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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday
Jun152017

The Commentariat -- June 16, 2017

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Trump has officially reversed his campaign pledge to deport the so-called Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as small children. The Department of Homeland Security announced late Thursday night that it would continue the Obama-era program intended to protect those immigrants from deportation and provide them work permits so they can find legal employment.... At one rally last summer, Mr. Trump vowed to 'immediately terminate' the DACA program, saying that Mr. Obama had 'defied federal law and the Constitution.'" -- CW ...

... Here's Another Way to Look at It. Maria Sachetti of the Washington Post: "Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly announced late Thursday that he has rescinded an Obama-era memo that sought to shield millions of parents of U.S. citizens and others from deportation. Kelly's act fulfills part of a campaign promise that President Trump had made to overturn two of Barack Obama's controversial memos on illegal immigration. The rescinded memo was never implemented and is the subject of an ongoing federal court battle waged by Texas and other states that opposed Obama's program. Thursday marked the judge's deadline for the parties to set a timetable to resolve the case. Instead, Kelly rescinded the memo, saying on the department's website that there is 'no credible path forward' in court. However, Trump has let stand Obama's 2012 memo that has granted reprieves from deportation to nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived as children." -- CW

Friday Morning in Crazy Trump Tweets:

I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt -- Donald J. Trump June 16, 2017

After 7 months of investigations & committee hearings about my 'collusion with the Russians,' nobody has been able to show any proof. Sad! -- Donald J. Trump June 16, 2017

The Fake News Media hates when I use what has turned out to be my very powerful Social Media - over 100 million people! I can go around them -- Donald J. Trump June 16, 2017 ...

... Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Trump acknowledged publicly for the first time Friday that he is under investigation in the expanding inquiry into Russian influence in the election and appeared to attack the integrity of the Justice Department official in charge of leading it. In an early-morning tweet, the president declared that he is 'being investigated' for his decision to fire James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director. And he appeared to accuse Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, of leading a 'witch hunt.'" ...

... CW: Shear doesn't mention this, so I will note some prior remarks Rosenstein made in testimony before a Congressional committee: "My memorandum is not a statement of reasons to justify a for-cause termination.... On May 8, I learned that President Trump intended to remove Director Comey and sought my advice and input. Notwithstanding my personal affection for Director Comey, I thought it was appropriate to seek a new leader.... I wrote a brief memorandum to the Attorney General summarizing my longstanding concerns about Director Comey's public statements concerning the Secretary Clinton email investigation. I chose the issues to include in my memorandum." ...

Thursday Afternoon in Crazy Trump Tweets:

Why is that Hillary Clintons family and Dems dealings with Russia are not looked at, but my non-dealings are?-- Donald Trump June 15, 2017

Crooked H destroyed phones w/ hammer, 'bleached' emails, & had husband meet w/AG days before she was cleared- & they talk about obstruction? -- Donald Trump June 15, 2017

Rebecca Ruiz of the New York Times: "Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, encouraged Americans in a statement issued late Thursday to be 'skeptical about anonymous allegations' after a string of recent news reports about the evolving focus of the special counsel's investigation into Russia's election interference and possible collusion with President Trump's associates. 'Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous "officials," particularly when they do not identify the country -- let alone the branch or agency of government -- with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated,' Mr. Rosenstein said in the statement.... 'The Department of Justice has a long-established policy to neither confirm nor deny such allegations.'" -- CW ...

... CW: Good advice, Rod. BUT ...

... Trump Team Confirms Obstruction Investigation Is True. Callum Borchers of the Washington Post: "Here is the statement issued by President Trump's legal team, in response to The Washington Post's report that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice: 'The FBI leak of information regarding the president is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal.' Translation: The report is true, and we're really mad that someone (actually five someones) made the obstruction investigation public.... Trump followed with a tweet that seemed to further confirm that, yes, he is under investigation for possible obstruction. 'They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice'... And the official Republican talking points all rest on the premise that the report is accurate. Trump surrogates have been instructed to argue that leaks are the real problem and that there is no legal case for obstruction." -- CW ...

... Daniel Hemel & Eric Posner in a New York Times op-ed: "... if publicly reported facts are accurate, Mr. Mueller is likely to find that he has a strong case against Mr. Trump.... Congress has made it a felony for any person -- including the president -- to 'corruptly' interfere with a proceeding before a federal agency.... Federal courts have said that an entire course of conduct can constitute obstruction.... Mr. Trump has reportedly considered firing the special counsel. If he does, the president will have interfered not only with the investigation of his campaign's Russia ties but also with the investigation into his own possible obstruction of the investigation. Covering up a cover-up would be yet another crime. In this, as in so many ways, Mr. Trump would break new ground." -- CW ...

... Lachlan Markay, et al., of the Daily Beast: "With the crisis engulfing Trump's young presidency intensifying, senators, Trump aides, former prosecutors, and FBI veterans are sending the White House an urgent warning: Whatever you do, don't. Fire. Mueller. News of the obstruction investigation, which was first reported by The Washington Post on Wednesday, comes just days after Trump himself began floating the possibility of firing the new head of the investigation: Robert Mueller, the Justice Department special counsel appointed in the wake of Comey's firing.... Trump reportedly floated the possibility of firing Mueller as a way to prod him toward exonerating the president and other Trump associates party to the investigation.... White House officials are still insisting to the president that he should leave Mueller in his post.... Firing Mueller would also put the president in greater legal jeopardy than he already may be in, said former United States attorney Barbara McQuade.... 'The president did this to himself,' [a senior White House official said]." -- CW (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... All the President's Crimes. Jonathan Chait: "The supposed lack of evidence for any underlying crime for Trump to obstruct has become an article of faith on the right.... What, you might wonder, would count as evidence of Trump colluding with Russian election interference? How about one of his campaign advisers having advance knowledge of the Russian hacking operation? Because that exists.... What if I told you Donald Trump asked Russia to hack his opponent's email system and publicize the results in order to help Trump, and it was on video? Because that exists, too.... Republicans in Congress have blocked bills to compel the release of [Trump's tax] returns, which conveniently makes it easier for them to insist there's no evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia." -- CW ...

... Laurel Raymond of ThinkProgress: "It's not necessary for the underlying crime to have been committed by the person โ€Š-- or even to exist โ€Š-- โ€Šfor that person to commit obstruction of justice." Raymond cites as precedent Ken Starr's Whitewater investigation, which turned up no evidence of any Clinton wrondoing in regard to the land deal. -- CW ...

... CW: Speaking of Ken Starr, mild-mannered Whitewater villain & fired Baylor U. president, he has an op-ed in today's Washington Post where he says Rosenstein probably shouldn't fire Mueller -- tho there are problems with Mueller's impartiality because he's a Friend of Comey! -- and Congress is doing a great job investigating all this stuff & JeffBo's testimony was totally stellar. ...

... NEW. Josh Dawsey of Politico: "Aides and volunteers on Donald Trump’s presidential transition were instructed Thursday to save any records related to 'several pending investigations into potential attempts by Russia interests to influence the 2016 election,' according to a memo obtained by Politico. In the memo from a transition lawyer, campaign officials were told to preserve all documents related to the Russian Federation, Ukraine and a number of campaign advisers and officials, including former campaign manager Paul Manafort, advisers Carter Page, Rick Gates and Roger Stone, and former national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn." -- CW ...

... Manu Raju of CNN: "The Senate intelligence committee won't probe whether ... Donald Trump obstructed justice over the FBI's investigation into his former associates and their contacts with Russian officials, leaving the criminal inquiry to special counsel Robert Mueller.... 'Obstruction is criminal -- there's a criminal aspect to that,' committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, told CNN Thursday. 'It's never been part of our' investigation. Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the vice chairman, told CNN: 'The criminal piece of the investigation will be handled by the special counsel, but if we find facts we can turn this over to the special counsel' and 'report them' to Mueller's office." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Pence Lawyers Up. Ashley Parker of the Washington Post: "Vice President Pence has hired outside legal counsel to help with both congressional committee inquiries and the special counsel investigation into possible collusion between President Trump's campaign and Russia." -- CW ...

... Sari Horwitz, et al., of the Washington Post: "Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is investigating the finances and business dealings of Jared Kushner ... as part of the probe into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to officials familiar with the matter. FBI agents and federal prosecutors have also been examining the financial dealings of other Trump associates, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Carter Page, who was listed as a foreign-policy adviser for the campaign." -- CW

... JeffBo Digs a Deeper Hole. Stephanie Kirchgaessner of the Guardian: "An American lobbyist for Russian interests who helped craft an important foreign policy speech for Donald Trump has confirmed that he attended two dinners hosted by Jeff Sessions during the 2016 campaign, apparently contradicting the attorney general's sworn testimony given this week. Sessions testified under oath on Tuesday that he did not believe he had any contacts with lobbyists working for Russian interests over the course of Trump's campaign. But Richard Burt, a former ambassador to Germany during the Reagan administration, who has represented Russian interests in Washington, told the Guardian that he could confirm previous media reports that stated he had contacts with Sessions at the time.... Several media reports published before Trump's election in November noted that Burt advised then candidate Trump on his first major foreign policy speech [delivered at the Mayflower Hotel], a role that brought him into contact with Sessions personally.... It is also possible that Sessions was not fully aware of Burt's lobbying history, although Burt's affiliation with Russian interests is fairly well known in Washington circles." -- CW (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... William Saletan of Slate: "... there's an extra reason to suspect that Trump is guilty: The two lawyers with whom the president collaborated in the firing, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, aren't vouching for Trump's innocence.... Testifying on Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sessions said Trump had directly solicited the memos. Rosenstein, in a statement to Congress on May 18, denied that his memo was 'a survey of FBI morale or performance' or 'a statement of reasons to justify a for-cause termination,' as Trump and the White House had implied." -- CW ...

... Putin Punks Trump. Diamond Siu of Politico: "Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said his country is ready to offer James Comey asylum if the former FBI director should face political persecution. 'If Comey will be under the threat of political persecution, we are ready to accept him here,' Putin said, speaking at the president's annual, televised question-and-answering session with the Russian people. 'It sounds very strange when the head of the security services writes down a conversation with the commander-in-chief and then leaks it to the media through his friend.' Putin likened Comey's actions to those of a human rights defender, even drawing parallels to Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked thousands of documents in 2013." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... David Nakamura & Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "Two weeks ago in the Rose Garden, President Trump declared that under his leadership, foreign leaders won't be 'laughing at us anymore.' Since then, he’s been the butt of jokes in capitals around the world. In Mexico, former president Vicente Fox posted a profane video on YouTube, mocking Trump's taste for taco bowls ('they're not even Mexican!') and border walls ('Mexico will not pay') that has been viewed nearly half a million times. In France, new President Emmanuel Macron unveiled a website titled 'Make Our Planet Great Again' and invited U.S. scientists to move there, a week after Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate accord. And in Australia, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who sparred with Trump in a testy phone call in February, this week treated a black-tie gala to a snarky impersonation of 'The Donald,' referring to the Russia investigation and employing the president's famous catchphrases." -- CW

** Drew Harwell & Jonathan O'Connell of the Washington Post: "By rolling back Obama-era policies that allowed more private business investment in Cuba, President Trump would be leveraging ... [his] ability, through his official actions, to undermine a growth area for his industry rivals who have raced in recent years to establish a foothold in a lucrative new market.... Trump is expected to announce in Miami on Friday his intention to ban certain financial transactions between U.S. businesses and the Cuban military, whose companies control much of the island's economy and a significant share of the tourism and hotel sector.... Trump in the past has signaled his interest in the potential financial opportunities in Cuba.... Trump's company has vowed to pursue no new foreign deals during his presidency, making a potential foray into Cuba off limits for now. Yet, according to one industry expert, a presidential directive restricting efforts there by Starwood [Hotels & Resorts] and other hotel chains would, in effect, neutralize a chief rival's ability to gain an early advantage." -- CW

Tim Egan: "His Magnificence, The Most Excellent President Ever, turned 71 on Wednesday, just days after bathing in a long, public soak of adoration from his cabinet. Donald Trump isn't just the oldest president elected in American history but also perhaps the first to project a complete set of values that have not aged well.... An old leader is a problem only when enthralled by geriatric ideas.... For most of our history, an American export was youthful optimism.... A president bereft of fresh ideas, Trump can only fall back on a gauzy past. He wants dirty coal emissions to foul the skies again. He wants a grim do-over of the failed, costly and unjust lock-'em-up days of the drug war. He seems to want a return to Cold War treatment of Cuba. Is there any 'good old days' failure he has yet to embrace?" -- CW

Eric Trump's Wedding Planner to Run Major HUD Program. (You read that right.) Greg Smith of the New York Daily News: "President Trump has appointed longtime loyalist Lynne Patton -- who has zero housing experience and claims a law degree the school says she never earned -- ... to head up the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Region II, which includes New York and New Jersey, where she'll oversee distribution of billions of taxpayer dollars. Patton's tight relationship with the Trump clan dates back to 2009, when she began serving as the family's 'event planner.' 'Responsible for organizing, executing and assisting with upscale events and celebrity golf tournaments,' her LinkedIn profile says. 'Handle celebrity talent acquisition for various marketing projects, philanthropic events and golf tournaments.' From 2011 through January, she also helped run the Eric Trump Foundation, a charity that's now under investigation by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman." ...

     ... CW: I'd be inclined to write off Smith's report as Onion/Borowitz-type parody if we didn't already know Trump had hired his caddy & a fired "Apprentice" contestant for West Wing posts. The real story here is that Trump is actively, serially, purposely making a mockery of governance. From his appointments of Ivanka & Jared to Betsy Richy-Rich, Ole Doc Ben & Rick Perry to the Caddyshack Kid, Trump wants you to know that any ignoramus is smart enough to do a government job. Hey, maybe I could head up NASA or NOAA. My qualifications: I know O-rings aren't Cheerios & April showers bring May flowers. Trump's appointments are insults to all the people who have dedicated their careers to government service, often knowing they could find more lucrative work in the private sector.

Josh Boak of the AP: "The White House lacks a unified plan to increase the government's borrowing cap as a likely September deadline is drawing near, said Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget.... Mulvaney said he would like to see the debt ceiling raised in July.... Under the current borrowing restrictions, the government has already been taking extraordinary measures and will likely be unable to pay its bills at some point in September." -- CW ...

    ... CW: It would be fair to say "the White House lacks a unified plan" to get through any day of the week.


House Republicans Stunned Famous Swindler Scammed Them. Jonathan Swan
of Axios: "President Trump's private comment earlier this week that the House healthcare bill was 'mean' is having a lingering, and potentially devastating, effect on his credibility among House Republicans. Members are still talking about Trump's comment, and their frustration that he'd throw them under the bus is likely to damage his ability to negotiate on major items like infrastructure and tax reform.... A number of members of Congress have told Axios that Trump and Pence lobbied the bill like nothing they'd ever seen, using superlatives such as calling it a 'great bill.' Members who Trump urged to take a risk and pass the bill are now seeing him turn his back on them. One member said Trump was on the phone urging people to support it, and 'for him to turn around and do this, it's stunning. I can't believe it.'" ...

... Eric Levitz is amused. -- CW ...

... Thomas Kaplan & Robert Pear of the New York Times: "As they draft legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Senate Republican leaders are aiming to transform large sections of the American health care system without a single hearing on their bill and without a formal, open drafting session. That has created an air of distrust and concern -- on and off Capitol Hill, with Democrats but also with Republicans." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Kevin Drum: "It's been nearly seven weeks since Republicans took up Obamacare repeal. There have still been no hearings and none are in sight. Still no CBO score. Still no press conferences. Still no markups. Still no bill that the public is allowed to see.... Sarah Kliff [of Vox] is appalled. 'I've covered Obamacare since day one,' she says. 'I've never seen lying and obstruction like this.' And that's just the headline. But if it works, Mitch McConnell doesn't care. And so far it's working." -- CW ...

... Ezra Klein: "On Friday, [Mitch] McConnell reportedly 'delivered a private warning to his Senate Republicans: If they failed to pass legislation unwinding the Affordable Care Act, Democrats could regain power and establish a single-payer health-care system.'... History may record a certain irony if this is the argument McConnell uses to successfully destroy Obamacare. In recent conversations with Democrats and industry observers, I've become convinced that just the opposite is true: If Republicans unwind Obamacare and pass their bill, then Democrats are much likelier to establish a single-payer health care system -- or at least the beginnings of one -- when they regain power." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "The Commerce Department has removed language from its annual equal opportunity statement barring discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, prompting a protest from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists.... Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in an interview that while the prohibitions against sexual discrimination still cover LGBT employees, the change in wording 'is careless. It makes LGBT people in the Commerce Department feel unwelcome, and it makes it more likely managers will make illegal mistakes.'" -- CW ...

... MEANWHILE, contributor Marvin S. posts this from a Facebook account. I haven't verfied it, but Joe. My. God. and others have:

As it turns out, Steve Scalise and countless other Republicans were saved yesterday by a DC law enforcement officer named Crystal Griner. She and her partner David Bailey were the cops that took down yesterday's shooter. She was shot in the ankle for her troubles. Officer Bailey is her professional partner. Ms Griner's life's partner and married companion is Tiffany Dyer. That's right, haters of LGBTQ rights, a lesbian saved your fucking lives. Steve Scalise -- vocal proponent of bans on same sex marriage -- alive today courtesy of a woman who loves a woman.

... CW: When he gets to feeling better, Scalise also might want to reflect on the fact that the police officers who brought down the shooter -- and saved his life -- were both black. Scalise's record on black civil rights is, um, challenged: he was one of only six members of the Louisiana legislature who voted against making Martin Luther King, Jr., Day a state holiday, and in defending his speaking engagement for a white supremacist group led by David Duke, he likened the racist organization to the League of Women Voters, "a pretty liberal group." ...

... Jack Date & Pierre Thomas of ABC News: "The firearms recovered from the alleged attacker in Wednesday's shooting at an Alexandria, Virginia, baseball field that left House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and several others injured were purchased legally, according to multiple law enforcement sources. While James T. Hodgkinson, the alleged shooter, reportedly had several previous run-ins with the law, because he had no felony convictions, he was able to purchase the weapons legally. Sources told ABC News that the primary weapon used in shooting was an SKS 7.62 assault-style rifle. Authorities also recovered a Smith and Wesson 9 mm pistol, though it was not clear if it was used in the attack." -- CW

Susan Chira of the New York Times: "The twin spectacles Tuesday -- an Uber board member's wisecrack about women talking too much, and Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of California, being interrupted for the second time in a week by her male colleagues -- triggered an outpouring of recognition and what has become almost ritual social-media outrage. Academic studies and countless anecdotes make it clear that being interrupted, talked over, shut down or penalized for speaking out is nearly a universal experience for women when they are outnumbered by men.... Even in companies without notorious bro-cultures, however, women have had to struggle to feel heard and, as the numbers make clear, to advance to the top." CW: Read the anecdotes Chira collected. Women will recognize them as being all too familiar. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Peter Hermann & Dana Hedgpeth of the Washington Post: "Authorities in the District [of Columbia] said Thursday that they have criminally charged a dozen members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's security team who authorities say attacked protesters outside the ambassador's residence in May.... Authorities said they identified the suspects by comparing video of the melee with passport and visa images, using facial recognition techniques.... Some critics were angry police did not make more arrests on the spot; the State Department ordered a federal police agency to release two presidential guards taken into custody, saying they had diplomatic immunity. It is not immediately clear whether those issues had been sorted out." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Manuel Roig-Franzia of the Washington Post: "The jury in Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial informed the judge late Thursday morning that it is deadlocked on all three counts of aggravated indecent assault against the 79-year-old comedian. Judge Steven T. O'Neill ordered the panel to return to the jury room to keep trying." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Washington Post: "Amazon.com, the online retail giant, made a major move into the brick and mortar space Friday, announcing that it would buy Whole Foods Market in a deal valued at $13.7 billion. Amazon has recently begun experimenting with bookstores and a small grocery, but this is by far its most ambitious move into physical retail." -- CW

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Oliver Darcy of CNN: "The New York Times on Thursday issued a correction to an editorial after it was widely criticized for incorrectly linking the 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords to a map circulated by Sarah Palin's political action committee which showed certain electoral districts under crosshairs. 'An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly stated that a link existed between political incitement and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords,' the Times' correction said. 'In fact, no such link was established.'... A Times news story on the shooting that ran the same day as the editorial noted that 'no connection' between the Palin map and Giffords shooting 'was established.'... The news side of the Times had years ago provided ample evidence to suggest that [Giffords' attacker Jared] Loughner was not motivated by the map produced by Palin's PAC, but was mentally ill and untethered from reality, and aware of Giffords independently." -- CW ...

... Michelle Lee of the Washington Post: "We're glad to see this fixed in the editorial, but it's not a good sign that the debunked talking point was included as fact in the editorial of a major media outlet. Any future references to this talking point by politicians or political groups will receive Four Pinocchios." CW: Looks as if the Times bought out some of its fact-checkers, too.

Beyond the Beltway

Just Another Day in the U.S.A. Leila Miller & Matt Hamilton of the Los Angeles Times: "A man armed with a rifle fired several rounds toward Los Angeles police officers Thursday night near a park in South Los Angeles, and police returned fire at the gunman. It's unclear if the shooter was struck by police gunshots. He fled the area, prompting a massive search that was expected to continue late into the night." -- CW ...

... MEANWHILE. Kate Mather, et al., of the Los Angeles Times: "Racing through the streets of South L.A. in a pair of stolen police cruisers ... Wednesday night..., three teenage LAPD cadets led LAPD officers on car chases that ended in separate crashes, Chief Charlie Beck said Thursday afternoon. The chases sparked an investigation that revealed some of the cadets may have also stolen a bulletproof vest, two stun guns and two police radios, the chief said.... No firearms went missing, and there were no weapons in the stolen cruisers, according to Beck.... A subsequent investigation revealed that a third car had also been taken by the cadets.... The Los Angeles Police Department has long hailed its cadet program as a successful partnership between police and the city's young residents." -- CW

Way Beyond

Dan Bilefsky of the New York Times: "Under pressure from critics, Prime Minister Theresa May ordered a public inquiry on Thursday into the lethal fire that turned a West London apartment tower into a pillar of charred rubble and that raised anxieties about safety procedures and construction materials in high-rise buildings. The death toll from the fire, which began early Wednesday, rose to 17 and is certain to climb further, the authorities warned. As of late Thursday afternoon, 30 people remained in hospitals, including 10 in critical condition. Many residents, possibly dozens, remained unaccounted for." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Wednesday
Jun142017

The Commentariat -- June 15, 2017

Afternoon Update:

This Afternoon in Crazy Trump Tweets:

Why is that Hillary Clintons family and Dems dealings with Russia are not looked at, but my non-dealings are?-- Donald Trump June 15, 2017

Crooked H destroyed phones w/ hammer, 'bleached' emails, & had husband meet w/AG days before she was cleared- & they talk about obstruction? -- Donald Trump June 15, 2017

Lachlan Markay, et al., of the Daily Beast: "With the crisis engulfing Trump's young presidency intensifying, senators, Trump aides, former prosecutors, and FBI veterans are sending the White House an urgent warning: Whatever you do, don't. Fire. Mueller. News of the obstruction investigation, which was first reported by The Washington Post on Wednesday, comes just days after Trump himself began floating the possibility of firing the new head of the investigation: Robert Mueller, the Justice Department special counsel appointed in the wake of Comey's firing.... Trump reportedly floated the possibility of firing Mueller as a way to prod him toward exonerating the president and other Trump associates party to the investigation.... White House officials are still insisting to the president that he should leave Mueller in his post.... Firing Mueller would also put the president in greater legal jeopardy than he already may be in, said former United States attorney Barbara McQuade.... 'The president did this to himself,' [a senior White House official said]." -- CW ...

... Manu Raju of CNN: "The Senate intelligence committee won't probe whether ... Donald Trump obstructed justice over the FBI's investigation into his former associates and their contacts with Russian officials, leaving the criminal inquiry to special counsel Robert Mueller.... 'Obstruction is criminal -- there's a criminal aspect to that,' committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, told CNN Thursday. 'It's never been part of our' investigation. Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the vice chairman, told CNN: 'The criminal piece of the investigation will be handled by the special counsel, but if we find facts we can turn this over to the special counsel' and 'report them' to Mueller's office." -- CW ...

... JeffBo Digs a Deeper Hole. Stephanie Kirchgaessner of the Guardian: "An American lobbyist for Russian interests who helped craft an important foreign policy speech for Donald Trump has confirmed that he attended two dinners hosted by Jeff Sessions during the 2016 campaign, apparently contradicting the attorney general's sworn testimony given this week. Sessions testified under oath on Tuesday that he did not believe he had any contacts with lobbyists working for Russian interests over the course of Trump's campaign. But Richard Burt, a former ambassador to Germany during the Reagan administration, who has represented Russian interests in Washington, told the Guardian that he could confirm previous media reports that stated he had contacts with Sessions at the time.... Several media reports published before Trump's election in November noted that Burt advised then candidate Trump on his first major foreign policy speech [delivered at the Mayflower Hotel], a role that brought him into contact with Sessions personally.... It is also possible that Sessions was not fully aware of Burt's lobbying history, although Burt's affiliation with Russian interests is fairly well known in Washington circles." -- CW ...

... Putin Punks Trump. Diamond Siu of Politico: "Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said his country is ready to offer James Comey asylum if the former FBI director should face political persecution. 'If Comey will be under the threat of political persecution, we are ready to accept him here,' Putin said, speaking at the president's annual, televised question-and-answering session with the Russian people. 'It sounds very strange when the head of the security services writes down a conversation with the commander-in-chief and then leaks it to the media through his friend.' Putin likened Comey's actions to those of a human rights defender, even drawing parallels to Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked thousands of documents in 2013." -- CW

Thomas Kaplan & Robert Pear of the New York Times: "As they draft legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Senate Republican leaders are aiming to transform large sections of the American health care system without a single hearing on their bill and without a formal, open drafting session. That has created an air of distrust and concern -- on and off Capitol Hill, with Democrats but also with Republicans." -- CW ...

... Ezra Klein: "On Friday, [Mitch] McConnell reportedly 'delivered a private warning to his Senate Republicans: If they failed to pass legislation unwinding the Affordable Care Act, Democrats could regain power and establish a single-payer health-care system.'... History may record a certain irony if this is the argument McConnell uses to successfully destroy Obamacare. In recent conversations with Democrats and industry observers, I've become convinced that just the opposite is true: If Republicans unwind Obamacare and pass their bill, then Democrats are much likelier to establish a single-payer health care system -- or at least the beginnings of one -- when they regain power." -- CW

Peter Hermann & Dana Hedgpeth of the Washington Post: "Authorities in the District [of Columbia] said Thursday that they have criminallycharged a dozen members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's security team who authorities say attacked protesters outside the ambassador's residence in May.... Authorities said they identified the suspects by comparing video of the melee with passport and visa images, using facial recognition techniques.... Some critics were angry police did not make more arrests on the spot; the State Department ordered a federal police agency to release two presidential guards taken into custody, saying they had diplomatic immunity. It is not immediately clear whether those issues had been sorted out." -- CW

Susan Chira of the New York Times: "The twin spectacles Tuesday -- an Uber board member's wisecrack about women talking too much, and Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of California, being interrupted for the second time in a week by her male colleagues -- triggered an outpouring of recognition and what has become almost ritual social-media outrage. Academic studies and countless anecdotes make it clear that being interrupted, talked over, shut down or penalized for speaking out is nearly a universal experience for women when they are outnumbered by men.... Even in companies without notorious bro-cultures, however, women have had to struggle to feel heard and, as the numbers make clear, to advance to the top." CW: Read the anecdotes Chira collected. Women will recognize them as being all too familiar.

Manuel Roig-Franzia of the Washington Post: "The jury in Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial informed the judge late Thursday morning that it is deadlocked on all three counts of aggravated indecent assault against the 79-year-old comedian. Judge Steven T. O'Neill ordered the panel to return to the jury room to keep trying." -- CW

Samantha Schmidt of the Washington Post: "Marvin Wright, president of his high school senior class, spent two weeks working on his graduation speech.... But ... the principal of Southwest Edgecombe High in Pinetops, N.C., told him he would be giving a different address, a five-sentence paragraph prepared by the school administrators. He gave him no explanation.... When he stepped onto the stage at the end of the commencement ceremony Friday..., he took out his cellphone and read a copy of his original speech, with his friends in the audience nodding to him in encouragement." His own speech was unremarkable & not in the least hostile. As school officials handed out diplomas to all other graduating seniors, they withheld Wright's. "Marvin did not receive his diploma for another two days, when the principal dropped it off at his home at the request of the superintendent." -- CW

Dan Bilefsky of the New York Times: "Under pressure from critics, Prime Minister Theresa May ordered a public inquiry on Thursday into the lethal fire that turned a West London apartment tower into a pillar of charred rubble and that raised anxieties about safety procedures and construction materials in high-rise buildings. The death toll from the fire, which began early Wednesday, rose to 17 and is certain to climb further, the authorities warned. As of late Thursday afternoon, 30 people remained in hospitals, including 10 in critical condition. Many residents, possibly dozens, remained unaccounted for." -- CW

*****

Prelude to a Pink Slip

You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history - led by some very bad and conflicted people! #MAGA -- Donald Trump June 15, 2017

They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice -- Donald Trump, this morning

... ** Devlin Barrett, et al., of the Washington Post: "The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said. The move by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump's own conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said. Trump had received private assurances from former FBI Director James B. Comey starting in January that he was not personally under investigation. Officials say that changed shortly after Comey's firing.... Daniel Coats, the current director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, and Rogers's recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett, agreed to be interviewed by Mueller's investigators as early as this week.... It is unclear how many others have been questioned by the FBI." -- CW ...

     ... Michael Schmidt & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times verify the WashPo story. -- CW ...

... Josh Marshall: "According to the Post, that probe began 'days after Comey was fired on May 9...' Mueller was appointed on May 17th.... It was clear to people at the DOJ and FBI almost from the beginning that this was a potential case of obstruction of justice.... You do not begin such an investigation of a sitting President except at the very highest level." Marshall surmises that Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and/or Assistant AG Rod Rosenstein made the determination. "... almost immediately after firing Comey, within the following two days, President Trump made at least two statements in which he essentially admitted or more like boasted [to top Russian officials] about firing Comey with the specific goal of impeding or ending the Russia probe." Read on. Marshall goes into the "financial transactions" aspect of the WashPo report. -- CW ...

... Digby, in Salon: "Trump already fired the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who was examining his business dealings, the acting attorney general for refusing to violate the Constitution with his ill-fated Muslim ban, and the FBI director who refused to swear a loyalty oath and back off investigating his campaign’s ties to Russia. The president has shown that he's more than willing to flout any rule, norm or law that gets in his way. And the Republicans have gone along with him at every turn. We simply cannot assume that they will save us. They're in on it." -- CW ...

... Eric Levitz of New York: "... the Republican Party has proven willing to look past [Trump's audacious remarks]. Given that fact, it may actually be rational for Trump to can Mueller -- depending on what the president has to hide. The obstruction case against Trump appears to be strong. We have little insight into his broader liabilities. But if he or his son-in-law got into a little money laundering, it might make sense to test the congressional GOP's appetite for debasing itself and our republic." -- CW ...

... A Self-defense of Self-destruction. Alex Shephard of the New Republic: "Among other attempts to influence the Russia investigation, [Trump] asked James Comey to publicly declare that he was not under investigation, which Comey declined to do. Then Trump fired Comey and admitted he did it because of the Russia investigation, setting in motion a chain of events that resulted in him being ... investigated personally for obstruction of justice." CW: Once again, Trump proves himself to be just as clever as the criminals in "Fargo," the movie and the series. ...

... Tom LoBianco & Jeremy Herb of CNN: "Special counsel Robert Mueller met on Capitol Hill with the leaders of the Senate intelligence committee Wednesday afternoon, a long-awaited connection as lawmakers and federal investigators plot a path forward on the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Mueller met with Senate intelligence chairman Richard Burr and Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the committee, in a secure room.... The two sides have been discussing 'deconfliction' -- or how the Senate investigation and the federal probe will share information and not step on each others' toes. A major test on that front will be whether the FBI is willing to release memos from former FBI Director James Comey of his conversations with ... Donald Trump, now that they have been provided to Mueller. Asked about the Comey memo, Burr said the committee got 'clarity' on whether it can obtain the document, but he would not say whether that means the committee will receive it." -- CW ...

... Rebecca Savransky of the Hill: "Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats will testify Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Coats will testify in a closed hearing before the panel, according to a reporter from NBC News.... During a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing last week, Coats repeatedly refused to answer lawmakers' questions about his conversations with President Trump in an open setting, though he said he never felt pressured by the president. Coats said he would be willing to discuss such matters in a closed setting." -- CW ...

... Austin Wright of Politico: "Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is set to testify publicly next Wednesday before the House Intelligence Committee as part of its investigation into Russia's election meddling, according to a congressional source." -- CW ...

... Remember the E-mails! Seung Min Kim of Politico: "The Senate Judiciary Committee is launching a wide-ranging probe into the circumstances behind James Comey's firing as FBI director, as well as any attempts to influence FBI investigations under the Obama administration. The committee's chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), laid out his plan in a letter made public Wednesday in response to requests from Democrats to investigate potential obstruction of justice surrounding Comey's dismissal by ... Donald Trump last month.... In the letter, Grassley also stressed that the committee is obligated to look into the Justice Department's handling last year of the probe surrounding Hillary Clinton's private e-mail use, citing Comey's testimony last week that he was concerned DOJ 'could not credibly complete the investigation and decline prosecution without grievous damage to the American people's confidence in the justice system.'" -- CW

Karen DeYoung & Nick Miroff of the Washington Post: "On Friday, Trump plans to travel to Miami to announce a decision ... to roll back the Obama administration's diplomatic and economic openings to [Cuba] ... that senior administration officials said as recently as Wednesday had not yet been finalized.... A steady stream of lawmakers, business leaders and Cuba experts rushed to [tell Trump] ... don't do it." CW: Sorry, folks, Trump is the Anti-Obama. He has no choice.

Nick Penzenstadler, et al., of USA Today: "Since President Trump won the Republican nomination, the majority of his companies' real estate sales are to secretive shell companies that obscure the buyers' identities, a USA Today investigation has found. Over the last 12 months, about 70% of buyers of Trump properties were limited liability companies -- corporate entities that allow people to purchase property without revealing all of the owners' names. That compares with about 4% of buyers in the two years before.... Profits from sales of those properties flow through a trust run by Trump's sons. The president is the sole beneficiary of the trust and can withdraw cash any time.... Anyone who wanted to court favor with the President could snap up multiple properties or purposefully overpay, without revealing their identity publicly." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)


Michael Shear
, et al., of the New York Times: "A lone gunman who was reportedly distraught over President Trump's election opened fire on Republican members of the congressional baseball team at a practice field in this Washington suburb on Wednesday, using a rifle to shower the field with bullets that struck four people, including Steve Scalise, the majority whip of the House of Representatives. President Trump, in a televised statement from the White House, condemned the 'very, very brutal assault' and said the gunman had died after a shootout with the police. Law enforcement authorities identified him as James T. Hodgkinson, 66, from Belleville, Ill., a suburb of St. Louis." -- CW (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Peter Hermann, et al., of the Washington Post: House Majority Whip Steve "Scalise remained in critical condition as of Wednesday afternoon, according to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where he and another victim were being treated. The wounded also include a congressional aide, lobbyist and the two Capitol Police officers." -- CW ...

     ... The Washington Post's live updates for June 14 are here. -- CW ...

     ... Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "The man suspected of opening fire on Republican members of the congressional baseball team early Wednesday morning was distraught over the election of President Trump and traveled to Washington in recent weeks to protest, his brother said on Wednesday. The suspect, James Thomas Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Ill., died in a Washington hospital after a shootout with the police." -- CW ...

     ... Ema O'Connor & Alexis Levinson of BuzzFeed: "Multiple Democratic representatives said during a members-only security briefing that they had received calls after the shooting saying, 'You guys are next,' California Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragàn told BuzzFeed News.... Members shared stories about threats during the meeting, including Reps. Al Green, Emanuel Cleaver and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, according to the member. Pelosi also referenced the threats she has received in a speech on the House floor after the meeting.... One Republican member [-- Arizona Rep. David Schweikert --] said that he received multiple threats before Wednesday morning's shooting, and that he had reported them to authorities." -- CW ...

     ... Elana Schor of Politico: "Former President Barack Obama reached out to Sen. Jeff Flake Wednesday morning in the wake of the shooting at the GOP's congressional baseball game practice to extend his 'best wishes and prayers' for the victims, the Arizona Republican said. Flake was among the Republicans gathered on an Alexandria, Va., baseball field when a shooter opened fire, wounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and several others. Obama maintained a good working relationship with Flake, who flew out to Arizona with the former president in 2011 after the shooting of then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.)." -- CW ...

     ... Jane Mayer of the New Yorker: "Wednesday's shooter, James Hodgkinson, reportedly had a history of domestic violence. Yet he was able to legally obtain an assault rifle. These two facts are incompatible with public safety.... As Rebecca Traister has written, for New York magazine, 'what perpetrators of terrorist attacks turn out to often have in common more than any particular religion or ideology, are histories of domestic violence.'... The National Rifle Association and its allies have successfully argued that a mere arrest on domestic-violence charges -- such as Hodgkinson had -- is not sufficient reason to deprive a citizen of his right to bear arms." -- CW ...

     ... Gail Collins: "There were 27 incidents of multiple fatal shootings in the week before Hodgkinson took out a rifle and handgun and started firing. Write a letter. Call your representative. Hold a meeting. You can demand laws to keep criminals from buying guns, or laws to keep greedy gun sellers from ignoring background checks, or laws to ban rifles that allow one person to take down several dozen victims without reloading. Even if your hopes aren't high, keep fighting. This is a righteous cause." -- CW ...

     ... Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Shaken and angry, Republican members of Congress seized on the brazen daytime shooting of their colleagues on Wednesday to demand that existing restrictions on gun access be loosened so that people facing similar attacks are able to defend themselves.... As Republican lawmakers grow more uniformly conservative and centered outside urban areas, few prominent voices in the party are willing to support gun control measures." -- CW

Who's in Charge? Thomas Gibbons-Neff & Dan Lamothe of the Washington Post: "President Trump's decision to delegate authority to the Pentagon to set troop levels in Afghanistan has raised concerns that a few thousand additional troops expected to deploy soon could be just the beginning of a new surge in the country after 15 years of war. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis assured lawmakers Wednesday that a large increase in deployed forced will not happen, but some experts and former battlefield commanders warned the White House and Congress should be careful not to give the Pentagon a blank check.... While Mattis declined to give an estimate of how many more forces he might send to Afghanistan, he told lawmakers at Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing that he would deliver an Afghan strategy by mid-July.... Some critics see delegation of troop level decisions as a way for Trump to abdicate responsibility for decisions on America's longest war, one that has cost the lives of more than 2,000 troops." ...

     ... CW: I'm pretty sure Trump can play Blame the Generals just as well as he's been playing Blame My Staff, Blame Obama, Blame Comey, etc.

The Most Unethical Administration Ever, Ctd. Megan Wilson of the Hill: "The waiver to President Trump's ethics pledge issued to White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon is 'problematic,' the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) told inquiring lawmakers on Tuesday. The issues stem from a waiver, posted to the White House website on May 31, that is unsigned, undated and lists the waiver as being retroactive to Trump's first day in office on Jan. 20." -- CW

Karoun Demirjian & Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "The Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to allow Congress to block any efforts by the president to scale back sanctions against Russia, and to strengthen those sanctions in retaliation for Moscow's alleged interference in the 2016 election and its actions in Syria. The vote of 97 to 2 is a sharp rebuke to President Trump's posture on Russia and his resistance to the intelligence community's assessment that the country was behind efforts to influence the election he won. The two senators who voted against the measure were Republicans Rand Paul (Ky.) and Mike Lee (Utah).... If the Senate's vote is any guide, congressional support for the measure will probably be veto-proof. The House has yet to vote on the measure, which was added as an amendment to a popular bill stiffening sanctions against Iran for that country's recent ballistic missile tests." -- CW

Greg Sargent: "House Republicans are angry with President Trump for blurting out an inconveniently candid view of their health-care bill, Politico reports [Wednesday]. Trump reportedly told a closed-door gathering of GOP senators that the House repeal-and-replace bill is 'mean' and called on them to make it 'more generous.' This promptly leaked, and a lot of people are noting that Trump undercut House Republicans politically and provided Democrats with ammo for a thousand attack ads.... Their anger over this is particularly galling.... Trump's real transgression was to provide the public with a glimpse of a reality that they themselves have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep hidden." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

The Dimwittiest. Don't Worry, Be Happy. CW: Wasn't it just last week I promised not to characterize Trump backers as lamebrains? Ah well, this story by Travis Andrews of the Washington Post already has made me break my promise. Read to the end. Thanks to D.C. Clark for the link. See his commentary in yesterday's thread. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times: "Demonstrating confidence in the health of the American economy, the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate for the third consecutive quarter on Wednesday. The Fed also detailed its plans to reduce investment holdings, a step Fed officials expect to take this year. The Fed, as expected, raised its benchmark rate to a range between 1 percent and 1.25 percent, citing the continued strength of job growth and dismissing, for now, the renewed weakness of inflation." -- CW

Devin Henry of the Hill: "A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the environmental review for the Dakota Access pipeline was, in part, inadequate and must be reconsidered, handing tribal opponents of the 1,170-mile pipeline project a key legal victory. But U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg did not order pipeline operators to stop the oil that is already flowing through the project, saying he would need to consider that request in light of Wednesday's judgement.... Boasberg wrote in a 91-page opinion, the Army Corps of Engineers 'did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline's effects are likely to be highly controversial.' He ruled that the Army Corps, which permitted the project, would need to conduct a new review of Dakota Access that considers those factors." -- CW

Kim Zetter in Politico Magazine: "As Georgia prepares for a special runoff election this month in one of the country's most closely watched congressional races, and as new reports emerge about Russian attempts to breach American election systems, serious questions are being raised about the state's ability to safeguard the vote." Georgia's voting system is remarkably vulnerable to hacks. Logan Lamb, a former cybersecurity researcher hacked the Georgia voting system without even trying. "The files were supposed to be behind a password-protected firewall, but the center had misconfigured its server so they were accessible to anyone, according to Lamb.... And there was another problem: The site was also using a years-old version of Drupal -- content management software -- that had a critical software vulnerability long known to security researchers.... If someone were to alter the files, machines could be made to record votes for the wrong candidate. And since Georgia's machines lack a proper paper trail ... officials might never know the machines recorded votes inaccurately." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... CW: If states want to screw up local elections, fine -- let their own voters deal with that. But the U.S. Congress should require the FEC to set strict standards for federal elections protocols -- like the Georgia Congressional election -- and the FEC should field a staff of expert monitors to ensure each state has met current standards before every election.

Nicholas Fandos: "Law enforcement officials plan to announce charges Thursday against a dozen members of the Turkish president's security detail for their involvement in a brutal attack on protesters outside the Turkish ambassador's residence here last month, two American officials said on Wednesday. Authorities have already charged several others, including two Americans and two Canadians, with taking part in the violent skirmish.... In calibrating its response, though, the Trump administration has had to tread carefully, navigating a web of diplomatic and military concerns with a key NATO ally. The incident appears to have already stalled a proposed $1.2 million small-arms sale to Turkish security forces that was moving toward approval by the State Department last month. And then there was the added wrinkle that the entire security detail for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey had left the country with him just hours after the incident. Members of the security team face several felony and misdemeanor counts, the American officials said." -- CW

Annals of "Journalism," Ha Ha Ha. Gabriel Sherman of New York: "According to network executives, Fox News has abandoned the marketing slogan 'Fair & Balanced.' The decision was made last August after [Roger] Ailes's ouster by Fox News co-president Jack Abernethy, because the phrase had 'been mocked,' one insider said. Another executive explained that the tagline was 'too closely associated with Roger.' Fox executives have been instructed by management to market the network by its other tagline: 'Most Watched. Most Trusted.'" -- CW

Beyond the Beltway

Paul Egan & Elisha Anderson of the Detroit Free Press: Michigan "Attorney General Bill Schuette charged two high-ranking state health officials today in the fourth round of criminal charges in the Flint drinking water crisis. He also brought new and serious felony charges against four defendants who were charged earlier in the investigation.... Michigan Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon is charged with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office, both felonies. Chief Medical Executive Eden Wells is charged with obstruction of justice and lying to a police officer. And four defendants charged earlier -- former Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley, former Michigan Department of Environmental Quality drinking water chief Liane Shekter-Smith; DEQ drinking water official Stephen Busch; and former City of Flint Water Department manager Howard Croft -- were each charged with involuntary manslaughter. All of the new charges are in connection with the Legionnaires' disease outbreak in the Flint area that led to 12 deaths.... Health department officials released a statement from Gov. Rick Snyder saying he stands behind Lyon and Wells and that they would remain in their jobs pending trial." Snyder has not been charged for his role in the Flint water crisis & has refused to Schuette's attempts to interview him. -- CW (Also linked yesterday.)

Riya Bhattacharjee, et al., of NBC Bay Area: "A UPS employee opened fire at a sprawling warehouse in San Francisco Wednesday morning, fatally shooting three people before killing himself, as panicked workers ran out on the streets, police said. The gunman, wearing a UPS uniform, opened fire on three fellow employees and then 'turned the gun on himself,' company spokesperson Steve Gaut said. The shooter, identified by police as San Francisco resident Jimmy Lam, is one of the four who died in the shooting. Two others were wounded." -- CW

AND Gov. Chrisco Sets a Record! Matt Friedman of Politico: "Gov. Chris Christie now has the lowest approval rating of any New Jersey governor in recorded history, and it's hurting his lieutenant governor's campaign to replace him, according to a poll released Wednesday." ...

     ... CW: Don't fret, Chris. Il Capo di Tutti Capi will fire Bob Mueller any week now and force JeffBo to make you "special prosecutor," where your job is to direct you staff to investigate Comey's leaks, Hillary's e-mails, Obama's birth certificate & traffic jams on the GWB.

Tuesday
Jun132017

The Commentariat -- June 14, 2017

A sad day for the Grand Old Flag.

Afternoon Update:

Nick Penzenstadler, et al., of USA Today: "Since President Trump won the Republican nomination, the majority of his companies' real estate sales are to secretive shell companies that obscure the buyers' identities, a USA Today investigation has found. Over the last 12 months, about 70% of buyers of Trump properties were limited liability companies -- corporate entities that allow people to purchase property without revealing all of the owners' names. That compares with about 4% of buyers in the two years before.... Profits from sales of those properties flow through a trust run by Trump's sons. The president is the sole beneficiary of the trust and can withdraw cash any time.... Anyone who wanted to court favor with the President could snap up multiple properties or purposefully overpay, without revealing their identity publicly." -- CW

Greg Sargent: "House Republicans are angry with President Trump for blurting out an inconveniently candid view of their health-care bill, Politico reports today. Trump reportedly told a closed-door gathering of GOP senators that the House repeal-and-replace bill is 'mean' and called on them to make it 'more generous.' This promptly leaked, and a lot of people are noting that Trump undercut House Republicans politically and provided Democrats with ammo for a thousand attack ads.... Their anger over this is particularly galling.... Trump's real transgression was to provide the public with a glimpse of a reality that they themselves have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep hidden." -- CW

The Dimwittiest. Don't Worry, Be Happy. CW: Wasn't it just last week I promised not to characterize Trump backers as lamebrains? Ah well, this story by Travis Andrews of the Washington Post already has made me break my promise. Read to the end. Thanks to D.C. Clark for the link. See his commentary below.

Kim Zetter in Politico Magazine: "As Georgia prepares for a special runoff election this month in one of the country's most closely watched congressional races, and as new reports emerge about Russian attempts to breach American election systems, serious questions are being raised about the state's ability to safeguard the vote." Georgia's voting system is remarkably vulnerable to hacks. Logan Lamb, a former cybersecurity researcher hacked the Georgia voting system without even trying. "The files were supposed to be behind a password-protected firewall, but the center had misconfigured its server so they were accessible to anyone, according to Lamb.... And there was another problem: The site was also using a years-old version of Drupal -- content management software -- that had a critical software vulnerability long known to security researchers.... If someone were to alter the files, machines could be made to record votes for the wrong candidate. And since Georgia's machines lack a proper paper trail ... officials might never know the machines recorded votes inaccurately." -- CW ...

     ... CW: If states want to screw up local elections, fine -- let their own voters deal with that. But the U.S. Congress should require the FEC to set strict standards for federal elections protocols -- like the Georgia Congressional election -- and the FEC should field a staff of expert monitors to ensure each state has met current standards before every election.

Paul Egan & Elisha Anderson of the Detroit Free Press: Michigan "Attorney General Bill Schuette charged two high-ranking state health officials today in the fourth round of criminal charges in the Flint drinking water crisis. He also brought new and serious felony charges against four defendants who were charged earlier in the investigation.... Michigan Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon is charged with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in office, both felonies. Chief Medical Executive Eden Wells is charged with obstruction of justice and lying to a police officer. And four defendants charged earlier -- former Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley, former Michigan Department of Environmental Quality drinking water chief Liane Shekter-Smith; DEQ drinking water official Stephen Busch; and former City of Flint Water Department manager Howard Croft -- were each charged with involuntary manslaughter. All of the new charges are in connection with the Legionnaires' disease outbreak in the Flint area that led to 12 deaths.... Health department officials released a statement from Gov. Rick Snyder saying he stands behind Lyon and Wells and that they would remain in their jobs pending trial." Snyder has not been charged for his role in the Flint water crisis & has refused to Schuette's attempts to interview him. -- CW

*****

See also yesterday's extensive Afternoon Update.

Karl de Vries & Eugene Scott of CNN: "Rep. Steve Scalise was shot in Alexandria, Virginia, Wednesday morning, Rep. Mo Brooks told CNN. Brooks said he was on deck at a practice for the congressional baseball team when the shooting occurred. Scalise, the majority whip, appeared to have been shot in the hip and it appeared two Capitol Hill police agents were shot, he added. Brooks said there were a number of congressmen and congressional staffers lying on the ground, and at least one of them was wounded.... He said the shooter appeared to be a white male but added that 'I saw him for a second or two.' He said the shooter was behind the third base dugout. 'The gun was a semiautomatic,' Brooks said. 'It continued to fire at different people....'" Thanks to Victoria for the heads-up. -- CW ...

... Christopher Mele of the New York Times: "The police said on Twitter that a suspect was in custody." -- CW ...

     ... Update: New story at the link, by Michael Shear & others: "President Trump, in a statement from the White House, said the shooting suspect had died. Law enforcement authorities identified him as James T. Hodgkinson, 66, from Belleville, Ill., a suburb of St. Louis.... Mr. Hodgkinson appeared to be have been fervent fan of Senator Bernie Sanders, according to a Facebook page with references to the Vermont senator. A LinkedIn page for James Hodgkinson had a profile photo showing Mr. Sanders's famous hair and glasses.... In a statement Wednesday morning, Mr. Sanders said he had been told the alleged shooter had volunteered for his presidential campaign.... Mr. Hodgkinson also seemed to be fervently anti-Trump. He appears to have signed an online petition calling for the president to be impeached, posting it on Facebook with a chilling comment: 'It's time to destroy Trump & co.' On Facebook, Mr. Hodgkinson appeared to be a member of anti-Republican groups, according to The Belleville News-Democrat." -- CW ...

... Here's the Washington Post's liveblog of developments. At 9:34 am ET: "GW Hospital has two individuals who were involved in the shooting, both in critical condition, says [a spokesperson].... She could not give any more details at this time." -- CW


Sharon LaFraniere
of the New York Times: "Nearly 200 Democratic members of Congress are expected to file a federal lawsuit on Wednesday accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution by profiting from business dealings with foreign governments. The plaintiffs -- believed to be the most members of Congress to ever sue a sitting president -- contend that Mr. Trump has ignored a constitutional clause that prohibits federal officials from accepting gifts, or emoluments, from foreign powers without congressional approval. It is the third such lawsuit against Mr. Trump on the issue since he became president, part of a coordinated effort by the president's critics to force him to reveal his business entanglements and either sell off his holdings or put them in a blind trust.... [Sen. Richard] Blumenthal, a former Connecticut attorney general, said the president's companies did business in about 20 countries but were shrouded in secrecy, making it impossible for Congress to carry out its constitutional duty of determining whether he was receiving illegal benefits or emoluments." -- CW

Somebody on Fox "News" Must Have Inadvertently Leaked the Essence of DonTCare to Trump. Burgess Everett, et al., of Politico: "... Donald Trump directed Senate Republicans to pass a generous health care bill at a meeting with more than a dozen GOP senators on Tuesday, arguing that the austere House health care bill is difficult to defend, according to people familiar with the meeting. The president also said Republicans risk getting savaged in the 2018 midterms if they fail to repeal Obamacare after a seven-year campaign against the law. But he made clear that the Senate needs to pass a bill that Republicans are able to more easily defend and is not viewed as an attack on Americans from low-income households.... He also advocated more robust tax credits for people who buy insurance on the individual market, a move that would increase the bill's cost.... Aides and associates said he has not liked the news coverage and has shown little interest in what is in the bill -- but wants it to be received well." ...

     ... CW: Don't worry, Mitch. No doubt Trump has already forgotten his little pitch, so you can go on with your plan to kill tens of thousands Americans. ...

... Sarah Kliff of Vox: "On May 4..., Donald Trump held a Rose Garden ceremony to praise the health care bill that had just passed the House. He praised the American Health Care Act as 'something very, very incredibly well-crafted.' He predicted that 'we're going to get this passed through the Senate.' On June 13 -- 50 days later -- Trump reportedly told Republican senators that the AHCA was a 'mean' bill. He apparently hasn't liked the media coverage much at all.... This likely comes as a surprise to Senate Republicans, who appear to be gravitating toward a health care bill that looks a lot like what the House passed.... This quick about-face illustrates the difficulty that Republicans face in passing a health care bill under Trump. The president has not shown much interest in the actual substance of a health care bill; he has repeatedly given interviews saying the AHCA does things it doesn't.... He liked the AHCA when it was considered a 'win' for Republicans.... But now that it doesn't feel like a win — the bill is hugely unpopular, with just 20 percent supporting the effort -- Trump has apparently soured on the proposal.... What matters is what Trump reads about it." -- CW ...

... Jennifer Haberkorn & Burgess Everett of Politico: "Senate Democrats are preparing an all-out war to try to save the Affordable Care Act. With limited tools at their disposal, their plan is to hammer Senate Republicans for their secrecy, spotlight elements that would throw millions of people off their health coverage and fuel enough public outcry to make Republicans eyeing reelection fights very nervous." -- CW


Glenn Thrush
, et al., of the New York Times: "Last month's appointment of Robert S. Mueller III as a special counsel to investigate possible collusion between the Trumpcampaign and Russia enraged President Trump. Yet, at least initially, he holstered his Twitter finger and publicly said nothing. But behind the scenes, the president soon began entertaining the idea of firing Mr. Mueller even as his staff tried to discourage him from something they believed would turn a bad situation into a catastrophe, according to several people with direct knowledge of Mr. Trump's interactions. For now, the staff has prevailed. 'While the president has every right to' fire Mr. Mueller, 'he has no intention to do so,' the White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters late Tuesday. But people close to Mr. Trump say he is so volatile they cannot be sure that he will not change his mind...." -- CW ...

... Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker: "While the Justice Department and Robert Mueller, the special counsel, have not commented on whether they are investigating Trump, several former federal prosecutors told me that if he's not yet, he soon will be -- or at least should be.... Former prosecutors who have served in both Republican and Democratic Administrations told me that an obstruction-of-justice case against Trump is a no-brainer.... To be sure, there is some disagreement among former prosecutors.... There is some public evidence that Mueller is taking the obstruction accusation seriously. He asked for and received all the memos that Comey wrote memorializing Comey's interactions with Trump. Why would Mueller need those unless he was looking into possible obstruction?" -- CW ...

... Charlie Savage, et al., of the New York Times: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions engaged in highly contentious testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, with Democrats pressing him on his conversations with President Trump related to the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. He called any suggestion that he colluded with Russians during the election an 'appalling' lie.... Here are highlights from the nearly three-hour session." CW: I guess this is my favorite, tho it's hard to choose:

Mr. Sessions repeatedly refused to discuss his conversations with Mr. Trump about the Russia investigation or Mr. Comey's firing beyond what was in his recommendation memo about ousting Mr. Comey, which the White House released. Democratic senators reacted angrily, noting that Mr. Trump had not invoked executive privilege to bar such testimony. Mr. Sessions argued that it was a longstanding practice not to disclose confidential conversations with the president that would potentially be subject to executive privilege, but several senators said that was not a legal basis to refuse to answer their questions. ...

... Here's the Washington Post's report, by Sari Horwitz & others. CW: See also Akhilleus's commentary in yesterday thread. ...

... Betsy Woodruff, et al., of the Daily Beast: "The senators wanted to know if Trump gave Sessions any detail on why he decided to fire Comey. And Sessions wouldn't say. At one point, Sen. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat from New Mexico, suggested he thought the attorney general's defiance could be a violation of the oath he took at the start of the hearing to tell 'the whole truth.' 'You are obstructing a Congressional investigation,' the senator said. Sen. Kamala Harris, a freshman Democrat from California, ripped into Sessions over why he thought he had the right to refuse to answer their questions. She pressed him on what Justice Department policy directed him to refuse to answer questions about conversations he had with the president. 'Is that policy in writing somewhere?' she asked. 'I think so,' Sessions replied." -- CW ...

... OR, as Jonathan Chait puts it, "Kamala Harris Pummels Jeff Sessions So Badly That John McCain Has to Stop Her." -- CW ...

... Jeremy Stahl of Slate: "Last week, when deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein repeatedly refused to answer a question from Sen. Kamala Harris, both Sens. Richard Burr and John McCain essentially shushed her. As my Slate colleague Christina Cauterucci noted of the Twitter reaction at the time, 'two long-serving white male legislators working together to stop a new female senator of color from getting an answer to a simple question was not a good look.' On Tuesday, attorney general Jeff Sessions also tried to filibuster the former California attorney general's questions without properly answering them. And again, the same two white male Senators essentially shushed her. Most importantly, yet again, the substance of what Harris was asking was incredibly important." --CW ...

... David Smith of the Guardian: "Peppered with questions by the California Democrat Kamala Harris, Sessions ... said: 'I'm not able to be rushed this fast. It makes me nervous.'... The incident illustrated how Sessions' attempt at Trump-like bombast and bravado -- 'Donald in a Dixie cup', as the New York Times columnist Frank Bruni called him last week -- had crumbled under fire.... It would have been unthinkable for Comey to say the questioning made him nervous, or to become agitated and tetchy as Sessions did under cross-examination by the Democratic senator Ron Wyden, of Oregon." ...

... Amber Phillips of the Washington Post sums up the Sessions testimony: "About the only thing Sessions can recall for sure is that he didn't do anything wrong.... Sessions hedged almost all of his answers about whether/when he met with Russians, or why he was involved in firing Comey, or how he feels about the president's decisions, with: 'I don't recall' or 'I believe so' or 'maybe.'" -- CW ...

... CW: Sessions is old enough to remember that he sounds just like the heavies testifying in the Watergate hearings. Hugh Rawson in the Cambridge Dictionary blog: "Another testimony tactic is to have a convenient lapse of memory. This approach was recommended to Haldeman and Dean in a meeting on March 21, 1973, by the president [Nixon] himself as a way of testifying without actually lying.... President: 'That's right. Just be damned sure you say I don't remember. I can't recall. I can't give any honest ... an answer that I can recall. But that's it.'" ...

... Ed Kilgore parses Sessions' ridiculous claim that he really, really thought Trump fired Comey because of his handling of The E-mails. ...

     ... CW BTW: In taking down Sessions, Kilgore does not even point out that -- as Rosenstein has noted during testimony -- his infamous Clinton e-mails memo does not directly recommend firing Comey. I remain convinced that Rosenstein wrote his memo to punk Trump, figuring Trump wasn't stupid enough to use Comey's mishandling of the Clinton e-mails investigation as justification for firing Comey since Trump's only praise for Comey was his handling of the Clinton matter. I am also quite sure Rosenstein, and therefore Sessions, knew Trump's real reason for firing Comey. That said, it is certainly reasonable to suspect that Sessions was truthful in his testimony to the extent that he had his own reasons for wanting "a fresh start at the FBI," as he put it. Comey is indeed a "showboat," & I suspect Sessions was, not unreasonably, afraid he could not control Comey any better than Lynch did. ...

... Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times: "... the appearance on Tuesday by Attorney General Jeff Sessions before the Senate Intelligence Committee was a master class in bamboozling, blustering and butt-covering." -- CW ...

... Josh Marshall: "... Sessions claims he recused himself from the Russia probe simply and only because it involved a presidential campaign of which he could reasonably be viewed as a top advisor. This is almost certainly not true. Sessions recused himself the day after The Washington Post reported two meetings with Ambassador Kislyak which Sessions had failed to disclose at his confirmation hearing.... Inevitably this elaborate ruse undermines his credibility about all the rest. Comey seemed to have in mind something more than simply a technical reason requiring Sessions to recuse himself." -- CW ...

... Andy Borowitz of the New Yorker: "An Alabama man whose brain was ravaged by severe amnesia is somehow able to function in an extremely demanding legal job, leading neurologists reported on Tuesday." Thanks to D.C. Clark for the link. -- CW ...

... ** MEANWHILE. Kyle Cheney of Politico: "Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Tuesday that he had multiple meetings with FBI director James Comey shortly before President Donald Trump fired him on May 9. 'I did have meetings with Director Comey during our brief period in which we overlapped in this administration,; said Rosenstein, who was confirmed to his post on April 25. He declined to elaborate on the content of the conversations. Those meetings could become a crucial piece of the timeline as a special counsel probes whether Trump may have obstructed justice by firing Comey.... In his testimony before a House appropriations committee on Tuesday, Rosenstein refused to say who asked him initially to craft the memo used to justify Comey's firing. 'I am not at liberty to talk about that now,' Rosenstein told the committee. He noted that the matter might be a component of Mueller's probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election." ...

     ... CW: Even though Rosenstein hadn't held his DOJ job long enough for his nameplate to come back from the engraver, it is possible that he rather than Comey -- or of course the Elf God Made out of Dung -- may prove to be the Rosetta Stone in the obstruction case against Trump.

... Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "Sessions's testimony highlights Trump's deep lack of interest in what Russia did in 2016.... In his testimony, Sessions told Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) that he 'did not recall' any meeting during which Trump expressed concern or curiosity about what Russia had been doing during the 2016 election. Sessions also testified that he himself, as the country's and Trump's lead law enforcement official, was never briefed on Russian interference." -- CW ...

... CW: Bloomberg ran a credible story yesterday that claimed Russian hackers had penetrated voter databases & systems in 39 states. Intelligence officials are still asserting that none of these hacks had any effect on the outcome of any election. I'm finding it harder & harder to believe that. These hackers weren't rummaging around voter files for the sheer fun of it. Trump has no interest in the Russia investigation because he's afraid it will come out that his election was fraudulent. Or maybe the Russians already have told him (truthfully or not) that their hackers are responsible for his so-called victory. ...

... ** Nancy LeTourneau of the Washington Monthly: "... the concern expressed by the Obama administration was not about the Russians hacking the DNC and John Podesta's email.... The emphasis at the time was on the fact that Russia was hacking into our voting systems and the very real fear was that they would attempt to interfere with election results. Apparently that was fine with McConnell, who not only refused to sign on to a bipartisan statement about protecting the vote, but threatened that any effort to call out the Russians would be labelled by Republicans as nothing more than partisan politics. Perhaps it's time to question McConnell and Republican leaders about why, in the face of evidence, they were not concerned about Russia's attempt to rig a US election.... It is a breathtaking response to one of the most profound challenges to our democracy in decades." Emphasis added. -- CW ...

... Bob Inglis, former South Carolina GOP representative, in a Washington Post op-ed on the gutless wonders in today's GOP caucus: "I was on the House Judiciary Committee that began the consideration of impeaching of President Bill Clinton.... We drafted articles of impeachment.... In retrospect, a public censure or reprimand may have been more advisable. Regardless, Clinton was impeached for charges less serious than the ones before us now.... With Fox and others clogging the media landscape, Republicans' political futures now rest on feeding the passions and proclivities of Trump's hard-core base -- the 39 percent of the electorate that likes him and responds to his code of grievance.... Fox News alerts play it down, the RNC says drop it, and the 39 percent shrugs, but we need real courage from real Republicans and a real investigation." -- CW ...

... Kyle Cheney of Politico: "A friend of James Comey says he has turned over copies of the former FBI director's explosive memos -- describing murky encounters with ... Donald Trump -- to the FBI, sidestepping a request by congressional committees to deliver the materials to Capitol Hill. Daniel Richman, a Columbia University law professor who Comey identified last week as the go-between who helped disseminate the content of his memos to the press last month, said he is turning the materials over to the FBI, which is conducting a wide-ranging investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections." -- CW


The Buck Stops Elsewhere. Michael Gordon of the New York Times: "President Trump has given Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to determine troop levels in Afghanistan, three administration officials said Tuesday, opening the door for sending more American forces to a war that the Pentagon chief acknowledged the United States was 'not winning.' Mr. Mattis is believed to favor sending several thousand more American troops to strengthen the effort to advise Afghan forces as they push back against gains made by the Taliban, the Islamic State and other militant groups. But officials said he had not yet decided how many more forces to send to Afghanistan, or when to deploy them." -- CW

Michael Forsythe & Alexandra Stevenson of the New York Times: "The chairman of a Chinese financial conglomerate who tried to forge a business relationship with ... [Jaren Kushner] has been detained by police. Wu Xiaohui, the chairman of Anbang Insurance Group, was taken away by the police on Friday in Beijing, according to Caijing, a respected newsmagazine.... Mr. Wu ... in November met with Jared Kushner ... in a bid to buy a stake in a Manhattan office building partly owned by Mr. Kushner's family company. The deal was eventually abandoned after media coverage that highlighted a perceived conflict of interest. Mr. Kushner's purview at the White House includes relations with China." -- CW

** Dana Milbank on Trump as a "weapon of mass distraction" whose running "clown show" has allowed Congress's dastardly deeds to go largely unnoticed. CW: If I thought Paul Ryan were smarter, I might suspect that the clown show is the reason he prefers Trump to pence. It's possible that McConnell explained the ploy to Ryan. CW P.S. Before you read Milbank's column, try to guess what the GOP-proposed "Hearing Protection Act" is. Hint: an advanced degree in absurdist political literature would help. ...

... Brian Beutler: "If there's consolation for Republicans in Trump's scandal-plagued presidency, it's that the wattage of the scandals serves in effect as a distraction from the fact that the party's top legislative objective is so toxic, they have to treat it as highly classified information. But the scandals may be so severe and fast-moving that they're increasing the GOP's desperation to pass a ruinous and inhumane health care bill as quickly and quietly as possible, before the Trump administration experiences complete political collapse and the window to accomplish anything at all closes." -- CW

What First Amendment? Elise Viebeck of the Washington Post: "Television reporters covering the Capitol were told midday Tuesday to stop recording interviews in Senate hallways, a dramatic and unexplained break with tradition that was soon reversed amid a wide rebuke from journalists, Democratic lawmakers and free-speech advocates.... Gallery staffers blamed the shift on the Senate Rules Committee, which has official jurisdiction over media access in the upper chamber.... The directive touched off a day of confusion as the Rules Committee denied issuing new restrictions and gallery staffers refused to explain their part in the drama.... Several Democrats tied the move directly to the health-care legislation now being debated in the Senate." ...

     ... CW: Obviously, I have no idea whose bright idea this was, but it's appropriate to attribute it to the Trumpification of the nation. Some federal official thought it was A-Ok to stifle the press, just as Trump has repeatedly urged. "

Marie's Sports Report. Scooby Axson of Sports Illustrated: "The Golden State Warriors say they have not yet been invited to the White House for the visit that honors sports champions. '... We have not received an invitation to the White House, but will make those decisions, when and if necessary,' the team said in a statement.That statement contradicts earlier rumors that the team had already decided not to go the White House." -- CW

Beyond the Beltway

Gregory S. Schneider of the Washington Post: "Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam won the Democratic nomination for governor of Virginia Tuesday by an unexpectedly wide margin, and Republican Ed Gillespie held off a surprising challenge from Donald Trump acolyte Corey Stewart for that party's nomination." -- CW

Way Beyond

Steven Erlanger, et al., of the New York Times: "More than 200 firefighters from all over London were struggling to contain a major fire at a high-rise apartment building in the west of the city on Wednesday morning, amid fears that people were trapped inside. An official said there had been 'a number of fatalities.'" -- CW ...

.... The Guardian's live updates of developments are here.

Monday
Jun122017

The Commentariat -- June 13, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Eli Watkins of CNN: "A US District Court judge in Washington gave the Justice Department one month to make public a page of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' clearance form, on which he was meant to disclose any contacts with Russian officials. The judge's decision issued Monday afternoon also gave the Justice Department and the FBI one month to search for any records of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus' reported outreach to the FBI requesting the bureau refute reports of communications between Russian officials and members of the Trump campaign. The decision came in response to Freedom of Information Act requests from American Oversight, a nonprofit that says it relies on FOIA to investigate the Trump administration." -- CW ...

... Julia Ioffe of the Atlantic: Jeff Sessions claimed earlier this year that his "accidentally" secret meetings with Sergey Kislyak were part of his duties "as a senator on the Armed Services Committee, not a Trump surrogate. But an examination of Sessions's activities in 2016 calls this defense of his testimony into question. It shows a significant spike in the frequency of his contacts with foreign officials after he joined the Trump campaign as a foreign-policy adviser in March.... When I asked one senior Republican Senate staffer whether Sessions was known as a foreign-policy specialist who met regularly with ambassadors during his 20 years in the Senate, the response was incredulity. 'Is that a serious question?' the staffer said. 'He's clueless.'" CW: Maybe JeffBo shoulda stuck with the tried-and-true "I forgot" defense instead of making up another CYA lie.

Kyle Cheney & Josh Gerstein of Politico: "The Justice Department official overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe says he would ignore calls to fire Mueller unless he considered them 'lawful and appropriate.' 'I'm not going to follow any orders unless I believe they are lawful,' Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said during a Senate hearing amid media reports that ... Donald Trump has been weighing whether to oust Mueller, possibly in an attempt to halt the politically sensitive investigation. Rosenstein said Trump hadn't asked him any questions about Mueller's appointment but that he would ignore even a request from the president if he deemed it inappropriate. Unless there were 'good cause' to fire Mueller, Rosenstein said, 'it wouldn't matter what anybody said.'... 'Director Mueller is going to have the full degree of independence he needs to conduct the investigation appropriately,' Rosenstein said, adding later that he hasn't talked to Mueller since his appointment to the special counsel role." -- CW ...

Brian Beutler: "... if Trump determined that the wrongdoing he's hiding would be more politically damaging to him than the certain blowback he'd face for blowing up Mueller’s investigation, he'd do it. His decision to fire Comey proves as much. And Republicans in Congress would probably feel compelled, once again, to excuse his conduct. The GOP's indifference to Comey's fate put the rule of law under immense strain, and if Trump is allowed to sack Mueller or pardon his own inner circle, with no meaningful political consequences until the midterm elections at the earliest, it'll be a horribly corrosive development -- one that Democrats shouldn't invite for narrow political gain.... Democrats could also forestall Trump's interference by stating that such extraordinary corruption would merit impeachment." -- CW ...

** Jesse Eisinger & Justin Elliott of ProPublica: "Marc Kasowitz..., Donald Trump's personal lawyer in the Russia investigation, has boasted to friends and colleagues that he played a central role in the firing of Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, according to four people familiar with the conversations. Kasowitz told Trump, 'This guy is going to get you,' according to a person familiar with Kasowitz's account.... Kasowitz's claimed role in the Bharara firing appears to be a sign that the New York lawyer has been inserting himself into matters of governance and not just advising the president on personal legal matters." -- CW

Tory Newmyer of the Washington Post: "The Treasury Department is calling for a sweeping rollback of the rules governing the finance industry in a long-anticipated report it released Monday night. The report, reflecting months of consultations with industry and other stakeholders, calls for streamlining rules to ease regulatory burdens on Wall Street powerhouses and small and midsize banks alike.... Those on the left assailed what they decried as a dangerous attempt to dismantle safeguards that will prevent another financial meltdown. Conservatives and industry types called it a measured update of post-crisis regulations run amok. By any measure, the administration's roadmap staked out a more moderate approach than the one prescribed by House Republicans in the bill they approved last week with no Democratic support. That package, the Financial CHOICE Act, amounted to a wholesale gutting of the Obama-era Dodd-Frank law." -- CW

Trump-Induced Sugar High. Caitlin Dewey of the Washington Post: "After sustained lobbying from the packaged food and beverage industry, the Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday an indefinite delay in the launch of Nutrition Fact labels that were intended to help Americans eat more healthfully. The labels, championed by former First Lady Michelle Obama, were supposed to add a special line for 'added sugars' and emphasize calorie content in large, bold text. They had been scheduled for rollout in July 2018, with a one-year extension for smaller manufacturers. The delay is the latest reversal of the Obama administration's nutrition reforms under Trump. On April 27, the FDA also delayed rules that would have required calorie counts on restaurant menus. A week later, the Department of Agriculture loosened the minimum requirements for the amount of whole grain in school lunches and delayed future sodium reductions." -- CW

Julie Davis & Russell Goldman of the New York Times: "Otto F. Warmbier, an American college student held prisoner in North Korea for more than a year, has been medically evacuated from the reclusive country in a coma and is on his way back to the United States, according to a statement from his parents.... Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson issued a statement on Tuesday announcing the release of Mr. Warmbier, 23, who was sentenced to a 15-year prison term for trying to steal a propaganda poster in January 2016.... A senior aide to [Sen. Rob] Portman [R-Ohio] said the senator had been working for months to try to help secure Mr. Warmbier's release, consulting President Trump and Mr. Tillerson as well as John Kerry, the former secretary of state, and Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico and a periodic negotiator with the North Korean government." -- CW

Matt Egan of CNN: "EpiPen maker Mylan is racing to put down a revolt from shareholders outraged by a $98 million pay package for its former CEO. Institutional Shareholder Services, a shareholder advisory firm, took the rare step of urging investors to oust all of Mylan's existing directors.... In addition to being hauled before Congress, Mylan agreed in October to pay $465 million to settle federal allegations that it falsely classified EpiPen to overcharge Medicaid. Mylan did not admit to any wrongdoing. Despite all the outrage, Mylan's board may still be safe. The drug maker requires two-thirds of the votes cast at a meeting to unseat a director." CW: This is nominally a "Capitalism Is Awesome" story, but it's so outrageous I can't joke about it. ...

... Charles Duhigg of the New York Times (June 5): Mylan is still charging $609 for a box of two EpiPens. The pen is a "simple medical device contains only about $1 of the drug epinephrine.... Mylan, [former top executives] said, is an example of a firm that has thrived by learning to absorb, and then ignore, opprobrium. The company has an effective monopoly on a lifesaving product, which has allowed its leaders to see public outrage as a tax they must pay, and then move on." -- CW

Rees Shapiro of the Washington Post: "A Phi Kappa Psi fraternity chapter announced Tuesday it plans to settle a lawsuit against Rolling Stone magazine in a defamation case involving allegations -- later debunked -- that University of Virginia students participated in a gang rape. A spokesman for the fraternity, Brian Ellis, said that the case filed in state court in Charlottesville is expected to be settled for $1.65 million." -- CW

Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Travis Andrews of the Washington Post: "Megyn Kelly's NBC interview with Infowars's Alex Jones is not scheduled to air until Sunday, but it's already caused intense controversy. Jones ... has long dismissed a gunman's shooting rampage that killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.... Kelly will no longer host the Promise Champions Gala, an annual event for the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, a nonprofit gun violence prevention group founded by family members of some of the Sandy Hook shooting victims, the organization announced late Tuesday.... The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that JPMorgan Chase pulled its local television and digital ads from all NBC News programming until after Sunday's interview airs. A company spokeswoman declined The Post's request for comment on the report." -- CW ...

... Margaret Sullivan of the Washington Post: "Every indication is that Kelly's interview would be ... another way for Jones to promote what he does on Infowars radio and online, another way for him to legitimize his destructive and obscene lies.... A serious investigation of Jones by America's top news network would do the real work of journalism: spreading the truth and holding an influential figure accountable for his dangerous lies. A soft one-on-one interview, by itself, is nothing more than entertainment." -- CW ...

... Steve M.: "Raw interviews are bad journalism. Nearly every morning I hear NPR segments that are just raw interviews with skilled spin doctors. The better interviewers are sometimes armed with important details with which they can rebut the spin. But the usual result is that segments of this kind are 100% spin. That's not journalism -- it's stenography. And it looks as if this Kelly segment will be pretty much the same, with an occasional Kelly harrumph, for balance." -- CW

*****

Von Clownstick Holds First Cabinet Meeting. Hilarity Ensues

Members of the U.S. Cabinet express their allegiance to the Dear Leader. (Apparently, this praise circle went on for nearly 20 minutes) Sad!

... Peter Stevenson of the Washington Post: "There's been a lot of talk about Trump and loyalty pledges recently, and the president has shown himself over and over again to pride loyalty over any other quality in his subordinates.... Many of [the Cabinet members] felt the need to address him personally. That's indicative of the kind of language Cabinet officials in Trump's administration -- especially Reince Priebus -- think they need to use around the president: Effusive praise of both his policies and his leadership, with deference to Trump's authority highlighted at all times." -- CW ...

In more than three decades of covering the White House, I've never seen such an extended public display of flattery for a president from his chosen subordinates. At moments it resembled the kind of fawning that some of the strongmen rulers Trump has praised -- such as Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte — might receive from their deputies. -- John Harwood of CNBC ...

This interminable cabinet spray, where everybody pays tribute to Trump, is one of the most exquisitely awkward public events I've ever seen. -- Glenn Thrush of the New York Times

After saying 'who would do that?' re: demanding loyalty from Comey, Trump has his cabinet publicly praise him 1 by 1 -- Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) June 12, 2017 ...

Never have seen a Cabinet meeting photo op quite like that one. Each member took turns praising Trump as he sat & nodded approvingly -- Julie Davis (@juliehdavis) June 12, 2017 ...

     ... Clearly haven't covered North Korean cabinet meetings... -- Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) June 12, 2017

Some citations via Nancy LeTourneau.

... But Wait! Chuck Schumer's team think he's the greatest, too -- until they burst out laughing:

Trump Announces He's Best President Ever. Never has there been a president, with few exceptions ... who has passed more legislation, done more things. -- Donald Trump, at Cabinet meeting ...

... John Harwood: "... Congress, which is controlled by his party, hasn't passed any major legislation. He hailed his plan for the 'single biggest tax cut in American history,' even though he hasn't proposed a plan and Congress hasn't acted on one. He said 'no one would have believed' his election could have created so many new jobs over the past seven months (1.1 million), even though more jobs (1.3 million) were created in the previous seven months." CW: Apparently Trump feels no need to accomplish anything when it's so much easier to just say he's accomplishing something.

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "A second federal appeals court on Monday ruled against President Trump's revised travel ban. The decision, from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, was the latest in a string of court rulings rejecting the administration's efforts to limit travel from several predominantly Muslim countries. The administration has already sought a Supreme Court review of a similar decision issued last month by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va. The new ruling affirmed a March decision from Judge Derrick K. Watson, of the Federal District Court in Hawaii." The Ninth Circuit's ruling is here. -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Sharon LaFraniere of the New York Times: "... Maryland and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit Monday alleging that [Donald Trump's] failure to shed his private businesses has undermined public trust and violated constitutional bans against self-dealing.... Some legal experts said the Maryland suit crossed a new legal threshold because the Maryland and District of Columbia governments are legally considered 'coequal sovereigns' with the president, making them the strongest possible opponents in the constitutional argument over emoluments." See related story, linked below. -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Greg Sargent on how "Trump's abuses of power could continue their slide to depths of madness or autocracy," and his Congressional colleagues would keep on smiling. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Michael Riley & Jordan Robinson of Bloomberg: "Russia's cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump's election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported.... In all, the Russian hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states.... One former senior U.S. official expressed concern that the Russians now have three years to build on their knowledge of U.S. voting systems before the next presidential election, and there is every reason to believe they will use what they have learned in future attacks." ...

     ... CW: And the current SCROTUS doesn't give a rat's ass. The only thing that could rouse him from his embrace of Russia is if their hackers backed someone else in 2020. In fact, of the many possibilities as to what Putin is holding over Trump's head, backing a different candidate may be near the top of the list. ...

... An Unusual Pushback in the Age of Trump. Jordain Carney of the Hill: "The Senate has clinched a wide-ranging bipartisan agreement to slap new financial penalties on Russia and limit President Trump's ability to lift sanctions without giving Congress a chance to weigh in. 'It's as comprehensive as we could make it, and it's going to be a very good piece of legislation,' Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told reporters on Monday night, shortly after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) formally filed the deal. The agreement imposes new sanctions including 'malicious cyber activity' on behalf of Moscow, individuals supplying weapons to Syrian President Bashar Assad's government or individuals tied to Russia's intelligence and defense sectors.... Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) immediately praised the deal, urging the House to also pass it quickly. " -- CW

Alex Seitz-Wald of NBC News: "The Secret Service said Monday it has no record of any audio recordings made in the White House since ... Donald Trump's inauguration. Their statement came in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Wall Street Journal and was confirmed by NBC News. The Secret Service's response does not, however, cover any potential recordings made without the agency's knowledge." -- CW

Judd Legum of ThinkProgress: "Shortly after leaving the White House [Monday, NewsMax CEO & long-time Friend of Trump Chris] Ruddy appeared on PBS Newshour and said that Trump is considering firing special prosecutor Bob Mueller, who is investigating the Trump campaign's potential collusion with Russia, Trump's firing of FBI director James Comey, and related matters.... Ruddy's comments followed days of seemingly coordinated attacks on Mueller's integrity by Trump allies." -- CW ...

... Jonathan Chait: "Trump will probably not fire Mueller right away. But the odds that he will fire him eventually are quite strong, perhaps 50-50 or higher. First, Trump has a very strong motive to fire Mueller: he is probably guilty.... Second, Trump has no intrinsic respect for political norms.... Trump is an instinctive authoritarian; the existence of an independent law enforcement system beyond his control is intolerable to him. Third, Trump has endlessly violated a series of norms that appeared to be inviolable.... Finally, Trump's erratic personality makes the firing of Mueller a mathematical probability." CW: Chait not only explains why Trump is likely to fire Mueller; he explains much of Trump's behavior. ...

... Matt Yglesias of Vox: "... what if Trump fires Mueller, too, as is his right under the law? That's exactly what a growing chorus of voices in pro-Trump media are arguing that he should do, with former House Speaker and leading Trump sycophant Newt Gingrich leading the charge.... It seems that the consensus that there's a problem with Mueller is somewhat in advance of the consensus on what the problem exactly is. But Trump-friendly pundits are throwing a few different ideas out there.... Trump is in a unique position to evaluate whether the political costs of a cover-up exceed the political costs of a thorough investigation. In the case of, for example, his still-secret tax returns and personal finances, Trump has decided that the cover-up is the wiser path -- and it's certainly possible he'll reach the same conclusion with regard to Mueller." -- CW ...

Darren Samuelsohn of Politico: Robert Mueller, "the special counsel who earned bipartisan praise last month as an unimpeachable investigator who would give ... Donald Trump a fair shake in the Russia probe, is now taking heat from Trump surrogates intent on trying to undercut his integrity. Hardball complaints are coming at Mueller from several directions. His impartiality is being questioned because one of his likely chief witnesses, the ousted FBI Director James Comey, is a longtime friend. Others have flagged past campaign contributions from some of Mueller's newly appointed prosecutors to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. A few say the whole probe is a sham and that Mueller should be removed as special counsel." -- CW ...

... Congressman Calls Russia Investigation a "Charade." Mallory Shelbourne of the Hill: "During an interview with Fox News that came shortly after a report that the president may be considering firing Mueller, Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) wondered aloud what, exactly, the counsel led by the former FBI director is investigating. 'This seems more like an effort to prosecute Donald Trump than it is to investigate,' Duffy said.... 'And my concern ... is what the hell are we investigating?' Duffy's comments come as Republicans such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) question Mueller's ability to lead the probe, noting political donations of Mueller's staff.... Duffy called the investigation a 'charade' that is an attempt to undermine the election results." -- CW ...

... Spotlight on the Evil Elf. Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions will testify in an open hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, according to the committee's leaders.... Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said Sessions requested that the committee hearing be public." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... CW: According to a report I heard on CNN or MSNBC Monday, Sessions initially requested that the hearing be secret, but Senators balked at that, so then he "volunteered" to take questions at a public hearing. I can't find a written story to back up the report, so I'll just assume the Evil Elf wants to pour out his heart to the American people. ...

... Dana Milbank: "So Donald Trump is calling James Comey a liar. This puts the fired FBI director in some impressive company.... Trump's tendency to accuse others of the flaws he possesses seems to be more than a reflex. It appears to be a strategy -- a verbal jujitsu in which he uses his opponents' strengths against them.... There's no doubt Trump's rubber-and-glue strategy has worked. He is, after all, the president, and Crooked Hillary, Lyin' Ted, Little Marco and Low-Energy Jeb are not.... But can the man who has established himself as one of history's most prodigious prevaricators convince the country that the former FBI director, celebrated for his integrity, is just another lying liar? Polls before and after Comey's testimony suggest Trump is losing that contest. After all, who are you going to believe? Trump? Or everybody else?" -- CW

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Trump began on Monday to nominate replacements for dozens of United States attorneys whom he fired shortly after taking office, sending eight names to the Senate for confirmation as chief federal prosecutors in their regions. Mr. Trump purged most of the nation's top federal prosecutors in March, demanding their immediate resignations to ensure what an administration spokeswoman at the time called 'a uniform transition.' Since then, the president has railed against Democrats in the Senate for delaying approval of his nominees -- even as he failed to send names to the lawmakers for confirmation." ...

     ... CW: Very refreshing to see the NYT & some other media like the WashPo calling Trump's B.S. in the top grafs. This is a huge contrast to their earlier preference for he-said/she-said "journalism," a style I expect the papers will revive when and if we get a "normal" president.

A Chip off the Old Blockhead

Ivanka is whining about mean [Washington,] DC ... a couple of days after Eric asserts Dems are not human. -- Gloria, in yesterday's thread ...

... Nardine Saad of the Los Angeles Times: "White House special advisor [Ivanka Trump], who said she was in New York for her sister-in-law's baby shower and is currently promoting her book 'Women Who Work,' defended husband Jared Kushner's role in the administration and scolded the media for its 'viciousness' and 'ferocity' in covering her father's presidency during her Monday appearance on 'Fox & Friends.'" -- CW ...

... Krithika Varagur of the Guardian: "The reality of working in a factory making clothes for Ivanka Trump's label has been laid bare, with employees speaking of being paid so little they cannot live with their children, anti-union intimidation and women being offered a bonus if they don't take time off while menstruating. The Guardian has spoken to more more than a dozen workers at the fashion label's factory in Subang, Indonesia, where employees describe being paid one of the lowest minimum wages in Asia and there are claims of impossibly high production targets and sporadically compensated overtime. The workers' complaints come only a week after labour activists investigating possible abuses at a Chinese factory that makes Ivanka Trump shoes disappeared into police custody." -- CW


Hamza Shaban
of the Washington Post: "The COVFEFE Act, introduced by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) on Monday, aims to preserve tweets from the president's personal Twitter account, ensuring that Trump's social-media posts are archived as presidential records.... Quigley's bill would add an explicit mention of 'social media' to the Presidential Records Act, a law mandating the preservation of presidential communications. Quigley also hopes to ensure that messages from Trump's personal Twitter account, @RealDonaldTrump, get archived in the same way as the official @POTUS account. Deleting tweets would also violate the Records Act, under the proposed law. Spelled out in the act's name, COVFEFE stands for: Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement." -- CW

Caitlin Owens of Axios: "Senate Republicans are on track to finish writing their draft health care bill this evening, but have no plans to publicly release the bill, according to two senior Senate GOP aides. 'We aren't stupid,' said one of the aides.... Democratic senators are already slamming Republicans for the secrecy of their bill writing process, and this isn't going to help. Republicans are sure to release the bill at some point, but it's unclear when -- and they want to vote on it in the next three weeks, before the July 4 recess." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... CW: Since the Senate is using the reconciliation process, there is good reason to think the bill will pass, & millions of Americans will succumb to DonTCare. Meanwhile, let's keep reminding ourselves that Repubicans secretly writing a bill, with no public debate & no input from nearly half the Congress, & that bill affects (a) American lives and (b) one-sixth of the economy. Raise your hand if that's how you thought a bill became a law. ...

... Sarah Kliff of Vox: "ObamaCare is in real danger.... The possibility that Republicans will repeal Obamacare or drive it into collapse is an increasingly real one. That's a reality where millions fewer have health insurance and lower-income Americans struggle to afford coverage.... The emerging [secret Senate] bill looks a whole lot like the unpopular bill the House passed last month. It creates the same group of winners (high-income, healthier people) and the same group of losers (low-income, sicker people)." -- CW ...

... Paul Krugman: "The AHCA was deliberately rushed through [the House] before CBO could weigh in; the Senate GOP is working completely in secret, with no hearings, and anything it passes will surely also try to preempt the CBO. You might think that this in part reflects conservative analyses that reach a different conclusion. But there aren't any such analyses. Remember, OMB works for Trump; it has offered nothing. Even the Heritage Foundation, which used to be the go-to source for conservative creative accounting, hasn't produced some implausible account of how the magic of markets will make it all work.... They used to at least pretend; people like [Paul] Ryan weren't actual policy experts, but they played them on TV, and gullible centrists were happy to help them maintain that pretense. Now they're not even bothering to fake it." -- CW ...

... Jonathan Chait: "It is difficult to think of an example of a law in the history of the United States that would have such a deep impact on so many people -- millions would find insurance no longer affordable -- drafted with so little public input. No hearings, no public examination of the details. Republican senators can claim the secret law is better than the deeply hated House version, but without laying out the trade-offs that allegedly make it so. In a normal political environment, a scandal is a distraction from a major bill, because major bills get passed by building public consensus. In this case, avoiding the public is the entire strategy. And the crafting of the bill is itself a scandal." -- CW ...

... New York Times Editors: "There is no mystery why the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is trying to push this bill through quickly. The legislation would repeal major provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Opening it to scrutiny before a vote would be the congressional equivalent of exposing a vampire to sunlight.... Republican leaders seem to think they will gain a tactical legislative advantage if they can negotiate a deal behind the scenes and then suddenly spring it on the full Senate. Those gains will quickly evaporate when voters learn what they have done." -- CW ...

... John Cole of Balloon Juice: "... there are so many things about this that it just leaves you wondering how fucking evil these people are.... This is not only a declaration of war on the American people, but on the entire legislative process. If you think things are bad now, this is going to make things much worse.... I've seen no evidence to date that improving health care is even a quinary or senary concern.... And all for a few more bucks for people who have so much money they don't know what to do with it anyway." -- CW ...

... Kevin Drum: "This is yet another example of the corrosive effect that Donald Trump is having on Washington culture -- which, let's face it, was not exactly a shining beacon to begin with. Last year Trump taught Republicans that you can keep your tax returns secret with no real explanation, and pay no price. After all, it won Trump the presidency, didn't it? The lesson here is pretty simple: If secrecy is better than exposure, then keep things secret, and don't let media pressure sway you into backing down or even bothering to explain yourself." -- CW

Sam Levin & Julia Wong of the Guardian: "Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte was sentenced to community service, a $385 fine and 20 hours of sessions for anger management after pleading guilty to assaulting Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs on the eve of his election.... In his court statement on Monday, Gianforte initially declined to admit that he directly caused Jacobs injuries, saying: 'In the scuffle, we fell to the floor, and I understand his elbow was injured.' When the judge asked if he caused injury, Gianforte replied: 'I understand bodily injury resulted.' Pressed on the question, Gianforte eventually admitted that he was the cause of Jacobs' injuries. For his part, Jacobs noted in court that Gianforte 'lied in a defamatory public statement', but said he now expects Gianforte to be a 'strong advocate for a free press and for the first amendment' in Congress. He said he hopes he gets an opportunity to interview him.... However, outside the courtroom following the hearing Gianforte ignored most reporters' questions...." ...

     ... CW: Gianforte is sort of Donald Trump with muscles: a violent, selfish liar who can't take responsibility for his bad acts & abandons his pretenses of contrition & civility at the first opportunity.

Here are stories by spouses in interracial marriages,via the New York Times. -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Way Beyond the Beltway

Neil MacFarquhar & Ivan Nechepurenko of the New York Times: "An extraordinary wave of antigovernment protests swept across Russia on Monday, as thousands of demonstrators gathered in more than 100 cities to denounce corruption and political stagnation despite official attempts to stifle the expression of outrage. Riot police officers in large cities and small detained hundreds of participants, with more than 700 apprehended in Moscow and 300 in St. Petersburg, according to OVD-Info, an independent organization that tracks arrests. There were reports of about 100 detentions elsewhere across Russia. In Moscow, the police arrested the Kremlin foe and anticorruption crusader Aleksei A. Navalny, the main architect of the protests on Monday and similar ones in March, as he left his apartment to attend the demonstration downtown. A Moscow court quickly sentenced him to 30 days in jail for organizing an unauthorized protest."