The Wires
The Ledes

Thursday, August 16, 2018.

Chicago Tribune: "Aretha Franklin, who died Thursday at 76, was a once-in-a-generation singer. She was the Queen of Soul, but she also ventured into — and mastered — virtually every style of music, from jazz and classical to rhythm and blues. She passed away at her home in Detroit." ...

     ... Update: Franklin's New York Times obituary is here. ...

Washington Post: "Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Indian prime minister who oversaw nuclear tests that ushered in a new arms race in South Asia starting in the late 1990s, died Aug. 16 at a hospital in New Delhi. He was 93."

Public Service Announcement

August 8: About to give birth? About to get a new job? Beware the poppy-seed bagel. Seriously. Washington Post: "... poppy seeds really can make you fail a drug test, both peer-reviewed scientific studies and unofficial experiments conducted by journalists have found. Because they’re derived from opium poppies, they sometimes contain traces of morphine ― not enough to get you high, obviously, but potentially enough to register on a highly sensitive drug test." The report cites several instances in which mothers lost custody of their newborns because the mothers failed routine (but outdated) drug tests.

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."

Variety: "Showtime has ordered a three-part documentary series on the changing role of athletes in the current political environment that boasts LeBron James among its executive producers.... The series is titled 'Shut Up and Dribble,' taken from conservative pundit Laura Ingraham’s remarks to James in February when players from the Golden State Warriors declined an invitation to the White House after the 2018 NBA Finals. The controversy serves as a prologue to the series as it chronicles the modern history of the NBA...."

Guardian: Researchers at Rutgers U. are perfecting a technique they believe will detect painting forgeries. "... the new technique takes a hard look at the picture itself: Specifically, the thousands of tiny individual strokes that compose it.... The idea of fingerprinting artists via their strokes actually dates back to the 1950s.... The problem, though, was that there was too much data." But computer technology may be able to do the analysis that presented too much data for the human eye to detect.

Washington Post: "... some of the ancient human remains found at Stonehenge have unusually distant origins, according to a new archaeological study of cremated bones published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports. The remains offer another line of evidence connecting Stonehenge to Wales, 140 miles away. A quarry in Wales is probably the source of Stonehenge's bluestones.... It is possible, the authors of the new study say, that people buried at the henge came from the same Welsh region.... 'Forty percent of the people who we analyzed could not have lived in Stonehenge for the last decade or so of their life,' [Christophe] Snoeck[, who led the investigation,] said."

Mrs. McC: "The Swedish Job" sounds like every modern heist movie I've seen. Slate: "Around midday Tuesday, the cathedral of the Swedish town of Strängnäs, not far from Stockholm, was hosting a event for the public in one of its side chapels.... Some of Sweden’s most priceless royal jewels were held [there].... According to the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, during the lunchtime event, two thieves smashed the protective cases covering the jewels ... and fled with their loot toward the nearby but vast Lake Mälaren, which is dotted with hundreds of islands. There, a witness saw the men jump into a small motorboat and speed off. Quickly, police launched a manhunt, with helicopters and boats, but they found no trace of the two men." ...

Hollywood Reporter: Hillary Clinton "is teaming with Steven Spielberg's Amblin Television to bring Elaine Weiss' critically acclaimed book The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote to the small screen. The drama will mark Clinton's debut as an exec producer."

Huffington Post: "When it was revealed last week that longtime Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle would be leaving the network..., [her] departure was initially billed as her decision. However, as HuffPost first reported last week, multiple sources said ... Guilfoyle was informed her time at Fox News was up following a human resources investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior including sexual misconduct, and that her lawyers had been involved since the spring. Sources also said that despite being told she would have to leave by July, Guilfoyle repeatedly attempted to delay her exit and tried to have her allies appeal to Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, to let her stay at the network.... Six sources said Guilfoyle’s behavior included showing personal photographs of male genitalia to colleagues (and identifying whose genitals they were), regularly discussing sexual matters at work and engaging in emotionally abusive behavior toward hair and makeup artists and support staff." ...

     ... Mrs. McC: Such a lovely woman (allegedly). She's perfect for Donnie Junior.

New York Times: "For the first time, scientists have found a large, watery lake beneath an ice cap on Mars. Because water is essential to life, the discovery offers an exciting new place to search for life forms beyond Earth. Italian scientists working on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express mission announced on Wednesday that a 12-mile wide underground liquid pool — not just the momentary damp spots seen in the past — had been detected by radar measurements near the Martian south pole. 'Water is there,' Enrico Flamini, the former chief scientist of the Italian Space Agency who oversaw the research, said during a news conference."

Jonathan Vankin of Inquisitr: "Earlier in July ... a new BBC documentary [was aired] containing disturbing, never-before-heard allegations of sexual misconduct by Donald Trump. But the 30-minute program aired only in the United Kingdom, on the BBC’s Panorama series. But that’s about to change as the new documentary, Trump: Is the President a Sex Pest?, is set to make its North American premiere, airing in the United States and Canada on Saturday, with a repeat broadcast on Sunday, according to a new BBC press release posted on Twitter.... To find out how to watch or live stream the Trump Sex Pest documentary, see the information at the bottom of this article. Broadcast, and online streaming, is set for Saturday, July 21, at 10:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, 7:30 a.m. Pacific. The encore broadcast is scheduled for Sunday, July 22, at 4:30 p.m. Eastern, 1:30 Pacific." --safari

Yahshar Ali of the Huffington Post: "Three sources tell HuffPost that longtime Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle did not leave the cable news network voluntarily. Guilfoyle, who is currently in a relationship with ... Donald Trump Jr., has worked at the network since 2006.... A source close to Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle denies that she did not leave voluntarily. 'Fox News has parted ways with Kimberly Guilfoyle,' a Fox News spokesperson said in a terse statement released Friday afternoon." ...

... Gabriel Sherman of Vanity Fair: "Donald Trump’s coziness with Fox News has opened the network up to allegations that it’s state TV, a perception that was only amplified when The Five co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle began dating Trump’s son Don Jr. But now, for complicated reasons, some of which are still murky, all is no longer well in the Trump-Fox family.... Fox News management is not in the least upset that Guilfoyle is leaving. For the past year, she’s been a management nightmare, sources said. Her entanglements, romantic and otherwise, with Trumpworld have been a part of this. Before Don Jr., Guilfoyle was publicly linked to former Trump communications director Anthony Scaramucci, and she was widely rumored to be in the running for a job in the West Wing communications shop. But more than the perceived complications her romantic life generated, Guilfoyle’s high-handedness rankled Fox executives.... But a source close to Guilfoyle [said] the reason is because she plans to join Don Jr. on the campaign trail."

Welcome to the Bank:

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."

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

Thursday
Aug162018

The Commentariat -- August 17, 2018

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Matt Zapotosky, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Trump weighed in with a public defense of Paul Manafort on Friday, as a jury concluded its second day of deliberations to decide if the president’s former campaign chairman is guilty of tax and bank fraud. Jurors signaled Friday afternoon that they were unlikely to reach a verdict before the day ended and asked if they could leave the courthouse at 5 p.m. U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III agreed, and the panel is scheduled to resume deliberations Monday morning. At the White House, Trump declined to answer a question about a possible pardon for Manafort, but spoke out against special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, whose office brought the charges against the 69-year-old Manafort. 'I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad. When you look at what’s going on, I think it’s a very sad day for our country,' Trump said, adding that Manafort 'happens to be a very good person, I think it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort.'” The jury has gone home for the weekend.

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Trump on Friday attacked Bruce Ohr, a little-known Justice Department official, calling him 'a disgrace' and threatening to revoke his security clearance 'very soon.'  Mr. Ohr, a career official who has worked on antidrug and anti-gang initiatives at the department, has been targeted by conservative conspiracy theorists who say he helped start the investigation into Russian election interference. Mr. Ohr’s wife was at one time a contractor for Fusion GPS, which participated in compiling a dossier about Mr. Trump during the 2016 campaign. Mr. Trump has embraced the conspiracy theory, casting Mr. Ohr and his wife, Nellie, as central players in what he calls the 'rigged witch hunt' and accusing the couple of having what he claims are indirect contacts with Russians — apparently a reference to Christopher Steele, the British spy who compiled the dossier with the help of Russian sources.”

Axios: "Dr. Robert Gates has added his name to a stunning list of former intelligence officials who signed a letter criticizing President Trump's decision to revoke former CIA director John Brennan's security clearance..... Gates has served eight presidents, including stints as CIA director, and later as Defense Secretary for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama." ...

     ... Update: Sixty former intelligence officials have signed onto the letter, according to MSNBC. No link. Mrs. McC: As I was driving home, I heard NPR audio of Trump's saying he had heard from "many people" who supported his revocation of Brennan's security clearance.

Michael Shear & Julian Barnes of the New York Times: "For more than a year, law enforcement officials have repeatedly rebuffed President Trump’s efforts to use the power of his office to derail the Russia investigation. Stymied, Mr. Trump is lashing out in other ways against an investigation that he clearly hates or fears. The president said Thursday that he revoked the security clearance of John O. Brennan, a former C.I.A. director, because Mr. Brennan had been part of what Mr. Trump has called the 'sham' Russia investigation. That move, and the threats of more revocations, were the latest signs that the president seems determined to punish anyone connected to the Russia inquiry."

Darren Samuelsohn & Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Jurors began their second day of deliberations in Paul Manafort’s trial Friday morning as the presiding federal judge outlined his ground rules for how the media should cover the verdict without disrupting the courtroom.... After the jurors exited for a nearby conference room, [Judge T.S.] Ellis acknowledged the trial 'might end soon' and turned to several media-related matters, including the decorum for reporters who plan to be in the Alexandria, Virginia, courthouse when the verdict gets read." Mrs. McC: I have to go out for several hours, so if you learn the jury has returned a verdict, please share. ...

... Nancy Gertner, in a Washington Post op-ed: "The performance of U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III in the trial of Paul Manafort on bank fraud and tax evasion charges has been decidedly unusual. During the trial, Ellis intervened regularly, and mainly against one side: the prosecution. The judge's interruptions occurred in the presence of the jury and on matters of substance, not courtroom conduct.... Clearly worried about its outcome, prosecutors went so far as to urge Ellis to tell the jury, in his instructions before they began deliberating, not to let his commentary affect their decision-making. Ellis essentially did just that on Wednesday. It may well have been too little too late."

Luppe Luppen & Hunter Walker of Yahoo! News: "A Manhattan judge issued a ruling on Thursday that thwarted the Trump campaign’s attempts to keep a lawsuit out of open court, with potential implications for the looming battle over fired Trump aide Omarosa Manigault Newman’s slow-motion revelations of her experiences in the Trump campaign and White House. The decision came in a lawsuit filed by Jessica Denson, a former campaign staffer who filed a complaint last November that alleged she was subjected to 'harassment and sexual discrimination' while she worked on Trump’s White House bid in 2016. Lawyers for the Trump campaign tried to force the case into private arbitration based on an agreement signed by staffers that included nondisclosure and nondisparagement provisions. In her decision, Judge Arlene Bluth of New York State Supreme Court disclosed flaws in the wording of the agreement that she said limited its scope. The ruling exposes potential weaknesses in the non-disparagement and non-disclosure agreements that staff at Trump’s White House, his campaign, and the Trump Organization have been made to sign." The Wall Street Journal story, which is subscriber-firewalled, is here.

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I'm sure at one of Colbert's comedy writers reads Reality Chex.

Sophie Weiner of Splinter: "A source has told the Wall Street Journal that President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen initially refused to pay Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump. According to this account, Cohen changed his mind after the release of the infamous 'Access Hollywood' tape in which Trump is heard describing sexually assaulting women. According to the Journal, Cohen reportedly reached out to one of Daniels’ representatives the day after the tape became public. Cohen would go on to pay Daniels $130,000 to sign a nondisclosure agreement forbidding her from speaking publicly about the alleged affair. Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti has also said that the conversation changed after the 'Access Hollywood' tape surfaced." ...

     ... Oops! Richard Hasen in Slate: "The new revelation about Cohen refusing to pay Daniels in September 2016 is big, circumstantial evidence that could further open up Cohen to facing criminal campaign finance charges. This could also reach all the way to Trump himself.... Cohen’s payment to Daniels, if motivated to help the campaign, would be a likely campaign finance violation.... The Journal reports federal prosecutors view the release of the 'Access Hollywood' tape as the 'trigger' for Cohen’s payments to Daniels. That’s a big deal.... Daniels’ former lawyer Keith Davidson had approached Cohen in September 2016 about securing a payment from Trump to buy Daniels’ silence. 'Mr. Cohen was dismissive, saying the story was bogus,; according to a source.... Why should Cohen not care a whit about protecting Trump’s reputation ... in September 2016, but be anxious to close the deal — and shut Daniels up — right as the campaign faced a crisis involving allegations of Trump’s treatment of women?... But for the campaign, it seems that Cohen would not have paid."

The Horse He Rode in on. Craig Unger writes a long piece in the New Republic about Donald Trump's decades-long ties to Russian oligarchs -- and Russian intelligence. P.D. Pepe highlighted the story, which I -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie -- have not had time to read, in today's Comments. ...

... Shane Harris of the Washington Post likes the Unger story, too. "As the theory goes, Putin wanted to keep tabs on the billionaires — some of them former mobsters — who had made their post-Cold War fortunes on the backs of industries once owned by the state. The oligarchs, as well as other new-moneyed elites, were stashing their money in foreign real estate, including Trump properties, presumably beyond Putin’s reach. Trump, knowingly or otherwise, may have struck a side deal with the Kremlin, Unger argues: He would secretly rat out his customers to Putin, who would allow them to keep buying Trump properties. Trump got rich. Putin got eyes on where the oligarchs had hidden their wealth. Everybody won.... As Unger tells it, Trump can’t be totally unaware of the criminality surrounding him, and even if he were, that ignorance is no defense. Trump allowed himself to become compromised by Russia, years before he seriously entertained running for public office."

Another funny post from Jonathan Chait highlights Trump's remarkable duplicity, enhanced by his failure, it seems, to pay any attention to the implications of what he's tweeting. Title: "Trump Admits He Was Underfunding Military Budget to Make Room for Parade." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I'm not sure about Trump & Chait's premise. According to the Trumpentweeter, scrapping the November 2018 military parade means, "Now we can buy some more jet fighters!" But the highest cost estimate published for the parade was $92 million, and that is less than the price of the cheapest U.S. fighter plane, the F/A-18 Hornet.

Matthew Lee of the AP: "The Trump administration is ending funding for Syria stabilization projects as it moves to extricate the U.S. from the conflict, citing increased contributions from anti-Islamic State coalition partners. U.S. officials said the administration notified Congress on Friday that it would not spend some $200 million that had been planned for Syria programs and would instead shift that money to other areas. Nearly all of that money, initially pledged by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in February, had been on hold and under review since he was fired in March. A small fraction of that amount was released in June.... [Anonymous officials] said the cut will be more than offset by an additional $300 million pledged by coalition partners, including $100 million that Saudi Arabia announced it had contributed late Thursday. The State Department immediately welcomed the Saudi contribution, which is intended to help revitalize communities liberated from the Islamic State group like Raqqa."

The Company She Keeps. Ben Schreckinger of Politico Magazine: "The Justice Department is suing a friend and former business partner of Ivanka Trump for his alleged role in schemes to defraud the federal government out of millions of dollars in tax liabilities on his father’s estate. Filed last month and reported here for the first time, the lawsuit follows an August 2017 Politico investigation of alleged financial wrongdoing by New York businessman Moshe Lax and glaring irregularities in the Internal Revenue Service’s handling of a $27 million lien on his father’s estate. The suit, which seeks more than $60 million in unpaid tax liabilities, was brought in the Southern District of New York.... It alleges that Lax, his sister Zlaty Schwartz, and his late father, Chaim Lax, engaged in a series of complex 'sham transactions' designed to fraudulently evade tax liability. The government alleges the family members undertook 10 separate schemes 'designed to hide the Lax family assets from the IRS and other creditors and make it appear as though the Estate was insolvent.' At a time when Democrats are working to make corruption a midterm campaign issue and a jury deliberates over whether to convict ... Donald Trump’s former campaign manager for tax fraud, the suit threatens to further the perception that the Trump family and their closest associates operate in a corrupt milieu.” ...

... MEANWHILE. Charles Bagli of the New York Times: "When the Kushner Companies bought the building at 184 Kent Avenue in Brooklyn in 2015, there were 316 rent-stabilized tenants, seemingly protected from eviction and large rent increases. By June of this year, there were 71 left, according to documents filed with the state attorney general.... The exodus of 245 rent-regulated tenants in a building in less than three years allowed the Kushners to promote those apartments as condominiums and to sell, so far, roughly 130 units for tens of millions of dollars. Last month, a group of 20 current and former tenants at the building filed a $10 million lawsuit, claiming that their apartments were made nearly uninhabitable during two years of renovations, when an army of workers trooped through the seven-story building on the Brooklyn waterfront. The tenants say the sound of drilling reverberated through the hallways. A fine layer of dust covered their furniture and clothing at the end of each day.... In a statement, the Kushner companies insisted that they took all the appropriate precautions to protect existing tenants...."

Jericka Duncan of CBS News: "Rep. Keith Ellison -- deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a candidate for Minnesota attorney general -- has denied allegations that he abused his ex-girlfriend, Karen Monahan. On Thursday, Monahan, 44, spoke on camera for the first time about an incident she said happened nearly two years ago. Monahan said she has video of what happened but that it's too traumatic for her, so she has chosen not to share it with anyone. CBS News has not seen the video." Mrs. McC: Nonetheless, she was willing to talk about the alleged incident. I don't see why it would be so traumatic to let others see the video; Monahan would not have to watch along with them. Not saying the abuse didn't happen; just saying her justification for withholding the video is fishy. An abuser's denial, BTW, is not compelling, either.

Violet Ikonomova of the Detroit Metro Times: "More than a dozen community groups have called on Rep. Bettie Cook Scott (D-Detroit) to apologize for a series of racial slurs sources say she used to describe her primary election opponent, Rep. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit). Scott is alleged to have referred to Chang as 'ching-chang' and 'the ching-chong' to multiple voters outside polling precincts during last Tuesday's election. She's also said to have called one of Chang's campaign volunteers an 'immigrant,' saying 'you don’t belong here' and 'I want you out of my country.'” DMT Update: "Rep. Bettie Cook Scott has issued an apology for her remarks. Find her statement here."

*****

Breaking! Black Robbers Hold up POTUS*! Trump Avenges Them. Details linked below under "He Loves a Parade."

... Wow! Looks as if there were millions of people on the Mall!

... DeNeen Brown of the Washington Post: "The president [Barack Obama] would later write in an email to the New Yorker: 'Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R. & B., rock and roll — the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope. American history wells up when Aretha sings. That’s why, when she sits down at a piano and sings "A Natural Woman," she can move me to tears.'” (Also linked yestereday afternoon.) ...

Aretha helped define the American experience. In her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade — our power and our pain, our darkness and our light, our quest for redemption and our hard-won respect. May the Queen of Soul rest in eternal peace. -- Barack Obama, yesterday in a tweet ...

... BUT Donald Trump Remembers Aretha Franklin as the Help:

     ... and he had to read that off note cards. More extemporaneously, he sent "best wishes" to Aretha's family. Who offers "best wishes" to the bereaved? Besides Trump. ...

... MEANWHILE, Trump's favorite teevee network, Fox "News," remembered Franklin with ... a photo of Patti LaBelle. As "Bad Fox Graphics" noted on Twitter, "It's understandable that @FoxNews would use a photo of @MsPattiPatti Labelle to announce Aretha Franklin's death. It sure is confusing, because they're both…uhh…excellent singers." Mrs. McC: Yeah, and for all we know, they both worked for Trump, too.

That's LaBelle in the background photo, taken during a 2014 Performance at the White House.

Could He Be More Stupid? Eileen Sullivan of the New York Times: "President Trump on Thursday assailed the media for editorials in newspapers across the country that championed the freedom of the press, a unified response in the face of the president’s relentless attacks.In a series of morning Twitter posts, Mr. Trump said The Boston Globe was “in collusion” with other newspapers for leading the editorial effort, choosing a word that has become synonymous with the special counsel’s investigation into Russian election interference.... Trump also added 'PROVE IT!' in one of the messages, though it was not clear what he meant[:] '... Now the Globe is in COLLUSION with other papers on free press. PROVE IT!'... [Then there was this:] 'There is nothing that I would want more for our Country than true FREEDOM OF THE PRESS. The fact is that the Press is FREE to write and say anything it wants, but much of what it says is FAKE NEWS, pushing a political agenda or just plain trying to hurt people. HONESTY WINS!'" (Also linked yestereday afternoon.)

David Nakamura & Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post: "President Trump has told advisers that he is eager to strip more security clearances as part of an escalating attack against people who have criticized him or played a role in the investigation of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, two White House officials said.... Trump ... could act soon, according to the White House officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.... Trump believes he has emerged looking strong and decisive in his escalating feud with [John] Brennan, the aides said.... As the Russia investigation tightens around the president — Mueller is pressing Trump’s legal team over a potential interview with him — the president remains impulsive and unpredictable, aides said. 'The [standard] process [of revoking clearances] is essentially meaningless,' one White House aide said. 'If Trump wants to do it, he’ll just do it.'... White House aides confirmed that Trump made his decision weeks ago about Brennan.... Senior advisers, including [Sarah] Sanders, recommended to the president that they announce the action Wednesday amid an onslaught of news coverage from former Trump aide Omarosa Manigault Newman’s new book....” ...

... Julie Davis & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Mr. Trump’s decision to revoke [John Brennan's] security clearance drew rebukes Thursday from national security officials and members of both political parties, who called it an extraordinary act of retaliation that reflected authoritarian tactics.... Step by step, from the moment 10 days into his administration that he fired the acting attorney general, Sally Q. Yates, Mr. Trump has overseen the removal of top national security officials who have defied him or worked at senior levels of the Russia investigation. They include James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director; Andrew G. McCabe, the former F.B.I. deputy director; and Peter Strzok, the former F.B.I. counterintelligence agent who helped oversee the Hillary Clinton email inquiry and the Russia investigation and disparaged Mr. Trump in a series of inflammatory texts.” (Also linked yestereday afternoon.) ...

... William McRaven in a Washington Post op-ed: "Dear Mr. President: Former CIA director John Brennan ... is one of the finest public servants I have ever known. Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him. Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency."... William H. McRaven, a retired Navy admiral, was commander of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014. He oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden." ...

... Spencer Ackerman of the Daily Beast: "Disconnected from any allegation, let alone evidence, that [John] Brennan abused his clearance, Trump’s maneuver struck many intelligence observers and former officials as a naked power play: a message to the intelligence community that the president expects their personal loyalty. But CIA Director Gina Haspel, whose nomination Brennan very publicly supported and whose integrity Brennan vouched for, is remaining silent, even as the White House suggests that the same fate may await other intelligence veterans who consider Trump a danger to the country." (Also linked yestereday afternoon.) ...

... BUT. Olivia Gazis of CBS News: "Twelve former senior intelligence officials, including 11 former CIA directors and deputy directors and one former director of national intelligence, have signed a letter of support for former CIA director John Brennan, calling the signal sent by the White House's decision to strip him of his security clearance 'inappropriate' and 'deeply regrettable.' 'We feel compelled to respond in the wake of the ill-considered and unprecedented remarks and actions by the White House,' the senior officials wrote. 'We know John to be an enormously talented, capable and patriotic individual who devoted his entire adult life to the service of this nation.... We have never before seen the approval or removal of security clearances used as a political tool,' they wrote.... The letter's signees include former Directors of Central Intelligence William Webster, George Tenet and Porter Goss; former CIA directors Gen. Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta and Gen. David Petraeus; former director of national intelligence James Clapper; and former deputy CIA directors John McLaughlin, Stephen Kappes, Avril Haines, David Cohen and Michael Morell, who is also a CBS News senior national security contributor." ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "President Trump says that although he has never obstructed justice in the Russia investigation, he does 'fight back.' And, as of Wednesday, he had 'fought back' against a majority of top officials involved in leading, overseeing or making administration decisions about that probe. According to an analysis by The Washington Post, of the more than a dozen officials with what could be construed as leadership roles in the investigation, more than half have been fired and/or threatened with official recourse. The most recent examples were the White House’s revocation of former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance Wednesday and the threats to do the same for nine other current and former officials who have run afoul of Trump. In one fell swoop, the White House effectively more than doubled its enemies list — and served notice that ex-officials who were involved in the probe will not be permitted to criticize Trump willy-nilly.” Blake lists the officials Trump has targeted." (Also linked yestereday afternoon.) ...

... Rachel Maddow made the point last night that Trump's plans to revoke security clearances for his "enemies list" is an effort not to silence critics but to silence witnesses -- witnesses who may be required to testify in criminal and/or impeachment proceedings. If these potential witnesses can't review the classified info they gathered against Trump & Trump Inc., their testimony will be compromised. As John Brennan noted in an earlier interview, the only times he has sought to review classified information since he left government was to refresh his memory in preparation to testify. Brennan & most of the people on Trump's list held high-level intelligence, investigative or DOJ positions while the Russia investigation was ongoing.

Little Dictator Comes "Unhinged." Gabriel Sherman of Vanity Fair: "... Trump told advisers that he wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions to have Manigault Newman arrested, according to one Republican briefed on the conversations. (It’s unclear what law Trump believes she broke.) Another Republican recounted how over the weekend Trump derailed a midterm-election strategy session to rant about Manigault Newman’s betrayal." ...

     ... Jeet Heer: "The story of Trump demanding that Manigault Newman arrested is consistent with the fact that Trump has repeatedly made public requests that the Department of Justice investigate his political enemies."

... Adam Edelman of NBC News: "Omarosa Manigault Newman ... on Thursday released exclusively to MSNBC a secret tape of campaign official Lara Trump offering her a $15,000-a-month job after she was fired from the administration. The tape — which, according to Manigault Newman was made on Dec. 16, 2017, just days after she had left the White House — appears to corroborate claims she made in her new book about receiving an offer from the president's re-election campaign. Manigault Newman wrote in her book that the job offer came with the condition of signing a nondisclosure agreement; she said she did not accept it." (Also linked yestereday afternoon.) ...

... Maggie Haberman & Ken Vogel of the New York Times: “On Thursday, officials at Simon & Schuster, the publisher of 'Unhinged,' said they had received a legal warning letter against publication from Charles Harder, the libel lawyer whom Mr. Trump has retained in other matters. The publisher’s lawyer responded in kind, saying the president was using the highest platform in the land to censor someone.... Mr. Trump’s aides have been concerned that they will make appearances on other tapes, of which [Omarosa] Manigault Newman is believed to have as many as 200.... 'All the money that we raise and that pays salaries is directly from donors, small-dollar donors for the most part,' [Lara] Trump said [on the tape Manigault Newman gave to MSNBC]. 'So I know you, you were making 179 at the White House, and I think we can work something out where we keep you right along those lines.' In a statement, Ms. Trump said..., 'I hope it’s all worth it for you, Omarosa, because some things you just can’t put a price on.'... ” ...  

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: AND apparently there are some things you can put a price on -- like silence, which would go for "along the lines" of $179K, by Lara Trump's reckoning.

Darren Samuelsohn, et al., of Politico: "Jurors in Paul Manafort's trial ended their first day of deliberations Thursday without reaching a verdict." (Also linked yestereday afternoon.) ...

     ... The story has been updated: "Jurors in Paul Manafort's bank- and tax-fraud trial ended their first day of deliberations without a verdict, but posed a set of questions to the judge overseeing the case that could indicate trouble for the prosecution. A note from the jury read aloud in court Thursday afternoon asked about the legal requirements behind four of the felony charges facing the former Trump campaign chairman: allegations that he failed to file reports on bank accounts located overseas. Jurors also asked U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III to provide clarification on what constitutes reasonable doubt. The queries could alarm special counsel Robert Mueller's prosecutors because they suggest the jurors were not immediately convinced that the case against Manafort is a slam dunk. But it could also mean that jurors have not bought the defense's central argument: that [Rick] Gates was the one actually responsible for Manafort's alleged wrongdoing." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Jurors are considering 18 counts. I think the question could also mean they were having trouble deciding one or a few counts, not all 18. Update: Former federal prosecutor Chuck Rosenberg may more-or-less the same point on MSNBC last night.

Trump Accidentally Gifts the "Fake News." Josh Gerstein of Politico: "... Donald Trump’s decision to declassify competing congressional memos about the validity of the so-called Steele dossier means the FBI has lost its authority to rebuff Freedom of Information Act requests about the bureau’s efforts to verify the report’s intelligence linking Trump to Russia during the 2016 campaign, a federal judge ruled on Thursday. U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta previously blessed the FBI’s decision to refuse such FOIA requests by declining to confirm whether any records exist about aspects of its handling of the hotly contested dossier, prepared by the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele.... Mehta said Trump’s actions in February to greenlight the release of one memo from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and a separate memo from the panel’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, left untenable the FBI’s position of resisting disclosure.... The ruling will not take immediate effect, because the case was on appeal to the D.C. Circuit when Trump approved release of the House memos. The appeals court is now likely to remand the case to Mehta...."


Adam Raymond
of New York: "President Trump made it easier for the United States military to launch cyberattacks this week by reversing an Obama-era rule that required 'an elaborate interagency process' prior to any such attacks, The Wall Street Journal reports. Trump signed the order Wednesday reversing what is known as Presidential Policy Directive 20 (PPD-20), which President Obama signed in 2012. The directive required several layers of interagency sign-off, from parties such as the State Department and the intelligence community, before the military could launch a cyberattack.... As Politico describes, [the Obama rule] could ... prevent agencies from stepping on each other’s toes. 'The intelligence community has also balked at some military operations, especially ones that risk exposing the eavesdropping software that U.S. spies spend years developing and planting in enemy networks.'"

He Loves a Parade

Amanda Macias of CNBC: "... Donald Trump's military parade this fall is shaping up to cost $80 million more than initially estimated. The Department of Defense and its interagency partners have updated their perspective cost estimates for the parade, according to a U.S. defense official with firsthand knowledge of the assessment. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity. The parade, slated for Nov. 10, is estimated to cost $92 million, the official said.... The U.S. has not held a major military parade in Washington since 1991 to mark the end of Operation Desert Storm. That parade reportedly cost approximately $8 million and was paid for with about $3 million in government funds and the rest with private donations." (Also linked yestereday afternoon.) ...

     So Then. Barbara Starr, et al., of CNN: "The Department of Defense says the military parade originally scheduled for Veterans Day will be postponed. 'The Department of Defense and White House have been planning a parade to honor America's military veterans and commemorate the centennial of World War I,' Defense Department spokesman Col. Rob Manning said in a statement Thursday. 'We originally targeted November 10, 2018 for this event but have now agreed to explore opportunities in 2019.'" ...

     ... Missy Ryan & Dan Lamothe of the Washington Post: "The decision to announce a possible postponement appeared to come together in the space of hours Thursday afternoon and evening. It was not clear who made the decision to explore delaying the event, which had been a priority for Trump.... Planning for the parade comes at a time when Trump has boasted of saving money by suspending joint military exercises with South Korea, part of his outreach to North Korea. The affected exercise would have cost about $14 million, far less than the parade’s current expected cost."

     AND Then. Eileen Sullivan of the New York Times: "President Trump on Friday canceled plans for a military parade this fall in Washington, blaming local officials for inflating the estimated costs, saying they 'know a windfall when they see it.'... 'The local politicians who run Washington, D.C. (poorly) know a windfall when they see it. When asked to give us a price for holding a great celebratory military parade, they wanted a number so ridiculously high that I cancelled it. Never let someone hold you up! I will instead... ....attend the big parade already scheduled at Andrews Air Force Base on a different date, & go to the Paris parade, celebrating the end of the War, on November 11th. Maybe we will do something next year in D.C. when the cost comes WAY DOWN. Now we can buy some more jet fighters!” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie Translation: D.C. Officials = corrupt, scary black stick-up men (and women!). They tried to hold up Trump on the streets of D.C. because they hate America. He was too tough to let them get away with it. ...

     ... John Wagner & Peter Jamison of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Friday blamed local officials for his decision to postpone a grand military parade in Washington this fall, alleging without evidence that they had unreasonably inflated the price.... About an hour after the president’s tweet, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) delivered her own caustic response on Twitter...[:] 'Yup, I’m Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington DC, the local politician who finally got thru to the reality star in the White House with the realities ($21.6M) of parades/events/demonstrations in Trump America (sad).'... A city official said the planning process for the parade had been difficult to coordinate with White House officials, who had been slow to communicate details of the event, including plans for a specific date. Trump’s tweets were aimed at a government run by Democrats.” Emphasis added. Mrs. McC: As noted above, I don't think party affiliation was the point.


Adam Raymond
: "Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has spent the last week telling anyone who’s asked that the wildfires ripping their way through California have nothing to do with climate change. On Thursday, he changed his tune. 'Of course,' he told reporters when asked if climate change is one of the reasons for the proliferation of the fires. The tepid acknowledgement of the obvious comes days after Zinke told a California TV station that the wildfires have 'nothing to do with climate change.'... He [also] blamed 'frivolous litigation from radical environmentalists' for preventing the removal of dead timber, which can serve as a fuel to raging wildfires, from California’s forests.... It’s hard to know what to make of Zinke’s admission Thursday morning. Especially since it came only hours after he went on Fox Business and questioned the very idea that humans are playing a role in climate change."

Burgess Everett of Politico: "On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said his caucus is preparing to sue the National Archives if it is unable to meet the party’s Freedom of Information Act request for hundreds of thousands of pages of Kavanaugh documents that have not yet been disclosed publicly. If the Archives has not met Democrats’ request in 20 days, Schumer and his members say they will go to court.... The minority leader also said he would meet with Kavanaugh next week, breaking a long standoff between Schumer and the White House over the documents.... Schumer said he would ask Kavanaugh about the documents 'and what he intends to do about it. He can’t duck.'” (Also linked yestereday afternoon.)

Elise Viebeck of the Washington Post: "The U.S. Department of Education is investigating Ohio State University’s response to allegations of sexual abuse against former athletic doctor Richard Strauss. The probe by the department’s Office for Civil Rights will examine whether Ohio State responded 'promptly and equitably' to allegations by former students that Strauss touched athletes inappropriately during appointments and ogled them in a campus locker room, as well as claims that school officials knew or should have known about the alleged abuse, the school said. Strauss, who killed himself in 2005, was employed by Ohio State from 1978 to 1998. He has been accused of sexually abusing student athletes in 14 sports, as well as patients at the campus health center." Mrs. McC: Let's hope Ditsy DeVos isn't in charge of the probe. (Also linked yestereday afternoon.) 

Wednesday
Aug152018

The Commentariat -- August 16, 2018

Late Afternoon Update:

... DeNeen Brown of the Washington Post: "The president [Barack Obama] would later write in an email to the New Yorker: 'Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R. & B., rock and roll — the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope. American history wells up when Aretha sings. That’s why, when she sits down at a piano and sings "A Natural Woman," she can move me to tears.'”

Could He Be More Stupid? Eileen Sullivan of the New York Times: "President Trump on Thursday assailed the media for editorials in newspapers across the country that championed the freedom of the press, a unified response in the face of the president’s relentless attacks.In a series of morning Twitter posts, Mr. Trump said The Boston Globe was “in collusion” with other newspapers for leading the editorial effort, choosing a word that has become synonymous with the special counsel’s investigation into Russian election interference.... Trump also added 'PROVE IT!' in one of the messages, though it was not clear what he meant[:] '... Now the Globe is in COLLUSION with other papers on free press. PROVE IT!'... [Then there was this:] 'There is nothing that I would want more for our Country than true FREEDOM OF THE PRESS. The fact is that the Press is FREE to write and say anything it wants, but much of what it says is FAKE NEWS, pushing a political agenda or just plain trying to hurt people. HONESTY WINS!'"

Julie Davis & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Mr. Trump’s decision to revoke [John Brennan's] security clearance drew rebukes Thursday from national security officials and members of both political parties, who called it an extraordinary act of retaliation that reflected authoritarian tactics.... Step by step, from the moment 10 days into his administration that he fired the acting attorney general, Sally Q. Yates, Mr. Trump has overseen the removal of top national security officials who have defied him or worked at senior levels of the Russia investigation. They include James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director; Andrew G. McCabe, the former F.B.I. deputy director; and Peter Strzok, the former F.B.I. counterintelligence agent who helped oversee the Hillary Clinton email inquiry and the Russia investigation and disparaged Mr. Trump in a series of inflammatory texts.” ...

... Spencer Ackerman of the Daily Beast: "Disconnected from any allegation, let alone evidence, that [John] Brennan abused his clearance, Trump’s maneuver struck many intelligence observers and former officials as a naked power play: a message to the intelligence community that the president expects their personal loyalty. But CIA Director Gina Haspel, whose nomination Brennan very publicly supported and whose integrity Brennan vouched for, is remaining silent, even as the White House suggests that the same fate may await other intelligence veterans who consider Trump a danger to the country."

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "President Trump says that although he has never obstructed justice in the Russia investigation, he does 'fight back.' And, as of Wednesday, he had 'fought back' against a majority of top officials involved in leading, overseeing or making administration decisions about that probe. According to an analysis by The Washington Post, of the more than a dozen officials with what could be construed as leadership roles in the investigation, more than half have been fired and/or threatened with official recourse. The most recent examples were the White House’s revocation of former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance Wednesday and the threats to do the same for nine other current and former officials who have run afoul of Trump. In one fell swoop, the White House effectively more than doubled its enemies list — and served notice that ex-officials who were involved in the probe will not be permitted to criticize Trump willy-nilly.” Blake lists the officials Trump has targeted."

Adam Edelman of NBC News: "Omarosa Manigault Newman ... on Thursday released exclusively to MSNBC a secret tape of campaign official Lara Trump offering her a $15,000-a-month job after she was fired from the administration. The tape — which, according to Manigault Newman was made on Dec. 16, 2017, just days after she had left the White House — appears to corroborate claims she made in her new book about receiving an offer from the president's re-election campaign. Manigault Newman wrote in her book that the job offer came with the condition of signing a nondisclosure agreement; she said she did not accept it."

Darren Samuelsohn, et al., of Politico: "Jurors in Paul Manafort's trial ended their first day of deliberations Thursday without reaching a verdict."

Amanda Macias of CNBC: "... Donald Trump's military parade this fall is shaping up to cost $80 million more than initially estimated. The Department of Defense and its interagency partners have updated their perspective cost estimates for the parade, according to a U.S. defense official with firsthand knowledge of the assessment. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity. The parade, slated for Nov. 10, is estimated to cost $92 million, the official said.... The U.S. has not held a major military parade in Washington since 1991 to mark the end of Operation Desert Storm. That parade reportedly cost approximately $8 million and was paid for with about $3 million in government funds and the rest with private donations."

Burgess Everett of Politico: "On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said his caucus is preparing to sue the National Archives if it is unable to meet the party’s Freedom of Information Act request for hundreds of thousands of pages of Kavanaugh documents that have not yet been disclosed publicly. If the Archives has not met Democrats’ request in 20 days, Schumer and his members say they will go to court.... The minority leader also said he would meet with Kavanaugh next week, breaking a long standoff between Schumer and the White House over the documents.... Schumer said he would ask Kavanaugh about the documents 'and what he intends to do about it. He can’t duck.'”

Elise Viebeck of the Washington Post: "The U.S. Department of Education is investigating Ohio State University’s response to allegations of sexual abuse against former athletic doctor Richard Strauss. The probe by the department’s Office for Civil Rights will examine whether Ohio State responded 'promptly and equitably' to allegations by former students that Strauss touched athletes inappropriately during appointments and ogled them in a campus locker room, as well as claims that school officials knew or should have known about the alleged abuse, the school said. Strauss, who killed himself in 2005, was employed by Ohio State from 1978 to 1998. He has been accused of sexually abusing student athletes in 14 sports, as well as patients at the campus health center." Mrs. McC: Let's hope Ditsy DeVos isn't in charge of the probe.

*****

Joe Romm of ThinkProgress: "For the three-month period of May to July, the entire contiguous United States (CONUS) 'ranked hottest on record,' as the National Weather Service in Los Angeles, California tweeted out Wednesday, adding that 'records go back to 1895.'” --safari

Perfect Projection from President Petty-Pouter. Michael Shear of the New York Times: "In a remarkable attack on a political opponent, President Trump on Wednesday revoked the security clearance of John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director under President Barack Obama, citing what he called Mr. Brennan’s 'erratic' behavior. The White House had threatened last month to strip Mr. Brennan and other Obama administration officials — including Susan E. Rice, the former national security adviser; and James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence — of their security clearances.... In a tweet this week, Mr. Brennan criticized Mr. Trump for the language that the president used to attack Omarosa Manigault Newman, his former top aide, who he called a 'dog.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... You can read Trump's full statement here. ...

... John Brennan, in a New York Times op-ed: "The already challenging work of the American intelligence and law enforcement communities [to thwart Russian incursions into the 2016 U.S. elections] was made more difficult in late July 2016..., when Mr. Trump ... publicly called upon Russia to find the missing emails of Mrs. Clinton. By issuing such a statement, Mr. Trump was not only encouraging a foreign nation to collect intelligence against a United States citizen, but also openly authorizing his followers to work with our primary global adversary against his political opponent.... Mr. Trump’s claims of no collusion are, in a word, hogwash. The only questions that remain are whether the collusion that took place constituted criminally liable conspiracy, whether obstruction of justice occurred to cover up any collusion or conspiracy, and how many members of 'Trump Incorporated' attempted to defraud the government by laundering and concealing the movement of money into their pockets."

... David Nakamura & Felicia Sonmez of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Wednesday followed through on threats to strip the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan, igniting a firestorm of criticism that the president was recklessly attempting to distract from his own political problems and silence high-profile critics.... Trump added that he is reviewing the security clearances of nine other former officials, including former FBI director James B. Comey, all of whom have criticized the president or been targeted by congressional Republicans seeking to discredit the Russia probe.... Trump appeared to make a direct link in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. 'I call it the rigged witch hunt,' Trump said of the Russia probe. 'And these people led it. So I think it’s something that had to be done.'... [Brennan's] former colleagues rallied to his defense, hailing his service to the nation, including a key role in the 2011 operation that killed Osama bin Laden.... Security experts have described [Trump's] move as unprecedented and warned that words and actions protected by the First Amendment are not grounds to take a clearance away.... After Sanders’s briefing Wednesday, the White House released the written statement from Trump bearing the date July 26 — before quickly releasing an identical statement with the date removed.” ...

... An Omarosa Distraction. Inae Oh of Mother Jones: "But many questioned the timing of Trump’s decision, which comes amid claims made by former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman that appear to substantiate previous rumors of a secret tape of Trump saying the N-word. A follow-up email to reporters from the White House is fueling speculation that Trump is hoping to distract from those very rumors. Note the timestamp: '... July 26, 2018.'...

... Gail Collins: "One of the worst things about this moment in our national lives is the fear that if Trump gets into trouble for doing something dumb and obnoxious, he’ll respond by doing something huge and maybe dangerous.... Trump’s response [to Omarosa's book tour] has been somewhere between hysterical and totally nuts.... The tweets tell us a lot about the president’s own miserable insecurities.... When he calls someone a 'dog,' he’s just reacting to a pathological fear that he’s unlovable. Just as when he calls someone 'dumb,' he’s trying to get past the fact that he’s not all that bright.... Back when I worked for New York Newsday, he sent me a copy of a column I’d written, scrawled with objections, along with an announcement that I was 'a dog and a liar' and that my picture was 'the face of a pig.'... Whenever I tell the 'dog' story, I always enjoy pointing out that Trump misspelled the word 'too.'” ...

... Mrs. McC: Brennan spoke by phone to Nicolle Wallace of MSNBC and said the White House has never notified him the POTUS* had stripped his clearance. He heard it on the news. ...

... Jonathan Chait: Trump himself has of course behaved erratically throughout the course of his presidency, posing innumerable risks to American security, up to and including the potential for triggering a nuclear war, which he has threatened to do on his Twitter feed. In one documented instance, Trump literally handed over classified, highly sensitive national security secrets to Russia.... [Last month, when Trump threatened to revoke John Brennan's security clearance,] "a reporter asked Paul Ryan if he believed it was 'dangerous' for the president to use this tool to punish critics. 'I think he’s trolling people, honestly,' replied the House Speaker, with a forced laugh. Get it?.... The White House also announced that it is reviewing clearances for James Clapper, James Comey, Michael Hayden, Sally Yates, Susan Rice, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, and Lisa Page — all former security officials who have criticized or otherwise offended Trump." ... 

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: For some reason, Chait doesn't name Bruce Ohr, who also made Trump's Enemies List. Ohr is important because he still works for the DOJ, so obviously if he lost his clearance he couldn't do his job. He made Trump's list because his wife works for Fusion GPS, so he's part of Trump's "deep-state" conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton is running a plot to destroy Trump. She's doing very well, I'd say, because Trump himself is self-destructing. I'd bet Bob Mueller updated his "Instances of POTUS* Obstructing Justice" file to include today's stunt. ...

     ... Katie Benner of the New York Times profiles Bruce Ohr here; Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post profiles him here. ...

... Greg Sargent: "... this move is all about striking a political blow against special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation.... The revocation of his security clearance will have no practical impact on [John] Brennan’s ability to make public statements along the lines that Trump is objecting to on such disingenuous grounds.... The CIA was reportedly caught off guard by this decision..., which suggests Trump knows the agency would probably not find legitimate grounds for doing this.... The White House statement — its suggestion that Brennan is using his access to classified info to 'validate' his 'political attacks' — strongly suggests Trump doesn’t want Brennan’s criticism to have the aura of authority that comes with having security clearance. By revoking it, Trump is trying to take Brennan’s legitimacy as a critic of him down a peg...." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: So Trump just had somebody type up these security clearance revocations when he was pissed off & he never went through the normal revocation protocol. I guess he'll dole out new revocations every time stuff hits the proverbial fan. But Brennan is "erratic." ...

... Margaret Hartmann: "The Brennan incident showed Trump might be able to get away with using the same attack on Mueller. The president’s legal authority in this area is untested, but the response on Wednesday suggests the political blowback may be manageable. Senator Rand Paul saw Trump use his authority to punish a political enemy and cheered.... House Speaker Paul Ryan, who previously laughed off the idea of such a gross abuse of power, suddenly went silent." Mrs. McC: Hey, what about Rosenstein & Guildensessions? Might as well strip their clearances while he's at it.

Kyle Cheney, et al., of Politico: "Prosecutors urged jurors in the trial of Paul Manafort to focus on financial records and Manafort’s 'lies' — and to set aside personal feelings about a tainted star witness — as the government offered its closing argument on Wednesday. Pushing back, lawyers for the former Trump campaign chairman argued that the case brought by special counsel Robert Mueller is a mishmash of 'selective' evidence that doesn’t amount to any crime at all.... In the late afternoon, [Judge] Ellis — whose routine interjections have irked prosecutors throughout the trial — spent nearly two hours delivering instructions to the jury.... Ellis dismissed the four alternate jurors and told the 12 primary jurors to return to court at 9:30 a.m. to be greeted briefly and then commence deliberations."

.... Sharon LaFraniere of the New York Times: "The evidence against Paul Manafort is 'overwhelming,' a prosecutor told jurors during closing arguments in his fraud trial on Wednesday, saying that he hid more than $16 million in income and fraudulently obtained $20 million in bank loans even though, as a trained lawyer, 'Mr. Manafort knew the law.' The lead prosecutor, Greg D. Andres, described Mr. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, as a bright and highly capable political consultant who was well versed in tax law and financial matters and fluent in terms like 'write-offs' and 'distribution' income. Mr. Manafort deliberately deceived his bookkeeper and tax accountants, Mr. Andres argued, so he could keep more of his income tax-free and then trick banks into loaning him millions when 'he was going broke and he couldn’t pay his bills.' In a dispassionate summation that lasted nearly two hours, Mr. Andres insisted that Mr. Manafort’s crimes could not be dismissed as mere oversights. He repeatedly showed the jury emails, tax returns or other financial documents that Mr. Manafort either personally wrote or signed. 'It wasn’t a clerical decision. It wasn’t "forgot to check a box,’” Mr. Andres said. 'When you follow the trail of Mr. Manafort’s finances, it is littered with lies.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Rachel Weiner, et al., of the Washington Post report on closing arguments in the Paul Manafort trial. (Also linked yesterday.)

Rudy's Mob Lawyer Impersonation, Ctd. Michael Burke of the Hill: "President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani signaled Wednesday that his team is losing patience with special counsel Robert Mueller, urging the former FBI director to finish his Russia investigation ahead of the November midterm elections. Giuliani tweeted that the Department of Justice (DOJ) 'should require Mueller to submit his report before September 7.'... Giuliani also told Bloomberg that Mueller should 'write the damn report so we can see it and rebut it,' the website reported Wednesday. 'If he doesn’t get it done in the next two or three weeks we will just unload on him like a ton of bricks,' he reportedly said." ...

... Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Rudolph W. Giuliani ... said Wednesday that he is still awaiting a response from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to the Trump team’s latest terms for a presidential interview, which were made last week in a letter that argued against Trump’s having to answer questions about his possible obstruction of justice.... In the meantime, Trump’s lawyers are preparing to oppose a potential subpoena from Mueller for a Trump sit-down.... 'We would move to quash the subpoena,' Giuliani said in an interview. 'And we’re pretty much finished with our memorandum opposing a subpoena.' Giuliani added that Trump’s attorneys are ready to 'argue it before the Supreme Court, if it ever got there.'... Mueller told Trump’s lawyers in March that he could issue a subpoena for Trump to appear before a grand jury if Trump declined an interview, according to four people familiar with the encounter.”

Betsy Woodruff of the Daily Beast: "In the time since the election, a little-known Trump campaign staffer named Daniel Gelbinovich reached out to a number of Washington lobbyists with an eyebrow-raising ask: to shield a Putin ally from U.S. sanctions. Two lobbyists ... told The Daily Beast that Gelbinovich approached them and told them he was trying to help Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch worth more than $11 billion, find a lobbyist to help keep him from being added to the Treasury Department’s sanctions list. Gelbinovich confirmed this reporting.... Gelbinovich’s claims to have worked on behalf of Abramovich, if true, are another piece of the web of connections between Trump World and powerful Russians.... Ivanka Trump has been friends with Dasha Zhukova, who has two children with Abramovich, for more than a decade, according to Bloomberg. Zhukova and Abramovich announced they would split in August 2017."

Andy Kroll in Rolling Stone: "FBI agents in California and Washington, D.C., have investigated a series of cyberattacks over the past year that targeted a Democratic opponent of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). Rohrabacher is a 15-term incumbent who is widely seen as the most pro-Russia and pro-Putin member of Congress and is a staunch supporter of President Trump. The hacking attempts and the FBI’s involvement are described in dozens of emails and forensic records obtained by Rolling Stone. The target of these attacks, Dr. Hans Keirstead, a stem-cell scientist and the CEO of a biomedical research company, finished third in California’s nonpartisan 'top-two' primary on June 5th, falling 125 votes short of advancing to the general election in one of the narrowest margins of any congressional primary this year. He has since endorsed Harley Rouda, the Democrat who finished in second place and will face Rohrabacher in the November election." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Space Force Russia. BBC News: A mysterious Russian satellite displaying 'very abnormal behaviour' has raised alarm in the US, according to a State Department official. '"We don't know for certain what it is and there is no way to verify it,' said assistant secretary Yleem Poblete at a conference in Switzerland on 14 August. She voiced fears that it was impossible to say if the object may be a weapon. Russia has dismissed the comments as 'unfounded, slanderous accusations based on suspicions'. The satellite in question was launched in October last year. '[The satellite's] behaviour on-orbit was inconsistent with anything seen before from on-orbit inspection or space situational awareness capabilities, including other Russian inspection satellite activities,' Ms Poblete told the conference on disarmament in Switzerland."

Max Fisher of the New York Times on how "populist" strongmen like Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey "are unusually prone to creating [economic crises], unusually inhibited from fixing it and unusually slow to recover." Mrs. McC: Fisher writes a cautionary tale for Erdogan, but each of the "lessons" seems to apply to Trump, too.

Zero Credibility. Aaron Rupar of ThinkProgress: "On the heels of former Trump campaign and White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman saying she’s heard tape of President Trump using the N-word, Trump’s allies have taken to the cable news networks to defend his reputation. But there’s one big problem — because they’ve signed non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), even if they have heard Trump using a racial slur, they’re legally prohibited from saying so." --safari

Mrs. McCrabbie: The photo from which this snip is taken accompanied the NYT story, linked below, on how Trump has embraced Hungary's authoritarian President Viktor Orban. The snip is part of the "class picture" of the July 2018 NATO summit. I was thinking less about Orban and the summit than I was about how Donald Trump looks now that Hope Hicks isn't there to iron his pants while he's wearing them. Sad! When I was a schoolgirl, we used to "perform" "The Farmer in the Dell," with children taking the parts of the characters in the song. Trump reminds me of the Cheese. Heigh ho the derry-o, the Cheese stands alone. ...

of Bloomberg: "One of the biggest supporters of ... Donald Trump’s trade policies, according to the president, is the unnamed chief executive officer of a mystery company. 'I was with one of the greatest companies in the world. The chief executive officer...,' Trump said at a July 31 campaign rally in Tampa.... 'He said "You know what, this does affect our company. But, Mr. President, keep going. You’re doing the right thing.”’... Trade groups ... have almost universally opposed Trump’s disruptive approach to trade. But the person fits a model: an anonymous figure -- important and powerful -- who invariably supports the president’s position, according to Trump himself. They are fixtures of Trump’s speeches.... In some cases Trump’s accounts are rebutted by the people he seems to describe. Key details change when he repeats the stories. 'Many of these anecdotes have either not been verified or they’re unverifiable,' said Robert Rowland, who teaches presidential rhetoric at Kansas University.... 'When he doesn’t have hard data to cite, he goes to these kinds of anecdotes. When he doesn’t have real anecdotes, it appears that he finds his own.'”

Annals of Journalism, Ctd. Erin Durkin of the Guardian: "Nearly 350 news organizations are set to publish editorials on Thursday pushing back against Donald Trump’s attacks on the media and defending freedom of the press. The publications are participating in a push organized by the Boston Globe to run coordinated editorials denouncing what the paper called a 'dirty war against the free press'.” ...

... The Boston Globe's editorial is here. (I had to sign in w/Facebook.) The New York Times' editorial is here. The Portland (Maine) Press Herald editorial is here. ...

... David Bauder of the AP: "In St. Louis, the Post-Dispatch called journalists 'the truest of patriots.' The Chicago Sun-Times said it believed most Americans know that Trump is talking nonsense. The Fayetteville, N.C. Observer said it hoped Trump would stop, 'but we’re not holding our breath.... Rather, we hope all the president’s supporters will recognize what he’s doing — manipulating reality to get what he wants,' the North Carolina newspaper said.... 'While we agree that labeling journalists the "enemy of the American people" and journalism "fake news" is not only damaging to our industry but destructive to our democracy, a coordinated response from independent — dare we say "mainstream" — news organizations feeds a narrative that we’re somehow aligned against this Republican president,; the Baltimore Sun wrote. Still, the Sun supported the effort and also noted the deaths of five Capital Gazette staff members at the hands of a gunman in nearby Annapolis, Maryland.” ...

... David Remnick of the New Yorker: "It would be easy to dismiss Trump’s behavior as farcical, a subplot in his reality-TV Presidency. And yet it is essential to recognize what damage the President is doing, and how intent he is on eroding inviolable rights. What the Russian experience makes plain is the fragility of press freedom. This week’s editorials on this topic, here and elsewhere, aim to maintain American vigilance in defense of that freedom. This is not a matter of the press seeking to protect itself as an interest group. The interest group in question is the United States."

Make America White Again. Sarah Aziza of The Intercept: "[Immigration] advocates describe ... an apparently concerted effort by the Trump White House to systematically dismantle the nation’s refugee resettlement program.... The FBI is one of the agencies that runs background checks on refugees, and as the Daily Beast recently reported, its turnover for those cases has dropped from hundreds a week to the single digits.... Other sources close to the issue estimate that the backlog of applications includes over 200,000 refugees abroad who are awaiting interviews by U.S. officials, with about only 30 refugee officers available to conduct these assessments worldwide.... The result has been the reduction of the overall refugee flow to a bare trickle.... The drastic decrease in refugee admissions has led to the weakening of decades-old systems that help refugees transition to life in their new home, making it likely that the program will have to be rebuilt if a future U.S. administration moves toward welcoming more refugees." --safari ...

... On the Other Hand... Hamed Aleaziz of BuzzFeed News: "The Trump administration has requested the restarting of thousands of deportation cases that immigration judges previously had suspended, according to statistics provided Wednesday by the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees the immigration courts. So far this fiscal year, attorneys for Immigration and Customs Enforcement have sought the reactivation of nearly 8,000 deportation cases that had been administratively closed — meaning pushed off the court’s docket. The previous fiscal year, which included nearly four months of the Obama administration, there were nearly 8,400 such requests. The pace of such requests is nearly double that of the last two years of the Obama administration, when there were 3,551 and 4,847 such requests, respectively. Judges generally grant requests to restart cases, experts say." ...

... AND They're All Despicable. Pilar Menendez of The Daily Beast: "The head of the federal agency overseeing the U.S. immigration system spoke at an event hosted by an anti-immigrant organization that has routinely published false information about immigration and has been deemed a 'hate group' [by the Southern Poverty Law Center].... U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Lee Francis Cissna appeared Wednesday at the anti-immigration think tank Center for Immigration Studies’ (CIS).... Cissna, the son of a Peruvian immigrant..., was named USCIS chief in October.... Cissna is the third Trump administration official to take part in the Center for Immigration Studies’ 'Immigration Newsmaker' event."  --safari

Fuck Future Generations. Mark Hand of ThinkProgress: "The No. 2 official at the Department of the Interior wants to ease provisions of the Endangered Species Act that the Trump administration sees as obstacles to its goal of expanding resource extraction and making land management policies more industry friendly.... David Bernhardt, a former lobbyist for energy companies and large agribusiness, presented the Trump administration’s case for weakening the Endangered Species Act. He claimed the way the nation protects species has become an 'unnecessary regulatory burden' on industry and U.S. taxpayers.... In July, the Trump administration released a proposal that would strip the act of key provisions.... His administration has now set its sights on the Endangered Species Act as one more law at which it can chip away." --safari

Margot Williams, et al. of The Intercept, "The unusual strategy of tracing monetary flows to stop explosions is one of many significant disclosures contained in a batch of 328 internal NSA documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden and released by The Intercept today after research and redaction. Also included in the material ... is the untold story of how intelligence related to Al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was finally acquired; an assessment that a 'vast … network of Iranian agents' operated in Iraq and influenced its government; a major push to hone the agency’s voice identification technologydetails on how NSA staff deployed abroad viewed, and sometimes stereotyped, their host countries; and grumbling about having to comply with public-records laws.... Those stories and others are detailed in the highlights [in the post]." --safari

One of the Best People Is Resigning. Robert O'Harrow of the Washington Post: "A political appointee overseeing a small foreign assistance agency that has been used by the White House as a source of jobs for Trump administration supporters is resigning.... Robert Blau, a retired Foreign Service officer and speechwriter for Trump’s presidential campaign, was named vice president of operations at the Millennium Challenge Corporation in May 2017. He assumed the duties of the chief executive in May of this year, after the Senate failed to move on Trump’s nominee to lead the agency.... Blau’s announcement followed a July 28 Washington Post story that detailed how the White House had assumed control over hiring at the headquarters of Millennium Challenge Corporation, or MCC, a small independent agency that promotes economic growth in poor countries.... Soon after arriving at MCC, he filled his office with Trump campaign memorabilia. During a staff meeting last year, he urged employees to watch Fox News and read Breitbart News and characterized The Washington Post and CNN as 'very biased.'...” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

** Michael Tomasky of The Daily Beast: "Republicans don’t fail to object to Trump because they’re afraid of his base. They refuse to stand up to Trump because they like what Trump is doing.... [T]hey don’t complain ... because they’re with him on the most fundamental commodity in politics: power, and its use. Trump’s anti-democratic instincts, which are so dangerous to so many of us, do not trouble Republicans in the least.... [F]or a generation now ... Republicans have been trying ... to change the rules of the game so that they will win every election.... And then came the mother of all rule changes...: the blocking of Merrick Garland.... They wanted to make that public demonstration to establish a precedent — to show, to return to my phrase from above, that they could exercise public contempt for the democratic allocation of power. And win.... Under Trump, it’s open season on the rules. And this, not fear of the base, is why they don’t criticize him. On this most fundamental question, they’re with him all the way." --safari

Talk about "Rigged." Seung Min Kim of the Washington Post: "The tens of thousands of pages that have emerged from [Brett Kavanaugh’s] tenure in the George W. Bush White House reveal little about his judicial philosophy and qualifications, much less any damning detail that could sink his bid to replace retired Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Yet those papers are being disclosed to the public ... [by] a lawyer working for Bush and his legal team.... The National Archives is doing its own nonpartisan review, but that won’t be finished for weeks — long after Kavanaugh is likely to be confirmed.... The National Archives, which has played a central role for previous nominees in vetting their White House papers and sending them to the Senate, has effectively been sidelined. In its place is a team led by attorney Bill Burck, who also served in the Bush White House as Kavanaugh’s deputy when the nominee was staff secretary." Mrs. McC: Yup, they know Kavanaugh has something -- if not plenty -- to hide. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

2018 Elections

Maggie Haberman & Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "Stephen K. Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, is forming a group to try to sell voters on a midterm message that they should support Republicans to defend the Trump agenda and save the president from impeachment. The group, Citizens of the American Republic, is Mr. Bannon’s new vehicle after he was pushed out of the White House last summer and then parted ways with the conservative website Breitbart. Mr. Bannon declined to describe his donors or how much money the group has raised.... Most of Mr. Trump’s advisers in the White House consider Mr. Bannon’s foray into the midterms to be quixotic — they say the House is almost certainly lost to the Democrats — and see his efforts as another way to promote himself. They point to Mr. Bannon’s paltry record in backing Republican candidates, particularly Roy S. Moore.... In addition to Mr. Bannon, the group includes Sam Nunberg, one of Mr. Trump’s earliest political advisers; Michael Caputo, a New York-based strategist who worked on the Trump campaign; and Pat Caddell, a pollster who worked in Jimmy Carter’s White House and who has remained close to Mr. Bannon over the years."

Alexander Burns & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "In perhaps the most serious test of her 15-year grip on the House Democratic caucus, [Nancy] Pelosi is facing unrest from older lawmakers critical of her style, younger Democrats demanding generational change and candidates across the party who have sought to inoculate themselves against Republican attacks by distancing themselves from her. While she remains intent on reclaiming the speakership, Ms. Pelosi, 78, has also begun to acknowledge more candidly that a transfer of power is coming at some point. And in an interview on Wednesday, Ms. Pelosi sent a message of reassurance to anxious Democrats, speaking with specificity about building a 'bridge' to new leaders in the party."

Ryan Cooper of the Week: "Tom Perez is chair of the Democratic National Committee because wealthy centrist liberals — above all then-President Barack Obamaneeded a convenient stooge to keep the party machinery out of the left's hands. He's serving his big donor masters loyally, and in the process failing his party, the United States of America, and humanity as a whole." Cooper goes on to count the ways. Worth a read.


Making Capitalism Great Again. Matt Yglesias
of Vox: "Elizabeth Warren has a big idea that challenges how the Democratic Party thinks about solving the problem of inequality.... She’s introducing a bill Wednesday, the Accountable Capitalism Act, that would redistribute trillions of dollars from rich executives and shareholders to the middle class — without costing a dime. Warren’s plan starts from the premise that corporations that claim the legal rights of personhood should be legally required to accept the moral obligations of personhood. Traditionally, she writes in a companion op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, 'corporations sought to succeed in the marketplace, but they also recognized their obligations to employees, customers and the community.' In recent decades they stopped, in favor of a singular devotion to enriching shareholders.... Warren wants to eliminate the huge financial incentives that entice CEOs to flush cash out to shareholders rather than reinvest in businesses. She wants to curb corporations’ political activities.”

Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Matthew Goldstein, et al., of the New York Times: "Federal securities regulators have served Tesla with a subpoena..., increasing pressure on the electric car company as it deals with the fallout from several recent actions by its chief executive, Elon Musk. The subpoena, from the Securities and Exchange Commission, comes days after regulators began inquiring about an Aug. 7 Twitter post by Mr. Musk, in which he said he was considering converting Tesla to a private company. In the post, he said that the financing for such a transaction, which would probably run into the tens of billions of dollars, had been 'secured.' Tesla shares, a popular target for so-called short sellers who bet on certain stocks losing value, soared about 11 percent on the day Mr. Musk posted the message. It has become clear since then that neither Mr. Musk nor Tesla had actually lined up the necessary financing aside from having preliminary conversations with some investors.”

Michelle Lou of the Huffington Post: "Months after winning a Supreme Court case over his refusal to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, Colorado baker Jack Phillips is setting up for another legal showdown. Phillips, ordered by the state Civil Rights Commission into mediation with a trans customer of his Masterpiece Cakeshop for whom he had refused to bake a cake, sued Colorado officials in federal court on Tuesday, claiming they violated his rights to freedom of speech and religion.... The lawsuit cites Phillips’ narrow Supreme Court victory in June that said the state Civil Rights Commission displayed anti-religious attitudes toward the baker, violating his rights, in a case involving his refusal to bake a cake for a same-sex couple."

Amerikan Hate. Casey Michel of ThinkProgress: "Earlier this month, the white supremacist League of the South organization formally launched a series of Russian language pages, hoping to attract the support of Russian speakers across the world. ThinkProgress reported on the impending Russian language material in July, noting that League of the South head Michael Hill had said he believes 'the Russian people and the Southern people are natural allies against the destructive and impersonal impulses of globalism.'...Prevention of 'brothers’ war' may well be the cause of the League of the South’s new Russian outreach, but they’ve simultaneously announced plans to launch Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish language pages." --safari

Zack Beauchamp of Vox: "... as pathetic as [the Unite the Right 2 event was], none of it was quite as hilariously humiliating to the alt-right as the video ... in which the rally’s organizer, Jason Kessler, is yelled at by his father to get out of his parents’ room in the middle of a live stream with a fellow alt-righter (the stream first aired some time ago, but recently resurfaced on Twitter).... 'Hey!' Kessler’s father says, interrupting his conversation with the white nationalist and anti-Semitic former US Senate candidate Patrick Little. 'You get out of my room!'” Includes video. Mrs. McC: Little White Boy needs to put on his p.j.s & repair to the basement. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

The Travails of Alex Jones

AP: "The Federal Communications Commission has shut down a pirate radio station that served as the flagship outlet for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. The Austin American-Statesman reports the FCC also has fined the station’s operators $15,000 — a fine the FCC says in a lawsuit the operators are refusing to pay. The lawsuit filed in federal court in Austin alleges Liberty Radio operated on a channel without a license since at least 2013. The lawsuit names as defendants Walter Olenick and M. Rae Nadler-Olenick. Court documents show the FCC had tracked the transmissions to a 50-foot tower at an Austin apartment complex owned by an entity linked to the Olenicks."

Grounded! AP: "Twitter says it is suspending the account of the far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for one week after he violated the company’s rules against inciting violence. The New York Times reports that Jones tweeted a link to a video calling for supporters to get their 'battle rifles' ready against media and others. Jones won’t be able to tweet or retweet from his personal account for seven days, though he will be able to browse Twitter. The Twitter account for his 'Infowars' show was not affected." Mrs. McC: Ooooh, such a tough time-out. Wonder what Twitter would do if Jones urged his nutjob followers to get their battle rifles ready to take out Twitter execs. As a kid, I got harsher punishments for staying an hour too late at a friend's house. ...

... Jeet Heer: "Defending the suspension in an interview with NBC, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey argued the goal was to get Jones to transform his behavior.... The interview is alarming evidence that Dorsey doesn’t actually understand who Alex Jones is (and, by extension, who many of the other bad actors who exploit social media are). To talk about Jones changing his behavior is to assume Jones is basically a rational person who is sometimes tactless. But conjuring up ludicrous conspiracy theories that lead to harassment isn’t incidental to Jones, but integral to his entire public project."

Way Beyond the Beltway

Gaia Pianigiani, et al., of the New York Times: "Long before the bridge collapse that killed at least 39 people in Genoa on Tuesday, experts raised the alarm that the structure was deteriorating and possibly dangerous — warnings that, after the catastrophe, quickly led to a round of demands to determine who was to blame." See also yesterday's News Ledes. Mrs. McC: More than once I've traveled on that bridge, which is part of the autostrade. Glad I lived to tell about it & I'm sorry for those who did not. (Also linked yesterday.)

Tuesday
Aug142018

The Commentariat -- August 15, 2018

The log-in superglitch is fixed. Those of you who have logged onto Reality Chex in the past can begin logging in again. -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Perfect Projection from "Erratic" President Petty Pouter. Michael Shear of the New York Times: "In a remarkable attack on a political opponent, President Trump on Wednesday revoked the security clearance of John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director under President Barack Obama, citing what he called Mr. Brennan's 'erratic' behavior. The White House had threatened last month to strip Mr. Brennan and other Obama administration officials -- including Susan E. Rice, the former national security adviser; and James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence -- of their security clearances.... In a tweet this week, Mr. Brennan criticized Mr. Trump for the language that the president used to attack Omarosa Manigault Newman, his former top aide, who he called a 'dog.'"

Sharon LaFraniere of the New York Times: "The evidence against Paul Manafort is 'overwhelming,' a prosecutor told jurors during closing arguments in his fraud trial on Wednesday, saying that he hid more than $16 million in income and fraudulently obtained $20 million in bank loans even though, as a trained lawyer, 'Mr. Manafort knew the law.' The lead prosecutor, Greg D. Andres, described Mr. Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, as a bright and highly capable political consultant who was well versed in tax law and financial matters and fluent in terms like 'write-offs' and 'distribution' income. Mr. Manafort deliberately deceived his bookkeeper and tax accountants, Mr. Andres argued, so he could keep more of his income tax-free and then trick banks into loaning him millions when 'he was going broke and he couldn't pay his bills.' In a dispassionate summation that lasted nearly two hours, Mr. Andres insisted that Mr. Manafort's crimes could not be dismissed as mere oversights. He repeatedly showed the jury emails, tax returns or other financial documents that Mr. Manafort either personally wrote or signed. 'It wasn't a clerical decision. It wasn't "forgot to check a box,"' Mr. Andres said. 'When you follow the trail of Mr. Manafort's finances, it is littered with lies.'" ...

... Rachel Weiner, et al., of the Washington Post report on closing arguments in the Paul Manafort trial.

Talk about "Rigged." Seung Min Kim of the Washington Post: "The tens of thousands of pages that have emerged from [Brett Kavanaugh's] tenure in the George W. Bush White House reveal little about his judicial philosophy and qualifications, much less any damning detail that could sink his bid to replace retired Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Yet those papers are being disclosed to the public ... [by] a lawyer working for Bush and his legal team.... The National Archives is doing its own nonpartisan review, but that won't be finished for weeks -- long after Kavanaugh is likely to be confirmed.... The National Archives, which has played a central role for previous nominees in vetting their White House papers and sending them to the Senate, has effectively been sidelined. In its place is a team led by attorney Bill Burck, who also served in the Bush White House as Kavanaugh's deputy when the nominee was staff secretary." Mrs. McC: Yup, they know Kavanaugh has something -- if not plenty -- to hide.

On of the Best People Is Resigning. Robert O'Harrow of the Washington Post: "A political appointee overseeing a small foreign assistance agency that has been used by the White House as a source of jobs for Trump administration supporters is resigning.... Robert Blau, a retired Foreign Service officer and speechwriter for Trump's presidential campaign, was named vice president of operations at the Millennium Challenge Corporation in May 2017. He assumed the duties of the chief executive in May of this year, after the Senate failed to move on Trump's nominee to lead the agency.... Blau's announcement followed a July 28 Washington Post story that detailed how the White House had assumed control over hiring at the headquarters of Millennium Challenge Corporation, or MCC, a small independent agency that promotes economic growth in poor countries.... Soon after arriving at MCC, he filled his office with Trump campaign memorabilia. During a staff meeting last year, he urged employees to watch Fox News and read Breitbart News and characterized The Washington Post and CNN as 'very biased.'..."

Andy Kroll in Rolling Stone: "FBI agents in California and Washington, D.C., have investigated a series of cyberattacks over the past year that targeted a Democratic opponent of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). Rohrabacher is a 15-term incumbent who is widely seen as the most pro-Russia and pro-Putin member of Congress and is a staunch supporter of President Trump. The hacking attempts and the FBI's involvement are described in dozens of emails and forensic records obtained by Rolling Stone. The target of these attacks, Dr. Hans Keirstead, a stem-cell scientist and the CEO of a biomedical research company, finished third in California's nonpartisan 'top-two' primary on June 5th, falling 125 votes short of advancing to the general election in one of the narrowest margins of any congressional primary this year. He has since endorsed Harley Rouda, the Democrat who finished in second place and will face Rohrabacher in the November election."

Gaia Pianigiani, et al., of the New York Times: "Long before the bridge collapse that killed at least 39 people in Genoa on Tuesday, experts raised the alarm that the structure was deteriorating and possibly dangerous -- warnings that, after the catastrophe, quickly led to a round of demands to determine who was to blame." See also yesterday's News Ledes. Mrs. McC: More than once I've traveled on that bridge, which is part of the autostrade. Glad I lived to tell about it & I'm sorry for those who did not.

Mrs. McCrabbie: The photo from which this snip is taken accompanied the NYT story, linked below, on how Trump has embraced Hungary's authoritarian President Viktor Orban. The snip is part of the "class picture" of the July 2018 NATO summit. I was thinking less about Orban and the summit than I was about how Donald Trump looks now that Hope Hicks isn't there to iron his pants while he's wearing them. Sad!

Zack Beauchamp of Vox: "... as pathetic as [the Unite the Right 2 event was], none of it was quite as hilariously humiliating to the alt-right as the video ... in which the rally's organizer, Jason Kessler, is yelled at by his father to get out of his parents' room in the middle of a live stream with a fellow alt-righter (the stream first aired some time ago, but recently resurfaced on Twitter).... 'Hey!' Kessler's father says, interrupting his conversation with the white nationalist and anti-Semitic former US Senate candidate Patrick Little. 'You get out of my room!'" Includes video. Mrs. McC: Little White Boy needs to put on his p.j.s & repair to the basement.

*****

Primary Election Results

Jeremy Peters & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "On a night when voters in four states went to the polls, Democrats delivered groundbreaking primary victories for a transgender woman in Vermont, a Muslim woman in Minnesota and an African-American woman in Connecticut, while voters in Wisconsin nominated a top state education official, Tony Evers, to challenge Gov. Scott Walker, one of the most vulnerable high-profile Republicans of the midterms cycle. Also in Wisconsin, Republicans backed State Senator Leah Vukmir to run against Senator Tammy Baldwin, a first-term Democrat, propelling an establishment Republican who was careful to heap praise on Mr. Trump while harnessing the support of state party leaders."

Vermont. The New York Times is reporting results here.

     ... U.S. Senate. Jeremy Peters & Jonathan Martin: "Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont easily won his state's Democratic primary [link removed] on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press, all but guaranteeing his re-election in November. But Mr. Sanders is expected to snub the party that he sought to represent in the 2016 presidential election: A self-described democratic socialist, he plans to reject the nomination and run instead as an independent, according to advisers. Mr. Sanders followed this course in his Senate races in 2006 and 2012. By winning the Democratic nomination, he effectively prevented the party from putting another name on the November ballot, and many Democratic leaders and voters supported him in November elections regardless of him not running on the party line." The story has been updated, the original lede obliterated. It is linked above. ...

     ... Governor. Jess Bidgood of the New York Times: Christine "Hallquist, a Democrat, made history.... She became the first transgender candidate to be nominated for a governorship by a major party, beating three other candidates in Vermont's Democratic primary, according to The Associated Press.... But from here, her path to the governor's office could be a narrow one, even though she is a Democrat running in a deeply progressive state. She faces a Republican incumbent, Phil Scott, who is running for his second term with history on his side -- Vermonters have not thrown out an incumbent governor since 1962. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the seat as 'solid Republican.'"

Connecticut. The New York Times' live results are here.

     ... Governor, U.S. Congress. Lisa Foderaro of the New York Times: "Ned Lamont, a wealthy businessman whose prior bid for governor fell short, won the Democratic nomination in the Connecticut primary on Tuesday, handily beating his sole opponent according to The Associated Press, and sounding buoyant about keeping the governorship in Democratic hands.... In 2006, Mr. Lamont upset the political order when he staged a shocking upset of Senator Joseph I. Lieberman in the Democratic congressional primary. He then lost the general election to Mr. Lieberman, who ran as an independent. Four years later, he lost to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in the Democratic primary for governor.... [Lamont] will face the Republican Bob Stefanowski in November.... Democrats also chose Jahana Hayes in the state's Fifth Congressional District, the A.P. reported. Ms. Hayes, a 'National Teacher of the Year' in 2016, is seeking to become the state's first black Democrat to serve in Congress. Ms. Hayes, 46, was thought to be a long-shot in the contest against Mary Glassman, a longtime local Democratic politician in the Western Connecticut region. But she embraced her status as an underdog, melding her life story -- growing up in Waterbury, Conn., she went through homelessness, a teen pregnancy and economic hardship -- into her campaign. She also won support from some of the same progressive organizations that supported insurgent progressive Democratic candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez...."

     ... U.S. Senate. Matthew Corey has won the GOP primary. He will face Sen. Chris Murphy (D).

Wisconsin. The Times' primary results are here. ...

     ... Governor. Patrick Marley & Molly Beck of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Tony Evers won an eight-way Democratic primary Tuesday, setting up a November showdown between the state's education chief and GOP Gov. Scott Walker. ...

     ... U.S. Senate. Bill Glauber of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Down in the polls for months, [Leah] Vukmir relied on an old-fashioned get-out-the-vote ground game to defeat Kevin Nicholson -- and the big money behind him -- and claim the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate Tuesday.... Next up for Vukmir is a November showdown with Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin. It is a classic confrontation between Vukmir, an unabashed conservative, and Baldwin, a proud liberal.... A record-breaking 19 women have won major-party nominations for the U.S. Senate this year, according to Rutgers University's Center for American Women in Politics."

Minnesota. The New York Times is updating results here. ...

     ... U.S. Senate (Special Election). Judy Keen of the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune: "U.S. Sen. Tina Smith beat Richard Painter, once the ethics chief in a Republican White House, in the DFL primary election Tuesday, setting up the state's first U.S. Senate race with two women nominees. State Sen. Karin Housley, who won the Republican nomination, will face Smith in the fall."

     ... U.S. Senate. Jim Newberger won the Republican primary. He will face Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D).

     ... Governor. Patrick Coolican of the Star Tribune: "Jeff Johnson shocked the Minnesota political world when he built an insurmountable lead over former Gov. Tim Pawlenty [in the Republican primary for governor]. Meanwhile, Tim Walz defeated Erin Murphy and Lori Swanson on the DFL side.... Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner, derailed former Gov. Tim Pawlenty's bid to win back his old job. Pawlenty had been widely seen as the front-runner thanks to much higher name recognition from his two previous terms in office, and Johnson overcame a vast fundraising disadvantage with a message of change and by courting supporters of... Donald Trump." ...

     ... Attorney General. Jessie Van Berkel of the Star Tribune: "U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison won the DFL primary for Minnesota attorney general Tuesday and will face Republican Doug Wardlow in the November election."

Kansas (Last Tuesday's Primary). Governor. Bryan Lowry, et al., of the Kansas City Star: "Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has captured the Republican nomination for governor after the tightest primary fight in Kansas history, edging out the state's sitting governor. Gov. Jeff Colyer, a plastic surgeon from Overland Park, announced his concession Tuesday night after he failed to narrow the gap with Kobach when provisional ballots in Johnson County were tallied. 'I just had a conversation with the Secretary of State and I congratulated him on his success and repeated my determination to keep this seat in Republican hands,' Colyer said. 'This election is probably the closest in America, but the numbers just aren't there unless we go to extraordinary measures.'... Kobach led Colyer by 345 votes as of Tuesday evening, a week after Election Day, with 85 of the state's 105 counties having processed their provisional ballots.... Kobach will face Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly of Topeka, who captured her party's nomination with 52 percent of the vote in a five-way race, and independent Greg Orman if Kobach's office certifies the signatures collected by the Johnson County businessman's campaign.... Patrick Miller, a professor of political science at the University of Kansas, said he sees the race leaning for Kobach because Orman will draw votes from Kelly."

*****

** Convergence. John Sipher of The Atlantic: "While many Americans are concerned that the Trump campaign may have colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election, Trump's outright convergence of interests with Putin's Russia may well prove far more damaging for U.S. interests in the long run.... Both Putin and Trump seek to inject chaos into the U.S. political system. They support an assault on U.S. foreign-policy elites, encourage fringe and radical groups, and envision a United States untethered from traditional allies. They also share a willingness to utilize informal and semi-legal means to achieve their goals.... Trumpism shares a disturbing amount in common with Putinism, including promoting racist hatred of outsiders; the belief that the rich are above the law; the reflexive use of propaganda lies and denial; and the shredding of legal and political norms.... The greatest concern for Americans shouldn't be that Trump may have colluded with Russia; it's that under his guidance, we may be converging." Read on. --safari (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I was thinking about this Monday night. For instance, what country benefits most from the FBI's firing of Peter Strzok, the agency's top counterintelligence agent on Russia? Hint: Not the U.S. ...

...Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "When President Trump signed a $716 billion military spending bill on Monday, he claimed the authority to override dozens of provisions that he deemed improper constraints on his executive powers. In a signing statement that the White House quietly issued after 9 p.m. on Monday — about six hours after Mr. Trump signed the bill in a televised ceremony at Fort Drum in New York — Mr. Trump deemed about 50 of its statutes to be unconstitutional intrusions on his presidential powers, meaning that the executive branch need not enforce or obey them as written. Among them was a ban on spending military funds on 'any activity that recognizes the sovereignty of the Russian Federation over Crimea,' the Ukrainian region annexed by Moscow in 2014 in an incursion considered illegal by the United States.... The statement was the latest example of Mr. Trump's emerging broad vision of executive power. His personal lawyers, for example, have claimed that his constitutional authority to supervise the Justice Department means that he can lawfully impede the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election no matter his motive, despite obstruction-of-justice statutes." Emphasis added.

Veronica Stracqualursi of CNN: "'When you give a crazed, crying lowlife a break, and give her a job at the White House, I guess it just didn't work out. Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog!' Trump tweeted Tuesday.... Referring to an African-American woman as an animal is at best a sharp departure from the language typically employed by Presidents and at worst a reference that traffics in sexual and racial imagery." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Michael Shear & Eileen Sullivan of the New York Times: "President Trump added his former White House aide, Omarosa Manigault Newman, on Tuesday to the growing list of African-Americans he has publicly denigrated on Twitter, calling her 'that dog' and a 'crazed, crying lowlife' after her allegations against him of mental deterioration and racism. Even for a president who consistently uses Twitter to assail his adversaries, the morning tweet about Ms. Manigault Newman was a remarkably crude use of the presidential bully pulpit to disparage a woman who once served at the highest levels in his White House. In an interview on MSNBC, Ms. Manigault Newman responded that Mr. Trump treats women differently from men because he 'believes they are beneath him' and that he talked in derogatory ways about minorities. 'He has absolutely no respect for women, for African-Americans,' she said. In recent weeks, Mr. Trump has called Don Lemon, a CNN anchor, 'the dumbest man on television.' He has questioned the intelligence of LeBron James, a star basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers. And he has repeatedly said that Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, has a 'low I.Q.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Altho Trump has used the word "dog" to insult white people, as Shear & Sullivan note, he has used "dog" as a simile -- "lies like a dog" -- when applied to white people. He used it as a noun against Manigault Newman.

... Susan Glasser of the New Yorker: "The President of the United States called someone a 'dog' on Twitter Tuesday morning, another first for his debasement of Presidential rhetoric.... Trump has hurled playground taunts at a breathtakingly long line of targets during his eighteen months in office, from African-American football players to the Prime Minister of Canada.... The tweet exploded like a bomb on Twitter, where many immediately labelled it as racist and sexist (and noted that it came after Manigault-Newman alleged that there were recordings of Trump using the N-word during tapings of his TV show 'The Apprentice').... Trump's tweet makes Omarosa more sympathetic than she otherwise would be.... Omarosa titled her kiss-and-tell 'Unhinged.' Trump seems intent on proving her right." ...

... Jeremy Diamond of CNN: "... Donald Trump's campaign said Tuesday it has filed for arbitration, accusing Omarosa Manigault Newman, the former campaign aide and White House official, of breaching a 2016 nondisclosure agreement with the campaign. The move is the first legal action the Trump campaign has taken since Manigault Newman published a tell-all book about her time as a Trump campaign adviser and senior White House official." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "... the filing was a major escalation by Mr. Trump against Ms. Manigault Newman, whose book, 'Unhinged,' is the first account by a former White House aide to make embarrassing allegations about the president and his team.... Legal experts have said the nondisclosure agreements for the campaign and the White House are most likely not legally enforceable.... On Monday night, Katrina Pierson, a spokeswoman for the Trump campaign, denied on Fox News that the president had used the N-word, as Ms. Manigault Newman claims in the book. But on Tuesday, Ms. Manigault Newman provided an audio recording to CBS that appeared to reveal Ms. Pierson saying during the campaign that she believed Mr. Trump had used the slur, and that he was embarrassed for having done so."

... Jessica Levinson of NBC News: "... government employees are public servants.... They are also paid with public funds. And therefore, barring national security or significant privacy concerns, government employees should be able to tell the public -- who they work for -- about their service in government.... There's a strong case to be made that NDAs signed by White House employees violate the First Amendment and also public policy, making it doubtful that a court would agree to enforce them.... NDAs are also probably illegal.... It's important to note here that an NDA signed by a campaign staffer is different from one signed by a government employee. A contract between a campaign staffer and a campaign is between private individuals." ...

... Brian Schwartz of CNBC: "Attorney Charles Harder is representing ... Donald Trump's campaign in its arbitration fight against former senior White House official Omarosa Manigault Newman, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter. Harder, who is best known for representing wrestler Hulk Hogan in his sex tape lawsuit against now-defunct gossip site Gawker, was brought on as Manigault Newman published a book with numerous salacious claims against the president." ...

... ** Josh Marshall: "[I]t seems highly dubious that the ... [non-disclosure agreements] are enforceable. But that's not really the point. As the Cohen/Stormy Daniels saga has demonstrated, enforceability has never counted terribly high in Trump NDA thinking. The point isn't to win cases but to get a license to terrorize or bankrupt signee with predatory litigation.... If there's nothing else we've learned in recent months it is that if Trump is paranoid about being betrayed by his top operatives, he apparently has good reason.... Having the dignity crushed out of you amounts to the most reliable and universal aspect of Trump service.... It's a low trust, high fear climate which breeds backstabbing, betrayal, paranoia which only deepens in a self-validating, self-perpetuating way. It is a system of maximal public obsequiousness and maximal private subterfuge. Everything is a lie.... It a classic Hobbesian world, the war against all against all -- a comic dystopia Trump is building in the White House and aspires to create worldwide." --safari ...

... Ryan Parker of the Hollywood Reporters: "Penn Jillette says he knows for a fact that Mark Burnett possesses tapes of ... Donald Trump saying disparaging, racist remarks while working on the NBC reality show Celebrity Apprentice. Half of the magician duo Penn and Teller (who appeared on Celebrity Apprentice in 2012) recently told Vulture in an interview posted Tuesday that he is positive recordings exist because 'I was in the room' when Trump would say 'racially insensitive things that made me uncomfortable.' The infamous tapes that have dogged Trump since his campaign are once again in the news after former White House staffer and reality star Omarosa Manigault Newman said she heard the tapes, which allegedly include Trump using the N-word during production of the NBC series, which he hosted.... Trump on Tuesday, via Twitter, said Burnett assured him the tapes do not exist. Jillette says otherwise. However, he will not get in to the specifics of what Trump said because now that Trump is president, the 'stakes are really high.'" ...

... Jonathan Allen of NBC News: "White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Tuesday that she could not 'guarantee' that there are no recordings of ... Donald Trump using the N-word.... On Monday, the president took to Twitter to deny the existence of such a tape.... Sanders said that she and other White House aides would quit their jobs 'if at any point we felt that the president was who some of his critics claim him to be' and that he wouldn't have been able to form close relationships with other luminaries in the business and political worlds, including 'Bill and Hillary Clinton,' if he was." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Nice to see Sanders using "Crooked Hillary" as a character witness for Trump. ...

This president, since he took office, in the year and a half that he's been here, has created 700,000 new jobs for African-Americans. That's 700,000 African-Americans that are working now that weren't working when this president took place. When President Obama left after eight years in office -- eight years in office -- he had only created 195,000 jobs for African-Americans. President Trump, in his first year and a half, has already tripled what President Obama did in eight years. -- Sarah Sanders, at a White House news briefing on Tuesday

False.... According to the latest data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 708,000 more black Americans had jobs in July than in January 2017, the month Mr. Trump took office. By contrast, the same data show, the economy added about three million jobs for black Americans between January 2009 and January 2017, during Mr. Obama's presidency. -- Linda Qiu of the New York Times 

Update: From the Shear & Sullivan report, linked above: "Hours after her briefing, Ms. Sanders made a rare apology, tweeting that her numbers were off. 'Jobs numbers for Pres Trump and Pres Obama were correct, but the time frame for Pres Obama wasn't,' she wrote, citing information that she had interpreted incorrectly from the White House Council of Economic Advisers. 'I'm sorry for the mistake, but no apologies for the 700,000 jobs for African Americans created under President Trump.'" ...

... Andrew Prokop of Vox: "During a television interview Tuesday..., MSNBC's Katy Tur asked [Omarosa Manigault-Newman] ... whether Donald Trump knew about hacked Democratic emails before they were publicly released during the 2016 -- and Omarosa responded, 'Absolutely.' Tur followed up: 'He knew what was coming out before WikiLeaks released them?' And Omarosa said, 'Yes.' She also claimed that she had been interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller's team but offered no further specifics. [The "interview" appears to have been in the form of a phone call.] These are extremely vague claims, and it's difficult to know what to make of them without more details — details that Manigault-Newman does not provide in her new book.... It's never been definitively shown that the Trump team was in the loop on or involved in the two biggest email dumps to WikiLeaks, of the DNC's emails and John Podesta's emails." ...

... Politico: "... Donald Trump wrote online Tuesday that Jeff Sessions is not a 'real' attorney general, heaping fresh blame onto him for the Russia investigation that has served as a drag on Trump's time in the White House.... On Tuesday morning, Trump quoted Fox News analyst Gregg Jarrett and added a swipe at Sessions. '"They were all in on it, clear Hillary Clinton and FRAME Donald Trump for things he didn't do." Gregg Jarrett on @foxandfriends,' Trump wrote on Twitter. 'If we had a real Attorney General, this Witch Hunt would never have been started! Looking at the wrong people.' Also, see Patrick's comment below. "The Great Hillary Conspiracy" seems to be a TrumpWorld theme. (Also linked yesterday.)

** Emma Loop & Jason Leopold of Buzzfeed: "In its investigation of Russia's interference in the 2016 election, the Senate Intelligence Committee has spent more than a year trying to follow the money. But its efforts, unparalleled on Capitol Hill, have been hampered by a surprising force: the US Treasury Department, which has delayed turning over crucial financial records and refused to provide an expert to help make sense of the complex money trail. Even some of the department's own personnel have questioned whether Treasury is intentionally hamstringing the investigation.... While the reports include some of the president's current and former associates, even the Senate committee did not ask the Treasury for financial records on Trump himself or his family members." --safari: We keep hearing "the institutions are holding". This is proof of serious cracks in their foundations. Sounds like even the Senate investigation is looking under all the mattresses BUT the Trumps'.

Matt Zapotosky, et al., of the Washington Post: "Lawyers for Paul Manafort say they’ll rest their case without calling any witnesses in the former Trump campaign chairman's trial[.] The decision in the bank- and tax-fraud case comes after Judge T.S. Ellis III denied a defense motion to acquit Manafort as his lawyers argued the special counsel had failed to prove its case at the federal trial in Virginia. Such motions are routinely filed and almost never granted. After several hours of sealed discussions, open court began at about 11:45 a.m. with no explanation for the delay." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Waiting for Donaldo. Paul Waldman in the Washington Post: "From the beginning, there has been a question hanging over Manafort's case: Why won't he flip?... There's a real possibility he'll never see another day as a free man. One popular explanation is that he's afraid that if he tells everything he knows, some people in Russia would become displeased enough to kill him. The oligarch Oleg Deripaska, whom Manafort supposedly owes $19 million, allegedly has links to organized crime.... [Enter right, Donald Trump.] You can already see the argument he'll make: The whole thing is a witch hunt, the charges are bogus, the jury was a bunch of Angry Democrats, and I’m intervening in the interests of justice. Trump also seems to genuinely believe that the investigation is unfair, and pardoning Manafort would be a great way for him to both assert control and stick it to Mueller."

Tales of Trump & Two (Other) Tyrants

Patrick Kingsley of the New York Times: "For years, [Hungarian President Viktor] Orban’s government has craved validation from Washington, spending millions of dollars on lobbying, mostly in vain. The Obama administration largely ostracized Mr. Orban, avoiding high-level, bilateral contacts as punishment for his creeping authoritarian tendencies. American diplomats criticized Mr. Orban's crackdown on civil society — as did President Barack Obama himself. But now the Trump administration is pivoting, signaling a new engagement with Hungary, as well as nearby Poland. The shift has alarmed many campaigners for democracy and the rule of law, even as others argue that the Obama strategy of trying to isolate Mr. Orban had failed, and created openings for Russian and Chinese influence. President Trump has made no secret of his fondness for strongman leaders, yet his praise for them has sometimes been out of step with the policies of his administration. Toward Mr. Orban, at least, American policy seems to be following Mr. Trump's lead.... 'It legitimizes Russian influence in Hungary, [said Jiri] Pehe, who is now the director of New York University's campus in Prague." It appears Rex Tillerson continued Obama's freeze, a freeze which ended shortly after Tillerson's job did.

Martin Chulov of the Guardian has an piece that explains, according to his source, how Trump exacerbated the Turkish economic crisis -- which could threaten the world economy -- when he tried to make a deal with Turkish President Recep Erdogan on a prisoner swap. There were only three people in a room -- the Presidents & a translator -- and Trump didn't understand the deal he had made. Oh, and later mike pence put in his two cents & made things worse. As punishment (for his own ignorance & sloppiness, if you come right down to it), Trump doubled tariffs on Turkish steel & aluminum, further deflating confidence in Turkey's economic outlook. Mrs. McC: Are you surprised? (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Kareem Fahim of the Washington Post: "Turkey on Wednesday raised tariffs on a number of products imported from the United States, including passenger cars, tobacco and spirits, retaliating for President Trump's decision last week to double tariffs on Turkish metals. The tit-for-tat measures are part of a broader dispute between the two countries over the fate of an American citizen, Andrew Brunson, who is being prosecuted by Turkish authorities on terrorism-related charges. The Trump administration has demanded that Brunson, a pastor from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for decades, be allowed to return to the United States. Turkey has suffered the most from the feud, which has helped push its currency, the lira, to record lows against the dollar. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has accused the United States of bullying behavior and economic sabotage, vowed on Tuesday to boycott U.S.-made electronic goods, including Apple's signature iPhone." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Surely a smarter president -- say, Dubya -- could have arranged to have Brunson returned to the U.S. without any fall-out or face-saving hoohah.


Emily Holden
of Politico: "The Trump administration is preparing to unveil its plan for undoing Barack Obama's most ambitious climate regulation -- offering a replacement that would do far less to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet, according to Politico’s review of a portion of the unpublished draft. The new climate proposal for coal-burning power plants, expected to be released in the coming days, would give states wide latitude to write their own modest regulations for coal plants or even seek permission to opt out, according to the document and a source who has read other sections of the draft.... Obama's Clean Power Plan ... would have sped a shift away from coal use and toward less-polluting sources such as natural gas, wind and solar. That plan was the centerpiece of Obama's pledge for the U.S. to cut carbon dioxide emissions as part of the Paris climate agreement, which ... Donald Trump has said he plans to exit."

Emily Stewart of Vox: "The federal government's top consumer watchdog has decided it no longer needs to proactively supervise banks, credit card companies, and other lenders who deal with members of the military and their families to make sure they're not committing fraud or abuse. Critics, baffled by the decision from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, say it will put service members in the claws of predatory lenders and put their careers and livelihoods — and potentially US national security -- at risk.... Now the agency, under interim director Mick Mulvaney, is planning to end its use of these supervisory examinations of lenders.... Instead, the bureau will only be able to take action against lenders if it receives a complaint." --safari (Also linked yesterday.)

** Rebekah Entralago of ThinkProgress: "Two federal immigration agencies worked together in a coordinated effort to set deportation traps for unsuspecting immigrants seeking legal status, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) alleged in a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen this week. According to the Boston Globe, the two agencies arranged meetings for the undocumented immigrants at government offices, where they were subsequently arrested, and in some cases deported." --safari ...

... Amanda Michelle Gomez of ThinkProgress: "The federal health department's refugee office -- an office that's garnered attention for blocking an undocumented teen's abortion, failing to reunite migrant families the administration has separated, and contracting with detention facilities with grave abuses -- has removed its staff directory from its website.... Email addresses and phone numbers for 22 members of the Office of Refugee Resettlement's (ORR) leadership were taken down and not replaced.... The removal appears to have been around the same time that [ORR director] Scott Lloyd tried to stop detained migrant teens from getting abortions. In mid-October, news broke that Lloyd personally intervened to try to persuade pregnant girls in ORR custody." (Also linked yesterday.)

All the Best People, Ctd. Barbara Starr of CNN: "One of Defense Secretary James Mattis' most senior civilian advisers is being investigated by the Defense Department Office of Inspector General for allegedly retaliating against staff members after she used some of them to conduct her personal errands and business matters, according to four sources familiar with the probe. Dana White, the Trump administration political appointee who serves as the Pentagon's chief spokeswoman, has been under investigation for several weeks after multiple complaints were filed against her. White is alleged to have misused support staff, asking them, among other things, to fetch her drycleaning, run to the pharmacy for her and work on her mortgage paperwork. Staffers also charge that she inappropriately transferred personnel after they filed complaints about her. White has not been found in violation of any federal regulation or policy at this point.... Matters came to a head [in May], when at least two staffers raised concerns with more senior officials about White's use of their time. The staffers were transferred soon after and complained to the IG that they were moved in reprisal for their complaints."

Infernal Environmentalists Cause Infernos. Elliot Hannon of Slate: "Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a card-carrying member of climate change skeptic Trump administration, told a local TV station Sunday that climate change has nothing to do with the dozens of wildfires currently ravaging the west, and particularly the state of California, where blazes have churned through 1,000 square miles so far in what has already been the most destructive fire season on record. Instead, Zinke placed blame on 'extreme environmentalists' for the conditions that led to the state's historic fires this year. 'America is better than letting these radical groups control the dialogue about climate change,' Zinke said in an interview with KCRA. 'This has nothing to do with climate change. This has to do with active forest management.'" (Also linked yesterday.)

Senate Race. Ed Kilgore: "Gary Johnson, Professional Spoiler, Jumps Into New Mexico's Senate [Race].... His leap into the Senate race is more than anything else a wake-up call for incumbent Democratic senator Martin Heinrich, who had been coasting to an easy reelection win over underfunded Republican political novice Mick Rich."

Laurie Goodstein & Sharon Otterman of the New York Times: "Bishops and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covered up child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years, persuading victims not to report the abuse and police officers not to investigate it, according to a report issued by a grand jury on Tuesday. The report, which covered six of the state’s eight Catholic dioceses and found more than 1,000 identifiable victims, is the broadest examination yet by a government agency in the United States of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. There have been ten previous reports by grand juries and attorneys general in the United States, according to the research and advocacy group BishopAccountability.org, but those examined single dioceses or counties."

Beyond the Beltway

Mitch Smith of the New York Times: "Prison officials in Nebraska used the powerful opioid fentanyl to help execute a convicted murderer on Tuesday, the first such use of the drug in the United States and the first execution in the state since voters overturned a death penalty ban in 2016. The use of fentanyl, an opioid at the heart of the nation's overdose crisis, as part of a previously untested four-drug cocktail drew concern from death penalty experts who questioned how the execution unfolded.... The condemned man, Carey Dean Moore, 60, had been convicted of killing two Omaha taxi drivers decades ago and did not seek a reprieve in his final months."

Joel Achenbach, et al., of the Washington Post: "Florida's governor this week made official what residents of southwest Florida already knew: The bloom of toxic algae that has darkened gulf waters is an emergency. The red tide has made breathing difficult for locals, scared away tourists, and strewn popular beaches with the stinking carcasses of fish, eels, porpoises, turtles, manatees and one 26-foot whale shark. Gov. Rick Scott (R) late Monday declared a state of emergency in seven counties stretching from Tampa Bay south to the fringe of the Everglades. Scott promised $1.5 million in emergency funding. The governor is facing Sen. Bill Nelson (D) this fall at the ballot box in a contest for the senate seat Nelson has held for three terms. Each man has accused the other of failing to tackle the red-tide calamity and the simultaneous bloom of a different type of algae that is clogging rivers and canals and putting a scum on top of Lake Okeechobee." Includes video & a photo slideshow. Mrs. McC: This catastrophe is literally in my back yard, which abuts the Caloosahatchee River, part of the Intracoastal Waterway.

Erik Ortiz of NBC News: "Attorneys for the family of the Florida father who died last month following an argument over a handicap parking space thanked state prosecutors Monday for filing a manslaughter charge against the gunman, Michael Drejka -- less than a month after the killing. 'We are very appreciative that the state moved fast in this case,' Kelly McCabe, an attorney for the family of Markeis McGlockton, said at a news conference in which they supported the charge -- a felony that carries up to 30 years in prison. But while attorneys for the family of McGlockton have also decried his fatal shooting as a 'cold-blooded murder,' Pinellas County State Attorney Bernie McCabe told NBC News that he went with manslaughter after investigators and lawyers interviewed witnesses and studied the surveillance footage from the deadly July 19 dispute. 'I went through it all and made the legal decision that that is the charge that we could prove,' McCabe added. Legal experts agree...." (Also linked yesterday.)