The Wires

Public Service Announcement

July 27: NBC News: "If your information was compromised during the massive 2017 Equifax data breach, you could be entitled to up to $20,000." The article provides info on how you can claim your share of the restitution fund. Mrs. McC: I might give it a crack. I know my personal info was compromised during the period of the Equifax breach, but I'm not sure Equifax was the source of the breach. So I might give this a crack. 

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

 

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

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

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

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

AP: "MAD, the long-running satirical magazine that influenced everyone from 'Weird Al' Yankovic to the writers of 'The Simpsons,' will be leaving newsstands after its August issue. Really. The illustrated humor magazine — instantly recognizable by the gap-toothed smiling face of mascot Alfred E. Neuman — will still be available in comic shops and through mail to subscribers. But after its fall issue it will just reprint previously published material. The only new material will come in special editions at the end of the year."

Hill: "The Democrats beat the Republicans in a high-scoring 14-7 win Wednesday [June 26] night in the 58th annual Congressional Baseball Game. It was the Democrats' 10th win in 11 years."

New York Times: "... the Library of Congress has named [Joy Harjo] America’s new poet laureate. She will take over for Tracy K. Smith, who has held the position for two years.... Harjo, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, is the 23rd poet and first Native person to be selected for the role."

New York: "The mass of the metal 'anomaly' beneath the moon’s largest crater is five times greater than the big island of Hawaii, and according to a new study from scientists at Baylor University, it could contain metals remaining from an ancient asteroid impact, weighing in at around 4.8 quintillion pounds."

New York Times: "A skeleton in Siberia nearly 10,000 years old has yielded DNA that reveals a striking kinship to living Native Americans, scientists reported on Wednesday. The finding, published in the journal Nature, provides an important new clue to the migrations that first brought people to the Americas. 'In terms of peopling of the Americas, we have found close to the missing link,' said Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen and a co-author of the new paper. 'It’s not the direct ancestor, but it’s extremely close.'... The DNA of [a group scientists call] the Ancient Paleo-Siberians is remarkably similar to that of Native Americans. Dr. Willerslev estimates that Native Americans can trace about two-thirds of their ancestry to these previously unknown people.”

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

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

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

Saturday
Aug102019

The Commentariat -- August 11, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Hollie Silverman & Steve Almasy of CNN: "At least eight Walmart locations have received threats over the past week after deadly shootings at two stores in recent weeks, law enforcement agencies said." The story lists the locations & circumstances of the threats.

Katie Benner, et al., of the New York Times: "Jeffrey Epstein ... was supposed to have been checked by guards every 30 minutes, but that procedure was not being followed the night before he was found, a law-enforcement official with knowledge of his detention said. In addition, the jail had transferred his cellmate and allowed Mr. Epstein to be housed alone in a cell just two weeks after he had been taken off suicide watch, a decision that also violated the jail's normal procedure, two officials said.... A person with knowledge of the investigation said that when the decision was made to remove Mr. Epstein from suicide watch, the jail informed the Justice Department that Mr Epstein would have a cellmate and that a guard 'would look into his cell' every 30 minutes. But that was apparently not done, the person said." The Hill has a summary of the NYT report here.

Justin Wise of the Hill: "CNN host Jake Tapper opened his show on Sunday by calling out President Trump for promoting a 'deranged' and 'insane' conspiracy theory about the death of disgraced financier and accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who died by an apparent suicide over the weekend.... White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway on Sunday downplayed Trump's promotion of the conspiracy theory, saying on "Fox News Sunday" that the president 'just wants everything investigated.'" ...

... On Fox "News" Conway hinted she had some "secret information" to back up the Clinton conspiracy theory. "There is some unsealed information implicating some people very high up.... I'm not saying anything beyond that." Of course, while fingering Bill Clinton, Conway exonerated Trump: "Trying to connect the president to this monster from years ago, where they're seen dancing in a video versus other people who were actively, I suppose, flying around with this monster on his island ... perhaps there's a public interest in knowing more about that."

America 2019. Scottie Andrews & Brian Ries of CNN: "With every mass shooting in the United States comes renewed fear of another.... Instead of letting their children choose a plastic backpack covered in Hello Kitty or Spider-Man, some parents are purchasing bags that double as shields in case kids get caught in gunfire. Companies like Guard Dog Security, Bullet Blocker and TuffyPacks designed bulletproof backpacks to quell those concerns. The retailers said backpack sales spike during the back-to-school season, and all three said they they saw a significant uptick in the aftermath of mass shootings." --s

~~~~~~~~~~

Everything We Think We Know about Jeffrey Epstein's Death

I was appalled to learn that Jeffrey Epstein was found dead early this morning from an apparent suicide while in federal custody. Mr. Epstein's death raises serious questions that must be answered. In addition to the FBI's investigation, I have consulted with the Inspector General who is opening an investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Epstein's death. -- William Barr, full statement, Saturday ...

... James McKinley & Ali Watkins of the New York Times: "Like all federal prisons, the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan has a suicide prevention program designed for inmates who are at risk of taking their own lives. After an apparent attempt three weeks ago, Jeffrey Epstein -- the financier who was at the facility awaiting trial on charges he sexually abused dozens of girls -- was a prime candidate.Yet Mr. Epstein, 66, was not on suicide watch when he hanged himself and his body was found in his cell early on Saturday, raising questions about the steps officials took after the first incident to keep him from harming himself. Attorney General William P. Barr said in a statement that he had asked the inspector general for the Justice Department to open an investigation' into the circumstances of Mr. Epstein's death.'... One federal prison official with knowledge of the incident said Mr. Epstein had been taken off suicide watch a few days ago, and was being held alone in a cell in a special housing unit." (Also linked yesterday.) The story has been updated, with Watkins the sole reporter on the byline. ...

     ... A related NBC News story is here. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... This Is Unbelievable. Dan Spinelli of Mother Jones: "... Lynne Patton, regional administrator at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, had [an] idea of what happened [to Epstein]. 'Hillary'd!!' she posted on Instagram around 10 a.m., alongside a screenshot of a Daily Mail story that described Epstein's manner of death. She added the hashtag, '#VinceFosterPartTwo,' a reference to the former Clinton aide whose death by suicide has fueled conspiracy theories for more than two decades. Patton, one of the highest-ranking officials at HUD, was not alone in seizing on conspiracy theories. Within hours of Epstein's death, 'Clintons' and 'ClintonBodyCount' were among the highest-trending topics on Twitter." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Patton, you may recall, previously worked for what I'm sure is a wonderful organization: the Eric Trump Foundation. She also was Eric's party planner & reportedly suffered from substance abuse & addition while working for him. Although she had no housing experience whatsoever, Trump appointed her to a HUD job, which she so badly flubbed that Ole Doc Carson promoted her to head up HUD's Region 2. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) used her as a prop during Michael Cohen's public House hearing as living proof that Trump can't possibly be a racist. Ole Doc should fire her right now. ...

... ** Update. Patton's Job Is Safe. Rachel Frazin of the Hill: "President Trump on Saturday retweeted a post promoting a conspiracy theory about Jeffrey Epstein's death. The tweet, by Twitter user Terrence K. Williams, blamed the death on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former President Clinton and does not provide evidence.... Conspiracy theories linking the death to both the Clinton and Trump himself trended Saturday on Twitter. Bill Clinton's spokesman Angel Ureña responded by writing 'Ridiculous, and of course not true -- and Donald Trump knows it. Has he triggered the 25th Amendment yet?'" Mrs. McC: Seriously, Trump's retweet looks like an Article of Impeachment to me. Of all of the stupid tweets this monster has written, this has to be the worst. It's shocking. President Clinton is right; Trump is in 25th-Amendment territory. ... "Does not provide evidence"? Ha ha. Here's a better lede by ...

     ... Christian Vasquez of Politico: "In his first public response to the death of financier and accused pedophile Jeffrey Epstein..., Donald Trump retweeted baseless conspiracy theories around his death and a news alert citing former President Bill Clinton's previous involvement with Epstein. Trump first retweeted a post from @BreakingNLive, 'Documents were unsealed yesterday revealing that top Democrats, including Bill Clinton, took private trips to Jeffrey Epstein's 'pedophilia island.' Trump then retweeted a conspiracy theory from comedian Terrence K. Williams around Epstein's death that used some of the day's top trending hashtags on Twitter, such as #EpsteinSuicide, #ClintonBodyCount, #JefferyEpstein, and #TrumpBodyCount. 'Died of SUICIDE on 24/7 SUICIDE WATCH ? Yeah right! How does that happen#JefferyEpstein had information on Bill Clinton & now he's dead. I see #TrumpBodyCount trending but we know who did this! RT if you're not Surprised#EpsteinSuicide #ClintonBodyCount #ClintonCrimeFamily,' Williams wrote." ...

     ... Asawin Suebsaeng of the Daily Beast: White House staff is taking Trump's conspiracy theory-mongering in stride. "One White House official said that as soon as Clinton conspiracy theories began bubbling up online about Epstein's passing, this official and other senior aides to Donald Trump immediately assumed that the president, an avid, longtime conspiracy theorist, would very soon tweet or say something about it. The aides, this official noted, began casually discussing and joking about what to do if Trump started going hard at the Clinton body-count conspiracy-theory-mongering. The general consensus among the president's advisers is there is nothing they can do except wait for him to move on to something else, and hope he doesn't make this a big thing." Mrs. McC: That's right. The boss is insane. Get used to it. ...

     ... Jane Timm & Liz Johnstone of NBC News: "... the tweets also notably cast suspicions on [Trump's] own Justice Department. In the video [Trump retweeted], Williams alleged that for Epstein to die by suicide, 'somebody not doing their job, or somebody got paid not to do -- not to do their job, so somebody can get knocked off, so information don't come out.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: So if the Clintons really did murder Epstein, they foiled the Trump administration's prison system. Bill & Hillary know the White House a lot better than they know the Metro Correctional Center. Trump should fear for his life. If he's discovered in the residence hanged by a golden curtain tie-back, look to Hillary. It won't have been suicide; as Michael Moore pointed out on Twitter, "Here's what I know about the uber-rich: They never drive themselves, they've never done a load of laundry, and they have no friggin' clue how to tie a knot in a noose."

... this presidency shames and disgraces the office every minute of every hour of every day. And even when it ends, however it ends, the shame will stain it still. -- David Frum of the Atlantic, responding to Trump's accusation against the Clintons

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Maybe now that Trump has expressed his insane beliefs, Bill Barr will have to characterize whatever the DOJ's findings are as "not conclusively proving that former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were directly responsible for Mr. Epstein's death." ...

     ... Dylan Matthews of Vox: "To understand what's going on here, you ... need to understand the role that allegations of murder by the Clintons have played in right-wing fever swamps since the 1990s, beginning with the suicide of Vince Foster and continuing through to the completely random 2016 murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich.... What makes the conspiracy theories so frustrating, in part, is that they're premised on real elements: credible accusations of sexual misconduct against Bill Clinton, Bill Clinton's real ties to Jeffrey Epstein, and Epstein's own well-documented sex crimes. It doesn't take incredibly inventive conspiracy theorizing to move from that to allegations that Clinton was part of Epstein's sex abuse and from there to wild [and false] accusations that Clinton had Epstein killed." Thanks to Ken W. for the link. ...

... John Harris, in Politico's top story Saturday night, reports on conspiracy theories left and right. "... the Epstein matter is now thoroughly political because many influential people are unable to take the details at face value.... It was immediately clear that many people would not regard an inquiry overseen by Barr as credible. His handling of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into the president and Russian election interference left many people, including most congressional Democrats, convinced he see his role not as defending rule of law, or the executive branch broadly, but ... Donald Trump's personal interests." Harris points to skepticism expressed by Neera Tanden & Lawrence Tribe. Tribe "demanded that Barr recuse himself from 'overseeing an inquiry that cuts this close to the bone.'" ...

... Matt Stieb & Chas Danner of New York have a round-up of Epstein conspiracy theories & who's floating them. ...

... Charles Pierce: "Absolutely nobody is going to believe any official story that comes out about this.... A whole bunch of Somebodies need to get fired behind this. Beyond it, of course, a thousand conspiracy theories will now bloom across all the Intertoobz.... This country is losing what's left of its mind." ...

People close to Epstein fear he was murdered...as Epstein told authorities someone tried to kill him in a previous incident weeks earlier. He was described as being in good spirits in recent days... -- Carol Leonnig of the Washington post, in a tweet ...

... Megan Garber of the Atlantic: "The most urgent question ... is ... what will Epstein's death mean for the reckoning sought by the women who have accused him of abuse? Will the alleged victims -- alleged being the correct word, but also, under the circumstances, a callous word -- find justice, despite it all? 'Obviously, criminal charges can't be lodged against a dead person,' Paul Callan, a legal analyst for CNN, put it on the network this morning. 'The question is ... can civil cases for money damages be brought by other and new victims? And the answer to that is yes ... So his suicide will not end coverage and interest in the Jeffrey Epstein case.'... Justice can also take the form of investigation: Journalists, following the lead of the Miami Herald's standard-bearer, Julie K. Brown, can keep pursuing the story.... And justice can take the form, too, of governmental inquiries. It can be found through hearings as to why Epstein was not under suicide watch at the time of his death. It can be found through investigations into how, precisely -- for so many years -- Epstein was able to evade full accountability for his reported predations." ...

Matt Stieb of New York "spoke with former U.S. Attorney ... Barbara McQuade about where the legal proceedings involving the sex offender go from here."


Simon Denyer & David Nakamura
of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Saturday appeared to side with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in renewing his objections to joint military exercises with South Korea, calling such drills 'ridiculous and expensive' at a time when Pyongyang has been testing short-range missiles. In a pair of morning tweets from his resort in Bedminster, N.J., where he arrived late Friday for a 10-day vacation, Trump said Kim objected to the exercises in a letter and suggested that the missile tests would end once the drills are finished. 'It was a long letter, much of it complaining about the ridiculous and expensive exercises,' Trump wrote, asserting that the letter amounted to 'a small apology for testing the short range missiles.' Trump also said Kim suggested that negotiations over its nuclear weapons program, which have been dormant since a second summit in Hanoi broke off without an agreement in February, could resume after the joint exercises conclude." A story by Riley Beggin of Vox is here.

Trump Rattles Sabre. David Jackson of USA Today: "... Donald Trump threatened undefined retaliation Friday against countries and organizations that issue travel warnings on the United States because of gun violence. 'If they did that, we'd just reciprocate,' Trump said during a wide-ranging impromptu gaggle with reporters at the White House, en route to fundraisers in New York. He added: 'We are a very reciprocal nation with me as the head. When somebody does something negative to us in terms of a country, we do it to them.' Amnesty International and a growing list of countries have begun issuing warnings about travel to the United States because of gun violence, including mass shootings over the weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio." (Also linked yesterday.)

Kevin Sieff of the Washington Post: "Since [Trump's] 'Remain in Mexico' began in February, Human Rights First, an advocacy organization, has catalogued 110 'cases of rape, kidnapping, sexual exploitation, assault, and other violent crimes' against asylum seekers sent back to Mexico under the program, according to a report released Thursday. Since the policy was expanded from the Mexican states of Baja California and Chihuahua to the more dangerous state of Tamaulipas last month, several asylum seekers have been kidnapped in broad daylight, often from public places.... The U.S. State Department this year gave Tamaulipas its most severe travel warning -- Level Four: Do Not Travel — placing it at the same level as Syria and Afghanistan." Mrs. McC: That is, one administrative department -- State -- labeled Tamaulipas extremely dangerous, and another -- DHS -- moved amnesty-seekers there. The Trump administration knowingly & purposely put innocent amnesty-seekers in extreme danger. The administration is as criminal as the kidnappers & rapists.

Scott Bronstein, et al., of CNN: "The Environmental Protection Agency told staff scientists that it was no longer opposing a controversial Alaska mining project that could devastate one of the world's most valuable wild salmon fisheries just one day after President Trump met with Alaska's governor, CNN has learned. The EPA publicly announced the reversal July 30, but EPA staff sources tell CNN that they were informed of the decision a month earlier, during a hastily arranged video conference after Trump's meeting with Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The governor, a supporter of the project, emerged from that meeting saying the president assured him that he's 'doing everything he can to work with us on our mining concerns.' The news came as a 'total shock' to some top EPA scientists who were planning to oppose the project on environmental grounds, according to sources. Those sources asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution." Mrs. McC: On the other hand, who needs wild salmon? Speaking of bottom-feeders (Trump, Dunleavy), I hear catfish is delicious & healthful, especially when deep-fried in lard.

Presidential Race 2020

Daniel Politi of Slate: Joe Biden "told reporters in Iowa on Saturday that 'those kids in Parkland came up to see me when I was vice president.' But when they went to Capitol Hill, Biden said, lawmakers were 'basically cowering, not wanting to see them. They did not want to face it on camera.' The problem with this tale? The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead took place in 2018, more than a year after Biden left the White House. It looks like Biden repeated the gaffe twice. There is video of Biden telling the same story but with slightly different words at a forum on gun violence.... Although there was some basis in truth for what Biden said, considering he did meet with Parkland students in Washington shortly after the shooting, this was the latest in a string of gaffes that some say could end up dooming his prospects as a presidential candidate."

Gregory Krieg of CNN: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren has unveiled a comprehensive plan to reduce gun violence by enacting a suite of new restrictions on buyers, cracking down on sellers and breaking 'the (National Rifle Association's) stranglehold on Congress' with anti-corruption legislation. The proposal arrives as more than 15 Democratic primary candidates prepare to take turns speaking at a gun safety forum in Des Moines, Iowa, and a week after the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio." ...

... Dan Spinelli of Mother Jones: "Like many of her Democratic rivals, Warren supports an assault weapons ban and universal background checks before gun purchases, but her plan also would hike taxes on gun manufacturers, establish a federal licensing system for gun owners, set a uniform, one-week waiting period for purchases, bar anyone convicted of a hate crime from owning guns, and support urban-intervention programs. Warren's most ambitious ideas, such as raising tax rates by 30 percent on guns and 50 percent on ammunition, would require congressional approval, but other solutions detailed in her plan would not. She proposes signing executive orders to raise the minimum age for gun purchasers to 18, crack down on gun trafficking across state lines, and reverse Trump administration rules that have allowed weapons to be modified in ways that evade legal restrictions." ...

... Warren summarized her proposal on Medium. The page took forever to load this morning.

Natasha Korecki & David Siders of Politico: "On Friday, the same crowd of 2020 Democrats that ripped each other apart on the national debate stage in Detroit transformed into a paragon of 'Iowa nice' at the Wing Ding -- making their best pitches to potential Iowa caucus-goers without eviscerating each other. Instead, the 22 candidates unloaded on ... Donald Trump in a parade of speeches that framed the fight for the White House as a battle against hate and bigotry. Invoking last weekend's mass shootings, they joined in calling for stronger gun laws. And they called for different approach to immigration. The event came as the primary season in the first-in-the-nation voting state kicked into high gear with start of the annual state fair. The enthusiasm of voters was palpable: thousands packed into the historic venue, which at times grew so loud that speakers had to yell to be heard."


Second-Amendment Enthusiasts Are Not Necessarily Very Bright. Madeline Holcombe & Chris Boyette
of CNN: "A man accused of walking into a Walmart in Missouri equipped with body armor, a handgun and a rifle less than a week after a gunman killed 22 people in a Texas Walmart said it was a 'social experiment' and not intended to cause panic, police say. 'I wanted to know if that Walmart honored the Second Amendment,' Dmitriy Andreychenko told investigators, according to a probable cause statement filed by Springfield police. Andreychenko 20, was arrested Thursday after panic ensued when he walked into the store that afternoon with his rifle slung across his chest, pushing a shopping cart and recording himself with a cell phone, police say. Patrons fled the store, police were called, and an off-duty firefighter detained Andreychenko until officers arrived to take him into custody, police said. He told investigators he intended to buy grocery bags, and didn't intend for any negative reaction, police said. And he claimed the recording was in case anyone stopped him and asked him to leave, police said.... The rifle he carried had a loaded magazine, but a round was not chambered; and the handgun was loaded with a round in the chamber, the probable cause document said.... 'Missouri protects the right to open carry a firearm, but that right does not allow an individual to act in a reckless and criminal manner, endangering other citizens,' [prosecuting attorney Dan] Patterson said. 'As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously explained, "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man ... falsely shouting fire in a theater, causing a panic."'"

     ... Hannah Knowles writes the Washington Post story. Andreychenko's wife & sister told him his little experiment was a bad idea.

AP: "Florida authorities are charging a 26-year-old man they say posted a threat on Facebook that he was about to have his semi-automatic rifle returned and people should stay away from Walmart. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested Richard Clayton on Friday north of Orlando. The agency said Clayton posted his threat on Sunday, the day after a gunman in El Paso, Texas, killed 22 people and injured two dozen at a Walmart. Investigators said the post read, '3 more days of probation left then I get my AR-15 back. Don't go to Walmart next week.' A department spokeswoman said Clayton was not on probation. The FDLE said Clayton appears to believe in white supremacist ideology and has a history of posting threats on Facebook using fake accounts. He was charged with making written threats to kill or do bodily harm." Emphasis added.

News Lede

Washington Post: "Viewers across the United States will have a chance [to see shooting stars] Monday and Tuesday nights, when a dozen meteors per hour and possibly up to 50 or more at its peak are slated to dazzle the heavens after dark." The story gives advice on your best chance of espying the meteor shower. ...

     ... Here's the Space.com story.

Friday
Aug092019

The Commentariat -- August 10, 2019

Afternoon Update:

I was appalled to learn that Jeffrey Epstein was found dead early this morning from an apparent suicide while in federal custody. Mr. Epstein's death raises serious questions that must be answered. In addition to the FBI's investigation, I have consulted with the Inspector General who is opening an investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Epstein's death. -- William Barr, full statement, Saturday ...

... James McKinley & Ali Watkins of the New York Times: "Like all federal prisons, the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan has a suicide prevention program designed for inmates who are at risk of taking their own lives. After an apparent attempt three weeks ago, Jeffrey Epstein -- the financier who was at the facility awaiting trial on charges he sexually abused dozens of girls -- was a prime candidate.Yet Mr. Epstein, 66, was not on suicide watch when he hanged himself and his body was found in his cell early on Saturday, raising questions about the steps officials took after the first incident to keep him from harming himself. Attorney General William P. Barr said in a statement that he had asked the inspector general for the Justice Department to open an investigation' into the circumstances of Mr. Epstein's death.'... One federal prison official with knowledge of the incident said Mr. Epstein had been taken off suicide watch a few days ago, and was being held alone in a cell in a special housing unit." ...

     ... A related NBC News story is here. ...

... This Is Unbelievable. Dan Spinelli of Mother Jones: "... Lynne Patton, regional administrator at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, had [an] idea of what happened [to Epstein]. 'Hillary'd!!' she posted on Instagram around 10 a.m., alongside a screenshot of a Daily Mail story that described Epstein's manner of death. She added the hashtag, '#VinceFosterPartTwo,' a reference to the former Clinton aide whose death by suicide has fueled conspiracy theories for more than two decades. Patton, one of the highest-ranking officials at HUD, was not alone in seizing on conspiracy theories. Within hours of Epstein's death, 'Clintons' and 'ClintonBodyCount' were among the highest-trending topics on Twitter." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Patton, you may recall, previously worked for what I'm sure is a wonderful organization: the Eric Trump Foundation. She also was Eric's party planner & reportedly suffered from substance abuse & addition while working for him. Although she had no housing experience whatsoever, Trump appointed her to a HUD job, which she so badly flubbed that Ole Doc Carson promoted her to head up HUD's Region 2. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) used her as a prop during Michael Cohen's public House hearing as living proof that Trump can't possibly be a racist. Ole Doc should fire her right now.

Trump Rattles Sabre. David Jackson of USA Today: "... Donald Trump threatened undefined retaliation Friday against countries and organizations that issue travel warnings on the United States because of gun violence. 'If they did that, we'd just reciprocate,' Trump said during a wide-ranging impromptu gaggle with reporters at the White House, en route to fundraisers in New York. He added: 'We are a very reciprocal nation with me as the head. When somebody does something negative to us in terms of a country, we do it to them.' Amnesty International and a growing list of countries have begun issuing warnings about travel to the United States because of gun violence, including mass shootings over the weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio."

~~~~~~~~~~

William Rashbaum & Benjamin Weiser of the New York Times: "Jeffrey Epstein, the financier indicted on sex trafficking charges last month, committed suicide at a Manhattan jail, officials said on Saturday. Mr. Epstein hanged himself and his body was found this morning at Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan at roughly 7:30. Manhattan federal prosecutors last month charged Mr. Epstein, 66, with sex trafficking of girls as young as 14, and details of his behavior have been emerging for years.... Last month, a week after being denied bail, Mr. Epstein was found unconscious in his cell at the jail in Manhattan with marks on his neck, and prison officials were investigating the incident as a possible suicide attempt." The NBC News story is here.

** POTUS* Says Torturing Children Is "a Very Good Deterrent." Maegan Vazquez of CNN: "... Donald Trump on Friday defended recent, large-scale raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and the way the agency dealt with children of the immigrants who were detained. Asked Friday why there wasn't a better plan in place to deal with the children after their parent's arrest, Trump told reporters outside the White House south lawn, 'You have to go in, you can't let anybody know.'... Trump said the raids served as a 'very good deterrent' for undocumented immigrants. 'I want people to know that if they come into the United States illegally, they're getting out,' Trump said Friday. 'They're going to be brought out. And this serves as a very good deterrent.'" Mrs. McC: MEANWHILE, in Ravenna, Italy, Dante rolled over, hopped out of his tomb & knocked out a few cantos describing the Tenth Circle of Hell.

If you're a good worker, papers don't matter. -- Jorge Castro, undocumented worker on Trump construction projects until April 2019 ...

... Joshua Partlow & David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post: "For nearly two decades, the Trump Organization has relied on a roving crew of Latin American employees to build fountains and waterfalls, sidewalks and rock walls at the company's winery and its golf courses from New York to Florida.... For years, their ranks have included workers who entered the United States illegally, according to two former members of the crew. Another employee, still with the company, said that remains true today.... The hiring practices of the little-known Trump business unit are the latest example of the chasm between the president's derisive rhetoric about immigrants and his company's long-standing reliance on workers who cross the border illegally." Mediaite has a summary of the Post story here.

John Wagner & Seung Min Kim of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Friday claimed strong congressional support for strengthening background checks for gun buyers, offering an optimistic assessment for passing new legislation that was at odds with public statements from Senate Republicans. 'I think we can do very meaningful background checks,' Trump told reporters shortly before departing for campaign fundraisers in New York. 'I think Republicans are going to be great and lead the charge along with the Democrats.' Trump said that he had spoken with congressional leaders from both parties and asserted that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is 'totally on board' with his plans to keep 'sick and demented people' from buying guns. In response, a McConnell spokesman said that he had not endorsed any legislation at this point." The NBC News story, by Adam Edelman, is here. ...

... Quint Forgey of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Friday acknowledged he has spoken in recent days with National Rifle Association officials to ensure the powerful firearm lobby's interests are 'fully represented and respected' in negotiations on gun reform legislation following two mass shootings over the weekend.... Trump called [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi ... Thursday to discuss the universal background check bill, and also spoke with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). 'The President gave us his assurances that he would review the bipartisan House-passed legislation and understood our interest in moving as quickly as possible to help save lives,' Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement." ...

... He Was For It Before He Was Against It Before He Was For It Before He Was Against It Before He Was For It. Michael Shear, et al., of the New York Times: After flipflopping during the 2016 campaign on his previous support for background checks, "Mr. Trump changed his mind again in 2018 after the high school shooting in Parkland, Fla., insisting that stronger checks would be 'fully backed' by the White House. But that position only lasted a few days, until a late-night meeting with the National Rifle Association in the Oval Office, after which he backed off his support and later threatened to veto a background check bill.... The president's long history on the gun issue raises questions about his real commitment to legislation that would improve the background check system and close [gun-show] loopholes...." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: All politicians change their minds or at least their publicly-stated positions on important issues in the interest of political expediency. In 1996, Barack Obama wrote that he favored same-sex marriage, but said he opposed it in 2008 when he was running for president. Then in 2012 Joe Biden said he was "absolutely comfortable" with same-sex marriage, forcing Obama to flipflop again. Obama's 2008 flipflop was hardly a profile in courage, but it was a relatively rare case of his changing his position on an important policy matter. Trump, on the other hand, flipflops like a gymnast practicing for the Olympics on matters large & small. And he never acknowledges his reversals. He is the most unreliable, untrustworthy president* in U.S. history.

Josh Israel of ThinkProgress: "Angry constituents of Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) flooded his town hall meeting in North Salt Lake on Wednesday, demanding to know what he plans to do to stop mass shootings and white nationalist terrorism.... When an ... attendee suggested that condemning racism and violence should include condemning a president whose racism is inciting white supremacist violence, the Utah Republican replied that Trump should not be accountable as long as he doesn't commit racist violence himself. 'The president of the United States, as far as I know, hasn't shot anyone,' Stewart answered. Another constituent shouted back that 'Charles Manson never shot anybody either,' referencing a convicted cult leader whose followers did most of the murdering on his behalf." --s

Katie Rogers, et al., of the New York Times: "By the time President Trump arrived in El Paso on Wednesday, on the second leg of a trip to meet with people affected by mass shootings in two cities, he was frustrated that his attacks on his political adversaries had resulted in more coverage than the cheery reception he received at a hospital in Dayton, Ohio, the first stop on his trip. So he screamed at his aides to begin producing proof that in El Paso people were happy to see him.... When he does something that he believes he should have been praised for -- such as Wednesday's visits to the cities -- he grows furious when he does not receive accolades." The whole story is worth reading. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I'm sure I would quit any job where my boss "screamed at" me. But what's more important in the report is how Trump expects to "receive accolades" for doing a piss-poor job at consoling victims who are supposed to be the VIPs in the visit. He doesn't care a whit about them. He just wants the press to glorify him for talking about crowd size & giving a wholly-inappropriate thumbs-up in a photo with an orphaned infant. He's not even looking at the baby; he's looking at the cameras. Have you ever consoled someone who's suffered a loss with the idea you'll "receive accolades"? Of course not. You do it because you have real compassion for the bereaved person. Trump is a monster. ...

... Dahlia Lithwick of Slate: "The cherry bomb on top [of Trump's visit to Dayton & El Paso] was a photo from first lady Melania Trump's Twitter account that appeared to feature a grinning president with a 2-month-old infant who was orphaned during the El Paso shooting.... That's the president, grinning and giving a thumbs-up, as the orphaned child is held out like a trophy. If words weren't inclined to fail, ghoulish and surreal might serve. This child has no parents because a shooter spouting Trumpist talking points about foreign 'invaders' went to El Paso to kill them. And while the president refused to speak to reporters, who were scolded by the White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, in a statement saying that the visits were all 'about the victims' and not a 'photo op,' hours later, Trump released a campaign-style video of his triumphal comforting tour. The baby's parents were both killed trying to protect him.... It appears baby Paul was brought back to the hospital by White House staff for the photo-op." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: One of the biggest lies Trump told during the 2016 campaign was, "I'm going to be so presidential...." ...

David Li of NBC News: "The man accused of gunning down 22 people at an El Paso Walmart last week confessed to the grisly crime and admitted he was targeting people of Mexican descent, according to unsealed court documents Friday. Texas Rangers, responding to the scene in an unmarked car, came up to a vehicle in the left-hand turn lane at an intersection when the suspect surrendered, according to the arrest warrant written by El Paso police Det. Adrian Garcia. 'Agents and police officers at the intersection then observed a male person (defendant) to exit out of the vehicle with his hands raised in the air and stated out loud to the agents "I'm the shooter,"' Garcia wrote." Article includes photo.

Tom Winter & Dennis Romero of NBC News: "A 23-year-old Las Vegas man who allegedly wanted to attack Jews and patrons of an LGBTQ bar was arrested on suspicion of possessing parts to make a bomb, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Nevada said Friday. Conor Climo, who was arrested Thursday, was connected to white supremacists though encrypted online conversations, federal prosecutors said.... After Climo's arrest, FBI agents said he told them he had acquired electronic components to build a bomb and that he wanted to mobilize an eight-man sniper platoon to shoot Jewish people either at a Las Vegas synagogue or some other location. According to charging documents, an FBI bomb technician found bomb-making components and chemical compounds in Climo's bedroom. Federal agents said they also seized an AR-15 style rifle and a bolt-action rifle from the room." Emphasis added.

Chris Sommerfeldt of the New York Daily News: "An Ohio man was slammed with criminal charges Friday for threatening New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and stockpiling illegal ammunition in his home, according to prosecutors. Federal agents raided Tim Ireland's Toledo home on Thursday and arrested him after learning he had posted on Facebook that Ocasio-Cortez 'should be shot,' prosecutors said. 'My employer would load the gun for me,' Ireland posted, according to court records. During the raid, feds found several rounds of illegal ammunition in Ireland's home, prosecutors said.... Before Ireland's arrest, a federal agent had called him and asked about the inflammatory Facebook post about Ocasio-Cortez, according to records. 'Ireland stated he was very proud of that post he made,' the agent wrote in an affidavit."

Kevin Poulsen of The Daily Beast: "Refugees from the anonymous 8chan forum are flooding into a new censorship-resistant home on the dark web, and inadvertently giving up their anonymity along the way.... The new site, called 08chan (with a leading zero) [set up as a difficult to trace 'peer-to-peer' network], has no affiliation with the original and it's not entirely clear who set it up, but 8chan's diaspora have been flooding in as word of the site spreads through right-wing social media.... There's just one catch. Peer-to-peer networks expose a user's internet address to anyone who cares to look. That's how copyright lawyers catch people trading movies, music and software, and it's how police and FBI agents arrest pedophiles trading child porn online.... [O]nly 41 percent of 08chan's users are using Tor [a program to mask their servers], based on our analysis of the peer-to-peer traffic at the site." --s

Jordan Uhl of Media Matters: “Tucker Carlson's nightly ad load has undergone a seismic shift just days after declaring white supremacy is 'actually not a real problem in America,' and that the idea it is a problem is 'a hoax' and 'conspiracy theory used to divide the country.'... The number of paid ads has drastically plummeted in the last week.... Despite leaving on an abrupt and suspiciously timed vacation -- a commonly used tactic by Fox to deter advertisers from dropping shows after a host says something particularly egregious -- Carlson has continued to lose advertisers. SteinMart, HelloFresh, and Nestle have all severed ties with Tucker Carlson Tonight, and the fast food chain Long John Silver's not only dropped advertising from his show but from Fox News as a whole."

Donnie, the Dictator's Dupe. Rishika Dugyala of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Friday said he received a "beautiful letter" from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, hours before the regime launched further projectiles as a warning against joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea. 'I think we'll have another meeting,' Trump told reporters outside the White House. 'He really wrote a beautiful three-page -- I mean right from top to bottom -- a really beautiful letter. And maybe I'll release the results of the letter, but it was very positive.' North Korea had five rounds of weapons demonstrations in the past two weeks -- including another launch of two projectiles Saturday local time, according to South Korea. Trump had dismissed the previous tests, saying they were just for short-range missiles. He added that Kim wrote in the 'very personal letter' that he is not happy with the U.S.-South Korea joint exercises."

D. Parvaz of ThinkProgress: "A new report released by the Pentagon this week states that the self-proclaimed Islamic State group (ISIS) is taking advantage of ... Donald Trump's troop withdrawals from Iraq and Syria and 'rebuilding its capabilities.' This runs counter to the president's repeated claims that he has defeated ISIS.... This week's report acknowledges that the group lost its strongholds in Iraq in 2017 and Syria in 2019, but, it cautions, loss of territory does not spell the eradication of ISIS. On the contrary, the uneven U.S. approach in those conflicts has allowed it to revitalize its networks." --s

Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg: "The Trump administration continues its attacks on foreign policy, innovation and economic management. Sue Gordon announced her plans to retire as principal deputy director of national intelligence.... A Foreign Service officer resigned in an op-ed, saying 'I can no longer justify ... my complicity in the actions of this administration.' The Donald Trump administration is finding creative ways to destroy the Agriculture Department's Economic Research Service.... That's all from Thursday. They are hardly the only examples of how the administration is, to put it bluntly, destroying the U.S. government.... But there's nothing systematic about any of what's happening here. No plan. No strategy. No effort to separate the worthwhile from the worthless. It's just basically random attacks on random pieces of the government. It will take years to recover from. In some ways, perhaps the nation will never recover." --s

Darren Samuelsohn of Politico: "A federal judge on Friday rejected a request to fast track a review of Robert Mueller's records for potential public release. U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton sided with Justice Department lawyers who were asking him to stick to the normal schedule for Freedom of Information Act cases as he considers a lawsuit seeking a variety of underlying records tied to the now-concluded special counsel investigation. At issue is a FOIA request filed last November by the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center that asked for a broad range of Mueller materials, including any reports connected to the end of the probe, congressional briefing materials and any referrals the special counsel made outside the criminal justice system."

This Is Weird. Zachary Cohen of CNN: "The country's No. 2 intelligence official, Sue Gordon, knew it was likely she would have to eventually step down from her post, but the timing of that decision became more urgent on Thursday after her boss -- outgoing spy chief Dan Coats -- interrupted a meeting she was holding on election security and asked his deputy to submit her letter of resignation, sources familiar with the events told CNN. While details of the conversation between Gordon, an intelligence veteran of more than 30 years, and Coats remain unclear, sources say that the situation clearly abruptly changed after the meeting was interrupted. Shortly after her encounter with Coats, Gordon submitted her letter of resignation to Vice President Mike Pence, though the document itself was addressed to Trump.... Ultimately, White House officials told CNN they were not surprised by the fact that Gordon chose to resign, as it was clear the President was never going to select her for the top job, or even the acting position.... Under normal protocol, Gordon would have become acting director after Coats resigned. But administration officials told CNN that the White House was reviewing whether it could legally choose an acting director outside the line of succession."

Michael Hayden of the Southern Poverty Law Center: "After [the SPLC's] Hatewatch published its investigation of [State Department employee Matthew Gebert], people sent photos and information to Hatewatch about Gebert and his wife, Anna Vuckovic. Vuckovic also is involved in the white nationalist movement..., Hatewatch reported. Among the photos Hatewatch received is one of Gebert at a white nationalist event in Charlottesville, Virginia, in May 2017, months before the failed 'Unite the Right' rally that August." Two people who know Gebert positively identified him in the white nationalist event to Hatewatch. The State Department reportedly suspended Gebert after the SPLC's initial report on his white nationalist activities. Mrs. McC: In the photo, Gebert is dressed in the white nationalist "uniform": white shirt & khakis.

Nahal Toosi of Politico: "Democrats and many in the State Department are increasingly exasperated that they have yet to see the results of an investigation into whether President Donald Trump's political appointees mistreated career staffers. The delayed release of the State Department inspector general's findings has generated rising suspicion that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is trying to derail the investigation, whose results could be damning to some of his top aides. Lawmakers initially expected the report 'month ago,' according to Rep. Eliot Engel, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee." --s

Dan Friedman of Mother Jones: "The House Intelligence Committee is ramping up an investigation into alleged efforts by Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states to use financial inducements and other means to win favorable policies from the Trump administration. Starting in April, the panel 'issued several subpoenas and requests for information relating to Gulf influence, and we have received documents from certain witnesses,' a committee official says. 'We expect to issue another wave of requests shortly.'" --s

Presidential Race 2020

Chris Gardner of the Hollywood Reporter: "... Donald Trump's quick trip to the Hamptons on Friday raked in $12 million for his re-election campaign as his Republican allies were quick to declare it a win despite the wave of protests and controversy swirling around his Southampton host.... Trump appeared at two Hamptons fundraisers ... -- one at the Bridgehampton estate of Joe Farrell and another at the Southampton home of billionaire real estate developer Stephen Ross. The latter proved to be the pricier affair with tickets going for $100,000 (for photo and lunch) or $250,000 (for roundtable, photo and lunch) but it also ended up being the most controversial.... Trump critics called for boycotts of businesses in [Rpss's] Related Companies portfolio including the popular Equinox and Soul Cycle. According to numerous social media posts, celebrities and industry insiders were canceling their memberships in droves late in the week with many reporting that Equinox staffers were 'overwhelmed' by the calls and emails. THR reached out to a rep for Equinox but even their inboxes were slammed. Multiple emails bounced back, citing storage capacity errors." ...

... Colby Itkowitz of the Washington Post: "Before leaving for New York on Friday morning, Trump defended Ross. 'He's a great friend of mine; he's a very successful guy. We were competitors but friends in real estate in New York in the old days,' Trump told reporters outside the White House. 'He's probably more inclined to be a liberal if you want to know the truth, but he likes me, he respects me.'... Trump dismissed the backlash Ross is facing over the fundraiser, saying, 'it just makes Steve much hotter.'... Ross, in a statement to The Washington Post on Wednesday, said he will speak up when he disagrees with Trump, and called himself 'an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability.'" Mrs. McC: He has a funny way of showing it.

Gubernatorial Race 2019. Louisiana. Josh Israel of ThinkProgress: "Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-LA), who is running for governor in the 2019 elections, attended a meeting of a right-wing 'patriots' group on Thursday. When an attendee delivered a racist rant against illegal immigration, and the members of Congress who allow it, and urged that some be shot, Abraham did not push back... 'This Congress and this Senate too [are] absent minded and irresponsible,' the person claimed. 'I think some of these people, whoever they are ... ought to be shot.' It is unclear whether he wanted to assassinate the lawmakers or the immigrants. But it is clear that Abraham did nothing to challenge the call to violence in his response." --s

Benjamin Weiser of the New York Times: "... a cache of previously sealed legal documents, released on Friday by a federal appeals court, provides new, disturbing details about what was going on inside [Jeffrey] Epstein's homes and how his associates recruited young women and girls, including from a Florida high school.... The documents were filed as part of a defamation lawsuit in federal court that Virginia Giuffre brought in 2015 against Ghislaine Maxwell, Mr. Epstein's longtime companion and confidant. Ms. Giuffre and Ms. Maxwell settled the lawsuit shortly before the trial was to begin in 2017.... About 2,000 pages of the materials were posted online by the appeals court on Friday, providing a high-definition glimpse inside what federal prosecutors have said was Mr. Epstein's long-running sex-trafficking operation.... The word 'massage' became code for 'sex,' [Ms. Giuffre] said in the 2016 deposition." The Politico report, by Josh Gerstein, is here. It names some prominent men Giuffre swore Maxwell instructed her to "massage." The Washington Post report, by Beth Reinhard & others, is here.

Jake Rudnitsky of Bloomberg: "[In parts of Siberia, t]emperatures in June and July were the hottest ever charted globally.... The resulting dry conditions fed fires that torched more than 7 million hectares (17 million acres) of Siberian wilderness in just two months. Since the beginning of the year, fires have consumed more than 13 million hectares -- an area larger than Greece.... These unchecked fires are destroying millions of hectares of trees in the world's largest forest, a critical carbon sink, and could further accelerate global warming.... Russia is finally waking up to the threat of climate change, which Putin in 2017 joked could be beneficial for Russia given its reputation for cold weather." -- safari: I hope Trump sends rakes. --s

Beyond the Beltway

New Hampshire. John DiStaso of WMUR Manchester: "Gov. Chris Sununu [R] on Friday vetoed three bills that advocates said would have added 'commonsense' protections for Granite Staters against gun violence but opponents said would have done nothing to stop mass shootings and would have infringed on the constitutional rights of citizens. Sununu vetoed House 109 which closes the so-called gun show loophole and requires background checks for virtually all commercial firearms sales or transfers; House Bill 514, which requires a three-day waiting period before the purchase and delivery of a firearm; and House Bill 564, which prohibits carrying a firearm on school property.... The bills passed the Democratic-controlled House and Senate mostly along party lines. The Legislature will likely meet next month to address all of the governor's vetoes, but ... overrides are unlikely since two-thirds majorities are required." Mrs. McC: Thanks, Sununu! I really treasure my Constitutional right to buy a couple of guns at a shady gun show, load 'em up & immediately carry them to the local elementary school. Common sense is so overrated.

Way Beyond

Italy. Siobhán O'Grady of the Washington Post: "Pope Francis called for a united Europe in an interview published by Italian daily La Stampa on Friday, saying recent political rhetoric has echoed that of Nazi Germany. I am concerned because we hear speeches that resemble those of Hitler in 1934,' he said. 'Us first.... These are frightening thoughts.' It is not the first time the pontiff has made such remarks, but his comments published Friday came as Italy's populist government appeared to be on the verge of collapse. On Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, the most powerful politician in Italy, called for parliament to be dissolved and asked President Sergio Mattarella to order snap elections that could make Italy's government lean even further right." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The WashPo story links to the La Stampa report, in Italian, of course. Here's an English translation, via the Vatican Insider. ...

... Italy/Russia. Alberto Nardelli et al. of Buzzfeed: "Gianluca Savoini [a longtime aide to Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini is] ... at the center of the storm over a secret plan to fund the far-right party of Italy's deputy prime minister with Russian oil money, shuttled back and forth to Moscow on multiple mysterious trips last year.... A member of Salvini's ministerial staff, Claudio D'Amico, was booked on the same Aeroflot flight as Savoini from Milan to Moscow on Oct. 16 ... the evening of Oct. 18, following the meeting at the Metropol that morning [discussing the secret oil deal]. D'Amico is Salvini's strategic adviser on international affairs. The revelation will ratchet up pressure on Salvini to answer questions about what he knew about the Moscow negotiation.... Savoini's dozens of travel entries over the past five years do not appear in Russia's Central Database for the Registration of Foreigners ... suggest[ing] either that he had a special status awarded upon arrival to individuals who, for example, don't have to go through passport control or that the information was wiped from the database." --s

Thursday
Aug082019

The Commentariat -- August 9, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

David Li of NBC News: "The man accused of gunning down 22 people at an El Paso Walmart last week confessed to the grisly crime and admitted he was targeting people of Mexican descent, according to unsealed court documents Friday. Texas Rangers, responding to the scene in an unmarked car, came up to a vehicle in the left-hand turn lane at an intersection when the suspect surrendered, according to the arrest warrant written by El Paso police Det. Adrian Garcia. 'Agents and police officers at the intersection then observed a male person (defendant) to exit out of the vehicle with his hands raised in the air and stated out loud to the agents "I'm the shooter,"' Garcia wrote." Article includes photo.

Dahlia Lithwick of Slate: "The cherry bomb on top [of Trump's visit to Dayton & El Paso] was a photo from first lady Melania Trump's Twitter account that appeared to feature a grinning president with a 2-month-old infant who was orphaned during the El Paso shooting.... That's the president, grinning and giving a thumbs-up, as the orphaned child is held out like a trophy. If words weren't inclined to fail, ghoulish and surreal might serve. This child has no parents because a shooter spouting Trumpist talking points about foreign 'invaders' went to El Paso to kill them. And while the president refused to speak to reporters, who were scolded by the White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, in a statement saying that the visits were all 'about the victims' and not a 'photo op,' hours later, Trump released a campaign-style video of his triumphal comforting tour. The baby's parents were both killed trying to protect him.... It appears baby Paul was brought back to the hospital by White House staff for the photo-op." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: One of the biggest lies Trump told during the 2016 campaign was, "I'm going to be so presidential...."

** POTUS* Says Torturing Children Is "a Very Good Deterrent." Maegan Vazquez of CNN: "... Donald Trump on Friday defended recent, large-scale raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and the way the agency dealt with children of the immigrants who were detained. Asked Friday why there wasn't a better plan in place to deal with the children after their parent's arrest, Trump told reporters outside the White House south lawn, 'You have to go in, you can't let anybody know.'... Trump said the raids served as a 'very good deterrent' for undocumented immigrants. 'I want people to know that if they come into the United States illegally, they're getting out,' Trump said Friday. 'They're going to be brought out. And this serves as a very good deterrent.'" Mrs. McC: MEANWHILE, in Ravenna, Italy, Dante rolled over, hopped out of his tomb & knocked out a few cantos describing the Tenth Circle of Hell.

John Wagner & Seung Min Kim of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Friday claimed strong congressional support for strengthening background checks for gun buyers, offering an optimistic assessment for passing new legislation that was at odds with public statements from Senate Republicans. 'I think we can do very meaningful background checks,' Trump told reporters shortly before departing for campaign fundraisers in New York. 'I think Republicans are going to be great and lead the charge along with the Democrats.' Trump said that he had spoken with congressional leaders from both parties and asserted that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is 'totally on board' with his plans to keep 'sick and demented people' from buying guns. In response, a McConnell spokesman said that he had not endorsed any legislation at this point." The NBC News story, by Adam Edelman, is here. ...

... Quint Forgey of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Friday acknowledged he has spoken in recent days with National Rifle Association officials to ensure the powerful firearm lobby's interests are 'fully represented and respected' in negotiations on gun reform legislation following two mass shootings over the weekend.... Trump called [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi ... Thursday to discuss the universal background check bill, and also spoke with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). 'The President gave us his assurances that he would review the bipartisan House-passed legislation and understood our interest in moving as quickly as possible to help save lives,' Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement." ...

If you’re a good worker, papers don't matter. -- Jorge Castro, undocumented worker on Trump construction projects until April 2019 ...

... Joshua Partlow & David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post: "For nearly two decades, the Trump Organization has relied on a roving crew of Latin American employees to build fountains and waterfalls, sidewalks and rock walls at the company's winery and its golf courses from New York to Florida.... For years, their ranks have included workers who entered the United State illegally, according to two former members of the crew. Another employee, still with the company, said that remains true today.... The hiring practices of the little-known Trump business unit are the latest example of the chasm between the president's derisive rhetoric about immigrants and his company's long-standing reliance on workers who cross the border illegally." Mediaite has a summary of the Post story here.

Kevin Poulsen of The Daily Beast: "Refugees from the anonymous 8chan forum are flooding into a new censorship-resistant home on the dark web, and inadvertently giving up their anonymity along the way.... The new site, called 08chan (with a leading zero) [set up as a difficult to trace 'peer-to-peer' network], has no affiliation with the original and it's not entirely clear who set it up, but 8chan's diaspora have been flooding in as word of the site spreads through right-wing social media.... There's just one catch. Peer-to-peer networks expose a user's internet address to anyone who cares to look. That's how copyright lawyers catch people trading movies, music and software, and it's how police and FBI agents arrest pedophiles trading child porn online.... [O]nly 41 percent of 08chan's users are using Tor [a program to mask their servers], based on our analysis...." --s

Utah. Josh Israel of ThinkProgress: "Angry constituents of Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) flooded his town hall meeting in North Salt Lake on Wednesday, demanding to know what he plans to do to stop mass shootings and white nationalist terrorism.... When an ... attendee suggested that condemning racism and violence should include condemning a president whose racism is inciting white supremacist violence, the Utah Republican replied that Trump should not be accountable as long as he doesn't commit racist violence himself. 'The president of the United States, as far as I know, hasn't shot anyone,' Stewart answered. Another constituent shouted back that 'Charles Manson never shot anybody either,' referencing a convicted cult leader whose followers did most of the murdering on his behalf." --s

Italy/Russia. Alberto Nardelli, et al. of Buzzfeed: "Gianluca Savoini [a longtime aide to Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini is] ... at the center of the storm over a secret plan to fund the far-right party of Italy's deputy prime minister with Russian oil money, shuttled back and forth to Moscow on multiple mysterious trips last year.... BuzzFeed News, Bellingcat, and the Insider can now reveal that a member of Salvini's ministerial staff, Claudio D'Amico, was booked on the same Aeroflot flight as Savoini from Milan to Moscow on Oct. 16 ... the evening of Oct. 18, following the meeting at the Metropol that morning [discussing the secret oil deal]. D'Amico is Salvini's strategic adviser on international affairs. The revelation will ratchet up pressure on Salvini to answer questions about what he knew about the Moscow negotiation.... Savoini's dozens of travel entries over the past five years do not appear in Russia's Central Database for the Registration of Foreigners ... suggest[ing] either that he had a special status awarded upon arrival to individuals who, for example, don't have to go through passport control or that the information was wiped from the database." --s

Jake Rudnitsky of Bloomberg: "[In parts of Siberia, t]emperatures in June and July were the hottest ever charted globally.... The resulting dry conditions fed fires that torched more than 7 million hectares (17 million acres) of Siberian wilderness in just two months. Since the beginning of the year, fires have consumed more than 13 million hectares -- an area larger than Greece.... These unchecked fires are destroying millions of hectares of trees in the world's largest forest, a critical carbon sink, and could further accelerate global warming.... Russia is finally waking up to the threat of climate change, which Putin in 2017 joked could be beneficial for Russia given its reputation for cold weather." --safari: I hope Trump sends rakes. --s

See link designated "NEW" below re: Jerry Nadler's remarking that he is currently conducting an impeachment investigation.

~~~~~~~~~~

Sheryl Stolberg & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Under intense pressure to take action on gun safety in the wake of two weekend massacres, Senator Mitch McConnell ... expressed a new willingness Thursday to consider a measure expanding background checks for all gun purchasers, saying it will be 'front and center' in a coming Senate debate on how to respond to gun violence. 'There is a lot of support for that,' he said. Mr. McConnell, who has strongly opposed background checks in the past, made his remarks in an interview with a Kentucky radio host, Terry Meiners of WHAS in Louisville. While he did not support a bill requiring background checks, his remarks appeared to underscore the possibility of a shift in the politics of Washington's divisive gun debate. Mr. McConnell has refused to take up a background checks bill passed by the House because President Trump has threatened to veto it. But Mr. Trump appears increasingly open to the idea and said recently there is 'great appetite for it.' Mr. McConnell told Mr. Meiners that he had spoken with Mr. Trump and said the president was 'very much open to this discussion.'” ...

     ... The Politico story, by Marianne Levine, is here.

Adeel Hassan of the New York Times: "In tearful videos and images that ricocheted across social media, children whose migrant parents were rounded up by federal authorities in Mississippi pleaded with the United States government to release their mothers and fathers.... On Thursday afternoon, state officials, immigration advocates, and lawyers still did not have a clear picture of what happened to those children, or who took custody of them. The Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services said that no child was in its custody.... On Thursday afternoon, the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Mississippi said that all detainees were asked if they had a child at school or daycare. Those that did were allowed to call to make arrangements, it said, and federal agents worked with schools to help ensure the children's safety. The office added that in cases where two parents were rounded up, one was released on humanitarian grounds." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: If you read the whole story, & stories I linked yesterday about the raids, I think you'll come away with the impression that ICE made little or no effort to keep track of the children whose parents were detained. ICE made no effort to ensure the children were placed in safe accommodations. Their care was literally left to "the kindness of strangers" like the gym owner who opened up his gym as a place they could stay overnight & the residents who brought the children food. (To add to the confusion, it appears the raid took place on the first day of the school year, so their teachers wouldn't even know the children or the parents.) These parents & others ICE detained in Mississippi, BTW, were not, as far as we know, the "criminals, rapists & murderers" Trump likes to characterize. They were working in terrible jobs, probably for low wages, & were contributing to the communities in which they live(d). Shame on us. ...

     ... Sarah Fowler of the Mississippi Clarion Ledger writes a related report. ...

... Update. Sophie Tatum & Mark Osborne of ABC News: "Several hundred individuals arrested during an immigration roundup across Mississippi on Wednesday, leaving their children without parents in some cases, have been released, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman said Thursday.... ICE Southern Region Communications Director Bryan Cox ... said on Thursday that none of those detained remain at a processing center, explaining in an email to ABC News that all have 'either been released or custody determination made that they will be held and moved to an ICE detention facility.'... Cox said Thursday that more than 300 were released from custody..., and according to ICE, were 'returned to the place where they were originally encountered.'"

Travel Advisory. Scott Smith of the AP: "The United States often takes a leading role in calling out the world's most dangerous places, warning its people about the risks of traveling to countries that are at war, under terrorist threats, experiencing civil unrest or displaying significant anti-American sentiment. The latest mass shootings have triggered a sharp role reversal, with three countries warning their citizens about the risks of traveling to the U.S. Venezuela, Uruguay and Japan issued warnings to varying degrees following the deaths of 31 people over the weekend in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. Each warning noted U.S. gun violence.... Travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt said Venezuela's warning came off more like a 'political jab' than a genuine concern for its citizens' safety. It came hours before Trump signed an executive order that hit [President Nicolás] Maduro's government with yet another round of punishing financial sanctions designed to end his rule.... Countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands have not issued new warnings in recent days, but they have longstanding advisories for travelers of mass shootings and gun violence."

Colby Hall of Mediaite: “... Donald Trump is getting criticized for a 30-second video he shared documenting the warm reception he received in Dayton and El Paso following mass shootings last weekend. The professionally shot and edited video was shared on the president's Twitter feed Wednesday evening and features a series of shots of President Trump shaking hands and posing for photos with hospital staffers, though noticeably does not include any images of his meeting with any victims from either mass shooting.... But as Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler notes [in a tweet], the press was not allowed to join President Trump during any of his visits, and as a result, the public is only allowed to learn what happened via the tightly curated and slickly packaged information propagated by the White House. Or as he fairly calls it 'propaganda.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Quint Forgey of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Wednesday ridiculed former Rep. Beto O'Rourke and bragged about the crowd size at one of his rallies while visiting medical staff who treated victims of the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, over the weekend.... When one the people Trump was addressing said Wednesday he was sitting in the front row of Trump's rally earlier this year, the president reached out to shake his hand. 'That was some crowd, and we had twice the number outside,' Trump replied. 'And then you had this crazy Beto. Beto had, like, 400 people in a parking lot. They said, "His crowd was wonderful."'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Trump Angry His Staff Didn't Allow More Videos of His Acting Like an Ass. Kaitlan Collins of CNN: "Some of ... Donald Trump's own aides conceded Thursday that his visits to two cities in mourning did not go as planned, as a new video revealed he bragged about crowd sizes while visiting patients at an El Paso hospital.... White House officials blocked reporters and their cameras from entering the two hospitals during his visits to Ohio and Texas this week, a move they said was out of respect for the patients' privacy. But according to one person familiar with the President's reaction, the President lashed out at his staff for keeping the cameras away from him, complaining that he wasn't receiving enough credit. Aides had feared a moment like the one that is now going viral -- where the President appears to focus on himself in front of those still recovering from a tragedy." ...

... "Something of a Debacle." Ken Meyer of Mediaite: "New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman is quite sure the White House thinks ... Donald Trump behaved disastrously on Wednesday while he was supposed to be consoling the victims of the El Paso and Dayton shootings. Haberman spoke to CNN's John Berman on Thursday to discuss how Trump lashed out at his political enemies while traveling to see the shooting victims in both cities. She began by noting how Trump gave a speech this week to call for unity and condemn white supremacy, and yet, neither the president -- nor his campaign -- is making any changes to their rhetoric.... 'Most [of the White House staff] -- while they would I suspect not say that publicly -- will privately admit that yesterday was something of a debacle. These are not the headlines they wanted to see. They wanted him to go in and behave differently. The goal was to go in and get out with as little news as possible,' [Haberman said.]" ...

... Chris Walker of the Hill Reporter: "Some [observers] found [Trump's] demeanor [during his visits to Dayton & El Paso] -- smiling, giving the 'thumbs up' sign, and acting jovial at times -- to be inappropriate for an occasion where the chief executive has, at times, acted as the 'healer-in-chief.' 'A hospital official tells CNN Trump showed "an absence of empathy" during his visit to El Paso,' [CNN's Jim] Acosta wrote in his tweet."

** Chris Hayes analyzes how Trump has acted on his two biggest campaign promises:

Jana Winter & Hunter Walker of Yahoo! News: "Alleged white supremacists were responsible for all race-based domestic terrorism incidents in 2018, according to a government document distributed earlier this year to state, local and federal law enforcement. The document, which has not been previously reported on, becomes public as the Trump administration's Justice Department has been unable or unwilling to provide data to Congress on white supremacist domestic terrorism. The data in this document, titled 'Domestic Terrorism in 2018,' appears to be what Congress has been asking for -- and didn't get. The document, dated April 15, 2019, shows 25 of the 46 individuals allegedly involved in 32 different domestic terrorism incidents were identified as white supremacists. It was prepared by New Jersey's Office of Homeland Security Preparedness, one of the main arteries of information-sharing, and sent throughout the DHS fusion center network as well as federal agencies, including the FBI.... The April 15 document is available online on the New Jersey state government's website."

Annals of "Journalism," Ha Ha Ha. Gone Fishin'. Oliver Darcy of CNN: "Facing mounting controversy for declaring the very real problem of white supremacy in America to be a 'hoax,' Tucker Carlson announced at the end of his Wednesday night Fox News show that he will be taking a vacation. 'By the way,' he said, 'I am taking several days off -- headed to the wilderness to fish with my son.'... There is, of course, a long history of Fox hosts heading out on vacation as they become engulfed in controversy for inflammatory comments.... I reached out to Rupert Murdoch, Lachlan Murdoch, Anne Dias Roland Hernandez, and Paul Ryan -- the people who make up the Fox Corporation board -- on Wednesday to see if they had any comments about the bold untruths Carlson conveyed to his audience Tuesday night. I did not get any comment back... -- Fox spokesperson Hope Hicks did not provide a comment on behalf of either Rupert Murdoch or Lachlan Murdoch... -- Roland Hernandez answered my call, but when I started to ask my question, abruptly hung up. He did not reply to a follow-up text message." ...

     ... Kellyanne Defends Top White House Consultant Tucker. Jason Lemon of Newsweek: "White House counselor Kellyanne Conway defended Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Thursday, arguing that his assertion that white supremacy is a 'hoax' was getting 'outsized coverage' compared to other threats. Conway made the comments during an interview with pundit Eric Bolling on his show America This Week.... "I think perhaps what Tucker is saying, but you'd have to ask him, is that the outsized coverage it gets versus all forms of hate," the Trump administration official said, pointing specifically to the left-wing ideology of Antifa and calling out anti-semitism." Mrs. McC: Lemon's lede is so poorly-written that it conveys something other than what he means to write.

Trump Made Me Do It. Seaborn Larson in the Billings Gazette: "The attorney for a 39-year-old man charged with assaulting a child who didn't take his hat off for the national anthem says his client, compromised by a traumatic brain injury, believes he was acting on an order from ... Donald Trump. Superior resident Curt Brockway was charged Monday with felony assault on a minor. His defense attorney, Lance Jasper, told the Missoulian Wednesday the president's 'rhetoric' contributed to the U.S. Army veteran's disposition when he choke-slammed a 13-year-old, fracturing his skull, at the Mineral County fairgrounds on Aug. 3. 'His commander in chief is telling people that if they kneel, they should be fired, or if they burn a flag, they should be punished,' Jasper said.... Charging documents indicate Brockway told the deputy he grabbed the boy by the throat, lifted him into the air and slammed the boy on the ground.... Deputies later learned the boy had suffered a concussion and a fractured skull." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Charles Pierce: "If this guy truly has a traumatic brain injury, that's a viable defense. But his lawyer has gone one step further and is arguing what actually would be Trump Derangement Syndrome.... Look. He's making us all a little crazy. But that isn't a legitimate defense in criminal court. Yet." Thanks to MAG for the link. ...

... Abigail Tracy of Vanity Fair: "While Donald Trump was denying any culpability for inspiring the mass shooter in El Paso, Texas, attorneys for another right-wing terrorist, Cesar Sayoc, were arguing the exact opposite. 'In this darkness, Mr. Sayoc found light in Donald J. Trump,' attorneys for Sayoc wrote in a court filing for the defendant, who was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty to sending pipe bombs to prominent critics of the president.... The Trump Defense, such as it was, did not convince Judge Jed S. Rakoff. In explaining his decision to give Sayoc 20 years behind bars, as opposed to the lifetime sentence recommended by prosecutors, Rakoff said Sayoc's support for Trump was 'something of a sideshow.'.... But the Sayoc case is part of a broader pattern of attorneys invoking President Trump's influence and rhetoric in defense of their clients in criminal cases. There have been at least a half-dozen such cases in the media over the last three years.... The El Paso shooting has amplified a long-festering national conversation about the real-world impact of the president's rhetoric.... And the more Trump talks, the more the risk of radicalization grows." Thanks to MAG for the link.

Shane Harris of the Washington Post: "President Trump said in a tweet Thursday that he will name Joseph Maguire, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, as the acting director of national intelligence. Maguire will assume the role Aug. 15, when Sue Gordon, a career intelligence official who serves as the deputy to the director of national intelligence, will resign. Trump announced Gordon's resignation in a tweet Thursday.... In her letter of resignation, Gordon emphasized her years of experience and praised intelligence agency employees. Trump has repeatedly assailed U.S. intelligence agencies and derided their conclusions when they conflict with his.... Trump was reluctant to keep Gordon, regarding her as part of a career establishment of which he has long been suspicious, according to officials with knowledge of the president's views. Congressional Democrats said Trump has pushed out Gordon as part of a plan to bring the intelligence agencies to heel." ...

... Martin Matishak of Politico: Sue "Gordon left a resignation letter for the president with a handwritten note that signaled she was leaving not leaving her post happily. 'I offer this letter as an act of respect & patriotism, not preference,' she wrote, according to a copy of the note provided by the White House.... 'Sue Gordon's retirement is a significant loss for our Intelligence Community,' Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who was adamant that Gordon take the reins when Coats left, said in a statement."

Maggie Haberman: "President Trump said on Wednesday night that he was 'strongly considering' commuting the 14-year prison sentence of Rod R. Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor who was convicted of trying to essentially sell President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat for personal gain. But after a day of pushback from conservatives and the Illinois delegation of House Republicans, Mr. Trump was having second thoughts, people close to him said. On Thursday night, he said on Twitter that the matter was simply being reviewed.... Aboard Air Force One on Wednesday..., Mr. Trump said, 'I thought he was treated unbelievably unfairly; he was given close to 18 years in prison.... And it was the same gang, the Comey gang and all these sleaze bags that did it.... And I'm thinking about commuting his sentence.'... [Jared] Kushner said it would appeal to Democrats, according to [an] official." Adam Raymond of New York has the story here.

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Either Kushner is an idiot or he's trolling Democrats. Bringing up Blago of course is a reminder that not every single corrupt politician is a Republican.

NEW. Rachel Frazin of the Hill: "House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Thursday that his House panel is conducting an impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Nadler added that the committee will decide by the year's end whether to refer articles of impeachment to the House floor. 'This is formal impeachment proceedings,' Nadler said in an interview with CNN's Erin Burnett. 'We are investigating all the evidence, we're gathering the evidence. And we will at the conclusion of this -- hopefully by the end of the year -- vote to vote articles of impeachment to the House floor. Or we won't. That's a decision that we'll have to make. But that's exactly the process we're in right now.'"

Katie Benner of the New York Times: "Andrew G. McCabe, the former F.B.I. deputy director who was fired for statements he made about communications between the F.B.I. and the press, sued the F.B.I. on Thursday, alleging that the dismissal was retaliatory and politically motivated.... [The suit claims that] President Trump 'purposefully and intentionally' pushed the Justice Department to demote and terminate him as part of an 'unconstitutional plan' to discredit and remove Justice Department and F.B.I. employees who were 'deemed to be his partisan opponents.' Mr. McCabe, 51, was also the subject of a scathing Justice Department inspector general report that accused him of violating the bureau's media policy when he authorized the disclosure of information to the press and of misleading investigators about what he had done." The NRP story, by Carrie Johnson, is here.

Greg Walters of Vice News: "House Democrats have procured thousands of documents about the finances of wealthy Russians who might have links to Donald Trump, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, citing unidentified people familiar with the probe. Those records may provide a back door into learning about Trump's ties to foreign sources of income, and a way around his lawsuits to block Congressional investigations into his finances. The list of banks who’ve handed over information includes Trump's longtime favorite lender, Deutsche Bank, along with Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo, according to the report. Trump is waging a legal battle to stop his banks from sharing information with Congress, prompting a courtroom fight that could take months, if not years, to play out -- even if he eventually loses. But getting documents about the finances of Russians could yield insight into Trump's financial history, even while the wrangling over his own records drags on."

Ha! Ben Lefebvre & Nahal Toosi of Politico: "The State Department has put on leave an employee of its energy bureau after reports that he has been an active member of a white supremacist group for more than five years, two sources familiar with the situation said on Thursday. Matthew Gebert, a foreign affairs officer for the department's Bureau of Energy Resources, was linked to the Washington D.C.-area chapter of a white supremacist organization and published racist propaganda online, according to a report published Wednesday by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate speech.... Former State Department officials expressed surprise that security screenings had not flagged Gebert's involvement with the hate groups. Gebert would have undergone a routine screening before starting his position [in 2013] and another at his five-year work anniversary...." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: If you read the SPLC report which safari linked yesterday, you'll know that a State Department spokesperson seemed quite supportive of Gebert's extensive white supremacist activities. The person told reporter Matthew Hayden that State was "committed to providing a workplace that is free from discriminatory harassment and investigates alleged violations of laws, regulations, or Department policies, taking disciplinary action when appropriate." Apparently in light of the attention the El Paso murderer & Donald Trump have drawn to white supremacy this week, the State Department decided having a committed white supremacist on staff might not be such a good idea -- at this time.

Emily Birnbaum of the Hill: "Senate Republicans' campaign arm on Thursday announced it will stop spending money to advertise on Twitter after the social media site locked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) campaign account this week. The halt marks an escalation in the conservative battle against the country's largest tech companies, which they claim routinely censor right-wing voices. Critics have insisted there is little evidence to substantiate those claims beyond individual anecdotes." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Presidential Race 2020

"Biden: If Elected President, I'll Let Mitch McConnell Block Everything." Jonathan Chait: "Joe Biden, touring Iowa, told reporters, in so many words, that his plan is to have an ineffectual, failed presidency. Or, as Biden put it more pithily, 'Ending the filibuster is a very dangerous move.... He is nostalgically trapped in the bygone world of his youth ... and his belief that the institution can be restored to its bygone manners, is a symptom of a more profound disorder that you might call 'Senatitis.'" ...

... Two Days, Two Gaffes. Emma Kinery of Bloomberg: "Joe Biden told a group of mostly Asian and Hispanic voters Wednesday that 'poor kids are just as bright' as white children. The former vice president ... made the remarks to the Asian & Latino Coalition in Des Moines, Iowa, where he is on a four-day campaign swing.... He quickly added, 'Wealthy kids, black kids, Asian kids, no I really mean it, but think how we think about it.'" Mrs. McC: Truthiness? In his much-lauded speech Wednesday, Biden said, "We choose truth over facts." Both MSNBC & CNN played clips of the speech that included that clause, but the hosts who introduced it didn't comment on the nonsensical remark. Please, Democrats, can we have a better candidate?

Matt Stevens of the New York Times: "The entrepreneur and former tech executive Andrew Yang became the ninth Democratic presidential candidate to qualify for the next debates after a new poll of Iowa voters released Thursday showed him earning 2 percent support. Mr. Yang had already met the Democratic National Committee's other debate-qualification threshold by having drawn donations from more than 130,000 people."...

... Andrew Prokop of Vox: "Currently, nine candidates have qualified for debate No. 3: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O'Rourke, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and Andrew Yang. Prokop explains what the qualifications thresholds are & provides a handy Venn diagram of who's in & who's out.

Jonathan Lemire of the AP: "Now is the summer (vacation) of the president's discontent. As Donald Trump prepares to leave Friday for his annual August holiday..., he's confronting a storm of crises, at home and abroad, that could set the course for his upcoming re-election bid. With his poll numbers stalled and his ability to rally the country questioned, he's being tested by an escalating trade war with China that may slow the economy, rising tensions with both Iran and North Korea and, in the aftermath of the latest mass shootings, pressure to act on guns and face accusations of his own role in fostering an environment of hate. The dark clouds are converging as the president's bid for a second term takes on new urgency. Trump exudes confidence but as the two dozen Democrats eager to take his job sharpen their attacks, the White House -- or, for the next 10 days, the clubhouse in Bedminster, New Jersey -- will have to mount a multifront effort rooted in maintaining his base rather than trying to expand it."

News Lede

ABC News: "Police in Springfield, Missouri, arrested a man on Thursday afternoon after he walked into a Walmart, armed with a rifle and wearing body armor. The man, identified as 20-year-old Dmitriy Andreychenko, was arrested for making a terrorist threat, Springfield Police confirmed Friday. Andreychenko was stopped at the scene by an armed off-duty firefighter until officers arrived and took the man into custody, the Springfield Police Department said. A video taken by a witness outside the store shows the suspect with his arms up in the air and what looks like an assault rifle slung around his neck as he's being arrested. It's unclear what the Andreychenko's motive was, but police told ABC Springfield affiliate KSPR that the man was recording himself with his cellphone while walking through the store.... Andreychenko had about 100 rounds of ammunition on him when he entered the store, police told the station."