The Wires

The Los Angeles Times has the full list of Oscar nominees here.

NBC Sports: "Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martínez, and Mike Mussina have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America as part of the 2019 class. The results were just announced on MLB Network. Rivera received votes from every single writer who submitted a ballot, becoming the first player ever to be unanimously inducted into the Hall of Fame. Halladay and Edgar Martínez each received 85.4 percent of the vote and Mussina appeared on 76.7 percent of ballots. Rivera, 49, spent all 19 of his seasons in the majors with the Yankees. He was initially used as a starter, but quickly moved to the bullpen, becoming the greatest closer of all-time. He racked up 652 saves — the most in baseball history — during the regular season along with a 2.21 ERA anda 1,173 strikeouts across 1,283 2/3 innings. He saved his best work for the postseason. Rivera appeared in 96 postseason games, saving 42 saves in 47 opportunities with a 0.70 ERA and a 110/21 K/BB ratio in 141 innings. Rivera won five championships, five Rolaids Relief Awards, as well as MVP awards in the World Series, ALCS, and All-Star Game. He made the AL All-Star team 13 times."

Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: If you're a shut-out Trump Shutdown victim tooling around the Internets with nothing to do today, let's assume that some day some time, Trump will de-furlough you and you can get back to work enthusiastically serving the American people in your appointed capacity. In case Trump has rendered you a bit rusty in the area of job skills, Conan here provides some useful tools that may help you get to work on time, even on casual Friday:

ABC News: "Breathtaking drone video of a pod of friendly, playful dolphins joining a surfer as he took to the waves near the coast of Ventura, California, is making the rounds on social media and bringing smiles -- and wow's -- to viewers. ABC station KABC-TV's meteorologist Kimi Evans met the drone's owner Craig Badger, who shared the footage, and spoke to surfer Alden Blair.... The video has been seen more than 3 million times on social media." ...

NBC Suits Are Such Geniuses. New York Times: "After a drawn-out negotiation period, NBC and Megyn Kelly have formally agreed to part ways. The network and the onetime cable news star reached a final agreement on Friday, nearly three months after she wondered aloud on-air why it was inappropriate for white people to dress up in blackface for Halloween. NBC and a representative for Ms. Kelly declined to reveal the details of the exit package. But according to two people familiar with the negotiations, Ms. Kelly was paid the outstanding balance on her contract, a figure that amounts to roughly $30 million. At the time of the separation, Ms. Kelly was in the middle of a three-year, $69 million contract with the network."

New York Times: "The Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and the novelist MacKenzie Bezos announced on Twitter Wednesday that they are getting divorced after 25 years of marriage. In a statement posted on Mr. Bezos’s Twitter account, the couple said they had been separated for a long period of time, but planned to remain involved as 'parents, friends, partners in ventures and projects.' According to a 1999 profile in Wired, the two met when they both worked at D.E. Shaw, a New York-based hedge fund, before moving in 1994 to Seattle, where Amazon is headquartered. They have four children.... As is the case in any celebrity split, the financial details of the divorce are sure to be complicated despite the couple’s vow to “remain cherished friends.” According to Forbes, which publishes an annual list of billionaires, his net worth is estimated at $137 billion and he is the richest man in the world. While much of his wealth is tied up in Amazon stock, Mr. Bezos, 54, the company’s chief executive, is also the owner of several companies, including The Washington Post and Blue Origin, a space travel company."

Here's a list of the Golden Globe winners, via Market Watch. CNN has posted highlights on a liveblog & currently has a whole buncha links to related stories on CNN Entertainment. And if you're in it for the red carpet, there's this:

New York Times : "Archaeologists have discovered a well-preserved, 4,400-year-old tomb of a royal priest and his family in Egypt, in a 'one of a kind' find, the Egyptian authorities announced on Saturday. The tomb was unearthed in Saqqara, a city south of Cairo and a vast necropolis from ancient Egypt. The discovery dates from the rule of Neferirkare Kakai, the third king of the fifth dynasty of ancient Egypt, according to Khaled al-Anani, Egypt’s minister of antiquities. The fifth dynasty governed for less than two centuries, from 2,500 B.C. to about 2,350 B.C., according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The tomb had remained untouched, said Mostafa Waziri, the secretary general of Egypt’s supreme council of antiquities, according to Reuters."

"The Christmas Comet Returneth." New York Times: "Look into the night sky on Sunday [December 16] and you just might see a bright, fuzzy ball with a greenish-gray tint. That’s because a comet that orbits between Jupiter and the sun will make its closest approach to Earth in centuries, right on the heels of this year’s most stunning meteor shower. 'The fuzziness is just because it’s a ball of gas basically,' Tony Farnham, a research scientist in the astronomy department at the University of Maryland, said on Saturday morning.... 'You’ve got a one-kilometer solid nucleus in the middle, and gas is going out hundreds of thousands of miles.' The comet glows green because the gases emit light in green wavelengths. The ball of gas and dust, sometimes referred to as the 'Christmas comet,' was named 46P/Wirtanen, after the astronomer Carl Wirtanen, who discovered it in 1948. It orbits the sun once every 5.4 years, passing by Earth approximately every 11 years, but its distance varies and it is rarely this close. As the comet passes by, it will be 30 times farther from Earth than the moon, NASA said.”

By George O'Keefe or somebody.Maybe the Best Gift Would Be a Spell-Check App. Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Way back in November (so Slate has had plenty of time to make corrections), someone named Angela Serratore (hope I spelled that right), wrote a post for Slate, which is featured on its main page now, suggesting gifts from small museum shops. That's a nice thought, but it would have been even nicer if the story had not misspelled Georgia O'Keeffe three times: twice as "Georgia O'Keefe" & once as "George O'Keefe." But never "Georgia O'Keeffe."

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

Wednesday
Feb062019

The Commentariat -- February 7, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

And the Lord Smote King Donald and King Donald Spake the Truth. Since the founding of our nation, many of our greatest strides, from gaining our independence to abolition of civil rights, to extending the vote for women, have been led by people of faith and started in prayer. -- Donald Trump, at the National Prayer Breakfast

Katherine Hafner & Elisha Sauers of the Virginian-Pilot: "A Virginia Military Institute yearbook overseen by future state Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment in 1968 features a host of racist photos and slurs, including blackface.... On one page of the yearbook, a student poses in blackface, surrounded by others in costumes at a party. Another page features a photo of two men in blackface holding a football. The N-word is used at least once. A student listed as being from Bangkok, Thailand, is referred to as a 'Chink' and 'Jap.' A blurb under one man's picture says: 'He was known as the 'Barracks Jew' having his fingers in the finances of the entire Corps.'... The first black students were allowed to enroll at the institute in the fall of 1968. When a reporter asked Norment to talk about the yearbook Thursday, the majority leader said, 'The only thing I'm talking about today is the budget.'... Several years ago, the school changed its process for reviewing The Bomb, [Col Stewart] MacInnis said, adding layers of review by faculty advisors and himself. But there's always tension for overseeing the student-supported publication, he added, because 'they've got their First Amendment rights.'"

Olivia Beavers of the Hill: "Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker is threatening to not testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Friday after Democrats on the panel voted to authorize the use of a subpoena against him if he did not attend or refused to answer certain questions. Whitaker said in a statement Thursday that the Democratic-led panel 'has deviated from historic practice and protocol and taken the unnecessary and premature step of authorizing a subpoena to the me [sic], the acting attorney general, even though I had agreed to voluntarily appear.'"

Jennifer Scholtes, et al., of Politico: "Congressional deal-makers working to stave off another government shutdown said they believe a breakthrough is in reach, following a closed-door Wednesday briefing from Border Patrol officials. Conference committee negotiators tasked with crafting a border security funding plan said the bipartisan talks took a turn for the better during the meeting. The 17 lawmakers began a substantive policy and funding debate, ticking through a three-pronged approach to boosting border security spending on detection technology, agents and barriers...."

John Wagner of the Washington Post: "President Trump took fresh aim Thursday at House Democrats, claiming they were going 'nuts' with unprecedented investigations into his administration and businesses. In morning tweets ahead of a scheduled appearance at a national prayer breakfast, Trump singled out House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), who announced Wednesday that his panel will scrutinize 'credible reports of money laundering and financial compromise' involving Trump's businesses as part of a fresh investigation into Trump's alleged ties with Russia. 'So now Congressman Adam B. Schiff announces, after having found zero Russian Collusion, that he is going to be looking at every aspect of my life, both financial and personal, even though there is no reason to be doing so,' Trump said on Twitter. 'Never happened before! Unlimited Presidential Harassment.'... 'The Dems and their committees are going "nuts,"' Trump wrote. 'The Republicans never did this to President Obama, there would be no time left to run government.' Without elaboration, Trump also said that congressional Democrats were 'stealing people' who work at the White House to help with the investigations." ...

     ... Trump: "The Republicans never did this to President Obama." Mrs. McCrabbie: Operation Fast & Furious! Solyndra! IRS! Benghaaaazi!

     ... Philip Bump of the Washington Post has more: "Trump, like many other fervent conservative media consumers, would have liked to have seen a bunch of random personal investigations of things such as Obama's birthplace or his college records, ideas that grew like bacteria in the swamps of the far-right during Obama's time in office.... Trump tweeted about Solyndra no fewer than 15 times, including once saying that the 'government loan and subsequent bankruptcy prove that @BarackObama is both corrupt and inept' -- an ironic position for Trump to take, given his history with failed businesses."

Democrats at the top are killing the Great State of Virginia. If the three failing pols were Republicans, far stronger action would be taken. Virginia will come back HOME Republican) in 2020! -- Racist, Mysogynist Liar living in White House, in a tweet today

Frank Rich on the SOTU speech & KKK Northam: "... from Trump's point of view, the speech seems to have failed at every level." Rich elaborates in his usual caustic -- and entertaining -- style. "Northam is a former Republican turned Democrat. Now he is considering resurrecting himself as an Indepedent, according to the Washington Post. Regardless of party affiliation, what's beyond dispute is that he's an idiot who has yet to settle on a plausible account of why his 1984 medical school yearbook page looked like a Ku Klux Klan recruitment flyer."

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: For context, see my comment below.

     ... Mrs. McC: For context, see Akhilleus's response to my comment below.

Tiffany Tsu & Elizabeth Paton of the New York Times: "Less than a week into Black History Month, in two episodes of retail déjà vu, Adidas and Gucci have apologized and pulled products criticized as racist. The offending Gucci item was an $890 black-knit women's balaclava that could be pulled up over the lower half of the wearer's face. The sweater included bright red lips ringing an opening for the mouth, a detail widely denounced on social media as evoking blackface imagery.... In Adidas's case, the company included an almost entirely white pair of shoes in a line of clothing and sneakers inspired by the Harlem Renaissance movement and meant to commemorate Black History Month." Mrs. McC: The Gucci sweater is shocking. On the upside, Dr. Northam could buy one & save himself the pain of having to remove shoe polish from his pretty white face.

** Today's Biggest Scandal. Ben Foldy of Bloomberg: "Major U.S. banks shaved about $21 billion from their tax bills last year -- almost double the IRS's annual budget -- as the industry benefited more than many others from the Republican tax overhaul. By year-end, most of the nation's largest lenders met or exceeded their initial predictions for tax savings. On average, the banks saw their effective tax rates fall below 19 percent from the roughly 28 percent they paid in 2016. And while the breaks set off a gusher of payouts to shareholders, firms cut thousands of jobs and saw their lending growth slow." Thanks to PD Pepe for the link.

Kirk Johnson of the New York Times: "Measles, declared eliminated as a major public health threat in the United States almost 20 years ago, has re-emerged this winter in the Pacific Northwest and other states where parents have relatively broad leeway over whether to vaccinate their children. Seventy-nine cases of measles have been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since the start of this year. Fifty cases of the highly contagious disease were in Washington State. An outbreak of measles has also occurred in the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn, where 64 confirmed cases of measles were reported, mostly late last year. That outbreak began, the C.D.C. said, when a child who had not had a measles vaccination caught the virus on a visit to Israel, where a large outbreak of the disease was occurring."

*****

"It's Here. It's Now." John Schwartz & Nadja Popovich of the New York Times: "NASA scientists announced Wednesday that the Earth's average surface temperature in 2018 was the fourth highest in nearly 140 years of record-keeping and a continuation of an unmistakable warming trend. The data means that the five warmest years in recorded history have been the last five, and that 18 of the 19 warmest years have occurred since 2001. The quickly rising temperatures over the past two decades cap a much longer warming trend documented by researchers and correspond with the scientific consensus that climate change is caused by human activity. 'We're no longer talking about a situation where global warming is something in the future,' said Gavin A. Schmidt, director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the NASA group that conducted the analysis. 'It's here. It's now.'"

This Russia Thing, Etc., Ctd.

Presidents should not bring threats to the floor of the House. It's not investigation; it's oversight. It's our congressional responsibility, and if we didn't do it, we would be delinquent in our duties. -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Wednesday, in response to Donald Trump's SOTU remarks Tuesday ...

... Mike DeBonis & Seung Min Kim of the Washington Post: "President Trump called Democratic investigations into his administration and business 'ridiculous' and 'presidential harassment.' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in turn accused the president of delivering an 'all-out threat' to lawmakers sworn to provide a check and balance on his power. The oversight wars officially kicked into high gear this week as House Democrats began investigating the Trump administration in earnest. With Thursday hearings scheduled on presidential tax returns and family separations at the Mexican border, and a Friday session to question acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker, the lights are about to shine brightly on a president who has, until now, faced little examination from a Republican Congress. But Democrats are moving carefully after spending weeks forming their committees, hiring staff and laying the groundwork for coming probes -- mindful that Trump is eager to turn their investigations into a political boomerang as his critics demand swift action to uncover various alleged misdeeds." ...

... Jeremy Herb & Manu Raju of CNN: "House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff announced Wednesday a broad investigation his committee would undertake 'beyond Russia' into whether ... Donald Trump's financial interests are driving his actions.... In a statement, Schiff said the investigation would include a continued probe into Russia's actions during the 2016 election and contacts between the Russia and Trump's team, as well as an examination of 'whether any foreign actor has sought to compromise or holds leverage, financial or otherwise, over Donald Trump, his family, his business, or his associates.' Schiff said the investigation, which could involve additional congressional committees, would also look at whether Trump or his associates have 'sought to influence US government policy in service of foreign interests' and any potential obstruction into the various investigations. Schiff's announcement is the most detailed look yet into how congressional Democrats will investigate Trump's finances and possible ties to foreign entities, and how Democrats are sure to continue probing Trump and his team well after ... Robert Mueller's investigation had concluded." ...

... Here's Schiff's statement, which outlines a five-course menu of inquiries. ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: And there you have the response to Trump's SOTU threats. ...

... Andrew Desiderio of Politico: "The House Intelligence Committee voted on Wednesday to send dozens of witness interview transcripts from its Russia investigation to special counsel Robert Mueller, who could use them to prosecute potential instances of perjury. It's the first act of the intelligence panel under the leadership of Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who has vowed to revive the committee's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mueller has already prosecuted some Trump associates for lying to Congress.... The panel's Democrats have long suggested that Donald Trump Jr. and other witnesses might have lied to the committee during its investigation and they've encouraged Mueller to examine whether perjury or obstruction of justice charges are warranted against them." ...

... Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "Other committees were zeroing in on similarly sensitive oversight targets. On Thursday, Democrats will begin their quest to secure the president's long-suppressed tax returns. The chairman of the Judiciary Committee readied a subpoena for the acting attorney general, Matthew G. Whitaker, in case he tried to avoid Democratic questioning. And a House Appropriations subcommittee chairwoman began an inquiry into administration rule-bending during the 35-day partial government shutdown.... Democrats and even some Republicans conceded that the targets offered up by Mr. Trump and his administration were far more numerous than his predecessors', and his threats and protests have been more vocal.... 'He's just a political hack. He's trying to build a name for himself,' Mr. Trump said [of House Intel chair Adam Schiff], adding, 'It's called presidential harassment. And it's unfortunate. And it really does hurt our country.' Mr. Schiff shot back, 'I can understand why the idea of meaningful oversight terrifies the president. Look, several associates of his have gone to jail. Others are awaiting trial.'... Meantime, Representative Betty McCollum of Minnesota, the chairwoman of the Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Interior Department, asked the Government Accountability Office to issue a formal opinion on the administration's diversion of user fees at the national parks to fund operations during the government shutdown. Such funds are supposed to be earmarked for long-term capital improvement projects. And Democrats on the Oversight and Reform Committee took their own swipe at the president at a hearing examining proposed ethics rules for the executive branch." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I watched Trump's remarks about Schiff. At first, he pretended he didn't know who Schiff was: "I've never heard of him," Trump told a reporter. In November, Trump called Schiff "Adam Schitt" in a tweet. Once declaring he didn't know who Schiff was, Trump immediately pivoted to calling Schiff a "political hack ... trying to make a name for himself." It does not make sense to impugn the motives & character of someone you've never heard of; Trump attacks for the sake of cruelty.

Andrew Desiderio: "Testimony from ... Donald Trump's former attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, before the House Intelligence Committee this week has been delayed, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) announced Wednesday. 'In the interests of the investigation, Michael Cohen's testimony has been postponed until February 28th,' Schiff, the chairman of the committee, said in a brief statement." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

The Perfect Trumpy Republican -- A(n Alleged) Serial Fraudster. Betsy Woodruff & Erin Banco of the Daily Beast: "Paul Erickson, the American political operative and boyfriend of admitted Russian agent Maria Butina, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in South Dakota on charges of wire fraud and money laundering. The U.S. attorney for the district of South Dakota is handling the prosecution, which is separate from the case that was lodged against Butina in Washington, D.C. Erickson, 56, was arrested on Tuesday and entered a plea of not guilty at an arraignment, according to the court filings.... The indictment alleges that Erickson ran a criminal scheme from 1996 to 2018 using a chain of assisted living homes called Compass Care. Erickson also allegedly defrauded investors through a company called Investing with Dignity that claimed to be 'in the business of developing a wheelchair that allowed people to go to the bathroom without being lifted out of the wheelchair.' The indictment says he also ran a fraudulent scheme that claimed to be building homes in the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota.... Even before he was charged, Erickson was dogged by allegations of financial shadiness. As first reported by The Daily Beast in July, individuals who have sued Erickson alleged in court documents that he and his companies failed to pay back loans. Some say he duped them into investing into what appeared to be nonexistent companies. Others allege Erickson used their money for personal expenses."

Papadopoulos & the Pee Tape Guy. Brad Reed of the Raw Story: "The man behind the salacious and unproven claim that ... Donald Trump hired Russian prostitutes to perform a 'golden shower' during a trip to Moscow also met with former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos after the 2016 presidential election and offered him employment opportunities. In a major new Washington Post report, it's revealed that Papadopulos met with a man named Sergei Millian, who is described as the 'unwitting' source for former British spy Christopher Steele's claims about Trump and Russian prostitutes. After the 2016 election, the two men [Millian & Papadopoulos] dined at a Washington, D.C.-based restaurant called the Russia House, which is regularly frequented by Russian diplomats. The dinner was the culmination of an outreach campaign by Millian in which he offered Papadopoulos 'a lucrative consulting contract to work simultaneously for Trump and an unidentified Russian, which Papadopoulos said he rebuffed.'" ...

     ... The WashPo story, by Rosalind Helderman & Tom Hamburger, puts together scraps of information about Millian, not all of them verified, but he remains a mysterious figure. No one seems to know, for instance, where he lives. Just one more shady character in Trump's Gang of Grifters.

The Fake State of the Union Address

Nancy Cook of Politico: "... Donald Trump kept a relatively low profile the day after his State of the Union address, staying silent on Twitter and remaining in Washington on a day when many past presidents have hit the road to amplify their annual speeches. But White House officials and close advisers say that Trump is gearing up to redouble his case for a U.S.-Mexico border wall, including with a planned trip to El Paso next week, where he will make a final case for the $5.7 billion project before parts of the federal government run out of funding again on Feb. 16.

He [Trump] was a guest in our House chamber, and we treated him with more respect than he treated us. -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in remarks to Democrats, Wednesday

Mrs. McCrabbie: I usually don't re-run the videos I've run the afternoon before, but The Clap Heard 'Round the World is an exception:

... Allyson Chiu of the Washington Post: "Despite being engaged in a tense standoff with Trump over funding for his border wall, for most of the evening, Pelosi managed to limit her reactions to subtle head-shaking, pursed lips and eye rolls. But when Trump, who has been accused of exacerbating deep divisions, declared, 'We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good,' she appeared to be unable to hold back. Rising from her seat along with others in attendance, Pelosi began applauding with her arms oddly extended out toward the president. When Trump turned toward her and the pair locked eyes, Pelosi, still clapping, appeared to smirk." (Also linked yesterday.)

Rick Wilson of the Daily Beast: "... Tuesday night's effort showed every sign of being created, destroyed, cut, pasted, reboot, and then run through an English-Urdu translation program and back again. It felt more like last-minute Sharpie-scribble than wordsmithing.... Tuesday night was ... marked by his usual sniffles, the Il Douche hand gestures, and his tendency to veer between subjects without transition or pause.... Since a key requirement of Esoteric Trumpism is that its followers live always in Year Zero, the Trump-centric internet is gushing praise over President Bigly Rightwords, treating his largely incoherent word gumbo as if he had delivered a modern-day Gettysburg Address.... The uplift material in the speech was a rich vein of false equivalencies and collision with reality.... Because Trump is bleeding politically, and under rising legal pressure from every quarter, last night's State of the Union speech contained his usual pastiche of Trumpian paranoia about the border, dick-waving braggadocio, outright lies, and movie-script ideas passed off as intelligence reports.... 'An economic miracle is taking place in the United States and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous, partisan investigations. If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn't work that way,' said Trump, consciously or unconsciously echoing Nixon's fateful remarks. 'Nice country we've got going here. Either Mueller gets it, or the economy does.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Other than that, Mr. Wilson, how did you like the speech?

What a Concept! Democratic Leaders Embrace Actual Democrats. Jamelle Bouie of the New York Times: "The ascension of Stacey Abrams, like the unprecedentedly diverse class of Democrats elected in 2018, represents a definitive repudiation of the idea that Democrats must downplay 'identity' to appeal to the country at large.... If choosing [former Kentucky Gov. Steve] Beshear [to respond to Trump's 2017 address to Congress] symbolized an effort to play on the president's field and try to win some of his supporters, then choosing Abrams represents the opposite: a rejection of strategies aimed at that slice of white workers and an embrace of the diversity of the Democratic Party."

Jane Lytvynenko of BuzzFeed News: "Twitter is allowing an altered photo comparing women members of Congress who wore white to the State of the Union to the KKK to continue to circulate on its platform on Wednesday despite its own policy that doesn't allow 'symbols historically associated with hate groups.' Members of Congress -- mostly Democratic women -- wore white clothing on Tuesday night to honor the suffragist movement. The image, which first aired on the far-right conspiracy outlet Infowars, photoshopped white Klan-style hoods on the women. Its most popular iteration was spread on Twitter by radio host Mark Simone to his 175,000 followers. It was also shared by Katrina Pierson, a former Trump spokesperson who is a senior adviser to the president's reelection campaign, and by Ann Coulter.... Women lawmakers ... wore white to the State of the Union to make a political statement highlighting issues such as harassment, discrimination, and pay inequality. The idea came from the Democratic Women's Working Group and directed their message at President Trump." Mrs. McC: Many of the reps wingers decided to dress up in KKK hoods are women of color.


Loan Sharks Protection Bureau. Stacy Cowley
of the New York Times: "Payday lenders won a major victory on Wednesday after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau moved to gut tougher restrictions that were to take effect later this year. The industry has spent years trying to fend off the new rules, which were conceived during the Obama administration. The regulations were intended to prevent spiraling debt obligations by limiting the number of consecutive loans that could be made and requiring lenders to verify that borrowers could pay back their loans on time while still covering basic living expenses. In her first major policy move, the bureau's new director, Kathleen Kraninger, proposed eliminating nearly all of the regulation's substantive requirements, including the 'ability to repay' mandate."

Congratulations, Wilbur! Gail Collins: "The votes are in, and the winner of the Worst Trump Cabinet Member competition is ... Wilbur Ross! First time a secretary of commerce has ever won the title. Don't let me hear you complaining that this administration hasn't accomplished anything. The Ross victory is a little suspect, since it came right after he gave an interview in which he expressed befuddlement about why furloughed government workers were going to food banks and homeless shelters when they could -- you know, just go see their banker and take out a loan. Do you think he was making a play for first place? Nah, that was just Wilbur being Wilbur, the guy who happily marveled that when Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia 'there was not a single hint of a protester anywhere.'" Collins goes on to mention the rich field of runners-up. Mrs. McC: There would probably be more, but about a third of the Cabinet are just "acting"; apparently playing a Cabinet official on teevee is a contest disqualifier.

Another Trump Cabinet Member under Investigation. Julie Brown of the Miami Herald: "The Department of Justice has opened an investigation into Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta's role in negotiating a controversial plea deal with a wealthy New York investor accused of molesting more than 100 underage girls in Palm Beach. The probe is in response to a request by Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who was critical of the case following a series of stories in the Miami Herald. The Herald articles detailed how Acosta, then the U.S. attorney for Southern Florida, and other DOJ attorneys worked hand-in-hand with defense lawyers to cut a lenient plea deal with multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein in 2008."

Lisa Friedman of the New York Times: "President Trump didn't mention climate change in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, but on Wednesday Democrats worked to make sure the topic was front and center in Congress. In two separate and simultaneous House committee hearings on global warming, lawmakers testified that climate change is real, happening now and requires urgent action. It was the first hearing the Energy and Commerce Committee had held on global warming in six years; for the Natural Resources Committee it was the first in more than eight years. In both cases, the rooms were packed with spectators.... Republicans, for the most part, avoided questioning the established science of climate change, focusing primarily on criticizing economic policies put forward by Democrats, like the so-called Green New Deal legislation that Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York is set to introduce this week."

Tim Mak & Jessica Yarmosky of NPR: "A longtime Trump ally pushed to have two fathers of Parkland victims tossed out of a congressional hearing on gun violence.... Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., sparked commotion in the hearing when he listed circumstances in which violence was committed by undocumented immigrants, and said the solution would be to build the Trump-backed wall along the Southwest border.... This led to protests in the hearing room by the fathers of two Parkland shooting victims, Manuel Oliver and Fred Guttenberg. Gaetz responded by asking for their removal. The public is not allowed to comment during congressional hearings, and the two were given a warning.... Later, Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., tried to rebut Gaetz's remarks. Listing off a number of mass shootings, Cohen noted that they were not conducted by immigrants who entered the country illegally.... The House Judiciary Committee's Wednesday hearing on gun violence was the first of its kind in nearly eight years. The panel has not had a hearing on this topic since Republicans took control of the House in 2011 following the Tea Party wave in the 2010 midterms." Emphasis added. Mrs. McC: So naturally, Gaetz had to make a mockery of the hearing. I don't know Gaetz but I have heard of him. He sure seems like a "political hack" who "is trying to make a name for himself."

Presidential Race 2020

Not Minnesota-Nice? Molly Redden & Amanda Terkel of the Huffington Post: "At least three people have withdrawn from consideration to lead Sen. Amy Klobuchar's nascent 2020 presidential campaign -- and done so in part because of the Minnesota Democrat's history of mistreating her staff, HuffPost has learned. Klobuchar, who plans to make an announcement about a potential presidential bid on Sunday in Minneapolis, has spent the past several months positioning herself to run for president. She's beloved in her state as a smart, funny and personable lawmaker and has gained national attention for her lines of questioning at high-profile hearings. But some former Klobuchar staffers, all of whom spoke to HuffPost on condition of anonymity, describe Klobuchar as habitually demeaning and prone to bursts of cruelty that make it difficult to work in her office for long.... Reached for comment, Klobuchar's office referred HuffPost to multiple ex-staffers who shared glowing statements about working for her."

Rebecca Morin of Politico: "Former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu [D] ... told CNN on Wednesday morning that he does not think he will seek his party's 2020 presidential nomination, citing the already packed field of 'great candidates.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Thanks, CNN! Sophie Tatum of CNN: "CNN will host a town hall next week in Houston with former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz as he mulls a presidential bid in 2020. Schultz, who said last month he is considering a run as a 'centrist independent,' will take questions from Texas voters on Tuesday, February 12, in this live event moderated by CNN's Poppy Harlow." Mrs. McC: A good reason to stick to MSNBC & stations that carry Democracy Now!

Beyond the Beltway

Virginia Is for Losers. Jonathan Martin & Alan Blinder of the New York Times: "The third-ranking elected official in Virginia, Attorney General Mark R. Herring, acknowledged Wednesday that he had worn blackface at a party as an undergraduate student, deepening a crisis that has engulfed the state's Democratic leadership. Then, just two hours later, a woman came forward to describe in detail her accusation that Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax had sexually assaulted her in 2004, an accusation he denies. The back-to-back revelations threw the Capitol here into a state of uncertainty about who would lead Virginia, coming less than one week after the disclosure of a racist photograph on the yearbook page of Gov. Ralph Northam led to demands for his resignation. Grim-faced legislators rushed through the hallways, shaken by a series of allegations and confessions that threatened to cripple the Virginia government's three leading officials." ...

... All the News That's Fit to Print. Sheryl Stolberg of the New York Times: "The woman who has accused Lt. Gov. Justin E. Fairfax of Virginia of sexual assault came forward on Wednesday, issuing a statement through a law firm that described a 2004 encounter at the Democratic National Convention in Boston that, she said, began with kissing but quickly turned into an episode of forced oral sex. The woman identified herself as Vanessa C. Tyson, an associate professor and expert in black history at Scripps College in California. She has also spent years advocating for victims of sexual assault and has spoken openly about being molested by her father when she was a child. 'What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault,' Dr. Tyson wrote, describing her encounter in a hotel room with the future lieutenant governor. 'Mr. Fairfax put his hand behind my neck and forcefully pushed my head towards his crotch. Only then did I realize that he had unbuckled his belt, unzipped his pants, and taken out his penis.'" Read the full report. ...

     ... Tyson's full statement is here.

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Tyson sounds credible. But I think we're going to have to wait a bit before we can make a best guess as to whether or not we think it's true. If more victims come forward, Fairfax certainly should resign. I find it questionable that a man would do something like this only once in his life. We know, for instance, that Brett Kavanaugh often got drunk & mistreated women, according to reported accounts. I've never been forced to perform oral sex, but here's something I wonder: why wouldn't the victim either (a) tightly shut her lips, or (b) bite down hard on the guy's dick? Also, Tyson worked at a rape crisis center at the time? Wouldn't she have learned techniques for avoiding the brutal assault she described? You can write to me privately at constantweader@gmail.com if you prefer; I want to know what you think. ...

... Speaking of Brett. John Bowden of the Hill: "Virginia's embattled lieutenant governor, who is facing accusations of sexual assault, has hired the law firm that previously represented now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. A local NPR station reported Wednesday that Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) has hired Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz, which previously represented Kavanaugh." Mrs. McC: This is kinda perfect because Tyson hired Christine Blasey Ford's legal team. ...

... Kaitlyn Folmer & John Verhovek of ABC News: "Virginia Democratic Congressman Bobby Scott was made aware of allegations of sexual assault against now-Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax over a year ago by the alleged victim herself, ABC News has learned. Scott learned of the allegations directly from Dr. Vanessa Tyson, who on Wednesday released a statement detailing the alleged 2004 assault, which took place at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.... In a statement given to ABC News on Wednesday, Scott wrote, 'Allegations of sexual assault need to be taken seriously. I have known Professor Tyson for approximately a decade and she is a friend. She deserves the opportunity to have her story heard.'... When pressed by ABC News, aides said they did not know what the congressman did with that information, but that he told Tyson that he agreed to speak with the Washington Post." ...

... Unfuckingbelievable. Gregory Schneider & Laura Vozzella of the Washington Post: "Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) said Wednesday he dressed in blackface during college, elevating the Capitol’s scandals to a new level that engulfed the entire executive branch of government. 'In 1980, when I was a 19-year-old undergraduate in college, some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song,' Herring said in a statement. 'It sounds ridiculous even now writing it. But because of our ignorance and glib attitudes -- and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others -- we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup.' Herring referred to it as a 'onetime occurrence' and said he accepted 'full responsibility.'... Herring's acknowledgment comes as Gov. Ralph Northam (D) faces calls for his resignation after a photo emerged on his 1984 medical school yearbook page featuring someone in blackface standing next to someone in Ku Klux Klan robes. And early Monday, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) denied the allegations of a woman who said he sexually assaulted her at the Democratic National Convention in 2004." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Update: MSNBC is reporting that Herring also resigned as the chair of the Democratic Attorneys General Association. ...

...Dylan Scott, et al., of Vox: "If every state official enmeshed in a scandal resigned, Democrats would lose control of the state government: The next in the state's line of succession is Kirk Cox, a Republican who became House speaker after a close race ended with a name being drawn out of a bowl." ...

... Cox Is a Standard-Issue Racist who Favors Gerrymandering out Black Voters. Bloomberg Law: [A] gerrymandering case, which is set to be argued at the Supreme Court on March 18, isn't related to the unfolding scandal in Richmond, but it does layer on another element of race to its politics. [AG Mark] Herring announced last year that the state would not continue to defend the now-defunct maps following a lower court's ruling that invalidated them. The court's finding that the legislature 'sorted voters into districts based on the color of their skin,' should 'be of the utmost concern,' Herring said.... [Kirk] Cox[, who would become governor if Northam, Fairfax & Herring resign] wants to intervene to defend the maps...." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: So the choices are: (1) Racist, (2) alleged sexual assaulter, (3) racist, (4) super-racist. Also too, someone might want to visit Cox at home. If there's not a photo of him in blackface on the mantel, there might be a white hood & robe in the closet. Check the laundry bin, too. Just saying. Due respects to Kirk there.

... Wingers Gone Wild. Will Sommer of the Daily Beast: "Now right-wing internet hoaxers claim they’ve found something even bigger: a picture of Hillary Clinton purportedly wearing blackface, next to a smiling Bill Clinton dressed as a country bumpkin. The photo of 'Clinton' obviously isn’t actually her. The woman in blackface has brown eyes, while Clinton has blue eyes. Bill Clinton is significantly taller than his wife, while the couple in the picture has a smaller height disparity. Additionally, the guy in the picture doesn't even look all that much like Bill Clinton. But that hasn't stopped the fringier elements of the pro-Trump right from picking it up."

Way Beyond

Cruel & Unusual. Richard Pérez-Peña of the New York Times: "The Venezuelan military has blockaded a major highway link with Colombia to prevent opponents of the government from bringing food and medicine into Venezuela, a country gripped by life-threatening shortages and a deepening political crisis. Troops positioned truck trailers and shipping containers to block the lanes of the Tienditas Bridge on the border in northwestern Venezuela on Wednesday. But it was not clear what effect the blockade ... would have. The first convoy of trucks carrying aid from the nearby city of Cúcuta, Colombia, had not yet approached the border, and there were other places it could cross."

Tuesday
Feb052019

The Commentariat -- February 6, 2019

Afternoon Update:

... Allyson Chiu of the Washington Post: "Despite being engaged in a tense standoff with Trump over funding for his border wall, for most of the evening, Pelosi managed to limit her reactions to subtle head-shaking, pursed lips and eye rolls. But when Trump, who has been accused of exacerbating deep divisions, declared, 'We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good,' she appeared to be unable to hold back. Rising from her seat along with others in attendance, Pelosi began applauding with her arms oddly extended out toward the president. When Trump turned toward her and the pair locked eyes, Pelosi, still clapping, appeared to smirk."

... Rick Wilson of the Daily Beast: "... Tuesday night's effort showed every sign of being created, destroyed, cut, pasted, reboot, and then run through an English-Urdu translation program and back again. It felt more like last-minute Sharpie-scribble than wordsmithing.... Tuesday night was ... marked by his usual sniffles, the Il Douche hand gestures, and his tendency to veer between subjects without transition or pause.... Since a key requirement of Esoteric Trumpism is that its followers live always in Year Zero, the Trump-centric internet is gushing praise over President Bigly Rightwords, treating his largely incoherent word gumbo as if he had delivered a modern-day Gettysburg Address.... The uplift material in the speech was a rich vein of false equivalencies and collision with reality.... Because Trump is bleeding politically, and under rising legal pressure from every quarter, last night's State of the Union speech contained his usual pastiche of Trumpian paranoia about the border, dick-waving braggadocio, outright lies, and movie-script ideas passed off as intelligence reports.... 'An economic miracle is taking place in the United States and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous, partisan investigations. If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn't work that way,' said Trump..., echoing Nixon's fateful remarks. 'Nice country we've got going here. Either Mueller gets it, or the economy does.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Other than that, Mr. Wilson, how did you like the speech?

Unfuckingbelievable. Gregory Schneider & Laura Vozzella of the Washington Post: "Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) said Wednesday he dressed in blackface during college, elevating the Capitol's scandals to a new level that engulfed the entire executive branch of government. 'In 1980, when I was a 19-year-old undergraduate in college, some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song,' Herring said in a statement. 'It sounds ridiculous even now writing it. But because of our ignorance and glib attitudes -- and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others -- we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup.' Herring referred to it as a 'onetime occurrence' and said he accepted 'full responsibility.'... Herring's acknowledgment comes as Gov. Ralph Northam (D) faces calls for his resignation after a photo emerged on his 1984 medical school yearbook page featuring someone in blackface standing next to someone in Ku Klux Klan robes. And early Monday, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) denied the allegations of a woman who said he sexually assaulted her at the Democratic National Convention in 2004."

Andrew Desiderio of Politico: "Testimony from ... Michael Cohen, before the House Intelligence Committee this week has been delayed, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) announced Wednesday. 'In the interests of the investigation, Michael Cohen's testimony has been postponed until February 28th,' Schiff, the chairman of the committee, said in a brief statement."

Rebecca Morin of Politico: "Former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu [D] ... told CNN on Wednesday morning that he does not think he will seek his party's 2020 presidential nomination, citing the already packed field of 'great candidates.'"

*****

SOTU Address & Rebuttal:

... Sheryl Stolberg of the New York Times: "Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost her race in November to be Georgia's governor, delivered the Democrats' official response to President Trump's State of the Union address on Tuesday night by outlining the party's vision for lower health care costs and a more inclusive immigration policy, and pressing her case that access to the voting booth should be easier, not harder.... 'This is the next battle for our democracy, one where all eligible citizens can have their say about the vision we want for our country,' she said. 'We must reject the cynicism that says allowing every eligible vote to be cast and counted is a "power grab." Americans understand that these are the values our brave men and women in uniform and our veterans risk their lives to defend. The 'power grab' comment was a direct reference to Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, who used that phrase to denounce House Democratic legislation to expand access to the voting booth.... She also attacked Mr. Trump over his immigration policies. 'We know bipartisanship could craft a 21st-century immigration plan, but this administration chooses to cage children and tear families apart,' Ms. Abrams said. 'Compassionate treatment at the border is not the same as open borders.' Two presidential hopefuls -- Senators Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont (who has not yet announced his candidacy but is widely expected to), and Kamala Harris, Democrat of California -- delivered their own responses."

What Not to Say in a SOTU Speech. Philip Rucker & Toluse Olorunnipa of the Washington Post: "President Trump confronted a split Congress for the first time Tuesday night by delivering a dissonant State of the Union address, interspersing uplifting paeans to bipartisan compromise with chilling depictions of murder and ruin. Calling the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border 'an urgent national crisis,' Trump again called on Congress to approve construction of his long-promised wall -- and argued that without the physical barrier, working-class Americans would lose their jobs and grapple with dangerous crime and overcrowded schools and hospitals. Trump also sounded an unmistakable threat to the new Democratic House majority over impending oversight investigations into his conduct and personal finances, as well as alleged corruption in the administration.... 'An economic miracle is taking place in the United States -- and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations,' Trump said. 'If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.'... The president Tuesday sought to paint undocumented immigrants who cross the southern border, often seeking asylum, as an invading force prone to violent crime. 'As we speak, large, organized caravans are on the march to the United States,' Trump said, adding that he 'just heard' that Mexican cities were trying to rid their communities of migrants by directing truckloads of them to areas along the border where there is little protection." ...

... Peter Baker of the New York Times: "Republicans jumped to their feet at the president's calls to curb immigration, limit late-term abortions and ensure that the United States does not turn to socialism, even chanting 'U-S-A, U-S-A' a couple of times as if at a Trump campaign rally. 'That sounds so good,' he exulted. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, sitting behind Mr. Trump for the first time, and other Democrats largely remained in their seats without applauding and expressed only tepid enthusiasm even for his mention of goals intended to appeal to them, like infrastructure and paid parental leave. Ms. Pelosi maintained a polite, even amused smile on her face for much of the speech.... He devoted 15 minutes of the hour-and-22-minute speech to immigration with no concession to Democratic priorities like a path to citizenship for immigrants brought into the country illegally as children.... As he and his team drafted his address in recent days, he has groused about the text, complaining that it was too gentle on Democrats, according to people briefed on the matter. The president insisted on sharpening some of the lines in the speech and rebuffed aides, who urged him to congratulate Ms. Pelosi on her ascension to the speakership." ...

... Yahoo! News has the full text of Trump's speech, as prepared. ...

... Kate Feldman of the New York Daily News: "Traditionally, the Speaker of the House introduces the President inside the House Chamber after the House Sergeant at Arms, as Paul Ryan did for Trump last year. But Pelosi didn't have a chance Tuesday night, as Trump instead launched right into his speech." ...

... The Washington Post's fact-checkers knock themselves out. It is just shocking that a prepared State of the Union speech -- a solemn, Constitutionally-mandated duty that in a real administration would be vetted, vetted & vetted again by fact-checkers & experts in every department -- is instead a slap-dash compendium of lies & exaggerations. ...

The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime -- one of the highest in the country, and considered one of our nation's most dangerous cities. Now, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of our safest cities. -- Donald Trump, prepared malarkey

In fact, El Paso's crime rate had been dropping for years when construction on border fence began in 2008. However, the crime rate actually rose during construction and in the year after completion of a fence, according to an analysis of FBI crime data by The El Paso Times. The city's sheriff, Richard Wiles, a Democrat, disputed Trump's characterization as 'falsehoods' used to 'justify the building of a 2,000 mile wall. The facts are clear. While it is true that El Paso is one of the safest cities in the nation, it has never been ... considered one of our nation's most dangerous cities,' Wiles said in a statement provided to NBC News. 'And, El Paso was a safe city long before any wall was built. President Trump continues to give a false narrative about a great city that truly represents what this great nation is all about. -- Jane Timms, NBC News

John Cassidy of the New Yorker reprises the SOTU speech. Here's a piece: "Then it was onto the 'caravans,' MS-13, and the grief-stricken family of an elderly couple who were allegedly murdered, in Trump's telling, by an undocumented immigrant. After going on in this vein for several minutes, he said, 'Simply put, walls work and walls save lives.' Nobody should need reminding that this is the line that Trump took in the run-up to the midterms, which resulted in a heavy defeat for his party. It is also the line he took during the five-week shutdown, which ended with him being forced to back down and reopen the federal government.... About the only time he evoked any real enthusiasm from the Democrats assembled before him was when he hailed the new female members of Congress, many of whom got elected by opposing him personally.... If history is a guide, he'll return to his usual belligerent mode within days, perhaps hours." ...

Eric Lach of the New Yorker: "... on Tuesday, [Trump] offered unfiltered immigrant scapegoating, laying practically all the sins of the country at immigrants' feet. 'Working-class Americans are left to pay the price for mass illegal migration,' Trump declared. 'Reduced jobs, lower wages, overburdened schools and hospitals, increased crime, and a depleted social safety net.' Insecure jobs, stagnant wages, underfunded schools and safety-net programs, an embarrassing health-care system, crime rates -- immigrants, undocumented or otherwise, are responsible for none of these problems.... 'Year after year,' Trump said, 'countless Americans are murdered by criminal illegal aliens.' This is untrue. There is no undocumented-immigrant murder wave.... On Tuesday he also spoke of a 'smart, strategic, see-through steel barrier,' and about a 'common-sense proposal.' But Trump's border wall wasn't born as a common-sense proposal.... It was an imagined monument to anti-immigrant sentiment, telling people outside the U.S. to stay out. Trump's shutdown was fomented not by any 'crisis' on the actual border but by a political crisis involving Trump's base.... No amount of fear-mongering should distract from that."

Matt Ford of the New Republic: "Tuesday's address will not succeed in changing Trump's political fortunes. Indeed, his State of the Union address was, like much of his presidency, a waste of America's time.... Trump reviewed what he saw as the accomplishments of his presidency. He took credit for economic growth, especially in the oil and gas industries, and touted his administration's record in cutting federal regulations.... But the dominant theme of Tuesday's address was immigration once again. His approach to the subject struck the same themes he's made since announcing his candidacy in 2015: that undocumented immigrants are dangerous criminals who murder and rape Americans, and that only a wall along the southern border can stop their rampage. There's no evidence to support this, but that hasn't stopped Trump from articulating his hardline and xenophobic vision for the nation's immigration laws. 'Not one more American life should be lost because our nation failed to control its very dangerous border,' he said.... Trump says that Americans have a choice to make, and that much is true: They will make it in 2020. But Trump made own his choice long ago. Greatness never had a chance."

"The State of the Union Is Crooked." Jonathan Chait: "Trump insisted he would deal with the Democratic Congress -- but only if it stopped investigating him. 'If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,' he said, 'It just doesn't work that way!'... Trump did not decry partisan investigations, or excessive or duplicative investigations. He insisted Congress should not investigate his administration at all.... Trump's demand that progress on what Trump describes as the peoples' vital business be contingent on Congress halting all investigations is a confession of his true priorities. It's fitting that, his State of the Union address is a paean to the abuse of power."

Aaron Rupar of Vox: "Trump's main goal on Tuesday night seemed to be to rebrand himself as a unifying leader pushing a hopeful message.... Feel-good words -- which Trump reportedly groused to aides were too soft on Democrats -- are easy enough to read off a teleprompter, as Trump did on Tuesday, and as he's done during his previous primetime televised speeches. But the president's harsher tone during unscripted moments reveals he's anything but the unifying figure he portrayed himself to be during the State of the Union. During his interview on CBS that aired last Sunday, for example, Trump said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi 'doesn't mind human trafficking' and added, 'You have people dying all over the country because of people like Nancy Pelosi.' Less than a week ago Trump criticized Democrats as 'the Party of late term abortion, high taxes, Open Border and Crime!' on Twitter. (He even used his speech to call out Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam on abortion.)... While Trump called upon Congress to do what he wants to avoid another shutdown, he didn't offer Democrats anything in return. He still hasn't. But that's not how negotiations work."

If you can't stand to watch, you might find the Washington Post's liveblog of the SOTU speech less painful. At 6:10 pm ET: The White House sent excerpts of Trump's speech to some Congressional staff. "The White House reminded Hill staffers, 'As always, we would welcome positive statements from your bosses after the speech.'"

** Trump Flogs a Dead Hero ... and Others. Peter Baker & Michael Grynbaum of the New York Times: "... at a private lunch for television anchors [prior to the SOTU address, President* Trump] offered searing assessments of a host of Democrats. Mr. Trump dismissed former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. as 'dumb,' called Senator Chuck Schumer of New York a 'nasty son of a bitch' and mocked Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia for 'choking like a dog' at a news conference where he tried to explain a racist yearbook photo, according to multiple people in the room.... He seemed confident about his chances for re-election next year, breaking down the emerging field of possible opponents with scathing assessments.... 'I hope I haven't wounded Pocahontas too badly,' he said [of Sen. Elizabeth Warren]. 'I'd like to run against her.'... He recounted again the story of what he considered Senator John McCain's betrayal in voting against advancing a measure to repeal President Barack Obama's health care program. Although Mr. McCain has since died, Mr. Trump remains upset. 'By the way,' Mr. Trump said, 'he wrote a book and the book bombed.'" ...

     ... From Rucker & Olorunnipa's WashPo report linked above: "In fact..., [McCain's] final book, a capstone to his life in public service..., published in 2018, became a New York Times bestseller." If you're going to gratuitously trash a dead war hero, it's a good idea to at least get your facts straight.

Rebecca Morin of Politico: "Energy Secretary Rick Perry was selected as the 'designated survivor' for Tuesday night's State of the Union address."

Sheryl Stolberg: "When President Trump delivers his State of the Union address on Tuesday night to Congress -- his first under divided government -- the left wing of the ascendant House Democrats will have a rare opportunity to confront him.... The new Democrats -- many of them women, and many of them people of color -- are planning to send their own pointed messages to the president with their choices of guests and attire. Many women will wear white -- the color of the women's suffrage movement -- to spotlight issues like reproductive rights and equal pay. Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the Democratic leader, will be handing out white lapel ribbons to the men.... Members of Congress each get one ticket to bring a guest to the State of the Union address; sometimes they invite family members, but more often they use their tickets to make a point Addressing gun violence is high on the agendas of several Democrats.... Mr. Trump's immigration policy is also top of mind for Democrats this year. Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman, Democrat of New Jersey, is bringing Victorina Morales, an undocumented immigrant who spoke out about her work at Mr. Trump's golf resort in Bedminster, N.J." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Sorry, but it isn't exactly "left wing" to return to Eisenhower-era policies.

So Much for Bipartisanship. Jordain Carney of the Hill: "President Trump and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) traded barbs on Tuesday ahead of the president's second State of the Union address. Trump knocked the Senate Democratic leader for criticizing his upcoming speech, which the president will deliver to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night. 'I see Schumer is already criticizing my State of the Union speech, even though he hasn't seen it yet. He's just upset that he didn't win the Senate, after spending a fortune, like he thought he would. Too bad we weren't given more credit for the Senate win by the media!' Trump said in a tweet. Trump's tweet came after Schumer used back-to-back floor speeches this week to knock the administration, saying it's mired in 'chaos.' Schumer, during a Senate floor speech on Tuesday, predicted Trump would use his prime time remarks to make policy promises that he won't keep." (Also linked yesterday.)


John Cassidy
of the New Yorker makes a compelling argument that Trump started out as a weak president*, & has only grown weaker. "The White House's victories, such as the passage of a tax-reform bill, 'usually involve Trump having adopted the position of the congressional Republicans, not the other way around,' [scholar Matthew] Glassman noted." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Case in Point. Haley Byrd of CNN: "As ... Donald Trump prepares to once again make a bipartisan appeal in his State of the Union address Tuesday, members of Congress are linking arms on one of his favorite issues: trade. Yet they're working against the president, seeking to limit his authority to impose tariffs unilaterally on national security grounds, as he did last year on steel and aluminum, sparking a dispute with the European Union and alienating close partners such as Canada and Mexico. Multiple Republican lawmakers are working alongside Democrats to put forward legislation curtailing Trump's existing national security tariff powers." (Also linked yesterday.)

"The Plan to Keep Trump's Taxes Hidden." Nancy Cook of Politico: "The new House Democratic majority is widely expected to test one of Donald Trump's ultimate red lines by demanding the president's personal tax returns -- and the Trump administration has been gearing up for months to fight back hard. Trump's Treasury Department is readying plans to drag the expected Democratic request for Trump's past tax filings, which he has closely guarded, into a quagmire of arcane legal arguments. At the same time, officials intend to publicly cast the request as a nakedly partisan exercise. The two-pronged scheme was developed by a handful of top political appointees and lawyers inside the department.... But whatever the members or staffers find must remain private -- and that's where the request of Trump's returns becomes potentially tricky for Democrats. A related section within the Internal Revenue Code says any federal employee who leaks tax information is committing a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: That's ridiculous. The public has a right to know if (ha ha) Trump lied about his assets, liabilities & tax avoidance schemes. His taxes should be released, in full, to the public, so tax experts can go at them & help Congress and the public understand what's behind the numbers.

This Russia Thing, Etc., Ctd.

Uh-Oh. Erica Orden & Cristina Alesci of CNN: "Federal prosecutors in New York have requested interviews in recent weeks with executives at the Trump Organization, according to people familiar with the matter, signaling a growing potential threat to President Donald Trump and those in his orbit from criminal investigations by the Manhattan US Attorney's office. Trump and his legal team have long harbored concerns that investigations by New York federal prosecutors -- which could last throughout his presidency -- may ultimately pose more danger to him, his family and his allies than the inquiry by special counsel Robert Mueller...."

Azeen Ghorayshi, et al., of BuzzFeed News: "BuzzFeed News is today publishing a cache of internal Trump Organization documents that lay bare the secret negotiations [re: a Trump Moscow tower] that continued long after [Michael] Cohen claimed the deal had been abandoned. The documents, many of which have been exclusively obtained by BuzzFeed News, reveal that -- despite Trump's claim that the development was never more than a passing notion -- the effort to get the tower built was long-running, detail-oriented and directly entwined with the ups and downs of his campaign. As Trump went from rally to rally, vociferously denying any dealings in Russia, his representatives, Michael Cohen and ... Felix Sater, worked with Trump Organization lawyers and even Ivanka Trump to push forward negotiations to build a 100-story edifice just miles from the Kremlin. The fixers believed they needed Putin's support to pull off the lucrative deal, and they planned to use Trump's public praise for him to help secure it. At the same time, they plotted to persuade Putin to openly declare his support for Trump's candidacy. 'If he says it we own this election,' Sater wrote to Cohen." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Marcy Wheeler: "BuzzFeed has posted the documents showing Michael Cohen and Felix Sater organizing a Trump Tower deal until June 14, literally as the news of the DNC hack broke. The documents show how closely those negotiations interacted with the June 9 meeting. The Trump Tower meeting between Don Jr and Russians promising dirt was scheduled for 4PM.... Four witnesses to the meeting (the four whose responses weren't coached by Trump Organization lawyers) said that the meeting ended with Don Jr saying that his father might or would revisit Magnitsky sanctions if he became President.... At about that time, Trump tweeted out a reference to Hillary's emails, invoking 823 staffers, which was a good ballpark estimate for how many staffers (including unpaid advisors) she really had at the time.... At that same time, Felix Sater texted Michael Cohen to tell him he was working on setting up Cohen's trip to St. Petersburg.... At that point, Sater told Cohen there was a 'very strong chance' he would meet Russia's President, which Cohen and Don Jr would have both believed meant that the Trump Organization could make $300 million by lending Trump's name to the tallest tower in Europe. Quid pro quo, all executed on social media." ...

... Colin Kalmbacher of Law & Crime: "BuzzFeed's latest bombshell is a treasure trove of documents detailing ... Donald Trump's business interests in Russia -- business interests he has long denied. This release of internal Trump Organization documents spans over 200 pages and contains myriad communications between various members of Trump's inner circle -- including his longtime attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, Cohen's associate Felix Sater, Ivanka Trump, and others -- as well as various figures in Russian finance and media. Of particular interest here are Cohen's and Sater's contacts with Russia's state-controlled VTB Bank. There's more than a scant possibility that VTB Bank is the mystery Robert Mueller opponent currently jockeying for unprecedented secrecy from the U.S. Supreme Court. Operating on that assumption, the following takeaways from BuzzFeed's article explore the possibility that VTB Bank's role in the ongoing Russiagate drama may become more prominent in the days and weeks to come."

There's Always an Angle, and Always a Trump Buddy to Exploit It. Justin Elliott of ProPublica & Ilya Marritz of WNYC: "The investment firm founded by the chairman of Donald Trump's inaugural committee, Tom Barrack, developed a plan to profit off its connections to the incoming administration and foreign dignitaries, according to a confidential memo obtained by WNYC and ProPublica. 'The key is to strategically cultivate domestic and international relations while avoiding any appearance of lobbying,' the memo says. Colony, which primarily invests in real estate, sought to capitalize on its access to the White House to get an early lead on infrastructure investments and to attract assets from potential investors.... The memo, from Barrack's investment firm, then called Colony NorthStar, is dated February 2017, just a month after the inaugural festivities organized by Barrack, who is a longtime Trump friend.... Barrack hosted a chairman's dinner during inaugural week, with his own invite list, which included businesspeople and foreign dignitaries."

Allegra Kirkland & Josh Kovensky of TPM: "Only one person's name was reportedly listed in the subpoena issued Monday to President Trump's inaugural committee: big-time Los Angeles political fundraiser Imaad Zuberi.... Zuberi's ... firm Avenue Ventures contributed $900,000 to the Trump inaugural committee. Neither Zuberi nor anyone else involved with the committee has been accused of any criminal wrongdoing.... The 48-year-old who was born in Albany, New York, and attended USC has come under scrutiny in recent years for failing to disclose the extent of his business ties to foreign governments. He is known in Washington, D.C. circles for bundling hundreds of thousands of dollars to leading Democratic politicians, including the presidential campaigns of former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton -- attaining the rank of 'Hillblazer,' according to one Clinton campaign memo released by Wikileaks.... Conversations reported by the [Daily] Beast [between Zuberi & Michael Cohen & Zuberi & Elliot Broidy] suggested Zuberi may have sought to use his ... donations as an overture to securing future business with the Trump administration." ...

... Erin Banco of the Daily Beast: "... Imaad Zuberi's ... name also appears on a document tied to an inaugural event featuring foreign power brokers and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the Trump ally who ran the House intelligence committee. The event is being probed by the Special Counsel's Office and federal prosecutors in Manhattan.... The breakfast event, which also featured ... Michael Flynn, among its 60 or so guests, included representatives from countries across the world. The event has come under scrutiny by federal prosecutors in Manhattan as part of their probe into whether the Trump inaugural committee misspent funds and if donors tried to buy influence in the White House.... The Special Counsel's Office is also looking at the breakfast as part of its investigation into whether foreigners contributed money to the Trump inaugural fund and PAC by possibly using American intermediaries."

Ken Vogel of the New York Times: "Federal prosecutors in recent weeks have been interviewing witnesses about the flow of foreign money to three powerful law and lobbying firms that Paul Manafort recruited seven years ago to help improve the image of the Russia-aligned president of Ukraine, people familiar with the questioning said. The previously unreported interviews about the flow of the money are among the latest developments in the investigation of key figures who worked at the three firms -- Mercury Public Affairs, the Podesta Group and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Prosecutors have focused on the role of Skadden Arps's lead partner on the account, the former Obama White House counsel Gregory B. Craig, in arranging financing and media coverage for his firms' work, the people familiar with the questioning said. And the prosecutors ... have been asking about the extent to which the lead partners on the accounts for Mercury and Podesta -- Vin Weber, a former Republican member of Congress, and the Democratic fund-raiser Tony Podesta -- were involved in orchestrating their firms' day-to-day lobbying and public relations on the account." ...


Trumpy Tax Filers Are Shocked Trump Screwed Them. Brad Reed
of the Raw Story: "Multiple supporters of ... Donald Trump over the past couple of weeks have taken to Twitter to air their grievances about the president's signature tax cut plan. Even though the 2017 GOP tax cut is leading to spiking federal deficits thanks to its generous benefits to corporations, many middle-class Americans are winding up having to pay more because the bill eliminated multiple deductions used by middle-class families to lower their annual tax payments. Among other things, the tax bill capped deductions for taxes paid to state and local governments, while massively increasing the amount of money you must donate to qualify for a charitable giving deduction. Several Trump voters who have done their taxes are not happy about this and they're letting both the president and the Republican Party hear it -- check out some of their tweets...."

Lee Fang of the Intercept: "House Republican lawmakers are being encouraged by their party's leadership to play up gruesome murders, rapes, and other crimes committed by undocumented immigrants in the United States. In a newsletter sent on Friday, House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., provided the caucus and staff with a messaging update that compiled immigrant crimes by date and congressional district. The newsletter is used by the GOP caucus to provide talking points and messaging guidance. The edition of the newsletter dealing with immigrant crimes, which was obtained by The Intercept, offered a messaging opportunity to leverage the government shutdown against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.... Under the header 'The Democrats' far-left immigration agenda has tragic real-world consequences,' the newsletter goes on to list crimes committed over the last two decades."

Presidential Race 2020

Elena Schneider of Politico: "Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar will hold an event in Minnesota on Sunday to announce whether she will run for president, she said Tuesday night, inching closer to a possible campaign launch. Klobuchar told MSNBC that she will announce her decision on Sunday in Minneapolis' Boom Island Park -- 'as in, Boom Island, "drop the mic,"' she said.... Klobuchar immediately posted on Twitter: 'I'm making a big announcement on Sunday. Join me there,' directing users to RSVP on her website.&" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Klobuchar is the one potential candidate whom I think Trump can't beat. He won't be able to rattle her; his insults will fall flat against Minnesota-nice. She's smart, fair-minded, well-qualified -- and a Midwesterner in a field of "left coast" candidates. Unless she's been bonking mike pence in the Senate cloakroom and taking gobs of cash from PutinPAC, Klobuchar is a winner.

Annie Linskey & Amy Gardner of the Washington Post: "Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Tuesday that she was sorry that she identified herself as a Native American for almost two decades, reflecting her ongoing struggle to quiet a controversy that continues to haunt her.... Her comments more fully explain the regret she expressed last week to the chief of the Cherokee Nation, the first time she's said she was sorry for claiming American Indian heritage.... In addition to the DNA test, she released employment documents over the summer to show she didn't use ethnicity to further her career.... But as Warren undergoes increased scrutiny as a presidential candidate, additional documents could surface to keep the issue alive. Using an open records request during a general inquiry, for example, The Post obtained Warren's registration card for the State Bar of Texas, providing a previously undisclosed example of Warren identifying as an 'American Indian.'... Dated April 1986, it is the first document to surface showing Warren making the claim in her own handwriting."

Nicole Winfield of the AP: "Pope Francis on Tuesday publicly acknowledged the scandal of priests and bishops sexually abusing nuns and vowed to do more to fight the problem, the latest sign that there is no end in sight to the Catholic Church's abuse crisis -- and that it now has a reckoning from the #MeToo movement. Francis admitted to the problem for the first time in public during a news conference while returning to Rome from the United Arab Emirates. The acknowledgment comes just two weeks before he hosts an unprecedented gathering of bishops to craft a global response to the scandal of priestly predators who target children and the superiors who covered up the crimes."

Beyond the Beltway

Ryan Nobles, et al., of CNN: "Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam remained in power Monday but is having a difficult time finding allies, begging his Cabinet members to give him the chance to prove he was not the person pictured in a racist photo that surfaced Friday. Northam oversaw a regularly scheduled Cabinet meeting Monday morning that a source inside the meeting described as 'solemn.' According to that source, the governor specifically said that if he resigns, he would be resigning as a 'racist for life,' and that the only way he can clear his name is to stay in office and convince people that he is not in that photo and that the photo does not represent who he is." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Sarah McCammon of NPR: "A California woman who has accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexually assaulting her 15 years ago has hired the same law firm that represented Christine Blasey Ford in her allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Fairfax has denied the allegation, which first surfaced on a conservative blog and was later described in a report by The Washington Post. The allegation has come to light just as Fairfax could be on the verge of becoming the state's chief executive in the wake of a scandal involving Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam and a blackface yearbook photo."

Monday
Feb042019

The Commentariat -- February 5, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Sheryl Stolberg of the New York Times: "When President Trump delivers his State of the Union address on Tuesday night to Congress -- his first under divided government -- the left wing of the ascendant House Democrats will have a rare opportunity to confront him.... The new Democrats -- many of them women, and many of them people of color -- are planning to send their own pointed messages to the president with their choices of guests and attire. Many women will wear white -- the color of the women's suffrage movement -- to spotlight issues like reproductive rights and equal pay. Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the Democratic leader, will be handing out white lapel ribbons to the men.... Members of Congress each get one ticket to bring a guest to the State of the Union address; sometimes they invite family members, but more often they use their tickets to make a point. Addressing gun violence is high on the agendas of several Democrats.... Mr. Trump's immigration policy is also top of mind for Democrats this year. Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman, Democrat of New Jersey, is bringing Victorina Morales, an undocumented immigrant who spoke out about her work at Mr. Trump's golf resort in Bedminster, N.J." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Sorry, but it isn't exactly "left wing" to return to Eisenhower-era policies.

So Much for Bipartisanship. Jordain Carney of the Hill: "President Trump and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) traded barbs on Tuesday ahead of the president's second State of the Union address. Trump knocked the Senate Democratic leader for criticizing his upcoming speech, which the president will deliver to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night. 'I see Schumer is already criticizing my State of the Union speech, even though he hasn't seen it yet. He's just upset that he didn't win the Senate, after spending a fortune, like he thought he would. Too bad we weren't given more credit for the Senate win by the media!' Trump said in a tweet. Trump's tweet came after Schumer used back-to-back floor speeches this week to knock the administration, saying it's mired in 'chaos.' Schumer, during a Senate floor speech on Tuesday, predicted Trump would use his prime time remarks to make policy promises that he won't keep."

John Cassidy of the New Yorker makes a compelling argument that Trump started out as a weak president*, & has only grown weaker. "The White House's victories, such as the passage of a tax-reform bill, 'usually involve Trump having adopted the position of the congressional Republicans, not the other way around,' [scholar Matthew] Glassman noted." ...

... Case in Point. Haley Byrd of CNN: "As ... Donald Trump prepares to once again make a bipartisan appeal in his State of the Union address Tuesday, members of Congress are linking arms on one of his favorite issues: trade. Yet they're working against the president, seeking to limit his authority to impose tariffs unilaterally on national security grounds, as he did last year on steel and aluminum, sparking a dispute with the European Union and alienating close partners such as Canada and Mexico. Multiple Republican lawmakers are working alongside Democrats to put forward legislation curtailing Trump's existing national security tariff powers."

"The Plan to Keep Trump's Taxes Hidden." Nancy Cook of Politico: "The new House Democratic majority is widely expected to test one of Donald Trump's ultimate red lines by demanding the president's personal tax returns -- and the Trump administration has been gearing up for months to fight back hard. Trump's Treasury Department is readying plans to drag the expected Democratic request for Trump's past tax filings, which he has closely guarded, into a quagmire of arcane legal arguments. At the same time, officials intend to publicly cast the request as a nakedly partisan exercise. The two-pronged scheme was developed by a handful of top political appointees and lawyers inside the department -- with the ultimate goal of keeping the president's past returns private.... But whatever the members or staffers find must remain private -- and that's where the request of Trump's returns becomes potentially tricky for Democrats. A related section within the Internal Revenue Code says any federal employee who leaks tax information is committing a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: That's ridiculous. The public has a right to know if (ha ha) Trump lied about his assets, liabilities & tax avoidance schemes. His taxes should be released, in full, to the public, so tax experts can go at them & help Congress and the public understand what's behind the numbers.

The Lie Heard 'Round the World. Azeen Ghorayshi, et al., of BuzzFeed News: "BuzzFeed News is today publishing a cache of internal Trump Organization documents that lay bare the secret negotiations [re: a Trump Moscow tower] that continued long after [Michael] Cohen claimed the deal had been abandoned. The documents, many of which have been exclusively obtained by BuzzFeed News, reveal that -- despite Trump's claim that the development was never more than a passing notion -- the effort to get the tower built was long-running, detail-oriented and directly entwined with the ups and downs of his campaign. As Trump went from rally to rally, vociferously denying any dealings in Russia, his representatives, Michael Cohen and his associate Felix Sater, worked with Trump Organization lawyers and even Ivanka Trump to push forward negotiations to build a 100-story edifice just miles from the Kremlin. The fixers believed they needed Putin's support to pull off the lucrative deal, and they planned to use Trump's public praise for him to help secure it. At the same time, they plotted to persuade Putin to openly declare his support for Trump's candidacy. 'If he says it we own this election,' Sater wrote to Cohen."

Ryan Nobles, et al., of CNN: "Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam remained in power Monday but is having a difficult time finding allies, begging his Cabinet members to give him the chance to prove he was not the person pictured in a racist photo that surfaced Friday. Northam oversaw a regularly scheduled Cabinet meeting Monday morning that a source inside the meeting described as 'solemn.' According to that source, the governor specifically said that if he resigns, he would be resigning as a 'racist for life,' and that the only way he can clear his name is to stay in office and convince people that he is not in that photo and that the photo does not represent who he is."

*****

David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "Facing growing political head winds, President Trump on Tuesday will try to convince the nation that his presidency remains strong and viable in a State of the Union address that aides described as a sincere appeal to broaden his governing coalition. But Trump is also expected to reaffirm his demand for Congress to support his hard-line immigration agenda and offer a robust defense of foreign policy initiatives that have engendered fierce criticism from Democrats who have asserted newfound power to try to blunt his agenda. The dynamic suggests that any attempt from the usually truculent president to proffer a nod to bipartisanship and cooperation during his prime-time remarks is almost certain to be short-lived and viewed as duplicitous by his critics." Mrs. McC: By his critics? One hardly needs to be a critic to notice Trump is duplicitous. ...

     ... OR, as the headline writer at New York's "Daily Intelligencer" put it, "The theme of Trump's State of the Union: Republicans and Democrats should come together ... to give me my wall." No link.

Matt Stevens & Mihir Zaveri of the New York Times report the list of Trump's guests for the SOTU. One is "Joshua Trump, a sixth-grade student from Wilmington, Del., who ... has 'been bullied in school due to his last name,' the White House's announcement said. (He is not related to the president.)... Last year, Mrs. Trump -- who has said she is the 'most bullied person' in the world -- introduced her 'Be Best' public awareness campaign, which seeks to teach children to be kind." Mrs. McC: This is part of the "poor, pitiful (in this case, fake) billionaire" syndrome; see also poor, pitiful Howard Schultz, who has been subjected to "an assault" because he's thinking of running an independent presidential campaign that would very likely give Trump a second term. Story linked below. ...

... Sophie Weiner of Splinter: "... everyone is embarrassed by things about themselves when they're in sixth grade. It's normal and totally understandable. What's not normal? Going to the State of the Union as 'the kid bullied because he has the same last name as the president.' Joshua, here's some advice, from one person with an easily ridiculed name to another: in order to transcend it, you gotta own it. Getting invited to the State of the Union as 'that bullied kid' is NOT gonna make things easier for you with the kids at school. If your name wasn't already inextricably linked to the president's, it is now." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: A normal president would invite a kid to the SOTU who had been bullied because s/he was a member of a minority, say, a Muslim or a transgender kid. However, this President* gets a kick out of bullying these very same groups. But bullied because the kid is a Trump? Oh, the humanity! ...

... Amanda Arnold of New York: "... Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced on Monday that she was bringing Ana Maria Archila [to the SOTU], one of the women who famously confronted Senator Jeff Flake in an elevator during Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings."

This Russia Thing, Etc., Ctd.

Maggie Haberman & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "President Trump's inaugural committee was ordered on Monday to turn over documents about its donors, finances and activities to federal prosecutors in Manhattan, according to two people familiar with the investigation into the committee's activities. Prosecutors are seeking documents related to all of the committee's donors and event attendees; any benefits handed out, including tickets and photo opportunities with the president; federal disclosure filings; vendors; contracts; and more, one of the people said.... In the subpoena, investigators also showed interest in whether any foreigners illegally donated to the committee, as well as whether committee staff knew that such donations were illegal, asking for documents laying out legal requirements for donations. Federal law prohibits foreign contributions to federal campaigns, political action committees and inaugural funds." ...

... Matt Naham of Law & Crime: "... prosecutors have shown interest in investigating whether wealthy donors gave money in exchange for access into and influence within the Trump administration. That news came out of the the Southern District of New York's investigation of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen. The Wall Street Journal reported that the investigation was made possible in no small part because of materials seized during April 2018 raids on Cohen's home, office and hotel room[.]... It had already been reported as far back as April that Mueller was investigating whether 'wealthy Russians illegally funneled cash donations directly or indirectly into Donald Trump's presidential campaign and inauguration.' Sources said at the time claimed that Mueller had a theory that 'straw donors' (particularly Americans) acted as 'a vessel through which they could pump money into the campaign and inauguration fund.'"

... Marcy Wheeler: "My guess is that SDNY is only now getting around to digging into what is surely a vast swamp of corruption because Mueller asked them to wait until his inauguration related equities were done. Which may be consistent with reports that his investigation is coming to a head, perhaps pending just the Mystery Appellant, Andrew Miller, and William Barr's confirmation. Which may mean that after the results in Mueller's Russian investigation soften Trump up, this investigation will just be ripening, possibly even at a time where Trump can be indicted."

Emma Loop, et al., of BuzzFeed News: "A Russian-born lobbyist who attended the controversial Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 received a series of suspicious payments totaling half a million dollars before and after the encounter. Documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News show that Rinat Akhmetshin, a Soviet military officer turned Washington lobbyist, deposited large, round-number amounts of cash in the months preceding and following the meeting, where a Russian lawyer offered senior Trump campaign officials dirt on Hillary Clinton."

Darren Samuelsohn of Politico: "A federal judge on Monday pushed back by a week Paul Manafort's sentencing date while she considers allegations that the former Trump campaign chairman lied to special counsel Robert Mueller's office and a grand jury in violation of the terms of his guilty plea.... Earlier Monday, [Judge Amy] Jackson held a closed-door hearing for 4½ hours with Manafort, his lawyers and Mueller's office, where she was set to go over the evidence that the special counsel has presented about Manafort's alleged violations of the guilty plea."

Dan Friedman of Mother Jones: "The House intelligence committee is set to vote Wednesday to formally send the Justice Department transcripts of interviews from the panel's investigation into Russian election interference, a step that could help special counsel Robert Mueller charge some witnesses with lying to Congress.... A notice of a closed committee business meeting says the panel will 'take votes related to the transmission of certain committee transcripts' to the DOJ on Wednesday. The notice doesn't specify how many interviews that includes, but Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the committee's chairman, has said he wants to move as fast as possible to turn over to Mueller transcripts of the more than 50 witness interviews that the panel conducted during its investigation." Probably tops on the list are Donnie Junior & Jared Kushner, whom Democrats suspect lied to the committee.


Aaron Blake
of the Washington Post runs down a number of the contradictory remarks Trump made in his CBS interview, which aired Sunday. As Daniel Dale wrote (tweet below), interviewers would do well to slow down. Mrs. McC: That might help, but it might not. I've heard interviewers ask follow-up questions that highlight some contradiction, & Trump just completely changes the subject: "Why didn't you do your homework, Donnie?" "The dog ate it." "You don't have a dog." "I'm an underprivileged kid from Jamaica, Queens who doesn't even have a pet. You should be saying great things about me." An interviewer would have to go back & back to the initial question until Trump finally ripped the mike out of his lapel & trounced out in a huff. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Eric Levitz of New York: "In an interview with CBS News, the president said that he does not want his youngest son Barron to play youth football because 'I just don't like the reports that I see coming out having to do with football ― I mean, it's a dangerous sport....' [BUT]... As evidence of football's devastating effects on the human brain mounted -- and the NFL responded by implementing (demonstrably inadequate) rule changes to modestly reduce the risk of its athletes suffering from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) -- the president argued that the game had grown insufficiently violent. 'Today, if you hit too hard, if they hit too hard, "15 yards, throw him out of the game,"' Trump groused in 2017. 'They had that last week, I watched for a couple of minutes. Two guys, just really, beautiful tackle -- "Boom, 15 yards."... They're ruining the game ... they want to hit.' These remarks heavily implied that Trump sees the lives of (disproportionately African-American) NFL players as fundamentally less valuable than those of wealthy, white people like himself." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Ahmed Aboulenein & John Davison of Reuters: "Iraqi President Barham Salih said on Monday that ... Donald Trump did not ask Iraq's permission for U.S. troops stationed there to 'watch Iran.'... U.S. troops in Iraq are there as part of an agreement between the two countries with a specific mission of combating terrorism, Salih said, and that they should stick to that. Trump said it was important to keep a U.S. military presence in Iraq so that Washington can keep a close eye on Iran 'because Iran is a real problem,' according to a CBS interview broadcast on Sunday. 'Don't overburden Iraq with your own issues,' Salih said. 'The U.S. is a major power ... but do not pursue your own policy priorities, we live here.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Michelle Goldberg: "The latest edition of 'Freedom in the World,' ... the pro-democracy nonprofit ... Freedom House's flagship report, has just been released. For the second year in a row, the United States had a score of 86, down from 94 in 2009.... America now falls below not just Canada and the Nordic countries, but also Greece, Latvia and Mauritius. 'The current overall U.S. score puts American democracy closer to struggling counterparts like Croatia than to traditional peers such as Germany or the United Kingdom,' the report said.... It usually takes more than two years for a democracy to collapse.... If Americans increasingly ignore Trump's words, foreign leaders don't. Authoritarianism is on the rise all over the globe -- according to the Freedom House report, this is the 13th consecutive year that global freedom has declined. Trump's presidency is a consequence of this trend, but it's also become an accelerant of it."

Victoria Guida: "Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell met for dinner with ... Donald Trump on Monday evening, the first time the two men have spoken since Powell was sworn in as the central bank's chief last February. Powell, who has been the target of months of criticism from the president over the central bank's interest rate policy, stressed that the Fed's decisions on rates would remain nonpolitical, according to a statement from the Fed." ...

... Heather Long of the Washington Post: "After the central bank raised interest rates in December, Trump was so irate that he asked close advisers whether he could fire Powell. The Fed is supposed to be independent from politics, and it is hard to remove a Fed governor except for 'cause,' which has typically been interpreted by courts as egregious wrongdoing. Top White House officials have come out and said they do not believe the president has the authority to remove Powell, although the president never said he would not try to do it.... It is rare for a president to meet with the Fed chair, although not unprecedented. President Barack Obama met with then-Chair Janet L. Yellen in 2016, for example. But presidents are not supposed to dictate Fed policy.... Former Fed chairman Paul Volcker details his awkward encounter at the White House with President Ronald Reagan and his chief of staff Jim Baker.... Volcker recalls Baker saying, 'The president is ordering you not to raise interest rates before the election,' and Volcker 'walked out without saying a word.'... 'Paul Volcker is viewed as Moses of central banking for standing up to the president,' said Richard Fisher, the former head of the Dallas Fed."

All the Worst People. Victoria Guida & Ben White of Politico: "... Donald Trump is expected to tap Treasury Department official David Malpass as the U.S. pick to lead the World Bank, according to senior administration officials, a clear sign the administration wants to rein in the international financial institution. Malpass, Treasury's undersecretary for international affairs, has said global organizations like the World Bank 'have grown larger and more intrusive' and 'the challenge of refocusing them has become urgent and more difficult.' The institution aims to reduce global poverty by making loans, with a sizable portion flowing to China and India.... The U.S. has historically been allowed to choose the head of the World Bank, although that dynamic has more recently faced pushback from other nations. Nominating someone who has been so openly critical of the bank could intensify that resistance."

Andrew Kaczynski & Paul LeBlanc of CNN: "... Donald Trump's pick to be United Nations ambassador once hosted a panel on unfounded conspiracy theories that Islamic fundamentalists are secretly trying to destroy America by changing the country's institutions and culture and imposing Sharia law. Heather Nauert, a former host for 'Fox and Friends' and the current spokeswoman for the State Department, pushed the theory in a 2009 Fox News hourlong special webcast titled 'Terror from Within' that is still available on the network's website. Nauert fielded input from anti-Muslim activists Frank Gaffney and Robert Spencer, as well as Canadian journalist Tarek Fatah, who is a prominent Muslim critic of aspects of Islam."

** Arming Our Enemies -- Thanks, Donald & Jared! Nima Elbagir, et al., in a CNN report: "Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners have transferred American-made weapons to al Qaeda-linked fighters, hardline Salafi militias, and other factions waging war in Yemen, in violation of their agreements with the United States, a CNN investigation has found. The weapons have also made their way into the hands of Iranian-backed rebels battling the coalition for control of the country, exposing some of America's sensitive military technology to Tehran and potentially endangering the lives of US troops in other conflict zones. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, its main partner in the war, have used the US-manufactured weapons as a form of currency to buy the loyalties of militias or tribes, bolster chosen armed actors, and influence the complex political landscape, according to local commanders on the ground and analysts who spoke to CNN.... After CNN presented its findings, a US defense official confirmed there was an ongoing investigation into the issue.... Previous CNN investigations established that US-made weapons were used in a series of deadly Saudi coalition attacks that killed dozens of civilians, many of them children. The developments also come as Congress, outraged with Riyadh over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year, considers whether to force an end to the Trump administration's support for the Saudi coalition, which relies on American weapons to conduct its war."

Burgess Everett & Marianne Levine of Politico: "Many Senate Republicans are deeply opposed to ... Donald Trump declaring a national emergency to build his border wall, with enough resistance that the president might ultimately be forced to veto a measure intended to block him. Interviews with a dozen GOP senators on Monday revealed broad efforts to wave Trump from doing an end run around Congress, part of an effort to avoid a politically perilous floor vote that could place them at odds with the president."

Jordain Carney of the Hill: "Senate Democrats blocked abortion-related legislation on Monday night in the wake of a political firestorm sparked by a Virginia abortion-rights bill last week. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) tried to pass legislation that penalizes doctors who fail to 'exercise the proper degree of care in the case of a child who survives an abortion or attempted abortion.' But Sasse was blocked by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who argued that U.S. laws already prohibit infanticide and warned that Republicans were misrepresenting the [Virginia] bill.... Sasse's attempted to pass the legislation comes after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) provoked outrage among anti-abortion groups, GOP lawmakers and the White House over his comments about a bill that would have made it easier for women to get third trimester abortions if their health was threatened by pregnancy."

Andrew Desiderio of Politico: "Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has agreed to testify before a key House panel after weeks of contentious negotiations with Democrats. Nielsen will appear before the House Homeland Security Committee on March 6.... The agreement comes after Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the committee, threatened last week to issue a subpoena to compel Nielsen to testify. Democrats said Nielsen was refusing to testify in front of the panel this month."

Presidential Race 2020

Mister Schultz's Etiquette Rule No. 1: [Howard Schultz] said the terms 'people of wealth' and 'people of means' are preferred to referring to people as 'billionaires.'

Like many a rube, I am so politically incorrect. Next some bumpkin will be calling a certain "person of wealth" an idiot. No, wait. Make that "total idiot." -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

See also other suggestions: "wealth extractors," "money hoarders," "poverty profiteers." ...

... Shia Kapos of Politico: "Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on Monday night said he will take three to four months before deciding whether he'll run for president in 2020 as an independent. 'I promise I would do nothing whatsoever to be a spoiler to re-elect Donald Trump. Nobody wants to see this president leave office more than me,' he said during a stop on his book tour in Chicago. He spoke during a Q&A with Chicago businesswoman and Starbucks Vice Chair Mellody Hobson, who compared the reports of the possibility of an independent run to 'dropping a bomb.'... Schultz said he expected push-back 'but not to the degree of an assault,' he told the crowd." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The story should be titled "What a Total Idiot Howard Schultz Is." That's apparent in just two comments cited above, tho there's more. First, there's the "everybody's picking on poor, pitiful, billionaire/'person-of-means' me." Then there's the empty assurance he won't be a spoiler. Really? How is that gonna work, Howard? Schultz gave no clue, no doubt because he has no clue. ...

... Schultz's Own Research Confirms He's a Spoiler. Jonathan Chait: "Change Research found Schultz's favorable rating among the public is 4 percent, with 40 percent viewing him unfavorably, and the rest not knowing who this person is.... Perhaps in an effort to push back against this [Mrs. McC: these] data, Schultz's team released very partial internal polling data. Somewhat suspiciously, the data did not show what information the respondents were given about Schultz, to possibly prompt them to support him. The bottom-line figures showed Schultz drawing a whopping 17 percent of the national vote in a three-way race with Trump and either Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren. The same figures showed Trump beating both Democrats 33 to 32 percent. In other words, Schultz's own polling indicates he would lose badly, and would throw the race to Trump.... Fox News reports that Schultz 'told advisors that he was shocked by the stridency of the attacks made by Democrats,' a fact that, if true, would indicate an ignorance of the political system so proud it would be disqualifying." Mrs. McC: And we now know it's true because Schultz publicly expressed surprise at the "assault" on him. As Sen. Brown said....


... MEANWHILE. Ben White
of Politico: "... polling suggests that when it comes to soaking the rich, the American public is increasingly on board. Surveys are showing overwhelming support for raising taxes on top earners, including a new Politico/Morning Consult poll released Monday that found 76 percent of registered voters believe the wealthiest Americans should pay more in taxes. A recent Fox News survey showed that 70 percent of Americans favor raising taxes on those earning over $10 million -- including 54 percent of Republicans. The numbers suggest the political ground upon which the 2020 presidential campaign will be fought is shifting in dramatic ways, reflecting the rise in inequality in the United States and growing concerns in the electorate about the fairness of the American system." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Paul Krugman explains that "if there's a real opening for an independent, that candidate will look more like George Wallace than like Howard Schultz. Billionaires who despise the conventional parties should beware of what they wish for." That is, there is a viable call for racist, economic populist politicians, but there's little or no call for socially liberal, economic conservative politicians. ...

... Helaine Olen of the Washington Post: "There is increasing angst in the circles of the wealthy about more frequent calls from prominent Democratic politicians to raise taxes on the richest Americans.... Blame Donald Trump. Like no one else, Trump proves that the United States' 40-year infatuation with tax cuts and trickle-down economics was a sham. Instead of trusting the wealthiest that the money would flow down, the dollars, like heat in an apartment, always went to the top. Take the 2017 tax reform package. The wealthiest Americans were the recipients of almost all the large and permanent reductions, while the rest of us were left with mere scraps -- which will sunset at the end of 2025. The Trump administration promised the corporate tax cuts would trickle down in the form of salary increases.... No such luck.... In addition, Republicans weaponized the tax code, seeming to punish voters who disproportionately voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. The ability to deduct state and local taxes on federal returns was capped at $10,000, something that impacted residents of high-cost metropolitan areas.... It's hard not to suspect future generations will look back at this period and wonder what took us so long to demand the Trumps of the world pay their fair share of the tax bill."

Beyond the Beltway

Jonathan Martin & Alan Blinder of the New York Times: "Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia, abandoned by allies in the Democratic Party and besieged by demands that he resign, met with his cabinet Monday morning as state legislators returned to a Capitol thrown into chaos by the governor's insistence on staying in office despite revelations that a photograph showing people in blackface and Ku Klux Klan robes was displayed on his medical school yearbook page. But even after meeting Sunday night with a group of his African-American aides, most of whom told him the only way he could clear his name would be to quit, Mr. Northam was giving no indication that he intended to step down. As Mr. Northam dug in, his onetime allies in the state and national Democratic Party intensified their pleas that he quit, angry and embarrassed at the prospect of being saddled with a governor suddenly compromised by his past." .(Also linked yesterday.) ..

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Northam also must be "consulting" with Megyn Kelly. ...

... Oh, Great. Jonathan Martin: "Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of Virginia issued a statement Monday morning denying an unsubstantiated allegation of sexual assault that a right-wing media site published amid extraordinary political turmoil in the state that has raised the possibility of Mr. Fairfax becoming the next governor. In a statement issued at 2:55 a.m., aides to Mr. Fairfax -- a Democrat who has drawn national attention as Gov. Ralph Northam considers resigning over past racist behavior -- said the allegation was 'false' and that Mr. Fairfax had 'never assaulted anyone -- ever -- in any way, shape or form.' The aides said that Mr. Fairfax is considering 'appropriate legal action against those attempting to spread this defamatory and false allegation.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Theresa Vargas of the Washington Post: "The statement came after the online publication, Big League Politics, ran a story under the headline: 'UPDATE: Stanford Fellow Hints At Possible Justin Fairfax Sex Assault.' The story was based on a private Facebook post from the woman, which the publication said it had obtained from a friend of hers who had permission to share it. In their response, Fairfax's staff members, pointed out that the woman first approached The Washington Post with the allegation shortly before he was inaugurated and The Post 'carefully investigated the claim for several months.' The woman approached The Post after Fairfax won election in November 2017 and before he was inaugurated in January 2018 inauguration, saying she felt like she had an obligation to speak out.... Fairfax and the woman told different versions of what happened in [a] hotel room [in 2004] with no one else present. The Washington Post could not find anyone who could corroborate either version. The Post did not find 'significant red flags and inconsistencies within the allegations,' as the Fairfax statement incorrectly said.... The Washington Post did not run a story.&" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Alejandro de la Garza of Time: "In the midst of the ongoing controversy over a racist photograph on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam's medical school yearbook page, a photograph of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) posing in front of a Confederate flag is making the rounds on social media.... The photograph of McConnell, which apparently shows the senator posing in front of a large Confederate flag, had previously surfaced in 2015, according to Snopes. The photo was allegedly taken at a Sons of Confederate Veterans event in the early '90s." Includes photo. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Jamelle Bouie of the New York Times: "In American politics, lawmakers can get a pass for almost anything short of open allegiance to racist ideologies or the explicit use of racist imagery. There is a logic to this dynamic, even as it produces absurd results, like forceful condemnations of racism from a Virginia Republican Party that fielded an unapologetic neo-Confederate for Senate just over three months ago or calls for Northam's resignation from a Republican National Committee that otherwise stands firmly behind President Trump.... If racism is principally a problem of power and resources -- of race hierarchy and the denial of life, liberty and opportunity to blacks and other nonwhites -- then our political culture ought to expand the offenses that earn the kinds of swift condemnation we've seen over the last few days. Voter suppression and the lawmakers who back it deserve the same contempt we save for open racial bigotry; officials behind policies rooted in prejudice, like the travel ban or child separation, ought to be forced from office.... We should care about racist imagery, but we should care even more about our still-segregated society."

New Jersey. Katherine Landergan of Politico: "Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation Monday that will gradually raise New Jersey's minimum wage to $15 an hour for most workers by 2024, making it the fourth state to approve a policy that not long ago was considered a pipe dream in Democratic circles."

Way Beyond

Richard Pérez-Peña of the New York Times: "Seven European Union countries on Monday recognized Juan Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela, turning decisively against President Nicolás Maduro after he refused their demand to schedule a new presidential election. The countries -- Austria, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Spain and Sweden -- joined the United States, Canada, Australia and much of Latin America in withdrawing recognition of Mr. Maduro's government and acknowledging Mr. Guaidó, the opposition leader, as the interim president pending elections." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

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