Editor’s Blog

The Times’ Oligarch Switcheroo

As you’ve probably seen, The New York Times issued a major correction early this afternoon. They now say that Paul Manafort had his Ukraine-based fixer Konstantin Kilimnik send polling data not to Oleg Deripaska but to Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, two Ukrainian oligarchs who were major financial backers of deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Manafort’s longtime client. This is a pretty big difference and a major error by the Times. But I’m not sure it really changes the big picture. These are both oligarchs tied to the pro-Russian faction in Ukraine, though Akhemetov seems now to have fallen out or at least strayed from the Moscow line and is now paying a price for it. Read More

The ‘Collusion’ Debate Ended Last Night

[Ed. Note: Early this afternoon, the Times published a correction. Manafort asked for his campaign data to be passed not to Oleg Deripaska but two pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarchs named Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, financial backers of Viktor Yanukovych. This is a major correction and a major error. But as I explain here, I don’t think it changes the big picture. Manafort was sending confidential campaign data back to pro-Russian figures in Ukraine while Russia was conducting a major effort to elect Donald Trump. I’ve left the post below as written before the Times‘ correction.]

As I signaled last night, the seemingly accidental redaction error in the Manafort legal filing combined with the news published mid-evening by The New York Times is one of the biggest revelations in more than two years of the Trump/Russia scandal. It’s bigger than the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, though the two cases can’t be fully understood without reference to each other. Just as importantly, these new revelations combined with earlier reports effectively end the debate about whether there was ‘collusion’ between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. There was. It wasn’t marginal. It was happening at the very top of the campaign. The campaign manager was secretly funneling campaign data and information to a Russian oligarch closely tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin, someone who had no possible use for such information other than to use it in the Russian efforts to get Donald Trump elected President.

Let’s review the key details. Read More

Longtime federal prosecutor Rod Rosenstein arrives at the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearing to be deputy attorney, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 7, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Bigger Than People Seem to Realize

I think the hoopla over President Trump’s Oval Office address tonight has temporarily blunted or distracted people from the full import of what the Times just reported about the Trump campaign polling data. They may even have missed some of it themselves since they buried that nugget well down into the piece. Paul Manafort was secretly sharing confidential campaign polling data with a top Russian oligarch who is closely tied to Vladimir Putin. To me this really ends the debate about ‘collusion’, to the extent there still was one. It seems bigger than the Trump Tower meeting. Read More

The Big Boom, Folks

There’s your collusion. Manafort had Kilimnik pass the polling data to Oleg Deripaska.

From the Times

Mr. Manafort asked Mr. Gates to tell Mr. Kilimnik to pass the data to Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who is close to the Kremlin and who has claimed that Mr. Manafort owed him money from a failed business venture, the person said. It is unclear whether Mr. Manafort was acting at the campaign’s behest or independently, trying to gain favor with someone to whom he was deeply in debt. Read More

Meaningless

David Axelrod said a couple days ago that the the Oval Office format is the worst format for President Trump. Boy, is that right. It’s scripted. It plays to his woodenness reading a script. He doesn’t get the energy from a crowd. This was the same script he’s been reading from for months. If anything, it was more muddled because his speechwriters dropped a number of the more jarring lies. I think this meant basically nothing politically. At the same time, Pelosi and Schumer actually presented their case pretty clearly and well.

This Must Be the Kilimnik Peace Plan

The new Manafort filing refers to Manafort conceding that he had discussed a “peace plan” for Ukraine with Konstantin Kilimnik on “more than one occasion”. What peace plan? Felix Sater says it’s not the same one he and Michael Cohen met with that Ukrainian lawmaker about. But Josh Kovensky points out to me that it’s almost certainly this one, which was reported in January 2017 as Kilimnik’s plan. Read More

God, These Guys Are Clowns

In his filing today Manafort’s lawyers said he met with Konstantin Kilimnik in Madrid “during a period when Mr. Manafort was managing a U.S. presidential campaign.” Depending on how one interprets those words, that would either be between March and August or June and August 2016. His spokesman just clarified that they misspoke. He now claims it was in January 2017.

Trump, the Wall and … well yes.. Hitler

I’ve always resisted comparisons between Adolph Hitler and Donald Trump and between Trump’s election and the onset of fascism.  Trump is not plotting genocide. The geopolitics are entirely different.  But as I was recently reading Volker Ullrich’s terrific biography of Hitler (Hitler: The Ascent, 1889-1939), I was reminded of a certain similarity between the men, and it’s relevant to the current battle over the border wall. Read More

One of the Most Pernicious Lies

Trump administration officials and President Trump especially lie all the time. But this is one of their most pernicious and recent lies. This segment on MSNBC from a few moments ago does a good job breaking down the lie.

Jerry Brown

Late last night I saw this Twitter video clip of Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) leaving the governor’s office (presumably?) for the last time as Governor of California. It made me consider his remarkable and uncanny public career and my own memories of it, which now stretch over the course of a lifetime.

Edmund Gerald “Jerry” Brown, Jr. was sworn in as Governor of California in January 1975, about six months before my family moved to California in the summer of that year. He managed this feat at the remarkably young age of 36, taking over from Ronald Reagan and doing so, in no small part because his father, Edmund G. “Pat” Brown had been Governor from 1959 to 1967. Brown then had the audacity to turn around and immediately run for President in 1976 and then again in 1980. Read More

Where This May Be Going

It is telling and entirely predictable that the first time President Trump is seriously checked by another branch of government he threatens to declare a national emergency and essentially rule by decree. As history teachers us, while authoritarianism usually sells itself on efficiency and power, it is far more often paired with failure and incompetence. Read More

The Rot Runs So Deep

It seems conceivable, though highly unlikely, that there’s an innocent explanation for the National Parks Service decision to keep a small site tied to President Trump’s hotel open while everything else is closed or unstaffed. Assuming it is what it looks like, another example of the federal government being harnessed to the personal finances of the President, it will be just a more minor example of what we’ll learn far more about in the years to come. There is so little transparency in this administration, so much corruption that has become commonplace, that I don’t think we can really even imagine just how deep it all runs.

Of course, budgeting a few parks rangers to main this clock tower is more a symbol of the problem than the end of the world in itself. But there’s every reason to believe that the whole country’s foreign policy is being harnessed to the President’s personal financial interests as well.

Helpful Number Crunching

As you’ve likely seen, the now-ubiquitous Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is now floating a 60% to 70% marginal income tax rate on income over $10 million a year. I think this is a great proposal whether or not it ever goes anywhere or whether this particular price point makes sense simply because it opens up the tax policy conversation in ways it’s been closed for a few decades. It is simply crazy that the progressivity of the tax code currently tops out at $500,000 a year incomes. Read More

Going Great

A very unpretty picture here in the Post of the President’s efforts to negotiate an end to the three-week government shutdown. The White House is making a big play of Vice President Pence working through the weekend in what they claim are negotiations. But the President hasn’t actually given Pence the authority to discuss specific numbers of even specific proposals. And this is compounded by the fact that no one would put much stock in such offers even if Pence were nominally empowered to make them because the President routinely overrules them in tweets. Read More

Some Amount of Money for a Wall or Not a Wall

Shortly after his top communications staffer said Nancy Pelosi was just obsessed with a wall as opposed to a “physical barrier”, President Trump released a letter insisting on a wall.

Absolutely critical to border security and national security is a wall or a physical barrier that prevents entry in the first place. Members of both parties—including then Senators Obama and Clinton, current Senator Schumer, and many other members of the House and Senate—all voted for a hard, physical barrier. Walls work. That’s why rich, powerful, and successful people build them around their homes. All Americans deserve the same protection. In Israel, it is 99 percent effective.

Read More

Perfect

In response to Rep. Tlaib’s mofo comment, Pelosi says: “I probably have a generational reaction to it, but in any event, I’m not in the censorship business,” which is basically the perfect reply.

Trump, the Democrats, the Shutdown and the Wall
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 25: Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., attend a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in in Emancipation Hall to honor Filipino veterans of World War II on October 25, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

There are issues that divide Republicans and Democrats that sometimes benefit the GOP and at another time the Democrats.  Universal healthcare and abortion are issues like this. And so might be the issue of the border wall.  If so, the Democrats should be very careful. What follows is a comment on politics, not policy.

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Cutting To The Chase

GOPer at center of NC election fraud scandal asks court to declare him the winner.

Sic Transit

When President Trump has his angry, teary monologue with the painting of Hillary in the White House, it’ll be a pool spray. We’re halfway there.

Good Luck With That

With surprisingly little interest in or urgency about the shutdown now approaching its third week, Washington is now abuzz with the whipped up spat between President Trump and Mitt Romney after Romney wrote an unflattering oped in The Washington Post. Robert Costa says Trump’s critics see an opening and that one of his top advisors is getting calls from GOP donors asking Romney to challenge President Trump in 2020. Let’s please get real about this. Mitt Romney isn’t going to challenge anyone. President Trump won’t face any real challenge to his nomination and Romney’s oped was at best a mild rebuke. Read More

‘We Have a Healthy Spacecraft’
It will be humanity’s most distant exploration of another world, coming 3 ½ years after New Horizons’ swing past Pluto.

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has communicated with flight controllers in Laurel, Maryland after a flyby of a distant orb named ‘Ultima Thule’ far beyond Pluto.

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Happy New Year.

Lest We Forget

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