Thursday, March 23, 2017

Trump Campaign May Have Coordinated with Russians on Release of Information Damaging to Clinton Campaign

CNN reports:
The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign, US officials told CNN.   
This is partly what FBI Director James Comey was referring to when he made a bombshell announcement Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, according to one source.   
The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel,
business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings, according to those U.S. officials. The information is raising the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place, though officials cautioned that the information was not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing.   
In his statement on Monday Comey said the FBI began looking into possible coordination between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives because the bureau had gathered "a credible allegation of wrongdoing or reasonable basis to believe an American may be acting as an agent of a foreign power."  
... 
One law enforcement official said the information in hand suggests "people connected to the campaign were in contact and it appeared they were giving the thumbs up to release information when it was ready." But other U.S. officials who spoke to CNN say it's premature to draw that inference from the information gathered so far since it's largely circumstantial. 
The FBI cannot yet prove that collusion took place, but the information suggesting collusion is now a large focus of the investigation, the officials said.   
The FBI has already been investigating four former Trump campaign associates -- Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Carter Page -- for contacts with Russians known to US intelligence. All four have denied improper contacts and CNN has not confirmed any of them are the subjects of the information the FBI is reviewing.
Yesterday in a bizarre turn of events House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) briefed President Trump on intelligence he had seen in which names of the Trump transition team (of which Nunes himself was a member) had appeared in intelligence intercepts relating to foreign targets, intercepts he didn't bother to share with anyone else on the committee.   While this was in fact old news, Nunes held a press conference to claim that the information somewhat supported Trump's claim that Trump Tower phones were wiretapped by President Obama.  In the next breath, however, Nunes said that the information did not show Trump's claim was true.
The big development though may well be that Nunes has shown himself to be an agent of President Trump and, thus, unable to conduct a fair and impartial investigation of matters relating to the Trump campaign.  Nunes might lose his chairmanship as a result of the stunt he pulled yesterday. At the very least he made the appointment of a independent committee much more likely.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A "Big, Gray Cloud" Descends Over the Trump Presidency

Today, FBI Director James Comey confirmed that there exists a current FBI investigation into possible coordination between members of Trump's campaign team and Russian officials in the latter's interference into the 2016 election.  Fox News reports:
FBI Director James Comey said during a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee today that there is an ongoing investigation into possible "coordination" between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russia.
Comey confirmed that the FBI is investigating Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016
FBI Director James Comey
presidential election. 
"That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts," he stated.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), who was a member of the Trump transition team, complained that Comey's testimony created a "big, gray cloud" over the White House and urged a quick conclusion to the investigation. 

Comey also confirmed that Trump's tweets claiming former President Trump had ordered his phones "wiretapped" at the Trump Tower were simply not true.  Also confirmed as inaccurate was the new claim that British intelligence had wiretapped Trump at President Obama's request.

When the media begins examining more closely Trump campaign connections to Russian officials, , expect a few names to come to the forefront quickly, most notably Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Carter Page.  In an apparent attempt to head off damaging association, administration spokesman Sean Spicer today incredulously noted that Manafort had only a "limited role" with the Trump campaign.  A mighty strange way to characterize the former MANAGER of the Trump campaign.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Soccer Goaltender Signed After Conviction for Having Girlfriend Killed, Fed to His Dogs

I guess the next time the NFL is criticized for not taking domestic violence seriously enough, the league can say it is not as bad as soccer.  The New York Daily News reports on an incredible story out of Brazil:
Bruno Fernandes de Souza
Second-tier Brazilian soccer club Boa Esporte has come under fire for signing goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes de Souza, who was convicted for ordering the 2010 killing of his ex-girlfriend and having her body fed to his dogs, to a two-year contract shortly after his release from prison, according to a report from The Guardian.
Bruno's lawyer was able to get the soccer player released from prison after serving seven years of a 22-year sentence because the courts had failed to rule on his appeal.
...
The victim of Bruno's brutal crime, Eliza Samudio, had been suing him for child support. Samudio then went missing, and Bruno admitted to his involvement in the plan that resulted in her death. 
Boa Esporte's president, Rone Moraes da Costa, said in a statement that the club was helping Bruno return to society by giving him the "dignity of work." The statement did not mention Samudio or the murder of her.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Carmel and Indianapolis Go Round and Round About Roundabouts

The Indianapolis Star reports:
An Indianapolis City-County councilwoman is trying to stop Carmel from building several roundabouts along the border between the two cities. 
Christine Scales has refused to sign an interlocal agreement to allow Carmel to build roundabouts at 96th Street's intersections with Hazel Dell Parkway, Gray Road, Delegates Row and Randall Drive. As the local district representative, Indianapolis is following her lead. 
Scales doesn't think traffic is congested enough along the corridor to warrant the roundabouts, and she is concerned that area businesses will lose customers if they are
Carmel Roundabout at 126th Street and Keystone (www.carmel.in.gov)
built. She thinks motorists are more likely to shop on the commercial corridor if they have time to look around while waiting at traffic signals. 
Her stance has led to a clash with Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard that was highlighted in an email exchange between the two obtained by IndyStar. 
"My opinion, which is shared by many, is that while (roundabouts) may serve well in some locations, it doesn't mean they serve well as replacements for each and every stop sign or light," Scales wrote in an email to Brainard. "The existence of 100 roundabouts (and counting) in a city the size of Carmel is a lot of roundabouts."
I have said before that the creation of roundabouts by Mayor Brainard has been the best thing he did in office. Prior to the roundabouts traffic flow in and around Carmel was dreadful. However, after two recent trips to Carmel, I find myself agreeing with Councilor Scales. It seemed like every Carmel intersection I drove through had a roundabout, including ones that would have been much better served with traditional traffic devices.

Meanwhile Mayor Brainard indicates he may try to proceed with the roundabouts anyway, despite opposition by Scales and the City of Indianapolis. The Star article continues:
Brainard thinks he can build the roundabouts without Indianapolis' permission because state law places Carmel in control of improvements on its southern border. Carmel also isn't asking for any help from Indianapolis with funding. 
Scales, though, said Indianapolis officials disagree that he can move forward without an interlocal agreement and will fight him if he tries.
Brainard hopes to convince Scales and Indianapolis to sign on. But he says he'll find a way to build the roundabouts regardless. 
"If necessary," he wrote in an email to Scales obtained by IndyStar, "we would simply move the roundabouts a few feet north."

Monday, March 6, 2017

VP Pence Shows Pres. Trump How Conservatives Can Successfully Handle The Liberal Media

The Indianapolis Star reports:
WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence joked Saturday night that the most embarrassing part of the recent news that he used a personal email account while Indiana’s governor is that millions of Americans learned he was one of the few people in the country to still have an AOL account. 
Vice President Mike Pence
“My wife said it was good for my image,” Pence said at the Gridiron Club dinner, a white-tie dinner of speeches, skits and songs put on by Washington's oldest journalism organization. “She said now America knows I’m not stuck in the ‘50s. I’m just stuck in the ‘90s.” 
Pence also read some of the comments made on Twitter after IndyStar broke the story Thursday that raised questions about the security and government transparency of the AOL account, which was hacked last summer.  
Among the social media slams: “Your grandma is hipper than Mike Pence.” Another said: “This is the most I’ve heard about American Online since I last saw the free disks on a counter at Blockbuster. #MakeAOLGreatAgain.” 
Pence was the headline speaker at the dinner, which takes a humorous look at the political scene.  He wore a black tie to the white-tie event, which he said he thought he could get away with until House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi asked him to refill her coffee.  
... 
Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, who represented the Republicans, said she’s impressed that Pence never needs a teleprompter. “Maybe that’s because every speech begins with, `Let me explain what the president meant to say,’” Ernst said. “And thank you for that. 
The Mike Pence I remember from law school was an outspoken, unapologetic conservative. But he also had an engaging personality and a wonderful sense of humor that won over even die-hard liberals at that school.  I am not sure where Pence's personality and sense of humor went during his four years as Governor (I blame his advisers who didn't know how to use Pence's greatest assets), but they appear to have returned as Vice President.  It is good that they did.  He will need those tools given the train wreck that the Trump presidency appears to be.

Pence's performance at the Gridiron shows how conservatives should handle the media.  No doubt most journalists have a liberal-bent and want to see conservative politicians fail.  But journalists also have many other things that influence their writing, even more so than political philosophy.  Pence appears to understand that and knows that winning them over as a "nice guy" goes a long way to developing more positive news coverage.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Met Twice With Russian Ambassador in 2016 While Member of Trump Campaign Team

In what appears to be a direct contradiction to his confirmation testimony, it is now being reported that Attorney Genera Jeff Sessions twice met with a Russian ambassador in 2016, while a member of the Trump campaign. The Washington Post reports:
Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney
Attorney General Jeff Sessions
general.
One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.
The previously undisclosed discussions could fuel new congressional calls for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 presidential election. As attorney general, Sessions oversees the Justice Department and the FBI, which have been leading investigations into Russian meddling and any links to Trump’s associates. He has so far resisted calls to recuse himself.   
When Sessions spoke with Kislyak in July and September, the senator was a senior member of the influential Armed Services Committee as well as one of Trump’s top foreign policy advisers. Sessions played a prominent role supporting Trump on the stump after formally joining the campaign in February 2016.
At his Jan. 10 Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign.“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” he responded. He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”
...
In January, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) asked Sessions for answers to written questions. “Several of the President-elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?” Leahy wrote. 
Sessions responded with one word:  "No."
It is difficult to conclude that Sessions' testimony was anything but untruthful.  To complicate matters, it appears Sessions' himself could be a focus of an investigation into Trump's Russian ties.   These developments will only increase the push for the appointment of a special prosecutor to probe the Trump campaigns' interaction with Russian officials leading up to the 2016 election.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Indiana's Government Ranks Best in the Nation

The Indianapolis Star reports:
Indiana's government is the best in the nation, according to a new U.S. News & World Report list of "Best States." 
The survey ranked the 50 states in seven key categories. Massachusetts' No. 2 ranking in health care and No. 1 ranking in education were key reasons why it's at the top of the list. Indiana ranked No. 22, just behind Delaware and Rhode Island. 
Indiana didn't do as well in health care (41) and education (27), but two areas where Hoosiers shone, according to the web-based media company, were in government (No. 1) and opportunity (No. 4). 
Indiana's excellent credit rating, low pension fund liability, budget transparency, use of digital technology and overall fiscal stability were key to its success in the government category. The opportunity category included areas such as economic opportunity, equality and affordability.
I've long had to listen to the nonsense from Hoosier critics that Indiana has the "worst legislature," a description often attributed to the late Nuvo editor Harrison Ullmann. As someone who worked at the Indiana General Assembly and taught about how state legislatures across the country operate, I have always known that what happens at our General Assembly is not unique to this state. The operational and substantive issues that arise in the Indiana General Assembly aren't any different from those dealt with by other state legislatures. Indiana's legislature and executive branches, for all their flaws, operate remarkably well when compared to other states. It is good to see the U.S. News and World Report set the record straight.