The Ledes

Friday, January 20, 2017.

Washington Post: "The world’s most notorious drug lord, Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán, was extradited to the United States on Thursday night, whisked away from the country where he built an empire that delivered tons of heroin, cocaine and marijuana to the world." -- CW ...

     ... New York Times Update: "While most Americans were turned toward Washington and the inauguration of Donald J. Trump..., prosecutors in the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn held a news conference on Friday morning detailing the charges against Mr. Guzmán, who was flown out of Mexico on Thursday afternoon and arrived that night at MacArthur Airport on Long Island.... The government’s detention memo also gave an early glimpse of the case against Mr. Guzmán. It said that prosecutors planned to call several witnesses who would testify about the staggering scope of Mr. Guzmán’s criminal enterprise: including its multi-ton shipments of drugs in planes and submersibles and its numerous killings of witnesses, law enforcement agents, public officials and rival cartel members." -- CW 

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

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

New York Times: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus announced on Saturday night that after 146 years of performances, it was folding its big tent forever. In a statement on the company’s website, Kenneth Feld, the chief executive of Feld Entertainment, the producer of Ringling, said the circus would hold its final performances in May. He cited declining ticket sales, which dropped even more drastically after elephants were phased out from the shows last year." -- CW 

The Washington Post publishes a series of photos of the Vice President's residence.

Los Angeles Times: "Perhaps fittingly for an industry that has been trying to console itself in the wake of a presidential election result few saw coming, the 74th Golden Globes, held at the Beverly Hilton, proved a big night for the fizzy romantic musical 'La La Land,' a love letter to Hollywood itself that is widely considered the film to beat in this year’s best picture race." -- CW ...

Marisa Kashino of the Washingtonian: "... multiple real-estate sources say [Ivanka] Trump and husband Jared Kushner will move into 2449 Tracy Pl, NW, in Kalorama. That will put the couple less than two blocks from the Obamas, who will reportedly move here post-White House." Realtors' photos of the Kushner-Trump house are here. The six-bedroom house ... sold on December 22nd for $5.5 million, though it is unclear whether Trump and Kushner bought it, or will rent it from the recent buyer." -- CW 

Daniel Politi of Slate: "Los Angeles residents got a little surprise when they woke up on the first day of the year and realized one of the city’s most famous landmarks had been vandalized to read 'HOLLYWeeD' — at least for a few hours. Police say the vandal used tarps to change the sign’s O’s into E’s. Security cameras caught the vandal — likely a man — changing the sign between midnight and 2 a.m. but police can’t tell the person’s race or height from the footage, reports KTLA. If caught, the vandal could face a misdemeanor trespassing charge." -- CW 

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

Washington Post: "The Kennedy Center Honors showcased the breadth of American music Sunday night [Dec. 4] with emotionally charged performances celebrating the gospel roots of Mavis Staples, the honeyed vocals of James Taylor and the Southern California harmonies of the Eagles. The 39th annual celebration of lifetime achievement in the performing arts also honored actor Al Pacino and pianist Martha Argerich in a three-hour party that offered a wistful goodbye to Barack and Michelle Obama, who were hosting their last Honors tribute. The sold-out audience stood and cheered for several minutes when the president and first lady were introduced."

A Night at the Opera. Los Angeles Times: "The curtain rose on Act 2 of 'The Daughter of the Regiment,' revealing the figure of a tiny woman barely visible in a large dome chair with her back to the audience. Suddenly, she swiveled around — and there was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.Cheers and prolonged applause rang out from the crowd at the Kennedy Center on Saturday night even before Ginsburg, a life-long opera lover who was making her official operatic debut, opened her mouth to speak as the imperious Duchess of Krakenthorp.... Her biggest laugh came when — in apparent reference to the bogus 'birther' campaign against President Obama — she asked whether [the character] Marie could produce a birth certificate and added: 'We must take precautions against fraudulent pretenders.' Ginsburg herself wrote her dialogue, in collaboration with ... [the] dramaturge for the Washington National Opera...." -- CW 

Bruce Springsteen performs at Hillary Clinton's rally in Philadelphia, November 7:

Washington Post: "Paul Beatty won the Man Booker Prize on Tuesday evening in London, becoming the first American ever to take home the prestigious award. His satirical novel 'The Sellout' beat five other finalists for the $60,000 prize, which also essentially guarantees substantial new sales and interest around the world. Amanda Foreman, chair of the Booker judges, called 'The Sellout' 'a novel for our times. . . . Its humor disguises a radical seriousness. Paul Beatty slays sacred cows with abandon and takes aim at racial and political taboos with wit, verve and a snarl.' Originally published last year in the United States, 'The Sellout' is an outrageously funny satire of American race relations. The protagonist, a black man whose father was killed by police, wants to reinstitute segregation in his California town. He eventually lands before the Supreme Court in a bizarre case involving slavery. 'The Sellout' also won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in March." -- CW 

Washington Post: "Comic actor, movie star and America’s best friend Bill Murray tried to sum up the emotions of being honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Sunday night [Oct. 23] at the Kennedy Center. 'My theme tonight is what is it like to be beloved,' a straight-faced Murray told the crowd at the end of the two-hour salute. 'It’s hard to listen to all those people be nice to you. You just get so suspicious.'”

Hill: Actor Bill Murray "spoke with President Obama, who congratulated him for winning this year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, a White House official said. Asked by reporters in the Oval Office if he met with Murray, Obama said 'absolutely,' but didn’t reveal what else they discussed."

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Friday
Jan132017

The Commentariat -- January 14, 2017

Afternoon Update:

"Donald Trump starts MLK weekend by attacking civil rights hero John Lewis." David Smith of the Guardian: "... Trump is known to favour a playbook of hitting back harder, even against seemingly no-win targets such as Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a US soldier killed in Iraq; Alicia Machado, a Miss Universe winner; and Meryl Streep, the Oscar-winning actor. On Saturday he decided that Lewis should be no different, using Twitter to say that he 'should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results. All talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad!' The comments – from a man backed by figures linked to the Ku Klux Klan and other racist far-right groups – drew a scathing response, even from the president-elect’s own party. Ben Sasse, a Republican senator for Nebraska and frequent Trump critic, said on Twitter: 'John Lewis and his "talk" have changed the world.' Conservative commentator Bill Kristol posted: 'It’s telling, I’m afraid, that Donald Trump treats Vladimir Putin with more respect than he does John Lewis.'” -- CW 

*****

Matthew Rosenberg & Adam Goldman of the New York Times: "America’s intelligence chiefs sat down with members of Congress behind closed doors on Friday for what they thought would be a straightforward briefing on Russian cyberattacks. What ensued instead was a confrontation Democrats have long sought with James B. Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Why, the House Democrats demanded to know, did Mr. Comey believe it was O.K. to make repeated disclosures during the campaign about the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails but to this day refuse to say if the F.B.I. is investigating links between the Trump campaign and Russia? His answers did not prove very satisfying. Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader, grew so frustrated that at one point she chastised Mr. Comey for being 'condescending to members.'” -- CW ...

... Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian: "Embattled FBI director James Comey has refused to clarify whether his organization is investigating Donald Trump’s ties to Russia in a closed briefing on Friday for members of Congress, angering legislators who recall his high-profile interjections about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign, the Guardian has learned. Comey’s lack of candor in a classified setting, intended to brief members on the intelligence agencies’ assessment that Russia interfered in the election to benefit Trump, follows a public rebuff this week to senators seeking clarification. In that earlier hearing, Comey said he would 'never comment' on a potential FBI investigation 'in an open forum like this', raising expectations among some attendees of Friday’s briefing that Comey would put the issue to rest in a classified setting.... Joining Comey in the approximately 90-minute briefing on Friday were the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, CIA director, John Brennan and NSA director, Mike Rogers. None of their interactions with legislators were said to be contentious, in sharp contrast with Comey." -- CW ...

... Scott Wong, et al., of the Hill: "The former head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) confronted FBI Director James Comey on Friday during a confidential briefing on Russian hacking that left many Democrats calling for Comey’s scalp, several lawmakers told The Hill. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who was forced to resign last summer as head of the DNC amid the hacking scandal, told Comey that he should have come to her directly once the FBI was aware of the breach, just as he had done with other hacking victims. Comey, described by lawmakers in the room as unflinching and defiant, retorted that the FBI had properly notified DNC officials of the hacking. Another Democrat described the scene: "Essentially Debbie asked, how was it that the FBI knew that the DNC was being hacked and they didn’t tell her? He gave some bulls[hi]t explanation, ‘That’s our standard, we called this one, we called that one’ — [she said] ‘Well, why didn’t you call me?’” -- CW ...

 ... Steve M.: "... too many Democrats are afraid to improvise a shout of 'Fire!' even when the country is on the verge of burning to the ground. I'm reminded of what Johnny Carson once said disdainfully about Chevy Chase, whose comedic skills he didn't respect: 'He couldn't ad-lib a fart after a baked-bean dinner.' The Democratic Party is the political equivalent of Chevy Chase." -- CW
 

... That Would Not Include John Lewis. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "For the first time, a leading Democrat has called into question Donald Trump's legitimacy as president. Rep. John Lewis, a Democratic congressman from Georgia and civil-rights icon, told NBC's Chuck Todd in an interview for Sunday's 'Meet the Press' that he believes Russia's alleged hacking aimed at helping Trump in the 2016 race makes Trump an illegitimate president." -- CW ...

... Scott Lemieux in LG&$: "Obama should fire Comey. He should explain exactly why he’s being fired. Every day Comey remains the FBI Director helps to normalize a stolen election. And if the alleged downside is that Trump could appoint a director who’s a mendacious hack who would let Republicans do whatever they want, I have some news: we already have one. -- CW 

Elana Schor of Politico: "Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said late Friday that his committee will investigate possible contacts between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia, reversing himself one day after telling reporters that the issue would be outside of his panel’s ongoing probe into Moscow’s election-disruption efforts. Burr and the intelligence panel’s top Democrat, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, said in a joint statement that the committee's probe would touch on 'intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns' as well as Russian cyberattacks and other election meddling outlined in an intelligence report released last week. The committee will use 'subpoenas if necessary' to secure testimony from Obama administration officials as well as Trump’s team, Burr and Warner said." ...

     ... CW: I wonder if Burr got something out of the meeting with Comey that changed his mind.

GOP Congresscritters Figure out Their Constituents Rely on ObamaCare. Jennifer Haberkorn of Politico: "On their way to killing Obamacare, Republicans are leaning toward funding up to $9 billion in health care subsidies this year to keep the program afloat — even though they sued the Obama administration to stop those exact payments. The move is the most significant sign yet that the GOP is serious about propping up Obamacare temporarily to provide a smooth transition to a yet-to-be disclosed Republican replacement. The irony is deep: Republicans have never voluntarily funded an Obamacare program. This particular subsidy, which covers out-of-pocket health care costs for low-income participants, has been a GOP target since 2014 when House Republicans went to court to argue the White House funded it unconstitutionally. Republicans were exultant last May when the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in their favor, even though the payments were allowed to continue pending an appeal." CW: Wait, wait. Republicans are going to do something they "know" is unconstitutional??? Unpossible. ...

... Thomas Kaplan & Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The House joined the Senate on Friday in laying the groundwork for speedy action to repeal the Affordable Care Act, approving the budget blueprint passed by the Senate on Thursday that would allow Republicans to tear up the health care law without the prospect of a Senate filibuster.... The blueprint directs four House and Senate committees to draw up legislation." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... "OP," a Facebook poster, is thrilled that Congress is getting rid of ObamaCare, which was a "mistake" and a "failure." Luckily for him, he gets his insurance coverage through the ACA (and it appears he gets a subsidy), and he's very happy with it. His Facebook "friends" were mighty amused. Thanks to Diane for the link. CW: I don't doubt there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Trumpbots & "Fox"bots who have no idea ObamaCare is covering part of their insurance bills. Also, too, wait for this: Paul Ryan will blame President Obama & Democrats when Ryan & his confederates take away those subsidies. And the Democrats will respond with, "Gobbledygook, glub, stutter." See Steve M. on Democratic messaging, linked below...

...Make Innocent Kids Sick Again. Jonathan Chait: "The Republican strategy to solve [their ACA] dilemma is to coerce Democrats into solving their dilemma for them by repealing Obamacare and blaming Democrats for the disaster caused by the repeal unless they agree to support some kind of Republican proposal...And yet some doubt is already creeping in as to whether this massive hostage-taking scheme can actually work. Their answer to this dilemma is … take even more hostages...The “leverage” for Republicans to “secure cooperation” from Democrats for their plan to give people cheaper, skimpier insurance than Obamacare offers is to threaten to end the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Apparently the idea is that it’s not enough to threaten to throw millions of adults off their insurance. You also need to have some sick children to threaten as well." --safari

Trumputin, Ctd. Cristiano Lima of Politico: "Donald Trump expressed a willingness Friday to lift sanctions on Russia if it assists the U.S. in other efforts such as counterterrorism. Trump told the Wall Street Journal that he intended to keep sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration in response to cyber attacks during the election 'at least for a period of time.' But [Trump] ... implied sanctions would not be warranted if Russia helped the U.S. in other ways. 'If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?' Trump said." -- CW ...

Lisa Rein of the Washington Post: "... Donald Trump’s refusal to divest from his global business empire has provoked a showdown in Washington over government ethics, pitting a small federal agency tasked with preventing conflicts of interest against the incoming administration and its Republican allies on Capitol Hill.... The dispute erupted Friday after ... [Rep. Jason Chaffetz (RTP-Utah)] demanded to question the director of the independent Office of Government Ethics, who took the unusual step this week of denouncing Trump [via Twitter] for retaining ownership of his businesses while transferring management to his sons." ...

     ... CW: I think we have a new hero in Walter Shaub, the head of the OGE & "a career ethics lawyer." AND isn't it great the way the U.S. House of Confederate Corruption has spent far more effort attacking ethics laws than it has trying to figure out its "terrific" ObamaCare replacement? We are moving from an era of trying to curb the natural corruptible tendencies of powerful people to an era of facilitating & encouraging corruption.

Thanks for Your Help. You're Fired! Caitlin MacNeal of TPM: "In a bizarre move, Donald Trump has demanded that the commanding officer of the Washington, D.C. National Guard resign from his post in the middle of the Inauguration ceremony, even though the general will be in the middle of helping oversee the event's security, the Washington Post reported on Friday. Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz will be removed from his post at 12:01 p.m. on Inauguration Day, just after Trump is sworn in but before the Inaugural parade begins, according to a memo obtained by the Washington Post. Schwartz has helped plan the security for Inauguration weekend, and he will be charged with overseeing the D.C. National Guard as well as an additional 5,000 troops sent in for the weekend. But he will have to hand over commend to an interim officer in the middle of Inauguration Day." CW: Just guessing, but I think Trump wants a white guy running security for him.

Louis Nelson of Politico: "... Donald Trump renewed his criticism of the intelligence community Friday morning, blaming it once again for leaking an unverified report containing compromising and salacious allegations about him to the media and citing the Russian government as proof that the dossier's allegations are false." -- CW ... (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

... Nolan McCaskill of Politico: "A week before Trump will be sworn in as the nation’s 45th president..., he breathed life into a revival of the ugliest campaign in modern history, a polarizing slog Americans thought was behind them. 'What are Hillary Clinton’s people complaining about with respect to the F.B.I. Based on the information they had she should never have been allowed to run - guilty as hell,' Trump wrote in a pair of tweets Friday morning. 'They were VERY nice to her. She lost because she campaigned in the wrong states - no enthusiasm!' Those tweets followed a wave of former Clinton aides who took to network television screens Thursday after a Justice Department watchdog announced that it would conduct a broad review of the FBI’s handling of its investigation into Clinton’s private email server during the presidential campaign." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Trumputin, Ctd. Karen DeYoung & Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "Russia has invited the incoming Trump administration to Syrian peace talks it is sponsoring later this month with Turkey and Iran, part of a process from which the Obama administration pointedly has been excluded. U.S. participation, especially if an agreement is reached, would be the first indication of the enhanced U.S.-Russia cooperation that President Vladi­mir Putin and ... Donald Trump have forecast under a Trump administration. The invitation, extended to Trump’s designated national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, came in a Dec. 28 phone call to Flynn by Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador in Washington, according to a transition official." -- CW ...

... Julie Pace of the AP: "The Obama administration is aware of frequent contacts between ... Donald Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russia’s ambassador to the United States, including on the day President Barack Obama hit Moscow with sanctions in retaliation for election-related hacking, a senior U.S. official said Friday. One day after Obama announced the sanctions and expelled dozens of Russian officials from the U.S., Russian President Vladimir Putin said he did not plan to retaliate.... It’s not unusual for incoming administrations to have discussions with foreign governments before taking office. But the multiple contacts on Dec. 29 — the day Obama imposed sanctions — would raise questions about whether Trump’s team discussed Russia’s response." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

...Travis Geetys of RawStory: "Israeli spies were warned by their American counterparts not to share intelligence with the Trump administration until they could be sure he hadn’t been compromised by Russia. American intelligence officials recently shared their concerns about Donald Trump and his transition team’s ties to Russia, which is working with Iran on the side of the Assad regime in Syria, reported the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. 'The Israelis who attended the meeting said that the Americans advised them not to expose any sensitive sources to members of the Trump administration, lest that information reach Iranian hands, until it becomes clear that Trump does not have a compromised relationship with Russia and is not vulnerable to extortion,' reported investigative journalist Ronen Bergman." --safari...

...safari: This is another huge win for Russia going forward. If this is indeed true, the sharing of sensitize info. with the Trump administration is going to endure heavy second-guessing and key intelligence sharing between our long-standing allies will fracture. When our intelligence agencies are led by potential moles, who do our allies contact? This is yet another reason why we need a serious Congressional investigation into who, if anyone, is indeed compromised by Putin.

... Charles Pierce: "... the murky connections between the incoming American administration and the rapidly solidifying Russian autocracy appear to be expanding the closer the incoming American administration gets to becoming the actual administration." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

WWIII Will Be Awesome! Zeeshan Aleem of Vox: "Anxiety in China has been mounting for some time over continued provocations from the incoming Trump administration. Now Chinese state-backed media outlets have started sounding the alarm in response to comments by Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee to be secretary of state, about taking unprecedented steps against China’s territorial claims in the hotly disputed South China Sea.... 'We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops,' Tillerson said. 'And second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.... Tillerson’s comments represent a dramatic break from current US policy, which is why they are causing serious anxiety in China. Tillerson offered no clarity on how the US would deny China access to these islands, but it raises the real possibility of a blockade — something that is commonly regarded as an act of war. And China’s state-owned media is making it clear that that is exactly how Beijing would see it.” -- CW 

Josh Rogin of the Washington Post: "In a sharp turn of events..., Donald Trump is expected to name Philip Bilden, a private equity investment firm executive with no military or government experience, to be his first secretary of the Navy. The appointment would be the latest sign that Trump wants wealthy businessmen rather than military, policy or political leaders to run the military service agencies." CW: Let's be fair. There's a good chance Bilden owns a yacht and has stood at the helm barking puzzling orders to ye swabbies. 

Trump Finds Yet Another Way to Tax His Fanbase. Ana Swanson of the Washington Post: "... Trump’s proposed plan to get tough on China — which involves tariffs, additional taxes that are placed on imported goods to make American-made products more competitive — could easily hurt America’s working class as well. A study published Thursday by the Council of Economic Advisers, a group of economists appointed by President Obama, demonstrates how tariffs place a heavier burden on poorer people, especially working-class families and single parents.... That’s in part because spending on tradable goods — the kind of products that would be taxed under a tariff, such as food and apparel — make up a larger proportion of the overall spending of poorer households.... Economists widely agree that tariffs hit America's poorest families the hardest." -- CW 

Jill Filipovic, in a New York Times op-ed: "... while [Ivanka] Trump has found both professional and personal success by enjoying many of the benefits of feminism, she is far from an avatar of a feminist future. Instead, she’s a kind of post-feminist huckster, selling us traditional femininity and support of male power wrapped up in a feminist bow." -- CW 

Connor O'Brien & Jeremy Herb of Politico: "The House on Friday approved a waiver that would allow retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to serve as defense secretary, sending the measure to the White House. The vote was 268-151. Only 36 Democrats supported the bill after Trump’s transition team blocked Mattis from testifying before the House Armed Services Committee Thursday, despite the retired four-star general sailing through his Senate confirmation hearing earlier in the day." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

David Corn of Mother Jones, who first wrote about the existence of Trumputin dossier in October, posts a recap of his conversations with the compiler & author of the dossier. -- CW ... 

...some highlights from the article linked above: "The former spy said he soon decided the information he was receiving was "sufficiently serious" for him to forward it to contacts he had at the FBI. He did this [by the end of June last year], he said, without permission from the American firm that had hired him...The response to the information from the FBI, he recalled, was "shock and horror." [Emphasis added]--safari...

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Leonard Downie, Jr., in a New York Times op-ed: "BuzzFeed’s irresponsible decision to publish a seamy and wholly unsubstantiated research dossier about Mr. Trump by a former British spy gave [Trump] the opportunity to attack not only BuzzFeed but also CNN, which had reported accurately about the document’s existence but, properly, had declined to reveal its unverified contents. By conflating the conduct of the two news organizations as examples of the growing menace of malicious, digitally spread 'fake news,' he undermined the vigorous, accurate journalism that is necessary to hold him and his incoming administration accountable." ...

     ... CW: I could not disagree more. First, most readers are sophisticated enough to understand long, complicated, Latinate words like "unverified." The dossier was newsworthy because federal officials were aware of its contents & the FBI has reportedly been investigating the allegations. Second, this idea that journalists are privy to insider gossip but should not share it with readers -- with caveats -- is just plain elitist. CNN's report, which merely noted that the dossier had "explosive" content was necessarily misleading in that it left it to the reader to imagine what that content might be. Particularly because the subject of the dossier is a lying, sexist, racist, treacherous ass, those of us with fertile imaginations suspected the worst. Third, the treatment of the presidential candidates was woefully lopsided. The NYT itself wrote, falsely, in its early reporting that the FBI was investigating Clinton for criminal activities; then the FBI, in the days leading up to the election, released, via Congress, the news that the Bureau had what might have been, but was not, "new evidence" of this supposed criminality. Meanwhile, Trump every day accused Clinton of being criminal -- "crooked" -- as his fanbase screamed "Lock her up." If we could learn of Clinton's non-criminality before the election via the press, elected officials & law enforcement, why the hell can't we know about Trump's possible criminality after the election? The double standard here shrieks for a balancing act. Thank you, Ben Smith. And get off your high horse, Downey.

Julie Bosman & Mitch Smith of the New York Times: "A blistering report by the Justice Department described far-reaching failures throughout the Chicago Police Department, saying excessive force was rampant, rarely challenged and chiefly aimed at African-Americans and Latinos. The report, unveiled on Friday after a 13-month investigation, forced a public reckoning for a police department with a legacy of corruption and abuse. It came as the department grapples with skyrocketing violence in Chicago, where murders are at a 20-year high, and a deep lack of trust among the city’s residents. Over 161 pages, the investigation laid out, in chilling detail, unchecked aggressions: an officer pointing a gun at teenagers on bicycles suspected of trespassing; officers using a Taser on an unarmed, naked 65-year-old woman with mental illness; officers purposely dropping off young gang members in rival territory." -- CW 

Hiroko Tabuchi & Neal Boudette of the New York Times: "United States prosecutors said on Friday that they had charged three executives at Takata, the Japanese auto parts maker, with fabricating test data to mask a fatal airbag defect, a striking turn in a case that set off the largest automotive recall in United States history. Prosecutors also announced that Takata had agreed to plead guilty to charges of wire fraud for providing the false data, a rare outcome for businesses accused of wrongdoing. The company, based in Tokyo, was also fined $1 billion." -- CW 

Thursday
Jan122017

The Commentariat -- January 13, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Thomas Kaplan & Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The House joined the Senate on Friday in laying the groundwork for speedy action to repeal the Affordable Care Act, approving the budget blueprint passed by the Senate on Thursday that would allow Republicans to tear up the health care law without the prospect of a Senate filibuster.... The blueprint directs four House and Senate committees to draw up legislation." -- CW

Louis Nelson of Politico: "... Donald Trump renewed his criticism of the intelligence community Friday morning, blaming it once again for leaking an unverified report containing compromising and salacious allegations about him to the media and citing the Russian government as proof that the dossier's allegations are false." -- CW ...

... Nolan McCaskill of Politico: "A week before Trump will be sworn in as the nation’s 45th president..., he breathed life into a revival of the ugliest campaign in modern history, a polarizing slog Americans thought was behind them. 'What are Hillary Clinton’s people complaining about with respect to the F.B.I. Based on the information they had she should never have been allowed to run - guilty as hell,' Trump wrote in a pair of tweets Friday morning. 'They were VERY nice to her. She lost because she campaigned in the wrong states - no enthusiasm!' Those tweets followed a wave of former Clinton aides who took to network television screens Thursday after a Justice Department watchdog announced that it would conduct a broad review of the FBI’s handling of its investigation into Clinton’s private email server during the presidential campaign." -- CW 

Julie Pace of the AP: "The Obama administration is aware of frequent contacts between ... Donald Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russia’s ambassador to the United States, including on the day President Barack Obama hit Moscow with sanctions in retaliation for election-related hacking, a senior U.S. official said Friday. One day after Obama announced the sanctions and expelled dozens of Russian officials from the U.S., Russian President Vladimir Putin said he did not plan to retaliate.... It’s not unusual for incoming administrations to have discussions with foreign governments before taking office. But the multiple contacts on Dec. 29 — the day Obama imposed sanctions — would raise questions about whether Trump’s team discussed Russia’s response." -- CW ...

... Charles Pierce: "... the murky connections between the incoming American administration and the rapidly solidifying Russian autocracy appear to be expanding the closer the incoming American administration gets to becoming the actual administration." -- CW 

Connor O'Brien & Jeremy Herb of Politico: "The House on Friday approved a waiver that would allow retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to serve as defense secretary, sending the measure to the White House. The vote was 268-151. Only 36 Democrats supported the bill after Trump’s transition team blocked Mattis from testifying before the House Armed Services Committee Thursday, despite the retired four-star general sailing through his Senate confirmation hearing earlier in the day." -- CW 

*****

CW: Another packing & loading day. I'll try to do some catch-up this afternoon.

Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post: "President Obama awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to a shocked Vice President Biden on Thursday at the White House. Biden and the president had gathered with others for what the White House had described as a final tribute to the vice president.... The president bestowed the medal 'with distinction,' an additional level of veneration that his three immediate predecessors had reserved for only three others — Pope John Paul II, former president Ronald Reagan and Gen. Colin Powell.... 'I had no inkling,' Biden said after the medal was draped around his neck. 'I thought we were going . . . to toast one another and say what an incredible journey it has been.” -- CW  ...

... Don't miss the video:

Adam Goldman, et al., of the New York Times: "The Justice Department inspector general’s office said on Thursday it would open an investigation into the decision in October by James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, to inform Congress about a new review in the Hillary Clinton email investigation — a move Mrs. Clinton has said cost her the election. The inquiry ... also draws negative attention again to the F.B.I. on an issue that agents had hoped was behind them. The inspector general’s office said the investigation had come in response to complaints from members of Congress and the public about actions by the F.B.I. and the Justice Department during the campaign that might be seen as politically motivated. Chief among those actions was the decision by Mr. Comey to write two letters on the email matter within 11 days of the election, creating a wave of damaging news stories about the controversy late in the campaign. In the end, the new emails that the F.B.I. reviewed — which came up during an unrelated inquiry into Anthony D. Weiner, the estranged husband of a top Clinton aide, Huma Abedin — proved irrelevant." -- CW ,,,

... Matt Zapotosky & Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "The Justice Department inspector general will review broad allegations of misconduct involving FBI Director James B. Comey and how he handled the probe of Hillary Clinton’s email practices, the inspector general announced Thursday.... The inspector general’s announcement drew praise from those on both sides of the political aisle and again put a spotlight on Comey.... Comey has also been criticized for months by former Justice Department officials for violating the department’s policy of avoiding any action that could affect a candidate close to an election.... Notably absent from the list of matters being considered is Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch’s controversial meeting in June with former president Clinton aboard her plane on the tarmac of the Phoenix airport." -- CW ...

... Evan Perez of CNN: "Vice President Joe Biden confirmed Thursday that he and President Barack Obama were briefed last week by intelligence officials on unsubstantiated claims that Russia may have compromising information on ... Donald Trump.... Biden's office also said the vice president told reporters that intelligence leaders felt obligated to tell Obama because they were planning on informing Trump.... Multiple US officials briefed on the matter told CNN on Thursday that FBI Director James Comey and Trump had a brief one-on-one conversation at last Friday's intelligence briefing. It's during that pull aside that Comey briefed the President-elect on the two-page synopsis of the claims about Trump and Russia. All four intelligence chiefs had decided that Comey would be the one who would handle the sensitive discussion with [Trump]...." CW: That makes sense, since Comey got Trump the top job. (See link in yesterday's Commentariat to Vox analysis.) ...

     ... Max Greenwood of the Hill: "That contradicts claims by members of Trump’s transition team and other news outlets that intelligence officials never briefed Trump on the two-page addendum to a classified report given to President Obama and leaders in Congress about Russian efforts to interfere with the presidential election." -- CW ...

... Rowena Mason of the Guardian: "Parliament’s intelligence and security watchdog is expected to carry out 'inquiries and discussions' relating to the Trump dossier prepared by a former MI6 agent as part of its work in scrutinising the British intelligence agencies. Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general who has led the intelligence and security committee (ISC) since 2015, said it 'clearly is a matter which could fall within the remit of the committee', while cautioning that it only examines issues relating to the intelligence agencies, not freelancers or contractors. Asked whether the committee would look into whether there had been any involvement of the British intelligence agencies in handling of the dossier, Grieve said: 'The answer to that is that it must be the case that we would be in a position to look into that, yes, if we wish to.'” CW: I think that's a roundabout way of saying that British intelligence agencies previously had knowledge of the dossier, and/or its substance.

Nick Hopkins & Luke Harding of the Guardian: "Why had America’s intelligence agencies felt it necessary to provide a compendium of the claims [in the Trump dossier] to Barack Obama and Trump himself? And the answer to that lies in the credibility of its apparent author, the ex-MI6 officer Christopher Steele, the quality of the sources he has, and the quality of the people who were prepared to vouch for him.... [A] former Foreign Office official, who has known Steele for 25 years and considers him a friend, said: 'The idea his work is fake or a cowboy operation is false – completely untrue. Chris is an experienced and highly regarded professional. He’s not the sort of person who will simply pass on gossip.'” -- CW ...

... Frank Rich: "There is evidence that Donald Trump and his administration-in-formation are partially, perhaps wholly, beholden to the Kremlin and/or those Russian oligarchs in its thrall. This is why Trump refused to answer that question about contacts with Russia during the campaign — and why he’ll lie about it when he finally feels he must muster some kind of answer. His symbiosis with Russia is also why he will never release his tax returns.... We already know the other embarrassments contained in those returns — that he hasn’t paid taxes for years, that he practices no actual philanthropy, and that his businesses are in a perennial waltz with bankruptcy, fraud, and failure. No, Russia is the big story here. The elephant in the room is a bear. Trump has made no bones about repeatedly hiring fellow Putin sycophants, whether his former campaign chief Paul Manafort, the incoming National Security Adviser, Mike Flynn, or the secretary of State nominee, Rex Tillerson." -- CW ...

... No More Fleece-Lined Plaid Flannel for Me. Craig Anderson & Kevin Miller of the Portland (Maine) Press Herald: "Maine retail giant L.L. Bean was thrust back into the polarized national debate over Donald Trump on Thursday when the president-elect praised board member Linda Bean [in a tweet] and urged followers to 'Buy L.L. Bean.' Four days after trying to extract the company from a political boycott, L.L. Bean officials were again disavowing any political involvement after family heiress Linda Bean went on the 'Fox & Friends' television program Thursday morning to defend donations she made to a pro-Trump group that exceeded limits set by the Federal Election Commission.... Among other fallout ... has been a call to boycott L.L. Bean by an anti-Trump organization called Grab Your Wallet.... The attention comes days after L.L. Bean tried ... to distance itself from the controversy over Trump by issuing a statement that the company 'does not endorse political candidates, take positions on political matters, or make political contributions.'”-- CW ...

... Francis Wilkinson of Bloomberg: "Unless the Trump administration is planning to intervene in the clothing and outdoor recreational markets, Trump's boost to L.L. Bean was not a policy feint of any kind. It was simply an effort to use his new power to enrich a supporter. 'It’s unprecedented,' Harvard Business School professor Katherine DeCelles told the Washington Post, 'for someone of his power voicing his support or being against particular companies.' Trump's tweet shows why his conflicts of interest never can, and never will, be reined in. Even if he sold his company and walked away, which he has made clear he won't do, his lack of responsibility and discretion would produce additional conflicts. He has no qualms about openly disfavoring those who criticize him and rewarding those who flatter him. (Putin seems to understand this.)... his refusal to divest is just a symptom of the more serious ethical danger his presidency poses, one that was abundantly clear from his long history of bilking contractors and consumers, stiffing investors and spreading falsehoods." -- CW 

Brandon Debot, et al., of the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities: "Republicans’ planned bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ... would provide an immediate windfall tax cut to the highest-income Americans while raising taxes significantly on about 7 million low- and moderate-income families.... The top 400 filers will receive tax cuts averaging roughly $7 million apiece, and they will receive a net total of about $2.8 billion in tax cuts — roughly $28 billion over ten years if these levels remain similar. ACA repeal would significantly raise taxes on about 7 million low- and moderate-income families due to the loss of their premium tax credits — worth an average of $4,800 in 2017 — that help them buy health coverage through the health insurance marketplaces and afford to go to the doctor when needed." Emphasis added. Via Paul Waldman. CW: And only about 37 Americans know this because Democrats forgot to mention it. ...

... Paul Krugman: "Some Republicans appear to be realizing that their long con on Obamacare has reached its limit. Chanting 'repeal and replace' may have worked as a political strategy, but coming up with a conservative replacement for the Affordable Care Act — one that doesn’t take away coverage from tens of millions of Americans — isn’t easy. In fact, it’s impossible.... The anti-Obamacare campaign has always been based on lies that can’t survive actual repeal.... But it seems that nobody told Mr. Trump. In Wednesday’s news conference, he asserted that he would submit a replacement plan, 'probably the same day' as Obamacare’s repeal — 'could be the same hour' — that will be 'far less expensive and far better'; also, with much lower deductibles. This is crazy, on multiple levels.... Mr. Trump ... gives every impression of having no idea whatsoever what the issues are. But then, is there any area of policy where he does?" -- CW 

Matthew Rosenberg & Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times: "On Thursday, [Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.)] made clear he was ready to take on [Russia] ... if confirmed as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. But doing so may result in a battle closer to home: Mr. Pompeo and the C.I.A. versus ... Donald J. Trump, whose denigration of the nation’s intelligence agencies has opened an extraordinary breach between an incoming president and the spies who will serve him. The question hanging over Mr. Pompeo, and America’s 17 intelligence agencies, is how to handle a president who embraces President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia while the agency tries to keep Russia in check. So far, nothing in the C.I.A.’s 69-year history has prepared it to deal with a president who is as openly derisive of its work as Mr. Trump." -- CW ...

... Michelle Goldberg of Slate: "If a normal Republican president had nominated a figure like [Mike Pompeo] to head the country’s major foreign intelligence agency, there likely would have been a lot of attention paid to his apocalyptic religiosity and Manichaean worldview. Amid the fire hose of lunacy that is the Trump transition, however, Pompeo’s extremism has been overlooked. It’s worth pausing to appreciate the fact that America’s CIA will shortly be run by a man who appears to view American foreign policy as a vehicle for holy war." -- CW ...

... Spencer Ackerman, et al., of the Guardian: "Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency sided with intelligence officials who accuse Moscow of attempting to skew the US election on Thursday, as the rift between Trump and his spy chiefs intensified barely a week before [Trump] ... takes office. Mike Pompeo’s comments to the Senate intelligence committee came amid an increasingly bitter row between Trump and the American spying agencies, which he has accused of leaking a dossier of salacious allegations against him. Relations between the president-elect and the country’s 17 intelligence agencies reached a new low on Wednesday when he accused them of behaving like Nazis after the leak of the report which alleged that Moscow had personally compromising material on Trump.... In his Senate hearing, James Mattis, Trump’s nominee for secretary of defense, told the Senate armed services committee that Russia has 'chosen to be a strategic competitor, an adversary in key areas'. While Mattis said he was 'all for engagement' with the Russians, he warned of 'increasing number of areas in which we will have to confront Russia'.” -- CW ...

... Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees, in their first round of confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill, have one after another contradicted [Trump] ... on key issues, promising to trim back or disregard some of the signature promises on which he campaigned. A fresh set of examples came Thursday, the third day of hearings. Retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, Trump’s nominee to be defense secretary, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the United States must honor the 'imperfect ­arms-control agreement' with Iran that Trump has vowed to dismantle because 'when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.'He also took a more adversarial stance than Trump has toward Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and cited Moscow as one of the nation’s top threats.... At a witness table in another Senate hearing room, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), whom Trump picked to head the CIA, assured the Intelligence Committee that he would 'absolutely not' use brutal interrogation tactics on terrorism suspects in contravention of the law, even if ordered to do so by a president who campaigned on a promise to reinstate the use of such measures.” -- CW ...

... Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "In their first week of grilling before congressional panels, Mr. Trump’s cabinet nominees broke with him on almost every major policy that has put Mr. Trump outside Republican orthodoxy, particularly in the area of national security.... America should not torture. Russia is a menace. A wall at the Mexican border would not be effective. A blanket ban against Muslims is wrong. Climate change is a threat. Those statements are in direct opposition to some of the most significant declarations that ... Trump made before his improbable ascension to the White House. They are also the words of his own nominees to lead the nation’s most important government agencies.... .... Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said the broad gulf between Mr. Trump and the nominees was unusual. 'It suggests to me that Donald Trump wants advisers who will bring him different views,' said Ms. Collins, a member of the Senate intelligence panel that grilled Mr. Pompeo on Thursday. 'That would be very healthy. Or it could lead to confused messages both to our allies and our adversaries.'" -- CW 

Washington Post Editors: "It might be concluded, as [Rex Tillerson] himself suggested, that he lacks information [about human rights abuses in the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Syria & Russia] and will have more to say once he studies government reports. But in his more candid moments, Mr. Tillerson suggested a more plausible — and disturbing — explanation: that he believes that speaking out on human rights is incompatible with maintaining ties with U.S. allies.... Tillerson doesn't seem to realize that speaking up for human rights in part of [the job of a secretary of state]. -- CW 

Noam Scheiber of the New York Times: "Democrats on Capitol Hill, together with labor groups and other allies, are waging an unusually aggressive campaign to derail the nomination of Andrew Puzder as labor secretary. Mr. Puzder, chief executive of the company that franchises Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. fast-food restaurants, has been a lightning rod as an outspoken foe of the Obama administration’s overtime regulation and the Affordable Care Act. It is not clear how the Democrats intend to flip any Republican votes in the committee or in the full Senate, as they will need to do to defeat the nomination." -- CW 

CW: At the time of her appointment, various pundits noted that Monica Crowley seldom had an original thought, and her on-air musing were largely regurgitations of Republican talking points. It turns out, as we're learning, that Crowley also seldom wrote an original sentence:

... Andrew Kaczynski, et al., of CNN: "Conservative commentator Monica Crowley, who is slated to serve in a top national security communications role in Donald Trump's presidential administration, plagiarized thousands of words of her 2000 dissertation for her Columbia University Ph.D., a CNN KFile review has found. On Monday, Politico reported that it found more than a dozen examples of plagiarism in Crowley's Ph.D. dissertation. CNN's KFile has found nearly 40 lengthy instances of Crowley lifting paragraphs from numerous sources, including several scholarly texts, the Associated Press, and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.... Columbia .. declined to comment in a statement, saying that all reviews of University research were kept confidential.... The revelation comes on the heels of another CNN KFile investigation, which found more than 50 instances of plagiarism in Crowley's 2012 book, "What The (Bleep) Just Happened." On Tuesday, the book's publisher, HarperCollins, announced that it would stop selling the book until 'the author has the opportunity to source and revise the material.'" -- CW   

** James Downie of the Washington Post: "In the next few weeks, confirmation hearings will be some of Democrats’ best chances to control the news of the day.... It will be easy for them to cry 'conflict of interest'; it will be much more crucial to pound away on these nominees’ records and to tie them together in a broader message to voters: Trump claimed he would 'drain the swamp' and stand up for you, but he is doing exactly the opposite — building an administration that has little sympathy for ordinary Americans’ concerns. Thankfully, Trump and his team, with questionable picks and poor prep, have made that job a little easier." -- CW 

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), in a New York Times op-ed: "In his news conference on Wednesday..., Donald J. Trump claimed that the American public did not care that he had not released his tax returns, as has been routine for every presidential nominee since Watergate. He could not be more wrong.... The reason is simple. Without these returns, Americans cannot know whether he is using the presidency to enrich himself and his family.... That’s why I and dozens of congressional colleagues have introduced legislation to force future presidential nominees and presidents to release their tax returns. As representatives of the people, if we can’t trust the executive branch to act ethically, we must force it to do so." -- CW ...

... Ethics, Schmethics. Lisa Rein, et al., of the Washington Post: "House Republicans have summoned the head of the independent federal ethics office to answer questions about his agency and his public criticism of ... Donald Trump’s plan to separate from his real estate empire. A letter sent late Thursday from Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the GOP-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was viewed by ethics experts as a veiled threat to the budget of the Office of Government Ethics unless its director changes his rhetoric and approach. The letter to Walter Shaub Jr., director of the Office of Government Ethics, asks him to appear before lawmakers in a closed-door, transcribed interview. Shaub is not being subpoenaed, but was asked to respond to questions in a setting much like a deposition, committee staff said." -- CW ...

... Steve Eder & Eric Lipton of the New York Times: "The Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee on Thursday issued a stern letter, including a veiled threat of an investigation, to the federal government’s top ethics monitor, who this week had questioned ... Donald J. Trump’s commitment to confront his potential conflicts of interest. In an unusual action against the independent Office of Government Ethics, Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah accused the office’s director, Walter M. Shaub Jr., of 'blurring the line between public relations and official ethics guidance.'... Mr. Chaffetz also said that the office had failed to adequately investigate Hillary Clinton, based on allegations that she had not properly disclosed fees paid for speeches she gave after leaving her post as secretary of state.... Mr. Chaffetz, in his letter, noted his committee’s authority to reauthorize the office, a hint that it could perhaps be shut down.” CW: In ConfederateLand, the ethics monitor has no business monitoring ethics -- of Republicans, that is.

The Unbearable Glibness of Phonies. Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post: "House Speaker Paul D. Ryan walked a delicate line on the issue of immigration — one considerably more delicate than ... Donald Trump’s — during a nationally televised town hall meeting hosted by CNN on Thursday. Confronted by an undocumented Oklahoma woman, who is protected from deportation under an Obama administration program, Ryan (R-Wis.) said he was working with Trump’s transition team to find a 'good, humane solution' for the families protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and said there would be no 'deportation force' coming for her family. 'Do you think that I should be deported?' the woman, Angelica Villalobos, asked Ryan with her daughter at her side. 'No,' Ryan said, before Villalobos even finished her questions." -- CW

Annals of Journalism, Ctd. Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times: "There were two big lessons in the Wednesday morning melee [that was Donald Trump's press con]. 1. Mr. Trump remains a master media manipulator who used his first news briefing since July to expertly delegitimize the news media and make it the story rather than the chaotic swirl of ethical questions that engulf his transition. 2. The news media remains an unwitting accomplice in its own diminishment as it fails to get a handle on how to cover this new and wholly unprecedented president.... When when Mr. Trump shouted down Jim Acosta of CNN, who said Mr. Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, threatened to eject him..., [it was] a bad sign for press freedom....[Reporters are] going to have to decide how much they want to abide by Mr. Trump’s decision to selectively quarantine colleagues whose coverage he does not like." ...

     ... CW: Acosta is Cuban-American, making Trump's treatment of him look suspiciously like an attack on Hispanics. The other reporters should have walked out en masse, and the networks should have gone back to regular programming. Nothing would trouble Trump more than a media blackout. Reporters should have done the same thing months ago when Trump harassed NBC reporter Katy Tur during campaign events. Journalists need a plan to protect their own from Trumpertirades. ...

     ... CW: See also Patrick's comment in today's thread. When a major market local news broadcast commits a rare act of journalism, it's "good news" -- and a good example -- for the MSM.

Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "The Obama administration, in one of its last foreign policy initiatives, on Thursday ended the special status accorded Cuban migrants who, upon reaching this country, were automatically allowed to stay. Cubans are still covered by the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, which grants them the right to immediate admission and permanent residence status after one year here. But that temporary 'parole' status while awaiting a green card, a Cold War policy that allowed the admittance of hundreds of thousands of Cubans, will no longer be granted. Effective immediately, President Obama said in a statement, 'Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be subject to removal . . . treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other countries.'” -- CW 

Hiroko Tabuchi of the New York Times: "The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday accused Fiat Chrysler of installing secret software that allowed more than 100,000 of its diesel vehicles to emit pollutants above legal levels. The case has echoes of one against Volkswagen, which on Wednesday pleaded guilty to criminal conspiracy as part of a widespread emissions-cheating scheme. In both cases, the government focused on software in vehicles that can adjust emissions levels. The accusations against Fiat Chrysler also appeared to be part of a last push by the Obama administration to finish investigations and negotiations involving companies." -- CW 

Technical Glitch -- or Trumputin Dirty Tricks??? Jonah Bromwich of the New York Times: "... the jangling music of a feed from RT, a state-run Russian television network that has been accused of helping its government interfere in the American election," interrupted a C-SPAN feed of Maxine Waters' (D-Calif.) speech on the House floor. "C-Span, in a statement, [said] ... it was probably a technical error. C-Span’s television broadcast continued uninterrupted." -- CW ...

... Technical Glitch -- or Trumputin Dirty Tricks??? Karoli Kuns of Crooks & Liars: "As [WashPo columnist David] Ignatius was speaking to Chris Matthews [on MSNBC] and just as he said the word Russia, the feed froze in a loop where he was repeating Russia, Russia, Russia over and over again." Includes video. -- CW ...

... Technical Glitch -- or Trumputin Dirty Tricks??? Katie Williams of the Hill: "The Thursday morning confirmation hearing for Donald Trump’s pick to lead the CIA got off to a dim start.... During his opening remarks, Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) began speaking about the intelligence community’s formal assessment that Russia attempted to interfere in the U.S. election. Abruptly, the lights went out in the Hart hearing room, plunging it into darkness. Warner continued his remarks — without a microphone — as lawmakers, reporters, protesters and the candidate himself, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), sat in darkness." Thanks to Diane for the heads-up. ...

... CW Note: I'm not a conspiracy theorist. This is just a weird series of coincidences that under any other circumstances would not be newsworthy.

Wednesday
Jan112017

The Commentariat -- January 12, 2017

Alexander Burns & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Thwarted for much of his term by a confrontational Republican Congress, and criticized by his fellow Democrats for not devoting sufficient attention to their down-ballot candidates, Mr. Obama has decided to make the byzantine process of legislative redistricting a central political priority in his first years after the presidency. Emerging as Mr. Obama’s chief collaborator and proxy is Eric H. Holder Jr., the former attorney general of the United States and a personal friend of the president. He has signed on to lead the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a newly formed political group aimed at untangling the creatively drawn districts that have helped cement the Republican Party in power in Washington and many state capitals.... Mr. Holder is set to kick off his initiative on Thursday with a speech at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington." -- CW 

It's like we're all the crew of the Pequod, waiting for the mad captain to emerge from his cabin for the first time to explain how his obsessions should be ours as well. -- Charles Pierce ...

Breaking His Oath of Office from Day One. Maggie Haberman, et al., of the New York Times: "... Donald J. Trump ... plans ... to turn over all of his business operations to a trust controlled by his two oldest sons and a longtime associate, top officials with his company said on Wednesday. He will donate to the United States government all profits from foreign government payments to his hotels, the officials said, describing the arrangements as voluntary measures.... The Trump Organization will also refrain from entering into any new deals with foreign partners, his legal advisers said, backing off from an earlier claim by Mr. Trump that his company would have 'no new deals' of any kind during his presidency. Instead, the Trump enterprise will have to clear any new transactions with an ethics adviser to be chosen by the president-elect in coming days. That ethics adviser will vet them for potential conflicts, using a standard that his advisers said had not yet been agreed upon. The long-promised specifics Mr. Trump’s advisers provided on Wednesday left dozens of unanswered questions about whether or how the incoming president would avoid conflicts as commander in chief.... 'He is setting up a constitutional crisis on the first day that he takes office,' said Norman Eisen, who served as White House ethics adviser during the Obama administration...." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Norman Eisen & Richard Painter discuss Trump's plan with Steve Inskeep of PBS Newshour. Thanks to Gloria for the link:

... Greg Sargent: "At his presser [Thursday], Donald Trump confirmed the very worst fears of ethics experts, announcing a new arrangement for his business holdings that is designed to garner nice headlines but is unlikely to do much to reduce the possibility of conflicts of interest and, possibly, full blown corruption.... Trump will be making regulatory decisions impacting businesses (such as banks) that are entangled with his own. He will be setting American policy in countries where he retains holdings.... Trump once again rebuffed calls to release his tax returns.... Because we aren’t privy to the full scope and range of [his] holdings, we simply cannot know whether such conflicts — or corruption — are taking place....” -- CW 

... David Nakamura & Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "... Donald Trump acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that he believes Russian operatives hacked the Democratic Party during the election, but he continued to dispute intelligence reports that Moscow acted to help him win. 'I think it was Russia,' Trump said at a news conference in New York when asked who was responsible for the public leaks.... He angrily denounced news reports that U.S. officials had obtained an unsubstantiated dossier of potentially compromising personal information Russia has allegedly gathered about him, citing denials from the Kremlin that it has any such intelligence.... Trump made his remarks in his first news conference as president-elect, ending a period of 167 days since he has fielded questions from the full media contingent.... Earlier in the day, Trump had charged via Twitter that his 'crooked opponents' are trying to undermine his electoral victory. He accused the intelligence community of leaking the information to get in 'one last shot at me,' saying, 'Are we living in Nazi Germany?'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... CW: Not Yet. But once again, Trump shows a lot more faith in Russian claims than in the American intel establishment. ...

As far as BuzzFeed, which is a failing pile of garbage, writing it — I think they’re going to suffer the consequences; they already are. -- Donald Trump, at his Thursday press con ...

A president saying news organization is 'going to suffer the consequences' for printing something he doesn't like is FUCKING UNBELIEVABLEigorvolsky (@igorvolsky) January 11, 2017

CW: James Poniewozik

Garry Kasparov, an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, likened ... Donald Trump’s press conference Wednesday to ones held by leaders in the Soviet Union. 'That reminded me of a Soviet press conference. More speakers than questions, more flags than answers,' Kasparov, a former world chess champion, wrote in a tweet during the press conference." -- CW ...

Bombastic, vain and slippery, Mr. Trump played the same small-screen character he has offered the viewing public for years. Presenting himself as the leader of 'a movement like the world has never seen before,' he offered no olive branch to the majority of American voters who opposed him. He displayed only petulance and braggadocio in response to issues that dogged him during the campaign.... He ducked and dodged when reporters asked whether he or members of his staff colluded with Russia before the election.... Mr. Trump spoke while standing next to piles of manila folders, props representing his decision to turn management of his business interests over to his adult sons.... He emphasized that, in his view, he wasn’t legally required to do a thing, presenting his largely symbolic measures as a high-minded sacrifice to the public interest. He bragged that over the weekend he had been offered $2 billion 'to do a deal in Dubai,' adding, 'I didn’t have to turn it down, because as you know, I have a no-conflict situation because I’m president, which is — I didn’t know about that until about three months ago, but it’s a nice thing to have.'” -- CW ...

... Annie Karni of Politico: "When Donald Trump gathered the press at Trump Tower 20 months ago to announce his unlikely candidacy for president, he reportedly paid actors to fill the marble lobby and cheer.... On Wednesday morning, when [Trump] ... once again faced hundreds of reporters from around the globe gathered in his lobby -- this time for his first press conference in seven months — Trump filled the room with paid staffers who clapped and cheered as he blasted members of the media as purveyors of 'fake news.'” -- CW ...

... ** "The Bully Has His Pulpit." Jonathan Chait: "Donald Trump’s first press conference since the summer was a surreal exercise in the assertion of immunity from accountability. He either ignored questions about his behavior, or dismissed the questions as illegitimate. He painted a chilling depiction of politics not as an ongoing process but as a one-time event, settled in his favor by the presidential campaign, once and for all.... Any question he disapproved of [was] a challenge to his legitimacy, and thus a campaign matter, and thus by definition moot.... Perhaps most telling of all, Trump insisted that the election validated for all time his refusal to disclose his tax returns.... Perhaps the most chilling thing about the affair was the abuse Trump and his staffers hurled upon the press corps.... Rather than making snide cracks about liberal bias [as Republicans are wont to do], Trump escalated into abuse and total delegitimization.... His early behavior is consistent with (though far from proof of) the thesis that he is an emerging autocrat." -- CW ...

... Tricky Don. James Hamilton in the Washington Monthly: "Contempt for the media as an institution led the Nixon White House not only to deny reporters access and attack them in speeches, but also to bug their phones and query the FBI for information about reporters. That amoral notion of how the game is really played eventually caught up with both [Richard] Nixon and [his vice president Spiro] Agnew, of course. Donald Trump’s campaign and transition have shown a remarkably similar hostility to the media. If his expressed belief that the media are dishonest and corrupt leads him to govern as if opponents are enemies and rules are to be ignored, then Trump’s parallels with Richard Nixon may be more than rhetorical." -- CW 

Greg Miller, et al., of the Washington Post: Since all of the major news organizations seemed to have a copy of a dossier accusing Donald Trump of salacious personal conduct, "financial entanglements and political intrigue..., U.S. officials said Wednesday that the decision had been unanimous to attach the two-page summary of the dossier to a sweeping report on Russian election interference commissioned by the White House and briefed to Obama, Trump and congressional leaders. The U.S. official ... said the nature of the summary 'was fully explained' to Trump and 'put into context,' to make clear that it was not produced by the government and was unverified.... The material in the dossier was assembled by a former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele, whose security and investigations firm was hired to assist a political research firm in Washington that was initially working for Trump’s opponents in the Republican primaries but later offered its services to Democrats, according to individuals familiar with the matter.... Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) acknowledged in a public statement Wednesday that late last year he had 'received sensitive information that has since been made public' and, unable to assess its accuracy, delivered the file to [FBI Director James] Comey.... Other officials said that the FBI had obtained the dossier even before McCain’s involvement and that U.S. officials had met with Steele, the former British spy, at least twice — once in August and again in mid-October, after [Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper had released a public statement accusing Russia of interfering in the election." -- CW ...

... Ed Pilkington & Julian Borger of the Guardian: "Donald Trump unleashed a firestorm of invective against 'shameful' news outlets and the 'disgraceful' behavior of the intelligence agencies, in a feisty press conference as he attempted to demolish salacious allegations concerning his dealings in Russia.... In a bravura, boastful performance full of his trademark outstretched hands and finger-jabbing, Trump lashed out at specific news organizations, notably CNN and BuzzFeed. CNN reported that Trump and Obama had been briefed about a summary of a memo on Trump’s alleged links with Moscow but BuzzFeed went a step further in publishing extensive details of the document that claimed Russian operatives had gathered compromising material against him.... He reserved his choicest attack for the intelligence agencies who he blamed for the leak: 'It was disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that proved so false and fake to get out. That’s something that Nazi Germany would have done, and did do...,' he said." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Shane Goldmacher of Politico: Donald Trump's "chaotic first news conference on Wednesday, two months after his victory shocked the world, unfolded much as his campaign did: defiant, with attacks on his opponents, memorable one-liners ('I’m also very much of a germophobe, by the way'), a deluge of news (he announced a Cabinet secretary) and some of the toughest questions elided or ignored, including on his potential ethical and financial conflicts and on new reports of alleged contact between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.... When CNN’s Jim Acosta tried to ask a question, Trump cut him off. 'Your organization is terrible,' Trump scolded. 'Don’t be rude. …I am not going to give you a question. You are fake news.'... Trump also offered up hard news that almost got buried in the spectacle, including an ad hoc announcement that David Shulkin will be his secretary of veterans affairs, and that he hopes to appoint a new Supreme Court justice in his second week in office.” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Liar, Liar, Liar. Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: "... Donald Trump finally held a news conference, but as is typical, he often made claims that have been repeatedly debunked or discredited. Here’s a guide to 15 of his more notable statements, in the order in which he made them."

Margaret Hartmann of New York: "In yet another extraordinary development, on Wednesday night Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released a statement on an unverified dossier that outlines Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.... In the statement, Clapper says that he spoke with Trump again on Wednesday evening, and expressed his 'profound dismay' that leaks about the meeting have been appearing in the press.... While NBC News said Trump actually wasn’t presented with a summary of the document last week, Clapper’s statement seems to suggest that CNN’s original report was correct." -- CW 

... William Arkin, et al., of NBC News: "... Donald Trump was not told about unverified reports that Russia has compromising information on him during last week's intelligence briefing, according to a senior intelligence official with knowledge of preparations for the briefing. A summary of the unverified reports was prepared as background material for the briefing, but not discussed during the meeting, the official said. During Trump's press conference Wednesday morning..., he said he was made aware of the information 'outside that meeting.'... While multiple officials say the summary was included in the material prepared for the briefers, the senior official told NBC News that the briefing was oral and no actual documents were left with the Trump team in New York. During the briefing..., [Trump] was not briefed on the contents of the summary." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

CW: I wrote yesterday that publication of the allegations about Trump's romp at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton was a good thing, because once the information -- however credible or incredible -- was out there, it would no longer be possible to blackmail Trump. BUT Steve M. makes a very good argument that it isn't even possible to blackmail Trump for bad behavior: "I can imagine this leaking in October, even with video -- and I can imagine Trump winning in spite of it. The deplorables would actually have thought it was a tremendous idea. The rest of the GOP electorate would have shunned the video and/or assumed it was doctored. Some Trump voters would say they disapproved, but it's his private life and that's not their concern.... The GOP electorate can see that Trump is pro-Putin and doesn't care.... There's literally nothing he could have done that would have persuaded his voters that a victory by the hated Hillary Clinton was preferable." -- CW 

... Gordon Rayner, et al., of the (U.K.) Telegraph: "A former MI6 officer who produced a dossier making lurid allegations about Donald Trump is 'terrified for his safety' after he was unmasked by a US publication [the Wall Street Journal].... A source close to [Christopher] Steele said on Wednesday night that he now fears a prompt and potentially dangerous backlash against him from Moscow." -- CW 

Jennifer Steinhauer & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, plans to announce on Thursday that he will oppose a fellow senator, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, when his nomination as attorney general comes to a vote, saying he is not confident that Mr. Sessions would 'serve as an independent check on the incoming administration.'” -- CW ...

... Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "Sen. Cory Booker testified Wednesday that Sen. Jeff Sessions is the wrong man to lead the Justice Department, saying the Alabama Republican’s lengthy record in Congress exposed views that are inconsistent with the venerated job he is seeking. In a passionate speech from the witness table, the New Jersey Democrat ticked off issue after issue, asserting in each instance that Sessions would not seek justice as the U.S. attorney general.... The remarks marked the first time a sitting senator has testified against a colleague’s nomination for a Cabinet post.... In total, legislators heard testimony from 15 supporters and detractors, and Sessions answered questions over more than 10-1/2 hours. Nothing that was said was likely to stop the Republican-controlled Senate from confirming him, with Democrats failing to land anything close to a fatal blow during the hearing." -- CW ...

Ed O'Keefe & Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "Sharp inquiries by senators in both parties about [Rex] Tillerson’s ties to Russia signaled that Democrats and Republicans are still skeptical about whether the longtime oil executive is capable of serving as the nation’s top diplomat alongside a president with no government experience, particularly at a time of increasingly strained relations between the United States and Russia." -- CW ...

... Nahal Toosi, et al., of Politico: "Rex Tillerson had terse exchanges Wednesday with Republican Marco Rubio and other key senators during his confirmation hearing for the role of secretary of state, ducking questions on whether Russian leader Vladimir Putin is a 'war criminal' or if the U.S. should sanction Moscow. The former ExxonMobil CEO was at times astonishingly candid, even curt, at one point telling a senator 'a little of both' when asked if he was refusing to answer a question or if he didn’t know the answer. Tillerson also struggled to clarify key issues, stating, for instance, that his company never lobbied against Russian sanctions, even though public records show the oil company repeatedly talked to lawmakers and the White House about the sanctions. And Tillerson would not say that he'd immediately back out of the nuclear agreement with Iran — a stance that puts him in opposition to GOP leaders." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Dana Milbank on Rex Tillerson's "grim" testimony: Tillerson stonewalled all of Marco Rubio's (R-Fla.) questions about Russian human rights abuses, including the mass murders 300,000 of Chechnyan civilians, "targeting of schools and markets in Syria that have killed thousands of civilians," & the murders of Vladimir Putin's political opponents. Tillerson also "didn’t rule out the creation of a registry of Muslims. He declined to say that China is one of the world’s worst human rights violators. He wouldn’t criticize drug raids in the Philippines that have killed 6,200. And he said he couldn’t make a 'true determination' whether Saudi Arabia violates human rights."-- CW ...

... Charles Pierce: "For whatever reason, Tillerson showed up in front of the committee woefully unprepared to be anything more than an obvious corporate titan to whom nobody has ever said no.... The basic question hanging over the entire transition team right now is whether or not anyone on it — up to and including the president-elect — is qualified and/or capable of doing the job they were elected or appointed to do. Despite the conspicuous efforts of committee chairman Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, to bail him out at every opportunity, Tillerson presented very little evidence that he is ready, in the words of Delaware's Chris Coons, 'to exchange the executive suite at ExxonMobil for the seventh-floor office at State.'... He faced questions from conservatives about his ties with a murderous autocrat, and from liberals about whether he and his company are complicit in destroying the planet. He handled none of them well. This might be the nomination that's in a little trouble." -- CW 

Good Grief! Marianne Levine of Politico: "The ex-wife of ... Donald Trump’s nominee to be labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, appeared in disguise on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' as a victim of domestic violence, after having accused him multiple times of physically assaulting her in the 1980s, according to two friends of hers and a spokesman for the former couple. Additionally, a 1988 petition obtained by Politico from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County provides previously unreported details of the alleged abuse: Puzder’s ex-wife, Lisa Fierstein, accused him of having 'assaulted and battered [her] by striking her violently about the face, chest, back, shoulders, and neck, without provocation or cause,' and that as a consequence she 'suffered severe and permanent injuries.'... She has retracted the allegations in the weeks leading up to Puzder’s confirmation hearing, suggesting she made them up to bolster her divorce settlement. Puzder has always denied that he abused her.... Fierstein’s appearance on 'Oprah' ... raises new questions, showing that she went beyond divorce-settlement tactics to portray herself on national television as an anonymous victim of domestic violence." -- CW 

Dan Lamothe of the Washington Post: "The House Armed Services Committee has canceled a hearing Thursday in which retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis was to address the unconventional nature of his nomination for defense secretary, two congressional staff members said, because ... Donald Trump’s transition team decided against him appearing. Mattis was to testify in the afternoon on his need for Congress to pass legislation that would exempt him from a law that prevents recently retired military officers from serving in senior civilian jobs in the Pentagon.... Separately, Mattis’s confirmation hearing is scheduled for Thursday morning before the Senate Armed Services Committee." -- CW 

Jennifer Haberkorn & Paul Demko of Politico: "Trump indicated that his administration would introduce its own health care plan.... Trump didn't spell out what his plan would include. 'We're going to be submitting as soon as our secretary is approved, almost simultaneously, shortly thereafter, a plan,' Trump said in his first press conference since July. 'It will be repeal and replace. It will be various segments, you understand, but will most likely be on the same day or the same week, but probably the same day. Could be the same hour.' His chosen HHS secretary, Rep. Tom Price, hasn't had his confirmation hearing yet. The Senate Finance Committee hasn't even scheduled it.... The idea of a Trump health care plan took some Republican lawmakers by surprise.” -- CW ...

... Paul Waldman: "If you actually read what Trump said, it’s apparent that he has absolutely no understanding of either what Obamacare is, or what Republicans intend to replace it with...." -- CW ...

... Kelsey Snell & Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post: "Senate Democrats prepared Wednesday to make a late-night show of resistance against gutting the Affordable Care Act by forcing Republicans to take politically charged votes against protecting Medicare, Medicaid and other health-care programs. The mostly symbolic votes come amid growing concerns among congressional Republicans that the party is rushing to dismantle the ACA without a plan to replace it. Democrats planned to force the frenzied vote series called a 'vote-a-rama' well into Thursday morning, even as they cannot prevent the GOP from following through on their repeal plans.... Senators are expected to vote Thursday morning on a budget measure — which is likely to pass — setting in motion the framework for the ACA’s repeal. The House is then expected to take up the measure on Friday, though there were signs that disparate groups of House Republicans were concerned about it." -- CW ...

     ... New Lede: "The Senate voted 51 to 48 early Thursday to approve a budget resolution instructing House and Senate committees to begin work on legislation to repeal major portions of the Affordable Care Act. The House is expected to take up the legislation Friday. Senate Democrats made a late-night show of resistance against gutting the Affordable Care Act by forcing Republicans to take politically charged votes against protecting Medicare, Medicaid and other health-care programs. The measure narrowly passed without the support of any Democrats.... Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) also voted no, in part over concerns that GOP leaders have not committed to a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act after it is repealed." -- CW 

Lisa Lambert of Reuters: "Republicans on Wednesday passed a bill in the House of Representatives that touched on nearly every step U.S. agencies take in creating and applying new rules, continuing their blitz to radically reform 'abusive' federal regulation of areas from the environment to the workplace. In a 238-183 vote, the House passed the 'Regulatory Accountability Act,' which combined eight bills aimed at changing how the vast government bureaucracy runs. Only five Democrats voted for it." -- CW 

You're Fired! Joe Davidson of the Washington Post: "A range of Republican proposals on federal hiring, firing and retiring will have [federal civil servants] under fire during the Trump administration. One flying under the radar poses a fundamental threat to the purpose of the civil service. It would essentially dispose of federal employee due process rights. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) [will re-introduce a bill he sponsored last year that reads, in part,] 'Such an employee may be removed or suspended, without notice or right to appeal, from service by the head of the agency at which such employee is employed for good cause, bad cause, or no cause at all.'... Civil service procedures ... are designed to guard against arbitrary actions.... The protections are not just there to protect federal employees. In fact, the most important beneficiaries of these protections are the nation’s citizens...” -- CW  

Amanda Taub of the New York Times: "In his farewell address as president Tuesday, Barack Obama warned of the dangers of uncontrolled partisanship. American democracy, he said, is weakened 'when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive that people of good character are turned off from public service, so coarse with rancor that Americans with whom we disagree are not just misguided, but somehow malevolent.' That seems a well-founded worry. Partisan bias now operates more like racism than mere political disagreement, academic research on the subject shows. And this widespread prejudice could have serious consequences for American democracy.... Partisan bias fuels fake news because people of all partisan stripes are generally quite bad at figuring out what news stories to believe. Instead, they use trust as a shortcut." -- CW 

Sean McElwee, et al., of Vox: "... the Comey effect was real, it was big, and it probably cost Clinton the election. Below, we present four pieces of evidence demonstrating that this is the case... Comey broke a decades-long norm of not intervening in presidential elections. The fact that his interference alone almost certainly swayed an election is indicative of a broader and disturbing breakdown of political norms." -- CW ...

... AND There's This. Jeet Heer of the New Republic: "The celebrity gap between the two major parties points to something essential about their nature. Perhaps right-wing complaints about Hollywood liberalism stem from conservatives wanting to have their own celebrity champions.... But it’s difficult to find a candidate who is equally smart and charismatic, hence the duds the Democrats often elevate — and who have lost them two close, winnable president elections in recent memory (2000 and 2016).... In the wake of Clinton’s defeat, Michael Moore said on CNN, 'Democrats would be better off if they ran Oprah or Tom Hanks... why don’t we run beloved people?' It’s a question the party ought to ask seriously. For it’s easier to surround a good actor with smart policy advisors than to make a lackluster campaigner seem sexy and exciting." -- CW 

Tuesday
Jan102017

The Commentariat -- January 11, 2017

Afternoon Update:

It's like we're all the crew of the Pequod, waiting for the mad captain to emerge from his cabin for the first time to explain how his obsessions should be ours as well. -- Charles Pierce ...

Breaking His Oath of Office from Day One. Maggie Haberman, et al., of the New York Times: "... Donald J. Trump ... plans ... to turn over all of his business operations to a trust controlled by his two oldest sons and a longtime associate, top officials with his company said on Wednesday. He will donate to the United States government all profits from foreign government payments to his hotels, the officials said, describing the arrangements as voluntary measures.... The Trump Organization will also refrain from entering into any new deals with foreign partners, his legal advisers said, backing off from an earlier claim by Mr. Trump that his company would have 'no new deals' of any kind during his presidency. Instead, the Trump enterprise will have to clear any new transactions with an ethics adviser to be chosen by the president-elect in coming days. That ethics adviser will vet them for potential conflicts, using a standard that his advisers said had not yet been agreed upon. The long-promised specifics Mr. Trump’s advisers provided on Wednesday left dozens of unanswered questions about whether or how the incoming president would avoid conflicts as commander in chief.... 'He is setting up a constitutional crisis on the first day that he takes office,' said Norman Eisen, who served as White House ethics adviser during the Obama administration...." -- CW ...

... David Nakamura & Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "... Donald Trump acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that he believes Russian operatives hacked the Democratic Party during the election, but he continued to dispute intelligence reports that Moscow acted to help him win. 'I think it was Russia,' Trump said at a news conference in New York when asked who was responsible for the public leaks.... He angrily denounced news reports that U.S. officials had obtained an unsubstantiated dossier of potentially compromising personal information Russia has allegedly gathered about him, citing denials from the Kremlin that it has any such intelligence.... Trump made his remarks in his first news conference as president-elect, ending a period of 167 days since he has fielded questions from the full media contingent.... Earlier in the day, Trump had charged via Twitter that his 'crooked opponents' are trying to undermine his electoral victory. He accused the intelligence community of leaking the information to get in 'one last shot at me,' saying, 'Are we living in Nazi Germany?'” ...

     ... CW: Not Yet. But once again, Trump shows a lot more faith in Russian claims than in the American intel establishment. ...

... Ed Pilkington & Julian Borger of the Guardian: "Donald Trump unleashed a firestorm of invective against 'shameful' news outlets and the 'disgraceful' behavior of the intelligence agencies, in a feisty press conference as he attempted to demolish salacious allegations concerning his dealings in Russia.... In a bravura, boastful performance full of his trademark outstretched hands and finger-jabbing, Trump lashed out at specific news organizations, notably CNN and BuzzFeed. CNN reported that Trump and Obama had been briefed about a summary of a memo on Trump’s alleged links with Moscow but BuzzFeed went a step further in publishing extensive details of the document that claimed Russian operatives had gathered compromising material against him.... He reserved his choicest attack for the intelligence agencies who he blamed for the leak: 'It was disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that proved so false and fake to get out. That’s something that Nazi Germany would have done, and did do...,' he said." -- CW ...

... Shane Goldmacher of Politico: Donald Trump's "chaotic first news conference on Wednesday, two months after his victory shocked the world, unfolded much as his campaign did: defiant, with attacks on his opponents, memorable one-liners ('I’m also very much of a germophobe, by the way'), a deluge of news (he announced a Cabinet secretary) and some of the toughest questions elided or ignored, including on his potential ethical and financial conflicts and on new reports of alleged contact between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.... When CNN’s Jim Acosta tried to ask a question, Trump cut him off. 'Your organization is terrible,' Trump scolded. 'Don’t be rude. …I am not going to give you a question. You are fake news.'... Trump also offered up hard news that almost got buried in the spectacle, including an ad hoc announcement that David Shulkin will be his secretary of veterans affairs, and that he hopes to appoint a new Supreme Court justice in his second week in office.” -- CW ...

... The NYT liveblogged Trump's presser here.

William Arkin, et al., of NBC News: "... Donald Trump was not told about unverified reports that Russia has compromising information on him during last week's intelligence briefing, according to a senior intelligence official with knowledge of preparations for the briefing. A summary of the unverified reports was prepared as background material for the briefing, but not discussed during the meeting, the official said. During Trump's press conference Wednesday morning..., he said he was made aware of the information 'outside that meeting.'... While multiple officials say the summary was included in the material prepared for the briefers, the senior official told NBC News that the briefing was oral and no actual documents were left with the Trump team in New York. During the briefing..., [Trump] was not briefed on the contents of the summary." -- CW ...

... Scott Shane of the New York Times on what we know & don't know about the Trump-Russia dossier. -- CW 

James Downie of the Washington Post: "Though it might be nice to imagine Trump’s presidency collapsing before it’s even begun, the fact remains that we know little more now than we did last week about Trump’s ties to Russia and whether Vladimir Putin’s government has compromising information on the president-elect. There is one thing we do know, though: FBI Director James Comey’s intervention in the election last October — controversial at the time — looks completely indefensible now.... It is a shocking and disturbing double standard: staying silent on allegations against one candidate despite reams of new information, while reviving allegations against another candidate despite absolutely no new information. Doing so two weeks before Election Day compounds the terrible error." -- CW

Nahal Toosi, et al., of Politico: "Rex Tillerson had terse exchanges Wednesday with Republican Marco Rubio and other key senators during his confirmation hearing for the role of secretary of state, ducking questions on whether Russian leader Vladimir Putin is a 'war criminal' or if the U.S. should sanction Moscow. The former ExxonMobil CEO was at times astonishingly candid, even curt, at one point telling a senator 'a little of both' when asked if he was refusing to answer a question or if he didn’t know the answer. Tillerson also struggled to clarify key issues, stating, for instance, that his company never lobbied against Russian sanctions, even though public records show the oil company repeatedly talked to lawmakers and the White House about the sanctions. And Tillerson would not say that he'd immediately back out of the nuclear agreement with Iran — a stance that puts him in opposition to GOP leaders." -- CW ...

... Charles Pierce: "For whatever reason, Tillerson showed up in front of the committee woefully unprepared to be anything more than an obvious corporate titan to whom nobody has ever said no.... The basic question hanging over the entire transition team right now is whether or not anyone on it — up to and including the president-elect — is qualified and/or capable of doing the job they were elected or appointed to do. Despite the conspicuous efforts of committee chairman Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, to bail him out at every opportunity, Tillerson presented very little evidence that he is ready, in the words of Delaware's Chris Coons, "to exchange the executive suite at ExxonMobil for the seventh-floor office at State."... He faced questions from conservatives about his ties with a murderous autocrat, and from liberals about whether he and his company are complicit in destroying the planet. He handled none of them well. This might be the nomination that's in a little trouble." -- CW 

Hiroko Tabuchi, et al., of the New York Times: "Federal prosecutors announced criminal charges on Wednesday against six Volkswagen executives for their role in the company’s emissions scandal, a substantial turn by a departing administration that is trying to remake its image that it is soft on corporate crime. The Volkswagen executives include a former head of development for the Volkswagen brand as well as a former head of engine development. One of them, Oliver Schmidt, was arrested in Florida last week, but the other five are believed to be in Germany. Volkswagen also formally pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to violate the Clean Air Act, customs violations and obstruction of justice." -- CW 

*****

Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But it’s really just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own. We, the people, give it power – with our participation, and the choices we make. Whether or not we stand up for our freedoms. Whether or not we respect and enforce the rule of law. America is no fragile thing. But the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured. -- President Obama, in his farewell address ...

... Juliet Eilperin & Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post: "President Obama used his farewell speech in his home town Tuesday to defend his imperiled legacy and press a broad, optimistic vision for the country that seems more divided than ever." CW: See also Marvin S.'s pithy review at the top of today's Comments. Seems about right to me:

... The text of the President's speech, as delivered, is here. ...

... ** Jonathan Chait: President Obama's "speech devoted only the most perfunctory attention to his many accomplishments in office. Instead, he delivered a stirring call to his country to defend its democracy against a looming threat – one he never named, even elliptically, but whose identity was clear and laced with references through his speech.... And as this wise and thoughtful leader left the stage, to be followed soon by an impulsive, bullying man-child, the implications of that warning seemed to linger. To watch Obama walk away into the darkness was an unnerving sight." -- CW 

Wow! Scott Shane, et al., of the New York Times: "The chiefs of America’s intelligence agencies last week presented President Obama and ... Donald J. Trump with a summary of unsubstantiated reports that Russia had collected compromising and salacious personal information about Mr. Trump, two officials with knowledge of the briefing said. The summary is based on memos generated by political operatives seeking to derail Mr. Trump’s candidacy. Details of the reports began circulating in the fall and were widely known among journalists and politicians in Washington. The two-page summary, first reported by CNN, was presented as an appendix to the intelligence agencies’ report on the Russian hacking of the election.... The material was not corroborated, and The New York Times has not been able to confirm the claims. But intelligence agencies considered it so potentially explosive that they decided Mr. Obama, Mr. Trump and congressional leaders needed to be told about it and that the agencies were actively investigating it.... The appendix summarized opposition research memos prepared mainly by a retired British intelligence operative for a Washington political and corporate research firm. The firm was paid for its work first by Mr. Trump’s Republican rivals and later by supporters of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.... The memos suggest that for many years, the government of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has looked for ways to influence Mr. Trump.... The memos describe sex videos involving prostitutes with Mr. Trump in a 2013 visit to a Moscow hotel.... The memos also suggest that Russian officials proposed various lucrative deals, essentially as disguised bribes in order to win influence over the real estate magnate. The memos describe several purported meetings during the 2016 presidential campaign between Trump representatives and Russian officials to discuss matters of mutual interest, including the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John D. Podesta." -- CW ...

... Greg Miller, et al., of the Washington Post: "Trump ... replied Tuesday night with a Tweet declaring: 'FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!' A senior U.S. official with access to the document said that the allegations were presented at least in part to underscore that Russia had embarrassing information on both major candidates, but only released material that might harm Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton — a reflection of Russian motivation that bolstered U.S. spy agencies’ conclusion that Moscow sought to help Trump win.... If true, the information suggests that Moscow has assembled damaging information — known in espionage circles by the Russian term 'kompromat' — that conceivably could be used to coerce the next occupant of the White House.... The material was first mentioned in a Mother Jones report in October.... Several news organizations, including the Washington Post, have been attempting to confirm the core allegations without success.... Hillary Clinton’s former campaign spokesman, Brian Fallon, appealed for a congressional inquiry.” -- CW ...

     ... Here's the Mother Jones story, by David Corn, published October 31, 2016. -- CW ...

... The CNN report, by Evan Perez & others, is here. "... allegations about communications between the Trump campaign and the Russians, mentioned in classified briefings for congressional leaders last year, prompted then-Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid to send a letter to FBI Director Comey in October, in which he wrote, 'It has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government -- a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States.'" -- CW ...

... Patrick Wintour of the Guardian: "The Russian embassy in London has accused the Foreign Office of preparing to mount a witch-hunt against Moscow in the wake of allegations by the UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, that Russia has been 'up to all sorts of tricks'. Johnson had claimed that the Kremlin was behind the hack of the Democratic campaign headquarters computer during the US presidential race, the first time that the UK has confirmed US intelligence reports linking the hacks to Russia.... UK intelligence agencies are understood to have been the first to alert their US counterparts to the evidence showing a link between the Democratic National Committee hacks and Moscow." -- CW ...

... AND Wow! Again. BuzzFeed has published "a dossier, compiled by a person who has claimed to be a former British intelligence official, [which] alleges Russia has compromising information on Trump. The allegations are unverified, and the report contains errors.... The dossier, which is a collection of memos written over a period of months, includes specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives, and graphic claims of sexual acts documented by the Russians. BuzzFeed News reporters in the US and Europe have been investigating various alleged facts in the dossier but have not verified or falsified them. CNN reported Tuesday that a two-page synopsis of the report was given to President Obama and Trump." -- CW ...

... Rory Carroll of the Guardian: "An hour after CNN’s initial story, BuzzFeed went ahead and published the documents.... The decision to put the claims in the public domain forced other media outlets to repeat the allegations or ignore a story that lit up the internet. Some critics rounded on BuzzFeed, calling it irresponsible.... Ben Smith, [BuzzFeed's] editor-in-chief, followed up a few hours later with a statement that defended publication as an act of journalistic transparency in a hyper-partisan era." -- CW ...

... Here's some fun Kellyanne Conway double-speak, courtesy of Paul Campos in LG&$. -- CW ...

... The Guardian is actually liveblogging the fallout. -- CW ...

... Eric Levitz of New York has a healthy perspective on this explosive story: "None of these claims have been substantiated, and their contingency should be stressed: To believe them, one must not only trust an anonymous foreign spy who was paid to generate unflattering material about Donald Trump, but also believe the claims of Russian intelligence operatives, who may have an incentive to bluff. Nonetheless, the fact that America’s top intelligence agencies are taking these claims seriously — or, at the very least, want the president-elect to think they are taking them seriously — is big, bizarre news." -- CW ...

... Ken Vogel & David Stern of Politico: "Donald Trump wasn’t the only presidential candidate whose campaign was boosted by officials of a former Soviet bloc country. Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found. A Ukrainian-American operative who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee met with top officials in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington in an effort to expose ties between Trump, top campaign aide Paul Manafort and Russia, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation. The Ukrainian efforts had an impact in the race, helping to force Manafort’s resignation and advancing the narrative that Trump’s campaign was deeply connected to Ukraine’s foe to the east, Russia. But they were far less concerted or centrally directed than Russia’s alleged hacking and dissemination of Democratic emails." -- CW 

Matt Apuzzo & Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: "Senator Jeff Sessions, who is in line to become attorney general, said Tuesday that the law 'absolutely' prohibits waterboarding and offered no hints at any legal workaround that would allow ... Donald J. Trump to bring back the brutal interrogation tactic.... He said he did not support an outright ban on Muslim immigration and promised to defend the nation’s laws — even in areas like abortion and gay rights where he has made his opposition known over a long, conservative career.... Senate Democrats ... did not vigorously confront Mr. Sessions on allegations of racism from three decades ago. Instead, they opted to use the hearings to try to establish the early legal boundaries of a Trump administration.... Mr. Sessions ... told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he would be an independent-minded attorney general who would say no to Mr. Trump." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Matt Zapotosky, et al., of the Washington Post: "On the first day of his two-day confirmation hearing, Sessions came under tough questioning from Democrats about his conservative, often controversial views on immigration, hate crimes legislation, and matters of national security. He answered politely, though often forcefully, and often referenced his decades of experience in the Senate.... He declared he would recuse himself from any Justice Department investigations of Hillary Clinton’s email practices or her family’s charitable foundation — mindful that his previous comments 'could place my objectivity in question.'” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... The Times is doing live analysis of Sessions' testimony here. ...

... Sarah Burris of the Raw Story reprises some of Al Franken's (D-Minn.) questioning of Sessions, specifically in relation to the intel reports Trump received. CW: You'll want to read it. Or listen. Franken is an American treasure. How I wish he were Minority Leader. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "The first day of confirmation hearings for Jeff Sessions in the Senate Judiciary Committee was for the most part blandly civil.... But Senator Al Franken pretty quickly drew blood by eliciting an admission from Sessions that he might have exaggerated his involvement in civil-rights cases while a U.S. Attorney (Franken was subsequently upbraided by Ted Cruz, in a rare and unconvincing appearance as a defender of moderation and bipartisanship!). And later on, the Minnesotan clearly threw Sessions off his game by asking about the president-elect’s famous tweet about losing the popular vote only because 'millions of illegal votes' had been cast for his opponent.... If Trump was alleging voter fraud on a scale unknown since the days of Boss Tweed, wasn’t Sessions concerned about it? And if not, why not? We’re still waiting for an answer to that one." -- CW ...

... Dana Milbank: "What Sessions said at his confirmation hearing did not always align with what he had said and done in the past. It may not comport at all with what he will do as attorney general. But, at least for a day, Sessions took pains to present himself as inoffensive.... [His] assurances may amount to nothing. But for those who fear that Donald Trump will run roughshod across the federal government, the nominee’s testimony offered a slim hope that he will provide at least some brake on the new president’s worst instincts." -- CW ...

... Amy Davidson of the New Yorker has a good summation of Sessions' non-answers during Day One of his confirmation hearings. ...

... John Stanton & Nathaniel Meyersohn of BuzzFeed: "In 1986, as the Senate was considering the nomination of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions for federal judge, Coretta Scott King wrote an impassioned plea to the members of the Judiciary Committee. Sessions, whose nomination had initially seemed routine, was suddenly on the ropes after witnesses accused him of using racial slurs and using his position as a US attorney to target civil rights activists in Alabama. The letter would become a key part of the case against Sessions, who would ultimately be defeated when his home state senator, the late Howell Heflin, shocked the Senate and voted against the confirmation. The Washington Post published the full, 10 page letter from King to the committee Tuesday evening. It can be read here." -- CW 

Charles Pierce: "The confirmation hearing of John Kelly, the retired Marine general nominated to be the Secretary of Homeland Security, didn't have the whizbang of the JeffBo Sessions show next door in the Russell Building. But there was a moment when Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, asked him whether or not he believed the report in which 17 U.S. intelligence services concluded that the Russian government had monkeywrenched the 2016 presidential election.... 'With high confidence,' Kelly replied. All day, at both hearings, there was a remarkable unanimity of belief in what would have been unthinkable four years ago: that a foreign government could finagle around with an American election and, largely, get away with it. Questioning Sessions about it, Lindsey Graham even slipped up for a second, saying, '… if you think that affected the outcome of the election, which I do...' ... The correct Republican response is that, yes, the Russians were in there finagling, but said finagling had nothing to do with who got elected and how." -- CW 

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Republican plans to quickly confirm Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees were upended Tuesday amid Democratic pressure to slow down the examination of picks. The Senate Intelligence Committee announced early Tuesday that it would delay by a day a hearing for Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) to serve as CIA director. Originally scheduled to be considered amid several other nominees on Wednesday, Pompeo will appear instead on Thursday. The Senate health and education committee also announced late Monday that it would postpone its hearing with Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for education secretary, until next week." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker: "A recent paper published by the Brookings Institution notes that President Trump would be violating the Constitution 'whenever a foreign diplomat stays in a Trump hotel or hosts a reception in one; whenever foreign-owned banks offer loans to Mr. Trump’s businesses or pay rent for office space in his buildings; whenever projects are jump-started or expedited or licensed or otherwise advantaged because Mr. Trump is associated with them; whenever foreign prosecutors and regulators treat a Trump entity favorably; and whenever the Trump Organization makes a profit on a business transaction with any foreign state or foreign-owned entity.'... There are three ways in which Trump could handle his impending clash with the Emoluments Clause, but only one that would clearly avoid a constitutional crisis.... The Emoluments Clause has never been tested in the courts, but most scholars seem to agree that if Trump doesn’t take the prophylactic approach to his conflicts there is only one other anti-corruption clause in the Constitution available as a remedy: impeachment.” -- CW 

Trump Unaware of What Congress Is Doing; Ryan Unaware of What Citizens Are Doing. Maggie Haberman & Margot Sanger-Katz of the New York Times: "... Donald J. Trump pressed Republicans on Tuesday to move forward with the immediate repeal of the Affordable Care Act and to replace it very quickly thereafter, saying, 'We have to get to business. Obamacare has been a catastrophic event.'... Mr. Trump, who seemed unclear about the timing of already scheduled votes in Congress this week, demanded a repeal vote 'probably some time next week,' and said 'the replace will be very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter.' That demand is very likely impossible. Republicans in Congress are nowhere close to agreement on a major health bill that would replace President Obama’s signature domestic achievement.... 'Long to me would be weeks,' [Trump] said. 'It won’t be repeal and then two years later go in with another plan.; That directly contradicts House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s plans. Mr. Ryan ...[said] Tuesday that its marketplaces were in a 'death spiral.'... In fact, new enrollment numbers from the Obama administration undercut that claim.” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Matt Yglesias of Vox: "In a puzzling interview with Maggie Haberman and Margot Sanger-Katz of the New York Times, Donald Trump weighed-in on the legislative mechanics of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act in a way that appeared to reveal that he has no idea what’s going on.... The ... Republican Party currently has no consensus on just what the replacement should be, and it’s very difficult to see them arriving at such a consensus before February 1 — unless they somehow ram through a quickly-crafted replacement that would massively restructure the health care sector with hardly any deliberation, with potentially catastrophic consequences. The GOP’s realistic options are either to delay the entire repeal process until they have a replacement in mind (which could take months) or else they can do repeal next week and leave Americans eager to find out what, if anything, the 'terrific' alternative they’ve been promised turns out to amount to. Trump’s alternative idea is totally unworkable." -- CW ...

... Sarah Kliff of Vox: "I spent Tuesday on Capitol Hill, talking to Senate Republicans about whether they expected their replacement plans to cover as many people as the Affordable Care Act. The answers were ... not plentiful.... If Trump is serious about pursuing replacement quickly, then there is one plan he could pull off the shelf — and it was written by none other than his pick to run the Department of Health and Human Services, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA). Price is the author of the most detailed Obamacare replacement I’ve read to date, the 242-page Empowering Patients First Act." Price's plan is, not surprisingly, horrible. -- CW 

Oh, Great. Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "Donald Trump met Tuesday with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a prominent skeptic of vaccines for children, and asked him to chair a new commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity, suggesting that ... [Trump] continues to believe a widely discredited theory that vaccines cause autism.” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Donald Trump ... was voted in as the most unpopular president-elect in modern history and got slightly less unpopular in the weeks that followed, as the goodwill flowed. Even then, though, he clearly remained the most unpopular president-elect in modern history.... A new poll from Quinnipiac University suggests that Trump has reverted to his pre-election standing, with Americans having major concerns about his temperament and the direction in which his presidency will lead the country. Trump’s continued controversies seem to have put him right back where he was before he won the election." -- CW ...

... CW: I meant to link sooner Lawrence Downes' NYT editorial comment, published Jan. 9, on the layers of Trump's lies. (And, yes, Marvin S., I take your point about the nature of Trump's lies. But to those of us who receive the lies, they're still untruths, not mere dysfunctions of a crazy man's brain.) It still stuns me that Americans would entrust the presidency to a flagrantly untrustworthy man, someone who will lie to them every time he speaks or twitches his tiny Twitterfingers.

Justin Wolfers in the New York Times: Economists are bearish on Trump. "Few see useful channels for influence. Partly this reflects ... Donald J. Trump’s legislative plans. On issues like restricting trade, directly intervening to assist specific industries or corporations, targeting tax cuts to the wealthy, his agenda stands as a rejection of the advice that mainstream economist have typically offered. And partly this reflects Mr. Trump’s appointments. Few of his key economic advisers have any economics training, and the only official who identifies as an economist — Peter Navarro, who earned a Harvard Ph.D. in economics and will head up the newly formed National Trade Council — stands so far outside the mainstream that he endorses few of the key tenets of the profession.... It’s the double whammy that worries economists, that Mr. Trump’s populist pose assigns less value to economic expertise, while also creating the conditions under which it’s most likely to be needed." -- CW 

CW: Especially in view of today's news, this is mighty creepy:

We’re fortunate in that we have the greatest celebrity in the world, which is the president-elect. So what we’ve done instead of trying to surround him with what people consider A-listers is we are going to surround him with the soft sensuality of the place. -- Tom Barrack, Chair of the Trump inauguration committee, on the dearth of stars performing at the swearing-in ceremony ...

Hey, maybe the committee has been asking the wrong people to perform:

@realDonaldTrump Your staff have asked me to sing at your inauguration, a simple Internet search would show I think you're a tyrant. Bye💩💩💩💩 — Charlotte Church (@charlottechurch) January 10, 2017

... Bill Scher of the New Republic: "... there is one ... tactic that is guaranteed to rattle Donald Trump the most with the least amount of effort: Don’t watch him. That inauguration next week? Don’t watch. State of the Union? You’re better off with an early night’s sleep. Oval Office addresses? Speeches? Rallies? Press conferences? 'Exclusive' TV interviews? Pick up that book you’ve been meaning to get to instead.... A mass refusal to watch Trump on TV will deprive him of big ratings, which he routinely uses to create a false impression of widespread popularity." -- CW ...

     ... CW: In yesterday's thread, Forrest M. suggested a good plan: "Everyone leaves their TV on all day tuned to the Weather Channel. Whatever channels are showing the trump show will be killed in the ratings by the Weather Channel." 

Scott Wong & Peter Sullivan of the Hill: "Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said on Tuesday that some elements required to replace ObamaCare could be included in the earlier process to repeal the healthcare law. Ryan, however, didn’t identify specific elements or get into other details of how that process would work. The Speaker’s comments come as GOP leaders are facing enormous pressure from ... Donald Trump, centrist Republicans and conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus to tackle the repeal and replacement of ObamaCare simultaneously. 'It is our goal to bring it all together concurrently,' Ryan told reporters after meeting with House Republicans behind closed doors." OR, as Paul Waldman put it, "Paul Ryan is devolving into incoherence.... So in different pieces at different times, but 'concurrently.' Got it." CW: Sometimes the Flim-Flam man confuses his flim with his flam. Perfectly understandable. ...

... Major Healthcare Companies Frightened by Orange Twitter Bird. Robert Pear of the Washington Post: "The speed of Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act has stunned health industry lobbyists, leaving representatives of insurance companies, hospitals, doctors and pharmaceutical makers in disarray and struggling for a response to a legislative quick strike that would upend much of the American health care system.... Some lobbyists have tacitly accepted the likelihood that major provisions of the health law will be repealed, setting their sights instead on shaping its replacement. They fear that if they come out strongly in opposition to repealing the law, they will lose their seats at the table as congressional Republicans and the Trump administration negotiate a replacement.... Some companies, anxious about changes in health policy, said they were afraid to speak out because they feared that Mr. Trump would attack them on Twitter, as he has badgered Boeing, Ford, General Motors, Lockheed Martin and Toyota." -- CW 

Sheryl Gay Stolberg & Timothy Williams of the New York Times: "... the Obama administration is making a last-minute push for police overhauls in two of the nation’s most violent cities, Baltimore and Chicago, where officers have been accused of routinely mistreating African-Americans. In Chicago, where a city task force appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel concluded that 'the police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color,' the Justice Department is rushing to wrap up a sweeping investigation into police patterns and practices, prompted by the release of a chilling video that showed a white officer shooting a black teenager. The findings are expected to be released before Jan. 20, Inauguration Day.... In Baltimore, where Justice Department officials have already released a blistering report accusing the police of systematic racial bias, negotiators for the city and the Obama administration are 'getting very close' to agreement on a consent decree...." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Jack Ewing of the New York Times: "Volkswagen has reached a deal with the United States government to pay $4.3 billion to resolve a federal criminal investigation into its cheating on emissions tests, the company said on Tuesday. As part of the settlement with federal officials, the company will plead guilty to criminal charges. The deal is not yet official, as the company’s management board must still approve." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Get Ready to Gag. Emily Steel & Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "In the weeks after Roger Ailes was ousted as the chairman of Fox News in July, amid a sexual harassment scandal, company executives secretly struck an agreement with a longtime on-air personality who had come forward with similar accusations about the network’s top host, Bill O’Reilly. The employee, Juliet Huddy, had said that Mr. O’Reilly pursued a sexual relationship with her in 2011, at a time he exerted significant influence over her career. When she rebuffed his advances, he tried to derail her career, according to a draft of a letter from her lawyers to Fox News that was obtained by The New York Times. The letter includes allegations that Mr. O’Reilly had called Ms. Huddy repeatedly and that it sometimes sounded like he was masturbating.... In exchange for her silence and agreement not to sue, she was paid a sum in the high six figures, according to people briefed on the agreement. The agreement was between Ms. Huddy and 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News. The company and Mr. O’Reilly’s lawyer said her allegations were false." CW: Yeah, right. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Beyond the Beltway

Alan Blinder & Kevin Sack of the New York Times: "Dylann S. Roof, the impenitent and inscrutable white supremacist who killed nine African-American churchgoers in a brazenly racial assault almost 19 months ago, shocking the world over the persistence of extremist hatred in dark corners of the American South, was condemned to death by a federal jury on Tuesday." -- CW 

Way Beyond

The Scoop Heard 'Round the World. Margalit Fox of the New York Times: "From a single gust of wind, Clare Hollingworth reaped the journalistic scoop of the century. Ms. Hollingworth, the undisputed doyenne of war correspondents, who died on Tuesday in Hong Kong at 105, was less than a week into her first job, as a reporter for the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, on that windy day in 1939. Driving alone on the road from Gleiwitz, then in Germany, to Katowice, in Poland — a distance of less than 20 miles — she watched as the wind lifted a piece of the tarpaulin that had been erected on the German side to screen the valley below from view. Through the opening, Ms. Hollingworth saw, she later wrote, 'large numbers of troops, literally hundreds of tanks, armored cars and field guns' concealed in the valley. She knew then that Germany was poised for a major military incursion. Hastening back across the border to the Polish side, she telephoned her editor with the news, a world exclusive. The date was Aug. 28, 1939, and her article, published the next day, would become, as the British paper The Guardian wrote in 2015, 'probably the greatest scoop of modern times.'” -- CW