The Ledes

Wednesday, June 19, 2019.

New York Times: “David Ortiz, the former Boston Red Sox slugger, was not the intended target of a shooting in the Dominican Republic that seriously injured him last week, the authorities in the country said in a news conference Wednesday. It was a stunning revelation in a wild case that has captivated many in the baseball-crazed nation, and across the world. Jean Alain Rodríguez, the country’s top prosecutor, said Ortiz, who was shot in the back and underwent emergency surgery that night before being transported to Boston, was wearing similar clothing to a friend, Sixto David Fernandez, who was the intended target of the shooting. Fernandez was sitting at the same table as Ortiz at the Dial Bar and Lounge, a regular hangout for Ortiz in the eastern part of Santo Domingo. Rodríguez also revealed for the first time the man suspected of organizing the entire operation: It was Victor Hugo Gomez, he said, a wanted criminal in the U.S. and member of the Gulf Cartel.”

The Wires

New York Times: "... the Library of Congress has named [Joy Harjo] America’s new poet laureate. She will take over for Tracy K. Smith, who has held the position for two years.... Harjo, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, is the 23rd poet and first Native person to be selected for the role."

New York: "The mass of the metal 'anomaly' beneath the moon’s largest crater is five times greater than the big island of Hawaii, and according to a new study from scientists at Baylor University, it could contain metals remaining from an ancient asteroid impact, weighing in at around 4.8 quintillion pounds."

New York Times: "A skeleton in Siberia nearly 10,000 years old has yielded DNA that reveals a striking kinship to living Native Americans, scientists reported on Wednesday. The finding, published in the journal Nature, provides an important new clue to the migrations that first brought people to the Americas. 'In terms of peopling of the Americas, we have found close to the missing link,' said Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen and a co-author of the new paper. 'It’s not the direct ancestor, but it’s extremely close.'... The DNA of [a group scientists call] the Ancient Paleo-Siberians is remarkably similar to that of Native Americans. Dr. Willerslev estimates that Native Americans can trace about two-thirds of their ancestry to these previously unknown people.”

New York Times: Navy pilots flying along the East Coast of the U.S. spotted UFOs "almost daily from the summer of 2014 to March 2015.... The sightings were reported to the Pentagon’s shadowy, little-known Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which analyzed the radar data, video footage and accounts provided by senior officers from the Roosevelt. Luis Elizondo, a military intelligence official who ran the program until he resigned in 2017, called the sightings 'a striking series of incidents.'” In one incident, the UFO flew between two Navy jets "flying in tandem about 100 feet apart over the Atlantic east of Virginia Beach.... It looked to the pilot ... like a sphere encasing a cube."

Mrs. McCrabbie: This actually seems crazy to me:

New York Times: "A shiny stainless steel sculpture created by Jeff Koons in 1986, inspired by a child’s inflatable toy, sold at Christie’s on Wednesday night for $91.1 million with fees, breaking the record at auction for a work by a living artist, set just last November by David Hockney. Robert E. Mnuchin, an art dealer and the father of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, made the winning bid for Mr. Koons’s 1986 'Rabbit' from an aisle seat near the front of the salesroom."

Might as well just get this -- it's vintage! it's "authentic"! -- and give it pride-of-place in the front hall. Sure, visitors will think you're tasteless & nuts, but in such a vintage, authentic way.

UPDATE: (May 19): New York Times: Mnuchin would not reveal the identity of his client; i.e., the purchaser of Stainless Bunny is. During an NYT interview, "He was near tears when asked about his son Steve and refused to comment about their relationship. But friends said that he is in an impossible predicament, conflicted over his sense of duty about being a loyal father and his concern as a citizen that President Trump is bad for America."

David McCullough Is a Crap Historian. Rebecca Onion of Slate reviews his book on the history -- okay, make that "hagiographic platitudes" -- about the settlement of the Northwest Territory. "Its success (it is No. 10 on Amazon’s best-seller list for books, as of Friday) shows how big the gap between critical history and the “popular history” that makes it to best-seller lists, Costco, and Target remains.” Mrs. McC: Onion doesn't mention it, but I get the impression all the "settling" was done by men; apparently the women's tasks were of no account. Somehow I don't think most of the "ladies" sat around drinking tea & doing needlepoint in their pretty parlors.

Guardian: "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have introduced their newborn son to the world and revealed he is to be called Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. The name was announced shortly after the Queen met her eighth great-grandchild for the first time at Windsor Castle, where earlier the couple showed him off to the cameras."

Guardian: “The Duchess of Sussex has given birth to a baby son, weighing 7lbs 3oz. Mother and child were both doing well, Buckingham Palace announced. The Duke of Sussex was present for the birth, which happened at 5.26am on Monday. The child is seventh in line to the throne, and an eighth great-grandchild for the 93-year-old Queen.”

Washington Post: "Cheap Chinese caviar is flooding the U.S. market, causing prices to plummet, and with it, the product’s cachet. Wholesale prices have fallen more than 50 percent since 2012, down 13 percent just in the past year. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the import price has gone from $850,000 per ton in January 2012 to $350,000 per ton in November 2018." Mrs. McC: This makes me very happy. I love caviar (I've only had the cheaper kind), but I seldom buy it because of the expense. I have some in the pantry now, but I'm going to check the price at the grocery store now in hopes it's something I can enjoy more often. Status symbol? I couldn't care less.

New York Times: "Pulitzer Prizes were awarded on Monday [April 15] to news organizations that uncovered instances of malfeasance and outright fraud in President Trump’s financial past, a nod to journalists’ perseverance in the face of the president’s ever-sharper attacks on a free press. The New York Times received the explanatory reporting prize for an 18-month investigation that revealed how the future president and his relatives avoided paying roughly half a billion dollars’ worth of taxes. The Wall Street Journal won the national reporting prize for disclosing clandestine payoffs by the president’s associates to two women who were said to have had affairs with Mr. Trump in the weeks before the 2016 election. The South Florida Sun Sentinel won the prize for public service, considered the most prestigious of the Pulitzers, for documenting the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The paper’s in-depth articles revealed a series of failures by local officials and law enforcement that, the paper wrote, cost children their lives."

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

Wednesday
Jun192019

The Commentariat -- June 20, 2019

More later.

The Trump Scandals, Ctd.

Cover-up, Ctd. Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: “Behind closed doors, lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee pressed Hope Hicks, one of Mr. Trump’s closest former aides, for nearly seven hours on her recollections of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, as well as on episodes documented by Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, in which Mr. Trump tried to assert control over investigations into those contacts. And they resurrected an older accusation against Mr. Trump: his role in an illegal scheme to make hush payments to two women during his 2016 campaign.... Ms. Hicks declined to answer nearly every question about her time working in the administration, citing instructions from the president that she was 'absolutely immune' from answering, lawmakers from both parties said.... Ms. Hicks did engage in queries about her work on the campaign, which is not subject to executive privilege or claims of immunity, discussing what she knew about contacts between Trump associates and Russia. But there was no immediate evidence that those exchanges produced meaningful new revelations. The Judiciary Committee said it intended to release a full transcript of the interview within 48 hours.... Mr. Trump seethed on Twitter, accusing Democrats of putting Ms. Hicks 'through hell' and seeking a 'Do Over' of the Mueller investigation.”

... Earlier Wednesday. Kyle Cheney of Politico: “Democrats erupted Wednesday at what they said was the White House’s repeated interference in their interview with Hope Hicks, a longtime confidant of ... Donald Trump who was a central witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s obstruction of justice probe. Three House Judiciary Committee lawmakers exiting the closed-door interview said a White House lawyer repeatedly claimed Hicks had blanket immunity from discussing her time in the White House. They said she wouldn’t answer questions as basic as where she sat in the West Wing or whether she told the truth to Mueller. 'It’s a farce,' said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who said Hicks at one point tried to answer a question about an episode involving former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski only to be cut off by counsel. 'We’re watching obstruction of justice in action,' said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.). Lieu said the White House lawyers were 'making crap up' to block Hicks from testifying. He said she did answer some questions about her time on the Trump campaign that provided new information but declined to characterize her comments.” (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... The story has been updated., with Andrew Desiderio added to the byline. There's this: “Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) said in an interview ...  that the White House was not formally asserting executive privilege to block Hicks from answering certain questions; rather, the [White House*] lawyer [planted at Hicks' side] was referring to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone’s Tuesday letter claiming that Hicks was 'absolutely immune' from discussing her tenure in the Trump administration.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: It isn't entirely clear who is paying that lawyer's salary. A couple of reports, including Politico's, indicate s/he is a White House lawyer, but in a tweet Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) described him/her as "Ridiculous DOJ Lawyer." Update: Rep. Jayapal said on CNN Wednesday night that Hicks had both a DOJ lawyer & a White House lawyer in tow, & implied Hicks had a personal attorney there, too.

... Evan Hurst of Wonkette writes some very derogatory things about Pat Cipolline's "legal theory" that everybody to whom Trump got a forever immunization shot the minute he opened his mouth. Hurst also brings up some points that Congress would have wanted Hicks to clarify -- like what she knew about Trump's order to Corey Lewandowski to tell Jeff Sessions that Mueller could investigate only future Russian election interference, which even Lewandowski seems to have known didn't make sense.

Heather Caygle & Andrew Desiderio of Politico: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi officially shut the door on censuring ... Donald Trump Wednesday but plans to view a minimally redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report this week, her latest attempt to juggle the competing impeachment factions within her caucus. Pelosi initially rejected an offer from Attorney General William Barr in April to view the less-redacted report, rebuffing Barr’s demands that only top congressional leaders have that access.... Pelosi’s censure comments are significant because she is leaving the House with one option if they want to punish Trump — impeachment. 'I think censure is just a way out. If you want to go, you gotta go,' she said. 'If the goods are there, you must impeach. Censure is nice, but it is not commensurate with the violations of the Constitution should we decide that’s the way to go.'”

David Enrich, et al., of the New York Times: "Federal authorities are investigating whether Deutsche Bank complied with laws meant to stop money laundering and other crimes, the latest government examination of potential misconduct at one of the world’s largest and most troubled banks, according to seven people familiar with the inquiry. The investigation includes a review of Deutsche Bank’s handling of so-called suspicious activity reports that its employees prepared about possibly problematic transactions, including some linked to President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, according to people close to the bank and others familiar with the matter.... [Tammy] McFadden, a former anti-money-laundering compliance officer at the bank, told The New York Times last month that she had flagged transactions involving Mr. Kushner’s family company in 2016, but that bank managers decided not to file the suspicious activity report she prepared. Some of her colleagues had similar experiences in 2017 involving transactions in the accounts of Mr. Trump’s legal entities, although it was not clear whether the F.B.I. was examining the bank’s handling of those transactions."


Lisa Friedman
of the New York Times: "The Trump administration on Wednesday finalized a package of new rules to replace the Clean Power Plan, former President Barack Obama’s signature effort to reduce planet-warming emissions from coal plants. The new measure, known as the Affordable Clean Energy rule, will very likely prompt a flurry of legal challenges from environmental groups that could have far-reaching implications for global warming. If the Supreme Court ultimately upholds the rule’s approach to the regulation of pollution, it would be difficult or impossible for future presidents to tackle climate change through the Environmental Protection Agency.... The Obama administration interpreted that law as giving the Environmental Protection Agency broad authority to set national restrictions on carbon emissions. The Trump administration asserts that the law limits the agency to regulating emissions at the level of individual power plants." (Also linked yesterday.)

Sheryl Stolberg of the New York Times: “The House waded into the decades-old debate over reparations for African-Americans on Wednesday, convening its first hearing on legislation introduced 30 years ago that would create a commission to develop proposals to address the lingering effects of slavery and consider a 'national apology' for the harm it has caused. Hundreds of spectators, mostly black, were on hand for the historic hearing by a House Judiciary subcommittee, whose witnesses included Senator Cory Booker, the New Jersey Democrat and presidential candidate, the actor Danny Glover and the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, who took direct aim at Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, for remarks he made Tuesday opposing the idea. The room grew raucous at times, with spectators hissing at Republican witnesses and Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana, the subcommittee’s senior Republican, when he spoke against the measure.”

Presidential Race 2020

Speaking of Reparations, Gideon Resnick of the Daily Beast: “Joe Biden’s nostalgic invocation of two southern segregationist senators at a fundraiser on Tuesday night has sparked the most heated exchanges to date in the 2020 Democratic primary, with competitors launching frontal attacks on the former vice president just a week before the first debate.... The comments, which were reportedly something Biden’s own advisers had warned him not to make, provoked a sharp response from Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), one of three African-Americans seeking the 2020 presidential nomination. 'You don’t joke about calling black men "boys,’” Booker said in a statement on Wednesday. 'Men like James O. Eastland used words like that, and the racist policies that accompanied them, to perpetuate white supremacy and strip black Americans of our very humanity.'... Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) told the Washington Post: 'I’m not here to criticize other Democrats, but it’s never okay to celebrate segregationists. Never.' And Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who would be the party’s first African-American female nominee responded, 'It concerns me deeply. If those men had their way, I wouldn’t be in the United States Senate and on this elevator right now.' Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) tweeted that he agreed with Booker’s statement. And New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose wife is African-American, also lit into Biden in a tweet featuring a picture of his family.” ...

    ... The New York Times story which reported Biden's remarks is here (also linked yesterday). ...

... Martin Longman in the Washington Monthly on an essential element of the good ole days that Biden failed to factor in: "So long as the segregationists were still Democrats, Congress was able to function and there was enough ideological overlap between the two parties to allow for some civility.... When the Democratic Party was divided between north and south, they could hash out most of their internal disagreements and keep the country’s lights on. But now that the two parties are divided north and south, this is no longer a fraternal and often amicable dispute. Senators Eastland and Talmadge needed people like Joe Biden in order to keep themselves in the majority and keep their committee gavels. Today, the senators from Mississippi and Georgia have no such use for the current senators from Delaware.... The current Republican Party is a southern party." ...

... Steve M. looks both at Biden's comments at the fundraiser about his friendships with segregationists AND his promise to wealthy potential donors. From the NYT story: "Biden told affluent donors Tuesday that he wanted their support and -- perhaps unlike some other Democratic presidential candidates -- wouldn’t be making them political targets because of their wealth.... '... No one’s standard of living would change. Nothing would fundamentally change,' he said.” Steve concludes, "He'd still be better than Trump, on a hundred different issues. But he shouldn't be the nominee." ...

... Jonathan Chait essentially agrees with Longman & with Steve M.: "At first blush, Biden’s segregationist riff is disturbing. When you poke below the surface, gets even more disturbing. It suggests that he has not grasped any of the tectonic changes in American politics, and that he is equipped neither for the campaign nor the presidency.... Biden came of political age during the period when polarization had reached its historic nadir[.]... The era of bipartisanship was built on suppressing racial conflict. The white South could only be cajoled into a coalition that supported bigger government by preventing African Americans from voting and, at times, outright denying them the benefits of government altogether.... Biden is attempting to tout his ability to work across the aisle, but he’s citing friendships with members of his own party.... There were divides, but bridging divides within your own party is not actually a monumental achievement.... The most inexplicable thing about the segregationism riff is that it calls attention to a subject Biden should be trying to avoid: his antiquated record on race.... If he truly believes he can lead the Democratic Party by restoring the bygone habits of the system that bred him, he is unqualified to lead either his party or his country in a transformed era." ...

... digby has some thoughts on Joe Biden's boasting about the good ole days when he made friends with segregationist senators: Sen. "James Eastland [D-Mississippi] was a stone cold racist.  For a Democratic presidential candidate in 2019 to extoll racists for their 'civility' (much less the fact that he didn't call a white Senator 'boy' [-- Eastland called Biden 'son,' according to Biden --] demonstrating his total misapprehension of what that means) is insulting to a vast number of Democratic voters. To imply that being able to work with someone like Eastland at times is more than just a matter of necessity but rather a belief that people like Eastland are actually good folks you could have a drink with after work is stunningly obtuse. Biden rightly excoriated Trump for his remarks after Charlottesville in his announcement video. Doesn't he realize that his own comments are basically saying that there are 'very fine people' on both sides?" Mrs. McC: Evidently a rhetorical question. ...

Andrew Kramer of the New York Times: "International prosecutors on Wednesday said that four men, including three with close ties to the Russian military and intelligence, would face murder charges in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine five years ago, killing 298 people. Fred Westerbeke, the chief prosecutor of the Netherlands, said that the trial would begin in the Netherlands on March 9, 2020. The accused are unlikely to be present, however, since three are in Russia and the fourth is believed to be in the breakaway region in Ukraine." (Also linked yesterday.)

David Kirkpatrick & Nick Cumming-Bruce of the New York Times list key takeaways from a United Nations report on the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Tuesday
Jun182019

The Commentariat -- June 19, 2019

Late Mornng Update:

Kyle Cheney of Politico: “Democrats erupted Wednesday at what they said was the White House’s repeated interference in their interview with Hope Hicks, a longtime confidant of ... Donald Trump who was a central witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s obstruction of justice probe. Three House Judiciary Committee lawmakers exiting the closed-door interview said a White House lawyer repeatedly claimed Hicks had blanket immunity from discussing her time in the White House. They said she wouldn’t answer questions as basic as where she sat in the West Wing or whether she told the truth to Mueller. 'It’s a farce,' said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who said Hicks at one point tried to answer a question about an episode involving former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski only to be cut off by counsel. 'We’re watching obstruction of justice in action,' said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.). Lieu said the White House lawyers were 'making crap up' to block Hicks from testifying. He said she did answer some questions about her time on the Trump campaign that provided new information but declined to characterize her comments.”

Lisa Friedman of the New York Times: "The Trump administration on Wednesday finalized a package of new rules to replace the Clean Power Plan, former President Barack Obama’s signature effort to reduce planet-warming emissions from coal plants. The new measure, known as the Affordable Clean Energy rule, will very likely prompt a flurry of legal challenges from environmental groups that could have far-reaching implications for global warming. If the Supreme Court ultimately upholds the rule’s approach to the regulation of pollution, it would be difficult or impossible for future presidents to tackle climate change through the Environmental Protection Agency.... The Obama administration interpreted that law as giving the Environmental Protection Agency broad authority to set national restrictions on carbon emissions. The Trump administration asserts that the law limits the agency to regulating emissions at the level of individual power plants."

Andrew Kramer of the New York Times: "International prosecutors on Wednesday said that four men, including three with close ties to the Russian military and intelligence, would face murder charges in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine five years ago, killing 298 people. Fred Westerbeke, the chief prosecutor of the Netherlands, said that the trial would begin in the Netherlands on March 9, 2020. The accused are unlikely to be present, however, since three are in Russia and the fourth is believed to be in the breakaway region in Ukraine."

~~~~~~~~~~

All the Best People, Ctd.

And Another One Bites the Dust. Michael Shear & Helene Cooper of the New York Times: "President Trump on Tuesday pulled the nomination of Patrick M. Shanahan to be the permanent defense secretary, saying on Twitter that Mr. Shanahan would devote more time to his family.The move leaves the Pentagon without a permanent leader at a time of escalating tensions with Iran after attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. The Trump administration has blamed Iran for the explosions that damaged the two tankers. Mr. Trump named Mark T. Esper, the secretary of the Army and a former Raytheon executive, to take over as acting secretary of defense. He did not say whether Mr. Esper would be nominated for the permanent position. In a Twitter post, the president said the withdrawal was the decision of Mr. Shanahan, who has served for six months as acting defense secretary." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Kate Riga & David Taintor of TPM: "Shanahan’s withdrawal is not completely unexpected, as Yahoo News reported [also linked below] Monday that his confirmation process was being hampered by a longer-than-usual FBI background check, which included a domestic violence episode that resulted in his ex-wife’s arrest. He addressed that and some other grisly familial incidents with the Washington Post in a story published nearly simultaneously with Trump’s tweets. In November 2011, Shanahan’s then-17-year-old son William beat his mother with a baseball bat, rendering her unconscious in a pool of her own blood. She sustained skull fractures and internal injuries so severe that they required surgery.... Shanahan ... addressed the event that ended in his wife’s arrest, claiming that she started punching him in the face while he tried to sleep and proceeded to attempt to light his possessions on fire before the police arrived and observed his injuries." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Tom Vanden Brook & Kevin Johnson of USA Today: "The FBI has been examining a violent domestic dispute from nine years ago between acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan and his then-wife as part of a background investigation.... The incident, in which Shanahan and his then-wife Kimberley both claimed to the police that they had been punched by the other, did not surface when Trump nominated Shanahan to be the Pentagon’s second-in-command two years ago, or when he was selected to be the interim defense chief this year. Shanahan said he 'never laid a hand on his former wife. His former wife, who now goes by the name Kimberley Jordinson, said she stands by her account. The episode could have been a potential roadblock for Shanahan if Trump formally nominated him for the secretary’s post, which requires Senate confirmation, because a key lawmaker and Senate aides said it could have raised questions about his ability to combat longstanding problems of violence against women in the military." ...

... Five Dollar Feminist of Wonkette: "Safe bet that Shanahan's nomination as Father of the Year is on ice as well amid allegations of spousal abuse and his disgraceful behavior after his teenage son cracked his mother's skull with a baseball bat in 2011 after which Shanahan successfully argued that the 17-year-old should get a deferred adjudication and disappeared the kid's phone, which may or may not have contained evidence of an illegal sexual relationship with a much older woman. YES, THAT'S JUST THE START.... It's absofuckinglutely reprehensible that he was so thirsty for the Sec Def job that he put his family in the awful position of having this all come out again." The Washington Post story, that first detailed the Shanahan Family Troubles, is here.

Eliana Johnson & Marianne Levine of Politico: “A little more than a year ago, moments after he fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by tweet..., Donald Trump ... told reporters, 'I’m really at a point where we’re getting very close to having the Cabinet and other things that I want.' It hasn’t quite worked out that way. Instead, Trump has a Cabinet by default, with many of its members simply being the last person standing after others pulled out of the running, declined the president’s offers or couldn’t get through their confirmation hearings.... If there’s a thread running through them all, it’s a president with a penchant for choosing many top appointees based on instinct — and without regard for prior government experience — plus a White House whose vetting operation is far from thorough and a thin Republican Senate majority with little room for error.” Mrs. McC: As if to prove that everything he says is 100 percent meaningless, Trump said Tuesday, "We have a very good vetting process. You take a look at our Cabinet and our secretary it's very good. But we have a great vetting process.”

& of Bloomberg News: “The White House explored the legality of demoting Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell in February, soon after ... Donald Trump talked about firing him, according to people familiar with the matter. The White House counsel’s office weighed the legal implications of stripping Powell of his chairmanship and leaving him as a Fed governor, the people said, in what would be an unprecedented move. A replacement would have to be nominated by Trump and confirmed by the Senate. Trump’s team conducted the legal analysis and came to a conclusion that has remained closely held within the White House.... It isn’t clear whether Trump directed the legal review, and the people didn’t describe the outcome.... Fed spokeswoman Michelle Smith said in an email: 'Under the law, a Federal Reserve Board chair can only be removed for cause.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Geneva Sands of CNN: "Katharine Gorka, a political appointee at the Department of Homeland Security who has stirred controversy for her views on terrorism and her role in the department's efforts to combat violent extremism in the US, is expected to be the new press secretary at Customs and Border Protection.... Gorka is married to Sebastian Gorka, the former deputy assistant to Trump, who was an outspoken and combative defender of the President's national security agenda, known for his dire warnings of Islamic terrorism while writing for Breitbart.... Both Gorkas wrote for Breitbart...."

Andy Borowitz of the New Yorker: "A leading candidate to replace the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was disqualified after telling the truth repeatedly on his job application, the White House has confirmed." ...

     ... Contributor forrest wants to know, "When did Andy Borowitz switch from satire to actual facts
reporting?"


Tessa Berenson
of Time: “Facing twin challenges in the Persian Gulf..., Donald Trump said in an interview with Time Monday that he might take military action to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, but cast doubt on going to war to protect international oil supplies.... Last week, U.S. officials blamed Iran for attacks against Norwegian and Japanese oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Trump described those and other recent attacks attributed by administration officials to Iran as limited. 'So far, it’s been very minor,' Trump told Time.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Ivan Nechepurenko of the New York Times: "The Kremlin warned on Monday that reported American hacking into Russia’s electric power grid could escalate into a cyberwar with the United States, but insisted that it was confident in the system’s ability to repel electronic attacks. Dmitri S. Peskov, President Vladimir V. Putin’s spokesman, also raised concerns that President Trump was reportedly not informed about the effort, which was the subject of a New York Times report on Saturday that detailed an elaborate system of cybertools deployed by the United States inside Russia’s energy system and other targets." Mrs. McC: Apparently Vlad finds the NYT more reliable than Trump, who said the Times story was "NOT TRUE!" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Nick Wadhams & Saleha Mohsin of Bloomberg: "The Trump administration is weighing three sanctions packages to punish Turkey over its purchases of the Russian S-400 missile-defense system, according to people familiar with the matter. The most severe package under discussion ... would all but cripple the already troubled Turkish economy, according to three people familiar with the matter.... So far, Turkey been defiant over the sanctions threat because trust in Washington has broken down, according to three Turkish officials." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: In view of Trump's affinity for Turkey's president Recep Erdogan, I'd advise the "Trump administration" to follow its Don't-Tell-Trump policy.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs & Michael Shear of the New York Times: Immigration and Customs Enforcement in recent days has bulked up the branch responsible for carrying out deportations in preparation for the mass arrests of undocumented immigrants, two Department of Homeland Security officials said on Tuesday, adding that the agency could not immediately deport 'millions of illegal aliens' as President Trump had promised the night before.... On Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Trump repeated that immigration officials planned to conduct a deportation operation next week. 'They know. They know,' Mr. Trump said as he left for Florida.”

Hamed Aleaziz of BuzzFeed News: “The newly appointed leader of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, sent an email to staffers Tuesday in which he appeared to push asylum officers to stop allowing some people seeking refuge in the country passage at an initial screening at the border.... '... USCIS must, in full compliance with the law, make sure we are properly screening individuals who claim fear but nevertheless do not have a significant possibility of receiving a grant of asylum or another form of protection available under our nation’s laws,' he said. Cuccinelli added that officers have tools to combat 'frivolous claims' and to 'ensure that [they] are upholding our nation’s laws by only making positive credible fear determinations in cases that have a significant possibility of success.' One official at the Department of Homeland Security — of which USCIS is a part — said the email was 'insane,' while former officials said the email was clearly a threat.” ...

Lauren Fox & Phil Mattingly of CNN: "The top two appropriators in the US Senate have reached an agreement on a $4.6 billion funding package to address the influx of migrants at the southern border that has been deemed a "humanitarian crisis," according to three people familiar with the deal. The agreement between Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, and Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the panel, includes $2.88 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services to be directed to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which administration officials warned lawmakers would run out of money by the end of this month without the emergency cash infusion. The Senate Appropriations Committee will mark up the agreement on Wednesday and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he plans to put it on the Senate floor by the end of next week."

Seth Borenstei & Nicky Forster of the AP: “After decades of improvement, America’s air may not be getting any cleaner. Over the last two years the nation had more polluted air days than just a few years earlier, federal data shows.... There were 15% more days with unhealthy air in America both last year and the year before than there were on average from 2013 through 2016, the four years when America had its fewest number of those days since at least 1980.... Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed just the opposite, saying earlier this month in Ireland: 'We have the cleanest air in the world, in the United States, and it’s gotten better since I’m president.'... The Trump administration is expected to replace an Obama-era rule designed to limit emissions from electric power plants on Wednesday.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: BUT Joe Romm has some bad news for the Dirty-Liar-in-Chief & good news for Earth. See story linked below.

Vera Bergengruen of Time: "A new lawsuit filed on Tuesday alleges that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo broke the law by allowing ... Donald Trump to seize the notes from a key meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and failing to take any steps to preserve records of their other face-to-face meetings. The lawsuit filed by American Oversight and Democracy Forward, two progressive non-profit government watchdog organizations, says that the Federal Records Act requires Pompeo to preserve the meeting notes prepared by State Department employees.... Tuesday’s lawsuit comes a week before the next G20 summit, which will take place in Osaka, Japan, on June 28 and 29."

Ken Vogel of the New York Times: "A Ukrainian-Russian developer who wanted access to President Trump’s inauguration filed a lawsuit on Tuesday saying he was bilked out of the $200,000 he paid for what he thought would be V.I.P. tickets to the event. The developer, Pavel Fuks, who once discussed a Moscow real estate project with Mr. Trump, said in the lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, that he had paid the money to a firm at the direction of Yuri Vanetik, a prominent Republican fund-raiser and sometime lobbyist. But, the lawsuit said, Mr. Vanetik failed to come through with the promised tickets, and Mr. Fuks ended up watching the inauguration from a Washington hotel bar.... Mr. Fuks’s lawsuit is seeking a refund from Mr. Vanetik, plus damages.... The lawsuit sheds new light on efforts to accommodate foreign politicians and business executives who sought to attend Mr. Trump’s inauguration to press their agendas, curry favor or make influential connections with the incoming administration. It is illegal for foreign nationals to buy tickets from the committees that host the official parties and other events around United States presidential inaugurations...."

Presidential Race 2016. Frances Robles & Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times have a long piece on the the Trump campaign's successful efforts to gain the endorsement of Jerry Falwell, Jr. in 2016. A "complicated narrative is emerging about the behind-the-scenes maneuvering in the months before that important endorsement. That backstory, in true Trump-tabloid fashion, features the friendship between Mr. Falwell, his wife and a former pool attendant at the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach; the family’s investment in a gay-friendly youth hostel; purported sexually revealing photographs involving the Falwells; and an attempted hush-money arrangement engineered by the president’s former fixer, Michael Cohen. The revelations have arisen from a lawsuit filed against the Falwells in Florida; the investigation into Mr. Cohen by federal prosecutors in New York; and the gonzo-style tactics of the comedian and actor Tom Arnold.... New details ... show how deeply Mr. Falwell was enmeshed in Mr. Cohen’s and Mr. Trump’s world."

Presidential Race 2020

Rallying Like It's 2016. White People Bussed into Orlando. Maggie Haberman, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump delivered a fierce denunciation of his rivals, the news media and the political establishment on Tuesday as he rallied a huge crowd of raucous supporters in Florida to officially open his re-election campaign, evoking the dark messaging and personal grievances that animated his 2016 victory." ...

     ... According to CNN's liveblog of the rally, "... it was short on fresh material, the President repeatedly slammed 2016 rival Hillary Clinton." He twice mentioned Joe Biden briefly. Mrs. McC: BTW, when I tuned into CNN at maybe 8:15 pm, the network was carrying Trump's rally speech live, so a return to 2016 on CNN's part, too. ...

... "2016 All Over Again." Maggie Haberman & Annie Karni of the New York Times: “Die-hard supporters bussed in from across the state on Tuesday to celebrate the 'official' kickoff of Mr. Trump’s 2020 campaign appeared frozen in time, reliving Mr. Trump’s surprise victory over Hillary Clinton.... He mentioned Hillary Clinton more than half a dozen times before he even acknowledged a single Democratic candidate running for president in 2020.” ...

... "Bizarro World." Jeff Greenfield in Politico: “The President’s strongest case for re-election is the current state of the economy. And he stayed resolutely on message for perhaps a minute and a half, until he returned to a theme he far prefers — his 2016 election victory, which he called 'a defining moment in American history' — and then pointed to the rear of the hall where the media were stationed, and said: 'Ask them — right there! By the way, that’s a lot of fake news right there.'... If you scrape away the paranoid rants, you can find a few shards of what the campaign operatives and speechwriters had in mind. And that is a doubling down on the populist-conspiratorial themes that were a key to his 2016 win.”

... Orlando Sentinel Editors: "Donald Trump is in Orlando to announce the kickoff of his re-election campaign. We’re here to announce our endorsement for president in 2020, or, at least, who we’re not endorsing: Donald Trump.... Enough of the chaos, the division, the schoolyard insults, the self-aggrandizement, the corruption, and especially the lies. So many lies — from white lies to whoppers — told out of ignorance, laziness, recklessness, expediency or opportunity.... Trump’s successful assault on truth is the great casualty of this presidency, followed closely by his war on decency.... Trump has diminished our standing in the world. He reneges on deals, attacks allies and embraces enemies.... Except for Lyndon Johnson in 1964, the Sentinel backed Republican presidential nominees from 1952 through 2004, when we recommended John Kerry over another four years of George W. Bush." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Gabriel Sherman of Vanity Fair: "... Trump family members have already been sounding alarms that Republican mega donors aren’t stepping up.... Trump has lost the financial support of one of his biggest backers in 2016: the Mercers. With their ties to Steve Bannon, Breitbart, and Cambridge Analytica, Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah were superstars last cycle. According to half a dozen sources familiar with the reclusive family’s political activities, the Mercers have drastically curtailed their political donations in recent months and will likely not play a significant role in 2020."

Dareh Gregorian of NBC News: "NBC on Tuesday announced the candidate positions on the stage for the two-night [first Democratic debate] event [in Miami, Florida,] on June 26 and 27, and it will feature the contenders who've been leading in the polls in the middle of the stage. That means on Night One, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas will be in the middle, while Night Two will feature former Vice President Biden and [Sen. Bernie] Sanders, the Vermont senator, standing side-by-side at center stage.... The podium placements were based on each of the candidates' qualifying public polling through Wednesday, June 12."

Katie Glueck of the New York Times: “Joseph R. Biden Jr., defending himself on Tuesday night against suggestions that he is too 'old fashioned' for today’s Democratic Party, invoked two Southern segregationist senators by name as he fondly recalled the 'civility' of the Senate in the 1970s and 1980s.” Mrs. McC: Ah, yes, the good old days when a young senator accorded deep respect to overt racists.


** Joe Romm
of ThinkProgress: "A new study reveals just how stunningly rapid the clean energy transition is. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) reported on Tuesday that renewables are now the cheapest form of new electricity generation across two thirds of the world.... Yet just five years ago, renewables were the cheapest source of new power in only 1% of the world.... Equally remarkable, BNEF projects that by 2030, wind and solar will 'undercut existing coal and gas almost everywhere.' In other words, within a decade it will be cheaper to build and operate new renewable power plants than it will be to just keep operating existing fossil fuel plants — even in the United States.... The result is that we are shifting from a world today where two thirds of power generation is from fossil fuels to one three decades from now where two thirds is zero carbon. As BNEF puts it, we are 'ending the era of fossil fuel dominance in the power sector.'" --safari: Next step is uprooting the dirty energy lobbies from the D.C. swamp. ...

... AND Not a Moment Too Soon. 

Reuters: "Permafrost at outposts in the Canadian Arctic is thawing 70 years earlier than predicted, an expedition has discovered, in the latest sign that the global climate crisis is accelerating even faster than scientists had feared ... [as] a succession of unusually hot summers had destabilised the upper layers of giant subterranean ice blocks that had been frozen solid for millennia." --s

The ruling, handed down from Bridgeport Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis, came after attorneys representing several Sandy Hook families in their lawsuit against Jones filed a motion on Monday asking the judge to review footage of Jones lambasting one of the attorneys in a Friday segment. Bellis called Jones' behavior on the broadcast 'indefensible,' 'unconscionable,' and 'possibly criminal behavior.' Bellis sanctioned Jones by denying the defense the opportunity to pursue special motions to dismiss moving forward in the lawsuit. The court will also award attorneys fees and filing fees to the Sandy Hook families' lawyers related to the issue...."

Nic Robertson of CNN: "Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi was the victim of a 'deliberate, premeditated execution,' a United Nations special rapporteur has concluded in the first independent investigation into his death. In a much anticipated report, released Wednesday, UN extrajudicial executions investigator Agnes Callamard said that Saudi Arabia was responsible under international law for Khashoggi's 'extrajudicial killing.'A prominent writer and Washington Post columnist, Khashoggi died after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. While Riyadh initially denied any knowledge of the incident, Saudi officials later claimed that a group of rogue operators, many of whom belong to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's inner circle, were responsible for the journalist's death. The Saudi attorney general later acknowledged that Khashoggi was killed in a premeditated murder. The special rapporteur does not make any conclusions on the guilt of the Saudi Crown Prince and King. Instead, Callamard says that there is 'credible evidence meriting further investigation by a proper authority" as to whether the "threshold of criminal responsibility has been met.'"

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Ryan Mac & Joseph Bernstein of BuzzFeed News: “A former Republican operative notorious for his connections to white nationalists has established himself as an opinion contributor for several national publications, including the Wall Street Journal, while writing under a thinly veiled pen name, BuzzFeed News has learned. Marcus Epstein, who worked for former Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo and founded a nativist political club with white nationalist Richard Spencer, has written more than a dozen opinion pieces for the Journal, the Hill, Forbes, US News and World Report, and the National Review over the past two years. His pieces, which mainly focus on the regulation of the technology industry, were published under the byline 'Mark Epstein.' In six different pieces for the Journal, Epstein is identified as an 'antitrust attorney and freelance writer' and addresses topics including the supposed threat to conservative speech posed by Google and Facebook, and the ways regulation and antitrust might be used to ensure 'viewpoint neutrality' and consumer protection, respectively. They make no mention of his past, which includes contributions to the white nationalist site VDare and charges that he assaulted a black woman, after racially abusing her, in 2007.” Epstein entered an Alford plea on the assault charge.

Beyond the Beltway

Indiana. Olivia Messer of the Daily Beast: Four "named statehouse employees filed a new federal lawsuit against [Indiana's secretary of state Curtis] Hill [R] on Tuesday morning. The 11-count complaint against Hill and the state of Indiana alleges sexual harassment, retaliation, gender discrimination, battery, defamation, and invasion of privacy, according to a draft viewed Monday evening by The Daily Beast." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

Way Beyond

Japan. Justin McCurry of the Guardian: "Women have outperformed their male counterparts in entrance examinations for a medical school in Japan that last year admitted rigging admission procedures to give men an unfair advantage. Juntendo University in Tokyo said that of the 1,679 women who took its medical school entrance exam earlier this year, 139, or 8.28%, had passed. The pass rate among 2,202 male candidates was 7.72%." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Wow! That's a tough exam.

Rebecca Ratcliffe of the Guardian: "The number of people forced to flee their homes across the world has exceeded 70 million for the first time since records began, the UN’s refugee agency has warned.... The figure of 70.8 million displaced people includes 25.9 million refugees, 41.3 million people displaced within their own borders and 3.5 million asylum seekers. Globally, children make up about half of the refugee population." --s

Sarah Boseley of the Guardian: "A global survey of attitudes towards science has revealed the scale of the crisis of confidence in vaccines in Europe, showing that only 59% of people in western Europe and 50% in the east think vaccines are safe, compared with 79% worldwide. Around the globe, 84% of people acknowledge that vaccines are effective and 92% say their child has received a vaccine. But in spite of good healthcare and education systems, in parts of Europe there is low trust in vaccines. France has the highest levels of distrust, at 33%." --s

Monday
Jun172019

The Commentariat -- June 18, 2019

Afternoon Update:

And Another One Bites the Dust. Michael Shear & Helene Cooper of the New York Times: "President Trump on Tuesday pulled the nomination of Patrick M. Shanahan to be the permanent defense secretary, saying on Twitter that Mr. Shanahan would devote more time to his family.The move leaves the Pentagon without a permanent leader at a time of escalating tensions with Iran after attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. The Trump administration has blamed Iran for the explosions that damaged the two tankers.Mr. Trump named Mark T. Esper, the secretary of the Army and a former Raytheon executive, to take over as acting secretary of defense. He did not say whether Mr. Esper would be nominated for the permanent position. In a Twitter post, the president said the withdrawal was the decision of Mr. Shanahan, who has served for six months as acting defense secretary." ...

... Kate Riga & David Taintor of TPM: "Shanahan’s withdrawal is not completely unexpected, as Yahoo News reported [also linked below] Monday that his confirmation process was being hampered by a longer-than-usual FBI background check, which included a domestic violence episode that resulted in his ex-wife’s arrest. He addressed that and some other grisly familial incidents with the Washington Post in a story published nearly simultaneously with Trump’s tweets. In November 2011, Shanahan’s then-17-year-old son William beat his mother with a baseball bat, rendering her unconscious in a pool of her own blood. She sustained skull fractures and internal injuries so severe that they required surgery.... Shanahan ... addressed the event that ended in his wife’s arrest, claiming that she started punching him in the face while he tried to sleep and proceeded to attempt to light his possessions on fire before the police arrived and observed his injuries."

& of Bloomberg News: “The White House explored the legality of demoting Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell in February, soon after ... Donald Trump talked about firing him, according to people familiar with the matter. The White House counsel’s office weighed the legal implications of stripping Powell of his chairmanship and leaving him as a Fed governor, the people said, in what would be an unprecedented move. A replacement would have to be nominated by Trump and confirmed by the Senate. Trump’s team conducted the legal analysis and came to a conclusion that has remained closely held within the White House.... It isn’t clear whether Trump directed the legal review, and the people didn’t describe the outcome.... Fed spokeswoman Michelle Smith said in an email: 'Under the law, a Federal Reserve Board chair can only be removed for cause.'”

Tessa Berenson of Time: “Facing twin challenges in the Persian Gulf..., Donald Trump said in an interview with Time Monday that he might take military action to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, but cast doubt on going to war to protect international oil supplies.... Last week, U.S. officials blamed Iran for attacks against Norwegian and Japanese oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Trump described those and other recent attacks attributed by administration officials to Iran as limited. 'So far, it’s been very minor,' Trump told Time.” 

Ivan Nechepurenko of the New York Times: "The Kremlin warned on Monday that reported American hacking into Russia’s electric power grid could escalate into a cyberwar with the United States, but insisted that it was confident in the system’s ability to repel electronic attacks. Dmitri S. Peskov, President Vladimir V. Putin’s spokesman, also raised concerns that President Trump was reportedly not informed about the effort, which was the subject of a New York Times report on Saturday that detailed an elaborate system of cybertools deployed by the United States inside Russia’s energy system and other targets." Mrs. McC: Apparently Vlad finds the NYT more reliable than Trump, who said the Times story was "NOT TRUE!"

Orlando Sentinel Editors: "Donald Trump is in Orlando to announce the kickoff of his re-election campaign. We’re here to announce our endorsement for president in 2020, or, at least, who we’re not endorsing: Donald Trump.... Enough of the chaos, the division, the schoolyard insults, the self-aggrandizement, the corruption, and especially the lies. So many lies — from white lies to whoppers — told out of ignorance, laziness, recklessness, expediency or opportunity.... Trump’s successful assault on truth is the great casualty of this presidency, followed closely by his war on decency.... Trump has diminished our standing in the world. He reneges on deals, attacks allies and embraces enemies.... Except for Lyndon Johnson in 1964, the Sentinel backed Republican presidential nominees from 1952 through 2004, when we recommended John Kerry over another four years of George W. Bush."

Olivia Messer of the Daily Beast: Four "named statehouse employees filed a new federal lawsuit against [Indiana's secretary of state Curtis] Hill [R] on Tuesday morning. The 11-count complaint against Hill and the state of Indiana alleges sexual harassment, retaliation, gender discrimination, battery, defamation, and invasion of privacy, according to a draft viewed Monday evening by The Daily Beast."

~~~~~~~~~~~

Darryl Coote of UPI: "... Donald Trump said [in a tweet] starting next week U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will begin deporting millions of immigrants who entered the United States illegally. 'Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States,' he said Monday on Twitter. 'They will be removed as fast as they come in.' While Trump did not give specifics, ICE operations are usually kept secret until they are underway in order to prevent alerting those targeted, the Washington Post reported." Mrs. McC: So says a man who has been exploiting undocumented immigrants for decades. He is meaner than a junkyard dog. ...

... Surprise! Matt Stieb of New York: “Trump, who routinely announces major changes in policy without letting his staff in on the plan, reportedly did not inform ICE of the move: ICE officials said Monday night 'that they were not aware that the president planned to divulge their enforcement plans on Twitter,' according to the Washington Post.... Trump’s tweet is made even odder by an incident last year in which he and ICE officials threatened Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf for warning migrants about a raid, claiming that she may have obstructed justice and endangered the safety of the agents involved.... Trump’s claims about the current ability of ICE to handle 'millions' of arrests may also be in conflict with reality. As the Post reports, the claim runs contrary to 'the agency’s staffing and budgetary challenges. ICE arrests in the U.S. interior have been declining in recent months because so many agents are busy managing the record surge of migrant families across the southern border with Mexico.'” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Yes But. Trump had to make the surprise announcement now because he's "kicking off" his never-ended presidential* campaign tonight, & he needed another fake "accomplishment" to boast about. ...

Edward Wong, et al., of the New York Times: "Tensions between the United States and Iran flared on Monday as Tehran said it would soon breach a key element of the 2015 international pact limiting its nuclear program, while President Trump ordered another 1,000 troops to the Middle East and vowed again that Iran would not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. The Pentagon’s announcement of the troop deployment came three days after attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman that the administration has blamed Iran for. And it came hours after Iran said it was within days of violating a central element of the landmark 2015 agreement — intended to curb its ability to develop a nuclear weapon — unless European nations agreed to help it blunt crippling American economic sanctions."

Phil McCausland of NBC: "President Donald Trump signed an executive order late Friday to cut the number of government advisory committees by a third across all federal agencies, a move that the White House said is long overdue and necessary to ensure good stewardship of taxpayers' money. But critics said it is the Trump administration’s latest effort to undermine science-based and fact-supported decision-making." --s

DOJ Intervenes to Aid Manafort. William Rashbaum & Katie Benner of the New York Times: "Paul J. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman who is serving a federal prison sentence, had been expected to be transferred to the notorious Rikers Island jail complex this month to await trial on a separate state case. But last week, Manhattan prosecutors were surprised to receive a letter from the second-highest law enforcement official in the country inquiring about Mr. Manafort’s case. The letter, from Jeffrey A. Rosen, Attorney General William P. Barr’s new top deputy, indicated that he was monitoring where Mr. Manafort would be held in New York. And then, on Monday, federal prison officials weighed in, telling the Manhattan district attorney’s office that Mr. Manafort, 70, would not be going to Rikers. Instead, he will await his trial at a federal lockup in Manhattan or at the Pennsylvania federal prison where he is serving a seven-and-a-half-yearsentence.... Several former and current prosecutors said the decision was highly unusual. Most federal inmates facing state charges are held on Rikers Island." ...

... Alex Shephard of the New Republic: "Democrats, for the first two years of Trump’s presidency, got to sit in the back row and shoot spitballs. But now, controlling the House of Representatives, they are front and center, with real authority. It’s not just about thinking they should do something, they can do something. Like a latter-day Flake, they are shirking that responsibility."

All the Best People, Ctd.

Hunter Walker of Yahoo! News: "As the United States faces the longest period in its history without a confirmed secretary of defense, and tensions build over American allegations that Iran is responsible for recent attacks on civilian ships in the Persian Gulf, the man slated to head the Pentagon is facing a protracted FBI investigation that has delayed his Senate hearing until at least next month. Despite informally announcing more than a month ago acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan as his pick to get the Pentagon job on a permanent basis, President Trump has yet to formally nominate Shanahan, forcing the Senate Armed Services Committee to postpone a confirmation hearing it had tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, June 18. Senators were told that the postponement was because the committee had yet to receive documents from the FBI’s background check, according to a staffer for a committee member.... One of the issues that could be holding up the FBI investigation is his complicated divorce." The report goes into the messy divorce thing as well as Trump's apparent cooling on Shanahan. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: As Politico reported Friday, Trump said he had nominated Shanahan a few weeks prior (even though he had not), & when asked about Shanahan's chances of becoming permanent defense secretary, Trump gave one of his "we'll see" answers.

Absentee Ambassador. Lauren Gardner of Politico: "... Donald Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to the United Nations — current U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craftwas frequently absent from her post in Ottawa, raising questions about her level of engagement with the job, according to officials in the United States and Canada. State Department officials acknowledge her frequent travels outside of Canada, but said many of the trips were related to the new North American trade deal. Her absences from her official post are likely to be an issue in her confirmation hearing, which is scheduled for Wednesday.... Some of the [on-average weekly] trips [between the U.S. & Canada] correspond with dates of events Craft attended in her home state of Kentucky — such as the Kentucky Derby and a media interview at a University of Kentucky basketball facility named for her husband, Joe Craft, a coal billionaire.... A former U.S. ... said Craft was viewed around Foggy Bottom as an 'absent ambassador' at the embassy in Ottawa and that the mission was often placed in the hands of her deputy while Craft attended to personal business and domestic politics in the United States.”


McConnell Finally Finds a Bill He Likes -- And It's Trump's. Jordain Carney
of the Hill: "Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is pledging to force a vote on President Trump's $4.5 billion request for emergency border money, regardless of whether or not the GOP can reach a deal with Democrats.  McConnell told Fox News's 'Fox & Friends' during an interview on Monday that he was planning to bring up a 'freestanding' deal in an effort to force Democrats to go on the record either supporting or blocking the request for humanitarian aid legislation." Mrs. McC: No doubt this is McConnell's way of making sure his wife keeps her job at Transportation funneling money to Kentucky. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Tom Dreisbach of NPR: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says one of his 'highest priorities' is to take on the leading cause of preventable death in the United States: smoking.... An NPR review of McConnell's relationship with the tobacco industry over the decades has found that McConnell repeatedly cast doubt on the health consequences of smoking, repeated industry talking points word-for-word, attacked federal regulators at the industry's request and opposed bipartisan tobacco regulations going back decades. The industry, in turn, has provided McConnell with millions of dollars in speaking fees, personal gifts, campaign contributions and charitable donations to the McConnell Center, which is home to his personal and professional archives. One lobbyist for R.J. Reynolds called McConnell a 'special friend' to the company. Much of the relationship between McConnell and the tobacco industry happened behind the scenes. But the disclosure of millions of once-secret tobacco industry documents — which are now readily searchable online — has opened a window into McConnell's interactions with tobacco executives and lobbyists."

Presidential Race 2020

Sarah Wilson of WFTV Orlando: "Road closures have already begun in downtown Orlando [for Donald Trump's Tuesday night rally], and dozens of Trump supporters have already set up chairs and tents to claim their spots in line outside the Amway Center. The first supporters said they got into line at 4 a.m. Monday." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Alex Thompson of Politico: "Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, after failing to qualify for the first Democratic presidential debates, announced on Tuesday morning that he would be participating in locally televised town halls in Iowa and New Hampshire on the days of the dueling events next week. Bullock will appear June 26 on Iowa’s WHO-TV with Dave Price, and June 27 on New Hampshire’s WMUR with Adam Sexton. The appearances will be televised ahead of the debates in Miami.... Bullock did not enter the race until mid-May and was virtually unknown nationally, making it difficult to reach 1 percent in three qualifying polls or collect 65,000 donors.... Bullock says he entered late because he needed to navigate his final legislative session (Montana’s Legislature meets every other year), which included extending the expansion of Medicaid."


Punt! Mark Sherman
of the AP: "The Supreme Court decided Monday against a high-stakes, election-year case about the competing rights of gay and lesbian couples and merchants who refuse to provide services for same-sex weddings. The justices handed bakers in the Portland, Oregon, area a small victory by throwing out a state court ruling against them and ordering judges to take a new look at their refusal to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. The high court's brief order directs appellate judges in Oregon to consider last term's Supreme Court ruling in favor of a baker from Colorado who would not make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The court ruled that baker Jack Phillips was subjected to anti-religious bias in the Colorado Civil Rights Commission's determination that he violated state anti-discrimination in refusing to bake the couple's wedding cake. The Oregon appellate ruling came before the court's decision in Phillips' case." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Pete Williams of NBC News: "The Supreme Court declined on Monday to change the longstanding rule that says putting someone on trial more than once for the same crime does not violate the Constitution's protection against double jeopardy — a case that drew attention because of its possible implications for ... Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. The 7-2 ruling was a defeat for an Alabama man, Terance Gamble, convicted of robbery in 2008 and pulled over seven years later for a traffic violation. When police found a handgun in his car, he was prosecuted under Alabama's law barring felons from possessing firearms. The local U.S. attorney then charged Gamble with violating a similar federal law. Because of the added federal conviction, his prison sentence was extended by nearly three years." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Thomas Lays the Groundwork to Overturn Roe. Josh Kovensky of TPM: “In a sneaky Monday concurrence, Justice Clarence Thomas laid the groundwork for the Supreme Court to overturn its own longstanding precedents in what may mark the beginning of efforts to destroy numerous landmark court decisions from the past decades. The concurring opinion came in Gamble v. United States, a case regarding double jeopardy that Thomas used as a springboard to argue that the Supreme Court should review — and overturn — settled law where it is found to be 'demonstrably erroneous.' Constitutional law scholars told TPM that Thomas appeared to use the concurrence to signal to his fellow justices — and the wider public — that the new conservative majority is interested in overturning years of settled law.... The opinion is the third in a series of concurrences that Thomas has written this year in which he has appeared to provide a schematic for how the court could alter fundamental areas of American law.”

Lawrence Hurley of Reuters: "The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed Republican legislators in Virginia a defeat, leaving in place a ruling that invalidated state electoral districts they drew because they weakened the clout of black voters in violation of the U.S. Constitution. The justices, in a 5-4 decision, sidestepped a ruling on the merits of the case. They instead found that the Republican-led state House of Delegates lacked the necessary legal standing to appeal a lower court ruling that invalidated 11 state House districts for racial discrimination. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat and the state’s top law enforcement official, opposed the appeal and argued that the Republican legislators were not entitled to act on behalf of the state in the case." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Jaqueline Thomsen of the Hill: "Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion and was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch. Mrs. McC: A somewhat weird collaboration, on the face of it. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... The New York Times story, by Adam Liptak, is here. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Karl Paul of the Guardian: "Facebook has announced a digital currency called Libra that will allow its billions of users to make financial transactions across the globe, in a move that could potentially shake up the world’s banking system. Libra is being touted as a means to connect people who do not have access to traditional banking platforms. With close to 2.4 billion people using Facebook each month, Libra could be a financial game changer, but will face close scrutiny as Facebook continues to reel from a series of privacy scandals. It could also be a welcome lift to Facebook’s profits: analysts are suggesting Libra could be a huge moneymaker for Facebook, arriving as its growth slows. Technology to make transactions with Libra will be available as a standalone app – as well as on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger platforms – as early as 2020. It will allow consumers to send money to each other as well as potentially pay for goods and services using the Facebook-backed digital currency instead of their local currency." ...

... Sam Biddle of The Intercept: "In April 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sat before members of both houses of Congress and told them his company respected the privacy of the roughly two billion people who use it.... But only months after Zuckerberg first outlined his 'privacy-focused vision for social networking' in a 3,000-word post on the social network he founded, his lawyers were explaining to a California judge that privacy on Facebook is nonexistent.... Facebook tried to scuttle litigation from users upset that their personal data was shared without their knowledge with the consultancy Cambridge Analytica and later with advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign.... [Facebook's lawyers argued that] charges of privacy invasion were invalid because Facebook users have no expectation of privacy on Facebook. The simple act of using Facebook ... negated any user’s expectation of privacy[.]" --s

Kyla Mandel of ThinkProgress: "The number of workers employed by the renewable energy industry keeps growing. In 2018, at least 11 million people around the world held jobs across the renewables sector, from manufacturing and trading to installation.... [T]he majority of these jobs are concentrated in China, the European Union, Brazil, and the United States. The figures show a steady increase over the years.... In the United States, the number of people working in renewables is just under the amount employed by the fossil fuel industry." --s

Pat Eaton-Robb of the AP: “The father of a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre has won a defamation lawsuit against the authors of a book that claimed the shooting never happened — the latest victory for victims’ relatives who have been taking a more aggressive stance against conspiracy theorists. The book, 'Nobody Died at Sandy Hook,' has also been pulled to settle claims against its publisher filed by Lenny Pozner, whose 6-year-old son Noah was killed in the shooting.” ...

... Friend of Trump (Allegedly) Sends Child Porn to Sandy Hook Lawyers. AP: "Lawyers for relatives of some victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting allege that far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones sent them documents relating to the court battle they are fighting that included electronic files containing images of child sexual abuse, as the latest twist in the defamation case against the Infowars website host. Jones denied the allegations during his web show last Friday and accused one of the lawyers involved of framing him. Lawyers say the imagery was among documents they had requested from Jones as part of the discovery process of the lawsuit.... Jones ... has used his media platform to call the mass shooting at an elementary school that killed 26 people a hoax and suggested a political cover up took place by leftwing forces seeking to take advantage of the shooting to support their causes, such as gun control."

Joe Sterling of CNN: "A Parkland shooting survivor and pro-Second Amendment activist said Harvard University rescinded his acceptance as a result of racist remarks he made before the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Kyle Kashuv disclosed the rescinding Monday in a Twitter thread, acknowledging that he and classmates, then 16, made 'abhorrent racial slurs' in digital messages almost two years ago 'in an effort to be as extreme and shocking as possible.'... Kashuv said [his racist remarks and/or his pro-gun views (Mrs. McC: not sure which is meant here)] led to 'speculative articles' and attacks by 'former peers & political opponents' urging Harvard to rescind his admission.... Kashuv went to the White House in March 2018 to meet with first lady Melania Trump and had a surprise meeting with ... Donald Trump." ...

... David Brooks writes that Harvard made a mistake because Kashuv may have learned that writing "nigger a dozen times in succession to "practice typing" is ill-advised & he is probably "intellectually rigorous and morally humble." Conservatives like Brooks have a remarkable amount of sympathy for white racists who got caught.

Beyond the Beltway

New York. Vivian Wang of the New York Times: "The New York State Senate approved a bill on Monday to grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, a deeply polarizing issue that had splintered Democrats and stirred a backlash among Republicans in New York and beyond, who have already vowed to highlight it during next year’s elections. The vote, together with the Assembly’s passage last week, thrust New York into the center of the explosive national debate over immigration. It would reverse a nearly 20-year-old ban and end years of political paralysis on the issue. It also signaled the strength of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.... The bill passed with just one more vote than the minimum needed, 33 to 29. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, signed the bill soon after."

Texas. Kelly Weill & Justin Glawe of the Daily Beast: "A Texas man accused of opening fire outside a Dallas courthouse uploaded right-wing memes to Facebook, including memes about Nazism and the Confederacy. Authorities said Brian Clyde, 22, attacked the Earle Cabell federal courthouse Monday morning before law enforcement killed him. No one else was reported injured. A Dallas Morning News photograph of Clyde shows him holding a semi-automatic rifle and wearing a belt full of ammunition. He appears to have uploaded to his Facebook page a picture of similar magazines on Saturday. Elsewhere on the page, he shared memes, some of which suggested racist or misogynist views.... He frequently posted memes that suggested familiarity with the far-right internet." See also yesterday's News Ledes. Mrs. McC: But white, so Not a Terrorist. P.S. Not a peep from our White-Nationalist-in-Chief.

Way Beyond

Brazil. Andrew Fishman, et al., of The Intercept: "Brazil's Justice Minister Sergio Moro, while serving as a judge in a corruption case [the bribery scandal 'Operation Car Wash'] that upended Brazilian politics, took to private chats to mock the defense of former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and direct prosecutors’ media strategy, according to newly unearthed chats from an archive obtained by The Intercept Brasil.... Moro’s advice was a major deviation from their previous communications strategy, but prosecutors did as he asked — further evidence of bias and unethical collaboration between the two parties in the case that sent Lula to prison on corruption charges, making the most popular politician in Brazil ineligible to run in the 2018 presidential election.... [T]he chats revealed that the judge was passing on advice, investigative leads, and inside information to the prosecutors — who were themselves plotting to prevent Lula’s Workers’ Party from winning last year’s election." --s

Israel. Oren Liebermann, et al., of CNN: "Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced a new settlement in the Golan Heights named after his 'great friend' Donald Trump. Netanyahu unveiled a sign at the proposed site of the settlement on Sunday bearing the name 'Trump Heights,' and thanked the US President for breaking with the international community to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the region.... Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty in the region in March, two weeks before that country's elections, in what was seen as a major political gift to Netanyahu. The US is the only country in the world to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the occupied territory.... 'Whoever reads the fine print in this "historic" decision understands that it is a phantom decision,' Zvi Hauser, an advocate of international recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan, said on Twitter. 'There is no budget, there is no planning, there is no place, and there is really no binding decision,' he added." Trump did tweet about this supposed new "town."

Our Partners in Crimes Against Humanity. Aaron Merat of the Guardian: "Every day Yemen is hit by British bombs – dropped by British planes that are flown by British-trained pilots and maintained and prepared inside Saudi Arabia by thousands of British contractors.... Saudi Arabia has in effect contracted out vital parts of its war against Yemen’s Houthi movement to the US and the UK. Britain does not merely supply weapons for this war: it provides the personnel and expertise required to keep the war going." --s