The Ledes

Friday, January 20, 2017.

Washington Post: "The world’s most notorious drug lord, Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán, was extradited to the United States on Thursday night, whisked away from the country where he built an empire that delivered tons of heroin, cocaine and marijuana to the world." -- CW ...

     ... New York Times Update: "While most Americans were turned toward Washington and the inauguration of Donald J. Trump..., prosecutors in the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn held a news conference on Friday morning detailing the charges against Mr. Guzmán, who was flown out of Mexico on Thursday afternoon and arrived that night at MacArthur Airport on Long Island.... The government’s detention memo also gave an early glimpse of the case against Mr. Guzmán. It said that prosecutors planned to call several witnesses who would testify about the staggering scope of Mr. Guzmán’s criminal enterprise: including its multi-ton shipments of drugs in planes and submersibles and its numerous killings of witnesses, law enforcement agents, public officials and rival cartel members." -- CW 

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW

New York Times: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus announced on Saturday night that after 146 years of performances, it was folding its big tent forever. In a statement on the company’s website, Kenneth Feld, the chief executive of Feld Entertainment, the producer of Ringling, said the circus would hold its final performances in May. He cited declining ticket sales, which dropped even more drastically after elephants were phased out from the shows last year." -- CW 

The Washington Post publishes a series of photos of the Vice President's residence.

Los Angeles Times: "Perhaps fittingly for an industry that has been trying to console itself in the wake of a presidential election result few saw coming, the 74th Golden Globes, held at the Beverly Hilton, proved a big night for the fizzy romantic musical 'La La Land,' a love letter to Hollywood itself that is widely considered the film to beat in this year’s best picture race." -- CW ...

Marisa Kashino of the Washingtonian: "... multiple real-estate sources say [Ivanka] Trump and husband Jared Kushner will move into 2449 Tracy Pl, NW, in Kalorama. That will put the couple less than two blocks from the Obamas, who will reportedly move here post-White House." Realtors' photos of the Kushner-Trump house are here. The six-bedroom house ... sold on December 22nd for $5.5 million, though it is unclear whether Trump and Kushner bought it, or will rent it from the recent buyer." -- CW 

Daniel Politi of Slate: "Los Angeles residents got a little surprise when they woke up on the first day of the year and realized one of the city’s most famous landmarks had been vandalized to read 'HOLLYWeeD' — at least for a few hours. Police say the vandal used tarps to change the sign’s O’s into E’s. Security cameras caught the vandal — likely a man — changing the sign between midnight and 2 a.m. but police can’t tell the person’s race or height from the footage, reports KTLA. If caught, the vandal could face a misdemeanor trespassing charge." -- CW 

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

Washington Post: "The Kennedy Center Honors showcased the breadth of American music Sunday night [Dec. 4] with emotionally charged performances celebrating the gospel roots of Mavis Staples, the honeyed vocals of James Taylor and the Southern California harmonies of the Eagles. The 39th annual celebration of lifetime achievement in the performing arts also honored actor Al Pacino and pianist Martha Argerich in a three-hour party that offered a wistful goodbye to Barack and Michelle Obama, who were hosting their last Honors tribute. The sold-out audience stood and cheered for several minutes when the president and first lady were introduced."

A Night at the Opera. Los Angeles Times: "The curtain rose on Act 2 of 'The Daughter of the Regiment,' revealing the figure of a tiny woman barely visible in a large dome chair with her back to the audience. Suddenly, she swiveled around — and there was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.Cheers and prolonged applause rang out from the crowd at the Kennedy Center on Saturday night even before Ginsburg, a life-long opera lover who was making her official operatic debut, opened her mouth to speak as the imperious Duchess of Krakenthorp.... Her biggest laugh came when — in apparent reference to the bogus 'birther' campaign against President Obama — she asked whether [the character] Marie could produce a birth certificate and added: 'We must take precautions against fraudulent pretenders.' Ginsburg herself wrote her dialogue, in collaboration with ... [the] dramaturge for the Washington National Opera...." -- CW 

Bruce Springsteen performs at Hillary Clinton's rally in Philadelphia, November 7:

Washington Post: "Paul Beatty won the Man Booker Prize on Tuesday evening in London, becoming the first American ever to take home the prestigious award. His satirical novel 'The Sellout' beat five other finalists for the $60,000 prize, which also essentially guarantees substantial new sales and interest around the world. Amanda Foreman, chair of the Booker judges, called 'The Sellout' 'a novel for our times. . . . Its humor disguises a radical seriousness. Paul Beatty slays sacred cows with abandon and takes aim at racial and political taboos with wit, verve and a snarl.' Originally published last year in the United States, 'The Sellout' is an outrageously funny satire of American race relations. The protagonist, a black man whose father was killed by police, wants to reinstitute segregation in his California town. He eventually lands before the Supreme Court in a bizarre case involving slavery. 'The Sellout' also won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in March." -- CW 

Washington Post: "Comic actor, movie star and America’s best friend Bill Murray tried to sum up the emotions of being honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Sunday night [Oct. 23] at the Kennedy Center. 'My theme tonight is what is it like to be beloved,' a straight-faced Murray told the crowd at the end of the two-hour salute. 'It’s hard to listen to all those people be nice to you. You just get so suspicious.'”

Hill: Actor Bill Murray "spoke with President Obama, who congratulated him for winning this year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, a White House official said. Asked by reporters in the Oval Office if he met with Murray, Obama said 'absolutely,' but didn’t reveal what else they discussed."

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Friday
Jan202017

The Commentariat -- January 21, 2017

Perry Stein of the Washington Post: "The Women’s March on Washington is turning into the weekend’s star-studded event, with celebrities including Janelle Monáe, Scarlett Johansson and Ashley Judd making an appearance at the demonstration the day after inauguration. Activists Angela Davis and Michael Moore and D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser also will be speaking. In the days leading up to the march, the organizers have released details about the event, giving marchers and spectators a sense of what the day will look like. The lineup of speakers and performers totals around 50." -- CW 

New Rule: No Rules. Lydia Wheeler of the Hill: "President Trump's chief of staff Reince Priebus issued a memo Friday night telling federal agencies to not issue any more regulations.... Priebus told the agencies not to send any regulation to the Federal Register until the rule is reviewed and approved by the new president's appointed agency head. Any rule that’s already been sent to the Office of the Federal Register, but not yet published, must be withdrawn, the order says. For rules that were published in the last 60 days, Priebus told agencies to publish a notice to delay the effective date of the rule for at least another 60 days." -- CW 

Timothy Lee of Vox: "Donald Trump campaigned for president with a handful of big, simple ideas, including building a wall, renegotiating trade deals, and strengthening the military. His new White House website reflects that same sparse, policy-light philosophy. If you click on the 'issues' tab, he has sections on just six issues.... It’s a striking contrast to ... Barack Obama. Like Trump, Obama had a website ready to go on his first day in office. But Obama’s site covered almost two dozen policy issues and dove into detail.... In total, Trump’s six issue pages have 2,243 words. Obama’s 23 pages had 25,150." CW: Yes, but the Trump site is already way longer than the Trump attention span. ...

... Rebecca Leber of Mother Jones: "The original White House page dedicated to the problem of climate change and former President Barack Obama's policies to address it is now a broken link: 'The requested page "/energy/climate-change" could not be found.' Instead, the White House website features Trump's energy talking points from the campaign. The page — titled, 'An America First Energy Plan' — makes no mention of climate change, other than to say, 'President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the US rule. Lifting these restrictions will greatly help American workers, increasing wages by more than $30 billion over the next 7 years.'" -- CW: Undoubtedly false, but who cares? Many of us will die from drinking poisoned water & breathing foul air so we won't have to worry about not getting our fake $30BB bonanza. ...

... Wait, Wait. There's More. Justin Miller of the Daily Beast: "WhiteHouse.gov immediately wiped pages on LGBT rights, civil rights, climate change, and health care from its 'issues' section after Donald Trump took the oath of office." CW: Maybe they aren't "issues" because Trump has already solved all the problems associated with LGBT rights & so forth. ...

... Corrupt from Day One. Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "On his first day in office, President Trump declared on the White House website that he would roll back a clean-water rule that has been opposed as bad for business by a coalition that included his own golf courses. He also effectively became his own landlord at his District hotel, which his company rents from the federal government despite a lease that forbids such benefits going to any elected official. A Trump golf course tweeted congratulations to its owner as he became president, though a Trump lawyer had previously promised that no company social media accounts would reference his office. And in his official biography on the White House website, Trump bragged of the success of the business he still owns and his book, 'The Art of the Deal,' which remains for sale. Likewise, first lady Melania Trump’s biography included a reference to sales of her jewelry on the cable television channel QVC and notes it is trademarked, a registration now overseen by a trademark office that is part of the executive branch led by her husband. Trump’s first day as president was full of reminders that his administration will be entangled with his personal interests in a way unprecedented in presidential politics." -- CW ...

... Kelsey Snell of the Washington Post: "Visitors to the newly revamped White House website get more than a simple rundown of first lady Melania Trump’s charitable works and interests — they also get a list of her magazine cover appearances and details on her jewelry line at QVC.... The website includes a lengthy list of brands that hired her as a model and several of the magazines in which she appeared, including the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.... Early on Friday, the website listed the brand names of Trump’s jewelry lines sold on QVC. But the website was updated after the publication of this story to remove any mention of QVC." -- CW 

Oliver Knox of Yahoo! News: "President Trump signed his first executive order in the Oval Office late Friday, targeting Obamacare, as his administration ordered an immediate freeze on new regulations just hours after his inauguration.... It was not immediately clear what the executive order would do to pave the way for Republicans to make good on their longstanding promise to repeal and replace Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement. White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters the order would 'ease the burden' of the law. He did not share further details." -- CW 

Dan Lamothe of the Washington Post: "The Senate confirmed James N. Mattis as President Trump’s defense secretary Friday, breaking with decades of precedent by making a recently retired general the Pentagon’s top civilian leader. Mattis, 66, was approved with a 98-1 vote.... The sole vote against Mattis was cast by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D.-N.Y.), who said repeatedly that she was against a recently serving general become defense secretary. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R.-Ala.), Trump’s attorney general nominee, did not vote." -- CW 

Jerry Markon of the Washington Post: "The Senate confirmed John F. Kelly as secretary of homeland security on Friday, putting the blunt-spoken retired Marine general in charge of securing the nation’s borders, including construction of the controversial southwest border wall that was a centerpiece of President Trump’s campaign." -- CW 

NBC News: "The Obama family, who will ultimately remain in Washington D.C. while daughter Malia is still in school there, are traveling for a vacation in Palm Springs, California immediately following President Donald Trump's Inauguration.... Walking out to chants of 'yes, we can!' and leaving to chants of 'yes, we did!' President Barack Obama gave final remarks at a farewell gathering of staff at Joint Base Andrews before boarding his last flight on the military aircraft that ferries presidents on their travels.":

He Alone Can Fix It. Peter Baker & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Donald John Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States on Friday, ushering in a new and more unpredictable era in which he has vowed to shatter the established order and restore American greatness. From the West Front of the Capitol, overlooking a crowd of admirers gathered as rain threatened on an overcast day, Mr. Trump used his Inaugural Address to promise that he will use the next four years to rebuild the nation’s economy, reassert control over its borders and regain respect for the United States around the world." -- CW ...

...The transcript of Trump's speech is here. As Patrick wrote, it probably sounded better in the original German. CW: I didn't watch the show, but I read the transcript later, and I thought half of what Trump said was bull. ...

... Glenn Kessler & Michelle Lee of the Washington Post: "Generally, inaugural addresses are not designed to be fact-checked. But President Trump’s address was nothing if not unique, presenting a portrait of the United States that often was at variance with reality. Here’s a guide to understanding whether the facts back up his rhetoric." CW: Worse than I realized. ...

... Amber Phillips of the Washington Post: Democratic members of Congress tweet their reactions to Trump's speech. The best one (CW: IMO) comes from a former Congressman, Steve Israel of New York: "That speech had all the soaring sentiment of 'Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III.'" As an aside, Rep. Rep. Cheri Bustos (Ill.) tweeted, "GOP colleague let me see his Trump hat. It was made in China. Awkward given Trump's #BuyAmerican pledge. All talk no action?" CW: Make that all hat & no mettle.

Libby Nelson of Vox: "... Trump’s unapologetically negative portrait of American schools is striking because it’s seemingly all he has to say about education. Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush didn’t hesitate to use harsh words to criticize 'failing schools.' But they usually deployed those descriptions in service of a broader vision for improving them. For Trump, struggling schools aren’t a warmup act for a policy proposal. They’re rhetorical props in his description of a burned-out American landscape." CW: Don't worry, Libby. Betsy DePrivatize is full of ideas. 

Alyssa Rosenberg of the Washington Post: "When Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer came to the podium at the Capitol today, he made an unusual choice of reading: a letter written in 1861 by a Union soldier to his wife shortly before the first battle of Bull Run. The writer, Sullivan Ballou, was mortally wounded there. The letter is a striking expression of patriotic loyalty and sacrifice. And Schumer’s decision to read it also invoked sharp criticism of Donald Trump from the campaign trail and the incoming administration’s plans to eliminate federal support for the arts and humanities." CW: Here's Ken Burns' version, read by actor Paul Roebling, which I'm sure sounds a lot better than Schumer's reading, especially with the assist from Jay Ungar's "Ashokan Farewell":

Amie Parnes of the Hill: "Hillary Clinton kept a stiff upper lip Friday as Donald Trump took the oath of office for a presidency she was favored to win. Clinton was just feet away from Trump when he took the presidential oath, sitting with her husband, former President Bill Clinton. There was no interaction with Trump during the ceremony, and Trump did not mention Clinton — who won 3 million more popular votes — during his speech. The two did cross paths later, shaking hands. Trump thanked her for coming." -- CW 

President Obama leaves White House for last time as POTUS, helps portly, elderly man down steps:

And the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.... Now arrives the hour of action. -- Donald Trump, inaugural address ...

... John Cox, et al., of the Washington Post: "Less than two miles from where Trump and former president Obama joined hundreds of other elected officials at the west front of the U.S. Capitol, anarchists armed with crowbars and hammers marched through the city’s streets, toppling over news boxes, smashing bus-stop glass, vandalizing businesses, spray-painting buildings and, in one case, bashing in the windows of a black limousine. The acts of violence prompted helmeted police to chase the protesters with batons, hose them with pepper spray and apparently toss flash bangs into their ranks. Three D.C. police officers were injured as the sound of explosions and sirens filled the air – marking the first intense confrontations in a day that began with protesters shutting down at least a few security checkpoints. The clashes intensified during the afternoon as protesters hurled objects — including concrete bricks — at police in black riot gear, who fired back with more flash bangs and pepper spray.... In total, more than 200 people were arrested throughout the day, and the confrontations continued as darkness fell." ...

     ... CW: Sounds like "American carnage" to me, and it happened just as -- and after -- Trump promised it "stops right here and stops right now." What the hell happened to the "hour of action"? Does this mean Trump can't fix it? What a disappointment.

Theresa Vargas, et al., of the Washington Post: "Protesters who had promised to shut down the city for the inauguration of ... Donald Trump were successful at several security checkpoints Friday morning, as they slowed crowds from entering onto the Mall and, in one spot, stopped them completely." -- CW 

Binyamin Appelbaum of the NYT posts on Twitter this comparison of the crowds on the Mall for the 2008 & 2017 inaugrations. CW: I believe the temp is a lot warmer today than it was Jan. 20, 2008, but you know, I guess the 2008 crowd was so big it warmed the place up:

 

Friday
Jan202017

The Inaugural Speech You Missed

On Wednesday, Donald Trump tweeted this picture of himself, above the message, “Writing my inaugural address at the Winter White House, Mar-a-Lago, three weeks ago. Looking forward to Friday. #Inauguration.”:

Twitter users found plenty to mock about the photo. Mostly they found it unbelievable, because it was. A guy, a Sharpie, a blank legal pad and a statue of an eagle? That's it? No notes? No reference books? No WIPs? Well, no, there wouldn't be, because the desk in the pic isn't one that Trump would actually use. Rather, it "appears to be one usually occupied by an administrative or hospitality professional — a receptionist or concierge, maybe — in a public hall at Mar-a-Lago, and not in a private office." So if you believe Trump's tweet, then you believe he wrote his inaugural speech, from scratch, while sitting out in the hall helping Mar-a-Lago guests find the route to Neiman's on Worth Avenue.

BTW, here's what #realDonaldTrump's #realdesk looks like:

And for the record, this is what an actual president looks like when he's writing a speech. He is not wearing a suitcoat, and he has three aides, working from computers & dead-tree notes, to help him refine the message:

President Obama and his staff work on a speech he delivered December 15, 2015, during a naturalization ceremony at the National Archives. White House photo.According to Trump's spokesman Sean Spicer, Trump has watched some previous inaugural speeches and spoken with historians about those speeches. Although Spicer had previously said Trump would rely on the assistance of speechwriter Stephen Miller, historian Douglas Brinkley met with Trump at Palm Beach in December and reported that Trump "was intent on drafting the entirety of the speech himself, with input from his team." Whatever that means. One thing Trump discussed with Brinkley was the speech of William Henry Harrison, which was the longest inaugural speech in American history, delivered on a cold day. Harrison died of pneumonia a month later. Trump told Brinkley he planned to keep his speech short.

Since we know that Trump has been studying up on the inaugural speeches of former presidents, and since many Reality Chex readers will be tuned to the Weather Channel all day today, I decided to let you in on this draft of Trump's speech, not plagiarized in the Trump family tradition, but borrowing heavily on the remarks of Mr. Trump's predecessors, albeit with the necessary adaptations (and grammatical misconstructions) to better reflect Trump's own worldview.

My fellow Americans, we are provincials once again. The tragic events of eight years of poverty, crime-infested communities, terrorism in our cities, tens of thousands of Mexican rapists and drug dealers at large, able-bodied men unable to find jobs, and a president who founded ISIS, have made us turn against each other. There can be no turning back.(1) We have reached a higher degree of turmoil and insecurity than ever existed before in the history of the world.(2) In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.(3)

With malice toward all, with charity for none, with firmness in right-wing ideology, as God gives white people, let us strive on to undo the work of the previous administration, to open up the nation's wounds.(4) Then, this once-great nation will be great again, will revive and will prosper, because I alone can fix it.(5) There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by me.(6)

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing you have to fear is Donald Trump, which is me, who has an enemies list.(5) Much has been given me, and I will rightfully expect much from you. You have duties to me and you must not shirk them.(7) Ask not what I can do for you – ask what you can do for me. My fellow citizens of the world: Ask not what America will do for you, but what you can do together to enrich my family and me. Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, you my loyal poorly-educated supporters will pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, oppose friend and foe alike – except Russia, for reasons only I know and will reveal next Tuesday or Wednesday – in order to assure the survival and continued success of the Trump dynasty, including my daughter Ivanka, who is very hot.(8)

Let us, then, fellow citizens, punch liberals, reporters and my other enemies in the face. Let us reflect that, having banished from our land religious tolerance, we have yet gained little if we countenance political tolerance for our enemies like Crooked Hillary who I beat badly in a landslide, Pocahontas Warren and talk-talk-talk John Lewis. We must return anew to despotic, wicked governance steeped in bitter and bloody persecutions.(9) Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America in my image, for my benefit.(10)

Fellow-citizens, being fully invested with that high office to which my countrymen have called me, I now take leave of you. You will bear with you to your homes the remembrance of the pledge I have this day given to discharge all the high duties of my exalted station which I will exploit to the best of my abilities, and you shall wonder in awe why I am breaking that solemn pledge even as I speak.(11) God bless the President of the United States.

(1) We are provincials no longer. The tragic events of the 30 months of vital turmoil through which we have just passed have made us citizens of the world. There can be no turning back. -- Woodrow Wilson, March 5, 1917

(2) We have reached a higher degree of comfort and security than ever existed before in the history of the world. -- Herbert Hoover, March 4, 1929

 

(3) In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. -- Ronald Reagan, January 20, 1981 (No editing required.

(4) With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds. --Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1865

(5) This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt, March 4, 1933

(6) There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America. -- Bill Clinton, January 20, 1993

(7) Much has been given us, and much will rightfully be expected from us. We have duties to others and duties to ourselves; and we can shirk neither. --Theodore Roosevelt, March 4, 1905

(8) My fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: Ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.... Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

(9) Let us, then, fellow citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. -- Thomas Jefferson, March 4, 1801

(10) Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.” -- Barack Obama, January 20, 2009

(11) Fellow-citizens, being fully invested with that high office to which the partiality of my countrymen has called me, I now take an affectionate leave of you. You will bear with you to your homes the remembrance of the pledge I have this day given to discharge all the high duties of my exalted station according to the best of my ability, and I shall enter upon their performance with entire confidence in the support of a just and generous people. -- William Henry Harrison, March 4, 1841

Thursday
Jan192017

The Commentariat -- January 20, 2017

Afternoon Update:

He Alone Can Fix It. Peter Baker & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Donald John Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States on Friday, ushering in a new and more unpredictable era in which he has vowed to shatter the established order and restore American greatness. From the West Front of the Capitol, overlooking a crowd of admirers gathered as rain threatened on an overcast day, Mr. Trump used his Inaugural Address to promise that he will use the next four years to rebuild the nation’s economy, reassert control over its borders and regain respect for the United States around the world." -- CW ...

...The transcript of Trump's speech is here. As Patrick wrote, it probably sounded better in the original German.

Alyssa Rosenberg of the Washington Post: "When Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer came to the podium at the Capitol today, he made an unusual choice of reading: a letter written in 1861 by a Union soldier to his wife shortly before the first battle of Bull Run. The writer, Sullivan Ballou, was mortally wounded there. The letter is a striking expression of patriotic loyalty and sacrifice. And Schumer’s decision to read it also invoked sharp criticism of Donald Trump from the campaign trail and the incoming administration’s plans to eliminate federal support for the arts and humanities." CW: Here's Ken Burns' version, read by actor Paul Roebling, which I'm sure sounds a lot better than Schumer's reading, especially with the assist from Jay Ungar's "Ashokan Farewell":

President Obama leaves White House for last time as POTUS, helps portly, elderly man down steps:

Theresa Vargas, et al., of the Washington Post: "Protesters who had promised to shut down the city for the inauguration of ... Donald Trump were successful at several security checkpoints Friday morning, as they slowed crowds from entering onto the Mall and, in one spot, stopped them completely." -- CW 

Binyamin Appelbaum of the NYT posts on Twitter this comparison of the crowds on the Mall for the 2008 & 2017 inaugrations. CW: I believe the temp is a lot warmer today than it was Jan. 20, 2008, but you know, I guess the 2008 crowd was so big it warmed the place up:

*****

The Guardian is liveblogging events related to the inauguration, and the liveblog is worth following. At least so far, the pomp has not outshined the circumstances outlined in these mini-reports. For instance, Julian Borger (9:03 am ET): "The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has released a report by its general counsel on the campaign’s hiring of actors to enthuse at Trump’s candidacy announcement at Trump Tower in New York on 16 June 2015, revealing that the ersatz supporters had to wait four months to get paid for their cheering. The campaign committee only coughed up the $12,000 it owed to the casting company that hired the actors a month after a complaint was made to the FEC." -- CW 

Robert Dallek, in a New York Times op-ed: "Donald J. Trump comes into office on Friday with an agenda largely built around tearing down that of his predecessor — rescinding executive orders, ripping up the Iran nuclear deal, backing the repeal of Obamacare and withdrawing from international climate change agreements, to name just a few of his possible first steps. If Mr. Trump expected Barack Obama, who will be the first president since Woodrow Wilson to continue living in Washington, to retire to silence, he got a rude awakening on Wednesday. Mr. Obama told reporters at his last news conference that action by the new president on any number of things — voting rights, rescinding the so-called Dreamers program for immigrants who came to this country as children — 'would merit me speaking out.'” He should do so. -- CW ...

... Brian Beutler: "Over four or eight years, Trump can repeal a lot of laws, but to genuinely erase Obama’s legacy, he’ll have to do more than sign bills. He’ll have to challenge major new points of consensus — that government should guarantee the public health care coverage; that same-sex couples deserve all the same rights as heterosexual ones; that climate change is a major threat to the future of civilization; that Obama rescued the country from global recession — and undo them. I expect him to lose every one of those arguments, and by losing, he will vindicate Obama’s presidency, if not Obama’s governing vision for the country.... The fight over the closing era — and the fight to protect everything that Trump puts in the firing line — begins on this ominous Inauguration Day." -- CW 

Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "... on Thursday, his last full day in office, [President] Obama announced 330 more commutations, for nonviolent drug offenders, bringing his total number of clemencies to 1,715. He has granted commutations to more people than the past 12 presidents combined, including 568 inmates with life sentences. He has granted 212 pardons. His final group of clemencies was the most Obama granted in a day and the most granted on one day in U.S. history." -- CW  

The Last Honest Man in Washington Will Turn out the Lights. Gardiner Harris of the New York Times: "The Bidens will vacate the vice-presidential residence at the Naval Observatory to head to Wilmington on Friday, but the couple intend to find a small house in Washington near their friends Barack and Michelle Obama so that Dr. Biden can continue teaching English at a community college in Northern Virginia." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Trumpocalypse Day 1
Return of the Dinosaurs

... Thanks to Whyte O. for the link. ...

... Alex Shephard of the New Repubic: "Good morning! Donald Trump will have the nuclear codes shortly." -- CW ...

... David Remnick of the New Yorker: "The reality is that the Donald Trump of birtherism, of Mexican 'rapists,' of Muslim registries, of 'grab them by the pussy,' of bankruptcies and lawsuits and colossal conflicts of interest — this is the same Donald Trump who, with his hand on Lincoln’s Bible, is taking the oath of office, vowing to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.... Since Election Day, Trump has managed to squander good faith and guarded hope with flagrant displays of self-indulgent tweeting, chaotic administration, willful ignorance, and ethical sludge.... There is every reason to be on guard against a President whose attachment to constitutional norms seems episodic at best.... It will be on us, resolute citizens, to protect the republic — to demand, as [Benjamin] Franklin said, that we keep it." -- CW ...

... Gene Robinson: "Never in my lifetime has a new president been anticipated with such raw enthusiasm on one side and such fear and loathing on the other.... [Trump] is a 70-year-old business executive and self-promoter extraordinaire whose lifelong working habit is to go to his office, see what opportunities the day presents and then improvise. He is not going to change.... In his whole career, he has worked only for his father and himself. Now he has 320 million bosses, and each of us has the right to tell him what to do. I believe this will be a difficult concept for him to grasp." -- CW 

Michael Schmidt, et al., of the New York Times: "American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of ... Donald J. Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, current and former senior American officials said. The continuing counterintelligence investigation means that Mr. Trump will take the oath of office on Friday with his associates under investigation and after the intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian government had worked to help elect him. As president, Mr. Trump will oversee those agencies and have the authority to redirect or stop at least some of these efforts.... The counterintelligence investigation centers at least in part on the business dealings that some of ... [Trump]’s past and present advisers have had with Russia. Mr. Manafort has done business in Ukraine and Russia. Some of his contacts there were under surveillance by the National Security Agency for suspected links to Russia’s Federal Security Service, one of the officials said.... Two other [Trump advisors under scrutiny] are Carter Page, a businessman and former foreign policy adviser to the campaign, and Roger Stone, a longtime Republican operative." -- CW ...

... ** Scott Lemieux, in LG&$, calls the Times story another "desperate leak before Trump shuts the investigation down.... It’s not just that the FBI chose to inform the public about one, and only one, ongoing investigation [of the two presidential candidates]. The investigation that the FBI did the inform the public about 1)served the longstanding partisan interests of the director and 2)was utterly trivial, and in the most decisive intervention there was absolutely no relevant new information about it.... The FBI stole the election, on behalf of the minority candidate. Trump is not a legitimate president and should not be treated as such. And let us note as well that the media outlets who chose to give Comey’s letter saturation coverage are accessories after the fact." -- CW ...

     ... CW: What Lemieux does not acknowledge, however, is that -- so far as we know -- the FBI was investigating actions by Clinton herself, but it (along with other agencies) is investigating Trump's associates, not Trump. Believe me, I am not excusing Comey, and I generally agree with Lemieux, but it appears, at this point, that he's comparing an apple & a few orange pips, not the Orange himself. ...

... Adam Silverman of Balloon Juice: Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who is privy to intelligence briefings, strongly implies there's more to the story. CW: In any event, we probably should not be surprised if it turns out there was an international conspiracy, involving Americans close to Trump, to throw the election. Whether Trump was in on the plot or is just a dimwitted bystander -- Trump as Gump -- in his own election remains to be seen. 

Trump the Unscrupulous. Eric Lipton & Susanne Craig of the New York Times: "Perhaps more than any other location in Mr. Trump’s real estate empire, [the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.,] epitomizes the convergence of Donald Trump the global businessman and Donald Trump the president-elect. Conflicts that for months have been theoretical are now about to become real — most immediately a possible challenge by the federal government. It owns the building that houses Mr. Trump’s hotel and has granted him a 60-year lease. From the moment he is sworn in as president at noon Friday, Mr. Trump may be in violation of that lease, given a provision that appears to prohibit federal elected officials from renting the Old Post Office building, the Pennsylvania Avenue landmark that houses the hotel, from the government. Guests at the hotel include foreign diplomats and politicians who could be looking to curry favor with Mr. Trump — but even the act of paying their bills as they check out after the inauguration may open Mr. Trump to a challenge that he has violated the United States Constitution, which prohibits federal government officials from taking payments or gifts from foreign governments." -- CW ...

... Matea Gold & Jonathan O'Connell of the Washington Post: "As he held court Thursday afternoon inside the ivory-and-gold ballroom of the Trump International Hotel..., Donald Trump could not resist plugging the luxurious locale playing host to his Cabinet appointees, top Republican congressional leaders and hundreds of the GOP’s wealthiest donors. 'This is a gorgeous room,' [he] ... said of his new hotel’s presidential ballroom. 'A total genius must have built this place.'... The U.S. Capitol is the backdrop for the official swearing-in ceremony on Friday, but the hub of inaugural action is Trump’s hotel, the site of a slew of official events and some of the week’s most sought-after private gatherings.... Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.) and other congressional Democrats have pushed the General Services Administration to cancel the Old Post Office Pavilion lease. GSA officials have said that no violations have yet occurred.... [But as of Friday at noon] GSA will be part of the new administration — raising the prospect of a Trump appointee renegotiating the lease with one of his sons.” -- CW 

Not sure where this sign is posted, but thanks to the reader who sent the photo. Both he & the signboard remind me, by the way, that Reality Chex has by far the highest IQ of any site ever assembled. (Don't blame me for the construction of that nonsense sentence. It's derivative.)Trump the Unready. Maggie Haberman & Glenn Thrush of the New York Times: "Donald J. Trump arrived in Washington the day before his inauguration ... facing serious questions about whether his chaotic transition has left critical parts of the government dangerously short-handed. Mr. Trump['s] ... team was still scrambling to fill key administration posts when he got [to Washington] on Thursday, announcing last-minute plans to retain 50 essential State Department and national security officials currently working in the Obama administration to ensure 'continuity of government,' according to Sean Spicer, the incoming White House press secretary. The furious final staff preparations included designating Thomas A. Shannon Jr., an Obama appointee, as the acting secretary of state, pending the expected confirmation of Rex W. Tillerson. As of Thursday, only two of Mr. Trump’s 15 cabinet nominees — John F. Kelly, to head the Department of Homeland Security, and his nominee for defense secretary, Gen. James N. Mattis — had been approved by congressional committees and were close to assuming their posts.... In all, Mr. Trump has named only 29 of his 660 executive department appointments.... That is a pace far slower than recent predecessors, falling far short of the schedule originally outlined by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who was Mr. Trump’s transition director before Mr. Trump ousted him 10 weeks ago." -- CW ..

... Eli Stokols & Josh Dawsey of Politico: Donald Trump's "mixed messages, constant contradictions and open-ended statements, however hyperbolic, have left Republican allies, would-be administration appointees, and the public unclear about his true intentions for the presidency. 'On Election Night, he said he was going to be a president for everyone,' said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley. “Since that time, that outreach has been shattered by Russian hacking, the bullying of the news media and the constant controversies. He would meet with people like Al Gore on climate change, and then a day later, he’d pick a climate-denier.' Trump has fought publicly with his critics ... and offered an ad hoc, mercantilist approach to foreign policy that is already destabilizing the world order — talking tough toward America’s longstanding allies and its intelligence community tasked with keeping the nation safe, while praising Russian President Vladimir Putin.... On the whole, Trump has done little over the past two-plus months to ease the broader fears that he will be a de-stabilizing presence in the Oval Office—fears shared by foreign leaders, intelligence officers, Wall Street analysts, journalists and First Amendment advocates, corporate CEOs and even Republican politicians, all of whom face a more uncertain future in the dawning Trump era. If anything, he’s exacerbated those fears.” -- CW ...

... John Dawsey: "Trump can't stop talking about how he won.... His inability to sometimes move on has sometimes left allies scratching their heads, as they want him to home in on hiring and running the government. In the weeks during the transition, he has often seemed more interested in litigating the past than focusing on the present, these people say. He has convened longtime New York friends to Trump Tower to talk about the win.... He has grown particularly agitated when anyone questioned the legitimacy of his victory.... The mention that he lost the popular vote seems to particularly enrage him." -- CW 

Greg Sargent posts a brief rundown of what awaits Trump after the balls are over. "Happy inauguration day, Mr. President. You finally beat them. As of this afternoon, bluster and tweets ain’t gonna cut it anymore, though." -- CW 

We have by far the highest IQ of any cabinet ever assembled. Donald Trump, Thursday

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "... Donald J. Trump’s cabinet nominees, while moderating some of their stances, have made it clear during two weeks of hearings that they intend to work hard to sweep away President Obama’s domestic policy by embracing a deeply conservative approach to governing. In dozens of hours of testimony, Mr. Trump’s nominees told senators that they favored less regulation, a smaller federal government, more state control over policy decisions and taxpayer money, and greater personal responsibility by Americans across the country. The sometimes contentious hearings continued up until the day before the inauguration, as Mr. Trump triumphantly arrived in Washington on Thursday to kick off three highly choreographed days that will usher Republicans back into full political power in Washington for the first time in more than a decade." -- CW ...

... Paul Krugman: "It was obvious to anyone paying attention that the incoming administration would be blatantly corrupt. But would it at least be efficient in its corruption? Many Trump voters certainly thought they were choosing a smart businessman who would get things done. And even those who knew better may have hoped that the president-elect, his ego finally sated, would settle down to running the country — or at least delegate the boring business of governing America to people actually capable of doing the job. But it’s not happening. Mr. Trump ... [is] still the insecure, short-attention-span egomaniac he always was. Worse, he is surrounding himself with people who share many of his flaws — perhaps because they’re the sort of people with whom he is comfortable.... So there you have it: an administration unprecedented in its corruption, but also completely unprepared to govern." -- CW ...

     ... CW: Brian Beutler (I think it was) made this same point last week. There are consequences to cronyism & corruption that go far beyond the obvious impropriety & venality. The best, most conscientious people make mistakes; the worst, most careless make them constantly and yuuugely. As Krugman writes, "We're fucked." "It's going to be terrific, let me tell you."

Wow! Glasses Do Make You Smarter! Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "Rick Perry ... said in his Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday that he regretted having recommended the abolition of the Energy Department in the past. He ... [told] the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that after 'being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy,' he no longer believed, as he said while running for president in 2011, that it should be eliminated. Mr. Perry also offered a full-throated reversal of his views on the science of human-caused climate change, which he called a 'contrived, phony mess' in a 2010 book. 'I believe the climate is changing,' he said. 'I believe some of it is naturally occurring, but some of it is also caused by man-made activity....' Mr. Trump, by contrast, has called climate change a 'hoax' and has continued to express doubts about established climate science. Mr. Perry also appeared to signal a somewhat different position from Mr. Trump on nuclear weapons policy, the Energy Department’s chief portfolio. Mr. Trump has said the United States must 'greatly strengthen and expand' its nuclear capability, 'Let it be an arms race,' he said. But Mr. Perry, asked by Senator Bernie Sanders ...the Vermont independent whether he believed expanded testing of nuclear weapons was a 'dangerous idea,' replied, 'I think anyone would be of the opinion that if we never have to test another nuclear weapon that would be a good thing for the world.' He added, 'I think nonproliferation is a good thing.'” -- CW ...

... New York Times Editors: "To prepare for the job and the hearing, Mr. Perry said he had spoken several times with Ernest Moniz, the current energy secretary and a respected nuclear scientist, and also with others who have held the job. That shows a greater readiness to learn from his predecessor than other cabinet nominees have displayed; Rex Tillerson, Mr. Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, was scheduled to meet with the incumbent, John Kerry, but did not, although he squeezed in a meeting with Mr. Kerry’s deputy on Thursday." ...

    ... CW: It's pretty damned troubling that the only Trump Cabinet nominee who has shown any interest in even learning the basics of his job is Rick Oops! Perry, a guy who previously said the job itself was superfluous. As Krugman wrote.... ...

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Kelsey Sutton of Politico: "The New York Times is standing by its story about former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s nomination as energy secretary that drew criticism after its publication Wednesday night. The story, which reported that Perry 'knew almost nothing about' the secretary of energy position for which he was nominated, faced criticism and additional scrutiny after the named source in the story said the Times misinterpreted what he said." See also yesterday's Commentariat.-- CW 

Ylan Mui of the Washington Post: "Treasury secretary nominee Steven T. Mnuchin defended his ties to offshore business entities and his management of a controversial California bank during a testy confirmation hearing on Thursday.... The hearing began with a sharply combative tone before Mnuchin even started speaking — an unusual departure for what is typically a staid and wonkish committee.... At several points during his hearing, Mnuchin appeared stung by the sharp questioning from lawmakers." CW: He was expecting questions more along the lines of, "Am I pronouncing your name right, Mr. Munchkin?" and "Which are cuter? Kittens or puppies?" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Paul Waldman: "Donald Trump’s cabinet brings with it a combination of ethical problems, inexperience, hostility to the missions of the departments its members are being called to lead, and plain old ignorance that is simply unprecedented. This is shaping up to be nothing less than the worst cabinet in American history.... One can only imagine the damage they’re going to do." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Trump Outsources Draconian Budget Plans to Heritage Foundation. Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy, The Hill has learned. The changes they propose are dramatic.... Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump’s team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years. The proposed cuts hew closely to a blueprint published last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation, a think tank that has helped staff the Trump transition." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Emily Heil of the Washington Post: "Organizers of a glitzy inaugural ball for military veterans canceled the event late Wednesday, citing 'security reasons and events beyond our control,' according to its website. But what led to the unraveling of the Veterans Making America Great Again gala, which was slated for Friday night, is a bit murkier. The soiree was being put together by Florida businessman Luis Quinonez, a member of ... Donald Trump’s Hispanic Advisory Council. Quinonez’s name had been mentioned as a top candidate for the post of veterans affairs secretary, though he ultimately withdrew his name, citing health problems. (According to the Military Times, Quinonez had also been in a legal dispute over child-support payments that could have clouded his confirmation process.) A source with knowledge of how the ball fell apart says financial issues were its downfall." -- CW 

John Cox, et al., of the Washington Post: Early this morning, protesters & Trump supporters were already clashing on the National Mall as police struggled to separate them. ...

... Clarence Williams of the Washington Post: "Anti-Trump protesters jeered and screamed at supporters of ... [Donald Trump] outside the 'DeploraBall' at the National Press Club on Thursday night, in one case throwing an object that struck a counterprotester in the head. D.C. police closed the 1300 block of F Street NW to motor vehicles as hundreds of demonstrators filled the roadway. Some protesters raised their middle fingers and shouted obscenities and terms such as 'racist' and 'Nazi' at those attending the celebratory ball on the eve of Trump’s inauguration. A small group of protesters in hoods and black masks set a fire in the center of the street. Another fire was set in a trash can." -- CW 

Mark Santora of the New York Times: "On the eve of the inauguration of Donald J. Trump..., thousands of protesters and a group of Hollywood celebrities took to the streets in New York City in what was meant to be a show of unity and a prelude to what organizers hoped would be a weekend of dissent around the country. In the days after Mr. Trump’s election, protesters gathered night after night, often at the base of Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan. On Thursday..., they rallied near Central Park, in the shadow of another one of the many skyscrapers bearing the Trump name." -- CW

Luz Lazo of the Washington Post: "Thousands of people are expected to be in the region Saturday for the Women’s March on Washington, an event that could draw larger crowds than Inauguration Day itself, and present travel challenges for participants and residents." The story contains info on what to expect in terms of transportation, etc. -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Claire Landsbaum of New York has the list of speakers for the Women's March. -- CW 

Wednesday
Jan182017

The Commentariat -- January 19, 2017

Afternoonish Update:

Luz Lazo of the Washington Post: "Thousands of people are expected to be in the region Saturday for the Women’s March on Washington, an event that could draw larger crowds than Inauguration Day itself, and present travel challenges for participants and residents." The story contains info on what to expect in terms of transportation, etc. -- CW

Ylan Mui of the Washington Post: "Treasury secretary nominee Steven T. Mnuchin defended his ties to offshore business entities and his management of a controversial California bank during a testy confirmation hearing on Thursday.... The hearing began with a sharply combative tone before Mnuchin even started speaking — an unusual departure for what is typically a staid and wonkish committee.... At several points during his hearing, Mnuchin appeared stung by the sharp questioning from lawmakers." CW: He was expecting questions more along the lines of, "Am I pronouncing your name right, Mr. Munchkin?" and "Which are cuter? Kittens or puppies?" 

Paul Waldman: "Donald Trump’s cabinet brings with it a combination of ethical problems, inexperience, hostility to the missions of the departments its members are being called to lead, and plain old ignorance that is simply unprecedented. This is shaping up to be nothing less than the worst cabinet in American history.... One can only imagine the damage they’re going to do." -- CW 

The Last Honest Man in Washington Will Turn out the Lights. Gardiner Harris of the New York Times: "The Bidens will vacate the vice-presidential residence at the Naval Observatory to head to Wilmington on Friday, but the couple intend to find a small house in Washington near their friends Barack and Michelle Obama so that Dr. Biden can continue teaching English at a community college in Northern Virginia." -- CW 

Trump Outsources Draconian Budget Plans to Heritage Foundation. Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy, The Hill has learned. The changes they propose are dramatic.... Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump’s team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years. The proposed cuts hew closely to a blueprint published last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation, a think tank that has helped staff the Trump transition." -- CW

*****

Justin Gillis & John Schwartz of the New York Times: "Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016 — trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row. The findings come two days before the inauguration of an American president who has called global warming a Chinese plot and vowed to roll back his predecessor’s efforts to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases. The data show that politicians cannot wish the problem away. The Earth is heating up, a point long beyond serious scientific dispute, but one becoming more evident as the records keep falling. Temperatures are heading toward levels that many experts believe will pose a profound threat to both the natural world and to human civilization." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

CW: Today is President Obama's last full day in office. We owe our thanks to him, to Vice President Biden, and to all the women & men in the Obama administration who worked so tirelessly to bend the arc of history toward justice. And thanks, too, to the spouses, families and loved ones of those who served, for they also made sacrifices so that all of us might find our burdens just a little lighter.

David Nakamura & Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "President Obama held his final news conference at the White House on Wednesday, defending the importance of the free press and some of the final decisions he has made before leaving office. But even as touted some of the advances that had been made under his watch — such as Americans’ growing acceptance of members of the LGBT community — he warned of turmoil in the Middle East and unintended consequences of policy shifts ... Donald Trump might trigger once he takes office. Obama suggested the 'moment may be passing' for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying his administration took the unusual step last month of not vetoing a U.N. resolution criticizing the expansion of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory in order to issue 'a wake-up call' to people in the region." CW: Uh, if you listen to this news conference, you might think Donald Trump was dazed & confused. Or a traitor. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Eric Levitz of New York: "In his opening remarks, Obama made his desire to defend the press’s prerogatives against his successor’s whims explicit. 'You’re not supposed to be sycophants — you’re supposed to be skeptics,' Obama said. 'And having you in this building has helped this place work better.'” -- CW 

John Kerry, in a New York Times op-ed: "As the departing secretary of state, I cannot claim objectivity. But I will leave office convinced that most global trends remain in our favor and that America’s leadership and engagement are as essential and effective today as ever. A major reason is that President Obama has restored assertive diplomacy as our foreign policy tool of first resort and deployed it time and again to advance our security and prosperity." -- CW 

IOKIYAR

It's Okay if you pay Vladimir, Boris & Natasha to throw the presidential election your way. (And don't worry, Jim Comey will keep mum about it):

** ... Peter Stone & Greg Gordon of McClatchy News: "The FBI and five other law enforcement and intelligence agencies have collaborated for months in an investigation into Russian attempts to influence the November election, including whether money from the Kremlin covertly aided ... Donald Trump, two people familiar with the matter said. The agencies involved in the inquiry are the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and representatives of the director of national intelligence, the sources said.... The informal, inter-agency working group began to explore possible Russian interference last spring, long before the FBI received information from a former British spy hired to develop politically damaging and unverified research about Trump, according to the sources.... FBI Director [James] Comey refused at a recent Senate hearing to comment on whether the bureau was investigating Russia’s hacking campaign for possible criminal prosecutions." -- CW ...

... digby: "So, it's been confirmed that even while FBI Director James Comey was blathering on about Hillary Clinton's 'recklessness' five years earlier by having a private email server which was never hacked and contained no information that did anything but show how boring government work actually is, he knew this was going on as he spoke.... If Russia hacked the presidential campaign, that's a big deal but it's also not entirely surprising. What would be a shocker is if it turns out that Trump's campaign was involved somehow. It appears there is some evidence out there that it was. This is uncharted territory." -- CW ...

... CW: Probably worth pointing out that Congressional leaders & members who were on intelligence committees knew it, too. The only member, as far as I can recall, who even hinted that the FBI was investigating Trump was Harry Reid. MEANWHILE, Congressional Republicans could not leak fast enough any so-called developments in the Benghaaazi!-email hoohah.

It's Okay to Be a Boor:

Trump Makes Dinner to Honor pence All About Trump. Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "... Donald J. Trump, in a free-flowing speech Wednesday night at a dinner honoring his running mate, Mike Pence, jabbed at his new Republican allies and his critics alike, questioned the ethics of 'super PACs' and talked about creating a 'merit-based' immigration system.... Mr. Trump said that his aides told him that he was not required to be at the dinner, but that he thought he had to be there to honor a man whose role on the ticket he described as one of his best decisions. Mr. Trump ... poked at [pence] for declining to endorse his candidacy in the primary in Indiana..., instead backing Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. 'The fact that every donor he had was in favor of' Mr. Cruz played no role in the decision, Mr. Trump said sarcastically, according to a recording provided by a guest. In ... [Trump’s] telling, Mr. Pence essentially endorsed him, and mentioned Mr. Cruz only as an afterthought. Mr. Trump also took aim at Mr. Cruz (a 'smart guy, he was a little late to the plate, but that’s O.K.'); Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin..., ('he can be nasty, that Scott Walker'); members of the 'Never Trump' movement ('they’re really right now on a respirator; they’re pretty much gone'); and the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson...." -- CW 

It's Okay if you're a vain, insecure bully & schemer:

Michael Kruse in Politico Magazine: Trump's biographers Gwenda Blair, Michael D’Antonio & Tim O’Brien "see the same person they’ve always seen — the consummate classroom troublemaker; a vain, insecure bully; and an anti-institutional schemer, as adept at 'gaming the system' as he is unashamed. As they look ahead..., they feel confident predicting that he will run the country much as he has run his company. For himself." Thanks to Unwashed for the link. -- CW 

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/article127231799.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/article127231799.html#storylink=cpy
Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/article127231799.html#storylink=cpy

It's okay if your Cabinet is as diverse as a KKK parade:

Jim Acosta & Jeremy Diamond of CNN: "... Donald Trump picked the final member of his Cabinet on Wednesday, landing on former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to serve as agriculture secretary and in the process locking in an inaugural Cabinet devoid of any Latino representation.... Latinos have served in Cabinet positions in every presidential administration since 1988. But Trump's break with that precedent is even more notable given his divisive and inflammatory rhetoric about Latinos during his presidential campaign." CW: On the plus side, Sonny is fond of taco bowls.

It's Okay if you break federal law:

Team of Scofflaws. Karen Tumulty, et al., of the Washington Post: "Three of Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks came under growing fire Wednesday on ethical issues.... The most serious concerns surround personal investments by Trump’s health and human services nominee, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), in health-care firms that benefited from legislation that he was pushing at the time. Additionally, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Trump’s choice to head the Office of Management and Budget, has acknowledged during his confirmation process that he failed to pay more than $15,000 in state and federal employment taxes for a household employee. And Commerce Department nominee Wilbur Ross revealed that one of the 'dozen or so' housekeepers he has hired since 2009 was undocumented, which he said he discovered only recently. The employee was fired as a result, he added. All of those are the kinds of problems that have torpedoed nominees in the past. But it is far from certain — or even likely — that any of Trump’s nominees will buckle under the political pressure. That is in part because ... [Trump] himself has broken so many norms — notably, by flouting the convention of major-party presidential candidates making their tax returns public and by refusing to sever himself from his financial interests while he is in the White House." -- CW ...

... Elizabeth Warren, in a Washington Post op-ed: "... before we can debate and vote on whether these nominees’ policy positions make them suitable to run important parts of our government, it is critical that each nominee follows basic ethics rules to ensure that they will act for the benefit of all the American people and not simply to boost their bank accounts. The Republican-led Congress wants to brush off these ethics requirements as a mere inconvenience. Failing that, they are willing to intimidate the public servants charged with implementing the rules.... Donald Trump  has thrown out decades of precedent by refusing to release his tax returns or disentangle himself from his business connections. Now his Republican allies in Congress seem content to permit Cabinet nominees to do the same." -- CW 

It's Okay if you're flagrantly corrupt:

... Dana Milbank: "Dr. Tom Price, the orthopedic surgeon tapped by ... Donald Trump to oversee the Department of Health and Human Services, has found a miracle cure for ailing investment portfolios. Price ... bought stock in a maker of joint replacements a week before he introduced legislation that would help the company — which then made a campaign contribution to Price. Nothing to see here, says the Trump team.... Also last year, Price himself bought shares in an Australian immunotherapy company after hearing about it from fellow congressman Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), who is on the company’s board and is a member of Trump’s transition team. Price was included in a private placement of stock not available to the public, and Price’s price was right: His investment is reportedly up 400 percent. Nothing to see here, either, Price told a Senate panel Wednesday...." Read on; Congressional Republicans & Trump officials are knocking themselves out to make sure there are no checks on their corrupt dealings. -- CW ...

... Juliet Eilperin & Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post: "In a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, [Rep. Tom] Price], Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of Health & Human Services,] laid out the central elements of his years-long attempt to replace the ACA along conservative lines. His statement about access to coverage was in sync with widespread GOP thought about promising consumers a chance to get insurance, but he stopped short of Trump’s comments last weekend that he was seeking 'insurance for everybody' in a nearly finished plan.... And while Trump has vowed this past weekend to curb drug prices in Medicare and Medicaid by negotiating directly with pharmaceutical firms, Price shied away from a similar pledge.... The courtesy hearing before the Senate panel marked the first time Price has appeared before lawmakers since being nominated; his formal confirmation hearing, before the Senate Finance Committee, is set for Jan. 24." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Robert Pear & Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "... at a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Mr. Price provided only vague reassurance to members of both parties who pressed him for specific policies. Republicans concluded he was well qualified; Democrats were not satisfied. 'Just days ago, President-elect Trump promised, quote, "insurance for everybody,’” said Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the senior Democrat on the committee. 'But Congressman Price, your own proposals would cause millions of people to lose coverage, force many people to pay more for their care, and leave people with pre-existing conditions vulnerable to insurance companies’ rejecting them or charging them more.'... Mr. Price, 62, also denied impropriety in his trading of stocks in health care and pharmaceutical companies, saying he had left many details to his broker. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that he had traded more than $300,000 worth of shares while promoting legislation that could have affected the companies he owned stock in.” -- CW ...

... Ethics Offices Fires Back at Tom Price. Tal Kopan of CNN: "The Office of Government Ethics Wednesday sent a series of four tweets outlining its procedures examining incoming Trump administration officials -- right in the middle of a contentious Senate hearing about Rep. Tom Price's stock transactions. The OGE tweets did not specifically cite Price.... The tweets came less than an hour after Price ...  defended himself against questions about his stock transactions ... and invoked the ethics office's approval.... Price ... pointed to disclosures he made to OGE that were signed off on in the nomination process.... 'OGE's focus is prevention; IGs investigate potential misconduct & @TheJusticeDept prosecutes criminal violations,' OGE tweeted shortly thereafter. 'OGE oversees the executive branch #ethics program, while Congress & the Courts have their own ethics programs,' they continued. 'OGE does not handle complaints of misconduct. Please learn where & how to report #fed employee misconduct,' the agency wrote, including links to its missions and procedures.... An expert on ethics and former Federal Election Commission general counsel said Price's submission to OGE would not have been scrutinized for past actions." -- CW 

Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "... Donald J. Trump’s choice for White House budget director failed to pay more than $15,000 in payroll taxes for a household employee, he admitted in a statement to the Senate Budget Committee, the sort of tax compliance issue that has derailed cabinet nominees in the past. In a questionnaire provided to the committee, Representative Mick Mulvaney, a conservative from South Carolina and vocal proponent of fiscal restraint noted, 'I have come to learn during the confirmation review process that I failed to pay FICA and federal and state unemployment taxes on a household employee for the years 2000-2004.'... The employee was a babysitter hired when Mr. Mulvaney and his wife had triplets in 2000.... Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said in a prepared statement: “Senator Tom Daschle did the same thing and Republicans insisted that that disqualified him from becoming H.H.S. secretary.... If Tom Daschle couldn’t become a cabinet member for not paying taxes for a household employee, the same standard ought to apply to Mick Mulvaney.”” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

It's Okay if you tell a $100MM-lie on your confirmation "disclosure" form:

Oops, I Forgot. Ylan Mui & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Treasury Department [Steven T. Mnuchininitially failed to disclose his interests in a Cayman Islands corporation as well as more than $100 million in personal assets, according to a memo by Democratic staffers on the Senate Finance Committee that was obtained by The Washington Post.... According to the memo, Mnuchin characterized the missing information as inadvertent mistakes, and he updated his answers to the committee’s questionnaire on Saturday, less than a week before his hearing." -- CW ...

... It's Okay if you prey on ordinary people for your own self-enrichment:

Kevin McCoy of USA Today: "Owners who lost their homes to mortgage foreclosures by [OneWest,] a bank previously run by Steven Mnuchin, urged the Senate on Wednesday to reject his nomination as ... Trump's Treasury secretary. Speaking at a Capitol Hill forum convened by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. —  a frequent Trump critic — the homeowners said OneWest Bank or an affiliate intensified the financial hardships they faced amid the 2008 financial crisis by foreclosing on their homes.... Warren convened the session after reporting that Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, rejected a request to hear the homeowners stories as part of Mnuchin's scheduled confirmation hearing on Thursday.... 'We have labeled OneWest a "foreclosure machine" not only because it foreclosed on more than 60,000 American families and because of its aggressive foreclosure practices, but because it seemed to do little else.' [said Paulina Gonzalez, director of the California Reinvestment Coalition, an advocacy group.]" -- CW ...

(This principle of course applies to the boss, too.) Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Days before ... Donald Trump is set to take the oath to uphold the Constitution, he has ... [paid] $25 million to settle litigation over his defunct Trump University real estate seminar program. Trump University — now known as the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative — transferred the funds Tuesday night, according to two sources involved." -- CW)

It's Okay if you're hilariously ignorant & unfit for the job:

Al Franken questions Betsy DeVos. See related stories linked yesterday.

... Shoot the Grizzlies, Kids! Charlies Pierce: "Simply put, Betsy DeVos has been nominated to be Secretary of Education because she married into the Amway money and spread it around to enough Republican politicians to get them elected so that they would carry out DeVos family enterprise of turning public education over to private profiteers and turning the political commons into a theocratic yard sale open to the highest bidder. She and her family contributed substantial sums to 10 of the 12 Republicans who were sitting on the committee that was vetting her Tuesday night. It was low, insulting burlesque and a revolting dumbshow of the arrogance of monied ignorance. I think we're all going to have to get used to that kind of thing." -- CW 

It's Okay if you take the "Justice" out of "Department of Justice":

Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "... Donald Trump’s nominee to be attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, opposes not only the Justice Department’s specific policies on civil rights but its entire approach. While liberal Democrats have criticized Mr. Sessions’s views on specific issues like gay marriage and voting, the larger difference is how differently the Trump administration will view the government’s role in those areas. Mr. Sessions, a former federal prosecutor, has spoken harshly about lawyers and judges who try to push the law in certain directions — 'a postmodern philosophy that elevates outcomes over law,' he has called it. Congress makes laws, he has said, and he was outraged when Eric H. Holder Jr., the former attorney general, refused to defend a law banning gay marriage and told his state counterparts that they could ethically do the same regarding state bans." -- CW 

It's Okay if you control "the most fearsome weapons on the planet" & you don't know WTF you're doing:

Coral Davenport & David Sanger of the New York Times: "When ... Donald J. Trump offered Rick Perry the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly accepted, believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry that he had long championed in his home state. In the days after, Mr. Perry, the former Texas governor, discovered that he would be no such thing — that in fact, if confirmed by the Senate, he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal.... Mr. Perry, who once called for the elimination of the Energy Department, will begin the confirmation process Thursday with a hearing before the Senate Energy Committee. If approved by the Senate, he will take over from a secretary, Ernest J. Moniz, who was chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics department and directed the linear accelerator at M.I.T.’s Laboratory for Nuclear Science. Before Mr. Moniz, the job belonged to Steven Chu, a physicist who won a Nobel Prize." -- CW ...

     ... Update. Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Oops! Times Runs Fake News Lede. Jesse Singal of New York: "Since Perry told Politico that he looked forward to 'safeguarding our nuclear arsenal' the same day his nomination was announced, it’s very hard to square this with the Times claim that '[i]n the days after' being named, Perry 'discovered that he would … become the steward of a vast national security complex.'” -- CW 

It's Okay if you're the most powerful person on earth -- & you don't know WTF you're doing:

Last night I saw upon the stair,
An undersecretary who wasn't there,
He wasn't there again today
Oh, how I wish he'd go away
. ...

... The Administration That Isn't There. Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg: "There's no Trump appointee for any of the top State Department jobs below secretary nominee Rex Tillerson. No Trump appointee for any of the top Department of Defense jobs below retired general James Mattis. Treasury? Same story. Justice? It is one of two departments (along with, bizarrely, Commerce) where Trump has selected a deputy secretary. But no solicitor general, no one at civil rights, no one in the civil division, no one for the national security division. And the same is true in department after department. Not to mention agencies without anyone at all nominated by [Trump].... Overall, out of 690 positions requiring Senate confirmation tracked by the Washington Post and Partnership for Public Service, Trump has come up with only 28 people so far.... I'd say that [this] failure ... isn't a deliberate choice by Trump; he just has no idea what he's doing, and hasn't surrounded himself with people well-equipped to translate his impulses and his campaign commitments into a full-fledged government." -- CW ...

... Charles Pierce: "Remember, this is the administration that, in a break with tradition, is demanding that career diplomats leave their posts promptly when the Lincoln Bible bursts into flame beneath Trump's hand on Friday. There are going to be an awful lot of phones ringing unanswered by Friday afternoon. Unless, of course, they've all been outsourced to Lubyanka Square." -- CW 

It's Okay if you're a hypocrite:

Aaron Davis & Jenna Portnoy of the Washington Post: "Congressional Republicans are making an aggressive push to gut the District’s progressive policies, introducing bills in recent days to repeal the heavily Democratic city’s gun-control measures, undo its new law allowing physician-assisted suicide and ban the District from using local tax dollars to provide abortions for poor women.... On Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), reintroduced a bill to repeal the District’s gun-control laws, which are among the most restrictive in the nation.... The District’s status as a federal district makes it uniquely vulnerable to the whims of Congress. Unlike in the 50 states, Congress has supreme authority, including veto power over local laws and voter-approved measures. It can even reach in and dictate how local tax money is spent if the president agrees.... The federal district has no voting member of Congress.... D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who represents neighborhoods on Capitol Hill, said ... 'These guys love to argue for local control and rail against big government, but they seem to love big government when it comes to imposing what they believe.'...” -- CW 

AND It's Okay if you blame your wife for your failures & disappointments.

Louis Black previews the inauguration:

... Maura Judkis of the Washington Post: "... it seems increasingly clear that the after-hours revelry will be markedly muted. Not only is Trump hosting only three official balls — far fewer than his predecessors at their first inaugurals — but the spillover festivities appear smaller and fewer. Several of the city’s great halls are going unrented. Far fewer big-name celebrities are headed to town. And while many events are reportedly sold out, others are still looking to fill their rooms." -- CW 

The Washington Post is providing free digital access until the end of day January 21, in celebration, I guess, of a man who hates the paper.

Way Beyond the Beltway

There's This. Matthew Weaver of the Guardian: Julian "Assange welcomed [President] Obama’s decision to free [Chelsea] Manning.... He did not mention a pledge made last week that he would agree to US extradition if Obama granted clemency to Manning.... But Melinda Taylor, who serves on Assange’s legal team, said he would not be going back on his word. “Everything that he has said he’s standing by,” she told the Associated Press. The WikiLeaks Twitter accounted also suggested its founder was ready to go to the US". -- CW ...

Oh, Wait. Then There's This. Joe Uchill of the Hill: "The attorney for Julian Assange said President Obama's commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence does not meet the conditions of the WikiLeaks head's offer to be extradited to the United States if Manning were pardoned. 'Mr. Assange welcomes the announcement that Ms. Manning's sentence will be reduced and she will be released in May, but this is well short of what he sought,' said Barry Pollack, Assange’s U.S.-based attorney, via email. 'Mr. Assange had called for Chelsea Manning to receive clemency and be released immediately.' Assange has not been publicly charged with a crime in the United States, but his legal team believes he may be charged 'under seal,' where charges are kept secret to prevent a suspect from preparing an escape." -- CW