The Wires

 

... No, Reality Chex has not turned into a Playboy wannabe. I just thought you'd like to see how Louise Linton, the wife of the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, thought she should pose for an Elle article about her various missteps as, you know, the wife of the Treasury Secretary. Maybe she should start asking herself, "What Would Karen Pence do?" -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie 

 

 

The Martin Luther King home in Atlanta. MLK, Jr. was born here. The house is a National Historic Site & you can visit it -- the National Park Service conducts tours.

More on the MLK house here.

Laura Holson of the New York Times profiles Joy Reid of MSNBC. Mrs. McC: If you've never seen Joy on the teevee, she is indeed a joy.

Cheddar Man! Serious Bad News for Donald Trump & All His White Supremacist Friends. New York Times: "He had dark skin, brown curly hair and blue eyes, DNA tests suggest, upending a common assumption that Britain’s indigenous populations were all pale skinned with fair features. He is 'Cheddar Man,' Britain’s oldest complete skeleton, which was discovered in 1903 in Gough’s Cave near the village of Cheddar in Somerset, in southwest England. He lived about 10,000 years ago in the Mesolithic period, the middle part of the Stone Age. Scientists have now reconstructed his features, demonstrating that he was part of a population of ancient Western Europeans that, scientists have shown in recent years, had dark skin. Research has shown that fair skin pigmentation — long considered a defining feature of Europe — only goes back less than 6,000 years." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: We all come from African ancestry, but now it turns out that those of us who appear whitey-white likely have more recent dark-skinned ancestors. Yes, Donald, you are Cheddar Man! Could you all stop being racists now?

Chrisco Gets Part-time Gig at ABC News. NJ.com: Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie "has been hired as an occasional contributor to ABC News, according to sources familiar with the discussions."

Finally, an Ex-White House Staffer Gets a Job for which She Might Be Qualified. Hollywood Reporter: "Omarosa Manigault, who left the White House under dramatic circumstances at the tail end of last year, is set to enter the Celebrity Big Brother house."

Los Angeles Times: "The most unpredictable Oscar season in years finally came into focus Tuesday morning [Jan. 23] as the 90th Academy Awards nominations were announced, with nine films representing a wide range of genres earning best picture nods and Guillermo del Toro's fantastical fable 'The Shape of Water' leading the field with 13 nominations." A list of nominees for the top prizes follows.

The Gossip Page

Page Six of the New York Post: "Disgraced anchor Matt Lauer has been kicked out of his home by his furious wife [Annette Roque]  after multiple women came forward with allegations of his 'inappropriate sexual behavior.' And while Lauer’s reclusive wife has not yet filed for divorce, we’re told it is likely to happen soon.... Roque had previously filed for divorce from Lauer in 2006, citing 'mental abuse, extreme mental and emotional distress, humiliation, torment and anxiety,' but withdrew the filing weeks later after he offered her a postnuptial agreement and millions more dollars, a source told Page Six.”

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

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

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

Sunday
Feb182018

The Commentariat -- February 19, 2018

"They Are Laughing Their Asses off in Moscow." Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "Donald Trump has taken the presidency to yet another new low. In a remarkable set of tweets over the weekend, the commander in chief sounded off on new revelations about the extent of Russia’s campaign to undermine our electoral system. His response: to lash out at his political adversaries and the institutions that are charged with keeping the country safe.... These are the moments that test a country — and a president. They call for bringing people together in a sense of national purpose against a common adversary. Once again, Trump has failed that test.... His self-absorption is such that he cannot see beyond his own fixation, which is that all of this has no meaning beyond the legitimacy of his own election. Moscow must indeed be laughing." ...

... Joshua Yaffa of the New Yorker: "It must indeed be amusing for the political technologists — as the stage managers of Russia’s domestic scene are called — to watch a U.S. President at war with so many parts of the political system, while, at the same time, the Kremlin is preparing for a serene, almost unnoticeable coronation of Putin for his fourth Presidential term, next month.... What a laugh it must be to see how much turbulence those institutions can churn up for your adversary. The question — the answer to which we’ll find out sooner rather than later — is whether the joke is ultimately on us or them." ...

... Larry, Mo & Curly. David Ferguson of the Raw Story: "CNN’s Boris Sanchez reported on Sunday that sources say President Donald Trump’s weekend Twitter attacks on the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation were spurred by his sons Donald Jr. and Eric. Sanchez told anchor Fredericka Whitfield that the president has chose to spend the weekend indoors and away from the golf course to avoid the 'bad optics' of being seen golfing while the grieving families of Parkland, FL lay the victims of Wednesday’s mass shooting to rest. The trouble with the restive president and his child-like attention span is that it has left him beholden to the influence of his sons, who have shown themselves to be eager dupes for racist conspiracy theories and other disinformation campaigns." ...

Jacqueline Thomsen of the Hill: "Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) said ... his takeaway from Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russian nationals and Russia groups is that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and that the best way to respond would be for Trump to impose the bipartisan sanctions against the country that Congress passed last year. 'Instead he’s launched a desperate sounding series of unhinged tweets this morning, and to me that is not only wildly inappropriate, it shows consciousness of guilt,' Lieu said. 'Which is what a [guilty] person would do,' he said. 'Mislead, lie and not take action against the Kremlin.'” ...

... "The Case of the Petrified President*." An American Mystery. Tom Friedman: "Our democracy is in serious danger. President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy.... Trump is either hiding something so threatening to himself, or he’s criminally incompetent to be commander in chief. It is impossible yet to say which explanation for his behavior is true, but it seems highly likely that one of these scenarios explains Trump’s refusal to respond to Russia’s direct attack on our system — a quiescence that is simply unprecedented for any U.S. president in history."

... George Washington Saw Trump Coming. Thomas Pickering & James Stoutenberg, in a New York Times op-ed: "In September 1796, George Washington ... wrote a farewell address explaining why he would not seek a third term. His message is worth remembering in our current political moment.... One of his greatest concerns: The ways in which hyperpartisanship could open the door 'to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.' On Friday, Robert Mueller, the special counsel, charged 13 Russians with trying to help Donald Trump win the 2016 election. One need only read the indictment to understand what the first president was talking about.” ...

     ... Washington's farewell address is here.

Buried in the Dawsey-Rucker WashPo story -- also linked yesterday -- about Trump's crazed Twitterstorm is this: "The president also surveyed Mar-a-Lago Club members about whether he ought to champion gun control measures in the wake of last week’s school massacre in nearby Parkland, telling them that he was closely monitoring the media appearances by some of the surviving students, according to people who spoke with him there." Mrs. McC: Right, because it's very important to know what rich people think about gun control. And other stuff. Trump is also gauging whether or not traumatized kids will make him look bad. It's all about Trump.

The Fixer. Jim Rutenberg, et al., of the New York Times: "As accounts of past sexual indiscretions threatened to surface during Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign, the job of stifling potentially damaging stories fell to his longtime lawyer and all-around fixer, Michael D. Cohen. To protect his boss at critical junctures in his improbable political rise, the lawyer relied on intimidation tactics, hush money and the nation’s leading tabloid news business, American Media Inc., whose top executives include close Trump allies. Mr. Cohen’s role has come under scrutiny amid recent revelations that he facilitated a payment to silence a porn star, but his aggressive behind-the-scenes efforts stretch back years, according to interviews, emails and other records.

Michael Birnbaum & Griff Witte of the Washington Post: "Amid global anxiety about President Trump’s approach to world affairs, U.S. officials had a message to a gathering of Europe’s foreign policy elite this weekend: Pay no attention to the man tweeting behind the curtain. U.S. lawmakers — both Democrats and Republicans — and top national security officials in the Trump administration offered the same advice publicly and privately, often clashing with Trump’s Twitter stream: The United States remains staunchly committed to its European allies, is furious with the Kremlin about election interference and isn’t contemplating a preemptive strike on North Korea to halt its nuclear program." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

All the Best People, Ctd. New York Times Editors: "President Trump’s White House has been so scandal-plagued that controversies involving cabinet members and other high-level officials that would have been front-page news in any other administration have barely registered in the public consciousness." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Yes, but look at the bright side. Trump has failed to fill many positions, leaving most agencies short-handed. If he'd staffed the executive branch in a timely manner, there would be a lot more scandals.

David Willman of the Los Angeles Times: "A former top aide to Donald Trump's presidential campaign will plead guilty to fraud-related charges within days – and has made clear to prosecutors that he would testify against Paul J. Manafort Jr., the lawyer-lobbyist who once managed the campaign. The change of heart by Trump's former deputy campaign manager, Richard W. Gates III, who had pleaded not guilty after being indicted in October on charges similar to Manafort's, was described in interviews by people familiar with the case." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Pruitt Cancels Taxpayer-Funded Vacation Official Trip. Juliet Eilperin & Ruth Eglash of the Washington Post: "Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has canceled a nearly week-long trip to Israel, agency officials confirmed Sunday. Pruitt, who had been scheduled to leave this weekend for an extensive tour of the Mideast ally, has come under fire over the past week for the cost of his domestic and international travel. In May, the head of Pruitt’s security detail recommended he travel either business or first class whenever possible to avoid public confrontations with critics." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Jill Abramson writes a long piece for New York titled, "Do You Believe Her Now?" The subhead is. "With new evidence that Clarence Thomas lied to get onto the Supreme Court, it’s time to talk seriously about impeachment." Abramson puts together a convincing case. Mrs. McC: I wouldn't recommend impeaching Thomas while a serial sex-abuser is the guy who gets to choose his replacement. AND Joe Biden is making noises about a presidential run again. It would be a bitter irony if the senator who suppressed women's testimony against Thomas picked an impeached Thomas's replacement.

Beyond the Beltway

Max Londberg of the Kansas City Star (in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch): "Third-graders in a Missouri community are continuing to sell raffle tickets for an AR-15 to benefit their traveling baseball team after the same type of rifle was used to slaughter and injure dozens at a Florida school. Levi Patterson, the coach of a 9-and-under baseball team in Neosho, Mo., told The Star the idea was conceived before the shooting in Parkland, Fla. A father of one of the players — who co-founded Black Rain Ordnance Inc., a weapons purveyor in Neosho — offered the weapon for the raffle.... Lee Woodward, the principal of South Elementary School in Neosho, announced the raffle on her Facebook page and encouraged purchases to support the '9u Neosho baseball players, coaches, and parents.' The post was made hours after the Florida shooting." Mrs. McC: The Star & the Post-Dispatch are both reputable newspapers, so I'm just going to assume this story is not a hoax & the principal & parents in Neosho, Mo., are really this stupid.

Saturday
Feb172018

The Commentariat -- February 18, 2018

Afternoon Update:

Michael Birnbaum & Griff Witte of the Washington Post: "Amid global anxiety about President Trump’s approach to world affairs, U.S. officials had a message to a gathering of Europe’s foreign policy elite this weekend: Pay no attention to the man tweeting behind the curtain. U.S. lawmakers — both Democrats and Republicans — and top national security officials in the Trump administration offered the same advice publicly and privately, often clashing with Trump’s Twitter stream: The United States remains staunchly committed to its European allies, is furious with the Kremlin about election interference and isn’t contemplating a preemptive strike on North Korea to halt its nuclear program."

David Willman of the Los Angeles Times: "A former top aide to Donald Trump's presidential campaign will plead guilty to fraud-related charges within days – and has made clear to prosecutors that he would testify against Paul J. Manafort Jr., the lawyer-lobbyist who once managed the campaign. The change of heart by Trump's former deputy campaign manager, Richard W. Gates III, who had pleaded not guilty after being indicted in October on charges similar to Manafort's, was described in interviews by people familiar with the case."

Pruitt Cancels Taxpayer-Funded Vacation Official Trip. Juliet Eilperin & Ruth Eglash of the Washington Post: "Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has canceled a nearly week-long trip to Israel, agency officials confirmed Sunday. Pruitt, who had been scheduled to leave this weekend for an extensive tour of the Mideast ally, has come under fire over the past week for the cost of his domestic and international travel. In May, the head of Pruitt’s security detail recommended he travel either business or first class whenever possible to avoid public confrontations with critics."

*****

A Leaderless Nation. Peter Baker of the New York Times: "After more than a dozen Russians and three companies were indicted on Friday for interfering in the 2016 elections, President Trump’s first reaction was to claim personal vindication: 'The Trump campaign did nothing wrong — no collusion!' he wrote on Twitter. He voiced no concern that a foreign power had been trying for nearly four years to upend American democracy, much less resolve to stop it from continuing to do so this year.... In 13 months in office, Mr. Trump has made little if any public effort to rally the nation to confront Moscow for its intrusion or to defend democratic institutions against continued disruption.... The administration has been left to respond without the president’s leadership.... Rather than condemn Russia for its actions, Mr. Trump in the past has said he accepts the denial offered by President Vladimir V. Putin.... Mr. Trump’s own aides readily acknowledge the reality that he does not.... For the moment, the government is left to act without the president." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This is an astonishing article to appear as the top story in America's paper of record. Baker writes nothing we don't know, but it's a stark admission of where a POTUS* has left us. Update: Read on, because it only gets worse. Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, when are you going to say out loud what we know you know: that the POTUS* is nuts. ...

... digby: "The worst case scenario here is that the president conspired with a foreign adversary (and yes, they are an adversary if not an enemy) to win the presidential election, either for their mutual personal benefit or due to some form of blackmail. The best case scenario is that the president of the United States was an unwitting dupe but is so deranged and ignorant that he refuses to take action to prevent this from happening in the future and is actively covering up the scandal to assuage his fragile ego. And in the process, he's implicating himself in the scandal after the fact. There are no other explanations for this and it's terrifying." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: That is, the worst case scenario (a) is that Mueller charges the POTUS* on conspiracy against the United States and obstruction of justice, and the best case scenario (b) is that Mueller charges him only with (multiples counts of) obstruction. In Bea McCrabbie's Constitutional theory class, if (b), then the 25th Amendment + obstruction. (You may ask how there can be obstruction if there were no underlying crimes. But the crimes the POTUS* was covering up, if he himself had committed none, would be crimes committed by subordinates & others -- like Mike Flynn.) ...

(Insane) Defendant-in-Chief

NEW. Katie Rogers of the New York Times: "President Trump, in a series of angry and defiant tweets on Sunday morning, sought to shift the blame to Democrats for Russia’s virtual war to meddle in the 2016 election, saying that President Barack Obama had not done enough to stop the interference and denying that he had ever suggested that Moscow might not have been involved. Mr. Trump, who has said little to publicly acknowledge a threat to American democracy that even one of his top aides [H.R. McMaster] called 'incontrovertible' on Saturday, asserted that the efforts to investigate and combat the Russian meddling had only given the Russians what they wanted, saying that 'they are laughing their asses off in Moscow.' 'If it was the GOAL of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the U.S. then, with all of the Committee Hearings, Investigations and Party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams,' Mr. Trump wrote. From his Florida estate, the president has spent the weekend stewing over news coverage of an indictment secured last week against more than a dozen Russians by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel leading an investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia.” ...

... NEW. Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post: "President Trump questioned the intensifying special counsel investigation of his 2016 campaign and his administration while attacking his own national security adviser, the FBI, Hillary Clinton, former president Barack Obama, Democrats in Congress, CNN and others in a remarkable nine-hour span of tweets that included profanity and misspellings. Posting from his palatial estate, he seemed most aggrieved that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team on Friday had filed 13 indictments against Russians and alleged that the effort was intended to push voters toward Trump and away from Clinton.... Trump has chafed at accusations that he had any help, resisting calls to decry Russian meddling and take more action against it even as he has fired and threatened to fire law enforcement officials investigating him and frequently ranting on Twitter." ...

... NEW. Matthew Nussbaum of Politico: "He did not criticize Russia, or voice concern over Vladimir Putin's attempts to undermine U.S. elections." ...

Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign - there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud! -- Donald Trump, Saturday night

Mrs. McCrabbie Translation: Like me, the 35,000-person-strong FBI cannot walk & chew gun at the same time. That's why their motto is "One Crime at a Time." P.S. Have I mentioned this Russia thing is a hoax? ...

... Jordan Fabian of the Hill: "President Trump on Saturday attacked the news media for its coverage of special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of more than a dozen Russians accused of interfering in the 2016 election. In a series of tweets, Trump said news outlets have not highlighted the ways he believes the charges exonerate his campaign from colluding with Moscow’s election-meddling efforts. 'Funny how the Fake News Media doesn’t want to say that the Russian group was formed in 2014, long before my run for President. Maybe they knew I was going to run even though I didn’t know!' the president tweeted. Trump has repeatedly seized on the charge, included in Mueller’s indictments released Friday, that the Russian efforts began well before the business mogul entered the presidential race. There were signs, however, that Trump was exploring a run as early as 2014.... The tweets are part of Trump’s efforts to spin the indictment in his favor, even though it undercut his longstanding claim that Russia's election meddling was a 'hoax.'" ...

... Josh Marshall: "Facebook seems still to be committed to lying, albeit now more artfully, about its role in the 2016 election and more broadly as a channel of choice for propaganda and misinformation.... Here’s the tweet I saw from Facebook’s VP of advertising: Rob Goldman ... 'Most of the coverage of Russian meddling involves their attempt to effect the outcome of the 2016 US election. I have seen all of the Russian ads and I can say very definitively that swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal.' [AND] 'The majority of the Russian ad spend happened AFTER the election. We shared that fact, but very few outlets have covered it because it doesn’t align with the main media narrative of Tump and the election'... President Trump himself clearly saw immediately that Goldman’s line was an effort to align Facebook with President Trump’s messaging – namely, it wasn’t about electing Trump [& he retweeted the Goldman's second tweet]...." ...

     ... Trump also cited the first Goldman post in another tweet. ...

... Tara Culp-Ressler of ThinkProgress: "Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley claimed during an appearance on Fox News on Saturday that Democratic politicians and the mainstream press have done more to interfere in the electoral system than Russia has.... 'What the Russians were trying to do, as outlined by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, was create chaos in the American election system,' Gidley said. 'And I will just say this: There are two groups that have created chaos more than the Russians, and that’s the Democrats and the mainstream media, who continued to push this lie on the American people for more than a year — and quite frankly Americans should be outraged by that.'” ...

... Dahlia Lithwick of Slate: "On Friday, the Department of Justice detonated a legal bombshell, announcing the indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies accused of interfering in the 2016 presidential election.... Standing at the podium was Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Donald Trump's much-reviled 'Democrat from Baltimore,' who is widely believed to be just barely hanging on to his day job as special counsel Robert Mueller’s minder and whose deputy has just lurched off the national stage for a gig at Walmart. This was a fairly impressive piece of political maneuvering. On the one hand, it makes any attempt by Trump to remove Rosenstein an even more explicit obstruction of justice. Rosenstein has, after all, just publicly linked himself to indictments of Russians (foreigners!) who tried to throw the election to Trump. He’s also linked himself even more tightly with Mueller and the special counsel’s investigation.... Rosenstein now indisputably stands for the proposition that Russia interfered in the election and that anyone who denies this is lying. Earlier this week, incidentally, CNN reported that 'Trump still isn’t buying that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Sheera Frenkel & Katie Benner of the New York Times: "While the indictment does not accuse Facebook of any wrongdoing, it provided the first comprehensive account from the authorities of how critical the company’s platforms had been to the Russian campaign to disrupt the 2016 election. Facebook and Instagram were mentioned 41 times, while other technology that the Russians used was featured far less. Twitter was referred to nine times, YouTube once and the electronic payments company PayPal 11 times.... When suggestions first arose after the 2016 election that Facebook may have influenced the outcome, Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s chief executive, dismissed the concerns. But by last September, Facebook had disclosed that the Internet Research Agency had bought divisive ads on hot-button issues through the company. It later said 150 million Americans had seen the Russian propaganda on the social network and Instagram. [Facebook owns Instagram.]... Facebook’s multiple mentions in Friday’s indictment renew questions of why the world’s biggest social media company didn’t catch the Russian activity earlier or do more to stop it. How effective the company’s new efforts to reduce foreign manipulation have been is also unclear."

Party Like the Kids Next Door Didn't Get Shot. Aldan McLaughlin of Mediaite: "... Donald Trump met with survivors of the Parkland, Florida high school shooting on Friday, before heading to his Mar-a-Lago resort for a disco-themed party. Trump met with survivors of Wednesday’s mass shooting at Broward Health North hospital in Pompano Beach with his wife Melania. They also stopped at the Broward County Sheriff’s Office." ...

     ... At least Trump didn't go golfing Saturday. Christine Stapleton of the Palm Beach Post: "Despite the cloudless skies and 80-degree temperature, the president did not golf [Saturday]. Instead, he sent out a string of tweets Saturday afternoon...."

... Mark Hand: "With school mass shootings on the rise across the country, the Trump administration is proposing major funding cuts for violence prevention and recovery assistance programs at public schools. Funds targeted for reduction or elimination in ... Donald Trump’s FY’19 budget request, which was released two days before the tragedy at a high school in Parkland, Florida, have helped pay for counselors in schools and violence prevention programs. In fact, the funding levels sought by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would 'completely abdicate responsibility' for school safety, violence prevention, and recovery, according to a report released Friday by the Center for American Progress (CAP)."

A Tottering Alliance. Griff Witte & Michael Birnbaum of the Washington Post: "U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster acknowledged Saturday that evidence of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election is 'incontrovertible.'... The comments, a day after the Justice Department indicted 13 Russians for interference in the election that catapulted Donald Trump to the White House, follow months of efforts by the president to cast doubt on assertions of Moscow’s meddling. They came as McMaster used a high-profile address at a global security conference to try to rally Western allies against common enemies, offering an olive branch to U.S. partners that have often felt battered and neglected in the age of Trump.... But the appeal to solidarity could not hide the deep fissures among Western allies, examples of which abounded Saturday.... Most glaring was the gap between the United States and its European allies." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

** How Trump Waged War on Dreamers. David Nakamura & Mike DeBonis: "As much of the country was gripped Wednesday by horrific images from the mass shooting at a Florida high school, two dozen senior Trump administration officials worked frantically into the night to thwart ... a vote the next day in the Senate [that would have spared Dreamers from deportation].... But to the men and women huddled in a makeshift war room in a Department of Homeland Security facility, the measure would blow open U.S. borders to lawless intruders. 'We’re going to bury it,' one senior administration official told a reporter at about 10:30­ p.m. that evening. The assault was relentless — a flurry of attacks on the bill from DHS officials and the Justice Department and a veto threat from the White House — and hours later, the measure died on the Senate floor. The Trump administration’s extraordinary 11th-hour strategy to sabotage the bill showed how, after weeks of intense bipartisan negotiations on Capitol Hill, it was the White House that emerged as a key obstacle preventing a deal to help the dreamers. The episode reflected President Trump’s inability — or lack of desire — to cut a deal with his adversaries even when doing so could have yielded a signature domestic policy achievement and delivered the U.S.-Mexico border wall he repeatedly promised during the campaign." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Shane Harris, et al., of the Washington Post: "White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly announced Friday that beginning next week, the White House will no longer allow some employees with interim security clearances access to top-­secret information — a move that could threaten the standing of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law.... Two U.S. officials said they do not expect Kushner to receive a permanent security clearance in the near future.... And apart from staff on the National Security Council, he issues more requests for information to the intelligence community than any White House employee, according to a person with knowledge of the situation...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... All the Best People, Ctd. In yesterday's Comments, Capt Russ drew a parallel between "undocumented immigrants" & "undocumented White House staff": "... so happy to see that the Chief of Staff for the President* who promised serious vetting of immigrants has discovered 'serious shortcomings with the system for vetting top-level officials with access to the United States’ most closely guarded secrets' just 1 year and 29 days into the administration. Looks like this administration is 'extremely careless' with classified information. LOCK 'EM UP!!"

All the Best People, Ctd. Robert O'Harrow of the Washington Post: "Doug Manchester, the billionaire nominated by President Trump to be ambassador to the Bahamas, made a fortune as a real estate developer in San Diego while also earning a reputation for his philanthropy, conservative convictions and lavish lifestyle. In 2011, Manchester, then 69, decided to buy the struggling San Diego Union-Tribune. Over the next four years, he employed an unconventional, anachronistic management style that upended the newspaper’s culture and made many female workers uncomfortable, according to more than a dozen current and former employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity. During the taping of a promotional video, Manchester once pulled a reporter in for a hug so intimate that it startled onlookers in the newsroom, multiple people said. He complimented young female employees on their appearances, and he and other senior managers required some of them hired for a new in-house television operation to wear short black dresses and serve as hostesses for advertisers and other guests at Union-Tribune events, current and former employees said." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Audra Burch, et al., of the New York Times: "A Florida social services agency conducted an in-home investigation of Nikolas Cruz after he exhibited troubling behavior nearly a year and a half before he shot and killed 17 people at his former high school in Florida, a state report shows. The agency, the Florida Department of Children and Families, had been alerted to posts on Snapchat of Mr. Cruz cutting both his arms and expressing interest in buying a gun, according to the report. After visiting and questioning Mr. Cruz at his home, the department determined that he was at low risk of harming himself or others.... 'Mr. Cruz stated that he plans to go out and buy a gun,' the report states. 'It is unknown what he is buying the gun for.'... The report noted that a mental health agency had been contacted in the past to detain Mr. Cruz under Florida’s Baker Act, which allows the state to hospitalize a person for several days if they are a threat to themselves or others. The center determined that he was not a risk to himself or others.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Alexander Burns of the New York Times: "A prominent Republican political donor demanded on Saturday that the party pass legislation to restrict access to guns, and vowed not to contribute to any candidates or electioneering groups that did not support a ban on the sale of military-style firearms to civilians. Al Hoffman Jr., a Florida-based real estate developer who was a leading fund-raiser for George W. Bush’s campaigns, said he would seek to marshal support among other Republican political donors for a renewed assault weapons ban." ...

... Maureen Dowd: "Now children in this country go to school every day knowing that they are not safe, that a crazed predator could show up at any moment with an assault rifle and cut them down. America shrugs. Our children are collateral damage." ...

... David Leonhardt of the New York Times: "The United States, to put it bluntly, has grown callous about the lives of its children.... Guns are ... one of three main reasons the United States has become 'the most dangerous of wealthy nations for a child to be born into,' according to a study in Health Affairs. The other two are vehicle crashes and infant mortality.... When you look at the big causes of preventable childhood death, it’s hard not to notice a political pattern. One party — the Republican Party — is blocking sensible gun laws. The same party has been trying to take away people’s health insurance. And while traffic safety is a bipartisan problem, blue states are generally trying harder than red states."

Senate Race

Josh Voorhes of Slate: "Republicans have finally gotten their man — at least one of them, anyway. Rep. Kevin Cramer [R-N.D.] has decided to mount a challenge to Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, one of 10 Senate Democrats running for re-election in states that went to Donald Trump in 2016.... Cramer’s official announcement Friday comes more than a month after he publicly declined his party’s invitation to run, saying then he’d take the easier (and cheaper) route and simply seek a fourth term in the House. But the Republican Powers That Be didn’t give up until they got the answer they wanted.... For all the attention paid this week to Sen. Bob Corker and his second thoughts about retirement, Cramer’s decision has a more immediate impact on the battle for control of the Senate. Cramer gives the Republicans a very good chance to win back a seat in what is otherwise shaping up to be a very good year for Democrats."

Friday
Feb162018

The Commentariat -- February 17, 2018

Audra Burch, et al., of the New York Times: "A Florida social services agency conducted an in-home investigation of Nikolas Cruz after he exhibited troubling behavior nearly a year and a half before he shot and killed 17 people at his former high school in Florida, a state report shows. The agency, the Florida Department of Children and Families, had been alerted to posts on Snapchat of Mr. Cruz cutting both his arms and expressing interest in buying a gun, according to the report. After visiting and questioning Mr. Cruz at his home, the department determined that he was at low risk of harming himself or others.... 'Mr. Cruz stated that he plans to go out and buy a gun,' the report states. 'It is unknown what he is buying the gun for.'... The report noted that a mental health agency had been contacted in the past to detain Mr. Cruz under Florida’s Baker Act, which allows the state to hospitalize a person for several days if they are a threat to themselves or others. The center determined that he was not a risk to himself or others.”

All the Best People, Ctd. Robert O'Harrow of the Washington Post: "Doug Manchester, the billionaire nominated by President Trump to be ambassador to the Bahamas, made a fortune as a real estate developer in San Diego while also earning a reputation for his philanthropy, conservative convictions and lavish lifestyle. In 2011, Manchester, then 69, decided to buy the struggling San Diego Union-Tribune. Over the next four years, he employed an unconventional, anachronistic management style that upended the newspaper’s culture and made many female workers uncomfortable, according to more than a dozen current and former employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity. During the taping of a promotional video, Manchester once pulled a reporter in for a hug so intimate that it startled onlookers in the newsroom, multiple people said. He complimented young female employees on their appearances, and he and other senior managers required some of them hired for a new in-house television operation to wear short black dresses and serve as hostesses for advertisers and other guests at Union-Tribune events, current and former employees said."

A Leaderless Nation. Peter Baker of the New York Times: "After more than a dozen Russians and three companies were indicted on Friday for interfering in the 2016 elections, President Trump’s first reaction was to claim personal vindication: 'The Trump campaign did nothing wrong — no collusion!' he wrote on Twitter. He voiced no concern that a foreign power had been trying for nearly four years to upend American democracy, much less resolve to stop it from continuing to do so this year.... In 13 months in office, Mr. Trump has made little if any public effort to rally the nation to confront Moscow for its intrusion or to defend democratic institutions against continued disruption.... The administration has been left to respond without the president’s leadership.... Rather than condemn Russia for its actions, Mr. Trump in the past has said he accepts the denial offered by President Vladimir V. Putin.... Mr. Trump’s own aides readily acknowledge the reality that he does not.... For the moment, the government is left to act without the president." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This is an astonishing article to appear as the top story in America's paper of record. Baker writes nothing we don't know, but it's a stark admission of where a POTUS* has left us. ...

... A Tottering Alliance. Griff Witte & Michael Birnbaum of the Washington Post: "U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster acknowledged Saturday that evidence of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election is 'incontrovertible.'... The comments, a day after the Justice Department indicted 13 Russians for interference in the election that catapulted Donald Trump to the White House, follow months of efforts by the president to cast doubt on assertions of Moscow’s meddling. They came as McMaster used a high-profile address at a global security conference to try to rally Western allies against common enemies, offering an olive branch to U.S. partners that have often felt battered and neglected in the age of Trump.... But the appeal to solidarity could not hide the deep fissures among Western allies, examples of which abounded Saturday.... Most glaring was the gap between the United States and its European allies."

Dahlia Lithwick of Slate: "On Friday, the Department of Justice detonated a legal bombshell, announcing the indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies accused of interfering in the 2016 presidential election.... Standing at the podium was Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Donald Trump's much-reviled 'Democrat from Baltimore,' who is widely believed to be just barely hanging on to his day job as special counsel Robert Mueller’s minder and whose deputy has just lurched off the national stage for a gig at Walmart. This was a fairly impressive piece of political maneuvering. On the one hand, it makes any attempt by Trump to remove Rosenstein an even more explicit obstruction of justice. Rosenstein has, after all, just publicly linked himself to indictments of Russians (foreigners!) who tried to throw the election to Trump. He’s also linked himself even more tightly with Mueller and the special counsel’s investigation.... Rosenstein now indisputably stands for the proposition that Russia interfered in the election and that anyone who denies this is lying. Earlier this week, incidentally, CNN reported that 'Trump still isn’t buying that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.'”

How Trump Waged War on Dreamers. David Nakamura & Mike DeBonis: "As much of the country was gripped Wednesday by horrific images from the mass shooting at a Florida high school, two dozen senior Trump administration officials worked frantically into the night to thwart ... a vote the next day in the Senate [that would have spared Dreamers from deportation].... But to the men and women huddled in a makeshift war room in a Department of Homeland Security facility, the measure would blow open U.S. borders to lawless intruders. 'We’re going to bury it,' one senior administration official told a reporter at about 10:30­ p.m. that evening. The assault was relentless — a flurry of attacks on the bill from DHS officials and the Justice Department and a veto threat from the White House — and hours later, the measure died on the Senate floor. The Trump administration’s extraordinary 11th-hour strategy to sabotage the bill showed how, after weeks of intense bipartisan negotiations on Capitol Hill, it was the White House that emerged as a key obstacle preventing a deal to help the dreamers. The episode reflected President Trump’s inability — or lack of desire — to cut a deal with his adversaries even when doing so could have yielded a signature domestic policy achievement and delivered the U.S.-Mexico border wall he repeatedly promised during the campaign."

Shane Harris, et al., of the Washington Post: "White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly announced Friday that beginning next week, the White House will no longer allow some employees with interim security clearances access to top-­secret information — a move that could threaten the standing of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law.... Two U.S. officials said they do not expect Kushner to receive a permanent security clearance in the near future.... And apart from staff on the National Security Council, he issues more requests for information to the intelligence community than any White House employee, according to a person with knowledge of the situation...." ...

... All the Best People, Ctd. In today's Comments, Capt Russ draws a parallel between "undocumented immigrants" & "undocumented White House staff": "... so happy to see that the Chief of Staff for the President* who promised serious vetting of immigrants has discovered 'serious shortcomings with the system for vetting top-level officials with access to the United States’ most closely guarded secrets' just 1 year and 29 days into the administration. Looks like this administration is 'extremely careless' with classified information. LOCK 'EM UP!!"

*****

This Russia Thing -- A Spectacular Friday Afternoon Dump

The end of another successful Infrastructure Week! May we have more of these ... -- Gloria, in today's Comments

Sharon LaFraniere of the New York Times: "The special counsel investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations on Friday with illegally using social media platforms to sow political discord, including actions that supported the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump and disparaged his opponent, Hillary Clinton. The indictment represents the first charges by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, for meddling in the 2016 presidential election — the fundamental crime that he was assigned to investigate. In a 37-page indictment filed in United States District Court, Mr. Mueller said that the 13 individuals have conspired since 2014 to violate laws that prohibit foreigners from spending money to influence federal elections in the United States." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Scott Shane & Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times write a sort of narrative version of the indictment. ...

... Ashley Parker & John Wagner of the Washington Post provide a similar narrative. ...

... Rosenstein just blew up Trump's "hoax defense." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

Claims of a ‘hoax’ in tatters. -- John Brennan, former CIA director, in a tweet ...

... End of Trump's 400-pound Couch Potato Theory. Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "During the first 13 months of his presidency, Trump has rejected the evidence that Russia waged an assault on a pillar of American democracy — something many in his administration regard as objective reality — and has sought to discredit the case that Russia poses a threat to the United States.... Trump has never convened a Cabinet-level meeting on Russian interference and has resisted or attempted to undo efforts to hold Moscow to account, such as additional penalties imposed last August by Congress. On the National Security Council, there has been an unspoken understanding that the president would see raising the Russia matter as a personal affront.... The indictment — signed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and announced by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, both of whom Trump has at times mused about wanting to fire — reveals that the scope of Russia’s alleged efforts to help Trump defeat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was extraordinary. Even Trump seemed to partly concede the point Friday, acknowledging Russia’s election interference while still minimizing its effects. 'The results of the election were not impacted,' he tweeted. 'The Trump campaign did nothing wrong — no collusion!'” ...

... The End of a Trumpian Myth. David Remnick of the New Yorker: "For well over a year, Donald Trump has dodged the subject of Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential charges of collusion and obstruction of justice. It’s all 'phony,' a 'hoax,' 'fake news,' a 'witch hunt.' Last year, during a multilateral summit in Vietnam, Trump met briefly with Vladimir Putin and then told reporters that he had asked the Russian President about election meddling. Not to worry, he told reporters: 'Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it.' Trump cannot really accept what his own intelligence leaders tell him about the election; he even directed his C.I.A. director to meet with a former operative turned conspiracy theorist who thought that the hack of the Democratic National Committee was an 'inside job.'... The indictment bluntly states that the intent of the Russian operation was to damage the Democratic candidate.... Michael McFaul, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia under President Obama, wrote on Twitter that Trump’s statement was 'shockingly weak. Putin attacked America and no pushback whatsoever. Why?'” ...

... Greg Sargent: "Here are three key takeaways: 1. We now know not just that Russians did sabotage our election, but also that crimes may have been committed in the process — and what those crimes were.... 2. We still don’t know whether Trump campaign officials or any other Americans conspired with this alleged effort to influence the election.... 3. This confirms just how massive an abdication Trump’s continued claims of a 'hoax' really are." ...

... Jonathan Chait: "One of President Trump’s favorite methods to defend his innocence in the Russia investigation is to claim that any piece of evidence that does not explicitly assert his guilt is in fact evidence of his innocence.... Trump repeats this method for the indictments handed down today by Robert Mueller.... Trump’s defense is simply to pretend it is an investigation of his campaign and he’s somehow been cleared.... Literally nothing like this is found in the indictment. It does not say there’s no collusion. It simply addresses an aspect of Russian activity that may not have entailed collusion." ...

For all of those who have been asking ‘where is the evidence of a crime?’ — this is it. This is the criminal conspiracy. This is what President Trump and his allies have repeatedly called a ‘hoax’ and ‘fake news.’ This is what they tried to cover up. -- Rep. Elijah Cummings [D-Md.]

... David Corn of Mother Jones: "(According to the Washington Post, in his first year as president, Trump said the Russia probe was a Democratic hoax 44 times.) Hours after Friday’s indictment, Trump issued a statement once again dismissing the Russia investigation for producing 'outlandish partisan attacks, wild and false allegations, and far-fetched theories.' But with this indictment — and possibly others — Mueller has demonstrated that Trump, by refusing to acknowledge fully the Russian assault of 2016, has been helping Putin cover up a crime." ...

... Matthew Nussbaum of Politico: "New charges on Friday in the special counsel’s Russia investigation put attention squarely on a notion ... Donald Trump has aggressively sought to avoid: the legitimacy of his 2016 election.... The indictment, like intelligence reports before it, came to no conclusion about the impact of the Russian campaign. And, for the first time, Americans were shown in granular detail how Russian spies worked to sway the election in Trump’s favor.... The indictment ... only compounds fears in the White House that Trump will attack the FBI in the wake of a school shooting in Florida that left 17 dead, and revelations that the bureau mishandled a tip about the alleged shooter it received in January. Senior staffers are actively urging Trump to avoid attacking the FBI, one administration official said. But for Trump, famously furious about the notion that a foreign adversary aided his political rise, the detailed revelation that Russia poured resources toward securing his win could prove an instigation too far." ...

... "Putin's Cook." Neil MacFarquhar of the New York Times: "Despite his humble, troubled youth, [Yevgeny] Prigozhin became one of Russia’s richest men, joining a charmed circle whose members often share one particular attribute: their proximity to President Vladimir V. Putin. The small club of loyalists who gain Mr. Putin’s trust often feast, as Mr. Prigozhin has, on enormous state contracts. In return, they are expected to provide other, darker services to the Kremlin as needed. On Friday, Mr. Prigozhin was one of 13 Russians indicted by the United States special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, for interfering in the American election. According to the indictment, Mr. Prigozhin, 56, controlled the entity that financed the troll factory, known as the Internet Research Agency, which waged 'information warfare against the United States'.... Mr. Prigozhin’s critics ... say he has emerged as Mr. Putin’s go-to oligarch for ... a variety of sensitive and often-unsavory missions, like recruiting contract soldiers to fight in Ukraine and Syria.” ...

... Hayes Brown & Vera Bergengruen of BuzzFeed run down who the perps are. ...

... Steve M. can't figure out "which right-winger has the stupidest Mueller indictment take." But he has come up with some excellent candidates! ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: AND I can't figure out why the Russians' shenanigans described in the indictment would change more than 12 votes. I get why the efforts are illegal & I get what the Russians' objective was, but really. If you happened upon any of their posts or tweets would they cause you to decide, "Oh, better vote for Trump"? Or even for Jill Stein or Bernie Sanders? What if you saw an actress in a cage/jail pretending to be Hillary? Would that change your vote? I suppose putting together public rallies for these Not-Hillary candidates could have some effect -- a person might attend a rally for the fun of it & get caught up in the speakers' rhetoric (were there speakers?), but most of the Russian effort described in the indictment, if extensive, seems to be downright stupid.

... Dan Friedman & A.J. Vicens of Mother Jones: "... minutes after Rosenstein spoke, Mueller’s office announced a plea deal with a man who appears to be the first American charged with helping Russians meddle in the election. The unlikely suspect is Richard Pinedo, a Californian who agreed to plead guilty to one count of identity fraud and to cooperate with investigators. From 2014 to 2017, according to a Statement of Offense Mueller’s office posted Friday afternoon, Pinedo operated an online service called 'Auction Essistance' based in Santa Paula, California, through which he used stolen identities to help clients avoid security features of online digital payment companies. One of the payment companies, referred to in the document as 'Company 1,' appears to be PayPal. Mueller’s Friday indictment of the 13 Russians alleges that they and their co-conspirators 'opened accounts at PayPal' and created other false materials as part of a plot to imitate real Americans while working to impact the election."

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office has told a federal judge it has found evidence that Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, committed bank fraud not addressed by the indictment last October in which he was charged with money laundering and failure to register as a foreign agent. As legal wrangling continues over a $10 million bail package for Manafort, prosecutors this week accused him of submitting false information to a bank in connection with one of his mortgages.... The filing by Mueller’s office says Manafort obtained a mortgage using 'doctored profit and loss statements' overstating 'by millions of dollars' the income for his consulting company, DMP International."

Betsy Woodruff of the Daily Beast: "Mark Corallo, former spokesperson for ... Donald Trump’s legal team, spoke with Special Counsel Bob Mueller earlier this week for over two hours, two people familiar with the matter told The Daily Beast. He isn’t expected to go in for another interview, according to a person familiar with the matter. The New York Times reported last month that Corallo’s conversation with Mueller would likely involve topics related to potential obstruction of justice." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

"There's a Pretty Good Chance President Trump Is Being Blackmailed." Jonathan Chait: "Ronan Farrow’s new story [linked below] shows that Trump habitually pays for sex.... Farrow’s reporting also implies, without quite establishing as an absolute certainty, that Trump maintained a system for silencing his sexual partners.... We know Russia has a decades-old system for gathering compromising sexual secrets on prominent foreign visitors.... Far from being bizarre, imagining Trump paying prostitutes to pee on a bed Obama used as a primitive revenge ritual, and Russians taping the episode, is perfectly consistent with what we know about both parties.... Indeed, sex is not the only kind of secret Trump harbors. He endured months of criticism first from Republican candidates, then Democrats, and all along from the media, for refusing to disclose his tax returns.... All in all, the odds are disconcertingly high that Russia, or somebody, has blackmail leverage over the president of the United States." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)


Mark Berman & Matt Zapotosky
of the Washington Post: "The FBI said Friday that a month before the shooting rampage at a South Florida high school, the bureau received a warning that the 19-year-old charged in the massacre might carry out such an attack — but then investigators failed to act on it. The startling revelation came two days after police say Nikolas Cruz marched into his former high school and gunned down 17 people. In a statement, the FBI said it received a tip last month from 'a person close to Nikolas Cruz' reporting concerns about him, specifically saying that he could potentially carry out a school shooting. While this should have been investigated 'as a potential threat to life …  these protocols were not followed,' the bureau said in a statement. '“We are still investigating the facts,' Christopher A. Wray, the FBI director, said in the statement." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... The New York Times story, by Patricia Mazzei & Adam Goldman, is here. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... The FBI statement is here. ...

... Kathryn Watson of CBS News: "Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott is calling on FBI Director Christopher Wray to resign, after the FBI admitted it received a tip about the suspect in the Parkland shooting as recently as January, but failed to follow through on it. The FBI admitted in a statement Friday that it received a call on Jan. 5 detailing concerns about Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old law enforcement officials believe is responsible for the deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School earlier this week. The FBI determined 'protocols were not followed' when a tip was phoned into the FBI's public access line, but was never forwarded to the FBI's Miami field office and received no further investigation. Scott called that 'unacceptable' in a statement he issued Friday." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: AND I would call on Rick Scott to resign because of his support for pro-gun laws. ...

... Michael Biesecker & Collin Binkley of the AP: "The troubled teen authorities say killed 17 people at a Florida high school excelled in an air-rifle marksmanship program supported by a grant from the National Rifle Association Foundation, part of a multimillion-dollar effort by the gun group to support youth shooting clubs and other programs. Nikolas Cruz, 19, was wearing a maroon shirt with the logo from the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when he was arrested Wednesday shortly after the shooting. Former JROTC cadets told The Associated Press that Cruz was a member of the small varsity marksmanship team that trained together after class and traveled to other area schools to compete." ...

... Paul Murphy of CNN: "In a private Instagram group chat, confessed school shooter Nikolas Cruz repeatedly espoused racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic views and displayed an obsession with violence and guns.... The hatred he and others in the group espoused met little resistance from its active members. In one part of the group chat, Cruz wrote that he hated, 'jews, ni**ers, immigrants.' He talked about killing Mexicans, keeping black people in chains and cutting their necks. The statements were not made in jest. There are hundreds of racist messages, racist memes and racist Instagram videos posted in the group." ...

... Richard Luscombe & Lois Beckett of the Guardian: "Donald Trump visited a Florida hospital on Friday night to meet survivors of this week’s deadly high school shooting, as the local public defender said the suspect would plead guilty. 'It’s very sad something like this could happen,' Trump told reporters at Broward Health North hospital. 'But the job the doctors did, the nurses, the hospital, the first responders, law enforcement, was really incredible.' But when asked if gun laws needed to be changed, Trump had no comment.” Emphasis added. Mrs. McC: And that's pretty much all we need to know. ...

... Lois Beckett: "Americans have to be 21 before they can legally buy alcohol. But in most states, they can buy an AR-15 military-style rifle starting at age 18. Federal law has stricter age requirements for buying handguns than for the military-style rifles that have become the weapon of choice for mass shootings. With some exceptions, Americans must be 21 to buy a handgun from a licensed dealer. But the age limit is lower for long guns, a category that includes traditional hunting rifles, shotguns, and the military-style guns categorized under law as 'assault weapons'. After a federal assault weapon ban lapsed in 2004, only seven states and the District of Columbia still have a continuing ban on such firearms." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)


Masha Gessen of the New Yorker: "Many Americans understand how important it is for every person in this land to feel safe. The most commonly advanced argument for sanctuary cities (or towns, or states) is that immigrants must feel safe reporting crimes — they must know that the police will not be monitoring their immigration status. This is the simplest expression of the thesis that none of us are safe unless all of us are safe. Trump seems to understand this instinctively. Tyrants — or aspiring tyrants — thrive when populations feel unstable and under threat. His Administration’s ongoing attack on sanctuary cities is more than the belligerent demand for total compliance: it is part of an effort to insure that some of us are never safe, in order to insure that no one is ever really safe."

Mark Joyella in Forbes: "On Thursday morning, Donald Trump wrapped himself in the trappings of the presidency, standing in the White House Diplomatic Reception Room ... and plodded his way through a somber six-minute speech about the mass shooting Wednesday in Florida.... Then he ducked out without taking any questions from reporters. Trump, who famously ridiculed Hillary Clinton for going 235 days without holding a solo press conference, will hit 365 days on Friday -- and still counting. Mr. Trump ... has decided that when the news gets tough, he'll go missing. Under Trump's leadership, the back-and-forth exchange of information between the executive branch and the news media has ground nearly to a halt, with the afternoon briefings held by press secretary Sarah Sanders at times veering toward farce.... The president has abandoned the White House briefing room, and so should journalists--at least until somebody shows up who's willing to answer questions." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, ordered on Friday an overhaul of the process for granting security clearances that will revoke top-secret access for some aides and could affect Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law. In a five-page memo distributed Friday afternoon to White House staff, Mr. Kelly suggested that there were serious shortcomings with the system for vetting top-level officials with access to the United States’ most closely guarded secrets.... In the memo, Mr. Kelly said that all White House employees whose background investigations have been pending since June 1 will have their temporary clearances revoked next Friday."

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "President Trump came to Washington promising to 'drain the swamp.' But after less than 13 months, more than 40 percent of the people he originally picked for Cabinet-level jobs have faced ethical or other controversies. The list has grown quickly in recent weeks." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Donovan Slack of USA Today: "The third most senior official at the Department of Veterans Affairs is stepping down amid findings she misled ethics officials to secure approval for VA Secretary David Shulkin’s wife to accompany him on taxpayer-funded trip to Europe. Vivieca Wright Simpson, Shulkin’s chief of staff, told colleagues Friday morning that she is retiring after 32 years at the agency and more than two years as Shulkin's most senior aide. The announcement came two days after the VA inspector general released recommendations that she be disciplined for doctoring an email to an ethics lawyer to show Shulkin was getting special recognition or an award during the trip to Denmark and London last year, the criteria for clearing his wife’s flights on the public’s dime." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Senate Races

Jonah Bromwich of the New York Times: "In a long-expected announcement, Mitt Romney said on Friday that he would run for the United States Senate, pledging to bring Utah’s priorities of balanced budgets, strong economy and welcoming borders to Washington. Mr. Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts and the 2012 Republican nominee for president, made the announcement in a two-minute video posted to Twitter and Facebook. He cited his experience as the chief executive of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and compared Utah, where his mother was born, favorably to the nation’s capital." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Alex Shephard of the New Republic: "Instead of attacking Trump, as he did during the 2016 election, Romney is embracing an implicit critique by standing up for a different kind of conservatism. But it’s also an acknowledgment that Romney’s critiques of Trump (and his overtures to him) have failed. Romney hasn’t been able to influence the president or his party, so he’s going to try to ignore Trump and run a conventional Senate campaign. The question is whether he’ll also be a conventional Republican senator — which is to say, obeisant to Trump." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Joel Ebert of the Tennessean: "Former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher is halting his bid for the U.S. Senate and is encouraging U.S. Sen Bob Corker to seek re-election.... Fincher’s exit nearly assures U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn will be the Republican nominee for the seat unless Corker gets back in the race. Although the two-term U.S. Senator announced plans to retire in September, in recent days he's been encouraged to seek re-election, as some Republicans remain worried about Blackburn's chances of beating [Phil] Bredesen, a Democrat, in a head-to-head matchup."


Guardian
: "The studio co-founded by disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein has sacked its chief operating officer. The Weinstein Company (TWC) announced on Friday that the board had decided to part ways with David Glasser. 'The board of The Weinstein Company has unanimously voted to terminate David Glasser for cause,' a TWC statement said, according to multiple reports. The move comes days after a proposed sale of the studio was jeopardised when New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, filed a lawsuit accusing the board of failing to protect employees from Weinstein.... Schneiderman said in a media conference that Glasser would have been put in charge after the sale despite, he claimed, there being evidence he failed to stop Weinstein."

Guardian: "Wynn Resorts said on Friday that former chief executive officer Steve Wynn was not entitled to severance payments or any other compensation. Wynn, 76, resigned as CEO of the company earlier this month after allegations of sexual misconduct. Wynn, who denied the accusations, remains Wynn Resorts’ largest shareholder and owns about 12% of the company. He had informed the company last week that he had no immediate plans of selling the company’s shares that he owns."

Beyond the Beltway

Tim White of WPRI Rhode Island: Rhode Island "State Sen. Nicholas Kettle, R-Coventry, has been arrested by the state police and charged with one count of video voyeurism and two counts of extortion. The 27-year-old was arrested by state police on Friday. The extortion counts were through a grand jury indictment, according to Lt. Col. Joseph Philbin. He did not immediately provide more details on the charges." ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: One would get the impression, upon reading the news over a period of time, that some of the most depraved people in the country are elected officials.