Conflicts, and Constitutional Crisis

Given the events of this week so far, it would not be considered too much of a stretch to say that our Nation is in the middle of a constitutional crisis.

Rep. Devin Nunes, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, basically ran interference for the White House by personally briefing President Trump on some incidental pickup of some of the president’s communications–something which was pretty much well-known, not illegal, and totally unrelated to what the president tweeted about, the horribly false claim that Barack Obama personally ordered surveillance on him.

As CNN reports,

House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes set off a stunning new political controversy Wednesday by revealing that communications of President Donald Trump and associates may have been picked up after the election by intelligence agencies conducting surveillance of foreign targets.

Nunes hurried to the White House to personally brief Trump on the revelations, after talking to the press but without sharing the information with Democrats. His Democratic counterpart on the committee — Rep. Adam Schiff of California — warned that his colleague had cast a “profound cloud” over their effort to investigate Russian attempts to interfere in the election.
A Republican source with knowledge of the situation claimed the information that Nunes talked about was from the intelligence community and not the White House. The source said Nunes was “steaming” about what he read.
This same report also states that Nunes went rogue, not only refusing to meet with Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, regarding his findings, but did so against the advice of fellow Republicans, creating a crisis of credibility which now merits the use of an independent investigation.
However, even that seems to be an impossibility, as the New York Times reports:

For an independent commission to be created, legislation must be approved by both houses of Congress and signed by the president.

Congress can override a presidential veto. But, so far, Republicans who control the House and Senate have said they see no reason for such a body to be created when an investigation can be handled by the intelligence committees. Democrats have privately said that to pressure Republicans into creating such a commission likely would take some type of significant disclosure — like publicly released evidence of direct collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign.

Trump certainly won’t do anything to end his own presidency; Rep. Schiff’s findings and James Comey’s announcement of the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s possible collusion with the Russian government may just do that:

The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN.

This is partly what FBI Director James Comey was referring to when he made a bombshell announcement Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, according to one source.
The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings, according to those U.S. officials. The information is raising the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place, though officials cautioned that the information was not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing.
In his statement on Monday Comey said the FBI began looking into possible coordination between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives because the bureau had gathered “a credible allegation of wrongdoing or reasonable basis to believe an American may be acting as an agent of a foreign power.”
The consequences of this should also fall back on Rep. Nunes, who basically obstructed justice by what he did. He should resign his post, and if he doesn’t do so, Paul Ryan must remove him from his position.
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How much of a hurry is the Right to throw twenty-four MILLION people off their health insurance?
Enough to try and ram Trumpcare through the House with not nearly enough votes to pass it through to the Senate:

If this holds up, this could be a huge defeat for the Trump administration.

May there be many more.

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Lies, Damned Lies, and “Other People’s Babies”

What, exactly, is the value of the truth?

If a lie is told often enough to the right ear, it is nearly always believed as fact, especially if it serves to perpetuate the support of who told the lie, and confirms the bias against the subject of the lie. And as has been proven countless times in the last fifty-plus days, this administration has proven that all it needs is to simply air whatever it wants–especially if it’s untrue–and people will believe it as fact.

We are currently living in the beginning stages of an era in which facts and logic are being rendered moot. Where easily refutable lies are fervently believed as an “alternative” version of the truth by those still elated to have a President Trump in the Oval Office, eager to believe and trust whatever they believe the “truth” to be. Where conservative plagiarism–the stealing of another’s writings and claiming it as their own–is excused and derided as a “hit job” by the “mainstream media.”

With baseless accusations of his predecessor wiretapping Trump Tower, and in attempting to rush through a soul-crushing replacement for the Affordable Care Act past the Congressional Budget Office, the Right has proven that only their “truth” matters, and they will pursue its realization to the detriment of the American people.

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent outlines several points of the Trump administration’s strategy against the CBO today:

The CBO was created a half-century ago as a neutral, objective agency to assist Congress in empirically-based, independent governing, by giving it data and technical advice that is not tainted by executive branch political considerations. The point is not that the CBO’s word is gospel. It can and does get things wrong. But as Jonathan Cohn explains, while its projections about the Affordable Care Act were hardly perfect, it got much of the big story right, and its forecasts are as good as or better than anybody else’s. White House aides are not exercising merely healthy skepticism about the CBO’s findings. Rather, they are saying they won’t accept those findings as legitimate, if they are politically inconvenient — and they are signaling this in advance. There is every reason to believe that many Republicans in Congress will take their cues from this and echo them.

By itself, this might not be all that outlandish — there is a long history of such stuff — but it needs to be placed in the larger context. There is Conway’s off-the-wall depiction above of the purpose of congressional investigations. Meanwhile, when Trump got called out for the lie that he won the popular vote but for millions who voted illegally, the White House threatened an investigation to prove it true, using the vow of probes as a tool to obfuscate efforts to hold him accountable. On Friday, Sean Spicer greeted the good February jobs report by claiming that the numbers “may have been phony in the past” — when they reflected job growth during the Obama presidency that Trump derided as fictional — but now they’re “very real.” Government data is real only when Trump says it is. Everyone had a good laugh over this, but at the risk of being very earnest, government data is supposed to inform policymaking.

 

This is a clear affront against governance in good faith, as well as an institution that would protect the country from bad governance. The Right knows their version of healthcare reform is a massive giveaway to the insurance companies, as well as yet another expensive concentration of wealth to the rich.

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Here’s a nice reminder why Kellyanne Conway got banned from MSNBC. From The Washington Post:

Kellyanne Conway was doing okay. She’d effectively neutralized the bubbling outcry over comments she made to the Bergen Record, in which she defended President Trump’s evidence-free claims of wiretapping by noting that various household devices could be used to surveil a target. “You can surveil people through their phones, through their — certainly through their television sets, any number of different ways. And microwaves that turn into cameras, et cetera,” she’d said, comments that were more about Team Trump’s long-standing use of isolated anecdotes to rebut broad trends than they were about Conway auditioning for a role in a James Bond film.

So when Chris Cuomo brought the whole thing up on CNN’s “New Day,” she effectively repeated the dismissal she had given to ABC News earlier: She was talking generally about how spying could take place, not making specific allegations.

On CNN, though, her phrasing was a bit more fraught. “I’m not Inspector Gadget,” she said. “I don’t believe people are using the microwave to spy on the Trump campaign.”

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Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) is a horrible, horrible man.

This is an especially sickening statement, given that this is the man who said undocumented immigrants had “calves the size of cantaloupes” from hauling marijuana on their backs. King is quite possibly the most overt racist in the Legislative Branch, but in this period of time, where a man could run on a clear platform of hatred and fear of anything not white, male or Christian, King just can’t help to feel emboldened to be exactly who he is.

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I hope everyone in the NYC area is getting prepared for a serious snow tonight. According to most reports, we are to expect anywhere from 12-18 inches of snow. Perhaps even more, depending on what this incoming nor’easter does. If you haven’t gotten your supplies for this late winter blizzard, you might want to pick up a few things tonight.

Just a quick public service announcement.