The Wires

Public Service Announcement

August 8: About to give birth? About to get a new job? Beware the poppy-seed bagel. Seriously. Washington Post: "... poppy seeds really can make you fail a drug test, both peer-reviewed scientific studies and unofficial experiments conducted by journalists have found. Because they’re derived from opium poppies, they sometimes contain traces of morphine ― not enough to get you high, obviously, but potentially enough to register on a highly sensitive drug test." The report cites several instances in which mothers lost custody of their newborns because the mothers failed routine (but outdated) drug tests.

July 13: Washington Post: "A salmonella outbreak linked to a popular Kellogg's cereal has infected 100 people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday. The agency is urging consumers to avoid Honey Smacks, a sugary puffed wheat cereal which has been the subject of a recall by the company since mid-June. At least 30 of the 100 have been hospitalized, while no deaths have been reported, the CDC said. 'Do not eat Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal of any size package or with any "best if used by" date,' it wrote."

PolitiFact should hire this guy:

Variety: "Showtime has ordered a three-part documentary series on the changing role of athletes in the current political environment that boasts LeBron James among its executive producers.... The series is titled 'Shut Up and Dribble,' taken from conservative pundit Laura Ingraham’s remarks to James in February when players from the Golden State Warriors declined an invitation to the White House after the 2018 NBA Finals. The controversy serves as a prologue to the series as it chronicles the modern history of the NBA...."

Guardian: Researchers at Rutgers U. are perfecting a technique they believe will detect painting forgeries. "... the new technique takes a hard look at the picture itself: Specifically, the thousands of tiny individual strokes that compose it.... The idea of fingerprinting artists via their strokes actually dates back to the 1950s.... The problem, though, was that there was too much data." But computer technology may be able to do the analysis that presented too much data for the human eye to detect.

Washington Post: "... some of the ancient human remains found at Stonehenge have unusually distant origins, according to a new archaeological study of cremated bones published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports. The remains offer another line of evidence connecting Stonehenge to Wales, 140 miles away. A quarry in Wales is probably the source of Stonehenge's bluestones.... It is possible, the authors of the new study say, that people buried at the henge came from the same Welsh region.... 'Forty percent of the people who we analyzed could not have lived in Stonehenge for the last decade or so of their life,' [Christophe] Snoeck[, who led the investigation,] said."

Mrs. McC: "The Swedish Job" sounds like every modern heist movie I've seen. Slate: "Around midday Tuesday, the cathedral of the Swedish town of Strängnäs, not far from Stockholm, was hosting a event for the public in one of its side chapels.... Some of Sweden’s most priceless royal jewels were held [there].... According to the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, during the lunchtime event, two thieves smashed the protective cases covering the jewels ... and fled with their loot toward the nearby but vast Lake Mälaren, which is dotted with hundreds of islands. There, a witness saw the men jump into a small motorboat and speed off. Quickly, police launched a manhunt, with helicopters and boats, but they found no trace of the two men." ...

Hollywood Reporter: Hillary Clinton "is teaming with Steven Spielberg's Amblin Television to bring Elaine Weiss' critically acclaimed book The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote to the small screen. The drama will mark Clinton's debut as an exec producer."

Huffington Post: "When it was revealed last week that longtime Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle would be leaving the network..., [her] departure was initially billed as her decision. However, as HuffPost first reported last week, multiple sources said ... Guilfoyle was informed her time at Fox News was up following a human resources investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior including sexual misconduct, and that her lawyers had been involved since the spring. Sources also said that despite being told she would have to leave by July, Guilfoyle repeatedly attempted to delay her exit and tried to have her allies appeal to Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, to let her stay at the network.... Six sources said Guilfoyle’s behavior included showing personal photographs of male genitalia to colleagues (and identifying whose genitals they were), regularly discussing sexual matters at work and engaging in emotionally abusive behavior toward hair and makeup artists and support staff." ...

     ... Mrs. McC: Such a lovely woman (allegedly). She's perfect for Donnie Junior.

New York Times: "For the first time, scientists have found a large, watery lake beneath an ice cap on Mars. Because water is essential to life, the discovery offers an exciting new place to search for life forms beyond Earth. Italian scientists working on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express mission announced on Wednesday that a 12-mile wide underground liquid pool — not just the momentary damp spots seen in the past — had been detected by radar measurements near the Martian south pole. 'Water is there,' Enrico Flamini, the former chief scientist of the Italian Space Agency who oversaw the research, said during a news conference."

Jonathan Vankin of Inquisitr: "Earlier in July ... a new BBC documentary [was aired] containing disturbing, never-before-heard allegations of sexual misconduct by Donald Trump. But the 30-minute program aired only in the United Kingdom, on the BBC’s Panorama series. But that’s about to change as the new documentary, Trump: Is the President a Sex Pest?, is set to make its North American premiere, airing in the United States and Canada on Saturday, with a repeat broadcast on Sunday, according to a new BBC press release posted on Twitter.... To find out how to watch or live stream the Trump Sex Pest documentary, see the information at the bottom of this article. Broadcast, and online streaming, is set for Saturday, July 21, at 10:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, 7:30 a.m. Pacific. The encore broadcast is scheduled for Sunday, July 22, at 4:30 p.m. Eastern, 1:30 Pacific." --safari

Yahshar Ali of the Huffington Post: "Three sources tell HuffPost that longtime Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle did not leave the cable news network voluntarily. Guilfoyle, who is currently in a relationship with ... Donald Trump Jr., has worked at the network since 2006.... A source close to Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle denies that she did not leave voluntarily. 'Fox News has parted ways with Kimberly Guilfoyle,' a Fox News spokesperson said in a terse statement released Friday afternoon." ...

... Gabriel Sherman of Vanity Fair: "Donald Trump’s coziness with Fox News has opened the network up to allegations that it’s state TV, a perception that was only amplified when The Five co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle began dating Trump’s son Don Jr. But now, for complicated reasons, some of which are still murky, all is no longer well in the Trump-Fox family.... Fox News management is not in the least upset that Guilfoyle is leaving. For the past year, she’s been a management nightmare, sources said. Her entanglements, romantic and otherwise, with Trumpworld have been a part of this. Before Don Jr., Guilfoyle was publicly linked to former Trump communications director Anthony Scaramucci, and she was widely rumored to be in the running for a job in the West Wing communications shop. But more than the perceived complications her romantic life generated, Guilfoyle’s high-handedness rankled Fox executives.... But a source close to Guilfoyle [said] the reason is because she plans to join Don Jr. on the campaign trail."

There will be an answer. Best #CarpoolKaraoke evah:

     ... You're welcome. ...

... Matthew Dessem of Slate: "The only fly in the ointment is the knowledge that, demographically speaking, this video will make a lot of horrible people happy."

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

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

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

Sunday
Aug192018

The Commentariat -- August 20, 2018

Late Morning Update:

Jordan Fabian of the Hill: "President Trump on Monday dared former CIA Director John Brennan to sue him over his decision to revoke his security clearance. In a tweet, Trump [wrote,] "I hope John Brennan, the worst CIA Director in our country’s history, brings a lawsuit. It will then be very easy to get all of his records, texts, emails and documents to show not only the poor job he did, but how he was involved with the Mueller Rigged Witch Hunt. He won’t sue!"

Caitlin Oprysko of Politico: "... Donald Trump tweeted Monday to ask why his attorney general had not fired a Justice Department official with ties to the firm behind a dossier alleging connections between Trump and Russia. 'Will Bruce Ohr, whose family received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier, ever be fired from the Jeff Sessions "Justice" Department? A total joke!' Trump wrote.  It was the closest Trump had come to calling directly for Ohr, whose wife was a contractor for Fusion GPS, to lose his job. Ohr, who was demoted earlier this year, has come under fire from conservatives and now Trump over his connection to Fusion GPS."

John Wagner of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Monday referred to lawyers working for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as 'thugs' and accused them of trying to affect this year’s elections, further ramping up his rhetoric against prosecutors probing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In morning tweets, Trump called Mueller 'disgraced and discredited' and said his team of prosecutors is 'a National Disgrace!' The tweets were the latest in a spate of complaints in recent days from the president about a probe into whether his campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 election and whether Trump has sought to obstruct the investigation. In Monday’s outburst, Trump continued to attack a New York Times report over the weekend that White House lawyer Donald McGahn had participated in at least three interviews with Mueller’s team that spanned 30 hours.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: One would think that a president* who had been on vacation for a couple of weeks would find some work to do when he showed up at the Oval on Monday. Apparently not.

If you want to know oneof the many reasons Trump is such a lousy president*, see Akhilleus's sports analogy in today's Comments.

'My statement was not meant as a pontification on moral theology but one referring to the situation where two people make precisely contradictory statements, the classic "he said,she said" puzzle. Sometimes further inquiry can reveal the truth other times it doesn't,' tweeted Giuliani...."

Chuck Todd, et al., of NBC News list the various lies Team Trump has told about the Trump Tower meeting.

*****

This Russia Thing, Etc., Ctd.

The McGahn Saga, Part 2. Helter-Skelter. Maggie Haberman & Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "President Trump’s lawyers do not know just how much the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, told the special counsel’s investigators during months of interviews, a lapse that has contributed to a growing recognition that an early strategy of full cooperation with the inquiry was a potentially damaging mistake.... Mr. Trump’s lawyers realized on Saturday that they had not been provided a full accounting after The New York Times published an article [also linked here yesterday] describing Mr. McGahn’s extensive cooperation with Mr. Mueller’s office.... The article set off a scramble on Saturday among Mr. Trump’s lawyers and advisers. The president, sequestered at his private golf club in Bedminster, N.J., solicited opinions from a small group of advisers on the possible repercussions from the article. The president ordered Mr. Giuliani to tell reporters that the article was wrong, but Mr. Giuliani did not go that far in his television appearances.... Legal experts and former White House counsels said the president’s lawyers had been careless in not asking Mr. McGahn what he had planned to tell Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors. The experts said Mr. Trump’s lawyers had the right to know the full extent of what Mr. McGahn was going to say." Oh, read on; it's delicious. ...

... Trump Mad at Maggie & Mike. David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "President Trump reacted angrily Sunday to a new report that the White House counsel has cooperated extensively in the Russia investigation without Trump's full knowledge, calling it a 'Fake Story' and comparing the probe to McCarthyism.In a series of tweets, the president lashed out at a New York Times report that White House lawyer Donald McGahn had participated in at least three interviews with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III that spanned 30 hours." Mrs. McC: Best way to get under Trump's skin: expose his ignorance & stupidity, as the NYT story does. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Julian Zelizer of the Atlantic: "Reacting to The New York Times’ story that White House Counsel Don McGahn has been speaking with Robert Mueller’s team..., Donald Trump tweeted out that McGahn is not a 'John Dean type "RAT,’” and that the story was 'fake news.' It’s odd that Trump should bring up John Dean this weekend, for it was only this week that we also learned Trump has an Enemies List, just like Richard Nixon did. Unlike Nixon, though, the president is hiding nothing — using security clearances and his Twitter account as the chief weapons to go after his opponents.... In the early 1970s, the president and his advisers assumed that doing any of this out in the open would be devastating. There was still a sense of norms that restrained an administration from publicly abusing its power in this way.... The list made it into Article II of the impeachment charges drawn up against Nixon[.]... Trump is trying to create the same kind of toxic atmosphere that Nixon produced. His explicit goal is to silence opponents and to discredit them in the public eye. If this becomes acceptable, the next steps might be even worse.”  More on Dean below.

     ... digby: "I wonder if people remember that Don McGahn made his bones defending Tom DeLay in a major Russian money scandal in the late 90s? He did[.]... This scandal was obscured at the time by the much more important investigation into Bill Clinton's pants. Here's the full story of DeLay's Russia money scandal. Let's just say that Don McGahn had some very special experience in dealing with Russian money being funneled into Republican campaigns."

... Rudy Deconstructs Reality -- So Derrida! Rebecca Morin & David Cohen of Politico: "... Rudy Giuliani on Sunday claimed 'truth isn't truth' when trying to explain why the president should not testify for special counsel Robert Mueller.... 'When you tell me that, you know, he should testify because he’s going to tell the truth and he shouldn’t worry, well that’s so silly because it’s somebody’s version of the truth. Not the truth,' Giuliani told Chuck Todd on NBC’s 'Meet the Press' on Sunday morning. 'Truth is truth,' Todd responded. 'No, no, it isn’t truth,' Giuliani said. 'Truth isn’t truth. The President of the United States says, "I didn’t …”' A startled Todd answered: 'Truth isn’t truth?' Giuliani: 'No, no, no.' Todd said: 'This is going to become a bad meme.'...  Last week on CNN, he rejected Chris Cuomo’s assertion that 'facts are not in the eye of the beholder.' 'Yes, they are,' Giuliani said. 'Nowadays they are.' In May, the former New York mayor pursued a similar line of thought in an interview with the Washington Post about the Mueller investigation: 'They may have a different version of the truth than we do.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Benjamin Hart of New York: "Alert: another half-chilling, half-laughable Trump administration mantra is ready to add to the trophy case, in the space just beside 'Alternative Facts' and 'What You’re Seeing…Is Not What’s Happening.'... Todd’s wry prediction was, of course, immediately proven right. In the other noteworthy section of his interview, Giuliani once again changed the Trump administration’s line on its fateful meeting with Russians at Trump Tower in 2016. He now claims, confusingly, that the sitdown was all about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton (not adoptions after all!), but that Trump officials had no idea that actual Russians would be involved (which is definitely not true). But then, what is truth, when you really think about it?” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: Trumpbots are very good at magical thinking when it comes to religion, but I don't think that makes them ready for the deconstruction of conceptual systems. Just the opposite. Trumpbots deal in absolutes -- like there absolutely is a God & heaven has a lot of kitchen appliances. I don't think "Truth Isn't Truth" will go over well. Although as one wag -- Pat Shipp -- pointed out (Hart linked the Twitter feed), "I can see it now. 'TiT' hats. That ought to help capture females votes!" ...

... BUT. Steve M.: "In the eyes of the right, everyone connected to the Russia investigation is a liar. To them, it's obvious that Trump will tell the 100% scout's-honor truth if he ever testifies, and Mueller will twist it into a lie because he's pure evil, as are all his Deep State friends and associates. To right-wingers, the entire investigation is an exercise in bad faith (and a projection of guilt on the part of the Clinton campaign and the Justice Department, who are the true colluders with Russia). So, to the right, of course 'truth isn't truth,' because the people deciding what truth is are evil Democrat liars."

MEANWHILE. William Rashbaum, et al., of the New York Times: "Federal authorities investigating whether President Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, committed bank and tax fraud have zeroed in on well over $20 million in loans obtained by taxi businesses that he and his family own, according to people familiar with the matter. Investigators are also examining whether Mr. Cohen violated campaign finance or other laws by helping to arrange financial deals to secure the silence of women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump. The inquiry has entered the final stage and prosecutors are considering filing charges by the end of August, two of the people said.... A cooperation agreement [between Cohen & prosecutors] would likely include a provision that Mr. Cohen also provide information to the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating possible involvement by the Trump campaign in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election." ...

... Daniel Lippman of Politico: "Lanny Davis, an attorney for ... Michael Cohen, said he has been reaching out regularly over the past few months to John Dean, the former White House counsel who helped bring down the presidency of Richard Nixon. Cohen has sent signals that he might cooperate in the investigations surrounding his former boss. The fact that his lawyer is talking frequently to Dean — who was name-checked by Trump on Sunday in the context of recent reports that White House counsel Don McGahn is cooperating with investigators — adds new hints that Cohen could be open to being a potential witness in any case against Trump."


Quinn Scanlan
of ABC News: "... Donald Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton floated the possibility of reviewing longstanding policy of maintaining security clearances of former government officials." In an ABC News interview, Bolton implied John Brennan abused his security clearance, but when ABC's Martha Raddatz pressed him, he could not cite any examples of Brennan doing so. Bolton maintained his own security clearance when he was on a corporate board & was a Fox "News" contributor. Bolton implied he used his clearance to obtain classified information for the company, which did classified contract work. IOKIYAR. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Felicia Sonmez & Carol Morello of the Washington Post: "Former CIA director John O. Brennan said Sunday that he is willing to take President Trump to court to prevent other current and former officials from having their security clearances revoked, escalating a battle over whether the president is misusing the power of his office to retaliate against opponents. 'I am going to do whatever I can personally to try to prevent these abuses in the future, and if it means going to court, I will do that,' Brennan said in an appearance on NBC News’s 'Meet the Press.'” ...

...

The list of ominous signs goes on and on: Trump invoking Stalin’s phrase 'enemies of the people' to describe a free press; the firing, one after another, of public servants who moved to expose potential wrongdoing, starting with then-FBI Director James B. Comey; Trump’s effusive praise of foreign despots; his extravagantly abusive (and often racially charged) language against opponents; and his refusal to abide by traditional practices about disclosing his own potential conflicts of interest and those of his family. Add to this the authoritarian’s habit of institutionalizing lying as a routine aspect of governing, compressed into the astonishing credo Rudolph W. Giuliani blurted out ... Sunday: 'Truth isn’t truth.' This is not business as usual. Yet our politics proceeds as if it is. Slowly, Trump has accustomed us to behavior that, at any other recent time and with just about any other politician, would in all probability have been career-ending.”

A black-and-white photograph from 1962 shows special counsel Robert S. Mueller III when he was a student at the [very toney] St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H. It’s a hockey-team photo.... One of those smug boarding-school elites..., muscular little barons on ice who become Republicans and Purple Hearts and FBI counter-terrorism experts. Everyone they know from childhood becomes a senator — oh look, former Secretary of State John F. Kerry is to Mueller’s left in the hockey photo.... I hated the classic man-of-honor stuff. I hated it until, around autumn of 2016, it became gravely endangered.... I must admit that I don’t begrudge [Mueller] his maleness and privilege anymore.... Right now, American institutions are occupied by pretenders who may yet devastate them. We need white men like Mueller who speak without irony of justice and honor and the Marine Corps." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I do get where Heffernan is coming from; I've occasionally felt the same resentment myself, but probably only when one of these patricians acts like a jackass. The truth is that the "values" pushed at elite schools are older than Greek civilization & have been restated, in similar form, in almost every culture. There is little difference between chivalric "virtues" & those we admire today. What separates the men and women from the Trumps is that we try to adhere to these high cultural norms while the Trumps either never learned them or prefer to flaut them.

Another Trump Fox "Guarding" Henhouse. Eric Lipton of the New York Times: "As a corporate lawyer, William L. Wehrum worked for the better part of a decade to weaken air pollution rules by fighting the Environmental Protection Agency in court on behalf of chemical manufacturers, refineries, oil drillers and coal-burning power plants. Now, Mr. Wehrum is about to deliver one of the biggest victories yet for his industry clients — this time from inside the Trump administration as the government’s top air pollution official. On Tuesday, President Trump is expected to propose a vast rollback of regulations on emissions from coal plants, including many owned by members of a coal-burning trade association that had retained Mr. Wehrum and his firm as recently as last year to push for the changes." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

All the Best People, Ctd. Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "A White House speechwriter for President Trump was terminated last week after revelations that he had spoken at a conference attended by well-known white nationalists, according to three people familiar with the decision who were not authorized to speak publicly. Darren Beattie, who was a visiting instructor at Duke University before he joined the White House speechwriting team, was fired Friday after a media inquiry about his appearance at the 2016 H.L. Mencken Club conference, where Beattie spoke on a panel alongside Peter Brimelow. Brimelow, founder of the anti-immigrant website Vdare.com, is a white nationalist' and 'regularly publishes works by white supremacists, anti-Semites, and others on the radical right,' according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.... CNN’s KFile ... published a report Sunday on Beattie and his appearance at the Mencken event.... Once White House officials were informed about CNN’s pending report, Beattie reportedly was confronted and urged to step down immediately. But he apparently refused to resign..., [so]  the White House terminated him." ...

... Andrew Kaczynski's report for CNN is here.

Andy Kroll of Rolling Stone: "Over the past two decades — including five years serving on the Federal Election Commission — [Don] McGahn has become an ideological warrior battling what he sees as the tyranny of the federal government.... Trump rewarded McGahn with the job of White House counsel, a perch from which McGahn has spearheaded the administration’s unprecedented campaign to reshape the American judicial system, filling courts with judges who share Trump’s goals of dismantling environmental protection, rolling back civil and reproductive rights, and gutting labor laws.... 'These efforts to reform the regulatory state begin with Congress and the executive branch,' McGahn said in his speech, 'but they ultimately depend on courts.'... As of this writing, Trump has put 26 new judges onto the appellate courts, more than any other chief executive at this point in the presidency. He has also nominated over 100 district-court judges and gotten 26 of those picks confirmed.... McGahn, [Leonard] Leo [of the Federalist Society] and Republican leaders including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have steadily filled the courts with future Clarence Thomases and Antonin Scalias.”

Susan Ferriss of the Center for Public Integrity: "What allegedly happened [to school counsellor Tameika Lovell when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers detained her at Kennedy Airport] is outlined in a harrowing civil lawsuit Lovell filled in March in federal court. And the assertions aren’t unique, based on allegations in similar suits filed not just in New York but also in California, Arizona, Texas, Michigan and Pennsylvania.... Lovell’s lawsuit — and 10 others since 2011 reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity — raise timely and unsettling questions about how far border and other immigration officers can go with their considerable power to detain people at the nation’s 328 ports of entry.... In these suits, innocent women — including minor girls — who were not found with any contraband say CBP officers subjected them to harsh interrogation that led to indignities that included unreasonable strip searches while menstruating to prohibited genital probing. Some women were also handcuffed and transported to hospitals where, against their will, they underwent pelvic exams, X-rays and in one case, drugging via IV, according to suits. Invasive medical procedures require a detainee’s consent or a warrant. In two cases, women were billed for procedures." This article also appeared in the Washington Post.

Heather Richardson in the New Republic: Democrats -- led by women -- are finally starting to espouse a "new narrative" by redefining "patriotism" as a construct "built around service, community, and family loyalty."

Jennifer Bendery of the Huffington Post: "Four months after abruptly quitting Congress amid a sexual harassment scandal, former Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) still doesn’t think he did anything wrong. In fact, the former GOP lawmaker says he 'took a bullet for the team' by resigning. He insists he’s right not to repay $84,000 in taxpayer money he spent on a sexual harassment settlement. He ripped the House Ethics Committee for not caring about facts. And he blames f[uck]tards' and the Me Too movement for driving him out of a job.... And that’s just a sample of Farenthold’s comments in an Aug. 1 deposition he gave in a lawsuit over his new job at a Texas port authority.... What’s clear is that he blames everyone but himself for his downfall and that his reasons for not repaying the $84,000 are bonkers. You can read 79 pages of his deposition yourself, here...." Mrs. McC: Sadly, I have retired my Pajama Boy photos. I blame fucktards for that decision. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

AP: "Minnesota Democrats are standing behind U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and his bid for state attorney general, with the state party giving him an endorsement Saturday amid an allegation of domestic abuse from an ex-girlfriend.... Ellison received 326 votes, or 82 percent of delegates on hand at the party's state executive committee meeting Saturday, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

Chico Harlan of the Washington Post: "Pope Francis said in a letter released Monday by the Vatican that the Catholic Church has not dealt properly with 'crimes' against children and needs to prevent sexual abuses from being 'covered up and perpetuated.' 'We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them,' Francis wrote. The 2,000-word letter ... marks one of Francis’s most direct attempts to address the painful abuse cases that have eroded the Roman Catholic Church’s credibility and prompted sharp calls from inside and outside the church for improved accountability. Francis did not lay out any concrete steps the Vatican would take, but he acknowledged that systemic change is needed.”

Way Beyond the Beltway

Griff Witte of the Washington Post: In Poland, judges stand up to the Law & Justice party by refusing to apply for positions on the country's supreme court, which the party is attempting to turn into a rubber-stamp.

Saturday
Aug182018

The Commentariat -- August 19, 2018

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Trump Mad at Maggie & Mike. David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "President Trump reacted angrily Sunday to a new report that the White House counsel has cooperated extensively in the Russia investigation without Trump's full knowledge, calling it a 'Fake Story' and comparing the probe to McCarthyism. In a series of tweets, the president lashed out at a New York Times report that White House lawyer Donald McGahn had participated in at least three interviews with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III that spanned 30 hours." Mrs. McC: Best way to get under Trump's skin: expose his ignorance & stupidity, as the NYT story does.

Rudy Deconstructs Reality -- So Derrida! Rebecca Morin & David Cohen of Politico: "... Rudy Giuliani on Sunday claimed 'truth isn't truth' when trying to explain why the president should not testify for special counsel Robert Mueller.... 'When you tell me that, you know, he should testify because he's going to tell the truth and he shouldn't worry, well that's so silly because it's somebody's version of the truth. Not the truth,' Giuliani told Chuck Todd on NBC's 'Meet the Press' on Sunday morning. 'Truth is truth,' Todd responded. 'No, no, it isn't truth,' Giuliani said. 'Truth isn't truth. The President of the United States says, "I didn't..."' A startled Todd answered: 'Truth isn't truth?' Giuliani: 'No, no, no.' Todd said: 'This is going to become a bad meme.'... Last week on CNN, he rejected Chris Cuomo's assertion that 'facts are not in the eye of the beholder.' 'Yes, they are,' Giuliani said. 'Nowadays they are.' In May, the former New York mayor pursued a similar line of thought in an interview with the Washington Post about the Mueller investigation: 'They may have a different version of the truth than we do.'" ...

... Benjamin Hart of New York: "Alert: another half-chilling, half-laughable Trump administration mantra is ready to add to the trophy case, in the space just beside 'Alternative Facts' and 'What You're Seeing ... Is Not What's Happening.'... Todd's wry prediction was, of course, immediately proven right. In the other noteworthy section of his interview, Giuliani once again changed the Trump administration's line on its fateful meeting with Russians at Trump Tower in 2016. He now claims, confusingly, that the sitdown was all about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton (not adoptions after all!), but that Trump officials had no idea that actual Russians would be involved (which is definitely not true). But then, what is truth, when you really think about it?" ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: Trumpbots are very good at magical thinking when it comes to religion, but I don't think that makes them ready for the deconstruction of conceptual systems. Just the opposite. Trumpbots deal in absolutes -- like there absolutely is a God & heaven has a lot of kitchen appliances. I don't think "Truth Isn't Truth" will go over well. Although as one wag -- Pat Shipp -- pointed out (Hart linked the Twitter feed), "I can see it now. 'TiT' hats. That ought to help capture females votes!"

Quinn Scanlan of ABC News: "... Donald Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton floated the possibility of reviewing longstanding policy of maintaining security clearances of former government officials." In an ABC News interview, Bolton implied John Brennan abused his security clearance, but when ABC's Martha Raddatz pressed him, he could not cite any examples of Brennan doing so. Bolton maintained his own security clearance when he was on a corporate board & was a Fox "News" contributor. Bolton implied he used his clearance to obtain classified information for the company, which did classified contract work. IOKIYAR.

Another Trump Fox "Guarding" Henhouse. Eric Lipton of the New York Times: "As a corporate lawyer, William L. Wehrum worked for the better part of a decade to weaken air pollution rules by fighting the Environmental Protection Agency in court on behalf of chemical manufacturers, refineries, oil drillers and coal-burning power plants. Now, Mr. Wehrum is about to deliver one of the biggest victories yet for his industry clients -- this time from inside the Trump administration as the government’s top air pollution official. On Tuesday, President Trump is expected to propose a vast rollback of regulations on emissions from coal plants, including many owned by members of a coal-burning trade association that had retained Mr. Wehrum and his firm as recently as last year to push for the changes."

Jennifer Bendery of the Huffington Post: "Four months after abruptly quitting Congress amid a sexual harassment scandal, former Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) still doesn't think he did anything wrong. In fact, the former GOP lawmaker says he 'took a bullet for the team' by resigning. He insists he's right not to repay $84,000 in taxpayer money he spent on a sexual harassment settlement. He ripped the House Ethics Committee for not caring about facts. And he blames f[uck]tards' and the Me Too movement for driving him out of a job.... And that's just a sample of Farenthold's comments in an Aug. 1 deposition he gave in a lawsuit over his new job at a Texas port authority.... What's clear is that he blames everyone but himself for his downfall and that his reasons for not repaying the $84,000 are bonkers. You can read 79 pages of his deposition yourself, here...." Mrs. McC: Sadly, I have retired my Pajama Boy photos. I blame fucktards for that decision.

AP: "Minnesota Democrats are standing behind U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and his bid for state attorney general, with the state party giving him an endorsement Saturday amid an allegation of domestic abuse from an ex-girlfriend.... Ellison received 326 votes, or 82 percent of delegates on hand at the party's state executive committee meeting Saturday, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported."

*****

These are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand. -- Deep Throat, to Bob Woodward (thanks to Scott Lemieux) ...

Bad news for Old MacDonald.... Heigh-ho the Derry-o, McGahn Spills the Beans. Michael Schmidt & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "The White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, has cooperated extensively in the special counsel investigation, sharing detailed accounts about the episodes at the heart of the inquiry into whether President Trump obstructed justice, including some that investigators would not have learned of otherwise, according to a dozen current and former White House officials and others.... In at least three voluntary interviews with investigators that totaled 30 hours over the past nine months, Mr. McGahn described the president's furor toward the Russia investigation and the ways in which he urged Mr. McGahn to respond to it. He provided the investigators examining whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice a clear view of the president's most intimate moments with his lawyer.... Mr. McGahn laid out how Mr. Trump tried to ensure control of the investigation.... It is not clear that Mr. Trump appreciates the extent to which Mr. McGahn has cooperated with the special counsel. The president wrongly believed that Mr. McGahn would act as a personal lawyer...." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Chas Danner of New York: "... it sounds like there was no smoking gun, but McGahn's insight might prove useful [by allowing] Mueller [to build] an obstruction case based on a series of Trump's actions, rather than just one.... Trump responded to the story on Saturday night, characteristically tweeting that there was nothing to see here...: ... 'I allowed White House Counsel Don McGahn, and all other requested members of the White House Staff, to fully cooperate with the Special Counsel. In addition we readily gave over one million pages of documents. Most transparent in history. No Collusion, No Obstruction. Witch Hunt!'... White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders, meanwhile, released a statement stressing that everything was just fine between Trump and McGahn...." ...

... Bob Bauer (White House counsel to President Obama) in Lawfare: "A White House counsel is not in a position to reject or ignore a special prosecutor's request for information relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.... The White House counsel is a government employee, not personal counsel to the president. Courts presented with the question have ruled that, in a criminal investigation, the attorney-client privilege does not shield a White House counsel from providing his or her evidence. Neither is executive privilege a safe harbor if the government can demonstrate need for the information and its unavailability from other sources.... This is the irony of the counsel's position: the very proximity to the Oval Office that distinguishes the role and accounts for so much of its value, can also present grave risks for a president in legal trouble." ...

... Tom Levenson of Balloon Juice: "... this whole thing reminded me of two deep truths. First: when wrongdoing starts to unravel in public view, any smart, or even mildly self-aware mooks entangled in the affairs of the principal miscreant, realize that their interests diverge from said brigand. Clearly that's happening all over Trump world. Second: the Manchurian president appears both to have committed the cardinal sin of all criminal clients -- lying to his legal team -- and to be represented by morons[.]" ...

... Marcy Wheeler of emptywheel: "Over two thousand words and over a dozen sources, and Maggie and Mike never get around to explaining whether Don McGahn has any exposure in or provided testimony for the investigation in chief, the conspiracy with Russia to win the election. Instead, along the way, Maggie and Mike repeat some version of 'obstruction' fourteen times ... perpetuating the grossly misleading myth, once again, that Trump and his cronies are only at risk for obstruction charges.... One bit of legal exposure that the NYT has provided evidence for -- but confused as yet more actual legal discussion -- is in McGahn's role in the Mike Flynn firing.... McGahn wrote an obviously misleading explanation for the Flynn firing, one that suppressed transition period emails that would undermine all the claims about Flynn deciding to lie about his discussion with Sergi Kislyak, and one which would conflict in material ways with the contemporaneous reports of Jim Comey, Sally Yates, and a number of othe DOJ witnesses.... The whole theme of [the NYT] story is that McGahn 'cooperated' with Mueller's inquiry. The word, in some legal contexts, may mean 'responded to legal requests in a way that limited a person's own criminal exposure' and in others may mean 'helped convict co-conspirators.'.... Because the story doesn't explain the difference in connotations, it makes McGahn look far more cooperative than he has necessarily been." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I think the reason "Maggie & Mike" didn't get around to explaining the extent of McGahn's cooperation is that they don't know what-all he told the Mueller team. ...

... Wheeler has another excellent post (which is more readable than much of her stuff) about McGahn's real areas of expertise: campaign finance law & court-stacking. "Most Republicans, I suspect, will one day become willing to jettison Trump so long as they can continue stacking the courts. Trump, one day, may be expendable so long as McGahn’s expertise at stacking the court holds sway. At that level, McGahn's political fortunes may actually conflict with Trump's." ...

... digby: "It's pretty clear who has been behind the leaks over the past year and a half that make Don McGahn look very heroic. There's only one person who would have so much to gain by it.... McGahn has been covering his ass from the beginning. One imagines he's been safe from reprisals because the GOP backs him for their court packing project which, at this point, is their only serious strategy for future survival."

... David Atkins in the Washington Monthly: "Loyalty is not reciprocated in Trumpworld, and every underling expects to be the fall guy for their criminal superior.... [As Haberman & Schmidt write,] 'Mr. McGahn and his lawyer, William A. Burck ..., feared Mr. Trump was setting up Mr. McGahn to take the blame for any possible illegal acts of obstruction.... So he and Mr. Burck devised their own strategy to do as much as possible to cooperate with Mr. Mueller to demonstrate that Mr. McGahn did nothing wrong.'... Beyond its moral perversity, this is an unsustainable institutional culture.... When Trump's White House does fall, this is how it will do so: with each person looking to save their skin at the expense of the others, a den of thieves entirely without honor."

Jeremy Schulman of Mother Jones: "On Saturday, Trump tweeted that [John] Brennan would 'go down as easily the WORST [CIA director] in history & since getting out, he has become nothing less than a loudmouth, partisan, political hack.' Trump -- who last year revealed what the Washington Post described as 'highly classified information' to Russian officials during an Oval Office meeting -- added that Brennan 'cannot be trusted with the secrets to our country!'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Tyranny, TV-Style. Steve M. "I'm not sure Trump understands that Mueller and his team have security clearances.... But Fox has been telling him that the others on the [enemies] list are evil Deep State creatures who are abusing their security clearances. So he'll target them for clearance revocation. A true tyrant would conduct a sweeping, massive purge of critics. What Trump is doing is terrible, but he doesn't quite have a real tyrant's broad vision.... And Trump is revoking the clearances slowly because that's how you'd do it on reality TV -- you'd want to prolong the drama. No real tyrant would do that. But effective tyranny is bad television. So Trump is a slow-acting tyrant. That's why there's still a Mueller investigation at all." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: As usual, Steve lays an interesting perspective on the Trump presidency: it's tyrannical, all right, but it's a slow-rolling tyranny because that's the way Trump did it on the teevee. Whether or not Trump himself has figured this out, there does seem to be a "boiling frog" aspect to Trump's methodology: by pulling these undemocratic & sometimes unconstitutional stunts in small doses, the public becomes accustomed to them & Congressional Republicans can largely avoid oversight: I mean you can't hold hearings on every little thing, can you (unless they're little Democratic things)? (More on Congressional "oversight" linked below.)

Betsy Woodruff & Pervaiz Shallwani of the Daily Beast: "Maria Butina, the Russian national accused of acting as a Kremlin agent in the United States, was abruptly moved from a jail in Washington to a lockup in Alexandria, Virginia, according to her lawyer.... The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has accused American officials of mistreating Butina in jail." Mrs. McC: Oh, good. Maybe she can fraternize with Paul Manafort during rec time. (Also linked yesterday.)

Space Farce! David Cloud & Noah Bierman of the Los Angeles Times: "When President Trump spoke to Marines at the Miramar Air Station in San Diego on March 13, he threw out an idea that he suggested had just come to him. 'You know, I was saying it the other day, because we're doing a tremendous amount of work in space -- I said maybe we need a new force. We'll call it the "space force,"' he told the crowd. 'And I was not really serious. And then I said what a great idea -- maybe we'll have to do that.'... The concept had been pushed unsuccessfully since 2016 by a small group of current and former government officials, some with deep financial ties to the aerospace industry, who see creation of the sixth military service as a surefire way to hike Pentagon spending on satellite and other space systems.... When Trump abruptly embraced the idea at Miramar -- and began promoting it to wild applause at other rallies -- a moribund notion opposed by much of the Pentagon hierarchy and senior members of the Senate became a real possibility.... The story of how that happened is a window into the chaotic way Trump sometimes makes key decisions, often by bypassing traditional bureaucracy to tout ideas that work well as applause lines but aren't fully thought-out." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Paul Krugman: "The real news of the past few weeks isn't that Trump is a wannabe Mussolini who can't even make the trains run on time. It's the absence of any meaningful pushback from Congressional Republicans.... Is Trumpocracy what Republicans always wanted?... My guess is that most Republican politicians are spineless rather than sinister -- or, more accurately, sinister in their spinelessness.... The party has long been in the habit of rejecting awkward facts and attributing them to conspiracies: it's not a big jump from claiming that climate change is a giant hoax perpetrated by the entire scientific community to asserting that Trump is the blameless target of a vast deep state conspiracy.... So remember this moment. We're seeing, in real time, what the GOP is really made of." ...

... Ashley Parker, et al., of the Washington Post: "The Washington Post reached out to all 51 Republican senators and six House Republican leaders asking them to participate in a brief interview about Trump and race. Only three senators agreed to participate: Jeff Flake of Arizona, David Perdue of Georgia and Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate.... As Trump immersed the nation in a new wave of fraught battles over race, most GOP lawmakers tried to ignore the topic altogether. The studied avoidance is a reflection of the enduring reluctance of Republicans to confront Trump's often divisive and inflammatory rhetoric, in part because the ­president remains deeply popular within a party dominated by older white voters. '[Trump] is trying to convince white people that the way to keep their long-term status is to keep out people of color, keep out immigrants, and keep blacks down, and they'll feel better off by doing so,' [Dianne] Pinderhughes [of the University of Notre Dame] said. 'In turn, some white people are excited and responsive. It's not all whites, but it's significant enough to be recognized by other Republicans, who decide to stay quiet about it.'" ...

... Amber Phillips of the Washington Post: "Compared to former national security officials criticizing President Trump in increasingly forceful ways, Congress has been reluctant to challenge him.... But every once in a while, Congress does do something to make itself stand apart from Trump's most controversial actions. It's usually in subtle ways, like Thursday's unanimous vote in the Senate to separate themselves from the president's attacks on the media.* Phillips looks at the times Congress has stood up and/or kinda sorta slightly stood up to Trump. ...

... * Mrs. McCrabbie: I missed this. Here's a story about it: Nicole Guadiano of USA Today (August 16): "The Senate unanimously passed a ['sense of the Senate'] resolution by Democrats on Thursday condemning attacks on the free press and affirming that 'the press is not the enemy of the people,' President Trump's label for the media. The move came as more than 300 newspapers and other media outlets joined The Boston Globe in publishing editorials Thursday promoting freedom of the press and refuting Trump's denouncements. 'We can't let statements by the president declaring the press is the enemy of the people go unchallenged,' said Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.... Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., joined Schatz in introducing the resolution, which passed with unanimous consent by voice vote."

Benjamin Wallace-Wells of the New Yorker writes a glossy piece on John McCain's "romantic conservatism," as seen through the eyes of McCain's long-time aide & coauthor Mark Salter.

Matt Ford of the New Republic: "Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation process is turning into a mess.... Americans are less supportive of his elevation to the high court than any successful Supreme Court nominee in the past thirty years. The voluminous paper trail from his six-year tenure in the George W. Bush White House is turning into a political liability. And the GOP's haste to put him on the court before those records are available gives Democrats the chance to question the process's legitimacy. The Senate's narrow Republican majority means Kavanaugh is still more likely to be confirmed than not. But he's skating closer to thin ice than a nominee in his position should be.... According to The New York Times, [Mitch McConnell] warned White House Counsel Don McGahn that Kavanaugh's extensive paper trail would make things more difficult for the Senate compared to other potential selections."

The following linked story presents one of many reasons to oppose Brett Kavanaugh. Democrats must require Kavanaugh to give a straight (no pun intended) answer on this, but we pretty much know what an honest answer would reveal:

... A Couple Walks into a Retirement Community. Paula Span of the New York Times: A faith-based continued-care retirement community (CCRC) in Missouri rejected the application of a married couple -- because the couple were women. The couple, with the backing of the ACLU, has sued the facility."Faith organizations operate many retirement facilities. If a baker can refuse to make a wedding cake for a gay couple (and have the Supreme Court agree, albeit on narrow grounds), can a C.C.R.C. refuse admission to [a same-sex married couple]? With Attorney General Jeff Sessions announcing the creation of a 'religious liberty task force,' some facilities might try." Read the whole story. There is a lot of discrimination against LGBT seniors in CCCRs, including against those who are already in the facilities. This is really distressing.

Beyond the Beltway

Update to the story linked yesterday about ICE's detaining a man who was driving his pregnant wife to the hospital to give birth: Alex Horton of the Washington Post: "On Saturday afternoon, officials released previously undisclosed details about [Joel] Arrona-Lara’s arrest. He is a Mexican national wanted in Mexico under a warrant issued for homicide charges and has been detained pending removal proceedings, according to a statement by ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley.... Arrona-Lara's legal representative, Emilio Amaya García, told The Post he believed his client was not suspected of crimes within the United States, and denies criminal charges in Mexico. García questioned why Arrona-Lara is slated for removal but not extradition, where a more formal handoff to authorities would be made."

AND Georgia Cops Taze 87-Year-Old Woman Collecting Dandelions. Amy Wang of the Washington Post: "When Martha Al-Bishara went on a walk near her home in northern Georgia last week, she was on a quest for dandelions. The stroll would end in her getting stunned by a Taser and arrested by police officers. The 87-year-old woman often ventured outside -- with a kitchen knife and a plastic bag in hand -- to cut and collect the plants for cooking, her family said. She was doing just that last Friday afternoon when she crossed the street from her home in Chatsworth, Ga., and arrived at a partially fenced lot belonging to a branch of the Boys and Girls Club. There, she began gathering the plants she needed." Al-Bishara doesn't speak English & family members say she suffers from dementia. She made no threatening motions but did not put her steak knife down when officers ordered her to do so. So naturally, the three officers were skeert & one of them Tazed her. Then they carted her off to jail. Mrs. McC: Did I mention Al-Bishara is (probably) Muslim? (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Way Beyond

Putin Danced at Her Wedding. Griff Witte of the Washington Post: "When [Austrian] Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl tied the knot at a vineyard in the hills of southern Austria on Saturday afternoon, Russian President Vladimir Putin was on hand to give his blessing. He stayed for a little over an hour and briefly danced with the bride.... Kneissl married Wolfgang Meilinger, an entrepreneur.... The country's Foreign Ministry said the ceremony was private, with just 100 attendees. But with Putin among them, the personal event took on a very public meaning for Europe while generating a backlash in Austria.... In addition to Putin, the two most powerful figures in Austria -- Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache ... -- also attended Saturday's wedding.... The wedding gave Putin a highly symbolic platform to demonstrate his deepening ties with political leaders in Europe.... The timing is particularly apt for Putin given that Austria currently holds the rotating E.U. presidency."

Friday
Aug172018

The Commentariat -- August 18, 2018

Afternoon Update:

Bad news for Old MacDonald.Heigh-ho the Derry-o, McGahn Spills the Beans. Michael Schmidt & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "The White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, has cooperated extensively in the special counsel investigation, sharing detailed accounts about the episodes at the heart of the inquiry into whether President Trump obstructed justice, including some that investigators would not have learned of otherwise, according to a dozen current and former White House officials and others briefed on the matter. In at least three voluntary interviews with investigators that totaled 30 hours over the past nine months, Mr. McGahn described the president's furor toward the Russia investigation and the ways in which he urged Mr. McGahn to respond to it. He provided the investigators examining whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice a clear view of the president's most intimate moments with his lawyer.... Mr. McGahn laid out how Mr. Trump tried to ensure control of the investigation.... It is not clear that Mr. Trump appreciates the extent to which Mr. McGahn has cooperated with the special counsel. The president wrongly believed that Mr. McGahn would act as a personal lawyer...."

Jeremy Schulman of Mother Jones: "On Saturday, Trump tweeted that [John] Brennan would 'go down as easily the WORST [CIA director] in history & since getting out, he has become nothing less than a loudmouth, partisan, political hack.' Trump -- who last year revealed what the Washington Post described as 'highly classified information' to Russian officials during an Oval Office meeting -- added that Brennan 'cannot be trusted with the secrets to our country!'"

Space Farce! David Cloud & Noah Bierman of the Los Angeles Times: "When President Trump spoke to Marines at the Miramar Air Station in San Diego on March 13, he threw out an idea that he suggested had just come to him. 'You know, I was saying it the other day, because we're doing a tremendou amount of work in space -- I said maybe we need a new force. We'll call it the "space force,"' he told the crowd. 'And I was not really serious. And then I said what a great idea -- maybe we'll have to do that.'... The concept had been pushed unsuccessfully since 2016 by a small group of current and former government officials, some with deep financial ties to the aerospace industry, who see creation of the sixth military service as a surefire way to hike Pentagon spending on satellite and other space systems.... When Trump abruptly embraced the idea at Miramar -- and began promoting it to wild applause at other rallies -- a moribund notion opposed by much of the Pentagon hierarchy and senior members of the Senate became a real possibility.... The story of how that happened is a window into the chaotic way Trump sometimes makes key decisions, often by bypassing traditional bureaucracy to tout ideas that work well as applause lines but aren't fully thought-out."

Betsy Woodruff & Pervaiz Shallwani of the Daily Beast: "Maria Butina, the Russian national accused of acting as a Kremlin agent in the United States, was abruptly moved from a jail in Washington to a lockup in Alexandria, Virginia, according to her lawyer.... The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has accused American officials of mistreating Butina in jail." Mrs. McC: Oh, good. Maybe she can fraternize with Paul Manafort during rec time.

AND Georgia Cops Taze 87-Year-Old Woman Collecting Dandelions. Amy Wang of the Washington Post: "When Martha Al-Bishara went on a walk near her home in northern Georgia last week, she was on a quest for dandelions. The stroll would end in her getting stunned by a Taser and arrested by police officers. The 87-year-old woman often ventured outside -- with a kitchen knife and a plastic bag in hand -- to cut and collect the plants for cooking, her family said. She was doing just that last Friday afternoon when she crossed the street from her home in Chatsworth, Ga., and arrived at a partially fenced lot belonging to a branch of the Boys and Girls Club. There, she began gathering the plants she needed." Al-Bishara doesn't speak English & family members say she suffers from dementia. She made no threatening motions but did not put her steak knife down when officers ordered her to do so. So naturally, the three officers were skeert & one of them Tazed her. Then they carted her off to jail. Mrs. McC: Did I mention Al-Bishara is (probably) Muslim?

*****

Lisa Friedman of the New York Times: "The Trump administration next week plans to formally propose a vast overhaul of climate change regulations that would allow individual states to decide how, or even whether, to curb carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants, according to a summary of the plan and details provided by three people who have seen the full proposal. The plan would also relax pollution rules for power plants that need upgrades. That, combined with allowing states to set their own rules, creates a serious risk that emissions, which had been falling, could start to rise again, according to environmentalists.... President Trump is expected to highlight ... the proposal ... Tuesday at a rally in West Virginia.... It would considerably weaken what is known as the Clean Power Plan former President Barack Obama's signature regulation for cutting planet-warming emissions at coal-fired plants." Mrs. McC: If Trump were the most dignified, considerate & moderate of people in every respect except in his environmental policy, he would still be the worst president* ever.

Karen De Young & Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post: "The White House has drafted documents revoking the security clearances of current and former officials whom President Trump has demanded be punished for criticizing him or playing a role in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to senior administration officials. Trump wants to sign 'most, if not all' of them, said one senior White House official, who indicated that communications aides, including press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Bill Shine, the newly named deputy chief of staff, have discussed the optimum times to release them as a distraction during unfavorable news cycles. Some presidential aides echoed concerns raised by outside critics that the threatened revocations smack of a Nixonian enemies list, with little or no substantive national security justification. Particular worry has been expressed inside the White House about Trump's statement Friday that he intends 'very quickly' to strip the clearance of current Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.... In his Friday comments, Trump said he had gotten a 'tremendous response' for his action against [former CIA Director John] Brennan. 'If anything, I'm giving him a bigger voice,' he said. 'Many people don't even know who he is ... I've never respected him.'" ...

... Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Trump on Friday attacked Bruce Ohr, a little-known Justice Department official, calling him 'a disgrace' and threatening to revoke his security clearance 'very soon.' Mr. Ohr, a career official who has worked on antidrug and anti-gang initiatives at the department, has been targeted by conservative conspiracy theorists who say he helped start the investigation into Russian election interference. Mr. Ohr's wife was at one time a contractor for Fusion GPS, which participated in compiling a dossier about Mr. Trump during the 2016 campaign. Mr. Trump has embraced the conspiracy theory, casting Mr. Ohr and his wife, Nellie, as central players in what he calls the 'rigged witch hunt' and accusing the couple of having what he claims are indirect contacts with Russians -- apparently a reference to Christopher Steele, the British spy who compiled the dossier with the help of Russian sources." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... ** "Trump Is Turning the Department of Justice into His Own Private Goon Squad." Jonathan Chait: "The slowly unfolding purge, one of the most vivid expressions of Trump's governing ethos, has served several purposes for the president. First, it has removed from direct authority a number of figures Trump suspects would fail to provide him the personal loyalty he demanded from Comey and expects from all officials in the federal government. Second, it supplies evidence for Trump's claim that he is being hounded by trumped-up charges -- just look at all the crooked officials who have been fired! Third, it intimidates remaining officials with the threat of firing and public humiliation if they take any actions contrary to Trump's interests. Simply carrying out the law now requires a measure of personal bravery." ...

... Axios: "Dr. Robert Gates has added his name to a stunning list of former intelligence officials who signed a letter criticizing President Trump's decision to revoke former CIA director John Brennan's security clearance..... Gates has served eight presidents, including stints as CIA director, and later as Defense Secretary for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Update: Sixty former intelligence officials have signed onto the letter, according to MSNBC. No link. (DeYoung & Dawsey cover this is their WashPo report, linked above.) ...

... Michael Shear & Julian Barnes of the New York Times: "For more than a year, law enforcement officials have repeatedly rebuffed President Trump's efforts to use the power of his office to derail the Russia investigation. Stymied, Mr. Trump is lashing out in other ways against an investigation that he clearly hates or fears. The president said Thursday that he revoked the security clearance of John O. Brennan ... because Mr. Brennan had been part of what Mr. Trump has called the 'sham' Russia investigation. That move, and the threats of more revocations, were the latest signs that the president seems determined to punish anyone connected to the Russia inquiry." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Presidents generally have broad authority to grant and revoke security clearances at their will (kind of like pardon powers).... Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York..., suggested Trump's revocation of security clearances could be construed as retaliation against witnesses. 'It's a federal crime -- §1513 if anyone wants to look it up -- to retaliate against someone for providing truthful information to law enforcement,' he said. 'So he's getting closer and closer to really dangerous ground here.'"

Linda Qiu of the New York Times writes a fact-check overview of Trump's remarks about the special investigation of Russian hacking & related matters. Almost all of Trump's statements were false, misleading or "required context." Plus, he repeated many of these false assertions again & again. He made a few true or "true but" remarks.

Darren Samuelsohn & Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Paul Manafort's trial will stretch into a fourth week, as jurors headed home Friday without reaching a verdict for the second straight day and the judge overseeing the case alluded to 'threats' the jury may be receiving. 'I had no idea this case would incite this emotion,' U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III said in an open court hearing, responding to a motion from seven news organizations, including Politico, seeking access to sealed materials related to the trial that would have publicly identified the jurors. Ellis denied the motion, telling the courtroom that jurors were 'scared' and 'afraid.' As a result, Ellis said, he didn't 'feel right' releasing the names of the 12-person jury." ...

... Time for Some Jury Tampering. Matt Zapotosky, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Trump weighed in with a public defense of Paul Manafort on Friday, as a jury concluded its second day of deliberations to decide if the president's former campaign chairman is guilty of tax and bank fraud. Jurors signaled Friday afternoon that they were unlikely to reach a verdict before the day ended and asked if they could leave the courthouse at 5 p.m. U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III agreed, and the panel is scheduled to resume deliberations Monday morning. At the White House, Trump declined to answer a question about a possible pardon for Manafort, but spoke out against special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, whose office brought the charges against the 69-year-old Manafort. 'I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad. When you look at what's going on, I think it's a very sad day for our country,' Trump said, adding that Manafort 'happens to be a very good person, I think it's very sad what they've done to Paul Manafort.'" (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Darren Samuelsohn & Josh Gerstein: "Jurors began their second day of deliberations in Paul Manafort’s trial Friday morning as the presiding federal judge outlined his ground rules for how the media should cover the verdict without disrupting the courtroom.... After the jurors exited for a nearby conference room, [Judge T.S.] Ellis acknowledged the trial 'might end soon' and turned to several media-related matters, including the decorum for reporters who plan to be in the Alexandria, Virginia, courthouse when the verdict gets read." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Nancy Gertner, in a Washington Post op-ed: "The performance of U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III in the trial of Paul Manafort on bank fraud and tax evasion charges has been decidedly unusual. During the trial, Ellis intervened regularly, and mainly against one side: the prosecution. The judge's interruptions occurred in the presence of the jury and on matters of substance, not courtroom conduct.... Clearly worried about its outcome, prosecutors went so far as to urge Ellis to tell the jury, in his instructions before they began deliberating, not to let his commentary affect their decision-making. Ellis essentially did just that on Wednesday. It may well have been too little too late." (Also linked yesterday.)

Spencer Hsu & Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "Prosecutors on Friday said a sentence of up to six months in prison would be appropriate for George Papadopoulos, a former adviser to President Trump's 2016 campaign and the first charged defendant to cooperate in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in October to lying to the FBI about Russian contacts during the campaign.... In a court filing Friday in advance of a sentencing hearing set for Sept. 7, Mueller prosecutors declined to recommend a specific sentence for Papadopoulos, but cited a nonbinding federal sentencing guideline based on what both sides agreed was his conduct.... The filing came after an unusual public campaign in conservative media this week by Papadopoulos's wife in which she asked for new attorneys and suggested he tear up his plea deal and face trial." ...

... The "Government's Sentencing Memorandum" is here, via the New York Times. ...

... Mark Mazzetti & Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "The special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has told a judge that a former adviser to the Trump campaign [George Papadopoulos] repeatedly lied about his contacts with Russian operatives and 'caused damage' to the government's inquiry.... In particular, the document said that during a January 2017 interview with the F.B.I., Mr. Papadopoulos misled agents about his conversations with Joseph Mifsud, a London-based professor who investigators believe reached out to Mr. Papadopoulos on behalf of the Russian government. 'The defendant's lies undermined investigators' ability to challenge the professor or potentially detain or arrest him while he was still in the United States,' the memo said. 'The government understands that the professor left the United States on Feb. 11, 2017, and he has not returned to the United States since then.'"

Sophie Weiner of Splinter: "A source has told the Wall Street Journal that President Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen initially refused to pay Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump. According to this account, Cohen changed his mind after the release of the infamous 'Access Hollywood' tape in which Trump is heard describing sexually assaulting women. According to the Journal, Cohen reportedly reached out to one of Daniels' representatives the day after the tape became public. Cohen would go on to pay Daniels $130,000 to sign a nondisclosure agreement forbidding her from speaking publicly about the alleged affair. Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti has also said that the conversation changed after the 'Access Hollywood' tape surfaced." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Oops! Richard Hasen in Slate: "The new revelation about Cohen refusing to pay Daniels in September 2016 is big, circumstantial evidence that could further open up Cohen to facing criminal campaign finance charges. This could also reach all the way to Trump himself.... Cohen's payment to Daniels, if motivated to help the campaign, would be a likely campaign finance violation.... The Journal reports federal prosecutors view the release of the 'Access Hollywood' tape as the 'trigger' for Cohen's payments to Daniels. That's a big deal.... Daniels' former lawyer Keith Davidson had approached Cohen in September 2016 about securing a payment from Trump to buy Daniels' silence. 'Mr. Cohen was dismissive, saying the story was bogus,' according to a source.... Why should Cohen not care a whit about protecting Trump's reputation ... in September 2016, but be anxious to close the deal -- and shut Daniels up -- right as the campaign faced a crisis involving allegations of Trump's treatment of women?... But for the campaign, it seems that Cohen would not hav paid." (Also linked yesterday.)

More Tales from the Kleptocracy. Carol Leonnig, et al., of the Washington Post: "The Justice Department is investigating whether longtime Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy sought to sell his influence with the Trump administration by offering to deliver U.S. government actions for foreign officials in exchange for tens of millions of dollars, according to three people familiar with the probe.... Prosecutors are scrutinizing a plan that Broidy allegedly developed to try to persuade the Trump government to extradite a Chinese dissident back to his home country, a move sought by Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to two of the people. They also are investigating claims that Broidy sought $75 million from a Malaysian business official if the Justice Department ended its investigation of a development fund run by the Malaysian government. The Malaysian probe has examined the role of the former prime minister in the embezzlement of billions of dollars from the fund."

The Horse He Rode in on. Craig Unger writes a long piece in the New Republic about Donald Trump's decades-long ties to Russian oligarchs -- and Russian intelligence. P.D. Pepe highlighted the story, which I -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie -- have not had time to read, in yesterday's Comments. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Shane Harris of the Washington Post likes the Unger story, too. "As the theory goes, Putin wanted to keep tabs on the billionaires -- some of them former mobsters -- who had made their post-Cold War fortunes on the backs of industries once owned by the state. The oligarchs, as well as other new-moneyed elites, were stashing their money in foreign real estate, including Trump properties, presumably beyond Putin's reach. Trump knowingly or otherwise, may have struck a side deal with the Kremlin, Unger argues: He would secretly rat out his customers to Putin, who would allow them to keep buying Trump properties. Trump got rich. Putin got eyes on where the oligarchs had hidden their wealth. Everybody won.... As Unger tells it, Trump can't be totally unaware of the criminality surrounding him, and even if he were, that ignorance is no defense. Trump allowed himself to become compromised by Russia, years before he seriously entertained running for public office." (Also linked yesterday.)

Luppe Luppen & Hunter Walker of Yahoo! News: "A Manhattan judge issued a ruling on Thursday that thwarted the Trump campaign’s attempts to keep a lawsuit out of open court, with potential implications for the looming battle over fired Trump aide Omarosa Manigault Newman's slow-motion revelations of her experiences in the Trump campaign and White House. The decision came in a lawsuit filed by Jessica Denson, a former campaign staffer who filed a complaint last November that alleged she was subjected to 'harassment and sexual discrimination' while she worked on Trump's White House bid in 2016. Lawyers for the Trump campaign tried to force the case into private arbitration based on an agreement signed by staffers that included nondisclosure and nondisparagement provisions. In her decision, Judge Arlene Bluth of New York State Supreme Court disclosed flaws in the wording of the agreement that she said limited its scope. The ruling exposes potential weaknesses in the non-disparagement and non-disclosure agreements that staff at Trump's White House, his campaign, and the Trump Organization have been made to sign." The Wall Street Journal story, which is subscriber-firewalled, is here. (Also linked yesterday.)

Jonathan O'Connell of the Washington Post: "The Justice Department on Friday asked a federal judge to halt proceedings in a lawsuit involving President Trump's private business, arguing that allowing the case to go forward would 'be a distraction to the President's performance of his constitutional duties.' The lawsuit, filed by Maryland and the District of Columbia, centers on whether Trump is violating the Constitution by continuing to do business with foreign and state governments while serving as president. Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte ruled that the historic case could proceed, opening the door for the plaintiffs to seek internal records from Trump's hotel in downtown Washington."

Politico: "... Donald Trump on Saturday took to Twitter to allege social media companies are discriminating against prominent conservatives. 'Social Media is totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices. Speaking loudly and clearly for the Trump Administration, we won't let that happen. They are closing down the opinions of many people on the RIGHT, while at the same time doing nothing to others......." the president tweeted. '.....Censorship is a very dangerous thing & absolutely impossible to police. If you are weeding out Fake News, there is nothing so Fake as CNN & MSNBC, & yet I do not ask that their sick behavior be removed. I get used to it and watch with a grain of salt, or don't watch at all.'" ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: "I do not ask that their sick behavior be removed." Really, Mr. P*? What about that time you suggested NBC affiliates' broadcast licenses should be revoked? Not exactly "a grain of salt."

Another funny post from Jonathan Chait highlights Trump's remarkable duplicity, enhanced by his failure, it seems, to pay any attention to the implications of what he's tweeting. Title: "Trump Admits He Was Underfunding Military Budget to Make Room for Parade." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I'm not sure about Trump & Chait's premise. According to the Trumpentweeter, scrapping the November 2018 military parade means, "Now we can buy some more jet fighters!" But the highest cost estimate published for the parade was $92 million, and that is less than the price of the cheapest U.S. fighter plane, the F/A-18 Hornet.

That time (March 2017) Cadet Bonespurs got into a fight with actual Vietnam veterans over whether the film "Apocalypse Now" was about Agent Orange or napalm. Asawin Suebsaeng of the Daily Beast: "Trump refused to accept that he was mistaken.... 'It was really fucking weird,' one attendee bluntly assessed to The Daily Beast." ...

... Eric Levitz: "In the many months since this encounter, the president has matched his failure to do right by Vietnam veterans on the minor matter of respecting their superior recall of Apocalypse Now, with betrayals on issues of greater import. On the controversy over privatization of the VA, Trump has allowed three of his golf buddies to override the preferences of most veterans organizations -- going so far as to force the ouster of a VA chief who refused to prioritize the wishes of Mar-a-Lago members over those of American servicemen and women. Meanwhile, the administration is finalizing plans to weaken enforcement of the Military Lending Act, which bars predatory lenders from duping financially desperate veterans into usurious loans.

She Has the Meats. Darlene Superville of the AP: "Omarosa Manigault Newman has a stash of video, emails, text messages and other documentation supporting the claims in her tell-all book about her time in the Trump White House, a person with direct knowledge of the records told The Associated Press Friday. Manigault Newman has made clear that she plans to continue selectively releasing the pieces of evidence if ... Donald Trump and his associates continue to attack her credibility and challenge the claims in her book, 'Unhinged.'" ...

Trump's Private War. Carol Lee, et al., of NBC News: "... Donald Trump is increasingly venting frustration to his national security team about the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and showing renewed interest in a proposal by Blackwater founder Erik Prince [and brother of Ditsy DeVos] to privatize the war, current and former senior administration officials said. Prince's idea, which first surfaced last year during the president's Afghanistan strategy review, envisions replacing troops with private military contractors who would work for a special U.S. envoy for the war who would report directly to the president.... A year after Trump's strategy announcement, his advisers are worried his impatience with the Afghanistan conflict will cause him to seriously consider proposals like Prince's or abruptly order a complete U.S. withdrawal, officials said." Emphasis added.

Matthew Lee of the AP: "The Trump administration is ending funding for Syria stabilization projects as it moves to extricate the U.S. from the conflict, citing increased contributions from anti-Islamic State coalition partners. U.S. officials said the administration notified Congress on Friday that it would not spend some $200 million that had been planned for Syria programs and would instead shift that money to other areas. Nearly all of that money, initially pledged by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in February, had been on hold and under review since he was fired in March. A small fraction of that amount was released in June.... [Anonymous officials] said the cut will be more than offset by an additional $300 million pledged by coalition partners, including $100 million that Saudi Arabia announced it had contributed late Thursday. The State Department immediately welcomed the Saudi contribution, which is intended to help revitalize communities liberated from the Islamic State group like Raqqa." (Also linked yesterday.)

Nima Elbagir, et al., of CNN: "The bomb used by the Saudi-led coalition in a devastating attack on a school bus in Yemen was sold as part of a US State Department-sanctioned arms deal with Saudi Arabia, munitions experts told CNN.Working with local Yemeni journalists and munitions experts, CNN has established that the weapon that left dozens of children dead on August 9 was a 500-pound (227 kilogram) laser-guided MK 82 bomb made by Lockheed Martin, one of the top US defense contractors. The bomb is very similar to the one that wreaked devastation in an attack on a funeral hall in Yemen in October 2016 in which 155 people were killed and hundreds more wounded. The Saudi coalition blamed 'incorrect information' for that strike, admitted it was a mistake and took responsibility.... In the aftermath of the funeral hall attack, former US President Barack Obama banned the sale of precision-guided military technology to Saudi Arabia over 'human rights concerns.' The ban was overturned by the Trump administration's then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in March 2017.... The US says it does not make targeting decisions for the coalition, which is fighting a Houthi rebel insurgency in Yemen. But it does support its operations through billions of dollars in arms sales, the refueling of Saudi combat aircraft and some sharing of intelligence."

Julie Watson of the AP: "A federal judge on Friday called on the U.S. government and the American Civil Liberties Union to come up with a plan to address the rights of parents and children separated at the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum. The request was made during a hearing a day after U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw extended a freeze on deportations of recently reunified families, giving a reprieve to hundreds of children and their parents who want to remain in the United States." ...

... Rebekah Entralgo of Think Progress: "The White House is set to host an event on August 20, honoring agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection agencies, an official confirmed to Politico this week. The event, 'Salute to the Heroes of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs [and] Border Protection,' comes ... as [the administration] struggles to reunite hundreds of separated immigrant families and faces criticism over mounting allegations of abuse within ICE-contracted detention facilities.... According to recent government figures, however, 565 children, including 24 children under the age of 5, still remain separated from their families.... Politico noted Thursday evening that the [White House] event was further proof of the administration's anti-immigration strategy running up to the 2018 elections." ...

... ICE Agents to Add to Trump's "Heroes" Honorees. CBS-TV Los Angeles: "A newborn is without his father Friday after immigration agents detained the man as he was taking his wife to deliver the baby.... "[The pregnant woman, who was scheduled to undergo a C-section,] ended up having to drive herself to the hospital to deliver the baby."

The Company She Keeps. Ben Schreckinger of Politico Magazine: "The Justice Department is suing a friend and former business partner of Ivanka Trump for his alleged role in schemes to defraud the federal government out of millions of dollars in tax liabilities on his father's estate. Filed last month and reported here for the first time, the lawsuit follows an August 2017 Politico investigation of alleged financial wrongdoing by New York businessman Moshe Lax and glaring irregularities in the Internal Revenue Service's handling of a $27 million lien on his father's estate. The suit, which seeks more than $60 million in unpaid tax liabilities, was brought in the Southern District of New York.... It alleges that Lax, his sister Zlaty Schwartz, and his late father, Chaim Lax, engaged in a series of complex 'sham transactions' designed to fraudulently evade tax liability. The government alleges the family members undertook 10 separate schemes 'designed to hide the Lax family assets from the IRS and other creditors and make it appear as though the Estate was insolvent.' At a time when Democrats are working to make corruption a midterm campaign issue and a jury deliberates over whether to convict ... Donald Trump's former campaign manager for tax fraud, the suit threatens to further the perception that the Trump family and their closest associates operate in a corrupt milieu." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... MEANWHILE. Charles Bagli of the New York Times: "When the Kushner Companies bought the building at 184 Kent Avenue in Brooklyn in 2015, there were 316 rent-stabilized tenants, seemingly protected from eviction and large rent increases. By June of this year, there were 71 left, according to documents filed with the state attorney general.... The exodus of 245 rent-regulated tenants in a building in less than three years allowed the Kushners to promote those apartments as condominiums and to sell, so far, roughly 130 units for tens of millions of dollars. Last month, a group of 20 current and former tenants at the building filed a $10 million lawsuit, claiming that their apartments were made nearly uninhabitable during two years of renovations, when an army of workers trooped through the seven-story building on the Brooklyn waterfront. The tenants say the sound of drilling reverberated through the hallways. A fine layer of dust covered their furniture and clothing at the end of each day." (Also linked yesterday.)

Kind of Surprising. Katie Benner of the New York Times: "The Justice Department threw its support on Friday behind housing advocates who accuse Facebook of violating fair-housing laws. In a so-called statement of interest, the department suggested that Facebook could be held liable if housing providers like real estate developers and landlords used the site's targeting tools to discriminate against prospective renters and buyers in advertising their properties. Such tools limit who can see ads based on factors like sex, religion and nationality, and advertising restricted along those lines violates the Fair Housing Act."

"Bill Nelson Wasn't Making Things up." Ken Dilanian of NBC News: "Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, has reaped the political whirlwind in the 10 days since he proclaimed that Russian hackers had 'penetrated' some of his state's county voting systems. The governor of Florida, Rick Scott, a Republican who is running against Nelson for his U.S. Senate seat this fall, has blasted his claim as irresponsible. The top Florida elections official, also a Republican, said he had seen no indication it's true. And The Washington Post weighed in Friday with a 2,717-word fact check that all but accused Nelson -- without evidence -- of making it up. However, three people familiar with the intelligence tell NBC News that there is a classified basis for Nelson's assertion, which he made at a public event after being given information from the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The extent and seriousness of the threat remains unclear, shrouded for reasons of national security. The episode illustrates the extent to which secrecy, politics and state-federal rivalries can stand in the way of a unified response to the threat from Russian attacks on a diffuse U.S. election system run by state and local officials." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I sort of read the WashPo "fact check" yesterday, and decided it was uninformed nonsense inasmuch as the writer, Salvador Rizzo, doesn't have a security clearance, as far as I know, & the responses from officials were vague and/or partisan. Ergo, I didn't link the report then. ...

     ... digby: "The government is legitimately worried that if they talk about penetration of he actual voting systems that nobody will ever accept [t]he outcome of an election again. But what if it's true and the party that is benefiting from the penetration refuses to do anything about it?" ...

... Congressional Races. Joel Schectman & Christopher Bing of Reuters: "The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating a cyber attack on the congressional campaign of a Democratic candidate in California, according to three people close to the campaign. The hackers successfully infiltrated the election campaign computer of David Min, a Democratic candidate for the House of Representatives who was later defeated in the June primary for California's 45th Congressional district. The incident, which has not been previously reported, follows an article in Rolling Stone earlier this week that the FBI has also been investigating a cyber attack against Hans Keirstead, a California Democrat. He was defeated in a primary in the 48th Congressional district, neighboring Min's.... While both Min and Keirstead later lost to other primary challengers from their own party, the two closely-watched races are considered critical, competitive battlegrounds as the Democrats seek to win back Congress from Republicans in November. It is unclear who was behind the attack against Min's campaign, why it was carried out, and what the hackers did with any information they obtained.... It also illustrates how small political campaigns do not have the resources to protect themselves from cyber attacks. Few can hire computer security personnel."

Jericka Duncan of CBS News: "Rep. Keith Ellison -- deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a candidate for Minnesota attorney general -- has denied allegations that he abused his ex-girlfriend, Karen Monahan. On Thursday, Monahan, 44, spoke on camera for the first time about an incident she said happened nearly two years ago. Monahan said she has video of what happened but that it's too traumatic for her, so she has chosen not to share it with anyone. CBS News has not seen the video." Mrs. McC: Nonetheless, she was willing to talk about the alleged incident. I don't see why it would be so traumatic to let others see the video; Monahan would not have to watch along with them. Not sayin the abuse didn't happen; just saying her justification for withholding the video is fishy. An abuser's denial, BTW, is not compelling, either. (Also linked yesterday.)

Elizabeth Williamson of the New York Times: "Lawyers for the families of two Sandy Hook shooting victims are accusing the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars media business of intentionally destroying evidence relevant to the defamation cases against him, according to a motion filed on Friday in a Texas court. Mr. Jones is being sued by the families of nine Sandy Hook victims for spreading false claims that the 2012 shooting at the elementary school in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 first graders and six adults was a government-backed hoax, and that the families of the dead were actors. Mr. Jones said on his broadcast last week that he had told his staff to delete material after CNN cited Infowars content that violated Twitter's policies, according to the motion filed on Friday.... At least some of the deleted content was considered evidence in the Sandy Hook cases, and Mr. Jones had been informed in writing in April that he was obligated by law to preserve all relevant material, according to the court filing in District Court in Travis County in Austin."

Beyond the Beltway

Louisiana Fights Back against Sensible Gun Control Advocacy. Mark Ballard of the (Baton Rouge) Advocate: "The [Louisiana] State Bond Commission barred two of the largest banks in the world from participating in efforts to fund some highway projects in Louisiana because of firearms policies instituted after recent mass shootings. On 7-6 vote, the commission excluded Citigroup Inc., the nation's third largest bank, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the second largest, from participating in a $600 million plan to widen Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge and improve access into the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, along with a project in Shreveport. State Treasurer John Schroder made the motion saying the banks' restrictions infringed on Louisiana residents' constitutional right to buy guns.... A few weeks after a gunman killed 17 people at Parkland, Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, Citigroup announced it would no longer do business with retailers peddling high capacity magazines or selling guns to anyone who hasn't passed a background check; or is under the age of 21, except those who have passed firearm hunter safety courses or are involved in the military or law enforcement."

Ohio State's Athletic Program Remains Excellent. Brett McMurphy of Stadium*: Documents and receipts Stadium has obtained show [fired Ohio State assistant football coach] Zach Smith ordered more than $2,200 in sex toys, male apparel and photography equipment and had the items delivered to him at Ohio State's Woody Hayes Athletic Center [at Ohio State] in 2015.... Courtney Smith [Zach's ex-wife] said Zach Smith took multiple photos of his penis inside the Ohio State coaches' offices, inside the White House when the Buckeyes visited in 2015 and also photographed himself in the coaches' offices receiving oral sex and having sex with a OSU staffer."

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I can't quite figure out what kind of publication Stadium is, & McMurphy is not the best writer, but several well-known publications (like USA Today) have picked up this story, so I guess it's okay.

Violet Ikonomova of the Detroit Metro Times: "More than a dozen community groups have called on Rep. Bettie Cook Scott (D-Detroit) to apologize for a series of racial slurs sources say she used to describe her primary election opponent, Rep. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit). Scott is alleged to have referred to Chang as 'ching-chang' and 'the ching-chong' to multiple voters outside polling precincts during last Tuesday's election. She's also said to have called one of Chang's campaign volunteers an 'immigrant,' saying 'you don't belong here' and 'I want you out of my country.'" DMT Update: "Rep. Bettie Cook Scott has issued an apology for her remarks. Find her statement here." (Also linked yesterday.)

News Lede

New York Times: "Kofi Annan, a soft-spoken and patrician diplomat from Ghana, who became the seventh secretary general of the United Nations, projecting himself and his organization as the world's conscience and moral arbiter despite bloody debacles that left indelible stains on his record as a peacekeeper, died on Saturday. He was 80."