The Ledes

Sunday, January 20, 2019.

Hill: "A fire Sunday morning in Northeast Washington, D.C., damaged studios for Fox News, C-SPAN and MSNBC, and forced 'Fox News Sunday' to relocate its broadcast to a local affiliate's studio. Washington, D.C., Fire and EMS tweeted that an electrical fire broke out in the 8th floor television studio, but that nobody was injured. Steve Scully, the political editor for C-SPAN, tweeted shortly after 7 a.m. that  the Fox News and C-SPAN studios sustained 'extensive damage,' and MSNBC's studio took on 'extensive smoke and water damage.'"

New York Times: "Heavy snowfall, high winds and a dangerous mix of rain and sleet were expected to hit swaths of the Northeast on Sunday, prompting officials to warn of icy roadways and power outages from a vast winter storm that had been pummeling the Great Plains and the Great Lakes. The storm, which complicated travel on Saturday and busted plans for the three-day weekend across much of the country, had already caused problems from Kansas, where the governor declared an emergency, to Chicago, where a United Airlines plane slid off a concrete surface. Flights have been canceled by the thousands, and rapidly dropping temperatures on Sunday in parts of the Northeast would freeze anything wet, creating 'extremely dangerous' conditions on the roadways."

USA Today: "John Coughlin, a two-time U.S. pairs champion who was suspended Thursday evening by the U.S. Center for SafeSport and U.S. Figure Skating, died Friday, according to a Facebook post from his sister.... Kansas City police confirmed Coughlin's suicide.... Coughlin, 33, was a fixture at skating competitions and rinks around the country as a coach, TV commentator and a rising star within both USFS and the International Skating Union, the sport’s worldwide federation.”

The Wires
The Ledes

Saturday, January 19, 2019.

AP: " Forensic experts attempted to separate and count charred heaps of corpses in central Mexico on Saturday after a massive fireball erupted at an illegal pipeline tap, killing at least 66 people. More than 85 other people on Saturday were listed as missing as relatives of the deceased and onlookers gathered around the scene of carnage. Just a few feet from where the pipeline passed through an alfalfa field, the dead seem to have fallen in heaps, perhaps as they stumbled over each other or tried to help one another in the moments after a geyser of gasoline shot into the air Friday. The leak was caused by an illegal pipeline tap in the small town of Tlahuelilpan, about 62 miles (100 kilometers) north of Mexico City, according to state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex."

Public Service Announcement

November 26: Washington Post: "Federal health officials said Monday that only romaine lettuce from certain parts of California is unsafe to eat and that romaine lettuce entering the market will now be labeled to give consumers information about when and where it was harvested. If consumers, retailers and food service facilities cannot determine whether the romaine was grown outside California, they should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one got sick, according to a lengthy statement from Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. FDA officials said the most likely source of contamination is from the Central Coast growing regions in northern and central California. Romaine lettuce harvested outside those regions 'does not appear to be related to the current outbreak,' the FDA said. Hydroponically grown and greenhouse-grown romaine also does not appear to be affected in the outbreak. Romaine from those sources is safe to eat, the FDA said."

... November 20: New York Times: "In a sweeping alert, federal health officials warned people not to eat romaine lettuce anywhere in the country, after 32 people in 11 states fell sick with a virulent form of E. coli, a bacteria blamed for a number of food-borne outbreaks in recent years. The notice, issued Tuesday afternoon by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said consumers should not buy or eat any kind of romaine, whether chopped or whole, and restaurants should stop serving it. Anyone who has romaine, the health agency said, should throw it out." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Okay then, guess I'll throw out that romaine. Already ate one head, and I ain't dead yet.

Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: If you're a shut-out Trump Shutdown victim tooling around the Internets with nothing to do today, let's assume that some day some time, Trump will de-furlough you and you can get back to work enthusiastically serving the American people in your appointed capacity. In case Trump has rendered you a bit rusty in the area of job skills, Conan here provides some useful tools that may help you get to work on time, even on casual Friday:

ABC News: "Breathtaking drone video of a pod of friendly, playful dolphins joining a surfer as he took to the waves near the coast of Ventura, California, is making the rounds on social media and bringing smiles -- and wow's -- to viewers. ABC station KABC-TV's meteorologist Kimi Evans met the drone's owner Craig Badger, who shared the footage, and spoke to surfer Alden Blair.... The video has been seen more than 3 million times on social media." ...

NBC Suits Are Such Geniuses. New York Times: "After a drawn-out negotiation period, NBC and Megyn Kelly have formally agreed to part ways. The network and the onetime cable news star reached a final agreement on Friday, nearly three months after she wondered aloud on-air why it was inappropriate for white people to dress up in blackface for Halloween. NBC and a representative for Ms. Kelly declined to reveal the details of the exit package. But according to two people familiar with the negotiations, Ms. Kelly was paid the outstanding balance on her contract, a figure that amounts to roughly $30 million. At the time of the separation, Ms. Kelly was in the middle of a three-year, $69 million contract with the network."

New York Times: "The Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and the novelist MacKenzie Bezos announced on Twitter Wednesday that they are getting divorced after 25 years of marriage. In a statement posted on Mr. Bezos’s Twitter account, the couple said they had been separated for a long period of time, but planned to remain involved as 'parents, friends, partners in ventures and projects.' According to a 1999 profile in Wired, the two met when they both worked at D.E. Shaw, a New York-based hedge fund, before moving in 1994 to Seattle, where Amazon is headquartered. They have four children.... As is the case in any celebrity split, the financial details of the divorce are sure to be complicated despite the couple’s vow to “remain cherished friends.” According to Forbes, which publishes an annual list of billionaires, his net worth is estimated at $137 billion and he is the richest man in the world. While much of his wealth is tied up in Amazon stock, Mr. Bezos, 54, the company’s chief executive, is also the owner of several companies, including The Washington Post and Blue Origin, a space travel company."

Here's a list of the Golden Globe winners, via Market Watch. CNN has posted highlights on a liveblog & currently has a whole buncha links to related stories on CNN Entertainment. And if you're in it for the red carpet, there's this:

New York Times : "Archaeologists have discovered a well-preserved, 4,400-year-old tomb of a royal priest and his family in Egypt, in a 'one of a kind' find, the Egyptian authorities announced on Saturday. The tomb was unearthed in Saqqara, a city south of Cairo and a vast necropolis from ancient Egypt. The discovery dates from the rule of Neferirkare Kakai, the third king of the fifth dynasty of ancient Egypt, according to Khaled al-Anani, Egypt’s minister of antiquities. The fifth dynasty governed for less than two centuries, from 2,500 B.C. to about 2,350 B.C., according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The tomb had remained untouched, said Mostafa Waziri, the secretary general of Egypt’s supreme council of antiquities, according to Reuters."

"The Christmas Comet Returneth." New York Times: "Look into the night sky on Sunday [December 16] and you just might see a bright, fuzzy ball with a greenish-gray tint. That’s because a comet that orbits between Jupiter and the sun will make its closest approach to Earth in centuries, right on the heels of this year’s most stunning meteor shower. 'The fuzziness is just because it’s a ball of gas basically,' Tony Farnham, a research scientist in the astronomy department at the University of Maryland, said on Saturday morning.... 'You’ve got a one-kilometer solid nucleus in the middle, and gas is going out hundreds of thousands of miles.' The comet glows green because the gases emit light in green wavelengths. The ball of gas and dust, sometimes referred to as the 'Christmas comet,' was named 46P/Wirtanen, after the astronomer Carl Wirtanen, who discovered it in 1948. It orbits the sun once every 5.4 years, passing by Earth approximately every 11 years, but its distance varies and it is rarely this close. As the comet passes by, it will be 30 times farther from Earth than the moon, NASA said.”

By George O'Keefe or somebody.Maybe the Best Gift Would Be a Spell-Check App. Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Way back in November (so Slate has had plenty of time to make corrections), someone named Angela Serratore (hope I spelled that right), wrote a post for Slate, which is featured on its main page now, suggesting gifts from small museum shops. That's a nice thought, but it would have been even nicer if the story had not misspelled Georgia O'Keeffe three times: twice as "Georgia O'Keefe" & once as "George O'Keefe." But never "Georgia O'Keeffe."

Chuck Schumer & Nancy Pelosi leaving the White House Wednesday, Dec. 12, after making mincemeat of Donald Trump.Everybody Loved Nancy's Coat! It's turns out it's from a 2013 Max Mara collection. According to Ana Colón of Glamour, "the Italian fashion house sent out a press release that not only confirmed the origins of Pelosi's coat but also announced that Max Mara would be reinstating the Glamis into its outerwear collection in 2019. 'In a variety of colorways,' no less! A spokesperson for the brand confirmed to Glamour that the decision to bring it back was inspired by Pelosi."

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

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

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

Saturday
Jan192019

The Commentariat -- January 20, 2019

Late Morning Update:

Felicia Sonmez of the Washington Post: "President Trump lashed out Sunday at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over stalled negotiations to end the partial government shutdown while rejecting conservative claims that his offer of temporary deportation protections for young immigrants amounts to amnesty. In a morning tweet, Trump claimed that Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democrats 'turned down my offer yesterday before I even got up to speak.'... 'Nancy Pelosi has behaved so irrationally & has gone so far to the left that she has now officially become a Radical Democrat,' Trump said. 'She is so petrified of the "lefties" in her party that she has lost control . . . And by the way, clean up the streets in San Francisco, they are disgusting!'... 'They don’t see crime & drugs, they only see 2020 — which they are not going to win. Best economy! They should do the right thing for the Country & allow people to go back to work,' he said.... Pelosi fired back on Twitter with a reminder to Trump that '800,000 Americans are going without pay.' 'Re-open the government, let workers get their paychecks and then we can discuss how we can come together to protect the border,' she said.... The president sought to rebut that [confederate] critique[s] on Sunday, maintaining in a tweet that 'No, Amnesty is not a part of my offer.'”

Quint Forgey of Politico: "... Donald Trump teased Sunday he is 'still thinking about the State of the Union speech,' tweeting that 'there are so many options' to deliver his remarks after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) asked him to postpone the address as long as the federal government remains closed. 'Nancy, I am still thinking about the State of the Union speech, there are so many options - including doing it as per your written offer (made during the Shutdown, security is no problem), and my written acceptance,' the president wrote online. 'While a contract is a contract, I’ll get back to you soon!'” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I'm not sure an invitation is a contract. If I invite you to dinner, then my kitchen gets "shut down" by a coffeemaker fire -- that is, my ability to host a dinner has diminished -- I don't think you could successfully sue me for a free meal. Even if if rescind the invitation for no apparent reason, especially if I do so weeks in advance of the dinner, I don't think you'd win that one either. P.S. Sure took Trump a long time to respond.

Rudy Still Suffering from Foot-in-Mouth Disease. No Known Cure. Alicia Cohn of the Hill: "President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, on Sunday said that it's 'possible' the president spoke to his former attorney, Michael Cohen, ahead of his congressional testimony. 'Which would be perfectly normal,' Giuliani told CNN's 'State of the Union.' 'So what?' 'As far as I know, President Trump did not have discussions with him,' he added. 'Certainly, no discussions with him in which he told him or counseled him to lie.'... 'If he had any discussions with him, they'd be about the version of the events that Michael Cohen gave them which they all believe was true,' Giuliani said.... Giuliani said during a separate appearance on NBC’s 'Meet the Press' that he is '100 percent certain' that Trump never once asked Cohen to do anything but tell the truth to Congress. 'I can tell you his counsel to Michael Cohen throughout that entire period was, "Tell the truth." We thought he was telling the truth. I still believe he may have been telling the truth when he testified before Congress,' he told host Chuck Todd."

*****

The Trump Shutdown, Ctd.

Diabolical Donald's "Deal" DOA. Annie Karni of the New York Times: "President Trump announced on Saturday that he would extend deportation protections for some undocumented immigrants in exchange for $5.7 billion in funding for a wall along the border with Mexico.... The president, delivering a 13-minute address from the White House, said he would extend the legal status of those facing deportation and support bipartisan legislation that would allow some immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children, known as Dreamers, to keep their work permits and be protected from deportation for three more years if they are revoked.... But he reiterated his demand for $5.7 billion in funding for a border barrier, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi said ahead of his remarks that she considered his proposal a 'nonstarter,' in part because it offered no permanent pathway to citizenship for Dreamers." ...

... Here's Pelosi's full statement on Trump's proposal, via the Speaker's office. ...

... Katie Zezima, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Saturday offered Democrats three years of deportation protections for some immigrants in exchange for $5.7 billion in border wall funding, a proposal immediately rejected by Democrats and derided by conservatives as amnesty." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Nice try, Trump. Yours is the kind of "deal" that gets "negotiated" when you only "negotiate" with actors on your side of the aisle. Really stupid. OR, as New York's Daily Intelligencer put it, "Trump’s big announcement: repeat his prime time address and add a D.O.A. proposal extending the limbo of DACA/TPS recipients." (No link.) ...

     ... Also from the WashPo report: "On Friday Pelosi accused Trump of putting herself and fellow lawmakers in danger by publicizing their plans to travel to Afghanistan, forcing them to abandon the trip.... The White House has forcefully denied Pelosi’s claims. A person close to the White House called The Washington Post on Friday morning to alert a reporter to Pelosi’s travel plans, speaking on the condition of anonymity[.]" ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: Some commentators have noted that in his 13-minute address, Trump did not once mention the hardships his shutdown imposed on unpaid federal employees. (The transcript is here.) I would say this isn't because Trump lacks empathy -- which of course he does -- but because he's actually enjoying the needless pain & suffering he has brought upon these workers, workers whom he believes are mostly Democrats. Trump is not entirely self-centered; he's also sadistic, IMO.

... Julie Davis of the New York Times: "What President Trump billed on Saturday as a compromise to end the country’s longest government shutdown pleased neither the Democratic congressional leaders whose buy-in he needs to strike a deal nor the core supporters whose backing has always been at the heart of his insistence on a border wall.... In seeking to inch toward the center, Mr. Trump alienated portions of his hard-right base, the core supporters he most depends on and the group he and his closest aides have most feared losing. That raised the possibility that, in his zeal to get out of an intractable situation, he may have landed himself in the worst of all worlds.... 'Trump proposes amnesty,' the conservative commentator Ann Coulter said on Twitter. 'We voted for Trump and got Jeb!'... On Saturday night, Breitbart panned Mr. Trump’s latest idea with the headline 'Three-Year Amnesty, Most of Border Remains Open.'... The tensions and anger over the policy have been quietly playing out in the West Wing as well, as Jared Kushner ...  fended off Stephen Miller, the architect of much of Mr. Trump’s immigration agenda. In recent days, as White House officials had been working out the details of the compromise, Mr. Miller intervened to narrow the universe of immigrants who would receive protection....”

McConnell, who has said repeatedly only bills with support of Trump and Dems can end shutdown, says he will hold vote on Trump proposal - even though Dems are rejecting it. 'Everyone has made their point — now it’s time to make a law. I intend to move to this legislation this week' -- Manu Raju of CNN, in a tweet

In case you never wanted to strangle Mitch before. -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Trump's 'asylum reforms' riff is code for denying due process for unaccompanied minors and eviscerating Flores Settlement. Means that kids who now get protection will get sent back to face death and kids will be detained for as long as Trump wants. -- Frank Sharry, immigration reform activist, in a tweet

In case you never wanted to strangle Trump before. -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Isn't this a kind of hostage-taking squared? First end the programs. Then shut the government. Then promise to temporarily restore the programs you've ended & reopen the govt you have closed, in return for the ransom of $ for a wall that 55-60% of country consistent opposes? -- Ron Brownstein of the Atlantic, in a tweet    

Tweets via New York mag 

Here's another reason Trump's deal is no deal: ...

... Pete Williams of NBC News (Jan. 18): "The U.S. Supreme Court took no action on Friday on the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. It now appears likely that the court will not take up the issue during its current term, which would require the government to keep the program going for at least ten more months. The Trump administration urged the justices to hear appeals of lower court rulings that prevent the government from shutting DACA down, but Friday was the last day for adding cases to the current term's docket, barring unusual circumstances. Any cases accepted in subsequent weeks won't be heard until the next term, which begins October 1, and it would take a few months more for the court to issue a decision."

David Rohde of the New Yorker: “As the longest-ever U.S. government shutdown enters its fifth week, [Tom] O’Connor[, the head of the F.B.I. Agents Association,] says that the majority of the Bureau’s thirteen thousand agents are working, all without pay, and morale is plummeting.... The long-term fear is that, given that the private sector pays more than the Bureau, the F.B.I. and other federal law-enforcement organizations will both lose experienced agents and be unable to recruit new ones.... The shutdown comes as the Bureau struggles to defend itself from unprecedented allegations of political bias from a sitting President.... As news reports have continued to focus on the Mueller investigation, the President has continued to make false or misleading claims about the Bureau and its former director, James Comey.... Trump’s attacks, meanwhile, are eroding public faith in the F.B.I., particularly among Republicans.”

It's All About Trump. Sam Berger in a Washington Post op-ed: "Tens of thousands of previously furloughed federal employees returned to work this week — without pay — so the government could process tax refunds, oversee airplane safety, and inspect food and drugs. It was the Trump administration’s latest set of major changes to how agencies without funding operate, moves that it claims are simply an effort to make things 'as painless as possible.'... But that’s not really Trump’s goal. If it were, he would not be threatening to continue this one for months or years. Instead, he is changing precedents in a one-off manner to paper over problems and help favored constituencies, all to create political space to prolong the standoff. Trump is not concerned about making the shutdown painless for the American people — he’s concerned with making it painless for himself.... The law limits what activities can continue during a shutdown: those necessary to protect life or property, to carry out the president’s core constitutional responsibilities, and to operate programs that Congress has said should continue in the absence of funding. But Trump has shunted aside legal and programmatic considerations in favor of two imperatives: keeping bad press to a minimum and keeping influential supporters happy.”

Conservative David Frum of The Atlantic: "President Donald Trump ... shut the government to impose his will on the incoming Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. That plan has miserably failed. Instead, Trump has found himself caught in the trap he supposed he had set for his opponents.... In the 10 days since the [Oval Office] speech, Trump’s approval ratings have dipped to about the lowest point in his presidency. The supposedly solid Trump base has measurably softened.... Trump is now trying Exit Two. This idea is even more harebrained than the last, if that is even possible.... Why on earth would any appreciable number of Democrats break away from their leadership to do business as individuals with a president none of them trusts about an issue none of them thinks should be negotiable, reopening the government?... The shutdown was a demand for unconditional surrender. Unfortunately for him, the president lacks the political realism to recognize that he doesn’t have the clout to impose that surrender." --s

Our Lord & Master Vindictive Little Turd Decrees. Jennifer Scholtes of Politico: "The White House put top department officials on notice today that they are not allowed to spend money or use planes to help lawmakers travel on congressional delegation trips.... Federal officials can still provide logistical and security support for those delegations, acting OMB Director Russell Vought wrote. The guidance comes after Trump made a public show Thursday of stopping House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats from using military aircraft to fly to Afghanistan." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Congress should pass a law disallowing administration officials to travel on government transports without specific authorization from the Congressional Office of Beg Us for a Ticket, MoFo.gov

Laura Bradley of Vanity Fair: "As the government shutdown drags on, Stephen Colbert has joined the effort to help furloughed workers.... On The Late Show, the comedian announced that he would be selling mugs with a cheesy catchphrase on them — 'Don’t Even Talk to Me Until I’ve Had My Paycheck' — to benefit celebrity chef José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen. World Central Kitchen is a disaster-relief group founded by Andrés, who last year was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the organization in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. On Monday, the group announced it would begin feeding furloughed federal workers free of charge from a kitchen-cafe located on Washington, D.C.’s Pennsylvania Avenue." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

Josh Israel of ThinkProgress: "American businesses are losing hundreds of millions of dollars every day President Donald Trump’s partial government shutdown — now the longest on record — rages on. But few industry leaders say they are pressuring Republican members of Congress they bankrolled to end the shutdown.... Business organizations have vigorously objected to shutdowns before, particularly when they occurred under Democratic presidents." --s

This Russia Thing, Etc., Ctd.

When "No Comment" Looks Like Confirmation. Matt Zapotosky & Devlin Barrett of the Washington Post: "When a BuzzFeed reporter first sought comment on the news outlet’s explosive report that President Trump had directed his lawyer to lie to Congress, the spokesman for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III treated the request as he would almost any other story.... Peter Carr [declined to comment].... When BuzzFeed published the story hours later, it far exceeded Carr’s initial impression, people familiar with the matter said.... And with Democrats raising the specter of investigation and impeachment, Mueller’s team started discussing a step they had never before taken: publicly disputing reporting on evidence in their ongoing investigation.... People familiar with the matter said Carr told others in the government that he would have more vigorously discouraged the reporters from proceeding with the story had he known it would allege [Michael] Cohen had told the special counsel Trump directed him to lie — or that the special counsel was said to have learned this through interviews with Trump Organization witnesses, as well as internal company emails and text messages.... People familiar with the matter said after BuzzFeed published its story — which was attributed to 'two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter' — the special counsel’s office reviewed evidence to determine if there were any documents or witness interviews like those described.... They found none, these people said. That, the people said, is in part why it took Mueller’s office nearly a day to dispute the story publicly." Emphasis added. ...

... BuzzFeed News is still sticking by its story that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. Its spokesman says the outlet has "re-confirmed" its reporting. ...

... Marcy Wheeler: "... the [WashPo] story reveals that [Rod] Rosenstein’s office did call to check whether [Robert] Mueller was going to release a statement debunking the BuzzFeed story. '... , the deputy attorney general’s office called to inquire if the special counsel planned any kind of response, and was informed a statement was being prepared, the people said.' That seems to be a violation of Special Counsel regulations, which say that Mueller’s office shall not be subject to day-to-day supervision of any official, whether DAG or Acting Attorney General.... It should set off all sorts of alarm bells that as soon as a media report states what has long been clear — that Trump suborned perjury — Mueller’s office is getting calls about how to respond to the press.... Whichever side is correct (again, I believe WaPo has just one part of this story), that Rosenstein (or Whitaker) got involved seems to be far more important."

John Cook & Mike Spies of Mother Jones: "Two Senate committees investigating Russian efforts to influence US politics through the National Rifle Association are led by GOP senators [Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa and Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina] who have long received campaign support and donations from the gun group and its leaders. While that might raise questions about the integrity of the investigations, Democrats close to the probes tell the Trace and Mother Jones that they are proceeding without impediment — indicating that the NRA’s influence in Congress may not help it avoid scrutiny amid the wider Trump-Russia investigation.... Senate rules do not explicitly bar senators from overseeing or participating in investigations into donors, and experts we consulted with said Burr is under no obligation to recuse himself." --s


Bruce Henderson
of McClatchy DC: "Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, is facing accusations over his role in a failed real estate deal near Charlotte[, North Carolina,] that could cost an investor $2.5 million. A civil case raises questions about whether a company tied to Mulvaney, who’s also director of the Office of Management and Budget, used a legal maneuver to put his interests ahead of a lender." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: What? Mulvaney stiffed a lender in a failed real estate deal? Now let me think -- that reminds of -- whom?

AP: "The US military said it carried out an airstrike in Somalia that killed 52 al-Shabaab extremists, in response to an attack on Somali forces.... The group claimed responsibility for the deadly attack on a luxury hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenya on Tuesday. A US Africa Command statement said the airstrike occurred on Saturday near Jilib in Middle Juba region. The US said Somali forces had come under attack by a 'large group' of the al-Qaida-linked extremists.... The US has dramatically stepped up airstrikes against al-Shabaab in Somalia since Donald Trump took office, carrying out at least 47 such strikes last year. " --s

Sarah Okeson of DCReport (Jan 15): "Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency has proposed cuts in water pollution regulation that would increase the 5,772-square-mile dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, the area where fish and other living things must swim away or die. Andrew Wheeler, Trump’s nominee to lead the EPA, wants to remove thousands of streams, swamps and other bodies of water from regulations approved under former President Barack Obama to curb water pollution. Scientists think a 45% reduction in nitrate and phosphorus, much of it from fertilizer, running into the Mississippi River is needed to shrink the dead zone, which was the size of Delaware last summer." --s

Stuart Leavenworth of McClatchy DC: "A federal judge in South Carolina [Richard Gergel] on Friday blocked the Trump administration from processing seismic testing permits for offshore oil drilling, a setback for the administration’s efforts to assist energy companies during the partial government shutdown.... Gergel’s injunction came after South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson learned that the Interior Department had ordered employees of its Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to come back to work and process permits for five companies that want to use airgun blasts to search for oil." --s

Kate Aronoff of The Intercept: "Examining projections developed by Rystad Energy, an independent oil and gas consultancy, [a] new report [from Oil Change International] looks at projected oil and gas development in the United States over the next several decades, and what consequences it holds for the planet. The authors find that, if allowed to continue with projected new fossil fuel projects, U.S. oil and gas production could account for 60 percent of all new oil and gas production through 2030, making the U.S. the world’s largest new source of oil and gas and outpacing expected growth in the next largest producer, Canada, 4 to 1.... The report’s main takeaway isn’t complicated: The United States can either stop digging up new troves of fossil fuels, or take a sledgehammer to the world’s chances at a livable future." --s

Luke Barnes of ThinkProgress: "In the past week, it appeared the long overdue backlash to Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and his white nationalism had finally arrived.... But now, that backlash has prompted its own backlash. Members of the Religious Right, white supremacists, and others on the far-right have joined forces to rally around the racist congressman. Rather than stepping down, as some of his colleagues suggested, King seems emboldened by the support and is trying to use the fallout to raise money for his re-election campaign." --s

Antonio Olivo, et al., of the Washington Post: "The images in a series of videos that went viral on social media Saturday showed a tense scene near the Lincoln Memorial. In them, a Native American man steadily beats his drum at the tail end of Friday’s Indigenous Peoples March while singing a song of unity for indigenous people to 'be strong' in the face of the ravages of colonialism that now include police brutality, poor access to health care and the ill effects of climate change on reservations. Surrounding him are a throng of young, mostly white teenage boys, several wearing Make America Great Again caps, with one standing about a foot from the drummer’s face also wearing a relentless smirk.... Nathan Phillips, a veteran in the indigenous rights movement ..., [said] tensions [began] to escalate when the teens and other apparent participants from the nearby March for Life rally began taunting the dispersing indigenous crowd. A few people in the March for Life crowd began to chant 'Build that wall, build that wall,' he said.... Some of the teens in the video wore sweatshirts from Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Ky...." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: IOW, Trumpbots are so stupid they want to wall out people who got here first. ...

... ** Juan Cole: "Nathan Phillips gave a chilling interview about the incident to CNN, in which he expressed fear about where the United States is going. Remember, Phillips risked his life for a country that had treated his people like crap, stealing their land, putting them on reservations, forbidding them to practice their religion, and occasionally massacring them. The teen’s smug look no doubt was worn by those thugs who ordered the Trail of Tears, when Native Americans were expelled from the Southeast.... How stupid do you have to be to chant 'build the wall' at a Native American whose people were here at least 13,000 years ago before the European undocumented migrants showed up in their lands? How stupid do you have to be to chant 'build the wall' at African-Americans whom white slavers kidnapped from their homes in Senegal and Nigeria and Angola and transported here against their will?... How stupid do you have to be to think that 'Make America Great Again' could possibly mean anything when chanted by chickenhawk young men at a Vet who risked his life for this country? How stupid do you have to be not to realize that the people Trump wants to keep out of the United States by building his idiotic, cruel and ineffective wall are for the most part Catholics?" --s ...

... Max Londberg & Sarah Brookbank of the Cincinnati Enquirer: "About 4 p.m., the Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High issued a joint statement that read, in part: 'We condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general. ... We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips. This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person. The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Yes, and it would be nice if the diocese & the school issued a joint apology to young women everywhere for sending those nasty little brats from their no-girls-allowed school to Washington, D.C., to protest the rights of women to control their own bodies. Fucking misogynists.

Frank Dale of ThinkProgress: "Right-wing provocateur Ben Shapiro thought a speech at the March for Life was the right time to address a philosophical question about Hitler. Hours later, multiple advertisers announced they had dropped Shapiro’s podcast after his bizarre comments were viewed millions of times. Shapiro explained during his speech before the pro-life crowd on Friday why anti-abortion advocates wouldn’t have killed the genocidal German leader when he was a baby.... Shapiro — 'the cool kid’s philosopher,' according to the New York Times — faced criticism in November for claiming 'left-wing anti-Semitism' is a more dangerous threat than violent white supremacists." --s

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. AP: "A federal judge has found four women guilty of entering a national wildlife refuge without a permit as they sought to place food and water in the Arizona desert for migrants. US magistrate Judge Bernardo Velasco’s ruling on Friday marked the first conviction against humanitarian aid volunteers in a decade. The four found guilty of misdemeanours in the recent case were volunteers for No More Deaths, which said in a statement the group had been providing life-saving aid to migrants. The volunteers include Natalie Hoffman, Oona Holcomb, Madeline Huse and Zaachila Orozco-McCormick." Mrs. McC: Thank you, each and every one of you.

Presidential Election 2020. Jared McDonald, et al., in a Politico Magazine opinion piece, make a compelling case, based on statistical analysis, that most American voters think Trump is a self-made billionaire, & when some -- especially Republicans -- find out otherwise, their favorable impression of him drops. Ergo, it would be a damned good idea for Democrats to hammer home what a massive failure he was as a businessman. The writers also point, BTW, to the news media's failure to report on his real business career: "A LexisNexis search of leading newspapers from January 1, 2016, until Election Day 2016 found more than six times as many articles referring to Trump’s divorces than those mentioning his father."

Beyond the Beltway

Illinois. AP: "The white Chicago police officer who gunned down a black teenager in 2014 was sentenced Friday to nearly seven years in prison, bringing an end to a historic case that centered on a shocking dashcam video and fueled the national debate over race and law enforcement. Jason Van Dyke was convicted last year of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery — one for each bullet he fired." (Also linked yesterday.) 

Michigan. Fed Up with ICE. Hamed Aleaziz of BuzzFeed News: "The Michigan county sheriff who held and transferred a US-born Marine to Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody late last year will no longer detain individuals for the agency without a judicial warrant, authorities announced Friday. The policy, effective immediately, fundamentally changes the way the Kent County Sheriff’s Office interacts with ICE and copies a model taken up by many 'sanctuary' jurisdictions across the country."

Friday
Jan182019

The Commentariat -- January 19, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Jonathan Swan of Axios: "President Trump plans to use remarks from the Diplomatic Reception Room on Saturday afternoon to propose a notable immigration compromise, according to sources familiar with the speech....The offer is expected to include Trump’s $5.7 billion demand for wall money in exchange for the BRIDGE Act — which would extend protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — and also legislation to extend the legal status of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, according to a source with direct knowledge. Jared Kushner and Mike Pence have led the crafting of this deal and the negotiations with members, according to White House officials. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters he had proposed the idea of a DACA-TPS swap to Trump in December, and that the president called it 'interesting.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Uh, Jared & mikey have not been in "negotiations with members" exactly; they've been negotiating with Senate Republicans, according to earlier reports. They have not been speaking with Democrats.

Our Lord & Master Vindictive Little Turd Decrees. Jennifer Scholtes of Politico: "The White House put top department officials on notice today that they are not allowed to spend money or use planes to help lawmakers travel on congressional delegation trips.... Federal officials can still provide logistical and security support for those delegations, acting OMB Director Russell Vought wrote. The guidance comes after Trump made a public show Thursday of stopping House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats from using military aircraft to fly to Afghanistan." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Congress should pass a law disallowing administration officials to travel on government transports without specific authorization from the Congressional Office of Beg Us for a Ticket, MoFo.

Laura Bradley of Vanity Fair: "As the government shutdown drags on, Stephen Colbert has joined the effort to help furloughed workers.... On The Late Show, the comedian announced that he would be selling mugs with a cheesy catchphrase on them — 'Don’t Even Talk to Me Until I’ve Had My Paycheck' — to benefit celebrity chef José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen. World Central Kitchen is a disaster-relief group founded by Andrés, who last year was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the organization in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. On Monday, the group announced it would begin feeding furloughed federal workers free of charge from a kitchen-cafe located on Washington, D.C.’s Pennsylvania Avenue." ...

 

 

AP: "The white Chicago police officer who gunned down a black teenager in 2014 was sentenced Friday to nearly seven years in prison, bringing an end to a historic case that centered on a shocking dashcam video and fueled the national debate over race and law enforcement. Jason Van Dyke was convicted last year of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery — one for each bullet he fired."

*****

This Russia Thing, Etc., Ctd. -- Uh-Maybe-Not Edition

BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate. -- Peter Carr, spokesperson for the Special Counsel

We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing. -- Ben Smith, BuzzFeed editor

I can’t speak to Buzzfeed’s sourcing, but, for what it’s worth, I declined to run with parts of the narrative they conveyed based on a source central to the story repeatedly disputing the idea that Trump directly issued orders of that kind. -- Ronan Farrow, in a tweet ...

... Mark Mazzetti & Sharon LaFraniere of the New York Times: "The special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election disputed on Friday a report that said President Trump had directed Michael D. Cohen, his longtime lawyer and fixer, to lie to Congress about his role in negotiations to build a skyscraper in Moscow. The rare public statement by a spokesman for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, challenged the facts of an article published by BuzzFeed News on Thursday saying that Mr. Cohen had told prosecutors about being pressured by the president before his congressional testimony. 'BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate,' said the spokesman, Peter Carr.... BuzzFeed News maintained that its report was accurate, its editor, Ben Smith, said after Mr. Mueller’s office disputed the account. 'We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing,' Mr. Smith said on Twitter." ...

... Devlin Barrett, et al., of the Washington Post: "The [special counsel's] statement was remarkable on several levels — first, the special counsel’s office speaks exceedingly rarely, and second, the statement seemed to drive a stake through a sensational allegation that Democratic lawmakers suggested earlier in the day could spell the end of the Trump presidency. As earthshaking as the claims in the story were, no other media organizations were able to match them.... The special counsel’s office seemed to be disputing every aspect of the story that addressed comments or evidence given to its investigators.... Mueller’s denial, according to people familiar with the matter, aims to make clear that none of those statements in the story are accurate.... Trump weighed in Friday night on Twitter, criticizing BuzzFeed. 'A very sad day for journalism, but a great day for our country!' he tweeted." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I'm not sure the special counsel's statement forecloses the conclusions of the BuzzFeed story. "Are not accurate" is different from "No witness tampering!" We'll see. Maybe. Update: Chuck Rosenberg said the same thing on MSNBC. In fact, Rosenberg went further; he said, "The core of the BuzzFeed report appears to be correct," based on his reading of charging documents Mueller's own prosecutors filed in the Cohen case. ...

...

The Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed conservative conspiracy theorist and special counsel witness Jerome Corsi, his attorney told The Hill on Friday. The committee is seeking both an interview and documents from Corsi, an associate of longtime GOP operative and Trump ally Roger Stone, Corsi's lawyer Larry Klayman said.  Klayman declined to provide details on the subpoena, which he said was received Thursday, but described it as 'overly broad.' He also called the subpoena 'part of continued harassment from this committee.' Corsi told The Hill that his legal team plans to contest the subpoena." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Klayman's complaint that a client's subpoena is "overly broad" is real  chutzpah.

Jonathan Chait: "At first glance, the revelation by BuzzFeed News reporters Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier that President Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about his attempt to build a tower in Moscow during the campaign, looks bad for Trump. On second, third, and fourth glances, it looks extremely bad. 1. Attorney General [Mrs. McC: nominee] William Barr has already defined this behavior as obstruction of justice.... 2. The allegations are serious enough that even conservatives concede they would constitute a crime.... 3. The evidence reportedly has multiple sources.... As BuzzFeed explains, the evidence did not originate from Cohen. Cohen merely confirmed what Mueller discovered through other sources.... 4. There could be more where this came from.... Remember that prosecutors seized a massive trove of recordings and notes from Cohen’s office.... 5.... By telling this lie, Trump opened himself up to blackmail by Putin. Trump was publicly denying the contours of a business deal to which Russian intelligence was privy." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Betsy Woodruff & Asawin Suebsaeng of The Daily Beast: "John Dowd, who previously helmed President Donald Trump’s personal legal team, is still actively advising his lawyers as they grapple with the Mueller probe. Dowd, who left the president’s legal team in March of 2018, told Brian Kilmeade on his Fox News radio show on Jan. 14 that he speaks with Trump 'every week or so.'... Dowd’s talks with the president and his legal team may not have been universally welcomed. One former White House official told The Daily Beast that Dowd’s chats with Trump drove White House lawyer Emmet Flood and Trump attorney Jay Sekulow 'absolutely nuts.'" --s (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Ken Vogel & Matthew Goldstein of the New York Times: "A global New York-based law firm has agreed to pay $4.6 million to settle a Justice Department investigation into whether its work for a Russia-aligned Ukrainian government violated lobbying laws. The investigation stems from work that the firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, did with Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman. The case overlaps with the investigation of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into Russian interference in the 2016 election. As part of the settlement, the law firm agreed to register retroactively as a foreign agent for Ukraine in addition to paying the government $4.6 million, representing the money it earned from its work in Ukraine. The settlement between the firm and the Justice Department, which was made public on Thursday, is the latest indication that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry and related investigations are fundamentally challenging the lucrative but shadowy foreign-lobbying industry that has thrived in Washington." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

The Russkies Are Back. MaryAlice Parks & Lee Ferran of ABC News: "The Democratic National Committee alleges it was among the intended victims of a widespread cyberattack that was detected days after the 2018 midterm elections, according to court documents filed overnight. 'On November 14, 2018, dozens of DNC email addresses were targeted in a spear-phishing campaign, although there is no evidence that the attack was successful,' the DNC wrote in an amended complaint filed late Thursday, part of an ongoing lawsuit against the Russian government, the 2016 Donald Trump campaign and others. The DNC said that the content and the timing of the emails led the organization to believe it was targeted as part of a wider phishing campaign that cybersecurity firms had previously said appeared to use some of the same technical tricks as a Russian hacking group known as Cozy Bear, or APT 29." --s (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

The Trump Shutdown, Ctd.

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "House Democrats have added more than $1 billion in border-related spending to a package of funding bills that would reopen most of the government, even as President Trump said he would have a 'major announcement' on Saturday about the border and the shutdown stalemate.... The proposal to include more spending on border measures is scheduled for a vote next week, according to two senior Democratic officials. The plan reflects a shift in strategy by congressional Democrats, who have maintained that they would not give the president a counterproposal until he drops his insistence on a wall and signs legislation to reopen the government. It is an attempt to rebut Mr. Trump’s repeated portrayal of Democrats as opponents of border security and their denunciation of his wall as an embrace of open borders. About half the money, $524 million, would be for additional infrastructure at ports of entry on the border, one Democrat said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the plans have not been formally announced, while $563 million more would be inserted to fund 75 immigration judges, who adjudicate the claims of migrants who make asylum claims at the border." (This is a substantial update of a story linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Okay, so not wall. But still a mistake, IMO, & one that will encourage Trump and future presidents to hold the nation hostage over some stupid demand every time new funding is required. Just as the Congress once found a way to avoid the debt-ceiling crises (and may re-instate that procedure), it needs to find a way to avoid the general-funding hostage-taking. On the other hand, it does seem possible that the extra-$1BB measure could pick up a lot of Republican House votes. If a veto-proof, or near-veto-proof, House majority passed the bill, might that bring McConnell out of his shell? Dunno. ...

I will be making a major announcement concerning the Humanitarian Crisis on our Southern Border, and the Shutdown, tomorrow afternoon at 3 P.M., live from the @WhiteHouse. -- Donald Trump, in a tweet Friday ...

... Grace Segers of CBS News: "A senior administration official told CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Major Garrett that Mr. Trump will present what the White House believes could be a deal to end the shutdown. The deal was largely influenced by talks between Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner." Mrs. McC: Let's see; Trump has "negotiated" a deal with, um, pence, McConnell & Kushner. I'm sure this will work. ...

... Abby Phillip & Betsy Klein of CNN: "... Donald Trump plans to offer Democrats another proposal to end the shutdown when he addresses the nation from the White House on Saturday afternoon -- what officials are describing as his third offer to end the shutdown, according to a senior administration official. The official told CNN that Trump's idea is to put something on the table to get Democrats to engage with negotiations. Trump is not expected to back down from his demand for a border wall, but the plan will seek to entice Democrats by offering other concessions. However, this plan is not based on negotiations with Democrats.... [Sarah Sanders] said the announcement will be made in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House."

Trump Campaign Continues to Fundraise off Shutdown. Tal Axelrod of the Hill: "President Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign sent out a fundraising email Friday asking for donations of $20.20 and pledging to send fake bricks to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) or Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) over their refusal to provide Trump's demanded wall funding. 'The Democrats have been stonewalling President Trump for too long, as the President remains fully committed to make a deal to secure our border,' campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. 'Now the American people can send a message directly to Chuck and Nancy on a faux red brick that tells them to build the wall.'”

Kris Van Cleave of CBS News: "Dozens of investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are on hold during the partial government shutdown, as nearly the entire staff is furloughed. One investigation surrounds a fiery crash in Florida this month that claimed the lives of seven people, including five children. It was the deadliest accident the NTSB has not been able to investigate. CBS News obtained documents that show the shutdown has prevented the NTSB from launching 74 accident investigations, including probes of 12 plane crashes that have killed 18 people."

Kate Taylor & Julie Bosman of the New York Times: "A major winter storm was on a path Friday to wallop as many as 80 million people in the Midwest and Northeast over the weekend with a punishing mix of heavy snow, strong winds and frigid temperatures.... The storm was also expected to further strain the National Weather Service, where many employees have been furloughed as part of the partial government shutdown. Others — including those putting out the storm warnings that state and local officials rely on for their planning — are considered essential and are working without pay. 'I’ve been working for the National Weather Service for over 27 years — I’ve never seen the morale as low as it is right now,' said Dan Sobien, the president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization."

Ben Adler & Nadine Sebai of NPR: "California Gov. Gavin Newsom says the Trump administration has told states they can't offer unemployment benefits to federal employees who are required to report to work without pay during the government shutdown. Newsom called a letter sent to states by the U.S. Department of Labor 'jaw-dropping and extraordinary' as he met with TSA workers at the Sacramento International Airport Thursday afternoon. 'So, the good news is, we're going to do it, and shame on them.' The governor explained that California will offer the workers unemployment coverage, despite the federal government telling the state it can't do so for workers still on the job. Newsom says he believes California is on strong legal footing.... The Trump administration does not appear to be opposing unemployment benefits for federal workers who are staying home during the shutdown." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: As usual, Trump policy is upside-down. Federal employees required to go to work are incurring more expenses than are those who are furloughed. Yet, according to the report, those with fewer expenses can collect unemployment insurance yet those who must pay the usual costs associated with going to work are SOL. It really doesn't take a genius to figure this out. Then again, they really don't care, do they?

Trump's Own State Department Provides More Proof Trump Is a National Security Threat. Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post: "A day after President Trump canceled military flights for a planned congressional trip to Afghanistan, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi abandoned her plans to travel instead on commercial flights due to security concerns. Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi (D-Calif.), blamed the Trump administration in a written statement for disclosing news of the trip, which included several other House Democrats, and thus increasing the danger to lawmakers. 'After President Trump revoked the use of military aircraft to travel to Afghanistan, the delegation was prepared to fly commercially to proceed with this vital trip to meet with our commanders and troops on the front lines,' Hammill said. Overnight, he added, a new State Department threat assessment indicated 'that the President announcing this sensitive travel had significantly increased the danger to the delegation and to the troops, security, and other officials supporting the trip. . . . This morning, we learned that the Administration had leaked the commercial travel plans as well.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Lauren Fox of CNN: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday she was forced to nix her Afghanistan trip after ... Donald Trump barred her from using a military aircraft and she was told by the State Department diplomatic security that it was too dangerous to fly there commercially. 'We weren't going to go because we had a report from Afghanistan that the President outing our trip had made the scene on the ground much more dangerous because it's just a signal to the bad actors,' Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol. 'You never give advance notice of going into a battle area. You just never do. Perhaps the President's inexperience didn't help him understand that protocol. The people around him, though, should have known that, because that's very dangerous,' she said. The speaker also said the President's announcement of the trip had endangered members of Congress and American troops, and that she was just relaying what the State Department told her office." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Amateur Hour +. Steve Benen: "So why did this happen? According to a striking New York Times report, the West Wing wanted to put Pelosi 'in her place.' 'White House officials – including Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff – had been irked by Ms. Pelosi’s invocation of security concerns as her premise for urging Mr. Trump to move his speech, and sought to put her in her place after she had emphasized that she represented a coequal branch in governing, according to aides....' It’s as if a group of far-right online trolls took control of the executive branch of a global superpower.... Does anyone seriously believe Nancy Pelosi will feel intimidated by the amateur president’s sophomoric antics?... This isn’t the first time the president made a decision affecting the Pentagon without coordinating with anyone at the Pentagon. In the Trump administration, amateur hour lasts a lot longer than an hour.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: If Democrats' decision to present legislation adding $1BB to border security funds is any indication, then yes, Pelosi reacted to "the amateur president's sophomoric antics." ...

I don’t think the president would be that petty, do you? -- Nancy Pelosi, responding to a reporter's question about whether Trump cancelled her flight to Afghanistan in retaliation for her suggesting the SOTU be delayed till after the shutdown ended ...

Nancy really knows how to put Donnie in his place, doesn't she? -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie ...

  ... AND let's be clear about what got Mulvaney's little nose so out of joint. Mike Lillis of the Hill: "On Wednesday — day 26 of the history-making shutdown — Pelosi took the remarkable step of asking Trump to delay the address until the government is fully funded. Yet she did not go so far as to disinvite him, instead suggesting that — 'unless government reopens this week' — the pair 'work together to determine another suitable date.' On Friday, Pelosi amplified that message. 'He’s been invited,' she told reporters in the Capitol. 'All we said is, "Let’s work together for another date when government is open.’”... Trump has not responded directly to Pelosi’s entreaty. Instead, he escalated the feud on Thursday when he blocked a trip Pelosi and several other Democrats had planned to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan by denying them access to military aircraft."

Eli Rosenberg of the Washington Post: "George W. Bush [posted] ... a photo of himself delivering pizzas to his Secret Service detail that he posted on Instagram. '@LauraWBush and I are grateful to our Secret Service personnel and the thousands of Federal employees who are working hard for our country without a paycheck,' he wrote. 'And we thank our fellow citizens who are supporting them.'... The president bought them at least six pizzas, according to the Instagram post. He punctuated the post with a call for officials to figure out a way to end the impasse, though he did not give specifics. 'It’s time for leaders on both sides to put politics aside, come together, and end this shutdown,' he said.”

Eric Levitz of New York points out what a dimwit Chris Cuomo is. "... it would be reasonable for a low-information voter to condemn both parties, in equal measure, for putting ideological purity above the national good. But it would be a dereliction of duty for a television journalist to do the same. Alas, on Thursday night, CNN’s Chris Cuomo did precisely that." Mrs. McC: I've watched a few minutes of Cuomo's CNN show here & there, and he constantly pushes GOP talking points and unwarranted both-siderism. Here he's echoing Dubya.


Mark Landler & David Sanger
of the New York Times: "President Trump will meet with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in late February, the White House announced on Friday, continuing a high-level diplomatic dialogue that has eased tensions but shown little progress in eliminating the North’s nuclear arsenal. The announcement came after Mr. Trump met for 90 minutes in the Oval Office with Kim Yong-chol, the former North Korean intelligence chief who has acted as the chief nuclear negotiator for Mr. Kim." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

** Brett McGurk, in a Washington Post op-ed: "The president’s decision to leave Syria was made without deliberation, consultation with allies or Congress, assessment of risk, or appreciation of facts.... Trump tweeted, 'We have defeated ISIS in Syria.' But that was not true, and we have continued to conduct airstrikes against the Islamic State. Days later, he claimed that Saudi Arabia had 'now agreed to spend the necessary money needed to help rebuild Syria.' But that wasn’t true, either, as the Saudis later confirmed. Trump also suggested that U.S. military forces could leave Syria within 30 days, which was logistically impossible. Worse, Trump made this snap decision after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.... Trump’s latest proposal, issued via tweet, for a 20-mile safe zone — which Erdogan says Turkey will establish — similarly seems to have been made with no process or analysis.... The strategic consequences of Trump’s decision are already playing out: The more Turkey expands its reach in Syria, the faster our Arab partners in the region move toward Damascus.... In 2016, [Trump] vowed to 'knock the hell out of ISIS.' His recent choices, unfortunately, are already giving the Islamic State — and other American adversaries — new life." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Jonathan Swan & Mike Allen of Axios: "President Trump was frustrated about leaks — specifically leaks attributed to 'White House officials' — that were critical of him, [accordng to] Cliff Sims, a young White House communications aide.... This was in 2017, when West Wing chaos was a constant storyline in the media.... Trump wanted to know who Sims thought was leaking, and said to come see him — but to come through the back, so the senior staff wouldn't know.... As recounted in a passage from [a new book] "Team of Vipers"...: 'Give me their names,' he said, his eyes narrowing. 'I want these people out of here. I’m going to take care of this. We’re going to get rid of all the snakes, even the bottom-­feeders.'... I was sitting there with the President of the United States basically compiling an enemies list — but these enemies were within his own administration." --s (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Glenn Thrush of the New York Times: "A Democratic senator asked the F.B.I. on Friday to open a perjury investigation into the homeland security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, over her congressional testimony about the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the southern border. The senator, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, cited a previously unreleased document from December 2017 that showed that Ms. Nielsen’s staff considered a range of options for dealing with the influx of families seeking asylum, including a policy that would 'separate family units.' But testifying before the House Judiciary Committee last month, Ms. Nielsen said that 'we’ve never had a policy for family separation.' She also denied in subsequent interviews and statements on social media that she had pursued such a policy. 'In light of these conflicting facts,' Mr. Merkley wrote in a letter to the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, 'the F.B.I. should immediately investigate whether Secretary Nielsen’s statements' violate 'federal statutes that prohibit perjury and false statements to Congress.'” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Based on the NYT reporting, it appears Merkley doesn't have a leg to stand on. "Considering" a policy is not the same as "having" a policy. Nielsen, according to Thrush, testified DHS "never had a policy for family separation." That is, according to her testimony, DHS rejected the family separation proposal.

John Washington of The Intercept (Jan. 15): "Though a lot of attention will be on attorney general nominee William Barr’s stance on executive power..., his legacy on immigration also merits strict scrutiny.... Barr’s hard-line immigration stance, which runs lockstep with President Donald Trump’s, may set the stage for a new volley of attacks against immigrants and asylum-seekers.... As Sarah Pierce, policy analyst at Migration Policy Institute, told me, Barr would 'fit in perfectly with this administration’s immigration priorities.'... Bar [sic] saw it as 'overkill' to build a fence along the entire 1,964-mile border, but he advocated for and succeeded in laying the groundwork for a policy that would come to be known as 'Prevention Through Deterrence': building barriers and concentrating enforcement at the parts of the border where it is easiest to cross.... The policy has since resulted in the deaths of thousands of border crossers.... Barr also directly oversaw the expansion of the Border Patrol and ordered the hiring of 200 criminal investigators to combat immigration and crimes committed by 'criminal aliens.'... Barr even blamed the Rodney King riots on immigration, as Dara Lind notes[.]" --s (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Hanging with a Criminal. Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin flew from Washington to Los Angeles this month on the private aircraft of Michael R. Milken, the billionaire 'junk bond' king who pleaded guilty to securities fraud in 1990 and served two years in prison. The flight, which was confirmed by the Treasury Department on Friday, was the latest example of Trump administration officials using luxury or government aircraft for personal reasons. Mr. Mnuchin, who was accompanied by Secret Service agents on Mr. Milken’s jet, travels frequently to California to visit his children who live there. A Treasury Department spokesman said that Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Milken have known each other for years and that after reviewing internally the secretary’s plans to take the flight, it was decided that he did not need an ethics waiver. Mr. Mnuchin has reimbursed Mr. Milken for the cost of the flight, the spokesman said, but did not disclose the amount. Trump administration officials, including Mr. Mnuchin, had been encouraging President Trump last year to pardon Mr. Milken, who pleaded guilty to six criminal charges related to securities transactions undertaken in the 1980s. Mr. Milken, who had to pay $600 million in fines, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and released after two years."


Casey Michel
of ThinkProgress: "... the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) — a right-wing group founded 36 years ago — has deepened connections between America’s religious right and Russians even as the latter have been sanctioned by the United States, according to a ThinkProgress investigation. By networking with Russians, the HSLDA — now America’s largest right-wing homeschooling association — has provided the Kremlin with a new avenue of influence over some of the most conservative organizations in the United States." --s (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Thursday
Jan172019

The Commentariat -- January 18, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Mark Landler & David Sanger of the New York Times: "President Trump will meet with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in late February, the White House announced on Friday, continuing a high-level diplomatic dialogue that has eased tensions but shown little progress in eliminating the North’s nuclear arsenal. The announcement came after Mr. Trump met for 90 minutes in the Oval Office with Kim Yong-chol, the former North Korean intelligence chief who has acted as the chief nuclear negotiator for Mr. Kim."

Trump's Own State Department Provides More Proof Trump Is a National Security Threat. Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post: "A day after President Trump canceled military flights for a planned congressional trip to Afghanistan, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi abandoned her plans to travel instead on commercial flights due to security concerns. Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi (D-Calif.), blamed the Trump administration in a written statement for disclosing news of the trip, which included several other House Democrats, and thus increasing the danger to lawmakers. 'After President Trump revoked the use of military aircraft to travel to Afghanistan, the delegation was prepared to fly commercially to proceed with this vital trip to meet with our commanders and troops on the front lines,' Hammill said. Overnight, he added, a new State Department threat assessment indicated 'that the President announcing this sensitive travel had significantly increased the danger to the delegation and to the troops, security, and other officials supporting the trip. . . . This morning, we learned that the Administration had leaked the commercial travel plans as well.'” ...

... Julie Davis of the New York Times: "Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California postponed an official trip to Europe and Afghanistan due to security concerns on Friday after President Trump grounded her military flight and divulged the itinerary, and her aides said the administration leaked plans for her and the lawmakers accompanying her to fly commercially. 'In light of the grave threats caused by the president’s action, the delegation has decided to postpone the trip so as not to further endanger our troops and security personnel, or the other travelers on the flights,' Drew Hammill, Ms. Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff and communications director, said in a statement." ...

... Lauren Fox of CNN: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday she was forced to nix her Afghanistan trip after ... Donald Trump barred her from using a military aircraft and she was told by the State Department diplomatic security that it was too dangerous to fly there commercially. 'We weren't going to go because we had a report from Afghanistan that the President outing our trip had made the scene on the ground much more dangerous because it's just a signal to the bad actors,' Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol. 'You never give advance notice of going into a battle area. You just never do. Perhaps the President's inexperience didn't help him understand that protocol. The people around him, though, should have known that, because that's very dangerous,' she said. The speaker also said the President's announcement of the trip had endangered members of Congress and American troops, and that she was just relaying what the State Department told her office." ...

... The Rat Pack. Kate Riga of TPM: "Some of President Donald Trump’s staffers — including acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaneyhad a thirst for revenge after reading House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) State of the Union letter. According to a Thursday New York Time report, Mulvaney and the other disgruntled aides goaded Trump to knock her down a peg[.]" --s

Jonathan Swan & Mike Allen of Axios: "President Trump was frustrated about leaks — specifically leaks attributed to 'White House officials' — that were critical of him, [accordng to] Cliff Sims, a young White House communications aide.... This was in 2017, when West Wing chaos was a constant storyline in the media.... Trump wanted to know who Sims thought was leaking, and said to come see him — but to come through the back, so the senior staff wouldn't know.... As recounted in a passage from [a new book] "Team of Vipers"...: 'Give me their names,' he said, his eyes narrowing. 'I want these people out of here. I’m going to take care of this. We’re going to get rid of all the snakes, even the bottom-­feeders.'... I was sitting there with the President of the United States basically compiling an enemies list — but these enemies were within his own administration." --s

Jonathan Chait: "At first glance, the revelation by BuzzFeed News reporters Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier that President Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about his attempt to build a tower in Moscow during the campaign, looks bad for Trump. On second, third, and fourth glances, it looks extremely bad. 1. Attorney General [Mrs. McC: nominee] William Barr has already defined this behavior as obstruction of justice.... 2. The allegations are serious enough that even conservatives concede they would constitute a crime.... 3. The evidence reportedly has multiple sources.... As BuzzFeed explains, the evidence did not originate from Cohen. Cohen merely confirmed what Mueller discovered through other sources.... 4. There could be more where this came from.... Remember that prosecutors seized a massive trove of recordings and notes from Cohen’s office.... 5.... By telling this lie, Trump opened himself up to blackmail by Putin. Trump was publicly denying the contours of a business deal to which Russian intelligence was privy."

Betsy Woodruff & Asawin Suebsaeng of The Daily Beast: "John Dowd, who previously helmed President Donald Trump’s personal legal team, is still actively advising his lawyers as they grapple with the Mueller probe. Dowd, who left the president’s legal team in March of 2018, told Brian Kilmeade on his Fox News radio show on Jan. 14 that he speaks with Trump 'every week or so.'... Dowd’s talks with the president and his legal team may not have been universally welcomed. One former White House official told The Daily Beast that Dowd’s chats with Trump drove White House lawyer Emmet Flood and Trump attorney Jay Sekulow 'absolutely nuts.'" --s

Ken Vogel & Matthew Goldstein of the New York Times: "A global New York-based law firm has agreed to pay $4.6 million to settle a Justice Department investigation into whether its work for a Russia-aligned Ukrainian government violated lobbying laws. The investigation stems from work that the firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, did with Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman. The case overlaps with the investigation of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into Russian interference in the 2016 election. As part of the settlement, the law firm agreed to register retroactively as a foreign agent for Ukraine in addition to paying the government $4.6 million, representing the money it earned from its work in Ukraine. The settlement between the firm and the Justice Department, which was made public on Thursday, is the latest indication that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry and related investigations are fundamentally challenging the lucrative but shadowy foreign-lobbying industry that has thrived in Washington."

The Russkies Are Back. MaryAlice Parks & Lee Ferran of ABC News: "The Democratic National Committee alleges it was among the intended victims of a widespread cyberattack that was detected days after the 2018 midterm elections, according to court documents filed overnight. 'On November 14, 2018, dozens of DNC email addresses were targeted in a spear-phishing campaign, although there is no evidence that the attack was successful,' the DNC wrote in an amended complaint filed late Thursday, part of an ongoing lawsuit against the Russian government, the 2016 Donald Trump campaign and others. The DNC said that the content and the timing of the emails led the organization to believe it was targeted as part of a wider phishing campaign that cybersecurity firms had previously said appeared to use some of the same technical tricks as a Russian hacking group known as Cozy Bear, or APT 29." --s

Casey Michel of ThinkProgress: "... the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) — a right-wing group founded 36 years ago — has deepened connections between America’s religious right and Russians even as the latter have been sanctioned by the United States, according to a ThinkProgress investigation. By networking with Russians, the HSLDA — now America’s largest right-wing homeschooling association — has provided the Kremlin with a new avenue of influence over some of the most conservative organizations in the United States." --s

John Washington of The Intercept (Jan. 15): "Though a lot of attention will be on attorney general nominee William Barr’s stance on executive power..., his legacy on immigration also merits strict scrutiny.... Barr’s hard-line immigration stance, which runs lockstep with President Donald Trump’s, may set the stage for a new volley of attacks against immigrants and asylum-seekers.... As Sarah Pierce, policy analyst at Migration Policy Institute, told me, Barr would 'fit in perfectly with this administration’s immigration priorities.'... Bar [sic] saw it as 'overkill' to build a fence along the entire 1,964-mile border, but he advocated for and succeeded in laying the groundwork for a policy that would come to be known as 'Prevention Through Deterrence': building barriers and concentrating enforcement at the parts of the border where it is easiest to cross.... The policy has since resulted in the deaths of thousands of border crossers.... Barr also directly oversaw the expansion of the Border Patrol and ordered the hiring of 200 criminal investigators to combat immigration and crimes committed by 'criminal aliens.'... Barr even blamed the Rodney King riots on immigration, as Dara Lind notes[.]" --s

** Brett McGurk, in a Washington Post op-ed: "The president’s decision to leave Syria was made without deliberation, consultation with allies or Congress, assessment of risk, or appreciation of facts.... Trump tweeted, 'We have defeated ISIS in Syria.' But that was not true, and we have continued to conduct airstrikes against the Islamic State. Days later, he claimed that Saudi Arabia had 'now agreed to spend the necessary money needed to help rebuild Syria.' But that wasn’t true, either, as the Saudis later confirmed. Trump also suggested that U.S. military forces could leave Syria within 30 days, which was logistically impossible. Worse, Trump made this snap decision after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.... Trump’s latest proposal, issued via tweet, for a 20-mile safe zone — which Erdogan says Turkey will establish — similarly seems to have been made with no process or analysis.... The strategic consequences of Trump’s decision are already playing out: The more Turkey expands its reach in Syria, the faster our Arab partners in the region move toward Damascus.... In 2016, [Trump] vowed to 'knock the hell out of ISIS.' His recent choices, unfortunately, are already giving the Islamic State — and other American adversaries — new life."

*****

This Russia Thing, Etc., Ctd. -- High Crimes Edition

** Jason Leopold & Anthony Cormier of BuzzFeed News: "... Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter. Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. 'Make it happen,' the sources said Trump told Cohen. And even as Trump told the public he had no business deals with Russia, the sources said Trump and his children, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project.... Two sources have told BuzzFeed News that Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.... Two law enforcement sources said [Trump] had at least 10 face-to-face meetings with Cohen about the [Moscow] deal during the campaign.... The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Lordy, I do believe suborning perjury, witness tampering & obstruction of justice would be high crimes. ...

... Tim Elfrink of the Washington Post: "Democratic leaders reacted with fury and demanded an investigation late Thursday following a new report that President Trump personally directed ... Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the president’s push for a lucrative condo project in Moscow in the lead-up to the 2016 election.... Democrats said that if the [BuzzFeed News] report is accurate, Trump must quickly be held to account for his role in the perjury, with some raising the specter of impeachment.... Eric Holder, President Obama’s attorney general, tweeted that Congress should start impeachment hearings if the story is accurate. 'If true - and proof must be examined - Congress must begin impeachment proceedings and Barr must refer, at a minimum, the relevant portions of material discovered by Mueller. This is a potential inflection point,' he wrote.... 'If the @Buzzfeed story is true, President Trump must resign or be impeached,' tweeted Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee.... Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) tweeted, 'Listen, if Mueller does have multiple sources confirming Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress, then we need to know this ASAP. Mueller shouldn’t end his inquiry, but it’s about time for him to show Congress his cards before it’s too late for us to act.'” ...

... Devan Cole & Pamela Brown of CNN: "... Michael Cohen said Thursday that he paid the head of a small technology company thousands in 2015 to rig online polls at "the direction of and for the sole benefit of" Trump. Cohen was responding to a report in The Wall Street Journal that he paid John Gauger, the owner of RedFinch Solutions LLC, between $12,000 and $13,000 for activities related to Trump's campaign, including 'trying unsuccessfully to manipulate two online polls in Mr. Trump's favor' and creating a Twitter account called '@WomenForCohen' that 'praised (Cohen's) looks and character, and promoted his appearances and statements boosting' Trump's candidacy.... Thursday morning in a statement to CNN, Cohen said his actions were 'at the direction of and for the sole benefit of Donald J. Trump.' I truly regret my blind loyalty to a man who doesn't deserve it.'" Emphasis added. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This follows the Trump Projection Syndrome. Trump complained through the campaign that the polls were rigged & that Hillary Clinton & Barack Obama would rig the election at the same time -- no surprise here -- he was paying some incompetent hack to rig polls.

Yoni Appelbaum in the cover story for the Atlantic: President* Trump "has mounted a concerted challenge to the separation of powers, to the rule of law, and to the civil liberties enshrined in our founding documents. He has purposefully inflamed America’s divisions. He has set himself against the American idea, the principle that all of us — of every race, gender, and creed — are created equal.... He has routinely privileged his self-interest above the responsibilities of the presidency. He has failed to disclose or divest himself from his extensive financial interests, instead using the platform of the presidency to promote them.... More troubling still, Trump has demanded that public officials put their loyalty to him ahead of their duty to the public.... Trump has evinced little respect for the rule of law, attempting to have the Department of Justice launch criminal probes into his critics and political adversaries.... As for the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, Trump has repeatedly trampled upon them.... Trump’s actions during his first two years in office clearly meet, and exceed, the criteria to trigger [impeachment].... Impeachment ... is a vital protection against the dangers a president like Trump poses.... With every passing day, Trump further undermines our national commitment to America’s ideals.... And what if the Senate does not convict Trump? The fifth benefit of impeachment is that, even when it fails to remove a president, it severely damages his political prospects." Read on. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Appelbaum wrote before the Cohen news came out. Now I don't see how the House can avoid impeaching Trump.

Ha Ha. Eileen Sullivan & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "... Rudolph W. Giuliani backtracked on Thursday from a surprising assertion he made a night earlier that left open the possibility that Trump campaign aides might have coordinated with Russia’s election interference in 2016. 'There was no collusion by President Trump in any way, shape or form,' Mr. Giuliani said in a statement on Thursday.... 'Likewise, I have no knowledge of any collusion by any of the thousands of people who worked on the campaign.'... Mr. Giuliani was seeking to clarify an interview on Wednesday night in which he stopped short of defending Trump campaign aides, drawing speculation that he might have inside knowledge of possible coordination with Russia.... Mr. Giuliani’s backpedaling was the latest in a series of conflicting comments he has made about the investigation of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. The evolution of his statements have suggested shifts in the president’s defense strategy, often following developments in the investigations.... Mr. Trump has maintained that his campaign never aided Russia’s meddling, even as the special counsel inquiry has revealed communications between Russians and some Trump campaign aides.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Several pundits have pointed out that Rudy has once again created a big fuss days before a big story comes out. Given the nature of Giuliani's original lie -- "I never said people on Trump's campaign didn't collude with Russians" (paraphrase) -- I'm not sure the big story Rudy anticipated was Trump's instruction to Cohen to lie. There may be another shoe to drop on one or more of Trump's campaign aides. Of course Cohen does also implicate Ivanka & Junior. ...

Trump puts everyone against each other when you work for him. While he demands loyalty, he doesn’t return it. Loyalty is not a two-way street, especially when you’ve got special counsel involved in it. -- Sam Nunberg, former Trump campaign aide ...

... Darren Samuelsohn of Politico: "Rudy Giuliani sent an unmistakable message Wednesday night: It’s everyone for themselves. During a CNN interview..., Donald Trump’s personal lawyer blurted out that the only person he knows about who didn’t collude with Russia was Trump himself. Although Giuliani tried to walk back his comments on Thursday, the remarks put the sprawling web of people caught up in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe on notice: no one is coming to save you.... The Team Trump infighting has been a prosecutor’s dream for Mueller, opening up an ever-widening window into the behind-the-scenes workings of a rookie politician whose campaign has been under investigation for years. The special counsel and federal prosecutors have already benefited from the internal sniping, flipping Trump’s former lawyer, national security adviser and campaign chairman." ...

... Aaron Rupar of Vox: "... Rudy Giuliani didn’t do his client any favors during a CNN interview on Wednesday night in which he conceded that Trump’s former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, may have colluded with Russians. Giuliani made that concession while being grilled by host Chris Cuomo about a new revelation that special counsel Robert Mueller believes Manafort shared 'polling data' that was 'related to the 2016 presidential campaign' with Konstantin Kilimnik, a former colleague of Manafort’s who allegedly had ties to Russian intelligence.... Before the interview was over, Giuliani’s tortured position seemed to be that collusion didn’t happen — but if it did, Trump didn’t know about it, and anyway, it was a long time ago and isn’t provable." ...

... Marcy Wheeler: During his meltdown on CNN, "Rudy even says, 'I have no idea — never have — what other people were doing.' Except he did — or claimed he did. Rudy has claimed over and over again that he’s sure the President is not at any risk of being charged with 'collusion' because he knows what all of the critical witnesses — who are all in a Joint Defense Agreement with the President — told Mueller.... That’s actually not true.... But it is true with respect to one person: Paul Manafort.... Rudy insists that, even if Manafort 'colluded,' the President did not. And yet, the President was in — remains in, as far as we know — a Joint Defense Agreement with this guy that Rudy now concedes may have 'colluded' during the election.”

Weird News. Shades of Martha Mitchell. Mark Stern of Slate gets a strange email from Marci Whitaker, the wife of acting AG Matt Whitaker.

Kaitlan Collins, et al., of CNN: "... Donald Trump was startled Tuesday as he watched television coverage of his nominee for attorney general [William Barr] describing a warm relationship with the special counsel Robert Mueller in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to three people familiar with the matter.... He bristled at Barr's description of the close relationship, complaining to aides he didn't realize how much their work overlapped or that they were so close." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Don't know if Trump is hard of hearing or just stupid. (Could be both.) "I told him [Trump] how well I knew Bob Mueller and that the Barrs and Muellers were good friends and would be good friends when this was all over. Bob is a straight-shooter and should be dealt with as such," Barr testified. It's most likely Barr was being truthful here, so we know this: Trump doesn't listen to things he doesn't want to hear. Then he gets mad when, for some other reason, he hears those things.

Kate Sullivan of CNN: "The House Judiciary Committee chairman said Wednesday that his panel would subpoena special counsel Robert Mueller's final report if William Barr..., Donald Trump's nominee for attorney general, does not release it to the public. 'If necessary, our committee will subpoena the report. If necessary, we'll get Mueller to testify,' Rep. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, told CNN's Anderson Cooper.... 'The American people need the information here.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Jeanne Whalen & Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "In a rebuke to the Trump administration, 136 Republicans joined House Democrats Thursday to oppose a Treasury Department plan to lift sanctions against companies controlled by an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The overwhelming 362 to 53 vote will not prevent the Trump administration from easing sanctions on three companies connected to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with ties to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, as Senate Republicans narrowly blocked a similar measure on Wednesday. But the House vote does mean that a majority of Republicans on Capitol Hill oppose President Trump’s efforts to soften punitive measures on a Russian oligarch — a rejection with potential implications for the administration’s continued stance on Russia, and for the GOP lawmakers who backed the plan to ease the sanctions." Mrs. McC: Sounds like a good number for the vote on articles of impeachment. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie Aside. So 136 House & 11 Senate Republicans voted against lifting sanctions on one of Vlad's buddies. Will someone please explain to me why Not-President Mitt Romney -- who said in 2012 that Russia was the U.S.'s "top geopolitical foe" & who had repeatedly said he would vote against Donald Trump's interests when warranted -- was not among them?

Anton Troianovski A model from Belarus who claimed to have recordings shedding light on the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia was detained at a Moscow airport Thursday on prostitution allegations, the police said. The model, Anastasia Vashukevich, had been deported from Thailand earlier in the day after spending nine months in prison on charges of conspiracy and soliciting prostitution. She was booked to fly to Minsk, Belarus, but was detained along with three others traveling with her as she changed planes at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Inter­national Airport, according to her husband and another person traveling with her. No evidence has emerged of the tape that Vashukevich claimed showed contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians. Her arrest in Moscow was unexpected and blocked her from possibly talking to dozens of journalists waiting for her in the airport’s arrivals zone. Gregory Kogan, a close friend of Vashukevich, asserted that Russian and Belarusan diplomats in Thailand had pledged the group would be safe if they left for Russia or flew via Moscow."

The Trump Shutdown, Etc., Ctd.

Annie Karni & Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "President Trump retaliated on Thursday against Speaker Nancy Pelosi for threatening to cancel his planned State of the Union address, announcing that he, in turn, was postponing an overseas trip she had planned with a congressional delegation that he described as a 'public relations event.' 'I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt and Afghanistan has been postponed,' Mr. Trump wrote in a letter addressed to Ms. Pelosi. 'We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the shutdown is over.'... 'Obviously,' Mr. Trump added, she still had the option of flying commercial.... Ms. Pelosi was scheduled to depart Thursday afternoon, joined by Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and other members of Congress. Military transport is traditionally provided to the House speaker or congressional delegations for foreign trips. But the trips are traditionally kept secret when lawmakers are heading to war zones. The White House has known about the trip since early last week, when it was brought to its attention by the Defense Department, according to White House officials.... A spokesman for Ms. Pelosi, Drew Hammill, responded to the president in a series of tweets, referring to the trip as a 'weekend visit to Afghanistan' that did not include a stop in Egypt.... Mr. Hammill also noted that Mr. Trump had traveled to Iraq during what he referred to as the 'Trump Shutdown.'” ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: No, "obviously" Pelosi could not fly commercial. And not just because Afghanistan is a dangerous country. Since 9/11, the Speaker of the House -- 2nd in line to the presidency -- has not traveled on commercial airliners.

... Erin Banco, et al., of the Daily Beast: "For more than three weeks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her staff had quietly planned an international trip to Brussels and Afghanistan to check in on America’s longest war.... It was time-consuming work, involving coordination between numerous agencies, stakeholders, and international officials along with extra security briefings because of the danger of the destination.... Senior officials at the Pentagon also had been read in on the speaker’s plans, especially those regarding her visit to war-torn Afghanistan, where extra security was needed for her time in Kabul. Two senior officials on the ground in Afghanistan said they received the itinerary for the trip, as they do other congressional trips, weeks in advance and held it close to the chest. Fellow members of Congress made similar accommodations as they prepared to accompany the Speaker.... White House officials told CNN that Trump had coordinated with the Department of Defense about the decision to prohibit the use of military aircraft for Pelosi. But as of the time of this publication, staffers in the Pentagon were furiously scrambling to gather information about the cancellation. 'We’re still gathering information just like you,' one Pentagon official told The Daily Beast.... Within an hour of the White House’s announcement, the Trump campaign was already fundraising off of the tit-for-tat." ...

... Colby Itkowitz of the Washington Post: "The state of government shutdown negotiations is now just two adults treating each other like children. What shiny toy can they take away next as punishment? A day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that President Trump delay delivering the State of the Union address in front of Congress due to security concerns while the government is shut down, he seemed to retaliate. Just hours before Pelosi and other members of Congress were to board a military jet to visit troops in Afghanistan, Trump told her she couldn’t go.... Pelosi’s letter was a strongly worded request..., whereas Trump outright denied Pelosi’s travel. Pelosi put the onus on him to do the right thing, but Trump made the decision for her." Mrs. McC: Of course. He man; she woman. He decider; she nag. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: As Ken W. suggests in today's comments & Frank Rich says in an interview linked below, we're still looking at this:

     ... (wherein Lucy plays the part of Nancy & Charlie Brown plays Donald) ...

... ** Update. Kevin Breuninger & Dan Mangan of CNBC: "First Lady Melania Trump flew to Florida on a government jet Thursday for a weekend vacation, hours after ... Donald Trump dramatically postponed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trip with other members of Congress to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan, NBC confirmed, citing a law enforcement source. President Trump cited the ongoing government shutdown as his reason for postponing Pelosi's travel plans, shortly before she and her team were scheduled to depart on a military plane. While Pelosi was practically grounded by Trump's actions, the president's wife headed to Joint Base Andrews for her own trip on a military aircraft, NBC said. The first lady is expected to be in Florida for the holiday weekend at her family's private Mar-a-Lago resort, according to NBC, which reported that the president is set to stay in Washington. CNN said the flight to Palm Beach was previously scheduled.... The jet was a Boeing C32-A, which is the same kind of plane used to transport the president, the first lady, the vice president and the secretary of state." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: So Trump disallows the U.S. military to transport members of Congress to take an official trip to Afghanistan while he approves military transportation for his wife to go on vacation. That's an abuse of office right there.

Maggie Haberman & Annie Karni of the New York Times: "President Trump has insisted that he is not going to compromise with Democrats to end the government shutdown, and that he is comfortable in his unbendable position. But privately, it’s sometimes a different story. 'We are getting crushed!' Mr. Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, after watching some recent coverage of the shutdown, according to one person familiar with the conversation. 'Why can’t we get a deal?'... But despite his public bravado, and the tweets about “Radical Democrats,” Mr. Trump has had recurring moments of frustration as he takes in negative news coverage of the shutdown, pointing his finger at aides for not delivering the deal he wants.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This is hilarious. Trump boasts that he is the world's greatest dealmaker, yet he blames aides for "not delivering the deal he wants." When aides -- and the veep -- have tried to negotiate with Democrats, Trump has undercut them. They can't "deliver the deal" precisely because Trump won't let them. He even undercuts himself: he led Mitch McConnell to believe he would accept the bills McConnell pushed (and passed by voice vote); then changed his mind. Trump can't even negotiate with himself. But never mind all that. All of Trump's failures are somebody else's fault.

When Is a Shutdown Not a Shutdown? Eileen Sullivan of the New York Times: "The Trump administration is asking most State Department employees to return to work on Tuesday, despite the stalemate in funding negotiations between the president and congressional Democrats that has led to a partial government shutdown. In a message posted online on Thursday, the department’s deputy under secretary for management, Bill Todd, cited the agency’s core national security mission as the reason many furloughed employees were being asked to return to work next week. He said the department was “taking steps to make additional funds available” so employees could get paid. It was not immediately clear what these steps entailed or why the department did not take these steps sooner. A State Department spokesman said agency budget officials and members of its legal team had been working to find a way to resume payment to many of its employees during the shutdown."

Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "The federal courts are running out of money as the partial government shutdown continues with no end in sight, raising concerns that the legal system will be significantly hobbled if the standoff is not resolved soon. Judges and court officials around the country are bracing for the likelihood that the federal judiciary will be unable to maintain its current operations within the next two weeks, once it exhausts the money it has been relying on since the shutdown began last month. Already, courts have been cutting down on expenses like travel and new hiring. Court-appointed private lawyers who represent indigent defendants have been working without pay since late December, according to the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, which provides support for the court system.... Some federal courts have issued orders postponing civil cases in which the Justice Department is a party while the shutdown continues...." ...

... Devlin Barrett Mark Berman of the Washington Post: "At federal law enforcement agencies from the FBI to the DEA to Customs and Border Protection and others, the frustration about having missed a paycheck last week because of the partial government shutdown is growing into fear and anger, as there are signs that the lack of funds is affecting ongoing investigations.... Most travel and training among the law enforcement agencies has been canceled. Many law enforcement officials said some undercover cases, including corruption probes, have been stymied in recent weeks because supervisors feel they cannot approve travel or cash for those operations. Investigators have been told there is no money to pay informants in some cases, or to covertly buy drugs, or to obtain cash for other criminal investigations, according to law enforcement officials." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Maybe this is the real reason for the Trump shutdown. You were worried Matt Whitaker or Bill Barr would starve the investigations surrounding Trump & his cohort? Trump is staving them already. ...

... Then again, there's this: Patti Davis, in a Washington Post op-ed: "The agents protecting [Trump] and his family are showing up, without pay, for a job in which the central theme is: If bullets fly, step in front of them. He has not said a word about what is happening to these agents because of the government shutdown, which he said he would own. These are men and women with families, with bills to pay, who went through rigorous training to be accepted into the Secret Service, who are serious and dedicated, and don’t deserve to be treated as indentured servants whose livelihoods are immaterial." Mrs. McC: Hope you're not trying to find Donald's empathy bone, Patti, because he doesn't have one. But maybe he'll think, "Gee, if these guys are disgruntled, they might not be so keen to die for me." Even that's a compound premise, so a big leap for Trump.

Mr. Munchkin Regrets He's Unable to Testify. David Morgan, et al., of Reuters: "Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday declined a request by the Democratic chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives tax committee to testify next week about the partial government shutdown’s impact on the upcoming federal tax filing season. In a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, the Treasury Department offered to send senior officials 'who are most knowledgeable' about the department’s plans during the shutdown.... 'With more than 70,000 Treasury employees furloughed and missing paychecks, I strongly believe Secretary Mnuchin himself should appear before our committee and answer members’ questions,' Neal said in a statement...."

Jordain Carney of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked legislation on Thursday that would have reopened most of the federal government impacted by the partial shutdown. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) tried to get consent to take up a House-passed bill that would reopen all agencies except the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is at the center of the shutdown fight. But McConnell objected. The Senate GOP leader didn’t explain his objection from the Senate floor but he has warned for weeks that he will not bring up a government funding bill unless it’s the product of an agreement between congressional Democratic leadership and President Trump."

Steve M. cites a poll that demonstrated "Republicans in Congress are representing Republicans; Democrats are representing Americans. ...

... Amy Walter of the Cook Report: "... all the polling released in the last week shows that Trump, not Democrats are taking the blame for the shutdown. Moreover, Democratic voters are more united in the sentiment that it’s Trump fault than Republicans are united that the blame should fall on Democrats. Trump’s decision to center the debate solely on the construction of a wall (or fence or barrier or steel slats), has also has helped to consolidate Democrats.... Republicans had warned us in numerous ads over the 2018 campaign, Democrats would be hosting anti-ICE protests and defending sanctuary cities. The 'open borders' liberals would be forcing suburban, swing seat members to choose between their moderate constituents and their liberal allies in Congress. But, what’s keeping the Democratic caucus from splitting in two (or three, or four) is that debate isn’t about immigration anymore. It’s about a wall. And, even [Trump's] own base isn’t convinced that a wall is worth it." ...

... Ronald Brownstein of the Atlantic: "A government shutdown that most Americans oppose, on behalf of a border wall that most Americans oppose, might be the logical end point for a president and a political party that appears more and more unconcerned about attracting support from a majority of the public. Donald Trump’s decision to precipitate a government shutdown over his demands for money to build a border wall, and the virtual absence of congressional GOP resistance to his approach, shows how comfortable the president and the broader Republican Party around him have grown in pursuing goals that face majority opposition in polls — so long as they retain the backing of their core supporters.... Trump has abandoned any pretense of seeking to represent majority opinion and is defining himself almost entirely as the leader of a minority faction."


William Broad & Annie Karni
of the New York Times: "President Trump announced Thursday the results of a missile defense review that he said would update a decades-old system and protect the United States from emerging threats — adopting a Cold War stance while also promoting futuristic ambitions with his much-touted Space Force.... Mr. Trump also offered condolences to the families of four Americans killed in Syria a day earlier and lashed out at Democrats in Congress for refusing to fund a wall on the border with Mexico — the central issue that has prompted the government shutdown, now in its fourth week. He accused Speaker Nancy Pelosi of prohibiting Democrats from negotiating with him, calling border security 'another critical matter of national security.' 'Nothing else is going to work,' Mr. Trump said of building a wall. He also said the Democratic Party had been 'hijacked by the open borders fringe.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Eric Schmitt, et al., of the New York Times: "The bombing [in Syria that killed 19, including four Americans] raised new questions about Mr. Trump’s surprise decision last month to end the American ground war in Syria. Critics of the president’s plans, including members of his own party, said Mr. Trump’s claim of victory over the Islamic State may have emboldened its fighters and encouraged Wednesday’s strike." This story is a substantial of one linked below. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Joe Concha of the Hill: "Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin reported that a senior foreign diplomat had told the network that the deadly suicide attack on U.S. troops in Syria was a 'direct result of the announcement made by President Trump that U.S. forces are pulling out.' 'U.S. allies remain up in arms about the U.S. announcing it is pulling out of Syria,' Griffin reported on Fox News chief anchor Shepard Smith's newscast on Wednesday afternoon.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)


Amy Goldstein
of the Washington Post: "The Trump administration separated thousands more migrant children from their parents at the U.S. border than has previously been made public, according to an investigative report released Thursday, but the federal tracking system has been so poor that the precise number is hazy. According to the report issued by the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services, the separated children include 118 taken between July and early November — after the administration halted a short-lived family separation effort that provoked a political firestorm and public outrage. The report estimates that thousands of other youngsters were taken starting early in the Trump administration, months before the government announced it would separate children in order to criminally prosecute their parents, through late last spring. Although previous administrations also separated minors from adults at the border in some instances — usually when they suspected the child was smuggled, or the parent appeared to be unfit — the report documents a sharp increase in separations under Trump. Based on available records, separated children accounted for 0.3 percent of all unaccompanied minors taken into HHS custody in late 2016, near the end of the Obama administration. By August of 2017, the percentage had increased more than tenfold, to 3.6 percent." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Nastiest People Alive. Julia Ainsley of NBC News: "Trump administration officials weighed speeding up the deportation of migrant children by denying them their legal right to asylum hearings after separating them from their parents, according to comments on a late 2017 draft of what became the administration's family separation policy obtained by NBC News. The draft also shows officials wanted to specifically target parents in migrant families for increased prosecutions, contradicting the administration's previous statements. In June, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the administration did 'not have a policy of separating families at the border' but was simply enforcing existing law. The authors noted that the 'increase in prosecutions would be reported by the media and it would have a substantial deterrent effect.' The draft plan was provided to NBC News by the office of Sen. Jeff Merkley, D.-Ore., which says it was leaked by a government whistleblower."

Morgan Gstalter of the Hill: "A former translator for U.S. forces in Afghanistan was released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials on Thursday after being threatened with deportation. Mohasif Motawakil left Houston International Airport after being detained for seven days and the visas for himself, his wife and five children will be reinstated, according to a statement from Texas immigrant advocacy group RAICES.... Motawakil and his family were detained on Jan. 10 upon arrival at the airport, apparently threatened with deportation to Kabul, Afghanistan.... He was arrested by immigration officials and placed in detention. His wife and children were later paroled. Motawakil was eligible for a special immigrant visa because he had assisted American military operations in Afghanistan as a translator from 2012-2013, later working as a U.S. contractor in the region.... Four Texas Democrats contacted U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on behalf of Motawakil. Reps. Lloyd Doggett (D) and Joaquin Castro (D) made calls to the agency, while while Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D) and Al Green (D) arrived at the airport in support of the family."


Donovan Slack
of USA Today: "An investigation of former Veterans Affairs secretary David Shulkin largely cleared him of allegations he misused his security detail for shopping and other errands, but concluded he violated ethics rules by allowing his driver to provide transportation for his wife, the VA inspector general said in a report Thursday. Investigators determined Shulkin permitted his driver to transport his wife on several occasions, in one case to a train station in a government vehicle when he was on duty and in other cases, in his personal vehicle on his own time ostensibly as a favor. Using government vehicles for unofficial purposes was prohibited in this case, and the personal transportation services would have qualified as a gift, the inspector general concluded. Federal ethics rules bar employees from accepting gifts from subordinate staff." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

"Go Back to Puerto Rico!" Rafael Bernal of the Hill: "During a House vote on reopening the government Thursday, an argument broke out between Republicans and Democrats over a procedural question. During the chaos, Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) yelled, 'Go back to Puerto Rico!' [while Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) was speaking in the well.] 'When people blurt things out like that, it certainly sounds like the old saying, "go back to where you came from,'" Cárdenas told The Hill later. 'Since I was a little boy I've heard that blurted at me many times, but it's sad that anything even remotely close to that would be said to me on the floor of the House,' he added." Cárdenas is descended from Mexican immigrants to the U.S. Another GOP Congressman, Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), told Cárdenas the shout was meant to refer to a fact-finding trip Democrats took to Puerto Rico last week. Uh-huh. ...

... Kate Riga of TPM: "House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) took a few minutes in his concluding floor remarks Thursday to scold a Republican representative who shouted 'go back to Puerto Rico!' during Rep. Tony Cardenas’ (D-CA) speech on the shutdown. 'I would hope that we could refrain from any implications which have any undertones of prejudice or racism or any kind of -ism that would diminish the character and integrity of one of our fellow members,' Hoyer said." ...

... Jennifer Scholtes, et al., of Politico: "Rep. Tony Cárdenas said Thursday night he has accepted an apology from Rep. Jason Smith, who acknowledged he yelled, 'Go back to Puerto Rico!' at Democrats during a tense situation on the House floor earlier in the day but denied his remark was racially motivated. A Smith aide said the Missouri Republican intended the comment as a shot at House Democrats over their 30-member jaunt to Puerto Rico last weekend — an event that got heavy coverage in the conservative media — rather than an attack on a specific lawmaker."

What Are Your GOP Congressmen Doing Today? Brandy Zadrozny & Ben Collins of NBC News: "An alt-right activist who met with two Republican congressmen to discuss 'DNA' and 'genetics' posted on Facebook that he believes Muslims are 'genetically different in their propensity for violence or rape' and linked to stories about how African-Americans 'possessed a "violence" gene.' Chuck Johnson met with Reps. Andy Harris of Maryland and Phil Roe of Tennessee on Thursday. After a Huffington Post reporter tweeted a photo of Johnson with the two congressmen, and the photo attracted media attention because of Johnson's far-right views, Roe released a statement saying he and Harris had met with Johnson because he was representing a company advocating for 'increasing the number of sequenced genomes for research.' Spokespersons for Harris and Roe both confirmed to NBC News that they had met with Johnson Thursday, and a spokesperson for Roe said they had discussed 'DNA' and 'genetics.' Johnson and Harris would not identify the company when asked." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: If I had a legitimate concern to share with my own congressperson, I don't believe I could get an appointment with her. Some hapless aide would get stuck listening to me. No one would find me strolling down the halls of the Capitol in my representative's company. But this complete nut job spouting insane social Darwinism theories, for some reason, has gained the attention of not one but two Members of Congress. That Huff Post photo? Something is wrong with that picture.

Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post: "Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.), who was just elected to a fifth term, announced Thursday that he is resigning from Congress later this month to accept a job in the private sector[.]... The former prosecutor was one of the first House Republicans to endorse Donald Trump and he was an informal adviser to the candidate. Marino has won handily in his heavily Republican Pennsylvania district, but faced a new reality as Democratic seized majority control of the House last November.... President Trump nominated Marino to be the nation’s drug czar in 2017, but Marino withdrew from consideration following a Washington Post/'60 Minutes' investigation detailing how the lawmaker helped steer legislation through Congress that weakened the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to go after drug distributors, even as opioid-related deaths continue to rise." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

Frank Rich on Pelosi v. Trump ("I can’t resist saying it again: Pelosi is awesome."); Steve King & GOP racism ("From the moment Barry Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to recruit the old Dixie states to the GOP in his presidential run through Chief Justice John Roberts's disembowelment of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, the GOP has been the party of what Richard Nixon codified as the 'Southern strategy': exploiting racial resentments for political gain."); & William Barr ("You are not exactly the crème de la crème of the American bar if the most prominent testimonials to your character include an op-ed 'in the Times' written by Kenneth Starr, whose most recent accomplishment was to ignore a culture of rape at Baylor University, which ousted him as its president and chancellor.")

Beyond the Beltway

Illinois. Samira Puskar & David Li of NBC News: "Three Chicago police officers on Thursday were found not guilty on all charges that they conspired to protect their colleague who shot and killed teenager Laquan McDonald in 2014. Officer Thomas Gaffney, ex-Officer Joseph Walsh and former Detective David March were acquitted on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and official misconduct by Cook County Judge Domenica Stephenson. 'This court finds that the state has failed to meet its burden on all charges,' Stephenson ruled. 'Defendants are discharged.'... The three officers opted against having a jury hear their case, and instead asked for a bench trial, leaving their fate in the hands of Judge Stephenson."

Wisconsin. Todd Richmond of the AP: "A federal judge on Thursday struck down early-voting restrictions Wisconsin Republicans adopted in a December lame-duck legislative session, saying the limits are clearly similar to restrictions he blocked two years ago.  Republicans voted in December to limit early voting to no more than two weeks before an election.... The GOP lost every statewide race, but retained majorities in the Legislature and quickly convened the lame-duck session to pass bills that Gov. Scott Walker — also defeated in the election — could sign before leaving office.... A coalition of liberal groups with the support of former Democratic U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, asked U.S. District Judge James Peterson to strike down the restrictions three days after Walker signed them into law. Peterson struck down a similar two-week early voting restriction along with a number of other Republican-authored voting laws in 2016. State attorneys have asked the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse Peterson; that action is still pending. Peterson wrote Thursday that he can enforce his own orders while the appeal is pending."