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'They're going to absolutely crush him': Trump is reportedly panicking and 'losing it' as Democrats finally gain the upper hand

December 21, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

He didn't realize he's playing a losing game.


President Donald Trump is not used to presiding over a divided government, and it's clear he's not going to like it.

His performance in the government funding fight, in which he first promised he'd be “proud” to shut down the government in exchange for border wall spending, then backed down from the fight, and then reversed himself again, proved he's a terrible negotiator and an even worse statesman.

Now that he's in a position to infuriate his base if he doesn't get the border wall money or infuriate the majority of the country if the government shuts down, he's given all his chips to the Democrats. They can still use the filibuster to block any spending bill in the Senate, and soon-to-be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appears absolutely giddy at the thought that she will have a Democrat majority in her chamber come January that can easily block any other Trump priorities.

And with a bill to keep the government funded through the end of the year already passed in the Senate, all Trump has to do is pledge to sign it. It will then be able to pass the house, and he can sign it into law. It's clear he's the bottleneck in this crisis, and everyone knows it.

“He’s losing it,” a former White House official told Gabriel Sherman of Vanity Fair. “He doesn’t know which way to turn.”

Sherman notes that, when it initially appeared Trump was happy to abandon his ultimatum, right-wing media figures turned against him. That truly spooked the president, who reversed himself and unleashed days of chaos.

“Trump didn’t understand these are the people who stand on Fifth Avenue when he shoots the bullet,” the ex-official told Sherman.

However this fight concludes, though, things are only going to get worse for Trump. Not only will Pelosi's House be able to block his preferred legislation, it will also besiege the president with investigations.

“They’re absolutely going to crush him,” one Republican told Sherman of the president. “He has no idea what’s coming his way.”

So how does the shutdown crisis end? Even if Trump …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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CNN reveals that Trump's new chief of staff once slammed his 'almost childish' idea for a border wall

December 21, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

He had scathing words for Trump — now he's his number one employee.


This week, President Donald Trump has made it clear that he is quite willing to shut down the federal government if Congress does not agree to fund a wall along the U.S./Mexico border. Many Republicans have been afraid to challenge Trump on that issue, but back in 2015, Mick Mulvaney—who will be acting White House chief of staff in Trump’s administration in 2019—thought the idea was ridiculous.

After announcing, in 2015, that he would be running for president in the GOP primary, Trump declared that he would aggressively crack down on illegal immigration if elected—and he called for a border wall that would extend all the way from California to Texas. Asked to comment on Trump’s proposal when he appeared on South Carolina’s WRHI Radio on August 25, 2015, Mulvaney told interviewer Patti Mercer that he found it “simplistic,” as CNN first revealed.

“The fence doesn’t solve the problem” of illegal immigration, Mulvaney stressed. “Is it necessary to have one, sure? Would it help? Sure. But to just say, ‘Build the darn fence’ and have that be the end of an immigration discussion is absurd and almost childish for someone running for president.”

Mulvaney used the word “fence” rather than “wall” during the interview, but it was clear that he believed Trump was offering an easy solution to a difficult and complex problem.

When he becomes acting White House chief of staff in the Trump administration in January, Mulvaney will be replacing John F. Kelly — who Trump recently fired and will be leaving at the end of the year.

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Source: ALTERNET

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'Fear grips Republican officeholders': Conservative writer explains why Trump's chances of impeachment are rising

December 21, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

If you're worried about getting impeached, don't spook the Senate.


Between the threat of a partial shutdown of the federal government, President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, Michael Flynn’s legal problems, the tumbling stock market, and Defense Secretary James Mattis's resignation, it's been a chaotic week for the White House.

And in her most recent column for the Washington Post, conservative opinion writer Jennifer Rubin warns that “lawmakers and voters” may be realizing that Trump is “far more trouble than he’s worth.” 

“Once the realization hits that he’s a net drag on the economy and a needless headache, the country is collectively far more willing to consider grounds for getting rid of him,” Rubin writes. “It’s one thing for garden-variety Republicans to concoct excuses for defending a functional president; it’s quite another to defend him when just about everything seems to have gone haywire.”

Rubin cites an abundance of reasons why it is becoming harder and harder to keep Trump’s “leaky ship of state afloat”—from Mattis’ departure to the deteriorating negotiations over funding the government. The columnist also discusses Trump’s legal problems, including the end of the Trump Foundation (a charitable organization that, Rubin notes, was “identified as akin to an illegal slush fund” by New York State’s attorney general’s office).

Rubin asserts: “Let me suggest the American public is moving toward two disturbing conclusions: the president is a menace, and the president likely broke the law. What’s the implication of all that? First, his chances of reelection are sinking fast. It’s one thing to resist impeachment; it’s another to sign up for four more years of turmoil with a liar and miscreant.”

Rubin’s advice to the Republican Party is to “start looking for options for 2020.”

If Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report shows that “Trump ordered illegal payments or obstructed justice,” Rubin writes, Republicans will need to acknowledge that “impeachment becomes less akin to a risky option and more like a constitutional obligation compelled by events.”

Rubin concludes her column by stressing that even Republicans can’t help but be troubled by recent Trump-related …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Chief Justice John Roberts just proved he's willing to stand up to Trump

December 21, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The Supreme Court slapped down the administration's demands for one of the president's cruelest policies.


Despite claims to be in favor of 'law and order,' the Trump administration has been essentially trying to change American asylum law by fiat. But on Friday, the Supreme Court blocked the administration's attempt to jumpstart its cruel policies, which were previously blocked by a federal judge in California.

To block President Donald Trump's policy, Chief Justice John Robert abandoned his fellow conservatives and joined with the court's four liberals, proving that he is willing to oppose the president, at least on some key issues of executive power.

The case involved the administration's attempt to revamp American asylum policy to automatically deny the claims of asylum-seekers who cross the border between authorized ports of entry. Many asylum-seekers have done just that because the Trump administration has forced them to wait for weeks or months at official entry points.

But U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar in California blocked the policy in November, finding that it contradicted the point of the asylum law. The legislation is designed to protect people who have been victimized by their own governments, and placing further barriers and boundaries on them even when their lives may be in danger is a heartless policy. More to the point, from the judge's perspective, it's not what Congress intended.

“The administration’s quarrel here is really with the longstanding and fundamental policy decision Congress made four decades ago and consistently and explicitly reaffirmed over the years, even as it enacted other significant restrictions on asylum eligibility and procedures,” the ACLU explained.

Trump attacked Tigar after the ruling, calling him an “Obama judge.” In a rare public rebuke, Roberts fired back.

There are no “Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Roberts said in response to a question from AP. He added that the “independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”

And on Friday, Roberts showed that he's not only willing to stand up to Trump in occasional, oblique statements. He joined with the court's liberals to strike down the administration's request to lift …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Here are 3 blatant ways Trump completely contradicted himself on key issues this week

December 21, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

We expect Trump's statement to be inconsistent with reality. Now, he's not even consistent with his own delusions.


The American people have grown used to President Donald Trump's lies — they're no more surprising than the morning sunrise, at this point. But increasingly, Trump's claims don't just contradict reality — they contradict his own previous claims.

Trump used to exalt former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as intellectually brilliant; now, he considers him “dumb as a rock.” The president once insisted that attorney Michael Cohen was an honorable family man; now, he calls him a “rat.” In recent days, Trump has been contradicting himself a lot even on key policy issues. 

Here are three ways in which Trump has totally contradicted himself this week:

1. Trump Insisted That He Wouldn’t Blame Democrats for a Government Shutdown—and Is Now Blaming Democrats for a Shutdown

When Trump met with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in the Oval Office last week, he boasted that he would be “proud” to shut down the government if Congress didn’t fund a U.S.-Mexico border wall — adding that he that he wouldn’t blame Democrats if the shutdown happened. But on Friday, Trump completely flipped on that pledge and posted on Twitter, “The Democrats now own the shutdown!”

2. Trump Insists That a Wall Is Necessary to Stabilize the U.S./Mexico Border — Only to Describe Border Security as Already ‘Tight’

As part of the shutdown gambit, Trump is insisting a U.S.-Mexico border wall stretching all the way from California to Texas is necessary for “border security.” Minus a wall, Trump has stressed, there can be no stability along the border. On Friday, Trump said of the wall: 'The fact is there is nothing else’s that will work, and that has been true for thousands of years.”

But even just the day before, the president assured Americans that everything is already under control along the border.

Trump tweeted, “With so much talk about the Wall, people are losing sight of the great job being done on our Southern Border by …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Trump says Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is 'retiring' — here's how we know he's quitting

December 20, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Many have believed Mattis has protected the country from the worst of the president's impulses.


President Donald Trump stunned observers Thursday evening when, in the midst of a tense government shutdown fight and the day after he announced an unexpected U.S. withdrawal from Syria, he said on Twitter that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will be retiring at the end of February. In reality, it was clear Mattis quit.

“General Jim Mattis will be retiring, with distinction, at the end of February, after having served my Administration as Secretary of Defense for the past two years,” Trump wrote. “During Jim’s tenure, tremendous progress has been made, especially with respect to the purchase of new fighting……equipment. General Mattis was a great help to me in getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations. A new Secretary of Defense will be named shortly. I greatly thank Jim for his service!”

Many observers and critics of the president had long believed that Mattis was one of the key figures in the administration protecting the country from Trump's worst ideas and plans.

And despite Trump's claim that Mattis was retiring, the general's resignation letter made it clear he was leaving because of disagreements, not because he is aging out of the position.

“Because you have the right to a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” Mattis wrote.

The decision to withdraw from Syria was believed to be against the desire of Trump's military advisers, including Mattis. And earlier on Thursday, it was reported that Trump was looking to withdraw more than 10,000 troops from Afghanistan, which is also believed to be contrary to Mattis' views.

So it was clear that Mattis had come to view himself as lacking influence in the White House, and that he would be better off quitting than sticking around. 

And as CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins observed, there wasn't “a single word of praise for Trump” in the letter Mattis sent.

<Img align="left" border="0" height="1" width="1" alt="" style="border:0;float:left;margin:0;padding:0;width:1px!important;height:1px!important" …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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This NYT columnist asks a devastating question about the Trumps: 'How can a family that can’t run a charity run a country?'

December 20, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

The Trump Foundation was forced to close this week.


Democrat Barbara Underwood, outgoing attorney general for New York State, announced this week that President Donald J. Trump’s charitable organization, the Trump Foundation, must “dissolve under judicial supervision” and that its “remaining charitable assets” must be distributed “to reputable organizations approved by my office.” Underwood filed a lawsuit against Trump in June, accusing the Trump Foundation of illegally using that charity to promote his presidential campaign in 2016. And in his latest article for the New York Times, liberal/progressive opinion columnist Charles M. Blow cites the downfall of the Trump Foundation as a reason why his view of the president has gone from bad to worse

In his dark-humored column, Blow notes that he has been lambasting Trump consistently for two years because of his “immorality, dishonesty, fraudulence and grift.” But Blow stresses that he is having to reevaluate Trump, writing, “It’s so much worse than I thought….I had no idea how immoral Trump actually is.”

Blow notes that Michael Cohen (Trump’s former personal attorney) has been sentenced to three years in federal prison for, among other things, campaign finance violations—and that, according to federal prosecutors, Cohen made illegal hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal during the 2016 presidential election on orders from Trump. Then, Blow adds that the Trump Foundation was as corrupt as Trump’s campaign.

Blow quotes Underwood as saying that the Trump Foundation showed “a shocking pattern of illegality” when it coordinated with Trump’s 2016 campaign—and that the Foundation was “little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests.”  

The New York Times columnist asks, “How can a family that can’t run a charity run a country?” adding that when he called Trump a “pathological liar” in the past, he “could not have predicted” that the president would become even less truthful.

Blow concludes his column by asserting that he will continue to “worry about the republic in which we live. Trump has the capacity to damage or even destroy it. That’s not …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'That’s what the f*ck serving in Congress has come to': Republican lawmakers grow sick and tired of Trump's demands for a border wall

December 20, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

“Ugh, are you ruining my life?”


On Wednesday night, Republicans in the U.S. Senate—hoping to avoid a government shutdown—passed a spending bill that would fund the federal governmentthrough February 8, 2019. But the bill did not include the $5 billion for a U.S./Mexico border wall that President Donald Trump has been demanding—and the president is refusing to sign it. To further complicate matters, most senators have already left town for the holidays.

Today on Twitter, CNN’s Manu Raju reported that when Sen. Susan Collins of Maine heard that Trump was refusing to sign a Senate bill that lacked funding for a border wall, she “almost dropped her handbag.”

“Did he just say that?” Raju quoted Collins as saying. “Ugh, are you ruining my life?”

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin told CNN that so many senators had left Washington, DC for the holidays that the nation’s capital resembles a “ghost town.” That means there may not even be enough senators to vote if Trump wants to force another piece of legislation through — which would be almost guaranteed to fail in any event.

Johnson expressed frustration with Trump’s unwillingness to compromise on a border wall, asserting, “I’m not sure what leverage the president thinks he has at this moment. The way you create leverage is [you] keep this issue alive and keep arguing why we need to secure the border.”

Meanwhile, Republicans in the House of Representatives have been discussing a possible spending bill of their own.

Via Twitter, MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt (host of “Kasie DC”) reported, “On the House floor, leaders scrambling to see if they can pass $5 billion in wall funding as Republicans say they want President Trump to tweet before they say ‘yes.’”

Hunt added that “one GOP member of Congress” told her, “That’s what the fuck serving in Congress has come to.”

As difficult as it is for Trump to get funding for a border wall through Congress in the late 2018 lame duck session, it will become even more difficult in 2019—when Democrats, having achieved a net gain of …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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In a rare moment of bipartisanship, the Senate passes a major sentencing reform bill

December 20, 2018 in Blogs

By Phillip Smith, Independent Media Institute

But it’s still just a first step.


In a rare display of bipartisanship, the Senate on Tuesday approved a major prison and sentencing reform bill, the First Step Act (S.3649) on a vote of 87-12. The bill now goes back to the House, which is expected to pass it easily, and then to the desk of President Trump, who has vowed to sign it.

Introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mike Lee (R-UT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), the bill added significant sentencing reform provisions to a prison reform bill passed earlier by the House.

“The First Step Act will help keep our streets safe and it offers a fresh start to those who’ve put in the work to get right with the law while paying their debt to society,” Grassley said on the Senate floor after the vote. “It also addresses unfairness in prison sentencing and revises policies that have led to overcrowded prisons and ballooning taxpayer expenses.”

“I think we showed something which most American people wouldn’t have believed—that a bipartisan group of senators from across the political spectrum could tackle one of the toughest political issues of our day, assemble an array of support—left, right, and center—from members of the Senate as well as organizations devoted to law enforcement as well as civil rights, and at the end of it have something we all felt was a fair product to send over to the House, which I hope will act on this very quickly,” Durbin said. “It is, however, the first step. We’ve got to start thinking about the second step. And we need the help of all of our colleagues when shaping that.”

In addition to the prison reform language, the bill’s key sentencing provisions include:

  • Retroactivity for the Fair Sentencing Act (the 2010 law that reduced the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity), allowing the potential release of around 2,600 people;

  • Expansion of the “safety valve” allowing judges more discretion to sentence beneath mandatory minimum sentences;

  • Reform of the “three …read more

    Source: ALTERNET

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'Calling me a liar are fighting words': Democratic lawmaker walks out on DHS Sec. Nielsen after denouncing her deception

December 20, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The facts don't back her up.


Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen appeared before Congress on Thursday, giving Democratic lawmakers the opportunity to voice their opposition and distress at the administration's cruel and disastrous immigration policies.

When Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) has his opportunity to ask questions, he decided to give Nielsen a lecture instead. Pointing out that it was the Christmas season, Guttierez noted that it was “a time in which we celebrate Jesus Christ. A Jesus Christ who had to flee for his life with Mary and Joseph. Thank God there wasn't a wall that kept him from seeking refuge in Egypt.”

As he continued, he became more impassioned and outraged at the secretary.

“Shame on everybody who separates children and allows them to stay at the other side of the border, fearing death, fearing hunger, fearing sickness. Shame on us for wearing out badge of Christianity during Christmas and allow the secretary to come here and lie,” he said.

“Calling me a liar is fighting words,” Nielsen said. “I'm not a liar.”

But she continued to repeat a lie, insisting that the administration has never had a “family separation policy.” Instead, as she has repeatedly and condescendingly argued, she holds that the administration's policies practice of taking children away from parents was demanded by laws Congress had already passed, not anything the executive branch actively did.

This argument is at best semantic wordplay — more accurately, it's gross deception. As many have pointed out, the administration intentionally and clearly adopted a new policy in the past year of “zero tolerance” that automatically entailed separating families who were accused of crossing the border illegally. Officials, including former DHS Secretary John Kelly and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, made clear that separating families was the point — to create a deterrent effect. Nielsen claimed that the administration didn't have a policy of family separations because it didn't separate every immigrant family — but that's as absurd as claiming that a government doesn't have an education policy because not every child goes to public school.

Frustrated with her deceptive tactics, Gutierrez walked out in the …read more

Source: ALTERNET