Monday, May 22, 2017

Michael Flynn To Invoke Fifth Amendment, Refuse To Release Documents Related To Trump/Russia Debacle


Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn will invoke his Fifth Amendment rights and defy a Senate Intelligence Committee subpoena for documents related to the Trump-Russia probe.

From CNN:

President Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn won't provide records to the Senate Intelligence Committee and will invoke his 5th Amendment rights in response to a subpoena from the committee, according to a source close to Flynn.

Flynn's refusal to cooperate comes as he faces scrutiny in several inquiries, including on Capitol Hill and a federal grand jury that has issued subpoenas to associates of the ex-national security adviser.

This move will also intensify scrutiny over Trump's decision to hire him initially for the job and his decision to keep him on staff for 18 days after he was warned by former acting attorney general Sally Yates that Flynn may have been compromised by the Russians.

The Senate Intelligence Committee had asked him to produce all records over his communications with Russian officials by this Wednesday. But Flynn is expected to send a letter later today invoking his 5th Amendment Rights.

The source close to Flynn said it would be "highly imprudent for him not to exercise his 5th Amendment rights" given that several members of Congress have called for his prosecution.

Billy Bush Gives First Interview Since Infamous "Grab'em By The Pussy" Trump Tape

Billy Bush (L) with Donald Trump (R)

The Hollywood Reporter has the first in-depth interview with former Today Show host Billy Bush since his departure from the show thanks to the now-infamous "Grab'em by the pussy" video with Donald Trump came to light.

Just an excerpt:

Take us back to your days at Access Hollywood when this happened. How important was Trump to the show?


It was 2005, the second season of The Apprentice. The first season ended with 44 million viewers watching. It was a bona fide television phenomenon. So he was the biggest star, not just on the network with which Access Hollywood is affiliated but on TV, period. And so I spent a lot of time with Trump. He was my main assignment. He was the core of my job for a period of time there, because if we could get him three times a week in exclusive-type situations, he was always going to say something that was headline-worthy. And Access Hollywood was certainly interested in that. So that was my job, and I did it well. I got access to Trump. And in my job, there's a lot of downtime, and there are off-camera moments where you have a short period of time to, in a chameleonlike way, connect with people. If it's Martha Stewart, I would tell her about the new organic garden that I just started growing in my backyard.

And with Trump?


With Donald, there wasn't much interaction. He sort of talks and performs, and everybody reacts. And the topics were usually golf, gossip or women. And boy, do I wish this was a golf day. But I always had a nervous energy through these situations because he also decided a lot of times from day to day, moment to moment, who he liked, who was in and who was out, and my job was to remain in. I needed to be in, or maybe I'd be out. So that was the Trump environment. Looking back on what was said on that bus, I wish I had changed the topic. I wish I had said: "Does anyone want water?" or "It looks like it's gonna rain." He liked TV and competition. I could've said, "Can you believe the ratings on whatever?" I didn't have the strength of character to do it.

Texas House Moves Anti-Transgender "Bathroom Bill" Closer To Passage


The Dallas Morning News reports on Texas' anti-transgender "bathroom bill," which took another step towards passage last night.

The Texas House voted late Sunday on a bill that will keep transgender public school children from using the restroom that matches their gender identity.

The measure, a Republican deal on the “bathroom bill,” passed the GOP-dominated chamber by a vote of 91-50. It needs one more vote to officially pass the House. If the Senate agrees to the measure, and Gov. Greg Abbott doesn’t veto it, Texas will become the second state in the nation to pass such legislation.

Debate was emotional and divisive, with Democrats likening it to a Jim Crow-era attack on defenseless kids and Republicans insisting the measure did not single out or target anyone.

“America has long recognized that separate but equal is not equal at all,” said Rep. Senfronia Thompson, a Houston Democrat who has served in the House since 1972. “What’s wrong with treating kids with equality and not making them feel like they are second-class citizens?”

"Transgender students are God's business, and you know what, He loves them, too."

The measure would keep transgender kids from using multi-occupancy school bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity, unless no one else is present. If other children are around, they’d have to use a different, single-use restroom elsewhere in the school.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Podcast: Chechnya, Chelsea Manning & Out Short Film "Wonderkid"


In this week’s episode of The Randy Report :

• Gay men in Chechnya are still being rounded up, tortured and killed, and guess what the United States is doing about it?

• Transgender whistleblower Chelsea Manning is free after 7 years in prison.

• A Mississippi man is sentenced to 49 years in prison for the murder of his transgender girlfriend.

• Nevada bans so-called “ex-gay” conversion therapy.

• A new study shows facial hair plays a big part in perceived masculinity, sexual attractiveness and even the length of relationships.

• Short film "Wonderkid" tackles homophobia in competitive sports. Watch the full film for free at www.wonderkidfilm.co.uk/watch

I appreciate everyone who follows my podcast.

I'm going to ask a favor here: as podcasts are becoming more and more popular, I'd appreciate it if you would recommend The Randy Report podcast to you friends. It's intended as an easy and listener-friendly way to catch up on the week's LGBTQ headlines.

If you like, please consider sharing the link to my podcast on your social media, or just tell your friends.

In just a few months, I'm proud to say The Randy Report is one of the top LGBT podcasts on iTunes.

Listen below.

Notre Dame Grads Walk Out On Vice President Pence's Commencement Speech


At today's graduation ceremony for Notre Dame's class of 2017, dozens of students stood up and left as Vice President Pence began his commencement speech.

From USA Today:

This was not a surprise, but rather a staged protest some students had been planning for weeks. When Notre Dame announced that the vice president and former governor of Indiana would be the university’s 2017 graduation speaker in March, the student organization WeStaNDFor began brainstorming ways to take a stand.

Bryan Ricketts, who served as Notre Dame’s student body president from 2015-16 and graduated Sunday with a dual-degree in political science and chemical engineering, was one of the leaders. Ricketts told IndyStar that many of his peers were “upset and hurt” by the school’s decision to invite Pence because his “policies have impacted the humanity of certain graduates.”

WeStaNDFor explained in a release that they are primarily protesting Pence’s opposition to gay rights, his attempts as governor to prevent Syrian refugees from resettling in Indiana, his support of President Donald Trump’s immigration travel ban, and his opposition to sanctuary cities that do not enforce federal immigration laws.

The walkout was planned well in advance with leaders of the action, including consulting with the local police to find the most peaceful manner to make their statement.

The group posted instructions for how to walkout on their website:

The group even posted instructions on how to leave: “Walk away from Pence quietly, in confidence, with your head up high, taking your time. Embrace the moment, maybe even hold hands/lock arms with those joining you.”

Watch part of the walkout below.

Ivanka Trump To Accept $100 Million From Saudi Arabia & UAE For Women Entrepreneurs


Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will pledge $100 million to the World Bank’s Women Entrepreneurs Fund for women entrepreneurs, an idea proposed by Ivanka Trump.

From The Hill:

The first daughter spoke with Saudi women who are civil leaders, businesswomen and elected government officials during the president’s first foreign trip.

The State Department has noted problems with human rights in Saudi Arabia, including that “citizens’ lack of the ability and legal means to choose their government; restrictions on universal rights, such as freedom of expression, including on the Internet, and the freedoms of assembly, association, movement, and religion; and pervasive gender discrimination and lack of equal rights that affected most aspects of women’s lives,” the Washington Post reported.

In the conservative Islamic country, women are not allowed to drive and require permission from a male guardian to travel in public. Women are also required to cover themselves in public.

In 2016, then-Republican candidate Trump criticized Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation for accepting donations from Saudi Arabia.

Please take a trip on the way-back machine to one of last year's debates when then-candidate Trump railed against Hillary Clinton's Clinton Foundation for accepting money from Saudi Arabia to help 11.5 million with HIV/AIDS.



More reactions from the Twitterverse:



SNL Cold Open: Trump & Company Sing "Hallelujah"


Seated at a piano, a lone Alec Baldwin as "Donald Trump" begins singing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."

He's quickly joined by the SNL cast members who have brought the Trump administration to life over the past several months: Kellyanne Conway (Kate McKinnon), Mike Pence (Beck Bennett), Eric Trump (Alex Moffat), Donald Trump Jr. (Mikey Day), Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Aidy Bryant), Melania Trump (Cecily Strong) and Ivanka Trump (Scarlett Johansson).

Watch Baldwin's "Trump" on the line, "I didn't come to fool ya."

The effect is quite different from last November when Kate McKinnon used the same song to staggering effect as "Hillary Clinton" after the election.



Saturday, May 20, 2017

Out Music: Leon Else "What I Won't Do"

(photo credit: Nikko Lamere))
Out UK artist Leon Else drops his synth-pop, disco-funk single, “What I Won’t Do.”

Another lonely night with someone in my bed
You think it's cool but what I won't do for love
And I just push away the ones who get too close

Talking to OUT, Else seemed pensive reflecting on how time can shift his perspective - even on his own writing. “I wrote this song over a year ago when I was in a different place than where I am now,” Else said. “It’s about wanting a love that I didn’t think I could have, was allowed to have, or deserved to have. It’s about finding acceptance in yourself."

Speaking of acceptance, Else shares that he will make his personal and professional Pride debut in LA this year.

“I’ve never been to a Pride ever,” he said. “I wasn’t really comfortable with myself.”

I'm sure Else is sure to experience yet another shift in perspective after performing for thousands in the park in Los Angeles.

I've previously featured Else's music on The Randy Report here and here.

Take a listen to “What I Won’t Do” below.

#bouncebouncebounce

Who Wore It Better?

Debra Messing Explains How The WILL & GRACE Reboot Happened


On Late Night with Seth Meyers, Debra Messing explained exactly how the reboot of Will & Grace came about 11 years after the groundbreaking sitcom left the air.

Referencing the election scene back in September 2016 that brought the fab four back together, Messing says it was hard for NBC to ignore.

“Because that little skit got 7 million views – NBC, they were like, ‘wait a second.'”

Liberal Redneck: "Where's the Smoke, Comey's Fired"


Liberal redneck Trae Crowder is all fired up over President Trump firing FBI Director James Comey.

"Are yall seein this shit man?!"


Bill Maher: I'll Bet 100 Rubles Trump Is Out By Christmas


Last night on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, Boris Epshteyn, former Special Assistant to President Trump, joined Bill to discuss President Trump's political future.

I'll say this about Donald Trump-ally Epshteyn: he can at least sit calmly with a civil smile on his face and lie about Donald Trump without being a petulant child like Kellyanne Conway.

A lot of people have a trigger that enables interviewers to knock Trumpets off their talking points. But Boris, to his credit, stays cool here.

He's only repeating talking points, but he does stay cool.

Epshteyn has a new gig at the right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group, which he promises with produce content that will be "right down the middle" of the political spectrum.

Right. Just like Fox News.

During the segment, Bill asked Epshteyn how long Trump would be in the White House. “I think he can be president for eight years,” Epshteyn said. “Sorry to disappoint you folks.”

“Why don’t we have a gentlemen’s bet, a 100 rubles?” Maher proposed. “Gentlemen’s bet: He is out by Christmas.”

Friday, May 19, 2017

News Round-Up: May 19, 2017


Some news items you may have missed:

• Fitness trainer/model Joss Mooney (above) sees summer just around the corner.

• White House lawyers are currently researching impeachment procedures. You know, just in case...

• In related news, conservatives have started whispering: "President Pence"

You really have to read this terrific profile of Cher for Billboard Magazine. Really captures the personality and flavor of the iconic singer/actress.

• And speaking of profiles, the New York Times writes beautifully about the twilight of legendary AIDS activist/playwright Larry Kramer. In case you don't know it, Kramer saved countless lives with his fiery activism.

• As President Trump leaves on his first foreign trip abroad, the world prepares to make the homebody happy.

• Check out the first look at the upcoming reboot of 80s TV drama, Dynasty. You know the drill: cat fights, fashion and high drama all wrapped up in some sexy eye-candy. Airing Wednesdays this fall on the CW.

James Comey Agrees To Testify In Open Session Before Senate Intelligence Committee


Fasten your seatbelts, kids.

Former FBI Director James Comey (Trump nickname "Crazy nutjob") has agreed to testify in open session before the Senate Intelligence Committee.



27 Years Ago Today Madonna's "Vogue" Hits #1

NY Magazine: Trump Son-In-Law Jared Kushner Is "Person Of Interest" In Russian Probe


Earlier today, the Washington Post reported that a current associate of Donald Trump has been reported as a “person of interest” in the ongoing investigation into possible ties between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign.

A New York Magazine reporter now says that person is Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law.

The Washington Post said a senior advisor to Mr Trump was among people investigators wanted to speak to. A New York magazine reporter then said the person in question was Mr Kushner, 36, who is married to Mr Trump’s eldest daughter and who flew out of Washington on Friday night to accompany the president on his first official foreign trip.

The Post said the person under investigation was close to the President, but did not identify them. However, the number of people who fit such a profile would be very small.

Yashar Ali, a contributor to New York magazine said on Twitter: “It’s Jared Kushner. Have confirmed this with four people. I’m not speculating.”

The White House did not immediately respond to calls and emails from The Independent seeking comment. The Trump Organisation, which controls the President's financial interests, also did not respond to queries.





Washington Post: Russian Investigation Now Eyeing Current White House Official


The news gets worser and worser for President Trump.

The Washington Post is reporting that the current investigation looking into Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election now has a "person of interest" who is a current White House official.

The senior White House adviser under scrutiny by investigators is someone close to the president, according to these people, who would not further identify the official.

The revelation comes as the investigation also appears to be entering a more overtly active phase, with investigators shifting from work that has remained largely hidden from the public to conducting interviews and using a grand jury to issue subpoenas. The intensity of the probe is expected to accelerate in the coming weeks, the people said.

The sources emphasized that investigators remain keenly interested in people who previously wielded influence in the Trump campaign and administration but are no longer part of it, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Flynn resigned in February after disclosures that he had lied to administration officials about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Current administration officials who have acknowledged contacts with Russian officials include President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as well as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

People familiar with the investigation said the intensifying effort does not mean criminal charges are near, or that any such charges will result.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer issued this statement: “As the president has stated before, a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity."

Trump Told Russian Officials Firing "Nut Job" James Comey Relieved "Great Pressure" On Him


The New York Times is reporting that President Trump told Russian officials during an Oval Office meeting that he had fired FBI Director James Comey (whom he described as "crazy, a real nut job") and in doing so had removed "great pressure" on him.

In attendance at the meeting were Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, as well as Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey I. Kislyak.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”

The conversation, during a May 10 meeting — the day after he fired Mr. Comey — reinforces the notion that Mr. Trump dismissed him primarily because of the bureau’s investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russian operatives. Mr. Trump said as much in one televised interview, but the White House has offered changing justifications for the firing.

The White House document that contained Mr. Trump’s comments was based on notes taken from inside the Oval Office and has been circulated as the official account of the meeting. One official read quotations to The Times, and a second official confirmed the broad outlines of the discussion.

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, did not dispute the account.

This is really wild, wild stuff, folks.

Comey: Infamous Trump Hug Was "Disgusting" Calculation


According to Benjamin Wittes, a longtime friend of James Comey, the former FBI director said that infamous hug at the White House “disgusted him" because he felt it was calculated to show closeness between the two men that didn't actually exist.

“Trump fired Jim Comey because the most dangerous thing in the world, if you’re Donald Trump, is a person who tells the truth, is dogged, you can’t control, and who is as committed as Comey is to the institutional independence of an organization that has the power to investigate you,” Wittes told the NewsHour’s William Brangham.

Watch Wittes describe the moment below.

Meme Of The Day

"And then... No wait, listen. And then he said, no politician in history has been treated more unfairly than him!" "Girl, stop... I can't.."

Bare Majority Of Americans Believe Stronger LGBT Civil Rights Laws Are Needed


From Gallup:

Americans are about evenly divided on whether new civil rights laws are needed to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Fifty-one percent of U.S. adults say such laws are needed, while 46% say they are not.

These data, from Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs poll conducted May 3-7, come as Democratic members of Congress plan to reintroduce a bill that would provide protections for LGBT people from housing, employment and other forms of discrimination. The bill's potential for passage is unclear, as few in the majority Republican caucus have given their support.

Gallup is being generous with that last line. The Equality Act currently has no chance in hell in passing with both the House and Senate in Republican control.

And certainly President Babyhands isn't going to go to bat for us.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

NY Times: Trump Asked Comey To "Put Out The Word" He Was Not Personally Under Investigation


The New York Times has the story:

President Trump called the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, weeks after he took office and asked him when federal authorities were going to put out word that Mr. Trump was not personally under investigation, according to two people briefed on the call.

Mr. Comey told the president that if he wanted to know details about the bureau’s investigations, he should not contact him directly but instead follow the proper procedures and have the White House counsel send any inquiries to the Justice Department, according to those people.

After explaining to Mr. Trump how communications with the F.B.I. should work, Mr. Comey believed he had effectively drawn the line after a series of encounters he had with the president and other White House officials that he felt jeopardized the F.B.I.’s independence. At the time, Mr. Comey was overseeing the investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.

Trump Denies Collusion On His Part, More Nuanced Regarding His Campaign


Standing next to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón at a joint press conference today, President Donald Trump categorically denied there was any collusion between him and Russia during the 2016 election cycle.

Collusion between his campaign staff and Russia? He was a little more nuanced on that.



Additionally, when asked point-blank if he had ever requested former FBI Director Jim Comey to "close or back down" on the FBI investigation into former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, Trump abruptly declared, "No. No. Next question."

Trump: Special Counsel Investigating Russian Interference In Election "Hurts The Country"

President Trump
Yesterday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced he had appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel, taking over the investigation into Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 election.

The White House issued this statement last night on the president's behalf:

"As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know — there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity. I look forward to this matter concluding quickly. In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country."

Very adult sounding, no?

Well, in a lunch meeting with network news anchors and reporters today, President Trump struck a very different tone saying the special counsel investigation "hurts the country!"

Via CNBC:

"I believe it hurts our country terribly, because it shows we're a divided, mixed-up, not-unified country," Trump said. "And we have very important things to be doing right now, whether it's trade deals, whether it's military, whether it's stopping nuclear — all of the things that we discussed today. And I think this shows a very divided country."

"It also happens to be a pure excuse for the Democrats having lost an election that they should have easily won because of the Electoral College being slanted so much in their way. That's all this is. I think it shows division, and it shows that we're not together as a country. And I think it's a very, very negative thing. And hopefully, this can go quickly, because we have to show unity if we're going to do great things with respect to the rest of the world."

Chelsea Manning Says "Hello World!"

Chelsea Manning
One day after her release from Fort Leavenworth where she spent 7 years in confinement, Chelsea Manning posted her first self-pic for the world with the caption, "Okay, so here I am everyone!! 😜 . . #HelloWorld."

In advance of her release yesterday, she told ABC News, “I appreciate the wonderful support that I have received from so many people across the world over these past years. As I rebuild my life, I remind myself not to relive the past. The past will always affect me and I will keep that in mind while remembering that how it played out is only my starting point, not my final destination.”

Manning had been sentenced to 35 years in prison for releasing approximately 750,000 documents to WikiLeaks.

One of President Obama's final acts before leaving office was to commute her sentence.

A post shared by Chelsea E. Manning (@xychelsea87) on

Out Music: Wrabel "We Could Be Beautiful"


Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Wrabel has dropped his 5 song We Could Be Beautiful EP, which includes the title track as well as "11 Blocks" (one of my favorite tracks for 2016) and "Bloodstain."

The five songs feel like a journey through his personal diary. From the awareness of proximity to a former love ("11 Blocks"), to love coming around again ("We Could Be Beautiful") to contentment ("Poetry").

Wrabel's writing presents a window into how he handles dating life:

"I tend to be silent when I need to talk the most," Wrabel told Out.com in April. "I push people away when I need them the most. I break my own heart to save another's, but I would rather love truly, wholly and completely, and hurt, than not love at all."

Check out "We Could Be Beautiful" below, and head over to iTunes to check out the rest of the EP.

News Round-Up: May 18, 2017

(via Instagram)

Some news stories you may have missed:

• It may be Thursday, but no one's throwing him back - photographer Frank Marando shoots Instastud Nick Sandell for Adon Magazine (above).

• Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn stopped a military plan Turkey opposed before he was fired. But - Flynn didn't disclose until after he was fired that he received $500,000 from Turkey to represent their interests. #ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmm

• Wing-nut commentator Alex Jones says National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster's bald head means he's a "leather daddy" who looks like "he could suck a golf ball through a garden hose." Homophobic much?

• The United States has denied visas to gay Chechen men who are trying to flee the country in light of the torture and murders of gays in the Russian country.

• Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a surprising statement underlining the Justice Department's commitment to prosecuting bias-related crimes against transgender individuals. Sessions has had a worrisome history when it comes to LGBT rights and protections.

Jimmy Kimmel Live takes a cue from School House Rock to musically explain how truth, or the lack of it, works in today's White House:

Trump Denounces "Single Greatest Witch Hunt Of A Politician In American History"


Even as more information emerges about Trump's associates contacting Russian officials during the 2016 election, President Trump continues to rant on Twitter that he is the victim of "the single greatest witch hunt" ever.

This from the man who led a year's-long campaign to prove that Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

This morning via Trump Twitter:



Not-So--White House Covers TIME Magazine


Check out TIME Magazine's new cover featuring the Kremlin White House.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Jimmy Fallon Has "Regrets" About Donald Trump Interview


With The Late Show with Stephen Colbert often surpassing The Tonight Show in the late night ratings race, host Jimmy Fallon tells The New York Times his softball interview of Donald Trump during the 2016 election was a "setback."

In the aftermath of the interview, many folks felt the segment helped to "humanize" Trump.

The resurgent interest in left-leaning programming hasn’t helped Mr. Fallon, a former star of “Saturday Night Live” who has built his brand on his all-around entertainer’s skills and down-the-middle tastes.

And as Mr. Fallon is well aware, viewers haven’t seen him in quite the same light since an interview he conducted with Mr. Trump in September, which was widely criticized for its fawning, forgiving tone. In a gesture that has come to haunt the host, he concluded the segment by playfully running his fingers through Mr. Trump’s hair.

Mr. Fallon acknowledges now that the Trump interview was a setback, if not quite a mistake, and he has absorbed at least a portion of the anger that was directed at him by critics and online detractors.

“They have a right to be mad,” a chastened Mr. Fallon said in an interview this month. “If I let anyone down, it hurt my feelings that they didn’t like it. I got it.”

Mr. Fallon’s questions, however, were mostly innocuous; he asked Mr. Trump why children should want to grow up to be president and if his business background had helped him in the campaign. Their conversation concluded with Mr. Fallon fulfilling his longstanding wish of ruffling Mr. Trump’s hair.

“I didn’t do it to humanize him,” Mr. Fallon said, explaining this moment to me. “I almost did it to minimize him. I didn’t think that would be a compliment: ‘He did the thing that we all wanted to do.’”

But when the backlash did not subside, even after a few days, Mr. Fallon never addressed the controversy on air. “I didn’t talk about it, and I should have talked about it,” he said. “I regret that.”

You can watch the now infamous moment below:

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy Caught On Audio: Putin Pays Trump

Rep. Kevin McCarthy

The Washington Post is reporting the discovery of a recording from last year which apparently captures Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy claiming Donald Trump was receiving payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016 exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.

[snip]

When initially asked to comment on the exchange, Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Ryan, said: “That never happened,” and Matt Sparks, a spokesman for McCarthy, said: “The idea that McCarthy would assert this is absurd and false.”

After being told that The Post would cite a recording of the exchange, Buck, speaking for the GOP House leadership, said: “This entire year-old exchange was clearly an attempt at humor. No one believed the majority leader was seriously asserting that Donald Trump or any of our members were being paid by the Russians. What’s more, the speaker and leadership team have repeatedly spoken out against Russia’s interference in our election, and the House continues to investigate that activity.”

“This was a failed attempt at humor,” Sparks said.

Why would Brendan Buck initially respond "That never happened," only to cop to the fact it did happen minutes later? Is lying his default?

Today Is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia


From the Human Rights Campaign:

Today HRC recognizes the 13th annual International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) with the launch of a video series highlighting global innovators in the fight for LGBTQ equality.

In addition, the organization is shining a spotlight on the need for continued U.S. engagement on protecting the human rights of LGBTQ individuals around the world, especially in the ongoing crisis occurring in Chechnya.

“While the global LGBTQ community is filled with innovative advocates advancing equality around the world, we are still combatting horrendous violence in the U.S. and beyond -- as we have seen most recently with the detention, torture and murder of gay men in Chechnya,” said HRC Global Director Ty Cobb. “It is disturbing that the White House is trying to build a wall around our country as LGBTQ people and others are trying to find refuge from extreme violence and persecution in places like Syria and Chechnya. Equally disturbing is the violence transgender women of color are experiencing in the United States. We call on world leaders to do more -- not less -- to protect the human rights of all people around the world. If we turn a blind eye when human rights are violated, we all the suffer consequences of living in a world of violence and instability.”

IDAHOT celebrates the anniversary of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) resolution to declassify same-sex attraction as a mental disorder. The move followed a similar decision by the American Psychiatric Association in 1973. The WHO’s monumental change created a shift in how many LGBTQ people were treated. In 2004, LGBTQ activists gathered for the first time to mark this date with rallies in support of equality. The anniversary is now marked by celebrations, governmental proclamations, and renewed efforts to end the discrimination and violence that LGBTQ people throughout the world still face.

New Music: Ariana And The Rose With RKCB "Love You Lately"


Ariana and the Rose, fueled by polar opposites love and loss, and personal uncertainty, releases her new synth-pop EP ‘Retrograde’ out now.

Check out her recently-released single “Love You Lately” below.

According to Noisey, the collaboration with LA electro-R&B duo RKCB "[brings] out a more sultry, R&B-toned side to Ariana," while the song "captures the sting of relationship disintegration" (Noisey)

“This EP marks the end of a period of my life that most literally felt like it was in retrograde,” says Ariana (real name Ariana DiLorenzo). “Each track encapsulates these moments over the last year or so where I was really defining myself personally and artistically and the music is a sonic exploration of that growth and ultimately personal transformation.”

With a background in theater performance, Ariana embraces an audio-visual approach to creativity, and has curated an interactive performance and music event called Light + Space, a performance that transcends the traditional boundaries of a concert.

The native New Yorker also finds her music reaches across the boundaries of sexuality and community.

As a longtime LGBT ally, Ariana told ChicagoPride in 2014:
Growing up in New York, the LGBT community never felt separate to me in anyway, they were just my friends, my best friends in most cases. I've witnessed, first hand, the trials and the triumphs of what it means to grow up in a society that is finally coming around to acceptance and I'm honored to get to stand by my friends while all of this is happening.

I've been so fortunate to be accepted as an artist by the LGBT community and am honored to get to perform at the celebrations. Honestly, it's the best reason to put on a show. To celebrate anyone and everyone who is living their lives the way that makes them happy. I'm just trying to make that special day even better and hopefully get everyone dancing in the process!

Department Of Justice Names Special Counsel To Oversee Russian Investigation

Politico is reporting the Department of Justice has named a special prosecutor to handle the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein named former FBI Director Robert Mueller to oversee the probe.

"Based upon the unique circumstances, the public interest requires me to place this investigation under the authority of a person who exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command," Rosenstein said in a statement. "A special counsel is necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome. Our nation is grounded on the rule of law, and the Public must be assured that government officials administer the law fairly."


UPDATE - President Trump issued this statement regarding the appointment of Robert Mueller as Special Counsel:

“As I have stated many times, a through investigation will confirm what we already know — that there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity. I look forward to this matter concluding quickly. In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country.”

Congressional Committees Request Comey Memos And White House Recordings

Former FBI Director James Comey

From the AP:

Top members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are asking the FBI to provide memos from former director James Comey and for the White House to turn over any audio recordings that might exist of conversations with the now-fired director.

Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California sent the letter to the Justice Department and the White House on Wednesday. They called on the White House “to provide records of interactions with former Director Comey, including any audio recordings.”

The letter came after the Senate Intelligence Committee made a similar request for Comey’s memos. The Intelligence panel also sought his testimony in open or closed session.

Additionally, the House Oversight committee has requested the same documents.

Earlier today, Rep. Justin Amash became the first House Republican to say that impeachment would be appropriate if the allegations regarding Trump's request that Comey end the Michael Flynn investigation were to be proven true.

Independent Sen. Angus King has told CNN that this latest debacle could bring Trump closer to impeachment proceedings.

Chelsea Manning Released From Prison Today

Chelsea Manning
Chelsea Manning, who leaked hundreds of thousands of military and diplomatic documents via Wikileaks, has been released from prison today.

From The New York Times:

Sentenced to an unprecedented 35-year prison term for disclosing archives of secret files to WikiLeaks, Ms. Manning spent about seven years in prison — already double the second-longest sentence in any leak case. She was freed 28 years early because President Barack Obama, in one of his final acts, commuted the bulk of her remaining sentence.

Ms. Manning was known as Pvt. Bradley Manning in 2010 when she was arrested on suspicion of having copied hundreds of thousands of secret military and diplomatic files from a classified computer network, to which she had access as a low-level intelligence analyst at a forward operating base in Iraq. After her conviction, she announced that she was a transgender woman and changed her name to Chelsea.

Hoping to inspire “worldwide discussion, debates and reforms,” as she wrote at the time, Ms. Manning had uploaded the files to the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks. It published them in batches, working with traditional news organizations, including The New York Times.

Her leaks brought to light numerous hidden facts, including previously unknown civilian bystander killings in the Iraq war, back-room diplomatic dealings and discussion of local corruption around the world, and intelligence assessments about Guantánamo Bay detainees.

"For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea," she said in a statement last week ahead of her release. "I can imagine surviving and living as the person who I am and can finally be in the outside world."

Manning attempted suicide twice during her 7 years at Fort Leavenworth.

She will remain on unpaid active duty while her military court conviction is under appeal. During that time she will continue to receive health benefits from the Army.

Nevada Becomes 9th State To Ban So-Called "Conversion Therapy" For Minors

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval

Today, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed into law Senate Bill 201, legislation which bans the dangerous and discredited practice of so-called “conversion therapy.”



Via the Human Rights Campaign:

“No child should be put through the dangerous and inhumane practice of conversion therapy,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Medical professionals agree this outdated and discredited practice not only doesn’t work, but can also have life-threatening consequences. It is nothing short of child abuse. We thank Governor Sandoval and the Nevada State Legislature for passing these crucially important protections for the state’s LGBTQ youth.”

Nevada becomes the tenth jurisdiction — and the third state so far this year — to enact these crucially important protections. Connecticut, California, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New York, and New Mexico all have laws or regulations protecting youth from this abusive practice. A growing number of municipalities have also enacted similar protections, including cities in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida.

“I want to thank my colleagues in the Senate and the Assembly for their bipartisan support of Senate Bill 201,” said Nevada State Senator David Parks, who sponsored the bill. “Conversion therapy is a dangerous, discredited practice that has been shown to cause anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and suicide among LGBTQ youth. By enacting this ban, Nevada will join eight other states and the District of Columbia in taking a strong stand to protect young people from psychological and physical abuse.”

“Conversion therapy,” sometimes referred to as “sexual orientation change efforts” or “reparative therapy,” encompasses a range of practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. These practices are based on the false premise that being LGBTQ is a mental illness that needs to be cured — a theory that has been rejected for decades by every major medical and mental health organization.

Nevada state Sen. David Parks

U.S. Marriage Equality Began In Massachusetts 13 Years Ago Today


13 years ago today, Massachusetts became the first state in the United States (and the 6th jurisdiction in the world) to legalize same-sex marriage.

I'll mention that I actually married my husband about six months before while working in Toronto, Canada, thinking U.S. marriage rights would be out of my grasp for years to come.

And it would be four years before California and Connecticut would follow suit.

The dominoes would begin to fall more quickly after that as Iowa and Vermont joined the party in 2009, and New Hampshire and the District of Columbia would do the same in 2010.

2013 and 2014 would be big years for the marriage equality movement. And, of course, 2015 gave us the Obergefell ruling at the U.S. Supreme Court which made same-sex marriage the law of the land.

As my friend Michelangelo Signorile says, "It's not over yet." The Equality Act is necessary to bring federal LGBT protections into line regarding a host of areas including housing, employment and more.

But, we can take a second to look back and enjoy the landmark achievement in LGBT rights made 13 years ago today.

#Forward

North Carolina: Gov. Roy Cooper Plans Executive Order Addressing LGBT Protections

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, who received much criticism for supporting the fake "repeal" of his state's anti-LGBT law HB2, announced yesterday that he plans to issue an executive order addressing protections for the LGBT community.

The Democratic governor made the remark to a sympathetic audience in Washington, D.C., where he said he would also continue to fight against discrimination and push for voting rights and education funding.

In a question-and-answer segment with the organization’s executive vice president for policy, Carmel Martin, Cooper explained his decision to accept a compromise repeal of HB2 even though it left him at odds with some activists and members of his own party.

“My goal is statewide LGBT protections in North Carolina, and I’m going to keep fighting every day until I get to that point,” he said, to applause. “… It would have been politically and probably emotionally easier for me to keep pounding the table and not accept a compromise but I knew it wasn’t right.”

Cooper did not elaborate on the executive order on LGBT protections, which would only apply to the departments that the governor controls. Asked about it in a later phone interview, Cooper said he had promised to do more.

“I said when we repealed HB2 and initiated the compromise, we needed to take additional steps to make sure we protect LGBT residents,” he said. “We’re working on an executive order that will help further those goals.”

Officials Are "Strategically" Planting Trump's Name In Reports To Keep Him Interested


Reuters reports that Trump administration officials are slowly figuring out tricks to keep President Trump interested in reports long enough to read them.

Apparently, the Trumpster stays focused if he sees his own name mentioned often enough.

Conversations with some officials who have briefed Trump and others who are aware of how he absorbs information portray a president with a short attention span.

He likes single-page memos and visual aids like maps, charts, graphs and photos.

National Security Council officials have strategically included Trump's name in "as many paragraphs as we can because he keeps reading if he's mentioned," according to one source, who relayed conversations he had with NSC officials.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

MSNBC Cancelling Lawrence O'Donnell Over Trump Criticism


Via Showbiz411:

I can confirm that MSNBC is ending the top rated “The Last Word” with Lawrence O’Donnell, the popular show that follows Rachel Maddow at 10pm. O’Donnell’s contract is up shortly, and the network has not made any overtures about keeping him on.

There is a fear that despite Maddow’s dogged liberalism, MSNBC is taking a turn to the right. O’Donnell would not fit into that model. But they’ve installed Fox News’s Greta van Susteren at 6pm, and more changes are coming. (This follows the disaster with Tamron Hall and the coming of Megyn Kelly from Fox News, too.)

My NBC sources say that O’Donnell’s tireless criticism of Donald Trump is the cause of the trouble.

O’Donnell calls Trump a liar on TV almost ever night. Says my observer: “Phil Griffin fought back Trump’s demands to Comcast chief Steve Burke that O’Donnell get fired for years. But now he’s president and now it’s Andy Lack’s decision and Andy has never run a single promo for O’Donnell and he wants access to Trump for Lester Holt interview and more.”

BREAKING: Trump Asked FBI Director Comey To End Flynn Investigation


Whoa.

From The New York Times:

President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo that Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.

The existence of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.

Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. The memo was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence an ongoing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.

Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of the memo to a Times reporter.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

The White House has denied the allegation.

I find it completely believable that Trump, operating like a CEO, not a president, might pull someone aside and ask a favor for a buddy. It's more "corner office" than "Oval Office" thinking.

Sen. Angus King says things are inching closer and closer to impeachment.

News Round-Up: May 16, 2017


Some news items you may have missed:

• Summer's almost here and the pool is calling my name :)

• Hillary Clinton has launched a new political group, Onward Together, dedicated to supporting groups that encourage people to organize and run for office.

• Joining Will & Grace on the reboot trail, 80s/90s hit sitcom Roseanne is coming back in 2018 complete with the original stars.

• President Trump broke with bipartisan tradition by introducing politics into his speech as he addressed the 36th Annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Service on Monday by attacking political opponents. The Trumpster even threw a campaign hat to the son of a fallen police officer during the speech.

• A Florida man is accused of second-degree murder in the choking death of his girl friend. He claims his gf accidentally died performing oral sex due to his huge endowment. His lawyer now wants the jury to see the man's penis to prove their case. #Seriously

• Longtime Trump pal Roger Stone says the president's cabinet is plotting to accuse the Donald of having Alzheimers in order to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove his from office. I have seen several opinions expressing the idea that Trump might be coping with some kind of mental issue, so...

• Why is it I can imagine those One Million Moms' heads exploding over this new ad spot from Liquid-Plumr?

Just Because...

(via Instagram)

Fitness model/trainer Lony Pizarro is plenty reason to pause for a moment to enjoy the view :)

Fox News Contributor Apologizes For Making Fun Of Autistic 10 Year-Old


Last Friday, Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce criticized a 10 year old boy after he approached Vice President Mike Pence and asked for an apology after Pence accidentally hit him in the face during an event at the White House.

On the air with Bill Hemmer (sitting in for an absent Tucker Carlson), Bruce mocked the boy because video seemed to show that Pence had barely made physical contact with him while he was attending an event at the White House.

“I guess we’re giving birth to snowflakes now, because that looked like that kid needed a safe space in that room,” she said during the segment.

As many know, "snowflakes" is what the far-right nut jobs call liberals today intimating that liberals are "fragile."

What Bruce didn't know was that the 10 year-old boy, named Michael, is from a military family and on the autism spectrum. And Bruce's comments triggered a wave of hateful comments directed at the boy and his family on social media.

During an interview with CNN host Jake Tapper, the boy's mother - Dr. Ingrid Herrera-Yee - shared that she was “devastated” at the way the Fox folks talked about her son. It was clear to her that they knew nothing of Michael and were attempting to make some political point using the boy's actions.

Herrera-Yee ended her interview with this clear (and fair) request:

“Please don’t use kids. Whether they’re typically developing kids — it doesn’t matter that he’s autistic or a military kid. Forget all that. He’s a kid. And you don’t use children as examples on national television like that.”

Watch the CNN segment with Tapper and Herrera-Yee below:



After the whole episode became a viral "thing," Bruce issued an apology today:

First of all, I am so sorry to the family. My intention was never to hurt a kid and his mom. We had absolutely no idea that Michael was on the autism spectrum and, as a gay woman and feminist, I’ve spent my adult life working to improve the lives of women and children and those who are disenfranchised. I get it and I apologize. I also appreciated the boy’s mother’s public comments and clarity on this. A main lesson here, no matter intent, is to leave kids out of our political discussions. We certainly agree on this.

I give Bruce credit: that is an actual apology. Good for her.

Normally, I find this kind of sniping to be silly. And, of course, cable news folks should not be making fun of children. Autism spectrum or not.

But I did want to post this episode here because my brother is on the autism spectrum. And my whole life I've watch people make fun of, and make assumptions, about my brother.

I know many of President Trump's followers like his statements criticizing "political correctness." They hate "political correctness."

But what are those folks really criticizing? Being polite? Or arguing for the right to make fun of children?

We don't really know anyone's story. A brief incident somewhere doesn't inform us of what someone deals with every day.

So, let's lay off criticizing children. And perhaps be a little nicer about people we don't know.

Watch Bruce's apology below.

Fox News' Kimberly Guilfoyle In Talks To Be Next White House Press Secretary

(photo via Instagram)
This seems a bit premature, but hey, with the Trump administration every day's a new frontier.

From Mercury News:

Kimberly Guilfoyle, the former first lady of San Francisco and current Fox News host, is in conversations with the Trump administration about becoming White House press secretary, she said in an exclusive interview with the Bay Area News Group Monday night.

Guilfoyle said the idea of her taking the job or another press role in the White House has been “raised by a number of people” in the Trump administration, although she declined to go into specifics. She said she’s regularly in touch with members of the administration in the course of her job.

“I’m a patriot, and it would be an honor to serve the country,” Guilfoyle said. “I think it’d be a fascinating job. It’s a challenging job, and you need someone really determined and focused, a great communicator in there with deep knowledge to be able to handle that position.”
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