The Wires

Hollywood Reporter: "Michael Wolff's controversial Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House is coming to television. Endeavor Content — the financing and sales arm formed in October between sister companies William Morris Endeavor and IMG — has purchased film and television rights to the No. 1 best-selling book. The massive deal is said to be in the seven-figure range. Endeavor Content plans to adapt the book as a TV series. A network is not yet attached, as Endeavor will now begin shopping the project."

New York Times: "CBS said on Tuesday that it had chosen [John] Dickerson, 49, to replace Charlie Rose as the third co-host of “CBS This Morning,” a spot left empty since Mr. Rose was fired in November after allegations of sexual harassment. Mr. Dickerson is to join the lineup of Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell, who have carved a niche as a relatively serious, news-driven morning team. Mr. Dickerson — whose mother, Nancy Dickerson, became in 1960 the first female correspondent at CBS News — plans to move to New York and leave 'Face the Nation,' which he joined in 2015. CBS has not yet chosen his successor, effectively setting off a horse race at the network for one of television’s most influential political roles."

Oprah Gives Moving Speech, Celebrities Nominate Her for President. For full coverage of the Golden Globe awards, the Los Angeles Times has a pageful of blurbs & links.

Medlar's Amazing Sports Report (Is about Sports!):

New York Times: "Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota [executed] ... what would prove to be the critical play of the Titans’ shocking 22-21 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in an N.F.L. wild-card playoff game on Saturday.... [The Titans were] trailing by 18 points in the third quarter..., i and as Mariota scrambled toward the line of scrimmage, he appeared to throw the ball away.... But when Darrelle Revis of the Chiefs batted the pass back toward Mariota, the quarterback snagged it out of the air. And ... Mariota sprinted forward for a touchdown that went into the books as a 6-yard pass from Mariota to Mariota."

New York Times: "Hoda Kotb, a longtime NBC News correspondent, will permanently replace Matt Lauer as co-anchor of NBC’s flagship morning program, 'Today,' the network said on Tuesday. Ms. Kotb (pronounced COT-bee) had replaced Mr. Lauer on an interim basis since he was fired in November over allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior with a subordinate. The appointment is the first time that two women will be the program’s official main hosts; 'Today' has an overwhelmingly female audience and is the network’s most profitable franchise. The decision signals a turning point of sorts for NBC: In addition to the Lauer scandal, the network also reviewed 2005 footage from an NBC-owned show in which President Trump bragged about grabbing women’s genitalia but was beaten to publication by The Washington Post, and passed on an exposé of [Harvey] Weinstein by an MSNBC contributor." ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: I forgot this part of the tape saga: that NBC suits sat on it until someone at the "Today" show leaked it to David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post.

 

Here's one of the film's trailers:

So finally they called me up because it got so late, and the argument got so tense, and said you're going to have to decide this. And I said, well, why do we have to do it right away? The Times took three months. And they - the editors all got on the phone. And the businesspeople were on the other phone saying wait a day. The editors were saying we mustn't wait a day. Everybody knows we have these papers. And we have to maintain the momentum that was stopped when the Times was enjoined. And it's very important. People have their eyes on us. And we have to publish.... And finally after talking to both sides, I asked my colleague Fritz Beebe what he would do. And he was a lawyer. And he said, I guess I would not. And that made it hard but not impossible. He said it in such a way that I thought he's leaving it up to me. And I can do this. And so I said let's go. Let's publish. And I hung up because I was so freaked out by having had to make that decision so fast. -- Katherine Graham, on her decision to publish the Pentagon Papers, in an interview, 1997 ...

... Terry Gross of NPR interviewed Katherine Graham in 1997 about her 1971 decision to publish the Pentagon papers -- and other things. Graham died in 2001. Audio & transcript. Via David Von Drehle of the Washington Post.

Guardian: Britain's "Prince Harry is to marry his American actor girlfriend Meghan Markle in spring next year, Clarence House has announced. 'His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince Harry to Ms Meghan Markle,' it said in a statement on Monday."

 

The full Neiman's Christmas book is here, with some items costing less than $35K.

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. Des MacHale (often misattributed to H. L. Mencken)

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

Tuesday
Jan092018

The Commentariat -- January 10, 2018

We're So Surprised. Eileen Sullivan of the New York Times: "President Trump called the United States courts system 'broken and unfair' on Wednesday, the morning after a federal judge’s ruling that ordered the administration to restart a program that shields young, undocumented immigrants from deportation.... 'It just shows everyone how broken and unfair our Court System is when the opposing side in a case (such as DACA) always runs to the 9th Circuit and almost always wins before being reversed by higher courts.'... 'We find this decision to be outrageous, especially in light of the president’s successful bipartisan meeting with House and Senate members at the White House on the same day,' Sarah Huckabee Sanders ... said in a statement released Wednesday morning.... Mr. Trump has previously criticized the courts system after judges have halted or held up his policy initiatives." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: You have to wonder how stupid Mrs. Huckleberry is. According to her, a judge writes a decision that estops a Trump order until lawsuits are adjudicated. But on the day the judge releases his decision, Trump holds a made-for-teevee meeting (in which, BTW, there is no agreement) on the very same topic. Ergo, the judge's decision is "outrageous." ...

... Derek Hawkins of the Washington Post: Once again a federal judge uses Trump's own Twitter feed against him: “'Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!' the president wrote in a Sept. 14 tweet. Another read: 'Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!'... 'We seem to be in the unusual position wherein the ultimate authority over the agency, the Chief Executive, publicly favors the very program the agency has ended,' the judge wrote. 'For the reasons DACA was instituted and for the reasons tweeted by President Trump, this order finds that the public interest will be served by DACA’s continuation.'”

Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post: "President Trump labeled Sen. Dianne Feinstein as 'Sneaky' in a Twitter attack Wednesday morning and urged Republicans to 'take control' of the sprawling investigation into his administration and campaign and potential collusion with Russia.... It was unclear what Trump meant by saying that Republicans should take control. He has raged about the various congressional investigations into his administration, which are led by Republicans.... Minutes after he slammed Feinstein on Twitter on Wednesday, Trump turned to the Russia investigation, which he called the 'single greatest Witch Hunt in American history,' added that 'Russia & the world is laughing at the stupidity they are witnessing.'” Also, too -- after being questioned about it -- the White House added back in the part of the transcript of yesterday's DACA meeting which they had "accidentally" omitted from the official transcript-- the "clean bill" part. ...

     ... Update: Oh, that "accidental" scrub? Katy Tur just said on the teevee that hardline anti-immigrant Stephen Miller was reportedly the accidental scrubber. Mrs. McC: Just erase it, Stephen, & it didn't happen.

Be Still My Heart. Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "Representative Darrell Issa, whose hard-edge partisan attacks on President Barack Obama began softening as his district trended toward the Democrats, said on Wednesday that he would not seek re-election — the latest and one of the most prominent Republican retirements in the face of a potential Democratic wave."

*****

NEW. David Sirota of International Business Times: "The Trump administration has waived part of the punishment for five megabanks whose affiliates were convicted and fined for manipulating global interest rates. One of the Trump administration waivers was granted to Deutsche Bank — which is owed at least $130 million by ... Donald Trump and his business empire, and has also been fined for its role in a Russian money laundering scheme. The waivers were issued in a little-noticed announcement published in the Federal Register during the Christmas holiday week. They come less than two years after then-candidate Trump promised 'I'm not going to let Wall Street get away with murder.'... In late 2016, the Obama administration extended temporary one-year waivers to five banks — Citigroup, JPMorgan, Barclays, UBS and Deutsche Bank. Late last month, the Trump administration issued new, longer waivers for those same banks, granting Citigroup, JPMorgan, and Barclays five-year exemptions. UBS and Deutsche Bank received three-year exemptions.... Sources have told the Financial Times the total amount of money Trump owes Deutsche is likely around $300 million.... The New York Times reported federal prosecutors had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank records related to ... [Jared] Kushner and his vast business holdings.”

The Apprentice, White House Spin-off:

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Trump on Tuesday appeared to endorse a sweeping immigration deal that would eventually grant millions of undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, saying he would be willing to 'take the heat' politically for an approach that many of his hard-line supporters have long viewed as unacceptable. The president made the remarks during an extended meeting with congressional Republicans and Democrats.... Mr. Trump has said such a deal must be accompanied by new money for a border wall and measures to limit immigrants from bringing family members into the country in the future, conditions he repeated during the meeting on Tuesday.... The White House meeting was extraordinary, an extended negotiating session that was televised by the news channels.... Laying out conditions that many Democrats view as nonstarters, Mr. Trump said the legislation must fortify the nation’s borders; end 'chain migration,' a term used by immigration critics to refer to immigrants’ ability to bring members of their extended family to the United States after gaining their own legal status; and cancel the diversity visa lottery program." ...

... Tal Kopan of CNN: "... Donald Trump appeared to contradict himself multiple times in a meeting on immigration with a bipartisan group of lawmakers Tuesday -- a reflection of growing frustration from Capitol Hill about the lack of direction from the White House on the issue. The President at times suggested he would be looking to sign everything from a stand-alone fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program -- set to expire in March -- to comprehensive immigration reform, often appearing to being guided by lawmakers in the room to modify his positions." ...

... Idiot/Moron in Charge. Jonathan Chait: "In the hope of proving he is not the semiliterate ignoramus numerous media have depicted him to be, Donald Trump held a televised meeting with members of Congress to discuss immigration. It was, the White House told a friendly reporter [David Martosko of the Daily Mail], the president’s very own idea.... During the meeting, Trump put on full display his lack of interest in, or understanding of, public policy. The meeting centered on Trump’s signature policy issue, immigration, which his staff no doubt considered safe.... The meeting instead confirmed the very idea Trump had set out to refute. Michael Wolff had reported that Mitch McConnell said of the president, 'He’ll sign anything we put in front of him.'... 'When this group comes back with an agreement … I’m signing it,' [Trump] promises. 'I will be signing it.'... Trump may occasionally appear to be trans-ideological, but in fact he is sub-ideological.... This pattern has happened on immigration, health care, the Paris climate agreement — any time he listens to liberals pitching a bipartisan deal, it sounds good to him. The problem is that he quickly returns back to orthodox conservatism as soon as he is ensconced with his right-wing advisers. You can’t 'pivot' if you don’t understand that you changed your stance in the first place.” ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "'What about a clean DACA bill now, with a commitment that we go into a comprehensive immigration reform procedure?' asked Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Trump responded: 'Yeah, I would like to do that....' The problem? Trump didn't know what 'clean DACA bill' meant. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) quickly interjected and made clear that Trump believes a 'clean' bill would include border security. Except that's not at all what a clean bill is; that's a compromise bill. A clean bill, by definition, only has one component to it.... If anything, the whole mess showed pretty vividly just how utterly disengaged Trump is in the finer details of policy discussions.... Trump almost continually moves the goal posts on what he wants, shifts the terms of the debate, and misstates what's actually contained in the legislation that is before Congress. The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey said it well: 'Just because he says it or agrees to t doesn't mean he will say something totally different later or keep the agreement. Just remember that.'... Trump has repeatedly assured us that he knows this stuff better than almost anyone and that he's the world's preeminent negotiator. What we saw Tuesday was neither of those things.” ...

... So This Is Soooooo Trumpian. Ashley Parker & Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "When the White House released its official transcript Tuesday afternoon, the president’s line — 'Yeah, I would like to do it' — was missing. A White House official said that any omission from the transcript was unintentional and that the context of the conversation was clear." Mrs. McC: That's right. When Trump says something stupid, the White House thinks nobody will know if they just hit delete. They're like toddlers who think if they cover their eyes, no one can see them. The whole Parker-Rucker report is worth reading because it gives a good picture of what it's like to "negotiate" with an ignorant boob with a CYA obsession: "... he ... muddled through the policy by seeming to endorse divergent positions, including simply protecting the dreamers or a plan contingent upon funding for his long-promised wall at the nation’s southern border." Emphasis added. ...

... Steve M.: "Please, please, stop waiting for the moderate Trump to emerge. It can't happen as long as his mind is full of Fox talking points and he's ceding all policy to knee-jerk conservatives."

... Maria Sacchetti of the Washington Post: "A federal judge in California issued a nationwide preliminary injunction Tuesday blocking the Trump administration’s decision to phase out a program that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation. The injunction by U.S. District Judge William Alsup says those protections must remain in place for nearly 690,000 immigrants already in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program while a legal challenge to ending the Obama-era program proceeds. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the decision to terminate the program on Sept. 5 and said no renewal applications would be accepted after Oct. 5. Under the administration’s plan, permits that expired starting March 5 could not be renewed. But Alsup ruled that while the lawsuit is pending, anyone who had DACA status when the program was rescinded Sept. 5 can renew it, officials said." Alsup is a Clinton appointee. ...

     ... The New York Times story, by Michael Shear, is here.

Maggie Haberman & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Trump is expected to attend the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, in the coming weeks, an administration official said on Tuesday.... Presidents have rarely attended the forum in Davos, in part out of a concern that it would send the wrong message to be rubbing shoulders with some of the world’s richest individuals.... The event in Switzerland is a global symbol of everything that Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, railed against during the presidential campaign and the first seven months in the administration.... His team decided not to send a representative to the 2017 gathering.... Mr. Trump’s appearance at the forum is certain to highlight the clash between his America First agenda and the more globalist approach of some of America’s closest allies around the world." ... AND speaking of Sloppy Steve ...

... The Short Shelf Life of an Overripe Bannona. Jeremy Peters of the New York Times: "Stephen K. Bannon is stepping down from his post as executive chairman of Breitbart News, the company announced Tuesday. Mr. Bannon’s departure, which was forced by a onetime financial patron, Rebekah Mercer, comes as Mr. Bannon remained unable to quell the furor over remarks attributed to him in a new book in which he questions President Trump’s mental fitness and disparages his elder son, Donald Trump Jr."

** Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, on Tuesday unilaterally released a highly anticipated transcript of the committee’s interview with one of the founders of the firm that produced a salacious and unsubstantiated dossier outlining a Russian effort to aid the Trump campaign. The interview, with Glenn R. Simpson of Fusion GPS, took place last summer and was expected to shed light on the origins of the firm’s work, its concerns about the Trump campaign’s activities, and what the F.B.I. may have done with the information. 'The American people deserve the opportunity to see what he said and judge for themselves,' Ms. Feinstein said. 'The innuendo and misinformation circulating about the transcript are part of a deeply troubling effort to undermine the investigation into potential collusion and obstruction of justice. The only way to set the record straight is to make the transcript public.'... Ms. Feinstein moved to do so without the committee’s Republican chairman, Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, almost certainly escalating partisan tensions on the committee. Mr. Grassley last week rejected the firm’s request to release the transcript....” ...

... Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post: "Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) made a fateful decision acting unilaterally with a phony 'criminal referral' of Christopher Steele. They set a new standard that anyone on the committee could act independently and without bipartisan consent of their colleagues. So Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Cal.) did them one better.... What stands out most from an initial perusal of the transcript is the professionalism and seriousness of Fusion GPS and Steele. By attempting to suppress a candid look into the dossier..., Republicans once again are caught acting like Trump henchmen...." Rubin also lists some of the revelations in Simpson's testimony. ...

... Devlin Barrett & Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: "A spokesman for Grassley called Feinstein’s move 'totally confounding' and done without consultation. 'Her action undermines the integrity of the committee’s oversight work and jeopardizes its ability to secure candid voluntary testimony relating to the independent recollection of future witnesses,’ said the spokesman, Taylor Foy.... Glenn Simpson told congressional investigators that someone inside Trump’s network had also provided the FBI with information during the 2016 campaign, according to a newly released transcript, a claim quickly disputed by people close to the investigation into Russian interference in the election.... At another point in the interview, a lawyer for Fusion GPS, Joshua A. Levy, makes a jarring assertion: that the dossier’s publication had led to someone’s murder." ...

... Ken Dilanian & Mike Memoli of NBC News: "... two sources close to Fusion GPS told NBC News that Simpson’s testimony inaccurately conflated what he had been told, and that the human source was actually George Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign aide who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller. By the time Steele sat down with the FBI in September, an Australian diplomat had passed to U.S. officials details of his conversation with Papadopoulos, who seemed to know that the Russians possessed hacked Democratic emails." ...

... Alan Yuhas & Julian Borger of the Guardian: "According to the transcript, Simpson told Congress that [Christopher] Steele, the former British spy, stopped sharing information with the FBI just one week before the US election because of concerns that the law enforcement agency was being 'manipulated' by Trump insiders. According to Simpson, Steele 'severed his relationship with the FBI' after the New York Times published a story in late October 2016 that said agents had not found 'any conclusive or direct link between Mr Trump and the Russian government'.... [Simpson] said that at the time Steele was hired, the alleged Trump links to the Kremlin were an open secret in Moscow.” ...

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. How the New York Times Helped Elect Trump. Tommy Christopher of Shareblue: "The New York Times faced heavy and justified criticism for its obsessive focus on the bogus Hillary Clinton email story during the 2016 election, but it turns out the paper also had a hand in silencing information about the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s involvement with Russia. Shortly after then-FBI Director James Comey’s unprecedented and ill-fated letter to Congress about reopening the email investigation, reporting emerged about the Trump campaign being investigated over its ties to Russia. That’s when The New York Times published an article, titled 'Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia,' that seemed designed to quash those reports — and has proved to be demonstrably false. We know now that the FBI did, in fact, have information directly tying the Trump campaign to the Russians at that time, information that led them to believe that the now-infamous 'Steele dossier' was credible. And thanks to bombshell testimony released by Democrats, we now know that the author of that dossier severed ties with the FBI because that same New York Times article led him to believe that the FBI was being politically manipulated in Trump’s favor." ...

... The New York Times has the transcript of the committee's interview here; Feinstein's release is here. Mrs. McC: For what it's worth, I found Feinstein's version (pdf) more easily-readable. ...

... Spencer Ackerman of the Daily Beast: "A senior National Security Council official proposed withdrawing some U.S. military forces from Eastern Europe as an overture to Vladimir Putin during the early days of the Trump presidency, according to two former administration officials. While the proposal was ultimately not adopted, it is the first known case of senior aides to Donald Trump seeking to reposition U.S. military forces to please Putin — something that smelled, to a colleague, like a return on Russia’s election-time investment in President Trump.... The official who offered the proposal, a deputy assistant to Trump for strategic planning, mused in February 2017 about withdrawing U.S. troops close to Russian borders as part of a strategy proposal to “refram[e] our interests within the context of a new relationship with Russia,” the former official told The Daily Beast, who heard this directly from the official, Kevin Harrington. Harrington is the NSC’s senior official for strategic planning. He had neither military experience nor significant government experience before joining the White House. But he had an influential credential:... he was close to Trump patron and ally Peter Thiel.... Michael Flynn announced Harrington’s arrival in early February as part of a 'talented group' ready to bring 'fresh ideas to the table.'” ...

... Pete Madden of NBC News: "Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s personal attorney and close confidant, says he filed a pair of lawsuits on Tuesday, one in federal court against the private investigative firm Fusion GPS and the other in state court against the popular website BuzzFeed [and its editor Ben Smith & others]. In both suits, Cohen claims that the infamous dossier of salacious but unconfirmed allegations of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russian agents compiled by Fusion GPS and later published by BuzzFeed contained 'false and defamatory' allegations that resulted in 'harm to his personal and professional reputation, current business interests, and the impairment of business opportunities.'” Mrs. McC: I guess Cohen will have to sue Dianne Feinstein, too. ...

... Ben Smith, in a New York Times op-ed, defends BuzzFeed's decision to publish the Steele dossier.


... Matt Wilstein of the Daily Beast: "... Donald Trump may not know most of the words to 'The Star-Spangled Banner.' For a man who has spent so much time demanding that players respect the national anthem by standing, he seemed to struggle when it came to mouthing along to the patriotic song. Fortunately, 'Bad Lip Reading' is here to decipher what exactly Trump was singing...[:]

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Actually, Bad Lip Reading seems to be doing some pretty accurate lip-reading.

Julian Borger: "The Trump administration plans to loosen constraints on the use of nuclear weapons and develop a new low-yield nuclear warhead for US Trident missiles, according to a former official who has seen the most recent draft of a policy review.... The new nuclear policy is significantly more hawkish that the posture adopted by the Obama administration, which sought to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in US defence. Arms control advocates have voiced alarm at the new proposal to make smaller, more 'usable' nuclear weapons, arguing it makes a nuclear war more likely, especially in view of what they see as Donald Trump’s volatility and readiness to brandish the US arsenal in showdowns with the nation’s adversaries." ...

... Rebecca Savransky of the Hill: "U.S. officials have reportedly talked about the potential to conduct a targeted strike against sites in North Korea in a 'bloody nose' strategy. The Wall Street Journal reported that the strategy involves launching a targeted strike at a North Korean facility in response to a nuclear or missile test. The strike would be an effort to show North Korea the potential consequences of its actions without leading to an all-out war."...

... Uri Friedman of The Atlantic has a long read on 'The World According to H.R. McMaster:' : "legendary tank commander during the Gulf War and one of the on-the-ground architects of U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in the second Iraq War, McMaster burnished a reputation as one of the Army’s leading thinkers about the future of war.... And, to one former collaborator, something seems very off about McMaster’s talk of potential war with North Korea." --safari

Lisa Foster in a Washington Post op-ed: "Jeff Sessions has endorsed an unconstitutional fine on the poor.... Across the country, millions of people — including children — are charged a fine as punishment for traffic, misdemeanor and felony offenses and then taxed with fees used to fund the justice system and other government services.... Since 1983, however, the Supreme Court has held that it is unconstitutional to punish a person 'solely because he lacks funds to pay a fine.'... Yet the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions retracted two important legal guidances last month that were intended to help courts reform abusive practices.... To rescind the guidance on fines and fees is to condone unconstitutional conduct and tell millions of Americans that the Justice Department refuses to live up to its name." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I would guess Sessions can get away with this because the DOJ is not required to provide guidance on this or any other matter. ...

... Lauren Gill of Newsweek, (Dec. 30, 2017): "As public support for the death penalty hits historic lows, Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to increase the use of capital punishment in federal cases.... The administration is expecting to OK more death penalty cases than Barack Obama's, a senior Department of Justice official told The Wall Street Journal, adding that Sessions sees capital punishment as a 'valuable tool in the tool belt.'... There have been just three federal executions since 1963, with the last taking place in 2003." --safari

Natasha Geileng of ThinkProgress: "According to a new report released on Wednesday by the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI), the first year of the Trump administration has been marked by 'substantial shifts in whether and how the topic of climate change and efforts to mitigate and adapt to its consequences are discussed across a range of federal agencies’ websites.'... According to EDGI, which has tracked changes to climate and environment-related information across tens of thousands of government websites for the past year, the problem isn’t so much that the Trump administration is obviously deleting or suppressing data; the main concern is that the administration has made hundreds of smaller changes, many of which might not be immediately noticeable to the average user, but which together undermine both the scientific consensus on climate change and the government’s position as a trusted purveyor of information." --safari...

... Mark Hand of ThinkProgress: "President Donald Trump sent the names of several controversial candidates back to the Senate — including one nominee a Senate Democrat described as 'overwhelmingly unfit for such a crucial position' — as he seeks to fill high-level environmental and science positions in his administration.... Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said the Trump administration should expect a fight on [Kathleen Hartnett] White’s renomination [for head of the Council on Environmental Quality].... White is a senior fellow and director of the Armstrong Center for Energy and the Environment at the fossil-fuel funded Texas Public Policy Foundation and previously served as chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.... Trump also renominated Barry Lee Myers, the CEO of weather forecasting company AccuWeather, to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.... AccuWeather’s business model is to take NOAA data and products on weather, developed with taxpayer dollars, and deliver them to the public in a proprietary form that customers want. He has been a strong advocate against NOAA having the capability to provide such products directly to the public." --safari...

Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times: "A hastily-arranged airport rendezvous Tuesday ended with an announcement from ... Donald Trump's administration that the state of Florida is 'off the table' for new offshore oil drilling, a declaration that brought both relief and protests of election-year politics. Florida Gov. Rick Scott met with U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke at the airport in Tallahassee Tuesday afternoon. Both men emerged 20 minutes later to face waiting reporters.... 'As a result of our interest in making sure that there's no drilling here, Florida will be taken off the table'" Scott said. Zinke said the decision was a culmination of multiple meetings between Scott and Trump administration officials. 'Florida is obviously unique,' Zinke said. 'For Floridians, we are not drilling off the coast of Florida, and clearly the governor has expressed that it's important.'... Scott, a Trump supporter ... is strongly considering running for the U.S. Senate this year against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. In a statement Tuesday, Nelson ... [said,] '"This is a political stunt orchestrated by the Trump administration to help Rick Scott, who has wanted to drill off Florida's coast his entire career.'" Thanks to Ken W. for the lead.

Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post: "Usually, when the FBI arrests a terrorist and the Justice Department charges them, it’s a big deal.... Officials will typically blast out a press release, and, if it’s a big takedown, might even hold a press conference. The Justice Department didn’t do any of that when federal prosecutors unsealed terrorism charges last week against Taylor Michael Wilson.... [a] 26-year-old white supremacist from St. Charles, Missouri, [who] allegedly breached a secure area of an Amtrak train on Oct. 22 while armed with a gun and plenty of backup ammunition. He set off the emergency brake, sending passengers lunging as the train cars went 'completely black.'... The lack of attention the Wilson case has received actually reflects the priorities embedded in a system built up by U.S. lawmakers and law enforcement officials over the years: a U.S. criminal code and federal law enforcement apparatus that treats domestic terrorism as a second-class threat.” Thanks to Akhilleus for the link. Mrs. McC: Quite an informative read. Reilly explains the difference between the way the feds handle domestic terrorism & what they consider foreign or foreign-inspired terrorism. ...

Brian Fung of the Washington Post: "When the Federal Communications Commission voted last month to deregulate Internet providers by eliminating the agency's net neutrality rules, opponents of the decision vowed to fight it in Congress and in court. Now, those who are pushing for the FCC's vote to be overturned say they've won an initial victory. Senate Democrats led by Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) have now amassed 40 co-sponsors for a congressional measure that, if successful, would invalidate the FCC's recent vote. In doing so, the lawmakers passed a critical 30-member threshold allowing them to use the Congressional Review Act to seek to overrule the FCC. Clearing that hurdle paves the way for a full vote on the Senate floor — potentially forcing every senator to take a position on the FCC's rollback of the net neutrality rules.... But the resolution faces long odds. Even if it passes the Senate with a simple majority, it must clear the House and be signed by President Trump. Trump supported the FCC's bid to undo the net neutrality rules...."

Betsy Woodruff & Lachlan Markay of The Daily Beast: "The 2016 Republican presidential primary left scores of relationships frayed and hobbled. The most consequential — at least, from a financial perspective — is likely the breakdown between Manhattan billionaire hedge fund heiress Rebekah Mercer and the new-money self-made fracking billionaire brother duo Dan and Farris Wilks." --safari: A tale of intrigue, donation dollars, and "butthurt billionaires".

Senate Race

With Candidates Like These.... Dave Weigel of the Washington Post: "Joe Arpaio, the longtime Phoenix-area sheriff whose headline-grabbing approach to immigration made him an ally of President Trump, will run in the 2018 Republican primary to replace Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).... Arpaio ... said he decided to run as a 'big supporter of President Trump' who would back the president wholeheartedly. He is entering a primary against Kelli Ward, a former state senator also running as a Trump ally. His decision may create an opening for Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), a Republican with more moderate views on immigration who is contemplating a bid for the seat and is backed by party leaders in Washington.... Flake, meanwhile, suggested that Arpaio’s run looks like a scam. He said he wasn’t sure that the former sheriff would even stay in the race." ...

... Charles Pierce: "There goes Roy Moore. Here comes Joe Arpaio.... Now the [Arizona] Republican primary race for an extraordinarily important Senate seat comes down to conservative Martha McSally, unbelievably conservative Kelli Ward, and holy-shit-it’s-Joe-Arpaio. This is what happens when crazy takes the wheel."


Jeet Heer
of the New Republic on "why the Democrats won't nominate Oprah for president.... [Unlike Republicans,] the more typical Democratic message was expressed by Jonathan Bernstein on BloombergView: 'The presidency is a real job, and a damn hard one. The easily visible parts — the speeches and the interviews, even the moral leadership — are a relatively small part of the responsibilities of the office. There’s simply no substitute for a good grasp of public policy and government affairs.' The problem is not only that Winfrey lacks political expertise. Like Trump, she also has a history of encouraging charlatans who traffic in quack ideas, as she has given a platform to dubious figures like Dr. Oz, a purveyor of pseudoscience, and vaccine denier Jenny McCarthy. This raises questions about her judgment and her acceptance of establishment truths. And that, ultimately, is why she shouldn’t — and won’t — be the Democratic nominee for president.” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Here's the problem with Heer's analysis: "the Democrats" are ordinary voters. It's true that if all the Democratic superdelegates -- that is, the party's professional politicians -- chose another candidate, they could probably erase any lead Oprah might have in the primaries. But Democrats have had the superdelegate system in place since the 1982, & the superdelegates have, as a whole, always gone along with the popular vote in fear of engendering a revolt that would give away the election to the Republican nominee.

Alan Blunder & Michael Wines of the New York Times: "A panel of federal judges struck down North Carolina’s congressional map on Tuesday, condemning it as unconstitutional because Republicans had drawn the map seeking a political advantage. The ruling was the first time that a federal court had blocked a congressional map because of a partisan gerrymander, and it instantly endangered Republican seats in the coming elections. Judge James A. Wynn Jr., in a biting 191-page opinion, said that Republicans in North Carolina’s Legislature had been 'motivated by invidious partisan intent' as they carried out their obligation in 2016 to divide the state into 13 congressional districts, 10 of which are held by Republicans. The result, Judge Wynn wrote, violated the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection.... The unusually blunt decision by the panel could lend momentum to two other challenges on gerrymandering that are already before the Supreme Court — and that the North Carolina case could join if Republicans make good on their vow to appeal Tuesday’s ruling." Mrs. McC: Both Clinton & Obama nominated Wynn; in 1999, the GOP-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee refused to give Wynn a hearing.

Alleen Brown of The Intercept: "The Dakota Access pipeline leaked at least five times in 2017.... The series of spills in the pipelines’ first months of operation underlines a fact that regulators and industry insiders know well: Pipelines leak.... In Pennsylvania, construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline, which is owned by Energy Transfer Partners via its subsidiary Sunoco, was shut down by regulators last Wednesday after Sunoco repeatedly drilled under waterways without permits.... Suspension of construction 'is necessary to correct the egregious and willful violations' by Sunoco, said the shutdown order issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection." --safari...

Beyond the Beltway

The Way We Were (and Perhaps Still Are.) Katie Zavadski of the Daily Beast: "On an afternoon in late April 1994, a young woman was raped in broad daylight in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Two days later, the biggest columnist in New York City’s biggest newspaper called her a liar. The woman — black, a lesbian, and an activist—became the target of a vicious smear campaign by a Daily News columnist [Mike McAlary] and sources within the NYPD, who charged that she had made up a 'hoax” to advance a political agenda.... Twenty-four years years later, her rapist was identified through DNA evidence, according to the NYPD. On Jan. 8, police told Jane Doe they had a match, with James Webb, a career criminal who’d been sentenced to prison for rape before Jane Doe’s assault. He was arrested and imprisoned again in 1995, for still more sexual assaults and is presently serving 75 years to life in prison." Read on for the details.

Reuters: "California Governor Jerry Brown will propose his final state budget on Wednesday, setting out a spending blueprint that last year topped $125 billion and marking the first time the state’s coffers will be bolstered from sales taxes on marijuana.... The 2018-2019 budget will include anticipated taxes on sales of marijuana, which became legal for recreational use Jan. 1, estimated to eventually reach $1 billion. The estimated budget surplus of $7.5 billion is a far cry from the $27 billion hole that was projected as Brown took the reins for his third term in January 2011." --safari

Charles Pierce on the Bundy gang's release: "... if you’re going to defy lawful authority and gather some folks to draw down on federal officials, apparently, it helps to be old and white. It also helps when the prosecution botches the rules of evidence beyond all recall.... The prosecution apparently let its loyalty to the FBI override its obligations to due process, and it got caught.... here is one king irony to this whole thing: Cliven Bundy and his family and his spavined cattle are all free now because the system he was so hell-bent on defying actually works. I think the cattle will understand this before he does." See also yesterday's Commentariat.

Way Beyond the Beltway

Haaretz & Nati Tucker: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair Netanyahu was recorded telling the son of Israeli businessman and gas tycoon Kobi Maimon outside a strip club that the prime minister set up $20 billion for the latter's father, according to a report on Israel Television News Company Monday. 'My dad set up 20 billion dollars for your dad, and you’re fighting with me about 400 shekels [about $115]?' said Yair in the 2015 recording of the conversation with his friend, upon leaving the strip club. Netanyahu later said the 400 shekels was for a prostitute. The 2015 conversation was with the son of Kobi Maimon, a real estate mogul and a shareholder in Isramco, which owns Israel's offshore Tamar gas fields. Also present was Roman Abramov, the Israeli liaison of Australian billionaire James Packer.... A state-funded security guard and driver accompanied Netanyahu and his friends from one strip club to another." ...

... The Washington Post story, by Cleve Wootson, which is more comprehensive & sensational, is here. (Mrs. McC: I didn't link it first because I'd have to rewrite the lede.)

Thanks, Friends. Now Get Out. Paul Goldman, et al., of NBC News: "An American Quaker group that won a Nobel Peace Prize for its support of Holocaust refugees has vowed to press ahead with its work on behalf of Palestinian rights after Israel said its staff members may be denied entry to the country. The group, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), is among 20 organizations whose employees could be barred from entering Israel over their support for the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS)."

Monday
Jan082018

The Commentariat -- January 9, 2018

As the Sheeples Cheer. Michael Shear & Jim Tankersley of the New York Times: "President Trump delivered an economic victory lap during a speech to farmers on Monday in which he vastly overstated the size of the tax cuts passed by Congress late last year and played up a rollback of regulations on American businesses. Declaring that the 'American dream is roaring back to life,' Mr. Trump — who has made clear that he likes big numbers — claimed that the tax overhaul cut taxes by $5.5 trillion when, in fact, the legislation will reduce the overall tax burden on individuals and companies over the next decade by $1.5 trillion.... Mr. Trump apparently chose to highlight just one side of the ledger — the total amount of tax reductions in the bill that he signed in December — without counting the amount of taxes that were increased in the same legislation to help pay for the bill.... To applause from thousands of farmers in the audience, Mr. Trump said the tax cut would exempt most family farms from the estate tax.... In reality, only about 80 small businesses and farms would fall under the estate-tax tent this year.... The new law, which exempts more estates from the tax, will primarily benefit the richest Americans." ...

... Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: "According to Trump, the rising market is evidence of how awesome his presidency has been for the U.S. economy. At one point, he even touted a confused (i.e., wrong) claim that equity market increases were tantamount to wiping out our national debt.... Stock markets don’t reflect the underlying health of the economy. Or the financial security of the middle class. Or any other broader measure of social welfare, for that matter.... Markets can also fall, making it super risky to tie your administration’s success to stock prices. Stock prices have been rising fairly consistently since March 2009, meaning we’re already in the second-longest bull market  on record.... if the media were to judge presidents by stock performance, Obama would actually look better than Trump." ...

Jen Kirby of Vox: "A mix of cheers and boos roared through Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, as ... Donald Trump took the field before the College Football Playoff National Championship between the University of Alabama and University of Georgia on Monday night.... College players traditionally stay inside the locker rooms until after the National Anthem, so the ... two teams vying for the championship weren’t on the field during Trump’s appearance." ...

... Jacqueline Thomsen of the Hill: "An Alabama football player yelled 'f[uck] Trump' as he took the field at the College Football Playoff national championship on Monday, which was attended by President Trump. Alabama running back Bo Scarbrough yelled the expletive as the team walked onto the field for the game, according to a clip shared by Sporting News." ...

... Who Said "Fuck Trump"? John Talty of AL.com: "Alabama running back Bo Scarbrough denied yelling 'F[uck] Trump' before Monday night's College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Sporting News posted a video clip on its Twitter account that quickly gained steam showing someone yelling "F[uck] Trump" as the Alabama players walked through the halls of Mercedes-Benz Stadium to the field. Sporting News identified Scarbrough as the Alabama player who said it...." Mrs. McC: In the Sporting News video, Scarbrough is out of frame at the moment someone says "Fuck Trump," & I couldn't see anyone in-frame moving his lips in sync with "Fuck Trump."

Andrew Marantz of the New Yorker on the Trump-"Fox & Friends" feedback loop. A teevee show ostensibly about the news is romancing the Trump. It's pretty sickening.

"The Worst & the Dumbest." Paul Krugman: "This great nation has often been led by mediocre men, some of whom had unpleasant personalities. But they generally haven’t done too much damage, for two reasons. First, second-rate presidents have often been surrounded by first-rate public servants.... Second, our system of checks and balances has restrained presidents who might otherwise have been tempted to ignore the rule of law or abuse their position.... When the V.S.G. [Very Stable Genius] moved into the White House, he brought with him an extraordinary collection of subordinates — and I mean that in the worst way.... While unqualified people are marching in, qualified people are fleeing.... Meanwhile..., leading Republicans in Congress are increasingly determined to participate in obstruction of justice." ...

... AND Yet. And Yet. Mrs. McCrabbie: I find myself agreeing, in general & in a number of specifics (tho not all), with David Brooks today.

Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post: "Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has raised the likelihood with President Trump’s legal team that his office will seek an interview with the president, triggering a discussion among his attorneys about how to avoid a sit-down encounter or set limits on such a session, according to two people familiar with the talks. Mueller brought up the issue of interviewing Trump during a late December meeting with the president’s lawyers, John Dowd and Jay Sekulow. Mueller deputy James Quarles, who oversees the White House portion of the special counsel investigation, also attended. The special counsel’s team could interview Trump very soon on some limited portion of questions — possibly within the next several weeks, according to a person close to the president who was granted anonymity to describe internal conversations." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Matt Apuzzo & Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "... Robert S. Mueller III told President Trump’s lawyers last month that he will probably seek to interview the president, setting off discussions among Mr. Trump’s lawyers about the perils of such a move.... White House officials viewed the discussion as a sign that Mr. Mueller’s investigation of Mr. Trump could be nearing the end. But even if that is so, allowing prosecutors to interview a sitting president who has a history of hyperbolic or baseless assertions carries legal risk for him.... One person familiar with the discussions said Mr. Mueller appeared most interested in asking questions about the former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, and the firing of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey...." ...

... Investigating the Investigators, Ctd. Kyle Cheney of Politico: "Broadening their political counterattack in defense of the White House..., Donald Trump's allies in Congress are placing new scrutiny on contacts between top Justice Department officials and reporters covering the Trump-Russia investigation.... On Thursday, Republicans demanded more information from the Justice Department officials about a meeting Andrew Weissman, a career federal prosecutor now on special counsel Robert Mueller's investigative team, held with reporters last April. In a Jan. 4 op-ed, [Rep. Mark] Meadows [R-N.C.] and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) called for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to be replaced, citing in part an 'alarming number of FBI agents and DOJ officials sharing information with reporters.' Last month, House Republicans cast public suspicion on communication they say occurred in the fall of 2016 between former FBI general counsel James Baker and a Mother Jones reporter who wrote stories at the time about the FBI’s probe of Trump-Russia ties.... Republicans have offered no evidence of wrongdoing.... Democrats call the focus on reporter contacts the latest front in a wide-ranging campaign by some GOP lawmakers to discredit the Russia probe.... They also warn that Republicans are seeking to intimidate government officials and chill investigative reporting." ...

... John Solomon of the Hill: "Republican-led House and Senate committees are investigating whether leaders of the Russia counterintelligence investigation had contacts with the news media that resulted in improper leaks, prompted in part by text messages amongst senior FBI officials mentioning specific reporters, news organizations and articles. In one exchange, FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok and bureau lawyer Lisa Page engaged in a series of texts shortly before Election Day 2016 suggesting they knew in advance about an article in The Wall Street Journal and would need to feign stumbling onto the story so it could be shared with colleagues." ...

... Betsy Woodruff & Spencer Ackerman of the Daily Beast: "In recent months, congressional negotiators have been working on a bill codifying an umbrella of mass-surveillance activities known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The authorization for those activities is due to expire in a matter of days. But [House Intelligence] Chairman Devin Nunes [R-Trumpsylvania] threw a monkey wrench into the process, by initially pushing to include in the bill an unrelated a provision on so-called unmasking, the process that intelligence agencies use to reveal the names of U.S. persons who may be involved in crimes like spying.... Nunes’ effort played a role — though a minor one — in slowing down negotiations.... Nunes was ultimately forced to strip the provision.... What distinguished it, multiple Hill and intelligence sources told The Daily Beast, was that it was the only unforced error in the process — the result of Nunes’ effort to resurrect a controversy members of his own party have dismissed. Reauthorizing the program is the top legislative priority of the Justice Department...."


Jonathan Martin
of the New York Times reviews Fire & Fury. ...

... ** See, at the top of today's thread, Elizabeth's commentary on fact-checking, vis-à-vis Fire & Fury. Essential reading.

... Oops! Matt Shuham of TPM: "Former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka wrote Monday that he had been told to participate in Michael Wolff’s blockbuster book, 'Fire and Fury.'... In an op-ed in the Hill, he wrote..., '[W]hen I met Michael Wolff in Reince Priebus’ office, where he was waiting to talk to Steve Bannon, and after I had been told to also speak to him for his book, my attitude was polite but firm: "Thanks but no thanks.’...” Gorka wrote.” ...

... Addy Baird of ThinkProgress: "Gorka — in an effort to stand by his man — has confirmed that Wolff did indeed have access to the White House and that staffers were asked to speak with him for the book. After Mediaite ran a piece about Gorka’s accidental admission, Gorka responded on Twitter, saying that the '[r]equest to please @MichaelWolffNYC the hack came from outsite @WhiteHouse....'” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: These people are not too bright. Besides the gaffe, the guy can't spell: "outsite @WhiteHouse?" (Normally, I would not pick on someone who learned English as a second language, which Gorka likely did -- his parents were Hungarians & he did post-grad work in Budapest. But he was born in London, went to school & university there & lived there until he was 22. He should have learned to spell "outside.") ...

... These People Were Not "Outsite @WhiteHouse." Olivia Beavers of the Hill: "Michael Wolff ...said Monday both current and former top White House officials encouraged other aides 'to cooperate' in interviews for the book. 'Everybody was told to speak to me,' Wolff said in an ... interview ... on CNN's 'Tonight with Don Lemon.' '[Stephen] Bannon told people to cooperate, Sean Spicer told people to cooperate, Kellyanne Conway told people to cooperate, Hope Hicks,' he said respectively about the president's former chief strategist, former press secretary, senior adviser and current communications director."


Miriam Jordan
of the New York Times on the Trump administration's latest deportation extravaganza: this time, 200,000 Salvadorans who have enjoyed temporary protection status for more than a decade. Mrs. McC: once again, this isn't just cruel; it's stupid. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Vivian Yee, et al., of the New York Times: "... immigrants from Haiti and Central America ... have staked their livelihoods on the temporary permission they received years ago from the government to live and work in the United States. Hundreds of thousands now stand to lose that status under the Trump administration, which said on Monday that roughly 200,000 immigrants from El Salvador would have to leave by September 2019 or face deportation. Even if they remain here illegally, they, like the young immigrants known as Dreamers whose status is also in jeopardy this winter, will lose their work permits, potentially scratching more than a million people from the legal work force in a matter of months. And the American companies that employ them will be forced to look elsewhere for labor, if they can get it at all.... [A] report, by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, estimates that stripping the protections from Salvadorans, Hondurans and Haitians would deprive Social Security and Medicare of about $6.9 billion in contributions over a decade, and would shrink the gross domestic product by $45.2 billion." ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "These days, it’s almost as if there are two Donald Trump Presidencies. One is a circus performed daily on Twitter and cable news. The other Presidency, which has to do with policy formulation and implementation, receives less attention, but it is more consequential because it is hurting the welfare of millions of people.... While the President lolls about the White House watching Fox News, the Administration he heads is busy trying to implement the agenda he has championed.... One notable area where they are seeing success is the targeting of legal immigrants. Yes, legal.... Even though Trump himself appears to spend much of his time goofing off and spouting off, his minions are far more diligent in targeting some of the most marginalized and defenseless members of society. Amid all the craziness, that should never be overlooked."

... Billions for Bupkis. Ron Nixon of the New York Times: "The Trump administration would cut or delay funding for border surveillance, radar technology, patrol boats and customs agents in its upcoming spending plan to curb illegal immigration — all proven security measures that officials and experts have said are more effective than building a wall along the Mexican border. President Trump has made the border wall a focus of his campaign against illegal immigration.... Under spending plans submitted last week to Congress, the wall would cost $18 billion over the next 10 years, and be erected along nearly 900 miles of the southern border. The wall also has become a bargaining chip in negotiations with Congress as lawmakers seek to prevent nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from being deported. But security experts said the president’s focus on a border wall ignores the constantly evolving nature of terrorism, immigration and drug trafficking."

Steven Mufson of the Washington Post: "The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Monday unanimously rejected a proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry that would have propped up nuclear and coal power plants struggling in competitive electricity markets. The independent five-member commission includes four people appointed by President Trump, three of them Republicans. Its decision is binding.... [Perry's] plan ... was widely seen as an effort to alter the balance of competitive electricity markets that federal regulators have been cultivating since the late 1980s. Critics said it would have largely helped a handful of coal and nuclear companies, including the utility FirstEnergy and coal-mining firm Murray Energy, while raising rates for consumers."


And Another One Bites the Dust. Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post: "House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward R. Royce said Monday he will not seek reelection this year, adding his name to a growing list of senior Republican lawmakers who have chosen to retire in what is shaping up to be a difficult election year for the GOP. Royce (R-Calif.), first elected in 1992, is one of eight House Republican chairmen who have announced they will forego a reelection campaign for the House ahead of the midterm elections. Like most of the others, he would have lost his gavel in the next Congress in accordance with party rules that place a three-term limit on a chairman’s service."


Robert Barnes
of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court on Monday gave a black death row inmate in Georgia a chance to challenge his death sentence because a white juror in his case later used a racial epithet in an affidavit and questioned whether black people have souls. The justices stayed the execution last fall of Keith Leroy Tharpe, who was sentenced to death in 1991 for the murder of his sister-in-law, Jaquelin Freeman. He shot and killed Freeman and left her body in a ditch while kidnapping and later raping his estranged wife." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Pete Williams of NBC News: "The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to take up a legal battle over a Mississippi law that allows state employees and private businesses to deny services to LGBT people based on religious objections. Signed into law in 2016 in response to the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling, it allows county clerks to avoid issuing marriage licenses to gay couples and protects businesses from lawsuits if they refuse to serve LGBT customers. The law was immediately challenged. But lower courts, without ruling on the merits of the law, said those suing could not show that they would be harmed by it. A new round of challenges is expected from residents who have been denied service, and the issue could come back to the Supreme Court's doorstep." See also Akhilleus's commentary in yesterday's thread. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Seems as if the Supremes may have declined to take the case because the law's challengers were deemed to have failed the "standing" test. That doesn't mean the underlying case doesn't have merit; it just means the challengers are going to have to find more convincing victims. That should be pretty easy. I'd guess there are already a number of Mississippi couples who were denied marriage licenses or were refused services because their names were John & Joe or Emily & Heather. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

** Dahlia Lithwick of Slate: "I loved Oprah’s Golden Globes speech on Sunday. It was mesmerizing, pitch perfect, and gave voice to many lifetimes of frustration and vindication with eloquence and a full authority she has earned. But I found the strange Facebook response of 'Oprah 2020' weirdly discordant and disorienting. Oprah’s speech — in my hearing — wasn’t about why she needs to run for office. It was about why the rest of us need to do so, immediately. The dominant theme I heard was about giving voice to invisible people. It was the arc of the entire speech.... What Winfrey and [President] Obama talk about is the limits of top-down power. It is one of the great sins of this celebrity age that we continue to misread this message as a call to turn anyone who tries to deliver it into our savior. When someone tells you 'I alone can fix it,' you should run screaming for the emergency exits." Mrs. McC: A video of Oprah's speech is in the Infotainment column. I would have put it in the Commentariat, but that would mean it would disappear from the page more quickly. ...

... ** Mehdi Hasan in the Intercept: "Oprah Winfrey for president: have we all gone bonkers?... Is this really what most Americans want or what the United States government needs? Another clueless celebrity in possession of the nuclear codes? Another billionaire mogul who doesn’t like paying taxes in charge of the economy? And how would it be anything other than sheer hypocrisy for Democrats to offer an unqualified, inexperienced presidential candidate to the American electorate in 2020, given all that they said about Trump in 2016? Granted..., Oprah would be a far superior, smarter, and more stable president than Trump in every imaginable way. But that, of course, is a low, low bar." Mrs. McC: An excellent argument against an unqualified, liberalish celebrity candidate. ...

... Steve M.: "An Oprah run [for the presidency] validates Donald Trump's political career -- hey, Trump was right, you don't need any experience and you don't need deep knowledge of domestic and foreign-policy issues. I'll change my mind if, come 2019, Oprah can address the issues in a way that transcends bumper-sticker slogans and platitudes.... Apart from that, my biggest problem with Oprah is her fondness for promoting quacks and charlatans -- the author of The Secret, for instance, or Dr. Oz.... If she's the Democratic nominee, I think Trump's team will portray him as a seasoned, deeply knowledgeable political veteran, while condemning her as a neophyte out of her depth.... I suspect she won't run. Celebrities at her level exercise a considerable amount of control over what the public gets to know about them, and you can't maintain that control if you're in politics."

... Also, Colbert's review of Jake Tapper's interview of Stephen Miller is pretty funny.

Beyond the Beltway

Robert Anglin of the Arizona Republic: "Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, his two sons and a militia member will not face a retrial on charges that they led an armed rebellion against federal agents in 2014. A federal judge Monday said the federal prosecutors' conduct was 'outrageous' and 'violated due process rights' of the defendants.  U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro said a new trial would not be sufficient to address the problems in the case and would provide the prosecution with an unfair advantage going forward. She dismissed the charges against the four men 'with prejudice,' meaning they cannot face trial again.... Navarro's decision comes less than a month after she declared a mistrial in case and found that federal prosecutors willfully withheld critical and 'potentially exculpatory' evidence from the defense." Navarro is an Obama appointee.

If you're in danger of imminent arrest & detention, try to look good in your mugshot -- it could pay off. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

Way Beyond

Choe Sang-Hun of the New York Times: "North Korea agreed on Tuesday to send athletes to February’s Winter Olympics in South Korea, a symbolic breakthrough after months of escalating tensions over the North’s rapidly advancing nuclear and missile programs. In talks held at the border village of Panmunjom, North Korean negotiators quickly accepted South Korea’s request to send a large delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month, according to South Korean news reports. In addition to the athletes, the North will send a cheering squad and a performance-art troupe. The event will be the first time North Korea has participated in the Winter Games in eight years."

Sunday
Jan072018

The Commentariat -- January 8, 2018

Afternoon Update:

Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post: "Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has raised the likelihood with President Trump’s legal team that his office will seek an interview with the president, triggering a discussion among his attorneys about how to avoid a sit-down encounter or set limits on such a session, according to two people familiar with the talks. Mueller brought up the issue of interviewing Trump during a late December meeting with the president’s lawyers, John Dowd and Jay Sekulow. Mueller deputy James Quarles, who oversees the White House portion of the special counsel investigation, also attended. The special counsel’s team could interview Trump very soon on some limited portion of questions — possibly within the next several weeks, according to a person close to the president who was granted anonymity to describe internal conversations."

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "The Supreme Court on Monday gave a black death row inmate in Georgia a chance to challenge his death sentence because a white juror in his case later used a racial epithet in an affidavit and questioned whether black people have souls. The justices stayed the execution last fall of Keith Leroy Tharpe, who was sentenced to death in 1991 for the murder of his sister-in-law, Jaquelin Freeman. He shot and killed Freeman and left her body in a ditch while kidnapping and later raping his estranged wife."

Pete Williams of NBC News: "The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to take up a legal battle over a Mississippi law that allows state employees and private businesses to deny services to LGBT people based on religious objections. Signed into law in 2016 in response to the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling, it allows county clerks to avoid issuing marriage licenses to gay couples and protects businesses from lawsuits if they refuse to serve LGBT customers. The law was immediately challenged. But lower courts, without ruling on the merits of the law, said those suing could not show that they would be harmed by it. A new round of challenges is expected from residents who have been denied service, and the issue could come back to the Supreme Court's doorstep." See also Akhilleus's comment below. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Seems as if the Supremes may have declined to take the case because the law's challengers were deemed to have failed the "standing" test. That doesn't mean the underlying case doesn't have merit; it just means the challengers are going to have to find more convincing victims. That should be pretty easy. I'd guess there are already a number of Mississippi couples who were denied marriage licenses or were refused services because their names were John & Joe or Emily & Heather.

Miriam Jordan of the New York Times on the Trump administration's latest deportation extravaganza: this time, 200,000 Salvadorans who have enjoyed temporary protection status for more than a decade. Mrs. McC: once again, this isn't just cruel; it's stupid.

If you haven't been around these last few hours, check also the NEW links directly below, which I added late-ish this morning. -- Mrs. McC 

If you're in danger of imminent arrest & detention, try to look good in your mugshot -- it could pay off.

*****

NEW. Get Out! Washington Post: "The Department of Homeland Security will not renew the Temporary Protected Status designation that has allowed the Salvadorans to remain in the United States since at least 2001, when their country was struck by a pair of devastating earthquakes, according to multiple people with knowledge of the plan." This is a breaking story & will be updated. Mrs. McC: Disgusting how every Trump administration immigration decision is an "only whitey-white people allowed" decision.

NEW. Brian Stelter of CNN: "Oprah Winfrey is 'actively thinking' about running for president, two of her close friends told CNN Monday. The two friends, who requested anonymity in order to speak freely, talked in the wake of Winfrey's extraordinary speech at the Golden Globes Sunday night, which spurred chatter about a 2020 run. Some of Winfrey's confidants have been privately urging her to run, the sources said. One of the sources said these conversations date back several months. The person emphasized that Winfrey has not made up her mind about running." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: We've had two celebrity presidents in the last half-century (and one of them had been governor of California for eight years). How'd that work out? Of course I'd like to see a woman become POTUS, but please, not one who made Dr. Phil a star.

NEW. Yeah, #StableGenius. Louis Nelson of Politico: "For a few minutes Sunday night..., Donald Trump claimed his has been an 'enormously consensual' presidency. The claim was a typo, part of a string of tweets excerpting a New York Post column praising Trump’s administration. The original post was soon replaced with a new one that contained the correct word, 'consequential,' but that didn’t stop the president’s tweet from becoming the subject of online ridicule.... The tweet stood out in part because multiple women have accused the president of harassment or abuse." ...

... Susannah Cullinane of CNN: Conservative New York Post columnist Michael"Goodwin [who wrote the laudatory column Trump misquoted] appears to have retweeted Trump's initial post, thanking the President on his Twitter feed above a box that Sunday night read, 'This tweet is unavailable,' before retweeting Trump's replacement version. Others on Twitter denied that they had 'consented' to Trump's leadership and a number included the hashtag #StableGenius when commenting on Trump's typo...."

"Executive Time." Jonathan Swan of Axios: "Trump's days in the Oval Office are relatively short – from around 11am to 6pm, then he's back to the residence. During that time he usually has a meeting or two, but spends a good deal of time making phone calls and watching cable news in the dining room adjoining the Oval. Then he's back to the residence for more phone calls and more TV.... This is largely to meet Trump’s demands for more 'Executive Time,' which almost always means TV and Twitter time alone in the residence, officials tell us. The schedules shown to me are different than the sanitized ones released to the media and public.... In the earliest days of the Trump administration it began earlier and ended later." ...

... Jacqueline Thomsen of the Hill: "Trump’s schedule is significantly shorter than those of past presidents. Former President George W. Bush would arrive in the Oval Office by 6:45 a.m., and former President Obama would arrive between 9 and 10 a.m. after his morning workout. [Mrs. McC: Obama also worked late into the evening after having dinner with his family.] The New York Times reported that Trump spends up to 8 hours a day watching television, which Trump has disputed." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Turns out those fake "working vacations" Trump takes every weekend have stretched into every day of the week. ...

... It's Not Trump Who's Unstable; It's Fox "News"! Matthew Gertz in Politico Magazine (Jan. 5): "Everyone has a theory about Trump’s hyperaggressive early morning tweetstorms.... But my many hours following the president’s tweets for Media Matters for America, the progressive media watchdog organization, have convinced me the truth is often much simpler: The president is just live-tweeting Fox, particularly the network’s Trump-loving morning show, Fox & Friends.... After comparing the president’s tweets with Fox's coverage every day since October, I can tell you that the Fox-Trump feedback loop is happening far more often than you think. There is no strategy to Trump’s Twitter feed; he is not trying to distract the media. He is being distracted. He darts with quark-like speed from topic to topic in his tweets because that’s how cable news works."

"Where's My Roy Cohn?" Washington Post Editors: "ALL OFFICIALS entering government must swear an oath of loyalty to the Constitution of the United States. President Trump made his own such promise. Yet he appears to believe that the public servants of the Justice Department owe their allegiance not to the Constitution but to him. The litany of Mr. Trump’s attacks on the integrity of federal law enforcement is lengthy.... Most disturbingly, Mr. Trump seems not to recognize anything wrong or unusual in his conduct.... It’s the responsibility of those who work with Mr. Trump to restrain him as best they can from destroying the norms he fails to recognize — as [White House counsel Don] McGahn allegedly failed to do. And it’s the responsibility of Congress to fulfill its constitutional role as a check to the president’s abuses. The Senate can start by refusing to consider any future U.S. attorney nominee who has been interviewed by Mr. Trump." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: This editorial would have been a lot better if the writers had mentioned that Trump's attempt to manipulate the DOJ is an important & dangerous piece of his dictatorial intention to run the federal government as his private fiefdom. (Or as a Chinese political analyst put it, according to Evan Osnos of the New Yorker, Trump practiced "jiatianxia..., an obscure phrase from feudal China [that means] 'to treat the state as your possession.'”) "As long as critics write, "Well, he shouldn't have done this," & in another column write, "He shouldn't have done that," the public will not grasp the whole picture.

Ana Swanson & Jim Tankersley of the New York Times: "President Trump will head to Tennessee on Monday to appeal to farmers, a key demographic that helped elect him, as he promotes his tax law and previews a new White House strategy to help rural America. But back in Washington, some of the economic policies his administration is pursuing are at odds with what many in the farm industry say is needed, from a potentially drastic shift in trade policies that have long supported agriculture to some little-noticed tax increases in the $1.5 trillion tax law."

Jeremy Peters, et al., of the New York Times: "Isolated from his political allies and cut off from his financial patrons, Stephen K. Bannon ... issued a striking mea culpa on Sunday for comments he had made that were critical of the president’s eldest son. Mr. Bannon, who is quoted in a new book calling Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russians in 2016 'treasonous,' tried to reverse his statements completely, saying that the younger Mr. Trump was “both a patriot and a good man.” Mr. Bannon spoke out after five days of silence, a delay that he said he regretted. He said his reference to 'treason' had not been aimed at the president’s son, but at another campaign official who attended the 2016 Trump Tower meeting, Paul Manafort."  Also, Stephen Miller got in a fight with Jake Tapper. & Tapper kicked Miller off the air. More on Miller's grand performance below. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Chris Cillizza of CNN: "White House senior adviser Stephen Miller was by turns combative and obsequious in an interview Sunday with CNN's Jake Tapper -- veering from savaging former ally Steve Bannon and author Michael Wolff to lauding ... Donald Trump's intelligence and political savvy. It was something to behold. Below are the most memorable Miller lines from an epic back-and-forth. (It's worth watching the whole thing!)" Cillizza suggests Miller's "24 most grotesque lines" from the interview. Thanks to MAG for the link. ...

... BUT, as Tapper suggested, Miller's target audience liked it: Trump tweeted "Jake Tapper of Fake News CNN just got destroyed in his interview with Stephen Miller of the Trump Administration. Watch the hatred and unfairness of this CNN flunky!" "Tapper led off his next segment with the words, 'Welcome back to CNN and planet Earth.'” ...

... Wait, Wait, There's a Coda! Linette Lopez of Business Insider: "White House adviser Stephen Miller was escorted off the set of CNN’s 'State of the Union' on Sunday after a contentious interview with host Jake Tapper. Two sources close to the situation told Business Insider that after the taping was done, Miller was politely asked to leave several times. He ignored those requests and ultimately security was called and he was escorted out, the sources said." Mrs. McC: This must be the first time in history a top White House official has been throw out of a TV studio. Maybe Miller can share notes with Omarosa, who also knows how it feels to be unceremoniously "escorted" off the premises.

E.J. Dionne: Michael Wolff "deserves our thanks for creating Trump’s 'emperor has no clothes' moment, even if this point should have been reached before, say, Nov. 8, 2016. Trump’s tweets on Saturday pronouncing himself 'a very stable genius' only underscored the damage Wolff has done and Trump’s dumbfounding insecurity.... In response to what is little more than a traditional right-wing agenda, there has been a marked erosion of loyalty to Trump among voters who thought they were casting ballots for a populist and are getting ideological and plutocratic policies instead. A Pew Research Center survey last month found Trump losing ground particularly among whites without college degrees and white evangelical Christians, groups whose devotion Trump counts on.... On the other hand, the more Trump proves his populism to be phony and behaves like a traditional Republican, the more the congressional GOP will want to prop him up." ...

... Jacqueline Thomsen: "WikiLeaks posted the full text of Michael Wolff’s explosive new book about President Trump on Sunday. The website’s official account tweeted a link to a Google Drive containing the full text of the book.... 'New Trump book "Fire and Fury" by Michael Wolff. Full PDF: https://t.co/sf7vj4IYAx" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie Update: BTW, I tried the link & it didn't work. First I got a notice from Google that I had to "authorized"; then I got an e-mail from Google that "the address couldn't be found." ...

... Turns out That Was Not Trump's Hair on Fire. Laura Dimon & Terence Cullen of the New York Daily News: "A small fire broke out on the roof of Trump Tower on Monday morning, officials said. Smoke was seen billowing off the top of the Manhattan skyscraper, carrying for several blocks. The blaze appeared to break out in the building’s heating and cooling system, the FDNY said. Two people suffered injuries, including one man who was taken away on a stretcher after battling the rooftop fire. Eric Trump ... confirmed the rooftop cooling tower ignited [Mrs. McC: and made a misstatement, which is a requirement for all Trumpentweets]. 'Fire crews are responding to a fire at Trump Tower. There have been no injuries or evacuations, and the President is not currently at Trump Tower,'" Eric Trump tweeted.

Kristen Welker, et al., of NBC News: "Anticipating that Special Counsel Robert Mueller will ask to interview ... Donald Trump, the president’s legal team is discussing a range of potential options for the format, including written responses to questions in lieu of a formal sit-down, according to three people familiar with the matter. Lawyers for Trump have been discussing with FBI investigators a possible interview by the special counsel with the president as part of the inquiry into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.... Trump’s legal team has been debating whether it would be possible to simply avoid it.... Justice Department veterans cast doubt on the possibility that Mueller, who served as FBI director for 12 years, would forgo the chance to interview the president directly." The writers note that both Bill (while president) & Hillary Clinton have allowed federal investigators to depose them. Mrs. McC: The feds should put Trump under oath, not so he'll tell the truth but so they'll have another charge against him -- lying under oath to federal investigators, a charge that also would bolster an obstruction indictment. ...

... Jesse Drucker of the New York Times: "... the Kushner Companies’ extensive financial ties to Israel continue to deepen, even with [Jared Kushner's] prominent diplomatic role in the Middle East. The arrangement could undermine the ability of the United States to be seen as an independent broker in the region.... Mr. Kushner resigned as chief executive of Kushner Companies when he joined the White House last January. But he remains the beneficiary of a series of trusts that own stakes in Kushner properties and other investments. Those are worth as much as $761 million, according to government ethics filings, and most likely much more.... The Baltimore-area buildings in which Menora [-- an insurer that is one of Israel’s largest financial institutions --] invested were the subject of an article by a ProPublica reporter in the The New York Times Magazine last year that documented the poor living conditions and aggressive tactics used by Kushner Companies, including garnishing the bank accounts of low-income tenants and turning off heat and hot water." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: It's kinda hard to reckon why a huge Israeli investment fund would want to traffic in Baltimore slum property -- unless, unless -- Jared!

Chip, Chip, Chipping Away. Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "The Interior Department has approved a land swap deal that will allow a remote Alaskan village to construct a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, according to local officials. The action effectively overrules wilderness protections that have kept the area off limits to vehicles for decades. The land exchange, which has been agreed to but not formally signed, sets in motion a process that would improve King Cove’s access to the closest regional airport. The village, with roughly 925 residents, has lobbied federal officials for decades to construct a 12-mile gravel road connecting it to the neighboring town of Cold Bay.... Environmentalists, along with two Democratic administrations, have blocked the road on the grounds that it would bisect a stretch of tundra and lagoons that provide a vital feeding ground for migrating birds as well as habitat for bears, caribou and other species. The refuge was established by President Dwight Eisenhower, and all but 15,000 of its 315,000 acres have been designated as wilderness since 1980. Motorized vehicle access is traditionally prohibited in such areas."

Beyond the Beltway

Matt Arco of NJ.com interviewed Chris Christie during his last days as governor of New Jersey. Among the things Christie said, "He grades himself as a B+ governor (with 'A moments') and thinks people will come to the same conclusion. He says he doesn't care about his bad poll numbers, but blames them on the media -- mostly the New Jersey press and other 'know-nothing voyeurs' -- who he said attacked him mercilessly after Bridgegate with a 'floodgate' of negative stories and attention. He concedes that scandal over closed lanes on the George Washington Bridge changed the course of his administration and political career because he lost 'the benefit of the doubt.' He 'absolutely' believes he'd be president if Donald Trump didn't enter the race." ...

... Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "An acclaimed book about discrimination against African Americans in the criminal justice system has been banned from some prisons in New Jersey, according to newly obtained records. The New Jim Crow, an award-winning book by Michelle Alexander published in 2010, appears on lists of publications that inmates in state correctional facilities may not possess. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which obtained the banned book lists in response to a public records request, called for the ban to be lifted and said it violated the rights of inmates under the first amendment to the US constitution."