We Resist: Day 693

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One of the difficulties in resisting the Trump administration, the Republican Congressional majority, and Republican state legislatures (plus the occasional non-Republican who obliges us to resist their nonsense, too, like we don't have enough to worry about) 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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Earlier today by me: Newt Gingrich on Shortlist for Trump's Chief of Staff and Trump Cancels White House Holiday Party for Press and Vietnamese Refugees Are the Next Target of Trump's War on Immigrants.

Here are some more things in the news today...

Erin Banco at the Daily Beast: Get Ready for Mueller's Phase Two: The Middle East Connection. "Over the past year, the indictments, convictions, and guilty pleas have largely been connected, in one way or another, to Russia. But now, special counsel Robert Mueller's office is preparing to reveal to the public a different side of his investigation. In court filings that are set to drop in early 2019, prosecutors will begin to unveil Middle Eastern countries' attempts to influence American politics, three sources familiar with this side of the probe told The Daily Beast. In other words, the 'Russia investigation' is set to go global." Coooooooool I hope this investigation lasts forever while Donald Trump destroys the entire planet.

Shannon Pettypiece and Kevin Cirilli at Bloomberg: Cohen Will Talk After Mueller Probe Is Complete, Lawyer Says. "Michael Cohen, the former lawyer and fixer for [Donald] Trump, is willing to reveal publicly what he knows about his former client once Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is complete and findings are released, Cohen's lawyer said Wednesday. 'There will come a time after Mr. Mueller is done with his work that Michael Cohen will be sitting in front of a microphone before a congressional committee and what he has to say about the truth will be judged by the members of Congress listening and then will be up to people to decide whether he has got the facts or not,' Cohen attorney and spokesman Lanny Davis said in an interview on Bloomberg Radio's Sound On."

That part of the story is getting a lot of attention, and deservedly so, but this part deserves equal notice, at least: "Cohen has admitted to lying to Congress and Mueller's investigators about the timing of a proposed Trump tower in Moscow and Trump's involvement in the project. Davis said that false testimony was shared with the White House before Cohen submitted it to Congress and it is possible Trump was aware at the time that Cohen would make false statements. 'Mr. Trump and the White House knew that Michael Cohen would be testifying falsely to Congress and did not tell him not to,' Davis said."

As my friend Leah McElrath noted on Twitter: "This implicates EVERYONE who participated in vetting the perjurious material." It sure does.

Katelyn Polantz and Marshall Cohen at CNN: Alleged Russian Spy Maria Butina Admits to Engaging in Conspiracy Against U.S. "Maria Butina admitted in federal court Thursday morning to engaging in a conspiracy against the United States. Butina, 30, was accused of working to infiltrate Republican political circles through groups such as the National Rifle Association to bolster Russian interests. Butina said she acted 'under direction of' a Russian official whom CNN has identified as Alexander Torshin." I think we can 86 the "alleged" modifier now, folks.

David Corn and Dan Friedman at Mother Jones: Did Michael Flynn Try to Strike a Grand Bargain With Moscow as It Attacked the 2016 Election? I was particularly interested to read this bit:
There has been no public information, via the Mueller investigation or other sources, regarding Flynn's interactions with Kislyak during the 2016 campaign when he was Trump's top adviser on national security matters.

Yet two Flynn associates tell Mother Jones that Flynn has informed friends and colleagues that prior to Election Day he spoke with Kislyak about how Trump could work productively with Russia if he won the presidency.

One of these Flynn associates, who each asked not to be identified, notes that Flynn said he discussed with Kislyak a grand bargain in which Moscow would cooperate with the Trump administration to resolve the Syrian conflict and Washington would end or ease up on the sanctions imposed on Russia for its annexation of Crimea and military intervention in Ukraine.

The other Flynn associate says Flynn said he had been talking to Kislyak about Syria, Iran, and other foreign policy matters that Russia and the United States could tackle together were Trump to be elected. A third Flynn associate recalls that shortly after the election, Flynn told him he had been in contact with Kislyak about Syria — but without stating whether that was before or after Election Day.
We've known since June of 2017 that Flynn had proposed a shared military communications channel with Russia, justifying it by suggesting a joint fight against the Islamic State. It was at that time that I first observed the curious emergence of the "work with Russia to defeat IS in Syria" foreign policy position during the 2016 election.

Before the 2016 election, joining forces with Russia to defeat ISIS was not a mainstream position, on either side of the aisle, because, as Hillary Clinton explained during the second presidential debate, Putin "isn't interested in ISIS" and Russia's assault on Aleppo was instead intended to destroy Syrian rebels opposed to Bashar al-Assad's regime. Then, during the election in which Russia intervened with the express purpose of defeating Clinton, every one of her opponents from across the political spectrum — her Democratic primary opponent, and her general election Republican, Libertarian, and Green Party opponents — each offered a policy of aligning with Russia, with the rationale of defeating ISIS.

Clinton was also the only candidate who did not have someone with ties to Putin working on her campaign, or a previous campaign. Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort and Sanders' chief strategist Tad Devine had previously worked in collaboration for pro-Putin former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych. Roger Stone was an advisor on Johnson's 2012 campaign, and continued to speak enthuiastically about Johnson in 2016. And Stein rather famously had dinner with Putin herself.

Also at that dinner? Michael Flynn — who then used that curiously shared rationale of defeating ISIS to argue for allying with Russia when his candidate won the White House. And who has now pleaded guilty as part of Bob Mueller's investigation into Russian collusion, and is providing "substantial assistance" with "several ongoing investigations," including the Russia probe and at least one secret criminal investigation.

Probably one (Trump) and possibly two (Trump and Sanders) of those former opponents of Clinton are going to be running again in 2020. It's time to revisit those positions on Russia and Syria, which I identified a year and a half ago as a possible tell about Russian influence within campaigns. Some hard questions need to be asked.

And we should expect serious answers from Bernie Sanders if he intends to run again.

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One of the stranger foreign policy stories I've been following has been the Trump Regime's disposition toward Venezuela. Specifically, Mike Pence's fixation on Venezuela.

Pence has had a hate-boner for Venezuela ever since President Barack Obama shook Hugo Chavez's hand (which, by the way, led to one of the most satisfying humiliations of Pence, care of Hillary Clinton, naturally — back when Pence was a shitty congressman from Indiana before he was its shitty governor before he was the shitty vice-president). And he brought this hostility to the White House with him: Back in August of 2017, for example, I noted Pence was obsessively tweeting about Venezuela.

At the time, I asserted that Pence appeared to be war-shopping in Venezuela on behalf of the Trump Regime, and it turned out I was right. In July of this year, the AP reported that Trump wanted to know why the U.S. couldn't or shouldn't just invade Venezuela.

In May, I noted an NBC News report about the U.S. canceling Venezulans' tourist visas at an unsual rate, "for no apparent reason," suggesting it was related to Trump's and Pence's continued hostility toward Venezuela — which, I predicted, would probably remain a target for the Trump Regime as long as they continue to pursue foreign policy objectives that have a high risk of causing a conflagration that cuts off the U.S. from major oil resources in the Middle East.

Then in September, I mentioned Pence having issued a strong warning to Venezuela during a speech at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, after Venezuela positioned troops along the border of Colombia. Pence said: "Let me be clear: The United States of America will always stand with our allies for their security. The Maduro regime would do well not to test the resolve of the President of the United States or the American people in this regard."

In November, National Security Advisor John Bolton referred to Venezuela, along with Cuba and Nicaragua, as "the Troika of Tyranny," as he announced a new, more aggressive policy toward Latin America.

This week, Russia sent two nuclear-capable strategic bombers to Venezuela: "Russia's Defense Ministry said a pair of Tu-160 bombers landed at Maiquetia airport outside Caracas on Monday following a 6,200-mile flight. It didn't say whether the bombers were carrying any weapons and didn't say how long they would stay in Venezuela."

(See Olga Lautman for more on Venezuela's involvement with Russia, facilitated by the Trump Regime. Olga notes that Nelson Martinez, former oil minister of Venezuela and former head of the state oil and gas company PDVSA, which was involved in the scheme described in the aforelinked thread, was just found dead in prison.)

Yesterday, in comments, I linked this piece by Tom Phillips at the Guardian: Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro Accuses White House of Direct Role in Assassination Attempt. "At a press conference in the presidential Miraflores palace in Caracas, Maduro said he had 'no doubt' that the U.S. government had ordered and authorized the botched strike against him last August with explosive-laden drones and continued to plot against him. He offered no evidence to support the allegations."

And today, Phillips reported on Twitter: "Venezuela's foreign minister has summoned diplomats to warn them of U.S.-backed plot to invade. 'This is the last thing the Bolivarian revolution seeks. But if any force enters Venezuela, Venezuelan men and women will wage the mother of all battles to resist it.'"

I don't know where this is all leading, but I feel that, if something does happen between the United States and Venezuela, it's going to feel to the vast majority of Americans like it's coming out of nowhere. And it isn't.

I'm going to keep you informed, which is the least — and, frustratingly, also the most — that I can do on this topic.

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[Content Note: Addiction disclosure; sexual harassment]

I've already seen a lot of people asking about these reports (the veracity of which I cannot establish): "Why now?"

Pence is pulling out all the stops, is my guess why now. He's the one with all the RNC connections, and they're the ones who probably cut the deals with people to keep quiet.

[CN: Gun violence] Jacqueline Howard at CNN: Gun Deaths in U.S. Reach Highest Level in Nearly 40 Years, CDC Data Reveal. "Gun deaths in America have reached a record high. Nearly 40,000 people in the United States died by guns last year, marking the highest number of gun deaths in decades, according to a new analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's WONDER database. ...CNN replicated that analysis and found that 39,773 people died by guns in 2017, which is an increase of more than 10,000 deaths from the 28,874 in 1999."

[CN: War on agency] Elham Khatami at ThinkProgress: Michigan's Lame-Duck GOP Legislature Passed a Ban Limiting Access to the Abortion Pill. "While most Michigan residents were sleeping Thursday morning, the state's lame-duck GOP legislature passed a measure that would ban doctors from prescribing the abortion-inducing pill via internet webcam. ...The middle-of-the-night vote is one of several steps the Republican-controlled state House has taken recently to roll back progressive policies or implement conservative measures before Michigan's new Democratic governor, attorney general, and secretary of state take office."

[CN: Nativism] Tina Vasquez at Rewire.News: Reproductive Justice Advocate to Request Political Asylum as Trump Administration Tries to Deport Her. "An undocumented reproductive justice and immigrant rights activist targeted by federal immigration agencies for her humanitarian work is set to attend court Tuesday, where she's seeking political asylum. Alejandra Pablos' hearing comes after years in immigration limbo. ...UPDATE: On Tuesday, the social justice organizing network Mijente announced that a federal immigration court ordered Alejandra Pablos to be deported. In a statement, Pablos said this is not the end of her fight." Another example of targeting activists in the war on immigrants.

[CN: Nativism] Joanna Walters at the Guardian: 'I Must Continue': Statue of Liberty Climber Patricia Okoumou Still Protesting Despite Facing Prison. "Patricia Okoumou, the protester who scaled the base of the Statue of Liberty on the Fourth of July in an audacious protest against the Trump administration's separation of migrant families, faces the prospect of federal prison when she goes on trial in New York next week. ...But despite her impending trial, Okoumou has continued her protest. ...Okoumou [who is now a full-time activist] described the incident last month where migrants, including young children, were teargassed by the US at the border as 'an atrocity.' 'When they can do this and they get away with it, it makes me realize I must continue with acts of civil disobedience. It's cruel; it's reprehensible,' she said." RESIST.

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

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