You Scratch My Back…

Clear

News of another Trump campaign, Trump Tower, meeting for the purpose getting illegal (and shady) foreign assistance — this time from the Middle East — comes on the heels of the Senate Intelligence Committee report confirming that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in favor of Trump.

The New York Times is reporting emissaries from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates met with Donald Trump Jr and others three months before the election to discuss ways to help Trump win.

A few days ago the report from the Senate Intelligence Committee was released that backed up the intelligence community assessment that “The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton.” The bipartisan report is at odds with the House Intelligence Committee Republicans who are working overtime to block any attempts to understand what happened during the election.

Also last week, Trump strangely came to the defense and sought to bolster Chinese telecom ZTE after it was sanctioned for the security threat it posed to America. Then we found out the Chinese government was giving $500 million to a Trump project in Singapore.

In fact, whether it’s Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., or Russia, Trump was (and is) willing to sell out the interests of the United States to advance his own interests, and it’s pretty transparent at this point.

As we learn more about this administration’s corrupt approach, have a Clear Intentions cocktail to wash away the swampiness.

Via Kindred Cocktails, the Clear Intentions is:

2 oz gin (Sipsmith in my case)

.75 oz Cocchi Americano

.25 oz Amaro Montenegro

1 dash celery bitters

Stir over ice, strain into a chilled coupe

Cheers!

 

Panic at the Congress

Panic

President Very Stable Genius is not the only one who is, like, really smart. Republican members of Congress realize they can use the Michael Wolff book, its Trump v. Bannon storyline, and the President’s full-Fredo response as cover for their actions.

The last several days have seen Congressional Republicans across the board step up their assault on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the possibility of co-conspirators in the Trump campaign. The GOP now stands for the Grand Obstruction Party according to Brian Beutler.

House speaker Ryan has backed Devin Nunes’ attempts to further cover up Trump’s actions and denigrate investigators and the FBI. Meanwhile, in the Senate, the Judiciary Committee has recommended that the only investigation into potential criminal activity should focus on Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence agent who provided evidence of Russian involvement in the Trump campaign.

Paul Krugman has a theory for this action, that Republicans have made a deal with the devil, and now they’re stuck and can’t back out.

More specifically, Trump’s very awfulness means that if he falls, the whole party will fall with him. Republicans could conceivably distance themselves from a president who turned out to be a bad manager, or even one who turned out to have engaged in small-time corruption. But when the corruption is big time, and it’s combined with obstruction of justice and collaboration with Putin, nobody will notice which Republicans were a bit less involved, a bit less obsequious, than others. If Trump sinks, he’ll create a vortex that sucks down everyone involved.

Krugman has a point, and it may be the reason many Republicans are willing to go with the flow right now, but there seems to be something more at work. To watch the turnaround in Sen. Lindsey Graham, in the way he spoke about Trump until recently, really raises the question of whether he has been compromised in some way. No one knows, but stories of Russian oligarch money sloshing through our political system in the wake of Citizens United clearly raises the possibility of kompromat on any number of GOP officials.

Whether because of their deal with the devil or kompromat, Republicans certainly look to be putting party over country a lot lately. Krugman made another very true point about Republican complicity in Trump’s crimes: “Massive electoral defeat – massive enough to overwhelm gerrymandering and other structural advantages of the right – is the only way out.”

This is not lost on the, like, really smart Republicans. They have sounded the alarm about this trap and their actions from now until November to hold onto power are likely to be as un-American as anything we have seen. Trump may have a big nuclear button on his desk, but we are seeing that congressional Republicans are already pressing the panic button over the next elections.

In a rare moment of sympathy with the GOP, I suggest we all reach for the Panic Button tonight. This cocktail from the Dewberry Hotel in Charleston via Imbibe (that I found via Kindred Cocktails) contains:

1.5 oz bourbon
.75 oz Averna
.5 oz Campari
.5 oz Cheery Heering liqueur
.25 oz fresh lemon juice

Shake, strain into a chilled cocktail glass over a large ice ball (the button), express and discard lemon peel.

Cheers!

 

All In The (Crime) Family

Family

There are many distractions at the top of the news today, from Al Franken and Roy Moore to Trump’s Jerusalem decision, but this week is also seeing the noose tighten on America’s First Family of grifters.

On the heels of the Dec. 1 revelation of Michael Fynn’s guilty plea and cooperation with the Mueller investigation, the big news this week is that Mueller has apparently subpoenaed records of Trump and his family from Deutsche Bank. This might clarify issues around Trump’s $300 million debt to the bank and real estate deals involving Russian oligarchs.

The Flynn plea, which said a senior transition official had directed Flynn to contact the Russian Ambassador, pulled Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner deeper into the Russia investigation when he was identified as that official.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump Jr again proved to be the Fredo of the Trump crime family when he tried to not answer Congressional questioning about a conversation he had with his father regarding the infamous Trump Tower meeting by claiming attorney-client privilege (despite the fact that neither he nor his father are attorneys).

First daughter Ivanka Trump has largely been out of the news this week. Actually she has had a much lower profile since stories came out last month on her involvement in potential money laundering real estate schemes with Trump Organization affiliated properties, like the Trump Ocean Club in Panama. Shockingly, there are ties to Russian organized crime alleged as part of those investigative reports.

As we watch the world (hopefully) come apart for the Trumps with Mueller continuing  to build his case, have an Against the Family cocktail.

Via Kindred Cocktail, the Against the Family recipe is:

2 oz Rye

.5 oz sweet vermouth (Punt e Mes)

.5 oz Amaro Montenegro

Combine rye, vermouth, and amaro in a mixing glass and stir with cracked ice. Strain into a coupe glass and express orange oil over the top.

Cheers!

Dancing With Fox News Stars

Waltz

The battle between truth and lies, between news and propaganda, has reached a crucial and personal period for most Americans; the Holidays.

Beginning today and running for the next month or so, there will be much more time spent with family, particularly those who get the news and opinions from Fox. We are about to hit a spike in awkward conversations.

At a time when the GOP can’t even seem to disavow a child molester, there is some sign of rational Republicans, though. The Hill reported yesterday that Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) has called for more to be done to counter the Russian disinformation campaign now being waged against us.

But, as the holidays will remind us, there was a reason the Russian fake news effort was successful. (Yes, that’s why it is President Trump despite 3 million fewer votes. Well targeted effort in key states for EC win.) Timothy Egan noted it in the NY Times last week in his piece We’re With Stupid:

“But the problem is not the Russians — it’s us. We’re getting played because too many Americans are ill equipped to perform the basic functions of citizenship. If the point of the Russian campaign, aided domestically by right-wing media, was to get people to think there is no such thing as knowable truth, the bad guys have won.”

As you try to decide whether your uncle or father-in-law is on the side of supporting child molesters as long as they’re Republicans or is willing to question Russian interference with our election — doing the dance of family peace around the Thanksgiving dinner table — I suggest preparing with a Winter Waltz cocktail.

This warming seasonal drink should put a chill on the political discord. Via Punch, the Winter Waltz is:

2 oz rye

.5 oz ounce Averna

.25 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram

2 dashes Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Bitters

Shake over ice (yes, shake, gives it a nice foaminess), strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with star anise.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cheers!

Flying Too Close to the Sun

Plane

Another of Trump’s best people has resigned from the Administration. This time it was HHS Secretary Tom Price after revelations that he chartered private flights costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

As Rep. Adam Schiff snarked on Twitter, “Tom Price committed the one unpardonable sin in Trump’s world: Being rich, but not rich enough to own his own private jet.”

Actually, Trump had threatened Price’s job in July during the overly political speech to the Boy Scouts, saying that if Price couldn’t get the Obamacare repeal bill passed he’d fire him. This past week saw the latest repeal bill fail. Shot down in flames if you will.

Price’s excessive private plane charters has also brought a great deal of scrutiny to the travel habits of others in the Administration as well, with new discoveries making headlines frequently the past few days. The latest case of misuse of taxpayer dollars being attributed to the Veterans Affairs Secretary earlier today.

Of course, Trump is yet again spending the weekend at one of his golf courses, raising the already astronomical security costs and stretching the Secret Service to dangerously thin levels. The cost of Trump versus Price is like comparing an Air Force One 747 versus a paper airplane, but it just proves Trump remains King of the Grifters.

Since the rest of us won’t even be left with a paper airplane at this rate when Trump is done, may as well have a Paper Plane cocktail as we send Tom Price into the wild blue yonder.

Via Kara Newman’s excellent book Shake. Stir. Sip. the Paper Plane is:

.75 oz Bourbon

.75 oz Aperol

.75 oz Amaro Nonino

.75 oz lemon juice

Shake over ice, strain into a chilled coupe glass.

Cheers!

Grounds for Separation

Grounds

Will Rogers famously said, “I’m not a member of any organized political party… I’m a Democrat.”

In the aftermath of the Trumpcare vote debacle in Congress, however, it is the traditional Republican Party unity that is being called into question. Today’s New York Times piece  “Trump Becomes Ensnared in Fiery G.O.P. Civil War” said that Trump now finds himself shackled to rules and consequences of fractious party politics he thought did not apply to him.

“Mr. Trump faces a wrenching choice: retrenchment or realignment. Does he cede power to the anti-establishment wing of his party? Or does he seek other pathways to successful governing by throwing away the partisan playbook and courting a coalition with the Democrats he has improbably blamed for his party’s shortcomings?”

I’m sure that’s exactly what is on his Orangeness’ mind as he spends yet another weekend at his golf course.

But this sense that fissures in the GOP threaten Trump’s agenda is a pervasive theme in the press now. If we can remember all the way to the days before November 8, 2016, most of the talk was about how the Republican Party was going to break apart after the election. Most of that talk went away after the Republican sweep of electoral power. However, as Barron’s pointed out a couple of weeks ago, the GOP is splintered into three groups despite the election. It classified those groups as the Chamber of Commerce Faction, the Tea Party Rebels, and the Steve Bannon Populists. The Washington Post today whittled that down to simply a GOP right flank and left flank.

As difficult as it may be for those groups to remain under one roof, the folks we find most in need of some space in Washington is the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

The Washington Post yesterday explained “The committee probing the Russia scandal has erupted into open warfare” as Republican Committee Chairman Devin Nunes appears to be acting on behalf of the Administration than running an independent investigation of it.

Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff today called for an independent commission to investigate the facts on Russian interference in our elections.

Therefore, today is a good day for a Grounds for Separation, a less bitter variation on the Grounds for Divorce cocktail. From the Kindred Cocktails website, Grounds for Separation contains:

2 oz Bourbon

.5 oz Aperol

.5 oz Averna amaro

.5 oz Punt e Mes (sweet vermouth)

1 dash of Angostura bitters

Stir over ice and strain into a chilled coupe, no garnish (unless the drink and/or the world is still too bitter, then by all means add a nice Maraschino cherry, we all need more cherries)

Cheers!