The Wires
The Ledes

Monday, March 18, 2019.

NBC News: “Heavy rain and melting snow that overpowered the Missouri River forced hundreds of families out of their homes in the Midwest and forced the base that is home to U.S. Strategic Command to sharply scale back operations on Sunday. At least three people are confirmed to have died in what the National Weather Service called 'major and historical river flooding' along parts of the Missouri and Mississippi river basins.”

TPM: "Fox News has hired former interim DNC chairwoman Donna Brazile as a contributor, the network announced Monday. According to the press release, Brazile will offer political analysis on Fox News and Fox Business News. A source close to the situation told TPM that Brazile will not play any role related to the debate or town hall process."

New York Post's Page Six: "Brian Williams could come back from TV news exile, Page Six is told. The anchor was booted from the 'NBC Nightly News' in 2015 after it was revealed that he’d embellished some stories with fictional details — and sent to the relative Siberia of 11 p.m. on sister station MSNBC. But despite his tarnished reputation and graveyard-adjacent time slot, Williams has made his '11th Hour With Brian Williams' show a legit hit, beating CNN and Fox News for three months straight. Now 30 Rock insiders say Williams could move to a more prominent time slot, possibly replacing vet Chris Matthews at 7 p.m." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Despite his less-than-liberal views, Williams' 11 pm newscast is really pretty good. He's a pro. Another pro at MSNBC who impresses me is Richard Liu. The other night, a feed from Los Angeles went dark, and within 90 seconds, Liu got himself on the air & conducted a full segment (with Ken Dilanian as one of the last-second guests) with what I would guess was zero prep. Years ago, when I was not much younger than Liu appears to be now, I worked for a national news network, and I had actual nightmares that I might get stuck on-air with no copy. (I was not an on-air personality, but I could have got stuck with an on-air spot during a strike.) I could not have done then what Liu did this week.

Everybody liked this Oscar moment:


Cartoon by R.J. Matson. Thanks to forrest m. ... The Verge has the complete list of Oscar winners.

Ars Technia: "Excavations at two ancient quarry sites in western Wales suggest how ancient people probably quarried some of the stones now standing at Stonehenge. The 42 stones in question are some of the smaller parts at Stonehenge, relatively speaking: they still weigh two to four tons each. They're called the bluestones, and they came all the way from western Wales [about 180 miles from the Stonehenge site]. Chemical analysis has even matched some of them to two particular quarries on the northern slopes of the Preseli Hills. One, an outcrop called Carn Goedog, seems to have supplied most of the bluish-gray, white-speckled dolerite at Stonehenge. And another outcrop in the valley below, Craig Rhos-y-felin, supplied most of the rhyolite. University College London archaeologist Michael Parker Pearson and his colleagues have spent the last eight years excavating the ancient quarry sites, and that work has revealed some new information about the origins of Stonehenge.... The ancient quarry-workers left behind mudstone wedges and stone hammers, which they would have driven into the cracks between the pillars to carefully pry them apart.”

The dollhouse of Petronella Oortman, in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.Emily Landau in the New York Times: "The whole point of a dollhouse is that it’s not to be played with. It’s untarnished by the workaday furniture we get for our real homes, the Sears dining tables and cheap Ikea Billy bookcases. And for many people, it’s the only place where ludicrously opulent décor is attainable, where you can go all out on mother-of-pearl doorknobs or Versailles-worthy brocade chaises without losing your savings or your dignity." Mrs. McC: I think Laudau helps explain why I have so enjoyed moving from a mansion-sized house to one that is one-tenth the size of the "mansion."

The Los Angeles Times has the full list of Oscar nominees here.

NBC Sports: "Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martínez, and Mike Mussina have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America as part of the 2019 class. The results were just announced on MLB Network. Rivera received votes from every single writer who submitted a ballot, becoming the first player ever to be unanimously inducted into the Hall of Fame. Halladay and Edgar Martínez each received 85.4 percent of the vote and Mussina appeared on 76.7 percent of ballots. Rivera, 49, spent all 19 of his seasons in the majors with the Yankees. He was initially used as a starter, but quickly moved to the bullpen, becoming the greatest closer of all-time. He racked up 652 saves — the most in baseball history — during the regular season along with a 2.21 ERA anda 1,173 strikeouts across 1,283 2/3 innings. He saved his best work for the postseason. Rivera appeared in 96 postseason games, saving 42 saves in 47 opportunities with a 0.70 ERA and a 110/21 K/BB ratio in 141 innings. Rivera won five championships, five Rolaids Relief Awards, as well as MVP awards in the World Series, ALCS, and All-Star Game. He made the AL All-Star team 13 times."

Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: If you're a shut-out Trump Shutdown victim tooling around the Internets with nothing to do today, let's assume that some day some time, Trump will de-furlough you and you can get back to work enthusiastically serving the American people in your appointed capacity. In case Trump has rendered you a bit rusty in the area of job skills, Conan here provides some useful tools that may help you get to work on time, even on casual Friday:

ABC News: "Breathtaking drone video of a pod of friendly, playful dolphins joining a surfer as he took to the waves near the coast of Ventura, California, is making the rounds on social media and bringing smiles -- and wow's -- to viewers. ABC station KABC-TV's meteorologist Kimi Evans met the drone's owner Craig Badger, who shared the footage, and spoke to surfer Alden Blair.... The video has been seen more than 3 million times on social media." ...

NBC Suits Are Such Geniuses. New York Times: "After a drawn-out negotiation period, NBC and Megyn Kelly have formally agreed to part ways. The network and the onetime cable news star reached a final agreement on Friday, nearly three months after she wondered aloud on-air why it was inappropriate for white people to dress up in blackface for Halloween. NBC and a representative for Ms. Kelly declined to reveal the details of the exit package. But according to two people familiar with the negotiations, Ms. Kelly was paid the outstanding balance on her contract, a figure that amounts to roughly $30 million. At the time of the separation, Ms. Kelly was in the middle of a three-year, $69 million contract with the network."

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
Mar122019

The Commentariat -- March 13, 2019

Afternoon Update:

Ian Austen & Selam Gebrekidan of the New York Times: "Canada's transportation minister grounded all Boeing 737 Max jets on Wednesday morning, saying that newly available satellite-tracking data suggests similarities between the deadly crash involving one of the jets in Ethiopia on Sunday and another accident last October. Cautioning that the 'new information is not conclusive,' Marc Garneau, the transportation minister, also said Canada would not allow the jets to fly into its airspace." ...

     ... ** New Lede: "President Trump announced on Wednesday that the United States was grounding Boeing's 737 Max aircraft, reversing an earlier decision by American regulators to keep the jet flying after a second deadly crash in Ethiopia. The Federal Aviation Administration had for days resisted calls to ground the plane even as safety regulators in some 42 countries had banned flights by the jets. As recently as Tuesday, the agency said it had seen 'no systemic performance issues' that would prompt it to halt flights of the jet."

Olivia Beavers of the Hill: "The head of the House Judiciary Committee says former Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker 'did not deny' that President Trump had called to talk to him about 'personnel decisions' involving a federal investigation into hush money payments made to two women. 'Mr. Whitaker did not deny that the president called him to discuss the Michael Cohen case and personnel decisions in the Southern District,' Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) told reporters after questioning Whitaker behind closed doors for roughly two hours. 'While he was acting attorney general, Mr. Whitaker was directly involved in conversations about whether to fire multiple U.S. attorneys,' he continued." Mrs. McC: The bottom line here is that Whitaker, when he was serving as acting AG, lied under oath in his original testimony last month. Now that he's a private citizen, he's changing his story, though apparently he's unwilling to give Congress the full story. I'm guessing there are others who know something about the conversations Whitaker had regarding these issues. ...

... Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee said Wednesday that former acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker 'did not deny' that President Trump 'called him to discuss the case' against his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, as well as personnel decisions regarding the personnel at the federal prosecutor's office bringing the case against him. Speaking to reporters after a two-hour meeting with Whitaker, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) presented Whitaker's closed-door comments as a contradiction with his public testimony from February, during which Whitaker said Trump never expressed his dissatisfaction with Cohen for pleading guilty to various financial crimes and lying to Congress. When asked at that hearing whether he had ever discussed the Cohen case with Trump, Whitaker refused to answer the question. But Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.), who was also present for the interview, strongly disagreed with Nadler, calling it an 'interpretation' -- and insisting that Whitaker 'said he did not talk with the president about Mr. Cohen at all, and had no conversations with the Southern District of New York.'... According to Nadler, Whitaker did not refute the assertion that he was 'directly involved in conversations about whether to fire one or more U.S. attorneys.' Nadler also said that Whitaker did not deny having been 'involved in conversations about the scope' of the recusal of the SDNY's lead prosecutor, U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman, from Cohen's case -- and whether the prosecutors 'went too far in pursuing the campaign finance case in which Trump is Individual-1.'"

Sharon LaFraniere of the New York Times: "Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman who was sentenced last week to nearly four years in prison, was ordered on Wednesday to serve an additional three and a half years for conspiracy, closing out the special counsel's highest-profile prosecution. Judge Amy Berman Jackson of Federal District Court in Washington sentenced Mr. Manafort, 69, on two conspiracy counts that encompassed a host of crimes, including money-laundering, obstruction of justice and failing to disclose lobbying work that earned him tens of millions of dollars over more than a decade. 'It is hard to overstate the number of lies and the amount of fraud and the amount of money involved,' Judge Jackson said of Mr. Manafort's case. She added, 'A significant portion of his career has been spent gaming the system.'"

... Darren Samuelsohn & Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Paul Manafort's prison sentence was upped to seven-and-a-half years on Wednesday morning, bringing an end to Robert Mueller's most public legal battle and capping a spectacular fall for the globetrotting GOP consultant and former chairman of the Trump campaign. It's the longest sentence by far for anyone ensnared in Mueller's nearly two-year-old probe. Manafort's punishment reached its final length after U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Wednesday gave Manafort an additional roughly three-and-a-half years in prison for a series of lobbying and witness tampering crimes he pleaded guilty to last fall. Manafort also must serve nearly four years for his conviction in a jury trial for financial fraud crimes in Virginia.... Manafort issued a full-throated and blunt apology on Wednesday shortly before his second -- and final -- prison sentence was set to be handed out. But it appeared his appeals were falling on deaf ears.... Judge Amy Berman Jackson swiftly upbraided Manafort's penitence, though, insinuating that it was insincere and hinting that she believed Manafort had previously calibrated his statements to appeal to ... Donald Trump for a pardon -- the only way out of a multi-year prison sentence at this point for the former Trump campaign chairman.... 'Saying I'm sorry I got caught is not an inspiring plea for leniency,' Jackson said." ...

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Judge Amy Berman Jackson made a series of strong statements before sentencing President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, on Wednesday. But one in particular struck at the core of Trump's personal defense in the Russia investigation. She said the no collusion' mantra is bunk. Manafort's legal team had suggested repeatedly in its sentencing memo that the fact that Manafort hadn't been found to have colluded with Russia should be a mitigating factor when it came to how much time he would serve in prison. But Jackson not only rejected that argument in sentencing him to 43 additional months in prison; she rejected the entire argument behind it. 'The "no collusion" refrain that runs through the entire defense memorandum is unrelated to matters at hand,' she said. 'The "no collusion' mantra is simply a non sequitur.'... The "no collusion" mantra is also not accurate, because the investigation is still ongoing.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: So then Manafort's attorney Kevin Downing walked out of the courtroom & said on the courthouse steps that "Judge Jackson conceded that there was absolutely no evidence of any collusion in this case." I guess its okay if an "officer of the court" flat-out lies about a judge's remarks if your message is not to her but to a corrupt President*. But protesters, who shout-checked Downing, didn't agree. ...

... Darturnorro Clark, et al., of NBC News: "... Donald Trump picked up the refrain in remarks to reporters at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, saying, 'today, again, no collusion. The other day, no collusion. There was no collusion.' Both judges, however, did not say there was no collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia, but rather that the issue had nothing to do with the charges against Manafort. Asked whether he would pardon Manafort, Trump told reporters, 'I have not even given it a thought, as of this moment.' But the president also said he feels 'very badly' for his former campaign chairman."

... William Rashbaum of the New York Times: "Paul J. Manafort ... has been charged in New York with mortgage fraud and more than a dozen other state felonies, the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., said Wednesday, an effort to ensure he will still face prison time if Mr. Trump pardons him for his federal crimes. News of the indictment came shortly after Mr. Manafort was sentenced to his second federal prison term in two weeks; he now faces a combined sentence of more than seven years for tax and bank fraud and conspiracy in two related cases brought by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. The president has broad power to issue pardons for federal crimes, but has no such authority in state cases."

Iliana Magra of the New York Times: "Iran has faced international condemnation after one of the country’s most prominent human rights lawyers, detained for eight months, said she had been sentenced to a total of 38 years in prison and 148 lashes, according to her husband. Security agents arrested the lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, at her home in June last year. The government offered no explanation, but at the time Ms. Sotoudeh was defending women who had been arrested after removing their hijabs, or head scarves, in public protests. She received the European Union's most prestigious human rights award, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, in 2012, while serving a previous prison sentence."

Rick Rojas & Liam Stack of the New York Times: "Allegations of sexual abuse trailed John Capparelli, a former priest, for decades, resurfacing in the years after the Archdiocese of Newark removed him from ministry. There were the lawsuits from accusers, and last month his name was included on a list published by the Roman Catholic Church in New Jersey that identified priests who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse. On Saturday, Mr. Capparelli was found fatally shot in his home in Nevada, and the authorities there said that his death was being investigated as a homicide."

~~~~~~~~~~

The Trump Scandals, Ctd.

Tim Mak of NPR: "There's already sufficient evidence to support an indictment of President Trump even before the conclusion of the special counsel investigation, California Rep. Adam Schiff said Tuesday. The chairman of the House intelligence committee pointed to the case of Michael Cohen, the president's former personal lawyer, in which the government described how 'Individual 1' directed and coordinated a campaign fraud scheme. 'Individual 1' is Trump, and Cohen is set to begin a three-year prison sentence in part because of those crimes. 'It's very difficult to make the argument that the person who was directed and was coordinated should go to jail but the person who did the directing and did the coordinating should not,' Schiff told reporters at a breakfast on Tuesday organized by the Christian Science Monitor. The evidence therefore already in place argues 'very strongly in favor of indicting the president when he is out of office,' he said."

Tal Axelrod of the Hill: "Democrats in the House and Senate on Tuesday introduced a bill mandating the publication of visitor logs at the White House and other personal properties where President Trump conducts business. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Transparency Caucus, respectively, introduced the Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness (Mar-A-Lago) Act.... The legislation was first introduced in the previous congressional term."

Daily Beast: "President Trump claims New York State and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo are 'presidential harassers' after the state's attorney general reportedly launched an investigation into several Trump Organization real estate projects. According to the president, in light of such 'harassment,' it is 'no wonder people are fleeing the state in record numbers.'" Mrs. McC: Yes, I imagine a lot of New Yorkers upended their lives as soon as they heard the horrifying news that the AG was investigating Trump's (allegedly!) crooked business stunts.

Annie Karni & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: A new book titled Kushner Inc., by journalist Vicky Ward, "portrays [Ivanka] Trump and [Jared] Kushner as two children forged by their domineering fathers ... who have climbed to positions of power by disregarding protocol and skirting the rules when they can. And Ms. Ward tries to unravel the narrative that the two serve as stabilizing voices inside an otherwise chaotic White House, depicting them instead as Mr. Trump's chief enablers." After Donald Trump expressed support for white nationalists in Charlottesville, Gary Cohn "was shocked" when Ivanka told him, 'My dad's not a racist; he didn't mean any of it.'... Appearing to channel her father, she added, 'That's not what he said.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Karoun Demirjian, et al., of the Washington Post: "Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page defended herself and the bureau last year against accusations that bias against Donald Trump affected federal investigations of the Trump campaign's suspected Russia ties and of Hillary Clinton's emails, according to a transcript released Tuesday by the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. Page, who came to prominence over anti-Trump texts she exchanged with former FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok while both were assigned to the Clinton and Trump investigations, stressed that senior bureau officials were also expressing anti-Clinton animus -- but that neither affected how agents working those cases carried out their jobs.... Page's transcript is the second released in the past week by the panel's ranking Republican, Douglas A. Collins (Ga.), in an effort to make public the record of the now-completed GOP-led probe of how federal law enforcement agencies conducted the two probes. The first, from a session that the Judiciary and Oversight committees held last year with Bruce Ohr, was derided by Democrats as an attempt to resurrect old political talking points in an effort to distract from current congressional investigations of President Trump and an expected report from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III."

Darren Samuelsohn of Politico: "Michael Flynn's cooperation in Robert Mueller's Russia investigation is complete, lawyers for the special counsel said in a Tuesday night report to a federal judge presiding over the former Trump national security adviser's case. In the same joint status report, Flynn's lawyers asked for a 90-day delay in their client's sentencing so he could continue to cooperate with the government in his former business partner's upcoming trial in Alexandria, Va. Flynn expects to testify in the mid-July trial against Bijan Rafiekian, who faces charges of conspiracy and acting as an unregistered foreign government agent for Turkey.... Mueller didn't take a position on Flynn's request for a delay but noted that prosecutors had exhausted the witness of information since he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in December 2017."

Josh Kovensky of TPM: "The founder of a chain of massage and spa parlors that snagged Patriots owner Robert Kraft was apparently also hawking a different line of business: investment immigration.... [Li] Yang, through a Florida-based company called GY US Investments LLC, was also using proximity to Trump and his properties to peddle so-called investor visas.... Yang's company's website listed a few examples of properties that foreigners can invest in as part of an 'investment immigration project.' The first is described as 'high-end luxury real estate' and features a photo of the Palm Beach home of billionaire [Philadelphia Eagles owner] Jeffrey Lurie.... That home is located a quarter-mile south of Mar-a-Lago — a fact that the company promotes as part of the investment, saying it's 'near Trump Manor.'" On her Website, Yang lists one of her "partners" as Elizabeth MacCall, who also frequents Mar-a-Lago events. MacCall, who at least has a business relationship with Yang's husband, hung up on TPM when a reporter called.

Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Vice President Pence is discussing an offer with Republican senators that could lead to the defeat of a Democratic resolution overturning President Trump's emergency declaration to build a wall on the Mexican border, according to GOP sources briefed on the matter. Under the deal discussed between Pence and GOP senators, Trump would sign legislation reining in his power to declare future national emergencies if they defeat the resolution of disapproval. Killing the resolution on the Republican-controlled Senate floor would spare the president a major embarrassment and avoid him having to issue the first veto of his presidency." ...

... Update. Jordain Carney of the Hill: "More than a dozen Republican senators introduced legislation on Tuesday that would make it easier for Congress to terminate future national emergency declarations, days before the chamber will vote on President Trump's. The legislation, spearheaded by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), would require that Congress pass a resolution extending an emergency declaration after 30 days for it to continue; otherwise the declaration would be terminated.... Lee's legislation would not impact Trump's current emergency declaration on the wall but, if passed, would impact any future emergency declarations."

Miriam Jordan of the New York Times: "The Trump administration is preparing to shutter many of its immigration operations abroad, cutting back on a key support system for those applying overseas to relocate to the United States. The director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, L. Francis Cissna, told senior staff members this week that the international division, which has operations in more than 20 countries, would close down by the end of the year, according to two people with knowledge of the meeting. Agency officials said the move was intended to provide more staff resources to handle the lengthy backlog in asylum applications from tens of thousands of migrants crossing the southern border every month. But it could come at the expense of legal migration, which President Trump has said he favors...."

Mujib Mashal of the New York Times: "Although more than two weeks of talks between the United States and the Taliban ended Tuesday without a breakthrough, two American officials said they were close to a final agreement on one crucial element to a framework for ending the long war: a Taliban promise to not allow terrorist attacks from Afghanistan. The officials also said they had made substantial progress on a second element, detailing a plan for the withdrawal of American troops. The chief American peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, was expected to fly back to Washington on Tuesday night to brief Secretary of State Mike Pompeo."

Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "An entrenched, sexist culture at many veterans hospitals is driving away female veterans and lags far behind the gains women have made in the military in recent years, veterans and lawmakers of both parties say. Although the Department of Veterans Affairs has scrambled to adjust to the rising population of female veterans and has made progress -- including hiring more women's health care providers, fixing basic privacy problems in the exam rooms and expanding service to women in rural areas -- sexual harassment at department facilities remains a major problem."

Election 2018. Nick Ochsner of WBTV (Charlotte, N.C.): "The Department of Justice has issued subpoenas for a federal grand jury investigation into allegations of election fraud in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District.... The subpoenas come less than a month after the North Carolina State Board of Elections voted unanimously to hold a new election in the 9th District. The vote came at the abrupt end of a four-day evidentiary hearing held by the board that concluded with Republican Mark Harris -- the candidate who received the winning number of votes in the November 2018 contest -- admitting he had given incorrect testimony and calling for a new election." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Edward Wong & Daniel Victor of the New York Times: "The United States is withdrawing all remaining diplomatic personnel from its embassy in Venezuela's capital, Caracas, because of worsening conditions in the country, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said late Monday. The move is a setback for the Trump administration, which had vowed to keep diplomats in the country to legitimize the opposition challenger to President Nicolás Maduro, who cut diplomatic ties with the United States in January. Mr. Pompeo said the move reflected the 'deteriorating situation' in the country and the belief that the presence of American diplomats 'has become a constraint on U.S. policy.' The last phrase could be read as hinting at some form of military intervention." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Bob King of Politico: "The Federal Aviation Administration refused again Tuesday evening to ground Boeing's beleaguered 737 MAX 8 jetliner, despite pleas from lawmakers of both parties who said the U.S. should join a growing list of governments that have barred the plane amid questions about two deadly air crashes.... 'Thus far, our review shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft,' acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell said in a statement just after 6 p.m. 'Nor have other civil aviation authorities provided data to us that would warrant action.'... The statement came hours after ... Donald Trump spoke by phone with Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, who assured him that the 737 MAX is safe. An administration official later said the White House has been in 'constant contact' with the FAA about the issue." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: That's reassuring. I wonder if the FAA's action would have been different if it was headed by a "real" administrator instead of an acting one. ...

     ... Update. Rachel Maddow riffed on this theme at length, reminding us that one reason we don't have an actual FAA administrator is that a year ago, when the position came over, Trump thought it would be a great idea to appoint her personal pilot to the job, a pilot who, BTW, didn't seem to notice that the plane he was flying was not certified so the FAA grounded it. Update Update: Here's the segment, which runs nearly half an hour:

... Cary Aspinwall, et al., of the Dallas Morning News: "Pilots repeatedly voiced safety concerns about the Boeing 737 Max 8 to federal authorities, with one captain calling the flight manual 'inadequate and almost criminally insufficient' several months before Sunday's Ethiopian Air crash that killed 157 people, an investigation by The Dallas Morning News found. The News found at least five complaints about the Boeing model in a federal database where pilots can voluntarily report about aviation incidents without fear of repercussions. The complaints are about the safety mechanism cited in preliminary reports about an October plane crash in Indonesia that killed 189." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Maddow noted that, according to a Wall Street Journal report, Boeing is working on a fix, one that they now say will be ready to implement by the end of next month. They might have got it done sooner, the WSJ reports, but because Boeing had to iron out details with the FAA, they were delayed five weeks on account of the Trump's federal government shutdown. The report, which is firewalled, is here. ...

... David Gelles, et al., of the New York Times: "With more countries grounding Boeing jets and with lawmakers, aviation workers and consumers calling on the United States to do the same, the head of the aerospace giant on Tuesday made a personal appeal to President Trump. Boeing's chief executive, Dennis A. Muilenburg, called from Chicago and expressed to Mr. Trump his confidence in the safety of the 737 Max 8 jets, according to two people briefed on the conversation. Two of the planes flown by overseas carriers have crashed in recent months in similar accidents. The brief call had been in the works since Monday, but it came shortly after Mr. Trump raised concerns that the increasing use of technology in airplanes was compromising passenger safety. 'Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly,' he wrote on Twitter. 'Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT.'... By Tuesday afternoon, the United States was nearly alone among major countries still allowing the jets to fly."

Mark Weisbrot in the New Republic: "Seeking to foment a military coup, a popular rebellion, or civil war [in Venezuela], the Trump administration has made it clear that the punishment will continue until the current government is ousted.... All of this is illegal under numerous treaties that the U.S. has signed, including the charter of the United Nations, the charter of the Organization of American States, and other international law and conventions. To legitimize this brutality, which has likely already killed thousands of Venezuelans by reducing access to life-saving goods and services, the Trump administration has presented the sanctions as a consensus of the 'international community' — similar to what George W. Bush did when he put together a 'coalition of the willing' of 48 countries to support his disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq." Many of Trump's "coalition" are unsavory right-wing despots and/or have been pressured by the Trump administration to sign on.

Jennifer Bendery of the Huffington Post: "The Senate voted Tuesday to advance ... Donald Trump&'s judicial nominee Neomi Rao, who has a record of weakening protections for sexual assault survivors and once argued that women could avoid date rape by staying sober.The Senate voted 53-46 to move forward with Rao's nomination to a lifetime seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the second most powerful court in the country and often a stepping stone to a seat on the Supreme Court. Every Republican voted to advance Rao. Every Democrat voted against it except for Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who did not vote. Rao will get her final confirmation vote on Wednesday. If confirmed, as expected, she will fill the seat formerly held by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh."

Susan Davis of NPR: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has reclaimed office space her predecessor, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., awarded to Vice President Pence.... A placard above the door identifying it as Pence's House office was quietly removed in recent weeks."

Tom Winter, et al., of NBC News: "Hollywood actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman are among 50 people charged in a $25 million college entrance exam cheating scheme, according to court documents unsealed Tuesday. The alleged scam focused on getting students admitted to elite universities as recruited athletes, regardless of their athletic abilities, and helping potential students cheat on their college exams, according to the indictment unsealed in Boston. Authorities said the FBI investigation, code-named Operation Varsity Blues, uncovered a network of wealthy parents who paid thousands of dollars to a California man who boosted their childrens' chances of gaining entrance into elite colleges, such as Yale and Stanford, by paying people to take tests for their children, bribing test administrators to allow it to happen, and bribing college coaches and administrators to identify the applicants as athletes." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Rebecca Halleck of the New York Times posts a full list of those charged. The New York Times main story, by Jennifer Medina & others, is here. ...

... Adam Raymond of New York: "Why didn't these rich parents just make a fat donation to the schools to get their kids admitted? It's an age-old tradition that has resulted in many underperforming and undeserving rich kids winning admission to universities they couldn't have gotten into on their own. And one beneficiary is currently working in the White House. As Daniel Golden reported in his 2006 book, Jared Kushner ... was accepted into Harvard shortly after his father [Charles] pledged $2.5 million to the school. Writing for ProPublica in 2016, Golden noted that Kushner's high-school teachers didn't think he was Harvard material[.]... Unlike the scheme that came to light today, it was all legal." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I'd guess the cheating parents were too poor or too cheap to go the legal route. Their out-of-pocket expenses to get their underachieving offspring into the universities were $500K or less per child. Charles Kushner spent five times that to get young Jared a spot at Harvard. ...

... ** Levitz of New York: "All of American higher education is, in essence, a giant pay-to-play scandal.... I didn't get into Johns Hopkins University because of my father's name, or my fabricated triumphs at high-school water polo.... But my competitive application was underwritten by my professional-class parents' wealth. My SAT scores were the product of hours of tutoring, and my writing skills were honed in pricey summer classes, which most American families cannot afford. And before all that, my parents' economic security enabled them to buy a home in a suburb with a coveted school system that featured better-qualified teachers and smaller class sizes than most working-class kids are provided. I did not earn these advantages. My parents purchased them for me. And in this respect, I am not atypical.... Meritocracy is a cruel joke."

Scott Bullock & Nick Sibilla in the Atlantic: Last month, in a case titled Timbs v. Indiana, the Supreme Court invoked the Eighth Amendment against excessive fines, thus striking a blow against the ever-so-popular "policing for profit" scheme, wherein police departments seize legally-owned property after a person is accused of committing a crime, whether or not that property has anything to do with the crime. The ruling was unanimous.

David Dayen in the New Republic: "The most acute political scandal in North America -- the one with the greatest chance of toppling the head of government anytime soon -- occurring not in the United States, but Canada.* Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is barely hanging on to power after being accused last month of pressuring his attorney general to abandon the criminal prosecution of an influential company that hails from Quebec, his political stronghold.... It should also pass for a scandal in America, but selective prosecution -- which spares the powerful while punishing those without connections -- has become all too common in this country, and notably so under President Obama.... While deferred prosecution agreements are new to Canada, they've been used in corporate settlements in the U.S. for more than two decades, particularly during and after the last financial crisis, when hundreds of DPAs were executed. In other words, the major difference between the scandal engulfing Canada's government and what happens routinely here is that nobody in our Justice Department needs to be pressured to issue a deferred prosecution agreement."

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd.

Jared Holt of Right Wing Watch: "The Associated Press ... published at least three press releases on its APNews.com website and AP News app that contained misinformation and partisan propaganda from conservative political groups.... One press release advocated for prosecuting doctors who perform abortions, another claimed that measles vaccines cause autism, and one was used to advertise a shady right-wing fundraising campaign. All appeared on the AP's site, surrounded by the company's branding.... The only apparent written indication that the press release was not an actual AP article was a dateline with the name of the wire service.... An uninformed reader would have been forgiven for mistaking the press releases for a news article.... AP appears to be trying to address the problem. On February 27, the news service incorporated more visual indications to alert readers to the fact that what they are viewing is not the newsroom's reporting."

Tucker Carlson wants you to know you're a horrible person and he's a brave defender of "independent thoughts." Here's Tucker's official Fox "News" response -- adapted from Monday night's brilliant monologue -- to what we horrible people are doing to him -- and to all conservatives who must "police themselves" to toe the line of "progressive orthodoxy." Punchline: "But we will never bow to the mob -- ever. No matter what." As far as I can tell, this is not meant to be funny. ...

     ... See also yesterday's Comments for Akhilleus's view on Carlson's "defense." ...

... Tucker Keeps on Whinin'. Justin Baragona of the Daily Beast: "A night after defiantly declaring that he will not 'bow to the mob' amid a firestorm of controversy over misogynistic and racist comments he made during appearances on shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge's radio show from 2006 to 2011, top-rated Fox News host Tucker Carlson claimed that he is the victim of a left-wing authoritarian conspiracy to 'disappear' anyone with 'dissenting political opinions.'... The Fox News host went all out in portraying the backlash against him as part of a leftist plot, at one point even appearing to invoke the Holocaust and likening social media bans of conservatives to enforced disappearances." Mrs. McC: I dunno; I'm not sure calling a young woman "cunty" & all Iraqis "primitive monkeys" are "dissenting political opinions." BTW, where do I sign up for the "left-wing authoritarian conspiracy"? ...

Tucker Carlson is going on vacation next week, claiming he was supposed to go on this week but stayed to work amid all the scandal over previously unearthed remarks. -- Sam Stein of the Daily Beast, in a tweet

So is Tucker being self-disappeared or Fox-disappeared? If the left-wing authoritarian conspiracy works, we'll never hear from Tucker again. But good job on the damage control, Tucker. Good thing you stuck around to make things right. -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Beyond the Beltway

California. Bob Egelko & Alexei Koseff of the San Francisco Chronicle: "Gov. Gavin Newsom is suspending the death penalty in California, calling it discriminatory and immoral, and is granting reprieves to the 737 condemned inmates on the nation's largest Death Row.... He plans to order an immediate shutdown of the death chamber at San Quentin State Prison, where the last execution was carried out in 2006. Newsom is also withdrawing California's recently revised procedures for executions by lethal injection, ending -- at least for now -- the struggle by prison officials for more than a decade to devise procedures that would pass muster in federal court by minimizing the risk of a botched and painful execution."

Way Beyond

That England that was wont to conquer others
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself. --
                           William Shakespeare, Richard II ...

... Stephen Castle of the New York Times: "Britain hurtled into unknown political territory on Tuesday when Parliament rejected Prime Minister Theresa May's plan to quit the European Union for a second time, leaving her authority in tatters and the country seemingly rudderless just 17 days before its planned departure from the bloc. Mrs. May had hoped that last-minute concessions from the European Union would swing the vote in her favor, but many lawmakers dismissed those changes as ineffectual or cosmetic and voted against the deal by 391 to 242. After the vote, the prime minister defended her agreement as the 'best outcome' for the United Kingdom and betrayed her frustration in addressing the lawmakers, who are scheduled to vote later this week on whether to seek an extension to leave the bloc."

Costa Rica's "Green New Deal." Somini Sengupta> & Alexander Villegas of the New York Times: "Costa Rica ... wants to wean itself from fossil fuels by 2050, and the chief evangelist of the idea is a 38-year-old urban planner named Claudia Dobles who also happens to be the first lady. Every country will have to aspire to something similar, scientists say, if the world is to avert the most dire consequences of global warming. And while Costa Rica's carbon footprint is tiny compared to other countries, Ms. Dobles has a higher goal in mind: Getting rid of fossil fuels would show the world that a small country can be a leader on an awesome problem and improve the health and well-being of its citizens in the bargain.... Costa Rica's green bid, though fraught with challenges, has a head start. Electricity comes largely from renewable sources already -- chiefly hydropower, but also wind, solar and geothermal energy. The country has doubled its forest cover in the last 30 years, after decades of deforestation, so that half of its land surface is now covered with trees. That's a huge carbon sink and a huge draw for tourists. Also, climate change is not a divisive political issue."

Monday
Mar112019

The Commentariat -- March 12, 2019

Afternoon Update:

Edward Wong & Daniel Victor of the New York Times: "The United States is withdrawing all remaining diplomatic personnel from its embassy in Venezuela's capital, Caracas, because of worsening conditions in the country, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said late Monday. The move is a setback for the Trump administration, which had vowed to keep diplomats in the country to legitimize the opposition challenger to President Nicolás Maduro, who cut diplomatic ties with the United States in January. Mr. Pompeo said the move reflected the 'deteriorating situation' in the country and the belief that the presence of American diplomats 'has become a constraint on U.S. policy.' The last phrase could be read as hinting at some form of military intervention."

Tom Winter, et al., of NBC News: "Hollywood actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman are among 50 people charged in a $25 million college entrance exam cheating scheme, according to court documents unsealed Tuesday. The alleged scam focused on getting students admitted to elite universities as recruited athletes, regardless of their athletic abilities, and helping potential students cheat on their college exams, according to the indictment unsealed in Boston. Authorities said the FBI investigation, code-named Operation Varsity Blues, uncovered a network of wealthy parents who paid thousands of dollars to a California man who boosted their childrens' chances of gaining entrance into elite colleges, such as Yale and Stanford, by paying people to take tests for their children, bribing test administrators to allow it to happen, and bribing college coaches and administrators to identify the applicants as athletes."

Annie Karni & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: A new book titled Kushner Inc., by journalist Vicky Ward, "portrays [Ivanka] Trump and [Jared] Kushner as two children forged by their domineering fathers ... who have climbed to positions of power by disregarding protocol and skirting the rules when they can. And Ms. Ward tries to unravel the narrative that the two serve as stabilizing voices inside an otherwise chaotic White House, depicting them instead as Mr. Trump's chief enablers." After Donald Trump expressed support for white nationalists in Charlottesville, Gary Cohn "was shocked" when Ivanka told him, 'My dad's not a racist; he didn't mean any of it.'... Appearing to channel her father, she added, 'That's not what he said.'"

Nick Ochsner of WBTV (Charlotte, N.C.): "The Department of Justice has issued subpoenas for a federal grand jury investigation into allegations of election fraud in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District.... The subpoenas come less than a month after the North Carolina State Board of Elections voted unanimously to hold a new election in the 9th District. The vote came at the abrupt end of a four-day evidentiary hearing held by the board that concluded with Republican Mark Harris -- the candidate who received the winning number of votes in the November 2018 contest -- admitting he had given incorrect testimony and calling for a new election."

Tucker Carlson wants you to know you're a horrible person and he's a brave defender of "independent thoughts." Here's Tucker's official Fox "News" response -- adapted from Monday night's brilliant monologue -- to what we horrible people are doing to him -- and to all conservatives who must "police themselves" to toe the line of "progressive orthodoxy." Punchline: "But we will never bow to the mob -- ever. No matter what." As far as I can tell, this is not meant to be funny. ...

     ... See also Akhilleus's commentary below.

~~~~~~~~~~

Lord Dampnut's Proposal. Jim Tankersley & Michael Tackett of the New York Times: "President Trump sent Congress on Monday a record $4.75 trillion budget request that proposes an increase in military spending and sharp cuts to domestic programs like education and environmental protection for the 2020 fiscal year. Mr. Trump's budget, the largest in federal history, includes a nearly 5 percent increase in military spending -- which is more than the Pentagon had asked for -- and an additional $8.6 billion for construction of a border wall with Mexico. White House officials said the budget would include a total of $1.9 trillion in cuts to mandatory safety net programs, like Medicaid. It also proposes new work requirements for working-age adult recipients of supplemental nutrition assistance, federal housing support and Medicaid, a move the administration said would reduce spending on those programs by $327 billion." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Katia Dmitrieva of Bloomberg News: "President Donald Trump's newest budget forecasts the U.S. fiscal deficit surpassing $1 trillion this year and staying above that level until 2022. The fiscal 2020 proposal sees the deficit expanding to $1.1 trillion for 2019 and 2020, when Trump will run for re-election." --s ...

... Tara Golshan of Vox: "... Donald Trump's administration unveiled its third budget proposal Monday, cementing a vision for the United States that bolsters funding for defense and border walls, while severely cutting social programs for the nation's poorest. The $4.7 trillion budget proposal, which encompasses everything from funding for food aid, education, and health care to national defense, seeks to slash $845 billion from Medicare -- a program Trump notably promised to leave untouched -- $241 billion from Medicaid through major structural reforms, as well as a 9 percent cut across non-defense programs, all while increasing the defense budget to $750 billion, 5 percent more than the 2019 budget.... As Democratic presidential candidates continue to unveil proposals to increase taxes on the wealthy to boost the nation's social safety net, it's clear Trump is offering the opposite vision." ...

... Sarah Kliff of Vox: "Democratic presidential candidates have spent years building a new vision of American policy, one where a lot more of us get our health insurance from the government. I see President Trump's newly released budget as his counterproposal to all that. It envisions a really different future, one where government-run health care shrinks -- and public programs become more difficult to sign up for. Here are some key health policy features of the Trump budget[.]" Kliff runs down the potential effects on health care. --s ...

... Alan Pyke of ThinkProgress: "President Donald Trump's new budget proposal would cut Social Security payouts by $84 billion over the next decade while providing fewer resources to explain the changes to recipients.... Though Trump has previously made repeated promises to shield Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits from the budget ax, his administration asserts that cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) do not constitute cuts to the Social Security program writ large." --s ...

... Gomez of ThinkProgress: "The White House released its 2020 budget proposal on Monday, proposing more than $1 trillion in cuts to the popular programs Medicare and Medicaid and giving insight into what the executive branch would do if Congress didn't control the federal government's pocketbook. The most notable cut comes out of Medicaid, a health program for people who are low-income or have a disability, which Trump proposes cutting by more than $700 billion over 10 years. The budget calls for Medicaid block grants to states[.]" --s ...

... Kiley Kroh of ThinkProgress: "As President Donald Trump prepares his to release his fiscal year 2020 budget request, he is expected to propose massive cuts to the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) renewable energy and energy efficiency budget.... Trump's proposal will slash the budget for DOE's Office of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (EERE) from $2.3 billion to $700 million -- a roughly 70 percent cut -- Bloomberg reported this week, citing a department official familiar with the plan. " --s ...

... Pompeo Good with Bare-bones Budget. Lindsay Wise of the Kansas City Star & Brian Lowry of the Wichita Eagle (reprinted in the Miami Herald): "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that $13 billion in proposed budget cuts for his agency won't hurt America's 'swagger' abroad. The Trump administration's budget plan, released Monday, would slash the budget for the State Department and international programs by more than 23 percent, from $55.8 billion to a proposed $42.8 billion. In an interview Monday with McClatchy's Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle, Pompeo said he was deeply involved in preparing the budget and would support it before Congress.... When he became Secretary of State last year, Pompeo pledged to help the agency 'get its swagger back.' Asked on Monday how that would be possible in the face of such deep cuts, Pompeo was unfazed. 'When I talked about swagger it was about going out in the world and having the confidence that as an American diplomat you represent the greatest nation in th history of the world,' he said." ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "I've noted before that Donald Trump lives by a famous dictum from Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propagandist: 'When one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it.'... And the President has outdone himself with his Administration's new budget proposal for the 2020 fiscal year, which is entitled 'A Budget for a Better America:. Promises Kept. Taxpayers First.' 'Promises kept' has a particularly nice ring to it. Almost as nice as what Trump said on that fateful day, June 16, 2015, when he descended the escalator at Trump Tower. 'Save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without cuts,' he declared.... Throughout the Republican primary campaign, Trump repeated this pledge many times and also accused his G.O.P. opponents of wanting to slash the three big entitlement programs. In the general-election campaign, he stuck to the same mantra. A few days before Election Day, he suggested that Hillary Clinton wanted to 'destroy' Medicare..., which she had vowed to expand, and claimed that he alone would 'protect' it.... So how does the 'Budget for a Better America' treat Medicare and the other programs that Trump vowed to safeguard at all costs? By calling for even larger cuts to them than the White House proposed this last year, when it formally abandoned Trump's campaign pledges." ...

... "Blueprint for a Shutdown." Jim Newell of Slate: "The president's annual budget request ... is often portrayed as the White House's 'statement of priorities' for the coming fiscal year. White Houses are typically in on the joke and understand that they're offering a symbolic document. But what if this White House isn't in on the joke...? Then what it has offered, in the fiscal 2020 budget request it released Monday, is ... a blueprint for the next government shutdown.... [Historically,] Republicans would have been perfectly happy to boost defense and cut domestic spending. But they couldn't get such legislation past the Senate's 60-vote requirement. Democrats used that leverage to ensure Republicans wouldn't get their defense spending increase if Democrats didn't get their boosts to domestic programs.... [As usual, this year] there will still have to be bipartisan spending negotiations, the easiest answer to which is always giving Republicans what they want (increases to defense spending) in exchange for giving Democrats what they want (increases to non-defense spending). If Trump proclaims that he won';t sign such a deal..., the country will again careen toward a government shutdown In other words, it sounds exactly like the move that would appeal to him most."

... Sarah Jones of New York: "Donald Trump is nothing if not a man of vision -- a destructive vision, to be sure, soaked in blood-and-soil nationalism and open contempt for the poor. He's not always so skilled at executing that vision, a failure aptly demonstrated by the fate of his first budget. The administration's most drastic proposals ... mostly didn't survive Congress.... Trump is a slow learner. His latest budget, released on Monday morning, closely resembles his inaugural attempt, as it, too, contains welfare cuts that are likely to create a public relations problem for the Republican Party. It probably won't fare any better than its predecessor, and it sets up a costly political battle for Republicans, who will have to convince voters, again, that they're motivated by something other than pure animus for the poor. They'll have a difficult time making themselves heard over the president's budget, which whittles down some of the most popular entitlement programs in the country partly to secure funding for his border fence." ...

... Andy Borowitz of the New Yorker (satire): "Donald J. Trump's $4.7-trillion budget raised eyebrows on Monday when government-watchdog groups discovered that it contained twenty million dollars for bail. The line item for a 'bail fund' was buried in the fine print of the published budget, along with a footnote specifying that the money could be used only to bail out Trump and members of his immediate family. The footnote listed the members of his family who would be eligible to use the funds, including his daughter Ivanka and his sons Donald, Jr., and Eric, but not his son-in-law, Jared Kushner."

Felicia Sonmez of the Washington Post: "White House press secretary Sarah Sanders declined to say Monday whether President Trump believes Democrats 'hate Jewish people,' arguing that reporters should pose that question to Democratic lawmakers. According to an attendee, Trump said Friday at a Republican National Committee fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago Club that 'the Democrats hate Jewish people.'... Sanders said she would not 'comment on a potentially leaked document,' referring to reports of Trump's fundraiser remarks. She took aim at Democrats for a House resolution last week that broadly condemned hate, arguing that the measure -- which overwhelmingly passed with bipartisan support -- did not specifically reference alleged anti-Semitic comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.)." ...

... Josh Marshall of TPM: "President Trump is the most successful, prominent promoter of anti-Semitism in American history. Certainly he is the only president who has ever compiled such a record. I wanted to put together just a handful of examples of this ... referencing things he's done publicly over the last three plus years. Just a few examples." --s ...

... Hey, Maybe Paul LePage Can Clean This Up. AP: "Former [Maine] Gov. Paul LePage suggested Monday that the Democratic Party's money comes mostly from Jewish people.... 'The Jewish people in America have been great supporters of the Democratic Party,' LePage said. 'In fact, that's where their money comes from for the most part. They should be absolutely insulted for what she's been saying.'" ...

... AND this exchange is extraordinary. Sanders' response to Jim Acosta's suggestion that Trump tone down his incendiary rhetoric was to amp up the incendiary rhetoric: "[Democrats are] comfortable ripping babies straight from a mothers' womb or killing a baby after birth...." Sanders is like Trump's evil twin:

President* Changes One Crazy Tim Apple Story for Another: Maybe somebody rolled the videotape. According to a Trumpertwee Monday, Trump didn't say "Cook" & you failed to hear it. Instead, "At a recent round table meeting of business executives, & long after formally introducing Tim Cook of Apple, I quickly referred to Tim + Apple as Tim/Apple as an easy way to save time & words. The Fake News was disparagingly all over this, & it became yet another bad Trump story!" Philip Bump of the Washington Post calculates the amount of time Trump saved was 0.27 seconds. Not sure how long it took him to write the whiney-tweet.

The Trump Scandals, Ctd.

I'm not for impeachment.... Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there's something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don't think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he's just not worth it. -- Nancy Pelosi, in an interview ...

... Joe Helm interviews Nancy Pelosi for the Washington Post Magazine: She "says Trump is unfit to be president -- 'ethically,' 'intellectually' and' curiosity-wise' -- but impeachment would be too divisive."

William Rashbaum & Danny Hakim of the New York Times: "The New York attorney general's office late on Monday issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank for records relating to the financing of four major Trump Organization projects and a failed effort to buy the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League in 2014, according to a person briefed on the subpoenas. The inquiry opens a new front in the scrutiny of Deutsche Bank, one of the few lenders willing to do business with Donald J. Trump in recent years. The bank is already the subject of two congressional investigations and was examined last year by New York banking regulators, who took no action. The new inquiry, by the office of the attorney general, Letitia James, was prompted by the congressional testimony last month of Michael D. Cohen...."

Jonathan Chait: "While Robert Mueller's investigation is (probably?) approaching its conclusion, many other investigations into Trump's corrupt or illegal behavior are just getting started. Trump has long dismissed the Russia probe as a 'hoax' and 'witch hunt,' slogans his supporters have fleshed out with an elaborate conspiracy theory involving a deep state cabal working in tandem with the Clinton campaign to frame him. The task of dismissing all the other investigations is far more diffuse. Trump's strategy is to aggregate the broad category 'miscellaneous non-Russia investigations' into a category he calls 'presidential harassment.'... As usual, indefatigable conservative reporter Byron York is leading the way.... For York, the notion that Trump has done nothing wrong, or at least no more wrong than a typical president, is not the conclusion of his argument but the starting point. From this premise, he interprets all the investigations into his conduct as evidence of the unfairness or desperation of the president's adversaries."

Tom Llamas & Kaitlyn Folmer of ABC News: In an ABC News interview, "Keith Davidson, the former attorney for adult-film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal, detailed his role in negotiating hush-money deals to keep both women quiet about alleged affairs with Donald Trump, claiming a $130,000 payment to Daniels was 'done for political reasons.'... He also described [Michael] Cohen's anger when the nomination he expected for a key position within Trump's administration, such as chief of staff, never materialized.... 'He confided in me that he was just beside himself, and, in his words, you know, he said, "Can you f---ing believe, after everything I've done, he's not taking me to Washington?'" Davidson recalled. 'He felt that it was a personal embarrassment for him, that he was rejected.'" Earlier this month, Cohen told the House Oversight Committee, under oath, "I did not want to go to the White House. I was offered jobs." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

"Epic Sleaze." Michelle Goldberg: "... it's worth trying to summon whatever is left of our pre-Trump sensibilities and pause to consider the epic sleaze of the unfolding story of Li Yang, also known as Cindy Yang.... News that the owner of a chain of dubious massage parlors was brokering foreign access to the president of the United States should be a big deal. It has the potential to be a sex scandal, an intelligence scandal and a financial scandal all at once.... Both Mother Jones and The Herald found evidence that Yang, who emigrated from China, ran a business, GY US Investments, selling Chinese executives access to Trump, his family and Republican officials.... Mother Jones has reported that Yang is an officer in local branches of two groups tied to the Chinese government.... Chris Lu, a former deputy secretary of labor..., said that when he served in the White House, his rule was that 'anyone who comes in contact with the president or is in the room with the president needs to be vetted. Who the hell is vetting people that are going into Mar-a-Lago?'... Under Trump, America's leadership and its secrets are for sale."

Mark Hosenball of Reuters: "Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the team he assembled to investigate ... Donald Trump and his associates have been funded through the end of September 2019, three U.S. officials said on Monday, an indication that the probe has funding to keep it going for months if need be."

** Nelson Cunningham in the Daily Beast: "There may in fact be two Mueller reports. This is because from the very beginning, Mueller has ... borne two missions relating to the Russia investigation. The most public and familiar one is as a criminal investigator under the special counsel regulations. But Mueller has also carried a second charge, as a counterintelligence expert, with a much broader charge to determine and report the scope of any interference and any links to the Trump campaign.... It is Mueller's counterintelligence report we should really be anticipating. Done well..., it will provide a much richer, broader narrative description of Russia's effort to interfere in 2016, the nature of any links or cooperation between the Russians and the Trump campaign, and whether Trump or his associates were witting or unwitting assets for the Russians (including by obstructing the investigation) -- as well perhaps as conclusions for action.... Neither the special counsel regulations nor Attorney General Barr's discretion will keep Mueller's counterintelligence findings from Congress." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Cunningham, a former prosecutor with SDNY, seems to be just speculating on what Mueller will do with the counterintelligence info he has gathered, but let's hope his speculation is accurate. I would LOL if Trump was doing a "no collusion" victory dance over a brief DOJ report when Mueller dropped a bombshell that vividly condemned Trump -- to the point that even Matt Gaetz & Jim Jordan were left speechless.


Eliana Johnson
of Politico: "Dick Cheney lit into Vice President Mike Pence behind closed doors over the direction of the Trump administration's foreign policy, flouting a set of agreed-upon subjects and forcing Pence on the defensive over ... Donald Trump's foreign policy. The former vice president interviewed Pence at the American Enterprise Institute's annual World Forum in Sea Island, Ga., an off-the-record confab attended by approximately 200 top-dollar Republican donors, lawmakers and business leaders.... Cheney pressed Pence about Trump's proclivity for making major policy announcements on Twitter and his off-and-on commitment to NATO, according to four meeting attendees and a source briefed on their remarks. The former vice president, who has kept a low public profile in recent years, questioned whether Trump places enough value on the findings of the intelligence community, which he has repeatedly and publicly dismissed. He suggested that Trump foreign policy has at times looked more like President Barack Obama's -- which Cheney has repeatedly lambasted -- than that of a Republican standard-bearer."

Dara Lind of Vox: "A federal judge [Dana Sabraw] has declared that the Trump administration is legally responsible for all children who were separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border and placed with relatives or other sponsors after July 1, 2017 -- which could amount to 'thousands' beyond the 2,800 separations already acknowledged as a result of the Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' policy of 2017 and 2018.... The order doesn't force the government to reunify these families -- it just declares that their fate is legally now part of this lawsuit, and opens the door to the government and the ACLU to propose specific next steps.... The Trump administration has argued forcefully that this record-keeping task could take months.... [T]he government is so resistant to taking on responsibility for separated children who have left its custody that it's threatening to appeal Sabraw's order[.]" --s

Rebekah Entralago of ThinkProgress: "Illegal crossings at the U.S.-Canada border have risen by 91 percent compared to the previous year according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), even as President Donald Trump remains fixated on building a wall and adding additional agents to prevent migrants from crossing the southern U.S. border.... The largest spike occurred along the Swanton border patrol section, which includes the borders of New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont, where 548 people were apprehended in 2018, up from 165 in all of 2017. While these numbers are significantly smaller than the crossings at the southern border, the lack of outrage against illegal activity on the northern border is emblematic of President Trump's war against black and brown immigrants and asylum seekers." --s

Noah Lanard of Mother Jones: "On Monday, The Atlantic published a cover story in which [Dubya neo-con turned NeverTrumper David] Frum calls for a radical cut to legal immigration in the name of promoting assimilation and warding off fascism. Frum cites the election of Donald Trump as evidence of a widespread backlash to immigration.... But do Americans actually think there's too much immigration? The answer, according to polling data, is a resounding no. Last year, only 24 percent of Americans supported cutting legal immigration, down from 40 percent in 2006, according to data provided to Mother Jones by the Pew Research Center. Among Republicans without a college degree, the heart of Trump's base, 59 percent say legal immigration should be increased or kept at the present level.... But given that support for immigrants is now at or near record highs, it's unclear why 2019 should be the year the United States finally adopts the anti-immigration agenda Frum has been pushing for decades." --s

Robert Mackey of The Intercept [March 6]: "[F]irst lady Melania Trump's visit to a school in Oklahoma this week might have accidentally triggered an international incident after reporters in Turkey revealed that the school was founded by followers of a dissident Turkish cleric who Turkey's government blames for an attempted coup in 2016.... Stephanie Grisham, a spokesperson for the first lady, declined to answer a direct question about whether the White House was aware of the Oklahoma school's links to [Fethullah] Gülen before the visit.... TRT World, the English-language arm of Turkey's state broadcaster, spent some time parsing the first lady's visit, trying to determine if it was 'an intentional move or just a faux pas on the part of the administration.'" --s

Presidential Race 2020

Bill Barrow, et al., of the AP: "Democrats picked Milwaukee on Monday to host their 2020 national convention, setting up the party's standard-bearer to accept the presidential nomination in the heart of the old industrial belt that delivered Donald Trump to the White House." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Alex Thompson & Daniel Strauss of Politico: "Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), one of the most outspoken advocates of the #MeToo movement..., spent last summer pressing legislators to update Congress' 'broken' system of handling sexual harassment. At the same time, a mid-20s female aide to Gillibrand resigned in protest over the handling of her sexual harassment complaint by Gillibrand's office, and criticized the senator for failing to abide by her own public standards. In July, the female staffer alleged one of Gillibrand's closest aides -- who was a decade her senior and married -- repeatedly made unwelcome advances after the senator had told him he would be promoted to a supervisory role over her. She also said the male aide regularly made crude, misogynistic remarks in the office about his female colleagues and potential female hires. Less than three weeks after reporting the alleged harassment and subsequently claiming that the man retaliated against her for doing so, the woman told chief of staff Jess Fassler that she was resigning because of the office's handling of the matter. She did not have another job lined up.... The male aide, Abbas Malik, kept his job.... Two weeks ago..., Politico presented the office with its own findings of additional allegations of inappropriate workplace conduct by Malik.... Gillibrand's office opened a new investigation and dismissed Malik last week." ...

... Sarah Jones: Kirsten Gillibrand "... is hardly the only prominent Democrat to be accused of ignoring sexual harassment within her office or campaign.... Gillibrand, though, may be uniquely vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy. As Politico notes, she's used her campaign and her rising national profile to highlight issues of gender inequality.... Despite her recent leftward turn, Gillibrand hasn't been leading the polls for president. This scandal won't exactly help her make her case."

Cristiano Lima of Politico: "Facebook removed several ads placed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren's presidential campaign that called for the breakup of Facebook and other tech giants. But the social network later reversed course after Politico reported on the takedown, with the company saying it wanted to allow for 'robust debate.'... 'Curious why I think FB has too much power? Let's start with their ability to shut down a debate over whether FB has too much power,' [Warren] tweeted. 'Thanks for restoring my posts. But I want a social media marketplace that isn't dominated by a single censor.'"


Presidential Race 2016. Nihal Krishan
of Mother Jones: "The Federal Election Commission has hit Right to Rise USA, the super-PAC that backed Jeb Bush's 2016 presidential bid, with a record fine for accepting a seven-figure donation from a company owned by Chinese nationals who were in business with Bush's brother, Neil, according to FEC documents obtained by Mother Jones. It is illegal for foreign nationals to be involved in making donations to political committees. Neil Bush, who has extensive business dealings in China, solicited the $1.3 million contribution from American Pacific International Capital (APIC), an international investment holding company where Neil is a board member.... The total combined fine against Bush's super-PAC and APIC, which has not previously been reported, is $940,000, the largest amount levied in a single case against anyone since the 2010 Citizens United ruling. The penalty is also the biggest fine that the FEC has ever handed down due to foreign national participation." ...

... Lee Fang & Jon Schwarz of The Intercept: "The Federal Election Commission has unveiled one of the most significant enforcement actions in its history, citing a 2016 investigative series by The Intercept. That series, 'Foreign Influence,' detailed how Right to Rise USA, a Super PAC supporting the 2016 presidential candidacy of Jeb Bush, received $1.3 million in campaign donations from American Pacific International Capital, a California corporation controlled by two Chinese citizens." --s


Josh Gerstein
of Politico: "A federal appeals court has moved to quickly unseal long-secret court filings related to financier Jeffrey Epstein's sexual contact with underage girls, but one judge is expressing some disagreement with the plan. Two judges on a 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals panel considering motions to unseal records in an Epstein-connected lawsuit said in an order Monday that they plan to make public several key submissions in the case unless the parties make a compelling argument in the next eight days why the records shouldn't be released."

Annals of "Journalism," Ha Ha Ha

Madeline Peltz of Media Matters: "Between 2006 and 2011, Fox News host Tucker Carlson spent approximately an hour a week calling in to the Bubba the Love Sponge Show, a popular shock jock radio program where he spoke with the hosts about a variety of cultural and political topics in often-vulgar terms. In addition to making many misogynistic remarks and sexual comments about underage girls, Carlson, who was hired by Fox in 2009, also repeatedly made racist remarks. Carlson credited 'white men' for 'creating civilization' and made numerous racist remarks about the Obamas, including agreeing that Michelle Obama would 'be a problem' because she 'turns into a sister' and asking of Barack Obama, 'How is he Black, for one thing? He has one white parent, one Black parent.' Carlson called Iraqis 'semiliterate primitive monkeys' and said Afghanistan is 'never going to be a civilized country because the people aren't civilized.' He also said he had 'zero sympathy' for Iraqis because they 'don't use toilet paper or forks' and that the war could turn around 'if, somehow, the Iraqis decided to behave like human beings.'"...

... Sophie Weiner of Splinter: "Pushing extreme narratives about immigration, racism, and political correctness is the bread and butter of Carlson's current show. What these tapes reveal is a remarkable ideological consistency, dating back 15 years." ...

... Joan Walsh of the Nation: "None of this should be shocking to any sentient being: Carlson is a sexist pig, who has lately become the white-nationalist defender of fragile white men. But it is particularly not shocking to me - because, nine years ago, Carlson called me the C-word to a Salon intern, multiple times, and told the young man I needed to get 'fucked.'... I knew that he was lying when he trashed Samantha Bee for calling Ivanka Trump the C-word. 'That one word that [Bee] used. I don't know any man who uses that word because it is kind of the one word that is actually degrading.'"

Charles Davis of the Daily Beast: "Defending statutory rape committed by women has been a recurring theme for Carlson." Davis cites several examples, including one as recently as 2014. He chose once to have such a discussion with Gavin McInnis, founder of the Proud Boys white nationalist group. "McInnes was previously a columnist for The Daily Caller, which Carlson founded; and in their conversation, McInnes discussed how an editor there once deleted the phrase 'fucking Jews' from one of his articles."

Tucker's Lame Whaddaboudism Self-Defense. Lisa de Moraes of Deadline: "On his first Tucker Carlson Tonight telecast since [Media Matters released audio of his misogynistic, racist remarks], Carlson [said]: 'Why are the people who consider Bill Clinton a hero lecturing me about sexism?' he asked, rhetorically. 'How can the party that demands racial quotas denounce other people as racist? After awhile you begin to think that maybe their criticisms aren't sincere. Maybe their moral puffery is a costume. The fate of the human soul and the moral regeneration of society do not interest 'progressives' who are 'too busy pushing late-term abortion and cross-dressing on fifth-graders,' argued Carlson, whose FNC primetime program, along with those of Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, are among the most popular on cable news, and on basic cable TV." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Maybe you're sensing a theme here. It appears that (rarely-performed) late-term abortion is the right's "defense" against their rampant racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, etc. BTW, Fox "News" issued a strong statement against Jeanine Pirro's anti-Muslim remarks. So far, the fair-skinned & unbalanced network has been silent about Carlson, who enjoys a prime-time slot in the network's illustrious lineup. ...

... Adam Raymond of New York: "The decision by Fox News to rebuke [Jeanine] Pirro for her incendiary comments is notable because it doesn't happen often.... The latitude the network gives its biggest stars became clear as, just hours after its statement on Pirro, it remained silent on Tucker Carlson's recently unearthed misogynistic and creepy comments. A spokesperson for Fox News didn't respond to an email asking why the network condemned Pirro and not Carlson. So, what kind of offense rises to the level of an official Fox News rebuke? Here are some recent missteps that went too far even for Fox."


Jonathan Watts
of the Guardian: "Sales of synthetic chemicals will double over the next 12 years with alarming implications for health and the environment, according to a global study that highlights government failures to rein in the industry behind plastics, pesticides and cosmetics. The second Global Chemicals Outlook ... said the world will not meet international commitments to reduce chemical hazards and halt pollution by 2020. In fact, the study by the United Nations Environment Programme found that the industry has never been more dominant nor has humanity's dependence on chemicals ever been as great." --s

Beyond the Beltway

Nebraska. Allegra Kirkland of TPM: The 2018 field director for Gov. Pete Rickett's (DR-Neb.) re-election campaign has sent “a shocking trove of ... private messages ... over ... an online gaming platform popular with white nationalists.... [In the messages, Bennett Bressman says] has 'more compassion for small dogs than illegals' and claims his 'whole political ideology revolves around harming journalists.' He uses the n-word freely and cracks jokes about the Holocaust.... 'I am shocked and horrified to learn that this former staffer made these statements and I had no idea he harbored these feelings. He never expressed these views to me. I condemn these statements and this hateful worldview, which do not reflect my beliefs or the beliefs of Nebraskans,' Ricketts said in a statement." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: You know what, Pete? This is no aberration. This is the kind of fans you attract. That's what should "shock and horrify" you. On the other hand, your buddy Bennett doesn't seem a helluva lot worse than Tucker Carlson, & he's a national teevee star.

Way Beyond

Algeria. Alex Ward of Vox: "In a massive concession after weeks of protests, Algeria-s ailing, long-time authoritarian leader -- who has rarely been seen in public for years -- won-t run for a fifth term as president. On Monday, the 82-year-old Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has led Algeria since 1999 despite having a stroke in 2013 that left him paralyzed and basically mute, put out a statement to quell the concerns of thousands of demonstrators. 'There will be no fifth term,' Bouteflika said.... The remaining question is whom the regime will name to replace Bouteflika." --s

Sunday
Mar102019

The Commentariat -- March 11, 2019

Afternoon Update:

Lord Dampnut's Proposal. Jim Tankersley & Michael Tackett of the New York Times: "President Trump sent Congress on Monday a record $4.75 trillion budget request that proposes an increase in military spending and sharp cuts to domestic programs like education and environmental protection for the 2020 fiscal year. Mr. Trump's budget, the largest in federal history, includes a nearly 5 percent increase in military spending -- which is more than the Pentagon had asked for -- and an additional $8.6 billion for construction of a border wall with Mexico. White House officials said the budget would include a total of $1.9 trillion in cuts to mandatory safety net programs, like Medicaid. It also proposes new work requirements for working-age adult recipients of supplemental nutrition assistance, federal housing support and Medicaid, a move the administration said would reduce spending on those programs by $327 billion."

President* Changes One Crazy Apple Story for Another: Maybe somebody rolled the videotape. According to a Trumpertweet Monday, Trump didn't say "Cook" & you failed to hear it. Instead, "At a recent round table meeting of business executives, & long after formally introducing Tim Cook of Apple, I quickly referred to Tim + Apple as Tim/Apple as an easy way to save time & words. The Fake News was disparagingly all over this, & it became yet another bad Trump story!" Philip Bump of the Washington Post calculates the amount of time Trump saved was 0.27 seconds. Not sure how long it took him to write the whiney-tweet.

Tom Llamas & Kaitlyn Folmer of ABC News: In an ABC News interview, "Keith Davidson, the former attorney for adult-film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal, detailed his role in negotiating hush-money deals to keep both women quiet about alleged affairs with Donald Trump, claiming a $130,000 payment to Daniels was 'done for political reasons.'... He also described [Michael] Cohen's anger when the nomination he expected for a key position within Trump's administration, such as chief of staff, never materialized.... 'He confided in me that he was just beside himself, and, in his words, you know, he said, "Can you f[uck]ing believe, after everything I've done, he's not taking me to Washington?'" Davidson recalled. 'He felt that it was a personal embarrassment for him, that he was rejected.'" Earlier this month, Cohen told the House Oversight Committee, under oath, "I did not want to go to the White House. I was offered jobs."

Bill Barrow, et al., of the AP: "Democrats picked Milwaukee on Monday to host their 2020 national convention, setting up the party's standard-bearer to accept the presidential nomination in the heart of the old industrial belt that delivered Donald Trump to the White House."

~~~~~~~~~~

Damian Paletta & Erica Werner of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Monday will request at least another $8.6 billion in funding to build more sections of a wall along the Mexico border, setting up a fresh battle with Congress less than one month after Trump declared a national emergency. In Trump's annual budget request to Congress, he will request $5 billion in funding for the Department of Homeland Security to continue building sections of a wall along the Mexico border, three people briefed on the request said. He will request another $3.6 billion for the Defense Department's military construction budget to erect more sections of a wall." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Not Gonna Happen. Brett Samuels of the Hill: "Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) indicated on Sunday that President Trump's reported plan to ask for $8.6 billion in the fiscal 2020 budget to fund a wall along the southern border was a non-starter. 'President Trump hurt millions of Americans and caused widespread chaos when he recklessly shut down the government to try to get his expensive and ineffective wall, which he promised would be paid for by Mexico,' the Democratic leaders said in a statement. 'Congress refused to fund his wall and he was forced to admit defeat and reopen the government. The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again,' they added." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Jonathan Swan of Axios: "To prevent leaks from Trump's Friday night Mar-a-Lago speech to RNC donors, security guards made attendees put their cellphones in magnetized pouches.... [Mrs. McC: And no wonder!]... Referring to the recent anti-Semitism controversies with Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, Trump told the donors: 'The Democrats hate Jewish people.' [Mrs. McC: If true, this would be a bit odd, because many Democrats are Jewish people.]... Trump went off on what one guest called a 'bizarre tangent.' He described being home alone in the White House over Christmas 'while the Democrats were in Hawaii.'... He said he saw [Secret Service] agents wearing night vision goggles. 'They're in blackface,' Trump added, jokingly referring to the masks over the agents' faces. Trump [said] ... maybe 'they have to take [the masks] away'..." Mrs. McC: Trump thinks all this is very funny, partly because, according to Swan, "the crowd roared with laughter throughout." ...

... Jonathan Swan: "Republican donors in attendance called it one of Trump's weirdest lies ever. On Friday night, under a tent erected over the pool at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, President Trump claimed the media were spreading "fake news" when they said he called the CEO of Apple 'Tim Apple.' that he actually said 'Tim Cook Apple' really fast, and the 'Cook' part of the sentence was soft. But all you heard from the 'fake news,' he said, was 'Tim Apple.'" Mrs. McC: Whether because of the natural effects of aging, weird "hair" medications he is taking, or the stress of being hounded by daily reports of his sleaziness, incompetence, lies, corruption & criminality, Trump is losing it. And since he recognizes no personal failings, he has to blame someone else even for his own slips of the tongue. I believe he would be willing to testify that the videographer -- who probably works for "fake news" -- edited out "Cook." If he weren't a horrible person, it would be sad. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Notice that Trump doesn't pause between "Tim" and "Apple." Trump makes it one word: "Timapple." Yet we're supposed to believe there's a quietly-enounced "Cook" in there.

The Trump Scandals, Ctd.

About That Other Trump Tower Meeting. Zachary Basu of Axios: "House Intelligence chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday that Erik Prince was lying when he claimed last week that he testified about a 2016 meeting he had with foreign nationals at Trump Tower.... Robert Mueller, who Schiff said is now in possession of all witness transcripts, has charged a number of Trump associates with lying to investigators. Notably, Donald Trump Jr. also neglected to tell the committee about the second Trump Tower meeting during his testimony." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Erin Banco & Asawin Suebsaeng of the Daily Beast: "It wasn't long ago that Trump saw and berated [Paul] Manafort as a nuisance and another expendable former adviser. In the first year of his presidency, Trump and his top aides went out of their way to downplay the former campaign chairman's major role in the 2016 effort, with many on Team Trump privately blaming Manafort in part for federal investigators' interest in the finances of the president's family, and political and business associates.... Nowadays, however, Trump's annoyance towards his onetime aide has been largely replaced with pity and attaboys.... The president's public display of emotional support for Manafort is reflected in private discussions with close associates, who say that Trump has praised 'Paul' for not being a 'rat' or 'coward,' as he views [Michael] Cohen, and has repeatedly expressed agitation over Manafort's jailing, sometimes likening him to a political prisoner. Trump has also encouraged it when his advisers or legal team have made public statements bashing the feds' treatment of Manafort."

Christina Wilkie of CNBC has a long & hard-to-follow tale of how Paul Manafort got $125K through a series of (probably legal) cutouts, then lied about it to prosecutors. ...

     ... BUT as Steve M. Yastreblyansky points out, the importance of the story may be "that one of the simplest and craziest-sounding hypotheses of the Russian conspiracy -- that Manafort got that polling data to Russia in August 2016 to inform their Facebook voter-targeting activities in October, and may in this way have played a decisive role in turning the election around -- could ... be true. Steve Yastreblyansky notes that Jerry Nadler is on the case. ...

     ... UPDATE: Oops!

Melanie Stunned Australian Woman Is Top Official. Matt Stieb of New York: "Melania Trump, the allegedly reluctant wife of the president, mistook Australia's former foreign minister Julie Bishop for the wife of a politician, according to a story shared by Bishop on Saturday. In front of an audience at the Adelaide Festival, Bishop -- who served from 2013 to 2018 as Australia's equivalent of secretary of state -- said that Melania thought her partner was the foreign minister, after President Trump began talking to him at a UN event in 2017: 'Melania, standing by, assumed David was the foreign minister and she said to me: "Julie, will you be coming to my ladies' lunch tomorrow?" And I said "No, David's going to the partners' lunch".... So this went on for a while until the president explained that I was the foreign minister.'" Mrs. McC: Kinda reminds you of the time she & Donald had tea with Queen Elizabeth & asked the Queen where King Philip was.

How could he allow himself to become the cheerleader of the porn star presidency? Is it that he stopped believing in scripture when he started believing in Donald Trump? -- Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, on mike pence

James Glanz & Zach Wichter of the New York Times: "Two eerily similar scenes have played out in recent months for Boeing's brand-new 737 Max jets: on Sunday, when an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed just after taking off from Addis Ababa, killing 157 people, and in October, when a Lion Air disaster killed 189 people in Indonesia.... The rarity of two planes of the same model going down in such a short time span has urgently caught the attention of pilots, passengers, engineers and industry analysts. For Boeing, the questions go to the heart of its business, as the 737 class is a workhorse for airlines worldwide, and the single-aisle 737 Max has been the company's best-selling plane ever." ...

     ... The New York Times is updating developments. "The newest version of Boeing's most popular jet is under scrutiny after a deadly crash on Sunday, leading several countries and airlines around the world to ground their fleets' 737 Max 8 planes."

Eric Schmitt & Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "The American military has escalated a battle against the Shabab, an extremist group affiliated with Al Qaeda, in Somalia even as President Trump seeks to scale back operations against similar Islamist insurgencies elsewhere in the world, from Syria and Afghanistan to West Africa. A surge in American airstrikes over the last four months of 2018 pushed the annual death toll of suspected Shabab fighters in Somalia to the third record high in three years. Last year, the strikes killed 326 people in 47 disclosed attacks, Defense Department data show. And so far this year, the intensity is on a pace to eclipse the 2018 record."

Kate Kelly & Ben Hubbard of the New York Times: The talent agency Endeavor has returned a $400 million investment by the Saudi government in protest over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. "It is one of the few instances of a major company halting business with the wealthy kingdom to protest its agents' assassination of a journalist."

All the Best People, Ctd. Tommy Christopher of Mediaite: "When MSNBC host Al Sharpton confronted Trump campaign senior adviser Katrina Pierson about the lack of black staffers in Trump's West Wing, Pierson offered a jaw-dropping excuse, asking Sharpton how many black people worked in Abraham Lincoln's West Wing." Mrs. McC: Well now, that puts everything in perspective, doesn't it?

Annals of "Journalism," Ha Ha Ha.

Tucker Carlson Is as Creepy as You Thought He Was. Madeline Peltz of Media Matters: "Between 2006 and 2011, Tucker Carlson spent approximately an hour a week calling in to Bubba the Love Sponge, a popular shock jock radio program where he spoke with the hosts about a variety of cultural and political topics in sometimes-vulgar terms. During those conversations, Carlson diminished the actions of Warren Jeffs, then on the FBI's 'Ten Most Wanted Fugitives' list for his involvement in arranging illegal marriages between adults and underage girls, talked about sex and young girls, and defended statutory rape. Carlson, who was hired by Fox News in 2009, also used sexist language to talk about women, including then-co-workers at NBC and public figures. He referred to Martha Stewart's daughter Alexis Stewart as 'cunty,' called journalist Arianna Huffington a 'pig,' and labeled Britney Spears and Paris Hilton 'the biggest white whores in America.' He also said that women enjoy being told to 'be quiet and kind of do what you're told' and that they are 'extremely primitive.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Lest you think Tucker can write off these comments as "youthful indiscretions," Carlson had a (terrible) CNN "shouting" show with Paul Begala prior to his radio call-in career. Jon Stewart pretty much blew up the Carlson-Begala show in 2004 when he appeared as a guest & told the hosts they were irresponsible (he called Carlson a dick, which is accurate). CNN cancelled the show, called "Crossfire," a few months later. ...

     ... BUT Carlson Tries the "Youth Indiscretion" Defense Anyway (AND Promotes His Show). Daily Beast Update: "Fox News host Tucker Carlson has refused to apologize for a string of derogatory comments he made about women on a radio show years ago, including dismissing women as 'extremely primitive' and 'like dogs.'... Carlson ... post[ed] on Twitter: 'Media Matters caught me saying something naughty on a radio show more than a decade ago. Rather than express the usual ritual contrition, how about this: I'm on television every weeknight live for an hour. If you want to know what I think, you can watch. Anyone who disagrees with my views is welcome to come on and explain why.'"

Daniel Politi of Slate: "Fox News host Jeanine Pirro openly questioned Rep. Ilhan Omar's loyalty to the United States during her show on Saturday.... 'Think about it, Omar wears a hijab, which, according to the Quran 33:59, tells women to cover so they won't get molested,' she said. 'Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to Sharia law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution?' Pirro then continued to press the issue when talking to guests later on in her show.... Update: 'We strongly condemn Jeanine Pirro's comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar,' Fox News said in a statement [released Sunday]. 'They do not reflect those of the network and we have addressed the matter with her directly.' As for Pirro, she doesn't think she did anything wrong. 'I did not call Rep. Omar un-American. My intention was to ask a question and start a debate, but of course because one is Muslim does not mean you don't support the Constitution,' Pirro said."

Beyond the Beltway

Missouri. Daniel Politi: “Police in western Missouri got a call reporting a marijuana smell and they decided to investigate. The fact that the smell was apparently coming from the hospital room of a Stage 4 pancreatic cancer patient wasn't going to stop them. Video posted on Facebook shows officers from the Bolivar Police Department going through Nolan Sousley's things at Citizens Memorial Hospital.... Sousley told [the police] that all he had were pills with THC but the officers insist someone said they could smell marijuana in the room.... The officers specified that if they found marijuana, Sousley would receive a citation. When Sousley reminded them that Missouri will soon legalize medical marijuana, the officers were unconvinced.... Although Missourians voted to legalize medical marijuana in November, the regulations are still not in place."

Way Beyond

Canada. Rob Gillies of the AP: "Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing a controversy that seems trivial by comparison [to Trump's scandals], but it could topple him in elections later this year. Two high-profile women ministers in Trudeau's Cabinet, including Canada's first indigenous justice minister, resigned in protest, and his top aide and best friend quit too. The former justice minister and attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, says Trudeau and senior members of his government pressured her in a case involving a major Canadian engineering company accused of corruption related to its business dealings in Libya. Trudeau reportedly leaned on the attorney general to instruct prosecutors to reach the equivalent of plea deal, which would avoid a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, because he felt that jobs were at stake.... He denied applying any inappropriate pressure, saying he and his officials were only pointing out that prosecution could endanger thousands of jobs."

Israel. Amy Spiro of the Jerusalem Post: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel 'is not a country of all its citizens,' hitting back at criticism from an Israeli actress who said the government treats Arabs like they are less worthy. 'First of all,' Netanyahu wrote in a Facebook message Sunday morning addressed to actress Rotem Sela, 'an important correction: Israel is not a country of all its citizens. According to the Nation-State Law that we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish nation -- and its alone. As you wrote, there is no problem with Arab citizens -- they have equal rights like everybody and the Likud government has invested in the Arab sector more than any other government.' The prime minister was responding to an Instagram post from Sela, a prolific and popular TV host and star of The Baker and the Beauty. Sela took to Instagram Saturday night to criticize Culture Minister Miri Regev and a journalist who interviewed her that evening."