The Wires
The Ledes

Thursday, April 19, 2018.

New York Times: "Two years after the sudden death of Prince by accidental fentanyl overdose, one of the lingering mysteries surrounding the enigmatic musician concerned how and where he obtained the powerful synthetic opioid that killed him and whether anyone would be held responsible. On Thursday, law enforcement authorities in Minnesota closed a major part of their investigation, announcing that no one would be criminally charged in the case. The Carver County attorney, Mark Metz, said in a news conference that Prince died after unknowingly taking counterfeit Vicodin that contained fentanyl, but that there was 'no reliable evidence of how Prince obtained' the fatal drug."

Especially if you're into very high-end decorative porcelain, here are some highlights of David & Peggy Rockefeller's collection that will go on auction beginning May 1. Unless you're a Rockefeller, your grandmother's curio cabinet never looked quite like this. To access the full Christie's catalog on the Rockefeller estate objets, start here.

Oh Noes! The Local: "Rome's Jewish community is embroiled in a standoff with Israel's top religious authority after it declared the Eternal City's cherished dish of 'carciofi alla giudia' (deep-fried whole artichoke) not kosher. The crisp golden delicacies are a speciality of the Roman-Jewish cuisine and a prominent feature on menus. But Israel's Chief Rabbinate said the method of cooking the artichoke whole made it impossible to clean properly and it didn't therefore adhere to kosher standards. 'The heart of the artichoke is full of worms, there's no way you can clean it,' said the head of imports of Israel's Rabbinate, Yitzhak Arazi, in an interview with national newspaper Haaretz. 'It can't be kosher. It's not our politics, this is Jewish religious law.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This would be a tragedy. I've had Jewish-style artichokes in Rome's old Jewish quarter, & I'm pretty sure god would approve.

New York Times: Turns out the reboot of "Roseanne" is the result of ABC Entertainment's plan to become the Trump Nation's go-to teevee network, a strategy that began to take shape the day after Trump's election. "The top markets for the debut [of "Roseanne"] read like a political pollster’s red-state checklist: Cincinnati; Kansas City, Mo.; Tulsa, Okla. Liberal enclaves like New York and Los Angeles did not crack the top 20." ...

... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: If, like Medlar & me, you happened to miss the premiere/reboot of the "Roseanne" show, where Roseanne Barr plays a Trump supporter (as she is in real life),

This video is dedicated to the Wives of Trump. Thanks to a friend for the link:

Here's a related story by Avi Selk of the Washington Post: "Deep-sea anglerfish sex ... is an endless horror. Every. Single. Time. A male anglerfish's first and only sexual adventure results in his becoming permanently fused — by his lips, no less — to the side of a relatively gargantuan female that resembles David Cronenberg's nightmare about the shark from 'Jaws.'”

 

An Outsider Artist Who Changed Modern Painting. New York: "In the 1940s, a 16-year-old girl captured the minds of the art world’s elite. The self-taught Algerian artist, Baya Mahieddine (1931-1988) — known as Baya — is finally being celebrated in the first North American exhibition of her work, at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, through March 31. Baya used gouache as her primary medium, depicting a world without men but full of bright images of women, nature, and animals." Baya influenced, among others, Picasso & Matisse, which is kinda obvious.

I posted this for no other reason than this is the first time I've seen it. But the "national policy" Tommy announces is more true today than ever in American history. To those of you too young to have seen a Carson monologue, I apologize:

ObamaTV. New York Times: "Former President Barack Obama is in advanced negotiations with Netflix to produce a series of high-profile shows that will provide him a global platform after his departure from the White House, according to people familiar with the discussions.Under terms of a proposed deal, which is not yet final, Netflix would pay Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, for exclusive content that would be available only on the streaming service.... The Netflix deal, while not a direct answer to Fox News or Breitbart.com, would give Mr. Obama an unfiltered method of communication with the public similar to the audiences he already reaches through social media...."

Chicago Tribune: "A new scientific study claims that bones found in 1940 on the Pacific Island of Nikumaroro belong to [American aviator Amelia] Earhart, despite a forensic analysis of the remains conducted in 1941 that linked the bones to a male. The bones, revisited in the study 'Amelia Earhart and the Nikumaroro Bones' by University of Tennessee professor Richard Jantz, were discarded. For decades they have remained an enigma, as some have speculated that Earhart died a castaway on the island after her plane crashed." Jantz's conclusion is based on measurements of the bones taken by a medical doctor in 1941.

... Michael Rosenwald of the Washington Post has the full story.

Here's the L.A. Times' main Academy Awards page. ...

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

Sunday
Apr152018

An Alternative to Facebook

By Anonymous*

 

To others of my generation who still do not and cannot comprehend why Facebook even exists, here’s what I’m doing to gain a better understanding:

I’m trying to make new friends without using Facebook, but using the same principles.

Every day I walk down the street and tell passers-by what I have eaten, how I feel at the moment, what I have done the night before, what I will do later, and with whom.

I show them pictures of my family, my dog, and of me gardening, taking things apart in the garage, watering the lawn, standing in front of landmarks, driving around town, having lunch, and doing what anybody and everybody does every day.

I also listen to their conversations. 

Then I give them the “thumbs up” and tell them I like them.

And…

Guess what? It’s working!

I already have four people “following” me.

Two police officers, a private investigator, and a psychiatrist.


* Mrs. Bea McCrabbie
: This came to me via a friend of a friend. The earliest publication I can find on the Internet is here, but there's no particular reason to think it's original to the writer here (actually, to the writer's mother). If the "real" author contacts me, I'll certain credit her or take it down, if she wishes. At any rate, thanks to my friend & to the writer, whoever she may be.

Saturday
Apr142018

The Commentariat -- April 15, 2018

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Just got a call from my accountant. She estimates that, all things being equal, my taxes will go up $4,000 next year. So Trump, the fake billionaire will get a multi-million-dollar tax break while Marie, the relativelely poor widow, will pay several thousand more in taxes. Thanks, Trump. Thanks, Paul. Thanks, Mitch. Fuckers. -- Marie

Peter Baker of the New York Times: "Barbara Bush, the wife and mother of presidents who has long been among the most popular members of her famous family, has decided to stop seeking medical treatment to prolong her life as she faces a variety of ailments, people close to the family said on Sunday. Mrs. Bush, who is 92 and frail, has been in and out of the hospital but has now forsworn further interventions and 'will instead focus on comfort care,' according to a statement issued by her husband’s office in Houston."

It's a Gloomy Day in D.C., & the Twitterbird-in-Chief Is Stuck in the White House. Phil McCausland of NBC News: "... Donald Trump fired off a barrage of angry tweets early Sunday morning, directing much of his ire at the the former head of the FBI, whom he called 'the WORST FBI Director in history, by far!'... Trump's tweets included numerous allegations that are unproven and unverified.... 'I never asked Comey for Personal Loyalty. I hardly even knew this guy. Just another of his many lies. His “memos” are self serving and FAKE!'... Trump dedicated most of his morning to Comey, whom he called a "Slimeball!" in his first tweet.... 'The big questions in Comey’s badly reviewed book aren’t answered, like how come he gave up classified information (jail), why did he lie to Congress (jail), why did the DNC refuse to give server to the FBI (why didn’t they TAKE it), why the phony memos, McCabe’s $700,000 & more?' Trump tweeted.... 'Comey throws AG Lynch "under the bus!" Why can’t we all find out what happened on the tarmac in the back of the plane with Wild Bill [Clinton] and Lynch'" Trump wrote, referring to a summer 2016 meeting between Lynch and former president Bill Clinton. 'Was she promised a Supreme Court seat, or AG, in order to lay off Hillary. No golf and grandkids talk (give us all a break)!'" Here's Trump's Twitter feed.

Wag the Dog???

 

... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: So what's wrong with this picture? Sanders tweeted it out on Saturday, announcing that "Last night the President put our adversaries on notice...." And who's the guy sitting on the right hand of the Lord? Why, its mike pence. And where was mike pence on Friday night? In Peru. In another hemisphere. Everything about the Trump administration is fake. Did the U.S. really lob missiles at Syria? I'm beginning to wonder.

If you'd like to see a real picture of the President & his national security team in the Situation Room during an international crisis, here's one: 

During the raid on the Osama bin Laden compound. Photo by Pete Souza. 

     ... Update. Brenth Griffiths of Politico: "... Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended a Saturday night tweet from her official account, saying the message that contained an official photo of ... Donald Trump and his team being 'briefed' on Syria is not misleading. 'It’s from Thursday meeting when he was briefed on Syria,' Sanders said in an email to POLITICO. 'So no, not misleading at all.'" Mrs. McC: Uh, you wrote, "last night" on Saturday, Mrs. Liarby. Did I miss an executive proclamation changing the order of the days of the week?

Carol Morello of the Washington Post: "Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Sunday the United States will place more sanctions on Russia this week related to its support for Syria's chemical weapons program. Speaking on CBS News’s 'Face the Nation' program, Haley said the sanctions are imminent, targetng Russian companies that have helped the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad make and deploy chemical weapons like those that spurred the United States and its allies to launch more than 100 missiles at Syria over the weekend.” ...

... Liz Sly of the Washington Post: "Syrian President Bashar al-Assad praised Russian weaponry on Sunday as his government celebrated victory over rebels in the town where an alleged chemical attack took place, triggering U.S. airstrikes over the weekend. Assad made the comments during a meeting in Damascus with Russian lawmakers, who later told reporters that he was in a 'good mood,' according to Russian news reports. Footage of the meeting broadcast by state television showed an animated Assad smiling and laughing as he met with the Russians.... Despite claims by President Trump that the operation was an 'enormous success,' it is being interpreted in Syria as a win for Assad because the limited scope of the strikes suggested that Western powers do not intend to challenge his rule. The extent to which the volleys of cruise missiles set back Assad’s chemical weapons program is also in doubt, because the Pentagon acknowledged that the strikes had not targeted all of the facilities involved in the development and production of such weapons."

Sitting in Starbucks While Black. Patricia Madej of the Philadelphia Inquirer: "Philadelphia’s mayor’s office and Police Department have begun separate investigations into the arrest of two African American men waiting to meet an acquaintance at a Center City Starbucks on Thursday after a video of the incident was widely shared on social media, triggering national outrage.... The video, which was posted by Philadelphia-based author Melissa DePino on Thursday, shows at least six Philadelphia police officers taking the two men into custody without resistance. By 5 p.m. Saturday, the video had gathered nearly 4.3 million views.... In the clip, the two men can be seen being escorted from a table at the cafe in handcuffs while a white man, who has been identified as Philadelphia real estate investor Andrew Yaffe, asks why officers were called and attempts to explain to police that the two men were waiting for him.... DePino said she was told by Yaffe that the men were family friends of his and that they had been waiting to meet him about a real estate deal." Includes video.

*****

In case you think today is your last day to get your income taxes filed, it isn't. The filing deadline is Tuesday, April 17. You have actual slaves to the man to thank for that.

Helene Cooper & Ben Hubbard of the New York Times: "Defense Department officials said on Saturday that American-led strikes against Syria had taken out the 'heart' of President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program, but acknowledged that the Syrian government most likely retained some ability to again attack its own people with chemical agents. Warplanes and ships from the United States, Britain and France launched more than 100 missiles at three chemical weapons storage and research facilities near Damascus and Homs, the officials told reporters, in an operation that President Trump and Pentagon leaders hailed as a success. 'A perfectly executed strike last night,' Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. 'Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Perfect! Trump is so stupid he doesn't understand the irony attached to Bush's "Mission Accomplished!" (In fact, Trump may not understand irony at all.) ...

... Benjamin Hart of New York: "Is Trump really unaware of 'Mission Accomplished's history and implications? Or is he just demonstrating that no matter what ahistorical thing he says, no matter how ignorant he demonstrates himself to be, no matter how much he contradicts himself, he’ll still be labeled presidential for ordering an airstrike, while retaining an approval rating in the high 30s? It’s probably the first one, but there’s really no way of knowing." ...

... Carol Morello, et al., of the Washington Post: "The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations told the Security Council on Saturday that the United States is 'locked and loaded,' ready to launch another military strike if the Syrian government ever uses chemical weapons again. 'I spoke to the president this morning, and he said, "If the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded,’” Nikki Haley said at an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting called by Russia after the U.S. and allies struck three targets in Syria." "Locked and loaded"? Mrs. McC: Please, more inapt macho cliches. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Robin Wright of the New Yorker: "... Trump’s strike was a tactical response that lacks a long-term strategy to help restore stability to turbulent Syria. A country that is the geostrategic center of the Middle East, Syria has been ravaged by seven years of a war that has killed an estimated half million people and displaced more than half of its twenty-three million citizens. The U.S.-led military operation did nothing to change those realities—or even challenge Assad’s brutal rule or his growing military grip on the country.... The operation could even produce the 'appearance of impotence' among Western nations. 'What damage did we really do?' [former Ambassador to Syria Ryan] Crocker, now a fellow at Princeton University, asked. “You can strike once, which we did. The second time around is less meaningful. The Syrians keep using — chemical weapons — 'and we say, "Naughty, naughty." It tees up a great opportunity for Assad to show how impotent and irrelevant we are.'”

Adam Davidson of the New Yorker: "We don’t know the precise path the next few months will take. There will be resistance and denial and counterattacks. But it seems likely that, when we look back on this week, we will see it as a turning point. We are now in the end stages of the Trump Presidency.... The narrative that will become widely understood is that Donald Trump did not sit atop a global empire. He was not an intuitive genius and tough guy who created billions of dollars of wealth through fearlessness. He had a small, sad operation, mostly run by his two oldest children and Michael Cohen, a lousy lawyer who barely keeps up the pretenses of lawyering and who now faces an avalanche of charges, from taxicab-backed bank fraud to money laundering and campaign-finance violations."

Julia Conley of Common Dreams: "Nearly 250 former Justice Department officials have signed a letter posted on Medium, denouncing ... Donald Trump's months of attacks on the department and the investigation it is carrying out to determine whether Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election — and whether Trump's campaign was involved in the interference — and called on Congress to protect the rule of law.... The letter called on Congress to take action against Trump should he attempt to fire Rosenstein or Mueller — as hundreds of thousands of Americans also pledged to take to the streets in protest if he does so." ...

     ... The letter from DOJ alums is here.

Chas Danner of New York: "Michael Cohen is denying a new McClatchy report which said that the Mueller investigation has uncovered evidence that he visited Prague in summer 2016, which, if true, may confirm one of the key claims made in infamous Steele dossier. Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer, tweeted on Saturday that the story was 'bad reporting, bad information and [a] bad story.' 'No matter how many times or ways they write it, I have never been to Prague,' he continued. 'I was in LA with my son. Proven!'” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Unless Cohen visited his son for an extended stay in the summer of 2016, even this story doesn't hold up. McClatchy puts the time frame of his visit in August or early September -- so he might have gone any time during a five-plus-weeks period. ...

    ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Mueller's stock just spiked. Does Trump have the guts to fire De Niro? Since Trump is so fond of cliches, what if Mueller stared down Trump & said,

... Laura Nahmias & Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Lawyers for ... Michael Cohen went to court Friday trying to stop federal prosecutors from getting at private material — but wound up with a judge ordering them to disclose Cohen’s client list in public. U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood on Friday ordered attorneys for Cohen to hand over a list of Cohen’s law clients and proof of their relationship by 10 a.m. Monday, so she can decide whether materials seized from Cohen’s office by federal law enforcement agents last week should be protected by attorney-client privilege." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

Tiny violin courtesy of safari.Tarini Parti of BuzzFeed: "Trump administration officials looking to escape to the private sector are getting a rude awakening: No one wants to hire them. Companies and firms who used to recruit from presidential administrations and brag when they were successful in poaching an aide are making the calculation that the risks of bringing on a Trump administration official outweigh the rewards, according to interviews with 10 current and former administration officials, top recruiters, and lobbyists who did not want to be named to talk candidly.... The leadership at a prominent, bipartisan Washington public affairs firm went as far as to make an active decision not to hire from the Trump White House because of the 'reputational risk' associated with it, a former White House official was recently told."

Jeffery Mays of the New York Times: "A lawyer nationally known for being a champion of gay rights died after setting himself on fire in Prospect Park in Brooklyn early Saturday morning and leaving a note exhorting people to lead less selfish lives as a way to protect the planet, the police said. The remains of the lawyer, David S. Buckel, 60, were found near Prospect Park West in a field near baseball diamonds and the main loop used by joggers and bikers. Mr. Buckel left a note in a shopping cart not far from his body and also emailed it to several news media outlets, including The New York Times."

Beyond the Beltway

Nasty Confederate Skinflint Says the Darndest Things. Alex Horton of the Washington Post: "Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) lashed out against teachers participating in a statewide protest Friday, saying educators exposed some of the 'hundreds of thousands' of children to sexual assault and drug use by walking out of class. 'I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today, a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them,' Bevin told reporters Friday evening after teachers swarmed the Capitol by the thousands over a battle to raise education funding in the state. 'I guarantee you somewhere today, a child was physically harmed or ingested poison because they were left alone because a single parent didn’t have any money to take care of them.' 'Children were harmed — some physically, some sexually, some were introduced to drugs for the first time — because they were vulnerable and left alone,' he added.” ...

... Yeah, well, those lazy, selfish, negligent, teachers who exposed the kiddies to every manner of depravity got a raise anyway. ...

... Bruce Schreiner & Adam Beam of the AP: "With the chants of hundreds of teachers ringing in their ears, Kentucky lawmakers voted Friday to override the Republican governor’s veto of a two-year state budget that increases public education spending with the help of a more than $480 million tax increase. The votes came as thousands of teachers rallied inside and outside the Capitol, forcing more than 30 school districts to close as Kentucky continued the chorus of teacher protests across the country." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Friday
Apr132018

The Commentariat -- April 14, 2018

Afternoon Update:

Helene Cooper & Ben Hubbard of the New York Times: "Defense Department officials said on Saturday that American-led strikes against Syria had taken out the 'heart' of President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program, but acknowledged that the Syrian government most likely retained some ability to again attack its own people with chemical agents. Warplanes and ships from the United States, Britain and France launched more than 100 missiles at three chemical weapons storage and research facilities near Damascus and Homs, the officials told reporters, in an operation that President Trump and Pentagon leaders hailed as a success. 'A perfectly executed strike last night,' Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. 'Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!'” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Perfect! Trump is so stupid he doesn't understand the irony attached to Bush's "Mission Accomplished!" (In fact, Trump may not understand irony at all.) ...

... Carol Morello, et al., of the Washington Post: "The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations told the Security Council on Saturday that the United States is 'locked and loaded,' ready to launch another military strike if the Syrian government ever uses chemical weapons again. 'I spoke to the president this morning, and he said, "If the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded,’” Nikki Haley said at an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting called by Russia after the U.S. and allies struck three targets in Syria." "Locked and loaded"? Mrs. McC: Please, more inapt macho cliches.

Laura Nahmias & Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Lawyers for ... Michael Cohen went to court Friday trying to stop federal prosecutors from getting at private material — but wound up with a judge ordering them to disclose Cohen’s client list in public. U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood on Friday ordered attorneys for Cohen to hand over a list of Cohen’s law clients and proof of their relationship by 10 a.m. Monday, so she can decide whether materials seized from Cohen’s office by federal law enforcement agents last week should be protected by attorney-client privilege."

Bruce Schreiner & Adam Beam of the AP: "With the chants of hundreds of teachers ringing in their ears, Kentucky lawmakers voted Friday to override the Republican governor’s veto of a two-year state budget that increases public education spending with the help of a more than $480 million tax increase. The votes came as thousands of teachers rallied inside and outside the Capitol, forcing more than 30 school districts to close as Kentucky continued the chorus of teacher protests across the country."

*****

Roger Cohen of the New York Times: "We are tethered to a buffoon. He rages and veers, spreading ugliness, like an oil slick smothering everything in its viscous mantle. He’s about to bomb Syria. He’s not about to bomb Syria. His attention span is nonexistent. He attacks the foundations of our Republic: an independent judiciary, a free press, truth itself. His cabinet looks terrorized, the way Saddam Hussein’s once did.... Donald Trump is dangerous. The main things mitigating the danger are his incompetence and cowardice.... Trump’s main war, beyond all the military bluster, is on truth. This reflects his instinct for the jugular: Once the distinction between truth and falsehood disappears, anything is possible. There are plenty of examples these days, from Moscow to Budapest, of how 'democracies' can be manipulated to the point where they can yield only one result. This is Trump’s objective, and for it he needs a weakened Justice Department, a weakened press and an American public that will believe anything. He has had setbacks but is stubborn."

Helene Cooper, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump said on Friday he had ordered strikes on Syrian targets, seeking to punish President Bashar al-Assad for a suspected chemical attack near Damascus that killed more than 40 people. Mr. Trump said Britain and France had joined the United States in the strikes. The strikes risked pulling the United States deeper into the complex, multi-sided war in Syria from which Mr. Trump only last week said he wanted to withdraw. They also raised the possibility of confrontation with Russia and Iran, both of which have military forces in Syria to support Mr. Assad." ...

     ... New Lede: "The United States and European allies launched strikes on Friday against Syrian research, storage and military targets as President Trump sought to punish President Bashar al-Assad for a suspected chemical attack near Damascus last weekend that killed more than 40 people." ...

     ... Here's a transcript of Trump's full remarks, via the New York Times. ...

... Julian Borger of the Guardian: "The French president, Emmanuel Macron, confirmed that France was involved in the air strikes, saying the French role would be limited to Syria’s chemical weapons facilities. 'We cannot tolerate the recurring use of chemical weapons, which is an immediate danger for the Syrian people and our collective security,' a statement from the Elysee presidential office said. In London, Theresa May issued a statement about British participation in the air strikes. 'This evening I have authorised British armed forces to conduct co-ordinated and targeted strikes to degrade the Syrian Regime’s chemical weapons capability and deter their use,' the prime minister said in a written statement from Downing Street. Like Trump a few minutes earlier, May stressed that the aims of the intervention were limited to stopping chemical weapons use, for humanitarian reasons, and to uphold the international norm outlawing chemical weapon use." ...

     ... May's full statement, via the New York Times, is here. ...

... Peter Baker & Rick Gladstone of the New York Times: "In sending missiles and bombs at Syria, President Trump hit more targets and used more firepower than he did in a similar military strike last year. But in the end, he opted for what was still a restrained operation that was evidently calculated to avoid provoking Syria’s patrons in Russia and Iran into retaliating. The United States and its European allies chose three targets instead of the single air base hit last year and used twice as many weapons. Still, American officials said the attack was intended as a proportional strike aimed specifically at Syria’s chemical weapons facilities rather than a broader set of targets and was a one-time, one-night assault to punish Damascus for a suspected gas attack last weekend.... For all of Mr. Trump’s tough language this week, the variant he chose made no apparent effort to damage Mr. Assad’s broader war machine or his government’s command and control of its forces beyond its chemical weapons." ...

... Bassem Mroue, et al., of the AP: "Hundreds of Syrians gathered at landmark squares in the Syrian capital Saturday, honking their car horns, flashing victory signs and waving Syrian flags in scenes of defiance that followed unprecedented joint airstrikes by the United States, France and Britain. A few hours earlier, before sunrise, loud explosions jolted Damascus and the sky turned orange as Syrian air defense units fired surface-to-air missiles in response to three waves of military strikes meant to punish President Bashar Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons." ...

... New York Times Editors: "Mr. Mattis’s willingness and ability to stand up to Mr. Trump’s rants, and to maintain his trust, in an administration largely stocked with sycophants might be the only things that keep the United States out of deeper, poorly planned, military engagements. Under the United Nations Charter, there are two justifications for using force against another country without its consent: in self-defense and with the United Nations Security Council’s permission. The former does not apply in this case, and the latter would be impossible, given Russia’s veto power in the Council.... After a relentless push by Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, Bob Corker, who is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a Tennessee Republican, is soon expected to propose a new authorization to deal with military operations against nonstate actors like ISIS. But legislation should also set limits on a president’s ability to wage war against states like Syria. Without that, Congress would be once again abdicating its responsibility and ceding broad powers to an impulsive president with dubious judgment." ...

... CNN is running a liveblog of developments. ...

... Rick Gladstone of the New York Times: "The United States accused the Syrian government on Friday of using banned chemical arms at least 50 times since Syria’s civil war began seven years ago — substantially higher than previous official estimates. The accusation, made by the American ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, came during a vitriolic exchange with her Russian counterpart at a meeting of the Security Council, which focused on a suspected chemical weapons assault in a Damascus suburb last week. The United States and its allies have blamed the assault on President Bashar al-Assad of Syria." ...

The President must get Congressional approval before attacking Syria-big mistake if he does not! -- Donald Trump, August 30, 2013 ...

... Jennifer Bendery of the Huffington Post: "Dozens of House lawmakers on Friday urged ... Donald Trump not to take any military action in Syria without first getting authorization from Congress. 'Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution,' reads a letter signed by 88 Republican and Democratic members of Congress.... The Wall Street Journal reported Friday afternoon that Trump has been pushing for large strikes and that the military had already scheduled potential windows for them, including one on Thursday night. But Defense Secretary James Mattis stopped them out of concerns that anything other than a 'show strike' could spark a bigger escalation with Russia, the newspaper reported." ...

... ** Eric Levitz: "The White House is on the cusp of starting an illegal war an illegal war with Syria — and risking a broader conflict with a nuclear-weapons state — because failing to do so would cast doubt on the credibility of Donald Trump’s tweets.... Earlier this week, the president decided to start his day by announcing, over Twitter, an imminent missile strike against the Assad regime. Since then, Defense Secretary James Mattis has been urging Trump to consider the potential downsides of such an action.... Mattis’s concerns seem to have made some impression on the president, who tweeted Wednesday that an attack on Syria could come 'very soon or not so soon at all!' But at the end of the day, Trump sees defending the integrity of his Twitter feed as more important than avoiding a third world war: As the New York Times reports, even 'with Mr. Mattis’s urging of caution, administration officials said it was hard to envision that Mr. Trump would not move ahead with strikes, given that he has promised retaliation.' In fact, Trump – and his new national security adviser John Bolton – reportedly see starting a fight with Iran and Russia as a feature of a massive strike against the Syrian regime, not a bug.” Read on. ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: As it turned out, Mattis won out, or so it appears at this point. Although Trump suggested in his speech that the military retaliation would be a "sustained" effort, Mattis himself spoke later at a Pentagon briefing, & said the attack was a tailored one-off, and it's over. ...

"Operation Desert Stormy":

Do-Do-Di-Do, Just Another Day in the Lives of All the Best People

... Matt Apuzzo, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump phoned his longtime confidant, Michael D. Cohen, to 'check in' on Friday as lawyers for the two men went to court to block the Justice Department from reading seized documents related to Mr. Cohen’s decade of work for Mr. Trump, according to two people familiar with the call. It is not clear what else they discussed in a call that came days after a series of F.B.I. raids. Depending on what was said, the call could be problematic for both men, as defense lawyers often advise their clients not to talk to each other during investigations. Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen still were trying to determine what exactly was seized. The raids were even broader than have been previously reported.... The court papers also disclosed that prosecutors — before the raids on Monday — had already obtained secret search warrants for several of Mr. Cohen’s email accounts as part of what they said was a grand jury investigation." ...

     ... ** New Lede: "President Trump’s advisers have concluded that a wide-ranging corruption investigation into his personal lawyer poses a greater and more imminent threat to the president than even the special counsel’s investigation, according to several people close to Mr. Trump. As his lawyers went to court in New York on Friday to try to block prosecutors from reading files that were seized from the personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, this week, Mr. Trump found himself increasingly isolated in mounting a response. He continued to struggle to hire a new criminal lawyer, and some of his own aides were reluctant to advise him about a response for fear of being dragged into a criminal investigation themselves." ...

... Katelyn Polantz, et al., of CNN: "Michael Cohen ... has been 'under criminal investigation' for months in New York because of his business dealings, the Justice Department said Friday. The revelation comes amid a courtroom drama that unfolded Friday, as Cohen's attorneys and Trump's attorneys began a fight hours before with the US Attorney's Office in Manhattan over a massive raid of Cohen's records. Cohen's attorneys have filed a temporary restraining order in the matter, asking the court to stop federal prosecutors from using some of the records they seized. Cohen did not appear in court Friday morning and has not been charged with a crime.... In [the court filings, prosecutors say] they found that Cohen had done 'little to no legal work, and that zero emails were exchanged with President Trump.'... The prosecutors noted Cohen had personally not turned over any documents to Robert Mueller's Special Counsel investigation.... In a footnote in its filing, the prosecutors expressed doubt that any communications between Trump and Cohen regarding a payoff to [Stormy] Daniels before the election would be covered under attorney-client privilege. They cited the President's own comments." ...

... Benjamin Weiser, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, asked a federal judge in Manhattan on Friday to block the Justice Department from reading documents related to his decade-long legal representation of Mr. Trump and that were taken in a recent F.B.I. raid.... The breadth of the search warrant shocked Mr. Trump and his advisers, who are still not sure exactly what records Mr. Cohen kept and what they could mean for Mr. Trump. A lawyer representing Mr. Trump’s interest in the case also appeared, and asked a judge to order the Justice Department to temporarily delay looking at the files until the matter could be litigated." ...

... ** Peter Stone & Greg Gordon of McClatchy News: "The Justice Department special counsel has evidence that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and confidant, Michael Cohen, secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to two sources familiar with the matter. Confirmation of the trip would lend credence to a retired British spy’s report that Cohen strategized there with a powerful Kremlin figure about Russian meddling in the U.S. election. It would also be one of the most significant developments thus far in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of whether the Trump campaign and the Kremlin worked together to help Trump win the White House. Undercutting Trump’s repeated pronouncements that 'there is no evidence of collusion,' it also could ratchet up the stakes if the president tries, as he has intimated he might for months, to order Mueller’s firing.... Cohen has vehemently denied for months that he ever has been in Prague or colluded with Russia during the campaign.... Investigators have traced evidence that Cohen entered the Czech Republic through Germany, apparently during August or early September of 2016 as the ex-spy reported, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.... He wouldn’t have needed a passport for such a trip, because both countries are in the so-called Schengen Area in which 26 nations operate with open borders.... If Cohen met with Russians and hackers in Prague as described in the dossier, it would provide perhaps the most compelling evidence to date that the Russians and Trump campaign aides were collaborating." ...

... Andrew Prokop of Vox: "Did Trump lawyer Michael Cohen secretly visit Prague to meet with Russians in 2016? The future of Donald Trump’s presidency could hinge on whether the answer to that question is yes. That’s because the claim that such a meeting happened is one of the most specific claims in Christopher Steele’s dossier alleging collusion between the Trump team and Russia to influence the 2016 election — and because, since the very first day that dossier was publicly released, Cohen has adamantly denied taking any such trip, and Trump’s team has relied on that denial to dispute the dossier’s accuracy.... If [Cohen didn't go to Prague], there would be no reason for him to take that tack — unless he was trying to cover up something very serious and hoping to get away with it.... The final report in the published Steele dossier ... [says,] '... According to [redacted], the agenda comprised questions on how deniable cash payments were to be made to hackers who had worked in Europe under Kremlin direction against the CLINTON campaign and various contingencies for covering up these operations and Moscow’s secret liaison with the TRUMP team more generally.' (emphasis Prokop)" ...

... Kara Scannell & Gloria Borger of CNN: "FBI agents who raided the office of ... Michael Cohen sought information about taxi owners who had financial dealings with Cohen, according to sources familiar with the search warrant. The warrant, in addition to seeking other records and documents, specifically identified Semyon and Yasya Shatayner, Ukrainian immigrants who own a large taxi operation in Chicago, according to the source. Cohen is listed as someone who repeatedly loaned money to the Shatayners within the past 10 years, according to public records reviewed by CNN."

... Gloria Borger, et al., of CNN: "The FBI seized recordings ... Donald Trump's attorney made of his conversations with a lawyer representing two women who had alleged affairs with Trump, a source familiar with the matter tells CNN.... The source said Cohen recorded some calls he had with attorney Keith Davidson, who at the time represented both [Stormy] Daniels and [Karen] McDougal.... The recordings could prove valuable to the government's criminal investigation of Michael Cohen. The President's personal attorney is under scrutiny in part for his role in seeking to suppress the alleged affair through a hush deal with porn star Stormy Daniels. The warrant sought information about that payment along with any information that connected Cohen with efforts to suppress disclosure of Trump's alleged affair with Playboy model Karen McDougal." ...

... Rebecca Ruiz & Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times: "A major donor with close ties to the White House resigned on Friday as deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee after the revelation that he had agreed to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model who became pregnant during an affair. The deal was arranged by President Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen. Under the terms of the deal, the Republican donor, Elliott Broidy, would pay the woman in installments over the course of two years, and in return, she would agree to stay silent about their relationship, two people with knowledge of the arrangement told The New York Times. The deal was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. The lawyer for the woman, Keith M. Davidson, also represented two women who were paid during the presidential campaign for their silence about alleged affairs with Mr. Trump — a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, who sold the rights to her story to American Media Inc., and Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic actress known as Stormy Daniels, who received a payment of $130,000 that Mr. Cohen said came out of his own pocket." Thanks to MAG for the link. ...

... Benjamin Hart of New York cites a graf from the WSJ story: "The Broidy agreement uses the same pseudonyms for Mr. Broidy and the woman with whom he was allegedly involved — David Dennison and Peggy Peterson — as the earlier agreement used for Mr. Trump and Ms. Clifford, respectively, the person familiar with the matter said. Both agreements had separate side letters that listed the real names of the parties, this person said." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: When copies of the Stephanie Clifford agreement became public, pundits wondered what that reference to paternity issues was doing in the agreement since Clifford never claimed that Trump might have fathered her child. Some suggested the agreement looked "boilerplate." Evidently so. ...

... Kevin Drum: "Broidy says the whole thing was totally above board. He paid for the woman’s abortion and then tossed in an extra $1.599 million because he wanted to 'help her financially during this difficult period.' As long as she kept her big mouth shut, that is. Helluva guy, isn’t he? Who says Republicans have a mean streak? I’ll give Laura Rozen the last word: 'It’s like RNC finance committee is a street gang where you have to sleep with a playmate & pay hush money to join'." ...

... "It's All Connected." Josh Marshall: "In 2017 Michael Cohen negotiated a $1.6 million hush deal for a major GOP fundraiser named Elliott Broidy, deputy finance chairman of the RNC. If that name rings a bell, it should. Broidy is at the center of the part of the Russia probe involving the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and international fixer and convicted pedophile George Nader. Nader, in turn, is the guy who set up those meetings in the Seychelles which brought together Erik Prince and that Russian banker. Both Nader and Broidy have been frequent visitors to the White House during Trump’s presidency and involved in ways that are still not totally clear in the mix of money negotiations, geopolitics and Russia back channels with a series of Gulf emirates.... This is significant in that it seems to tightly bind together Cohen the hush money fixer and key persons at the heart of the Russia probe."

Jonathan Chait: "Lots and lots of reporters are conveying extremely ominous messages about Donald Trump’s intention to fire Rod Rosenstein and clamp down on the Mueller investigation". Chait has a roundup of the reports. ...

... Avery Anapol of the Hill: "The White House is building a case to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal that said allies are being told to attack Rosenstein on television. The idea is to launch attacks on Rosenstein, the Justice Department official overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election meddling, in a way that avoids making it appear that Trump is meddling in the probe. One person who spoke to the president this week told The Wall Street Journal that Rosenstein’s ouster is 'a matter of when, not if.'” ...

... Laura Jarrett of CNN: "Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein continues to oversee special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation after consulting with a career ethics adviser at the Justice Department about his ability to oversee the Russia probe, a source familiar with the matter tells CNN. For nearly a year, legal experts and journalists have questioned why Rosenstein has not stepped aside from overseeing Mueller's investigation given that he was part of the dramatic firing of FBI Director James Comey. That fact has more recently served as ammunition to attack Rosenstein's credibility by allies of ... Donald Trump.But CNN has now learned that Rosenstein has consulted with the ethics adviser over the course of the investigation on whether he needs to recuse himself, and he has followed that individual's advice.... To date, Rosenstein has offered little by way of explanation publicly, but he made clear last year that if he were to become a subject of Mueller's investigation, he would recuse himself." ...

... Julia Ainsley of NBC News: "One source who spoke to [Rod] Rosenstein said he seemed fully aware he may soon lose his job and was at peace with the possibility, confident he had done his job with integrity. Rosenstein has said in recent private conversations that history will prove he did the right thing by firing Comey in May 2017, claiming that the American people do not have all the facts about what led to his decision to write the memo that led to Comey's dismissal, the sources said."

Excerpts of George Stephanopolous's interview of Jim Comey:

     ... The interview begins 54 seconds in. ...

... Ashley Parker of the Washington Post: James "Comey describes President Trump’s obsession with uncorroborated intelligence suggesting that Russia had compromising material on him — specifically including footage of him watching prostitutes urinate on each other in a Moscow hotel room in 2013, while Trump was in town for the Miss Universe pageant. The president has repeatedly denied the allegation — which emerged in early 2017 with news reports of a dossier funded by political opponents of his — and there currently exists no credible evidence to verify the claim. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders forcefully attacked the entire dossier in a news conference Friday. And yet. Many are debating just how much credence to give to this most explosive and lurid of details. The rumored tape may be the rare bit of White House-branded 'fake news' that is, in fact, fake. But Trump has cried 'fake news' so frequently that his angry denials have lost their wallop, part of a routine call-and-response with the media rather than evidence of legitimate inaccuracy." ...

... Peter Baker & Michael Scherer of the New York Times: "James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, confirms in his new book that the bureau had already begun a criminal investigation focused on Hillary Clinton’s handling of her email in 2015 when her campaign and its allies excoriated journalists for reporting that such an inquiry was being contemplated. The New York Times reported in July 2015 that two inspectors general had made a criminal referral to the Justice Department recommending an investigation into whether Mrs. Clinton had mishandled sensitive information by using a private email server as secretary of state. Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, relying on a statement from President Obama’s Justice Department, complained vigorously to The Times, resulting in two corrections to the article.... Mr. Comey said [in his book] the word-parsing by Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and the Justice Department was actually misleading because the F.B.I. was already conducting a criminal investigation focused on Mrs. Clinton by that point. 'Though The Times may have thought those clarifications were necessary, their original story was much closer to the mark,' Mr. Comey wrote."

Jason Leopold & Anthony Cormier of BuzzFeed: "A former Russian spy helped Donald Trump’s business team seek financing for a Trump-branded tower in the heart of Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to two sources familiar with the matter. This connection between Trump and Russian intelligence — made public here for the first time — is known to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and raises fresh questions about the president’s connections to the Kremlin. The former agent, who had served in Russia’s military intelligence arm known as the GRU and later worked as an arms dealer, negotiated for financing from a Russian state-owned bank that was under US sanctions at the time. But there is a twist: The former Russian spy also helped pass intelligence to the United States government on key national security matters, including al-Qaeda’s weapons caches and North Korea’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons. BuzzFeed News is not naming the Russian agent because two US intelligence officials said that doing so would endanger his life."

John Wagner, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Trump issued a pardon Friday to Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, offering forgiveness to a former chief of staff to Vice President Richard B. Cheney who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice related to the leak of a CIA officer’s identity.... Libby was convicted of four felonies in 2007 — for perjury before a grand jury, lying to FBI investigators and obstruction of justice during an investigation into the disclosure of the work of Valerie Plame Wilson, a former covert CIA agent and the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. Libby was sentenced to 30 months in prison and fined $250,000, but his sentence was commuted by then-President George W. Bush. Although spared prison time, Libby was not pardoned.... 'On the day the President wrongly attacks Comey for being a "leaker and liar" he considers pardoning a convicted leaker and liar, Scooter Libby,' Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) wrote on Twitter. 'This is the President’s way of sending a message to those implicated in the Russia investigation: You have my back and I‘ll have yours.'... White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Libby’s pardon had nothing to do with the Mueller probe.” ...

... Peter Baker: "Victoria Toensing, a lawyer and friend of Mr. Libby’s, said on Friday that she brought his case to the attention of the White House Counsel’s Office over the summer. Ms. Toensing and her husband and law partner, Joseph diGenova, were briefly set to work for Mr. Trump as private lawyers last month until they backed out, citing a client conflict. Ms. Toensing would not indicate whether she discussed Mr. Libby directly with Mr. Trump, but she did say that the president called her on Friday to notify her that he had signed the pardon.... 'While the president has the constitutional power to pardon, the decision to do so in this case purports to be premised on the notion that Libby was an innocent man convicted on the basis of inaccurate testimony caused by the prosecution,' [Patrick] Fitzgerald [-- the special prosecutor named by James Comey in the Libby case --] said. 'That is false.'” ...

... Marcy Wheeler in the New York Times: "Mr. Trump’s [pardon of Libby] does nothing to change the past. But it might change the lives or convictions of people whom President Trump does know: his own personal firewall. By pardoning Mr. Libby, Mr. Trump sends a message to Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen and any of his other close aides who are facing or may face potential prosecution pursuant to the investigation by Robert Mueller, the special counsel.... Mr. Trump is unlikely to be able to use his pardon power to get out of his legal jam. That’s because several of his potential firewalls — Mr. Manafort, Mr. Cohen and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner — could be charged at the state level for the financial crimes they’re suspected of. A federal pardon would simply move their prosecution beyond Mr. Trump’s control."

DOJ just issued the McCabe report - which is a total disaster. He LIED! LIED! LIED! McCabe was totally controlled by Comey - McCabe is Comey!! No collusion, all made up by this den of thieves and lowlifes! -- Donald Trump, in a tweet Friday afternoon ...

... Adam Goldman & Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "The Justice Department inspector general delivered to Congress on Friday a highly critical report that accused Andrew G. McCabe, the former F.B.I. deputy director, of repeatedly misleading investigators. The inspector general said that when investigators asked whether he had instructed aides to provide information in October 2016 to a reporter with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. McCabe said he did not authorize the disclosure and did not know who did. But Mr. McCabe did approve the F.B.I.’s contact with the reporter, according to the review. The newspaper article delved into a dispute between F.B.I. and Justice Department officials over how to proceed in an investigation into the financial dealings of the Clinton family’s foundation.... The inspector general also concluded that Mr. McCabe’s disclosure of the existence of the ongoing investigation in the manner described in the report violated media policy of the F.B.I. and Justice Department and constituted misconduct. In a statement, Mr. McCabe said that he had full authorization to share this information with the media. Mr. McCabe also said that he did not intentionally mislead investigators." ...

... Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "The Justice Department Inspector General alleges in a damaging report made public Friday that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe inappropriately authorized the disclosure of sensitive information to a reporter and then misled investigators and former FBI Director James B. Comey about it on several occasions. The report is remarkable for its level of detail, casting McCabe as a man who lied to investigators and his own boss about his role in a disclosure of information, even while he lashed out at others who he thought might be responsible for leaks. It accuses McCabe of lying at least four times, three of them under oath, and says that while he had the power to approve disclosures of information to the media, his doing so in this instance violated policy because it was done 'in a manner designed to advance his personal interests at the expense of Department leadership.' It also says McCabe and former FBI Director James B. Comey contradicted one another in their descriptions of how a media disclosure was authorized. While the report favors Comey’s account, it will likely generate tough questions for him as he launches a media blitz to promote his new book.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Not sure how it could be that "McCabe is Comey" when the two men disagree on the facts. But, you know, facts, schmacts.

Andrew Kaczynski, et al., of CNN: "A political appointee at the Department of Health and Human Services shared an image in 2017 that said 'our forefathers would have hung' Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for treason, a CNN KFile review has found. Ximena Barreto is a far-right political pundit who in December 2017 joined the Trump administration as deputy director of communications at the department. Barreto was placed on leave by the department on Monday after the liberal watchdog Media Matters reported that Barreto called Islam 'a cult' and pushed the false Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which alleged that Clinton was part of a child-sex ring based in part at a Washington, DC, pizza restaurant. A subsequent KFile review of her Twitter account 'RepublicanChick' found that Barreto also repeatedly used the hashtag #BanIslam and twice shared conspiracy theories about the death of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich. Barreto also shared a conspiracy theory that French President Emmanuel Macron was controlled by the Rothschild family and that Clinton and Obama were controlled by investor and Democratic mega-donor George Soros. Both the Rothschilds and Soros are frequent targets of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: What really upsets me is that Barreto retweeted an image that said, "our forefathers would have hung" Obama & Clinton; any communications staff should know the clause should be, "would have hanged...." But the other stuff: unexceptional. Just a few random thoughts of one of the Best People.

Maria Sacchetti of the Washington Post: "The Trump administration has freed about 100,000 immigrants caught at the U.S.-Mexico border in the 15 months since the president took office, newly released government figures show, despite repeated promises to end President Barack Obama’s 'catch and release' policies. Homeland Security officials say they had to release the migrants — more than 37,500 unaccompanied minors and more than 61,000 family members — because of judges’ rulings and federal laws banning prolonged detentions for children, as well as a lack of detention beds. The number of people caught crossing the border illegally dropped to a 46-year low after Trump arrived in the White House, prompting then-Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, now the White House chief of staff, to declare that 'catch and release' had ended."

Darryl Fears & Dino Grandoni of the Washington Post: "The Trump administration made it clear this week that it is sapping the strength of a century-old law to protect birds, issuing guidance that the law would not be used as it has been to hold people or companies accountable for killing the animals. In an opinion issued Wednesday to federal wildlife police who enforce the rule, the Interior Department said 'the take [killing] of birds resulting from an activity is not prohibited by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act when the underlying purpose of that activity is not to take birds.' For example, the guidance said, a person who destroys a structure such as a barn knowing that it is full of baby owls in nests is not liable for killing them. 'All that is relevant is that the landowner undertook an action that did not have the killing of barn owls as its purpose,' the opinion said. The MBTA will no longer apply even after a catastrophic event such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that destroyed or injured up to a million birds.... Oil companies are the greatest beneficiaries of the new interpretation, according to an analysis by the Audubon Society." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: So following this theory, if I was driving to the grocery story & a pedestrian got in my way, it would be okay if I ran him down, because my objective was to get to the store, not to kill the guy.

Anthony Adragna & Alex Guillen of Politico: "House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said Friday he’s expanding his probe into the alleged ethical and spending abuses by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt one day after his staff met for several hours with a former EPA aide who was pushed out of the agency. Gowdy’s latest letter is a further sign of the deepening bipartisan scrutiny facing ... Donald Trump’s environmental chief, whose critics accuse him of excessive spending on travel, vehicles, staff raises and luxe security features such as a $43,000 soundproof phone booth."


Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post: "House Speaker Paul D. Ryan made clear Friday that he wants his current No. 2, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), to take the helm of the House Republican Conference and potentially the speaker’s gavel when Ryan leaves office in January. 'We all think that Kevin is the right person,' Ryan (R-Wis.) said during a taping of NBC’s 'Meet the Press' set to air Sunday. The No. 3 leader, Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), also moved to calm a potentially raucous scramble by endorsing McCarthy Friday. But that is unlikely to be the last word on a GOP succession process that stands to play out over the course of months in a midterm election year. Ryan reiterated Friday that any leadership election would wait until after the November elections, and his endorsement came hours after Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a prominent and polarizing conservative, acknowledged that he is considering a challenge to McCarthy...."

Charles Pierce: "I am told regularly by people I admire and respect to hold my cynical tongue about all the career conservatives and television flotsam from the late and unlamented Avignon Presidency who now are all over the airwaves deploring the terrible things being done to the Republic by the president* and his dwindling band of loyalists down at Camp Runamuck.... I offer the following test questions to all the Republican Penitents currently d/b/a Never Trumpers.... So, Nicolle [Wallace], and Steve Schmidt, and Michael Steele, and Rick Wilson, and Joe Scarborough, and Butcher’s Bill Kristol, and Andrew Sullivan, and David Frum, and the rest of you. Please take out your No. 2 pencils, open your test booklets and begin." ...

     ... Mrs. McC: The "test" -- essay AND True/False questions! -- which follows is a tour de force of Bushy and Reagan false attacks on Democrats & other opponents. If you're old enough to remember & were paying attention back then, it's an aggravating trip down Memory Lane; if not, it's a practical education in the Republican political modus operandi.

We're Going to El Segundo. Meg James & Andrea Chang of the Los Angeles Times: "The Los Angeles Times this summer will move from its historic Art Deco headquarters in downtown Los Angeles to a campus currently under construction in El Segundo. Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong — soon to be the new owner of the newspaper — broke the news Friday during his first town hall meeting with the staff, explaining that he wants to create a newsroom for the future. The Times' lease for its newsroom and business administration expires June 30. The previous owners of The Times had sold the iconic building where the newspaper has operated since 1935 to a Canadian developer, Onni Group. Soon-Shiong said Onni has demanded a $1-million-a-month rent increase to keep the paper's staff at the building across from City Hall.... There were audible gasps in the auditorium when Soon-Shiong announced the move.... The new campus, on roughly 4.5 acres, would include an eight-floor building with 120,000 square feet of space." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: If you're wondering why the gasps, you might want to Google images of El Segundo, followed by images of downtown L.A.

Beyond the Beltway

Dana Goldstein & Elizabeth Dias of the New York Times: "Saying it had achieved all that it could with a walkout, Oklahoma’s largest teachers’ union on Thursday called for educators to return to the classroom and to shift their efforts to supporting candidates in the fall elections who favor increased education spending. At a news conference, Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, characterized the nine-day walkout as 'a victory for teachers,' even as it fell short of its goals. In a deep-red state that has pursued tax and service cuts for years, teachers won a raise of about $6,000, depending on experience, while members of schools’ support staff will see a raise of $1,250."

News Lede

AP: "Czech filmmaker Milos Forman, whose American movies 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest' and 'Amadeus' won a deluge of Academy Awards, including best director Oscars, died Saturday. He was 86. Forman died about 2 a.m. Saturday at Danbury Hospital, near his home in Warren, Connecticut...."