The Wires
The Ledes

Thursday, April 19, 2018.

New York Times: "Two years after the sudden death of Prince by accidental fentanyl overdose, one of the lingering mysteries surrounding the enigmatic musician concerned how and where he obtained the powerful synthetic opioid that killed him and whether anyone would be held responsible. On Thursday, law enforcement authorities in Minnesota closed a major part of their investigation, announcing that no one would be criminally charged in the case. The Carver County attorney, Mark Metz, said in a news conference that Prince died after unknowingly taking counterfeit Vicodin that contained fentanyl, but that there was 'no reliable evidence of how Prince obtained' the fatal drug."

Especially if you're into very high-end decorative porcelain, here are some highlights of David & Peggy Rockefeller's collection that will go on auction beginning May 1. Unless you're a Rockefeller, your grandmother's curio cabinet never looked quite like this. To access the full Christie's catalog on the Rockefeller estate objets, start here.

Oh Noes! The Local: "Rome's Jewish community is embroiled in a standoff with Israel's top religious authority after it declared the Eternal City's cherished dish of 'carciofi alla giudia' (deep-fried whole artichoke) not kosher. The crisp golden delicacies are a speciality of the Roman-Jewish cuisine and a prominent feature on menus. But Israel's Chief Rabbinate said the method of cooking the artichoke whole made it impossible to clean properly and it didn't therefore adhere to kosher standards. 'The heart of the artichoke is full of worms, there's no way you can clean it,' said the head of imports of Israel's Rabbinate, Yitzhak Arazi, in an interview with national newspaper Haaretz. 'It can't be kosher. It's not our politics, this is Jewish religious law.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This would be a tragedy. I've had Jewish-style artichokes in Rome's old Jewish quarter, & I'm pretty sure god would approve.

New York Times: Turns out the reboot of "Roseanne" is the result of ABC Entertainment's plan to become the Trump Nation's go-to teevee network, a strategy that began to take shape the day after Trump's election. "The top markets for the debut [of "Roseanne"] read like a political pollster’s red-state checklist: Cincinnati; Kansas City, Mo.; Tulsa, Okla. Liberal enclaves like New York and Los Angeles did not crack the top 20." ...

... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: If, like Medlar & me, you happened to miss the premiere/reboot of the "Roseanne" show, where Roseanne Barr plays a Trump supporter (as she is in real life),

This video is dedicated to the Wives of Trump. Thanks to a friend for the link:

Here's a related story by Avi Selk of the Washington Post: "Deep-sea anglerfish sex ... is an endless horror. Every. Single. Time. A male anglerfish's first and only sexual adventure results in his becoming permanently fused — by his lips, no less — to the side of a relatively gargantuan female that resembles David Cronenberg's nightmare about the shark from 'Jaws.'”

 

An Outsider Artist Who Changed Modern Painting. New York: "In the 1940s, a 16-year-old girl captured the minds of the art world’s elite. The self-taught Algerian artist, Baya Mahieddine (1931-1988) — known as Baya — is finally being celebrated in the first North American exhibition of her work, at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, through March 31. Baya used gouache as her primary medium, depicting a world without men but full of bright images of women, nature, and animals." Baya influenced, among others, Picasso & Matisse, which is kinda obvious.

I posted this for no other reason than this is the first time I've seen it. But the "national policy" Tommy announces is more true today than ever in American history. To those of you too young to have seen a Carson monologue, I apologize:

ObamaTV. New York Times: "Former President Barack Obama is in advanced negotiations with Netflix to produce a series of high-profile shows that will provide him a global platform after his departure from the White House, according to people familiar with the discussions.Under terms of a proposed deal, which is not yet final, Netflix would pay Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, for exclusive content that would be available only on the streaming service.... The Netflix deal, while not a direct answer to Fox News or Breitbart.com, would give Mr. Obama an unfiltered method of communication with the public similar to the audiences he already reaches through social media...."

Chicago Tribune: "A new scientific study claims that bones found in 1940 on the Pacific Island of Nikumaroro belong to [American aviator Amelia] Earhart, despite a forensic analysis of the remains conducted in 1941 that linked the bones to a male. The bones, revisited in the study 'Amelia Earhart and the Nikumaroro Bones' by University of Tennessee professor Richard Jantz, were discarded. For decades they have remained an enigma, as some have speculated that Earhart died a castaway on the island after her plane crashed." Jantz's conclusion is based on measurements of the bones taken by a medical doctor in 1941.

... Michael Rosenwald of the Washington Post has the full story.

Here's the L.A. Times' main Academy Awards page. ...

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

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

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

Thursday
Apr192018

The Commentariat -- April 20, 2018

Try to keep up, people!

Brandon Conradis of the Hill: "President Trump late Thursday night trumpeted the release of a series of memos written by former FBI Director James Comey, claiming they exonerated him of allegations that he obstructed justice and colluded with Russia. 'James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION,' Trump tweeted. 'Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?'" Mrs. McC: Needless to say, 100 percent of the tweet is inaccurate and/or nonsensical. ...

... Thursday Afternoon. Billy House of Bloomberg: "The Justice Department has agreed to give Congress memos that former FBI Director James Comey wrote about his meetings with ... Donald Trump, averting a potential legal and political standoff, according to a Republican familiar with the arrangement. The move would head off a subpoena for the documents that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia had said he might issue. A push by Republicans to obtain the memos comes amid the release this week of Comey’s memoir, 'A Higher Loyalty,' and interviews in which he portrays the president as a liar and immoral. Some Republicans complain that Comey has been talking about the memos in his book promotion tour even as the Justice Department withheld them from lawmakers." (Open link in private window.) ...

... So Then. AP: 7:45 pm ET: "The Justice Department has sent Congress confidential memos written by former FBI Director James Comey. In a letter sent to three Republican House committee chairmen Thursday evening, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd writes that the department is sending a classified version of the memos and an unclassified version. The department released Boyd’s letter publicly, but not the memos." ...

... So Then. AP: 8:30 pm ET: "The Associated Press has obtained 15 pages of memos that former FBI Director James Comey drafted about his interactions with President Donald Trump. The Justice Department provided the documents to Congress on Thursday [same link]." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: In other words, it took Congressional Republicans all of 45 minutes to leak the Comey docs. ...

... So Then. Here are the 15 pages of the memos which Republicans leaked to the AP (and other outlets), published at about 9:10 pm ET. ...

... Mary Jalonick & Eric Tucker of the AP: "... Donald Trump told former FBI Director James Comey that he had serious concerns about the judgment of his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, according to memos maintained by Comey and obtained by The Associated Press. The 15 pages of documents contain new details about a series of interactions that Comey had with Trump in the weeks before his May 2017 firing. Those encounters include a White House dinner at which Comey says Trump asked him for his loyalty, and a meeting the following month in which he says the president asked him to end an investigation into Flynn." Also dropped at about 9:10 pm ET. ...

... Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "The broad outlines of the memos have already been reported by The Times, and were relayed by Mr. Comey in testimony before the Senate and in his recent memoir, 'A Higher Loyalty.' But they are believed to be key evidence in a possible obstruction of justice case against Mr. Trump being pursued by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. Mueller was appointed after Mr. Comey was dismissed in May.... The Justice Department is expected to deliver on Friday unredacted versions of the memos to lawmakers via a secure transfer." ...

... ** Margaret Hartmann writes an excellent summary of the memos. ...

... Joshua Keating of Slate: "In a Feb. 8, 2017, memo, Comey says that Trump ... [said] that Russian President Vladimir Putin 'had told him "We have some of the most beautiful hookers in the world.’” Comey notes that Trump didn’t mention when Putin had told him this, but Putin had made public comments about the beauty of Russian prostitutes that January. The two leaders had conducted their first official conversation just 11 days earlier. Perhaps the two leaders also discussed 'beautiful hookers' then, or perhaps Trump was merely referring to Putin’s public statements and Comey misunderstood." Mrs. McC: Nah. I'd bet that Trump thinks Putin and others speak to him directly through the teevee. This could be because in Trump's experience, Fox "News" hosts & guests actually do speak directly to him thru the teevee. Also, Trump has special TV receptors in his teeth. ...

... Jeremy Stahl of Slate wonders why GOP allies of Trump would be so anxious to leak memos that make Trump look like the delusional idiot he is -- even to the point of threatening Rosenstein with impeachment if he didn't hand them the memos. Stahl suspects it's that the House leaders were trying to bolster the GOP-Trump myth -- re-expressed in Trump's post-release tweet -- that Comey had leaked classified material. One minor problem: the memos the GOP immediately leaked to the press are unclassified.

Jennifer Jacobs & Chris Strohm of Bloomberg: "Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told ... Donald Trump last week that he isn’t a target of any part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, according to two people familiar with the matter. Rosenstein, who brought up the Mueller probe himself, offered the assurance during a meeting with Trump at the White House last Thursday, a development that helped tamp down the president’s desire to remove Rosenstein or Mueller, the people said. After the meeting, Trump told some of his closest advisers that it’s not the right time to remove either man since he’s not a target of the probe." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Robert Costa & Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post: "Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a combative former prosecutor and longtime ally of President Trump, told The Washington Post on Thursday that he has joined the president’s legal team dealing with the ongoing special counsel probe.... He also said he will soon take a leave from his law firm, Greenberg Traurig. Giuliani is a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, which is the office currently overseeing an investigation of Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen.... Trump counsel Jay Sekulow said Thursday in a statement that Giuliani is joining the team along with two former federal prosecutors, Jane Serene Raskin and Marty Raskin, a couple who jointly run a Florida-based law firm."

David Voreacos of Bloomberg: "Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s interest in former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort stemmed in part from his suspected role as a 'back channel' between the campaign and Russians intent on meddling in the election, a Justice Department lawyer told a judge. The disclosure by U.S. prosecutors came Thursday during a hearing on whether Mueller exceeded his authority in indicting Manafort on charges of laundering millions of dollars while acting as an unregistered agent of the Ukrainian government. Manafort’s lawyers say those alleged crimes have nothing to do with Mueller’s central mission.... 'He had long-standing ties to Russia-backed politicians,' [DOJ attorney Michael] Dreeben [said in court].... 'Did they provide back channels to Russia? Investigators will naturally look at those things.'” (Open in private window.) (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Embattled attorney Michael Cohen has dropped a pair of much-touted libel suits against BuzzFeed and the private investigation firm Fusion GPS over publication of the so-called dossier detailing alleged ties between ... Donald Trump and Russia. Cohen abandoned the suits late Wednesday as he continues to fight to recover documents and electronic files seized from his home, office and hotel room last week by federal authorities as part of what appears to be a broad criminal investigation into his conduct.... Dropping the suits could help Cohen avoid being questioned by lawyers from Fusion GPS or having to turn over evidence related to the case — both steps that could undercut his defense in the criminal probe.... The move could also bolster Cohen's effort to delay a suit brought in Los Angeles by porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had a sexual encounter with Trump about a decade ago. It could have been difficult for Cohen to convince that judge to put Daniels' case on hold while Cohen continued to press civil suits in other federal courts." Thanks to MAG for the lead. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

** Frank Rich weighs in on various aspects of the Trump crime family. Entertaining, as usual. Thanks to MAG for the lead.


Shut Up! Cristiano Lima
of Politico: "... Donald Trump threatened Thursday to cut off federal funding for the deployment of California's National Guard if Gov. Jerry Brown insists that the troops 'do nothing,' an apparent jab at the state official's insistence that they not perform immigration enforcement duties. Brown on Wednesday mobilized 400 members of the state's National Guard to fight gangs and smugglers as part of the president's push to beef up border security. The California governor said that federal authorities agreed to fund the plan, which he announced last week, but that the troops would not enforce immigration policy. 'Governor Jerry Brown announced he will deploy "up to 400 National Guard Troops" to do nothing,' Trump tweeted. 'The crime rate in California is high enough, and the Federal Government will not be paying for Governor Brown’s charade. We need border security and action, not words!'" Mrs. McC: Like Jeanne (see yesterday's Comments), I'm sick of this crap. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... BUT. Nick Miroff of the Washington Post: "There was no immediate comment from [Gov.] Brown’s office in Sacramento. But the seesawing exchanges continued to play out on Twitter, where an account operated by the California National Guard said the state had 'written confirmation' that the Pentagon will pay for the troop deployment agreed upon with Brown.... Trump’s threat to yank funding also appeared to undercut a statement by DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who thanked Brown late Wednesday after his office announced the agreement with federal officials [and who tweeted about it].... After his morning tweet, Trump slammed those policies again during a visit to a U.S. military installation in Key West, Fla., where he appeared alongside Nielsen and congratulated her for doing a 'fantastic job' stopping seafaring migrants and smugglers from reaching U.S. shores." ...

     ... Mrs. McC: Perhaps you noticed that Trump has no idea what he's doing, & at the Key West event at least seemed to be entirely unaware that he had dissed the work of his DHS secretary in the same breath that he praised her.

Eric Levitz: "... Trump’s aides believe he just might win a Nobel Peace Prize. And that notion is a tad less crazy than it sounds.... When it comes to forging a peace deal with North Korea, Trump’s aversion to sweating the details of geopolitics could be an asset. And his disagreeable (and/or sociopathic) personality could ... are the very reason that peace talks between Trump and Kim are taking place at all: When the president was presented with North Korea’s routine offer of direct talks, he interpreted it as an unprecedented gesture of conciliation inspired by his exceptional leadership — and then pounced on the opportunity to generate a flattering headline, before his advisers could brief him on the potential downsides of such a summit.... Thus, it isn’t hard to imagine Trump leaping at the opportunity to announce that he has reached a historic denuclearization deal with North Korea — even if such an agreement includes concessions on America’s security role in the region that all previous presidents have recoiled from.... More critically, unlike any previous U.S. president, Trump can plausibly brand a withdrawal of the U.S. military from East Asia as a foreign policy 'win' in its own right. After all, the mogul has repeatedly complained about the fiscal costs of maintaining American security guarantees...."

Nicholas Fandos & Gardiner Harris of the New York Times: "Mike Pompeo came close on Thursday to clinching confirmation as the nation’s 70th secretary of state when Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Democrat of North Dakota, announced her support. But before that triumph, he is expected to face a historic rebuke from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which most likely will not recommend his confirmation. Ms. Heitkamp, who faces a difficult re-election fight in a state that President Trump won handily, said in a statement that Mr. Pompeo had convinced her that he would rebuild the State Department, which was seriously depleted under the previous secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson."

Pamela Brown of CNN: "The Justice Department's inspector general has sent a criminal referral regarding former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to the US attorney's office in Washington, according to a source familiar with the matter." ...

... Adam Goldman, et al., of the New York Times: "Mr. Comey said in an interview on Thursday on CNN that he was conflicted about the accusations that Mr. McCabe was not forthcoming to investigators. 'James Comey just threw Andrew McCabe "under the bus,’” Mr. Trump wrote Thursday evening on Twitter. 'Inspector General’s Report on McCabe is a disaster for both of them! Getting a little (lot) of their own medicine?'... Mr. McCabe has rebutted the allegations [in the inspector general's report], describing them as 'egregious inaccuracies.'”

Nicholas Fandos & Gardiner Harris of the New York Times: "Mike Pompeo came close on Thursday to clinching confirmation as the nation’s 70th secretary of state when Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Democrat of North Dakota, announced her support. But before that triumph, he is expected to face a historic rebuke from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which most likely will not recommend his confirmation. Ms. Heitkamp, who faces a difficult re-election fight in a state that President Trump won handily, said in a statement that Mr. Pompeo had convinced her that he would rebuild the State Department, which was seriously depleted under the previous secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson."

Kenneth Chang of the New York Times: "On Thursday, the Senate confirmed [Jim] Bridenstine, an Oklahoma congressman, as the new NASA administrator in a stark partisan vote: 50 Republicans voting for him and 47 Democrats plus two independents against. The vote lasted more than 45 minutes as Republicans waited for Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona to cast his lot. The vote was also punctuated by the appearance of Senator Tammy Duckworth, Democrat of Illinois, who cast her ‘no’ vote on the Senate floor with her newborn daughter in hand.... Many who voted against him expressed concerns about his record of partisanship as well as some statements questioning climate change, an area of research in which the space agency plays a central role.... On Wednesday, the Project on Government Oversight, an independent watchdog organization, raised questions about Mr. Bridenstine’s actions as executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum and Planetarium from 2008 to 2010.... One of the events that he organized as executive was an air show in 2010 featuring races by rocket-powered airplanes — by a business he had personally invested in. That could be considered 'self-dealing.'...”

Jeff Mason of Reuters: "U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, under fire from lawmakers for travel and security expenses, spent about $45,000 in government money to fly five people to Australia to prepare for a planned trip that was later canceled [because of Hurricane Harvey]." Mrs. McC: While there might be justification for sending a security person or two, it doesn't make much sense to me that two aides had to travel to Australia to set up a few meetings. I'm thinking everybody involved has a phone.

David Kirkpatrick & Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times: "White House aides were worried enough about a visit last year by Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia, under investigation by American prosecutors who say he embezzled $3.5 billion from a state investment fund, that he was denied the customary photo in the Oval Office with President Trump. But that did not stop a top Republican fund-raiser, Elliott Broidy, from seeking to use his White House ties to press for Mr. Trump to play a golf game with Mr. Najib, who had the authority over negotiations for a lucrative Malaysian contract with Mr. Broidy’s private defense company, according to documents obtained by The New York Times. In addition to providing new details about Mr. Broidy’s attempts to exploit his White House connections for personal gain, the documents also raise questions about whether Trump administration officials were aware of his efforts.... [Um, apparently so:] The president’s previous chief of staff, Reince Priebus, had confirmed the golf date to Mr. Broidy, but 'unfortunately, the golf game is not appearing on the schedule that has been provided through protocol to the PM,' he wrote."

Paul Krugman examines the reasons the public isn't buying the GOP tax heist the way people fell for Dubya's similarly regressive cut. This leaves the GOP with nothing to run on this year except racism. "And with the tax cut fizzling, I predict that we’ll be seeing a lot of implicit — even explicit — appeals to racism in the months ahead." Mrs. McC: Krugman doesn't give the media any credit, but I do. Most major newspapers (all the ones I read) were willing to at least implicitly trash the Trump bill on their front & editorial pages.

Emily Flitter & Glenn Thrush of the New York Times: "Federal regulators are poised to impose a $1 billion penalty on Wells Fargo for a variety of alleged misdeeds, including forcing customers to buy auto insurance policies that they didn’t need, according to people briefed on the regulatory action. The expected penalty, levied by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, is likely to be announced Friday. It would mark the toughest action that the Trump administration has taken against a major bank. And it is the latest blow to Wells Fargo, which for years was regarded as one of the country’s best-run banks but lately has been reeling from a string of self-inflicted crises. President Trump has advocated a rollback of regulations on the banking and other industries. He has nominated industry-friendly officials to oversee key government agencies, including the consumer bureau, which is being run on an interim basis by Mick Mulvaney. Mr. Mulvaney has pledged to defang the agency.... At the same time, though, Mr. Trump has pledged to be especially tough on San Francisco-based Wells Fargo. 'I will cut Regs but make penalties severe when caught cheating!' Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter in December."

James Wagner & Frances Robles of the New York Times: "After seven months and close to $2.5 billion, almost everybody in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico had their lights back on — until a freak accident on Wednesday plunged the entire island once again into darkness. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority had boasted Wednesday morning that less than 3 percent of its customers remained without power, substantially concluding what some estimates called the biggest power failure in United States history. The island of 3.4 million residents was open for business again, government officials said. It was only a few hours later that an excavator working near a fallen 140-foot transmission tower on the southern part of the island got too close to a high-voltage line. The resulting electrical fault knocked out power to nearly every home and business across the storm-battered American territory, authorities said, a catastrophic failure that could take up to 36 hours to restore." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Juliet Macur of the New York Times: "Lance Armstrong agreed on Thursday to pay $5 million to settle claims that he defrauded the federal government by using performance-enhancing drugs when the United States Postal Service sponsored his cycling team. The settlement ended years of legal wrangling between Armstrong and the government over whether the Postal Service had actually sustained harm because of Armstrong’s doping. After years of vehement denials, Armstrong admitted in 2013 that he had used banned substances while winning a record seven Tour de France titles from 1999 to 2005. He wore a Postal Service jersey during the first six of those victories, but he was stripped of all his Tour titles in 2012 after an investigation by the United States Anti-Doping Agency determined that he and many of his teammates had been doping."

Morgan Winsor & Kelly McCarthy of ABC News: "The two black men who were arrested at a Starbucks in downtown Philadelphia last week and accused of trespassing say they were there for a business meeting that they had hoped would change their lives. Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson came forward this morning on ABC News' 'Good Morning America' to publicly share their story for the first time." Includes video of the interview. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Way Beyond the Beltway

Anthony Faiola of the Washington Post: "Cuba’s National Assembly on Thursday officially confirmed 57-year-old Miguel Díaz-Canel as Cuba’s new head of state, ending Castro rule after nearly 60 years and shifting power toward a younger generation born after Cuba’s revolution.... Díaz-Canel’s name was put forward Wednesday as the sole candidate to head Cuba’s council of state, a post that effectively serves as the presidency. On Thursday, officials announced the results of the vote: 603 to 1 backing his nomination as Cuba’s new leader. Díaz-Canel’s selection amounts to the dawn of a new era in a country deeply identified with the Castros, who led the revolution that triumphed in 1959 and resulted in the most enduring communist system in the Western Hemisphere." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

Wednesday
Apr182018

The Commentariat -- April 19, 2018

Afternoon Update:

Jennifer Jacobs & Chris Strohm of Bloomberg: "Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told ... Donald Trump last week that he isn’t a target of any part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, according to two people familiar with the matter. Rosenstein, who brought up the Mueller probe himself, offered the assurance during a meeting with Trump at the White House last Thursday, a development that helped tamp down the president’s desire to remove Rosenstein or Mueller, the people said. After the meeting, Trump told some of his closest advisers that it’s not the right time to remove either man since he’s not a target of the probe."

Pamela Brown of CNN: "The Justice Department's inspector general has sent a criminal referral regarding former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to the US attorney's office in Washington, according to a source familiar with the matter."

David Voreacos of Bloomberg: "Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s interest in former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort stemmed in part from his suspected role as a 'back channel' between the campaign and Russians intent on meddling in the election, a Justice Department lawyer told a judge. The disclosure by U.S. prosecutors came Thursday during a hearing on whether Mueller exceeded his authority in indicting Manafort on charges of laundering millions of dollars while acting as an unregistered agent of the Ukrainian government. Manafort’s lawyers say those alleged crimes have nothing to do with Mueller’s central mission.... 'He had long-standing ties to Russia-backed politicians,' [DOJ attorney Michael] Dreeben [said in court].... 'Did they provide back channels to Russia? Investigators will naturally look at those things.'” (Open in private window.)

Shut Up! Cristiano Lima of Politico: "... Donald Trump threatened Thursday to cut off federal funding for the deployment of California's National Guard if Gov. Jerry Brown insists that the troops 'do nothing,' an apparent jab at the state official's insistence that they not perform immigration enforcement duties. Brown on Wednesday mobilized 400 members of the state's National Guard to fight gangs and smugglers as part of the president's push to beef up border security. The California governor said that federal authorities agreed to fund the plan, which he announced last week, but that the troops would not enforce immigration policy. 'Governor Jerry Brown announced he will deploy "up to 400 National Guard Troops" to do nothing,' Trump tweeted. 'The crime rate in California is high enough, and the Federal Government will not be paying for Governor Brown’s charade. We need border security and action, not words!'" Mrs. McC: Like Jeanne (see today's Comments), I'm sick of this crap.

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Embattled attorney Michael Cohen has dropped a pair of much-touted libel suits against BuzzFeed and the private investigation firm Fusion GPS over publication of the so-called dossier detailing alleged ties between ... Donald Trump and Russia. Cohen abandoned the suits late Wednesday as he continues to fight to recover documents and electronic files seized from his home, office and hotel room last week by federal authorities as part of what appears to be a broad criminal investigation into his conduct.... Dropping the suits could help Cohen avoid being questioned by lawyers from Fusion GPS or having to turn over evidence related to the case — both steps that could undercut his defense in the criminal probe.... The move could also bolster Cohen's effort to delay a suit brought in Los Angeles by porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had a sexual encounter with Trump about a decade ago. It could have been difficult for Cohen to convince that judge to put Daniels' case on hold while Cohen continued to press civil suits in other federal courts." Thanks to MAG for the lead.

Anthony Faiola of the Washington Post: "Cuba’s National Assembly on Thursday officially confirmed 57-year-old Miguel Díaz-Canel as Cuba’s new head of state, ending Castro rule after nearly 60 years and shifting power toward a younger generation born after Cuba’s revolution.... Díaz-Canel’s name was put forward Wednesday as the sole candidate to head Cuba’s council of state, a post that effectively serves as the presidency. On Thursday, officials announced the results of the vote: 603 to 1 backing his nomination as Cuba’s new leader. Díaz-Canel’s selection amounts to the dawn of a new era in a country deeply identified with the Castros, who led the revolution that triumphed in 1959 and resulted in the most enduring communist system in the Western Hemisphere.

James Wagner & Frances Robles of the New York Times: "After seven months and close to $2.5 billion, almost everybody in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico had their lights back on — until a freak accident on Wednesday plunged the entire island once again into darkness. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority had boasted Wednesday morning that less than 3 percent of its customers remained without power, substantially concluding what some estimates called the biggest power failure in United States history. The island of 3.4 million residents was open for business again, government officials said. It was only a few hours later that an excavator working near a fallen 140-foot transmission tower on the southern part of the island got too close to a high-voltage line. The resulting electrical fault knocked out power to nearly every home and business across the storm-battered American territory, authorities said, a catastrophic failure that could take up to 36 hours to restore."

Morgan Winsor & Kelly McCarthy of ABC News: "The two black men who were arrested at a Starbucks in downtown Philadelphia last week and accused of trespassing say they were there for a business meeting that they had hoped would change their lives. Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson came forward this morning on ABC News' 'Good Morning America' to publicly share their story for the first time." Includes video of the interview.

*****

... Broken Record. David Jackson, et al., of USA Today: "President Trump said Wednesday he's been transparent and cooperative with the special counsel investigating his campaign's ties to Russia — but wouldn't say whether he would ever fire Robert Mueller or Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing the probe. 'They've been saying I'm going to get rid of them for the last three months, four months, five months, and they’re still here,' Trump said. 'So we want to get the investigation over with, done with. Put it behind us.' Repeating a well-worn mantra, Trump said his campaign did not collude with Russia to gain advantage in the 2016 election. He asserted that the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee found no evidence of collusion before voting to end its investigation into Russia last month. And he said the investigation was politically motivated. 'This was really a hoax created largely by the Democrats as a way of softening the blow of a loss,' he said." ...

... (And Now for a Commercial Break.) Sofia Perseo of Newsweek: “'Many of the world’s great leaders request to come to Mar-a-Lago and Palm Beach. They like it; I like it. We’re comfortable. We have great relationships. As you remember, we were here and President Xi of China was here,' [Trump] said [with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe at his side], referring to Abe’s and Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visits to the resort last year — the only two foreign leaders to be hosted at Mar-a-Lago in 2017, according to State Department records." He went on.) ...

... Jordain Carney of the Hill: "Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said his committee will take up legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller despite opposition from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).... With at least GOP Sens. Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) joining Democrats in supporting the bill, it's expected to have the votes to clear the Judiciary Committee next week. But it faces an uphill climb to getting 60 votes in the Senate, much less passing the more conservative House." ...

... Erin Kelly of USA Today: "The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee introduced a bill Wednesday aimed at discouraging President Trump from granting pardons to anyone facing prosecution in the Russia investigation. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said he was prompted to offer the legislation after Trump's controversial pardon last week of Scooter Libby.... The Abuse of the Pardon Prevention Act does not try to strip the president of his constitutional power to grant pardons. Instead, it seeks to deter Trump — and any future president — from granting a pardon in any investigation where the president or a member of his family is a witness, subject or target. Trump is considered a subject of the Russia probe and his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have testified as witnesses.... The bill faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Congress." ...  

     ... Mrs. McC: And the Understatement of the Day prize goes to Erin Kelly. As sensible as Schiff's bill may be, it also appears to me to be flat-out unconstitutional. If the Congress wanted to prevent Trump from pardoning his pals (and Congress does not), the chambers could each overwhelmingly pass a "sense of the Congress"-type resolution vowing to impeach & try the president if he pardons anyone under the circumstances Schiff lays out. That would not stop a president from exercising Constitutional pardon powers, but depending upon the timing of the resolution vis-a-vis the presidential term, a nearly-guaranteed impeachment proceeding would likely deter him or her from issuing such pardons. ...

... MEANWHILE. House Thugs Shake Down Rosenstein. Robert Costa & Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post: "Two of President Trump’s top legislative allies met with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein this week to press him for more documents about the conduct of law enforcement officials involved in the Russia probe and the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server, according to three people who were not authorized to speak publicly about the discussion. Rosenstein’s meeting at his office Monday with Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) came days after Meadows, an influential Trump confidant, warned Rosenstein that he could soon face impeachment proceedings or an effort to hold him in contempt of Congress if he did not satisfy GOP demands for documents." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I saw Jordan on CNN Monday night, & his behavior is frightening; his rabid-dog delivery is tantamount to abuse. If he came to my door, I'd call the cops.

When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, "You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won." -- Donald Trump to Lester Holt, in May 2017

I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off. I’m not under investigation. -- Donald Trump to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov & Russian U.S. Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, in May 2017 ...

** ... "This Russia Thing" Is Not "This Russia Thing," After All. John Wagner of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Wednesday took to Twitter to deny that he fired James B. Comey as FBI director because of the bureau’s 'phony' investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, including possible interaction with the Trump campaign. Trump’s tweet came shortly after an appearance by Comey on NBC’s 'Today' show to promote his new book, during which Comey asserted there 'could be' an obstruction of justice case to be made against Trump given the circumstances under which he was fired. 'Slippery James Comey, the worst FBI Director in history, was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation where, by the way, there was NO COLLUSION (except by the Dems)!' Trump wrote on Twitter." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Too Late, Trumpinocchio: You done been caught on tape accidentally admitting the truth.

Brad Mielke & Kelly Terez of ABC News: "Former FBI Director James Comey was a registered Republican for most of his life, but now he believes 'the Republican Party has left me and many others.'  'I just think they've lost their way and I can't be associated with it,' Comey said in an interview on the ABC News podcast 'Start Here,' adding that he no longer considers himself a Republican. He said he believes the Republican Party began to change during the 2016 presidential campaign and has continued to change with President Donald Trump in office. It wasn't until he was fired by Trump that Comey started to focus more on politics and realized, 'These people don't represent anything I believe in.'” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: We here at Reality Chex noticed it a lo-o-o-ng time ago. ...

... Digby in Salon: "There is a tremendous amount of evidence ... that [Donald Trump] has been involved with known criminals like the Russian-born Felix Sater (a longtime friend of Michael Cohen).... Trump's casinos were cited for money laundering more often than any others in the country and were known to be frequented by members of the Russian mob. Many of his overseas ventures in places like Azerbaijan, Indonesia and Brazil are linked to criminal enterprises and were brokered or arranged with the help of ... Cohen.... What would possess a man with such a shady track record in business to expose himself to the kind of scrutiny that comes with being president of the United States?... It's somehow inevitable that as Trump draws near this denouement, he would be facing off against another person who has made some disastrous choices due to an overweening confidence in his own judgment.... [James] Comey's overconfidence doesn't stem from simple narcissism, as Trump's does. He is afflicted with a vain self-regard for his moral and intellectual superiority.... Pitting a flamboyant conman against a moralistic lawman in a battle for American democracy sounds like a clichéd movie plot." ...

... Brian Beutler of Crooked: "... Comey’s inadequate grappling with his own failures is a real problem.... If he were to acknowledge his errors in judgment — and, more importantly, grapple with why he made them — he could do something really valuable: warn public servants and the rest of us not to make the same mistakes. Don’t allow bad faith critics seeking to destroy neutral authority to lead you by the nose. Learn how to recognize it, identify it for what it is, and resist it, or risk compromising yourself.... A world in which we accept that Comey made the best decisions he could in a difficult but extraordinary environment is a world in which Trump and the GOP keep gnawing and gnawing at the underpinnings of the rule of law until they snap."

Emma Brown & Beth Reinhard of the Washington Post: "Former Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal has reached a settlement with tabloid publisher American Media Inc., ending a lawsuit over the rights to the story of the affair she says she had with Donald Trump a decade ago. The settlement means McDougal is no longer bound by the contract with AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer, which bought — but never published — her story for $150,000 in the months before the 2016 presidential election.... The tabloid company is entitled to 10 percent of any profit McDougal makes from reselling the rights to her story within the next year, up to a maximum of $75,000, according to a copy of the settlement terms. In addition, AMI has the right to publish five health and fitness columns under McDougal’s byline and to feature her on the cover of Men’s Journal. Cameron Stracher, general counsel for AMI, said the company intends for McDougal to appear on the September 2018 issue of the magazine." ...

... Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times (who broke the story): "The tabloid news company American Media Inc. agreed to let a former Playboy model out of a contract that had kept her from talking freely about an alleged affair with Donald J. Trump.The settlement agreement, reached on Wednesday, ends a lawsuit brought by the model, Karen McDougal, and protects the president from being drawn into a legal case involving efforts to buy the silence of women who had stories to tell about him during the 2016 campaign."

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "A federal judge in Los Angeles has set a hearing for Friday on a bid by ... Donald Trump and his embattled personal attorney Michael Cohen to delay a lawsuit filed by porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had a sexual encounter with Trump about a decade ago. U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero scheduled the hearing after attorneys for Trump and Cohen said the suit should be put on hold for 90 days because of the criminal investigation federal prosecutors in New York are pursuing into Cohen's involvement in various matters, including a $130,000 pre-election payment to Daniels." ...

... Eileen Sullivan of the New York Times: "President Trump turned to Twitter early on Wednesday to dismiss the sketch of the man a pornographic actress claims threatened her years ago on his behalf.... 'A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!'... His tweet accompanied a post from another Twitter user, who said the man looked like [Stephanie] Clifford's former husband.... Ms. Clifford says the man in the sketch threatened her in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011 while she was with her infant daughter." (Also linked yesterday.)

Is Cohen Practicing His Singing Voice? Darren Samuelsohn & Andrew Restuccia of Politico: "... Donald Trump and his outside advisers are increasingly worried that his longtime personal attorney might be susceptible to cooperating with federal prosecutors. Two sources close to the president said people in Trump’s inner circle have in recent days been actively discussing the possibility that Michael Cohen — long seen as one of Trump’s most loyal personal allies — might flip if he faces serious charges as a result of his work on behalf of Trump.... Jay Goldberg, a longtime Trump lawyer, told The Wall Street Journal that he spoke with Trump on Friday about Cohen and warned the president against trusting Cohen if he is facing criminal charges." ...

... Jonathan Chait: "One of the ways in which the scandals around President Trump have come to resemble a mob movie, other than the nature of the crimes themselves, is that nobody involved is putting up much of a pretense that Trump is innocentAsked today by Katy Tur if 'there’s any chance [Michael Cohen] would end up cooperating, flipping,' Anthony Scaramucci said no, because Cohen ‘is a very loyal person.' You meant because Trump is innocent, right? Cohen is not going to testify against Trump because Trump did nothing wrong?... [In the Politico report linked above,] all of the sources implicitly assume both Cohen and Trump are guilty of serious crimes.”

Danny Hakim & William Rashbaum of the New York Times: "Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York is moving to change New York state law so that he and other local prosecutors would have the power to bring criminal charges against aides to President Trump who have been pardoned, according to a letter Mr. Schneiderman sent to the governor and state lawmakers on Wednesday. The move, if approved by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Legislature, would serve notice that the legal troubles of the president and his aides may continue without the efforts of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Under the plan, Mr. Schneiderman, a Democrat, seeks to exempt New York’s double jeopardy law from cases involving presidential pardons, according to the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times. The current law and the concept of double jeopardy in general mean that a person cannot be tried for the same crime twice."

** Eric Levitz of New York: "Last week, the United States launched an act of war against a sovereign government because failing to do so would have cast doubt on the credibility of the statements that Donald Trump makes while livetweeting Fox & Friends. That may sound like hyperbolic snark, or the premise of an Andy Borowitz column, but it is a plain description of the rationale behind last Friday’s missile strikes in Syria, according to multiple military and administration officials." Read on. Mrs. McC: Who needs a State Department when we have Steve Doocy & Brian Kilmeade? ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: If this isn't bad enough (and it is), Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said on MSNBC yesterday evening that he suspects the whole bombing campaign was a sham: that the U.S. warned Russia & Russia warned Syria of how the bombing would go down. As evidence, Menendez noted that Russia mounted no defense, & Syria sent off its missiles after the U.S.-allied bombs had landed. If Menendez is right, it was a very costly cover for a careless tweet. I was kidding when I wondered a few days ago if the U.S. & allies ever bombed Syria; Menendez suggests I unwittingly was close to the mark. ...

... Colbert explains everything. (Trump really should watch -- he might learn something people don't realize [see below for what-all people don't realize]):

Trump Doesn't Know When Pompeo Went to North Korea. Melanie Schmitz of ThinkProgress: “'Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week. Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed,' Trump tweeted early Wednesday morning.... According to White House officials who spoke with the Washington Post on Tuesday evening, Pompeo ... actually met with the North Korean dictator over Easter weekend, more than two weeks ago." Mrs. McCrabbie: Whenever.

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "... the Export-Import Bank was created to help American companies compete overseas and bolster exports by providing cheap government-backed loans. But the institution, which once financed multibillion-dollar projects, has been effectively crippled by the Trump administration. The bank has been without a chairman since Mr. Trump took office and the last of the bank’s five board members quit in March. Since 2015, it has not had the quorum of at least three members it needs to finance deals or projects worth more than $10 million. The effective shuttering of the bank has put American manufacturers like Boeing and General Electric at a global disadvantage, prompting a frenzied lobbying campaign by business groups worried that the White House is undermining its own trade goals.... Atop the bank’s website is an image of its boardroom, with five empty chairs." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Remember that Trump thinks he's a super-expert on international trade & us-vs.-them trade imbalances. Obviously, the Ex-Im Bank is not going to wipe out trade deficits. But putting it back in business is a pretty easy way to improve U.S. companies' positions. Ex-Im loans also would increase the number of manufacturing jobs, another of Trump's empty campaign promises. Every day in every way, Trump is the Worst. President. Ever.

"People Don't Realize." The Belated Education of Donald J. Trump. Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: "As President Trump announced that South and North Korean leaders have his blessing to discuss a permanent end to the military conflict between their two countries, he dropped in a quick history lesson. 'People don’t realize the Korean War has not ended,' Trump said on Tuesday, his face contorting into a look that seemed to communicate surprise and bafflement. 'It’s going on right now.' For Trump, people don’t realize a lot of things.... Trump’s public remarks are filled with dozens of similar comments.... Trump’s lessons are often accompanied by raised eyebrows, widened eyes and a 'gee whiz' look that suggests perhaps the nation is witnessing the president’s education in real time.” Johnson provides a long list of things "people don't realize." ...  

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Put me down as one of the people who didn't realize just how little this jamoke knows. What I find most insulting about many of these "History Lessons by Donald J. Trump" is that they are often delivered to audiences who definitely "realize" whatever historical pearl he's dropping. ...

... Choe Sang-Hun & Jane Perlez of the New York Times: "South Korea confirmed on Wednesday that it had been in talks with American and North Korean officials about negotiating a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War after more than 60 years, as the United States and its ally try to establish a basis for persuading the North to give up its nuclear weapons." Mrs. McCrabbie: Fox "News" must have mentioned the peace negotiations; otherwise, how would Trump himself have "realized." (Also linked yesterday.)

They're All Corrupt, Ctd. Lisa Friedman of the New York Times: "Calls for Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, to resign escalated on Wednesday when nearly 170 congressional Democrats demanded his departure." Friedman provides a guide to the numerous investigations into Pruitt's illegal & questionable activities. Mrs. McC: Of course the biggest problem isn't that Pruitt wants to drive around in fancy SUVs with accommodations to literally protect his ass; it's his policies & beliefs.

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie BTW: How can someone like Pruitt question the scientific theory of evolution (as he has done) when his raison d'être is fossil fuels? ...

... Stephanie Ebbs of ABC News: "Newly released calendars for one of the most controversial trips of ... Scott Pruitt’s tenure were largely blacked out before being shared with ABC News.... Conservative congressional estimates put the cost of the trip at more than $40,000, and because of travel snags, Pruitt and his aides spent two days in Paris at high-end hotels. Pruitt did not publicly announce he was going ahead of time, did not bring reporters along, and when he finally released copies of his itinerary in response to Freedom of Information requests from ABC News and other news organizations, the bulk of the schedule was blacked out.... In Morocco, he spent at least a portion of his time promoting exports for U.S. energy firms.... At the time of the trip, the only U.S. company that exported liquid natural gas was represented by a top Washington lobbyist who arranged $50-a-night housing for Pruitt when he first moved to town."

They're All Corrupt, Ctd. &

Tierney Sneed of TPM: "A federal judge has ordered that Kansas Secretary of State [Mrs. McC: and failed Trump voter suppression czar] Kris Kobach be held in contempt of court for disobeying her orders in the proof-of-citizenship voter registration case. Judge Julie Robinson in her decision Wednesday bashed Kobach’s failure to  send postcards to voters whose registrations were restored by her previous move to block the proof-of-citizenship requirement for the 2016 election.... She also took issue with Kobach’s refusal to update the state’s training manual for election officials to reflect her 2016 order blocking the proof-of-citizenship requirement.... She ordered that Kobach cover the attorneys fees’ of the challengers in the case or the costs of their efforts to bring Kobach in compliance with her order." Mrs. McCrabbie: Judge Robinson has "deferred further remedies"; I hope these remedies involve an orange jumpsuit.

John Myers of the Los Angeles Times: "Gov. Jerry Brown formally mobilized 400 California National Guard members Wednesday for transnational crime-fighting duties, thus preventing any effort by President Trump to have the troops focus on immigration enforcement on the Mexican border. The governor announced that federal officials have agreed to fund the plan he announced last week — a mission to 'combat criminal gangs, human traffickers and illegal firearm and drug smugglers' in locations around California, including near the border. The order Brown signed makes clear that the troops will not be allowed to perform a broader set of duties as envisioned by Trump’s recent comments."

Cristiano Lima of Politico: "An attorney for former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said Wednesday that neither the Justice Department inspector general nor former FBI director James Comey 'has it right' when it comes to the agency’s critical report on his disclosures to news outlets in 2016. Attorney Michael Bromwich pushed back on Comey for citing the DOJ watchdog’s report to deliver remarks critical of McCabe, his former No. 2 at the FBI who was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month."

Laurie Kellman of the AP: "Who doesn’t like babies? No one in the Senate, apparently — at least not enough to block a historic rules change that passed Wednesday allowing the newborns of members into the chamber. Its passage without objection came despite plenty of concern, some privately aired, among senators of both parties about the threat the tiny humans pose to the Senate’s cherished decorum." Old white guys like Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) & Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), both of whom are fathers & grandfathers, are nonplussed. "... what if there are 10 babies on the floor of the Senate?” Hatch asked. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The idea isn't to turn the Senate chamber into a nursery or daycare center. Rather, it's to make sure that new mothers can walk onto the floor to vote. Rules prevent senators from dumping their newborns with staff while they take care of business on the floor.

Senate Race. Burgess Everett & Alex Isenstadt of Politico: "Senate Republicans are escalating their attacks on West Virginia Senate GOP candidate Don Blankenship, increasingly worried that the coal baron and ex-prisoner will blow a winnable race against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. Republicans see West Virginia as a prime pickup opportunity in November, given ... Donald Trump’s huge popularity there. But they say the multimillionaire Blankenship, running in a tight three-way primary against Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, is indefensible as a candidate after serving a year in prison for conspiring to violate mine safety violations. Twenty-nine miners died at his company’s Upper Big Branch mine in 2010."

Samantha Schmidt of the Washington Post: Capt. Tammie Jo Shults, who skillfully landed a Southwest Airlines at Philadelphia Internationational Airport after one of the plane's two engines exploded in-flight, throwing shrapnel into the cabin & killing one passenger -- who was nearly sucked out of the plane thru the open window -- "was among the first female fighter pilots for the U.S. Navy." As a female aviator, Shults confronted many career obstacles.

Beyond the Beltway

Ryan Reilly & Christopher Mathias of the Huffington Post: "Three right-wing militiamen from rural Kansas were found guilty on Wednesday in a 2016 plot to slaughter Muslim refugees living in an apartment complex in Garden City. Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen were found guilty on charges of weapons of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights. Wright was also found guilty on a charge of lying to the FBI. The defendants will face a potential life sentence when they come back to court in late June.... The men were enthusiastic supporters of Donald Trump, who vilified Muslims during his presidential campaign and has continued to do so while in office. During the plotting, Stein reportedly referred to then-candidate Trump as 'the Man.' The men had planned their attack for after the 2016 election, so as not to hurt Trump’s chances of winning."

Josh Delk of the Hill: "Philadelphia authorities are investigating the death of the father of former White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster, ABC6 reports. According to the Philadelphia department of health, the former official's father, H.R. McMaster Sr., died on April 13 of blunt force trauma to the head.  While health officials have ruled his death to be an accident, investigators have labeled the death suspicious, and are looking into whether there could have been institutional neglect in treating him by the retirement community where he lived. The 84-year-old Korean War veteran reportedly did not receive proper care at the Cathedral Village retirement home, where he was living after suffering a stroke."

Way Beyond

Azam Ahmed of the New York Times: "Raúl Castro, who took over from his brother Fidel 12 years ago and led Cuba through some of its biggest changes in decades, is expected to step down on Thursday and hand power to someone outside the Castro dynasty for the first time since the Cuban revolution more than half a century ago."

Tuesday
Apr172018

The Commentariat -- April 18, 2018

Late Morning Update:

When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, "You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won." -- Donald Trump to Lester Holt, in May 2017 ...

** ... "This Russia Thing" Is Not "This Russia Thing," After All. John Wagner of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Wednesday took to Twitter to deny that he fired James B. Comey as FBI director because of the bureau’s 'phony' investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, including possible interaction with the Trump campaign. Trump’s tweet came shortly after an appearance by Comey on NBC’s 'Today' show to promote his new book, during which Comey asserted there 'could be' an obstruction of justice case to be made against Trump given the circumstances under which he was fired. 'Slippery James Comey, the worst FBI Director in history, was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation where, by the way, there was NO COLLUSION (except by the Dems)!' Trump wrote on Twitter." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Too Late, Trumpinocchio: You done been caught on tape accidentally admitting the truth.

Eileen Sullivan of the New York Times: "President Trump turned to Twitter early on Wednesday to dismiss the sketch of the man a pornographic actress claims threatened her years ago on his behalf.... 'A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!'... His tweet accompanied a post from another Twitter user, who said the man looked like [Stephanie] Clifford's former husband.... Ms. Clifford says the man in the sketch threatened her in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011 while she was with her infant daughter."

Choe Sang-Hun & Jane Perlez of the New York Times: "South Korea confirmed on Wednesday that it had been in talks with American and North Korean officials about negotiating a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War after more than 60 years, as the United States and its ally try to establish a basis for persuading the North to give up its nuclear weapons."

*****

Barbara Bush in 1984. New York Times photo.** Enid Nemy of the New York Times: "Barbara Bush, the widely admired wife of one president and the fiercely loyal mother of another, died Tuesday evening. She was 92.... The Bushes had celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary in January, making them the longest-married couple in presidential history." ...

... Lois Romano of the Washington Post has a brief obituary here. ...

... Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post remembers Bush's Wellesley speech.


Jeff Stein
, et al., of the Washington Post: "The Internal Revenue Service will let taxpayers submit their tax returns without penalty through the end of the day Wednesday, delaying the deadline a day after widespread failures of the agency’s systems for electronically filing returns. The agency’s electronic filing system came back online early Tuesday evening, but for much of the day, the agency’s online channels for direct tax payments, electronic filings and submissions filed via TurboTax and H&R Block were all not working. This story will be updated. The Internal Revenue Service’s online system for submitting tax returns experienced widespread failures on Tuesday, complicating filing for the millions of taxpayers attempting to meet the government’s midnight deadline." Emphasis original. Mrs. McC: Just this Monday MAG wrote that she wouldn't use electronic filing. I thought that was so-o-o-o retro. Maybe not. (This is an update of a story linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... New Lede: "The agency’s electronic filing system came back online early Tuesday evening. But before that, the agency’s onle channels for direct tax payments, electronic filings and submissions filed via widely used tax preparation services such as TurboTax and H&R Block were not going through."

... Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "The Internal Revenue Service had an unexpected message for procrastinators who waited until Tuesday to make their annual Tax Day payments through the agency’s website: Come back on Dec. 31, 9999. An outage on the agency’s website, which began on Tuesday morning and was unresolved by midday, crippled a crucial part of the tax collection agency’s website that allows taxpayers to make their payments directly through their bank accounts instead of paying fees that come with using debit or credit cards. Those seeking to make a payment were greeted with the message: 'This service is currently unavailable.' The website said it was undergoing a 'planned outage' beginning on Tax Day that would last until Dec. 31, 9999. The error message also said tax payments were still due despite the glitch.... The crash was reminiscent of the problems that plagued the Affordable Care Act’s online health insurance exchange under President Barack Obama. It came on a day when President Trump and his top advisers were trumpeting the $1.5 trillion tax cut passed by Congress late last year." ...

... Dylan Scott of Vox: "Donald Trump, our most relatable president, has filed for an extension on his 2018 taxes.... [Mrs. McC: Actually, that's on his 2017 taxes.] Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced the news on Tuesday, Tax Day, at her daily press conference."

The Man without a Compass. Alan Rappeport: "After publicly flirting last week with having the United States rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership, President Trump appeared to rebuff the idea once and for all late Tuesday. In a Twitter post at 10:49 p.m., Mr. Trump said that although Japan and South Korea would like the United States to join the 11 other nations in the multilateral trade agreement, he had no intention of doing so. The decision put an apparent end to a meandering trade policy in which Mr. Trump pulled out of the deal in his first week in office, before suggesting last week that he was having second thoughts. 'Too many contingencies and no way to get out if it doesn’t work,' Mr. Trump wrote from his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. 'Bilateral deals are far more efficient, profitable and better for OUR workers.' The comments confounded some trade experts on Tuesday night because South Korea is not in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Mr. Trump followed up with a shot at the World Trade Organization, which he said was 'bad' to the United States.”

Shane Harris, et al., of the Washington Post: "CIA Director Mike Pompeo made a top-secret visit to North Korea over Easter weekend as an envoy for President Trump to meet with that country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, according to two people with direct knowledge of the trip. The extraordinary meeting between one of Trump’s most trusted emmisaries and the authoritarian head of a rogue state was part of an effort to lay the groundwork for direct talks between Trump and Kim about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, according to the two people, who requested anonymity because of the highly classified nature of the talks. The clandestine mission, which has not previously been reported, came soon after Pompeo was nominated to be secretary of state.... Speaking at his Mar-a-Lago resort on Tuesday, Trump appeared to allude to the extraordinary face-to-face meeting between Kim and Pompeo when he said the U.S. has had direct talks with North Korea 'at very high levels.' The president didn’t elaborate." ...

     ... Margaret Hartmann: "... in light of Pompeo’s reported meeting with Kim, what’s the point of making a stand against confirming him for secretary of State? Trump has him essentially doing the job before the Senate’s weighed in." Trump has rendered moot "normal channels," including the quaint Constitutional idea of Senate confirmation.

Mark Landler, et al., of the New York Times: "Nikki R. Haley, the ambassador to the United Nations, fired back at the White House on Tuesday, denying that she had been confused when she announced on Sunday that the Trump administration would impose new sanctions on Russia. 'With all due respect, I don’t get confused,' she told Dana Perino of Fox News. She was responding to a comment earlier in the day by Larry Kudlow, the president’s new national economics adviser who was briefing reporters in Florida before President Trump’s meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan. 'She got ahead of the curve,' Mr. Kudlow said. 'She’s done a great job. She’s a very effective ambassador, but there might have been some momentary confusion about that.'” ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: But of course you were right, Larry. She's a girl.

... "Trump [Is] Letting Haley Take Heat Despite Signing off on Sanctions." Eliana Johnson of Politico: "... Donald Trump gave approval last week for rolling out airstrikes in Syria as well as new sanctions on Russia, according to three senior administration officials — but U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley wasn’t briefed on changes to the sanctions plan before announcing it Sunday on national television. The episode marks the latest instance of members of Trump’s team appearing out of sync with one another or with the president on foreign affairs."

Helene Cooper of the New York Times: "Defense Secretary Jim Mattis urged President Trump to get congressional approval before the United States launched airstrikes against Syria last week, but was overruled by Mr. Trump, who wanted a rapid and dramatic response, military and administration officials said. Mr. Trump, the officials said, wanted to be seen as backing up a series of bellicose tweets with action, but was warned that an overly aggressive response risked igniting a wider war with Russia. Friday night’s limited strikes on three targets, which lasted under two minutes, were the compromise.... In the end, the narrowly targeted strikes belied Mr. Trump’s description Friday night [during his address to the nation] of a larger coordinated response that could take days or weeks." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Trump's wanting a super-bombastic response to impress Russia is particularly ironic considering that it appears the reason he "changed his mind about"/backed down from imposing sanctions was that Russia gently rattled a saber or two [also linked yesterday]. Trump scurried to notify the Russian embassy in Washington D.C., not to pay any attention to Haley's announcement. 

Benjamin Hart of New York: "China lobbed another volley in the Sino-U.S. trade battles on Tuesday. The country imposed an extremely steep tariff — 176.8 percent — on sorghum, an American-made cereal grain that is used as a cattle feed and sweetener for baijiu, the popular Chinese liquor. After conducting an investigation, China concluded that the U.S. was dumping sorghum on the Chinese market, hurting its domestic producers. China imports about $1 billion a year worth of the grain from the U.S. Sorghum is mainly produced in the American South, in regions that voted heavily for President Trump." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)


Carol Leonnig
, et al., of the Washington Post: "The FBI seizure of records from President Trump’s personal attorney last week deeply rattled the president — souring him on his long-stated preference to sit down for an interview with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and prompting him to renew efforts to hire more legal firepower, people familiar with the discussions said.... The president’s lawyers are still open to talks with Mueller’s office about the possibility and advisers caution that the president frequently changes his mind, but his legal team now sees a Mueller sit-down as less likely.... Trump was so upset, in fact, that he had trouble concentrating on plans that were laid out for him that day by his national security team about potential options for targeted missile strikes on Syria...."

** The Many Trumpy Lawyers of Hannity. Rosie Gray of the Atlantic: "Sean Hannity has had no shortage of lawyers. In court on Monday, his name was disclosed as the third 'mystery client' of Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen. Though Hannity says he was never actually Cohen’s client, he does appear to have used the legal services of other well-connected Trump-world lawyers in a different matter a year ago. On May 25, 2017, KFAQ, a radio station based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, received a cease-and-desist letter signed by two lawyers for Hannity: Victoria Toensing and Jay Alan Sekulow. Toensing’s signature sits above her name and that of her husband Joseph E. diGenova, the members of diGenova and Toensing LLP, who are identified as 'Counsel for Sean Hannity,' according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Atlantic. Sekulow is also identified in the letter page as a 'Counsel for Sean Hannity.'... The letter was sent in response to accusations against Hannity made by the controversial conservative activist Debbie Schlussel. During an appearance on the Pat Campbell show on KFAQ last April, Schlussel said Hannity had been 'creepy' towards her and had invited her to his hotel room. Sekulow is now the only known personal attorney for President Trump working full-time on the response to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry. Sekulow recently announced that diGenova and Toensing had been hired to join him, before reversing course.... Sekulow, diGenova, and Toensing have frequently appeared on Hannity’s program; diGenova appeared on the show as recently as Monday night.” ...

... MEANWHILE. Avery Anapol of the Hill: "Fox News on Tuesday issued a statement of support for prime-time host Sean Hannity amid backlash over his previously undisclosed ties to President Trump's personal lawyer." Mrs. McC: I wonder how happy the suits are that Hannity also repeatedly invited three of his other personal lawyers to appear as guests on his show. Will they issue three more "statements of support" or just put out a blanket "Whatever (as long as your ratings & sponsorship remain high)." ...

... BFFs. Robert Costa, et al., of the Washington Post: "The phone calls between President Trump and Sean Hannity come early in the morning or late at night, after the Fox News host goes off the air. They discuss ideas for Hannity’s show, Trump’s frustration with the ongoing special counsel probe and even, at times, what the president should tweet, according to people familiar with the conversations. When he’s off the phone, Trump is known to cite Hannity when he talks with White House advisers. The revelation this week that the two men share an attorney is just the latest sign of how Hannity is intertwined with Trump’s world — an increasingly powerful confidant who offers the media-driven president a sympathetic ear and shared grievances. The conservative commentator is so close to Trump that some White House aides have dubbed him the unofficial chief of staff.... For a president who feels, intensely, that he is under siege, Hannity offers what he prizes: loyalty and a mass audience."

... Gabriel Sherman of Vanity Fair: "The symbiotic relationship between Donald Trump and Fox News can make it difficult to discern where the Trump administration ends and the network begins. But yesterday’s revelation in Manhattan federal court, that Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen’s three-person client roster includes Sean Hannity, was shocking, even to those inside Fox News.... 'Everyone’s first impression was the same: you only hire Cohen for one reason,' one staffer said.... [But] Hannity’s closeness with Trump has given him immense power at the network, and he’s not afraid to show it." ...

... Andy Borowitz (satire): "Millions of Americans were stunned and incredulous on Monday after learning of a possible incident of bias at Fox News Channel.... But some Fox viewers, like Harland Dorrinson, of Topeka, Kansas, warned of a .rush to judgment' against Fox.... 'Whenever there was a national emergency, whether it was Benghazi, Hillary’s e-mails, or Obama’s birth certificate, Fox News was there,' he said. 'One little mistake doesn’t wash all that away.'” ...

... digby: "Did [Hannity] talk to Cohen about dealing with this [Schlussel accusation] or something else like it? Who knows? But apparently Hannity was concerned enough about this to have lawyers threaten a radio station. By the way, he never mentioned that he'd hired these lawyers when he was interviewing them constantly on his show either." According to digby, Schlussel later retracted her claim. ...

... Maybe that's because this guy approached Schlussel:

... Kate Briquelet of the Daily Beast: "On Tuesday morning, [Stormy] Daniels and her relentless barrister Michael Avenatti appeared on ABC’s The View to share a forensic sketch of the alleged bully and to announce a $100,000 reward for anyone who could identify him.... She reiterated the story she shared during her 60 Minutes interview last month, when she revealed that a mystery man intimidated her in a Las Vegas parking lot in 2011. The guy’s threats came soon after In Touch magazine interviewed her about her alleged romp and 10-month relationship with The Donald. 'Leave Trump alone. Forget the story,' the thug warned as Daniels, who was with her baby daughter, collected a diaper bag from her car. 'That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom,' the tough guy added, before walking away."

Ken Dilanian of NBC News: "Donald Trump's campaign paid more than $66,000 to the law firm that represents Keith Schiller, his former longtime bodyguard, newly filed campaign records show. Schiller, who left a White House job in September, testified to the House Intelligence Committee in November that someone made an offer to send five women to Trump's hotel room in Moscow in the lead-up to the 2013 Miss Universe pageant. Two people familiar with the matter told NBC News that Schiller painted the incident in a light favorable to Trump, saying he turned down the offer on Trump's behalf and treated it as a joke. It is presumed by congressional investigators that Schiller told the same story to special counsel Robert Mueller.... Federal election law allows the use of campaign money for legal fees, but only if the fees are related to a matter connected to the campaign, legal experts say."

Betsy Woodruff of the Daily Beast: "James Comey appears to have inadvertently played a role in his deputy Andrew McCabe’s expulsion from the FBI." Not only did Comey insist upon an investigation into an FBI leak to the Wall Street Journal, he & McCabe "gave the inspector general vastly different characterizations of [a] conversation [in which the two discussed the leak].... The inspector general’s report ultimately concluded that Comey’s recollection of the Comey/McCabe conversation was the correct one, and that McCabe lacked candor with Comey about his role in the Oct. 30 article."


They're All Corrupt, Ctd. Juliet Eilperin & Brady Dennis
of the Washington Post: "Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt upgraded his official car last year to a costlier, larger vehicle with bullet-resistant covers over bucket seats, according to federal records and interviews with current and former agency officials. Recent EPA administrators have traveled in a Chevrolet Tahoe, and agency officials had arranged for Pruitt to use the same vehicle when he joined the administration in February. But he switched to a larger, newer and more high-end Chevy Suburban last June. One former EPA official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation, said that Pruitt remarked that he wanted the larger car because it was similar to ones in which some other Cabinet officials rode.... Meanwhile, the 2014 Chevy Tahoe with four-wheel-drive that was used by Gina McCarthy, Pruitt’s predecessor as EPA administrator, has largely sat idle at the EPA’s headquarters...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... "Scott Pruitt Has Become Ridiculous." New York Times Editors: "Despite stiff competition, Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is by common consensus the worst of the ideologues and mediocrities President Trump chose to populate his cabinet. Policies aside — and they’re terrible, from an environmental perspective — Mr. Pruitt’s self-aggrandizing and borderline thuggish behavior has disgraced his office and demoralized his employees.... Any other president would have fired him. Mr. Trump praises him. 'Scott is doing a great job!' the president tweeted on April 7.... [Pruitt] didn’t get everything he and his team wanted: a bulletproof sport utility vehicle, for instance, equipped with special tires designed to keep moving even when hit by gunfire; a $100,000-a-month contract to fly on private jets. But heaven help the E.P.A. staff members bold enough to challenge these demands.... One frequently overlooked truth about Mr. Pruitt amid these complaints is that for all his swagger he has actually accomplished very little in terms of actual policy — a wholly desirable outcome, from our standpoint."

They're All Corrupt, Ctd. Scotty's "Scandal Clone." Emily Atkin of the New Republic: "Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is making headlines left and right, for all the wrong reasons. Over the past two days, the man in charge of managing the nation’s public lands and resources has been accused of wasting taxpayer money on expensive travel; failing to disclose potential conflicts of interest; having an inappropriately close relationship to a top energy lobbyist; and lying about his professional credentials.... Zinke’s growing scandals look eerily similar to those surrounding Scott Pruitt...." Atkin lays out Zinke's scandals of the week along with some lingering ones. They're all so Pruittesque. And she doesn't include this one:

I'm a geologist. And I don't consider myself a genius, but I'm a pretty smart guy. -- Ryan Zinke, during a Senate hearing last June ...

... Actually, No. Sarah Ganim of CNN: "Defending his decision to shrink the Bears Ears national monument to lawmakers last week, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke fell back one of his favorite credentials. 'I'm a geologist,' he said. 'I can assure you that oil and gas in Bears Ears was not part of my decision matrix. A geologist will tell you there is little, if any, oil and gas.' Since becoming leader of the 70,000-employee agency, Zinke has suggested that he was a geologist or former geologist at least 40 times in public settings, including many under oath before Congress. Zinke, however, has never held a job as a geologist. In his autobiography, Zinke wrote that he majored in geology at the University of Oregon, which he attended on a football scholarship, and chose his major at random.... Several geologists who CNN has spoken with have flagged his comments as disingenuous, saying that someone with a 34-year-old degree who never worked in the field is not considered a geologist." Emphasis added.

They're All Corrupt, Ctd. Marisa Schultz of the New York Post: "President Trump’s trade representative is spending nearly $1 million on new furniture — and blaming the Obama administration. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer spent more than $917,000 to furnish the two trade offices near the White House, according to contracts reviewed by The Post. That’s a significant increase compared to the last two trade reps.... 'The furniture purchases are the culmination of a longtime, planned project that began under the Obama Administration to replace two-decade-old furniture,' Lighthizer’s office said in a statement. They said they’re just sticking to the plan set in motion under Obama. 'The project to upgrade offices has been going on since 2014,' the trade office said. But Obama-era reps say they didn’t sign off on any major remodeling plans."


Good News for Trump. Rebecca Shabad of NBC News: "The effort to pass legislation to protect Robert Mueller’s job as special counsel appeared to hit a dead end Tuesday as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not allow the bill to come to the floor for a full Senate vote. 'I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That’s my responsibility as majority leader. We’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate,' the Kentucky Republican said in an interview on Fox News. Earlier in the day, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said again that legislation to protect Mueller's position was 'unnecessary' because, based on 'the kinds of conversations we have had,' he believes that the president will not take steps to dismiss the special counsel." ...

... Jonathan Chait: "McConnell argues, as he has in the past, that such a bill is 'unnecessary' because there is 'no indication' Trump would fire the special counsel. Of course there are many indications. Innumerable news reports have described Trump raging about Mueller and demanding his firing. Trump actually ordered the firing of Mueller in June, and again in December, and has begun attacking Mueller publicly, as well as attacking the Department of Justice official who oversees and has approved his investigation, both privately and publicly. Trump has also previously fired the FBI director, with whom he closely associates Mueller. Other than that, there aren’t any indications.... When McConnell refuses to act because he says he doesn’t think a threat is real, it means he is happy to let the threat be carried out."

Why Pajama Boy Quit Congress. Jennifer Bendery of the Huffington Post: "The House Ethics Committee was about to rule against [Rep. Blake] Farenthold [R-Texas] in its investigation into whether he sexually harassed members of his staff, used official money for campaign purposes and lied in previous testimony to the committee, according to the office of Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.). The committee gave Farenthold a heads-up about its coming decision, so he quit, per Speier’s office.... By stepping down, Farenthold was able to avoid whatever punishment the committee would have handed down."

Mike DeBonis & Dave Weigel of the Washington Post: "Rep. Charlie Dent (Pa.), a frequent critic of President Trump and a leader of the GOP’s moderate bloc in the House, said Tuesday that he will resign from Congress within weeks. His decision could set up a costly special election if the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania orders one. Dent had already announced his retirement from Congress in September, citing personal reasons for the decision while also lamenting the marginalization of the 'governing wing' of the Republican Party as the GOP has moved further to the right." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... In a statement, Pennslyvania Gov. Tom Wolf thanked Dent for his service. "Once Governor Wolf receives an official resignation notice with an exact date, he will make a formal decision regarding scheduling the date of a special election." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "A closely divided Supreme Court struggled on Tuesday to decide whether internet retailers should have to collect sales taxes in states where they have no physical presence. Brick-and-mortar businesses have long complained that they are disadvantaged by having to charge sales taxes while many of their online competitors do not. States have said that they are missing out on tens of billions of dollars in annual revenue under a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that helped spur the rise of internet shopping. By the end of arguments on Tuesday, it was not clear whether there were five votes to overrule the 1992 decision, Quill Corporation v. North Dakota, which said the Constitution bars states from collecting sales taxes from companies that do not have a substantial connection to the state."

Jessica Gresko of the AP: "The Supreme Court said Tuesday that part of a federal law that makes it easier to deport immigrants who have been convicted of crimes is too vague to be enforced. The court's 5-4 decision — an unusual alignment in which new Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the four liberal justices — concerns a catchall provision of immigration law that defines what makes a crime violent. Conviction for a crime of violence makes deportation 'a virtual certainty' for an immigrant, no matter how long he has lived in the United States, Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her opinion for the court. The decision is a loss for ... Donald Trump's administration, which has emphasized stricter enforcement of immigration law. In this case, President Barack Obama's administration took the same position in the Supreme Court in defense of the challenged provision." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Would have posted this sooner, but I got the vapors when I read Gorsuch voted with the "liberals." ...

... Ian Millhiser: "Gorsuch’s vote, and his separate opinion in Dimaya, confirms that he is ... willing to hand liberals a small victory on the path to a much larger effort to shift legal doctrines to the right.... When read in light of Gorsuch’s prior record, his separate opinion in Dimaya suggests that he sees this case as one step in a broader anti-regulatory journey."

Rachel Abrams of the New York Times: "Starbucks said on Tuesday that it would close its more than 8,000 stores in the United States for one day to conduct anti-bias training after two African-American men were arrested at one of its stores last week, prompting outrage. Starbucks will close the stores May 29 to offer the training to 175,000 employees. 'I’ve spent the last few days in Philadelphia with my leadership team listening to the community, learning what we did wrong and the steps we need to take to fix it,' Kevin R. Johnson, the company’s chief executive, said in a statement announcing the training.... The decision ... underscores the damage done to Starbucks’s reputation for being a socially responsible company, one that sells fair-trade coffee and promotes its stores as a meeting place.... The employee who called the police is no longer employed by Starbucks, the company confirmed on Monday." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Pardon my failure of cynicism, but I'm glad to see Starbucks taking this single racist incident seriously & making a huge effort to prevent similar occurrences in the future. I hope the guys the Philly police arrested & held for nine hours get more than a couple of free lattes for the extreme hassle. I look for the day when being non-white in America means simply being in America. ...

... They Were in a White Space. Jamelle Bouie: "Philadelphia is a city in which 43 percent of residents are black. The Philadelphia Starbucks where two black men were arrested last Thursday, however, is located in a zip code that is 79 percent white and just 6 percent black. In all likelihood, most of the clientele there is white, which, to borrow from sociologist Elijah Anderson, makes this particular location a 'white space.'... Everyone, eventually, finds themselves out of place. But it’s only some people — raced people — who have to move with particular care through unfamiliar spaces, lest they bring ruinous scrutiny on themselves.”

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Matt Yglesias of Vox has some thoughts on Richard Cohen, the Washington Post columnist whose crap, for some reason, is never linked here: "There’s a phrase I learned a few years back that goes, 'When you are accustomed to privilege, equality can feel like oppression.' Cohen’s career, I think, exemplifies the wisdom contained in that aphorism. He’s a guy who’s enjoyed a well-compensated, high-status, easy-to-do job for decades who nonetheless quite sincerely feels put upon by the fact that he lost a job to a woman sometime in the 1970s and sometimes get called a racist because he thinks young black men should be subject to discriminatory treatment. He feels, on these grounds, a profound affinity for Trump voters. And because the demographic of put-upon older white men does, in fact, exert disproportionate influence over American social and economic institutions, there continues to be a well-compensated and not very taxing job for him into his late 70s.”

Beyond the Beltway

Kurt Shillinger of the Washington Post: "Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley said Tuesday that his office had evidence of a probable felony related to a donor list for a charity founded by Gov. Eric Greitens, who remained defiant despite earlier accusations and widespread calls for his resignation. Hawley said Tuesday that he turned over evidence on Greitens, a Republican, to the St. Louis circuit attorney. His actions come a week after lawmakers released a report saying Greitens initiated unwanted sexual contact with a woman who worked as his hairdresser, allegations that intensified calls for him to resign. The allegations in that report are related to an invasion-of-privacy charge that had been brought against Greitens by Kim Gardner, the St. Louis circuit attorney. Hawley said Tuesday that he found evidence that Greitens, during his run for governor, had 'obtained, transmitted and used' the donor list of his charity for the purpose of political fundraising without the organization’s knowledge." ...

... Get Out! Jack Suntrup of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Leaders in Missouri’s GOP-controlled House issued a stinging rebuke of Republican Gov. Eric Greitens on Tuesday evening, calling on the state’s chief executive to resign as scandals continue to consume his administration. 'Leaders at all levels of government are entrusted with an incredible responsibility to the Missourians we represent,' said a joint statement from House Speaker Todd Richardson, House Majority Leader Rob Vescovo and House Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr.... Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard of Joplin issued a similar statement, saying the governor should step aside. If he doesn’t Richard said, 'it is my wish that we immediately start impeachment proceedings.' The governor responded on Twitter, saying he would not resign.”

Sam Levin of the Guardian: "California police fired what sounded like more than 30 bullets at a packed car in a shopping store parking lot, killing a black father of three and injuring a young woman in the latest US law enforcement shooting to spark backlash. Police in Barstow, two hours outside of Los Angeles, killed 26-year-old Diante Yarber, who was believed to be unarmed and was driving his cousin and friends to a local Walmart on the morning of 5 April. Police have alleged that Yarber was 'wanted for questioning' in a stolen vehicle case and that he 'accelerated' the car towards officers when they tried to stop him, but his family and their attorney argued that the young father posed no threat and should not have been treated as a suspect in the first place."

Alex Horton of the Washington Post: "The Sacramento Police Department on Monday released dozens of videos related to the Stephon Clark killing — new material that showed officers muting their body-worn cameras at least 16 times, raising more questions about police action in the moments after the fatal shooting of the unarmed black man. Clark, 22, was hit by eight of the 20 rounds fired by two officers on March 18 in his grandmother’s back yard, according to an independent autopsy requested by his family. He was unarmed. Police have said they believed he was raising a gun at them, but only a white iPhone was found near his body. Videos show six minutes pass between shots fired and responders attempting chest compressions. Police handcuffed and searched Clark before they began first aid."