We Resist: Day 155

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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:

Earlier today by me: Trump's Argle-Bargle Codswallop on Taping Comey and "I Feel Like We Sort of Choked".


Nahal Toosi at Politico: Trump Administration Dissolves Afghanistan-Pakistan Unit. "The Trump administration on Friday moved to eliminate the State Department unit responsible for dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan — transferring its duties to a regional bureau whose leadership ranks have been decimated, two sources told Politico. The development came with less than a day's notice. It deeply rattled U.S. officials who say the shift leaves unclear who is responsible for handling diplomacy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan at a time when the Trump administration is considering ramping up military efforts in that region." OH MY GOD.

Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker at the Washington Post: Trump Is Struggling to Stay Calm on Russia, One Morning Call at a Time.
Trump has a new morning ritual. Around 6:30 a.m. on many days — before all the network news shows have come on the air — he gets on the phone with a member of his outside legal team to chew over all things Russia.

The calls — detailed by three senior White House officials — are part strategy consultation and part presidential venting session, during which Trump's lawyers and public-relations gurus take turns reviewing the latest headlines with him. They also devise their plan for battling his avowed enemies: the special counsel leading the Russia investigation; the "fake news" media chronicling it; and, in some instances, the president's own Justice Department overseeing the probe.

His advisers have encouraged the calls — which the early-to-rise Trump takes from his private quarters in the White House residence — in hopes that he can compartmentalize the widening Russia investigation. By the time the president arrives for work in the Oval Office, the thinking goes, he will no longer be consumed by the Russia probe that he complains hangs over his presidency like a darkening cloud.

It rarely works, however. Asked whether the tactic was effective, one top White House adviser paused for several seconds and then just laughed.
On the one hand, there's a part of me that feels satisfied that Trump is squirming over Russia, because it's the least he fucking deserves when many of us are having major anxiety about it. On the other hand, a stressed-out Trump is a Trump that makes even worse decisions than usual, so. Frankly, the only solution is removing him from office. As soon as possible.

Nancy Cook and Josh Dawsey at Politico: Trump Loses Patience with His White House Counsel. "Trump started the week by giving [White House counsel Don McGahn], a loyal supporter who was among the first Washington establishment figures to sign on with his presidential campaign, a dressing down in the Oval Office for not doing more to squash the Russia probe early on. ...Trump's willingness to lay into him for the escalation of the probe — largely the result of Trump's own decision to dismiss Comey — illustrates McGahn's falling stock in the West Wing, as well as Trump's desire to find someone to blame for his legal predicament." And Trump's terrible temperament, lack of leadership, and cavernous void of ethics and decency.

Ken Dilanian at NBC News: Coats Tells House Investigators Trump Seemed Obsessed with Russia Probe. "Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told House investigators Thursday that [Donald] Trump seemed obsessed with the Russia probe and repeatedly asked him to say publicly there was no evidence of collusion, a U.S. official familiar with the conversation told NBC News."

Michael Martin at Metro: FBI Official Won't Say That Trump Is Not a Russian Agent, a First for an American President. "Donald Trump's unprecedented actions as president are stacking up daily, but this is a truly new one: A top FBI official will not say whether the president is an 'unwitting agent' who aided Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. Bill Priestap, the assistant director of the FBI's counterintelligence division, testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee [on Wednesday]... 'Did Donald Trump become an unwitting agent of the Russians?' asked Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. After a long pause, Priestap said, 'I can't really comment on that.' 'I don't blame you for not answering that question,' replied Heinrich, to laughter from the audience."

Sarah Kendzior at the Correspondent: Trump Is the Best Autocrat. The Best. Nobody Has a Better Autocrat Than We Do. "There are some who believe Trump is too dim-witted to carry off the manipulations of both law and the public that have defined his presidency. 'He's not playing three-dimensional chess,' pundits insist snidely, unaware that the game is actually charades. Many do not realize they are playing along with him, abetting his administration by reporting planted stories of palace intrigue or doubting the criminality that takes place in front of their eyes. Trump is the kind of guy who can beg Russia to access Hillary Clinton's emails at a press conference and, nearly a year and multiple federal hearings later, still have people asking if there's really anything to that whole Russia story."

Timothy L. O'Brien at Bloomberg: Hey, Mueller, You Should Check Out Iceland. "Earlier this week I wrote about the Bayrock Group, a property developer that did business deals for a decade with [Donald] Trump. Felix Sater — a Bayrock principal who was a career criminal with American and Russian mob ties and who has remained in the Trump orbit — helped reel in funds of murky origin that Bayrock and Trump used for projects such as the Trump Soho hotel in Manhattan. And one of Bayrock's biggest financial backers was an Icelandic investment bank, the FL Group. Iceland would seem like an unlikely place for U.S. Justice Department investigators to look as they probe Trump connections with Russia and related matters. Yet there are trails to pursue there."

Allegra Kirkland at TPM: Feds Are Investigating Financial Deals Involving Manafort, Son-In-Law. "Financial dealings involving [Donald] Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and Manafort's son-in-law are under scrutiny by federal investigators, the New York Times reported Friday. Two sources close to the matter told the Times that Manafort bankrolled real estate purchases of luxury apartments and homes in New York and California in collaboration with his son-in-law Jeffrey Yohai, who was sued by a former investor for defrauding him. The sources said it was unclear if this particular investigation was part of the broader federal probe into Russia's election interference and possible collusion between Trump associates and Russian operatives."

Jason Leopold and Claudia Koerner at BuzzFeed: Memo Shows Preet Bharara Was Concerned After Phone Call from White House. "Former US Attorney Preet Bharara sent an email to Justice Department officials in New York to express concern about a voicemail he received in March from [Donald] Trump's secretary, Madeline Westerhout, according to emails BuzzFeed News obtained Thursday from the Department of Justice under the Freedom of Information Act. ...Bharara ultimately decided not to speak with Trump and called back the president's secretary to say so. 'At approximately 6:30 p.m., I called back the President's secretary, Ms. Westerhout, and told her I had consulted with the AG's [Attorney General's] office and that it was their advice that I not speak directly to the President at this time,' Bharara's wrote in the email. The next day, Bharara and dozens of other US attorneys were asked to resign. He refused, and the following day, he was fired."

Zack Ford at ThinkProgress: Fox News' Embarrassing, False Attack on James Comey.
Conservative outlets are eager to feed Trump's conspiracy-minded fanbase — and will seize on the tiniest scrap of information to support their efforts. The Daily Mail "reported" Thursday that Comey was seen with his wife entering the New York Times' building. Suspiciously, the two were wearing sunglasses!

This prompted several pro-Trump outlets to speculate that Comey was doing an interview with the Times and possibly sharing more information that would hurt the President.

Fox News picked up the Daily Mail's story about Comey's "sneaky visit," fueling conspiracy theories about Comey, Mueller, and the media all supposedly working together against Trump.

...All of this speculation was wrong. Comey, a foster parent, was attending an event at a law firm in the building in support of a charity that works to find safe homes for abused children.
Good grief. GOOD GRIEF.

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In other news...

[Content Note: Neglect; injury; climate change] Griselda Nevarez at the Guardian: Burned Feet, Parched Throats: Arizona Homeless Desperate to Escape Heatwave. "According to the National Weather Service, when the air temperature is 102 degrees Fahrenheit and the sun is shining, blacktop can be heated to as much as 167 degrees. That is hot enough to fry an egg or cook ground beef, though more worryingly, the weather service also notes that in such conditions, 'human skin is instantly destroyed.' Pets' paws are also vulnerable — and it is common for homeless people to have dogs. ...On Thursday, close to 100 homeless people packed the Lodestar Day Resource Center in downtown Phoenix. Some were drenched in sweat and their skin was tomato-red, while others sat and laid their heads on round tables trying to sleep."

Terrible. If people even think at all about homeless people navigating extreme weather, we tend to think about winter more than summer. But summer presents its own set of problems for homeless people (and their pets), and those problems are worsening with climate change.

Phil Wahba at Fortune: Sears Closing Another 20 Stores Amid Ongoing Sales Slide. "Sears Holdings is closing another 20 locations on top of recently announced shutterings, bringing to total store closures to 260 this year for the struggling retailer which is trying unsuccessfully to stanch years of sales declines. The latest closures include 18 Sears stores and two Kmart locations, according to a regulatory filing on Friday by real estate investment trust Seritage Growth Properties, which was spun off by Sears in 2015. These stores will start liquidation sales by June 30 and be closed by mid-September, Sears said in a statement."

I'm including this in the We Resist thread not because there's much we can do to resist the collapse of retail (besides shop in brick and mortar stores), but because: 1. The attendant job losses are all the more reason to resist the Republicans' assault on the social safety net; and 2. The continued decimation of retail as a result of online shopping must underwrite a demand of all political leaders to craft serious policy to meaningfully address automation.

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

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