Thursday, July 27, 2017

NY Post: "Survivor - White House Edition"

WH Comm Director Goes On Unhinged Rant: "Reince Priebus Is A F*cking Paranoid Schizophrenic"


Wow.

Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker got a phone call last night from newly-installed White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci who was all worked up that Lizza had tweeted about a dinner between Scaramucci, Donald Trump, and Fox News personality Sean Hannity.

Scaramucci demanded Lizza tell him who leaked the info.

Lizza reported the conversation today, and whoo-boy...

Here's an excerpt. Clearly, Scaramucci doesn't know the phrase "off the record."

I asked him why it was so important for the dinner to be kept a secret. Surely, I said, it would become public at some point. “I’ve asked people not to leak things for a period of time and give me a honeymoon period,” he said. “They won’t do it.” He was getting more and more worked up, and he eventually convinced himself that Priebus was my source.

“They’ll all be fired by me,” he said. “I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I’ll fire tomorrow. I’ll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus—if you want to leak something—he’ll be asked to resign very shortly.” The issue, he said, was that he believed Priebus had been worried about the dinner because he hadn’t been invited.

“Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” Scaramucci said. He channeled Priebus as he spoke: “ ‘Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the fucking thing and see if I can cock-block these people the way I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months.’ ” (Priebus did not respond to a request for comment.)

Scaramucci also told me that, unlike other senior officials, he had no interest in media attention. “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” he said, speaking of Trump’s chief strategist. “I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President. I’m here to serve the country.” (Bannon declined to comment.)

First of all, a "communications director" talks like that to the press?

Second, I'm guessing Lizza won't be getting many more phone calls from the "Mooch."

And finally, this is all kinda funny when you know how mild-mannered Ryan Lizza is. Picturing him on the end of this phone call makes me laugh.















And, one last tweet from the "Mooch" himself:



Boy Scouts Of America Apologize For Trump's Political Rhetoric "Inserted Into The Jamboree"


The Boy Scouts of America have apologized for President Trump's unexpectedly political rhetoric during his speech at last week's National Jamboree.

From BSA Chief Scout Executive Michael Surgaugh:

I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree. That was never our intent.

The invitation for the sitting U.S. President to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition that has been extended to the leader of our nation that has had a Jamboree during his term since 1937.

It is in no way an endorsement of any person, party or policies. For years, people have called upon us to take a position on political issues, and we have steadfastly remained non-partisan and refused to comment on political matters. We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.

As you may know, the BSA received thousands of complaints from scouts and parents alike for the political nature of Trump's address to the scouts.

Train Conductor Schools Two Anti-Transgender "Dolts"


My dear friend Tom Viola shared this fantastic story of a patriotic train conductor schooling two idiots on a train bound for NYC via Broadway actress Kerry O'Malley:

On an Amtrak train headed to NYC. Mildly buzzed doltish business men two seats ahead of me are complaining about "the damn trannies who cost the army so much money switching themselves around on the taxpayers' dime."

While I contemplate if/what to say to these offensive a$$h0les, the conductor walks by and asks for their tickets.

"Tickets, please. Going to New York? Let me ask you, gentlemen, something. Have you ever gone to war?" The dolts don't understand.

"Have either of you men served your country?" They look at each other, puzzled and shake their heads NO. "Because I have. And if I don't care about the privates of my comrade in arms, why the hell do you?"

Dumbfounded and wounded silence.

First dolt:"Excuse me, sir..."

Conductor:"I will not excuse you. If my buddy loses a leg saving my ass, they sure as hell deserve the support of the Army to be a whole person, whatever makes them whole."

Dolt #2:"We didn't mean anything by it..."

Conductor:"Exactly. Might be a better use of your conversation to make yourself mean something."

Dolt #2:"I'm sorry."

The conductor looks them both in the eye for an uncomfortably long time.

"Wilmington next!" The conductor moves to the next car.

The dolts look at each other. "Shit."

Log Cabin Republicans Aren't So Sweet On Trump After Transgender Military Ban


After calling Donald Trump a "do no harm guy" in the past, the Log Cabin Republicans President Gregory T. Angelo via press release in response to President Trump's newly-announced ban on transgender service members in the U.S. military:

This smacks of politics, pure and simple. The United States military already includes transgender individuals who protect our freedom day in and day out. Excommunicating transgender soldiers only weakens our readiness; it doesn’t strengthen it.

The president’s statement this morning does a disservice to transgender military personnel and reintroduces the same hurtful stereotypes conjured when openly gay men and women were barred from service during the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ era.

As an organization that led the charge against that hateful policy, Log Cabin Republicans remains equally committed to standing up for transgender military personnel who put their lives on the line to keep us free.

Justice Department: Anti-LGBT Discrimination Is Legal Under Federal Law


On the same day that Donald Trump unexpectedly announced a ban on transgender soldiers in the U.S. military, his Justice Department filed a friend-of-the-court brief declaring anti-LGBT discrimination is lawful in a current employment discrimination case

From Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade:
In a 23-page brief, the Justice Department under U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rejects the notion that sexual-orientation discrimination is a form of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“The essential element of sex discrimination under Title VII is that employees of one sex must be treated worse than similarly situated employees of the other sex, and sexual orientation discrimination simply does not have that effect,” the brief says. “Moreover, whatever this Court would say about the question were it writing on a blank slate, Congress has made clear through its actions and inactions in this area that Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination does not encompass sexual orientation discrimination. Other statutes and rules may prohibit such discrimination, but Title VII does not do so as a matter of law, and whether it should do so as a matter of policy remains a question for Congress to decide.”

Although the Justice Department under the Obama administration never took an official view on whether sexual orientation discrimination is prohibited under Title VII, the brief effectively turns a Justice Department that once argued for protections for LGBT people into an institution that seeks to undermine them.

The reasoning in the brief contrasts with the determination of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the independent agency charged with enforcing federal workplace civil rights laws. In 2015, the EEOC found in the case of Baldwin v. Foxx anti-gay discrimination constitutes sex discrimination under Title VII.

Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, issued this statement, “In one fell swoop, Trump’s DOJ has provided a roadmap for dismantling years of federal protections and declared that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people may no longer be protected by landmark civil rights laws such as the Fair Housing Act, Title IX, or Title VII.”

Here's a recap of actions the Trump administration has taken against LGBT folks since Trump was inaugurated.

But remember, Donald Trump promised during the 2016 campaign how much "better" for the gays he would be than Hillary Clinton.

New Music: Kirstin "Break A Little" (Acoustic)


Kirstin Maldonado of triple Grammy Award-winning a cappella group Pentatonix shares this lovely acoustic version of her current single, "Break A Little," from her debut solo EP L O V E, now available on iTunes.

Maldonado goes by the single name Kirstin for her solo projects, and she also departs a bit from the sound of her hit singing group. Whereas Pentatonix creates in a millennial-inspired a cappella space, Kirstin's solo sound embraces a decidedly electronic-pop mode.

That said, while I really enjoy her EDM-pop inspired version of "Break A Little," (recently performed live on The Today Show) I was struck by the open, breezy acoustic version here.

The acoustic music video was shot at the Shadowland Foundation - a non-profit organization dedicated to educating children of all ages about wolves and their contribution to the environment.

Kirstin, a native of Fort Worth, Texas, (my hometown, by the way) began singing at just 8 years old, and hit the big time when she teamed up with her fellow Pentatonix members to compete to great acclaim on the 2011 season of The Sing-Off.

It was just last year she began spinning off to solo side-gigs which has now culminated in the release of L O V E.

The official music video can be found here.

Trump's "Generals And Military Experts" Did Not Know Trump Anti-Trans Policy Was Coming


Even though Donald Trump began his tweet banning transgender military service members by stating, "After consultation with my Generals and military experts..." it's become clear that the top military leaders at the Pentagon were surprised by the bombshell announcement yesterday.

As CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr points out, today's announcement from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stating there will be no changes in policy in the short term, does not offer any clear support for the president's sudden shift in direction on transgender military.

Watch below.

Poll: Only 27% Of Americans Think Trump Will Definitely Serve Four-Year Term


According to a USA Today/iMediaEthics Poll, Americans are evenly split 42% to 42% on whether Donald Trump should be impeached.

Additionally, 36% don't believe Trump will finish his first term in the White House.

Only 27% believe he will definitely reach the end of his four year term.


The Late Late Show's James Corden Sings & Dances Some "L-O-V-E" To Transgender Military


The Late Late Show's James Corden trolled Donald Trump's latest policy debacle via a song and dance parody of Nat King Cole's "L.O.V.E."

But Corden's version, meant as commentary on Trump newly-tweeted transgender military ban, is spelled, "L.G.B.T."

Armed with a swing band and backup dancers, Corden doesn't miss his chance to skewer Trump's well-known sensitivities about his diminutive assets:

“Trump wants to seem like a manly man, overcompensating for his tiny... hands.”

Watch the clip below:

Joint Chiefs Of Staff: No Change In Transgender Policy Until Further Notice


An email obtained by USA Today indicates the Navy will not be discharging transgender sailors anytime soon in response to Donald Trump's surprise tweets yesterday morning announcing a sudden ban on transgender service in the military.

The email from Vice Adm. Robert Burke also acknowledges that Trump's announcement is "causing concern for some of our sailors and that they likely have questions."

What's more, it indicates that the Trump's tweets that the U.S. military will not accept transgender troops into its ranks or allow them to serve in any capacity caught military brass unawares.

His email represents the military's first known steps to deal with the tumult unleashed by Trump's tweets.

Burke notes that the office of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is "working to quickly discern the President's intent." Mattis was on vacation when Trump made his announcement.

Also on Thursday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joe Dunford sent a memo to the service chiefs Thursday saying there will be no change in current policy on transgender troops until Mattis receives direction from Trump. That indicates there has been no formal policy guidance issued from the White House.

In the meantime, Burke said that no transgender sailors – nor likely troops from other services – will be discharged until there is clear guidance from the White House.

There may be as many as 6,600 transgender troops on the military's active duty force of 1.3 million, according to a RAND Corp. report.

UPDATE - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued this further guidance (from Reuters):

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Joseph Dunford, said in a written message on Thursday to military leaders that there has been no change yet to the military’s policy on transgender personnel, despite plans for a ban announced by President Donald Trump.

“There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance,” Dunford, said in the written message to service chiefs, commanders and senior enlisted leaders, first reported by Reuters.

“In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect. As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions.”

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Politico: House Repubs Wanted To Stop Military-Funded Trans Surgeries, Trump Jumped The Shark


According to Politico, today's transgender ban in the military by President Trump came about because House Republicans went to Trump to stop the military from paying for transgender's gender reassignment surgeries. Trump apparently jumped the shark.

A handful of House Republicans threatened funding for Trump's Mexican wall. They went around Defense Secretary Mattis to Trump asking him to do something about the military funded surgeries, and instead got all trans military booted.

“There are several members of the conference who feel this really needs to be addressed,” senior House Appropriations Committee member Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) said Tuesday. “This isn’t about the transgender issue; it’s about the taxpayer dollars going to pay for the surgery out of the defense budget.”

The president’s directive, of course, took the House issue a step beyond paying for gender reassignment surgery and other medical treatment. House Republicans were never debating expelling all transgender troops from the military.

“This is like someone told the White House to light a candle on the table and the WH set the whole table on fire,” a senior House Republican aide said in an email. The source said that although GOP leaders asked the White House for help on the taxpayer matter specifically, they weren’t expecting — and got no heads up on — Trump’s far-reaching directive.

Podcast: Trump Bans Transgenders From U.S. Military; Texas Senate Approves Anti-Trans "Bathroom Bill"


In this mid-week podcast from The Randy Report, two big stories:

• President Trump bans - via tweet - any transgender individuals from serving in the U.S. military calling them "a burden."

• The Texas State Senate has approved it's hateful, anti-transgender "bathroom bill."

Music Video: Eli Lieb Is Awash In Intoxicating Kisses In "Shangri La"


Perfect for Hump Day!

Out singer/songwriter Eli Lieb has just dropped his new music video, "Shangri La."

Having recently relocated from Los Angeles to Iowa, the talented Mr. Lieb appears to be awash in the memory of intoxicating kisses, and a cocktail or two.

Romantic longing becomes naked, exposed emotion.

I'm definitely a fan, having previously featured Eli on The Randy Report here and here and here and here.



Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Covers Rolling Stone Magazine


Rolling Stone opens it's cover story on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ("Why Can't He Be Our President?") thusly:

It's strange to witness: He speaks in a modulated, indoor voice. His dark hair is a color found in nature. At home, there is a glamorous wife and three photogenic children, still not old enough to warm his seat at next week's G-20 summit or be involved in an espionage scandal.

When Trudeau moves on to his feminist bona fides (women and minorities make up more than half of his Cabinet), he pauses for a moment, but does not lose his train of thought. His words are coherent and will not need to be run through Google Translate when he is done (except if you want to translate his French into English).

He talks about steps taken to deal with the opioid crisis and mentions the country's dropping unemployment rate. He uses the original Clintonian recipe on the crowd: "We're focused on getting people into good careers and helping families get ahead and stay ahead," he says. "But we know there's more hard work in front of us than there is behind us."

Then he gives the press corps a high-five. “The back and forth between the press and government is essential to any good democracy,” he says. “When you’re at your best, it reminds us and challenges us to be at ours. So thank you all for your tireless work.”

Where are we? Narnia? Coachella recovery tent? 2009? We are in Ottawa, Ontario, a mere 560 miles from Washington, D.C.

It's another world up north.

Check out the entire article here.

Trump: U.S. Military Will Not Allow Transgender Individuals To Serve In Any Capacity


Donald Trump announced this morning via Twitter that transgender Americans will not be able to "serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military."

In June 2016, the Pentagon lifted a ban on transgender men and women serving in the military. This is a huge U-turn for trans military personnel who have been serving openly for months.

No word on how Trump and his generals expect to proceed. Will those trans personnel be discharged?

Important to note that the Trump administration has also stepped back from protections for transgender students.

Remember - during the 2016 campaign, Trump declared he would be a better ally for the LGBTQ community than Hillary Clinton.

Stay tuned.

After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow [...]Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming [...]victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you







The Rand Corporation estimates the cost of gender transition–related health care coverage for transgender personnel to be between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually, representing a tiny 0.04- to 0.13-percent increase in active-component health care expenditures.

Oh, and just a little reminder...



UPDATE:

Axios' Jonathan Swan received this response from the White House on the newly announced policy:

"This forces Democrats in Rust Belt states like Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin, to take complete ownership of this issue. How will the blue collar voters in these states respond when senators up for re-election in 2018 like Debbie Stabenow are forced to make their opposition to this a key plank of their campaigns?"

So, Team Trump is making this a move for anti-trans votes in the Rust Belt.

How does this "make America great again?"

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Trump: "I Can Be More Presidential Than Any President That's Held This Office"


“Sometimes they say, ‘He doesn’t act presidential.’ And I say, with the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that’s held this office. That I can tell you. It’s real easy.” - Donald Trump speaking in Youngstown, Ohio at an "I need attention" rally

News Roundup: July 25, 2017


Some news items you may have missed:

• Let's hear it for the bears! Furball in focus (above).

• According to a new USA Today poll, Americans are split 42% yes/42% no on whether President Trump should be impeached.

• The Queer Insurrection and Liberation Army, or TQILA, is a newly-formed LGBT-centric unit of volunteers who have joined the fight against ISIS in Syria.



• Trump says Attorney General Jeff Sessions only endorsed him for president because of his "massive numbers" at campaign rallies. #brutal

• Always on the lookout for new out music? Check out this list of summer tunes by LGBT artists.

• Mark Ruffalo shared this pic of Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston cuddling with Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi on a recent flight. #Grrrr

A post shared by Mark Ruffalo (@markruffalo) on

Gallup Poll: Trump Approval Rating Drops Again


Gallup's daily tracking poll shows Donald Trump's Approval rating has dropped again to near his lowest point.

Sitting at 36% today, the only time he's shown worse numbers was on March 28 when he hit a dismal 35% approval rating.

His disapproval numbers hit a high of 60% last month on June 12. He currently shows a 59% disapproval rating.

Trump On Jeff Sessions: "I Am Disappointed In The Attorney General"


During a press conference with the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Donald Trump was asked whether he wants his Attorney General to resign.

He never got to a direct answer to that question, but he did say he was disappointed in Attorney General Jeff Sessions, wants him to be tougher, and wants him to be tougher on leaks coming out of the intelligence agencies.

Watch below.





And, of course, there's this:

Senate Poised To Vote On Obamacare Repeal

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
As the U.S. Senate votes to proceed to some kind of movement regarding health care reform, it looks like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's plan is to get past the motion to proceed, then offer up the "repeal and replace" bill known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act.

No one really expects that to pass.

From reading sources I follow online, McConnell would then look to put together a handful of amendments that would repeal just certain parts of the Affordable Care Act, something being referred to as a "skinny repeal."

Not a huge bill, but something that can perhaps pass in the Senate which would then head over to the House for a compromise bill.

If House and Senate Republicans can come to an agreement, it could be at least something Trump and Republicans could call a win.

I don't think Trump cares what the eventual legislation looks like. He just wants a victory lap of any sort.

Stay tuned.

WH Comm Director Scaramucci Threatens To "Fire Everybody" To Stop Leaks

Anthony Scaramucci

The first head has rolled in the White House press office as assistant press secretary Michael Short has resigned in advance of being fired by White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci.

From Politico:

Short’s ouster is Scaramucci’s first warning shot to White House aides who have been perceived as disloyal to the president. In an echo of Trump’s not-so-subtle warning to Jeff Sessions about his status as attorney general, Scaramucci’s vow to “fire everybody” is a warning to staffers perceived as leakers.

“I’m going to fire everybody, that’s how I’m going to do it,” Scaramucci said to reporters outside of the White House on Tuesday. “You’re either going to stop leaking or you’re going to be fired.”

He claimed to have the full authority of the president to clean out the communications shop and put his own stamp on the team. A source close to Scaramucci said that he’s planning to bring in people from the corporate communications world in addition to conservative broadcast stars.

Short was apparently not well-liked by his colleagues in the White House having quit Team Trump during the campaign but was hired for White House duty by Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

Scaramucci told reporters it "really upsets me as a human being and as a Roman Catholic" that Short found out about his departure through the media.

He added he's prepared to reduce the communications office to just himself and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders if necessary.

Just Because...


Sen. Susan Collins On Dueling Rep. Farenthold: "He's So Unattractive. It's So Unbelievable"

Rep. Blake Farenhold (R)

Sharp-eared reporter Niv Elis of The Hill noticed this funny exchange between what seems to be Sens. Jack Reed and Susan Collins speaking near an open mic.

During the hot-mic chat, Collins mentions GOP House Rep. Blake Farenthold, who had publicly announced he'd want to settle things with female senators against the Trumpcare bill with a duel.

Reed quickly assures Collins that she could “beat the shit” out of Farenthold. Collins goes on to note, “He’s so unattractive. It’s unbelievable.”

The "unattractive" Farenthold is in the pic above in his pajamas. Just to gross you out a little more, apparently the "M" on the hand of the young lady on the left is to let bartenders know she's a minor.

I know. I know.

Listen to the exchange below.








Jonathan Groff's "Being Alive" At Hollywood Bowl "Sondheim On Sondheim"


Broadway (Hamilton, Spring Awakening) and TV star (Looking, GLEE) Jonathan Groff delivered a sensitive, show-stopping performance of "Being Alive" at this past Sunday's Sondheim on Sondheim concert at the Hollywood Bowl.

Groff's voice and moment-to-moment journey are totally on point here.

Watch below.


Senate Judiciary Committee Issues Subpoena To Former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort
It looks like former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort tried to play hardball with the Senate Judiciary Committee and lost.

After negotiations for a voluntary interview broke down, the Senate panel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election has issued a subpoena requiring Mr. Manafort's attendance at a hearing.

From USAToday:

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the panel's ranking Democrat, confirmed the action Tuesday in a joint statement, saying that a Manafort offer to provide "a single transcribed interview'' to Congress, which would not be made available to the Senate panel, was unacceptable.

The Senate and House Intelligence committees also are conducting parallel inquiries into possible coordination between the campaign and Russia.

"While the Judiciary Committee was willing to cooperate on equal terms with any other committee to accommodate Mr. Manafort's request, ultimately that was not possible,'' the panel leaders said.

The subpoena was issued late Monday night and demands Manafort's appearance at a Wednesday hearing.

"As with other witnesses, we may be willing to excuse him from Wednesday's hearing if he would be willing to agree to production of documents and a transcribed interview,'' the senators said.

Here's the full statement from the Senate Judiciary Committee:

Donald Trump Goes After "Very Weak" AG Jeff Sessions Again

Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Donald Trump continued his "Sessions obsession" by emasculating Attorney General Jeff Sessions in early morning tweets this morning, calling the AG "VERY weak:"





This comes just a day after he called Sessions "beleaguered" on Twitter while asking why more wasn't being done to look at Clinton's "crimes."

Of course, the FBI did an exhaustive investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails and concluded last year there was nothing there to prosecute.

Sessions was the first U.S. Senator to support Trump during the campaign and has been extremely loyal to the Trumpster. Trump's anger comes from Session recusing himself from any investigation into Russian meddling in the election. Trump told the New York Times last week he would have picked someone else if he'd known Sessions would recuse himself.

You can only imagine Trump expected Sessions to be a firewall between him and any investigations. #illegal

Radio host Hugh Hewitt asked Trump's new Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci, if Trump wants Sessions out and Scaramucci responded, "You're probably right."

Listen below.

Monday, July 24, 2017

News Round-Up: July 24, 2017

(via Instagram)

Some news items you may have missed:

• Fitness trainer Ramses Principe (above) looks right at home chilling in Cuba

• The Minnesota Department of Education advisory council voted to approve the “Safe and Supportive Schools for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students” toolkit. The toolkit is a guide for making schools welcoming for all students with specific guidelines for supporting transgender and gender nonconforming students.

• How long has Obamacare been in effect? Trump thinks it's 17 years...



• Anti-LGBT bakers and florists have said designing cakes and flowers for a same-sex wedding goes against their religious beliefs because it encompasses their First Amendment "expression." But this wedding dress shop refused to sell a dress for a lesbian wedding. They didn't design or make the dress, so...?

• CW Seed has released a trailer for the upcoming animated super-hero series Freedom Fighters: The Ray, which marks the first time a DC/CW series will feature an openly LGBTQ lead character.

• Donald Trump was asked today if his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, should resign. Check out his response - not good news for Sessions:

MSNBC Tops All Cable Networks For 1st Time


MSNBC celebrates being the most watched cable network for the first time in the network's history.

Last week's stats also show that MSNBC has bested CNN in 29 of the last 30 weeks.

Via press release:

For the first time in the network’s 21-year history, MSNBC finished the week as the most-watched cable network during weekday prime (M-F 8-11pm) in total viewers. According to Nielsen, MSNBC ended the week of July 17-21 as the #1 cable network for all weekday prime, averaging 2.34 million viewers, ahead of FOX News at 2.25 million.

MSNBC was previously #1 in cable news in weekday prime during the weeks of May 15, 2017 (behind TNT) and September 3, 2012 (behind USA) among total viewers, but this was the 1st time MSNBC was #1 among all of cable. Additionally, MSNBC’s 7pm through midnight lineup was the #1 cable network in total viewers.

Among cable news, last week marked MSNBC’s 29th weekly win (out of 30 weeks) in M-F prime over CNN with total viewers this year. MSNBC also topped CNN in total viewers in dayside (9am-5pm) and during mornings (6-9am) with “Morning Joe.” The dayside win was the 5th consecutive weekly win over CNN, while “Morning Joe” topped CNN’s “New Day” for the 30th week in a row.

“The Rachel Maddow Show” (9-10pm) also bested both FOX News and CNN among total viewers for the 4th straight week in 9-10pm time period. “Maddow” was the 2nd ranked show in all of cable for the week in total viewers behind WWE Entertainment.

Viral Video: "The Rock X Siri Dominate The Day"


Check out the mini-movie from Apple starring The Rock - and iPhone voice Siri.

The Rock teams up with Siri to prove "You should never, ever, under any circumstances, underestimate how much Dwayne Johnson can get done in a day with Siri. Follow the world’s busiest actor and Siri as they dominate the day."

2.6 million views in less than a day.

Learn more about Siri at http://siri.com

Out UK Diver Tom Daley Wins Gold At World Aquatics Championships

Tom Daley (via Instagram)
Out UK diver Tom Daley snagged the gold medal this past weekend at the World Aquatics Championships in Budapest.

The triumph surely helps smooth some heart ache for Daley after a disappointing Olympic showing in Rio last year where he was eliminated in the semi-finals.

His victory included beating the Olympic gold medalist, Chen Aisen of China.

Hubby (and Oscar winner) Dustin Lance Black took to Instagram to celebrate: "I already couldn't have loved you more or been prouder so I'll just go full Texan and say Holy Cow! My husband is World Champion! Now let's go honeymoon. I love u @tomdaley1994!!"

Kushner Speaks: "I Did Not Collude With Russia"


Jared Kushner, White House Senior adviser and Trump son-in-law, spoke to the press today following his closed-door interview with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Among other things, Kushner reiterated what he had already declared in an 11-page written statement, specifically that “did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in camp who did so.”

He also underscored that he is "eager" to provide any information he may have because he has "nothing to hide."

It is interesting that he isn't issuing a complete denial of any possibility of Team Trump collusion, only that he doesn't "know of" any taking place.

I also have an issue that he now refused to be placed under oath. My understanding is lying to Congress is a crime anyway, so why not testify under oath?

Just because he says something is true, doesn't mean it is true.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has his doubts as well. Following Kushner's statements, Wyden told reporters, “Kushner has repeatedly concealed information about his personal finances and meetings with foreign officials. There should be no presumption that he is telling the whole truth.”

“It is imperative that the public hears Jared Kushner testify in an open session, under oath, and support his claims with full transparency in the form of emails, documents, and financial records,” Wyden added.



Here's Kushner's 11-page statement he provided to Congress.

He concludes the statement saying, "Hopefully, this puts these matters to rest."

I'm thinking that's not the case.

STATEMENT OF JARED C. KUSHNER TO CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEES

July 24, 2017

I am voluntarily providing this statement, submitting documents, and sitting for interviews in order to shed light on issues that have been raised about my role in the Trump for President Campaign and during the transition period.

I am not a person who has sought the spotlight. First in my business and now in public service, I have worked on achieving goals, and have left it to others to work on media and public perception. Because there has been a great deal of conjecture, speculation, and inaccurate information about me, I am grateful for the opportunity to set the record straight.

My Role in the Trump for President Campaign

Before joining the administration, I worked in the private sector, building and managing companies. My experience was in business, not politics, and it was not my initial intent to play a large role in my father-in-law’s campaign when he decided to run for President. However, as the campaign progressed, I was called on to assist with various tasks and aspects of the campaign, and took on more and more responsibility.

Over the course of the primaries and general election campaign, my role continued to evolve. I ultimately worked with the finance, scheduling, communications, speechwriting, polling, data and digital teams, as well as becoming a point of contact for foreign government officials.

All of these were tasks that I had never performed on a campaign previously. When I was faced with a new challenge, I would reach out to contacts, ask advice, find the right person to manage the specific challenge, and work with that person to develop and execute a plan of action. I was lucky to work with some incredibly talented people along the way, all of whom made significant contributions toward the campaign’s ultimate success. Our nimble culture allowed us to adjust to the ever-changing circumstances and make changes on the fly as the situation warranted. I share this information because these actions should be viewed through the lens of a fast-paced campaign with thousands of meetings and interactions, some of which were impactful and memorable and many of which were not.

It is also important to note that a campaign’s success starts with its message and its messenger. Donald Trump had the right vision for America and delivered his message perfectly. The results speak for themselves. Not only did President Trump defeat sixteen skilled and experienced primary opponents and win the presidency; he did so spending a fraction of what his opponent spent in the general election. He outworked his opponent and ran one of the best campaigns in history using both modern technology and traditional methods to bring his message to the American people.

Campaign Contacts with Foreign Persons

When it became apparent that my father-in-law was going to be the Republican nominee for President, as normally happens, a number of officials from foreign countries attempted to reach out to the campaign. My father-in-law asked me to be a point of contact with these foreign countries. These were not contacts that I initiated, but, over the course of the campaign, I had incoming contacts with people from approximately 15 countries. To put these requests in context, I must have received thousands of calls, letters and emails from people looking to talk or meet on a variety of issues and topics, including hundreds from outside the United States. While I could not be responsive to everyone, I tried to be respectful of any foreign government contacts with whom it would be important to maintain an ongoing, productive working relationship were the candidate to prevail. To that end, I called on a variety of people with deep experience, such as Dr. Henry Kissinger, for advice on policy for the candidate, which countries/representatives with which the campaign should engage, and what messaging would resonate. In addition, it was typical for me to receive 200 or more emails a day during the campaign. I did not have the time to read every one, especially long emails from unknown senders or email chains to which I was added at some later point in the exchange.

With respect to my contacts with Russia or Russian representatives during the campaign, there were hardly any. The first that I can recall was at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. in April 2016. This was when then candidate Trump was delivering a major foreign policy speech. Doing the event and speech had been my idea, and I oversaw its execution. I arrived at the hotel early to make sure all logistics were in order. After that, I stopped into the reception to thank the host of the event, Dimitri Simes, the publisher of the bi-monthly foreign policy magazine, The National Interest, who had done a great job putting everything together. Mr. Simes and his group had created the guest list and extended the invitations for the event. He introduced me to several guests, among them four ambassadors, including Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. With all the ambassadors, including Mr. Kislyak, we shook hands, exchanged brief pleasantries and I thanked them for attending the event and said I hoped they would like candidate Trump’s speech and his ideas for a fresh approach to America’s foreign policy. The ambassadors also expressed interest in creating a positive relationship should we win the election. Each exchange lasted less than a minute; some gave me their business cards and invited me to lunch at their embassies. I never took them up on any of these invitations and that was the extent of the interactions.

Reuters news service has reported that I had two calls with Ambassador Kislyak at some time between April and November of 2016. While I participated in thousands of calls during this period, I do not recall any such calls with the Russian Ambassador. We have reviewed the phone records available to us and have not been able to identify any calls to any number we know to be associated with Ambassador Kislyak and I am highly skeptical these calls took place. A comprehensive review of my land line and cell phone records from the time does not reveal those calls. I had no ongoing relationship with the Ambassador before the election, and had limited knowledge about him then. In fact, on November 9, the day after the election, I could not even remember the name of the Russian Ambassador. When the campaign received an email purporting to be an official note of congratulations from President Putin, I was asked how we could verify it was real. To do so I thought the best way would be to ask the only contact I recalled meeting from the Russian government, which was the Ambassador I had met months earlier, so I sent an email asking Mr. Simes, “What is the name of the Russian ambassador?” Through my lawyer, I have asked Reuters to provide the dates on which the calls supposedly occurred or the phone number at which I supposedly reached, or was reached by, Ambassador Kislyak. The journalist refused to provide any corroborating evidence that they occurred.

The only other Russian contact during the campaign is one I did not recall at all until I was reviewing documents and emails in response to congressional requests for information. In June 2016, my brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr. asked if I was free to stop by a meeting on June 9 at 3:00 p.m. The campaign was headquartered in the same building as his office in Trump Tower, and it was common for each of us to swing by the other’s meetings when requested. He eventually sent me his own email changing the time of the meeting to 4:00 p.m. That email was on top of a long back and forth that I did not read at the time. As I did with most emails when I was working remotely, I quickly reviewed on my iPhone the relevant message that the meeting would occur at 4:00 PM at his office. Documents confirm my memory that this was calendared as “Meeting: Don Jr.| Jared Kushner.” No one else was mentioned.

I arrived at the meeting a little late. When I got there, the person who has since been identified as a Russian attorney was talking about the issue of a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children. I had no idea why that topic was being raised and quickly determined that my time was not well-spent at this meeting. Reviewing emails recently confirmed my memory that the meeting was a waste of our time and that, in looking for a polite way to leave and get back to my work, I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for ten or so minutes and wrote “Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting.” I had not met the attorney before the meeting nor spoken with her since. I thought nothing more of this short meeting until it came to my attention recently. I did not read or recall this email exchange before it was shown to me by my lawyers when reviewing documents for submission to the committees. No part of the meeting I attended included anything about the campaign, there was no follow up to the meeting that I am aware of, I do not recall how many people were there (or their names), and I have no knowledge of any documents being offered or accepted. Finally, after seeing the email, I disclosed this meeting prior to it being reported in the press on a supplement to my security clearance form, even if that was not required as meeting the definitions of the form.

There was one more possible contact that I will note. On October 30, 2016, I received a random email from the screenname “Guccifer400.” This email, which I interpreted as a hoax, was an extortion attempt and threatened to reveal candidate Trump’s tax returns and demanded that we send him 52 bitcoins in exchange for not publishing that information. I brought the email to the attention of a U.S. Secret Service agent on the plane we were all travelling on and asked what he thought. He advised me to ignore it and not to reply — which is what I did. The sender never contacted me again.

To the best of my recollection, these were the full extent of contacts I had during the campaign with persons who were or appeared to potentially be representatives of the Russian government.

Transition Contacts with Foreign Persons

The transition period after the election was even more active than the campaign. Starting on election night, we began to receive an incredible volume of messages and invitations from well-wishers in the United States and abroad. Dozens of messages came from foreign officials seeking to set up foreign leader calls and create lines of communication and relationships with what would be the new administration. During this period, I recall having over fifty contacts with people from over fifteen countries. Two of those meetings were with Russians, neither of which I solicited.

On November 16, 2016, my assistant received a request for a meeting from the Russian Ambassador. As I mentioned before, previous to receiving this request, I could not even recall the Russian Ambassador’s name, and had to ask for the name of the individual I had seen at the Mayflower Hotel almost seven months earlier. In addition, far from being urgent, that meeting was not set up for two weeks — on December 1. The meeting occurred in Trump Tower, where we had our transition office, and lasted twenty- thirty minutes. Lt. General Michael Flynn (Ret.), who became the President’s National Security Advisor, also attended. During the meeting, after pleasantries were exchanged, as I had done in many of the meetings I had and would have with foreign officials, I stated our desire for a fresh start in relations. Also, as I had done in other meetings with foreign officials, I asked Ambassador Kislyak if he would identify the best person (whether the Ambassador or someone else) with whom to have direct discussions and who had contact with his President. The fact that I was asking about ways to start a dialogue after Election Day should of course be viewed as strong evidence that I was not aware of one that existed before Election Day.

The Ambassador expressed similar sentiments about relations, and then said he especially wanted to address U.S. policy in Syria, and that he wanted to convey information from what he called his “generals.” He said he wanted to provide information that would help inform the new administration. He said the generals could not easily come to the U.S. to convey this information and he asked if there was a secure line in the transition office to conduct a conversation. General Flynn or I explained that there were no such lines. I believed developing a thoughtful approach on Syria was a very high priority given the ongoing humanitarian crisis, and I asked if they had an existing communications channel at his embassy we could use where they would be comfortable transmitting the information they wanted to relay to General Flynn. The Ambassador said that would not be possible and so we all agreed that we would receive this information after the Inauguration. Nothing else occurred. I did not suggest a “secret back channel.” I did not suggest an on-going secret form of communication for then or for when the administration took office. I did not raise the possibility of using the embassy or any other Russian facility for any purpose other than this one possible conversation in the transition period. We did not discuss sanctions.

Approximately a week later, on December 6, the Embassy asked if I could meet with the Ambassador on December 7. I declined. They then asked if I could meet on December 6; I declined again. They then asked when the earliest was that I could meet. I declined these requests because I was working on many other responsibilities for the transition. He asked if he could meet my assistant instead and, to avoid offending the Ambassador, I agreed. He did so on December 12. My assistant reported that the Ambassador had requested that I meet with a person named Sergey Gorkov who he said was a banker and someone with a direct line to the Russian President who could give insight into how Putin was viewing the new administration and best ways to work together. I agreed to meet Mr. Gorkov because the Ambassador has been so insistent, said he had a direct relationship with the President, and because Mr. Gorkov was only in New York for a couple days. I made room on my schedule for the meeting that occurred the next day, on December 13.

The meeting with Mr. Gorkov lasted twenty to twenty-five minutes. He introduced himself and gave me two gifts — one was a piece of art from Nvgorod, the village where my grandparents were from in Belarus, and the other was a bag of dirt from that same village. (Any notion that I tried to conceal this meeting or that I took it thinking it was in my capacity as a businessman is false. In fact, I gave my assistant these gifts to formally register them with the transition office). After that, he told me a little about his bank and made some statements about the Russian economy. He said that he was friendly with President Putin, expressed disappointment with U.S.-Russia relations under President Obama and hopes for a better relationship in the future. As I did at the meeting with Ambassador Kislyak, I expressed the same sentiments I had with other foreign officials I met. There were no specific policies discussed. We had no discussion about the sanctions imposed by the Obama Administration. At no time was there any discussion about my companies, business transactions, real estate projects, loans, banking arrangements or any private business of any kind. At the end of the short meeting, we thanked each other and I went on to other meetings. I did not know or have any contact with Mr. Gorkov before that meeting, and I have had no reason to connect with him since.

To the best of my recollection, these were the only two contacts I had during the transition with persons who were or appeared to potentially be representatives of the Russian government.

Disclosure of Contacts on My Security Clearance Form

There has been a good deal of misinformation reported about my SF-86 form. As my attorneys and I have previously explained, my SF-86 application was prematurely submitted due to a miscommunication and initially did not list any contacts (not just with Russians) with foreign government officials. Here are some facts about that form and the efforts I have made to supplement it.

In the week before the Inauguration, amid the scramble of finalizing the unwinding of my involvement from my company, moving my family to Washington, completing the paper work to divest assets and resign from my outside positions and complete my security and financial disclosure forms, people at my New York office were helping me find the information, organize it, review it and put it into the electronic form. They sent an email to my assistant in Washington, communicating that the changes to one particular section were complete; my assistant interpreted that message as meaning that the entire form was completed. At that point, the form was a rough draft and still had many omissions including not listing any foreign government contacts and even omitted the address of my father-in-law (which was obviously well known). Because of this miscommunication, my assistant submitted the draft on January 18, 2017.

That evening, when we realized the form had been submitted prematurely, we informed the transition team that we needed to make changes and additions to the form. The very next day, January 19, 2017, we submitted supplemental information to the transition, which confirmed receipt and said they would immediately transmit it to the FBI. The supplement disclosed that I had “numerous contacts with foreign officials” and that we were going through my records to provide an accurate and complete list. I provided a list of those contacts in the normal course, before my background investigation interview and prior to any inquiries or media reports about my form.

It has been reported that my submission omitted only contacts with Russians. That is not the case. In the accidental early submission of the form, all foreign contacts were omitted. The supplemental information later disclosed over one hundred contacts from more than twenty countries that might be responsive to the questions on the form. These included meetings with individuals such as Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Israel’s Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Luis Videgaray Caso and many more. All of these had been left off before.

Over the last six months, I have made every effort to provide the FBI with whatever information is needed to investigate my background. In addition, my attorneys have explained that the security clearance process is one in which supplements are expected and invited. The form itself instructs that, during the interview, the information in the document can be “update[d], clarif[ied], and explain[ed]” as part of the security clearance process. A good example is the June 9 meeting. For reasons that should be clear from the explanation of that meeting I have provided, I did not remember the meeting and certainly did not remember it as one with anyone who had to be included on an SF-86. When documents reviewed for production in connection with committee requests reminded me that meeting had occurred, and because of the language in the email chain that I then read for the first time, I included that meeting on a supplement. I did so even though my attorneys were unable to conclude that the Russian lawyer was a representative of any foreign country and thus fell outside the scope of the form. This supplemental information was also provided voluntarily, well prior to any media inquiries, reporting or request for this information, and it was done soon after I was reminded of the meeting.

****

As I have said from the very first media inquiry, I am happy to share information with the
investigating bodies. I have shown today that I am willing to do so and will continue to cooperate as I have nothing to hide. As I indicated, I know there has been a great deal of speculation and conjecture about my contacts with any officials or people from Russia. I have disclosed these contacts and described them as fully as I can recall. The record and documents I am providing will show that I had perhaps four contacts with Russian representatives out of thousands during the campaign and transition, none of which were impactful in any way to the election or particularly memorable. I am very grateful for the opportunity to set the record straight. I also have tried to provide context for my role in the campaign, and I am proud of the candidate that we supported, of the campaign that we ran, and the victory that we achieved.

It has been my practice not to appear in the media or leak information in my own defense. I have tried to focus on the important work at hand and serve this President and this country to the best of my abilities. I hope that through my answers to questions, written statements and documents I have now been able to demonstrate the entirety of my limited contacts with Russian representatives during the campaign and transition. I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government. I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector. I have tried to be fully transparent with regard to the filing of my SF-86 form, above and beyond what is required. Hopefully, this puts these matters to rest.
Site Meter