The Wires

Public Service Announcement

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

Here's a Houzz feature on Frederick Douglass's D.C. home. Since it's not far from Donald Trump's new (temporary) digs and is every bit as fancy, the Trumpster might want to pay a visit to someone who's done such "an amazing job" that he's "getting recognized more and more." SCROTUS may be surprised to discover that Mr. Douglass is not at home. Too bad, because if Mr. Douglass weren't dead, he could have showed Donaldo his portrait, which for some time was owned by W.E.B. Du Bois (or DeBois or whatever).

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

Rosie O'Donnell's new Twitter profile pic. Thanks to Unwashed for the link. -- CW 

CNN: "The book publisher Penguin is printing more copies of George Orwell's dystopian classic '1984' in response to a sudden surge of demand. On Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning the book was #1 on Amazon's computer-generated list of best-selling books. The list reflects hourly book sales. The 68-year-old novel appeared on the list on Monday, hovered around the #6 spot for much of the day, rose to #2 by Tuesday afternoon and then hit #1." -- CW 

Los Angeles Times: "The nominations for the 89th Academy Awards were revealed this morning in Los Angeles. 'La La Land' did what 800-lb gorillas are supposed to do: dominate the Oscar nominations tally, pulling down 14, including actor, actress, director and picture. Ava Duvernay’s '13th' joins 'O.J.: Made in America' among best documentary feature nominees, continuing our ongoing conversation about race in the United States. Speaking of which, with Viola Davis, Dev Patel, Octavia Spencer, Denzel Washington, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris and Ruth Negga getting acting nominations, the 89th Academy Awards will definitely not be so white." This article includes a complete list of the nominees.

New York Times: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus announced on Saturday night that after 146 years of performances, it was folding its big tent forever. In a statement on the company’s website, Kenneth Feld, the chief executive of Feld Entertainment, the producer of Ringling, said the circus would hold its final performances in May. He cited declining ticket sales, which dropped even more drastically after elephants were phased out from the shows last year." -- CW 

The Washington Post publishes a series of photos of the Vice President's residence.

Los Angeles Times: "Perhaps fittingly for an industry that has been trying to console itself in the wake of a presidential election result few saw coming, the 74th Golden Globes, held at the Beverly Hilton, proved a big night for the fizzy romantic musical 'La La Land,' a love letter to Hollywood itself that is widely considered the film to beat in this year’s best picture race." -- CW ...

Marisa Kashino of the Washingtonian: "... multiple real-estate sources say [Ivanka] Trump and husband Jared Kushner will move into 2449 Tracy Pl, NW, in Kalorama. That will put the couple less than two blocks from the Obamas, who will reportedly move here post-White House." Realtors' photos of the Kushner-Trump house are here. The six-bedroom house ... sold on December 22nd for $5.5 million, though it is unclear whether Trump and Kushner bought it, or will rent it from the recent buyer." -- CW 

Daniel Politi of Slate: "Los Angeles residents got a little surprise when they woke up on the first day of the year and realized one of the city’s most famous landmarks had been vandalized to read 'HOLLYWeeD' — at least for a few hours. Police say the vandal used tarps to change the sign’s O’s into E’s. Security cameras caught the vandal — likely a man — changing the sign between midnight and 2 a.m. but police can’t tell the person’s race or height from the footage, reports KTLA. If caught, the vandal could face a misdemeanor trespassing charge." -- CW 

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Saturday
Feb182017

The Commentariat -- February 19, 2017

A Fascist Speech, Replete with Lies and Attacks. Ben Jacobs of the Guardian: "Speaking in an airplane hangar [in Melbourne, Florida,] in front of a crowd of roughly 9,000 people, Trump returned time and time again to the speech lines of his campaign.... '... To make America great again is absolutely a campaign. It’s not easy, especially when we’re also fighting the press....,' he said.... With his speech, Trump continued driving on his attack of reporters, newspapers and news networks, generalizing them as 'the dishonest media'.... As in his campaign speeches, Trump bemoaned the state of domestic and foreign affairs claiming, 'I and we inherited one big mess'.... As in the campaign, he boasted about the size of the crowd and his victory over the Democratic party, which he said had suffered 'the greatest defeat in the history of the country'. The president was especially eager to deny a steady stream of reports of chaos, infighting and disarray in his first month in the White House.... 'I promise you that the White House is running so smoothly,' Trump said. 'So smoothly.' Trump also once again continued his attacks on the ninth circuit court of appeals.... He claimed constitutional authority to make the ban – the courts have not ruled on its lawfulness – and said the judges were 'picked by Obama', though two of three were appointed by Jimmy Carter and George W Bush. The president added, falsely, that the US knows 'nothing' about refugees and visa-holders it has admitted into the country.... Trump’s speech frequently echoed the nationalist rhetoric of his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who has railed against globalization, wealthy “elites” and transnational trade deals.” -- CW ...

Trump's rhetoric was frighteningly fascist and intended to inflame the white supremacist emotions of the crowd. It was meant to further the divide between stupidity and reason. -- Diane, in yesterday's Comments ...

... David Ferguson of the Raw Story: "At his rally in Melbourne, Florida on Saturday..., Donald Trump listed a terror attack that never happened as part of the rationale for his controversial anti-Muslim travel ban. In defending his executive order banning Islamic refugees and travelers from 7 Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S., Trump said, 'When you look at what’s happening in Germany, when you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden — Sweden! Who would believe this?'... However, there was no terror attack in Sweden on Friday. Perhaps, as some Twitter users suggested, the attack in Sweden happened in the same parallel universe as Kellyanne Conway’s fictitious 'Bowling Green massacre.'" -- CW ...

    ...  Daniel Marans of the Huffington Post posits that Trump confused a show he watched on Fox "News" Friday & related it as something that actually happened Friday. CW: Since Trump thinks reality is what he sees on the teevee, you have to wonder what would happen if somebody slipped in a video of "War of the Worlds." Just a crazy old man poised to fumble the nuclear football.

Stephen Wertheim, in a Washington Post op-ed: "Under President Trump, American foreign policy is returning, many commentators say, to the isolationism that preceded World War II.... Trump isn’t an isolationist. He is a militarist, something far worse.... Rather than seeking to withdraw from the world [as the 1930s isolationists did], he vows to exploit it. Far from limiting the area of war, he threatens ruthless violence against globe-spanning adversaries and glorifies martial victory.... Trump rose to power by presenting a horror show of enemies, from Mexico to Iran to China to radical Islamic terrorism (and sometimes Islam itself). Not even the European Union escapes Trump’s zero-sum squint.... Trump is unique [among U.S. presidents] in seeing America as a victim nation, a net global loser that must now fight back. His single most consistent political conviction is that other countries have exploited the United States.... Facing a vicious world, Trump promises to turn the tables, not turn his back.... He constantly invokes the 'old days of General MacArthur and General Patton,' the most extreme generals of the mid-20th century." -- CW 

Get Out! David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly has signed sweeping new guidelines that empower federal authorities to more aggressively detain and deport illegal immigrants inside the United States and at the border. In a pair of memos, Kelly offered more detail on plans for the agency to hire thousands of additional enforcement agents, expand the pool of immigrants who are prioritized for removal, speed up deportation hearings and enlist local law enforcement to help make arrests. The new directives would supersede nearly all of those issued under previous administrations, Kelly said, including measures from President Barack Obama aimed at focusing deportations exclusively on hardened criminals and those with terrorist ties.... He cited a surge of 10,000 to 15,000 additional apprehensions per month at the southern U.S. border between 2015 and 2016.... A White House official said the memos were drafts and that they are under review by the White House Counsel’s Office, which is seeking some changes." -- CW 

John Wagner of the Washington Post: "President Trump plans to speak Sunday with at least four candidates to be his next national security adviser.... White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Saturday that the candidates include John Bolton, a former United Nations ambassador; Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster; Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, the superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; and retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who is now serving in an acting capacity." CW: I know nothing about the military men Trump is interviewing, but his inclusion of John Bolton on the list is a good indication the SCROTUS is set on having another crazy guy run national security. ...

... Making America Unsafe Again. Bryan Logan of Business Insider: "The top pick to be ... Donald Trump's national security adviser, retired Adm. Robert Harward, reportedly declined the offer after seeing Trump air his grievances in a 77-minute press conference on Thursday. MSNBC host Chris Hayes on Friday cited a former national security official familiar with Harward's decision.... 'Harward wanted to undo the fairly large changes the president had made to the NSC that had inserted Bannon into the process,' Hayes reported. Citing his source, Hayes said 'The White House did not offer Harward sufficient assurances that he would have such autonomy.' Harward wrote a letter declining the offer. The White House reportedly sought to negotiate with Harward on the matter, which Harward was initially open to, Hayes said, but that changed a short time later ... '"after watching the president's press conference....'... The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday night that Gen. David Petraeus, another one of Trump's candidates for the role, also withdrew himself from consideration over concerns about staffing within the National Security Council." -- CW ...

"A Very Smoothe Rollout." -- SCROTUS. David Smith & Ben Jacobs of the Guardian: The White House is a festering mess, and Trump can't distinguish chaos from order. -- CW ...

... Peter Baker & Julie Davis of the New York Times: The Trump administration can't fill even key positions because Trump rejects candidates who have said or written anything against him. AND "The trouble assembling an administration reflects the deeper rift between Mr. Trump and the Washington establishment of both parties.... The ill will between Mr. Trump and much of the Republican establishment works both ways. Many Republicans who might have agreed to work for the president have been turned off by what they consider his sometimes erratic behavior and the competing power centers inside his White House.... [CW: "sometimes"?] His team has been slow to vet candidates, and in some cases his choices have had troubles with their business backgrounds or other matters. And Democrats have mounted a wall of resistance to his nominations, slowing the process down." -- CW ...

... Elania Johnson of Politico: "The White House abruptly dismissed a senior National Security Council aide on Friday after receiving reports that he had publicly laced into the president and his senior aides, including son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump.... The aide, Craig Deare, was serving as the NSC's senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs.... At a private, off-the-record roundtable hosted by the Woodrow Wilson Center for a group of about two dozen scholars, Deare harshly criticized the president and ... Steve Bannon and railed against the dysfunction paralyzing the Trump White House.... He complained in particular that senior national security aides do not have access to the president -- and gave a detailed and embarrassing readout of Trump's call with Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto.... Deare was a political appointee who came to the NSC after Trump's inauguration from National Defense University, where he had served as the dean of administration." -- CW 

Trump USA, Inc. Robert Schlesinger of US News: "One of Trump's supposed attractive qualities as a candidate was the prospect that he would run the federal government more like a business; and four weeks into his term he seems to be doing so, but with a twist. He's running the government like it's a subsidiary of a very specific business, the Trump Organization – the family business from which he has refused to divest. Here are four ways Trump and his family stand to gain financially from his term in office and the blossoming cluster of scandals surrounding them." -- CW 

 

She Sees Only What Fits Her Agenda. Emma Brown of the Washington Post: Washington, D.C.'s Jefferson Middle School Academy teachers fought back in a tweetstorm after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, "who has no professional experience in public education," criticized them to a right-wing Townhall columnist as being complacent, non-innovative & "constantly ... on the receiving end of government dictates." -- CW

Reena Flores of CBS News: "Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, advised Americans to take President Trump’s attacks on the media 'seriously,' following the president’s denunciations of the press as the 'enemy.'... 'We’re talking about stupidity and intelligence reporting that is based on facts that’s not coming out of the actual heads of these intelligence agencies,' Priebus said of recent media reports. 'And we’re sitting here talking about it. And it’s a shame. And it needs to end.'” -- CW ...

... Rebecca Morin of Politico: "... President Donald Trump's statement that the media are the 'enemy of the people' is 'something that you hear tin-pot dictators say when they want to control all of the information,' Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said. Schiff, who sits on the House intelligence committee, said the comment Trump made about the media in a tweet this week was 'the most devastating and the most alarming' yet, in an interview with ABC's Jonathan Karl for 'This Week' to be broadcast Sunday." -- CW ...

... David Remnick of the New Yorker: "What Trump resembled at the lectern [Thursday] was an old-fashioned autocrat wielding a very familiar rhetorical strategy.... On Saturday evening, he held a rally in Melbourne, Florida, and doubled down on the familiar theme: putting himself in the same league as Lincoln and Jefferson, he told the crowd, 'Many of our greatest Presidents fought with the media and called them out.' The agenda is always to divide. 'They have their own agenda, and their agenda is not your agenda,' he said.... For all the chaos and resulting gloom these past weeks, it has been heartening to see so many 'enemies of the American people' — protesters, judges, journalists, citizens of all kinds, even some members of Congress — do their work despite Presidential denunciation, not necessarily as partisans of one party or another but as adherents to a Constitution." CW: Remnick seems very cheered by the fact that -- unlike Robespierre, Lenin & Stalin, who had the same rhetorical M.O. -- Trump hasn't murdered any journalists yet. 

Brian Beutler: "as surreal as the spectacle [of Donald Trump's Thursday news conference] was, it wasn’t disturbing enough to shake Republicans out of their determined obliviousness to the chaos of the Trump administration. We’ve seen the pattern repeat itself so many times, it’s grown tiresome: Trump becomes unhinged; Republicans pretend they didn’t see it, or say they won’t comment on every offhanded Trump comment, or just chuckle about his 'unconventional' presidency; and everyone moves on.... A great deal of reporting indicates Republicans awoke to the frightening implications of letting an unstable man have free reign over the government, yet remained committed to the course they’ve chosen nevertheless.... [Mitch] McConnell will allow, as he did at a Friday briefing at the Capitol, that he’s 'not a fan of [Trump’s] daily tweets,' but that he is a fan of what Trump’s 'actually been doing.'... Less than a month into his first term, Trump resembles Nixon at his most besieged — angry, flailing, driven to distraction. But unlike Nixon, Trump enjoys the complicity of nearly his entire party. Unless that relationship breaks down, it will be impossible to contain the fallout of Trump’s presidency until January 2019 at the earliest. By then, the damage might be irreparable.” -- CW 

Matt Flegenheimer & Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "As members of Congress return home during a legislative recess many Republicans are dreading, a hearty few on Saturday charged headlong into the resistance. At events across the country, lawmakers have strained to quell the boiling anger at Mr. Trump — and often, the Republican Party — after four extraordinary weeks.... In South Carolina, the twin billing of Rep. [Mark] Sanford and [Sen. Tim] Scott allowed for a live comparison in how to handle Trump queries. The town hall-style event was organized by Mr. Sanford’s office in conjunction with Indivisible Charleston, the local chapter of a national organization founded on the stated goal of 'resisting the Trump agenda.' The result, predictably, was a tough room, particularly for Mr. Scott, a late addition to the gathering and a Republican less willing than Mr. Sanford to criticize Mr. Trump." -- CW ...

... Jerry Zremski of the Buffalo News: "Huge crowds of raucous progressives and quieter conservatives overwhelmed Rep. Tom Reed's [R-N.Y.] town hall meetings in Ashville and Cherry Creek Saturday morning, with the progressives repeatedly interrupting and shouting down the congressman's comments as he tried to defend Republican plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The crowd in Ashville, in Chautauqua County, was so large that it was moved out of the senior center where it was scheduled and into the parking lot outside. There, Reed  patiently worked - but failed - to maintain order.... Meantime, others in the crowd -- men wearing NRA and Infowars baseball caps, women in parkas who refused to speak to reporters -- stood silently by in the chilly sunshine, frowning." -- CW 

Robert McFadden of the New York Times: "Norma McCorvey, the anonymous plaintiff in Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in the United States, reshaping the nation’s social and political landscapes and inflaming one of the most divisive controversies of the past half-century, died on Saturday in Katy, Tex. She was 69." -- CW 

Friday
Feb172017

The Commentariat -- February 18, 2017

See also yesterday's Late Morning Update if you haven't been around for a while.

... Michael Grynbaum of the New York Times: "Even by the standards of a president who routinely castigates journalists — and who on Thursday devoted much of a 77-minute news conference to criticizing his press coverage — Mr. Trump’s tweet was a striking escalation in his attacks.... The message was swiftly deleted, but 16 minutes later Mr. Trump posted a revised version. Restricted to 140 characters, he removed the word 'sick,' and added two other television networks — ABC and CBS — to his list of offending organizations.... The language that Mr. Trump deployed on Friday is more typically used by leaders to refer to hostile foreign governments or subversive organizations. It also echoed the language of autocrats who seek to minimize dissent.... Mr. Trump’s tactic ... was mirrored in a survey distributed by the president’s team on Thursday, which urged Trump supporters 'to do your part to fight back against the media’s attacks and deceptions.'” -- CW 

Glenn Thrush of the New York Times: "President Trump, seeking to reset his stumbling presidency, hit the road for a photo op and returned to the simple economic message that got him elected, telling aircraft factory workers that 'we’re here to celebrate jobs.' The president toured a sprawling Boeing complex here, located next to the airport, en route to a weekend in Florida that includes a stay at his resort in Mar-a-Lago and a Saturday rally in Melbourne. Both are the kind of campaign-style events Mr. Trump has often turned to for a political and personal jolt in times of turmoil.... He spoke after slowly walking in front of a gleaming new Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner at a slickly produced event that erased the lines between corporate and political branding. 'God bless Boeing,' Mr. Trump said after offering a similar benediction for the nation." -- CW 

** New York Times Editors: "It’s with a whiff of desperation that President Trump insists these days that he’s the chief executive Washington needs, the decisive dealmaker who, as he said during the campaign, 'alone can fix it.' What America has seen so far is an inept White House led by a celebrity apprentice.This president did not inherit 'a mess' from Barack Obama, as he likes to say, but a nation recovered from recession and with strong alliances abroad. Mr. Trump is well on his way to creating a mess of his own, weakening national security and even risking the delivery of basic government services." -- CW 

** The Lone Cowboy. Eli Stokols & Josh Dawsey of Politico: "... Donald Trump this week abruptly dropped the nation's commitment to a two-state solution for Middle East peace — without reviewing the specifics of his new strategy with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. State Department officials and Tillerson's top aides learned about the president's comments in real time.... Tillerson himself was in the air when Trump announced the change.... At the White House, there was little thought about notifying the nation's top diplomat because, as one senior staffer put it, 'everyone knows Jared [Kushner] is running point on the Israel stuff.' For a president who declared on Thursday he had assembled 'one of the great Cabinets in American history,' sidelining Tillerson was an unorthodox way to utilize one of his top-tier picks. But it follows a pattern from Trump's first month in office, where the president is operating without seeking much input from his more experienced Cabinet secretaries — including Defense Secretary James Mattis and Tillerson, as well as Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and CIA Director Mike Pompeo — a group one GOP source called 'the grownups.'... Even though the administration is less than a month old, both Tillerson and Mattis have been in perpetual cleanup mode.... Kushner, officially a White House senior adviser, has become something of a foreign policy proxy in the White House — a 'shadow secretary of state,' as one administration source described him...."  ...

     ... CW: Yes, we are living in a nightmare in which Politico reporters have far more sense than the President AND his administration. ...

... Even Another Cowboy, in Some Regards, Has More Sense, Too. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "During a speech at the Munich Security Conference in Germany..., John McCain delivered a pointed and striking point-by-point takedown of Trump's worldview and brand of nationalism. McCain didn't mention Trump's name once, but he didn't have to. And even considering the two men's up-and-down history and the terrible things Trump has said about McCain, it was a striking display from a senior leader of a party when it comes to a president of the same party." CW: Yeah, and he did it on "foreign soil," something that back in the day simply was not done. ...

... Here's another example of Trump's keeping his Cabinet (in this case a nominee) out of the loop. Darren Sands of BuzzFeed: "Dr. Ben Carson was 'baffled' and 'speechless' that one of his most loyal aides was walked out of the Housing and Urban Development after an op-ed resurfaced in which the aide criticized then-candidate Donald Trump, a source close to Carson said. Carson, who is expected to be confirmed as HUD secretary by the Senate, had no knowledge that Shermichael Singleton was going to be escorted out of the building Wednesday until after it happened. The ordeal was first reported Thursday by the New York Times." -- CW 

CBS News: "CBS News has learned that on Thursday, an angry President Trump called CIA Director Mike Pompeo and yelled at him for not pushing back hard enough against reports [from the Wall Street Journal] that the intelligence community was withholding information from the commander-in-chief. The agency then drafted a strongly worded statement rebutting the claim." -- CW 

Drew Harwell, et al., of the Washington Post: "Barely a month into the Trump presidency, the unusually elaborate lifestyle of America’s new first family is straining the Secret Service and security officials, stirring financial and logistical concerns in several local communities, and costing far beyond what has been typical for past presidents — a price tag that, based on past assessments of presidential travel and security costs, could balloon into the hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of a four-year term. Adding to the costs and complications is Trump’s inclination to conduct official business surrounded by crowds of people.... For Trump, the costs come with an additional perk: Some of the money flows into his own pocket.... Based on the first four weeks, Trump’s presidency appears on track to cost hundreds of millions of dollars more [than the Obamas cost taxpayers for vacation excursions.]." -- CW ...

Evelyn Rupert of the Hill: "Several Senate Democrats penned a letter to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general Friday, raising questions about President Trump’s potential conflicts of interest. The senators say that Trump may have violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which bars the president from using the office for personal gain.... And they raise questions about the cost associated with Trump and his family’s visits to their properties outside of Washington; Trump has spent the past three weekends at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach.... The letter is signed by Sens. Tom Udall (N.M.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) and Edward Markey (Mass.)." -- CW 

Maybe It's Syphilis. Steven Beutler in the New Republic: "Physicians like me have also taken notice of Trump’s bizarre, volatile behavior. Given our experience, we can’t help but wonder if there’s a medical diagnosis to be made. After all, many medical conditions exhibit their first symptoms in the form of psychiatric issues and personality changes. One condition in particular is notable for doing so: Neurosyphilis.... The symptoms of neurosyphilis are protean, varying widely from one individual to another. Commonly recognized symptoms include irritability, loss of ability to concentrate, delusional thinking, and grandiosity. Memory, insight, and judgment can become impaired. Insomnia may occur. Visual problems may develop, including the inability of pupils to react to the light. This, along other ocular pathology, can result in photophobia, dimming of vision, and squinting. All of these things have been observed in Trump. Dementia, headaches, gait disturbances. and patchy hair loss can also be seen in later stages of syphilis." The condition can be easily diagnosed and is treatable. -- CW 

Michael Birnbaum & Ashley Parker of the Washington Post: "Vice President Mike Pence and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday offered dueling assessments of the troubled transatlantic relationship, as both praised NATO but Pence made no mention of the European Union, the key economic and political pact that binds Europe together. In back-to-back speeches at the Munich Security Conference, Merkel and Pence appeared to find common ground about NATO, whose members have been urged by President Trump  to spend more on defense. But while Merkel praised the broader international organizations that have been a key part of the post-Cold War global order, Pence’s silence on the E.U. may only fuel fears among European allies that the new leadership in the White House will embrace only some aspects of European unity, while rejecting others." -- CW 

THIS IS WHAT you irresponsible ignoramuses who voted for Trump & his Senate enablers did to our children & grandchildren. Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "The Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt on Friday to run the Environmental Protection Agency, putting a seasoned legal opponent of the agency at the helm of President Trump’s efforts to dismantle major regulations on climate change and clean water — and to cut the size and authority of the government’s environmental enforcer. Senators voted 52 to 46 to confirm Mr. Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general who has built a career out of suing to block the E.P.A.’s major environmental rules and has called for the dissolution of much of the agency’s authority. One Republican, Susan Collins of Maine, crossed party lines to vote against Mr. Pruitt, while two Democrats, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, both from coal-rich states where voters generally oppose environmental rules, voted for him. Democrats railed all night on the Senate floor against Mr. Pruitt and urged Senator Mitch McConnell ... to delay the confirmation vote until after next Tuesday, when the Oklahoma attorney general’s office is under order to release about 3,000 of Mr. Pruitt’s emails related to his communications with the fossil fuel industry." ...

... CW: There's no question that the SCROTUS can do tremendous damage on his own, but we must never forget the Sacks o' Shit in the Congress who are gleefully cheering him on. A responsible Senate would have sent at least half of Drumpf's nominees home to spend more time with their families. At every turn, it would stymie his legislative forays, should his Team of Horribles ever send anything to Capitol Hill. Trump is a crazy man; what's Congress's excuse?

Natasha Bertrand of Business Insider: There is "an emerging pattern noted by several top political reporters in how the Trump administration handles its most controversial policy proposals, and undermines the press in the process:1. Wait for a draft memo of a proposal to be leaked to the press. 2. Refuse to comment when asked about the draft. 3. Wait to dispute a story's accuracy until the story is published. 4. Accuse the press of never having sought comment to begin with. Trump has followed this pattern closely." Bertrand cites examples. -- CW 

Sharon LaFraniere & Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "The White House budget office has drafted a hit list of programs that President Trump could eliminate to trim domestic spending, including longstanding conservative targets like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Legal Services Corporation, AmeriCorps and the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities.... An internal memo circulated within the Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday, and obtained by The New York Times, notes that the list could change. Proposals for more extensive cuts in cabinet-level agencies are expected to follow. During his campaign, Mr. Trump promised large but unspecified cuts to rein in the deficit, even as he promised to protect programs for his working-class voters and to drastically expand spending on the military, roads, bridges and airports. While the memo in no way resolves that contradiction, it suggests that he could lean toward a small-government philosophy that conservatives like [new OMB Director Mick] Mulvaney have fiercely advocated." -- CW ...

... Wait, wait! There's a solution: ...

... Matt Yglesias of Vox: "As the White House staff tries to put together a budget for ... Donald Trump, they face a fundamental problem. Trump has promised to cut taxes, increase spending on the military and infrastructure, and avoid cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The only way to do that without producing an exploding budget deficit is to assume a big increase in economic growth. And Nick Timiraos at the Wall Street Journal reports that Trump is planning to do just that — by making things up.... Instead of letting economists build a forecast, Trump’s budget was put together with 'transition officials telling the CEA [Council of Economic Advisors] staff the growth targets that their budget would produce and asking them to backfill other estimates off those figures.'” -- CW ...

... Kevin Drum: "In other words, it's magic fairy dust. Sprinkle it around and you can do anything you want. Problems only arise if a bunch of snooty Ivy League economists insist that you're delusional, which explains why Trump hasn't bothered to hire anyone for his Council of Economic Advisors. They would just tell him stuff he doesn't want to hear. It also explains why Paul Ryan isn't playing this game too: his budget is vetted by the CBO, which has no intention of aiding and abetting fantasyland figures like these." -- CW 

Katie Williams of the Hill: "FBI Director James B. Comey met with lawmakers from the Senate Intelligence Committee behind closed doors on Friday, amid an uproar over alleged contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and Russian officials. Committee members and Comey spent nearly three hours Friday afternoon in a secure room in the Senate basement used for classified briefings, known as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF). Lawmakers tersely refused to comment upon exiting the meeting, declining even to confirm that Comey met with them.... The real shock here isn't Trump — we already know he's divorced from reality — but the rest of his staff. Is there really not a single person in the White House who has both the gumption and the standing to tell Trump that the president can't peddle this kind of drivel in an official document?... I guess not." -- CW 

Ken Vogel & Cory Bennett of Politico: "House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes on Friday sent a letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation asking it to investigate the leaks of classified information that have produced a series of damaging media reports on ... Donald Trump’s administration, according to three sources familiar with the letter. Nunes has suggested in recent days that the leaks came from career government intelligence employees who are either loyal to former President Barack Obama or opposed to Trump. And Nunes’ letter gives Trump a key Capitol Hill bulkhead in his war on leaks." -- CW 

Thursday
Feb162017

The Commentariat -- February 17, 2017

Late Morning Update:

Brady Dennis of the Washington Post: "An Oklahoma judge on Thursday ordered Scott Pruitt, the state’s attorney general and President Trump’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, to turn over thousands of emails related to his communication with the oil, gas and coal industry. The Center for Media and Democracy has been seeking the release of Pruitt’s correspondence with fossil-fuel representatives under public records laws for more than two years. The group filed suit over Pruitt’s refusal to turn over the documents and requested the expedited hearing that led to the judge’s decision, which was first reported by E&E News. The ruling by District Court Judge Aletia Timmons, who said there had been 'an abject failure to provide prompt and reasonable access to documents requested,' came a day before the Senate is expected to vote on confirming Pruitt to head the EPA, an agency that he has sued repeatedly during the Obama years." -- CW 

Garance Burke of the AP: "The Trump administration is considering a proposal to mobilize as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants, including millions living nowhere near the Mexico border, according to a draft memo obtained by The Associated Press. The 11-page document calls for the unprecedented militarization of immigration enforcement as far north as Portland, Oregon, and as far east as New Orleans, Louisiana. Four states that border on Mexico are included in the proposal — California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas — but it also encompasses seven states contiguous to those four — Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the AP report was '100 percent not sure' and 'irresponsible.' 'There is no effort at all to utilize the National Guard to round up unauthorized immigrants,' he said." Thanks to Periscope for the link. ...

     ... CW: Aside from the obvious horrors of the content of the report, we must offer congratulations to Sean Spicer for thinking up a novel way to express the non-denial denial. Evidently a quick study, he's learning from the master (a number of pundits figured Trump held his  press conference yesterday to show Spicer how it's done. But "100 percent not sure" is a humdinger. Deal with that, Akhilleus! (See today's comments.)

Amanda Taub & Max Fisher of the New York Times: "A wave of leaks from government officials has hobbled the Trump administration, leading some to draw comparisons to countries like Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan, where shadowy networks within government bureaucracies, often referred to as 'deep states,' undermine and coerce elected governments. So is the United States seeing the rise of its own deep state? Not quite, experts say, but the echoes are real — and disturbing. Though leaks can be a normal and healthy check on a president’s power, what’s happening now extends much further. The United States, those experts warn, risks developing an entrenched culture of conflict between the president and his own bureaucracy." -- CW 

Asawin Suebsaeng of the Daily Beast: "... as the official White House press conference disintegrated further into unhinged criticism and belligerent sniping, reporters seated in the East Room could hardly contain themselves. There was an awkward mix of laughing with Trump, and chuckling at him as the president kept venting and sneering. The reporters present couldn’t stop quietly gossipping about Trump. 'What is going on?' one journalist whispered to another. 'This is insane' and 'What the hell?' were other popular refrains in the room." -- CW ...

... John Podesta in a Washington Post op-ed: "Trump is deploying a strategy, used by autocrats, designed to completely disorient public perception. He’s not just trying to spin the bad news of the day; all politicians do that. He seeks nothing less than to undermine the public’s belief that any news can be trusted, that any news is true, that there is any fixed reality. Trump is attempting to build a hall of mirrors where even our most basic sensory perceptions are shrouded in confusion. He is emulating the successful strategy of Vladimir Putin.... The media ... are the foundation of an informed democratic dialogue. Our president is throwing mud all over that — deliberately, with malice aforethought. He’s telling us we are being lied to all the time. That has a corrosive effect...." -- CW ...

... Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic runs down how the right-wing media "reported" Trump's presser. "... a great many of [Trump's supporters] aren’t seeing the same information as those who oppose Trump — they are being fed lies and untruths by coastal-dwelling millionaires like Hannity and Limbaugh; and they exist at a time when even more responsible right-leaning outlets that make up their information bubble are unlikely to target the lies they encounter, and in a culture where [right-wing commentators] sees what’s going on and [celebrate] it as Trump playing the game well." -- CW 

*****

Undaunted by Negative Reports, Trump Makes Compelling Argument He Is Insane. Ashley Parker & John Wagner of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Thursday aired his grievances against the news media, the intelligence community and his detractors generally in a sprawling, stream-of-consciousness news conference that alternated between claims that he had 'inherited a mess' and the assertion that his fledgling administration 'is running like a fine-tuned machine.' 'To be honest, I inherited a mess,' Trump said, in a news conference that lasted more than an hour and was at times rambling, combative and pointed.... Yet moments later, the president seemed to acknowledge the widespread reports of turbulence and upheaval emanating out of his West Wing, only to claim that his White House — which so far has been marred by staff infighting, a controversial travel ban, false statements and myriad leaks — was operating seamlessly. 'I turn on the TV, open the newspapers and I see stories of chaos — chaos,' he said. 'Yet it is the exact opposite. This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine, despite the fact that I can't get my Cabinet approved.'” -- CW ...

Tomorrow, they will say, 'Donald Trump rants and raves at the press.' I’m not ranting and raving. I’m just telling you. You know, you’re dishonest people. But — but I’m not ranting and raving. I love this. I’m having a good time doing it. -- Donald Trump, in a hastily-scheduled 80-minute press conference Thursday ...

... Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Trump dismissed reports about contacts between his advisers and Russia on Thursday and defended his performance in his first four weeks in office in a contentious news conference that showcased his unconventional and unconstrained presidency. At a hastily organized White House event ostensibly intended to announce a new labor secretary, Mr. Trump engaged in an extended attack on the news media and boasted that his new administration was a 'fine-tuned machine,' not the chaotic operation perceived by many in Washington." -- CW ...

... Josh Dawsey & Alex Isenstadt of Politico: "After stewing in anger during four rocky weeks in the White House..., Donald Trump had his say Thursday. He spent 80 minutes in an impromptu East Room news conference shredding his critics, relitigating the election, bragging about his crowds, crowing about his accomplishments and denying, deflecting and obfuscating a series of mushrooming bad stories that have dogged his presidency and depressed his approval ratings. It was an extraordinary scene in the White House, which Trump essentially turned into a venue for a campaign rally, trashed the country’s most influential news outlets, cited approval polls and spread misinformation. It came two days before Trump will hit the road for a campaign rally in Florida, where he said the crowds would be 'massive.'” -- CW ...

... Stephen Collinson of CNN: "... Donald Trump launched an extraordinary denunciation Thursday of his critics, complaining he inherited a 'mess' and slamming stories that his campaign was constantly in contact with Russia as 'fake news.' Trump held court during a news conference that lasted an hour and fifteen minutes, carving out a stunning moment in modern American political history. He displayed a sense of anger and grievance rarely vented by a President in public -- let alone one who has been in office for just four weeks." -- CW ...

... Here's the transcript. -- CW ...

... Maggie Haberman & Glenn Thrush of the New York Times provided running commentary & some fact-checks. Amusing. ...

... Kevin Drum fact-checked the Trumpster fire of a presser, an exercise that required him to allude to Schrödinger's Cat. -- CW ...

... AND NBC's Peter Alexander Fact-checked Trump in Real Time. Matthew Nussbaum of Politico: "Trump had claimed in his opening remarks that he had won the biggest Electoral College victory since Ronald Reagan, which is demonstrably false. 'You said today that you had the biggest electoral margin since Ronald Reagan,' Alexander said.... He then began to list recent electoral victories bigger than Trump’s, which include both of Barack Obama’s victories, both of Bill Clinton’s victories and George H.W. Bush’s 1988 victory, all since Reagan. 'Well, I was talking about Republicans,' Trump said. George H.W. Bush, who was also a Republican, received 426 electoral votes, well above Trump’s 304. 'Why should Americans trust you?' Alexander asked. Trump said he had just been given the information, seeming to imply he had been given incorrect information." -- CW ...

... All Black People Hang Together. Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "Over the course of the lengthy and bizarre news conference that President Trump held Thursday, few moments crystallized the unusual nature of his presidency as effectively as an exchange he had at the end with April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks. Ryan [-- who is black --] asked Trump if he would include the CBC in discussions about his agenda for addressing urban policy. The CBC ... is the Congressional Black Caucus.... Trump appeared briefly to be unaware of what the initials stood for, and so Ryan asked the question more pointedly.... 'Are you going to include the Congressional Black Caucus ... and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus as well as …?. 'Well, I would,' Trump interrupted. 'Tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting? Do you want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours? Set up a meeting.' Read on. Trump went on to lie about Rep. Elijah Cummings (D- Md.), who is black, and to insult a Jewish reporter, while boasting he is the least racist & least anti-Semitic person you've ever seen. -- CW ...

... Ed Kilgore: "... nobody until now has used a press conference to send one basic message over and over: With a few exceptions the people in this room are all lying scoundrels and you should not believe a word they say. Because that was Trump’s message: Every grievance he could dredge up, dating back to the ups and downs of the campaign trail, found its way into his tongue-lashing of the media today.... It is hard to change the behavior of a politician who craves media criticism...." -- CW ...

... Josh Alvarez of the Washington Monthly: "Trump really outdid himself in this one. It was meant to be a press conference simply announcing his new pick for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Acosta.... Instead, he singlehandedly attempted to squash Tuesday night’s revelations—by The Failing New York Times and Fake News CNN — that multiple Trump campaign staff and associates were in regular contact with Russian intelligence officials.... Ignoring all the specious dust Trump kicked up yields the two most important facts. First, he neither confirmed nor denied that his campaign staff was in contact with Russian officials during the campaign. Second, he denied ordering Flynn to talk to the Russians about sanctions, but he ;would have directed him to do it.'... It was clear to any observer that he was fully enjoying the experience and it was entertaining in the way WWE once was. But the outlines of a criminal, treasonous conspiracy remain in place.” -- CW ...

... Trump's Harangue Was a Conservative Manifesto. Steve M.: "But that's what conservatism is now -- angry white people saying 'Respect ME, dammit!' and insisting that everyone who doesn't agree with them deserves to be harangued or intimidated into silence.... During the campaign, many concerned political observers asked, "What does conservatism stand for now?" This is what it stands for. It stands for I have the floor, so you just shut the hell up." -- CW ...

 

... See also yesterday's comments on Trump's insane presser.

Republicans Begin to Make Good on Plans to Destroy the Environment. Devin Henry of the Hill: "President Trump on Thursday signed legislation ending a key Obama administration coal mining rule. The bill quashes the Office of Surface Mining's Stream Protection Rule, a regulation to protect waterways from coal mining waste that officials finalized in December. The legislation is the second Trump has signed into law ending an Obama-era environmental regulation. On Tuesday, he signed a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution undoing a financial disclosure requirement for energy companies. Both the mining and financial disclosure bills are the tip of a GOP push to undo a slate of regulations instituted in the closing days of the Obama administration. The House has passed several CRA resolutions, and the Senate has so far sent three of them to President Trump for his signature. Regulators finalized the stream protection rule in December, but they spent most of Obama’s tenure writing it." -- CW 

 Erika Kinetz of the AP: "The government of China awarded ... Donald Trump valuable rights to his own name this week, in the form of a 10-year trademark for construction services. The registration became official on Feb. 14 and was published in a trademark registration announcement on the website of China's Trademark Office on Wednesday.... The registration this week came as a surprise win for Trump after a decade of trying - and failing - to wrest the rights to his name back from a man named Dong Wei.... Critics say Trump's global intellectual property interests could be used by foreign states as leverage over the president and may violate the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, which bars public servants from accepting anything of value from foreign governments unless explicitly approved by Congress. These concerns are particularly sharp in China, where the courts and bureaucracy reflect the will of the ruling Communist Party." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... CW: As Haley S. pointed out in yesterday's Comments, the trademark case just happened to accidentally be resolved in Trump's favor right after he "climbed down on past threats and agreed to honour the so-called 'One China' policy." Total fucking amazing coincidence.

Fred Kaplan of Slate: "President Trump’s meeting on Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed that he has no understanding of Middle East politics or of what a peace treaty with the Palestinians would require. Trump believes that his desire for a deal puts him halfway toward achieving one and that his close friendship with Netanyahu moves him a bit closer still. He doesn’t get that Netanyahu doesn’t need or want a peace deal with the Palestinians at this point. Nor do the Palestinians; nor do the Sunni Arab countries — Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates —that Trump wants to drag along to the table." -- CW ...

... Ignorant by Choice. Ashley Dejean of Mother Jones: "Keep it short and free of nuance —that is the new guidance that has recently circulated to some intelligence analysts who compile materials for the President's Daily Brief on security threats around the globe. The classified guidance, which was reviewed by Mother Jones, suggests that President Donald Trump's daily national security briefing contains far less information than the daily reports presented by the intelligence community to past presidents — and about a quarter of the information President Barack Obama received. The memo sent to certain analysts within the intelligence community notes that the commander in chief's daily briefing book typically contains reports on only three topics, typically no more than one page each." -- CW 

Tim Egan looks back at the month that was, and kinda can't believe it.

Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "President Trump is stuck in a time warp.... 'The Democrats had to come up with a story as to why they lost the election, and so badly (306), so they made up a story — RUSSIA. Fake news!' Trump tweeted Thursday, noting in parentheses the number of electoral votes he won in November.... His priorities worry those who see in Russia’s behavior a real threat to U.S. security — not only last year, but also going forward.... His priorities worry those who see in Russia’s behavior a real threat to U.S. security — not only last year, but also going forward.... The campaign environment remains his comfort zone. So eager is he to return that on Saturday, he will hold a rally in Florida that White House press secretary Sean Spicer described as 'a campaign event.'” CW: To those who argued before Trump gook office that he never wanted to govern, you got that right. And how! (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Follow the Money. Luke Harding, et al., of the Guardian: " Deutsche Bank, which is under investigation by the US Department of Justice and is facing intense regulatory scrutiny, [conducted an internal investigation] looking for evidence of whether recent loans to [Donald] Trump, which were struck in highly unusual circumstances, may have been underpinned by financial guarantees from Moscow.... The president’s immediate family are Deutsche clients. The bank examined accounts held by Ivanka Trump..., Jared Kushner..., and Kushner’s mother. The internal review found no evidence of any Russia link, but Deutsche Bank is coming under pressure to appoint an external and independent auditor to review its business relationship with President Trump. Democratic congressman Bill Pascrell Jr, a member of the House Ways and Means committee, said ...the bank was under federal investigation for aiding Russian money-laundering - a 'troubling potential conflict'.” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The Justice Department told a federal appeals court on Thursday that it would not seek a rehearing of a decision that shut down President Trump’s targeted travel ban. Instead, the administration will start from scratch, issuing a new executive order, the department said. Last Thursday, a unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, blocked the key parts of the original executive order.... The panel said the original ban was unlikely to survive constitutional scrutiny. The Justice Department said that the panel’s decision was riddled with errors but that the flaws it noted would be addressed in the new executive order." -- CW 

Katie Mettler of the Washington Post has more on a shocking El Paso Times story linked yesterday: "A hearing in El Paso County in Texas went from ordinary to 'unprecedented' last week when half a dozen Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents showed up at a courthouse where an undocumented woman was seeking a protective order against the boyfriend she accused of abusing her." CW: And President Puss E. Grabber doesn't give a rat's ass.

** Sari Horwitz & Adam Entous of the Washington Post: "Former national security adviser Michael Flynn denied to FBI agents in an interview last month that he had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States before President Trump took office, contradicting the contents of intercepted communications collected by intelligence agencies, current and former U.S. officials said. The Jan. 24 interview potentially puts Flynn in legal jeopardy, as lying to the FBI is a felony, but any decision to prosecute would ultimately lie with the Justice Department. Some officials said bringing a case could prove difficult in part because Flynn may attempt to parse the definition of sanctions." -- CW ...

     ... Update. Evan Perez of CNN: "The FBI is not expected to pursue any charges against ... Michael Flynn regarding a phone call with Russia's ambassador, barring new information..., law enforcement officials told CNN Thursday.... Flynn initially told investigators sanctions were not discussed. But FBI agents challenged him, asking if he was certain that was his answer. He said he didn't remember. The FBI interviewers believed Flynn was cooperative and provided truthful answers. Although Flynn didn't remember all of what he talked about, they don't believe he was intentionally misleading them, the officials say." CW: Thanks, Jim Comey! ...

... Adele Stan of the American Prospect speculates on what Michael Flynn knows that Donald Trump doesn't want you to know. She notes that the dossier compiled by Brit Christopher Steele alleges that Trump had a "long-standing deal with the Russian government of quid pro quo information-trading between the Trump Organization and the Kremlin. Over the course of several years, Steele’s sources told him, the Trump team gathered information on Russian oligarchs with U.S. assets, and delivered it to Russian operatives in exchange for information on Hillary Clinton and Democrats." -- CW ...

... Jim Sciutto, at al., of CNN: "Ret. Vice Adm. Bob Harward turned down ... Donald Trump's offer to be national security adviser Thursday, depriving the administration of a top candidate for a critical foreign policy post days after Trump fired Michael Flynn.... A friend of Harward's said he was reluctant to take the job because the White House seems so chaotic. Harward called the offer a 's[hit] sandwich,' the friend said. A Republican official told CNN that Harward made it a condition of taking the job that he could form his own team. In the end, he didn't feel that was the case. And a senior Republican familiar with the process added that 'a question of clarity regarding the lines of authority' was central in Harward's decision." CW: Mixed-up metaphors! It's not "a shit sandwich"; it's "a fine-tuned machine." And now it's time to bring on David Patraeus, Trump's alternate choice for national security advisor. Luckily for Loose-Lips Patraeus, the job doesn't require Senate confirmation.

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "Moving quickly after his first choice for labor secretary withdrew his nomination amid controversy, President Trump made a seemingly safe selection on Thursday in R. Alexander Acosta, a Florida law school dean and former assistant attorney general. In Mr. Acosta, Mr. Trump has chosen a nominee with deep experience in labor relations, law and education. The pick answers concerns about the lack of diversity in the Trump administration, in that Mr. Acosta would be the first Hispanic in the president’s cabinet. And his chances of being confirmed appear relatively high, since Mr. Acosta, currently the dean of Florida International University’s law school, has made it through the Senate process three times for different roles." -- CW 

Alan Rappeport: "A divided Senate confirmed Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina to be President Trump’s budget director on Thursday, installing in his cabinet a fiscal hawk who will play a central role in the administration’s plans to reshape the federal government. Mr. Mulvaney was confirmed to lead the White House Office of Management and Budget by a vote of 51 to 49, narrowly making the cut over a unified front of Democrats, joined by Senator John McCain of Arizona, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee who accused Mr. Mulvaney of being antimilitary. Mr. McCain was angered by Mr. Mulvaney’s support for firm spending limits on the Defense Department." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "Employees of the Environmental Protection Agency have been calling their senators to urge them to vote on Friday against the confirmation of Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s contentious nominee to run the agency, a remarkable display of activism and defiance that presages turbulent times ahead for the E.P.A. Many of the scientists, environmental lawyers and policy experts who work in E.P.A. offices around the country say the calls are a last resort for workers who fear a nominee selected to run an agency he has made a career out of fighting — by a president who has vowed to 'get rid of' it." -- CW 

Jessica Garrison, et al.,of BuzzFeed: "A Virginia winery owned by President Donald Trump’s son, Eric, is seeking permission to import almost two dozen additional foreign workers, according to a petition posted by the Department of Labor on Thursday.... Last fall, a special envoy from the United Nations raised concerns about the federal guest worker program, saying it puts workers at risk of exploitation and even trafficking. A BuzzFeed News investigation in 2015 found that H-2 workers were often exploited, and sometimes raped or beaten. BuzzFeed News also found that many Americans were denied jobs in favor of guest workers.... The winery’s website says it is not owned by the president but rather by his son Eric, who was given the operation by his father in 2012.... Still..., last year, Trump ... claimed ownership of it. Speaking before a table stacked high with wine, he said: 'I own it 100 percent, no mortgage, no debt.'” -- CW 

** Paul Krugman: "... you can’t understand the mess we’re in without appreciating not just the potential corruption of the president, but the unmistakable corruption of his party — a party so intent on cutting taxes for the wealthy, deregulating banks and polluters and dismantling social programs that accepting foreign subversion is, apparently, a small price to pay.... This nightmare could be ended by a handful of Republican legislators willing to make common cause with Democrats to demand the truth. And maybe there are enough people of conscience left in the G.O.P. But there probably aren’t. And that’s a problem that’s even scarier than the Trump-Putin axis." -- CW 

Pew Research Center: "Less than a month after Donald Trump took office, the public’s initial impressions of the new president are strongly felt, deeply polarized and far more negative than positive. The latest national survey by Pew Research Center conducted Feb. 7-12 among 1,503 adults, finds that Trump’s overall job approval is much lower than those of prior presidents in their first weeks in office: 39% approve of his job performance, while 56% disapprove. The intensity of the public’s early views of Trump is striking: Fully 75% either approve or disapprove of Trump strongly, compared with just 17% who feel less strongly. Nearly half (46%) strongly disapprove of his job performance, while 29% strongly approve." -- CW  ...

... What Even Paul LePage Can See. Andrew Kaczynski of CNN: "Republican Gov. Paul LePage, a supporter of President Donald Trump, said Thursday morning that too many people are vying for power within the White House and that the President should stop treating it like a TV show. 'The thing I'm sensing is that there's three or four chiefs at the top,; the Maine governor told Newsradio WGAN. 'I would say this: You've got to put someone somebody in charge.'" -- CW 

A Win for Free Speech & Gun Safety. Curt Anderson of the AP: "A federal appeals court ruled on Thursday that Florida doctors can talk to patients about gun safety, declaring a law aimed at restricting such discussions a violation of the First Amendment's right to free speech. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the law does not trespass on patients' Second Amendment rights to own guns and noted a patient who doesn't want to be questioned about that can easily find another doctor. 'The Second Amendment right to own and possess firearms does not preclude questions about, commentary on, or criticism for the exercise of that right,' wrote Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan in one of two majority opinions covering 90 pages. 'There is no actual conflict between the First Amendment rights of doctors and medical professionals and the Second Amendment rights of patients.'Circuit Judge William Pryor, who was a finalist in ... Donald Trump's search for a Supreme Court nominee, said in a separate concurring opinion that the First Amendment must protect all points of view." -- CW 

Patrick Wintour of the Guardian: "The new US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has said he is ready in principle to work with Moscow after meeting his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on the margins of a G20 foreign ministers summit in Bonn on Thursday.... Tillerson, under attack from Democrats in the US for being close to Moscow, stressed that Russia had a duty to abide by the Minsk peace agreements in Ukraine and said the US would only cooperate practically if it were in the country’s interest to do so....In his brief conversation with Lavrov, described by the latter as productive, Tillerson struck a balance between standing firm on issues such as Ukraine, Iran and nuclear weapons, and trying to find ground from which to build the new counter-terror alliance sought by Trump.... Separately, James Mattis, the new US defence secretary, said on a visit to Nato in Brussels that it was too early to talk of military cooperation, dealing a blow to Moscow’s hopes of swiftly mending ties with Washington under Trump.... Mattis went out of his way to soothe European fears that Trump was about to abandon Nato, saying the US commitment to article 5 of the Nato alliance, the commitment to mutual self-defence, was rock solid." -- CW ...

MEANWHILE, Way Beyond the Beltway

Irina Resnik, et al., of Bloomberg: "The Kremlin ordered state media to cut way back on their fawning coverage of ... Donald Trump, reflecting a growing concern among senior Russian officials that the new U.S. administration will be less friendly than first thought, three people familiar with the matter said. The order comes amid a growing chorus of anti-Russian sentiment in Washington, where U.S. spy and law-enforcement agencies are conducting multiple investigations to determine the full extent of contacts Trump’s advisers had with Russia during and after the 2016 election campaign." -- CW 

Wednesday
Feb152017

The Commentariat -- February 16, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "A divided Senate confirmed Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina to be President Trump’s budget director on Thursday, installing in his cabinet a fiscal hawk who will play a central role in the administration’s plans to reshape the federal government. Mr. Mulvaney was confirmed to lead the White House Office of Management and Budget by a vote of 51 to 49, narrowly making the cut over a unified front of Democrats, joined by Senator John McCain of Arizona, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee who accused Mr. Mulvaney of being antimilitary. Mr. McCain was angered by Mr. Mulvaney’s support for firm spending limits on the Defense Department." -- CW  

Erika Kinetz of the AP: "The government of China awarded ... Donald Trump valuable rights to his own name this week, in the form of a 10-year trademark for construction services. The registration became official on Feb. 14 and was published in a trademark registration announcement on the website of China's Trademark Office on Wednesday.... The registration this week came as a surprise win for Trump after a decade of trying - and failing - to wrest the rights to his name back from a man named Dong Wei.... Critics say Trump's global intellectual property interests could be used by foreign states as leverage over the president and may violate the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, which bars public servants from accepting anything of value from foreign governments unless explicitly approved by Congress. These concerns are particularly sharp in China, where the courts and bureaucracy reflect the will of the ruling Communist Party." ...

     ... CW: As Haley S. pointed out earlier, the trademark case just happened to accidentally be resolved in Trump's favor right after he "climbed down on past threats and agreed to honour the so-called 'One China' policy." Total fucking amazing coincidence.

Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "President Trump is stuck in a time warp.... 'The Democrats had to come up with a story as to why they lost the election, and so badly (306), so they made up a story — RUSSIA. Fake news!' Trump tweeted Thursday, noting in parentheses the number of electoral votes he won in November.... His priorities worry those who see in Russia’s behavior a real threat to U.S. security — not only last year, but also going forward.... His priorities worry those who see in Russia’s behavior a real threat to U.S. security — not only last year, but also going forward.... The campaign environment remains his comfort zone. So eager is he to return that on Saturday, he will hold a rally in Florida that White House press secretary Sean Spicer described as 'a campaign event.'” CW: To those who argued before Trump gook office that he never wanted to govern, you got that right. And how!

Follow the Money. Luke Harding, et al., of the Guardian: " Deutsche Bank, which is under investigation by the US Department of Justice and is facing intense regulatory scrutiny, [conducted an internal investigation] looking for evidence of whether recent loans to [Donald] Trump, which were struck in highly unusual circumstances, may have been underpinned by financial guarantees from Moscow.... The president’s immediate family are Deutsche clients. The bank examined accounts held by Ivanka Trump..., Jared Kushner..., and Kushner’s mother. The internal review found no evidence of any Russia link, but Deutsche Bank is coming under pressure to appoint an external and independent auditor to review its business relationship with President Trump. Democratic congressman Bill Pascrell Jr, a member of the House Ways and Means committee, said ...the bank was under federal investigation for aiding Russian money-laundering - a 'troubling potential conflict'.” -- CW 

*****

** Kurt Eichenwald of Newsweek: "As part of intelligence operations being conducted against the United States for the last seven months, at least one Western European ally intercepted a series of communications before the inauguration between advisers associated with President Donald Trump and Russian government officials.... The sources said the intercepted communications are not just limited to telephone calls: The foreign agency is also gathering electronic and human source information on Trump’s overseas business partners, at least some of whom the intelligence services now consider to be agents of their respective governments.... While Newsweek was told which allied nations intercepted the communications and are gathering intelligence on Trump associates, the sources did so on condition that the countries not be identified out of concern those governments would incur the president’s wrath.... These operations reflect a serious breakdown in the long-standing faith in the direction of American policy by some of the country’s most important allies. Worse, the United States is now in a situation that may be unprecedented — where European governments know more about what is going on in the executive branch than any elected American official." Read on. --safari  ...

... The Urge to Purge. James Risen & Matthew Rosenberg of the New York Times: "President Trump plans to assign a New York billionaire to lead a broad review of American intelligence agencies, according to administration officials, an effort that members of the intelligence community fear could curtail their independence and reduce the flow of information that contradicts the president’s worldview. The possible role for Stephen A. Feinberg, a co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management, has met fierce resistance among intelligence officials already on edge because of the criticism the intelligence community has received from Mr. Trump.... On Wednesday, Mr. Trump blamed leaks from the intelligence community for the departure of Michael T. Flynn, his national security adviser, whose resignation he requested. There has been no announcement of Mr. Feinberg’s job..., but he recently told his company’s shareholders that he is in discussions to join the Trump administration.... Mr. Feinberg ... has close ties to Stephen K. Bannon ... and Jared Kushner...." -- CW ...

One should not characterize leaks, as the cowardly and self-interested Republicans have, as the issue. Leaks are the only option that one has in this existential crisis to protect the Constitution. -- CIA veteran Glenn Carle, to Scott Illing of Vox ...

... Intelligence Agencies Don't Trust the SCROTUS. Nikita Vladimirov of the Hill: "U.S. intelligence officials have not been sharing some sensitive information with President Trump, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday. Current and former officials told the news source that some information was withheld from the commander-in-chief in fear that that it would be compromised or leaked. According to the report, some information presented to the president omitted sources and methods used by intelligence agencies during their operations.The officials said they were not aware of any instance in which crucial national security threats were omitted from intelligence briefings." Emphasis added. -- CW ...

Donald's Dangerous Game (watch at least the first couple minutes) --safari

... David Edwards of Raw Story: "NSA intelligence analyst John Schindler provided some insight into the reaction of national security officials. 'Now we go nuclear,' he wrote on Twitter. '[Intelligence community] war going to new levels. Just got an [email from] senior [intelligence community] friend, it began: "He [Trump] will die in jail."'” -- LT (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Sara Fischer of Axios: "Wall Street Journal reports that Gizmodo's investigative team is buying Facebook ads that will direct government agency employees to a URL that will allow them to anonymously disclose tips and documents to reporters. The ads will link to TellonTrump.com, a live site that features a link to Gizmodo's secure file drop. The site features contact and social media information for leakers to contact Gizmodo reporters. Gizmodo media group represents a variety of sites, including Jezebel, Deadspin, Lifehacker, Fusion and The Root. 'One thing we know about Donald Trump is that there are a lot of things Donald Trump doesn't want people to know about,' the site says." ...

     ... CW: You may have noticed that the New York Times has been doing something similar for weeks. Their online front page now features a blurb that asks, "Got a confidential news tip? The New York Times offers several ways to get in touch with and provide materials to our journalists." The "Learn more" link leads to this page, which provides instructions on how to reach Times reporters through secure(ish) means. ...

... As the Worms Turn. ... Sean Sullivan & Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "Michael Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser is shifting the balance of power between President Trump and Congress, with Republican senators vowing to more aggressively exercise oversight of the new administration and Democrats seizing an opportunity to ask pointed questions about Trump’s ties to Russia. On Wednesday, Senate Democrats convened an emergency meeting to plan their next steps in probing the circumstances that led to Flynn’s departure. While significant disagreement remains among Democrats and between the parties on the path forward, Senate GOP leaders affirmed their commitment to conducting a far-reaching investigation through the Senate Intelligence Committee that is already examining allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections." -- CW ...

... Seung Min Kim of Politico: "The top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee [-- Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein [D- Calif.] --] are jointly asking for a briefing from top administration officials about the circumstances that prompted the abrupt resignation of Michael Flynn as White House national security adviser this week." -- CW ...

... Inae Oh of Mother Jones: "President Trump continued to defend [Michael] Flynn during Wednesday’s joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying Flynn is a 'wonderful man' who has 'been treated very, very unfairly by the media, as I call it, the "fake media" in many cases.' Trump also blasted the leaks from the US intelligence community that forced Flynn’s ouster as National Security Adviser: 'From intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked. It’s criminal action, criminal act, and it’s been going on for a long time, before me, but now it’s really going on. People are trying to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton.'” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Nikita Vladimirov: "CNN anchor Jake Tapper on Wednesday fired back at President Trump for accusing the 'fake media' of mistreating ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn. 'The media, of course, did not fire Gen. Flynn. President Trump did. What the media did do, was reveal to the nation that Gen. Flynn had lied to the country and to the Trump team,' Tapper said during his program." -- CW ...

... Gail Collins: "... the president was so out to sea he couldn’t come up with a consistent cover story for why Flynn left. His press secretary said Trump had requested Flynn’s resignation due to a 'trust issue.' But when Trump showed up in person, he seemed to believe the whole thing was orchestrated by 'the fake media; and a different chief executive from another planet." -- CW ...

... Ryan Browne & Barbara Starr of CNN: "The head of US Special Operations Command said Tuesday that the US government is in 'unbelievable turmoil,' a situation that he suggested could undermine US efforts to fight adversaries such as ISIS. 'Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope they sort it out soon because we're a nation at war," Army Gen. Raymond 'Tony' Thomas told a symposium in Maryland." ...

... James Hohmann of the Washington Post has a good rundown of the most recent news re: Trump's Russia connections. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... E.J. Dionne: "The Michael Flynn fiasco was the entirely predictable product of the indiscipline, deceit, incompetence and moral indifference that characterize Donald Trump’s approach to leadership. Even worse, Trump’s loyalties are now in doubt.... The Trump we are seeing now is fully consistent with the vindictive, self-involved and scattered man we saw during the 17 months of his campaign. In one of the primary debates, Jeb Bush said of Trump: 'He’s a chaos candidate and he’d be a chaos president.' Rarely has a politician been so prophetic. And this is why nearly 11 million more Americans voted against Trump than for him. His obligation was to earn the trust of the 60 percent of Americans who told exit pollsters on Election Day that they viewed him unfavorably. Instead, he has ratified their fears, and then some." -- CW ...

We are facing the gravest threat to our institutions and our government since 1861, since the country broke in half. This is a graver crisis than Watergate, which was about corruption, not the usurpation of our laws and our checks and balances. It's graver than World War II, when Hitler never actually threatened our institutions or occupation of Washington.... It's a huge societal and institutional crisis. We're dealing with a man in Trump who doesn't accept a fact-based reality, who only acts for his own self-aggrandizement, and who views any action that does not serve him as a threat that must be destroyed. And, on top of that, his team appears to have been colluding with Russian intelligence services.... With a handful of exceptions..., [Congressional Republicans] have clearly put personal professional advantage ahead of their oaths. -- CIA veteran Glenn Carle ...

... Dana Milbank: "The real question is not when Trump found out but whether Flynn, in his contacts with the [Russian] ambassador, was doing Trump’s bidding, at least implicitly. This would fit a pattern that has already developed in this White House: Trump’s aides do exactly as he orders." Milbank trots out recent examples of Spicer, Conway & Stephen Miller all following their Dear Leader's orders. "In Flynn’s case, if he were freelancing with the Russians, Trump would justifiably be furious about the embarrassment and distraction it has caused.... Flynn’s talks with the ambassador, Vladi­mir Putin’s subsequent decision to postpone retaliation, and Trump’s applause for that decision are consistent with Trump’s long-standing words and actions ... and, now, confirmation of frequent contact between Russian intelligence and Trump’s campaign." Milbank makes a good case that Trump was behind Flynn's discussions with Kislyak. -- CW ...

... Robert Kuttner of the American Prospect: "The latest news about ongoing contacts between senior Trump campaign officials and Russian intelligence during the campaign makes clear what was hidden in plain view: Trump and the Russians colluded to tip the election to Trump; and in return, Trump offered a much more docile set of U.S. policies towards Putin.... So we now have something entirely unprecedented in American history — a coup d’état, perpetrated ... by America’s principal geopolitical adversary and threat, with the collusion of the new president. That means that the election was illegitimate, and that the entire Trump presidency is illegitimate. And so, therefore, are every one of its actions.... Eventually..., the full truth will come out, and we will be rid of Trump. The best and most honorable outcome would be for Vice President Pence to preside over some kind of caretaker government, acknowledging that Trump’s election (and his own) was not legitimate.... But that is probably too much to hope for. Republicans have too much to gain in the enactment of far-right policies and the appointment of far-right courts to place the republic first." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Ashley Parker of the Washington Post: "President Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday to rage against leakers in his administration who have doled out classified details to journalists like 'candy' and have engaged in what he called 'un-American' secret spilling. The angry message was part of a blitz of tweets taking aim at the news media — and leaks from intelligence agencies — for reports of secret Russian contacts that led to the resignation of the White House security adviser Michael Flynn.... Trump tried to brush off the mounting pressures on his administration as a diversion by opponents, even though senior Republican lawmakers have indicated the investigations into Russian contacts will be expanded.... Trump’s ire over the insider tips to journalists also contrasted with his indirect praise of disclosure of leaked internal emails from the Hillary Clinton campaign made public by WikiLeaks during the campaign.... Wednesday was not the first time he had blamed both the media or the intelligence community for an unflattering portrait." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

Shout out to everybody saying they didn't want to deal with the endless drama of having the Clintons back in the White HouseKevin Feeney (@KevinMFeeney) February 14, 2017

... Steve M.: "I'm amazed that the wheels are coming off this quickly... I'm struck by the fact that the Trumpers involved in this didn't even seem to realize that their conversations would be monitored.... Flynn worked in military intelligence and then was the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Manafort was a longtime Republican operative and had a lot of dealings in the Russian sphere.... What's wrong with these people?" -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

Plenty of Reliable Worm Are Burrowing in. Cristiano Lima of Politico: "House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz requested Wednesday that the Department of Justice launch an investigation into the leaks surrounding the ouster of Michael Flynn. In a letter addressed to inspector general Michael Horowitz released Wednesday, Chaffetz expressed concern over 'potentially classified national security information' circulated in recent news reports leading up to the resignation of the former national security adviser.... The letter was co-signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte.... Chaffetz told reporters on Tuesday, following Flynn's resignation, that he had no plans to have the Oversight Committee investigate Flynn's communications with Russian officials, saying that the situation was 'working itself out.'" -- CW ...

... CW: Weirdly, Dave Nunes, who heads the House Intelligence Committee (a/k/a the Oxymoron Committee) doesn't seem to know that, either, as Mike DeBonis of the WashPo suggests in a story linked below. ...

... Jane Chong of Lawfare: "Even if unintentionally, Nunes’s attempt to transform a major national security scandal into a surveillance scandal misleads the public on the activities of the [Intelligence Community]. Irrespective of how information about the calls between Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was leaked, there is no way that Nunes is unaware that calls involving key Russian diplomats like Kislyak are monitored as a matter of routine. (And if Nunes is unaware of this, he has no business on, much less chairing, House Intelligence). So far, sources say word is that Flynn was not the target of the taps, and the fact that Flynn’s identity was ascertained signifies no legal mischief whatsoever under FISA, as David Kris explains. As far as Nunes or the public yet knows, Nunes pointed the finger at the IC here for nothing more than doing its job, in what appears to have been a short-sighted effort to shift blame." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Digby, in Salon: "Rep. David Nunes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, says he’s launching an immediate investigation — of the leaks about the Flynn matter, not about what went on in the White House. He says executive privilege prevents it. (If only Hillary Clinton had known things worked that way! We could have saved tens of millions of dollars and years of fruitless investigating.) Nunes was part of Trump’s transition team and should rightly recuse himself but hasn’t indicated any plans to do so, instead issuing a glowing statement about the heroism of Michael Flynn. According to Department of Justice rules, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who also advised Trump throughout the campaign, must recuse himself here as well. There is no word that he has done so — a matter the press will presumably pursue in the coming days." Read on. Love digby's catch on Li'l Randy. -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Unhinged from Reality. Jon Schwartz of The Intercept: "Carter Page, briefly a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, sent a peculiar, rambling letter this week to the Department of Justice, asking it to review 'the severe election fraud in the form of disinformation, suppression of dissent, hate crimes and other extensive abuses led by members of Mrs. Hillary Clinton’s campaign and their political allies last year.' Page is reportedly one of several targets of a counterintelligence investigation by the FBI into possible links between Trump associates and Russian officials." Includes letter, which is crayzy. --safari

Thomas Hicks of Foreign Policy: "... Donald Trump offered the job of national security advisor to retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward on Monday night, and was a bit surprised when Harward responded by saying he needed a couple of days to think it over. If, as expected, Harward accepts the job [Wednesday], he is likely to bring in his own team, from deputy on down, with a focus on national security types with some experience under their belts." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Whatever. Peter Baker & Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Trump said on Wednesday that the United States would no longer insist on a Palestinian state as part of a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, backing away from a policy that has underpinned America’s role in Middle East peacemaking since the Clinton administration. 'I’m looking at two states and one state,' Mr. Trump said, appearing in a joint news conference at the White House with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. 'I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one.' Mr. Trump’s comments were a striking departure from decades of diplomatic orthodoxy, and they raised a host of thorny questions about the viability of his position. The Palestinians are highly unlikely to accept anything short of a sovereign state, and a single Israeli state encompassing the Palestinians would either become undemocratic or no longer Jewish, given the faster growth rate of the Arab population. Mr. Trump did not address these dynamics, preferring to focus on his confidence that he could produce a breakthrough agreement." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... New York Times Editors: "President Trump came forward with a nonsensical statement on Wednesday as he dangerously backed away from the two-state solution, which has been central to America’s Mideast policy for more than 20 years and remains the only just answer to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.... Mr. Trump voiced optimism about getting a 'great peace deal' between Israel and its neighbors.... He offered no details on any peace initiative, and the vagueness of his remarks suggests he has no inkling of how to move forward. His willingness, however, to lend credence to those who would deny a separate state to the Palestinians will certainly make peace harder to achieve.... Palestinians reacted with anger and bafflement to Mr. Trump’s policy shift." -- CW ...

... Aidan Quigley of Politico: "... Donald Trump, during a joint news conference Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, bragged about his Electoral College victory in the 2016 election when asked a question about an increase in anti-Semitic incidents since Trump’s political rise. 'I just want to say that we are very honored by the victory that we had, 306 Electoral College votes,' Trump said. 'We were not supposed to crack 220, you know that, right? There was no way to 221; then they said there’s no way to 270. There was tremendous enthusiasm out there.'” -- CW 

Shutting Out the Press. Brad Reed of the Raw Story: "... Donald Trump held a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, but he got through it without answering any questions about his campaign’s reported contacts with Russian intelligence agencies.... Trump only called on sympathetic conservative news outlets including Townhall and the Christian Broadcasting Network over more traditional media outlets. CNN reporter Jim Acosta, who drew the ire of the White House earlier this year when he tried to ask the president a question during a press conference, tried to get a question in about Trump’s Russia ties, but was promptly ignore as the president walked away at the end of the conference." -- CW 

With Everything Going So Well ... Nolan McCaskill of Politico: "The president will hold a rally Saturday afternoon at a hangar in Melbourne, Florida. It will be his first campaign-style rally since his so-called thank-you tour during the transition period to states he won in November.... The rally will follow the president’s trip to Charleston, South Carolina, on Friday. White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Tuesday that Trump will attend the rollout of a new Boeing plane: the 787-10 Dreamliner." CW: Yes, and celebrate the crushing of the effort to unionize the plant. See Noam Scheiber's story, linked below.

Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian: "The new US defence secretary has delivered an ultimatum to Nato allies, saying they must either honour military spending pledges or face the prospect of America 'moderating' its commitment to the transatlantic organisation. James Mattis issued the warning to the other 27 members of the alliance on Wednesday during a closed session at Nato headquarters in Brussels on his first visit to Europe as a senior member of Donald Trump’s cabinet. Mattis’s predecessors have made similar threats over the last decade during visits to Nato, but without the same conviction." CW: After a bad couple of days for Russia vis-a-vis the Great Trump Fiasco, Mattis's pronouncement should cheer up Putin.

Where's Rex? Gardiner Harris of the New York Times: "When President Trump met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at the White House on Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson was conspicuously absent. He was on his first flight overseas as America’s top diplomat, pretty much alone. Mr. Tillerson, who has no government experience, also missed two other important occasions in Washington this week: a lunch with Russia’s ambassador and Mr. Trump’s meetings with the prime minister of Canada. He has yet to hold a news conference.... The State Department has not held its usual daily briefing since Mr. Trump was inaugurated last month, and Mr. Tillerson has said almost nothing publicly since the Senate confirmed him for the job two weeks ago." Although he will attend the G-20 meeting, where the theme [CW: ha ha] is "Foreign Policy Beyond Crisis Management," Tillerson is skipping the Munich Security Conference, which follows." -- CW 

digby: "... the Trump Organization, now being run day to day by Uday and Qusay, is not withdrawing from its global business dealings. They're pretty much doing whatever they want knowing there's nothing anyone will do to stop them and that nobody really cares if they become the richest men in the world by selling the United States foreign policy to the highest bidder. It is causing lots of problems regardless, since the world order that's been in place for 60 years has just been completely upended by the election of this corrupt imbecile as the leader of the world's only super power.... Trump's half-wit boys are running all over the world making 'deals' without having the first clue about the larger ramifications." -- CW 

Kira Lerner of ThinkProgress: "Non-profit advocacy group Free Speech for People has asked New York’s attorney general to investigate whether to file a lawsuit to revoke the charter of The Trump Organization for violating state business laws. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the group and four attorneys said that the attorney general’s office has the power to revoke the corporate charter from Trump’s organization, which has violated laws that prohibit the president from receiving payments from foreign governments. Schneiderman’s press secretary Amy Spitalnick told ThinkProgress that the attorney general’s office will review the letter." --safari

Des Bieler of the Washington Post: "Reports emerged last week that Jeffrey Loria had a 'handshake agreement' to sell the Miami Marlins to the family of Jared Kushner.... However, news Wednesday that Loria is being 'pushed' by another senior White House official [-- Reince Priebus --] for the position of ambassador to France has the Kushner family backing away from the potential purchase, which could have raised questions about the appearance of a possible quid pro quo involving the administration. The Miami Herald had reported Wednesday that the Marlins were 'focusing all of their potential sale efforts on discussions with New York businessmen Joshua Kushner and Joseph Meyer.' Kushner, 31, is the brother of Jared, who is married to Ivanka Trump. Meyer, 37, married a sister of the Kushner brothers, and he took over as publisher of the New York Observer when Jared stepped down to take a position as a senior adviser to Trump.... According to the New York Post, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is unhappy that Priebus has circumvented him and pushed certain influential figures directly to Trump for his approval to ambassadorships." ...

... CW: In case you think this smacks of the first hint of ethical behavior coming out of the Trump sphere, it is worth noting that Joshua Kushner is a Democrat, he says he didn't vote for Trump, and he showed up at the Women's March "to observe."

As the Worms Turn, Ctd. Ed O'Keefe & Jonelle Marte of the Washington Post: "Andrew Puzder, President Trump’s labor secretary nominee, withdrew from consideration Wednesday amid growing resistance from Senate Republicans centered primarily on Puzder’s past employment of an undocumented housekeeper. The collapse of Puzder’s nomination threw the White House into further turmoil.... Puzder’s fate amplified the deteriorating relationship between the White House and Capitol Hill.... The White House, including Trump, offered no comment on Puzder’s withdrawal.... A top Trump campaign supporter, Puzder had attracted widespread criticism regarding his business record and personal background.... Puzder has spent much of his career in the restaurant industry speaking out against wage and labor regulations.... He was set to testify Thursday at a confirmation hearing that had been delayed for weeks to allow for the completion of an ethics review of his vast personal wealth.... In the hours before Puzder withdrew, 12 Republican senators 'at a minimum' were withholding support, according to a senior Republican...." Emphasis added. -- CW ...

... Charles Pierce: GOP senators will "sit for vast conflicts of interest (Rex Tillerson), basic hostility to the function of the department they'll be running (Jeff Sessions), space-alien detachment (Ben Carson), suspiciously barbered testimony (Stephen Mnuchin, Tom Price) and the happy mix of ignorance and fundamentalist bliss (Betsy DeVos). They'll even swing with a Labor Secretary who runs restaurants that have more in common with The Triangle Shirtwaist Company. But, don't be hiring an undocumented worker to clean the family manse because, if you do, thanks for playing, Andrew Puzder.... What this particular development doesn't prove is that the Republican majorities in the Congress are preparing to stand up to the president* in any significant way...." -- CW 

Llyoyd Grove of The Daily Beast: "After weeks of mocking the mainstream media as 'fake news' and 'the opposition party' — an attempt to delegitimize an essential participant in American democracy in order to control the version of reality being sold to the citizenry — Donald Trump and the people around him are being forced to confront a basic fact: Journalists matter.... [J]ournalism as an institution has reasserted itself." --safari

Besty Woodruff of The Daily Beast: "Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife is organizing in support of President Donald Trump’s agenda. And it might make her husband’s life a little complicated. In an email sent to a conservative listserv on Feb. 13 and obtained by The Daily Beast, Ginni Thomas asked an interesting question: How could she organize activists to push for Trump’s policies?...[GinniThomas...has characterized former acting Attorney General Sally Yates as part of a “subversive alt-government” trying to undermine the president and make America “ungovernable” in a recent Daily Caller article...It isn’t clear yet if the Justice Department lawyers defending Trump’s ban will appeal the 9th Circuit ruling to the Supreme Court. But if that happens, then Thomas’s activism could be an issue, according to legal experts." --safari

Brad Reed: "... Kellyanne Conway has been a ubiquitous presence on major network and cable news programs for the past several months — but it looks like that will soon come to an end. Conway tells CNN that she’s planning to 'reduce my television exposure' in the days ahead, even as news shows such as Morning Joe have decided against bringing her on the air due to what they say are questions about her credibility.... Unnamed sources tell CNN that Conway has been behind the whisper campaign against White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who has reportedly been on thin ice with the president after being brutally mocked by comedian Melissa McCarthy on Saturday Night Live." Conway denies this. -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Matt Lewis of The Daily Beast: "Kellyanne Conway is the latest victim of a familiar cautionary tale: Trump corrupts.... Today, it appears she has morphed into Katrina Pierson, the erstwhile Trump spokesperson whose attempts to defend the indefensible were generally mocked and derided.... Like Conway, Vice President Mike Pence was once seen as someone who could soften Trump’s rough edges and serve as a bridge to both movement conservatives and mainstream journalists. And just like Conway, it is now clear that Pence is out of the loop.... The next time he goes on TV and says that something did or did not happen, why should anybody believe him?... Flynn’s transformation from respected high-ranking military official to a peddler of conspiracy theories to a disgraced shortest-serving National Security Advisor in American history is a pretty stunning reputational collapse.... The people who hitched their star to his wagon might end up permanently tarnished." --safari

Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "Congressional Republicans ... have ... found themselves ... gliding toward nowhere. After moving to start rolling back the Affordable Care Act just days after President Trump was sworn in last month, Republican lawmakers and Mr. Trump have yet to deliver on any of the sweeping legislation they promised. Efforts to come up with a replacement for the health care law have been stymied by disagreements among Republicans about how to proceed. The same is true for a proposed overhaul of the tax code. The large infrastructure bill that both Democrats and Mr. Trump were eager to pursue has barely been mentioned.... Even a simple emergency spending bill that the Trump administration promised weeks ago — which was expected to include a proposal for his wall on the Mexican border — has not materialized.... At this point in Barack Obama’s presidency, when Democrats controlled Washington, Congress had passed a stimulus bill totaling nearly $1 trillion to address the financial crisis, approved a measure preventing pay discrimination, expanded a children’s health insurance program, and begun laying the groundwork for major health care and financial regulation bills." CW: Maybe it's just as well. To a large extent, their incompetence & disarray are serving to counter their greed & malevolence.  

Noam Scheiber of the New York Times: "Union organizers fell far short on Wednesday in a bid to enlist workers at Boeing’s South Carolina facilities in what was widely viewed as an early test of labor’s strength in the Trump era. Organizers with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers failed to persuade a majority of about 3,000 union-eligible Boeing workers in the state to vote for the union amid enormous pressure from management. Boeing said 74 percent of the more than 2,800 workers voting rejected the union. Many analysts say that Boeing decided to put its second Dreamliner aircraft assembly line in the state to reduce the leverage of the machinists’ union, which represents Boeing’s work force in ... Washington State and has used work stoppages to exact concessions from the company in the past. South Carolina is one of the least unionized states in the country." -- CW 

Mary Schladen of the El Paso Times, in USA Today: "Federal immigration agents went to the El Paso County Courthouse last week and arrested an undocumented woman who had just received a protective order alleging that she was a victim of domestic violence. The agents apparently detained the woman Feb. 9 after receiving a tip, possibly from her alleged abuser, whom they already had in custody, El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal said. The detention has alarmed Bernal and other county officials who fear that the arrest will scare undocumented victims of domestic abuse into staying with their abusers for fear of being deported and separated from their children or other family members." -- CW ...

... Dara Lind of Vox: "On Tuesday, news broke that a DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] recipient, Daniel Ramirez Medina, had been arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in the Seattle area and put in immigration detention. It’s not clear whether Ramirez is actually being put in deportation proceedings, or whether DHS is stripping him of his protections — or if this is all a mistake. But in the context of the broader uncertainty that DACA recipients are feeling under the Trump administration, and the widespread panic caused by nationwide immigration raids last week, the case has gotten a lot of public attention very quickly. How it gets resolved will send a strong message about how safe 'DACAmented' immigrants really are under Trump.... President Trump has said that any unauthorized immigrant in the US should be deportable. But he has also said that the 750,000 immigrants who’ve been protected by the ... DACA program — which grants two-year protection from deportation and work permits to young adults who came to the US as children — are 'terrific' people who shouldn’t worry about their futures. Those two positions always conflicted. And while the Trump administration is still delaying a decision on what to do with the 'DREAMers' who’ve received DACA protections, it looks like the crisis is coming to a head." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Update. Sam Levin of the Guardian: [Daniel] "Medina’s lawyers have since filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Homeland Security alleging unlawful seizure and detention, leading chief US magistrate judge James Donohue to order the government to justify its actions.... David Leopold, a leading immigration lawyer, said the fact that [Medina] had been detained for several days already suggested that it was not an error, but part of a broader policy.... Coupled with the recent Ice raids, 'It adds up to a new policy that we’re going to remove anybody we can get our hands on,' said Leopold...." -- CW ...

... Ryan Devereaux of The Intercept: "Lawmakers representing hispanic communities across the country are demanding answers from the Department of Homeland Security following a series of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement operations that led to hundreds of arrests in multiple states last week — so far, the elected officials say, they aren’t getting them. On Tuesday, ICE’s acting director, Thomas Homan, cancelled a meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in which he was to provide details...explain the guidance given to his agents in conducting the operations. ICE had described the operations as “routine,” but when Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, head of the Hispanic caucus, called the ICE chief following the cancellation of yesterday’s meeting, she learned that was not exactly the case. 'He confirmed that there’s a shift in policy but did not give me the details about what that means,' Grisham told The Intercept." --safari

Beyond the Beltway

Laurel Raymond of ThinkProgress: "A group of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s (R-CA) constituents went to his office on Tuesday to deliver Valentine’s cards. They go every Tuesday now, asking Rohrabacher to hold a town hall meeting in his district. But now, after a confused tussle in the hallway involving a 2-year old and a 71-year-old-woman, Rohrabacher is now accusing them of engaging in 'political thuggery, pure and simple.'...In dismissing the activists, Rohrabacher is also echoing a common refrain among Republican congresspeople who are struggling to respond to newly politically active constituents in the aftermath of the presidential election." --safari