The Wires

 

... No, Reality Chex has not turned into a Playboy wannabe. I just thought you'd like to see how Louise Linton, the wife of the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, thought she should pose for an Elle article about her various missteps as, you know, the wife of the Treasury Secretary. Maybe she should start asking herself, "What Would Karen Pence do?" -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie 

 

 

The Martin Luther King home in Atlanta. MLK, Jr. was born here. The house is a National Historic Site & you can visit it -- the National Park Service conducts tours.

More on the MLK house here.

Laura Holson of the New York Times profiles Joy Reid of MSNBC. Mrs. McC: If you've never seen Joy on the teevee, she is indeed a joy.

Cheddar Man! Serious Bad News for Donald Trump & All His White Supremacist Friends. New York Times: "He had dark skin, brown curly hair and blue eyes, DNA tests suggest, upending a common assumption that Britain’s indigenous populations were all pale skinned with fair features. He is 'Cheddar Man,' Britain’s oldest complete skeleton, which was discovered in 1903 in Gough’s Cave near the village of Cheddar in Somerset, in southwest England. He lived about 10,000 years ago in the Mesolithic period, the middle part of the Stone Age. Scientists have now reconstructed his features, demonstrating that he was part of a population of ancient Western Europeans that, scientists have shown in recent years, had dark skin. Research has shown that fair skin pigmentation — long considered a defining feature of Europe — only goes back less than 6,000 years." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: We all come from African ancestry, but now it turns out that those of us who appear whitey-white likely have more recent dark-skinned ancestors. Yes, Donald, you are Cheddar Man! Could you all stop being racists now?

Chrisco Gets Part-time Gig at ABC News. NJ.com: Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie "has been hired as an occasional contributor to ABC News, according to sources familiar with the discussions."

Finally, an Ex-White House Staffer Gets a Job for which She Might Be Qualified. Hollywood Reporter: "Omarosa Manigault, who left the White House under dramatic circumstances at the tail end of last year, is set to enter the Celebrity Big Brother house."

Los Angeles Times: "The most unpredictable Oscar season in years finally came into focus Tuesday morning [Jan. 23] as the 90th Academy Awards nominations were announced, with nine films representing a wide range of genres earning best picture nods and Guillermo del Toro's fantastical fable 'The Shape of Water' leading the field with 13 nominations." A list of nominees for the top prizes follows.

The Gossip Page

Page Six of the New York Post: "Disgraced anchor Matt Lauer has been kicked out of his home by his furious wife [Annette Roque]  after multiple women came forward with allegations of his 'inappropriate sexual behavior.' And while Lauer’s reclusive wife has not yet filed for divorce, we’re told it is likely to happen soon.... Roque had previously filed for divorce from Lauer in 2006, citing 'mental abuse, extreme mental and emotional distress, humiliation, torment and anxiety,' but withdrew the filing weeks later after he offered her a postnuptial agreement and millions more dollars, a source told Page Six.”

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

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

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

Monday
Feb122018

The Commentariat -- February 13, 2018

Afternoon Update:

David Halbfinger & Isabel Kershner of the New York Times: "The Israeli police recommended on Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, casting a pall over the future of a tenacious leader.... Concluding a yearlong graft investigation, the police recommended that Mr. Netanyahu face prosecution in two corruption cases: a gifts-for-favors affair known as Case 1000, and a second scandal, dubbed Case 2000, in which Mr. Netanyahu is suspected of back-room dealings with Arnon Mozes, publisher of the popular daily Yediot Aharonot, to ensure more favorable coverage." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I suggest we reserve Guantanamo (Orrin Hatch once said Guantanamo was pretty nice compared to freezing wastelands like Illinois) for Trump & all of these other right-wing corrupt dictators. Let them each have their very own suite (cell with a bucket) & get three squares of gruel a day. Gen. Kelly can come down once in awhile & strafe them with rubber bullets, which is an exercise he apparently enjoys.

Matthew Rosenberg & Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "As the midterm elections approach, Russia is likely to throw more propaganda at Americans, using people sympathetic to their messages and fake personalities on social media — many of them run by bots — to sow further political and social divisions in the United States, the top American intelligence officials said on Tuesday. The intelligence chiefs warned the Senate Intelligence Committee, during an annual hearing on worldwide threats that Russia believes its interference in the 2016 presidential election largely achieved its chief aim — weakening faith in American democracy. Moscow now sees the coming congressional elections as a chance to build on its gains, they said.... The warnings were striking in their contrast to President Trump’s views on Russia. He has mocked the very notion of Russian interference in the last election, and lashed out at those who have suggested otherwise. He also said that he believes denials of Russian interference issued by President Vladimir V. Putin."

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, contradicted on Tuesday the White House timeline about the domestic abuse scandal involving Rob Porter, the president’s former staff secretary. Mr. Wray said that the bureau delivered to the White House a partial report on problems in Mr. Porter’s background in March, months earlier than the White House has admitted receiving the information.... He said the bureau received a request for a 'follow-up inquiry' and provided more information about Mr. Porter’s background to the White House in November. He also said that Mr. Porter’s background check investigation was 'administratively closed' in January, weeks before the allegations against Mr. Porter were publicly known.... White House officials also have insisted that the investigation into Mr. Porter’s background was never completed." ...

     ... Story has been updated, with Julie Davis added to the byline: "Mr. Wray’s testimony pointed up a contradictory and frequently changing story line from the White House about a scandal that has engulfed the West Wing. It has raised questions about the credibility of President Trump’s most senior advisers, their awareness of serious allegations against an aide who had access to some of the nation’s most sensitive information, and the degree of tolerance they may have shown to an ambitious colleague apparently eager to cover up a dark past."

Lisa Hagen of the Hill: "Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) on Tuesday rejected a new district map drawn by GOP lawmakers, bringing the state closer to handing its redistricting process over to a court. The GOP map was drawn after the state Supreme Court struck down the state’s current map in a gerrymandering case."

*****

... Philip Kennicott of the Washington Post: "The National Portrait Gallery has unveiled the official portraits of former president Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, both painted by African American artists, and both striking additions to the museum’s 'America’s Presidents' exhibition." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Akhilleus checked out Fox "News"' reception of the portraits, & apparently the professional art critics over there didn't much care for them. See yesterday's thread. Mrs. McC: At least this is one thing that happened during the Trump administration that it's fair for them to claim is the Obamas' fault.

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Trump on Monday will propose offering $100 billion in federal incentives to encourage cities and states to invest in road, bridge and other building projects, the centerpiece of a plan to spur $1.5 trillion in infrastructure spending over the next decade without devoting significant federal money. The proposal, to be unveiled the same day as Mr. Trump’s 2019 budget, faces long odds on Capitol Hill, where members of both parties — particularly Democrats — are skeptical of any plan that fails to create a dedicated new funding stream to address the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Lawmakers are also doubtful that such a small federal investment will be sufficient to spur an infrastructure spending boom." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Michael Laris of the Washington Post: "The Trump administration is pushing federal officials to sell off, privatize or otherwise dispose of a broad array of government assets, from Reagan National Airport and the George Washington Memorial Parkway along the Potomac River to properties held by federal agencies across the country. The proposals are part of a long-awaited infrastructure initiative that President Trump has referred to repeatedly...." Mrs. McC: So like, Reagan International will become G.E. International & the G.W. Parkway will become Mattress Man Parkway? ...

... Matthew Yglesias of Vox: "In his State of the Union address, Donald Trump promised an infrastructure agenda that would let America 'build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways across our land.' The actual infrastructure program he’s unveiling today alongside his fiscal year 2019 budget request, however, is likely to do nothing of the sort. In part that’s due to the specific elements of the program design. But more fundamentally it’s because of the way the program is financed — or, rather, not financed." Yglesias goes on to explain the financing. "By mashing up Trump’s vague rhetoric with his staff’s conventional hard-right politics, they’ve landed on a formula with no bipartisan appeal and no actual path forward." Mrs. McC: Otherwise, it's all good. ...

... Paul Krugman: "It’s not a plan, it’s a scam. The $1.5 trillion number is just made up; he’s only proposing federal spending of $200 billion, which is somehow supposed to magically induce a vastly bigger overall increase in infrastructure investment, mainly paid for either by state and local governments (which are not exactly rolling in cash, but whatever) or by the private sector. And even the $200 billion is essentially fraudulent: The budget proposal announced the same day doesn’t just impose savage cuts on the poor, it includes sharp cuts for the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy and other agencies that would be crucially involved in any real infrastructure plan. Realistically, Trump’s offer on infrastructure is this: nothing.... [Why not a real plan, which would be beneficial to Trump in so many way?] I ... suspect that Trump is afraid to try anything substantive. To do public investment successfully, you need leadership and advice from experts. And this administration doesn’t do expertise, in any field. Not only do experts have a nasty habit of telling you things you don’t want to hear, their loyalty is suspect: You never know when their professional ethics might kick in." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Whyever is it that so many people refer to mobsters when writing of Trump?

... Julie Davis: "President Trump on Monday sent Congress a $4.4 trillion budget with steep cuts in domestic programs and entitlements, including Medicare, and large increases for the military, envisioning deficits totaling at least $7.1 trillion over the next decade. The blueprint, which has little to no chance of being enacted as written, amounts to a vision statement by Mr. Trump, whose plan discards longtime Republican orthodoxy about balancing the budget, instead embracing last year’s $1.5 trillion tax cut and new spending on a major infrastructure initiative." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The theme here seems to be, "Congressional Republicans ignore GOP President*." ...

... First, Screw All the Poor People. Tracy Jan, et al., of the Washington Post: "The budget that President Trump proposed Monday takes a hard whack at the poorest Americans, slashing billions of dollars from food stamps, public health insurance and federal housing vouchers, while trying to tilt the programs in more conservative directions. The spending plan reaches beyond the White House’s own power over the government social safety net and presumes lawmakers will overhaul long-standing entitlement programs for the poor in ways beyond what Congress so far has been willing to do. The changes call on lawmakers to eliminate the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and transform the rest of that program into a system of capped payments to states; convert food assistance into a hybrid of commodity deliveries and traditional cash benefits; and expand requirements that low-income people work to qualify for federal assistance." Read on. Boxed food! It's like Blue Apron! Uh-huh.

** Dan Alexander of Forbes: "The real money in the Trump empire comes from commercial tenants like the Chinese bank. Forbes estimates these tenants pay a collective $175 million a year or so to the president. And they do so anonymously.... Neither the White House nor the Trump Organization would provide a list of the president's tenants, much less reveal what they pay.... In other words, government ethics officials, charged with detecting conflicts of interest, have never seen the president's rent roll. So we created one on our own, identifying 164 tenants, in virtually every industry, from all around the world...Forbes discovered one deal, previously unreported, in which Trump partially serves as his own landlord: The U.S. government is paying some rent to the person who runs it.... In May the prime minister of Georgia made a visit to the White House, where, according to two of Trump's former business partners, the president asked about his old project in the former Soviet republic." --safari: The conflicts of interest are omnipresent and all this family sees is "green".

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "More than a year into his administration, President Trump is presiding over a staff in turmoil, one with a 34 percent turnover rate, higher than any White House in decades. He has struggled to fill openings, unwilling to hire Republicans he considers disloyal and unable to entice Republicans who consider him unstable. Those who do come to work for him often do not last long, burning out from a volatile, sometimes cutthroat environment exacerbated by tweets and subpoenas.... According to a report..., Mr. Trump’s 34 percent turnover rate in his first year is more than three times as high as President Barack Obama’s in the same period and twice as high as President Ronald Reagan’s, which until now was the modern record-holder. Of 12 positions deemed most central to the president, only five are still filled by the same person as when Mr. Trump took office." ...

... Eliana Johnson of Politico: "Turbulence in this West Wing is typically generated by ... Donald Trump, but for the past week, it’s been chief of staff John Kelly — the man brought in to be a steadying hand — who’s inspiring what one White House official described as a crisis of confidence. While the president often makes a hash of the truth, aides took Kelly’s word at face value until they were confronted with zigzagging accounts of the events leading up to former staff secretary Rob Porter’s resignation — and Kelly’s role in them. In the hours immediately after the Daily Mail published a photograph of Porter’s first ex-wife with a black eye, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders hastily arranged an off-the-record meeting in the West Wing with Porter and four reporters: the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, the Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey, Axios’ Jonathan Swan, and the Wall Street Journal’s Michael Bender. In that meeting, which hasn’t previously been reported, Porter relayed his version of events and fielded questions from the group. Kelly told staff two days later that once he’d been briefed on allegations of abuse against Porter by his two ex-wives, 'he was gone 40 minutes later.'” ...

... Margaret Hartmann: "A day after White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned following reports that his two ex-wives accused him of domestic violence, Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah made a rare admission, saying the White House 'could have done better' in its response. President Trump was reportedly annoyed by this admission from Shah, who was filling in for his vacationing boss. When she returned for Monday’s briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reestablished the Trump administration’s usual tone: indignation even when confronted by evidence of their own wrongdoing." Read on for the highlights of Sanders' excuse conference. ...

Matthew Nussbaum & Josh Gerstein of Politico: "... Donald Trump’s White House on Monday said it relies on law enforcement to determine which background issues disqualify people from top jobs, as his administration seeks to distance itself from the controversy over a former aide who was accused of domestic abuse. But people familiar with the process for obtaining clearance for senior officials said the FBI’s background check process does not include making any final decisions or recommendations — and that the White House should have been closely involved in any decision to give Rob Porter a security signoff.... Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday told reporters she did not want to delve into the details of the clearance process, but she said the White House deferred to law enforcement on such decisions." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: One thing I know for sure: the press doesn't know how security clearances work. I've read half-a-dozen versions of who is responsible for what.

... Digby, in Salon: "... this scandal is about more than the rampant misogyny surrounding Donald Trump. The irony in the fact that Trump's White House counsel, Don McGahn, and his chief of staff, John Kelly, allowed Porter to operate without a top security clearance in a job that handles the United States' most sensitive secrets cannot be overstated. This president ran an entire campaign insisting that his rival should be jailed for using a private email server for non-classified State Department correspondence. Yet here we are, a year after the inauguration, and the Trump White House is reportedly employing dozens of people who cannot qualify for a security clearance. One of them was in a job that requires the highest level of clearance and another, Jared Kushner, has apparently been given access to the same intelligence the president gets." ...

... Accidents Happen. And Happen. And Happen. Tara Palmeri of ABC News: "Hours after allegations of domestic abuse came to light — including stark photos of one ex-wife with a black eye and a harrowing account of violence from a second ex-wife — former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter sought to downplay the narrative, instead offering stories of household mishaps and minor squabbles.... Porter told senior staffers his first ex-wife, Colbie Holderness, received a black eye and facial bruises during an argument as the two struggled over a Venetian glass vase in their hotel room while on vacation in Venice in the early 2000s after they were married.... In the case of the restraining order that his second ex-wife Jennifer Willoughby filed against him for allegedly breaking into their house with his fist, Porter said that he was merely tapping the glass pane with his index finger...." ...

... Colbie Holderness, in a Washington Post op-ed: "... I was dismayed when [Kellyanne] Conway, appearing on CNN’s 'State of the Union,' [said] that she does not fear for White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, who has reportedly been dating [my ex-husband Rob] Porter. 'I’ve rarely met somebody so strong with such excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts.'... Recognizing and surviving in an abusive relationship take strength. The abuse can be terrifying, life-threatening and almost constant.... Telling others about the abuse takes strength.... Leaving and putting the pieces of your life back together take strength.... Being strong — with excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts — does not inoculate a person against abuse.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: What if the people POTUS* dismisses as liars & character assassins were more articulate & grounded that the person charged with leading the country & those he puts in positions of power? Oh, they are. If Trump had been a stellar president* in ever other regard, his & his staff's response to the women Porter abused have disqualified him to run an organization -- or country -- where he disregards & disparages more than half the people he is supposed to lead. ...

     ... Steve M.: "I know, I know -- this is the Trump White House, so I suppose Porter had reason to believe that he might get away with 'It's the bitch's fault,' and also 'Boy, did I have a terrible run of luck with seemingly violent incidents involving both of my ex-wives in which my behavior was perfectly innocent!' But whoever leaked these accounts understood how damning they are. Or did the leakers believe they were exonerating?" ...

     ... Thanks, Patrick. Thanks, Randy!

"Chain Migration" for Me But Not for Thee. Illegal Immigrants Living in White House? Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post tries unsuccessfully to find out how it is that Melania Trump’s parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, have managed to emigrate from Slovenia to the U.S., where they apparently reside in Trump Tower, Mar-a-Lago & maybe the White House & help care for their grandson Barron Trump. "... we gave ... the first lady’s spokeswoman ample opportunity to explain the immigration status of the Knavses. It’s a mystery why the White House refuses to answer such a simple question, given the president’s high-profile demand to limit immigration." ...

... Jessica Kwong of Newsweek (Feb. 6): "First lady Melania Trump — who has been distant from ... Donald Trump since reports surfaced that the president's lawyer paid off a porn star to cover up an alleged affair — follows only five people on Twitter, her husband's favorite social media platform. The most recent addition to her Twitter feed is one of her husband’s least favorite people, Barack Obama."...

...Alexia Fernández Campbell of Vox: "A Vox analysis of hiring records for seasonal workers at three Trump properties in New York and Florida revealed that only one out of 144 jobs went to a US worker from 2016 to the end of 2017. Foreign guest workers with H-2B visas got the rest." --safari

Tom Winter & Jonathan Deinst of NBC News: "... Donald Trump's daughter-in-law [Vanessa Trump] was taken to a Manhattan hospital as a precaution on Monday after a suspicious letter containing an unidentified white powder was sent to her apartment, senior law enforcement and city officials told NBC News." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

This Russia Thing

Jonathan Alter & Nick Akerman in the Daily Beast (Feb. 9): One can make a "reasonable supposition that Mueller is well on his way to detailing conspiracy, wire fraud, illegal foreign campaign contributions, or all three.... One tip-off was in Michael Flynn’s December 1 'allocution' — his signed submission to the court as part of his guilty plea.... He admitted in writing that his lie 'had a material impact' on the FBI’s probe 'into the existence of any links or coordination between individuals associated with the [Trump] Campaign and Russia’s efforts to intervene in the 2016 election.'... Anyone associated with [Flynn's] deal [with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak on sanctions] is in deep legal trouble.... Campaign officials are criminally liable if Mueller and his team prove an overlap between the illegal Russian fake news posts and the Trump campaign’s routine micro-targeted negative messages -- a painstaking but manageable set of data comparisons.” Alter & Akerman outline some of the elements of the Trump-Russia-Wikileaks conspiracy.

Manu Raju, et al., of CNN: "President Barack Obama met in January 2017 with then-FBI Director James Comey and other top national security officials to discuss sharing information related to Russia with the incoming Trump administration, where Obama stated that the Trump-Russia investigation should be handled 'by the book,' according to an email made public Monday and a source familiar with the matter. The previously undisclosed meeting was memorialized in an email written by then-National Security Adviser Susan Rice on Donald Trump's Inauguration Day. A person familiar with the January 5, 2017, meeting said the Obama administration wanted to know whether the FBI and others in the intelligence community believed there was a national security reason to limit conversations with the Trump transition about Russia because some on the incoming President's team could be compromised. The email was disclosed by Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and Sen. Lindsey Graham, who sent a letter Monday to Rice asking why she had sent the email to herself on the day of Trump's inauguration.... 'There is nothing 'unusual' about the National Security Advisor memorializing an important discussion for the record,' Kathryn Ruemmler, a counsel for Rice, said in a statement. 'The Obama White House was justifiably concerned about how comprehensive they should be in their briefings regarding Russia to members of the Trump transition team, particularly Lt. General Michael Flynn, given the concerning communications between him and Russian officials.'" ...

     ... Rachel Maddow had a segment on this last night. For some strange reason, Maddow thinks it was pretty sensible for the Obama team to be concerned about Flynn, who was caught on tape kanoodling with Kislyak about dispensing with sanctions imposed by the Obama administration for Russia's election-meddling. The entire Trump White House is one big, screaming national security risk. Grassley & Graham know this, so shame on them. ...

... The Week: "A former top FBI cybersecurity official has been traveling the world over the past six months in an effort to confirm aspects of the controversial dossier on President Trump for BuzzFeed News, Foreign Policy reports. Anthony Ferrante now works for FTI Consulting, which was reportedly hired by BuzzFeed's lawyers after the publication was sued by Russian billionaire Aleksej Gubarev for libel."...

... Hannah Levintova of Mother Jones: "Last week, a 25-minute video published by Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny alleging a new link between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign made headlines around the world. Now the Russian government wants it scrubbed from the internet — so much so that it is taking steps that could block millions of its own citizens from using YouTube or Instagram.... The video was released last Thursday, and accused Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Prikhodko — a top foreign policy official — of having been a conduit between the Kremlin and Oleg Deripaska, an oligarch linked to the Trump campaign." --safari: You can watch the video with English subtitles. Interesting to say the least.


Trump Picks Putin as His "Honest Broker." Ed Kilgore
: "Trump administration apologists are probably delighted today to have discovered a silver lining to the president’s, er, close relationship with Russian president/strongman Vladimir Putin.... Apparently Putin and Trump spoke by phone just [yesterday].... It seems Vlad is acting as something of a go-between with the Palestinians, who are enraged by Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.... it sounds like Trump wants Putin to be his back channel to the Palestinians who unsurprisingly no longer consider the U.S. an “honest broker” in its relationship with Israel." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: As Rachel Maddow pointed out last night, this is the 8th time Trump & Putin have met or spoken & the American people found out, not from an administration readout as is customary, but from the Russian state press.

How Jefferson Beauregard Sessions Celebrates Black History Month. Daily Beast: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday invoked 'Anglo-American heritage' in an off-the-cuff remark during a speech at the National Sheriffs Association winter meeting in Washington. 'The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement,' Sessions said. 'We must never erode this historic office.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Julia Ainsley of NBC News: "The Justice Department's No. 3 attorney had been unhappy with her job for months before the department announced her departure on Friday, according to multiple sources close to Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand. Brand grew frustrated by vacancies at the department and feared she would be asked to oversee the Russia investigation, the sources said. She will be leaving the Justice Department in the coming weeks to take a position with Walmart as the company's executive vice president of global governance and corporate secretary, a job change that had been in the works for some time, the sources said.... Should [Deputy AG Rod] Rosenstein be fired, Brand would be next in line to oversee Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, thrusting her into a political spotlight that Brand told friends she did not want to enter." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Andrew Perez & Lee Fang of The Intercept: "An association of top Republican law enforcement officials has created a secret online bulletin board called the 'Briefing Room' that’s allowing big donors to help shape legal policy.... Republican law enforcement officials in more than a dozen states denied having records of the bulletin board or argued that documents kept on the Briefing Room shouldn’t be made public.... While communications between elected officials and RAGA and RLDF should be subject to disclosure under open records laws, the secret bulletin board can shield the correspondence from public reach.... The increasing secrecy around RAGA communications comes as RLDF has coordinated efforts to roll back federal regulations closely with the current administration." --safari

Daniel González of the Arizona Republic: "The father of a 5-year-old boy battling cancer has returned to his home in the Phoenix area after federal immigration authorities on Monday backed off attempts to deport him to Mexico. Jesus Berrones, 30, the father of five American children, including a 5-year-old with leukemia, sought sanctuary inside a north Phoenix church Friday after Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials told him to report on Monday to be immediately deported. But on Monday afternoon, his lawyer, Garrett Wilkes, received a call from ICE advising him that the agency had granted Berrones a one-year stay of removal."

Dominic Holden of BuzzFeed: "The Education Department has told BuzzFeed News it won't investigate or take action on any complaints filed by transgender students who are banned from restrooms that match their gender identity, charting new ground in the Trump administration's year-long broadside against LGBT rights. It’s the first time officials have asserted this position publicly as an interpretation of law. No formal announcement has been made." Mrs. McC: How surprised are we that an administration headed by a bully is okay with bullying children & young people?

Personally, I think Devin Nunes is totally out of control. And Paul Ryan is letting it happen, which is not quite as bad as pedophile Denny Hastert letting his members screw the pages but getting pretty close. -- Martin Longman of BooMan Tribune ...

... Matthew Chapman of Shareblue: Devin Nunesfake news "website, titled 'The California Republican,' was first exposed by Politico on Sunday. Paid for by the Devin Nunes Campaign Committee, it has run headlines like, “CNN busted for peddling fake news AGAIN!” and “Understanding the process behind #ReleaseTheMemo.” Its Twitter account even posted an image of Nunes with the words 'This is what a hero looks like.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Senate Race

Chris Massie of CNN: "Just months after Republican Kevin Nicholson announced his bid to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin in 2018, his own parents donated the legal maximum to her primary campaign." Mrs. McC: The obligatory happy family photo in his campaign brochure could suck.

Beyond the Beltway

Antonio Olivo of the Washington Post: "For several years, Fredy Burgos has been a controversial but tolerated figure within Virginia’s Republican Party — a verbal bomb thrower whose attacks against Muslims, immigrants and others have turned off moderates while reflecting a new brand of conservatism in the era of Donald Trump. But in the wake of a wave of Democratic victories last fall that was fueled by anti-Trump sentiment in Northern Virginia, party leaders — worried about losing more voters — moved to force Burgos off of the state central committee this week after he posted a Facebook comment suggesting Jews should not run for political office.... Burgos shared a 19th-century quote from John Jay, the country’s first chief justice of the Supreme Court, asserting that it is the privilege of a Christian nation 'to select and prefer Christian rulers.' The comment came as Burgos was campaigning for Tim Hannigan, who is running to become the next chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee. Hannigan’s rival in next month’s election is Mike Ginsberg, who is Jewish.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: So the Virginia GOP was willing to abide Muslim- & immigrant-bashing, but anti-Semitism was a bridge too far. And I'm just going to take a wild guess that Burgos is not a world-class historian who dug up Jay's remark from some obscure historical document but that Jay's "Christian rulers" comment is one that circulates in Right Wing World. 

Wayne Drash of CNN: "California's insurance commissioner has launched an investigation into Aetna after learning a former medical director for the insurer admitted under oath he never looked at patients' records when deciding whether to approve or deny care. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones expressed outrage after CNN showed him a transcript of the testimony and said his office is looking into how widespread the practice is within Aetna. 'If the health insurer is making decisions to deny coverage without a physician actually ever reviewing medical records, that's of significant concern to me as insurance commissioner in California -- and potentially a violation of law,' he said." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

Way Beyond

Krista Mahr of the Washington Post: "South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party announced Tuesday it had recalled President Jacob Zuma, leaving South Africans waiting to see whether the president will abide by the party’s decision and hand in his resignation. If Zuma decides not to resign, it will force a no confidence vote in the Parliament. While he has survived many such votes in the past, the party has increasingly turned against him as corruption allegations have mounted.... Zuma came to power in 2009, but his last years in office have been mired in a series of high-profile corruption scandals and accusations of mismanagement that has seen a steady decline in the popularity of Nelson Mandela’s storied liberation movement." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Yes, my fellow Americans, this could happen to us. In the meantime, Trump has found a new role model -- and he's black!

Monday
Feb122018

The Commentariat -- February 12, 2018

Afternoon Update:

Philip Kennicott of the Washington Post: "The National Portrait Gallery has unveiled the official portraits of former president Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, both painted by African American artists, and both striking additions to the museum’s 'America’s Presidents' exhibition." ...

How Jefferson Beauregard Sessions Celebrates Black History Month. Daily Beast: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday invoked 'Anglo-American heritage' in an off-the-cuff remark during a speech at the National Sheriffs Association winter meeting in Washington. 'The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement,' Sessions said. 'We must never erode this historic office.'”

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Trump on Monday will propose offering $100 billion in federal incentives to encourage cities and states to invest in road, bridge and other building projects, the centerpiece of a plan to spur $1.5 trillion in infrastructure spending over the next decade without devoting significant federal money. The proposal, to be unveiled the same day as Mr. Trump’s 2019 budget, faces long odds on Capitol Hill, where members of both parties — particularly Democrats — are skeptical of any plan that fails to create a dedicated new funding stream to address the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Lawmakers are also doubtful that such a small federal investment will be sufficient to spur an infrastructure spending boom."

No sooner had MAG brought up the unsettling thought of a "Trump library" than Akhilleus located it:

... A Book for the Trump Library! Julie Davis: "President Trump on Monday sent Congress a $4.4 trillion budget with steep cuts in domestic programs and entitlements, including Medicare, and large increases for the military, envisioning deficits totaling at least $7.1 trillion over the next decade. The blueprint, which has little to no chance of being enacted as written, amounts to a vision statement by Mr. Trump, whose plan discards longtime Republican orthodoxy about balancing the budget, instead embracing last year’s $1.5 trillion tax cut and new spending on a major infrastructure initiative." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The theme here seems to be, "Congressional Republicans ignore GOP President*."

Julia Ainsley of NBC News: "The Justice Department's No. 3 attorney had been unhappy with her job for months before the department announced her departure on Friday, according to multiple sources close to Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand. Brand grew frustrated by vacancies at the department and feared she would be asked to oversee the Russia investigation, the sources said. She will be leaving the Justice Department in the coming weeks to take a position with Walmart as the company's executive vice president of global governance and corporate secretary, a job change that had been in the works for some time, the sources said.... Should [Deputy AG Rod] Rosenstein be fired, Brand would be next in line to oversee Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, thrusting her into a political spotlight that Brand told friends she did not want to enter."

Tom Winter & Jonathan Deinst of NBC News: "... Donald Trump's daughter-in-law [Vanessa Trump] was taken to a Manhattan hospital as a precaution on Monday after a suspicious letter containing an unidentified white powder was sent to her apartment, senior law enforcement and city officials told NBC News."

Personally, I think Devin Nunes is totally out of control. And Paul Ryan is letting it happen, which is not quite as bad as pedophile Denny Hastert letting his members screw the pages but getting pretty close. -- Martin Longman of BooMan Tribune ...

... Matthew Chapman of Shareblue: Devin Nunesfake news "website, titled 'The California Republican,' was first exposed by Politico on Sunday. Paid for by the Devin Nunes Campaign Committee, it has run headlines like, “CNN busted for peddling fake news AGAIN!” and “Understanding the process behind #ReleaseTheMemo.” Its Twitter account even posted an image of Nunes with the words 'This is what a hero looks like.'”

Wayne Drash of CNN: "California's insurance commissioner has launched an investigation into Aetna after learning a former medical director for the insurer admitted under oath he never looked at patients' records when deciding whether to approve or deny care. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones expressed outrage after CNN showed him a transcript of the testimony and said his office is looking into how widespread the practice is within Aetna. 'If the health insurer is making decisions to deny coverage without a physician actually ever reviewing medical records, that's of significant concern to me as insurance commissioner in California -- and potentially a violation of law,' he said."

*****

Happy Birthday, Abe. "Great president. Most people don’t even know he was a Republican. Does anyone know? Lot of people don’t know that.” --  Donald Trump, to attendees at the National Republican Congressional Committee Dinner, March 2017

Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "It is hard to tell what should be more worrisome: the fact that the commander in chief doesn’t bother to read his daily compilation of the nation’s most urgent intelligence, or the fact that his son-in-law — who has been unable to obtain a security clearance — does.... There are two sets of issues to be concerned about here. The more serious one, of course, is whether the president is getting the information he needs to keep the country safe — or alternatively, whether his handlers may be dumbing things down to avoid overtaxing his attention span or challenging his preconceptions. In the case of [Jared] Kushner, there is a potential security risk but also the more immediate question of how appropriate is it for him to have access to the material under any circumstances. That takes us back to the fact that the 37-year-old real estate scion has no credential to merit holding his current White House job, outside of whom he married."

Peter Baker & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "The furor over spousal abuse allegations that forced the resignation of one of President Trump’s top advisers last week has exposed fissures within the White House that had been papered over since John F. Kelly took over last summer as chief of staff with a mandate to end the dysfunction. Aides to the president said they remained confused and upset over the handling of the accusations against Rob Porter, the staff secretary who stepped down. Days after his departure, the White House was still struggling on Sunday to provide a consistent explanation of who knew what and when, even as questions swirled about whether anyone might be felled as a result." ...

... Here's One Reason. Jonathan Swan of Axios: "President Trump is defending Rob Porter even though, privately, he says he’s guilty. Behind closed doors: The president has told multiple people that he believes the accusations about Porter, and finds him 'sick.'... The president has told associates he believes Porter’s ex-wives’ accusations.” ...

... They Can't Handle the Truth. Jennie Willoughby in Time: "On Friday, a friend and I watched as the President of the United States sat in the Oval Office and praised the work of my ex-husband, Rob Porter, and wished him future success. I can’t say I was surprised. But when Donald Trump repeated twice that Rob declared his innocence, I was floored.... My friend turned to me and said, 'The President of the United States just called you a liar.'... While I may understand President Trump and Gen. Kelly’s incredulity at such a counter-image of their golden boy, I do not condone their choice to support him.” ...

... David Remnick of the New Yorker: "Sooner or later, Trump’s satraps and lieutenants, present and former, come to betray a vivid sense of just how imperilled and imperilling this Presidency is. In their sotto-voce remarks to the White House press, these aides seem to compete in their synonyms for the President’s modesty of intelligence ('moron,' 'idiot,' 'fool'); his colossal narcissism; his lack of human empathy. They admit to reporters how little he studies the basics of domestic policy and national security; how partial he is to autocrats like himself; how indifferent he is to allies.... In the past few days, it has been Trump’s misogyny, his heedless attitude toward women and issues of harassment and abuse, that has shocked them most. And those who know him best recognize the political consequences ahead.... It has come to the point when even Trump’s closest aides know that a reckoning is coming." ...

The problem for Kelly is that a good number of his staff tell me he’s a liar. -- Jonathan Swan of Axios, in a tweet ...

... Benjamin Hart of New York: "After a disastrous week for White House Chief of Staff John Kelly..., Trump administration talking heads were in cleanup mode on Sunday morning. Amid reports that President Trump was considering getting rid of his chief of staff, Kellyanne Conway appeared on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper to claim otherwise.... (Judging by past events, this assurance does not indicate that Kelly’s job is completely secure.)... She defended President Trump’s unwillingness to sympathize with Porter’s accusers by… pointing to job gains among women in the last year. And she dodged a question about the timeline of what Kelly and White House Chief Counsel Donald McGahn knew about Porter’s behavior.... Kelly may still enjoy the confidence of the president, but he has increasingly become known for a loose relationship with the truth, so his credibility is not exactly airtight on this or any other matter." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Having "a loose relationship with the truth" should be a point of bonding between Trump & Kelly. ...

... Over on Fox "News," the crazies -- in this case, Jeanine Pirro & Sebastian Gorka -- have cooked up a conspiracy theory for all this, and you won't be surprised to learn that the Porter debacle is all Obama's fault. Mrs. McC: I'm disappoined Hillary doesn't get some credit here. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Damian Paletta of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Monday will offer a budget plan that falls far short of eliminating the government’s deficit over 10 years, conceding that huge tax cuts and new spending increases make this goal unattainable, three people familiar with the proposal said. Eliminating the budget deficit over 10 years has been a North Star for the Republican Party for several decades, and GOP lawmakers took the government to the brink of default in 2011 when they demanded a vote on a amendment to the Constitution that would prohibit the federal government from spending more than it takes in." ...

.... Yeah But. Sarah Ferris & Jennifer Scholtes of Politico: "Trump’s budget will lay out 'an aggressive set of spending reforms' to reduce the deficit by $3 trillion over a decade, according to a preview released by the White House on Sunday.... [Budget Director Mick] Mulvaney said Sunday that Trump will request more cuts to the State Department and the EPA this time, while urging Republican lawmakers to resist the urge to boost spending on social welfare programs.... The White House is expected to buy into congressional Republicans’ plans for welfare reform, such as imposing work requirements for Medicaid recipients and new restrictions for food stamps. On stemming opioid addiction, for example, Trump is expected to ask Congress to shift more funding into enforcement, rather than treatment.... The budget will again reflect Trump’s businessman-like commitment to shrinking the federal bureaucracy, for the first time making public the White House’s plans for trimming staff and operations across the federal government."

David Leonhardt of the New York Times on "Trumpism for thee but not for me." Trump has repeatedly imposed unpopular, noxious policies, then made carveouts for his supporters, as he did with his offshore oil-drilling program -- acceding to buddy Gov. Rick Scott's plea to exempt Florida. "If Trump’s agenda is as wonderful as he says, his loyal supporters should surely get to benefit from it as well. But I think it also contains an important lesson for anyone trying to stop Trump’s agenda: Keep calling attention to the substance of that agenda, because it is deeply unpopular — and even Trump’s allies know it’s unpopular.... The clearest example is a new tax on colleges with an endowment of at least $500,000 per full-time student. It was aimed at bastions of liberalism, like Harvard, M.I.T., Stanford and Amherst. But members of Congress eventually realized that the endowment tax would also apply to Berea College, a small institution in Kentucky with a nice-sized endowment.... So [Mitch] McConnell [R-Ky.] 'insisted' (his word) that last week’s budget deal create a carve-out to spare Berea from the tax."

Motoko Rich & Flashing a sphinx-like smile and without ever speaking in public, Kim [Yo-jong, the sister of Kim Jong-un,] managed to outflank Mr. Trump’s envoy to the Olympics, Vice President Mike Pence, in the game of diplomatic image-making. While Mr. Pence came with an old message — that the United States would continue to ratchet up “maximum sanctions” until the North dismantled its nuclear arsenal — Ms. Kim delivered messages of reconciliation as well as an unexpected invitation from her brother to the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, to visit Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.... Mr. Pence is playing 'right into North Korea’s hands by making it look like the U.S. is straying from its ally and actively undermining efforts for inter-Korean relations,' said Mintaro Oba, a former diplomat at the State Department specializing in the Koreas, who now works as a speechwriter in Washington. Ms. Kim, on the other hand, 'is a very effective tip of the spear for the North Korean charm offensive,' Mr. Oba said. Analysts of Korean affairs said that Mr. Pence had missed an opportunity." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Needless to say, I'm no fan of the Kim family, but I am pleased to assume that these stories comparing pence unfavorably to Kim is making Trump hopping mad. On a more serious note, it's distressing that a powerful country like the U.S. has chosen such dimwitted leaders that a rotten little nation like North Korea can show us up with the blink of an eyelash. ...

... Yeah But. Maybe. Josh Rogin of the Washington Post: "Despite the mutual chilliness between U.S. and North Korean officials in South Korea last week, behind the scenes real progress was made toward a new diplomatic opening that could result in direct talks without preconditions between Washington and Pyongyang. This window of opportunity was born out of a new understanding reached between the White House and the president of South Korea. Vice President Pence, in an interview aboard Air Force Two on the way home from the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, told me that in his two substantive conversations with South Korean President Moon Jae-in during his trip, the United States and South Korea agreed on terms for further engagement with North Korea — first by the South Koreans and potentially with the United States soon thereafter." Mrs. McC: If this is true, good. But don't tell Trump about it because if you do, he'll again put a Trumpywrench in it.

Trump Hotels Announce Outer Space Expansion. "To the Moon, Melania!" Christian Davenport of the Washington Post: "The Trump administration wants to turn the International Space Station into a kind of orbiting real estate venture run not by the government, but by private industry. The White House plans to stop funding the station after 2024, ending direct federal support of the orbiting laboratory. But it does not intend to abandon the orbiting laboratory altogether and is working on a transition plan that could turn the station over to the private sector, according to an internal NASA document obtained by The Washington Post. 'The decision to end direct federal support for the ISS in 2025 does not imply that the platform itself will be deorbited at that time — it is possible that industry could continue to operate certain elements or capabilities of the ISS as part of a future commercial platform,' the document states. 'NASA will expand international and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Juliet Eilperin & Brady Dennis of the Washington Post: "As he enters his second year in charge of the EPA, [Scott] Pruitt is distinguishing himself from his predecessors in ways that go beyond policy differences. His travel practices — which tend to be secretive, costly and frequent — are integral to how he approaches his role.... [Pruitt's] overseas trips are largely untethered to the kind of multilateral environmental summits that dominated his predecessors’ schedules, and Pruitt rarely discloses where he plans to be.... The agency records show that wherever Pruitt’s schedule takes him, he often flies first or business class, citing unspecified security concerns." It's unclear whether his security detail travels in coach or alongside Pruitt.

of the Washington Post: "A week after he won the election, President Trump promised that his administration would round up millions of immigrant gang members and drug dealers. And after he took office, arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers surged 40 percent.... But as ICE officers get wider latitude to determine whom they detain, the biggest jump in arrests has been of immigrants with no criminal convictions. The agency made 37,734 'noncriminal' arrests in the government’s 2017 fiscal year, more than twice the number in the previous year.... Critics say ICE is increasingly grabbing at the lowest-hanging fruit of deportation-eligible immigrants to meet the president’s unrealistic goals, replacing a targeted system with a scattershot approach aimed at boosting the agency’s enforcement statistics. ICE has not carried out mass roundups or major workplace raids under Trump, but nearly every week brings a contentious new arrest.... Immigrants whose only crime was living in the country illegally were largely left alone during the latter years of the Obama administration. But that policy has been scrapped." ...

... Seung Min Kim & Burgess Everett of Politico: "Usually careful with his every move, the Senate majority leader is taking a gamble this week with his pledge for a free-for-all debate over the fate of hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants.... McConnell has pledged to senators to devote the Senate floor solely to immigration for at least two weeks, according to senators.... But McConnell does want strong GOP backing for any final bill and will be loath to pass anything that can’t get at least 30 Senate Republicans in support, according to two Republican senators." McConnell's wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chou, emigrated from Taiwan when she was eight years old. ...

... Tal Kopan of CNN: "A group of Republican senators on Sunday night released a version of ... Donald Trump's immigration proposal ahead of a floor debate on immigration this week.... The proposal is expected to be one of several amendments the Senate will consider this week as it debates immigration.The bill from Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley, John Cornyn, James Lankford, Thom Tillis, David Perdue, Tom Cotton and Joni Ernst largely resembles what Trump has proposed. At its base is still a resolution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has protected young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation. Trump has decided to terminate the Obama-era program."

Annals of "Journalism," Ha Ha Ha. Nunes Fake "News." David Siders of Politico: "House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a relentless critic of the media, has found a way around the often unflattering coverage of his role in the Trump-Russia investigation — by operating his own partisan news outlet. Resembling a local, conservative news site, 'The California Republican' is classified on Facebook as a 'media/news company' and claims to deliver 'the best of US, California, and Central Valley news, sports, and analysis.' But the website is paid for by Nunes’ campaign committee, according to small print at the bottom of the site. Leading the home page most recently: a photograph of Nunes over the headline, 'Understanding the process behind #ReleaseTheMemo.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The irony here is rich. Nunes is head of a committee that is supposed to be investigating Russian interference in the U.S. election, a scheme that prominently involves manipulating Americans' sources for news. And what is Nunes doing? He's copying the Russians. He's trying to manipulate Americans' sources for news. ...

...

Edward Helmore of the Guardian: "New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman has filed a lawsuit against disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein, his brother Bob Weinstein and their film production company alleging serious violations of civil rights, human rights and state business laws. The lawsuit, which was filed on Sunday with the New York County supreme court, alleges that the Weinsteins created 'a years-long gender-based hostile work environment, a pattern of quid pro quo sexual harassment and routine misuse of corporate resources for unlawful ends that extended from in or about 2005 through at least in or about October 2017.'”

Beyond the Beltway

Pemy Levy of Mother Jones: "Top Republicans in the Pennsylvania legislature aren’t giving an inch in the ongoing battle over the state’s congressional map. On Friday, they submitted a new map for the 2018 elections that analyses show is just as gerrymandered as the old one. It would ensure Republicans keep an outsized number of seats in a state closely divided between the two parties.... The Republicans’ proposal is the result of a ruling last month in which the Pennsylvania supreme court found the state’s current map an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. Under that map, drawn in 2011, Republicans consistently won 13 of the state’s 18 congressional seats.... The map is now on the desk of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who has hired a mathematician to help him evaluate it.... The governor and the legislature have until February 15 to agree on a new map, as dictated by a court order. If they cannot reach an agreement, then the court will create a map." ...

... Mark Stern of Slate: "On Wednesday night, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court finally released its majority opinion explaining why Republicans’ gerrymander of Pennsylvania’s congressional districts violates the state constitution. (On Jan. 22, the court had issued a brief order directing the Legislature to redraw the illegal districts without fully explaining its reasoning.) Justice Debra McCloskey Todd’s 139-page opinion for the court is thorough and persuasive — and, critically, its reasoning isn’t entirely limited to Pennsylvania. Instead, Todd illustrates how dozens of other state constitutions may be interpreted to protect voting rights more robustly than the U.S. Constitution does.... The U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide whether partisan gerrymandering runs afoul of the First and 14th amendments. But, as Todd explained, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had no obligation to wait for SCOTUS’s decision in Gill v. Whitford, because the Pennsylvania Constitution provides rights independent from the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, the state constitution — which actually predates its federal counterpart — declares that all elections 'shall be free and equal.'”

She Persisted. If you speak truth to power in West Virginia, they'll turn off your mike & physically drag you from the podium. Russell Mokhiber of Common Dreams: Lissa Lucas stood to testify before a West Virginia House committee on a fracking bill sponsored by the oil & gas industry. Lucas "began by pointing out that 'the people who are going to be speaking in favor of this bill are all going to be paid by the industry. And the people who are going to be voting on this bill are often also paid by the industry.'... Lucas then began to read the oil and gas donations to the members of the House Judiciary Committee....” The committee chairman, John Shott, whom Lucas named first, cut off her mike, then ordered guards to remove Lucas from the podium when she persisted. ...  

     ... Mrs. McC: Shott removed Lucas because, he said, she was making "personal comments." Sorry, John, Lucas was testifying about public records, not making "personal comments." If you live in Ritchie County, West Virginia, vote for Lucas for the House of Delegates seat. She's running. ...

Way Beyond

Emily Rauhala of the Washington Post: "President Rodrigo Duterte last week told soldiers to shoot female rebels in their genitals, the latest in a series of violent, misogynistic remarks. Addressing a group of former communist rebels on Feb. 7, Duterte, who served as a city mayor before becoming president, appeared to encourage Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to target women in conflict. 'Tell the soldiers. "There’s a new order coming from the mayor. We won’t kill you. We will just shoot your vagina,’” he said." Mrs. McC: Another reason, no doubt, Trump says he has a "great relationship" with Duterte.

Saturday
Feb102018

The Commentariat -- February 11, 2018

Afternoon Update:

Motoko Rich & Flashing a sphinx-like smile and without ever speaking in public, Kim [Yo-jong, the sister of Kim Jong-un,] managed to outflank Mr. Trump’s envoy to the Olympics, Vice President Mike Pence, in the game of diplomatic image-making. While Mr. Pence came with an old message — that the United States would continue to ratchet up “maximum sanctions” until the North dismantled its nuclear arsenal — Ms. Kim delivered messages of reconciliation as well as an unexpected invitation from her brother to the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, to visit Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.... Mr. Pence is playing 'right into North Korea’s hands by making it look like the U.S. is straying from its ally and actively undermining efforts for inter-Korean relations,' said Mintaro Oba, a former diplomat at the State Department specializing in the Koreas, who now works as a speechwriter in Washington. Ms. Kim, on the other hand, 'is a very effective tip of the spear for the North Korean charm offensive,' Mr. Oba said. Analysts of Korean affairs said that Mr. Pence had missed an opportunity." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Needless to say, I'm no fan of the Kim family, but I am pleased to assume that these stories comparing pence unfavorably to Kim is making Trump hopping mad. On a more serious note, it's distressing that a powerful country like the U.S. has chosen such dimwitted leaders that a rotten little nation like North Korea can show us up with the blink of an eyelash.

Trump Hotels Announce Outer Space Expansion. "To the Moon, Melania!" Christian Davenport of the Washington Post: "The Trump administration wants to turn the International Space Station into a kind of orbiting real estate venture run not by the government, but by private industry. The White House plans to stop funding the station after 2024, ending direct federal support of the orbiting laboratory. But it does not intend to abandon the orbiting laboratory altogether and is working on a transition plan that could turn the station over to the private sector, according to an internal NASA document obtained by The Washington Post. 'The decision to end direct federal support for the ISS in 2025 does not imply that the platform itself will be deorbited at that time — it is possible that industry could continue to operate certain elements or capabilities of the ISS as part of a future commercial platform,' the document states. 'NASA will expand international and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit.'”

The problem for Kelly is that a good number of his staff tell me he’s a liar. -- Jonathan Swan of Axios, in a tweet ...

... Benjamin Hart of New York: "After a disastrous week for White House Chief of Staff John Kelly..., Trump administration talking heads were in cleanup mode on Sunday morning. Amid reports that President Trump was considering getting rid of his chief of staff, Kellyanne Conway appeared on CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper to claim otherwise.... (Judging by past events, this assurance does not indicate that Kelly’s job is completely secure.)... She defended President Trump’s unwillingness to sympathize with Porter’s accusers by… pointing to job gains among women in the last year. And she dodged a question about the timeline of what Kelly and White House Chief Counsel Donald McGahn knew about Porter’s behavior.... Kelly may still enjoy the confidence of the president, but he has increasingly become known for a loose relationship with the truth, so his credibility is not exactly airtight on this or any other matter." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Having "a loose relationship with the truth" should be a point of bonding between Trump & Kelly. ...

... Jonathan Swan & Mike Allen of Axios: Former "White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter is telling associates that some senior White House officials strongly encouraged him to 'stay and fight,' and claims he 'never misrepresented anything' to Chief of Staff John Kelly." According to Porter, he " told Kelly, as he had before, that he'd 'had troubled marriages but that the more outrageous allegations of physical abuse that might be suggested were untrue.'... [Porter said he] "learned [Wednesday] evening from news reports, not from Kelly or anyone at the White House,' that Thursday would be his last day." The report also relays Kelly's version of events, via an unnamed Congressman. Trump was supposedly oblivious to everything. Mrs. McC: They're all a bunch of liars, so who knows? ...

... Anyhow, over on Fox "News," the crazies -- in this case, Jeanine Pirro & Sebastian Gorka -- have cooked up a conspiracy theory for all this, and you won't be surprised to learn that the Porter debacle is all Obama's fault. Mrs. McC: I'm disappoined Hillary doesn't get some credit here.

Nunes "News." David Siders of Politico: "House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a relentless critic of the media, has found a way around the often unflattering coverage of his role in the Trump-Russia investigation — by operating his own partisan news outlet. Resembling a local, conservative news site, 'The California Republican' is classified on Facebook as a 'media/news company' and claims to deliver 'the best of US, California, and Central Valley news, sports, and analysis.' But the website is paid for by Nunes’ campaign committee, according to small print at the bottom of the site. Leading the home page most recently: a photograph of Nunes over the headline, 'Understanding the process behind #ReleaseTheMemo.'”

*****

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Trump complained on Saturday about allegations that he said were destroying the lives of those accused — appearing to express doubts about the #MeToo movement after the resignations this week of two White House aides facing claims of domestic violence. In an early morning Twitter post, Mr. Trump did not name the former aides, but said: 'Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused — life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?' Mr. Trump’s claim ran counter to the White House’s portrayal of its actions in response to the abuse allegations. Administration officials maintained that they acted decisively in the cases of Rob Porter, the staff secretary, and David Sorensen, a speechwriter, both of whom stepped down after their former wives accused them of emotional and physical abuse. But the president’s defense is in keeping with the White House’s initially defensive reaction to the charges against Mr. Porter — as well as his tendency to dismiss allegations made against him and other powerful men by women who say they were sexually harassed.” ...

... You Want Due Process? I'll Show You Due Process. Jacqueline Thomsen of the Hill: "Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) went after President Trump on Saturday for his tweet questioning a lack of 'due process' in abuse claims.... 'The President has shown through words and actions that he doesn’t value women. It’s not surprising that he doesn’t believe survivors or understand the national conversation that is happening,' Gillibrand tweeted. 'If he wants due process for the over dozen sexual assault allegations against him, let’s have Congressional hearings tomorrow,' she continued. 'I would support that and my colleagues should too.'” ...

... Benjamin Hart of New York: "One day after defending Rob Porter, the now-former White House staff secretary who is accused of having physically abused his two ex-wives, President Trump, a man who once demanded the Central Park Five’s execution and then continued to claim they were guilty long after their exoneration; who advanced a grotesque, years-long conspiracy theory alleging President Obama was born in Kenya; who led unhinged 'Lock her up!' chants against his political opponent at rallies, and who is desperately trying to dismantle the FBI and Department of Justice just to avoid an investigation into his own possible transgressions, tweeted on Saturday about the degraded state of due process in modern American life." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Well, Ben, maybe Trump has been getting up early to read the Constitution. ...

... "Trump Believes the Men." Edward-Isaac Dovere of Politico: "For ... Donald Trump, the allegations that his now-former staff secretary was a serial domestic abuser are another #HimToo moment. Never mind the FBI background check that found the allegations and restraining order credible enough to delay Rob Porter’s security clearance, or the close-up photos of the black eye Porter’s ex-wife says he gave her on vacation in Italy. 'Of course he never believes the women — he can’t,' [Rep. Kathlenn] Rice [D-N.Y.] said. 'Donald Trump’s presidency is built on people not believing women. If people start believing women, maybe they’d think about believing any of the dozen-plus women who have accused Donald Trump of sexual assault and harassment.'... [The defense of Porter (& David Sorensen) is] part of a pattern in which Trump only defends one side in disputes between men and women over sex and violence: the men.” ...

... Haley Britzky of Axios lists the men Trump has defended after they were credibly accused of abusing women. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

Maureen Dowd compiles an impressive list of horribles that define Trump, & to a lesser extent, & Co.


Sharon LaFraniere of the New York Times: "Under pressure from President Trump, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee plan to redact a memo defending the F.B.I.’s surveillance of a former Trump campaign aide to resolve Mr. Trump’s complaint that the document disclosed highly sensitive information, a Democrat on the committee said Saturday.... Jim Himes of Connecticut, accused Mr. Trump of hypocrisy in demanding changes to the document.... Mr. Himes noted that the president had declassified the contents of a rival Republican memo, based on the same underlying documents, that criticized the F.B.I.’s behavior despite vigorous objections from both the bureau and the Justice Department. 'There is just no way that man will allow the release of information that shows that the Nunes memo is just plain wrong,' Mr. Himes said in an interview.... Both memos address the F.B.I.’s justification for seeking a secret court warrant in October 2016 to eavesdrop on the former Trump campaign aide, Carter Page, who was suspected of being an agent of Russia." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: In a couple of months, we're going to be able to read between the lines of what's left of the Democrats' memo & find out what we already know: that the Nunes memo is crap. ...

... Rebecca Savransky of the Hill: "Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Saturday hit back at President Trump after the president defended his decision to block the release of a memo from Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee. Mr. President, what you call "political" are actually called facts, and your concern for sources and methods would be more convincing if you hadn’t decided to release the GOP memo ("100%") before reading it and over the objections of the FBI,' tweeted Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee.... His tweet came after Trump asserted earlier in the day that Democrats 'knew' their memo would have to be heavily redacted due to its sources and methods. 'The Democrats sent a very political and long response memo which they knew, because of sources and methods (and more), would have to be heavily redacted, whereupon they would blame the White House for lack of transparency,' Trump tweeted. 'Told them to re-do and send back in proper form!'" ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "After the House Intelligence Committee voted this week to release a Democratic rebuttal to the Nunes memo, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders assured us that the White House would be evenhanded. 'As stated many times,' Sanders said, 'the administration will follow the same process and procedure with this memorandum from the minority as it did last week, when it received the memorandum from the majority.' That is simply not what happened. The White House announced Friday night (translation: news-dump o'clock) that it would not immediately approve the release of the Democratic memo. It instead instructed Democrats to work with the Justice Department to adjust the memo so that it could be released publicly.... This is not how the White House treated the Nunes memo. When it was confronted with a decision about whether to release that memo, it did so over the objections of the FBI.... Before he had even reviewed the memo — Trump and the White House made clear they would release the GOP memo.”

Follow the Money, Arrive at Trump Laundromat. Katelyn Polantz & Marshall Cohen of CNN: "A senator is asking the Treasury Department to turn over records of a lucrative real estate sale Donald Trump made to a Russian billionaire as the Senate Finance Committee looks into Trump's ties to Russians. Sen. Ron Wyden, the committee's ranking member, on Friday requested the financial records of the sale of Trump's former estate in Palm Beach to Dmitry Rybolovlev. Wyden's letter outlined how Donald Trump bought a 6.3-acre property in Florida for $41.35 million in 2004 and then sold that property to a company owned by the businessman four years later. The sale price to Rybolovlev more than doubled Trump's initial investment, to $95 million. The property's appraisal in 2008 fell short of that sale price by $30 million, Wyden said.... 'It is imperative that Congress follow the money and conduct a thorough investigation into any potential money laundering or other illicit financial dealings between the President, his associates, and Russia.'"

Bob Woodward & Carl Bernstein on CNN: "We're here again. A powerful and determined President is squaring off against an independent investigator operating inside the Justice Department. Special counsel Robert Mueller's mission is a comprehensive look at Russian meddling in the 2016 election -- and any other crimes he uncovers in the process.... Donald Trump insists it's all a 'witch hunt' and an unfair examination of his family's personal finances. He constantly complains about the investigation in private and reportedly asked his White House counsel to have Mueller fired. No wonder many people are making comparisons to the Saturday Night Massacre of 1973, when President Richard Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus resigned." The writers publish an adaptation of the portion of their book The Final Days that covers the "Saturday Night Massacre." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)


William Antholis
, in Politico Magazine, makes the case that Rob Porter (& Jared Kushner, Mike Flynn, et al.,) should never had had access to some of the top secrets that he may have read. "If an employee receives an interim security clearance, he or she is allowed by law to serve in positions designated 'National Security/ Non-Critical Sensitive' or 'National Security/Critical Sensitive.' They cannot, however, be given a 'Special Sensitive' job, which requires a different level of clearance: Top Secret/Special Compartmentalized Information – also known as TS/SCI or TS/CodeWord.... In the coming days, it will be critical to know whether Priebus and Kelly, Flynn and McMaster, and/or the president himself knew about Porter’s security clearance status. Based on that knowledge, did they allow him access to Top Secret/CodeWord intelligence, including the President’s Daily Briefing?... If they did not know, then who exactly at the White House is protecting our national secrets?" ...

... To give us a little longer perspective on John Kelly, here's part of the statement from the Center for Constitutional Rights, an organization that defended some of the Guantánamo prisoners, submitted in advance of Senate hearings to confirm Kelly as Secretary of Homeland Security (Jan. 10, 2017):

General Kelly’s aggressive oversight of the illegal military prison at Guantánamo Bay disqualifies him to head the Department of Homeland Security. Presiding over a population of detainees not charged or convicted of crimes, over whom he had maximum custodial control, Kelly treated them with brutality. His response to the detainees’ peaceful hunger strike in 2013 was punitive force-feeding, solitary confinement, and rubber bullets. Furthermore, he sabotaged efforts by the Obama administration to resettle detainees, consistently undermining the will of his commander in chief. His temperament and actions make him unfit to lead an agency that currently holds tens of thousands of immigrants, including many fleeing violence and many in long-term indefinite detention.

... Mrs. McCrabbie: Say, now that our Rhodes-scholarly staff secretary & (alleged) serial wife-beater is out of a job and radioactive, how will he support himself? Sell state secrets? I think a scenario like this is more of a danger than one in which some ex-girlfriend blackmails him, as many talking heads have worried. Porter has known from Day 1 that he could be booted (in fact, everyone in President* Trumpertantrum's administration probably has that uppermost in his mind). So was Porter saving for a rainy day on his flashdrive? ...

     ... Several contributors last week mentioned the unusually high turnover in the Trump White House.  Some of the staff who were forced out (like Loose Lips Bannon -- see Michael Wolff tell-all) have had access to highly-classified information. (Bannon was briefly [& infamously] on the National Security Council, & he too has lost his major sources of income, thanks to a Trump vendetta.) All White Houses fire staff, of course, but it's usually handled more gingerly than in Trumpland (being escorted kicking & screaming out of the building -- Omarosa; promised by Trump you could leave on your own schedule, then finding out less than an hour later Trump had announced your replacment via Twitter -- Priebus). Needless to say, disgruntled ex-employees who were privy to sensitive information are walking secrecy risks, & Trump's White House has mismanaged its way into far too many of them.

The Veep Who Was Left out in the Cold. Zeke Miller & Matthew Pennington of the AP: "Vice President Mike Pence's efforts to keep North Korea from stealing the show at the Winter Olympics proved to be short-lived, quickly drowned out by the images of the two Koreas marching and competing together, as the South appeared to look favorably on warming ties on the Korean Peninsula. Pence spent the days leading up to the games warning that the North was trying to 'hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games' with its 'propaganda.' But the North was still welcomed with open arms to what South Korean President Moon Jae-in called 'Olympic games of peace' and the U.S. appeared to be the one left out in the cold. Moon was all smiles Saturday as he greeted Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, and Kim Yong Nam, the country's 90-year-old nominal head of state, for lunch at the presidential residence." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This will force the Trumpster to yell at pence. Such a shame.

Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The Trump administration has adopted new limits on the use of 'guidance documents' that federal agencies have issued on almost every conceivable subject, an action that could have sweeping implications for the government’s ability to sue companies accused of violations. Guidance documents offer the government’s interpretation of laws, and often when individuals or companies face accusations of legal violations, what they have really violated are the guidance documents.... The new policy, issued by the No. 3 official at the Justice Department, Rachel L. Brand, is significant because federal agencies have issued hundreds of guidance documents on a wide range of laws covering issues like health care, the environment, civil rights and labor. Under the revised policy, Ms. Brand said, the Justice Department will not 'use its enforcement authority to effectively convert agency guidance documents into binding rules.' Moreover, she said, Justice Department lawyers, who represent federal agencies in court, 'may not use noncompliance with guidance documents as a basis for proving violations of applicable law.'” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Nice parting gift. Thanks, Rachel! P.S. You should fit in well at WalMart.

Lauren Gardner of Politico: "A top official charged with overseeing the safety of U.S. railroads has resigned 'effective immediately,' the Department of Transportation said Saturday after Politico raised questions about whether he had been simultaneously working as a public relations consultant for a sheriff's department in Mississippi. Heath Hall became the Federal Railroad Administration's acting administrator in June but subsequently appeared on at least two occasions in Mississippi media reports as a spokesman for the Madison County sheriff, in a community where Hall has long run a public relations and political consulting firm. The firm continued to receive payments from the county for its services from July to December, despite his pledge in a federal ethics form that it would remain 'dormant' while he worked at DOT." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This is the kind of thing that can happen during any administration, but it is more likely to happen when the POTUS* himself is double-dipping. The fish rots from the head.

Liz Robbins of the New York Times: Across the nation, "federal judges are ... giving people time to fight in the immigration courts. They are slowing deportations by insisting that undocumented immigrants still have the right of due process, even if in many of these cases, the immigrants had known for years that they could be expelled. Immigration officials offered sharp rebukes to the judges on Friday. 'I am increasingly troubled by orders from federal judges halting the deportation of certain groups of individuals, all of which appear to ignore the fact that each alien in question was lawfully ordered removed from the United States after full and fair proceedings, many of which lasted several years or longer, at great taxpayer expense,' said Thomas D. Homan, the deputy director of the United States Customs and Immigration Enforcement agency, known as ICE." ...

Sarah Ruiz-Grossman of the Huffington Post: "Immigration and Customs Enforcement plans to deport an undocumented man from Mexico whose child is battling cancer. On Thursday, ICE denied an extension to remain in the U.S. for 30-year-old Jesus Berrones, who lives in Arizona with his pregnant wife and five children. The immigration agency ordered Berrones to appear on Monday to be deported, according to his lawyer Garrett Wilkes. Berrones has been living in the U.S. since he was 1½, when his parents brought him here in 1989, according to his wife, Sonia. In 2006, at age 19, Berrones was caught driving with a fake license and deported to Mexico. He then twice re-entered the country unlawfully to rejoin his family. In 2016, ICE granted Berrones a stay of removal based on his son’s illness. ast year, under the new Trump administration, Berrones went to ICE to refile a stay, and officials told him it was not necessary because he was no longer a deportation priority, Wilkes said. But in January, Berrones got a notice from ICE that he would be deported." ...

... Nicholas Kristof: "President Trump suggests that the aim of his crackdown on immigrants is to 'defend Americans' from 'savage,' 'worst of the worst' intruders who kill Americans or at least are 'dangerous criminals.' What does Trump’s crackdown look like in real life? In Lawrence, Kan., the other day, immigration agents handcuffed a beloved chemistry professor as he was leaving his home to drive his daughter to school. Then they warned his crying wife and children, ages 7 to 14, that they could be arrested if they tried to hug him goodbye, and drove off with him — leaving a shattered family behind.”

Capitalism Is Awesome, Ctd.

Emily Stewart of Vox: "... Donald Trump propelled himself to the White House in part by promising to revive American manufacturing and deliver high-paying jobs to that industry’s workers. One plank of his plan for accomplishing that goal was the $1.5 trillion tax cut bill Republicans passed in December. That legislation, however, is on track to be much more beneficial to shareholders than it is workers across all sectors — and perhaps especially in manufacturing. On Thursday, Morgan Stanley analysts said they expect companies in general to pass just 13.2 percent of tax cut savings directly to workers, while 42.9 percent will go to share buybacks and dividends, which largely benefit shareholders and executives who hold large amounts of their companies’s shares. In manufacturing, the split is even more drastic: Analysts think 46.7 percent of tax savings will go to buybacks and dividends, while just 8.9 percent will go to worker pay." ...

... Robert Reich in Salon: "Trump’s promise that corporations will use his giant new tax cut to make new investments and raise workers’ wages is proving to be about as truthful as his promise to release his tax returns.... Almost all the extra money is going into stock buybacks. Since the tax cut became law, buy-backs have surged to $88.6 billion. That’s more than double the amount of buybacks in the same period last year, according to data provided by Birinyi Associates. If anything, the current tumult in the stock market will fuel even more buybacks. Stock buybacks are corporate purchases of their own shares of stock. Corporations do this to artificially prop up their share prices. Buybacks are the corporate equivalent of steroids. They may make shareholders feel better than otherwise, but nothing really changes." ...

... About That Bonus. Patricia Cohen of the New York Times: "A growing preference among employers for one-time awards instead of raises that keep building over time has been quietly transforming the employment landscape for two decades.... The stream of companies announcing bonuses for their employees in the wake of the newly minted tax cuts is just the latest expression of the trend. This little-noticed shift in how employers compensate workers could also help explain one of the economy’s most persistent puzzles: why a hot labor market has failed to ignite bigger increases in wages." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Ya see, Trumpbots, your BFF in the White House & that sweet sadsack Paul Ryan have been scamming you. Big time.

Beyond the Beltway

Your Typical Trump Campaign Chairman. Scott Wartman of Cincinnati.com: "Former Judge Tim Nolan on Friday agreed to spend 20 years in prison for human trafficking. He used drugs, threats of arrest and threats of eviction to force women and girls under the age of 18 into sex acts, according to the charges read in court by Judge Kathleen Lape. Nolan pleaded guilty to 21 counts dating back to 2004. In addition to human trafficking and attempted human trafficking, the charges included giving drugs and alcohol to minors. Under the plea agreement, Nolan will serve 20 years in prison and pay a $100,000 fine. He would be eligible for parole in four years, his attorney said. The judge will sentence him on March 29.... Nolan served as a district judge in the late 1970s and early 1980s and had become a well-known political figure. He campaigned locally for ... Donald Trump, was vocal on many conservative/tea party issues, and was elected to the Campbell County School Board in 2016." (According to LG&$, Nolan was Trump's Kentucky campaign chair.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I do want to congratulate Campbell County voters for electing a child sex abuser to the school board. Campbell County went almost 2-to-1 for Trump in 2016: 62.5 percent to 32.7 for Clinton. Just good judgment all around. Meanwhile, Campbell County should have a mess on its hands: every single conviction of every single young woman who appeared before "Judge" Nolan in this century should be thrown out. In the meantime, Donaldo, let's be clear: your friend Tom got his due process.

Way Beyond

Isabel Kershner, et al., of the New York Times: "Israel clashed with Syrian and Iranian military forces on Saturday in a series of audacious cross-border strikes that could mark a dangerous new phase in Syria’s long civil war if the day’s fighting draws Israel more directly into the conflict. The confrontations began before dawn when Israel intercepted what it said was an Iranian drone that had penetrated its airspace from Syria. The Israeli military then attacked what it called the command-and-control center from which Iran had launched the drone, at a Syrian air base near Palmyra. On its way back from the mission, one of Israel’s F-16 fighter jets crashed in northern Israel after coming under heavy Syrian antiaircraft fire. It is believed to be the first Israeli plane lost under enemy fire in decades. That prompted a broad wave of Israeli strikes against a dozen Syrian and Iranian targets in Syrian territory. The Israeli military said it hit eight Syrian targets, including three aerial defense batteries, and four Iranian positions that it described as 'part of Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria.'”