The Wires
The Ledes

Saturday, November 17, 2018.

New York Times: "As the death toll continues to rise in the deadliest wildfire in California history, the sheriff of the Northern California county where the fire still rages said on Friday that more than 1,000 people were still missing, a startling increase from previous lists. As of Friday, 71 people had been confirmed dead in the fire, which swept through the city of Paradise and surrounding areas on Nov. 8. Around 500 specialists and more than 20 cadaver dogs are combing the incinerated hills and gullies of the wooded community for human remains." The report explains how the list of missing persons was compiled; many of those on the list may be survivors.

Gubernatorial Results


It's hard to read, but as the Times tally indicates, Democrats have picked up seven gubernatorial seats as of the current projections. Georgia is still too close to call, according to the Times. Republicans are ahead in all three states. Georgia could go to a runoff, but that looks unlikely at this point.

The New York Times' gubernatorial results are here.

Here are state-by-state predictions:

Alabama: Gov. Kay Ivey (R) is predicted to win the election.

Alaska: Mike Dunleavy (R) is projected to win the election. This is a pick-up for Republicans from an independent governor.

Arizona. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) has retained his seat.

Arkansas: Asa Hutchinson (R) is predicted to win re-election.

California: NBC News predicts Gavin Newsom (D) will become governor.

Colorado: NBC News predicts Jared Polis (D) will win the governor's seat.

Connecticut: Neil Vigdor, et al., of the Hartford Courant: "Democrat Ned Lamont appeared poised to become Connecticut’s 89th governor Wednesday morning after running up significant margins overnight in some of the state’s largest cities to pull ahead of Republican Bob Stefanowski.

Florida: Andrew Gillum (D) has conceded to Ron DeSantis (R).

Hawaii: Gov. David Ige (D) is predicted to retain his seat.

Idaho: NBC News projects Brad Little (R) will win the governorship.

Illinois: J.B. Pritzker (D) is expected to win the governorship. This is a flip from a Republican governor.

Iowa: NBC projects Kim Reynolds (R) will retain the governorship.

Kansas: Laura Kelly (D) has defeated Kris Kobach (R-Voter Suppression) for the governorship, according to NBC News. This is a flip from a Republican governor.

     Jonathan Shorman & Hunter Woodall of the Kansas City Star: "Democrat Laura Kelly will become the next governor of Kansas after voters rejected Republican Kris Kobach’s hard-right campaign and embraced Kelly’s promises of moderation and stability. Kelly vowed to put former Gov. Sam Brownback, and the years of budget woes brought on by his signature tax cuts, in the past." ...

     BUT then the Star has two stories about Kobach linked on its front page (the Kelly win is sandwiched between them), including this one about how Kobach, where the headline reads that Kobach has "unlimited potential." Turns out that a quote from Steve Bannon. The Star's lede sez, "... his defeat may do little to curb his future political potential." Nice.

Read more here:

Maine: Janet Mills (D) is projected to win the governorship. This is a flip from the execrable Paul LePage, who says he is moving to Florida "and teach at a university there." After yesterday's showing, Florida deserves him.

     Kevin Miller & Noel Gallagher of the Portland Press Herald: "Democrat Janet Mills won the governor’s race early Wednesday, becoming Maine’s first woman to hold the office."

Maryland: Larry Hogan (R) is expected to be re-elected.

Massachusetts: Charlie Baker (R) is expected to be re-elected.

Michigan: Gretchen Whitmer (D) is predicted to win the governorship. This is a flip from a Republican governor.

Minnesota: Tim Walz (D) is predicted to take the governorship.

Nebraska: Pete Ricketts (R) is expected to be re-elected.

Nevada: Steve Sisolak (D) is expected to win the governorship. This is a flip from a Republican.

New Hampshire: Chris Sununu (R) will remain governor.

New Mexico: NBC News is predicting Michelle Grisham (D) is expected to win the election. This is a flip from a Republican governor.

New York: Andrew Cuomo (D) is expected to win re-election.

Ohio: Mike DeWine (R) has won the race for governor.

Oklahoma: Kevin Stitt (R) is predicted to win the governorship.

Oregon: Kate Brown (D) will retain the governorship.

Pennsylvania: Tom Wolf (D) is expected to be re-elected.

Rhode Island: Gina Raimondo is expected to be re-elected.

South Carolina: Gov. Henry McMaster (R) is predicted to win the election.

South Dakota: Kristi Noem (R) is predicted to win the governor's race.

Tennessee: Bill Lee (R) is expected to win the election.

Texas: Greg Abbott (R) is expected to be re-elected.

Vermont: Phil Scott (R) will retain the governship.

Wisconsin: Tony Evers (D) is projected to defeat Gov. Scott Walker (R). Adios, Scotty.

     Patrick Marley & Molly Beck of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "After upending Wisconsin politics and infuriating liberals across the country, Gov. Scott Walker narrowly lost his bid for a third term Tuesday to Tony Evers, the leader of the education establishment Walker blew up eight years ago. The Associated Press called the race for Evers about 1:20 a.m. Wednesday based on unofficial returns. The race was so close that Walker's team said a detailed review of balloting and a recount were possible. But an unofficial tally had Evers winning by 1.1 percentage points — a margin that would be too large for a recount if it held."

Wyoming: Mark Gordon (R) is predicted to win the governship.

Kwitcherbitchin. Think things are bad now? They were way worse in 536 C.E. A report in Science explains.

Click on picture to see larger image.

... New York Times: "A celebrated and enigmatic painting of two men and a turquoise pool by David Hockney sold at Christie’s on Thursday night for $90.3 million with fees, shattering the auction record for a living artist and cementing a major broadening of tastes at the turbocharged top end of the market. The price for the 1972 painting, 'Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures),' easily surpassed the previous high of $58.4 million, held by Jeff Koons for one of his 'Balloon Dog' sculptures."

Jennifer Szalai of the New York Times reviews Michelle Obama's memoir Becoming.

Laura Holson of the New York Times: "... a number of artists who have reimagined [Norman Rockwell's] 'Four Freedoms,' most of them spurred by racial and political tension that has divided the country.... Mr. Rockwell’s portraits of Americana in the 1940s and 1950s were quite popular, but largely limited to white, Anglo-Saxon subjects who were friends or acquaintances of the artist. His 'Four Freedoms' series helped boost patriotism in a country on the brink of war, a visual reminder of American ideals. During World War II, they were turned into posters to muster sales of U.S. war bonds. Laurie Norton Moffatt, director of the Norman Rockwell Museum, said, 'Rockwell worked for hire and had to address the norms' of The Saturday Evening Post. Later, in the 1960s, the artist joined Look magazine and depicted civil rights and poverty. 'We saw him progressively move toward more representation,' she said. 'But it was an evolution.'... The 'Four Freedoms' series is touring the United States in celebration of its 75th anniversary.... As part of the 'Four Freedoms' tour, the organizers are showing works by contemporary artists inspired by the artist.”

Pops Peterson. "Freedom from Fear." 2015.

In case you've forgotten Rockwell's Four Freedoms, here they are:

Click on picture to see larger image.In fairness to Rockwell, this has to be my favorite "political illustration":

Norman Rockwell. 1964.

Drones over New Hampshire (and apparently a bit of Michigan):

The Aliens Are Coming! The Aliens Are Coming! NBC News: "Scientists have been puzzling over Oumuamua ever since the mysterious space object was observed tumbling past the sun in late 2017. Given its high speed and its unusual trajectory, the reddish, stadium-sized whatever-it-is had clearly come from outside our solar system. But its flattened, elongated shape and the way it accelerated on its way through the solar system set it apart from conventional asteroids and comets. Now a pair of Harvard researchers are raising the possibility that Oumuamua is an alien spacecraft. As they say in a paper to be published Nov. 12 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, the object 'may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: No mention of it in the story, but here's hoping they will take away our leader. And his friends.

Melanie McFarland of Salon reviews "Shut Up & Dribble," a three-part Showtime documentary which examines "the impact professional athletes have played in civil rights and social justice movements even prior to the NBA’s official formation, as a three-hour rebuttal to one Fox News pundit’s smarmy, uninformed declaration." Here's the trailer:

Dear @real Donald Trump:

You are the only person I know of who has such "a natural instinct for science" that he doesn't have to take classes or run field studies and all to be an expert on any scientific subject. I don't know any @real Apicologists, & even the @real Bee Guy who came out to give these critters a new home said he'd never seen anything like it. That being one of your favorite sayings, and as someone who has a natural instinct for cliched hyberbole, I thought of you right away. Could you tell me what kind of bees make nests like this humungous construction at my house in Florida? Thanks in advance.

-- @fake Bea McCrabbie 

P.S. My house is right down the road from Mar-a-Lago. I hope the Bee Guy took the bees to your place.

Constant Comments


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


The Commentariat -- Nov. 19, 2018

Felicia Sonmez of the Washington Post: "President Trump said he would not overrule his acting attorney general, Matthew G. Whitaker, if he decides to curtail the special counsel probe being led by Robert S. Mueller III into Russian interference in the 2016 election campaign. 'Look, it’s going to be up to him . . . I would not get involved,' Trump said in an interview on 'Fox News Sunday.'... Trump also essentially shut the door to sitting down with Mueller, telling host Chris Wallace that his written answers mean 'probably this is the end' of his involvement in the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. 'I think we’ve wasted enough time on this witch hunt and the answer is probably: We’re finished,' Trump said. He said that he had given 'very complete answers to a lot of questions' and that 'that should solve the problem.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: During the interview, "the president also claimed that he had no idea that his acting attorney general, Matthew G. Whitaker, viewed the Mueller investigation skeptically, despite reports that the two had multiple conversations about the inquiry over the past year.... Several news outlets have reported that Mr. Trump and Mr. Whitaker discussed the inquiry in the Oval Office while Mr. Whitaker served as the chief of staff to the attorney general, Jeff Sessions.... His comments on the Mueller investigation marked an apparent reversal from a year of claiming that he was willing and eager to be interviewed by the special counsel.... It remains to be seen whether Mr. Whitaker would sign off on a subpoena for testimony from Mr. Trump if Mr. Mueller sought one; the president’s advisers believe that he would not do so.... The president continued to be defensive about his abandoned trip to an American military cemetery during a visit to Paris last week [and] insulted the widely respected retired Navy admiral who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.... Mr. Trump ... criticized the retired Navy SEAL commander William H. McRaven, who did not endorse anyone in 2016 but has excoriated the president’s leadership in office, as a 'Hillary Clinton fan' when Mr. Wallace mentioned his name. Mr. Trump then suggested that Mr. McRaven did not move fast enough to capture the mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.... 'You’re not even going to give them credit for taking down bin Laden?; an incredulous [Chris] Wallace asked." ...

... Paul Sonne of the Washington Post: "The comments ... [about Adm. McRaven] represent the latest point of tension between Trump and a group of retired general officers who have criticized the commander in chief publicly for his handling of national security and military matters.... After Trump revoked former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance in the summer, McRaven wrote an article in The Washington Post defending Brennan as a man of unparalleled integrity and asked the president to revoke his clearance, as well, in solidarity. McRaven also criticized Trump more broadly." ...

Trump noted to 'Fox News Sunday' that the crown prince has repeatedly denied being involved in the killing inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. 'Will anybody really know?' Trump asked. 'At the same time, we do have an ally, and I want to stick with an ally that in many ways has been very good.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Washington Post Editors: "Saudi Arabia’S crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is brazenly seeking to lie his way out of accountability for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi — and the Trump administration is helping him do so.... The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on 17 mostly low-level suspects already implicated by the Saudis, while excusing both Mohammed bin Salman and top intelligence officials. Now we learn that Mr. Trump backed the Saudi leader despite a conclusion by the CIA that the prince was, in fact, responsible for ordering Khashoggi’s assassination.... As in the case of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, Mr. Trump is rejecting a firm conclusion by the U.S. intelligence community that he finds politically inconvenient. And as in that instance, Congress should move to base U.S. foreign policy on truth rather than lies."

Election 2018

Patricia Mazzei, et al., of the New York Times: "Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, a Democrat, conceded on Sunday that he had lost his re-election bid to Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, bringing Florida’s turbulent midterm election to its long-delayed end after an unprecedented statewide recount. Mr. Nelson telephoned Mr. Scott on Sunday afternoon to congratulate him, shortly after the conclusion of the manual recount showed that Mr. Scott had won the Senate race by 10,033 votes, out of more than 8.1 million cast." Mrs. McC: Nelson, a class act, lost to one of the scummiest people in American politics. Floridians are nuts. And I'm still one of them.


The Commentariat -- Nov. 18, 2018

Afternoon Update:

Felicia Sonmez of the Washington Post: "President Trump said he would not overrule his acting attorney general, Matthew G. Whitaker, if he decides to curtail the special counsel probe being led by Robert S. Mueller III into Russian interference in the 2016 election campaign. 'Look, it’s going to be up to him . . . I would not get involved,' Trump said in an interview on 'Fox News Sunday.'... Trump also essentially shut the door to sitting down with Mueller, telling host Chris Wallace that his written answers mean “probably this is the end” of his involvement in the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. 'I think we’ve wasted enough time on this witch hunt and the answer is probably: We’re finished,' Trump said. He said that he had given 'very complete answers to a lot of questions' and that 'that should solve the problem.'”

Trump noted to 'Fox News Sunday' that the crown prince has repeatedly denied being involved in the killing inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. 'Will anybody really know?' Trump asked. 'At the same time, we do have an ally, and I want to stick with an ally that in many ways has been very good.'”


Trump Favors "Great Climate." Ben Poston, et al., of the Los Angeles Times: "Viewing the destruction of a wildfire that has killed more than 70 people, with 1,000 others still unaccounted for, President Trump vowed Saturday to help California recover from the devastation and work to prevent future catastrophic blazes. Trump toured the rubble of Paradise, where more than 10,000 structures were lost, with Gov. Jerry Brown and Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom. Trump said he was stunned by the level of destruction.... Though Trump and Brown have strong political differences, they struck a chord of unity. Trump praised the state’s first responders and said he had productive discussions with Brown and Newsom. The president also avoided his criticism of California’s fire and forest management that sparked controversy last weekend, even suggesting there was common ground on how to proceed. 'We do have to do management, maintenance. We’ll be working also with environmental groups,' Trump said. 'I think everybody’s seen the light. We’re all on the same page now. Everybody’s looking at that. It’s going to work out well,' he added. Asked about whether his views on climate change had shifted, the president said no: 'I have a strong opinion; I want great climate.'... The president arrived in Southern California on Saturday afternoon for a similar tour of devastated areas in and around Malibu and Thousand Oaks.” ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Luckily I was sitting down when I heard Trump say he would be "working with environmental groups." Dropped my jaw, though. ...

... You Can't Teach an Old Dimwit New Tricks. Thomas Fuller of the New York Times: "Mr. Trump repeated his view on Saturday that forest management — the partial clearing and cleaning of brush from forests — was partly to blame for the string of immense and deadly wildfires in recent years.... Experts said the president was wrong to point to forest management — many wildfires in California, including the Woolsey Fire in the south, have started in shrub land, not forests. They also point out that forest management in California is largely a federal responsibility; around 60 percent of the 33 million acres of forests in the state is owned by the federal government. ...

... See also safari's commentary at the top of today's thread. As he points out, the difference in "civility" between the two parties' cheerleaders is profound. Safari reminds me that last week, in a sickening op-ed in the Richmond (Kentucky) Register, Mitch McConnell warned House Democrats they had best not "go it alone," but should be all bipartisany and also can the investigations stuff (otherwise known as a Constitutionally-prescribed oversight duty). This is the same Scorched-Earth Mitch who vowed never to give President Obama a win, who refused to give Obama's Supreme Court nominee a hearing, then eliminated the 60-vote threshold on bringing up Trump's Supreme nominees for a vote, & has again & again thrwarted Democrats' and even bipartisan efforts to bring other legislation to the Senate floor. We have not just a two-party system but also a double-standard system.

Trump Says December "Is a Very Good Time" for a Government Shutdown. David Lynch of the Washington Post: "President Trump suggested Saturday he was prepared to shut down the federal government next month if Congress fails to give him the money he wants to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. 'If I was ever going to do a shutdown over border security — when you look at the caravan, when you look at the mess, when you look at the people coming in,' the president said. '. . . This would be a very good time to do a shutdown.' The president has asked lawmakers for $5 billion for new wall construction in fiscal 2019, but Democrats oppose the project, and a bipartisan Senate compromise earlier this year included just $1.6 billion for it.”

Shane Harris & Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Saturday spoke with CIA Director Gina Haspel, who briefed him on the agency’s finding that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Washington Post first reported Friday that the CIA had assessed with high confidence the Saudi leader’s role, based on multiple sources of intelligence. But the president had already been shown evidence of the prince’s alleged involvement in the killing, and privately he remains skeptical, Trump aides said. He has also looked for ways to avoid pinning the blame on Mohammed, the aides said. Trump spoke with Haspel and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during his flight to California to tour areas damaged by the wildfires, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters aboard Air Force One.... Within the White House, there has been little doubt that Mohammed was behind the killing." ...

... Mark Mazzetti & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "On Saturday morning, President Trump demurred about whether he would publicly hold the [Saudi] crown prince responsible for the death of [Jamal] Khashoggi.... He said he had not yet been shown a C.I.A. assessment that Prince Mohammed had ordered the assassination and expected to be briefed later in the day. 'As of this moment, we were told that he did not play a role,' Mr. Trump said of the crown prince as he spoke to reporters outside the White House before heading to California.... But when Mr. Trump spoke to reporters from Malibu, Calif., hours later, he insisted that the C.I.A. had not 'assessed anything yet. It’s too early.' He said there would be a report on Tuesday that would address what 'we think the overall impact was and who caused it, and who did it.'... A top White House official responsible for American policy toward Saudi Arabia resigned on Friday evening, a move that may suggest fractures inside the Trump administration over the response to the brutal killing of the dissident Jamal Khashoggi. The official, Kirsten Fontenrose, had pushed for tough measures against the Saudi government.... The exact circumstances of her departure are murky.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The WashPo & NYT stories, read together, make clear that the Trumpster is lying about what Haspel told him about Mohammed's culpability. ...

... Juan Cole: "It seems obvious that CIA direct Gina Haspel is attempting to sabotage the bromance between, on the one hand, Bin Salman, and on the other, Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner.... It is not entirely clear to me why the CIA has it in for Prince Mohammed. The agency usually does what the president tells it to do and seldom has had independent policies like this one. In the past, it has often valued authoritarian allies over principles such as human rights or democracy. But the reason could be as simple as an assessment by agency analysts that Bin Salman is such a loose canon that he is damaging US interests in the region.... Khashoggi was a US resident, had two American-born children who are US citizens, and worked during the past year as a columnist for the Washington Post. If he can be murdered with impunity, anyone can be." --s ...

... Chris Rodrigo of the Hill: "President Trump on Saturday rejected reports that his administration is considering extraditing a foe of Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan.... NBC News reported Thursday said that the Trump White House had directed the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI to reexamine a request from Turkey to extradite [Fethullah] Gülen.... Trump's comments on Gülen echoed those of other administration officials since the release of NBC's report." Mrs. McC: Maybe the NBC report was the result of an administration trial balloon that popped. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

This Russia Thing, Ctd.

Betsy Woodruff of The Daily Beast: "Robert Mueller has unanswered questions for a long-time associate of Roger Stone's. Randy Credico, a lefty comedian and activist who has known Stone for decades, testified before Mueller’s grand jury in September.... Attorney Marty Stolar confirmed to The Daily Beast that [Credico] ... will speak with Mueller in the future. Stolar said Credico has already met with the Special Counsel’s team 'a number of times.' Credico’s next interview with Mueller’s investigators is expected to come after Thanksgiving – a sign the Special Counsel’s investigation of Stone will not conclude in the immediate future." --s

Frank Rich: "It has belatedly dawned on [Donald Trump] that (a) he lost the election he thought he won; (b) the Robert Mueller investigation has moved faster than his efforts to thwart it; (c) any of his legislative fantasies, notably the funding of his border wall, are doomed; and (d) and his pouting in Paris elevated his international image as a buffoon to a whole new level of notoriety.... That all this makes Trump panic at some gut level is visible not merely in his widely reported spells of rage and bitterness and in his increasingly empty official schedule. He is also stepping up his already impressive efforts to discredit and destroy those democratic institutions that might prevent him from escaping criminal jeopardy. And so he has returned to ridiculing ... the electoral process, by declaring elections that don’t go his way a fraud; he has escalated his assault on a free press by barring a CNN reporter...; and, last but not least, he has appointed an acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, who has ridiculed the judicial system, been on the board of a fly-by-night company that practiced Trump University–style consumer frauds, and publicly attacked the Mueller probe in Trump’s own language.... This is bunker behavior." (Also see Rich's commentary in the post on Chuck Schumer, Facebook & First Lady Melanie.)

Matt Naham of Law & Crime: "Inquiring minds want to know what acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker (or the Department of Justice) is hiding when it comes to his financial disclosure form. American Oversight, a non-partisan, nonprofit ethics watchdog..., sent a letter on Friday to Office of Government Ethics 'regarding DOJ’s failure to share acting Attorney General Whitaker financial disclosures with the public.'... Whitaker, who was appointed as former Attorney General Jeff Sessions chief of staff, would have been required to file a public financial disclosure form months ago.... Former director of the United States Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub [wrote on Twitter,] 'This is an outrage.' 'DOJ’s refusing to release Whitaker’s financial disclosure form is illegal, unheard of and highly suspicious. What is DOJ hiding?' Shaub asked. 'Bear in mind that DOJ is legally required to release these reports no later than 30 days after their filing....'” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: As we know, Whitaker's financial forms -- if he's filled them out -- could be ... interesting. ...

... Maureen Dowd: "The big banks are bigger than ever and prosecution of white-collar crimes is at a 20-year low. And, cherry on the gilded cake, we put white-collar criminals in charge of the country — elevating epic grifters to the presidency and powerful cabinet posts. Reading all the recent stories about the 10th anniversary of the financial crisis, it’s easy to see the neon line leading from Barack Obama’s failure to punish Wall Street scammers to the fact that Republican scammers are now infecting the entire infrastructure of government.... Donald Trump scooped up 'the forgotten,' promising to punish Wall Street for 'getting away with murder,' and pledging to break up the big banks and force bankers to pay higher taxes. But it was just another Trump con.... If you thought Trump’s flimflam about his namesake university was bad, if you cringe that Commerce and Interior are run by men accused of grifting, check out our acting attorney general.... Like his new boss, Matthew Whitaker has a pattern of thuggishness, threats, scams and abusing the power of his office to wage partisan feuds.”

Jane Mayer of the New Yorker: "For two years, observers have speculated that the June, 2016, Brexit campaign in the U.K. served as a petri dish for Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign in the United States. Now there is new evidence that it did. Newly surfaced e-mails show that the former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and Cambridge Analytica, the Big Data company that he worked for at the time, were simultaneously incubating both nationalist political movements in 2015.... The possibility that both Brexit and the Trump campaign simultaneously relied upon the same social-media company and its transgressive tactics, as well as some of the same advisers, to further far-right nationalist campaigns, set off alarm bells on both sides of the Atlantic.... The American investigations into foreign interference in Trump’s election, and British probes into Brexit, have increasingly become interwoven."

Election 2018

Conservative "Thought". Addy Baird of ThinkProgress: "Newt Gingrich blamed GOP losses in California, New Jersey, and New York on unions, during an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham.... 'I think we have to face the reality that in the largest state in the country, California, and the fourth largest state in the country, New York, the size of the union-based machines are now so enormous that we don’t frankly know how to compete with them,' Gingrich said.... Ingraham offered her own explanation for the Republican wipeout. 'There’s mass immigration that’s changed California, no doubt about it,' she said. 'And in many races, there’s no Republican running at all. They’re just basically two Democrats running against each other.'.... Ingraham’s declaration that 'mass immigration' and no Republican in the race in California at all is simply untrue. In Orange County, traditionally a Republican stronghold in the Golden State, there was a Republican in every congressional race, and nearly every single one has lost.... The area, birthplace of Ronald Reagan conservatism, is not known particularly as a union stronghold." --s ...

... California. The Left Coast. Adam Nagourney of the New York Times: "California Democrats completed their sweep of the congressional delegation in Orange County on Saturday as Gil Cisneros defeated Young Kim, a Republican, to capture a fourth seat in what had once been one of the most conservative Republican bastions in the nation. The victory by Mr. Cisneros, a philanthropist, was declared by The Associated Press. It completes what has amounted to a Democratic rout in California this year.... With Mr. Cisneros’s victory, Democrats now control all four House seats in Orange County.... The party also won supermajorities in the California Assembly and Senate, while the party’s candidate for governor — Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor — easily turned back a Republican challenge. Democrats control every statewide elected position in California."

Florida. Elizabeth Koh of the Miami Herald: "Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum, for the second time, conceded the race for Florida governor to Republican Ron DeSantis on Saturday, three days after a statewide machine recount indicated DeSantis retained his winning lead and as contentious recounts in two other statewide races draw to a close. 'We said we would fight until the last vote is counted,' said Gillum with his wife R. Jai in a video livestreamed on Facebook Saturday afternoon.... Gillum had conceded on Election Night to DeSantis when it appeared the Republican former congressman had won by a narrow, if insurmountable, margin. But after that margin further narrowed in the days after the midterms to within a half of a percentage point, and a statewide machine recount was triggered, Gillum held a brief press conference last weekend in which he withdrew his concession and called for counties to 'count every vote.'”

Mississippi. Matt Viser of the Washington Post: "A U.S. Senate runoff that was supposed to provide an easy Republican win has turned into an unexpectedly competitive contest, driving Republicans and Democrats to pour in resources and prompting a planned visit by President Trump to boost his party’s faltering candidate.... [Democrat Mike] Espy remains the underdog in the conservative state, but Republicans with access to private polling say [Sen. Cindy] Hyde-Smith’s lead has narrowed significantly in recent days." ...

... The Gentlelady from Mississippi. Ashton Pittman of the Jackson Free Press: "U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith accepted a donation from Peter [Z]ieve, a businessman in Washington state known for his white supremacist views, just days after a video published by Bayou Brief surfaced in which she says she would be 'on the front row' if a supporter invited her to 'a public hanging' Zieve donated $2,700, the max donation an individual can make, to Hyde-Smith’s campaign on Nov. 14. Progressive newsletter Popular Info first reported the donation.... Zieve donated over $1 million to Donald Trump in 2016." Mrs. McC: Hyde-Smith's campaign did not say whether or not it would return Zieve's donation. Trump evidently kept the money. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

It's Still the Economy, Stupid. The Denizens of Trumpland Are Not Doing "So Much Winning." Anthony Orlando
in the Washington Post: "Consider the stark differences in basic measures of local economic performance — employment and housing prices — between counties where the majority of votes were cast for Donald Trump and counties where the majority voted for Hillary Clinton. The average Clinton county employs seven to eight times as many workers as the average Trump county, with nearly double the market value per single-family home. In part, this difference reflects the higher population density of the urban areas, which voted disproportionately for Clinton. But as my analysis shows, it has been growing over time, as the Clinton counties outperform their Trump counterparts.... In fact, the larger the Trump electorate and the larger the degree of Trump support, the worse the county’s economic performance." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: While Orlando acknowledges that two years do not a trend make, his research does provide a tentative explanation of why Trump's "booming economy" did not register with voters when GOP candidates initially tried to make it their top campaign talking point. If a politician is boasting to you about how great the economy is doing under his party's leadership, you'll only feel worse if you yourself are still having trouble making ends meet. All the perplexed punditry about why voters didn't care about the economy was off-base; voters do care about the economy, but it's their own personal economy they care about.

"Capitalism is Awesome, Ctd." Addy Baird: "Pharmaceutical company Pfizer will raise prices on 10 percent of its prescription drugs in January, ending a brief period in which the company halted price increases in an effort to appease President Donald TrumpThe Wall Street Journal first reported the Pfizer news Friday.... Trump negotiated a price freeze with Pfizer CEO Ian Read in July of this year.... The price halt — and its quick end — comes after Pfizer reaped major rewards from the Republican tax cut passed last year.... Pfizer predicted that the company would receive a tax cut of over $1 billion in 2018 alone and that it would pay a tax rate of just 17 percent.... Pfizer did announce a plan to share the tax savings with employees, but only as a one-time bonus, not a wage increase, nor did they use the savings to create more jobs." --safari: Tired of winning yet? ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Maybe we should mention here that Pfizer gave $1MM to Trump's inauguration committee. And of course that doesn't count what-all Pfizer gave to all campaigns. The company can do what it wants. Pfizer's lobbying and its policies & pricing together provide a sterling example of what's wrong with the marriage between business & politics.

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Addy Baird: "Sebastian Gorka, the former Trump aide with ties to a Hungarian Nazi party, is hosting a new must-run show for Sinclair about the 'dangers' of socialism.... According to Media Matters, the first installment of the series focuses on democratic socialists who have been elected in the United States, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Virginia state delegate Lee Carter, as well as socialist regimes throughout history that have gone wrong and grown violent." --s

Beyond the Beltway

Will Sommer of The Daily Beast: "Members of the far-right Proud Boys and their allies were vastly outnumbered by protesters at a rally [in Philadelphia] outside the National Constitution Center on Saturday, the group’s first public appearance since New York police arrested some Proud Boys after a high-profile October brawl. Roughly two dozen people turned out for the 'We the People' rally.... Hundreds of protesters opposed the rally from across a police barricade, with chants and musical instruments that drowned out the conservative event." --s

Working While Black. Dannie Westneat of the Seattle Times: Bryron Ragland, a court-appointed visitation supervisor, was supervising a meeting between a mother & her son at a frozen yogurt store in Kirkland, Washington, a suburb of Seattle, where the mother had purchased ice cream for her son. His presence at the meeting was a legal requirement. Employees called the cops, who asked Ragland to leave. Ragland is black, and I guess everybody else in this story is white. So his skin made the employees uncomfortable. Mrs. McC: Guess what, white people. Our skin makes black people uncomfortable, but for good reason. Anyhow, if stop in at Menchie's, you'd better order the peachy-keen nonfat yogurt; ordering the pure chocolate is suspicious activity. The Kirkland cops need some remedial sensitivity training. Now.

Way Beyond

Joe Daniels of the Guardian: "A US navy hospital ship moored off Colombia has started giving free medical care to Venezuelan refugees, in a move likely to rile officials in Caracas who deny the existence of a humanitarian crisis in their own country – and have long been suspicious of the close relationship between Colombia and the US." --s

Read more here:

The Commentariat -- Nov. 17, 2018

Afternoon Update:

Chris Rodrigo of the Hill: "President Trump on Saturday rejected reports that his administration is considering extraditing a foe of Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan.... NBC News reported Thursday said that the Trump White House had directed the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI to reexamine a request from Turkey to extradite [Fethullah] Gülen.... Trump's comments on Gülen echoed those of other administration officials since the release of NBC's report." Mrs. McC: Maybe the NBC report was the result of an administration trial balloon that popped.

The Gentlelady from Mississippi. Ashton Pittman of the Jackson Free Press: "U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith accepted a donation from Peter [Z]ieve, a businessman in Washington state known for his white supremacist views, just days after a video published by Bayou Brief surfaced in which she says she would be 'on the front row' if a supporter invited her to 'a public hanging' Zieve donated $2,700, the max donation an individual can make, to Hyde-Smith’s campaign on Nov. 14. Progressive newsletter Popular Info first reported the donation.... Zieve donated over $1 million to Donald Trump in 2016." Mrs. McC: Hyde-Smith's campaign did not say whether or not it would return Zieve's donation. Trump evidently kept the money.


Paranoid-in-Chief. Maggie Haberman & Katie Rogers of the New York Times: "In one conversation after another [Donald Trump] has asked aides and advisers a pointed question: Is Mike Pence loyal? Mr. Trump has repeated the question so many times that he has alarmed some of his advisers. The president has not openly suggested dropping Mr. Pence from the ticket and picking another running mate, but the advisers say those kinds of questions usually indicate that he has grown irritated with someone.... Some Trump advisers, primarily outside the White House, have suggested to him that while Mr. Pence remains loyal, he may have used up his utility.... Mr. Trump has never completely forgotten that during the 2016 campaign Mr. Pence issued a disapproving statement the day after the infamous 'Access Hollywood' tape was made public...."

Commander-in-Chief? Not So Much. Helene Cooper, et al., of the New York Times: "He canceled a trip to a cemetery in France where American soldiers from World War I are buried. He did not go to the observance at Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day. He has not visited American troops in Iraq or Afghanistan.... Rhetorically, Mr. Trump has embraced the United States’ 1.3 million active-duty troops as 'my military' and 'my generals' and has posted on Twitter that under his leadership, the American armed forces will be 'the finest that our Country has ever had.' But top Defense Department officials say that Mr. Trump has not fully grasped the role of the troops he commands, nor the responsibility that he has to lead them and protect them from politics.... On Thursday, Mr. Trump spent less than an hour in a pre-Thanksgiving visit to the Marine Barracks in Washington, three and a half miles from the White House.... On Wednesday, it was Defense Secretary Jim Mattis who visited American troops on the border with Mexico in the latest military deployment under Mr. Trump’s watch." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... The Daily Beast: "In an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, President Trump claimed that he was simply too 'busy' to visit Arlington National Cemetery on Veteran’s Day — but his public schedule and tweets suggest otherwise.... The president admitted he probably 'should have done that,' but claimed he was 'extremely busy on calls for the country.'... Trump’s public schedule for Nov. 12 said the president had 'no public events scheduled.' He also tweeted a total of eight times that day.” --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: According to Leonnig & Dawsey of the WashPo (story linked below), Trump spent four hours Monday with his lawyers working on his answers to Bob Mueller's questions. The reporters do write that the session was "broken up by phone calls the president had to take." But the claim that he was "extremely busy on calls for the country" is far-fetched inasmuch as his main activity was covering up his involvement in answering questions about his ties to illegal Russian election-meddling. Obviously, Trump made a choice well before Monday to devote the day to his own interests rather than to giving up part of it to remember military veterans...

... Christopher Rugaber of the AP: "At a veterans’ event Thursday, [Trump] said the unemployment rate for former service members is its best in 21 years. He’s not even close. It’s only a one-year low. And it was even lower 18 years ago, under President Bill Clinton.... The veterans’ unemployment rate fell to 2.9 percent in October, the latest data available, but that is still above the 2.7 percent rate reached in October 2017, also under Trump. That was the lowest joblessness rate for veterans in nearly 17 years.... In May 2000, veterans’ unemployment dropped to a low of 2.3 percent, and he hasn’t reached that. In any event, it’s impossible for Trump to claim an achievement not seen in 21 years on veterans’ unemployment. The data on joblessness for vets only go back 18 years, to 2000." --safari: To summarize: In just one week, the presidunce* manages to disrespect the historical importance of our troops overseas, couldn't summon the courage to visit Arlington Cemetery due to temper tantrums, and then lies directly to Veterans' faces when he's finally forced to meet with them. 

This Russia Thing, Ctd.

Carol Leonnig & Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Friday said he has answered a set of questions from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III 'very easily,' and his lawyers are signaling that the president expects to turn over his written answers in the coming days.... The president’s comments, which he made to reporters gathered in the Oval Office for a bill signing, came after his lawyers postponed submitting his answers on Thursday, as they had considered doing.... Trump stressed Friday that he answered the questions personally, not his lawyers. 'My lawyers aren’t working on it. I’m working on it,' Trump said. 'My lawyers don’t write the answers.' The president has met with lawyers nearly every day this week in sessions to review his answers, including a four-hour session Wednesday that was frequently interrupted by other business. Trump spent more than four hours meeting with his attorneys Monday, broken up by phone calls the president had to take, and 90 minutes Wednesday night, according to people familiar with the sessions.... Trump also was asked Friday about recent tweets that seemed to betray a sense of frustration. He called the Mueller probe 'illegal' and said, without evidence, that Mueller’s team was 'screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want.' 'I’m not agitated,' he said Friday. 'It’s a hoax.'” ...

... Trump claims the questions are perjury traps: if you misstate what the weather was on a certain day, prosecutors will charge you with perjury:

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Actually, no. Prosecutors don't bring perjury charges for inconsequential mistakes. Also, there's not a chance Trump answered the questions "by himself." What were his lawyers doing during those hours-long meetings? Watching Trump diligently write out his answers in childish block letters? Calling out for Big Macs? ...

... Pamela Brown of CNN: "... Donald Trump and his legal team have taken issue with some of the questions from special counsel Robert Mueller that cover the transition period after the 2016 election, believing it could be off limits under executive privilege as they pertain to the presidency, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. The source would not explicitly say whether the President answered those questions other than to say that there are "responses" to all of the questions that were asked." Mrs. McC: So maybe the "very easily"-executed answers to many of Mueller's questions looked a lot like this:

Devlin Barrett of the Washington Post: "Lawyers challenging the appointment of Matthew G. Whitaker as acting attorney general asked the Supreme Court on Friday to step in and declare that someone else should serve in the role. The filing by lawyer Thomas C. Goldstein, who earlier this week filed a motion in federal court on behalf of Maryland’s attorney general challenging Whitaker’s appointment, is a novel attempt to undo President Trump’s choice to lead the Justice Department after Jeff Sessions was forced out as attorney general on Nov. 7." ...

... Jed Shugerman in a Washington Post op-ed: "President Trump’s appointment of [Matt] Whitaker [as acting attorney general] is a steep drop off a slippery slope of corruption. It’s time to make the Justice Department more structurally independent from presidents and their meddling. Unfortunately, there are even precedents for presidents appointing crony attorneys general as protection from investigation.... [Shugerman runs down the rogue's gallery.] Congress should act to reform and restructure the Justice Department. Congress created the department in 1870 in part to insulate government lawyers and prosecutors from patronage politics and party ma­nipu­la­tion. The past century has betrayed those designs.... Because the attorney general has always served a 'quasi-judicial' function, Congress has the power to make that office more independent from presidential control." ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: Trump believes in corruption. This is classic:

     ... Anita Kumar of McClatchy DC: "President Donald Trump will meet with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi — who is on his short list be his next attorney general — while he vacations at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Palm Beach for Thanksgiving next week, according to a source close to the president.... Bondi was a Trump surrogate during the 2016 presidential campaign and, more recently, a member of the president’s Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission.... Bondi received a $25,000 campaign donation in 2013 from a charity run by Trump as her office was looking into complaints from customers of Trump University.... Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee had requested the Justice Department to look into whether Trump paid off Bondi. She denied that the two actions were connected." --s

Matthew Mosk & Allison Pecorin of ABC News: "More than three dozen sealed criminal indictments have been added to the federal court docket in Washington, D.C. since the start of 2018.... Several legal experts told ABC News the number of sealed cases awaiting action right now is unusual. Fourteen were added to the docket since late August alone, a review by ABC News has found.... And the inadvertent discovery on Thursday night of what appear to be secret charges pending against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has drawn fresh attention to the mystery. Legal experts told ABC News that the sealed cases could be tied to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and possibly part of a quiet effort to protect his investigation from any premature effort to shut it down." ...

... Julian Barnes, et al., of the New York Times: "Soon after he took over as C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo privately told lawmakers about a new target for American spies: Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.... The C.I.A. began last year to conduct traditional espionage against the organization, according to American officials. At the same time, federal law enforcement officials were reconsidering Mr. Assange’s designation as a journalist.... Mr. Pompeo and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions unleashed an aggressive campaign against Mr. Assange, reversing an Obama-era view of WikiLeaks as a journalistic entity. For more than a year, the nation’s spies and investigators sought to learn about Mr. Assange and his ties to Russia as senior administration officials came to believe he was in league with Moscow. Their work culminated in prosecutors secretly filing charges this summer against Mr. Assange.... A prosecution of Mr. Assange could pit the interests of the administration against Mr. Trump’s. Mr. Assange could help answer the central question of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III: whether any Trump associates conspired with Russia to interfere in the presidential race."

Real Bad News for Fake-New-Faker-in-Chief. Michael Grynbaum & Emily Baumgaertner
of the New York Times: "A federal judge on Friday directed the White House to restore the press credentials of Jim Acosta of CNN, a win for media advocates and news organizations in a major legal test of press rights under President Trump. The judge, Timothy J. Kelly of Federal District Court in Washington, ruled that the Trump administration had most likely violated Mr. Acosta’s due process rights when it revoked his press badge after a testy exchange with the president at a news conference last week. The ruling was a significant but narrow victory for CNN. Judge Kelly, who was appointed by Mr. Trump, declined to weigh in on the First Amendment issues cited by the network, and the White House has the right to appeal. For now, Mr. Acosta can resume working on the White House grounds.... Other legal issues raised in the case were expected to be addressed in later court sessions." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McC: Sarah Sanders immediately issued a statement about "decorum," then lied about the ruling: "Ms. Sanders claimed in her statement that 'the court made clear that there is no absolute First Amendment right to access the White House.' But Judge Kelly did not rule on the First Amendment issues because he granted the temporary return of Mr. Acosta’s pass on due process grounds." ...

... This was all very upsetting to Lou Dobbs. Pilar Melendez of the Daily Beast: "Minutes after a federal judge ordered the White House to reinstate CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s press pass, Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs took to Twitter to bash the decision, contradicting his network’s company line in the process. 'Outrageously puerile reasoning and ruling: Our district courts are filled with farcical excuses for judges,' Dobbs tweeted.... And so on. "The rant came two days after Dobb’s bosses at Fox News publicly backed CNN’s lawsuit against the Trump administration, filing a supportive amicus brief with other major news networks." Also too, as noted above, Trump appointed this particular "farcial excuse for a judge."

** Julian Barnes of the New York Times: "The Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to American officials. The C.I.A. has made the assessment based on the crown prince’s control of the Saudi Arabia, which is such that the killing would not have taken place without his approval, and has buttressed its conclusion with two sets of crucial communications: intercepts of the crown prince’s calls in the days before the killing, and calls by the kill team to a senior aide to the crown prince." ...

     ... ** Shane Harris, et al., of the Washington Post: "In reaching its conclusions, the CIA examined multiple sources of intelligence, including a phone call that the prince’s brother Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, had with Khashoggi, according to the people familiar with the matter.... Khalid told Khashoggi ... that he should go to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to retrieve the documents and gave him assurances that it would be safe to do so. It is not clear if Khalid knew that Khashoggi would be killed, but he made the call at his brother’s direction, according to the people familiar with the call, which was intercepted by U.S. intelligence.... President Trump has resisted pinning the blame for the killing on Mohammed, who enjoys a close relationship with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser. Privately, aides said, Trump has been shown evidence of the prince’s involvement but remains skeptical that Mohammed ordered the killing.... The CIA’s assessment of Mohammed’s role in the assassination also tracks with information developed by foreign governments...."

Laura Meckler of the Washington Post: "Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Friday released her long-awaited rewrite of rules governing campus sexual harassment and assault allegations, narrowing the cases schools must investigate and giving the accused more rights. The proposed regulation replaces less formal guidelines created under President Barack Obama that tilt more toward accusers. DeVos rescinded the Obama measure a year ago. Under the proposal, fewer allegations would be considered sexual harassment and schools would be responsible only for investigating incidents that are part of campus programs and activities and that were properly reported. Accused students would be entitled to lawyers and cross-examination." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Trump, Ricardel Insult Estonia. Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg News: "... Donald Trump offered to nominate Mira Ricardel as ambassador to Estonia after First Lady Melania Trump forced the deputy national security adviser out of the White House, according to two people familiar with the matter. Ricardel turned down the posting to the Baltic state, two of the people said. The president wants to find her a good position, and she’s been presented nearly a dozen jobs from which to choose, according to a senior White House official." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Can This Marriage Be Saved? Michael Isikoff of Yahoo! News: "George T. Conway III, the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, said the Republican Party has become 'a personality cult' under President Trump and that he would 'move to Australia' rather than vote for the president again. 'I don’t feel comfortable being a Republican anymore,' Conway said in ... about his decision to drop his party registration earlier this year....' Asked if he thinks the president is fully stable, Conway responded: 'No comment.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Tal Kopan of The San Francisco Chronicle: "The number of undocumented immigrant children in government custody has topped 14,000 for the first time, a rise that shows no signs of slowing as the Trump administration enforces policies that are keeping them in government facilities longer. There were 14,056 unaccompanied immigrant minors in Department of Health and Human Services custody on Friday, according to a government source familiar with the number.... The reason is that children who arrive unaccompanied in the U.S. are spending more time in holding facilities before they can be released to suitable adults, often family members.... ICE confirmed in September that it had used that information to arrest undocumented adults who came forward to take custody of children. Previous administrations didn’t look into people’s immigration status when deciding whether to release children into their care, but that changed under President Trump." --s

Alexia Fernández Campbell of Vox: "A group of House Democrats will introduce a bill on Friday to help protect millions of nurses and other health care workers from the high rates of violence they experience on the job. The new bill, called the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, would require hospitals, nursing homes, rehab centers, and jails to develop a workplace safety plan to protect their workers from violence they experience at the hands of patients — a surprisingly common phenomenon. The bill would also require employers to record and investigate all complaints of violence, and prohibits retaliation against employees who call 911. A draft of the bill was shared with Vox." --s

John Bresnahan of Politico: "The House Ethics Committee has formally sanctioned two members — GOP Rep. Mark Meadows (N.C.) and Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen (Nev.) — over sexual harassment-related allegations, the latest sign that fallout from #MeToo movement continues to be felt on Capitol Hill. Meadows was found to have violated House rules 'by failing to take appropriate steps to ensure that his House office was free from discrimination and any perception of discrimination.' This case grew out of an investigation into Meadows' former chief of staff, Kenny West. Meadows kept West on his payroll even after learning of credible harassment allegations against the former aide.... Kihuen, who announced his retirement as the #MeToo movement swept Capitol Hill last year, was found to have 'made persistent and unwanted advances towards women who were required to interact with him as part of their professional responsibilities.' Both lawmakers were reproved by the bipartisan Ethics Committee, the least serious form of punishment it can mete out."

Elana Schor of Politico: "Chuck Grassley plans to trade his Senate Judiciary Committee gavel to lead the Finance Committee next year, he said on Friday — leaving Lindsey Graham in line to replace him as chairman." Mrs. McC: Oh, great. Now Lindsey can go ballistic for as long as he wants every time Democrats find fault with Trump's usual low-par nominees. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Election 2018

David Graham of The Atlantic: "As the outstanding races continue to gradually come in, they are changing the way the midterm elections look. Instead of the 'blue wave' that pundits predicted before Election Day, it’s more like a blue tide — rolling slowly but inexorably in and washing Republicans away.... With the late results in, Democrats have netted 36 seats. In the six remaining races, Democrats lead in three and Republicans lead in three, so if the results hold, Democrats will end up gaining 39 seats — at the high end of the range of predictions heading into Election Day." --s

Florida. Manuel Roig-Franzia Amy Gardner of the Washington Post: "Sen. Bill Nelson was left with almost no chance of pulling off a comeback to retain his seat Friday after Florida’s two largest counties completed hand recounts that failed to generate the big vote bump the incumbent Democrat needed. Nelson’s underwhelming performances in the recounts in Miami-Dade County and the Democratic stronghold of Broward County, along with three courtroom setbacks, make it almost impossible for the three-term senator and former astronaut to overcome a deficit of more than 12,000 votes in his reelection bid against Gov. Rick Scott (R). The recounts set the stage for a likely Scott victory that would strengthen Republican control of the U.S. Senate and give the nation’s third-most-populous state two GOP senators."

Georgia. Alan Blinder & Richard Fausset of the New York Times: "Stacey Abrams ended her Democratic bid to become governor of Georgia on Friday, acknowledging that she did not have the votes to beat her Republican rival, Brian Kemp, but sounding a defiant note by declaring that an 'erosion of democracy' had kept many of her backers from the polls. The narrow defeat of Ms. Abrams, who would have become the first black woman to be elected governor anywhere in the United States, as well as the apparent loss of Andrew Gillum, who sought to become Florida’s first black governor, at once illuminated the vestiges of Southern history and demonstrated how demographic changes have taken hold across the region and begun to reshape its politics."

Mississippi. Allan Smith of NBC News: "A video surfaced Thursday of Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi saying it might be a 'great idea' to make it harder for some people to vote, and her campaign quickly responded that she was 'obviously' joking. Hyde-Smith, who is in a runoff against Democrat Mike Espy on Nov. 27, made the remark at a campaign stop in Starkville, Mississippi, on Nov. 3. It was posted to Twitter on Thursday by Lamar White Jr., publisher of The Bayou Brief. Smith earlier this week posted video of Hyde-Smith making a comment on Nov. 2 about a 'public hanging' that started a controversy.... Danny Blanton, a spokesman for Espy's campaign, called Hyde-Smith a 'walking stereotype who embarrasses our state.' 'For a state like Mississippi, where voting rights were obtained through sweat and blood, everyone should appreciate that this is not a laughing matter,' Blanton said in a statement." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: That's Senator Cindy there to the left. Now try to picture her back in the 1960s, standing at the front of a crowd of white ladies screaming at little black children on their way to their newly-integrated school. That wasn't hard, was it?

Utah. Paul LeBlanc of CNN: "Two-term Republican Rep. Mia Love on Friday took the lead over her Democratic challenger in Utah's 4th District House race more than a week after election night and after President Donald Trump mocked her for losing. Love leads Democrat Ben McAdams by 419 votes as of Friday evening, CNN results show, giving the congresswoman 50.1% of the vote -- a slim margin above McAdams at 49.9% as votes continue to be counted."

Another Way Man-Made Climate Change Is Devastaing the Planet. Julie Turkewitz & Matt Richtel
of the New York Times: "The wildfires that have laid waste to vast parts of California are presenting residents with a new danger: air so thick with smoke it ranks among the dirtiest in the world.... In the communities closest to the Paradise fire, an apocalyptic fog cloaked the roads, evacuees wandered in white masks and officials said respiratory hospitalizations had surged. Nearly 200 miles to the south, in San Francisco, the smoke was so thick that health warnings prompted widespread school closings. Even the city’s cable cars were yanked from the streets. And researchers warned that as large wildfires become more common — spurred by dryness linked to climate change — health risks will almost surely rise."

"Moral Rot". Tara Isabella Burton of Vox: "Activists are castigating Facebook for hiring a public relations firm accused of promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and blamed Jewish billionaire philanthropist George Soros for galvanizing some of Facebook’s critics.... Facebook retained the services of the public relations firm Definers Public Affairs, which had been founded by several Republican political operatives. Definers, in turn, helped push the narrative that critics of Facebook were being bankrolled by Soros and his Open Society Foundations.... Facebook has since cut ties with Definers, and its founder Mark Zuckerberg has denied any knowledge of the strategy, telling reporters that he 'learned about this reading the New York Times yesterday.'... But Facebook’s willingness to partner with those who weaponize information — peddling anti-Semitic conspiracy theories when it’s beneficial, then turning around and accusing its opponents of doing the same — reveals the fundamental moral rot at the core of such an ethos." --s

Karen Zraick of the New York Times: "A lawsuit accusing the publisher of the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer of coordinating a 'terror campaign' of online harassment against a Jewish real estate agent cannot be dismissed on First Amendment grounds, a federal judge in Montana ruled this week. In his ruling denying a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Dana L. Christensen, the chief judge for United States District Court in Missoula, Mont., wrote that the real estate agent, Tanya Gersh, was a private citizen, not a public figure, and that the publisher, Andrew Anglin, incited his followers to harass her as part of a personal campaign." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

Beyond the Beltway

Very Fine People. Noor Al-Sibai of the Raw Story: "Thirty-nine members of the United Aryan Brotherhood and Unforgiven neo-Nazi groups were arrested in a Florida drug trafficking sting — and one had functional pipe bombs in his home. Tampa’s WFTS-TV reported that the multi-agency sting..., a three-year-long investigation, led to the seizure of more than 110 illegal firearms, a rocket launcher and two pipe bombs from the individuals mostly based in Pasco County, Florida. Authorities also seized 'several pounds' of meth and fentanyl.... The United Aryan Brotherhood is, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the nation’s oldest prison-based white supremacist group. The Anti-Defamation League reported that Unforgiven is a Florida-based neo-Nazi prison group....”

Way Beyond

Dan Sabbagh of the Guardian: British PM "Theresa May is battling to halt a growing revolt from the Tory right after half a dozen more backbenchers came out in favour of a no-confidence vote and the organiser of the rebellion publicly predicted more MPs would follow next week.... The number of backbenchers calling publicly for a no-confidence vote in May’s leadership increased to 23. Rebellious MPs said they were confident of reaching the required threshold of 48 letters to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the party’s 1922 Committee."