Young hides, other Iowa Republicans cover for Trump after Comey testimony

Leading Iowa Republicans appeared to be in a competition yesterday for the most shameful way to react to former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Should they:

A. Defend President Donald Trump for demanding personal loyalty from a senior law enforcement official;

B. Focus on alleged wrongdoing by Comey, not by the president who “hoped” the FBI would drop a criminal investigation into his former national security adviser;

C. Declare the controversy over Trump’s involvement with Russia settled; or

D. Hide from reporters seeking comment on the biggest news story of the week?

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Weekend open thread: Alarming ties between Trump and Russia edition

President-elect Donald Trump continues to assemble a cabinet full of people “who have key philosophical differences with the missions of the agencies they have been tapped to run.”

But arguably, the scariest news of the week was the political reaction to the Central Intelligence Agency assessment that it is “quite clear” Russia intervened in the U.S. elections with the goal of electing Trump.

Despite what one retired CIA officer described as a “blazing 10-alarm fire,” only four Republican senators have taken up the call for a bipartisan investigation of Russian interference in U.S. elections. For his part, Trump dismissed the CIA’s findings as “ridiculous,” while members of his transition team discredited the agency and leaked news that Trump will appoint a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin as secretary of state.

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Weekend open thread: Preparing for the worst edition

A belated happy Thanksgiving to the Bleeding Heartland community. I didn’t cook this year, but for those who did, here are four ways to make soup from Thanksgiving leftovers; two involve turkey, two are vegetarian. My favorite way to use extra cranberry sauce: mix with a few chopped apples and pour it into a pie crust (I use frozen, but you can make your own crust). Make a simple crumbly topping with a little flour, rolled oats, butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle over the top. Bake and you’ve got an extra pie to share.

If your family is anything like mine, you’ve had a lot of conversations this weekend about the impending national nightmare as Donald Trump prepares to become the world’s most powerful person. Can Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hang on as the fifth vote to preserve Roe v Wade for five more years? Could Trump have chosen a worse candidate for attorney general than Jeff Sessions? What about his National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, a hothead with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin who has compared Islam to a “cancer,” and had technicians break security rules to install an internet connection in his Pentagon office? Then there’s Trump’s pick for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos: she’s never worked in the education field, has long sought to undermine public schools, is a well-known homophobe and hostile to the concept of church/state separation. DeVos has admitted to using her family’s wealth to buy political influence. Mother Jones has taken a couple of deep dives into the DeVos family’s efforts to change American policies and policies: click through to read those pieces by Andy Kroll and Benjy Hansen-Bundy and Andy Kroll.

One of the most disturbing aspects of this election is how the Russian government got away with brazen attempts to get Trump elected. Craig Timberg’s report for the Washington Post is a must-read: independent researchers described how Russia’s “increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery […] exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment.” Whether Russian subterfuge was decisive can be debated, but we all saw the extensive media coverage of mostly unremarkable e-mails among Clinton campaign staff and strategists. Most of us had fake news pop up on social media feeds. I can’t believe how many journalists and politicians have reacted casually to this development. Eric Chenoweth of the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe is nailed it in his editorial for the Washington Post: “Americans continue to look away from this election’s most alarming story: the successful effort by a hostile foreign power to manipulate public opinion before the vote.”

Two people who aren’t looking away are Yale University history Professor Timothy Snyder and Masha Gessen, who reported from Russia for many years under Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin. I enclose below advice from Snyder on how to adapt to authoritarian government and excerpts from Gessen’s recent commentary, “Autocracy: Rules for Survival.” Like the old Russian saying goes, “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

UPDATE: My husband Kieran Williams, who has studied democracy in other countries, shared his perspective on how “normalization” happens after a “shocking event”: “people in a position to stop it decide to play along, and find ways to convince themselves that they are doing the right thing, for either the greater good or the narrow good of kith and kin.”

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Joni Ernst on Donald Trump's short list for vice president after all

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst met with Donald Trump today in New Jersey. The statement she released later said nothing about being his running mate. However, citing unnamed sources close to Trump’s campaign, CNN’s Jamie Gangel, Jim Acosta, and Sara Murray reported yesterday that Ernst “is being considered” for the vice presidential nomination.

In mid-June, Ernst told Iowa reporters she doubted she was on Trump’s short list, since no one from the campaign had reached out to her. Indiana Governor Mike Pence is now the leading candidate to be the GOP running mate, according to CNN’s sources, followed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. David M. Jackson reported for USA Today that Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas is also under consideration. Others have mentioned Senators Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, or perhaps Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin.

In May, both Governor Terry Branstad and Senator Chuck Grassley endorsed the idea of Ernst as Trump’s running mate. Though some see Iowa’s junior senator as a good fit for the GOP ticket, I think Trump would do better to choose someone with more governing and policy experience.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Gingrich, for maximum Hillary Clinton blowout potential. On the other hand, being closely associated with Trump would hurt Ernst politically in the long run, despite the initial boost to her stature. So I would welcome a Trump-Ernst ticket as well.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. I enclose below today’s full statement from Ernst. My favorite part referred to ensuring the U.S. remains “a strong, stabilizing force around the globe.” Trump in the Oval Office would be the opposite of a stabilizing presence. Almost every week he makes some impulsive comment that could cause an international incident if he were president.

UPDATE: Pence met with Trump on July 2, Brian Slodysko reported for the Associated Press. A spokesperson for the Indiana governor, who endorsed Ted Cruz for president a few days before his state’s primary in April, said “nothing was offered” during Pence’s meeting with the presumptive GOP nominee. Pence would be a stronger running mate than Ernst, though why someone who may have his own presidential ambitions would want to hitch his wagon to Trump, I can’t imagine.

SECOND UPDATE: Sarah Boden reported for Iowa Public Radio on July 5 that Grassley again said Ernst would be a good running mate for Trump, citing her “military and legislative experience, and her expertise as someone from a rural, agricultural state.”

THIRD UPDATE: Added below excerpts from stories by Daniel Halper and Robert Costa about Trump considering one of his advisers, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn.

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