The Wires
The Ledes

Sunday, July 23, 2018.

Toronto Star: "Two people are dead and a girl is critically injured after a shooting Sunday night on Danforth Ave. [in Toronto].Police Chief Mark Saunders confirmed that a young woman had died and 13 other victims were injured in the shooting. He also confirmed that the alleged gunman was dead. Saunders said there was an 'exchange of gunfire' and that the shooter had used a handgun. He said the attack did not appear to be random.... Paramedics said multiple people were taken to hospitals, including a child...."

 

 

Public Service Announcement

July 13: Washington Post: "A salmonella outbreak linked to a popular Kellogg's cereal has infected 100 people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday. The agency is urging consumers to avoid Honey Smacks, a sugary puffed wheat cereal which has been the subject of a recall by the company since mid-June. At least 30 of the 100 have been hospitalized, while no deaths have been reported, the CDC said. 'Do not eat Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal of any size package or with any "best if used by" date,' it wrote."

Jonathan Vankin of Inquisitr: "Earlier in July ... a new BBC documentary [was aired] containing disturbing, never-before-heard allegations of sexual misconduct by Donald Trump. But the 30-minute program aired only in the United Kingdom, on the BBC’s Panorama series. But that’s about to change as the new documentary, Trump: Is the President a Sex Pest?, is set to make its North American premiere, airing in the United States and Canada on Saturday, with a repeat broadcast on Sunday, according to a new BBC press release posted on Twitter.... To find out how to watch or live stream the Trump Sex Pest documentary, see the information at the bottom of this article. Broadcast, and online streaming, is set for Saturday, July 21, at 10:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, 7:30 a.m. Pacific. The encore broadcast is scheduled for Sunday, July 22, at 4:30 p.m. Eastern, 1:30 Pacific." --safari

Yahshar Ali of the Huffington Post: "Three sources tell HuffPost that longtime Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle did not leave the cable news network voluntarily. Guilfoyle, who is currently in a relationship with ... Donald Trump Jr., has worked at the network since 2006.... A source close to Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle denies that she did not leave voluntarily. 'Fox News has parted ways with Kimberly Guilfoyle,' a Fox News spokesperson said in a terse statement released Friday afternoon." ...

... Gabriel Sherman of Vanity Fair: "Donald Trump’s coziness with Fox News has opened the network up to allegations that it’s state TV, a perception that was only amplified when The Five co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle began dating Trump’s son Don Jr. But now, for complicated reasons, some of which are still murky, all is no longer well in the Trump-Fox family.... Fox News management is not in the least upset that Guilfoyle is leaving. For the past year, she’s been a management nightmare, sources said. Her entanglements, romantic and otherwise, with Trumpworld have been a part of this. Before Don Jr., Guilfoyle was publicly linked to former Trump communications director Anthony Scaramucci, and she was widely rumored to be in the running for a job in the West Wing communications shop. But more than the perceived complications her romantic life generated, Guilfoyle’s high-handedness rankled Fox executives.... But a source close to Guilfoyle [said] the reason is because she plans to join Don Jr. on the campaign trail."

Welcome to the Bank:

The Mounties Always Get Their Man -- and Woman -- especially when the pair are the ones mimicking the Keystone Kops. This is real CCTV footage of a young couple who -- allegedly -- tried to use stolen credit cards at an Alberta, Canada, convenience store. The WashPo has more details. These comical suspects, BTW, are not teenagers; they're in their late 20s. Super-size for best viewing. There's an action-movie moment near the end, so don't tune out too soon:

There will be an answer. Best #CarpoolKaraoke evah:

     ... You're welcome. ...

... Matthew Dessem of Slate: "The only fly in the ointment is the knowledge that, demographically speaking, this video will make a lot of horrible people happy."

AP: "ABC, which canceled its 'Roseanne' revival over its star's racist tweet, says it will air a Conner family sitcom minus Roseanne Barr this fall. ABC ordered 10 episodes of the spinoff after Barr agreed to forgo any creative or financial participation in it. In a statement issued by the show's producer, Barr said she agreed to the settlement in order to save the jobs of 200 cast and crew members. ABC said Thursday that the new series has the working title 'The Conners' and will star John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, Sara Gilbert and other 'Roseanne' co-stars."

NAFTA No, NAFSA . North American Free Soccer Agreement. Washington Post: "The World Cup is returning to the United States, and this time, Mexico and Canada are along for the wild ride. A North American joint bid won the rights Wednesday to host the 2026 edition of the celebrated soccer tournament, defeating Morocco and bouncing back from an unfathomable U.S. defeat to Qatar in voting for the 2022 event eight years ago. The member associations in FIFA, the sport’s governing body, favored the North American effort, known as the United Bid, in a landslide vote, 134-65."

... Washington Post: "It was Justify’s moment, after all. In a dazzling display of power and durability, the late-blooming colt who didn’t race as a 2-year-old proved Saturday he couldn’t be worn out as a 3-year-old, thundering to victory in the Belmont Stakes to claim a place in history as the sport’s 13th Triple Crown champion. After a 37-year drought in which the feat seemed impossible, Justify became the second horse in four years to achieve it, tutored, like 2015 predecessor American Pharoah, by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Before Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, which Justify won by 1¾ lengths over surprise second-place finisher Gronkowski in a 10-horse field, the massive chestnut colt with the white blaze had won the Kentucky Derby by a 2 1 /2-length margin, becoming the first since Apollo in 1882 to win the classic without running as a 2-year-old. Two weeks later, Justify weathered torrential rain and a blanket of fog to win the Preakness Stakes, setting himself up for the Triple Crown bid."

Masha Gessen of the New Yorker on "The Americans." Mrs. McC Spoiler Alert: If you haven't seen the show's finale, & you plan to, see it before reading Gessen's post.

You may want to cut the sound on this video so you don't go nuts before you get to move overseas:

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

Sunday
Jul222018

The Commentariat -- July 23, 2018

The Traitor-in-Chief Is Baaack. Felicia Sonmez of the Washington Post: "After a week of tortuous statements, walk-backs and clarifications on whether he believes the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign, President Trump appeared to have come full circle on Sunday night, dismissing the issue as 'all a big hoax.' In an evening tweet shortly after taking off for Washington following a weekend spent at his golf club in New Jersey, Trump ... [tweeted], 'So President Obama knew about Russia before the Election. Why didn’t he do something about it? Why didn’t he tell our campaign?' Trump then went on to answer his own questions: 'Because it is all a big hoax, that’s why, and he thought Crooked Hillary was going to win!!!'... Earlier Sunday, Trump also tweeted a defense of his broadly criticized one-on-one summit with Putin. 'I had a GREAT meeting with Putin and the Fake News used every bit of their energy to try and disparage it,' Trump said. 'So bad for our country!'” Mrs. McC: Yup, Trump still is mad that Obama didn't tell him he was colluding with Russians. That hostage video in which Trump half-admitted Russian interference -- "could be other people" -- was but a blip on the Trumpian widescreen. But you knew this would happen. ...

... E.J. Dionne: "... Trump really does have what you might call a special relationship with Putin and Russia, for reasons still not fully known. He views foreign policy not as a way of protecting the nation but as an extension of his own narrow, personal interests. He has no respect for our basic liberties, which is why he entertained turning over our country’s former ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, and other Putin critics to the Russian dictator’s mercies until widespread revulsion required Trump to back off. The focus and discipline necessary to run a government are so alien to him that most of his top lieutenants were left in the dark about what Vlad and Don were cooking up.... The vindication of those who saw Trump for who he is (a majority of the 2016 electorate, it’s worth noting) provides little satisfaction because of the peril his presidency poses.... Trump’s long-standing Republican apologists have lost all credibility."

Katie Rogers & Emily Cochrane of the New York Times: "President Trump claimed without evidence on Sunday that his administration’s release of top-secret documents related to the surveillance of a former campaign aide had confirmed that the Justice Department and the F.B.I. 'misled the courts' in the early stages of the Russia investigation. 'Looking more & more like the Trump Campaign for President was illegally being spied upon (surveillance) for the political gain of Crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC,' Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, referring to the Democratic National Committee. In a series of early-morning tweets, Mr. Trump left unmentioned how the documents laid out in stark detail why the F.B.I. was interested in the former campaign adviser, Carter Page[.]... In his tweets, Mr. Trump focused in part on the many redactions in the documents, seeming to take those as further proof that his campaign had been illegally surveilled.... The materials revealed that the judges who signed off on the wiretapping of Mr. Page were all appointed by Republican presidents.... The president also praised Judicial Watch, the conservative advocacy group known for its relentless legal pursuit of the Clintons, for obtaining the documents. But Mr. Trump disregarded the fact that the news organizations, including The Times, had sought release of the documents under several Freedom of Information Act lawsuits." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I wouldn't say "without evidence"; I'd say "contra evidence." ...

... Lies and Consequences -- A Savage Indictment of Trump, Nunes & Co. Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "... this past weekend, Mr. Trump’s unprecedented decision [in February to declassify a House GOP memo], which he made over the objections of law enforcement and intelligence officials, had a consequence that revealed his gambit’s shaky foundation. The government released the court documents in which the F.B.I. made its case for conducting the surveillance — records that plainly demonstrated that key elements of Republicans’ claims about the bureau’s actions were misleading or false. On Sunday Mr. Trump nevertheless sought to declare victory.... But in respect after respect, the newly disclosed documents instead corroborated rebuttals by Democrats on the panel who had seen the top-secret materials and accused Republicans of mischaracterizing them to protect the president.The records again cast an unflattering light on Representative Devin Nunes...." Read on. Savage debunks the Trump/Nunes lies one-by-one, while supporting the Democrats' case. ...

... Martin Longman of Booman Tribune: "One thing that is clear from the [released] applications is that the FBI suspected Trump himself of changing his policies towards Russia during the campaign and was willing to suggest that the influence of advisers and campaign workers with Russian connections (including Carter Page) might be the explanation. Pretty much anyone who saw what just happened in Helsinki would have to agree that the FBI was certainly hot on the trail of something real." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Sad! Andrew Desiderio of the Daily Beast: Carter Page "said Sunday that a top-secret application to surveil him in 2016 was a 'complete joke,' even as most observers, including many Republicans, have called the surveillance justified.... This is so ridiculous, it’s just beyond words,' Page said on CNN’s State of the Union. 'It’s literally a complete joke. And it only continues. It’s just really sad.' Page denied that he was an 'agent of a foreign power' or that he ever advised the Kremlin, claiming instead that he only 'sat in on some meetings.' He also denied, as was stated in the FISA application, that he 'has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Eli Okun of Politico: "Former Secretary of State John Kerry excoriated ... Donald Trump for his conciliatory news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week, calling it 'one of the most disgraceful, remarkable moments of kowtowing to a foreign leader by an American president that anyone has ever witnessed.' 'Here’s why it's dangerous: because it sends a message to President Putin and to the rest of the world that the president of the United States, the leader of the free world, really doesn't have a handle on what he's doing,' Kerry added in an interview that aired Sunday on CBS’ 'Face the Nation.' He also said of Trump: 'I don't buy his walkback one second.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Will Parsons & Quinn Scanlon of ABC News: "Responding to the way ... Donald Trump conducted himself during a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said Trump 'acts like he's compromised' by the Kremlin. In an interview on 'This Week,'... [Adam Schiff said,] '... it may very well be that he is compromised or it may very well be that he believes that he’s compromised, that the Russians have information on him,' Schiff said. 'I think there's no ignoring the fact that, for whatever reason, this president acts like he's compromised. There is simply no other way to explain why he would side with this Kremlin, a former KGB officer, rather than his own intelligence agencies.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Vichy Regime, American Style. Nicholas Fandos & Sheryl Stolberg of the New York Times: "In the nearly two years since Russia attacked the American democratic process, congressional Republicans have played conflicting roles in the drama: Some have pressed to impose sanctions on Russia and quietly pursue investigations, but they have been outshouted by Republicans who have obfuscated and undercut efforts to uncover the Kremlin’s plot. Now, as they grapple with the political and foreign policy fallout from President Trump’s summit meeting in Helsinki, Finland, with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, all Republicans, regardless of their stance so far, are facing a charge even from within their own party that goes beyond the White House: complicity.... Some Republicans have concluded that keeping their heads down without uttering much more than general statements about Russian hostility is the only safe course.... Speaker Paul D. Ryan has not participated in ... attacks [on the Mueller investigation] and has defended Mr. Mueller. But he has also given [Devin] Nunes and his allies wide latitude, and has defended him. ...

... Evan Osnos of the New Yorker: "This summer..., Donald Trump has upended the basis of American security — opening a trade war with China, chastising U.S. allies in Europe, and, at a press conference in Helsinki, following a two-hour private meeting with President Vladimir Putin, accepting his claim that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election. The Times reported that U.S. intelligence officials had presented Trump with evidence that Putin himself had ordered cyberattacks in an attempt to affect the electoral outcome.... No one resigned from the Cabinet. No Republican senators took concrete steps to restrain or contain or censure the President.... The pattern is already visible for the historians of tomorrow. When Trump hailed neo-Nazis in Charlottesville as 'very fine people,' when he endorsed an accused child molester for the Senate, when he separated children from their parents at the Mexican border, the Republican Party, by and large, accepted it." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Voices from the Repubican Wilderness. Daniel Cheslow & Michel Martin of NPR: "A GOP Congressman and former FBI agent says he thinks President Trump was manipulated by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Brian Fitzpatrick told NPR's Michel Martin on All Things Considered that he drew that conclusion after the two leaders appeared in Helsinki.... Fitzpatrick sits on the House committees on Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security. In his previous role as an FBI special agent, he said he was assigned to Ukraine and worked on counterintelligence, collecting Russian propaganda reports. He told Martin he was 'frankly sickened by the exchange' between Trump and Putin. The congressman, who represents Pennsylvania's 8th District, said he shared his view with former CIA agent and fellow House Republican Will Hurd of Texas. Hurd wrote recently in The New York Times that Trump 'actively participated in a Russian disinformation campaign.'" ...

... AND, There's Trey Gowdy, Former Benghaaazi! Inquisitor, Who Is Retiring. Eli Okun: "House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy [R-SC] chastised Donald Trump for inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington, saying Sunday that some members of the president's administration should consider quitting if Trump won't listen to their advice. 'The fact that we have to talk to you about Syria or other matters is very different from issuing an invitation,' Gowdy said on 'Fox News Sunday' of the Putin invitation, which the White House confirmed last week would be extended for the fall. 'Those should be reserved for, I think, our allies.'... 'It can be proven beyond any evidentiary burden that Russia is not our friend and they tried to attack us in 2016,; Gowdy told host Bret Baier. 'So the president either needs to rely on the people that he has chosen to advise him, or those advisers need to reevaluate whether or not they can serve in this administration. But the disconnect cannot continue.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... BUT. Andrew O'Reilly of Fox "News": "Rep. Trey Gowdy said that Carter Page, the former campaign adviser to Donald Trump, was more bumbling detective than secret agent after the Justice Department on Saturday released a set of documents, once deemed top secret, relating to the wiretapping of Page. 'My take is that Carter Page is more like Inspector Gadget than Jason Bourne or James Bond,' Gowdy, R-S.C., said during an interview on 'Fox News Sunday.'” ...

Gowdy has a point.

... THEN AGAIN. Tim Hains of RealClearPolitics: "Rep. Trey Gowdy told FNC's Bret Baier on FOX News Sunday that while there are documents he has not seen, he knows that if there were any evidence that President Trump committed any crime with regard to Russia 'Adam Schiff would have leaked it.' Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said this week that President Trump is compromised by the Russians, offering possible recordings of his meeting with Putin as evidence. Later on Sunday morning, Schiff suggested Trump's businesses were Russian money laundering operations." Mrs. McC Hypocrisy Alert: Gowdy and/or his staff were notorious for their leaks of particulars re: the E-Mails!!!, a GOP propaganda bonanza that developed out of the Gowdy-led Benghaazi!!! investigation.

Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "Maria Butina, the Russian woman charged in federal court last week with acting as an unregistered agent of her government, received financial support from Konstantin Nikolaev, a Russian billionaire with investments in U.S. energy and technology companies, according to a person familiar with testimony she gave Senate investigators. Butina told the Senate Intelligence Committee in April that Nikolaev provided funding for a gun rights group she represented, according to the person.... Nikolaev ... also sits on the board of American Ethane, a Houston ethane company that was showcased by President Trump at an event in China last year.... Nikolaev’s son Andrey, who is studying in the United States, volunteered in the 2016 campaign in support of Trump’s candidacy, according a person familiar with his activities. Nikolaev was spotted at the Trump International Hotel in Washington during Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, according to two people aware of his presence." Mrs. McC: These are just coincidences! But another name to link to Trump in the massive TrumPutin connections diagram. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Sarah Lynch of Reuters: "Accused Russian agent Maria Butina had wider high-level contacts in Washington than previously known, taking part in 2015 meetings between a visiting Russian official and two senior officials at the U.S. Federal Reserve and Treasury Department. The meetings, revealed by several people familiar with the sessions and a report from a Washington think tank that arranged them, involved Stanley Fischer, Fed vice chairman at the time, and Nathan Sheets, then Treasury undersecretary for international affairs. Butina travelled to the United States in April 2015 with Alexander Torshin, then the Russian Central Bank deputy governor, and they took part in separate meetings with Fischer and Sheets to discuss U.S.-Russian economic relations during Democratic former President Barack Obama’s administration. The two meetings, which have not been previously reported, reveal a wider circle of high-powered connections that Butina sought to cultivate with American political leaders and special interest groups." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Francis Wilkinson of Bloomberg: "Maria Butina is a Republican. Federal prosecutors might dispute that characterization. They jailed Butina last weekend on charges that she is a Russian agent who worked surreptitiously, on orders from a close crony of Vladimir Putin’s, to subvert U.S. politics for Russia’s benefit. But in the era of Trump, days after a summit in Helsinki, Finland, that forced the entire world to reckon with just how blatantly subservient the American president is to the Russian president, the distinction between Russian and Republican is not what it once was.... Putin is a thug, but for Trump, obviously, and for many of his conservative acolytes, increasingly, Putin is a thug to admire. Polls have shown rising Republican support for Putin’s Russia..., [which] doubled from 2015 to 2017, from 17 percent to 34 percent. Like Trump, some Republicans have weighed Russia’s attack on the Democratic Party in 2016 and concluded that they very much like what they saw.... Butina chose her targets well. The gun militants of the NRA and the Christian militants of the religious right are Trump’s most unflinching supporters and pillars of the GOP’s authoritarian-racial wing....  Dozens of Russians [including Butina] attended the most recent National Prayer Breakfast in February.... To the current leader of the Republican Party, and to millions of his followers, the Justice Department’s description of Moscow’s espionage doesn’t read like an indictment. It reads like an agenda." ...

... Brian Beutler of Crooked: "...  beneath [Republicans'] vestigial and opportunistic Russophobia was an obvious and natural affinity. The same Republicans who considered themselves foes of the Kremlin were also in thrall to many of the same illiberal forces that keep Putin in power: bigotry, propaganda, situational ethics, and contempt for democracy.... It is no coincidence at all that ... gun owners, evangelicals, and movement conservatives ... are the same constituencies the Russian spy Mariia Butina infiltrated, and infiltrated easily — the NRA, the National Prayer Breakfast, CPAC.... Her indictment ... paints a damning portrait of a political movement overrun with grifters, its doors wide open to unscrupulous operators who would happily cheat their way into power. Butina didn’t hide her pro-Russian aims, she broadcasted them proudly, and seemingly none of the people she courted with appeals to gun rights and religion objected.... For now, the GOP’s congressional leaders remain nominally committed to the western alliance, and to treating Russia as an adversary. But they will not check Trump as he advances the opposite view. Elite conservative opinion is already shifting on the Russia question, and should Trump ever convince a majority of Republican voters that he’s right about Russia, the congressional leadership will follow suit." ...

... ** Jeff Seldin of the Voice of America: "Unlike in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, officials say so far there has been no frenzy of hacks, phishing attacks or use of ads and false news stories to penetrate voting systems.... Some have suggested the slowdown is the result of better preparation and better cyber tools.... But among Western intelligence agencies, there is also concern that Russia may not be relying on bots and trolls because they have real people who can do the work instead. 'We [Estonian intelligence] have detected a network of politicians, journalists, diplomats, business people who are actually Russian influence agents and who are doing what they are told to do,' Mikk Marran, the director general of Estonia’s Foreign Intelligence Service said Friday, speaking of Moscow’s efforts in the West. 'We see clearly that those people are pushing Russia's agenda,' Marran told an audience at the annual Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado." At Aspen, Bill Browder said he believed Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) "is on the payroll of Russia," although he didn't "have the bank transfers to prove it."


Oliver Laughland
of the Guardian & agencies: "Donald Trump has threatened Iran will 'suffer the consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before' in a late night tweet all in capital letters that threatened to further imperil relations between the United States and the Iranian government. The post, sent at 11:24 pm ET on Sunday night, came after Iranian president Hassan Rouhani warned the US earlier in the day about pursuing hostile policy against his government, suggesting that 'war with Iran is the mother of all wars'. Rouhani had also not ruled out peace, according to comments reported by the Iranian state news agency, IRNA. [The] US president ... addressed his tweet directly to Rouhani, warning the president to 'NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN'. The message continued: 'WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!'” Mrs. McC: I wonder if Rouhani is skeert of all caps.


GOP Adversary.The GOP Sustained Attack on Earth, Ctd. Coral Davenport & Lisa Friedman
of the New York Times: "The Endangered Species Act, which for 45 years has safeguarded fragile wildlife while blocking ranching, logging and oil drilling on protected habitats, is coming under attack from lawmakers, the White House and industry on a scale not seen in decades, driven partly by fears that the Republicans will lose ground in November’s midterm elections. In the past two weeks, more than two dozen pieces of legislation, policy initiatives and amendments designed to weaken the law have been either introduced or voted on in Congress or proposed by the Trump administration." Mrs. McC: Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" was so scary that some people panicked when they heard the radio show. Well, "War of the Worlds" is no longer fictional: the real invaders come, not from Mars, as in the story, but from Right Wing World.  

Loose-Lips Kavanaugh. Josh Gerstein of Politico: "... Donald Trump has waged war on leakers — but in nominating Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, the president has picked someone well-versed in the swampy art of off-the-record briefings and anonymous quotes. Kavanaugh spent nearly four years working for Kenneth Starr’s independent counsel probe of President Bill Clinton two decades ago. A sampling of the Starr office’s internal files available at the National Archives indicate Kavanaugh helped craft aspects of Starr’s communications strategy and interacted directly with the news media himself.... Writer and businessman Steven Brill, who set off a firestorm in 1998 with a cover story in his magazine, Brill’s Content, on Starr’s alleged leaks to the press, said Kavanaugh needs to offer a more detailed account of his interactions with reporters during the Whitewater probe. 'If what he did was not improper, why didn’t he do it on the record? The point is they all knew it violated rule 6(e),' Brill said, referring to a federal court rule protecting grand jury secrets. 'Brett was involved.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

Attacking Reagan No Longer GOP Heresy. Tom Boggioni of the Raw Story: "Appearing on Fox News late Friday night, Rev. Robert Jeffress — one of  Donald Trump’s favorite clergymen and staunchest defenders — blew off the president’s ongoing history of having affairs with Playboy playmates and adult film stars by throwing Republican icon Ronald Reagan under the bus as a 'known womanizer.'... Jeffress ... [said on Fox 'News'] that the Christian community is less concerned with sin than with presidential policies. 'This is not an unusual thing. We’ve been here before,' Jeffress told the Fox host. 'Back in 1980, evangelicals chose to support a twice-married Hollywood actor who was a known womanizer in Hollywood. His name was Ronald Reagan. They chose to support him over Jimmy Carter, with a born-again Baptist Sunday school teacher who had been faithfully married to one woman.'”

Michelle Boorstein & Julie Zauzmer of the Washington Post: "A month after the Vatican suspended Cardinal Theodore Mc­Carrick from ministry, saying the prominent former D.C. archbishop had been credibly accused of sexually abusing a teenager decades ago, four additional complaints about sexual misconduct by the cardinal have surfaced.... In the most recent allegation, a Virginia man accused McCarrick of abusing him for nearly 20 years, beginning when he was about 11 years old. The man filed a police report on July 17 with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.... Three other allegations have also surfaced against McCarrick, from men who said he sexually harassed or abused them early in their religious careers decades ago when they were young adults. Two were seminarians and one was a young priest at the time." Mrs. McC: For people who believe sex is a sin except for purposes of procreation, Roman Catholics sure have a lot of sexual dalliances. You might suspect the taboos heighten excitement, which renders their dogma particularly stupid.

Saturday
Jul212018

The Commentariat -- July 22, 2018

Afternoon Update:

Katie Rogers & Emily Cochrane of the New York Times: "President Trump claimed without evidence on Sunday that his administration’s release of top-secret documents related to the surveillance of a former campaign aide had confirmed that the Justice Department and the F.B.I. 'misled the courts' in the early stages of the Russia investigation. 'Looking more & more like the Trump Campaign for President was illegally being spied upon (surveillance) for the political gain of Crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC,' Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, referring to the Democratic National Committee. In a series of early-morning tweets, Mr. Trump left unmentioned how the documents laid out in stark detail why the F.B.I. was interested in the former campaign adviser, Carter Page[.]... In his tweets, Mr. Trump focused in part on the many redactions in the documents, seeming to take those as further proof that his campaign had been illegally surveilled.... The materials revealed that the judges who signed off on the wiretapping of Mr. Page were all appointed by Republican presidents.... The president also praised Judicial Watch, the conservative advocacy group known for its relentless legal pursuit of the Clintons, for obtaining the documents. But Mr. Trump disregarded the fact that the news organizations, including The Times, had sought release of the documents under several Freedom of Information Act lawsuits." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I wouldn't say "without evidence"; I'd say "contra evidence." ...

... Martin Longman of Booman Tribune: "One thing that is clear from the [released] applications is that the FBI suspected Trump himself of changing his policies towards Russia during the campaign and was willing to suggest that the influence of advisers and campaign workers with Russian connections (including Carter Page) might be the explanation. Pretty much anyone who saw what just happened in Helsinki would have to agree that the FBI was certainly hot on the trail of something real." ...

... Sad! Andrew Desiderio of the Daily Beast: Carter Page "said Sunday that a top-secret application to surveil him in 2016 was a 'complete joke,' even as most observers, including many Republicans, have called the surveillance justified.... This is so ridiculous, it’s just beyond words,' Page said on CNN’s State of the Union. 'It’s literally a complete joke. And it only continues. It’s just really sad.' Page denied that he was an 'agent of a foreign power' or that he ever advised the Kremlin, claiming instead that he only 'sat in on some meetings.' He also denied, as was stated in the FISA application, that he 'has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government.'”

Eli Okun of Politico: "Former Secretary of State John Kerry excoriated ... Donald Trump for his conciliatory news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week, calling it 'one of the most disgraceful, remarkable moments of kowtowing to a foreign leader by an American president that anyone has ever witnessed.' 'Here’s why it's dangerous: because it sends a message to President Putin and to the rest of the world that the president of the United States, the leader of the free world, really doesn't have a handle on what he's doing,' Kerry added in an interview that aired Sunday on CBS’ 'Face the Nation.' He also said of Trump: 'I don't buy his walkback one second.'” ...

... Will Parsons & Quinn Scanlon of ABC News: "Responding to the way ... Donald Trump conducted himself during a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said Trump 'acts like he's compromised' by the Kremlin. In an interview on 'This Week,'... [Adam Schiff said,] '... it may very well be that he is compromised or it may very well be that he believes that he’s compromised, that the Russians have information on him,' Schiff said. 'I think there's no ignoring the fact that, for whatever reason, this president acts like he's compromised. There is simply no other way to explain why he would side with this Kremlin, a former KGB officer, rather than his own intelligence agencies.'" ...

... Evan Osnos of the New Yorker: "This summer..., Donald Trump has upended the basis of American security — opening a trade war with China, chastising U.S. allies in Europe, and, at a press conference in Helsinki, following a two-hour private meeting with President Vladimir Putin, accepting his claim that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election. The Times r"eported that U.S. intelligence officials had presented Trump with evidence that Putin himself had ordered cyberattacks in an attempt to affect the electoral outcome.... No one resigned from the Cabinet. No Republican senators took concrete steps to restrain or contain or censure the President.... The pattern is already visible for the historians of tomorrow. When Trump hailed neo-Nazis in Charlottesville as 'very fine people,' when he endorsed an accused child molester for the Senate, when he separated children from their parents at the Mexican border, the Republican Party, by and large, accepted it." ...

... Well, There's Trey Gowdy, Who Is Retiring. Eli Okun: "House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy [R-SC] chastised Donald Trump for inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to Washington, saying Sunday that some members of the president's administration should consider quitting if Trump won't listen to their advice. 'The fact that we have to talk to you about Syria or other matters is very different from issuing an invitation,' Gowdy said on 'Fox News Sunday' of the Putin invitation, which the White House confirmed last week would be extended for the fall. 'Those should be reserved for, I think, our allies.'... 'It can be proven beyond any evidentiary burden that Russia is not our friend and they tried to attack us in 2016,; Gowdy told host Bret Baier. 'So the president either needs to rely on the people that he has chosen to advise him, or those advisers need to reevaluate whether or not they can serve in this administration. But the disconnect cannot continue.'”

Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "Maria Butina, the Russian woman charged in federal court last week with acting as an unregistered agent of her government, received financial support from Konstantin Nikolaev, a Russian billionaire with investments in U.S. energy and technology companies, according to a person familiar with testimony she gave Senate investigators. Butina told the Senate Intelligence Committee in April that Nikolaev provided funding for a gun rights group she represented, according to the person.... Nikolaev ... also sits on the board of American Ethane, a Houston ethane company that was showcased by President Trump at an event in China last year.... Nikolaev’s son Andrey, who is studying in the United States, volunteered in the 2016 campaign in support of Trump’s candidacy, according a person familiar with his activities. Nikolaev was spotted at the Trump International Hotel in Washington during Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, according to two people aware of his presence." Mrs. McC: These are just coincidences! But another name to link to Trump in the massive TrumPutin connections diagram. ...

... Sarah Lynch of Reuters: "Accused Russian agent Maria Butina had wider high-level contacts in Washington than previously known, taking part in 2015 meetings between a visiting Russian official and two senior officials at the U.S. Federal Reserve and Treasury Department. The meetings, revealed by several people familiar with the sessions and a report from a Washington think tank that arranged them, involved Stanley Fischer, Fed vice chairman at the time, and Nathan Sheets, then Treasury undersecretary for international affairs. Butina travelled to the United States in April 2015 with Alexander Torshin, then the Russian Central Bank deputy governor, and they took part in separate meetings with Fischer and Sheets to discuss U.S.-Russian economic relations during Democratic former President Barack Obama’s administration. The two meetings, which have not been previously reported, reveal a wider circle of high-powered connections that Butina sought to cultivate with American political leaders and special interest groups."

Loose-Lips Kavanaugh. Josh Gerstein of Politico: "... Donald Trump has waged war on leakers — but in nominating Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, the president has picked someone well-versed in the swampy art of off-the-record briefings and anonymous quotes. Kavanaugh spent nearly four years working for Kenneth Starr’s independent counsel probe of President Bill Clinton two decades ago. A sampling of the Starr office’s internal files available at the National Archives indicate Kavanaugh helped craft aspects of Starr’s communications strategy and interacted directly with the news media himself.... Writer and businessman Steven Brill, who set off a firestorm in 1998 with a cover story in his magazine, Brill’s Content, on Starr’s alleged leaks to the press, said Kavanaugh needs to offer a more detailed account of his interactions with reporters during the Whitewater probe. 'If what he did was not improper, why didn’t he do it on the record? The point is they all knew it violated rule 6(e),' Brill said, referring to a federal court rule protecting grand jury secrets. 'Brett was involved.'”

*****

Carter Page, Secret Agent. Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "The Trump administration has disclosed a previously top-secret set of documents related to the wiretapping of Carter Page, the onetime Trump campaign adviser who was at the center of highly contentious accusations by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee that the F.B.I. had abused its surveillance powers.... The documents were heavily redacted in places, and some of the substance of the applications had become public in February, via the Republican and Democratic Intelligence Committee memos. Still, the spectacle of the release was itself noteworthy, given that wiretapping under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, is normally one of the government’s closest-guarded secrets." ...

... Here's more from Dell Cameron & Jack Mirkinson of Splinter, including reproduction of the documents. ...

... David Kris in Lawfare: "... the controversy about these FISA applications first arose in February when House intelligence committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes released a memo claiming that the FBI misled the FISA Court about Christopher Steele.... The main complaint in the Nunes memo was that FBI whitewashed Steele — that the FISA applications did not 'disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior and FBI officials.' In response to the Nunes memo, the Democrats on the committee released their own memo. That memo quoted from parts of the FISA applications, including a footnote in which the FBI explained that Steele was hired to 'conduct research regarding Candidate #1,' Donald Trump, and Trump’s 'ties to Russia,' and that the man who hired him was 'likely looking for information that could be used to discredit [Trump’s] campaign.'... Now ... the Nunes memo looks even worse.... The footnote disclosing Steele’s possible bias takes up more than a full page in the applications, so there is literally no way the FISA Court could have missed it.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I surmise Trump ordered these docs released because he has no fucking idea they bolster the evidence that he & Nunes are lying, treasonous asses.

Andrew Kramer of the New York Times: "Russia’s foreign minister told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday that charges against a woman accused of infiltrating American political organizations as a covert Russian agent were 'fabricated' and she should be released. The appeal by the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, was made in a phone call, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry. The Department of Justice has charged the woman, Maria Butina, with acting as an unregistered agent of Russia while attending conventions of the National Rifle Association and gaining access to conservative circles in an effort to influence powerful Republicans. Moscow has mounted a vigorous effort on behalf of Ms. Butina. On Thursday, the Foreign Ministry began a social media campaign on its Twitter account, declaring that it was mobilizing a digital 'flash mob' to demand her release. The State Department had no immediate comment on Saturday’s exchange, though it’s unlikely that the United States would suddenly release Ms. Butina." Mrs. McC: Whaddaya bet Vlad gave Donald a 24-K gold pardon pen during their secret meeting?

Katie Rogers of the New York Times: "President Trump lashed out at his longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, on Saturday, suggesting that there could be legal consequences for Mr. Cohen’s decision to record a discussion they had two months before the 2016 election about paying a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump. 'Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer’s office (early in the morning) — almost unheard of,' Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. 'Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client — totally unheard of & perhaps illegal. The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!' With his tweet, Mr. Trump signaled open warfare on Mr. Cohen, a longtime fixer he had until now tried to keep by his side as the Justice Department investigates Mr. Cohen’s involvement in paying women to quash potentially damaging news coverage about Mr. Trump during the campaign.... New York law allows one party to a conversation to tape it without the other knowing.... Mr. Trump himself also has a history of recording phone calls and conversations.... When The Wall Street Journal reported on A.M.I.’s payments to [model Karen] McDougal days before the election, the Trump campaign denied knowing about them. Hope Hicks, the campaign spokeswoman, said at the time that Ms. McDougal’s claim of an affair was 'totally untrue.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Trump's fake outrage might seem a little less fake & outrageous if it hadn't been his own lawyers who likely released news of the tape, likely at his own direction in hopes of changing the subject from Helsinki to sex. ...

... Erik Pedersen of Deadline: "Federal law-enforcement and/or investigative agencies ... must go through a rigorous process through the proper channels to secure a search warrant. Did they in this case? Fully conceivable. But hey, perhaps they could have shown some consideration and barged in a little later in the day." ...

... Colin Kalbacher of Law & Crime fingers Trump for his "obvious attempt to channel Wallace Shawn":

... Update. Gloria Borger of CNN: "... Donald Trump's lawyers have waived attorney-client privilege on his behalf regarding a secretly recorded conversation he had in September 2016 with ... Michael Cohen in which they discussed payments to an ex-Playboy model who says she had an affair with the President.... [The move] ... effectively gives prosecutors the ability to use the recording if they find it relevant to their criminal investigation of Cohen.... The special master had designated the recording as privileged.... After The New York Times first revealed the existence of the tape -- and [Rudy] Giuliani claimed the tape was exculpatory evidence that did no harm to Trump — his legal team decided to remove any protection relating to the attorney-client relationship on this specific matter.... Team Cohen remains surprised that Trump's lawyers removed the protective claim of privilege, given their view that the tape is harmful to the President....What's more, they see Giuliani's public comments as a way to change the subject from the President's near-universally panned performance in Helsinki, Finland...." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Now it's looking more like somebody other than Trump's lawyers released the tape, but Giuliani, by opening his yap, forced the Trump team to waive the privilege. Matt Apuzzo -- the lead reporter on the story, said on MSNBC Friday night that the NYT had been working on the story for some time & decided to run with it only after they got Giuliani on the record about the tape. Anyhow, congrats, Rudy, especially if your rosy interpretation of the content is dead wrong.

Jim Rutenberg & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "Federal authorities examining the work President Trump’s former lawyer did to squelch embarrassing stories before the 2016 election have come to believe that an important ally in that effort, the tabloid company American Media Inc., at times acted more as a political supporter than as a news organization, according to people briefed on the investigation. That determination has kept the publisher in the middle of an inquiry that could create legal and political challenges for the president as prosecutors investigate whether the lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, violated campaign finance law. It could also spell trouble for the company, which publishes The National Enquirer, raising thorny questions about when coverage that is favorable to a candidate strays into overt political activity, and when First Amendment protections should apply.... The authorities believe that the company was not always operating in what campaign finance law calls a 'legitimate press function.'... Cameron Stracher, an A.M.I. lawyer, indicated that the company was cooperating with the investigation.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post: "Nearly a year ago, I speculated that the Trump campaign might have shared data with the Russian Internet Research Agency, the team that created fake personas and put up fake Facebook pages with the goal of spreading false stories about Hillary Clinton.... The latest indictment produced by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation, together with President Trump’s strange performance in Helsinki, suggests a different hypothesis: that Russia shared data with the Trump campaign, and not vice versa." Applebaum goes on to theorize in a way that supports Rachel Maddow's ruminations in the video linked below. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Appelbaum ends her column with, "Shared data could also explain why Trump appeared to feel so indebted to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, why he wanted to speak to him with no aides present, why he is so reluctant to acknowledge Russian interference. It could even explain why he talks so obsessively and inaccurately about the size of his great electoral victory: because he himself believes that the Russians helped him win. He fears that this would make his presidency illegitimate. Which it would." This is what I've thought for a long time -- that all of Trump's nutty conspiracy theories (400-pound NJ hacker in basement, busloads of Massachusetts residents voting in New Hampshire [AND Massachusetts]) & denials about the 2016 election are cover-ups for the fact that Trump knowingly & perhaps aggressively colluded with foreign operatives. He knows (or at least knew) what he did & he's dancing as fast as he can to hide it. He'll grasp any straw (and repeat it incessantly) to that end.

West Wing Walk-Back Week. Ashley Parker, et al., of the Washington Post: "For Trump and his White House, the days that followed the Helsinki summit amounted to an unofficial Walk Back Week — a daily scramble of corrections and clarifications from the West Wing. Each announcement, intended to blunt the global fallout of the president’s Russophilic performance in Helsinki, was followed by another mishap that only fueled more consternation." A fun read. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Zeke Miller & Jonathan Lemire of the AP: "Facing condemnation from allies and foes alike on Capitol Hill..., Donald Trump was outnumbered even in the Oval Office. Top aides gathered to convince the president to issue a rare walk-back of the comments he’d made raising doubts about U.S. intelligence conclusions of Russian election interference as he stood alongside Vladimir Putin.... As each White House effort to clean up the situation failed to stem the growing bipartisan backlash, Trump’s mood worsened, according to confidants. He groused about his staff for not better managing the fallout. He was angry at the two American reporters, including one from The Associated Press, who asked questions at the Helsinki news conference. And he seethed at the lack of support he believed he received from congressional Republicans. Also a target of the president’s ire was Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who issued a rare statement rebutting the president’s Monday comments. But it was Coats’ televised interview Thursday at a security conference in Aspen, Colo., that set off the president anew...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Chas Danner of New York: "Trump’s anger over having to answer [AP reporter Jonathan] Lemire’s question — not his failure in attempting to do so — lingered on. Speaking with CNBC, Trump later characterized (and distorted) the exchange as 'fools from the media saying, "Why didn’t you stand there, look him in the face, walk over to him, and start shouting at him?" I said, "Are these people crazy? I want to make a deal.’” After a week that arguably illustrates Trump’s inability to handle reality better than any other during his fantastical presidency, he should be careful who he calls 'crazy.'” ...

... Olivia Nuzzi of New York: “'The White House' being separate from 'the president' in this administration as they’ve never been separate before, with contradictory statements emerging at a machine-gun pace from these two entities that are supposed to be in sync, if nothing else at least spinning the story (i.e. bullshitting) in the same way.... Over the last five days, the White House has attempted to manufacture a permanent state of uncertainty, in which when Trump says or does anything — even with the world as witness — we can be talked into believing the most harmless interpretation of the facts." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

... digby: "The Giant Toddler had a tantrum after watching TV and decided to show everybody by inviting the foreign leader who sabotaged Hillary Clinton's election campaign for him to a big summit at the White House.... I have no doubt that he made some deal with or is under the influence of Vladimir Putin. There's just no way to avoid that reality anymore. But he's also a psychologically and intellectually unfit cretin." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Back in the (Former) U.S.S.R. Matthew Bodner in the New Republic: "Russian celebration ... of Putin’s performance in Helsinki seems split between outright jubilation, and those who worry the victory dance may be premature — too focused on short-term gains and Trump’s pro-Russian rhetoric. We’ve seen it all before. On November 09, 2016, Moscow celebrated Trump’s victory with champagne on the floor of the national legislature and election night parties. But when radical pro-Russia change failed to materialize, the lack of follow-through was blamed on the anti-Russian policy establishment in Washington — entrenching the notion that Russia was under assault from a committed U.S.-led international conspiracy against Putin and the people. Once the euphoria of Putin’s optical triumph over Trump in Helsinki fades, and the reality of the situation again sinks in, it will be this American establishment that Russians blame. None of it will fall on Putin’s lap. However short lived, he brought them victory in Helsinki." ...

     ... Dominic Tierney of The Atlantic: "This is the paradox of Russian power -- Moscow is influential precisely because it’s weak.... [M]ore capabilities doesn’t always mean getting your way, because they inspire resistance from other countries. Sometimes David has more sway than Goliath.... [O]ftentimes, Soviet strength didn’t mean influence — it meant resistance. Soviet power was the glue that bound the Western alliance together.... In the United States, Democrats and Republicans joined together to back a global effort to contain communism.... When the U.S.S.R. disintegrated, Moscow lost half its population, while nato and EU expansion brought the West directly into the Russian sphere.... The collapse of the Soviet Union was an existential crisis for the Western alliance...And so, compared with the Soviet premiers of old, Putin faces a trade-off. He has a weaker hand to play, but his opponents are more quarrelsome and divided. His strategy is to make a virtue of incapacity." --safari

... MEANWHILE. John Hudson, et al., of the Washington Post: Trump is pissed off that his hapless State Department can't deliver on his pie-in-the-sky lies on how his half-hour meeting with Kim Jong-un turned North Korea into a popular beach-vacation destination. Or something like that.

Trump Can't Find Any Supporters among Outstanding Artists, Humanitarians, Scientists. Peter Libbey of the New York Times (July 15): "Since 1985, arts figures including Georgia O’Keeffe, Frank Capra and Ella Fitzgerald have received the National Medal of Arts while similar cultural achievement has been recognized by the National Humanities Medal, which presidents have awarded to the likes of Steven Spielberg, Anna Deavere Smith and Louise Glück. But neither of those medals has been awarded since President Trump took office, the longest gap ever and one that again draws attention to the president’s often awkward relationship with the arts. The deadline for nominations for the 2016 arts medals, which have yet to be awarded, was in February 2017. The National Medal of Science, and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation have also not been awarded since 2016."

Morgan Gstalter of the Hill: "Protests against President Trump carried into day six with a crowd gathering outside of the White House Saturday despite heavy rain. Former Hillary Clinton campaign adviser Adam Parkhomenko has been organizing protests on Pennsylvania Avenue since Trump returned on Monday from his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Crowds still turned up to 'Occupy Lafayette Park' on Saturday night despite pouring rain and the fact that Trump is not actually at the White House this weekend."

Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post: "Most people seem to think that the proprietors of the Red Hen restaurant were wrong last month to refuse to serve dinner to presidential press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The question remains: Given their antipathy to the Trump administration, what should they have done? With a little help from my friends, I present some suggestions. Serve Sanders a plate that has only a sprig of parsley, a pea and a chicken beak, and when she complains about the portion size, insist it’s the largest amount of food ever served anywhere to anyone." And so on. I laughed out loud. Many thanks to Patrick for the link. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Rude Pundit: "In another of its ongoing series 'Do the Editors of the New York Times Really Think the Yokels Will Ever Love Them?' reporters interviewed an assortment of the aforementioned yokels, along with a scattering of rubes and yahoos, all who voted for Donald Trump, to find out what they think of the president in the wake of his bowing down to Vladimir Putin. And, surprise, surprise, the yokels, rubes, and yahoos are almost all still on board. One dumbass in Indiana said, 'It is strictly a witch hunt' against Trump, while a shit-for-brains in Louisiana proclaimed, 'They’re just trying to make Trump’s election look fraudulent' and some fucking moron in Arizona said that Trump is a strategic master because 'No one really thinks it’s a true friendship' with Putin." And so forth. Thanks to Ken W. for the link. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Reports like this (the Rude Pundit lists six of them) run counter to the experience of Sarah Smarsh, a Wichita writer, who finds that the yokels are yearning to be free of Trump & Co. Smarsh doesn't seem like any sort of dimwit, so I got to wondering about these polls that announce, you know, 68 percent of Republicans think Trump cleaned Putin's clock at Helsinki. I'm not going to bother to look at the internals of all these reports, but I did look at Gallup's poll on the percentage of Americans who identify as Republicans, & the latest survey, which is not an outlier (but the numbers do bounce around quite a bit), puts the number at 27 percent. SO, if you do the math, in general, it's fair to say that in June 2018, about 18-1/2 percent of Americans think Trump is a stable genius. That is, the NYT, et al., are taking field trips to Fly-over Country in search of the 18-percenters. Their anecdotal evidence is significant but in general not an insurmountable cliff for Democrats. It's true that in the Helsinki poll I linked, 32 percent of Americans thought Trump did a bang-up job, which means -- to me -- that 14 percent of responders were not paying attention or just too patriotic to think that their own POTUS* is in the bag for a ruthless dictator. Which we know he is.

** Edgar Walters of The Texas Tribune: "While the federal government says it has reunited hundreds of children who were separated from their parents at the southern border, new documents show the number of immigrant children held at Texas shelters has grown in recent weeks — and private groups hope to build as many as four new facilities to meet the demand.... As of July 13, Texas shelters housed 5,024 'unaccompanied' children, up from 4,919 on June 21.... Texas regulators do not differentiate between children who arrived at the border without adult supervision and those separated from their families under a new Trump administration policy of 'zero tolerance.'” --safari

Et tu, Randulus? Darcy Costello of the Louisville Courier Journal: "Sen. Rand Paul spent hundreds of donor dollars on shopping trips and thousands on meals, travel and other expenses abroad, according to a report from nonpartisan watchdog groups released this week. The spending was funneled through a political leadership committee, which are meant to enable lawmakers to donate to other political campaigns.... Paul, Kentucky's junior senator, spent $11,043 at restaurants in Italy and Malta last year through his leadership PAC, Reinventing a New Direction, according to the report. In the same year, he spent $4,492 on limousine services in Rome and $1,904 on a hotel in Athens that boasts 'breathtaking panoramic views.' His PAC, known as RAND PAC, also spent $337 on apparel at a Nebraska Men's Wearhouse, $438 on apparel at a shoe store on Madison Avenue in New York City, $201 at TJ Maxx and $1,575 at a restaurant in the Trump Hotel.... Paul is also highlighted in the report for his lower-than-average contributions to other candidates or committees." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: In Li'l Randy's defense, isn't it preferable for him to spend donor money on limos & fancy hotels than on helping to elect horrible Republicans?

Kavanaugh 1999: Supremes Should Keep Their Mitts off the President. Mark Sherman of the AP: "Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh suggested several years ago that the unanimous high court ruling in 1974 that forced President Richard Nixon to turn over the Watergate tapes, leading to the end of his presidency, may have been wrongly decided.... '[The decision] took away the power of the president to control information ... by holding that the courts had power and jurisdiction to order the president to disclose information in response to a subpoena sought by a subordinate executive branch official.... Maybe the tension of the time led to an erroneous decision,' Kavanaugh said.... The 1999 article was among a pile of material released in response to the committee’s questionnaire. Kavanaugh was asked to provide information about his career as an attorney and jurist, his service in the executive branch, education, society memberships and more. It’s an opening look at a long paper trail that lawmakers will consider as they decide whether to confirm him." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The implication here is that neither the Congress nor the public has a right to know the president has committed secret criminal and/or impeachable acts. Kavanaugh is not only arguing that the president is above the law; he's suggesting that a president can act with impunity throughout his term in office. I guess he still could be impeached if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue.

Beyond the Beltway

"Band of Assaulters." Frank Dale of ThinkProgress: "Failed Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore was endorsed by Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin despite numerous accusations of Moore’s inappropriate sexual behavior with minors. Now Entrekin has also been accused of having sex with underage girls. AL.com ... reports Entrekin is under investigation after being accused of sexual misconduct at 'drug-fueled parties he hosted for fellow law enforcement officers and other adult men in the early nineties.'" --safari

Florida Is Not a Safe State to Live. Enjoli Francis of ABC News: "A man who was captured on surveillance video fatally shooting another man in Clearwater, Florida, during a parking-spot spat as his young son watched nearby will not be arrested or charged by police, according to Pinellas County Sheriff. 'I don't make the law. I enforce the law,' Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during a news conference today. 'The law in the state of Florida today is that people have a right to stand their ground and have a right to defend themselves when they believe that they are in harm.' The sheriff announced the case will be sent to the state attorney's office for review." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

Voter Suppression Comes to New Hampshire. Jane Timm of NBC News: "New Hampshire Democrats are hoping to turn the November midterm elections into a referendum on a new law barring part-time residents from voting in the state. Last week, Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, signed into law House Bill 1264, requiring students and other part-time residents to become permanent residents of the state if they want to vote. Currently, students must show they are 'domiciled' in the state when they register to vote. The new law will force permanent residents to comply with laws such as state motor vehicle registration. Students with cars, for example, would have to pay for a new, in-state driver's license and register their cars in the state, a cost critics argue could deter the historically Democratic voting bloc from the ballot box."

Hog Heaven Shuts Down. Gregory Schneider of the Washington Post: "...  it has come as a shock that Smithfield Foods is shuttering the last smokehouse that produces the area’s signature product, the genuine Smithfield ham. 'Really? You’re going to do this?' was the reaction of local historian and former Smithfield Foods executive Herb De Groft, 77. 'Country meats are what brought this area to the fore in the 1800s. Word was, the Queen of England used to get one Smithfield ham a year.'... The smokehouse is said to be more than 50 years old, but whether the company will build a new one, seek a change in state law or simply abandon the “genuine Smithfield” moniker is a matter of local speculation. Smokehouses once sat cheek by jowl, so to speak, in the little town, but local ham producers have been consolidating for years. Names like Gwaltney, Luter and Todd — a roll call that can make an old Virginian’s mouth start to water — were absorbed into the giant Smithfield Foods, which itself was purchased five years ago by the Chinese conglomerate Shuanghui Group, now known as WH Group.” 

 

     ... Via Stephanie Griffith of ThinkProgress: “'I looked at him and I said, "You don’t touch me, motherf__!’” [Emelia] Holden told People magazine. 'I didn’t even think, I just reacted.... I’ve never done that before.'” Holden weighs 115 pounds.

Way Beyond

Glenn Greenwald of the Intercept: "Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno traveled to London on Friday for the ostensible purpose of speaking at the 2018 Global Disabilities Summit (Moreno has been confined to a wheelchair since being shot in a 1998 robbery attempt). The concealed, actual purpose of the President’s trip is to meet with British officials to finalize an agreement under which Ecuador will withdraw its asylum protection of Julian Assange, in place since 2012, eject him from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and then hand over the WikiLeaks founder to British authorities. Moreno’s itinerary also notably includes a trip to Madrid, where he will meet with Spanish officials still seething over Assange’s denunciation of human rights abuses perpetrated by Spain’s central government against protesters marching for Catalonia independence. Almost three months ago, Ecuador blocked Assange from accessing the internet, and Assange has not been able to communicate with the outside world ever since. The primary factor in Ecuador’s decision to silence him was Spanish anger over Assange’s tweets about Catalonia." Mrs. McC: Take everything Greenwald writes with a grain of salt, but I'm going to assume -- he has the basic facts right here. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Emma Green of The Atlantic: "Israel passed a law this week that has been floating around the Knesset for a half-dozen years. Branded the 'nation-state bill,' the legislation declares that Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people, and that 'the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.'... The law also asserts that Jewish settlement — without specifying where — is a national value, and promises to encourage and advance settlement efforts." --safari ...

... Juan Cole: "Israel has for decades been running the occupied territories of Palestine–Gaza and the West Bank– with Apartheid tactics.... It has become abundantly clear ... that the Occupation is forever...But now the Israeli parliament or Knesset has passed a law openly declaring Palestinians to be second-class citizens. Building squatter settlements on Palestinian land is made the official policy of the state (well, it has been for decades de facto, but now it is de jure). Arabic is demoted from being an official language.... Sovereignty is vested solely in the 80% majority of Jewish Israelis. Israel is no more a democracy now than Turkey is. Both have regular elections and in both the Right routinely wins, and probably fairly so.... The implications are enormous." --safari

Usual Suspects to Re-up with Russian Hackers & Convert Europe into One Big Fascist Dystopia. Nico Hines of the Daily Beast: "Steve Bannon plans to go toe-to-toe with George Soros and spark a right-wing revolution in Europe. Trump’s former White House chief advisor told The Daily Beast that he is setting up a foundation in Europe called The Movement which he hopes will lead a right-wing populist revolt across the continent starting with the European Parliament elections next spring. The non-profit will be a central source of polling, advice on messaging, data targeting, and think-tank research for a ragtag band of right-wingers who are surging all over Europe, in many cases without professional political structures or significant budgets.... Over the past year, Bannon has held talks with right-wing groups across the continent from Nigel Farage and members of Marine Le Pen’s Front National (recently renamed Rassemblement National) in the West, to Hungary’s Viktor Orban and the Polish populists in the East."

Friday
Jul202018

The Commentariat -- July 21, 2018

Afternoon Update:

Katie Rogers of the New York Times: "President Trump lashed out at his longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, on Saturday, suggesting that there could be legal consequences for Mr. Cohen’s decision to record a discussion they had two months before the 2016 election about paying a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump. 'Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer’s office (early in the morning) — almost unheard of,' Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. 'Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client — totally unheard of & perhaps illegal. The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!' With his tweet, Mr. Trump signaled open warfare on Mr. Cohen, a longtime fixer he had until now tried to keep by his side as the Justice Department investigates Mr. Cohen’s involvement in paying women to quash potentially damaging news coverage about Mr. Trump during the campaign.... New York law allows one party to a conversation to tape it without the other knowing.... Mr. Trump himself also has a history of recording phone calls and conversations.... When The Wall Street Journal reported on A.M.I.’s payments to [model Karen] McDougal days before the election, the Trump campaign denied knowing about them. Hope Hicks, the campaign spokeswoman, said at the time that Ms. McDougal’s claim of an affair was 'totally untrue.'” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Trump's fake outrage might seem a little less fake & outrageous if it hadn't been his own lawyers who likely released news of the tape, no doubt at his own direction in hopes of changing the subject from Helsinki to sex. ...

... West Wing Walk-Back Week. Ashley Parker, et al., of the Washington Post: "For Trump and his White House, the days that followed the Helsinki summit amounted to an unofficial Walk Back Week — a daily scramble of corrections and clarifications from the West Wing. Each announcement, intended to blunt the global fallout of the president’s Russophilic performance in Helsinki, was followed by another mishap that only fueled more consternation." A fun read. ...

... Zeke Miller & Jonathan Lemire of the AP: "Facing condemnation from allies and foes alike on Capitol Hill..., Donald Trump was outnumbered even in the Oval Office. Top aides gathered to convince the president to issue a rare walk-back of the comments he’d made raising doubts about U.S. intelligence conclusions of Russian election interference as he stood alongside Vladimir Putin.... As each White House effort to clean up the situation failed to stem the growing bipartisan backlash, Trump’s mood worsened, according to confidants. He groused about his staff for not better managing the fallout. He was angry at the two American reporters, including one from The Associated Press, who asked questions at the Helsinki news conference. And he seethed at the lack of support he believed he received from congressional Republicans. Also a target of the president’s ire was Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who issued a rare statement rebutting the president’s Monday comments. But it was Coats’ televised interview Thursday at a security conference in Aspen, Colo., that set off the president anew...." ...

... Olivia Nuzzi of New York: “'The White House' being separate from 'the president' in this administration as they’ve never been separate before, with contradictory statements emerging at a machine-gun pace from these two entities that are supposed to be in sync, if nothing else at least spinning the story (i.e. bullshitting) in the same way.... Over the last five days, the White House has attempted to manufacture a permanent state of uncertainty, in which when Trump says or does anything — even with the world as witness — we can be talked into believing the most harmless interpretation of the facts."

... digby: "The Giant Toddler had a tantrum after watching TV and decided to show everybody by inviting the foreign leader who sabotaged Hillary Clinton's election campaign for him to a big summit at the White House.... I have no doubt that he made some deal with or is under the influence of Vladimir Putin. There's just no way to avoid that reality anymore. But he's also a psychologically and intellectually unfit cretin."

Jim Rutenberg & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "Federal authorities examining the work President Trump’s former lawyer did to squelch embarrassing stories before the 2016 election have come to believe that an important ally in that effort, the tabloid company American Media Inc., at times acted more as a political supporter than as a news organization, according to people briefed on the investigation. That determination has kept the publisher in the middle of an inquiry that could create legal and political challenges for the president as prosecutors investigate whether the lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, violated campaign finance law. It could also spell trouble for the company, which publishes The National Enquirer, raising thorny questions about when coverage that is favorable to a candidate strays into overt political activity, and when First Amendment protections should apply.... The authorities believe that the company was not always operating in what campaign finance law calls a 'legitimate press function.'... Cameron Stracher, an A.M.I. lawyer, indicated that the company was cooperating with the investigation.”

Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post: "Nearly a year ago, I speculated that the Trump campaign might have shared data with the Russian Internet Research Agency, the team that created fake personas and put up fake Facebook pages with the goal of spreading false stories about Hillary Clinton.... The latest indictment produced by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation, together with President Trump’s strange performance in Helsinki, suggests a different hypothesis: that Russia shared data with the Trump campaign, and not vice versa." Applebaum goes on to theorize in a way that supports Rachel Maddow's ruminations in the video linked below. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Appelbaum ends her column with, "Shared data could also explain why Trump appeared to feel so indebted to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, why he wanted to speak to him with no aides present, why he is so reluctant to acknowledge Russian interference. It could even explain why he talks so obsessively and inaccurately about the size of his great electoral victory: because he himself believes that the Russians helped him win. He fears that this would make his presidency illegitimate. Which it would." This is what I've thought for a long time -- that all of Trump's nutty conspiracy theories (400-pound NJ hacker in basement, busloads of Massachusetts residents voting in New Hampshire [AND Massachusetts]) & denials about the 2016 election are cover-ups for the fact that Trump knowingly & perhaps aggressively colluded with foreign operatives. He knows (or at least knew) what he did & he's dancing as fast as he can to hide it. He'll grasp any straw (and repeat it incessantly) to that end.

Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post: "Most people seem to think that the proprietors of the Red Hen restaurant were wrong last month to refuse to serve dinner to presidential press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The question remains: Given their antipathy to the Trump administration, what should they have done? With a little help from my friends, I present some suggestions. Serve Sanders a plate that has only a sprig of parsley, a pea and a chicken beak, and when she complains about the portion size, insist it’s the largest amount of food ever served anywhere to anyone." And so on. I laughed out loud. Many thanks to Patrick for the link.

Glenn Greenwald of the Intercept: "Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno traveled to London on Friday for the ostensible purpose of speaking at the 2018 Global Disabilities Summit (Moreno has been confined to a wheelchair since being shot in a 1998 robbery attempt). The concealed, actual purpose of the President’s trip is to meet with British officials to finalize an agreement under which Ecuador will withdraw its asylum protection of Julian Assange, in place since 2012, eject him from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and then hand over the WikiLeaks founder to British authorities. Moreno’s itinerary also notably includes a trip to Madrid, where he will meet with Spanish officials still seething over Assange’s denunciation of human rights abuses perpetrated by Spain’s central government against protesters marching for Catalonia independence. Almost three months ago, Ecuador blocked Assange from accessing the internet, and Assange has not been able to communicate with the outside world ever since. The primary factor in Ecuador’s decision to silence him was Spanish anger over Assange’s tweets about Catalonia." Mrs. McC: Take everything Greenwald writes with a grain of salt, but I'm going to assume -- he has the basic facts right here.

Florida Is Not a Safe State to Live. Enjoli Francis of ABC News: "A man who was captured on surveillance video fatally shooting another man in Clearwater, Florida, during a parking-spot spat as his young son watched nearby will not be arrested or charged by police, according to Pinellas County Sheriff. 'I don't make the law. I enforce the law,' Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during a news conference today. 'The law in the state of Florida today is that people have a right to stand their ground and have a right to defend themselves when they believe that they are in harm.' The sheriff announced the case will be sent to the state attorney's office for review."

*****

Corrupt AND Sleazy:

Sex, Lies & Audiotape. Matt Apuzzo, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, secretly recorded a conversation with Mr. Trump two months before the presidential election in which they discussed payments to a former Playboy model [Karen McDougal] who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump, according to lawyers and others familiar with the recording. The F.B.I. seized the recording this year during a raid on Mr. Cohen’s office. The Justice Department is investigating Mr. Cohen’s involvement in paying women to tamp down embarrassing news stories about Mr. Trump ahead of the 2016 election. Prosecutors want to know whether that violated federal campaign finance laws, and any conversation with Mr. Trump about those payments would be of keen interest to them. The recording’s existence further draws Mr. Trump into questions about tactics he and his associates used to keep aspects of his personal and business life a secret.... The men discussed a payment from Mr. Trump to Ms. McDougal — separate from the Enquirer payment — to buy her story, [Rudy] Giuliani said. Such a payment would ensure that Ms. McDougal was silenced going forward. No payment was ever made, Mr. Giuliani said...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Back in February, "a White House spokesperson denied Trump had a relationship with McDougal, calling the reporting 'an old story that is just more fake news.'” ...

... Matt Naham of Law & Crime. Rudy "Giuliani claims that Cohen’s recording of a conversation about paying off a Playboy model for silence about an affair with his client is actually great and 'powerful' news.... Giuliani confirmed that there was such a conversation between Trump and Cohen, but Giuliani says it actually shows Trump did nothing wrong. He said no payment was ever made and that the recording was under two minutes in length. 'Nothing in that conversation suggests that [Trump] had any knowledge of it in advance,' he said. 'In the big scheme of things, it’s powerful exculpatory evidence.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Evan Perez, et al., of CNN: "Another source with knowledge of the tape, however, said the conversation is not as Giuliani described and is not good for the President, though the source would not elaborate.... The source familiar with the tape said Cohen recommends buying the rights to [Karen McDougal's proposed] story [for the National Enquirer] and Trump asks questions about how they would go about doing that.... The discussion, Giuliani said, involved their intention 'to reimburse AMI for what they laid out and to do it by check, properly recorded.'... A source familiar with the AMI deal with McDougal disputed Giuliani's description of the deal. The source said it was not a nondisclosure agreement [-- as Giuliani claimed --] but a license agreement.... Cohen has other recordings of the President in his records that were seized by the FBI, said both a source with knowledge of Cohen's tapes and Giuliani, who described the other recordings as mundane discussions.... When asked by CNN if first lady Melania Trump had a comment on the news of the recorded conversation, her spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement, 'Mrs. Trump remains focused on her role as a mother and as First Lady of the United States. We will have no further comment on the topic.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Apparently Mrs. Trump is not "focused on her role as the wife of the POTUS*." ...

... Elura Nanos of Law & Crime: "Undoubtedly, the Trump team will raise the issue of attorney-client privilege.... But there’s big speed bump in Trump’s assertion of attorney-client privilege—known as the 'crime-fraud exception.' When communications between attorneys and their clients further a crime, tort, or fraud, privilege is a no-go.... In this case, the outcome of the privilege argument will depend significantly on the content (as opposed to the circumstances, as is more often the case) of the recorded conversation.... Buying McDougal’s silence – either directly or through AMI as a middleman – isn’t necessarily illegal.... However..., Trump may have committed campaign finance violations for failing to properly disclose payouts....” ...

     ... BUT Emily Fox of Vanity Fair was on Rachel Maddow's show & said that the Trump-Cohen McDougal tape was one of those the special master in the case deemed privileged. It was Trump's attorneys who released the tape to Mueller's investigators (effectively waiving the privilege), according to Fox, & leaked the tape to the NYT, presumably in an effort to give Michael Cohen less leverage to cut a deal. Vanity Fair -- as of 9:45 pm ET Friday -- has not yet published a story on this reporting. ...

... When in Trouble, Pick on Some Black People. Michael Sykes of Axios: "President Trump took to Twitter Friday to call out the NFL on their national anthem policy. 'The NFL National Anthem Debate is alive and well again - can’t believe it! Isn’t it in contract that players must stand at attention, hand on heart? The $40,000,000 Commissioner must now make a stand. First time kneeling, out for game. Second time kneeling, out for season/no pay!'" Mrs. McC: It's worth noting, I suppose, that the Trump-Cohen McDougal tape is itself a distraction from the much more important Helsinski debacle. ...

... Julian Zelizer of the Atlantic: "The United States is now so fiercely partisan that shocking tape recordings will still have trouble shaking the political landscape. That congressional Republicans continued to stand by Trump despite his scandalous behavior with Russia has made it clear that almost nothing can overwhelm partisan loyalty. Even if there is a damning tape, the president and his Republican allies in the House would attack the material as fake and illegitimate, part of a 'witch hunt.' Unlike Nixon, who fought tooth and nail to prevent the tapes from being released, Trump seems more likely to focus on moving to control the narrative.... Nor did President Nixon have Fox News hosts to explain why the tapes don’t prove anything about the president’s wrongdoing.... Indeed, news of the Cohen tapes might be perfectly timed for the president, shifting the conversation away from treason and toward Trump’s sex life, just as the Access Hollywood tapes in October 2016 drowned out the public warnings by President Obama’s intelligence chiefs that Russia was attempting to sway the election results. Of course, Nixon, too, initially thought that he would survive, and that the tapes might even help his case. He was wrong." ...

... Mueller to Question Manhattan Madam. Manual Roig-Franzia of the Washington Post: "Investigators in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office have notified an attorney for Kristin Davis, who gained notoriety in the 2000s for running a high-end prostitution ring, that they intend to question her as part of their probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Davis said Friday. Davis, who is known as the 'Manhattan Madam,' said she expects to be asked about her close friend, Roger Stone, a political operative and longtime confidant of President Trump. It comes one week after prosecutors unveiled an indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers who allegedly conspired to hack Democrats during the campaign. Stone was not named in the indictment, but messages cited by prosecutors match communications that he says he had with the Twitter persona Guccifer 2.0, who had claimed online to be a Romanian hacker."

Jamil Smith of Rolling Stone: "It typically takes a mass shooting to keep the National Rifle Association this quiet. As of this writing, the NRA has issued no public comment about this week’s arrest and indictment of Maria Butina, a 29-year-old Russian gun rights activist who had spent years ingratiating herself with the NRA, as well as Republican politicians and conservative notables. Butina is suspected of conspiracy to act as an unauthorized agent of the Russian Federation within the United States.... The NRA contributed $30 million to help elect Donald Trump in 2016. The FBI has been investigating whether some or all of that cash may have been supplied by Russia. Rolling Stone reported in April that the Russian central banker Alexander Torshin, along with Butina, had deeper ties to the NRA than previously known. The NRA even flew a delegation to Moscow in 2015 to meet with Kremlin officials, including one freshly sanctioned by the Obama administration." ...

... Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times: "Perhaps, rather than covering for Trump, some Republicans are covering for themselves.... On Monday, we learned of the arrest of Maria Butina, who is accused of being a Russian agent who infiltrated the National Rifle Association, the most important outside organization in the Republican firmament. Legal filings in the case outline a plan to use the N.R.A. to push the Republican Party in a more pro-Russian direction.... If the N.R.A. as an organization turns out to be compromised, it would shake conservative politics to its foundation.... It is not surprising that Republicans would want to protect the N.R.A. According to an audit obtained by the Center for Responsive Politics, the N.R.A.’s overall spending increased by more than $100 million in 2016.... [Sen. Ron] Wyden [D-Oregon] said Republicans on the Intelligence Committee have thwarted his attempts to look deeply into the Russian money trail.... (... Richard Burr, the North Carolina Republican who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, is one of Congress’s leading recipients of N.R.A. support.) On Monday, a few hours after news broke of Butina’s arrest, the Treasury Department announced a new rule sparing some tax-exempt groups, including the N.R.A., from having to report their large donors to the I.R.S.... You might ask who benefits. The answer is: not just Trump."


Craig Timberg & Shane Harris
of the Washington Post: "On the eve of one of the newsiest days of the 2016 presidential election season, a group of Russian operatives fired off tweets at a furious pace, about a dozen each minute. By the time they finished, more than 18,000 had been sent through cyberspace toward unwitting American voters, making it the busiest day by far in a disinformation operation whose aftermath is still roiling U.S. politics. The reason for this burst of activity on Oct. 6, 2016, documented in a new trove of 3 million Russian tweets collected by Clemson University researchers, is a mystery that has generated intriguing theories but no definitive explanation.... [The next day,] Wikileaks began releasing embarrassing emails that Russian intelligence operatives had stolen from the campaign chairman for Democrat Hillary Clinton.... The Clemson researchers and others familiar with their findings think there likely is a connection between this looming release and the torrent of tweets, which varied widely in content but included a heavy dose of political commentary." ...

... ** Rachel Maddow has a compelling theory on how Russia helped (or ensured) Trump win the 2016 election:

Tim Egan excoriates Trumpbots: "We should stop thinking that a Fifth Avenue moment — the shooting that Trump famously said he could commit that wouldn’t hurt him — will change minds. For there are enough Fifth Avenue Republicans, in the apt term of James Hohmann of The Washington Post, to shield this man.... In rooting for Trump to be Putin’s poodle, the ex-Klan man [David Duke] is just a goose step ahead of the party that has been remade in Trump’s image.... Even though most Americans are appalled, polls taken after the Russia summit show that a majority of Republicans approve of his submission to the former Soviets.... These people disgrace the history that preceded the American moral collapse in Helsinki."

Trump Lets Putin Define U.S. Policy. Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "Russia provided additional details Friday of what it said were agreements made at the presidential summit in Helsinki this week, shaping a narrative of the meeting with no confirmation or alternative account from the Trump administration. Not surprisingly, the Russian story line tended to favor the Kremlin’s own policy prescriptions, at times contradicting stated administration strategy. Russia already has sent formal proposals to Washington for joint U.S.-Russia efforts to fund reconstruction of war-ravaged Syria and facilitate the return home of millions of Syrians who fled the country, following 'agreements reached' by President Trump and Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, the three-star head of the Russian National Defense Management Center, said Friday." ...

... MEANWHILE.... Julian Barnes, et al., of the New York Times: "The Pentagon declared on Friday that it would provide $200 million in assistance to Ukraine to help fight the Russian-controlled separatists in the country’s east. 'Russia should suffer consequences for its aggressive, destabilizing behavior and its illegal occupation of Ukraine,' Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement. And a day earlier, the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, pledged to offer Mr. Trump a candid assessment of the vast risks of inviting Mr. Putin to the White House.... In administration strategy documents, NATO communiqués and other official orders, Russia is called a growing threat, a potential or actual adversary intent on undermining democratic institutions of the United States and its allies.... The disconnect between the policies aimed at curbing Russia and the president’s position has never been wider, a gap that presents serious risks, current and former American officials said." ...

... Ben Mathis-Lilley of Slate: "On Thursday, director of national intelligence Dan Coats more or less said that he didn’t support any of Trump’s recent decisions regarding Putin; today, Secretary of Defense James Mattis took his turn doing the implicit disavowing in a statement about new military aid to Ukraine: 'Russia should suffer consequences for its aggressive, destabilizing behavior and its illegal occupation of Ukraine. … The fundamental question we must ask ourselves is do we wish to strengthen our partners in key regions or leave them with no other options than to turn to Russia, thereby undermining a once in a generation opportunity to more closely align nations with the U.S. vision for global security and stability.'"


Ana Swanson
, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump accused China and the European Union of manipulating their currencies and continued to criticize the Federal Reserve for raising interest rates, saying those moves are putting the United States at a disadvantage. In a flurry of early-morning Twitter posts, Mr. Trump complained that the Fed’s rate increases and a 'stronger and stronger' United States dollar are 'taking away our big competitive edge.' He also said the Fed’s plan to raise rates — known as tightening because it makes borrowing more expensive — 'hurts all that we have done.'... His comments once again break with longstanding White House norms, in which American presidents tend to talk sparingly about the United States dollar and, when they do, generally reiterate that a strong dollar is in the national interest.... While financial markets seemed to shrug off Mr. Trump’s initial comments on the Federal Reserve on Thursday, his Twitter posts on Friday — all of which seemed aimed at pushing the dollar lower — drew a reaction. The dollar, as measured by the U.S. Dollar Index, fell sharply, by roughly 0.6 percent. Prices of 30-year United States Treasury bonds ... also dropped, pushing yields — which move in the opposite direction — higher. Prices for gold, a traditional hedge against inflation risk, rose.... Eswar Prasad, a professor at Cornell University, said the president’s tweets displayed 'a breezy ignorance of facts and limited understanding of basic principles of economics.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Elizabeth Williamson & Emily Steel of the New York Times: "Bill Shine, a former co-president of Fox News hired this month as President Trump’s communications chief..., was ousted from Fox News last year in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal at the network. Mr. Shine was never publicly accused of harassment, but he was accused in multiple civil lawsuits of covering up misconduct by Roger E. Ailes, the founding chairman of Fox News, and dismissing concerns from colleagues who complained.... In one previously undisclosed action, Mr. Shine was subpoenaed last year by a federal grand jury in New York as part of a criminal investigation into Fox News’s handling of sexual harassment complaints.... (He is the fourth person in 18 months to hold the post under Mr. Trump, and others have filled in.) His wife, Darla, was found to have made racially charged remarks on a Twitter account that has since been deleted." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Megan Garber of the Atlantic: Sarah "Sanders, on behalf of the president she works for, ... takes for granted an assumption that ... there are things that are more important than truth.... It is ... an approach that is wholly consistent with the Trumpian worldview — one that valorizes strength above all..., one that is populated by a collective of uses and thems, one whose sum, always, is zero.... This is a White House that subscribes to the incontrovertible realities of the world according to one man. Donaldpolitik." Thanks to PD Pepe for the link. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

GOP Leaders Make Sure Donald & Ivanka Keep Their China Deals. Ana Swanson: "Republican lawmakers backed away from a plan to reinstate stiff penalties on Chinese telecom firm ZTE, handing a win to President Trump, who had personally intervened to save the Beijing company. Congressional leaders removed a provision, tucked into a military policy bill, that would have stopped the Trump administration from lifting penalties on ZTE. Rather than prevent the company from buying American technology, the bill will simply limit federal purchases of ZTE products, such as handsets. The move drew swift criticism from lawmakers who had pushed for a tougher approach to ZTE, which was found guilty in 2016 of violating American sanctions on Iran and North Korea.... President Xi Jinping of China appealed personally to Mr. Trump to save the company and Mr. Trump obliged." ...

     ... Snopes (May 16): "Two days before ... Donald Trump took the unusual step on 13 May 2018 of announcing plans to help save jobs in China, reports surfaced that the Chinese government would back a development project in Indonesia featuring Trump-branded properties to the tune of $500 million." ...

     ... New York Times (May 28): "China this month awarded Ivanka Trump seven new trademarks across a broad collection of businesses, including books, housewares and cushions. At around the same time, President Trump vowed to find a way to prevent a major Chinese telecommunications company from going bust, even though the company has a history of violating American limits on doing business with countries like Iran and North Korea." ...

... Sad! Rosie Perper of Business Insider: "Trump-themed flags and hats made in China are reportedly being held up at US customs amid an intensifying trade war." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Alice Ollstein of TPM: "With the deadline for reuniting thousands of separated immigrant families less than a week away, the the Trump administration revealed in a federal court filing late Thursday night that it plans to reunite just about 60 percent of the children between ages 5-17 that are in its custody. The rest — just over 900 — have been labeled ‘ineligible’ for reunification.... Just 364 families with children older than 5 years old, out of a total of 2551, have been reunited so far, though 848 parents have been cleared for reunification, and 272 are likely to be cleared after they are interviewed by ICE." --safari

"Clean" Coal. Mark Hand of ThinkProgress: "After reaching a low point in the late 1990s, new studies are showing that black lung disease has made a startling resurgence, especially among coal workers in the central Appalachian region.... The dramatic increase in cases of black lung disease is occurring at the same time that the Trump administration is seeking ways [to]weaken coal dust rules that protect coal miners from the disease — a move that would reduce costs for coal companies, which have been strong financial backers of Trump." --safari

Casey Quilan of ThinkProgress: "The Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services changed or removed information on its website about sex discrimination, according to a new report from the Sunlight Foundation." --safari


But Jim Jordan Knew Nothing about It! Elise Viebeck & Shawn Boburg
of the Washington Post: "More than 100 Ohio State University alumni have given investigators firsthand accounts of sexual misconduct by former athletic doctor Richard Strauss, the school said Friday in an update on the probe. Strauss has been accused of sexually abusing student athletes involved in 14 sports, as well as patients at the campus health center, between 1979 and 1997, according to the school. Controversy over whether OSU athletic coaches knew about Strauss’s alleged conduct has ensnared Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), an influential conservative lawmaker who served as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State from 1987 to 1995. Jordan has consistently denied that he knew that Strauss was engaging in misconduct toward students."

Meet Your GOP. Andrew Kaczynski of CNN: "Republican Rep. Jason Lewis [Minn.] has a long history of racist rhetoric about African-Americans, pushing claims of a 'racial war' by blacks on whites and arguing that violence regularly occurs at black gatherings. He also frequently claimed that black people have an 'entitlement mentality' and viewed themselves as victims. Lewis made those comments on 'The Jason Lewis Show,' a syndicated radio program Lewis hosted from 2009 until 2014.... CNN's KFile reported on Wednesday that Lewis made a large number of deeply misogynistic comments on the show, including one monologue in which he lamented not being able to call women 'sluts' anymore." --safari

Alexander Kaufman of HuffPost via Mother Jones: "Fossil fuel producers, airlines and electrical utilities outspent environmental groups and the renewable energy industry 10 to 1 on lobbying related to climate change legislation between 2000 and 2016, according to a new analysis released Wednesday.... 'Public opinion is pretty much a minor factor in deciding what Congress is going to do,' said Robert Brulle, the study’s author and a sociologist at Drexel University. Money spent on lobbying, he said, is likely a much bigger determinant of whether federal legislation gets off the ground. 'We seem to have a public opinion fetish where if we get public opinion to be supportive of climate change legislation, then it’ll happen,' Brulle said. 'My answer to that is, gee, well, we should have gun control legislation then.'" --safari ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Under the current regime, the only times public opinion affects federal policy is when Republican voters unite behind a policy need. Thanks to GOP propaganda, climate change doesn't stand a chance. But the opioid crisis, which surprised Republican "leaders" & doesn't enjoy the support of lobbyists, has received Congress's attentions.

Election 2018

Thanks, Supremes! Li Zhou of Vox: "States are kicking a growing number of voters off their rolls in the wake of a 2013 Supreme Court decision that invalidated a key part of the Voting Rights Act. The rate of voter purges — a sometimes faulty process that states use to clean their voter rolls — is significantly higher than it was a decade ago, according to a new report from NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice.... The spike is notable. Between 2006 and 2008, 12 million voters were purged from voter rolls. Between 2014 and 2016, that number rose to 16 million — a roughly 33 percent increase.... Voter purge rates in preclearance jurisdictions between 2012 to 2016 far outpaced those in jurisdictions that were not previously subject to federal preclearance." --safari ...

... ** GOP Allies. Jen Kirby of Vox: "A Microsoft executive said at the Aspen Security Forum panel ... that the company had detected phishing attacks targeting three US congressional candidates.... The cyberattacks weren’t successful in hacking the three candidates. Burt didn’t identify them by name, but intriguingly described them as 'interesting targets from an espionage standpoint.'... He said, according to the BBC, that Microsoft detected the suspicious activity on web domains that had been linked to a group tied to Russian intelligence that had been active in 2016." --safari ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Hackers, Russian on otherwise, need to flip only a few Congressional elections to affect control of the House (& Senate). If you watch Rachel Maddow's brief segment above, you can see how it works -- and how little in the way of hacking efforts (and expenditures) is necessary to keep Congress in Republican control. For various domestic reasons -- gerrymandering, voter suppression, Constitutional Senate makeup -- Republicans already have a huge electoral advantage over Democrats; a little help from hackers is all that's needed to again put the Congress in control of the party with a minority of voter support. The media have made much of the "blue wave" that put a few Democrats in Congress over the past months, but it's reasonable to assume that Russia put no effort into influencing the outcomes of special elections. The general election is a different story.

Senate Race. Caleb Ecarma of Mediaite: "GOP Senate nominee Corey Stewart claimed New York Times reporter Stephanie Saul broke into one of his staffer’s homes for a story; the newspaper of record responded by calling the allegation 'entirely false.' On Wednesday, Stewart accused Saul of breaking into the Woodbridge, Virginia home of campaign aide Brian Landrum, who was recently revealed to have been part of a group chat created to plan a white supremacist rally for the anniversary of last year’s deadly Unite the Right event. Landrum claimed the campaign is 'working with police investigators, and look forward to justice being served' for the alleged break in, but according to the Washington Post, no files were charged by Thursday night.... New York Times spokesperson Ari Bevacqua ... [said in a statement,] 'Ms. Saul went to an address for Landrum Associates in Woodbridge looking for Mr. Landrum. She was told by a woman who opened the door that he was not present. She left a note with the woman for Mr. Landrum asking him to call. At no time did she enter the premises.'” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Just more evidence Stewart is a nutjob. His opponent in the Senate race is Sen. Tom Kaine (D).


2020 Presidential Race. Ed Kilgore
: "GOP Awards Its 2020 Convention to the Only City That Sorta Kinda Wanted It [-- Charlotte, North Carolina.... Friday] the Republican National Committee hastily took up Charlotte on its offer before it evaporated. That nearly happened earlier this week, when protestors flooded a meeting of the Charlotte City Council, which subsequently approved a tentative contract to host the convention by a narrow 6-5 vote." Mrs. McC: The last time Charlotte hosted a party convention was 2012, when the nominee was President Barack Obama. What a comedown the 2020 show will be, especially if Donald Trump is the nominee (and I'm not certain that's a given).

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "A Russian company accused by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III of being part of an online operation to disrupt the 2016 presidential campaign is leaning in part on a decision by Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh to argue that the charge against it should be thrown out. The 2011 decision by Kavanaugh, writing for a three-judge panel, concerned the role that foreign nationals may play in U.S. elections. It upheld a federal law that said foreigners temporarily in the country may not donate money to candidates, contribute to political parties and groups or spend money advocating for or against candidates. But it did not rule out letting foreigners spend money on independent advocacy campaigns." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Courtney Kube, et al., of NBC News: "Iranian hackers have laid the groundwork to carry out extensive cyberattacks on U.S. and European infrastructure and on private companies, and the U.S. is warning allies, hardening its defenses and weighing a counterattack, say multiple senior U.S. officials. Despite Iran having positioned cyber weapons to carry out attacks, there is no suggestion an offensive operation is imminent, according to the officials...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Way Beyond the Beltway

Saeed Kamali Dehgran of the Guardian: "Alarm bells have been raised about [Iran] edging towards a political, economic and even environmental precipice, and analysts fear that the warnings are being ignored. Sadegh Zibakalam, a professor of politics at Tehran University, says the situation has become so bad that 'people see no light at the end of the tunnel.'... Zibakalam adds that Iranian society has turned its back against both conservatives and reformists, as people see no prospect of reconciliation with the US. He believes that if, or rather when, the situation gets worse, hardliners will become strengthened...The post-revolutionary optimism that helped people go through the Iran-Iraq war, he says, has given way to a state of despair as economic, social and political resources have become depleted.'" --safari