venezuela that have been
reported since September 2016.

  • IMF

    World Economic Outlook
    , October 2017
    • End of 2016 annual inflation rate (Data Source – BCV):
      302.6%
    • End of 2017 annual inflation rate IMF projection: 1,133.0%
    • End of 2018 annual inflation rate IMF projection: 2529.6%
  • IMF

    World Economic Outlook
    , April 2018

    • End of 2017 annual inflation rate: 2,818.4%
    • End of 2018 annual inflation rate IMF projection:
      12,874.6%
    • End of 2019 annual inflation rate IMF projection:
      12,874.6%
  • Until the April 2018 World Economic Outlook (WEO), the
    IMF wrote the same general disclaimer about its Venezuelan numbers
    in each issue of its report:

    Projecting the economic outlook in Venezuela, including
    assessing past and current economic developments as the basis for
    the projections, is complicated by the lack of discussions with the
    authorities (the last Article IV consultation took place in 2004),
    long intervals in receiving data with information gaps, incomplete
    provision of information, and difficulties in interpreting certain
    reported economic indicators in line …read more

    Source: OP-EDS

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    US Should Balance Iran and Saudi Arabia

    July 31, 2018 in Economics

    By Doug Bandow

    Doug Bandow

    When running for president, Donald Trump was no less critical of
    the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia than he was of America’s dependent
    Asian and European allies. It looked like bilateral relations would
    change.

    But now President Trump appears to be working for the Saudi
    monarchy. He recently said he expects the Iranians to call him to
    make a deal, but we should hope not, lest the administration
    enshrine Saudi hegemony in the Middle East.

    The kingdom deserved candidate Trump’s scorn. It is a corrupt
    totalitarian state, long tied financially to terrorists, yet it
    treats U.S. soldiers as the royals’ personal bodyguard.

    Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates recalled meeting King
    Abdullah: “He wanted a full-scale attack on Iranian military
    targets, not just the nuclear sites.” This supposed friend of
    America “was asking the United States to send its sons and
    daughters into a war with Iran in order to protect the Saudi
    position in the Gulf and the region, as if we were
    mercenaries.”

    There’s no need for
    Washington to take sides between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

    When President Trump was elected it looked like the Saudis’ free
    ride might be over. However, the president’s first trip was to
    Riyadh, where he partied the night away while doing the “sword
    dance.” Then he peered into the orb, the curious symbol of Saudi
    Arabia’s new anti-radicalism center.

    Given the president’s reaction, some observers speculated that
    the Saudis had acquired the infamous Eye of Sauron after the
    destruction of Mordor. President Trump subsequently appeared to
    have fallen completely under Riyadh’s spell.

    Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia is a totalitarian state. There is no
    political or religious liberty, far less than in its infamous rival
    Iran.

    Only recently has the crown prince relaxed some social controls.
    While simultaneously cracking down on critics of the monarchy,
    including women who campaigned against some of the policies he
    initiated. Politically, Saudi Arabia is now less free.

    While claiming to combat corruption Mohammad bin Salman has
    spent lavishly on a yacht and chateau, and apparently art as well.
    Presumably short on cash, he arrested hundreds of the kingdom’s
    elite and he initiated an extraordinary shakedown, demanding that
    those arrested sign over substantial assets to win their
    freedom.

    What Riyadh does overseas should be of even greater concern to
    Washington, however. Over the years Saudi Arabia has spent some
    $100 billion to promote the extremist Wahhabist variant of Islam
    around the world, including in the U.S.

    Saudi money and personnel long infused terrorist movements, most
    notably al-Qaida. Saudi Arabia had little concern when only
    Westerners seemed to be at risk. Now the kingdom purports to be a
    crusader against terrorism, criticizing Qatar because the latter
    underwrites …read more

    Source: OP-EDS

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    John Kelly Currently Has Less Influence on Trump Than Fox & Friends Does

    July 30, 2018 in Blogs

    By Kerry Eleveld, Daily Kos

    The chief of staff is almost useless, having lost respect among staffers and exerting little control over Trump's impulsive agenda.


    Whatever high hopes former Marine General John Kelly had when he was appointed White House chief of staff have long given way to the dismal reality of Donald Trump's West Wing. It's a one-man show and no one is getting in the way of Trump's delusion that he's nailing it on a daily basis. 

    Perhaps Kelly should have had a clue his new job would bite when he found out he was getting it via a surprise Trump tweet. Politico writes:

    John Kelly got the official news of his promotion a year ago the same way a select few in the Trump administration have — by presidential tweet.

    Though a White House spokesperson claimed at the time that Trump had given Kelly a formal job offer in advance, it was a lie. Natch.

    About a year later, Kelly is almost useless, having lost respect among staffers and exerting little control over Trump's impulsive agenda, decisions, and tweeting. Almostuseless … 

    But for this president, keeping Kelly around offers the best of both worlds: somebody to blame when things go awry but nobody fettering his freedom of action.

    So who's setting Trump's agenda?

    “He comes down for the day, and whatever he saw on Fox & Friends, he schedules meetings based on that,” one former White House official told Politico. “If it’s Iran, it’s ‘Get John Bolton down here!’” Or if he spoke to Fox’s Sean Hannity the night before, the official said, “he’s got lots of flexibility to do whatever he wants to do.”

    Let that sink in.

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    Source: ALTERNET

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    Here's the Underhanded Plan the Trump Admin. Is Considering to Slash Taxes Even More for the Wealthy

    July 30, 2018 in Blogs

    By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

    Even the Bush administration decided the idea was illegitimate.


    After Republicans slashed taxes for corporations and the wealthy at the end of last year while blowing up the deficit, there was little sign of the economic miracle that we were promised would occur as a result of the policy. So few if any serious voters or political observers have been clamoring for more tax cuts for the wealthy.

    But Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told the New York TimestheMonday that the administration is actually considering another massive change to the tax code that would largely benefit the rich — and this time they're considering going around Congress to get it done.

    The cut would affect capital gains taxes, which would only matter to people who are wealthy enough to have substantial investments. According to the Times, the proposal would give away $100 billion in reduced taxes by adjusting the formula that calculates the amount of the investment income.

    “If it can’t get done through a legislation process, we will look at what tools at Treasury we have to do it on our own and we’ll consider that,” Mnuchin told the Times.

    It's not clear whether the Treasury could make the cuts on its own without the adjustments being approved by Congress, and the Times notes that any attempt by the administration to act unilaterally would likely face a court challenge.

    But in addition to any technical questions about executive authority and the role of Congress in writing the tax code, it defies reason that Republicans would actually consider another tax cut for the rich — especially ahead of midterm elections with favorable conditions for Democrats. Wage growth and business investment have been meager following the GOP tax bill, despite the president's promises, and most Americans have failed to see any benefit from the new tax rates.

    It seems even Republicans know this, too, because they're not running their 2018 campaigns on the popularity of the tax bill. They know that their voters aren't impressed by the bill, so they're planning instead to double down on the culture war to motivate their base ahead of the elections. Despite …read more

    Source: ALTERNET

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    Judge Orders an Independent Monitor to Evaluate Border Facilities Detaining Migrant Kids

    July 30, 2018 in Blogs

    By Gabe Ortiz, Daily Kos

    The decision comes following allegations of abuse and inhumane conditions.


    Following allegations of abuse and sub-standard conditions, Judge Dolly Gee has mandated the appointment of an independent monitor to evaluate conditions in facilities temporarily holding migrant children:

    The independent monitor's role will be limited by the judge: confined to Customs and Border Protection detention facilities along the border in the Rio Grande valley in Texas. The monitor will also only assess accusations of ill treatment made to Judge Gee in a June 2017 motion.

    “There continue to be persistent problems,” she said. “There seems to be disconnect between what both sides see at these facilities.” Under her order, the Trump administration and plaintiffs have until August 10 to agree on “a qualified candidate for the monitor job. Failing that, she said, they should each submit two candidate names and then she will decide.” 

    One detained mom, Fatima, said that “on the second or third day” at a CBP facility, “my daughter soiled herself. I asked if I could clean her because her underwear [was] soiled. The guards said, 'No.' … She remained in her dirty underwear until we arrived at Dilley [Texas] several days later.” This is state-sanctioned child abuse, plain and simple, and where a complicit Republican-led Congress continues to abdicate its oversight responsibility, judges and courts are doing what the federal government refuses to do.

    “One of the persistent problems that we see,” said Peter Schey of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, “is the inhumane treatment of children in border patrol facilities where they might be detained for anywhere from three to six days. This includes inadequate food. It includes enforced dehydration, it includes sleep deprivation because children do not have access to sleeping mats.”

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    Source: ALTERNET