The Wires

Washington Post: "Cheap Chinese caviar is flooding the U.S. market, causing prices to plummet, and with it, the product’s cachet. Wholesale prices have fallen more than 50 percent since 2012, down 13 percent just in the past year. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the import price has gone from $850,000 per ton in January 2012 to $350,000 per ton in November 2018." Mrs. McC: This makes me very happy. I love caviar (I've only had the cheaper kind), but I seldom buy it because of the expense. I have some in the pantry now, but I'm going to check the price at the grocery store now in hopes it's something I can enjoy more often. Status symbol? I couldn't care less.

New York Times: "Pulitzer Prizes were awarded on Monday [April 15] to news organizations that uncovered instances of malfeasance and outright fraud in President Trump’s financial past, a nod to journalists’ perseverance in the face of the president’s ever-sharper attacks on a free press. The New York Times received the explanatory reporting prize for an 18-month investigation that revealed how the future president and his relatives avoided paying roughly half a billion dollars’ worth of taxes. The Wall Street Journal won the national reporting prize for disclosing clandestine payoffs by the president’s associates to two women who were said to have had affairs with Mr. Trump in the weeks before the 2016 election. The South Florida Sun Sentinel won the prize for public service, considered the most prestigious of the Pulitzers, for documenting the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The paper’s in-depth articles revealed a series of failures by local officials and law enforcement that, the paper wrote, cost children their lives."

Medlar's Sports Report. New York Times: "Tiger Woods’s comeback from personal and professional adversity is complete: He captured his fifth Masters title and his 15th major tournament on Sunday, snapping a championship drought of nearly 11 years. It was a monumental triumph for Woods, a magical, come-from-behind win for a player who had not won a major championship since his personal life began to unravel on Thanksgiving night in 2009, when a marital dispute led to a car accident and a succession of lurid tabloid headlines. On the golf course, he had a series of back and leg injuries that led to an addiction to painkillers and culminated in pain so searing that, before surgery in 2017, he had questioned whether he could play professionally again." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Oh yeah? Trump can beat Tiger any day.

Tom Jones of Poynter picks the top 25 movies ever about journalism.

New York Times: "For 340 days, Scott Kelly circled the Earth aboard the International Space Station, gathering data about himself." His twin brother Mark Kelly, planted on Earth, did the same. "On Thursday..., NASA researchers reported that [Scott Kelly's] body experienced a vast number of changes while in orbit. DNA mutated in some of his cells. His immune system produced a host of new signals. His microbiome gained new species of bacteria. Many of these biological changes seemed harmless, disappearing after he returned to Earth. But others — including genetic mutations and, after his return, declines in cognitive test scores — did not correct themselves, provoking concern among scientists."

Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times: now does his first drafts of columns as well as other traditional writing tasks by speaking into his phone. "I open RecUp, a cloud-connected voice-recording app on my phone.... Every few days, I load the recordings into Descript, an app that bills itself as a “word processor for audio.” Some of my voice memos are more than an hour long, but Descript quickly (and cheaply) transcribes the text, truncates the silences and renders my speech editable and searchable.... New advances — like smarter and more ubiquitous voice assistants; better text-to-speech synthesis; easy-to-use audio and video production apps like Descript and Anchor; and gadgets that burrow the internet into your ears, like Apple’s AirPods and Amazon’s reported forthcoming AirPod clones — point to a profound shift in computing. Soon it might be possible to conduct a large slice of digital life, including work, without being glued to a screen."

New York Times: "In a cave in the Philippines, scientists have discovered a new branch of the human family tree. At least 50,000 years ago, an extinct human species lived on what is now the island of Luzon, researchers reported on Wednesday. It’s possible that Homo luzonensis, as they’re calling the species, stood less than three feet tall. The discovery adds growing complexity to the story of human evolution. It was not a simple march forward, as it once seemed. Instead, our lineage assumed an exuberant burst of strange forms along the way.Our species, Homo sapiens, now inhabits a comparatively lonely world. 'The more fossils that people pull out of the ground, the more we realize that the variation that was present in the past far exceeds what we see in us today,' said Matthew Tocheri, a paleoanthropologist at Lakehead University in Canada, who was not involved in the new discovery."

New York Times: "At 9 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, [April 10,] a group of astronomers who run a globe-girdling network of radio telescopes called the Event Horizon Telescope are expected to unveil the first-ever images of a black hole. For some years now, scientific literature, news media and films have featured remarkably sophisticated and academic computer simulations of black holes. If all has gone well, the images today will reveal the real thing, and scientists at last will catch a glimpse of what had seemed unseeable."

      ... Update: "Astronomers announced on Wednesday that at last they had observed the unobserveable: a black hole, a cosmic abyss so deep and dense that not even light can escape it.... To capture the image, astronomers reached across intergalactic space to Messier 87, a giant galaxy in the constellation Virgo. There, a black hole several billion times more massive than the sun is unleashing a violent jet of energy some 5,000 light-years into space."

"A commemorative print from 2008 of Mr. Robbins’s original paint-by-numbers creation in 1950, an abstract still-life. His boss then asked him to make something more representational, and an industry was born." CLICK ON PICTURE TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.New York Times: "Dan Robbins was no Leonardo da Vinci. But he copied one of the master’s basic techniques and thereby enabled children to grow up believing that they, too, could paint 'The Last Supper.' Mr. Robbins, a package designer who died on Monday at 93, helped to conceive what became known as paint by numbers. He copied the idea from Leonardo, who numbered the objects in the background of his paintings and had his apprentices paint them with designated colors. With paint-by-numbers kits, young baby boomers in the 1950s followed the same mechanics as those Renaissance artisans, coloring inside the outlines of images of everything from seascapes and the Matterhorn to kittens and Queen Elizabeth II. The process opened up art to the masses — another notch on the continuum of a limitless democratic American ethos that promised “a chicken in every pot” and 'every man a king.'”

Guardian: "In the 50s, the American art world took itself extremely seriously. Abstract painters such as Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko painted sublime slabs that were praised in hushed voices. Painting-by-numbers may not have been intended as a parody of this modernist reverence – but it sure looked that way. Robbins designed quaint scenes of farmhouses and mountain valleys that anyone could complete – they were good, solid pictures for good, solid middle-American homes. Yet the relationship between painting-by-numbers and modern art is more complicated than it looks. The earliest kit Robbins devised was a cubist still life in the style of Picasso, for the sharp planes of colour were, he said, easy to adapt. He called it Abstract No 1. It was his boss at the Palmer paint company in Detroit, where he worked as a package designer, who insisted he create homely American scenes instead. Robbins was thrilled when, as he remembered: 'Someone entered a completed Abstract No 1 in an art show and won. The judges were quite embarrassed, but the prize resulted in lots of debate about the concept of art …'”

NBC News: “Researchers who used DNA to identify ... the bones [of] Casimir Pulaski, hero of the Revolutionary War and the pride of the Polish-American community..., are convinced the gallant Pole who died fighting for America’s freedom was either a biological woman who lived as a man, or potentially was intersex, meaning a person whose body doesn’t fit the standard definitions of male or female. That’s the eye-opening takeaway from a new Smithsonian Channel documentary titled 'The General Was Female?,' which premieres Monday and is part of the 'America’s Hidden Stories' series.”

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

Friday
Apr192019

The Commentariat -- April 20, 2019

Trump Can't Handle the Truth

Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Before we get started today, it is worth pointing out how remarkable the obstruction-of-justice part of Mueller's report is, inasmuch as obstruction was not specifically part of Mueller's mandate. In his order appointing Mueller as special counsel, Rod Rosenstein wrote that the special counsel was to investigate "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and ... any matters than arose or may arise directly from the investigation." The entire obstruction part of Mueller's final report therefore is a matter "arising from the investigation." Were Mueller as by-the-book as nearly everyone describes him, he could have conducted a narrow investigation that ignored Trump's many "obstructive acts" altogether. In all of the coverage of the Mueller report over the past two days, I haven't heard or read a single recollection of Rosenstein's directive.

Peter Baker & Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "... Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts became the most prominent Democrat to call for impeachment. But most Republican lawmakers remained silent on the report, meaning any effort to force Mr. Trump from office faced long odds.... One of the exceptions was Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who said he was' appalled' that the president's campaign welcomed help from Russia.While Mr. Trump had initially greeted the report as an exoneration, he spent at least part of the day in Florida stewing about disloyal aides who talked with investigators and sounded more defensive than celebratory.... The subpoena issued on Friday by Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, escalated a fight with Mr. Barr.... Mr. Nadler asked for all evidence obtained by Mr. Mueller's investigators, including summaries of witness interviews and classified intelligence -- and indicated that he intended to air it to the public.... '... Congressman Nadler's subpoena is premature and unnecessary,' said Kerri Kupec, a [DOJ] spokeswoman." (More on Nadler's subpoena linked below.) ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: In several tweets, Trump goes after the media. Here's one: "The Washington Post and New York Times are, in my opinion, two of the most dishonest media outlets around. Truly, the Enemy of the People!" Rachel Maddow pointed to daily newspapers across the country, many of which ran banner headlines featuring Mueller's findings on obstruction. I guess journalists, editors, & headline writers are all "dishonest." And let's point out that it isn't up to Bill Barr to decide what Congress finds "necessary." If the Judiciary Committee wishes to pursue an investigation of Trump's bad acts, it must have all documentation available, not just Mueller's conclusions. It would be irresponsible to rely on a report of the facts without actually having seen the facts contained in supporting documents. Barr's refusal to fully cooperate with Congress is, IMO, an impeachable act of obstruction.

So the Whiny Baby Sonata in B Flat Begins. Caitlin Oprysko of Politico: “... Donald Trump on Friday called 'total bullshit' on the damaging information his former aides offered to special counsel Robert Mueller, suggesting investigators skewed his staffers' words and that some of his aides just wanted to make him look bad. 'Statements are made about me by certain people in the Crazy Mueller Report, in itself written by 18 Angry Democrat Trump Haters, which are fabricated & totally untrue. Watch out for people that take so-called "notes," when the notes never existed until needed,' he wrote in a string of tweets. Trump complained that he was unable to push back on the claims made by his aides in Mueller's report because of his decision not to sit down with Mueller in person. He also suggested he was unfairly thrown under the bus by those who had spoken freely to investigators. 'Because I never agreed to testify, it was not necessary for me to respond to statements made in the 'Report' about me, some of which are total bullshit & only given to make the other person look good (or me to look bad),' he continued in another tweet.... In one tweet, which trails off and has not been completed by Trump, he condemned the investigation once more as an 'Illegally Started Hoax that never should have happened.'" (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Baker & Fandos write that Trump finished the "thought" eight hours later: "'...big, fat waste of time, energy and money.' He went on to vow to go after his pursuers, whom he called 'some very sick and dangerous people who have committed very serious crimes, perhaps even Spying or Treason.'" ...

... Maggie Haberman of the NYT points out in a tweet that the aides who spoke candidly to investigators because the White House told them to do so now are "facing Trump's wrath for a position the WH put them in." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Isn't it sad when everybody lies except the guy who's told nearly 10,000 lies since taking office a couple of years ago? Gosh, I hope Trumpelthinskin doesn't, like, get so enraged he tears himself in half. Oops. My mistake. Turns out Trump started whining yesterday:

... Matthew Choi of Politico: "'I had the right to end the whole Witch Hunt if I wanted,' Trump wrote on Twitter [Thursday afternoon]. 'I could have fired everyone, including Mueller, if I wanted. I chose not to. I had the RIGHT to use Executive Privilege. I didn't!'... In a separate tweet later Thursday, Trump continued distancing himself from Russian interference in the election, saying it occurred while Barack Obama was president. Trump falsely said Obama did not respond to the threats of Russian meddling, though the FBI did investigate links between Russia and Trump months before the election. 'Anything the Russians did concerning the 2016 Election was done while Obama was President,' he wrote. 'He was told about it and did nothing! Most importantly, the vote was not affected.'" (Also linked yesterday.)

Mrs. McCrabbie: It's pretty clear that as late as the day before the Mueller report's public release, Trump still didn't understand that the report would shred him. He told a confederate radio host Wednesday, "You'll see a lot of very strong things come out tomorrow. Attorney General Barr is going to be giving a press conference. Maybe I'll do one after that; we'll see." I'd guess the White House sycophants were pushing the fantasy of a rose-colored (as opposed to multi-color-coded) report so they might enjoy one last day of relative calm before the predictable Trumperstorm, a storm which, BTW, is taking place off-site in Florida on a holiday weekend far away from most White House staff. ...

... Shannon Pettypiece & Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg News: "After musing that he might hold a news conference the day before [Bill Barr released the Mueller report, Donald Trump] took no questions from reporters. [Melania Trump discouraged him from stopping for his customary chopper chat as they left for Florida Thursday, & Trump took that advice.]... At Palm Beach International Airport Thursday evening..., he again ignored questions shouted by reporters traveling with him. He golfed with Rush Limbaugh on Friday.... Trump's legal team issued an initial statement on Mueller's report but decided not to publish a fuller counter-report they had spent months compiling to rebut the special counsel.... The president's irritation grew as he watched coverage of the report Friday morning. He and his allies are particularly angry with former White House Counsel Don McGahn and former Staff Secretary Rob Porter, both of whom spoke extensively with Mueller. Many of the events Mueller chronicled were reported contemporaneously in the news media and declared 'fake news' by the president at the time. That claim is less credible following the Justice Department's release of Mueller's report, since people he interviewed could be charged wit perjury if they weren't truthful. Many of them corroborated their accounts with notes or other materials." ...

... Retribution. Nancy Cook of Politico: "The Trump campaign has hired its own in-house attorney for its 2020 reelection bid -- shifting future business away from Jones Day, the law firm, that has represented Trump since his first run for president.... Close Trump advisers say the decision also stems from disappointment with the White House's former top attorney and current Jones Day partner, Don McGahn.... Taking business away from Jones Day is payback, these advisers say, for McGahn's soured relationship with the Trump family and a handful articles in high-profile newspapers that the family blames, unfairly or not, on the former White House counsel.... The Mueller report ... seems only to have fueled Trump's anger. It portrayed McGahn as one of the key officials who stopped Trump from taking actions that might be deemed to have obstructed justice. In one especially colorful passage, McGahn is quoted as saying that the president had asked him to do 'crazy shit.' In another, Trump berates his White House counsel for taking too many notes, comparing him unfavorably to his longtime consigilere, the late Roy Cohn. On Friday, Trump seemed to take aim at McGahn on Twitter, writing, 'Watch out for people that take so-called "notes," when the notes never existed until needed.' The decision to shift law firms has been in the works for weeks, however, and predates release of the Mueller report."

Rebecca Shabad of NBC News: "House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., on Friday subpoenaed the Justice Department for the full, unredacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report as well as the underlying evidence. In a statement, Nadler said that the Justice Department must comply by May 1." (Also linked yesterday.)

Chris Kahn of Reuters: "The number of Americans who approve of ... Donald Trump dropped by 3 percentage points to the lowest level of the year following the release of a special counsel report detailing Russian interference in the last U.S. presidential election, according to an exclusive Reuters/Ipsos public opinion poll.... According to the poll, 37 percent of adults in the United States approved of Trump's performance in office, down from 40 percent in a similar poll conducted on April 15 and matching the lowest level of the year. That is also down from 43 percent in a poll conducted shortly after U.S. Attorney General William Barr circulated a [Mrs McC: fake] summary of the report in March."

Sanders Defends Her Own Lies. Annie Karni & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "After admitting to investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, that she delivered a false statement from the White House podium, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, defended herself in Trumpian fashion on Friday morning. She counterattacked.... Some of Mr. Trump's aides and allies acknowledged on Friday that it was problematic for the president's chief spokeswoman to spend airtime defending her own credibility. But White House officials -- some of whom think Ms. Sanders is taking an unfair beating in the press -- do not expect Mr. Trump to be fazed by the controversy. Unlike previous administrations, in which officials feared blows to their credibility in public, Mr. Trump's press aides are generally performing for an audience of one -- the president." ...

... Jonathan Chait: Caught in several lies by Mueller's team, Sarah Sanders can't stop lying. "Appearing on CBS This Morning, Sanders was asked, if the lie [about countless FBI personnel calling her to say how glad they were Trump dumped Comey] was a slip of the tongue, what did she mean to say? Sanders refused to answer, instead dissembling: 'Look, I've acknowledged that the word "countless" was a slip of the tongue. But it's no secret that a number of FBI, both current and former, agreed with the president's decision.' Pressed about the lie on ABC, Sanders kept repeating that the statements were made 'in the heat of the moment.' George Stephanopoulos noted that she repeated the same lie twice the next day." Mrs. McC: I'll bet every hound dog Mike Huckabee ever had was a voracious homework-eater. (Also linked yesterday.)

Katie Benner & Adam Goldman of the New York Times: "The long-awaited report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, released on Thursday painted a portrait of law enforcement leaders more fiercely under siege than previously known. They struggled to navigate Mr. Trump's apparent disregard for their mission through a mix of threats to resign, quiet defiance and capitulation to some presidential demands. While their willingness to stay quiet might have protected their institutions, it also helped empower Mr. Trump to continue his attacks.... The president sought to undermine the Justice Department's leaders and thwart the Russia investigation from his first days in office. He demanded that Mr. Comey publicly say that he was not under investigation, and he asked Dana J. Boente, who was briefly the acting attorney general before Mr. Sessions was confirmed in February 2017, to let him know whether the F.B.I. was investigating the White House, according to the special counsel's report."

Michael Daly of the Daily Beast: "In a morning press conference before the release [of the Mueller report], Attorney General William Barr [said]..., 'I would also like to thank Special Counsel Mueller for his service and the thoroughness of his investigation, particularly his work exposing the nature of Russia's attempts to interfere in our electoral process.'... A few breaths later, Barr committed one of the great public betrayals of our history. The country's most senior law enforcement officer actually sought to justify President Trump's mendacious attacks against Mueller.... 'As the special counsel's report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the president was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks,' Barr said. In fact, the report acknowledges no such thing.... [Mueller's] one mistake was to trust his supposed friend Barr." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Barr has been an ass throughout his terms of government service, and his assholery always has been in the direction of helping his boss dishonor the nation (see Bush, George H.W.). When that boss is Donald Trump, "helping" means throwing his own friends under the proverbial bus. In this, we see the Trumpification of a Lifelong Ass.

Mitt Romney Only GOP Senator Who Read Mueller Report. Marianne Levine & Katie Galioto of Politico: "Sen. Mitt Romney said Friday that he was 'sickened' by ... Donald Trump's actions described in ... Robert Mueller's report. In a statement, the Utah Republican said that while it was 'good news' there was not enough evidence to bring criminal charges related to conspiring with Russia and that there was no conclusion of obstruction of justice, he blasted the White House and Trump campaign officials for their actions.... 'I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the President,' Romney said. 'I am also appalled that, among other things fellow citizens working in a campaign for president welcomed help from Russia.... Reading the report is a sobering revelation of how far we have strayed from the aspirations and principles of the founders,' Romney said. The Utah Republican broke ranks with much of his party in condemning Trump.... Like his GOP colleagues, however, Romney called for the government to move on now that the 22-month probe has concluded." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Yeah, that's right, Mittsky. You know the POTUS* engages in treacherous behavior on a daily basis, but let's forget about it. Apparently, Trump's nefarious activity is something else best discussed in "quiet rooms." ...

     ... Also, too, how sad that Romney must then face pushback like this: "Know what makes me sick, Mitt? Not how disingenuous you were to take @realDonaldTrump $$ and then 4 yrs later jealously trash him & then love him again when you begged to be Sec of State, but makes me sick that you got GOP nomination and could have been @POTUS," [former governor, fake-cures-huckster & Mrs. Liarbee's dad Mike] Huckabee tweeted. ...

... Okay, Susan Collins Read the Report. Jordain Carney of the Hill: "Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Friday that ... Robert Mueller's report gives an 'unflattering portrayal' of President Trump, including an effort to oust the former FBI director from his special counsel role." Mrs. McC: Wow, Susan. Very tough! Maybe Mueller should have been more gracious.

New York Times Editors: "... the real danger that the Mueller report reveals is not of a president who knowingly or unknowingly let a hostile power do dirty tricks on his behalf, but of a president who refuses to see that he has been used to damage American democracy and national security."

Consevo-columnist David French in Time: The Mueller report "takes the traits we already knew [Trump] exhibited -- his mendacity, his propensity to surround himself with crooks and grifters, and his single-minded self-focus -- and places them in the context of a sweeping narrative about a presidential campaign and presidency devoid of ethics, honor or even strength. The stories paint a picture of a president who is both petty and small.... When ... Donald Junior learned that the New York Times was about to break the news of his now-infamous June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower with Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya, his first instinct was to come clean.... But his father said no.... Donald Jr. complied and misled America.... President Trump threw his son under the bus. He made his son transmit his own deceptions.... It's difficult to overestimate the extent to which Trump's appeal to his core supporters is built around the notion that ... he possesses a core strength.... But now, thanks to the Mueller report, his 'fights' look more like temper tantrums.... President Trump is weak -- too weak even to commit the acts of obstruction he desired." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: One example: Trump's insistence that Corey Lewandowski, who was a private citizen, deliver a message to Jeff Sessions ordering Sessions to "unrecuse" himself from the Russia investigation, then change the special counsel's mandate to cover only "future election interference." Lewandowski was to tell Sessions he would be fired if he didn't carry out this bizarre order. When Lewandowski failed to make contact with Sessions, Trump ordered him to try again. Why didn't Trump call Sessions directly? Or Rosenstein -- and tell him to change Mueller's job? Did Trump think that no one would notice his own fingerprints on the note if somebody else was the messenger? Was he planning to make Lewandowski the fall guy? Lewandowski probably thought so. This is so Stupid Mob Boss-y. And, as French points out, so lame.

Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times: "It’s a national disgrace that Trump sleeps in the White House instead of a federal prison cell, but it has been a while since I had any expectation that the special counsel Robert Mueller's findings ... could set things right.... Several weeks before Trump was inaugurated, America's intelligence agencies reported that Russia had engaged in cyberoperations to help him win. In the months that followed, there was one staggering revelation after another about secret conversations between Trump's circle and various figures linked to Russian intelligence. At the same time, the new administration unleashed on the public a degrading cacophony of lies, of the sort many of us associate with authoritarian countries like Russia.... Mueller has given us the truth of what Trump has done, and in that sense the hokey faith the Resistance put in him was not misplaced. But right now only a political fight can make that truth matter."

Adrienne Varkiani of ThinkProgress: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on Friday called on the House to begin impeachment proceedings against ... Donald Trump, joining fellow 2020 presidential candidate Julián Castro, who said he supported the idea earlier in the afternoon." ...

... Greg Sargent of the Washington Post: "As the political world digests the shocking scale of corruption, misconduct and skirting of criminality detailed in the Mueller report, Democrats have been pushing back on the idea that it's time to initiate an inquiry into the impeachment of President Trump. But there's a key tell lurking in all this pushback: Democrats are not seriously arguing that all the misconduct that has now come to light does not merit an impeachment inquiry. This is creating a situation that's shaping up as a moral and political disaster. Yet there&'s no indication that Democrats are reckoning with the problems this poses. This, even though the basic dynamics of the situation strongly suggest that initiating an inquiry will grow harder to resist over time, not easier.... Democrats [have put themselves] in the impossible position of hoping the case for impeachment weakens, while simultaneously moving aggressively to establish more wrongdoing, which would strengthen that case." Sargent reviews -- and knocks down -- Democrats' lame excuses for not opening an impeachment inquiry, noting that their dithering only emboldens Trump to do more harm. ...

... ** Alex Pareene in the New Republic: "Democrats who preemptively declare impeachment off the table are mistakenly (or intentionally) conflating one possible end result of the impeachment process for the process itself. What [House Majority Leader Steny] Hoyer [who said Thursday that impeachment wasn't 'worthwhile'] and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (who ruled out impeachment well before anyone read the Mueller Report) want is to write op-eds about how many bills they are passing, despite the fact that those bills (like, uh, impeachment) will never get through the Senate. Democratic leadership seemingly believes that the party can't let its candidates campaign on promises to materially improve the lives of voters while also letting its elected officials carry out the responsibilities of their offices. They also believe, deep in their bones, that the country is not on their side.... Once again, we can celebrate a modern example of bipartisanship: a deep conviction, on both sides, that the only legitimate force in American politics is white grievance." ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: Like about 12 other Americans, I favored the House's impeachment of Bill Clinton but not necessarily his conviction in the Senate. I thought his behavior was despicable and that he should pay for it with more than a cold shoulder from his wife, although I'll admit that the Starr report was pretty good payback. If the Senate had convicted Clinton, we might never have been stuck with President Dubya. Clinton's bad behavior was personal in nature; Trump has engaged in hundreds of acts of public malfeasance, constantly putting himself before the nation's interests, constantly undermining the rule of law & constantly engaging in dangerous national security breaches. Trump's behavior is far, far more impeachable than that time Lewinsky gave Clinton a blow job while he was on the phone to Yasser Arafat. Pelosi's tut-tuts and committee hearings are not enough.

What's wrong with this picture? "Nothing," says the French ambassador to the U.S.Julian Borger of the Guardian: "The outgoing French ambassador to the US has compared the Trump administration to the court of King Louis XIV, filled with courtiers trying to interpret the caprices of a 'whimsical, unpredictable, uninformed' leader. Gérard Araud, who retires on Friday after a 37-year career that included some of the top jobs in French diplomacy, said Donald Trump's unpredictability and his single-minded transactional interpretation of US interests was leaving the administration isolated on the world stage." (Also linked yesterday.)

What Are MOCs up to Today?

Aris Folley of the Hill: "Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) still has plans to visit Kentucky despite one of her GOP colleagues walking back an invitation for her to visit his district. A spokesman for Ocasio-Cortez told CNN on Friday that the congresswoman has since received another invite to visit the state and plans to follow through on the offer. 'Luckily, we still have open borders with Kentucky, we are free to travel there,' the spokesman, Corbin Trent, said. 'We hope to visit and have a town hall, listen to concerns of workers in Kentucky,' he added." Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) had invited Ocasio-Cortez to meet with coal miners in his district, but when she accepted his invitation, he seems to have realized that the miners might actually like her ideas, so he dreamed up an excuse to disinvite her.

Gaetz "Very Proud" to Hire White Supremacist. Sarah Ferris of Politico: "Rep. Matt Gaetz -- one of ... Donald Trump's most avid supporters in Congress -- has hired a former White House speechwriter who was forced out last year amid scrutiny over his ties to white nationalists. The Florida Republican announced Friday that former Trump administration aide, Darren Beattie, will join his Capitol Hill office. 'Very proud to have the talented Dr. Darren Beattie helping our team as a Special Advisor for Speechwriting. Welcome on board!' Gaetz tweeted Friday. Beattie was fired from the White House in August 2018 after reports that he had delivered remarks at a 2016 conference, dubbed an 'active hate group' by the Southern Poverty Law Center, alongside a well-known white nationalist, Richard Spencer."

Hunter Fakes Easy Mexican Crossing in Violation of Parole. Ken Stone of the Times of San Diego: "Rep. Duncan Hunter [R-Indicted] posted a video Thursday showing himself at the 'grand border wall in Yuma, Arizona.' He says: 'It looks pretty tough to cross. Let me see if I can do it.' He swings his legs over a horizontal rail less than waist high and declares: 'There you go. That's how easy it is to cross the border in Yuma, Arizona.' Only he didn't. The actual U.S.-Mexico border is the Colorado River 75-100 feet away, said a Border Patrol spokesman. In any case, Hunter's Facebook clip caught the eye of Ammar Campa-Najjar, the Democrat making a second run against the indicted Republican in the 50th Congressional District. Thursday, Campa-Najjar sent Times of San Diego email with the subject line: 'Hunter breaks the law violates parol,' meaning parole.... In August, federal Judge William Gallo set terms of Hunter and his wife's release on bail in their campaign spending case, including an order not to leave the continental United States or travel to Mexico." Mrs. McC: Lying about border security is a must for every indicted Republican.

Thursday
Apr182019

The Commentariat -- April 19, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

So the Whiny Baby Sonata in B Flat Begins. Caitlin Oprysko of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Friday called 'total bullshit' on the damaging information his former aides offered to special counsel Robert Mueller, suggesting investigators skewed his staffers' words and that some of his aides just wanted to make him look bad. 'Statements are made about me by certain people in the Crazy Mueller Report, in itself written by 18 Angry Democrat Trump Haters, which are fabricated & totally untrue. Watch out for people that take so-called "notes," when the notes never existed until needed,' he wrote in a string of tweets. Trump complained that he was unable to push back on the claims made by his aides in Mueller's report because of his decision not to sit down with Mueller in person. He also suggested he was unfairly thrown under the bus by those who had spoken freely to investigators. 'Because I never agreed to testify, it was not necessary for me to respond to statements made in the 'Report' about me, some of which are total bullshit & only given to make the other person look good (or me to look bad),' he continued in another tweet.... In one tweet, which trails off and has not been completed by Trump, he condemned the investigation once more as an 'Illegally Started Hoax that never should have happened.'" ...

... Maggie Haberman of the NYT points out in a tweet that the aides who spoke candidly to investigators because the White House told them to do so now are "facing Trump's wrath for a position the WH put them in." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Isn't it sad when everybody lies except the guy who's told nearly 10,000 lies since taking office a couple of years ago? Gosh, I hope Trumpelthinskin doesn't, like, get so enraged he tears himself in half. Oops. My mistake. Turns out Trump started whining yesterday:

... Matthew Choi of Politico: "'I had the right to end the whole Witch Hunt if I wanted,' Trump wrote on Twitter [Thursday afternoon]. 'I could have fired everyone, including Mueller, if I wanted. I chose not to. I had the RIGHT to use Executive Privilege. I didn't!'... In a separate tweet later Thursday, Trump continued distancing himself from Russian interference in the election, saying it occurred while Barack Obama was president. Trump falsely said Obama did not respond to the threats of Russian meddling, though the FBI did investigate links between Russia and Trump months before the election. 'Anything the Russians did concerning the 2016 Election was done while Obama was President,' he wrote. 'He was told about it and did nothing! Most importantly, the vote was not affected.'"

Jonathan Chait: Caught in several lies by Mueller's team, Sarah Sanders can't stop lying. "Appearing on CBS This Morning, Sanders was asked, if the lie [about countless FBI personnel calling her to say how glad they were Trump dumped Comey] was a slip of the tongue, what did she mean to say? Sanders refused to answer, instead dissembling: 'Look, I've acknowledged that the word "countless" was a slip of the tongue. But it's no secret that a number of FBI, both current and former, agreed with the president's decision.' Pressed about the lie on ABC, Sanders kept repeating that the statements were made 'in the heat of the moment.' George Stephanopoulos noted that she repeated the same lie twice the next day." Mrs. McC: I'll bet every hound dog Mike Huckabee ever had was a voracious homework-eater.

Rebecca Shabad of NBC News: "House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., on Friday subpoenaed the Justice Department for the full, unredacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report as well as the underlying evidence. In a statement, Nadler said that the Justice Department must comply by May 1."

Julian Borger of the Guardian: "The outgoing French ambassador to the US has compared the Trump administration to the court of King Louis XIV, filled with courtiers trying to interpret the caprices of a 'whimsical, unpredictable, uninformed' leader. Gérard Araud, who retires on Friday after a 37-year career that included some of the top jobs in French diplomacy, said Donald Trump's unpredictability and his single-minded transactional interpretation of US interests was leaving the administration isolated on the world stage."

~~~~~~~~~~

Over to You, Nancy

Oh, my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm fucked. -- Donald Trump, upon learning that a special counsel would investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election

Here's the DOJ's pdf of the Mueller report. (Also linked yesterday.)

Here's a pdf of the report, via the Washington Post. (Also linked yesterday.)

NBC News has a copy of the report here. (Also linked yesterday.)

Washington Post: "A team of Post reporters will be reading the redacted Mueller report.... This page will update frequently with key findings as we go through the document." (Also linked yesterday.)

The New York Times is live-updating developments in the redacted Mueller report release. (Also linked yesterday.)

Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times: "Robert S. Mueller III revealed a frantic, monthslong effort by President Trump to thwart the investigation into Russia's 2016 election interference, cataloging in a report released on Thursday the attempts by Mr. Trump to escape an inquiry that imperiled his presidency from the start. The much-anticipated report laid out how a team of prosecutors working for Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, wrestled with whether the president's actions added up to an indictable offense of obstruction of justice for a sitting president. They ultimately decided not to charge Mr. Trump, citing numerous legal and factual constraints, but pointedly declined to exonerate him.... The report found numerous contacts between Trump campaign advisers and Russians in the months before and after the election -- meetings in pursuit of business deals, policy initiatives and political dirt about Hillary Clinton -- but said there was 'insufficient evidence' to establish that there had been a criminal conspiracy.... The report ... lays bare how Mr. Trump was elected with the help of a foreign power. When a federal inquiry was started to investigate the Russian effort, he took numerous steps to try to undermine it.... It is a far more damning portrayal of his behavior than the one presented ... by Attorney General William P. Barr."

Devlin Barrett & Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "The long-awaited report from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III details abundant evidence against President Trump, finding 10 episodes of potential obstruction but ultimately concluding it was not Mueller's role to determine whether the commander in chief broke the law.... Trump submitted written answers to investigators. The special counsel's office considered them 'inadequate' but did not press for an interview with him because doing so would cause a 'substantial delay,' the report says.... Investigators paint an unflattering portrait of a president who believes the Justice Department and the FBI should answer to his orders.... Repeatedly, it appears Trump may have been saved from more serious legal jeopardy because his own staffers refused to carry out orders they thought were problematic or potentially illegal.... Mueller made abundantly clear: Russia wanted to help the Trump campaign, and the Trump campaign was willing to take it.... The report detailed a timeline of contacts between the Trump campaign and those with Russian ties -- much of it already known, but some of it new." ...

Plenty of people are in prison for what they planned, not for what they did. -- Akhilleus, at the top of today's thread

Michael Schmidt & Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "Mr. Mueller's team systematically dissected and repudiated ... arguments [that a president* cannot obstruct justice], concluding over more than a dozen of the report's 448 pages that obstruction laws did indeed limit how Mr. Trump could use his presidential powers. 'The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the president's corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law,' they wrote.... The special counsel's rationale left the door open to the possibility that after Mr. Trump leaves office, prosecutors could re-examine the evidence Mr. Mueller gathered and charge the president.... The stark difference between Mr. Mueller's rationale and the impression Mr. Barr had created last month was a central takeaway from Mr. Mueller's report.... Mr. Barr wrote that Mr. Mueller had cited 'difficult issues' of law and fact preventing him from deciding the obstruction question.... In fact..., the special counsel cited those 'difficult issues' as preventing him from exonerating the president of illegal obstruction -- not as preventing him from accusing Mr. Trump of that crime.... Mr. Mueller decided it would be unfair to analyze the evidence for now because it created the risk that he would conclude that Mr. Trump committed a crime with no possibility of a speedy trial to resolve whether that was true."

Shane Harris of the Washington Post: "President Trump pushed for obtaining Democratic rival Hillary Clinton's private emails, and his campaign was in touch with allies who were pursuing them, according to the redacted special counsel's report released Thursday. On July 27, 2016, Trump famously said at a campaign rally, 'Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,' referring to emails that Clinton said she had deleted from her private server.... Trump also 'made this request repeatedly' during the campaign, former national security adviser Michael Flynn told ... Robert S. Mueller III's investigation. Flynn 'contacted multiple people in an effort to obtain the emails,' including Peter Smith, a longtime Republican operative, and Barbara Ledeen, a Republican Senate staffer [to Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)] who herself had previously tried to find the emails.... Erik Prince, the private military contractor, Trump supporter and brother of current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, 'provided funding to hire a tech adviser to ascertain the authenticity of the emails' [which Ledeen acquired. The adviser ultimately concluded Ledeen's emails were fake.]"

Eric Lach of the New Yorker: "It's long been known that Trump refused to sit down for an in-person interview with Mueller, and that he opted to answer some written questions from the special counsel instead.The newly released Mueller report reveals what those questions and answers were, and what Mueller made of them. The short version is: the questions pertained to a pretty narrow set of topics, and Mueller was pretty unsatisfied with Trump's answers.... 'We noted, among other things, that the President stated on more than 30 occasions that he "does not 'recall' or 'remember' or have an 'independent recollection'" of information called for by the questions. Other answers were 'incomplete or imprecise.'"' Mueller's team again asked for an in-person interview with the President. Trump said no." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Some enterprising reporter should ask Trump about his answers. If you have a "very good brain," why is it you can't remember anything?... Or were you lying under oath, Mr. President*?

Yoni Appelbaum of the Atlantic: The Mueller report's "most important implication can be summarized in a single sentence: There is sufficient evidence that ... Donald Trump obstructed justice to merit impeachment hearings.... The Mueller report, in short, is an impeachment referral.... [Mueller reasoned that] because a sitting president cannot be indicted, making such a charge publicly would effectively deny Trump his day in court, and the chance to clear his name.... The president ... deserves a chance to clear his name. The public deserves a chance to examine the evidence against him. And his supporters and opponents alike deserve the clarity that only convening impeachment hearings can now provide."

Noah Bookbinder in a New York Times op-ed: "The final report by ...l Robert Mueller is devastating for the president.... The report makes clear that the president's obstruction of the F.B.I. and special counsel investigations crossed constitutional boundaries that could have merited criminal prosecution, if not for the Justice Department's policy against indicting sitting presidents. Mr. Mueller's report notes that his office explicitly considered absolving the president of obstruction of justice, but emphatically chose not to. Instead, Mr. Mueller laid out 181 pages detailing the substantial evidence that Mr. Trump obstructed justice. His team also concluded that even if legal constraints prevented them from seeking to indict a sitting president for obstruction of justice, 'Congress has authority to prohibit a president's corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice.' Far from ending the matter, the Mueller report is an unmistakable act of deference to Congress's primary jurisdiction over accountability for the president. The House Judiciary Committee must now pick up where Mr. Mueller left off and begin holding proceedings to determine whether Mr. Trump abused the powers of his office."

MEANWHILE, at the Conway House, George & Kellyanne Discuss the Mueller Report:

     ... The President has the right to fire any of us at any moment. He showed his right ... his constitutional right, by firing Jim Comey. He could have fired Mueller. He could have fired McGahn, Sessions, Kellyanne Conway. He didn't do that. -- Kellyanne Conway, yesterday

     ... George Conway, in a Washington Post op-ed: "So it turns out that, indeed, President Trump was not exonerated at all, and certainly not 'totally' or 'completely,' as he claimed.... By taking the presidential oath of office, a president assumes the duty not simply to obey the laws, civil and criminal..., but also to be subjected to higher duties -- what some excellent recent legal scholarship has termed the 'fiduciary obligations of the president.'... The facts in Mueller's report condemn Trump even more than the report's refusal to clear him of a crime.... Mueller's investigation 'found multiple acts by the President that were capable of executing undue influence over law enforcement investigations.'... Nixon was mostly passive -- at least compared with Trump. For the most part, the Watergate tapes showed that Nixon had 'acquiesced in the cover-up' after the fact.... Trump, on the other hand, was a one-man show.... The investigation that Trump tried to interfere with here, to protect his own personal interests, was in significant part an investigation of how a hostile foreign power interfered with our democracy. If that's not putting personal interests above a presidential duty to the nation, nothing is." ...

New York Times "reporters uncovered the biggest findings and shared excerpts and analysis."

Julia Ainsley of NBC News pointed out that, contrary to Barr's contention this morning, (on p. 381 & elsewhere), Mueller invites the Congress to investigate impeachment of the President*, saying that while the Mueller team didn't reach conclusions on criminality, the findings invite Congress to do so. (Barr claimed that determining Trump's guilt or innocence was his job.) Update: Neil Katyal find Mueller's invitation to Congress right on page 2 (of part 2). Glenn Kirschner puts the two pages together & concludes that Mueller decided that since he could not bring charges against Trump under DOJ policies, but the Congress can find wrongdoing. Joyce Vance also views the report as "a roadmap to impeachment." Over to you, Nancy. ...

     ... Several reporters have found Mueller complaining about lack of cooperation from Trump & the White House, contrary again to Barr's false claim that the the President* was totally cooperative. Rep. Eric Swalwell is calling for Barr to resign. I hope that at least, next time Barr lumbers up to the Hill that Democrats harangue him over his lies about the report.

Mrs. McCrabbie: One of the big takeaways from the report, IMO, is that Trump proved that obstruction works. Trump's unwillingness to cooperate & his subordinates' & associates' willingness to lie (and I heard on teevee, destroy documents), meant the Mueller team could not nail down a campaign-Russia conspiracy. The report itself says that all the lies & obfuscation "materially impaired" the investigation. For instance, Mueller could not determine whether or not Trump knew about the Trump Tower "adoption" meeting because he couldn't obtain "documentary proof" of it. He couldn't establish Trump's "state of mind" vis-a-vis Comey's firing, because Trump "couldn't remember" squat. This is why Barr's contention that you can prove obstruction without proving the underlying case doesn't make sense (and therefore is not the law). The greater the obstruction, the lesser the ability to prove the case-in-chief.

CBS News reporters are sifting through the report & reporting its "highlights" here. (Also linked yesterday.)

"This Is the End of My Presidency. I'm Fucked." Peter Baker & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: the appointment of Robert Mueller "has not been the end of his presidency, but it has come to consume it. Although the resulting two-year investigation ended without charges against Mr. Trump, Mr. Mueller's report painted a damning portrait of a White House dominated by a president desperate to thwart the inquiry only to be restrained by aides equally desperate to thwart his orders. The White House that emerges from more than 400 pages of Mr. Mueller's report is a hotbed of conflict infused by a culture of dishonesty -- defined by a president who lies to the public and his own staff, then tries to get his aides to lie for him. Mr. Trump repeatedly threatened to fire lieutenants who did not carry out his wishes while they repeatedly threatened to resign rather than cross lines of propriety or law. At one juncture after another, Mr. Trump made his troubles worse, giving in to anger and grievance and lashing out in ways that turned advisers into witnesses against him." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The one & only good thing to come out of the Trump presidency: the Gray Lady printed the word "fucked." Not "(expletive)" or even "f**ked". But "fucked."

Philip Rucker & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "The vivid portrait that emerges from Mueller's 448-page report is of a presidency plagued by paranoia, insecurity and scheming -- and of an inner circle gripped by fear of Trump's spasms. Again and again, Trump frantically pressured his aides to lie to the public, deny true news stories and fabricate a false record.... Mueller's report is singular for its definitive examination of the events -- and will not easily be dismissed by Trump and his aides as 'fake news.'... Trump officials frequently were drawn into the president's plans to craft false story lines.... President Trump's drumbeat to end the investigation was driven by his belief that the U.S. intelligence community's conclusive determination of Russian interference threatened the legitimacy of his election. It was, as [Hope] Hicks told Mueller's investigators, his 'Achilles heel.'" Includes summaries of Trump's trying to rid himself of his meddlesome investigator & AG.

The Mobster. Susan Glasser of the New Yorker: "The President himself comes across as a mobster, often lamenting that his lawyers are not as good at representing him as was his early mentor Roy Cohn, an actual mob lawyer. It comes as no surprise that Trump lies about so many things, big and small, though it is still remarkable that he does so even in the midst of a high-stakes legal investigation. Concerning a dinner with the soon-to-be-fired F.B.I. director James Comey at which Trump asked for 'loyalty,' the report said, Trump later lied even about the fact that he had invited Comey to dinner, claiming falsely, in public, that he thought the F.B.I. director had requested the meeting. The report goes to great lengths to disprove this one small example, among many, of Trump's falsehoods, presenting evidence that includes 'The President's Daily Diary,' which records that Trump 'extend[ed] a dinner invitation' to Comey on January 27, and sworn testimony from Priebus."

The Hustlers. Masha Gessen of the New Yorker: "The Mueller report exposes the mechanisms and the motives..., but doesn't tie anything together in the end. Rather than the story of a single crime masterminded by a single actor or entity, this is the story of many hustles, most of them unsuccessful. You'd be hard-pressed to find collusion among these hustlers -- each of them has his own game." Gessen recounts many of the two-bit hustles Mueller exposes. "Everyone was exaggerating his importance and selling more than he had. Conspiracy assumes a common purpose, but these people didn't have one -- not even, it seems, the hustle ultimately perpetrated on the American people by the election of Donald Trump."

"Yes, Collusion." Alex Shephard of the New Republic: "The president and, particularly, his attorneys have gone to great lengths to narrow the definition of 'collusion,' which is itself not a legal term. In their hands, only a proven conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian officials -- a stated and agreed upon quid pro quo in advance of any illegal conduct -- could qualify as collusion. Mueller's team's inability to find proof of that conspiracy, in Team Trump's opinion, is all they need to show that the president has been completely exonerated.... The text of the Mueller report, however, offers a very different picture.... The report -- even with all its redactions -- is full of instances in which Trump and a number of his aides, advisers, and family members are talking with figures linked in various ways to Russia.... Mueller considered bringing charges based on [the infamous Trump Tower] meeting.... But Mueller concluded that he 'could not obtain admissible evidence likely to meet the government's burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these individuals acted "willfully," i.e. with general knowledge of their conduct.' In other words, Mueller couldn't prove that Donald Trump Jr. was smart enough to know that what he was doing was illegal." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: As I've said before, I always thought it was quite possible Junior could get off on grounds of stupid. His response to release of the report, BTW, was "TOLD YA!!!" Clearly, he didn't read it, even the part about himself. Or, if he did, he couldn't understand what the report said about him. ...

... David Moye of the Huffington Post: "... Robert Mueller's team of investigators declined to prosecute ... Donald Trump's eldest son for campaign finance violations mainly because they concluded he was too ignorant to have knowingly committed a crime.... Luckily, there were many fine people who were happy to explain that he still doesn't come across as the sharpest tool in the Trump Tower shed."

Bill Barr Is a Big Fat Liar. Garrett Graff of Wired: "Special counsel Robert Mueller&'s 448-page report ... outlined over nearly half of those pages how the president reacted to and fumed over the Russia probe, seeking to undermine it, curtail it, and even fire the special counsel himself.... In at least 10 episodes over the ensuing months Trump sought to block or stop that very investigation. He did so even as Mueller doggedly made public the 'sweeping and systematic fashion' in which the Russian government attacked the 2016 presidential election, and brought serious criminal charges -- and won guilty pleas -- from a half-dozen of the president's top campaign aides.... Barr appears to have misled the public about the severity of the evidence on obstruction of justice. He also misrepresented Mueller's reasoning for not making a 'traditional prosecutorial decision' on the obstruction half of his investigation. The attorney general has implied that Mueller left that choice to Barr. In truth, the report makes clear that Mueller felt constrained by the Justice Department policy that a sitting president could not be indicted. Don't mistake lack of prosecution, in other words, for absence of wrongdoing.... Barr further praised Trump for 'fully cooperating,' ignoring the president's refusal to sit for an interview with Mueller's investigators, along with the fact that Trump tried at least once to fire the special counsel, consistently attacked the legitimacy of the investigation in public, and openly encouraged witnesses not to cooperate.... The Mueller report also clarifies some questions about the Trump campaign and Russia -- again offering a corrective to Barr's enthusiastic exoneration of Trump."

Joan Walsh of the Nation: "... before releasing the report, Barr delivered a disgraceful performance Thursday morning that essentially acted out his dishonest four-page letter and expanded on its ludicrous judgments. Though Mueller wouldn't exonerate Trump on the obstruction charges, Barr did -- with a bizarrely sympathetic nod to the 'context' of Trump's potentially obstruction.... [Barr claimed that] the fact that Trump was frustrated and angry exonerates him from obstruction charges.... Within 30 minutes, Congress and reporters had the redacted report -- and it ... was obvious that Barr lied. Mueller found 10 separate occasions in which Trump might have obstructed justice, or tried to.... On the obstruction question..., it's clear that Mueller thought the next step belongs to Congress -- not to Barr.... House Speaker Nancy Pelosi must immediately rethink her repeated insistence that Congress will not pursue impeachment...."

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "On Thursday, in an extraordinary news conference 90 minutes before he released the report of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, Mr. Barr acted more as a defense lawyer for Mr. Trump than as the leader of the Justice Department. He repeatedly declared that Mr. Mueller had cleared the president of a conspiracy with Russia and sympathized with the frustration Mr. Trump felt at the 'relentless speculation' over his purported ties with Russia. After taking a handful of questions and ignoring many others, he walked off the stage.... For the president's critics, it merely confirmed what they already believed: Mr. Trump was getting the attorney general he always wanted.... [A 19-page] memo [Barr wrote in June 2018 castigating the Mueller investigation], which critics have characterized as a kind of audition tape to serve as [AG Jeff] Sessions's replacement, turns out to be an accurate road map to Mr. Barr's handling of the Mueller report."

Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "Attorney General William P. Barr has twice ensured that he had the first word on the conclusions drawn by ... Robert S. Mueller III after Mueller's almost-two-year probe into President Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia's efforts to interfere in that election.... On Thursday..., Barr repeatedly declared that Trump had been cleared of collusion, for example, words that were music to Trump's ears. But Mueller didn't look at collusion, as such.... '[C]ollusion is not a specific offense or theory of liability found in the United States Code, nor is it a term of art in federal criminal law,' the Mueller report reads.... Barr offered a colloquial use of 'collusion' that Mueller specifically rejected -- clearly in part to accord with Trump's repeated insistences about collusion between his campaign and Russian actors.... Mueller explains where and how members of the Trump campaign or his broader circle brushed against the boundaries of the law, often not crossing it so clearly that Mueller felt a case could be proved in court. As instructed by the regulations establishing the special counsel position, Mueller is offering his legal analysis about what happened. Barr, in his news conference, took those descriptions and transformed them into political exoneration." Bump outlines a number of instances in which Barr mischaracterized Mueller's conclusions.

Jonathan Chait: "House Democrats are going to face a difficult decision about launching an impeachment inquiry into President Trump.... But in the meantime, Attorney General William Barr presents them with a much easier decision. Barr has so thoroughly betrayed the values of his office that voting to impeach and remove him is almost obvious.... Nearly two more years of this Trumpian henchman wielding power over federal law enforcement is more weight than the rickety Constitution can bear."

Sean Spicer & Sarah Sanders Are Big Fat Liars. Dara Lind of Vox: "... it's striking that the Mueller report -- in which [Sean] Spicer and his successor, Sarah Sanders, are peripheral figures at best -- still manages to incidentally document at least seven instances of Trump's press secretaries lying, four of them in the 24 hours after Trump summarily fired FBI Director James Comey on May 9, 2017." Spicer lied about who decided to fire Michael Flynn (Don McGahn & Reince Priebus; not Trump, as Spicer told the press), & who decided to fire Jim Comey (Trump; not Rod Rosenstein, as Spicer said). "Of all the lies, this is the one that Sanders herself admitted was a lie to Mueller: the claim, expressed both in the May 10 press conference and in other interviews, that she had heard from 'countless' members of the FBI who did not support Comey and were glad he was fired.' Sanders told this Office that her reference to hearing from "countless members of the FBI" was a "slip of the tongue." She also recalled that her statement in a separate press interview that rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey was a comment she made "in the heat of the moment" that was not founded on anything.' Of course, these too appear to be lies...." And Sanders lied when she claimed that Trump didn't dictate the fake "Donald Junior" statement about the Trump Tower fake "adoption" meeting." ...

... Watch Mrs. Huckleberry lie. Mrs. McC: I don't think Sarah knows what "slip of the tongue" means. It's when you accidentally call on "Tim Acosta" instead of "Jim Acosta." It's not when you fabricate a story, then repeat it, then embellish it:

Mrs. McCrabbie: The part about Rosenstein's actual role (or lack thereof) in firing Comey is interesting. This CBS News story by Kathryn Watson lays out most of the blow-by-blow, but Erica Orden of CNN adds to it: "On the night of May 9, 2017, hours after Trump fired Comey, officials in the White House press office called the Justice Department to say the White House 'wanted to put out a statement saying that it was Rosenstein's idea to fire Comey,' according to the report. Rosenstein told Justice Department officials that he wouldn't participate in putting out a 'false story,' he told the special counsel's office. Trump then called Rosenstein directly ... and told Rosenstein he should have a press conference. 'Rosenstein responded that this was not a good idea because if the press asked him, he would tell the truth that Comey's firing was not his idea,' the report says. Meanwhile, according to a footnote in the report, the White House chief of staff at that time, Reince Priebus, was 'screaming' at the Justice Department's public affairs office in an attempt to force Rosenstein to conduct a press conference. Later that evening, the White House press secretary at the time, Sean Spicer, told reporters that, 'It was all (Rosenstein). No one from the White House. It was a DOJ decision.' And Sarah Sanders, then a White House spokeswoman, told reporters that Rosenstein decided 'on his own' to review Comey's performance and that Rosenstein decided 'on his own' to approach Trump days earlier with 'concerns about Comey.'" ...

     ... This now-fleshed-out story of Comey's firing is strong evidence of two things: (1) Trump's obstructing justice by firing Comey in an attempt to quash the FBI investigation of Russian interference in the election; & (2) covering up that obstruction by enlisting staff (Priebus, Spicer, Sanders, Don McGahn, Stephen Miller, Jared Kushner & possibly others) or trying to list others (Rosenstein & Jeff Sessions) to pretend Comey's firing was Rosenstein's idea. If you just skim the report, or reports on the report, you'd have to be dumb as a post not to appreciate "a frantic, monthslong effort by President Trump to thwart the investigation into Russia's 2016 election interference," as Mark Mazzetti of the NYT put it (linked above). The better place to see these efforts is in Articles of Impeachment.

Burgess Everett & Marianne Levine of Politico: "The Senate GOP found itself ensnared in special counsel Robert Mueller's report Thursday, with new revelations about Sen. Richard Burr's communications with the White House and details about a GOP aide's quest to obtain Hillary Clinton's emails.... Senate Intelligence Chairman Burr (R-N.C.), for instance, apparently supplied the White House counsel's office with information about FBI investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election.... The report says that on March 9, 2017, then-FBI Director James Comey briefed congressional leaders and intelligence committee heads on the ongoing investigation into Russian interference. That briefing included 'an identification of the principal U.S. subjects of the investigation.' Burr then corresponded with the White House a week later about the Russia probes, and the White House counsel's office, led by Don McGahn, 'appears to have received information about the status of the FBI investigation,' the special counsel report said.... On March 16, 2017, the White House counsel's office was briefed by Burr on '4-5 targets' of the Russia probe, according to notes taken by McGahn's chief of staff, Annie Donaldson." The report outlines the effort of Chuck Grassley's aide Barbara Ledeen to find Clinton's e-mails. A Grassley spokesperson said her e-mail search was "not authorized by the Judiciary Committee." "Ledeen remains an aide on the committee."

Annals of Journalism, Ctd. Ben Smith of BuzzFeed News: "This Jan. 18, a day after BuzzFeed News reported that Michael Cohen told prosecutors that the president had directed him to lie to Congress, the special counsel's office issued a vague but forceful rebuttal of our story." Smith explains how the reporters got their story & why he is going to amend it. The original story was solid & based on first-hand documentation. Mrs. McC: A good lesson in how journalism works & why even an impeccably-sourced story can sometimes bite you.


Arwa Mahdawi
of the Guardian: "[N]ot content with simply empowering the women of the US, the patron saint of nepotists, hypocrites and grifters [Ivanka Trump] has altruistically taken her talents on tour. On Sunday, the first daughter and presidential adviser set off on a four-day trip to Ethiopia and Ivory Coast to promote the US government's Women's Global Development and Prosperity initiative (W-GDP), which aims to benefit 50 million women in developing countries by 2025. The programme was launched with a $50m (£38m) fund, which is less than the cost of the president's trips to Mar-a-Lago.... I am sure she has taught Sahle-Work Zewde, a respected career diplomat and Ethiopia's first female president, a thing or two....[After her charade in Africa] it is back to the US, where she will no doubt remain silent as her father continues to vilify immigrants, separate migrant mothers from their children, advance an anti-abortion agenda and incite violence against one of the first Muslim congresswomen." --s

The Middle East Eye: "White House senior advisor Jared Kushner was 'surprised' when Saudi officials expressed criticism of US President Donald Trump's so-called 'deal of the century' during a meeting in Riyadh, and told him that King Salman emphasised the rights of Palestinians, the Washington Post reported on Sunday.... '[Kushner] did listen to critical points and questions but wasn't willing to think about criticism and was defensive,' the source told the Washington Post.... Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has derided the US plan as 'the slap of the century,' and has said he will not commit 'treason' by agreeing to it." --s ...

... Khaled Abu Toameh & Tovah Lararoff of The Jerusalem Post: "The Palestinians are urging Russia to play a greater role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as they embark on an international campaign to bypass the Trump administration's peace plan, which is scheduled to be released in the coming months, Palestinian officials said on Tuesday. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to visit Moscow in the coming months to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has spoken multiple times of hosting a Middle East peace process that would include direct talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas. PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki said on Tuesday that Abbas was prepared to meet with Netanyahu without preconditions if Russia is prepared to host such a summit." --s

James Griffiths of CNN: "North Korea's Foreign Ministry has issued a stinging rebuke of United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, hours after the country claimed to have tested a new tactical weapon.... Foreign Ministry official Kwon Jong Gun ... appeared to blame Pompeo for the collapse of the Hanoi talks.... Kwon's statement concluded, 'Therefore, even in the case of possible resumption of the dialogue with the US, I wish our dialogue counterpart would be not Pompeo but other person who is more careful and mature in communicating with us.'" --s

Elizabeth Shogren of Mother Jones: "Under Republican and Democratic presidents from Nixon through Obama, killing migratory birds, even inadvertently, was a crime, with fines for violations ranging from $250 to $100 million. The power to prosecute created a deterrent that protected birds and enabled government to hold companies to account for environmental disasters. But in part due to ... Donald Trump's interior secretary nominee, David Bernhardt, whose confirmation awaits a Senate vote, the wildlife cop is no longer on the beat. Bernhardt pushed a December 2017 legal opinion that declared the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act applies only when companies kill birds on purpose. Internal government emails obtained by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting provide evidence of federal wildlife agents opting out of investigations and enforcement, citing that policy change as the reason." --s

Matthew Brown & Ellen Knickmeyer of TPM: "Former U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is quickly parlaying his time in President Donald Trump's cabinet into a lucrative private career. He's landed a more than $100,000-a-year post at a Nevada mining company and is pursuing involvement in natural gas exports that have surged under Trump.... Zinke told AP that his work for Nevada-based U.S. Gold Corp., which focuses on mining exploration and development, would not constitute lobbying. But the company's CEO cited Zinke's 'excellent relationship' with the Bureau of Land Management and the Interior Department in explaining his hiring as a consultant and board member.... The Nevada project, known as Keystone, is on bureau land. A 2017 executive order from Trump said executive-branch appointees cannot lobby their former agency for at least five years after leaving their government post." --s

Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Allana Ahktar of Business Insider: "Bridgewater Associates, the world's largest hedge fund ... recently released a report on how US corporations have seen revenue soar relative to cost over the last two decades. Yet while companies are seeing profit margins surge, the share of the profit that workers get declined significantly. In what Bridgewater calls 'the most pro-corporate environment in history,' the last two decades have seen corporate taxes and labor bargaining power fall, as globalization and automation increase. The biggest driving factor behind soaring profits, Bridgewater reports, is the decline in the share of profit that workers receive.... In companies that had union membership decline, wages fell at a greater level than sectors where union membership remained in tact.... As a whole, union members went from being around one-fourth of the workforce to just over 10% today.... [The report] warn[s] that these conditions will ultimately weaken the US economy...." --s

Edmund Lee of the New York Times: "The National Enquirer, President Trump's favorite supermarket tabloid, is about to have a new owner: James Cohen, a son of the founder of the Hudson News franchise. American Media Inc., the Enquirer's publisher, announced the deal Thursday. The money-losing title was put up for sale several weeks ago, after its principal owner no longer wanted to be associated with the magazine, which attracted the attention of federal investigators for its role in the 2016 presidential campaign, according to several people familiar with the matter.... American Media, led by David J. Pecker, a longtime friend of Mr. Trump's, has also agreed to sell the Globe and the National Examiner as part of the deal with Mr. Cohen. The Washington Post first reported on the sale, which it pegged at $100 million."

Sam Levin of the Guardian: "Facebook's controversial factchecking program is partnering with the Daily Caller, a rightwing website that has pushed misinformation and is known for pro-Trump content. The social network said Wednesday it had added CheckYourFact.com, which is part of the Daily Caller, as one of its US media partners in an initiative that has faced growing backlash from journalists and internal problems.... The Daily Caller, co-founded by the far-right Fox News host Tucker Carlson, publishes conservative news stories and commentary and has faced repeated accusations of running false and offensive content. In January, the site was widely condemned for the way it reported on a fake nude photo of the congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez...."

Beyond the Beltway

Puerto Rico. Andrew Rice & Luis Ortiz of New York: "Since 2016, Puerto Rico has been buffeted by a natural disaster and several overlapping, man-made catastrophes. Its government is bankrupt and owes $74 billion to bondholders: a staggering sum that amounts to 99 percent of the island's gross national product.... Under a law Congress passed in 2016, the island's finances are overseen by a federally appointed board, which hired McKinsey [& Company, perhaps the world's most influential management consulting firm] as its 'strategic consultant.' [Bertil] Chappuis, in turn, is the firm's point man.... Among the many mind-blowing figures in the fiscal plan [proposed by the federally appointed board], one stands out: the $1.5 billion earmarked over the next six years for costs related to the restructuring process itself -- more than a billion of which will go to lawyers, bankers, and consultants, McKinsey included.... All those fees are being footed by the taxpayers of Puerto Rico, which is far poorer than any U.S. state[.]" --s

Wisconsin. Tiffany Hsu of the New York Times: "Gov. Tony Evers [D] of Wisconsin is dubious that Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics giant known for making iPhones, will fulfill its promise of creating 13,000 jobs at a planned plant in the state. So he wants a redo of the contract.... The project, once championed by President Trump as evidence of a manufacturing renewal, has been mired in mixed signals. Mr. Evers wants to revisit the arrangement that Foxconn made with the state in 2017 and 'figure out how a new set of parameters should be negotiated....' The deal initially envisioned the company making display screens for televisions and other electronics at a $10 billion facility, with the state offering $4 billion in tax credits and other inducements over 15 years. The agreement was drafted under Scott Walker, the Republican governor whom Mr. Evers ... replaced."

Way Beyond

North Korea. AFP: "The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, will visit Russia in late April for his first meeting with Vladimir Putin, Moscow has said." --s

Sudan. Reuters: "Huge crowds formed outside Sudan's defence ministry to demand the country's transitional military council hand over power to civilians. Hundreds of thousands packed the streets by early evening on Thursday -- the largest crowds to gather in the centre of the capital since last week, when the former president Omar al-Bashir was ousted and the military council took over.... The council has said it is ready to meet some of the protesters' demands, including fighting corruption, but has indicated that it would not hand over power to protest leaders." --s

Wednesday
Apr172019

The Commentariat -- April 18, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Here's the DOJ's pdf of the Mueller report.

Here's a pdf of the report, via the Washington Post. Mrs. McC: I can't find it on the DOJ site.

NBC News has a copy of the report here.

Washington Post: "A team of Post reporters will be reading the redacted Mueller report.... This page will update frequently with key findings as we go through the document."

The New York Times is live-updating developments in the redacted Mueller report release.

CBS News reporters are sifting through the report & reporting its "highlights" here.

Julia Ainsley of NBC News pointed out that, contrary to Barr's contention this morning, (on p. 381 & elsewhere), Mueller invites the Congress to investigate impeachment of the President*, saying that while the Mueller team didn't reach conclusions on criminality, the findings invite Congress to do so. (Barr claimed that determining Trump's guilt or innocence was his job.) Update: Neil Katyal find Mueller's invitation to Congress right on page 2 (of part 2). Glenn Kirschner puts the two pages together & concludes that Mueller decided that since he could not bring charges against Trump under DOJ policies, but the Congress can find wrongdoing. Joyce Vance also views the report as "a roadmap to impeachment." Over to you, Nancy. ...

     ... Several reporters have found Mueller complaining about lack of cooperation from Trump & the White House, contrary again to Barr's false claim that the the President* was totally cooperative. Rep. Eric Swalwell is calling for Barr to resign. I hope that at least, next time Barr lumbers up to the Hill that Democrats harange him over his lies about the report.

Josh Gerstein's (Politico) first take is here. "While the exhaustive document confirms that Mueller found no conspiracy between Trump's campaign and the Kremlin, it contains some unfavorable observations regarding potential obstruction of justice. 'If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment,' the report says in a 182-page section dedicated to obstruction. 'Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,' it continues."

... Or Maybe Nope. It's Just a Continuation of Barr Time ...

Barr said at his stupid presser that he would release the redacted Mueller report to the chairs & ranking members of the Senate & House Judiciary Committees at 11 a.m. ET, & shortly after that the DOJ would post a copy on its Website. The main DOJ Web page is here; one assumes there will be a link there to the report. Mrs. McC: Otherwise, IMO, Barr's remarks were a campaign ad for Trump: a lot of poor, put-upon Trump, standing against cruel, voracious media & "illegal leaks." Also too, "no collusion, no collusion, no collusion." It was, not surprisingly, a disgusting performance. ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "In a lengthy opening statement, Barr found just about every way possible to say that there was no coordination, cooperation or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. He also said Trump was right about 'no collusion,' expanding the Mueller report's clearing of Trump to a more nebulous term with little legal significance. But perhaps more importantly, on obstruction of justice, he seemed to go to bat for Trump personally, offering a sympathetic take on the president’s state of mind and cooperation."

     ... Immediately after Barr's teevee show, Trump tweeted this:

Whitewash, Spin & Repeat. Here's the DOJ's Pre-Spin Spin. Matt Zapotosky, et al., of the Washington Post: "The Justice Department plans to release a lightly redacted version of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's 400-page report Thursday, offering a granular look at the ways in which President Trump was suspected of having obstructed justice, people familiar with the matter said. The report --the general outlines of which the Justice Department has briefed the White House on -- will reveal that Mueller decided he could not come to a conclusion on the question of obstruction because it was difficult to determine Trump's intent and some of his actions could be interpreted innocently, these people said. But it will offer a detailed blow-by-blow of his alleged conduct -- analyzing tweets, private threats and other episodes at the center of Mueller's inquiry, they added." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: According to Brian Williams of MSNBC, two Democrats were told to expect "heavy redactions." I know that's what I expect.

Andrew Desiderio & Kyle Cheney of Politico: "Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Barr had 'thrown out his credibility & the DOJ's independence with his single-minded effort to protect @realDonaldTrump above all else.' 'The American people deserve the truth, not a sanitized version of the Mueller Report approved by the Trump Admin,' Pelosi wrote on Twitter while on an official trip in Ireland.... 'So-called Attorney General is presiding over a dog and pony show,' tweeted House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries. 'Here is a thought. Release the Mueller report tomorrow morning and keep your mouth shut. You have ZERO credibility.'... A DOJ spokeswoman later said the [Barr-Robinson] news conference was not Trump's idea." Mrs. McC: That could be true. It might have been Rudy Giuliani's idea.

Jackie Mogensen of Mother Jones: "At a press conference Wednesday night, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) criticized Attorney General William Barr's handling of the long-awaited Mueller report.... Nadler said the attorney general 'appears to be waging a media campaign on behalf of President Trump' and laid out four ways Barr has put his 'spin' on the report: He 'cherry picked' findings in his March 24 letter about the report, 'withheld' summaries written by the special counsel that 'were intended for public consumption,' reportedly briefed the White House on the report's findings before sharing it with Congress, and lastly, is releasing the report to Congress between 11 am and noon, 'well after' Barr's press conference on Thursday.... 'Attorney General Barr is not allowing the facts of the Mueller report to speak for themselves, but is trying to bake in the narrative about the report to the benefit of the White House,' Nadler said. Nadler also argued that Barr was deliberately releasing the report so close to a holiday weekend to make it more difficult to respond to." ...

... Barr's DOJ Gives Trump's Lawyers Cheat Sheets. Mark Mazzetti, et al., of the New York Times: "Justice Department officials have had numerous conversations with White House lawyers about the conclusions made by Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, in recent days, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. The talks have aided the president's legal team as it prepares a rebuttal to the report and strategizes for the coming public war over its findings.... The discussions between Justice Department officials and White House lawyers have also added to questions about the propriety of the decisions by Attorney General William P. Barr since he receivedMr. Mueller's findings late last month." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: We knew Barr was "sharing" when during Congressional testimony last week he refused to answer whether or not the White House had received the report. Often a "no comment" is a "yes." I'd sure like to know what input Trump's lawyers might have had into what-all is to be color-coded out of the report. BTW, RAS has a great summary at the end of yesterday's thread of what we already know Trump & Co. have done. RAS reasons that Barr's planned pirouette de deux will not change any hearts & minds. When I watch the morning matinee, I'm going to imagine Barr & Rosenstein in tutus.

You'll see a lot of very strong things come out tomorrow. Attorney General Barr is going to be giving a press conference. Maybe I'll do one after that; we'll see. -- Donald Trump, to a confederate radio host Wednesday ...

... Trump Announces Barr Presser. Matt Zapotosky & Devlin Barrett of the Washington Post: "Attorney General William P. Barr will hold a news conference Thursday to discuss special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's final report, adding a must-see-TV event to the day he will release the long-awaited document. President Trump revealed the plan during a radio appearance, and a Justice Department spokeswoman later confirmed it. The news conference will occur at 9:30 a.m. [ET], and Barr, appearing alongside Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, will take questions. It was not immediately clear whether the news conference would occur before or after the report's release. Barr has faced intense scrutiny from the public and lawmakers on Capitol Hill for his handling of Mueller's report so far.... Trump told the Larry O'Connor show on WMAL that he was pondering having his own news conference." ...

... Matt Naham of Law & Crime: "It seems many have already made up their minds about the purpose of the presser. The overarching theme of the criticism is that Barr is doing this to get out in front of the political nightmare contained within the report." Naham publishes a number of critical tweets. ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: The NBC News report on the developments Wednesday afternoon, by Frank Thorp & Dareh Gregorian, has a coda so understated it made me laugh: "Mueller will not be attending the Barr-Rosenstein press conference."

... Barr to Give Some MOCs a "Less Redacted" Mueller Report. Jacqueline Thomsen of the Hill: "The Department of Justice (DOJ) will allow some members of Congress to view a copy of special counsel Robert Mueller's report 'without certain redactions,' federal prosecutors said in a court filing Wednesday. 'Once the redacted version of the report has been released to the public, the Justice Department plans to make available for review by a limited number of Members of Congress and their staff a copy of the Special Counsel's report without certain redactions, including removing the redaction of information related to the charges set forth in the indictment in this case,' prosecutors wrote in the filing."

Michael Stern in Slate: "Barr's handling of the [Mueller] report has only served to sow public distrust of the Justice Department. As a former federal prosecutor, I would go further: The attorney general's transparent efforts to protect ... Donald Trump have done enormous damage to the department.... It's a sad time when Congress, the press, the courts, and the American people have to worry that the attorney general of the United States may bend the law in a way that works to the detriment of the country, in order to further the personal interests of the man who gave him a job.... If juries do not believe that federal agents are credible, they are unlikely to convict and hold people accountable for the crimes they committed. Barr's testimony last week [i.e., his allegations that federal agents were 'spying' on the Trump campaign --] did immeasurable damage to the daily efforts of the federal prosecutors who work for him. I never thought I'd see an attorney general do more damage to the Justice Department than Jeff Sessions. I was wrong."

Mrs. McCrabbie: As we await release of the redacted Mueller report, we should factor into our expectations Robert Mueller's 2014-15 investigation of the way the NFL handled the Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice's battering of his wife. Even though the AP had reported that a "law enforcement official claimed he had sent the NFL a video of Rice punching Palmer and played a voicemail message from an NFL office number on April 9 confirming the video had arrived," Mueller -- whom the NFL had hired to "investigate" -- "found no proof anyone at the league office received or viewed a video of Rice punching out his then-fiancée at an Atlantic City Casino until the footage became public.... We concluded there was substantial information about the incident -- even without the in-elevator video -- indicating the need for a more thorough investigation. The NFL should have done more with the information it had, and should have taken additional steps to obtain all available information about the February 15 incident." Not too impressive, IMO.


** David Rothkopf
in the Daily Beast: "Something broke in America in the past week or two. We have been spiraling downward since Trump's election, but in these early days of spring 2019, we have crossed a line. The president and his men began asserting that they were above the law -- and effectively no one in our system did anything to stop them. Attorney General Bill Barr sneered at the Congress and placed himself imperiously above its questions.... At the same time, also last week, the secretary of the treasury [Steve Mnuchin] and the head of the IRS determined to violate a law that required in no uncertain terms for them to provide the president's tax returns to the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Simultaneously, a massive leadership purge at the Department of Homeland Security took place, and it became quickly clear it was because the president and his team were frustrated that officials would not act in violation of the law." Read on. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Rafi Schwartz of Splinter: "... yes, President Trump did indeed offer [Ivanka Trump] the chance to lead the World Bank, which she politely declined. Calling it 'a question' posed by her daddy, whom she currently serves as a policy advisor, Ivanka said she told him she was 'happy with the work' she was currently doing with his administration.... The president has previously made a big show of pretending to care about how it might look if he appointed Ivanka to yet another powerful position, insisting that while he'd love for his eldest daughter to take over the World Bank -- 'She's very good with numbers,' he said in a recent interview -- or represent the country at the United Nations, 'they'd say nepotism, when it would've had nothing to do with nepotism.' Because nothing says not-nepotism like making your heiress fashion designer daughter an ambassador, right?" Here's the AP report.

Niraj Chokshi & Frances Robles of the New York Times: "The Trump administration on Wednesday imposed new restrictions on dealing with Cuba amid a broader toughening of its Latin American policy, limiting nonfamily travel to the island and how much money Cuban-Americans can send to relatives there, and allowing exiles to sue for property seized by the Castro government.... By allowing the lawsuits -- a departure from nearly a quarter-century of policy -- the administration dismissed passionate opposition from officials in Europe and Canada who had lobbied in recent weeks against the move which could unleash a torrent of proceedings against companies and people accused of 'trafficking' in the confiscated property." ...

... Marc Caputo of Politico: "On the 58th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President Trump's national security adviser John Bolton addressed a group of Cuban American veterans of the failed effort to topple Fidel Castro's regime and announced a series of crackdowns on Cuba and its allies. It was part of a call to arms to fight socialism abroad, but it was also a message for domestic consumption -- particularly in Florida, the nation's largest swing state and home to large Cuban American and Central and South American communities.... In all, Bolton announced seven crackdowns and sanctions targeting the governments in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, which he referred to as the 'troika of tyranny.' Bolton nicknamed Cuba's Miguel Díaz-Canel, Venezuela's Nicolás Maduro and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega 'the three stooges of socialism.' But he also mentioned former U.S. President Barack Obama, whose Cuba rapprochement policies Trump has been rolling back, more than anyone else."

Charlie Savage & Choe Sang-Hun of the New York Times: "North Korea said on Thursday that it test-fired a new type of 'tactical guided weapon,' in what appeared to be a warning from Kim Jong-un to President Trump that unless once-promising negotiations with Washington resume, the two countries could again be on a collision course. The North's official Korean Central News Agency did not specify what type of weapon was involved in the test. But there was no evidence the test involved a nuclear detonation or an intercontinental ballistic missile."

Luke Darby of GQ: "Last month, a clip of New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went predictably viral after she forcefully responded to one of her colleagues on the House Financial Services Committee when he called climate change an 'elitist' concern.... In response, Kentucky Republican congressman Andy Barr invited Ocasio-Cortez to come meet coal miners in his state 'who will tell you what the Green New Deal would mean for their families, their paychecks.'... Ocasio-Cortez accepted, saying she'd be 'happy' to go, adding that the Green New Deal was written to fund coal-miner pensions.... Not even a month later, that cordiality is out the window: Barr attached a rather inhospitable and obnoxious demand to his invitation, writing in a letter posted to Twitter that she should 'apologize to [Texas representative Dan Crenshaw] prior to coming to visit Kentucky,' for a completely unrelated event before meeting with miners..., [leaving] the impression that the Barr might not want her to come to Kentucky after all." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Call this the "Bernie on Fox Effect." Republicans are so stuck in their closed circle that it doesn't occur to them that their own policies are terrible, & regular people are sometimes able to figure that out when presented with progressive policies that are far better for them, their families & their communities.

Presidential Race 2020

Caitlin Oprysko of Politico: "Fox News announced Wednesday that it will host a town hall with Sen. Amy Klobuchar next month, its second event of the nascent 2020 campaign with a Democratic presidential candidate. The town hall is scheduled for May 8 in Milwaukee...."

Matthew Choi of Politico: "Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Wednesday that he would not be running for president in 2020, quelling speculation that he would join an already sizable group of Democratic hopefuls vying to push ... Donald Trump out of office.... McAuliffe said he would rather concentrate his energy on helping Democrats maintain control of the Virginia Legislature, though he thinks he could have beaten Trump 'like a rented mule' and would have done a good job in the White House."


Julie Turkewitz & Jack Healy
of the New York Times: "A Florida high school student was found dead on Wednesday after she had made threats that prompted hundreds of schools to close across the Denver area, according to law enforcement officials. Identified as Sol Pais, 18, the woman had traveled to Denver and bought a firearm ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, officials said. Sheriff Jeff Shrader of Jefferson County, Colo., said Ms. Pais was found dead from an 'apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

An American's Response to the Notre Dame Fire. Niraj Chokshi of the New York Times: "A 37-year-old New Jersey man carrying a pair of full two-gallon cans of gasoline was arrested on Wednesday night after entering St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, the police said. The man entered the cathedral just before 8 p.m. but was turned away by a church security officer.... As the man exited, some gasoline spilled on the floor. The security officer then notified two police officers outside the cathedral, who caught up to the man and began to question him. While he was cooperative, his answers were inconsistent and evasive.... 'His basic story was that he was cutting through the cathedral to get to Madison Avenue, that his car had run out of gas,'... according to John Miller, the Police Department's deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism.... 'We took a look at the vehicle. It was not out of gas, and at that point he was taken into custody.'"

Merris Badcock of WPTV West Palm Beach: "A judge has blocked the release of spa videos until a hearing is held. A hearing on the motion for a protective order has been scheduled for 1:30 PM on April 29. EARLIER: Secretly obtained surveillance videos of men inside a Jupiter massage parlor will be made public, according to the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office. According to a recent court filing, the graphic video will be blurred or pixelated before it's released.... The surveillance video has become a source of contention for the most high-profile person charged in the case, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft." Mrs. McC: I would be happy never to see naked Bob Kraft getting a very special "massage."

Way Beyond the Beltway

Andrea Zarate & Nicholas Casey of the New York Times: "A former president of Peru died on Wednesday after shooting himself in the head when the authorities tried to arrest him in connection with one of the biggest corruption scandals in Latin American history. When the authorities arrived at the home of the former president, Alan García, with an arrest warrant, he locked himself into his bedroom, shot himself and was rushed to a hospital, his personal secretary told reporters. The charges relate to Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction giant, which last year admitted to $800 million in payoffs in exchange for lucrative contracts for projects including roads, dams and bridges."