The Wires

Mrs. McCrabbie: This actually seems crazy to me:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Medlar's Sports Report. New York Times: "Tiger Woods’s comeback from personal and professional adversity is complete: He captured his fifth Masters title and his 15th major tournament on Sunday, snapping a championship drought of nearly 11 years. It was a monumental triumph for Woods, a magical, come-from-behind win for a player who had not won a major championship since his personal life began to unravel on Thanksgiving night in 2009, when a marital dispute led to a car accident and a succession of lurid tabloid headlines. On the golf course, he had a series of back and leg injuries that led to an addiction to painkillers and culminated in pain so searing that, before surgery in 2017, he had questioned whether he could play professionally again." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Oh yeah? Trump can beat Tiger any day.

Tom Jones of Poynter picks the top 25 movies ever about journalism.

New York Times: "For 340 days, Scott Kelly circled the Earth aboard the International Space Station, gathering data about himself." His twin brother Mark Kelly, planted on Earth, did the same. "On Thursday..., NASA researchers reported that [Scott Kelly's] body experienced a vast number of changes while in orbit. DNA mutated in some of his cells. His immune system produced a host of new signals. His microbiome gained new species of bacteria. Many of these biological changes seemed harmless, disappearing after he returned to Earth. But others — including genetic mutations and, after his return, declines in cognitive test scores — did not correct themselves, provoking concern among scientists."

Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times: now does his first drafts of columns as well as other traditional writing tasks by speaking into his phone. "I open RecUp, a cloud-connected voice-recording app on my phone.... Every few days, I load the recordings into Descript, an app that bills itself as a “word processor for audio.” Some of my voice memos are more than an hour long, but Descript quickly (and cheaply) transcribes the text, truncates the silences and renders my speech editable and searchable.... New advances — like smarter and more ubiquitous voice assistants; better text-to-speech synthesis; easy-to-use audio and video production apps like Descript and Anchor; and gadgets that burrow the internet into your ears, like Apple’s AirPods and Amazon’s reported forthcoming AirPod clones — point to a profound shift in computing. Soon it might be possible to conduct a large slice of digital life, including work, without being glued to a screen."

New York Times: "In a cave in the Philippines, scientists have discovered a new branch of the human family tree. At least 50,000 years ago, an extinct human species lived on what is now the island of Luzon, researchers reported on Wednesday. It’s possible that Homo luzonensis, as they’re calling the species, stood less than three feet tall. The discovery adds growing complexity to the story of human evolution. It was not a simple march forward, as it once seemed. Instead, our lineage assumed an exuberant burst of strange forms along the way.Our species, Homo sapiens, now inhabits a comparatively lonely world. 'The more fossils that people pull out of the ground, the more we realize that the variation that was present in the past far exceeds what we see in us today,' said Matthew Tocheri, a paleoanthropologist at Lakehead University in Canada, who was not involved in the new discovery."

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

Tuesday
May142019

The Commentariat -- May 15, 2019

Late Morning Update:

Carol Leonnig & Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post: "The White House's top lawyer told the House Judiciary Committee chairman Wednesday that Congress has no right to a 'do-over' of the special counsel's investigation of President Trump and refused a broad demand for records and testimony from dozens of current and former White House staff. White House Counsel Pat Cipollone's letter to committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) constitutes a sweeping rejection -- not just of Nadler's request for White House records, but of Congress's standing to investigate Trump for possible obstruction of justice. In his letter, Cipollone repeated a claim the White House and Trump's business have begun making: that Congress is not a law enforcement body and does not have a legitimate purpose to investigate the questions it is pursuing. But Cipollone stopped short of asserting executive privilege. Instead, he told Nadler he would consider a narrowed request if the chairman spells out the legislative purpose and legal support for the information he is seeking." ...

... As Dana Milbank of the Washington Post wrote yesterday re: the administration's argument that Congress had no right to examine Trump's finances, "Forget about the Unitary Executive Theory. This one is closer to the Divine Right of Kings."

Tony Romm & Drew Harwell of the Washington Post: "The United States on Wednesday broke with 18 governments and top American tech firms by declining to endorse a New Zealand-led response to the live-streamed shootings at two Christchurch mosques, saying free-speech concerns prevented the White House from formally endorsing the largest campaign to date targeting extremism online. The 'Christchurch Call,' unveiled at an international gathering in Paris, commits foreign countries and tech giants to be more vigilant about the spread of hate on social media. It reflects heightened global frustrations with the inability of Facebook, Google and Twitter to restrain hateful posts, photos and videos that have spawned real-world violence. Leaders from across the globe pledged to counter online extremism, including through new regulation, and to 'encourage media outlets to apply ethical standards when depicting terrorist events online.' Companies including Facebook, Google and Twitter, meanwhile, said they'd work more closely to ensure their sites don't become conduits for terrorism. They also committed to accelerated research and information sharing with governments in the wake of recent terrorist attacks.... White House officials raised concerns that the document might run afoul of the First Amendment." ...

... That's Rich. Cristina Cabrera of TPM: "'Freedom of the press' is an eyebrow-raising reason for the White House to cite, considering ... Donald Trump's constant rants against' fake news' media and the fact that the White House recently slapped new restrictions on press access."

The Clueless Electorate. Tal Axelrod of the Hill: "A majority of registered voters believes President Trump is a successful businessman despite recent news reports about significant losses, according to a new Politico/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday. About 54 percent of respondents said they believe Trump has been successful in his business ventures, while 36 percent say he's been unsuccessful. Another 10 percent have no opinion. The results are starkly divided along partisan lines, with 85 percent of Republicans saying Trump is a success while only 30 percent of Democrats agreed. Nearly half, 49 percent, of Independents said Trump is a successful businessman, while 34 percent say he's been unsuccessful. The poll was conducted after the release of a New York Times report showing that Trump reported over $1 billion in losses from 1985 to 1994, citing IRS documents. Trump responded, calling the article 'a highly inaccurate Fake News hit job....'"

In commentary below, Akhilleus sums up the current state of U.S affairs: "The mad advising the incompetent leading the stupids, all relying on the obsequious."

~~~~~~~~~~

Courtney Kube & Adam Edelman of NBC News: "... Donald Trump on Tuesday denied a report that his administration was considering sending up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East to respond to Iran -- but added that if the United States were to go with such a plan, 'we'd send a hell of a lot more.' Trump told reporters outside the White House that a New York Times story Monday night claiming his administration was reviewing military plans against Iran was 'fake news.'... U.S. officials told NBC News that the plan to send up to 120,000 troops to the region was one of a range of options that Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented to Trump's national security team during a recent meeting about Iran. The option involving as many as 120,000 troops represented a worst-case scenario contingency in the event that the U.S. and Iran were to go to war, the officials said.... According to The Times, which first reported the story, the revised plans presented by Shanahan -- which the newspaper said did not call for an invasion of Iran -- were ordered by Trump's national security adviser John Bolton, known for his hawkish stance on the country, according to the report." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Get that? There are no plans, but if there were plans, they would be a lot more spectacular than the plans that don't exist. Also, too, Trump doesn't seem to have any idea of what's going on. Is that because Bolton & Shanahan are hiding their plans from Trump or because Trump wasn't paying attention when they briefed him? Either case is plausible. In any event, we can now see -- as if we couldn't predict it -- how Trump would act in a military crisis. Be afraid. Be very afraid. ...

... Julian Borger of the Guardian: "The top British general in the US-led coalition against Isis has said there is no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq or Syria, directly contradicting US assertions used to justify a military buildup in the region. Hours later however, his assessment was disowned by US Central Command in an extraordinary rebuke of an allied senior officer." --s ...

... Helene Cooper & Edward Wong of the New York Times: "The rare public dispute highlights a central problem for the Trump administration as it seeks to rally allies and global opinion against Iran.... Intelligence and military officials in Europe as well as in the United States said that over the past year, most aggressive moves have originated not in Tehran, but in Washington -- where John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, has prodded President Trump into backing Iran into a corner. One American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential internal planning, said the new intelligence of an increased Iranian threat was 'small stuff' and did not merit the military planning being driven by Mr. Bolton. The official also said the ultimate goal of the yearlong economic sanctions campaign by the Trump administration was to draw Iran into an armed conflict with the United States.... The anti-Iran push has proved difficult even among the allies, which remember a similar campaign against Iraq that was led in part by Mr. Bolton and was fueled by false claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction." ...

... ** Fred Kaplan of Slate: "One week ago, National Security Adviser John Bolton seemed to be laying a trap for the leaders of Iran, squeezing them into a corner where they would have no choice but to lash out. Now he seems to be setting the stage to strike back -- to topple the regime by force -- if and when they take the bait. [Kaplan lists numerous instances in which Trump attempted to provoke Iran into attacking the U.S.] If all this rings a discordant bell -- echoes of Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam, WMD in Iraq, the Maine in the Caribbean, and other contrived provocations that have pushed the country to war -- well, there may be a good reason for that.... It is not yet clear what Trump himself wants.... Trump is playing escalation games with Iran -- games that could lead to war, whether Trump wants that or not -- while doing nothing to seek diplomatic alternatives or to make a case that war is justified, in fact alienating U.S. allies whose support would be useful (if not vital) in a war and, at the same time, ginning up a trade war with China, which, in its early phases, is already wreaking havoc with markets and threatening to damage an otherwise-healthy American economy. Trump isn't fiddling while the world is in turmoil; he's fanning the flames without realizing that's what he's doing."

The Trump Scandals, Ctd.

Bart Jansen of USA Today: "Lawyers for ... Donald Trump and the House clashed Tuesday in federal court over the extent of Congress' power to investigate him in the first legal test of Trump's effort to block sprawling probes of his finances and private business.... It is the first court test of how much information the half-dozen committees conducting investigations of Trump and his businesses might be able to obtain. Trump and his namesake businesses filed a lawsuit last month asking U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta to revoke a subpoena issued by the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Trump's lawyers accused the Democratic-controlled committee of abusing their power and said there was no legislative purpose for the request.... Mehta ... suggested history might not be on the president's side, saying courts had not found that Congress overstepped its subpoena authority since 1880 and questioning Trump's lawyers about the basis for previous investigations of presidents. Trump's personal lawyer, William Consovoy, argued repeatedly that Congress was seeking the president's financial information for what is essentially a law-enforcement purpose -- which was outside its authority -- rather than to work on legislation. The subpoena sought Trump's financial records to look for inconsistencies in his financial disclosure forms, and whether he misstated his holdings for loans that could leave him beholden to foreigners.... At one point, Mehta asked whether Congress could investigate if the president was engaged in corrupt behavior in office. 'I don't think that's the proper subject of investigation as to the president,' Consovoy said, although executive agencies could be investigated. Mehta sounded incredulous, asking whether Congress could have investigated Watergate, which led to President Richard Nixon's resignation, and Whitewater, which led to President Bill Clinton's impeachment. Consovoy initially said he'd have to look at the basis for those investigations.... Douglas Letter, the general counsel for the House..., said Trump's lawsuit is so far outside the bounds of past Supreme Court decisions that he has 'no chance for success' and urged a quick decision in the case because of Congress's limited term." ...

... Andrew Desiderio & Kyle Cheney of Politico: "A federal judge raised pointed doubts Tuesday about arguments by ... Donald Trump's legal team that a Democratic effort to subpoena Trump's financial records was an invalid exercise of congressional power. Amit Mehta, a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, indicated that he would have trouble ruling that Congress' goal in accessing the president's records was unconstitutional -- as Trump's lawyers have argued -- and he underscored that he believes Congress has a significant 'informing function' that doesn't necessarily require an explicit legislative purpose to justify an investigation involving the president.... Mehta ... suggest[ed] at one point that investigations of such financial violations are 'strictly' under Congress' purview and that the courts have 'very little, if any' discretion over Congress' asks."

Maggie Haberman & Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "Donald Trump Jr. and the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee reached a deal on Tuesday for the president's eldest son to sit for a private interview with senators in the coming weeks that will be limited in time, an accord that should cool a heated intraparty standoff. The deal came after an aggressive push by the younger Trump's allies, who accused the Intelligence Committee's chairman, Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, of caving to Democrats by issuing a subpoena for the president's son's testimony. They called the effort a political hit job against the White House, using the president's son as fodder. Mr. Burr told fellow Republican senators last week that the president's son had twice agreed to voluntary interviews but had not shown up, forcing the subpoena." ...

... Morgan Gstalter of the Hill: "Calls for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to resign began trending on Twitter Tuesday morning after the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman encouraged President Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., to plead the Fifth. Graham on Monday said Trump Jr. should refuse to answer questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee, which subpoenaed Trump Jr. to testify about his communication with Russian officials. 'You just show up and plead the Fifth and it's over with,' Graham told reporters, referring to the amendment that protects citizens from self-incrimination, according to The Washington Post."

Nicholas Fandos & Maggie Haberman: "The House Intelligence Committee is investigating whether lawyers tied to President Trump and his family helped obstruct the panel's inquiry into Russian election interference by shaping false testimony, a series of previously undisclosed letters from its chairman show. The line of inquiry stems from claims made by the president's former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, who told Congress earlier this year that the lawyers in question helped edit false testimony that he provided to Congress in 2017 about a Trump Tower project in Moscow. Mr. Cohen said they also dangled a potential pardon to try to ensure his loyalty. In recent weeks, the committee sent lengthy document requests to four lawyers -- Jay Sekulow, who represents the president; Alan S. Futerfas, who represents Donald Trump Jr.; Alan Garten, the top lawyer at the Trump Organization; and Abbe D. Lowell, who represents Ivanka Trump. The lawyers all took part in a joint defense agreement by the president's allies to coordinate responses to inquiries by Congress and the Justice Department."

The Oranges of the Mueller Probe, Ctd. Laura Jarrett of CNN: "Attorney General William Barr is working closely with the CIA to review the origins of the Russia investigation and surveillance issues surrounding Donald Trump's presidential campaign, according to a source familiar with the matter, broadening an effort that the President has long demanded to involve all major national security agencies. Barr is working in close collaboration with CIA Director Gina Haspel, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and FBI Director Christopher Wray, the source said.... As CNN previously reported, US attorney John Durham in Connecticut is heading up the effort with Barr. The source said Durham and Barr are doing a comprehensive review, and Durham is with working with the Justice Department's Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, as well." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: IOW, Durham & Horowitz will come up with a report or reports in which they find that the DOJ, FBI, the FISA judges did everything by the book. Durham & Horowitz will submit their reports to Barr, and Barr will write a four-page summary concluding that "spying did occur" against the innocents on the Trump campaign, and everybody in the DOJ, FBI & FISA court behaved very, very badly. Barr must know a very effective cosmetic procedure for wiping der Trumpenkacke off his nose. ...

     ... As Jonathan Chait points out in a post linked below, "Barr is meanwhile authorizing the fourth counter-investigation of the Russia probe. This will probably fail to yield any charges, but will succeed in making anybody in the Department of Justice think very carefully before looking into any crimes by Trump or his friends, with the full understanding that Republicans will harass them for years if they try." Mrs. McC: I'm not sure what fake investigations Chait is counting; maybe he's including the Devin Nunes/Jim Jordan fiascos of the last Congress. ...

... Barbara McQuade in the Daily Beast: "If you come at the king, you best not miss. That's the message Attorney General William Barr is sending to FBI agents, whether intentionally or not. Barr has authorized yet another investigation into the FBI's conduct probing links between Russian election interference and the Trump campaign.... In [appointing John Durham], Barr is playing into the hands of President Donald Trump, who has already characterized Durham's assignment as an investigation into 'how that whole hoax got started.... The current outcry about the use of FISA surveillance and informants to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election is not sufficient predication for a criminal investigation.... It is unclear why Barr does not simply await ... results [of two probes already in progress] rather than appoint a new prosecutor to undertake another investigation.... In addition to harming the effectiveness of the FBI, Barr's complicity in Trump's tactics may also have a chilling effect. By advancing the 'investigate the investigators' mantra, Barr may cause the FBI to flinch next time it perceives a threat from powerful people within the government. He is incentivizing the FBI to sit idly by in the face of national security threats." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I suspect that's the message Barr wants to send: that the president is above the law; ergo, all investigations of his activities are illegitimate. In fact, that's exactly what the administration's attorney said in court, as the USA Today story, linked above, indicates.

... Charlie Savage, et al., of the New York Times: "The federal prosecutor tapped to scrutinize the origins of the Russia investigation is conducting only a review for now and has not opened any criminal inquiry, a person familiar with the matter said on Tuesday. The prosecutor, John H. Durham, the United States attorney for Connecticut, is broadly examining the government's collection of intelligence involving the Trump campaign's interactions with Russians.... The distinction means that Mr. Durham for now will not wield the sort of law enforcement powers that come with an open criminal investigation, such as the ability to subpoena documents and compel witnesses to testify. Instead, he will have the authority only to read documents the government has already gathered and to request voluntary witness interviews. That distinction could have political consequences. Earlier on Tuesday, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters he would 'pull back' a proposed inquiry by his committee into what Mr. Trump's allies have portrayed as surveillance abuse because he did not want to get in the way of a criminal investigation by Mr. Durham. But later on Tuesday, told by a Times reporter that Mr. Durham was for now conducting only a review, Mr. Graham said, 'That is completely different.' He said he wanted the inquiry to be run by a prosecutor with the same power as Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel who scrutinized Trump-Russia links." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Thanks, Lindsey! What this country needs is yet another "investigation" of the investigators. But keep on keeping on, Lindsey. Your brilliant career is so much more important than annoying stuff like integrity, and we all appreciate what a Trump kiss-up you need to be to ensure those Palmetto Trumpbots will vote for you. ...

... New York Times Editors: "One of President Trump's enduring beliefs about the Russia investigation is that the Obama administration illegally spied on him, his associates and his campaign.... In Attorney General William Barr, the president has found an ally willing to legitimize his theories.... Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor, said on Tuesday that the F.B.I. confirmed with him that Russian hackers had managed in 2016 to infiltrate two county voter databases in the state. They used techniques similar to those used by Kremlin operatives.... The F.B.I. has well-founded concerns that Russia will continue to meddle in American elections. So once the Trump administration is done investigating the investigators, it should turn its attention to ensuring the sanctity and security of the nation's ballot boxes."

** Jonathan Chait: "President Trump's progress in corrupting the Department of Justice -- and, to some extent, the entire federal government -- into a weapon of his autocratic aspirations relies on the acquiescence of figures like Rod Rosenstein. It is the Rosensteins who translate the president's lizard-brain impulses into practical directives and create a patina of normalcy around them. (Or, in some increasingly rare cases, refuse to do so.) And so Rosenstein's spate of valedictory remarks attempting to cleanse and justify his service to Trump give us real insight into the worldview of the compliant bureaucratic functionary.... Somehow, Rosenstein is able to look upon the situation he has left with pride. Mueller was never fired. More importantly, neither was Rosenstein himself. It is easy for the inside man to confuse a system that is intact with a system that is working."

Quinta Jurecic of Lawfare in the Atlantic: "For Congress today to look at the conduct described in the Mueller report and decide that it does not merit impeachment is for it to acquiesce to Trump's effort to establish his own corruption not only as the new norm, but as the way things have always been. To put it another way, given Congress's inaction, can you really blame Rudy Giuliani for trying his luck in Ukraine?"

Casey Michel of ThinkProgress: "[Rudy] Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, has worked in Ukraine since Trump's inauguration, nominally as a security adviser to the city of Kharkiv with his firm Giuliani Partners. However, one of his local clients claimed last week that Giuliani provided far more than technical advice and a handful of photo-ops. According to Ukrainian developer Pavel Fuks, Giuliani had been hired to work as a 'lobbyist' for the government of Ukraine, as well as for the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. 'This is stated in the contract,' Fuks told the Times.... Giuliani denied Fuks' claim, saying that Trump remains his 'only client.'... Fuks' claim adds significant fuel to longstanding concerns about Giuliani's decision not to register as a foreign agent with the Justice Department -- even as the agency goes to unprecedented lengths to enforce the Foreign Agents Registration Act." --s


Damian Paletta
, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Tuesday rushed to placate furious farmers and Senate Republicans about his escalating trade war with China, with lawmakers now considering a package of fresh bailout funds to quell a rebellion in agricultural states.... On Monday, Trump suggested the standoff could last years and lead to structural changes in the global economy. On Tuesday, Trump offered conflicting forecasts, musing that a deal could come in the next month but also predicting a furious economic battle with Beijing.... The mounting concern from farmers and business groups showed signs of bleeding into the 2020 presidential campaign. Trump has attacked former vice president Joe Biden ... and alleged that Democrats didn't act forcefully enough to counter China in past decades. But Biden on Monday told the radio station WMUR that Trump was creating collateral damage with his blunt trade agenda, which has relied on costly tariffs that U.S. companies must pay to bring in Chinese products. 'The American worker is getting killed by this,' Biden said. 'The American farmers are getting killed.'"

Ha Ha. Shahien Nasiripour of Bloomberg News: "Trump Tower, once the crown jewel in Donald Trump's property empire, now ranks as one of the least desirable luxury properties in Manhattan. The 36-year-old building has been turned into a fortress since Trump won the presidency, ringed with concrete barriers and the two main entrances partially blocked off. It hasn't been substantially updated in years. And Trump's name has been a huge turnoff in liberal New York City. For anyone who owns a unit in the tower, the past two years have been brutal. Most condo sales have led to a loss after adjusting for inflation, property records show. Several sold at more than a 20% loss. By contrast, across Manhattan, just 0.23% of homes over the past two years sold at a loss, according to real-estate data provider PropertyShark, although the firm doesn't adjust for inflation.... While some corners of Trump's business empire have thrived, such as his Washington D.C. hotel, others have suffered from his high unpopularity. Rounds of golf are down at his public course in New York, a clutch of once Trump-branded buildings have torn his name off their fronts, and an ambitious plan to launch a new mid-tier hotel chain across the country fizzled." ...

... Ho Ho. David Fahrenthold & Jonathan O'Connell of the Washington Post: "Late last year, in a Miami conference room, a consultant for President Trump's company said business at his prized 643-room Doral resort was in sharp decline. At Doral, which Trump has listed in federal disclosures as his biggest moneymaker hotel, room rates, banquets, golf and overall revenue were all down since 2015. In two years, the resort's net operating income -- a key figure, representing the amount left over after expenses are paid -- had fallen by 69 percent.... 'They are severely underperforming' other resorts in the area, tax consultant Jessica Vachiratevanurak told a Miami-Dade County official in a bid to lower the property's tax bill. The reason, she said: 'There is some negative connotation that is associated with the brand.'... The troubles at Trump Doral -- detailed here for the first time, based on documents and video obtained under Florida's public-records law -- suggest the Trump Organization's problems are bigger than previously known. This is also the first known case in which a Trump Organization representative has publicly acknowledged the president's name has hurt business."

Morgan Chalfont of the Hill: "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that he told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that the United States would not tolerate future Russian interference in American elections. Speaking to reporters at a news conference in Sochi, Pompeo said he told Lavrov that 'interference in American elections is unacceptable and if the Russians were engaged in that in 2020 it would put our relationship in an even worse place than it has been.' 'We would not tolerate that,' Pompeo said.... Pompeo spoke to reporters after meeting with Lavrov in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. The two said they discussed a variety of bilateral and global issues, including arms control, the political upheaval in Venezuela, North Korean denuclearization and Iran. The secretary of State later described the discussion as 'frank' and said the two discussed a variety of areas of disagreement, including Russia's support for embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro." Mrs. McC: I wonder if Pompeo delivered the Russian interference memo deadpan or if he was chuckling.

Alexander Narzayan of Yahoo! news: "Charles C. Johnson [is] a Holocaust denier whom the Boston Globe has deemed 'one of the country's most notorious Internet trolls' ... who had been informally involved with the Trump campaign. Even so, he retained untrammeled access to the highest reaches of the Trump administration.... That much is clear from his surprising exchange [via email] with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on June 25, 2018.... Ross and Johnson did meet that summer.... [The Department of Commerce would not confirm that a meeting between Ross and Johnson took place.]...It is not known what they discussed[.] ... Ross's email address is redacted in the documents reviewed by Yahoo News. However, Democracy Forward had specified in its Freedom of Information request that it sought 'all communications sent to or from any nongovernmental email address established, controlled, or used by the Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.' The back-and-forth with Johnson, therefore, had to have been conducted at least in part via an email address affiliated with Ross but not issued by the federal government." --s

Burgess Everett of Politico: "Mitt Romney was the only Republican senator to vote against one of ... Donald Trump's judicial nominees on Tuesday. And he did so in part to defend former President Barack Obama. Romney cast the lone GOP 'no' vote against Michael Truncale, who was confirmed 49-46 on Tuesday morning to the Eastern District of Texas. Truncale called Obama an 'un-American imposter' in June 2011, and explained to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he was 'merely expressing frustration by what I perceived as a lack of overt patriotism on behalf of President Obama.'... 'He made particularly disparaging comments about President Obama. And as the Republican nominee for president, I just couldn't subscribe to that in a federal judge,' Romney said in a brief interview. 'This was not a matter of qualifications or politics. This was something specifically to that issue as a former nominee of our party.'" Mrs. McC: How nice to know all other Republican senators were good with this guy.

Congressional Race 2019. Laura Barron-Lopez of Politico: "Dan Bishop, a state senator and author of North Carolina's controversial 'bathroom bill,' beat back nine other Republican candidates Tuesday to clinch the GOP nomination for this year's redo election in the state's 9th Congressional District. Bishop secured 48 percent of the vote, easily defeating Stony Rushing, the second-place candidate -- and clearing the threshold needed to avoid a nasty runoff that would have further hurt the GOP's chances of keeping a seat the party has held for decades. With Bishop's outright victory on Tuesday, he will face Democrat Dan McCready in the general election on Sept. 10." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: One reason -- but definitely not the primary reason -- that Neanderthals like Bishop win elections is evident in the way stories about them are reported. All the major national outlets led with Bishop's notorious bathroom bill; the Raleigh News & Observer, which is not a horrible paper, didn't mention the bill till the sixth graf -- and then left it up to a citation from Democrats -- to bring up Bishop's cruel, disastrous bill.

Presidential Race 2020

Matt Stevens & Michael Grynbaum of the New York Times: "Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said Tuesday that she would not participate in a Fox News town hall as some other Democratic candidates have, calling the media outlet 'a hate-for-profit racket' that seeks to turn Americans against one another. In a series of messages posted on Twitter, Ms. Warren, who is one of 22 people seeking the Democratic nomination for president, accused the network of giving 'a megaphone to racists and conspiracists' and providing cover for corruption. She also returned to one of her campaign's central themes in her attack on Fox News, framing the network as the sort of corporate 'profit machine' she has railed against.... Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont took part in a town hall on the network in April and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota did the same last week. Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., is expected to participate in one on Sunday."

Charles Pierce, in his ever-patient & soothing way, tries to explain to Joe Biden that Donald Trump is not the only little problem with the GOP. Mrs. McC: Biden fondly remembers the good old days when he was a senator & cut deals with Republicans in the mens' locker room. Anita Hill all over again? Yeah. Biden is Hillary redux. And we know how that turned out.


** Ian Millhiser
of ThinkProgress: "The greatest restraint on judges is that they are bound by a written text -- or, at least, that they are supposed to be.... Which is why Justice Clarence Thomas' opinion for the Supreme Court in Franchise Tax Board v. Hyatt is troubling. Hyatt does not simply overrule a longstanding precedent, it does so while admitting that nothing in the text of the Constitution supports such an outcome. Loyalty to constitutional text and loyalty to written precedents are the twin pillars that stabilize our system of law. The Supreme Court just abandoned both of them." --s


Kyla Mandel
of ThinkProgress: "The concentration of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere reached an unprecedented level this month. Researchers at the fossil fuel giant Exxon saw it coming decades ago.... According to an internal 1982 document from Exxon Research and Engineering Company ... the company expected that, by 2020, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would reach roughly 400 to 420 ppm. This month's measurement of 415 ppm is right within the expected curve Exxon projected under its '21st Century Study-High Growth scenario.'... Not only did Exxon predict the rise in emissions, it also understood how severe the consequences would be.... Despite this knowledge, the company chose not to change or adapt its business model. Instead, it chose to invest heavily in disinformation campaigns that promoted climate science denial, failing to disclose its knowledge that the majority of the world's fossil fuel reserves must remain untapped in order to avert catastrophic climate change." --s

Elaine Povich of the Washington Post: "Alice M. Rivlin, a master of budgetary policy who held senior positions in the executive and legislative branches of government -- notably as founding director of the Congressional Budget Office -- and whose stewardship of the D.C. Financial Control Board guided the once-insolvent city to solid financial footing, died May 14 at her home in Washington."

Beyond the Beltway

Alabama. Timothy Williams & Alan Blinder of the New York Times: "The Alabama Senate approved a measure on Tuesday that would outlaw almost all abortions in the state, setting up a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the case that recognized a woman's constitutional right to end a pregnancy. The legislation bans abortions at every stage of pregnancy and criminalizes the procedure for doctors, who could be charged with felonies and face up to 99 years in prison. It includes an exception for cases when the mother's life is at serious risk, but not for cases of rape or incest -- a subject of fierce debate among lawmakers in recent days. The House approved the measure -- the most far-reaching effort in the nation this year to curb abortion rights -- last month. It now moves to the desk of Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican. Although the governor has not publicly committed to signing the legislation, many Republican lawmakers expect her support." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Another manifestation of white male power in the Land Left Behind. Update: Think I'm kidding? Every single Alabama state senate Republican is a white man. Every one. Apparently Alabama's little ladies are staying home drinking sweet tea. No wonder Alabama sucks. Not fair, you say? Well, looky here ...

... The Best States Are Blue. Ed Kilgore of New York: U.S. News & World Report just published its ranking of states by livability. According to the report, "The Best States ranking ... draws on thousands of data points to measure how well states are performing for their citizens. In addition to health care and education, the metrics take into account a state's economy, its roads, bridges, internet and other infrastructure, its public safety, the fiscal stability of state government, and the opportunity it affords its residents." Kilgore: "When you look at the states' political complexions, the patterns are quite clear. The No. 1 state is Washington, and eight of the top ten are states Donald Trump lost (the exceptions being Utah and Nebraska). Twelve of the bottom 13 are states Trump carried (New Mexico is the exception).... History buffs won't be surprised to learn that former states of the Confederacy, particularly the more conservative of them, don't do well in these rankings: Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana are at the very bottom, while Arkansas (45th) and South Carolina (42nd) also do poorly. It's an interesting commentary on the ancient reactionary idea that a low-tax, low-regulation, anti-union environment guarantees growth." ...

     ... The U.S. News report on its rankings is here.

Florida. Trump Radio. Really. Justin Wise of the Hill: "A media company that operates multiple radio stations in Florida has vowed to broadcast portions of President Trump's speeches every hour of every day until the 2020 election. Gulf Coast Media Inc., the owner of the stations 'Classic Rock WRBA-FM 95.9, 'Country WKNK-FM "Hank FM"' and 'Adult Hits WASJ-FM 'BOB FM,"' announced in a press release that it would air Trump's speeches for the next 18 months." Mrs. McC: Whither the Fairness Doctrine?

Oklahoma, Where Sexual Assault Is a Laughing Matter. Josh Israel of ThinkProgress: "Two Oklahoma state lawmakers were caught on a live mic Monday joking about sexual predation. According to Oklahoma City CBS affiliate KWTV, which captured the exchange, the conversation took place minutes before a press conference by Gov. Kevin Stitt (R). In the video, Rep. Mark McBride (R) can be overheard asking Rep. Scott Fetgatter (R) whether he molested a female former state lawmaker. 'You molested this girl after Kannady did?' McBride asks, apparently referencing allegations against two other colleagues, Reps. Chris Kannady (R) and Kevin McDugle (R), who are under investigation for sexual assault.... In response to McBride's question, Fetgatter jokingly responds, 'No, I was at the table and I allowed it.'" --s

Way Beyond

Congo. Sarah Boseley of the Guardian: "An Ebola epidemic in a conflict-riven region of Democratic Republic of Congo is out of control and could become as serious as the outbreak that devastated three countries in west Africa between 2013 and 2016, experts and aid chiefs have warned.... More than 1,600 people have been infected with the Ebola virus in the North Kivu region of DRC and more than 1,000 have died so far -- the great majority women and children. At least 10 months since the outbreak began, the numbers are rising steadily and the fatality rate is higher than in previous outbreaks, at about 67%." --s

Europe. Arthur Nelsen of the Guardian: "Industry lobbies are mounting a push to roll back EU clean water regulations, even though less than half of the continent's rivers, wetlands and lakes are in a healthy state. The lobby offensive is aimed at weakening the bloc's floods and water framework directives, which require all states to ensure their waterways are in 'good ecological condition' by 2027.... The campaign by mining, agriculture, hydropower and chemical lobbyists has bee backed by five EU states: Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Finland." --s

Monday
May132019

The Commentariat -- May 14, 2019

Matt Phillips of the New York Times: "Investors are dealing with a painful new reality: The trade war between the United States and China could last indefinitely. The anxiety caused by that realization rippled through the stock markets on Monday, and the S&P 500 suffered its steepest daily drop in months after China said it would increase tariffs on nearly $60 billion of American-made goods in response to a similar move last week by the Trump administration. The American stock benchmark fell 2.4 percent, pushing its losses for the month above 4.5 percent. Shares in trade-sensitive sectors like agriculture, semiconductors and industrials were particularly hard hit. Bonds and commodities, too, flashed warnings of a slowdown." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... "Trade Wars Are Good, and Easy to Win." Ana Swanson, et al., of the New York Times: "The United States and China escalated their trade fight on Monday as Beijing moved to raise tariffs on nearly $60 billion worth of American goods in retaliation for President Trump's decision to punish China with higher tariffs on a slew of imports. China's finance ministry announced that it was raising tariffs on a wide range of American goods to 20 percent or 25 percent from 10 percent in response to Mr. Trump's decision to raise tariffs to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. China's increase will impact the roughly $60 billion in American imports already being taxed as retaliation for Mr. Trump's previous round of levies, including beer, wine, swimsuits, shirts and liquefied natural gas. The S&P 500 fell more than 2 percent soon after trading began in New York, and shares of companies particularly dependent on trade with China, including Apple and Boeing, fared poorly." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Trump Tries to Protect His Base from ... Himself. Mary Papenfuss of the Huffington Post: "... Donald Trump is seeking an additional $15 billion in U.S. subsidies in an effort to protect farmers from the devastating impact of his trade war with China. That's on top of $12 billion already earmarked for the farmers to help them weather the fallout. That would be an additional bill for U.S. taxpayers already shouldering the cost of increased tariffs in the form of higher costs for products and parts from China. Trump revealed the subsidy figure in a tweet Friday. He suggested the government use the funds to buy agricultural products to ship to other nations for humanitarian aid, though setting up such a system would be extremely complicated. In his most recent budget proposal, Trump proposed eliminating three food aid programs, Politico noted. The president appeared to dismiss the impact of the cost as he falsely claimed -- again -- that 'massive' tariff payments are being paid by China 'directly' to the U.S. Treasury, which would presumably be used to cover the cost of the subsidy. There is 'absolutely no need to rush' to negotiate a deal with China, he tweeted. In fact, the tariffs are paid by U.S. importers, who pass on the extra costs to the American consumer in the form of higher prices for products...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Having lost more than a billion dollars of other people's money as a private businessman, Trump is digging in to lose many billions of all Americans' money. He was an incompetent ignoramus then; he's an incompetent ignoramus now. ...

... Zack Ford of ThinkProgress: "President Donald Trump kicked Monday morning off with a series of tweets defending his new tariffs against China. His latest tactic is to urge Americans not to buy products from American companies if they manufacture in China.... Trump said there is 'no reason' for U.S. consumers to pay the tariffs, before claiming that companies inside China would soon move to other countries. In the meantime, Trump said people should just buy products from inside the United States. Tariffs can still have an impact on the cost of a product, even if you buy it from inside the United States." --s ...

... No, No, Everything Is Going as Planned. Greg Sargent of the Washington Post: "President Trump has spent the past 24 hours tweeting manically about trade, repeating the absurd falsehood that China is paying us billions in tariffs. We keep hearing that this shows Trump 'doesn't understand' how tariffs work. But this is better seen as a straight-up, deliberate lie -- a lie upon which Trump is staking his reelection.... If Trump agrees to a deal that does not win real concessions, that will reveal his agenda of 'toughness' as hollow -- particularly if those concessions do not appear worth the pain that the tariff wars have already imposed on farmers, in the very region that's crucial to his reelection. So the New York Times reports that Trump is now hoping to flip the political calculus: No deal, followed by still more tariffs, will allow Trump to proclaim he's still being tough on China.... Central to this whole tale has always been the idea that Trump will take back for U.S. workers what this alliance of elites and foreign workers is stealing from them -- he will take back what is rightfully theirs.... Failure on China could be catastrophic for Trump. So he's just swapping in a new story: He's making China pay restitution to Americans it has ripped off for so long by forcing it to 'pay' us in tariffs."

** Eric Schmitt & Julian Barnes of the New York Times: "At a meeting of President Trump's top national security aides last Thursday, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented an updated military plan that envisions sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons, administration officials said. The revisions were ordered by hard-liners led by John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump's national security adviser. They do not call for a land invasion of Iran, which would require vastly more troops, officials said. The development reflects the influence of Mr. Bolton, one of the administration's most virulent Iran hawks, whose push for confrontation with Tehran was ignored more than a decade ago by President George W. Bush.... On Monday, asked about if he was seeking regime change in Iran, Mr. Trump said: 'We'll see what happens with Iran. If they do anything, it would be a very bad mistake.'" ...

... Chris Cillizza of CNN: "'We'll see what happens' is Trump's go-to phrase for saying absolutely nothing while simultaneously ruling absolutely nothing out. On virtually every major issue which he has been asked to address over his first two-plus years in office, he has, at one time or another, pledged to 'see what happens.'" Cillizza lists nine other matters of which Trump has said, "We'll see what happens."

... Michael Birnbaum & Liz Sly of the Washington Post: "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo crashed a meeting of European foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday to push for a united transatlantic front against Tehran and its nuclear program. But he failed to bend attitudes among leaders who fear the United States and Iran are inching toward war. Pompeo's last-minute decision to visit the European Union capital, announced as he boarded a plane from the United States, set up a confrontation between the top U.S. diplomat and his European counterparts, who have been scrambling to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal last year. At least one, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, said he feared that unintentional escalation from the United States and Iran could spark a conflict -- an unusually bold statement that appeared to assign equal culpability to Washington and Tehran." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Zachary Basu of Axios: At a press spray, "President Trump on Monday praised far-right Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for his immigration policies, telling reporters: 'Probably like me a little bit controversial, but that's OK. You've done a good job and you've kept your country safe.' [When a reporter asked,] 'Mr. President, are you concerned about democratic backsliding in Hungary under this prime minister?' [Trump answered,] 'Well, people have a lot of respect for this prime minister. He's a respected man, and I know he's a tough man, but he's a respected man, and he's done the right thing according to many people on immigration. And you look at some of the problems they have in Europe that are tremendous, because they've done it a different way than the prime minister.'" ...

... Asawin Suebsaeng & Sam Brodey of The Daily Beast: "On Monday afternoon, Donald Trump hosted Hungary's far-right leader Viktor Orban.... The Oval Office feting was a diplomatic coup for Orban and a culmination of a two-year effort to get the two nationalist, anti-immigration world leaders in the same room, glad-handing for the cameras." --s ...

... Zack Beauchamp of Vox: "Hungary is now the premier example of an emergent political model I've called 'soft fascism': a system that aims to stamp out dissent and seize control of every major aspect of a country's political and social life without needing to resort to 'hard' measures like banning elections and building up a police state. Orbán has also been explicit that his goal is the defeat of liberal democracy. Trump hasn't gone that far, but he has flashed some authoritarian instincts, and his party has shown it's willing to go along. David Cornstein, a longtime Trump associate currently serving as US ambassador to Hungary, told the Atlantic that the president 'would love to have the [political] situation that Viktor Orbán has.'... Orbán is one of the leading faces of the far-right backlash to democracy in the Western world today. In normal times, he would be condemned by the occupant of the White House, not treated as an honored guest. The fact that he isn't shows just how serious the threat to democracy in the West is -- and how worried Americans should be about the health of their own institutions." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: In a system of supposed checks & balances, the real threat to democracy in the U.S. isn't Donald Trump; it's Congressional Republicans who refuse to check his excesses as long as he goes along with their other plans . We'll find out soon enough if the Trump Supremes join the open conspiracy. As for the GOP base, they're absolutely stupid enough to bring up the rear, their pitchforks points at their own rights -- and ours. That, BTW, is what they mean by a "Christian nation."

Caitlin Oprysko of Politico: “... Donald Trump tried to take credit on Monday for a sudden turnaround in the Boston Red Sox' season, pointing out that the reigning World Series champions have gone undefeated since their fraught visit to the White House last week. 'Has anyone noticed that all the Boston @RedSox have done is WIN since coming to the White House!' Trump wrote in a tweet. 'Others also have done very well. The White House visit is becoming the opposite of being on the cover of Sports Illustrated! By the way, the Boston players were GREAT guys!' The Red Sox, who visited the White House last Thursday, swept all three of their home games over the weekend against the Seattle Mariners, scoring 34 runs across the three games. Boston has won eight of its last 10 games, a stretch that predates the team's reception with the president." Mrs. McC: I'm too lazy to check the stats, but I wonder if the Sox (Socks) players who boycotted the White House trip contributed to the wins. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

The Trump Scandals, Ctd.

Investigating the Investigators, Ctd. Adam Goldman, et al., of the New York Times: "Attorney General William P. Barr has assigned the top federal prosecutor in Connecticut to examine the origins of the Russia investigation, according to two people familiar with the matter, a move that President Trump has long called for but that could anger law enforcement officials who insist that scrutiny of the Trump campaign was lawful. John H. Durham, the United States attorney in Connecticut, has a history of serving as a special prosecutor investigating potential wrongdoing among national security officials, including the F.B.I.'s ties to a crime boss in Boston and accusations of C.I.A. abuses of detainees. His inquiry is the third known investigation focused on the opening of an F.B.I. counterintelligence investigation during the 2016 presidential campaign into possible ties between Russia's election interference and Trump associates. The department's inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, is separately examining investigators' use of wiretap applications and informants and whether any political bias against Mr. Trump influenced investigative decisions. And John W. Huber, the United States attorney in Utah, has been reviewing aspects of the Russia investigation. His findings have not been announced." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: There is nothing wrong with investigating a series of FISA court proceedings once to make certain that authorities have not overstepped Constitutional limitations. But three times? (And this of course doesn't count Rudy's aborted trip to Ukraine, where he planned to ask the incoming president to "investigate the origins" of the Russia probe.) This is a solution in search of a problem.

Betsy Woodruff & Adam Rawnsley of The Daily Beast: "Rod Rosenstein was a #Resistance hero -- and one of Donald Trump's favorite whipping boys -- for overseeing the Russia investigation. But Rosenstein's legacy at the Justice Department shows he was ... spearheading the president's war on leakers and whistleblowers.... In just two years, the Trump administration has come close to prosecuting the same number of cases as Team Obama, which prosecuted 10 government employees and contractors with similar offenses over the course of two terms.... Under the Trump administration, agencies' referrals of alleged leaks of classified information for consideration by the Justice Department have skyrocketed. The Justice Department fielded an annual average of 104 referrals in the first two years of Trump's presidency, compared to an annual average of 39 under Obama." --s ...

... Rosenstein's First Rewrite of History ... Casts Rosenstein as Faultless. Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "Former deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein on Monday defended his role in the firing of James B. Comey from the FBI and criticized the bureau's former director as a 'partisan pundit' -- offering one of his most detailed public accounts of the hectic events that led to the appointment of Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel.... Rosenstein said he 'did not dislike' Comey but that Comey took steps that were 'not within the range of reasonable decisions' during the investigation of Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server. Rosenstein suggested that if he -- rather than Trump -- had been in charge, 'the removal would have been handled very differently, with fa more respect and far less drama.'"

Impeach Trump. Jamelle Bouie: "Democrats have the upper hand, but they aren't acting like it.... The logic of their arguments and accusations leads to impeachment, and there, they have flinched, worried that the public -- or at least Republican voters -- will rally to his side. Instead of a direct confrontation using everything at their disposal, Democrats want to maneuver around the president as if there's another path to victory. But there isn't. The next election will be about Trump. His base, as well as most Republican voters, will almost certainly be with him. What Democrats need is the confidence of their position. At this stage, when most Americans say they won't vote for Trump in 2020, they have the public. They have evidence of wrongdoing. They have all the tools they need to seize the initiative and center the next year of political conflict on the president's contempt for the Constitution and the welfare of the American people." ...

... Digby, in Salon: What all [the] failed impeachments [of the past] demonstrate is that as long as a president can hold one-third of the Senate plus one, he is immune from removal or legal punishment.... Our system has an extremely poor mechanism for removing a president who commits high crimes and misdemeanors. Donald Trump has decided to push that weakness to the limit. He isn't just exercising executive privilege. He's defying all congressional oversight.... If Republicans are able to demonstrate that Democrats won't move even against a president like Trump, I think we can be sure that further Republican presidents will no longer even bother to observe the law, much less the norms and rules that have governed our republic since the beginning. They've been heading this way for some time. Regardless of whether or not the Senate can protect the president from conviction, the risk of failing to impeach Trump is greater than the risk of doing it. If the Democrats refuse even to open an impeachment inquiry...[,] we will have shown that a president is literally unimpeachable...."

David Frum of the Atlantic: "Trump has tried to close [the] gap [between what the Mueller report says & what he wants it to say] by lying about it -- and by demanding that other people lie, too. When they don't and won't, Trump gets angry.... Trump got extra angry Sunday night ... [in] a sequence of rage tweets that included the line: 'The FBI has no leadership.'... Trump disjointedly tweeted over linked messages: 'The Director is protecting the same gang.....that tried to..... ...overthrow the President through an illegal coup...' Trump wants the FBI to endorse his own theory of victimhood --; and it won&'t.... Worse, the FBI ... received, and still holds, whatever information the investigation gathered about Russia's interference in the 2016 election.... [According to Mueller's report,] '... the evidence does indicate that a thorough FBI investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the President personally that the President could have understood to be crimes or that would give rise to personal or political concerns.'... What Trump means by leadership is compliance." ...

... Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg: "If ... Donald Trump thinks he's been totally exonerated, as he says, why is he stonewalling Congress?... What worries me is that there';s another possible answer, and it's a lot worse. What if Trump is stonewalling Congress because the lesson he took from the Mueller report is that his behavior was perfectly okay? That is, what if Trump isn't pretending that he didn't do the misdeeds detailed in the report? What if instead he thinks that Attorney General William Barr, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other congressional Republicans are now willing to go along with a theory of presidential power so expansive and unrestricted that even John Yoo and other advocates of executive authority are alarmed? Unfortunately, that theory fits with Rudy Giuliani's perfectly open plan to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. It also fits with a series of tweets and statements and actions by the president that appear to be a continuation of a cover-up."

Nicholas Fandos & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Allies of Donald Trump Jr. may have stirred up a firestorm among Republicans over a subpoena to recall the president's eldest son to the Senate Intelligence Committee, but the panel's Republican chairman has suggested to colleagues that the standoff is of the younger Mr. Trump's making. Twice in recent months Donald Trump Jr. agreed to sit for voluntary interviews with the Intelligence Committee, only to later back out, Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the panel's chairman, told colleagues privately last week, according to two people.... The chairman said at a senators-only luncheon last Thursday that the evasions had left the committee no choice but to issue a subpoena on April 8 to give senators a chance to directly question the younger Mr. Trump as they seek to tie up loose ends on their investigation of Russian election interference."

They don't look like Indians to me. -- Donald Trump, in 1993, urging a House committee to investigate the heritage of members of a tribe that operates a Connecticut resort & casino ...

... Marc Fisher of the Washington Post explores a topic Akhilleus discussed last week: "... President Trump last week found time to tweet about an obscure House bill that would assure a Massachusetts Indian tribe control of 321 acres of land it wants to use for a gambling casino. The president was against the bill, he wrote, because it was 'unfair and doesn't treat Native Americans equally!'... Even though this president has a four-decade-long record of slamming American Indian casinos as scams that pose unfair competition to other gambling enterprises, notably his own, Trump's decision to weigh in on a measure that had strong bipartisan support seemed unusual for a chief executive who doesn't like to be bothered with the little stuff. But a closer look at House Resolution 312 and the favor it would do for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe reveals a sprawling network of Trump-related interests, from the National Enquirer to a Rhode Island casino company -- a small but strikingly intricate example of the ways this president's business dealings, personal bonds and political alliances can complicate and color the ordinary doings of government.... The tribe's site is about 18 miles from Rhode Island, and that state's politicians aren't keen to have a new competitor go up against their two casinos, both of which are run by Twin River Worldwide Holdings, a public company with strong Trump ties."


Nick Miroff & Josh Dawsey
of the Washington Post: "In the weeks before they were ousted last month, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and top immigration enforcement official Ronald Vitiello challenged a secret White House plan to arrest thousands of parents and children in a blitz operation against migrants in 10 major U.S. cities. According to seven current and former Department of Homeland Security officials, the administration wanted to target the crush of families that had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border after the president's failed 'zero tolerance' prosecution push in early 2018. The ultimate purpose, the officials said, was a show of force to send the message that the United States was going to get tough by swiftly moving to detain and deport recent immigrants -- including families with children.... But Vitiello and Nielsen halted it, concerned about a lack of preparation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, the risk of public outrage and worries that it would divert resources from the border. Senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller and ICE Deputy Director Matthew Albence [whom Trump then tapped to replace Vitiello] were especially supportive of the plan, officials said, eager to execute dramatic, highly visible mass arrests that they argued would help deter the soaring influx of families.&"

Rebekah Entralago of ThinkProgress: "A growth in the undocumented immigrant population is not associated with an increase in local crime, according to a new study from The Marshall Project. The findings directly contradict one of the president's favorite talking points about immigrants and crime." --s

Lee Fang of The Intercept: "At a luxury resort [held the weekend of April 5-7] just outside of the nation's capital last month [in Middleburg, Virginia], around four dozen senior congressional staffers decamped for a weekend of relaxation and discussion at Salamander Resort & Spa. It was an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to come together and ... hear from health care lobbyists focused on defeating Medicare for All. The event was hosted by a group called Center Forward and featured a lecture from industry lobbyists leading the charge on undermining progressive health care proposals." --s

... Congressional Race 2019. Nothing Could Be Finer. Ed Kilgore of New York: "Republican voters in the south-central North Carolina Ninth Congressional District go to the polls Tuesday to choose a nominee for their star-crossed House seat, which has been vacant since January owing to election-fraud allegations against the campaign of Republican Mark Harris.... The front-runner in limited public polling and the best-financed Republican in the race is State Senator Dan Bishop, a staunch conservative who gained some unsavory national attention as the author of North Carolina's so-called bathroom bill, a law designed to force transgender folk to use restroom facilities denoted for the gender on their birth certificates. It was partially repealed in 2017 after Bishop's bill earned the state terrible publicity and the loss of convention, tourism, and other business, with cost estimates reaching $3.7 billion.... Believe it or not, though, Bishop is the more sedate of the top two Republicans in the race. Running second in the polls is County Commissioner Stoney Rushing, a gun-range owner whose trademark is to dress up like Boss Hogg, the corrupt southern pol in the old TV series The Dukes of Hazzard."

Presidential Race 2020

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, who was twice elected to lead a state that President Trump carried by more than 20 points, entered the Democratic presidential primary on Tuesday, vowing to elevate the issue of campaign finance and, more implicitly, to make Democrats competitive again across the country's interior. 'We need to defeat Donald Trump in 2020 and defeat the corrupt system that lets campaign money drown out the people's voice so we can finally make good on the promise of a fair shot for everyone,' Mr. Bullock said in a video centered on his record in Republican-leaning Montana."

Clio Chang of The Intercept: "Beto O'Rourke's Thursday hiring of Jeff Berman, a Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton veteran, is the latest step his presidential campaign has ... toward a more centrist and corporate strategic direction.... Berman ... is joining O'Rourke's campaign as senior adviser for delegate strategy.... An often overlooked part of his record, though, is his stint at law and lobbying firm Bryan Cave, a position for which he was hired immediately after Obama's presidential campaign.... According to the federal lobbying registry, between 2009 and 2011 Berman's clients on behalf of Bryan Cave included the private prison company GEO Group; TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline; and SeaWorld, which was then owned by massive private equity firm Blackstone." --s


Robert Barnes
of the Washington Post: “The Supreme Court's conservative majority overturned a 40-year-old precedent Monday, prompting a pointed warning from liberal justices about 'which cases the court will overrule next.' The issue in Monday's 5-to-4 ruling was one of limited impact: whether states have sovereign immunity from private lawsuits in the courts of other states. In 1979, the Supreme Court ruled that there is no constitutional right to such immunity, although states are free to extend it to one another and often do. But the court's conservative majority overruled that decision, saying there was an implied right in the Constitution that means states 'could not be haled involuntarily before each other's courts,' in the words of Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote Monday's decision. Thomas acknowledged the departure from the legal doctrine of stare decisis, in which courts are to abide by settled law without a compelling reason to overrule the decision." Mrs. McC: So long, Roe v. Wade. ...

... Irin Carmon of New York: "On Monday, the normally plodding and passionless Justice Stephen Breyer issued a Cassandra-like warning in a dissent joined by the other liberal justices, calling the majority's overruling of a states' rights precedent 'dangerous' and adding ominously, 'Today's decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the Court will overrule next.' If that wasn't clear enough, he twice mentioned the court's major abortion precedent when he didn't have to. Only running down the court steps shrieking would have been less subtle.... Brett Kavanaugh has already made it clear in a Louisiana procedural vote that he's willing to throw out abortion precedent in radical fashion as long as he can sound slightly calmer than he did in his confirmation hearings. Chief Justice John Roberts, the court's new swing vote, is no one's idea of a moderate and, despite voting to keep Louisiana's clinics temporarily open in a procedural move, has upheld every single abortion law that the court has considered in full."

Devin Dwyer of ABC News: "A divided Supreme Court on Monday cleared the way for iPhone owners to sue Apple for alleged 'higher-than-competitive prices' for apps sold in App Store. 'A claim that a monopolistic retailer (here, Apple) has used its monopoly to overcharge consumers is a classic antitrust claim,' wrote Justice Brett Kavanaugh in the majority opinion, joined by the court's liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.... The opinion does not resolve the merits of the consumers' allegations against Apple, rather simply allows them to proceed in court." Mrs. McC: Looks as if Brett thinks Apple ripped him off. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Lynh Bui of the Washington Post: "A federal judge ordered a U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant accused of plotting a widespread terrorist attack to remain in jail pending trial, overturning an earlier magistrate judge's decision to release Christopher Paul Hasson on home arrest. The decision Monday came in a hearing in U.S. District Court in Maryland, where prosecutors and Hasson's public defender clashed for the fourth time over whether Hasson should stay in jail if he faces drug and weapons charges but no terrorism-related offenses. Although the charges Hasson faces are 'unremarkable,' U.S. District Court Judge George J. Hazel said, Hasson's 'history and characteristics' and potential danger to the community weighed in favor of blocking release. The evidence the government brought showed specific alleged actions toward a plan, Hazel said. Hasson's alleged actions of amassing weapons, creating a target list of enemies and researching their locations ramped up after he started studying the manifesto of a Norwegian terrorist who killed 77, Hazel said."

Kate Taylor & Julie Bosman of the New York Times: "The actress Felicity Huffman ... pleaded guilty on Monday to a single count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, acknowledging that she paid $15,000 to arrange for cheating on her daughter's SAT test.... Prosecutors have said that they would recommend four months behind bars for Ms. Huffman. They also have said that they would recommend a fine of $20,000 and 12 months of supervised release."

E. A. Crunden of ThinkProgress: "The third-largest coal company in the United States has declared bankruptcy, leaving the future of its more than 1,000 workers uncertain.... Officials said the company's mines will continue to operate throughout the bankruptcy process; Cloud Peak operates two mines in Wyoming and one in Montana.... The company's workers lack union protections. But even coal miners backed by unions are at risk -- a ruling earlier this year allowed a coal company to abandon union contracts. And broader threats to federal funding for miner benefits are jeopardizing pensions for tens of thousands of workers." --s

Betsy Woodruff of The Daily Beast: "'One hundred thousand dollars a day? That's just off the charts.' That's how Deborah Rhode, a legal ethics expert from Stanford Law School, put it after reviewing a memo from ex-NRA president Oliver North.... Meanwhile, the NRA's latest financial disclosures forms show its revenue has slumped under the gun-friendly Trump administration. North's memo --; which NRA top brass dispute -- raises new questions about the association's finances at an extraordinarily fraught moment for the grassroots gun-rights powerhouse.... Meanwhile, numerous legal ethics experts who reviewed the memo told The Daily Beast they found it astonishing, especially for a nonprofit -- and the kind of thing that could draw attention from the IRS." --s ...

... Wayne's World. He Shopped Till He Dropped ... $39K in One Day. Ashley Reese of Jezebel: "The National Rifle Association, it brings me no pleasure to report, is fully in the shit: The Wall Street Journal reports that leaked internal NRA documents reveal, among other things, that NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre billed more than $542,000 worth of clothing, travel, and other expenses to its longtime ad agency, Ackerman McQueen Inc. (It's worth noting that the NRA and Ackerman McQueen are in the middle of a lawsuit over, you guessed it, money.) One of the more amusing aspects of the leak revealed that LaPierre once spent $39,000 in one day at Beverly Hills designer boutique called Ermenegildo Zegna." With illustrations!

News Lede

New York Times: "Tim Conway, whose gallery of innocent goofballs, stammering bystanders, transparent connivers, oblivious knuckleheads and hapless bumblers populated television comedy and variety shows for more than half a century, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 85."

Sunday
May122019

The Commentariat -- May 13, 2019

Afternoon Update:

Matt Phillips of the New York Times: "Investors are dealing with a painful new reality: The trade war between the United States and China could last indefinitely. The anxiety caused by that realization rippled through the stock markets on Monday, and the S&P 500 suffered its steepest daily drop in months after China said it would increase tariffs on nearly $60 billion of American-made goods in response to a similar move last week by the Trump administration. The American stock benchmark fell 2.4 percent, pushing its losses for the month above 4.5 percent. Shares in trade-sensitive sectors like agriculture, semiconductors and industrials were particularly hard hit. Bonds and commodities, too flashed warnings of a slowdown."

Michael Birnbaum & Liz Sly of the Washington Post: "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo crashed a meeting of European foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday to push for a united transatlantic front against Tehran and its nuclear program. But he failed to bend attitudes among leaders who fear the United States and Iran are inching toward war. Pompeo';s last-minute decision to visit the European Union capital, announced as he boarded a plane from the United States, set up a confrontation between the top U.S. diplomat and his European counterparts, who have been scrambling to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal last year. At least one, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, said he feared that unintentional escalation from the United States and Iran could spark a conflict -- an unusually bold statement that appeared to assign equal culpability to Washington and Tehran."

"Trade Wars Are Good, and Easy to Win." Ana Swanson, et al., of the New York Times: "The United States and China escalated their trade fight on Monday as Beijing moved to raise tariffs on nearly $60 billion worth of American goods in retaliation for President Trump's decision to punish China with higher tariffs on a slew of imports. China's finance ministry announced that it was raising tariffs on a wide range of American goods to 20 percent or 25 percent from 10 percent in response to Mr. Trump's decision to raise tariffs to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. China's increase will impact the roughly $60 billion in American imports already being taxed as retaliation for Mr. Trump's previous round of levies, including beer, wine, swimsuits, shirts and liquefied natural gas. The S&P 500 fell more than 2 percent soon after trading began in New York, and shares of companies particularly dependent on trade with China, including Apple and Boeing, fared poorly." ...

... Trump Tries to Protect His Base from ... Himself. Mary Papenfuss of the Huffington Post: "... Donald Trump is seeking an additional $15 billion in U.S. subsidies in an effort to protect farmers from the devastating impact of his trade war with China. That's on top of $12 billion already earmarked for the farmers to help them weather the fallout. That would be an additional bill for U.S. taxpayers already shouldering the cost of increased tariffs in the form of higher costs for products and parts from China. Trump revealed the subsidy figure in a tweet Friday. He suggested the government use the funds to buy agricultural products to ship to other nations for humanitarian aid, though setting up such a system would be extremely complicated. In his most recent budget proposal, Trump proposed eliminating three food aid programs, Politico noted. The president appeared to dismiss the impact of the cost as he falsely claimed -- again -- that 'massive' tariff payments are being paid by China 'directly' to the U.S. Treasury, which would presumably be used to cover the cost of the subsidy. There is 'absolutely no need to rush' to negotiate a deal with China, he tweeted. In fact, the tariffs are paid by U.S. importers, who pass on the extra costs to the American consumer in the form of higher prices for products...."

Caitlin Oprysko of Politico: "... Donald Trump tried to take credit on Monday for a sudden turnaround in the Boston Red Sox' season, pointing out that the reigning World Series champions have gone undefeated since their fraught visit to the White House last week. 'Has anyone noticed that all the Boston @RedSox have done is WIN since coming to the White House!' Trump wrote in a tweet. 'Others also have done very well. The White House visit is becoming the opposite of being on the cover of Sports Illustrated! By the way, the Boston players were GREAT guys!' The Red Sox, who visited the White House last Thursday, swept all three of their home games over the weekend against the Seattle Mariners, scoring 34 runs across the three games. Boston has won eight of its last 10 games, a stretch that predates the team's reception with the president." Mrs. McC: I'm too lazy to check the stats, but I wonder if the Sox (Socks) players who boycotted the White House trip contributed to the wins.

Devin Dwyer of ABC News: "A divided Supreme Court on Monday cleared the way for iPhone owners to sue Apple for alleged 'higher-than-competitive prices' for apps sold in App Store. 'A claim that a monopolistic retailer (here, Apple) has used its monopoly to overcharge consumers is a classic antitrust claim,' wrote Justice Brett Kavanaugh in the majority opinion, joined by the court's liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.... The opinion does not resolve the merits of the consumers' allegations against Apple, rather simply allows them to proceed in court." Mrs. McC: Looks as if Brett thinks Apple ripped him off.

~~~~~~~~~~

Paul Waugh of the Huffington Post: "Donald Trump will be denied the historic honour of addressing parliament during his state visit to the UK next month, government sources have confirmed. In a major snub to the US President, lingering hopes of him delivering a speech to MPs and peers have been dashed following defiant opposition by Commons Speaker John Bercow, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and others. Although Barack Obama made a landmark address in Westminster Hall in 2011, Trump will not be allowed the same privilege after the visit's organisers decided to avoid a diplomatic row over his 'racism and sexism'."

MEANWHILE, Trump Makes Another Dictator Buddy. Benjamin Novak & Patrick Kinsley of the New York Times: "... on Monday President Trump will grant Viktor Orban, Hungary's far-right prime minister, his first private audience with a president at the White House since he met Bill Clinton there in 1998. Back then, Mr. Orban was a young centrist who praised Mr. Clinton for helping Hungary to escape Russian influence by joining NATO, but today he is a doyen of right-wing nationalists on multiple continents. He has enfeebled democratic institutions, strived to achieve a Hungarian ethnic homogeneity and pulled his nation closer to the opponents of American influence, Russia and China. His welcome at the White House is seen by Mr. Trump's critics as emblematic of the president's preference for strongman leaders who seek to undermine the liberal international order.... An Oval Office meeting is one of the highest honors an American president can give an ally, and this one has been slow in coming. And the day after Mr. Orban's visit, State Department officials will meet in Washington with a pair of center-right opposition politicians from Hungary who beat Mr. Orban's party in two recent by-elections."


Larry Buchanan & Karen Yourish of the New York Times are keeping track of the now-29 investigations -- that are publicly-known -- related to Trump: 10 federal criminal, 8 state & local, & 11 Congressional.

Quint Forgey of Politico: "... Donald Trump lashed out at Don McGahn on Saturday ... amid an ongoing battle between House Democrats and the administration over documents and testimony related to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. 'I was NOT going to fire Bob Mueller, and did not fire Bob Mueller. In fact, he was allowed to finish his Report with unprecedented help from the Trump Administration,' the president wrote online. 'Actually, lawyer Don McGahn had a much better chance of being fired than Mueller. Never a big fan!'"

Jeff Toobin in the New Yorker (May 10): "Our constitutional system never contemplated a President like Donald Trump. The Framers anticipated friction among the three branches of government, which has been a constant throughout our history, but the Trump White House has now established a complete blockade against the legislative branch, thwarting any meaningful oversight.... Disputes between the executive and legislative branches ... invariably wind up before the judiciary, and judges look at these disputes on a case-by-case basis.... The law has no clear mechanism for adjudicating these claims together -- but they belong together. Trump is leading a political campaign, and it calls for a political, not just judicial, response.The most obvious political response to Trump's defiance of Congress -- and thus of the norms of constitutional history -- is impeachment."


Robert Burns
of the AP: "Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan visited a border city in Texas on Saturday and said he intends to accelerate planning to secure the border and bolster the administration's ability to accomplish that without the Pentagon's continuous help.... Shanahan told Congress this past week that there are 4,364 military troops on the border, including active-duty and National Guard. They are erecting barriers, providing logistics and transportation service and other activities in support of Customs and Border Protection. The troops are prohibited from performing law enforcement duties. Troops have been deployed on the border since last October and are committed to being there through September." --s ...

... Update. Dan Lamothe of the Washington Post: "The Pentagon will shift $1.5 billion for President Trump's border wall from programs that include the military's next nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile and a plane that provides surveillance and communications to fighter jets while airborne, according to a Defense Department document obtained by The Washington Post. The document includes more details about the administration's plan, disclosed Friday, to build about 80 additional miles of border wall using Defense Department money. The document echoes acting defense secretary Patrick M. Shanahan in saying that there will be no negative effect on military readiness, though administration officials have previously acknowledged that reprogrammed money also could be put toward other unfunded military projects.... The reprogramming has angered Democratic lawmakers, who say it amounts to the administration sidestepping congressional authority to pay for a Trump campaign promise."

Rebekah Entralago of ThinkProgress: "Space at certain Border Patrol stations has become so scarce that [ICE] authorities have resorted to transporting immigrants on aircrafts to other parts of the U.S.-Mexico just to be processed.... The first flight left McAllen, Texas, on Friday for Del Rio, Texas. Daily flights are scheduled over the next few days. It is not out of the ordinary for ICE to transport immigrants on a plane, as they frequently use flights as a way of transferring individuals from one detention center to another. What is new, however, is the practice of transporting recently-arrived immigrants via aircraft to different parts of the border so that they can go through a preliminary booking procedure." --s

Dylan Matthews of Vox: "The Trump administration has been incredibly consistent, from day one, about its desire to slash benefits for poor Americans.... [T]he latest [attempt] is subtle but profound: changing the inflation rate used to update the poverty line.... The change the administration is proposing would, over the course of many years, shrink the size of Medicaid, food stamps, free school breakfasts, Head Start, and many, many other programs." --s

All the Best Advisors. Vivian Salama, et al., of the Wall Street Journal: "The leaders of Saudi Arabia and Egypt successfully lobbied President Trump to shift U.S. policy in Libya and reach out to the general leading an offensive against the country's United Nations-backed government, a senior U.S. administration official and two Saudi officials said. In early April, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi urged Mr. Trump to back Gen. Khalifa Haftar, whose forces are seeking to capture the Libyan capital Tripoli amid a long-running battle for control of the oil-rich country. About a week later, Mr. Trump called Gen. Haftar, and 'discussed a shared vision for Libya's transition to a stable, democratic political system,' the White House said. That marked a significant shift in the American stance toward Gen. Haftar. For years, Washington has supported the United Nations-recognized government in Tripoli and worked with it in the war on Islamic State. Before Mr. Trump's call, the U.S. had condemned the general's offensive and called for a cease fire." Mrs. McC: The article is firewalled. I swiped the first two grafs from another site.

Chris Rodrigo of the Hill: "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo canceled his planned trip to Moscow, the State Department announced Monday. Instead, Pompeo will meet with European allies in Brussels to discuss "threatening actions and statements by the Islamic Republic of Iran." This is the third stop on Pompeo's trip to be canceled amid rising tensions with Iran, after skipping previously planned visits to Germany and Greenland." ...

      ... Michelle Kosinski of CNN: "On Tuesday, Pompeo will proceed as planned to Sochi, Russia, to meet with President Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders. Pompeo's travel change was last minute, a senior State Department official said. The State Department announced Friday that Pompeo would meet with Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Sochi Tuesday." Mrs. McC: It strikes me that multiple last-minute scheduling changes like this are not good signs, unless the point is to rattle Iran. ...

... Juan Cole: "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told NBC that Iran is an active threat to US interests and 'sowing chaos' in the Middle East. It strikes me that exactly the opposite is true. The Islamic Republic of Iran has in recent years, despite its heritage in the 1979 revolution, acted as an Establishment, status quo power. I don't agree with Iranian policy, e.g. its Syria intervention; I'm just acting as a dispassionate analyst and asking if it is really destabilizing. I conclude, not so much. In contrast, the United States (and more especially the Republican Party) has sown enormous amounts of chaos in the Middle East just in the past 20 years." --s

Ellen Mitchell of the Hill: "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo must warn Russian President Vladimir Putin against meddling in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged on Sunday. 'During your meeting with Vladimir Putin, it is critical that you warn him that any action to interfere in our elections will be met with an immediate and robust response,' Schumer wrote in a letter to Pompeo. 'President Trump's approach to dealing with President Putin, especially on this vital issue, must change. I urge you to make absolutely clear to President Putin that interference in U.S. elections will not be tolerated.' Pompeo is set to meet with Putin on Tuesday, the first major meeting of an administration official and the Russian president since the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report...."

Justin Wise of the Hill: "White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Sunday contradicted President Trump, saying he didn't disagree with the characterization that China is not paying the tariffs on goods coming into the U.S. Kudlow made the comments after Fox News anchor Chris Wallace repeatedly pressed him on "Fox News Sunday" about Trump's recent comments in regard to trade with China.... Wallace ... [noted] that Trump has said China pays the tariffs. 'They may suffer consequences, but it's U.S. businesses and U.S. consumers who pay, correct?' he asked. Kudlow responded by saying he didn't disagree with that characterization, adding that both sides will suffer because of new tariffs." Mrs. McC: Even on the rare occasions Trump's surrogates know the facts, interviewers have to pull out their two front teeth to get them to even implicitly disagree with Trump's lies. ...

     ... Update. Trump Ignores Kudlow's Admission. Owen Daugherty of the Hill: "President Trump early Monday repeated his assertion that China pays for tariffs imposed on traded goods, not U.S. consumers. 'Their [sic.] is no reason for the U.S. Consumer to pay the Tariffs, which take effect on China today,' Trump wrote in post[s] on Twitter. 'This has been proven recently when only 4 points were paid by the U.S.... Also, the Tariffs can be..... ....completely avoided if you by from a non-Tariffed Country, or you buy the product inside the USA (the best idea). That's Zero Tariffs. Many Tariffed companies will be leaving China for Vietnam and other such countries in Asia. That's why China wants to make a deal so badly!... There will be nobody left in China to do business with....'... The president added in a subsequent tweet..., 'The unexpectedly good first quarter 3.2% GDP was greatly helped by Tariffs from China,' Trump tweeted. 'Some people just don't get it!'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Of course that's all nonsense. Companies -- especially those owned or run by Chinese nationals, are not going to pick up & move their facilities to Viet Nam on Trump's whim. As for tariffs helping last quarter's U.S. GDP, Jim Tankersley of the New York Times last week wrote a column refuting that premise. Although Tankersley explains why Trump's tariffs had almost no effect in the first quarter, here's a key: "Most economists argue the opposite -- that tariffs reduce economic activity by raising prices for consumers."

... BESIDES, Trump Is a Great President*. Jonathan Swan of Axios: "Sign of the times: The top advocate for corporate America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has installed a sign on the front steps of its headquarters in Washington, D.C., comparing Donald Trump to Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower. Their building is right near the White House.... Comparing Trump to Reagan and Eisenhower is quite a leap for a group that got on the wrong side of the president by excoriating his 2016 campaign and clashing with him on everything from tariffs to immigration policy. (A previous sign on the Chamber's steps advocated for DACA recipients.) The new message highlights the Chamber's determination to help Trump pass a massive infrastructure bill."

Felicia Sonmez of the Washington Post: "Former defense secretary Robert Gates on Sunday pushed back against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's call for the country to move on from Robert S. Mueller III's report, arguing that Russian interference in U.S. elections remains an urgent issue. McConnell (R-Ky.) last week declared 'case closed' on Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. But in a wide-ranging interview on CBS News's 'Face the Nation,' Gates said the United States has 'not reacted nearly strongly enough' to Russia's 'blatant interference in 2016.' 'The piece of the Mueller report about Russian interference is not "case closed,"' said Gates, a Republican who was defense secretary under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. 'And, frankly, I think elected officials who depend on honest elections to get elected ought to place as a very high priority measures to protect the American electoral system against interference by foreigners.'"

Kyla Mandel of ThinkProgress: "Electric vehicles are increasingly popular, with sales up a whopping 81% between 2017 and 2018.... On Thursday, congressional lawmakers received a letter signed by 34 conservative organizations urging them to oppose any expansion of tax credits for electric vehicles. Signatories to the letter include several think tanks that promote climate science denial, a group run by a former Koch lobbyist and the newly launched Energy 45 Fund set up by a former Trump Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official." --s

Juan Cole: "[T]here are 2 million solar home installations in the United States. That is enough to power 12 million homes. (There are 127 million households in the US, and about 64% of Americans own a home). It was only in 2016 that the country hit 1 million.... By two years from now, the number of solar home installations will climb to 3 million, and in 2023 it will climb to 4 million, having doubled in 4 years. By 2024, new home panels will be installed at the rate of one a minute.... The cost of solar panels has dropped 70% since 2010, and dropped 5% just in the past year. There is still a $7500 Federal tax rebate, and many states also offer tax incentives (the states not controlled by Big Oil)." --s

Google Stuck in Misogyny. Stephanie Kirchgaessner & Jessica Glenza of the Guardian: "Google has given tens of thousands of dollars in free advertising to an anti-abortion group that runs ads suggesting it provides abortion services at its medical clinics, but actually seeks to deter' abortion-minded women' from terminating their pregnancies. The Obria Group, which runs a network of clinics funded by Catholic organisations, received a $120,000 Google advertising grant in 2015, according to a public filing. In 2011, it received nearly $32,000. Such grants are designed to support and expand the reach of nonprofits around the world. Obria was awarded the 2015 grant despite the fact Google had faced intense criticism a year earlier, after a pro-choice group found the platform was running deceptive ads for clinics that appeared to offer abortions and other medical services, but instead focused on counseling and information on alternatives to abortion."

A Woman's Work Is Never Done. Aliya Rao in the Atlantic: "Americans are making major strides toward gender equality.... But gender equality for women still lags in ... their own home. That women should take on the bulk of domestic responsibilities is still a widespread belief.... Recognizing women as breadwinners threatens the idea that a family fits into that mold.... The more economically dependent men are on their wives, the less housework they do. Even women with unemployed husbands spend considerably more time on household chores than their spouses. In other words, women's success in the workplace is penalized at home."

Beyond the Beltway

Ashley Southall of the New York Times: "The last words Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, uttered on a New York City sidewalk in 2014 instantly became a national rallying cry against police brutality. 'I can't breathe,' Mr. Garner pleaded 11 times after a police officer in plain clothes placed his arm across his neck and pulled him to the ground while other officers handcuffed him.... Mr. Garner's death was part of a succession of police killings across the country that became part of a wrenching conversation about how officers treat people in predominantly poor and minority communities. Now, the officer who wrapped his arm around Mr. Garner's neck, Daniel Pantaleo, 33, faces a public trial that could lead to his firing. Officer Pantaleo has denied wrongdoing and his lawyer argues that he did not apply a chokehold.'"

Way Beyond

Russia. Matt Apuzzo & Adam Satariano of the New York Times: "Less than two weeks before pivotal elections for the European Parliament, a constellation of websites and social media accounts linked to Russia or far-right groups is spreading disinformation, encouraging discord and amplifying distrust in the centrist parties that have governed for decades. European Union investigators, academics and advocacy groups say the new disinformation efforts share many of the same digital fingerprints or tactics used in previous Russian attacks, including the Kremlin's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign."

Sweden. Caroline Davies of the Guardian: "Swedish prosecutors are to reopen an investigation into a rape allegation against Julian Assange. The deputy director of public prosecutions, Eva-Marie Persson, announced the decision at a press conference on Monday, saying: '... It is my assessment that a new questioning of Assange is required.' With Assange now detained by the UK, 'the prerequisites for continuing and completing the investigation are now considered to exist', she said."

News Lede

New York Times: "Doris Day, the freckle-faced movie actress whose irrepressible personality and golden voice made her America's top box-office star in the early 1960s, died on Monday at her home in Carmel Valley, Calif. She was 97."