News Round-Up: July 14, 2021

(image via Instagram)

Some news items you might have missed:

Just Because: InstaHunk Yes.Its.Andy (above) shares this calming scene. Follow him here. Can I just say I liked the colors?

JoeMyGod: Republican senators have issued a statement calling for the repeal of wearing masks on public transportation because it could ruin family vacations.

Deseret News: Family nurse practitioner Aaron Hartle (45-year-old former triathlete and father of five) decided he wasn’t in any hurry to get vaccinated against COVID-19, even though the virus killed one of his patients. In June, COVID-19 sent Hartle to the hospital for a week. Back at home, he remains on oxygen and tires easily as he talks about an ordeal that that didn’t need to happen.

NBC News: Britney Spears was granted a request to hire her own attorney on Wednesday, a development that could mark a major shift in how her 13-year conservatorship case has been handled.

Raw Story: According to Michael Wolff’s new book Landslide, Jared Kushner would apparently ‘slow-walk’ Donald Trump’s temperamental orders in order to lower the immediate temperature precisely to the point where the president would not notice (due to his short attention span) and Jared would not be blamed.

LGBTQ Nation: Today is International Nonbinary People’s Day and Twitter is celebrating with an outpouring of heartfelt emotion. #InternationalNonbinaryDay is trending with thousands of tweets from supporters and enbies themselves.

Report: Kushner Spiked National Testing Because Blue States Hit Hardest, Dem Govs Could Be Blamed

L-R Jared Kushner, Donald Trump (image via public domain/White House)

Vanity Fair has obtained a copy of a detailed plan spearheaded by Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, that would have provided for a national testing approach for the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the goal of the team putting the plan together was “apolitical,” the approach never saw the light of day because, according to Vanity Fair, the virus had mainly affected blue states. With that in mind, the decision was made to let states handle the health threat because “they could blame those governors” as a political strategy if things went awry.

From Vanity Fair:

Countries that have successfully contained their outbreaks have empowered scientists to lead the response. But when Jared Kushner set out in March to solve the diagnostic-testing crisis, his efforts began not with public health experts but with bankers and billionaires. They saw themselves as the “A-team of people who get shit done,” as one participant proclaimed in a March Politico article.

[snip]

The effort of the White House team was “apolitical,” said the participant, and undertaken “with the nation’s best interests in mind.”

But the effort ran headlong into shifting sentiment at the White House. Trusting his vaunted political instincts, President Trump had been downplaying concerns about the virus and spreading misinformation about it—efforts that were soon amplified by Republican elected officials and right-wing media figures.

Worried about the stock market and his reelection prospects, Trump also feared that more testing would only lead to higher case counts and more bad publicity. Meanwhile, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, was reportedly sharing models with senior staff that optimistically—and erroneously, it would turn out—predicted the virus would soon fade away.

[snip]

Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment the expert said a member of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. “The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,” said the expert.

Vanity Fair also reports Kushner’s team allegedly purchased 3.5 million Covid-19 tests from an Abu Dhabi–based artificial intelligence company without using normal procurement procedures.

Despite the $52 million price tag, the tests were never utilized after being found “contaminated and unusable.”

Jared Kushner On COVID-19 Response: “This Has Been A Great Success Story”

Jared Kushner (screen capture)

During an appearance on Fox & Friends this morning, Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner told viewers, “The federal government rose to the challenge and this is a great success story.”

At this writing, there have been 1,023,304 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. with 58,965 deaths.

“A great success story…?”

Trump Goes On Attack After Question About Jared Kushner’s “Our Stockpile” Comment

On Thursday, Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner (you know, the one solving the Middle East conflict) made a perplexing remark about the stockpile of medical equipment housed by the federal government.

“The notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile,” Kushner said. “It’s not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use.”

Folks were confused as to what differentiates the federal “our” stockpile from what would/should be used by states. It almost sounded like Kushner was saying the stockpile was for the Trump clan or the Trump administration to do with it as they wished.

The federal government IS the United States of America. It exists primarily to keep the citizens of all states and U.S. territories safe.

If the stockpile isn’t meant for states to use, then who would be using it? And why is anyone at this point in time even using the word “OUR” in regard to anything?

Then on Friday (via CBS News):

When CBS News White House correspondent Weijia Jiang pressed the president on what Kushner meant by “our,” he dismissed the question as a “gotcha.”

“‘Our, our’ — it means the United States of America,” the president said.

Mr. Trump said the stockpile is needed for the “federal government,” to keep for the country “because the federal government needs it, too, not just the states.”

The president accused Jiang of using a “nasty” tone in her question.

Governors have implored the president to provide them more ventilators and other much-needed equipment, but the president has repeatedly put the blame on the states for not stocking up on the equipment themselves.

Basically, Kushner misspoke. And in the Trump administration handbook, rather than say, “He misspoke,” everyone has to act like the response was “perfect” and they are stuck defending a stupid comment.

House Committee Votes To Subpoena White House Personal Emails & Text Messages

The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform voted 23 to 16 to day to authorize the issuance of subpoenas for emails and texts sent to or from White House officials on their personal accounts relating to official business in violation of federal law and the White House’s own records policy.
Ivanka Trump

Remember how Republicans, and especially Donald Trump on the 2016 campaign trail, hammered Hillary Clinton for using her private email for government business?

Surely, after all of that, the Trump administration would absolutely be on point using only their government-issued email accounts, right?

Nope.

The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform voted 23 to 16 to day to authorize the issuance of subpoenas for emails and texts sent to or from White House officials on their personal accounts relating to official business in violation of federal law and the White House’s own records policy.

Chairman Elijah Cummings said this in advance of the committee vote:

“The Committee has obtained direct evidence that multiple high-level White House officials have been violating the Presidential Records Act by using personal email accounts, text messaging services, and even encrypted applications for official business—and not preserving those records in compliance with federal law. What we do not yet know is why these White House officials were attempting to conceal these communications.”

The House committee has been trying for months to obtain the documents and information.

In a press release regarding the vote today, the committee specifically called out current and former White House advisers Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Steve Bannon, and K.T. McFarland for using private email or cell phones in the course of government business.

News Round-Up: April 23, 2019

Who else is feeling springtime in the air? Graphic artist Silverjow captures the mood perfectly (above). He shares that he was inspired by the cherry blossoms in Japan as well as the stylish peeps heading to work in their business suits :)

Some news items you might have missed:

• Who else is feeling springtime in the air? Graphic artist Silverjow captures the mood perfectly (above). He shares that he was inspired by the cherry blossoms in Japan as well as the stylish peeps heading to work in their business suits 🙂

• Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, the brothers accused of attacking actor Jussie Smollett and later cleared when prosecutors announced Smollett had orchestrated a hoax to advance his career, are suing Smollett’s legal team for defamation.

• Donald Trump’s son-in-law and presidential adviser Jared Kushner suggested Tuesday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation was more harmful to the US than Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Kushner downplayed Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election as “buying some Facebook ads.”

• Voter turnout for young voters during the midterm elections was the highest in four decades.

• Nigel Shelby, a 15-year-old high school student in Huntsville, Alabama, took his own life after suffering from homophobic bullying from classmates. The Center for Social Equity found 89% of LGBTQ students report being bullied.

If you or someone you know is struggling with feelings of suicide, please consider reaching out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or The Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386.

• A major faith-based foster care and adoption contractor for the state of Michigan, Bethany Christian Services, announced it will place children in LGBTQ homes, reversing course following a recent legal settlement.

Politico reports that Donald Trump has ordered administration officials to boycott the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the annual fundraising gala attended by the White House press corps and scheduled for this Saturday. For the third year in a row, Trump has announced he will not attend, and instead hold a political rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, describing the dinner as “so boring and so negative.”

• Flipping the script from Trump’s negative, let’s end this Round-Up with Salt Cathedral‘s upbeat tribute to folks who work hard for what they want: “Go and Get It” featuring guest artists Big Freedia & Jarina DeMarco.

The bouncy, euphoric electronic track features playful pop vocals along with sunny horn samples on a bass-heavy track.

Salt Cathedral say, ”‘Go And Get It’ is our hustler anthem. Since we came to this country we worked to open doors constantly by hustling like crazy. Having Jarina and Freedia be part of this and bring their magic into it makes the message and emotion extra powerful. We hope for people to feel inspired and go and get the shit that they want in their lives.”

Trump Ordered Security Clearance For Son-In-Law Despite Serious Concerns By Intelligence Officials

The New York Times is reporting that Donald Trump ordered his chief of staff to issue his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, a top-secret security clearance last year.
Jared Kushner

The New York Times is reporting that Donald Trump ordered his chief of staff to issue his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, a top-secret security clearance last year.

At the time, intelligence officials and the White House’s top lawyer had expressed serious concerns about granting Kushner the security clearance.

Mr. Trump’s decision in May so troubled senior administration officials that at least one, the White House chief of staff at the time, John F. Kelly, wrote a contemporaneous internal memo about how he had been “ordered” to give Mr. Kushner the top-secret clearance.

The White House counsel at the time, Donald F. McGahn II, also wrote an internal memo outlining the concerns that had been raised about Mr. Kushner — including by the C.I.A. — and how Mr. McGahn had recommended that he not be given a top-secret clearance.

The disclosure of the memos contradicts statements made by the president, who told The New York Times in January in an Oval Office interview that he had no role in his son-in-law receiving his clearance.

The Times goes on to acknowledge the president’s legal authority to grant security clearances. But generally, the White House’s personnel security office decides the issue after proper background checks by the FBI.

In the case of a question, the White House counsel makes the decision. Only in rare instances does the president step in and grant the clearance himself.

Kushner and Ivanka Trump have both publicly stated that the Donald had no involvement in the approval of their security clearances.

The Washington Post found six incidents where Trump denied being involved.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, is demanding W.H. Counsel be in “full and immediate compliance” with his committee’s request for documents and witness interviews in light of the Times report that Trump intervened to get Jared Kushner his security clearance.

Politico is reporting that White House advisor Kellyanne Conway told Fox News today regarding the report that, “The president has the absolute right to do what was described.”

News Round-Up: December 13, 2018

• Austin Wolf celebrates getting his Instagram account back online (above). #HappyDanceTime
Austin Wolf

Some news items you might have missed:

• Austin Wolf celebrates getting his Instagram account back online (above). #HappyDanceTime

• The New York City subway attacker who sucker punched a woman he believed to be lesbian has been arrested. His victim suffered a fractured spine due to his attack.

• Janet Jackson is headed to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with Stevie Nicks, The Cure, Radiohead, Def Leppard, Roxy Music, and the Zombies. Nicks becomes the first woman to be inducted twice having been honored previously as part of Fleetwood Mac.

• Fox News host & Donald Trump superfan, Sean Hannity, was caught deleting past tweets that showed his connections to the president’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, just hours before Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison Wednesday.

• CBS News reports that Donald Trump is considering his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to be his third Chief of Staff.

• Tony Award winner and current Golden Globe nominee Billy Porter dropped a few holiday tracks on Soundcloud just in time for Christmas. The collection – “A Billy Porter Christmas” – can be found here.

Check out his smooth, soulful “Christmas Time Is Here” below.

Jared Kushner Failed To Disclose Contact With WikiLeaks & Russian Businessman

Jared Kushner

Over and over again the investigation into Russian interference keeps coming back to Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Now, according to the Washington Post, Kushner has failed to include several emails which showed communications concerning WikiLeaks and a “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite.”

President Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner received and forwarded emails about WikiLeaks and a “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite” that he kept from Senate Judiciary Committee investigators, according to panel leaders demanding that he produce the missing records.

Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Kushner’s lawyer Abbe Lowell on Thursday charging that Kushner has failed to disclose several documents, records and transcripts in response to multiple inquiries from committee investigators.

In the letter, Grassley and Feinstein instruct Kushner’s team to turn over “several documents that are known to exist” because other witnesses in their probe already gave them to investigators. They include a series of “September 2016 email communications to Mr. Kushner concerning WikiLeaks,” which the committee leaders say Kushner then forwarded to another campaign official. Earlier this week, Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. revealed that he had had direct communication with WikiLeaks over private Twitter messages during the campaign.

Committee leaders said Kushner also withheld from the committee “documents concerning a ‘Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite’ ” that he had forwarded to other campaign officials. And they said Kushner had been made privy to “communications with Sergei Millian” — a Belarusan American businessman who claims close ties to the Trumps and was the source of salacious details in a dossier about the president’s 2013 trip to Moscow — but failed to turn those records over to investigators.

Remember when Team Trump was adamant that “no one in the campaign had ANY contact with ANYONE connected to Russia?”

Lock Him Up! Senior White House Adviser Jared Kushner Used Private Email Server

Now let me see, I seem to remember when Hillary Clinton used a private email account as Secretary of State, the folks in Trump land chanted “Lock her up!”

Via Politico:

Presidential son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has corresponded with other administration officials about White House matters through a private email account set up during the transition last December, part of a larger pattern of Trump administration aides using personal email accounts for government business.

Kushner uses his private account alongside his official White House email account, sometimes trading emails with senior White House officials, outside advisers and others about media coverage, event planning and other subjects, according to four people familiar with the correspondence. POLITICO has seen and verified about two dozen emails.

“Mr. Kushner uses his White House email address to conduct White House business,” said Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for Kushner in a statement Sunday. “Fewer than 100 emails from January through August were either sent to or returned by Mr. Kushner to colleagues in the White House from his personal email account. These usually forwarded news articles or political commentary and most often occurred when someone initiated the exchange by sending an email to his personal rather than his White House address.”

Politico also reports that private email accounts were also used for official business by former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, former White House adviser Steve Bannon, spokesman Josh Raffel and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn.