Sunday, November 19, 2017

Will Trump's Penchant For Making Enemies Kill Ryan's Tax Scam Bill In The Senate?

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The more that comes out about the Republican Tax Scam bills, the worse it looks. The latest version is a very anti-education bill, targeting deductions for teacher out-of-pocket spending and for research by graduate students and eliminating student loan deductibility while keeping carried interest. It also gets a cut to private jet owners and all but eliminates the estate tax. Paul Ryan is still hopping around DC swearing it's a middle class tax break, not a tax break for the super-rich. "The Senate Finance Committee on Thursday," reported Matthew Goldstein, "adopted a provision similar to one included in the House’s tax plan that would extend the minimum holding period for investments that qualify for the tax break, known as the carried-interest loophole, to three years from one... Both the House and Senate plans have been criticized for delivering substantial tax cuts to wealthy people and corporations at the expense of middle-class taxpayers, some of whom would pay more in taxes, mostly because of the elimination of certain deductions."

Writing last week for Time, Nash Jenkins reported how 4 Republican senators are talking privately about how they can't support the bill because it balloons the national debt. They could shut the whole thing down.
Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford are among the four-- enough to stop a bill that can only spare two Republican defections-- who have concerns about a tax reform bill that was estimated to hike the deficit by $1.5 trillion over 10 years. The other two senators have not publicly confirmed their concerns.

In an interview with Time on Tuesday, two days before the House voted to pass its version of the tax reform bill, Flake said that he believes the bill is larded with temporary gimmicks that will ultimately add even more than that to the deficit.

“I’ve been concerned for a long time on our debt and deficit-- that’s what animates me,” Flake told Time. “There are a couple other people who are concerned as well. We can do tax reform in ways that will grow the economy but we can’t just ignore the debt and deficit.”

Their concerns show the tricky needle that Republicans will have to thread to get the tax reform bill through the upper chamber using reconciliation, a parliamentary procedure that allows them to avoid a Democratic filibuster but imposes restrictions on how the bill is written.

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin would be voting against it, saying it unduly favors corporations over small businesses. Maine Sen. Susan Collins has also raised concerns about a provision in the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual insurance mandate.

But the deficit hawks’ criticisms could be the hardest to address, since the Republican leaders are already struggling to find ways to pay for tax cuts in the bill.

Flake pointed in particular to the provision known as “full expensing” that allows companies to write off their assets when paying taxes, costing the government potential tax revenue. The tax reform plan is set to sunset the provision after five years-- but the Arizona Republican isn’t convinced.

“Right now, in order to fit that in the budget window to keep us in reconciliation, we phase that out after five years. Nobody thinks it will be phased out after five years,” he said. “That’s the problem here. You phase it out after five years, it fits in this, but we know after five years they’re just going to do it again.”

In addition, the tax reform bill slashes the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20%, curtails the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, and, under the Senate plan, does away with the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. Though Republicans have touted the tax reform bill as a boon for the middle class, new numbers from Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation show that taxes for those earning under $75,000 a year would increase by 2027.

Despite the bill’s troubles in the Senate, you can’t fault House Republicans for feeling festive about the bill’s passing. For the first time in a decade, Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House-- and yet they have failed so far to achieve any meaningful legislative victories; their losses, meanwhile, namely two unsuccessful attempts to repeal Obamacare, have been painful and public. Achieving tax reform would amount to a triumph that could stabilize the rocky G.O.P. ahead of the 2018 midterm elections next November.

It is also important to President Donald Trump, who is hungry for a win. Trump traveled to Capitol Hill on Thursday morning ahead of the House vote to encourage Republican lawmakers to vote for the package.
No one knows who the other two deficit hawks are who could tank the bill. Corker and McCain are the suspects. If those 4 plus Collins and RonJon, and possibly Murkowski vote NO, Trump and Trumpism will be left reeling and the Republican Party will fall into full-scale civil war. There are Republicans who very much want to see Trump fail miserably and be driven from office as soon as possible. Stabbing him, Caesar like, from the right must be very tempting. Last week, all of the Republican NO votes in the House were mainstream conservatives from SALT states-- New York, New Jersey and California-- except one: Walter Jones (R-NC). He's far more conservative than the rest-- and far more conservative than Trump-- and from a non-SALT state. He just happens to be a guy who votes according to principles rather than politics. "If this is going to add $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the next ten years, it’s not fair to our children and grandchildren,” said Jones. "If this was a Democratic bill we wouldn’t even be voting for it. That’s how hypocritical this place has become."


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Midnight Meme Of The Day!

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-by Noah

As speculation as to which Trumpies will eventually be indicted next increases, I thought I'd post this meme.

This is also a preview of my annual list of DownWithTyranny holiday gift suggestions which will, like the holidays themselves, be here before you know it. These fashion accessories could be all the rage in a few weeks. You'd best order now! If there's any justice left in our world, they might be very hard to get soon; no matter what secret deals Ivanka's Big Orange Daddyfreak pulled off with Chinese factories on his recent Asian trip.

We at DWT also hear whispers that there will be a very special Judge Roy Moore Signature Edition soon, so think about pre-ordering yours now. Expect the White House to announce that all proceeds will go to the Judge Roy Moore Legal Defense Fund or Recount Committee. These "House Arrest" ankle bracelets will be especially popular with any crazy pro-rape Christian fans of Moore on your gift list. And, don't forget, anyone you know who voted for Trump is a likely accomplice to treason! Don't they deserve an "House Arrest" ankle bracelet as well?

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Frank Schaeffer's Roadtrip To Orange County, Part I: Laura Oatman

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As you may know-- I hope so-- Frank Schaeffer is driving around the country making a film. He's interviewing progressive Democrats who can beat Republicans next year. Meanwhile he's been posting videos each time he gets to a district. He started with Randy Bryce in Wisconsin and then went to Forsyth County, North Carolina to see Jenny Marshall. Last week he was here in Southern California speaking with and filming Sam Jammal (CA-39), Kia Hamadanchy (CA-45), Doug Applegate (CA-49) and Laura Oatman, Dana Rohrabacher's progressive opponent in coastal Orange County (CA-48). I think he's up in Maine now talking with Jared Golden. Please take a look at Frank's raw video of Laura up top.

Goal ThermometerLaura introduced herself to DWT readers back in October. She's in a crowded primary field with a bunch of inauthentic-sounding centrists. One calls himself a "Reagan Democrat" and two others are multimillionaires already endorsed by the New Dems, the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. In fact the two of them and some Republican in the jungle primary-- Paul Martin-- all sound pretty interchangeable. Laura is the progressive in this election... and the grassroots candidate.

When Laura saw the video she had the same reaction I did when I saw the clip of the hand-help camera shoot Frank made of me. Seeing all the unfiltered footage made in the bright morning sunlight reminded her that she's not in this for ego, but to be real-- wrinkles, forgotten words, and all. She reminded herself that Orange County "needs an architect-- someone who can take a dream, put together a diverse team, design a plan, and make it a reality." That's kind of become a mantra for her campaign. Then she reminds CA-48 voters that "Making America Great Again was all about taking America back to a past that really was only great for white men. It would be impossible, even if we wanted to, to take America back to that past. The world has changed since the 1950’s, with automation, globalization, population growth, and climate change all impacting the global economy, America, & Orange County. We need more leaders who can envision a future that adapts to and embraces these changes, and makes the economy work for all of us so that everyone has a fair shot at the American dream. A future for our country, and for our district, with sustainable jobs, clean air and water, healthcare and education for all, and a society that embraces diversity and inclusion. The diversity of our nation is what makes us great. Let’s make America smart again, kind again, compassionate again."

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There Are No Good Republicans-- But There Are Bad Democrats As Well As Good Democrats

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Alas, there are virtually no good Republicans any longer, even if, occasionally, a Republican-- a McCain or a Walter Jones or a Justin Amash-- does something good. Electorally, it virtually never happens that a Democrat, no matter how awful is worse than a Republican. When I was growing up in New York, Republican John Lindsey was better than Democrat Abe Beame. More recently (2012) Michigan Democrats ran a vicious homophobic conservative turd, Steve Pestka, against Justin Amash. Incredibly, overall, Amash was the better candidate. What kind of Democrat matters. There are good ones and there are bad ones. Today we saw a really bad one, corrupt multimillionaire developer and Wasserman Schultz crony, Stephen Bittel, resign as chairman of the Florida Democratic Party. He's done a horrible job of course, but that isn't why he resigned. The news broke late Thursday night that 6 former Florida Democratic Party staffers and consultants accused Bittel of having "created an unprofessional workplace environment for women that includes persistent inappropriate comments, leering at young women and even inviting them on his private jet." Bittel, who is uniformly described as "creepy" by virtually everyone who has ever met him, tried getting away with a rote apology. By Friday morning, pressure mounting, he had resigned.

Thursday we talked about the DCCC interfering in competitive primaries on behalf of Blue Dogs and New Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, particularly how they endorsed NRA post-child and all-around conservative Ann Kirkpatrick when they are 2 better candidates in the race, Matt Heinz and Mart Matiella. I noted that "Kirkpatrick is a loser and a carpetbagger from up north who the DCCC is trying to shove down the throats of southern Arizonans. She has shown in the past that she can get swept into office in a wave election-- but her GOP voting record always guarantees she's defeated in midterms when Democrats refuse to come out and vote for her. She's an NRA poster child (literally) and an all-around conservative Democrat. The DCCC is always touting fundraising as an indication of viability but two other candidates, Matt Heinz and Mary Matiella are also raising the kind of money that proves viability. We reached Mary yesterday and she told us that 'The DCCC is right about AZ-02 being a great pickup opportunity but they're wrong if they think an establishment/corporate Dem is the way to win. Southern Arizonans are a fiercely independent bunch and ultimately it's the voters, not the establishment who will decide who best represents their values.' A week ago she said something similar, namely that 'Polls show that voters want an authentic, relatable candidate-- someone who understands them. The DCCC wants a candidate who can raise funds. This disconnect in candidate vetting disenfranchises the voter.'"

This morning Mary was thinking about things that are more important to her and more important to AZ-02 voters. She sent me this brief note to share with DWT readers:
I'm sick and tired of the Trump-McSally machine demonizing our immigrant communities to score political points with their most narrow-minded supporters. We are a nation of immigrants and dehumanizing communities of color in the name of border security is wrong. Militarizing our border sends the wrong message to the world and is an ineffective strategy for dealing with border security.

What I believe is simple: secure the border at the border. We need more Customs Officers at the ports of entry, rather than more agents combing the desert. Over 80% of the narcotics and violent criminals that come across our border do so through our ports of entry. And that's where we need to focus resources. Not miles away at checkpoints the narcos and the coyotes know how to avoid. And, $1.6 billion budgeted for border walls-- what a waste of money!

I believe in comprehensive immigration reform that includes protecting DREAMers, providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers, and reducing the current visa backlog. Breaking up families, racially profiling in our communities, and strong-arm tactics are morally repugnant practices that only serve to divide our community.

This issue is deeply personal to me. I am a Latina who grew up in southern Arizona. Many members of my family, including my husband were born on the other side of the line. We must do better to deal with the economic and humanitarian issues along our border.

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Tax Deductions For Earthquakes Are Erased From The Tax Code-- But Not Tax Deductions For Hurricanes (Or Private Jets)

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I don't have a private jet; never did. But... I sort of did. I was the president of a division of TimeWarner and the company had private jets. All I had to do was call and say I need a jet and I could fly anywhere I wanted. You knowhow many time I did that? Zero, never once. That's because it's incredibly expensive and a horrifying waste of money that could have been spent on helping break out artists (for example). But a few times I was going to New York or L.A. and someone would invite me along for a ride on their jet. Very convenient and comfortable, etc. But I was never tempted... not even a little. I found it an outrageous waste of resources in fact.

The Republicans' decision to give private jet owners a tax break should piss off even Trump's most loyal supporters (who aren't stoned out of their minds on Oxy). Christal Hayes reported the story for Newsweek. "The new Senate tax bill will give those who own or lease private planes breaks on the amount they pay to companies for maintenance, storage, fueling and even when they want to hire pilots and a crew onboard. The proposal is tucked in the middle of the controversial bill's latest version, dubbed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The House approved the bill Thursday and it's now headed to the Senate." Forbes there were 11,261 private planes registered in the United States as of 2012. There are probably a lot more now. The provision was sponsored by the home state senators for the private jet company NetJets-- Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Raise your hand if you think a humongous tax should be placed on private jet usage instead.

God knows what kind of crap we'll going to discover in coming days as we examine Ryan's rax scam more closely. I liked the coverage the L.A. Times gave the bill yesterday: In Orange County, fear and loathing for the GOP's "Screw California" tax bill by Mark Barabak. Short version: O.C. Republican voters are out for blood. Two of the GOP congressmembers in Southern California had the smarts to figure out a YES vote was political suicide-- Issa and Rohabacher, who have problems of their own-- but Mimi Walters, Ed Royce and Steve Knight are now dead men congressmembers walking.
Chris Keena feels obliged to explain: He really is a Republican-- honest!-- before launching his critique of the Republican tax bill that just passed the House.

“I don’t believe in trickle-down theory,” said the 70-year-old retired attorney from Irvine. “The money they save-- I’ve seen it in business-- the money they save at the top, they keep at the top. It doesn’t trickle down.

“I hate to sound like a radical,” he went on, “and I guess it doesn’t go with being a Republican, but it’s a reality. There are a lot of people struggling here. The image is everyone is fat and happy. They’re not. They’re not.”

The sweeping tax-cut package, which passed Thursday with overwhelming support from California’s GOP House members, seems almost singularly designed to punish the state and its Democratic legion of Trump tormentors.

Eliminating most of the deduction for state and local taxes would be a hefty blow to millions of Californians. The same for a proposed cap on deducting property taxes and mortgage interest-- write-offs that make the purchase of that charming $750,000 “starter home” a bit more attainable, if no less insane.

It goes on.

Repealing tax incentives that help pay for low-cost housing would almost surely exacerbate a desperate housing shortage, which is already stifling job growth.

And in a move that seems just plain spiteful, the bill would take away the deduction for uninsured personal losses from wildfire and earthquakes, two of California’s great tribulations, while preserving it for hurricane victims.

“It may be a tax cut for Wisconsin and Kansas and Iowa. But it is not a tax-cut bill for individual taxpayers in California,” said Carolyn Cavecche, head of the Orange County Taxpayers Assn., which is not exactly a hotbed of Marxist sentiments.

With scant room to spare, GOP House leaders needed almost the entire 14-member California Republican delegation to move their tax plan forward. All save three-- Tom McClintock, Darrell Issa and Dana Rohrabacher-- voted yes.

That carries no small risk, especially here in Orange County, where lawmakers high on the Democratic target list, including Issa and Rohrabacher, are caught between constituents losing their cherished deductions and party chiefs demanding fealty.

Mimi Walters, a second-term congresswoman from Irvine, was another in that bind.

Her district, extending roughly from Anaheim Hills south to Mission Viejo, is one of the most affluent in California, and taxpayers there are some of the biggest beneficiaries of the state and local tax deductions, as well as the write-off for mortgage interest.

Some, like Jim Nowakowski, are convinced the big cut in corporate taxes will bring more jobs and, as advocates promise, greater prosperity all around.

“If I had money sitting offshore and could bring it back at a lower tax rate and hire another 30, 40 people, grow my plant, I’d do that in an instant,” said Nowakowski, 75, who owns a business that cleans and repairs costumes for Disneyland.

Losing some deductions would be worth the trade-off, said the Tustin resident, especially if it made Sacramento think harder about spending. “Maybe they don’t have so many damn taxes on people,” he said.

But in two days of conversation around the district, many more viewed the tax bill as an unwarranted giveaway to the rich, paid for by those already struggling to stay afloat.

And it wasn’t just partisan Democrats.

Scott Tullius, 47, who calls himself a libertarian-leaning independent, said deducting thousands of dollars in mortgage interest on his Lake Forest home boosts the tax refund he relies on each year.

“With three kids”-- ages 6 to 16-- “there’s things that wouldn’t get done without it,” said Tullius, who works for Irvine’s Office of Emergency Management. “For the working-class person, we’re just making it by week to week, month to month.”

Oldrich Kolar, who runs a Tustin law firm, questioned the haste of pushing through tax legislation just so Republicans can say they did so once the calendar turns to the election year 2018.

By the time it gets around to final passage-- should the legislation make it that far-- “I just hope … we’ve had enough debate, a conscious, smart debate, so we’re not just trying to make a political statement, we’re not just trying to make a timing statement,” said the 53-year-old Republican and self-described member of “the top 1% to 2%.”

Walters said she supported the bill after being assured changes would be made once House lawmakers hash out their differences with the Senate, which is weighing its own version of a tax-cut bill. That, of course, assumes the Senate is kinder to California-- no sure bet-- or doesn’t kill the effort entirely, leaving those like Walters on a sawed-off limb.

Back in the 1980s, lawmakers decided to stuff the country’s nuclear waste in a big hole in the Nevada desert.

The backroom deal, which eliminated sites in Texas and Washington state from consideration, was greased by the fact no one from Nevada was around to object.

The proposed dump at Yucca Mountain, about 100 miles outside Las Vegas, immediately sparked political warfare and remains stalled all these years later. But the treachery is still renowned as the “Screw Nevada Bill.”

The Republican tax legislation, as it stands, could carry the same blunt appellation as regards California.

Woe to those defending it in an already tough political climate: Voter indignation is not something you can just bury in a desert hole.
Sam Jammal is the non-millionaire progressive running to win the Democratic nomination to take on Ryan rubber stamp Ed Royce. He told us that "Ed doesn't fit nor care to represent our community anymore. No one seeking to represent us would vote for a bill that punishes us for being Californians. He offered no amendments to improve the bill and voted yes on something that attacks our community. Ed is better off retiring than doing more harm to families here. He has a choice on whether this will be a forced retirement or to go out on his own."

Goal ThermometerKia Hamadanchy who is competing with Republican incumbent Mimi Walters for the CA-45 Orange County seat quickly pointed out that "Mimi’s support for the Republican tax increase is a slap in the face to just about everybody in our district, from graduate students at UC Irvine to retirees in South Orange County. What’s even worse is that two of Mimi’s crazy right-wing colleagues in Orange County, Darrell Issa and Dana Rohrabacher voted against this bill. What does it say that two of the worst Republicans around wouldn’t even vote to raise taxes on their constituents? I think Mimi better start updating her resume, because she is going to be looking for a new job next November."

Laura Oatman is the progressive candidate running for the seat Rohrabacher hold (CA-48, coastal Orange County). She wasn't fooled by Rohrabacher's vote against Ryan's tax scam. "On the heels of last week’s report in Roll Call that 2 of the top 10 most vulnerable House incumbents were right here in Orange County, with Darrell Issa at the top of the list and Dana Rohrabacher in 5th, it’s no surprise that Issa & Rohrabacher would part ways with the GOP and vote against this tax plan that would raise taxes on millions of middle-class families to provide tax breaks to millionaires. This plan would limit mortgage interest deductions to $500,000-- down from the present limit of $1.1 million-- and could be particularly tough on many of Rohrabacher’s wealthy constituents. Don’t for one minute think they’ve seen the light though. The reality is, they have zero political capital to spend, and knowing that, safely voted against party lines knowing the bill would pass anyways, in a too-little-too-late attempt to show they care. Really, they only care about hanging onto their Congressional seats for all they’re worth."

Katie Hill, the progressive candidate and top opponent to Steve Knight in CA-25, cut a succinct and plain English video she sent to voters in Santa Clarita, Simi Valley and the Antelope Valley. It sums up the California situation perfectly. I suggest you watch it:



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Did Ex-Blue Dog Kirsten Gillibrand Just De-Rail Blue Dog Dan Lipinski's Worthless Political Career?

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Incumbents always-- always-- circle the wagons around other incumbents of their own party who are challenged in primaries. Even when they know the incumbent being challenged is a corrupt bucket of slime bringing disrepute on the party and on Congress, incumbents will turn their backs on worthy challengers. Have any elected officials given Tim Canova a hand against Wasserman Schultz? Has anyone stepped up to the plate for Alexandria Ocasio to save the Democratic Party from prospective Wall Street Speaker Joe Crowley? No and no.



I can remember when Blue America jumped into the battle to replace Pennsylvania right-wing Blue Dog Tim Holden with brilliant progressive Matt Cartwright. Steny Hoyer blew a gasket and brought a trainload of DC's sleaziest lobbyists to the district to campaign for Holden (unintentionally sealing his fate). Even earlier, when Blue America backed Donna Edwards against corrupt conservative-- and future corporate lobbyist-- Al Wynn in Maryland, Hoyer and Pelosi went into overdrive to raise money for Wynn so he could viciously slander Edwards. It was a disgusting circus but Edwards kicked his ass out of Congress, giving Marylanders one of the House's best members in trade for one of its worst.



Democratic incumbents even tend to treat the worst garbage candidates who have been previously rejected by their voters (for being the worst garbage incumbents) as though they were current incumbents to be rallied around. Right now, that's what's happening with two especially repulsive losers-- Blue Dog Brad Ashcroft (NE) and New Dem/NRA fanatic Ann Kirkpatrick. When I complained to the DCCC for jumping into the very competitive AZ-02 primary on behalf of Kirkpatrick, one of their top staffers told me members consider Kirkpatrick a colleague. (So do Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy, since she voted for their agenda so consistently.)



I was actually shocked yesterday when Kirsten Gillibrand, ambitious moderate Senate Democrat-- herself once an aggressive Blue Dog-- came out with a beautifully powerful statement of support for progressive challenger Marie Newman in Chicagoland. Newman is running against slimy Blue Dog Dan Lipinski, one of the very worst Democrats in Congress. Gillibrand made it into a women standing with women thing-- although she certainly hasn't embraced Alexandria Ocasio is her own state. "We need Marie Newman in Congress so that we have another vote for health care, for women, and for our LGBTQ friends and family,” she said pointedly, implying-- correctly-- that Lipinski opposes healthcare, opposes women's rights, and is a virulent homophobic asshole. "Marie. she continued, "is willing to stand up for what the constituents of the Third want, which is why she’s gaining so much support in district. I am happy to offer our support to her, too."

Goal ThermometerThat was awesome and courageous of Gillibrand, who hasn't always been either awesome or courageous since being first elected to Congress in 2006. At the time she was a lot like Dan Lipinski (though never quite as bad) and her willingness to back Newman's bid to replace him shows she's she's come a long, long way since then. Please consider contributing what you can to Marie Newman's uphill climb to beat one of the most sinister fake-Democrats in Congress, by clicking on the Blue America Act Blue "Primary A Blue Dog" thermometer on the right. Please remember-- and tell your friends and colleagues-- there is no more difficult, burdensome and thankless job in electoral politics than taking on an incumbent from your own party. Marie has gained tremendous traction this year and she can win this one-- with our help and support. Chicago deserves better than Dan Lipinski and his treacherous Blue Dog games.

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Putin Looted Russia To Become The Richest Man On Earth-- Trump Is Competing With Him: Dateline Panana City

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At 6:59 (PT) on Thursday night, Rachel Maddow left her MSNBC audience with a classic tease that she promised would be explosive by Friday. It started exploding immediately after the tease, when various news sources started reporting that the Trump family is involved in money laundering, the Russian Mafia and Colombian drug cartels through two of their most infamous properties, Mar-A-Lago in Florida and the Trump Ocean Club in Panama. The charges aren't new-- but the proof is. Aggelos Petropoulos and NBC ace reporter Richard Engel have the details of the Trump family's ties to organized crime. Will Ivanka do time? Dateline: Panama City, one of the world's sleaziest capital's of money laundering and every kind of illegal trafficking:
When Ivanka Trump flew here in 2006 to push her family’s latest business project-- an oceanfront steel and glass tower called the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower, shaped like a sail and designed to be one of the tallest buildings in Latin America-- a Brazilian real estate salesman named Alexandre Ventura Nogueira says he was ready with a sales pitch.

Ventura, who said he only had a small real estate company at the time, said he told Ivanka Trump that he could sell condos in the proposed skyscraper for three times the price of similar units in Panama City. The reason: the Trump name, which would go on the building in a licensing deal even though the Trump Organization was not the building’s real developer.



...Ventura did sell the initial units, and later hundreds more. He is now a fugitive. In May 2009, Ventura was arrested in Panama for real estate fraud, unrelated to the Trump project. Mauricio Ceballos, a former financial crimes prosecutor in Panama who investigated Ventura, said that dozens of complaints against Ventura crossed his desk accusing him of double- and triple-selling apartments, both at the Trump Ocean Club and other developments.

Ventura eventually fled Panama while out on bail. He denied having defrauded his clients but admitted to NBC News that he has participated in money laundering on behalf of corrupt Panamanian politicians, unrelated to the building project.

Ventura isn’t the only person associated with the building who has had run-ins with the law. An NBC News investigation into the Trump Ocean Club, in conjunction with Reuters, shows that the project was riddled with brokers, customers and investors who have been linked to drug trafficking and international crime. Ceballos, who investigated the project, went as far as to call the skyscraper “a vehicle for money laundering.”

The investigation revealed no indication that the Trump Organization or members of the Trump family engaged in any illegal activity, or knew of the criminal backgrounds of some of the project’s associates. But Ventura said that the Trumps never asked any questions about the buyers or where the money was coming from.



Legal experts contacted by Reuters said the Trumps should have asked those questions. Because Panama is “perceived to be highly corrupt,” said Arthur Middlemiss, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan and a former head of JPMorgan’s global anti-corruption program, those who do business there should perform due diligence on others involved in their ventures. If they fail to do so, he told Reuters, they risk being liable under U.S. law of turning a blind eye to wrongdoing.

In the interview, Ventura admitted that some of his brokers and clients who bought and sold units in the Trump Ocean Club were connected to the Russian mafia and other organized-crime groups, including a convicted money launderer who moved cash for drug cartels.

“I had some customers with questionable backgrounds,” he said. “Nobody ever asked me. Banks never asked. Developer didn’t ask and (the) Trump Organization didn’t ask. Nobody ask, ‘Who are the customers, where did the money come from?’ No, nobody ask.”

...Ventura says that the Trump family, and Ivanka Trump in particular, was involved in the details of the Trump Ocean Club, and that she interacted with him extensively.

Ivanka Trump is featured in a promotional video for the Trump Ocean Club, made in 2011, in which she praises “the beautiful pool decks” and “our 10,000-square-foot spa.”

“Buenos días,” she says in the video. “Hello, I'm Ivanka Trump. Welcome to Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower, Panama, rising 70 stories above the glistening Panama Bay. We've taken inspiration from the beauty that surrounds us to create a new landmark for Panama.” She goes on to discuss such details as the “tropical color palette” and the carvings on the guestroom headboards.

“The Trump Organization has to approve everything because of his name on the project,” Ventura said, describing the project as Ivanka Trump’s “baby.”

According to the Trump Ocean Club’s bondholder prospectus, Donald Trump was projected to make $74.2 million from the project by the end of 2010. The disclosure forms Trump filed with the Office of Government Ethics show that he continues to earn management fees and royalties from the Trump Ocean Club. In the last three years, the documents show, he was paid as much as $13.9 million.

Global Witness, a nonprofit anti-corruption watchdog that is often critical of businesses and their connections to government officials, said Panama offered Donald Trump a new way to make money at a time when his businesses were struggling. (The Trump casino empire filed for bankruptcy in 2004.) The group is publishing the findings of its investigation into the Trump Ocean Club on Friday.

“In the mid-2000s Panama was known as a money laundering hotspot,” said Patrick Alley, co-founder of Global Witness. “At that time the Trump companies were in dire trouble. He changed his business model to license his name and his brand to other people’s developments, and very often they would be inexperienced developers, low-profile people who needed a name to sell their developments. So Trump would go into a licensing deal, which meant he invested nothing, but could make a profit from it.”

Ventura estimates his company, Homes Real Estate Investment & Services, sold 350 to 400 units, about $100 million worth of property. Ventura says he was such an effective salesman that he was invited to a 2008 celebration at Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago. Ventura provided photographs of himself with Donald Trump at the event, and other photographs of him with Ivanka, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr.

Ventura said the Trumps never asked about his clients, the people who were buying the condo units, and he never told them. To cite one example, he said that he sold seven to 10 units in the Trump Ocean Club to a man named David Murcia Guzmán, founder of a large Colombian marketing company.

Guzmán is now in U.S. custody, awaiting extradition to Colombia after being convicted by a U.S. federal court of laundering money for drug cartels, including through real estate. According to a Colombian news report, citing the police, Guzmán also had financial ties to the FARC, a paramilitary organization listed by the State Department as a terrorist group.

Guzmán isn’t the only link connecting drug trafficking to the Trump Ocean Club. One of the early investors in the project was a man named Louis Pargiolas. In 2009, he pleaded guilty in a federal court in Miami to conspiracy to import cocaine.




Ventura says about half of the units he sold at the Trump Ocean Club were to Russians. To help handle them, Ventura went into business with several Russian-speaking real estate brokers, who he admits have had checkered pasts, including one named Stanislav Kavalenka. According to Ontario court documents, Kavalenka was charged in Canada with a number of offenses, including “compelling” and “procuring” women to engage in prostitution. The case was withdrawn when the two women failed to appear in court to give evidence against him.

Another investor in Ventura’s firm was Arkady Vodovozov. According to court files cited by Reuters, he was convicted of kidnapping in Israel. A third representative of the brokerage firm, described by Ventura as an occasional buyer at the Trump Ocean Club, was Igor Anapolskiy, according to Ukrainian court documents. He was convicted in September 2014 by a court in Ukraine of forging travel documents, according to Global Witness.

The identities of all of the buyers and sellers of the building’s units is difficult to discover, however, because many of the units were bought and sold through anonymous shell companies, according to documents from the Panamanian office of public records. Ventura says he set up hundreds of those corporations, charging roughly $1,000 each.

Ceballos, who says he investigated transactions related to the Trump Ocean Club during his stint as an anti-corruption prosecutor in Panama, describes the building as a magnet for international organized crime, particularly from Russia.

“The majority of sales of this building were not to local residents, but rather to foreigners,” he said. “They bought initially as an investment, knowing that once the building was constructed you could legalize your money.”

He added: “We were able to find out that people with some kind of criminal history acquired apartments there.”

Ceballos said lax law enforcement in Panama made money laundering easy. To launder money, he said, buyers using anonymous corporations would bring dirty money to Panama, often in cash, use it to buy real estate with no questions asked, sell it, and deposit the proceeds into local banks, which would accept the funds, also without asking questions. The real estate purchases, Ceballos says, were solely a way to get the money into banks and into the global financial system; few buyers intended to live in the condos.

During a recent visit by NBC News, the Trump Ocean Club appeared to be largely empty, with virtually no one in the restaurants at night. The hallways were consistently empty. The lights were off in many of the units after dark. Ventura said most of his clients never intended to live in the Trump Ocean Club.

Miguel Antonio Bernal, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Panama and a campaigner against corruption, said many buildings in Panama City were built specifically to be vehicles for money laundering; the Trump Ocean Club fits the mold.

“There are more than 500 buildings like this,” he said. “But this-- the difference of this-- is that this has the name of the actual president of the United States. And he keeps the name here.”

Ventura now lives under a new name, as do two other brokers who used to sell the building’s condos. He said he admires President Trump and doesn’t consider himself to be a detractor or accuser. Ventura said his job was simply to sell and not ask questions. As for Trump, he said: “It could be that he didn’t want to know… I believe that he didn’t know.”

Sarah Chayes, a corruption expert working with a group of lawyers trying to bring an unrelated case against the president for violating the Emoluments clause of the Constitution, said it was troubling that the Trump Organization seemed to pay no attention to the shady backgrounds of its partners and clients.

“Anyone who thinks that members of FARC, that drug dealers, Russian oligarchs who have been looting their own country, represent normal business partners,” she said, “doesn’t quite understand the free enterprise system that I think is central to a healthy America.”


The Global Witness report is pretty mind-boggling, especially when you admit to yourself this stinking pile of garbage at the center of this is the illegitimate president of the United States. It starts with a Trump quote: "Every other country goes into these places and they do what they have to do… It’s a horrible law and [the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act] should be changed." The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act also hampered Trump business ventures with organized crime in Azerbaijan, India and throughout the Middle East. Here's the executive summary of their Panama City report:
In the early 2000s, a series of bankruptcies meant Donald J. Trump was shunned by most lenders. Struggling for credit, he started selling his name to high-end real estate projects. This report examines in detail the criminal connections that propelled one such project-- the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama-- and how this case bears some of the same disturbing hallmarks as other Trump developments.

Since he became President of the United States, numerous investigations and articles have probed Trump’s business dealings and his alleged links to criminals and other shadowy characters. It is understood that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation under the Department of Justice will also examine his real estate business. This is important because it seems likely that, following his various bankruptcies, at least a part of Trump’s business empire has been built on untraceable funds, some apparently linked to Russian criminal networks.

Trump may not have deliberately set out to facilitate criminal activity in his business dealings. But, as this Global Witness investigation shows, licensing his brand to the luxurious Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama aligned Trump’s financial interests with those of crooks looking to launder ill-gotten gains. Trump seems to have done little to nothing to prevent this. What is clear is that proceeds from Colombian cartels’ narcotics trafficking were laundered through the Trump Ocean Club and that Donald Trump was one of the beneficiaries.

One key player in the laundering of drug money at the Trump Ocean Club was notorious fraudster David Eduardo Helmut Murcia Guzmán, whom a U.S. court subsequently sentenced to nine years for laundering millions of dollars' worth of illicit funds, including narcotics proceeds, through companies and real estate.

Another was Murcia Guzmán’s business associate, Alexandre Henrique Ventura Nogueira, who brokered nearly a third of the 666 pre-construction unit sales at the Trump Ocean Club and claims to have sold 250-400 units overall. Ventura Nogueira’s sales brokerage was critical to ensuring the project’s lift-off and Trump’s ability to earn tens of millions of dollars.

The warning signs were there from the outset. The Trump Ocean Club, one of Trump’s most lucrative licensing deals to date, was announced in 2006 and launched in 2011, a period when Panama was known as one of the best places in the world to launder money. Whole neighborhoods in Panama City were taken over by organized crime groups, and luxury developments were built with the purpose of serving as money laundering vehicles.

Moreover, investing in luxury properties is a tried and trusted way for criminals to move tainted cash into the legitimate financial system, where they can spend it freely. Once scrubbed clean in this way, vast profits from criminal activities like trafficking people and drugs, organized crime, and terrorism can find their way into the U.S. and elsewhere. In most countries, regulation is notoriously lax in the real estate sector. Cash payments are subject to hardly any scrutiny, giving opportunistic and unprincipled developers free rein to accept dirty money.

In the case of the Trump Ocean Club, accepting easy-- and possibly dirty-- money early on would have been in Trump’s interest; a certain volume of pre-construction sales was necessary to secure financing for the project, which stood to net him $75.4 million by the end of 2010. Trump received a percentage of the financing he helped secure, and a cut on the sale of every unit at the development.



He and his family have made millions of dollars more from management fees and likely continue to profit from the Trump Ocean Club. Eager for the project’s success, Trump and his children have participated directly in marketing, management, and even project design. According to broker Ventura Nogueira, Trump’s daughter Ivanka attended at least 10 meetings with him and project developer Roger Khafif.

A large number of those involved with the Trump Ocean Club in its early phase were Russian and Eastern European citizens or diaspora members. In an interview with NBC and Reuters, Ventura Nogueira said that 50 percent of his buyers were Russian, and that some had “questionable backgrounds.” He added that he found out later that some were part of the Russian Mafia.

Since the Russian government’s alleged interference in the 2016 election, a lot has been made of Trump’s heavy reliance on funds from Russia for his licensing deals. Trump relying on funds from Russia is not in itself a problem – some of these funds are no doubt from legitimate sources. What is deeply problematic, however, is the fact that some of this money appears to have come from criminal networks.

Donald Trump has incessantly promoted himself as a successful and viable businessman, and this was critical to his success in the 2016 presidential election. But this report presents evidence that this façade was built, at least in part, on ventures used to launder cash generated by criminal activities. Trump’s unscrupulous business dealings and blindness to potential illegality raise serious questions about his suitability to govern the most powerful country in the world.

The dubious dealings of Trump the businessman also raise questions about the commitment of Trump the President to tackling crime and corruption. Trump got elected by repeatedly pledging to “drain the swamp”, but in the nine months since his inauguration he has actually taken steps that could worsen corruption in the U.S. and internationally. Indeed, one of his administration’s few legislative successes to date has been to overturn the implementing regulation of a ground-breaking anti-corruption law.

...The solutions to the problems set out in this report are clear:

1. Appropriate law enforcement authorities, including Special Counsel Robert Mueller, should investigate these allegations and, if appropriate, hold President Trump accountable for his actions. The congressional committees looking into this issue should likewise investigate these allegations and, if appropriate, hold President Trump accountable for his actions.

2. Every country should require all companies and trusts to disclose who ultimately owns and controls them and make this information public.

3. Every country should require the real estate sector to know who their clients are and the source of their funds as a precaution to ensure that dirty money is not being laundered into the property market.

4. Every country should require lawyers who carry out transactions for their clients, including the buying and selling of real estate and the creation of companies, to know who their clients are and the source of their funds.
Trump, of course, is calling for the dismantling of the American regulatory system, not for more regulations. Now you know why. If not... watch this short video:



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Midnight Meme Of The Day!

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-by Noah

I've said in previous posts that, among other things, I think most Republicans think they've been abducted by aliens. It goes right along with their thinking that Obama was a secret Muslim who was going to take all of their guns and install Sharia Law as the law of the land, and, that Hillary was planning an all lesbian love cabinet. Republicans don't have a grip on reality. We know this. Witness Señor Trumpanzee's claim that the father of Ted Cruz helped kill JFK. Hell, witness anything that Trump has to say about anything! Remember, republicans are people who claim that God and Jesus talk to them and they know this is true because they hear their voices in their heads.

Now the Republican Party has a candidate for Congress (from Florida, where else?) named Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera who says she was abducted as a child and taken aboard a flying saucer by her alien friends. Her friends gave her all sorts of neat info that, in the Republican mind, I suppose burnishes their qualifications for the job. What's more, apparently the aliens still talk with her telepathically every day. Aguilera hasn't said anything about anal probes but maybe that embarrasses her so much that she just doesn't want to talk about it. Then again, maybe Judge Roy Moore wasn't on the flying saucer that day.

Bettina Rodriquez Aguilera is running to replace incumbent lleana Ros-Lehtinen who is retiring. Her daughter, Bettina Agen, is a former Director of Hispanic Outreach for the Republican National Committee. Her son-in-law, Jarrod Agen, is Vice President Mike Pence's Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director. I guess we shouldn't be surprised if part of his job is communicating with his mother-in-law's out of this world friends.

If Aguilera doesn't win her race, I suppose Señor Trumpanzee will consider her a fine candidate to run NASA or, failing that, become a Supreme Court Justice or run Homeland Security. Ideally, of course, maybe Aguilera's alien space buddies will just come and take her away, along with the entire Trump administration. Hell, why not the whole damn Republikook Party?



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Friday, November 17, 2017

Candidates Who Scrub Their Own Social Media Pages, Should Probably Scrub Their Spouse's Too

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It's no secret what I think of the "ex"-Republican potato chip taster and lottery winner Gil Cisneros. He's a carpetbagger trying to bribe his way into a congressional nomination to represent CA-39 in northwest Orange County, Diamond Bar and Hacienda Heights in L.A. and Chino Hills in San Bernardino. He and his wife are sitting in their $10 million beachfront mansion and buying endorsements from DC crooks while serious candidates are working the district. One of the things about him I hate the most is how he lies on a Trumpian scale. He claimed he was a Bernie supporter but he didn't contribute a dime to Bernie but gave $33,400 (September 9, 2015) $33,400 (March 31, 2016) and $47,300 (July 7, 2016) to a DNC joint fundraising effort for Hillary and 2 other maxed out contributions to Hillary directly on March 31, 2016 and July 7, 2016. nd there was also two $50,000 contribution to the Hillary Victory Fund on March 31, 2016 and  on September 15, 2016and $50,000 to the Hillary Action Fund on July 7, 2016. Nothing to Bernie-- zero. Does that sound like a Bernie supporter? No, it sounds like a liar. But there's a reason I just brought it up. As soon as he was called out on it, he blamed his wife.

He insists she was the one who gave the $100,000+ to Hillary. Sure. The reports all say Gilbert and Jacki Cisneros. But since he brought his wife into this mess, I looked at her social media presence. This is one really Republican presence too. Democrats don't have social media feeds like Jacki Cisneros'. Like really... disgusting. Gil deleted his own-- so we'll never know what garbage was in there-- as soon as he decided to run but didn't have the brains to delete Jacki's. To tell you the truth, the fact they didn't think to self-research and clean his wife's account speaks volumes about the quality of his turgid campaign and overpaid army of consultants. Did someone miss this nightmare:




Or this comments about "gay retards?" Republicans talk that way, not Democrats. Is she a Democrat? Gil wasn't at that time; he was a Republican. I guess she was too.




And she was still on it the next day. What's she got against people from Ohio? And gays? And this whole use of the word "retard" is something they ought to fix, no?




I'm guessing none of the "dipwads" on the Pico Rivera City Council are endorsing Gil... unless he's been bribing them with as much money as he's paying congressmembers to endorse him.




I'll just let this one stand on it's own. I'm thinking women are allowed to talk this way, even if men can't.




What we just saw is a classless woman making homophobic remarks/insults, laughing at a developmentally disabled girl on TV,  praising the Republican party, bashing local candidates for city council and when you look though her social media presence you see a self-obsessed person who overshares and is impulsive with her career decisions and purchases. But at least she lives in a $10 million mansion on the beach in Newport Coast. I feel sorry for the neighbors.

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Will The Real Howie Klein Please Stand Up, Please Stand Up-- A Little Film By Frank Schaeffer

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Frank Schaeffer got me to step away from my computer last week and this morning he sent me the little film he made about me. He's in the middle of traveling around the country filming progressive congressional candidates. He was out here in L.A. for his movie... driving around Orange County and L.A. County, speaking with Doug Applegate, Katie Hill, Laura Oatman, Kia Hamadanchy and Sam Jammal. Previously he had shot Randy Bryce in Wisconsin and Jenny Marshall in North Carolina. I think he's in Maine today with Jared Golden, the state House Majority Whip who's running to replace Trumpist Bruce Poliquin. So, tonight... instead of a post... how about the clip of Frank and I chatting in my house? And if you like it at all, think about contributing a couple of bucks to your favorite Blue America candidate(s) by clicking on the Act Blue thermometer below.
Goal Thermometer

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How Many GOP Governors And Gubernatorial Candidates Are Going Down Next Year Because Of Trump?

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Daniel Biss can be the next governor of Illinois-- if he beats 3 billionaires

We've mostly talked about the Trump/Ryan toxicity fallout in terms of congressional races-- and I imagine we'll stay on that subject right through the end of 2018. However, as we saw in Oklahoma Tuesday, Trump/Ryan toxicity is working its magic on state legislatures. We also saw that in Virginia, where the Democrats were expected to pick up between 2 to 4 seats in the House of Delegates but picked up at least 15 and perhaps 17. And in Virginia and New Jersey we also saw how Trump particularly-- but Ryan's policy agenda too-- is screwing Republican gubernatorial candidates. Reporting for Bloomberg yesterday, John McCormick channels GOP governors angst/panic. The dual sub-headlines: "Presidential unpopularity could threaten GOP state dominance" and "More than two-thirds of all governor seats on ballot in 2018." They're working on ways to distance themselves from Trump and Ryan and McConnell in time for the 2018 elections, especially in competitive states like Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, Vermont, Maine, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Kansas, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee... maybe even Texas if the tsunami is high enough.

The annual Republican Governors Association meeting was in Austin this week. Steve Grubbs, an Iowa-based Republican strategist and former state party chairman, said GOP governors are "walking a tightrope... The Trump base is very strong, and alienating that base by pushing Trump away could cost a governor two to five points on election day. But there are also suburban voters who are bothered by the positioning of the White House and risk being lost on the other side." Just ask Ed Gillespie in Virginia, who was battered on both ends-- and disastrously. He didn't just lose by a much wider margin than anyone predicted; he dragged the whole statewide ticket down with him and lost all those legislative seats to boot. Roy Moore probably isn't helping the situation either, at least not outside the Old Confederacy.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, the association’s chairman, is seeking a third term next November. He downplayed the role Trump will play and said he’s encouraging his colleagues to run their "own race."

Walker and Florida Governor Rick Scott, while meeting with reporters, called for Moore to exit the race before the Dec. 12 special election. Scott called his alleged actions "disgusting," while Walker dismissed suggestions that Moore might hurt the Republican brand.

“No more so than Democrats had to answer for Anthony Weiner or Eliot Spitzer," he said, pointing to other politicians who have had sex scandals.

...Next year’s balloting will test whether Democrats can still win in the Midwest, where recent presidential elections have often been decided and where Trump scored some of his most unexpected victories. Democrats are competing for governorships now held by Republicans in Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

The stakes are especially high because the 2018 elections will determine who controls state governments for the redistricting procedures that will follow the 2020 Census. The outcome of that process will shape state and congressional boundaries for the next decade.

In last week’s elections, Democrats showed strength especially in suburban areas. The Virginia governor’s race, this year’s most closely watched, showcased how disapproval of Trump is motivating Democrats and independents.

...The party’s sweeping gains in state legislative seats and governor’s offices in 2010 and 2014 have been used to cut taxes, restrict abortion and collective-bargaining rights, and implement new voting requirements. They’ve also redrawn legislative districts to their advantage.

Around the lobby bar and hallway corridors of the Austin convention hotel hosting the three-day meeting, most donors expressed support for Trump.

“People shouldn’t confuse style with substance,” said Alfred Eckert III, a New Yorker and former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. employee now working as an educational improvement entrepreneur. “He is remaking the Appeals Court and that’s probably more important for our country than anything else."

Eckert offered measured praise for Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, whose candidate recruitment and support for Moore has proven to be a headache for Republican congressional leaders.

“I think it’s good, when he picks safe Republican seats that are held by RINOs,” Eckert said, referencing to the “Republicans in name only” moniker sometimes given to more moderate members of the party.

Goal ThermometerDavid Cohn, an Republican Governors Association donor from Maryland, was an exception to the enthusiasm for the president. “Donald Trump is basically wrecking the Republican Party,” he said. “Donald Trump isn’t a Republican.”

Even as the shadow of Moore hangs over the party, several donors expressed concern about condemning him too quickly.

“It’s for the people of Alabama to decide because they’ve had many years of experience with the man,” said Amy Craig, an donor from Virginia. “Everyone is innocent until proven guilty.”

Longtime Republican megadonor Foster Friess, who is considering a primary challenge of Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming after Bannon encouraged him to think about running, said decisions about what to do about Moore should be left to the GOP.

“I think it’s distressing that a lot of people have hung him without all of the all due process taking place,” Friess said.

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Buyers' Remorse-- In North Carolina

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Trump calls her his "Foxxy Lady" because she helps him with his whole toxic agenda

That thing with the Trump family and the elephants is just so horrifying, I can't express with words the depths of my sadness. Reversing the ban on hunters importing trophies of elephants killed in Zambia and Zimbabwe has got to be one of his ugliest diversions yet.Yesterday I noted that anyone who still supports him will rot in hell with him for eternity. (But what do I know? God is wiser than I am-- though I doubt He created elephants so that spoiled assholes like Eric and Fredo could murder them and hang their body parts on walls.) So I was happy to see a post by James Hohmann in the Washington Post about Trumpian buyers' remorse based on a North Carolina focus group that was done even before the elephant murder executive order.

"Republican women," he wrote, "who voted for President Trump in North Carolina said during a focus group Wednesday night that they are embarrassed by and exasperated with him." It's an interesting look inside the heads of Trump voters and it explains why his favorability ratings are still dropping.
Annie Anthony, 56, voted for Trump last year because she opposes abortion and did not like how Hillary Clinton handled Benghazi. Now she fears that Trump is marching us toward war with North Korea. She describes the first 10 months of his presidency as “chaotic, stressful and an uphill battle.”

“While I thought his ideas appealed to me, since he’s been in there he’s embarrassed me by his behavior,” said Anthony, a divorced college graduate who runs a local nonprofit volunteer center and drives for Uber to make ends meet. “He behaves so unpresidential. The words he uses. The tweeting. I mean, he dresses nice. And Melania is looking good. When he was away (in Asia), he was great at being a president. He’s the showman. But here at home, I can’t imagine how they let him build a country club-- let alone be in one. Because adults don’t behave that way. I’ve been surprised that a billionaire would behave the way he has…

“I don’t have a problem with him tweeting,” she continued. “I follow him because I want to see what he’s saying myself and not have someone interpret it for me. But I think that his language is unprofessional. He uses words like ‘sad’ and ‘bad.’ That’s first grade language. We’re an intelligent population who elected you. Represent us!”

Anthony, a registered Republican, remains hopeful that Congress will soon pass tax cuts, but she’s nervous that they’ll take away the deduction for charitable donations. She’s also worried that, if her health insurance rates continue to go up, she won’t be able to afford to go see the doctor any more. (She makes less than $50,000 a year.)

Looking ahead to the midterms, she offered an ominous warning for the GOP: “I think the swamp is still full. I might be voting to drain that swamp some more.”

...When Hart asked for one word or phrase to describe Trump, the group initially erupted in laughter. Only two of 12 said something positive (“bold” and “fights back”). The others called him incompetent, a baffling fool, childlike, a loose cannon, an immature narcissist and ignorant.

Emily Bell, a 32-year-old occupational therapist who voted for Trump, described him as rude and stressful. “I feel like he told people that he had all these big ideas and big plans, and it just seems to kind of roll to something else. It’s like nothing is ever accomplished,” said Bell, who is married and has a postgraduate degree. “I’m going to stay optimistic, but I lean more toward being independent. Really it will come down (in 2020) to who I can trust more.”

Melissa Hight, a 62-year-old married retiree who has a postgraduate degree and voted for Trump, used the word “antagonistic” to describe him. “I had high hopes, but he just goes about things in a way that gets everybody’s back up against the wall,” she lamented. “He doesn’t facilitate working together. He comes out with these grandiose ideas, and there’s no follow through. It’s a lot of talk. … He hasn’t acted presidential at all. The tweets bother me. They may be enlightening to some people. I’m not a tweeter. But to me, firing off these tweets is just childish. … He should be above that… I will call a spade a spade because I’m a conservative more than a Republican.”

Only one of the 12 participants emerged as an unapologetic defender of the president. Cynthia Layton, a 64-year-old nurse, said she loves Trump’s tweets. “I like him because he talks like my neighbor talks to me,” she explained. “I don’t need an elitist person talking down to me. The media does not give an honest opinion. That’s why I turned off cable 10 years ago. I read my sites. I listen to his tweets. … That’s how I hear from him. The media doesn’t tell you what’s going on, so you have to find out what’s going on on your own. … To me, I think his tweets are simply what he honestly feels because he uses white and black language and doesn’t give you all these flowery descriptions about everything. I appreciate that he’s direct and tells it like it is.”
Is this going to flip any congressional seats in 2018? North Carolina is one of the most meticulously gerrymandered states in the union, with congressional districts drawn precisely to prevent anything like that. However, after the startling Isley-Freeman win in an Oklahoma state senate district that Trump won by nearly 40 points... all bets are off.

Goal ThermometerIf quality of candidates count, the most flippable seat in North Carolina is the 5th district in the northwest of the state-- from Forsyth County (Winston-Salem) through Mount Airy and Boone to the Tennessee border. The odious Virginia Foxx is the incumbent and Jenny Marshall in the challenger. She's as good as Foxx is bad. This morning she told us that "Over the past months we have been meeting more and more Republicans who are willing to talk to us about our campaign. They are not happy with Representative Virginia Foxx and have been very vocal about their dissatisfaction. They recounted meetings in which she berated people who dared to ask her questions, lectured a mother of a medically fragile child on the cost of health care, and refused to attend a town hall hosted for her as she sat in her office just a few blocks away to name just a few. They are tired of her dodging them and only appearing where she can control the narrative. Unlike Donald Trump, Virginia Foxx is not a mindless tweeting fool, but her dismissive behavior has made their own waves across the district. Her unwavering support of Trump's policies and executive orders coupled with her own lack of care has made her unpopular even among those who vote Republican."


If that Oklahoma state Senate seat can turn blue, so can NC-05. And Jenny is working with every intention of doing just that. If you'd like to give her a shot, in terms of a contribution... see that thermometer up above on the right? Give it a little click.


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