The Wires

Public Service Announcement

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

The Hill: "Arnold Schwarzeneggar says his first season as host of NBC's 'Celebrity Apprentice' is also his last. In remarks Friday, the former California governor cited President Trump, who has repeatedly mocked the ratings of his reality TV replacement, as his reason. 'Even if asked [to do it again] I would decline,' Schwarzenegger told Empire magazine.... 'With Trump being involved in the show people have a bad taste and don’t want to participate as a spectator or sponsor or in any other way support the show. It’s a very divisive period right now and I think the show got caught up in all that division.'" -- CW 

New York Times: "Penguin Random House will publish coming books by former President Barack Obama and the former first lady Michelle Obama, the publishing company announced Tuesday night, concluding a heated auction among multiple publishers. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but publishing industry executives with knowledge of the bidding process said it probably stretched well into eight figures." -- CW ...

Guardian: A statement by the Academy of Motion Pictures said "that PwC – formerly Price Waterhouse Coopers, the accounting firm that has been used by the Academy to handle the voting process for 83 years – had taken full responsibility for 'breaches of established protocols' that led to the error.... On Monday afternoon, the Wall Street Journal reported that ... Brian Cullinan, one of two accountants whose job it was to hand out the winners’ envelopes..., had tweeted a behind-the-scenes photo of [best female actor winner Emma] Stone holding her statuette. The tweet, sent moments before the best picture announcement, raised the question of whether the accountant was distracted, handing Beatty the duplicate envelope." -- CW ...

... Actually, No, It Was Donald Trump's Fault. The Hill: "President Trump is calling Sunday’s Oscar ceremony 'sad,' saying the awards show was 'focused so hard on politics' it led to the epic mix-up over the best picture winner. 'I think they were focused so hard on politics that they didn’t get the act together at the end,' Trump said Monday in an interview with Breitbart News." CW: Because everything is about Drumpf. 

Los Angeles Times: "In one of the most surprising upsets and shocking moments in Oscar history, the poetic coming-of-age drama 'Moonlight' took home the top prize for best picture at the 89th Academy Awards, beating out the heavily favored 'La La Land,' which was actually announced as the winner. The win for 'Moonlight' came in a chaotic and confused moment that played out live in front of an audience of millions, as presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway initially presented the evening’s final award to 'La La Land,' only to have one of the film’s producers announce that 'Moonlight' had, in fact, won." -- CW 

Here's the LA Times' "live coverage" page.

CW: It would have been way better for the world if the Electoral College had admitted, as a body, that "There's been a mistake." Unfortunately, actors & film producers have more integrity than electors.

The New York Times embeds the February 23 late-nite's show responses to the latest political news.

Washington Post: "A newfound solar system just 39 light-years away contains seven warm, rocky planets, scientists say. The discovery, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, represents the first time astronomers have detected so many terrestrial planets orbiting a single star. Researchers say the system is an ideal laboratory for studying distant worlds and could be the best place in the galaxy to search for life beyond Earth.... The newly discovered solar system resembles a scaled-down version of our own. The star at its center, an ultra-cool dwarf called TRAPPIST-1, is less than a tenth the size of our sun and about a quarter as warm. Its planets circle tightly around it; the closest takes just a day and a half to complete an orbit and the most distant takes about 20 days.... TRAPPIST-1 is so cool that all seven of the bodies are bathed in just the right amount of warmth to hold liquid water. And three of them receive the same amount of heat as Venus, Earth and Mars, putting them in 'the habitable zone,' that Goldilocks region where it's thought life can thrive." -- CW 

Here's a Houzz feature on Frederick Douglass's D.C. home. Since it's not far from Donald Trump's new (temporary) digs and is every bit as fancy, the Trumpster might want to pay a visit to someone who's done such "an amazing job" that he's "getting recognized more and more." SCROTUS may be surprised to discover that Mr. Douglass is not at home. Too bad, because if Mr. Douglass weren't dead, he could have showed Donaldo his portrait, which for some time was owned by W.E.B. Du Bois (or DeBois or whatever).

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

Rosie O'Donnell's new Twitter profile pic. Thanks to Unwashed for the link. -- CW 

CNN: "The book publisher Penguin is printing more copies of George Orwell's dystopian classic '1984' in response to a sudden surge of demand. On Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning the book was #1 on Amazon's computer-generated list of best-selling books. The list reflects hourly book sales. The 68-year-old novel appeared on the list on Monday, hovered around the #6 spot for much of the day, rose to #2 by Tuesday afternoon and then hit #1." -- CW 

The Netherlands Welcomes Trump, in his own words. Thanks to Haley S. for the link:

... CW: We're the laughingstock of the world. But, like us, others have to laugh so they don't cry or scream or hunker down in a suvivalist's crouch.

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Saturday
Mar182017

The Commentariat -- March 18, 2017

** Trump's Lies, Insults & Inability to Apologize Undermine International Relations. Peter Baker & Steven Erlanger of the New York Times: "President Trump provoked a rare public dispute with America’s closest ally on Friday after his White House aired an explosive and unsubstantiated claim that Britain’s spy agency had secretly eavesdropped on him at the behest of President Barack Obama during last year’s campaign. Livid British officials adamantly denied the allegation and secured promises from senior White House officials never to repeat it. But a defiant Mr. Trump refused to back down, making clear that the White House had nothing to retract or apologize for because his spokesman had simply repeated an assertion made by a Fox News commentator. Fox itself later disavowed the report. The rupture with London was Mr. Trump’s latest quarrel with an ally or foreign power since taking office." -- CW  (The story, linked yesterday, has been extensively updated.) ...

    ... CW: I hate to say it, but mike pence, whom I abhor, would make a far, far better president than Trump, who should be locked away in a secure gold throne room & never heard from again. ...

... CW: Thanks to NJC for linking this ad. I'm calling my doctor Monday morning:

... Josh Barro of Business Insider: "Obviously, a stupid and gratuitous diplomatic spat with the British is not going to lead to an exchange of nuclear saber rattling. But Trump's delusional thinking, unwillingness to admit fault, and fragile male ego are not limited to his relations with our close allies. What I most fear about Trump's presidency is that he will blunder into a nuclear war. If he does, it will look something like this, but with a less-forgiving country than Britain.... [The fear] is that Trump will create a chain of unnecessary provocations, escalating situations that should be de-escalated, until we end up in a nuclear exchange — perhaps even one in which we are making the second strike.... Of the unacceptable tail risks of the Trump presidency, this is by far the scariest and most unacceptable." -- CW ...

... ** THEN There's This. Mark Landler of the New York Times: "Near the end of his meticulously formal, utterly impersonal news conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Trump finally sought a sliver of common ground with his guest: They both, he said, had been wiretapped by former President Barack Obama. Ms. Merkel did a barely perceptible double take, busying herself by shuffling her notes. She smiled thinly and said nothing, as if she had resolved not to get drawn into Mr. Trump’s political dramas. It was like that throughout Mr. Trump’s first meeting with Ms. Merkel on Friday, an awkward encounter that was the most closely watched of his young presidency and took on an outsize symbolism: the great disrupter confronts the last defender of the liberal world order.... [Trump] demanded that America’s NATO allies pay back 'vast sums of money from past years' and vowed that the United States would no longer be out-negotiated on trade deals by Germany.... Ms. Merkel pointed out that Germany does not actually negotiate its own trade deals with the United States." Read on. CW: Lock him up. See also commentary on the press conference near the end of yesterday's thread. ...

... Jenna Johnson & Karla Adams of the Washington Post: "President Trump’s unproven allegation that his predecessor wiretapped Trump Tower in New York ahead of the election blazed a new path of political disruption Friday as he dragged two foreign allies into his increasingly thin argument that he is right.... The controversy is scheduled to continue into a third week, with [James] Comey set to testify Monday before the House Intelligence Committee. He has been asked to clarify whether the FBI is investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election and alleged links between the Trump team and Russian officials. On Friday, the House Intelligence Committee received a set of documents from the Justice Department in response to its request for materials regarding Trump’s accusation. The panel did not reveal whether the documents substantiate or refute the president’s wiretapping claims." -- CW ...

... Manu Raju & Tom LoBianco of CNN: "Two government officials told CNN Friday evening that the classified report the Justice Department delivered to House and Senate investigators does not confirm ... Donald Trump's allegations that President Barack Obama wiretapped him during the campaign." -- CW ...

... Madeline Conway of Politico: "Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, said Friday that President Donald Trump should apologize to former President Barack Obama for accusing him of ordering an illegal wiretap of his phone lines, given that there is no public evidence to support it." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Gail Collins finally decides Trump isn't all that funny: "Imagine what would have happened if, at some point over the last two weeks, the president had just casually conceded that he had been misinformed about the wiretap thing. His health care plan wouldn’t look any better. His budget wouldn’t have been more defensible. But we’d feel slightly less terrified that the nation’s security is in the hands of a nut job." -- CW 

Yes to Making the ObamaCare Replacement Bill Even Worse. Thomas Kaplan & Robert Pear of the New York Times: "President Trump and conservative lawmakers in the House agreed Friday to significant changes to Medicaid that could impose work requirements on able-bodied Medicaid beneficiaries in some states and limit federal funds for the program, as Republican leaders tried to rally balking lawmakers behind legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act. 'I want everyone to know, I’m 100 percent behind this,' Mr. Trump said at the White House, where he met with House members in the conservative Republican Study Committee. At a news conference hours later, the president predicted, 'It’s going to be passed, I believe — I think substantially and pretty quickly.' On Capitol Hill, the outlook was far less clear.” -- CW ...

... Jessie Hellmann of the Hill: "The chairman of the [righty-right wing] Republican Study Committee on Friday endorsed the ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill that is speeding toward a vote in the House. Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) said he is now a 'positive yes' on the bill after a meeting Friday morning with President Trump and Vice President Pence where changes to the legislation were discussed. Walker and other members of the RSC asked that work requirements be added to the bill, along with giving states the option to block grant Medicaid." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Maybe the SCROTUS Is Just an Ignoramus. Ezra Klein: "... does Trump really know what’s in the bill he’s passing, or trying to pass?... I collected and read absolutely everything Donald Trump has said publicly about the AHCA [CAHCA].... Trump has a very limited set of talking points on health care, and he repeats the same words and sentences constantly.... Trump seems confused about what the GOP bill does. It is possible, of course, that he knows more than he is saying, and has decided to simply say things that aren’t true. But it’s also possible he’s being spun by more ideologically motivated advisers.... Trump has bought into a caricature of Obamacare’s condition...." CW: Trump is a professional liar. I'm sure he knows the outlines & doesn't care. ...

... Osita Nwanevu of Slate: "Paul Ryan: I’ve Been Dreaming About Kicking Poors Off Medicaid Since I Was a Drunk Frat Boy." That's the headline, and it's accurate. Next, expect to see Jesus-boy-friend-of-the-poor show up at a free clinic with photographers in tow, don some scrubs & pretend he's performing an appendectomy on a poor person in a reprise of his soup kitchen stunt of 2012. -- CW ...

... GOP Governors Try to Ruin Ryan's Dream. Anna Edney & Zachary Tracer of Bloomberg: "Four Republican governors told top lawmakers in the U.S. House and Senate that they oppose the current GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, and that they want Congress to preserve an expansion of the Medicaid health program for poor Americans. In a letter Thursday, governors from Ohio, Nevada, Michigan and Arkansas wrote Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan and said the legislation the House is considering 'does not ensure the resources necessary to make sure no one is left out, and shifts significant new costs to states.' They said the bill 'does not meet' goals set out by President Donald Trump about state flexibility and making sure people are covered." -- CW ...

... CW: A week ago, we learned Anthem, one of the nation's largest health insurance company, backed CAHCA, at least in part. Surprise, surprise, the company has ulterior motives aplenty. David Leonhardt of the New York Times: "Anthem appears to be providing political cover to the administration at the same time that company officials are lobbying the administration for a favorable decision on another matter. It’s pretty brazen." Leonhardt provides the details. Trump & Tom Price don't look too good, either.

... Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: "Trumpism ... take[s] fiscal irresponsibility to a new level. Like 'Ryan Republicans' — defined for nearly a decade by the budget plans of Representative Paul D. Ryan, now House speaker — Mr. Trump is promising multitrillion-dollar tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit the top 1 percent. Unlike Ryan Republicans, Mr. Trump says there will be no compensating reductions in Social Security and Medicare, the entitlement programs that are — along with insufficient revenues — driving projections of unsustainable federal debt as the population ages and claims benefits. (The president used to say Medicaid was off-limits, too, until the Republican health care proposal took aim at the program for the poor and disabled.) What Mr. Trump proposes to cut is the relatively small 15 percent share of total federal spending that nonetheless covers most government operations, other than the Pentagon and entitlement programs. That so-called nondefense discretionary spending includes a raft of programs that disproportionately benefit 'the very people that President Trump said would be his priority, people who have been left behind by today’s economy or live in distressed urban or rural communities,' said Robert Greenstein, president of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Among them: opioid-addiction treatments and training for workers whose jobs were lost to offshoring." -- CW ...

... Trump's Budget Says American Families Freezing to Death Is Insignificant. Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post: "Among the many federal programs slated for elimination in Donald Trump's budget is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance program (LIHEAP), a Health and Human Services Department initiative that provides close to 6 million low-income households with help for their heating and cooling bills. Compared to other income support programs that serve similar populations,' the budget states by way of rationale, 'LIHEAP is a lower-impact program and is unable to demonstrate strong performance outcomes.'... A number of federal and private academic reports on the program's efficacy have had generally positive things to say about the program's efficacy.... LIHEAP's most recent report to Congress, for fiscal year 2014, shows that the program helped 5.7 million households with their heating bills, 673,000 with cooling, and another 1.7 million or so households with 'crisis' situations where the program intervened when power to the house was about to be shut down.... Recipient families are low income, and tend to skimp on spending elsewhere to keep the lights on." -- CW ...

... Sabrina Tavernise & Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "In two days of interviews with beneficiaries of programs at risk in 11 states, many people said they did not see themselves reflected in Mr. Trump’s vision for the government. And some felt surprise at what has been left out." -- CW 

Screw the Kids, Too! Danielle Douglas-Gabriel of the Washington Post: "Days after a report on federal student loans revealed a double-digit rise in defaults, President Trump’s administration revoked federal guidance Thursday that barred student debt collectors from charging high fees on past-due loans. The Education Department is ordering guarantee agencies that collect on defaulted debt to disregard a memo former President Barack Obama’s administration issued on the old bank-based federal lending program, known as the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program. That memo forbid the agencies from charging fees for up to 16 percent of the principal and accrued interest owed on the loans, if the borrower entered the government’s loan rehabilitation program within 60 days of default." CW: Thanks, Betsy!

Jim Puzzanghera of the Los Angeles Times: "The Justice Department told a federal court on Friday that President Trump should be able to fire the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, arguing the structure of the controversial independent watchdog is unconstitutional. The brief, filed in a case in which a New Jersey mortgage company is challenging the bureau’s authority, is a reversal of the position taken by the Obama administration. It had strongly backed the agency, which was created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law and was one of Obama’s signature accomplishments." CW: Thanks, JeffBo

Devlin Barrett of the Washington Post: "The Trump administration filed court papers Friday hoping to salvage its second version of a travel ban after two judges in separate cases this week found that it probably violated the Constitution. The Justice Department filed papers in federal court in Maryland, setting up a new legal showdown in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, located in Richmond[, Virginia]. This week, federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland issued orders against the travel ban, finding that it violated the First Amendment by disfavoring a particular religion. If the Justice Department had appealed the Hawaii order, the case would have gone to the same San Francisco-based appeals court that rejected an earlier version of the travel ban. William Jay, a former Justice Department lawyer specializing in appellate cases, said the government may have a very simple reason for challenging the Maryland case first: The judge there issued a preliminary injunction, which is more easily appealed in federal courts than temporary restraining orders like the one issued in Hawaii." -- CW ...

... Heather Caygle of Politico: "Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly struck a defiant tone in a meeting with House Democrats Friday, lawmakers said... 'I'm the best thing that happened to DACA.... it is still on the books,' Kelly said about the Obama-era executive order that shields undocumented immigrants brought here as children from deportation. 'If you don't like the law we are enforcing, and I don't like many of them, please, please, please change the law,' Kelly added, according to multiple sources in the room. A number of Democrats left the caucus-wide confab visibly frustrated, saying Kelly wasn't actually answering questions. 'He's literally talking in circles,' said Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.). 'It's pretty damn frustrating.' Congressional Democrats requested the meeting with Kelly, with many deeply concerned President Donald Trump plans on mass deportations of undocumented immigrants." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... CW: Yeah, right. Even if Democrats could get a law through Congress liberalizing treatment of undocumented immigrants, they could never get enough Republican votes to override a Trump veto. ...

... Greg Sargent: "A new CNN poll out this morning tests one of the fundamental tenets of the Trump and Bannon worldview in a very illuminating way. It finds that large majorities reject the basic idea that undocumented immigrants who have been in this country for a long time — and have not committed serious crimes — should nonetheless be subject to removal.... A whopping 90 percent favor allowing those who have been working here 'for a number of years,' know English, and are willing to pay back taxes to stay and eventually apply for citizenship. Only nine percent want them deported. And 60 percent say the government should prioritize legalizing those working here illegally over deporting them.... It’s the latest sign of a larger trend that goes like this: Little by little, the narrative that President Trump and his top adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, have been telling about what is happening in this country is getting translated into concrete policy specifics. And Americans are recoiling from the results." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Darren Samuelsohn of Politico: "The Trump Organization will wait until 2018 to make its first annual donation to the U.S. Treasury on any profits it earns from foreign government officials who stay at one of ... Donald Trump’s luxury hotels, a company official said Friday. Trump and his lawyers promised in January to voluntarily give away the hotel profits as part of an ethics agreement aimed at avoiding a constitutional prohibition on receiving payments from foreign governments." -- CW 

Nathan Layne, et al., of Reuters: "A Reuters review has found that at least 63 individuals with Russian passports or addresses have bought at least $98.4 million worth of property in seven Trump-branded luxury towers in southern Florida, according to public documents, interviews and corporate records. The buyers include politically connected businessmen.... People from the second and third tiers of Russian power have invested in the Trump buildings as well.... None of the buyers appear to be from Putin’s inner circle.... The tally of investors from Russia may be conservative.... The glimpse inside the condominium dealings offers a look at how the wealthy in Putin’s Russia use foreign property to stow cash." -- CW 

Devlin Barrett: "The husband of White House adviser Kellyanne Conway is poised to be nominated to lead the Justice Department’s civil division, a powerful post overseeing the federal government’s lawsuits on a wide variety of issues, including defending President Trump’s executive order on immigration. White House officials plan in coming days to announce the nomination of George Conway, a New York lawyer, according to people familiar with the matter." -- CW 

Robert Faturechi of ProPublica: "Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who was removed from his post by the Trump administration last week, was overseeing an investigation into stock trades made by the president’s health secretary, according to a person familiar with the office. Tom Price, head of the Department of Health and Human Services, came under scrutiny during his confirmation hearings for investments he made while serving in Congress. The Georgia lawmaker traded hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of shares in health-related companies, even as he voted on and sponsored legislation affecting the industry.... Price could have violated the STOCK Act, a 2012 law signed by President Obama that clarified that members of Congress cannot use nonpublic information for profit and requires them to promptly disclose their trades. The investigation of Price’s trades by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which hasn’t been previously disclosed, was underway at the time of Bharara’s dismissal, said the person." -- CW 

Secret Service Still Dangerously Incompetent. Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: "A California man who climbed over the White House fence last week managed to roam undetected on the grounds for about 17 minutes, as Secret Service agents appeared to ignore several alarms, officials said Friday. The new details indicated that the episode was more serious than the Secret Service had originally stated. A Republican lawmaker said it also suggested the Secret Service’s security measures remain inadequate two and a half years after a series of lapses tarred the agency and led to major upheaval. In a separate episode, officials also reported Friday that a Secret Service laptop was stolen from an agency vehicle in Brooklyn. But the Secret Service said in a statement about the theft that agency laptops are fully encrypted and 'are not permitted to contain classified information. The fence-jumping episode took place on the night of March 10, and President Trump was inside the White House residence at the time.” CW: Because, I mean, who would have thought someone would break into an unattended car & steal stuff? ...

... The Washington Post story, by Spencer Hsu & Devlin Barrett, is here. -- CW ...

... Denis Slattery, et al., of the New York Daily News: "Authorities are frantically searching for a Secret Service-issued laptop — containing floor plans for Trump Tower, information about the Hillary Clinton email investigation and other national security information — that was stolen from an agent’s car in Brooklyn, police sources told the Daily News Friday.... Sources and neighbors said the thief stepped out of a dark-colored sedan, possibly an Uber, and darted into [Secret Service agent Marie] Argentieri’s Bath Beach driveway about 3 a.m. He grabbed the computer, a backpack, and other goods and walked away, sources said.... Other items stolen include 'sensitive' documents, an access keycard, coins, a black zippered bag with the Secret Service insignia on it and lapel pins from various assignments.... An agency-issued radio was also taken, according to Politico. The coins and bag were later found." -- CW 

Tom Vanden Brook of USA Today: "The military scandal involving sharing of sexually explicit images of troops has expanded beyond the private social media site Marines United to a slew of gay pornography web pages with images of men wearing military uniforms engaged in sex acts.... The Marine Corps is not the only service affected. Images of men in the uniforms of sailors, soldiers and airmen also appear on an array of Tumblr sites. Similar to the Marines United case, it is unclear whether men appearing in the images — some photographed engaging in sex — provided consent to have their images shared publicly.... The Pentagon has established a joint military task force to handle the growing investigation, said MaryAnn Cummings, a spokeswoman for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service." -- CW 

Louisa Loveluck of the Washington Post: "The United States said Thursday that an airstrike on an al-Qaeda meeting site in Syria killed 'several terrorists,' but reports emerged Friday that dozens of civilians may have died in the same attack. A brief statement from the U.S. Central Command said it struck a 'meeting location' in the northwestern province of Idlib, which it described as 'a significant safe haven for al-Qaeda in recent years.' Separately, a U.S. official said the strike was based on verified intelligence and targeted al-Qaeda groups gathered to discuss future operations.” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Beyond the Beltway

Katie Zezima of the Washington Post: "The Florida Senate passed a measure this week that would strengthen the state’s so-called 'stand-your-ground' law, shifting the burden of proof from defense attorneys to prosecutors in pretrial immunity hearings. The controversial changes to the state’s self-defense law passed the Senate 23 to 15 along party lines." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Thursday
Mar162017

The Commentariat -- March 17, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Louisa Loveluck of the Washington Post: "The United States said Thursday that an airstrike on an al-Qaeda meeting site in Syria killed 'several terrorists,' but reports emerged Friday that dozens of civilians may have died in the same attack. A brief statement from the U.S. Central Command said it struck a 'meeting location' in the northwestern province of Idlib, which it described as 'a significant safe haven for al-Qaeda in recent years.' Separately, a U.S. official said the strike was based on verified intelligence and targeted al-Qaeda groups gathered to discuss future operations.” -- CW 

Band of Buffoons. Here's the New York Times story, by Peter Baker & Steven Erlanger, on Spicey's insult to our former "special" ally Great Britain. More below. -- CW ...

... Madeline Conway of Politico: "Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, said Friday that President Donald Trump should apologize to former President Barack Obama for accusing him of ordering an illegal wiretap of his phone lines, given that there is no public evidence to support it." -- CW 

Heather Caygle of Politico: "Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly struck a defiant tone in a meeting with House Democrats Friday, lawmakers said... 'I'm the best thing that happened to DACA.... it is still on the books,' Kelly said about the Obama-era executive order that shields undocumented immigrants brought here as children from deportation. 'If you don't like the law we are enforcing, and I don't like many of them, please, please, please change the law,' Kelly added, according to multiple sources in the room. A number of Democrats left the caucus-wide confab visibly frustrated, saying Kelly wasn't actually answering questions. 'He's literally talking in circles,' said Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.). 'It's pretty damn frustrating.' Congressional Democrats requested the meeting with Kelly, with many deeply concerned President Donald Trump plans on mass deportations of undocumented immigrants." ...

     ... CW: Yeah, right. Even if Democrats could get a law through Congress liberalizing treatment of undocumented immigrants, they could never get enough Republican votes to override a Trump veto. ...

... Greg Sargent: "A new CNN poll out this morning tests one of the fundamental tenets of the Trump and Bannon worldview in a very illuminating way. It finds that large majorities reject the basic idea that undocumented immigrants who have been in this country for a long time — and have not committed serious crimes — should nonetheless be subject to removal.... A whopping 90 percent favor allowing those who have been working here 'for a number of years,' know English, and are willing to pay back taxes to stay and eventually apply for citizenship. Only nine percent want them deported. And 60 percent say the government should prioritize legalizing those working here illegally over deporting them.... It’s the latest sign of a larger trend that goes like this: Little by little, the narrative that President Trump and his top adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, have been telling about what is happening in this country is getting translated into concrete policy specifics. And Americans are recoiling from the results." -- CW 

Yes to Making the ObamaCare Replacement Bill Even Worse. Jessie Hellmann of the Hill: "The chairman of the [righty-right wing] Republican Study Committee on Friday endorsed the ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill that is speeding toward a vote in the House. Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) said he is now a 'positive yes' on the bill after a meeting Friday morning with President Trump and Vice President Pence where changes to the legislation were discussed. Walker and other members of the RSC asked that work requirements be added to the bill, along with giving states the option to block grant Medicaid." -- CW 

Katie Zezima of the Washington Post: "The Florida Senate passed a measure this week that would strengthen the state’s so-called 'stand-your-ground' law, shifting the burden of proof from defense attorneys to prosecutors in pretrial immunity hearings. The controversial changes to the state’s self-defense law passed the Senate 23 to 15 along party lines." -- CW 

*****

... ** Fintan O'Toole of the Irish Times in a New York Times op-ed: "... this year’s St. Patrick’s Day jamboree at the White House will be a breathtaking celebration of double standards and the willful forgetting of America’s recent past. Even by the crooked yardstick of the Trump administration, the disconnect is surreal: The president will salute the legacy of one wave of immigrants even as he deploys against other immigrants the same calumnies once heaped upon the Irish. In the blizzard of executive orders, it was easy to miss a proclamation President Trump issued on March 1. The president declared this Irish-American Heritage Month and called on 'all Americans to celebrate the achievements and contributions of Irish-Americans to our nation with appropriate ceremonies, activities and programs.'” Thanks to MAG for the link. ...

... ** Tim Egan: "As of this moment, an estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish are living in the shadows of our country. Will Donald Trump’s deportation police eventually get around to them?... The Mexicans and refugees from Muslim countries targeted by Trump commit fewer crimes than Americans born here, and certainly fewer as a percentage than the immigrant Irish did. Imagine what Sean Hannity would say if Mexicans burned down much of New York City, as the Irish did in 1863, in what may have been the bloodiest riot in American history." -- CW 

Steven Mufson & Tracy Jan of the Washington Post: "Trump has unveiled a budget that would slash or abolish programs that have provided low-income Americans with help on virtually all fronts, including affordable housing, banking, weatherizing homes, job training, paying home heating oil bills, and obtaining legal counsel in civil matters. During the presidential campaign last year, Trump vowed that the solution to poverty was giving poor people incentives to work. But most of the proposed cuts in his budget target programs designed to help the working poor, as well as those who are jobless, cope. And many of them carry out their missions by disbursing money to the states, which establish their own criteria. 'This is a budget that pulled the rug out from working families and hurts the very people who President Trump promised to stand up for in rural America and in small towns,' said Melissa Boteach [of] the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington." -- CW ...

... Paul Krugman: "This week the Trump administration put out a budget blueprint — or more accurately, a 'budget' blueprint. After all, real budgets detail where the money comes from and where it goes; this proclamation covers only around a third of federal spending, while saying nothing about revenues or projected deficits.... In any case, this pseudo-budget embodies the same combination of meanspiritedness and fiscal fantasy that has turned the Republican effort to replace Obamacare into a train wreck.... Mr. Trump himself gives every indication of having no idea what the federal government does...." -- CW: Krugman at his snidest; I would not want this guy mad at me. ...

... John Cassidy: "... Mick Mulvaney has said that he saw his job as taking what Trump said on the stump and translating it into figures. In carrying out this task, Mulvaney performed a public service of sorts. Thanks to his translation, the entire world can see what America would look like if Trumpism were fully converted into practice. The country would be an uglier, less equal, less prosperous, more paranoid, more myopic, and more mean-spirited place. Its claims that it’s a role model for other countries would be besmirched, perhaps beyond redemption. And far from being rendered great again, it would be a weaker world power." -- CW ...

... Michael Shear of the New York Times: "The approach is a risky gamble for Mr. Trump, whose victory in November came in part by assembling a coalition that included low-income workers who rely on many of the programs that he now proposes to slash.... To those who object to deep cuts in those programs, Mick Mulvaney, the president’s budget director, had a blunt message on Thursday: What did you expect? He said that after-school programs had failed to help children in schools, that housing programs were 'not well run,' that government health research had suffered 'mission creep' and that grants to local communities 'don’t do any good.' Mr. Mulvaney waved aside questions about cuts to the United Nations, saying that they 'should come as a surprise to no one who watched the campaign.' And he said that the president made no apologies for eliminating the government’s efforts to curb climate change." -- CW ...

... Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post: "At a news conference Thursday, Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s budget chief, defended proposed cuts to the Meals on Wheels program, which provides food aid to needy senior citizens, by saying the program is one of many that is 'just not showing any results.'... A 2013 review of studies, for instance, found that home-delivered meal programs for seniors 'significantly improve diet quality, increase nutrient intakes, and reduce food insecurity and nutritional risk among participants. Other beneficial outcomes include increased socialization opportunities, improvement in dietary adherence, and higher quality of life.... These programs are also aligned with the federal cost-containment policy to rebalance long-term care away from nursing homes to home- and community-based services by helping older adults maintain independence and remain in their homes and communities as their health and functioning decline.'... 'The average cost of a one-month nursing home stay is equivalent to providing home-delivered meals five days a week for approximately seven years,' one of the studies in the analysis found. How’s that for 'results'?” ...

     ... CW: I read elsewhere -- I forget where -- that the federal government funds only 3.3 percent of Meals on Wheels. Most of its income is from foundations & other private donations. But, hey, why not cut an effective program that feeds elderly stay-at-homes who might not vote anyway? ...

... of the Washington Post: "Some of President Trump’s best friends in Congress sharply criticized his first budget Thursday, with defense hawks saying the proposed hike in Pentagon spending wasn’t big enough, while rural conservatives and others attacked plans to cut a wide range of federal agencies and programs. The bad mood among Republican critics was tempered by a consensus that the president’s budget wasn’t going very far on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers reminded everybody that they ultimately control the nation’s purse strings." -- CW ...

... GOP Family Values. Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: "Sorry, poor people of America. Republicans are quietly sealing all the exits on the poverty trap. It’s a four-part process, in which officials at all levels of government are taking part.... The cumulative effect of Republicans’ family policies: force poor people to have more children than they want or believe they can afford, then tell them and their children that they’re on their own." -- CW 

... Ashley Halsey of the Washington Post: "President Trump’s support for a plan to lop more than 30,000 Federal Aviation Administration workers from the federal payroll gives fresh momentum to an effort that stalled in Congress last year.... The ... federal workers comprise 14,000 air traffic controllers and about 16,000 other FAA employees, many of whom work on a project called NextGen. The NextGen program is a combination of several projects intended to speed air travel, save airline fuel and accommodate a 20 percent increase in passengers in the next two decades.... If [the proposals] wins congressional support this year, the FAA would lose more than 65 percent of its workers and be reduced to the role of a regulatory oversight agency, much like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which issues auto regulations and recalls faulty vehicles." -- CW 

Philip Rucker & Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "In a remarkably combative exchange with reporters at his daily news briefing, [White House press secretary Sean] Spicer was asked whether Trump still believes Obama ordered the alleged surveillance effort. 'He stands by it,' Spicer said, going on to assail journalists for the way they have reported on the controversy.... Spicer refused to say whether Trump was relying on classified information to base his claims, and pointed repeatedly to news articles and 'widespread, open source material.'... 'The president said last night that there would be additional information coming forward,' Spicer said. 'There are a ton of media reports out there that indicate that something was going on during the 2016 election.' He added that he believed the president would ultimately be 'vindicated.' Spicer spent nearly 10 minutes reading a litany of news stories, including from conservative reporters and the New York Times, that discuss reports of inquiries into the president's campaign aides and Russian officials. But it did not appear that any of the reports confirm that Trump Tower was wiretapped.” -- CW ...

... SCROTUS's Lies Lead to Another International Incident. Steven Swinford of the [U.K.] Telegraph: "The US has made a formal apology to Britain after the White House accused GCHQ of helping Barack Obama spy on Donald Trump in the White House. Sean Spicer, Mr Trump's press secretary, repeated a claim on Thursday evening – initially made by an analyst on Fox News - that GCHQ was used by Mr Obama to spy on Trump Tower in the lead-up to last November's election. The comments prompted a furious response from GCHQ, which in a break from normal practice issued a public statement: 'Recent allegations made by media commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano about GCHQ being asked to conduct 'wiretapping' against the then president-elect are nonsense. They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.' Intelligence sources told The Telegraph that both Mr Spicer and General McMaster, the US National Security Adviser, have apologised over the claims. 'The apology came direct from them" a source said." ...

     ... CW: I'm guessing that Spicey delivered the Napolitano nonsense in his 10-minute "litany of news stories." (See also this NYT report which says Spicey "read" the Napolitano charge.) That is to say, this particular lie would have been a prepared remark, not an off-the-cuff gaffe. ...

... Margaret Talev & Justin Sink of Bloomberg: "British officials complained to the White House Thursday after press secretary Sean Spicer cited a Fox News commentator’s report claiming former President Barack Obama had enlisted U.K. intelligence to spy on ... Donald Trump.... British officials have categorically denied [Andrew] Napolitano’s reporting, and Spicer’s decision to cite it from the White House podium threatened to strain relations between the transatlantic allies." -- CW ...

... Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "The top two senators overseeing the intelligence community joined on Thursday the chorus of lawmakers debunking President Trump’s claim that President Barack Obama wiretapped his phones last year, issuing a bipartisan statement that they had seen no evidence supporting the accusation. 'Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016,” said Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina, and Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia. The blunt statement by the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee means that all four congressional leaders who oversee intelligence-based surveillance by the government have rejected Mr. Trump’s claim. On Wednesday, their counterparts on the House Intelligence Committee, Representatives Devin Nunes, a Republican, and Adam B. Schiff, a Democrat, made similar statements; both are from California." -- CW ...

... Austin Wright of Politico: "Sen. Lindsey Graham, meanwhile, said that while he was glad the intelligence committee leaders were speaking out, he thought the Justice Department and FBI needed to clarify matters. 'I strongly believe that these statements by political leaders should not be a substitute for a public response from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice on this matter,' the South Carolina senator said. 'I believe such a statement would serve the public well, and I fear that without an official answer, this issue will continue to linger.'” CW: Yeah, especially since Trump & Spicer keep promising, a la Trump's birther claims, that the evidence is about to come out to "vindicate" Trump's lies about President Obama. ...

... President Loose Lips. Olivia Beavers of the Hill: "The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee suggested Thursday President Trump disclosed classified information during a Fox News interview the night before. 'In his effort to once again blame Obama, the President appeared to have discussed something that, if true and accurate, would otherwise be considered classified information,' Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said in a news release. Trump spoke to Fox News's Tucker Carlson Wednesday night, when he said the CIA was hacked during the Obama administration. 'I just want people to know, the CIA was hacked, and a lot of things taken — that was during the Obama years. That was not during us,' Trump said. 'That was during the Obama situation. Mike Pompeo is there now doing a fantastic job.' Schiff on Thursday dismissed the possibility that Trump made 'a purposeful decision' to disclose the CIA hack..., suggesting instead that the president handled the information recklessly. 'The president has the power to declassify whatever he wants, but this should be done as the product of thoughtful consideration and with intense input form any agency affected. For anyone else to do what the President may have done, would constitute what he deplores as "leaks,”' Schiff said." -- CW: I guess we should hope the nuclear code is more than 140 characters. AND "That was not during us"??? Good grief! ...

... Aaron Roston of BuzzFeed: "Telephone eavesdropping and video surveillance have indeed long taken place at Trump properties — it’s just that they were conducted by Trump’s own team. At his private club at Mar-a Lago, as BuzzFeed News revealed last June, Trump listened in on employee phone calls using a special switchboard that was installed in his bedroom and was connected to every phone line in the estate. The Trump Organization employs a 'director of surveillance,' Matt Calamari, son of Trump’s longtime bodyguard. Inside Trump’s house near Washington, DC, where guests would sometimes stay, an extensive video surveillance system was monitored by Trump security personnel in New York. A surveillance company said that in public areas of the Trump National Doral resort, it installed video cameras to blend in with the décor.... At Trump’s hotel in New York, collecting information about guests was routine, said two former managers....  [Trump] once wrote that he knew of a conservative senator who had 'spent more than a few nights with his twenty-something girlfriend at a hotel I own.' He also wrote that a married conservative columnist 'brought his girlfriend to my resorts for the weekend.'” -- CW ...

     ... CW: As we learned during the campaign, when Trump accuses a rival of some misdeed, it's usually one that he himself has been guilty of committing. So it's no wonder that when media were contrasting his incompetent, scandalous presidency with President Obama's early successes, Trump would lash out by accusing Obama of one of his own stunts.

Sophia Tesfaye of Salon: During questioning by Tucker Carlson, of all people, Trump acknowledged that CAHCA "would devastate his voters and actually do the exact opposite of what he promised voters during the campaign & provide huge tax cuts for the rich. “'Oh, I know,' Trump said matter-of-factly. 'I know. It’s very preliminary.'... Responding to Carlson’s critique about the apparent contradiction between his rhetoric and his proposed legislation, Trump simply responded, 'a lot of things aren’t consistent.' He went on to say, 'These are going to be negotiated. We’ve got to go to the Senate; we’ll see what happens in the Senate.'”  CW: Isn't Trump aware that Trumpbots actually watch Fox "News" & might be a tad upset at how blithely he throws them under the bus? ...

     ... Dan Diamond of Politico: "Sen. Susan Collins [R-Maine] on Thursday said she couldn’t back the House GOP’s Obamacare repeal-and-replace legislation, an expected — if crucial — defection for Republicans trying to corral enough votes to enact a repeal bill. “This is not a bill I could support in its current form,” Collins told the Portland Press Herald, saying the American Health Care Act’s coverage cuts go too far. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 24 million fewer Americans will be insured if the GOP bill takes effect. 'It really misses the mark,' Collins added." -- CW 

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: Trump constantly passes the buck, blaming underlings when things don't go well. "... it's very rare to see a president publicly suggest he'd have done things differently than his team ultimately did. And even if you don't consider it throwing his staff under the bus, if nothing else it's basically telegraphing the fact that things aren't going well. Which might be the most significant takeaway of all." -- CW 

Caleb Melby & Keri Geiger of Bloomberg suggest one reason Trump is so fond of Russia: "When Trump World Tower at 845 United Nations Plaza began construction two decades ago as the tallest residential building in the country (90 stories), its most expensive floors attracted wealthy people getting their money out of what had been the Soviet Union.... On the 78th floor: a Russian who once was accused of mob ties and extortion by an oligarch. On the 79th, an Uzbek jeweler investigated for money laundering who was eventually executed on the street in Manhattan.... Trump needed the big spenders. He was renegotiating $1.8 billion in junk bonds for his Atlantic City resorts, and the tower was built on a mountain of debt owed to German banks." -- CW 

Trump's Excellent Winning Week:

 

 

David Sanger of the New York Times: "Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson ruled out on Friday opening any negotiation with North Korea to freeze its nuclear and missile programs and said for the first time that the Trump administration might be forced to take pre-emptive action 'if they elevate the threat of their weapons program' to an unacceptable level. Mr. Tillerson’s comments in Seoul, a day before he travels to Beijing to meet Chinese leaders, explicitly rejected any return to the bargaining table in an effort to buy time by halting North Korea’s accelerating testing program, which the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, said on New Year’s Day was in the 'final stages' of preparation for the first launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the United States." -- CW 

Salvador Hernandez of BuzzFeed: "California’s chief justice on Thursday asked the federal government [to] stop using courthouses as bait for arresting undocumented immigrants, saying the tactics amount to 'stalking.' Attorneys and civil rights groups have blasted the Department of Homeland Security for the practice, where they say Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents detain undocumented immigrants in courtrooms while they tend to unrelated cases. On Thursday, California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye spoke out in a letter addressed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly." -- CW 

Lili Bayer & Larry Cohler-Esses of the Forward: "Sebastian Gorka, President Trump’s top counter-terrorism adviser, is a formal member of a Hungarian far-right group that is listed by the U.S. State Department as having been 'under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany' during World War II, leaders of the organization have told the Forward.... Gorka’s membership in the organization — if these Vitézi Rend leaders are correct, and if Gorka did not disclose this when he entered the United States as an immigrant — could have implications for his immigration status. The State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual specifies that members of the Vitézi Rend 'are presumed to be inadmissible' to the country under the Immigration and Nationality Act." -- CW ...

... Jesse Singal of New York: "This could help explain why Gorka was seen at President Trump’s inaugural balls sporting a medal associated with Vitézi Rend founder Miklós Horthy, the virulently anti-Semitic World War II–era ruler of Hungary ... who cooperated with the Nazis, and why he reportedly signs his name with initials meant to signify membership in the group." -- CW ...

... Talal Ansari & Lissandra Villa of BuzzFeed: "Sebastian Gorka ... has denied reports that he is a member of and took an oath of loyalty to a Nazi-allied group.... When BuzzFeed News reached Gorka by phone on Thursday, he stonewalled when asked about the [Forward] report. [CW: Gorka also stonewalled the Forward reporters.] Ansari & Villa cite condemnations by Democratic Congressmen & civil rights groups. ...

ebastian Gorka, President Trump’s top counter-terrorism adviser, is a formal member of a Hungarian far-right group that is listed by the U.S. State Department as having been “under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany” during World War II, leaders of the organization have told the Forward.

Read more: http://forward.com/news/national/366181/exclusive-nazi-allied-group-claims-top-trump-aide-sebastian-gorka-as-sworn/

ebastian Gorka, President Trump’s top counter-terrorism adviser, is a formal member of a Hungarian far-right group that is listed by the U.S. State Department as having been “under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany” during World War II, leaders of the organization have told the Forward.

Read more: http://forward.com/news/national/366181/exclusive-nazi-allied-group-claims-top-trump-aide-sebastian-gorka-as-sworn/

ebastian Gorka, President Trump’s top counter-terrorism adviser, is a formal member of a Hungarian far-right group that is listed by the U.S. State Department as having been “under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany” during World War II, leaders of the organization have told the Forward.

Read more: http://forward.com/news/national/366181/exclusive-nazi-allied-group-claims-top-trump-aide-sebastian-gorka-as-sworn/

I cannot recall any time in our nation’s history when the President selected as his National Security Advisor someone who violated the Constitution by accepting tens of thousands of dollars from an agent of a global adversary that attacked our democracy. -- Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), in a letter to Donald Trump, Jim Mattis & Jim Comey ...

... Rosalind Helderman & Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: "Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign as national security adviser amid controversy over his contacts with Russia’s ambassador, collected nearly $68,000 in fees and expenses from Russia-related entities in 2015, a higher amount than was previously known, according to newly released documents.... The newly disclosed documents were released by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He included the additional payments to Flynn in a letter to Trump, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and FBI Director James B. Comey, questioning whether Flynn’s fees violated prohibitions on retired military officers accepting payments or gifts from foreign governments. Cummings also asked for the release of documents Flynn filed to get a security clearance for his White House job, to examine whether Flynn was candid in response to detailed questions about his contacts with foreign governments." -- CW ...

... CW: So the lying Führer thinks the best people to advise him on national security & counterterrorism ops are a lying foreign agent & a lying Nazi. Despite all the warnings & caterwauling from both sides, I don't think anyone anticipated Trump would be this horrid a president this soon. ...

... AND This Guy. Pema Levy of Mother Jones: "Stephen Bannon..., Donald Trump's chief strategist, recently spoke approvingly of the ideas of an anti-Semitic French intellectual who was sentenced to life in prison for cooperating with the Nazis during World War II.... Politico describes Charles Maurras as a Catholic nationalist — like Bannon — and notes that Bannon has parroted several of Maurras' ideas.... Maurras is not the only racist or anti-democratic intellectual Bannon has gravitated toward. According to Politico, he has been in contact with Curtis Yarvin, a blogger who believes democracy is a failed form of government and whose ideas are influential to the white nationalist 'alt-right' movement. The Huffington Post recently reported that Bannon is a big fan of a racist French novel, The Camp of the Saints, about immigrants invading Europe." -- CW: Happy St. Patty's Day, Steve-O. ...

... Help Wanted. Only Crazy Bigots Need Apply. Jeet Heer of the New Republic: "... Steve Bannon is fond of the adage that 'personnel is policy.' In the Trump administration, personnel is also the problem. Trump and Bannon have a radical 'America first' agenda that puts them at odds with many in their own party and also in the bureaucracy.... To fully implement this agenda, they need to staff the administration with loyalists. But their difficulty in finding enough qualified loyalists has led them to rely on more mainstream figures, while also leaving many positions unfilled.... Although they’ve granted power to mainstream figures like Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Trump and Bannon still want to control hiring at a lower level, to shore up their power with as many loyalists as possible. This has caused many clashes over personnel.... Bannon’s hostility toward the federal government and Trump’s reliance on a few loyalists point down a dangerous path.... With Trump, we might have the worst of all possible worlds: Nixon’s paranoia without his achievements.” -- CW 

What Double Standard? Matthew Rozsa of Salon: When Sen. Rand Paul [RTP-Ky.] "voted to block a treaty that would have helped the Balkan nation of Montenegro join NATO" earlier this week, Sen. John McCain concluded, on the floor of the Senate, that “The Senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin.” That, of course, is a direct and serious charge against Paul, but -- oddly enough -- Mitch McConnell did not invoke Senate Rule 19, which prohibits Senators from “directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another senator or to other senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator.” This was the rule McConnell used last month to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren when she read a letter from Coretta Scott King denouncing Sen. Jeff Sessions for his racial discrimination during the debate on Sessions' confirmation as attorney general. CW: The contrast is stark. McCain essentially accused Paul of treason; Warren read a historical document pertinent to a confirmation debate (a letter that McConnell allowed male senators to read later). I guess IOKIYAR. Or a man.

The Pro-Torture Nominee. Charlie Savage: Judge Neil Gorsuch "joined the Justice Department in June 2005 as ... the top aide to the No. 3 official in the department. He left in August 2006, when Mr. Bush appointed him as a federal appeals court judge in Denver. But those 14 months were tumultuous ones for the Bush administration amid controversies over detainee abuses, military commissions, warrantless surveillance and its broad claims of executive power. Judge Gorsuch’s job put him at the center of both litigation and negotiations with Congress over legislation about such topics." Gorsuch visited Guantánamo & was "extraordinarily impressed" by the "professionalism" of prison staff. "Judge Gorsuch helped persuade lawmakers to weaken a provision [of the Detainee Treatment Act] that permitted a civilian appeals court to review decisions by military tribunals.... He was also part of teams that helped draft speeches on national security for Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and an op-ed published by USA Today, under his supervisor’s byline, defending President Bush’s warrantless surveillance program and his use of a signing statement to claim a right to bypass the Detainee Treatment Act’s provision banning torture." -- CW 

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. That Time Hannity Pulled a Gun on Juan Williams. Dylan Byers of CNN: "Last year, after ending one of his many spirited on-air arguments with liberal contributor Juan Williams, [Sean] Hannity pulled out a gun and pointed it directly at Williams, according to three sources with knowledge of the incident. He even turned on the laser sight, causing a red dot to bob around on Williams' body. (Hannity was just showing off, the sources said, but the unforeseen off-camera antic clearly disturbed Williams and others on set.)... Hannity's colleagues brought the Williams incident to the attention of Fox News executives, though it's not clear whether anything came of it. The sources said it went to Bill Shine, the network's co-president and longtime Fox News executive, who is Hannity's longtime friend and a former producer. A Fox News spokesperson said the incident was referred to the legal and human resources departments." -- CW ...

     ... AP Update: "Sean Hannity says he 'never pointed' a gun at Fox News colleague Juan Williams, despite a CNN report to the contrary.... Williams said on Twitter that he and Hannity are 'great friends' and the 'incident is being sensationalized.' He says 'everything was under total control throughout and I never felt like I was put in harm’s way.'” -- CW 

Beyond the Beltway

Kristine Phillips of the Washington Post: "A state senator from Oklahoma is facing prostitution charges after he was caught in a motel room with a 17-year-old boy to whom he offered money in exchange for “‘sexual’ stuff,' authorities said. The charges against Sen. Ralph Shortey (R) were filed Thursday, one week after he and the teenager were found at a Super 8 motel in Moore, Okla., just south of Oklahoma City, according to an affidavit. Authorities said the two met through an online personal ad about a year ago and had been texting since. Shortey has been charged with three felonies: soliciting the prostitution of a minor; transportation for the purpose of prostitution; and prostitution within 1,000 feet of a church. The motel is near First Christian Church." -- CW 

CBS News: "Just hours after Florida State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced Thursday that she will not seek the death penalty in any case under her administration, including the case of a man accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and a police officer, the state’s governor asked her to recuse herself from the Markeith Loyd case, reports CBS affiliate WKMG. When Ayala refused, Governor Rick Scott removed her.... Ayala is the State Attorney for Orange and Osceola counties." -- CW 

Wednesday
Mar152017

The Commentariat -- March 16, 2017

NEW. Paul Waldman illuminates the "rolling disaster" that is, so far, the Trump presidency. -- CW 

Alexander Burns of the New York Times: "A federal judge in Hawaii issued a nationwide order Wednesday evening blocking President Trump’s ban on travel from parts of the Muslim world, dealing a stinging blow to the White House and signaling that Mr. Trump will have to account in court for his heated rhetoric about Islam.... In a pointed decision that repeatedly invoked Mr. Trump’s public comments, the judge, Derrick K. Watson of Federal District Court in Honolulu, wrote that a 'reasonable, objective observer' would view even the new order as 'issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion, in spite of its stated, religiously neutral purpose.' Mr. Trump lashed out at Judge Watson during a campaign-style rally in Nashville late on Wednesday. Raising his voice to a hoarse shout, Mr. Trump accused the judge of ruling 'for political reasons' and criticized the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which upheld the earlier decision against his administration and will hear any appeal to the Hawaii ruling.... Mr. Trump even said he might reissue the initial version of the order, rather than the one blocked on Wednesday, which he described as 'a watered-down version of the first one.'” -- CW ...

     ...UPDATE: "A second federal judge in Maryland ruled against Mr. Trump overnight, with a separate order forbidding the core provision of the travel ban from going into effect."

     ... CW: Sorry, Donaldo, but when you run on the White Nationalist platform, it's way hard to pretend you're not a white nationalist. From Burns' report:

Judge Watson flatly rejected the government’s argument that a court would have to investigate Mr. Trump’s 'veiled psyche' to deduce religious animus. He quoted extensively from the remarks by Mr. Trump that were cited in the lawsuit brought by Hawaii’s attorney general, Doug Chin. 'For instance, there is nothing "veiled" about this press release,' Judge Watson wrote, quoting a Trump campaign document titled 'Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.'

... Maria Sacchetti, et al., of the Washington Post: "A federal judge in Hawaii has frozen President Trump’s new executive order temporarily barring the issuance of new visas to citizens of six-Muslim majority countries and suspending the admission of new refugees. U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson froze the order nationwide. Watson was the second of three judges to hear arguments Wednesday on whether to freeze the ban. A federal judge in Maryland said he also could rule before day’s end after a morning hearing, and the same federal judge in Washington state who suspended Trump’s first travel ban was set to hear arguments starting at 5 p.m. Eastern." -- CW ...

... More highlights from Judge Watson's ruling, via the NYT. -- CW ...

... The full ruling is here, via the WashPo. -- CW ...

... Judge Rules Against "All the Best Words." Austin Sarat in the Guardian: "... as important as substance of the judge’s decision, and the clash that it foretells, is, what may be even more important is the lesson that it offers about the enduring power of language. The judge set out to determine if the revised executive order, which now makes no reference to religion, was simply a pretext for an unconstitutional act of religious discrimination. To do so he recalled the many things that the president said about the purpose of the executive order he issued, both before and after his took office.... He called particular attention to the statement of Rudy Giuliani when he went on television to explain how the initial executive order came to be. The judge reminded the readers of his opinion of what Giuliani said: 'When [Trump] first announced it, he said, "Muslim ban". He called me up. He said, "Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.’” The judge tellingly referred to what he referred to as 'plainly-worded statements made in the months leading up to and contemporaneous with the signing of the executive order, and, in many cases, made by the executive himself' that, Judge Watson insisted, 'betray the executive order’s stated secular purpose'.... What Judge Watson wants us to understand ... is that when words lose their meaning and their capacity to bind those who use them, neither democracy nor the rule of law can long survive.” -- CW ...

... Jordan Fabian of the Hill has more on Trump's comments about the court's ruling. -- CW 

Jenna Johnson & Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "Others may think of history as a lens. Donald Trump regards it as a mirror. On Wednesday, he traveled to Tennessee to commemorate the 250th birthday of the seventh president, Andrew Jackson, and toured Jackson’s plantation, which is known as the Hermitage. 'Inspirational visit, I have to tell you. I’m a fan,' Trump said outside Old Hickory’s Greek Revival-style mansion. What apparently has struck the president most about his illustrious predecessor is how much he and Old Hickory have in common." CW: I'll bet Trump really likes Jackson's slave ownership & the Trail of Tears.

Trump Urges Bots to Follow Him off Cliff. Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Trump made a plea on Wednesday for his supporters to unite behind the Republican plan to overhaul Americans’ health care as the only way to squelch Democratic attempts to scuttle the plan. At the same time, facing resistance to the bill from within his own party, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said it would be refined and improved. 'We want Americans to be able to purchase the health insurance plans they want, not the plans forced on them by our government,' Mr. Trump told about 10,000 supporters at the Municipal Auditorium in downtown Nashville. He spoke against the backdrop of a giant American flag to a crowd dotted with red trucker caps bearing his signature slogan, 'Make America Great Again.'... [MEANWHILE, Ryan said,] 'Now that we have a score, we can incorporate feedback to improve this bill, to refine this bill, and those kinds of conversations are occurring between the White House, the House and the Senate, and our members.'... Previously, the speaker had referred to the measure as a 'binary choice,' suggesting that Republicans must accept what many of them see as a flawed bill or lose the opportunity to enact a health care overhaul.” See also Diane's comment on the rally, below. -- CW ...

... Tarini Parti of BuzzFeed: "Although the Trump administration publicly says it’s backing the House bill to replace Obamacare, in private meetings, senior aides have criticized the way Speaker Paul Ryan has dealt with the proposal, calling it a 'botched rollout' and expressing frustration about the lack of coalition building beforehand, three sources involved in the conversations told BuzzFeed News.... Ryan insisted Wednesday morning that the White House had been very involved in the proposal and that other than some 'refinements,' 'major components' of the bill would remain. Vice President Mike Pence spent hours on the Hill this week, rallying lawmakers in support of the plan. 'This is something we wrote with President Trump,' he [Ryan??] said on FoxBusiness. 'This is something we wrote with the Senate committees.'” -- CW ...

NEW. E.J. Dionne on "The Make Inequality Worse Act of 2017." CW: Thanks, GOP! ...

How to Screw the American People -- By the Numbers. Damian Paletta & Steven Mufson of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Thursday will unveil a budget plan that calls for a sharp increase in military spending and stark cuts across much of the rest of the government including the elimination of dozens of long-standing federal programs that assist the poor, fund scientific research and aid America’s allies abroad. Trump’s first budget proposal ... would increase defense spending by $54 billion and then offset that by stripping money from more than 18 other agencies. Some would be hit particularly hard, with reductions of more than 20 percent at the Agriculture, Labor and State departments and of more than 30 percent at the Environmental Protection Agency. It would also propose eliminating future federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Within EPA alone, 50 programs and 3,200 positions would be eliminated." Translation: You dimwitted, MAGA-wearing jerks are screwed. -- CW ...

... Shane Goldmacher of Politico: "The 'deconstruction of the administrative state' now comes with line items.... Donald Trump will release his blueprint for reshaping the American government on Thursday, a budget plan that slashes deeply into the State Department, redirects funds toward the military, guts environmental and housing programs — and continues to run a nearly half-trillion-dollar deficit. Every dollar of proposed cutbacks to domestic, diplomatic and international aid programs that Trump makes in the spending plan will go to boost defense and law enforcement funding.... The document, scheduled to be posted online at 7 a.m. Thursday, represents the most concrete translation of Trump’s nationalistic and populist rhetoric on the campaign trail into dollars and cents. [Budget Director Mick] Mulvaney said his team literally pored over Trump’s speeches to prepare the plan. 'We wrote it using the president’s own words,' he said. 'We turned those policies into numbers.'” CW: Uh, no, there's nothing "populist" about a budget that slashes funds for the poor, for science & medicine & for public broadcasting. ...

... Peter Baker of the New York Times: "... some of the budget losers, it turns out, may be some of the very constituencies that have been most supportive of the new president during his improbable rise to power.... Rural communities will lose grants and loans to build water facilities and financing to keep their airports open.... After-school and summer programs will lose money.... Lower-income Americans will have less access to home energy aid, job training programs and legal services.... Among the agencies to be cut off, for instance, would be the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal-state agency founded in 1965 to promote economic development and infrastructure in some of the poorest parts of the United States.... Mr. Trump would eliminate $3 billion in funding for the Community Development Block Grant program that helps provide affordable housing.... Similarly, federal support for rural airports should go.... Even with that, Mr. Trump would make no progress toward his campaign promise to reduce not only the annual budget deficit but the accumulated national debt.... The nation next year will continue to spend more than it takes in through taxes and therefore will still add hundreds of billions of dollars to the national debt." -- CW ...

... But the Wall! Jordan Fabian: "President Trump will ask Congress for $1.5 billion this year to begin work on the wall he promised to build at the U.S.-Mexico border. The money is part of a $30 billion supplemental spending request that’s being sent to lawmakers on Thursday, according to White House budget director Mick Mulvaney.... Senate Democrats have warned Republicans they could risk a government shutdown ahead of a funding deadline next month if they insert 'poison pills,' such as money for the wall, into spending bills." -- CW 

Radio Waves. Madeline Conway of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his explosive and so far unsupported claim that former President Barack Obama ordered an illegal wiretap of Trump Tower. 'Wiretap covers a lot of different things,' he told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson in an interview set to air Wednesday night, according to excerpts of the transcript. 'I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.'” CW: Yeah, just like all those "interesting things" Trump found out about President Obama's birth certificate. (But we here at Reality Chex are perfectly willing to believe the Obamas planted a microchip in your tooth or fiberoptics in your glowing orange hair.) ...

... Adam Goldman & Emmarie Huetteman of the New York Times: "In a striking repudiation of President Trump, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, a Republican, said on Wednesday that he had seen no indication of Mr. Trump's claim on Twitter that former President Barack Obama wiretapped his phones in Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign. 'We don’t have any evidence that that took place,’ Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said at a news conference on Capitol Hill. 'In fact, I don’t believe — in the last week of time, people we’ve talked to, I don’t think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower.'... Other top Republicans were threatening to block Mr. Trump’s nominee for deputy attorney general [Rod J. Rosenstein] if the Federal Bureau of Investigation did not provide evidence related to the possible wiretapping.” -- CW ...

It doesn’t matter whether you have a Republican or Democrat president, every time they come up here for their nomination hearing . . . I ask them, "Are you going to answer phone calls and our letters, and are you going to give us the documents we want?" And every time we get a real positive "yes"! And then they end up being liars! -- Chuck Grassley, "screaming into the phone during an interview with The Washington Post" ...

... Karoun Demirjian & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Tensions between congressional Republicans and the Trump administration are rising over Russia, as lawmakers probing alleged ties between the president’s team and the Kremlin accused officials of trying to block their efforts. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), whose committee is one of several where investigations are fully underway, accused Justice Department officials Wednesday of lying when they promised to share information about ongoing department probes with lawmakers conducting oversight.... Several key lawmakers are threatening to subpoena the administration for evidence backing up President Trump’s charges that the Obama administration wiretapped his phones during the campaign." -- CW ...

... Ken Dilanian of NBC News: "Former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell, who endorsed Hillary Clinton and called Donald Trump a dupe of Russia, cast doubt Wednesday night on allegations that members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. Morell, who was in line to become CIA director if Clinton won, said he had seen no evidence that Trump associates cooperated with Russians. He also raised questions about the dossier written by a former British intelligence officer, which alleged a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia." -- CW 

Vindu Goel & Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: "In a development that can only heighten the distrust between American and Russian authorities on cybersecurity, the Justice Department on Wednesday charged two Russian intelligence officers with directing a sweeping criminal conspiracy that broke into 500 million Yahoo accounts in 2014. The Russian government then used the information it obtained from the intelligence officers and two others named in the indictment — a Russian hacker and a Kazakh national living in Canada — to focus on foreign officials, business executives and journalists, federal prosecutors said. The targets included numerous financial executives, executives at an American cloud computing company, an airline official and even a casino regulator in Nevada.... The two agents of the F.S.B. who were charged are Dmitry Aleksandrovich Dokuchaev, 33, a Russian national and resident, and Igor Anatolyevich Sushchin, 43, a Russian national and resident. The other two defendants are [Alexsey] Belan, 29, a Russian national and resident; and Karim Baratov, 22, a Canadian and Kazakh national and a resident of Canada. Mr. Baratov was arrested on Tuesday in Canada." -- CW  

CW: If you watched Rachel Maddow's "exclusive" report on two pages of DiJit's 2005 tax return, you'll appreciate Colbert's parady. Thanks to MAG for the link:

 

 

AND Roger Stone says he was the victim of an assassination attempt -- again. Apparently a passenger in a vehicle that was hit-and-run in Broward County, Florida, Stone said the crash occurred on the day Adam Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee called for his testimony. “I have to guess that somebody doesn’t want me to testify at those hearings,” he explained. “If I testify, it is going to prove that this whole narrative on which I believe surveillance of the president was based, i.e. that the Trump campaign was infiltrated by the Russians, is false.” -- CW 

Thomas Gibbons-Neff of the Washington Post: "The U.S. military has drawn up early plans that would deploy up to 1,000 more troops into northern Syria in the coming weeks, expanding the American presence in the country ahead of the offensive on the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa, according to U.S. defense officials familiar with the matter. The deployment, if approved by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and President Trump, would potentially double the number of U.S. forces in Syria and increase the potential for direct U.S. combat involvement in a conflict that has been characterized by confusion and competing priorities among disparate forces." -- CW 

Ana Swanson of the Washington Post: "The Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate Wednesday, launching into what investors expect to be a more rapid series of increases that will help ward off the threat of inflation but also raise costs for indebted American households. Fed officials voted nearly unanimously following a two-day policy meeting in Washington to raise the key interest rate for overnight lending by a quarter-point, from a range of 0.5 percent to 0.75 percent to a range of 0.75 percent to 1.0 percent." -- CW 

Way Beyond the Beltway

Aw, Big Disappointment for Hatemongers. Alissa Rubin of the New York Times: "The far-right politician Geert Wilders fell short of expectations in Dutch elections on Wednesday, gaining seats but failing to persuade a decisive portion of voters to back his extreme positions on barring Muslim immigrants and jettisoning the European Union, according to early results and exit polls. The results were immediately cheered by pro-European politicians who hoped that they could help stall some of the momentum of the populist, anti-European Union and anti-Muslim forces Mr. Wilders has come to symbolize, and which have threatened to fracture the bloc." -- CW ...

... The Guardian story, by Jon Henley, is here. -- CW 

Reuters: "An opposition lawmaker filed an impeachment complaint in the Philippine Congress on Thursday against President Rodrigo Duterte, calling for his removal for what he said were high crimes, betrayal of public trust and abuses of power." CW: No kidding.

Tuesday
Mar142017

Ides of March 2017

NEW. Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post: "The Justice Department is set to announce Wednesday the indictments of two Russian spies and two criminal hackers in connection with the heist of 500 million Yahoo user accounts in 2014, marking the first U.S. criminal cyber charges ever against Russian government officials. The indictments target two members of the Russian intelligence agency FSB, and two hackers hired by the Russians. The charges include hacking, wire fraud, trade secret theft and economic espionage, according to officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.... The move reflects the U.S. government’s increasing desire to hold foreign governments accountable for malicious acts in cyberspace." -- CW 

NEW: Coral Davenport & Bill Vlasic of the New York Times: "President Trump will travel to Detroit on Wednesday to announce a rollback of stringent fuel economy standards for cars and trucks that were put in place by the Obama administration — a welcome message to American automakers but one that could slow the push for a new generation of efficient vehicles.The fuel-economy rules, aimed at cutting heat-trapping carbon dioxide, were one of the two main pillars of President Barack Obama’s climate change legacy. Put forth in 2012, they would have required automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, forcing automakers to speed development of highly fuel-efficient vehicles, including hybrid and electric cars." -- CW 

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Trump on Wednesday denounced as 'fake news' the release by journalists of a portion of his 2005 income tax form, just hours after his administration appeared to confirm the accuracy of the documents.... The White House confirmed those numbers before the show and appeared to accept the document’s authenticity by criticizing a story 'about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago' and alleging that it is 'totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns.' But in a Twitter message posted just before 7 a.m., the president appeared to backtrack from that acknowledgment. 'Does anybody really believe that a reporter, who nobody ever heard of, 'went to his mailbox' and found my tax returns? @NBCNews FAKE NEWS!'” -- CW ...

... Louis Nelson of Politico: "Fox News host Sean Hannity said Tuesday night that NBC News 'is on a political jihad' against ... Donald Trump after MSNBC host Rachel Maddow aired details from a portion of the president’s 2005 tax return on her show.... Hannity blamed 'Obama-deep-state-shadow-government-holdover saboteurs' for the leak. He called Maddow 'really one of the leaders of the alt-left, propaganda, destroy-Trump-at-all-costs media.'” CW: Makes you wonder how Hannity would describe his own non-stop attacks on President Obama. A jihad? Uh, no, probably "noble patriotism." ...

... Peter Baker & Jesse Drucker of the New York Times: "President Trump wrote off more than $100 million in business losses to reduce his federal taxes in 2005, according to forms made public on Tuesday night: a rare glimpse at documents that he had refused to disclose since becoming a candidate for the nation’s highest office. Mr. Trump paid $38 million in federal income taxes on reported income of $150 million, an effective tax rate of 25 percent, according to forms disclosed by Rachel Maddow on her MSNBC show. By claiming losses, Mr. Trump apparently saved millions of dollars in taxes that he would otherwise have owed. The White House responded without even waiting for the show to air, issuing a statement that seemed to confirm the authenticity of the forms even as it defended Mr. Trump and assailed MSNBC for publicizing them.... The two pages produced on Tuesday night ... showed that the vast bulk of the federal income taxes he paid in 2005, $31 million, was paid under the alternative minimum tax, which Mr. Trump wants to abolish.... 'Trump’s return shows that he’s pushing tax changes that benefit multimillionaire heirs like him, not the middle class,' said Lily Batchelder, a tax law professor at New York University...." -- CW ...

... The two-page 1040 is here. ...

... AND here's David Cay Johnston's report. -- CW ...

... Who Leaked Those Pages? David Smith of the Guardian: "Appearing on Maddow’s show, [David Cay] Johnston [-- who was the recipient of the Trump 1040] quickly floated the possibility that the tax returns might have been leaked by Trump himself." -- CW ...

... Steve M. also thinks Trump was the leaker. -- CW 

Maria Sacchetti & Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "With President Trump’s new entry ban set to kick in at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, lawyers and volunteers are mounting a last-minute campaign to halt the executive order in federal courts, mobilize protests and aid any travelers who might be stranded this time around. On Wednesday, federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland will hear arguments on whether to halt Trump’s revised executive order, which suspends the U.S. refu­gee program, temporarily bars the issuance of new visas to citizens of six Muslim-majority countries and slashes refu­gee admissions to the United States this fiscal year from 110,000 to 50,000." -- CW 

The Nowhere-Near-Ready-for-Primetime Administration. Sharon LaFraniere, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump’s point man on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is a longtime Trump Organization lawyer with no government or diplomatic experience. His liaison to African-American leaders is a former reality-TV villain with a penchant for résumé inflation. And his Oval Office gatekeeper is a bullet-headed former New York City cop best known for smacking a protester on the head. Every president sweeps into office with a coterie of friends and hangers-on who sometimes have minimal experience in the arcana of the federal government. But few have arrived with a contingent more colorful and controversial than that of Mr. Trump, whose White House is peppered with assistants and advisers whose principal qualification is their long friendship with Mr. Trump and his family.... The influence of longtime Trump friends and associates — some of them with vague portfolios — comes as a leadership void has been created by the Trump administration’s slow pace in filling top jobs in many agencies." -- CW

Jennifer Dlouhy of Bloomberg: "... Donald Trump is set to sign a sweeping directive to dramatically shrink the role climate change plays in decisions across the government, ranging from appliance standards to pipeline approvals, according to a person familiar with the administration’s plan. The order, which could be signed this week, goes far beyond a targeted assault on Obama-era measures blocking coal leasing and throttling greenhouse gas emissions from power plants that has been discussed for weeks. Some of the changes could happen immediately; others could take years to implement. It aims to reverse President Barack Obama’s broad approach for addressing climate change. One Obama-era policy instructed government agencies to factor climate change into formal environmental reviews, such as that for the Keystone XL pipeline. Trump’s order also will compel a reconsideration of the government’s use of a metric known as the 'social cost of carbon' that reflects the potential economic damage from climate change. It was used by the Obama administration to justify a suite of regulations." -- CW ...

... Juliet Eilperin & Brady Dennis of the Washington Post: "For more than a decade, Sen. James M. Inhofe has raged against the scientific consensus that humans are fueling climate change, calling it 'the greatest hoax' ever perpetrated on Americans.... Now the man critics once dismissed as a political outlier has an unprecedented opportunity to shape the nation’s energy and ­environmental policies. And he has helped populate the upper ranks of the agency he has derided [-- the EPA --] with several of his closest confidants. At least half a dozen former aides to Inhofe — and counting — have been hired into top positions at the EPA and the White House. The chief of staff and deputy chief of staff to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, a fellow Oklahoman and longtime friend of Inhofe, spent years working for the senator." -- CW ...

... Jonathan Swan & Ben Geman of Axios: "The Environmental Protection Agency isn't fighting the White House's initial budget that proposes to cut the agency's budget by about $2 billion — or roughly 25% — and reduce the agency's workforce by roughly 3,000 employees. Climate change programs would be gutted under the proposal and the workforce attached to these programs would be cleared out of the agency — in line with the aggressive vision of EPA transition head Myron Ebell. The Trump Administration, in fact, is now discussing making even deeper cuts to the EPA, according to a source privy to the White House's internal deliberations. Senior Trump officials consider the EPA the leading edge of the administration's plans to deconstruct the administrative state." -- CW 

If there was ever a war on seniors, this bill is it. It spends more on tax cuts for health-insurance companies and the wealthy than on tax credits to help the middle class. It’s vintage Donald Trump. He talks like a populist, but when he acts it’s hard right, favoring the special interests, hurting the middle class and those striving to get there. -- Chuck Schumer, at a press conference Tuesday

... CW: You'll want to watch this video, which safari posted:

... NEW. Kate Zernicke of the New York Times: "Cutting off federal funding for Planned Parenthood — a longstanding conservative goal that is included in the Republican bill to replace the Affordable Care Act — would reduce access to birth control for thousands of women and sharply increase Medicaid births, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Because nearly half of all births nationwide are to Medicaid patients, and many of those babies are Medicaid patients themselves, the budget office estimated that defunding Planned Parenthood even for a year would increase Medicaid spending by $21 million in the first year, and $77 million by 2026." -- CW ...

TrumpNoCare Troubles. Kelsey Snell, et al., of the Washington Post: "The White House launched an intensive effort Tuesday to salvage support for the Republican plan to revise the Affordable Care Act, even as a growing number of lawmakers weighed in against the proposal. One day after the Congressional Budget Office released its analysis showing that 14 million fewer Americans would be insured next year under the GOP plan, Vice President Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price went to Capitol Hill to rally backing for the proposal. But widespread dissatisfaction among House and Senate lawmakers — conservatives and moderates alike — showed no signs of dissipating, increasing the chances that House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) will have difficulty passing the bill if it goes to the House floor in the next two weeks, not to mention whether it can collect a majority in the Senate." -- CW ...

... Katy Waldman of Slate describes Trump's "listening session" on the horrors of ObamaCare. He's not even a B-list actor. ...

... Jennifer Steinhauer & Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "A day after a harsh judgment by the Congressional Budget Office on the House plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, nervous Senate Republicans on Tuesday suggested changes to the bill. They told Trump administration officials — including the health secretary, Tom Price — that they wanted to see lower insurance costs for poorer, older Americans and an increase in funding for states with high populations of hard-to-insure people. They said those changes would greatly improve the chances of Senate approval even though they might further alienate conservatives." -- CW ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "At this stage, the President has three possible options in front of him for how to deal with health care, none of which he may find particularly palatable or easy to follow through on. The first option is to tough it out, sticking with the House Republican legislation and seeking to shrug off or belittle the C.B.O.’s analysis.... A second option would be for Trump to gently distance himself from the Ryans and the Jordans of the world, and ally himself with Republican senators such as Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy and Maine’s Susan Collins, who have accepted the C.B.O.’s figures and are calling for big changes to the House proposal.... Following [Christopher] Ruddy’s advice [to propose "Medicaid for All" -- see also Costa & Rucker's article & Kevin Drum post, linked below], or doing something similar, represents the third option for Trump.... As of now, there is no sign of such a shift. Trump seems to be stuck." -- CW ...

... Jamelle Bouie: "No politician who wants to stay in office would defend this bill on its merits. Which means its advocates — well-aware of its dire outcomes for low- and moderate-income people — have to obfuscate.... Instead of defending the bill on its merits, [Paul] Ryan and Republican leaders have taken to vaguely proclaiming that it is offering 'freedom' and 'choice' to consumers.... A family that can’t afford health insurance hasn’t 'chosen' to go without it.... Ryan and [House Majority Leader Kevin] McCarthy’s invocation of 'access' is akin to praising the market for giving the wage laborer access to an expensive car or a mansion.... The American Health Care Act is more than a bill; it represents the sum of Paul Ryan’s ideological aspirations, his career-long effort to dismantle core guarantees of the social safety net, to build a society where economic security becomes a privilege of the wealthy, risk and uncertainty the lot of everyone else." -- CW ...

... Steve M.: "Much of the political world -- not just right-wingers but the mainstream media -- is talking about Breitbart's release of audio from October in which Paul Ryan, responding to Donald Trump's Access Hollywood tape, told House Republicans that he was through with Trump.... Maybe the failure of this bill will help lead to an outcome Breitbart hinted at last week: Ryan's removal from the office of Speaker.... But what does [Steve] Bannon want on health care? For that matter, what does Trump want? When I read the rest of the Breitbart story about the Ryan audio, I see a lot to suggest that the Ryan bill isn't what Trump and True Conservatives want. But if that's the case -- and if Trump is, as his supporters keep telling us, both an extremely strong leader and a great dealmaker -- why aren't they actually strong-arming Ryan to get what they want into the bill?... I really don't understand these people." -- CW ...

NEW. Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling: "PPP's newest national poll finds that there is very little support for the American Health Care Act [or, as we like to call it, CAHCA]. Only 24% of voters support it, to 49% who are opposed. Even among Republican voters only 37% are in favor of the proposal to 22% who are against it, and 41% who aren't sure one way or another. Democrats (15/71) and independents (22/49) are more unified in their opposition to the bill than Republicans are in favor of it. The Affordable Care Act continues to post some of the best numbers it's ever seen, with 47% of voters in favor of it to 39% who are opposed. When voters are asked whether they'd have rather have the Affordable Care Act or the American Health Care Act in place, the Affordable Care Act wins by 20 points at 49/29. Just 32% of voters think the best path forward with the Affordable Care Act is to repeal it and start over, while 63% think it would be better to keep what works in it and fix what doesn't." -- CW ...

... Steven Colbert lays it on thick about the Drumpf administration, Paul Ryan's missing scrotum, and Rex Tillerson's environmental coverup. --safari

... Robert Costa & Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "A simmering rebellion of conservative populists loyal to President Trump is further endangering the GOP health-care push, with a chorus of influential voices suspicious of the proposal warning the president to abandon it. From headlines at Breitbart to chatter on Fox News Channel and right-wing talk radio, as well as among friends who have Trump’s ear, the message has been blunt: The plan being advanced by congressional Republican leaders is deeply flawed — and, at worst, a political trap. Trump’s allies worry that he is jeopardizing his presidency by promoting the bill spearheaded by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), arguing that it would fracture Trump’s coalition of working- and middle-class voters, many of them older and subsisting on federal aid.... Trump — who has not yet fully used the bully pulpit of the presidency to rally support for the plan — spoke privately with Ryan on Tuesday afternoon. They discussed the various factions, the opinions of several key lawmakers and developing a closing strategy, according to two people with knowledge of the call." CW: The story is worth reading in full because it includes lots of specifics. ...

... Kevin Drum on Trump pal & arch-confederate Christopher Ruddy's proposal for "Medicaid for All." -- CW: For what it's worth, both Drum & I think Ruddy's proposal is essentially a good one, presuming -- and this is a wild presumption -- that it's done right. One big downside to Ruddy's plan is that he suggests Trump should back Ryan's long-held desire to privatize Medicare. But the bigger downside is this: if Trump pushed the Ruddy Medicaid-for-All plan through Congress, he would be an unbeatable hero. ...

... Carolyn Johnson of the Washington Post: "To get the Affordable Care Act passed, Democrats used a big-tent approach, convening health-care groups that did not normally talk to one another while cutting deals and strong-arming key industry players to build broad support for the plan.... In contrast, the Republican effort to sweep away President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law has unfolded so fast that lobbyists and industry groups barely had time to digest the bill before lawmakers began marking it up. The difference between the approaches speaks to a drastically changed political atmosphere and the reality of passing a health-care plan chiefly aimed at dismantling the current law vs. building one from scratch." -- CW ...

... Steve Lemieux in the New Republic: "... before we rush to criticize ordinary voters who were conned, we should consider the massive failure of American elites to inform them during the 2016 campaign.... Trump’s approach to health care policy during the campaign was one he has applied to all fields: that is, to lie constantly. Republicans in general lied systematically about their plans for health care.... The media failed completely to adequately convey the policy stakes of the 2016 election.... While the media was mostly ignoring literally life-or-death issues like health care and climate change, it was providing voters with wall-to-wall coverage of one 'issue': Hillary Clinton's email server.... The Clinton campaign is not blameless here, either.... Clinton’s advertising campaign focused almost entirely on Trump’s character and said almost nothing about policy. The fact that a lot of Trump voters will suffer if the AHCA passes is not an occasion for schadenfreude. It’s horrifying." -- CW 

Manu Raju & Tom LoBianco of CNN: "Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse [D-R.I.] said Tuesday that FBI Director James Comey promised to tell him Wednesday whether the FBI is investigating ties between Russia and the campaign of President Donald Trump. The Rhode Island Democrat said that Comey made the promise in a March 2 meeting with him and Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina." -- CW ...

White Supremacist President Won't Condemn White Supremacist Hate Speech. Josh Israel of Think Progress: "Two days after Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) white nationalist tweet warning that 'We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,' the White House finally responded on Tuesday … barely. At his daily press briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer had declined to weigh in on the tweet — or the Monday interview in which King strongly reaffirmed its sentiments  —  saying that he would 'touch base with the president.' Asked again on Tuesday, he declined to criticize King.... House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) urged Republican leaders to strip King of his subcommittee chairmanship. But far from doing that..., they have taken pains to avoid criticizing King directly.” -- CW 

Julie Davis of the Washington Post: "In the latest verbal acrobatics over President Trump’s allegation that President Barack Obama spied on him during the 2016 campaign, the White House spokesman said on Tuesday that he was confident Mr. Trump’s claim would eventually be found to be true. Sean Spicer ... said he was 'very confident' that the Justice Department would submit data to the House Intelligence Committee after it missed a Monday deadline to produce evidence of Mr. Trump’s claim. The House committee is investigating Russian interference in the presidential election.... Mr. Spicer’s comments on Tuesday were the latest in a series of shifting explanations and deflections as Mr. Trump’s inner circle has tried to adhere to his extraordinary Twitter posts two weekends ago about his predecessor." -- CW ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "It's almost as though Republicans are tired of having President Trump's evidence-free allegations laid at their feet. Almost. Late Monday, a spokesman for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) threatened to subpoena the Trump administration to produce evidence of Trump's claim that President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the campaign. The White House has declined to produce this evidence publicly, offering various excuses, including the Constitution's separation of powers and — most recently on Monday — arguing that Trump wasn't speaking literally when he made the claim. The Justice Department missed Nunes's deadline to provide evidence Monday, which drew Nunes's subpoena threat.... Then, on Tuesday, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) made his own threat. Last week, Graham ... asked the Justice Department and the FBI to provide copies of any warrants or court orders related to the alleged wiretapping. Having not received anything, Graham said Tuesday that he would announce his next steps Wednesday and may push for a special committee." -- CW ...

... CW: I never watched the British TV series "Yes, Minister" and "Yes, Prime Minister," but they could not have been as funny as watching the GOP reality show "Yes, Trump." If "Yes, Trump" had no real-life consequences, you couldn't stop laughing. ...

Ryan Cooper of the Week: "One of the most consistent tropes of conservative political rhetoric in America is that Businessmen Do It Better.... Well, now we have the purest example in American history of a businessman president. Donald J. Trump is the richest president in decades, and unlike every one of his predecessors, he has precisely zero political experience.... The result: absolute disaster, and not just because he's advancing disastrous policies (though he is doing that). President Trump is also an atrocious manager, precisely because his business instincts are catastrophically ill-suited to the presidency.... Indeed, it's hard to see how anyone could possibly swallow the conservative business-worship line in the first place, in an age when most large businesses are incompetent price-gouging oligopolists.... The really bedrock difference [between government and business], as Charles Peters writes in his new book We Do Our Part, is that quality government requires a sense of public spiritedness and a moral conscience. Sociopathic pursuit of profit at all costs — the defining characteristic of the modern American businessman — is a route to corruption and disaster." -- CW 

"America First" for Thee but Not for Me. Sheelah Kolhatkar of the New Yorker: "When it comes to America’s technology industry, Donald Trump takes a dim view of foreign workers. 'I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program' — it provides visas for technical and skilled employees — 'and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers for every visa and immigration program,' he said in a statement a year ago. 'No exceptions.' When it comes to the hospitality industry, though, Trump is much more, well, hospitable. His Administration recently made it harder to get H1-B visas, but he has expressed no objection to the visa category that hotels and resorts use — the H-2B — to attract low-cost, low-skilled seasonal labor. In fact, at Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach club, the visas are still in active use. Why the exception to the no-exception rule?... [Trump claims he can't get good help, but he could if he would pay them a living wage, which he won't.] If your mantra is “America First,” there is actually a stronger case for the visas the tech industry uses than for the ones used by Mar-a-Lago.” -- CW ...

... David Kocieniewski & Caleb Melby of Bloomberg (March 13): "A company owned by the family of Jared Kushner..., Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, stands to receive more than $400 million from a prominent Chinese company that is investing in the Kushners’ marquee Manhattan office tower at 666 Fifth Ave. The planned $4-billion transaction includes terms that some real estate experts consider unusually favorable for the Kushners. It provides them with both a sizable cash payout from Anbang Insurance Group for a property that has struggled financially and an equity stake in a new partnership.... It would make business partners of Kushner Cos. and Anbang, whose murky links to the Chinese power structure have raised national security concerns over its U.S. investments." -- CW ...

... Timothy O'Brien of Bloomberg: "The New York Times reported in January that Kushner spearheaded the talks with Anbang about an investment in his family’s business, that he met over dinner with Anbang’s chairman, Wu Xiaohui, to discuss the transaction about a week after his father-in-law was elected president, and that the talks had begun last July or so when Trump had already locked up the Republican nomination. 'A classic way you influence people is by financially helping their family,' one public interest advocate told the Bloomberg reporters about the Anbang deal. Well, doh! Of course that’s how it works. And therein lies a problem: If we’ve learned anything about Trump in the chaotic seven weeks since he assumed the presidency, it’s that his entire clan will test our capacity for surprise, distaste and even outrage when it comes to financial conflicts of interest.... Kushner’s Anbang deal comes on the heels of news that Trump’s company recently received dozens of trademark approvals from the Chinese government after unsuccessfully lobbying for the same trademarks for about a decade.... Meanwhile, [China's president] Xi [Jinping] is expected to be feted at Mar-a-Lago...." -- CW ...

... Judd Legum of Think Progress: "... Donald Trump has made his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the administration’s primary point of contact with the Chinese government. Now a Chinese firm with mysterious ownership structure and suspected ties to the Chinese government has made an 'unusually favorable' deal with Kushner’s family real estate company.... The exceptional transaction between the Chinese firm, Anbang Insurance Group, and Kushner’s family has the appearance of a serious conflict: an effort to buy favor and influence with the Trump administration.... Kushner 'sold' his assets to his brother and a trust controlled by his mother. A lawyer told the New York Times that Kushner appeared to be engaging in a 'shell game.' By transferring assets to his family members, he could easily re-acquire them at the conclusion of his government service. Absent that, Kushner still has an interest in financial transactions that could benefit his mother or siblings.... China has actively sought to cultivate a relationship with Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, in order to soften the administration’s position on China." -- CW 

Government Sachs, Ctd. Kate Kelly of the New York Times: "Another Goldman Sachs executive is being hired for a senior government role in Washington — this time at the Treasury Department. James Donovan, a longtime Goldman banking and investment management executive, has been named to be the deputy to the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin." -- CW 

Alex Isenstadt & Ken Vogel of Politico: "A culture of paranoia is consuming the Trump administration, with staffers increasingly preoccupied with perceived enemies — inside their own government. In interviews, nearly a dozen White House aides and federal agency staffers described a litany of suspicions: that rival factions in the administration are trying to embarrass them, that civil servants opposed to President Donald Trump are trying to undermine him, and even that a 'deep state' of career military and intelligence officials is out to destroy them. Aides are going to great lengths to protect themselves. They’re turning off work-issued smartphones and putting them in drawers when they arrive home from work out of fear that they could be used to eavesdrop. They’re staying mum in meetings out of concern that their comments could be leaked to the press by foes." -- CW 

The Russia Connection, Ctd. Plagiarism Pays. Lachlan Markay of the Daily Beast: "A would-be Trump White House appointee who withdrew in the face of plagiarism allegations is now lobbying on behalf of a Ukrainian oligarch who has recently advocated greater concessions to the Russian government, according to newly filed documents. Monica Crowley told the Justice Department's National Security Division that she will represent billionaire Victor Pinchuk in discussions with U.S. government officials 'and other policy makers' regarding 'issues of concern to Mr. Pinchuk.'... Crowley dismissed the plagiarism allegations in her first public remarks on the controversy last week. “What happened to me was a despicable straight-up political hit job,” she said during an appearance on the Fox News show Hannity. 'It’s been debunked, my editor has completely supported me and backed me up.' (It has not been debunked.)” -- CW 

Charlie Savage & Julie Turkewitz of the New York Times: Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court has a "web of ties" to billionaire Philip F. Anschutz, who "inherited an oil and gas firm and built it into an empire that has sprawled into telecommunications, railroads, real estate, resorts, sports teams, stadiums, movies and conservative publications like The Weekly Standard and The Washington Examiner.... In 2006, Mr. Anschutz successfully lobbied Colorado’s lone Republican senator and the Bush administration to nominate Judge Gorsuch to the federal appeals court." -- CW 

Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post: "The Justice Department unsealed a fresh indictment Tuesday charging eight Navy officials — including an admiral — with corruption and other crimes in the 'Fat Leonard' bribery case, escalating an epic scandal that has dogged the Navy for four years. Among those charged were Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, a senior Navy intelligence officer who recently retired from a key job at the Pentagon, as well as four retired Navy captains and a retired Marine colonel. The charges cover a period of eight years, from 2006 through 2014. The Navy personnel are accused of taking bribes in the form of lavish gifts, prostitutes and luxury hotel stays courtesy of Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis, a Singapore-based defense contractor who has pleaded guilty to defrauding the Navy of tens of millions of dollars." -- CW 

John Cox of the Washington Post: "The nonprofit organization run by prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer has been stripped of its tax-exempt status after failing to file financial returns for three years. The Washington Post reported in December that Spencer’s think tank, the National Policy Institute, had been allowed by the federal government to operate in financial secrecy since 2013. The IRS, Spencer said Tuesday, told him a few days ago that his Virginia-based organization had lost tax-exempt status because it hadn’t submitted the necessary records when it was supposed to." -- CW