Category Archives: McCain

Jane Mayer’s in-depth report on Christopher Steele

Jane Mayer at the New Yorker has an in-depth lengthy narrative report on Christopher Steele, the former M.I.6 spy and Russia specialist. This is the most concise narrative report I have seen on this subject. Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier (ecerpts):

Christopher Steele had spent more than twenty years in M.I.6, most of it focussing on Russia. For three years, in the nineties, he spied in Moscow under diplomatic cover. Between 2006 and 2009, he ran the service’s Russia desk, at its headquarters, in London. He was fluent in Russian, and widely considered to be an expert on the country. He’d also advised on nation-building in Iraq.

* * *

Steele worked out of the British Embassy for M.I.6, under diplomatic cover. His years in Moscow, 1990 to 1993, were among the most dramatic in Russian history, a period that included the collapse of the Communist Party; nationalist uprisings in Ukraine, the Caucasus, and the Baltic states; and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Boris Yeltsin gained ultimate power in Russia, and a moment of democratic promise faded as the K.G.B.—now called the F.S.B.—reasserted its influence, oligarchs snapped up state assets, and nationalist political forces began to emerge. Vladimir Putin, a K.G.B. operative returning from East Germany, reinvented himself in the shadowy world of St. Petersburg politics. By the time Steele left the country, optimism was souring, and a politics of resentment—against the oligarchs, against an increasing gap between rich and poor, and against the West—was taking hold.

After leaving Moscow, Steele was assigned an undercover posting with the British Embassy in Paris, but he and a hundred and sixteen other British spies had their cover blown by an anonymously published list. Steele came in from the cold and returned to London, and in 2006 he began running its Russia desk, growing increasingly pessimistic about the direction of the Russian Federation.

Steele’s already dim view of the Kremlin darkened in November, 2006, when Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian K.G.B. officer and a Putin critic who had been recruited by M.I.6, suffered an agonizing death in a London hospital, after drinking a cup of tea poisoned with radioactive polonium-210. Moscow had evidently sanctioned a brazen murder in his own country. Steele was put in charge of M.I.6’s investigation. Authorities initially planned to indict one suspect in the murder, but Steele’s investigative work persuaded them to indict a second suspect as well. Nine years later, the U.K.’s official inquiry report was finally released, and it confirmed Steele’s view: the murder was an operation by the F.S.B., and it was “probably approved” by Vladimir Putin.

Steele has never commented on the case, or on any other aspect of his intelligence work, but Richard Dearlove, who led M.I.6 from 1999 to 2004, has described his reputation as “superb.” A former senior officer recalls him as “a Russia-area expert whose knowledge I and others respected—he was very careful, and very savvy.” Another former M.I.6 officer described him as having a “Marmite” personality—a reference to the salty British spread, which people either love or hate. He suggested that Steele didn’t appear to be “going places in the service,” noting that, after the Cold War, Russia had become a backwater at M.I.6. But he acknowledged that Steele “knew Russia well,” and that running the Russia desk was “a proper job that you don’t give to an idiot.”

Continue reading

Working Americans have not noticed the effect of the GOP tax cut on their personal finances

Erica Werner of the Washington Post today asserts As GOP tax cuts take hold, Democrats struggle for line of attack based upon conservative Democrat Joe Donnelly’s reelection campaign in the deep red state of Indiana:

The new law is rising in popularity as businesses in Indiana and elsewhere trumpet bonuses and bigger paychecks. And while Donnelly and fellow Democrats struggle to craft a consistent attack on the law, Republicans — boosted by outside spending from groups backed by the billionaire Koch brothers and others — are united in touting the tax cuts and slamming moderate Democrats who voted against them.

* * *

Americans have just started to see the tax cut show up in their paychecks this month, and along with those boosts in pay have come a spate of recent polls that show public opinion turning in favor of the tax legislation — leaving Democrats the unenviable task of trying to convince voters that a law increasing their paychecks now will be bad for the country later.

Werner is correct about the Koch brothers multi-million dollar GOPropaganda campaign to sell the GOP tax bill, and the resulting bump in polling (mostly from GOP-leaning voters responding to messaging for GOP tribalism). But there is contradictory evidence on any actual economic benefits of the GOP tax bill being noticeable in paychecks.

Continue reading

Breaking: Senate rejects all DACA bills – Epic Fail

Just as I predicted, the U.S. Senate has rejected all the proposed DACA bills in an epic fail. The New York Times reports, Senate Rejects Trump’s Immigration Plan (with additional reporting from The Hill):

In a stern rebuke to President Trump, the Senate on Thursday decisively rejected a White House rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws that would have bolstered border security, placed strict new limits on legal migration and resolved the fate of the so-called Dreamers.

The measure by Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, was patterned after one that the White House proposed, but the 39-60 vote was 21 votes short of the 60 votes required for the Senate to consider it. Mr. Trump had threatened to veto any other approach.

But the rejection of the president’s plan was bipartisan: Democrats refused its get-tough approach to legal immigration, while many conservative Republicans opposed its pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

What happens now in the Senate immigration debate is unclear. Before the vote on the White House plan, senators turned away two more modest measures to protect young immigrants known as Dreamers. Neither the plan drafted by a broad group of centrists nor one written by Senators John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, secured 60 votes.

The “Common Sense” bipartisan centrist measure, backed by Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Jeff Flake (AZ) and Lindsey Graham (SC) and other Republicans, won 54 votes.

Two other amendments were rejected before the vote. The first, a bipartisan proposal from Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Chris Coons (D-DE) , fell in a 52-47 vote. The second measure [from Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA)], which would have cracked down on sanctuary cities that don’t comply with federal immigration laws, also fell in a 55-44 vote.

The Senate’s failure leaves Congress with an uncertain path on immigration ahead of a March 5 deadline set by the president.

Continue reading

Congress is broken: Debate over DACA fix devolves into Kabuki theater

I’m not surprised, but disappointed, that the Senate debate on immigration and a DACA fix has devolved into Kabuki theater. They are simply going through the motions of “stylized movements, dances, and songs in order to enact” a tragedy — a Senate bill that is DOA in Paul Ryan’s House, and under a veto threat from the white nationalist in the White House. It is a futile effort.

Joan McCarter at Daily Kos sums it up succinctly. Democrats need to make Republicans walk their talk and vote on a clean DREAM Act:

The so-called “Common Sense” bipartisan group of senators finally, decided on their plan late Wednesday, ignoring veto threats from both the White House and the House Freedom Caucus, intent on making a deal for the sake of a deal regardless of lasting harm it could do to immigrant families. See, the New York Times Senators Strike Bipartisan Deal on Immigration Despite Veto Threat, and this from the Washington Post, Bipartisan group reaches deal on immigration, fulfilling some Trump demands:

The self-dubbed “Common Sense Caucus” of senators late Wednesday circulated legislation that would fulfill Trump’s calls to grant legal status to 1.8 million young immigrants and would appropriate $25 billion for southern border security construction projects over the next decade—not immediately, as Trump wants. The bill also would curb family-based immigration programs, but not to the extent Trump is seeking, and would not end a diversity visa lottery program that he wants eliminated.Word of an agreement came as formal debate on immigration policy is set to intensify Thursday. The new bipartisan plan is slated for a vote, as is the GOP proposal sought by Trump, another Republican bill that would punish “sanctuary” cities and a bipartisan idea that would significantly water down Trump’s demands. […]

In an interview late Wednesday, a senior administration official denounced the bipartisan bill, calling it a “giant amnesty” that did nothing to secure the border, and vowed the White House would strongly lobby against it Thursday.

They’re conceding family reunification, a concession that Dreamers themselves have rejected. Meanwhile, Trump is not really denouncing the effort in a tweet, saying “Republicans and Democrats in Congress are working hard to come up with a solution to DACA,” but mostly bragging about his economy[.]

Continue reading

No deal on DACA or immigration is possible

Last week, President Trump proposed a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million young immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children, but holds them hostage to his ransom demand that Democrats support $25 billion for border security, including his proposed border wall, and strict new limits on legal immigration. Trump’s immigration plan draws harsh reviews from left and right, and some conservatives label him ‘Amnesty Don’:

The 1.8-million figure would go well beyond the nearly 700,000 immigrants currently covered by the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, expanding the protections primarily to cover people who were eligible for DACA but did not apply.

The White House designed that element of the plan in hopes that it would provide a strong enticement for Democrats, who offered little sign of support on Thursday.

But the plan quickly generated opposition from some Republican conservatives.

“Amnesty comes in many forms, but it seems they all eventually grow in size and scope. Any proposal that expands the amnesty-eligible population risks opening Pandora’s box,” said Michael A. Needham, the head of Heritage Action for America, an influential conservative group. “That should be a nonstarter.”

And even before details of the plan emerged, blowback was building among parts of Trump’s base.

“Immigration Shock: Amnesty Don Suggests Citizenship for Illegal Aliens,” read a headline on Breitbart News, the conservative, nationalist website once run by Trump’s former strategist, Stephen K. Bannon.

Continue reading

Sen. John McCain joins Sen. Jeff Flake in defending the free press from Donald Trump’s ‘fake news’ assault (updated)

Senator Jeff Flake announced earlier this week that he will give a speech Wednesday regarding our “Dear Leader’s” penchant to portray the free press as “the enemy of the people,” a phrase employed by Joseph Stalin to silence the media. Sen. Jeff Flake hangs the Stalin label on Trump for attacking the free press.

Today, Sen. Flake’s seatmate, Senator John McCain, joins him in defending the free press against Donald Trump’s attacks on the free press in an op-ed in the Washington Post. Mr. President, stop attacking the press:

After leaving office, President Ronald Reagan created the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award to recognize individuals who have fought to spread liberty worldwide. Nancy Reagan continued the tradition after her husband’s death, and in 2008 she bestowed the honor on human rights icon Natan Sharansky, who credited Reagan’s strong defense of freedom for his own survival in Soviet gulags. Reagan recognized that as leader of the free world, his words carried enormous weight, and he used them to inspire the unprecedented spread of democracy around the world.

President Trump does not seem to understand that his rhetoric and actions reverberate in the same way. He has threatened to continue his attempt to discredit the free press by bestowing “fake news awards” upon reporters and news outlets whose coverage he disagrees with. Whether Trump knows it or not, these efforts are being closely watched by foreign leaders who are already using his words as cover as they silence and shutter one of the key pillars of democracy.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 2017 was one of the most dangerous years to be a journalist. Last year, the organization documented 262 cases of journalists being imprisoned for their work. Reporters around the world face intimidation, threats of violence, harassment, persecution and sometimes even death as governments resort to brutal censorship to silence the truth.

Continue reading