Democrats make significant gains, as voters indicate an abandonment of Trumpism

Had former Enron lobbyist Ed Gillespie won Virginia’s gubernatorial race today, you can be certain that prospective Republican candidates everywhere would have taken notice and done their best to follow the same script… recreating themselves, as Gillespie did, in the image of Trump, talking nonsensically about hispanic gangs, confederate monuments, kneeling football players and sanctuary cities, instead of issues that really matter, like health care and the growing economic instability that American families are feeling. Fortunately, though, Gillespie appears to have been beaten handily by Virginia’s Democratic Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, who, as I understand it, is poised to win the race by a larger percentage than any Democratic candidate has won the state since 1985. While I’m hesitant to read too much into it, as I realize that things will continue to evolve between now and the midterm elections, today’s results, at least to me, demonstrate that Trumpism may finally be on the decline.

Trump, of course, is now trying to distance himself from Gillespie, saying that the long-time denizen of the Washington swamp hadn’t done enough to “embrace” the ideals that won him the White House, which is a baldfaced lie. The Truth is, Gillespie ran as Trump in what’s essentially a swing state, and he was handed his ass.

And, for what it’s worth, those four House races Trump refers to didn’t take place today, but this past summer, when Republicans picked up a congressional seats in special elections held in deep red states like Montana, Georgia, and South Carolina. Today, however, the outcome was different. Today, for the first time since Trump came to power, we saw signs that that his political philosophy might be losing its some of its power over the American people. And, more importantly, we saw evidence of a rising resistance, with more women and people of color winning races over Republican incumbents than perhaps ever before.

Not only did Northam win decisively in Virginia, but, in New Jersey, it looks as though the Democrats took back the Governor’s mansion, with U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy projected to beat Republican Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno. And, not just that, but there’s a pretty good chance that, by the time all the votes are counted, the Democrats may have also taken control of the Virginia House of Delegates, where former TV news anchor Christ Hurst, whose girlfriend, as you may recall, was murdered on air last year, defeated a Republican incumbent, and transgender candidate Danica Roem beat a 13-term Republican incumbent who actually referred to himself Virginia’s “chief homophobe.”

That’s right, the people of Virginia replaced the author of their state’s proposed “bathroom bill,” with our nation’s first openly transgender politician… Let that sink in.

I know it’s premature to suggest that Trumpism is dead, but it’s a damn site weaker today than it was yesterday, and, one would hope, as a result, we’ll see fewer candidates adopting his demeanor, and fewer images like this (taken from one of Gillespie’s race-baiting ads), in the future.

There will certainly still be challenges to face, but, for right now, with Trump’s approval rating lower than that of any American president in modern history, and him freaking out and blaming others for the fact that Republicans are no longer winning by parroting his divisive talking points, I feel a tiny bit of optimism. Will today’s results be enough to make the Republicans in Congress finally turn on Trump? I doubt it. But I suspect we’ll see things begin to shift a bit in the coming days. And, if Trump fails to deliver on tax reform, I suspect he’ll find himself impeached, as Republicans attempt to salvage what they can over the remainder of the term with Pence.

Speaking of tax reform… It dawned on me today that the wealthy should really just leave it in the hands of god.

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Kushner… the story of the naughty, little dilettante prince who went to prison for a very long time

OK, so let’s talk about Trump political advisor Jared Kushner…

As you may have heard, toward the end of last week, things took a not so pleasant turn for America’s number one political dilettante, Jared Kushner, the son-in law of the President, and the man who, at the beginning of the Trump reign, many hoped might be a voice of reason in White House otherwise filled with lunatics. Just days after news broke that Trump’s campaign director, Paul Manafort, had been arrested and charged with 12 felony accounts, including “Conspiracy against the United States”which, let’s be honest, really doesn’t sound so good… word started spreading that the Mueller investigation was looking into the activities of the young presidential advisor and any role he may have played in the firing of FBI Director James Comey, who, as you might recall, was forced from the Bureau shortly after refusing to swear his allegiance to Trump and kill the FBI’s Russia investigation. [The Trump administration, as you’ll recall, originally suggested that Comey had been fired at the suggestion of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, over his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. It was subsequently revealed, however, thanks in part to a draft memo authored by the President, that he was fired for not killing the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in our 2016 election, something that Trump openly confessed to a Russian delegation visiting the White House the day that Comey’s employment with the FBI was terminated.]

Well, in the days since the Manafort arrest, it looks like things might have gotten worse for our ambitious, young presidential advisor. Not only are there stories circulating about members of Mueller’s team requesting and receiving documents from Kushner, but, now, thanks to the 13 million recently leaked international financial documents that are being referred to collectively as the Paradise Papers, we know that Kushner’s startup company, Cadre, was funded in part by Yuri Milner, a Russian investor – a fact that he’d previously neglected to mention to investigators. In fact, during a recent closed-door meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Kushner is said to have told members of the committee that he never “relied on Russian funds to finance (his) business activities in the private sector.”

Sadly, though, that’s not the worst of it for Kushner… No, it would appear that he’s also apparently fallen out of his father-in-law’s good graces…. Here, with more on that, is a clip from Vanity Fair.

…According to two sources, Trump has complained to advisers about his legal team for letting the Mueller probe progress this far. Speaking to Steve Bannon on Tuesday, Trump blamed Jared Kushner for his role in decisions, specifically the firings of Mike Flynn and James Comey, that led to Mueller’s appointment, according to a source briefed on the call. When Roger Stone recently told Trump that Kushner was giving him bad political advice, Trump agreed, according to someone familiar with the conversation. “Jared is the worst political adviser in the White House in modern history,” (former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg) said. “I’m only saying publicly what everyone says behind the scenes at Fox News, in conservative media, and the Senate and Congress.”

“Here’s what Manafort’s indictment tells me: Mueller is going to go over every financial dealing of Jared Kushner and the Trump Organization,” said former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg. “Trump is at 33 percent in Gallup. You can’t go any lower. He’s fucked”…

So, if recent reports, like the one above, are to be believed, Trump fired Comey on the recommendation of Kushner, who, in his infinite wisdom, thought that doing so would bring a rapid end to the Russia investigation. Instead, however, it brought Mueller. And, now, as a result, we have Manafort under house arrest and a guilty plea from Trump’s former foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos, who has admitted to having lied to investigators about Russian involvement in the 2016 election. And, now, it would appear that Mueller is coming directly at Kushner and other members of Trump’s inner circle.

Which brings us to today, and the fact that, as of this morning, Mueller has even more evidence to go after Kushner and company with. According to recent press reports, Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian attorney who met with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, didn’t just discuss U.S. policy regarding the adoption of Russian children, as we’d been told by those in attendance. No, according to Veselnitskaya, she and these members of Trump’s inner circle discussed the the Magnitsky Act sanctions that had frozen the assets of Russian oligarchs in the United States, and the possibility that Donald Trump, if elected president, might reverse them, assuming, of course, the Russians could provide dirt on Hillary Clinton that proved helpful to the campaign, a claim that, if proven true, would be a federal crime. [According to Renato Mariotti, the Democratic candidate for Illinois Attorney General, exchanging an “official act” for something of value, is considered “theft of honest services,” which is a felony.]

And all of this, I should add, comes on top of the fact that Kushner is already know to have lied repeatedly on his security clearance applications, neglecting to mention several meetings with Russians during the campaign, like the one with Veselnitskaya noted above, where an apparent “you give us dirt on Clinton, and we’ll lift the sanctions” quid pro quo was discussed.

So, where does this all leave us relative to Kushner? I’ll allow former DNC Chair Howard Dean to answer that… “I expect there’s a good likelihood Jared Kushner will be indicted for money laundering, and then we’re going to see how far this Russian involvement goes,” Dean said yesterday on MSNBC.

If I were a betting man, I’d say that Michael Flynn will go down next, as the prosecutors already apparently have a solid case against him, perhaps followed by Sam Clovis. Then, assuming Trump hasn’t already fired Mueller by that point, it’ll be either Donald Jr. or Kushner. If I had to guess, though, I’d say that Kushner will be the first family member to go down, as, in his case, investigators likely have hard evidence of Russian money being laundered and funneled into his American real estate company.

One last thing, Milner, the Russian who invested in Kushner’s company, also invested in both Twitter and Facebook. [We know this thanks to the Paradise Papers.] Make of that what you will.

[For more information on Kushner, check out the timeline at]

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If only there were more guns in Texas

While we still don’t have all the details, it looks as though 25 people were shot and killed while attending church in Sutherland Springs, Texas today. Regardless of the circumstances, I suspect, in the days and weeks to come, some will come forward, like they always do, to say that, if only there were more guns, this never would have happened. And one of those people, I imagine, could very well be Texas Governor Greg Abbot, who has not only said that he wants Texas be the most armed state in America, but recently signed several pieces of legislation in order to make that a reality. One would hope, if this does happen, and Abbot suggests that, to honor the dead, we should all go out and buy some-automatic weapons, I would hope that people would rise up and force him from office, but I’m not terribly optimistic. Given what we’ve seen play out in the recent past, I don’t see a majority of Americans demanding real solutions, based on things like science and evidence, but instead wringing their hands, talking about how nothing could stop a man with something like this on his mind, and how our only possible hope is that, next time, “a good guy with a gun” might step forward to stop the bloodshed.

While we’re quick to push for more restrictive immigration laws and travel bans every time an immigrant carries out an attack against Americans, when it comes to incidents like this one, or the recent one in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead, where heavily armed white men are the perpetrators, it would seem that we just can’t bring ourselves to take meaningful action, opting instead to just pray for the victims and their families, hoping that somehow this trend will just end on its own, whether through the power of prayer, or the intervention of the aforementioned good guys with guns.

I’d like to think, at some point, after one of these incidents, we’d have a collective epiphany, like a majority of Australians did back in ’96, after a gunman in Port Arthur, Tasmania took the lives of 35 people. In relatively short order, the people of Australia, according to a recent article in the Atlantic, “banned automatic and semiautomatic firearms, adopted new licensing requirements, established a national firearms registry, and instituted a 28-day waiting period for gun purchases.” And, what’s more, they bought over 600,000 firearms back from Australian citizens and destroyed them, spending nearly half a billion dollars to do so. But, here in America, one doesn’t get the sense that anything will ever change. If it didn’t change after Sandy Hook, or Las Vegas, after all, why would it change now?

So, instead, we’ll talk about how things might have been different if a teacher at Sandy Hook had an assault rifle that fateful morning, or if a congregant at the church in Sutherland Springs today had been hiding in the shadows with an even bigger gun, just waiting for attack like this one.

And, for what it’s worth, it’s already beginning. Check out this tweet from Chuck Wollery, the former Love Connection host turned conservative intellectual.

Oh, and, for what it’s worth, Donald Trump has now weighed in from Japan, saying that what just happened in Texas was a mental health issue, not a gun issue, neglecting to mention that, since taking office, he both fought to cut mental health funding, and repealed legislation intended to keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill.

I’d like to say more, but I’ve got my hands full at the moment. If you’re interested in reading some of my more recent posts on the subject of gun control, though, here are a few links.

More than just calling for a ban on assault weapons, Obama moves to reinstate federal research on gun violence over the NRA’s objections

The problem, according to the NRA: Not enough “good” guns in schools

The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary… agendas at play, profits to be made

More than just calling for a ban on assault weapons, Obama moves to reinstate federal research on gun violence over the NRA’s objections

I know we say that “bad guys will get guns anyway,” if gun control laws are enacted, but do we know that to be a fact?

The right would rather mock Obama for his tears than respond to the content of what he was saying about our problem with guns in this country

It took him half a dozen years, but Obama is finally coming for our guns

Tonight’s post is brought to you by the good people of the NRA, who feel as though we will never know true peace until we truly embrace violence.

update: Trump, while in South Korea, was asked whether or not he would support “extreme vetting” for those seeing to purchase firearms. In response, Trump, after saying that more aggressive vetting would not have kept this most recent tragedy from happening, pretty much said that we’ll never know true peace until we’re all armed.

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The perjurer, the scientist who wasn’t, and the world’s most accomplished barista

Since we last spoke, a few interesting things have happened. Most notably from my perspective, Trump’s former foreign advisor, Carter Page, reportedly told members of the House intelligence committee today that, during the campaign, he had informed Jeff Sessions that he would be traveling to Russia. This, of course directly contradicts what Sessions himself said under oath several months ago in response to a question posed by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who asked if, to his knowledge, Page had met with Russian officials “at any point during the campaign.” Sessions, as you may recall, responded, “I don’t know.”

If this had been the only instance of Sessions not remembering the subject of Russia having come up, I might be willing to accept it as a simple oversight, but, as you’ll recall, we also just learned on Monday, when the guilty plea of presidential advisor George Papadopoulos was made public, that he too had apparently informed investigators that the subject of Russia had come up in the presence of Sessions. According to court documents that were unsealed earlier this week, Papadopoulos, during a national security meeting on March 31, 2016, that was attended by both Trump and Sessions, stated explicitly “in sum and substance, that he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and [Russian] President Putin.”

So, it would seem that our Attorney General was less than truthful during his confirmation hearing, when he told Senator Al Franken that he was “not aware of any of those activities” in response to being asked if, to his knowledge, anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign had communicated with the Russian government.

Oh, and, for what it’s worth, Sessions, during that same exchange with Franken, also said, “I did not have communications with the Russians,” which, as we found out shortly thereafter, was also a lie, as he’d met secretly on at least two occasions with Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak while working on the Trump campaign.

So, given all of that, it probably shouldn’t be all that surprising that Franken today sent a scathing letter to our nation’s top law man asking that he come back before the Senate judiciary committee and answer a long list of followup questions… Here’s a clip.

For what it’s worth, Richard Painter, White House ethics lawyer under George W. Bush, seems to think Page’s new revelation is part of Trump’s plan to get rid of Sessions, and replace him with someone more willing to shut down the Russia investigation. “The fix is in,” Painter just posted to Twitter. “They set up Sessions to take the fall. After he is gone, a new acting AG fires Mueller.”

Meanwhile, across town, Sam Clovis, Trump’s former campaign co-chairman, withdrew his nomination to become the USDA’s chief scientist, a position which he, as a non-scientist, was woefully unqualified for. If I had to guess, I’d say that, with the Mueller investigation in full swing, Clovis, who, among other things, brought both Carter Page and George Papadopoulos onto the Trump campaign’s foreign relations team, didn’t exactly relish the idea of a public confirmation hearing delving into what he knew and when about Russian interference during the 2016 election. No, I think he probably decided that he should spend the remaining time he has outside of federal prison with his family, eating at Golden Corral, and trying not to worry about what Papadopoulos might have gotten him saying on tape, once he started cooperating with the Mueller investigation.

And, lastly, the more time that passes, the more it appears evident that Trump and company were lying when they said that George Papadopoulos was just a low-level campaign volunteer whose only job was to fetch coffee. Here’s a photo of Papadopoulos, during the campaign, meeting with the President of Greece on behalf of the Trump team… not exactly an errand someone would send their coffee boy on.

And here’s what could possibly be the best comment made on Twitter today.

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With the Papadopoulos guilty plea, Trump can no longer call Mueller’s investigation a witch hunt

I don’t have a lot of time, and it’s already old news by this point, but, as I didn’t have time to mention it last night, I wanted to at least note the fact that, yesterday morning, as promised, the first indictments in Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation were made public. Here, with a brief recap, is a clip from the legal blog Lawfare.

The first big takeaway from Monday morning’s flurry of charging and plea documents with respect to Paul Manafort Jr., Richard Gates III and George Papadopoulos is this: The president of the United States had as his campaign chairman a man who had allegedly served for years as an unregistered foreign agent for a puppet government of Vladimir Putin, a man who was allegedly laundering remarkable sums of money even while running the now-president’s campaign, a man who allegedly lied about all of this to the FBI and the Justice Department.

The second big takeaway is even starker: A member of President Trump’s campaign team admits that he was working with people he knew to be tied to the Russian government to “arrange a meeting between the Campaign and the Russian government officials” and to obtain “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of hacked emails—and that he lied about these activities to the FBI. He briefed President Trump on at least some of them…

And it’s this second takeaway, which involves a member of the Trump campaign team by the name of George Papadopoulos, that I’d like to talk abut right now.

When the news broke yesterday that Manafort, and his business partner, Gates, had been asked to turn themselves in, it wasn’t a surprise to anyone who has been following the case. We, after all, knew that Manafort’s residence had been raided by the FBI, and it was already pretty clear that he’d been engaged in his share of money laundering and unscrupulous behavior on the part of the Putin regime in the past. In fact, reporters were waiting outside his Virginia condo on Monday morning, expecting that he’d be one of the individuals named in Mueller’s indictments. Papadopoulos, though, was a name that people weren’t expecting. And, unlike Manafort and Gates, who were charged with 12 felony counts each, Papadopoulos, according to the the unsealed documents, had actually already plead guilty to the charge of having lied to federal investigators. And that’s not all. According to the documents, Papadopoulos had become a “proactive cooperator,” which, according to federal prosecutors interviewed today, means that he likely “wore a wire.”

Papadopoulos, if you’ve never seen him before, is the dark haired young man staring at Jeff Sessions in this official photo of Trump’s foreign policy advisory team, which was released in the run up to the election.

Trump, as you might expect, has done everything he could today to distance himself from Papadopoulos, who he referred to as a “low level volunteer” and a “liar” on Twitter this morning, perhaps unaware of the fact that we could, by way of a simple Google search, find evidence that, back in March of 2016, Trump not only officially named him as a member of his foreign policy team, but called him an “excellent guy.” [Papadopoulos, who was only 29 a the time, was an oil and energy consultant.] And, now that he’s been named in the investigation, we’re learning more about his role within the Trump campaign, where, contrary to what we’re hearing today, he didn’t just fetch coffee. Papadopoulos, as the Washington Post reported today, not only traveled on behalf of the Trump campaign, but, among other things, “sat at the elbow” of Jeff Sessions during a dinner for campaign advisers weeks before the Republican National Convention. What’s more, Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page just came out and admitted that he could have exchanged emails with Papadopoulos about Russia during the campaign, indicating that he was, in fact, a contributing member of the team.

Here, with a little more background on what Papadopoulos did for the campaign, is a clip from Wired.

…Papadopoulos had worked with people he knew to be involved at a high level with the Russian government in an attempt to obtain “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, notably thousands of stolen emails. He had worked to “arrange a meeting between the Campaign and the Russian government officials,” and had otherwise endeavored through multiple rounds of contact with both Russian-linked individuals and with the Trump campaign to coordinate gaining access to material that would harm Trump’s Democratic opponent. At least one of his contacts was with a woman he believed—evidently incorrectly—was a niece of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Then he lied about that effort to the FBI—a violation of 18 U.S.C., Section 1001, and one of the easiest traps for federal investigators to spring on targets who think that the FBI is less savvy than it is—and made ham-handed attempts to cover up those lies by deleting social media profiles and changing his telephone number…

And, not just that, but, according to the documents released today, Papadopoulos did all of this with the knowledge and approval of a “Senior Policy Advisor,” a “High-Ranking Campaign Official,” and a “Campaign Supervisor.” But it gets even worse. It looks as though we now have a direct line to Trump… Here’s more for Lawfare.

… Papadopoulos says he attended a “national security” meeting on March 31, 2016, at which Trump himself was present, along with his other foreign policy advisers. In that meeting, Papadopoulos told the group that he had connections to arrange a meeting between Trump and Russian President Putin. This means that Trump either knew or should have known about his campaign’s effort to interface with Russia, even as news of various criminal hacking and attempts to interfere with the U.S. election were becoming public..

So, Mueller and his team apparently found out that Papadopoulos had been approached by a Russian operative shortly after he officially joined the Trump team, and offered hacked information about Hillary Clinton, which he then actively pursued with the blessing of his superiors. Then, after the election, on January 27, 2017, he was taken into custody by federal authorities at Dulles International Airport in DC, where he proceeded to lie about his activities. [Apparently smashing your phone and terminating your social media accounts just isn’t good enough when you’re up against the most accomplished investigative team in American history.] And, at some point, perhaps after Mueller’s people explained to him what life in federal prison was like, Papadopoulos agreed to help them in their investigation, in exchanged for a reduced sentence. [I’ve heard that he’ll likely have to serve about a year and a half, but I can’t find confirmation of that right now.] What’s more, the fact that the Papadopoulos’ plea deal was publicly announced yesterday would indicate that investigators think they’ve gotten all they can out of him.

So, just to recap, Papadopoulos could have been wearing a wire, and cooperating with Mueller’s team from late January until yesterday, when the deal was announced. And I’m sure, right now, everyone in Trump’s inner circle is trying to remember the last time they talked with Papadopoulos, and what exactly they might have told him. [Papadopoulos has definitely been cooperating with investigators since his deal with finalized on October 5, but he could have been assisting before that time as well.]

The thing that I still wonder about, though, is whether Trump and members of his team knew about Papadopoulos being taken into custody by authorities on January 27. My guess, given that January 27 was also the day Trump asked former FBI director James Comey to swear an oath of loyalty at the White House, is that they did know, but I suppose that could have just been a coincidence. [It’s also worth noting that Reince Priebus resigned the day after Papadopoulos was picked up by federal authorities.] Either way, I suspect Papadopoulos was able to provide useful information, given that he was in meetings with the likes of Jeff Sessions, Sam Clovis, Paul Manafort and Trump when the subject of Russian assistance was discussed. But, if Mueller was able to keep the July arrest quite, one can only imagine the audio that might exist.

If I were a betting man, I’d say the next domino to fall would be Clovis, who served as Trump’s liaison on the campaign’s Foreign Policy/National Security team. Not only was it Clovis who originally brought Papadopoulos into the fold, but, interestingly, Trump offered Clovis a plum assignment at the USDA just six days before Papadopoulos was arrested at Dulles, perhaps in hopes of buying his silence. [Trump nominated Clovis to be the top scientist at the USDA. Clovis is not a scientist.] At any rate, one would assume that Clovis has a story to tell, as he knows absolutely everything that Trump communicated to the members of his Foreign Policy/National Security Advisory Committee, and it looks as though Mueller has put the pieces in place to get everything he can out of him.

Trump and his people aren’t likely to give up so easily, though. Having tried and failed to write Papadopoulos off as a low-level liar, whose only job on the campaign was to serve coffee, they’re now trying something new… They’ve launched a coordinated “he was just a naive kid” defense, in hopes of explaining all of this away as just something done by an overzealous “kid” who didn’t know any better, ignoring the fact that Papadopoulos was actually an adult who was encouraged by other adults within the campaign. [Apparently you’re still not a adult at 29, in the eyes of Sean Hannity and others, at least if you’re white.]

The big takeaway for me in all of this is that Mueller is absolutely, fucking brilliant. He didn’t just announce the charges against Manafort and Gates, which he knew that some would write off, seeing as how, for the most part, they stemmed from illegal activities that took place outside the Trump campaign, but he announced the Papadopoulos guilty plea on the same day, completely nullifying the “witch hunt” argument. Not only is this a real, legitimate investigation, where people are actually facing deadly serious federal charges, like “Conspiracy Against The United States,” but there are already admissions of guilt from campaign team members who actively sought to attain the assistance of our enemies in order to acquire illegally hacked emails, and then lied to federal investigators about it. This, in other words, isn’t just another Benghazi investigation. This isn’t a politically motivated series of show trials. This is the real deal. And people will die in prison.

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