The Ledes

Wednesday, June 19, 2019.

New York Times: “David Ortiz, the former Boston Red Sox slugger, was not the intended target of a shooting in the Dominican Republic that seriously injured him last week, the authorities in the country said in a news conference Wednesday. It was a stunning revelation in a wild case that has captivated many in the baseball-crazed nation, and across the world. Jean Alain Rodríguez, the country’s top prosecutor, said Ortiz, who was shot in the back and underwent emergency surgery that night before being transported to Boston, was wearing similar clothing to a friend, Sixto David Fernandez, who was the intended target of the shooting. Fernandez was sitting at the same table as Ortiz at the Dial Bar and Lounge, a regular hangout for Ortiz in the eastern part of Santo Domingo. Rodríguez also revealed for the first time the man suspected of organizing the entire operation: It was Victor Hugo Gomez, he said, a wanted criminal in the U.S. and member of the Gulf Cartel.”

The Wires

New York Times: "... the Library of Congress has named [Joy Harjo] America’s new poet laureate. She will take over for Tracy K. Smith, who has held the position for two years.... Harjo, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, is the 23rd poet and first Native person to be selected for the role."

New York: "The mass of the metal 'anomaly' beneath the moon’s largest crater is five times greater than the big island of Hawaii, and according to a new study from scientists at Baylor University, it could contain metals remaining from an ancient asteroid impact, weighing in at around 4.8 quintillion pounds."

New York Times: "A skeleton in Siberia nearly 10,000 years old has yielded DNA that reveals a striking kinship to living Native Americans, scientists reported on Wednesday. The finding, published in the journal Nature, provides an important new clue to the migrations that first brought people to the Americas. 'In terms of peopling of the Americas, we have found close to the missing link,' said Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen and a co-author of the new paper. 'It’s not the direct ancestor, but it’s extremely close.'... The DNA of [a group scientists call] the Ancient Paleo-Siberians is remarkably similar to that of Native Americans. Dr. Willerslev estimates that Native Americans can trace about two-thirds of their ancestry to these previously unknown people.”

New York Times: Navy pilots flying along the East Coast of the U.S. spotted UFOs "almost daily from the summer of 2014 to March 2015.... The sightings were reported to the Pentagon’s shadowy, little-known Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which analyzed the radar data, video footage and accounts provided by senior officers from the Roosevelt. Luis Elizondo, a military intelligence official who ran the program until he resigned in 2017, called the sightings 'a striking series of incidents.'” In one incident, the UFO flew between two Navy jets "flying in tandem about 100 feet apart over the Atlantic east of Virginia Beach.... It looked to the pilot ... like a sphere encasing a cube."

Mrs. McCrabbie: This actually seems crazy to me:

New York Times: "A shiny stainless steel sculpture created by Jeff Koons in 1986, inspired by a child’s inflatable toy, sold at Christie’s on Wednesday night for $91.1 million with fees, breaking the record at auction for a work by a living artist, set just last November by David Hockney. Robert E. Mnuchin, an art dealer and the father of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, made the winning bid for Mr. Koons’s 1986 'Rabbit' from an aisle seat near the front of the salesroom."

Might as well just get this -- it's vintage! it's "authentic"! -- and give it pride-of-place in the front hall. Sure, visitors will think you're tasteless & nuts, but in such a vintage, authentic way.

UPDATE: (May 19): New York Times: Mnuchin would not reveal the identity of his client; i.e., the purchaser of Stainless Bunny is. During an NYT interview, "He was near tears when asked about his son Steve and refused to comment about their relationship. But friends said that he is in an impossible predicament, conflicted over his sense of duty about being a loyal father and his concern as a citizen that President Trump is bad for America."

David McCullough Is a Crap Historian. Rebecca Onion of Slate reviews his book on the history -- okay, make that "hagiographic platitudes" -- about the settlement of the Northwest Territory. "Its success (it is No. 10 on Amazon’s best-seller list for books, as of Friday) shows how big the gap between critical history and the “popular history” that makes it to best-seller lists, Costco, and Target remains.” Mrs. McC: Onion doesn't mention it, but I get the impression all the "settling" was done by men; apparently the women's tasks were of no account. Somehow I don't think most of the "ladies" sat around drinking tea & doing needlepoint in their pretty parlors.

Guardian: "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have introduced their newborn son to the world and revealed he is to be called Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. The name was announced shortly after the Queen met her eighth great-grandchild for the first time at Windsor Castle, where earlier the couple showed him off to the cameras."

Guardian: “The Duchess of Sussex has given birth to a baby son, weighing 7lbs 3oz. Mother and child were both doing well, Buckingham Palace announced. The Duke of Sussex was present for the birth, which happened at 5.26am on Monday. The child is seventh in line to the throne, and an eighth great-grandchild for the 93-year-old Queen.”

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

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

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
Jun162019

The Commentariat -- June 17, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

McConnell Finally Finds a Bill He Likes -- And It's Trump's. Jordain Carney of the Hill: "Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is pledging to force a vote on President Trump's $4.5 billion request for emergency border money, regardless of whether or not the GOP can reach a deal with Democrats. McConnell told Fox News's 'Fox & Friends' during an interview on Monday that he was planning to bring up a 'freestanding' deal in an effort to force Democrats to go on the record either supporting or blocking the request for humanitarian aid legislation." Mrs. McC: No doubt this is McConnell's way of making sure his wife keeps her job at Transportation funneling money to Kentucky.

Sarah Wilson of WFTV Orlando: "Road closures have already begun in downtown Orlando [for Donald Trump's Tuesday night rally], and dozens of Trump supporters have already set up chairs and tents to claim their spots in line outside the Amway Center. The first supporters said they got into line at 4 a.m. Monday."

ScotusBlog's live updates of this morning's Supreme Court decisions is here. I'll link stories when they become available.

Punt! Mark Sherman of the AP: "The Supreme Court decided Monday against a high-stakes, election-year case about the competing rights of gay and lesbian couples and merchants who refuse to provide services for same-sex weddings. The justices handed bakers in the Portland, Oregon, area a small victory by throwing out a state court ruling against them and ordering judges to take a new look at their refusal to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. The high court's brief order directs appellate judges in Oregon to consider last term's Supreme Court ruling in favor of a baker from Colorado who would not make a cake for a same-sex wedding. The court ruled that baker Jack Phillips was subjected to anti-religious bias in the Colorado Civil Rights Commission's determination that he violated state anti-discrimination in refusing to bake the couple's wedding cake. The Oregon appellate ruling came before the court's decision in Phillips' case."

Pete Williams of NBC News: "The Supreme Court declined on Monday to change the longstanding rule that says putting someone on trial more than once for the same crime does not violate the Constitution's protection against double jeopardy -- a case that drew attention because of its possible implications for ... Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. The 7-2 ruling was a defeat for an Alabama man, Terance Gamble, convicted of robbery in 2008 and pulled over seven years later for a traffic violation. When police found a handgun in his car, he was prosecuted under Alabama's law barring felons from possessing firearms. The local U.S. attorney then charged Gamble with violating a similar federal law. Because of the added federal conviction, his prison sentence was extended by nearly three years."

Lawrence Hurley of Reuters: "The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed Republican legislators in Virginia a defeat, leaving in place a ruling that invalidated state electoral districts they drew because they weakened the clout of black voters in violation of the U.S. Constitution. The justices, in a 5-4 decision, sidestepped a ruling on the merits of the case. They instead found that the Republican-led state House of Delegates lacked the necessary legal standing to appeal a lower court ruling that invalidated 11 state House districts for racial discrimination. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat and the state's top law enforcement official, opposed the appeal and argued that the Republican legislators were not entitled to act on behalf of the state in the case." ...

     ... Jacqueline Thomsen of the Hill: "Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion and was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch. Mrs. McC: A somewhat weird collaboration, on the face of it. ...

... The New York Times story, by Adam Liptak, is here.

~~~~~~~~~~

Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: After contributor PD Pepe shared a beautiful Fathers Day poem with readers (see in yesterday's Comments thread), I felt compelled to share the magnanimous poetic returns expressed by the POTUS*:

Happy Fathers Day to all, including my worst and most vicious critics, of which there are fewer and fewer. This is a FANTASTIC time to be a American! KEEP AMERICA GREAT!

No doubt all the little Trumpbot children will want to share these thoughtful words with their own dear fathers as they all gather 'round the hearth to complain about their measly allowances & press him to buy them ATVs and new rifles. ...

... Okay, so maybe it's worse to get a Fathers Day message from someone who, in the tweet, describes himself as "America's Dad." That would be Prisoner No. 123456, Bill Cosby. ...

... Gabrielle Bruney of Esquire: "The proud dad of Don Jr., Ivanka, Eric, Tiffany, and Barron took to Twitter Sunday to wish a happy Fathers Day to his critics and suggest that the public might want him to serve a third term of office -- which would be completely unconstitutional. After starting off his Sunday morning Tweet storm by once again branding The Washington Post and New York Times 'the Enemy of the People,' Trump laid out a fantasy in which Americans might 'demand' that he serve more than his allotted term. 'The [good news] is that at the end of 6 years,' wrote Trump, 'after America has been made GREAT again and I leave the beautiful White House (do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? KEEP AMERICA GREAT), both of these horrible papers will quickly go out of business & be forever gone!' This isn't Trump's first time suggesting that eight years in office might not be enough for him." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

Look, Article II [of the Constitution], I would be allowed to fire Robert Mueller. Assuming I did all the things... Number one, I didn't. He wasn't fired ... But more importantly, Article II allows me to do whatever I want. Article II would have allowed me to fire him. -- Donald Trump, interview with George Stephanopoulos

Sadly, Trump probably believes this. Funny he didn't mention that Article I allows the Congress to evict him after he does whatever he wants. -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie ...

... Sarah Burris of the Raw Story: "... Donald Trump tweeted out once again that he doesn't know the difference between a man hired to do opposition research and an entire country intruding on an election to sway the result. In a Sunday Twitter rant, Trump proclaimed that if Republicans had done something like that, 'there'd be hell to pay.... It would be a scandal like no other!'... The problem for Trump is that the Republicans did actually pay for the first portion of the dossier< Christopher Steele wrote. 'Fusion GPS was hired by Republicans to do opposition research, they were hired back [by] the Democratic Party to do opposition research,' added Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee about the Steele dossier." Emphasis added. ...

... Justin Wise of the Hill: "President Trump late Saturday ramped up his attacks against The New York Times, accusing the newspaper of committing 'a virtual act of Treason' over its report about the U.S. increasing cyberattacks on Russia's electric power grid. 'Do you believe that the Failing New York Times just did a story stating that the United States is substantially increasing Cyber Attacks on Russia,' Trump tweeted. 'This is a virtual act of Treason by a once great paper so desperate for a story, any story, even if bad for our Country.' Trump claimed in a separate tweet that the story was 'NOT TRUE!' 'Anything goes with our Corrupt News Media today,' he added. 'They will do, or say, whatever it takes, with not even the slightest thought of consequence! These are true cowards and without doubt, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!'" (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: As I suspected, the powers-that-be didn't tell Trump about the U.S.'s counterattacks. As the Times report itself notes, "Pentagon and intelligence officials described broad hesitation to go into detail with Mr. Trump about operations against Russia for concern over his reaction -- and the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials, as he did in 2017 when he mentioned a sensitive operation in Syria to the Russian foreign minister." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Paranoid-in-Chief. Regina Zilbermints of the Hill: "President Trump said former President Obama 'had to know about' what he believes was a 'setup' to prevent Trump from becoming president. Speaking to George Stephanopoulos...," Trump insisted special counsel Robert Mueller's report cleared him of allegations of collusion with Russia and accused 'lowlifes' in the FBI of working against him." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

ABC News now has released the full transcript of George Stephanopoulos's interview of Donald Trump. ...

... Here's the part where Trump rudely kicks Mick Mulvaney out of the Oval for having the temerity to cough while King Donald was speaking:

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: If this CNN video doesn't show up on your browser (I get it in Chrome but not in Firefox), Aaron Rupar of Vox has the video here. Update: The CNN video came up on Firefox after I unblocked third-party cookies. I may be sorry. ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: In the cough-cough episode, it's impossible to know what Trump means by his "beautiful financial statement." Jessica Campisi of the Hill: "President Trump said ... that he believes his 'financial statement' will be turned over 'at some point.' Trump told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that the Senate is 'after my financial statement,' adding that 'at some point, I hope they get it.' 'You going to turn it over?' Stephanopoulos asked. 'At some point, I might,' Trump said. 'It's a fantastic financial statement.' He added: 'I look forward to, frankly, I'd like to have people see my financial statement because it's phenomenal.'" As far as I know, the Senate has not asked for Trump's "financial statement," especially inasmuch as Trump has released five financial statements -- a/k/a "financial disclosures" -- since he began running for president, as required by law. These financial statements are merely overviews, describing assets & debts in broad ranges; they are not tax returns. The House Ways & Mean Committee has lawfully asked for six years of Trump's tax returns; the IRS & Treasury Department have refused to turn them over, and last week the DOJ provided a fake rationale for the refusal. According to the New York Times last month, "President Trump's family business saw its overall revenues decline modestly in 2018, according to his annual financial report released Thursday, suggesting a disconnect between the Trump brand and the still-growing national economy."

Tom Boggioni of the Raw Story: "According to a report in the Washington Post, GOP leaders are at an impasse with the White House on future budget concerns..., which is leading to fears of another government shutdown. The report states, 'GOP leaders have spent months cajoling President Trump in favor of a bipartisan budget deal that would fund the government and raise the limit on federal borrowing this fall, but their efforts have yet to produce a deal. At issue is the interference of Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney who many in Congress believe has his own agenda that may not reflect what the president wants -- meaning all their work could go for naught." The WashPo story is here.

Tom Boggioni: “Addressing a report from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel recommending White House counsel Kellyanne Conway should be fired for flagrant violations of the Hatch Act, the Washington Post editorial board hammered ... Donald Trump's confidante over her smirking response. 'Conway is well-versed in long-standing ethics law that bars federal employees from engaging in partisan politics while on the job,' the editorial begins. 'Restrictions of the Hatch Act have been spelled out to her in formal training, individual conversations and multiple written communications by the Office of White House Counsel. She simply doesn't care that she violates the law." Blah, blah, blah.... Let me know when the jail sentence starts," she quipped to a reporter.... Even worse than her breathtaking arrogance is that the president she works for -- and on whose behalf she regularly and belligerently violates the Hatch Act -- cares even less about the rules,' the editorial continues."

Darren Samuelsohn & Kyle Cheney of Politico: "Democrats investigating Donald Trump for obstruction of justice are eyeing a new strategy to break the president's all-out oversight blockade: calling witnesses who never worked in the White House. Key lawmakers tell Politico they hope to make an end run around Trump's executive privilege assertions by expanding their circle of testimony targets to people outside government who nonetheless had starring roles in Robert Mueller's final report. That includes presidential confidants like former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Other Russia-related figures who never served in Trump's administration and would make for prime congressional witnesses include Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.... 'These people could be called without any reasonable shred of a claim of executive privilege,' said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a pro-impeachment member of the Judiciary panel that's leading the obstruction probe.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I don't think this tack has a high likelihood of success. What's legal & illegal doesn't bother this President, White House & DOJ much. They "just say no," and make up some risible legal argument to support their refusal to cooperate. As Samuelsohn & Cheney report, "The president's lawyers, in an unrelated matter, appeared to lay the groundwork for an effort to block even outside advisers from speaking to Congress about their interactions with Trump and his inner circle by arguing that even some people who don't work for the White House can be subject to claims of executive privilege." If all else fails, the witnesses can take the Fifth even if, like Lewandowski, they prevented rather than committed a crime.

Megan Specia of the New York Times: "Iran announced on Monday that it would soon exceed the limits on the nuclear fuel it is permitted to possess under the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, which the United States withdrew from last year, leaving the door open to an 'unlimited rise' in Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium and potentially triggering another flashpoint with Washington. The announcement by Iran's Atomic Energy Organization was the country's latest signal that it will abandon the pact unless the other signatories to the deal help Iran circumvent punishing United States economic sanctions imposed by President Trump. The threat seemed aimed primarily at the European signatories, to convince them to break with Washington and swiftly restore some of the economic benefits of the deal to Tehran. After the United States withdrew from the nuclear deal, the Trump administration imposed severe economic sanctions that have discouraged any outside companies from doing business with Iran. More recently, it followed that up with measures to all but cut off Iran's revenues from oil sales, the lifeblood of its economy."

Jamie Ehrlich of CNN: "Former late night host and 9/11 first responders advocate Jon Stewart said Sunday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has never been compassionate in his congressional dealings when it comes to passing health care packages for first responders. 'In terms of getting the 9/11 bills passed, Mitch McConnell has been the white whale of this since 2010,' Stewart said on 'Fox News Sunday.'... 'He has always held out until the last minute, and only then after intense lobbying and public shaming has he even deigned to move on it,' he said."

Abby Goodnough of the New York Times: "... hundreds of volunteers around the country [are] working with National Nurses United, the country's largest nurses' union, to build grass-roots support for the single-payer bill, a long shot on Capitol Hill and a disruptive force in the party.... A single-payer health care system would more or less scrap private health insurance, including employer-sponsored coverage, for a system like Canada's in which the government pays for everyone's health care with tax dollars. Democrats not ready for that big a step are falling back on a 'public option,' an alternative in which anyone could buy into Medicare or another public program, or stick with private insurance -- a position once a considered firmly on the party's left wing.... [Swing-district Democrats, in particular,] fear the 'socialism' epithet that President Trump and his party are attaching to Medicare for all."

Presidential Race 2020

Chuck Todd, et al., of NBC News: "... Donald Trump's re-election campaign is cutting ties with some of its own pollsters after leaked internal polling showed the president trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in critical 2020 battleground states, according to a person close to the campaign. The move comes after NBC News obtained new details from a March internal poll that found Trump trailing Biden in 11 key states. Portions of the campaign's expansive March polling trickled out in recent days in other news reports." Mrs. McC: Also too, the campaign needs pollsters who will produce fake poll results that make Trump feel better. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

AP: Authorities say a man has died after a shooting involving a police officer in South Bend, the Indiana city where Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is mayor. Buttigieg said he changed his campaign schedule to return to South Bend on Sunday and hold a late night news conference. He said that the circumstances of the death would be thoroughly investigated, and called on any witnesses of the shooting to come forward and speak to investigators.... Buttigieg also canceled a trip Monday to New York for an LGBTQ event, according to the campaign."


Eric Levitz
of New York: "In its new Distributive Financial Accounts data series, the [Federal Reserve] offers a granular picture of how American capitalism has been distributing the gains of economic growth over the past three decades. Matt Bruenig of the People's Policy Project took the Fed's data and calculated how much the respective net worth of America's top one percent and its bottom 50 percent has changed since 1989. He found that America's superrich have grown about $21 trillion richer..., while those in the bottom half of the wealth distribution have grown $900 billion poorer. Notably, this measure of wealth includes liabilities, such as student debt. And it does not include consumer goods..., as economists do not conventionally view such products as wealth assets. But if one did include the Fed's data on the distribution of consumer goods, the wealth gap between the top one percent and bottom 50 would actually be even larger." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd. Michael Sainato of the Guardian: "AT&T is among several large corporations whose CEOs announced support of the Trump tax cut bill by claiming if the legislation passed, their companies would ensure workers reaped benefits from it. But a report published on 22 May by the Congressional Research Service, a non-partisan thinktank for members of Congress, found the tax cuts did not significantly affect the economy or boost wages, but benefited investors more than anyone else. 'The evidence continues to mount that the Trump-GOP tax cuts were a scam, a giant bait-and-switch that promised workers big pay raises, a lot more jobs and new investments, but they largely enriched CEOs and the already wealthy,' said Frank Clemente ... of Americans for Tax Fairness. He noted only 4% of the US workforce saw any sort of pay increase or bonus from the tax cuts. Meanwhile, data collected by ATF shows corporations have cut thousands of jobs since the tax cuts were passed, while using tax windfalls to buy back $1tn of their own stock, which primarily benefits corporate executives and wealthy investors since half of all Americans own no stock."

Way Beyond the Beltway

Hong Kong. Daniel Victor & Keith Bradsher of the New York Times: "Protesters poured into the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday with renewed determination and a lengthening list of demands, rejecting the government's retreat on a contentious extradition bill and extending the political crisis gripping the semiautonomous territory. Hong Kong's embattled leader, Carrie Lam, shelved the bill on Saturday and followed that up with a rare apology the next day, actions that pro-democracy activists dismissed as too little, too late. And the sheer size of the demonstration -- organizers gave an unverified estimate of close to two million of the territory's seven million people -- made clear the public remained unsatisfied.... The marchers resolve is sending tremors to Beijing, where President Xi Jinping's carefully nurtured image of strength and competence is being put to the test." ...

... Update. Christopher Bodeen & Tassanee Vejpongsa of the AP: "Demonstrators in Hong Kong gathered Monday outside the office of the city's leader, demanding that she step down for the crisis over a highly unpopular extradition bill that has tested the durability of China's promises to respect the former British colony's quasi-autonomy. The mostly young protesters blocked a street near the city's waterfront as they stood outside the office of Chief Executive Carrie Lam chanting calls for her to cancel the proposed legislation."

Israel. Oliver Holmes of the Guardian: "Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israel's prime minister, has been convicted of illegally misusing thousands of pounds of public funds on lavish meals. A Jerusalem court on Sunday accepted a plea bargain in which Netanyahu agreed to admit to a lesser charge than the original fraud accusations. She will pay about $15,000 (£12,000) in fines and reimbursements to the state. The sentencing ended one of the long-running cases against the family. However, Benjamin Netanyahu still faces the prospect of three corruption indictments later this year that may end his decade as leader and even result in a prison sentence. He denies all charges."

News Ledes

Dallas Morning News: "A man in a mask, combat gear and glasses was shot and killed Monday morning in downtown Dallas after he opened fire with an assault rifle outside the Earle Cabell Federal Building. No one else was injured. FBI Special Agent in Charge Matthew DeSarno identified the shooter as Brian Isaack Clyde, 22 at a news conference on a street corner near the federal building. Clyde died at the scene and was taken to Baylor University Medical Center, after police responded to an active shooter call, officials said."

New York Times: "Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president, collapsed and died while on trial in a Cairo courtroom on Monday, Egyptian state television reported. Mr. Morsi, 67, won Egypt's first free presidential election in 2012 as a senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, but was removed from power a year later in a military takeover. He was on trial on espionage charges when he fainted and died, Egyptian television said."

New York Times: "Gloria Vanderbilt, the society heiress who stitched her illustrious family name into designer jeans and built a $100 million fashion empire, crowning her tabloid story of a child-custody fight, of broken marriages and of jet-set romances, died on Monday at her home in Manhattan. She was 95." ...

Saturday
Jun152019

The Commentariat -- June 16, 2019

Afternoon Update:

Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: After contributor PD Pepe shared a beautiful Fathers' Day poem with readers (see in the Comments thread below), I felt compelled to share the magnanimous poetic returns expressed by the POTUS*:

Happy Father's Day to all, including my worst and most vicious critics, of which there are fewer and fewer. This is a FANTASTIC time to be an American! KEEP AMERICA GREAT!

No doubt all the little Trumpbot children will want to share these thoughtful words with their own dear fathers as they all gather 'round the hearth to complain about their measly allowances & press him to buy them ATVs and new rifles.

Gabrielle Bruney of Esquire: "The proud dad of Don Jr., Ivanka, Eric, Tiffany, and Barron took to Twitter Sunday to wish a happy Fathers Day to his critics and suggest that the public might want him to serve a third term of office -- which would be completely unconstitutional. After starting off his Sunday morning Tweet storm by once again branding The Washington Post and New York Times 'the Enemy of the People,' Trump laid out a fantasy in which Americans might 'demand' that he serve more than his allotted term. 'The [good news] is that at the end of 6 years,' wrote Trump, 'after America has been made GREAT again and I leave the beautiful White House (do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? KEEP AMERICA GREAT), both of these horrible papers will quickly go out of business & be forever gone!' This isn't Trump's first time suggesting that eight years in office might not be enough for him."

Justin Wise of the Hill: "President Trump late Saturday ramped up his attacks against The New York Times, accusing the newspaper of committing 'a virtual act of Treason' over its report about the U.S. increasing cyberattacks on Russia's electric power grid. 'Do you believe that the Failing New York Times just did a story stating that the United States is substantially increasing Cyber Attacks on Russia,' Trump tweeted. 'This is a virtual act of Treason by a once great paper so desperate for a story, any story, even if bad for our Country.' Trump claimed in a separate tweet that the story was 'NOT TRUE!' 'Anything goes with our Corrupt News Media today,' he added. 'They will do, or say, whatever it takes, with not even the slightest thought of consequence! These are true cowards and without doubt, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!'" ...

     ... Mrs. McC: As I suspected (see below), the powers-that-be didn't tell Trump about the U.S.'s counterattacks. As the Times report itself notes, "Pentagon and intelligence officials described broad hesitation to go into detail with Mr. Trump about operations against Russia for concern over his reaction -- and the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials, as he did in 2017 when he mentioned a sensitive operation in Syria to the Russian foreign minister."

Paranoid-in-Chief. Regina Zilbermints of the Hill: "President Trump said former President Obama 'had to know about' what he believes was a 'setup' to prevent Trump from becoming president. Speaking to >George Stephanopoulos...," Trump insisted special counsel Robert Mueller's report cleared him of allegations of collusion with Russia and accused 'lowlifes' in the FBI of working against him."

Chuck Todd, et al., of NBC News: "... Donald Trump's re-election campaign is cutting ties with some of its own pollsters after leaked internal polling showed the president trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in critical 2020 battleground states, according to a person close to the campaign. The move comes after NBC News obtained new details from a March internal poll that found Trump trailing Biden in 11 key states. Portions of the campaign's expansive March polling trickled out in recent days in other news reports." Mrs. McC: Also too, the campaign needs pollsters who will produce fake poll results that make Trump feel better.

Eric Levitz of New York: "In its new Distributive Financial Accounts data series, the [Federal Reserve] offers a granular picture of how American capitalism has been distributing the gains of economic growth over the past three decades. Matt Bruenig of the People's Policy Project took the Fed's data and calculated how much the respective net worth of America's top one percent and its bottom 50 percent has changed since 1989. He found that America's superrich have grown about $21 trillion richer..., while those in the bottom half of the wealth distribution have grown $900 billion poorer. Notably, this measure of wealth includes liabilities, such as student debt. And it does not include consumer goods..., as economists do not conventionally view such products as wealth assets. But if one did include the Fed's data on the distribution of consumer goods, the wealth gap between the top one percent and bottom 50 would actually be even larger."

The New York Times is liveblogging the Hong Kong protests, which escalated Sunday.

~~~~~~~~~~

The Trump Scandals, Ctd.

John Cassidy of the New Yorker summarizes how Trump's interview with George Stephanopoulos put him in peril, again. ...

If Trump had been President during Watergate, he would have left a business card at the break-in. -- Seth Meyers

How Trump Normalizes Lawlessness. Thomas Burr of the Salt Lake Tribune: "Rep. Chris Stewart, a Utah Republican who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, said Friday that it would be 'foolish' not to take information from a foreign government pertaining to an election campaign. While Stewart said he wouldn't have said it the way ... Donald Trump did to ABC News -- the president said he would take intel from a foreign government and maybe not alert the FBI -- there's good reason to look at the information they may be offering." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Matthew Choi of Politico: "President Donald Trump on Saturday hyped his forthcoming full interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, excerpts of which shook allies and opponents alike this week when the president revealed he would take foreign help if offered in the lead up to the 2020 election.... In a Twitter thread posted Saturday night, Trump said he had a positive experience with Stephanopoulos, adding that he thought other news outlets misinterpreted his comments.... [The interview] will be broadcast in full on Sunday...." Mrs. McC: Another I-didn't-say-what-I-said "defense." The fault is yours, people; I made brilliant remarks & you dimwits & fakes misinterpreted them.

FEC Chair Ellen Weintraub explains federal election law to dummies. Okay, to a particular Dummy:

Jordan Fabian & Morgan Chalfont of the Hill: "President Trump's declaration that he would accept dirt on his 2020 opponents from foreign governments is threatening his already strained relationships with the intelligence and law enforcement communities. Former law enforcement and intelligence officials said the president's words could hamper efforts to combat foreign interference in next year's elections and that they dampen morale.... The remarks come at a precarious time for an intelligence community that is already subject to an investigation launched by Trump into the origins of the Russia investigation.... 'The Mueller report showed pretty clearly that he has no problem accepting help from inappropriate and likely illegal places,' said John Sipher, a retired member of the CIA's clandestine service.... Trump also does not like to admit fault, and saying he would call the FBI if offered damaging information on a rival would represent a tacit concession that his campaign should have done so when it received offers of dirt on Hillary Clinton from figures linked to the Russian government in 2016."

Chris Rodrigo of the Hill: "Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe said Thursday that it was 'absolutely' time to launch an impeachment inquiry against President Trump." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Maureen Dowd: "The Trump White House may be a clown show and a criminal enterprise. But it's also an actual presidency. It's turning out to be a genuinely reactionary administration led by a wannabe authoritarian who refuses to recognize constitutional checks on power. The real danger is not the antics but the policies." Mrs. McC: BTW, Dowd reminds us that that nice, dignified Poppy Bush used the State Department to dig up dirt on Bill Clinton, a lapse that is a gross abuse of power. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Eric Geller of Politico: "A tiny federal agency that plays a crucial role in assisting the nation's local election supervisors is gripped by a leadership crisis that has sparked concerns that it is unprepared to play its role in protecting the 2020 presidential race from foreign interference. Brian Newby, the executive director of the Election Assistance Commission, has blocked important work on election security, micromanaged employees' interactions with partners outside the agency and routinely ignored staff questions, according to former election officials, former federal employees and others who regularly work with the agency.... Newby has not only frustrated his own employees and helped create a staff exodus -- nine EAC office directors have left since Newby arrived -- but also angered cybersecurity experts, election integrity activists and state and local officials.... Politico's seven sources ... described Newby, a Republican, as too beholden to the EAC's GOP chairwoman, Christy McCormick, who masterminded his appointment and later spent years denying the reality of Russian interference in the 2016 election. They also said that Newby alienated his agency almost immediately by wading into the issue of a citizenship requirement for voter eligibility...." ...

     ... Rick Hasen, the election-law expert, calls Geller's profile of Newby a must-read.


Cristina Maza
of Newsweek: "Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Friday cast doubt on evidence that the U.S. government claims is proof that Iran was behind an attack this week on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.... The U.S. Navy later released a video that purported to show members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard sneaking over to the ship in the middle of the night to remove an unexploded mine. U.S. officials claimed this is evidence of Iran's culpability, but Maas argued that the video was insufficient proof to pin the attack on Iran." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Peter Baker of the New York Times: "For any president, accusing another country of an act of war presents an enormous challenge to overcome skepticism at home and abroad. But for a president known for falsehoods and crisis-churning bombast, the test of credibility appears far more daunting. For two and a half years in office, Mr. Trump has spun out so many misleading or untrue statements about himself, his enemies, his policies, his politics, his family, his personal story, his finances and his interactions with staff that even his own former communications director once said 'he's a liar' and many Americans long ago concluded that he cannot be trusted.... Mr. Trump ... himself has assailed the reliability of America's intelligence agencies and even the intelligence chiefs he appointed, suggesting they could not be believed when their conclusions have not fit his worldview." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Juan Cole: "The Washington Post reports that when US Secretary of State 'Benghazi Mike' Pompeo gave his breathless news conference last Thursday to finger Iran for the oil tanker explosions in the Gulf of Oman, he indicted Iran for another act of violence at the same time.... On May 31 a suicide bomber attacked a US convoy in Kabul, killing four Afghan passers-by and wounding four American servicemen and at least three civilians. The Taliban were not shy about taking responsibility.... Pompeo painted the incident as one of 'a series of attacks instigated by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its surrogates against American an allied interests.' Pompeo's statement is so embarrassing as to be cringe-worthy. It is either a lie in the service of war propaganda or a display of ... bottomless ignorance.... The Taliban are almost entirely drawn from the ranks of the Sunni Muslim Pushtun ethnic group.... The Taliban, as an extremist group with cult-like beliefs, absolutely hate, abhor and despise Shiites [i.e., Iran's governing religion]."

Don't Tell Trump. David Sanger & Nicole Perlroth of the New York Times: "The United States is stepping up digital incursions into Russia's electric power grid in a warning to President Vladimir V. Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, current and former government officials said. In interviews over the past three months, the officials described the previously unreported deployment of American computer code inside Russia's grid and other targets as a classified companion to more publicly discussed action directed at Moscow's disinformation and hacking units around the 2018 midterm elections. Advocates of the more aggressive strategy said it was long overdue, after years of public warnings from the Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. that Russia has inserted malware that could sabotage American power plants, oil and gas pipelines, or water supplies in any future conflict with the United States.... In a public appearance on Tuesday, President Trump's national security adviser, John R. Bolton, said the United States was now taking a broader view of potential digital targets as part of an effort 'to say to Russia, or anybody else that's engaged in cyberoperations against us, "You will pay a price."'" ...

... Because When You Tell Him Anything, He Screws It up. Priscilla Alvarez & Abby Phillip of CNN: "... Donald Trump's announcement on 'Fox and Friends' Friday morning that Tom Homan would be his new 'border czar' appears to have been premature. Homan, a Fox News contributor, was caught by surprise by the announcement, according to a source familiar.... Trump's announcement also caught officials within the White House by surprise.... Two senior White House officials acknowledged the details of a position are still being worked out and conversations are ongoing.... Aides had not finalized the nature and scope of the role and they had not formally vetted candidates, though Homan's name has been floated internally. Among the potential problems associated with the czar role is structuring it in a way that does not run afoul of the statutory responsibility given to the Department of Homeland Security when it was created by Congress."

Here's the "secret letter" Trump was waving around but refusing to share with reporters last week. Jesse Byrnes of the Hill (June 14): "Mexico's government on Friday released a copy of a letter that President Trump touted in front of cameras earlier this week in teasing additional details of a deal reached with the country to stem the flow of migrants heading toward the U.S. The letter, first published by the Mexican newspaper Reforma, states that the U.S. and Mexico 'will immediately begin discussions to establish definitive terms for a binding bilateral agreement to further address burden-sharing and the assignment of responsibility for processing refugee claims of migrants.'" Trump said "the paper represented an agreement between the U.S. and Mexico." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Actually, no. The letter is a commitment to "begin discussions" about reaching an agreement. In a way, you can't blame Trump for not knowing what he was showing off. True, it is only one page, but the it's typed single-spaced in a normal-sized font, so too much for Trump to read. Trump also claimed to the gathered reporters that "This is one page of a very long and very good agreement for both Mexico and the United States." The letter itself implies that's a Big Fat Lie. There is no "very long and very good agreement." Except in Trump's own mind.

If you'd like to know what Trump thinks about UFOs, George Stephanopoulos asked him and got a very thoughtful answer, of course.

Tierney Sneed of TPM: “Voting rights group say they have found even more evidence connecting a now-deceased GOP gerrymandering consultant to the Trump administration's push to add a citizenship question census. The evidence, put forward in a Friday night court filing, is a 2015 email exchange between the consultant, Thomas Hofeller, and a longtime Census Bureau official who went on to become the the chief of staff to the Bureau's director under the Trump administration. In the emails, the Bureau official, Christa Jones, told Hofeller that the public comments were open on a census-related federal notice and suggested that it could 'be an opportunity to mention citizenship as well.' The email came from Jones' personal account.... It was Jones who recommended that the Census Bureau reach out to far-right anti-immigrant activists who could speak favorably about adding the question. She was also a go-to contact at the Bureau for the Commerce Department as it worked to get the question added, a Commerce official said in deposition, according to NPR." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Way Beyond the Beltway

Keith Bradsher & Alexandra Stevenson of the New York Times: "Backing down after days of huge street protests, Hong Kong's chief executive, Carrie Lam, said on Saturday that she would indefinitely suspend a bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China. It was a remarkable reversal for Mrs. Lam, the leader installed by Beijing in 2017, who had vowed to ensure the bill's approval and tried to get it passed on an unusually short timetable, even as hundreds of thousands demonstrated against it this past week. But she made it clear that the bill was being delayed, not withdrawn outright, as protesters have demanded." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Friday
Jun142019

The Commentariat -- June 15, 2019

Afternoon Update:

Maureen Dowd: "The Trump White House may be a clown show and a criminal enterprise. But it's also an actual presidency. It's turning out to be a genuinely reactionary administration led by a wannabe authoritarian who refuses to recognize constitutional checks on power. The real danger is not the antics but the policies."

How Trump Normalizes Lawlessness. Thomas Burr of the Salt Lake Tribune: "Rep. Chris Stewart, a Utah Republican who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, said Friday that it would be 'foolish' not to take information from a foreign government pertaining to an election campaign. While Stewart said he wouldn't have said it the way ... Donald Trump did to ABC News -- the president said he would take intel from a foreign government and maybe not alert the FBI -- there's good reason to look at the information they may be offering."

FEC Chair Ellen Weintraub explains federal election law to dummies; okay, to a particular Dummy:

Chris Rodrigo of the Hill: "Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe said Thursday that it was 'absolutely' time to launch an impeachment inquiry against President Trump."

Tierney Sneed of TPM: "Voting rights group say they have found even more evidence connecting a now-deceased GOP gerrymandering consultant to the Trump administration's push to add a citizenship question census. The evidence, put forward in a Friday night court filing, is a 2015 email exchange between the consultant, Thomas Hofeller, and a longtime Census Bureau official who went on to become the the chief of staff to the Bureau's director under the Trump administration. In the emails, the Bureau official, Christa Jones, told Hofeller that the public comments were open on a census-related federal notice and suggested that it could 'be an opportunity to mention citizenship as well.' The email came from Jones' personal account.... It was Jones who recommended that the Census Bureau reach out to far-right anti-immigrant activists who could speak favorably about adding the question. She was also a go-to contact at the Bureau for the Commerce Department as it worked to get the question added, a Commerce official said in deposition, according to NPR."

Cristina Maza of Newsweek: "Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Friday cast doubt on evidence that the U.S. government claims is proof that Iran was behind an attack this week on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.... The U.S. Navy later released a video that purported to show members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard sneaking over to the ship in the middle of the night to remove an unexploded mine. U.S. officials claimed this is evidence of Iran's culpability, but Maas argued that the video was insufficient proof to pin the attack on Iran." ...

... Peter Baker of the New York Times: "For any president, accusing another country of an act of war presents an enormous challenge to overcome skepticism at home and abroad. But for a president known for falsehoods and crisis-churning bombast, the test of credibility appears far more daunting. For two and a half years in office, Mr. Trump has spun out so many misleading or untrue statements about himself, his enemies, his policies, his politics, his family, his personal story, his finances and his interactions with staff that even his own former communications director once said 'he's a liar' and many Americans long ago concluded that he cannot be trusted.... Mr. Trump ... himself has assailed the reliability of America's intelligence agencies and even the intelligence chiefs he appointed, suggesting they could not be believed when their conclusions have not fit his worldview."

Keith Bradsher & Alexandra Stevenson of the New York Times: "Backing down after days of huge street protests, Hong Kong's chief executive, Carrie Lam, said on Saturday that she would indefinitely suspend a bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China. It was a remarkable reversal for Mrs. Lam, the leader installed by Beijing in 2017, who had vowed to ensure the bill's approval and tried to get it passed on an unusually short timetable, even as hundreds of thousands demonstrated against it this past week. But she made it clear that the bill was being delayed, not withdrawn outright, as protesters have demanded."

~~~~~~~~~~

The Trump Scandals, Ctd.

Dahlia Lithwick of Slate: "America finds itself in the grip of an endless and inscrutable daily mystery: How is it possible that the president -- whose chief occupations seem to be tweeting, lying, lying about what he tweeted, watching television, and committing crimes -- is not on the hook for anything?... More broadly, one wonders, how is it possible that nobody within his orbit -- including those who refuse to comply with subpoenas, and those who openly commit flagrant acts of greed and corruption, and those who have broken federal laws -- is on the hook for anything either? This vast epistemological question can consume every ounce of energy that remains after an average day spent watching atrocities directed at small children and humanitarian volunteers being put on trial.... The answer, of course, is that we've let him get away with it." ...

I used to think Trump could shoot a man on Fifth Avenue and the Republicans would let him get away with it. Now I think the Democrats would, too. -- Brian Fallon, in a tweet June 12

Justin Fishel & Lucien Bruggeman of ABC News: "... Donald Trump is directly disputing the account of a key witness in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible obstruction of justice during the course of the Russia probe saying that it 'doesn't matter' what his former White House counsel Don McGahn testified.... Trump [told George Stephanopoulos] McGahn 'may have been confused' when he told Mueller that Trump instructed him multiple times to have the acting attorney general remove the special counsel because of perceived conflicts of interest. 'The story on that very simply, No. 1, I was never going to fire Mueller. I never suggested firing Mueller,' Trump told Stephanopoulos." Mrs. McC: If there was any basis for Trump's claim of executive privilege re: McGahn, there isn't anymore. By discussing the matter publicly & disputing McGahn's sworn testimony, Trump has waived any claim of executive privilege. McGahn has the right, for one thing, to publicly defend his testimony. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Jonathan Chait sums up Trump's position: "The Mueller report shows no obstruction of justice, and the obstruction it shows is fake, and Congress can't hear from a person [McGahn] who testified about obstruction. We just have to take Trump's word on this, even though his words contradict other words of his. Just what you'd expect an innocent person to say, basically." ...

... In Another Attempted Clean-up, Trump Again Vows to Collude with Foreign Governments. Jordan Fabian of the Hill: "President Trump on Friday [told Fox 'News'] he would 'of course' look at dirt from a foreign government on his political opponents, but stated he would give it to the FBI if he knew it was 'bad.' The comments were Trump's latest attempt to do damage control over his comments to ABC News that he would accept damaging information about his rivals from hostile powers, which drew widespread backlash in Washington.... He added that 'if I thought anything was incorrect or badly stated I'd report to the FBI or law enforcement, absolutely.'... Despite the blowback he has faced from Democrats and Republicans, Trump said 'I've had a lot of support' for his position, but did not cite any examples. The president insisted he made it clear in his interview with ABC that he would report damaging information to the FBI, even though he told anchor George Stephanopoulos he would 'maybe' do so." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... McConnell Is Like, "Whatever." Matthew Choi of Politico: "Speaking with Fox News' Laura Ingraham on Thursday night, the Senate majority leader spoke with exasperation over the backlash the president has received for saying he would hear out foreign assistance if offered in the 2020 election. McConnell portrayed the comments as a nonstory, saying Congress had legislative agendas to focus on. 'They just can't let it go, Laura,' McConnell said. 'I said weeks ago, case closed. We got the Mueller report, the only objective evaluation that will be conducted.'" (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: So even if the Mueller report had exonerated Trump, which of course it did not, according to Mitch, nothing Trump does or says thereafter can be scrutinized, either. So a "forever" get-out-of-jail-free card. The last time I got stopped for speeding, the policeman did not give me a ticket, even though I was definitely speeding. If I had one of Mitch's cards, I could go on speeding every time I got behind the wheel, with no legal consequences.

... Trump Can't Take the Heat, Insults Stephanopoulos. Joe Concha of the Hill: "President Trump pushed back at ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos during a testy interview, calling him 'a little wise guy.' Stephanopoulos was pressing the president on not answering questions in person from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team. 'Wait a minute. I did answer questions. I answered them in writing,' Trump said. 'Not on obstruction.' Stephanopoulos replied. 'George, you're being a little wise guy, OK, which is, you know, typical for you,' Trump hit back. 'Just so you understand. Very simple. It's very simple. There was no crime. There was no collusion. The big thing's collusion. Now, there's no collusion. That means ... it was a setup, in my opinion, and I think it's going to come out,' he continued." (Also linked yesterday.)

Faris Bseiso of CNN: "The Trump administration is planning a costly Independence Day speech at the Lincoln Memorial, despite its failure to pay off $7 million in debt from the 2017 inauguration, The Washington Post reported on Friday." Mrs. McC: If you live or shop in D.C., you're paying for the paeans to His Trumpship.

Bill Allison & Jarrell Dillard of Bloomberg News: "Ivanka Trump made $4 million from her investment in her father's Washington hotel last year, according to a disclosure released by the White House on Friday.... Together, Trump and husband Jared Kushner earned between $28.8 million and $135.1 million in outside income while working as unpaid senior advisers to her father..., Donald Trump, their disclosures, which covers 2018, show.... Kushner, 38, disclosed at least $27 million and as much as $135 million in debt, the same amount he disclosed last year."

Jesse Pound & Christine Wang of CNBC: “The Justice Department on Friday supported Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's argument against turning over ... Donald Trump's tax returns.In an opinion signed by Steven Engel, assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel, the agency agreed with Mnuchin's determination that the House Ways and Means Committee's subpoena did not have a 'legitimate legislative purpose.' 'The Committee's asserted purpose -- to consider legislation regarding the IRS's practices in auditing presidential tax filings -- was implausible,' Engel wrote in the memo."


Politico
: "... Donald Trump said on Friday that he has no plans to fire top aide Kellyanne Conway after an independent federal agency recommended that she be removed from her job after she repeatedly used her office for political purposes.... On Friday, Trump fiercely defended Conway and criticized the Hatch Act, saying it unfairly muzzles officials." Mrs. McC: So New Trump Rule: If the President* Says a Law Is "Unfair," He Doesn't Have to Obey It. Expect the rule to apply to court orders, too. (Also linked yesterday.)

Maybe They Fell in Love. Betsy Klein of CNN: "... according to ... Donald Trump, [Queen Elizabeth II] has never had so much fun as she did during his visit last week. 'I have such a great relationship, and we were laughing and having fun. And her people said she hasn't had so much fun in 25 years. Then I got criticized for it because they said we were having too much fun,' Trump told Fox News' 'Fox and Friends' during a phone interview Friday." Mrs. McC: Yo, Donnie, she was laughing at you, not with you.


Steven Erlanger
of the New York Times: “European governments may believe Iran is to blame for the attacks this week on fuel tankers in the Gulf of Oman, but their distrust of the Trump administration and its hawkish policy toward Tehran have led them to measure their words and call for de-escalation and 'maximum restraint.' Mindful of Washington's exaggerations and outright misrepresentations of intelligence leading up to the Iraq war, European leaders are asking the Trump administration for hard evidence.... Germany wants a careful investigation of the attacks, insisting that 'a spiral of escalation must be avoided.' The European Union, in the words of the spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic, has 'said repeatedly that the region doesn't need further escalation, it doesn't need further destabilization, it doesn't need further tension.'"

Ben Dooley of the New York Times: "One of the tankers that were attacked in the Gulf of Oman was struck by a flying object, the ship's Japanese operator said on Friday, expressing doubt that a mine had been attached to its hull. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday that American intelligence agencies had concluded that Tehran was behind the disabling of two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, a vital conduit for much of the world's oil.... In an interview ... Friday by 'Fox & Friends,' President Trump directly accused Tehran, saying, 'Iran did do it.'... But Yutaka Katada, the [tanker] company's president, citing accounts from the ship's crew, said Friday: 'I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship.'" (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Trita Parsi in an NBC News opinion piece: "... if anything, the speed in which the Trump administration officially blamed Iran should give us pause, given John Bolton's long history of fabricating intelligence in favor of war. The mere process of gathering evidence — let alone conclusive evidence -- of how the attack on Thursday was conducted and who was behind it would take days and weeks, not hours. In his press conference Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in fact, carefully avoided claiming the existence of any evidence and presented his accusations as a 'government assessment,' which is different from a U.S. intelligence assessment, of which this administration is historically rather skeptical.... Instead of evidence, Pompeo presented a series of accusations of past alleged [& unproved] activities by Iran.... Iran may very well have been behind the attacks; a case can be made that it has a strong motive. The potential motive, though, does not mean, as the president said on Friday, that 'it's got essentially Iran written all over it.'"

Image of a $20 note produced by the Bureau of Engraving & Printing.... Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "Extensive work was well underway on a new $20 bill bearing the image of Harriet Tubman when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin new security features under development made the 2020 design deadline set by the Obama administration impossible to meet....In fact, work on the new $20 note began before Mr. Trump took office, and the basic design already on paper most likely could have satisfied the goal of unveiling a note bearing Tubman's likeness on next year's centennial of the 19th Amendment.... A current employee of the [Bureau of Engraving and Printing] ... said that the design appeared to be far along in the process." (Also linked yesterday.)

Brian Faler of Politico: "Federal tax payments by big businesses are falling much faster than anticipated in the wake of Republicans' tax cuts, providing ammunition to Democrats who are calling for corporate tax increases. The U.S. Treasury saw a 31 percent drop in corporate tax revenues last year, almost twice the decline official budget forecasters had predicted. Receipts were projected to rebound sharply this year, but so far they've only continued to fall, down by almost 9 percent or $11 billion. Though business profits remain healthy and the economy is strong, total corporate taxes are at the lowest levels seen in more than 50 years. At the same time, overall taxes paid by individuals under the new tax law are up so far this year by 3 percent, thanks to higher wages and salaries, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Last year tax payments by individuals went up 4 percent." (Also linked yesterday.)

Presidential Race 2020

Dartunorro Clark of NBC News: "NBC News on Friday announced the lineups of Democratic presidential candidates who are appearing on stage this month on each night of the first debate of the 2020 race.... Where the candidates will stand on stage each night has not yet been determined.... To decide the matchups, candidates' names were drawn manually at NBC News' headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York." ...

... Reid Epstein, et al., of the New York Times: "With Friday's announcement of the lineups for the debates, set for June 26 and 27, the political stakes and intriguing subplots of the 2020 Democratic primary race came into sharper focus.... The first night will be Senator Elizabeth Warren's to lose, as she faces off against nine lower-polling candidates desperate for breakout moments. But the second night is potentially more consequential, a showdown among four of the biggest names in the 2020 presidential race: Biden, Sanders, Buttigieg, Harris."

Katherine Faulders, et al., of ABC News: "Data from ... Donald Trump's first internal reelection campaign poll conducted in March, obtained exclusively by ABC News, showed him losing a matchup by wide margins to former Vice President Joe Biden in key battleground states. Trump has repeatedly denied that such data exists."

Congressional Race 2020. Maureen Groppe of the Indianapolis Star: "Indiana Rep. Susan Brooks, one of only 13 Republican women in the House as well as the head of GOP recruitment for 2020, found someone she could not convince to run: herself. The Carmel Republican will not seek a fifth term next year, she told USA Today.... For 2020, Democrats had put Brooks on their 'retirement watch list.' They see her district, which includes the wealthy northern Indianapolis suburban areas, as potentially flippable as Republican support has eroded in some suburban areas under ... Donald Trump."

Senate Race 2020. Hayley Miller & Kevin Robillard of the Huffington Post: "Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, a Democrat, is expected to formally announce in the coming weeks that she's running for Republican Sen. Susan Collins&' seat in 2020, five Democratic sources confirmed to HuffPost. Defeating Collins, the Maine moderate who infuriated liberals with her vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, is key to Democratic hopes of winning back control of the Senate in 2020. Gideon is a top-tier recruit for the race and is expected to have at least the tacit backing of establishment groups like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and EMILY's List." ...

... AND Speaking of Brett (and Reproductive Rights, Susan) ... Mark Stern of Slate: "Justice Brett Kavanaugh's old court rebuked his anti-abortion jurisprudence on Friday, compelling the Trump administration to allow undocumented minors in federal custody to terminate their pregnancies. The appeals court's ruling rejects the administration's blanket ban on abortion access for these minors as a violation of their constitutional right to choose. It should guarantee all undocumented minors control over their bodies, a right the federal government has spent more than two years seeking to revoke.... In October 2017, then-Judge Kavanaugh refused to let [a 17-year old known as Jane] Doe, who was housed in Texas, get an abortion.... Instead, Kavanaugh gave the government more time to find a sponsor who could take custody of Doe and maybe let her obtain an abortion. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit swiftly reversed Kavanaugh's decision, allowing Doe to terminate. In response, Kavanaugh penned a fiery dissent accusing the majority of permitting 'immediate abortion on demand.'... Following that decision, Doe quickly obtained her abortion. A furious Department of Justice then asked the Supreme Court to punish the ACLU attorneys who represented Doe, falsely accusing them of misconduct. SCOTUS declined this invitation, but also vacated the D.C. Circuit's decision because it had become moot since Doe got the relief she wanted. So the ACLU pressed on with its class action." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Very nice. But it seems likely Justice Kavanaugh will get the last laugh.

Lachlan Markay of the Daily Beast: "On Friday morning, ABC's digital news operation posted a number of stories that effectively assisted the Trump re-election campaign in building its email list. Some of the network's largest affiliates posted an identical piece of content on their websites promoting a 'birthday card' for ... Donald Trump. The card is actually a petition website created by the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee to harvest email addresses that can be used during the 2020 campaign. A spokesperson for ABC's affiliate stations told The Daily Beast that the piece was initially posted 'by an overnight producer at one of our local stations and they did not follow the station's editorial standards.' Additional stations, which are free to draw content from other ABC affiliates, then posted their own versions. 'The story has since been taken down,' the spokesperson said." Mrs. McC: Ah, the unsupervised-employee defense. I'm sure this inadvertent error wasn't a payoff for the Stephanopoulos interview.

News Lede

New York Times: "Franco Zeffirelli, the Italian director renowned for his extravagantly romantic opera productions, popular film versions of Shakespeare and supercharged social life, died on Saturday at his home in Rome. He was 96."