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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Trump v. the CIA

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's record of ethical laxity and carelessness about state secrets. The update -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Julian E. Barnes and David E. Sanger at NYT:
President Trump’s order allowing Attorney General William P. Barr to declassify any intelligence that led to the Russia investigation sets up a potential confrontation with the C.I.A. It effectively strips the agency of its most critical power: choosing which secrets it shares and which ones remain hidden.

Mr. Trump said on Friday that he wanted Mr. Barr to “get to the bottom” of what the intelligence agencies knew about the investigation into his campaign. He promised, “We’re exposing everything.”
Traditionally, the C.I.A. has been effective at intramural governmental fights, in large measure because its power comes from its information and its closely guarded secrets. By taking that power from the intelligence agencies, Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr may have weakened the C.I.A.

Sonam Sheth at Business Insider:
"There's a reason why the CIA is so vigilant about guarding its sources," one former CIA covert operative, who requested anonymity to freely discuss how the agency handles sensitive information, told INSIDER. "It's because lives are on the line. The AG is either ignorant of that fact, or he doesn't care. Either way, it's horrifying."
The politicization of sources and methods could also have far-reaching effects on agencies' ability to gather intelligence in the first place.
"Why would a source want to cooperate with us if we cannot protect his or her identity?" former FBI agent Frank Montoya Jr., who retired in 2016, told INSIDER. "Or, just as importantly, the information they share with us? It will endanger the lives of sources if their identities or that information becomes public."
Asha Rangappa, a former FBI special agent, largely agreed.
"Make no mistake: If Barr discloses the identities of CIA and [counterintelligence] sources providing information on Russia he is disabling our intelligence capacities to Russia's advantage," Rangappa wrote. "It puts sources providing intelligence in danger and cripples the [intelligence community's] ability to recruit new sources."

Friday, May 24, 2019

Trumpista Doctored Video

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character and record of dishonestyThe update  -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Ben Mathis-Lilley at Slate:
This one takes a few seconds to set up but it’s worth it! So, right-wing social media users have been circulating doctored videos of Nancy Pelosi, who is in their targets right now because she 1) said the president was engaging in a “cover-up” by refusing to honor congressional oversight requests and 2) described him as having a “temper tantrum” who needs “an intervention” when he subsequently declared that he won’t speak to congressional Democrats until they end all of the investigations into his conduct. In an echo of bogus accusations against Hillary Clinton that were made in 2016, the videos of Pelosi that are going around have been altered to make her seem drunk/senile.
Phil Helsel at NBC:
President Donald Trump on Thursday night tweeted out an edited video showing Nancy Pelosi stumbling over her words, escalating the personal attacks he has made against the Democratic House Speaker.
The video, apparently from a segment on Fox Business' "Lou Dobbs Tonight," features portions of a 20-minute news conference Pelosi held Thursday in a montage that lasts about 30 seconds. It shows her tripping over her words. At one point in the video, a moment is repeated several times.
 Rudy also needs an intervention:

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Deep State

 In  Defying the Oddswe discuss  Trump's record of scandal The update  -- recemtly published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Lobotomy at the Ag Department

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's approach to governing The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Liz Crampton at Politico:
The Agriculture Department is moving nearly all its researchers into the economic effects of climate change, trade policy and food stamps – subjects of controversial Trump administration initiatives – outside of Washington, part of what employees claim is a political crackdown on economists whose assessments have raised questions about the president’s policies.
Since last year, employees in the department’s Economic Research Service have awaited news of which members of their agency would be forced to relocate, after Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue stunned them by declaring he was moving most of the agency to a location outside the capital. The announcement sparked claims that Perdue was trying to pressure economists into leaving the agency rather than move their families.

On March 5, the department began notifying people who were allowed to stay in Washington, but didn’t provide a comprehensive list, only telling employees in person if they made the cut.
But current and former employees compiled one anyway, covering all 279 people on staff, 76 of whom are being allowed to stay in Washington.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

New York Twofer

 In  Defying the Oddswe discuss  Trump's record of scandal The update  -- recemtly published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

Jesse McKinley at NYT:
Even before he was elected president, Donald J. Trump had steadfastly refused to release his federal tax returns, bucking years of tradition among presidential candidates. His intransigence deepened once he entered the White House, defying a congressional subpoena for the tax records.
Now, however, a nine-page workaround by the New York State Legislature may serve as a way for Congress to get its hands on a trove of Mr. Trump’s tax information.
On Wednesday, the Democratic-led Legislature passed a bill that would permit New York State tax officials to hand over Mr. Trump’s state returns to any one of three congressional committees. Such returns — filed in New York, the president’s home state and business headquarters — would likely contain much of the same information as the contested federal returns.
Also Jesse McKinley at NYT:
The New York State Assembly passed a bill on Tuesday that would allow state prosecutors to pursue charges against any individual granted a presidential pardon for similar federal crimes, closing a loophole that lawmakers said could be exploited by President Trump in a bid to indemnify former associates.
The bill, which has already passed the State Senate and has the support of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, would exempt the state’s so-called double jeopardy law from cases involving presidential pardons, something supporters say is necessary to stave off a possible abuse of Mr. Trump’s pardon power.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Casualties of Trade War

 In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House. The update  -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

 Jake Sherman, Anna Palmer and Daniel Lippman at Politico: 
WHAT WALL STREET THINKS ... As the trade war rages on, one hedge fund manager points out the irony of how Trump's policies are playing out in the heartland:

-- "TRUMP SEEMS TO FEEL EMBOLDENED by the resilience of the market since he started the trade war. But under the hood the market is telling a different story. All the Rust Belt sectors that were initially helped by the tax cut have been by far the hardest hit since the trade war started.

-- "THE U.S. STEEL INDUSTRY that tariffs were supposed to help is down 30% since tariffs began, unwinding all the tax gains. CATERPILLAR and JOHN DEERE, two industrial heartland companies, have been hit hard. They are 20 and 30% from the highs they reached before the trade war. SOYBEAN PRICES have collapsed and hurt the agricultural sector as a result of China's retaliation to the trade war. ...

-- "SO WHY IS THE MARKET SO STRONG? Because tech titans are paying less tax and people are hiding in their stocks to avoid the decimation of the economy Trump says he is trying to protect. Since the onset of the trade war, the internet companies are all up at least 25% because they are not affected by tariffs.

-- "SO WHILE TRUMP'S TRADE WAR is supposed to help blue-collar America, it seems it's helping to increase the wealth divide and make the rich richer!"

Monday, May 20, 2019

Trump, Deutsche Bank, and Russia

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character and record of dishonestyThe update  -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.

David Enrich at NYT:
Anti-money-laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank recommended in 2016 and 2017 that multiple transactions involving legal entities controlled by Donald J. Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, be reported to a federal financial-crimes watchdog.
The transactions, some of which involved Mr. Trump’s now-defunct foundation, set off alerts in a computer system designed to detect illicit activity, according to five current and former bank employees. Compliance staff members who then reviewed the transactions prepared so-called suspicious activity reports that they believed should be sent to a unit of the Treasury Department that polices financial crimes.
But executives at Deutsche Bank, which has lent billions of dollars to the Trump and Kushner companies, rejected their employees’ advice. The reports were never filed with the government.
 “You present them with everything, and you give them a recommendation, and nothing happens,” said Tammy McFadden, a former Deutsche Bank anti-money laundering specialist who reviewed some of the transactions. “It’s the D.B. way. They are prone to discounting everything.”
 In the summer of 2016, Deutsche Bank’s software flagged a series of transactions involving the real estate company of Mr. Kushner, now a senior White House adviser.
Ms. McFadden, a longtime anti-money laundering specialist in Deutsche Bank’s Jacksonville office, said she had reviewed the transactions and found that money had moved from Kushner Companies to Russian individuals. She concluded that the transactions should be reported to the government — in part because federal regulators had ordered Deutsche Bank, which had been caught laundering billions of dollars for Russians, to toughen its scrutiny of potentially illegal transactions.