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

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.

Los Angeles Times: "The nominations for the 89th Academy Awards were revealed this morning in Los Angeles. 'La La Land' did what 800-lb gorillas are supposed to do: dominate the Oscar nominations tally, pulling down 14, including actor, actress, director and picture. Ava Duvernay’s '13th' joins 'O.J.: Made in America' among best documentary feature nominees, continuing our ongoing conversation about race in the United States. Speaking of which, with Viola Davis, Dev Patel, Octavia Spencer, Denzel Washington, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris and Ruth Negga getting acting nominations, the 89th Academy Awards will definitely not be so white." This article includes a complete list of the nominees.

New York Times: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus announced on Saturday night that after 146 years of performances, it was folding its big tent forever. In a statement on the company’s website, Kenneth Feld, the chief executive of Feld Entertainment, the producer of Ringling, said the circus would hold its final performances in May. He cited declining ticket sales, which dropped even more drastically after elephants were phased out from the shows last year." -- CW 

The Washington Post publishes a series of photos of the Vice President's residence.

Los Angeles Times: "Perhaps fittingly for an industry that has been trying to console itself in the wake of a presidential election result few saw coming, the 74th Golden Globes, held at the Beverly Hilton, proved a big night for the fizzy romantic musical 'La La Land,' a love letter to Hollywood itself that is widely considered the film to beat in this year’s best picture race." -- CW ...

Marisa Kashino of the Washingtonian: "... multiple real-estate sources say [Ivanka] Trump and husband Jared Kushner will move into 2449 Tracy Pl, NW, in Kalorama. That will put the couple less than two blocks from the Obamas, who will reportedly move here post-White House." Realtors' photos of the Kushner-Trump house are here. The six-bedroom house ... sold on December 22nd for $5.5 million, though it is unclear whether Trump and Kushner bought it, or will rent it from the recent buyer." -- CW 

Daniel Politi of Slate: "Los Angeles residents got a little surprise when they woke up on the first day of the year and realized one of the city’s most famous landmarks had been vandalized to read 'HOLLYWeeD' — at least for a few hours. Police say the vandal used tarps to change the sign’s O’s into E’s. Security cameras caught the vandal — likely a man — changing the sign between midnight and 2 a.m. but police can’t tell the person’s race or height from the footage, reports KTLA. If caught, the vandal could face a misdemeanor trespassing charge." -- 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.

Saturday
Feb112017

The Commentariat -- February 12, 2017

Afternoonish Update:

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Sunday called President Trump a 'pathological liar,' while Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) reiterated that 'a few' Republican senators are concerned about the president’s mental health. The strong words from two high-profile senators came as Democrats attacked Trump’s travel ban and said that members of his administration should be investigated or have security clearances suspended for recent comments or conversations with Russian officials." -- CW   ...

... Here's a Senator Who Is Not Polite to Trump. But Then He's an Independent. Rebecca Savransky of the Hill: "Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Sunday said..., 'President Trump is backtracking on every economic promise that he made to the American people.'... 'He's appointing Wall Street bankers, the same people he told us he would oppose, to very high positions.... There's a whole lot of discussion about the racist, in my view, immigration policies of the Trump administration, which are based on anti-Muslim ideology, which are doing us enormous harm all over the world — something else is going on at the exact same moment,' Sanders said on NBC's 'Meet The Press.'... When asked if he thinks all of this is a 'shiny metal object' to distract and divide the public, Sanders responded: 'You got it.'... 'Meanwhile, he was going to clean the swamp. Remember that?' Sanders asked. 'Well guess who's running the swamp right now. The same exact Wall Street guys from Goldman Sachs who were there in the past.'... Sanders also reiterated his opinion that the president is 'delusional in many respects' and a 'pathological liar.'" -- CW ...

... Daniel Strauss of Politico: "Sen. Bernie Sanders bristled at the idea that liberal protests against ... Donald Trump all over the country are analogous to the protests and demonstrations that marked the beginning of the tea party movement. 'It's not a tea party because the tea party was essentially funded by the billionaire Koch brothers family,' Sanders said during an interview with NBC News' Chuck Todd on Sunday on 'Meet the Press.' 'This is a spontaneous and grass-roots uprising of the American people.'" -- CW 

Max Greenwood of the Hill: "... Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is calling for national security advisor Michael Flynn to be suspended and for his intelligence clearance to be revoked until U.S. officials fully review his contacts with Russia’s ambassador. 'The President and his National Security Advisor have given the Russians the impression that whatever they do, they are not to worry, because the Trump White House will not stand against their aggression,' Pelosi said in a statement on Saturday." -- CW 

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, the author of the controversial executive order, said the administration was weighing several legal options after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously on Thursday against reinstating the travel ban.... In unusually combative interviews on the Sunday morning television shows, Miller also refused to say whether Trump still has confidence in his national security adviser amid controversy over his communications with Russian officials. Miller also advanced false claims that widespread voter fraud undermined Trump’s performance in November’s election." CW: Worth reading to the end of the story.

*****

Liam Stack of the New York Times: "The Trump administration has dropped the federal government’s challenge to a nationwide injunction issued last year that blocked the fulfillment of Obama administration guidelines stating that transgender students’ access to bathrooms and other gender-segregated school facilities was protected under existing federal civil rights law. The injunction was issued in August by Judge Reed O’Connor of the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Texas as part of a lawsuit filed by more than a dozen states over the Obama administration’s position that Title IX, the federal law that bans sex discrimination in schools, protects transgender students.... Oral arguments in that case were scheduled to begin on Tuesday, but on Friday, the Justice Department withdrew the previous administration’s challenge." -- CW 

Anna Fifield of the Washington Post: "North Korea fired a ballistic missile Sunday morning, its first provocation since Donald Trump was elected president of the United States and one that sets up a test for the new administration in Washington. The missile was fired shortly before 8 a.m. local time from a known test site in North Pyongan province in the west of the country, not far from the border with China, and flew over the Korean Peninsula and into the Sea of Japan, South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said. The launch happened while President Trump was hosting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his golf resort in Florida. In a brief joint appearance after the news of the missile test, the two presented a united front. Abe called the test 'absolutely intolerable.' He said that in his summit with Trump at the White House on Friday the president 'assured me the United States will always stand with Japan 100 percent.'” -- CW 

Julie Davis of the New York Times: Donald Trump's hosting of Japanese PM Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago "was the latest reminder that Mr. Trump’s presidency is mixing his official role with the business that bears his name. Mr. Abe’s visit was the first of what Mr. Trump’s top aides say will be many in which he uses Mar-a-Lago ... as a setting for forging high-stakes relationships with important world leaders. That is likely to mean that the property — along with Trump golf courses nearby in Jupiter and West Palm Beach, where the president squired Mr. Abe on Saturday ... — will draw increased attention and prominence, with all the potential for additional profit that brings. Mar-a-Lago has doubled its initiation rate for new members, to $200,000." -- CW ...

... Herb Jackson of the Bergen County, N.J. Record, via USA Today: "A New Jersey congressman says a rarely invoked 1924 law could be used to examine ... Donald Trump's tax returns for possible conflicts of interest and Constitutional violations. Rep. Bill Pascrell, a Democrat who serves on the Ways and Means Committee, has asked the committee’s chairman, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, to order the Treasury Department to provide tax returns to the committee.... After privately examining returns — Pascrell is seeking 10 years' worth — the committee could decide to share them with the full House, which would in effect make them public. The 1924 law gives congressional committees that set tax policy the power to examine tax returns. It was used in 1974 when Congress looked at President Richard Nixon's returns, and in 2014 when the Ways and Means Committee released confidential tax information as part of its investigation into the Internal Revenue Service's handling of applications for nonprofit status. Trump said during the campaign he would not release his returns because he was being audited. After the inauguration, adviser Kellyanne Conway said he would not release them because the public did not care." -- CW 

"Put Up or Shut Up, Mr. President" -- FEC Commissioner. Steph Solis of USA Today: "President Trump reportedly claimed during a meeting with lawmakers Thursday that out-of-state voters were bused into New Hampshire, costing him and Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte a victory in the state. Now a Federal Election Commission official wants Trump to prove it.... Such an allegation would mean that thousands of people illegally voted in New Hampshire — a felony under New Hampshire law, commissioner Ellen L. Weintraub said in a statement Friday afternoon. 'As a Commissioner on the Federal Election Commission, I am acutely aware that our democracy rests on the faith of the American people in the integrity of their elections,' she wrote in a statement. 'The President has issued an extraordinarily serious and specific charge. Allegations of this magnitude cannot be ignored.'" -- CW ...

     ... The Caveman Club. CW: According to Politico's report, linked here yesterday, "''an uncomfortable silence' momentarily overtook the room" when Trump made his absurd allegation that 50 apparently invisible buses crossed state lines to unleash thousands of illegal voters upon the witless polling officials of New Hampshire. (How does that work? Did those Massachusetts liberals all vote in Nashua? Or did they sneak into polling places hither & yon?) In addition, "... Trump referred to [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren [-- who was not in the room --] several times as ['Pocahontas.'... Attending were: Sens. Joe Manchin [DINO], Heidi Heitkamp [DINO], Jon Tester [D-ish], Lamar Alexander [R], Chris Coons [D], Shelley Moore Capito [R], John Cornyn [R], Chuck Grassley [R-Cranky], Joe Donnelly [DINO] and Michael Bennet [D-ish].” That's seven U.S. Senators with "D"s after their names. And their idea of standing up to Trump when he lies, insults one of their colleagues AND insults Amerindians is "an uncomfortable silence." If one of these spineless critters represents you, call his/her office & bellyache about it. P.S. You may have noticed that once again it took a woman -- Ellen Weintraub -- to call out the Liar/Whiner-in-Chief.

Sam Levin of the Guardian: "US veterans are returning to Standing Rock and pledging to shield indigenous activists from attacks by a militarized police force, another sign that the fight against the Dakota Access pipeline is far from over. Army veterans from across the country have arrived in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, or are currently en route after the news that Donald Trump’s administration has allowed the oil corporation to finish drilling across the Missouri river.... 'We are prepared to put our bodies between Native elders and a privatized military force,' said Elizabeth Williams, a 34-year-old air force veteran, who arrived at Standing Rock with a group of vets late on Friday." -- CW ...

... The Trump Administration Already Is Criminalizing the First Amendment. Sam Levin: "The FBI is investigating political activists campaigning against the Dakota Access pipeline, diverting agents charged with preventing terrorist attacks to instead focus their attention on indigenous activists and environmentalists. The Guardian has established that multiple officers within the FBI’s joint terrorism taskforce have attempted to contact at least three people tied to the Standing Rock 'water protector' movement in North Dakota.... The fact that the officers have even tried to communicate with activists is alarming to free-speech experts who argue that anti-terrorism agents have no business scrutinizing protesters.... Lauren Regan, a civil rights attorney who has provided legal support to demonstrators..., said all three contacts were made in recent weeks after Trump’s inauguration." Thanks to you, too, Jim Comey! -- CW 

Michael Flynn’s real problem isn’t the Logan Act, an obscure and probably unenforceable 1799 statute that bars private meddling in foreign policy disputes. It’s whether President Trump’s national security adviser sought to hide from his colleagues and the nation a pre-inauguration discussion with the Russian government about sanctions that the Obama administration was imposing. 'It’s far less significant if he violated the Logan Act and far more significant if he willfully misled this country,' said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, in a telephone interview late Friday. 'Why would he conceal the nature of the call unless he was conscious of wrongdoing?'” CW: Um, isn't it treasonous to covertly collaborate with a foreign country to contravene U.S. policy? There's nothing wrong with criticizing international policy & publicly promising to change or undo it, but what Flynn (allegedly) did is of a much different order.

Elahe Izadi of the Washington Post: "Alec Baldwin hosted 'Saturday Night Live' this week, but the resident President Trump impersonator was nowhere to be seen during the show’s cold open. Instead, Melissa McCarthy reprised her unhinged, seething Sean Spicer character, which was last week’s most-talked about SNL moment — and an impersonation that reportedly unsettled the White House.... Kate McKinnon played recently-confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions." -- CW ...

CW's "SNL" Conspiracy Theory: For the first time in decades, "SNL" has become must-watch TV. I had it on good authority that Lorne Michaels bussed thousands of Alabamians to voting booths in Rust Belt states:

CW: I'd be incensed if this is the way SNL portrayed, say, Elizabeth Warren. But Kate McKinnon's "Fatal-Attraction"ish Kellyanne Conway made me wonder if McKinnon hadn't captured the "real" Conway:

"I want one day without a CNN alert that scares the hell out of me":

Meet Trump's "Security" Team. Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "A man who was fired from his job as a pilot on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, after the Guardian revealed that he was charged with a violent crime, was this weekend at the president’s estate in Florida, claiming to be part of his security team. Vincent Caldara ... suggested publicly that he was helping to provide security for Trump.... Caldara pled not guilty after he was charged with battery in Broward County, for allegedly driving his car repeatedly at Jeff Shanley, a former friend and business associate, in Pompano Beach in July 2015.... A witness told police he called 911 after seeing Shanley struck by Caldara’s vehicle for the final time. The police report said that Shanley was screaming at the time.... In a separate case still active in civil courts, Caldara is accused of severely injuring a woman in June 2014 by recklessly driving into her with his Harley Davidson motorcycle in Fort Lauderdale. The woman is suing Caldara and seeking a jury trial." ...

     ... CW: The Trump team appears to have let this (alleged) violent & unstable man near the leader of a U.S. ally. I'd like to know what kind of vetting process the Secret Service has for Trump's "security" personnel. Maybe they think Caldera is no threat as long as they keep him out of vehicles???

"Bowling Green Massacre," Ctd. John Amato of Crooks & Liars: "A new PPP poll shows that 51% of Trump supporters believe that two Iraqis perpetrated the fictitious 'Bowling Green Massacre.'" CW: And now, thanks to Sean Spicer Melissa McCarthy, Trumpbots will remember Muslim refugees for "the day they brought Old Dixie down."

Beyond the Beltway

Noah Remnick of the New York Times: "After a swelling tide of protests, the president of Yale announced on Saturday that the university would change the name of a residential college commemorating John C. Calhoun, the 19th-century white supremacist statesman from South Carolina. The college will be renamed for Grace Murray Hopper, a trailblazing computer scientist and Navy rear admiral who received a master’s degree and a doctorate from Yale. The decision was a stark reversal of the university’s decision last spring to maintain the name despite broad opposition. Though the president, Peter Salovey, said that he was still 'concerned about erasing history,' he said that 'these are exceptional circumstances.'” ...

... They Persisted. CW: Salovey is confused about the difference between preserving history and honoring an SOB by preserving a college in his name. It is useful to keep in mind that college presidents are politicians first, and students are not the constituency of greatest influence. The larger lesson here is that the student protesters' persistence eventually won the day. We should be inspired.

Friday
Feb102017

The Commentariat -- February 11, 2017

Trump Nurses Grudge, Further Undermines Judiciary. Robin Morin of Politico: "... Donald Trump called the legal system 'broken' on Saturday morning, a day after he suggested the White House could release a further draft immigration order early next week. 'Our legal system is broken! "77% of refugees allowed into U.S. since travel reprieve hail from seven suspect countries." (WT) SO DANGEROUS!' the president tweeted.... Trump cited a Washington Times article on how analysts believe refugees from those seven countries are trying to come to the U.S. before the travel ban is put in place again." Also claims he will negotiate a better deal on border wall costs. -- CW ...

... Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Trump vowed on Friday to order new security measures by next week intended to stop terrorists from entering the United States, even as aides debated whether to ask the Supreme Court to reinstate his original travel ban that has now been blocked by lower courts. A day after a three-judge panel rebuffed him, Mr. Trump said he might sign 'a brand new order' as early as Monday that would be aimed at accomplishing the same purpose but, presumably, with a stronger legal basis. While he vowed to keep fighting for the original order in court, he indicated that he would not wait for the process to play out to take action. 'We will win that battle,' he told reporters on Air Force One as he flew to Florida for a weekend golf outing with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan. Yet noting that it most likely would not happen quickly, he also raised the possibility of 'a lot of other options, including just filing a brand new order.'... A new version of the executive order would amount to a tacit admission that the administration would not be able to quickly or easily overturn the decision issued on Thursday by a panel of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.” -- CW ...

... Eric Levitz of New York: "On Friday, the White House indicated that it would not be appealing the Ninth Court’s decision, opting to draft a new executive order, instead," according to a Reuters tweet. -- CW ...

... Lipstick on a Pig. Dara Lind of Vox: "... there’s no way the Trump administration could write a constitutionally watertight version of its refugee and visa ban. That’s because they themselves have put the idea out there that it’s just a dressed-up, constitutionally passable version of the 'Muslim ban'0” Trump proposed during the campaign. That doesn’t automatically render the executive order unconstitutional — in fact, there’s a decent chance that a maximally cautious version of a visa ban could, ultimately, be upheld. But it certainly makes it hard for any judge who does believe the ban had its origins in animus to put those worries aside." -- CW 

Lisa Rein, et al., of the Washington Post: "U.S. immigration authorities arrested hundreds of undocumented immigrants in at least a half-dozen states this week in a series of raids that marked the first large-scale enforcement of President Trump’s Jan. 26 order to crack down on the estimated 11 million immigrants living here illegally. The raids, which officials said targeted known criminals, also netted some immigrants who did not have criminal records, an apparent departure from similar enforcement waves during the Obama administration that aimed to just corral and deport those who had committed crimes." -- CW 

Taylor Fravelet al., in ChinaFile, via TPM, have a comprehensive look at the implications and reprecussions of Donald's phone call with Chinese president Xi Jinping. Final analysis: Donald is a "paper tiger". --safari...

...Josh Marshall of TPM: "There's always something new in the never-ending, hyperventilating Trump drama. Over the last day or so, however, we're seeing something a bit new: Trump caving or getting rolled on numerous fronts all at once. Just in the last 24 hours he appears to have been rolled so many times that one imagines his rough edges might start to be worn down until he becomes something more like a clumpy and perhaps oblong ball." --safari ...

    ... safari: We've seen this time and again now. Donald talks tough, then meets face to face with those in question and offers up platitudes, tax breaks and policy reversals. Seems to me to be another projection of his insecurities. Deep down he knows he can't win legitimate negociations on ideas alone, so he sets the negociating bar ridiculously "high" with outlandish remarks, hoping the adversaries won't see his bluff, and then crumbles under real pressure. Trump's trying to play checkers on a chess board.

Julie Davis & Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Trump pledged close security and economic cooperation with Japan on Friday, opening an elaborate multiday work-and-play visit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that is intended to showcase a warm rapport with a central player in Asia. Hoping to put behind any friction remaining from his sometimes provocative statements during last year’s presidential campaign, Mr. Trump hugged Mr. Abe as he arrived at the White House, lavished praise on him and his nation, and offered strong reassurances about America’s commitment to Japan’s defense." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Trump Fakes Almost Everything. David Smith of the Guardian: "Donald Trump was not wearing a translation earpiece as he nodded along and appeared to listen intently to remarks from Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, at the White House on Friday.... Trump did put a small speaker to his right ear during the subsequent question and answer session with journalists, some of whom were from Japan. A handshake between Trump and Abe also caused some consternation on social media, with some claiming it had gone on an awkwardly long time, others suggesting Abe had rolled his eyes at the end, and still others wondering if Trump had pulled Abe’s arm at one point. Trump complimented Abe on his 'strong hands' afterwards, according to the White House pool reporter." -- CW: Trump, as you know, is very smart. He probably picked up Japanese while meeting to Abe earlier. ...

... Handshake Jiujitsu. Selina Chang of Quartz: "Donald Trump has said he doesn’t like shaking people’s hands, and he seems to take his discomfort out on the people he has to greet. More than once, the US president has been seen yanking and twisting people’s arms when he’s supposed to be shaking them. He was at it again today, when he held, patted, and jerked around Shinzo Abe’s hand for a full 19 seconds. We spoke to a body language expert to understand what exactly was at play in that handshake...[It's] a signature move he’s been doing since his stint hosting The Apprentice. More recently, he’s used the move on Mitt Romney, Neil Gorsuch, Nancy Polosi, Rex Tillerson, and Mike Pence. Often, it turns a regular old handshake into a comical tug-of-war, with Trump twisting people’s arms into strange angles. It’s like playing 'jiujitsu with your hand,' says [JoeNavarro [a body language expert]. 'All that it does is that it leaves a bad taste in your mouth and causes psychological discomfort.'" The article includes a video rundown of Donald's attempts at social dominance. --safari

of the Washington Post: "Federal officials have held private talks in recent days with attorneys for President Trump’s real estate company to address a potential violation of Trump’s lease with the government for his new luxury hotel near the White House, but the two sides have so far failed to reach a resolution, according to documents and people familiar with the discussions. At issue is a clause in the lease barring an 'elected official' from receiving 'any benefit' from the agreement, which Trump signed with the General Services Administration in 2013 long before he became a presidential candidate.... Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah), chairman of the House Oversight Committee..., sent a letter Thursday to the GSA’s acting director inquiring about the agency’s plans." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

We continue to be disgusted by CNN's fake news reporting.... This is more fake news. It is about time CNN focused on the success the President has had bringing back jobs, protecting the nation, and strengthening relationships with Japan and other nations. The President won the election because of his vision and message for the nation. -- Sean Spicer, responding to CNN's report that U.S. investigators have confirmed aspects of the "Golden Rain" dossier ...

CW Translation: Any "news" that doesn't glorify the Dear Leader is "fake news." 

... Jim Sciutto & Evan Perez of CNN: "For the first time, US investigators say they have corroborated some of the communications detailed in a 35-page dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent, multiple current and former US law enforcement and intelligence officials tell CNN. As CNN first reported, then-President-elect Donald Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the existence of the dossier prior to Trump's inauguration. None of the newly learned information relates to the salacious allegations in the dossier. Rather ... the dossier details about a dozen conversations between senior Russian officials and other Russian individuals.... But the intercepts do confirm that some of the conversations described in the dossier took place between the same individuals on the same days and from the same locations as detailed in the dossier, according to the officials....The corroboration, based on intercepted communications, has given US intelligence and law enforcement 'greater confidence' in the credibility of some aspects of the dossier as they continue to actively investigate its contents, these sources say." -- CW 

Sarah Stillman of the New Yorker: "In what appeared to be an act of improvisation on a major public policy, the President endorsed [a Texas] sheriff’s comments on the alleged evils of civil-asset-forfeiture reform.... Civil forfeiture — the practice of authorities seizing goods they believe are the fruits of crime — is far less frequently used against bona-fide cartel kingpins than it is against individuals who’ve not been proved guilty of crimes. Often, it’s used against people who haven’t even been accused of any wrongdoing. And, though Trump’s 'we’ll destroy his career' comment quickly drew widespread criticism, the remark was only the coda of an equally unnerving conversation with the sheriffs that went largely unremarked upon. A transcript of the full event reveals how little Trump seems to grasp civil forfeiture’s meaning." CW: A transcript of any event not related to TV ratings reveals how little Trump seems to grasp.

Trump Surprised His Job Is Hard. Alex Isenstadt, et al., of Politico: "Being president is harder than Donald Trump thought, according to aides and allies who say that he’s growing increasingly frustrated with the challenges of running the massive federal bureaucracy. In interviews, nearly two dozen people who’ve spent time with Trump in the three weeks since his inauguration said that his mood has careened between surprise and anger as he’s faced the predictable realities of governing, from congressional delays over his cabinet nominations and legal fights holding up his aggressive initiatives to staff in-fighting and leaks.... The interviews paint a picture of a powder-keg of a workplace where job duties are unclear, morale among some is low, factionalism is rampant and exhaustion is running high." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Matthew Rosenberg & Glenn Thrush of the New York Times: "President Trump said he plans to 'look into' reports that his national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, discussed sanctions in his pre-inauguration conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the United States and possibly misled administration officials about it. 'I don’t know about that. I haven’t seen it,' said Mr. Trump, speaking to reporters on Air Force One late Friday, during a flight to Florida from Washington. Several news outlets reported on Thursday that Mr. Flynn and Ambassador Sergei I. Kislyak had discussed sanctions that the Obama administration had imposed on Russia. The White House has denied publicly that the two men discussed sanctions. Even as Mr. Trump professed his lack of knowledge of the episode, administration officials were scrambling to contain the fallout of the latest revelations about the embattled former three-star general, who has been criticized internally for his judgment and for staffing the National Security Council with military officers instead of trained civilian personnel." ...

     ... CW: Trump will "look into" the Flynn scandal right after he releases his tax returns. And he "doesn't know about that" because he spent Thursday night, as he does most nights, in his bathrobe clicking the remote in search of news about Donald J. Trump. ...

** Kenneth Vogel & Josh Dawsey of Politico: "A top deputy to National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was rejected for a critical security clearance, effectively ending his tenure on the National Security Council and escalating tensions between Flynn and the intelligence community. The move came as Flynn’s already tense relationships with others in the Trump administration and the intelligence community were growing more fraught after reports that Flynn had breached diplomatic protocols in his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States. On Friday, one of Flynn’s closest deputies on the National Security Council, senior director for Africa Robin Townley, was informed that the Central Intelligence Agency had rejected his request for an elite security clearance required for service on the NSC...One of the sources said that the rejection was approved by Trump’s CIA director Mike Pompeo and that it infuriated Flynn and his allies." --safari

If the now national security adviser was undermining U.S. national security interests, he’s unfit to hold that office. Compounding the issue is whether he then misled the country about the nature of his contacts. -- Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), in an interview with the Washington Post ...

... Greg Miller of the Washington Post: "National security adviser Michael Flynn spoke privately with Vice President Pence on Friday in an apparent attempt to contain the fallout from the disclosure that Flynn had discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with that country’s ambassador and then allowed Pence and other White House officials to publicly deny that he had done so, an administration official said. The conversations took place as senior Democrats in Congress called for existing investigations of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election to expand in scope to scrutinize Flynn’s contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak weeks before the Trump administration took office. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that if the allegations are proved, Flynn should step down.... Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, called for FBI Director James B. Comey to testify before the committee on the status of the bureau’s examination of Flynn’s calls.... Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo requesting a review of Flynn’s security clearance." -- CW: Hard to picture Flynn eating crow. ...

... "This Is a Scandal. A Real Scandal. A Big Scandal."David Corn of Mother Jones: "Trump's national security adviser [Michael Flynn] was in cahoots with Russia to undermine the US government's effort to punish Moscow for hacking the US election — and he apparently lied about it. If Trump does not fire him — and if Washington's political-media complex (including Republicans) does not go ballistic over this revelation — then the Putinization of America has taken another big step forward.... Here was Flynn working against US policy — against steps President Barack Obama had ordered in response to Putin's meddling in the US election.... He was explicitly aiding the enemy that had attacked US democracy. This move was in sync with the approach taken by Trump, who has refused to criticize Russia for intervening in the election.... Flynn ... ought to have realized this conversation would be picked up by US intelligence.... On Friday morning, the Trump administration confirmed that Flynn did speak to the Russian ambassador about the sanctions. And Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the senior Democrat on the House intelligence committee, called for Flynn's dismissal...." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

...Signal the alarm bells, via Rachel Maddow --safari

... digby: "It looks like the White House is circling the wagons to protect Pence for going out and defending Michael Flynn on those Russian phone calls. It turns out Flynn did tell the Russians not to worry about the sanctions over their interference in the election. That strikes me as kind of a quid pro quo but what do I know?... I don't think Pence should be let off the hook. There has been a ton of evidence of strange shennanigans between Flynn and Russia (not to mention Trump) and he chose to ignore them. Either that or he knew and lied.... The fact is that Flynn is a true Strangelovian freak and since the president is one as well, it would be helpful to get rid of him even if it doesn't solve the larger problem. One less madman in the White House would be welcome." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... David Frum in the Atlantic: "Flynn’s maladroitness in fact is the one thing that may have saved the administration from an even worse scandal: His reported lie was exposed so quickly that the uproar will thwart any project to lift early the sanctions on Russia for its role in the 2016 election. He has given the Trump administration an opportunity to localize what is really a much larger scandal. They can now try to load all the blame for all the various sinister connections between the Trump campaign and Russian spy agencies onto one man, in an effort to protect everybody else implicated in the scandal, including the president himself." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

"Illegal" Massachusetts Voters Foiled Trump & Ayotte in New Hampshire, Sez Trump. Eli Stokols of Politico: "President Donald Trump can’t stop — won’t stop — talking about the election. On Thursday, during a meeting with 10 senators that was billed as a listening session about Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, the president went off on a familiar tangent, suggesting again that he was a victim of widespread voter fraud.... As soon as the door closed and the reporters ... had been ushered out, Trump began to talk about the election, participants said, triggered by the presence of former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who lost her reelection bid in November and is now working for Trump as a Capitol Hill liaison ... on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch. The president claimed that he and Ayotte both would have been victorious in the Granite State if not for the 'thousands' of people who were 'brought in on buses' from neighboring Massachusetts to 'illegally' vote in New Hampshire. According to one participant..., 'an uncomfortable silence' momentarily overtook the room. Hillary Clinton narrowly won New Hampshire’s four electoral votes over Trump by nearly 3,000 votes. Ayotte’s margin of defeat was even slimmer: 743 votes.... Trump ... [told Ayotte] he wished she'd worked to help his campaign the way she was working to help Gorsuch.... ‘You’d have won if you’d been on my train,’ [Trump said]." ...

     ... CW: Trump's "logic" is awesome. Ayotte lost by fewer votes than Trump did, but somehow she would have benefitted from Trump's coattails. ...

... Philip Bump of the Washington Post: explains: "Both Ayotte and the woman who defeated her, Sen. Margaret Wood Hassan (D), got more votes than the people at the top of their parties’ tickets. So thousands of people bused into New Hampshire, cast enough votes for Clinton to ensure her victory — but then Hassan somehow got nearly 10,000 more votes than Clinton anyway, once you take out that margin by which Trump lost?... A charter bus holds about 55 people. So that’s 50 buses that would have had to make the trip into New Hampshire to hand Clinton the victory. If you’ve got any photos of that caravan, please do share." -- CW  

Gail Collins complains about the high cost to taxpayers of supporting the Trump family businesses as Melania & the adult Trump children travel the world in pursuit of making Donald rich again. -- CW 

Headline of the Day: "Trump Nixes Plan to Appoint a War Criminal to the State Department." Eric Levitz: "Until Friday, Elliott Abrams was expected to be named the Trump administration’s deputy secretary of State — a powerful position, particularly in a department headed by a former oil executive with no diplomatic experience. Abrams’s apparent selection was not treated as a scandal. But in a less degenerate republic, it would have been: The last time Abrams worked at the State Department, he helped the Reagan White House covertly sell weapons to Iran — in defiance of an embargo — so as to fund reactionary rebels in Nicaragua, in defiance of a federal law that Congress had passed 411 to 0. After his crime against the rule of law was exposed, Abrams lied to Congress about what he had done. He eventually pled guilty for that last offense, but was promptly pardoned by our first President Bush. When Abrams wasn’t undermining democratic rule at home, he promoted genocide abroad. Rex Tillerson and Jared Kushner both lobbied the president on Abrams’s behalf. And, after a meeting with the war criminal, Trump was prepared to make the neoconservative his number-two diplomat. And then, Trump came upon a column Abrams had written in May 2016, titled 'When You Can’t Stand Your Candidate.'” And that was that. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... CW: And don't kid yourself -- Jared Kushner is no moderate just because he occasionally pulls the Trumpster down off the ledge. Not only does he think Abrams is A-Okay, he imagines Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is a "savant."

Emma Brown of the Washington Post: "Education Secretary Betsy DeVos encountered protesters Friday morning outside a D.C. middle school and found her way barred as she tried to enter through a side door, forcing her to retreat into a government vehicle.... Eventually, DeVos made her way inside for an event starting at about 10 a.m. that included the D.C. schools chancellor and others. The event was closed to the media. But the demonstration outside Jefferson Academy was a further sign that DeVos remains a polarizing figure in the education world days after she took office." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Steve Eder, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump has blamed 'obstruction by Democrats' for delays in confirming his senior appointments, saying on Twitter that 'it is a disgrace that my full cabinet is still not in place.' But the slow pace of filling out Mr. Trump’s cabinet can be attributed in part to ... the Trump transition team['s decision] ... to skip a practice of grilling nominees to prepare them and protect the president from potential embarrassment during the confirmation process. Candidates, for example, were not asked about financial conflicts and past vices — known informally as the 'sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll' questions. The rushed approach has led to some of Mr. Trump’s nominees — many with immense wealth and complex business interests — being held back by unexpected revelations.... The Trump team’s approach of announce first, vet later has led to confusion, clearance delays and situations where candidates were unexpectedly thrust into a spotlight of public scrutiny." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Martin Kettle of the Guardian: "The [British] government has abandoned the idea of Donald Trump addressing the joint Houses of Parliament when he comes to Britain for a state visit later this year after objections by MPs led by the Commons Speaker John Bercow. The US president’s controversial visit is now expected to run from a Thursday to a Sunday in late summer or early autumn, with officials trying to ensure that Trump is not in London at a time when parliament is sitting, in order to avoid a formal snub.... Officials are also said to be keen to limit the president’s public exposure more generally during the visit, in order to reduce the opportunities for protests and disorder on a state occasion.... A further issue that has still to be resolved is the extent to which the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will be involved in a visit of which, officially at least, she is the host. The couple, who are both now in their 90s, normally spend late August and September at Balmoral in Aberdeenshire and only rarely return to London during their stay." CW: Oh, the Brits are so polite. In order to avoid snubbing you, they invite you over when they're out of town. ...

... Less Polite: EU Tells Trump to Butt Out. Julian Borger of the Guardian: "The EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, has warned the Trump administration not to interfere in European politics.... Speaking during a two-day visit to Washington, Mogherini did not make specific accusations but said that she sometimes heard voices in the new administration 'saying the European Union is not necessarily a good idea.....' 'It’s not for me or another European to speak about domestic political choices or decisions in the US. The same goes with Europe – no interference,' Mogherini said, speaking at the Atlantic Council thinktank. 'Maybe America first means also that you have to deal with America first.'” -- CW 

Cynthia McFadden & William Arkin of NBC News: "U.S. intelligence has collected information that Russia is considering turning over Edward Snowden as a 'gift' to ... Donald Trump — who has called the NSA leaker a 'spy' and a 'traitor' who deserves to be executed.... That's according to a senior U.S. official who has analyzed a series of highly sensitive intelligence reports detailing Russian deliberations and who says a Snowden handover is one of various ploys to 'curry favor' with Trump. A second source in the intelligence community confirms the intelligence about the Russian conversations and notes it has been gathered since the inauguration.... Snowden responded to NBC's report on Twitter and said it shows that he did not work with the Russian government. 'Finally: irrefutable evidence that I never cooperated with Russian intel,' Snowden said. 'No country trades away spies, as the rest would fear they're next.'" -- CW ...

... Andrew Roth of the Washington Post: "Russia is enthusiastic about Trump’s rhetoric about bettering relations and his re-examination of American exceptionalism, a philosophy that Putin has blasted as dangerous. But the more concrete (and still unclear) elements of Trump’s foreign policy, including new negotiations on arms control, are non-starters in Moscow, analysts say. And there is concern that Trump’s mercurial style will not be to Moscow’s benefit." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

AP: "The United States on Friday blocked the appointment of the former Palestinian prime minister to lead the U.N. political mission in Libya, saying it was acting to support its ally Israel. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said the Trump administration 'was disappointed' to see that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had sent a letter to the Security Council indicating his intention to appoint Salam Fayyad, who served as the Palestinian Authority's prime minister from 2007-2013, as the next U.N. special representative to Libya." -- CW 

Meet Senator Strange. Joe Miller in the New Republic: "When Alabama’s sex-scandal-plagued Governor Robert Bentley stood before reporters Thursday to announce his appointment of state Attorney General Luther Strange to Jeff Sessions’s Senate seat, the most obvious question was: Is this a corrupt bargain to end the state’s criminal investigation of Bentley?... With Strange now picking out office furniture in Washington, D.C., Bentley has the privilege of selecting a new attorney general.... During his two terms in office [and] as a leader in the Republican Attorney General Association (at the time of his Senate appointment he was chairman-elect) he helped spearhead legal opposition to the Obama administration’s policies on immigration, environmental protection, health care, and LGBT rights. And he’s made a big show of cracking down on violations of Alabama’s gun laws, ordering libraries and community centers across the state to remove signs prohibiting fire arms. But he has also been accused of politicizing the justice system, using the state’s anti-gambling laws to target casinos in predominantly black counties for alleged violations that his office has allowed at Indian-owned casinos." -- CW 

Ooh. Chuck Schumer Plays Hardball (Okay, Nerfball) in a New York Times op-ed: "... just like Neil Gorsuch, [John Roberts] asserted his independence [during his confirmation proceedings], claiming to be a judge who simply called 'balls and strikes,' unbiased by both ideology and politics. When Judge Roberts became Justice Roberts, we learned that we had been duped by an activist judge.... Judge Gorsuch’s behind-closed-doors admission that he felt 'disheartened' by President Trump’s attacks on judges could well be akin to Judge Roberts’s 'balls and strikes.'... The White House’s assertion that Judge Gorsuch’s private remarks were not aimed at Mr. Trump only raises concerns about his independence.” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)...

...Josh Marshall of TPM sees a silver-lining in the Gorsuch confirmation battle (Feb. 8): "[S]aying [Trump's attacks on a federal judge and the federal judiciary were "demoralizing and "disheartening"] in private and then having a spokesperson confirm is quite different from saying it himself public...I fully expect that we will now see Democrats make almost the entirety of Gorsuch's confirmation process into a review and critique of President Trump's behavior in office, treatment of the judiciary, respect for the rule of law, reliance on executive orders and more - with a particular emphasis on the difference between what Gorsuch is willing to say in private and what he is willing to say in public, especially under oath...The idea that Gorsuch would now pass a negative judgment on Trump and his behavior as President can only strike him as a betrayal. Almost any other President would be able to prioritize his interests over his ego and give Gorsuch the room he needs. Trump will almost certainly not be able to." --safari

M.J. Lee & Eric Bradner of CNN: "More than seven years after angry anti-Obamacare town halls erupted across the country, raw emotions are boiling over again -- this time, as the Republican Party under ... Donald Trump gears up to dismantle Barack Obama's legacy. And the fury is flaring up in some of most conservative corners of the country. On Thursday night, two Republican members of Congress -- Reps. Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Diane Black of Tennessee -- were each confronted with impassioned constituents during simultaneous events. The shouted questions, emotional pleas and raucous protesters of the evening crystalized the GOP's tough political road ahead as it forges ahead with rolling back Obama's accomplishments, including the Affordable Care Act." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Buyers' Remorse? Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling: "PPP's new national poll finds that Donald Trump's popularity as President has declined precipitously just over the last two weeks. On our first poll of his Presidency voters were evenly divided on Trump, with 44% approving of him and 44% also disapproving. Now his approval rating is 43%, while his disapproval has gone all the way up to 53%. If voters could choose they'd rather have both Barack Obama (52/44) or Hillary Clinton (49/45) instead of Trump. Just three weeks into his administration, voters are already evenly divided on the issue of impeaching Trump with 46% in favor and 46% opposed." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Beyond the Beltway

Sam Levin of the Guardian: "US veterans are returning to Standing Rock and pledging to shield indigenous activists from attacks by a militarized police force, another sign that the fight against the Dakota Access pipeline is far from over. Army veterans from across the country have arrived in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, or are currently en route after the news that Donald Trump’s administration has allowed the oil corporation to finish drilling across the Missouri river...It is unclear how many vets may arrive to Standing Rock; some organizers estimate a few dozen are on their way, while other activists are pledging that hundreds or more could show up in the coming weeks." --safari

Capitalism is Awesome, Ctd. Max Nisen of Bloomberg: "Step back, Martin Shkreli: The pharma industry has a new villain. Marathon Pharmaceuticals LLC, led by CEO Jeffrey Aronin, got FDA approval on Thursday for a steroid to treat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), a rare and deadly muscle-wasting disease. The steroid is available for less than $2,000 a year in other countries. Marathon will charge $89,000 a year for it in the U.S. -- even though it didn't invent the drug and won FDA approval based in part on trial data from the 1990s that others produced. By pricing the drug so aggressively at a time when President Trump and others are focused on high prices, Marathon is creating substantial political and commercial risk for itself and its peers. --safari...

...safari: If "populist" Donald really wanted some real populist praise, he would turn his rage on these despicable pharmaceutical companies and put an end to these sickening money games. I won't hold my breath.

Randall Smith of the New York Times: "Maurice R. Greenberg, the former chief executive of American International Group, reached an unexpected settlement ending a tumultuous, decade-long battle over civil accounting fraud charges first brought in 2005 by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Mr. Greenberg, 91, and his co-defendant, Howard Smith, A.I.G.’s former chief financial officer, reached the agreement with the current New York attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, who announced it on Friday. In the settlement, the two men acknowledged that they had participated in and approved two transactions that inaccurately portrayed A.I.G.’s financial results over four years. They agreed to give up more than $9.9 million that they received as performance bonuses from 2001 through 2004, with Mr. Greenberg paying most of that amount. But it is a fraction of the more than $50 million the state had sought. The former executives also released statements acknowledging their roles in the transactions, but not admitting to fraud." -- CW 

Friday
Feb102017

The Commentariat -- February 10, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Julie Davis & Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Trump pledged close security and economic cooperation with Japan on Friday, opening an elaborate multiday work-and-play visit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that is intended to showcase a warm rapport with a central player in Asia. Hoping to put behind any friction remaining from his sometimes provocative statements during last year’s presidential campaign, Mr. Trump hugged Mr. Abe as he arrived at the White House, lavished praise on him and his nation, and offered strong reassurances about America’s commitment to Japan’s defense." -- CW 

Trump Surprised His Job Is Hard. Alex Isenstadt, et al., of Politico: "Being president is harder than Donald Trump thought, according to aides and allies who say that he’s growing increasingly frustrated with the challenges of running the massive federal bureaucracy. In interviews, nearly two dozen people who’ve spent time with Trump in the three weeks since his inauguration said that his mood has careened between surprise and anger as he’s faced the predictable realities of governing, from congressional delays over his cabinet nominations and legal fights holding up his aggressive initiatives to staff in-fighting and leaks.... The interviews paint a picture of a powder-keg of a workplace where job duties are unclear, morale among some is low, factionalism is rampant and exhaustion is running high." -- CW 

Headline of the Day: "Trump Nixes Plan to Appoint a War Criminal to the State Department." Eric Levitz: "Until Friday, Elliott Abrams was expected to be named the Trump administration’s deputy secretary of State — a powerful position, particularly in a department headed by a former oil executive with no diplomatic experience. Abrams’s apparent selection was not treated as a scandal. But in a less degenerate republic, it would have been: The last time Abrams worked at the State Department, he helped the Reagan White House covertly sell weapons to Iran — in defiance of an embargo — so as to fund reactionary rebels in Nicaragua, in defiance of a federal law that Congress had passed 411 to 0. After his crime against the rule of law was exposed, Abrams lied to Congress about what he had done. He eventually pled guilty for that last offense, but was promptly pardoned by our first President Bush. When Abrams wasn’t undermining democratic rule at home, he promoted genocide abroad. Rex Tillerson and Jared Kushner both lobbied the president on Abrams’s behalf. And, after a meeting with the war criminal, Trump was prepared to make the neoconservative his number-two diplomat. And then, Trump came upon a column Abrams had written in May 2016, titled 'When You Can’t Stand Your Candidate.'” And that was that. -- CW ...

... CW: And don't kid yourself -- Jared Kushner is no moderate just because he occasionally pulls the Trumpster down off the ledge. Not only does he think Abrams is A-Okay, he imagines Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is a "savant."

Andrew Roth of the Washington Post: "Russia is enthusiastic about Trump’s rhetoric about bettering relations and his re-examination of American exceptionalism, a philosophy that Putin has blasted as dangerous. But the more concrete (and still unclear) elements of Trump’s foreign policy, including new negotiations on arms control, are non-starters in Moscow, analysts say. And there is concern that Trump’s mercurial style will not be to Moscow’s benefit." -- CW 

of the Washington Post: "Federal officials have held private talks in recent days with attorneys for President Trump’s real estate company to address a potential violation of Trump’s lease with the government for his new luxury hotel near the White House, but the two sides have so far failed to reach a resolution, according to documents and people familiar with the discussions. At issue is a clause in the lease barring an 'elected official' from receiving 'any benefit' from the agreement, which Trump signed with the General Services Administration in 2013 long before he became a presidential candidate.... Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah), chairman of the House Oversight Committee..., sent a letter Thursday to the GSA’s acting director inquiring about the agency’s plans." -- CW 

Buyers' Remorse? Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling: "PPP's new national poll finds that Donald Trump's popularity as President has declined precipitously just over the last two weeks. On our first poll of his Presidency voters were evenly divided on Trump, with 44% approving of him and 44% also disapproving. Now his approval rating is 43%, while his disapproval has gone all the way up to 53%. If voters could choose they'd rather have both Barack Obama (52/44) or Hillary Clinton (49/45) instead of Trump. Just three weeks into his administration, voters are already evenly divided on the issue of impeaching Trump with 46% in favor and 46% opposed." -- CW 

"This Is a Scandal. A Real Scandal. A Big Scandal."David Corn of Mother Jones: "Trump's national security adviser [Michael Flynn] was in cahoots with Russia to undermine the US government's effort to punish Moscow for hacking the US election — and he apparently lied about it. If Trump does not fire him — and if Washington's political-media complex (including Republicans) does not go ballistic over this revelation — then the Putinization of America has taken another big step forward.... Here was Flynn working against US policy — against steps President Barack Obama had ordered in response to Putin's meddling in the US election.... He was explicitly aiding the enemy that had attacked US democracy. This move was in sync with the approach taken by Trump, who has refused to criticize Russia for intervening in the election.... Flynn ... ought to have realized this conversation would be picked up by US intelligence.... On Friday morning, the Trump administration confirmed that Flynn did speak to the Russian ambassador about the sanctions. And Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the senior Democrat on the House intelligence committee, called for Flynn's dismissal...." -- CW ...

... digby: "It looks like the White House is circling the wagons to protect Pence for going out and defending Michael Flynn on those Russian phone calls. It turns out Flynn did tell the Russians not to worry about the sanctions over their interference in the election. That strikes me as kind of a quid pro quo but what do I know?... I don't think Pence should be let off the hook. There has been a ton of evidence of strange shennanigans between Flynn and Russia (not to mention Trump) and he chose to ignore them. Either that or he knew and lied.... The fact is that Flynn is a true Strangelovian freak and since the president is one as well, it would be helpful to get rid of him even if it doesn't solve the larger problem. One less madman in the White House would be welcome." -- CW ...

... David Frum in the Atlantic: "Flynn’s maladroitness in fact is the one thing that may have saved the administration from an even worse scandal: His reported lie was exposed so quickly that the uproar will thwart any project to lift early the sanctions on Russia for its role in the 2016 election. He has given the Trump administration an opportunity to localize what is really a much larger scandal. They can now try to load all the blame for all the various sinister connections between the Trump campaign and Russian spy agencies onto one man, in an effort to protect everybody else implicated in the scandal, including the president himself." -- CW 

Emma Brown of the Washington Post: "Education Secretary Betsy DeVos encountered protesters Friday morning outside a D.C. middle school and found her way barred as she tried to enter through a side door, forcing her to retreat into a government vehicle.... Eventually, DeVos made her way inside for an event starting at about 10 a.m. that included the D.C. schools chancellor and others. The event was closed to the media. But the demonstration outside Jefferson Academy was a further sign that DeVos remains a polarizing figure in the education world days after she took office." -- CW

Steve Eder, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump has blamed 'obstruction by Democrats' for delays in confirming his senior appointments, saying on Twitter that 'it is a disgrace that my full cabinet is still not in place.' But the slow pace of filling out Mr. Trump’s cabinet can be attributed in part to ... the Trump transition team['s decision] ... to skip a practice of grilling nominees to prepare them and protect the president from potential embarrassment during the confirmation process. Candidates, for example, were not asked about financial conflicts and past vices — known informally as the 'sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll' questions. The rushed approach has led to some of Mr. Trump’s nominees — many with immense wealth and complex business interests — being held back by unexpected revelations.... The Trump team’s approach of announce first, vet later has led to confusion, clearance delays and situations where candidates were unexpectedly thrust into a spotlight of public scrutiny." -- CW 

M.J. Lee & Eric Bradner of CNN: "More than seven years after angry anti-Obamacare town halls erupted across the country, raw emotions are boiling over again -- this time, as the Republican Party under ... Donald Trump gears up to dismantle Barack Obama's legacy. And the fury is flaring up in some of most conservative corners of the country. On Thursday night, two Republican members of Congress -- Reps. Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Diane Black of Tennessee -- were each confronted with impassioned constituents during simultaneous events. The shouted questions, emotional pleas and raucous protesters of the evening crystalized the GOP's tough political road ahead as it forges ahead with rolling back Obama's accomplishments, including the Affordable Care Act." -- CW 

Ooh. Chuck Schumer Plays Hardball (Okay, Nerfball) in a New York Times op-ed: "... just like Neil Gorsuch, [John Roberts] asserted his independence [during his confirmation proceedings], claiming to be a judge who simply called 'balls and strikes,' unbiased by both ideology and politics. When Judge Roberts became Justice Roberts, we learned that we had been duped by an activist judge.... Judge Gorsuch’s behind-closed-doors admission that he felt 'disheartened' by President Trump’s attacks on judges could well be akin to Judge Roberts’s 'balls and strikes.'... The White House’s assertion that Judge Gorsuch’s private remarks were not aimed at Mr. Trump only raises concerns about his independence.” -- CW 

*****

TRUMPED!

** Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "A federal appeals panel on Thursday unanimously rejected President Trump’s bid to reinstate his ban on travel into the United States from seven largely Muslim nations, a sweeping rebuke of the administration’s claim that the courts have no role as a check on the president. The three-judge panel, suggesting that the ban did not advance national security, said the administration had shown 'no evidence' that anyone from the seven nations — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — had committed terrorist acts in the United States. The ruling also rejected Mr. Trump’s claim that courts are powerless to review a president’s national security assessments. Judges have a crucial role to play in a constitutional democracy, the court said. 'It is beyond question,' the decision said, 'that the federal judiciary retains the authority to adjudicate constitutional challenges to executive action.'... The appeals court acknowledged that Mr. Trump was owed deference on his immigration and national security policies. But it said he was claiming something more — that 'national security concerns are unreviewable, even if those actions potentially contravene constitutional rights and protections.'

Within minutes of the ruling, Mr. Trump angrily vowed to fight it, presumably in an appeal to the Supreme Court. 'SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!' Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. At the White House, the president told reporters that the ruling was 'a political decision' and predicted that his administration would win an appeal 'in my opinion, very easily.' He said he had not yet conferred with his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, on the matter. -- CW 

... Here's the decision. ...

... CW: Another important effect of the Appellate Court's ruling: if the case goes directly to the Supremes & they tie 4-4, the Appellate decision stands. For a while anyway. Another important outcome is that we've learned that the POTUS doesn't know that when three people dressed up in black robes sit together behind this elevated, extended podium-ish thing in a room of an imposing stone building that says "Covrthovse" on the front of it -- that is a "court." Maybe it was the V-U thing that confused him. Time for an executive order declaring that all of the marble statues about to pop up throughout the land to glorify Big Bother shall spell his name "TRUMP" and not TRVMP." ...

... ** It Is the Opinion of the Court that Donald Trump Is Not the Anointed King. Amy Davidson: "The Ninth Circuit Rejects Trumpism."  ...

... Kevin Drum: "It's worth pointing out that this isn't a ruling on whether Trump's immigration order is legal. It's not even a ruling on whether it should be blocked pending the result of other lawsuits. It's a ruling on an emergency stay of the temporary restraining order issued last week by a district court in Seattle. For now, the TRO remains in place unless the Supreme Court overturns the ci[r]cuit court and grants the emergency stay. Later we'll get a full hearing on the TRO, and following that we'll get trials on the various lawsuits challenging the legality of the immigration order." -- CW ...

... Dara Lind of Vox: "The ruling is a huge blow to the Trump administration. Not only did the Ninth Circuit reject its request to reinstate the ban, but the judges made it quite clear, in oral arguments and in the written ruling, that they are not convinced the executive order was constitutional at all: 'The government has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of an appeal' of the stay, the panel wrote. Furthermore, the court strenuously rejected the legal argument the Trump administration had made in oral argument. The ruling called the federal government’s argument 'contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy.'” -- CW ...

... The Downside of Hubris. Josh Gerstein of Politico: "The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling put into sharp relief several tactical and strategic errors Trump and his aides made in crafting, implementing and defending the order.... The White House failure to make clear from the outset that the travel ban did not include U.S. permanent residents, so-called green-card holders, was both a political and legal gaffe of the first order.... Trump could have simply signed a half-page tweak to his executive order, making crystal clear that U.S. permanent residents were exempt from the order. But he didn't do that, apparently because he or his aides did not want to admit any flaws in the drafting or vetting process.... Instead, Trump and his advisers settled on having his official lawyer — White House Counsel Don McGahn — sign a memorandum purporting to offer 'authoritative guidance' that the order did not apply to green-card holders.... The three judges nearly ridiculed that position.... Another major tactical mistake came when the Justice Department decided to argue to the 9th Circuit that the courts have no role to play whatsoever in examining immigration-related decisions the president makes on national security grounds." -- CW 

Lisa Explains Court Decision to Man-Child in White House. No, Donald. Our security is not at stake because you can't ban Muslims from entering our country. Our security is at stake because our President is an insecure, narcisisstic, unqualified disaster who has surrounded himself with delusional people who are itching for a war against Islam and a Congressional majority who are willing to close their eyes to the Constitutional crisis you are creating so they can enact policies that will hurt the majority of Americans. You want and NEED a terrorist attack to occur so you can enforce your "law and order." You want to find ways to keep minorities from having a voice or equal rights. You want to put women "back in their place," to be seen and not heard. You are weakening our educational system because you love uneducated people. You, Donald J. Trump, are the clear and present danger to our nation. -- Lisa, in yesterday's Comments (attribution corrected)

MEANWHILE, Trumpbots Are on the Case. Evan Perez, et al., of CNN: "Threats against more than one judge involved in legal challenges to ... Donald Trump's executive order on immigration have prompted federal and local law enforcement agencies to temporarily increase security protection for some of them, according to law enforcement officials." -- CW ...

... It's All on Us. Paul Krugman: on what happens when Trump's wished-for terrorist attack gives him an excuse to exert extreme power: "In the end, I fear, it’s going to rest on the people — on whether enough Americans are willing to take a public stand [against Trump]. We can’t handle another post-9/11-style suspension of doubt about the man in charge; if that happens, America as we know it will soon be gone." -- CW

Mark Landler & Michael Forsythe of the New York Times: "President Trump told President Xi Jinping of China on Thursday evening that the United States would honor the 'One China' policy, reversing his earlier expressions of doubt about the longtime diplomatic understanding and removing a major source of tension between the United States and China since shortly after he was elected. In a statement, the White House said Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi 'discussed numerous topics, and President Trump agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honor our One China policy.' It described the call as 'extremely cordial' and said the leaders had invited each other to visit." It appears Rex Tillerson mitigated Trump's previously-stated plan to use Taiwan as bargaining chip against China. CW: Still, it may be a week or so before we find out how the conversation between the Presidents really went. It's hard to believe Trump could maintain his equilibrium during a "lengthy" conversation. ...

... Jonathan Landay & David Rohde of Reuters: "In his first call as president with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump denounced a treaty that caps U.S. and Russian deployment of nuclear warheads as a bad deal for the United States, according to two U.S. officials and one former U.S. official with knowledge of the call. When Putin raised the possibility of extending the 2010 treaty, known as New START, Trump paused to ask his aides in an aside what the treaty was, these sources said. Trump then told Putin the treaty was one of several bad deals negotiated by the Obama administration, saying that New START favored Russia. Trump also talked about his own popularity, the sources said.... During a debate in the 2016 presidential election, Trump said Russia had "outsmarted" the United States with the treaty, which he called 'START-Up.' He asserted incorrectly then that it had allowed Russia to continue to produce nuclear warheads while the United States could not. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he supported the treaty during his Senate confirmation hearings." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Nukes? Whatever. Zack Beauchamp of Vox: "Three things stick out about this report, presuming it’s accurate (both Rohde and Landay are skilled veterans of the national-security beat, and the White House has declined to comment on the report...). The first is that Trump still clearly does not know basic facts about American foreign policy, like the name of a major treaty — and that this somehow leaked to the press from one of his top advisers, the only people in the room for the Putin call. The second is that the president seems willing to make major policy changes anyway.... Finally, the comments seem to contradict stuff Trump has said recently about nuclear weapons. Just days before his inauguration, Trump said in an interview that he hoped to work with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin to reduce both countries’ nuclear arsenals.... Those comments, in turn, directly contradicted a December tweet, where he said that the US 'must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.'” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Karen DeYoung & Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "The White House is probing ongoing leaks of President Trump’s private conversations with foreign leaders, including a report Thursday that he criticized a 2011 U.S.-Russia nuclear arms treaty during last month’s call with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.... Following the Australia and Mexico reports, Trump told Fox News the leaks were 'disgraceful' and accused 'Obama people' still serving in the White House of providing the media with potentially embarrassing details." ...

     ... CW: That's funny, because we know who-all was in the room for these calls. Here's Trump talking to Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull. So if it ain't those guys, it's the photographer and/or the switchboard operator:

President* Lies. Again. Jeremy Diamond of CNN. "President Donald Trump falsely accused a Democratic senator Thursday of misrepresenting his Supreme Court nominee's words, according to several familiar with the incident. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Wednesday that Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump's nominee, told him he found Trump's attack on a federal judge on Twitter 'disheartening' and 'demoralizing.' Within a half-hour, Gorsuch spokesman Ron Bonjean, who was tapped by the White House to head communications for Gorsuch, confirmed that the nominee, Gorsuch, used those words in his meeting with Blumenthal. Several other senators, including Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, later relayed similar accounts of Gorsuch forcefully criticizing Trump's public attacks on the judiciary branch." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Akhilleus: Big surprise to hear that Trump is lying again. But the Gorsuch comment could be a sly way, especially given the fact that he has apparently repeated his statement to a number of senators, of demonstrating his ability to stand up to Trump as a SCOTUS judge, something for which Democrats will want assurances. ...

     ... Update: Jordan Fabian of the Hill: "President Trump on Thursday doubled down on his assertion that a Democratic senator 'misrepresented' his Supreme Court nominee’s criticism of his comments about federal judges, even though the nominee's own spokesperson has confirmed them.... 'His comments were misrepresented and what you should do is ask Sen. Blumenthal about his Vietnam record, which didn't exist,' Trump said after meeting with a group of Democratic and Republican senators to discuss Gorsuch’s nomination." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... The Gorsuch Tap-Dance. Julie Davis of the New York Times: "White House officials insisted on Thursday that Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, was not referring to Mr. Trump’s recent denigration of judges when he said privately that he was disheartened by attacks on the courts.Mr. Trump said on Twitter that the nominee’s remarks had been misrepresented, a sentiment echoed by the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, during a contentious briefing.... The White House’s statements upended what had appeared to be a carefully calculated effort by Judge Gorsuch to gently distance himself from Mr. Trump’s attacks.... Senator Chuck Schumer ... said he had called on Judge Gorsuch in their private meeting on Tuesday to publicly condemn Mr. Trump’s comments about judges. 'He said, "Well, I’m disheartened by it,’” Mr. Schumer said. 'I said, "Your feelings aren’t enough here." It’s really not good enough whispering behind closed doors that you’re disheartened. I didn’t think it came close to being enough.'... 'We take Sean Spicer at his word that Judge Gorsuch did not mean to distance himself from Donald Trump’s attacks on the judicial branch,' Zac Petkanas, a senior adviser for the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement. Mr. Petkanas called it proof that the nominee 'will be nothing more than a rubber stamp for this out-of-control Trump presidency.'” -- CW 

NEW. Alan Pyke of Think Progress: "... Donald Trump encouraged Republicans on Thursday to further enhance the nation’s already stiff criminal penalties for violence against police officers. In a vague executive order signed at the official swearing-in ceremony for new Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump instructed Sessions to work with Congress to establish 'new Federal crimes, and increase penalties for existing Federal crimes' to protect law enforcement officers.... Three recent high-profile, ambush-style killings of police officers  —  one committed by a Trump fan and Confederate flag enthusiast in Iowan — nhave generated a sense of political urgency around officer safety. Yet rather than deterring such rare and devastating assassinations, Thursday’s order lays down fertilizer for a frightfully dank new crop of routine police abuses." -- CW 

Trump and Spicer on the Reality of Military Action vs. John McCain. No Contest. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post. "The White House press secretary took an extraordinary position Wednesday, saying anyone who questioned the success of the raid in Yemen that led to the death of a Navy SEAL was doing a disservice to the SEAL's memory. The target was [John] McCain. Then NBC News tracked down McCain (R-Ariz.) to get his response to [Sean] Spicer. And it was something. 'Many years ago when I was imprisoned in North Vietnam, there was an attempt to rescue the POWs,' McCain began, mentioning details of his biography that everyone knows but McCain included for emphasis. He continued: 'Unfortunately, the prison had been evacuated. But the brave men who took on that mission and risked their lives in an effort to rescue us prisoners of war were genuine American heroes. Because the mission failed did not in any way diminish their courage and willingness to help their fellow Americans who were held captive. Mr. Spicer should know that story.' McCain then walked away punctuating the comment." ...

     ... Akhilleus: Dear Sean: this for you, and this for your horse.

Criticism of Trump Not Allowed. Ever. Uri Friedman of the Atlantic. "In the wake of the Trump administration’s first counterterrorism mission, which reportedly killed 14 al-Qaeda fighters, one U.S. Navy SEAL, and an unknown number of civilians in Yemen, the president and his press secretary have set a remarkably steep standard for when the administration’s military actions can be criticized: If the action is against an enemy and involves sacrifice, it must be accepted as a success. That message was underlined by a series of tweets sent Thursday morning by Donald Trump, who was responding to John McCain’s characterization of the raid as a 'failure.' McCain, as the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is one of the congressional leaders charged with oversight of the American military. But the Republican senator 'should not be talking about the success or failure of a mission to the media,' Trump wrote. 'Only emboldens the enemy!'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Akhilleus: Of course nothing Trump does emboldens the enemy. And it doesn't matter how badly his plans go, anything Trump does is, by definition, brilliant. Funny how a guy who avoided military service at all costs knows so much about it. Oh, wait. He did get that medal for making the bed. Those tight hospital corners are making those al-Qaeda fighters shake in their boots. ...

... AND Spicer goes full Melissa McCarthy at Thursday's confrontation with the opposition a/k/a daily press briefing. (Okay, he didn't shove the podium at any reporters. But close.) -- CW 

** Matthew Rosenberg & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "Weeks before President Trump’s inauguration, his national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, discussed American sanctions against Russia, as well as areas of possible cooperation, with that country’s ambassador to the United States, according to current and former American officials. Throughout the discussions, the message Mr. Flynn conveyed to the ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak — that the Obama administration was Moscow’s adversary and that relations with Russia would change under Mr. Trump — was unambiguous and highly inappropriate, the officials said.... And they said it was only one in a series of contacts between the two men that began before the election and also included talk of cooperating in the fight against the Islamic State, along with other issues. The officials said that Mr. Flynn had never made explicit promises of sanctions relief, but that he had appeared to leave the impression it would be possible.... The accounts of the conversations raise the prospect that Mr. Flynn violated a law against private citizens’ engaging in diplomacy, and directly contradict statements made by Trump advisers. They have said that Mr. Flynn spoke to Mr. Kislyak a few days after Christmas merely to arrange a phone call between President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Mr. Trump after the inauguration." Emphasis added. -- CW ...

... "I Can't Remember." -- Flynn. Greg Miller, et al., of the Washington Post: "Flynn on Wednesday denied that he had discussed sanctions with Kislyak. Asked in an interview whether he had ever done so, he twice said, 'No.' On Thursday, Flynn, through his spokesman, backed away from the denial. The spokesman said Flynn 'indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.'... [Last month, mike pence said] there had been no contact between members of Trump’s team and Russia during the campaign. To suggest otherwise, he said, 'is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy.'... Nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.... Putin’s muted response [to sanctions] — which took White House officials by surprise — raised some officials’ suspicions that Moscow may have been promised a reprieve, and triggered a search by U.S. spy agencies for clues. 'Something happened in those 24 hours' between Obama’s announcement and Putin’s response, a former senior U.S. official said. Officials began poring over intelligence reports, intercepted communications and diplomatic cables, and saw evidence that Flynn and Kislyak had communicated by text and telephone around the time of the announcement. Trump transition officials acknowledged those contacts weeks later after they were reported in The Washington Post but denied that sanctions were discussed.” Emphasis added. ...

... CW: Astounding! U.S. spooks had to spy on the guy who is now the national security advisor. Once they caught him, he admitted to the contacts (what choice did he have?) but forgot/lied about the content. Seems the Justice Department should launch a criminal investigation, and Congress should go apeshit over this traitorous meddling. Oh. Jeff Sessions. Jim Comey. Mitch McConnell. Paul Ryan. We've never seen anything like this either: a complete breakdown in administrative & congressional oversight because rich white people. Meanwhile, Trump voters are going on with their daily lives, going to church & tractor pulls, listening to Rushbo & telling the neighbor they're glad they have Affordable Care Act insurance & not ObamaCare. Everything is great again! ...

... Kevin Drum: "The routine lying by the Trump administration is just beyond belief.... Do these guys ever tell the truth? About anything?" -- CW 

Hawking the Trump Brand. Associated Press, via the Washington Post. "House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz says White House counselor Kellyanne Conway’s promotion of Ivanka Trump’s fashion brand was 'wrong, wrong, wrong, clearly over the line, unacceptable.' The Republican congressman said the White House must refer the matter to the Office of Government Ethics for review. He said he and Democratic Oversight Leader Elijah Cummings are writing a letter to the office and he will also write to President Donald Trump about the matter. 'It needs to be dealt with,' he told The Associated Press. 'There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it.' Chaffetz was referring to Conway’s Thursday interview with Fox News in which she boasted she was giving the president’s daughter 'a free commercial here' and urged viewers to 'Go buy Ivanka’s stuff.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ...Akhilleus: If a Confederate chisler and hyper-partisan hack like Chaffetz thinks that a White House flack hawking the Trump Brand is over the line, the line must not be visible within miles and miles. Had this been a Democratic White House doing this, Chaffetz would be calling for immediate impeachment. Had this been a Clinton White House, he'd be calling for a firing squad. But Trump? Well, they just need to calm down. ...

... Max Greenwood of the Hill: "The two top lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee on Thursday called on the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) to recommend disciplinary action against White House counselor Kellyanne Conway for publicly promoting Ivanka Trump's clothing line. In a letter to OGE Director Walter Shaub Jr., Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and ranking democrat Elijah Cummings (Md.) said Conway's comments appeared to be an example of the White House counselor using her government office to endorse the personal business of President Trump's daughter." -- CW ...

... Conway Crashes OGE Website. Kyle Cheney of Politico: "The website of the federal government’s ethics watchdog has been inaccessible for hours, and agency officials say it’s because of surging traffic.... Several hours after the site became inaccessible, the agency tweeted, 'OGE’s website, phone system and email system are receiving an extraordinary volume of contacts from citizens about recent events.' The tweet seemed to be referring to ... Kellyanne Conway, who appeared to violate ethics rules that prohibit executive branch officials from endorsing individual brands or products early Thursday morning." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... CW: So in one 24-hour news cycle, we learn that the POTUS broke the law, his national security advisor broke the law & his something-something advisor broke the law. And then there were the daily lies, hissy fits, insults, venality, etc. Power corrupts, to be sure, as we've witnessed thousands of times. But there has been nothing, nothing, in American history like the Trumpocalypse.

Philip Rucker, et al., of the Washington Post portray Jared Kushner as the guy who can ramp down Trump, but his ability to do so is limited. -- CW ...

... Jason & the Naughts. AP: "U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz was met by frequent, deafening boos at a Thursday town hall as constituents grilled him on everything from investigating President Donald Trump's tax returns to Planned Parenthood. A young girl asked the Republican about his plans to protect the air and water and the crowd booed when he replied that supports an all-of-the-above energy strategy, which includes mining for coal. The chairman of the House Oversight Committee repeatedly said, 'hold on,' and 'give me a second,' as the audience members reacted negatively to nearly all of his statements. Hundreds of people stood outside the auditorium holding signs and chanting, 'Vote him out,' while one woman was arrested and put into handcuffs." CW: Good for you, Utah! ...

... Elliot Hannon of Slate collected some videos of the crowd.

Amy Goldstein & Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "A polarized Senate voted early Friday morning to confirm Tom Price, the conservative Georgia congressman who has been one of Congress’s most vehement opponents of the Affordable Care Act, as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. The 52-47 vote made Price the latest in a series of controversial Cabinet nominees whom the Senate’s Republican majority has been strong enough to muscle through on party-line votes. Price did not draw a single vote from Senate Democrats, who argued that the intersection of the nominee’s personal investments and legislative behavior warranted deeper scrutiny of his ethics. Lacking the votes to defeat his confirmation, Democrats instead marshaled a war of words. They used the hours leading to the 2 a.m. roll call to read testimonials from Americans with severe, expensive-to-treat illnesses and gratitude to the ACA, Medicare or Medicaid — cornerstones of federal health policy that the Democrats accused the nominee of wanting to undermine." -- CW 

Elania Johnson & Tara Palmeri of Politico: "Chuck Cooper, the conservative Supreme Court litigator, is withdrawing his name from consideration to be the next solicitor general, opening the door for the husband of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway to be appointed to the role.... Cooper ... is a confidant of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.... The White House was divided between the two candidates, with Kellyanne Conway and others advocating for her husband and another camp, led by Sessions, making the case for Cooper.... Conway ... is perhaps best known for the behind-the-scenes role he played in the Paula Jones saga during Bill Clinton’s presidency – it was Conway who, along with a small cadre of elite lawyers, wrote Jones’ successful appeal to the Supreme Court, which set the legal precedent allowing a sitting president to be sued in civil court." ...

     ... CW: And that, people, has come back to bite our Dear Leader, who has dozens of lawsuits pending against him and now can't wriggle out of them.

Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post: "In an escalation of Democratic efforts to highlight questions about President Trump’s potential conflicts of interest and alleged ties to Russia, a senior House Democrat is dusting off a little-used legislative tool to force a committee debate or floor vote on the issue. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) filed a 'resolution of inquiry' Thursday, a relatively obscure parliamentary tactic used to force presidents and executive-branch agencies to share records with Congress. Under House practice, such a resolution must be debated and acted upon in committee or else it can be discharged to the House floor for consideration. Nadler’s resolution asks Attorney General Jeff Sessions to provide 'copies of any document, record, memo, correspondence, or other communication of the Department of Justice' that pertains to any 'criminal or counterintelligence investigation' into Trump, his White House team or certain campaign associates; any investment made by a foreign power or agent thereof in Trump’s businesses; Trump’s plans to distance himself from his business empire; and any Trump-related examination of federal conflict of interest laws or the emoluments clause of the Constitution." -- CW ...

... Sarah Binder, in a New York Times op-ed, has suggestions on how Senate Democrats should leverage the rules to their advantage. "If Democrats adopt the Republican playbook, Senate rules will largely work in their favor." ...

Tim Egan: "... Democrats ... should think of Joe Biden’s Scranton, Pa., every time they take to a podium." CW: News flash, Tim! Pretty much, they do. But Republicans have learned to suck up all the light in the room. It isn't what Democrats say; it's that they must learn to say it so that Adlai Stevenson's non-thinking majority can comprehend it. ...

... Jonathan Chait: "There is a long-standing belief in Washington, more superstition than reality, that the opposing party needs to work with the president for the sake of its own self-interest.... Time’s cover story on Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer revolves around the alleged tension between Democrats’ desire to block Donald Trump and their political need to work with him.... The most powerful beliefs are ones that people feel free to repeat without evidence. The evidence shows that if Trump’s agenda is stopped — even 'popular' parts, whatever those are — voters will blame Trump and his party. The system would function better if that weren’t the case, but it is." -- CW 

The Hot New Corporate Strategy: Flatter the Dictator. Jordan Weissman of Slate. "On Wednesday, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich stopped by the Oval Office for a photo op with President [Donald] Trump and announced that thanks to the new administration’s business-friendly policies, his company would invest $7 billion to finish a new chip factory in Arizona employing thousands of workers. The publicity stunt raised a few eyebrows, since Intel first pledged to build the plant back in 2011, and while the project was later paused, industry watchers did expect the company to finish it eventually. 'This would have happened anyway. This was always part of their plan,' one analyst told the Washington Post. 'But obviously the current administration and Intel are going to try to get some political gain out of it.' This appears to be the hot new survival strategy in corporate America, at least according to the Financial Times . Fearful that they might become the target of an angry tweet, corporate chieftains are being told to give Trump news he can brag about instead, such as new factory openings or hiring—whether or not the White House actually had anything to do with it." Emphasis added. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Akhilleus: The Accommodation of Fascist Bullying has begun in earnest. What at first was Trump's way of grabbing credit has now become a corporate strategy. Give him credit for everything and, like a happy child with a new toy, maybe he'll stay out of our hair for a few hours.

Marie's Sports Report

The Miami Marlins Trumps. Andrew Sorkin & Michael de la Merced of the New York Times: "The Kushners, the New York real estate family whose scion is a close adviser to President Trump, are in negotiations to buy the Miami Marlins baseball team.... The Kushners — led by Joshua Kushner, a venture capitalist, and Joseph Meyer, his brother-in-law and key lieutenant for the family’s investments — have pursued the Marlins for several months, devising a complicated financial arrangement that would include bringing in partners later.... Mr. Kushner is the younger brother of Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law.... The deal has already prompted questions within Major League Baseball, according to the people briefed on the conversations, about what kind of relationship Mr. Trump would have to the team and whether that would be a benefit or a disadvantage." The deal is not a sure thing. -- CW 

Aidan Quigley of Politico: "Defensive end Chris Long and running back LeGarette Blount of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots said Thursday they won’t visit the White House with the team, joining three other teammates in boycotting the celebration.... Teammates Martellus Bennett, Devin McCourty and Dont’a Hightower" also are skipping the Trump & Brady Show. -- CW
Thursday
Feb092017

The Commentariat -- February 9, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Jonathan Landay & David Rohde of Reuters: "In his first call as president with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump denounced a treaty that caps U.S. and Russian deployment of nuclear warheads as a bad deal for the United States, according to two U.S. officials and one former U.S. official with knowledge of the call. When Putin raised the possibility of extending the 2010 treaty, known as New START, Trump paused to ask his aides in an aside what the treaty was, these sources said. Trump then told Putin the treaty was one of several bad deals negotiated by the Obama administration, saying that New START favored Russia. Trump also talked about his own popularity, the sources said.... During a debate in the 2016 presidential election, Trump said Russia had "outsmarted" the United States with the treaty, which he called 'START-Up.' He asserted incorrectly then that it had allowed Russia to continue to produce nuclear warheads while the United States could not. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he supported the treaty during his Senate confirmation hearings." -- CW ...

... Nukes? Whatever. Zack Beauchamp of Vox: "Three things stick out about this report, presuming it’s accurate (both Rohde and Landay are skilled veterans of the national-security beat, and the White House has declined to comment on the report...). The first is that Trump still clearly does not know basic facts about American foreign policy, like the name of a major treaty — and that this somehow leaked to the press from one of his top advisers, the only people in the room for the Putin call. The second is that the president seems willing to make major policy changes anyway.... Finally, the comments seem to contradict stuff Trump has said recently about nuclear weapons. Just days before his inauguration, Trump said in an interview that he hoped to work with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin to reduce both countries’ nuclear arsenals.... Those comments, in turn, directly contradicted a December tweet, where he said that the US 'must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.'” -- CW 

Hawking the Trump Brand. Associated Press, via the Washington Post. "House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz says White House counselor Kellyanne Conway’s promotion of Ivanka Trump’s fashion brand was 'wrong, wrong, wrong, clearly over the line, unacceptable.' The Republican congressman said the White House must refer the matter to the Office of Government Ethics for review. He said he and Democratic Oversight Leader Elijah Cummings are writing a letter to the office and he will also write to President Donald Trump about the matter. 'It needs to be dealt with,' he told The Associated Press. 'There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it.' Chaffetz was referring to Conway’s Thursday interview with Fox News in which she boasted she was giving the president’s daughter 'a free commercial here' and urged viewers to 'Go buy Ivanka’s stuff.'" ...

     ...Akhilleus: If a Confederate chisler and hyper-partisan hack like Chaffetz thinks that a White House flack hawking the Trump Brand is over the line, the line must not be visible within miles and miles. Had this been a Democratic White House doing this, Chaffetz would be calling for immediate impeachment. Had this been a Clinton White House, he'd be calling for a firing squad. But Trump? Well, they just need to calm down.

... Conway Crashes OGE Website. Kyle Cheney of Politico: "The website of the federal government’s ethics watchdog has been inaccessible for hours, and agency officials say it’s because of surging traffic.... Several hours after the site became inaccessible, the agency tweeted, 'OGE’s website, phone system and email system are receiving an extraordinary volume of contacts from citizens about recent events.' The tweet seemed to be referring to ... Kellyanne Conway, who appeared to violate ethics rules that prohibit executive branch officials from endorsing individual brands or products early Thursday morning." -- CW 

President* Lies. Again. Jeremy Diamond of CNN. "President Donald Trump falsely accused a Democratic senator Thursday of misrepresenting his Supreme Court nominee's words, according to several familiar with the incident. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Wednesday that Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump's nominee, told him he found Trump's attack on a federal judge on Twitter 'disheartening' and 'demoralizing.' Within a half-hour, Gorsuch spokesman Ron Bonjean, who was tapped by the White House to head communications for Gorsuch, confirmed that the nominee, Gorsuch, used those words in his meeting with Blumenthal. Several other senators, including Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, later relayed similar accounts of Gorsuch forcefully criticizing Trump's public attacks on the judiciary branch." ...

     ... Akhilleus: Big surprise to hear that Trump is lying again. But the Gorsuch comment could be a sly way, especially given the fact that he has apparently repeated his statement to a number of senators, of demonstrating his ability to stand up to Trump as a SCOTUS judge, something for which Democrats will want assurances. ...

     ... Update: Jordan Fabian of the Hill: "President Trump on Thursday doubled down on his assertion that a Democratic senator 'misrepresented' his Supreme Court nominee’s criticism of his comments about federal judges, even though the nominee's own spokesperson has confirmed them.... 'His comments were misrepresented and what you should do is ask Sen. Blumenthal about his Vietnam record, which didn't exist,' Trump said after meeting with a group of Democratic and Republican senators to discuss Gorsuch’s nomination." -- CW 

Criticism of Trump Not Allowed. Ever. Uri Friedman of the Atlantic. "In the wake of the Trump administration’s first counterterrorism mission, which reportedly killed 14 al-Qaeda fighters, one U.S. Navy SEAL, and an unknown number of civilians in Yemen, the president and his press secretary have set a remarkably steep standard for when the administration’s military actions can be criticized: If the action is against an enemy and involves sacrifice, it must be accepted as a success. That message was underlined by a series of tweets sent Thursday morning by Donald Trump, who was responding to John McCain’s characterization of the raid as a 'failure.' McCain, as the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is one of the congressional leaders charged with oversight of the American military. But the Republican senator 'should not be talking about the success or failure of a mission to the media,' Trump wrote. 'Only emboldens the enemy!'" ...

     ... Akhilleus: Of course nothing Trump does emboldens the enemy. And it doesn't matter how badly his plans go, anything Trump does is, by definition, brilliant. Funny how a guy who avoided military service at all costs knows so much about it. Oh, wait. He did get that medal for making the bed. Those tight hospital corners are making those al-Qaeda fighters shake in their boots.

The Hot New Corporate Strategy: Flatter the Dictator. Jordan Weissman of Slate. "On Wednesday, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich stopped by the Oval Office for a photo op with President [Donald] Trump and announced that thanks to the new administration’s business-friendly policies, his company would invest $7 billion to finish a new chip factory in Arizona employing thousands of workers. The publicity stunt raised a few eyebrows, since Intel first pledged to build the plant back in 2011, and while the project was later paused, industry watchers did expect the company to finish it eventually. 'This would have happened anyway. This was always part of their plan,' one analyst told the Washington Post. 'But obviously the current administration and Intel are going to try to get some political gain out of it.' This appears to be the hot new survival strategy in corporate America, at least according to the Financial Times . Fearful that they might become the target of an angry tweet, corporate chieftains are being told to give Trump news he can brag about instead, such as new factory openings or hiring—whether or not the White House actually had anything to do with it." ...

     ... Akhilleus: The Accomodation of Fascist Bullying has begun in earnest. What at first was Trump's way of grabbing credit has now become a corporate strategy. Give him credit for everything and, like a happy child with a new toy, maybe he'll stay out of our hair for a few hours.

Trump and Spicer on the Reality of Military Action vs. John McCain. No Contest. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post. "The White House press secretary took an extraordinary position Wednesday, saying anyone who questioned the success of the raid in Yemen that led to the death of a Navy SEAL was doing a disservice to the SEAL's memory. The target was [John] McCain. Then NBC News tracked down McCain (R-Ariz.) to get his response to [Sean] Spicer. And it was something. 'Many years ago when I was imprisoned in North Vietnam, there was an attempt to rescue the POWs,' McCain began, mentioning details of his biography that everyone knows but McCain included for emphasis. He continued: 'Unfortunately, the prison had been evacuated. But the brave men who took on that mission and risked their lives in an effort to rescue us prisoners of war were genuine American heroes. Because the mission failed did not in any way diminish their courage and willingness to help their fellow Americans who were held captive. Mr. Spicer should know that story.' McCain then walked away punctuating the comment."

     ... Akhilleus: Dear Sean: this for you, and this for your horse.

Aidan Quigley of Politico: "Defensive end Chris Long and running back LeGarette Blount of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots said Thursday they won’t visit the White House with the team, joining three other teammates in boycotting the celebration.... Teammates Martellus Bennett, Devin McCourty and Dont’a Hightower" also are skipping the Trump & Brady Show. -- CW 

AND Spicer goes full Melissa McCarthy at Thursday's confrontation with the opposition a/k/a daily press briefing. (Okay, he didn't shove the podium at any reporters. But close.) -- CW 

*****

CW: Still can't see WTF I'm doing.

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, privately expressed dismay on Wednesday over Mr. Trump’s increasingly aggressive attacks on the judiciary, calling the president’s criticism of independent judges 'demoralizing' and 'disheartening.'... Judge Gorsuch expressed his disappointment with Mr. Trump’s comments about the judiciary in a private conversation with Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut.... The spectacle of a Supreme Court nominee breaking so starkly with the president who named him underscored the unusual nature of Mr. Trump’s public feud with the judiciary. Speaking to a group of sheriffs and police chiefs on Wednesday, the president said the appellate judges had failed to grasp concepts even 'a bad high school student would understand.' 'This is highly unusual,' said Michael W. McConnell, a former federal judge who directs the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford University. 'Mr. Trump is shredding longstanding norms of etiquette and interbranch comity.'” -- CW ...

... Jordan Fabian of the Hill: "President Trump on Wednesday went after a panel of federal judges weighing whether a court order blocking his travel ban should be lifted. Speaking to a gathering of law enforcement officials, Trump argued the judges should immediately reinstate the executive order in the name of national security. 'I don’t want to call a court biased, so I won’t call it biased,' the president said at a gathering of the Major Cities Chiefs Association in Washington. 'Courts seem to be so political and it would be so great for our justice system if they could read a statement and do what’s right.'... It’s highly unusual for presidents to publicly comment on court cases dealing with their policy proposals — particularly as a court is weighing a case.” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Paul Waldman: "Notice the clever 'I won’t call it biased,' which is a rhetorical technique known as paralepsis, in which you say something through the very act of claiming you’re not saying it. Well played, sir!" -- CW ...

... Louis Nelson of Politico: Speaking to a group of law enforcement officers & "unable to personally defend his controversial executive order on immigration in court, President Donald Trump offered his own oral argument in its defense Wednesday morning.... 'It’s sad, I think it’s a sad day. I think our security is at risk today. And it will be at risk until such time as we are entitled and get what we are entitled to as citizens of this country,' Trump said. 'It was done for the security of our nation. The security of our citizens. So that people come in who aren’t going to do us harm. And that’s why it was done. And it couldn’t have been written any more precisely. It’s not like, "Oh gee, we wish it were written better.’"It’s written beautifully.... If you were a good student in high school or a bad student in high school, you can understand this, and it’s really incredible to me that we have a court case that’s going on so long,'” ...

      ... CW: That's pretty funny because even among the top dogs of his own administration, there was strong disagreement about what the beautifully-written Muslim ban meant. I guess they not as smart as high school students who do poorly. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

If the U.S. does not win this case as it so obviously should, we can never have the security and safety to which we are entitled. Politics! -- Donald Trump, Wednesday ...

... Anything You Say Can & Will Be Used Against You in a Court of Law. Mark Stern in Slate. "If [U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit] judges are limited to analyzing the text of the order and nothing else, they may have a hard time inferring that it disfavors Muslims. If they can look to [ President Donald] Trump’s comments about the order, however, they can easily conclude that its purpose was to discriminate against Muslims on the basis of religion. All three judges on Tuesday’s panel appeared willing to consider Trump’s comments about the order in addition to the text itself. That is a heartening sign for [the state of] Washington — and it should make the government very, very nervous." -- Akhilleus (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Murtaza Hussain of The Intercept: "Countering violent extremism [CVE] programs, intended to prevent homegrown terrorism, have never been an easy sell with targeted communities in the United States.... Never popular in the first place, domestic counterextremism programs are now likely to become much more aggressive and bellicose. President Trump reportedly plans to redirect counterextremism programs to focus exclusively on Muslim Americans to the exclusion of other groups...Despite their controversial nature, CVE programs did receive some level of interest from communities in the United States during the Obama administration. Counterterrorism experts say that the new administration — which engages in rhetoric and behavior overtly discriminatory toward Muslim Americans — will likely destroy many existing partnerships while generating opposition to new programs...Some of that resistance is already starting to materialize...." --safari

Officials Warn Trump Will Encourage Terrorism. Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "Senior defense and intelligence officials have cautioned the White House that a proposal to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization could endanger U.S. troops in Iraq and the overall fight against the Islamic State, and would be an unprecedented use of a law that was not designed to sanction government institutions. Defense and intelligence concerns have been expressed at the highest levels over the past several days, as the White House was preparing to roll out an executive order dealing with both Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Muslim Brotherhood...." ...

     ... CW: It is becoming increasingly apparent that Trump sees a major terrorist attack as being in his interest. Such an attack would raise the fear level he has tried so hard to instill and would give him an excuse to seize further executive powers. Bill of Rights? Ta ta. (Naturally, I don't think this is an insane conspiracy theory; it's an effort to evaluate the purpose of Trump's actions & remarks to date.)

Zack Ford of Think Progress: "During Wednesday’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stood by the administration’s position that last week’s raid in Yemen was a 'success,' despite the death of a Navy SEAL and many civilians and reports that President Trump signed off on it 'without sufficient intelligence, ground support, or adequate backup preparations.'... 'It’s absolutely a success,' he said, 'and anyone who would suggest it’s not a success does disservice to the life of Chief Ryan Owens....'" Spicer said Sen. John McCain should apologize for calling the operation a failure. "Many on Twitter were quick to point out the hypocrisy of the idea that operations in which military personnel died cannot be criticized. For example, Trump has repeatedly called the Iraq War, which resulted in the deaths of 4,424 U.S. soldiers, a 'disaster.'” ...

     ... CW: New Rule: If Donald Trump does it, it's a success. ...

... Paul Waldman: "It’s safe to say that if Hillary Clinton had ordered the special forces raid in Yemen on January 29th that went so terribly wrong, by now there would be five simultaneous congressional investigations underway, not to mention blanket coverage in the news media. But despite multiple deaths including one American servicemember, Navy SEAL Ryan Owens, White House spokesperson Sean Spicer has insisted that the mission was a smashing success.... A look at the way this decision was made is not encouraging.... It was approved by President Trump at a dinner that included not only the relevant national security personnel but also his senior adviser Steve Bannon and his son-in-law Jared Kushner.... We’ve never seen a president who combined complete ignorance with rampaging overconfidence quite the way Trump does.... Anyone who wants Trump to approve a military mission understands that they need only describe it as tough or strong or bold.... There will be many future situations ... where in the White House we’ll have an ignorant, overconfident, impulsive president being pushed along by advisers playing to his worst instincts as they harbor their own grand visions of holy war." -- CW 

** Tara Palmeri et al., of Politico: "President Donald Trump spent much of a recent phone call with French President Francois Hollande veering off into rants about the U.S. getting shaken down by other countries, according to a senior official with knowledge of the call, creating an awkward interaction with a critical U.S. ally.... At one point, Trump declared that the French can continue protecting NATO, but that the U.S. 'wants our money back,' the official said, adding that Trump seemed to be 'obsessing over money.' 'It was a difficult conversation, because he talks like he’s speaking publicly,' the official said. 'It's not the usual way heads of state speak to each other. He speaks with slogans and the conversation was not completely organized.' The revelations about the unconventional call are only the latest in a series of leaked accounts of Trump’s calls with foreign leaders that are generating increasing doubts about the new president’s style of diplomacy at a time of global uncertainty." --safari

Ms. Garcia de Rayos is currently being detained by ICE based on a removal order issued by the Department of Justice's Executive Office for Immigration Review which became final in May 2013. -- ICE news release ...

... Trump's Extreme Deportation Policies Go into Effect. Nigel Duara of the Los Angeles Times: "A Phoenix woman in the country illegally who was considered a low priority for deportation by the Obama administration has been taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Immigrant advocates say her detention reflects the severity of the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration. Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, 36, had lived in the country since she was 14. She was arrested in 2008 during a workplace raid ordered by then-Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio at Golfland Sunsplash amusement park in Mesa, Ariz., and convicted of felony identity theft for possessing false papers. A mother of two, she continued to live in Arizona and checked in with ICE every six months. On her scheduled meeting Wednesday morning, she arrived at the ICE field office in Phoenix surrounded by supporters .. [and was] arrested.... Garcia de Rayos' detention is an early indication of the reach of an executive order by President Trump on Jan. 25...." -- CW 

Ivanka: Poor Little Rich Girl! Sarah Halzack of the Washington Post: "In January, days before President [Donald] Trump’s inauguration, his daughter Ivanka Trump declared that she’d be stepping away from her management role at the clothing and shoe brand that bears her name. And yet, on Wednesday, the president lashed out on Twitter at department store Nordstrom iover its decision to stop carrying Ivanka Trump products, saying his daughter 'has been treated so unfairly' by the retailing giant..., Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary, defended Trump’s tweet to reporters during a briefing on Wednesday, saying 'He has every right to stand up for his family and applaud their business activities, their success.' Spicer also said, 'This is a direct attack on his policies and her name.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

     ... Akhilleus: What policies? That he and his family get to monetize the presidency to the tune of millions of dollars? How has this unconstitutional piracy been allowed to go on for so long? When will action be taken to disallow the Trump family from enriching themselves, against the law of the land? Trump is making money hand over fist, Junior and Little Dracula are taking junkets on our dime, and with Secret Service protection, to pile up the filthy lucre, Melania is suing people because she feels like her chance at enriching herself beyond the imagination has been lowered from hundreds of millions to tens of millions, and now Poor Ivanka. What a family of grifters and con artists. When will Mitch McConnell ask these greedy pigs to shut up? ...

... Libby Nelson of Vox: "This isn’t the first time Trump (or someone tweeting under his name — the tweet was sent from an iPhone, not the Android phone Trump usually uses) has lashed out at an individual business for decisions he didn’t like. But it is the first time he’s done it with a clear financial, as well as personal, stake in the outcome. Ivanka Trump’s clothing, shoes, and jewelry lines are part of the Trump Organization, Trump’s business empire." -- CW ...

... Martin Longman, in the Washington Monthly, notes that the Nordstrom attack tweet went out 21 minutes after Trump's daily intelligence briefing was to have begun. Headline: "Trump can't focus on national security." -- CW ...

... Nathalie Baptiste of Mother Jones: "Norm Eisen, who is the chair of CREW's board and a former White House ethics lawyer, stated that Trump's tweet is grounds for a lawsuit. 'Outrageous. @nordstrom, others injured should consider suing, incl. under CA Unfair Comp Law, forbidding "any unfair biz act." I will help!'"-- CW ...

... Aaron Rupar of Think Progress: "During his Wednesday press conference, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer characterized Nordstrom’s decision to discontinue sales of Ivanka Trump-branded products as 'an attack' that is 'not acceptable.' Nordstrom says the decision was strictly business, but Spicer made clear he interprets the move as unfairly targeting the president’s family because of policy disagreements.... Spicer’s message was clear  —  businesses that make decisions cutting against the financial interests of the president and his family will be subject to retribution." -- CW ...

... The Upside to First Lady Cruella DeTrump's Lawsuit. Timothy O'Brien of Bloomberg: "Since [Melania Trump] is seeking at least $150 million in damages stemming from missed business opportunities [that her status as First Lady provides], the lawyers representing the Daily Mail should eventually avail themselves of their discovery powers to secure each and every e-mail, communique and document about White House business prospects that the Trump parents and children discussed. They should also subpoena the Trump family’s tax returns and banking records while they’re at it. If President Trump isn’t inclined to release his tax returns or be more transparent about his business dealings, then maybe the courts can help him along." -- CW 

"The Atlanta Massacre." Holly Yan of CNN: "Another high-profile Trump administration official has made statements about a terror attack that never occurred. This time, it's Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Three times in one week, Spicer alluded to a terror attack in Atlanta by someone from overseas. But the last high-profile terror attack in Atlanta was the Centennial Olympic Park bombing, 21 years ago. And that bombing was carried out by Eric Robert Rudolph, a radical right-wing terrorist from Florida -- not a foreign-inspired terrorist." ...

    ... CW: On the positive side, it's way better to live in a city that endures a Trumpty-Dumbty fake-terrorist attack than in one where a terrorist actually does attack.

Paul Blumenthal & JM Rieger of Huffington Post: Will the paranoia pals or delusional duo, Trump and Bannon, lead us to doomsday? Steve Bannon Believes The Apocalypse Is Coming And War Is Inevitable. "Generational theorists William Strauss and Neil Howe ... argued that American history operates in four-stage cycles, that move from major crisis to awakening to major crisis..., called 'Fourth Turnings'. " Bannon is convinced the US is in its fourth turning, the "final, apocalyptic part of the cycle ... [in which] new leadership will assert public authority and demand private sacrifice. Where leaders had once been inclined to alleviate societal pressures, they will now aggravate them to command the nation’s attention.” Bannon blames the crisis on "expansionist Islam and ... expansionist China" who are a threat to the Judeo-Christian West." -- LT (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Looting America. Tom Engelhardt of Tomdispatch.com, via Juan Cole: "Think of it as the 25/8 news cycle.... Somehow we have yet to truly come to grips with it. Never in the history of the media has a single figure ... been able to focus the 'news' in this way, making himself the essence of all reporting.... Perhaps ... [we could try] to look past the all-enveloping 'news' of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Were you to do that, you might ... conclude that, despite the sound and the fury of the last two weeks, almost nothing has yet actually happened.... Or put another way, if you think the last two weeks were news, just wait for the wealthiest cabinet in our history to settle in, a true crew of predatory capitalists.... This will undoubtedly be a government of the looters, by the looters, and for the looters, and a Congress of the same. As of yet, however, we’ve seen only the smallest hints of what is to come." --safari

Kevin Drum: "Every new White House has lots of growing pains and plenty of leaks. But they never feature leak after leak after leak portraying the president as a boob. That's something new." -- CW 

Alleen Brown of The Intercept: "On Tuesday the Army Corps of Engineers gave notice to Congress that within 24 hours it would grant an easement allowing Energy Transfer Partners to move forward with construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline...Lawyers for the tribe say they will argue in court that an environmental impact statement, mandated by the Army Corps under Obama, was wrongfully terminated.... Although the tribal government once supported the string of anti-pipeline camps that began popping up last spring, leaders have since insisted that pipeline opponents go home and stay away from the reservation.... A 'couple thousand people; are headed back to the camps, including contingents of veterans.... A message titled 'This is the #NoDAPL Last Stand' posted by various native-led groups fighting the pipeline called for an international day of emergency actions' on Wednesday. By Wednesday morning, a website described actions planned in 18 states." --safari

Eric Lichtblau & Matt Flegenheimer of the New York Times: "Senator Jeff Sessions was confirmed on Wednesday as President Trump’s attorney general, capping a bitter and racially charged nomination battle that crested with the procedural silencing of a leading Democrat, Senator Elizabeth Warren. Mr. Sessions ... survived a near-party-line vote, 52 to 47.... No Republicans broke ranks in their support of a colleague.... But the confirmation process — ferocious even by the standards of moldering decorum that have defined the body’s recent years — laid bare the Senate’s deep divisions at the outset of the Trump presidency. At the same time, the treatment of Ms. Warren, who was forced to stop speaking late Tuesday after criticizing Mr. Sessions from the Senate floor, rekindled the gender-infused politics that animated the presidential election and the women’s march protesting Mr. Trump the day after his inauguration last month." ...

     ... Laurel Raymond of Think Progress: "On the Senate floor Wednesday night, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) used parliamentary procedure to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) after she quoted from a letter by Coretta Scott King, preventing her from reading it. Later in the night, however, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) elaborated on the context of the letter and quoted from it at length unimpeded.... Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) have since followed Merkley in reading the letter on the Senate Floor without censure. In a tweet, Merkley questions why they, all male Senators, were not silenced for performing virtually the same act as their female colleague." -- CW ...

... Susan Chira of the New York Times: "Was there a woman who didn’t recognize herself in the specter of Elizabeth Warren silenced by a roomful of men? The explosion of indignation, mockery and free publicity that greeted Tuesday night’s move to prevent Senator Warren from reading a letter about Senator Jeff Sessions written by Coretta Scott King resonates with so many women precisely because they have been there, over and over again.... A report on the website Axios that Mr. Trump wants his female staff members to 'dress like women' — whatever that is supposed to mean — inspired a separate round of Twitter mockery, with posts of female soldiers, astronauts and firefighters.... Senator Mitch McConnell’s condescending defense of the vote to silence Senator Warren prompted the creation of a social media meme and new rallying cry: 'She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.' Under the hashtag #shepersisted, women posted pictures of their own personal heroines...." -- CW ...

... Gail Collins: "We will now pause to contemplate the fact that this week the Senate Republicans attempted to forward their agenda by silencing Elizabeth Warren while she was reading a letter from Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow. In explanation, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell basically called Warren a pushy girl. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving. Never has a political party reached such a pinnacle of success, and then instantly begun using it to inspire the opposition." --CW ...

... Greg Sargent on the Senate shutting down Elizabeth Warren's reading of Coretta Scott King's letter against Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III: "... the point is, Republicans don’t care what message this sends. And herein lies the way in which this whole episode captures the unsettling broader reality that Democrats face right now. Warren was shut down from speaking by Republicans who employed an arcane Senate rule; Democrats are shut out of power, and Republicans will use any and all procedural means at their disposal to render them as powerless and irrelevant as possible. And Republicans see no reason to fear any political repercussions from whatever message any of it sends.... Republicans are totally abdicating any meaningful oversight role toward Trump, despite his unprecedented conflicts of interest and possible corruption...." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Rule Silencing Warren Is Seldom Invoked. Amber Phillips of the Washington Post. "On Tuesday night, Republicans handed Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) the equivalent of a red card when they voted along party lines that she violated Rule 19, a century-old rule prohibiting senators from insulting each other on the hallowed Senate floor. The offending moment came when Warren read a letter from Martin Luther King Jr.'s widow calling Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), President [Donald] Trump's pick for attorney general, a 'disgrace.' Warren is the rare senator to be caught up in this rule. Since its inception after an actual fist fight on the Senate floor a century ago, Rule 19 has been used more as a threat to keep senators in line than a practice. Historians and Senate aides have an easier time coming up with moments when it perhaps should have been invoked but wasn't, than when it actually was invoked." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Akhilleus: Funny to read about how so many pundits, believing Mitch McConnell to be some kind of strategic genius, feel like there's no way he would have done this without a plan for the long game he likes to play. How 'bout hubris? Oh, and by the way, Cruz, a congential liar himself, made one of his very few true statements when he called McConnell a liar.

Jonnelle Marte & Steven Mufson of the Washington Post: "If confirmed as labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, the fast-food CEO nominated by President Trump, said he would offload a vast portfolio including more than 200 stock holdings and a dozen real estate partnerships and private equity funds, according to financial disclosures obtained by The Washington Post. He would also have to sell his stake in CKE Restaurants, which includes burger chains Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. His holdings in the fast-food chain are worth anywhere between $10 million and $50 million, according to the documents." -- CW 

Tom Boggioni of RawStory: "A Republican congressman [John J. Duncan Jr (R-TN)] who has served his district for almost thirty years is refusing to hold a town hall in his district because he has no interest in hearing from 'extremists, kooks and radicals.'  Duncan referred to the current 'anger in politics,' saying he believes a town hall meeting 'would very quickly turn into shouting opportunities for extremists, kooks and radicals.' 'Also, I do not intend to give more publicity to those on the far left who have so much hatred, anger and frustration in them,' he wrote. 'I have never seen so many sore losers as there are today.'" ...

     ... safari: Take note: voicing your concern to your elected representative in an attempt to protect you and your family's health now qualifies you as a 'sore loser' in Drumpf's America.

STFU. Ryan Richards of ThinkProgress: "Hundreds of sportsmen, outdoor business owners and supporters of the great outdoors rallied in states across the West last week, raising their voice in support of protecting public lands. Congress responded by moving to restrict citizen input on public land use planning. The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to roll back a rule that gives local citizens a greater voice in the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) planning process, a process that directs how 245 million acres of public land are utilized." --safari ...

... Nicole Gentile of Think Progress: "Last weekend, more than 1,000 sportsmen, outdoor business owners, and public lands supporters joined Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) in Helena, Montana. Wednesday afternoon, a rally in New Mexico drew hundreds more people, all protesting congressional attempts to sell off or privatize public lands. The outcry was prompted in part by Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s (R-UT) introduction of a bill to sell off 3.3 million acres of public lands — an area the size of Connecticut.... Wednesday evening, Chaffetz announced that he was withdrawing the bill." -- CW ...

... Jenny Rowland of ThinkProgress: "Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), met with President Donald Trump for the first time Tuesday and instead of asking the president to release his tax returns or address his glaring conflicts of interest, Chaffetz asked that the White House defy existing law to undo protections for a national monument in Utah.... Chaffetz ... took the opportunity to bring up his opposition to the Bears Ears national monument in Utah “as subject number one.” The 1.35 million-acre national monument was designated by President Barack Obama in December after a Native American inter-tribal coalition expressed support for its creation. The area is one of the most historically and culturally rich sites in the country, with more than 100,000 cultural and archaeological sites throughout. It has also been one of the most vulnerable places for grave robbing and looting." --safari

[Donald Trump's] disconnection from the truth is incredibly disturbing. When you add on top of that his stifling of dissent, his attacks on the free press and his attacks on the legitimacy of judiciary, that then takes us down the road toward authoritarianism. That’s why I’ve concluded he is a danger to the republic. -- Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) ...

... Jennifer Bendery of the Huffington Post: "A Democratic congressman is introducing legislation as soon as next week that would require a psychiatrist at the White House, something he says is overdue but also urgent given his and other people’s concerns about President Donald Trump’s mental health. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that the president, any president, should have access to a mental health professional given the pressures of the job. Congress passed a law in 1928 requiring a physician at the White House, but stopped short of requiring a psychiatrist because of the stigma associated with mental illness." -- CW 

Mitch Is in Turtle Nirvana. Carl Hulse of the New York Times: Mitch McConnell "says he and his Senate Republican colleagues are quite satisfied with the Trump team so far. In fact, he said, they are reassured by signs that President Trump is going to hew to a conservative agenda after early fears that the president — a relatively unknown quantity to most elected Republicans — might not really be one of them. 'The country doesn’t need saving,' Mr. McConnell said when asked during an interview in his Capitol office if there was any cause for a senior-level congressional intervention given early chaos in the evolving West Wing." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Caroline Johnson of the Washington Post: "A federal judge blocked the $54 billion merger between health insurance giants Anthem and Cigna on Wednesday, saying the deal would increase prices and reduce competition.... The ruling follows a similar decision by a different judge to block the proposed merger between Aetna and Humana last month. Both deals would have transformed the health insurance landscape, consolidating the five largest health insurers into three big companies. The court decisions are a victory for the Justice Department, which sued last summer to stop both mergers." CW: Ah, but it's a new Justice Department now, isn't it? I suspect that for the next four years, anti-trust suits will have to be brought by interest groups.

Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald: "The alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 terror attacks wrote former President Barack Obama in a long suppressed letter that America brought the 9/11 attacks on itself for years of foreign policy that killed innocent people across the world. 'It was not we who started the war against you in 9/11. It was you and your dictators in our land,' Khalid Sheik Mohammed, 51, writes in the 18-page letter to Obama, who he addressed as 'the head of the snake' and president of 'the country of oppression and tyranny.' It is dated January 2015 but didn’t reach the White House until a military judge ordered Guantánamo prison to deliver it days before Obama left office." -- CW 


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/guantanamo/article131466294.html#storylink=cpy

Marie's Sports Report (Is Seldom about Sports)

I can't tell you why it happened to me, but I know that I'm Muslim. I have an Arabic name. And even though I represent Team USA and I have that Olympic hardware, it doesn't change how you look and how people perceive you. -- U.S. Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, after being detained by Customs officials ...

... Trump's Extreme Vetting, Ctd. USA Today Sports: "Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first female Muslim American to medal for the United States in the Olympics, said Tuesday she was recently detained at U.S. Customs for two hours without explanation. Muhammad, who is a native of Maplewood, N.J., said she didn’t know if she was held as a result of the Trump administration’s travel ban but is sure the move was a result of her ethnicity." -- CW 

Way Beyond the Beltway

Saeed Kamali Dehghan & Ahmad Algohbary in the Guardian: "On Wednesday, the UN launched a $2.1bn (£1.6bn) appeal to prevent famine in [Yemen] the Arab world’s poorest nation, where nearly 3.3 million people – including 2.1 million children – are acutely malnourished. The humanitarian appeal is the largest launched for Yemen and aims to provide life-saving assistance to 12 million people this year... Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, said: 'The situation in Yemen is catastrophic and rapidly deteriorating'. At least 10,000 people have lost their lives in the conflict." Heart-wrenching and despicable. --safari

Jason Burke of the Guardian: "Celebrations have erupted on the streets of Somalia after parliamentarians elected a new president, with crowds chanting songs and firing automatic weapons into the night sky. The election of Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a 55-year-old former prime minister and dual US-Somali national with a reputation for independence and competence, has raised the hopes of millions of people in the poor and violent east African state.... The new president will have to deal with multiple challenges: the threat posed by extremist groups in Somalia, a looming famine, weak institutions, feuding factions and rampant unemployment in a country where more than 70% of the population is under the age of 30." --safari

Ellla McSweeney & Felicity Lawrence of the Guardian: "Migrant fishermen from Asia and Africa are reporting 'alarming' allegations of abuse on Irish trawlers, despite government efforts to regularise illegal working in the sector, former jobs minister Ged Nash told the Irish Senate on Wednesday...The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation also said inspections had found a '25% non-compliance rate' with the regulations in respect of pay, holiday, records and rest.... Nash told the Irish senate that he had heard testimony from workers who were being paid the legal minimum wage for a 39-hour week when they said they were in fact working 100 hours or more a week. In other cases, migrant workers in dispute over wages with owners were effectively 'on the run' he said because they had no protection from the state." --safari

News Lede

Weather Channel: "Snow emergencies have been declared in two major Northeast metro areas as Winter Storm Niko brings blizzard conditions and rapid accumulation to the region. The storm continues to lash the Northeast with heavy snow and high winds, making travel treacherous, if not impossible in Boston, New York City and Philadelphia. Officials in both Philadelphia and Boston have declared snow emergencies, while New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio is urging city residents not to venture out into the streets if at all possible." -- CW