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

Click on the picture to see larger image.... Low Society News. AP: "... Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were among the guests as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin’s) married a Scottish actress. Mnuchin exchanged vows Saturday night with Louise Linton at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington. Mrs. Trump wore a pink blush dress" CW: which, if you follow Reality Chex, you will know was enhanced by some really costly baubles that remind the bride of Grace Kelly or happy times or something.

New Yorker: "In a paper in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers announced that they have pushed back the date of the earliest human remains to three hundred thousand years ago. And the specimens in question were found not in East Africa, which has become synonymous with a sort of paleoanthropological Garden of Eden, but clear on the other side of the continent — and the Sahara — in Morocco." -- CW ...

Washington Post: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus took a final, bittersweet bow Sunday, staging its last three shows [in Uniondale, N.Y.,] after 146 years of entertaining American audiences with gravity-defying trapeze stunts, comically clumsy clowns and trained tigers." -- CW 

Guardian: "Pippa Middleton [sister of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge --] has married James Matthews in what has been called the society wedding of the year, in front of royalty, family and friends." -- CW

Washington Post: "Two months before Monday’s [May 8] announcement that Sinclair Broadcast Group would pay $3.9 billion for Tribune Media and add to its dominance as the nation’s largest owner of local TV stations, a top executive at Sinclair beamed a short commentary piece to many of the company’s 173 stations.In the segment, which looks like it belongs in a newscast, Sinclair vice president for news Scott Livingston stands before a wall of video monitors and warns that 'some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think.' He accuses the national media of publishing 'fake news stories' — a direct echo of President Trump’s frequent complaint — and then asks viewers to visit the station’s website to share 'content concerns.' The piece was a 'must-run,' meaning news directors and station managers from Baltimore to Seattle had to find room for it.... While partisan coverage is a familiar staple of cable networks — Fox News on the right, MSNBC on the left — it remains mostly unheard of in broadcast TV, where it has generally been accepted that public airwaves should be used in the difficult-to-define public interest.” -- CW 

CNN: "21st Century Fox and the private equity firm Blackstone are in talks to launch a bid for Tribune Media, one of the nation's largest television broadcasting companies, a source with knowledge of the matter said Sunday. The deal currently under discussion would see Blackstone and Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox forming a joint venture. Blackstone would provide the cash for the acquisition while Fox would add all its owned-and-operated television stations to the joint venture." -- CW 

New York Times: "Prehistoric humans — perhaps Neanderthals or another lost species — occupied what is now California some 130,000 years ago, a team of scientists reported on Wednesday. The bold and fiercely disputed claim, published in the journal Nature, is based on a study of mastodon bones discovered near San Diego. If the scientists are right, they would significantly alter our understanding of how humans spread around the planet." -- CW 

If you're curious as to how realistic the New York City apartments of TV sitcom characters are -- in terms of what the characters could reasonably afford -- the Washington Post checks out several of the hovels & dream rentals of a number of shows. Kinda fun. CW: My husband & I (he paid the rent) had a fairly spacious two-bedroom with a galley kitchen (dishwasher included!) & dining room plus teensy closets on Washington Square in the 1980s & '90s. NYU owned the building & helped considerably with the rent.

Politico: "Comedian Hasan Minhaj will be this year's entertainer for the White House Correspondents' Dinner later this month, the association's president announced on Tuesday. Minhaj is a stand up comedian and senior correspondent on 'The Daily Show,' where he has performed caustic bits on ... Donald Trump, liberals and others in between. Minhaj has Washington experience already, having performed as host of last year's Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner." -- CW 

AFP: "After months of uncertainty and controversy, Bob Dylan finally accepted the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature at a jovial, champagne-laced ceremony on Saturday, [April 1,] the Swedish Academy announced. The academy, which awards the coveted prize, ended prolonged speculation as to whether the 75-year-old troubadour would use a concert stopover in Stockholm to accept the gold medal and diploma awarded to him back in October." -- CW 

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

Constant Comments

Anyone with a cheap computer can become a columnist or a pundit. -- Dennis Ryerson, Editor, Indianapolis Star

About Me: I have a cheap computer.
-- Constant Weader

Follow CONSTANTWEADER on Twitter... for breaking news. I update several times a day & tweet only the big deals.

Sunday
Jun182017

The Commentariat -- June 19, 2017

<

Afternoon Update:

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "In a decision likely to bolster the Washington Redskins' efforts to protect its trademarks, the Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the government may not refuse to register potentially offensive names. A law denying protection to disparaging trademarks, the court said, violated the First Amendment. The decision was unanimous, but the justices were divided on the reasoning." -- CW

Adam Liptak: "The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that several high-ranking Bush administration officials may not be sued for policies adopted after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The officials include John Ashcroft, the former attorney general, and Robert S. Mueller III, the former F.B.I. director who is now investigating possible links between the Trump administration and Russia. The case began in 2002 as a class action filed by mostly Muslim immigrants over policies and practices that swept hundreds into the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn on immigration violations shortly after the attacks. The plaintiffs said they had been subjected to beatings, humiliating searches and other abuses. The roundups drew criticism from the inspector general of the Justice Department, who in 2003 issued reports saying that the government had made little to no effort to distinguish between genuine suspects and Muslim immigrants with minor visa violations.... Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in the 4-to-2 decision, acknowledged that the way the detainees said they had been treated was appalling. But he said lawsuits seeking money from high-ranking officials were not the right way to address asserted misconduct in the midst of a national security crisis.... Three members of the court did not participate in the decision: Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, who had not yet joined the court when the case was argued, and Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, who recused themselves." -- CW

Louis Nelson of Politico: "When ... Donald Trump wrote online last week that 'I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director,' it was not an admission that he is indeed being investigated, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said Monday morning, but instead a Twitter-shortened reaction to media coverage of ongoing probes into his 2016 campaign. Conway's insistence Monday morning that Trump's tweet last Friday was not what it seemed followed in the footsteps of the president's personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, who said Sunday in an array of political talk show appearances that regardless of what he has written online, Trump is not under investigation." -- CW ...

... Rosalind Helderman, et al., of the Washington Post: "In August, as tension mounted over Russia's role in the U.S. presidential race, Donald Trump's campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, sat down to dinner with a business associate from Ukraine who once served in the Russian army. Konstantin Kilimnik, who learned English at a military school that some experts consider a training ground for Russian spies, had helped run the Ukraine office for Manafort's international political consulting practice for 10 years.... Kilimnik, who provided a written statement to The Washington Post through Manafort's attorney, said the previously unreported dinner was one of two meetings he had with Manafort on visits to the United States during Manafort's five months working for Trump. The first encounter was in early May 2016, about two weeks before the Trump adviser was elevated to campaign chairman.... Manafort told Politico, which first reported his relationship with Kilimnik, that his conversations included discussions about the cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee and the release of its emails." -- CW

Jennifer Haberkorn of Politico: "Democrats will grind Senate business to a halt in a protest against Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare. Beginning Monday night, Democrats will start objecting to all unanimous consent requests in the Senate, according to a Democratic aide. They plan to control the floor of the chamber Monday night and try to force the House-passed health care bill to committee in a bid to further delay it. Without the votes to block Obamacare repeal, Democrats are turning to procedural moves they believe will underscore their most powerful argument: Republicans are hiding their repeal plan from the public and using Senate procedures to keep it a secret.... Democrats are unlikely to be able to force the House bill to committee or delay it. But it will force Republicans to answer for what Democrats say is a rushed process and bad policy." -- CW

Oliver Milman of the Guardian: "Nearly a third of the world's population is now exposed to climatic conditions that produce deadly heatwaves, as the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere makes it 'almost inevitable' that vast areas of the planet will face rising fatalities from high temperatures, new research has found. Climate change has escalated the heatwave risk across the globe, the study states, with nearly half of the world's population set to suffer periods of deadly heat by the end of the century even if greenhouse gases are radically cut." -- CW ...

CW: You might not want to listen to a 25-minute segment about coal, but I promise this is worth it:

CBS/AP: "A man was killed Monday after ramming a car carrying explosives into a police vehicle in the French capital's Champs-Elysees shopping district, prompting a fiery blast, officials said. France's anti-terrorism prosecutor opened an investigation. No police officers or passers-by were hurt, the Paris police department said. It is unclear why the attacker drove into police, though officials said the incident was apparently deliberate." -- CW

*****

CW: I've been looking all morning for a Trumpentweet about how we all stand together with the Muslim worshipers who were victims of the London terror attack & the U.S. will do anything to help, etc. and/or the Muslim girl murdered in Virginia. You'll be surprised to hear that this is one terrorist attack& one murder that don't interest Der Islamophobenmeister at all.

Kailani Koenig of NBC News: "An attorney for ... Donald Trump was adamant on Sunday that the president is not under investigation, despite the president's tweets this week referring to one as a "witch hunt.... On 'Face The Nation' on CBS, [Jay] Sekulow clarified that he's so confident that there isn't any investigation into the president because they have not received any notification from the special counsel's office." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... CW: I hate to tell Jay, but typically investigative agencies don't tell someone he's a person of interest until they find it necessary to interview him and/or associates who might tell the person the nature of their interviews. I was once told by a credible source that I was "under investigation" by a State Bureau of Investigation, so I called the SBI to find out. They wouldn't say one way or the other. That was decades ago, and to this day, I have no idea if my source was right. It isn't exactly something that concerns me. Sekulow is either bluffing or he's an ignoramus. Or both. ...

... Chris Wallace Is Not Taking Any of Sekulow's BS. Max Greenwood of the Hill: "'Fox News Sunday' host Chris Wallace sparred with Jay Sekulow, a member of President Trump's legal defense team, on Sunday over whether the president has become a target of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Sekulow originally denied that Trump had fallen under investigation, but later appeared to reverse that assertion, saying that 'he's being investigated for taking the action that the attorney general and deputy attorney general recommending him to take.' 'You've now said that he is being investigated,' Wallace said.... [After some more back-and forth, Wallace said,] 'Well, you don't know that he's not under investigation, again sir.'... 'You're right, Chris, I can't read the mind of the special prosecutor,' Sekulow responded. 'Okay, well good, we're in agreement,' Wallace replied. 'You don't know whether he's under investigation or not.'" -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... The Odessey of a Scoundrel: Between Scylla & Charybdis. Mark Stern of Slate: "... what, exactly, will Mueller find now that he has substantially broadened the scope of his investigation?... Reporters have already uncovered an astonishing amount of disturbing information about Trump. There's the Azerbaijan hotel project propped up by graft and bribery with ties to Iran's Revolutionary Guard. The charitable foundation accused of self-dealing and tax fraud. The questionable Deutsche Bank loans with ties to Moscow. The close association with allegedly criminal international companies. The journalists chasing these leads have hit snags, obstacles, and insurmountable walls, leading to stories that suggest the possibility of law-breaking but end with lingering uncertainty. Mueller need not put up with such stonewalling. He has the tools to dig much deeper.... Sacking Mueller would end the special counsel investigation, at least temporarily. It would also constitute a clear case of obstruction of justice, one that would instigate an immediate, immense outcry. Washington would screech to a halt.... That is the dilemma that Trump faces: Answer for his old crimes, or commit a new one." -- CW ...

... Ben Protess, et al., of the New York Times: "Representatives of Jared Kushner ... have quietly contacted high-powered criminal lawyers about potentially representing him in the wide-ranging investigation into Russia's influence on the 2016 election, according to three people briefed on the matter. Some of Mr. Kushner’s allies have raised questions about the link between his current lawyer, Jamie S. Gorelick, and Robert S. Mueller III.... Before the Justice Department named him to the special counsel post, Mr. Mueller was a law partner with Ms. Gorelick at the Washington firm of WilmerHale." -- CW ...

Comey had nine interactions with [Trump] after the election. And in none of those, Comey testified, did he express any interest, concern, about what the Russians did, how they did it, how do we prevent it. He continuously has in fact denigrated the whole idea and dismissed that it was the Russians, and apparently hasn't yet accepted the 100-percent consensus of everybody that knows about this that this was a conscious and deliberate effort on their part to attack our democracy. And then to Jeff Sessions I said, did you ever get any briefings on this? He said no. All he knew is what he read in the papers. This is the chief law-enforcement officer of the United States, with no interest in the most serious attack on our country. -- Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), in an interview by Al Hunt of Bloomberg ...

... Jordain Carney of the Hill: "Senate Republicans are clamoring to hear from Loretta Lynch after former FBI Director James Comey raised concerns about her involvement in the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are seizing on Comey's testimony earlier this month that he was concerned over the former attorney general telling the FBI to refer to the Clinton investigation as a 'matter,' which resembled the Clinton campaign line. The move could allow Republicans to attempt to pivot away from the investigation into Russia's election meddling -- which top GOP lawmakers have signaled belongs to the Intelligence Committee -- and focus on Lynch, who has long been a target of Republicans." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Quit Picking on Devin. David Siders of Politico: "House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said Saturday there 'was never any collusion between Donald Trump and the Russians,' casting himself as a victim of media bias and calling on Washington to 'stop chasing Russian ghosts around the closet.'... Nunes, addressing GOP donors in Orange County, said that after searching for any evidence of collusion, 'I said "OK, I don't think there's any collusion here." And what happened to me? All the major papers in the country did a total character assassination on me. Why? Because I was telling the truth, that there was never any collusion between Donald Trump and the Russians.'" CW: Sorry, Devin, the press didn't assassinate your character; you did it all by yourself with your hilarious midnight run to try to exonerate the president* you were supposed to be investigating. But we'll always be grateful to you for "bumblefucking." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Our Far-Flung Adventures (Are Leaderless)

Mark Landler & Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "... the Pentagon issued a news release late one afternoon last week confirming that the president had given the defense secretary, Jim Mattis, the authority to send several thousand additional troops [to Afghanistan].... Mr. Trump, who writes avidly on Twitter about war and peace in other parts of the world, said nothing about the announcement. But its effect was unmistakable: He had outsourced the decision on how to proceed militarily in Afghanistan to the Pentagon, a startling break with how former President Barack Obama and many of his predecessors handled the anguished task of sending Americans into foreign conflicts.... Former commanders and military scholars said that in sending troops before having a strategy, Mr. Trump has put the cart before the horse, eroded the tradition of civilian control over the military, and abdicated the president's duty to announce and defend troop deployments.... The decision to send additional troops represents at least a temporary victory for Mr. Mattis and Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser, over Mr. Trump's political aides, including his chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon...." -- CW

Thomas Gibbons-Neff & Karim Faheem of the Washington Post: "A U.S. strike aircraft shot down a Syrian government fighter jet Sunday shortly after the Syrians bombed U.S.-backed fighters in northern Syria, the Pentagon said in a statement. The Pentagon said the downing of the aircraft came hours after Syrian loyalist forces attacked U.S.-backed fighters, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the village of Ja'Din, southwest of Raqqa. The rare attack was the first time a U.S. jet has shot down a manned hostile aircraft in more than a decade, and it signaled the United States' sharply intensifying role in Syria's war. The incident is the fourth time within a month that the U.S. military has attacked pro-Syrian government forces." -- CW ...

     ... ** Update. Patrick Wintour of the Guardian: "Russia has said it will target any plane from the US-led coalition flying west of the Euphrates river in Syria after the US military shot down a Syrian air force jet on Sunday. Russia's defence ministry said the US had given it no warning, and that as a consequence it was also suspending coordination over 'deconfliction zones' that were created to prevent incidents involving US and Russian jets engaged in operations in Syria." -- CW

Anna Fifield of the Washington Post: "Early Saturday morning, the ... Philippine-flagged ACX ... Crystal — for reasons that have not been explained -- swung around 180 degrees in that busy waterway [... near where the sea lanes converge for the run into Tokyo Bay ...] and doubled back on its course, heading nearly due west. Minutes later, just before 2:20 a.m., the much larger container ship hit the [USS Fitzgerald] broadside, just about amidships on the starboard rail. The freighter punched a wide hole into the Fitzgerald, breaching two compartments below the waterline where there were berths for 116 sailors, as well as a machinery room." The Navy has identified all seven American sailors who died on the Fitzgerald. -- CW ...

... Scott Shane of the New York Times: "Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, commander of the Navy’s Seventh Fleet..., said he would appoint a flag officer to conduct one of several investigations that will seek to establish exactly what happened and to apportion responsibility." -- CW

Nikos Giannopoulos, Rhode Island's teacher of the year, with man & woman living in White House.... Martin Pengelly of the Guardian: "A Rhode Island teacher who became a star on social media after displaying LGBTQ pride in a photograph taken with Donald Trump in the Oval Office also wrote that he wanted to tell the president: 'Anti-LGBTQ policies have a body count.' Nikos Giannopoulos, a special education teacher at the Beacon Charter High School for the Arts in Woonsocket, visited the White House in April with other award-winning teachers. This week, Giannopoulos posted to his Facebook page a photo that shows him next to a smiling Trump, who is seated at the Resolute desk, and first lady Melania Trump, who is standing. Giannopoulos is wearing a rainbow pin and waving a black lace fan." -- CW ...

... The man seated at the desk read prepared remarks from a sheet of paper and made some comments about CEOs and which states he 'loved' based on electoral votes that he had secured. He did not rise from his seat to present the National Teacher of the Year [-- Sydney Chafee of Massachusetts --] with her much deserved award nor did he allow her to speak. After what amounted to a brief photo op, we were ushered out of the West Wing and back on to the streets of DC. -- Nikos Giannopoulos, Rhode Island's Teacher of the Year, on Facebook

Trump Family Values. Adele Stan in the New Republic: "As Father-in-Chief, Donald Trump ... has scrapped any normal notion of the family unit, organizing his personal life around those who advance the same principles that drive the companies that bear his name -- taking what you want, doing as you please, and living off other people's money. We've traded the Bushes, the Clintons, and the Obamas for First Family LLC.... The Trump family brand mirrors America at its worst -- a version in which capitalism deforms all relationships, twisting everyone and everything to serve its basest needs. This is a family only in the Mafia sense of the word, ruled by a ruthless and imperious Don who offers protection in return for fealty. Trump's children are more than mere relatives: They are executive vice presidents, the capo bastones of an organized racket.... This degenerate idea of family makes me miss the old-school first family -- that relic of the bad old days before the notion of equality between the sexes was even a thing." -- CW

Adam Davidson of the New Yorker: "A couple of weeks ago, at Trump Tower, on the same spot where Donald Trump announced his Presidential bid, Eric Danziger, the C.E.O. of Trump Hotels, formally launched a new line of three-star hotels, called American Idea, which will cater to lower-income, rural areas of the country. It was the most blatant instance yet of the Trump family's profiting from its political power.... Within the hotel industry, the event raised eyebrows for another reason: it was unbelievably haphazard. Danziger, though a veteran of the industry, had almost nothing to show his audience. There was no Web site or marketing material, and the logo was just the brand name and a crudely drawn picture of a light bulb.... Like many things in the world of Trump, the event was both corrupt and inept. Trump Hotels had nothing to offer but words, and nearly all of those words were about the President." -- CW

Edgar Sandoval & Andrew Keshner of the New York Daily News: "A Queens man put his health on the line to help remove hazardous material from Ground Zero -- and now immigration authorities want him removed from the country over a 30-year-old criminal case. Carlos Humberto Cardona, 48, was one of about 41,300 people ICE agents took into custody during the first 100 days of the Trump administration. But Cardona is fighting for his freedom -- with a Brooklyn federal lawsuit and a state clemency bid.... 'He inhaled fumes (at the World Trade Center site). His health ended up being affected. He has lung problems. He has gastrointestinal problems. He has psychological issues. He has a lot of anxiety,' [his wife Liliana] said. 'He's very much an American,' Rajesh Barua, Cardona's attorney, told The News. 'He's scared of going back to Colombia. He doesn't know how he'll maintain a living and what kind of treatment he'll have for respiratory problems, which are very real.'" -- CW

Jeet Heer of the New Republic: "Faced with a lawless president, Democrats have to start thinking about their constitutional duties. Trump ... represents a fundamental challenge to the functioning of American democracy, and raises the most serious questions about presidential power.... Relying on [Rod] Rosenstein and [Robert] Mueller as barriers against Trump's worst excesses is a prime example of a trap that liberals have fallen into time and again when dealing with presidential abuse of power -- a tradition of 'prosecutorial liberalism,' which seeks legal rather than political remedies to punish presidential misdeeds.... The true task of holding Trump accountable belongs to Congress. The only constitutional remedies for Trump's actions are to be found in the legislative branch -- remedies that include not just impeachment, but passing new laws restricting executive power so that future presidents can't behave as Trump does." -- CW

Paul Krugman: "Last month House Republicans rammed through one of the worst, cruelest pieces of legislation in history.... Nonetheless, Republican Senate leaders are now trying to ram through their own version of the A.H.C.A., one that, all reports suggest, will differ only in minor, cosmetic ways. And they're trying to do it in total secrecy.... Clearly, the goal is to pass legislation that will have devastating effects on tens of millions of Americans without giving those expected to pass it, let alone the general public, any real chance to understand what they're voting for. There are even suggestions that Mitch McConnell ... might exploit loopholes in the rules to prevent any discussion on the Senate floor.... You can blame Donald Trump for many things, including the fact that he will surely sign whatever bad bill is put in front of him. But as far as health care is concerned, he's just an ignorant bystander, who all evidence suggests has little if any idea what's actually in Trumpcare." -- CW

E.J. Dionne: "The harsh feelings in our politics arise from a long process -- the steady destruction of the norms of partisan competition that began more than a quarter-century ago. Well before President Trump took political invective to a new level, Newt Gingrich was pushing his side to extreme forms of aggressiveness.... I would ask my friends on the right to consider that ever since Bush 41 agreed to that tax increase, conservatives and Republicans in large numbers have shied away from any deal-making with liberals. They have chosen instead to paint us as advocates of dangerous forms of statism. This has nothing to do with what we actually believe in or propose. Every gun measure is decried as confiscation. Every tax increase is described as oppressive. This simply shuts down dialogue before it can even start." -- CW

** NEW. Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would consider whether partisan gerrymandering can violate the Constitution. The case could reshape American politics. The court has struck down election maps as racial gerrymanders that disadvantage minority voters. But it has never disallowed a map on the ground that it was drawn to give an unfair advantage to a political party. Some justices have said the court should stay out of such political disputes entirely. Others have said partisan gerrymanders may violate the Constitution. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy has taken a middle position, and the case may turn on his vote." -- CW

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Stephen Battaglio of the Los Angeles Times: "Megyn Kelly presented a highly critical 19-minute piece on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on her NBC newsmagazine 'Sunday Night' after a week of harsh criticism over the decision to present his views on network TV.... NBC News brought on its elder statesman Tom Brokaw to join Kelly at the end of the program.... Kelly did have several heated exchanges with Jones, who was sweating profusely during their sit-down.... In a live-streamed video aired on his YouTube channel, Jones reacted angrily to the final taped 'Sunday Night' piece as it aired. He lambasted Kelly and the mainstream media.... Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote on Twitter: 'Bottom line on NBC's Alex Jones piece: Strong editing gave it an edge & made him look like a kook. Still a win for him; boosts his profile." CW: Any time you have to bring in Brokaw to do clean-up, your crack at "journalism" is a loser. ...

... Margaret Hartmann of New York: "NBC reportedly overhauled the piece to make it tougher on [Alex] Jones. The resulting 20-minute piece offered a heavily edited overview of who Jones is, and the justification for featuring him on Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly.... Jones repeatedly dodged Kelly's questions, and additions were made to the broadcast to make it clear that his claims have no basis in fact. Variety said this made the interview segments seem 'stilted,' as if they were 'carefully extracted out of broader conversation' to emphasize the moments when Kelly urged Jones to disavow his baseless claims. Variety's Sonia Saraiya said the segment failed to produce any new information about Jones, and actually exposed Kelly as a weak interviewer...." -- CW


Ari Melber
, et al., of NBC News: "Watergate prosecutors had evidence that operatives for then-President Richard Nixon planned an assault on anti-war demonstrators in 1972, including potentially physically attacking Vietnam whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, according to a never-before-published memo obtained by NBC News. The document, an 18-page 1973 investigative memorandum from the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, sheds new light on how prosecutors were investigating attempts at domestic political violence by Nixon aides, an extremely serious charge.... A plot to physically attack Ellsberg is notable because the former Pentagon official has long alleged that Nixon operatives did more than steal his medical files, the most well-known effort to discredit him.... Prosecutors concluded that White House counsel Charles Colson had directed the operation, which Colson denied." -- CW ...

... Here's the Prosecutors' Memo on "Investigation Into The Assault On Anti-War Demonstrators On May 3, 1972"

... AND here's the Prosecutors' Memo on "Interview with Roger Stone, re: May 3rd Incident."

Beyond the Beltway

Unthinkable But True. Annabel Thompson of ThinkProgress: "On Thursday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) signed a bill that will allow child welfare service providers to decline to provide certain kinds of care based on 'the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs.' The bill, House Bill 3859, will permit discrimination against LGBTQ couples wishing to adopt children, in addition to allowing LGBTQ children to be placed under the agencies' care in 'religious education.' The bill goes into effect in September. As ThinkProgress noted when the bill passed the Texas House in May, the bill affects not only child placement services (think adoption agencies), but group homes, counseling services, care for abused children, and other resources for children with complicated family situations. The bill will have a broad reach, affecting organizations that provide a wide variety care options for a large number of children." -- CW

Way Beyond

Dan Bilefsky of the New York Times: "The authorities in Britain said on Monday that they were treating an early morning attack near a mosque in London as a possible act of terrorism, amid fears of retaliatory attacks after several recent assaults attributed to Islamist extremists in the country. Neil Basu, the senior national coordinator for counterterrorism at the Metropolitan Police, said that the assailant, whom the police identified as a 48-year-old white man, was believed to have acted alone. Mr. Basu also praised the bystanders who had intervened to detain the suspect, and he urged residents to remain calm and vigilant." CW: Here's a question for you: if a white man had purposely mowed down Muslims coming from prayer in the U.S., as apparently happened here, would our government treat it as an act of terrorism? ...

     ... Update. I Guess Not. Faiz Siddiqui, et al., of the Washington Post: "Police found remains Sunday thought to be those of a missing Virginia teenager who they say was assaulted and disappeared overnight after leaving a mosque in the Sterling area, and a 22-year-old man has been charged with murder in connection with the case.... A possible hate-crime motivation is among the things authorities are investigating, police said." CW: In the U.S., attacks by non-Muslims on Muslims are hate crimes; attacks by Muslims on others are acts of terrorism. ...

... Vikram Dodd of the Guardian: "The people struck were all Muslim, [Neil] Basu said. Witnesses said some of them were wearing clothing that visually identified as such. A witness said the driver had shouted 'I want to kill all Muslims' before onlookers pinned him to the ground." -- CW ...

... Griff Witte of the Washington Post: "Police said early Monday that there were 'a number of casualties' and that one person was arrested after a van struck a crowd of pedestrians in London. The incident occurred just after midnight in the northern part of the city, near the Finsbury Park Mosque. Police said they had closed the adjacent roadway in both directions and were dealing with 'a major incident.' Early witness reports suggested that pedestrians had been struck as they left late-night prayers for the holy month of Ramadan." -- CW ...

... The Guardian has live updates here. -- CW

Angelique Chrisafis of the Guardian: "The French president Emmanuel Macron's new centrist movement has won a large majority in the French parliament, according to the first official results on Sunday night. Macron's fledgling 'neither right nor left' political movement, La République en Marche (La REM), and its smaller centrist ally Democratic Movement (MoDem) needed 289 seats to have an absolute majority in parliament; according to exit polls they were on track to take around 361 seats in the 577-seat national assembly." -- CW

Nasser Karimi of the AP: "Iran's Revolutionary Guard launched missiles into eastern Syria targeting Islamic State militants Sunday in response to an attack on Iran's parliament and a shrine in Tehran, warning that it would similarly retaliate on anyone else carrying out attacks in Iran." -- CW

News Lede

New York Times: "Otto F. Warmbier, an American college student who was released from a North Korean prison last week after spending 17 months in captivity and more than a year in a coma, died on Monday at an Ohio hospital where he was receiving treatment. In a statement, Mr. Warmbier's family said the 22-year-old died on Monday at 2:20 p.m." -- CW

Saturday
Jun172017

The Commentariat -- June 18, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Kailani Koenig of NBC News: "An attorney for ... Donald Trump was adamant on Sunday that the president is not under investigation, despite the president's tweets this week referring to one as a "witch hunt.... On 'Face The Nation' on CBS, [Jay] Sekulow clarified that he's so confident that there isn't any investigation into the president because they have not received any notification from the special counsel's office." ...

... CW: I hate to tell Jay, but typically investigative agencies don't tell someone he's a person of interest until they find it necessary to interview him and/or associates who might tell the person the nature of their interviews. I was once told by a credible source that I was "under investigation" by a State Bureau of Investigation, so I called the SBI to find out. They wouldn't say one way or the other. That was decades ago, and to this day, I have no idea if my source was right. It isn't exactly something that concerns me. Sekulow is either bluffing or he's an ignoramus. Or both. ...

... Chris Wallace Is Not Taking Any of Sekulow's BS. Max Greenwood of the Hill: "'Fox News Sunday' host Chris Wallace sparred with Jay Sekulow, a member of President Trump's legal defense team, on Sunday over whether the president has become a target of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Sekulow originally denied that Trump had fallen under investigation, but later appeared to reverse that assertion, saying that 'he's being investigated for taking the action that the attorney general and deputy attorney general recommending him to take.' 'You've now said that he is being investigated,' Wallace said.... [After some more back-and forth, Wallace said,] 'Well, you don't know that he's not under investigation, again sir.'... 'You're right, Chris, I can't read the mind of the special prosecutor,' Sekulow responded. 'Okay, well good, we're in agreement,' Wallace replied. 'You don't know whether he's under investigation or not.'" -- CW

Jordain Carney of the Hill: "Senate Republicans are clamoring to hear from Loretta Lynch after former FBI Director James Comey raised concerns about her involvement in the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are seizing on Comey's testimony earlier this month that he was concerned over the former attorney general telling the FBI to refer to the Clinton investigation as a 'matter,' which resembled the Clinton campaign line. The move could allow Republicans to attempt to pivot away from the investigation into Russia's election meddling -- which top GOP lawmakers have signaled belongs to the Intelligence Committee -- and focus on Lynch, who has long been a target of Republicans." -- CW ...

... Quit Picking on Devin. David Siders of Politico: "House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said Saturday there 'was never any collusion between Donald Trump and the Russians,' casting himself as a victim of media bias and calling on Washington to 'stop chasing Russian ghosts around the closet.'... Nunes, addressing GOP donors in Orange County, said that after searching for any evidence of collusion, 'I said "OK, I don't think there's any collusion here." And what happened to me? All the major papers in the country did a total character assassination on me. Why? Because I was telling the truth, that there was never any collusion between Donald Trump and the Russians.'" CW: Sorry, Devin, the press didn't assassinate your character; you did it all by yourself with your hilarious midnight run to try to exonerate the president* you were supposed to be investigating. But we'll always be grateful to you for "bumblefucking."

*****

Trump Wishes American Dads a Happy Father's Day Tweets about Himself:

The MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN agenda is doing very well despite the distraction of the Witch Hunt. Many new jobs, high business enthusiasm,.. -- Donald J. Trump June 18, 2017

...massive regulation cuts, 36 new legislative bills signed, great new S.C.Justice, and Infrastructure, Healthcare and Tax Cuts in works! --; Donald J. Trump June 18, 2017

The new Rasmussen Poll, one of the most accurate in the 2016 Election, just out with a Trump 50% Approval Rating.That's higher than O's #'s! -- Donald J. Trump June 18, 2017

The Most Unethical President Ever, Ctd. Trump's Middle East "Policy," Explained. David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times: "President Trump has done business with royals from Saudi Arabia for at least 20 years, since he sold the Plaza Hotel to a partnership formed by a Saudi prince. Mr. Trump has earned millions of dollars from the United Arab Emirates for putting his name on a golf course, with a second soon to open. He has never entered the booming market in neighboring Qatar, however, despite years of trying. Now a feud has broken out among these three crucial American allies, and Mr. Trump has thrown his weight firmly behind the two countries where he has business ties, raising new concerns about the appearance of a conflict between his public role and his financial incentives." CW: Not an "appearance"; a straight-out conflict. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Mike McIntire of the New York Times: "President Trump fired off another angry tweet this past week repeating his assertion that he has no business interests in Russia. But ... last year, while hacking Democrats' emails and working to undermine the American presidential election, the Russian government also granted extensions to six trademarks for Mr. Trump that had been set to expire. The Trump trademarks, originally obtained between 1996 and 2007 for hotels and branding deals that never materialized, each had terms that were coming to an end in 2016. Despite their inactivity, the Trump Organization sought extensions for the trademarks.... The trademark renewals cast doubt on Mr. Trump's oft-stated insistence that he has no business interests in Russia.... In January, he wrote on Twitter, 'I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA -- NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!'... And on Thursday, he expressed frustration on Twitter over scrutiny of his 'non-dealings' in Russia ... although ... his intellectual property holdings are a valuable commercial interest." -- CW ...

... Fighting ISIS for Fun & Profit. Nicholas Confessore, et al., of the New York Times on Mike Flynn's post-government career as a "consultant" or something to shady clients with suspect motives. "Dozens of interviews and a review of public documents suggest that Mr. Flynn's business was as scattershot as it was ambitious -- and that there were few opportunities he would pass up." ...

     ... CW: Something else the article suggests to me, tho not laid out in the story: If you could buy Mike Flynn for what he was worth & sell him for what he thought he was worth, you'd be rich.

Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke, Jr. has withdrawn his name from consideration for an assistant secretary position at the Department of Homeland Security, an adviser to Clarke confirmed to The Washington Post on Saturday.... Clarke was expected to start in a role at DHS at the end of June, but according to one person close to the administration who is familiar with the situation, his appointment had been subject to significant delays that contributed to his withdrawal. Clarke, a vocal supporter of Trump during the 2016 campaign, is also a controversial figure. He was accused of plagiarism, and has drawn scrutiny for conditions in his jails that left one mentally ill inmate dead. Trump and Clarke met in Wisconsin on Tuesday, according to Peterson, and they discussed other roles in which Clarke could support Trump." -- CW ...

... Lisa Rein & Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "Republicans say they are turning down job offers to work for a chief executive whose volatile temperament makes them nervous. They are asking head-hunters if their reputations could suffer permanent damage, according to 27 people The Washington Post interviewed.... Potential candidates are watching Trump's behavior and monitoring his treatment of senior officials.... The White House picked up the hiring pace in May and the first half of June, particularly for positions needing confirmation.... But the Senate has just 25 working days until it breaks for the August recess. At this point, Trump has 43 confirmed appointees to senior posts, compared with the 151 top political appointees confirmed by mid-June in President Barack Obama's first term and the 130 under President George W. Bush...." -- CW

David Mack of BuzzFeed: "Six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) have resigned, furious at what they say is the new administration's regressive health policies and a lack of care shown by President Trump." -- CW ...

... Scott Schoettes, one of the six who resigned, explains why in a Newsweek opinion piece. -- CW

Corey Bennett of Politico: "Democrats are uniting behind a simple message about Russian hacking during the 2016 election: Donald Trump doesn't care. Even as the president lashes out at the series of Russia-related probes besieging his administration, Democrats say Trump has yet to express public concern about the underlying issue with striking implications for America's democracy -- the digital interference campaign that upended last year's presidential race. The president missed a self-imposed 90-day deadline for developing a plan to 'aggressively combat and stop cyberattacks,' stayed silent after Moscow-linked hackers went after the French election and publicly renewed his own skepticism about the Kremlin's role in the digital theft of Democratic Party emails during the presidential race.... On Capitol Hill, Trump and his team have declined to support a Republican-backed effort to hit Russia with greater penalties for its digital belligerence.... Instead, Trump tapped a commission led by Vice President Mike Pence to investigate an issue that elections experts call vastly overblown -- voter fraud, something the the president has baselessly alleged resulted in millions of illegal voters casting ballots for Hillary Clinton in November." -- CW

Barbara Starr, et al., of CNN: "Seven missing sailors from the USS Fitzgerald were found dead in flooded berthing compartments following the warship's collision with a merchant vessel, a US Navy official said. The Navy's 7th Fleet said searchers found the bodies Sunday morning, Japan time, after the guided-missile destroyer returned to its base in Japan." -- CW ...

... Anna Fifield & Thomas Gibbons-Neff of the Washington Post: "U.S. and Japanese forces joined in air-and-sea search missions Saturday for seven American sailors missing after their Navy destroyer and a much-larger container ship collided off the coast of Japan. The damaged USS Fitzgerald reached its home port at Yokosuka Naval Base, south of Tokyo, after emergency efforts at sea to control flooding." -- CW (Also linked yesterday.)

Graham Bowley & Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times: "The judge presiding over the Bill Cosby sexual assault trial declared a mistrial Saturday after jurors reported being hopelessly deadlocked. The exhausted jurors had been deliberating since Monday, sometimes for as much as 12 hours a day. The mistrial, which Mr. Cosby's lawyers had supported, means that prosecutors will need to decide whether to retry Mr. Cosby on the charges at a later date." -- CW (Also linked yesterday.)

Way Beyond the Beltway

Prashant Rao of the New York Times: "The London police said on Saturday that the death toll from the inferno at the Grenfell Tower in west London had risen to 58. The announcement by Cmdr. Stuart Cundy, who said the toll was still expected to rise, came as Queen Elizabeth II made note of the country's recent struggles. 'It is difficult to escape a very somber national mood,' the queen said in a statement to mark her official birthday -- an occasion that typically does not result in any public comments from the monarch. 'In recent months, the country has witnessed a succession of terrible tragedies.'" -- CW

Friday
Jun162017

The Commentariat -- June 17, 2017

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

The Most Unethical President Ever, Ctd. Trump's Middle East "Policy," Explained. David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times: "President Trump has done business with royals from Saudi Arabia for at least 20 years, since he sold the Plaza Hotel to a partnership formed by a Saudi prince. Mr. Trump has earned millions of dollars from the United Arab Emirates for putting his name on a golf course, with a second soon to open. He has never entered the booming market in neighboring Qatar, however, despite years of trying. Now a feud has broken out among these three crucial American allies, and Mr. Trump has thrown his weight firmly behind the two countries where he has business ties, raising new concerns about the appearance of a conflict between his public role and his financial incentives." CW: Not an "appearance"; a conflict.

Anna Fifield & Thomas Gibbons-Neff of the Washington Post: "U.S. and Japanese forces joined in air-and-sea search missions Saturday for seven American sailors missing after their Navy destroyer and a much-larger container ship collided off the coast of Japan. The damaged USS Fitzgerald reached its home port at Yokosuka Naval Base, south of Tokyo, after emergency efforts at sea to control flooding." -- CW

Graham Bowley & Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times: "The judge presiding over the Bill Cosby sexual assault trial declared a mistrial Saturday after jurors reported being hopelessly deadlocked. The exhausted jurors had been deliberating since Monday, sometimes for as much as 12 hours a day. The mistrial, which Mr. Cosby's lawyers had supported, means that prosecutors will need to decide whether to retry Mr. Cosby on the charges at a later date." -- CW

*****

Trump Lawyers Up. Josh Dawsey of Politico: "... Donald Trump has added another high-profile lawyer to his personal legal team as the special counsel investigation heats up. John Dowd, who investigated Pete Rose for Major League Baseball and represented John McCain during the Keating Five Scandal, among other high-profile clients, has joined the president's legal team, according to two people familiar with the pick." -- CW ...

... Betsy Woodruff, et al., of the Daily Beast: "... Donald Trump woke up on Friday and decided to publicly confirm that he is under criminal investigation -- and to put his deputy attorney general in the line of fire.... 'He's furious at [Rod] Rosenstein, but the list of his people who enrage him is ever-growing,' a longtime Trump confidant, who recently spoke to the president, told The Daily Beast. 'He has no qualms about throwing [Rosenstein] under a bus.'" Trump's tweet -- "I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt" -- "threatens to upend the administration's legal and public-relations strategies surrounding an FBI probe into alleged Russian election-meddling.... A frustrated senior Trump administration official quipped in response to the tweet, 'Has anyone read him his Miranda rights?'... Dianne Feinstein, the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, took it as a direct threat to the deputy AG. 'I'm growing increasingly concerned that the president will attempt to fire not only Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating possible obstruction of justice, but also Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein who appointed Mueller,' she said in a statement." -- CW ...

... Crazy Old Guy Living in White House Yells at TVs. Julie Pace & Jonathan Lemire of the AP: "Trump advisers and confidants describe the president as increasingly angry over the investigation, yelling at television sets in the White House carrying coverage and insisting he is the target of a conspiracy to discredit -- and potentially end -- his presidency. Some of his ire is aimed at [Assistant AG Rod] Rosenstein and investigative special counsel Robert Mueller, both of whom the president believes are biased against him, associates say." -- CW ...

... Mike Levine of ABC News: "The senior Justice Department official with ultimate authority over the special counsel's probe of Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 election has privately acknowledged to colleagues that he may have to recuse himself from the matter, which he took charge of only after Attorney General Jeff Sessions' own recusal, sources tell ABC News. Those private remarks from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein are significant because they reflect the widening nature of the federal probe, which now includes a preliminary inquiry into whether ... Donald Trump attempted to obstruct justice when he allegedly tried to curtail the probe and then fired James Comey as FBI director. Rosenstein, who authored an extensive and publicly-released memorandum recommending Comey's firing, raised the possibility of his recusal during a recent meeting with Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the Justice Department's new third-in-command, according to sources.... Rosenstein is keenly aware that he could become a potential witness in the investigation." -- CW ...

... Matt Ford of the Atlantic: "The Justice Department seemed to suggest Friday afternoon that [Rosenstein's] recusal may not be imminent. 'As the deputy attorney general has said numerous times, if there comes a point when he needs to recuse, he will,' a DOJ spokesman said. 'However, nothing has changed.' While Rosenstein does not exert day-to-day control over Mueller's probe, he established its parameters and has the ultimate say on any prosecutions that spring from it." -- CW ...

... Nancy LeTourneau of the Washington Monthly wonders, "Which Comes First? Will Rosenstein Recuse Himself or Be Fired?" Yesterday, Trump tweeted an attack on Rosenstein: "I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt" But as LeTourneau notes, Trump "told a national television audience that he made the decision to fire Comey prior to the recommendation from Rosenstein." -- CW ...

... ** Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker: "At a meeting in the White House that neither Sessions nor Rosenstein has publicly described in full, Trump reportedly asked Rosenstein to write a memo explaining the case for removing Comey as F.B.I. director. According to senators, Rosenstein later testified in a closed-door briefing that he knew before he wrote the memo that Trump would fire Comey.... Whether Rosenstein was trying to correct a mistake or not, his actions since Comey's firing have been widely commended.... It is classic Trump: he ensnared Rosenstein in a scheme to get rid of Comey. Now that Rosenstein has tried to correct his error and insulate the investigation from further meddling, Trump is using Rosenstein's role in the scheme to try to push him aside. (If this sounds like a plot from 'The Sopranos,' it's because there were, in fact, several episodes like this.)... If Rosenstein is forced to recuse himself, whoever comes after him as Mueller's overseer will know that Trump is hoping that he or she will be more pliable." -- CW ...

... Eric Levitz provides a brief bio of Rachel Brand, who would take over special counsel oversight should Rosenstein go. Her "background is a bit more partisan -- and decidedly more right wing -- than Rosenstein's. That said, Lawfare's Benjamin Wittes, a Comey confidante..., has confidence in Brand's independence.... Seems like there's a decent chance she ends up fired, too." -- CW ...

... CW: Annie Karni of Politico said in a TV interview that the six DOJ positions next in line after Brand have not been filled. Whoever Trump nominates in place of the string of DOJ appointees he may fire will have to sign a blood oath not to prosecute Trump or his close family members. The Trump story is looking less and less like "Trump: International Man of Intrigue," and more and more like the sequel to "The Sopranos." ...

     ... Update: According to Sari Horwitz, et al., of the Washington Post, the "line of succession" currently goes like this: "If Trump ordered Brand to fire Mueller and she refused, the responsibility to oversee the special counsel would fall to Dana Boente, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, according to a presidential executive order. Boente is serving as the acting head of the Justice Department's national security division. After Boente, the responsibility would fall to the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina and then the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas." CW: I don't know if there are actual people holding those positions In N.C. & Texas. ...

... Faith Karimi & Evan Perez of CNN: "Special counsel Robert Mueller has brought 13 lawyers on board to handle the Russia investigation, with plans to hire more, according to his spokesman Peter Carr. Mueller has assembled a high-powered team of top investigators and leading experts...." -- CW ...

... Tom LoBianco of CNN: "House Russia investigators are planning to call on Brad Parscale, the digital director of ... Donald Trump's campaign, as the congressional and federal probes dig into any possible connections between the Trump digital operation and Russian operatives, congressional sources said this week." -- CW ...

... Christine Simmons of Law.com: "Marc Kasowitz..., Donald Trump's personal lawyer, is facing two ethics complaints with the New York and Washington, D.C., bars over his reported advice to White House staffers. Both complaints cite an article in The New York Times on Sunday reporting that Kasowitz advised White House staff that it was 'not yet necessary' for the president's aides to hire their own lawyers, amid investigations by Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller into whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. The ethics complaints contend Kasowitz ... violated attorney ethics rules in New York and Washington by giving such advice to unrepresented individuals." CW Note: Law.com is firewalled. However, you can access the article via Google. As of Friday night, this was the only cogent story on the subject. If I find an accessible story, I'll replace the Law.com piece.

David Remnick of the New Yorker wonders who in the White House will turn on Trump, a man for whom loyalty is a one-way street & the traffic must flow toward him. Remnick recalls -- with considerable help from Bob Woodward -- Alexander Butterfield, the White House staffer who installed, then reluctantly revealed when asked directly, Richard Nixon's taping system. -- CW ...


Karen DeYoung & John Wagner
of the Washington Post: "President Trump announced a new policy toward Cuba Friday that seeks to curb commercial dealings that benefit the Castro regime and could limit the freedom of some U.S. citizens to travel to the island -- but leaves in place many changes implemented by his predecessor. In a fiery speech delivered in the heart of Miami's Little Havana, where an older generation of Cuban Americans has long objected to normalization of relations with the communist government of President Raúl Castro, Trump ticked off a litany of examples, past and present, of the regimes' repression of its citizen.... Significantly, a new directive signed by Trump will not affect those elements of the normalization begun by Obama in December 2014 that are popular with younger Cuban Americans and others who have taken full advantage of them. Unlimited 'family' travel and money sent to private Cubans on the island will remain unchanged." -- CW ...

     ... CW: Although it's impossible to know exactly how the Commerce & Treasury Departments will write up the new regs, it does look as if Trump's intent, as posited in a WashPo report yesterday, is to keep most of his U.S.-based hotel rivals from getting the jump on the Trump brand in the Cuban hospitality market. As part of his "self-imposed ethics" package, Trump promised not to start any new projects abroad while he was president. So notwithstanding his stated motive of undoing President Obama's "bad deal," the whole Cuba policy "pivot" looks like a cover for a Trump business scheme. You can bet there's a signed executive order in Trump's top desk drawer that will change the rules the day before Trump leaves office, whether in cuffs or waving to his last fans standing. ...

... New York Times Editors: Trump's "new [Cuba] policy is just the latest chapter in a spiteful political crusade to overturn crucial elements of his predecessor's legacy while genuflecting to Cuban-Americans in Miami's exile community who helped put him in office. By now, Mr. Trump has perfected the art not of the deal but of dismantling what went before. 'I am canceling the last administration's completely one-sided deal with Cuba,' he declared, an exaggeration in that he reversed only parts of it.... Mr. Trump's sudden concern for human rights is particularly hard to swallow. No recent president has been so disdainful of these rights or embraced so lovingly authoritarians who abuse their people.... About the best that can be said is that his reversal is not as bad as it might have been." -- CW ...

... Jon Lee Anderson of the New Yorker on Trump's regressive, cold-war-style Cuba policy, which his team developed with help from "Little Marco" Rubio, Trump's new BFF. -- CW

Jill Disis & Cristina Alesci of CNN: "President Trump reported hundreds of millions of dollars in income Friday in financial disclosure forms that shed more light on his vast business holdings. At his golf courses alone, Trump reported $288 million in income in the past year. Trump reported $37.2 million in income in the past year from Mar-a-Lago.... The club has doubled its membership fee in the past year. The Mar-a-Lago income figure was $7.4 million higher than on his previous financial disclosure filing, in May 2016. Trump reported $19.7 million in income through mid-April at his luxury Washington hotel, which has been a center of concerns about conflict of interest...." -- CW

Gail Collins plays Name The Worst Cabinet Winner with some of her friends. "At first [Norm] Ornstein refused to pick for Worst, arguing that the contest for most awful cabinet member should be treated like a kid's athletic competition where everybody's a winner. In the end, however, he went for Attorney General Jeff Sessions. ('Racist on voting rights and more, bringing back mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, promoting the cancer of private prisons.')" You can play, too. -- CW

Elana Schor & Matthew Nussbaum of Politico: "The White House plans to work with House Republicans on administration-friendly changes to the Senate's overwhelmingly bipartisan bill that slaps new sanctions on Russia and curbs ... Donald Trump's power to ease penalties against Moscow, according to a senior administration official. The White House is concerned that the legislation would tie its hands on U.S.-Russia relations, a sentiment publicly expressed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. But Senate Democrats fear the White House may go overboard in preserving its power to talk to Russia and seek to defang the sanctions bill -- which passed 98-2 on Thursday...." -- CW ...

... AP: "Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that new U.S. sanctions on Russia will damage ties between the two countries. Putin said Saturday that 'it will of course complicate the Russian-American relationship,' according to an interview reported Saturday by the TASS news agency." -- CW

Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post: "Congress is considering a bill that would expand the federal government's ability to pursue the war on drugs, granting new power to the attorney general to set federal drug policy. The bipartisan legislation, sponsored by powerful committee chairs in both chambers of Congress, would allow the attorney general to unilaterally outlaw certain unregulated chemical compounds on a temporary basis. It would create a special legal category for these drugs, the first time in nearly 50 years that the Controlled Substances Act has been expanded in this way." CW: There are few circumstances in which it is a good idea to give Jeff Sessions more power. This is not one of those few cases. Getting a pass to the DOJ cafeteria -- I'm good with that.

     ... CW: Do they have vending machines in the DOJ building? If so, do the vending machines still sell Keebler cookie packets? ...

... Here's a WashPo op-ed by Jeff Sessions wherein he apparently argues for maximum sentencing. I'm guessing that from the headline, as I didn't read his opinion. ...

... MEANWHILE, over at the New York Times, Bret Stephens writes a column which, on the front page, is titled, "Only Mass Deportation Can Save America." CW: I'm just going to assume Stephens' opinion is reprehensible, but I'll never know because I won't be rewarding him with a click. I hope you don't, either. If somebody else writes about how reprehensible Stephens is, I'll link the somebody. ...

     ... CW Update: According to Marvin S., "the Bret Stephens column title is sarcasm. It tells of the advantages of immigrants." I trust Marvin. I'll take his word for it. BUT see also P.D. Pepe's reading, below.

... Marianne Levine of Politico: "The DOJ said Friday that it will switch sides in a Supreme Court case, dropping its previous support for workers to throw its weight behind management. The case, NLRB v. Murphy Oil, addresses whether an employment contract that requires the employee to waive his or her right to bring a class-action lawsuit against the employer violates the National Labor Relations Act. Last year, the Obama DOJ weighed in on the side of the National Labor Relations Board, which had ruled that such arbitration agreements violated federal labor law. Now DOJ will weigh in on the side of Murphy Oil, which argued that they do not. In its new amicus brief, the DOJ argues that 'nothing in the NLRA's legislative history indicates that Congress intended to bar enforcement of arbitration agreements like those at issue here.' The DOJ acknowledged that it previously supported the NLRB's position, but that 'after the change in administration, the office reconsidered the issue and has reached the opposite conclusion.'" CW: Bet you're all surprised.

Ted Hesson of Politico: "The future of an Obama-era deportation relief program remains undecided, the Department of Homeland Security said Friday.... DHS felt compelled to issue a statement on the program's fate after Politico and other outlets reported Thursday on guidance posted to the DHS website that suggested DACA would remain on firm footing under the Trump administration. The guidance came as the administration terminated a separate deportation relief program for parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents that had been blocked by federal courts since early 2015.... The department said [Friday] that it intended only to clarify that DACA would not be immediately canceled. The guidance, DHS said, 'should not be interpreted as bearing any relevance on the long-term future of that program.'" CW: Because we want to keep frightening children & young people as long as we can.

Justin McCurry of the Guardian: "Donald Trump has been criticised for delays in appointing a navy secretary and ambassador to Japan, leaving a communications vacuum as the countries continued their search for seven missing sailors off the east coast of Japan.... [They would be the] two officials who would be expected to take a lead in liaising between the US navy, and Japanese and US government officials during the search." See related story linked in today's Ledes. -- CW

Justin Moyer of the Washington Post: "House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was in 'imminent risk of death' when he was flown to a trauma center Wednesday after being shot during an ambush of a GOP congressional baseball team practicing on a Virginia field. 'He will be in the hospital for a considerable period of time, presumably weeks,' said Jack Sava, trauma director at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, who spoke Friday about the Louisiana Republican who remains in critical condition at the hospital in the District.... The shot fired at Scalise left perhaps hundreds of bullet fragments internally, many of which may never be removed because surgery might be more dangerous than leaving them in place, Sava said. That circumstance is not uncommon for that type of injury, known as a transpelvic gunshot wound, the trauma surgeon said." -- CW


No One Is Safe from Facebook. No One. Olivia Solon
of the Guardian: "Facebook put the safety of its content moderators at risk after inadvertently exposing their personal details to suspected terrorist users of the social network.... The security lapse affected more than 1,000 workers across 22 departments at Facebook who used the company's moderation software to review and remove inappropriate content from the platform, including sexual material, hate speech and terrorist propaganda. A bug in the software, discovered late last year, resulted in the personal profiles of content moderators automatically appearing as notifications in the activity log of the Facebook groups, whose administrators were removed from the platform for breaching the terms of service.... Six [Facebook employees in Dublin, Ireland,] were assessed to be 'high priority' victims of the mistake after Facebook concluded their personal profiles were likely viewed by potential terrorists." At least one of them went into hiding. -- CW

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Alex Jones Trolls NBC "News." Charlie Warzel of BuzzFeed: "After a week of roiling controversy surrounding the conspiracy theorist's upcoming interview with Megyn Kelly, [Alex] Jones announced a plan to ... scoop NBC. He'd been secretly recording Kelly's day-long interview and was going to release the tapes in full on his own website three days before the primetime airing.... At 3 a.m. Friday, Infowars delivered on part of its promise and published a 30-minute video to YouTube containing roughly 10 minutes of Kelly's pre-interview where she's attempting to get Jones to agree to the interview.... The 30-minute clip -- which contains the usual diatribes from Jones about media fairness, three minutes of ads for Infowars and its array of nutraceutical supplements, and a well-edited series of montages featuring clips of mainstream media bashing both Kelly and Jones for the interview -- is masterfully constructed with the purpose of embarrassing Kelly and NBC News." -- CW

Beyond the Beltway

Mitch Smith of the New York Times: "A Minnesota police officer, whose fatal shooting of a black motorist transfixed the nation when his girlfriend livestreamed the aftermath, was acquitted of all charges on Friday. The officer, Jeronimo Yanez, had been charged with second-degree manslaughter and endangering safety by discharging a firearm in the shooting of Philando Castile." -- CW ...

... The Minneapolis Star Tribune report is here. -- CW

Way Beyond

Craig Whitney & Alan Cowell of the New York Times: "Helmut Kohl, a towering postwar figure who reunified Germany after 45 years of Cold War antagonism, propelled a deeply held vision of Europe's integration, and earned plaudits from Moscow and Washington for his deft handling of the fall of the Berlin Wall, died on Friday at his home in Ludwigshafen, Germany, the Rhine port city where he was born. He was 87." -- CW

News Lede

New York Times: "Seven Navy sailors were missing on Saturday after a United States destroyer collided with a Philippine merchant vessel off the coast of Japan, the Navy said.Several crew members were injured, including the officer in command of the guided missile destroyer, the Fitzgerald. The officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, was evacuated from the ship by helicopter to a nearby United States naval base and was in stable condition, the United States Seventh Fleet said in a statement." -- CW

Friday
Jun162017

Game Report

Capitol Police Special Agent David Bailey throws out the first pitch. Bailey was one of two Capitol police officers shot by the practice game assailant

The Washington Post has a slideshow here.

Jeremy Herb & Tom LoBianco of CNN: "One day after a gunman opened fire at a Republican congressional baseball practice, shooting House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and three others, lawmakers took the field Thursday evening at Nationals Park in Washington."


By D.C. Clark


Dems win 11 - 2. Paid attendance a record 25,000. I was told by a stadium official that previous years averaged around 10,000. This leads me to believe that a majority came for the same reason I did: to demonstrate defiance of murderous insanity.

A great time was had by all. Fun, non-partisan, no booing, lots of cheers and laughter, a few groans. Quality of play was often surprisingly competent, relived by moments of hilarious ineptitude that only made the game more entertaining.

Washington is very much a Company Town. Maybe the foremost example of such, as the Federal Government is the only reason it exists. And I very much feel this whether at a game, concert, opera, play, museum, gallery, park, or, yes, a demonstration. The town has a personality. It’s a white collar town, educated, professional, cosmopolitan and international. People come from all over the US, and the world, to work here. I know rather few people who were born here as I was.

Politicians come and go, but the real Washington is the career professionals doing the country’s business, all day and every day… civil servants, contractors, military, diplomatic corps, people representing business, industry, cultural and political interests (AKA Lobbyists), journalists, four great Universities…

Washington is often described as “70 square miles surrounded by reality”. I invite the opposite consideration. This is where we deal with the overwhelmingly complex reality of trying to manage the richest, most powerful and important nation on earth, with a diverse and often contentious population of 320 million people who most often see their own narrow interests first.

I’ve rarely been more proud to be a native denizen of The Old Swamp than tonight.