The Wires
The Ledes

Saturday, May 26, 2018.

New York Times: "Alan Bean, who became the fourth man to walk on the moon and turned to painting years later to tell the story of NASA’s Apollo missions as they began receding into history, died on Saturday at Houston Methodist Hospital. He was 86.”

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

Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I found this on a political Website, so that's my excuse. Juliana Gray in McSweeney's: "The Incel Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." It begins,

"Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like an equal redistribution of sexual resources.
Let us go, through certain half-considered tweets
and form tedious arguments
about entitlement.

"In the room the women come and go
Talking of Maya Angelou."

Read on. Incels, in case you don't know,  (a portmanteau of 'involuntary' and 'celibacy') are members of an online subculture who define themselves as being unable to find a romantic or sexual partner despite desiring one, a state they describe as inceldom. Self-identified incels are almost exclusively male and mostly heterosexual," according to Wikepedia.

New York Times: "A thousand-year-old English castle echoed with the exhortations of an African-American bishop and a gospel choir on Saturday, as Prince Harry wed Meghan Markle, an American actress, nudging the British royal family into a new era. Ms. Markle, who has long identified herself as a feminist, entered St. George’s Chapel alone rather than being given away by her father or any other man, a departure from tradition that in itself sent a message to the world. She was met halfway by Prince Charles, her future father-in-law and presumably the future king of Britain. Prince Harry, who is sixth in line for the throne, has long called on Britain’s monarchy to draw closer to the daily life of its people. But the most extraordinary thing he has done is to marry Ms. Markle, an American actress who is three years his senior, biracial, divorced and vocal about her views. Their choices at Saturday’s wedding, many of them heavily influenced by black culture, made it clear that they plan to project a more inclusive monarchy.” ...

Serena Williams, at the When Harry Wed Meghan rites.... Anthony Lane of the New Yorker attended the nuptials & reports back: "Love, as warmly recommended by the preacher, held sway. The sole unpleasantness that crossed my path took the form of a burly fellow wearing a fascinator, with ripped jeans and mirrored shades: not an outfit that I will soon forget." ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: If you are wondering what a "fascinator" is, so was I. There were hundreds of them worn to Windsor Saturday. It's a ridiculous thing that otherwise sensible women attach to their heads. We are not fascinated.

Shorter Wedding:

This is the WashPo's live coverage of the wedding of Britain's Prince Harry & American actor Meghan Markle. You can supersize it:

The Guardian is posting updates re: the wedding of Britain's Prince Harry & American actor Meghan Markle. "The Queen has announced the titles given to the married couple. Prince Harry, or to give him his formal title, Prince Henry of Wales, has been made Duke of Sussex, Earl of Dumbarton and Baron Kilkeel.So he will be His Royal Highness The Duke of Sussex and, once married, Meghan Markle will become Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex."

Here's a Guardian interview of Harry & Meghan:

An American Princess. In case you're interested in all the tabloid-induced "scandals" surrounding Meghan Markle's family, Sarah Lyall of the New York Times will bring you up-to-date. As of this writing, IT IS UNCLEAR IF MEGHAN'S FATHER WILL WALK HER DOWN THE AISLE. Oh wow.

Guardian: "The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have named their baby son Louis Arthur Charles, Kensington Palace said. In a statement the palace said: 'The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are delighted to announce that they have named their son Louis Arthur Charles. The baby will be known as His Royal Highness Prince Louis of Cambridge.' The prince is the duke and duchess’s third child, the younger brother of Prince George and Princess Charlotte, and the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh’s sixth great-grandchild. Lord Louis Mountbatten was Prince Charles’s beloved great-uncle who was assassinated by the IRA in 1979. Prince Louis of Battenberg was the Duke of Edinburgh’s grandfather’s name. The three names are popular choices recycled by the royal family. Prince Charles is Charles Philip Arthur George, while Prince William is William Arthur Philip Louis. Prince George’s full name is George Alexander Louis."

... Guardian: "The Duchess of Cambridge has given birth to a boy. Kate and Williams’s third child was born at 11.01am at St Mary’s hospital, Paddington, central London. The baby weighed in at 8lb 7oz. The birth was announced to the public by Kensington Palace with a tweet.... The new Prince of Cambridge is fifth in line to the throne, and is Queen Elizabeth II’s sixth great-grandchild."

Mrs. Bea McCrabbie on "Why I take my political advice from country & western stars":

I would have voted for [Donald Trump] because, even though he was offensive, he seemed honest. Do you want straight or polite? Not that you shouldn’t be able to have both. If I were voting, I just don’t want bullshit. I would have voted for a feeling that it was transparent. And politics has a reputation of not being that, right? -- Shania Twain, a Canadian C&W performer

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.

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

Saturday
May262018

The Commentariat -- May 27, 2018

Peter Baker & Katie Benner of the New York Times: "For more than a year, President Trump has been at war with law enforcement agencies that answer to him, interjecting himself into an investigation in which he himself is a subject. And he has escalated the conflict drastically in recent days by accusing the F.B.I. of placing a 'spy' inside his 2016 campaign, pressuring the agencies to reveal secret information and demanding an investigation of his investigators. The confrontation has no precedent in the modern era and holds great stakes not just for the president but for the relative autonomy for law enforcement investigations established after Watergate.... Since even before taking office, Mr. Trump has disparaged intelligence agencies that concluded that Russia sought to influence the election on his behalf, at one point in effect comparing them to Nazis. He has publicly badgered law enforcement officials to shut down the Russia investigation and instead open inquiries into his political adversaries. But he went even further last week by effectively ordering an investigation into the actions taken regarding his campaign." ...

... It's Working! Dan Balz of the Washington Post: "President Trump is waging a war of attrition against special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation. If his goal is to poison the reception to whatever Mueller’s findings turn out to be, as seems evident from what he and his allies have done, he is making progress. The slow but steady separation of public opinion underscores the degree of success in the president’s strategy. Through constant tweets in which he has used exaggeration, distortion and outright falsehoods — combined with the activities of his congressional supporters in hectoring the Justice Department and the FBI — Trump hopes to turn the ultimate confrontation into one more partisan battle.... Step by step, week by week, the president and his allies cross lines that legal experts insist should not be crossed. The president’s ongoing conflict with the Justice Department and his inflammatory tweets about the Mueller investigation have become so commonplace that it can be easy for people to forget how abnormal it all is." ...

... This Russia Thing, Ctd. Spanish Edition. Michael Isikoff of Yahoo! News: "The FBI has obtained secret wiretaps collected by Spanish police of conversations involving Alexander Torshin, a deputy governor of Russia’s Central Bank who has forged close ties with U.S. lawmakers and the National Rifle Association, that led to a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. during the gun lobby’s annual convention in Louisville, Ky., in May 2016, a top Spanish prosecutor said Friday. Spanish organized crime said that bureau officials in recent months requested and were provided transcripts of wiretapped conversations between Torshin and Alexander Romanov, a convicted Russian money launderer.... Asked if he was concerned about Torshin’s meetings with Donald Trump Jr. and other American political figures, [José] Grinda [of the Spanish police] replied: 'Mr. Trump’s son should be concerned.'... Torshin has been the subject of intensifying U.S. government and congressional scrutiny over the past year and was recently among a lengthy list of oligarchs and Russian political figures sanctioned by the Treasury Department.”


Jonah Shepp
of New York: "Less than a year and a half into his term..., Donald Trump has done more damage to U.S. foreign policy credibility than even the right-wing bogeyman version of [President] Obama managed to do in eight years. Yet, strangely, few of these credibility hawks seem particularly perturbed by his choices.... Under Trump, the world is finding that we can no longer be trusted to engage in consultation, deliberation, or dialogue of any kind. Instead, we do whatever we want (or whatever he wants) with no real concern for the impact our decisions have on other countries, be they allies or adversaries. When other countries behave this way, we ... call them rogue states." ...

... Robin Wright of the New Yorker: "In the fifteen months of Trump’s Presidency, the United State has witnessed a stunning undoing of long-standing norms — of the U.S.-led world order, core alliances, trade pacts, principles of nonproliferation, patterns of globalization, world institutions, and, most of all, U.S. influence. A lot of it began in 2003, with the U.S. invasion of Iraq. But it has accelerated with breathtaking speed since Trump took office. And, in virtually every case, there is increasingly no alternative to replace the institutions, ideas, accords, and relationships that Trump is undoing." ...

... Masha Gessen of the New Yorker ponders how to cling to reality in the Trump era, when many are inclined to react to "an outburst as though it were politics, a tantrum as though it were diplomacy, and a delusion as though it were aspiration."

Brent Griffiths of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Saturday urged voters to pressure Democrats into accepting an immigration deal on his terms, appearing to cite his own administration’s 'horrible' policy of stepping up the separation of families held at the U.S.-Mexico border. 'Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there parents once they cross the Border into the U.S. Catch and Release, Lottery and Chain must also go with it and we MUST continue building the WALL! DEMOCRATS ARE PROTECTING MS-13 THUGS,' the president wrote on Twitter.... "The law does not remotely require the administration’s family separation practice,' [Lee Gelernt of the ACLU] said. 'The administration is trying to shift the blame to Congress. [But] it's the administration's own choice to seperate [sic.] families. This law his been in effect for years but no prior administration believed it required family separation.'" ...

... Daniel Politi of Slate: "Even though his attempt to shift blame on Democrats for his own policies may be galling, it was hardly new. Earlier this month [Trump] did the same while talking to California officials about immigration policy. 'I know what you’re going through right now with families is very tough but those are the bad laws that the Democrats gave us,' Trump told Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. 'We have to break up families. The Democrats gave us that law. It’s a horrible thing where you have to break up families.' Factcheck.org declared that statement was 'false.'”

... Lost Children Not Our Concern. Dakin Andone of CNN: "The federal government has placed thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children in the homes of sponsors, but last year it couldn't account for nearly 1,500 of them.... That's more than 19% of the children that were placed by the ORR. But [Steven] Wagner[, acting assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families,] said HHS is not responsible for the children. 'I understand that it has been HHS's long-standing interpretation of the law that ORR is not legally responsible for children after they are released from ORR care,' Wagner said."

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Trump falsely accused The New York Times on Saturday of making up a source in an article about North Korea, even though the source was in fact a senior White House official speaking ... in the White House briefing room... [to] about 50 reporters, with about 200 or so more on a conference call.... The rules of the briefing imposed by the White House required that the official be referred to only as a 'senior White House official.'... The article, headlined, 'Trump Says North Korea Summit May Be Rescheduled,' said that the United States was 'back in touch with North Korea' and that the meeting might yet happen. Mr. Trump posted on Twitter to denounce part of the article, which reported in the 10th paragraph that 'a senior White House official told reporters that even if the meeting were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible, given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed.' In a tweet, the president took issue with that sentence, saying, 'WRONG AGAIN! Use real people, not phony sources.'... Mr. Trump’s attack on The Times was only the latest of many efforts by the president to discredit reporting by news organizations by questioning the validity of their sources.” ...

... There's a Recording. The "Phony Source" Has a Name & a White House Badge. A.J. Vicens of Mother Jones: "As pointed out by freelance journalist Yashar Ali, the official that Trump says 'doesn’t exist' was actually Matt Pottinger of the National Security Council, and Pottinger’s statement was recorded (and subsequently posted by Ali)."

Choe Sang-Hun of the New York Times: "The leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, said during a surprise summit meeting that he is determined to meet President Trump and discuss a 'complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,' South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Sunday.Mr. Kim met unexpectedly with Mr. Moon on Saturday to discuss salvaging a canceled summit meeting between Mr. Kim and President Trump, a new twist in the whirlwind of diplomacy over the fate of the North’s nuclear arsenal."

John Bowden of the Hill: "Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is using his personal attorney, formerly his administration's attorney general, to block the release of correspondence between his office and the company formerly managed by White House adviser Jared Kushner.... Kushner Companies, a real estate firm now managed by Kushner's brother, benefited under Christie's administration, during which it was the recipient of a $33 million tax credit for the development of One Journal Square Project, a planned skyscraper in Jersey City.... Experts in New Jersey's open records law told the news outlet that Christie's use of his personal lawyer to shield the release of documents from his administration was 'disturbing.'"

Way Beyond the Beltway

Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura of the New York Times: "Ireland voted decisively to repeal one of the world’s more restrictive abortion bans, the prime minister said Saturday, sweeping aside generations of conservative patriarchy and dealing the latest in a series of stinging rebukes to the Roman Catholic Church. The surprising landslide cemented the nation’s liberal shift at a time when right-wing populism is on the rise in Europe and the Trump administration is imposing curbs on abortion rights in the United States. In the past three years alone, Ireland has installed a gay man as prime minister and has voted in another referendum to allow same-sex marriage." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Nice to see Ireland come crashing into the 20th century as we recede into the 19th.

Friday
May252018

The Commentariat -- May 26, 2018

Afternoon Update:

Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura of the New York Times: "Ireland voted decisively to repeal one of the world’s more restrictive abortion bans, the prime minister said Saturday, sweeping aside generations of conservative patriarchy and dealing the latest in a series of stinging rebukes to the Roman Catholic Church. The surprising landslide cemented the nation’s liberal shift at a time when right-wing populism is on the rise in Europe and the Trump administration is imposing curbs on abortion rights in the United States. In the past three years alone, Ireland has installed a gay man as prime minister and has voted in another referendum to allow same-sex marriage."

*****

Trump Again Wins Lies & Empty Words Trophy. Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Trump declared Friday that the United States is 'respected again' because of a military that is 'a lot stronger,' as he welcomed the 2018 graduates of the Naval Academy into what he called 'the most powerful and rightful force on the planet.'” ...

... "Three False Claims From Trump’s Naval Academy Speech."  Linda Qiu of the New York Times: (1) “We have ended the disastrous defense sequester. No money for the military, those days are over.” False. (2) “Very soon, you’re going to have 355 beautiful ships — 355. That’s almost a couple hundred more ships.” False twice. (3) “We just got you a big pay raise, first time in 10 years.” Mrs. McC: Trump often makes this last false claim.

Noam Scheiber of the New York Times: "President Trump on Friday signed a series of executive orders making it easier to fire federal government workers and to curb the workplace role of unions that represent them.... The push also reflects conservatives’ long-running suspicion of the federal bureaucracy, one reflected in pronouncements by the president’s advisers. Shortly after Mr. Trump took office, Stephen K. Bannon, then his chief strategist, called for 'the deconstruction of the administrative state.'” ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: So here we taxpayers are paying $400K/year to a man -- and untold millions ferrying him to golf outings to promote his own resorts -- who has done nothing but muck up the federal government & sabotage its purposes & operations, and that same guy is doing everything he can to punish modestly-paid workers trying to do their jobs. However, I think the real problem Trump finds with federal workers is that there are half-again as many black federal employees per capita (about 18%) as in the general population (about 12.5%). The reason Trump thinks maybe black athletes who protest police brutality should be deported & federal employees' union activity should be curtailed is no doubt the same reason -- as it turns out -- he's really good with police unions. ...

... Gregory Pratt of the Chicago Tribune: "... Donald Trump on Friday tweeted his support for Chicago police union members who protested Mayor Rahm Emanuel this week.... 'Chicago Police have every right to legally protest against the mayor and an administration that just won’t let them do their job,' Trump tweeted. 'The killings are at a record pace and tough police work, which Chicago will not allow, would bring things back to order fast...the killings must stop!' Trump’s comment followed a Wednesday protest by more than 100 off-duty officers and Fraternal Order of Police members who marched at the City Council meeting. Police officers called for Emanuel to be removed from office, with FOP officials saying the mayor has cast their interests aside by endorsing a federal consent decree and not yet agreeing to a new contract nearly a year after the union's last one expired.... Emanuel spokesman Adam Collins tweeted a response to Trump’s tweet: '... Chicago is a Trump-free zone, not a fact-free zone, and we had a 21% drop in gun violence in 2017 and a 21% drop in 2018. Have a nice weekend!'”

This Russia Thing, Etc., Ctd.

Jonathan Lemire & Eric Tucker of the AP: "... Donald Trump’s legal team wants a briefing on the classified information shared with lawmakers about the origins of the FBI investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and may take it to the Justice Department as part of an effort to scuttle the ongoing special counsel probe. Rudy Giuliani ... told The Associated Press on Friday that the White House hopes to get a readout of the information next week, particularly about the use of a longtime government informant...."

William Rashbaum, et al., of the New York Times: "Eleven days before the presidential inauguration last year, a billionaire Russian businessman with ties to the Kremlin visited Trump Tower in Manhattan to meet with Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, according to video footage and another person who attended the meeting. In Mr. Cohen’s office on the 26th floor, he and the oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, discussed a mutual desire to strengthen Russia’s relations with the United States under President Trump, according to Andrew Intrater, an American businessman who attended the meeting and invests money for Mr. Vekselberg." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Jonathan Chait runs down what-all else we know about Vekselberg's U.S. dealings & concludes: "The chance that the firm [Columbus Nova] linked to a Russian oligarch [Vekselberg] with a record of using his influence for secret state purposes met with Trump’s fixer, and then the firm he is linked to gave [Michael] Cohen $1 million, and that all this occurred without Vekselberg’s knowledge seems quite low. The likelihood that their protestations of innocence hold up is lower still given that they forgot to mention the small detail of Vekselberg’s meeting with Cohen. It looks, instead, like a secret payoff from the Kremlin to Cohen. And then the more explosive question is whether any of that money ever made its way into Trump’s pockets."

Trump Is Not Giving up on SPYGATE! Max Greenwood of the Hill: "President Trump on Friday once again made the claim that the FBI improperly spied on his presidential campaign, suggesting that the bureau used a top-secret informant to surveil his team long before it began investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election. 'The Democrats are now alluding to the the concept that having an Informant placed in an opposing party’s campaign is different than having a Spy, as illegal as that may be,' he tweeted. 'But what about an "Informant" who is paid a fortune and who "sets up" way earlier than the Russian Hoax?'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: Say, why haven't we heard from Devin Nunes since he got the goods on the intelligence agencies way yesterday? No press conference decrying FBI spies? No interviews revealing a CIA conspiracy? I'm so disappointed.


Max Greenwood
of the Hill: "South Korean President Moon Jae In and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met on Saturday to discuss the possibility of renewed talks between the U.S. and North Korea, the South's Blue House said.  The meeting came as a surprise, and was not made public until after it ended. Moon and Kim met on the North Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two countries, in the village of Panmunjom." ...

... Blah, Blah, Blah. Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Trump said on Friday that his administration was back in touch with North Korea and the two sides may reschedule his summit meeting with Kim Jong-un, perhaps even on the original June 12 date, a stunning reversal just a day after the president canceled the get-together. 'We’ll see what happens,' Mr. Trump told reporters. 'It could even be the 12th,' he said. 'We’re talking to them now. They very much want to do it. We’d like to do it. We’ll see what happens.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Susan Glasser of the New Yorker: "Sixteen months into the Trump Presidency, it is finally time to say: ... There are no deals with Trump, and there are increasingly unlikely to be. Not on NAFTA. Not on Middle East peace. Or Obamacare or infrastructure. On tax cuts, the one big deal that did get passed, Republicans in Congress agreed to give their grandchildren’s money to American corporations and wealthy families and put it all on the nation’s credit card; Trump championed it but ... played little role in shaping the legislation, and did nothing to build consensus with skeptical Democrats. On North Korea, Trump spontaneously (and over the fears of his advisers) agreed to meet a dictator whose family, for three generations, has made the acquisition of nuclear weapons the centerpiece of its national security; Trump’s negotiating strategy was to demand that the Kim dynasty completely give them up. How surprised are we that it didn’t work out? No, Trump is a much better dealbreaker than dealmaker." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

Ana Swanson of the New York Times: "The Trump administration told lawmakers it had reached a deal that would keep the Chinese telecom firm ZTE alive, a person familiar with the matter said, a move that could clear the way for further trade talks with China but provoke anger in Congress. Under the agreement brokered by the Commerce Department, ZTE would pay a substantial fine, hire American compliance officers to be placed at the firm and make changes to its current management team. In return, the Commerce Department would lift a so-called denial order that is preventing the company from buying American products, the person said." ...

... Damian Paletta of the Washington Post: "A growing group of lawmakers is threatening to intervene to stop the White House from cutting a deal with China to save ZTE Corp., seeking to upend sensitive negotiations over the embattled Chinese telecommunications company that are expected to intensify next week.... Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has led the GOP charge pushing against President Trump’s effort to release ZTE from strict prohibitions, and he criticized the administration again on Friday.... It’s unusual for a White House to advance a foreign policy decision that has virtually no congressional support, and so far few lawmakers have said they believe helping ZTE is a good idea." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Yes, but it's also unusual for a president to take a big bribe to advance a foreign policy decision that has virtually no congressional support, and that's what it appears Trump did.

Ellen Knickmeyer of the AP: "Newly released emails show senior Environmental Protection Agency officials collaborating with a conservative group that dismisses climate change to rally like-minded people for public hearings on science and global warming, counter negative news coverage and tout Administrator Scott Pruitt’s stewardship of the agency. John Konkus, EPA’s deputy associate administrator for public affairs, repeatedly reached out to senior staffers at the Heartland Institute, according to the emails.... The emails underscore how Pruitt and senior agency officials have sought to surround themselves with people who share their vision of curbing environmental regulation and enforcement...." ...

... Chris Sommerfeldt of the New York Daily News: "Taxpayers have spent nearly $3.5 million on Scott Pruitt's security detail over the past year, far exceeding the cost of protecting his predecessors, according to figures released by the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday.... The actual taxpayer-funded security tally might be even higher, because the records released Friday do not account for training, equipment and vehicle costs."

Trump Nominates Hate-Group Fellow for Top State Immigration Post. Adam Raymond of New York: "President Trump on Thursday nominated Ronald Mortensen, a vocal critic of undocumented immigrants, to serve as assistant secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. The Utah native is the founder of the Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration and serves as a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies. The group, which says its mission is to highlight the negative effects of legal and illegal immigration, is considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center."

Theodoric Meyer & Margaret McGill of Politico: "Corey Lewandowski is advising T-Mobile on how to win approval for its proposed merger with Sprint, according to the company. Lewandowski is advising T-Mobile through Turnberry Solutions, a lobbying firm started last year by two fellow veterans of ... Donald Trump’s campaign, which Lewandowski managed before being fired. T-Mobile hired Turnberry last year, but Lewandowski has denied any connection to the firm in the past.... Jason Osborne, a Turnberry lobbyist, said in an interview that Lewandowski was acting as an 'unpaid strategic adviser' to the firm and had never lobbied for its clients."

New Candidate for Worst Congressional Boss. Rachel Bade, et al., of Politico: "Virginia Rep. Tom Garrett [R] and his wife turned the congressman’s staff into personal servants, multiple former employees to the freshman Republican told Politico — assigning them tasks from grocery shopping to fetching the congressman’s clothes to caring for their pet dog, all during work hours.... The couple called on staff to pick up groceries, chauffeur Garrett’s daughters to and from his Virginia district, and ... watch and clean up after Sophie, their Jack Russell-Pomeranian mix, the aides said. The staffers said they feared that if they refused Garrett‘s or his wife’s orders — both were known for explosive tempers — they would struggle to advance in their careers. It wasn't just full-time staff: many of the allegedly inappropriate requests were made of interns, the former aides said."

The supermarket chain Publix on Friday announced that it would suspend its political contributions to Adam Putnam, a Republican candidate for Florida governor, after being faced with overwhelming pressure to cut ties with him because of his fierce support for the National Rifle Association. The announcement came moments before 'die-in' protests organized by 18-year-old gun-control activist David Hogg began at several Publix supermarkets, forcing store managers to reroute shoppers around the protesters, who lay on the floors of the aisles.... The protesters were calling for an end to Publix’s support for Putnam, Florida’s agricultural commissioner, who has called himself a 'proud NRA sellout.'... Publix has faced increasing backlash since the Tampa Bay Times reported that the company had given $670,000 to Putnam in the past three years.” ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: Publix -- where has stores throughout the South -- is employee-owned, & for that reason I've been happy to shop there, although I never bought their produce because they refused to support the Immokalee farmworkers' modest demands. But employees are people, too, as Mitt might acknowledge, & people make mistakes. Supporting a far-right "proud NRA sellout" is a terrible mistake. It's pretty clear I didn't go far enough with my lettuce-and-tomato boycott. Then again, thanks to Publix for making sure innocent grads don't have to see the "cum" in "cum laude."

Thursday
May242018

The Commentariat -- May 25, 2018

Afternoon Update:

William Rashbaum, et al., of the New York Times: "Eleven days before the presidential inauguration last year, a billionaire Russian businessman with ties to the Kremlin visited Trump Tower in Manhattan to meet with Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, according to video footage and another person who attended the meeting. In Mr. Cohen’s office on the 26th floor, he and the oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, discussed a mutual desire to strengthen Russia’s relations with the United States under President Trump, according to Andrew Intrater, an American businessman who attended the meeting and invests money for Mr. Vekselberg."

Trump Is Not Giving up on SPYGATE! Max Greenwood of the Hill: "President Trump on Friday once again made the claim that the FBI improperly spied on his presidential campaign, suggesting that the bureau used a top-secret informant to surveil his team long before it began investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election. 'The Democrats are now alluding to the the concept that having an Informant placed in an opposing party’s campaign is different than having a Spy, as illegal as that may be,' he tweeted. 'But what about an "Informant" who is paid a fortune and who "sets up" way earlier than the Russian Hoax?'" ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: Say, why haven't we heard from Devin Nunes since he got the goods on the intelligence agencies way yesterday? No press conference decrying FBI spies? No interviews revealing a CIA conspiracy? I'm so disappointed.

Blah, Blah, Blah. Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Trump said on Friday that his administration was back in touch with North Korea and the two sides may reschedule his summit meeting with Kim Jong-un, perhaps even on the original June 12 date, a stunning reversal just a day after the president canceled the get-together. 'We’ll see what happens,' Mr. Trump told reporters. 'It could even be the 12th,' he said. 'We’re talking to them now. They very much want to do it. We’d like to do it. We’ll see what happens.'” ...

... Susan Glasser of the New Yorker: "Sixteen months into the Trump Presidency, it is finally time to say: ... There are no deals with Trump, and there are increasingly unlikely to be. Not on NAFTA. Not on Middle East peace. Or Obamacare or infrastructure. On tax cuts, the one big deal that did get passed, Republicans in Congress agreed to give their grandchildren’s money to American corporations and wealthy families and put it all on the nation’s credit card; Trump championed it but ... played little role in shaping the legislation, and did nothing to build consensus with skeptical Democrats. On North Korea, Trump spontaneously (and over the fears of his advisers) agreed to meet a dictator whose family, for three generations, has made the acquisition of nuclear weapons the centerpiece of its national security; Trump’s negotiating strategy was to demand that the Kim dynasty completely give them up. How surprised are we that it didn’t work out? No, Trump is a much better dealbreaker than dealmaker."

*****

NEW. Perp Walk of a Fat Pig. Benjamin Mueller of the New York Times: "Harvey Weinstein turned himself in to New York City detectives and was arrested on Friday on charges that he raped one woman and forced another to perform oral sex, a watershed in a monthslong sex crimes investigation and in the #MeToo movement. Around 7:30 a.m., Mr. Weinstein walked into a police station house in Lower Manhattan, flanked by several sex crimes detectives. Toting three large books under his right arm, he looked up without saying a word as a crush of reporters and onlookers yelled, 'Harvey!'... Then about an hour later, he was led from the First Police Precinct in TriBeCa and taken to court on Centre Street to face rape charges, his arms pinned behind him in several sets of handcuffs to accommodate his girth, the police said.”

NEW. Rick Noack of the Washington Post: "Within 3 months, Trump’s dealings with North Korea and Iran have antagonized: Russia, China, Germany, France, Japan, Britain, Austria, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Slovakia, Portugal, Finland, Ireland, South Korea […]. Here’s a timeline....

John Wagner, et al., of the Washington Post: "BREAKING: North Korea said it is ready to talk to U.S. ‘at any time,’ responding to Trump’s cancellation of summit with Kim Jong Un.... North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan issued a conciliatory statement, saying the regime was ready to meet with the United States 'at any time.'” ...

... Eileen Sullivan of the New York Times: "President Trump has notified Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, that he has canceled their much-anticipated meeting to discuss steps toward denuclearization and peace because of recent 'tremendous anger and open hostility' by Pyongyang toward members of his administration. In a letter dated Thursday to Mr. Kim, the American president left open the possibility that the two could meet in the future. But hours later, Mr. Trump warned that the United States and its allies are prepared to respond should 'foolish or reckless acts be taken by North Korea.'” Mrs. McC: "Many people are saying" Trump should get the Nobel Peace Prize anyway. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Choe Sang-Hun of the New York Times: "With foreign journalists watching on Thursday, the North Koreans detonated explosives to destroy tunnels and buildings at the site in the country’s remote mountains. But then, only hours later, President Trump abruptly canceled the June 12 summit meeting, turning North Korea’s seeming gesture of good will into a potential embarrassment by its longtime enemy, the United States. Mr. Trump’s move so blindsided the North Koreans that the invited foreign journalists learned about the cancellation on their smartphones — even before some of their hosts did. One of the journalists, Will Ripley from CNN, read the text of Mr. Trump’s withdrawal letter to their official North Korean chaperones on the return train ride from the remote nuclear test site, Punggye-ri."

... Jonathan Chait reproduces Trump's letter to Kim. "The letter clearly springs from, or at least reflects the deep influence of, Trump’s own mind. Almost the entirety of Trump’s very short list of favorite words is represented: 'tremendous,' 'massive,' 'powerful,' 'wonderful,' 'beautiful,' 'wealth,' and 'sad.'... The president was obviously manipulated by other actors into a series of impulsive decisions that rewarded his momentary ego needs.... He has, characteristically, refused to learn anything about the subject he was putatively negotiating.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Fred Kaplan of Slate: "By canceling his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un..., Donald Trump has proved his lack of skill as a negotiator, handed the world’s most brutal dictator a win, and further isolated the United States as a world power. In a letter to Kim, released at the same time as Western reporters were witnessing the destruction of North Korea’s nuclear test site, Trump wrote that proceeding with a summit would be 'inappropriate,' given the 'tremendous anger and open hostility' in Kim’s recent statements. He thus revealed how little he knows about the history of diplomacy with Pyongyang — a true expert could have told him that fiery rhetoric is par for the course — and about Kim’s long-standing position on the issues that were to be discussed.... Trump’s big mistake was accepting Kim’s invitation to a summit without first discussing its potential risks and opportunities with people who know something about these things. His second, bigger mistake was hyping expectations, tweeting that a peace treaty was on the horizon and that he should win the Nobel Peace Prize simply for agreeing to meet. These absurd remarks only heightened his own stake in the summit’s success — and Kim’s leverage in the negotiations."

... Alex Shephard of the New Republic: "There’s no magic bullet — or magic summit — that will resolve the North Korea situation. Trump has finally acknowledged that. But in Trump-ian fashion he’s done so in a way that escalates the situation and alienates our allies." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Josh Rogin of the Washington Post: "... by cutting off the diplomacy in the middle with no certainty of what comes next, Trump has opened up a world of possible consequences, most of them bad.... The U.S.-South Korea alliance is headed for tough times. [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo didn’t deny that Trump neglected to give President Moon Jae-in advance warning that he was scrapping the summit. Moon was in town just two days ago. His legacy hangs in the balance. Trump made Moon lose face and put distance between the two allies. Pompeo could lose credibility, not only with Kim but also any world leader who now can’t be sure he speaks for the president.... Perhaps the biggest risk is that Trump himself loses interest in North Korean diplomacy, feeling burned and calculating that his best chances for a Nobel Peace Prize lie elsewhere.... Unpredictability as a tactic only works on adversaries when it’s intentional – for allies it’s always bad." ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: Fortunately for Reality Chex readers, safari kept his eye on the most important issue that arose from Trump's bailout: how could he get his hands "on one of those fucking moronic coins" minted to celebrate the mythical summit? I heard on the teevee that the White House gift shop's Website crashed what with everybody else trying to get their hands on one of those fucking moronic coins. And no wonder; CNN reports the gift shop had a "deal of the day" $5 discount on the coins. And, someone called Tea Pain figured out the real reason Trump bailed: "One day we'll find out Trump did a short sale on the commemorative coins, then pulled outta the summit."

John Eligon & Michael Shear of the New York Times: Donald Trump pardoned heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion, who died in 1946, & was convicted & imprisoned for transporting a white woman across state lines. "Although his own record on civil rights has come under question, often harshly, Trump, flanked by boxing champions and Sylvester Stallone, the actor who brought the case to his attention, signed an order pardoning Johnson." Trump said Johnson was imprisoned “for what many view as a racially-motivated injustice.” [Mrs. McC: "Many people"?] "Hours before he announced the pardon, he told Fox News that he agreed with the N.F.L.’s new policy requiring players to stand for the national anthem or remain in the locker room before games, saying of those who did not stand, 'maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.'” ...

... "Most Unpatriotic President Ever" Whacks Black Patriots. Again. Jonathan Chait: "Yesterday, the National Football League capitulated to President Trump and announced a policy banning players from kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality.... Trump pressed his advantage. 'You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing,' he told Brian Kilmeade. 'You shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.'... The explanation for this contradiction between his demands that players revere the flag and his own contempt for its spirit is easily explained. Patriotism is the cover for Trump’s true intention, which is to delegitimize protest on behalf of African-American civil rights.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

This Russia Thing, Etc., Ctd.

Nicholas Fandos & Katie Benner of the New York Times: "Top law enforcement and intelligence officials briefed congressional leaders from both parties on Thursday about the F.B.I.’s use of an informant in the Russia investigation, a highly unusual concession to Congress all but ordered by President Trump.... White House officials had at first arranged for only [Rep. Devin] Nunes to be briefed. But Republican Senate leaders, including Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the Intelligence Committee chairman, pressed the White House to change the audience to the so-called Gang of Eight, the select bipartisan group with whom the government’s most sensitive intelligence is shared. The senators ... were successful, at least in part. Administration officials held two separate briefings on Thursday: one for Mr. Nunes at the Justice Department, which has ended, and another on Capitol Hill Thursday afternoon for the Gang of Eight.... The details continued to be fluid Thursday. At the last minute, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, was also included in the first meeting. He was there in place of Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, who received a last-minute invitation. John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, whom Mr. Trump asked to help organize the meetings, attended both sessions, as did Emmet T. Flood, a lawyer representing Mr. Trump in the Russia investigation. Their presence was highly unusual in a sensitive congressional oversight briefing.... Both men left the rooms after initial remarks, according to two officials familiar with the meeting." ...

... Matt Zapotosky, et al., of the Washington Post: "The first briefing, which lasted about an hour at the Justice Department, went to [Devin] Nunes, [Paul] Ryan, [Rep. Adam] Schiff and House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.). The second, which lasted slightly longer on Capitol Hill, was to the Gang of Eight, which includes the top Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate, as well as the top Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate Intelligence committees.... [John] Kelly and [Emmet] Flood’s presence was notable, as it contradicted White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s assertion no one from the White House would attend.... Trump tweeted Thursday morning: 'Large dollars were paid to the Spy, far beyond normal. Starting to look like one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history. SPYGATE — a terrible thing!' House Intelligence Committee Ranking Democrat Adam B. Schiff (Calif.) ... said afterward: 'Nothing we heard today has changed our view that there is no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI or any intelligence agency placed a spy in the Trump campaign or otherwise failed to follow appropriate procedures and protocols.'” ...

... Betsy Woodruff of the Daily Beast: "Emmet Flood, the new lawyer for the White House overseeing its response to the Mueller probe, headed into the Justice Department with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly late Thursday morning and departed with him when the meeting was over. Flood also accompanied Kelly in and out of a second meeting held on Capitol Hill. The first meeting included Rep. Trey Gowdy, Speaker Paul Ryan, Rep. Adam Schiff, Rep. Devin Nunes, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Rod Rosenstein, and Chris Wray, as well as brief appearances from Kelly and Flood. The second included the Congressional 'Gang of Eight,' the leaders of both parties from both chambers, as well as the heads of the intelligence committees. Flood and Kelly left soon after appearing in the Capitol Hill meeting. More than one participant in that meeting told Flood his appearance was inappropriate, according to a Congressional official familiar with the meeting.... Schiff said in a statement released later that he told Flood his appearance at the meeting was 'completely inappropriate.' Mark Warner, the Senate intelligence committee’s top Democrat..., [tweeted], 'For the record, the President’s Chief of Staff and his attorney in an ongoing criminal investigation into the President’s campaign have no business showing up to a classified intelligence briefing.'...” ...

... Rudy Explains Why Flood Crashed the Meetings. Kyle Cheney & Darren Samuelsohn of Politico: "Two highly classified briefings Thursday about an FBI informant who contacted the Trump campaign could help grease the wheels for a highly anticipated interview between ... Donald Trump and special counsel Robert Mueller, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani told Politico. 'We want to see how the briefing went to today and how much we learned from it,' Giuliani said in a Thursday phone call. 'If we learned a good deal from it, it will shorten that whole process considerably.'” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: As Fandos & Benner of the NYT write (linked above) -- in a much-revised version of their story -- "the presence of John F. Kelly, the chief of staff, and Emmet T. Flood, the president’s lawyer, infuriated Democrats, and it gave what legal experts described as at least the appearance that the White House might have abused its authority to gain insight into an investigation that implicates the president. The president’s legal team was unapologetic. 'We are certainly entitled to know' what information the government has on the F.B.I. informant, Rudolph W. Giuliani ... said in an interview."

Eric Levitz of New York: "... on Thursday, The Wall Street Journal revealed, for the first time, that [Roger] Stone privately requested access to stolen Clinton emails that he believed to be in WikiLeaks’s possession: 'In a Sept. 18, 2016, message, Mr. Stone urged an acquaintance who knew [Julian] Assange to ask the WikiLeaks founder for emails related to Mrs. Clinton’s alleged role in disrupting a purported Libyan peace deal in 2011.... “Please ask Assange for any State or HRC e-mail from August 10 to August 30–particularly on August 20, 2011,” Mr. Stone wrote to Randy Credico, a New York radio personality who had interviewed Mr. Assange several weeks earlier....'... In an interview with the Journal, Credico insisted that he had never forwarded Stone’s request to Assange.... Stone, for his part, said he 'never had possession or access to any Clinton emails or records.'... When Stone testified before the House Intelligence Committee last September, he suggested that he had never requested access to stolen Clinton emails, but merely sought 'confirmation' that Assange had information about Clinton.'” ...

... Aaron Rupar of ThinkProgress: "Emails obtained by the Wall Street Journal indicate that longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone withheld key documents from the House Intelligence Committee — documents indicating he lied about his communications with a radio host he hoped would serve as a backchannel to WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign.... About two weeks after Stone reached out to [Randy] Credico, Stone posted a cryptic tweet suggesting he had foreknowledge that WikiLeaks was about to publish stolen emails that would be damaging to Clinton." The WSJ report is here, firewalled of course.

Norman Eisen and Elizabeth Holtzman in a USA Today op-ed: "Faced with the possibility that his client is criminally exposed on multiple fronts, the president's attorney Rudy Giuliani recently [said] ... a sitting president ... cannot be indicted. He is wrong, and his client should take scant comfort in this claim." Eisen & Holtzman explain why. "Pursuing an indictment of a sitting president is a last resort that is entirely consistent with our constitutional values and democratic norms. It should be on the table not because it is a perfect option, but rather because it is preferable to a world in which our president is above the law and can engage in criminal conduct with impunity."


Everything Is Going Very Smoothly. Glenn Thrush & Danielle Ivory
of the New York Times: "Mark S. Inch, a retired Army major general [and] the man who was ostensibly in charge of the federal prison system..., [has] submitted his resignation as the bureau’s director to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.... He found himself caught in an ideological turf war between Mr. Kushner and [AG Jeff] Sessions. Mr. Kushner has championed reforms to the corrections system and more lenient federal sentencing, and Mr. Sessions ... has opposed significant parts of the bipartisan prison reform bill that Mr. Kushner backs, according to officials.... Internally [Inch] was marginalized, cut out of budgetary decisions and largely excluded from discussion of the prison reform bill backed by Mr. Kushner, which passed the House on Tuesday but faces an uphill battle in the Senate."


Benjamin Mueller
, et al., of the New York Times: "Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced movie mogul, is expected to surrender to investigators in Manhattan on Friday and face sexual assault charges after a monthslong inquiry into allegations by numerous women. The charges follow an avalanche of accusations against him that led women around the world, some of them famous and many of them not, to come forward with accounts of being sexually harassed and assaulted by powerful men. Those stories spawned the global #MeToo movement, and since then, the ground has shifted beneath men who for years benefited from a code of silence around their predatory behavior."