The Wires

The Ledes

Thursday, July 20, 2017.

Los Angeles Times: "O. J. Simpson was granted parole Thursday for convictions connected to a robbery in a Las Vegas about a decade ago. He could be out of jail as early as October." -- CW

 

Public Service Announcement

Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW

... Washington Post: "... investigators believe they have discovered the 'smoking gun' that would support a decades-old theory that [Amelia] Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were captured by the Japanese: a newly unearthed photograph from the National Archives that purportedly shows Earhart and Noonan — and their plane — on an atoll in the Marshall Islands.... Gary Tarpinian,  executive producer of the History documentary, told the Today show that they believe the Koshu, the Japanese merchant ship in the photo, took Earhart to Saipan, where she died in Japanese custody." -- CW 

Summer Beach Reading. James Hohmann of the Washington Post suggests Al Franken's Giant of the Senate. Hohmann's column hits some of the highlights. CW: Let us be thankful that Donald Trump is incapable of learning the lessons Franken learned from his team. If Trump were half as bright as Franken, he would be a succesful president & very effective dictator.

Politico: "MSNBC has parted ways with anchor Greta Van Susteren after just six months on air, as her show failed to live up to the network's ratings expectations. An MSNBC executive said the decision to remove the former Fox News host was purely for business reasons, based on ratings." -- CW 

Click on the picture to see larger image.... Low Society News. AP: "... Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were among the guests as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin’s) married a Scottish actress. Mnuchin exchanged vows Saturday night with Louise Linton at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington. Mrs. Trump wore a pink blush dress" CW: which, if you follow Reality Chex, you will know was enhanced by some really costly baubles that remind the bride of Grace Kelly or happy times or something.

New Yorker: "In a paper in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers announced that they have pushed back the date of the earliest human remains to three hundred thousand years ago. And the specimens in question were found not in East Africa, which has become synonymous with a sort of paleoanthropological Garden of Eden, but clear on the other side of the continent — and the Sahara — in Morocco." -- CW ...

Washington Post: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus took a final, bittersweet bow Sunday, staging its last three shows [in Uniondale, N.Y.,] after 146 years of entertaining American audiences with gravity-defying trapeze stunts, comically clumsy clowns and trained tigers." -- CW 

Guardian: "Pippa Middleton [sister of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge --] has married James Matthews in what has been called the society wedding of the year, in front of royalty, family and friends." -- CW

Washington Post: "Two months before Monday’s [May 8] announcement that Sinclair Broadcast Group would pay $3.9 billion for Tribune Media and add to its dominance as the nation’s largest owner of local TV stations, a top executive at Sinclair beamed a short commentary piece to many of the company’s 173 stations.In the segment, which looks like it belongs in a newscast, Sinclair vice president for news Scott Livingston stands before a wall of video monitors and warns that 'some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think.' He accuses the national media of publishing 'fake news stories' — a direct echo of President Trump’s frequent complaint — and then asks viewers to visit the station’s website to share 'content concerns.' The piece was a 'must-run,' meaning news directors and station managers from Baltimore to Seattle had to find room for it.... While partisan coverage is a familiar staple of cable networks — Fox News on the right, MSNBC on the left — it remains mostly unheard of in broadcast TV, where it has generally been accepted that public airwaves should be used in the difficult-to-define public interest.” -- CW 

CNN: "21st Century Fox and the private equity firm Blackstone are in talks to launch a bid for Tribune Media, one of the nation's largest television broadcasting companies, a source with knowledge of the matter said Sunday. The deal currently under discussion would see Blackstone and Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox forming a joint venture. Blackstone would provide the cash for the acquisition while Fox would add all its owned-and-operated television stations to the joint venture." -- CW 

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Thursday
Jul202017

The Commentariat -- July 21, 2017

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Thursday he plans to stay on in his current job, even after ... Donald Trump harshly criticized him a day earlier for recusing himself from the ongoing Russia investigation. 'I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate,' Sessions said at a Department of Justice press conference.... 'We are working here every day to advance the priorities of the president and the administration,' [Deputy AG Rod] Rosenstein said. 'I was proud to be here yesterday. I’m proud to be here today. I’ll be proud to be here tomorrow. And we are spending every minute working to advance the interests of the department and, as the attorney general said.'” CW Weather Report: It's a cold day in hell. How do I know? Because I was rooting for JeffBo. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Jeff Zeleny & Dan Merica of CNN: "Trump's trashing of several of his administration's top justice officials in an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is causing deep alarm inside the West Wing....There's also a general sense of bewilderment as to why Trump gave the interview. Health care was the focus of the day.... But then this. 'It's chilling,' one White House official said.... One official described the President's blasting of Sessions as only intensifying the already low morale inside the West Wing." CW: If these White House staff are surprised, they sure as hell haven't been paying attention. ...

... Jake Tapper & Eli Watkins of CNN: "A group of Republican senators criticized ... Donald Trump on Thursday, a day after the President rebuked top law enforcement officials in an interview with The New York Times. 'The attorney general is America's top law enforcement official,' one GOP senator said. 'It's unclear if he understands that, and that's pretty disturbing.'... Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins was the only one of the four to speak on the record.... 'Any thought of firing the special counsel is chilling. It's chilling. That's all you can say," [one senator said]." CW: What gutless wonders these senators are. ...

... Carol Leonnig, et al., of the Washington Post: "Some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s authority to grant pardons.... Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people.... With the Russia investigation continuing to widen, Trump’s lawyers are working to corral the probe and question the propriety of the special counsel’s work. They are actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work, according to several of Trump’s legal advisers." -- CW ...

... Michael Schmidt, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump’s lawyers and aides are scouring the professional and political backgrounds of investigators hired by the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, looking for conflicts of interest they could use to discredit the investigation — or even build a case to fire Mr. Mueller or get some members of his team recused, according to three people with knowledge of the research effort.The search for potential conflicts is wide-ranging.... The effort to investigate the investigators is another sign of a looming showdown between Mr. Trump and Mr. Mueller.... Some of the investigators have vast experience prosecuting financial malfeasance, and the prospect that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry could evolve into an expansive examination of Mr. Trump’s financial history has stoked fears among the president’s aides.... The role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced." -- CW ...

... Greg Farrell & Christian Berthelsen of Bloomberg: "The U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. The president told the New York Times on Wednesday that any digging into matters beyond Russia would be out of bounds. Trump’s businesses have involved Russians for years, making the boundaries fuzzy so Special Counsel Robert Mueller appears to be taking a wide-angle approach to his two-month-old probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Andrew Prokop of Vox: "Importantly, this has been in the works for a while — the Bloomberg report said it spiraled out of an old investigation into money laundering by former US Attorney Preet Bharara (whom Trump fired in March). Trump’s interview with the Times had nothing to do with it. But the news of this aspect of the investigation has only added to speculation in Washington that Trump could fire Mueller — an action that, if carried out, would mean a crisis over the rule of law in the United States." -- CW ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Somebody is basically daring Trump to try to fire Mueller." -- CW ...

... ** "Donald Trump: L’état, C’est Moi." Jonathan Chait: "In his bizarre New York Times interview, Donald Trump expresses his characteristic assortment of fever-dream assertions. The president believes Hillary Clinton 'was totally opposed to any sanctions for Russia,' that a properly amortized health-insurance plan would cost '$12 a year,' that Napoleon’s 'one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities,' and that Trump has somehow either carried out or reversed sweeping land reforms ('I’ve given the farmers back their farms. I’ve given the builders back their land to build houses and to build other things'). Yet a consistent idea manages to poke through the delirious rambling. Trump repeatedly affirmed his conviction that the entire federal government ought to be operated for his personal benefit.... Six months into his presidency, foundational republican concepts remain as foreign as ever to Trump.... If the rule of law survives this era intact, it will only be because the president is too inept to undermine it." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Worst Boss Ever. David Graham of the Atlantic: "Donald Trump is an impossible boss, demanding absolute personal loyalty — even when it conflicts with the law or other key principles — and offering little faithfulness in return." Graham offers a host of examples of Trump dissing and/or undercutting his underlings even as they are sticking up for his most outlandish proposals. -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Nancy LeTourneau of the Washington Monthly provides an example from the NYT interview of how incoherent Trump is. "People who have regular contact with the president probably witness this kind of thing on a regular basis. That’s why so many of his aides are constantly working to keep a lid on how much the public is exposed to it. But it is the swamp that eventually seeps out into his twitter account. This man is not well." -- CW 

Jeremy Singer-Vine, et al., of BuzzFeed: "Mar-A-Lago, Donald Trump’s private club that he calls the Winter White House, is asking the government for permission to hire 70 temporary foreign workers as cooks, servers, and housekeepers, according to records posted by the Department of Labor on Thursday. The nearby Trump National Golf Club, Jupiter, has requested permission to hire an additional six foreign cooks. Trump has frequently urged US companies to hire American workers — a theme highlighted this week in what the Trump administration has dubbed 'Made in America' week. But for his own Mar-A-Lago club, he has also defended hiring foreign workers by saying that it is 'very, very hard to get help' during the Florida tourist season." -- CW 

Drew Griffin & Curt Devine of CNN: "Jared Kushner's status as a top aide to ... Donald Trump was used to lure Chinese investors to his family's New Jersey development, even after his family's company apologized for mentioning his name during a sales pitch in May, CNN has found. References to Kushner are part of online promotions by two businesses that are working with Kushner Companies to find Chinese investors willing to invest in the 1 Journal Square development in exchange for a US visa. The promotions are posted in Chinese and refer to Kushner Companies as 'real estate heavyweights,' going on to mention 'the celebrity of the family is 30-something "Mr. Perfect" Jared Kushner, who once served as CEO of Kushner Companies.'" -- CW 

Paul Krugman: "... , when Trump threatens to 'let Obamacare fail,' what he’s really threatening is to make it fail. On Wednesday The Times reported on three ways the Trump administration is, in effect, sabotaging the A.C.A. (my term, not The Times’s). First, the administration is weakening enforcement of the requirement that healthy people buy coverage. Second, it’s letting states impose onerous rules like work requirements on people seeking Medicaid. Third, it has backed off on advertising and outreach designed to let people know about options for coverage.... It’s basically about spite: Trump and his allies may have suffered a humiliating political defeat, but at least they can make millions of other people suffer." -- CW 

Secretary v. Secretary. Damian Paletta & Carol Morello of the Washington Post: "Two of President Trump’s most senior cabinet members became embroiled Thursday in an unusual legal battle over whether ExxonMobil under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s leadership violated U.S. sanctions against Russia. Treasury officials fined ExxonMobil $2 million Thursday morning for signing eight business agreements in 2014 with Igor Sechin, the chief executive of Rosneft, an energy giant partially owned by the Russian government. The business agreements came less than a month after the United States banned companies from doing business with him. Hours after the fine was announced, Exxon filed a legal complaint against the Treasury Department -- naming Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as the lead defendant -- while calling the actions 'unlawful' and 'fundamentally unfair.'... A Treasury spokesman said Tillerson did not personally sign the documents sealing the agreements with Rosneft.” -- CW 

Steve M. peruses some of the sick, hateful things Trump supporters are saying about John McCain in the wake of the announcement he has brain cancer. "We knew they hated us, but they hate their own, too, even under these circumstances." See Ken W.'s comment on this in today's thread. -- CW  

Wednesday
Jul192017

The Commentariat -- July 20, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Thursday he plans to stay on in his current job, even after ... Donald Trump harshly criticized him a day earlier for recusing himself from the ongoing Russia investigation. 'I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate,' Sessions said at a Department of Justice press conference.... 'We are working here every day to advance the priorities of the president and the administration,' [Deputy AG Rod] Rosenstein said. 'I was proud to be here yesterday. I’m proud to be here today. I’ll be proud to be here tomorrow. And we are spending every minute working to advance the interests of the department and, as the attorney general said.'” CW Weather Report: It's a cold day in hell. How do I know? Because I was rooting for JeffBo. ...

... Greg Farrell & Christian Berthelsen of Bloomberg: "The U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. The president told the New York Times on Wednesday that any digging into matters beyond Russia would be out of bounds. Trump’s businesses have involved Russians for years, making the boundaries fuzzy so Special Counsel Robert Mueller appears to be taking a wide-angle approach to his two-month-old probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said." -- CW ...

... ** "Donald Trump: L’état, C’est Moi." Jonathan Chait: "In his bizarre New York Times interview, Donald Trump expresses his characteristic assortment of fever-dream assertions. The president believes Hillary Clinton 'was totally opposed to any sanctions for Russia,' that a properly amortized health-insurance plan would cost '$12 a year,' that Napoleon’s 'one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities,' and that Trump has somehow either carried out or reversed sweeping land reforms ('I’ve given the farmers back their farms. I’ve given the builders back their land to build houses and to build other things'). Yet a consistent idea manages to poke through the delirious rambling. Trump repeatedly affirmed his conviction that the entire federal government ought to be operated for his personal benefit.... Six months into his presidency, foundational republican concepts remain as foreign as ever to Trump.... If the rule of law survives this era intact, it will only be because the president is too inept to undermine it." -- CW ...

... Worst Boss Ever. David Graham of the Atlantic: "Donald Trump is an impossible boss, demanding absolute personal loyalty — even when it conflicts with the law or other key principles — and offering little faithfulness in return." Graham offers a host of examples of Trump dissing and/or undercutting his underlings even as they are sticking up for his most outlandish proposals. -- CW 

*****

Trumpsky Throws JeffBo & Others Under the Bus, Rolls over Them. Peter Baker, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump said on Wednesday that he never would have appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions had he known Mr. Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation that has dogged his presidency, calling the decision 'very unfair to the president.' In a remarkable public break with one of his earliest political supporters, Mr. Trump complained that Mr. Sessions’s decision ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel.... 'Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,' Mr. Trump said. In a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times, the president also accused James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director he fired in May, of trying to leverage a dossier of compromising material to keep his job. Mr. Trump criticized both the acting F.B.I. director [Andrew McCabe] who has been filling in since Mr. Comey’s dismissal and the deputy attorney general [Rod Rosenstein] who recommended it. And he took on Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel now leading the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election.” -- CW ...

     ... Here are audio & written transcripts of parts of the interview. -- CW ...

     ... CW: Many a Cabinet member or other high government official would resign if the president gave her/him such a rousing vote of no-confidence. Because this is President Id speaking, I doubt this interview was part of any thought-out plan of action. But JeffBo's resignation would give Trump a chance to appoint a new AG with no Russia connection who then would have the authority to take over & upend or at least styme Mueller's investigation. ...

He should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.... If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, 'Thanks Jeff, but I can't — I'm not going to take you.' -- Donald Trump

... Chris Geidner of BuzzFeed: "This is the president outright saying that he wanted his pick to oversee any investigation into his campaign." -- CW ...

... Kevin Drum: "Trump apparently thinks that blocking embarrassing investigations is part of the attorney general’s job. If Sessions wasn’t willing to do that, 'I would have picked somebody else.' Does Trump have any idea what he’s admitting here? And, in restrospect, he now thinks Comey was trying to blackmail him. This despite the fact that Mother Jones had written about the dossier weeks before and it was common knowledge that it was out there.... Nothing matters, does it? Trump really could gun someone down in the Oval Office and Fox News would report that Trump had stopped a terrorist attack." -- CW ...

... Ditto digby: "I don't know what to say anymore. He's at war with the entire Justice Department and the Intelligence agencies and he seems to be threatening to fire anyone who crosses him. Is this the new normal? Is this America?" -- CW ...

Asked if Mr. Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line if it expanded to look at his family’s finances beyond any relationship to Russia, Mr. Trump said, 'I would say yes.' He would not say what he would do about it. 'I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.' -- New York Times interview, linked above ...

... So Then. Ben Protess, et al., of the New York Times: "Banking regulators are reviewing hundreds of millions of dollars in loans made to Mr. Trump’s businesses through Deutsche Bank’s private wealth management unit, which caters to an ultrarich clientele, according to three people briefed on the review who were not authorized to speak publicly. The regulators want to know if the loans might expose the bank to heightened risks. Separately, Deutsche Bank has been in contact with federal investigators about the Trump accounts, according to two people briefed on the matter. And the bank is expecting to eventually have to provide information to Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel overseeing the federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.... Deutsche Bank has also lent money to Jared Kushner...." -- CW ...

... Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggested in an interview Wednesday that former FBI Director James Comey broke with Justice Department policy when he arranged to leak memos about his conversations with ... Donald Trump. During an appearance on Fox News, the No. 2 Justice Department official was asked whether it would 'ever be proper for a FBI director' to leak notes about conversations with the president. 'As a general proposition, you have to understand the Department of Justice. We take confidentiality seriously, so when we have memoranda about our ongoing matters, we have an obligation to keep that confidential,' Rosenstein said.... 'As a general position, I think it is quite clear. It's what we were taught, all of us as prosecutors and agents.'" -- CW 

** The Most Unethical Administration Ever. Sam Stein of the Daily Beast: "The Trump administration has spent taxpayer money meant to encourage enrollment in the Affordable Care Act on a public relations campaign aimed at methodically strangling it. The effort, which involves a multi-pronged social media push as well as video testimonials designed at damaging public opinion of President Obama’s health care law, is far more robust and sustained than has been publicly revealed or realized. The strategy has caught the eye of legal experts and Democrats in Congress, who have asked government agencies to investigate whether the administration has misused funds and engaged in covert propaganda in its efforts to damage and overturn the seven-year-old health care law." Thanks to P.D. Pepe for the link. CW: These unscrupulous frauds must spend most of their time scheming against the public. ...

Walt Handelsman of the New Orleans Advocate. Thanks to D.C. Clark for the link.... Burgess Everett, et al., of Politico: "A key group of Senate Republicans met late into the night Wednesday to try to salvage their health care bill, but emerged without any breakthroughs and still appeared far from finding the votes to repeal Obamacare. Still, as GOP senators left the nearly three-hour meeting, they professed optimism." -- CW ...

... It Ain't Over Till It's Over. A Big Bribe. Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "In a bold move to revive their healthcare bill, Senate Republican leaders are getting ready to propose giving $200 billion in assistance to states that expanded Medicaid, according to a person familiar with internal Senate negotiations. The huge sum would be funded by leaving in place ObamaCare’s net investment income tax and its Medicare surtax on wealthy earners, according to the source briefed on the proposal. The figure is likely to outrage conservatives who would prefer to use the savings from the Senate healthcare bill to pay down the deficit.... The goal is winning the support of wavering moderate Republicans who will make or break the legislation: Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.)." -- CW ...

... ** Senate Republicans Have No Idea What They're Doing. Caitlin Owens of Axios: "It's up in the air what Senate Republicans will vote on next week, following their meeting with President Trump on Wednesday. The goal seems to be to get something passed, regardless of whether it just repeals parts of the Affordable Care Act or tries to replace them. When asked whether the vote would be on repeal, the latest version of the Senate replacement bill, or some other replacement plan, Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said, 'It could be all of the above, but at least one.' He said Trump's message to the caucus was to 'unify and get things done.'... It can't be overstated how wild it is that Senate Republicans are planning to vote on a massive restructuring of the health insurance system next week, without knowing what it will look like. And though passage of anything seems unlikely, if they do manage to pass a replacement bill, it'll be a patchwork of last-minute compromises on top of a bill that is already massively unpopular and hasn't been thoroughly analyzed." -- CW ...

... Eileen Sullivan & Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Trump vigorously defended an all-but-dead Senate health care bill on Wednesday, pressing Republicans to stay in Washington and improve the proposal or risk being tagged as supporting the current system, which he called a 'big lie.' At a lunch at the White House with Republican senators, Mr. Trump gave the latest in a series of shifting reactions to the collapse this week of the Senate’s effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and what amounted to a belated sales pitch for a measure that Republicans have privately complained he has done little to champion.” -- CW ...

... "... He Wants to Remain a Senator, Doesn't He? During public comments before the meeting, Trump threatened Sen. Dean Heller (Nevada), who was seated at the Lord's right hand. Democrats see Heller as the GOP's most vulnerable senator in 2018. -- CW ...

... Lewandowski's Prediction. Nicole Lafond of TPM: "... Donald Trump’s former campaign manager [Corey Lewandowski] thinks the President will probably 'close the deal today' on an Obamacare repeal bill because Trump is 'a great dealmaker.'” CW: It would appear this didn't work out. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... This Could Be Why. Adam Cancryn of Politico: "A revived bill that would dismantle large parts of Obamacare without an immediate replacement would leave 32 million more people uninsured and double premiums over a decade, the CBO said in a report Wednesday. The legislation — an update of the repeal measure nearly all GOP senators voted for in 2015 — is on track to reach the Senate floor early next week, where it would likely fail. Republican leaders pledged to put the bill to a vote after their initial effort to repeal and replace Obamacare fell apart in stunning fashion, though a number of holdout lawmakers are meeting later tonight to try to salvage the effort. If that fails, CBO’s analysis offers a stark look at the GOP’s remaining option for following through on their seven-year vow to eliminate Obamacare." CW: Anyway, it was a great idea, Mr. President. Thanks, Donald! ...

     ... Ed Kilgore: "It is not clear whether the starting point is supposed to be the discarded BCRA, the 'straight repeal' bill, or something entirely different. But it is increasingly obvious that whichever direction they decide to do, there will probably be a CBO assessment telling them it still stinks." -- CW ...

... Brian Beutler: "... Democrats, if they choose to, could co-opt Republicans’ rhetoric to make a much more convincing argument that liberal health care policy increased Americans’ personal liberty.... The liberating aspects of universal health care have not been central to the Democrats’ value proposition." CW: This is so obvious, I have never understood why Democrats didn't forcefully make this case. I feel pretty certain that one of the reasons onerous & unreasonable non-compete clauses have become so ubiquitous is that ObamaCare freed a lot of employees to job-shop without fear of losing health insurance benefits. (And, yeah, legislators need to rein in the use of those non-compete clauses, which are fair in limited cases.) ...

... Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner: "President Trump has reached out to Sen. Mike Lee, the conservative who helped deal what appeared to be a fatal blow to the Senate healthcare bill, as part of a last ditch effort to revive the legislation. The healthcare bill appeared dead on Monday night, when Lee announced that he could not support the legislation because it did not go far enough in undoing Obamacare's regulatory infrastructure. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., swiftly declared that the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare did not have enough support to move forward, and so he said the Senate would vote on a clean partial repeal bill. That bill, too, seemed quickly doomed. Trump reached out to Lee, R-Utah, on Tuesday afternoon to take his temperature and, according to a spokesman for the senator, Lee reiterated his position that he wanted to free the market from Obamacare's regulations in an effort to drive down premiums and provide more choices. Trump, according to the spokesman, seemed receptive." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Robert Costa, et al., of the Washington Post conduct a post mortem on DonTCare. The writers cite pence, who was supposed to be the White House point man, & Trump for being disengaged from &/or hostile to Republican skeptics. -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... "Health-Care Debacle Exposes the Monster in Trump." Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg: "I certainly can't think of any president who directly promised to harm the American people unless his political opponents let him have his way.... [Trump's promise to 'let ObamaCare fail'] is worse because Trump has, in fact, undermined the health exchanges, and he has threatened to do so further; indeed, one estimate says that the bulk of projected 2018 premium increases are the result of Trump and other Republican actions, not a deterioration in the markets -- in part because insurers are directly saying that's why their rates are going up." ...

     ... CW: This has to be the first time in history that a POTUS said to the people he is sworn to protect & defend, in effect, "I'm going to let you get sick & die because many of the people you voted for refused to give me a 'win' on something I don't really give a flying fuck about." ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "The first duty of any President is to protect the welfare of the citizenry. In blithely threatening to allow the collapse of the Obamacare exchanges, through which some twelve million Americans have purchased health insurance, Trump was ignoring this duty. Arguably, he was violating his oath of office, in which he promised to 'faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States.'” -- CW ...

... Other People Trump Doesn't Care About. Ken Thomas of the AP: "The White House said Wednesday that ... Donald Trump has declined an invitation to speak at the NAACP's annual convention next week in Baltimore, leading the nation's oldest civil rights organization to question the president's commitment to his African American constituents.... The NAACP found out from reporters that [Sarah Huckabee] Sanders had announced that Trump would not attend." -- CW  

CW: If you wonder what Trump & Putin discussed in their tête-à-tête at the G-20 dinner -- the White House won't say -- here's a strong possibility:

     ... Greg Jaffe & Adam Entous of the Washington Post: "President Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia, according to U.S. officials. The program was a central plank of a policy begun by the Obama administration in 2013 to put pressure on Assad to step aside, but even its backers have questioned its efficacy since Russia deployed forces in Syria two years later. Officials said the phasing out of the secret program reflects Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia..." -- CW ...

... AND/OR This. Katie Williams of the Hill: "An hourlong chat between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin has reignited speculation that the U.S. could return two Russian diplomatic compounds in New York and Maryland. The compounds were seized in December by the Obama administration in retaliation for Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.... '... Knowing the way Mr. Trump conducts policy, it has me greatly concerned,' said Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee." -- CW ...

... Josh Marshall: "I see no plausible explanation for this latest revelation [about the previously-undisclosed dinner conversation between Trump & Putin] other than President Trump wanting to discuss things with President Putin that he does not want any other American citizen to hear.... The mix of President Trump’s bizarre toadying to Russia and Putin himself, combined with the latest revelations about Don Jr and the rest make it no longer credible that there’s any innocent explanation to this mystery." -- CW ...

... Washington Post Editors: "... the problem is not so much that [Trump] sought out Mr. Putin for an informal chat. Rather, it is the deeply troubling and unresolved questions about his relationship with Russia, which mean that any such contact raises serious — and understandable — concerns." -- CW 

Karoun Demirjian & Ashley Parker of the Washington Post: "... Jared Kushner will speak to the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed-door session Monday.... Kushner is expected to answer the committee’s questions and not invoke his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.... The interview comes as the Senate Judiciary Committee also announced its intention to schedule former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. to testify before that panel in open session next Wednesday.... A lawyer for Manafort said that he and his legal team are reviewing the request and have not made a decision on which committee Manafort will speak with first. The Judiciary Committee also asked Manafort and Trump Jr., as well as the Trump Organization and the Trump campaign, 'to preserve all relevant documents related to Russian interference in the 2016 election' and to furnish the committee by Aug. 2 with documents related to the June 2016 meeting with Russians purported to have ties to the Kremlin." -- CW ...

... Mike Mcintire of the New York Times: "Financial records filed last year in the secretive tax haven of Cyprus, where Paul J. Manafort kept bank accounts during his years working in Ukraine and investing with a Russian oligarch, indicate that he had been in debt to pro-Russia interests by as much as $17 million before he joined Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign in March 2016. The money appears to have been owed by shell companies connected to Mr. Manafort’s business activities in Ukraine when he worked as a consultant to the pro-Russia Party of Regions. The Cyprus documents obtained by The New York Times include audited financial statements for the companies, which were part of a complex web of more than a dozen entities that transferred millions of dollars among them in the form of loans, payments and fees.... The byzantine nature of the transactions ... obscures the reasons that money flowed among the various parties, and it is possible they were characterized as loans for another purpose, like avoiding taxes...." -- CW ...

... Nico Hines of the Daily Beast: "Members of the team of Russians who secured a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner also attempted to stage a show trial of anti-Putin campaigner Bill Browder on Capitol Hill. The trial, which would have come in the form of a congressional hearing, was scheduled for mid-June 2016 by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a long-standing Russia ally who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe. During the hearing, Rohrabacher had planned to confront Browder with a feature-length pro-Kremlin propaganda movie that viciously attacks him — as well as at least two witnesses linked to the Russian authorities, including lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Ultimately, the hearing was canceled when senior Republicans intervened...." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 


Kobach -- 2016 Vote Totals Are a Great Unknown. Max Greenwood & Ben Kamisar
of the Hill: "Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state and vice chairman of President Trump's voter fraud panel, said the country 'may never know' if Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote. Pressed by NBC News's Katy Tur in a Wednesday interview about whether Clinton won the popular vote in the 2016 election, Kobach quickly cast doubt on the results, saying, 'We will probably never know the answer to that question.' But he said the votes that led to President Trump's electoral victory in November were 'absolutely' in doubt, as well.... Results showed that Clinton won the popular tally by about 2.9 million votes." -- CW ...

... Matthew Nussbaum of Politico: "Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity that was created through executive order in May, said at the group's first meeting that it would be 'bipartisan' and that its findings were not predetermined. His office said the commission would cost about $500,000 over two years. 'We have no preconceived notions or preordained results,' Pence said on Wednesday. But Trump himself has repeatedly declared, without evidence, that the American electoral system is rigged and that mass voter fraud took place during the 2016 election. Democrat Hillary Clinton won the nationwide popular vote by about 3 million votes." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Carl Hulse of the New York Times: "Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in 2008, has brain cancer, according to a statement his office released on Wednesday. Mr. McCain was treated at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix last Friday to remove a blood clot above his left eye. The brain tumor — known as a glioblastoma — was discovered during that procedure, the statement said.... He may undergo chemotherapy and radiation for treatment, the statement said." -- CW 

Joon Lee of the New Republic: "On Monday, the attorney general announced that he would be introducing a policy directive within the week that would seek to expand the scope of civil asset forfeiture. The announcement is the latest in the DOJ’s efforts to dismantle Obama-era justice policy, but Sessions’s overhaul of asset forfeiture may be his most egregious overstepping of civil liberties yet.... Civil forfeiture also represents a fundamental rejection of conservative ideological pillars such as small government and the just protection of private property. In fact, in an unlikely display of cross-partisan solidarity, many of America’s staunchest conservative voices have gone on the record to criticize Sessions’s stance on civil forfeiture. Sessions’s latest policy directive is thus another reminder that Trumpism is a threat not only to progressivism, but also to certain old-fashioned conservative values that were once thought to hold sway over the GOP." -- CW ...

     ... CW: Moreover, my best guess is that asset seizure is more often used against minorities & the poor than against well-heeled white people. Cops are more likely to stop people guilty of Driving While Black or of driving vehicles in disrepair. And once stopped, cops are probably more apt to find such drivers "suspicious." Philandro Castile, the black Minnesota driver a policeman shot dead for no reason had been stopped 52 times in 14 years for minor infractions, according to reports. If you're a white person, even if you're not an especially good or careful driver, I'll bet that's not your experience. I'm white & not an especially good or careful driver. I've been stopped three times in that period of time, each of them for good cause. I was ticketed only one of those times, in a town that I now know is a notorious speed trap.

Welcome, Granny! Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Wednesday temporarily allowed the Trump administration to enforce restrictions on the nation’s refugee program, but it let stand a court order from Hawaii that grandparents and other relatives who want to travel to the United States to visit family must be admitted while the case proceeds on appeal. The justices, in a brief order, rejected the administration’s request that it clarify the scope of their decision last month temporarily reinstating the ban but allowing people with 'a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States' to enter the country. The court said the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, should address the question. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch said they would have blocked the entire order of the Federal District Court in Hawaii while the case proceeds, including the part that allowed grandparents and other relatives of United States residents to travel from six mostly Muslim countries." -- CW 

Way Beyond the Beltway

Netanyahu Catches Case of Trumpitis. Adam Taylor of the Washington Post: "It has never been a particularly well-kept secret that Israel has conducted clandestine airstrikes in Syrian territory over recent years. But this week, Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to not only admit that these strikes had occurred, but that they had occurred 'dozens' of times. The Israeli prime minister made this admission accidentally — all thanks to a hot mic. Netanyahu's remarks came during a meeting with Eastern European leaders in Budapest on Wednesday. Although the meeting occurred behind closed doors, the Israeli leader's microphone remained on and his voice was transmitted to headphones given to reporters earlier." -- CW 

Tuesday
Jul182017

The Commentariat -- July 19, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Matthew Nussbaum of Politico: "Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity that was created through executive order in May, said at the group's first meeting that it would be 'bipartisan' and that its findings were not predetermined. His office said the commission would cost about $500,000 over two years. 'We have no preconceived notions or preordained results,' Pence said on Wednesday. But Trump himself has repeatedly declared, without evidence, that the American electoral system is rigged and that mass voter fraud took place during the 2016 election. Democrat Hillary Clinton won the nationwide popular vote by about 3 million votes." -- CW 

Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner: "President Trump has reached out to Sen. Mike Lee, the conservative who helped deal what appeared to be a fatal blow to the Senate healthcare bill, as part of a last ditch effort to revive the legislation. The healthcare bill appeared dead on Monday night, when Lee announced that he could not support the legislation because it did not go far enough in undoing Obamacare's regulatory infrastructure. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., swiftly declared that the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare did not have enough support to move forward, and so he said the Senate would vote on a clean partial repeal bill. That bill, too, seemed quickly doomed. Trump reached out to Lee, R-Utah, on Tuesday afternoon to take his temperature and, according to a spokesman for the senator, Lee reiterated his position that he wanted to free the market from Obamacare's regulations in an effort to drive down premiums and provide more choices. Trump, according to the spokesman, seemed receptive." -- CW ...

... Too Little, Too Late? Nope, Says Lewandowski. Nicole Lafond of TPM: "... Donald Trump’s former campaign manager [Corey Lewandowski] thinks the President will probably 'close the deal today' on an Obamacare repeal bill because Trump is 'a great dealmaker.'” -- CW ...

... Robert Costa, et al., of the Washington Post conduct a post mortem on DonTCare. The writers cite pence, who was supposed to be the White House point man, & Trump for being disengaged from &/or hostile to Republican skeptics. -- CW 

Nico Hines of the Daily Beast: "Members of the team of Russians who secured a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner also attempted to stage a show trial of anti-Putin campaigner Bill Browder on Capitol Hill. The trial, which would have come in the form of a congressional hearing, was scheduled for mid-June 2016 by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), a long-standing Russia ally who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe. During the hearing, Rohrabacher had planned to confront Browder with a feature-length pro-Kremlin propaganda movie that viciously attacks him — as well as at least two witnesses linked to the Russian authorities, including lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Ultimately, the hearing was canceled when senior Republicans intervened...." -- CW 

*****

CW: Here's something to bear in mind when you get depressed about the state of American politics. If Hillary Clinton had won the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 -- and she came very close -- we would be having entirely different discussions now. I think there is little doubt John McCain would have won the presidency in 2008 -- & probably won again in 2012 -- maybe against Sen. Barack Obama. After all, McCain was a far, far better candidate than Trump, and in 2008, there were probably more voters than in 2016, percentage-wise, who (a) despised the Clintons & (b) didn't think a woman should be president, especially when the alternative was a heroic male military veteran. No one can say for certain what might have been -- after all, Dubya was a highly unpopular president -- but I feel confident Hillary would have lost the 2008 general election. There are many reasons to be grateful to President Obama, but his audacious run in 2008 is the most fundamental.


** Colluding in Plain Sight. Julie Davis
of the New York Times: "President Trump had a second, previously undisclosed, private conversation with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia this month, the White House acknowledged on Tuesday, raising new questions about their relationship as the cloud of Russia investigations continues to shadow the Trump administration.The hourlong conversation in Hamburg, Germany, took place at a private dinner among world leaders at a concert hall on the banks of the Elbe River during the Group of 20 economic summit meeting, with only a Kremlin interpreter present to listen to the exchange.... Foreign leaders who witnessed ... the intimate dinner conversation ... later commented privately on the oddity of an American president flaunting such a close rapport with his Russian counterpart.... Russia specialists said such an encounter — even on an informal basis at a social event — raised red flags because of its length, which suggests a substantive exchange, and the fact that there was no American interpreter, note taker or national security or foreign policy aide present.... In a statement, a White House official on Tuesday described the meeting as routine and brief...." ...

     ... CW: As if an hourlong, unscheduled meeting with a national adversary is "routine & brief" & of so little consequence it was not worth documenting or even mentioning. ...

... Karen DeYoung & Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "Trump lashed out at the media for reporting on his undisclosed meeting with Putin.... In the first of two tweets, Trump wrote: 'Fake News story of secret dinner with Putin is "sick." All G 20 leaders, and spouses, were invited by the Chancellor of Germany. Press knew!' Trump then tweeted, 'The Fake News is becoming more and more dishonest! Even a dinner arranged for top 20 leaders in Germany is made to look sinister!' But the president distorted what news outlets, including The Washington Post, had reported, saying the story was about a 'secret dinner' when in fact it was reported as an undisclosed meeting with Putin at a dinner of the G-20 leaders and their spouses. Trump also incorrectly stated that journalists knew about his meeting with Putin; in fact, they did not until Tuesday, when the White House confirmed that the two presidents met during the dinner.... Reporters traveling with the White House were not informed during the trip, and there was no formal readout of the chat.” -- CW ...

To understand the roots of the collusion, set aside Putin and follow the money. -- Seva Gunitsky, a politics professor in an interview with Sean Illing of Vox. the interview is well-worth a read.

... Pamela Brown of CNN: "The eighth person who attended the June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower is a senior vice president at the company founded by the Russian oligarch who initiated the meeting, CNN has learned. Ike Kaveladze's identity was confirmed by his attorney, Scott Balber. Kaveladze is a senior vice president at Crocus Group, the real estate development company run by Azerbaijani-Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov, according to Kaveladze's LinkedIn.... Balber said Kaveladze is a long-time US citizen who speaks fluent Russian and has 'never had any engagement with the Russian government in any capacity.'" -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... ** Rosalind Helderman & Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: "The presence of [Ike] Kaveladze at the Trump Tower meeting introduces a new and intriguing figure into the increasingly complex Trump-Russia drama. A native of the Soviet republic of Georgia who came to the United States in 1991, Kaveladze was the subject nearly two decades ago of a congressional inquiry into Russian money laundering in U.S. banks, although he was never charged with a crime.... [Former Sen. Carl] Levin [Mich.], who at the time was the senior Democrat on a Senate investigations subcommittee and retired in 2014, issued a statement Tuesday calling Kaveladze a 'poster child' of the practice of using shell companies to launder funds and that the inquiry helped spark reforms.... According to the [Government Accounting Office], Kaveladze opened 236* bank accounts in the United States for corporations formed in Delaware on behalf of mostly Russian brokers.... The [GAO] report traced the movement of $1.4 billion in wire-transfer transactions deposited into 236 accounts opened at the two banks, Citibank and Commercial Bank." ...

     * Sen. John Warner [D-Va.] told a reporter the number of accounts Kaveladze created was in the thousands, so I'm not sure about the number. ...

     ... CW: So, the top dogs in the Trump campaign met with a Kremlin cutout, a Russian counterintelligence agent/hacker & a Russian money-launderer. Who's missing? A guy carrying brown paperbags full of rubles? A hitman wearing a raincoat & fedora?


Requiem for an Atrocity. Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "The seven-year Republican quest to undo the Affordable Care Act appeared to reach a dead end on Tuesday in the Senate, leaving President Trump vowing to let President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement collapse. Mr. Trump declared that his plan was now to 'let Obamacare fail,' and suggested that Democrats would then seek out Republicans to work together on a bill to bury the Affordable Care Act. If he is determined to make good on that pledge, he has plenty of levers to pull, from declining to reimburse insurance companies for reducing low-income customers’ out-of-pocket costs to failing to enforce the mandate that most Americans have health coverage.... While Mr. Trump has promised destruction, other Republicans signaled that they wanted to take a more constructive approach. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate health committee, announced that he would hold hearings in the next few weeks on stabilizing the individual health insurance market." -- CW ...

... So Much for Plan D -- Girl Senators Defy Old Boys Club. Jessie Hellmann of the Hill: "Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) says she will not support moving forward with a plan to repeal ObamaCare with a delayed replacement, effectively killing the latest legislative gambit from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).... Earlier Tuesday, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) also said they will not support moving to the repeal-only bill. Republicans can only afford two defections." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... BUT. Burgess Everett of Politico: "... Donald Trump is trying to save the GOP's near-dead effort to repeal Obamacare. The president has invited all 52 GOP senators to the White House for lunch on Wednesday to see if he can revive the GOP's moribund plans to repeal and replace the 2010 health law." -- CW ...

... Jordan Fabian of the Hill: "President Trump on Tuesday called on the Senate to end the legislative filibuster after the collapse of the Republican healthcare plan. 'The Senate must go to a 51 vote majority instead of current 60 votes. Even parts of full Repeal need 60. 8 Dems control Senate. Crazy!' Trump tweeted. Getting rid of the filibuster, however, would not have guaranteed the success of the GOP plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. The Senate considered the measure under budget reconciliation rules, which only required a 51-vote majority to pass.... Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) slammed the door on ending the filibuster in May, saying it 'will not happen.'” -- CW ...

... To Hell with the American People. Jordan Fabian: "In his first on-camera remarks about the stalemate in the Senate, Trump said that Republicans should now 'let ObamaCare fail' following the collapse of their effort to repeal and replace the law. 'I think we're probably in that position where we'll let ObamaCare fail,' he said. 'We're not going to own it. I'm not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We'll let ObamaCare fail and then the Democrats are going to come to us.' Tump promised to win repeal of ObamaCare upon his election as president." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Ed O'Keefe & Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday blasted President Trump’s vow to 'let Obamacare fail,' saying it shows a 'lack of leadership.'... [Schumer] cited three 'easy' fixes to quickly stabilize the insurance markets. First..., continue making the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing reduction payments, which help lower the costs of co-pays and deductibles for lower-income Americans.... Second..., create a permanent reinsurance program for the individual health insurance market.... Finally..., enable people living in predominantly rural counties that lack health insurers to buy insurance from the health insurance exchange in D.C., where most lawmakers and their staff members buy coverage. The three proposals — all from Democrats facing reelection in 2018 — 'don’t get to the overall structure of health care, but they would stabilize it and prevent premiums from going up further and coverage from decreasing,' Schumer said.” -- CW ...

... Jumping the Third Rail. Rebecca Harrington of Business Insider: "Kansas senator Jerry Moran has been hounded by reporters since announcing Monday night that he wouldn't vote for the Republican healthcare bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act. When confronted by reporters on Tuesday on Capitol Hill, Moran opted to jump across the tracks of the Senate subway to get away from them." Andrew Harnik of the AP photographed the fleeing Senator. -- CW ...

... Margot Sanger-Katz of the New York Times: "... decisions the Trump administration makes about how to manage [ObamaCare] could have big effects on who has coverage next year, and what it costs them.... The Trump administration, rather than working to solve those problems, has mostly described them as failures of the previous administration. The White House has declined to say whether it will continue to pay certain subsidies to plans for very low-income Americans, subsidies seen as vital to the financial health of the exchange business. And it has suggested that it might decline to enforce the law’s individual mandate. Both of those actions will tend to raise prices, discourage insurer participation and make Obamacare shakier than it would be otherwise.... [The Trump administration] has the power to minimize damage from any of the current health law’s flaws. At the moment, that does not appear to be the chosen path." CW: Because, you know, to hell with the American people. ...

... Peter Baker of the New York Times: "Determined to dismantle his predecessor’s legacy, Mr. Trump in the space of a couple of hours Monday night reluctantly agreed to preserve President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran and failed in his effort to repeal Mr. Obama’s health care program.... As Tuesday dawned, he faced the reality that Mr. Obama’s most prominent domestic and international accomplishments both remained intact. In neither case has Mr. Trump given up.... But reversing the Iran and health care initiatives both require building support among other political players at home and abroad, a task for which Mr. Trump has yet to show much proclivity." -- CW 

Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities: "House Budget Committee Chair Diane Black’s new proposed House budget resolution, which provides both a framework for budget and tax legislation to follow this year and a broader fiscal policy blueprint for the next ten years, lays out an exceedingly harsh vision for the nation.  It would cause pain to tens of millions of Americans, especially struggling families and others who have fallen on hard times, and would cut deeply into areas important to future economic growth, from education to basic scientific research.  It would do so while opening the door for tax cuts geared toward those who already are the most well off.... While the budget claims to achieve balance in 2027, this is an artifact of ... gimmicks.  Absent just the unrealistic economic growth assumptions, the budget would produce a $351 billion deficit that year, instead of the purported surplus of $9 billion." -- CW 

Michelangelo Signorile of the Huffington Post: "Democrats in the House had a rare victory this week when an ugly, discriminatory amendment, backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan and pushed by Vice President Mike Pence, failed because 24 Republicans joined every single Democrat in beating it back.... The amendment to the defense spending bill, titled 'Prohibition of Department of Defense Medical Treatment Related to Gender Transition' and offered by Rep. Vicky Hartzler, a Missouri anti-LGBTQ Republican, would have denied medical treatment for gender transition for military personnel and their dependents.... Most of the 24 GOPers who voted against the amendment ... are vulnerable, in districts that Democrats will be confidently and aggressively targeting in 2018. CNN, citing congressional and Pentagon sources, reported that [Defense Secretary James] Mattis called Hartzler to pressure her to drop the amendment.... When that didn’t work, Mattis lobbied individual GOP House members to vote against the amendment." Via Paul Waldman. -- CW 


David Dayen
in the Nation: "On the same day the Republican bid to overturn Obamacare began to fade into oblivion, the Trump administration embarked on a bigger quest: resetting a global trade consensus that has persevered for over four decades. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer released a set of negotiating objectives for the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. Under fast-track rules adopted in 2015, the administration must present these non-binding objectives to Congress before it can enter into negotiations, and the talks with Mexico and Canada to refashion NAFTA will preview how the White House wants to handle trade around the world. This was one of Trump’s major campaign promises, to write better rules for trade." But the "new" NAFTA looks a lot like the old NAFTA & the TPP. " It does appear that the globalists in the administration won this round before NAFTA negotiations even had a chance to begin. Some of the most ardent free-traders in the Republican caucus praised the contents of the draft." -- CW 


Our Representatives Abroad

Steve Holland of Reuters: "... Donald Trump will nominate Jon Huntsman, an envoy to China under former Democratic President Barack Obama, as U.S. ambassador to Russia, the White House said on Tuesday." CW: Huntsman has no expertise on Russia & doesn't speak Russian. 

Dana Milbank reports on the confirmation hearing & qualifications of Callista Gingrich to be U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican. Well, for one thing, she "she has 'looked at some of' Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change." Also, too, she got Newt to marry her after they carried on a six-year affair while Newt was married to his second wife. And she converted him to Catholicism. CW: You might think of these as two of the three miracles required for beatification, but really Newt has a habit of auditioning his upcoming wives while still married to the last one, & since he has no principles, converting him shouldn't be too heavy a lift. Not sure if she speaks Spanish or Italian.


** The Most Unethical Administration Ever. Walter Shaub
, Jr., in a New York Times op-ed: "Since the enactment of the Ethics in Government Act, our past presidents entered government with an appreciation for the importance of tone from the top.... This tradition came to an abrupt stop with President Trump.... The tone from the top led one White House appointee to use her position to hawk the merchandise of the president’s daughter and another to endorse the president’s book. It led a cabinet official, whose recent wedding reportedly featured a chartered bus ride from the president’s hotel, to urge the public to see a movie he produced. The press secretary touts one of the president’s commercial enterprises as the 'winter White House,' and the State Department has publicized it around the globe. A White House lawyer made the extraordinary assertion that 'many regulations promulgated by the Office of Government Ethics ("OGE") do not apply to employees of the Executive Office of the President.' [Read on for more ethics atrocities.]... Recent experiences have convinced me that the existing mechanism is insufficient.... Because we can no longer rely on presidents to comply voluntarily with ethical norms, we need new laws to address their conflicts of interest, their receipt of compensation for the use of their names while in office, nepotism and the release of tax forms." -- CW 

Portrait of a Weak President. Tarini Parti, et al., of BuzzFeed: "Six months into a tumultuous term..., Donald Trump has failed to put his hands on the levers of American power, showing that occupying even the highest office doesn’t automatically wield influence. Trump spent much of this past weekend watching the U.S. Women’s Golf Open at his family-owned golf club, a kind of metaphor for a presidency disconnected from actual power. But the health care failure — in which Trump allowed himself to lose control of his own agenda, and then lose the fight for that agenda — was the most humiliating in a sweep of presidential defeats. The White House has lost control of its foreign policy to the military and to allies who can't work with a globally loathed American leader even if they wanted to. He has lost control of his domestic policy to Congress, which has been unable to give him a signature win despite Republicans controlling both chambers. He has lost control of his own aides to leaks and investigations..., and most of all of the narrative of an 'America First' presidency with a coherent vision or promise." -- CW 

Sarah Posner of the Washington Post: "Bloomberg reporter Joshua Green’s much-anticipated new book about Steve Bannon and the rise of Trump is out today, sparking click-worthy headlines highlighting some of the White House strategist’s most profane pronouncements on politics, the media, and even Republican leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan.... But for Republicans, at least, the most crucial takeaway from Green’s deeply reported 'Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency should ... be ... [Green's] account of how Bannon’s burn-it-all-down mentality is already in the process of destroying their party." -- CW 

Monday
Jul172017

The Commentariat -- July 18, 2017

Afternoon Update:

So Much for Plan D -- Girl Senators Defy Old Boys Club. Jessie Hellmann of the Hill: "Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) says she will not support moving forward with a plan to repeal ObamaCare with a delayed replacement, effectively killing the latest legislative gambit from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).... Earlier Tuesday, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) also said they will not support moving to the repeal-only bill. Republicans can only afford two defections." -- CW ...

... To Hell with the American People. Jordan Fabian of the Hill: "In his first on-camera remarks about the stalemate in the Senate, Trump said that Republicans should now 'let ObamaCare fail' following the collapse of their effort to repeal and replace the law. 'I think we're probably in that position where we'll let ObamaCare fail,' he said. 'We're not going to own it. I'm not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We'll let ObamaCare fail and then the Democrats are going to come to us.' Trump promised to win repeal of ObamaCare upon his election as president." -- CW

Pamela Brown of CNN: "The eighth person who attended the June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower is a senior vice president at the company founded by the Russian oligarch who initiated the meeting, CNN has learned. Ike Kaveladze's identity was confirmed by his attorney, Scott Balber. Kaveladze is a senior vice president at Crocus Group, the real estate development company run by Azerbaijani-Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov, according to Kaveladze's LinkedIn.... Balber said Kaveladze is a long-time US citizen who speaks fluent Russian and has 'never had any engagement with the Russian government in any capacity.'" -- CW

*****

NEW. "The Eighth Person." Pamela Brown of CNN: "Special counsel investigators are seeking information from the still-publicly unidentified eighth person who attended the June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower, this person's attorney Scott Balber said Tuesday. 'The eighth person has been identified by prosecutors and we are cooperating ully with prosecutors as a result of the investigation. To preserve the integrity of the investigation we are declining to identify him at this time,' Balber told CNN." CW: Don't expect this person to be forthcoming. According to the report, s/he represents Emin & Aras Agalarov, who already have made misstatements about their involvement in the collusion scheme." -- CW

NEW. Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post: "House Republicans unveiled a 2018 budget plan Tuesday that would pave the way for ambitious tax reform legislation -- but only alongside a package of politically sensitive spending cuts that threaten to derail the tax rewrite before it begins. GOP infighting over spending, health care and other matters continues to cast doubt on whether the budget blueprint can survive a House vote.... The House Budget Committee blueprint, which is set for a Thursday committee vote, sets out special procedures that could ultimately allow Republicans to pass legislation over the objections of Senate Democrats who can normally block bills they oppose. GOP leaders in the House, as well as top Trump administration officials, hope to use those procedures -- known as reconciliation -- to pass a tax overhaul later this year. The instructions in the draft budget, however, go well beyond tax policy and set the stage for a potential $203 billion rollback of financial industry regulations, federal employee benefits, welfare spending and more. Those are policy areas where Republicans have, in many cases, already passed legislation in the House but have seen Democrats block action in the Senate." -- CW

... ** NEW. Jonathan Chait captures the crux of the cause of the DonTCare debacle: "... conservative principles turn out to be incompatible with the practical demands of governance. (Climate change leaps to mind.) The collapse of the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare is an especially vivid demonstration of the broader problem. The cohesion Republicans possessed in opposition disintegrated once they had power, because their ideology left them unable to pass legislation that was not cruel, horrific, and repugnant to their own constituents. Donald Trump promised during the campaign that he would quickly and easily replace Obamacare with an alternative everybody would love. 'You’re going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost,' he said. 'It's going to be so easy.' One might dismiss this kind of rhetoric as a typical Trumpian boast. But the candidate was merely translating into the vernacular the somewhat more carefully hedged promises his party had made for years...." -- CW ...

... NEW. Worst President Ever Vows to Make Things Worse. Sean Sullivan & Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "President Trump predicted Tuesday morning that Republicans may wait for the federal insurance market to collapse and then work to broker a deal to rewrite the nation's landmark health-care law. In a series of tweets, Trump blamed the demise of a months-long effort to rewrite the Affordable Care Act on Democrats 'and a few Republicans,' but he suggested that the drive to overhaul the law was not completely over. 'We were let down by all of the Democrats and a few Republicans. Most Republicans were loyal, terrific & worked really hard. We will return!' he tweeted. He added in a separate tweet: 'As I have always said, let ObamaCare fail and then come together and do a great healthcare plan. Stay tuned!' Trump's latest comments appeared likely to intensify the current political uncertainty on Capitol Hill, where GOP leaders were debating what to do next, as well as raise anxiety among insurers that must commit to staying on the federal health exchange within a matter of weeks." -- CW ...

... NEW. Dingbat-in-Chief. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "In exchange for supporting Trump and turning a blind eye to his controversial behavior, the GOP hoped to reap the benefits of a negotiator in the Oval Office who could help them get things done while they controlled the presidency and both chambers of Congress. Instead, they got a highly inconsistent partner with a fleeting set of priorities and apparently very little interest in policy details. They also got a president who occasionally talks about exacting retribution against those who vote against him, but has also had several bluffs called and doesn't seem to be striking fear in the hearts of many Republicans in Congress. And the size of the mess is difficult to overstate. Yet again, the GOP's health-care efforts have earned opposition from both sides of the party.... They're also in a situation now in which House Republicans took a very difficult vote on a very unpopular health-care bill, apparently for naught.... Thus far, the negotiator in chief hasn't given them an offer they can't refuse, because he's ... often negotiating the next deal before the current one's even dead. This has led Republicans to rightly believe that they don't need to support the current bill." -- CW ...

... NEW. James Hohmann of the Washington Post: "Mitch McConnell ... announced that he'll bring the bill that already passed the House up for consideration 'in the coming days,' and the first amendment the Senate would take up would be for the full repeal of Obamacare (with a two-year delay for implementation). But to get that vote on repeal, conservative critics must vote to allow debate on the broader bill. If the clean vote for full repeal failed, as it almost certainly would, senators could continue making additional amendments that may make the measure even more unpalatable to conservatives. GOP lawmakers have voted repeatedly to repeal Obamacare, and the Senate even passed a bill with this exact same language in 2015. But Barack Obama was president then, and it was a safe vote because everyone knew he'd veto it. This would no longer be a show vote.... Reporters who are following the debate most closely don't think McConnell's gambit will work." Hohmann links a number of opinion pieces about the future of DonTCare. -- CW ...

... ** Thomas Kaplan & Robert Pear of the New York Times: "Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas declared Monday night they would oppose the Senate Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, for now killing a seven-year-old promise to overturn President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement. The announcement by the senators, both Republicans, leaves their leaders two votes short of the necessary tally to begin debate on their bill to dismantle the health law. Two other Republican senators, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine, had already said they would not support a procedural step to begin debate." -- CW ...

... According to MSNBC, John McCain indicated in a statement he was not prepared to vote for the McConnell-Cruz-Trump DonTCare bill anyway. No link. ...

     ... Update. Cyra Master of the Hill reports on McCain's statement. -- CW ...

... Mallory Shelbourne of the Hill: "President Trump on Monday said Republicans should repeal ObamaCare now and 'start from a clean slate' on a new healthcare plan, arguing doing so will help gain Democratic support. 'Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!' Trump tweeted Monday night.... A straight repeal was the Senate GOP's original plan, but they could not get the necessary votes. [Mitch] McConnell has so far shot down the idea of doing a repeal and passing a replacement separately." -- CW ...

     ... Update. Jordain Carney of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Monday night the Senate will try to separate ObamaCare repeal and replacement, closing the door on the current GOP healthcare legislation. 'In the coming days, the Senate will vote to take up the House bill with the first amendment in order being what a majority of the Senate has already supported in 2015 and that was vetoed by then-President Obama: a repeal of Obamacare with a two-year delay to provide for a stable transition period,' McConnell said in a statement. The move means Senate Republicans will try to repeal and replace ObamaCare separately, reverting to a plan Senate GOP leadership initially proposed earlier this year, but had to abandon due to lack of support." -- CW ...

... Scott Lemieux in LG&$: "... major healthcare policy changes are an extremely hard lift. They came a lot closer than, say, Bush did to gutting Social Security, and they're not going to give up on the goal. The fight will continue -- but an important battle was won tonight, and countless Americans who made their voices heard deserve a lot of credit." -- CW ...

... Joe Biden, in a Washington Post op-ed: "In my 36 years as a senator, I saw my colleagues take plenty of hard votes. This just isn't one of them. If Republican leadership wants to improve the ACA, let's first come to an agreement that everyone should have health coverage. Then, based on that premise, let's have a debate about how best to improve care and reduce costs. Let's again make the commitment that in America, health care is a right for all, not a privilege for the wealthy." -- CW (Also linked yesterday.)

National Security Team Again Forces Trump to Do an Adult Thing. Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Trump agreed on Monday to certify again that Iran is complying with an international nuclear agreement that he has strongly criticized, but only after hours of arguing with his top national security advisers, briefly upending a planned announcement as a legal deadline loomed. Mr. Trump has repeatedly condemned the deal brokered by President Barack Obama as a dangerous capitulation to Iran, but six months into his presidency he has not abandoned it. The decision on Monday was the second time his administration certified Iran's compliance, and aides said a frustrated Mr. Trump had told his security team that he would not keep doing so indefinitely." CW: This is of course a relief, but if you read the tick-tock of the interactions among Trump, his aides and national security staff, you won't feel so sanguine. ...

... Kevin Drum: "... the sense I get is that Trump will now treat the Iran deal the same way he's treating Obamacare: he'll do his best to sabotage it. I think we can look forward to a series of provocations designed to provoke some kind of response from Iran that Trump can use as a pretext for killing the deal. He can't get any of the money back, of course, because Iran's assets have already been unfrozen. So Iran will have its money and they'll be free to develop a nuclear weapon if they want to -- all without having to go to the trouble of breaking the treaty themselves. Welcome to the world of Donald Trump, master negotiator." -- CW

Trump Unaware Britain Is a Democracy. Adam Raymond of New York: "Before President Trump takes British prime minister Theresa May up on her offer to visit London, he wants her to ensure him a warm welcome, according to leaked transcripts of a phone call between the two leaders. The transcript, according to The Sun, was seen by senior diplomats and went like this: Trump: 'I haven't had great coverage out there lately, Theresa.' May: 'Well, you know what the British press are like.' Trump: 'I still want to come, but I'm in no rush. So, if you can fix it for me, it would make things a lot easier. When I know I'm going to get a better reception, I'll come and not before.' May went on to tell Trump that she has no power over the press, The Sun says. But even if she did, that wouldn't stop the British people from raising hell." CW: Better make a return trip to Poland or Saudi Arabia, Donaldo, where you won't have to confront any of those messy democratic institutions, like a hostile press & protesters.

Best Way to Launch Trump's "Made in America" Theme Weeks. Tracy Jan of the Washington Post: "The Department of Homeland Security on Monday announced a one-time increase of 15,000 additional visas for low-wage, seasonal workers for the remainder of this fiscal year..., following heavy lobbying from the fisheries, hospitality and other industries that rely on temporary foreign workers. The increase represents a 45 percent bump from the number of H-2B visas normally issued for the second half of the fiscal year, said senior Homeland Security officials in a call with reporters Monday. The visas are for workers taking temporary jobs in the seafood, tourism, landscaping, construction and other seasonal industries -- but not farm laborers.... Trump himself has used H-2B visas to hire temporary workers at his golf resorts in Palm Beach, Fla., and Jupiter, Fla." CW: To be fair, anything the foreign workers produce here will be made in America, just not by, you know, Americans. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Michael Shear & Karen Yourish of the New York Times: "At rallies, in speeches and on Twitter, Mr. Trump repeatedly boasts of the bills he has signed -- 42 as of this week. He has said no president has 'passed more legislation,' conceding once earlier this year that he trails Franklin D. Roosevelt... On Monday, he went even further.... 'We've signed more bills -- and I'm talking about through the legislature -- than any president, ever,' Mr. Trump said at a 'Made in America' event at the White House. 'For a while, Harry Truman had us. And now, I think, we have everybody.' In fact, as he approaches six months in office on Thursday, Mr. Trump is slightly behind the lawmaking pace for the past six presidents, who as a group signed an average of 43 bills during the same period. And an analysis of the bills Mr. Trump signed shows that about half were minor and inconsequential, passed by Congress with little debate. Among recent presidents, both the total number of bills he signed and the legislation's substance make Mr. Trump about average." -- CW

Eric Lipton & Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "Actions by President Trump and his administration have created a historic ethics crisis, the departing head of the Office of Government Ethics said. He called for major changes in federal law to expand the power and reach of the oversight office and combat the threat. Walter M. Shaub Jr., who is resigning as the federal government's top ethics watchdog on Tuesday, said the Trump administration had flouted or directly challenged long-accepted norms in a way that threatened to undermine the United States' ethical standards, which have been admired around the world.... Mr. Shaub called for nearly a dozen legal changes to strengthen the federal ethics system: changes that, in many cases, he had not considered necessary before Mr. Trump's election. Every other president since the 1970s, Republican or Democrat, worked closely with the ethics office, he said. A White House official dismissed the criticism, saying on Sunday ... in a statement that misspelled Mr. Shaub's name ... that Mr. Shaub was simply promoting himself and had failed to do his job properly." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

** Steven Rosenfeld of AlterNet, republished in the Raw Story: "Donald Trump's campaign was working in parallel with Russian anti-Hillary Clinton propaganda efforts, although the specific nature of their cooperation has yet to emerge, according to new analyses connecting the dots between Russia's theft of Democratic Party and Clinton campaign emails and Trump campaign social media messaging." Rosenfeld lays out some of the evidence. -- CW ...

... Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "He ran on a promise to end politics as usual. But on Monday morning, President Trump posted a defense on Twitter of his son's meeting with a Russian lawyer promising sensitive government information that could be damaging to Hillary Clinton by saying that it was simply politics as usual. In Mr. Trump's newest tweet about his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and a meeting on June 9, 2016, at Trump Tower, he described the gathering as routine.... 'Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don jr attended in order to get info on an opponent,' Mr. Trump wrote just after 10 a.m. 'That's politics!'" -- CW ...

... Sean Spicer Is Back from Vacationing on Mars. Matthew Nussbaum of Politico: "Spicer defended Donald Trump Jr.'s decision to meet a Russian lawyer last year in hopes of collecting opposition research about Hillary Clinton. But his defense of the meeting became convoluted. 'It is quite often for people who are given information during the heat of a campaign to ask what that is, that's what simply he did,' Spicer said. 'The president's made it clear through his tweet. And there was nothing, as far as we know, that would lead anyone to believe that there was anything except for a discussion about adoption and the Magnitsky Act.' Emails released by Trump Jr. show that the meeting was planned with the intention of obtaining damaging information about Clinton. Spicer referred other questions to outside counsel." -- CW ...

... Pamela Brown of CNN: "Donald Trump Jr.'s attorney, Alan Futerfas, has told CNN he has spoken by phone to the eighth person in the room during the meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016. CNN reported last week that the individual was there on behalf of a Russian family, the Agalarovs, who had asked for the meeting to be set up, according to two sources familiar with the circumstances.... Futerfas says the person, who he declined to name, was a US citizen and said he was not employed by the Russian government. But Futerfas acknowledged he didn't know his entire history. The Agalarovs and their attorney have not publicly explained who the employee was who attended." -- CW ...

... Andrew Kramer of the New York Times presents some evidence that the person behind the Trump-Russia arrangement was Yuri Y. Chaika, Russia's prosecutor general & 'a master of kompromat." -- CW ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post lists the various arguments the Trump camp has trotted out to excuse its campaign leaders' meeting with Russian operatives for the purpose of obtaining dirt on Clinton. Blake provides "a scorecard of each one, along with how plausible it is -- scored from 0 to 10, with 10 being the most plausible." The highest score Blake gives any of the arguments is 5. CW: I dunno. I kinda like the one about how a 39-year-old man is just a boy so can't be responsible for his mistakes. Not sure how that works for Paul Manafort, who is 68 years old. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Peter Jamison of the Washington Post: "Citing security concerns, the Coast Guard says it is adopting a policy of periodically cutting off access to roughly two miles of the Potomac where it borders Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va. The restrictions would clear the water of canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, sailboats, Jet Skis, motorboats and anglers when Trump or other senior officials of his government decide to spend a day on the back nine.... The proposed shore-to-shore security area includes Riley's Lock, the embarkation point in Maryland for a popular summer camp and a kayaking program for wounded and disabled veterans." -- CW

digby dishes some dirt from Joshua Green's book on the Trump campaign, Devil's Bargain. -- CW

The Worst Attorney General Ever. Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday said he'd be issuing a new directive this week aimed at increasing police seizures of cash and property.... Asset forfeiture is a disputed practice that allows law enforcement officials to permanently take money and goods from individuals suspected of crime.... In many cases, neither a criminal conviction nor even a criminal charge is necessary -- under forfeiture laws in most states and at the federal level, mere suspicion of wrongdoing is enough to allow police to seize items permanently." -- CW

Brandon Carter of the Hill: "Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is planning to shut down the State Department office that focuses on war crimes, according to a new report.... The Office of Global Criminal Justice advises the Secretary of State on issues surrounding war crimes and genocide, and helps form policy to address those atrocities." -- CW

Leah Bitsky & Joshua Miller of the New York Times: "Walmart was apologizing on Monday after an appalling description of a product by a third-party vendor made its way onto the retail giant's website. The retailer was slammed early Monday after the color of a netting weave cap -- used as a protective layer between a person's hair and sewn-in hair extensions -- on its site was described as the color 'N-- Brown.'... Shortly after the controversy erupted, Walmart removed the racial slur and replaced the 'Add To Cart' button with a message stating that the item was no longer available." -- CW