The Wires

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

 


The Hill: "Arnold Schwarzeneggar says his first season as host of NBC's 'Celebrity Apprentice' is also his last. In remarks Friday, the former California governor cited President Trump, who has repeatedly mocked the ratings of his reality TV replacement, as his reason. 'Even if asked [to do it again] I would decline,' Schwarzenegger told Empire magazine.... 'With Trump being involved in the show people have a bad taste and don’t want to participate as a spectator or sponsor or in any other way support the show. It’s a very divisive period right now and I think the show got caught up in all that division.'" -- CW 

New York Times: "Penguin Random House will publish coming books by former President Barack Obama and the former first lady Michelle Obama, the publishing company announced Tuesday night, concluding a heated auction among multiple publishers. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but publishing industry executives with knowledge of the bidding process said it probably stretched well into eight figures." -- CW ...

Guardian: A statement by the Academy of Motion Pictures said "that PwC – formerly Price Waterhouse Coopers, the accounting firm that has been used by the Academy to handle the voting process for 83 years – had taken full responsibility for 'breaches of established protocols' that led to the error.... On Monday afternoon, the Wall Street Journal reported that ... Brian Cullinan, one of two accountants whose job it was to hand out the winners’ envelopes..., had tweeted a behind-the-scenes photo of [best female actor winner Emma] Stone holding her statuette. The tweet, sent moments before the best picture announcement, raised the question of whether the accountant was distracted, handing Beatty the duplicate envelope." -- CW ...

... Actually, No, It Was Donald Trump's Fault. The Hill: "President Trump is calling Sunday’s Oscar ceremony 'sad,' saying the awards show was 'focused so hard on politics' it led to the epic mix-up over the best picture winner. 'I think they were focused so hard on politics that they didn’t get the act together at the end,' Trump said Monday in an interview with Breitbart News." CW: Because everything is about Drumpf. 

Los Angeles Times: "In one of the most surprising upsets and shocking moments in Oscar history, the poetic coming-of-age drama 'Moonlight' took home the top prize for best picture at the 89th Academy Awards, beating out the heavily favored 'La La Land,' which was actually announced as the winner. The win for 'Moonlight' came in a chaotic and confused moment that played out live in front of an audience of millions, as presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway initially presented the evening’s final award to 'La La Land,' only to have one of the film’s producers announce that 'Moonlight' had, in fact, won." -- CW 

Here's the LA Times' "live coverage" page.

CW: It would have been way better for the world if the Electoral College had admitted, as a body, that "There's been a mistake." Unfortunately, actors & film producers have more integrity than electors.

The New York Times embeds the February 23 late-nite's show responses to the latest political news.

Washington Post: "A newfound solar system just 39 light-years away contains seven warm, rocky planets, scientists say. The discovery, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, represents the first time astronomers have detected so many terrestrial planets orbiting a single star. Researchers say the system is an ideal laboratory for studying distant worlds and could be the best place in the galaxy to search for life beyond Earth.... The newly discovered solar system resembles a scaled-down version of our own. The star at its center, an ultra-cool dwarf called TRAPPIST-1, is less than a tenth the size of our sun and about a quarter as warm. Its planets circle tightly around it; the closest takes just a day and a half to complete an orbit and the most distant takes about 20 days.... TRAPPIST-1 is so cool that all seven of the bodies are bathed in just the right amount of warmth to hold liquid water. And three of them receive the same amount of heat as Venus, Earth and Mars, putting them in 'the habitable zone,' that Goldilocks region where it's thought life can thrive." -- CW 

Here's a Houzz feature on Frederick Douglass's D.C. home. Since it's not far from Donald Trump's new (temporary) digs and is every bit as fancy, the Trumpster might want to pay a visit to someone who's done such "an amazing job" that he's "getting recognized more and more." SCROTUS may be surprised to discover that Mr. Douglass is not at home. Too bad, because if Mr. Douglass weren't dead, he could have showed Donaldo his portrait, which for some time was owned by W.E.B. Du Bois (or DeBois or whatever).

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

Rosie O'Donnell's new Twitter profile pic. Thanks to Unwashed for the link. -- CW 

CNN: "The book publisher Penguin is printing more copies of George Orwell's dystopian classic '1984' in response to a sudden surge of demand. On Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning the book was #1 on Amazon's computer-generated list of best-selling books. The list reflects hourly book sales. The 68-year-old novel appeared on the list on Monday, hovered around the #6 spot for much of the day, rose to #2 by Tuesday afternoon and then hit #1." -- CW 

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Friday
Mar242017

The Commentariat -- March 25, 2017

Robert Pear, et al., of the New York Times: "House Republican leaders ... pulled legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act from consideration on the House floor Friday afternoon in a significant defeat for President Trump on the first legislative showdown of his presidency. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan conceded, 'We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.' The defeat ... exposed deep divisions in the Republican Party that the election of a Republican president could not mask. It also cast a shadow over the ambitious agenda that Mr. Trump and Republican leaders had promised to enact once their party assumed power on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. The drama of the day underscored the futility of the leaders’ efforts. Mr. Ryan rushed to the White House shortly after noon to tell Mr. Trump he did not have the votes for a repeal bill that had been promised for seven years — since the day Mr. Obama signed his landmark health care act into law.... Mr. Trump, in a telephone interview moments after the bill was pulled, blamed Democrats and predicted that they would seek a deal within a year, he asserted, after 'Obamacare explodes' because of high premiums. He also expressed weariness with the fight, which was a fraction of the length of time that Democrats devoted to enacting the Affordable Care Act.” (This is an update of a story linked yesterday afternoon, and what a lovely update it is.) -- CW ...

... Robert Costa, et al., of the Washington Post: "House Republican leaders abruptly pulled a rewrite of the nation’s health-care system from consideration on Friday, a dramatic defeat for President Trump and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) that leaves a major campaign promise unfilled and casts doubt on the Republican Party’s ability to govern. In addition to leaving the Affordable Care Act in place, the news also raises questions about the GOP’s ability to advance other high-stakes agenda items, including tax reform and infrastructure spending. Ryan is still without a signature achievement as speaker — and the defeat undermines Trump’s image as a skilled dealmaker willing to strike compromises to push his agenda forward." -- CW (This is a substanial rewrite of an article linked yesterday.) ...

... ** "Hello, Bob." Trump Blames It on Democrats. Again and Again. Robert Costa: "President Trump called me on my cellphone Friday afternoon at 3:31 p.m.... His voice was even, his tone muted.... 'Hello, Bob,' Trump began. 'So, we just pulled it.'... Before I could ask a question, Trump plunged into his explanation of the politics of deciding to call off a vote on a bill he had been touting. The Democrats, he said, were to blame. 'We couldn’t get one Democratic vote, and we were a little bit shy, very little, but it was still a little bit shy, so we pulled it,' Trump said.... There was little evidence that either Trump or House Republicans made a serious effort to reach out to Democrats.... Trump said he would not put the bill on the floor in the coming weeks.... 'As you know, I’ve been saying for years that the best thing is to let Obamacare explode and then go make a deal with the Democrats and have one unified deal. And they will come to us; we won’t have to come to them,' he said. 'After Obamacare explodes.'... My question for the president: Are you really willing to wait to reengage on health care until the Democrats come and ask for your help? 'Sure,' Trump said. 'I never said I was going to repeal and replace in the first 61 days' — contradicting his own statements and that of his own adviser, Kellyanne Conway....” Trump goes on in this vein at some length. -- CW ...

     ... CW: The WashPo hired Costa away from the National Review, I think it was, because he was very well-connected with right-wing movers & shakers. Yes, he is. ...

... New York Times Editors: "Repealing the Affordable Care Act was meant to be the first demonstration of the power and effectiveness of a unified Republican government. It has turned out to be a display of incompetence and cruelty." -- CW ...

Forget about the little shit. Let's focus on the big picture here. -- Donald Trump, to confederate Congressmen, Thursday afternoon ...

... Tim Alberta of Politico: "The lawmakers ... were disturbed by [Trump's] dismissiveness. For many of the members, the 'little shit' meant the policy details that could make or break their support for the bill — and have far-reaching implications for their constituents and the country. 'We’re talking about one-fifth of our economy,' a member told me afterward. Ultimately, the meeting failed to move any votes.... The president had been working on many of them individually in recent days, typically with what members described as 'colorful' phone calls, littered with exaggerations and foul language and hilariously off-topic anecdotes....  By and large, Trump's first attempt to corral the Republican-controlled Congress ... failed miserably." Albert goes on to outline the details of why Trump failed. -- CW ...

... Robert Costa, et al., of the Washington Post: "Trump’s effort was plagued from the beginning. The bill itself would have violated a number of Trump’s campaign promises, driving up premiums for millions of citizens and throwing millions more off health insurance — including many of the working-class voters who gravitated to his call to 'make America great again.' Trump was unsure about the American Health Care Act, though he ultimately dug in for the win, as he put it. There were other problems, too. Trump never made a real effort to reach out to Democrats, and he was unable to pressure enough of his fellow Republicans. He did not speak fluently about the bill’s details [CW: because he's (a) stupid and (b) doesn't give a fuck] and focused his pitch in purely transactional terms. And he failed to appreciate the importance of replacing Obamacare to the Republican base; for the president, it was an obstacle to move past to get to taxes, trade and the rest of his agenda [CW: aimed at further privileging himself & his cronies]." -- CW ...

... Greg Sargent: "Trump seems to imagine that Democrats will also want repeal at some point, rather than to take constructive steps to fix the law by shoring up the exchanges. After all, the bill simply must be a disaster, since Trump says so, and the only question is when Democrats will finally realize this and want to get out from under it (with his help). He still plainly has no understanding whatsoever of the basic policy dilemmas at play here." -- CW ...

... CW: I don't know why anyone is shocked by Trump's failure. Despite his constant claims of being a negotiator nonpareil and a fabulously successful businessman, he "negotiated" himself into multiple bankruptcies by accepting ridiculously-high interest-rate loans on very iffy business ventures. He's been the defendant in thousands of lawsuits, many a result of his piss-poor negotiations. And this was in a field in which he had been working for years. He's just a dumb boob who was born with a gold-plated spoon in his mouth.

... Ryan Proud of Producing Fundamentally Flawed Bill. Justin Fishel, et al., of ABC News: "House Republican leaders decided to pull their Obamacare replacement bill at the last minute at the request of ... Donald Trump -- capping a rocky series of weeks since the controversial measure was introduced and an order from the president for legislators to put their cards on the table today. A GOP aide tells ABC News that Trump called Speaker of the House Paul Ryan at 3 p.m. to tell him to pull the bill. The next House votes are scheduled for Monday, so no further votes are expected in the House for the day or the week. 'We've got to do better and we will,' Ryan said at a hastily arranged press conference this afternoon. 'This is a setback no two ways about it,' but GOP leadership is emerging from the day 'motivated to step up our game and deliver our promises.' Ryan said ... 'I'm really proud of the bill we produced,' but later in his speech called it a 'fundamentally flawed' piece of legislation." -- CW ...

... Philip Bump of the Washington Post on why House GOP "No on CAHCA" reps aren't afraid of Trump's threats: "... we have: A broadly unpopular president ... Backing an even-more-unpopular bill ... Using the threat of electoral loss as a stick, despite having only won the weakest presidential victory in American history." -- CW ...

... "Nobody Knew Governing Could Be So Complicated." McKay Coppins of the Atlantic: "Republicans are just as likely to pander to Sean Hannity as they are to their local newspaper editorial boards. And the deregulation of political money has enabled cash-flush outside groups with narrowly tailored agendas to strip party committees and old-guard gatekeepers of their power and relevance. The result is a caucus full of conservatives with excellent ratings from the Heritage Foundation, and no idea how to whip a vote." -- CW ...

... Bob Bryan of Business Insider: "'Today is a great day for our country,' said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. 'What happened on the floor is a victory for the American people.' Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer ascribed the failure to the president. 'So much for the Art of the Deal,' he said in a statement, referring to Trump's famous [CW: ghost-written] business book. 'Ultimately, the Trumpcare bill failed because of two traits that have plagued the Trump presidency since he took office: incompetence and broken promises,' Schumer said. 'In my life, I have never seen an administration as incompetent as the one occupying the White House today.'" -- CW ...

... Steve Benen: "... a variety of factors contributed to this humiliating failure. Paul Ryan, for example, wrote a ridiculous piece of legislation behind closed doors, failed spectacularly to get any buy-in from stakeholders, couldn’t think of any substantive defenses, and had even more trouble leading his party’s factions. Donald Trump, meanwhile, couldn’t be bothered to learn the basics of the debate, made no real effort to sell the plan’s purported merits to the public, and proved to be an abysmal deal-maker.... But let’s not overlook one of the more important factors: regular ol’ Americans stepped up in a big way, pressured lawmakers not to take their families’ health benefits away, and it made an enormous difference.... Health care proponents and their allies should remain vigilant, knowing that there are additional rounds to come. But in the meantime, progressive activists and their allies can take a bow. They helped derail a dreadful and dangerous piece of legislation." Emphasis added. ...

   ... CW: I'm with Steve. Thanks not just to House Democrats but also to all of you who attended town hall meetings and protests and who wrote letters & phoned your Congresscritters.

... Ezra Klein: "This is a failure for Speaker Paul Ryan on many levels. He wrote this bill, and when the speaker takes over the process like that, the upside is it’s supposed to create legislation that can pass. On this most basic task, Ryan failed, and failed spectacularly.... But beyond the legislative and tactical deficiencies, the AHCA reflected a deeper failure of moral and policy imagination. Ryan spent the latter half of Barack Obama’s presidency promising to repair the Republican Party’s relationship with the poor (remember Ryan’s 'poverty tour'?). Throughout the AHCA’s short life, the limits of Donald Trump’s attention span were on sharp display. He never bothered to learn enough about the AHCA to make a persuasive case for it.... The bill is less than 20 days old, but Trump is already telling reporters, 'It's enough already.' That’s what you say after working on health reform for years, not days.... Trump’s line on the bill’s failure is it’s Democrats’ fault. Of course, neither Trump nor Ryan nor anyone else ever tried to get a Democratic vote. They didn’t meet with Democrats, and from the beginning, they used the reconciliation process precisely because it meant they wouldn’t have to deal with Democrats." -- CW ...

... Adam Raymond of New York: "Friday afternoon’s collapse of Trumpcare was more than just a crushing failure for President Trump, Paul Ryan, and the whole of the GOP; it was a victory for Democrats — truly a rare bird in Washington, D.C., these days. As news broke Friday afternoon that the House wouldn’t even hold a vote on the disastrous American Health Care Act bill, Democrats took a moment to celebrate with some decently crafted Twitter owns directed squarely at Trump. Many of them snarked on the president’s inability to cut a deal for the bill to pass, a seemingly ironic outcome given the title of his best-selling, ghost-written book, The Art of the Deal." -- CW ...

... "Sometimes the Swamp Drains You." Ezra Klein: "... Trump has become a pitchman for Paul Ryan and his agenda. He’s spent the past week fighting for a health care bill he didn’t campaign on, didn’t draft, doesn’t understand, doesn’t like to talk about, and can’t defend. Rather than forcing the Republican establishment to come around to his principles, he’s come around to theirs — with disastrous results.... The AHCA breaks Trump’s promises to his base so fulsomely, so completely, that when told by Tucker Carlson on Fox News 'that counties that voted for you, middle-class and working-class counties, would do far less well under the bill,' Trump was reduced to saying, simply: 'Oh, I know.' Donald Trump has become Paul Ryan with orange hair.” CW: As I've said, I don't think Trump had any idea CAHCA was hurting "his people," although it wouldn't matter to him if it did, so long as he could blame somebody else for it. ...

... CW: Also see commentary at the end of yesterday's Comments thread. ...

... Jonathan Chait: "... the political project dedicated to restoring the pre-Obamacare status quo, in which people too sick or poor to afford their own insurance without the subsidies and regulations of the Affordable Care Act could be safely ignored, is gone forever. And it is dead for the best possible reason, the reason that undergirds all social progress: because a good idea defeated a bad one.... Republicans have spent eight years fooling themselves about Obamacare. They have built a news bubble that relentlessly circulates exaggerated or made-up news of the law’s shortcomings and systematically ignores its successes.... The existence of the mythical Republican health-care plan was the foundation for every serious critique of the law. And now that that plan has finally appeared, virtually the entire conservative intelligentsia has been forced to admit it is worse than Obamacare.... The right’s insoluble problem is that people who have insurance like it.... Conservatives disagree philosophically with the very concept of insurance as most Americans experience it. Insurance means spreading risk, which is a form of redistribution.... The form taken by Obama’s health-care reform will change over the decades to come. But its central triumph, creating a federal right to access to basic medical care, will never be taken away." ...

     ... CW: I don't share Chait's optimism. If the super-wingers in the GOP gang of thieves had been a little less super-nasty and/or the Republican-picked CBO director less honest, at least 14 million Americans would have lost affordable access to health insurance, and many millions more would have had to cut back on other needs & wishes to pay for higher premiums. Trump and I agree on one thing: it can still happen. ...

... David Frum agrees with Chait: "If the Republican Party tripped over its own feet walking across this empty ballroom, it will face only more fearsome difficulties in the months ahead, as mid-term elections draw closer. Too many people benefit from the law — and the Republican alternatives thus far offer too little to compensate for the loss of those benefits.... Paul Ryan still upholds the right of Americans to 'choose' to go uninsured if they cannot afford to pay the cost of their insurance on their own. His country no longer agrees.... Those conservatives and Republicans who were wrong about the evolution of this debate please consider why they were wrong: Consider the destructive effect of ideological conformity, of ignorance of the experience of comparable countries, and of a conservative political culture that incentivizes intransigence, radicalism, and anger over prudence, moderation, and compassion." CW: This is largely an I-told-you-so post, but it's worth a read, even though you'll certainly disagree with some of Frum's conservative views. ...

... Trump Scolds Freedumb Caucus. Louis Nelson of Politico: "After days of negotiations with the House Freedom Caucus over legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare..., Donald Trump lashed out at the GOP’s uncooperative conservative wing Friday morning, telling his millions of Twitter followers that their stubbornness is working in favor of Planned Parenthood. 'The irony is that the Freedom Caucus, which is very pro-life and against Planned Parenthood, allows P.P. to continue if they stop this plan!' Trump wrote on Twitter Friday morning.... 'After seven horrible years of ObamaCare (skyrocketing premiums & deductibles, bad healthcare), this is finally your chance for a great plan!' Trump wrote on Twitter in a post that preceded his Planned Parenthood dig." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... A brief history of a well-deserved debacle:

... Family Squabble. Kate Bennett of CNN: "While the rest of his senior staff scrambled to squeeze votes for President Trump's flailing health care package, one person remained notably absent for most of the week: Jared Kushner. Along with this wife, Ivanka Trump, another key cog in the president's inner circle, Kushner was on vacation until Thursday, skiing with family in the posh Colorado town of Aspen.... Meanwhile, back in Washington, Trump was fuming. According to a source close to the president, '[Trump] is upset that his son-in-law and senior adviser was not around during this crucial week.' Kushner did appear at the White House on Friday during the last gasps of the Obamacare repeal effort. A White House spokesperson flatly denied the President is frustrated with Kushner." -- CW 


The Russia Connection, Ctd.
David Ferguson of RawStory: "Democratic U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (WI) told LGBTQ activist and Sirius XM radio host Michelangelo Signorile that he has seen 'damning evidence' that shows collusion between Pres. Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and the Russian government in an effort to turn the election in Trump’s favor. 'There are things that I know,' Pocan said, according to Towleroad.com, 'just that I’ve read in classified reports that I’m sure will still come out that will continue to be damning evidence when it comes to this relationship between the Russians trying to influence our elections and ultimately I think the Trump campaign’s potential coordination on it.'" --safari ...

... Judd Legum of ThinkProgress: "Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has abruptly canceled a public hearing scheduled for next Tuesday with former DNI director James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. The hearing is part of the committee’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, including whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives. The ranking member of the Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), characterized Nunes’ decision as an effort to choke off public information about the inquiry." --safari ...

Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes said that Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, has volunteered to testify before his committee, which is investigating alleged ties between Trump campaign officials and Russia as well as the Kremlin’s activities in the 2016 election." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Caitlin MacNeal of TPM: "House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) said on Thursday night that he felt an obligation to tell President Donald Trump about 'incidentally collected' information on Trump and his associates from the intelligence community because the President has been criticized in the media. 'It’s clear that I would be concerned if I was the president, and that’s why I wanted him to know, and I felt like I had a duty and obligation to tell him because, as you know, he’s taking a lot of heat in the news media,' Nunes told Fox News' Sean Hannity." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... David Corn of Mother Jones: "...  with a series of elliptical statements, [Devin Nunes] suggested that on Wednesday he had gone off half-cocked — which is not SOP for an intelligence committee chairman in charge of a highly sensitive and politically charged investigation.... [Putting together his various public statements,] the scenario looks like this: Someone told Nunes that the identities of Trump and/or Trump associates appeared in intelligence reports based on surveillance conducted during the transition. Nunes then reviewed some of these documents this week. And on Wednesday afternoon (two days after a holding a day-long hearing with FBI chief James Comey and NSA head Mike Rogers), Nunes — without telling his fellow committee members and without conducting any thorough examination of the matter — went public. That is, he went rogue. And he rushed to the White House to share his half-baked information with Trump.... Nunes' own account bolsters the argument that he is not a credible manager of the probe of the Trump-Russia scandal." -- CW ...

     ... In an update, Corn writes, "At his Friday afternoon briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer was asked if he could deny the White House passed the information to Nunes. He replied, 'I'm not aware of where he got the documents from.'" CW: That's not even a non-denial denial. It seems almost certain now that the administration (or one of its lackeys) was the source of docs suggesting "incidental" eavesdropping. Nunes refused to name his source, even to the ranking Democrat on the committee. If his source were an intel agency or some other legitimate entity, he would have said so, even if he didn't name the specific agency.

... Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker: "On Monday, when the House Intelligence Committee held its first public hearing about Russian involvement in the U.S. Presidential election, Republican members were almost completely focussed on leaks.... With all the focus by Republicans on leaking classified information, Democrats on the committee were stunned when, in one little-noticed moment during the five-hour hearing, a prominent Republican [Peter King (NY)] seemed to let slip what two members of the panel told me was a piece of classified information.... King had ... revealed that the classified version of the report had concluded 'that historically Russians have supported Republicans.'” -- safari ...

... Elizabeth Landers & Jeremy Diamond of CNN: Rick Gates, the longtime deputy to ... Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, was forced to leave his position with a nonprofit supporting Trump this week due to his longstanding relationship with Manafort, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN. Gates' exit from America First Policies came after the Associated Press reported this week that Manafort had sought to further Russian government interests in his work for a Russian businessman." -- CW 

The Most Unethical Presidency Ever, Ctd. New York Times Editors: "Since the election, it has been clear that Donald Trump cannot both be president and maintain a lease on the government-owned Old Post Office building in Washington, where he opened an opulent hotel last year. Now, a federal official who works for the agency that negotiated the lease (and that, conveniently, reports to the president) has come up with a bizarre, tortured and ultimately dishonest rationale for why Mr. Trump can keep it.... On Thursday, however, an agency contracting official, Kevin Terry, declared that the president was not in violation because he had agreed not to receive any profits from the hotel until after he leaves office.Mr. Terry engages in legal gymnastics that no lawyer could credibly defend. It should not matter when Mr. Trump accepts the profits from the hotel.... Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled Congress is unwilling to force the president to divest or even to investigate his businesses and finances.... Until Congress does its job..., lawsuits may be the only avenue of protest." -- CW 

Clifford Krauss of the New York Times: "The Trump administration announced on Friday that it would issue a permit for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a long-disputed project that would link oil producers in Canada and North Dakota with refiners and export terminals on the Gulf Coast. The announcement, by the State Department, reversed the position of the Obama administration. It followed a 60-day review that was set in motion as one of the first acts of President Trump’s tenure." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Mnuchin Inserts Balls into Mouth. Aaron Rupar of ThinkProgress: "During an interview with Axios’ Mike Allen on Friday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin went above and beyond in praising his boss. 'This guy’s got more stamina than anybody I’ve ever met,' Mnuchin said of Trump. 'I mean, I thought I was in good shape. I traveled with him all the time…. I mean, it’s unbelievable. He’ s constantly doing things.'... 'He’s got perfect genes,' Mnuchin said of Trump. 'He has incredible energy, and he’s unbelievably healthy.' Mnuchin doesn’t seem to have been joking.... This might seem like idle chatter. But as we covered last summer, the link Trump makes between his good genetics and his fitness to lead comes out of the white supremacist playbook." --safari

Karoun Demirjian: "The Senate on Thursday confirmed David M. Friedman to be the next ambassador to Israel, making him the first of President Trump’s selected foreign emissaries to take his post. Friedman earned the support of only two Democrats in the 52-to-46 vote: Sens. Robert Menendez (N.J.) and Joe Manchin III (W.Va.). No Republicans opposed him. Republican support for Friedman was a sure thing despite a rocky confirmation hearing last month, punctuated not only by protesters critical of his statements opposing a Palestinian state and supporting Jewish settlements in the West Bank, but also by Democratic senators concerned about the harsh rhetoric he has used to attack politicians whose Israel policy differs from his." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

The Most Unethical Presidency Ever, Ctd. Dan Alexander of Forbes: "After Promising Not To Talk Business With Father, Eric Trump Says He'll Give Him [Quarterly] Financial Reports." CW: Darn! I was so counting on Little Count Dracula to be an upstanding, ethical citizen. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Alan Yuhas of the Guardian: "Eric Trump’s statement alarmed ethics experts, including Lisa Gilbert, a director at the not-for-profit watchdog Public Citizen. 'It confirms our worst assumptions about the lack of separation between his business and current office,' she said. 'There’s no way to reconcile quarterly updates from your son.'... The watchdog released a report this week analyzing the first two months of the Trump presidency. It concluded that Trump had broken several promises to 'isolate' himself from the business, that his White House was 'clouded by corruption and conflicts', and that he had surrounded himself 'with the same major donors and Wall Street executives he claimed he would fight if elected'.” -- CW ...

... digby on the wonderfulness of the Trump progeny. -- CW 

** WTF? Insanity. David Ferguson of RawStory: "Former CIA Director James Woolsey said that he attended a secret meeting in September with ousted Trump national security adviser Adm. to plan a covert operation to 'whisk away' a fugitive cleric and hand him over to Turkey’s authoritarian government. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Woolsey and other people present at the meeting confirmed that Flynn was coordinating with officials from the cabinet of right-wing Turkish Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdogan in anticipation of extraditing Fethullah Gulen back to Turkey should Trump win the presidency.... The 'dead of night' operation was intended to circumvent normal U.S. extradition laws, Woolsey said. The meeting took place on Sep. 19, and Woolsey said he arrived late only to be startled and alarmed that the discussion was treading into potentially illegal territory." --safari ...

   ... CW: Isn't it time to try Flynn -- and perhaps some in his cohort -- for treason?

Darla Mercado of CNBC: "Amazon, the online merchandise juggernaut, will collect sales taxes from all states with a sales tax starting April 1. Tax-free shopping will be over as of next month in Hawaii, Idaho, Maine and New Mexico, the four remaining holdouts. Since the beginning of this year, Amazon has added a number of states to its roster of jurisdictions where it collects sales taxes.... After April, the only states in which Amazon won't collect taxes are Alaska, Delaware, Oregon, Montana and New Hampshire. These five states don't have sales levies." -- CW 

Beyond the Beltway

** Patrick Caldwell of Mother Jones: "On the same day the House was supposed to pass a bill dismantling Medicaid, Kansas Republicans took a big step toward expanding the program in their state. In a voice vote Thursday morning, a committee in the Kansas Senate approved legislation that would enable the state to take advantage of an Obamacare provision offering Medicaid health insurance coverage to a wider group of poor people. The federal government would provide the vast majority of the funding...The Kansas House overwhelming passed Medicaid expansion earlier this year. The full state Senate is expected to vote on the issue Monday, according to KCUR. But they would likely need to cobble together a veto-proof majority, since Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has vocally opposed to adopting the program." --safari

Way Beyond

Christopher Dickey & Anna Nemtsova of the Daily Beast: "Russian interference in the American elections last year was downright subtle compared to what we’ve seen this week in the run-up to French presidential elections.... On Friday, [Vladimir] Putin endorsed his candidate: far-right-wing, anti-European-Union, anti-NATO, anti-immigrant, anti-American, pro-Trump candidate Marine Le Pen. Of course, Putin said, 'We don't want to influence in any way the events going on [in France],' but his government received Le Pen as if she already were settled in as the head of state in Paris.... In 2014, when Le Pen’s National Front Party could not secure any loans from French banks, she turned to Russia and received millions of dollars from a now defunct institution there. Putin, at the same time, received endorsement from her party for his takeover of Crimea." -- CW 

Declan Walsh of the New York Times: "Six years after roaring crowds ousted him at the peak of the Arab Spring, former President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was freed on Friday from the Cairo hospital where he had been detained, capping a long and largely fruitless effort to hold him accountable for human rights abuses and endemic corruption during his three decades of rule." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Friday
Mar242017

The Commentariat -- March 24, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Robert Pear, et al., of the New York Times: "House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, facing a revolt among conservative and moderate Republicans, rushed to the White House Friday afternoon to inform President Trump he did not have the votes to pass legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to decide whether to pull the bill from consideration." ...

     ... CW: Apparently there are no phone lines between Capitol HIll & the White House, because Republicans like Ryan & Nunes seem to have to race down the avenue to tell Trump stuff. ...

... Mike DeBonis, et al., of the Washington Post: "Several House Republicans previously opposed to an overhaul of the nation’s health-care system said Friday they are likely to support the legislation, as GOP leaders said a vote is expected by late afternoon to attempt to deliver the central promise that brought them to power." -- CW ...

     ... NEW: "As Ryan met with Trump at the White House at 1:30 p.m., Press Secretary Sean Spicer said during his daily briefing that a vote would proceed at 3:30 p.m." ...

... Hill staff are live-updating developments on the vote. -- CW ...

... Trump Scolds Freedumb Caucus. Louis Nelson of Politico: "After days of negotiations with the House Freedom Caucus over legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare..., Donald Trump lashed out at the GOP’s uncooperative conservative wing Friday morning, telling his millions of Twitter followers that their stubbornness is working in favor of Planned Parenthood. 'The irony is that the Freedom Caucus, which is very pro-life and against Planned Parenthood, allows P.P. to continue if they stop this plan!' Trump wrote on Twitter Friday morning.... 'After seven horrible years of ObamaCare (skyrocketing premiums & deductibles, bad healthcare), this is finally your chance for a great plan!' Trump wrote on Twitter in a post that preceded his Planned Parenthood dig." -- CW 

Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes said that Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, has volunteered to testify before his committee, which is investigating alleged ties between Trump campaign officials and Russia as well as the Kremlin’s activities in the 2016 election." -- CW ...

... Caitlin MacNeal of TPM: "House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) said on Thursday night that he felt an obligation to tell President Donald Trump about 'incidentally collected' information on Trump and his associates from the intelligence community because the President has been criticized in the media. 'It’s clear that I would be concerned if I was the president, and that’s why I wanted him to know, and I felt like I had a duty and obligation to tell him because, as you know, he’s taking a lot of heat in the news media,' Nunes told Fox News' Sean Hannity." -- CW  

Clifford Krauss of the New York Times: "The Trump administration announced on Friday that it would issue a permit for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a long-disputed project that would link oil producers in Canada and North Dakota with refiners and export terminals on the Gulf Coast. The announcement, by the State Department, reversed the position of the Obama administration. It followed a 60-day review that was set in motion as one of the first acts of President Trump’s tenure." -- CW 

Karoun Demirjian: "The Senate on Thursday confirmed David M. Friedman to be the next ambassador to Israel, making him the first of President Trump’s selected foreign emissaries to take his post. Friedman earned the support of only two Democrats in the 52-to-46 vote: Sens. Robert Menendez (N.J.) and Joe Manchin III (W.Va.). No Republicans opposed him. Republican support for Friedman was a sure thing despite a rocky confirmation hearing last month, punctuated not only by protesters critical of his statements opposing a Palestinian state and supporting Jewish settlements in the West Bank, but also by Democratic senators concerned about the harsh rhetoric he has used to attack politicians whose Israel policy differs from his." -- CW 

Dan Alexander of Forbes: "After Promising Not To Talk Business With Father, Eric Trump Says He'll Give Him [Regular] Financial Reports." CW: Darn! I was so counting on Little Count Dracula to be an upstanding, ethical citizen.

Declan Walsh of the New York Times: "Six years after roaring crowds ousted him at the peak of the Arab Spring, former President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was freed on Friday from the Cairo hospital where he had been detained, capping a long and largely fruitless effort to hold him accountable for human rights abuses and endemic corruption during his three decades of rule." -- CW 

*****

The moment arrives to deliver for his party, his meat and potatoes, his raison d!etre, The Art Of The Deal guy. So how did that turn out? JustAGuy, in yesterday's Comments

Imagine what a mess this would be if a master negotiator wasn’t steering the ship of state. -- Paul Campos, in LG&$

While it’s important to 'credit' Trump, let us not forget the superb leadership of America’s foremost policy wonk, Paul Ryan. -- Steve Lemieux, same post

Julie Davis, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump issued an ultimatum on Thursday to recalcitrant Republicans to fall in line behind a broad health insurance overhaul or see their opportunity to repeal the Affordable Care Act vanish, demanding a Friday vote on a bill that appeared to lack a majority to pass. The demand, issued by his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, in an evening meeting with House Republicans, came after a marathon day of negotiating at the White House and in the Capitol in which Mr. Trump — who has boasted of his deal-making prowess — fell short of selling members of his own party on the health plan. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan emerged from the session and announced curtly that Mr. Trump would get his wish for a vote on Friday. Mr. Ryan refused to answer reporters’ questions about whether he expected the measure to pass." CW: The saddest thing this says about the GOP is that the reason the bill failed was because it wasn't cruel enough. ...

So far he’s acting like a rookie. It’s really been amateur hour. He seems to think that a charm offensive or a threat will work — that saying ‘I can do this for you’ or ‘I can do this against you’ will work. That’s not the way it works. You have to build real consensus, and you have to gain a real knowledge of the policy — and the president hasn’t done either of those things. -- Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, on Trump's vaunted deal-making "art"

Besides, I don't think Trump wants to stay in Washington over the weekend. The Mar-a-Lago golf course beckons. So let's just put this baby to bed one way or the other, OK? -- Kevin Drum 

... Aw, Poor Trumpity-Dumbpity. Glenn Thrush & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Mr. Trump has told four people close to him that he regrets going along with Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s plan to push a health care overhaul before unveiling a tax cut proposal more politically palatable to Republicans. He said ruefully this week that he should have done tax reform first when it became clear that the quick-hit health care victory he had hoped for was not going to materialize on Thursday, the seventh anniversary of the act’s passage, when the legislation was scheduled for a vote.... If Mr. Trump has any advantage in the negotiations, it is his ideological flexibility.... Already, he has shown that flexibility by going back on campaign promises that no one would lose coverage when the Affordable Care Act was replaced and he would not cut Medicaid." ...

     ... CW: Flexible? That's quite a generous reading. Trump never gave a fuck whether or not you and I had health insurance. Hell, he probably doesn't even know that DonTCare prices millions of Americans out of insurance and cuts Medicaid. As Pelosi suggests, he's that ignorant. ...

... Oops! Mike DeBonis, et al., of the Washington Post: "House leaders postponed a vote Thursday on their plan to overhaul the nation’s health-care system, as they and President Trump struggled to meet demands of conservative lawmakers who said they could not support the bill. House Republicans planned to meet behind closed doors later Thursday to figure out their next steps. Leaders have told the rank and file to be available Friday in the event a vote can be scheduled then." -- CW (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... As the DonTCare bill went down in flames yesterday, President DonTCare revealed that his dream was to the killer truck driver in the 1971 Steven Spielberg thriller "Duel":

Contributor Gloria, who is hard to impress, pictures DonTCare more like this:

... Jonathan Swan of Axios demonstrates that Trump is no closer. -- CW ...

... Martin Longman in the Washington Monthly: "I know Donald Trump is supposed to be an expert on the Art of the Deal.... [But] I don’t think he has the credibility to convince folks that he means what he says even though he may be completely sincere. If the moment gets close to a vote and the whips announce that the bill with fail, it’s possible that it may get pulled again. But it sounds like they’re going to make the caucus walk the plank ... and go on the record. It won’t be a good vote to have on their record regardless of how they cast it. For Speaker Ryan, it could cripple him in much the same way that Speaker John Boehner was crippled by his right flank.... If [Trump] really wants to wheel and deal, he needs the freedom to get away from rigid far-right conservative orthodoxy. He didn’t run as that candidate, so he’s crazy to try to govern that way. Look where it got him. Here he is trying to cajole people into voting for a bill that breaks almost every promise he made about health care." -- CW ...

... "Il Consigliere del Principe." Gabriel Sherman of New York: "The failure to repeal and replace Obamacare would be a stinging defeat for Trump. But it would be an even bigger defeat for Paul Ryan, who has all but staked his Speakership on passing this bill. And in the hall of mirrors that is Washington, the big winner to emerge out of the health-care debacle could be Steve Bannon. That’s because Bannon has been waging war against Ryan for years. For Bannon, Ryan is the embodiment of the 'globalist-corporatist' Republican elite. A failed bill would be Bannon’s best chance yet to topple Ryan and advance his nationalist-populist economic agenda. Publicly, Bannon has been working to help the bill pass. But privately he’s talked it down in recent days." -- CW ...

... Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post: "Changes that House Republicans have made to their health-care legislation would reduce savings in federal spending by half as much as their original plan and would still cause 24 million more Americans to be uninsured, according to congressional budget analysts. The estimates by the Congressional Budget Office arrived late Thursday afternoon as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and the Trump administration were scrambling to corral enough support to put the legislation that erases major parts of the Affordable Care Act to a vote.... The changes would have less impact on savings because they would make it easier for Americans to deduct the cost of medical care from their income taxes and would accelerate by a year the repeal of several taxes that help pay for the ACA, including taxes on insurers, hospitals, high-income adults and tanning beds." ...

     ... CW: Maybe you read that, "What?? You mean ObamaCare is more fiscally conservative than CAHCA even though ObamaCare insures millions more people than CAHCA would?" That's right. ...

... Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "A new Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday shows that the American Health Care Act [CAHCA] ... is severely unpopular. Stunningly unpopular. It is, amazingly enough, less popular than Congress itself. According to Quinnipiac, only 17 percent of Americans approve of the bill — and only 6 percent of the country supports it strongly. (Congress is approved of by 21 percent of the country.) By contrast, well over half of Americans disapprove of it, 43 percent of them strongly." -- CW ...

... Louis Nelson of Politico: "White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he still expects a House vote late Thursday on legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare, even as Republican Party leaders struggle to shore up enough support for the bill. Despite the last-minute scramble, Spicer remained confident that GOP leaders would find the votes, telling reporters, 'It's going to pass. So that's it.' Echoing statements he made a day earlier, the press secretary said there is no plan B should the health care bill fail in the House." -- CW (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Rachel Bade & Josh Dawsey of Politico: "... Donald Trump and conservative House Freedom Caucus members failed to strike a deal on the GOP Obamacare replacement Thursday, endangering the prospects of passage and all but assuring any immediate vote on the measure would fail. Negotiations between Trump and the arch-conservatives opponents of the bill reached at least a temporary standstill after Freedom Caucus members were told recent concessions to the far-right were a final offer. The group rejected that, wanting more. Trump's inability to clinch an agreement means that Speaker Paul Ryan does not likely have the votes needed to pass the measure.... A vote is expected Thursday night. It was not immediately clear whether Ryan would pull the bill or postpone a vote and continue to scramble for votes if it remains short of passage." -- CW (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Kelsey Sutton of Politico: "Former President Barack Obama, who has remained on the sidelines for much of the contentious debate surrounding the Trump administration’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, urged lawmakers Thursday to preserve and build on his signature legislative achievement. The lengthy statement, released on the seventh anniversary of the passage of the bill — and on the same day that House members are set to vote on its repeal — celebrated the merits of Obamacare and described the legislation as a watershed moment in determining that health care was 'not just a privilege for a few, but a right for everybody.'” -- CW (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Tim Murphy of Mother Jones: "What's Missing From This Photo of Politicians Deciding the Future of Women's Health? Anyone?" -- CW ...

     ... Hmmm. Looks like Sen. Patty Murphy (D-Wash.) knows the answer. She calls the photo "A rare look inside the GOP’s women’s health caucus." -- CW 

     ... Hey, Let's Ask Pat Roberts (R-Kansas). Amber Phillips of the Washington Post: "On Thursday, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) was asked by Talking Points Memo reporter Alice Ollstein whether he supports a proposal being floated by conservatives to get rid of Obamacare’s minimum coverage (a/k/a "essential benefits") requirements. His response...: 'I wouldn't want to lose my mammograms,' he snarked." Roberts "almost immediately" apologized. ...

     ... CW: Phillips' article is worth reading for Nancy Metcalf's the explanation of what health insurance is. It might help you explain it to the dimwits you meet along the road. Some version of Roberts' "Why should I pay for mammograms" argument (even tho some men do get breast cancer, as Phillips points out) is a common "argument" confederate men make. If you think this means they don't care about women, including their own wives, mothers and daughters, you're right. ...

... Paul Krugman: CAHCA "would deprive tens of millions of health insurance — the decline in the number of insured Americans would be larger than what would result from simple repeal of Obamacare! — while sharply raising expenses for many of those who remain. It would be especially punitive for lower-income, older, rural voters. In return, we would get a small reduction in the budget deficit. Oh, and a tax cut, perhaps as much as $1 trillion, for the wealthy. This is terrible stuff. It’s made worse by the lies [Paul] Ryan has been telling about his plan. He claims that it would lower premiums; it would actually increase them. He claims that it would end the Obamacare death spiral; there isn’t a death spiral, and his plan would be more, not less, vulnerable to a vicious circle of rising premiums and falling enrollment. He claims that it would lead to 'patient-centered care'; whatever that is supposed to mean, it would actually do nothing to increase choice.... Media adulation, more than anything else, propelled him to his current position. Now, however, the flimflam has hit a wall." -- CW ...

... "If the President Does It, It's Not Illegal." Adam Peck of Think Progress: "On Thursday morning...,  White House social media director Dan Scavino Jr. tweeted out a message to Trump’s dwindling pool of supporters urging them to call their congressperson in support of the American Health Care Act.... Hours later, similarly worded tweets were sent from the official @POTUS account and Donald Trump's personal account.... Directly lobbying Congress in support of (or opposition to) a bill using federal dollars — including White House staff who earn federal salaries — is strictly forbidden under 18 U.S.C. § 1913. Press Secretary Sean Spicer ... dismiss[ed] any notion of wrongdoing by the President but stopping short of defending Scavino’s original tweet. 'It is not … the president … it doesn’t … that is not applicable to the president, no, said Spicer.... Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project for Government Oversight, disagrees. 'Based on the letter of the law, the lob[b]ying provision would apply to the White House and any White House official,' he told ThinkProgress. 'Any lobbying for the health care bill violates that ban.'” -- CW  

Eric Lipton of the New York Times: "The Trump Organization scored a major victory on Thursday when the agency in charge of overseeing federal government property ruled that its Trump International Hotel in a historic government building on Pennsylvania Avenue did not violate the terms of its lease when Donald J. Trump became president. 'The tenant is in full compliance,' Kevin M. Terry, a contracting officer at the agency, the General Services Administration, wrote in a 166-page ruling. The decision came after Democrats in Congress and several government contracting experts and ethics groups had questioned if language in the 2013 lease between the G.S.A. and Mr. Trump and three of his children prohibited an elected federal official from participating in the deal.... The ruling was criticized by ethics watchdog groups and certain House Democrats, who pointed out that with Mr. Trump in control of the federal government, he in effect controls the General Services Administration." -- CW 

James Stewart of the New York Times: "Like or loathe Donald J. Trump, you have to give him this: He’s done more to shine a spotlight on the loopholes and fundamental unfairness of the tax code than any other American president. In doing so, he’s made a powerful case for tax reform, though perhaps not quite along the lines he has in mind." Stewart gleans what he can from the shreds of Trump tax returns made public. -- CW 

Manu Raju & Theodore Schleifer of CNN: "The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee is claiming that he has been presented with new information on collusion between associates of ... Donald Trump and Russia, suggesting 'it's the kind of evidence' that a grand jury investigation would want to consider. Rep. Adam Schiff told CNN Thursday that he had seen additional evidence, but would not specify what it was.... On Thursday night, House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes said he has 'no idea' and is "not familiar" with the evidence Nunes described." -- CW ...

... "I'm President and You're Not," Ctd. Jonathan Chait: "The truly revealing moment of [Michael Shearer's] interview comes at the end, when Trump gives up the game. 'But isn’t there, it strikes me there is still an issue of credibility,' asks Scherer, referencing Trump’s hallucinatory claims to have been surveilled by his predecessor.... Trump rambles through various talking points, and lands on this conclusion: 'I guess, I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president, and you’re not.' This small line is an important historical marker of the bizarre and disconcerting reality into which American politics has plunged. Trump is not merely making an attack on truth here. He is attacking the idea of truth. His statement is a frontal challenge to the notion that objective reality can be separated from power." ...

     ... CW: AND it strikes me that this is a simpleton's excuse for his own rampant depravity. "I'm president and you're not." The only word in that statement that's longer than three letters is "president." Trump must have learned that word in preparation for getting the "top job." Before that, his operative excuse was probably "I won and you lost," which contains a monosyllabic four-letter word. We are living the sequel to "Being There." Chauncey Gardiner is sitting in the Oval Office signing official parchment with a big Sharpie. ...

... Linda Qiu of the New York Times: "In an interview with Time magazine on Wednesday, President Trump cited The New York Times as evidence of his claim, made in a series of Twitter posts on March 4, that President Barack Obama had wiretapped his phones in Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign." Qui, in detail, eviscerates each of the claims Trump made about the Times story, even citing an outside media critic -- Jay Rosen -- who said, "The bald assertion that Obama had Trump wiretapped is nowhere supported by the story. That is fiction." "When asked if The Times article could give Mr. Trump a false impression that Mr. Obama wiretapped him, Mr. Rosen said, 'It does not. No one reading it in good faith would say that.’" (Also linked yesterday.)

     ... CW: Here's how it works. (1) Trump sees a word in a story and picks out some words around it to read (without moving his lips -- big mistake). (2) He decides what the story says based on the short string of words he chooses. (3) That string of words may or may not represent the gist of the story. (4) What he decides is fixed forever; it will never change, even if you later put the same story in front of him and bid him to move his lips as he reads. (5) He insists to his dying day the story said what he first decided it said. (6) Anyone who claims otherwise is a liar or a hater or a fake. Or some other bad word in his limited vocabulary. ...

... Steve M. "I half-wonder whether Nunes was deployed [Wednesday] specifically to give Trump cover for [the Time] interview. Trump's old-school. I'm sure he takes the idea of a Time magazine cover story very, very seriously. (And we know from a February Washington Post story that the White House specifically asked Nunes to go to the media and spout the Trump party line. Nunes was, of course, a member of the Trump transition team.)" -- CW ...

... Well, There's This, Steve. Allegra Kirkland of TPM: "The office of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) now concedes that the House Intelligence Committee chair is not sure that the intelligence community ever incidentally collected communications from ... Donald Trump or members of his transition team. 'He said he'll have to get all the documents he requested from the [intelligence community] about this before he knows for sure,' a Nunes spokesperson told ABC News on Thursday. This lack of certainty did not stop Nunes from holding two press conferences Wednesday and briefing the White House on the 'dozens' of intelligence community reports he said showed U.S. intelligence agencies 'incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition,' independent of the FBI's investigation into ties between Trump associates and Russian officials." CW: The "documents" probably reveal a bunch of Russian mobsters discussing among themselves Melania Trump's and Kellyanne Conway's big boobies. Which is, you know, Obama's fault. ...

... Karoun Demirjian & Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post: "House Intelligence Committee Democrats said Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) apologized to them Thursday during a closed-door meeting for his handling of revelations about surveillance that potentially could have been collected about President Trump and his associates during the transition period. Nunes’s apology was 'generic,' Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), a member of the Intelligence Committee, said on CNN, adding that it was 'not clear' precisely which actions his apology covered.... The California Republican also promised colleagues that they would see the documents in question on Friday, which is when Nunes is expecting the NSA, CIA and FBI to respond to a request for a full list of names of people whose identities were disclosed through 'incidental collection'....” -- CW (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... AP: "The House intelligence committee chairman privately apologized to his Democratic colleagues on Thursday, yet publicly defended his decision to openly discuss and brief Donald Trump on typically secret intercepts that he says swept up communications of the president’s transition team.... 'It was a judgment call on my part,' [Devin] Nunes [RTrump-Calif.] told reporters Thursday morning. 'Sometimes you make the right decision, sometimes you make wrong decision.'... Nunes, who served on Trump’s transition team, ducked questions about whether he was parroting information given to him by the White House, saying only that he was 'not going to ever reveal sources'.... 'This is a bizarre situation,” Senator John McCain said in an interview on MSNBC. 'I’m calling for a select committee because I think this back-and-forth [between Nunes & ranking intelligence committee member Adam Schiff] shows that Congress no longer has the credibility to handle this alone.'” -- CW ...

... When a Lapdog Takes the Role of Watchdog. New York Times Editors: "In a possible violation of the law, Mr. Nunes described intelligence reports that he said had suggested that American intelligence agencies incidentally intercepted communications of then President-elect Trump and people close to him, and then disseminated the information widely throughout the intelligence community. His disclosures, which have destroyed the credibility of his committee in investigating Russian interference in the election, make clear that he is unfit for the job and should be replaced.... The congressman, who has assailed leaks to the press [-- in fact, that's what he wants to make the focus of the Trump-Russia investigation --], said his information came from unnamed 'sources who thought that we should know it.' That’s rich." -- CW ...

... Looks as if ole Bob Woodward has pretty much implanted himself on the Dark Side. (If you think about his supposition for, say, up to half a minute, it doesn't make sense.) -- CW

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "The Trump administration is making it tougher for millions of visitors to enter the United States by demanding new security checks before giving visas to tourists, business travelers and relatives of American residents. Diplomatic cables sent last week from Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson to all American embassies instructed consular officials to broadly increase scrutiny. It was the first evidence of the 'extreme vetting' Mr. Trump promised during the presidential campaign. The new rules generally do not apply to citizens of 38 countries — including most of Europe and longstanding allies like Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea — who can be speedily admitted into the United States under the visa waiver program. That program does not cover citizens from any country in the Middle East or Africa." -- CW 

Oliver Laughland of the Guardian: "Sebastian Gorka, a national security aide to the president and a former editor for the far-right news site Breitbart, told Fox News’s conservative talk show host Sean Hannity on Wednesday evening that the attack in Westminster, that left three people and the attacker dead, 'should be a surprise to nobody'. 'The war is real and that’s why executive orders like president Trump’s travel moratorium are so important,' Gorka said. Despite the official’s remarks it is almost certain that the British-born attacker, 52 year-old Khalid Masood, would not have been affected by Trump’s ban, which targets immigrants and refugees from a handful of countries. Further, the US would have already been entitled to block Masood from the country, given his extensive criminal record.... Gorka ... appeared on the same Fox News show as the former Ukip leader and close Trump confident Nigel Farage, who also argued the Westminster attack served as justification for Trump’s ban." -- CW 

Ellen Mitchell of the Hill: "The head of U.S. European Command on Thursday said President Trump’s proposed cuts to the State Department would make his job more difficult in the face of an increasing Russian threat. 'I rely heavily on our relationships with the other agencies in our government,” Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who also serves as NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe, told the Senate Armed Services Committee." -- CW (Also linked yesterday.)

Tim Egan thinks Donald Trump, Jr. might get the old man to save the planet after all, because Junior is a fan of Teddy Roosevelt's. CW: I don't share Egan's optimism.


Ed O'Keefe
, et al., of the Washington Post: "As the Senate Judiciary Committee was hearing from witnesses for and against Judge Neil Gorsuch, his Supreme Court nomination was delivered a critical blow: Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he would join with other Democrats in filibustering Gorsuch — a move that would require at least 60 senators to vote to end debate on the nomination. Republicans have vowed to change Senate procedures if Democrats do so to quickly confirm Gorsuch — but Schumer suggested they should focus instead on Trump’s nominee. 'If this nominee cannot earn 60 votes — a bar met by each of President Obama’s nominees, and George Bush’s last two nominees — the answer isn’t to change the rules. It’s to change the nominee,' he said." -- CW (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Paul Waldman: "Everyone knows who Neil Gorsuch is and what kind of justice he’ll be. Democrats have tried to get him to admit it, knowing that he never will, while he pretends to have an open mind on everything and a judicial philosophy unsullied by any particular normative beliefs about policy. It’s an act, and it’s one that Republican nominees in particular have honed over the years.... A filibuster ... is a way of raising the stakes of the nomination. If Democrats filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will hold a vote to change Senate rules to disallow filibusters on Supreme Court nominations, and Gorsuch will get confirmed — but not until after the controversy has been elevated into a more dramatic confrontation.... So why filibuster if the end result will be the same? The reason is that these are truly extraordinary circumstances.... Filibustering Gorsuch is the right thing to do, even if it won’t accomplish the short-term goal of stopping his nomination. There’s a lot more at stake." -- CW 

Devin Coldewey of Tech Crunch: "The broadband privacy rules created by the FCC last year and vigorously debated last night are in danger after the Senate voted to repeal them this morning. Among other things, the rules required ISPs to obtain consumers’ permission in order to use certain sensitive data like browsing history that they obtain through their service. Sounds like a bad idea, right? It is.

"ISP = Information Sold for Profit." Jon The Senate vote was 50-48, with lawmakers voting entirely along party lines. 'President Trump may be outraged by fake violations of his own privacy, but every American should be alarmed by the very real violation of privacy that will result [from] the Republican roll-back of broadband privacy protections,' Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said after the vote." -- CW 

GOP: Misperception Is Reality. Michael Wines of the New York Times: "Of the 860,000 Nebraskans who cast ballots in last fall’s election, only two are suspected of casting fraudulent votes. But while the actual number of illegal voters may be minuscule, State Senator John Murante says, there is an even better reason for Nebraska’s Legislature to crack down on fraud at the ballot box.... 'The perception exists that voter fraud is a serious issue, and that perception itself has to be addressed.'... Given Republicans’ history of raising undocumented claims of fraud, Democrats and voting rights advocates say that citing perceptions of tainted ballots as a reason for voting restrictions is disingenuous at best.” CW: Worth reading through.

CW's Pressing Question of the Day: Why is "I" capitalized when no other personal pronouns -- us, you, me, etc. -- are capitalized and neither is the single-letter word "a"?

Beyond the Beltway

Dan Bilefsky, et al., of the New York Times: "The Islamic State claimed responsibility on Thursday for the deadly attack outside the British Parliament, as Prime Minister Theresa May described the assailant as a British-born man whom the country’s domestic intelligence agency had investigated for connections to violent extremism. The London police identified him on Thursday afternoon as Khalid Masood, 52, who had a long criminal history but no terrorism convictions. He had been living recently around Birmingham, England, where the vehicle used in the attack was rented. The police released few other details about him." -- CW (Also linked yesterday.)

 

Thursday
Mar232017

The Commentariat -- March 23, 2017

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Oops! Mike DeBonis, et al., of the Washington Post: "House leaders postponed a vote Thursday on their plan to overhaul the nation’s health-care system, as they and President Trump struggled to meet demands of conservative lawmakers who said they could not support the bill. House Republicans planned to meet behind closed doors later Thursday to figure out their next steps. Leaders have told the rank and file to be available Friday in the event a vote can be scheduled then." -- CW 

Linda Qiu of the New York Times: "In an interview with Time magazine on Wednesday, President Trump cited The New York Times as evidence of his claim, made in a series of Twitter posts on March 4, that President Barack Obama had wiretapped his phones in Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign." Qui, in detail, eviscerates each of the claims Trump made about the Times story, even citing an outside media critic -- Jay Rosen -- who said, "The bald assertion that Obama had Trump wiretapped is nowhere supported by the story. That is fiction." "When asked if The Times article could give Mr. Trump a false impression that Mr. Obama wiretapped him, Mr. Rosen said, 'It does not. No one reading it in good faith would say that.’" 

     ... CW: Here's how it works. (1) Trump sees a word in a story and picks out some words around it to read (without moving his lips -- big mistake). (2) He decides what the story says based on the short string of words he chooses. (3) That string of words may or may not represent the gist of the story. (4) What he decides is fixed forever; it will never change, even if you later put the same story in front of him and bid him to move his lips as he reads. (5) He insists to his dying day the story said what he first decided it said. (6) Anyone who claims otherwise is a liar or a hater or a fake. Or some other bad word in his limited vocabulary.

Ellen Mitchell of the Hill: "The head of U.S. European Command on Thursday said President Trump’s proposed cuts to the State Department would make his job more difficult in the face of an increasing Russian threat. 'I rely heavily on our relationships with the other agencies in our government,” Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who also serves as NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe, told the Senate Armed Services Committee." -- CW 

Rachel Bade & Josh Dawsey of Politico: "... Donald Trump and conservative House Freedom Caucus members failed to strike a deal on the GOP Obamacare replacement Thursday, endangering the prospects of passage and all but assuring any immediate vote on the measure would fail. Negotiations between Trump and the arch-conservatives opponents of the bill reached at least a temporary standstill after Freedom Caucus members were told recent concessions to the far-right were a final offer. The group rejected that, wanting more. Trump's inability to clinch an agreement means that Speaker Paul Ryan does not likely have the votes needed to pass the measure.... A vote is expected Thursday night. It was not immediately clear whether Ryan would pull the bill or postpone a vote and continue to scramble for votes if it remains short of passage." -- CW ...

... Louis Nelson of Politico: "White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he still expects a House vote late Thursday on legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare, even as Republican Party leaders struggle to shore up enough support for the bill. Despite the last-minute scramble, Spicer remained confident that GOP leaders would find the votes, telling reporters, 'It's going to pass. So that's it.' Echoing statements he made a day earlier, the press secretary said there is no plan B should the health care bill fail in the House." -- CW 

Karoun Demirjian & Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post: "House Intelligence Committee Democrats said Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) apologized to them Thursday during a closed-door meeting for his handling of revelations about surveillance that potentially could have been collected about President Trump and his associates during the transition period. Nunes’s apology was 'generic,' Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), a member of the Intelligence Committee, said on CNN, adding that it was 'not clear' precisely which actions his apology covered.... The California Republican also promised colleagues that they would see the documents in question on Friday, which is when Nunes is expecting the NSA, CIA and FBI to respond to a request for a full list of names of people whose identities were disclosed through 'incidental collection'....” -- CW 

Dan Bilefsky, et al., of the New York Times: "The Islamic State claimed responsibility on Thursday for the deadly attack outside the British Parliament, as Prime Minister Theresa May described the assailant as a British-born man whom the country’s domestic intelligence agency had investigated for connections to violent extremism. The London police identified him on Thursday afternoon as Khalid Masood, 52, who had a long criminal history but no terrorism convictions. He had been living recently around Birmingham, England, where the vehicle used in the attack was rented. The police released few other details about him." -- CW 

Kelsey Sutton of Politico: "Former President Barack Obama, who has remained on the sidelines for much of the contentious debate surrounding the Trump administration’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, urged lawmakers Thursday to preserve and build on his signature legislative achievement. The lengthy statement, released on the seventh anniversary of the passage of the bill — and on the same day that House members are set to vote on its repeal — celebrated the merits of Obamacare and described the legislation as a watershed moment in determining that health care was 'not just a privilege for a few, but a right for everybody.'” -- CW 

Ed O'Keefe, et al., of the Washington Post: "As the Senate Judiciary Committee was hearing from witnesses for and against Judge Neil Gorsuch, his Supreme Court nomination was delivered a critical blow: Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he would join with other Democrats in filibustering Gorsuch — a move that would require at least 60 senators to vote to end debate on the nomination. Republicans have vowed to change Senate procedures if Democrats do so to quickly confirm Gorsuch — but Schumer suggested they should focus instead on Trump’s nominee. 'If this nominee cannot earn 60 votes — a bar met by each of President Obama’s nominees, and George Bush’s last two nominees — the answer isn’t to change the rules. It’s to change the nominee,' he said." -- CW 

Isabel Kershner, et al., of the New York Times: "The police on Thursday arrested an Israeli teenager who holds American citizenship in connection with waves of threats to Jewish institutions, including community centers in the United States, law enforcement officials said. A spokesman for the police here, Micky Rosenfeld, said the suspect, from the Ashkelon area of southern Israel, had also made threats to institutions in Australia and New Zealand, as well as to at least one commercial airline flight, forcing an emergency landing.... Thursday’s arrest appeared to be a turning point after months of investigation and waves of turmoil and panic as Jewish community centers across the United States reported more than 100 bomb threats since the beginning of the year.... It was not immediately clear how many of the calls investigators had traced to the teenager." -- CW 

*****

Vikram Dodd, et al., of the Guardian: "Five people died after a single terrorist attacked Westminster, stabbing a police officer to death as he tried to storm parliament, and killing three members of the public as he careered through the heart of the capital in a 4x4 vehicle. The attacker was among those killed and at least 40 other civilians were wounded in the first mass casualty terrorist attack on Britain in over a decade. The Commons and Lords were locked down for several hours because of fears of further attacks.... People fled for their lives as a Hyundai 4x4 driven by the terrorist at about 2.40pm indiscriminately ran into people on Westminster Bridge. The use of the vehicle to attack civilians was a direct copy of an Islamic State tactic used previously with murderous effect in Nice and Berlin. The vehicle then careered off the road on to pavement a few metres away from Big Ben and the attacker tried to storm parliament armed with a knife.... The Met’s head of counter-terrorism, Mark Rowley, said the motivation of the attacker was assumed to be 'Islamist related' and he had tried to enter parliament but had been stopped." -- CW  ...

... Laura Spark-Smith, et al., of CNN: "... Prime Minister Theresa May revealed the attacker was British born and once investigated for extremism. May told MPs that the attacker was known to police, but did not identify him. She said he was a 'peripheral figure.'" -- CW ...

... Karla Adam, et al., of the Washington Post: "British police have arrested eight people in their ongoing investigation into an attack 'inspired by international terrorism' in central London that left four dead and dozens injured. The police have said they believe they knew who the attacker was, but have not yet revealed his name. But they did say they searched six locations, including in Birmingham and London." -- CW ...

... The Guardian's liveblog is here. ...

... Sam Levin of the Guardian: "Donald Trump Jr is facing a backlash for criticizing London mayor Sadiq Khan with a scornful tweet sent hours after an attack at the Houses of Parliament left five dead.... The US president’s eldest son tweeted a link to a September 2016 story in the Independent, which quoted Khan saying terror attacks were 'part and parcel of living in a big city', and 'I want to be reassured that every single agency and individual involved in protecting our city has the resources and expertise they need to respond in the event that London is attacked.' 'You have to be kidding me?!' Trump Jr tweeted, quoting the headline: 'Terror attacks are part of living in big city, says London Mayor Sadiq Khan'.... Khan’s actual response to the attack on Wednesday ... was: 'Londoners will never be cowed by terrorism.'... Later on Wednesday Trump Jr wrote in an email to the New York Times: 'I’m not going to comment on every tweet I send.'” ...  

     ... CW: Somehow I have a feeling that if Khan's name were, say, Boris Johnson, Junior would not have attacked him with an out-of-context citation. As Ken W. wrote in yesterday's thread, "For some reason the word 'chip' comes to mind." Thanks to Gloria for the link.


"I'm President and You're Not." Time: "President Trump spoke with Time Washington Bureau Chief Michael Scherer on March 22 for a cover story about the way he has handled truth and falsehood in his career. [Here] is a transcript of the exchange, with some minor edits. The transcript does not include requests he made of his staff during the interview, or a comment he made after asking to go off the record." CW: I didn't read what Trump said, because I'm not all that interested in reading his lies about lies, but there's surely something outlandish in the interview. ...

    ... Louis Nelson of Politico provides context for Trump's claims in the raw Scherer interview. -- CW ...

    ... UPDATE: Here's Scherer's cover piece. -- CW ...

... Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair: "It can reasonably be said that our dear leader is now the most ridiculed man on the planet. In fact, he may well be the most ridiculed man in history. For a preening narcissist who takes himself terribly seriously, being the butt of the joke heard round the world has got to hurt.... Trump may be a joke, but the chaos and destructive forces around him are not.... The self-lauded Trump brand may well wind up as toxic as the once self-lauded brand of another New York-Palm Beach family: the Madoffs."...

     ... CW: Quite a good read. Besides the substance, there are passages like this: "Besides, vintage Trump is not going anywhere anytime soon. A couple of weeks earlier, during a visit by the Japanese prime minister, Shinzō Abe, the president told an acquaintance that he was obsessed with the translator’s breasts—although he expressed this in his own, fragrant fashion."


** The Russia Connection, Ctd. Today's Bombshell Report. Pamela Brown
, et al., of CNN: "The FBI has information that indicates associates of ...Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign, US officials told CNN. This is partly what FBI Director James Comey was referring to when he made a bombshell announcement Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, according to one source. The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings, according to those U.S. officials.... Officials cautioned that the information was not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing. In his statement on Monday Comey said the FBI began looking into possible coordination between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives because the bureau had gathered 'a credible allegation of wrongdoing or reasonable basis to believe an American may be acting as an agent of a foreign power.'" -- CW ...

... Juan Cole: "... the evidence trail leading to Russia is getting deeper and the Trump administration has no idea what to do about it." -- CW ...

     ... Alex Shephard of the New Republic: "While [the CNN report] is a very big deal indeed, the report is thin on actual details and heavily caveated.... Even a vague report like this is a very bad omen for the future of the Trump presidency. At the very least, it’s hard not to see this leak as being retaliation for Nunes’s weird and unethical freelancing earlier in the day [see links to reports on Nunes below]. Russia is, as Nunes put it, 'a big gray cloud' over the administration. This report only makes that cloud bigger and grayer." -- CW ...

... Stephanie Kirchgaessner of the Guardian: " Wilbur Ross, the Trump administration’s new commerce secretary, presided over a deal with a Russian businessman with ties to Vladimir Putin while serving in his previous role as vice-chairman of the Bank of Cyprus. The transaction raises questions about Ross’s tenure at the Cypriot bank and his ties to politically connected Russian oligarchs.... In 2015, while he served as vice-chairman of the Bank of Cyprus, the bank’s Russia-based businesses were sold to a Russian banker and consultant, Artem Avetisyan, who had ties to both the Russian president and Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank. At the time, Sberbank was under US and EU sanctions following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Avetisyan had earlier been selected by Putin to head a new business branch of the Russian president’s strategic initiative agency, which was tasked with improving business and government ties." -- CW ...

... David Graham of the Atlantic: "Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said MSNBC Wednesday afternoon that there is evidence that is 'not circumstantial' of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.... As Wednesday draws to a close, the top Republican and Democrat on the committee investigating Russian collusion have erupted into a round of bitter recriminations." -- CW ...

... Kevin Drum: "Meanwhile, Devin Nunes is pretending to be shocked that the NSA does stuff that everyone on the planet knows the NSA does. I can only assume he was hoping to distract everyone from what's really going on, the way Trump does with his tweets. But Trump is a master, and Nunes is apparently an idiot. His attempt at misdirection was so barefaced and hamhanded that he probably just made things worse." -- CW ...

... CW: But hey, guess what the NYT & the WashPo decided should be among their top stories:

... Greg Miller, et al., of the Washington Post: "The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday accused U.S. spy agencies of abusing their surveillance powers by gathering and sharing information about President Trump and his transition team, an unproven charge that was quickly embraced by the White House but threatened to derail the committee’s investigation of possible Trump campaign ties to Russia. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), one of Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill, said he was alarmed after seeing intelligence reports disseminated after the Nov. 8 election that made references to U.S. citizens affiliated with Trump, and possibly the president-elect himself. He appeared to be referring to relatively routine cases of surveillance on foreign individuals in which they communicated with or mentioned Americans.... Nunes’s refusal to disclose how he had obtained the documents and his unusual handling of the material — which he withheld from other committee members even while rushing to present it to the White House — were interpreted by some as a sign that his discovery was engineered to help the White House.... Nunes’s White House visit was denounced by Democrats as a partisan move that severely damaged the prospects of the committee carrying out an impartial probe. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that Nunes’s action 'casts quite a profound cloud over our ability to do the work,' and he called for the formation of an independent commission." -- CW ...

... Matthew Rosenberg, et al., of the New York Times: "...  on Wednesday, [President] Trump got an assist from a powerful House Republican who said the president or his closest associates may have been 'incidentally' swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies. Representative Devin Nunes of California, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, introduced the new claim into the deepening controversy over Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Yet Mr. Nunes also told reporters on Wednesday that he had no evidence to support Mr. Trump’s claim that he was directly or personally wiretapped. Democrats quickly denounced the disclosure and said it bolstered the need for an independent investigation to replace the House inquiry being led by Mr. Nunes. Mr. Trump responded positively to Mr. Nunes’s remarks. 'I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found,' the president told reporters at the White House, evidently referring to sources Mr. Nunes said he would not name. Mr. Trump said he felt vindicated, up to a point. 'I somewhat do,' he said." -- CW ...

... Paulina Ferozi of the Hill: "White House director of social media Dan Scavino blasted Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) in a tweet late Wednesday night, calling the Republican senator a 'hater.' Citing reports that Flake was 'troubled' by the Wednesday actions of House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Scavino tweeted, 'Is hater Jeff Flake a Republican?'" -- CW ...

... The Russia Connection, Ctd. Jeff Horwitz & Chad Day of the AP: "... Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics, The Associated Press has learned. The work appears to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests. Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.... In a statement to the AP, Manafort confirmed that he worked for [Russian aluminum magnate Oleg] Deripaska in various countries but said the work was being unfairly cast as 'inappropriate or nefarious' as part of a 'smear campaign.'" -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Aidan Quigley of Politico: "White House press secretary Sean Spicer attacked former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in response to a report raising concerns about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s connections to Russia. 'So an individual … who worked with a Russian entity a decade ago is subject to rampant media speculation all day long, even though the Clintons had more extensive ties,' Spicer said, as he attempted to characterize a double standard. Manafort had allegedly designed a plan to advance the interests for Russian President Vladimir Putin and undermine anti-Russian opposition in Eastern Europe while working for a Russian billionaire, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday. Spicer cited a deal he said the United States made when Clinton was secretary of state that gave Russia one-fifth of the U.S. uranium reserve. He said after this deal was made, former president Clinton gave a paid speech to a bank connected with the deal, for which Putin called and thanked him for. He also said Tony Podesta, a Clinton campaign fundraiser and brother of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, lobbied against sanctions for Russia’s largest bank last year. He also said John Podesta sat on the board of a Russia-based energy company." -- CW ...

... MEANWHILE, Spicey doesn't know if Trump hired any Russian spies, but he can assure us that if there are foreign spies running around the White House, they filled out their paperwork. Weird. ...

... Nicholas Kristof: "I’ve been speaking to intelligence experts, Americans and foreigners alike, and they mostly (but not entirely) believe there was Trump-Russia cooperation of some kind.... I’m also told (not by a Democrat!) that there’s a persuasive piece of intelligence on ties between Russia and a member of the Trump team that isn’t yet public. The most likely scenario for collusion seems fuzzier and less transactional than many Democrats anticipate.... The Russians for years had influence over Donald Trump because of their investments with him, and he was by nature inclined to admire Vladimir Putin as a strongman ruler. Meanwhile, Trump had in his orbit a number of people with Moscow ties, including Paul Manafort, who practically bleeds borscht." -- CW ...

... Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: "The White House on Wednesday sought to again distance itself from President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who is under increasing scrutiny over his connections to Russian business interests. But even as Trump officials downplay Manafort’s role, his ­decade-long business associate Rick Gates remains entrenched in the president’s operation. Gates is one of four people leading a Trump-blessed group that defends the president’s agenda. As recently as last week, he was at the White House to meet with officials as part of that work. Through Manafort, Gates is tied to many of the same business titans from Ukraine and Russia, including Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with strong ties to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin." -- CW ...

... Daniel Kurtz-Phelan in New York: "In an important sense, Putin has already won ... [by] discrediting American democracy at home and hobbling American leadership abroad. Already, the Trump administration has remained conspicuously silent on matters of human rights and democracy. It has proposed a budget that would destroy the instruments of American diplomacy that Putin fears and despises most.... It has started gratuitous spats with two of America’s closest allies, worked to undermine the European Union, and called into question the American commitment to NATO, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson making the unprecedented decision to skip the first major alliance meeting of his tenure. It has launched a public attack on the intelligence agencies that the government will have to rely on in a moment of crisis. Most of all, the scandal around Russian meddling has presented a vivid picture of American democracy in disarray — and never more so than during Monday’s hearings. Republican committee members ranted about the leaks that had brought conspicuous lies by members of Trump’s team to public attention and had little to say about the lies themselves — or the idea that a foreign power tried to turn an American presidential election." -- CW 

Jim Fallows of the Atlantic: "Something has happened to every new president, and something will happen to Donald Trump. It is inevitable. And when that something occurs, it is also inevitable that his administration will need to say, Trust us on this.... The inevitability of this moment, when a new president says Trust me, is why so many veteran officials have warned about Donald Trump’s habit of incessantly telling instantly disprovable lies.... If an administration will lie about facts where the contradictory evidence is in plain sight, how can we possibly believe them on anything else?... After what he has said about crowd size, about wiretapping, about birtherism, about what James Comey was testifying (even as the rest of the world could watch it on TV), no sane person can assume that Donald Trump is operating in that same realm of knowable fact. The instant skepticism about the laptop ban is the first case showing why that matters: He needs us to trust him, and we can’t." ...

     ... CW BYT: Fallows has much more on the (Muslim) laptop ban, with links to a number of stories that explore it.

It's All About Donald. Darren Samuelsohn of Politico: "... Trump has been especially good news for the industries in which he has a personal interest: real estate, construction, entertainment, hospitality, gambling and, of course, golf. Since taking office in January, Trump has made moves — from rolling back water quality permits to signaling big changes on overtime pay and internet betting — that benefit the fields he knows best. And his former peers — partners and competitors alike — are finding familiar faces in Trump’s White House and Cabinet agencies, who have the power to make even more of their wish lists come true. High on Trump’s list of early executive orders was one signed in February that begins reversing an Obama-era rule that gave federal protection to rivers, streams and wetlands — a big win for golf course owners and superintendents...." -- CW 

What a Dummy. Dana Milbank: "Seeking and winning the presidency has been a magical voyage of discovery for Donald Trump. Tuesday night, he divulged a most remarkable finding: Abraham Lincoln was — are you sitting down for this? — a Republican. 'Most people don’t even know he was a Republican,' Trump told a group of Republicans. 'Right? Does anyone know? A lot of people don’t know that.'... Beyond this Lincoln revelation, Trump has happened upon many other things that people didn’t know. Such as the complexity of health care: “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated,” he said recently. And the existence of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who died in 1895: 'Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.' Later, touring the new African American history museum in Washington, Trump discovered that slavery was bad.” Read on for an amazing list of Trump discoveries. -- CW ...

From the Trump-Doesn't-Know-He's-a-Public-Figure File. Ashley Cullins of the Hollywood Reporter: "Lucy, the 17-year-old behind kittenfeed.com, tells The Hollywood Reporter she's received a cease and desist letter [from an attorney for the Trump Organization] over the site — which allows users to virtually scratch at four photos of Trump's head using a cat's paws. The website launched in February, and within its first few weeks only had about 1,200 visitors....  The San Francisco-based teen developed the site for fun while applying for web developer jobs. The original domain name was trumpscratch.com, but she changed it after receiving a March 1 cease and desist letter from The Trump Organization. The letter claims her site infringed on the 'internationally known and famous' Trump trademark. She says she received another letter after the domain name change because her site still linked to an anti-Trump shirt that is available for purchase on Amazon. Lucy removed that link, and hasn't heard anything from the campaign since." Thanks to Akhilleus for the lead. CW: This is bullying a kid, pure and simple. "Trumpscratch" is not a trademark violation any more than is a headline that reads "Trump wins presidential election." Neither is linking to another site, no matter what the content of that site. Everything about Trump is disgusting.

Drew Harwell & Amy Brittain of the Washington Post: "The U.S. Secret Service requested $60 million in additional funding for the next year, offering the most precise estimate yet of the escalating costs for travel and protection resulting from the unusually complicated lifestyle of the Trump family, according to internal agency documents reviewed by The Washington Post. Nearly half of the additional money, $26.8 million, would pay to protect President Trump’s family and private home in New York’s Trump Tower, the documents show, while $33 million would be spent on travel costs incurred by 'the president, vice president and other visiting heads of state.'” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Alex Johnson & Kristen Welker of NBC News: "In what could have been its easiest arrest ever, the Secret Service found a woman dangling by her shoelaces from the White House fence after she tried to jump it Tuesday night, authorities said Wednesday. Marci Anderson Wahl, of Everett, Washington, pleaded not guilty and was released on a misdemeanor charge of unlawful entry Wednesday in D.C. Superior Court, according to court records." CW: Just another dimwit who doesn't belong in the White House. 

Annals of "Journalism," Ha Ha Ha. Don't Steal This Book. Dylan Byers of CNN: "... Donald Trump had a private dinner with NBC News senior political analyst Mark Halperin last week, sources with knowledge of the meeting told CNNMoney. The dinner, which took place in the White House residence, came as Halperin and his co-author John Heilemann are at work on a book about Trump and the 2016 campaign. The sources also said President Trump has given senior advisers the go-ahead to speak with Halperin for the book.... The Washington Post's Dana Milbank has called Halperin a 'lap dog' for ignoring 'that much of what Trump has done is a threat to democratic institutions,' while The Daily Beast faulted him for 'soft coverage of Trump' after he asked 'truly laughable questions' in an interview." -- CW  

Cornering Rex. Matthew Pennington of the AP: "The head of NATO said Wednesday he is certain a semiannual meeting of the alliance's foreign ministers can be rescheduled so Secretary of State Rex Tillerson can attend. U.S. officials said this week that Tillerson was planning to skip next month's meeting in Brussels. Shortly after, he plans to visit Moscow. The decisions led some European officials to worry about the Trump administration's commitment to the alliance. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told The Associated Press in an interview that he met with Tillerson Wednesday and they agreed to have their staffs work out an alternative schedule that works for all 28 members of the security alliance." -- CW ...

... Dedicated Public Servants, Trump Edition. Pranshu Rathi of the Internation Business Times, via Rawstory: "Rex Tillerson did not want the job of secretary of state and was convinced to take up the mantle on the insistence of his wife, he said, according to an interview published in an Independent Journal Review (IJR), the only media outlet that was given access to Tillerson during his recent Asia trip.... 'I didn't want this job. I didn't seek this job,' Tillerson said in an IJR interview conducted on his official plane during the three-nation Asia trip. When asked why he had accepted the job, he replied saying that his wife (Renda St. Clair) 'told me I'm supposed to do this.'" --safari

Yamiche Alcindor of the New York Times: "President Trump’s second pick to lead the Labor Department told senators on Wednesday that he would not allow partisan political considerations or conservative ideologues to shape his department, pushing back against accusations by Democrats that he had looked away as subordinates at the Justice Department stacked his office with ideological allies during the George W. Bush administration. R. Alexander Acosta, the nominee for labor secretary, also defended his decision as the United States attorney in Southern Florida to offer a lenient plea deal to a wealthy New Yorker accused of paying underage girls for sexual acts.... Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the committee..., and other Democrats pointed to a 2008 report by the Justice Department’s in-house investigator, which found that under Mr. Acosta his office had violated federal law and department policies by weighing political affiliations in hiring and assessing employees.... Mr. Acosta had a lengthy discussion with Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, on what critics said was the lenient plea deal given to Jeffrey E. Epstein, a wealthy financier accused of paying underage girls for sexual massages. Mr. Acosta defended the deal and said it was offered based on the evidence. Mr. Epstein, he noted, was required to register as a sex offender. Mr. Acosta also seemed to question Mr. Trump’s proposal to cut the Labor Department’s budget by 21 percent, saying he opposed across-the-board cuts as well as targeting specific programs." -- CW 

Lachlan Markay of the Daily Beast: Mike Flynn, "the White House’s former top national security official, did not sign an ethics pledge ostensibly required of all Trump administration appointees barring them from ethically questionable lobbying activities, The Daily Beast has learned.... The pledge, imposed by executive order a week after ... Donald Trump took office, bars all federal appointees from lobbying their former colleagues for five years after leaving the administration and bans them from lobbying on behalf of foreign governments for life.... 'Gen. Flynn never had the opportunity to sign Trump’s ethics pledge, but he plans to abide by its terms, [Flynn's spokesman] told The Daily Beast." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)


Adam Liptak & Matt Flegenheimer
of the New York Times: "In his final day of questioning at his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch continued to answer with practiced generalities on Wednesday, frustrating Democrats who seemed unable to rattle him or pin him down.... After trying over a span of 20 hours over two days, Democrats were not able to move Judge Gorsuch off script. Instead, interest in the hearing seemed to wane, and many in the Capitol came to view a confirmation as inevitable.... Most Supreme Court nominees are fairly reticent, but Democrats said Judge Gorsuch outdid the last two Republican appointees, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr." -- CW ...

... Robert Barnes, et al., of the Washington Post: "Democratic senators pressed Judge Neil Gorsuch Wednesday to explain his views on issues such as the Constitution’s 'emoluments clause' and the notion of 'high crimes and misdemeanors,' questions designed to more aggressively probe his independence from President Trump. Gorsuch ... declined to answer several questions from Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) on legal concepts Trump’s critics have accused the president of violating." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Adam Liptak, et al., of the New York Times are live-updating the Gorsuch confirmation hearings. "Judge Neil M. Gorsuch faced tough questions from Senator Dianne Feinstein about his role in approving harsh interrogation techniques during his time as a lawyer in the administration of President George W. Bush." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... "While Gorsuch Was Testifying, the Supreme Court Unanimously Said He Was Wrong." Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "About 40 minutes after Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch began his second day of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, all eight of the justices he hopes to join said a major disability decision Gorsuch wrote in 2008 was wrong. Both the Supreme Court’s decision and Gorsuch’s 2008 opinion involved the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which requires that public school systems which take certain federal funds provide a 'free appropriate public education' to certain students with disabilities.... Shortly after the Supreme Court’s Endrew F. decision came down, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) asked Gorsuch about his now-discredited decision. Gorsuch defended his approach in Luke P., claiming that he was 'bound by circuit precedent.' But Gorsuch is not correct." Thanks to James S. for the link. ...

     ... CW: This is the second instance I've seen in which Gorsuch added a word (or two) to the central tenet of a prior decision to (1) change its meaning, then to (2) claim he was bound by the precedent set by the (now altered) decision in the first case. Thus, he sort of gaslights prior decisions -- "It's what they said" -- to arrive at opinions that fit his ideology. Most of us have been on the receiving end (and some of us on the giving end) of a twisted-words argument; it's unfair and, if you're the receiver, infuriating. Now think of a Supreme Court "justice" who does this out of habit to arrive at opinions that affects thousands or millions of lives, perhaps forever. ...

... E.J. Dionne: "With a shrewdly calculated innocence, Judge Neil Gorsuch told a big fat lie at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday. Because it was a lie everyone expected, nobody called it that. 'There’s no such thing as a Republican judge or a Democratic* judge, Gorsuch said. Gorsuch, the amiable veteran of many Republican campaigns, is well-placed to know how serious a fib that was. As Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) noted, President Trump’s nominee for Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court seat actually received a citation for helping win confirmation for Republican-appointed judges." ...

     * As Akhilleus noted in yesterday's thread, Gorsuch did not say "Democratic judge"; he said "Democrat judge." Using "Democrat" as an adjective, rather than "Democratic," is a ubiquitous Republican pejorative. ...

     ... Justin Bank of FactCheck.org (Dec. 2007): "In August 2006, Hendrik Hertzberg traced this Republican usage, which he termed a 'slur' on his party, back to the 1940s. He says it was used by opponents to needle the powerful Pendergast organization in Kansas City, which backed Harry Truman. He also says it was used often by the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy." --CW 


Mike DeBonis
, et al., of the Washington Post: "The Republican health-care overhaul spearheaded by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) and backed by President Trump hung in the balance Wednesday, as the White House signaled at the 11th hour a willingness to rework the measure to mollify conservatives. After insisting for weeks that the changes sought by hard-right members would render the bill unable to pass the Senate, White House officials and GOP House leaders appeared to shift their thinking — and opponents agreed to keep working on a deal with the goal of holding a floor vote in the House by Thursday night. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said he had taken personal calls Wednesday from Trump seeking a resolution, although he said no formal offer had been extended by the White House." -- CW ...

... Peter Sullivan & Scott Wong of the Hill: "Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said Wednesday night he and President Trump have come to an 'agreement in principle' on a plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare, just one day before a historic House vote on the bill.... The round-the-clock negotiations between the White House, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus have centered on adding to the bill a repeal of ObamaCare's 'essential health benefits,' as well as other insurance regulations in Title I of the existing health law. But those changes have now alienated some centrist Republicans.... After [a Wednesday night] meeting [with House leadership], one of the leaders of the centrist Tuesday Group, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), announced he was opposed to the legislation, warning that the bill would cause too many Americans to lose insurance coverage." -- CW ...

... Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Wednesday that he was confident the House would pass the [healthcare destruction] bill. But as of late Wednesday, roughly 30 Republicans had said they either would vote against the measure or had not made up their minds. That left the bill’s sponsors short of the 216 votes needed, and on Wednesday night Mr. Ryan scheduled a meeting in the Capitol to try to win over skeptics." -- CW ...

... Ezra Klein: If the bill doesn't pass, "a major reason will be that President Trump’s closing argument was weak. As my colleague Andrew Prokop noted, Trump’s final pitch 'doesn’t include anything even remotely resembling an affirmative case for the actual bill House Republicans have to vote on.' This may be because Trump doesn’t actually understand the bill they’re voting on. But lacking a persuasive case to make on the merits, Trump has defaulted to an unpersuasive case on the politics.... Trump has been telling Republicans that they’ll have 'a political problem' if they don’t pass the AHCA. 'Many of you will lose in 2018' if the bill fails, he said. At times, he’s resorted to explicit threats — “I’m gonna come after you,” he told Rep. Mark Meadows.... The American Health Care Act isn’t Obamacare, of course — but the particular ways in which it is not Obamacare look worse, not better, for Republicans." -- CW ...

... The advocacy groups helmed by Charles and David Koch have unveiled a new pool of money for advertisements, field programs and mailings that would exclude those who vote for the health care bill they oppose on Thursday. The effort, which they described as worth millions of dollars, is an explicit warning to on-the-fence Republicans from one of the most influential players in electoral politics not to cross them.The Koch-aligned networks oppose the bill because they think it does not do enough to scale back former President Barack Obama's health care policies." -- CW ...

... What's the Problem? DonTCare/CAHCA Already Gives a Fabulous Break to Kochs, Trump, et al. Dylan Matthews of Vox: "The typical family making less than $10,000 will lose $1,420 if the Republican health care plan passes, a cut that amounts to almost one-third of their income. Meanwhile, the average family making $200,000 or more would gain $5,640, according to a new analysis from the Tax Policy Center and the Urban Institute's Health Policy Center.... People making more than $1 million a year would get an average tax cut of $51,410." CW: From my quick scan of the report, the researchers don't calculate the tax benefits going to billionaires like the Kochs & Trump, but it's probably fair to assume they would receive far in excess of $50K. Yet somehow that's not good enough for some of these greedy bastards. ...

... Christina Cauterucci of Slate: "On Monday night, Paul Ryan attempted to lure more of his far-right Republican compadres on board with the GOP’s proposed health care plan with a set of changes to the bill. The so-called 'manager’s amendment' makes the American Health Care Act a significantly more conservative proposal that would mean severe cuts to coverage for the poorest Americans. The worst provision in the manager’s amendment is a Medicaid work requirement that would allow states to revoke Medicaid coverage from new mothers who haven’t found a job within two months after giving birth.... Cutting off health benefits from a mother in the first several weeks of her infant’s life sets both the mother and the infant up for a cascading set of impediments to physical and financial health." -- CW ...

... Paul Waldman: "... when it comes to compassion, the only question the GOP argues about is precisely how little of it they want to display. With complete control of the federal government, Republicans are being as cruel as they want to be. And oh boy, do they want to be cruel.... Beneath [their] proposals ... is a particular view of poor people, one that drips with contempt. It sees them not as those who have had hard lives or encountered some bad luck or who could use help, but people who are fundamentally lazy and trying to scam the system.... And the White House is eager to help; its proposed budget would slash nearly every program in sight that actually helps people.... All this is accompanied, of course, by the Republicans' eternal desire to cut taxes on the wealthy." -- CW ...

     ... CW: My favorites are Republicans like U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall (Kansas), an OB-GYN, who abuse Biblical passages to "justify" their efforts to stiff the poor. Marshall used Matthew 26:11, where Jesus says, "The poor will always be with us" to argue that "the Medicaid population" didn't really want to be healthy or to have healthcare insurance. "... the full quotation from Deuteronomy," as Matthew Loftus writes in the linked story, "that Jesus is citing here goes on to say that because there will always be poor people in the land, the Israelites should always be generous and open-handed with their neighbors."

Tuesday
Mar212017

The Commentariat -- March 22, 2017

Drew Harwell & Amy Brittain of the Washington Post: "The U.S. Secret Service requested $60 million in additional funding for the next year, offering the most precise estimate yet of the escalating costs for travel and protection resulting from the unusually complicated lifestyle of the Trump family, according to internal agency documents reviewed by The Washington Post. Nearly half of the additional money, $26.8 million, would pay to protect President Trump’s family and private home in New York’s Trump Tower, the documents show, while $33 million would be spent on travel costs incurred by 'the president, vice president and other visiting heads of state.'” -- CW 

The Russia Connection, Ctd. Jeff Horwitz & Chad Day of the AP: "... Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics, The Associated Press has learned. The work appears to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests. Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.... In a statement to the AP, Manafort confirmed that he worked for [Russian aluminum magnate Oleg] Deripaska in various countries but said the work was being unfairly cast as 'inappropriate or nefarious' as part of a 'smear campaign.'" -- CW 

Lachlan Markay of the Daily Beast: Mike Flynn, "the White House’s former top national security official, did not sign an ethics pledge ostensibly required of all Trump administration appointees barring them from ethically questionable lobbying activities, The Daily Beast has learned.... The pledge, imposed by executive order a week after ... Donald Trump took office, bars all federal appointees from lobbying their former colleagues for five years after leaving the administration and bans them from lobbying on behalf of foreign governments for life.... 'Gen. Flynn never had the opportunity to sign Trump’s ethics pledge, but he plans to abide by its terms, [Flynn's spokesman] told The Daily Beast." -- CW 

Robert Barnes, et al., of the Washington Post: "Democratic senators pressed Judge Neil Gorsuch Wednesday to explain his views on issues such as the Constitution’s 'emoluments clause' and the notion of 'high crimes and misdemeanors,' questions designed to more aggressively probe his independence from President Trump. Gorsuch ... declined to answer several questions from Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) on legal concepts Trump’s critics have accused the president of violating." -- CW ...

... Adam Liptak, et al., of the New York Times are live-updating the Gorsuch confirmation hearings. "Judge Neil M. Gorsuch faced tough questions from Senator Dianne Feinstein about his role in approving harsh interrogation techniques during his time as a lawyer in the administration of President George W. Bush." -- CW 

Karla Adam & Rick Noack of the Washington Post: "An alleged assailant was shot by police outside Britain’s Parliament compound Wednesday, a lawmaker said, placing the building on lockdown in what authorities initially treated as a 'terrorist incident.' Full details of the incident were not immediately clear. Separately, a car struck pedestrians at a nearby bridge, leading investigators to explore whether it was part of a coordinated action.” -- CW ...

... The Guardian is updating developments here. -- CW 

*****

The New York Times has posted a new story by Steve Eder & Ben Protess on "the Turkish Trump," linked below.

Thomas Kaplan & Robert Pear of the New York Times: "President Trump offered a closing argument on Tuesday to on-the-fence lawmakers, warning House Republicans that they risked losing re-election next year if they failed to get behind legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.... Mr. Trump also singled out Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservatives that has resisted the House plan. [Rep. Harold] Rogers [Ky.] said Mr. Trump told Mr. Meadows that he was coming after him. The president 'was kidding around — I think,' Mr. Rogers said.... 'He made it very clear he’s all-in on this legislation,' said Representative Kevin Brady, the Texas Republican who is chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.... On the eve of Mr. Trump’s visit to Capitol Hill, House leaders released a set of revisions to their bill, including a provision sought by Republicans from upstate New York that would shift Medicaid costs from counties to the state government [CW: a/k/a the 'Buffalo Bribe'].... But even with the changes, passage of the House bill remained far from assured, with rank-and-file members still voicing dissent." -- CW ...

... Shane Goldmacher of Politico: "Donald Trump didn’t have to issue his threat seriously — 'I’m gonna come after you,' he said jokingly Tuesday to a ringleader of House GOP hard-liners opposing his health care bill — to be taken seriously by the 200 Republicans gathered in the Capitol basement. For a president with a penchant for vengeance — who named 'an eye for an eye' as his favorite biblical passage, who banned media outlets from campaign events when he didn’t approve of their coverage, who after the election ousted a GOP state chairman whom he viewed as disloyal, who just last week reminded a GOP governor who hadn’t endorsed him that 'I never forget' — the roll-call vote on the Republican health care plan, expected Thursday, will be the first accounting of who’s with him and who’s against him on Capitol Hill.... The president may be ideologically flexible, even to the point of disinterest, on the particulars of the health care legislation. But Trump’s been clear and consistent about one message: He wants it done." -- CW ...

... Mike DeBonis, et al., of the Washington Post: "... more than two dozen GOP lawmakers remained firmly opposed to the legislation amid the high-stakes persuasion campaign led by Trump and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) — more than enough to block the bill ahead of a planned Thursday vote.... The holdouts are mainly hard-line conservatives who believe the bill ... does not do nearly enough to undo the Affordable Care Act passed by Democrats in 2010. But they also include moderates who fear the bill will imperil their constituents, and their party’s prospects at the ballot box.... Several Republicans privately said Tuesday that the Thursday vote could be postponed if leaders are unable to secure enough firm votes for passage beforehand." -- CW ...

... Jonathan Chait: "President Trump can barely muster any enthusiasm at all for the bill. His public defenses are vague and grudging, and he is reportedly even less keen in private. 'He is tired of seeing it criticized on TV,' one source tells Politico. What fires up Trump’s passion is not the bill itself, but the prospect of winning. 'A loss is not acceptable, folks,' he reportedly told a caucus meeting. Rather than advocate for the alleged benefits of the bill — if anybody even alleges them any more — Republicans have staked their case on a series of reasons unrelated to its direct effects on the health-care system: 1. They promised.... 2. Losing will embolden our enemies.... 3. But think of the tax cuts!... 4. We’ll lose Congress if we fail." -- CW ...

... Scott Lemieux in LG&$: "And you have to admit [Trump's] political analysis is pretty shrewd: “'If we get this done, and tax reform, he believes we pick up 10 seats in the Senate and we add to our majority in the House,' said Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), the first member of Congress who endorsed Trump’s presidential bid. 'If we don’t get it done, we lose the House and the Senate.'” Sure, seems plausible that passing a massively unpopular bill will be worth +10 in the Senate for the in party." -- CW: Unfortunately, the boys in the clown car are completely unaware that von Clownstick is just talking out of his (tinfoil) hat.

The Most Irresponsible U.S. President in History. Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "President Trump is poised in the coming days to announce his plans to dismantle the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s climate change legacy, while also gutting several smaller but significant policies aimed at curbing global warming. The moves are intended to send an unmistakable signal to the nation and the world that Mr. Trump intends to follow through on his campaign vows to rip apart every element of what the president has called Mr. Obama’s 'stupid' policies to address climate change. The timing and exact form of the announcement remain unsettled, however." -- CW ...

...Joe Romm of ThinkProgress: "Gallup reported this week that President Donald Trump’s disapproval rating have hit a record high of 58 percent. Those who approve of the job Trump is doing hit a record low of 37 percent. Meanwhile, Gallup reported a few days earlier that more Americans than ever 'are concerned about global warming, believe it is occurring, consider it a serious threat, and say it is caused by human activity.'...The number of Americans who worried a “great deal” about global warming was up 8 percentage points to 45 percent — an all-time high." --safari...

...Joe Romm of ThinkProgress: "The premise of President Donald Trump’s plan to kill the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon pollution standards is that restricting CO2 hurts the economy. But Trump’s oft-repeated claim that EPA standards kill jobs is bogus. 'Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions were flat for a third straight year in 2016 even as the global economy grew,' the International Energy Agency reported Friday, 'signaling a continuing decoupling of emissions and economic activity.' In fact, while CO2 emissions were flat, the global economy grew 3.1 percent." --safari ...

     ... CW: I think Trump's original campaign slogan was "America First, Kill the Planet Second." Some MadMan must have nixed it.

Glenn Thrush of the New York Times: "Hours after Mr. Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court declared during Senate confirmation hearings that he was 'disheartened' about Mr. Trump’s unrestrained attacks on the judicial branch, the president was at it again, calling out the federal judges who have halted his second executive order banning travel from certain predominantly Muslim nations. 'Somebody said I should not criticize judges. O.K. I’ll criticize judges,' Mr. Trump said on Tuesday night at a fund-raising dinner for the National Republican Congressional Committee — reiterating his pique at a federal court judge in Hawaii who last week placed a stay on his second travel order." -- CW 

NEW. “The Turkish Trump.” Steve Eder & Ben Protess of the New York Times: The Trump Organization, “now largely run by Mr. Trump’s eldest sons, Eric and Donald Jr., has been pursuing a downtown Dallas hotel project with a real estate firm that has deep Turkish roots.… An examination by The New York Times … found that Alterra Worldwide, the real estate firm that would own the hotel and be partners with the Trumps, has business ties in Russia, Kazakhstan and at least two dozen other countries. Ordinarily, such international experience would be a selling point for the firm, but it is a complicating factor when dealing with Mr. Trump’s company, where concerns already have been raised internally about some of Alterra’s foreign connections.... [Yusuf Sarimsakci, the] … brother and longtime business partner [of Alterra’s president, Mukemmel Sarimsakci,] has helped oversee numerous developments around the world, including the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow near the Kremlin, the hotel where Mr. Trump stayed in 2013 while his Miss Universe pageant came to town.” CW: So maybe Yusef there was the guy who installed the videocams in Trump's suite. As you read the story, you'll see that Mukemmel has nearly as much difficulty telling the truth as Trump does.

Andrew Kaczynski of CNN: "A local news station in Louisville, Kentucky, announced on air Monday that the White House made it clear prior to an interview that ... Donald Trump wouldn't answer questions on Russia or wiretapping. WDRB interviewed the President after his event in Louisville on Monday evening." -- CW

Susan Rice in a Washington Post op-ed: "Last week, the British intelligence agency GCHQ took the rare step of debunking as 'utterly ridiculous' the Trump administration’s insinuation that Britain spied on Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign. On Monday, FBI Director James B. Comey testified plainly that 'I have no information that supports' President Trump’s accusations that his predecessor ordered the 'wires tapped' at Trump Tower. These false statements from the White House are part of a disturbing pattern of behavior that poses real and potentially profound dangers to U.S. national security. The foundation of the United States’ unrivaled global leadership ... is ... grounded in the perception that the United States is steady, rational and fact-based. To lead effectively, the United States must maintain respect and trust. So, when a White House deliberately dissembles and serially contorts the facts, its actions pose a serious risk to America’s global leadership, among friends and adversaries alike." -- CW ...

... Will Bredderman of the New York Observer: "GOP Congressman Peter King of Long Island called upon ... Donald Trump to rescind his recent social media assertions that former President Barack Obama bugged his phone lines during last year’s election cycle — warning that a failure to recant the comments could badly shake American confidence in the veracity of their commander-in-chief’s word, and create a dangerous situation in the event of a actual national security disaster." CW: The New York Observer is owned by Jared Kushner's family trust. Jared, who was the paper's publisher, transferred ownership to the family when he became an adviser to Trump. ...

... "Fake President." Tom Boggioni of the Raw Story: "In an unusually harsh piece in the Wall Street Journal published Tuesday night, the conservative paper equated Donald Trump’s obsession with the idea that he was wiretapped by ex-President Barack Obama to a drunk with 'an empty gin bottle.' According to the Journal, Trump is in danger of becoming a 'Fake president,' due to his promotion of what turns out to be 'fake news,' seriously damaging his credibility." ... safari/CW ...

... Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker: "... the top people around Trump may have no idea how much exposure the President has on the issue of Russian collusion. Two hours after [a] White House official confidently predicted Comey would vindicate the Administration, Comey did the opposite...." -- CW ...

... Leah McElrath of Shareblue: "Donald Trump and the GOP repeatedly declared that Hillary Clinton should not be president because of an FBI investigation into her email practices. Now that James Comey has revealed an investigation exists into the possibility of collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government, we should hold the Trump administration and the GOP to their words that an FBI investigation into a president is a disqualifying event.... Through January 2017, Trump said Clinton should not have even been able to run because of the FBI investigation: 'What are Hillary Clinton's people complaining about with respect to the F.B.I. Based on the information they had she should never….. — Donald J. Trump  January 13, 2017  ... ... have been allowed to run – guilty as hell. They were VERY nice to her. She lost because she campaigned in the wrong states – no enthusiasm!'" Emphasis added. See also Chuck Schumer's remarks on the Senate floor re: the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, linked story & embedded video below. -- CW ...

... Brian Ross & Matthew Mosk of ABC News: "There, indeed, was an FBI wiretap involving Russians at Trump Tower. But it was not placed at the behest of Barack Obama, and the target was not the Trump campaign of 2016. For two years ending in 2013, the FBI had a court-approved warrant to eavesdrop on a sophisticated Russian organized crime money-laundering network that operated out of unit 63A in Trump Tower in New York.... The Trump building was home to one of the top men in the alleged ring, Vadim Trincher, who pleaded guilty to racketeering and received a five-year prison term.... Seven months after [an] April 2013 indictment and after Interpol issued a red notice for [Alimzhan] Tokhtakhounov, he appeared near Donald Trump in the VIP section of the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.... Some of the Russian mafia figures worked out of unit 63A in the iconic skyscraper — just three floors below Trump’s penthouse residence — running what prosecutors called an 'international money-laundering, sports gambling and extortion ring.'” -- CW ...

... Steve M. has much more on the Russian mobsters running their ops out of Trump Tower (and elsewhere). Hmmm. And Preet Bharara, whom Jeff Sessions just fired, was the U.S. attorney who filed the indictment against the mobsters. ...

... Josh Marshall: "When you start piecing together the Trump story, basically everywhere you look, whether it's residents in his Trump-branded buildings, or his business associates or investors in his projects, Trump is - there's simply no other way to put it - tied up with it not just Russians but in many cases Russians tied to the criminal underworld and money laundering.... [Trump] is a guy who almost lost everything and then clawed his way back with a lot of pretty unsavory money. Look at Trump, any of his business partnerships and really anything else and you keep finding Russians with tons of money and frequent attention from the FBI." -- CW ...

... Dylan Byers of CNN: "Sean Spicer ... has lost his credibility. This week, White House reporters and journalists who had previously defended Spicer's credibility ... said Spicer had sacrificed that credibility by insinuating that former President Obama had used British intelligence to spy on Trump, and by stating that Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had a 'very limited role' in Trump's campaign. 'He's venturing into Baghdad Bob territory,' one White House reporter said, referring to the Saddam Hussein spokesperson known for his vociferous denials of what to everyone else was reality. These reporters join a chorus of critics ... who have previously told CNN that Spicer sacrificed his credibility at his first briefing, when he made the demonstrably false claim that Trump's inauguration audience was 'the largest audience to witness an inauguration' both 'in person and around the globe.'... On Monday, Spicer shred whatever credibility he may have had left with his remark about Manafort.... Spicer's claim was not spin. It was a falsehood. And Spicer knew it was a falsehood when he said it, because he had previously acknowledged that Manafort was 'in charge' of Trump's campaign." -- CW 

Trump's Traitors. Jeff Horowitz and Chad Day of the AP: "President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics, The Associated Press has learned. The work appears to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests.Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse...Manafort's plans were laid out in documents obtained by the AP that included strategy memoranda and records showing international wire transfers for millions of dollars. How much work Manafort performed under the contract was unclear." Read on. --safari...

...Peter Stone & Greg Gordon of McClatchy News: "Federal investigators are examining whether far-right news sites played any role last year in a Russian cyber operation that dramatically widened the reach of news stories — some fictional — that favored Donald Trump’s presidential bid, two people familiar with the inquiry say. Operatives for Russia appear to have strategically timed the computer commands, known as “bots,” to blitz social media with links to the pro-Trump stories at times when the billionaire businessman was on the defensive in his race against Democrat Hillary Clinton, these sources said. The bots’ end products were largely millions of Twitter and Facebook posts carrying links to stories on conservative internet sites such as Breitbart News and InfoWars, as well as on the Kremlin-backed RT News and Sputnik News, the sources said...Investigators examining the bot attacks are exploring whether the far-right news operations took any actions to assist Russia’s operatives." --safari...

...Rachel Maddow has more crucial info. on the impending Information Warfare. --safari

 

Marc Fisher of the Washington Post: "President Trump called Jeffrey Epstein a 'terrific guy' back in 2002, saying that 'he’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.' Now, Trump is on the witness list in a Florida court battle over how federal prosecutors handled allegations that Epstein, 64, sexually abused more than 40 minor girls, most of them between the ages of 13 and 17. The lawsuit questions why Trump’s nominee for labor secretary, former Miami U.S. attorney Alexander Acosta, whose confirmation hearing is scheduled to begin Wednesday, cut a non-prosecution deal with Epstein a decade ago rather than pursuing a federal indictment that Acosta’s staff had advocated.... Federal prosecutors detailed their findings in an 82-page prosecution memo and a 53-page indictment, but Epstein was never indicted. In 2007, Acosta signed a non-prosecution deal in which he agreed not to pursue federal charges against Epstein or four women who the government said procured girls for him. In exchange, Epstein agreed to plead guilty to a solicitation charge in state court, accept a 13-month sentence, register as a sex offender and pay restitution to the victims identified in the federal investigation.... But Epstein’s unusually light punishment — he was facing up to a life sentence had he been convicted on federal charges — has raised questions about how Acosta handled the case.... Trump banned Epstein from his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach 'because Epstein sexually assaulted an underage girl at the club,' Bradley Edwards, an attorney who represents three of the young women, said in court documents." CW: Should be an uplifting confirmation hearing. ...

... Julia Horowitz of CNN: "President Trump's first pick to lead the Labor Department was forced to bail last month. Now he's lost his old job, too. CKE Restaurants, which owns the Hardee's and Carl's Jr. fast food chains, announced Tuesday that KFC executive Jason Marker will replace Andrew Puzder as chief executive in April.... It's not clear whether Puzder will get a golden parachute." Puzder claimed his ouster was all part of his "plan for succession," but if that's so, it appears he kept his spokesman in the dark about it. CW: Too bad he wont' have to take one of those low-wage jobs at Hardee's to make ends meet, then get "automated out" into the street.  

Greg Stohr & Laura Litvan of Bloomberg: "U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch said Tuesday he wouldn’t hesitate to rule against Donald Trump if the law required it. He also told senators he made no promises to Trump about how he would decide any case, even though the president briefly mentioned abortion when the two met.... Gorsuch said he 'would have walked out the door' if Trump had asked him specifically to vote to overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion-rights ruling.... Answering questions in a marathon session Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gorsuch defended his decade-long record on a federal appeals court and vowed to follow the law no matter who is involved in an issue. 'Nobody is above the law in this country, and that includes the president of the United States,' the nominee said as Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy asked about court review of presidents’ national security decisions. Gorsuch refused to say whether he would uphold Trump’s ban on travel from six mostly Muslim nations...." ...

     ... CW: Why, Gorsuch appears to be a man possessed of the highest moral principles and he looks like a handsome, graying actor who would play a wise, incorruptible judge on the teevee. (On the latter point, if you were wondering why Trump picked Gorsuch over the others on his list of horribles, there's your answer.) Well, just to be sure, let's check some other reports on how Tuesday's hearing went. ...

What’s the largest trout you’ve ever caught? -- Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) "questioning" Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch ...

... Robert Barnes & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Judge Neil Gorsuch stressed his independence and defended the integrity of the federal judiciary Tuesday as the Senate hearings on his Supreme Court nomination turned on the search for his judicial philosophy and what one senator called 'the elephant in the room' — President Trump.... The Columbia-Oxford-Harvard graduate employed a homespun tone — 'gosh,' 'golly' and 'nope' punctuated his answers. Corny dad jokes fell flat, especially with the Democratic senators. They pressed him on abortion, gun rights, privacy and the protracted 2000 presidential campaign recount. As other Supreme Court nominees have, Gorsuch explained that it would be improper to give his views on cases that might come before him or to grade decisions made in the past. He had a tense encounter with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who sparred with him on issues of campaign finance and 'dark money,' including a $10 million campaign by the group Judicial Crisis Network to advocate for Gorsuch’s confirmation.... Republican senators did little more than set Gorsuch up to display an encyclopedic knowledge of the Constitution and Supreme Court precedent, and to allow him to stress his roots as an outdoorsy Westerner." -- CW ...

... Emily Crockett of Vox: "During his confirmation hearing Tuesday..., Neil Gorsuch denied allegations by two of his former law students that he made sexist remarks about women in the workplace. A former student said Gorsuch said in a legal ethics class that 'many' women lawyers lie about whether they plan to have children to abuse maternity benefits — and that their companies should ask about such plans to protect themselves.... Gorsuch ... said that instead he was asking for a show of hands to make the opposite point: that many women are often asked 'inappropriate' questions about their family planning in a professional context." When Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asked Gorsuch if he agreed with the EEOC's guidelines that asking a woman about family plans was "pregnancy discrimination," Gorsuch replied, “Senator, there’s a lot of words there.” -- CW ...

... CW: See also commentary on the hearing in yesterday's thread. Whitehouse, a former prosecutor, is good. Franken, who is not a lawyer, is just good. I have liked both of these guys for higher office for some time. ...

... Matt Flegenheimer, et al., of the New York Times: "Here are some highlights from Day 2 of the Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Judge Neil M. Gorsuch[.]" -- CW ...

I had a career in identifying absurdity, and it makes me question your judgment. -- Sen. Al Franken, to Judge Gorsuch ...

... Jed Shugerman in Slate: "Gorsuch’s opinion in what’s known as the 'frozen trucker' case ... demonstrates an arrogant and cold judicial personality. I have read very few modern opinions that were more callously written than Gorsuch’s TransAm dissent.... His lack of self-awareness of his theory’s flaw [-- his theory being that judges should not show "Chevron deference" to agency interpretations of law --] plus his acerbic dismissiveness of real-world conflicts are not a good sign that he has the appropriate judicial temperament for the Supreme Court." ...

     ... CW: All you need do is watch Gorsuch's smug non-answers to Franken's questions to know this guy is not qualified to decide whether or not you should choose the red or the blue dress, much less to rule on anything of importance to actual living beings. Jeff Flake should be more concerned about what a cold fish Gorsuch is than about the size of the fish he caught. ...

... Ari Berman of the Nation: "... we know enough about Gorsuch to surmise that he was nominated by Donald Trump to be a smooth-talking advocate on the bench for a far right ideology. He was hand-picked by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. He has close ties to a conservative billionaire and has praised one of the GOP’s most notorious voter suppression advocates. He’s criticized liberals for challenging gay marriage bans in the courts. In the Bush Administration, he praised the Guantanamo prison and defended harsh anti-terror policies. As a judge, he joined the Hobby Lobby decision restricting a woman’s right to choose and ruled against a truck driver who abandoned his trailer in subzero temperatures after it broke down. He’s consistently favored corporate power and corporate influence in the political process. In fact, a review of his opinions suggests he will be more conservative than Roberts and Alito, second only to Justice Thomas. -- CW ...

... New York Times investigative reporter Eric Lipton dives deep into the conservative push to drastically reshape America's court system. Check it out. --safari

... Video embedded yesterday afternoon. Here's a related print story by Lipton and Jeremy Peters print story, dated March18. -- CW ...

... Dahlia Lithwick of Slate: "Senate Republicans have so mastered the art of outsize umbrage that at Monday’s hearing for Judge Merrick Garland Neil Gorsuch, to fill a Supreme Court seat they themselves blocked and obstructed for over a year, the one note of agreement they sounded was an angry one. They are angry that Democrats believe an Obama nominee should have been afforded the courtesy of a hearing and a vote. They are angry that their nominee — who was picked by the president with promises about how he would vote in abortion and gun cases — will surely be asked about how he will vote in abortion and gun cases. But mostly they are really just incredibly steamed that Senate Democrats are even a little bit mad. Because anger is sort of the Republicans’ thing." -- CW ...

... Garrett Epps of the Atlantic: "Of course, Gorsuch himself did nothing before the election to become a political candidate. But when the White House called him to come for an interview, he came. He accepted a nomination doubly tainted — by the crude power-play against Garland and by the loud proclamation that a Trump appointee would vote as Trump promised he would." -- CW ...

... Charles Pierce wrote a couple of good posts on Gorsuch, the man and the meaning. -- CW ...

... Elana Schor of Politico: "Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for a delay of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation Tuesday given the ongoing FBI investigation into potential collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian officials. 'You can bet, if the shoe were on the other foot and a Democratic president was under investigation by the FBI, the Republicans would be howling at the moon about filling a Supreme Court seat in such circumstances,' Schumer said on the floor. His call was later echoed by Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren.... The emerging Democratic demand is highly unlikely to gain traction with Senate GOP leaders, who are planning a vote on Gorsuch early next month. But the move illustrates Schumer's interest in using the stain of an FBI probe to undercut the rest of Trump’s agenda and echoes entreaties by liberal groups that have pressured Democrats to filibuster Gorsuch." -- CW ...

Few Regrets. Trump Voters Still Flat-out Stupid.

Beyond the Beltway

It seems to me that virtually every case of voter fraud I can remember in my lifetime was committed by Democrats. -- Steven Curtis, in a 42-minute segment on his radio show titled “Voter Fraud and Other Democratic Misbehaviors,” ca. October 2016 (Thanks to Patrick for the link.) ...

... ** Blair Miller of Denver 7/ABC: "The former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party is charged with forgery and voter fraud for allegedly forging his wife’s mail-in ballot from last year’s election, according to court records and sources. Steven Curtis was the chairman of the state party from 1997 to 1999. He was charged Feb. 1 with one count of forgery of a public record, a fifth-degree felony, and an elections mail-in ballot offense, a misdemeanor.... Curtis was most-recently back in the Colorado political spectrum in 2011, when he oversaw the advisory board for the Denver Tea Party Patriots. The Colorado Secretary of State's Office says this is the only voter fraud case that has ended in charges stemming from last year's election." ...

     ... CW: In case you didn't notice, none of the states' GOP-passed voter suppression laws would have prevented the type of fraud Curtis allegedly committed.

Chris Dixon & Kevin Sack of the New York Times: "Joseph C. Meek Jr., a friend of Dylann S. Roof’s who spent time with him in the weeks before nine people were killed at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church here, was sentenced Tuesday to 27 months in prison for hampering and misleading the federal authorities in the aftermath of Mr. Roof’s racist massacre.... During a night of drinking and drug use about a week before the shootings, Mr. Roof told Mr. Meek that he wanted to kill black people at a historic African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston in order to start a race riot, according to F.B.I. summaries of interviews with him. Mr. Meek was concerned enough to hide Mr. Roof’s handgun after he fell asleep but later returned it and did not report the threat to law enforcement." -- CW 

Way Beyond

BBC: "The British government has announced a cabin baggage ban on laptops on direct passenger flights to the UK from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. The ban, which also applies to tablets and DVD players, follows a similar US move affecting eight countries.... Any affected device, including e-readers and games consoles, will need to be placed into hold luggage." CW: I didn't get this yesterday, and I don't get it today. What difference does it make to a mad bomber whether he blows up the plane with a bomb in the cabin or with a bomb in the hold? ...

... Kaveh Waddell of the Atlantic interviews security expert Justin Kelley, who says, "... I think this specific ban was driven by specific intelligence that they’ve gathered." -- CW