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Updated: 6 weeks 5 days ago

Trump campaign data team reached out to Julian Assange in effort to team up against Hillary

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 16:23

During the 2016 campaign, Julian Assange and Wikileaks acted to distribute information stolen from servers in the United States by Russian agents. 

During the 2016 campaign, Alexander Nix and Cambridge Analytica not only provided data to the Trump campaign, but may have helped Russian agents use propaganda to target voters in critical areas.

So it comes as little surprise that Donald Trump’s favorite data firm made an effort to hook up with Donald Trump’s favorite source of stolen emails.

Nix, who heads Cambridge Analytica, told a third party that he reached out to Assange about his firm somehow helping the WikiLeaks editor release Clinton’s missing emails, according to two sources familiar with a congressional investigation into interactions between Trump associates and the Kremlin. Those sources also relayed that, according to Nix’s email, Assange told the Cambridge Analytica CEO that he didn’t want his help, and preferred to do the work on his own.

While this offers a new connection between Trump’s team and WikiLeaks, it’s not really necessary to look too hard to find such a link.

GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump on Monday praised WikiLeaks for publishing Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s hacked emails.

“I love WikiLeaks,” he told listeners during a campaign rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., prompting prolonged “Lock her up!” chants from his audience. “It’s amazing how nothing is secret today when you talk about the Internet.”

On more than one occasion, Trump walked the stage at a rally holding printouts from WikiLeaks, reading the emails that he already knew were stolen by illegal intrusion into Democratic servers.

Categories: Politics

The FCC will vote to roll back media ownership regulations wholesale in November

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 16:08

Reuters is reporting that Ajit Pai and his band of telecom shills who masquerade as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plan to get rid of landmark rules established in the 1970s in order to slow the consolidation of media outlets into the hands of a powerful few.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will vote at its November meeting to rollback landmark media ownership regulations that limit the ability of companies to own multiple TV stations and newspapers in the same market and remove other restrictions, Chairman Ajit Pai told a congressional panel Wednesday.

[...]

The FCC in 1975 banned cross-ownership of a newspaper and broadcast station in the same market, unless it granted a waiver, to ensure a diversity of opinions.

How do you create a world where fake news is not only presented as real news, but becomes the only news you can find? You figure out ways to do away with regulations that decentralize the control of information. You destroy the open internet. Companies like the white supremacist-leaning Sinclair Broadcasting must be thrilled with what their money has been able to buy them at the expense of a healthy democracy.

Categories: Politics

Kamala Harris: 'I will not vote for an end-of-year spending bill' unless Dreamers are protected

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 15:37

During a press conference in support of the bipartisan DREAM Act, California Sen. Kamala Harris said she’s prepared to not back a key spending bill if it doesn’t include a congressional fix protecting undocumented immigrant youth stripped of their Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections by the Trump administration:

"I will not vote for an end-of-year spending bill until we are clear about what we are going to do to protect and take care of our DACA young people in this country," Harris said. "Each day in the life of these young people is a very long time, and we've got to stop playing politics with their lives."

No other state stands to feel DACA’s rescission like California, where one-quarter of the nation’s 800,000 DACA recipients live, work, and go to school. And they’re afraid. Sen. Harris said she’s heard first-hand from these young immigrants, who approach her in public “to talk about their experience and their fears. It is often the case that they will then break down and sob almost uncontrollably because they are terrified.”

Categories: Politics

NAACP issues travel warning for black passengers flying on American Airlines

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 15:36

On Tuesday, NPR released the results from a survey it did of Americans and their experiences with discrimination. Though all racial groups said that they experience some form of discrimination (including whites, which is worth its own post), black Americans reported experiencing broad forms of discrimination—including interactions with police, trying to vote, and in renting/buying housing. While that in itself is not surprising, it is interesting to note that black people overwhelmingly believe that the racism they experience is because of the attitudes and beliefs of individuals they come into contact with and not necessarily attributed to systems and structures. 

That belief directly contradicts a new travel advisory issued by the NAACP this week, which cautions black people from traveling on American Airlines

“The NAACP for several months now has been monitoring a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines,” the press release said. “Booking and boarding flights on American Airlines could subject them to disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions.”

The statement cited four specific events in explaining its conclusion that the airline has a “corporate culture of racial insensitivity and possible racial bias.”

While it’s tempting to believe that racism solely rests in the hearts and minds of individuals and can be fixed through awareness and consciousness-raising, it doesn’t account for large structures and organizations which have institutionalized certain practices that marginalize or harm blacks and other people of color. These are well-established patterns that have been present throughout the history of our country and there’s no proof that laws or supposed progress have magically fixed them. As the NAACP points out, there are several incidents that demonstrate American Airlines’ possible hostility to blacks. And while the four that they cite may not sound like a lot to some people, there are likely countless other incidents that have occurred to demonstrate that the company has work to do to be more inclusive—and not just to black passengers. 

Categories: Politics

Midday open thread: The anniversary of Paul Wellstone's death and more

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 15:01
Cartoon by Matt Bors - Consoler-in-Chief
  • Sigh:
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  • Something you probably didn't expect to read today … disgusting:

Former President George H.W. Bush has apologized after actress Heather Lind accused him of sexually assaulting her during a screening of her AMC show. [...]

Lind wrote on Instagram Tuesday that Bush "sexually assaulted" her. She said he touched her “from behind from his wheelchair with his wife Barbara Bush by his side,” told her a “dirty joke,” and then touched her again.

Lind claimed that Barbara Bush “rolled her eyes” at Bush, “as if to say ‘not again.’”

Antoine “Fats” Domino, the iconic New Orleans singer-songwriter whose piano-playing sound and smiling face entertained generations of audiences around the world and introduced an unmistakable rock and roll-rhythm and blues sound to the world, died Wednesday. He was 89.

His daughter told WWL-TV anchor Eric Paulsen, a longtime friend, that Domino died peacefully at home surrounded by family.

The new U.S. ambassador to Canada says that when it comes to climate change she believes in "both sides of the science."

Kelly Craft, who took up her position Monday, told the CBC's Rosemary Barton she appreciated all of the scientific evidence on climate change.

"I think that both sides have their own results, from their studies, and I appreciate and I respect both sides of the science," Craft told Barton.

Hurricane Harvey has claimed another victim, about two months after making landfall in Texas.

A 31-year-old man died last week after being diagnosed with a rare flesh-eating bacterial infection known as necrotizing fasciitis, the Galveston County Health District announced Monday.

The man has been identified as Josue Zurita, according to the Houston Chronicle, and he was helping repair several homes damaged by flooding from Harvey.

  • Robert Guillaume died:

Robert Guillaume, who dreamed of being the first black tenor to sing at the Metropolitan Opera but settled for acting onstage and on television — and won Emmy Awards for playing the same character on two different ABC series — died on Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 89.

His wife, Donna Brown Guillaume, said the cause was complications of prostate cancer, which he had had for 25 years.

On today’s Kagro in the Morning show, we depend on Greg Dworkin for today’s top headlines. Jeff Flake says good thing, is still Jeff Flake. Armando follows up on the Whitefish contract story. One of Milo’s loons killed his own dad. Where was he radicalized? Sexual assault continues, everywhere.

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Categories: Politics

Trump delivers more doozies: 'My generals and my military' authorized the Niger mission, 'I didn't'

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 14:50
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Donald Trump gave a meandering impromptu interview to the press corps Wednesday in which he touched on issues ranging from the Niger mission he claimed he didn't authorize to his own superior intellectual capacities and how "extremely nice and extremely respectful" he was to the widow of slain soldier Sgt. La David Johnson.

Frankly, there was too much outlandishness to cover in one blog post, but let's hit some central points from the presser, which aired on MSNBC. First, Trump claimed complete ownership over the military yet said he didn't authorize the fateful Niger mission. Instead, he scapegoated his generals for the mission that resulted in the deaths of four American soldiers.

Asked by reporters whether he gave the go-ahead for the operation, Trump said: "No I didn’t. Not specifically.”

But just after that, Trump declared the very same generals as his own, not America's.

With that being said, my generals and my military, they have decision-making ability. As far as the incident that we're talking about, I've been seeing it just like you've been seeing it, I've been getting reports, they have to meet the enemy and they meet him tough and that's what happens.

Right. Well, thanks for that clarity. Not the first time Trump's thrown his generals under the bus.

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Moving on to Sgt. Johnson's grieving widow, Trump's still essentially calling her a liar (more here) and, somehow, he's really gotten a bad rap in the press.

Categories: Politics

Trump claims he was 'extremely respectful' to widow ... while basically calling her a liar

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 14:02

Donald Trump returned yet again to defend his conduct in his condolence call to Myeshia Johnson—and in so doing, call Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow a liar. “I can only say this: I was really nice to her,” Trump insisted, before going on to predictably undermine himself.

x

I respect her, I respect her family, I certainly respect La David. Who I by the way called La David right from the beginning. Just so you understand, they put a chart in front: “La David.” Says “La David Johnson.” So right from the beginning, there’s no hesitation, one of the great memories of all time, there was no hesitation.

I think she’s a fantastic woman, I was extremely nice to her, extremely respectful.

In short, “Everything she said about the conversation is false, but I think she’s fantastic.” Because Myeshia Johnson either said, or affirmed Rep. Frederica Wilson’s account, that Trump was disrespectful and specifically did not call Sgt. Johnson by name, referring to him instead as “your guy.”

Also, it’s a minor note, but Trump is claiming to have one of the great memories of all time (that seems to be what he’s saying, and not that the phone call was one of the great memories of all time, because he gestures at his head while he says it), while also saying that he had Sgt. Johnson’s name on a chart. His evidence that he has one of the great memories of all time is that he remembered a name long enough to read it on a chart and say it into the phone a split second later? We’re supposed to be impressed that he spoke the dead soldier’s name—if indeed he did, which the most believable people in this situation say he did not—because he had it on a chart in front of him?

And by the way, Trump has still not produced the proof he repeatedly claimed to have that Rep. Frederica Wilson was lying about his disrespect to Myeshia Johnson.

Categories: Politics

Faced with Flake's rally cry to save America, most Republicans say tax cuts are just too important

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 13:02

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Sure, GOP Sens. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker made some good points Tuesday about how Donald Trump is "debasing" our political discourse and the entire country in the process, but they're retiring from the Senate. Ask any Republican who plans on indefinitely clinging to his or her Senate seat, and they'll tell you Flake and Corker are totally off track because giving tax cuts to America's wealthiest is just too important to get sidetracked by the legal, ethical, moral, and existential questions surrounding Trump's presidency. Take Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, for one.

”I’m focused on getting stuff done,” Portman said in response to a question about the Flake/Corker rally cry. “This week it’s about opioids, tomorrow it’s opioids. Today it’s tax reform. That’s my job.”

How about protecting the American people from a maniac—is that in your job description?

Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, fighting for his political future, was even harsher than Portman, suggesting that Flake had no one but himself to thank for his weakened political position and that he couldn’t imagine what Corker thinks he’s accomplishing.

“We need to tackle tax reform and then get back to repealing and replacing Obamacare,” Wicker told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd Tuesday just after Flake had delivered his stirring indictment of Trump and his GOP enablers. What about that, Todd wondered, along with Corker’s criticisms?

“Jeff wrote a book, he didn't even tell his staff he was doing it. It was quite provocative,” Wicker said with a bit of chuckle, blaming Flake for his own predicament. “He obviously knew that this was going to be a bombshell.” And Corker?

“I do not see how this chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee thinks this exchange is helpful to American foreign policy,” Wicker responded.

By the way, breaking the GOP's strangehold on Congress starts with ending gerrymandering in the states. Please give $1 to each of these Daily Kos-endorsed Democrats running for the Virginia House, and click here to GOTV.

Categories: Politics

Republicans either don't know yet or are covering up what's in their big tax plan

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 12:29

Republicans are planning a big package of tax cuts, they keep telling us. But what’s going to be in it? Possibly changes to your 401(k) retirement plan, despite Donald Trump’s promise to leave those untouched. And, uh, well, beyond that, it’s kind of a mystery. Here’s the Washington Post on what House Ways and Means Committee Chair Kevin Brady is saying—or what he isn’t saying:

For example, he said he hasn’t decided what income levels would merit certain tax rates.

He said he hasn’t decided how many tax deductions to eliminate to partially offset the lower rates.

He said he hasn’t decided whether to impose a top tax rate for the wealthiest Americans.

He said he hasn’t decided whether the tax cuts would be retroactive to income earned in 2017.

He wouldn’t say how the tax bill would impact the type of taxes paid by hedge fund managers, even though Trump has promised to eliminate their special preferences.

Hasn’t decided, or doesn’t want us to know until the last minute when it’s too late to pressure our representatives to vote no?

He also said he couldn’t guarantee that every American would see their taxes go down because of the changes, but he could “guarantee that every American will be better off because of a simpler tax code that lowers those rates and improves their paychecks.”

That’s likely code for the usual Republican hocus pocus about how if they lower taxes on corporations, your pay will go up rather than CEO pay going up. But this non-guarantee is definitely something to remember the next time the White House starts promising you $4,000.

Categories: Politics

Border Patrol agents may be stalking a special needs child's hospital to detain her

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 12:29

For the second time since May, Border Patrol agents have reportedly skirted their own “sensitive locations” policy—which says that hospitals are generally off-limits, excluding “exigent circumstances”—to target yet another immigrant family seeking urgent medical care. This inhumanity will lead to even more devastating consequences, with families becoming too afraid to access medical care because of the deportation force:

A 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy who had gall bladder surgery at Driscoll Children’s Hospital is under threat of deportation after crossing a Customs and Border Protection checkpoint to get to Corpus Christi for the surgery.

The girl’s mother, Felipa Delacruz, told the Caller-Times on Tuesday she received a call from the Mexican Consulate about her daughter, Rosamaria Hernandez. She was told her child faces deportation or could be sent to a detention center after she is released from Driscoll Children's Hospital.  

Delacruz, who also lacks legal immigration status, said Tuesday federal agents are waiting outside her daughter's hospital room. Delacruz is in Laredo.

Delacruz's niece Aurora Cantu, who is a U.S. citizen, accompanied Rosamaria past the checkpoint. Delacruz said they were escorted by federal agents to Corpus Christi from there.

This past May, agents targeted undocumented parents rushing their sick 2-month-old boy to a hospital. Now in this latest incident, agents have turned their sights on a girl with special needs. Like the Sanchez family, Cantu and Rosamaria had to cross a checkpoint in order to reach a second medical facility. And yet again, agents appear to be violating their own policy by lingering like spiders to possibly detain a child “scheduled to have surgery after she had complications with kidney stones”:

When asked Tuesday to confirm if a federal immigration agency was on the hospital’s premises awaiting the child’s release, Driscoll Children’s Hospital spokesman Ben Castle said “that’s not something we would confirm,” citing patient confidentiality.

Notice they’re not denying it either. Remember that when congressional Republicans talk about increasing immigration enforcement with no oversight, we’re only getting more despicable actions like this. The only thing Rosamaria’s family should be worrying about is her getting better. Now they’re worried she’ll be torn from the country she’s lived in since she was three months old. Remember this the next time Donald Trump, John Kelly, Thomas Homan, and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III tell you they’re targeting only “bad hombres.”

Categories: Politics

CBO: Bipartisan Obamacare fix would reduce deficit

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 12:10

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Oh, hey. A healthcare bill has gotten a good report from the Congressional Budget Office—quite a novelty here in 2017. And look, it’s the bipartisan effort to stabilize the Obamacare markets!

A bipartisan deal to shore up ObamaCare's insurance markets would reduce the deficit by nearly $4 billion by 2027, according to a score released Wednesday by Congress's nonpartisan scorekeeper.

The bill, sponsored by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), would fund key ObamaCare insurer subsidies and give states more flexibility to change their ObamaCare programs.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said in its report Wednesday that the bill would not substantially impact the number of people with health insurance.

Saving nearly $4 billion over 10 years is not a huge amount by government standards, but it sounds pretty damn good when you consider that Donald Trump’s alternative, not funding cost sharing reductions, would increase the deficit by $194 billion.

Republicans opposing the Murray-Alexander plan as some kind of bailout for insurance companies, ball’s in your court.

Categories: Politics

After fighting for her right to an abortion, immigrant teen finally gets one this morning

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 11:50

Yesterday, the federal appeals court in Washington, DC, ruled that Jane Doe, a 17-year-old immigrant woman in federal custody, had the right to obtain an abortion. This ended a month-long battle with the Trump administration, who repeatedly attempted to block her from terminating her pregnancy. While in a detention center for unaccompanied minors, Doe sought and received a judge’s permission to have an abortion without parental consent. Because the administration felt it perfectly acceptable to make this decision for her, they filed appeal after appeal to delay the abortion. Yet, a state judge, a federal judge, a panel of appeal judges and the full appeals court all said the same thing—Jane Doe is entitled to have the abortion she seeks and it’s absolutely none of the government’s business.

While many of us were worried that the administration would appeal the most recent decision and try to take an appeal to the Supreme Court, it turns out that our worries will not be realized—Jane Doe had her abortion this morning.

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This is great news and is the justice that she absolutely deserved. It’s also still terrifying, considering the lengths that Trump’s appointees went to in order to try to force this woman into motherhood. From an email written by the head of Health and Human Services about the case, we know that the agency’s instructions were to try to prevent her from seeing her lawyers as well as to send her to spiritual and pro-life counseling to convince her not to abort. But the most compelling evidence comes from Jane’s own words:

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Categories: Politics

Texas children's insurance funding could run out soon thanks to hurricane and Republican Congress

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 11:00

It’s been 25 days since Republicans let funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program expire, endangering health coverage for nearly 9 million kids. States across the country are trying to figure out how long their existing funding will last and when they need to start notifying families that their kids are about to be uninsured. In Texas, nearly 400,000 children could be affected—and thanks to Hurricane Harvey, CHIP funds could run out sooner than expected:

It turns out that Hurricane Harvey — which slammed into the Coastal Bend and Houston area in late August — took more of a toll than realized, when federal officials waived enrollment fees and copays for impacted Children’s Health Insurance Program recipients in Texas.

That meant less money went into the program. [...]

“We estimate we’ll be covered till January or early February,” said Carrie Williams, a spokeswoman with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. “We’re closely monitoring congressional efforts to reauthorize the program and are hopeful that it will be extended prior to the exhaustion of our current allotment.”

The only people who can do something about that “hopeful that it will be extended” thing are congressional Republicans—Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell need to allow a CHIP funding bill to get votes in the House and Senate, without loading it up with poison pill amendments. Four hundred thousand kids in Texas and millions more across the country, as well as their entire families, are waiting.

Categories: Politics

Congress to investigate deal that awarded $300M contract to Trump donor

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 10:15

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Few things generate bipartisan agreement in Congress these days, but the idea that a two-man firm in Montana with absolutely no experience was hired to rebuild Puerto Rico’s electrical grid at a cost of $300 million, is enough to spur some communication across the aisles.

Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, senior Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said Congress “needs to understand why the Whitefish contract was awarded and whether other, more cost-effective options were available.”

A spokesman for Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, agreed that congressional review was needed. The resources panel oversees Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory.

Congress’ multi-year investigation into Whitewater may have turned up nothing, but the Whitefish deal already looks … extremely fishy. A firm whose biggest previous job was building less than five miles of electrical line in Arizona was given the mammoth task of taking on a shattered electrical system that stretches over 2,400 miles. To award the contract to Whitefish, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority ignored reciprocal agreements that could have brought in far more help far more quickly. It also happens that the firm selected has some very special friends.

Luis Vega-Ramos, member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, told The Daily Beast, “Whitefish’s most important expertise or assets seems to have been… having the U.S. secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke, as their former congressman and current ally and having the wisdom to retain the services of key people close to the governor [of Puerto Rico].”

With more than three-quarters of Puerto Rico still without power, with people’s lives literally on the line, the job of restoring the system has been handed over to a company that doesn’t even have an office

Categories: Politics

Republicans again face defections on a top priority. This time, tax cuts.

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 10:00

Republicans are once again struggling to get the votes they need to pass one of their own top priorities—in this case, tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. The House needs to pass the Senate’s budget resolution to allow Senate Republicans to use reconciliation to pass the tax cuts with 51 rather than 60 votes. But there’s a sticking point in the House: Republicans from higher-taxed states are worried about the elimination of a provision that currently allows people to deduct their state and local taxes from their federal taxes.

"I need to know what the endgame is going to look like if I'm going to vote on it," said Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J., a leader of the bloc of concerned Republicans. MacArthur attended a White House meeting on the issue Tuesday where he said he "didn't make the progress I had hoped for." [...]

Three other House Republicans also told The Washington Post Tuesday they had concerns about the state- and local-tax deduction, commonly referred to as "SALT," and could vote against the budget if they are not addressed. They cited language in the Senate budget that references "reducing federal deductions, such as the state and local tax deduction which disproportionally favors high-income individuals, to ensure relief for middle-income taxpayers."

"That language shouldn't have been added to the Senate budget," said Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y. "Unless I get more concrete information on a reasonable agreement, then I will be a no on Thursday."

While Republicans scramble to lockdown votes, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is looking past this bill to what a bipartisan tax bill might look like:

“If this bill fails, what we saw in health care in a small way, we could see in a bigger way and actually come up with some kind of bipartisan compromise,” he said. That compromise would have to include no tax breaks for the top 1 percent and deficit neutrality. If that happens, Schumer said, “there are a lot of Democrats who would be willing to reduce the corporate rate.”

This one could be close. It could be another Republican failure on one of their top priorities. But as we saw with health care, never underestimate their determination to hurt working people. Speaking of close votes, breaking the GOP's stranglehold on Congress starts with ending gerrymandering in the states.

Please give $1 to each of these Daily Kos-endorsed Democrats running for the Virginia House, and click here to GOTV.

Categories: Politics

Steele Dossier was funded first by Trump's GOP opponents then by Democrats—which we knew all along

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 09:00

On Tuesday, the Washington Post “broke” the story that sources connected to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic Party had taken over funding for Christopher Steele’s Trump–Russia compilation after Trump’s Republican opponents were knocked out of the race.

Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained Fusion GPS, a Washington firm, to conduct the research. …

Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, retained the company in April 2016 on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Before that agreement, Fusion GPS’s research into Trump was funded by an unknown Republican client during the GOP primary.

So, a lawyer with Clinton’s campaign hired Fusion GPS for opposition research—likely because they knew that Fusion had already been hired by at least one of Trump’s Republican opponents. Fusion, in turn, hired Steele’s firm. Only … this isn’t exactly breaking news. Here’s the Guardian story on the dossier from May.

Last year, a political intelligence firm in Washington, Fusion GPS, hired Steele to investigate Trump’s dealings with Russia. The DNC paid for the work after its initial funder, a wealthy Jeb Bush supporter, dropped out.

Which actually provides a bit more information on the newest revelations. But even that story is a latecomer. Here’s the first story about the Steele dossier from October 2016:

This was for a an opposition research project originally funded by a Republican client … before [Steele] was retained, the project’s financing switched to a client allied with Democrats.

That story hasn’t changed. Neither has the apparent accuracy of the dossier’s content.

Categories: Politics

Republicans gut protection against bank abuses in late-night vote with Pence as tie-breaker

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 08:44

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Mike Pence cast the deciding vote Tuesday night to allow big banks to screw consumers, as the Senate repealed a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rule making it easier for people to sue banks and credit card companies. The rule prevented financial institutions from forcing consumers into binding arbitration and blocking them from going to court. Instead, it opened up class-action suits as a way for people to join together and fight abuses.

Republicans didn’t like that so much, wailing about the enormous costs that would supposedly be racked up by frivolous lawsuits. You know, things like this:

For years, Wells Fargo used arbitration clauses to block lawsuits from customers who alleged that unauthorized accounts had been opened in their names. Ultimately, the bank estimated that as many as 3.5 million such accounts were opened.

The bank agreed to settle some class-actions suits, but not until the CFPB, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Los Angeles city attorney’s office fined the bank over those practices last year. Even in cases that the bank settled, it had argued that the plaintiffs could not sue because of arbitration clauses.

You may remember that Equifax was forced by public outcry to remove an arbitration clause from its agreement to provide free credit monitoring to people whose personal information it allowed to be stolen. That’s the kind of thing this CFPB rule was designed to address that so outraged Republicans.

The consumer bureau had determined that the effect on the entire financial system would be less than $1 billion a year. Cordray has noted that U.S. banks earned a record $171 billion in profits in 2016.

That’s what Republicans say is just too much money wasted on frivolous lawsuits against things like unauthorized bank accounts being opened in your name or your Social Security number being stolen.

Two Republicans—South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and Louisiana’s John Kennedy—voted no, forcing Republicans to bring in Pence. But note who voted the party line despite their criticisms of Donald Trump earlier in the day. That’s right, both Bob Corker and Jeff Flake.

Categories: Politics

Cheers and Jeers: Wednesday

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 08:16

Hispanic Federation Fund for Puerto Rico Relief Link

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From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE…

Today’s List of Things By Which White House Chief of Staff John Kelly Will be “Stunned, Stunned”:

Fidget spinners

Soups that eat like a meal

The earth is curved but the horizon is flat

Accidentally witnessing his boss getting his

morning application of skull latex

Detergent that softens hands while you do dishes

That Jeff Sessions doesn’t actually live in a tree

The physical exertion involved in doing the Hokey Pokey

Dogs playing poker

The infinity of pi

How the Good Doctor came up with the brilliant idea to remove that lady’s kidney to get at and take out her tumor

Ego is Star-Lord’s father

Wheels on the bus going ‘round and ‘round

The statue in Brussels of that naked kid taking a leak

His sacred wife burned his toast

Socks that get lost while doing laundry

All the wads of Sean Spicer gum under his desk

Tree rings

The size of Newt Gingrich’s head when you

really stop and look at it

Earlobe hairs

Fighting going on in the war room

He’s very sensitive, you know.

Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]

Categories: Politics

Morning Digest: Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake announces his retirement amid awful poll numbers

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 08:02

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

AZ-Sen: In a major surprise, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake announced on Tuesday that he would not seek re-election next year. In explaining his retirement, Flake professed his love for the Senate but, in a speech on the chamber's floor, decried the "coarseness" of politics in the era of Donald Trump and, without calling out Trump by name, criticized his "[r]eckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior." Ultimately, though, Flake's decision seems to have come down to the viability of his own political career. "The path that I would have to travel to get the Republican nomination is a path I'm not willing to take, and that I can't in good conscience take," he told the Arizona Republic.​

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​Flake's diagnosis of his own woes is not misplaced. Flake has long been one of Trump's most vocal critics in the GOP while at the same time serving as loyal vote for him in the Senate. This approach earned Trump's vocal ire and seemed to turn off almost everyone in Arizona, Democrats and Republicans alike: Polls had shown Flake badly losing the GOP primary to former state Sen. Kelli Ward, a badly underfunded fringe figure who herself had lost to Sen. John McCain 51-40 last year, and in trouble against Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema in the general election.

So what will Flake's abrupt departure mean for Arizona's Senate race? With Flake running, the GOP was on a path toward nominating Ward, a woman best known for hosting a town-hall meeting about "chemtrails," a bonkers conspiracy theory that holds that the vapor contrails produced by airplanes are actually mind-control chemicals. Several less, ah, exotic Republicans also hadn't previously ruled out bids of their own, but had they joined in while Flake was still in the race, they might have actually saved his hide by splitting the anti-incumbent vote. Of course, had Flake "survived" in this manner, it could have left him crippled for the general election—and inspired furious Trump supporters to simply stay home.

Now the GOP will hope a stronger alternative emerges, but can this as-yet-unnamed savior make it through even a Flake-less primary, or will the likes of Ward successfully be able to sabotage any such hopes? A, if not the, key reason Flake's approval rating tanked so hard with Republican voters is because of Trump's relentless attacks, so can any replacement avoid stoking Trump's wrath for an entire year? As CNN notes, Trump has now personally attacked one in five GOP senators. Anyone seeking to step into Flake's shoes might fare no better.

However the GOP sorts itself out of this mess, Democrats will stay on the offensive. Arizona, which voted for Trump by a slim 48-45 margin—the closest presidential result in the state in two decades—is one of just two states where Democrats have a good chance to pick up a Senate seat from the GOP, and Sinema is a top recruit. But no matter what happens here, Republicans have to be worried about what it means when a scandal-free, 54-year-old first-term senator decides to call it quits rather than face his party's base. Plenty of other incumbents might just feel the same way.

Categories: Politics

Cartoon: The Consoler-in-Chief

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 07:51

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Categories: Politics