• ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, October 19

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ US consulting firm with ties to the Clintons lobbied on behalf of Russia’s nuclear giant (Circa)

    A Russian nuclear executive, whose company was the target of an FBI investigation and who admitted to corrupt payments to influence the awarding of contracts with the Russian state-owned nuclear energy corporation, paid millions of dollars in consulting fees to an American firm in 2009 and 2010 to lobby the U.S. regulatory agencies and assist the Russian’s who were then attempting to acquire twenty percent of American uranium, according to court documents, a former FBI informant and extensive interviews with law enforcement sources.

    Roughly $3 million in payments from 2010 to 2011 were made to APCO Worldwide Inc., which is described on their website as the second largest lobbying firm in the United States. The firm also provided in kind pro-bono services to Bill Clinton’s foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative, services they begin 2007, according to APCO officials who spoke with Circa

    and press releases from the company. It was during the same time that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was part of the Obama administration board that would eventually approve the sale of the U.S. uranium to Russia. –Sara A. Carter at Circa

    ◆ Great News about the US Economy: Lowest jobless claims since 1973 (Bloomberg)

    Comment: One-month data contains random effects, but the trend is great.

    Head of NBC News dined with Harvey Weinstein, then spiked the well-sourced exposé from Ronan Farrow. Pressure to resign–but he’s still on the job. (Fox News)

    NBC says they are not investigating.

    NBC News is coming under increasing criticism for its failure to investigate why its embattled president, Noah Oppenheim, spiked a bombshell story that would have been the first to expose Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein as a sexual predator.

    An NBC spokesperson says the network is not investigating the matter, despite new revelations that Oppenheim sat at small table with Weinstein at an exclusive New York gala in April, when Oppenheim reportedly already knew that his reporter, celebrity scion Ronan Farrow, had obtained damning audio recordings in which Weinstein admitted groping the breasts of an Italian model. –Fox News (link here)

     Screenwriter close to Weinstein highlights Hollywood’s code of omertà: “Everybody f**king knew” (Mashable)

    Scott Rosenberg worked with Weinstein and company for almost a decade:

    “Everybody fucking knew,” he wrote (not once, not twice, but three times) in a lyrical, near novella-length Facebook response to those shrinking away from responsibility in enabling Weinstein’s behavior.

    Hollywood’s general unwillingness to face the music of personal accountability for the rot in their own industry added insult to injury in the onslaught of allegations. Because those (seemingly) well-meaning yet spineless responses only ensure one thing: that this will keep happening. –Mashable

    Comment: Mr. Rosenberg’s choice of words is certainly apt.

    I just hope this little unpleasantness doesn’t keep Hollywood from preaching to the rest of us.

    ◆ John Kelly speaks eloquently about his son’s combat death, says he was “stunned” by a Congresswoman’s criticism of Pres. Trump’s condolence call

    NYT gives it a straightforward headline: Kelly Speaks About Son’s Death and Criticizes Congresswoman Wilson

    CNN gives it an ugly spin: John Kelly’s stirring but incomplete attempt to clean up for Donald Trump

    Comment: CNN’s spin, presented as hard news, is shameful.

    ◆ FUSION GPS:  Founders of the firm behind Trump-Russia dossier take the Fifth (Business Insider)

    Won’t talk to House Intel Committee. Refuse to say who paid for the smear job.

    Comment: The now-discredited dossier is important because then-director of the FBI, James Comey, used it as the basis for an investigation of the Trump campaign.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Hat Tip to

    ◆ Tom Elia for the Mashable “everybody knew” story.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, October 17

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    Biggest story of the week is just under the radar: China’s Xi is consolidating his power to become most powerful leader since Mao

    Comment: This week’s Party Congress, held every five years, is the moment when Xi will try to push aside many of the constraints installed after Mao to prevent one-man rule. He has already done a lot of that, installing his people in the military and using the anti-corruption campaign to remove adversaries (and leave political friends and family untouched).

    By the end of the week, we’ll know if Xi has succeeded since some rule-breaking will be obvious by then (particularly waiving a rule that would require his political enforcer to retire because of age).

     No Cigar for the Drug Czar: Nominee Tom Marino Withdraws after news reports he weakened an anti-opioid bill (Washington Post)

    The Washington Post/CBS 60 Minutes piece showed he not only weakened the bill, his office was very close to big pharma companies with interest in the legislation.

    Comment: The swift move by Trump was inevitable after the report, given Trump’s focus on the Washington Swamp and the importance of opioid issues to the country and especially to his base.

     FBI Uncovered Russian Bribery Plot Before Obama Administration Approved Controversial Nuclear Deal with Moscow (The Hill)

    • Clintons were involved
    • The FBI kept it all under wraps

    Before the deal was approved

    The FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.

    Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.

    They also obtained an eyewitness account — backed by documents — indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow, sources told The Hill. –John Solomon and Alison Spann in The Hill

    Austria’s new leader: very young (31), very opposed to floods of new immigrants (x)

    NYT headline: Austria Shifts Right as Refashioned Conservatives Win. Socialists finished third, slightly behind nationalist-populist “Freedom Party”

    Under Mr. Kurz, the staid, traditionally conservative People’s Party was refashioned into a social-media-savvy political movement that attracted hundreds of thousands of new supporters in a campaign focused on limiting immigration and strengthening the country’s social welfare system.

    Kurz will need to form a coalition government.

    The most likely coalition partner appeared to be the nationalist, populist Freedom Party, which initial results showed winning 27.1 percent of the vote. The party complained during the election campaign that Mr. Kurz had stolen its playbook, seizing on issues like limits to immigration and the threat posed to Austrian identity by Islam.–New York Times

    North Korea warns that “nuclear war could break out at any moment” (Bloomberg)

    Comment: Kim Jong Un’s desire for a deliverable nuclear arsenal is comprehensible as a defense for his regime. These kinds of threats are not comprehensible–or are badly misjudged. Presumably, they are trying to move the US off any military option. But Kim’s statements do highlight the very real danger of accident or inadvertent escalation.

     Trump and McConnell show unity . . . at least for now

    The New York Times story is here.

    Comment: It is all tactical, and it’s all about the tax reform bill, which is essential politically for Republicans on the Hill.

    They will also look for other areas to notch some wins, including judicial nominees, which have moved far too slowly through the Senate, as conservatives see it. Democrats have used every delaying tactic on the nominees and Republicans have let them get away with it.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Hat Tip to

    Clarice Feldman for the FBI-Russia story

  • How the NSA Found Out the Russians had Hacked It

    Israel hacked Russia’s Kaspersky cyber labs, found code that could only have come from the NSA, then told the Americans (Washington Post)

    In 2015, Israeli government hackers saw something suspicious in the computers of a Moscow-based cybersecurity firm: hacking tools that could only have come from the National Security Agency.

    Israel notified the NSA, where alarmed officials immediately began a hunt for the breach, according to people familiar with the matter, who said an investigation by the agency revealed that the tools were in the possession of the Russian government.

    Israeli spies had found the hacking material on the network of Kaspersky Lab, the global anti-virus firm under a spotlight in the United States because of suspicions that its products facilitate Russian espionage –Washington Post

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Columbus Day, Monday, October 9

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

     

    Deal on “Dreamers”? Only with other tough provisions on immigration, says White House (New York Times)

    Before agreeing to provide legal status for 800,000 young immigrants brought here illegally as children, Mr. Trump will insist on the construction of a wall across the southern border, the hiring of 10,000 immigration agents, tougher laws for those seeking asylum and denial of federal grants to “sanctuary cities,” officials said. –NYT

    Comment: Time for Democrats to do some polling.

    Saturday Night Live: Great spoof of OJ Simpson on a post-prison date, but radio silence about Harvey Weinstein (Fox News)

    Lorne Michaels offered a lame, non-explanation.

    Comment: My hunch is that they will have plenty next week, now that they know Harvey is not protected by their media friends.

    Another interesting–and disturbing–story is how many publications knew about the harassment and never printed it.

    Some brave Russian journalists are risking their lives to investigate the Russian “troll farm” involved in the US election (Washington Post)

    It’s the same troll farm that Mueller and the US Congress are investigating.

    Comment: Right now, it’s a human-interest story. Let’s hope the Kremlin doesn’t make it a former-human interest story.

    Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones says players who don’t stand will be benched for that game (New York Post)

    Jones also defended VP Mike Pence’s decision to leave the Indianapolis Colts’ game after some SF 49er players knelt for the national anthem.

    Here’s the Dallas Morning News report on Jones’ decision.

    Ireland is issuing a new stamp

    Comment: Be the first on your block to collect all the heroes in Ireland’s new “Honoring Murderers” Series.

    The Red Brigades are the most collectible.

     

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  • Fusion GPS: Oppo Research Group that Produced anti-Trump “Russian Dossier” is Stonewalling Investigators

    The company that commissioned the unverified Trump-Russia dossier is stonewalling Senate investigators (Fox News)

    That company, Fusion GPS and its head, Glenn R. Simpson, have no attorney-client privilege for the dossier.

    Nevertheless, they are effectively refusing to cooperate with Congressional investigators, who have requested relevant documents.

    What Fusion GPS gave them instead was thousands of blank pages and publicly-available news clips.

    Fusion GPS is at the center of the Trump-Russia Collusion Story

    Fusion GPS received unverified materials (some now discredited) from former British spy, Christopher Steele. British court documents show that the materials were exchanged via encrypted communications.

    If the dossier was just bad opposition research, it would be par for the course in politics and not worth much investigation.

    But the dossier, with its nasty, unverified, and salacious (but false) charges against Trump, turned out to be very consequential.

    It was this unverified dossier that then-FBI chief James Comey relied upon to launch his own agency’s investigation and later leaked to the press to force a Special Counsel investigation.

    Very consequential, indeed.

    The best reporters on these intelligence issues, Fox’s Catherine Herridge and Pamela Browne, say this:

    In March, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote to Simpson asking if Steele – who compiled the raw, unverified intelligence – was simultaneously paid by Simpson’s firm Fusion GPS for his work and the FBI for the investigation of then-candidate Trump and his associates.

    Separately, the House Intelligence Committee has issued subpoenas to the FBI for records on the FBI’s relationship with Steele, Fox News is told. –Herridge, Browne, and Cyd Upson for Fox News

    Who Is Behind the Dossier? Who Paid for It?

    Where Did the Unverified Information Originate?

    One very credible Congressional witness, Bill Browder (high on Putin’s enemies list), has publicly testified that Fusion GPS and its founder, Glenn Simpson, were behind stories meant to discredit Browder and smear his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky.

    According to Browder, Simpson was peddling these smears to various media. One of Simpson’s allegations: Magnitsky, who was killed in Russia, was an underworld figure. Western sources think the Kremlin was behind the killing. The implication is that Fusion GPS was trying to clear Putin of a political murder.

    The Magnitsky Act and Fusion GPS

    The lawyer’s assassination is particularly important because the latest US sanctions against Russia are named for attorney: the Magnitsky Act.

    Repealing that act is one of Putin’s highest priorities, and Fusion GPS’s actions further that goal.

    You will remember that the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskya, who met with Trump campaign officials in June 2016 was mainly interested in repealing the Magnitsky Act.

    Interestingly, Simpson’s spokesman at Fusion GPS was a special adviser to then-AG Eric Holder, so the firm is not just “lawyered up,” it has hired people with connections to senior Democrats.

    Comment:

    Simpson’s goal is to delay, delay, delay and hope the Senate gets tired of the investigation.

    It won’t.

    If he doesn’t produce documents and testify, they will charge him with contempt.

    When Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch ran the DOJ, they simply ignored the Congressional findings of contempt.

    Sessions’ DOJ will take them before a judge for enforcement.

    Knowing that, and knowing that testifying about his secret dealings and sources of funding could ruin his lucrative business, Glenn Simpson is trying rope-a-dope delaying tactics.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Labor Day, Monday, September 4

    Articles chosen with care. Local sources when possible.
    Your comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ North Korea The question now is how hard will China push, given that this latest test

    1. Humiliates Beijing, flaunting their open calls to stop, and
    2. Will certainly bring extremely tough reaction from the US and its allies.

    The US will seek very harsh sanctions at the UN, daring China and Russia to show their hands and veto.

    The effect will turn on the scale of the sanctions and the willingness of China (and Russia) to comply in practice, not just in rhetoric.

    For news, link here. (Washington Post)

    China says Trump’s trade threat over North Korea is “unacceptable” (Fox News)

    Comment: The US says the same about China’s behavior toward North Korea.

    Watch to see if China cuts off fuel for a few days. If they don’t, it’s all rope-a-dope game for them, and the US-China relationship will get very tense.

    DACA deferrals for illegal immigrants likely to end six-months from now. Trump action gives Congress time to act (Politico)

    Comment: Nearly all legal scholars agree that Obama’s actions on DACA were unconstitutional and won’t survive a legal challenge.

    So Congress has to act. Trump has not signalled what bill would be acceptable to him.

    Turkey continues to slam Germany rhetorically, as Erdogan ramps up his Islamist dictatorship (Washington Post)

    Comment: Erdogan has recently referred to NATO allies as “enemies”

    Congress returns Tuesday with crushing agenda (New York Magazine)

    • Harvey relief
    • Debt ceiling
    • Funding for major programs that are running out, such as Children’s Health Insurance
    • Tax cuts and tax reform
    • Healthcare (still lurking, hasn’t been addressed)
    • DACA
    • Confirmation of dozens of Trump nominees (all of which the Democrats are delaying)

    Comment: Several of these are must do’s, and the Republicans know it.

    Hong Kong, traditional an economic leader, now slowing in innovation and other areas (South China Morning Post)

    Comment: China, which promised (by treaty with UK), to let Hong Kong govern itself, has effectively scuttled that promise.

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • UPDATE on Michael Cohen, Trump’s Hatchet Man

    UPDATE:

    Michael Cohen, a lawyer close to the Trump Organization, was the subject of an in-depth post this summer.

    It’s time for an update since Cohen’s name just surfaced in newly-released emails about a potential Trump Tower project in Moscow.

    The project was not pursued beyond preliminary discussions and was not built.

    This post covers the latest news, followed by the profile of Cohen.

    What’s New in the Story about Michael Cohen, Trump, and Moscow?

    As Trump, in late 2015,  revved up to run for President, his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and an associate, Russian immigrant/American businessman Felix Sater,  worked to get a Trump Tower built in Moscow.  They failed, but the lines from an email Sater sent Cohen are the stuff of David Mamet. “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it.”   Or, “I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected.”

    Cohen later followed up, sort of,  by attempting to re-rev up the flagging deal,  writing to Trump’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov,  using a general email inbox because he didn’t have Peskov’s address.  Nothing came of the project—In a statement released on Monday, Cohen said that Sater was given to “salesmanship”—but Cohen comes off looking like a clueless, contactless rube.  Nonetheless,  it has dropped the Russia collusion story back in the headlines just as Trump is trying to make headlines about his no-one-has-ever-done-it-better performance as the Harvey-Houston-hurricane consoler in chief.

    The killer line in the New York Times story (link here) is Sater admitting what he really wanted out of the attempt to put a gleaming Trump Tower in midtown Moscow—“the home run,” in Sater’s words— to be appointed ambassador to the Bahamas. (That makes him no different from rich people—all those Obama bundlers, for example—who buy their glamorous (no war zones or poverty that can’t be hidden) ambassadorships.

    I spent many hours earlier this year researching Cohen whose biography is so zany, so colorful that it would make a wonderful novel or screenplay; only problem being that an editor would say, “You can’t use that plot line,  that anecdote, that incident; no one would believe it.”

    Here’s my look at Cohen who remains in the clutches of the House and Senate Intelligence committees, which, last May, subpoenaed  his “information and testimony.”

    The Bully’s Bully

    Roy Cohn? Tom Hagen?

     Michael Cohen made headlines big time, as his boss, Donald Trump, might say, when he was falsely accused in the infamous “dossier,” complied by a former British spy who was paid by Trump’s opponents. Major media outlets reported tales of Cohen, then Trump’s special counsel and executive VP of the Trump Organization, meeting in August, 2016 in Prague with Kremlin representatives to deliver a peace plan for Ukraine that would somehow allow the Trump administration to ease sanctions against Russia.

    The story, reported widely in major media outlets, was totally discredited, on many fronts, one of which was Cohen showing that he was in Los Angeles on those dates visiting colleges with his son. Cohen tweeted a photograph of his passport with the hashtag #fakenews and wrote that never in his whole life had he ever been to Prague.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Some Background

     Cohen, 50, occupied the office beside Donald Trump on the 26th floor of Manhattan’s Trump Tower. Nicknamed Trump’s “pit bull,” he has served as the Donald’s lawyer, top enforcer, and the concocter of the most absurd, outlandish arguments in defense of his boss.

    He is, in some ways, the reincarnated Roy Cohn; the disgraced lawyer/bully, who was once chief counsel to Joe McCarthy and later represented the young Donald Trump. (Cohn died of AIDS in 1986, abandoned at the end by the germophobe Trump who had once considered Cohn his closest personal and legal advisor and his “greatest” friend.)

    During the campaign, any complaints from political opponents were met with the response that Michael Cohen had nothing to do with the campaign. “I’m not part of the campaign,” Cohen said to every cable host who would have him, and they all had him because he was correctly perceived to be thisclose to Trump.  Politico, last summer, quoted a “Trump insider” as describing Cohen as “….in the room for everything …without exception.”

    He left the Trump Organization last January but continues as the President’s personal attorney based in New York.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    From Backstage to Center Stage

     In the last few days, he has taken center stage as the House Intelligence Committee– part of its investigation in alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election–subpoenaed Cohen’s testimony, personal documents and business records. After first saying he would not cooperate, Cohen changed his mind, texting a New York Times reporter, “To date, there has not been a single witness, document or piece of evidence linking me to this fake Russian conspiracy. This is not surprising to me because there is none!” (The NYT story is here.)

    A kind of all-purpose consigliere—reporters like to compare him to Tom Hagen, Vito Corleone’s adviser in “The Godfather”–Cohen has been taking on Trump’s enemies since 2006. That was the year he gave up his partnership in a personal injury law firm that had represented Trump and joined the Trump Organization.

    During the campaign, he remained Trump’s most reliable surrogate in sparring with cable hosts—CNN’s Chris Cuomo, in particular, couldn’t seem to get enough of Cohen.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Putting Out Fires, Lots of Them

    He does not kill them with kindness

     Last summer, when a reporter described a charge of rape that Trump’s first wife and the mother of three of his children lodged against him in 1993, Cohen hit back hard and mean, threatening a Daily Beast writer with not only a $500 million lawsuit, but also: “… Tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting….And, of course, understand that by the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse….. And there’s very clear case law.” (In fact, all 50 states have laws that consider nonconsensual sex with a spouse to constitute rape. Cohen later apologized.)

    Again, complaints were answered with the convenient disclaimer that Cohen is Trump’s business, not political, counsel.

    In reality, Cohen had been up to the knot in his Hermes tie with Trump’s frequent flirtations with running for office.

    Cohen relished recalling highlights of past fledging, exploratory campaigns. In 2012, for instance, when he led a “draft Trump” movement, did advance work for Trump, scoped out New Hampshire and Iowa, and created a “Should Trump Run?” website. “I already mapped out everything that has to be done to be an effective candidate,” he boasted, “and what we’d have to do to get on the ballot on all 50 states.” When Trump threatened to mount a third-party run in 2012 to “make American great again,” Cohen, described as Trump’s “counsel and spokesman,” was at the boss’s side.

    This cycle, Cohen created the “National Diversity Coalition” to boost Trump’s numbers with minorities. He described the group of mostly African-American pastors as his “vision” and boasted to Chris Cuomo: “We have an enormous amount of African-Americans, Hispanics. He won in New York amongst Hispanics, male and female in New York. This notion that let’s keep knocking Donald Trump. He’s a racist. He’s misogynist. He’s sexist. None of them are true.”

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Tackling Trump’s Critics Head On

     If Trump seems intemperate in confronting his critics, Cohen is, figuratively speaking, foaming at the mouth.

    In 2011 Cohen told ABC News, “If somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit…..If you do something wrong, I’m going to come at you, grab you by the neck, and I’m not going to let you go until I’m finished.” In 2013, when New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a fraud suit against Trump University, Cohen responded: “The damage to the attorney general is going to be very significant,” he told The New Yorker. “So significant that he will possibly have to resign.” Earlier this month, Cohen told CNN’s Erin Burnett that “Trump University had a 98 percent approval rating…..Why don’t you ask [about]…. the 14-year-old boy who went with his mom and ended up making a million dollars?”

    The Daily Mail described Cohen more recently as he “gleefully reminisced about ruining the reputation of former Miss Pennsylvania Sheena Monnin after she suggested Miss USA had been rigged.”

    During the campaign, the artist who drew a nude portrait of Trump sporting a tiny penis—relevant only because of the loony Rubio/Trump exchange over hand/penis size—was threatened by Cohen with a law suit. Same for the New York Times, after it ran last month’s story on Trump’s treatment of women.  (Cohen later said he’d settle for a retraction and an apology; he got neither.) Before RNC head Reince Priebus accepted that the GOP was stuck with Trump as its party’s nominee, Cohen blasted Priebus for doing a “terrible” job and meekly implementing the establishment’s plan to prevent his boss from becoming the nominee. Either Trump gets treated fairly,” Cohen blustered, or “this will be a very, very bad thing for the Republican Party….. Woe be on them.”

    In June 2016, Trump tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton with the concocted message that she had “murdered an ambassador,” referring to American ambassador Christopher Stevens slaughtered in a 2012 attack on a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.  (The Washington Post headlined the story as “Trump Lawyer Tweets Image Saying Hillary Clinton ‘Murdered’ Ambassador“)

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Fiercely Loyal to “The Patriarch”

     Like Trump—always “Mr. Trump” to Cohen—the American University-educated (college and law school) Cohen will say anything to boost the boss–“an entrepreneur extraordinaire,…insanely bright,” Cohen told CNN’s Jake Tapper. The “best [negotiator] in the history of this world,” Cohen told Chris Cuomo. In January 2013, when CNN reported that Trump was considering buying the New York Times. Cohen weighed in: “Mr. Trump is so smart and so rich that if he wants it, he will get it. ….There is nothing he can’t buy.” (One could argue that Cohen, in making this boast, had the presidency in mind as well.)

    For those close to him, Cohen told The Jewish Chronicle’s Sandy Rashty, Mr. Trump” is “… more than our boss. He is our patriarch.”

    Cohen was at the ready during this campaign with public defenses of anything Trump might say or do. The boss’s wild gesticulation as he mimicked New York Times reporter Serge Kovalski’s physical disability: “Mr. Trump donates millions and millions of dollars, each and every year in order to combat disabilities.”

    Trump’s evidence-free claim that thousands of Muslims celebrated in Jersey City on 9/11 when the Twin Towers came down:  “I can tell you that Mr. Trump’s memory is fantastic, and I’ve never [witnessed] a situation where Mr. Trump has said something that is not accurate.” To bolster Trump’s charge, during an exchange with Jake Tapper, Cohen added that he has heard that the cheers were coming not only from Jersey City, but also from Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.

    Oh, and Trump’s comments about Mexicans—rapists, drug dealers, etc.—his boss “never made any derogatory or disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants.”

    Not only that, he “has a great relationship with Latinos.”

    If elected president, Trump, would “go down in history as the Great Unifier,” Cohen told The Jewish Chronicle’s Sandy Rashty,

    Another candidate for his party’s nomination might fire an underling who made, for example, the rape remark. Cohen kept his job. In 2011 The Forward’s Josh Nathan-Kazis quoted Cohen as explaining Trump’s indecision about running for president and his shifting views on abortion: “People change their positions all the time, the way they change their wives.”

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Michael Cohen at Home

     Cohen, married and the father of two—see below–is the son of a Holocaust survivor. Raised on Long Island and educated in a Yeshiva there, he calls himself an “agnostic Jew.”

    Last month, he tweeted to his 218,000 twitter followers a photo of his “Ivy League” daughter Samantha wearing black stockings and a lacy bra. “So proud…brains and beauty…”

    “Jealous?” Cohen responded when one twitter user suggested that the photo was pornographic. (The Washington Post report on that incident is here.)

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Like Trump, A Democrat for Many Years

     Like two of Trump’s children, Cohen was a registered democrat and so couldn’t vote for the boss in New York’s GOP primary. (He registered as a republican last March and joined the RNC’s finance leadership team.)

    His democratic roots run deep—once an intern for Massachusetts democratic Rep. Joe Moakley, he also volunteered for Michael Dukakis’s presidential run in 1988, and voted for Obama in 2008. He now calls that vote a mistake, explaining, in true Trumpian terms, that he quickly grew disillusioned. Under Obama, he told ABC News, America has become a “third-world nation.”

    Cohen has himself given a whirl to elective politics. In 2003 he ran for a New York City Council seat, losing badly to Success Academy founder/charter school maven Eva Moskovitz. In 2009, he lasted only a few weeks in a run for a New York state senate seat.

    Cohen owns several apartments in Trump buildings and mixes with, in Cohen’s words in an ABC interview, “super high net worth people.” He favors Dolce & Gabbana suits and, as mentioned, Hermes ties. (Apparently the loyalty to Trump goes far, but not so far as to wear Trump’s made-in-China ties.)

    After severing ties with Trump’s company, Cohen, in typically hyperbolic terms, told the Washington Post, “This is a very unusual president, because there’s never been a president of the United States worth $10 billion, with 600 or 700 corporations that have national and international relations.”

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Cohen’s Loyalty to Trump Runs Deep, and His Role Should Continue to Grow

     As Cohen’s behavior becomes more outlandish—why mention Trump’s hundreds of business ties when he has promised to leave them in the hands of his sons?– his stature in Trump world will likely continue to grow.

    Should be both entertaining and alarming to watch.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦


    Carol Felsenthal is much-published author. Besides a long list of magazine credits, she has written a number of acclaimed biographies:

    • Citizen Newhouse: Portrait of a Media Merchant,
    • Power, Privilege, and the Post: The Katharine Graham Story,
    • Princess Alice: The Life and Times of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, and
    • Clinton in Exile: A President Out of the White House, a look at Bill Clinton’s post presidency

    She is also a contributing writer for Chicago Magazine and the political blogger for their website, Chicagomag.com.

    She has taught biographical writing at the University of Chicago and written profiles of everyone from Ann Landers to Michelle Obama.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, August 25

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    Hurricane Harvey to hit near Galveston, Houston as Category 2.

    Winds currently 100 mph. Huge flooding expected on coast and inland. 

    New Orleans, which has struggled with water pumping, is anxious, even though it is hundreds of miles from the storm center (New Orleans Advocate)

    Russian nuclear bombers fly near North Korea in rare show of force, aimed at US (Reuters)

     How low has Sears fallen? Some vendors have quit, others won’t restock the shelves without insurance (Reuters)

    NYT may be in real trouble over Sarah Palin’s libel lawsuit (Wall Street Journal)

    The newspaper is seeking to have her lawsuit dismissed. But Mrs. Palin’s legal team says that Times lawyers are demanding a legal standard that would effectively make it impossible for any public official to win a libel case….

    To win her case Mrs. Palin will need to prove “actual malice” on the part of Times staff, meaning they knew the story to be false or they published with reckless disregard for the truth. This is a very high legal bar, as it should be.

    The NYT editor who testified wanted to set the bar much, much higher. He did not say “we were misinformed and sometimes make mistakes in the rush to deadline.”

    Nope. The essence of his testimony is that he “did not intend to write what his editorial clearly states” (in the words of the WSJ’s James Freeman).

    Comment: You don’t have to like Sarah Palin to think that the NYT’s effort to directly link her to the shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords by a  crazy shooter was a disgusting smear job.

    The Times should be held to account.

    Trump and his administration are letting Congress write the details of tax reform (Politico)

    The so-called Big Six tax reform negotiators — a group that includes [Treasury Secretary Stephen] Mnuchin, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch — will essentially turn over what they have done to the [Congressional] committees and let them fill in the particulars. –Politico

     And finally, to summarize the most PC story of the day

     

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