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Hanoi Summit Failed Because Trump Refuses to Prep

Hanoi Summit Failed Because Trump Refuses to Prep
Trump hates to prepare and likes to negotiate from the gut. The Hanoi humiliation with Kim Jong Un was the direct result.
Samantha Vinograd
02.28.19 10:37 AM ET

Nothing about the Hanoi summit’s outcome is a surprise. The writing was on the wall, the president just refused to read it.

President Donald Trump’s failure to engage in the most basic preparatory work for this summit—and his longstanding penchant for putting personal convictions ahead of his experts’ opinions—meant that there was no way that he could have come out of this summit with a denuclearization deal.

I helped prep President Barack Obama for high-level meetings, and President Trump’s failure to engage in the first step of any presidential meeting prep was a strong indicator that this summit was doomed to fail.

Typically, summit prep begins with the president and his intelligence community agreeing on a baseline assessment of the state-of-play, in this case the status of North Korea’s nuclear program and Kim Jong Un’s intentions. The intelligence community’s assessment that North Korea will not denuclearize, the open-source analysis that Pyongyang is still proliferating weapons of mass destruction, and reporting that North Korea is taking extra steps to disburse its arsenal seemingly fell on deaf ears.

In January President Trump said that his intelligence community was wrong on North Korea and there’s reporting that he put more faith in Vladimir Putin’s North Korea analysis (which is never unbiased) underplaying North Korea’s missile threat than he did in the U.S. intelligence community’s analysis.

Without presidential agreement on a baseline assessment on North Korea’s program and Kim’s intentions, it was clear that President Trump couldn’t have been fully prepping with his own, home team. Absent an agreed upon assessment, there was no way to identify a realistic goal for the summit or a strategy to achieve it.


Posted by babylonsister | Fri Mar 1, 2019, 06:57 AM (22 replies)

Brian Williams Could Replace Chris Matthews on MSNBC: Report


Brian Williams Could Replace Chris Matthews on MSNBC: Report

According to a new report from Page Six, Brian Williams could be up for a big promotion at MSNBC in the near future. The former NBC Nightly News anchor, who was removed from that position following a scandal surrounding his exaggerated memories of experiencing combat in Iraq, has spent the past few years hosting 11th Hour with Brian Williams. In that late-night time slot, he consistently gets more viewers than both Fox News and CNN. That ratings success has led to new talk that Williams could end up replacing veteran host Chris Matthews in the 7 p.m. hour on MSNBC. This February, Matthews’ Hardball rated last in the coveted 25-54 news demo behind Fox and CNN. Along with Rachel Maddow, Williams is expected to lead the network’s 2020 coverage, as he did on Election Night in 2016 and 2018.
Posted by babylonsister | Fri Mar 1, 2019, 06:51 AM (5 replies)

Charles P. Pierce: The Cohen Hearing Was the Start of a Reconstruction of the American Republic


The Cohen Hearing Was the Start of a Reconstruction of the American Republic
Elijah Cummings made it plain in his closing statement: this was about reasserting democratic norms and institutions.
By Charles P. Pierce
Feb 28, 2019

Even though he's a patient man, Elijah Cummings has his limits. All day Wednesday, as Michael Cohen entertained the House Oversight Committee with tales of trouble and woe and payoffs to porn stars, the Republicans on the committee had made a meal of the fact that "this committee's first hearing" under Cummings's leadership featured "a guy who already has lied to Congress." This none-too-subtle attempt at defending a corrupt president* by delegitimizing the functions of the committee used up what was left of Cummings's forbearance.

Already, the hearings had gone briefly off the rails when Rep. Rashida Tlaib accused Rep. Mark Meadows of using an African-American woman who works for the administration as a "prop" to prove that the president* was not a racist. (Good luck with that one, chief.) Tlaib said that doing so was racist in and of itself. Meadows went up the wall, and Cummings had to make peace between one of his principal antagonists and one of the more promising rookies of the new Democratic majority, which obviously was not how he planned to end the day.

He decided to make a closing statement. He decided on eloquence.

I've sat here and listened to all of this and it's very painful. You made a lot of mistakes, Mr. Cohen, and you've admitted that. You know that one of the saddest part of this whole thing is that some innocent people are hurting, too, and that's your family...I don't know where you go from here...We are better than this. As a country, we are so much better than this...It sounds like you're crying out for a new normal, to get back to normal. It sounds to me like you want to make sure that our democracy stays intact. I'm hoping that the things you said today will help us to get back there.

I mean, come on, now. When you've got in the Washington Post, our president has made 8,713 false or misleading statement...It sounds like you got caught up in it and some kind of way...President called you a "rat." We're better than that...You know what hurt me? That picture of you leaving the courthouse and, I guess it was your daughter, had braces on. Man, that hurt me...

When we're dancing with the angels, the question will be asked, in 2019, what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact? Did we stand on the sidelines and do nothing? Did we play games, and I'm tired of these statements where, "Oh, this is the first hearing..." This is not the first hearing. The first hearing was in regard to prescription drugs. Remember? A lady sat there, and her daughter died because she couldn't get $333 a month in insulin. That was our first hearing. Second hearing, HR 1, voting rights. Corruption in government. Come on now. We can do more than one thing and we have got to get back to normal.

That's all the day was about, really. A reassertion of democratic forms and norms, institutions and prerogatives, and a reassertion that took place despite the best effort of the House minority to tamp it down. That was what the day was about. That is what the next election is going to be about. That's what the next five years are going to be about. The Second Reconstruction is underway.
Posted by babylonsister | Thu Feb 28, 2019, 05:56 PM (0 replies)

Trump is "impressed" that Cohen said "no collusion." But Cohen didn't say that.

Trump is “impressed” that Cohen said “no collusion.” But Cohen didn’t say that.
In Vietnam, the president responds to his former lawyer’s testimony by mischaracterizing it.
By Aaron Rupar@atrupar Feb 28, 2019, 10:50am EST

But Cohen did not say there was “no collusion.” What he said was that he does not “know of direct evidence that Mr. Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia,” but “I have my suspicions.”

During his opening statement, Cohen recalled an incident shortly before the June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower, in which Trump Jr. walked into his father’s office and told him, “The meeting is all set.”

“What struck me as I look back and thought about the exchange between Don Jr. and his father was ... that Don Jr. would never set up any meeting of significance alone, and certainly without checking with his father,” Cohen said. “I also knew that nothing went on in Trumpworld, especially the campaign, without Mr. Trump’s knowledge and approval. So I concluded that Don Jr. was referring to that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting about dirt on Hillary with the Russian representatives when he walked behind his dad’s desk that day, and that Mr. Trump knew that was the meeting Don Jr. was talking about.”


Posted by babylonsister | Thu Feb 28, 2019, 02:08 PM (4 replies)

Tlaib: 'We All Gasped' When Meadows Pointed Out Black Trump Employee

Posted on Thu, Feb 28th, 2019 by Leo Vidal
Tlaib: ‘We All Gasped’ When Meadows Pointed Out Black Trump Employee

Rep. Rashida Tlaib on Thursday said that she and other people in the House Oversight Committee hearing room “gasped” when Rep. Mark Meadows (R, NC) pointed to a black Trump administration official as evidence that Donald Trump is not racist.

““I think if we want to talk about race in this country, that’s not the way to do it,” says Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who accused Republican Rep. Mark Meadows of a “racist act” by using a black woman as a “prop” at the Cohen hearing”


The Michigan Democrat condemned Meadows’ actions as racist.

“I think all of us, I mean, even folks at home kind of gasped when that actually happened,” Tlaib (D-Mich.) said early Thursday morning on CNN. “I think if we want to talk about race in this country, that was not the way do it.”

During his explosive public testimony in front of the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday, Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen made many allegations against the president. He called his former boss a racist, and said that he repeatedly disparaged African Americans.

Republican Oversight Committee members spent most of their time during the hearing trying to discredit Cohen instead of inquiring further into allegations of Trump’s crimes.

Meadows introduced a black Department of Housing and Urban Development staffer, Lynne Patton, to rebut Cohen’s allegations of Trump’s racism. Meadows told Patton to stand up in front of the committee and then he spoke on her behalf.

Meadows was immediately criticized for using Patton as a “token” and lambasted for his ineffective attempt to prove that Trump is not a racist.


Posted by babylonsister | Thu Feb 28, 2019, 11:16 AM (17 replies)

Joe Conason: Why Republican Barbs Bounced Off Michael Cohen


Joe Conason
Why Republican Barbs Bounced Off Michael Cohen
February 28, 2019 8:50 am


The timeworn strategy of discrediting an associate to exonerate the accused is rarely effective, however, for a very simple reason routinely explained by federal prosecutors: Convicting a bad guy almost always requires the testimony of another bad guy, because nobody else has firsthand knowledge of the crimes in question. Just look up the trial of the late John Gotti, or the Senate hearings on organized-crime influence on labor unions — where the key witnesses had perpetrated crimes far worse than tax evasion or bank fraud.

So the more that the Republicans emphasized the dishonesty and criminality of Cohen, the more they impeached the character of his former client.


With respect to both payments, Cohen acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election. Cohen coordinated his actions with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments. In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1.

At the hearing, Cohen also produced two checks, each for $35,000 — one bearing the distinctive signature of Donald J. Trump, and another signed by Donald J. Trump Jr. and the COO of the Trump Organization — that proved he was telling the truth about the reimbursement scheme.

Somehow, none of the Republican committee members mentioned that damning paragraph; in fact, none of them mentioned “Individual-1” at all. Nevertheless, Individual-1 made big news at the hearing, even though he was dining in Vietnam with his buddy Kim Jong Un.

The moment came when Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., asked specifically about Cohen’s most recent conversation with the president. His answer must have sent a chill clear across the Pacific: “Unfortunately, this topic is actually something that’s being investigated right now by the Southern District of New York, and I’ve been asked by them not to discuss.” Krishnamoorthi pressed him, asking whether Cohen knows of “any other wrongdoing or illegal act” by the president.” The president’s former lawyer replied, “Yes, and again, those are part of the investigation that’s currently being looked at by the Southern District of New York.”

Whatever report may arrive from the Office of Special Counsel in coming days, Trump’s troubles are far from over.
Posted by babylonsister | Thu Feb 28, 2019, 10:08 AM (25 replies)

The Trump Organization's Coming 'Proctology Exam'


The Trump Organization’s Coming ‘Proctology Exam’
February 28, 2019 at 8:08 am EST By Taegan Goddard

Jonathan Swan: “Near the end of Michael Cohen’s testimony yesterday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked the former fixer whether President Trump had ever run an insurance fraud. Cohen said yes, naming three Trump Organization executives: Allen Weisselberg, Ron Lieberman and Matthew Calamari.”

“Unless you’re a student of The Trump Organization — the thinly-staffed Trump family business — you may never have heard of Weisselberg, Lieberman or Calamari. But over the next year, these men and their colleagues may become household names as they endure a far-reaching, multi-armed investigation into Trump’s family business and personal finances.”

Said Bloomberg‘s Tim O’Brien: “This organization has never had a proctology exam like it’s about to get. It’s going to surface records that’s going to become problematic for all of them to keep their stories straight.”
Posted by babylonsister | Thu Feb 28, 2019, 09:53 AM (8 replies)

Barbara McQuade: The Case Against Trump Has Never Been Stronger After Cohen Testimony


The Case Against Trump Has Never Been Stronger After Cohen Testimony
The president’s ex-fixer credibly accuses him of felonies that, pending more evidence, should result in impeachment and indictment.
Barbara McQuade
02.28.19 4:40 AM ET

One brick does not make a wall, but many bricks do.

When I was a federal prosecutor, a supervisor of mine frequently used this metaphor to remind us that one piece of evidence alone is rarely enough to prove a crime, but enough pieces of evidence are sufficient to prove guilt.

Michael Cohen’s public testimony on Wednesday did not constitute a wall of evidence, but it did provide several new bricks that could be used to build a case against President Donald Trump. Depending on other evidence in the hands of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, these pieces of evidence may be enough to prove Trump guilty of criminal or impeachable offenses.

Trump’s former lawyer testified about several facts that are significant bricks in the figurative wall of evidence.


Again, Wednesday’s testimony alone is not enough to convict or impeach Trump, but coupled with other evidence, such as recorded conversations that have been publicly disclosed or any supporting testimony from Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, it could be a significant piece of evidence of conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws.

Of course, Cohen’s credibility is questionable in light of his prior lies to Congress and other crimes, another reason that Cohen’s testimony alone will not be enough to charge or impeach Trump. But liars can be corroborated. Mueller would want to find other evidence to confirm Cohen’s testimony, such as phone records, bank records, intelligence intercepts or the testimony of others. All of these pieces of evidence mean little when viewed alone, but when considered together, they may add up to a case against the president.

President Trump may get his wall built after all, just not the kind he had envisioned.
Posted by babylonsister | Thu Feb 28, 2019, 06:42 AM (2 replies)

Trump says Cohen "lied a lot" during "fake" hearing

What a small vocabulary he has.


Rebecca Falconer
45 mins ago
Trump says Cohen "lied a lot" during "fake" hearing
President Trump says his former lawyer Michael Cohen's claims are "inaccurate."

Accusations President Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen made during testimony in Congress were "inaccurate," Trump said early Thursday after his summit with North Korea leader Kim Jong-un ended.

Why it matters: This is the first time Trump has commented on the House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing beyond a tweet before the testimony. Observers say the hearing was a distraction for Trump, who said he watched as much as he could of the testimony, during which Cohen called the president a "racist," a "conman" and a "cheat." "Having a fake hearing like that and having it in the middle of this very important summit is really a terrible thing,” Trump said from Hanoi, Vietnam, where he failed to reach a deal with Kim. "He lied a lot but it's very interesting because he didn't lie about one thing: He said no collusion with Russia. I said, 'I wonder why he didn’t lie about that too like he lied about everything else."
Posted by babylonsister | Thu Feb 28, 2019, 05:45 AM (18 replies)

David Frum: Uncontradicted


Republicans on the House Oversight Committee impugned the integrity of Trump’s former lawyer—but failed to defend the president from his key charges.
5:29 PM ET
David Frum

Michael Cohen’s testimony to the House Oversight Committee was uncontradicted. The former personal attorney of the president of the United States today accused him of a litany of crimes, improprieties, immoralities, and betrayals of national security. And not one Republican member of the committee breathed one word in defense of the leader of their party.

Those Republicans have learned the hard way never to trust President Donald Trump’s denials.

Did he direct payoffs to a porn star? Trump denied it. It was true.

Was the Trump Organization pursuing a hotel project in Moscow while he was running for president? Trump denied it. That was true too.

Did his campaign meet with someone claiming to be an agent of the Russian state to seek dirt on Hillary Clinton? Denied. True.

Was there fraud at the Trump Foundation? Denied. True.


The Republican case against Cohen was to reiterate over and over that Cohen is a convicted liar. As he is. As are Trump’s campaign chairman, Trump’s deputy campaign chair, and Trump’s first national security adviser. It’s bold to cite the criminality of so many of Trump’s associates—and maybe more to come—as proof of Trump’s innocence.

And obviously the Republican committee members know it. None of them would dare say that Trump is truthful in speech or honest in business. None would say it is impossible he said the things about black Americans that Cohen alleges he said. Even the allegations Cohen could not corroborate are all so hideously plausible that the most pro-Trump Republicans on the Oversight Committee shied from gainsaying them.

Cohen’s testimony may not all prove correct. But all of it is plausible—and not a word of it has been contradicted, let alone refuted.
Posted by babylonsister | Wed Feb 27, 2019, 07:51 PM (9 replies)
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