The Watering Hole, Monday, February 20th, 2017: ICYMI

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A few articles from the past week:

I noticed something in one of Raw Story’s articles on Stephen Miller, and had to look into it:

“Though he denies it, Miller is believed to have written a significant portion of the travel ban, with some help from Steve Bannon and congressional aides sworn to contractual secrecy.[emphasis mine]

The Daily Mail article linked to in the above excerpt had more:

“Senior House Judiciary Committee staffers helped produce President Donald Trump’s controversial immigration ban, even as top lawmakers and cabinet heads were left in the dark.

The aides were required to sign nondisclosure agreements as they labored in secret to help draft the ban, Politico reported.

Trump’s transition brought in the Hill aides during the transition, while it was still rushing to staff the administration.”

And the Politico story had even more:

“The work of the committee aides began during the transition period after the election and before Donald Trump was sworn in. The staffers signed nondisclosure agreements, according to two sources familiar with the matter. Trump’s transition operation forced its staff to sign these agreements, but it would be unusual to extend that requirement to congressional employees.”

Now, wait a minute – since when do the president-elect’s staffers and congressional aides sign non-disclosure-agreements?  Aren’t any of them subjected to any vetting process, any background check, in order to work for the president-elect, or for congresspersons and congressional committees?  These are all government public servants, not trump’s TV employees!

I honestly don’t know anything about the legalities of this.  Both the Daily Mail and Politico articles are from the end of January, but I don’t remember hearing about this then. Considering that the articles also state that the congressional aides’ ‘bosses’, such as both the House and the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairmen, were not consulted, I’m a little surprised by that.  Am I just a suspicious cynical alarmist, or is this secretive ‘reacharound’ to bypass normal procedural channels just one more example of trump’s delusional version of presidential power, one that just slipped by amidst the hundreds of other trump delusions?

(sigh)  However…

Maybe there’s hope that there may be a REAL investigation into the trump-Russia cabal. From the Raw Story article:

[T]he Senate Intelligence Committee has ordered more than a dozen individuals and agencies to preserve records related to Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.

According to the Associated Press, a congressional aide confirmed that the committee had sent formal requests that all materials related to Russian meddling be preserved.

The AP notes that the letters were a bi-partisan affair with both the panel’s chairmen, Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and vice chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) signing on.

The Friday letters come on the heels of a closed door meeting with FBI Director James Comey who spent nearly three hours answering questions Friday afternoon in a secure room in the Senate basement used for classified briefings.”

Finally, some humor amidst the destruction of our world as we know it: if you didn’t catch John Oliver last night, here’s Raw Story’s thread covering it. Enjoy.

This is our Open Thread – say anything.

The Weekend Watering Hole, December 10th/11th, 2016: Good-ish? News

To start this weekend off, here’s a few stories that I found a bit heartening. Or perhaps I should say ‘less disheartening than most news.’

First, a story by Jen Hayden from Thursday’s Daily Kos says that General Barry McCaffrey no longer supports Trump’s choice for national security advisor. Quite the opposite, in fact. An excerpt:

General Barry McCaffrey tells NBC News that he was initially supportive of Donald Trump’s decision to name Lt. General Michael Flynn as his national security advisor. But, a closer look at Flynn’s social media use shows that he sent out at least 16 different fake (propaganda) news stories via social media and General McCaffrey pulled no punches, bluntly calling the tweets and stories “demented.”

The Trump transition team is also rightly getting criticism for allowing Lt. General Flynn’s son, Michael G. Flynn, to not only take part in the transition team, but to seek out security clearance for him when his own social media has shown him to be prolifically disseminating utterly false and outrageous politically motivated news. (You can watch a smarmy Mike Pence evade Jake Tapper’s pointed questions about Flynn, Jr.’s security clearance six different times by clicking here.) One of those fake stories prompted a man to walk into a pizza place and fire his high-powered gun to personally “investigate” the child sex trafficking ring run by Hillary Clinton that Flynn was tweeting about to his followers. Which, of course, wasn’t happening.

General Barry McCaffrey went on to say that “we need to aggressively examine what was going on” with Lt. General Michael Flynn and his son.

Next, Trump’s “Ego Trip Tour” brings him to Maryland, and he’s attending today’s iconic Army-Navy football game in Annapolis,  He will also be visiting Baltimore, and the Baltimore City Council made it clear that they are not exactly laying out the “Welcome” mat for him.  According to the Baltimore Sun:

In its first official act Thursday, the new Baltimore City Council voted unanimously to condemn statements made by Donald J. Trump, days before the president-elect is expected to visit the city.

The resolution formally opposed Trump’s “divisive and scapegoating rhetoric, rooted in hate and prejudice,” a measure political scientists say flies in the face of new Mayor Catherine E. Pugh‘s goal of persuading the next president to funnel federal investment to the cash-strapped city.

Some Baltimore officials think that the City Council’s resolution will work against efforts by Mayor Pugh to wheedle funds out of Trump, and believe it was a stupid – one said “boneheaded” – thing to do. I strongly disagree: I want to see more cities like this stand up for character values like ethics, integrity, civil rights, and compassion. (According to the article, San Francisco is the only other city to put out a message like this against ‘Trumpland.’) I agree with this last part of the Sun article:

Veteran Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, of North Baltimore, said the action sets a tone for the new council and sends a signal to residents.
“I am very proud that we are one of the very first city councils in the United States of America to push back and say, ‘Time for respect, again, in America,'” Clarke said. The resolution is “a great way to start off this new term of office in that manner by pushing back, ‘Ain’t gonna do it that way. We’ll do it our way: respect, justice, fairness, balance.'”

And finally: FINALLY, President Obama is ordering an investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Of course, while the Washington Post “Breaking News Alert” that I received said “Obama Orders Review of Russian Hacking During Presidential Campaign”, obviously various investigations and studies had been going on for several months.  Just one brief excerpt (but you really should read the entire article, there’s lots more):

“The CIA shared its latest assessment with key senators in a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill last week, in which agency officials cited a growing body of intelligence from multiple sources. Agency briefers told the senators it was now “quite clear” that electing Trump was Russia’s goal, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.”

Although the Obama Administration and several Senators and Congressmen from both parties had some of these reports by “mid-September”, according to the Washington Post article, they had trepidations about announcing it publicly and/or officially ordering an investigation so close to the Election. IMHO, their concerns over the likelihood of being accused of using an investigation as a political ploy on behalf of the Clinton campaign should have been swept aside by the undeniable fact that ANY foreign country, and especially one with whom we have historically had a tenuous and cautious relationship, actively worked to influence the United States Presidential Election. In addition, if they thought that the Trumplanders would have been really pissed off if they brought this out BEFORE the election, didn’t any of them realize how much worse the “deplorables” would react AFTER their Fuhrer won the election? But at least now the Russian elephant in the room is getting official attention, and that’s a good thing, regardless of the timing. This Washington Post article discusses some of the GOP reaction, as well as reaction (more idiotic conspiracy-theory BS) from Trump and his ilk.  Trump can deny it all he wants, but all of the research so far shows that Russia put a ‘YUGE’ thumb on the election scale for Trump

I realize that these little “good news” tidbits are set in the context of the new, horror/sci-fi reality of an upcoming Trump presidency, at least they’re more positive than negative. And right now, that’s all that I find I can hope for.

This is our Open Thread – what’s on your minds?