Friday, November 24, 2017
States prepare to shut down child health care, thanks to TRUMP and Republican Congress. This one's thanks to you, St. Johns County Republicans.
Pure evil. Friends don't let friends vote Republican.
Thursday, November 23, 2017
When it rains, it pours. This one's for the ninnies at the St. Johns Republican Party, including Trump-loving corrupt Sheriff DAVID SHOAR, who legally changed his name from "SHOAR" in 1994:
‘Keep coming at me guys!!!’: Donald Trump Jr. meets Russia scrutiny with defiance
By Drew Harwell November 23 at 3:24 PM
President Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. communicated with WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign. Here's what the messages say. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)
Donald Trump Jr. had just posted a batch of private messages he exchanged with WikiLeaks during last year’s campaign, confirming reports that he communicated with the website that published stolen Democratic emails obtained by Russian military intelligence.
“More nothing burgers from the media and others desperately trying to create a false narrative,” the president’s oldest son wrote on Instagram. “Keep coming at me guys!!!”
Over the course of the week, Trump Jr. went on to tweet or retweet criticism of his father’s 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton; actor George Takei; Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.); and former vice president Joe Biden, sharing unsubstantiated claims about him from an anonymously sourced blog post.
Faced with deepening scrutiny of contacts he had in 2016 with people tied to Russia, the 39-year-old has adopted a provocative response: defiance.
In public appearances and on Twitter, Trump Jr. has taken an increasingly caustic tone, mocking critics and shoving himself into the scrum of the country’s most polarizing debates.
It’s an unorthodox legal strategy for someone under scrutiny by congressional investigators, whose every word could be used against him. But the approach fits with the real estate executive’s growing public persona as a right-wing provocateur and ardent defender of Trumpism.
“He’s very smart to be in the spotlight,” said Charlie Kirk, a friend and the founder of the conservative college and high school group Turning Point USA. “Would they stop the investigation if he stopped tweeting? He’s in a situation where either you defend yourself, reassure the base, reassure the supporters, or stay silent. And if you’re totally silent, it only increases suspicion.”
The Trump base is with him, Kirk added: “Most people can’t even keep up with this stuff, anyway.”
The Russia-related controversies have heightened Trump Jr.’s rising profile. Once a supporting character on his father’s reality TV show, the vice president of the family business is now an in-demand figure on the paid speaking circuit and a political player all his own.
Last month, he delivered a speech on the field of the cavernous Dallas Cowboys stadium, sounding off to a group of University of North Texas donors about “liberal imperialists,” media “vitriol” and universities that “train your children to hate our country.”
After the speech, for which Trump Jr. was paid $100,000, “he did selfies with half the people who showed up,” said G. Brint Ryan, a Republican mega-donor and Trump adviser whose tax firm co-sponsored the 800-attendee event.
Within hours, Trump Jr. was back on Twitter lashing out at his father’s targets, including Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake (“liberal globalist”), Clinton (“arrogance and entitlement”) and “opposition” protesters (“apparently my 3 year old is consulting”).
Two weeks later, he was billed as the featured guest at a party for Trump administration staff held in a chandelier-lit study at Trump’s Washington hotel, where dozens of high-ranking officials sipped cocktails and Trump wine from the family’s Virginia vineyard.
This image of Donald Trump Jr.'s Twitter account shows a series of direct messages he received from the Twitter account behind the WikiLeaks website, including his responses to the communications, which he posted Nov. 13. (Associated Press)
Trump Jr. referred questions about his activities to the family’s private company, which did not respond to requests for comment. His brother Eric Trump said in a statement that “Don and I are totally dedicated to running our family business, The Trump Organization, which has been an incredible experience.”
“While our sole focus remains on the business, our father has the most important job in the world, and we could not be more proud of all that he has accomplished in his first year,” he said to The Washington Post. “Don and I will always remain his biggest advocates and supporters.”
Trump Jr.’s attorney, Alan Futerfas, said his client is exercising his freedom to speak his mind as a private citizen.
“He is simply voicing thoughts and concerns and his hopes for America that he shared on the campaign trail,” Futerfas said in an interview. “He cares deeply about these issues, and there’s no reason that he should not continue to express his opinion.”
Friends say the flame-throwing by Trump Jr. — a devoted outdoorsman and father of five who spent the campaign revving up voters at camping outfitters and shooting ranges — is merely the response of a loyal son.
“If you were him and watching the mainstream liberal media attack your father day after day, it would get kind of tiresome and you’d react, too,” said Doug Deason, a wealthy Dallas donor and investor who joined Trump Jr. last month for a pro-Trump super PAC’s fundraising-strategy session at oilman T. Boone Pickens’s mega-ranch.
Others who know Trump Jr. see grander ambitions. He is “more of a politician than his father,” said Louise Sunshine, a former Trump Organization executive who has known the Trump kids since they were born. “Donald was a businessman . . . but Donald Trump Jr. is making it his business to be a politician.”
Trump Jr. did not always appear destined to follow his father’s path, moving to Aspen after college for a year of fly-fishing and bartending. But by the time his father launched his White House bid, Trump Jr. was a key purveyor of the family brand, having joined the family business and co-starred as a “boardroom advisor” on Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice.”
He traveled almost constantly for 18 months as his father’s surrogate, mixing his outdoorsman bona fides with sharp swipes at Clinton, at one point warning she would reshape the United States into a “socialist state.”
After the election, Trump Jr. and his brother took over managing the Trump Organization, which their father still owns. Eric Trump told The Post in February that “the company and policy and government are completely separated. We have built an unbelievable wall in between the two.”
This year, Trump Jr. attended the openings of a Trump-brand hotel in Vancouver and a luxury golf complex in Dubai. Later this month, when his sister, Ivanka, heads to India as part of a White House trip, Trump Jr. will travel there, too, to help launch two Trump-branded tower projects in Kolkata and Gurgaon.
But much of his public calendar appears dominated by politics rather than business. In recent months, he has headlined GOP dinners, fundraisers and rallies in Indiana, Texas and Montana.
Some organizers said they broke fundraising records after donors flocked to hear his stories of life as a Trump. At one event for the Indiana Republican Party in May, he said the first person to call his brother when Eric was expecting his first child wasn’t his father, but Vice President Pence.
Last month, a day after the Trump hotel division announced it had hired a new vice president, Trump Jr. was hunting pheasants with a shotgun alongside Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), one of his father’s top supporters.
Donald Trump Jr., left, walks with Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) after a pheasant hunt near Akron, Iowa, on Oct. 28. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
Presidential children traditionally serve to soften and humanize their fathers, reminding voters that the nation’s leader can be a family man, too. But Trump Jr. has sharpened his father’s already-pointed edges, often amplifying the president’s grudges.
On Twitter, he regularly jabs at the president’s antagonists, from liberal media personalities to Republican politicians to kneeling football players. Responding on Tuesday to a CNN guest’s claim that the president rarely attacks white men, Trump Jr. rattled off 19 of his father’s white-male targets in a single tweet, including former president George W. Bush and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
He often retweets or references far-right voices, as well as websites aimed at conservatives, such as Gateway Pundit, the Federalist and Breitbart News. Earlier this month, he retweeted a comment that the Clintons were “an unscrupulous gang of thugs” and alluded to a fringe-right conspiracy theory alleging that the couple covered up a murder.
In more than 400 tweets last month, he referred to his company only once, retweeting one of its posts offering “thoughts and prayers” after the Las Vegas shooting massacre.
In the coming weeks, Trump Jr. will appear at a $200-a-person fundraiser in Kansas for gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach, a torchbearer for the president’s voter-fraud crusade, and keynote a Turning Point USA banquet for thousands of students in West Palm Beach, Fla.
[Donald Trump Jr. headlining fundraiser in Kansas for a leader of his father’s voter fraud commission]
Kirk, the group’s founder, said the event received hundreds of new applications when Trump Jr.’s attendance was announced.
“Part of what makes Don’s brand unique is he’s not afraid to push the envelope, not afraid to push the boundaries and call people out,” Kirk said.
Trump Jr.’s public bravado comes as he faces persistent questions about what multiple Russia probes will reveal about the role he played during his father’s White House run.
Along with the messages he exchanged with WikiLeaks, Trump Jr. met at Trump Tower in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer in hopes of getting damaging information on Clinton. “I love it,” he wrote to an associate about the possibility that the lawyer would have material on the Democratic candidate.
Trump Jr. testified privately in September for five hours before a Senate committee and said in a statement that he “did not collude with any foreign government and [does] not know of anyone who did.”
But he faces growing calls by Democratic lawmakers to participate in a public hearing and answer questions about any knowledge he might have about Russia’s effort to boost his father’s campaign.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told CNN in September that she expected Trump Jr. to take part in a hearing “come hell or high water.”
Meanwhile, some of Trump Jr.’s friends said he is struggling with a more fundamental frustration: craving more of a connection to the man he called at the Republican National Convention “my mentor, my best friend.”
President-elect Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr. at a news conference at Trump Tower in New York on Jan. 11. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
In February, Trump Jr. told The Post that he had spoken briefly with his father but said “he’s got real stuff he’s got to deal with.” He told the New York Times earlier this year, “I feel ridiculous bothering him.”
“Don barely talks to his father, and they barely see each other,” said one person close to him who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. “It weighs on him. It does. . . . It didn’t really hit him until laying the wreath before inauguration that this is so much bigger than us, and they’re going to have to make sacrifices.”
Amid his angry online missives are nostalgic posts about the president, whom he dressed up as for Halloween. On the anniversary of the election win, Trump Jr. posted photos of the two hugging and what he called his “favorite piece of campaign memorabilia”: an electoral map signed, “Great job! Thanks, Dad.”
In one video, Trump Jr. says he “had the privilege of being able” to fly with his father to the White House. He can be seen in the helicopter window’s reflection as the president walks away.
Carol D. Leonnig and Jonathan O’Connell contributed to this report.
DONALD JOHN TRUMP's UnAmerican activities leading to impeachment? Happy Thanksgiving, 2017.
WASHINGTON — Lawyers for Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, notified the president’s legal team in recent days that they could no longer discuss the special counsel’s investigation, according to four people involved in the case — an indication that Mr. Flynn is cooperating with prosecutors or negotiating a deal.
Mr. Flynn’s lawyers had been sharing information with Mr. Trump’s lawyers about the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is examining whether anyone around Mr. Trump was involved in Russian efforts to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
That agreement has been terminated, the four people said. Defense lawyers frequently share information during investigations, but they must stop when doing so would pose a conflict of interest. It is unethical for lawyers to work together when one client is cooperating with prosecutors and another is still under investigation.
The notification alone does not prove that Mr. Flynn is cooperating with Mr. Mueller. Some lawyers withdraw from information-sharing arrangements as soon as they begin negotiating with prosecutors. And such negotiations sometimes fall apart.
Still, the notification led Mr. Trump’s lawyers to believe that Mr. Flynn — who, along with his son, is seen as having significant criminal exposure — has, at the least, begun discussions with Mr. Mueller about cooperating.
Lawyers for Mr. Flynn and Mr. Trump declined to comment. The four people briefed on the matter spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.
A deal with Mr. Flynn would give Mr. Mueller a behind-the-scenes look at the Trump campaign and the early tumultuous weeks of the administration. Mr. Flynn was an early and important adviser to Mr. Trump, an architect of Mr. Trump’s populist “America first” platform and an advocate of closer ties with Russia.
His ties to Russia predated the campaign — he sat with President Vladimir V. Putin at a 2015 event in Moscow — and he was a point person on the transition team for dealing with Russia.
The White House had been bracing for charges against Mr. Flynn in recent weeks, particularly after charges were filed against three other former Trump associates: Paul Manafort, his campaign chairman; Rick Gates, a campaign aide; and George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser.
But none of those men match Mr. Flynn in stature, or in his significance to Mr. Trump. A retired three-star general, Mr. Flynn was an early supporter of Mr. Trump’s and a valued surrogate for a candidate who had no foreign policy experience. Mr. Trump named him national security adviser, he said, to help “restore America’s leadership position in the world.”
Among the interactions that Mr. Mueller is investigating is a private meeting that Mr. Flynn had with the Russian ambassador and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, during the presidential transition. In the past year, it has been revealed that people with ties to Russia repeatedly sought to meet with Trump campaign officials, sometimes dangling the promise of compromising information on Mrs. Clinton.
Mr. Flynn is regarded as loyal to Mr. Trump, but he has in recent weeks expressed serious concerns to friends that prosecutors will bring charges against his son, Michael Flynn Jr., who served as his father’s chief of staff and was a part of several financial deals involving the elder Mr. Flynn that Mr. Mueller is scrutinizing.
The White House has said that neither Mr. Flynn nor other former aides have incriminating information to provide about Mr. Trump. “He likes General Flynn personally, but understands that they have their own path with the special counsel,” a White House lawyer, Ty Cobb, said in an interview last month with The New York Times. “I think he would be sad for them, as a friend and a former colleague, if the process results in punishment or indictments. But to the extent that that happens, that’s beyond his control.”
Mr. Flynn was supposed to have been the cornerstone of Mr. Trump’s national security team. Instead, he was forced out after a month in office over his conversations with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak. Mr. Flynn’s handling of those conversations fueled suspicion that people around Mr. Trump had concealed their dealings with Russians, worsening a controversy that has hung over the president’s first year in office.
Four days after Mr. Trump was sworn in, the F.B.I. interviewed Mr. Flynn at the White House about his calls with the ambassador. American intelligence and law enforcement agencies became so concerned about Mr. Flynn’s conversations and false statements about them to Vice President Mike Pence that the acting attorney general, Sally Q. Yates, warned the White House that Mr. Flynn might be compromised.
The conversations with the Russian ambassador that led to Mr. Flynn’s undoing took place during the presidential transition. When questions about them surfaced, Mr. Flynn told Mr. Pence that they had exchanged only holiday greetings — the conversations happened in late December, around the time that the Obama administration was announcing sanctions against Russia.
While Mr. Pence and White House press officers repeated the holiday-greetings claim publicly, Mr. Flynn and the ambassador had in fact discussed the sanctions. That invited the idea that the incoming administration was trying to undermine the departing president and curry favor with Moscow.
Mr. Trump sought Mr. Flynn’s resignation only after news broke that Mr. Flynn had been interviewed by F.B.I. agents and that Ms. Yates had warned the White House that his false statements could make him vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
Since then, Mr. Flynn’s legal problems have grown. It was revealed that he failed to list payments from Russia-linked entities on financial disclosure forms. He did not mention a paid speech he gave in Moscow, as well as other payments from companies linked to Russia.
The former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, has testified before Congress that Mr. Trump asked him to end the government’s investigation into Mr. Flynn in a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office the day after Mr. Flynn was fired. Mr. Trump’s request caused great concern for Mr. Comey, who immediately wrote a memo about his meeting with the president.
And investigators working for Mr. Mueller have questioned witnesses about whether Mr. Flynn was secretly paid by the Turkish government during the presidential campaign. Mr. Flynn belatedly disclosed, after leaving the White House, that the Turkish government had paid him more than $500,000.
Mr. Flynn’s firing was, in some ways, the first domino that set off a cascade of problems for Mr. Trump. After the president ousted Mr. Comey, news surfaced that the president had requested an end to the Flynn inquiry, a revelation that led to Mr. Mueller’s appointment. That, in turn, raised the profile of an investigation that the president had tried mightily to contain.
Organized, Well-Funded Homophobic Bigots Are Fighting Gay Rights In Supreme Court and Even Internationally (NY Times)
New York Times article quoting my friend Peter Montgomery of People for the American Way:
WASHINGTON — The details were spare when the event appeared this summer on Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s public schedule. He would speak on religious liberty to a group called Alliance Defending Freedom. No exact location was specified. No news media would be allowed in.
Only after an outcry over such secrecy — and the anti-gay rights positions of its sponsor — did a transcript of Mr. Sessions’s remarks emerge on a conservative website. “Many Americans have felt that their freedom to practice their faith has been under attack,” he told the gathering in Orange County, Calif. “The challenges our nation faces today concerning our historic First Amendment right to the ‘free exercise’ of our faith have become acute.”
Mr. Sessions’s focus was not an accident. The First Amendment has become the most powerful weapon of social conservatives fighting to limit the separation of church and state and to roll back laws on same-sex marriage and abortion rights.
Few groups have done more to advance this body of legal thinking than the Alliance Defending Freedom, which has more than 3,000 lawyers working on behalf of its causes around the world and brought in $51.5 million in revenue for the 2015-16 tax year, more than the American Civil Liberties Union.
Among the alliance’s successes has been bringing cases involving relatively minor disputes to the Supreme Court — a law limiting the size of church signs, a church seeking funding for a playground — and winning rulings that establish major constitutional precedents.Continue reading the main story
But it hopes to carve out an even wider sphere of protected religious expression this term when the justices are to hear two more of its cases, one a challenge to a California law that requires “crisis pregnancy centers,” which are run by abortion opponents, to provide women with information on how to obtain an abortion, and another in which it represents a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding.
While the abortion case is the latest legal volley in a generation-long battle by social conservatives to limit the effect of Roe v. Wade, the Colorado baker’s case, which the court will hear next month, will test whether groups like the alliance can persuade the court to similarly blunt the sweep of Obergefell v. Hodges, the ruling that enshrined same-sex marriage into law, as well as the anti-discrimination laws protecting gay men and lesbians.
If there is a battle somewhere to restrict protections for gay men, lesbians or transgender people, chances are the alliance is there fighting it. The alliance has defended the owners of a wedding chapel in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, who did not want to perform same-sex ceremonies. It has tried to stop a Charlotte, N.C., law that gave transgender people the right to use the bathroom of their choice. It backed the failed attempt by the Arizona legislature in 2014 to allow businesses to cite religious freedom in turning away same-sex couples.
“We think that in a free society people who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman shouldn’t be coerced by the government to promote a different view of marriage,” said Jeremy Tedesco, a senior counsel and vice president of United States advocacy for the group, which is based in Scottsdale, Ariz. “We have to figure out how to live in a society with pluralistic and diverse views.”
But civil liberties groups and gay rights advocates say that Alliance Defending Freedom’s arguments about religious liberty and free expression mask another motivation: a deep-seated belief that gay people are immoral and that no one should be forced to recognize them as ordinary members of society.
“They are a very powerful part of this broader movement, which is trying to bring a very particular biblical worldview into dominance at all levels of government and society,” said Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow at People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group.
“They’ve got some very big, very clear goals,” said Mr. Montgomery, who has studied Alliance Defending Freedom since the group’s founding in 1994.
One of those goals was to defend laws that criminalized gay and lesbian sexual conduct.
In a brief the alliance filed urging the Supreme Court not to overturn a Texas law that made homosexual activity illegal, its lawyers described gay men as diseased and as public health risks. The court decided 6 to 3 that the law was unconstitutional.
The United States is not the only place the group has been active. Before Belize’s highest court struck down a law last year that banned “carnal intercourse against the order of nature,” the group sent activists there to work with local lawyers who were trying to keep the prohibition in place. In India, an Alliance Defending Freedom-affiliated lawyer was part of the legal team that has defended a similar law in the country’s Supreme Court. That law remains in place, though the Indian court recently signaled that it may revisit the issue.
And when Russia approved a law in 2013 that imposed a fine for what it called propagandizing “nontraditional” sexual relationships among minors — a move that led for calls to boycott the 2014 Olympics there — Alliance Defending Freedom produced a nine-page memo in support of the law, saying its aim was to safeguard “the psychological or physical well-being of minors.”
Mr. Tedesco said the group had never supported the criminalization of homosexual activity. In Belize and India, he noted, the laws the group supported applied to heterosexual sodomy as well. He described the alliance’s involvement in both countries as “a small group of attorneys” who wanted “to resist the foreign activists that were trying to challenge their public health law.”
Asked if he and other alliance lawyers believed gay men and lesbians were immoral, Mr. Tedesco said, “I’m not going to get into what the Bible says or teaches about homosexuality.”
Alliance leaders have not always been so reticent.
Alan Sears, one of the founders of the group and its longtime president until recently, wrote a book in 2003 with Craig Osten titled “The Homosexual Agenda” in which they described possible consequences of same-sex marriage. “Why not two men and three women, or two men, one woman, and a dog and a chimpanzee?” the book said. “This means marriage will be no better than anonymous sodomy in a bathhouse.”
How the alliance is approaching the case of the Colorado baker, Jack Phillips, is an illustration of its evolving public relations strategy. Gone are the fiery denunciations of gay men and lesbians as sinners and reprobates.
A sophisticated multimedia campaign, called “Justice for Jack,” portrays Mr. Phillips as the victim of heavy-handed state bureaucrats. Set to soft piano music, one video describes how Mr. Phillips has received death threats, hateful phone calls and lost 40 percent of his business.
“It’s not about refusing business,” Mr. Phillips’s daughter says to the camera. “It’s about having the freedom for him to artistically create something that allows him to honor Christ.”
Donald Knapp, the Coeur d’Alene chapel owner who sued the city because he worried a new nondiscrimination ordinance would force him to marry same-sex couples, said the alliance not only took up his case but also provided him with media training and flew him to Scottsdale to meet with other Christian business owners in similar positions.
“The A.D.F. was just trying to help us know what to say, how to state our position, what we believe in,” Mr. Knapp said in an interview. “They spent a great deal of time with us.”
Gay rights advocates acknowledge what they are up against. “They know those are messages that work better, and they are no longer leading with the messages they used to, which are ‘gay people are pedophiles and we need to keep them away from our kids,’” said James Esseks, an A.C.L.U. lawyer who focuses on gender identity and sexual orientation issues. “It’s a very intentional shift, a very strategic shift.”
Back in Washington, the alliance’s close connections with Mr. Sessions’s Justice Department seem to be deepening. In September, the department filed a brief arguing that Mr. Phillips should not be forced to violate his faith.
“There is no clear line between his speech and his clients,’” it said. “He is giving effect to their message by crafting a unique product with his own two hands.”
Correction: November 22, 2017
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of a capsule summary for this article misstated the name of a group that uses the First Amendment to challenge gay rights and abortion laws. It is the Alliance Defending Freedom, not the Alliance Defending Justice.