The Ledes

Sunday, July 15, 2018.

New York Times: France won the World Cup, beating Croatia 4-2.

 

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

July 13: Washington Post: "A salmonella outbreak linked to a popular Kellogg's cereal has infected 100 people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday. The agency is urging consumers to avoid Honey Smacks, a sugary puffed wheat cereal which has been the subject of a recall by the company since mid-June. At least 30 of the 100 have been hospitalized, while no deaths have been reported, the CDC said. 'Do not eat Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal of any size package or with any "best if used by" date,' it wrote."

Welcome to the Bank:

The Mounties Always Get Their Man -- and Woman -- especially when the pair are the ones mimicking the Keystone Kops. This is real CCTV footage of a young couple who -- allegedly -- tried to use stolen credit cards at an Alberta, Canada, convenience store. The WashPo has more details. These comical suspects, BTW, are not teenagers; they're in their late 20s. Super-size for best viewing. There's an action-movie moment near the end, so don't tune out too soon:

There will be an answer. Best #CarpoolKaraoke evah:

     ... You're welcome. ...

... Matthew Dessem of Slate: "The only fly in the ointment is the knowledge that, demographically speaking, this video will make a lot of horrible people happy."

AP: "ABC, which canceled its 'Roseanne' revival over its star's racist tweet, says it will air a Conner family sitcom minus Roseanne Barr this fall. ABC ordered 10 episodes of the spinoff after Barr agreed to forgo any creative or financial participation in it. In a statement issued by the show's producer, Barr said she agreed to the settlement in order to save the jobs of 200 cast and crew members. ABC said Thursday that the new series has the working title 'The Conners' and will star John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, Sara Gilbert and other 'Roseanne' co-stars."

NAFTA No, NAFSA . North American Free Soccer Agreement. Washington Post: "The World Cup is returning to the United States, and this time, Mexico and Canada are along for the wild ride. A North American joint bid won the rights Wednesday to host the 2026 edition of the celebrated soccer tournament, defeating Morocco and bouncing back from an unfathomable U.S. defeat to Qatar in voting for the 2022 event eight years ago. The member associations in FIFA, the sport’s governing body, favored the North American effort, known as the United Bid, in a landslide vote, 134-65."

... Washington Post: "It was Justify’s moment, after all. In a dazzling display of power and durability, the late-blooming colt who didn’t race as a 2-year-old proved Saturday he couldn’t be worn out as a 3-year-old, thundering to victory in the Belmont Stakes to claim a place in history as the sport’s 13th Triple Crown champion. After a 37-year drought in which the feat seemed impossible, Justify became the second horse in four years to achieve it, tutored, like 2015 predecessor American Pharoah, by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Before Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, which Justify won by 1¾ lengths over surprise second-place finisher Gronkowski in a 10-horse field, the massive chestnut colt with the white blaze had won the Kentucky Derby by a 2 1 /2-length margin, becoming the first since Apollo in 1882 to win the classic without running as a 2-year-old. Two weeks later, Justify weathered torrential rain and a blanket of fog to win the Preakness Stakes, setting himself up for the Triple Crown bid."

Masha Gessen of the New Yorker on "The Americans." Mrs. McC Spoiler Alert: If you haven't seen the show's finale, & you plan to, see it before reading Gessen's post.

You may want to cut the sound on this video so you don't go nuts before you get to move overseas:

Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I found this on a political Website, so that's my excuse. Juliana Gray in McSweeney's: "The Incel Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." It begins,

"Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like an equal redistribution of sexual resources.
Let us go, through certain half-considered tweets
and form tedious arguments
about entitlement.

"In the room the women come and go
Talking of Maya Angelou."

Read on. Incels, in case you don't know,  (a portmanteau of 'involuntary' and 'celibacy') are members of an online subculture who define themselves as being unable to find a romantic or sexual partner despite desiring one, a state they describe as inceldom. Self-identified incels are almost exclusively male and mostly heterosexual," according to Wikepedia.

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. -- H. L. Mencken (probably)

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. -- A. J. Liebling

Saturday
Jul142018

The Commentariat -- July 15, 2018

Afternoon Update:

Katie Rogers of the New York Times: "President Trump, adding to the list of allies he has clashed with this past week, said in an interview released on Sunday that he considered the European Union a trade 'foe,' days after a contentious NATO summit meeting and on the eve of closely watched talks with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.... 'Now you wouldn’t think of the European Union, but they’re a foe.' Mr. Trump told CBS. 'Russia is a foe in certain respects. China is a foe economically, certainly a foe.'... Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, in a sharp riposte on Twitter, wrote: 'America and the E.U. are best friends. Whoever says we are foes is spreading fake news.'... As his NATO allies watched in Brussels, Mr. Trump declined to call Mr. Putin an enemy or a friend, but referred to him as a 'competitor.'”

Joby Warrick of the Washington Post: "New details from a trove of Iranian nuclear documents stolen by Israeli spies early this year show that Tehran obtained explicit weapons-design information from a foreign source and was on the cusp of mastering key bombmaking technologies when the research was ordered halted 15 years ago. Iran’s ambitious, highly secretive effort to build nuclear weapons included extensive research in making uranium metal as well as advanced testing of equipment used to generate neutrons to start a nuclear chain reaction, the documents show. While Iranian officials halted much of the work in 2003, internal memos show senior scientists making extensive plans to continue several projects in secret, hidden within existing military research programs.... The stolen documents contain no revelations about recent nuclear activity and no proof that Iran has violated the 2015 nuclear accord it reached with the United States and five other global powers. U.S. officials had long known of Iran’s pre-2004 nuclear weapons research, which the Obama administration cited explicitly in prodding Iran to accept the historic deal limiting its ability to make enriched uranium and placing its nuclear facilities under intensive international oversight." ...

... The New York Times story, by David Sanger & Ronen Bergman, is here. Its focus is on the dramatic heist during which Mossad obtained the 15-year-old Iranian documents. And this: "In late April, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the results of the heist, after giving President Trump a private briefing at the White House. He said it was another reason Mr. Trump should abandon the 2015 nuclear deal, arguing that the documents proved Iranian deception and an intent to resume bomb production. A few days later, Mr. Trump followed through on his longstanding threat to pull out of the accord — a move that continues to strain relations between the United States and European allies."

*****

** Mark Landler & Julie Davis of the New York Times: "Just a few hours after President Trump doused expectations of extracting any confession from President Vladimir V. Putin on Russia’s election meddling when they meet on Monday, his own Justice Department issued a sweeping indictment of 12 Russian intelligence agents for hacking the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton presidential campaign. The bold move, precisely the kind that Mr. Trump has long resisted, demonstrated how he is almost wholly untethered from his administration when it comes to dealing with Moscow. Whether it is Russia’s interference in the election, its annexation of Crimea or its intervention in Syria, Mr. Trump’s statements either undercut, or flatly contradict, those of his lieutenants. The disconnect is so profound that it often seems Mr. Trump is pursuing one Russia policy, set on ushering in a gauzy new era of cooperation with Mr. Putin, while the rest of his administration is pursuing another, set on countering a revanchist power that the White House has labeled one of the greatest threats to American security and prosperity." ...

... Seung Min Kim of the Washington Post: "President Trump said in a new interview airing Sunday that he hadn’t thought of pressing Russian President Vladimir Putin on extraditing the dozen Russian officials charged with hacking Democratic emails, while continuing to blame Democrats for the stolen emails that upended the 2016 presidential campaign. 'Well, I might,' Trump said when asked during an interview with CBS News about extraditing the indicted intelligence agents. 'I hadn’t thought of that. But I certainly, I’ll be asking about it. But again, this was during the Obama administration. They were doing whatever it was during the Obama administration.' The United States does not have an extradition treaty with Russia. Trump also asserted that the GOP was similarly not hacked during the 2016 campaign because the Republican National Committee were equipped with better cybersecurity.... 'I think the DNC should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be hacked. They had bad defenses and they were able to be hacked.'... The array of topics, in addition to election interference, that Trump has said he will raise with Putin include the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, as well as an Reagan-era arms control agreement and the prospect of extending a 2011 nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia.” (See Ben Hart, below, on the It's-Obama's-Fault defense.) ...

    ... Brett Samuels of the Hill: "National security adviser John Bolton said Sunday it's 'pretty silly' for President Trump to demand Russia extradite the 12 intelligence officials charged with conspiring to hack into U.S. systems during the 2016 elections.... 'The Russians take the position, you can like it or not like it, that their constitution forbids them to extradite Russian citizens,' he [said]. 'They have an agreement with the Europeans that looks a lot like an extradition treaty. Europeans, frequently, tried to use that to get the Russians to extradite their nationals and they flat out refused to do it.'" Mrs. McC: Bolton knows perfectly well that actual diplomats & dealmakers quite often make "asks" they know they won't get. ...

     ... Quinn Scanlan of ABC News: "... Donald Trump's top national security adviser said he finds it 'hard to believe' Vladimir Putin didn't know about top Russian military intelligence officials' extensive efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election -- efforts the Russian president has repeatedly denied were state sponsored. In an interview for 'This Week' on Sunday..., John Bolton ... said that when he met with Putin in Moscow at the end of June to prepare for the Trump-Putin summit, the Russian president 'made it plain that he said the Russian state was not involved,' adding, 'he was very clear with his translator that that's the word that he wanted.' 'Now,' Bolton added, 'we'll have to see given that these are allegations concerning GRU agents obviously part of the Russian state, what he says about it now.'" ...

... Jonathan Swan of Axios: "President Trump no longer doubts the basic intelligence assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election — he just seems incapable of taking it seriously, and tells staff that is simply what nations do, several sources close to Trump tell me.... A source who's discussed the matter with Trump tells me: 'On election meddling, a big part of it is a refusal to give in to anything that could give the impression that the election outcome resulted from anything besides his skill and success as a candidate.' 'It's not about Russia. It could be evidence of Chinese or Canadian interference, and it wouldn't make any difference.' 'In Trump's mind, 'he won the election based on political superiority, and no one is going to suggest otherwise.'... Trump's attitude toward the whole issue is summed up by his reply to reporters at his NATO presser, in a voice drenched in sarcasm: 'We will, of course, ask your favorite question about meddling. I will be asking that question again. That's a signal to Putin that it's not with any enthusiasm or genuineness that Trump will be raising the issue when they meet — just ticking a box for domestic political consumption. Then they can get down to business." (See also Little Randy's identical assessment; story linked below.) ...

in the Daily Beast: "This is an extraordinary moment. It is without equal not only in American history but in modern history. A hostile foreign power intervened in our election to help elect a man president who has since actively served their interests and has defended them at every turn. That the president is abetted in his aid for the Russians — again, in the midst of this ongoing attack — by the leadership of the Republican Party makes the situation all the more extraordinary and dangerous. As they seek to undermine the investigation, they serve Russia as directly as if they were officers of the GRU. Some now reportedly seek to impeach Rosenstein on trumped up charges. To attack one of the leaders of our national defense as we are being attacked and to do so to benefit our foreign adversary is textbook treason." Rothkopf notes that it is Republicans -- Mueller, Rosenstein & Dan Coats -- who have been warning against Russia's bad acts.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned ... Donald Trump Sunday to be careful with what he agrees to when he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday. 'One-sided deals at the expense of one’s own partners will end up hurting the U.S. as well,' Maas told the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag." ...

... Yossi Melman of The Jerusalem Post: "’Benjamin Netanyahu worked laboriously mobilizing all his influence in Washington to persuade Donald Trump to meet Vladimir Putin. The Israeli prime minister, however, is mainly interested in two topics: Iran and the civil war in Syria. He needs both leaders to back his policy on these fronts.... [Netanyahu] has more Putin's hours than any other leader in the world. The frequency and urgency of his encounters with Putin are a result of the fact that the Syrian civil war appears to be reaching its end.... Israel...aim[s] to push Iranian troops and their allies 50-60 kilometers from the border, and to persuade Putin and via him Syrian President Bashar Assad, to prohibit the deployment of Iranian missiles and air defense systems on Syrian soil." --safari ...

... Spencer Ackerman of The Daily Beast: "Aides to President Trump are trying to keep the conflict in Syria off the agenda when Trump meets with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, a senior administration official told The Daily Beast.... What frightens some U.S. officials, Syrian activists, and many Middle East analysts is that Trump, who muses that 'hopefully, someday, maybe [Putin will] be a friend,' will finally accede to Russia’s insistence on the U.S. leaving Syria — something Trump recently expressed an eagerness to do.... According to the senior administration official, who was not cleared to discuss internal deliberations with a reporter, no actual deal is on the table, nor is the U.S. foreign policy apparatus preparing one.... That worry comes amid many guesses and misgivings about the way Putin might play Trump." --safari ...

... Anna Nemtsova of The Daily Beast: "It’s often said that Donald Trump’s opinion is swayed by the last thing he’s heard.... So [pro-Kremlin top advisor] Sergei Markov’s version of what Vladimir Putin will tell Trump about Ukraine on Monday is worth considering closely.... 'Putin is going to tell Trump the real story about what America has been doing in Ukraine, the story that Trump does not know,' Markov said.... 'The United States has been funding Nazi groups in Ukraine; we hear reports that we have got a few American prisoners, U.S. officers'.... None of this is confirmed independently – or at all – but facts are much less important than impressions where Trump is concerned. 'Putin’s goal is to shock Trump by true facts about this war.'" --safari: Not sure if "funding Nazis" is a turn-off for this president*.

... Putin Has Won Already. Andrew Higgins & Neil MacFarquhar of the New York Times: "When President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia sits down with President Trump in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday for a meeting he has long wanted, he will already have accomplished virtually everything he could reasonably hope for. All he really needs to make his meeting with Mr. Trump a success is for it to take place without any major friction — providing a symbolic end to Western efforts to isolate Russia over its actions against Ukraine in 2014, its meddling in the United States election in 2016 and other examples of what the United States Treasury Department has described as Russia’s 'malign activity' around the world." ...

... Masha Gessen of the New Yorker: "Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are about to hold a meeting that will reflect their shared understanding of power: the triumph of nothing over everyone.... The deliberately empty gesture is the ultimate innovation of the Trump Presidency. Beginning with his transition-era announcement of saving American jobs at a Carrier plant — an accomplishment of no consequence for the country as a whole and little, if any, consequence for many Carrier employees — Trump has trafficked in hollow symbols. Each gesture is designed to affirm his image as a dealmaker, even though the deals are devoid of substance at best and costly at worst. In this context, the Trump-Putin summit, a meeting without an agenda, appears entirely logical.... Putin may ... suggest a deal whereby the United States pulls out of Syria. Being able to make such an announcement would make Trump feel like the dealmaker he longs to be. To Russians, it would look like they had won the war. If any deal happens, though, it will be merely an accidental substantive bonus attached to a performance designed to be empty." ...

... Maureen Dowd: "It is up for debate whether Donald Trump will be a sad aberration in American history, a mere blip. But, thanks to the cheeky citizens of London, he will always be a blimp." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Dowd suggests a number of possible reasons for Trump's admiration of Putin, but neither she nor the usual pundits mention one I think likely: Trump admires dictators & aspires to be one because most of them are thieves. Putin is sometimes said to be the richest man in the world, having stolen hundreds of billions of rubles from his own country. Kleptocracy, I'd guess, is Trump's preferred form of government -- especially if it's his kleptocracy. As for Trump's place in American history, I think it's solid. The shady millionaire (nowadays, billionaire) is a stock American character, from the real-life robber barons of the 19th century to the fictional characters Jay Gatsby & Charles Foster Kane. But Trump has out-Goulded Jay Gould, out-Gatsbied Gatsby & out-Kaned Citizen Kane. Trump is not an aberration; he is both a symbol & a personification of the worst of the American experience. ...

... Charles Pierce: "Rosenstein went out of his way to say that no Americans were named in the indictment, so the White House grabbed onto that as though it were the last floating deck chair off the Lusitania. But it is very clear from the indictment that Mueller has the goods, all of the goods, and that nothing is going to slow him down or knock him off pace. (Notice how the indictment details how seriously the Russians took the president* appeal to them to find HRC’s “lost” emails.)...There's so much more coming. You can feel the hoofbeats of the horseman and the baying of the hounds behind every syllable of this indictment. My guess is that Mueller's not going to move on anyone in the United States until very late in the game. He's given all those folks a look at just a piece of what he's got. That's got to have their knees watery." --safari ...

... Benjamin Hart of New York captures the essence of Trump's self-defense in the hacking case: Obama failed to stop the hacking I asked for. ...

... Summary of GOP Response to Russia Interference. Aaron Rupar of ThinkProgress: "On Saturday, Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) parroted one of President Trump’s talking points, and attempted to shift blame for Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to former President Obama.... While DesJarlais resorted to straight-up lying, other Republicans responded to the latest Mueller indictment with desperate gaslighting.... Trump, meanwhile, responded to the indictment by pushing debunked conspiracy theories about the DNC hack being an inside job, and posting a string of tweets blaming Obama for not doing more to stop Russian interference before the 2016 election." --safari: A more feckless pack of rats has never been electorally assembled. ...

... Little Randy Boards the Trump Train. Brett Samuels: "Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Sunday said he believes it’s a 'waste of time' to try to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable for meddling in U.S. elections, arguing that the U.S. and other countries have engaged in similar behavior.... 'If we have proof that they did it, we should spend our time protecting ourselves instead of having this witch hunt on the president,' Paul said. 'I think we need to be done with this so we can protect our elections.'"

Stephen Castle of the New York Times: "Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday revealed the advice President Trump had given her on how to negotiate Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union: Go straight to court. Mrs. May was asked by the BBC about comments Mr. Trump made both in an interview in the British tabloid The Sun and later at a news conference on Friday at Chequers, the prime minister’s country residence, northwest of London. 'He told me I should sue the E.U.,' Mrs. May said.... During his long business career, Mr. Trump has been famously litigious, initiating cases and defending many, too." ...

... Dan Sabbagh of the Guardian: "The prime minister smiled, and indicated she had disregarded the advice, saying 'actually we’re going into negotiations with them', in remarks that will be interpreted as a put-down of the president." Mrs. McC: Both Castle & Sabbagh suggest that May & the interviewer, Andrew Marr, considered Trump's advice absurd. ...

... Who Knew Brexit Could Be So Complicated? The Queen, for One. Martin Pengelly of the Guardian: "Donald Trump has discussed his private conversation with the Queen who, as well as being 'beautiful inside and out', he said thinks Brexit is 'a very complex problem'.... 'It was a very easy talk,' he said. “... We had a great, a great feeling.' [Interviewer Piers] Morgan asked: 'Did you get the feeling she liked you?' 'Well I don’t want to speak for her,' Trump said, 'but I can tell you I liked her. So usually that helps. But I liked her a lot.' Asked if he had discussed Brexit, Trump said: 'I did. She said it’s a very – and she’s right – it’s a very complex problem. I think nobody had any idea how complex that was going to be… Everyone thought it was going to be, "Oh it’s simple, we join or don’t join, or let’s see what happens".... Speaking to ... Morgan in an interview published by the Mail on Sunday ahead of broadcast on ITV, the US president repeated his claim that he had given the prime minister, Theresa May, an 'option' to give the UK an advantage over the European Union in Brexit talks. He would not say what that option was. He also said he had told May to get a 'carve out' in any agreement with the EU, to make possible a trade deal with the US.... Asked about mass protests against him in London on Friday, the day of the interview, Trump insisted: “‘Some of them are protesting in my favour, you know that? There are many, many protests in my favour.'”

Paul Kelbie of the AP: "From the capital of Edinburgh to seaside golf resorts, thousands in Scotland staged colorful, peaceful protests against Donald Trump on Saturday as the U.S. president played golf at one of his luxury retreats.... On the beach outside [Trump's Turnberry] resort, a dozen demonstrators staged a 'protest picnic,' chanting 'Trump is a racist! Trump is a liar!' as hotel guests played golf just 100 meters (yards) away. A line of police, some on horseback, separated the protesters from the golf course. Snipers were also perched atop a nearby tower overlooking the vast property. Police were still trying to find a paraglider who breached a no-fly zone Friday night and flew a Greenpeace protest banner over the resort. The glider carried a banner reading 'Trump: Well Below Par' to protest his environmental and immigration policies. Greenpeace, in a statement, claimed the protest forced the president to take cover, saying 'as the glider appears overhead, the president can be seen making for the entrance, breaking into a trot.' The environmental group said it had told police about the stunt 10 minutes before the glider arrived.... In Edinburgh..., 10,000 people weaved through the capital’s streets in an anti-Trump protest as amused tourists looked on and motorists beeped their horns in support. A choir, a bagpiper, a tambourine band and poetry readings added to the carnival spirit. Protesters launched into the sky a 20-foot (6-meter) tall blimp depicting Trump as an angry orange baby holding a phone for tweeting.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: A number of the protest signs in Scotland read "Ya Radge Orange Bampot." I hadda look it up. It means something like, You mad orange idiot." Remember when the Irish claimed President O'Bama as their own? (And he is. So is Michelle O'Bama.) ...

     ... Those were the days. ...

... "The Arrogant American." David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "President Barack Obama had just wrapped up a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron when they took a detour, visiting a school in South London where they rolled up their sleeves and engaged a pair of students in a table tennis doubles match.... The informal photo op served a political purpose — presenting the two leaders as close partners in touch with the day-to-day lives of ordinary Britons. Such cultural moments have long been a staple of foreign trips for U.S. presidents determined to promote America’s democratic values and openness to the world.... President Trump ... has studiously avoided interacting with the public at large.... Trump also has largely eschewed public events during his previous foreign trips, and this weekend he is cloistered at his private golf resort in Turnberry, Scotland.... Trump campaigned as a populist against the ruling 'elite,' but on his foreign trips he has clearly reveled in the trappings of extravagant state visits.... Trump’s decision not to mix with the public 'makes him seem like the arrogant American that looks down his nose at all foreigners,' [historian David] Brinkley said. 'He’s not pandering to the Europeans; he’s using foreign trips to feed the base more red meat.'” ...

... “Super Callous Fascist Racist Sexist Loser POTUS.” Julia Rampen of Slate: Trump united Britain -- against Trump. "The opposition to the president’s visit to London was wide, and surprisingly diverse."

Dan Barry, et al., of the New York Times report on what life is like for children the Trump administration has captured & jailed. "Do not misbehave. Do not sit on the floor. Do not share your food. Do not use nicknames. Also, it is best not to cry. Doing so might hurt your case. Lights out by 9 p.m. and lights on at dawn, after which make your bed according to the step-by-step instructions posted on the wall. Wash and mop the bathroom, scrubbing the sinks and toilets. Then it is time to form a line for the walk to breakfast.... Do not touch another child, even if that child is your hermanito or hermanita — your little brother or sister.... Most of all, these facilities are united by a collective sense of aching uncertainty — scores of children gathered under a roof who have no idea when they will see their parents again." ...

     ... Over there is Right Wing World, they describe these Dickensian lock-ups as "essentially summer camps." ...

... Caitlin Dickerson of the New York Times: "The federal judge who ordered the swift reunification of thousands of migrant families sharply chastised the Trump administration late on Friday, after it said that complying with the judge’s order would increase the risk of harm to children.... 'Unfortunately, H.H.S. appears to be operating in a vacuum, entirely divorced from the undisputed circumstances of this case,' [Judge Dana Sabraw] said. Its position, he added, was inconsistent with explicit statements from top government officials — including the president himself — that the reunifications proceed, and do so quickly.... '... H.H.S. either does not understand the court’s orders or is acting in defiance of them,' Sabraw said.” ...

... Jamilah King of Mother Jones: "Immigration detention isn’t just costly—it’s deadlyEfrain De La Rosa, a 40-year-old Mexican national, was found unresponsive in his cell at Georgia’s Stewart Detention Center on July 10 and was pronounced dead soon after.... The cause of death appears to be suicide.... De La Rosa is the eighth person to die in U.S. immigrant detention centers so far this year.... Since 2002, the number of immigrants detained by ICE has fallen by more than half. But that hasn’t stopped private companies from doubling down on facilities to hold them.... ICE told Congress that it expects to spend $2.7 billion to detain 51,379 people this year." --safari ...

... How to Lose a White House Job: Stand up for Facts -- & Refugees. Nahal Toosi of Politico (July 13): "A top National Security Council official who skirmished with White House aide Stephen Miller and other immigration hardliners was forced out this week, the latest staffing change at the NSC since ... Donald Trump named John Bolton his national security adviser in March. Jennifer Arangio, a senior director in the NSC division that deals with international organizations, was let go Thursday, according to a former White House official and a former NSC staffer. The former NSC staffer said Arangio was escorted off the premises and told her services were no longer needed.... 'She has fought to correct misleading information about refugees and migrants provided to the president by Miller and the DPC,' the former White House official said.... Arangio is a lawyer and former Capitol Hill staffer who worked for Trump's presidential campaign as national director of women's engagement...."

Jill Serjeant of Reuters: "In Sacha Baron Cohen’s provocative new comedy show, American politicians are filmed backing a fictitious program to teach kindergartners how to use guns to defend themselves in school shootings.... Republican congressmen Dana Rohrabacher of California and Joe Wilson of South Carolina, along with former Senate Republican leader Trent Lott, who is now a lobbyist at a Washington law firm, are shown enthusiastically backing the idea, alongside gun rights advocates and a former congressman-turned-talk radio host, Joe Walsh.... Walsh ... told CNN on Saturday that he had been asked by a documentary crew to read lines from a teleprompter endorsing various supposed Israeli innovations, including the idea of arming four-year-olds to defend themselves against terrorists." ...

... Make Your Own Arsenal for Fun & Profit -- No Permit Required. Tiffany Hsu & Alan Feuer of the New York Times: "The United States last month agreed to allow a Texas man to distribute online instruction manuals for a pistol that could be made by anyone with access to a 3-D printer. The man, Cody Wilson, had sued the government in 2015 after the State Department forced him to take down the instructions because they violated export laws. Mr. Wilson, who is well known in anarchist and gun-rights communities, complained that his right to free speech was being stifled and that he was sharing computer code, not actual guns. The case was settled on June 29, and Mr. Wilson gave The New York Times a copy of the agreement this week. The settlement states that 3-D printing tutorials are approved 'for public release (i.e. unlimited distribution) in any form.' The government also agreed to pay nearly $40,000 of Mr. Wilson’s legal fees. The willingness to resolve the case — after the government had won some lower court judgments — has raised alarms among gun-control advocates, who said it would make it easier for felons and others to get firearms. Some critics said it suggested close ties between the Trump administration and gun-ownership advocates, this week filing requests for documents that might explain why the government agreed to settle.”

Senate Race. Phil Willon of the Los Angeles Times: "California Democratic Party leaders took a step to the left Saturday night, endorsing liberal state lawmaker Kevin de León for Senate in a stinging rebuke of Democratic icon Sen. Dianne Feinstein. De León’s victory reflected the increasing strength of the state party’s liberal activist core, which was energized by the election of Republican President Trump. The endorsement was an embarrassment for Feinstein, who is running for a fifth full term, and indicates that Democratic activists in California have soured on her reputation for pragmatism and deference to bipartisanship as Trump and a Republican-led Congress are attacking Democratic priorities on immigration, healthcare and environmental protections. De León, a former state Senate leader from Los Angeles, received 65% of the vote of about 330 members of the state party’s executive board — more than the 60% needed to secure the endorsement."

Presidential Race 2020. Alexander Burns & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: Sen. Elizabeth "Warren, 69, now leads a small advance guard of Democrats who appear to be moving deliberately toward challenging President Trump. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., wielding a political network cultivated over decades, has been reasserting himself as a party leader, while Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California have emerged as fresher-faced messengers for the midterms. And Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the runner-up in the 2016 primaries, has been acting like a candidate as he considers another race. All five have been traveling the country, raising money for Democrats and gauging the appeal of their personalities and favorite themes. As a group, they are a strikingly heterogeneous array of rivals for Mr. Trump, embodying the Democratic Party’s options for defining itself: They are distinguished by gender and race, span three decades in age and traverse the ideological and tonal spectrum between combative Democratic socialism and consensus-minded incrementalism."

Way Beyond the Beltway

Damian Carrington of the Guardian (July 12): "The Republic of Ireland will become the world’s first country to sell off its investments in fossil fuel companies, after a bill was passed with all-party support in the lower house of parliament. The state’s €8bn national investment fund will be required to sell all investments in coal, oil, gas and peat 'as soon as is practicable', which is expected to mean within five years. Norway’s huge $1tn sovereign wealth fund has only partially divested from fossil fuels, targeting some coal companies, and is still considering its oil and gas holdings. The fossil fuel divestment movement has grown rapidly and trillions of dollars of investment funds have been divested, including large pension funds and insurers, cities such as New York, churches and universities."

Friday
Jul132018

The Commentariat -- July 14, 2018

This Russia Thing Blows up in Trump's Face

Grand Jury Trolls Trump. Eileen Sullivan & Katie Brenner of the New York Times: "Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, on Friday announced new charges against 12 Russian intelligence officers accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee, the Clinton presidential campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The charges came just a few days before President Trump is expected to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Helsinki, Finland. The 11-count indictment includes charges of conspiracy by the Russian intelligence officials against the United States, money laundering and attempts to break into state election boards and other government agencies.... Mr. Rosenstein discussed the charges during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington as Mr. Trump met with Queen Elizabeth II in Britain, creating a bizarre split screen on cable news of presidential pomp and an ongoing investigation that has ensnared some of the president’s aides.... The indictment revealed that on July 27, 2016, Russian hackers tried for the first time to break into the servers of Mrs. Clinton’s personal offices. It was the same day that Mr. Trump publicly encouraged Russia to hack Mrs. Clinton’s emails.... Separately, the indictment states that the hackers were communicating with 'a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign.' Two government officials identified the person as Roger J. Stone Jr." Story has been updated. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... A pdf of the indictment is here. ...

... This Is Not a Coincidence. Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "In a news conference in July 2016, Donald J. Trump made a direct appeal to Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails and make them public.... As it turns out, that same day, the Russians ... made their first effort to break into the servers used by Mrs. Clinton’s personal office, according to a sweeping 29-page indictment.... The indictment did not address the question of whether the Russians’ actions were actually in response to Mr. Trump. It said nothing at all about Mr. Trump’s request for help from Russia — a remark that had unnerved American intelligence and law enforcement officials who were closely monitoring Russia’s efforts to influence the election. But the indictment did offer some clues about what happened, implying that the hacking had occurred later on the day Mr. Trump issued his invitation.... Investigators for Mr. Mueller would like to ask Mr. Trump what he knew about the hackings. The president has refused for several months to sit for an interview." ...

... David Graham of the Atlantic: "The indictment notes other examples of Russia releasing documents at times engineered to benefit the Trump campaign, though it doesn’t offer any evidence that Trump aides directed, or were aware of, those releases before they happened. The indictment notes that WikiLeaks released a tranche of emails allegedly stolen by Russia on July 22, 2016 — just three days before the DNC, a convenient stroke of timing for Trump. Then, on October 7, 2016, WikiLeaks released another batch of hacked emails within hours of the revelation of the Access Hollywood tape, in which Trump is overheard boasting about sexually assaulting women. In a statement responding to the indictment on Friday, the White House did not condemn Russian interference in the election, instead striking a purely defensive note regarding the president’s 2016 victory. 'Today’s charges include no allegations of knowing involvement by anyone on the campaign and no allegations that the alleged hacking affected the election result,' a spokeswoman said. 'This is consistent with what we have been saying all along.'” ...

... Ken Dilanian of NBC News writes a good, brief summary of the indictment's implications. Fer instance, "It’s a rare and major development for the Justice Department to indict officials of a foreign government. In almost every case, the president would have input into the decision, given the geopolitical implications. In this instance..., Rod Rosenstein said he briefed Trump last week on the indictment. But he didn’t say he sought permission." ...

... Ronn Blitzer of Law & Crime: "Rosenstein had a lot to say during his press conference, but what he didn’t say leaves a lot more questions yet to be answered.... Any time Rosenstein noted that Americans were not being accused of wrongdoing, he qualified it by saying there was nothing 'in this indictment' about that. That doesn’t mean that future indictments won’t include such allegations." ...

... Jonathan Chait: "The danger for Trump is the implication of collusion scattered throughout the indictments.... President Trump has been all but charged with collusion in this indictment." --safari ...

... tone has previously acknowledged exchanging direct messages on Twitter in August and September 2016 with Guccifer 2.0, who claimed to be a Romanian hacker. Stone has said there is no proof the account was connected to the Russians. But according to criminal charges filed Friday by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Guccifer 2.0 was actually operated by a group of Russian military intelligence officers based in Moscow. The Russians used Guccifer 2.0’s Twitter account to send multiple messages to 'a person who was in regular contact with senior members' of Trump’s campaign, Mueller wrote in the indictment.... In a text message Friday from his southern Florida home, Stone told The Washington Post that his exchanges with 'someone on Twitter claiming to be Guccifer 2.0 is benign based on its content context and timing.'” ...

...Josh Marshall: "[O]ne point I want to zero in on has to do with “Guccifer 2.0,”...The key is that it was known well before the 2016 election that Guccifer 2.0 was a Russian intelligence operative...Virtually every publication reported on the documents published by Wikileaks. But with Guccifer 2.0 many journalists were going to “him” with specific requests or getting special deliveries right from him. Specifically, one of his go-to publications was Jared Kushner’s New York Observer. And at the time Kushner was very much a hands-on owner." [no link b/c restricted access] --safari...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: If you're keeping up with fake news, you may believe Trump is in Scotland showing off his golf course, & that Rudy Giuliani is, well, someplace, but it turns out they're together in De State of De Nile:

... IT'S ALL OBAMA'S FAULT. Quint Forgey of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Saturday blamed the Obama administration for the actions of 12 Russian military officials indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller for hacking the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 campaign. 'The stories you heard about the 12 Russians yesterday took place during the Obama Administration, not the Trump Administration,' the president wrote on Twitter. 'Why didn’t they do something about it, especially when it was reported that President Obama was informed by the FBI in September, before the Election?' In another tweet, Trump asked, 'Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t the FBI take possession of it?” Deep State?'... [Rudy Giuliani responded to news of the indictment by saying,] 'The indictments Rod Rosenstein announced are good news for all Americans. The Russians are nailed. No Americans are involved. Time for Mueller to end this pursuit of the President and say President Trump is completely innocent.'” ...

... Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "Before he embarked on a week of transatlantic diplomacy, President Trump sat down with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who previewed for the boss an explosive development: The Justice Department would soon indict 12 Russian intelligence officers for hacking Democratic emails.... For the first time, the United States would be charging Russian government agents with planning and executing a sustained cyberattack to disrupt America’s democratic process. Yet Trump gave no sign in his commentary in Europe this week that he appreciated the magnitude of what he had been told was coming. Instead, he repeated his frequent attacks on the integrity of the wide-ranging Russia probe led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — while offering kind words for Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, who he is slated to meet here in Helsinki on Monday.... On Friday, just hours before Rosenstein announced the indictments from Justice Department headquarters in Washington, Trump stood on foreign soil — at a news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May ... — and denounced the investigation that produced them. 'I would call it the rigged witch hunt,' Trump said of the Mueller probe, which so far has yielded charges or guilty pleas against 32 Russians and Americans, including former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is in jail." ...

These revelations add to a body of evidence confirming an extensive plot by Vladimir Putin’s government to attack the 2016 election, sow chaos and dissension among the American electorate, and undermine faith in our democracy. If President Trump is not prepared to hold Putin accountable, the summit in Helsinki should not move forward. -- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

... Shannon Vavra of Axios: "Top Democratic leaders are calling on President Trump to cancel his one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday following a federal grand jury's indictment of 12 Russian military officers for conspiring to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.... The Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Mark Warner, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Adam Schiff, among several others, argue that the U.S. should pull out of the meeting until Russia agrees to offer evidence that it will stop interfering in American democracy." ...

... James Risen of The Intercept: "With his latest indictments on Friday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller drove a particularly sharp nail into the coffin of the conspiracy theories surrounding the cyber-attack on the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign during the 2016 election. Spoiler alert: The Russians really did do it.... But the indictment strongly suggests that even as the Russians hacked the American political system, the U.S. intelligence community was hacking the Russians in return. It includes accounts that appear to have been drawn from real-time U.S. intelligence surveillance of Russian computers watching, searching, and infecting with malware computers belonging to Democratic operatives and staffers." --safari ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: With these indictments, "yet another President Trump conspiracy theory is thoroughly repudiated by the Russia investigation. Trump has regularly cast doubt upon the idea that the Democratic National Committee was hacked by the Russians — and that it was hacked at all. At one point he even reportedly dispatched a conspiracy theorist to meet with then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo....” ...

David Corn of Mother Jones: "The latest news from special counsel Robert Mueller is a stunning indictment of … President Donald Trump and his Republican minions.... Yet many Republicans and conservatives have continued to avert their eyes from the matter — arguably the greatest political scandal in American history.... Though the indictment does not address this particular issue, it does indirectly cast light on the sin that Trump and his henchmen have been trying to hide: They helped this Russian operation by repeatedly insisting it wasn’t happening.... In between the lines, the indictment presents a grave charge: Trump abetted a serious Russian operation to undermine an American election. It also conveys an important message: This story is not over yet." --safari

... Darren Samuelsohn of Politico: “'It’s a big FU from Mueller,' a White House official said in an interview, speculating that it 'wasn’t an accident' that the public rollout landed right before the Putin summit. 'This is just one more case of political malpractice,' added Barry Bennett, a former Trump campaign adviser who remains close to the White House. 'These guys all deserve to be indicted and deserve to be convicted. But to do it the Friday before the Monday meeting? Not so smart.'... Rod Rosenstein ... insisted in a news conference that the timing of the indictments was 'a function of the collection of the facts, the evidence, and the law and a determination that it was sufficient to present the indictment at this time.'” Samuelsohn goes on to cite other people's opinions on the time. Mrs. McC: But here's the thing nobody mentions: the Mueller probe has been going on for more than a year. Trump very recently made an impetuous decision to meet with Putin. If there's a timing problem, it's Trump's, not Mueller's or Rosenstein's. ...

... Matt Ford of the New Republic: "It’s now clear that the Russian government will face no significant consequences for its unprecedented interference in the American political system in 2016, or at least none that will outweigh the tangible and intangible benefits it has reaped from its brazen attack on this country’s democracy.... Trump has said he will discuss Moscow’s efforts to meddle in American democracy. Those discussions will likely lack the hostility shown by the president towards the leaders of Canada and Germany.... 'Somebody was saying, is he an enemy?' he told reporters on Thursday, referring to Putin. 'He’s not my enemy. Is he your friend? No, I don’t know him very much. Hopefully, someday, he’ll be a friend. It could happen.' Maybe it already has.” ...

... Hiding in Plain Sight. Frank Dale of ThinkProgress: "Here are notable conservatives, several of whom now occupy top positions in the White House, who promoted Russian propaganda during the 2016 election. None of the following tweets have been deleted.... In addition to mentioning Wikileaks 164 times in the final month of the campaign alone, then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump promoted the emails that were stolen by Russian intelligence agents in numerous tweets.... Donald Trump Jr.... Eric Trump... Sean Hannity... Bill O'Reilly... Kellyanne Conway... Sarah Huckabee Sanders... White House director of social media [Dan Scavino]... Fox News host [Laura Ingraham]... Michael Cohen." Includes all their still-posted tweets. --safari ...

... Kevin Hall & Tim Johnson of McClatchy D.C.: "The use of so-called cryptocurrencies in global finance are likely to come under increased scrutiny after the Justice Department announced indictments Friday against 12 Russian military intelligence officers whose alleged conspiracy used bitcoin to set up and maintain hacking activities designed to undermine U.S. elections in 2016.... The 29-page indictment detailed how the Russian intelligence agents laundered the equivalent of $95,000 'through a web of transactions structured to capitalize on the perceived anonymity of crypto currencies such as bitcoin.' 'It is a backbone of the criminal universe, and the shift happened in less than five years. Right now, nothing happens without bitcoin. It is the default currency of pretty much every cyber criminal in the world and by definition intelligence operatives as well,' said Andrei Barysevich, who leads a research team at Recorded Future, a Somerville, Mass., cybersecurity firm." --safari

Julian Barnes of the New York Times: "The nation’s top intelligence officer said on Friday that the persistent danger of Russian cyberattacks today was akin to the warnings the United States had of stepped-up terror threats ahead of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. That note of alarm sounded by Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, came on the same day that 12 Russian agents were indicted on charges of hacking the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Mr. Coats said those indictments illustrated Moscow’s continuing strategy to undermine the United States’ democracy and erode its institutions.... Coming just days ahead of President Trump’s meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Mr. Coats’s comments demonstrate the persistent divisions within the administration on Russia.... Mr. Coats, a former Republican senator from Indiana, has helped position the intelligence agencies in the more hard-line camp, pushing for more aggressive actions to halt cyberattacks by Russia and other nations."

All the President's Henchmen. Rachel Bade & Kyle Cheney of Politico: "House conservatives are preparing a new push to oust Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, according to three conservative Capitol Hill sources — putting the finishing touches on an impeachment filing even as Rosenstein announced the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers for interfering in the 2016 election. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, in fact, had the impeachment document on the floor of the House at the very moment that Rosenstein spoke to reporters and TV cameras Friday.... Conservative sources say they could file the impeachment document as soon as Monday, as Meadows and Freedom Caucus founder Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) look to build Republican support in the House.... It is unclear how much support conservatives will have in their effort." ...

     ... Jeet Heer: "In announcing charges against 12 Russian officials today..., Rod Rosenstein tried to frame the ongoing investigation into 2016 election meddling as a non-partisan issue that all Americans should care about. 'When we confront foreign interference in American elections, it is important for us to avoid thinking politically as Republicans or Democrats and instead to think patriotically as Americans,' Rosenstein said.... If Rosenstein was hoping to get bipartisan buy-in for the Mueller investigation, he isn’t having much luck. Even as Rosenstein made his statement, House Republicans were ramping up efforts to impeach him.... The fact that congressional Republicans are willing to go after Rosenstein after the new indictments might be an indication that they fear the outcome of the Mueller investigation. ...

... Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "Republican lawmakers contend that former FBI lawyer Lisa Page provided new information during private testimony Friday that further convinces them political bias marred the investigations of Hillary Clinton’s emails and the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia. Though they offered no specifics, several GOP congressmen characterized Page as 'cooperative,' 'forthcoming' and' 'transparent' during her interview with the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees. The closed-door session lasted nearly five hours and was expected to resume Monday afternoon.... Page also defended herself as unbiased, GOP lawmakers said — a characterization with which they did not agree.... GOP lawmakers threatened to hold Page in contempt of Congress before she agreed to participate in the interview on Friday and tried to get her to appear alongside [Peter] Strzok on Thursday. But after speaking with her, some said they doubted it would be necessary to subject her to a public hearing...." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: "tried to get her to appear alongside Strzok on Thursday." Oh, Republicans would have loved that, wouldn't they? Shaming two former (I guess) lovers for 10 hours straight, carried live on C-SPAN & cable news. How about making them both wear T-shirts sporting big scarlet "A"s? Why not pose some good sex questions ala Brett Kavanaugh?

Time for a Commercial Break. Katie Rogers of the New York Times: "Mr. Trump is likely to tee off this weekend, ensconced from the public and the news media, at Trump Turnberry, the luxury resort where he will be staying.... Before arriving in Scotland — the birthplace of his mother, as well as that of Mr. Trump’s preferred pastime — the president managed repeatedly to plug Turnberry, one of two Scottish resorts that bear his name. The move has alarmed ethics experts, who say he is using his presidential platform to promote a resort that, according to financial filings, has been a burden on the family business.... At a hastily arranged news conference in Brussels..., Mr. Trump wove in a reference to Turnberry, on breathtaking bluffs and cliffs on the western coast of Scotland, calling it 'magical' and 'one of my favorite places.'... On Saturday morning, he again mentioned the resort on Twitter: 'I have arrived in Scotland and will be at Trump Turnberry for two days of meetings, calls and hopefully, some golf — my primary form of exercise! The weather is beautiful, and this place is incredible!'... 'I view this as kind of a forced subsidy of an infomercial for his properties,' Norman L. Eisen, the chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said in an interview on Friday.” ...

... MEANWHILE, Adam Davidson of the New Yorker is wondering where Trump got $200 million "to buy his money-losing Scottish golf club," especially since "has portrayed himself as uniquely aggressive in his use of debt.... We know very little about how money flowed into and out of these [foreign Trump] projects. All of these projects involved specially designated limited-liability companies that are opaque to outside review. We do know that, in the past decade, wealthy oligarchs in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere have seen real-estate investment as a primary vehicle through which to launder money. The problem is especially egregious in the United Kingdom, where some have called the U.K. luxury real-estate industry 'a money laundering machine.' Golf has been a particular focus of money laundering.”

I think they like me a lot in the U.K. -- Donald Trump, Thursday ...

U.K., Friday:

... CBS News: "Hordes of demonstrators converged in central London on Friday, intent on mocking U.S. President Donald Trump on his only full day of business with British leaders on what has been dubbed a 'working visit' to the United Kingdom. The visual cornerstone of the anti-Trump protests on Friday -- which include several organized marches by varying groups -- is a giant balloon depicting the U.S. leader as an angry, screaming orange baby in a diaper, clutching a cell phone with Twitter on the screen." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

The First Amendment Is Situational. Michael Grynbaum of the New York Times: "President Trump was in Britain on diplomatic business. But on Friday, he often appeared focused on ... the news media.... He shouted down a question from CNN, calling the network 'fake news.' He knocked NBC News for 'such dishonest reporting.' He falsely accused the London tabloid The Sun of cherry-picking quotes from an interview and complained about a photograph in The New York Times that, he said, made it look like he had a 'double chin.'... The spectacle of a president bashing his nation’s news organizations on foreign soil — in scenes broadcast live around the world — was a reminder of how Mr. Trump’s conduct with journalists can still shock.... When Jim Acosta, the CNN correspondent who is a preferred punching bag of Trump supporters, tried to ask a question during a news conference with the British prime minister..., Mr. Trump dismissed the query with a wave. 'CNN is fake news,' the president declared. 'I don’t take questions from CNN.' He then pointed at the raised hand of John Roberts, the White House correspondent for Fox News, saying, 'Let’s go to a real network.' 'We’re a real network, too, sir,' Mr. Acosta protested, visibly perturbed. Mr. Trump ignored him, and Mr. Roberts moved ahead with his question. Those sympathetic to Mr. Acosta asked why Mr. Roberts or the other correspondents who asked questions afterward had not paused to publicly defend CNN or its correspondent. They invoked an episode from 2009, when the Obama administration tried to ice out Fox News reporters, and other networks, including CNN, protested in solidarity.... Mr. Trump’s assertion that he does not take questions from CNN is false: a day earlier, he had answered a question from Jeremy Diamond, a CNN reporter, and he responds to CNN journalists during White House appearances.” ...

... Shane Croucher of Newsweek: "... Donald Trump has dismissed his controversial interview with The Sun newspaper in which he criticized British Prime Minister Theresa May’s handling of Brexit and praised her Conservative Party rival Boris Johnson, as 'fake news.' Trump and May were speaking to reporters at a press conference following bilateral talks at Chequers, the prime minister’s country residence. The president suggested not all of his comments about May were printed by The Sun, and that the newspaper had omitted the positive things he said about the prime minister. In fact, the Rupert Murdoch–owned tabloid had included positive comments made by Trump about May.” Mrs. McC: There is a recording of the interview. ...

... OR, as the WashPo headline has it, "Trump denies he said something that he said on a tape everyone has heard." Aaron Blake: "President Trump's complaints about 'fake news' are often dishonest. But rarely has it been so transparent. At a news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Britain on Friday, Trump claimed that a newspaper interview that quoted him criticizing May's Brexit and trade strategies was 'fake news.' 'I didn't criticize the prime minister,' he said. He went on to suggest a recording would vindicate him. The recording exists. And it completely and utterly contradicts Trump's claim." ...

... Trump Was Rude to Queen Elizabeth, too. Jennifer Hassan of the Washington Post: "It's generally quite difficult to upstage the queen of England, but President Trump might have managed to do so.... Described as 'cringeworthy' and 'uncomfortable' viewing on social media, footage of their walk together came under intense scrutiny. While touring the castle grounds, Trump maintained a relatively brisk walk, which saw the queen, at times, fall behind him as he led the way." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Trump's outing with Elizabeth was worse than that, IMO. The moment shows up in the video accompanying the WashPo story, beginning at about the 3:52. The Trumps & Elizabeth stood on a small platform while a band played, after which Donald & Elizabeth descended three steps to review the guard. There was no handrail. Elizabeth is 91 years old. Any normal sure-footed adult, man or woman, would take an elderly person's arm -- even if the elderly person is QEII -- to help her down the steps. As Elizabeth carefully & deliberately descended the stairs, Trump didn't bother to help. The only acceptable excuse for this would be if Trump received instructions from the palace not to assist Elizabeth. ...

Wow, lol. Even if she wasn’t the Queen, wouldn’t you let an elderly lady walk ahead of you?? He acts like he was raised in a barn. -- Tee, in a tweet ...

** Racist in Chief. Richard Wolffe of the Guardian: "There’s something to be said for using a foghorn to blast your racism across the continents.... 'I think it’s a very negative thing for Europe. I think it’s very negative,' [Trump] said, as if we didn’t hear him the first time with the foghorn. 'And I know it’s politically not necessarily correct to say that. But I’ll say it and I’ll say it loud. And I think they better watch themselves because you are changing the culture.'... The president of the United States just threatened the safety and security of immigrants the world over.... So now we know. The reason Trump ordered the separation of thousands of immigrant children from their parents – some never to be reunited again – was because they better watch themselves. They are changing the culture and it better stop or else they’ll get hurt.... So in the Trump spirit of saying it loud, it’s time to drop the euphemisms: Trump is today’s first major government to be led by the racist far right. It’s not some kind of new populist politics; it’s the old National Front." --safari

Former HHS Secretary Tom Price took 20 trips that violated federal requirements, according to a federal auditor that urged the department in a Friday report to recover at least $341,000 in wasted spending. Price, who was forced out last year following a Politico investigation into his extravagant use of private and military aircraft, has already voluntarily repaid the government around $60,000. It was not immediately clear how or if he might be forced to repay the rest. A department spokesman said HHS will seek guidance from the Justice Department 'whether there is legal basis for recoupment.'”

** Reserving Rights for Racists. Josh Marshall: "This is wild. You may have heard of the British far-right activist Tommy Robinson (actually a pseudonym for Stephen Yaxley-Lennon). He’s the founder of something called the English Defense League, a far-right nationalist group with a record of organized violence against British Muslims.... He’s currently serving a year sentence for breaking a UK law that bars certain kinds of publicity of on-going criminal trials.... [W]hen [Sam] Brownback [President Trump’s Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom] was meeting with the British Ambassador to the US recently he pressed him for better treatment of Robinson and apparently threatened that the US would go public with the criticism if his government did not.... The British were apparently bewildered by why a roving ambassador for religious freedom would lobby on behalf of a notorious anti-Muslim bigot with a record of violence in the UK." --safari: If this story pans out, I'm frankly speechless. Monsters.

Patricia Cohen of the New York Times: "Corporate profits have rarely swept up a bigger share of the nation’s wealth, and workers have rarely shared a smaller one. The lopsided split is especially pronounced given how low the official unemployment rate has sunk.... Hourly earnings have moved forward at a crawl, with higher prices giving workers less buying power than they had last summer. Last-minute scheduling, no-poaching and noncompete clauses, and the use of independent contractors are popular tactics that put workers at a disadvantage. Threats to move operations overseas, where labor is cheaper, continue to loom. And in the background, the nation’s central bankers stand poised to raise interest rates and deliberately rein in growth if wages climb too rapidly.... The United States may be leading other big industrialized countries in economic growth, but its labor force does not fare well in comparison. American workers’ share of their country’s total output fell much sharper and faster than the average reported by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The United States also had a larger proportion of low-wage workers than nearly every other member." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This is not accidental; it's all part of the Republican plan: the Trump tax break for the rich; the weakening of labor unions by every branch of the federal government as well as by state GOP-controlled legislatures; the hike in medical costs because of the gutting of ObamaCare; attacks on the social safety network; the Trump trade wars, etc. They'd make things much worse if they could; for instance, their continued calls for a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, which would tie their own hands during recessions.

Thursday
Jul122018

The Commentariat -- July 13, 2018

Afternoon Update:

Grand Jury Trolls Trump. Eileen Sullivan & Katie Brenner of the New York Times: "Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, on Friday announced new charges against 12 Russian intelligence officers accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee, the Clinton presidential campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The charges came just a few days before President Trump is expected to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Helsinki, Finland. The 11-count indictment includes charges of conspiracy by the Russian intelligence officials against the United States, money laundering and attempts to break into state election boards and other government agencies.... Mr. Rosenstein discussed the charges during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington as Mr. Trump met with Queen Elizabeth II in Britain, creating a bizarre split screen on cable news of presidential pomp and an ongoing investigation that has ensnared some of the president&'s aides." ...

I think they like me a lot in the U.K. -- Donald Trump, Thursday ...

U.K., Friday:

... CBS News: "Hordes of demonstrators converged in central London on Friday, intent on mocking U.S. President Donald Trump on his only full day of business with British leaders on what has been dubbed a 'working visit' to the United Kingdom. The visual cornerstone of the anti-Trump protests on Friday -- which include several organized marches by varying groups -- is a giant balloon depicting the U.S. leader as an angry, screaming orange baby in a diaper, clutching a cell phone with Twitter on the screen."

*****

Donald Trump Embarrasses the U.S. Again. And Again.

Seung Min Kim, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Trump sought Friday to tamp down tensions with British Prime Minister Theresa May, saying the leaders had a 'very, very strong' relationship -- hours after publication of an interview in which he questioned May's handling of 'Brexit,' praised her deposed foe Boris Johnson and threatened to upend the trade relationship between the two countries. 'We want to trade with the U.K., and the U.K. wants to trade with us,' Trump said at a joint news conference with the prime minister on Friday. 'I think she's doing a terrific job, by the way,' he added.The bombshell interview with the Sun, U.S. media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s British tabloid, landed as Trump was receiving a grand welcome from May, including a black-tie gala and an elaborate outdoor ceremony at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill." ...

Here's today's NYT liveblog of Trump's horrifying adventures abroad. A few lowlights: "The tension and uncertainty surrounding President Trump's trip to Britain reached new heights after the publication Thursday night of a bombshell interview in which he said Prime Minister Theresa May was taking the wrong approach to Brexit, praised her political rival and former foreign secretary, and renewed his feud with the mayor of London.... For the president to criticize and politically undercut Mrs. May, one of his closest international allies, on her home turf is an extraordinary breach of protocol.... Mr. Trump breathed new life into his long-distance, long-running feud with the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.... Mr. Khan said he thought it 'interesting that President Trump is not criticizing the mayors of other cities' that have experienced terrorist attacks. That appeared to be a reference to Mr. Khan's faith -- he is among few Muslims serving as mayor of a major Western city...." ...

... The Guardian's liveblog is here. ...

.. Trump Throws More Insults. Sarah Marsh of the Guardian: "Sadiq Khan has hit back at 'preposterous' claims made by Donald Trump, after the US president criticised London's mayor for doing a 'a bad job' on terrorism and crime in the capital.... The US president used an interview in the Sun to reignite his feud with Khan.... 'You have a mayor who has done a terrible job in London. He has done a terrible job. Take a look at the terrorism that is taking place. Look at what is going on in London. I think he has done a very bad job on terrorism.'... Trump's verbal attack on Khan came after the London mayor refused to block a plan to fly a giant inflatable 'Trump baby' near parliament." --safari ...

The New York Times liveblogged Trump's appalling visit to England on Thursday. "Near the end of a gala dinner that Prime Minister May was hosting for Mr. Trump Thursday night, word emerged that he had given a newspaper interview in which he criticized her handling of the Brexit negotiations and appeared to boost the fortunes of a political rival. If Mrs. May persists in seeking a so-called soft exit from the European Union, Mr. Trump reportedly told The Sun, she can forget about a separate pact with the United States.... 'If they do that,' the paper quoted him as saying, 'then their trade deal with the U.S. will probably not be made.' He had much warmer words for Boris Johnson, the ambitious British politician who just quit as foreign minister in an open break with May. Mr. Johnson, he said, would 'make a great prime minister.'" Nothing like suggesting your host should be deposed, recommending her replacement & threatening her to alter her own government's policies. Or else. Just astounding. ...

     ... Update. Steven Castle of the New York Times has more detail on Trump's interference in the British government's policies. ...

... Pippa Crerar of the Guardian: "In his interview [with the Murdoch-owned tabloid The Sun], which breaks all normal diplomatic conventions by criticising his host, Trump warned: 'If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal.' He claimed the prime minister ignored his advice on Brexit negotiations. 'I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it, but she didn’t listen to me,' he said.... Downing Street indicated that the prime minister was prepared to challenge Trump's remarks at the Chequers talks on Friday, which will also cover Russia and the Middle East. May said: 'What we are doing is delivering on the vote of the British people.' As May addressed the crowd of business leaders at Blenheim Palace who had gathered to welcome Trump, protests against the president were under way at the US embassy in London, with thousands more people expected to take to the streets on Friday." ...

... Eric Levitz of New York: Trump's attempts to further destabilize Theresa May's government "were the most undiplomatic remarks in Trump's interview (if not, in the modern history of Anglo-American relations). But they still weren't the most offensive quotes that the president gave to the paper. Here's a quick rundown of Trump's other, incendiary reflections: Immigrants have robbed Europe of its great culture. 'I think what has happened to Europe is a shame. Allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame. I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it's never going to be what it was and I don't mean that in a positive way....' Sadiq Khan, the (Muslim) mayor of London, is responsible for terrorism in that city -- because he allows immigrants to live there.... By disrespecting Trump, mayor Khan is disrespecting his own constituents -- because Europeans live in the United States.... The Washington Post is a lobbying firm whose only client is Jeff Bezos.... Trump is more beloved than Abraham Lincoln. 'You know, a poll just came out that I am the most popular person in the history of the Republican Party -- 92 per cent. Beating Lincoln. I beat our Honest Abe.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Somebody pull up Lincoln's polling numbers, please. Were those, like, Gallup polls or Rasmussen polls? Or what? Blithering idiot. ...

... Margaret Hartmann: "Donald Trump was invited to a state visit to the U.K. just one week into his presidency, but as he cultivated a feud with one of our closest allies, the trip was repeatedly delayed due to the threat of massive protests and downgraded to a 'working visit' -- meaning Trump would be denied his golden carriage ride. Trump couldn't let this humiliation stand, so he found a way to ensure that the headlines during his trip would focus on his scorching attacks, not the insults hurled at him by large swaths of the British public.... White House officials were reportedly scrambling to figure out what to say to May following the [Sun] interview. 'There's no way Trump will apologize,' a senior U.S. official told the [Washington] Post. 'But we also don't want to blow everything up.' Sarah Huckabee Sanders went with denial, as she often does. 'The president likes and respects Prime Minister May very much,' she said in a statement. 'As he said in his interview with The Sun she 'is a very good person' and he "never said anything bad about her."' She added that Trump ;is thankful for the wonderful welcome from the prime minister here in the U.K.'" ...

... Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura of the New York Times: "The protesters began assembling even before Air Force One touched down outside London on Thursday.... They jeered as the helicopter Marine One took off to ferry Mr. Trump to a black-tie gala dinner outside Oxford with Prime Minister Theresa May. Outside the dinner, at Blenheim Palace, where Churchill was born, a heavy police presence kept around 1,000 chanting demonstrators far away as Mr. Trump and Mrs. May, along with their spouses, were serenaded by trumpeters and other members of a military band.... The demonstrations will culminate in a march on Friday -- with the baby balloon flying overhead -- that is expected to be one of the nation's largest rallies since the 2003 protests against the American- and British-led invasion of Iraq.... More than 50 British organizations are involved in the protests, which aim to dog the president at nearly every stop of his visit."

... Annie Karni of Politico: "A day before ... Donald Trump's arrival [in England]..., Steve Bannon ... had set up a bare war room, of sorts, in a conference room at [a London hotel] to confer and conspire with leaders of Europe's surging populist movement. Bannon's goal, he said in a brief interview between meetings, is to help 'contextualize Trump' for a European audience that hates him and a fiery tabloid media culture that he believes doesn't give the American president a fair shake." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Philip Rucker, et al., of the Washington Post: "The NATO summit was concluding on course ... Thursday, with European leaders pleased that their unruly American counterpart had been surprisingly well behaved, if not truly conciliatory.... Then President Trump showed up, a half-hour late and with another agenda. He effectively took a meeting over Georgia and Ukraine hostage by seizing the floor and, one by one, scolding and shaming countries for their defense spending.... Some diplomats said they feared he could well try to withdraw the United States from NATO, rupturing the existing world order. For more than an hour, the transatlantic alliance was caught in the chaos of Trump's making -- until the president called an impromptu news conference to announce that everything, in fact, was just fine.... Thursday's events in Brussels were a signature Trump spectacle, with other presidents and prime ministers cast as bit players in his drama. Trump was unpredictable and unreliable. He was direct and at moments crass with the United States' historical partners, vague on substance and misleading with facts and figures. He grabbed the spotlight for himself, sending the entire Western alliance scrambling to satisfy his whims and desires.... And he declared unprecedented victory, though his partners said little new had actually been agreed upon." ...

... ** David Taylor of the Guardian: "Donald Trump shrouded Brussels in his personal fog of war as he brought confusion and half-truths to the Nato summit, before claiming an imaginary victory over America's allies in a conflict of his own making. As he flew off to the UK on Thursday for the next leg of his European tour, it was left to President Emmanuel Macron of France to correct the record following Trump's freewheeling press conference in which he claimed to have pushed allies into new defence spending commitments. 'There is a communique that was published yesterday. It's very detailed,' Macron said. 'It confirms the goal of 2% by 2024. That's all.' Here is a list of fact checks on some of the US president's claims on Thursday[.]" ...

David Herszenhorn & Jacopo Barrigazi of Politico: "As a NATO summit he threw into chaos wrapped up Thursday..., Donald Trump cheekily declared himself a 'very stable genius.' The other world leaders present mostly begged to differ. Trump's wildly unpredictable performance over two days in Brussels left many European leaders convinced that there is little method to the American president's rhetorical madness, and simply no way to anticipate what he might do next.... Leaders who spent the first 18 months of Trump’s presidency thinking there might be a method to his chaos creation ... now seem to have concluded that it’s just chaos, and that Trump himself may not understand what he's doing.... Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said he confronted Trump, noting that the Danish military had suffered casualties participating in the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan roughly in the same proportion as the U.S. military. In an emotional presentation, Rasmussen told the president that he had attended the funerals and could not accept Trump telling him that Denmark was not doing enough for NATO. 'In direct and clear speech, I have made it clear to him that Denmark's contribution cannot be measured in money,' Rasmussen said." ...

... New York Times Editors: "Now that the smoke has cleared from the NATO summit meeting, the most tangible result is apparent: President Trump advanced President Barack Obama's initiative to keep the allies on track to shoulder a more equitable share of NATO's costs.... It's imperative that Congress, which has abdicated to Mr. Trump on many crucial issues, pass immediately legislation prohibiting him from leaving NATO unilaterally. The Senate had to ratify the treaty when America created NATO, and it should block any move to destroy the alliance that has been an anchor of trans-Atlantic stability over seven decades." ...

... Pastries & Cheese Update: As President Trump ranted against Germany during a NATO breakfast Wednesday, "John Kelly ... began to fidget.... White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders later said that Kelly 'was displeased because he was expecting a full breakfast and there were only pastries and cheese.... Asked about how the breakfast went later, [NATO Secretary General Jens] Stoltenberg quipped that he had 'eggs and toast and orange juice and some good fruit salad -- and it was paid for by the United States.'" Mrs. McC: Gee, I guess those reports about Kelly's being left out of everything are true.

** Paul Krugman: "Whatever claims Trump makes about other countries' misbehavior, whatever demands he makes on a particular day, they're all in evident bad faith. Mr. Art of the Deal doesn't want any deals. He just wants to tear things down. The institutions Trump is trying to destroy were all created under U.S. leadership in the aftermath of World War II.... What's his motivation? Part of the answer is that anything that weakens the Western alliance helps Vladimir Putin; if Trump isn't literally a Russian agent, he certainly behaves like one on every possible occasion. Beyond that, Trump obviously dislikes anything that smacks of rule of law applying equally to the weak and the strong.... He doesn't want negotiations with our allies and trading partners to succeed; he wants them to fail. And by the time everyone realizes this, the damage may be irreversible." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: It's worth noting that more & more often, pundits are referring to Trump as a Russian agent or Russian asset. They usually describe that description as a possibility, as Krugman does here, but it's out there. We should take heed.

Zeina Karam of the AP: "As fighting wanes after seven years of war [in Syria], the U.S. has made curtailing Iran's influence in post-war Syria a strategic objective -- one strongly backed by Israel. Ahead of the much-anticipated meeting, officials from the U.S. and Russia have signaled that a broad framework for such a deal is likely to be the main outcome.... In an interview with CBS news earlier this month, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said Iran, not Assad, was the 'strategic issue.'... Diplomacy has gone into high gear ahead of Monday's Trump-Putin summit, suggesting a political deal is in the making." --safari ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Experts, not to mention casual observers, are guessing any "political deal" Trump makes with Putin on Syria would better be described as a "major capitulation."...

...This report should remind us of Adam Entous' New Yorker article detailing the Israeli, Saudi & Emerati attempt to "swap Ukraine for Syria". --safari

House Republicans Embarrass the U.S. Again and Again.

There is a criminal investigation into the Trump campaign and possible crimes related to the 2016 presidential election involving collusion with Russian spies to sell out our democracy and hijack the presidency. My colleagues in the cover-up caucus don't like that criminal investigation, and therefore, they need to identify a villain. Mr. Strzok, tag, you're it. -- Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) ...

... ** Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "The embattled F.B.I. agent [Peter Strzok] who oversaw the opening of the Russia investigation mounted an aggressive personal defense on Thursday, rejecting accusations that he let his private political views bias his official actions and labeling Republican attacks on him 'another victory notch in Putin's belt.'... The fiery hearing, convened by House Judiciary and Oversight committees, devolved into a spectacle almost as soon as it began, as pent-up rage between House Republicans and the F.B.I. broke into the open in spectacular fashion." Mrs. McC: The hearing, which is ongoing at 12:45 pm, is ridiculous. The Republicans seem to be stark, staring mad. I mean that; they're nuts. (Also linked yesterday, but much expanded since initial publication -- the Louis Gohmert part is classic.) ...

... Here's one of many examples of Strzok giving better than he got from the mad dogs:

... Washington Post Editors: "With all its yelling and interruptions, the hearing was a fitting coda to the hyperpartisan farce of an investigation that House Republicans have conducted into the FBI and Mr. Mueller's Russia probe.... The [text] messages are not proof of anything other than Mr. Strzok's personal feelings -- and, in committing them to writing on company equipment, his poor judgment.... In the end, the hearing did more to harm Congress and the FBI than it did to expose wrongdoing.... Mr. Strzok is not the perfect messenger, but he was right about this message: 'Russian interference in our elections constitutes a grave attack on our democracy,' he said. 'Most disturbingly, it has been wildly successful -- sowing discord in our nation and shaking faith in our institutions. I have the utmost respect for Congress's oversight role, but I truly believe that today's hearing is just another victory notch in [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's belt and another milestone in our enemies' campaign to tear America apart.'" ...

... Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "In a written statement offered before he testified before the House Oversight Committee on Thursday, [Peter] Strzok pointedly noted that there was no effort on his part to keep Trump from winning the White House -- and, further, that he was one of only a few people who could have potentially leaked details from the investigation in an effort to block Trump's victory. 'In the summer of 2016,' Strzok wrote, 'I was one of a handful of people who knew the details of Russian election interference and its possible connections with members of the Trump campaign. This information had the potential to derail, and quite possibly, defeat Mr. Trump. But the thought of exposing that information never crossed my mind.' This is a nearly impossible point to rebut." ...

... Rick Wilson of the Daily Beast: "Strzok was supposed to be a key in the imaginary conspiracy that Trump's congressional lackeys and media fantasists have desperately tried to write as history. The idea that his text messages poison the entire Mueller investigation was a pillar of their defense of the president. This morning they were going for a quick kill....The Gowdy, Goodlatte, and Gaetz types needed their grandstanding, dick-waving mock outrage to leave Strozk shaking and begging for mercy. Strozk had none of it. In this morning's round he left the Trumpists of the House staggered in their corner, cut and shaky, wondering where Stozok learned to hit back that hard." ...

... Paul Waldman in the Washington Post: Republicans "want us to believe there was an FBI conspiracy to prevent Trump from being elected president, and what did that conspiracy do? First, it mounted a cautious investigation of what nearly everyone now acknowledges was a comprehensive effort by Russia to help Trump get elected, an effort that people on the Trump campaign and even in Trump's own family tried to cooperate with. But then it kept that investigation completely secret from the public.... You will notice that Republicans have not been able to produce any evidence that Strzok or anyone else took any official action that was biased, unfair or inappropriate in their investigation of Russian interference and the Trump campaign.... The idea that the bureau attempted to hinder Trump's election ... is contradicted by everything they did.... We do know, on the other hand, that as one report said just before the election, 'Deep antipathy to Hillary Clinton exists within the FBI, multiple bureau sources have told the Guardian, spurring a rapid series of leaks damaging to her campaign just days before the election.' As one agent put it at the time, 'The FBI is Trumpland.'" ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "... on Thursday, the Republican members of ... two [House] committees sought to put him on the griddle before the cameras in a joint hearing, only to discover that messing with G-men can be dangerous. It was they and their President who got burned.... Not content with undermining the logic of his inquisitors, Strzok also dared to question their motivation, and even their patriotism.... House Republicans invested what was left of their credibility in a conspiracy theory that was now blowing up in their faces, live on television." ...

... Steve M.: "[T]he dichotomy in the minds of most liberals and leftists [is]: politeness vs. insolence. Keep it civil or get down in the gutter.... But sometimes there's a third choice: righteous indignation. That's what Strzok delivered today. When you respond to Republicans this way, you're in their faces, but you're not challenging order and propriety, you're making a serious claim to represent those things. You're saying that you stand for civility and your adversaries don't.... Opponents of Trump and the Republicans should keep this approach in mind. To be forceful, you don't always have to be uncivil. You can also, in civil but forceful language, accuse the other side of being a threat to civilization." --safari

Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times: "The White House has rebuffed concerns among American intelligence and law enforcement officials and ordered that more lawmakers be given access to classified information about an informant the F.B.I. used in 2016 to investigate possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.... Both the director of national intelligence and the director of the F.B.I. tried to keep the classified documents tightly restricted.... Some American officials believe, in fact, the reason the White House made the decision was to provide political ammunition to President Trump's Republican allies who have argued -- without any evidence -- that the F.B.I. investigation was opened in July 2016 as an effort to keep Mr. Trump from becoming president."

Rachel Weiner & Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post: "Officials confirmed [Paul Manafort] was booked Thursday morning into the Alexandria Detention Center, a complex of brick buildings just off the Capital Beltway and a few blocks from the federal courthouse where he is to be tried later this month on bank and tax fraud charges.... Manafort ... had asked for that trial to be continued in large part because he was being held 100 miles away in the Northern Neck Regional Jail. But he resisted being brought to Alexandria. In the Northern Neck, he had a private phone and computer and did not have to wear a uniform, according to prosecutors. In Alexandria, there are no private electronics for inmates, and Manafort was wearing a green jumpsuit when his mug shot was taken Thursday."

Chris Sommerfeldt of the New York Daily News: "President Trump's former fixer and personal lawyer Michael Cohen bought a $6.7 million apartment in a brand new Manhattan skyscraper less than a week before FBI agents raided his home, office and hotel room in April, according to records and reports." He has a mortgage. Mrs. McC: Could be a problem.


** Carol Leonnig
, et al., of the Washington Post: "Jared Kushner ... lacks the security clearance level required to review some of the government's most sensitive secrets, according to two people familiar with his access. For the first year of the Trump administration, Kushner had nearly blanket access to highly classified intelligence, even as he held an interim security clearance and awaited the completion of his background investigation. But when White House security officials granted him a permanent clearance in late May, he was granted only 'top secret' status -- a level that does allow him to see some of the country's most closely guarded intelligence, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.... Kushner has not been approved to review 'sensitive compartmented information,' better known as SCI. The Central Intelligence Agency determines who can access this information, which primarily involves U.S. intelligence sources and surveillance methods, they said. That has blocked Kushner at times from seeing some parts of the President's Daily Brief, a highly classified summary of world events that sometimes describes intelligence programs and operatives, the people said. Kushner's lack of SCI access suggests that the CIA has not signed off on him receiving that level of intelligence, security experts said."

Bill Allison of Bloomberg: "U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday that he would divest all his remaining equity holdings after the government's top ethics watchdog said his failure to sell off assets that could pose a conflict of interest 'created the potential for a serious criminal violation.'... In reports filed in the last month by the Office of Government Ethics, Ross disclosed sales of assets which, the filings said, he had inadvertently failed to sell on time, including at least $20 million worth of Invesco shares. That led the ethics office's acting director, David Apol, to tell Ross in a letter released Thursday that his failure to sell the assets may have 'negatively affected' public trust in the Trump administration." [Open in private window] --safari


AP: "The Trump administration has said all eligible small children separated from their families as a result of its 'zero-tolerance' immigration policy have now been reunited with their parents. But nearly half of the 103 children under the age of five remain separated from their families because of safety concerns, the deportation of their parents and other issues, the administration said.... The officials said 46 of the children were not eligible to be reunited with their parents; a dozen parents had already been deported and were being contacted by the administration. Nine were in custody of the US marshals service for other offenses. One of the children deemed ineligible was identified Tuesday as perhaps being a US citizen, along with their parent who officials have been unable to locate for over a year. Officials declined to provide more information on that case Thursday." ...

... ** Gene Robinson: "The Trump administration's kidnapping -- that's the proper word -- of the children of would-be migrants should be seen as an ongoing criminal conspiracy. Somebody ought to go to jail.... The reasons [the administration gave] for failing to comply fully with [Judge Dana] Sabraw's order sound reasonable, unless you take into account the bad faith with which the administration has conducted this whole sordid exercise.... Given that the intention from the beginning was clearly to frighten and intimidate would-be migrants from Central America, why should anyone believe that the administration is acting or speaking in good faith now?" ...

... Gabriel Stargardter of Reuters: "Mexico is opposed to a U.S. request to make people seeking asylum in the United States apply in Mexico instead, according to a source and a briefing note, in a setback to U.S. efforts to deepen cooperation on immigration before a leftist president takes office.... [D]espite growing U.S. pressure for it to accept the treaty, Mexico views the proposal as a red line it will not cross." --safari ...

... E.A. Crunden of ThinkProgress: "U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) acknowledged that as of the end of June, up to 1,495 detainees were being kept at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington.... The detention facility, which essentially serves as a prison, is located within a Superfund site -- the designation given to areas contaminate by hazardous waste and selected by the EPA for cleanup due to the danger they pose to both human health and the environment.... [T]he facility is one of the largest immigrant detention centers in the country" --safari: Maybe they could chain-gang the 'aliens' and send 'em out for clean-up duties? ...

... Billion $ Babies. Martha Mendoza & Larry Fenn of the AP: "Detaining immigrant children has morphed into a surging industry in the U.S. that now reaps $1 billion annually -- a tenfold increase over the past decade.... Health and Human Services grants for shelters, foster care and other child welfare services for detained unaccompanied and separated children soared from $74.5 million in 2007 to $958 million in 2017. The agency is also reviewing a new round of proposals amid a growing effort by the White House to keep immigrant children in government custody. Currently, more than 11,800 children, from a few months old to 17, are housed in nearly 90 facilities in 15 states." --safari ...

... ** Michiko Kakutani in a New York Times op-ed: "My mother's family was among the 120,000 people of Japanese descent on the West Coast who were dispatched to internment camps during World War II.... History is repeating itself. This time without even the pretext of war, and with added heartbreaking cruelty. Under Mr. Trump's 'zero tolerance' border enforcement policy, nearly 3,000 children were separated from their parents.... Once again, national safety is invoked as a rationale for the roundup of whole groups of people. Once again, racist stereotypes are being used by politicians to ramp up fear and hatred. And once again, lies are being used to justify actions that violate the most fundamental American ideals of freedom, equality and tolerance."


Sabrina Siddiqui
of the Guardian: "Donald Trump has released a letter he received from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un while touting 'great progress' in negotiations between the United States and Pyongyang -- despite reports of a breakdown in talks.... Trump's comments came just hours after North Korean officials failed to show up at a planned meeting on Thursday with their US counterparts to discuss the repatriation of the remains of American soldiers killed in the Korean war." --safari ...

... Brett Samuels of the Hill: "North Korean officials reportedly did not show up Thursday at a scheduled meeting with U.S. officials to discuss returning the remains of American soldiers, and instead suggested talking with United Nations military leaders about the issue. Yonhap News in South Korea reported that North Korea asked the United Nations Command to hold 'general-level military talks' about returning the remains of American troops killed in the Korean War. A source told Yonhap that North Korea 'wants a U.S. general to appear at the table to quickly finalize the repatriation issue.'" Mrs. McC: Good. There's a job for John Kelly, who is reportedly useless at the White House. More fun if there's nothing for breakfast but North Korean Potatoes ala Pompeo. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Gangster Regime. Alex Lockie of Business Insider: "A North Korean diplomat reportedly told an Israeli diplomat in 1999 that Pyongyang would provide ballistic missile technology to Iran, a state sworn to destroy Israel, unless it paid up to the tune of $1 billion. North Korea has a long and well documented history of providing weapons technology, including chemical and nuclear weapon infrastructure, to countries like Iran and Syria. While Pyongyang commands a few dozen operational nuclear warheads, according to intelligence reports, its real threat to the world lies not in starting an outright nuclear war, but in selling nuclear weapons to states, or terrorists, that may use them. It's unclear if Israel ever paid North Korea's blackmail, though Israel would later destroy an Iranian nuclear reactor that North Korea was suspected of helping build. [In a report in the Wall Street Journal published Sunday (firewalled), Israel rejected the offer]. --safari

Trade Wars Are Easy to Win, Ctd. Alan Rappeport & Jim Tankersley of the New York Times: "The trade war between the United States and China showed no signs of yielding on Thursday, as Steven Mnuchin the Treasury secretary, told lawmakers there was no clear path to resolution and Beijing blasted the administration over its approach. Mr. Mnuchin, who has tried to avoid calling the trade tensions with China a 'war,' said talks with Beijing had 'broken down' and suggested it was now up to China to come to the table with concessions. President Trump, speaking in Brussels on Thursday, described the trade talks with China as a 'nasty' battle. The Chinese, meanwhile, accused the United States of 'acting erratically' and said the administration had 'blatantly abandoned the consensuses that two sides have reached and insisted on fighting a trade war with China.'"

Frances Robles of the New York Times: "The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s plans for a crisis in Puerto Rico were based on a focused disaster like a tsunami, not a major hurricane devastating the whole island. The agency vastly underestimated how much food and fresh water it would need, and how hard it would be to get additional supplies to the island. And when the killer storm did come, FEMA's warehouse in Puerto Rico was nearly empty, its contents rushed to aid the United States Virgin Islands, which were hammered by another storm two weeks before. There was not a single tarpaulin or cot left in stock. Those and other shortcomings are detailed in a FEMA report assessing the agency's response to the 2017 storm season, when three major hurricanes slammed the United States in quick succession, leaving FEMA struggling to deliver food and water quickly to storm victims in Puerto Rico. The after-action report describes an initially chaotic and disorganized relief effort.... The report confirms many of the criticisms that have been leveled at the agency...."

Mark Hand of ThinkProgress: "Among the hundreds of people arrested in North Dakota for protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, Native Americans faced the most serious charges.... Activists viewed the federal charges brought against [the] Native Americans as an attempt by the government to exert a chilling effect on indigenous-led resistance to resource extraction and fossil fuel infrastructure." --safari

Alan Blinder of the New York Times: "The federal government has quietly revived its investigation into the murder of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old African-American boy whose abduction and killing remains, almost 63 years later, among the starkest and most searing examples of racial violence in the South. The Justice Department said that its renewed inquiry, which it described in a report submitted to Congress in late March, was 'based upon the discovery of new information.'" (Also linked yesterday.)

Today's Best Headline: "A Family Of Woodchucks Ate Paul Ryan's Car" ...

... Matt Yglesias of Vox: "Speaking to reporters Thursday morning at the Economic Club of Washington, House Speaker Paul Ryan had three clear messages on trade: He thinks the Trump administration's trade wars are misguided, he doesn't intend to do anything about it, and he is a deeply dishonest person who is committed to pretending that there&'s nothing he can do about it.... If Paul Ryan and other congressional Republicans who've long supported free trade wanted to write legislation curtailing Trump's ability to invoke spurious national security claims to raise taxes on imported goods, it seems overwhelmingly likely that they would be able to get the votes to do so."

Chris D'Angelo & Alexander Kaufman of Mother Jones: "House Republicans on Wednesday voted to weaken a much-praised 1976 law that helped revive the commercial fishing industry in the United States and bring its fisheries back from the brink of collapse. The bill, introduced by Rep. Don Young(R-Alaska), would remove annual catch limits on numerous fish species and roll back requirements for recovering overfished stocks. Many scientists, fishers and ocean advocacy groups say that will likely result in overfishing.... The measure must still be approved by the Senate, although it's unclear if or when that chamber will take up the bill." --safari

Jay Michaelson of the Daily Beast: "... in a speech given just last year to the American Enterprise Institute, [Brett] Kavanaugh made it perfectly clear that he believes Roe to have been wrongly decided.... 'Justice Rehnquist was not successful in convincing a majority of the justices in the context of abortion either in Roe itself or in the later cases such as Casey, in the latter case perhaps because of stare decisis. But he was successful in stemming the general tide of freewheeling judicial creation of unenumerated rights that were not rooted in the nation's history and tradition,' [Kavanaugh said.]... There is no doubt, reading this 2017 speech, that Judge Kavanaugh believes not just Roe but the entire series of cases of which it is a part to be 'freewheeling' judicial legislation of 'social policy.'" Thanks to Akhilleus for the link. (Also linked yesterday.)

"Fair & Balanced." Frank Dale of ThinkProgress: " On Wednesday, Facebook announced the lineup of its series of news shows produced exclusively for the platform. Nearly half of the scheduled content consists of Fox News programming.... Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the platform would prioritize 'high quality' news. Zuckerberg has seemed sensitive to claims of left-wing bias over the past year, partnering with a right-wing outlet to fact-check stories ... and hiring two major conservative groups to determine whether the platform displays a liberal bias.... In response to questions about why Infowars is still allowed on its platform, Facebook cited free speech." --safari ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This really is appalling. Did Facebook consult with professors at reputable journalism schools to make its programming decisions? Did it have any sort panel of experts to review its choices? Or -- more likely -- did some high-ranking FB techies meet with the "two major conservative groups" & let the "groups" decide what "high-quality news" looks like? The legitimization of Fox "News" is one of the country's biggest problems, frankly, and the Facebook Seal of Approval -- along with the new content that will appear on FB's channel -- goes a long way toward normalizing the abnormal. See also safari's comment below.

Charles Rabin, et al., of the Miami Herald: "Records obtained by the Miami Herald suggest that during the tenure of former chief Raimundo Atesiano [of Biscayne Park, a town near Miami], the command staff pressured some officers into targeting random black people to clear cases.... In a report from that probe, four officers -- a third of the small force -- told an outside investigator they were under marching orders to file the bogus charges to improve the department's crime stats. Only [one officer] specifically mentioned targeting blacks, but former Biscayne Park village manager Heidi Shafran, who ordered the investigation after receiving a string of letters from disgruntled officers, said the message seemed clear for cops on the street." Via New York.

Michelle Van Dyke of BuzzFeed: "A man who was filmed yelling and getting in the face of a woman for wearing a shirt with Puerto Rico's flag has been charged with a felony hate crime. Timothy Trybus, 62, berated 24-year-old Mia Irizarry in June while she was setting up for a birthday party in a Chicago park and wearing the shirt.... The Cook County State's Attorney's Office told the Chicago Tribune the new charges for Trybus come after reviewing the case.... Trybus was arrested and charged Thursday with two counts of felony hate crime, after already having been charged with misdemeanor assault and misdemeanor disorderly conduct.... County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr., told reporters Thursday that [police officer Patrick] Connor [who did noting to help Irizarry despite her repeated pleas] had 'embarrassed many of our law enforcement officers' and 'tarnished the whole department' by not intervening." Connor resigned from the force. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Irizarry posted her video on Facebook, & it eventually went viral, prompting outrage & forcing Cook County to do something. This outcome also forces me to admit that Facebook can be useful. Trybus & Connor would have got away if not for Irizarry's Facebook posting.

Beyond the Beltway

AP: "Maine's fiscally conservative governor says he'd rather go to jail before expanding Medicaid and putting the state in 'red ink.' Gov. Paul LePage made the remark Tuesday during a call-in on WVOM-FM. Nearly three out of five voters last fall voted to expand Medicaid to 80,000 Mainers by July 2. Advocates are encouraging Mainers to sign up. The Republican governor is fighting a court order requiring him to follow the voter-approved law and submit paperwork needed for Maine to receive federal funding. He successfully vetoed a bill to fund Maine's share of expansion with surplus and tobacco settlement funds." Mrs. McC: The best thing would be for the state to expand Medicaid AND send LePage to jail.