We Resist: Day 126

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One of the difficulties in resisting the Trump administration, the Republican Congressional majority, and Republican state legislatures is keeping on top of the sheer number of horrors, indignities, and normalization of the aggressively abnormal that they unleash every single day.

So here is a daily thread for all of us to share all the things that are going on, thus crowdsourcing a daily compendium of the onslaught of conservative erosion of our rights and our very democracy.

Stay engaged. Stay vigilant. Resist.

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Here are some things in the news today:

Below is video, care of CNBC's Steve Kopack (and H/T to Aphra Behn) of Donald Trump at the NATO summit in Brussels today, literally shoving another NATO leader aside to get in front of the group for a photo op. After shoving him, he straightens his coat with his nose in the air like a fucking peacock. He thinks he's a goddamned king.

Which is nothing compared to this embarrassment... Brad Reed at Raw Story: 'Close to a Disaster': Foreign Policy Scholar Explains Massive Damage Done by Trump's NATO Speech.
Donald Trump on Thursday delivered a speech at NATO headquarters in which he did not explicitly endorse Article 5, which outlines a policy of collective defense among all members of the alliance.

While this might seem like a small oversight to casual observers, Brookings Institute fellow and top foreign policy scholar Tom Wright said Trump's refusal to endorse Article 5 has rendered his entire foreign policy trip a "failure."

"The White House told the NYT yesterday Trump would finally endorse Article 5," he wrote on Twitter. "The fact that he did not is astonishing and shows that someone in the White House or [Trump] himself took it out. This will come as a huge shock to NATO members."

Wright went on to say that Trump's trip can now be considered "close to a disaster" unless he explicitly fixes things by endorsing Article 5 later on Thursday. He also said that Russian President Vladimir Putin "will be thrilled at Trump's refusal to endorse Article 5," which he described as "unimaginable under any other president."
Meanwhile, the BBC reports that the European Union and the U.S. do not have a common position on Russia any longer:
After meeting Mr Trump earlier on Thursday, European Council President Donald Tusk said they had agreed on "many areas" but had differences over Russia.

"I'm not 100% sure we can say that we have a common position, a common opinion on Russia, although when it comes to the conflict on Ukraine we were on the same line," he said.

Mr Trump has been criticised for his admiration of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his administration is embroiled in allegations of close ties with Russian interests.

Mr Tusk stressed the "fundamental Western values like freedom, human rights, respect for human dignity" at the heart of relations with the US.
Cool. Everything is fine. (Glad to hear we'll still have allies as long as have respect for human dignity the day after it was made public that Trump called Rodrigo Duterte a "good man.")

Speaking of Russia...

[Content Note: Video may autoplay at link] Manu Raju and Evan Perez at CNN: Attorney General Jeff Sessions Did Not Disclose Russia Meetings in Security Clearance Form, DOJ Says. "Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not disclose meetings he had last year with Russian officials when he applied for his security clearance, the Justice Department told CNN Wednesday. Sessions, who met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least two times last year, didn't note those interactions on the form, which requires him to list 'any contact' he or his family had with a 'foreign government' or its 'representatives' over the past seven years, officials said. The new information from the Justice Department is the latest example of Sessions failing to disclose contacts he had with Russian officials. He has come under withering criticism from Democrats following revelations that he did not disclose the same contacts with Kislyak during his Senate confirmation hearings earlier this year." Pattern of concealment.

Matthew Rosenberg, Adam Goldman, and Matt Apuzzo at the New York Times: Top Russian Officials Discussed How to Influence Trump Aides Last Summer. "American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers, according to three current and former American officials familiar with the intelligence. The conversations focused on Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, and Michael T. Flynn, a retired general who was advising Mr. Trump, the officials said. Both men had indirect ties to Russian officials, who appeared confident that each could be used to help shape Mr. Trump's opinions on Russia. Some Russians boasted about how well they knew Mr. Flynn. Others discussed leveraging their ties to Viktor F. Yanukovych, the deposed president of Ukraine living in exile in Russia, who at one time had worked closely with Mr. Manafort." And Tad Devine.

Allegra Kirkland at TPM: Report: Manafort Advised Trump Camp on Russia Firestorm After Parting Ways. "As the rumors of Trump campaign staffers’ ties to Russia piled up in the days before inauguration, the team got a call offering advice from a rather unlikely source: former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Despite being forced out of his role because of his own ties to businessmen and politicians close to the Kremlin, Manafort called Trump's chief of staff Reince Priebus to push back on the ballooning scandal, four people familiar with the conversation told Politico. ...The GOP operative is now one of the central figures in federal and congressional investigations into potential collusion between the Trump team and Russian operatives trying to swing the election."

By way of reminder, Manafort also hand-selected Mike Pence as Trump's running mate.

Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman at the Washington Post: 'Anyone...with a Pulse': How a Russia-Friendly Adviser Found His Way into the Trump Campaign.
As Donald Trump surged in the Republican primary polls in the early months of 2016, his outsider campaign faced growing pressure to show that the former reality-TV star and noted provocateur was forming a coherent and credible world view.

So when Carter Page, an international businessman with an office near Trump Tower, turned up at campaign headquarters, former officials recall, Trump aides were quick to make him feel welcome.

A top Trump adviser, Sam Clovis, employed what campaign aides now acknowledge was their go-to vetting process — a quick Google search — to check out the newcomer. He seemed to have the right qualifications, according to former campaign officials — head of an energy investment firm, business degree from New York University, doctorate from the University of London.

Page was in. He joined a new Trump campaign national security advisory group, and, in late March 2016, the candidate pointed to Page, among others, as evidence of a foreign policy team with gravitas.

But what the Google search had not shown was that Page had been on the FBI's radar since at least 2013, when Russian officials allegedly attempted to use him to get information about the energy business.

By the summer of 2016, Page, who had been recently named as a Trump adviser, was under surveillance by FBI agents who suspected he may have been acting as an agent of the Kremlin.

Another reminder: White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was then the RNC chief. He probably, ahem, should have been aware that the leading contender for his party's nomination was using woefully insufficient Google searches to vet campaign staff. Which brings us to our next item.

Betsy Woodruff, Lachlan Markay, and Asawin Suebsaeng at the Daily Beast: Reince Priebus Sweating Secret Comey Memos, White House Sources Say. "Comey, the former FBI director who was fired earlier this month by Trump, took detailed notes of his interactions with the president and senior Trump administration officials in order to properly document conversations that were on the verge of improper. Three White House officials told The Daily Beast that Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has privately expressed worry about a possible Comey memo specifically involving one of their reported chats, and how it might play in the press and to investigators. ...Priebus asked Comey and his then-top deputy, Andrew McCabe, on Feb. 15 to refute news reports about conversations between Trump campaign staff and Russian government officials. Comey and McCabe reportedly refused."

Sounds a lot like Priebus committed obstruction of justice, too. At best, "Priebus' private conversation with Comey could have violated longstanding FBI policy barring officials from discussing its cases with the White House." Whoooooooops.

Every one of these dudes—Trump, Pence, Flynn, Manafort, Page, Priebus—they're all up to their necks in ties to Russia during the campaign and the subsequent attempt to cover up those ties.

Oh, and then there's the little matter of Trump's ties to Russia even before the campaign.

[CN: Video may autoplay at link] Greg Farrell at Bloomberg: Democrats Ask Deutsche Bank to Produce Documents on Trump Family Loans. "Democratic lawmakers asked Deutsche Bank AG to hand over its findings on two politically charged matters—its banking on behalf of [Donald] Trump and trades from the bank's Moscow operation that helped move some $10 billion out of Russia. ...The lawmakers asked whether the bank's loans to Trump, made years before the New York developer ran for president, 'were guaranteed by the Russian government, or were in any way connected to Russia.'"

Yet another reminder: The last chairman of Deutsche Bank is now the chairman of the Bank of Cyprus, which has a history of helping Russian oligarchs launder their money. He was appointed chair by the Bank of Cyprus' two largest shareholders, one of whom, Viktor Vekselberg, is a business associate and personal friend of Vladimir Putin. The other is U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

It's quite a tangled cast of characters. All of whom seemed to mysteriously end up running the country after an election in which Russian interference influenced the outcome.

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If Trump shoving a NATO leader wasn't enough embarrassment for one day, Michael Crowley and Tara Palmeri report at Politico that German Chancellor Angela Merkel showed Trump a map of the Soviet Union when she visited the White House to try to teach him some history: "When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited [Donald] Trump at the White House in March, she brought a visual aid to help Trump understand the menace posed by his would-be friend, Russian President Vladimir Putin. Merkel brought a 1980s map of the former Soviet Union and noted the way its borders stretched for hundreds of miles to the west of Russia's current boundary, according to a source who was briefed on the meeting. The German leader's point was that Putin laments the Soviet Union's demise and, left unchecked, would happily restore its former borders. Merkel left Washington unconvinced that Trump had gotten the message, the source said."

Tarini Parti at BuzzFeed: A Top Mar-A-Lago Employee Is Quietly Doing Government Work for Trump's Foreign Trip. "A top Mar-a-Lago employee is also working for the government to help prepare for [Donald] Trump's visit to Taormina, Italy, for the G-7 Summit—an unconventional arrangement that further blurs the line between the president's business empire and the White House. Heather Rinkus, the guest reception manager at Trump's 'Winter White House,' is working with the president's advance and logistics team [and] has an official White House email and government-issued phone, two sources familiar with Rinkus's trip told BuzzFeed News. ...She is married to a twice-convicted felon, Ari Rinkus, who is known to brag about his wife's access to the president as he trawls for investors and pursues government contracts on behalf of a foreign company."

Kate Taylor at Business Insider: Tourism in the US Has Drastically Declined Since Trump Was Elected. "America's share of international tourism has dropped 16% in March, compared to the same month in 2016, according to Foursquare data released Wednesday. The decline began in October 2016, the month before the presidential election. From October to March, tourism-related traffic has fallen an average of 11% in the US, compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, tourism in the rest of the world has increased 6% year-over-year during the same period."

What have you been reading that we need to resist today?

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