Trump’s appointee to an office at the Department of Energy was linked to some pretty nasty things on social media. You can read what he supposedly said, the smears against Obama’s mother and other overtly racist remarks (this is hard core birther stuff), at The Hill. I don’t think that even a Trump supporter, at least not in public, would defend such things. Bradford claims that the comments were not his, but that his Internet identity had been hacked.

The problem with the “hacked defense” is that it is easy to make, but difficult to prove one way or another. Trump regularly lies, and Bradford’s claim could be a convenient lie as well. All he has to do is say it and Trump supporters will believe it. They will see Bradford as a victim. He could be a victim, but I doubt it.

So who is Bradford? He is a “Jewish-American lawyer and scholar of political science,” says the Wikipedia. That sounds pretty solid, but he also called for treason charges against some US legal academics. The Wikipedia goes on to detail how Bradford had lied about his military record.

Bradford apologized for some of his disparaging remarks about Barack Obama (which is an admission that he made them) but he has denied the more offensive comments about Obama posted on the Disqus site. (This writer also posts on Disqus.)

In any case, the charges are very serious, and I strongly urge the Senate not to confirm Bradford unless this issue is fully investigated and resolved in his favor.

UPDATE:

A Democratic senator requested documents from the FBI regarding the Bradford excuse. Bradford has resigned.

Donald Trump gained notoriety in right-wing circles back in 2011 by fanning the embers of the dying birther movement, a group of conspiracy theorists who made up stories that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the US. Trump set off a chain of events that eventually led to Sheriff Joe Arpaio of the Maricopa County Arizona Sheriff’s Office assigning an investigation of Obama’s birth certificate to a totally inept, unqualified and biased volunteer posse, who several times came out with reports saying that the certificate was a fake before their pseudo-expert opinions fell apart under scrutiny.

Arpaio, however, was known for much more than being a birther. His main claim to fame came from acting out the self-proclaimed role of  “America’s toughest sheriff,” something that played out in mistreatment of prisoners, trumped-up charges and arrests of political opponents, and the big one–racial profiling. All in all, Maricopa County paid out several tens of millions of dollars in settlements for wrongful deaths in its jails, false arrest, and racial profiling. The sheriff’s office was placed under a court-appointed monitor. Evidence came to light that Arpaio intentionally disobeyed court orders and that led to his recent conviction for criminal contempt of court.

Now President Trump has pardoned his unrepentant supporter and birther protege. Trump is signaling that any illegality carrying out his agenda by his supporters is now above the law. This is a serious abuse of the presidential pardon, but President Trump has shown almost daily that he has no respect for the office he holds.

The US Supreme Court decided in the last century that the president’s pardon power extends to criminal contempt of court. For a scholarly article article on the topic, see “Contempt and Executive Power to Pardon” by by Paul M. Butler in Notre Dame Law Review (548) 1929.

We can’t be sure why Donald Trump says things that are either outright lies or at least things for which there is no supporting evidence. He may be a crazy conspiracy theorist, or me may say outrageous things to co-opt the news cycle and divert attention from his negatives. Whatever the reason, it weakens America.

Let me remind people some of the outright false or highly questionable statements from Donald Trump (Politifact documented over 100).

  • Muslims in New Jersey cheered the 9/11 attacks
  • There’s something fishy about Barack Obama’s birth certificate, and blamed the stories on Hillary Clinton
  • Global warming is a Chinese hoax to weaken America
  • Barack Obama personally ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower
  • 3-5 million persons illegally voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election

Perhaps the reader is like me and has become habituated to Trump’s nonsense and just files it under “stuff not worth bothering with.” Yesterday I realized just how wrong that is. The instance involves the US missile strike in Syria. This action by the Trump administration may be the only arguably positive thing Trump has done since becoming president. It shows the resolve of the United States regarding the use of chemical weapons, but the international leverage gained by that action is diluted because the Russians have essentially labeled the “Assad chemical attacks” story fake news; they say it was the rebel factions who used the chemical weapons. So who is the world to believe, the Trump administration who regularly puts out fake news, or the Russians who regularly put out fake news?1

Every time the government and its leaders lie, the credibility of the United States suffers, and the world is less likely to believe them when they tell the truth.


1We took a similar hit when George W. Bush used fake evidence (sale of “yellow cake”) to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Most folks were completely shocked when Donald Trump made a major reshuffle of the National Security Council in January, adding his chief political strategist Steve Bannon and dropping the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Security advisor. People wondered what President Trump was doing.

Apparently President Trump didn’t know what he was doing, according to a February article in the New York Times: “Report: Trump not fully briefed on exec order that gave Bannon seat at NSC meetings.” Trump didn’t know what he was signing. But it gets worse. Not only didn’t President Trump know what he was signing, no one else did either. The demotion of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the National Security Advisor was not intentional, according to the White House. It was all a mistake because somebody cut and pasted text from a George W. Bush order and left them out.

OK, so why would they wait 2 months to fix a typo? Where’s my picture of the clown car?

As for Steve Bannon’s removal from the Council, the Administration says that his original placement was not a mistake, but rather that Bannon was put on the Council to “de-operationalize” it [what the heck does that mean?], and now that has been completed.

accomplished

“When you are given immunity, that means you probably committed a crime.” Michael Flynn, September 2016 on NBC’s Meet the Press.

“If you’re not guilty of a crime, what do you need immunity for?” Donald Trump, September 27, 2016.

“Mike Flynn should ask for immunity…” Donald Trump, March 31, 2017 – Twitter.

Trump and his surrogates don’t even try for consistency. Their rhetoric is meaningless.

The story comes from Jerome Corsi via the Alex Jones conspiracy theory web site Infowars. The top quote says:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Infowars.com have obtained credible information from law enforcement sources regarding individual records of U.S. citizens under National Security Agency (NSA) electronic surveillance in the years 2004 through 2010 – a database that suggests both Donald J. Trump and Alex Jones were under illegal, unauthorized government monitoring during those years.

What follows is the unpacking of that statement, and why it is not true.

There’s no better place to start with than the phrase “law enforcement sources.” Embattled former sheriff of Maricopa County Arizona, Joe Arpaio, has been under a court order in the Melendres v. Arpaio lawsuit to stop racial profiling Latinos. A man named Dennis Montgomery that one article describes as “The Man Who Conned the Pentagon” (his specialty was turning noise into terrorist messages hidden in Al Jazeera broadcasts. Eventually the government finally figured out that his software didn’t work and terminated the contracts after millions were paid) was indeed a government contractor for the CIA and the Pentagon. A relationship developed between him and Joe Arpaio. Montgomery claimed to have a massive database of data from the NSA program to record telephone call data (not content) through a program that was leaked to the public by Edward Snowden. Arpaio paid Montgomery a considerable sum as a confidential informant (the exact amount isn’t known, but it tops $100,000) for evidence that the judge in the Melendres case was having secret phone conversations with the Justice Department. Montgomery also took $10,000 from Mike Zullo to provide proof that Obama’s birth certificate was a forgery—proof that never materialized.

Arpaio must have known about Montgomery’s dubious past, or was at least suspicious because he hired two former NSA employees to analyze the 50 hard drives full of stuff Montgomery had provided. The NSA analysts, Thomas Drake and Kurt Wiebe who examined the hard drives came to the conclusion that Montgomery’s work product was a “total fraud.” Arpaio himself, on the witness stand trying to explain why he was investigating the judge, admitted that the material from Montgomery was “junk.”

So Joe Arpaio is the “law enforcement”  part of the “source” but more on that later.

The next phrase to unpack is “credible,” which as we have seen according to experts and law enforcement itself was a “total fraud” and “junk.” Maricopa County Detective Brian Mackiewicz said:

There was no sensitive information contained on any of these 50 yard drives. … Much of the information that Dennis Montgomery has alleged that was harvested by the federal government … cannot be sourced for validity based on the information contained in the 50 hard drives. … At this juncture, after a 13 month investigation, Maricopa County Sheriffs office CANNOT validate the credibility of Dennis Montgomery or his work. … It is extremely discouraging to learn most if not all the representations made by Dennis Montgomery to investigators, the State of Arizona, and a Federal Judge have been less than truthful.

When Drake and Wiebe examined the hard drives, the data they found consisted primarily of hours and hours of recorded Al Jazeera broadcasts. Some documents that did appear to list phone calls and durations contained wrong numbers for some of the parties listed, suggesting that the data was faked.  I have never seen any knowledgeable source confirm that Montgomery ever had access to any NSA phone call log data.

Corsi’s article states that “Sheriff Arpaio and Chief Investigator Zullo have identified dozens of entries at various addresses, including both Trump Tower in New York City and Mar-a-Lago in Palm Breach Florida.” Zullo was unpaid volunteer for one of the Sheriff’s Posses. “Chief Investigator” is a fake title. Nothing I have seen in the Melendres testimony suggests that anyone at the Sheriff’s office looked at Montgomery’s alleged database to identify anything, but rather only looked at excerpt reports. The hard drives they had lacked the information as we have seen. Deputy Anglin testified in October 2015 about what he passed on to Arpaio from Montgomery:

…phone logs, again spreadsheets showing a series of calls, phone numbers that originated the calls, phone numbers that received the calls, the length of time, the date and the time that those calls were made. I [Anglin” also provided documents that Montgomery provided to us, that being lists of names of individuals with their addresses, as well as businesses with their addresses.”

The form of some of this information is available from court documents.

There was a 2013 meeting, prior to his relationship with Montgomery, between Arpaio, and Montgomery business associate Tim Blixseth that was recorded  by Mike Zullo, in which Blixseth states regarding the database:

… and I see myself in there. I see people I know, I mean, I see Donald Trump in there a zillion times, and Bloomberg’s in there and ….

But again, the “database” was always in the possession of Montgomery or his associate, not law enforcement. So while the NSA collected phone call data on everybody (making Trump’s inclusion rather unremarkable), there remains serious doubt as to whether Arpaio, Zullo, Montgomery or Corsi have ever had access to it. The following chart was prepared by Montgomery, alleging specific phone conversations:

Image courtesy of the Phoenix New Times

Again, this is a Montgomery claim, not actual data. Former NSA employee Thomas Drake wrote of this data:

“All he  as done is to provide you with readily available lists of email addresses, names, phone number of both individuals and businesses and a lot of framed up information, data and code BUT NO PROOF OF WHENCE THEY CAME and a whole lot of faked and made up documents and analysis.

So if Jerome Corsi did not get his list of phone numbers and addresses from the only source he mentions, where did he get this sensitive NSA data, the possession of which is probably a crime?Maybe he just made it up, more likely took the word of a con man that it exists. And of course, the NSA telephone mining operation started under President Bush, not Obama.

I am dismayed by the budget proposal from President Trump because it is an attack on what makes America really great. A country is not only great because of a big army, winning wars, and being rich. A country is great when its people are happy and fulfilled. It is great when they are free and informed. It is great when they have a path to a better future.

The Trump budget cuts funds for Public Radio and Television. These produce some of the most balanced and in-depth news reporting we have available to us. NPR and PBS programming bring culture and arts to Americans.

The Trump budget eliminates the AmeriCorps program. I personally work with AmeriCorps volunteers through Habitat for Humanity of Greenville. The provide important assistance, and are growing in leadership skills in construction (2) and family services (1). At least three of the full-time staff at Greenville Habitat are former AmeriCorps volunteers. The AmeriCorps program turns out first class citizens, who also help our communities.

Trump’s budget cuts the National Institute for Health and disease research. How could that ever be good?

Trump’s budget slashes federal funding for the arts and humanities. What country could be great without arts and humanities? Should we turn into boorish louts like our President?

I am dismayed that the right-wing crazies are setting climate policy, and that the United States is unilaterally deciding to put its head in the sand and ignore global warming and sea rise. What is so ironic is that the new green energy industry had tremendous potential to create well-paying jobs and keep the United States in the forefront of technology. The Trump budget decimates the very thing that is and will make America strong and prosperous. The Chinese are racing ahead of is in this area. Germany has set a date after which no gasoline vehicles will be made there. And we’re cutting funding for green energy, and re-examining CAFE standards.

I feel like the Trump budget is a nuclear strike aimed at the Heart of America.

Here’s the tweet. You try to figure out exactly what Donald Trump means:

image

A White House spokesperson confirmed key numbers in the 2005 Donald Trump Form 1040 released by DCREPORT.ORG and claimed that its publication was “illegal.” So the tax returns are real. So what is the fake news? I guess Trump is claiming that the reporter who published the returns didn’t just “find” them but got them some other way.

To start with, Trump (who really doesn’t pay attention to folks outside his family and business interests by the evidence of who he follows on Twitter), says that reporter David Cay Johnson is someone “nobody ever heard of.” I guess a Pulitzer Prize for economic reporting doesn’t carry much weight in Trump’s universe, but in that universe, no one but journalists want to see his tax returns either.

Of course Trump has no evidence one way or another about how Johnson obtained the tax form. Or does he?

We cannot discount the possibility that Trump leaked the forms himself. Think about it. There is mounting pressure for Trump to release his taxes in full. The Congress is digging into Trump’s connections with Russians. His complete tax returns would show where Trump gets his money, and who he owes. This woefully incomplete two pages from 11 years ago, generally innocuous, might be the basis of an argument that goes: “See, you’ve seem my tax returns and there’s nothing interesting about them.” Form 1040 alone tells you almost nothing about Trump’s business dealings.

National Public Radio reported:

The House Intelligence Committee set the deadline in a letter to Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente last week in which it asked for proof of the claim, which Obama and others have said is baseless.

imageThe deadline is today, March 13, 2017.

Instead of looking at President Obama, the House should be investigating Donald Trump’s sanity.

Senator John McCain told CNN this past Sunday:

I think the president has one of two choices: either retract or … provide the information that the American people deserve

Will the evidence be forthcoming? What do you think?

Update:

Well, the Administration is begging for more time, and the House Committee has given them until the 20th. Meanwhile, Trump’s disinformation secretary, Sean Spicer, is saying that Trump didn’t mean actual wiretapping when he used the word in quotation marks in his tweet. So exactly what does “wiretapping” mean? Spicer also suggested that Trump didn’t mean that Obama himself ordered the quote wiretaps unquote, when he said “Obama ordered.” Who was Trump referring to when he said “bad (or sick) guy”?

image

Update:

So March 20 came and went without any evidence. Republican chairman Nunes said that no evidence of wiretapping was found at Trump Tower. Nunes added “it’s possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates.” Well it’s possible that President Trump and his associates were agents of a foreign power. Anything’s possible.

Donald Trump is a liar at heart, and his die-hard supporters don’t seem to care.

Update

As a result of Nunes’ collaboration with the White House, it appears that they have worked together to halt the House investigation into Russian intervention in the 2016 election and Trump’s role in it.

The House Intelligence Committee appears to be paralyzed amid indications that Republican chair Devin Nunes has been working on behalf of President Donald Trump to undermine its investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

Caroline Bankoff – New York Magazine

Nunes canceled two scheduled hearings of the House Intelligence Committee. Democratic member Jim Himes said:

I’m sorry to say, the chairman has ceased to be the chairman of an investigative committee and has been running interference for the Trump White House, cancelling hearings. … Effectively, what has happened is the committee’s oversight, the oversight of our national intelligence apparatus, has come to a halt because of this particular issue.

I was thinking about the fact that Donald Trump says a lot of  irresponsible things, but he never apologizes. The Chicago Tribune had an article I saw today that says:

… when Congress determines, as it surely will, that Trump Tower wasn’t wiretapped and Trump was wrong to defame Barack Obama by saying he engaged in illegal political espionage — will Trump apologize?

Not a chance. …

The Tribune is no doubt correct. I mean, when did Trump apologize for questioning Obama’s birth certificate? When he repudiated his prior campaign to cast doubt on the document, he blatantly lied about what he had done, and tried to cast the blame on someone else.

The Heritage Foundation (a conservative think tank) wrote an article in 2009 titled: “Barack Obama’s Top 10 Apologies: How the President Has Humiliated a Superpower.” In all fairness, I couldn’t say whether the Heritage Foundation actually views apologies as a sign of weakness, or if this article is just anti-Obama propaganda. In either case, the mindset of the Trump supporter seems to be that apology is humiliating, and a sign of weakness. I personally see honesty as a sign of strength and when correcting the record requires admitting that you were wrong, my respect for that individual and their credibility increases.

Needless to say, my respect for Donald Trump is non-existent and his credibility with me is zero.