Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Democrats Win 37th Red to Blue District Pickup

Linda Belcher, Democrat victor

Another state district election in a deep red district has seen a Democrat flip the district from Republican to Democrat.  What's amazing is the 86 point swing in the vote from just two years ago when Der Trumpenf├╝hrer had won the district by 72%.   Yesterday, the Democrat won with 68% of the vote. It seems that voters are waking up to the reality that the GOP is not delivering on its promises and that average Americans are worse off under GOP rule.  Making racists and religious fanatics feel good about themselves doesn't pay the bills.  The never ending scandals swirling around the Trump/Pence regime only help to underscore this reality.  Here are highlights from Daily Kos on yesterday's stunning Democrat victory: 

Break out the bourbon—Democrats just won their 37th red-to-blue state legislative flip of the cycle. This latest win came in Kentucky, where former state Rep. Linda Belcher (not to be confused another important Linda Belcher) defeated Republican Rebecca Johnson 68-32 percent in the 49th state House District.
This seat went for Donald Trump in a 72-23 landslide in 2016, making Belcher’s win tonight an astonishing 86-point swing. Belcher herself lost this seat 50.4-49.6 percent in 2016 after flipping it from red to blue by a 53-47 margin in 2014. (She’d previously lost HD-49 in 2012 after serving two terms.) The Republican who ousted Belcher in 2016 was Dan Johnson, the self-styled “Pope” of the controversial Heart of Fire church.
Dan Johnson’s tenure as a state representative ended abruptly on Dec. 13, when, just a day after refusing to resign amid allegations that he sexually assaulted a 17-year-old in his home after holding one of his infamous church parties, he committed suicide. His widow, who continues to proclaim her late husband’s innocence, stepped forward to run for the seat.
Belcher had already planned to seek a rematch with Dan Johnson before his sudden death triggered this special election. She was one of at least 28 current and former teachers lined up to take on incumbents in November 2018, so she was ready to hit the ground running when the campaign timeline shifted.
If Republicans can’t hold onto seats like this in deep red states like Kentucky, they’re a special kind of screwed in November—at every level of the ballot.

GOP Continues to Drive Young Voters to Democrats

click image to enlarge

At the risk of sounding like Cassandra from the Iliad, I have been saying for a long time that the Republican Party has no long term plan for survival given what at times appears as it's deliberate efforts to alienate young voters, minorities, the LGBT community and non-Christians of every faith.  Meanwhile, there are no limits on the extent to which Republicans will prostitute themselves to the NRA, Christofascist extremists and corporate players who will happily buy them off ant the expense of the majority of their constituents.  Yesterday, GOP legislators in Florida displayed utter contempt for students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who traveled to Tallahassee to lobby for changes to Florida's woefully lacking  gun laws.  Rather than display respect for the students, one legislator ranted at the students and then the GOP majority (as the students watched) voted down a motion to take up a ban on assault weapons such as the AR-15 used by Nikolas Cruz when he killed 17 people at the school on Valentine's Day.

A piece in The Week looks at the GOP's continued drive to alienate the  younger generations and argues that past experiences of voters drifting back to the GOP over time may not happen this time around.  Here are article highlights:
Will the former reality TV star currently working part-time in the White House do incalculable long-term damage to the Republican brand? It sure seems like it! After all, President Trump's horror-show of a first year in office has already diminished the number of Americans who self-identify as Republican, endangered GOP congressional majorities, and led prominent conservative intellectuals to abandon the party. . . . it is fair to wonder whether the Trump administration is indeed losing the future.
Still, Michigan State political scientist Matt Grossman recently tried to throw some cold water on the "Republicans are doomed" theory. . . . . Pointing to past Republican nadirs like the post-Watergate era and the end of George W. Bush's tenure, he reminds us that the GOP has recovered from worse fiascos before and that it will likely do so again.
While Grossman's piece is a useful corrective  . . . . it does neglect one critical component of what is happening in the United States today: For over a decade, young people have been voting overwhelmingly for progressives and, more importantly, telling pollsters that they identify with or lean towards supporting the Democratic Party.
If you think that's always been the case, you're wrong — despite the unpopular war in Vietnam and the swirling cultural revolution, Richard Nixon won under-30 voters in 1972. Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter split young voters evenly in 1980, while Reagan and George H.W. Bush crushed it with the young in '84 and '88.
Something remarkable began happening in 2004, though. That's the year John Kerry carried the under-30 vote by 9 points. And the next three presidential elections saw Democrats demolishing their opponents with young people by 34, 23, and 19 points. . . . . There is simply no precedent for such a yawning gap in a party's fortunes with America's youngest voters over the course of four presidential cycles since pollsters started collecting this kind of data. And it is an ominous sign about the future of the Republican Party.
Scholars believe that partisan identification becomes hardened fairly early in our lives. Despite popular tropes about how people start out as starry-eyed idealists and become more conservative with age, the overwhelming majority of Americans do not experience mid-life or late-life political transformations.
With millennials, Democrats have enjoyed roughly a 20-point advantage in party ID since Pew starting asking them the question 14 years ago. Millennials are now the largest living generation and are starting to vote in greater numbers. This is a huge problem for the GOP that both predates and is far bigger than Trump.
But the data gets worse for Republicans the deeper you dig into it. In 2016 exit polling, for instance, 18- to 24-year-olds went more heavily for Hillary Clinton than their older millennial counterparts, suggesting that, if anything, the Republican position is falling apart with the tail end of the millennial generation.
And it gets even worse for the GOP: A 2017 Pew poll found that fully a quarter of young Republicans had defected to the Democrats since 2015.
Nor does the increasing progressivism of America's youngest voters seem to be driven by short-term reactions to particular political figures or developments. Instead, the avocado toast and Instagram set is being driven into the arms of Democrats by their underlying beliefs. An astonishing 66 percent of respondents in that youthful age bracket told Pew that they favor single-payer health care. Nearly three-fourths of the youngest Americans favor gay marriage.
We are likely witnessing the maturation of the most liberal generation of voters since the New Deal. . . . . To reverse their decline, Republicans would have to make inroads either with Generation Xers or with even younger voters.  That is unlikely, to say the least.
My own three children have all fled the GOP despite being raised in a Republican household during their earlier upbringing and actively working on GOP campaigns.  Like the Millennials mentioned in the article, the support a single payer health care system, favor gay marriage and gay rights, and cannot abide the evangelical Christian and white supremacist core of the current GOP base. The more the GOP attacks the Affordable Health Care Act, rescinds gay rights and prostitutes itself to Christofascists and racists, the larger the exodus of younger voters.  

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Mueller Indictments Are Not Going to Stop Anytime Soon

Silk stocking lawyer Alex Van Der Zwaan - the latest person indicted by Mueller

One thing that perhaps all but perhaps the dumbest of attorneys know is that (i) you do not lie to the FBI, and (ii) you do not fail to fully respond to federal subpoenas.  Yet, Rick Gates' attorney at a silk stocking New York City based law firm did precisely what one should never do.  The result is that 
Alex Van Der Zwaan, formerly with mega firm Skadden Arps (and son-in-law to a Putin crony) has made a plead deal with special counsel Robert Mueller. As a piece in Esquire notes, Van Der Zwaan's plea deal will likely strike fear among others working with the sleazy elements of the Trump/Pence campaign.  One can only assume that along with Gates, Van Der Zwaan will be singing his heart out to assist Mueller's prosecutors.  Here are article highlights:
Two business days, 14 new indictments. Bob Mueller grinds exceedingly slowly, but very, very fine. Today’s contestant is one Alex Van Der Zwaan, a lawyer whom Mueller’s team has indicted on charges that he lied to investigators regarding communications he had with Rick Gates, a former aide to Paul Manafort who, the evidence suggests, is singing a German opera to Mueller and his team at the moment.
From CNN:
Alex Van Der Zwaan, who is expected to plead guilty Tuesday afternoon, is also accused of lying about the failure to turn over an email communication to the special counsel's office. He was speaking with investigators about his work with international law firm Skadden Arps in 2012, when Manafort arranged for the firm to be hired by the Ukrainian Minister of Justice to prepare a report on the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko.
It shows that Mueller is chasing every rat down every ratline. (So much for the talking point that the probe concluded last Friday with the indictment of the 13 Russians, who never will see the inside of an American courtroom.)
Also, if the investigation is reaching into the white-shoe power law firms in Washington, a lot of important people are going to get very, very nervous. Many of them have nothing to do with anything Mueller is investigating, and those people are not going to be happy watching the spreading poison of this administration*’s leaching into their boardrooms. The reaction is likely to be fierce. Skadden Arps says it cut this guy loose a year ago.
It’s pretty much assured that Manafort is securely on a spit right now and that this latest indictment is just another slow turn over the fire. And Manafort is the man who knows all the secrets. One plea at a time, Mueller is establishing that the president* is inherently corrupt and that his candidacy and election were just two unusually successful operations in a continuing criminal enterprise.
Another column in Esquire suggests that Trump knows that Mueller has the goods on Trump and his hangers on and sycophants.  Here are excerpts: 
The indictments were rolled out perfectly. It is now absolutely impossible for the president* to fire either Rosenstein or Mueller without the worst possible political consequences. By basing the indictments on federal election law, Mueller has framed the case so as also to include anyone who accepted  this criminal help.
And the material in the indictmentwhich you can read for yourself hereoutlines a thoroughly complete campaign of ratfcking aimed exclusively at electing Donald Trump to be president of the United States.
It’s important to remember that every one of the tactics mentioned above—especially the voter-fraud canard—have been electioneering tactics used by the former Republican Party for at least two decades. All these Russians are alleged to have done is to weaponized further what already was in place and direct it toward the benefit of the Trump campaign.
The Trumpites (and now the president*, himself) already have mustered a response—namely, that there is no evidence presented here that directly proves any “collusion,” which remains their magic conjuring word that makes all the monsters go away. That may get them through the night, but they have to know that Mueller has the goods now, and that none of us know what other goods Mueller may have.
I can recall a scene from the late Jimmy Breslin’s Watergate book, How The Good Guys Finally Won, in which a lawyer working in the office of House Judiciary Council John Doar put together a series of index cards that created a timeline of Richard Nixon’s first day in the White House after the Watergate break-in. From the cards, you could see how Nixon and his men were concocting a strategy to bury the story and insulate the president from how they were doing it. At this point, Nixon was still saying he didn’t learn anything about the break-in until months later.
We are still supposed to believe that the Russians concocted this amazing scheme to influence the election and the person on whose behalf they were operating the scheme didn’t know what they were doing?  Nor did the people running his campaign? Oh, come on.

False Churches - Focus on the Family Declares Itself a "Church"

FOTF founder and Trump BFF, James Dobson
I have long believed that all churches that are not putting the vast majority of their revenues toward true charitable purposes -e.g., feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, aiding the poor, etc. - should not be afforded tax-exempt status. Now, another glaring example of the manner in which taxpayers are being forced to indirectly financially underwrite non-charities is provided by Focus on the Family ("FOTF") which has annual revenues of over $89 million has declared itself a "church."   Where does FOTF spend its money?  One one, it is a leading purveyor of anti-gay lies and disinformation.  It also seeks to control elected officials who will push its Christian dominionist agenda.  And, of course, its leadership cadre laughs all the way to the bank. Very little of the moneys reach what most people would consider true charitable works.  Right Wing Watch looks at this latest abuse of the Internal Revenue Code and IRS rules.  Here are highlights:
Focus on the Family, the behemoth Religious Right organization founded by James Dobson, has declared itself to be a church, thereby avoiding a requirement that it file public tax documents, according to IRS records and a document available on the organization’s website.
Focus on the Family filed as a non-church 501(c)(3) nonprofit as recently as the 2014 fiscal year, submitting to the IRS a publicly available Form 990 as most tax-exempt nonprofits are required to do. But when the group posted a Form 990 for the 2015 fiscal year on its website—dated October 26, 2017, and reporting a massive budget of $89 million—it was emblazoned with the message “Not required to file and not filed with the IRS. Not for public inspection.”
On the part of the form on which it is required to identify the reason for its public charity status, the group indicates that it is a “church, convention of churches or association of churches.”
Focus on the Family declaring itself to be a church is puzzling. While the Colorado Springs-based organization has somewhat softened its image since it was led by the firebrand Dobson, it remains active in political debates and advocacy (even in a nominally nonpartisan way). A “social issues” section on the group’s website currently features information on a supposed threat to bathroom safety posed by transgender people thanks to LGBTQ activists fighting in politics, churches and popular culture, and contains an update on “cultural issues in the courts.” 
Gail Harmon, an attorney who has advised nonprofits on tax law for more than 30 years, said that she had never before seen a nonprofit organization declare itself a church. “I just found it shocking,” she said.
“There’s nothing about them that meets the traditional definition of what a church is,” she said. “They don’t have a congregation, they don’t have the rites of various parts of a person’s life. There’s a whole system for what a church is.”
The IRS lists a number of factors that it considers in determining whether an organization is a church, including whether it has a “definite and distinct ecclesiastical government,” “established places of worship” and “regular religious services,” but notes that an organization “need not have all of the characteristics” listed in order to be considered a church.
We have requested documents on the tax status change from Focus on the Family and from the IRS. Focus on the Family has not responded to our request for comment.



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Evangelicals Sell Their Souls for Trump


Speaking of the toxicity of evangelical Christians, a column in The Hill looks at how this segment of American society has sold its collective soul for Donald Trump, a man now confirmed to have paid hush money at least twice to cover up stories of marital infidelity while his current wife was at home with his infant son.  And let's not forget Trump's bragging about sexually molesting women in the Access Hollywood tape.  These modern day Pharisees who want to regulate the sex lives of everyone else - even as they have the highest usage of Internet porn - continue to turn a blind eye toward a man whose behavior is abhorrent to anyone with true moral standards.  Here are article highlights:
When it comes to the Stormy Daniels story, it is hard for me to understand the silence from evangelical Christians.  Let it sink in: It is now confirmed that the president’s personal lawyer paid a porn star for her silence.
After the story broke, a friend sent me an old article from a left-wing website. Democrats, the story said, beat themselves up for not better understanding white, Christian support for President Trump.  But that is a fool’s errand, the writer argued, because there is no understanding people who don’t accept facts.  The facts on the porn star and Trump became clear last week when Michael D. Cohen, the president’s lawyer, said he personally paid $130,000 to Daniels.
The money changed hands just before the 2016 election to allegedly stop her from talking about a sexual affair with candidate Trump that took place in 2006, just after Trump’s wife had a baby.  There is no longer any way to deny the fact of the payment and the nature of the tawdry story.
Also, there is no way to deny a former Playboy playmate’s telling of another extramarital affair with the president in 2006 and 2007.
And there is no way to deny that FBI Director Christopher Wray testified to Congress last week that Trump’s White House knew about two serious charges of domestic abuse against top aide Rob Porter but let him keep his job. Porter resigned only when those allegations became public.
Yes, the injunction to let he who is without sin cast the first stone is an important one. But it now seems clear that evangelical Christians, who hold up biblical edicts on lying, cheating and adultery, don’t care about the word of God when it comes to Trump.
A January poll for The Washington Post and ABC News “found 68 percent of white evangelical Protestants approve of Trump’s job performance — a figure that is nearly double that of the population as a whole and that is higher than any other religious or demographic group.” For a group that regularly preaches about the “sanctity of marriage” and inveighs against the evils of divorce, it was a major political puzzle to me when evangelicals first backed the thrice-married, adulterous Trump over Hillary Clinton.
She suffered years of public humiliation rather than breaking up her family, turning away from marriage vows and divorcing her philandering husband.
And now the puzzling behavior of evangelicals is pushed to the limit by their support for Trump despite the slimy facts of the Stormy Daniels story.
What we are seeing is a hollow core in evangelical faith as practiced by its leaders. . . . . [Pastor Robert] Jeffress said he doesn’t “care” if Trump is a religious phony but only that Trump has “embraced and enacted” policies favored by Jeffress and other evangelicals.
That led Tara I. Burton to conclude in an article on Vox that Jeffress’ indifference about Trump’s nasty earlier comments about "shithole countries" in fact “revealed the dark heart of Christian nationalism: It is as much…about jingoism and ethno-nationalism as it ever has been about Christian values.”
When it comes to Trump, the nation’s political, social and historical norms do not matter anymore.
Truly, no decent and moral person should give evangelicals the time of day.  Their hypocrisy and dishonesty is stunning.  

Trump/Pence Regime Dismantles LGBT-Friendly Policies

Trump and  Christian extremist hate group leader Tony Perkins 
As I have maintained many times in the past, the Republican Party remains the enemy of LGBT Americans.  Never more so than under the toxic Trump/Pence regime where - except for satiating Trump's ego - nothing is more important than pandering to right wing "Christian" extremists.  I use quotations on christian since if one looks at today's evangelical Christians, they are the antithesis of the gospel message of Christ.  Hatred towards others and discrimination are the hallmarks of this cancerous form of Christianity.  And the toxic influence of these modern day Pharisees persists at the state levels of government  as well.  Hence the action by a GOP controlled sub-committee in the Virginia General Assembly that acted to kill bills that would have outlawed anti-LGBT housing and employment discrimination against state workers.  At the federal level, the attack on LGBT rights is frightening as reported in a piece in Politico.  Here are excerpts:
The nation's health department is taking steps to dismantle LGBT health initiatives, as political appointees have halted or rolled back regulations intended to protect LGBT workers and patients, removed LGBT-friendly language from documents and reassigned the senior adviser dedicated to LGBT health.
The sharp reversal from Obama-era policies carries implications for a population that's been historically vulnerable to discrimination in health care settings, say LGBT health advocates. A Health Affairs study last year found that many LGBT individuals have less access to care than heterosexuals; in a Harvard-Robert Wood Johnson-NPR survey one in six LGBT individuals reported experiencing discrimination from doctors or at a clinic.
The Trump administration soon after taking office also moved to change the agency's LGBT-related health data collection, a window into health status and discrimination. Last month it established a new religious liberty division to defend health workers who have religious objections to treating LGBT patients.
The changes at the Department of Health and Human Services represent "rapid destruction of so much of the progress on LGBT health," said Kellan Baker, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health who worked with HHS on LGBT issues for nearly a decade. “It’s only a matter of time before all the gains made under the Obama administration are reversed under the Trump administration, for purposes that have nothing to do with public health and have everything to do with politics.”
[S]taff inside the health department have raised concerns about several other Trump appointees now in senior roles who had a history of anti-LGBT comments before joining the agency. Among them is Roger Severino, a former Heritage Foundation official who has said that the Supreme Court's 2015 decision on same-sex marriage was "wrong" and repeatedly warned of its consequences.
Though Barack Obama as a candidate for president opposed same-sex marriage, his administration immediately took steps to advance LGBT health issues, like loosening the rules on hospital visitation rights after some same-sex couples had been barred from seeing each other.
"[A]ll across America, patients are denied the kindnesses and caring of a loved one at their sides… [and] uniquely affected are gay and lesbian Americans," Obama wrote in a 2010 memorandum, instructing HHS to expand visitation rights, a policy that still stands [for now].
The Obama administration in 2016 also finalized a regulation, Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, that banned discrimination in health care based on sexual orientation and extended those protections to transgender individuals for the first time.
But upon taking office last year, the Trump administration swiftly froze a series of LGBT-friendly rules, including proposed new regulations to further ban discrimination in Medicare and Medicaid. A regulation that would have allowed transgender HHS staff more protections when using the department's bathrooms and other facilities also was ignored. . . . . The health agency's new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, which POLITICO first reported last month, is expected to offer greater protections for health care workers who do not wish to treat LGBT patients.
Another quiet battle has been over a pair of HHS surveys, with the Trump administration moving to strike questions about sexual orientation that had been added by the Obama administration in order to understand health disparities and LGBT specific health issues. The two surveys are used to shape policy for older and disabled Americans, respectively. The Trump administration subsequently reinstated some of the questions after an outcry.
Since Trump took office, multiple agencies have pursued policy reversals related to LGBT priorities. Under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department suggested that federal law doesn't ban sex discrimination in the workplace for transgender employees, a turnaround from the Obama administration. The Department of Education this month said that it would no longer investigate transgender students' complaints about access to bathrooms. But Christian conservatives [extremists] are noticing, and specifically praising, the reversals at the health department.
Career staff say that, regardless of what agency leaders believe or maintain now, their past comments on LGBT priorities have been widely passed around the 80,000-person department. "I photocopied them and left them in the cafeteria," said one staffer. "It's important for people to know these are the leaders they work for."
It's also fostered a climate where six staffers who are LGBT described removing their wedding rings before coming to work in the morning, taking down photos of their partners and families or ultimately finding new jobs further away from certain political appointees. They did not want to be identified; two said they feared being reassigned for being gay.
Staff also suggested that HHS has bigger priorities than rolling back LGBT health gains. "To the vast majority of Americans, this isn’t that big a deal anymore," said an employee. "It’s perplexing why they spend so much time on it."
Why the agenda of harming LGBT Americans?  In my view, it is simple: Christofascists cannot tolerate anything or anyone that challenge their Bronze Age beliefs.  Anything that hints that their hate and fear based ideology might be erroneous must be destroyed. 

America Is Under Attack and Trump Doesn't Care


As frightening as it is to admit it (I feel old as dirt), I have lived under twelve (12) presidents of the United States of America prior to the current Trump/Pence regime.  Never in that span of years do I remember an occupant of the White House ignoring an attack on the nation by a hostile foreign power that would love nothing better than to destroy America's democracy.  Yet now, under Trump/Pence, that is what we are witnessing as Trump focuses on satiating his ego and do all in his power to distract the public from the Russiagate investigation which is creeping closer and closer to Trump - and if the nation is lucky, Mike Pence as well. A piece in The Atlantic by David Frum a conservative and former Republican looks at Trump's betrayal of America.  A second column in the New York Times yesterday likewise notes that Trump's efforts to hide the truth about Russiagate from the public is harming the country.  First these highlights from The Atlantic:
As the rest of America mourns the victims of the Parkland, Florida, massacre, President Trump took to Twitter.
Not for him the rituals of grief. He is too consumed by rage and resentment. He interrupted his holidaying schedule at Mar-a-Lago only briefly, for a visit to a hospital where some of the shooting victims were treated. He posed afterward for a grinning thumbs-up photo op. Pain at another’s heartbreak—that emotion is for losers, apparently.
Having failed at one presidential duty, to speak for the nation at times of national tragedy, Trump resumed shirking an even more supreme task: defending the nation against foreign attack.
Last week, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian persons and three entities that conspired to violate federal election law, to the benefit of Trump and Republican congressional candidates. This is not the whole of the story by any means.
This Mueller indictment references only Russian operations on Facebook. It does not deal with the weaponization of hacked information via WikiLeaks. Or the reports that the Russians funneled millions of dollars of election spending through the NRA’s political action committees. But this indictment does show enough to answer some questions about the scale and methods of the Russian intervention—and pose a new question, the most important of them all.
The new question is this: What has been—what will be—done to protect American democracy from such attacks in the future? The Russian attack in 2016 worked, yielding dividends beyond Vladimir Putin’s wildest hopes.
Americans once thought it was a big deal that Alger Hiss rose to serve as acting temporary secretary general of the United Nations. This time, a Russian-backed  individual was installed in the Oval Office.
From that position of power, Trump has systematically attempted to shut down investigations of the foreign-espionage operation that operated on his behalf. He fired the director of the FBI to shut it down. His White House coordinated with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee to misdirect the investigation. He mobilized the speaker of the House to thwart bipartisan investigations under broadly respected leadership. He has inspired, supported, and joined a national propaganda campaign against the Mueller investigation.
And all the while, Trump has done nothing—literally nothing—to harden the nation’s voting systems against follow-on Russian operations. On Sunday, he publicly repudiated his own national-security adviser for acknowledging at the Munich Security Conference the most incontrovertible basics of what happened in 2016.
It’s worth thinking about what a patriotic president would have done in Trump’s situation. He would be leading the investigation himself. He would be scouring his own campaign—doing everything in his power to reassure the country that whatever the Russians may or may not have done, his government owed Putin nothing. . . . . At every turn, Trump has failed to do what a patriotic president would do—failed to put the national interest first. He has left the 2018 elections as vulnerable as the 2016 elections to Russian intervention on his behalf.
But Americans who cherish democracy and national sovereignty need to start discussing a bigger and darker question.  Authoritarian nationalist parties across the western world have outright cooperated with the Russians. Russian money has helped to finance the National Front in France, and the election and re-election of the president of the Czech Republic.
To what extent does President Trump—to what extent do congressional Republicans—look to Russian interference to help their party in the 2018 cycle?

The New York Times continues the theme that Trump is a threat to America.  Here are excerpts:
Our democracy is in serious danger.  President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy.
That is, either Trump’s real estate empire has taken large amounts of money from shady oligarchs linked to the Kremlin — so much that they literally own him; or rumors are true that he engaged in sexual misbehavior while he was in Moscow running the Miss Universe contest, which Russian intelligence has on tape and he doesn’t want released; or Trump actually believes Russian President Vladimir Putin when he says he is innocent of intervening in our elections — over the explicit findings of Trump’s own C.I.A., N.S.A. and F.B.I. chiefs.
In sum, Trump is either hiding something so threatening to himself, or he’s criminally incompetent to be commander in chief. . . . . Russia is not our friend. It has acted in a hostile manner. And Trump keeps ignoring it all.
Up to now, Trump has been flouting the norms of the presidency. Now Trump’s behavior amounts to a refusal to carry out his oath of office — to protect and defend the Constitution.
America needs a president who will lead our nation’s defense against this attack on the integrity of our electoral democracy.  What would that look like? He would educate the public on the scale of the problem; he would bring together all the stakeholders — state and local election authorities, the federal government, both parties and all the owners of social networks that the Russians used to carry out their interference — to mount an effective defense; and he would bring together our intelligence and military experts to mount an effective offense against Putin — the best defense of all.
It is so obvious what Trump is up to: Again, he is either a total sucker for Putin or, more likely, he is hiding something that he knows the Russians have on him, and he knows that the longer Mueller’s investigation goes on, the more likely he will be to find and expose it.
Donald, if you are so innocent, why do you go to such extraordinary lengths to try to shut Mueller down?
Given what is happening, it is increasingly difficult not to link the "T" word with Trump - and perhaps Pence as well, if he is involved in the coverup and obstruction efforts. 

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