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  1. #4576

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Acyn Torabi

    Trump claims Saudi Arabia has already deposited one billion dollars “in the bank” in exchange for US troops being sent. He then goes on to talk about South Korea paying $500 million for US troops defending them against North Korea.
    Joe Walsh

    Three questions:

    1. We’re selling troops to Saudi Arabia?
    2. What bank?
    3. Is there anyone alive who still believes anything he says?
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.”

    ― Frank Zappa

  2. #4577

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    You can be certain that if somebody were to offer him the right amount of money, he would sell them Melania. Double that, and it would be Ivanka.
    Missing winter...

  3. #4578

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Trump Campaign Adviser Pleads Guilty to Child Porn, Sex Trafficking
    January 13, 2020

    ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) – An informal adviser to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign who testified in the Mueller probe pleaded guilty Monday to charges of child sex trafficking and possessing child pornography.

    George Nader, 60, entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Virginia’s Eastern District.

    Though it was expected the Lebanese-American businessman would go to trial in March, a criminal information filed on Friday signaled the decision to change course.

    Nader was first charged in June 2019 with transporting and possessing pornographic images of children including some featuring toddler-age boys, baby goats and other farm animals. A month later in July, prosecutors added a sex-trafficking charge, saying Nader had arranged the transport to his Washington home of a 14-year-old boy from the Czech Republic in February 2000.

    Nader allegedly held onto the child’s passport after flying him through Dulles International Airport. Once at his residence, he assaulted him nightly and kept the child silent by threatening him and his mother with imprisonment should they ever attempt to report him, according to the indictment.

    Defense attorneys sought to have the July charge dismissed under the statute of limitations, but Judge Brinkema relied on the 2006 Adam Walsh Child Protection Act, which eliminated time limits on prosecution of certain offenses involving minors and intent to engage in criminal sexual activity with minors.

    This is not Nader’s first run-in with the law. He served six months after a 1991 guilty plea in Virginia to transporting child pornography.

    Then in 2003, Nader was convicted in the Prague Municipal Court in the Czech Republic for sexually abusing boys. Facing 10 charges there, he served a year in jail in Prague before being expelled from the country.

    The light sentences are believed to be, in part, the result of Nader’s 30-plus-year connection to prominent movers and shakers in Washington.

    Court documents note that the now-deceased real estate developer Guilford Glazer, a friend of former President Ronald Regan extolled Nader’s character in a letter to a federal judge, naming Nader a critical conduit in the brokerage of conflict relief efforts between Israel and Hezbollah.

    Nader was the longtime editor of Middle East Insight magazine throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In April 1996, some five years after he pleaded guilty to a transporting child pornography, Nader received a tribute from Representative Nick Rahall II, a West Virginia Democrat, when the magazine celebrated its 15th year in publication.

    “Because of his reputation for fairness and his remarkable access to key political business leaders throughout the region, Nader has produced a magazine of distinction and high quality,” Rahall II said. “Both he and Middle East Insight deserve special recognition on their 15th anniversary.”

    The Trump campaign knew of Nader’s negotiating prowess within Middle East diplomatic and political circles and knew he was especially plugged into the United Arab Emirates channel thanks to his direct tie to the UAE’s crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

    According to testimony Nader gave to a grand jury during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, Nader arranged his first meeting with members of the Trump transition team in December 2016 at Trump Tower in Manhattan.

    At the meeting, Nader met with Trump’s son in-in-law, Jared Kushner, then Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon and the Emirati crown prince. The point of the meeting, according to an extensive report first published by the Associated Press, was to convince the Trump administration to sour on Qatar, a nation that has long been an ally to the U.S. but an enemy to the Emiratis.

    The hardened stance toward Qatar was a running theme championed by Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy.

    Broidy, also the former finance chairman for the Republican National Committee, received a wire from Nader in April 2017 for a whopping $2.5 million from Nader’s company in the UAE. The funds were first routed to a Canadian investment firm known as Xiemen Investments Limited and then transferred to an account owned by Broidy in California.

    Another of Nader’s meetings that caught the special counsel’s eye was Nader’s January 2017 gathering in the paradisiacal Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.

    There, Nader was joined again by bin Zayed. But this time in attendance was Erik Prince, founder of the security company Blackwater, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ally Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s $10 billion sovereign wealth fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund.

    Though Prince told Mueller the meeting in the Seychelles was happenstance, Nader testified the meeting was planned and that the subject discussed was how to create diplomatic back channels between the Trump team and Moscow.

    According to the Mueller Report, Nader and Dmitriev spoke at length about how Dmitriev was underwhelmed by Prince at the Seychelles meeting and wanted to meet with someone better connected.

    First pulled into Mueller’s orbit nearly a year later in January 2018, Nader was stopped by FBI agents at Dulles International Airport. They wanted to know more about meetings Nader arranged between members of Trump’s transition team and officials from the Kremlin. The search warrant for his phone ultimately uncovered child pornography.


    Nader faces sentencing April 10 on the new conviction. The first count of possessing child pornography carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and 20 years maximum plus a $250,000 fine. He would also face a minimum of five years supervised release that could be extended for the duration of his life.

    On the second count, transporting a minor for sex, Nader faces a minimum of 15 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years. A $250,000 fine would also apply for this charge. He is also required to register as a sex offender for life.

    Nader’s defense attorneys seek a 10-year sentence to run concurrently.

    As a part of his guilty pleas today, Nader will pay restitution directly to the boy he transported from the Czech Republic to the U.S. in 2000. Prosecutor Jay Prabhu informed the court Monday that the victim, who is now an adult, has requested it and that attorneys are now working out the details.
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.”

    ― Frank Zappa

  4. #4579

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    It would be nice if he never got out of prison.
    "And for my next fearless prediction..."

  5. #4580

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    As I am preparing to watch LSU vs Clemson, 45 and spouse are on my TV in New Orleans.
    2017 & 2018 Australian Open Champions

  6. #4581

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Quote Originally Posted by patrick View Post
    As I am preparing to watch LSU vs Clemson, 45 and spouse are on my TV in New Orleans.
    I'm so sorry...
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.”

    ― Frank Zappa

  7. #4582
    Forum Director
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    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Quote Originally Posted by patrick View Post
    As I am preparing to watch LSU vs Clemson, 45 and spouse are on my TV in New Orleans.
    And it's YOUR TV... So throwing tomatoes would be counter productive...
    Winston, a.k.a. Alvena Rae Risley Hiatt (1944-2019), RIP

  8. #4583

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Zev Shalev
    New: Nader is the go-between for MBS, MBZ, Psy-Group and the Trump Campaign through Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner. He’s also the facilitator of the Seychelles Summit which broadly outlined a new balance of power centred around new alliances in the Middle East.
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.”

    ― Frank Zappa

  9. #4584

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    New book portrays Trump as erratic, ‘at times dangerously uninformed’

    Ashley Parker
    Jan. 15, 2020 at 11:44 a.m. EST

    President Trump reveals himself as woefully uninformed about the basics of geography, incorrectly telling Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “It’s not like you’ve got China on your border.” He toys with awarding himself the Medal of Freedom.

    And, according to a new book by Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Carol D. Leonnig, Trump does not seem to grasp the fundamental history surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor.

    “Hey, John, what’s this all about? What’s this a tour of?” Trump asks his then-Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, as the men prepare to take a private tour of the USS Arizona Memorial, which commemorates the December 1941 Japanese surprise attack in the Pacific that pulled the United States into World War II.

    “Trump had heard the phrase ‘Pearl Harbor’ and appeared to understand that he was visiting the scene of a historic battle, but he did not seem to know much else,” write the authors, later quoting a former senior White House adviser who concludes: “He was at times dangerously uninformed.”

    “A Very Stable Genius” — a 417-page book named after Trump’s own declaration of his superior knowledge — is full of similarly vivid details from Trump’s tumultuous first three years as president, from his chaotic transition before taking office to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation and final report.

    The story the authors unfurl, as they explain in the prologue, “is intended to reveal Trump at his most unvarnished and expose how decision-making in his administration has been driven by one man’s self-centered and unthinking logic — but a logic nonetheless.”

    The book by the two longtime Post reporters — who were part of the paper’s team that won a 2018 Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on Trump and Russia — was obtained ahead of its scheduled release Tuesday.

    Many of the key moments reported in the book are rife with foreign policy implications, portraying a novice commander in chief plowing through normal protocols and alarming many both inside the administration and in other governments.

    Early in his administration, for instance, Trump is eager to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin — so much so, the authors write, “that during the transition he interrupts an interview with one of his secretary of state candidates” to inquire about his pressing desire: “When can I meet Putin? Can I meet with him before the inaugural ceremony?” he asks.

    After the two leaders meet face-to-face for the first time — 168 days into his presidency at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg — Trump promptly declares himself a Russia expert, dismissing the expertise of then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who had worked closely with Putin since the 1990s, when Tillerson was working his way up the ExxonMobil corporate ladder and doing business with Russia.

    “Tillerson’s years of negotiating with Putin and studying his moves on the chessboard were suddenly irrelevant,” the duo writes. “ ‘I have had a two-hour meeting with Putin,’ Trump told Tillerson. ‘That’s all I need to know. . . . I’ve sized it all up. I’ve got it.’ ”

    In spring 2017, Trump also clashed with Tillerson when he told him he wanted his help getting rid of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a 1977 law that prevents U.S. firms and individuals from bribing foreign officials for business deals.

    “It’s just so unfair that American companies aren’t allowed to pay bribes to get business overseas,” Trump says, according to the book. “We’re going to change that.”

    The president, they go on to explain, was frustrated with the law “ostensibly because it restricted his industry buddies or his own company’s executives from paying off foreign governments in faraway lands.”

    The book, the duo writes in an author’s note, is based on hundreds of hours of interviews with more than 200 sources, corroborated, when possible, by calendars, diary entries, internal memos and even private video recordings. (Trump himself had initially committed to an interview for the book, the authors write, but ultimately declined, amid an escalating war with the media).

    The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

    One government aide tells the authors that Trump has destroyed the gravity and allure that used to surround the presidency, regardless of the Oval Office occupant.

    “ ‘He’s ruined that magic,’ this aide said of Trump,” Rucker and Leonnig write. “ ‘The disdain he shows for our country’s foundation and its principles. The disregard he has for right and wrong. Your fist clenches. Your teeth grate.’ ”

    Anthony Scaramucci, who served as Trump’s communications director for just 11 days, recounts the president’s response when he asks him, “Are you an act?”

    “I’m a total act and I don’t understand why people don’t get it,” Trump replies, according to Scaramucci.

    Yet the people in Trump’s administration and orbit don’t behave as if the president is simply playing a part or acting a role. At the Justice Department, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and other senior officials run through private fire drills in case Trump triggers a “Saturday night massacre” — an allusion to the series of resignations under President Richard M. Nixon following his order to his attorney general to fire the Watergate independent special prosecutor.

    “They prepared for several scenarios: If Trump fired [then-Attorney General Jeff] Sessions, if Trump fired Rosenstein, and if Trump ordered the firing of Mueller,” the authors write.

    The officials have reason to be concerned, according to the authors, who report that Trump muses about using a memo by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) as the justification for firing Rosenstein and reining in Mueller’s investigation. He also rails against his own Justice Department, furious that the agency isn’t being sufficiently loyal to him personally.

    At one point, after the department blocks the release of what the president believes was a pro-Trump memo, he calls Kelly ranting. “ ‘This is my Justice Department. They are supposed to be my people,’ Trump told Kelly,” the authors write. “ ‘This is the ‘Deep State.’ . . . Mueller’s all over it.’ ”

    Some details are more harmless than disconcerting. Early in his presidency, Trump agrees to participate in an HBO documentary that features judges and lawmakers — as well as all the living presidents — reading aloud from the Constitution. But Trump struggles and stumbles over the text, blaming others in the room for his mistakes and griping, “It’s like a foreign language.”

    In another scene, Axios reported in December 2018 that former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Trump met privately to discuss Christie possibly becoming his next chief of staff. After Christie respectfully turns down the job, he asks Trump how the details of their meeting leaked out, since it was just the two of them and first lady Melania Trump in the room.

    “Oh, I did it,” said Trump, who has long vented about leakers, revealing himself to be among them.

    Other moments have a darker tinge. Rucker and Leonnig write that during the early days of the Mueller investigation, both Donald McGahn, then the White House counsel, and Stephen K. Bannon, then a senior White House adviser, try to persuade Ty Cobb — the lawyer tasked, at the time, with overseeing the White House’s involvement in the probe — to remove Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, both senior advisers, from the White House staff, to protect the president during the ongoing investigation.

    “ ‘You need to shoot them in the [expletive] head,’ Bannon jokingly told Cobb,” the authors write.

    Trump was “verbally and emotionally abusive” toward then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, the book reports, and routinely complained she was not doing enough about illegal immigration and the border.

    According to the book, “He made fun of her stature and believed that at about five feet four inches she was not physically intimidating. ‘She’s so short,’ Trump would tell others about Nielsen. She and Kelly would try to make light of it. Kelly would rib her and say, ‘But you’ve got those little fists of fury!’ ”

    When Nielsen — who had received threats against her life as the public face of the administration’s hard-line immigration policy — eventually left the government, she did so without any prearranged continuing security detail, which must be requested by the chief of staff and authorized by the president.

    “When some of her international counterparts visited Washington, they offered to hire personal security for Nielsen to protect her, but she declined,” write the authors. “ ‘That would look horrible,’ Nielsen told them. ‘Can you imagine the story? Foreign governments provide security because the U.S. won’t?’ ”

    The duo opens one chapter with the case of Rob Porter — the former White House staff secretary who was ultimately pushed out of his job amid allegations of domestic abuse from his two ex-wives. After a photo surfaces on the Internet of Colbie Holderness, one of his ex-wives, sporting a black eye that she alleges Porter gave her, Trump offers a competing theory.

    “Maybe, Trump said, Holderness purposefully ran into a refrigerator to give herself bruises and try to get money out of Porter?” they write.

    Near the end of the book, Rucker and Leonnig delve into tensions between Mueller and Attorney General William P. Barr. Mueller and his team are frustrated when Barr releases an initial, four-page letter summarizing the “principal conclusions” of Mueller’s 448-page report, which they do not think sufficiently captures the context, nature and substance of Mueller’s full investigation.

    “Inside the bunker of Mueller’s lawyers, Barr’s letter stung,” write the authors. “Members of the special counsel team would later describe Mueller’s reaction: He looked as if he’d been slapped.”

    After Mueller writes a letter to Barr expressing his frustrations, the authors report that Barr calls Mueller, resulting in a testy phone conversation.

    “ ‘What the hell, Bob?’ Barr asked,” they write. “ ‘What’s up with this letter? Why didn’t you pick up the phone and call me?’ ”

    Barr complains that his team offered Mueller’s team an opportunity to review his letter before it went out and they declined — “We’re flabbergasted here,” Barr says, according to the book — but the call ultimately ends on “an uplifting note.”

    Some of the modest details in the book end up having larger consequences. After Trump bungles his India-China geography and seems to dismiss the threat China poses to India, for instance, the authors write that “Modi’s eyes bulged out in surprise.”

    “Modi’s expression gradually shifted, from shock and concern to resignation,” they continue, adding that one Trump aide concludes Modi probably “left that meeting and said, ‘This is not a serious man. I cannot count on this man as a partner.’ ”

    After the meeting, the aide explains to them, “ ‘the Indians took a step back’ in their diplomatic relations with the United States.”
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.”

    ― Frank Zappa

  10. #4585

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Senator Sends Warning on GOP Offensive Against Ex-DNC Consultant
    January 16, 2020

    WASHINGTON (CN) — Late last November, overshadowed by the daily spectacles of dramatic impeachment testimony in the House, Senate Republicans launched a little-reported offensive against a former Democratic National Committee consultant.

    At the center of the storm of the Republican’s investigation is Alexandra Chalupa, a former Democratic consultant who has been vilified in conservative media to advance a conspiracy theory that Ukrainians interfered in the 2016 presidential elections—against President Donald Trump.

    After the Russian government’s hack into the Democratic National Committee’s servers, Chalupa reported the breach to federal authorities, who extracted her laptop and smartphone in service of their investigation.

    Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., warned on Thursday that the Republicans’ investigation echoes Russian disinformation, and if they succeed, the repercussions could be chilling for private citizens who are victims of a crime.

    “The Senators’ request will have a chilling effect on the victims of nation state cyberattacks, and would discourage them from seeking law enforcement assistance, thereby jeopardizing our national security, limiting our ability to respond to sophisticated cyberattacks, and undermining the civil liberties of American citizens,” Wyden wrote in a three-page letter addressed to Attorney General Bill Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

    In a letter on Nov. 22, overshadowed by the impeachment hearings, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson asked the FBI and the Department of Justice to provide the contents of Chalupa’s electronic devices to their committees.

    Citing controversial editorials by The Hill’s John Solomon, the chairmen wrote: “If this reporting is accurate, it appears that the DOJ and FBI have in their possession material relevant to our Committees’ ongoing investigation into collusive actions Chalupa and the DNC took to use foreign government sources to undermine the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.”

    Grassley and Johnson also demanded copies of the FBI’s interview notes with Chalupa, officially known as 302s, which consist of raw and unvetted intelligence.

    Written by Solomon, a conservative journalist, the Hill’s editorials that Grassley and Johnson relied in their anti-Chalupa offensive upon have come increasingly under fire. Multiple impeachment witnesses cast doubt on the stories, which have been described as a smear campaign against ousted U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

    “This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves,” former National Security Council official Fiona Hill testified.

    A recent batch of files released by House Democrats appears to show Rudy Giuliani’s indicted associate Lev Parnas sharing an advanced copy of Solomon’s first anti-Yovanovitch editorial with former Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko.

    “The Hill has since acknowledged it would review and correct Solomon’s purported ‘reporting,’” Wyden wrote.

    In December, Wyden accused his Senate colleagues of laundering Kremlin talking points.

    “It’s incredibly dangerous for my colleagues to ignore the warnings of our intelligence agencies and misuse taxpayer money to spread Russian propaganda and Rudy Giuliani’s bizarre conspiracy theories,” Wyden wrote on Dec. 6. “The Senate should not be acting as an arm of the Russians or the president’s attorney.”

    The Oregon senator echoed those sentiments Thursday.

    “I am deeply concerned at the senators’ attempt to obtain the personal information, including cell phone communications and computer files, of a U.S. citizen, as well as their efforts to enlist the FBI and Department of Justice in their efforts to legitimize Russian propaganda,” Wyden declared. “The FBI is not a political weapon and should not be pressured into violating a citizen’s civil liberties for political gain.”

    This is a developing story…
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.”

    ― Frank Zappa

  11. #4586

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    The author gives a lot of background relating to the history of "The Tank" and what it means to the men and women who have served our country. I will skip all of that for brevity.

    Part 1

    ‘You’re a bunch of dopes and babies’: Inside Trump’s stunning tirade against generals

    One hundred fifty-​*two years after Lincoln hatched plans to preserve the Union, President Trump’s advisers staged an intervention inside the Tank to try to preserve the world order.

    By that point, six months into his administration, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had grown alarmed by gaping holes in Trump’s knowledge of history, especially the key alliances forged following World War II. Trump had dismissed allies as worthless, cozied up to authoritarian regimes in Russia and elsewhere, and advocated withdrawing troops from strategic outposts and active theaters alike.

    Trump organized his unorthodox worldview under the simplistic banner of “America First,” but Mattis, Tillerson, and Cohn feared his proposals were rash, barely considered, and a danger to America’s superpower standing. They also felt that many of Trump’s impulsive ideas stemmed from his lack of familiarity with U.S. history and, even, where countries were located. To have a useful discussion with him, the trio agreed, they had to create a basic knowledge, a shared language.

    So on July 20, 2017, Mattis invited Trump to the Tank for what he, Tillerson, and Cohn had carefully organized as a tailored tutorial. What happened inside the Tank that day crystallized the commander in chief’s berating, derisive and dismissive manner, foreshadowing decisions such as the one earlier this month that brought the United States to the brink of war with Iran. The Tank meeting was a turning point in Trump’s presidency. Rather than getting him to appreciate America’s traditional role and alliances, Trump began to tune out and eventually push away the experts who believed their duty was to protect the country by restraining his more dangerous impulses.

    The episode has been documented numerous times, but subsequent reporting reveals a more complete picture of the moment and the chilling effect Trump’s comments and hostility had on the nation’s military and national security leadership.

    Just before 10 a.m. on a scorching summer Thursday, Trump arrived at the Pentagon. He stepped out of his motorcade, walked along a corridor with portraits honoring former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs, and stepped inside the Tank. The uniformed officers greeted their commander in chief. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph F. Dunford Jr. sat in the seat of honor midway down the table, because this was his room, and Trump sat at the head of the table facing a projection screen. Mattis and the newly confirmed deputy defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, sat to the president’s left, with Vice President Pence and Tillerson to his right. Down the table sat the leaders of the military branches, along with Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon was in the outer ring of chairs with other staff, taking his seat just behind Mattis and directly in Trump’s line of sight.

    Mattis, Cohn, and Tillerson and their aides decided to use maps, graphics, and charts to tutor the president, figuring they would help keep him from getting bored. Mattis opened with a slide show punctuated by lots of dollar signs. Mattis devised a strategy to use terms the impatient president, schooled in real estate, would appreciate to impress upon him the value of U.S. investments abroad. He sought to explain why U.S. troops were deployed in so many regions and why America’s safety hinged on a complex web of trade deals, alliances, and bases across the globe

    An opening line flashed on the screen, setting the tone: “The post-war international rules-based order is the greatest gift of the greatest generation.” Mattis then gave a 20-minute briefing on the power of the NATO alliance to stabilize Europe and keep the United States safe. Bannon thought to himself, “Not good. Trump is not going to like that one bit.” The internationalist language Mattis was using was a trigger for Trump.

    “Oh, baby, this is going to be f---ing wild,” Bannon thought. “If you stood up and threatened to shoot [Trump], he couldn’t say ‘postwar rules-based international order.’ It’s just not the way he thinks.”

    For the next 90 minutes, Mattis, Tillerson, and Cohn took turns trying to emphasize their points, pointing to their charts and diagrams. They showed where U.S. personnel were positioned, at military bases, CIA stations, and embassies, and how U.S. deployments fended off the threats of terror cells, nuclear blasts, and destabilizing enemies in places including Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, the Korea Peninsula, and Syria. Cohn spoke for about 20 minutes about the value of free trade with America’s allies, emphasizing how he saw each trade agreement working together as part of an overall structure to solidify U.S. economic and national security.

    Trump appeared peeved by the schoolhouse vibe but also allergic to the dynamic of his advisers talking at him. His ricocheting attention span led him to repeatedly interrupt the lesson. He heard an adviser say a word or phrase and then seized on that to interject with his take. For instance, the word “base” prompted him to launch in to say how “crazy” and “stupid” it was to pay for bases in some countries.
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.”

    ― Frank Zappa

  12. #4587

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Part 2

    Trump’s first complaint was to repeat what he had vented about to his national security adviser months earlier: South Korea should pay for a $10 billion missile defense system that the United States built for it. The system was designed to shoot down any short- and medium-range ballistic missiles from North Korea to protect South Korea and American troops stationed there. But Trump argued that the South Koreans should pay for it, proposing that the administration pull U.S. troops out of the region or bill the South Koreans for their protection.

    “We should charge them rent,” Trump said of South Korea. “We should make them pay for our soldiers. We should make money off of everything.”

    Trump proceeded to explain that NATO, too, was worthless. U.S. generals were letting the allied member countries get away with murder, he said, and they owed the United States a lot of money after not living up to their promise of paying their dues.

    “They’re in arrears,” Trump said, reverting to the language of real estate. He lifted both his arms at his sides in frustration. Then he scolded top officials for the untold millions of dollars he believed they had let slip through their fingers by allowing allies to avoid their obligations.

    “We are owed money you haven’t been collecting!” Trump told them. “You would totally go bankrupt if you had to run your own business.”

    Mattis wasn’t trying to convince the president of anything, only to explain and provide facts. Now things were devolving quickly. The general tried to calmly explain to the president that he was not quite right. The NATO allies didn’t owe the United States back rent, he said. The truth was more complicated. NATO had a nonbinding goal that members should pay at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on their defenses. Only five of the countries currently met that goal, but it wasn’t as if they were shorting the United States on the bill.

    More broadly, Mattis argued, the NATO alliance was not serving only to protect western Europe. It protected America, too. “This is what keeps us safe,” Mattis said. Cohn tried to explain to Trump that he needed to see the value of the trade deals. “These are commitments that help keep us safe,” Cohn said.

    Bannon interjected. “Stop, stop, stop,” he said. “All you guys talk about all these great things, they’re all our partners, I want you to name me now one country and one company that’s going to have his back.”

    Trump then repeated a threat he’d made countless times before. He wanted out of the Iran nuclear deal that President Obama had struck in 2015, which called for Iran to reduce its uranium stockpile and cut its nuclear program.

    “It’s the worst deal in history!” Trump declared.

    “Well, actually . . .,” Tillerson interjected.

    “I don’t want to hear it,” Trump said, cutting off the secretary of state before he could explain some of the benefits of the agreement. “They’re cheating. They’re building. We’re getting out of it. I keep telling you, I keep giving you time, and you keep delaying me. I want out of it.”

    Before they could debate the Iran deal, Trump erupted to revive another frequent complaint: the war in Afghanistan, which was now America’s longest war. He demanded an explanation for why the United States hadn’t won in Afghanistan yet, now 16 years after the nation began fighting there in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Trump unleashed his disdain, calling Afghanistan a “loser war.” That phrase hung in the air and disgusted not only the military leaders at the table but also the men and women in uniform sitting along the back wall behind their principals. They all were sworn to obey their commander in chief’s commands, and here he was calling the war they had been fighting a loser war.

    “You’re all losers,” Trump said. “You don’t know how to win anymore.”

    Trump questioned why the United States couldn’t get some oil as payment for the troops stationed in the Persian Gulf. “We spent $7 trillion; they’re ripping us off,” Trump boomed. “Where is the f---ing oil?”

    Trump seemed to be speaking up for the voters who elected him, and several attendees thought they heard Bannon in Trump’s words. Bannon had been trying to persuade Trump to withdraw forces by telling him, “The American people are saying we can’t spend a trillion dollars a year on this. We just can’t. It’s going to bankrupt us.”


    Trump mused about removing General John Nicholson, the U.S. commander in charge of troops in Afghanistan. “I don’t think he knows how to win,” the president said, impugning Nicholson, who was not present at the meeting.

    Dunford tried to come to Nicholson’s defense, but the mild-mannered general struggled to convey his points to the irascible president.

    “Mr. President, that’s just not . . .,” Dunford started. “We’ve been under different orders.”

    Dunford sought to explain that he hadn’t been charged with annihilating the enemy in Afghanistan but was instead following a strategy started by the Obama administration to gradually reduce the military presence in the country in hopes of training locals to maintain a stable government so that eventually the United States could pull out. Trump shot back in more plain language.

    “I want to win,” he said. “We don’t win any wars anymore . . . We spend $7 trillion, everybody else got the oil and we’re not winning anymore.”

    Trump by now was in one of his rages. He was so angry that he wasn’t taking many breaths. All morning, he had been coarse and cavalier, but the next several things he bellowed went beyond that description. They stunned nearly everyone in the room, and some vowed that they would never repeat them. Indeed, they have not been reported until now.

    “I wouldn’t go to war with you people,” Trump told the assembled brass.

    Addressing the room, the commander in chief barked, “You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.”
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.”

    ― Frank Zappa

  13. #4588

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Part 3

    For a president known for verbiage he euphemistically called “locker room talk,” this was the gravest insult he could have delivered to these people, in this sacred space. The flag officers in the room were shocked. Some staff began looking down at their papers, rearranging folders, almost wishing themselves out of the room. A few considered walking out. They tried not to reveal their revulsion on their faces, but questions raced through their minds. “How does the commander in chief say that?” one thought. “What would our worst adversaries think if they knew he said this?”

    This was a president who had been labeled a “draft dodger” for avoiding service in the Vietnam War under questionable circumstances. Trump was a young man born of privilege and in seemingly perfect health: six feet two inches with a muscular build and a flawless medical record. He played several sports, including football. Then, in 1968 at age 22, he obtained a diagnosis of bone spurs in his heels that exempted him from military service just as the United States was drafting men his age to fulfill massive troop deployments to Vietnam.

    Tillerson in particular was stunned by Trump’s diatribe and began visibly seething. For too many minutes, others in the room noticed, he had been staring straight, dumbfounded, at Mattis, who was speechless, his head bowed down toward the table. Tillerson thought to himself, “Gosh darn it, Jim, say something. Why aren’t you saying something?”

    But, as he would later tell close aides, Tillerson realized in that moment that Mattis was genetically a Marine, unable to talk back to his commander in chief, no matter what nonsense came out of his mouth.

    The more perplexing silence was from Pence, a leader who should have been able to stand up to Trump. Instead, one attendee thought, “He’s sitting there frozen like a statue. Why doesn’t he stop the president?” Another recalled the vice president was “a wax museum guy.” From the start of the meeting, Pence looked as if he wanted to escape and put an end to the president’s torrent. Surely, he disagreed with Trump’s characterization of military leaders as “dopes and babies,” considering his son, Michael, was a Marine first lieutenant then training for his naval aviator wings. But some surmised Pence feared getting crosswise with Trump. “A total deer in the headlights,” recalled a third attendee.

    Others at the table noticed Trump’s stream of venom had taken an emotional toll. So many people in that room had gone to war and risked their lives for their country, and now they were being dressed down by a president who had not. They felt sick to their stomachs. Tillerson told others he thought he saw a woman in the room silently crying. He was furious and decided he couldn’t stand it another minute. His voice broke into Trump’s tirade, this one about trying to make money off U.S. troops.

    “No, that’s just wrong,” the secretary of state said. “Mr. President, you’re totally wrong. None of that is true.”

    Tillerson’s father and uncle had both been combat veterans, and he was deeply proud of their service.

    “The men and women who put on a uniform don’t do it to become soldiers of fortune,” Tillerson said. “That’s not why they put on a uniform and go out and die . . . They do it to protect our freedom.”

    There was silence in the Tank. Several military officers in the room were grateful to the secretary of state for defending them when no one else would. The meeting soon ended and Trump walked out, saying goodbye to a group of servicemen lining the corridor as he made his way to his motorcade waiting outside. Mattis, Tillerson, and Cohn were deflated. Standing in the hall with a small cluster of people he trusted, Tillerson finally let down his guard.

    “He’s a f---ing moron,” the secretary of state said of the president.

    The plan by Mattis, Tillerson, and Cohn to train the president to appreciate the internationalist view had clearly backfired.
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.”

    ― Frank Zappa

  14. #4589

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Part 4

    “We were starting to get out on the wrong path, and we really needed to have a course correction and needed to educate, to teach, to help him understand the reason and basis for a lot of these things,” said one senior official involved in the planning. “We needed to change how he thinks about this, to course correct. Everybody was on board, 100 percent agreed with that sentiment. [But] they were dismayed and in shock when not only did it not have the intended effect, but he dug in his heels and pushed it even further on the spectrum, further solidifying his views.”

    A few days later, Pence’s national security adviser, Andrea Thompson, a retired Army colonel who had served in Afghanistan and Iraq, reached out to thank Tillerson for speaking up on behalf of the military and the public servants who had been in the Tank. By September 2017, she would leave the White House and join Tillerson at Foggy Bottom as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs.

    The Tank meeting had so thoroughly shocked the conscience of military leaders that they tried to keep it a secret. At the Aspen Security Forum two days later, longtime NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell asked Dunford how Trump had interacted during the Tank meeting. The Joint Chiefs chairman misleadingly described the meeting, skipping over the fireworks.

    “He asked a lot of hard questions, and the one thing he does is question some fundamental assumptions that we make as military leaders — and he will come in and question those,” Dunford told Mitchell on July 22. “It’s a pretty energetic and an interactive dialogue.”

    One victim of the Tank meeting was Trump’s relationship with Tillerson, which forever after was strained. The secretary of state came to see it as the beginning of the end. It would only worsen when news that Tillerson had called Trump a “moron” was first reported in October 2017 by NBC News.

    Trump once again gathered his generals and top diplomats in December 2017 for a meeting as part of the administration’s ongoing strategy talks about troop deployments in Afghanistan in the Situation Room, a secure meeting room on the ground floor of the West Wing. Trump didn’t like the Situation Room as much as the Pentagon’s Tank, because he didn’t think it had enough gravitas. It just wasn’t impressive.

    But there Trump was, struggling to come up with a new Afghanistan policy and frustrated that so many U.S. forces were deployed in so many places around the world. The conversation began to tilt in the same direction as it had in the Tank back in July.

    “All these countries need to start paying us for the troops we are sending to their countries. We need to be making a profit,” Trump said. “We could turn a profit on this.”

    Dunford tried to explain to the president once again, gently, that troops deployed in these regions provided stability there, which helped make America safer. Another officer chimed in that charging other countries for U.S. soldiers would be against the law.

    “But it just wasn’t working,” one former Trump aide recalled. “Nothing worked.”

    Following the Tank meeting, Tillerson had told his aides that he would never silently tolerate such demeaning talk from Trump about making money off the deployments of U.S. soldiers. Tillerson’s father, at the age of 17, had committed to enlist in the Navy on his next birthday, wanting so much to serve his country in World War II. His great-uncle was a career officer in the Navy as well. Both men had been on his mind, Tillerson told aides, when Trump unleashed his tirade in the Tank and again when he repeated those points in the Situation Room in December.

    “We need to get our money back,” Trump told his assembled advisers.

    That was it. Tillerson stood up. But when he did so, he turned his back to the president and faced the flag officers and the rest of the aides in the room. He didn’t want a repeat of the scene in the Tank.

    “I’ve never put on a uniform, but I know this,” Tillerson said. “Every person who has put on a uniform, the people in this room, they don’t do it to make a buck. They did it for their country, to protect us. I want everyone to be clear about how much we as a country value their service.”

    Tillerson’s rebuke made Trump angry. He got a little red in the face. But the president decided not to engage Tillerson at that moment. He would wait to take him on another day.

    Later that evening, after 8:00, Tillerson was working in his office at the State Department’s Foggy Bottom headquarters, preparing for the next day. The phone rang. It was Dunford. The Joint Chiefs chairman’s voice was unsteady with emotion. Dunford had much earlier joked with Tillerson that in past administrations the secretaries of state and Defense Department leaders wouldn’t be caught dead walking on the same side of the street, for their rivalry was that fierce. But now, as both men served Trump, they were brothers joined against what they saw as disrespect for service members. Dunford thanked Tillerson for standing up for them in the Situation Room.

    “You took the body blows for us,” Dunford said. “Punch after punch. Thank you. I will never forget it.”
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.”

    ― Frank Zappa

  15. #4590

    Re: A Chronicle of our Descent to Hades

    Part 5

    Tillerson, Dunford, and Mattis would not take those body blows for much longer. They failed to rein in Trump’s impulses or to break through what they regarded as the president’s stubborn, even dangerous insistence that he knew best. Piece by piece, the guardrails that had hemmed in the chaos of Trump’s presidency crumpled.

    In March 2018, Trump abruptly fired Tillerson while the secretary of state was halfway across the globe on a sensitive diplomatic mission to Africa to ease tensions caused by Trump’s demeaning insults about African countries. Trump gave Tillerson no rationale for his firing, and afterward acted as if they were buddies, inviting him to come by the Oval Office to take a picture and have the president sign it. Tillerson never went.

    Mattis continued serving as the defense secretary, but the president’s sudden decision in December 2018 to withdraw troops from Syria and abandon America’s Kurdish allies there — one the president soon reversed, only to remake 10 months later — inspired him to resign. Mattis saw Trump’s desired withdrawal as an assault on a soldier’s code. “He began to feel like he was becoming complicit,” recalled one of the secretary’s confidants.

    The media interpretation of Mattis’ resignation letter as a scathing rebuke of Trump’s worldview brought the president’s anger to a boiling point. Trump decided to remove Mattis two months ahead of the secretary’s chosen departure date. His treatment of Mattis upset the secretary’s staff. They decided to arrange the biggest clap out they could. The event was a tradition for all departing secretaries. They wanted a line of Pentagon personnel that stretched for a mile applauding Mattis as he left for the last time. It was going to be “yuge,” staffers joked, borrowing from Trump’s glossary.

    But Mattis would not allow it.

    “No, we are not doing that,” he told his aides. “You don’t understand the president. I work with him. You don’t know him like I do. He will take it out on Shanahan and Dunford.”

    Dunford stayed on until September 2019, retiring at the conclusion of his four-year term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. One of Dunford’s first public acts after leaving office was to defend a military officer attacked by Trump, Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council official who testified in the House impeachment inquiry about his worries over Trump’s conduct with Ukraine. Trump dismissed Vindman as a “Never Trumper,” but Dunford stepped forward to praise the Purple Heart recipient as “a professional, competent, patriotic, and loyal officer. He has made an extraordinary contribution to the security of our nation.”

    By then, however, Trump had become a president entirely unrestrained. He had replaced his raft of seasoned advisers with a cast of enablers who executed his orders and engaged his obsessions. They saw their mission as telling the president yes.
    There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.”

    ― Frank Zappa

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