Domestic abuse allegations surface against Congressman Keith Ellison  

Ellison’s former girlfriend Karen Monahan has accused him “of emotionally abusing her and dragging her off a bed by her feet.”

From CBS Minnesota:

With just two days to go before Minnesota’s primary election, domestic abuse allegations are surfacing against U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a candidate for Minnesota attorney general.

The accusations came in a Facebook post published on Saturday night by Austin Monahan, the son of Ellison’s former girlfriend, Karen.

In it, he writes, in part, “In the middle of 2017, I was using my moms computer trying to download something and I clicked on a file. I found over 100 text and twitter messages and video almost 2 minutes long that showed Keith Ellison dragging my mama off the bed by her feet, screaming and calling her a f — b — and telling her to get the f — out of his house.”

He also claimed he found messages from Ellison that would “victim shame, bully her, and threaten her if she went public.”

The alleged video was not linked in that Facebook post, but Monahan confirmed her son’s story on Twitter Sunday afternoon, writing, in part, “What my son said is true. Every statement he made was true. Keith Ellison, you know you did that to me.” […]

She also gives more context to the story initially published by her son on Facebook.

“One night I confronted him very calm about a lie he had just told me straight to my face. What happened next was a rage that I had never witnessed to that magnitude. He was becoming a person I had never seen before. The next morning, he came into the room I was sleeping in. I was laying across the bed with my headphones on, listening to podcast on my phone. He said he was about to leave town for the weekend and told me to take the trash out. Given the explosive outrage that occurred the night before, I just should shook my head yes. I didn’t look up at him or saying anything,” the statement reads. “That is when he tried to drag me off the bed by my legs and feet, screaming “b — you answer when I am talking to you. I said take out the trash, your a bad guest (even though we were living in the same place). He kept trying to drag me off the bed, telling me to get the f– out of his house, over and over. I froze. He had to leave and get on the plane. He knocked the shoe off my foot and told me I better be gone when he gets back (which was in two days).This happened in 2016. The gaslighting, manipulation, name calling and cheating started in 2014. By time the physical abuse occurred, I was dealing with the PTSD full blown.”

Read the whole thing …

One year after Charlottesville, Trump has normalized racism in America  

“President Trump’s divisive and racial rhetoric is becoming the new normal. We can’t let that happen to us as a nation.”

From USA Today:

More than a year-and-a half into the Trump presidency, many have accepted the reality that Trump is unlike any U.S. president previously seen, that he wallows in divisive rhetoric and tolerates odious behavior because he so often indulges in it.

Trump inflames racial tensions
His recent assault on LeBron James as stupid and CNN host Don Lemon as stupider (“low IQ” is his go-to insult for blacks) is par for the course. It’s impossible, at this point, to be surprised by boorish behavior in someone who consistently acts like a boob. The trap — and one that Trump could easily lead us into — is to start thinking such behavior is not just normal for Trump but normal. […]

When our president warns of marauding hordes pouring across the border and refers to brown people seeking asylum as an infestation, it’s no surprise that people are fretting over race relations.

In 2009, I visited Rwanda and talked to men who had participated in the attempted genocide 15 years earlier, many of whom were in prison. Why, I asked, had they tortured and killed their Tutsi neighbors? Some refused to give a direct answer. Others claimed they were wrongly accused. But the typical response among those who answered was that they thought they were doing what the state wanted them to do. They thought they were doing good. They thought they were performing a service by ridding the world of people the government called “cockroaches.”

Thank God we have gotten nowhere near that point in America — yet — although one could argue that putting immigrant children considered part of an infestation in cages is a step in that direction.

Read the whole thing …

AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s economic mirage  

If you accept as gospel what Donald Trump is saying about the economy, jobs and the deficit under his presidency, then the country seems to be on a roll such as never before seen in its history.

However, an AP fact check reveals a somewhat different situation.

From Yahoo Finance:

ECONOMY AND JOBS

TRUMP: “Economic growth, last quarter, hit the 4.1. We anticipate this next quarter to be — this is just an estimate, but already they’re saying it could be in the fives.” — remarks Tuesday before a group of business executives.

TRUMP: “As you know, we’re doing record and close-to-record GDP.” — remarks Tuesday.

THE FACTS: No. These are the latest in a string of exaggerated claims that Trump has made about the U.S. economy.

While economists are generally optimistic about growth, very few anticipate the economy will expand at a 5 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter the president referred to. Macroeconomic Advisers, a consulting firm in St. Louis, forecasts 3.2 percent growth in the third quarter. JPMorgan Chase economists have penciled in 3.5 percent. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta pegs it at 4.3 percent.

Whatever the final number turns out to be, none of these figures represents record or close-to-record growth for gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation’s output. The 4.1 percent growth in the second quarter was simply the most since 2014.

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TRUMP: “We’ve created 3.9 million more jobs since Election Day — so almost 4 million jobs — which is unthinkable.” — remarks Thursday at prison reform event in Bedminster, N.J.

THE FACTS: It’s not that unthinkable, since more jobs were created in the same period before the November 2016 election than afterward.

It’s true that in the 20 months since Trump’s election, the economy has generated 3.9 million jobs. In the 20 months before his election, however, employers added 4.3 million jobs.

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TRUMP: “Great financial numbers being announced on an almost daily basis. Economy has never been better, jobs at best point in history.” — tweet Monday.

THE FACTS: He’s exaggerating. The economy is healthy now, but it has been in better shape at many times in the past.

Growth reached 4.1 percent at an annual rate in the second quarter, which Trump highlighted late last month with remarks at the White House. But it’s only the best in the past four years. So far, the economy is expanding at a modest rate compared with previous economic expansions. In the late 1990s, growth topped 4 percent for four straight years, from 1997 through 2000. And in the 1980s expansion, growth even reached 7.2 percent in 1984.

It’s not clear what Trump specifically means when he declares that jobs are at the “best point in history,” but based on several indicators, he’s off the mark.

The unemployment rate of 3.9 percent is not at the best point ever — it is actually near the lowest in 18 years. The all-time low came in 1953, when unemployment fell to 2.5 percent during the Korean War. And while economists have been surprised to see employers add 215,000 jobs a month this year, a healthy increase, employers in fact added jobs at a faster pace in 2014 and 2015. A greater percentage of Americans held jobs in 2000 than now.

Trump didn’t mention probably the most important measure of economic health for Americans — wages. While paychecks are slowly grinding higher, inflation is now canceling out the gains. Lifted by higher gasoline prices, consumer prices increased 2.9 percent in June from a year earlier, the most in six years.

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TARIFFS AND THE DEFICIT

TRUMP: “Because of Tariffs we will be able to start paying down large amounts of the $21 Trillion in debt that has been accumulated, much by the Obama Administration, while at the same time reducing taxes for our people.” — tweet Sunday.

THE FACTS: This isn’t going to happen.

The Treasury Department estimates that all tariffs currently in place will raise about $40 billion in revenue in the 2018 budget year, which ends Sept. 30. Even with the recent tariff increases Trump has implemented or threatened to put in place, it clearly wouldn’t be enough to reduce the $21 trillion national debt. It’s just 5 percent of what the president would need to eliminate the annual budget deficit of $804 billion that the Congressional Budget Office predicts for this year. The national debt represents the accumulation of all the annual deficits.

The president seems to believe that foreigners pay tariffs, but they are import taxes paid for by American businesses and consumers. They may make it harder for other countries to sell things in the United States, but they are just another form of tax and do not result in lower taxes for the American people overall.

Read the whole thing …

Trump is as strongly disliked now as Nixon was before he resigned  

The intensity of the disapproval for Trump could bring about the greatest House seat gain for Democrats in a midterm since 1974.

From CNN:

The love and dislike Trump elicits has proven to be a positive and a negative for him. It’s been a positive because so few Republican lawmakers have been willing to abandon him given they feel he is beloved by the base. Additionally, it has helped Trump from falling too far below an overall approval rating of 40%.

The number of Americans who hold strong negative feelings towards Trump is, however, significantly greater than the number who hold strong positive feelings.

In fact, it’s record breaking how many give Trump a poor rating this early in his presidency.

President Ronald Reagan, for example, had a higher combined “only fair” and poor in an August 1982 Harris poll than Trump currently has. In 1982, however, only 26% rated Reagan’s job performance as poor. That’s far below Trump’s current 45%.

Like Reagan did in 1982, President Bill Clinton had a higher combined “only fair” and poor rating than Trump in a late July 1994 Harris poll. His poor rating though was just 24%.

Or how about one of Trump’s favorite punching bags: President Barack Obama. A June 2010 Pew Research Center poll found that 56% of Americans thought he was doing an “only fair” or poor job. His poor job rating was similar to both Clinton’s and Reagan’s at 27%.

All of these presidents saw major midterm losses for their party. There’s no reason to believe Trump’s Republican Party won’t suffer as much if not moreso.

The intensity of the disapproval for Trump has translated to a significant enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans in midterm polling and special elections. It could drive Democrats to their greatest House seat gain in a midterm since the last time a Republican president had such a high poor rating in that midterm year. That of course was in 1974.

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The G.O.P. stands by as Trump upends American security  

“In the aftermath of Helsinki, there has been outcry, but no real action, from the Republican establishment.”

From The New Yorker:

This summer, President Donald Trump has upended the basis of American security — opening a trade war with China, chastising U.S. allies in Europe, and, at a press conference in Helsinki, following a two-hour private meeting with President Vladimir Putin, accepting his claim that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election. The Times reported that U.S. intelligence officials had presented Trump with evidence that Putin himself had ordered cyberattacks in an attempt to affect the electoral outcome. Just days before the Helsinki meeting, Robert Mueller, the special counsel, indicted a dozen Russian intelligence officers on detailed charges of hacking Democratic e-mail accounts. In a separate case, prosecutors also accused a Russian woman in Washington, Mariia Butina, of advancing a plot to influence the National Rifle Association. (Her lawyer has denied the charges.) And still Trump praised the Russian leader.

The outcry, including from Republicans, was instant. Senator John McCain said, “No prior President has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.” McCain’s junior colleague from Arizona, Senator Jeff Flake, called Trump’s behavior “shameful.” For the rest of the week, the President’s allies tried to signal their independence. Asked if Trump had been wise to meet one on one with Putin, Dan Coats, the director of National Intelligence, said, “I would have suggested a different way.” The Senate, in a rare act of unity, passed a nonbinding resolution against Putin’s request to interrogate American officials, a proposition that Trump had entertained but finally rejected.

More remarkable, though, was what didn’t happen. No one resigned from the Cabinet. No Republican senators took concrete steps to restrain or contain or censure the President. Julian Zelizer, a professor of history at Princeton University, noted that, fifty years ago, “you had elected officials, including the President, who were fundamentally committed to governance. They weren’t dismissive of the operation. They were cautious in how they did things because they understood the stakes of what elected officials do. None of that is true right now.”

The pattern is already visible for the historians of tomorrow. When Trump hailed neo-Nazis in Charlottesville as “very fine people,” when he endorsed an accused child molester for the Senate, when he separated children from their parents at the Mexican border, the Republican Party, by and large, accepted it. And, when Coats said, of Russian cyberattacks, that “warning lights are blinking red again,” the Party did not pressure the President to mount a defense. Meanwhile, Trump returned from Helsinki and resumed berating fellow-Americans, especially the press (“the real enemy of the people”). On Thursday, it was announced that he had invited Putin to visit Washington in the fall — an invitation that Coats learned of from an interviewer.

Read the whole thing …

Pence, Bolton, Kelly confronted Trump in Oval Office about Russia comments  

Trump’s obsequious kowtowing in Helsinki to President Vladimir Putin, particularly after they emerged from their 2-hours-long tête-à-tête, was enough to make one almost doubt the evidence of one’s own eyes and ears.

Yet, incredibly, he claims the summit was a personal success.

From Los Angeles Times:

Walking off stage with Putin after their joint news conference in Helsinki, Trump was riding high after his second summit with an adversarial leader in as many months. The highly choreographed affairs had been sought out by the U.S. leader as a way to boost his credibility abroad and his favorability at home, and he believed the latest one had accomplished the task.

But as Air Force One took off into Finland’s endless sunlight on Monday night, Trump’s mood darkened.

The president began dialing around to allies and aides and started to stew about negative media coverage, even from usually friendly Fox News, according to five outside allies and Republicans close to the White House not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.

The reviews he received were muted — Trump rarely takes kindly to direct confrontation — but it was a taste of what awaited him on his return in Washington, where stalwart allies like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich were speaking out.

By the time he arrived home, the parade of critical statements had become a stampede, leaving Trump the most isolated he’d been in the White House since last year’s controversy over white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville. Some in the president’s circle saw parallels in the response to that incident, when the president walked back his August comments critical of “both sides” for protests in the Virginia city, only to later revert to his initial position — that both white supremacists and their detractors shared blame for the violence.

Trump waited 27 hours, sent five tweets and sat for two television interviews after his initial comments in Helsinki before declaring he’d used a confusing “double negative” and mistakenly said “would” instead of “wouldn’t” in a key sentence at his news conference about who was responsible for election meddling.

Read the whole thing …

Why Russia will help the Democrats next  

“Election meddling is cheap, effective and here to stay. And hurting the Republicans is the smart strategy for the midterms.”

From Politico:

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned last week that the nation is under sustained cyberattack from foreign adversaries like Russia. “I’m here to say, the warning lights are blinking red again,” Coats said, echoing the comments of former CIA Director George Tenet about the summer of 2001. “The warning signs are there. The system is blinking. It is why I believe we are at a critical point.”

Coats’ remarks reinforced consistent warnings, from current and former national security officials over the past year, that Russia is moving forward with more attacks on the midterm elections.

And why shouldn’t the Russians do more? Their multipronged 2016 attack, outlined in repeated indictments this year by special counsel Robert Mueller, was a resounding success, and in the nearly two years since, the United States has taken no meaningful action to change Russia’s calculation that the risk-reward of attacking American democracy is worth it.

“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations,” Coats said in February. “We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokespeople and other means of influence to try to exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States.”

What makes the American government’s ongoing inaction — and the general myopia on Capitol Hill and at the White House around the cyber threat — so stunning is the simple fact that the Republicans in charge of the executive and legislative branches should be terrified that they’re next. The 2016 attacks by Russia boosted President Donald Trump and undermined Hillary Clinton’s campaign, but there’s no guarantee that the next nation-state considering the electoral landscape will back the Republicans.

In fact, almost the opposite. There’s solid geopolitical evidence that boosting the Democrats would be a smart strategy for a foreign actor this fall.

Vladimir Putin’s goal isn’t — and never was — to help the Republican Party, at least in the long run. Boosting Trump’s presidential campaign was a means to Putin’s end: Weakening the West, and exploiting the seams and divisions of the West’s open democracies to undermine our legitimacy and moral standing. Russia accomplished that with great success in 2016 — and it’s a strategy that is continuing to pay dividends today. “Their purpose was to sow discontent and mistrust in our elections; they wanted us to be at each others’ throat when it was over,” former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers said last year. “It’s influencing, I would say, legislative process today. That’s wildly successful.”

Just look at the past week of foreign policy, during which Trump slammed NATO, insulted German Chancellor Angela Merkel, undermined British Prime Minister Theresa May and the government of our closest ally, called Europe a “foe,” and mused out loud about whether he would honor the foundational mutual-defense premise of NATO. Not to mention the bizarre news conference with Putin that the BBC summed up as: “Trump sides with Russia against FBI at Helsinki summit.” It would have been hard for Putin to plan a more effective week to undermine and divide the West if he had orchestrated and stage-managed the entire process from a Kremlin whiteboard.

As former FBI Director James Comey explained Putin’s strategy: “It’s not about Republicans or Democrats. They’re coming after America, which I hope we all love equally. They want to undermine our credibility in the face the world. They think that this great experiment of ours is a threat to them. And so they’re going to try to run it down and dirty it up as much as possible. That’s what this is about, and they will be back. Because we remain — as difficult as we can be with each other — we remain that shining city on the hill. And they don’t like it.” […]

The Russian attack in 2016 was a nearly perfect asymmetric assault. Although it was expansive and expensive — the Internet Research Agency effort alone employed hundreds of people and cost upwards of $1.25 million a month, according to Mueller’s indictment — it was highly cost-effective, perhaps the most effective intelligence operation in modern history, all achieved at very little political cost to Russia and at little risk to its personnel. As Comey said, “We’re talking about a foreign government that, using technical intrusion, lots of other methods, tried to shape the way we think, we vote, we act. That is a big deal. And people need to recognize it.”

The next round of election attacks may not even stem from Russia. Other nation-state adversaries — particularly America’s three other leading cyber adversaries, China, North Korea and Iran — have surely taken note. It would be all but espionage malpractice for them not to be out there plotting right now about how to achieve the same results by following Russia’s now tried-and-tested model.

Read the whole thing …

Trump’s new midterm threat: A trade war smacking voters  

“Market analysts, industry experts and economists warn the economic fallout of the president’s tariffs could peak around election time.”

From Politico:

President Donald Trump’s trade wars could become a major political drag for Republicans, with job losses and price increases piling up just as voters head to the polls in November.

Trump jolted markets once again early Friday when he said he’s prepared to impose penalties on some $500 billion in Chinese goods regardless of the consequences that might ensue, economic or political. “Look, I’m not doing this for politics,” the president said on CNBC. “I’m doing this to do the right thing for our country.”

But market analysts, industry experts and economists warn that the economic fallout of the president’s tariffs — those that are already in effect and those he’s threatening to impose — is only going to intensify over the coming months and could reach a peak around election time.

“We’re already hearing complaints now from companies, so by the time we get to the midterms, you’re going to be hearing governors, mayors, Congress complaining about jobs, about cost increases, about problems,” Carlos Gutierrez, the former Commerce secretary under President George W. Bush, told POLITICO. “The question is: Will that be strong enough to offset the idea that we have to get tough on our trading partners, and that our jobs are being stolen overseas?”

It takes months for most consumers to feel the impact of tariffs, but as the fall approaches, everything from groceries to appliances could start to cost more at major retailers across the country. Democrats could use these price increases as a political cudgel against Republicans in swing districts as they try to take back control of Congress.

Trump has so far suffered little political blowback for his tariffs and trade threats, saying that he is simply following through on promises he made during the campaign to crack down on trading partners, even close allies, and put America first. Since March, he has imposed blanket tariffs on nearly all imports of steel and aluminum and placed penalties on $34 billion in goods from China, a total likely to increase to $50 billion next month and into the hundreds of billions later this year.

In return, countries have retaliated with tit-for-tat duties on everything from U.S. agricultural goods to Kentucky bourbon and Harley-Davidson motorcycles, aiming to sway top Republican lawmakers by hurting constituents in their districts.

But Trump and his party could soon begin to face consequences as companies in the coming months start reporting lower earnings, reassessing their supply chains and holding back on investment, all of which will begin to ripple throughout the economy and could lead to a slowdown or full-blown recession, experts say.

Read the whole thing …

Legal experts say Michael Cohen secretly recording Trump is very bad news for Trump  

“The conversation apparently centered on payments made to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who has alleged an affair with Trump.”

From Business Insider:

Legal experts were stunned at news that President Donald Trump’s former longtime lawyer Michael Cohen secretly recorded his old boss having a conversation about payments made to a former Playboy model who claimed she had an affair with Trump.

And the sheer existence of that tape, some said, was bad news no matter what was said on it.

“It’s never a good thing when you’re talking to a suspected criminal about matters under which he’s under investigation,” Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor who’s now a partner at Thompson Coburn, told Business Insider. “And it’s even worse when you’re being recorded.”

On Friday, The New York Times reported that Cohen recorded a conversation with Trump just two months ahead of the 2016 election in which they discussed payments to former Playboy model Karen McDougal. That recording was among several the FBI seized in April when it raided Cohen’s properties. Meanwhile, the tape seemed to contradict the Trump campaign’s past denial of any knowledge of such payments to McDougal.

Read the whole thing …

The worst Russia blunder in 70 years  

“The president’s absolution of Putin will stand as the most surreal moment in 70 years of Russian-American relations, and maybe the most bizarre and troubling utterance by any chief executive in American history.”

From The Atlantic:

Whether Donald Trump is president for four years or eight, whatever history’s ultimate judgment of him is, and however he tries to explain it away, his remarks in Helsinki absolving Vladimir Putin of interference in the 2016 election will stand as the most surreal moment in 70 years of Russian-American relations, an ineradicable blot on the ledger of his presidency and maybe — just maybe — the most bizarre and troubling utterance by any chief executive in American history.

It is almost beside the point if Trump’s defense of Putin will have a lasting impact on his political fortunes — any more than the Access Hollywood tape, his firing of FBI Director James Comey, his equivalence of white nationalists and protesters in Charlottesville, or his forced separation of parents and children at the Mexico border seriously damaged his standing with the voters and Republican officials whose loyalty seems unswerving.

Each of those events was greeted to one degree or another as the end of the road, only to wind up as speed bumps. Trump’s comments on Russia are qualitatively and quantitatively different, and in the white-hot speed of the digital age are already guaranteed a permanent place in the history books. No less a self-styled student of the past than Newt Gingrich pronounced Trump’s performance the gravest mistake of his presidency. Former CIA Director John Brennan was moved to describe it as “nothing short of treasonous,” surely among the most inflammatory charges ever lodged against a sitting president by a former top government official since the age of dueling died out.

Read the whole thing …