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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

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

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

Thursday
Jan172019

The Commentariat -- January 18, 2019

Late Morning Update:

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trump Shutdown, Etc., Ctd.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond the Beltway

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

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

Wednesday
Jan162019

The Commentariat -- January 17, 2019

Afternoon Update:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

Eric Schmitt & Ben Hubbard of the New York Times: "American troops were among 15 people killed on Wednesday in a suicide bombing in northern Syria that was claimed by the Islamic State, just weeks after President Trump ordered the withdrawal of United States forces with what he declared the extremist group’s defeat. The attack targeted a restaurant in the northern city of Manbij where American soldiers would sometimes stop to eat during their patrols of the area, residents said. After the blast, a number of Americans were evacuated by helicopter, they said. It was not immediately clear how many had been in the area at the time of the blast." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Pence Says What He's Told to Say, No Matter the Facts on the Ground. Jennifer Hansler of CNN: "On the same day that an ISIS-claimed attack killed US service members in Syria, Vice President Mike Pence declared that 'the caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated.' Pence's remark to the Global Chiefs of Mission conference at the US State Department came about an hour after the US-led coalition confirmed that American troops had been killed in an explosion in Manbij. 'U.S. service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria today. We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time,' the tweet from Operation Inherent Resolve said. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, which the ISIS-affiliated Amaq agency said was carried out by a suicide bomber with an explosive vest." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Well, Maybe pence Stepped out Here. David Sanger of the New York Times: "Vice President Mike Pence told American ambassadors on Wednesday that North Korea has failed to take any substantive steps to give up its nuclear weapons, even as President Trump is moving toward a second meeting with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader. 'While the president has started a promising dialogue with Chairman Kim,' Mr. Pence told the gathering at the State Department, 'we still await concrete steps by North Korea to dismantle the nuclear weapons that threaten our people and our allies in the region.' With the unequivocal statement, Mr. Pence seemed to directly contradict the president’s claim on Twitter, after his first summit meeting in June, that 'there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.' At the time, many of Mr. Trump’s top aides cringed at the declaration, fearing it would take the economic pressure off the North to disarm.”

The Trump Shutdown, Ctd.

Trump Exploits Unpaid Workers for His Own Gain. Nancy Cook of Politico: "The Trump administration is pushing the legal boundaries of a government shutdown, fueling fears that the president is manipulating federal agencies and workers to soften the political blow against him. In recent days, agencies have called back to work thousands of furloughed federal employees, restarted services and pursued key policies at shuttered agencies. The activity has legal experts, administration officials and veterans of past shutdowns questioning what actually constitutes a government shutdown if the administration can simply resurrect its preferred services and à la carte policy to-do list nearly a month after funding technically expired for several agencies. So far, the Trump administration has continued to plow forward on its controversial immigration policies, brought back workers to ensure government assistance gets to farmers and ranchers — a key constituency — and is weighing whether to recall workers would could assist in the federal rulemaking process that has been stymied during the shutdown, according to administration officials. 'What they are doing is making an obligation and policy without Congress’s approval,' said Barry Anderson, former deputy director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. 'Congress is saying there is no money for this and Trump is still doing it.'... Already, House Democrats are questioning some these shutdown decisions, focusing most recently on an Interior Department decision to bring back employees working on offshore drilling efforts, another politically divisive policy move. They slammed the move as illegal and demanded an end to it.” ...

... Katie Rogers & Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "As the government shutdown stretches into its fourth week, the Trump administration is reinterpreting longstanding rules to open the federal government piece by piece, forcing thousands of workers to report to work without pay, many of them in sectors that could minimize damage to the president’s base.... In past shutdowns, only workers deemed 'essential' to protecting life and property — a category that would include people like Secret Service agents — were allowed to work."

Katie Mettler of the Washington Post: "... in public remarks at the White House, at the border and at farming conventions, the president has been talking about tape on the mouths of migrant women. On at least eight occasions over a period of 12 days this month, the president has argued publicly for his proposed wall on the southern border by claiming without evidence that traffickers tie up and silence women with tape before illegally driving them through the desert from Mexico to the United States in the backs of cars and windowless vans. In Trump’s telling, the adhesive is sometimes blue tape. Other times it is electrical tape or duct tape.... With an eerie specificity, Trump has characterized these acts as commonplace. Yet human-trafficking experts and advocates for immigrant women have said they are perplexed by this increasingly repeated story in Trump’s repertoire — and are at a loss for where he got his information. It was not from them, they say; in fact, they have no idea what he is talking about." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Could what Mettler describes as Trump's "salacious and graphic" descriptions have anything to do with a preference for tying up women & silencing them? Nah. It's just that some of his lies are weirder than others. Maybe.

Juliegrace Brufke of the Hill: "The House passed a Democratic-backed emergency disaster relief bill on Wednesday that includes an amendment funding the federal government through early February. The bill passed in a 237-187 vote, with six Republicans joining Democrats in voting for the measure, which would reopen parts of the government and fund them through Feb. 8. The legislation introduced by House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) would provide $12.1 billion in disaster relief funding for areas impacted by Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Michael and the California wildfires, as well as other areas impacted by natural disasters last year. The measure is not expected to be taken up in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has vowed to not bring any spending measure to reopen the government to the floor unless President Trump has signaled he will sign it."

#WheresMitch? Freshman Democrats Went on a Mitch Hunt. They Didn't Find Him. Lesley Clark of McClatchy News: "On Wednesday, [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York..., called [Mitch] McConnell out on Twitter and for the second time in two days joined a parade of House freshmen who crossed from the House to the Capitol and over to McConnell’s Senate office. They delivered a letter calling on McConnell to put the House spending bills up for a vote 'so that we can end this manufactured crisis.'... 'We’re here doing our jobs,' Ocasio-Cortez said, standing by McConnell’s office. 'We have voted, repeatedly, over and over again to re-open the government. Where’s Mitch? That’s my question.' She accused McConnell of ducking the members of Congress and said the freshmen wanted to have a 'conversation with him about getting people their paychecks.' McConnell’s office provided the House members with use of a copier to run off more letters and McConnell’s deputy chief of staff, Don Stewart, said he told them he’d deliver the letter to McConnell.”


Read more here: https://www.mcclatchydc.com/latest-news/article224626295.html#storylink=cpy”

Read more here: https://www.mcclatchydc.com/latest-news/article224626295.html#storylink=cpy

Jordyn Phelps of ABC News: "A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers from the House Problem Solvers Caucus sat down with President Trump at the White House Wednesday as the president continues to demand funding to build a southern border wall as a condition for ending the partial government shutdown.... The seven Democrats who attended Wednesday’s meeting released a statement as they arrived at the White House saying they accepted the president’s invitation in order to relay their message that the government must be reopened as a precondition for further in-earnest conversations."

Heather Caygle & Rachel Bade of Politico: "Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday asked ... Donald Trump to reschedule his State of the Union address — or deliver it in writing — as long as the government remains shut down. Pelosi said the partial shutdown has hamstrung both the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security, potentially harming the security planning that precedes the primetime address." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I look forward to the first SOTU written in crayon. ...

... Jordan Fabian of the Hill: "The Trump administration on Wednesday pushed back on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) claim that 'security concerns' caused by the partial government shutdown should force the postponement of President Trump’s State of the Union address. 'The Department of Homeland Security and the US Secret Service are fully prepared to support and secure the State of the Union,' Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said on Twitter.... White House officials have been considering using the president’s annual address to the nation to admonish Democrats over the shutdown and their opposition to Trump’s request for $5.7 billion in funding for a border wall." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Kirstjen there doesn't seem to understand the concept of how to deal with an unwelcome guest. You make up a fake excuse to uninvite them. It's kinda like British Queen Elizabeth's "welcome" to Trump. As a heads-of-state of countries that used to have a "special relationship," Elizabeth was had to invite the Trumps to tea. But she made it a very short, low-key affair, and the other royals all stayed away. No photos of a tête-à-tête in the Queen's parlor, no snaps of Trump playing with the grandkids. ...

... Speaking of Trump's playing with kids ...

... The Bloody Hand of Trump. Ben Schreckinger of Politico: "... the back of Trump’s right hand was covered with an adhesive bandage during a Thursday trip to McAllen, Texas, with blood visibly seeping through the dressing. His hand was similarly bandaged again on Monday as he departed for a trip to New Orleans.... The White House said on Tuesday that Trump sustained the injury while playing with his 12-year-old son. 'The President was having fun and joking around with his son Barron and scratched his hand,' White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told Politico." Uh-huh.

Jim Tankersley of the New York Times: "The partial government shutdown is inflicting far greater damage on the United States economy than previously estimated, the White House acknowledged on Tuesday, as President Trump’s economists doubled projections of how much economic growth is being lost each week the standoff with Democrats continues. The revised estimates from the Council of Economic Advisers show that the shutdown, now in its fourth week, is beginning to have real economic consequences. The analysis, and other projections from outside the White House, suggests that the shutdown has already weighed significantly on growth and could ultimately push the United States economy into a contraction.... Mr. Trump, who has hitched his political success to the economy, also faces other economic headwinds, including slowing global growth, a trade war with China and the waning effects of a $1.5 trillion tax cut." (Also linked yesterday.)

This Russia Thing, Etc., Ctd.

Jessica Taylor of NPR: "Officials leasing the Old Post Office Building for the Trump International Hotel in Washington improperly ignored the Constitution's anti-corruption clauses when they continued to lease the government property to President Trump even after he won the White House, according to an internal federal government watchdog. The Inspector General for the General Services Administration, the agency that leased the building to Trump in 2013, said in a report published Wednesday that agency lawyers decided to ignore the constitutional issues when they reviewed the lease after Trump won the 2016 election. 'The GSA Office of General Counsel recognized that the President's business interest in the lease raised issues under the U.S. Constitution that might cause a breach of the lease, yet chose not to address those issues,' said Inspector General Carol F. Ochoa." Thanks to Ken W. for the link.

Garrett Graff of Wired: "It would be rather embarrassing for Donald Trump at this point if Robert Mueller were to declare that the president isn’t an agent of Russian intelligence.... We’ve reached a point in the Mueller probe where there are only two scenarios left: Either the president is compromised by the Russian government and has been working covertly to cooperate with Vladimir Putin after Russia helped win him the 2016 election — or Trump will go down in history as the world’s most famous 'useful idiot,' as communists used to call those who could be co-opted to the cause without realizing it." ...

... Conservative Charles Sykes of the Bulwark: "Hanlon’s Razor is a common sense aphorism that reminds us, 'Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.' It is a distant cousin of the more famous Occam’s Razor, which postulated that simpler explanations are more likely to be correct than complex and convoluted theories. So, the question I’ve been asking is whether Hanlon’s Razor can be applied to the question of Trump’s bizarre romance with Vladimir Putin. Is it malice? Or stupidity?... There are really only two plausible explanations for all of this: (1) Donald Trump is a witting tool of Russia, either from conviction or because of some, as yet unknown, kompromat, or (2) he is a naive fool whose vanity blinds him to the depths of his ignorance and recklessness." ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: If Vladimir Putin is as wily as many U.S. intel specialists think he is, he did not hire Trump as an asset. As Trump himself has claimed, Vlad told him that "Moscow’s cyberoperators are so good at covert computer-network operations that if they had dipped into the Democratic National Committee’s systems, they would not have been caught." Remember, it took the CIA a decade to catch dangerous double-agent Aldrich Ames. But Trump is a blundering buffoon. His support for all things Russia is so obvious that the FBI started investigating his ties to Russia soon after he took office, & they were investigatng Trump's subordinates months before that. The AP reported yesterday, "Top Russian officials ridiculed the idea that ... Donald Trump could have worked for Russia's interests, dismissing them Wednesday as 'absurd' and 'stupid.' They could be telling the truth. Trump clearly is not qualifed for the job.

Erin Banco of the Daily Beast: "Rick Gates, the former campaign aide to Donald Trump, is cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into whether individuals from the Middle East worked with the Trump campaign to influence the election, according to two individuals with first-hand knowledge of the investigation. Gates has answered questions specifically about Psy Group, an Israeli firm that ex-employees say drew up social media manipulation plans to help the Trump campaign, according to sources familiar with the questions. Mueller’s team also asked Gates about interactions with Psy Group’s owner, Joel Zamel, and Lebanese-American businessman George Nader, who worked as an emissary for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the sources said.... Gates requested proposals in 2016 from Psy Group that would help Trump in his campaign for president, The New York Times reported last year. Those proposals included social media manipulation tactics such as creating fake avatars to engage voters and Republican campaign delegates.... Psy Group employees told The Daily Beast they have been interviewed by the FBI...."

Rudy Contradicts Donaldovich. Again. Caroline Kelly of CNN: "Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday that he never denied ... Donald Trump's campaign colluded with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign, only that the President himself was not involved in collusion. In an interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo..., Giuliani ... said he doesn't know if other people in the campaign, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, were working with the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential race. 'I never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or people in the campaign,"' Giuliani said.... 'I said the President of the United States....' It's another remarkable statement from Giuliani, given that the President and his supporters have repeatedly denied any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. A person familiar with the matter told CNN last week that Manafort, while serving as Trump's campaign chairman, tried to send internal polling data from the Trump campaign with two Kremlin-supporting Ukrainian oligarchs through his associate Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian national who is linked to Russian intelligence. When Cuomo asked if Manafort sharing such data with foreign agents constituted collusion, Giuliani said Trump never shared the polling data himself and only found out about it recently in the news."

Here's a screenshot of a New York mag "Daily Intelligencer" "report" on Mueller's redacted court filing supporting prosecutors' claims that Paul Manafort lied to investigators (related story linked below):

Matt Novak of Gizmodo: "According to a strange new report in the Wall Street Journal..., Michael Cohen hired a small tech company called RedFinch Solutions to rig online polls in favor of Trump.... Cohen even paid to have a vanity Twitter account made called WomenForCohen which described the attorney as 'strong' a 'pit bull,' and, perhaps least convincing, a 'sex symbol.'... According to the WSJ, the guy who operates the tiny tech company hired by Cohen, John Gauger, got stiffed on payment. Gauger also claims that the fraction of the money he was finally paid was only paid in cash that was stuffed inside of a Walmart shopping bag. Seriously.... Gauger is also reportedly the CIO at Liberty University in Virginia, operated by Trump ally and morally confused sack of shit Jerry Falwell Jr.... Ultimately, Cohen billed the Trump Organization for the full $50,000 despite only paying out the roughly $13,000 in cash to Gauger.”

Jordain Carney of the Hill: "The Senate on Wednesday narrowly rejected a Democratic-led effort to block President Trump from lifting sanctions against three Russian businesses. Senators voted 57-42 to end debate on the resolution, falling short of the 60 votes needed. With all Democrats supporting the measure, they needed to win over 13 GOP senators." (Also linked yesterday.)

Mrs. McCrabbie: Constitutional law professor Larry Tribe was on MSNBC & made the same point I did yesterday: that Bill Barr has set up a fail-safe excuse for never releasing negative and incriminating information about Trump. Bob Mueller -- who also reportedly believes a president* cannot be indicted -- should rethink that, given Barr's Senate testimony. If Mueller were to indict Trump -- even if the Supremes eventually decide that Trump is untouchable -- he can load the indictment & subsequent filings with whatever evidence he has collected against Trump. Alternatively, I suppose Mueller also could get in a good deal of incriminating evidence against Individual A into indictments of Trump's associates. I suspect this second method necessarily would leave significant gaps in the narrative, but it might be better than nothing Barring a successful legal challenge from the House (which could include subpoenaing Mueller to testify), I don't see another way for the public -- and the House -- to find out what Mueller's team has uncovered about Trump. ...

... Michael Schmidt & Charlie Savage of the New York Times review the options.


The Trump-Tyson Plan: No Plan. Jonathan Swan
of Axios: "When a frustrated adviser once tried to convince President Trump to consider a strategic plan, the president launched into a story about his friend Mike Tyson, the former world heavyweight boxing champion.... 'Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth,' Trump said, echoing a famous Tyson quote. I had asked the adviser whether Trump ever expressed frustration that his West Wing lacked enough of a plan for the crises ahead. 'He gets frustrated when there is a plan,' the adviser said. 'He’s not a guy who likes a plan. ... There’s an animosity towards planning, and there’s a desire to pick fights that have nothing to do with us.' 'We can plan all this stuff out but it’ll change,' the president continued. 'So let’s just not go through the effort.' The adviser said that Trump's 'main view was that all this stuff wasn’t predictable, ... which is unfortunately not accurate. ... It absolutely is predictable.' Trump used the Tyson quote as evidence that detailed strategic plans are pointless and said, in the adviser’s recollection, 'We’ve just gotta fight every day and that’s how we win.'" (Also linked yesterday.)

Uh, About The U.S. Trade Deficit. In the abstract to a paper by Andrew Rose of the National Bureau of Economic Research, Rose writes, "I conservatively estimate that the >20 percentage point decline in foreign approval of American leadership between 2016 (the final year of Obama’s presidency) and 2017 (Trump’s first year) lowered American exports by at least $3 billion." Via New York's Daily Intelligencer. Mrs. McC: Somebody should tell Trump if he's as concerned about the trade deficit as he continually claims to be, he should quit his job.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Federal authorities on Wednesday arrested a metro Atlanta man they said was plotting to attack the White House but instead got entangled with the FBI. Hasher Jallal Taheb, 21, of Cumming, was taken into custody in Gwinnett County while allegedly trying to exchange his vehicle for explosives. He later appeared in court in downtown Atlanta in the case brought the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. Authorities said Taheb was acting alone and they made no accusation that had ties to any terrorist group. He was arrested after a tip from a resident who said the young man had been radicalized." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I'm guessing, based on very sketchy information, that Taheb is a native-born black American. If I'm right (and I'm not sure I am), obviously Trump's Muslim ban would not have caught him.

Alexander Kaufman of the Huffington Post: "Andrew Wheeler, the former coal lobbyist chosen by ... Donald Trump to serve as the next Environmental Protection Agency administrator, downplayed the threat of climate change at his confirmation hearing on Wednesday. He refused to call the rapid warming of the planet a crisis. He repeatedly misrepresented his own agency’s findings about a rule to gut an Obama-era power plant regulation, inflating the emissions cuts the new proposal would mandate. He even mixed up two of the most important climate science reports to come out in the last three months, admitting he hadn’t fully read the report co-authored by researchers at his own agency. 'I believe climate change is a global issue that must be addressed globally,' Wheeler said. 'I would not call it the greatest crisis, no sir.' It was a brazen if not unexpected stance from the nominee to become the EPA’s 15th administrator. Wheeler isn’t new to the job: Last month, he became the longest-serving acting chief in the agency’s history, having taken over in July when former Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned in disgrace amid mounting scandals.”

Tracy Jan, et al., of the Washington Post: "A top Department of Housing and Urban Development official is leaving the agency Thursday following disagreements with other members of the Trump administration over housing policy and the White House’s attempt to block disaster-recovery money for Puerto Rico, according to five people with direct knowledge of the situation. Deputy Secretary Pam Patenaude, second-in-command at the agency helmed by Ben Carson and widely regarded as HUD’s most capable political leader, is said to have grown frustrated by what a former HUD employee described as a 'Sisyphean undertaking.'” Mrs. McC: The story makes Patenaude sound like the only political appointee at HUD who had any institutional experience or who gave a rat's ass about carrying out its mission. That may be so. So what is she going to do with her retirement? “I’m going to continue to be supportive of the president and his agenda. I’m going to be working very hard for his reelection.” Excellent.

Hachette Job. Axios: "Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie settles scores in 'Let Me Finish,' a memoir out Jan. 29 from Hachette Books, writing that President Trump 'trusts people he shouldn’t, including some of the people who are closest to him.'... Christie asserts that Trump has a 'revolving door of deeply flawed individuals — amateurs, grifters, weaklings, convicted and unconvicted felons — who were hustled into jobs they were never suited for, sometimes seemingly without so much as a background check via Google or Wikipedia.'" (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Ed Pilkington & Martin Pengelly of the Guardian: "Chris Christie, who was ousted as chairman of Donald Trump’s White House transition team in 2016, has written a blistering attack on Jared Kushner, whom he accuses of having carried out a political 'hit job' on him as an act of revenge for prosecuting his father, Charles Kushner, a decade ago.... Even for a White House that has generated an extraordinary cornucopia of hypercritical kiss-and-tell books, Christie’s is exceptional for its excoriating description of events at which he was present." (Also linked yesterday.)

Will Sommer of the Daily Beast: "Notorious alt-right figure and Holocaust denier Chuck Johnson met with two Republican lawmakers in Congress on Wednesday. Johnson’s visit was first noted by a HuffPost reporter, who tweeted a picture of Reps. Andy Harris (R-MD) and Phil Roe (R-TN) walking with Johnson.... Johnson, a former Breitbart reporter, has denied the magnitude of the Holocaust, expressing doubt that gas chambers were real and questioning whether six million Jews were really killed — a figure that has been well documented by scholars and historians. He also ran crowdfunding efforts for white supremacist causes, including the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. In statements, the lawmakers confirmed that they had met with Johnson to discuss genetic testing and DNA, but claimed they weren’t aware of Johnson’s history of making racist statements."

Presidential Race 2020. Laura Santhanam of PBS News: "With the 2020 presidential election already underway, 57 percent of registered voters said they would definitely vote against ... Donald Trump, according to the latest poll from the PBS NewsHour, NPR and Marist. Another 30 percent of voters said they would cast their ballot to support Trump, and an additional 13 percent said they had no idea who would get their vote."

Beyond the Beltway

Sarah Mervosh & Julia Jacobs of the New York Times: "John Engler, the interim president of Michigan State University, plans to resign after recent remarks he made that some of the victims of the former university and U.S.A. Gymnastics doctor Lawrence G. Nassar appeared to be enjoying 'the spotlight,' a member of the university’s board of trustees said Wednesday evening.... Mr. Engler, a former three-term Republican governor of Michigan, has been criticized by ... board members in recent days.... Mr. Engler, 70, has served as interim president of the university since early last year, after Lou Anna K. Simon resigned as president the same day that Dr. Nassar was sentenced for sexual abuse. She was later charged with lying to the police about what she knew of the abuse allegations against Dr. Nassar."

Way Beyond

Heather Stewart, et al., of the Guardian: "Theresa May has survived as prime minister after weathering a dramatic no-confidence vote in her government, but was left scrambling to strike a Brexit compromise that could secure the backing of parliament. In a statement in Downing Street on Wednesday night, the prime minister exhorted politicians from all parties to 'put aside self-interest, and promised to consult with MPs with 'the widest possible range of views' in the coming days. She had earlier announced that she would invite Jeremy Corbyn and other party leaders for immediate talks on how to secure a Brexit deal, although Labour later said Corbyn would decline the invitation unless no-deal was taken off the table."

Wednesday
Jan162019

The Commentariat -- January 16, 2019

Morning/Afternoon Update:

Jordain Carney of the Hill: "The Senate on Wednesday narrowly rejected a Democratic-led effort to block President Trump from lifting sanctions against three Russian businesses. Senators voted 57-42 to end debate on the resolution, falling short of the 60 votes needed. With all Democrats supporting the measure, they needed to win over 13 GOP senators."

Here's a screenshot of a New York mag "Daily Intelligencer" "report" on Mueller's redacted court filing supporting prosecutors' claims that Paul Manafort lied to investigators (related story linked below):

The Trump-Tyson Plan: No Plan. Jonathan Swan of Axios: "When a frustrated adviser once tried to convince President Trump to consider a strategic plan, the president launched into a story about his friend Mike Tyson, the former world heavyweight boxing champion.... 'Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth,' Trump said, echoing a famous Tyson quote. I had asked the adviser whether Trump ever expressed frustration that his West Wing lacked enough of a plan for the crises ahead. 'He gets frustrated when there is a plan,' the adviser said. 'He’s not a guy who likes a plan. ... There’s an animosity towards planning, and there’s a desire to pick fights that have nothing to do with us.' 'We can plan all this stuff out but it’ll change,' the president continued. 'So let’s just not go through the effort.' The adviser said that Trump's 'main view was that all this stuff wasn’t predictable, ... which is unfortunately not accurate. ... It absolutely is predictable.' Trump used the Tyson quote as evidence that detailed strategic plans are pointless and said, in the adviser’s recollection, 'We’ve just gotta fight every day and that’s how we win.'"

Eric Schmitt & Ben Hubbard of the New York Times: "American troops were among 15 people killed on Wednesday in a suicide bombing in northern Syria that was claimed by the Islamic State, just weeks after President Trump ordered the withdrawal of United States forces with what he declared the extremist group’s defeat. The attack targeted a restaurant in the northern city of Manbij where American soldiers would sometimes stop to eat during their patrols of the area, residents said. After the blast, a number of Americans were evacuated by helicopter, they said. It was not immediately clear how many had been in the area at the time of the blast." ...

... Pence Says What He's Told to Say, No Matter the Facts on the Ground. Jennifer Hansler of CNN: "On the same day that an ISIS-claimed attack killed US service members in Syria, Vice President Mike Pence declared that 'the caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated.' Pence's remark to the Global Chiefs of Mission conference at the US State Department came about an hour after the US-led coalition confirmed that American troops had been killed in an explosion in Manbij. 'U.S. service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria today. We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time,' the tweet from Operation Inherent Resolve said. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, which the ISIS-affiliated Amaq agency said was carried out by a suicide bomber with an explosive vest."

Heather Caygle & Rachel Bade of Politico: "Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday asked ... Donald Trump to reschedule his State of the Union address — or deliver it in writing — as long as the government remains shut down. Pelosi said the partial shutdown has hamstrung both the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security, potentially harming the security planning that precedes the primetime address." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I look forward to the first SOTU written in crayon.

Jim Tankersley of the New York Times: "The partial government shutdown is inflicting far greater damage on the United States economy than previously estimated, the White House acknowledged on Tuesday, as President Trump’s economists doubled projections of how much economic growth is being lost each week the standoff with Democrats continues. The revised estimates from the Council of Economic Advisers show that the shutdown, now in its fourth week, is beginning to have real economic consequences. The analysis, and other projections from outside the White House, suggests that the shutdown has already weighed significantly on growth and could ultimately push the United States economy into a contraction.... Mr. Trump, who has hitched his political success to the economy, also faces other economic headwinds, including slowing global growth, a trade war with China and the waning effects of a $1.5 trillion tax cut."

Hachette Job. Axios: "Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie settles scores in 'Let Me Finish,' a memoir out Jan. 29 from Hachette Books, writing that President Trump 'trusts people he shouldn’t, including some of the people who are closest to him.'... Christie asserts that Trump has a 'revolving door of deeply flawed individuals — amateurs, grifters, weaklings, convicted and unconvicted felons — who were hustled into jobs they were never suited for, sometimes seemingly without so much as a background check via Google or Wikipedia.'" ...

... Ed Pilkington & Martin Pengelly of the Guardian: "Chris Christie, who was ousted as chairman of Donald Trump’s White House transition team in 2016, has written a blistering attack on Jared Kushner, whom he accuses of having carried out a political 'hit job' on him as an act of revenge for prosecuting his father, Charles Kushner, a decade ago.... Even for a White House that has generated an extraordinary cornucopia of hypercritical kiss-and-tell books, Christie’s is exceptional for its excoriating description of events at which he was present."

*****

Devlin Barrett, et al., of the Washington Post: "Attorney general nominee William P. Barr suggested Tuesday that any report written by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III might not be made public, signaling the possibility of future battles within the government over his findings. The remarks by Barr, who is expected to be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate, highlight the uncertainty surrounding how he will grapple with what many expect will be the final steps of Mueller’s investigation into President Trump, his advisers and Russian interference in the 2016 election.... In a sign of potential fights to come, Barr said any report from Mueller would probably be treated like internal Justice Department prosecution memos that are kept secret. In a chippy back-and-forth with Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Barr cast doubt on the notion that Mueller’s report might be made public.... Barr said he ... would not commit to following the recommendation of ethics officials if they saw a reason for him to recuse from overseeing the Russia investigation." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Barr has set up a perfect Catch-22 here. On the one hand, he wrote in his infamous 19-page memo that a president "can't be prosecuted for obstruction of justice on a basis of acts that don't strictly involve impairment of evidence." In addition, there are DOJ memos, which Mueller is expected to follow, opining that a president or a president* cannot be indicted for any crimes while s/he reamins in office. On the other hand, Barr said in Senate testimony yesterday, “If you’re not going to indict someone, you don’t stand up there and unload negative information about the person. That’s not the way the department does business.” (This came in response to questions about Jim Comey's remarkable Hillary-Clinton-was-extremely-careless presser.) Since (1) Trump can't be charged & (2) Barr won't "unload negative information" about He Who Cannot Be Charged, there is no way Barr will divulge what the Mueller team has found out about Trump's bad behavior. The "report" the public receives may contain damning information about Trump's underlings, but it will be silent about Trump. Unless the House can remedy Barr's likely decision through some (probably protracted) legal action, Barr will render Mueller's report essentially useless for present-day purposes. It will be 25 years or more before Mueller's report is declassified.

New York Times reporters live-updated William Barr's Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... The Washington Post's live updates are here. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Marianne Levine & Darren Samuelsohn of Politico: "Attorney General nominee William Barr ... told Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that he did not think Mueller 'would be involved in a witch hunt,' a term Trump has used repeatedly to deride the investigation. Barr also told the Judiciary Committee that he agreed with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation — the primary reason Trump soured on Sessions." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Graham Adorns Tin Foil Hat. Jackie Kucinich & Spencer Ackerman of The Daily Beast: "Newly minted Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) wasted no time in bringing in right-wing conspiracy theories about FBI and Justice Department misconduct into the confirmation hearing of President Trump’s attorney general nominee William Barr, asking him to 'clean up this place' should he be installed as the nation’s top cop." --s ...

... Barr Thought the Mueller Probe Was Unwarranted. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: In 2017, William P. Barr’ ... appeared to advocate more investigations of the Clintons. But Barr’s attempt to explain away those comments didn’t make a whole lot of sense. And in sum, they suggest he didn’t think much of Mueller’s collusion investigation, either. Barr was confronted with a New York Times report in which he had said there was more to substantiate an investigation of Hillary Clinton for the Uranium One deal than the probe into potential Trump campaign collusion with Russia.... This was especially significant because the Uranium One claims have largely been dismissed as conspiracy theories, including by The Washington Post’s Fact Checker.... Shortly after [the Senate confirmation] exchange, Times reporter Peter Baker released the whole email Barr sent him at the time[, which included this opinion: '... the ultimate question is whether the matter warrants investigation, and I have long believed that the predicate for investigating the uranium deal, as well as the foundation, is far stronger than any basis for investigating so-called "collusion."’]... Asked to account for the full email later in the hearing, Barr explained that he wasn’t particularly keen on a criminal investigation into the Clinton Foundation, either.... Okay, but even if you accept the idea that Barr wasn’t so gung-ho about investigating the Clintons — which is perhaps plausible — the email makes it abundantly evident that he thought there was even less to prompt the Russian collusion probe than those investigations." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: You would be excused for suspecting Barr was a political hack & not as devoted to "the rule of law" he claimed to be during the hearing. Incidentally, Dick Durbin did ask Barr (as I suggested yesterday) why the hell he would take a job working for an ass like Trump, & his answer was "blah-blah rule of law blah-blah I'm an old guy." (slight paraphrase)

... Trumpian Qualifications. Scott Bixby of The Daily Beast: "Decades before President Donald Trump nominated William Barr to retake the reins at the Department of Justice, Barr used the post to indefinitely detain hundreds of HIV-positive asylum-seekers at a Guantanamo Bay detention center, deemed an 'HIV prison camp' by a federal judge who ruled the quarantine to be in gross violation of the U.S. Constitution. That policy, part of a program that at its peak held more than 12,000 Haitian refugees at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, helped lay the legal groundwork for the indefinite incarceration of 'enemy combatants' in the War on Terror — and institutionalized the detention system that President Trump has made a cornerstone of his immigration policy." --s

The Trump Shutdown, Ctd.

Theater of the Absurd. Julie Davis & Sheryl Stolberg of the New York Times: "The Trump administration said Tuesday that it would summon tens of thousands of federal employees back to work without pay to get the government running amid a partial shutdown well into its third week, as the White House and increasingly agitated lawmakers on Capitol Hill cast about for a way to end the stalemate. On a day of inertia and theatrics in Washington, the partisan disconnect fueling the deadlock was on full — sometimes absurd — display. House Democrats spurned an invitation by President Trump to a bipartisan lunch at the White House, drawing howls of outrage from Mr. Trump’s team, while Democrats dismissed the steak-and-potatoes meal as little more than a photo opportunity. A group of House Democratic freshmen marched across the Capitol — with reporters in tow — to publicly confront Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, with demands to end the impasse. But Mr. McConnell was not in his office, so they left a note. In between the choreographed scenes of non-negotiation, Republicans and Democrats toiled privately to find a solution that Mr. Trump would accept. The talks were expected to continue Wednesday, after the president issued yet another invitation to a group of centrists from both parties, the Problem Solvers Caucus, who were scheduled to attend a meeting with him in the Situation Room." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: This entire farce, of course, swirls around a mad king whom all the other actors are devising schemes to appease or to trick into reopening the realm. I'm waiting for the scene where we find Nancy or Chuck hiding in a White House closet. Sadly, many in the audience are not able to laugh till some character foils the mad king.

Erica Werner of the Washington Post: "The Trump administration on Tuesday said it has called back tens of thousands of federal workers to fulfill key government tasks, including disbursing tax refunds, overseeing flight safety and inspecting the nation’s food and drug supply, as it seeks to blunt the impact of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. The nearly 50,000 furloughed federal employees are being brought back to work without pay — part of a group of about 800,000 federal workers who are not receiving paychecks during the shutdown, which is affecting dozens of federal agencies large and small. A federal judge on Tuesday rejected a bid by unions representing air traffic controllers and other federal workers to force the government to pay them if they are required to work."

Nice Try, Senators. Jordain Carney of the Hill: "Senate Republicans blocked a House-passed package to reopen the federal government for a second time in as many weeks on Tuesday. Democratic Sens. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and Ben Cardin (Md.) asked for consent to take up a package of bills that would reopen the federal government. One bill would fund the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8, while the other would fund the rest of the impacted departments and agencies through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. Under Senate rules, any senator can ask for consent to vote on or pass a bill, but any senator can object. [Mitch] McConnell blocked the two bills, saying the Senate wouldn't 'participate in something that doesn't lead to an outcome.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Nice Try, Trump. Jordan Fabian & Scott Wong of the Hill: "No Democrats will attend a lunch on Tuesday with President Trump designed to reach an agreement to end the government shutdown and fund a border wall, the White House said. Trump had invited several moderate House Democrats to the White House in an effort to undermine Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has refused to grant Trump his demand for $5.7 billion in wall funding. But the group turned down the invitation.... In a private meeting Monday night, Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told fellow leaders they were fine with rank-and-file members meeting with Trump, according to a source in the meeting. Pelosi joked to Hoyer: 'They can see what we’ve been dealing with. And they’ll want to make a citizen’s arrest.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "The Federal Aviation Administration is bringing thousands of furloughed inspectors and engineers back to work as the partial government shutdown drags on, the agency said on Tuesday. The agency’s announcement came after unions representing aviation safety inspectors and air traffic controllers raised concerns that the lengthy shutdown was eroding the safety of the nation’s air travel system. It is one of the largest changes made by a government agency since the shutdown last month to address the need to maintain an essential service." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

This Russia Thing, Etc., Ctd.

All five of the presidents whom I worked for, Republicans and Democrats, wanted a word-for-word set of notes, if only to protect the integrity of the American side of the conversation against later manipulation by the Soviets or the Russians. -- Victoria Nuland, career diplomat ... 

... ** Peter Baker of the New York Times: "The first time [Trump & Putin] met was in Germany. President Trump took his interpreter’s notes afterward and ordered him not to disclose what he heard to anyone. Later that night, at a dinner, Mr. Trump pulled up a seat next to President Vladimir V. Putin to talk without any American witnesses at all. Their third encounter was in Vietnam when Mr. Trump seemed to take Mr. Putin’s word that he had not interfered in American elections. A formal summit meeting followed in Helsinki, Finland, where the two leaders kicked out everyone but the interpreters. Most recently, they chatted in Buenos Aires after Mr. Trump said they would not meet because of Russian aggression. Mr. Trump has adamantly insisted there was 'no collusion' with Russia during his 2016 presidential campaign. But each of the five times he has met with Mr. Putin since taking office, he has fueled suspicions about their relationship. The unusually secretive way he has handled these meetings has left many in his own administration guessing what happened and piqued the interest of investigators.... The mystery surrounding the meetings seems to have drawn attention from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is examining ties between the president and Russia. And it has generated a furor in Congress, where Democrats are pushing to subpoena the notes of the president’s interpreters or perhaps the interpreters themselves."

** David Corn of Mother Jones: "Trump has never fully confronted a fundamental fact of the Trump-Russia scandal: He was a legitimate counterintelligence concern for US intelligence as soon as he became the Republican nominee for president.... So here’s a question that should be posed to Trump: Why did you repeatedly assert that Russia was not attacking the United States after you were told by US intelligence experts it was?... [T]he American citizenry does not need any report to know that Trump repeatedly acted as if he were a Moscow asset. And the fact that this has not caused a greater uproar is perhaps one of the most disconcerting and absurd elements of the entire scandal." --s

Ken Vogel of the New York Times: "A group of 11 Republican senators broke ranks with their leadership and the administration on Tuesday to side with Democrats in a showdown over sanctions on Russia, underscoring the political sensitivity of the issue amid questions about President Trump’s relationship with Moscow. The Republicans voted with Democrats seeking to keep sanctions in place on companies controlled by an influential Russian oligarch with connections to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. The 11 Republican votes allowed Senate Democrats to advance a measure that would reverse a decision last month by the Treasury Department to lift sanctions that it imposed last year on companies controlled by the oligarch, Oleg V. Deripaska, including the aluminum giant Rusal. The Treasury Department’s decision would leave in place personal sanctions on Mr. Deripaska and require him to give up control over Rusal and two linked companies, EN+ and JSC EuroSibEnergo."

Liar, Liar. Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post: "Prosecutors working for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III have intensively scrutinized Paul Manafort’s activities after President Trump’s election — including after Manafort was criminally charged — and indicated they have extensive details not yet made public about Manafort’s interactions with former Russian aide Konstantin Kilimnik and others, a Tuesday court filing showed. Although heavily redacted, the documents state that Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, claimed he was trying to get people appointed in the new presidential administration. The filing also states that in another Justice Department investigation, Manafort provided information that appears related to an event while he was with the campaign in August 2016. Prosecutors also showed keen interest in a $125,000 payment made in June 2017 that Manafort characterized in three ways that were contradicted, the filing says, by his tax filings and exchanges with his tax preparer. Prosecutors filed a 31-page affidavit from an FBI agent, plus another 406 nearly fully blacked-out exhibits, after a federal judge last week ordered them to lay out the 'factual and evidentiary basis' for their claims that Manafort lied repeatedly after his plea deal and has breached his cooperation agreement."

PBS News: "Rick Gates, a former senior campaign aide to ... Donald Trump, will have to wait at least another two months for his sentencing date in the Russia investigation, prosecutors said Tuesday. In a new court filing, special counsel Robert Mueller’s team said they’re not ready for Gates’ sentencing because he is continuing to cooperate with 'several' ongoing investigations. It’s unclear if the delay is an indication of the timeline of Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference or a reflection of the status of the other investigations."

Allegra Kirkland of TPM: "When Michael Cohen appears before the House Oversight Committee next month, his public testimony will be severely limited thanks to his ongoing cooperation with multiple federal investigations. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Cohen will be prevented from discussing matters he divulged to both special counsel Robert Mueller and the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office. That means the public may learn less than they hoped about matters involving Cohen’s contacts with Russia, hush-money payments Cohen made to women on Trump’s behalf, and the Trump Organization’s finances. But the Feb. 7 open hearing is still highly anticipated given Cohen’s dramatic public break with President Trump over the past year after nearly a decade in Trump’s service."

MEANWHILE. Rachel Bade of Politico: "Embattled acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will testify before Congress on Feb. 8, setting up dual blockbuster hearings that week as House Democrats launch their much-awaited oversight into Donald Trump’s presidency. The House Judiciary Committee announced Tuesday that Whitaker will appear one day after Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, testifies before the House Oversight Committee. The two hearings, both made-for-TV moments, will almost certainly create a headache for the president as special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into his 2016 presidential campaign enters its 20th month."

 

Great being with the National Champion Clemson Tigers last night at the White House. Because of the Shutdown I served them massive amounts of Fast Food (I paid), over 1000 hamberders etc. Within one hour, it was all gone. Great guys and big eaters! -- Donald Trump, in a tweet Tuesday ...

... How Many Hamberders Would a Hamberdler Buy if a Hamberdler Would Be Trump? Aaron Rupar of Vox: "... an amusing tweet ... Donald Trump posted Tuesday morning illustrates just how easily he exaggerates and contradicts himself.... Speaking to reporters just before players showed up, Trump proudly displayed the spread of 'great American food,” and said, 'we have 300 hamburgers, many, many french fries — all of our favorite foods.' Three hundred hamburgers is a lot of burgers, even for a football team. But it apparently wasn’t enough for Trump. Within a matter of minutes, the number grew exponentially. Addressing the players, Trump claimed to have purchased 1,000 hamburgers.... On Tuesday morning, Trump tweeted that the number of burgers he purchased had grown again to 'over 1000 hamberders [sic] etc.' (He later reposted the tweet without the typo.)” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Rupar writes, "Photos of the event suggest something along the lines of the lower number is accurate." Yeah but the pix don't show the 700 Big Macs Trump ordered be sent directly to the residence.

karen pence has finished embroidering Jesus sayings on her Oval Office curtains & has obtained other artsy employment:

... Eli Rosenberg of the Washington Post: "The school where Vice President Pence’s wife, Karen, has accepted a part-time job teaching art requires potential employees to affirm certain religious beliefs that seek to exclude homosexual and transgender applicants, including that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. Immanuel Christian School, a private K-8 school in Springfield, Va., outside of Washington, sets forth the position in its employment application for teachers and support staff in a section that requires applicants to initial a set of standards that begins with a promise that they are born-again Christians. One of the items is a pledge to 'live a personal life of moral purity.'... Another section [of the school's job application] asks prospective teachers to explain their view of the debate about creation and evolution." ...

... Rebecca Klein of the Huffington Post has more. Mrs. McC: I would be thinking karen's idea of teaching art was sitting the kids down with paint-by-number kits of the Last Supper, but I'm not sure a picture of men wearing dresses & partying together sets the "right tone." 

Michael Wines of the New York Times: "A federal judge blocked the Commerce Department on Tuesday from adding a question on American citizenship to the 2020 census, handing a legal victory to critics who accused the Trump administration of trying to turn the census into a tool to advance Republican political fortunes. The ruling marks the opening round in a legal battle with potentially profound ramifications for federal policy and for politics at all levels, one that seems certain to reach the Supreme Court before the printing of census forms begins this summer. In a lengthy and stinging ruling, Judge Jesse M. Furman of the United States District Court in Manhattan said that Wilbur L. Ross Jr., the commerce secretary, committed 'a veritable smorgasbord' of violations of federal procedural law when he ordered the citizenship question added." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Where Are They Now?, Ctd. Kyla Mandel of ThinkProgress: "Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has quickly found new work as a senior vice president for the blockchain investment firm Artillery One. Zinke, who in the past has touted his bachelor’s degree in geology, will be making his first appearance for the firm at a cryptocurrency conference in St. Moritz, Switzerland.... Blockchain is a decentralized, public ledger that forms the technological backbone of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. The new role marks a clear shift away from Zinke’s political career towards a focus on technology and finance. It is unclear what Zinke’s background in the military, government, or his Montana-based business ventures brings to the table, other than his high-level government connections." --s

Des Moines Register Editors: "Congressman Steve King should resign. He has lost even the potential to effectively represent his Iowa constituents because of his abhorrent comments about white nationalism and white supremacy. The move by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to strip King of his committee assignments leaves Iowa without a seat on the vital House Agriculture Committee, as well as judiciary. It also leaves King with far less opportunity to work for his constituents on critically important rural development issues. Not that King has seemed particularly interested in working for his district in recent years. Instead of holding town-hall meetings with his constituents, King spent many congressional breaks globe-trotting to Europe and hobnobbing with hard-right, nationalist leaders.... King has often made Iowa a laughing stock on the national stage with his offensive and absurd remarks about undocumented immigrants, comparing them to dogs or disparaging them as drug mules with calves the size of cantaloupes." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Lordy, that's harsh. Someone who's likely to be as upset as the Register's editors by the Fall of Steve is his good friend and fellow white nationalist Donald J. Trump. Iowans may need a rep on the ag committee, but Trump needs Racist Steve on the House Judiciary Committee if & when that committee takes up impeachment proceedings. ...

... Sioux City (Iowa) Journal Editors: "It's time for Steve King to go. He should resign his seat in the U.S. House. A new election should be held for voters in Iowa's 4th Congressional District to choose a replacement. After near-universal condemnation from both sides of the political aisle, a vote by House Republicans on Monday to strip him of all committee assignments, approval by the full House on Tuesday of a resolution (King voted for the resolution) rejecting 'white nationalism' and 'white supremacy' meant to, according to Roll Call, rebuke him and introduction in the House this week of two measures to censure him following his 'white supremacy' comment in a Jan. 10 New York Times story, whatever measure of influence or effectiveness King possessed in the House is, in our view, gone. He is today, it appears to us, largely an outcast within the body in which he serves." ...

... Lissandra Villa of BuzzFeed News: "The House voted almost unanimously on a resolution to reprimand Rep. Steve King for his most recent racist comments, with only one member dissenting — but it wasn’t King. The resolution, a formal rebuke of the Iowa lawmaker, mentions King only once and focuses instead on renouncing white supremacy and white nationalism. King himself said before the vote that he’d enthusiastically support it. The only member to oppose the bill was Rep. Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat, who says his party’s resolution didn’t go far enough. Scott sponsored legislation to censure King, a more serious rebuke, which he plans to continue pursuing. Rush said that King’s own vote for the resolution 'tells you that this resolution is not worth the paper it’s written on.'” ...

I want to see someone who is going to make our country great again, which is basically the same thing as Steve. He is a special guy, a smart person, with really the right views on almost everything.... [We're so in sync], we don't have to compare notes. -- Donald Trump, on Steve King, at a fundraiser for King, October 2014 ...

... What About Trump? Washington Post Editors: "Republican leaders in Congress are shocked, shocked that their fellow GOP colleague Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), whose racist remarks have been his political signature for more than a decade, turns out to be . . . a racist.... Having lost 40 House seats in the November midterms, the GOP’s congressional capos, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), seem to be calculating that it may diminish the party’s brand for elected Republicans to demonize, mock, disparage and demean minorities. With one exception, of course: President Trump.... The president’s résumé of racially loaded, coded and hateful commentary is so well known that it often earns no notice from his party’s bigwigs on Capitol Hill; it is a feature, not a bug, of his political persona.... For the most part..., Mr. Trump’s bigoted statements are ignored and minimized by Republicans, lest they incur the wrath of the president or his supporters. A small fish such as Mr. King is a different matter: His most recent racist eruption is a vehicle for latent Republican anxiety that the nation’s long-term demographic trends spell trouble for a party whose appeal has narrowed overwhelmingly to whites."

Mark Stern of Slate: "On Tuesday, the Supreme Court handed a victory to American workers, ruling unanimously that independent contractors who work in transportation may not be forced into mandatory arbitration. (Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who joined the bench after argument, did not participate.) The decision is a remarkable win for labor rights from a court that typically favors corporate interests over working people. And it will allow hundreds of thousands of contractors to vindicate their rights in court, collectively, rather than in costly and unjust arbitration. Tuesday’s case, New Prime v. Oliveira, involves a dispute between a trucking company (New Prime) and one of its drivers, Dominic Oliveira." Read the whole thing, as much for the decision as for the way New Prime treated Oiveira. Horrifying. Funny thing, the author of the opinion is Neil Gorsuch, who hasn't exactly been a friend to truckers.

Presidential Race 2020.

... Shane Goldmacher of the New York Times: "Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, an outspoken advocate for women’s causes and electing more women to office, is herself entering the 2020 race for the White House, becoming the latest candidate to join what is expected to be a crowded Democratic primary to take on President Trump. In an appearance Tuesday on 'The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,' Ms. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, said she was forming an exploratory committee to raise money and travel the country for her run. She is scheduled to start campaigning within days, with plans to spend the weekend in Iowa."

Beyond the Beltway

New York. Ari Berman of Mother Jones: "Despite its progressive reputation, New York has long had some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country. That will soon change. The Democratic-controlled state Legislature passed a sweeping election reform package on Monday ... which must be approved by voters at a later date. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pledged to sign the bills." --s

Way Beyond

Heather Stewart of the Guardian: "Theresa May has sustained the heaviest parliamentary defeat of any British prime minister in the democratic era after MPs rejected her Brexit deal by a resounding majority of 230.  The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, immediately moved to sieze the initiative, tabling a vote of no confidence in the government.... Brexit-supporting Conservatives joined with opposition parties and the Democratic Unionist party to trounce the government in the 'meaningful vote', which the prime minister delayed before Christmas in the vain hope of winning over waverers. Following the defeat, May immediately invited a formal vote of no confidence in her own government, which she said would be voted on as soon as Wednesday." ...

     ... Brian Williams of MSNBC (surprisingly) introduced the Brexit vote news by noting that the Brexit campaign was Putin's first big foray into destabilizing Europe. What he didn't mention was Trump's vociferous support for Brexit & his collaboration/collusion with its advocates like Nigel Farage.