The Wires
The Ledes

Sunday, September 15, 2019.

New York Times: "Juanita Abernathy, who helped organize the Montgomery bus boycott and took part in other pivotal protests at the outset of the civil rights era alongside the Rev. Dr. Ralph Abernathy, her husband and a leader of the movement, died on Thursday at a hospital in Atlanta. She was 88."

Public Service Announcement

September 5: Washington Post: "State and federal health officials investigating mysterious lung illnesses linked to vaping have found the same chemical in samples of marijuana products used by people sickened in different parts of the country and who used different brands of products in recent weeks. The chemical is an oil derived from vitamin E. Investigators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found the oil in cannabis products in samples collected from patients who fell ill across the United States. FDA officials shared that information with state health officials during a telephone briefing this week, according to several officials who took part in the call." The NPR story is here.

New York Times: "A solid 18-karat gold toilet, titled 'America' by its creator, Maurizio Cattelan, was stolen early Saturday [September 14] from an exhibit at Blenheim Palace, the Oxfordshire birthplace and family home of Winston Churchill.... The artwork is based on a common Kohler toilet and was created by a foundry in Florence. The work’s value was not disclosed, but [Guggenheim artistic director Nancy] Spector described it as 'millions of dollars’ worth of gold.'... The police said in a statement that they were investigating the burglary and that a 66-year-old man had been arrested but not charged. The toilet has not been recovered. Jess Milne, a detective inspector, noted that the toilet had been plumbed to the building, so the theft 'caused significant damage and flooding.' He said the police believed a 'group of offenders' using at least two vehicles was behind the theft." the Hill's story is here.

Modern Art. CNN: "Hillary Clinton's emails ... have become art -- and the former secretary of state herself went to take a look.The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee looked through printed copies of her emails and sat at a replica of the Oval Office's Resolute Desk during a visit Tuesday to an art exhibit in Venice, Italy, titled 'HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails,' according to the exhibit's creator and curators. 'Hillary Clinton spent an hour yesterday reading her emails at my exhibition of all 62,000 pages of them in Venice,' American poet and artist Kenneth Goldsmith tweeted Wednesday. 'She is pictured here at a replica of the Oval Office Resolute Desk, stacked with her emails.' Francesco Urbano Ragazzi -- the collective name for two men who are working as the exhibit's curatorial team -- told CNN that Clinton came in for a private tour of the exhibit Tuesday morning."

... Related Washington Post story here.

     ... Thanks to NJC for the lead.

Washington Post: "the 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships were no different — especially Sunday night, the final night of the two-day [U.S. Gymnastics Championships]..., [Simone] Biles aced a skill no other woman (and only two men in the world) has successfully landed in competition — a triple-twisting, double somersault that capped the first tumbling pass of her floor routine like a cymbal crash":

 

Washington Post: White Southern plantation visitors who pay good money "to learn about the history of life on a plantation" are very upset guides mention slavery. Mrs. McCrabbie's recommendation: put on your MAGA caps & hoop skirts, watch the first 10 minutes of "Gone with the Wind," & practice saying "Fiddle-dee-dee."

Here's one for contributor Jeanne. "Margaret Atwood joins Deborah Treisman to read and discuss 'Corrie,' by Alice Munro, from a 2010 issue of the [New Yorker] magazine":

Nick Schager in the Daily Beast: "Premiering on Netflix and in select theaters on July 24, The Great Hack is the most enraging, terrifying and — I don’t use this term lightly — important documentary of the year. Directed by Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim..., its subject is the Cambridge Analytica data scandal—a story that’s galling on the surface, and infinitely more bone-chilling when one considers its far-reaching ramifications. That’s because Cambridge Analytica’s deceptive and criminal relationship with, and conduct on, Mark Zuckerberg’s social media platform had world-altering consequences: helping launch the Brexit movement, and successfully aiding the election campaign of Donald Trump.” 

Guardian: “The businessman Arron Banks and the unofficial Brexit campaign Leave.EU have issued a legal threat against streaming giant Netflix in relation to The Great Hack, a new documentary about the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the abuse of personal data. The threat comes as press freedom campaigners and charity groups warn the government in an open letter that UK courts are being used to 'intimidate and silence' journalists working in the public interest. In a joint letter to key cabinet members, they call for new legislation to stop 'vexatious lawsuits', highlighting one filed last week by Banks against campaigning journalist Carole Cadwalladr.”

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. -- H. L. Mencken (probably)

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. -- A. J. Liebling

Monday
Sep092019

The Commentariat -- September 10, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

You Can't Fire Me; I Quit. As the Mustache Curls ... Trump Lies Again. Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Trump announced on Tuesday that he had fired John R. Bolton, his third national security adviser, amid fundamental disagreements over how to handle major foreign policy challenges like Iran, North Korea and most recently Afghanistan. 'I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House,' the president wrote on Twitter. 'I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for his service.' Mr. Bolton offered a different version of how the end came in his own message on Twitter shortly afterward. 'I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, "Let's talk about it tomorrow,"' Mr. Bolton wrote, without elaborating. Responding to a question from The New York Times via text message, Mr. Bolton said it was his initiative. 'Offered last night without his asking,' he wrote. 'Slept on it and gave it to him this morning.'" The NPR report is here. ~~~

~~~ Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "... two key things call into question [Trump's] version of how it went down.... Just an hour before the announcement, the White House announced that Bolton would be appearing at a 1:30 p.m. news conference alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. If Bolton was on his way out as of Monday night, why did the White House press office not seem to know about it at 11 a.m. Tuesday? [Bolton's] tweets Monday night and Tuesday didn't indicate anything had changed, and shortly after Trump's tweets, he chimed in by saying, 'I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, "Let's talk about it tomorrow."'... After [the Daily Beast] quoted White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who backed up Trump's account, Bolton responded in a text: '[White House] press secretary statement is flatly incorrect.'" ~~~

~~~ Carol Lee, et al., of NBC News: "As ... Donald Trump began losing confidence in national security adviser John Bolton, whom he fired on Tuesday, he reached out to the man he had fired to give Bolton the job: retired Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. In phone calls to McMaster -- the first of which took place last fall -- Trump told his second national security adviser that he missed him, according to two people familiar with the conversations. It's a sentiment the president has also expressed to White House aides, they said. Trump has solicited McMaster's advice on various national security challenges, even asking McMaster whom he should nominate to lead the Pentagon, they said."

Jeff Stein, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Trump has ordered White House officials to conduct a sweeping crackdown on homelessness in California, citing the state's growing crisis, according to four government officials aware of the effort. The talks have intensified in recent weeks. Administration officials have discussed using the federal government to get homeless people off the streets of Los Angeles and other areas and into new government-backed facilities, according to two officials briefed on the planning. But it is unclear how they could accomplish this and what legal authority they would use. It is also unclear whether the state's Democratic politicians would cooperate with Trump, who has sought to embarrass them over the homeless crisis with repeated attacks on their competency." The CBS Los Angeles story is here.

Weird News. Jim Sciutto & Marshall Cohen of CNN: "... Donald Trump has privately and repeatedly expressed opposition to the use of foreign intelligence from covert sources, including overseas spies who provide the US government with crucial information about hostile countries, according to multiple senior officials who served under Trump. Trump has privately said that foreign spies can damage relations with their host countries and undermine his personal relationships with their leaders, the sources said. The President 'believes we shouldn't be doing that to each other,' one former Trump administration official told CNN. In addition to his fear such foreign intelligence sources will damage his relationship with foreign leaders, Trump has expressed doubts about the credibility of the information they provide. Another former senior intelligence official told CNN that Trump 'believes they're people who are selling out their country.' Even in public, Trump has looked down on these foreign assets, as they are known in the intelligence community. Responding to reports that the CIA recruited Kim Jong Un's brother as a spy, Trump said he 'wouldn't let that happen under my auspices.'" Thanks to Ken W. for the link. See also Ken's comment in today's thread. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I suppose this is a reflection of Trump's disdain for our intelligence community, but it could be something more sinister: he doesn't want U.S. spies to find out what he is doing to curry favor with strongmen around the world -- shades of Christopher Steele. As Ken suggests, it's a head-scratcher.

The Trump White House Screws up Everything. Alanda Goodman & Steven Nelson of the Washington Examiner: "One of the people President Trump honored for his heroism during a mass shooting in an El Paso Walmart last month was arrested by the Secret Service during his visit to the White House on Monday due to an outstanding criminal warrant, law enforcement officials told the Washington Examiner. Police say his tale of heroics does not match video evidence. Chris Grant, 50, was shot in the ribs and a kidney during the Aug. 3 rampage that claimed 22 lives. He was not present for a White House ceremony Monday, but his mother Minnie Grant, 82, accepted a signed certificate on his behalf. Grant said in a series of interviews that he sought to spare fellow shoppers by picking up bottles and throwing them at the gunman, with at least one hitting or nearly striking him. A Gofundme account raised $16,917 on his behalf.... 'Nobody bothered to check with us,' said El Paso police spokesman Sgt. Enrique Carrillo. 'They would have been informed, as I am telling you now, that our detectives reviewed hours of video and his actions did not match his account.... His statements were inconsistent with what was revealed on video,' Carrillo said."

Patricia Mazzei & Frances Robles of the New York Times: "A former top administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency was arrested on Tuesday in a major federal corruption investigation that found that the official took bribes from the president of a company that secured $1.8 billion in federal contracts to repair Puerto Rico's shredded electrical grid after Hurricane Maria. Federal authorities arrested Ahsha Tribble, FEMA's former deputy administrator for the region that includes Puerto Rico, and Donald Keith Ellison, the former president of Cobra Acquisitions, prosecutors in Puerto Rico announced. They were accused of conspiring to defraud the federal government, among other charges. A second FEMA employee, Jovanda R. Patterson, who worked as a deputy chief of staff in Puerto Rico under Ms. Tribble and was later hired by Cobra, was also arrested, said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez Vélez, the United States attorney for Puerto Rico. Ms. Tribble and Mr. Ellison had a 'close personal relationship,' Ms. Rodríguez Vélez said, in which Mr. Ellison lavished Ms. Tribble with gifts in exchange for her to use her influence inside FEMA to give Cobra an advantage.... Mr. Ellison and Ms. Tribble traveled together and stayed in the same room, Ms. Rodríguez Vélez said.... President Trump has repeatedly cast Puerto Rico's leaders as incompetent and corrupt. Tuesday's arrests, however, did not involve any Puerto Ricans, but rather a longtime federal employee now serving under the Trump administration." The Hill has a summary of the Times report here.

Rachana Pradhan of Politico: "The number of Americans lacking health insurance ticked up slightly last year, marking the first annual increase in the uninsured rate in nearly a decade, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday. The uninsured rate rose from 7.9 percent in 2017 to 8.5 percent last year, as experts said the Trump administration's efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act were partly to blame." Thanks, Trump!

~~~~~~~~~~

Congressional Race 2019. If you live in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District, vote today. ~~~

~~~ Steven Shepard & Anita Kumar of Politico: "... Donald Trump traveled [to Fayetteville, N.C.] on Monday for an election-eve rescue mission in a neck-and-neck congressional race -- and to boost his own standing in a key 2020 swing state. Trump touted Republican Dan Bishop, the party's nominee in Tuesday's do-over election in the state's 9th District, calling on residents to vote 'to stop the radical left.'... 'We had a very, very special day in 2016,' he told the crowd of thousands early in a speech that lasted well over an hour. 'It was very special, very special. ... 2020 is essentially just as important, because they'll try to take it away.' Bishop, a GOP state senator, is tied in the polls with Democrat Dan McCready in Tuesday's race."

Lies of the Grifter

I know nothing about an Air Force plane landing at an airport (which I do not own and have nothing to do with*) near Turnberry Resort (which I do own) in Scotland, and filling up with fuel, with the crew staying overnight at Turnberry (they have good taste!). NOTHING TO DO WITH ME. -- Donald Trump, in a tweet, Monday

I had nothing to do with the decision of our great @VP Mike Pence to stay overnight at one of the Trump owned resorts in Doonbeg, Ireland. Mike's family has lived in Doonbeg for many years, and he thought that during his very busy European visit, he would stop and see his family! -- Donald Trump, in a tweet, Monday

How to tell Trump is lying: he says he knows nothing about either grift.* -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

* Update. Another Way We Know Trump Is Lying. Eric Lipton of the New York Times: "But documents obtained from Scottish government agencies show that the Trump Organization, and Mr. Trump himself, played a direct role in setting up an arrangement between the Turnberry resort and officials at Glasgow Prestwick Airport. The government records, released through Scottish Freedom of Information law, show that the Trump organization, starting in 2014, entered a partnership with the airport to try to increase private and commercial air traffic to the region. As part of that arrangement, the Trump Organization worked to get Trump Turnberry added to a list of hotels that the airport would routinely send aircrews to, even though the Turnberry resort is 20 miles from the airport, farther away than many other hotels, and has higher advertised prices."

* Martyn McLaughlin of the Scotsman: "As previously detailed by The Scotsman's sister title, Scotland on Sunday, the Trump Organisation formed what it described as an 'official partnership' and 'strategic alliance' with the airport in 2014 - two years before Mr Trump became president - with the two parties holding unminuted discussions over 'potential partnership opportunities' and the 'integration' of their businesses.... A spokesman for the Scottish Government-owned airport said [Mon]day that it regularly arranges overnight accommodation for visiting aircrew at Turnberry.... A new extended deal between Prestwick's parent company and the [US Defence Logistics Agency], known as a EUCOM Into-Plane contract, will come into force next month and last until September 2024. It will allow for the supply of around 12.4 million gallons of aviation fuel, approximately three million more than the current arrangement."

Martyn McLaughlin (Sept. 7): "... The Scotsman detailed how Prestwick's parent company had received more than £9.02m for 644 orders to refuel US Armed Forces aircraft between October 2017 and March 2019. Scotland on Sunday can reveal that in the six months since, further refuelling orders have netted Prestwick another £4.8m. The deal with the US Defence Logistics Agency, which manages the supply chain for the US armed forces, is by far the airport's biggest revenue stream." ~~~

~~~ Conor O'Brien of Politico: "Democrats in the House are doubling down on proposed legislation to block military funds from being spent at properties owned by ... Donald Trump, following reports that Air Force personnel stayed at the president's Turnberry resort in Scotland. The House voted in July to bar the Defense Department from spending money at nearly five dozen Trump properties worldwide -- including Trump Turnberry -- as part of annual defense policy legislation.... The provision blocks the Pentagon from spending money at 57 specific Trump properties. Under the provision, Trump could waive the ban if he reimburses the Treasury Department for the expenses.... The leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees are poised hammer out a compromise defense bill later this month."

AlabamaGate, Ctd.

Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: On September 7, I wrote, "NOAA is an agency within the Commerce Department. I'd say Wilbur Ross bowed to His Dimwittedness." Not exactly an oracular prophecy, BUT ~~~

~~~ Christopher Flavelle, et al., of the New York Times: "The Secretary of Commerce [Wilbur Ross] threatened to fire top employees at NOAA on Friday after the agency's Birmingham office contradicted President Trump's claim that Hurricane Dorian might hit Alabama, according to three people familiar with the discussion. That threat led to an unusual, unsigned statement later that Friday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration disavowing the office's own position that Alabama was not at risk. The reversal caused widespread anger within the agency and drew criticism from the scientific community that NOAA, a division of the Commerce Department, had been bent to political purposes.... Mr. Ross ... intervened ... early last Friday, according to the three people familiar with his actions. Mr. Ross phoned Neil Jacobs, the acting administrator of NOAA, from Greece where the secretary was traveling for meetings and instructed Dr. Jacobs to fix the agency's perceived contradiction of the president. Dr. Jacobs objected to the demand and was told that the political staff at NOAA would be fired if the situation was not fixed, according to the three individuals.... On Monday, the National Weather Service director, Louis W. Uccellini, got a standing ovation from [weather industry] conference attendees when he praised the work of the Birmingham office and said staff members there had acted' with one thing in mind, public safety' when they contradicted Mr. Trump's claim that Alabama was at risk." digby republishes much of the NYT story. ~~~

~~~ Samantha Grasso of Splinter: NWS Director Louis "Uccellini said at Monday's meeting that the Birmingham forecasters didn't know Trump had been behind the report of Dorian heading for Alabama when they had tweeted out the alert. He also said the forecasters used 'an emphasis they deemed essential to shut down what they thought were rumors.... Only later, when the retweets and politically based comments started coming to their office, did they learn the sources of this information.'" ~~~

~~~ Kayla Epstein, et al., of the Washington Post: "The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's acting chief scientist said in an email to colleagues Sunday that he is investigating whether the agency's response to President Trump's Hurricane Dorian tweets constituted a violation of NOAA policies and ethics. Also on Monday, the director of the National Weather Service broke with NOAA leadership over its handling of President Trump's Dorian tweets and statements[.] In an email to NOAA staff that was obtained by The Washington Post, the official, Craig McLean, called the agency's response 'political' and a 'danger to public health and safety.'" The Hill's summary of the WashPo report is here. (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

     ~~~ Update: The full text of McLean's email is here, via TPM. Thanks to Keith H. for the link. (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

~~~ Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "The US secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross, is facing calls for his resignation after it was reported that he had threatened to fire senior staff at a federal agency unless they sided publicly with Donald Trump in the rumbling dispute dubbed 'Sharpiegate'.... The head of the environmental group the Sierra Club, Michael Brune, called on Ross to resign to 'maintain the dignity of the federal government'.... And late on Monday, the New York Times amended its story to report that the commerce department's own Office of Inspector General has launched an inquiry into that official statement and whether it breached departmental rules."

Caitlin Oprysko of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Monday claimed he plans on releasing an 'extremely complete' report of his financial record, but he offered no specifics and a murky timeline. Speaking to reporters as he departed the White House, Trump suggested that the promised release would dispel the notion that his real estate empire is in need of the taxpayer money and business driven there throughout his presidency." Here's a sneak-peak:

Claudia Grisales of NPR: "Signaling a widening gap between Democratic leadership and the House Judiciary Committee, the panel will vote this week on whether to install new procedures for its impeachment inquiry and illustrate its intensifying efforts in the probe. The move -- which will culminate in a vote before the committee on Thursday -- will allow staff to question witnesses for extended periods and let the panel accept evidence behind closed doors to further protect sources, among other changes. It also shows the growing divide between progressives pushing for impeachment and moderate Democrats in the House and their leadership, which is largely opposed to any formal action now. Despite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's public comments supporting the panel's investigation, privately she has told members that the issue is a loser without strong public sentiment. On Monday, Pelosi downplayed the move, saying the committee's investigation has been ongoing for 'a very long time,' and expressed support. She also said other legislation is a top priority, such as approving new gun restrictions." ~~~

~~~ Olivia Beavers of the Hill: "House Democrats are launching a broad investigation into whether President Trump, his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others sought to exert pressure on the Ukrainian government to help Trump get reelected in 2020 by targeting a possible political opponent, former vice president Joe Biden. Three House committees -- Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs -- sent joint letters to the White House and State Department demanding documents related to whether Trump and Giuliani sought to pressure Ukraine to target Biden, a 2020 Democratic White House hopeful. 'A growing public record indicates that, for nearly two years, the President and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, appear to have acted outside legitimate law enforcement and diplomatic channels to coerce the Ukrainian government into pursuing two politically-motivated investigations under the guise of anti-corruption activity,' the committee's chairmen wrote in a statement." (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

~~~ ** Jonathan Chait: Donald Trump "is slowly learning how to control the [bureaucratic] machine that has stymied him. is slowly learning how to control the machine that has stymied him." Chait links Trump's "persuading" NOAA to issue a statement covering for his "Alabama hurricane" flub, the DOJ's "preposterous" antitrust investigation into automakers negotiating to meet California's emission standards, his extortion of Ukraine to pressure the country into "investigating" Joe Biden; and Republicans "boasting of the quid pro quo arrangement" they have with Trump & his businesses. "A corrupt miasma has slowly enveloped Washington.... The norm of bureaucratic professionalism and fairness is a pillar of the political legitimacy and economic strength of the American system, the thing that separates countries like the U.S. from countries like Russia. The decay of that culture is difficult to quantify, but the signs are everywhere. Trump's stench is slowly seeping into every corner of government." (Also linked yesterday.)

Karen DeYoung, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Trump said Monday that negotiations with the Taliban 'are dead' and indicated that he had no further interest in meeting with the group over an end to the Afghanistan war. 'I'm not looking to discuss it,' he said. 'I'm not discussing anything.' Trump appeared to provide the definitive response to at least one question officials across his administration were struggling to answer in the wake of his abrupt cancellation, by way of Twitter on Saturday evening, of a Camp David meeting with Taliban and Afghan government leaders to finalize an agreement. The meeting had been scheduled for the next day. Before Trump's comments, made to reporters as he left for a campaign rally in North Carolina, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was said to be hopeful that there was still a flicker of life in the Taliban talks and that a way to restart them would emerge. In Sunday talk show interviews, Pompeo said the negotiations were off 'for the time being' but emphasized the progress that had been made." The Reuters story is here. ~~~

~~~ Kevin Liptak & Kaitlan Collins of CNN: "Even opposition from within his own national security team, including Vice President Mike Pence, could not deter Trump from pressing forward with his plan to host Taliban leaders at [Camp David]....Trump eventually scrapped the event after a Taliban car bomb killed a US soldier and 11 others last week. But that decision came after heated debate within the administration over the venue for the summit -- an outgrowth of larger, more substantial disagreements over the wisdom of negotiating with the Taliban at all. The talks have pitted Trump's hawkish national security adviser John Bolton against the nation's chief diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo...." (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

~~~ Robin Wright of the New Yorker: SFC Elis Angel Barreto Ortiz's "death may have served as a face-saving excuse [for Trump's cancelling Camp David talks with the Taliban]. Fifteen other Americans have been killed this year, during nine rounds of the most serious diplomacy between the U.S. and the Taliban since 2001. Both sides have used military pressure as leverage in the final run-up to a deal -- and both sides expected it. In the previous ten days, the United States had killed more than a thousand Taliban, [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo boasted on a round of Sunday talk shows."

Brett Samuels & Morgan Chalfant of the Hill: "President Trump said Monday that the United States needs to be 'careful' in making sure everyone entering the country from the Bahamas has proper documentation, suggesting dangerous individuals could sneak into the U.S. along with those seeking refuge following Hurricane Dorian. 'We have to be very careful. Everybody needs totally proper documentation. Because look, the Bahamas has some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas who weren't supposed to be there,' Trump told reporters on the South Lawn at the White House." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Uh, how many people who have lost everything from their toothbrushes to their livelihoods to their entire community managed to grab "totally proper documentation" commonly used to travel abroad? ~~~

~~~ Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Early Monday afternoon, acting Customs and Border Protection head Mark Morgan offered some peace of mind to Bahamians seeking humanitarian relief in the United States in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, following the news that some were turned away for not having visas. 'This is a humanitarian mission,' Morgan assured. 'If your life is in jeopardy and you're in the Bahamas .. you're going to be allowed to come to the United States, whether you have travel documents or not.' He said the processing would be handled expeditiously. Then President Trump offered a very different message. In a later Q&A with reporters, Trump emphasized that 'very bad people ... and very bad gang members' ... could exploit the process and warned against welcoming Bahamians.... So, shortly after Morgan said people didn't need to have documents, Trump said they did. And shortly after Morgan emphasized a quick process, Trump suggested it would need to be very thorough.... The Bahamas, notably, contain many people of Haitian descent -- as many as 1 in 10 residents -- and they tend to be among the island nation's poorest residents. Trump has in the past privately referred to Haiti as a 'shithole country' while deriding protections for immigrants from it." ~~~

~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: What did Trump mean when he said he "doesn't want to let people who weren't supposed to be in the Bahamas come into the US"? Ali Velshi of MSNBC offered a helpful translation: "dark-skinned people from Haiti."

Dear-Leader-for-Life. Arren Kimbel-Sannit of Politico: Trump joked -- again -- about extending his term of office beyond eight years. Mrs. McC: Oh, he's serious. Come to think of it, President Obama should have declared a national emergency on November 9, 2016 & extended his own term while we figured out a way to get a real president.

** Jim Sciutto of CNN: "In a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government, multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN. A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that ... Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy. The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, concerning ISIS in Syria, had been provided by Israel.... The secret removal of the high-level Russian asset has left the US without one of its key sources on the inner workings of the Kremlin and the plans and thinking of the Russian president." The CIA had considered the "exfiltration" of the asset prior to Trump's blabbing, but did not remove him/her until "wide concern [grew] in the intelligence community about mishandling of intelligence by Trump and his administration." It appears Mike Pompeo, then CIA director, approved the operation. "White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, 'CNN's reporting is not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger.'" (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

     ~~~ ** Update: Julian Barnes, et al., of the New York Times: "As American officials began to realize that Russia was trying to sabotage the 2016 presidential election, [a Russian] informant [the CIA had cultivated for decades] became one of the C.I.A.'s most important -- and highly protected -- assets. But when intelligence officials revealed the severity of Russia's election interference with unusual detail later that year, the news media picked up on details about the C.I.A.'s Kremlin sources.... [Extracting the informant from Russia] brought to an end the career of one of the C.I.A.'s most important sources. It also effectively blinded American intelligence officials to the view from inside Russia as they sought clues about Kremlin interference in the 2018 midterm elections and next year's presidential contest.... The Moscow informant was instrumental to the C.I.A.'s most explosive conclusion about Russia's interference campaign: that President Vladimir V. Putin ordered and orchestrated it himself.... The source was also key to the C.I.A.'s assessment that he affirmatively favored Donald J. Trump's election and personally ordered the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.... Former intelligence officials said there was no public evidence that Mr. Trump directly endangered the source.... Some former intelligence officials said the president's closed-door meetings with Mr. Putin and other Russian officials, along with Twitter posts about delicate intelligence matters, have sown concern among overseas sources." ~~~

~~~ Shane Harris & Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post: "The exfiltration [of the CIA source] took place sometime after an Oval Office meeting in May 2017, when President Trump revealed highly classified counterterrorism information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador, said the current and former officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive operation. That disclosure alarmed U.S. national security officials, but it was not the reason for the decision to remove the CIA asset, who had provided information to the United States for more than a decade, according to the current and former officials. U.S. officials had been concerned that Russian sources could be at risk of exposure as early as the fall of 2016, when the Obama administration first confirmed that Russia had stolen and publicly disclosed emails from the Democratic National Committee and the account of Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta." ~~~

     ~~~ Ken Dilanian of NBC News: "A former senior Russian official is living in the Washington area under U.S. government protection, current and former government officials tell NBC News. NBC News is withholding the man's name and other key details at the request of U.S. officials, who say reporting the information could endanger his life. Yet the former Russian government official, who had a job with access to secrets, was living openly under his true name. An NBC News correspondent [Mrs. McC: that was Dilanian] went to the man's house in the Washington area and rang the doorbell. Five minutes later, two young men in an SUV came racing up the street and parked immediately adjacent to the correspondent's car. The men, who identified themselves only as friends of the Russian, asked the correspondent what he was doing there. A former senior national security official said the men were likely U.S. government agents monitoring the Russian's house." Mrs. McC: Dilanian reported later in the day, on air, that the CIA was moving the informant from his current residence. He said he was not reporting that the asset he approached was the same individual cited in the CNN report. ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: So the CIA's idea of "protecting" a vulnerable Russian defector is to move him & his family to a D.C.-area home under his own name, to the point that a reporter can more or less look him/her up in the phone book & stop by the person's house for a chat.

Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and members of his caucus are tiptoeing toward legislation addressing gun violence amid deep anxiety over eroding GOP support in suburbs across the country. Expanded background checks and other modest proposals to address gun violence have strong support among swing voters in the suburbs, whom McConnell sees as crucial to keeping control of Republican-held swing Senate seats. Republican sources close to McConnell say he sees a political benefit to moving a bipartisan measure in response to a spate of mass shootings this year, and that he acknowledges the politics surrounding expanded background checks have shifted in recent months."

Chris Rodrigo of the Hill: "A federal judge in California on Monday reinstated a ban on a Trump administration policy that would restrict migrants' ability to apply for asylum at the southern border. U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar had issued a nationwide injunction in July blocking the rule, which would make most asylum-seekers who pass through another country before reaching the U.S. ineligible for asylum, with exceptions for victims of trafficking and migrants who have been denied asylum in the countries they traveled through. The rule would primarily effect Central American immigrants crossing through Mexico. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Tigar's initial ruling but narrowed the injunction to only border states within its jurisdiction -- California and Arizona -- before sending the question back to Tigar. Tigar said Monday that the injunction should apply nationwide because the asylum rule represents a case where 'such breadth is necessary to remedy a plaintiffs harm.'" (Also linked yesterday.)

Presidential Race 2020. Quint Forgey of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Monday dismissed his trio of challengers for the Republican presidential nomination as 'a laughingstock,' and defended the decisions by GOP leaders in a handful of states to scrap their 2020 primaries and caucuses. 'The three people are a total joke. They're a joke. They're a laughingstock,' Trump told reporters outside the White House before departing for a rally in North Carolina.... Asked whether he was willing to debate the Republicans running against him, Trump responded, 'I don't know them' --; going on to mock their polling numbers and tout his significant support among GOP voters. 'I guess it's a publicity stunt,' Trump said of his rivals' campaigns, adding: 'To be honest, I'm not looking to give them any credibility. They have no credibility.' Trump also contended he had 'nothing to do with' Republican officials in Arizona, Kansas, Nevada and South Carolina moving in recent days to abandon their nominating contests next year, which he criticized as 'very expensive' for state parties."

Congressional Races 2020

Greg Bluestein of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Former congressional candidate Jon Ossoff said he will challenge Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue and 'mount a ruthless assault on corruption in our political system' that's prevented Congress from addressing urgent issues. The Democrat told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he would 'raise a grassroots army unlike any this state has ever seen' by expanding the network of supporters who helped him raise roughly $30 million in a 2017 special election he narrowly lost."

This is a real campaign ad for Valerie Plame. She's running in the primary for New Mexico's 3rd Congressional District:


Tony Romm
of the Washington Post: "Attorneys general for 50 U.S. states and territories on Monday officially announced an antitrust investigation of Google, embarking on a wide-ranging review of a tech giant that Democrats and Republicans said may threaten competition, consumers and the continued growth of the web.... Only California and Alabama have not signed onto the probe[.]" The CNBC story is here.

Annals of "Journalism," Ha Ha Ha. Maxwell Tani of the Daily Beast: "Disgraced political pundit Mark Halperin was very unhappy when MSNBC brass nixed his attempt to repair his career through a possible collaboration with the stars of Morning Joe. So he picked up the phone and called network chief Phil Griffin. It did not go well. Multiple sources tell The Daily Beast that the conversation earlier this year became acrimonious, with Halperin dishing up vague threats against his former boss.... MSNBC insiders said Griffin was furious about the conversation and wouldn't likely take Halperin's calls in the future. The hostile exchange was a sign of Halperin's frustration that his dream of returning to the punditry business -- almost two years after numerous women came forward with stories of sexual misconduct -- has been thwarted at each turn.... The Game Change author has privately told friends that he wants to return to cable news, and he has lobbied various media outlets for a second chance." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I suppose this advice will be lost on the arrogant Mr. Halperin, but usually threatening the guy you're asking for a job is a poor interview technique. Wilbur Ross, who is trying to keep his gig, has a better method: threaten the jobs of the guys who cross the boss.

Beyond the Beltway

Alaska. Surprisingly, it appears This Marriage Cannot Be Saved. Michelle Boots of the Anchorage Daily News: "Todd Palin appears to have filed for divorce from former Alaska governor and one-time vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, his wife of 31 years. In a document filed Friday in Anchorage Superior Court, Todd Palin, 55, asked to dissolve the marriage, citing an 'incompatibility of temperament between the parties such that they find it impossible to live together as husband and wife.' The divorce filing uses initials rather than full names, but identifies the couple's marriage date and the birth date of their only child who is a minor, Trig Palin. The filing asks for joint legal custody of the child."

Way Beyond

~~~ U.K. Another Bad Hair Day for Boris. Rowena Mason of the Guardian: "Boris Johnson shut down parliament amid chaotic scenes in the early hours of Tuesday following his sixth parliamentary defeat in six days, as MPs voted to block a snap election and to force the publication of No 10's secret preparations for a no-deal Brexit. MPs on the opposition benches shouted: 'Shame on you' at Conservative MPs as they filed out behind the Speaker, John Bercow, during the start of proceedings to prorogue parliament until 14 October, while others held up signs saying 'silenced'. Renditions of Red Flag, Jerusalem, Flower of Scotland and Bread of Heaven were also sung. Bercow told the Commons 'this is not a standard or normal prorogation' and that the move represented 'an act of executive fiat'. Opposition MPs tried to physically stop Bercow from leaving his chair to go to the House of Lords to finish the prorogation formalities."

~~~ Rowena Mason: "John Bercow has said he will step down as the Speaker of the House of Commons after a decade in the job in which he has handed more power to backbench MPs, including moves that allowed parliament to block a no-deal Brexit. Bercow said he would leave his role by 31 October at the latest, but he could stand down sooner if MPs vote for an early election." (Also linked yesterday.)

Sunday
Sep082019

The Commentariat -- September 9, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Kevin Liptak & Kaitlan Collins of CNN: "Even opposition from within his own national security team, including Vice President Mike Pence, could not deter Trump from pressing forward with his plan to host Taliban leaders at [Camp David].... Trump eventually scrapped the event after a Taliban car bomb killed a US soldier and 11 others last week. But that decision came after heated debate within the administration over the venue for the summit -- an outgrowth of larger, more substantial disagreements over the wisdom of negotiating with the Taliban at all. The talks have pitted Trump's hawkish national security adviser John Bolton against the nation's chief diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo...."

Lies of the Grifter

I know nothing about an Air Force plane landing at an airport (which I do not own and have nothing to do with) near Turnberry Resort (which I do own) in Scotland, and filling up with fuel, with the crew staying overnight at Turnberry (they have good taste!). NOTHING TO DO WITH ME. -- Donald Trump, in a tweet, Monday

I had nothing to do with the decision of our great @VP Mike Pence to stay overnight at one of the Trump owned resorts in Doonbeg, Ireland. Mike's family has lived in Doonbeg for many years, and he thought that during his very busy European visit, he would stop and see his family! -- Donald Trump, in a tweet, Monday

How to tell Trump is lying: he says he knows nothing about either grift. -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

** Jim Sciutto of CNN: "In a previously undisclosed secret mission in 2017, the United States successfully extracted from Russia one of its highest-level covert sources inside the Russian government, multiple Trump administration officials with direct knowledge told CNN. A person directly involved in the discussions said that the removal of the Russian was driven, in part, by concerns that ... Donald Trump and his administration repeatedly mishandled classified intelligence and could contribute to exposing the covert source as a spy. The decision to carry out the extraction occurred soon after a May 2017 meeting in the Oval Office in which Trump discussed highly classified intelligence with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. The intelligence, concerning ISIS in Syria, had been provided by Israel.... The secret removal of the high-level Russian asset has left the US without one of its key sources on the inner workings of the Kremlin and the plans and thinking of the Russian president." The CIA considered the 'exfiltration' of the asset prior to Trump's blabbing, but did not remove him/her until "wide concern [grew] in the intelligence community about mishandling of intelligence by Trump and his administration." It appears Mike Pompeo, then CIA director, approved the operation. "White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, 'CNN's reporting is not only incorrect, it has the potential to put lives in danger.'" Mrs. McC: Right. CNN is the problem.

Kayla Epstein, et al., of the Washington Post: "The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's acting chief scientist said in an email to colleagues Sunday that he is investigating whether the agency's response to President Trump's Hurricane Dorian tweets constituted a violation of NOAA policies and ethics. Also on Monday, the director of the National Weather Service broke with NOAA leadership over its handling of President Trump's Dorian tweets and statements[.] In an email to NOAA staff that was obtained by The Washington Post, the official, Craig McLean, called the agency's response 'political' and a 'danger to public health and safety.'" The Hill's summary of the WashPo report is here. ~~~

     ... Update: The full text of McLean's email is here, via TPM. Thanks to Keith H. for the link. ~~~

~~~ Olivia Beavers of the Hill: "House Democrats are launching a broad investigation into whether President Trump, his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others sought to exert pressure on the Ukrainian government to help Trump get reelected in 2020 by targeting a possible political opponent, former vice president Joe Biden. Three House committees -- Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs -- sent joint letters to the White House and State Department demanding documents related to whether Trump and Giuliani sought to pressure Ukraine to target Biden, a 2020 Democratic White House hopeful. 'A growing public record indicates that, for nearly two years, the President and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, appear to have acted outside legitimate law enforcement and diplomatic channels to coerce the Ukrainian government into pursuing two politically-motivated investigations under the guise of anti-corruption activity,' the committee's chairmen wrote in a statement." ~~~

~~~ ** Jonathan Chait: Donald Trump "is slowly learning how to control the [bureaucratic] machine that has stymied him. is slowly learning how to control the machine that has stymied him." Chait links Trump's "persuading" NOAA to issue a statement covering for his "Alabama hurricane" flub, the DOJ's "preposterous" antitrust investigation into automakers negotiating to meet California's emission standards, his extortion of Ukraine to pressure the country into "investigating" Joe Biden; and Republicans "boasting of the quid pro quo arrangement" they have with Trump & his businesses. "A corrupt miasma has slowly enveloped Washington.... The norm of bureaucratic professionalism and fairness is a pillar of the political legitimacy and economic strength of the American system, the thing that separates countries like the U.S. from countries like Russia. The decay of that culture is difficult to quantify, but the signs are everywhere. Trump's stench is slowly seeping into every corner of government."

Chris Rodrigo of the Hill: "A federal judge in California on Monday reinstated a ban on a Trump administration policy that would restrict migrants' ability to apply for asylum at the southern border. U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar had issued a nationwide injunction in July blocking the rule, which would make most asylum-seekers who pass through another country before reaching the U.S. ineligible for asylum, with exceptions for victims of trafficking and migrants who have been denied asylum in the countries they traveled through. The rule would primarily effect Central American immigrants crossing through Mexico. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Tigar's initial ruling but narrowed the injunction to only border states within its jurisdiction -- California and Arizona -- before sending the question back to Tigar. Tigar said Monday that the injunction should apply nationwide because the asylum rule represents a case where 'such breadth is necessary to remedy a plaintiffs harm.'"

U.K. Rowena Mason of the Guardian: "John Bercow has said he will step down as the Speaker of the House of Commons after a decade in the job in which he has handed more power to backbench MPs, including moves that allowed parliament to block a no-deal Brexit. Bercow said he would leave his role by 31 October at the latest, but he could stand down sooner if MPs vote for an early election."

~~~~~~~~~~

Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "House Democrats return to Washington this week poised to significantly broaden their nascent impeachment inquiry into President Trump beyond the findings of the Russia investigation, but they will confront a fast-dwindling political clock. Undeterred by lackluster public support for impeachment, Democratic lawmakers and aides have sketched out a robust four-month itinerary of hearings and court arguments that they hope will provide the evidence they need to credibly portray Mr. Trump as corrupt and abusing his power. Beyond the president's efforts to impede the special counsel's investigation, Democrats also plan to scrutinize his role in hush payments to two women who said they had affairs with him and reports that he dangled pardons to officials willing to break the law to implement his immigration policies. Democrats also demanded documents last week related to whether his resort properties illegally profited from government business." ...

... Jonathan Alter of the Daily Beast argues for impeachment & trial. digby largely reproduces Alter's column, which is firewalled in the Beast. Alter: "... the trial in the well of the Senate would be presided over by Chief Justice John Roberts, who ... would run it like a quasi-trial, with evidence, witnesses (who would likely appear in person) and summations. Nadler and others from the House Judiciary Committee would serve as prosecutors. Trump would have private lawyers defending him. The senators would be the jury.... With the exception of Reps. John Ratcliffe and Louie Gohmert, no Republicans tried to claim Trump did not commit obstruction of justice. Instead, they changed the subject to Fusion GPS, the Steele dossier, and other counter-charges irrelevant to what would be at issue in a Senate trial.... [Trump's] trial lawyers would have the unenviable task of shooting down at least eight clear examples of obstruction of justice outlined in the Mueller Report, plus explain why Trump did not abuse and disgrace his office and obstruct Congress (other likely articles of impeachment). They would have to explain why it was perfectly okay for Trump to feather his own nest by directing his people to stay at Trump hotels, after promising he would not tend to his businesses in the White House." Read on. ...

... digby: "And consider that Trump won't be able to resist screeching 'witch hunt!' every single day, remin[d]ing everyone in the country that he is running as president who was impeached and protected from conviction by his accomplices in the Senate. Is it risky? Sure, anything can happen. But I have never understood this notion that Trump will gain power from being impeached. It's ridiculous. I realize that a lot of the media have simply assumed that since [President Bill] Clinton was acquitted and remained popular that it's a losing strategy. But this isn't about a couple of furtive blow jobs.... The sheer volume of impeachable offenses is enormous."

Nahal Toosi, et al., of Politico: "... Donald Trump's boasts about his dealmaking skills may have helped him win in 2016. But after this weekend's events, he has little to back up those claims on the world stage heading into 2020. Trump announced Saturday on Twitter that he was canceling ongoing U.S. peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, including scrapping a secret meeting with the Islamist militia's leaders and the Afghan president at the Camp David presidential retreat outside of Washington. The decision has imperiled what was, in the scope of Trump's presidency, a relatively successful diplomatic effort so far to bring an end to the 18-year war in Afghanistan. It also adds to a growing list of Trump's negotiating shortfalls -- from Iran to North Korea to China -- that gives ammunition to Democrats seeking to unseat him. The fact that the meeting could have happened the same week as the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks especially outraged Trump critics." ~~~

... My blood is boiling over this. And I'm left wondering: what was the plan here? How was the Taliban going to get to U.S. soil? Was the U.SW aircraft going to ferry them over? would the U.S. military going to give them a ride? What was the purpose of this, so President Trump could announce some kind of fake peace plan the day of 9/11 without any preconditions, without a day of cease-fire? -- CNN Republican analyst Amanda Carpenter, Sunday ~~~

~~~ Mujib Mashal of the New York Times: "Even as President Trump blamed a recent Taliban attack for his decision to call off nearly yearlong negotiations with the insurgents, officials suggested on Sunday it had more to do with the Taliban's resistance to the American terms for a peace deal, and a rushed plan for a Camp David summit meeting. Talks that once seemed on the verge of a breakthrough had hit a wall over how the deal should be finalized and announced, they said." ~~~

~~~ ** Peter Baker, et al., of the New York Times: "What would have been one of the biggest headline-grabbing moments of his tenure was put together on the spur of the moment and then canceled on the spur of the moment. The usual National Security Council process was dispensed with; only a small circle of advisers was even clued in. And even after it fell apart, Mr. Trump took it upon himself to disclose the secret machinations in a string of Saturday night Twitter messages that surprised not only many national security officials across the government but even some of the few who were part of the deliberations." ~~~

~~~ Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "Plans for U.S. troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, in keeping with President Trump's pledge to end the war there, were thrown into confusion Sunday, following Trump's decision to call off a secret meeting he planned with Afghan and Taliban leaders to secure a peace deal. Competing versions of what led to the cancellation of the meeting and, at least temporarily, any further U.S.-Taliban negotiations, exposed internal administration tensions that have flared as a deal seemed near in recent weeks. Those tensions have pitted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whose chief negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad, said a week ago that agreement 'in principle' had been reached after 10 months of talks with the militants, and Trump national security adviser John Bolton, who opposed the talks." ~~~

~~~ Michael Safi of the Guardian: Trump's "revelation of the planned talks and their abrupt cancellation leave a question mark over the future of peace talks intended to bring American involvement in Afghanistan to an end, an early and regularly recited Trump campaign pledge. The Taliban warned on Sunday that the cancellation meant more American lives would be lost, while the United States promised to keep up military pressure on the militants. Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, criticized Trump for calling off the dialogue and said US forces have been pounding Afghanistan with attacks at the same time.... Illinois congressman Adam Kinzinger, a ... Republican, wrote on Twitter: 'Never should leaders of a terrorist organisation that hasn't renounced 9/11 and continues in evil be allowed in our great country. NEVER. Full stop.'" ~~~

~~~ Mr. Waffle. Michelle Cottle of the New York Times: "Mr. Trump is a chronic waffler. As such, the American public would do well to stay vigilant about what his administration is up to -- and not be shy about applying pressure. It has long been clear that Mr. Trump is not the decisive, resolute leader he imagines himself to be. His presidency is littered with plans and pronouncements that were walked back or abandoned.... On occasion, Mr. Trump will move to reverse his reversals -- or at least find a creative work around.... There are issues on which the president feels compelled to hold his ground.... When it comes to protecting his fragile ego [-- as in SharpieGate --] Mr. Trump can be quite firm in his convictions. The rest is subject to influence." ~~~

~~~ Chas Danner of New York: "The Camp David meeting -- according to Afghan, Taliban, and Western officials -- was actually a failed gamble by the Trump administration. The summit, which the Trump team proposed late last month, was an attempt rush a conclusion to the negotiations by flying Taliban and Afghan leaders to the U.S. so that the parties could iron out the remaining details and conclude with a big peace-deal announcement and photo op.... It's entirely possible the Trump administration, unable to close the peace deal, planned to wing it and hope the summit led to a big, popular finish. That would be the strategy most consistent with President Trump's track record of impulsive, spectacle-over-substance foreign-policy decisions.... Last week's deadly suicide bombing was not some final straw for Trump, as he and Pompeo have claimed, but rather a politically palatable excuse to save face after the administration's plan for a peacemaking grand finale fell apart."

Bryan Bender & Natasha Bertrand of Politico: "The U.S. Air Force has ordered a world-wide review of how it chooses overnight accommodations on long flights following revelations that air crews had occasionally stayed at ... Donald Trump's Scotland resort while refueling at a small commercial airport nearby.... The review, ordered by Acting Air Force Secretary Matthew Donovan and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, covers the active-duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve.... The Air Force on Sunday insisted, however, that the use of the Prestwick airport -- which it said dates back to 2015 -- along with the Trump hotel appears to have adhered to proper procedures.... The Air Force's use of the Prestwick airport has ... steadily grown. Indeed, the use of the facility has nearly tripled -- and overnights in the area increased more than five-fold, the Air Force acknowledged Sunday. From 2015 to 2019, they said, Air Mobility Command aircraft stopped at the civil airport 936 times. Of those, crews stayed overnight in the area 659 times. The frequency of the stops and overnight stays has increased steadily each year, from 95 stops and 40 overnights in 2015; 145 and 75 in 2016; 180 and 116 in 2017; 257 and 208 in 2018; and 259 stops and 220 overnights through August 2019." ...

     ... Power of the Press. Mrs. McCrabbie: So when the House made official inquiries in June as to why military personnel were staying at Trump Turnberry, the Pentagon didn't bother to write back with even a lame excuse. But when Politico published its report Friday & major newspapers followed up, the Turnberry Grift became an urgent issue.

How Trump's Border-Wall Diversion Is Helping Putin. Sam Brodey of the Daily Beast: "The Trump administration's move to divert billions of dollars intended for military construction projects in order to finance a border wall with Mexico sparked outrage last week, with cuts to things like funding Army base elementary schools on U.S. soil dominating the discussion and prompting sharp criticism from lawmakers on Capitol Hill. But what went relatively unnoticed was the equally large pot of Pentagon cash that will be diverted away from construction projects at U.S. military facilities overseas.... National security experts believe it could be a gut punch to U.S. diplomatic and security interests in a part of the world that has been a particular sore spot for the president: Europe. The Trump administration is set to move $771 million worth of funding away from projects earmarked to the European Deterrence Initiative, a program created by the Obama administration that was designed to reassure anxious European allies that the U.S. would back them up in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea.... Deferred cash from the program accounts for two out of every five dollars that the administration is diverting to the wall from overseas -- raising more questions about Trump's inconsistent posture on the threat posed by Russia, along with his willingness to support NATO, which he has characterized as a financial burden on the U.S."

~~~ Kat Tenbarge of Business Insider: "... Donald Trump's 2020 reelection campaign manager ... says [the Trump family will become 'a dynasty that will last for decades, propelling the Republican Party into a new party.' Brad Parscale made the predication Saturday at a Republican Party convention in Indian Wells, California, where members of the party gathered to discuss strategy for the GOP to make strides in the overwhelmingly blue state." ~~~

~~~ Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Mr. Parscale declined to comment to The New York Times. But a campaign official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity and without official authorization to discuss the speech, said that Mr. Parscale was referring less to possible candidacies in the future and more to activities such as political speeches and fund-raising." ~~~

~~~ ** McKay Coppins of the Atlantic: The Trump dynasty began with a brothel in the Yukon, owned & run by Donald's grandfather Friedrich. "Friedrich's widow, Elizabeth, assigns each of her children a job in their fledgling real-estate business. But it's Fred, the middle child who has a knack for building, both houses and empires, and he takes charge shortly after high school.... infamy attends each new triumph. By the 1950s, he has built thousands of houses and apartments, and become the kind of landlord Woody Guthrie writes songs about.... [When Fred eldest son fails to met muster, Fred eventually chooses Donald as his successor.] The [Manhattan] market on the island is crowded and hostile, but Fred and Donald work closely to plot their invasion. Together, they cook books, fleece investors, and fool one regulator after another. Some of the scion's schemes pay off.... And while the president writes his chapter in history, the next generation waits in the wings, jockeying for position, feuding over status, knowing only one of them can be the heir.... Like a fun-house-mirror version of the Kennedys, they reel across the national stage swapping the language of duty and sacrifice for that of grievance and quid pro quo. Ask not what your country can do for you, they seem to say; ask what your country can do for the Trumps."

Conservative Peter Wehner of the Atlantic: "Donald Trump's disordered personality -- his unhealthy patterns of thinking, functioning, and behaving -- has become the defining characteristic of his presidency. It manifests itself in multiple ways: his extreme narcissism; his addiction to lying about things large and small, including his finances and bullying and silencing those who could expose them; his detachment from reality, including denying things he said even when there is video evidence to the contrary; his affinity for conspiracy theories; his demand for total loyalty from others while showing none to others; and his self-aggrandizement and petty cheating. It manifests itself in Trump's impulsiveness and vindictiveness; his craving for adulation; his misogyny, predatory sexual behavior, and sexualization of his daughters; his open admiration for brutal dictators; his remorselessness; and his lack of empathy and sympathy, including attacking a family whose son died while fighting for this country, mocking a reporter with a disability, and ridiculing a former POW."

Danny Sjursen in TruthDig: "The fallacy that [former Defense Secretary Jim] Mattis and other generals were the voice of reason in the Trump White House, the so-called 'adults in the room,' has precluded any serious critique of their actual strategy and advice.... The wildly unpopular, if not forbidden-to-be-uttered, truth is that Mattis, while an admittedly decorated Marine and a military strategist, was an abject failure. Despite being hailed as a 'warrior monk,' he was and remains a conventional interventionist figure -- prisoner to the tired old militarist ideas of the necessity for U.S. military forward deployment, counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, and the perpetual need to balance or 'contain' Russia and China." Thanks to PD Pepe for the link. Mrs. McC: Sjursen doesn't mention it, but I've always sorta figured Trump hired Mattis because President Obama fired him.

Presidential Race 2020

Matt Stevens of the New York Times: "Tom Steyer, the billionaire and former hedge fund investor turned impeachment activist, became the 11th Democratic presidential candidate to qualify for the October debates on Sunday after a new poll showed him with 2 percent support in Nevada.... With 11 candidates now qualified for the October event, the D.N.C. may split that debate across two nights, as it did for the first two sets of debates in June and July. The committee has not yet indicated whether it will do so."

Caitlin Byrd of the [Charleston, S.C.] Post & Courier: "Facing monumentally longshot odds, former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford announced Sunday he will challenge fellow Republican ... Donald Trump for the White House, launching a campaign centered on Washington spending but also on where the party is headed.The announcement came during a nationally televised in-studio appearance on 'Fox News Sunday'...."

Congressional Race 2019. Steven Shepard of Politico: "The last, lingering piece of the 2018 election is about to preview the fundamental dynamic shaping the fight for the White House in 2020. Tuesday's do-over election for a congressional seat marred by allegations of fraud last year, taking place in a Republican-leaning slice of North Carolina, exemplifies the key push-pull of politics in the Trump era: Cities and suburbs racing away from the GOP and toward Democrats -- and rural and exurban voters roaring back in the other direction, propelled by ... Donald Trump's appeal. The battle to maximize those trends will shape the 2020 campaign between Trump and his Democratic opponent in virtually every important swing state.... The president will hold a rally for Republican nominee Dan Bishop on Monday night in Fayetteville, seeking to boost GOP turnout on one end of the district and outdo Charlotte and its immediate suburbs on the opposite end, where Democrats in Mecklenburg County are in ascendance."

~~~ Senate Race 2020. Mrs. McCrabbie: In case you thought Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) -- who is up for re-election in 2020 -- spent last week back home appearing in photo ops where he pretended to be helping residents sandbag their homes against the impending hurricane, or tried to look concerned & empathetic while surveying storm-damaged properties, or in some other craven acts of retail politics that we think of as inevitable during election season, you would be wrong. Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) appeared in a photo with Geert Wilders, a controversial Dutch parliamentary leader with anti-Islam and anti-immigrant views, while both attended a European security conference in Italy. Graham and Wilders, leader of the Party of Freedom in the Netherlands, were seen smiling together Saturday night at the Ambrosetti Forum on Italy's Lake Como." Mrs. McC: No doubt the weather was fine, the accommodations superb & the cuisine divine at beautiful Lago di Como.

Brandon Ambrosino, a Liberty U. graduate, in Politico Magazine: "In interviews ... [of] ore than two dozen current and former high-ranking Liberty University officials and close associates of [Jerry] Falwell[, Jr.] over the past eight months, they depicted how Falwell and his wife, Becki, consolidated power at Liberty University and how Falwell presides over a culture of self-dealing, directing university resources into projects and real estate deals in which his friends and family have stood to make personal financial gains. Among the previously unreported revelations are Falwell's decision to hire his son Trey's company to manage a shopping center owned by the university, Falwell's advocacy for loans given by the university to his friends, and Falwell's awarding university contracts to businesses owned by his friends. 'We're not a school; we're a real estate hedge fund,' said a senior university official with inside knowledge of Liberty's finances. 'We're not educating; we're buying real estate every year and taking students' money to do it.'"

Way Beyond the Beltway

Hong Kong. Eileen Ng of the AP: "Thousands of students formed human chains outside schools across Hong Kong on Monday to show solidarity after violent weekend clashes between police and activists pushing for democratic reforms in the semiautonomous Chinese territory. The silent protest came as the Hong Kong government condemned the 'illegal behavior of radical protesters' and warned the U.S. to stay out of its affairs. Thousands of demonstrators held a peaceful march Sunday to the U.S. Consulate to seek Washington's support, but violence erupted hours later in a business and retail district as protesters vandalized subway stations, set fires and blocked traffic, prompting police to fire tear gas. Hong Kong's government agreed last week to withdraw an extradition bill that sparked a summer of protests, but demonstrators want other demands to be met, including direct elections of city leaders and an independent inquiry into police actions. Protesters in their Sunday march appealed to ... Donald Trump to 'stand with Hong Kong' and ensure Congress passes a bill that would impose economic sanctions and penalties on Hong Kong and mainland China officials found to suppress democracy and human rights in the city."

News Ledes

NBC News: "Rescue teams made contact on Monday with four crew members still inside the Golden Ray, the cargo ship that capsized off the coast of Georgia, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The crew members on the ship were trapped in the engine room of the massive vessel that overturned and caught fire on the St. Simons Sound off the coast of Brunswick, Georgia, on Sunday. On Sunday, South Korea's foreign ministry said that the Hyundai Glovis cargo ship Golden Ray, which was transporting automobiles, had begun listing and then capsized in the early morning hours Sunday." ~~~

~~~ NPR Update: "The U.S. Coast Guard says it has rescued the fourth and final crew member from an overturned car carrier vessel in waters off the coast of Brunswick, Ga., after reporting earlier in the day that all but one had been pulled to safety.... Rescue crews had been working since Sunday to locate the missing crew members after the Golden Ray became disabled and eventually overturned in St. Simons Sound, about 80 miles south of Savannah, Ga."

A Hurricane by Any Other Name. Japan Times: "A powerful typhoon landed near Tokyo early Monday morning, killing at least three people and injuring about 40 as well as affecting hundreds of thousands of rush-hour commuters in the metropolitan area at the start of the week. East Japan Railway Co., also known as JR East, had suspended all lines in the greater Tokyo area as Typhoon Faxai made landfall near the city of Chiba, shortly before 5 a.m., as one of the strongest typhoons on record in the Kanto region.... Some 934,900 households in seven prefectures including Chiba, Kanagawa and Shizuoka were believed to have been temporarily without power during the course of the storm, and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. said power would be unlikely to return Monday in some areas, including south of Chiba prefecture where typhoon damage is extensive."

Saturday
Sep072019

The Commentariat -- September 8, 2019

Michael Crowley, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump said on Saturday that he had canceled a secret meeting at Camp David with Taliban leaders and the president of Afghanistan and was calling off monthslong negotiations that had appeared to be nearing a peace agreement. Mr. Trump said ... in a series of tweets ... that 'in order to build false leverage,' the Taliban had admitted to a suicide car bomb attack on Thursday that had killed an American soldier and 11 others in the capital of Kabul. 'I immediately cancelled the meeting and called off peace negotiations,' he wrote.... Several people familiar with the diplomacy between the Trump administration and the Taliban puzzled over Mr. Trump's stated decision to cancel peace negotiations entirely in response to one American casualty, however tragic." Mrs. McC: The report discusses various aspects of the negotiations & cancellation, but I think the problem was that Trump had not found a vicious Taliban buddy. ~~~

~~~ Caroline Kelly & Kylie Atwood of CNN: "CNN military analyst John Kirby, a retired Navy rear admiral and former State Department and Pentagon spokesman, called the news 'stunning,' saying this would give the Taliban 'a boost of political legitimacy that they don't deserve at this stage in negotiations and would be a huge propaganda victory for them, not to mention a slap at the Afghan government and President Ghani.'... Despite Trump saying in his tweet Saturday that peace negotiations are called off, new dates are being discussed by the White House for a potential meeting with the Taliban and the Afghan government, the source says."

Mrs. McCrabbie: It looks as if the Turnberry Grift may be less problematic for Trump than suggested by the Politico story linked here yesterday:

~~~ Eric Lipton of the New York Times: "United States military personnel have occasionally stayed at the Trump Turnberry golf resort in Scotland while Defense Department planes stop over and refuel at the nearby airport, according to a person with direct knowledge of the arrangement.... Federal contract documents show that the Defense Department signed an agreement with the Prestwick airport to serve as a refueling location for military flights in August 2016, during the final months of the Obama administration. It could not be determined on Saturday if the department had contracts with the airport before then. The records also show that the first payments under this contract started in early October 2017 and that a total of 917 payments for 'liquid petroleum' have since been made at a total cost of $17.2 million.... There are more than two dozen hotels, guesthouses and inns just a few miles from the Prestwick airport, most of them much less expensive than the full advertised rate at Trump Turnberry.... Any profits from the stay, beyond covering basic services like housekeeping, are being paid back to the federal government, [a] Trump [Organization] representative said.... The Guardian ... reported [in 2018] that the Scottish government sought out the contract with the Defense Department to try to help increase revenue at the airport.... The Trump Organization announced in 2014 that it was teaming up with executives at the Prestwick airport to try to drive more traffic to its runways." ~~~

~~~ Colby Itkowitz of the Washington Post: "The House Oversight Committee is investigating why a financially struggling airport near a Trump-owned golf course in Scotland has seen an uptick in expenditures by the U.S. military since President Trump took office." ~~~

~~~ Eric Lipton & Annie Karni of the New York Times: "Staying at the Trump hotel or hosting an event in one of its ballrooms is hardly a guarantee of getting something in return from the Trump administration, or even getting on Mr. Trump's personal radar. But many people ... have learned that it also does not hurt.... To ethics lawyers, the most extraordinary aspect of the daily merging of Mr. Trump's official duties and his commercial interests both in Washington and around the world is that it has now become almost routine. Since Mr. Trump became president, there have been thousands of visits to his properties, not only by Mr. Trump himself, but by foreign leaders, lobbyists, Republican candidates, members of Congress, cabinet members and others with ties to the president. At least 90 members of Congress, 250 Trump administration officials and more than 110 foreign officials have been spotted at Trump properties since 2017, according to social media posts and counts by various watchdog groups." ~~~

~~~ Scott Lemieux in LG&$: "The fact that the press was able to convince most of the public that Hillary Clinton was the more dishonest of the two candidates in 2016, based on relentless coverage of [an] inane bullshit that wouldn't rank in the top 1,000 bad acts of Donald Trump's pre-presidential life, is ... remarkable."

Andrew Freedman, et al., of the Washington Post: "Nearly a week before the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration publicly backed President Trump over its own scientists, a top NOAA official warned its staff against contradicting the president. In an agencywide directive sent Sept. 1 to National Weather Service personnel, hours after Trump asserted, with no evidence, that Alabama 'would most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated,' staff was told to 'only stick with official National Hurricane Center forecasts if questions arise from some national level social media posts which hit the news this afternoon.' They were also told not to 'provide any opinion,' according to a copy of the email obtained by The Washington Post.... The agency sent a similar message warning scientists and meteorologists not to speak out on Sept. 4, after Trump showed a hurricane map from Aug. 29 modified with a hand-drawn, half-circle in black Sharpie around Alabama. Acting NOAA administrator Neil Jacobs was involved in drawing up the statement as was the NOAA director of public affairs, Julie Kay Roberts, who has experience in emergency management and worked on the president's campaign. The leadership of the Commerce Department, headed by Secretary Wilbur Ross, also approved the release, though Ross was out of the country at the time." ~~~

     ~~~ The Houston Chronicle has republished the WashPo story here. Oops! The Chron is also subscriber-firewalled & won't allow access thru incognito windows. So here's a Washington Examiner story. ~~~

~~~ Seth Borenstein of the AP: "Former top officials of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are assailing the agency for undermining its weather forecasters as it defends ... Donald Trump's statement from days ago that Hurricane Dorian threatened Alabama. They say NOAA's action risks the credibility of the nation's weather and science agency and may even risk lives. Dismay came those who served under Republican and Democratic presidents alike as leaders in meteorology and disaster response sized up a sustained effort by Trump and his aides to justify his warning that Alabama, among other states, was 'most likely' to be hit hard by Dorian, contrary to forecasts showing Alabama was clear. That effort led NOAA to repudiate a tweet from the National Weather Service the previous weekend assuring Alabamans -- accurately -- that they had nothing to fear from the hurricane. The weather service is part of NOAA and the tweet came from its Birmingham, Alabama, office. 'This rewriting history to satisfy an ego diminishes NOAA,' Elbert 'Joe' Friday, former Republican-appointed director of the National Weather Service, said on Facebook.... Alabama had never been included in hurricane advisories and Trump's information, based on less authoritative graphics than an official forecast, was outdated even at the time.... Justin Kenney, who headed the agency's communications in the Obama administration, said 'by politicizing weather forecasts, the president ... puts more people -- including first responders -- in harm's way.'" ~~~

~~~ Tracy Connor of the Daily Beast: "The head of the union that represents federal weather workers said Friday that his members are 'shocked, stunned and irate' that the federal agency whose workers they represent put out a statement siding with President Trump in the increasingly bizarre dispute over whether Hurricane Dorian was on track to hit Alabama. 'Never ever before has their management thrown them under the bus like this,' said Dan Sobien, president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, which represents 4,000 employees under the umbrella of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 'These are the people risking their lives flying into hurricanes and putting out forecasts that save lives. Never before has their management undercut their scientifically sound reasoning and forecasts,' Sobien told The Daily Beast." ~~~

~~~ Brian Stelter of CNN: "If, on Sunday, Trump actually believed that Alabama was at risk, it shows a shocking lack of knowledge about geography, science, and storms. Everyone watching TV on Sunday knew Dorian was a Bahamas, Florida, Georgia, and Carolinas storm. A single glimpse at a map showed that Alabama wasn't going to be 'hit.' So what does this episode tell us about Trump's critical thinking skills and his unwillingness to admit to mistakes?... Chris Hayes' answer on MSNBC Friday night: We're 'watching the president lose his mind.'... This week, the Trump administration distributed: -- Multiple tweets from the president that tried (and failed) to justify his incorrect claims that Alabama was, as of Sunday, at risk of being 'hit' by Hurricane Dorian. -- A misleading statement from Trump's homeland security adviser that attempted to justify Trump's falsehoods[.] -- An op-ed by Stephanie Grisham and Hogan Gidley attacking the Post. The op-ed contained multiple errors. -- A video from the president's Twitter account containing out-of-date info about Dorian, in an attempt to critique CNN, followed by an amateurish graphic of a CNN logo driving and crashing. All of this disinformation is taxpayer-funded." ~~~

~~~ Matt Stieb, et al., of New York: "Though he's proven himself incapable of working eight-hour days or maintaining a consistent story about why he fired his FBI director, President Trump has shown remarkable focus and dedication when it comes to proving certain minor and irrelevant points.... Though most Americans probably missed Trump's false claim on Sunday that Alabama was likely to be hit by Hurricane Dorian, he spent the rest of the week highlighting his own embarrassing mistake.... Here's a recap of this week's dumbest saga, which now seems poised to outlast the hurricane itself."

This should silence you cynics who thought Trump was too self-absorbed to care for a pet. Thanks to unwashed for the photo.Frank Rich: "To call Trump erratic right now is a compliment. He makes Roseanne Barr look like Theresa May.... Sharpiegate is only one offering in the past week or so's 24/7 repertory of White House Looney Tunes. Not even another mass killing in Texas could distract our president from a public feud with his long-ago fellow NBC primetime star Debra Messing, of Will & Grace. There's also the bagatelle of his tweeting out a classified surveillance photo of an Iranian missile site, yet another in an endless series of moves to undermine American intelligence agencies. But there may be more of a method to the madness of Trump's 'congratulations' to Poland on the 80th anniversary of the German invasion. Far from being one of his typical displays of utter historical and geopolitical ignorance, this tweet may have been a heartfelt expression of his genuine conviction that there are very fine people on both sides' when Nazis launch a blitzkrieg."

Craig Howie of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Saturday took aim at two Washington Post reporters.... 'The Washington Post's @PhilipRucker (Mr. Off the Record) & @AshleyRParker, two nasty lightweight reporters, shouldn't even be allowed on the grounds of the White House because their reporting is so DISGUSTING & FAKE,' the president tweeted at 7:09 a.m. The tweet linked to an op-ed by White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham and Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley rebutting a Washington Post story published earlier this week that highlighted the president';s missteps amid the administration's policy stumbles over the summer. But the White House op-ed inaccurately claimed the Washington Post didn't report stories that it actually did cover."

Sam Brodey & Erin Banco of the Daily Beast: "Corey Lewandowksi, Donald Trump's 2016 campaign manager and a key figure in his political orbit, is set to appear before the House Judiciary Committee where he will be questioned in a public hearing on Sept. 17, according to two sources familiar with the discussions. Lawmakers are interested in pressing Lewandowski for more information on the instances of possible obstruction of justice by the president that were outlined in Robert Mueller's report. Though Lewandowski did not hold a White House job, he figures prominently in Volume 2 of the report, which found that Trump asked his former campaign chief to press then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to curb the special counsel's investigation. In August, Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) issued a subpoena for testimony from Lewandowski, who has publicly said he'd be happy to testify and, as he put it during a Fox News radio interview, 'remind the American people that these guys are on a witch hunt, right?'... Lewandowski will answer questions in an open hearing with the cameras rolling -- making him the first Trump associate to do so before Nadler's committee."

Presidential Race 2020

Trent Spiner & Holly Otterbein of Politico: "The 1,280 most influential Democrats in [New Hampshire] hosted 19 presidential hopefuls on Saturday for the party's annual convention. Joe Biden found little mojo for his candidacy among Democratic Party insiders at their state convention here Saturday, despite leading the polls in the first-in-the-nation primary state. A striking number of party activists said they were undecided as 19 presidential candidates delivered stump speeches over seven hours at the SNHU Arena, according to interviews with 100 delegates by Politico. Elizabeth Warren led the way among the surveyed delegates who had made up their minds, followed by Bernie Sanders in second and Biden in third." ~~~

~~~ Love Thy Neighbors. Annie Linskey & Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post: "It took until midafternoon [in Manchester, New Hampshire] for Democrats in the first-in-the-nation primary state to start showing some real enthusiasm for their presidential candidates who traveled here for the party convention. When Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took the stage Saturday, a huge roar came from the left bleachers, where his supporters had packed the stadium seats at the SNHU Arena. And later, when the name of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was announced, the entire area erupted, with thousands banging together inflatable 'thunder sticks' emblazoned with the slogan: 'Win With Warren.'... While Sanders and Warren, who are the most liberal in the field, don't lead in early polls, the overwhelming response suggested some blend of superior organization from the campaigns and untapped excitement from the most plugged-in voters and party activists who attended Saturday's event. It also doesn't hurt that both are from states that border New Hampshire."

Reid Wilson of the Hill: "The South Carolina Republican Party appeared to violate its own rules on Saturday when the party's executive committee voted to cancel next year's primary election. The executive committee voted nearly unanimously to cancel the primary, state party chairman Drew McKissick said, because President Trump had drawn 'no legitimate primary challenger.' Trump has drawn two former Republican elected officials as challengers. Former Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) -- who served two terms as governor of South Carolina -- is also considering joining the field. Any of those candidates may decide to sue the South Carolina GOP, some Republican insiders said, because Saturday's vote ran contrary to the state party's rules. The rule that governs South Carolina's presidential preference primary allows the state party to cancel the primary only by a vote at the state party convention, within two years of the subsequent primary. South Carolina Republicans did not vote to cancel the primary at either of its last two conventions." ...

... Meg Kinnard of the AP: "Republican leaders in Nevada, South Carolina and Kansas have voted to scrap their presidential nominating contests in 2020, erecting more hurdles for the long-shot candidates challenging ... Donald Trump. 'What is Donald Trump afraid of?' asked one of those rivals, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld. Canceling primaries, caucuses and other voting is not unusual for the party of the White House incumbent seeking a second term."


Marc Tracy & Tiffany Hsu
of the New York Times: "The director of M.I.T.'s prestigious Media Lab [Joichi Ito] stepped down on Saturday after an outcry over his financial ties with the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, whose contributions to the proudly contrarian lab roiled and divided its members.... Mr. Ito ... stepped down less than a day after an article in The New Yorker described the measures that officials at the lab took to conceal its relationship with Mr. Epstein.... Mr. Ito ... was a board member of The New York Times Company since 2012, but on Saturday, the company announced that he had resigned from the board." the Hill story is here. ~~~

~~~ Ronan Farrow of the New Yorker: "The M.I.T. Media Lab, which has been embroiled in a scandal over accepting donations from the financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, had a deeper fund-raising relationship with Epstein than it has previously acknowledged, and it attempted to conceal the extent of its contacts with him. Dozens of pages of e-mails and other documents obtained by The New Yorker reveal that, although Epstein was listed as 'disqualified' in M.I.T.'s official donor database, the Media Lab continued to accept gifts from him, consulted him about the use of the funds, and, by marking his contributions as anonymous, avoided disclosing their full extent, both publicly and within the university. Perhaps most notably, Epstein appeared to serve as an intermediary between the lab and other wealthy donors, soliciting millions of dollars in donations from individuals and organizations, including the technologist and philanthropist Bill Gates and the investor Leon Black.... The effort to conceal the lab's contact with Epstein was so widely known that some staff in the office of the lab's director, Joi Ito, referred to Epstein as Voldemort or 'he who must not be named.'... On Wednesday, Ito disclosed that he had separately received $1.2 million from Epstein for investment funds under his control, in addition to five hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars that he acknowledged Epstein had donated to the lab." ~~~

~~~ Scott Lemieux in LG&$: "I mean, yes, serial child rape sounds bad, but the Director of Development and Strategy could really use a second secretary and perhaps an Associate Director for Leveraging Synergistic Liaisons, and I could go on like this for a while, so you can see the dilemma they had.... We can be confident there are many more such scandals to come. Epstein's ability to purchase the appearance of respectability is really 2019 America in a nutshell."

R.I.P. Sam Stein & Gideon Resnick of the Daily Beast (September 6): "ThinkProgress, the influential news site that rose to prominence in the shadow of the Bush administration and helped define progressivism during the Obama years, is shutting down. The outlet, which served as an editorially independent project of the Democratic Party think tank Center for American Progress (CAP), will stop current operations on Friday and be converted into a site where CAP scholars can post.... [Navin] Nayak, [director of the CAProgress Action Fund] did say that ClimateProgress, which started as an independent blog before merging with ThinkProgress, will be taken over by its founder, Joe Romm." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: I sure hope Ian Millhiser, among others, finds a soft landing place. I have found his legal analysis to be very helpful. Update: In a tweet, Millhiser says he'll be starting a new job next week, TBA.

Way Beyond the Beltway

Iran. Nasser Karimi & Jon Gambrell of the AP: "Iran on Saturday said it now uses arrays of advanced centrifuges prohibited by its 2015 nuclear deal and can enrich uranium 'much more beyond' current levels to weapons-grade material, taking a third step away from the accord while warning Europe has little time to offer it new terms. While insisting Iran doesn't seek a nuclear weapon, the comments by Behrouz Kamalvandi of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran threatened pushing uranium enrichment far beyond levels ever reached in the country. Prior to the atomic deal, Iran only reached up to 20%, which itself still is only a short technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%."

U.K. BBC News: "Amber Rudd has quit Boris Johnson's Cabinet, with an outspoken attack on the way the government is managing the Brexit process. The ex-work and pensions secretary said the government was having no 'formal negotiations' with the EU about a new Brexit deal, only 'conversations'. Instead, 80-90% of its time was spent preparing for an 'inferior' no-deal option, she said."