The Wires

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New York Times (September 22): In March the Department of Justice described criminal cases involving nearly $700 million lost [to fraud] in the previous year by about two million people. The ones hit hardest by this kind of fraud are over 70, and they experience an average loss of $41,800, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reports.... Some of the newer tactics for defrauding older people focus on Social Security, grandparenting and employment searches." ~~~

~~~ Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I have received a number of calls recently warning me I was about to lose my Social Security card, an eventuality that is highly unlikely. I have always just hung up on these automated calls, but yesterday, I decided to bite. When the "real person" came on the phone, he identified himself as a Social Security officer, certainly breaking the law right there. "Really?" I said. "How are you going to prove you're a federal government official and not a scammer?" He immediately hung up. Maybe this gang of crooks will stop calling me (tho probably not).

New York Times: "Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo have both won this year’s Booker Prize, it was announced at a ceremony on Monday, after the judges for the literary award rebelled against its rules. 'We were told quite firmly that the rules state you can only have one winner,' Peter Florence, the chairman of the Booker judges, said at a news conference. But the 'consensus was to flout the rules and divide this year’s prize to celebrate two winners.' Evaristo, who won for her novel 'Girl, Woman, Other,' is the first black woman to win the Booker Prize. 'I hope that honor doesn’t last too long,' she said in her acceptance speech. Atwood, who won in 2000 for 'The Blind Assassin,' was considered a front-runner this year for 'The Testaments,' the sequel to her 1985 dystopian classic, 'The Handmaid’s Tale.'”

We are amused:

The Hollywood Reporter has a list of this year's Emmy Award winners.

The End of the Amtrak Dining Car. Washington Post: "Amtrak says it is reinventing its dining service on long-distance trains, killing the traditional dining car to create more 'flexible' and 'contemporary' dining options. The carrier says the change, starting this fall on the one-night routes east of the Mississippi River, is driven by the desire to save money and lure a younger generation of new riders — chiefly, millennials known to be always on the run, glued to their phones and not particularly keen on breaking bread with strangers at a communal table. With the transition, Amtrak is doing away with the traditional onboard kitchen, switching to serving prepackaged meals and easing restrictions on the traditional serving times. The change allows the railroad to cut costs associated with cooking aboard and keeping up with the white-tablecloth service that was once known to rival high-end restaurants and clubs." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I realize many of you are too young to have experienced this, but once upon a time, traveling by train & plane was glamorous. People dressed up to travel, and those who had train roomettes dressed for dinner. My then-husband & I once had a roomette when we traveled from Juarez to Mexico City, & the experience was absolutely fabulous; so was the cuisine in the dining car. Now, it's sensible to dress in the most comfy clothes in anticipation of getting squished into a teeny "economy class" airline seat. The photos accompanying the WashPo story show people wearing casual dress in the white-tablecloth dining room, & the men are too gauche to remove their billed caps. P.S. to American tourists: nobody more messes up a photo of an historic site than a bunch of yahoo sightseers ambling around in their sloppy travel outfits. Then:

CNN: "The US Navy has finally acknowledged footage purported to show UFOs hurtling through the air. And while officials said they don't know what the objects are, they're not indulging any hints either. The objects seen in three clips of declassified military footage are "unidentified aerial phenomena," Navy spokesperson Joe Gradisher confirmed to CNN.The clips, released between December 2017 and March 2018 by To The Stars Academy of Arts & Sciences, appear to show fast-moving, oblong objects captured by advanced infrared sensors.In footage from 2004, sensors lock on a target as it flies before it accelerates out of the left side of the frame, too quickly for the sensors to relocate it. Two of the videos, both from 2015, contain audio from US fighter pilots attempting to make sense of what they're seeing."

New York Times: "A solid 18-karat gold toilet, titled 'America' by its creator, Maurizio Cattelan, was stolen early Saturday [September 14] from an exhibit at Blenheim Palace, the Oxfordshire birthplace and family home of Winston Churchill.... The artwork is based on a common Kohler toilet and was created by a foundry in Florence. The work’s value was not disclosed, but [Guggenheim artistic director Nancy] Spector described it as 'millions of dollars’ worth of gold.'... The police said in a statement that they were investigating the burglary and that a 66-year-old man had been arrested but not charged. The toilet has not been recovered. Jess Milne, a detective inspector, noted that the toilet had been plumbed to the building, so the theft 'caused significant damage and flooding.' He said the police believed a 'group of offenders' using at least two vehicles was behind the theft." the Hill's story is here.

Modern Art. CNN: "Hillary Clinton's emails ... have become art -- and the former secretary of state herself went to take a look.The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee looked through printed copies of her emails and sat at a replica of the Oval Office's Resolute Desk during a visit Tuesday to an art exhibit in Venice, Italy, titled 'HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails,' according to the exhibit's creator and curators. 'Hillary Clinton spent an hour yesterday reading her emails at my exhibition of all 62,000 pages of them in Venice,' American poet and artist Kenneth Goldsmith tweeted Wednesday. 'She is pictured here at a replica of the Oval Office Resolute Desk, stacked with her emails.' Francesco Urbano Ragazzi -- the collective name for two men who are working as the exhibit's curatorial team -- told CNN that Clinton came in for a private tour of the exhibit Tuesday morning."

... Related Washington Post story here.

     ... Thanks to NJC for the lead.

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

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

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

Saturday
Oct122019

The Commentariat -- October 13, 2019

Afternoon Update:

Complete Capitulation. Julian Barnes & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said Sunday that President Trump ordered a withdrawal of American forces from northern Syria, a decision that will effectively cede control of the area to the Syrian government and Russia, and could allow a resurgence of the Islamic State. Mr. Esper, appearing on both Fox News and CBS News, said that American troops, mostly Special Operations forces, would move south but not leave the country in the face of Turkey's incursion into the section of Syria controlled by Kurdish forces, a group of fighters trained and backed by the United States government. The Pentagon has slow-walked previous orders by Mr. Trump to evacuate from Syria, to protect its Kurdish partners and hold the ground it took back from the Islamic State. But Mr. Esper's comments Sunday indicated that this time Mr. Trump's drawdown order was being acted on with haste.... Mr. Esper said the Pentagon expected Turkish forces to annex even more territory than originally estimated." This is confirmation of reports linked below. ~~~

~~~ Humeyra Pamuk of Reuters: "The United States is looking into reports that a Kurdish politician and captured Kurdish fighters were killed in northeastern Syria amid Turkey's offensive, a State Department spokesman told Reuters on Sunday, adding that Washington found the reports disturbing.... 'We find these reports to be extremely troubling, reflecting the overall destabilization of northeast Syria since the commencement of hostilities on Tuesday,' the spokesman said in an email." ~~~

~~~ Eric Schmitt, et al., of the New York Times: "... with the White House revoking protection for these Kurdish fighters, some of the Special Forces officers who battled alongside the Kurds say they feel deep remorse at orders to abandon their allies. 'They trusted us and we broke that trust,' one Army officer who has worked alongside the Kurds in northern Syria said last week in a telephone interview. 'It's a stain on the American conscience.' 'I'm ashamed,' said another officer who had also served in northern Syria. And the response from the Kurds themselves was just as stark. 'The worst thing in military logic and comrades in the trench is betrayal,' said Shervan Darwish, an official allied with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.... As the Americans pulled back, the Kurds moved north to try to reinforce their comrades fighting the offensive. The American soldiers could only watch from their sandbag-lined walls. Orders from Washington were simple: Hands off. Let the Kurds fight for themselves. The orders contradicted the American military's strategy in Syria over the past four years, especially when it came to the Kurdish fighters, known as the Y.P.G., who were integral to routing the Islamic State from northeastern Syria." ~~~

~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Looks as if Trump is getting worried about Republican support. Shortly after patting himself on the back for his "very smart" move greenlighting Turkey's assault on Kurdish regions, he tweeted this: "Dealing with @LindseyGrahamSC and many members of Congress, including Democrats, about imposing powerful Sanctions on Turkey. Treasury is ready to go, additional legislation may be sought. There is great consensus on this. Turkey has asked that it not be done. Stay tuned!" ~~~

~~~ Carlotta Gall & Patrick Kingsley of the New York Times: "Hundreds of relatives of Islamic State fighters fled a Kurdish-run detention camp on Sunday morning after Turkish airstrikes hit the surrounding area, deepening the crisis prompted by the Turkish-led invasion of northern Syria. The escapes came hours before the United States military said it would withdraw its remaining troops from northern Syria in the coming weeks, despite a likely resurgence of the Islamic State amid chaotic efforts by Turkish-led troops to wrest the region from Kurdish control. A Kurdish official also said that the flag of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, had been raised in the countryside between the camp in the Kurdish-held town of Ain Issa and the Turkish border, another indication of how the Kurdish authorities were losing control of a region they had freed from the extremists only months ago." This is confirmation of reports linked below.

Joshua Posaner of Politico: "Turkey's military offensive in Syria threatens to destabilize the region and boost ISIS, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a phone call Sunday. 'The chancellor spoke in favor of an immediate end to the military operation,' said ... a spokesperson for Merkel, adding that the Turkish leader had requested the call. The call came after Berlin moved to suspend some arms exports to Turkey on Saturday after Ankara launched an offensive against Kurdish militias in northern Syria last week following ... Donald Trump's withdrawal of troops from the region.... EU foreign ministers are meeting early this week ahead of a summit of heads of state, with both sessions set to address the situation in Syria."

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Ever since former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker handed over those text messages, President Trump's defenders have pointed to one of them as supposedly exonerating Trump. 'Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump's intentions,' Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told another diplomat. 'The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo's [sic] of any kind.' This text has been a linchpin of the Trump Ukraine defense. But on Saturday night, the linchpin broke.... Sondland will ... indicate that he was merely relaying Trump's defense, which he had discussed with the president on a phone call before the text message[.]... This is remarkable stuff, especially considering that Sondland, unlike the two diplomats he was conversing with in those text messages, was a big-time Trump donor.... Sondland's impending testimony sounds like that of a man covering his own backside and knowing his apparent defense of Trump could quickly fall apart upon further examination."

Nahal Toosi of Politico: "Current and former career U.S. diplomats say Trump has handed far too many ambassadorial posts to unqualified candidates, many of whom were political donors with thin diplomatic resumes and little respect for the U.S. Foreign Service. Some say it's time to rethink, if not cap or outright bar, political appointments for ambassadorships. 'It is out of whack under Trump,' said Dana Shell Smith, a former career Foreign Service officer who served as the U.S. ambassador to Qatar. 'These ambassadorships are being seen as the spoils, as opposed to being very serious jobs that act in the interest of the country.' Most modern presidents have given roughly 30 percent of U.S. ambassador postings to political appointees, with the rest drawn from career government ranks.... As of now, nearly 45 percent of his ambassador picks -- people who have been confirmed or are awaiting confirmation -- are political appointees, one database shows.&"

Allan Smith of NBC News: "Sen. Ted Cruz said Sunday that it was wrong for ... Donald Trump to call on China to probe former Vice President Joe Biden and his son in the Texas Republican's most direct rebuke of the president yet. Asked on CBS's 'Face the Nation' whether Trump's comments were 'appropriate,' Cruz said 'of course not. Elections in the U.S. should be decided by Americans and it's not the business of foreign countries, any foreign countries, to be interfering in our elections,' he said.... Host Margaret Brennan then asked if it was improper for Trump to ask Ukraine to probe the Bidens.... 'Listen, foreign countries should stay out of American elections,' Cruz said. 'That's true for Russia. That's true for Ukraine. That's true for China. That's true for all of them. It should be the American people deciding elections....'... Cruz added that it would make 'sense for [Rudy] Giuliani to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has already invited Giuliani to do so."

~~~~~~~~~~

This Is Not Going Well

Mark Esper Today. Emily Tillett & Margaret Brennan of CBS News: "The U.S. is 'preparing to evacuate' about 1,000 U.S. troops from northern Syria 'as safely and quickly as possible,' Defense Secretary Mark Esper told 'Face the Nation' in an interview airing Sunday.... 'In the last 24 hours, we learned that [the Turks] likely intend to extend their attack further south than originally planned, and to the west,' Esper said. 'We also have learned in the last 24 hours that the ... SDF are looking to cut a deal, if you will, with the Syrians and the Russians to counterattack against the Turks in the north.' Esper told 'Face the Nation' the troops remaining in the country were caught between Turkish forces and the SDF..... 'So I spoke with the president last night, after discussions with the rest of the national security team, and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of [all] forces from northern Syria.'" ~~~

~~~ Mark Esper Friday. Robert Burns & Lolita Baldor of the AP: "Top Pentagon officials on Friday denied the U.S. is abandoning its Syrian Kurdish allies in the face of a Turkish military offensive, although the future of a counterterrorism partnership with the Kurds was in grave doubt. 'We have not abandoned the Kurds. Let me be clear about that,' Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters. 'We have not abandoned them. Nobody green-lighted this operation by Turkey -- just the opposite. We pushed back very hard at all levels for the Turks not to commence this operation.'" Emphasis added. ~~~

~~~ Liz Sly & Louisa Loveluck of the Washington Post: "U.S. troops withdrew on Sunday from another town in Syria as Turkish-backed forces pushed deeper inside Syrian territory, seizing positions along a major highway that serves as the U.S. military's main supply route into Syria -- potentially cutting off U.S. troops further west, according to a U.S. official. The withdrawal came amid reports that hundreds of Islamic State supporters may have escaped from a camp housing displaced people in the town of Ain Issa, taking advantage of the mayhem that ensued as Turkish artillery pounded the area. The Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria said in a statement that 785 people affiliated to the Islamic State were among those who got away, escaping from a camp that had housed 12,000 displaced people, mostly women and children. Around a thousand of those who had been identified as Islamic State supporters, including foreigners, were housed in a separate section of the camp known as the Annex, which is now 'completely empty,' according to an aid worker...." ~~~

~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: MEANWHLE: Trump is unconcerned: "Others may want to come in and fight for one side or the other. Let them!" he tweeted, in part, this morning. AND: "Very smart not to be involved in the intense fighting along the Turkish Border, for a change."

America the Untrustworthy. David Kirkpatrick, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump's surprise acquiescence to a Turkish incursion into northern Syria this week has shaken American allies, and not just because it was a betrayal of a loyal partner. What alarmed them even more was his sheer unpredictability. His inconsistent and rapidly shifting positions in the Middle East have injected a new element of chaos into an already volatile region and have left allies guessing where the United States stands and for how long.... His decision to get out of the way of the Turkish incursion ... was just the latest in a series of flip-flops in American policy in the region, including two in Syria this year alone.... Critics say that Mr. Trump’s zigzagging policies have emboldened regional foes, unnerved American partners, and invited Russia and various regional players to seek to exert their influence."

Martin Chulov & Mohammed Rasool of the Guardian & Agencies: "Turkish-backed proxies leading a ground offensive on Kurdish-held border towns in north-eastern Syria have killed nine civilians including a female politician, a human rights monitor has claimed. The civilians were executed on a highway after being taken for their cars by Turkish-backed militias who had crossed the border as the push into Syria deepened. The killings were captured on camera phones and the gruesome scenes have raised the spectre of ethnic bloodletting emerging five days into the Turkish offensive. Ankara's proxies are Syrian Arabs from elsewhere in the country and their foes are Kurdish with long ties to the territory." See also NYT report linked next re: these murders. Thanks to Hattie for the link.

Ben Hubbard, et al., of the New York Times: "Turkish-backed Syrian Arab fighters killed at least two Kurdish prisoners on Saturday, one of them lying on the ground with his hands bound behind his back, in a powerful illustration of the forces unleashed by President Trump's decision to pull back American troops shielding former Kurdish allies in northern Syria. A video that captured one of the killings shows two of the Turkish-backed group's fighters firing bullets at close range into the man with his hands tied while their colleagues shout 'God is great!'... The killing of two Kurdish captives by Arab fighters -- a possible war crime -- is an indication of the ethnically tinged hatreds flaring in the wake of President Trump's pullback of American forces in the area.... On Saturday, Turkey and its allied Syrian fighters established a foothold in a strategic Syrian border town, Ras al-Ain, and were gathering to launch an offensive against another, Tel Abyad, according to the Turkish Defense Ministry and a spokesman for the Turkish-backed fighters. The new hostilities have displaced at least 100,000 people and ignited fears that tens of thousands of ISIS fighters and their relatives held by the Kurds could escape their camps and prisons." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: According to the report, it isn't clear whether the two prisoners were among the nine murdered civilians also cited in the Guardian's report above, but the fact that the Times says one of the two people was "uniformed" suggests these were separate murders. BTW, how much do you think Trump asked Erdogan about his collaboration with these Syrian Arab forces, and exactly what demands did Trump make of Erdogan regarding the control of prisons housing ISIS members & their families before Trump gave Erdogan the go ahead? What other conditions did Trump place on his green light? Oh, none? Also, what-all did Pompeo & Esper do to push back against Trump's green light? We know they didn't resign, as Jim Mattis did after Trump announced a troop pullout late last year (before backing down). And where the hell are our NATO allies?

Dan Lamothe of the Washington Post: "Turkish forces who launched multiple artillery rounds near a U.S. Special Operations outpost in northeastern Syria on Friday have known for months that Americans were there, according to four current and former U.S. officials, raising questions whether Turkey is trying to push American troops farther from the border.... The situation, first reported by Newsweek, was more serious than characterized Friday, several officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.... One Army officer ... said that multiple rounds of 155mm fire were launched from Turkey's side of the border and that they had a 'bracketing effect' in which shells landed on both sides of the U.S. outpost.... The officer said that Turkey knew there were Americans on the hill and that it had to be deliberate. The service members vacated the outpost after the incident but returned on Saturday, according to a U.S. official and images circulating on social media." ~~~

     ~~~ See also the Common Dreams story republished in the Raw Story. Update: NBC News has a story here. ~~~

     ~~~ Juan Cole: "The fire was so intense that the US military seriously considered firing back, a step that could have provoked an unprecedented firefight between two NATO armies."

Barbara Starr & Ryan Browne of CNN: "The commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces told a senior US diplomat, 'You are leaving us to be slaughtered," demanding to know whether the US is going to do anything to protect Syrian Kurds as Turkey continues its military operation targeting America's Kurdish allies in Syria. You have given up on us. You are leaving us to be slaughtered,' Gen. Mazloum Kobani Abdi told the Deputy Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, William Roebuck, in a meeting Thursday, according to an internal US government readout that has been obtained exclusively by CNN. 'You are not willing to protect the people, but you do not want another force to come and protect us. You have sold us. This is immoral,' Mazloum added." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Christian Vasquez of Politico: "Former Defense Secretary James Mattis said ISIS 'will resurge' in Syria, in his first public comments following ... Donald Trump's withdrawal of troops from the region. 'I think Secretary of State Pompeo, the intelligence services, the foreign countries that are working with us have it about right that ISIS is not defeated. We have got to keep the pressure on ISIS so they don't recover,' Mattis said in an interview on NBC News' 'Meet the Press' set to air Sunday.... '... If we don't keep the pressure on then ISIS will resurge. It's, it's absolutely a given that they will come back,' Mattis continued.... 'The Endless Wars Must End!' Trump tweeted Saturday afternoon."

Trump, Inc. -- the Criminal Enterprise, Ctd.

Aaron Davis & John Hudson of the Washington Post: "The U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, intends to tell Congress this week that the content of a text message he wrote denying quid pro quo with Ukraine was relayed to him directly by President Trump in a phone call, according to a person familiar with his testimony. Sondland plans to tell lawmakers he has no knowledge of whether the president was telling him the truth at that moment. 'It's only true that the president said it, not that it was the truth,' said the person familiar with Sondland's planned testimony, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.... The White House and its defenders have held up Sondland's text, which included 'no quid pro quo's of any kind' [in a September 9 text exchange,] as proof that none was ever considered.... Sondland is expected to say that for months before the Sept. 9 message, he worked at the direction of Rudolph W. Giuliani ... to secure what he would call in another text message the' deliverable' sought by Trump: a public statement from Ukraine that it would investigate corruption, including mentioning Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, by name. In exchange for the statement, the president would grant Ukraine's new president a coveted White House audience.... Sondland appears poised to say that he and other diplomats did not know that the request to mention Burisma was really an effort to impugn the reputations of Biden and his son Hunter, who had served as a Burisma board member.... To trust Sondland's testimony, members of Congress will have to believe Sondland had not seen televised appearances by Giuliani over the spring and summer, or numerous newspaper and magazine articles questioning whether Hunter Biden's role at Burisma could prove to be a drag on his father's presidential campaign." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: This sounds like CYA testimony that could get Sondland fired. Also a perjury rap: Bill Taylor texts Sondland on Sept. 1: "Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?" Sondland's response: "Call me." On Sept. 8, Sondland texts Taylor again saying he had "multiple conversations" with Trump & Zelensky & wants to talk with Taylor. Taylor texts back, "Now is fine." Later that days Taylor texts Kurt Volker, confirming he has talked with Sondland. The next day, Sept. 9, Taylor texts Sondland, "As I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign." According to the WashPo report, "Sondland contends that he didn't know about the Biden connection [to Burisma] until a whistleblower complaint and transcript surfaced in late September." That would mean that it the phone discussions Sondland had with Taylor, Taylor never mentioned that the purpose of investigating "Burisma" was to collect dirt on Biden, which seems to be what Taylor mean by "help with a political campaign." Sondland, who is apparently prepared to testify that he was working "at the direction of" Giuliani, then also is claiming Giuliani never mentioned the Bidens to Sondland, either, even as Giuliani was going on the teevee smearing them. Perhaps Sondland had his planned testimony leaked to the Post so reporters would help him clean up the gaping holes in his cover story. ~~~

     ~~~ David Atkins in the Washington Monthly: "So it turns out that when Trump tweeted this: '... Importantly, Ambassador Sondland's tweet, which few report, stated, "I believe you are incorrect about President Trump's intentions. The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo's of any kind." That says it ALL!' He was apparently quoting himself having told Sondland what to say. This is the sort of comical coverup one only engages in either under desperation or a belief that no public accounting of your crimes will ever be made under oath." ~~~

~~~ David Graham of the Atlantic: "... the fact that State Department employees are testifying shows that the White House's total-obstruction strategy doesn't work as well when the players aren't sycophants like [Corey] Lewandowski who are willing to buy the claims of executive shield. It is, after all, a privilege and not a right." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Although I think Trump's behavior as outlined in the Mueller report were grounds for impeachment, the reaction of State Department & other agency personnel to the Ukraine conspiracy shows that -- for many people -- Ukraine was a bridge too far. The public's reactions back that up. Apparently people are not nearly as offended by obstruction as they are by the crimes underlying obstruction. Perhaps they see stonewalling as more of a political act but selling out the U.S. as treasonous. I don't agree with that, but it's not a nutty distinction to make.

Ken Vogel & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "President Trump had lunch on Saturday with Rudolph W. Giuliani amid revelations that prosecutors were investigating Mr. Giuliani for possible lobbying violations, and speculation that his position as the president's personal lawyer was in jeopardy. The lunch, at Mr. Trump's golf course in Sterling, Va., was among several shows of the president's support for Mr. Giuliani on Saturday. They seemed meant to tamp down questions about Mr. Giuliani's status with a client famous for distancing himself from advisers when they encounter legal problems of their own. Mr. Trump, during a Saturday night appearance on Fox News, called Mr. Giuliani 'a great gentleman' and said he is still his lawyer. 'I know nothing about him being under investigation. I can't imagine it,' he told the host Jeanine Pirro.... It is not clear what was discussed at the lunch. The lunch is unlikely to end speculation over whether the president will ultimately consider Mr. Giuliani a liability." ~~~

~~~ John Hudson of the Washington Post: "President Trump defended his personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani on Saturday amid reports that federal prosecutors are investigating whether the former New York City mayor broke lobbying laws in his efforts to oust the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yavonovitch. 'So now they are after the legendary "crime buster" and greatest Mayor in the history of NYC, Rudy Giuliani,' Trump tweeted. 'He may seem a little rough around the edges sometimes, but he is also a great guy and wonderful lawyer.' In defending Giuliani, Trump revived one of his recurring conspiracy theories that a 'Deep State' of entrenched bureaucrats and law enforcement officers are continuing to undermine him and his associates. 'Such a one sided Witch Hunt going on in USA. Deep State. Shameful!' he said." The Hill's story is here. Mrs McC: Trump calling anybody "a little rough around the edges" is a joke. Update: Trump's describing Giuliani as "a great gentleman" is laughable. Obviously, neither knows the meaning of the word. (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

     ~~~ Some people in Twitterland are unconvinced by Trump's stand-by-your-man pose.

** Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times: "In [Rudy] Giuliani's fevered alternative reality, Ukraine's most stalwart foes of corruption are actually corruption's embodiment. Deeply compromised figures with vendettas against the activists -- particularly the ex-prosecutors Viktor Shokin and Yuriy Lutsenko -- are transformed into heroes. This addled, through-the-looking glass fantasy came to drive American foreign policy in Ukraine.... If America can be said to have a foreign policy at this debased stage of the Trump administration, it mostly consists of sucking up to strongmen while betraying everyone who ever believed in America's putative ideals.... Throughout our history, America has committed many sins against democracy around the world, but we used to be on the right side in Ukraine. Not anymore.... We're with the oligarchs now."

I don't know those gentleman.... I don't know, maybe they were clients of Rudy. You'd have to ask Rudy. -- Donald Trump, Thursday, speaking of Lev Parnas & Igor Fruman ~~~

~~~ Ben Schreckinger of Politico: "A photograph of ... Donald Trump posing with [Lev Parnas,] a recently indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, was posted online in April 2014, two years prior to what had been their first known interaction.... The circumstances of the meeting captured in the photograph remain unclear.... [A Facebook] post [published two weeks earlier] suggests the meeting captured in the photo was not a chance interaction, and that Parnas had discussed his access to Trump [with the owner of the Facebook account]. Trump has sought to distance himself from Parnas, the Florida businessman at the center of a ballooning scandal over illicit foreign influence in his administration and, more broadly, the American political system. But the photograph and post provide further evidence that the two men are more closely tied than Trump has let on." Mrs. McC: There are quite a few people I would say I know, even tho I haven't appeared in any photos with them, much less in multiple photos beginning more than five years ago. ~~~

~~~ "Always Hustling." Rosalind Helderman, et al., of the Washington Post: "... a $50,000 donation to Trump's campaign and the Republican Party, [delivered just after the WashPo published the 'Access Hollywood' tape] ... helped propel [Lev] Parnas and his business partner..., Igor Fruman, on an extraordinarily rapid rise into the upper echelon of Trump allies -- before they became central figures in the presidential impeachment inquiry. By spring 2018, the two men had dined with Trump, breakfasted with his son and attended exclusive events at Mar-a-Lago and the White House, all while jetting around the world and spending lavishly, particularly at Trump hotels in New York and Washington. That May, a pro-Trump super PAC reported receiving a $325,000 donation from an energy company the duo had recently formed.... Parnas and Fruman demonstrated a remarkable facility for capitalizing on their newfound connections.... They also appeared to be constantly in pursuit of new business ventures.... In 2018, they hired ... Rudolph W. Giuliani, to serve as a consultant as they launched a security business -- and then helped Giuliani, in turn, reach Ukrainian officials in his quest to find information damaging to Democrats.... '"We'e best friends with Rudy Giuliani,&"' [Anthony] Scaramucci said the two men told him. "We work with him on everything."'

Deb Riechmann of the AP reports on how presidential and presidential* phone calls with foreign leaders are handled. Here's one part of her report: "One individual with firsthand knowledge of how the Trump calls with foreign leaders are handled said the president 'hates' [customary] 'pre-briefs' and frequently has refused to do them. Trump doesn't like written background materials either, preferring to handle the calls himself, often in the morning from the residence. Occasionally, while on the phone with foreign heads of state, Trump has handed the receiver to his daughter, Ivanka Trump, so she can talk with the leader, according to this individual. The person said a six-page pre-brief with attachments was once prepared for Trump before a call to a foreign leader. But that turned out to be too long, as did a single-page version. Preparing pre-brief note cards that offered about three talking points for Trump to make on a call was the norm.... The individual said that when Trump is done with the note cards, he often rips them up and tosses them in a burn bag. Staff who handle records have had to retrieve the burn bags from the residence, put the papers out on a table and tape them back together to preserve them as official presidential records, this person said." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: So here's a report about Trump's SOP that, besides amply demonstrating that Trump likes to conduct "international diplomacy" by purposely going in stupid, almost casually mentions that it is his practice to violate the Federal Records Act, which requires retention of briefing notes. And that part about putting Ivanka on the phone to chat? Yeesh! "Yo, Recep. Sure, go ahead, attack the Kurds. After all, we paid them too much for defeating ISIS, which they couldn't have done without me. But first my little girl wants to tell you how much she appreciated you dropping by the fantastic Trump Towers Instanbul.... Here, Honey, take the phone. Recep wants to tell you there's nothing like Trump Istanbul anywhere in the world. Be sure to mention the other deals we have going in Turkey."

Justin Wise of the Hill: "President Trump on Saturday night lambasted the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry, saying his administration would look into possibly suing Speaker >Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) over the probe. 'We're going to take a look at it. We're going after these people. These are bad, bad people,' Trump said while speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. 'I actually told my lawyer, I said sue [Schiff] anyway. I said, even if we lose, the American public will understand,' Trump said.... 'And sue Nancy Pelosi, or maybe we should just impeach them, because they're lying and what they're doing is a terrible thing for our country.' The U.S. Constitution stipulates that members of Congress cannot be impeached." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Yeah, the U.S. Constitution also specifies that "The House of Representatives ... shall have the sole Power of Impeachment." Trump would have a better case if he sued for not impeaching him sooner. Even Trump acknowledges that what he's threatening is a nuisance lawsuit.

Forgot this one. Brett Samuels of the Hill (Oct. 10): "President Trump on Thursday said former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) can't to join his outside legal team for a 'couple months' because of lobbying rules one day after it was announced that Gowdy would serve as his counsel.... 'I think there's a problem with -- he can't start for another couple months because of lobbying rules and regulations,' he added. '... So I don't know. We'll have to see.' Trump's lead personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, said Wednesday night that Gowdy would serve as counsel to the president in response to the House's impeachment inquiry." Mrs. McC: So if you were wondering why the ever-venomous Gowdy wasn't out there making fake accusations, apparently it's an ethics thing. Ironic.

Barbie Nadeau of the Daily Beast: "Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, is stepping down from the board of a Chinese-backed private equity company, according to a statement given to Bloomberg. The younger Biden, whose business interests in Ukraine are at the center of Donald Trump's impeachment scandal, also promises to 'forego all foreign work' if his dad is elected president in 2020." Mrs. McC: Surprising, isn't it, that Uday & Qusay haven't done the same, what with their being so upset at Hunter's international exploits.

Mark Stern of Slate: "One of Donald Trump's most controversial judicial nominees unleashed a bizarre and embarrassing dissent on Friday that seeks to shield the president from congressional oversight while flouting Supreme Court precedent. The author of Friday's dissent [in Trump v. Mazars], Neomi Rao, was Trump's choice to fill Brett Kavanaugh's old seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Her opinion marks a lawless effort to insert the judiciary into the House of Representatives&' investigations into Trump, limiting lawmakers' ability to access potentially incriminating evidence. It also implies that federal courts could stop the House from impeaching Trump. In short, Rao is running interference for the president who put her on the bench.... [Rao's dissent in the 2-1 ruling], is utterly detached from Supreme Court precedent and instead rooted in a startling and novel conception of presidential power. It rests on the assertion that 'allegations of illegal conduct against the President cannot be investigated by Congress except through impeachment.' According to Rao, impeachment 'provides the exclusive method for Congress to investigate accusations of illegal conduct by impeachable officials.' If the House attempts to probe the president's alleged wrongdoing on any basis other than impeachment, he is insulated from its demands." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Commonly reports will include, somewhere down the page, that "Judge So-and-So was appointed by Bill Clinton." Some of Dubya's far-right appointees get a little more attention. But what the future holds, no doubt, is commentary on court cases that amounts to dismissing an opinion with, "Oh, well, s/he's a Trump judge." Unfortunately, there are a lot of "Trump judges."

Jonathan Blitzer of the New Yorker paints a nuanced portrait of Kevin McAleenan, the acting Secretary of Homeland Security, who quit that job Friday. But, Blitzer warns, with the "two partisan appointees ... Ken Cuccinelli ... and Mark Morgan ... [who] have been auditioning for [McAleenan's] job ... D.H.S. runs the risk of becoming an overt arm of the Trump reëlection campaign, which is a genuinely frightening prospect.... We'll never know all the outlandish policies McAleenan probably had to avert, redirect, or quietly defuse during his tenure at D.H.S. Now, without him there, we're about to find out."

Jacey Fortin of the New York Times: "Penzeys Spices, a family-owned company in Wauwatosa, spent nearly $92,000 on Facebook advertisements related to impeachment from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5, according to data from a communications agency that tracks political spending.... Penzeys sells spices online and has dozens of brick-and-mortar stores across the United States.... The company's ads aren't subtle. 'This week the curtain href="https://www.facebook.com/Penzeys/posts/10157762425507834">Facebook post on Oct. 3, referring to the impeachment inquiry against Mr. Trump. The same post encouraged readers to sign up for a cooking newsletter." Last week Penzeys was the second biggest spender on Facebook ads related to impeachment; the first was Donald Trump's re-election campaign. Thanks to unwashed for the link. See also commentary in yesterday's thread. You might want to put in an order for "Justice" or "Tsardust Memories."

Presidential Race 2020. Warren Trolls Facebook Fake Ads Policy. Emma Newberger of CNBC: "Elizabeth Warren is buying ads on Facebook that falsely claim Mark Zuckerberg has endorsed ... Donald Trump, in a deliberate ploy that targets Facebook's controversial decision to allow politicians to make false claims in paid advertising.... 'Breaking news: Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook just endorsed Donald Trump for re-election,' the ads reads.... Facebook's own policy exempts ads by politicians from third-party fact-checking. That includes Warren' trolling ad, which includes a disclaimer that says the content isn't true."

Beyond the Beltway

Louisiana. Mark Ballard of the Baton Rouge Advocate: "Republican millionaire Eddie Rispone, making his first bid for public office, edged his way into a Nov. 16 runoff with incumbent Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. By a margin of about 50,000 votes, Rispone, of Baton Rouge, beat his Republican rival, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, to face off with Edwards, who led the field Saturday night but not by enough to win outright. Edwards garnered 626,000 votes, 47% of the total cast, according to the Secretary of State's complete but unofficial results. Rispone, who spent about $11.5 million -- mostly of his own money -- on the campaign, came in second with 368,318 votes, or 27%, followed by three-term Congressman Abraham ... with 317,115, or 24% of the vote."

Texas. Staying at Home, Minding Your Own Business While Black. Ryan Mac & David Mack of BuzzFeed News: "A black woman was shot and killed by police inside her own home early Saturday morning in Fort Worth, Texas, after her neighbor called a non-emergency police number for a wellness check on her [because the caller noticed her doors were ajar]. Atatiana Koquice Jefferson, 28, was killed in a bedroom at the home at around 2:30 a.m., according to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner.... One officer [who is white], after seeing someone through the window of the home, drew his weapon and fired one shot, killing the woman.... Body camera footage ... [shows] the officer peer[ing] through a window, where he presumably sees a person. He quickly raises his flashlight in one hand, gun in another. 'Put your hands up, show me your hands,' he shouts before firing a shot -- all in less than four seconds. The Forth Worth shooting comes weeks after Amber Guyger, a former cop in neighboring Dallas, was found guilty of murder for fatally shooting her unarmed neighbor in his apartment. Her neighbor, Botham Jean, was a 26-year-old black man from Saint Lucia."

Friday
Oct112019

The Commentariat -- October 12, 2019

Afternoon Update:

Barbara Starr & Ryan Browne of CNN: "The commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces told a senior US diplomat, 'You are leaving us to be slaughtered," demanding to know whether the US is going to do anything to protect Syrian Kurds as Turkey continues its military operation targeting America's Kurdish allies in Syria. You have given up on us. You are leaving us to be slaughtered,' Gen. Mazloum Kobani Abdi told the Deputy Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, William Roebuck, in a meeting Thursday, according to an internal US government readout that has been obtained exclusively by CNN. 'You are not willing to protect the people, but you do not want another force to come and protect us. You have sold us. This is immoral,' Mazloum added."

John Hudson of the Washington Post: "President Trump defended his personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani on Saturday amid reports that federal prosecutors are investigating whether the former New York City mayor broke lobbying laws in his efforts to oust the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yavonovitch. 'So now they are after the legendary 'crime buster' and greatest Mayor in the history of NYC, Rudy Giuliani,' Trump tweeted. 'He may seem a little rough around the edges sometimes, but he is also a great guy and wonderful lawyer.' In defending Giuliani, Trump revived one of his recurring conspiracy theories that a 'Deep State' of entrenched bureaucrats and law enforcement officers are continuing to undermine him and his associates. 'Such a one sided Witch Hunt going on in USA. Deep State. Shameful!' he said." The Hill's story is here.

~~~~~~~~~~

Thanks to MAG.

Trump Nominates Guy Who Fired Yovanovitch as Ambassador to Russia. Morgan Chalfant of the Hill: "President Trump plans to nominate John Sullivan, currently the No. 2 State Department official, as U.S. ambassador to Russia, the White House announced Friday.... The announcement came just as former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch told Congress ... told Congress that Sullivan told her Trump had 'lost confidence' in her and 'no longer wished' for her to serve as ambassador." Mrs. McC: Shouldn't Trump have nominated Rudy? (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

~~~ Mike Lillis of the Hill: "The Trump administration sought to block the congressional deposition Friday of the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, leading House Democrats to issue a subpoena for her appearance -- and ultimately compelling her to testify Friday, according to Democratic committee leaders. Marie Yovanovitch ... arrived at the Capitol Friday morning and is testifying behind closed doors before members of the three House committees -- Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs -- leading the Democrats' impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Her appearance came just three days after the White House counsel issued a letter warning House Democrats that the administration will not cooperate with requests for documents or witness testimony as part of the ongoing probe.... 'Last night, the Committees learned that the State Department, at the direction of the White House, directed Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch not to appear for her voluntary interview today'" Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said in a joint statement Friday afternoon.... The committee heads issued a subpoena on Friday morning..., they said. 'This duly authorized subpoena is mandatory, and the illegitimate order from the Trump Administration not to cooperate has no force,' the Democrats said. 'As is required of her, the Ambassador is now complying with the subpoena and answering questions from both Democratic and Republican Members and staff.'" ~~~

~~~ Yovanovtich Unloads on Trump Regime. Sharon LaFraniere & Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "Marie L. Yovanovitch, who was recalled as the American ambassador to Ukraine, testified to impeachment investigators on Friday that a top State Department official told her that President Trump had pushed for her removal for months even though the department believed she had 'done nothing wrong.' In a closed-door deposition that could further fuel calls for Mr. Trump's impeachment, Ms. Yovanovitch delivered a scathing indictment of his administration's conduct of foreign policy. She warned that private influence and personal gain have usurped diplomats' judgment, threatening to undermine the nation's interests and drive talented professionals out of public service. According to a copy of her opening statement..., the longtime diplomat said she was 'incredulous' that she was removed as ambassador 'based, as far as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.'... 'Today we see the State Department attacked and hollowed out from within,' she said. She said the allegations that she was disloyal to Mr. Trump, circulated by allies of Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, were totally 'fictitious.'" The Washington Post story is here. (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

~~~ Yovanovitch's full opening statement is here (pdf), via PBS. It's pretty powerful. ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: As we know, two of the guys responsible for sliming Yovanovitch -- Lev & Igor -- are sitting in the slammer today (unless either or both came up with $1MM bail) and a third -- Rudy -- is sweating like a man in a Turkish bath. Wouldn't it be nice if SDNY -- which Giuliani once ran -- indicted him? (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

     ~~~ Evan Perez of CNN: "Rudy Giuliani's financial dealings with two associates indicted on campaign finance-related charges are under scrutiny by investigators overseeing the case, law enforcement officials briefed on the matter said. The FBI and prosecutors in Manhattan are examining Giuliani's involvement in the broader flow of money that have become the focus of alleged violations that are at the center of the allegations against Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, the sources said. The sources did not say that Giuliani was a target of the investigation. Giuliani told CNN he is not aware of any law enforcement scrutiny on his financial dealings with the men and he said he has not been interviewed by the FBI...." (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

     ~~~ Aaron Katesky & Josh Margolin of ABC News: "The business relationship between ... Rudy Giuliani and the men charged Thursday in a campaign finance scheme is a subject of the ongoing criminal investigation being conducted by federal authorities in New York, according to two sources familiar with the matter.... The investigation is being conducted by the FBI's New York field office and prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, the same U.S. Attorney's office Giuliani ran before he became mayor of New York." ~~~

     ~~~ AND That's Not All. Michael Schmidt, et al., of the New York Times: "Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether ... Rudolph W. Giuliani broke lobbying laws in hisdealings in Ukraine, according to two people familiar with the inquiry. The investigators are examining Mr. Giuliani's efforts to undermine the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, one of the people said.... Federal law requires American citizens to disclose to the Justice Department any contacts with the government or media in the United States at the direction or request of foreign politicians or government officials, regardless of whether they pay for the representation. Law enforcement officials have made clear in recent years that covert foreign influence is as great a threat to the country as spies trying to steal government secrets." ~~~

~~~ So Trump Tap Dances Away. Michael Collins, et al., of USA Today: "... Donald Trump sought Friday to distance himself from attorney Rudy Giuliani.... Asked whether Giuliani remained his personal attorney, Trump said: 'I don't know. I haven't spoken to Rudy,' Trump told reporters as he was leaving the White House for a political rally in Louisiana. 'I spoke to him yesterday, briefly. He's a very good attorney and he has been my attorney, yeah sure.' Giuliani told USA Today shortly afterward that he's still Trump's lawyer. 'He hasn't told me otherwise,' he said." Mrs. McC: Another former Trump attorney, Michael Cohen, now doing hard time, no doubt will recognize that step. ~~~

~~~ Lev & Igor's Other Client: Corrupt Ukrainian Oligarch. Aram Roston, et al., of Reuters: "One of the two Florida businessmen who helped ... Donald Trump's personal attorney investigate his political rival, Democrat Joe Biden, also has been working for the legal team of a Ukrainian oligarch who faces bribery charges in the United States, according to attorneys for the businessmen and the oligarch. Lev Parnas, one of the two associates of ... Rudy Giuliani, served as a translator for lawyers representing oligarch Dmytro Firtash. Parnas was arrested on Thursday along with the other Florida businessman, Igor Fruman, on unrelated charges that included illegally funneling $325,000 to a political action committee supporting pro-Trump candidates. Both men had worked in an unspecified capacity for Firtash before Parnas joined the Ukrainian's legal team, according to a person familiar with the Florida men's business dealings with Firtash.... Firtash, one of Ukraine's wealthiest businessmen, is battling extradition by U.S. authorities on bribery charges from Vienna, where he has lived for five years.... Federal prosecutors in Illinois said in court papers in 2017 that Firtash was an 'upper-echelon' associate of Russian organized crime.'" ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: So Trump's guy's guys were doing the bidding of both a crooked Ukrainian oligarch & a crooked American oligarch a/k/a POTUS*. Clearly, the interests of the American people was uppermost in all their minds. ~~~

~~~ In 2016 Victory Party, Parnas Described Trump as a Friend & Neighbor. Darren Samuelsohn & Ben Schreckinger of Politico: "Donald Trump tried to distance himself from the latest scandal that threatens his presidency on Thursday by saying he didn't know either of the foreign-born Rudy Giuliani associates that his own Justice Department had just indicted for alleged campaign finance violations. But that's not what one of the men said three years ago -- while attending Trump's invite-only 2016 election night party in New York.... Lev Parnas described himself to a foreign correspondent at the cash-bar event in midtown Manhattan as a friend of the president-elect who didn't live far from his South Florida winter home." ~~~

~~~ Tom Winter, et al., of NBC News: "The unnamed Ukrainian official referenced in a federal indictment as directing a plot to oust the then-U.S. ambassador [Marie Yovanovitch] is Ukraine's former chief prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, according to a U.S. official familiar with the events.... Two former U.S. officials said Lutsenko had sharp disagreements with Yovanovitch over his handling of corruption cases, and was also seeking to curry favor with the Trump administration.... In his July call with Ukrainian President Zelenskiy, Trump praised Lutsenko and lamented that he was on his way out. 'I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that's really unfair,' Trump said in the call. 'A lot of people are talking about that.' Lutsenko told NBC News last month that he's known Giuliani for 'many years' and met with him while vacationing in New York. Lutsenko said he counted Giuliani as a friend and has spoken to him 'maybe 10 times.' Lutsenko said they discussed former Vice President Biden and his son, Hunter...."

"All the President's Henchmen." Michelle Cottle of the New York Times: "... Mr. Trump's dreams of dominance tend to bump up against the hard realities of incompetence -- his and that of his cronies. It has long been apparent that the president has a peculiar eye for talent. The repercussions of this were on display this week as the Ukraine scandal at the heart of the impeachment inquiry continued to unspool, spotlighting a fresh batch of colorful characters and questionable behavior." ~~~

~~~ Ryan Broderick of Buzzfeed: "If you're struggling to make sense of ... Donald Trump's obsession with Ukraine, the best place to look is inside the mind of a lawyer working for him, Rudy Giuliani ... and the near-constant stream of Spygate fanfiction he's been spewing online for the last six months.... Spygate's central (false) claim is that the Obama administration embedded a spy in Trump's 2016 presidential campaign for political purposes.... This is the petri dish in which Giuliani has been growing his ongoing investigation." Includes an explainer on "spygate." --s (Also linked yesterday.)

Crack White House Staff Sends GOP Talking Points to Democrats -- Again. Mike Lillis & Juliegrace Brufke of the Hill: "The White House accidentally sent Democrats a list of talking points related to ex-Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch's Friday House deposition..., the second time in a month the administration has sent its Ukraine talking points to Democrats. The email included guidance for Republicans seeking to defend the president from potentially damaging witness testimony from an ambassador who was removed from her post in May under controversial circumstances. In copies of the guidance shared with The Hill, the White House encouraged Republicans to adopt a series of messages designed to turn the tables back on Democrats, including attacks on House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff's (D-Calif.) handling of the investigation."

Trump Thrills Coarse, Ignorant People Again. Katie Rogers of the New York Times: "President Trump left a dizzying trail of developments behind him in Washington on Friday evening, swapping the confines of the capital for a fiery rally where he used foul language, fierce political attacks and personal grievances to light up his supporters for the second day in a row. The president lashed out at the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, saying that the top Democrat in Congress 'hates this country' and ridiculing her decision to begin an impeachment inquiry into his efforts to get foreign countries to dig up damaging information on his rivals. 'The radical Democrats' policies are crazy. Their politicians are corrupt. Their candidates are terrible,' Mr. Trump said to huge applause. 'And they know they can't win on Election Day so they're pursuing an illegal, invalid and unconstitutional bullshit impeachment.'" Politico's story is here. ~~~

Donald Trump's Idea of Appropriate Presidential* Rhetoric. He was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama's ass. -- Donald Trump, at a rally in Minnesota Thursday night, speaking of Joe Biden

Mrs. McCrabbie: I'll bet jolly bully Mike Pompeo was expecting a typical "how do you like Nashville, Mr. Secretary?" exchange when he agreed to an interview with reporter Nancy Amons of Nashville's WSMV. That's not what Amons had in mind:

Spencer Ackerman, et al., of the Daily Beast: "New potential whistleblowers are coming forward to the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry, two congressional sources tell The Daily Beast. They seem to be emboldened by the actions of the whistleblower whose explosive account of ... Donald Trump's phone call to Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky about investigating Trump's domestic political rivals ignited the impeachment inquiry. Another whistleblower is known to have come forward. Congressional investigators are currently vetting the new accounts they've received for credibility."

** Darren Samuelsohn & Josh Gerstein of Politico: "... Donald Trump lost a key court decision in his bid to block a subpoena from House Democrats pressing to see his financial records. The 2-1 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit stems from a case where Trump sued to block Democrats from seeing a vast trove of materials as Congress probes Trump over potential conflicts of interest and payments from foreign governments. 'Contrary to the President's arguments, the Committee possesses authority under both the House Rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena,' Judge David Tatel wrote in an opinion joined by Judge Patricia Millett. The 66-page opinion against Trump issued by the two Democrat-appointed judges backs up Congress by citing a long history of lawmakers using subpoenas to demand information in connection with investigations. It leans on more than two centuries of history, including Watergate-era precedent that 'strongly implies that Presidents enjoy no blanket immunity from congressional subpoenas.' At issue is a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee subpoena issued in mid-April seeking financial records from Trump's longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, related to work it did for the president before and after he took office." (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

     ~~~ Update: The Washington Post story is here. The New York Times story is here. (Also linked yesterday.)

DOJ Moves on Trump's Personal Behalf. Benjamin Weiser & William Rashbaum of the New York Times: "The Justice Department asked a federal appeals court on Friday to stop the release of President Trump's tax returns to the Manhattan district attorney's office, arguing that local prosecutors should have to meet a very high legal bar before investigating a sitting president.... The district attorney's office issued the subpoena in late August as part of an investigation into hush-money payments made in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. But in its filing, the Justice Department, which is led by Attorney General William P. Barr, stopped short of endorsing Mr. Trump's most sweeping argument: that sitting presidents are totally immune from all criminal investigations. On Monday, Judge Victor Marrero of United States District Court in Manhattan rejected Mr. Trump's effort to shield his tax returns from the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr. Mr. Trump had argued that the Constitution prevented sitting presidents from being subject to criminal investigations, especially from a local prosecutor, such as Mr. Vance." ~~~

     ~~~ The Hill's report, by Naomi Jagoda, is here. ~~~

~~~ Same Case. David Fahrenthold & Anne Marimow of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Friday repeated his assertion of sweeping executive immunity -- arguing in court that, because he is president, he cannot be investigated by any prosecutor, anywhere. Trump's personal attorneys made the argument in a filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York. They are seeking to overturn a lower court's dismissal of a suit the president filed seeking to block Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. (D) from obtaining Trump's tax returns.... Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero dismissed Trump's lawsuit, saying that Trumps assertion of sweeping immunity was 'repugnant' to constitutional values."

Zachary Warmbrodt of Politico: "A federal appeals court revealed Thursday that Deutsche Bank does not have copies of ... Donald Trump's tax returns that House Democrats are seeking in an investigation of his finances. The disclosure came as judges ruled against a coalition of media companies that had asked the court to unseal an unredacted letter from Deutsche Bank identifying whose tax returns targeted by the House subpoenas were in its possession." (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

~~~ Shane Croucher of Newsweek: "A former Deutsche Bank executive who reviewed President Donald Trump's tax returns reportedly said it is 'not normal' that the institution no longer holds copies of those records.... David Enrich, finance editor at The New York Times, posted to Twitter a screenshot of his conversation with the unnamed executive in which they expressed surprise that Deutsche told a federal appeals court it did not have the president's tax returns anymore. 'Holy f**k,' the executive wrote, per the screenshot. 'The circumstance could be that they returned any physical copies or destroyed any physical copies under an agreement with a client and cleansed their servers. Not normal though.'" --s (Also linked yesterday.)

Martyn McClauglin of The Scotsman: "The US president's Turnberry resort ran up losses of more than £10.7m last year, meaning that since he took over the historic property in 2014, it has lost nearly £43m.... It comes as Mr Trump's most prestigious overseas resort is at the centre of a Congressional investigation into US Defence Department spending and patronage." --s (Also linked yesterday.)


Elizabeth McLaughlin & Luis Martinez
of ABC News: "U.S. special forces operating in northern Syria have been moved from their location after Turkish artillery exploded near their outpost, according to a U.S. official. Two other U.S. officials said the explosion occurred Friday afternoon, Eastern Daylight Time, in the vicinity of U.S. special forces operating near the Syrian city of Kobane, just across the border from Turkey. No U.S. forces were killed or injured. The explosion was not a 'direct hit' on U.S. forces, one official said, and it does not appear to have been deliberate. In a statement, Turkey's defense ministry said the strike was in response to mortars coming from 'terrorists' operating near the U.S. special forces outpost. The statement said that Turkey was not targeting the U.S. troops and that precautions were taken to prevent damage to the U.S. fortification." ~~~

~~~ Carlotta Gall & Patrick Kingsley of the New York Times: "The Turkish invasion of Kurdish-held territory in northern Syria raised new fears of a resurgence of the Islamic State on Friday, as five militants escaped from a Kurdish-run prison and the extremist group claimed responsibility for a bomb that exploded in the regional capital. As Turkish troops launched a third night of airstrikes and ground incursions, Kurdish fighters said they had thwarted a second attempt to break out of a detention camp for families of Islamic State members. The moves compounded a mounting sense of turmoil in northeast Syria, where tens of thousands of residents were reported fleeing south. The Turkish government said its troops had advanced five miles inside part of the country. Several major roads had been blocked and a major hospital abandoned." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: It's worth bearing in mind that Trump's argument for letting Turkey attack Kurdish-held territory is (1) We've already defeated ISIS, so there's no need to stick around; (2) even though stepping aside effectively guarantees ISIS fighters will escape & regroup. The test of dimwittery is "the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time" and make no sense to any sane person.

Jacob Pramuk of CNBC: "... Donald Trump has given his administration broad authority to slap sanctions on Turkey, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday. Trump signed an executive order authorizing the powers, though the administration will not move yet to punish Turkish individuals or entities after the country's offensive in northern Syria. Still, Mnuchin threatened devastating actions in the wake of Turkish strikes that the U.S. has condemned. 'These are very powerful sanctions. We hope we don't have to use them. But we can shut down the Turkish economy if we need to,' the Treasury chief told reporters."

Wesley Morgan of Politico: "Defense Secretary Mark Esper urged his Turkish counterpart Thursday to halt Turkey's unfolding cross-border offensive against Syrian Kurdish militias, Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said today. Esper and Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar 'spoke by phone where they discussed the situation in northeast Syria,' Hoffman said in a statement. 'As part of the call, Secretary Esper strongly encouraged Turkey to discontinue actions in northeastern Syria in order to increase the possibility that the United States, Turkey and our partners could find a common way to deescalate the situation before it becomes irreparable.'" (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

~~~ MEANWHILE. Wesley Morgan: “The Pentagon is sending about 2,000 more troops to Saudi Arabia, including squadrons of fighter jets and air defense missile batteries, Defense Department officials said Friday. Defense Secretary Mark Esper authorized the deployment of two fighter squadrons, two batteries of Patriot missiles, a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system, and an Air Force headquarters unit 'at the request of U.S. Central Command,' Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement." Mrs. McC: Sorry, Kurds, while you were fighting & dying for our shared objectives, you forgot to take time out to give Trump a golden orb. (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

     ~~~ Ah, It's Okay Because ... Dan Lamothe of the Washington Post: "President Trump ... said late Friday that the kingdom 'has agreed to pay us for everything we're doing to help them.'" Mrs. McC: So now we're selling soldiers, too -- turning our military into mercenaries. It's not foolish to argue we've done it before, but this is the first time I can recall that a president* admitted we were trading American soldiers for oil and placing a dollar value on that. I don't know that this is what young men & women had in mind when they signed up for service.

Kevin Brueninger of CNBC: "The U.S. has come to a 'very substantial phase one deal' with China in the high-stakes trade negotiations between the two economic superpowers..., Donald Trump said Friday.... The first portion of the trade deal will be written over the next three weeks, Trump said. It will address intellectual property and financial services concerns, along with purchases of about $40 billion to $50 billion worth of agricultural products by China, Trump said.... Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also announced in the Oval Office that the White House has scrapped a new round of tariffs on imports of Chinese goods, which were set to go into effect Oct. 15."


** Jake Tapper of CNN: "Kevin McAleenan, the acting secretary of homeland security since April and the fourth person to serve in that post since the Trump presidency began, submitted his resignation to the White House on Friday, a source tells CNN." Mrs. McC: Trump tweeted Friday night that McAleenan quit "to spend more time with his family" & we shouldn't worry because "I will be announcing the new Acting Secretary next week. Many wonderful candidates!" Update: The Washington Post story is here.

Priscilla Alvarez of CNN: "A federal judge in Texas ruled Friday that ... Donald Trump's national emergency declaration to build a border wall is unlawful and appears poised to block the use of those funds. Judge David Briones of the US District Court for the Western District of Texas, asked challengers of the wall to propose the scope of a preliminary injunction. The lawsuit, brought by El Paso County, Texas, and Border Network for Human Rights, seeks an injunction to block Trump's national emergency declaration. It argues that Trump overstepped his authority when he issued the declaration to gain access to additional funds for his border wall, despite receiving $1.375 billion from Congress. The complaint also alleges that the declaration doesn't meet the National Emergencies Act's definition of 'emergency' and pushes back against Trump's remarks that border barriers led to a drop in crime in El Paso. At issue, in Friday's ruling, is the military construction funds that have been diverted to build a border wall. The judge found that the plaintiffs have standing to bring the case because ... they've suffered harm as a result."

Three Strikes. Miriam Jordan of the New York Times: "Three federal judges issued injunctions on Friday blocking a new federal policy that could change the face of immigration to the United States by denying legal residency to people who are likely to depend on public welfare. In a day of legal setbacks for the Trump administration's attempts to limit immigration, federal judges in New York, California and Washington State issued injunctions temporarily blocking the 'public charge' rule, which would impose serious impediments to legal residency for those who use benefits such as Medicaid and food stamps. Two of the judges issued nationwide injunctions on implementation of the policy, while the judge in California limited her ruling to the nine western states within the Ninth Circuit."

Katie Lobosco of CNN: "Education Secretary Betsy DeVos violated a court order to stop collecting on the debts of some former Corinthian College students and now a judge is weighing sanctions or finding her in contempt of court. 'I feel like there have to be some consequences for the violation of my order 16,000 times,' said US Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim at a hearing held Monday in San Francisco, according to an audio recording released by the court. The Department of Education has said that more than 16,000 borrowers were incorrectly informed that they owed a payment on their debt, according to a September court filing. About 1,800 had their wages garnished and more than 800 were mistakenly subject to adverse credit reporting.... 'I'm not sending anyone to jail yet, but it's good to know I have that ability.'" --s (Also linked yesterday.)

William "Wild Bill" Pendley.** Sarak Okeson of DCReport: "William Perry Pendley, the attorney now running the Bureau of Land Management, oversees federal coal leases despite pushing for a fire sale of coal leases more than three decades ago that led to a federal probe in which he was referred for possible criminal prosecution.... Interior Secretary David Bernhardt ... plans to move BLM headquarters to Grand Junction, Colo., where the agency will share an office building with oil and gas companies that it will regulate. The move and Pendley's appointment are widely viewed as an effort to force out employees much like the forced relocation to Kansas City, Mo., for researchers at the Department of Agriculture. The bureau has not had a Senate-confirmed director since Trump took office. Bernhardt sidestepped the Senate confirmation needed for the appointee who runs the BLM and appointed Pendley as acting director.... Just before Trump took office, then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell released a review of the coal leasing program with recommendations on how to make it more competitive, but her successor, Ryan Zinke, squashed that." --s (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Do see Akhilleus' discourse on Pendley in yesterday's Comments.

Michael Grynbaum of the New York Times: "Shepard Smith, the chief news anchor of Fox News whose reporting often drew the ire of President Trump, said on Friday that he was leaving the cable news network after 23 years, an abrupt move that left some of his co-workers openly stunned. 'Recently, I asked the company to allow me to leave Fox News,' Mr. Smith told viewers at the close of his regular broadcast. 'After requesting that I stay, they obliged.'... He is leaving in the middle of his current contract, a rarity in the cutthroat television business, and he told viewers on Friday that, under his exit agreement, 'I won't be reporting elsewhere at least in the near future.'" The Hill's story is here. Brian Stelter of CNN has more.

Marianne Garvey of CNN: "Jane Fonda was taken into police custody Friday in Washington, DC, while participating in a climate crisis demonstration. The incident comes as the actress and activist launched her Fire Drill Fridays campaign, a civil disobedience effort to raise awareness of environmental challenges. 'The United States Capitol Police arrested 16 individuals for unlawfully demonstrating on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol,' Eva Malecki, spokeswoman for the Capitol police told CNN. All were charged with 'crowding, obstructing or incommoding,' she said."

Matthew Taylor & Jonathan Watts of the Guardian: "The Guardian today reveals the 20 fossil fuel companies whose relentless exploitation of the world's oil, gas and coal reserves can be directly linked to more than one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the modern era.... The top 20 companies on the list have contributed to 35% of all energy-related carbon dioxide and methane worldwide, totalling 480bn tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) since 1965." --s (Also linked yesterday.)

Beyond the Beltway

Arizona. AP: "Paul Petersen, the Republican assessor of Arizona's most populous county, was charged in Utah, Arizona and Arkansas with counts including human smuggling, sale of a child, fraud, forgery and conspiracy to commit money laundering.... Petersen served a two-year mission in the Marshall Islands for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.... He was later recruited by an international adoption agency while in law school.... Prosecutors say Petersen used associates [in the Marshall Islands] to recruit pregnant women by offering many of them $10,000 each to give up their babies for adoption.... Women got little to no prenatal care in Utah, and in one house slept on mattresses laid on bare floors in what one shocked adoptive family described as a 'baby mill.'... Petersen charged families $25,000-$40,000 per adoption and brought about $2.7 million into a bank account for adoption fees in less than two years, according to court documents. Petersen's Mesa, Arizona, home is worth more than $600,000 and located in an affluent, gated community."--s (Also linked yesterday.)

California. Susie Cagle of the Guardian: "When the United States' largest investor-owned utility, Pacific Gas and Electric, shut down power to millions of Californians this week, nearly no one was ready.... The widescale public safety power shutdown revealed the depth of California's infrastructure problems amid a growing climate crisis, as 'de-energizing' policy trades one possible disaster for another.... PG&E may be a public utility -- the biggest electric utility in the US ..., but it is not, and has never been, owned by the public. With their huge monopoly markets and guaranteed rates of return, California utilities are attractive businesses for investors. Earlier this year, utilities asked the state for an even bigger payday. Meanwhile, PG&E invested millions in state lobbying, paid out $4.5bn in profits to shareholders over the last five years, and millions in executive bonuses -- all while deferring necessary maintenance and repairs to its system.... PG&E equipment has been blamed for sparking 17 out of 23 major fires across the state in 2017, and the 2018 Camp fire that all but destroyed the town of Paradise and killed 85 people. Following those two devastating fire seasons, PG&E filed for bankruptcy protection to cover its liability costs, which are expected to total upwards of $30bn.... 'The only way out of this bind is not only public ownership of the company but a massive scale public investment in building the kind of safe, clean energy infrastructure that we need,' said [Keith Brower] Brown [, co-chair of the East Bay chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, which launched a campaign for the public takeover of PG&E in 2018]."

New York. The Judge Wears an Ankle Bracelet. Ed Shanahan of the New York Times: "When the former chief executive of the [New York City?] Municipal Credit Union [Kam Wong] pleaded guilty last year to stealing nearly $10 million from the 500,000-member financial institution, federal prosecutors said he had ... 'tried to cover up what he had done by making false statements to federal investigators and creating false and misleading documents.'... On Friday, federal prosecutors said that Mr. Wong had been helped in the cover-up by ... [Justice Sylvia G. Ash of State Supreme Court] a Brooklyn judge who led the credit union's board of directors. [Ash] was arrested after arriving at La Guardia Airport from Miami. She was charged in a criminal complaint.... Justice Ash, prosecutors said, had signed a false memo that tried to justify millions of dollars in improper payments that Mr. Wong received from the credit union; concealed and deleted text messages and emails, and wiped clean her iPhone issued by the credit union; and made false and misleading statements to federal investigators."

Wisconsin. Patrick Marley of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "A paralyzed Wisconsin lawmaker [Rep. Jimmy Anderson of Fitchburg] lashed out at his Republican colleagues Thursday, saying accommodations they gave him after a months-long fight were short of what he needed.... On a 61-35 party-line vote, the Assembly adjusted its rules to allow those with disabilities to phone into committee meetings. Democrats opposed the rule because it didn't include everything Anderson wanted, such as a ban on overnight sessions.... In a floor speech, Anderson described months of therapy he has had to go through after he got ulcers from spending too much time in his wheelchair during an overnight session in December. Republicans held the overnight session so they could pass lame-duck laws limiting the powers of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.... Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester [R]...for months refused to change the rules and accused Anderson of 'political grandstanding.'" --s (Also linked yesterday.)

Thursday
Oct102019

The Commentariat -- October 11, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Trump Rewardss Guy Who Fired Yovanovitch. Morgan Chalfant of the Hill: "President Trump plans to nominate John Sullivan, currently the No. 2 State Department official, as U.S. ambassador to Russia, the White House announced Friday.... The announcement came just as former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch told Congress ... told Congress that Sullivan told her Trump had 'lost confidence' in her and 'no longer wished' for her to serve as ambassador." Mrs. McC: Shouldn't Trump have nominated Rudy?

Yovanovtich Unloads on Trump Regime. Sharon LaFraniere & Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "Marie L. Yovanovitch, who was recalled as the American ambassador to Ukraine, testified to impeachment investigators on Friday that a top State Department official told her that President Trump had pushed for her removal for months even though the department believed she had 'done nothing wrong.' In a closed-door deposition that could further fuel calls for Mr. Trump's impeachment, Ms. Yovanovitch delivered a scathing indictment of his administration's conduct of foreign policy. She warned that private influence and personal gain have usurped diplomats' judgment, threatening to undermine the nation's interests and drive talented professionals out of public service. According to a copy of her opening statement obtained by The New York Times, the longtime diplomat said she was 'incredulous' that she was removed as ambassador 'based, as far as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.'... 'Today we see the State Department attacked and hollowed out from within,' she said. She said the allegations that she was disloyal to Mr. Trump, circulated by allies of Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, were totally 'fictitious.'" The Washington Post story is here. ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: As we know, two of the guys responsible for sliming Yovanovitch -- Lev & Igor -- are sitting in the slammer today (unless either or both came up with $1MM bail) and a third -- Rudy -- is sweating like a man in a Turkish bath. Wouldn't it be nice if SDNY -- which Giuliani once ran -- indicted him? ~~~

     ~~~ Oh, Look. Evan Perez of CNN: "Rudy Giuliani's financial dealings with two associates indicted on campaign finance-related charges are under scrutiny by investigators overseeing the case, law enforcement officials briefed on the matter said. The FBI and prosecutors in Manhattan are examining Giuliani's involvement in the broader flow of money that have become the focus of alleged violations that are at the center of the allegations against Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, the sources said. The sources did not say that Giuliani was a target of the investigation. Giuliani told CNN he is not aware of any law enforcement scrutiny on his financial dealings with the men and he said he has not been interviewed by the FBI in the investigation."

Donald Trump's Idea of Appropriate Presidential* Rhetoric. He was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama's ass. -- Donald Trump, at a rally in Minnesota last night, speaking of Joe Biden

** Darren Samuelsohn & Josh Gerstein of Politico: "... Donald Trump lost a key court decision in his bid to block a subpoena from House Democrats pressing to see his financial records. The 2-1 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit stems from a case where Trump sued to block Democrats from seeing a vast trove of materials as Congress probes Trump over potential conflicts of interest and payments from foreign governments. 'Contrary to the President's arguments, the Committee possesses authority under both the House Rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena,' Judge David Tatel wrote in an opinion joined by Judge Patricia Millett. The 66-page opinion against Trump issued by the two Democrat-appointed judges backs up Congress by citing a long history of lawmakers using subpoenas to demand information in connection with investigations. It leans on more than two centuries of history, including Watergate-era precedent that 'strongly implies that Presidents enjoy no blanket immunity from congressional subpoenas.' At issue is a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee subpoena issued in mid-April seeking financial records from Trump's longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, related to work it did for the president before and after he took office." ~~~

     ~~~ Update: The Washington Post story is here. The New York Times story is here.

Zachary Warmbrodt of Politico: "A federal appeals court revealed Thursday that Deutsche Bank does not have copies of ... Donald Trump's tax returns that House Democrats are seeking in an investigation of his finances. The disclosure came as judges ruled against a coalition of media companies that had asked the court to unseal an unredacted letter from Deutsche Bank identifying whose tax returns targeted by the House subpoenas were in its possession." ~~~

~~~ Shane Croucher of Newsweek: "A former Deutsche Bank executive who reviewed President Donald Trump's tax returns reportedly said it is 'not normal' that the institution no longer holds copies of those records.... David Enrich, finance editor at The New York Times, posted to Twitter a screenshot of his conversation with the unnamed executive in which they expressed surprise that Deutsche told a federal appeals court it did not have the president's tax returns anymore. 'Holy f**k,' the executive wrote, per the screenshot. 'The circumstance could be that they returned any physical copies or destroyed any physical copies under an agreement with a client and cleansed their servers. Not normal though.'" --s

Wesley Morgan of Politico: "Defense Secretary Mark Esper urged his Turkish counterpart Thursday to halt Turkey's unfolding cross-border offensive against Syrian Kurdish militias, Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said today. Esper and Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar 'spoke by phone where they discussed the situation in northeast Syria,' Hoffman said in a statement. 'As part of the call, Secretary Esper strongly encouraged Turkey to discontinue actions in northeastern Syria in order to increase the possibility that the United States, Turkey and our partners could find a common way to deescalate the situation before it becomes irreparable.'" ~~~

~~~ MEANWHILE. Wesley Morgan: "The Pentagon is sending about 2,000 more troops to Saudi Arabia, including squadrons of fighter jets and air defense missile batteries, Defense Department officials said Friday. Defense Secretary Mark Esper authorized the deployment of two fighter squadrons, two batteries of Patriot missiles, a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system, and an Air Force headquarters unit 'at the request of U.S. Central Command,' Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement." Mrs. McC: Sorry, Kurds, while you were fighting & dying for our shared objectives, you forgot to take time out to give Trump a golden orb.

Kyle Cheney, et al., of Politico: "Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S ambassador to Ukraine, arrived Friday to testify as part of the House's impeachment inquiry, after the State Department had previously sought to block officials from appearing before lawmakers. Her appearance is a breakthrough for House Democrats seeking firsthand details about ... Donald Trump's efforts -- both directly and through his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani -- to pressure Ukraine's leaders to investigate his 2020 rival, former vice president Joe Biden.... Yovanovitch is still a member of the U.S. Foreign Service despite being recalled as ambassador. It's unclear if the State Department sought to block her from testifying."

Ryan Broderick of Buzzfeed: "If you're struggling to make sense of ... Donald Trump's obsession with Ukraine, the best place to look is inside the mind of a lawyer working for him, Rudy Giuliani ... and the near-constant stream of Spygate fanfiction he's been spewing online for the last six months.... Spygate's central (false) claim is that the Obama administration embedded a spy in Trump's 2016 presidential campaign for political purposes.... This is the petri dish in which Giuliani has been growing his ongoing investigation." Includes an explainer on "spygate." --s

Martyn McClauglin of The Scotsman: "The US president's Turnberry resort ran up losses of more than £10.7m last year, meaning that since he took over the historic property in 2014, it has lost nearly £43m.... It comes as Mr Trump's most prestigious overseas resort is at the centre of a Congressional investigation into US Defence Department spending and patronage." --s

Katie Lobosco of CNN: "Education Secretary Betsy DeVos violated a court order to stop collecting on the debts of some former Corinthian College students and now a judge is weighing sanctions or finding her in contempt of court. 'I feel like there have to be some consequences for the violation of my order 16,000 times,' said US Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim at a hearing held Monday in San Francisco, according to an audio recording released by the court. The Department of Education has said that more than 16,000 borrowers were incorrectly informed that they owed a payment on their debt, according to a September court filing. About 1,800 had their wages garnished and more than 800 were mistakenly subject to adverse credit reporting.... 'I'm not sending anyone to jail yet, but it's good to know I have that ability.'" --s

William "Wild Bill" Pendley.** Sarak Okeson of DCReport: "William Perry Pendley, the attorney now running the Bureau of Land Management, oversees federal coal leases despite pushing for a fire sale of coal leases more than three decades ago that led to a federal probe in which he was referred for possible criminal prosecution.... Interior Secretary David Bernhardt ... plans to move BLM headquarters to Grand Junction, Colo., where the agency will share an office building with oil and gas companies that it will regulate. The move and Pendley's appointment are widely viewed as an effort to force out employees much like the forced relocation to Kansas City, Mo., for researchers at the Department of Agriculture. The bureau has not had a Senate-confirmed director since Trump took office. Bernhardt sidestepped the Senate confirmation needed for the appointee who runs the BLM and appointed Pendley as acting director.... Just before Trump took office, then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell released a review of the coal leasing program with recommendations on how to make it more competitive, but her successor, Ryan Zinke, squashed that." --s ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Do see Akhilleus' discourse on Pendley in today's Comments.

Matthew Taylor & Jonathan Watts of the Guardian: "The Guardian today reveals the 20 fossil fuel companies whose relentless exploitation of the world's oil, gas and coal reserves can be directly linked to more than one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the modern era.... The top 20 companies on the list have contributed to 35% of all energy-related carbon dioxide and methane worldwide, totalling 480bn tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) since 1965." --s

Arizona. AP: "Paul Petersen, the Republican assessor of Arizona's most populous county, was charged in Utah, Arizona and Arkansas with counts including human smuggling, sale of a child, fraud, forgery and conspiracy to commit money laundering.... Petersen served a two-year mission in the Marshall Islands for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.... He was later recruited by an international adoption agency while in law school.... Prosecutors say Petersen used associates [in the Marshall Islands] to recruit pregnant women by offering many of them $10,000 each to give up their babies for adoption.... Women got little to no prenatal care in Utah, and in one house slept on mattresses laid on bare floors in what one shocked adoptive family described as a 'baby mill.'... Petersen charged families $25,000-$40,000 per adoption and brought about $2.7 million into a bank account for adoption fees in less than two years, according to court documents. Petersen's Mesa, Arizona, home is worth more than $600,000 and located in an affluent, gated community."--s

Wisconsin. Patrick Marley of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "A paralyzed Wisconsin lawmaker [Rep. Jimmy Anderson of Fitchburg] lashed out at his Republican colleagues Thursday, saying accommodations they gave him after a months-long fight were short of what he needed.... On a 61-35 party-line vote, the Assembly adjusted its rules to allow those with disabilities to phone into committee meetings. Democrats opposed the rule because it didn't include everything Anderson wanted, such as a ban on overnight sessions.... In a floor speech, Anderson described months of therapy he has had to go through after he got ulcers from spending too much time in his wheelchair during an overnight session in December. Republicans held the overnight session so they could pass lame-duck laws limiting the powers of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.... Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester [R]...for months refused to change the rules and accused Anderson of 'political grandstanding.'" --s

~~~~~~~~~~

Greg Miller & Gregg Jaffe of the Washington Post: "At least four national security officials were so alarmed by the Trump administration's attempts to pressure Ukraine for political purposes that they raised concerns with a White House lawyer both before and immediately after President Trump's July 25 call with that country's president, according to U.S. officials and other people familiar with the matter. The nature and timing of the previously undisclosed discussions with National Security Council legal adviser John Eisenberg indicate that officials were delivering warnings through official White House channels earlier than previously understood -- including before the call that precipitated a whistleblower complaint.... At the time, the officials were unnerved by the removal in May of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine; subsequent efforts by ... Rudolph W. Giuliani to promote Ukraine-related conspiracies; as well as signals in meetings at the White House that Trump wanted the new government in Kiev to deliver material that might be politically damaging to ... Joe Biden. Those concerns soared in the call's aftermath.... Within minutes, senior officials including national security adviser John Bolton were being pinged by subordinates about problems with what the president had said to ... Volodymyr Zelensky.... Concerns about the call and events leading up to it were profound even among Trump's top advisers, including Bolton and then-acting deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman.... It is not clear whether Eisenberg took any action ... after the warnings he received.... Eisenberg likely would also have played a leading role in the White House efforts to prevent the nation's intelligence director from turning over [the] whistleblower complaint about Trump's Ukraine call to lawmakers." ~~~

     ~~~ A CNN summary of the WashPo report is here and includes some additional reporting.

Trump, Inc. -- The Criminal Enterprise, Ctd.

I don't know those gentlemen. -- Donald Trump, on Igor Fruman & Lev Parnas, Thursday afternoon

Thank you President Trump !!! Making America great!!!!!!incredible dinner and even better conversation. -- Lev Parnas, in a tweet, May 1, 2019

The Ukraine Gang Meets at the White House. Pence, Fruman, Parnas, Trump, Giuliani.

~~~ The most recent photos of two of the guys pictured above are commonly called mugshots:

Lev Parnas & Igor Fruman. Photo credit: Alexandria, Virginia, Sheriff's Office.

~~~ ** Tom Winter & Allan Smith of NBC News: "Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, two foreign-born donors who gave money to a political action committee supporting ... Donald Trump, were arrested Wednesday night and face charges tied to campaign-finance violations, two law enforcement officials confirmed to NBC News.... Federal prosecutors said that Parnas and Fruman had one-way tickets to leave the U.S. when they were arrested by the FBI at Dulles airport in Washington, D.C., Wednesday night.... Fruman and Parnas worked with Rudy Giuliani..., Giuliani has previously said, as part of his dealings in Ukraine that involved efforts to encourage the nation to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.... The indictment details an elaborate scheme to help other foreign nationals, including one unnamed Ukrainian government official and a person who is described as having 'Russian roots,' gain access to U.S. politicians and government officials through campaign contributions in order to advance business and personal financial interests.... Fruman and Parnas are charged with making $325,000 in illegal straw donations to a Trump super PAC, according to the indictment, as well as giving $15,000 to a second committee.... At [a] press conference [Thursday], investigators said the probe was ongoing. ...

"The indictment also details a push by Parnas and Fruman to oust then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, whom Trump recalled from her post earlier this year. The indictment alleges that Parnas met with a congressman identified in the charging document as 'Congressman-1' in mid-2018 to get assistance in the effort. According to the document, the efforts to oust Yovanovitch were at least partially on behalf of an unnamed Ukrainian official. Multiple senior U.S. law enforcement officials told NBC News that 'Congressman-1' is former Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas.... While he was still in office, Sessions wrote a 'private' letter in May 2018 to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Yovanovitch.... The Associated Press and the [Wall Street] Journal previously reported that Sessions' letter ... asked for Yovanovitch to be removed.... A senior administration official said Attorney General William Barr has been aware of the investigation into Parnas and Fruman since shortly after he came into office in February." Emphasis added. (This is an update of a story linked yesterday.) ~~~

      ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Donnie, Rudy, Linda McMahon, Sean Spicer, et al., take heed: "... investigators said the probe was ongoing." ~~~

~~~ When the indictment itself says that this conspiracy involved others known and unknown, there are others that are being investigated and likely may be charged. And I would warn all of these people -- including Rudy Giuliani -- that when I read this indictment and the level of detail and specificity, I smell not only human informants, but I also smell a wiretap or some form of electronic surveillance. -- Former FBI counterintelligence official Frank Figliuzzi on MSNBC Thursday ~~~

      ~~~ Chandelis Duster of CNN: "Rudy Giuliani lunched with two associates at the Trump International Hotel in Washington on Wednesday just hours before the duo was arrested at a Washington-area airport, according to the Wall Street Journal.... The group [-- Parnas & Fruman as well as two associates, David Correia & Andrey Kukushkin --] faces two counts of conspiracy, one count of false statements to the Federal Election Commission and one count of falsification of records. The four are alleged in the indictment unsealed by New York federal prosecutors to have conducted a scheme beginning in March 2018 to evade campaign finance laws." Mrs. McC: I wonder if the FBI picked up the lunch chit-chat amount Rudy, Lev & Igor? BTW, besides Rudy, former Trump attorney John Dowd is/was representing Lev & Igor.~~~

~~~ Paul LeBlanc of CNN: "Rudy Giuliani was planning to fly to Vienna, Austria, Thursday night, the same city where his two associates were headed to before they were arrested the night before, according to interviews he gave to The Atlantic and The Wall Street Journal. Giuliani ... shared his travel plans with Elaina Plott of The Atlantic the day before an indictment unsealed on Thursday revealing that two of his associates, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, were detained at Dulles International Airport on Wednesday evening.... By Giuliani's account, the three of them would've been in the same city at the same time but [Giuliani] would not be [meeting with Fruman & Parnas there]." Mrs. McC: Maybe Giuliani is going to the opera. Benjamin Britten's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is being performed. ~~~

     ~~~ David Corn of Mother Jones: Parnas & Fruman's "first big donation was a $325,000 contribution in May 2018 to what the indictment calls 'Committee-1,' which media reports have identified as the America First Action SuperPAC. This outfit is chaired by [Linda] McMahon, [Trump's first Small businss Administrator,] and [Sean] Spicer is listed on its website as the group's 'senior adviser and spokesman.'... To recap: We have two fellows looking to score a big deal in Ukraine and eager to win sway within the ruling Republican Party handing loads of money to Republicans.... The indictment notes that 'at and around the same time' Parnas and Fruman were making their promise to funnel significant money into [Pete] Sessions' campaign, Parnas met with Sessions and sought his 'assistance in causing the U.S. Government to remove or recall the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.' Parnas' efforts to remove Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch 'were conducted,' the indictment says, 'at least in part, at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials.' As these two wheeler-dealers were trying to land a major energy deal in Ukraine, they were also trying to do the bidding of Ukrainian officials in the United States, using campaign contributions to affect US policy." ~~~

     ~~~ The original Wall Street Journal story on the indictment is here (as a "courtesy," a pop-up read). (Also linked yesterday.)

     ~~~ Eileen Sullivan, et al., of the New York Times: "Two associates of the president's private lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, who helped fund efforts to investigate one of President Trump's political rivals, were charged with violating campaign finance laws in a new criminal case that touched on their work in Ukraine and alleged financial ties to Russia. The F.B.I. arrested the two men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who are also important witnesses in the House's impeachment inquiry, as they were trying to board a Frankfurt-bound flight with one-way tickets on Wednesday night at Dulles International Airport in Virginia..... Their effort is already the subject of an impeachment inquiry, and the new indictments suggest the first criminal implications of the shadow foreign policy being pushed by Mr. Giuliani on behalf of the president.... Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman illegally funneled money through a company they set up to mask themselves as its sources, then gave the money to the pro-Trump super PAC, America First Action, the indictment said. Prosecutors said Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman, along with two other men indicted on Thursday, David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin, also funneled money with ties to Russia to state and federal candidates in exchange for potential influence, according to court papers.... Mr. Parnas had been scheduled to participate in a deposition with House impeachment investigators on Capitol Hill on Thursday, and Mr. Fruman on Friday. Neither had been expected to show up voluntarily.... Hours after the indictment was unsealed, House impeachment investigators ... issued subpoenas compelling them to answer questions about their work with Mr. Giuliani in Ukraine." (This is an update of a story linked yesterday.) ~~~

~~~ Headline of the Daily Beast's story: "Rudy's Ukraine Henchmen Arrested on Campaign-Finance Charge." (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

~~~ But they were supposed to be so concerned about corruption! -- New York "Intelligencer" (no link) ~~~

Fraud Guarantee. Mrs. McCrabbie: Ken Vogel of the NYT sez one of Parnas's fake companies is called Fraud Guarantee. Kinda perfect, huh? Parnas said Giuliani was working for the aptly-named Fraud Guarantee, a company that paid Rudy hundreds of thousands of dollars for said "work." Where did Fraud Guarantee get all that money to pay Donnie's consigliere to twist the arms of Ukraine officials to lie about Joe Biden? It's hard to imagine, but do you suppose Rudy's soldiers also were crossing palms of said officials to manufacture dirt on Biden, using money from the darkest of international sources? If so, surely Donnie had absolutely no idea what was going on. ~~~

     ~~~ Update. Ken Vogel of the New York Times on the relationships among Giuliani, Parnas, Fruman & others: "Mr. Giuliani dispatched Mr. Parnas and ... Igor Fruman ... to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, where, despite fending off creditors at home, BuzzFeed reported, they ran up big charges at a strip club and the Hilton International hotel. Their mission was to find people and information that could be used to undermine the special counsel's investigation, and also to damage former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.... Over the past year, the two men connected Mr. Giuliani with Ukrainians who were willing to participate in efforts to push a largely unsubstantiated narrative about the Bidens."

Rudy very much knows what's happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that. The other thing, there's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. -- Donald Trump, to Volodymyr Zelensky, July 25 ~~~

~~~ Richard Hasen in Slate: "The news of Thursday's indictments of two associates of Rudy Giuliani's ... shows that foreign interference in American elections is a feature and not a bug of the Trump campaign and presidency. And the connections to the emerging Ukraine scandal show that the corruption runs deep in this administration.... More interesting than the details of the petty influence-peddling efforts are the allegations in the complaint that the purpose was to further the bigger political goals of the co-conspirators.... The apparent goal was to move [U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch] out of the way so Giuliani, on Trump's behalf, could pressure Ukraine prosecutors to dig up or fabricate dirt on Joe Biden and his son Hunter. All of this is at the center of Congress' impeachment inquiry of the president.... Trump's own Department of Justice alleges that there was a foreign influence effort to have her removed backed by a foreign national and undertaken by two people who Trump's own former attorney [John Dowd] has said were working on behalf of Giuliani and Trump. We also know that the president raised the ambassador's removal directly before bringing up the Bidens with the Ukrainian president." ~~~

~~~ Pompeo Dismissed Yovanovitch for Doing Her Job. Adam Geller & Mary Jalonick of the AP: "The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was removed from her post after insisting that Rudy Giuliani's requests to Ukrainian officials for investigations be relayed through official channels, according to a former diplomat who has spoken with her. The ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, is scheduled to testify before congressional lawmakers on Friday as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Democrats say they expect her to appear despite the White House's position that no administration officials cooperate with the probe." Mrs. McC: Whom to trust? Yovanovitch or the Three Stooges Rudy, Lev & Igor?

Josh Dawsey & Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "Political appointees in the White House budget office intervened to freeze aid to Ukraine despite some career staffers raising concerns that the move was improper, people briefed on the matter said. Acknowledging some of the concerns, White House budget aides eventually disclosed to other government officials that the money was being frozen outside of the normal 'apportionment' process. But they didn't give officials at the State Department or other agencies a reason the money was being withheld, or who had initially made the decision to freeze it, after substantive discussions about whether the move was legal. The unorthodox steps were carried out in connection with Michael Duffey, associate director of national security programs at the Office of Management and Budget.... Both acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and acting OMB director Russell T. Vought said the move was acceptable."

Matt Stieb of New York: "On Thursday afternoon, Rick Perry was subpoenaed by the House committees responsible for the impeachment inquiry into President Trump's attempt to pressure the Ukrainian government into investigating Hunter Biden, requiring the Energy secretary to hand over the requested documents by October 18.... The subpoena requires Perry to forfeit all documents related to the Energy Department's role in the July 25 call, as well as all evidence of 'all meetings or discussions' with Giuliani."

** Gordo Returns! Alayna Treene of Axios: "U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland is expected to testify next Wednesday before the House committees investigating President Trump and Ukraine, despite being blocked by the State Department from appearing at a closed-door deposition this week, 4 congressional sources tell Axios.... One source familiar with the rescheduling tells Axios that after the State Department pulled the plug on Sondland's testimony, Republicans close to Trump encouraged the president to let the ambassador come before the committees. Trump's allies believe Sondland's testimony will be helpful to their side.... After the State Department blocked Sondland's testimony, Trump tweeted that he didn't want the ambassador 'testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court, where Republican's [sic] rights have been taken away, and true facts are not allowed out for the public.' Sondland was subpoenaed hours later by the committees. Later that day, the White House sent a letter informing House Democratic leaders that the Trump administration will not participate in their impeachment inquiry...."

Josh Lederman, et al., of NBC News: "Fiona Hill, who was until recently ... Donald Trump's top aide on Russia and Europe, plans to tell Congress that Rudy Giuliani and E.U. ambassador Gordon Sondland circumvented the National Security Council and the normal White House process to pursue a shadow policy on Ukraine, a person familiar with her expected testimony told NBC News.... Hill plans to say that Giuliani and Sondland side-stepped the proper process for accessing Trump on Ukraine issues..., including circumventing John Bolton, who was Trump's national security adviser until September."

Jo Becker, et al., of the New York Times: "During a contentious Oval Office meeting with President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in 2017, Rudolph W. Giuliani pressed for help in securing the release of a jailed client, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader, as part of a potential prisoner swap with Turkey. The request by Mr. Giuliani provoked an immediate objection from Mr. Tillerson, who argued that it would be highly inappropriate to interfere in an open criminal case, according to two people briefed on the meeting. The gold trader, Reza Zarrab, had been accused by federal prosecutors of playing a central role in an effort by a state-owned Turkish bank to funnel more than $10 billion worth of gold and cash to Iran, in defiance of United States sanctions designed to curb Iran's nuclear program. But at the White House meeting in early 2017, Mr. Giuliani and his longtime friend and colleague, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, pushed back on Mr. Tillerson's objections. Rather than side with his secretary of state, Mr. Trump told them to work it out themselves, according to the two people briefed on the meeting.... [At the beginning of the meeting,] Mr. Trump asked Mr. Giuliani to tell Mr. Tillerson what he wanted, which prompted Mr. Tillerson's objections.... After the prison swap failed, Mr. Zarrab became a key witness and testified that in 2012, Mr. Erdogan, then Turkey's prime minister, had ordered that two Turkish banks be allowed to participate in the sanction-evasion scheme.... Mr. Zarrab pleaded guilty in October 2017 to the charges, and became a key witness in federal criminal cases prosecuted in New York...." ~~~

~~~ The Washington Post's account, linked next, damns Trump's role more forcefully than the Times account & agrees with Bloomberg's account, a summary of which was linked here yesterday. ~~~

~~~ Josh Dawsey, et al., of the Washington Post: "Trump urged Tillerson in an Oval Office meeting to try to craft a diplomatic 'deal' to stop the U.S. case against Reza Zarrab on corruption charges in exchange for concessions from Turkey. At the time, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was personally lobbying Trump to get the charges dropped. Trump, in turn, repeatedly raised the topic with Tillerson -- including directly in the Oval Office meeting, according to people with knowledge of the episode.... 'There was no such meeting where Tillerson got angry,' [Rudy Giuliani told the Post]. 'There was no such meeting as the one you described.' Asked about his meetings with Trump and other officials about Zarrab, he declined to answer. 'You're not my prosecutor,' he said.... In rare cases, U.S. criminal prosecutions have been halted or altered to achieve to an overriding diplomatic goal, but such decisions are usually rigorously studied by the State and Justice departments, with extensive consultation with the prosecuting U.S. attorney's office. Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney in New York whose office launched the investigation of Zarrab, said Trump's efforts to intervene in the case did not appear to follow that protocol."

Adam Raymond of New York: "'They suck,' President Trump tweeted Thursday in response to a Fox News poll that found 51 percent of voters backing his impeachment and removal from office. The low energy insult was directed at Fox News's pollster, but there's little doubt that Trump thinks the network sucks too. In several tweets Thursday, he lashed out at the network for not properly praising him and gave a shout out One American News, the obsequious right-wing propaganda network that's been trying to win Trump's affection for years. 'From the day I announced I was running for President, I have NEVER had a good @FoxNews Poll,' Trump tweeted. 'Whoever their Pollster is, they suck. But @FoxNews is also much different than it used to be in the good old days. With people like Andrew Napolitano, who wanted to be a Supreme Court Justice & I turned him down (he's been terrible ever since), Shep Smith, @donnabrazile (who gave Crooked Hillary the debate questions & got fired from @CNN), & others, @FoxNews doesn't deliver for US anymore. It is so different than it used to be. Oh well, I'm President!'" (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

~~~ Maggie Haberman & Katie Benner of the New York Times: "Attorney General William P. Barr met privately Wednesday evening with Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul who is one of President Trump's frequent confidants but whose Fox News is viewed by the president as more hostile toward him than it used to be. The meeting was held at Mr. Murdoch's home in New York, according to someone familiar with it. It was unclear if anyone else attended or what was discussed. Aides to both Mr. Murdoch and Mr. Barr declined requests for comment on the meeting.... Mr. Trump believes that the network has become more critical of him, and he has grown increasingly critical of Fox News, denouncing some anchors and reporters he does not consider to be friendly to him...."

Doing the Backstep Shuffle. Justin Baragona of the Daily Beast: "Michael Pillsbury, an outside adviser to ... Donald Trump on China trade policy, told Fox Business Network's Lou Dobbs on Wednesday night that he pressed the Chinese government on issues surrounding former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter.... 'I tried to bring up the topic [of Hunter Biden] in Beijing,' he said. 'Just tell me what happened with Hunter Biden. I have never seen them get so secretive in my life.'... Pillsbury later told the Financial Times that he actually received 'quite a bit of background on Hunter Biden from the Chinese' during his visit to Beijing last week. The Trump ally, however, quickly backed away from this claim, denying to C-SPAN that he said this to FT. The reporter on that story, meanwhile, shared the email Pillsbury sent him confirming he received intelligence on Biden's son from China.... Later Thursday morning, Pillsbury told McClatchy that while he did receive information from the Chinese related to Hunter Biden, it was merely publicly available documents that were already in circulation. He also insisted he never talked to Trump about this and he only asked for the info as research for a book he was working on."

Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "Michael McKinley, a career diplomat and senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has resigned his position amid rising dissatisfaction and plummeting morale inside the State Department over what is seen as Pompeo's failure to support personnel ensnared in the Ukraine controversy."

Can This Marriage Be Saved? Quint Forgey of Politico: "Conservative attorney George Conway encouraged ... Donald Trump's closest aides in the West Wing to resign, specifically swiping at White House counsel Pat Cipollone for his response to House Democrats' impeachment inquiry. 'If you can't have a positive effect on him, and I don't think anybody can, yeah,' Conway told Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, when asked whether he would advise members of the president's 'inner circle' to quit.... 'The only people I think who should ... who may have to stay, would be people in the national security area, who can at least have some moderating or blunting effect,' Conway said, accusing White House lawyers of attempting 'to protect Trump' from allegations related to his controversial phone call in July with Ukraine's president. Deflecting a potential query about his wife's [Kellyanne Conway] role in the administration, Conway told Bharara: 'Not going there. But I think my position is clear.'" (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

~~~ George Conway & 16 other Watergate special prosecutors in a em> Washington Post op-ed: "We ... believe there exists compelling prima facie evidence that President Trump has committed impeachable offenses. This evidence can be accepted as sufficient for impeachment, unless disproved by any contrary evidence that the president may choose to offer.... In reaching these conclusions, we take note of 1) the public statements by Trump himself; 2) the findings of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation; 3) the readout that the president released of his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky; 4) the president's continuing refusal to produce documents or allow testimony by current and former government employees for pending investigations, as well as for oversight matters; and 5) other information now publicly available, including State Department text messages indicating that the release of essential military aid to Ukraine was conditioned on Ukraine's willingness to commence a criminal investigation designed to further the president's political interests."

Cameron Joseph of Vice: "House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Thursday that he' return campaign donations from a pair of Ukrainian-Americans working with Rudy Giuliani to boost President Trump after the two men were arrested for allegedly violating campaign finance laws. McCarthy (R-Calif.) and the National Republican Congressional Committee, House Republicans' main campaign organization, received substantial donations from Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman...." Mrs. McC: Do you suppose those big campaign contributions have anything to do with the reason McCarthy told Scott Pelley of "60 Minutes" that Trump had done nothing wrong in that phone call with Zelensky (and didn't bother to read the rough transcript of the phone call even though he had gone on national TV to discuss it)? ~~~

~~~ Samantha Gross & David Smiley of the Miami Herald: Florida "Gov. Ron DeSantis [R] said Thursday that his political committee will return a $50,000 donation received last year from two South Florida businessmen [Fruman & Parnas] who were arrested Wednesday and accused of funneling illicit contributions into state and federal campaigns.... In June of 2018, they gave the Friends of Ron DeSantis political committee $50,000 through a company called Global Energy Producers. They made the contribution one day before Trump endorsed DeSantis for Florida governor.... U.S. Sen. Rick Scott's [R] victory fund -- a political committee assisting his run last year for U.S. Senate -- also received a $15,000 donation last year from Fruman. A spokesman for Scott did not respond to requests for comment." Mrs. McC: Because Scott is super-corrupt.


Mehmut Guzel
of the AP: "Turkish forces pushed deeper into northeastern Syria on Friday, the third day of Ankara's cross-border offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters that has set off another mass displacement of civilians and met with widespread criticism from the international community. There were casualties on both sides and Turkey reported its first military fatality, saying a soldier was 'martyred' in the fighting. Earlier, at least six civilians were killed in Turkey and seven civilians have been killed in Syria since Ankara this week launched the air and ground operation into Syria's northeast. The invasion came after ... Donald Trump opened the way by pulling American troops from their positions near the border and abandoning U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish fighters."

Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "President Trump has come under increasing pressure, from within and outside his administration, to take action in response to Turkey's escalating offensive and reports of significant casualties in northern Syria, amid apparent differences of opinion about what should be done. 'Some want us to send tens of thousands of soldiers to the area and start a new war all over again,' Trump said early Thursday on Twitter. 'Others say STAY OUT and let the Kurds fight their own battles. I say hit Turkey very hard financially with sanctions if they don't play by the rules.' In a later tweet, echoed in comments to reporters as he departed for a political rally in Minneapolis, Trump altered the set of available options, saying, 'Send in thousands of troops ... hit Turkey very hard financially ... or mediate a deal between Turkey and the Kurds.'... Separately, a senior Trump adviser described the president as indecisive and said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney had warned him that he was getting 'boxed into a complete corner' by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. People discussing the sensitive situation did so on the condition of anonymity. At the United Nations Security Council, both the United States and Russia, for different reasons, refused to approve a European-proposed resolution condemning Turkey's action." ~~~

~~~ Haley Byrd of CNN: "Republican Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois is going further than many of his fellow GOP lawmakers in criticizing ... Donald Trump's shift in Syria strategy, declaring he no longer supports Trump altogether because of the move. In an interview with radio station KMOX, Shimkus, who is not seeking reelection in 2020, condemned Trump's decision. 'It's terrible. It's despicable,' he said. 'I'm heartbroken. In fact, I called my chief of staff in DC and said, "Pull my name off the I support Donald Trump list." We have just stabbed our allies in the back,' Shimkus added. 'This has just shocked, embarrassed, and angered me.'"

You said Kurds weren't 'with us' at Normandy? Could you address your entire family's legacy of avoiding military service starting with your grandfather who was expelled from Germany for avoiding military service? -- Anonymous, suggested question to Cadet Bone Spurs, in today's Comments ~~~

~~~ Siobhán O'Grady of the Washington Post: "... Wednesday, Trump tried to play down the U.S. partnership with the Kurds..., saying 'they didn't help us in the Second World War. They didn't help us in Normandy.'... The Kurds do not even have their own nation-state, living instead largely between Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Armenia. 'It's a weird framing that doesn't really make sense historically or politically,' said Djene Rhys Bajalan, an assistant professor of Middle Eastern history at Missouri State University.... 'Numerous people who didn't have nation-states weren't necessarily at Normandy but participated either directly in the war or in terms of providing materials and labor for the war.' Some Kurdish fighters were among them. 'They didn't have a state, so they couldn't act as a state, said Jordi Tejel, a professor of history at the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland... Still, he said individual Kurdish fighters from across the region did join other armies, fighting alongside the British and the Soviet Union's Red Army. There were Kurds who sympathized with the Nazis, seeing them as an anti-colonial alternative to the British or French, Tejel said. But others went to great lengths to counter Nazi influence in the Middle East."~~~

~~~ Holmes Lybrand of CNN: "The US never called on the Kurds to aid in the invasion of Normandy or in the war at all. The experts who spoke to CNN did say that every time, however, that the US has asked for Kurdish aid, the Kurds have come." The New York Times has a story here.

Paul LeBlanc, et al., of CNN: "Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was pranked by two Russians pretending to be Turkey's minister of defense in an August phone call, his office said on Thursday. A spokesperson for Graham confirmed to CNN that the South Carolina Republican spoke with Russian pranksters Alexey Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov in a conversation he thought was with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.... According to audio of the call provided to Politico, Graham calls the Kurds a 'threat' to Turkey -- a label that appears to contradict his public statements in recent days regarding ... Donald Trump's decision to pull American troops out of the way of a Turkish invasion of Syria." ~~~

~~~ Natasha Bertrand of Politico: "Graham also mentions Trump's personal interest in a 'Turkish bank case' in the call that appears to refer to a U.S. case involving Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader and client of Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that Trump had asked then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in 2017 to help persuade the Justice Department to drop the Zarrab case.... In the hoax call, Graham suggested that the president would try to help Erdogan regarding that case as best he could.... According to a memo written in 2016 by former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, [Zarrab] was 'engaged in a massive bribery scheme... paying cabinet-level [Turkish] governmental officials and high-level bank officers tens of millions of Euro and U.S. dollars' to facilitate his [money-laundering] transactions.... 'Your YPG Kurdish problem is a big problem,' Graham told the pranksters. He was referring to the Kurdish People's Protection Units, a group that began fighting ISIS as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces in 2015 -- with support from the U.S. -- but is considered a terrorist group by Turkey because of its push to establish an autonomous state for the Kurds on the Turkish-Syrian border. 'I told President Trump that Obama made a huge mistake in relying on the YPG Kurds,' Graham continued. 'Everything I worried about has come true, and now we have to make sure Turkey is protected from this threat in Syria. I'm sympathetic to the YPG problem, and so is the president....'... The pranksters, Alexey Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov..., [have] suspected ties to the country's intelligence services...." (See related story, linked above.)

Presidential Race 2020

Tom Elfrink of the Washington Post: "As President Trump has lobbed unsubstantiated and false claims of international corruption at former vice president Joe Biden and his son, he's often turned to one source for ammunition: conservative author Peter Schweizer. So when the New York Times ran an op-ed on Wednesday written by Schweizer about Biden and his son Hunter, the Democratic presidential candidate's campaign cried foul. In a letter sent to New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet, Biden's campaign called Schweizer a 'discredited right-wing polemicist' and suggested the op-ed was part of a larger pattern of 'journalistic malpractice.' 'Are you truly blind to what you got wrong in 2016, or are you deliberately continuing policies that distort reality for the sake of controversy and the clicks that accompany it?' Kate Bedingfield, Biden's deputy campaign manager, wrote in the Wednesday letter, which was posted by CNN's Oliver Darcy.... The Times defended its work in a statement sent to The Washington Post, noting that the opinion section operates separately from editorial news coverage of the Democratic candidate.... 'The op-ed makes an argument that nonpartisan government watchdogs would make, arguing in favor of a law that would prohibit self-dealing by those with government connections,' [a Times spokesperson said]." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Even if the Schweitzer op-ed was innocuous (and the headline -- "What Hunter Biden Did Was Legal — And That's the Problem" -- suggests it was not, a spot on the NYT op-ed page gives Schweitzer status; "Schweizer's work has appeared in many prominent newspaper and journal, including the New York Times..." will appear in book and magazine blurbs. ~~~

     ~~~ Steve M. applauds the Biden pushback: "Joe Biden often seems like Mister Magoo. As he obliviously makes his way through our political landscape, he believes he spots opportunities for warm cross-party relationships. The rest of us, who can actually see what's going on..., know that every Republican we see hates us, hates Biden, hates all his fellow Democrats, and wants 'the Democrat Party' to be stripped of political power nationwide.... Biden has always talked as if he doesn't understand any of this. However, someone on his staff clearly does[.]... What's great about the letter is that it not only defends Biden against Schweizer's partisan attack but ties the decision by the Times to publish the op-ed to the paper's awful coverage of Hillary Clinton during the last presidential campaign (of which Schweizer's work was an integral part)[.]"

"Buttigieg Defuses Protesters." Lisettle Rodriguez, et al., of ABC News: "Nine Democratic presidential candidates brought their campaigns to Los Angeles on Thursday night for a town hall focused on LGBTQ issues, the biggest of its kind so far focusing on this particular topic, and hosted by CNN. The only openly LGBT candidate on stage, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg was interrupted by protesters who were calling attention to the murders of black transgender women at the top of his time, but he acknowledged their concern. 'I believe, or would like to believe, that everybody here is committed to ending that epidemic, and that does include lifting up its visibility and speaking to it,' Buttigieg said. It's not clear why they chose Buttigieg's time to protest. Buttigieg also said he’s mindful of the fact that his experience as a gay white man has been different than that of a 'black gay woman that I also do not understand.'"


Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Bedbug Won't Bite. Ashley Feinberg
of Slate: "New York Times opinion columnist and man who thinks it's deeply important to engage in open debate Bret Stephens has backed out of an upcoming scheduled event at George Washington University, where he was set to discuss civil discourse online with professor Dave Karpf. The discussion would have put a bow on a highly public back-and-forth Stephens instigated a month and a half ago, but at the last minute, Stephens insisted that the event be closed to the public. When Karpf disagreed, Stephens pulled out entirely.... In one of his columns (titled 'The Dying Art of Disagreement'), Stephens decried what he sees as a modern desire to avoid uncomfortable conversations[.]"

News Ledes

CNN: "Firefighters were scrambling to battle the Saddleridge Fire after it grew to 7,542 acres on Friday and was only 13% contained, said officials with the Los Angeles Fire Department. Since it started Thursday, the blaze has spread rapidly into northern Los Angeles neighborhoods and was moving north toward Santa Clarita, fueled by strong Santa Ana winds, with gusts around 60 mph. At least 25 homes -- many in the Porter Ranch area -- have been destroyed, but mandatory evacuations have been called for about 23,000 homes in the affected areas, Police Chief Michel Moore and fire officials said. This is just one of the several blazes in Southern California fueled by one of those fires has left at least one person dead, and many parts of the region are under red-flag warnings -- meaning there's a high risk of fire -- into Saturday afternoon."

New York Times: "Abiy Ahmed, the prime minister of Ethiopia, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, for his work in restarting peace talks with neighboring Eritrea, ending a long stalemate between the two countries. Mr. Abiy, 43, broke through two decades of frozen conflict between his vast country, Africa's second most populous, and Eritrea, its small and isolated neighbor. When he became prime minister of Ethiopia in 2018, he made it clear that he wished to resume the stalled peace process, doing so in close cooperation with President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea." Mrs. McC: It seems so wrong that a handsome, youngish black guy robbed our Great American President* of the prize, just as our GAP* & his crime family are being exposed in sundry corrupt conspiracies.

AP: "Hot, dry winds sweeping into Southern California raised concerns that the region's largest utility could widen power shut-offs Friday to prevent its equipment from sparking wildfires, as a new blaze swept through the San Fernando Valley's northern foothills. Southern California Edison turned off electricity to about 20,000 people in Los Angeles, Ventura, San Bernardino and Kern counties but warned that thousands more could lose service as Santa Ana winds gained strength. A wildfire fueled by Santa Ana winds broke out after 9 p.m. in Los Angeles along the 210 Freeway and jumped the highway. Flames also crossed the 5 Freeway. The highways were closed because of heavy smoke. The Saddleridge fire, which started in Sylmar, had consumed more than 4,600 acres by 3 a.m. Friday, fire officials said.... Because of the dangerous weather in the forecast, PG&E cut power Wednesday to an estimated 2 million people in an area that spanned the San Francisco Bay Area, the wine country north of San Francisco, the agricultural Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada foothills. By Thursday evening, the weather had eased and the number of people in the dark was down to about 510,000."