The Ledes

Wednesday, June 19, 2019.

New York Times: “David Ortiz, the former Boston Red Sox slugger, was not the intended target of a shooting in the Dominican Republic that seriously injured him last week, the authorities in the country said in a news conference Wednesday. It was a stunning revelation in a wild case that has captivated many in the baseball-crazed nation, and across the world. Jean Alain Rodríguez, the country’s top prosecutor, said Ortiz, who was shot in the back and underwent emergency surgery that night before being transported to Boston, was wearing similar clothing to a friend, Sixto David Fernandez, who was the intended target of the shooting. Fernandez was sitting at the same table as Ortiz at the Dial Bar and Lounge, a regular hangout for Ortiz in the eastern part of Santo Domingo. Rodríguez also revealed for the first time the man suspected of organizing the entire operation: It was Victor Hugo Gomez, he said, a wanted criminal in the U.S. and member of the Gulf Cartel.”

The Wires

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.”

New York Times: Navy pilots flying along the East Coast of the U.S. spotted UFOs "almost daily from the summer of 2014 to March 2015.... The sightings were reported to the Pentagon’s shadowy, little-known Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which analyzed the radar data, video footage and accounts provided by senior officers from the Roosevelt. Luis Elizondo, a military intelligence official who ran the program until he resigned in 2017, called the sightings 'a striking series of incidents.'” In one incident, the UFO flew between two Navy jets "flying in tandem about 100 feet apart over the Atlantic east of Virginia Beach.... It looked to the pilot ... like a sphere encasing a cube."

Mrs. McCrabbie: This actually seems crazy to me:

New York Times: "A shiny stainless steel sculpture created by Jeff Koons in 1986, inspired by a child’s inflatable toy, sold at Christie’s on Wednesday night for $91.1 million with fees, breaking the record at auction for a work by a living artist, set just last November by David Hockney. Robert E. Mnuchin, an art dealer and the father of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, made the winning bid for Mr. Koons’s 1986 'Rabbit' from an aisle seat near the front of the salesroom."

Might as well just get this -- it's vintage! it's "authentic"! -- and give it pride-of-place in the front hall. Sure, visitors will think you're tasteless & nuts, but in such a vintage, authentic way.

UPDATE: (May 19): New York Times: Mnuchin would not reveal the identity of his client; i.e., the purchaser of Stainless Bunny is. During an NYT interview, "He was near tears when asked about his son Steve and refused to comment about their relationship. But friends said that he is in an impossible predicament, conflicted over his sense of duty about being a loyal father and his concern as a citizen that President Trump is bad for America."

David McCullough Is a Crap Historian. Rebecca Onion of Slate reviews his book on the history -- okay, make that "hagiographic platitudes" -- about the settlement of the Northwest Territory. "Its success (it is No. 10 on Amazon’s best-seller list for books, as of Friday) shows how big the gap between critical history and the “popular history” that makes it to best-seller lists, Costco, and Target remains.” Mrs. McC: Onion doesn't mention it, but I get the impression all the "settling" was done by men; apparently the women's tasks were of no account. Somehow I don't think most of the "ladies" sat around drinking tea & doing needlepoint in their pretty parlors.

Guardian: "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have introduced their newborn son to the world and revealed he is to be called Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. The name was announced shortly after the Queen met her eighth great-grandchild for the first time at Windsor Castle, where earlier the couple showed him off to the cameras."

Guardian: “The Duchess of Sussex has given birth to a baby son, weighing 7lbs 3oz. Mother and child were both doing well, Buckingham Palace announced. The Duke of Sussex was present for the birth, which happened at 5.26am on Monday. The child is seventh in line to the throne, and an eighth great-grandchild for the 93-year-old Queen.”

Washington Post: "Cheap Chinese caviar is flooding the U.S. market, causing prices to plummet, and with it, the product’s cachet. Wholesale prices have fallen more than 50 percent since 2012, down 13 percent just in the past year. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the import price has gone from $850,000 per ton in January 2012 to $350,000 per ton in November 2018." Mrs. McC: This makes me very happy. I love caviar (I've only had the cheaper kind), but I seldom buy it because of the expense. I have some in the pantry now, but I'm going to check the price at the grocery store now in hopes it's something I can enjoy more often. Status symbol? I couldn't care less.

New York Times: "Pulitzer Prizes were awarded on Monday [April 15] to news organizations that uncovered instances of malfeasance and outright fraud in President Trump’s financial past, a nod to journalists’ perseverance in the face of the president’s ever-sharper attacks on a free press. The New York Times received the explanatory reporting prize for an 18-month investigation that revealed how the future president and his relatives avoided paying roughly half a billion dollars’ worth of taxes. The Wall Street Journal won the national reporting prize for disclosing clandestine payoffs by the president’s associates to two women who were said to have had affairs with Mr. Trump in the weeks before the 2016 election. The South Florida Sun Sentinel won the prize for public service, considered the most prestigious of the Pulitzers, for documenting the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The paper’s in-depth articles revealed a series of failures by local officials and law enforcement that, the paper wrote, cost children their lives."

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

Tuesday
Jun112019

The Commentariat -- June 11, 2019

Late Morning Update:

Forgot this one. Scott Bixby of the Daily Beast: "Former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli's long-rumored role as a top coordinator of the Department of Homeland Security immigration policy finally has an official title. According to an email sent to staff at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on Monday, the longtime border hawk has been named acting director of the agency.... While his support for ... Donald Trump may be relatively newfound, his championing of hardline Trump-style immigration policies is more than a decade in the making." Bixby does a good job of reminding us what a complete ass Little Kenny is. One big reason Kenny is "acting": the Senate probably wouldn't confirm him.

The Party of Corruption. Alex Shephard of the New Republic: "A strange thing has happened over the past month or so: Senate Republicans have begun to stand up to President Trump. Haltingly, tentatively, perhaps, but on things that matter, a bit of spine has been sighted.... This growing willingness to undercut the president's policy and personnel decisions has, however, coincided with Republicans growing ever more defensive of Trump, himself.... [This dualism] points to a party increasingly bound together by an embrace of a corrupt and plutocratic approach to governance.... While there might be growing disagreements on free trade and tariffs, [Republican] leaders are in lockstep on the idea that it is completely acceptable to use the government for corrupt ends.... It's been repeated again and again during the administration, with both relative newcomers to government and veterans like [Transportation Secretary Elaine] Chao [who has set up an apparatus to steer projects to her husband Mitch McConnell's state] using their offices to benefit themselves and their families."

~~~~~~~~~~

The Trump Scandals, Ctd.

Emily Tillett of CBS News: "The House Judiciary Committee kicked off a series of hearings on the Mueller report with former Nixon White House counsel John Dean and former U.S. attorneys testifying Monday to offer their insights on President Trump's 'most overt acts of obstruction.'... Dean testified that there were 'exhaustive' and 'remarkable' parallels between special counsel Robert Mueller's report and the findings compiled in the wake of the Watergate scandal. He said 'events in both 1972 and 2016 resulted in obstruction of the investigations.'... Dean said in his opening statement that McGahn should testify before Congress, saying he had an obligation to do so as a 'key witness in understanding the Mueller report' and under his ethical obligation as an attorney.... Joyce White Vance, the former U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Alabama, testified that "... If anyone other than a president of the United States committed this conduct he would be under indictment for multiple acts of obstruction of justice.... If you or I committed this same conduct we would have been charged by now.' Former attorney Barbara McQuade also appeared to support that claim, testifying that the 'conduct described in the report constitutes multiple crimes of obstruction of justice. It's supported by evidence of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.'" ...

C-SPAN has the full hearing -- video & transcript here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).

... Jerry Nadler's & ranking member Doug Collins' opening remarks:

... ** Here's John Dean's full prepared statement, via Politico. It's quite compelling. ...

... Kyle Cheney of Politico: "... Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee ensured that what unfolded was an at-times heated relitigation of Dean's role in Watergate more than 40 years ago, questioning his honor, pointing to his own admitted obstruction of justice at that time and accusing him of profiting off his Watergate experience as a television commentator who frequently criticizes Trump.... Most of the day played out like two simultaneous hearings, with Democrats reading excerpts from the Mueller report and asking the former prosecutors to opine on potential criminal actions by Trump. Republicans alternated between savaging Dean's credibility and grilling their own witness, Heritage Foundation legal scholar John Malcolm about reasons why Mueller's evidence fell short of proving Trump obstructed justice.... Democrats asked the three former prosecutors repeatedly to explain the legal underpinnings for why some of the actions identified in Mueller's report could amount to obstruction of justice." ...

... Backfire. Wherein Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) Makes a Fool of Himself. (Again.) Matt Stieb of New York: "It appears that Gaetz's plan to ask Dean about 'stuff' he didn't know about included a good deal of information that the congressman may not have reviewed beforehand. Until the effort was derailed by Watergate, Nixon envisioned a plan that, as described by Slate's Ed Dolan, 'would have combined a robust employer mandate with subsidized private coverage for the self-employed, unemployed, and others not covered through their jobs -- something not unlike Obamacare.'" ...

... Dean gets some laughs & Gaetz makes a remarkably uninformed speech:

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: It is remarkable how Gaetz, et al., seem to be so proud of their profound ignorance. ...

... Russell Berman of the Atlantic: "The most charitable justification for the hearing came from Dean himself, who said it served the important function of 'public education' for Americans who likely glossed over the Mueller report, if they engaged with it at all. 'This report has not been widely read by the public. It has not even been widely read in the Congress,' he said, drawing knowing laughter from the hearing room."

... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: This hearing did not get nearly the press attention it deserved. The New York Times (as of 2 am ET today) does not even have a story about it, settling instead for running a Reuters story that is more about Barr's cave on giving the House Judiciary Committee access to more of the redacted Mueller report. ...

... Pia Deshpande of Politico: "... Donald Trump, whose actions during the Russia investigation have prompted comparisons to the Watergate scandal, drew a distinction between himself and President Richard Nixon on Monday: 'He left. I don't leave. A big difference.'" More Trump comments on the House hearing under "Whiner-in-Chief" below. ...

... Josh Israel of ThinkProgress: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) "says it's a waste of time to study history because it was a long time ago.... Asked by Fox News on Monday about the Dean hearing, Hawley decried it as a 'ridiculous' waste of time and 'theater to distract'... 'Talk about living in the past,' he said. 'The Democrats want to talk about Watergate? I mean this happened before I was born! This is a total waste of time....'" ...

     ... digby: "Josh Hawley is a Harvard educated, fascist barbarian.... And then there's the Bible. A very old book which Hawley believes should guide every aspect of people's lives." ...

     ... digby points to this June 5 post on Hawley by Ed Kilgore of New York. Kilgore looks at the philosopical underpinnings of neoconservatism, but the bottom line seems to be this: "There is no Christian Right gathering that is too extreme for his taste.... [Here's] Hawley described government itself in a 2012 essay: '... Government serves Christ's kingdom rule; this is its purpose. And Christians' purpose in politics should be to advance the kingdom of God -- to make it more real, more tangible, more present.'" Mrs. McC: This would make the U.S. Constitution, an assiduously secular document, anathema to Hawley & his ilk. That's scary.

Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "The Justice Department, after weeks of tense negotiations, has agreed to provide Congress with key evidence collected by Robert S. Mueller III that could shed light on possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power by President Trump, the House Judiciary Committee said on Monday. The exact scope of the material the Justice Department has agreed to provide was not immediately clear, but the committee signaled that it was a breakthrough after weeks of wrangling over those materials and others that the Judiciary panel demanded under subpoena. The announcement appeared to provide a rationale for House Democrats' choice, announced last week, to back away from threats to hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress. The House will still proceed on Tuesday with a vote to empower the Judiciary Committee to take Mr. Barr to court to fully enforce its subpoena, but even that may no longer be necessary, the panel's leader [Jerry Nadler] said.... Mr. Nadler said he expected the department to begin sharing some of the material Monday afternoon and that all members of the committee would be able to view it privately." (Also linked yesterday.)

Jamelle Bouie of the New York Times: "... Pelosi and Schumer are shrewd politicians with decades of experience. Perhaps their resistance to grass-roots Democrats, and to impeachment in particular, will pay dividends. But we should consider the reverse as well: that a Democratic Party that plays with excessive caution -- and keeps its base at a distance -- is one that might demobilize its voters and produce the same conditions that helped Trump win in the first place."

In fairness to Trump, he does have heart, despite all evidence to the contrary:

... Alexander Nazaryan of Yahoo! News: "Putting aside his sharp political differences with one of his primary congressional tormentors, President Trump made a surprising get-well call to Rep. Jerry Nadler, who was briefly hospitalized in Manhattan in May.... A member of Nadler's staff ... said Trump called Nadler from Air Force One as he was on his way to Japan.... Trump now told Nadler that he had seen him on television, and that he thought Nadler was 'tough.' Trump repeated that assessment several times, adding that he wished the congressman well and wanted to know if he could do anything more. The two men did not discuss politics or impeachment, according to a person familiar with the call.... The seeming warmth of the conversation -- however brief -- contrasts sharply with what Trump has said of Nadler previously. In a meeting with Republicans this spring, Trump reportedly called Nadler, who underwent weight-loss surgery years ago, 'Fat Jerry.'"

Plaints from the Whiner-in-Chief:

... Kyle Cheney of Politico: "Trump also lashed out [at John] Dean before [a House Judiciary] hearing, tweeting that he 'can't believe they are bringing in John Dean, the disgraced Nixon White House Counsel who is a paid CNN contributor. No Collusion - No Obstruction! Democrats just want a do-over which they'll never get!' It was the second time the president tweeted about Dean in the lead-up to his testimony. On Sunday night, Trump called Dean a 'sleazebag attorney' in a series of posts criticizing Democrats." (Also linked above.)" ...

... Rebecca Shabad of NBC News: "At the White House Monday, Trump dismissed [John] Dean's statement, telling reporters that the former White House counsel had 'been a loser for many years.'"

... David Jackson & Nicholas Wu of USA Today: "... Donald Trump attacked the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday for criticizing him over tariffs, claiming again that the threat of tariffs pressured Mexico into a new agreement to stop illegal border crossings. 'If we didn't have tariffs, we wouldn't have made a deal with Mexico,' Trump told the CNBC financial news network. Trump called into CNBC after an official with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the president's threat to hit Mexico with tariffs -- as well as tariffs he has imposed on China and other countries -- was counter-productive." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Caitlin Oprysko of Politico: "... Donald Trump intensified his defense of the widely panned agreement his administration struck with Mexico, even calling in to a cable news show for nearly half an hour Monday to try to sell the deal as a victory. After a weekend of railing against news reports poking holes in his claims -- some of which are so far unsubstantiated -- that Mexico had agreed to significant new concessions on immigration enforcement to avert tariffs, the president took to the airwaves to argue his case.... He dismissed the dire economic consequences experts had warned of had the 5 percent tariffs gone into effect, while mischaracterizing who would have been hit hardest by the levies, which almost always are passed on to consumers." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Brett Samuels of the Hill: "President Trump on Monday accused technology companies like Facebook and Google of discriminating against him, adding that there's 'something going on in terms of monopoly.'... "I can tell you they discriminate against me," Trump said when asked about companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon. 'People talk about collusion. The real collusion is between the Democrats and these companies because they were so against me during my election run.'" More on the tech companies linked below. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Chris Rodrigo of the Hill: "President Trump on Sunday ripped Democrats ahead of testimony from John Dean, a former White House counsel for President Nixon who proved pivotal during the Watergate scandal. 'The Dems were devastated -- after all this time and money spent ($40,000,000), the Mueller Report was a disaster for them,' Trump tweeted Sunday evening. 'But they want a Redo, or Do Over. They are even bringing in @CNN sleazebag attorney John Dean. Sorry, no Do Overs -- Go back to work!'... Democrats in the House Judiciary Committee will grill Dean on Monday in an attempt to shine a spotlight on the unsavory details about Trump's conduct contained in special counsel Robert Mueller's report." (Also linked yesterday.)


Mexico's Foreign Minister Says Trump Lied about Deal. Michael Shear & Maggie Haberman
of the New York Times: "The Mexican foreign minister said Monday that no secret immigration deal existed between his country and the United States, directly contradicting President Trump's claim on Twitter that a 'fully signed and documented' agreement would be revealed soon. Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico's top diplomat, said at a news conference in Mexico City that there was an understanding that both sides would evaluate the flow of migrants in the coming months. And if the number of migrants crossing the United States border was not significantly reduced, he said, both sides had agreed to renew discussions about more aggressive changes to regional asylum rules that could make a bigger impact.... Mr. Trump has insisted for several days that the agreement reached with Mexico Friday evening is a strong one, rejecting criticism that it largely called upon the Mexicans to take actions to reduce the flow of immigration that they had already agreed to months earlier." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... In Trump's Version of a "Mexican Standoff," He Loses, Mexico Wins. Philip Rotner in the conservative Bulwark: "The idea that Donald Trump successfully used the threat of tariffs to force Mexico to agree to an immigration deal is yet another fiction cooked up by the Trump propaganda machine. The truth is this: Trump squandered any negotiating leverage he may have had by making an idle threat that everybody knew he couldn't possibly follow through on.... Far from creating negotiating leverage, Trump's threat ... immediately handed all of the leverage to Mexico.... Mexico had Trump over a barrel. Trump's had two choices: to agree to whatever cosmetic arrangement Mexico was willing to offer; or to follow through on a threat that would be tantamount to political suicide.... Trump had backed himself, not Mexico, into a corner. They had him. He had to cave. And cave he did. He got nothing.... 'The Mexicans played Donald Trump,' Jorge Castaneda, Mexico's former Foreign Minister, told Fareed Zakaria on Sunday. 'Basically, they promised to do what they had already promised to do, and probably won't do it.'" ...

... Paul Krugman: "... having gone to great lengths to get a new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada -- an agreement that was very similar to the existing agreement, but one he could slap his own name on -- Trump basically blew up his position by threatening to impose new tariffs unless Mexico did something about border issues that have nothing to do with trade.... But then, barely a week later, Trump called the whole thing off in return for a statement by Mexico that it would do ... things it had already agreed to months earlier.... [Then] in addition to lashing out at 'fake news,' he introduced a whole new claim: 'MEXICO HAS AGREED TO IMMEDIATELY BEGIN BUYING LARGE QUANTITIES OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCT FROM OUR GREAT PATRIOT FARMERS!'... Like many Trump tweets, it reads like a clumsy translation from the original Russian ('great patriot farmers'?). More to the point, there was nothing at all about agriculture in the official agreement.... But for now, investors are effectively treating Trump as crazy but harmless. Is America great, or what?" ...

... Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times: "Once again, Trump made a series of unhinged threats against another country, leading to high-stakes diplomacy, and the announcement of a breakthrough. Once again, chest-beating conservatives jeered at Democrats for refusing to concede that Trump's belligerence had borne fruit. Once again..., it became obvious that Trump had accomplished very little of any substance. And once again, Trump has created a situation where it's hazardous for his opponents to say too much about his incompetence.... As it became clear -- at least to those outside the Fox News bubble -- how little Trump had achieved, he grew even more splutteringly incoherent than usual.... Facing widespread mockery for his Potemkin deal, Trump tweeted on Monday that if Mexico's legislature fails to enact the provisions of its purported secret agreement with the U.S., the tariffs will go into effect. There's an implicit threat here: Don't provoke him. If he doesn't get the headlines he wants, there's no telling what he might do."

Zolan Kanno-Youngs & David Sanger of the New York Times: "Tens of thousands of images of travelers and license plates stored by the Customs and Border Protection agency have been stolen in a digital breach, officials said Monday, prompting renewed questions about how the federal government secures and shares personal data. An official at the agency said it learned on May 31 that a federal subcontractor had transferred copies of the images to the subcontractor's network, which the agency said was done without its knowledge and in violation of the contract. The subcontractor's network was then hacked.... [The CBP's] cybersecurity operations were a particular focus of the previous secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, whose efforts to get the White House to devote more attention to the issue -- including cabinet-level meetings on election security -- were repeatedly turned down."

Zack Budryk of the Hill: "Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General John V. Kelly retire[d] from his position effective June 10, the Office of Inspector General confirmed Monday.... Kelly's retirement comes a week after a Washington Post report that he had overridden auditors who found issues with the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) response to disasters. Instead, the Post, citing interviews and a new internal review, reported that Kelly directed FEMA auditors to write 'feel-good reports' about disaster response."

Tucker Koherty & Tanya Snyder of Politico: "The Transportation Department under Secretary Elaine Chao designated a special liaison to help with grant applications and other priorities from her husband Mitch McConnell's state of Kentucky, paving the way for grants totaling at least $78 million for favored projects as McConnell prepared to campaign for reelection. Chao's aide Todd Inman, who stated in an email to McConnell's Senate office that Chao had personally asked him to serve as an intermediary, helped advise the senator and local Kentucky officials on grants with special significance for McConnell -- including a highway-improvement project in a McConnell political stronghold that had been twice rejected for previous grant applications.... Chao's designation of Inman as a special intermediary for Kentucky -- a privilege other states did not enjoy -- gave a special advantage to projects favored by her husband, which could in turn benefit his political interests. In such situations, ethicists say, each member of a couple benefits personally from the success of the other." Mrs. McC: Gee, Mitch is corrupt, & so is his wife. Who would have suspected? (Also linked yesterday.)

Presidential Race 2020. Trump Tells Aides to Lie about Poll Results. Annie Karni & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "After being briefed on a devastating 17-state poll conducted by his campaign pollster, Tony Fabrizio, Mr. Trump told aides to deny that his internal polling showed him trailing Mr. Biden in many of the states he needs to win.... And when top-line details of the polling leaked, including numbers showing the president lagging in a cluster of critical Rust Belt states, Mr. Trump instructed aides to say publicly that other data showed him doing well.... In a recent overarching state-of-the-race briefing in Florida with Brad Parscale, his campaign manager, Mr. Trump was consistently distracted and wanted to discuss other things, according to people familiar with the meeting. When it came to the campaign, his main focus was on his own approval numbers. Unlike nearly every recent modern president who sought re-election, Mr. Trump rarely if ever speaks to aides about what he hopes to accomplish with what would be a hard-won second term; his interest is entirely in the present, and mostly on the crisis of the moment. He has shown no interest in formulating a new message for his campaign.... Mr. Trump has griped about traveling too much, but then lashed out at aides, demanding to know, 'Why am I not doing more rallies?' He insists on having final approval over the songs on his campaign playlist, as well as the campaign merchandise, but he has never asked to see a budget for 2019."

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "On Friday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave a ... speech ... at a judicial conference in New Paltz, N.Y. There was little in her remarks to hearten liberals. She started by noting the most fundamental change at the court. 'Justice Kennedy announced his retirement,' she said. 'It was, I would say, the event of greatest consequence for the current term, and perhaps for many terms ahead.' ... Justice Ginsburg's concluding comments seemed to foreshadow a closely divided case in which she will be on the losing side. 'Speculators about the outcome note that last year, in Trump v. Hawaii, the court upheld the so-called travel ban, in an opinion granting great deference to the executive,' she said, referring to a 5-to-4 decision in which the court's four liberals dissented. 'Respondents in the census case have argued that a ruling in Secretary Ross's favor would stretch deference beyond the breaking point.'" (Also linked yesterday.)

Juan Cole: "Two structural constraints are operating with regard to [a bipartisan Congressional] attempt to cancel the Saudi arms deal. One is that a majority of Republicans in both houses of Congress have been unwilling to criticize Trump or to work against one of his presidential initiatives. The other is that Congress has on too many occasions found ways of offloading its own constitutional responsibilities onto the president. This way of proceeding, has often reduced the exposure of congressmen with regard to issues controversial in their districts. But Trump has taken advantage of all of these accumulated presidential de facto powers to sidestep Congress, and it is time for the latter to confront the president and strip him of these unconstitutional prerogatives." More on this, by NBC News, linked below. (Also linked yesterday.)

Beyond the Beltway

New York. James Barron & Patrick McGeehan of the New York Times: "A helicopter ... crashed onto the roof of an office building on Seventh Avenue [in Manhattan] and burst into flames. Only a pilot was aboard the doomed aircraft. He was killed, and investigators were trying to determine if he had been trying to make an emergency landing [in heavy fog].... New Yorkers, unnerved, wondered whether the crash had been deliberate. It rekindled memories of a far different day -- Sept. 11, 2001, when jetliners commandeered by terrorists destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The memories of 9/11 were compounded as the building was evacuated. Employees streamed down staircases as firefighters rushed in, heading to the roof. But Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who arrived quickly at the scene, said there was no indication of terrorism.... Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill said the helicopter had been flying through restricted airspace.... The pilot was not qualified to fly using only instruments, [an] official said, cautioning that the investigation was still at an early stage."

Sunday
Jun092019

The Commentariat -- June 10, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Hill: "Former President Nixon White House counsel John Dean will testify before the House Judiciary Committee about lessons learned from special counsel Robert Mueller's report at a hearing scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on Monday."

Mexican Foreign Minister Says Trump Lied about Deal. Michael Shear & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "The Mexican foreign minister said Monday that no secret immigration deal existed between his country and the United States, directly contradicting President Trump's claim on Twitter that a 'fully signed and documented' agreement would be revealed soon. Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico's top diplomat, said at a news conference in Mexico City that there was an understanding that both sides would evaluate the flow of migrants in the coming months. And if the number of migrants crossing the United States border was not significantly reduced, he said, both sides had agreed to renew discussions about more aggressive changes to regional asylum rules that could make a bigger impact.... Mr. Trump has insisted for several days that the agreement reached with Mexico Friday evening is a strong one, rejecting criticism that it largely called upon the Mexicans to take actions to reduce the flow of immigration that they had already agreed to months earlier."

Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "The Justice Department, after weeks of tense negotiations, has agreed to provide Congress with key evidence collected by Robert S. Mueller III that could shed light on possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power by President Trump.... The exact scope of the material the Justice Department has agreed to provide was not immediately clear, but the committee signaled that it was a breakthrough after weeks of wrangling over those materials and others that the Judiciary panel demanded under subpoena. The announcement appeared to provide a rationale for House Democrats' choice, announced last week to back away from threats to hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress. The House will still proceed on Tuesday with a vote to empower the Judiciary Committee to take Mr. Barr to court to fully enforce its subpoena, but even that may no longer be necessary, the panel's leader [Jerry Nadler] said.... Mr. Nadler said he expected the department to begin sharing some of the material Monday afternoon and that all members of the committee would be able to view it privately."

Trump Whines:

... David Jackson & Nicholas Wu of USA Today: "... Donald Trump attacked the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday for criticizing him over tariffs, claiming again that the threat of tariffs pressured Mexico into a new agreement to stop illegal border crossings. 'If we didn't have tariffs, we wouldn't have made a deal with Mexico,' Trump told the CNBC financial news network. Trump called into CNBC after an official with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the president's threat to hit Mexico with tariffs -- as well as tariffs he has imposed on China and other countries -- was counter-productive." ...

... Caitlin Oprysko of Politico: "... Donald Trump intensified his defense of the widely panned agreement his administration struck with Mexico, even calling in to a cable news show for nearly half an hour Monday to try to sell the deal as a victory. After a weekend of railing against news reports poking holes in his claims -- some of which are so far unsubstantiated -- that Mexico had agreed to significant new concessions on immigration enforcement to avert tariffs, the president took to the airwaves to argue his case.... He dismissed the dire economic consequences experts had warned of had the 5 percent tariffs gone into effect, while mischaracterizing who would have been hit hardest by the levies, which almost always are passed on to consumers." ...

... Brett Samuels of the Hill: "President Trump on Monday accused technology companies like Facebook and Google of discriminating against him, adding that there's 'something going on in terms of monopoly.'... "I can tell you they discriminate against me," Trump said when asked about companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon. 'People talk about collusion. The real collusion is between the Democrats and these companies because they were so against me during my election run.'" More on the tech companies linked below. ...

... Chris Rodrigo of the Hill: "President Trump on Sunday ripped Democrats ahead of testimony from John Dean, a former White House counsel for President Nixon who proved pivotal during the Watergate scandal. 'The Dems were devastated -- after all this time and money spent ($40,000,000), the Mueller Report was a disaster for them,' Trump tweeted Sunday evening. 'But they want a Redo, or Do Over. They are even bringing in @CNN sleazebag attorney John Dean. Sorry, no Do Overs -- Go back to work!'... Democrats in the House Judiciary Committee will grill Dean on Monday in an attempt to shine a spotlight on the unsavory details about Trump's conduct contained in special counsel Robert Mueller<'s report."

Tucker Koherty & Tanya Snyder of Politico: "The Transportation Department under Secretary Elaine Chao designated a special liaison to help with grant applications and other priorities from her husband Mitch McConnell's state of Kentucky, paving the way for grants totaling at least $78 million for favored projects as McConnell prepared to campaign for reelection. Chao's aide Todd Inman, who stated in an email to McConnell's Senate office that Chao had personally asked him to serve as an intermediary, helped advise the senator and local Kentucky officials on grants with special significance for McConnell -- including a highway-improvement project in a McConnell political stronghold that had been twice rejected for previous grant applications.... Chao's designation of Inman as a special intermediary for Kentucky -- a privilege other states did not enjoy -- gave a special advantage to projects favored by her husband, which could in turn benefit his political interests. In such situations, ethicists say, each member of a couple benefits personally from the success of the other." Mrs. McC: Mitch is corrupt, as is his wife. Who would have suspected?

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "On Friday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg gave a ... speech ... at a judicial conference in New Paltz, N.Y. There was little in her remarks to hearten liberals. She started by noting the most fundamental change at the court. 'Justice Kennedy announced his retirement,' she said. 'It was, I would say, the event of greatest consequence for the current term, and perhaps for many terms ahead.' ... Justice Ginsburg's concluding comments seemed to foreshadow a closely divided case in which she will be on the losing side. 'Speculators about the outcome note that last year, in Trump v. Hawaii, the court upheld the so-called travel ban in an opinion granting great deference to the executive,' she said, referring to a 5-to-4 decision in which the court's four liberals dissented. 'Respondents in the census case have argued that a ruling in Secretary Ross's favor would stretch deference beyond the breaking point.'"

Juan Cole: "Two structural constraints are operating with regard to [a bipartisan Congressional] attempt to cancel the Saudi arms deal. One is that a majority of Republicans in both houses of Congress have been unwilling to criticize Trump or to work against one of his presidential initiatives. The other is that Congress has on too many occasions found ways of offloading its own constitutional responsibilities onto the president. This way of proceeding, has often reduced the exposure of congressmen with regard to issues controversial in their districts. But Trump has taken advantage of all of these accumulated presidential de facto powers to sidestep Congress, and it is time for the latter to confront the president and strip him of these unconstitutional prerogatives." More on this, by NBC News, linked below.

~~~~~~~~~~

Trump Claims Mexico "Deal" Has Secret Parts, Also Critics Are Mean. David Cohen of Politico: "As critics continued to suggest the U.S. deal with Mexico didn't accomplish much..., Donald Trump tweeted Sunday morning there is more to the agreement than meets the eye. 'Importantly, some things..... .....not mentioned in yesterday press release, one in particular, were agreed upon. That will be announced at the appropriate time,' the president wrote in a string of four tweets. Trump was defending his newly announced agreement with Mexico in the face of reporting that much of what was in the deal was not new. In his tweets, he directly attacked the New York Times and CNN, calling them 'the Enemy of the People.'... Appearing on 'Fox News Sunday' soon after Trump's tweetstorm, acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan was asked about the president's tweets, but offered few specific details.... Forty minutes after his string of tweets, Trump ... [tweeted,] 'If President Obama made the deals that I have made, both at the Border and for the Economy, the Corrupt Media would be hailing them as Incredible, & a National Holiday would be immediately declared. With me, despite our record setting Economy and all that I have done, no credit!'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Good idea, Donnie. Let's have a national holiday for the Paris Climate Agreement (oops, you pulled the U.S. out of that); the Iran Nuclear Agreement (oops, you backed out of that, too) & the Affordable Care Act (oops, you tried to repeal that & you're undermining it now).

Thank You for Your Service, Now Get Out, Ctd. Richard Sisk of the Military Times: "The Government Accountability Office has a recommendation for Immigration and Customs Enforcement: Check to see whether the people it picks up are military veterans before kicking them out of the country. 'We recommended that ICE collect and maintain data on veterans' in accordance with long-established rules at the agency to avoid deporting individuals who may be eligible to stay, the 40-page GAO report states. From 2013 to 2018, ICE failed to follow its own policies requiring agents to consider a veteran's military record before beginning the process of removal from the country, according to the report. Time in service, awards and deployments are all among factors that are supposed to be weighed when making a deportment decision. The policies also call for deportation cases that might involve veterans to be referred to higher headquarters for a decision. Those policies also were not followed, the report states. Officials at the Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency of ICE, said they didn't consider the veteran and non-veteran status in removal proceedings and were unaware of policies to the contrary." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Official White House Fake News. Murtaza Hussain of the Intercept: "In 2018..., Donald Trump was seeking to jettison the landmark nuclear deal that his predecessor had signed with Iran in 2015, and he was looking for ways to win over a skeptical press. The White House claimed that the nuclear deal had allowed Iran to increase its military budget, and Washington Post reporters Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly asked for a source. In response, the White House passed along an article published in Forbes by a writer named Heshmat Alavi.... Rizzo and Kelly reported [the story, naming the source]. The White House had used Alavi's article ... to justify its decision to terminate the agreement. There's a problem, though: Heshmat Alavi appears not to exist. Alavi's persona is a propaganda operation run by the Iranian opposition group Mojahedin-e-Khalq, which is known by the initials MEK, two sources told The Intercept.... The MEK is among the most controversial groups seeking to depose the Iranian government. Although today it is mainly involved in political activism and lobbying, the group also has a history of violence." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I don't have to tell you that a real White House would seek out & cite U.S. intelligence sources of information on foreign government ops; it most certainly would not rely on the writings of an unknown (and in this case, fake) individual. But the fake newsman is hardly surprising; it's one step worse than Trump making policy decisions based on something he thought he heard on Fox "News." This is the most slipshod, fact-averse White House in modern history. When Dubya falsely claimed Iraq had tried to buy uranium in Africa, it was an international scandal (British PM Tony Blair got pummelled, too), even tho the initial story (which the CIA debunked before Bush told it) had come through intelligence sources. There was a movie about it. And Valerie Plame, the protagonist in the film, whom Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage outted as a CIA undercover operative in the fall-out from the fake story, became a household name & is running for Congress in 2020. I'm not sure major media outlets will even pick up this White House's fake writer story.

White House for Sale. Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "A real estate company part-owned by Jared Kushner has received $90m in foreign funding from an opaque offshore vehicle since he entered the White House.... Investment has flowed from overseas to the company, Cadre, while Kushner works as an international envoy for the US, according to corporate filings and interviews. The money came through a vehicle run by Goldman Sachs in the Cayman Islands, a tax haven that guarantees corporate secrecy.... Kushner resigned from Cadre's board and reduced his ownership stake to less than 25% after he joined the White House, according to his attorneys. He failed to list Cadre on his first ethics disclosure...." --s

Sharon LaFraniere, et al., of the New York Times attempt to pigeonhole Bill Barr: "In a cabinet stocked with government neophytes and placeholders, the deeply experienced [William] Barr is quickly emerging as the most influential figure in the second half of Mr. Trump;s term.... But his rising power over the intelligence community has been accompanied by swelling disillusionment with Mr. Barr among former national security officials and ideological moderates.... Now they see in him someone who has glossed over Mr. Trump's misdeeds, smeared his investigators and positioned himself to possibly declassify information for political gain -- not the Bill Barr they thought they knew."

Michael Schmidt & Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "As the special counsel's investigators pursued the question of whether President Trump tried to impede their work, they uncovered compelling evidence -- a voice mail recording and statements from a trusted witness -- that might have led to him. A lawyer for Mr. Trump, John M. Dowd, reached out to a lawyer for a key witness who had just decided to cooperate with the government, Michael T. Flynn. Mr. Dowd fished in his message for a heads-up if Mr. Flynn was telling investigators negative information about Mr. Trump -- while also appearing to say that if Mr. Flynn was just cutting a deal without also flipping on the president, then he should know Mr. Trump still liked him. But the president's role, if any, remains a mystery.... Investigators for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, declined to question Mr. Dowd about his message, citing 'attorney-client-privilege issues.' The release of the recording last week served as a reminder that ... some tantalizing questions about the president's conduct went unanswered because investigators encountered obstacles or backed off on pursuing leads.... [Former federal prosecutor Joyce] Vance noted that courts have recognized an exception to attorney-client privilege that allows investigators to compel people to testify to a grand jury about such conversations if they are involved in the commission of a crime."

Catherine Belton of Reuters: "A senior American banker [Robert Foresman] ... held a series of prominent roles in Moscow's financial world.... [He] once secretly awarded a shareholding in powerful Moscow investment bank Renaissance Capital to one of Vladimir Putin's closest friends [Matthias Warnig] and brokered meetings for the friend with top U.S. foreign policy officials a decade ago, emails show.... [The] deeply religious conservative ... banker has said it has always been his calling to be a peacemaker between the two nuclear superpowers.... Foresman's relationship with the Kremlin was more complicated -- and more mercantile -- than that of peacemaker.... According to the [Mueller] report, Foresman ... reached out to Donald Trump when the ... campaign was building momentum. In March 2016, Foresman emailed Trump's assistant inviting the presidential candidate to an international business forum in St Petersburg, saying he'd had 'an approach' from 'senior Kremlin officials' about the candidate[.]... Foresman's Moscow connections gained fresh attention recently when the banker was named in ... Robert Mueller's report...." --s


Hannah Rappleye
& Lisa Seville of NBC News: "The deaths of three ICE detainees since April, along with the release of several internal and watchdog reports documenting dismal conditions at ICE detention centers, have prompted an outcry from advocates who say the Trump administration is pushing growing numbers of immigrants into a detention system ill-equipped to care for them.... Twenty-four immigrants have died in ICE custody during the Trump administration, according to an NBC News analysis of federal data. At least four others ... died shortly after being released from ICE custody. The number of in-custody deaths remains below the peak of 32 deaths in 2004, the first full calendar year records were kept. The tally does not include migrants, including five children, who have died in the custody of other federal agencies." --s ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: Here's a hint as to why: ...

... Sheri Fink of the New York Times: "As apprehensions of migrants climb at the southwest border, and dozens a day are taken to community hospitals, medical providers are challenging practices -- by both government agencies and their own hospitals -- that they say are endangering patients and undermining recent pledges to improve health care for migrants. The problems range from shackling patients to beds and not permitting them to use restrooms to pressuring doctors to discharge patients quickly and certify that they can be held in crowded detention facilities that immigration officials themselves say are unsafe. Physicians say that needed follow-up care for long-term detainees is often neglected, and that they have been prevented from informing family members about the status of critically ill patients. Agency vehicles parked conspicuously near hospital entrances, health providers say, are also stoking fear and interfering with broader immigrant care. Doctors typically do not know what rights they might have to challenge these practices.... [Some health systems have policies] that applies equally to immigration detainees and prisoners."

Guardian: "The tree planted by Donald Trump and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, at the White House as a symbol of their countries' ties has died, according to multiple media reports in France. The oak was given as a gift to the US president during Macron's visit in 2018.... Relations between the two leaders have since frayed -- over issues ranging from Iran to trade &-- and, it appears, the tree has fared little better.... It was a symbolic gesture: the tree came from Belleau Wood, north-east of Paris, where 1,811 Americans died in a ferocious battle in June 1918 during the first world war." --safari: Maybe the roots were poisoned?

They're Sick of Trump's Despotism. Dan De Luce of NBC News: "Two senators plan to introduce a bill Monday designed to force a vote on current and future U.S. arms sales and other military support to Saudi Arabia, saying it was time lawmakers checked ... Donald Trump's attempts to bypass Congress on foreign policy. The bill, sponsored by Sens. Todd Young, R-Ind., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who both sit on the Foreign Relations Committee, marks the latest counterpunch by lawmakers who strongly oppose selling weapons to Saudi Arabia and who are outraged at the Trump administration's recent decision to sidestep Congress on an arms deal worth billions of dollars."

They're Sick of Trump's Despotism. Jonathan Swan of Axios: "Trump's blunt use of presidential leverage to force the Mexican government to harden its immigration enforcement appears to have caused an unintended side effect: U.S. business leaders have begun urgently discussing strategies to claw back the virtually unchecked trade powers that Congress has handed over to presidents during the past 80 years.... Even though the business community is now breathing a sigh of relief that Trump won't be hitting Mexico with new tariffs, the last week of Trump's threats may have a longer lasting effect, according to industry sources who have met with corporate representatives in Washington, leaders of business associations, administration officials, members of Congress and their senior staff.... 'Maybe folks in the White House don't know this, but they freaked out a lot of people,' a trade lawyer involved in these conversations told me. 'This is a real turning point because this is threatening tariffs using an emergency power,' said another top industry source involved. 'That's never been done before. Part of the resources that we want to direct our advocacy to ... is for Congress to take back authority over tariffs.'"

Sophie Weiner of Splinter: "... a new report from the Washington Post shows that ... irresponsible spending extended to members of the [NRA's] board, who often were paid for services by the NRA.... Some of those on the board are industry executives who sell their own wares to the NRA, like Peter Brownell, who was paid $3.1 million for firearms products, according to the Post.... Board members say that getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the organization they are supposed to police doesn't cloud their judgement." Mrs. McC: Right. The WashPo story is here.

Marc Tracy of the New York Times: "$4,700,000,000.... It's the amount that Google made from the work of news publishers in 2018 via search and Google News, according to a study to be released on Monday by the News Media Alliance. The journalists who create that content deserve a cut of that $4.7 billion, said David Chavern, the president ... of the alliance, which represents more than 2,000 newspapers across the country, including The New York Times.... That $4.7 billion is nearly as much as the $5.1 billion brought in by the United States news industry as a whole from digital advertising last year -- and the News Media Alliance cautioned that its estimate for Google's income was conservative.... The News Media Alliance is making the study public in advance of a House subcommittee hearing on Tuesday on the interrelationship of big tech companies and the media.... Two giant companies -- Alphabet, which is Google's parent, and Facebook -- are major distributors for news publishers.... Their middleman role allows them to take a huge proportion of online ad revenue." A bipartisan bill in the House & Senate would allow news organizations to share the revenue. ...

... Brian Stelter of CNN: "When House members convene on Tuesday for the first of several hearings about the power of Big Tech, they'll be hearing multiple pitches for a bill called the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act. Lobbyists for the newspaper industry are promoting the bill as a way to even the playing field between their businesses and the two giants of the online ad market, Google and Facebook. The bill would provide newspapers and online publishers with a four-year antitrust exemption, allowing them to band together in negotiations with online platforms.... On the House side, the bill is moving forward."

Way Beyond the Beltway

Hong Kong. BBC: "Hundreds of thousands of people have marched in Hong Kong against a law critics fear could let China target political opponents in the territory. The controversial extradition bill would allow suspected criminals to be sent to mainland China for trial. Organisers say there were one million people, which would make it the biggest march in more than 20 years. Police say there were 240,000 at its peak. After it ended, clashes erupted between hundreds of demonstrators and police. Protesters, some wearing surgical masks, tried to break into the Legislative Council complex, throwing crowd control barriers around, and police in riot gear used batons and pepper spray. Some of the protesters and policemen were later seen with faces covered in blood."

Kazakhstan. Joanna Lillis of the Guardian: "Kazakhstan elected [Kassym-Jomart Tokayev] the hand-picked successor of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev with more than 70%t [sic] of the vote, electoral authorities said on Monday, after an election day marred by protests.... Hundreds of people were arrested on Sunday while protesting against the stage-managed election which they aid would deprive them of a political voice. Voters went to the polls to elect a successor to Nazarbayev, the 78-year-old who ruled for three decades before resigning this year. But with the last of the region's communist-era presidents stepping aside rather than stepping down, there are concerns that Kazakhstan is yet to break free of the past." --s

Saturday
Jun082019

The Commentariat -- June 9, 2019

Afternoon Update:

Trump Claims Mexico "Deal" Has Secret Parts, Also Critics Are Mean. David Cohen of Politico: "As critics continued to suggest the U.S. deal with Mexico didn't accomplish much..., Donald Trump tweeted Sunday morning there is more to the agreement than meets the eye. 'Importantly, some things..... .....not mentioned in yesterday press release, one in particular, were agreed upon. That will be announced at the appropriate time,' the president wrote in a string of four tweets. Trump was defending his newly announced agreement with Mexico in the face of reporting that much of what was in the deal was not new. In his tweets, he directly attacked the New York Times and CNN, calling them 'the Enemy of the People.'... Appearing on 'Fox News Sunday' soon after Trump's tweetstorm, acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan was asked about the president’s tweets, but offered few specific details.... Forty minutes after his string of tweets, Trump ... [tweeted,] 'If President Obama made the deals that I have made, both at the Border and for the Economy, the Corrupt Media would be hailing them as Incredible, & a National Holiday would be immediately declared. With me, despite our record setting Economy and all that I have done, no credit!'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Good idea, Donnie. Let's have a national holiday for the Paris Climate Agreement (oops, you pulled the U.S. out of that); the Iran Nuclear Agreement (oops, you backed out of that, too) & the Affordable Care Act (oops, you tried to repeal that & you're undermining it now).

The Cheese Stands Alone. David Choi of Business Insider: "Fifteen world leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, signed [a D-Day proclamation] in blue ink near the bottom of the text. Trump, however, signed the document in the upper, left-hand corner[.] In her column today (linked below), MoDo equated the signature to this incident: "When he went with classmates at the New York Military Academy to march down Fifth Avenue in a Columbus Day parade, he found out that some Catholic schoolgirls were lined up ahead of the boys. Trump went to complain and pull strings and got the girls bumped so they marched behind the boys. When European leaders joined together to endorse a D-Day commemoration, they all put their John Hancocks at the bottom, as expected, while Trump scrawled his signature alone at the top."

Thank You for Your Service, Now Get Out, Ctd. Richard Sisk of the Military Times: "The Government Accountability Office has a recommendation for Immigration and Customs Enforcement: Check to see whether the people it picks up are military veterans before kicking them out of the country. 'We recommended that ICE collect and maintain data on veterans' in accordance with long-established rules at the agency to avoid deporting individuals who may be eligible to stay, the 40-page GAO report states. From 2013 to 2018, ICE failed to follow its own policies requiring agents to consider a veteran's military record before beginning the process of removal from the country, according to the report. Time in service, awards and deployments are all among factors that are supposed to be weighed when making a deportment decision. The policies also call for deportation cases that might involve veterans to be referred to higher headquarters for a decision. Those policies also were not followed, the report states. Officials at the Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency of ICE, said they didn't consider the veteran and non-veteran status in removal proceedings and were unaware of policies to the contrary."

~~~~~~~~~~

The Phoniest American President* Ever. Michael Shear & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "The deal to avert tariffs that President Trump announced with great fanfare on Friday night consists largely of actions that Mexico had already promised to take in prior discussions with the United States over the past several months, according to officials from both countries who are familiar with the negotiations. Friday's joint declaration says Mexico agreed to the 'deployment of its National Guard throughout Mexico, giving priority to its southern border.' But the Mexican government had already pledged to do that in March during secret talks in Miami between Kirstjen Nielsen, then the secretary of homeland security, and Olga Sanchez, the Mexican secretary of the interior, the officials said. The centerpiece of Mr. Trump's deal was an expansion of a program to allow asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico while their legal cases proceed. But that arrangement was first reached in December.... Ms. Nielsen announced the Migrant Protection Protocols during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee five days before Christmas. And over the past week, negotiators failed to persuade Mexico to accept a 'safe third country' treaty that would have given the United States the legal ability to reject asylum seekers if they had not sought refuge in Mexico first." Thanks to unwashed Ken W. for the link. ...

The president manufactures a crisis, galvanizes his base around the challenge, leaves the definition of success undefined, pretends to play hardball and, lo and behold, finds a solution that entails little more than window-dressing, if that. For Trump, it's a win-win.... The loser tends to be the American people, oftentimes Trump's base first and foremost. -- Ned Price, former Obama NSC staffer

... Another Trump Lie about the Mexico Tariff "Deal." Nacha Cattan & Eric Martin of Bloomberg News: "Mexico never agreed to buy more U.S. farm products as part of a deal reached late Friday on border security and illegal immigration that averted the threat of U.S. tariffs, said three Mexican officials, contradicting a claim made by ... Donald Trump. Trump on Saturday told his 61 million Twitter followers in an all-caps message that Mexico had agreed to 'immediately begin buying large quantities of agricultural product from our great patriot farmers.'... But the communique issued late Friday by the State Department -- the U.S.-Mexico Joint Declaration -- made no mention of agricultural trade as part of the agreement. Three Mexican officials said they were not aware of any side deal in the works." ...

... Kate Riga of TPM: "Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) mocked ... Donald Trump for 'backing off' his tariff threat against Mexico, adding that the deal will likely little affect illegal immigration. '‪Just as I predicted, the president backed off,' he said in a statement. 'He says that Mexico will take action to "greatly reduce, or eliminate, Illegal Immigration coming from Mexico and into the United States", but if past is prologue, this is likely to be one of the president's typical, bogus solutions to justify backing off things like the tariffs, which he precipitously proposed, much to the consternation of the business community nationwide and Republicans in the House and Senate.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: So "The New Art of the Deal" goes like this: threaten economic war with an ally; settle for terms negotiated months ago (by a Cabinet Secretary you fired); then claim a big win. Yes, Donnie, we all are tired of so much winning.

... Ana Swanson & Paul Mozur of the New York Times: "President Trump is increasingly blurring the line between America's national and economic security, enabling him to harness powerful tools meant to punish the world's worst global actors and redirect them at nearly every trading partner, including Mexico, Japan, China and Europe. Over a few weeks, Mr. Trump has declared European and Japanese cars, Chinese telecom equipment and Mexican immigrants national security threats. Those declarations have given the president authority to use Cold War powers to inflict economic pain on countries through tariffs, government blacklists and other restrictions.... His approach has grown more aggressive over the past two years, culminating in an expansive view of national security that has plunged the United States into an economic war with nearly every trading partner, including longtime allies."

Trump's Amerika. Rebekah Entralago of ThinkProgress: "The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report Thursday detailing the horrific conditions at immigration detention centers across the United States. Inspectors found 'immediate risks or egregious violations of detention standards' including nooses in detainee cells, overuse of solitary confinement, and spoiled food, among other issues.... The findings confirm what most immigration activist groups and some progressive members of Congress have been clamoring about for months: ICE is routinely violating the human rights of the individuals in its custody." --s

Martin Chulov & Julian Borger of the Guardian: "The Trump administration has given the cold shoulder to Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar, less than two months after Trump appeared to show support for him& in a surprise phone call, and is now rethinking its policy towards the country's civil war, according to multiple sources in the US and the region.... For now, US officials insist that Trump's phone call to Haftar was a personal favour to the Egyptian president, Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, who was visiting Washington a few days earlier, and did not signify a shift in US policy.... Ahmed Omar Maiteeg, the deputy prime minister of the Tripoli government, told NBC News on Thursday the Trump-Haftar call was confusing, 'because we see the US government as a our [sic] main ally'." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Just another typical episode in the Trump presidency. Trump, who has no idea what he's doing but is fond of strongmen like al-Sisi & Haftar, messes things up, and members of the administration try to clean up the mess.

Trump Vows to Ruin National Holiday. Maureen Dowd: "Trump tweeted in February that he was going to hijack the Lincoln Memorial on Independence Day for 'Major fireworks display, entertainment and an address by your favorite President, me!' Like no one had ever thought of fireworks on the Mall before.... On a whim, he has decided to bollix up one of the better days in the nation's capital. Trump is going to turn a holiday that had somehow managed to remain nonpartisan and playful into a MAGA rally, dragging his perpetual resting bitch face and American carnage onto the Mall.... Narcissistic, infantile and heedless of tradition, Trump is now yanking away the one day devoted to celebrating all Americans and rebranding it in his own image."

"Twilight Zone," Ctd. Frank Dale of ThinkPrgoress: "A day after the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Attorney General William Barr claimed that his return to the Justice Department bears similarities to the 1944 Battle of Normandy. During a speech at the FBI academy on Friday, Barr compared the scrutiny that he has received since becoming President Donald Trump's attorney general to the Allies' invasion of Europe[.]" --s

Natahsa Lennard of The Intercept: "Instead of being a legal category, 'domestic terrorism' is used by federal law enforcement as a framework to organize and describe cases and investigations.... Over the last decade, the FBI classified domestic terrorism cases using 11 categories, including a specific grouping for white supremacists. At the end of April, the FBI and Justice Department revealed to Senate Judiciary Committee staffers that a new classification system was now in place, employing only four categories: racially motivated violent extremism; anti-government and anti-authority extremism; animal rights and environmental extremism; and abortion extremism.... [T]he distinct and deadly threat of white supremacist violence is now unnamed and merely folded into the too-broad 'racially motivated extremism' category.... The new nomenclature reflects the Trump administration's ideological commitment to enabling white supremacists. But the new classifications are more than semantic: They render it impossible for the public, or even elected officials, to know whether the FBI is dedicating resources to investigating the very real threat of white supremacist terror[.]" --s

Nathalie Baptiste of Mother Jones: "The White House prevented State Department officials from submitting testimony to Congress that warns of climate change catastrophe. The Washington Post reported on Saturday that after reviewing the written testimony, White House officials tried to remove references to the government's own scientific findings on global warming. The prepared statement included references to catastrophic damage due climate change. 'Absent extensive mitigating factors or events, we see few plausible future scenarios where significant -- possibly catastrophic -- harm does not arise from the compounded effects of climate change,' the testimony warned. Several anonymous Trump administration officials told the Post that the State Department testimony strayed too far from the White House's official stance on climate change." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Update. Kate Riga: "Though the State Department has rejected some embassy requests to fly rainbow flags in celebration of Pride month, diplomats are finding creative ways to circumvent the decision. According to the Washington Post, diplomats in Seoul and Chennai, India still flew the flags, while the building in New Delhi is awash with rainbow lights. Santiago and Vienna went digital, promoting the rainbow colors on their embassy websites. Diplomats in Jerusalem hit the streets to march in a Pride parade, while representatives stationed all over the globe posted pictures of themselves in rainbow gear or holding up signs in front of their embassies."

Alex Shephard of the New Republic points to the obvious flaw in Nancy Pelosi's "reasoning": "Despite growing pressure from her caucus -- now including members of party leadership, most notably Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler -- Pelosi once again parried demands that House Democrats move forward with impeachment proceedings. 'I don't want to see him impeached, I want to see him in prison,' she said.... Pelosi is acknowledging that the president has committed prosecutable crimes. If he has (and he has!), then Democrats have a constitutional responsibility to begin impeachment proceedings."

Hahahahaha. Karoli Kuns of Crooks & Liars: "The Republicans, those champions of free speech, have fired off a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler demanding that there be no talk of lying, or obstruction of justice, or any other mean things that people might otherwise say about Dear Leader. Politico Congress reporter Kyle Cheney tweeted a copy of the rule book Rep. Doug Collins is demanding Nadler use." Kuns reproduces Collins' demands here, and they are hilarious. Mrs. McC: Collins' demands would be like conducting a murder trial in which the defense ordered the prosecution to never utter any of a long list of words like "accused," "victim," "dead," "deceased," "body" "killed" "murder," "wound," "motive," "opportunity," etc. Another funny part is that some of the words Collins bans are ones that Trump himself regularly uses, without evidence, against his perceived political enemies. I'm not sure how Collins came up with "a little bugger" as a verboten phrase, but maybe it's a nod to Trump's recent visit to the land of merry old buggers. Many thanks to unwashed for the link. ...

     ... These efforts to control language are typical of authoritarian administrations.

Katelyn Polantz of CNN: "The anonymous foreign-government-owned company that fought a subpoena in the special counsel investigation for months appears to be off the hook, while prosecutors continue to put significant resources into investigating what Robert Mueller pursued related to the company, according to newly unsealed court records. Federal judge Beryl Howell of the DC District Court stopped fining the company in February, when it turned almost 1,000 pages of documents over to Mueller. The court fight dragged on from February into April, however, because Mueller's team and other prosecutors believed the company had kept records from them, according to the newly unsealed information. She finally deciding the company was no longer in contempt on April 17. Howell previously ordered that the company should be fined $50,000 a day beginning January 15 for refusing to comply with Mueller's subpoena from last year. It's unclear from the newly released court record how much, if anything at all, the company paid in fines. Much of the mystery around the case remains." (Also linked yesterday.)

Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "A raft of legislation intended to better secure United States election systems after what the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, called a 'sweeping and systematic' Russian attack in 2016 is running into a one-man roadblock in the form of the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky." Mrs. McC: Since some of these bills are bipartisan, one can only assume that Mitch is betting that foreign intervention will favor Trump & incumbent Republicans. (Also linked yesterday.)

Presidential Race 2020. Martin Pengelly of the Guardian: "Mitt Romney may not endorse Donald Trump for re-election in 2020, partly because the 2012 Republican nominee thinks political endorsements are not 'worth a thimble of spit'. That said, the Utah senator remains happy to endorse his choice for president in 2016. Then, having called his party's nominee 'a phoney, a fraud', he voted for his wife, Ann." Mrs. McC: Right. Mitt will likely put on a (well-fitting) penguin suit & tango with Trump in 2020.

Capitalism is Awesome, Ctd. Stef Kight & Dan Primack of Axios: "A handful of American businesses have their fingers in almost every aspect of prison life, raking in billions of dollars every year for products and services -- often with little oversight. The big picture: Taxpayers, incarcerated people and their families spend around $85 billion a year on public and private correction facilities, bail and prison services, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.... Here's how they make money[.]" --s

Lee Fang & Nick Surgey of The Intercept: "Conservative activist Virginia 'Ginni' Thomas [the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas] is launching yet another project to wage war on multiple fronts of America's most heated cultural and political debates [unveiled ... in a closed meeting of GOP lawmakers, donors, and Christian-right leaders last month]. This time, however, her plan will include a project to 'protect President Trump' using at least two new campaign-related political entities, according to a presentation obtained by The Intercept and Documented.... The Washington Post noted that, in recent years, Thomas has made her Facebook page a forum for increasingly conspiratorial and inflammatory content.... Her private presentations to conservatives take a similar tone." --s

The Deplorables. Barbie Latza Nadeau of The Daily Beast: "Just months before he was bludgeoned to death in a West Virginia prison, notorious Boston mobster James 'Whitey' Bulger poured his heart out in a series of letters praising President Trump (he had his vote) and criticizing Robert Mueller, whom he said should be nicer." --s ...

... Rich Schapiro, et al., of NBC News: "In several handwritten letters shared with NBC News, Bulger expressed gushing praise for Trump, offering rave reviews of the president's foreign policy and combative relationship with the media.... The legendary gangster, who was beaten to death inside a West Virginia prison cell last fall, was an ardent Trump supporter and fan of conservative media figures such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, according to the letters shared with NBC News.... Bulger also railed against ... Robert Mueller. An assistant U.S. attorney in Boston in the 1980s, Mueller went on to lead the FBI at a time when it was grappling with a sensational scandal involving agents protecting mob leaders like Bulger."

Way Beyond the Beltway

Britain. Meghan Markle Leaves the House as Soon as Trump Left Town. Barbie Nadeau of the Daily Beast: "Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle made her second post-baby appearance at the Trooping the Color ceremony in London on Saturday to honor Queen Elizabeth II on her 93rd birthday. Markle is still on maternity leave...." ...

... As Andy Borowitz points out, the Duchess is not the only woman whose life was affected by Trump's visit to the UK: "A British woman quit her job, on Friday, after being forced to spend the better part of a week with Donald J. Trump, the woman has confirmed." Borowitz gallantly does not reveal the woman's name, but there's an accompanying photo which gives a hint.

Mexico. Jeremy Kryt of The Daily Beast has a harrowing piece on how indigenous communities in Mexico's Guerrero state are battling for their livelihoods, alongside child soldiers, against encroaching drug cartels and rampant corruption, all with links to immigration to the US. --s

New Zealand. Frank Dale of ThinkProgress: "New Zealand's proposed 'well-being budget' could change the way that countries measure strength. Instead of focusing on financial growth, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's government released a budget at the end of May that prioritizes the happiness of citizens. The 'well-being budget' lists five priorities: mental health, family violence, clean energy, digital innovation, and supporting indigenous peoples.... To measure the success of these initiatives, New Zealand's government will track 61 metrics, ranging from 'loneliness to trust in government institutions, alongside more traditional issues like water quality.'" --s

Sudan. Jason Burke & Zeinab Mohammed Salih of the Guardian: "The military regime in Sudan has launched a new wave of arrests and violent intimidation in an effort to undermine opposition plans for a widespread campaign of civil disobedience [set for Sunday].... More than 120 people died and hundreds were injured when paramilitaries attacked a protest camp in the centre of Khartoum on Monday.... The deaths on Monday have been blamed on the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which is largely made up of militias accused of systematic human rights abuses during the war in Darfur.... Many [bodies found in the Nile] had been attached to heavy concrete blocks in an apparent effort to sink them.... The internet remains cut off in Khartoum with other communications also significantly restricted.... Experts fear that divisions among the military rulers could lead to violent clashes and a spiral into anarchy." --s

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