The Wires

Public Service Announcement

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

The Hill: "Arnold Schwarzeneggar says his first season as host of NBC's 'Celebrity Apprentice' is also his last. In remarks Friday, the former California governor cited President Trump, who has repeatedly mocked the ratings of his reality TV replacement, as his reason. 'Even if asked [to do it again] I would decline,' Schwarzenegger told Empire magazine.... 'With Trump being involved in the show people have a bad taste and don’t want to participate as a spectator or sponsor or in any other way support the show. It’s a very divisive period right now and I think the show got caught up in all that division.'" -- CW 

New York Times: "Penguin Random House will publish coming books by former President Barack Obama and the former first lady Michelle Obama, the publishing company announced Tuesday night, concluding a heated auction among multiple publishers. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but publishing industry executives with knowledge of the bidding process said it probably stretched well into eight figures." -- CW ...

Guardian: A statement by the Academy of Motion Pictures said "that PwC – formerly Price Waterhouse Coopers, the accounting firm that has been used by the Academy to handle the voting process for 83 years – had taken full responsibility for 'breaches of established protocols' that led to the error.... On Monday afternoon, the Wall Street Journal reported that ... Brian Cullinan, one of two accountants whose job it was to hand out the winners’ envelopes..., had tweeted a behind-the-scenes photo of [best female actor winner Emma] Stone holding her statuette. The tweet, sent moments before the best picture announcement, raised the question of whether the accountant was distracted, handing Beatty the duplicate envelope." -- CW ...

... Actually, No, It Was Donald Trump's Fault. The Hill: "President Trump is calling Sunday’s Oscar ceremony 'sad,' saying the awards show was 'focused so hard on politics' it led to the epic mix-up over the best picture winner. 'I think they were focused so hard on politics that they didn’t get the act together at the end,' Trump said Monday in an interview with Breitbart News." CW: Because everything is about Drumpf. 

Los Angeles Times: "In one of the most surprising upsets and shocking moments in Oscar history, the poetic coming-of-age drama 'Moonlight' took home the top prize for best picture at the 89th Academy Awards, beating out the heavily favored 'La La Land,' which was actually announced as the winner. The win for 'Moonlight' came in a chaotic and confused moment that played out live in front of an audience of millions, as presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway initially presented the evening’s final award to 'La La Land,' only to have one of the film’s producers announce that 'Moonlight' had, in fact, won." -- CW 

Here's the LA Times' "live coverage" page.

CW: It would have been way better for the world if the Electoral College had admitted, as a body, that "There's been a mistake." Unfortunately, actors & film producers have more integrity than electors.

The New York Times embeds the February 23 late-nite's show responses to the latest political news.

Washington Post: "A newfound solar system just 39 light-years away contains seven warm, rocky planets, scientists say. The discovery, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, represents the first time astronomers have detected so many terrestrial planets orbiting a single star. Researchers say the system is an ideal laboratory for studying distant worlds and could be the best place in the galaxy to search for life beyond Earth.... The newly discovered solar system resembles a scaled-down version of our own. The star at its center, an ultra-cool dwarf called TRAPPIST-1, is less than a tenth the size of our sun and about a quarter as warm. Its planets circle tightly around it; the closest takes just a day and a half to complete an orbit and the most distant takes about 20 days.... TRAPPIST-1 is so cool that all seven of the bodies are bathed in just the right amount of warmth to hold liquid water. And three of them receive the same amount of heat as Venus, Earth and Mars, putting them in 'the habitable zone,' that Goldilocks region where it's thought life can thrive." -- CW 

Here's a Houzz feature on Frederick Douglass's D.C. home. Since it's not far from Donald Trump's new (temporary) digs and is every bit as fancy, the Trumpster might want to pay a visit to someone who's done such "an amazing job" that he's "getting recognized more and more." SCROTUS may be surprised to discover that Mr. Douglass is not at home. Too bad, because if Mr. Douglass weren't dead, he could have showed Donaldo his portrait, which for some time was owned by W.E.B. Du Bois (or DeBois or whatever).

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

Rosie O'Donnell's new Twitter profile pic. Thanks to Unwashed for the link. -- CW 

CNN: "The book publisher Penguin is printing more copies of George Orwell's dystopian classic '1984' in response to a sudden surge of demand. On Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning the book was #1 on Amazon's computer-generated list of best-selling books. The list reflects hourly book sales. The 68-year-old novel appeared on the list on Monday, hovered around the #6 spot for much of the day, rose to #2 by Tuesday afternoon and then hit #1." -- CW 

The Netherlands Welcomes Trump, in his own words. Thanks to Haley S. for the link:

... CW: We're the laughingstock of the world. But, like us, others have to laugh so they don't cry or scream or hunker down in a suvivalist's crouch.

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Monday
Mar132017

The Commentariat -- March 14, 2017

Oops. Missed this. Thanks, Sean Spicer, you blithering idiot! (See today's Comments.)

*****

 

 


P.S. I see Colbert is stealing my stuff.

Thomas Kaplan & Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The House Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act would increase the number of people without health insurance by 24 million by 2026, while slicing $337 billion off federal budget deficits over that time, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Monday.... The much-anticipated judgment by Capitol Hill’s official scorekeeper did not back up President Trump’s promise of providing health care for everyone and was likely to fuel the concerns of moderate Republicans. Next year, it said, the number of uninsured Americans would be 14 million higher than expected under current law.... The White House immediately denounced the budget office’s conclusions. Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services, suggested the report offered an incomplete picture because it did not take into account regulatory steps he intends to take, as well as other legislation that Republicans plan as part of their multistep strategy to repeal and replace the health law." -- CW ...

... Amy Goldstein, et al., of the Washington Post: "The [CBO] report predicted that premiums would be 15 percent to 20 percent higher in the first year compared with those under the Affordable Care Act but 10 percent lower on average after 2026. By and large, older Americans would pay “substantially” more and younger Americans less.... 'Just absurd,' was the way Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, responded to the forecast, while Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said, 'The CBO report’s coverage numbers defy logic.' House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), meanwhile, said in a Fox News interview that the report 'exceeded' his expectations, and he jumped on its prediction of a smaller deficit to try to assuage the chamber’s most conservative members, many of whom oppose the idea of new tax credits to help some Americans buy coverage on their own." -- CW ...

... The CBO summary report is here. ...

... Greg Sargent: "The CBO has laid bare the GOP’s true health care priorities with a clarity that has long been absent from the political argument over reform, making it harder to conceal them inside a fog of obfuscation and deception.... Trump doesn’t really know much about health care policy or care about the details. But he does know that he’s a winner and Obama is a loser, so his plan simply must and will deliver more than Obamacare for less. The CBO’s answer to that: Sorry, No." -- CW ...

... Henry Jackson of Politico: "Here’s a look at six promises Trump and his advisers have made about replacing Obamacare, and how it compares to the CBO score." CW: Make that nope, nope, nope, nope, nope & nope. ...

... Paul Demko of Politico: "A White House analysis of the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare shows even steeper coverage losses than the projections by the Congressional Budget Office, according to a document viewed by Politico on Monday. The executive branch analysis forecast that 26 million people would lose coverage over the next decade, versus the 24 million CBO estimates. The White House has made efforts to discredit the forecasts from the nonpartisan CBO. White House officials late Monday night disputed that the document is an analysis of the bill’s coverage effects. Instead, they say it was an attempt by the Office of Management and Budget to predict what CBO’s scorekeepers would conclude about the GOP repeal plan." -- CW ...

... CW BTW: As Demko reports, "The White House and congressional Republicans have aggressively sought to undercut the CBO projection by pointing to how far off its coverage estimates for the Affordable Care Act ultimately proved. The nonpartisan budget office predicted that 21 million individuals would gain coverage through the exchange markets in 2016, but only about half that many actually enrolled." You'll see this story all over the place. But I read recently -- Krugman?? -- that the reason the CBO's estimates for exchange sign-ups were high is that far fewer employers than expected dropped their employee healthcare plans. So Republicans are, as usual, obscuring the truth by telling only half the story. AND, I don't doubt that large corporations with employees in many states kept their employee health plans because of Republican state legislatures' and governors' resistance to cooperating with the federal plan. So Republicans aren't just shading the truth; they're denying their culpability in causing the lower-than-expected exchange sign-ups. ...

... GOP "Leaders" Dance on the Corpses of Their Base. Margot Sanger-Katz of the New York Times: "The [CBO] report says that the bill will eventually cut the average insurance premiums for people who buy their own insurance by 10 percent. House Speaker Paul Ryan pressed that point in a series of appearances Monday night, suggesting that the budget office had found that the House bill would increase choice and competition and lead to lower prices. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, issued a statement saying, 'The Congressional Budget Office agrees that the American Health Care Act will ultimately lower premiums and increase access to care.' But the way the bill achieves those lower average premiums has little to do with increased choice and competition. It depends, rather, on penalizing older patients and rewarding younger ones. According to the C.B.O. report, the bill would make health insurance so unaffordable for many older Americans that they would simply leave the market and join the ranks of the uninsured. The remaining pool of people would be comparatively younger and healthier and, thus, less expensive to cover." Emphasis added. -- CW ...

... David Leonhardt of the New York Times: "The bill effectively rescinds benefits for the elderly, poor, sick and middle class, and funnels the money to the rich, via tax cuts.... How did the party’s leaders put themselves in this position? The short answer is that they began believing their own hype and set out to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Obamacare obviously has flaws.... Alas, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump are not trying to fix [the problems]. They’re trying to fix a fictional one: saving America from a partisan, socialistic big-government takeover of health care.... Obamacare is the bipartisan version of health reform. It accomplishes a liberal end through conservative means and is much closer to the plan conservatives favored a few decades ago than the one liberals did.... Today’s Republican Party has moved so far to the right that it no longer supports any plan that covers the uninsured. Of course, Republican leaders are not willing to say as much...." ...

... Jeff Guo of the Washington Post: "It's a nationwide pattern: Some of the harshest consequences of the GOP's health bill would fall on rural Republican strongholds — precisely the voters who helped elect Trump. Among the counties where Trump won his biggest victories, nearly all would face deep cuts in tax credits under the Republican plan to replace Obamacare. And, in the parts of the country that would lose the most in tax credits, a majority of voters were Trump supporters." With lots o' charts & graphs. CW: Does Trumpity Dumpity really want to kill off his own voters? He probably just has no idea what CAHCA does, other than the part where it saves him money. ...

... Dylan Matthews of Vox: "The Congressional Budget Office’s assessment of Republicans’ plan to replace Obamacare is a description of one of the largest, most significant income redistribution programs the US government has ever considered — from the poor to the wealthy.... The plan, the CBO concludes, would take more than $1 trillion away from programs targeting poor and middle-class families, to fund an $883 billion tax cut targeted at the wealthy." -- CW ...

... Paul Krugman: "The Congressional Budget Office report on Trumpcare is out, and it’s devastating: 14 million people losing insurance in the first year, 24 million over time, with premiums soaring for older, lower-income Americans — in many cases, the very people who went strongly for President Trump. The C.B.O. thinks it would reduce the deficit, but only marginally, around $30 billion a year in a $19 trillion economy.... Trumpcare is a slapdash, incompetent piece of legislation.... Something like this C.B.O. score was a foregone conclusion.... But the lemming-like way Republicans rushed into this disaster is still amazing." -- CW ...

... Kevin Drum: "... what about all those people who will lose coverage? [Paul] Ryan says, 'I recognize and appreciate concerns about making sure people have access to coverage.' He doesn't say he plans to do anything about this, but at least he appreciates the concerns. You know who else appreciates those concerns? Breitbart News:" Breitbart's headline: "CBO Report: Under Ryan plan, 14 million to lose insurance by 2018 ... 24 million by 2026." CW: Here again I ask, is this story Steve Bannon's work?

It’s there. Anybody can read it. Folks watching on television now can go online and read what the bill is. They can watch the committee hearings. Those are things that were dramatically missing in Obamacare. — White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” March 12

We already had two committee hearings, which I believe is two more than Obamacare had in the House. — Mulvaney, interview on ABC’s “This Week,” March 12

[House committees held] about 20 hearings, many aired on C-SPAN [before introducing the Affordable Care bill]. That’s 18 more than the current replacement bill. On top of that, the bills were available to read for many days.... So Mulvaney’s comments are clearly wrong.... The Senate process was even more transparent, with many days of hearings and lengthy markups.... We’re not sure what Mulvaney has been smoking, except his own propaganda. The process that led to the Affordable Care Act was lengthy and complex, but involved numerous hearings and ample time for public comment and input. Any suggestion to the contrary is ridiculous. -- Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post 

Spicer: "Don't Believe Trump." Conway: "Obama Nuked Trump Like a TV Dinner." Julie Davis of the New York Times: "Two senior White House officials suggested on Monday that President Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that President Barack Obama had tapped his telephone was not meant to be taken literally, arguing that Mr. Trump had been referring more broadly to a variety of surveillance efforts during the 2016 campaign when he made the incendiary accusation. 'He doesn’t really think that President Obama went up and tapped his phone personally,' said Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary.... The remarks were the first time the White House sought to explain the accusation Mr. Trump made in a series of posts on Twitter saying Mr. Obama 'was tapping my phones' and calling the former president a 'bad (or sick) guy.'... Kellyanne Conway, Mr. Trump’s senior adviser, said in an interview on Sunday that Mr. Obama could have employed any number of devices other than a traditional telephone wiretap, even including a microwave oven. Ms. Conway clarified on Monday that she was not accusing the former president of snooping via a kitchen appliance, arguing that her comments had been taken out of context.” CW: Read it all. If these Keystone Kops weren't in charge, they'd be hilarious. ...

... Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "The Justice Department on Monday asked for more time to respond to a request from the House Intelligence Committee to turn over any wiretapping applications, orders or warrants related to President Trump and his associates. In a one-paragraph statement, spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said the Justice Department had called the top Democrats and Republicans on the committee 'to ask for additional time to review the request in compliance with the governing legal authorities and to determine what if any responsive documents may exist.' The committee had set a deadline of Monday to turn over the information." -- CW ...

... Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post: "Time to trade in those red #MAGA caps, Trumpkins. If you want your headgear to fit in with the latest White House fashions, invest in some tinfoil. From top to bottom, this administration has been infested with conspiracy theorists. Most appear to be true believers. Take Stephen K. Bannon and his anxieties about the 'deep state,' or the recently ousted Michael Flynn and his propagation of suggestions that Hillary Clinton was tied to a child sex ring run out of a D.C. pizza parlor. Others, such as Kellyanne Conway, appear to just be paranoiacs for pay. Conway seems convinced that the best way to stay in her boss’s good graces is to spread parody-defying crackpot theories, or at least add a dash of color to President Trump’s own crackpottery. You may recall that Trump, with zero evidence, accused President Barack Obama of having the 'wires tapped' at Trump Tower. Trump then called for a congressional witch hunt to find proof that the unfounded allegation is true." -- CW ...

CW BTW: In defense of Drumpf's delusion, some of your Trumpbot acquaintances may tell you that there is proof Obama wiretapped Michael Flynn. It won't be the Trumpbot's fault; that's what he's hearing on "Fox & Friends" & from the lips of Mrs. Microwave. Here's where you tell them that no, Flynn wasn't being surveilled; the Russian ambassador was. AND if Flynn had no idea that U.S. agencies were listenin in on his conversation with Kislyak, he had no business being the nation's top national security advisor. ...

... Thanks to unwashed for the link. ...

... Molly Ball of the Atlantic profiles Kellyanne Conway. A compelling read that won't make you wish you'd been nicer to Conway. -- CW 

Jim Dwyer & William Rashbaum of the New York Times: "A federal grand jury sitting in Manhattan is expected to soon hear testimony from at least two witnesses to testify in coming days about business practices at Fox News when it was led by [Roger] Ailes, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. Mr. Ailes, who was forced out in July amid revelations of multiple accusations of sexual harassment, has denied those charges.” Since President Trump fired the New York attorney, Preet Bharara after asking him to stay on, the candidate most frequently mentioned to replace him is Marc L. Mukasey, who has represented Ailes. "Mr. Mukasey’s firm has handled real estate development matters for the family of Jared Kushner.... Among his partners is Rudolph W. Giuliani.... Mr. Mukasey is the son of Michael Mukasey, a former federal judge and former attorney general under President George W. Bush, and longtime friend of Mr. Giuliani’s." -- CW 


Jennifer Steinhauer
of the New York Times: "Against the backdrop of an emboldened white nationalist movement in the United States, [Rep. Steve King's (RTP-Iowa)] Twitter post over the weekend — 'We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies' — suggested that Mr. King was sliding from his typical rhetoric to something far darker. It was praised by both the white supremacist David Duke and the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website. But it was also quickly criticized by many Republicans, including Speaker Paul D. Ryan, whose office said he 'clearly disagrees' with Mr. King, and Representative Carlos Curbelo, Republican of Florida, who is of Cuban descent. Mr. Curbelo responded on Twitter: 'What exactly do you mean? Do I qualify as "somebody else’s baby?’... Mr. Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, claimed ignorance of the Twitter post on Monday....” CW: Notice how forceful the "leaders" of our country are: Ryan had a spokesperson speak for him; Trump's spokesman said nothing. These "leaders" really do not want to alienate their white supremacist base.

News Ledes

Boston Globe: "Snow was mixing with a wind-whipped, frigid rain on Tuesday afternoon in the Boston area, as a dangerous nor’easter continued to pound the region, creating dangerous driving conditions, felling trees and power lines, and leaving more than 54,000 power customers in the dark. While the area inside of Interstate 95 will likely not see the major accumulations that had been predicted, some worried that the mix of precipitation could prove just as hazardous, with freezing temperatures extending the threat of icy roads into Wednesday morning. Mayor Martin J. Walsh said on Tuesday afternoon that Boston schools would be canceled for a second day Wednesday in light of the potential for danger on the roadways." -- CW 

Portland Press Herald: "A massive nor’easter brought blizzard conditions to Maine Tuesday as most of the state was buffeted by gusting winds and blowing snow that sent cars off roadways and left thousands of homes and businesses without power." -- CW

Sunday
Mar122017

The Commentariat -- March 13, 2017

CW: safari has put together quite a little compendium of Trump's assault on democracy. What's notable: it doesn't include other assaults, like Trump's false claim that President Obama is a sad/sick/bad major felon, Trump's incompetence, his plan to gut the federal government except to the extent he'll build up the military, his sudden firing of a U.S. attorney who might investigate him & who is investigating a Murdoch pro-Trump enterprise, & the phalanx of liars he sent out to defend stripping millions of Americans of health insurance. AND what's most amazing is that safari's linked reports are only the news & views of one day.

More News about the Worst President in Modern U.S. History:

Unpresidented Incompetence. Julie Davis & Sharon LaFraniere of the New York Times: "From the moment he was sworn in, President Trump faced a personnel crisis, starting virtually from scratch in lining up senior leaders for his administration. Seven weeks into the job, he is still hobbled by the slow start, months behind where experts in both parties, even some inside his administration, say he should be.... Many federal agencies and offices are in states of suspended animation.... 'There’s no question this is the slowest transition in decades,' said R. Nicholas Burns, a former State Department official who served under presidents of both parties and has been involved in transitions since 1988. 'It is a very, very big mistake. The world continues — it doesn’t respect transitions.'... Mr. Trump’s personnel problems are rooted in a dysfunctional transition effort that left him without a pool of nominees-in-waiting who had been screened for security and financial problems and were ready to be named on Day 1. In the weeks since, the problem has been compounded by roadblocks of his own making: a loyalty test that in some cases has eliminated qualified candidates, a five-year lobbying ban that has discouraged some of the most sought-after potential appointees, and a general sense of upheaval at the White House that has repelled many others.” -- CW ...

... Damian Paletta of the Washington Post: "President Trump’s budget proposal this week would shake the federal government to its core if enacted, culling back numerous programs and expediting a historic contraction of the federal workforce. This would be the first time the government has executed cuts of this magnitude — and all at once — since the drawdown following World War II, economists and budget analysts said.... The cuts cannot take effect unless they are authorized by Congress, which could prove difficult." CW: Don't be too critical. Trump has no idea what impacts his proposed cuts would have. And of course he doesn't care. 

Charlie Savage & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "The Trump administration is exploring how to dismantle or bypass Obama-era constraints intended to prevent civilian deaths from drone attacks, commando raids and other counterterrorism missions outside conventional war zones like Afghanistan and Iraq, according to officials familiar with internal deliberations.... The move to open the throttle on using military force — and accept a greater risk of civilian casualties — in troubled parts of the Muslim world comes as the Trump administration is also trying to significantly increase military spending and cut foreign aid and State Department budgets." -- CW 

New York Times Editors: "As a candidate, Mr. Trump derided Mr. Obama’s anti-ISIS strategy as a disaster, though offering none of his own. Now, in office, he shouldn’t ignore the progress that has been made. Local forces backed by American airstrikes have retaken large areas of Syria and Iraq that ISIS captured in 2014. The eastern part of Mosul, once Iraq’s second-largest city, was recently liberated from ISIS. On Feb. 19, Iraqi forces launched a battle for the western part of the city, where a million people are trapped in desperate conditions. Last week, an American-backed militia in Syria captured the main road connecting Raqqa to territory the group holds in Deir al-Zour Province, severing the last supply and escape route for its fighters.... Sadly, Mr. Trump isn’t helping by reissuing his anti-Muslim visa ban, which only reinforces ISIS’ anti-West message." -- CW 

Gabriel Sherman of New York: "The big winner in Donald Trump's decision to fire [U.S. Attorney] Preet Bharara might be [Trump buddy] Rupert Murdoch.... [Bharara's office] is in the middle of a high-profile federal investigation of Fox News. The probe, according to sources, is looking at a number of potential crimes, including whether Fox News executives broke laws by allegedly obtaining journalists’ phone records or committed mail and wire fraud by hiding financial settlements paid to women who accused Roger Ailes of sexual harassment. Sources told me that that prosecutors have been offering witnesses immunity to testify before a federal grand jury that’s already been impaneled. Trump’s decision to fire Bharara ignited speculation that it was designed to blunt investigations like the Fox News probe.... (Adding to the intrigue, Trump’s prosecutor purge came less than 24 hours after Sean Hannity said on Fox News that Trump should 'purge' the Justice Department of Obama-appointed officials.)... According to the Times, Trump’s shortlist to replace Bharara includes Marc Mukasey — who just happens to be former Fox News chief Roger Ailes’s personal lawyer." CW: My, what a surprising coincidence. Move along, nothing to see here, folks. ...

... AND There's This. Kurtis Lee & Barbara Demick of the Los Angeles Times: "The call for the U.S. attorneys to resign came just two days after a trio of government watchdogs — including CREW — sent a letter to Bharara’s office asking for an investigation of whether Trump was illegally receiving benefits from foreign governments." -- CW ...

... What Happened Thursday. According to Maggie Haberman & Charlie Savage of the New York Times, on Thursday President Trump's secretary asked Bharara to call the president. Because of protocols governing a president's contacts with U.S. attorneys, Bharara said he could not speak to Trump. MEANWHILE, Mike Allen of Axios writes that according to Matt Miller, "who was a top aide to Attorney General Eric Holder..., 'It seems pretty clear [Jeff Sessions was not] planning to fire [the U.S. attorneys] on Thursday, since Sessions held a call with all the U.S. attorneys across the country and wished them "happy hunting" on cases. So what changed between that call on Thursday and them being all told to clean out their desks by the end of the day on Friday?'" CW: One might suspect the Trumpados got the word from Rupert & Co. At any rate, we can safely assume that whatever the reason, "the good of the country" had nothing to do with it.

Daniel Arkin of NBC News: "The top lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee have asked the Justice Department to turn over by Monday any evidence showing Trump Tower was wiretapped during the 2016 presidential race — an explosive accusation President Trump leveled at former President Obama without providing proof. The request came in a letter sent last week to the acting deputy attorney general by the committee chairman, Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), and its ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), congressional aides told NBC News. FBI chief James Comey, who reportedly asked the Justice Department to publicly reject Trump's claim, was also sent a copy of the letter.... Nunes, who served on the executive committee of Trump's transition team, has said he has not yet seen evidence supporting Trump's claim. Speaking to reporters last week, the California congressman dinged the media for taking Trump's words too literally." -- CW ...

... Eli Watkins of CNN: "Sen. John McCain said Sunday that ... Donald Trump should either retract or substantiate his claim that President Barack Obama wire-tapped him in the final weeks of the presidential campaign and added he expects more to come on Russia's meddling in the US election. McCain said on CNN's 'State of the Union' that he had 'no reason to believe' Trump's allegation, which the President has not supported with any evidence and which a White House official said was prompted by a Breitbart article." -- CW  

Ari Melber of NBC News: "... Donald Trump pledged to forgo a presidential salary, but as his second payday approaches, the White House is declining to say if the president has donated any of his earnings yet. During the campaign, Trump promised he would take 'no salary' if elected — a pledge he reiterated after he won.... Salary donations are not the only area where Trump's pledges to donate revenue are lacking transparency. During the transition, Trump also unveiled a plan to 'donate all profits from foreign governments' patronage of his hotels and similar businesses' to the Treasury Department. The plan was released by Trump's private law firm, Morgan Lewis, but no system or accounting has been released for how or when such donations will be processed or disclosed." -- CW 

Alan Yuhas of the Guardian: "Donald Trump Jr said he has had essentially 'zero contact' with the president of the United States since his father took office and handed management of his business, without divesting, to his two adult sons." CW: Okay, then, everything is totally ethical.

Paul Krugman: "... we’re just supposed to believe the president if he says, falsely, that his inauguration crowd was the biggest ever; if he claims, ludicrously, that millions of votes were cast illegally for his opponent; if he insists, with no evidence, that his predecessor tapped his phones. And it’s not just about serving one man’s vanity. If you want to see how this attitude can hurt millions of people, consider the state of play on health care reform.... Republicans rammed Trumpcare through key committees, literally in the dead of night, without waiting for the C.B.O. score — and they have been pre-emptively denouncing the budget office, which is likely to find that the bill would cause millions to lose health coverage.The truth is that while the office got some things wrong about health reform, on the whole it did pretty well at projecting the effects of a major new bill — and far better than the people now attacking it, who predicted disasters that never happened.... [This is] part of a much bigger struggle, in which what’s really at stake is whether ignorance is strength, whether the man in the White House is the sole arbiter of truth."  -- CW ...

... Sarah Kliff of Vox: "Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price made a bold promise during a Sunday morning interview with Meet the Press. 'Nobody will be worse off financially' under the Republicans’ new health care plan, he boasted. Let’s be clear: This is a lie. Price is making an impossible promise. Low-income Americans would receive significantly less help to purchase private coverage on the individual market, under the Republican plan in Congress right now. The plan would also end Medicaid expansion in two years, forcing many even lower-income Americans to lose health coverage. There is nothing in the plan to suggest those low-income Americans would suddenly gain cheaper — or even comparable — coverage to make up for what they lose." CW: No, no, Doc Price is telling the truth. Read: "The nobodies will be worse off financially." Parenthetically, "the somebodies are about to get a windfall." ...

... Rat Poison. Martin Longman in the Booman Tribune: "I don’t understand why it helps to have the Secretary of Health & Human Services go on television and lie through his teeth while making promises that his bill can never keep. It might be more sensible if the lies could pass the laugh test, but they don’t even come close to doing that. What he says is the exact opposite of the truth in every respect.... This is the rough equivalent of responding to a question about rat poison killing humans by responding that you don’t believe that’s true and that, in fact, you think people who ingest rat poison will live longer and healthier lives than those who don’t." -- CW ...

... CAHCA = Freedom to Die Quickly. Kelsey Snell of the Washington Post: "House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said Sunday that he doesn’t know how many Americans would lose coverage under his proposal to revise the Affordable Care Act, which is under fire from fellow Republicans, AARP and virtually every sector of the U.S. health care industry. 'I can’t answer that question,' Ryan said in an appearance on CBS’s 'Face the Nation.' 'It’s up to people,' he said. '... People are going to do what they want to do with their lives because we believe in individual freedom in this country.'... The speaker also seemed to contradict President Trump, whose promise to repeal and replace former president Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement has also come with a pledge that no one would lose health insurance coverage.... Ryan’s interview came a day before the scheduled release of a new analysis from the Congressional Budget Office expected to show how many people would lose coverage under the American Health Care Act, as the Ryan plan is called — and at what cost to the government.” -- CW ...

... pence Assaults Facts. Lindsay Gibbs of ThinkProgess: "Speaking in Louisville, Kentucky on Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence called Obamacare a 'nightmare,' and said that Kentucky was a 'textbook case of Obamacare’s failures.' There’s only one problem with those statements — Obamacare provided insurance to 20 million Americans, and Kentucky has actually been one of Obamacare’s biggest success stories." --safari

A Recipe for Assaulting Democracy:

Flirt with Fascism. Steven Rosenfeld of Alternet, via RawStory: How close is President Donald Trump to following the path blazed by last century’s tyrants? Could American democracy be replaced with totalitarian rule? There’s enough resemblance that Yale historian Timothy Snyder, who studies fascist and communist regime change and totalitarian rule, has written a book warning about the threat and offering lessons for resistance and survival. The author of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century talked to AlterNet’s Steven Rosenfeld." Includes interview. --safari ...

... Set Up the Propaganda Mill. Andrew Marantz of the New Yorker: "The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, in the West Wing, has seven rows of seven seats.... The seating chart is the purview of the White House Correspondents’ Association.... There are also correspondents who might be called floaters — those who have White House credentials but no assigned seats.... Until recently, the more established White House correspondents have regarded floaters as a harmless distraction.... Now they are starting to see the floaters as an existential threat. 'It’s becoming a form of court-packing,' one White House correspondent told me.... A longtime Washington reporter from a mainstream network echoed that sentiment. 'I don’t mind them bringing in conservative voices that they feel have been underrepresented,' he said...'[B]ut at what point does it start to delegitimize the whole idea of what happens in that room? When does it cross the line into pure trolling?” --safari ...

... Scapegoat the "Other". Ron Nixon of the New York Times: "President Trump has vowed a hiring surge of 10,000 immigration and customs officers to accelerate the deportation of unauthorized immigrants. But the aggressive pace he has laid out risks adding to the ranks of rogue agents who have been charged with abusing immigrants. Over the past decade, dozens of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and contract guards responsible for the detention and removal of undocumented immigrants have been arrested and charged with beating people, smuggling drugs into detention centers, having sex with detainees and accepting bribes to delay or stop deportations, agency documents and court records show.... Leaked documents outlining plans to beef up a sister agency, the Border Patrol, first reported in Foreign Policy magazine, show that Customs and Border Protection officials are considering waiving polygraph tests for some applicants and applying less stringent background checks to speed the hiring of 5,000 agents." -- CW ...

... Scapegoat While Ignoring Facts. Don Lee of the Los Angeles Times: "... switching to a 'merit-based' system like Canada’s and Australia’s, which Trump endorsed in his speech to Congress recently..., [raises] serious questions about whether it will deliver th..e kinds of large-scale economic benefits that the president and his supporters envision.... The U.S. immigration system is already attracting many of the best and brightest from around the globe.... The percentage of immigrants with graduate degrees now exceeds those of native-born Americans.... It’s true that there’s a much larger share of low-skilled immigrants without a high school diploma as compared to the overall population. And research has shown their presence can have a harmful, short-term effect on U.S.-born low-skilled workers. But in the long run, experts widely agree that greater immigration provides a net economic benefit to the U.S., lowering the cost of goods and services as well as enlarging the labor and consumer base." -- CW ...

... Elevate Islamophobia to the White House. Bryan Schatz of Mother Jones: "Earlier this month, National Public Radio's Steve Inskeep asked Sebastian Gorka, the deputy assistant to Donald Trump, whether the president believes Islam is a religion...Gorka went on to say that the United States is not at war with Islam: 'That would be absurd.' Yet Gorka's refusal to answer Inskeep's simple question was telling, as was his insistence on reframing any discussion of Islam in political and ideological terms. 'We're talking about national security and the totalitarian ideologies that drive the groups that threaten America,' he said. This idea has gained new currency as Trump has elevated some of its adherents to the highest levels of his administration. Gorka's evasive comments nodded to a fringe concept that's been floating for more than a decade: the idea that Islam is not a legitimate religion, but a dangerous political ideology." --safari ...

... Embolden White Nationalists in Congress. Matthew Haag of the New York Times: "Representative Steve King, a Republican from Iowa who has a history of making inflammatory statements viewed by many as insensitive or outright racist, was roundly criticized on Sunday for his apparent endorsement of white nationalism." In a tweet, King wrote, "Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies." He was referring to "far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who wants to end Muslim immigration and ban the Quran and who has called Moroccan immigrants 'scum.'” CW: Thanks, Iowa! ...

... Juan Cole: "Rep Steve King of Iowa (whose constituents should be ashamed to show their faces in public went full-on racist again, supporting hate-speech master Geert Wilders in his quixotic quest to reverse globalization and ban Muslims from Europe.... King has displayed his ignorance of history many times before. When he was challenged on the all-white Republican Party leadership, he alleged that only white people had contributed to civilization and actually alleged that Africa had not.... But the bigger point is that American civilization is civic and does not depend on race. There are no 'other people’s babies' here. All American babies are our babies. People of all races have contributed to American civilization." --safari ...

... Trump's Jackboots Mobilize, Ctd. Kelly Weill of The Daily Beast: "Until Tuesday afternoon, Al Aqsa Fine Middle Eastern Cuisine had scarcely received a negative Yelp review, let alone comparisons of its staff to Saddam Hussein. That was, until an area man allegedly burst into the beloved Salem, Washington, restaurant and began striking an employee with a pipe while spewing racial epithets. Salem police have arrested Jason Kendall, 52, in what they describe as a potential hate crime. Kendall was not a customer at the time of the attack, but allegedly charged the restaurant when he spotted an employee who appeared to be Middle Eastern in the window." --safari...

... Trump's Jackboots Mobilize, Ctd. CNN in KTLA 5 News: "A 64-year-old Florida man tried to set a convenience store on fire because he thought the owners were Muslim , St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said. Richard Lloyd told deputies he wanted to “run the Arabs out of our country” so he pushed a dumpster in front of the Port St. Lucie store and set the contents on fire, Mascara said in a news release posted on Facebook...According to CNN affiliate WPEC, Lloyd told investigators he tried to buy a bottle of Tropicana orange pineapple juice at the store a few days ago but was told they didn’t have any. Lloyd told investigators he planned to burn the building because he “was doing his part for America,” WPEC said." --safari...

...safari: All of the stories describing the Fascist Cookbook were published in completely different outlets in completely different areas of the country, all around the same time. The overall narrative cannot be denied.


Dave Weigel
of the Washington Post: "The ACLU is spending millions of dollars on a plunge into grass-roots politics — a 'People Power' campaign. It’s the newest and largest development from a sprawling 'resistance' movement that regularly moves faster than the Democratic Party’s leaders can think and isn’t waiting on politicians for cues. People Power debuted this weekend in south Florida and, by the organization’s estimate, at thousands of weekend house parties nationwide. Everyone who showed up received a nine-point plan to turn blue America into a network of 'freedom cities' by defying the president’s executive orders, his health-care agenda and his Justice Department. Anyone who missed it could click on PeoplePower.org, the latest catchall website to find actions that would get results." -- CW ...

... E.J. Dionne: "... the opposition must look ahead and grapple with two related questions: Who among Trump’s 2016 voters already have second thoughts about him, and how many of those still sticking with him are open to changing their minds? Liberals who rightly condemn demeaning stereotypes of African Americans and Latinos must also oppose stereotyping Trump’s white working-class supporters.... [Presidential vote] witchers can switch again. This means focusing in the short term on how Trump’s policies will do severe harm to many who thought he would help them.... Resistance must be accompanied by persuasion." -- CW 

Olivia Solon of the Guardian: "Donald Trump is a bully whose immigration policies represent a threat to the safety and prosperity of American cities, according to the mayors of sanctuary cities Santa Fe and Philadelphia.... 'We cannot submit to the will of a bully. When you do it once, you agree to be bullied every step of the way,' [Mayor Javier] Gonzales [of Santa Fe] said [during an SXSW (South by Southwest) panel]. 'If you participate in enabling the bully and give them support to be a bigger bully than they already are, then you are a bully too,' [Mayor James] Kenney [of Philadelphia] said. 'I’m not going to throw any of our immigrant community under the bus because we have a president who is a demagogue.'” -- CW 

Saturday
Mar112017

The Commentariat -- March 12, 2017

Philip Bump of The Washington Post: "Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), [tweeted] about the nationalist Dutch politician Geert Wilders, 'Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies... a deliberate suggestion that American civilization is threatened by unnamed 'others' — almost certainly a reference to non-Westerners... [In response], David Duke tweeted an enthusiastic 'GOD BLESS STEVE KING!!!'" -- LT: They aren't even trying to hide their racism any more.

Lena Sun of The Washington Post: "[A] bill passed Wednesday by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce would allow employers to get around [existing federal laws, which protect genetic privacy and nondiscrimination] if the information is collected as part of a workplace wellness program... [The bill] has already faced strong criticism from a broad array of [nearly 70 consumer, health and medical advocacy groups], as well as House Democrats... The bill, Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act, HR 1313, was introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx, (R-N.C.)... Employers could impose hefty penalties on employees who decline to participate in genetic testing as part of workplace wellness programs if [the] bill [is] approved." -- LT

What Happens When the President Is Delusional. Max Fisher of the New York Times: "The Trump administration, in its fight against the [largely imaginary] 'deep state,' could risk exacerbating the very problems it has pinned on shadowy bureaucratic forces: leaking, internal conflict and the politicization of institutions like intelligence agencies. American institutions do not resemble the powerful deep states of countries like Egypt or Pakistan, experts say. Nor do individual leaks, a number of which have come from President Trump’s own team, amount to a conspiracy.... Mr. Trump has put institutions under enormous stress. He has attacked them publicly, implied he would reject intelligence findings that cast his election in a poor light, hobbled agencies by failing to fill critical positions and cut off bodies like the National Security Council from shaping policy. That has forced civil servants into an impossible dilemma: acquiesce, allowing their institution to be sidelined, or mount a defense, for example through leaks that counter Mr. Trump’s accusations or pressure him into restoring normal policy-maker practices.... This tit-for-tat cycle, scholars say, risks substantially weakening both Mr. Trump and government institutions. In the long term, they warn, this could undermine the government’s ability to function...." -- CW ...

... Mark Ambinder, in a Washington Post op-ed: "President Trump and his administration, according to reports, are worried that government employees are allied against him. Between his accusations of wiretapping and leaking, adviser Stephen Bannon’s campaign to dismantle 'the administrative state' and the hunch (not without evidence) that government employees lean left, the White House seems to buy the 'deep state' theory of governance — the notion that the will of a duly elected president can be thwarted by bureaucrats, especially in the national security realm. While civil servants and the 5.1 million people with security clearances do sometimes act in concert (when fighting a war, for instance), many misconceptions persist about them, their ties to previous administrations and their degree of independence." -- CW 

When Aliens Attack:

The Russia Connection, Ctd. Matthew Rosenberg & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Roger J. Stone Jr., an off-and-on adviser to President Trump for decades, has acknowledged that he had contact on Twitter with Guccifer 2.0, the mysterious online figure that is believed to be a front for Russian intelligence officials. It is the first time that someone associated with Mr. Trump has confirmed any type of contact with Guccifer 2.0, which claimed to be a Romanian hacker and took credit for the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.... American officials have said that Mr. Stone is one of several Trump advisers under scrutiny over their ties to Russia.... Mr. Stone insisted in an interview that the contact had been brief and involved nothing more than the exchange of a few direct messages, well after the party committee had been hacked....  He denied any knowledge of what the hackers were up to before their attacks. 'This is a witch hunt,' Mr. Stone said. 'It’s the worst form of McCarthyism. Seems as if you’re not for nuclear war with the Russians over Syria, then you must be a traitor.'” -- CW: So of course we believe him. 

Emmarie Huetteman of the New York Times: Democrats "agreed just a week ago to the terms of a House Intelligence Committee investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. But now some of the panel’s Democrats are warning that they may pull their support for the inquiry if it becomes mired in party-line politics.... Democrats are bracing for fights over subpoenaing witnesses and documents — including, possibly, Mr. Trump’s tax returns — since Republicans have balked at an outside, independent inquiry into what intelligence officials say was an unprecedented intrusion into an American election by a foreign power." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Maggie Haberman: "Preet Bharara, the Manhattan federal prosecutor who was told to submit his resignation along with 45 others on Friday, has no plans to do so — forcing a potential showdown with President Trump and the Department of Justice. Mr. Bharara, whose office is overseeing a case against a top aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and an investigation into people close to Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City, has told several people that he did not hand in a resignation on Friday, as he was ordered to do by the acting deputy attorney general, Dana Boente.... Mr. Bharara was asked by Mr. Trump to remain in his current post in a meeting in late November, a few weeks after the presidential election. Mr. Bharara met with Mr. Trump at Trump Tower, and then addressed reporters afterward, saying that he had been asked to remain and had given the president his promise to do so." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Update. Because They're Playing Wise Guys. Devlin Barrett, et al., of the Washington Post: "Preet Bharara, one of the most high-profile federal prosecutors in the country, said he was fired Saturday after refusing to submit a letter of resignation as part of an ouster of the remaining U.S. attorneys who were holdovers from the Obama administration, according to people familiar with the matter. Bharara’s dismissal was an about-face from President Trump’s assurances to the Manhattan-based prosecutor in November, weeks after the election, that he wanted him to stay on the job following a meeting at Trump Tower, according to Bharara. Two people close to Trump said the president’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions wanted a clean slate of federal prosecutors and were unconcerned about any perception that the White House changed its mind about Bharara. The removal of former president Barack Obama’s federal prosecutors is about asserting who’s in power, the two said." -- CW ...

... Amanda Terkel of HuffPo: "Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, questioned on Sunday President Donald Trump’s motives in firing U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, suggesting that he might have been acting in his own self-interest to stop a potential corruption investigation... A group of ethics watchdogs sent Bharara a letter recently, asking him to investigate whether Trump [or his companies] are receiving payments and financial benefits from foreign governments." -- LT

...Preet Bharara on Twitter: "By the way, now I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like." -- LT

... Pamela Brown, et al., of CNN: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions has asked for the resignations of 46 US attorneys, igniting anger from officials who say they were given no warning about their dismissals. The Justice Department announced the firings Friday afternoon, and many prosecutors had not been formally notified or even told before they were fired, according to a law enforcement source. Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente was in the beginning stages of calling each US attorney individually to tell them they had to resign when the DOJ issued a statement. A law enforcement source charged that 'this could not have been handled any worse' because there was little warning. Many prosecutors found out through media reports that they had to resign today." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... David Atkins in the Washington Monthly: "Why the sudden demand for all these attorneys to disappear?... It’s awfully coincidental that the order came immediately after Fox News host Sean Hannity demanded on his program that the Trump Administration 'purge the saboteurs before it’s too late,' referring to Obama appointees. Sean Spicer insisted the next day that the Administration had been planning the purge for a long time, but it stretches belief to say that the two events were not linked. Meanwhile, yesterday was confirmed that Trump’s explosive claims on Twitter that President Obama personally ordered wiretaps on him were the result of an aide slipping a baseless allegation from a Breitbart article into his reading pile.Trump has also been tweeting at – and retweeting – Fox and Friends, the notoriously fact-free show that the President apparently watches religiously.... Fox News and Breitbart aren’t the media arm of the Republican Party. The Republican Party is the legislative arm of Fox News and Breitbart." -- CW  

     ... CW: So I wonder how it happened that Breitbart published an article (see Eric Levitz's post, also linked yesterday) advocating against repeal-and-replace. Was that a move by former Breitbart publisher & usually-faux populist Steve Bannon trying to ensure that Trumpbots didn't lose their health insurance?

... Steve M.: "It's ... likely that the whole scenario -- purge demands from [Sean] Hannity and others, followed by the abrupt and unreasonable demands for immediate resignations, and the double-cross of Bharara -- were all part of the same stage-managed package.... The deplorables love it this way. It's pro wrestling -- you create a villain (in this case, holdovers from the previous administration), then you do something nasty to the villain, and the crowd goes wild.... Anger mounts? Boo-ya! Democrats are LOSING IT? U-S-A! U-S-A! If Trump can fill enough news cycles with headlines like this, he won't have to keep any of his campaign promises. The fan base will believe he's made America great again." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Peter Hermann of the Washington Post: "A man from California carrying a backpack scaled a White House fence Friday night and was arrested on the South Lawn of the presidential residence, according to the U.S. Secret Service. The suspect — identified by D.C. police as Jonathan Tran, 26 — was being charged and could make an initial appearance in D.C. Superior Court later on Saturday on a charge of unlawful entry.... [The backpack] did not contain any hazardous materials, the Secret Service statement said." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... The story has been updated. "A California man carrying two cans of Mace and a letter to President Trump about 'Russian hackers' scaled a White House fence Friday night and neared an entrance to the presidential mansion before he was arrested, according to a court document. The suspect — identified as Jonathan Tuan-Anh Tran, 26 — made it all the way to the exterior of the White House, which he walked alongside, and then hid behind a pillar before he was spotted and apprehended near the South Portico entrance.... The U.S. Secret Service declined to answer questions about how the man penetrated so deep onto the White House grounds, citing an ongoing investigation." -- CW 

"Imploding" ObamaCare Is Another Democratic Conspiracy. Rebecca Morin of Politico: "...  Donald Trump on Saturday doubled down on his claim that Obamacare is 'imploding,' tweeting after days of notable restraint on social media. 'We are making great progress with healthcare. ObamaCare is imploding and will only get worse. Republicans coming together to get job done,' the president wrote. On Friday, Trump said during a meeting on health care with Vice President Mike Pence and House committee chairmen that 2017 'would be a disaster for Obamacare. That’s the year it was meant to explode because Obama won’t be here. That was when it was supposed to be even worse.'” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

Nick Wing of the Huffington Post contrasts some of President Obama's remarks with Trump's remarks on the same (or similar) topics. While such "comparisons" are easy to skew by cherrypicking (has Obama ever joked about sexy women? yes, he has), it's impossible to imagine Trump's ever, ever saying anything remotely as empathetic as Obama routinely does.

... David Drucker of the Washington Examiner: "President Trump has told Republican leaders that he's prepared to play hardball with congressional conservatives to pass the GOP healthcare bill, including by supporting the 2018 primary challengers of any Republican who votes against the bill. Sources told the Washington Examiner that Trump made that threat in a White House meeting on Tuesday with House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and other members of the House GOP whip team that helps line up votes." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: Historically, authoritarian "populists" have expanded the social safety nets in their countries. "Trump, on the other hand, has little to offer ordinary Americans except protectionist rhetoric and anti-immigrant measures. Before moving to gut Obamacare, he at least could have tried to bolster his populist credentials by passing a job-creating infrastructure bill or a middle-class tax cut. Instead, he’s staked his Presidency on a proposal that would hurt many of his supporters, slash Medicaid, undermine the finances of Medicare, and benefit the donor class. That’s not populism: it’s the reverse of it. And it might be a political disaster in the making." -- CW ...

... Jesse Drucker of the New York Times: "Two of the biggest tax cuts in Republican proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act would deliver roughly $157 billion over the coming decade to those with incomes of $1 million or more, according to a congressional analysis. The assessment was made by the Joint Committee on Taxation, a nonpartisan panel that provides research on tax issues.... The benefits of these reductions would be aimed squarely at the top.... 'Repeal-and-replace is a gigantic transfer of wealth from the lowest-income Americans to the highest-income Americas,' said Edward D. Kleinbard, a professor at the University of Southern California law school and former chief of staff for the Joint Committee on Taxation" -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Next Step: Nix Prenatal Care. Lee Fang & Nick Surgey of the Intercept: "When Republican Congressman John Shimkus expressed outrage during a House committee hearing Wednesday 'about men having to purchase prenatal care' in their health insurance — the video clip of which caught fire on social media as an example of misogyny and cluelessness — he wasn’t going rogue. He was just getting ahead of party leaders, who haven’t publicly announced their next steps quite yet. In a conference call with GOP allies on Thursday, however, House Republican Conference chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers outlined the party’s 'three-phase approach' to repealing the Affordable Care Act and suggested that the Essential Benefits Package, a provision of the law with sweeping consumer protections, could soon be on the chopping block. The benefits package, a core provision of the ACA, requires qualifying health insurance plans to cover a set of medical treatments, including pregnancy-related medical care." CW: McMorris has three young children, but she doesn't seem to give a flying fuck if expectant mothers (and others) get proper medical care.

... Jack Healy of the New York Times: "As the health care debate thundered away in Washington, Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah stirred up a social media squall the other day by suggesting that uninsured Americans should invest in their own health care 'rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love.'... To his critics, [Chaffetz's remark] sounded like a callous and obtuse dismissal of the hard choices that struggling families face every day — and one that echoed earlier, racially noxious arguments over 'welfare queens' and criticisms of programs that helped provide phone service to poor people.”

Lara Jakes of the New York Times: "More than 130 members of America’s foreign policy establishment denounced President Trump’s revised travel ban on Friday as just as damaging to the United States’ interests and reputation as his original order that halted refugees and froze travelers from predominantly Muslim countries. In a letter to Mr. Trump, the former government officials and experts said even the scaled-back order will 'weaken U.S. security and undermine U.S. global leadership.' And they said it continues to signal to Muslim allies that — as the Islamic State and other extremist propaganda profess — the United States is an enemy of Islam." -- CW 

"The Phantom of Foggy Bottom." David Sanger of the New York Times: "... for thousands in the State Department, [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson has come to be viewed as the phantom of Foggy Bottom, scarcely glimpsed and known mostly for his directives to wipe out some of the department’s top jobs.... Mr. Tillerson will not have much of a staff for a while; not a single under secretary or assistant secretary — the people who make the policy wheels turn — has been nominated, and only a couple of ambassadors have been named.... The biggest concern among diplomats and many in Congress is that when Mr. Trump talks about bolstering America’s commitment to its national security, he does not have diplomacy in mind. Longtime diplomats often cite — or email to reporters — a line uttered four years ago by the new defense secretary, Jim Mattis, when he was in charge of Central Command. 'If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition,' Mr. Mattis said at the time. As one diplomat who has met frequently with Mr. Tillerson since he took office noted recently, 'Rex clearly agrees with that. He just won’t say it.' (A senior State Department official said Mr. Tillerson did say it, to Mr. Trump, over dinner a little more than a week ago.)" -- CW 

 

 

Teri Figueroa & Joshua Stewart of the Los Angeles Times: "Congressmen Darrell Issa and Duncan Hunter were confronted by rowdy protesters Saturday at separate back-to-back town hall meetings.... Healthcare was a major topic of concern at both town halls.... Most were concerned about a proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act and other Trump administration policies. Inside the sometimes raucous meeting, when Issa referred to the healthcare act as 'Obamacare,' the crowd jeered and some yelled its official name." -- CW  

Robert Barnes of the Washington Post: "A panel of federal judges has ruled that Texas’s Republican-led legislature gerrymandered some of the state’s congressional districts to stunt the growing influence of minority voters. The 2-to-1 decision — years in the making — was issued Friday night. It invalidated three congressional districts in south and west Texas and in the Austin area. Although a remedy was not prescribed, redrawing the districts will probably aid Latino and Democratic voters. The challenge to the districts was supported by the Obama administration’s Justice Department lawyers.... All three judges agreed that the legislature packed minorities into some districts and splintered them among others to dilute their power. But the jurists disagreed about whether that was simply partisan gerrymandering, which the Supreme Court has tolerated, or racial discrimination, which is forbidden.... The dissenting judge issued an acidic attack on their work, saying they painted state officials 'as a bunch of backwoods hayseed bigots.'” CW: Sounds about right. ...

... Rick Hasen: "I believe this is a major victory for voting rights plaintiffs (and the United States) in proving that some of the congressional district plans violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, some were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders, and some were passed with racially discriminatory intent.... There is good reason to believe the Supreme Court would allow this ruling to stand, as it closely tracks Justice Kennedy’s views of the issues in this area. And perhaps most importantly, the ruling provides the predicate to put Texas back under federal approval for its voting rules, for up to 10 years, either in this case or in the pending Texas voter id case. (The one caveat here is that it would be the AG Sessions’ DOJ which would do the preclearance, and I would not expect them to aggressively enforce the non-discrimination requirement)." -- CW 

Beyond the Beltway

More to the Story. Mitch Smith of the New York Times: After Michael Brown's murder in Ferguson, Missouri, "police released a security video from a nearby store that showed Mr. Brown pushing a worker and taking cigarillos minutes before the shooting. But a second, previously unreported video from that same convenience store included in a new documentary is raising new questions about what happened in the hours before the shooting on Aug. 9, 2014. The footage shows Mr. Brown entering the store, Ferguson Market and Liquor, shortly after 1 a.m. on the day he died. He approaches the counter, hands over an item that appears to be a small bag and takes a shopping sack filled with cigarillos. Mr. Brown is shown walking toward the door with the sack, then turning around and handing the cigarillos back across the counter before exiting. Jason Pollock, a documentary filmmaker who acquired the new tape, says the footage challenges the police narrative that Mr. Brown committed a strong-armed robbery when he returned to the store around noon that day. Instead, Mr. Pollock believes that the new video shows Mr. Brown giving a small bag of marijuana to store employees and receiving cigarillos in return as part of a negotiated deal. Mr. Pollock said Mr. Brown left the cigarillos behind the counter for safekeeping." -- CW 

Friday
Mar102017

The Commentariat -- March 11, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Preet Bharara, the Manhattan federal prosecutor who was told to submit his resignation along with 45 others on Friday, has no plans to do so — forcing a potential showdown with President Trump and the Department of Justice. Mr. Bharara, whose office is overseeing a case against a top aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and an investigation into people close to Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City, has told several people that he did not hand in a resignation on Friday, as he was ordered to do by the acting deputy attorney general, Dana Boente.... Mr. Bharara was asked by Mr. Trump to remain in his current post in a meeting in late November, a few weeks after the presidential election. Mr. Bharara met with Mr. Trump at Trump Tower, and then addressed reporters afterward, saying that he had been asked to remain and had given the president his promise to do so." -- CW  

Pamela Brown, et al., of CNN: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions has asked for the resignations of 46 US attorneys, igniting anger from officials who say they were given no warning about their dismissals. The Justice Department announced the firings Friday afternoon, and many prosecutors had not been formally notified or even told before they were fired, according to a law enforcement source. Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente was in the beginning stages of calling each US attorney individually to tell them they had to resign when the DOJ issued a statement. A law enforcement source charged that 'this could not have been handled any worse' because there was little warning. Many prosecutors found out through media reports that they had to resign today." -- CW ...

... Steve M.: "It's ... likely that the whole scenario -- purge demands from [Sean] Hannity and others, followed by the abrupt and unreasonable demands for immediate resignations, and the double-cross of Bharara -- were all part of the same stage-managed package.... The deplorables love it this way. It's pro wrestling -- you create a villain (in this case, holdovers from the previous administration), then you do something nasty to the villain, and the crowd goes wild.... Anger mounts? Boo-ya! Democrats are LOSING IT? U-S-A! U-S-A! If Trump can fill enough news cycles with headlines like this, he won't have to keep any of his campaign promises. The fan base will believe he's made America great again." -- CW 

"Imploding" ObamaCare Is Another Democratic Conspiracy. Rebecca Morin of Politico: "...  Donald Trump on Saturday doubled down on his claim that Obamacare is 'imploding,' tweeting after days of notable restraint on social media. 'We are making great progress with healthcare. ObamaCare is imploding and will only get worse. Republicans coming together to get job done,' the president wrote. On Friday, Trump said during a meeting on health care with Vice President Mike Pence and House committee chairmen that 2017 'would be a disaster for Obamacare. That’s the year it was meant to explode because Obama won’t be here. That was when it was supposed to be even worse.'” -- CW ...

... David Drucker of the Washington Examiner: "President Trump has told Republican leaders that he's prepared to play hardball with congressional conservatives to pass the GOP healthcare bill, including by supporting the 2018 primary challengers of any Republican who votes against the bill. Sources told the Washington Examiner that Trump made that threat in a White House meeting on Tuesday with House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and other members of the House GOP whip team that helps line up votes." -- CW ...

... Jesse Drucker of the New York Times: "Two of the biggest tax cuts in Republican proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act would deliver roughly $157 billion over the coming decade to those with incomes of $1 million or more, according to a congressional analysis. The assessment was made by the Joint Committee on Taxation, a nonpartisan panel that provides research on tax issues.... The benefits of these reductions would be aimed squarely at the top.... 'Repeal-and-replace is a gigantic transfer of wealth from the lowest-income Americans to the highest-income Americas,' said Edward D. Kleinbard, a professor at the University of Southern California law school and former chief of staff for the Joint Committee on Taxation" -- CW 

Emmarie Huetteman of the New York Times: Democrats "agreed just a week ago to the terms of a House Intelligence Committee investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. But now some of the panel’s Democrats are warning that they may pull their support for the inquiry if it becomes mired in party-line politics.... Democrats are bracing for fights over subpoenaing witnesses and documents — including, possibly, Mr. Trump’s tax returns — since Republicans have balked at an outside, independent inquiry into what intelligence officials say was an unprecedented intrusion into an American election by a foreign power." -- CW 

Peter Hermann of the Washington Post: "A man from California carrying a backpack scaled a White House fence Friday night and was arrested on the South Lawn of the presidential residence, according to the U.S. Secret Service. The suspect — identified by D.C. police as Jonathan Tran, 26 — was being charged and could make an initial appearance in D.C. Superior Court later on Saturday on a charge of unlawful entry.... [The backpack] did not contain any hazardous materials, the Secret Service statement said." -- CW 

*****

Everybody Out! Charlie Savage & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "The Trump administration on Friday moved to sweep away the remaining vestiges of Obama administration prosecutors at the Justice Department, ordering 46 holdover United States attorneys to tender their resignations immediately — including Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan. The firings were a surprise — especially for Mr. Bharara, who has a reputation for prosecuting public corruption cases. In November, Mr. Bharara met with then President-elect Donald J. Trump at Trump Tower and told reporters afterward that Mr. Trump had asked him about staying on, which the prosecutor said he expected to do. But on Friday, Mr. Bharara was among federal prosecutors who received a call from Dana Boente, the acting deputy attorney general, instructing him to resign, according to a person familiar with the matter. A spokesman for Mr. Bharara declined to comment.... It was not clear how that affects Mr. Boente, who is the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Mr. Trump temporarily installed him as acting deputy attorney general after firing the holdover deputy from the Obama administration, Sally Yates, for refusing to defend Mr. Trump’s initial travel ban in court." -- CW 

Rachana Pradhan of Politico: "The nation's second largest health insurer told leading House Republicans they support their bill repealing Obamacare, saying the 'time to act is now' to stabilize the individual insurance market. Anthem, in a letter obtained by Politico, endorsed major parts of the repeal bill, known as the American Health Care Act, and urged lawmakers to move the process forward 'as quickly as possible.' The letter is a notable sign of support for Republicans after two major trade associations representing health insurers expressed reservations about their health plan this week." -- CW ...

... Sean Sullivan, et al., of the Washington Post: "The White House and House Republican leaders on Friday forcefully defended their plan to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, including a provision that has drawn criticism from conservatives who are pressing for a more aggressive attack on the law. After President Trump met at the White House with the House GOP leaders, his chief spokesman said the president fully supports the bill’s timeline for phasing out the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA, which some on the right would like to accelerate. Earlier in the day, the House leaders dismissed the idea of speeding up the phaseout.... The development also suggested that Trump had reversed himself after meeting with House leaders Friday; earlier in the week, the president told conservative lawmakers and leaders of outside conservative groups that he was open to significant further negotiations." -- CW ...

... Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "... with Mr. Trump’s administration aggressively pitching the House Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Capitol Hill’s official scorekeeper — the Congressional Budget Officeis coming under intense fire. As it prepares to render its judgment on the cost and impact of the bill, the nonpartisan agency of economists and statisticians has become a political piñata — and the latest example of Mr. Trump’s team casting doubt on benchmarks accepted as trustworthy for decades. 'If you’re looking to the C.B.O. for accuracy, you’re looking in the wrong place,' Sean Spicer ... said on Wednesday.... Mr. Spicer’s criticism echoed that of some House Republicans who raised questions this week about the C.B.O.’s record.... Created by Congress in 1974, the agency provides forecasts that are the foundation of the budget process. The White House’s attack has sparked a fierce backlash among economists, former C.B.O. directors and some lawmakers who see its disparagement as a sign that longstanding legislative traditions are eroding." -- CW ...

... Hmmm. Eric Levitz of New York: "Breitbart’s latest headline on the Trump-Ryan health-care plan is probably causing some consternation at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. '7 Reasons Why ObamaCare 2.0 Is All But Guaranteed to Impose Crushing Costs on Voters, Hurt Trump's Base, and Hand Power Back to the Democrats.' Perhaps the most shocking thing about Breitbart’s headline is its accuracy. Trumpcare is a much less generous program than Obamacare — and its cuts will be felt, disproportionately, by the people who wanted Trump to Make America Great Again.... The truth is, there’s no Republican alternative to Obamacare that wouldn’t betray a large swath of Trump’s base. You can’t make the ACA work better for older, working-class people when your party’s first priority in reforming the law is to eliminate the part that transfers billions of dollars from millionaires to older, working-class people." -- CW ...

... Gail Collins tries to analyze Trump's response to a conversation he had with Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) & Peter Welch (D-Vt.) about lowering drug prices by allowing the federal government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies the prices of drugs for Medicare patients.

Peter Baker & Ian Fisher of the New York Times: "President Trump spoke with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority on Friday for the first time since taking office and invited him to visit the White House, opening a new avenue of diplomacy as he develops his own peace initiative for the Middle East. Mr. Trump, who presented himself last year as Israel’s greatest champion, had refused to deal directly with Palestinian officials until now. But after a White House meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, and multiple conversations with Arab leaders from the region, Mr. Trump has embarked on what he promises to be a sustained effort to break a generations-old impasse and resolve the conflict." -- CW 

Alissa Rubin of the New York Times: "... for observers of American foreign policy, it was hard not to interpret the low-key rollout [of the State Department's annual human rights report] as another step by the Trump administration away from America’s traditional role as a moral authority on the world stage that tries to shape and promote democratic norms, both for their intrinsic value and to create a more secure world. Interviews with more than a dozen former diplomats, professors, human rights advocates and international politicians, both abroad and in the United States, suggested that the United States under President Trump was poised to cede not only this global role, but also its ability to lead by example.... Mr. Trump’s administration stands alone, many experts said, for the divisiveness of its tone toward minorities and the media at home and toward Muslims and migrants abroad, its disparagement of NATO and the European Union and its praise of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, which have blurred distinctions between allies and enemies." -- CW 

President Stonewall. Peter Stevenson of the Washington Post: "... in a short photo op on Friday at the White House, reporters pressed [Donald Trump] for that evidence [that President Obama had "tapped Trump's wires" in Trump Tower].... ABC's Jonathan Karl repeatedly, and bluntly, asking Trump if he had any evidence at all to support his accusations. And other reporters shouted questions about former national security adviser Michael Flynn and his ties to Turkey. But handlers and security officers quickly began to usher the press out of the room, using a phrase — 'thank you, press' — that seems polite, but really means, 'It's time to stop asking questions and leave.'” -- CW 

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "... Donald Trump’s revised travel ban executive order suffered its first legal setback Friday as a federal judge blocked the directive's potential impact on the family of a Syrian refugee living in Wisconsin. Madison-based U.S. District Court Judge William Conley issued a temporary retraining order at the request of the Syrian man, who is referred to as 'John Doe' in court filings. The judge, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, said Trump's new executive order cannot be used to delay the man’s effort to bring his wife and 3-year-old daughter from the wartorn country to the U.S., but is limited to the individuals involved in the case." -- CW 

Philip Bump of the Washington Post: By the metrics (or whatever they were) Trump applied during the 2016 campaign, this month's jobs report, which showed a gain of 235K jobs, doesn't look too good. "Update: The Trump White House would now like you to know that the real numbers are indeed real." CW: Funny how that works. They were fake for Obama; they're real now. But I can promise you, if the numbers begin to fall, Trump will label them fake again. 

It’s not a question of raising a red flag. It’s a question of whether or not they gave him the advice that they are supposed to, which is it is not up to them to make decisions as to what you need to do or not do. -- Sean Spicer, on the Flynn Affair

Warning to Spokesmen & Other Liars! CYA contortions often reveal themselves in mangled grammar. -- Constant Weader ...

... The Flynn Affair, Ctd. Peter Baker & Matthew Rosenberg of the New York Times: "The White House said that Mr. Trump did not know that Mr. Flynn was acting as a foreign agent when Mr. Trump appointed him national security adviser, a position that gave him access to classified meetings and materials. But a person briefed on the matter ... said Mr. Flynn’s lawyer contacted a lawyer for Mr. Trump’s transition team before the inauguration to ask whether Mr. Flynn should register given his work for Inovo. The transition lawyer offered no advice, saying it was up to Mr. Flynn. After the inauguration, the person said, Mr. Flynn and his lawyer each raised it again with a White House lawyer, only to be told once more it was up to him.... When former colleagues criticized him for becoming overtly partisan, he shot back by castigating them for using their titles to enrich themselves by joining corporate boards. In an interview in October, Mr. Flynn insisted that he had eschewed financial rewards to follow his political convictions and join the Trump campaign. 'I would love to be making some money,' he said. 'I wish I could stop what I’m doing.'” Flynn signed his contract to work for the Turkish government through a go-between in August. -- CW ...

... Ashley Parker of the Washington Post: "Attorneys for Michael Flynn ... informed the incoming White House legal counsel during the transition that Flynn might need to register with the government as a foreign agent — a phone call that raised no alarms within Trump’s team.... The national security adviser is supposed to be an honest broker within the executive branch, pulling together military and diplomatic options for the president so he can decide what policy to pursue. But Flynn’s work potentially benefiting Turkey meant he was representing the interests of a country other than the United States at the same time he was advising Trump on foreign policy during the election.... When Flynn resigned last month, Trump defended his national security adviser as a 'wonderful man” who had 'been treated very, very unfairly by the media.'” -- CW ...

... Oh, and there's this from Gail Collins, linked above. "Right after the election..., [Elijah] Cummings, who’s the top-ranking Democrat on the House oversight committee..., warned Vice President Mike Pence about naming Michael Flynn national security adviser, pointing out that during the campaign, Flynn had been not only a Trump surrogate, but also a lobbyist for Turkish government interests." ...

... Yeah, and then there's this, via Ashley Parker: Pence told Bret Baier of Fox "News" on Thursday, "Well, let me say, hearing that story today was the first I heard of it, and I fully support the decision that President Trump made to ask for General Flynn's resignation... The first I heard of it, and I think it is an affirmation of the President’s decision to ask General Flynn to resign.” According to Parker's report, Cummings didn't just have a little chat with pence; Cummings sent pence a letter about Flynn's conflict of interest. So I surmise pence is trying out the "lost in the mail" defense which could morph into the "I forgot" defense. Trump may be the Liar in Chief, but he's surrounded himself with a lot of eager little apprentices. ...

... CW: So Trump's lawyer knew, and Trump's veep knew, and of course Trump's national security advisor knew, but nobody bothered to tell Fuckface von Clownstick that Flynn was a foreign agent? I'd call that implausible deniability.

The Russia Connection, Ctd. Is This Russian Oligarch Just a Trump Fanboy? Alexandra Clough & John Pacenti of the Palm Beach Post: "Why did a Russian oligarch [Dmitry Rybolovlev] pay now-President Donald Trump $95 million for his Palm Beach mansion? Almost a decade later, the answer is less clear than it was at the time of the sale, the largest price paid for a Palm Beach home.... Federal Aviation Administration records reviewed by the Palm Beach Post and other news outlets have tracked Rybolovlev’s private plane to cities where Trump has traveled, both during his campaign and into his presidency. In October, for example, Trump appeared at a campaign rally in Las Vegas. Rybolovlev’s plane arrived in that city an hour after the campaign event started. A month later, FAA records show Rybolovlev’s plane, an Airbus 319, also landed in Charlotte, N.C., 90 minutes before Trump’s plane arrived. Trump was scheduled to host a campaign event there that day — Nov. 3 — five days before the presidential election. The latest juxtaposition of Trump’s and Rybolovlev’s aircrafts occurred last month ... when the oligarch’s plane landed at Miami International Airport while Trump was at Mar-a-Lago entertaining Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.... Trump has said he has never met Rybolovlev, who was represented by a real estate broker in the mansion sale." CW: Rybolovlev made his billions in fertilizer sales, & I'd take Trump's "I don't know him" claim as a sack o' the stuff. (See, for example, the Flynn Affair.) ...

... The Russia Connection, Ctd. CBS/AP: "The New York City medical examiner’s office, citing diplomatic protocol, will not release the cause and manner of death for Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, who died suddenly last month after collapsing in his office. An autopsy was performed on Ambassador Vitaly Churkin last month, but the death required further study. The additional tests were completed, but Julie Bolcer, spokeswoman for the city’s medical examiner, said Friday that the city’s law department told the office not to release any further information, 'in order to comply with international law and protocol.' The U.S. Department of State asked the city in writing on Feb. 24 to not reveal the autopsy results, because Churkin’s diplomatic immunity survives his death.... In a follow-up letter on March 1, the State Department noted that the Russian Federation raised concerns after the autopsy had been conducted, and 'voluntary statements reported in the media about Ambassador Churkin’s medical history' prompted complaints from Russian diplomats.” -- CW 

Darren Samuelsohn of Politico: "... former Secret Service and intelligence officials say the [Mar-a-Lago] resort is a security nightmare vulnerable to both casual and professional spies. While Trump’s private club in South Florida has been transformed into a fortress of armed guards, military-grade radar, bomb sniffing dogs and metal-detection checkpoints, there are still notable vulnerabilities, namely the stream of guests who can enter the property without a background check.... They add that with each repeat visit [by Trump], the security risk escalates.... The Secret Service ... [is not equipped] to protect the president ... from the kinds of counterespionage challenges presented by the president’s choice to eat, sleep and work at a club accessible to anyone who can get a member to invite them in.... Lists of the club's nearly 500 exclusive dues-paying members have leaked in recent weeks to the news media, giving foreign intelligence the names of potential targets for surveillance, blackmail or bribes that can help them get closer to the president." -- CW 

Brian Klaas, in a Washington Post op-ed: "Since his inauguration on Jan. 20, Trump has governed in a way that poses a unique threat to the integrity of American democracy.... Trump has attacked the integrity of voting, the foundation of all democratic systems.... Trump has also undermined the credibility of his own office.... In just 50 days, Trump has made at least 194 false or misleading claims — an average of about four daily.... Trump’s administration has repeatedly flouted ethics guidelines without consequence.... Trump has attacked the independent judiciary.... Crucially, Trump has accelerated a long-term trend, prodding tens of millions of Americans to further lose faith in basic institutions of American government.... Finally, Trump has attacked a cornerstone of every democracy: the free press.... Trump ... is capitalizing on long-term divisions and a long-term erosion of American institutions. But he has accelerated those trends." -- CW 

Katie Thomas of the New York Times: "President Trump was expected to nominate Scott Gottlieb, a partner at a venture capital fund with longstanding ties to the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, to lead the Food and Drug Administration on Friday, according to senior administration officials. The selection of Dr. Gottlieb, 44, who served as a top official at the agency during the administration of President George W. Bush, drew praise from industry executives, who had previously expressed concerns that another top contender, Jim O’Neill, held radical views that would have gutted standards for drug approval trials and testing." -- CW ...

     ... Update. New Lede: "President Trump said Friday that he intended to nominate Scott Gottlieb, a partner at a venture capital fund with longstanding ties to the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, to lead the Food and Drug Administration." -- CW 

Turns Out Trump Is Staffing the Administration. Darius Dixon of Politico: "... Donald Trump appointed a massage therapist from New Hampshire with no apparent relevant experience to work at the Energy Department, but parted company with the employee Friday after a series of anti-Muslim social media posts came to light, current and former DOE employees tell Politico. Sid Bowdidge had ... taken up residence this week in the director’s office of the agency’s Office of Technology Transitions, a career DOE employee said, but it was not clear precisely when he started or what his job would be. OTT specializes in shepherding research developed at the national labs into the private sector, an area in which Bowdidge didn't seem to have any experience.... DOE employees were unsettled by Bowdidge’s caustic Twitter account, on which he accused then-President Barack Obama of having terrorist 'relatives' and spouted anti-Muslim views.... Replying to a CNN tweet that included a picture of the suspected San Bernardino shooters, Bowdidge wrote, 'Scum sucking maggots of the world. Exterminate them all.' And during a dispute with someone on Twitter a week later, Bowdidge replied to the person 'wouldn't say that if it was your wife, sister or family member that was murdered by some Muslim piece of shit.'" -- CW 

     ... An earlier BuzzFeed story by Dino Grandoni, on Bowdidge, who worked as a "ground campaign manager" for Trump, is here.

Dust-up in the Press Room. When "Credentialed Journalists" Are Too Right-Wing Crazy for Fox "News." Hadas Gold of Politico: "A Fox News Radio correspondent confronted in the White House briefing room the White House reporter for a website that traffics in conspiracy theories, witnesses said on Friday. As reporters were getting settled ahead of Friday’s briefing, the Fox correspondent Jon Decker pointed out that a reporter from Gateway Pundit, Lucian Wintrich, was in the room and that they 'hate blacks, Jews, Hispanics,' according to BuzzFeed White House correspondent Adrian Carrasquillo, who tweeted about the incident. Decker also sent an email to the entire White House reporter email listserv, noting that the White House 'has admitted Gateway Pundit into today's White House Press Briefing.'... Fox News confirmed Decker ... was reacting to previous tweets Wintrich had posted. According to a White House Correspondent in the room, several reporters shook Decker’s hands as he walked back to the Fox News radio booth.... Shortly after the interaction, Gateway Pundit published a post claiming that Decker grabbed Wintrich’s arm, assaulted him and shouted that he was a Nazi and that The Gateway Pundit 'is a white supremacist publication.' Decker and Fox News deny that any sort of assault occurred. Another White House correspondent who witnessed the incident said no physical altercation occurred." -- CW 

Marissa Payne of the Washington Post: "A month after Muhammad Ali’s son and his mother, Ali’s second wife Khalilah Camacho-Ali, were detained in a Florida airport allegedly for their 'Arabic-sounding names,' he says he was held up again, this time at Reagan National Airport on Friday. He and his mother had come to Washington to lobby to end racial profiling, and he was trying to board a flight back to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.... As it happened, Ali was sharing a flight with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), whose congressional district lies just south of Fort Lauderdale. She tweeted out a photo of the two of them and wrote, 'Religiously profiling son of "The Greatest" will not make us safe.'” -- CW 

Lena Sun of the Washington Post: "Nearly three dozen people in the United States have been diagnosed with a deadly and highly drug-resistant fungal infection since federal health officials first warned U.S. clinicians last June to be on the lookout for the emerging pathogen that has been spreading around the world. The fungus, a strain of a kind of yeast known as Candida auris, has been reported in a dozen countries on five continents starting in 2009, when it was found in an ear infection in a patient in Japan. Since then, the fungus has been reported in Colombia, India, Israel, Kenya, Kuwait, Pakistan, South Korea, Venezuela and the United Kingdom. Unlike garden variety yeast infections, this one causes serious bloodstream infections, spreads easily from person to person in health-care settings, and survives for months on skin and for weeks on bed rails, chairs and other hospital equipment." -- CW

BUT No Girls Allowed! Jason Horowitz of the New York Times: "Pope Francis this week signaled receptiveness to appeals from bishops in the remote and overwhelmed corners of the Roman Catholic Church to combat a deepening shortage of priests by ordaining married men who are already committed to the church. In an interview with a German newspaper, the pope made clear that he was not advocating an end to celibacy for current priests or those aspiring to join the clergy. But his seeming openness about the prospect of ordaining married men in places hardest hit by a dearth of priests was unusually explicit and brought the issue to the forefront.... For years, the pope has noted that an element of married clergy already exists in the church. Eastern Rite priests in union with Rome have married for centuries. In 1980, John Paul II created a provision by which some married Protestant ministers who converted to Catholicism could maintain their ministry. And historically, priests in the first centuries of the church were free to marry.... Francis, who has made clear that he sees little possibility for allowing women to be priests, called the vocation crisis an 'enormous problem.'” -- CW 

Beyond the Beltway

Maxine Bernstein of the Oregonian: "A federal jury Friday delivered a split verdict in the second Oregon standoff trial, finding two defendants guilty of conspiracy in the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge but acquitting two others of the same charge. The jury found Jason Patrick, described by prosecutors as one of the organizers of the armed occupation, and Darryl Thorn, who worked on security details, guilty of conspiring to prevent federal workers from doing their jobs at the refuge through intimidation, threat or force. The other two men on trial, Duane Ehmer and Jake Ryan, were found not guilty. The jury, though, found both Ehmer and Ryan guilty of willfully damaging the refuge, or depredation of government property, by using a refuge excavator to dig two deep trenches early on the morning of Jan. 27, 2016. The jury also found Thorn guilty of possessing a firearm in a federal facility, but acquitted Patrick and Ryan of the same charge.... Their decision follows the October acquittals of Ammon Bundy and six co-defendants on the same conspiracy and weapons charges following a five-week trial in the 41-day refuge occupation last winter. Bundy, his older brother Ryan Bundy were considered among the leaders of the occupation. The prosecution sharpened its case this time, zeroing in on how the actions of the men on trial revealed their intent to intimidate federal workers and explaining that jurors didn't need to see a formal written or verbal agreement to find a conspiracy." -- CW 

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