Trump privately concerned he is going to be impeached: report

1 hour 51 minutes ago
The president recently bragged that he isn't going to be impeached. In private conversations with his friends, it's another story.

On Thursday, NBC News reported that President Donald Trump is a lot more worried about legal consequences for his misconduct than he is letting on to the public:

Despite President Donald Trump's public declaration that he isn't concerned about impeachment, he has told people close to him in recent days that he is alarmed by the prospect, according to multiple sources.

Trump's fear about the possibility has escalated as the consequences of federal investigations involving his associates and Democratic control of the House sink in, the sources said, and his allies believe maintaining the support of establishment Republicans he bucked to win election is now critical to saving his presidency.

Earlier this week in an interview with Reuters, Trump dismissed impeachment threats, saying, "It's hard to impeach somebody who hasn't done anything wrong and who's created the greatest economy in the history of our country." He also added that "the people would revolt" if he was impeached — an incredibly dangerous sentiment from the nation's foremost enforcer of the rule of law.

Impeachment has now become a serious possibility with Democrats taking over the House. Publicly, Democrats are coy about the possibility, especially since even if they did impeach him, a conviction in the Republican-controlled Senate is highly unlikely. However, incoming House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who would be responsible for starting the process, says that some of the allegations against Trump about illegal payoffs to women he slept with during the election could constitute impeachable offenses.

As investigations wear on, there is no telling where the political winds may shift — and with Congress ready to hold Trump accountable for the first time, his fears could be justified.

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Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

Meet the ‘Exvangelicals’: Young Christians are fleeing the church for cozying up to Trump

1 hour 52 minutes ago
Younger Christians are increasingly appalled at continuing attacks at marginalized communities.

As hardcore Christian evangelical leaders continue to embrace President Donald Trump, younger churchgoers are having a harder time reconciling the words of the Bible with less-than-Christian actions of the Republican Party which supports him.

According to Newsweek, exhortations from the pulpits to support Republican positions on war and immigration are causing an exodus of some of the same young Christian voters who helped Trump get elected.

As Blake Chastain, 35, who left the church and created the podcast “Exvangelical” explained his departure: “Conservative Christianity was at odds with the teachings in the Bible.”

The reports states that the flood of young believers who are abandoning the church could be disastrous for Republicans who have become used to depending upon conservative Christian leaders to turn out votes for them.

In fact, data reveals that the effects of abandonment likely impacted the 2018 midterms.

“In the 2018 midterms, exit polls showed, white evangelicals backed Republicans by 75 to 22 percent, while the rest of the voting population favored Democrats 66 to 32 percent,” Newsweek’s Nina Burleigh writes.” But evangelicals were slightly less likely to support House Republicans in 2018 than they were to support Trump in 2016—which may have contributed to the Democrats’ pickup of House seats. Trump’s support actually declined more among white evangelical men than women. The 11-point gender gap between evangelical men and women from 2016 shrank to 6 in the midterms.”

According to Chastain, who once dreamed of joining a seminary, younger Christians are increasingly appalled at continuing attacks at marginalized communities — which they view as being uncharitable compared to the words of Jesus.

“Even people like me, a white male with a lot of societal privilege, can see that evangelical leaders are completely happy to join forces with white nationalist politicians and leaders and to give them the benefit of the doubt while they are attacking marginalized communities,” says Chastain. “And that’s just blatantly hypocritical.”

To make his point, he added, “The fact is that leaders like [Dallas megachurch leader and Trump supporter] Robert Jeffress and Jerry Falwell Jr. are blatantly power hungry and willing to make these alliances, providing a theology that supports white nationalism.”

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention — who admits he didn’t vote for Trump, — backs up Chastain, but says he is hopeful that he can hang onto younger Christians by adjusting the message to them.

“With Generation X, millennial and Generation Z evangelicals, there is a deep suspicion of any cynical use of religion for worldly purpose,” Moore explained. “So one has to motivate them differently than one would, say, the kind of television evangelist demographic that many secular people think of when they think of evangelicalism. When I am in a group of older evangelicals, my message is typically ‘Seek first the kingdom of God. Political idolatry will kill us. Let’s remember what is transcendently important.’ But when I talk to younger evangelicals, I am dealing with the opposite problem and saying one cannot simply withdraw from political life in overreaction to some dispiriting actions that have taken place.”

Christopher Maloney, 32, who not only abandoned evangelical Christianity but released a documentary film called “In God We Trump,” claims those who left the church may never return.

“People around my age and younger were already deconstructing their evangelical faith in large numbers before Trump came along,” he stated. “What the 2016 election did was accelerate what was already happening. We had begun edging toward the doors, and when evangelicals embraced Trump we bolted outside. To be honest, I don’t see a return of younger generations to the church as we know it.”

You can read the whole report here.

 

Tom Boggioni, Raw Story

Worse than hypocrisy: Americans are living in the shadow of tyranny

2 hours 27 minutes ago
Are Americans currently under the rule of law? Not likely.

Those old enough to recall the presidential politics of the 1990s may still hear a certain righteous sentence ringing in their ears: "We must uphold the rule of law."

With irrefutable simplicity, those words were uttered in numbing repetition by the Republicans who pursued Bill and Hillary Clinton for years, at a cost of millions, over "scandals" too baroque and too minor to explain.

To honor the American rule of law, they simply had to investigate Whitewater, an obscure land deal that had lost the Clintons $45,000 in the remotest Ozarks, several years before he entered the White House. To honor the rule of law, they had no choice but to impeach Clinton, a sinner the same as many of them, for lying about his trysts with Monica Lewinsky. 

And when all of the charges against the Clintons either evaporated entirely or failed in the Senate trial, revealing the hollowness and hypocrisy at the center of those conservative crusades, they still congratulated themselves -- for vindicating the rule of law.

From their perspective, at least, that is exactly what they did. Even the president, they told us, had to be subject to a civil lawsuit while serving in the Oval Office. He had to answer a lawful subpoena and testify before a grand jury, like any other American. And he had to be held accountable, according to them, because the rule of law didn't make exceptions, not even for the president.

When Clinton was president, a single phone call from the White House to the Treasury Department was interpreted as obstruction of the Whitewater investigation and brought before the grand jury. The Senate and House held hearings, forcing those involved to testify under penalty of perjury -- about one phone call.

Flash-forward to the present and it is obvious that such strict Republican respect for the rule of law has diminished substantially. Now the president himself can publicly threaten and dismiss law enforcement officials who are investigating his campaign. He can fire intimidating tweets at prosecutors, defame them repeatedly, and suggest that he will pardon witnesses against him. And none of the Republicans, except for one or two who are departing public life, ever mentions the rule of law. (Unless they're talking about Hillary Clinton's emails.)

Compare the tiny, obscure Whitewater real estate deal to the Moscow Trump Tower scheme -- and the Republican reaction to each of those transactions -- and try not to burst out laughing.

The former, of course, was an ill-fated development in the Arkansas backwoods that lost a small amount of money. The latter was a deal hatched between Trump's agents and top Russian officials to build a multimillion-dollar edifice in the middle of an adversary government's capital, including a $50 million proposed gift to the Russian president, while his secret services were seeking to elect Trump president.

Note that this isn't just an abstract criticism of Republicans as a party. Both in and out of Congress, this double standard is embodied by individuals. Many of the same people who once demanded the strictest possible adherence to the harshest interpretation of law -- people like Senator Orrin Hatch and former Speaker Newt Gingrich -- are insisting that nobody need worry about this president's transgressions.

"I don't care," said Hatch a few days ago. Not only did he mean it but also he expressed the sincere nonchalance of almost all his GOP colleagues. "The rule of law" no longer means what it once did. The Republicans are becoming an authoritarian party -- and the rule of law means whatever their feared leader says it does.

This is worse than mere hypocrisy. This is the shadow of tyranny.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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Joe Conason, The National Memo

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner pushed John Kelly out to bring their guy in — but he didn't want the job: report

2 hours 59 minutes ago
Jared and Ivanka remain the true gatekeepers to Trumpland — and according to a new report, they wanted John Kelly gone

A new report suggests that while John Kelly has been White House chief of staff for the last 17 months, the gatekeepers to power have been and will always be President Donald Trump's powerful daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.

The Washington Post went into detail on the role played by the two Trump family members in a reporton Monday. Nick Ayers' decision to turn down President Trump's offer to replace Kelly had left Trump "without a Plan B," the Post reported:

Several of his aides expressed frustration that months of intense campaigning to replace John F. Kelly — an effort led by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s elder daughter and son-in-law — resulted in yet another chaotic staffing scramble in a White House splintered by factions and rife with turnover.

The Post also made it clear that the efforts by Ivanka and Jared to get rid of John Kelly reflected their deep dislike of the chief of staff. Because the First Daughter and her husband have the president's ear like literally no one else in the White House, their opposition to Kelly meant that they ultimately succeeded in getting rid of him — and then Ayers, their choice for a replacement, ultimately turned down the job.

Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner’s efforts on behalf of Mr. Ayers were widely seen as a coup attempt, started on behalf of a president who was unhappy with Mr. Kelly but could not bring himself to fire him. Mr. Ayers’s rejection of the offer stunned the couple, who had long resisted Mr. Kelly’s attempt to bend them to a traditional White House hierarchy.

In an earlier New York Times report — this one published Saturday, before Ayers had officially spurned Trump — the extent of the Javanka-Kelly tension was also explored:

If Mr. Ayers accepts the job, his appointment would be seen inside the White House as a coup for Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, and her husband, Jared Kushner, who clashed with Mr. Kelly and are seen as close to Mr. Ayers. The view inside is that they are now “running the building,” one of the president’s allies said.

Mr. Kelly had long complained that Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner, both top advisers to the president, were “playing government.” He had repeatedly tried to limit their influence amid complaints from others in the West Wing that they did not operate within the system.

With Kelly on his way out, other White House advisers who are viewed as part of Kelly's inner circle may also find themselves vulnerable. This includes Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen, whose job has already been offered to other people by the president, and Zachary D. Fuentes, the deputy chief of staff who, along with Kelly, was blamed by the president for a faux pas in which Trump missed a World War I commemoration in France due to bad weather.

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Matthew Rozsa, Salon

Here's why Russian spy Maria Butina’s guilty plea is very bad news for Trump

3 hours 10 minutes ago
What the Russian spy’s guilty plea tells us about Trump’s chances of surviving Mueller’s investigation.

A report this week by NBC News that suspected Russian spy Maria Butina will plead guilty to violating laws regarding government agents operating within the United States is the worst news Donald Trump has faced in months, but not for the reason many think.

Butina will reportedly admit to conspiring with a Russian official believed to be Alexander Torshin "to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics . . . for the benefit of the Russian Federation" (Torshin recently retired from being a deputy director of the Russian central bank). She will also admit to attempting to influence the National Rifle Association and “Political Party 1,” believed to be the Republican Party. Butina will admit to setting up a meeting between senior officials of the NRA and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in December 2015, in the early months of the Trump campaign. She later reported to Torshin, “We should let them express their gratitude now, we will put pressure on them quietly later.”

Butina has been indicted by the U.S. Attorney of the District of Columbia, whose investigation was separate from that of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, so you would think that would come as good news to Trump. But Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was also charged by the D.C. U.S. attorney and the U.S.attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia as well, and it is known that Mueller has been cooperating with the U.S. attorneys for D.C., Eastern Virginia, and the Southern District of New York as well. So the fact that Butina is pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate means that Mueller will be a beneficiary of what she knows about Russian influence in the election of 2016. But even that isn’t the worst news Trump got this week.

No, what Trump should really be worrying about is what Butina’s guilty plea says about his friend Vladimir Putin in Russia. Butina was obviously operating as an intelligence agent of the Russian state, and she wouldn’t be agreeing to plead guilty and cooperate with investigators for Mueller or anyone else if she hadn’t been given the go-ahead by her bosses back in Moscow. Butina faces a sentence of zero to six months under the federal statute she was charged with, and even if she ends up serving time, she will be deported immediately upon her release from prison.

Marina Butina wouldn’t have anyplace to go in Russia if her handlers at the Kremlin hadn’t told her it was okay to tell U.S. prosecutors everything she knows about how her attempt to influence American politics worked from 2015 through 2016. If Putin has decided to cut Butina loose, he’s cutting Trump loose as well.

Trump, whose approval ratings as of a poll by CNN this week stand at 39 percent, may have supporters, but he has a diminishing list of friends. He has lost numerous members of his cabinet to either scandal or resignation. His White House staff is in complete disarray. Not even Nick Ayers, the 36-year-old chief of staff to Trump’s Vice President, would agree to replace departing chief of staff John Kelly.  He’s holding onto his support among Republicans in the house and senate only because of their fear that his rabid right wing supporters will turn on them. And now he’s lost the one friend among world leaders he could count on, Russian president Putin — maybe Trump saw this coming, Putin didn’t exactly go out of his way to give him the love at the recent G-20 summit in Argentina.

The beneficiary of all of this is of course Special Counsel Mueller. Sometimes it’s useful to take a moment to see how we find ourselves where we are today, so let’s have a look at how Robert Mueller got to be such a busy, busy man.

Mueller’s appointment as Special Counsel flowed directly from Trump’s firing of James Comey on May 9, 2017.  Comey had appeared before the House Intelligence Committee several weeks before, on March 20, and testified that the FBI had been running a criminal and counterintelligence investigation of “persons associated with the Trump campaign” since July of 2016.

When Comey testified later before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he refused to publicly clear Trump in the FBI investigation. He also dismissed Trump’s contention that the Democratic National Committee emails could have been hacked by “China, could’ve been a lot of different groups.”

“The intelligence community with high confidence concluded it was Russia,” Comey testified. He also refused to answer several questions about whether Trump himself was under FBI investigation, leaving open the possibility that the president himself might be a focus of the investigation.

Angered by Comey’s refusal to clear him in the FBI Russia investigation, Trump met with aides later that week at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and concocted a letter justifying the firing of Comey. After meeting with White House Counsel Don McGahn, Trump arranged with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for a letter justifying the firing of Comey.

The next day, May 9, Trump fired Comey, citing Rosenstein’s letter critical of Comey’s handling of the announcements of the investigations of Hillary Clinton’s email server. The following day, Trump met in the Oval Office with Russian Ambassador Kislyak and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Kislyak was already known to be a focus of the Russia investigation because of Flynn’s conversation with him on December 29 about lifting Russian sanctions. No American reporters or photographers were allowed into the meeting with the Russians. Russian media present in the Oval Office later reported that Trump had told the two Russian diplomats, “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” The sources said Trump also told the Russians, “I am not under investigation.”

On May 11, Trump gave an interview to NBC News anchor Lester Holt and blew up the entire edifice his aides had spent two days building around Comey’s firing, discounting the Justice department’s reasons entirely: “Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.”

One week later, on May 16, Trump interviewed former FBI Director Robert Mueller about taking the job of FBI director again. The very next day, Rosenstein appointed Mueller as Special Counsel in the Russia investigation.

Last week, sentencing memos were filed on former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn. And this week, Maria Butina agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors.

With all of the guilty pleas and sentencings in court this week, speculation has been flying that Special Counsel Mueller is reaching the end of his investigation. Don’t believe it. The Washington Post reported this week that 14 Trump friends, associates, and campaign and transition officials had contacts with Russians during the 18 months of his campaign.

Every single one of them lied about Russia. They started out by flatly denying they had any contacts at all with any Russians. Then they admitted they had a few, but the contacts were innocuous. When numerous meetings with Russians came to light, they said the contacts didn’t amount to anything. When it turned out the contacts were serious, they began denying there had been any “collusion” with the Russians. Trump made it a refrain, that there had been “no collusion” with Russians during the many times he now had to admit his people had met with them.

Robert Mueller, who has indicted and/or taken guilty pleas from 33 individuals and at least three companies, is turning from indictments of Russians to indictments of their American counterparts. He is focusing his investigation not on “collusion,” but on conspiracy to defraud the United States of America. That’s what he indicted 13 Russians who worked for the Russian troll factory, the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg: conspiracy “to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.”

Mueller indicted 12 Russian military intelligence agents for “Conspiracy to Commit an Offense against the United States” by hacking into Democratic Party emails and to “stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.” He accused the Russians of using false identities and making false statements to hide their connections to “Russia and the Russian government.”

Mueller has been after a conspiracy between Trump and the Trump campaign and the Russian government all along. And he’s using fraud and conspiracy statutes under the U.S. Code to do it.

Mueller is going to connect Donald Trump and his campaign directly to the government of Vladimir Putin. This week, with the guilty plea of his agent Maria Butina, Putin appears ready to help him.

Robert Mueller has never cared about “collusion.” All he has cared about is breaking the law, which Donald Trump has done plenty of. Trump can tweet all he wants, but he can’t stop the big truck coming straight at him driven by Robert Mueller.

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Lucian K. Truscott IV, Salon

New Mueller filings will tie Trump to ‘unsavory’ Middle East operatives: report

3 hours 24 minutes ago
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s legal team is preparing a new series of legal filings tying the White House to Middle East influence.

According to a report at the Daily Beast, special counsel Robert Mueller’s legal team is preparing a new series of legal filings tying the White House to Middle East influence.

The Beast notes that the new filings are expected to drop in 2019, based on investigations looking into “how Middle Eastern countries pushed cash to Washington politicos in an attempt to sway policy under President Trump’s administration.”

According to the report, “witnesses affiliated with the Trump campaign have been questioned about their conversations with deeply connected individuals from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, according to people familiar with the probe.”

Sources say that Mueller’s legal team have been spending months debating whether to make this part of the investigation public.

“If this is going to be unveiled, this would be like the surfacing of the submarine but on the other plank which we haven’t seen,” explained for U.S. Attorney Harry Litman. “I guess what Mueller has to date has turned out to be pretty rich and detailed and more than we anticipated. This could turn out to be a rich part of the overall story.”

The report goes on to state this next phase of the investigation was planned to follow legal dealings with former National Security adviser Michael Flynn.

According to Hussein Ibish, senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute, the entire scope of Mueller’s investigation could open up a can of worms in Washington, D.C.

“Many of these characters involved are somewhat unsavory,” Ibish elaborated. “But governments deal with all kinds of people all the time. It might be possible to question the wisdom of some of these connections, but not really possible to impugn the right of a government to deal with shadowy dealers in influence and access.”

You can read the rest of the report here.

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Tom Boggioni, Raw Story

Paul Ryan's biggest influence: Here are 10 things you should know about the lunatic Ayn Rand

6 hours 36 minutes ago
Here's a treasure trove of background info on the woman who inspired Romney's VP pick to go into public office.

"The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand." That's freshly minted GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan talking -- statements he would eventually recant -- at a party celebrating what would have been the prolific author's 100th birthday, 

Rand's books are a big driver in the long-term right-wing campaign to delude millions of people into believing that there's no such thing as society -- that everyone must look out only for themselves. Lately, Rand's work has enjoyed a major revival of interest. Besides Ryan, she's inspired yoga-wear company Lululemon to publish her quotations on its products, and she's even made inroads into the North American semi-socialist enclave of Canada

AlterNet has kept the pace with Rand's resurgence, doing our best to educate people about what a nutcase she was and how harmful her ideas are. These 10 articles, previously published on AlterNet, shed light on why Rand's influence on Ryan is so dangerous.

1. How Ayn Rand Seduced Generations of Young Men and Helped Make the U.S. Into a Selfish, Greedy Nation

"When I was a kid," AlterNet contribuer Bruce Levine writes, "my reading included comic books and Rand’s The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. There wasn’t much difference between the comic books and Rand’s novels in terms of the simplicity of the heroes. What was different was that unlike Superman or Batman, Rand made selfishness heroic, and she made caring about others weakness."

Bruce Levine's explanation of how Rand has captured the minds of so many is a must-read. "While Harriet Beecher Stowe shamed Americans about the United State’s dehumanization of African Americans and slavery, Ayn Rand removed Americans’ guilt for being selfish and uncaring about anyone except themselves. Not only did Rand make it 'moral' for the wealthy not to pay their fair share of taxes, she 'liberated' millions of other Americans from caring about the suffering of others, even the suffering of their own children."

2. Rand's Philosophy in a Nutshell

The bloggers at ThinkProgress explain that the philosophy Ayn Rand laid out in her novels and essays was, "a frightful concoction of hyper-egotism, power-worship and anarcho-capitalism. She opposed all forms of welfare, unemployment insurance, support for the poor and middle-class, regulation of industry and government provision for roads or other infrastructure. She also insisted that law enforcement, defense and the courts were the only appropriate arenas for government, and that all taxation should be purely voluntary. Her view of economics starkly divided the world into a contest between 'moochers' and 'producers,' with the small group making up the latter generally composed of the spectacularly wealthy, the successful, and the titans of industry."

3. Ayn Rand Railed Against Government Benefits, But Grabbed Social Security and Medicare When She Needed Them

AlterNet's Joshua Holland has the goods: "Her books provided wide-ranging parables of 'parasites,' 'looters' and 'moochers' using the levers of government to steal the fruits of her heroes' labor. In the real world, however, Rand herself received Social Security payments and Medicare benefits under the name of Ann O'Connor (her husband was Frank O'Connor).

4. Rand Worked on a Movie Script Glorifying the Atomic Bomb

According to author Greg Mitchell,  Rand called the nuclear weapon capable of incinerating entire cities "an eloquent example of, argument for and tribute to free enterprise." 

5. Billionaires and Corporations Use Rand's Writings To Brainwash College Students

Pam Martens reported that Charles Koch, who pushes "millions of dollars through his foundation into economic programs at public universities and mandating approval of faculty and curriculum in some instances," partnered with the "southern banking giant BB&T ... mandating that Ayn Rand’s book Atlas Shrugged is taught and distributed to students."

6. How Rand Became the Libertarians' Favorite Philosopher

Author Gary Weiss explains how the "Rand movement, which was little more than a cult when the Atlas Shrugged author died 30 years ago, has effectively merged with the vastly larger libertarian movement. While many differences are likely to remain ... this means that Objectivism, Rand’s quasi-religious philosophy, is going to permeate the political process more than ever before."

7. Ayn Rand in Real Life

Author Hal Crowther writes, "For an eyewitness portrait of Ayn Rand in the flesh, in the prime of her celebrity, you can’t improve on the 'Ubermensch' chapter in Tobias Wolff’s autobiographical novel Old School.  Invited to meet with the faculty and student writers at the narrator’s boarding school, Rand arrives with an entourage of chain-smoking idolaters in black and behaves so repellently that her audience of innocents gets a life lesson in what kind of adult to avoid, and to avoid becoming. Rude, dismissive, vain and self-infatuated to the point of obtuseness — she names Atlas Shrugged as the only great American novel — Rand and her hissing chorus in black manage to alienate the entire school, even the rich board member who had admired and invited her. What strikes Wolff’s narrator most forcefully is her utter lack of charity or empathy, her transparent disgust with everything she views as disfiguring or disabling..."

8. Red-State 'Parasites,' Blue-State Providers

Ayn Rand loved to throw around the word "parasite." If you aren't a psychopath billionaire, in Rand's eyes you're a parasite. It's a psychology totally in keeping with the myths of blue-state/red-state America, as AlterNet's Sara Robinson explains.

9. Ayn Rand Was a Big Admirer of a Serial Killer

No exaggerating here. Mark Ames writes, "Back in the late 1920s, as Ayn Rand was working out her philosophy, she became enthralled by a real-life American serial killer, William Edward Hickman, whose gruesome, sadistic dismemberment of a 12-year-old girl named Marion Parker in 1927 shocked the nation. Rand filled her early notebooks with worshipful praise of Hickman. According to biographer Jennifer Burns, author of Goddess of the Market, Rand was so smitten with Hickman that she modeled her first literary creation ... on him."

10. We've Already Had a Randian in High Office (Alan Greenspan), and It Was Devastating to the Middle Class

"The most devoted member of [Rand's] inner circle," George Monbiot writes, "was Alan Greenspan, former head of the US Federal Reserve. Among the essays he wrote for Rand were those published in a book he co-edited with her called Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Here, starkly explained, you'll find the philosophy he brought into government. There is no need for the regulation of business – even builders or Big Pharma – he argued, as 'the "greed" of the businessman or, more appropriately, his profit-seeking … is the unexcelled protector of the consumer.' As for bankers, their need to win the trust of their clients guarantees that they will act with honour and integrity. Unregulated capitalism, he maintains, is a 'superlatively moral system.'"

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Jan Frel, AlterNet

The Bornean orangutan population has fallen by nearly 150,000 in just 16 years

8 hours 37 minutes ago
The Bornean Orangutan Population Has Fallen by Nearly 150,000 in Just 16 Years

By Alan Knight

At the end of September, four rescued orangutans returned to their home in the rainforest after undergoing lengthy rehabilitation at International Animal Rescue’s (IAR) conservation center in West Borneo, where I work as a chief executive. Amy, Kepo, Ongky and Rambo had been rescued by our Orangutan Protection Unit at various times during the previous eight years. They then joined 100 other orangutans at the center being meticulously prepared for life back in the wild by our dedicated team of vets and caregivers.

The majority of the orangutans at our center are victims of the illegal pet trade. They have all suffered terrible cruelty and neglect after being taken from the wild as babies. They likely saw their mothers being killed as they fought to protect their infants. The traumatized young orphans were then sold or kept as pets by their captors, often living as part of the family until they grew too big and strong to handle. Then they were chained or cooped up in small wooden crates and soon forgotten, left to languish in misery far from the forest where they belong.

Amy’s story is a typical one. She was being kept as a pet by villagers in Jambi, Sukamarau, in Central Borneo. When our rescue team found her, she was slumped in a dark wooden cage with a heavy chain around her neck. She was thin, dirty and depressed, and her brown eyes gazed blankly at Dewi, our vet, when she approached her. Poor Amy had nothing but a filthy piece of old cloth in her cage to comfort her.

Amy’s rescue was the first step on her journey to a new life. After spending eight weeks in quarantine, she was given a clean bill of health by the veterinary team, and her rehabilitation could begin. At 6 years old, she was too big to go to school for baby orangutans and so entered the next stage of rehabilitation at our center — forest school. Here, among others of her own kind, Amy gradually developed the skills she would need to survive in the wild. She spent her time climbing and moving around in the trees, foraging for food and building a new nest each night to sleep in. Our monitoring team gathered data on her progress, reporting that she was a fast learner, was making excellent progress and would soon be a candidate for reintroduction into the wild.

When the IAR rescue team found her, Amy was found chained by her neck in a dark wooden cage. (Photo credit: International Animal Rescue)

The day of her release was a joyful one. It is so uplifting to see an orangutan return to their rightful home in the forest. It makes all the team’s hard work worthwhile. At the same time, however, everyone at IAR is acutely aware that our work rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing orangutans only addresses the symptoms of the problem but not the problem itself. Habitat loss and illegal hunting are the primary causes of the decline in orangutan populations.

Rapid and relentless deforestation for industrial-scale agriculture, particularly palm oil and timber plantations, leaves orangutans without food and shelter, exposing them to hunters who kill orangutans and capture their babies to sell as pets. The apes are also in danger of coming into conflict with local people as they stray into villages and onto farmland in search of food. Fires started on an annual basis as part of land clearance operations in Indonesia are also responsible for the loss of thousands of acres of rainforest and the lives of hundreds if not thousands of orangutans.

In 2016, the Bornean orangutan joined the Sumatran orangutan on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, an indication that the species is coming perilously close to extinction. Further evidence of the population’s decline came in a report published in the journal Biology in February this year. Its authors concluded that the Bornean orangutan population had fallen by 148,000 between 1999 and 2015 and now stands at between 70,000 and 100,000 individuals. The numbers could fall by at least another 45,000 in the next 35 years, the conservationists predict. What, then, can be done to pull the orangutan back from the brink of extinction?

In addition to supporting the work of groups fighting to save the orangutan, we conscientious consumers can all ensure our choices and purchasing habits are not contributing to the orangutan’s desperate plight. “Buyer beware,” as the saying goes, More than 50 percent of groceries contain palm oil, from toothpaste and shampoo, to ice cream and pizza. And it’s frankly impossible to know for sure from a label whether something has genuinely been ethically and sustainably produced.

After spending eight weeks in quarantine, Amy was escorted to forest school to begin her rehabilitation, excited to meet her new friends and begin her journey back to the wild. (Photo credit: International Animal Rescue)

None of us wants the orangutan to pay the price for our lifestyle choices, and therefore it’s better, wherever possible, to shop locally and steer clear of items whose origins are unclear. It is, after all, better for the environment as a whole — and better for our own health — to consume products grown closer to home that don’t leave a giant carbon footprint on the planet as they travel to reach us.

Further action we can all take to help our critically endangered cousin is to raise awareness among friends, family and colleagues of their plight. And raising the alarm about the threats facing the species couldn’t be easier thanks to social media.

The name “orangutan” is derived from the Malay and Indonesian words orang meaning “person” and hutan meaning “forest.” What a tragedy it would be to let this precious “person of the forest” vanish from the face of the Earth forever. But if we all have the will and determination to step up and prevent that from happening, I do believe we still can.

Alan Knight is the chief executive of International Animal Rescue, a UK-based animal welfare nonprofit. Alan was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2006 for his services to animal welfare.

This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute, and was originally published by EcoWatch.

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Independent Media Institute

Michael Cohen's adviser claims Trump knew he would lie to Congress — and let him do it

14 hours 4 minutes ago
var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1098690'; Click here for reuse options! If this allegation is true, it could be yet another serious problem for the president.

President Donald Trump is already facing serious questions for allegedly directing both his personal attorney Michael Cohen and tabloid publisher American Media Inc. to make illegal campaign-related expenditures to cover up his sexual encounters with women.

But there could be an entirely different problem for Trump: according to Bloomberg News, Michael Cohen's attorney and spokesperson, Lanny Davis, is now alleging Trump knew in advance that Cohen was going to lie to Congress about Trump's pursuit of a real estate venture in Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign — a crime for which Cohen has now submitted a guilty plea.

"Mr. Trump and the White House knew that Michael Cohen would be testifying falsely to Congress and did not tell him not to," Davis told Bloomberg Radio's "Sound On" in an interview.

Davis added, "There will come a time after [special counsel Robert] Mueller is done with his work that Michael Cohen will be sitting in front of a microphone before a congressional committee and what he has to say about the truth will be judged by the members of Congress listening and then will be up to people to decide whether he has got the facts or not."

It is unclear whether Davis' account is truthful, but if so, it would add an entirely new element to Cohen saga — and potentially implicated Trump even further in his former attorney's criminal behavior.

Trump's attempt to get Russian President Vladimir Putin's blessing for a real estate deal in Moscow is enormous, as it would potentially provide the motive for any involvement of Trump or his campaign in Russian operations to disrupt the presidential election. If Trump knew Cohen was going to lie about it and let him do it, that makes him look all the worse.

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Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

Former federal prosecutor explains why this US attorney's office in New York could have Donald Trump Jr. in its sights

14 hours 16 minutes ago
var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1098689'; Click here for reuse options! The case is unlikely to end with Cohen.

Donald Trump Jr. has, according to multiple reports, been fearful for weeks that Special Counsel Robert Mueller could be ready to indict him at any moment, potentially for lying to Congress. But as former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti explained Wednesday, the president's eldest son — and perhaps other children — may have a more to fear in the immediate future from the U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of New York.

The threat comes not from the Russia investigation or Trump Jr.'s potentially criminal lies in the proceedings of that probe but from the case in which President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen was sentenced on Wednesday: the criminal hush money payments made on behalf of the campaign to women who said they had affairs with the president.

Cohen pleaded guilty to those charges. But the court filings, information provided by prosecutors, and information in the public record reveal that he didn't act alone.

He acted in coordination with American Media, Inc., which owns the National Enquirer. AMI has entered into a non-prosecution agreement with SDNY and has corroborated Cohen's claims that the payments were undertaken to influence the election.

But prosecutors also say that he acted at the direction of the president himself — then a candidate — and along with Trump Organization executives, which includes the president's children.

"So in addition to the other evidence they have, prosecutors will have the testimony of two others who will say that they worked together to try to influence the election," said Mariotti. "I believe that federal prosecutors made a deal with the Enquirer's parent company, and gave immunity to Trump Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, because they intend to pursue additional charges related to the hush money payments."

He explained in a piece for Politico:

In paragraph 38 of the Cohen charges, Executive-1 (reportedly Weisselberg) sought approval for payments to Cohen from Executive-2, and then told another employee to “pay from the Trust.”

Who would the chief financial officer need approval from? If it was for a payment from Trump’s own trust, Executive-2 could be Donald Trump Jr. (Trustee) or Eric Trump (Chairman of the trust’s advisory board). Because the payments described in the charges against Cohen involved false statements in the books and records of the Trump Organization, other crimes—including state crimes—could be implicated, and Cohen’s attorney told Judge Pauley that Cohen is cooperating with the New York Attorney General.

On Twitter, Mariotti focused his speculation solely on Trump Jr.

He also noted in Politico that, if prosecutors do indict Trump Jr., they could use the opportunity to label the president as an unindicted co-conspirator.

"An indictment of Trump could cause Congress to remove him from office prior to the 2020 election, but that isn’t in the offing, given longstanding Justice Department guidance that a sitting president cannot be indicted," he wrote.

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Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Stacey Abrams isn't disappearing any time soon

15 hours 6 minutes ago
The Georgia Democrat suffered an unjust defeat, but she is not defeated.

Just in case there was any doubt, Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams definitely plans to run for office again. She confirmed her plans to do so Tuesday in front of a crowd in Laguna Niguel, Calif. at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit. Though Abrams didn’t say what office she plans to run for, she highlighted the success of her campaign and how she was able to engage a diverse coalition of voters around the state—ultimately getting more votes than any other Democratic candidate for governor in Georgia’s history.

“We tripled the number of Latinos who voted. We tripled the number of Asian-Americans. We increased African-Americans by 38%. Increased the youth vote.”

One of the great things about Abrams (and there are many!) is the fact that she remains confident in her message and unapologetic about reminding everyone that her opponent will take office under a cloud of voter suppression. Almost one month after officially ending her bid for governor, Abrams still refuses to concede the race—acknowledging that Republican Brian Kemp will be the state’s next governor but that he cheated in order to get there. At the summit, Abrams said about the election, “What happened was not just. That anyone had their vote tarnished or restricted or narrowed is wrong.”

This is why she is currently hard at work with her organization Fair Fight Georgia, which seeks to make elections fairer in Georgia and around the country. Last month, the group filed a lawsuit against the interim Secretary of State and the state’s election board members. Abrams and voting rights advocates around the state want to make sure that all eligible voters have their votes counted in the future. 

It’s heartbreaking that Kemp managed to cheat his way into the governor’s mansion. Still, let’s give credit where it’s due. Abrams ran a bad ass campaign and managed to make history as the first black woman to be nominated for governor by a major party, all while inspiring voters and changing politics in the South forever. It’s really good news that she’s not going away anytime soon. Georgia needs her and America does too.

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Kelly Macias, Daily Kos

'What the hell is the point of Congress?' MSNBC's Chris Hayes lashes out as 5 Democrats help the GOP protect the US role in the Yemen war

15 hours 30 minutes ago
"Why are we starving children?" asked the outraged cable news anchor.

While a vote in the U.S. Senate to push forward a War Powers Resolution on Wednesday resulted in applause from peace advocates and critics of the U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led assault on Yemen, five Democrats in the U.S. House stirred outrage as they helped Republicans in the chamber pass a rule—attached to massive Farm Bill legislation—that effectively killed the hopes of voting on its version of the resolution for the remainder of the congressional session.

The procedural vote in the Senate, said resolution co-sponsor Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), will help send a message to the world that the chamber will soon end its support for "this brutal, horrific war in Yemen led by an undemocratic, despotic regime."

But in the House, say critics, the five Democrats—Reps. Jim Costa (Calif.), Al Lawson (Fla.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Dutch Rupperberger (Md.), and David Scott (Ga.)—sent the exact opposite message by backing the GOP-led effort to kill the resolution.

MSNBC's Chris Hayes was just one of the journalists and other experts following the story who expressed outrage about the House vote.

"There is literally no domestic constituency of actual voters who are agitating for the US to continue facilitating the bombardment and starvation of Yemen," Hayes tweeted. He added, "What a despicable sham."

What a despicable sham. What the hell is the point of Congress? Why are we starving children? Someone make some affirmative argument for the policy, if you think it’s so important to continue killing children. But to kill the possibility of a vote in the rules committee? Cowards.

— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) December 12, 2018

The Washington Post's Jeff Stein reported that after the vote it was the "angriest at leadership I've seen progressive House aides and members in a long time." And with the final vote 206-203—a margin where the Democratic votes made the crucial difference—one of those aides told him that was "not a coincidence."

And Matt Fuller of the Huffington Post added:

Kind of amazing that Democrats bailed Republicans out on this one.

This was a clear winning issue for Democrats.

Does the voting public support Republicans sliding in language to a farm bill rule to subvert the War Powers Act and block any debate on Yemen?

Way to go, Congress.

— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) December 12, 2018

Stein asked Rep. Peterson directly why he voted the way he did, to which the congressman responded, in part: "I don't know a damn thing about" the war in Yemen but dismissed the resolution to end U.S. complicity in the world's worst humanitarian disaster as an off-topic "tangent."

Full transcript below. Some estimates say more than 50,000 civilians have died in Yemen pic.twitter.com/rR2ezICtv2

— Jeff Stein (@JStein_WaPo) December 12, 2018

"Just to be extremely clear about what happened here," explained Stein in a separate tweet: "The farm bill was going to pass regardless of the outcome of this vote. In other words, these 5 Democrats could have voted both for the farm bill and against blocking a vote on Yemen. It's not like they were incompatible."

Paul Kawika Martin, senior director for policy and political affairs for Peace Action, said Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, his fellow Republicans, and the five Democrats who voted with them "are condemning more Yemeni civilians to die horrible deaths, and condemning our nation as a democracy in name only. History will not look kindly on those who abdicated their constitutional duty to debate and vote our nation's wars in the name of petty politics and shoring up future campaign contributions from the arms industry and pro-Saudi lobbyists."

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Jon Queally, Common Dreams

This top GOP senator was just caught buying military contractor stocks — right after pushing a record-high Pentagon budget

15 hours 33 minutes ago
var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1098687'; Click here for reuse options! The stock purchase probably didn't break the law. But it was a serious lapse of ethical judgment.

On Wednesday, The Daily Beast reported that Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) made a massive purchase of stock in a defense contractor shortly after the negotiation of a massive increase in Pentagon spending:

Inhofe, who took over the top spot on Armed Services after the death of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in August, has repeatedly pressed President Donald Trump to dramatically scale up the Pentagon's annual budget, which currently stands at $717 billion. Last week, after Trump hinted he would like to scale back parts of that budget, Inhofe met with the president and Defense Secretary James Mattis, after which it was announced that the administration would seek even more defense funding: a record $750 billion in spending for fiscal year 2020.

News of that budget request broke on Sunday. On Tuesday, Inhofe's financial adviser bought him between $50,000 and $100,000 in stock in defense contractor Raytheon, according to documents filed with Senate ethics officials.

Moreover, when The Daily Beast reached out to his staffers to inquire about the purchase, "Inhofe’s office said the senator had contacted his financial adviser to cancel the transaction and instructed him to avoid defense and aerospace purchases going forward."

Inhofe's purchase was probably not a violation of insider trading laws, which state that members of Congress are allowed to trade stocks based on public information. Because the budget request was made public two days before the purchase, the information was public.

Nevertheless, it raises serious ethical red flags, given that Inhofe, as a powerful senator with control over defense spending, by extension had some power over where the stock price was headed. And social media responded to the news with outrage.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and suggest that if you're chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, best practices would dictate that you not buy stock in defense contractors. https://t.co/pSzqVtubqm via @thedailybeast

— Robert Wright (@robertwrighter) December 13, 2018

Typical compromised pig at the trough. Ethics is a foreign word to them. https://t.co/ULAU8cvvRP via @thedailybeast

— Walter Kennedy (@WalterWKennedy) December 12, 2018

Thank you @lachlan for calling out my senator @JimInhofe.

This kind of blatant corruption is incompatible with a functioning democracy.https://t.co/CEpLuEW5L5

— Alex Shirley (@AlexMShirley) December 12, 2018

Going forward, a safer approach to ethics law might be to simply ban members of Congress from buying and selling individual stocks altogether for as long as they are in office. As it happens, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) have a bill to do precisely that.

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Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

Jared Kushner got punished for causing Trump's embarrassing chief of staff problems: report

16 hours 23 minutes ago
var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1098685'; Click here for reuse options! Trump fired his chief of staff without a replacement.

President Donald Trump is not happy with his son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner, according to a new report in Vanity Fair.

Reporter Gabriel Sherman found that the president blames Kushner for the embarrassing failure of his plan to replace current White House Chief of Staff John Kelly with Nick Ayers, who is serving as the vice president's chief of staff. Kushner and Ivanka Trump reportedly pushed for Kelly's ouster and Ayers' ascension, but Ayers foiled the plan on Saturday shortly after Trump revealed he would need a new chief of staff.

To punish Kushner for his role in this blunder, Sherman reports that Trump forced his son-in-law to go on Sean Hannity's Fox News show and take the heat. Kushner rarely speaks in public.

“Trump said, ‘You’re going to go on there and defend me and take blame for chief of staff as punishment,’” one source told Sherman.

Despite Ivanka's reported participation in the effort to promote Ayers, it's not clear she felt any backlash from her father.

Kushner's record thus far in the White House has been dismal. His most notable accomplishment has been forging a close bond with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — a move that now looks foolhardy, corrupt and amoral after the revelations of the crown prince's role in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Kushner's role in prison reform, which he spoke about in his appearance with Hannity, may soon be the one bright spot on an otherwise dismal record.

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Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

'I would charge that case today': Former federal prosecutor explains why Trump's legal jeopardy is greater than ever

16 hours 28 minutes ago
var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1098684'; Click here for reuse options! Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Goldman thinks today's revelations are seriously bad news for Trump.

On Wednesday, the dust had barely settled from the news that President Donald Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for his illegal scheme to pay off porn actress Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about their affair during the election, when prosecutors with the Southern District of New York announced they had secured a non-prosecution agreement with American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, which allegedly helped Trump facilitate payments to a second woman, Playboy Playmate Karen MacDougal.

Taken together, all of this looks very bad for the president, and appears to implicate him in serious crimes. And Daniel Goldman, a former assistant U.S. attorney and legal analyst, laid out just how bad on MSNBC's "The Beat."

"And when you add up Cohen's testimony, as we know from what he said in court, the recording between Trump and Michael Cohen, and now David Pecker and AMI's cooperation?" said Goldman. "I would charge that case today."

Goldman broke down why the addition of AMI's cooperation is such a big deal: because it establishes that Trump directing these illegal payments was a pattern.

"Michael Cohen handled the Stormy Daniels payment," said Goldman. "AMI handled the Karen MacDougal payment. When you have both people saying that it was to influence the election, and that they knew that and that they coordinated with the campaign, that gets you very far."

Watch below:

"I would charge that case today"

Former Prosecutor @danielsgoldman on Trump's legal exposure "when you add up Cohen's testimony", the Trump-Cohen tape and cooperation of David Pecker/AMI: pic.twitter.com/XgSvs5XiQ4

— TheBeat w/Ari Melber (@TheBeatWithAri) December 12, 2018 var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2018 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1098684'; Click here for reuse options!  Related Stories
Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

This GOP congressman-elect just played into the worst anti-vaccine conspiracy theories — and he's not the only one

18 hours 14 minutes ago
var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1098682'; Click here for reuse options! Former physician Mark Green plans to use his congressional office to promote antivax conspiracy theories.

This week, the Tennessean reported that Mark Green, a physician and state senator who was just elected to Tennessee's 7th Congressional District, told a crowd of constituents at a town hall meeting that he believes there is a link between childhood vaccines and autism — and that he plans to get the proof he thinks is being hidden by the Centers for Disease Control.

The statement was prompted by a question from a mother of a young person on the spectrum who was concerned about possible cuts to Medicaid.

"Let me say this about autism," said Green said. "I have committed to people in my community, up in Montgomery County, to stand on the CDC's desk and get the real data on vaccines. Because there is some concern that the rise in autism is the result of the preservatives that are in our vaccines ... As a physician, I can make that argument and I can look at it academically and make the argument against the CDC, if they really want to engage me on it." He added that he believes vaccine safety data from the CDC has been "fraudulently managed."

Green later tried to hedge, saying that he "would encourage families to get vaccinated at this time." But, he added, "There appears to be some evidence that as vaccine numbers increase, rates of autism increase. We need better research, and we need it fast."

Conspiracy theories about a link between autism and vaccines have been floating around for years, possibly due in part to the fact that the average age of autism diagnosis overlaps with the childhood vaccine schedule. There is no link between vaccines and autism — research shows that autism develops in utero, and the mercury-based "preservatives" in vaccines that Green is talking about were removed from pediatric vaccines between 1999 and 2001. Some people try to explain away the lack of scientific evidence by suggesting there is a massive cover-up of vaccine safety data engineered by the CDC — although how a single government agency would be able to keep thousands of independent medical researchers quiet, and why they would want to do such a thing, is left to the imagination.

"Antivax" dogma exists on both sides of the political aisle and has famously thrived in rich, white suburban areas. But some of the biggest voices in politics peddling vaccine hysteria lately have been Republicans, the most notable being President Donald Trump himself.

The fact that Green, a trained medical doctor, would be lending his professional credibility to a debunked myth that has scared parents into putting children at risk for life-threatening diseases like measles and pertussis is reprehensible. Worse, he is effectively insinuating to his future constituent that her autistic child is somehow damaged or injured, an ableist and stigmatizing notion that overlooks the fact that autism is not a disease and that many people on the spectrum don't want to be "cured," but to live independently and with pride. And Green's fixation on vaccines does nothing to address the woman's actual concern that Medicaid will be cut — something that Green's party has repeatedly tried to do.

If Green, as a physician, is unable to tell people things that are in the interest of their health, it raises serious questions of his fitness to serve in Congress.

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Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

'Repellent and toxic': Michael Cohen's friend details how Trump's administration and brand have become radioactive

18 hours 37 minutes ago
var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1098683'; Click here for reuse options! "He can't even get people on the D-list to come and work for him."

Donny Deutsch, an advertising executive and long-time friend of Michael Cohen, noted in a panel discussion on MSNBC Wednesday how President Donald Trump's deep unpopularity and beleaguered status has been devastating to both his administration's ability to attract top-level staff and his business's brand.

Those who have left the administration will have "toxic Trump syndrome" for their entire lives, Deutsch argued.

"In Trump's '$10 billion of net worth' statement, he put in there $3 billion of worth just on the name," he said. "And the irony is that the very thing he's traded on ... is now repellent. Repellent to the point it's being taken off buildings. Repellent to the point if he walked into restaurants in 65 percent of this country, people would stand up and boo."

He even reported that there's a story of a child in Delaware who was bullied so much at school for having the last name "Trump" that he had it legally changed.

Karine Jean-Pierre, a senior advisor at MoveOn.org, pointed out that in most administrations, members of the party a desperate to have a seat at the table — but not under Trump.

"He can't even get people on the D-list to come and work for him," she said.

Watch the clip below:

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Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Thorns in the president’s side: Here are 5 House Democrats who could make life miserable for Trump

19 hours 8 minutes ago
var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1098681'; Click here for reuse options! It's been a long time coming.

President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence received a big dose of reality on Tuesday, Dec. 11, when they met face-to-face with two of the leading Democrats on Capitol Hill: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. In 2019, Schumer will still be part of the minority party in the Senate, where Republicans achieved a net gain of two seats in the 2018 midterms. But when Trump spoke to Pelosi in the Oval Office, it was obvious that his days of enjoying one-party rule on Capitol Hill will soon be coming to an end. Democrats enjoyed a net gain of 40 seats in the midterms, and Pelosi made it clear that the Democratic House majority won’t be rubber-stamping legislation that Trump favors — for example, a costly wall stretching from California to Texas along the U.S./Mexico border.

Pelosi, who appears likely to become House speaker in 2019, sounded like she was ready for battle as she sat alongside Trump, Pence and Schumer in the Oval Office. But Pelosi is hardly the only Democrat in the House who is getting ready to make life difficult for the president next year.

Here are five Democrats who stand to be major thorns in President Trump’s side in 2019.

1. Rep. Maxine Waters

Rep. Maxine Waters, who has been nominated to head the House Committee on Financial Services, knows that she’s doing her job well whenever Trump insults her on Twitter—the more the president uses Twitter to demonize the 80-year-old California congresswoman, the more obvious it is how much she’s getting to him. And Waters, who will be an even bigger thorn in Trump’s side in 2019, has been paying very close attention to what Special Counsel Robert Mueller has to say about Deutsche Bank and its ties to Russian oligarchs and Trump associates. On Dec. 1, Waters sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to request information on Deutsche Bank. And Waters will no doubt be taking an even closer look at Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank after the new Democratic House takes over next month.

2. Rep. Adam Schiff

In 2019, Rep. Adam Schiff of California will serve as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee—and when he appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Dec. 11, the California Democrat made it clear that Mueller’s probe isn’t the only Trump-related matter he will have on his mind next week. Schiff asserted that the Trump Administration’s policies on North Korea and Saudi Arabia will also be areas to investigate—and that will include the Oct. 2 killing of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

Schiff explained, “We are going to be doing deep dives into Saudi Arabia and North Korea. Not just about the Khashoggi murder, but about our reliance on Saudi Arabia, the stability of Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia’s role in Yemen and the peace process.”

3. Rep.Hakeem Jeffries

When Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York appeared on MSNBC’s “Hardball” on December 10, he asserted that Trump “has conducted himself like an organized crime boss” and applauded Mueller’s investigation. Jeffries didn’t rule out the possibility of impeachment at some point, but he stressed that for now, “the right thing to do is to let Bob Mueller be Bob Mueller. Let the Southern District of New York, professional prosecutors led by Republican appointees, complete their work before we as Democrats in the House decide how best to proceed.”

4. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings

In January, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings will be taking over as chairman of the House Oversight Committee. And the Maryland congressman and Baltimore native will have many investigative options, from Mueller-related matters to the high cost of prescription drugs. In 2017, Cummings expressed a desire to work with Trump in a bipartisan way, but Trump has expressed nothing but contempt for the House’s Democratic minority—and the makeup of the House will change dramatically when Republicans become the House’s minority party and Democrats outnumber them by 40 seats.

5. Rep. Nancy Pelosi

At this point, it appears likely that Pelosi will be the one replacing Republican Paul Ryan as House speaker. But whatever happens, Pelosi will remain a prominent figure in the House in 2019—and one of the areas in which she hasn’t been backing down is health care. The chances of Republicans being able to overturn the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare, via Congress in 2019 or 2020 ended when Democrats recaptured the House. Any anti-ACA bills that are passed in the Senate under McConnell’s direction won’t get far in the Democrat-controlled House.

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Alex Henderson, AlterNet

‘The people would revolt’: Here are 5 key takeaways from Trump’s latest claim of 'presidential harassment'

20 hours 24 minutes ago
var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1098678'; Click here for reuse options! “It’s hard to impeach somebody who hasn’t done anything wrong and who’s created the greatest economy in the history of our country,” Trump told Reuters

As special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation moves along and a new Democratic majority gets ready to take over the House of Representatives in January, the word “impeachment” often comes up in political conservations. 

Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler, incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has asserted that if Michael Cohen (confessed felon and Trump’s former personal attorney) made hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal on direct orders from Trump in 2016, it would be an “impeachable offense.” Trump, however, has denied having extramarital affairs with either Daniels or McDougal and maintained that Cohen was acting independently—not on orders from him—if he made any hush money payments two years ago. And when Reuters reporters asked the president about the possibility of impeachment during an oval office interview on December 11, Trump responded that “the people would revolt” if he were impeached. He additionally claimed he would not work with Democrats if they continue to support the speccial counsel investigation and are “going to do presidential harassment.” 

Trump’s “people would revolt” comment indicates that he continues to exaggerate his overall popularity, but at the same time, impeachment proceedings against the president could fire up his hardcore base—even if a lot more bombshells come from Mueller’s probe. 

Here are five takeaways from Trump’s “the people would revolt” comment.

1. Trump is in denial about his low approval ratings

More than a month after the 2018 midterms, Trump’s overall approval is weak: on December 9, he enjoyed 40% approval in Gallup’s tracking poll. In other words, six out of ten Americans disapprove of his performance as president. That 40% is better than President George W. Bush after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when Bush’s approval in the Gallup tracking poll fell to 31%. But it’s hardly stellar. Trump’s approval, according to Gallup, has fluctuated between 35% and 45% since he took office in January 2017. Trump remains an incredibly divisive figure—still popular in white rural America, but wildly unpopular in urban and suburban America.

2. Elections have consequences, including the 2018 midterms

If the 2018 midterms were a referendum on Trump’s job performance—and of course, they were—he was decisively rejected in urban and suburban areas of the U.S. but is still popular among his hardcore base, which tends to be white, older and rural. Republicans increased their majority in the Senate by two seats thanks to heavy white rural turnout, but in the House, Democrats enjoyed a net gain of 40 seats. Elections have consequences, and one of the consequences of the 2018 midterms will be a state of gridlock in Washington, DC in 2019. Democrats will have all kinds of investigative and subpoena powers in the House, but legislatively, Trump still has a fierce, bitterly partisan ally in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

3. Impeachment is still a steep hill for Democrats to climb—especially in the Senate

It remains to be seen what other bombshells will come from Mueller’s probe. Given the special counsel’s tendency to reveal as little information as possible and how redacted the sentencing memos on Paul Manafort (Trump’s former campaign manager) and Michael Cohen were when released on December 7, it’s quite possible that the best is yet to come. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has, so far, been wary of impeachment, stressing that Democrats need to wait until Mueller delivers his final report. But whatever Mueller’s investigation reveals in the weeks ahead, impeachment would be a steep climb for Democrats—especially in the Senate.

4. Impeachment would fire up Trump’s hardcore rural base

In the Senate, the word “bipartisan” has seldom been in McConnell’s vocabulary. McConnell has consistently favored a rally-the-base approach, and the far-right GOP base would “revolt”—to use Trump’s word—if the president were impeached. If enough Democrats voted to impeach Trump in the House, an impeachment trial in the Senate would follow—and the 2019 edition of the Senate will be even more Republican than the 2018 edition. Not one president in U.S. history has been removed from office via the impeachment process; three faced articles of impeachment in the House (Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson), but not one of them was convicted in a Senate trial. 

In August 1974, Nixon resigned from office before a Senate trial could come about. The 1974 Senate, both Democrats and Republicans, probably would have convicted Nixon, but today’s Republicans are much more extreme and way more partisan.

5. Impeachment or not, Trump will face countless investigations in 2019

In the 2018 midterms, Americans voted to replace a GOP-controlled House that is generally hostile to Mueller’s probe with a Democrat-controlled House that will be much more favorable to it—Robert Mueller is one Republican who is very popular among Democrats. And that Democratic House majority will no doubt be launching all kinds of Trump-related investigations in 2019, examining everything from the president’s tax returns to countless matters pertaining to Mueller’s investigation. Even if House Democrats don’t vote to impeach Trump, their investigations, committees and subpoenas will be a never-ending headache for the president in 2019 and 2020.   

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Alex Henderson, AlterNet

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fires back at Kellyanne Conway after the White House aide said she 'doesn’t seem to know much about anything'

20 hours 26 minutes ago
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Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has been a frequent target of right-wing tirades, but she has shown that she does not let the attacks diminish her stature. In fact, she seems to capitalize on the vitriol, using the disproportionate attention she receives from Republicans as a platform to promote her views and her own political stardom.

The most recent attack against her came from one of President Donald Trump's most prominent media trolls, Kellyanne Conway.

On Tuesday, Conway lashed out at Ocasio-Cortez and called her a “29-year-old congresswoman who doesn’t seem to know much about anything.” This broadside came in response to the incoming representative's demand for outgoing White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to apologize to Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), whom he once egregiously and falsely insulted on behalf of Trump.

Ocasio-Cortez said Kelly demonstrated "cowardice."

“For her to even use a slur against him yesterday — and I won’t repeat her name or the slur — but let me stand up for Gen. John Kelly,” Conway said Tuesday on Fox News. “He’s done a magnificent job for this country for almost 50 years, and that includes here at the White House as our chief of staff for about a year and a half.”

But on Wednesday, the Democrat hit back.

"Kellyanne Conway has been engaged in a War on Facts since Inauguration Day," Ocasio-Cortez said in a tweet. "Leveraging those who belittle my capacity is exactly how I defeated a multi-generation, multi-million $ political machine. GOP is even weaker bc their bias has no self-control."

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Cody Fenwick, AlterNet
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