The Wires

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

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

Medlar's Sports Report. New York Times: "Tiger Woods’s comeback from personal and professional adversity is complete: He captured his fifth Masters title and his 15th major tournament on Sunday, snapping a championship drought of nearly 11 years. It was a monumental triumph for Woods, a magical, come-from-behind win for a player who had not won a major championship since his personal life began to unravel on Thanksgiving night in 2009, when a marital dispute led to a car accident and a succession of lurid tabloid headlines. On the golf course, he had a series of back and leg injuries that led to an addiction to painkillers and culminated in pain so searing that, before surgery in 2017, he had questioned whether he could play professionally again." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Oh yeah? Trump can beat Tiger any day.

Tom Jones of Poynter picks the top 25 movies ever about journalism.

New York Times: "For 340 days, Scott Kelly circled the Earth aboard the International Space Station, gathering data about himself." His twin brother Mark Kelly, planted on Earth, did the same. "On Thursday..., NASA researchers reported that [Scott Kelly's] body experienced a vast number of changes while in orbit. DNA mutated in some of his cells. His immune system produced a host of new signals. His microbiome gained new species of bacteria. Many of these biological changes seemed harmless, disappearing after he returned to Earth. But others — including genetic mutations and, after his return, declines in cognitive test scores — did not correct themselves, provoking concern among scientists."

Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times: now does his first drafts of columns as well as other traditional writing tasks by speaking into his phone. "I open RecUp, a cloud-connected voice-recording app on my phone.... Every few days, I load the recordings into Descript, an app that bills itself as a “word processor for audio.” Some of my voice memos are more than an hour long, but Descript quickly (and cheaply) transcribes the text, truncates the silences and renders my speech editable and searchable.... New advances — like smarter and more ubiquitous voice assistants; better text-to-speech synthesis; easy-to-use audio and video production apps like Descript and Anchor; and gadgets that burrow the internet into your ears, like Apple’s AirPods and Amazon’s reported forthcoming AirPod clones — point to a profound shift in computing. Soon it might be possible to conduct a large slice of digital life, including work, without being glued to a screen."

New York Times: "In a cave in the Philippines, scientists have discovered a new branch of the human family tree. At least 50,000 years ago, an extinct human species lived on what is now the island of Luzon, researchers reported on Wednesday. It’s possible that Homo luzonensis, as they’re calling the species, stood less than three feet tall. The discovery adds growing complexity to the story of human evolution. It was not a simple march forward, as it once seemed. Instead, our lineage assumed an exuberant burst of strange forms along the way.Our species, Homo sapiens, now inhabits a comparatively lonely world. 'The more fossils that people pull out of the ground, the more we realize that the variation that was present in the past far exceeds what we see in us today,' said Matthew Tocheri, a paleoanthropologist at Lakehead University in Canada, who was not involved in the new discovery."

New York Times: "At 9 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, [April 10,] a group of astronomers who run a globe-girdling network of radio telescopes called the Event Horizon Telescope are expected to unveil the first-ever images of a black hole. For some years now, scientific literature, news media and films have featured remarkably sophisticated and academic computer simulations of black holes. If all has gone well, the images today will reveal the real thing, and scientists at last will catch a glimpse of what had seemed unseeable."

      ... Update: "Astronomers announced on Wednesday that at last they had observed the unobserveable: a black hole, a cosmic abyss so deep and dense that not even light can escape it.... To capture the image, astronomers reached across intergalactic space to Messier 87, a giant galaxy in the constellation Virgo. There, a black hole several billion times more massive than the sun is unleashing a violent jet of energy some 5,000 light-years into space."

"A commemorative print from 2008 of Mr. Robbins’s original paint-by-numbers creation in 1950, an abstract still-life. His boss then asked him to make something more representational, and an industry was born." CLICK ON PICTURE TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.New York Times: "Dan Robbins was no Leonardo da Vinci. But he copied one of the master’s basic techniques and thereby enabled children to grow up believing that they, too, could paint 'The Last Supper.' Mr. Robbins, a package designer who died on Monday at 93, helped to conceive what became known as paint by numbers. He copied the idea from Leonardo, who numbered the objects in the background of his paintings and had his apprentices paint them with designated colors. With paint-by-numbers kits, young baby boomers in the 1950s followed the same mechanics as those Renaissance artisans, coloring inside the outlines of images of everything from seascapes and the Matterhorn to kittens and Queen Elizabeth II. The process opened up art to the masses — another notch on the continuum of a limitless democratic American ethos that promised “a chicken in every pot” and 'every man a king.'”

Guardian: "In the 50s, the American art world took itself extremely seriously. Abstract painters such as Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko painted sublime slabs that were praised in hushed voices. Painting-by-numbers may not have been intended as a parody of this modernist reverence – but it sure looked that way. Robbins designed quaint scenes of farmhouses and mountain valleys that anyone could complete – they were good, solid pictures for good, solid middle-American homes. Yet the relationship between painting-by-numbers and modern art is more complicated than it looks. The earliest kit Robbins devised was a cubist still life in the style of Picasso, for the sharp planes of colour were, he said, easy to adapt. He called it Abstract No 1. It was his boss at the Palmer paint company in Detroit, where he worked as a package designer, who insisted he create homely American scenes instead. Robbins was thrilled when, as he remembered: 'Someone entered a completed Abstract No 1 in an art show and won. The judges were quite embarrassed, but the prize resulted in lots of debate about the concept of art …'”

NBC News: “Researchers who used DNA to identify ... the bones [of] Casimir Pulaski, hero of the Revolutionary War and the pride of the Polish-American community..., are convinced the gallant Pole who died fighting for America’s freedom was either a biological woman who lived as a man, or potentially was intersex, meaning a person whose body doesn’t fit the standard definitions of male or female. That’s the eye-opening takeaway from a new Smithsonian Channel documentary titled 'The General Was Female?,' which premieres Monday and is part of the 'America’s Hidden Stories' series.”

Constant Comments


Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

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

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


The Commentariat -- April 14, 2019

Late Morning Update:

Ian Kulgren of Politico: "... Donald Trump has 'no moral authority' to talk about 9/11, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Sunday. 'He stole $150,000 from some small businessperson who could have used it to help rehabilitate himself. And that's why we appropriated it, why I got Congress to appropriate that money,' Nadler said on 'State of the Union' on CNN. 'To use it for his own small business of 40 Wall Street he has no moral authority to be talking about 9/11 at all.' Nadler was referencing how Trump's company accepted post-9/11 funding for a building that had not sustained any damage. Trump said the building qualified because his company had suffered economic losses in the aftermath of the terrorist attack. The funding came from the Empire State Development Corp., New York's economic development agency, and was intended for small businesses. Trump targeted Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) last week for comments she made about discrimination of Muslim Americans after 9/11. Conservative pundits latched on to one portion of Omar's comments -- in which she referred to the attacks by saying that 'somebody did something' -- to argue that Omar was minimizing tremendous human loss. Trump responded by tweeting a graphic video of the Twin Towers collapsing juxtaposed with Omar's comment, earning criticism from Democrats for targeting a Muslim woman. Nadler said he didn't have a problem with Omar's remarks. 'She characterized it only in passing,' Nadler said. 'She was talking about discrimination against Muslim Americans. And she just said that, after that happened, it was used as an excuse for lots of discrimination and for withdrawal of civil liberties.'"

Democrats Are So Stupid. Michael Burke of the Hill: "White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Sunday that she doesn't think members of Congress are 'smart enough' to look through President Trump's tax returns. 'Frankly I don't think Congress -- particularly not this group of congressmen and women -- are smart enough to look through the thousands of pages that I would assume that President Trump's taxes will be,' she said on 'Fox News Sunday.' 'My guess is that most of them don't do their own taxes and I certainly don't trust them to look through the decades of success that the president has and determine anything,' Sanders continued." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Apparently Democrats are so dumb they don't know to hire tax experts to review the returns. Maybe that's because they are so many Democratic members of Congress who are women & minorities, the "type" of people who just throw their hands up when it comes to managing money.

Rachel Frazin of the Hill: "President Trump tweeted on Saturday night that his administration has the legal right to send undocumented immigrants to sanctuary cities and demanded it happen. 'Just out: The USA has the absolute legal right to have apprehended illegal immigrants transferred to Sanctuary Cities,' he wrote. 'We hereby demand that they be taken care of at the highest level, especially by the State of California, which is well known or its poor management & high taxes!'" ...

... Chris Rodrigo of the Hill: "Homeland Security chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said Sunday that he sees no way for President Trump's idea to transfer detained migrants to 'sanctuary cities' to be legal.... 'More importantly, this is again his manufactured chaos that he has created over the last 2 years on the border.'"

David Corn, et al. of Mother Jones: "When Yujing Zhang, the Chinese woman arrested for allegedly sneaking into President Trump's Mar-a-Lago club on March 30, appeared in court on Monday, a portion of the proceedings focused on a mysterious Chinese businessman named Charles Lee, who has ties to the Communist Party and the Chinese government and who appears to be at the center of this episode. A Mother Jones investigation of Lee has uncovered more questions about his business ventures and background." --s

The Confederate Presidunce*. Josh Israel of ThinkProgress: "President Donald Trump confirmed Friday he was considering 'placing' undocumented immigrants in sanctuary cities as political retribution for Democrats opposing his immigration policies.... This isn't the first time Trump has tried to target blue districts.... [S]o far, acts that attempt to favor states and localities that backed him in 2016 and disfavor those that did not, have been a hallmark of his presidency.... In January 2017, he issued Executive Order 13768 which attempted to ensure that [so-called 'sanctuary cities'] 'are not eligible to receive Federal grants.' The order was deemed to be an illegal overreach in a 2 to 1 decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last year. Trump's 2017 tax bill...included provisions that favored Trump states over Clinton states.... Trump has frequently targeted California.... Earlier this year, amid massive forest fires, he tweeted that he was instructing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to stop providing assistance. (It's not clear whether he has actually done this, despite the threats.).... Trump attempted to block all emergency funding from going to Puerto Rico, according to a January 2019 article in The Washington Post, attempting to send their disaster relief money to Florida and Texas instead." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Also too, isn't it lovely to reminded on Tax Day that Trump's tax "reform" bill also targeted Americans living in mostly-blue states by drastically reducing the deduction for local & state taxes.

Trump's Swamp, Ctd. Ben Lefebvre & Annie Snider of Politico: "The National Archives and Records Administration gave the Interior Department until late April to address Democrats' allegations that newly confirmed Secretary David Bernhardt may have been destroying his official calendars, according to a letter Politico obtained Friday.... Bernhardt's existing daily schedule shows that the former fossil fuel and agriculture lobbyist has met with representatives of former clients who stood to gain from Interior's decisions, but the department has released few details about his activities during about one-third of his days in office. House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) requested the NARA probe.... The Senate confirmed Bernhardt as Interior secretary by a 56-41 vote Thursday, overriding Democrats' questions about his ethics." --s

Mark Townsend of the Guardian: "Donald Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon advised Italy's interior minister Matteo Salvini to attack the pope over the issue of migration.... During a meeting in Washington in April 2016, Bannon -- who would within a few months take up his role as head of Trump's presidential campaign -- ... 'advised Salvini himself that the actual pope is a sort of enemy...,' said a senior League insider with knowledge of the meeting[.] ... After the meeting, Salvini became more outspoken against the pope.... Bannon has steadily been building opposition to Francis through his Dignitatis Humanae Institute, based in a 13th-century mountaintop monastery not far from Rome. In January 2017, Bannon became a patron of the institute, whose honorary president is Cardinal Raymond Burke, an ultra-conservative who believes organised networks of homosexuals are spreading a 'gay agenda' in the Vatican. The institute's chairman is former Italian MP Luca Volontè, on trial for corruption for accepting bribes from Azerbaijan." --s

Trump's Swamp, Ctd. David Dayen of The Intercept: "Betsy Devos's Education Department quietly dropped requirements for risky for-profit colleges to set aside funds in case the schools closed, according to documents from a lawsuit filed last year. Two of the for-profit networks subsequently shut down without owing the Education Department any money; in one case, the department actually gave $10 million back to a for-profit on the brink of bankruptcy. Not only did this deprive taxpayers an offset to costs associated with refunding loans, but it also extended the life of the for-profit colleges, allowing them to enroll more students into a doomed enterprise that wasted time, money, and effort, and delivered them nothing of value." --s

Rachel Donadio of The Atlantic: "I've seen this movie before, but not about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on President Donald Trump's ties to Russia. No, I saw the one that was set in Italy and starred Silvio Berlusconi. Like so many other American remakes, the one with Trump is bigger and louder, and the male lead wears rather ill-fitting suits. But the version I witnessed foreshadowed the current American predicament and offers some insights into what can happen to a democracy when image becomes disconnected from reality.... From the outset, Berlusconi faced judicial investigations.... While ordinary people didn't have the time or interest to follow Berlusconi's legal tangles, the press became obsessed with them. So much so that it lost track of — or maybe never had any interest in -- covering the country's underlying problems: the economy, unemployment, financial insecurity.... What finally drove Berlusconi from office wasn't a political opposition ... or legal trials.... It was the European debt crisis." --s


Government by Sabotaging Ordinary People. Eric Levitz of New York: "On Friday..., Trump vouched for a Washington Post report that specifically suggested that the White House had repeatedly implored Immigration and Customs Enforcement to dump undocumented immigrants in Nancy Pelosi's congressional district -- as a means of coercing House Democrats into granting the administration concessions in budget negotiations. In other words, the president is ostensibly threatening to deliberately inflict harm on Americans who live in areas controlled by Democrats until a coequal branch starts taking his marching orders." The move fits a pattern. "Less than three months into his presidency, Trump threatened to deliberately sabotage America's individual insurance market until Democrats agreed to support repealing and replacing Obamacare[.]... A few months later, the Trump administration canceled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, thereby subjecting 700,000 Dreamers to the threat of deportation ... because he believed that he could ransom the Dreamers' security for concessions on immigration policy.... And, of course, the president recently shuttered the federal government for more than a month -- deliberately inflicting economic hardship and governmental dysfunction on ordinary Americans -- in a doomed attempt to force Nancy Pelosi to fund his border wall."

One More Way Trump Is Inviting Central American Refugees. Kirk Semple of the New York Times: "... [Central American] farmers, agricultural scientists and industry officials say a new threat has been ruining harvests, upending lives and adding to the surge of families migrating to the United States: climate change.... Gradually rising temperatures, more extreme weather events and increasingly unpredictable patterns -- like rain not falling when it should, or pouring when it shouldn't -- have disrupted growing cycles and promoted the relentless spread of pests. The obstacles have cut crop production or wiped out entire harvests, leaving already poor families destitute. Central America is among the regions most vulnerable to climate change, scientists say. And because agriculture employs much of the labor force -- about 28 percent in Honduras alone, according to the World Bank -- the livelihoods of millions of people are at stake.... The United States has allocated tens of millions of dollars in aid in recent years for farmers across Central America, including efforts to help them adapt to the changing climate. But President Trump has vowed to cut off all foreign aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador because of what he calls their failure to curb the flow of migrants north."

Laurence Tribe to Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post on Donald Trump's reported order to CBP commissioner (now acting DHS secretary) Kevin McAleenan to close the U.S.-Mexican border, & if McAleenan got in legal trouble for it, a promise of a presidential pardon: "If carried out, this offer to pardon high immigration officials if they will break the law on his behalf is the most obviously impeachable action President Trump has taken to date: It would mean this president has seized the power to put not just himself but all who do his bidding beyond the reach of law. That doing so is a high crime and misdemeanor is beyond dispute. Any president guilty of such conduct cannot be permitted to remain in office.... Therefore, the House Judiciary Committee needs to include this matter within its investigatory ambit, subpoenaing all those who may have relevant knowledge unless they appear voluntarily.... It seems unrealistic to expect the blatantly compromised Attorney General William Barr to appoint a special counsel to pursue the issue even if, as appears to be the case, the president has credibly been charged with promising a pardon as a bribe for illegal conduct."

Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "A Democratic House chairman on Saturday castigated the Treasury Department for failing to meet his deadline to furnish President Trump's tax returns, arguing that the administration's apparent concerns over his use of powers outlined in the Internal Revenue Service's tax code 'lack merit.' The chairman, Representative Richard E. Neal, Democrat of Massachusetts, set a new deadline for compliance, April 23, and warned that if the Trump administration did not reply by then, its 'failure will be interpreted as a denial of my request.' The tone of Mr. Neal's letter suggested Democrats are prepared to take their request -- made through a little-known provision in the federal tax code -- to court if necessary, initiating what could be a protracted legal fight over Congress's oversight powers. In it, he cited legal precedent that he argued clearly showed the law is on the committee's side, and said that the executive branch had no right to 'second guess' its motivations."

Kyle Cheney of Politico: "House Democrats are crying foul over a plan by the Intelligence Committee's top Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes, to meet privately with Attorney General William Barr to push the Justice Department to pursue criminal charges against officials involved in the investigation of ... Donald Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia.... Nunes has in recent days foreshadowed plans to send eight 'criminal referrals' -- informal requests for the Justice Department to investigate -- directly to Barr.... Before seeing its contents, Nunes labeled Mueller's report a 'partisan document' and said 'we can just burn it up,' even as most of Trump's supporters were celebrating the news -- as described publicly by Barr -- that Mueller 'did not establish' a conspiracy between the campaign and the Russian government."

Kyle Cheney: "Roger Stone, the longtime political ally and confidant of ... Donald Trump, issued a series of Hail Mary legal arguments late Friday to dismiss the indictment against him from special counsel Robert Mueller that is pending before a federal judge in Washington D.C. The longshot arguments, some of which have already been considered and rejected by judges in the same courthouse, suggest that Mueller's appointment was unconstitutional because he wasn't commissioned directly by ... Donald Trump. Stone also argues that the Justice Department improperly funded Mueller's investigation because the pot of money supporting his probe wasn't explicitly authorized by Congress. He separately contends that he has been selectively targeted by Mueller because of his closeness to Trump." ...

... Katelyn Polantz of CNN: "... Roger Stone is connected to investigations Robert Mueller sent to other prosecutors and that continue despite the special counsel having finished his work, the Justice Department said Friday in a new court filing. The Justice Department told the federal court in Washington, DC, on Friday afternoon that it shouldn't allow the public release of search warrants being used in Stone's criminal case in DC federal court. The warrants 'concern investigations that remain ongoing,' the filing says. There's so much sensitive information still in the search warrants that they should not even be released with redactions, the Justice Department argues.... A media coalition, including CNN, had asked to unseal the Stone warrants."

Conservo-columnist Bret Stephens of the New York Times compares the role of shame in the American culture of the 1950s to its role today. Had [Charles] Van Doren come along a few decades later, there would have been no big scandal in fabricating reality and no great shame in participating in it. The lines between fame and infamy would have blurred, and both could be monetized.... In days bygone, the prescribed method for avoiding shame was behaving well. Or, if it couldn't be avoided, feeling deep remorse and performing some sort of penance. By contrast, the Trumpian method for avoiding shame is not giving a damn. Spurious bone-spur draft deferment? Shrug. Fraudulent business and charitable practices? Snigger. Outrageous personal invective? Sneer. Inhumane treatment of children at the border? Snarl. Hush-money payoffs to a porn-star and centerfold mistresses? Stud!... It was once the useful role of conservatives to resist these sorts of trends -- to stand athwart declining moral standards, yelling Stop. They lost whatever right they had to play that role when they got behind Trump, not only acquiescing in the culture of shamelessness but also savoring its fruits." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: For those of you too young to remember Van Doren, I can tell you that the quiz show scandals were front-page news all over the U.S. in the late 1950s. BTW, the film "Quiz Show" is quite good. It's available on Netflix with a subscription, on Amazon Prime & YouTube for $3 (and up) & elsewhere.

Benjamin Weiser of the New York Times highlights a former multimillionaire (and once a big Democratic donor) who "orchestrat[ed] a scheme that defrauded banks of nearly $300 million" & recently was released from prison under the new First Step Act, a prison reform bill that "offered prisoner rehabilitation programs and overhauled sentencing policies that supporters claimed had a disproportionate effect on poor defendants, especially minorities.... But [Hassan] Nemazee left prison under a less publicized part of the bill that allows certain offenders who are over 60 and not considered a threat to others to be released into home confinement if they have completed two-thirds of their sentence.... That Mr. Nemazee ... qualified for home confinement showed that programs that weigh a prisoner's risk to society give white-collar offenders a distinct advantage, said Douglas A. Berman, a law professor and sentencing expert at Ohio State University." So far, only 10 prisoners have been released under this home confinement provision. Mrs. McC: Call me a cynic, but whoever wrote this provision -- and I do think it's sensible -- had a particular prisoner in mind: some fatcat miscreant who was a friend of the provision's author.

Ann Jones of TomDispatch, in truthdig, reprises the works of Thorstein Veblen, who catalogued the lives of the predatory class of the Gilded Age. "America has once again been gripped by the heavy hands of the predators and of the legislators they buy. Veblen's leisure class is now eclipsed by those even richer than rich, the top 1% of the 1%, a celestial crew even more remote from the productive labor of working men and women than were those nineteenth-century robber barons." Thanks to PD Pepe & Whyte O. for the link.

Zack Whittaker of TechCrunch: "A hacker group has breached several FBI-affiliated websites and uploaded their contents to the web, including dozens of files containing the personal information of thousands of federal agents and law enforcement officers, TechCrunch has learned. The hackers breached three sites associated with the FBI National Academy Association, a coalition of different chapters across the U.S. promoting federal and law enforcement leadership and training located at the FBI training academy in Quantico, VA. The hackers exploited flaws on at least three of the organization's chapter websites -- which we're not naming -- and downloaded the contents of each web server. The hackers then put the data up for download on their own website, which we're also not naming nor linking to given the sensitivity of the data." Mrs. McC: You might think sites associated with the FBI would be pretty hack-proof. Apparently not.

News Ledes

New Your Times: “Paul Greengard, an American neuroscientist whose 15-year quest to understand how brain cells communicate provided new insights into psychological diseases and earned him a Nobel Prize, and who used his entire $400,000 award to create an academic prize in memory of the mother he never knew, died on Saturday in Manhattan. He was 93."

New Your Times: "Bibi Andersson, the luminous Swedish actress who personified first purity and youth, then complexity and disillusionment, in 13 midcentury Ingmar Bergman films, died on Sunday in Stockholm. She was 83."


The Commentariat -- April 13, 2019

Mussolini at least made the trains run on time. Il Trumpo can't do anything right.Trump Tries on His Dictator Suit

Maggie Haberman, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump last week urged Kevin McAleenan, whom he was about to name as acting secretary of homeland security, to close the southwestern border despite having just said that he was delaying a decision on the step for a year, according to three people.... It was not clear what Mr. Trump meant by his request or his additional comment to Mr. McAleenan that he would pardon him if he encountered any legal problems as a result of taking the action.... Mr. Trump's desire to close the border, despite the legal impediments was a factor in the forced resignation of [DHS Secretary Kirstjen] Nielsen. [Trump's conversation with McAleenan] was one of a number of instances in which Ms. Nielsen believed she was being asked to engage in conduct that violated laws, according to several people with knowledge of those discussions." ...

Telling someone to commit a crime and promising a pardon if he does is an impeachable offense. -- Richard Painter, in a tweet ...

... digby: "Trump gets no benefit of the doubt for 'joking' about dangling pardons to people who break the law for him. There's just too much evidence that he's prepared to do it. Recall that on the same visit, Trump told border patrol agents that they should just tell judges that 'we're full' if they the give them any trouble. They took the president seriously enough that they asked their bosses if they should follow his orders and were told they shouldn't break the law. He's testing the boundaries to see how far he can go." ...

... Rafi Schwartz of Splinter: "... no matter how troubling it may be that Trump was reportedly directing government officials to break the law, the fact that he subsequently may have promised a pardon for at least one member of his administration takes things to a whole other level -- one in which the president is actively working to subvert existing laws in pursuit of his monomaniacal anti-immigration ends." ...

... Eileen Sullivan of the New York Times: "President Trump said on Friday that his administration was 'strongly' considering releasing migrants detained at the border into mostly Democratic 'sanctuary cities,'... tweeting, 'Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities only.... ....The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy -- so this should make them very happy!' 'We are looking at the possibility, strongly looking at it to be honest with you,' he said on Friday in response to a question about the proposal.... The comments came a day after the administration said the policy proposal was never seriously considered. But after the president's Twitter posts on Friday, a White House spokesman said Democrats should work with the administration to welcome migrants into their districts." ...

... Courtney Kube & Julia Ainsley of NBC News: "When some of ... Donald Trump's top national security advisers gathered at the White House Tuesday night to talk about the surge of immigrants across the southern border, they discussed increasing the U.S. military's involvement in the border mission, including whether the military could be used to build tent city detention camps for migrants, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the conversations. During the meeting, the officials also discussed whether the U.S. military could legally run the camps once the migrants are housed there, a move the three officials said was very unlikely since U.S. law prohibits the military from directly interacting with migrants. The law has been a major limitation for Trump, who wants to engage troops in his mission to get tougher on immigration. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan was at the White House meeting Tuesday night and was open to sending more U.S. troops to support the border mission, so long as their assigned mission is within the law...." ...

... Philip Bump of the Washington Post: “The subtext to [reports] that President Trump and his administration wanted to drop migrants entering the United States into 'sanctuary cities' isn’t subtle: The intent was punishment, a form of 'retaliation' against heavily Democratic areas like San Francisco. That idea fits with Trump's depiction of the groups of migrants entering the United States from Mexico being riddled with criminals, gang members and terrorists. But that would likely be at odds with how residents of those cities likely view immigrants -- since those cities tend to be more densely immigrant-heavy than the country on the whole.... A 'sanctuary city' isn't a place where immigrants living in the country illegally have carte blanche to do what they wish. Instead, they are generally jurisdictions where public officials are limited in their ability to inform immigration authorities about people who are in the country illegally. The intent is to encourage immigrants to work with authorities without fear of deportation in situations where that assistance is important, such as criminal investigations." ...

... Libby Watson of Splinter faults journalists for writing stories that implicitly accept the Trump/Miller premise that dumping migrants in large cities would lead to "crimey migrants [doing] a bunch of migranty crimes in those cities.... the framing [of the stories] is left as 'the presence of migrants in cities will be bad for those cities.' And in the end, that just does Stephen Miller's work for him."

Bill Barr Set to Help Trump Deport Immigrants. Tal Kopan of the San Francisco Chronicle: "Attorney General William Barr is ... on the verge of issuing rule changes that would make it easier for a handful of appellate immigration judges to declare their rulings binding on the entire immigration system.... The changes could also expand the use of single-judge, cursory decisions at the appellate level -- all at the same time as a hiring spree that could reshape the court.... Last week, the Justice Department revived a proposed regulation originally initiated during the George W. Bush administration to allow the 21-judge appeals court system that hears immigration cases more latitude to issue cursory opinions without explanation.... Advocates for immigrants and attorneys who work in the system fear the efficiency tools could be used to dramatically reshape immigration law to fit President Trump's political goals. Trump has repeatedly railed against the immigration court system and suggested doing away with it entirely.... 'All of these pieces add up to taking away due process and speeding people through to their deportation in some sort of assembly line substitute for justice,' said Jeffrey Chase, a former immigration judge and former senior legal adviser to the immigration appeals court." ...

... ** AND Another Thing. David Lurie in Slate: “As President Ronald Reagan's first attorney general, William French Smith, wrote in 1981, the DOJ has 'a duty to defend the constitutionality of an Act of Congress whenever a reasonable argument can be made in its support.'... Last month, the attorney general announced that the United States will cease defending any portion of the Affordable Care Act in the courts. Instead, the DOJ will join a number of state attorneys general in challenging the constitutionality of the entire ACA.... This comes after the DOJ stopped defending the constitutionality of the ACA's protection of insurance coverage for those with preexisting conditions last year. In taking the position that the entire ACA is constitutionally void, Barr abandoned a long-standing principle that the Department of Justice is duty-bound to defend the constitutionality of federal laws.... During testimony before Congress this week, Barr stated that he ... feels duty-bound to attack the ACA in the courts because Trump, after failing to convince a majority of the Senate to vote in favor of repealing the ACA, is now eager to see the act nullified by the courts instead. Barr's decision is at direct odds with a policy upheld for decades by attorneys general in Republican and Democratic administrations." ...

... ** Frank Rich: "When you invoke Roy Cohn, you have to specify which Roy Cohn. There's the New York Cohn of the 1970s and '80s, the Mob-connected fixer who enabled Trump's rise, of course. But there's also the earlier, Washington Cohn: the smear artist who abetted Joe McCarthy's witch hunt to expose supposed Commies in the United States Army during the 1950s. The brilliantly perverse achievement of Barr is that he combines both Roy Cohns in a single package. He's a fixer for Trump, as evidenced by his unsupported conclusion that the Mueller report lets the president off the legal hook for his manifold efforts to obstruct justice. But Barr is also the McCarthy-era Cohn, sliming a 'group of leaders there at the upper echelon' of government agencies for spying without offering any specifics or evidence." Read on. Rich also comments on Joe Biden & Pete Buttigieg.

... ** The Audacity of Tyranny. Rick Wilson in the Daily Beast (April 11): "Every great authoritarian enterprise comes to its apotheosis more from the soulless, mechanical efficiency of armies of bureaucrats and police than from the rantings of whatever Great Leader or revolutionary firebrand mounts the podium.... The gray, heavy-set man who sat before two congressional committees over the last two days embodies the triumph of the banality of Washington's bureaucratic class, a droning Kabuki performer leading the House and Senate committees through several hours of monotone testimony intended to disguise the explosive consequences of his appointment as attorney general.... Unlike Watergate, Barr's cover-up is happening in real time and on live television, as the chief law enforcer of the United States promised without a flicker of emotion that he will redact the Mueller report as he sees fit.... As usual, anyone counting on the Democrats not to blow it this week was disappointed."

Mihir Zaveri of the New York Times: "A federal appeals court said Friday that the Trump administration could temporarily continue to force migrants seeking asylum in the United States to wait in Mexico while their cases are decided. A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a stay of a lower-court ruling four days earlier that blocked the administration's protocol. The appeals court will consider next week whether to extend that stay -- and allow the Trump administration policy to remain in effect for longer."

Other Trump Scandals, Ctd.

Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post: "An American political consultant whose guilty plea marked the first confirmation that illegal foreign money was used to help fund Donald Trump's inaugural committee was sentenced to probation Friday by a federal judge who cited his cooperation with U.S. prosecutors. W. Samuel Patten, 47, in August admitted steering $50,000 from a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician to Trump's committee in an investigation spun off from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Patten acknowledged he was helped by a Russian national who is a longtime associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and the case was referred to prosecutors with the U.S. attorney's office in Washington and the Justice Department's national security division."

Andrew Desiderio of Politico: "House Oversight and Reform Committee Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) is moving to issue a subpoena to obtain 10 years of ... Donald Trump's financial records from accounting firm Mazars USA, the chairman told members of the panel in a memo on Friday. Cummings plans to issue the subpoena on Monday after Mazars asked for a so-called friendly' subpoena, so that it could comply with the committee's document demands. In his memo, Cummings explained that the committee asked for the records as part of its efforts to corroborate allegations made by Trump's former fixer and attorney Michael Cohen, who told lawmakers in February that Trump artificially inflated and deflated the value of his assets to his personal benefit.... The chairman also used his memo to criticize [ranking Republican Jim] Jordan [Rabid-Ohio] for his 'troubling actions,' accusing the Trump ally of urging Mazars not to comply with Cummings' request for documents."

When politicians attack courts as 'dangerous,' 'political,' and guilty of 'egregious overreach,' you can hear the Klan's lawyers, assailing officers of the court across the South. When leaders chastise people for merely 'us[ing] the courts,' you can hear the Citizens Council, hammering up the names of black petitioners in Yazoo City, [Mississippi]. When the powerful accuse courts of 'open[ing] up our country to potential terrorists,' you can hear the Southern Manifesto's authors, smearing the judiciary for simply upholding the rights of black folk. When lawmakers say 'we should get rid of judges,' you can hear segregationist senators, writing bills to strip courts of their power. -- Federal Judge Carlton Reeves, in a speech Thursday ...

... Zoe Tillman of BuzzFeed News: "In a highly unusual public rebuke against ... Donald Trump by a sitting member of the federal judiciary, US District Judge Carlton Reeves delivered a speech Thursday calling the Trump administration a 'great assault on our judiciary' and comparing the president's criticism of the judiciary to tactics used by the Ku Klux Klan and segregationists. According to a copy of the speech obtained by BuzzFeed News, Reeves, who is black and sits in Jackson, Mississippi, extensively quoted Trump's tweets and public comments about judges and the courts (the written version includes footnotes making clear who and what Reeves is referring to) and blasted the lack of diversity among Trump's judicial nominees. Reeves spoke at the University of Virginia School of Law, his alma mater, where he received the school's Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Law."

Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "President Trump on Friday targeted Representative Ilhan Omar for remarks she made during a speech on civil rights and Muslims in America with a graphic video featuring the burning World Trade Center towers and other images from Sept. 11, 2001, that he tweeted to millions of his followers. The Twitter post from the president stoked and amplified a controversy that has been a focus of conservative news outlets, which have sought to elevate Ms. Omar -- a Minnesota Democrat and one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress -- as a political target, as Mr. Trump's re-election campaign begins in earnest." Mrs. McC: It's sometimes difficult to remember, but this is not the way a real president behaves.

All the Best People, Ctd.

Michael Brice-Saddler of the Washington Post: "A federal workplace investigation found rampant sexual harassment and retaliation at AccuWeather, a federal contractor, including groping, touching and kissing of subordinates without consent. AccuWeather's chief executive at the time of the allegations and investigation, Barry Myers, was tapped by President Trump to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.... The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs ... determined that AccuWeather, under Myers, fostered a culture ripe for sexual harassment, turned a blind eye to allegations of egregious conduct and retaliated against those who complained.... The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and obtained by The Washington Post. It determined that AccuWeather, under Myers, fostered a culture ripe for sexual harassment, turned a blind eye to allegations of egregious conduct and retaliated against those who complained.... NOAA oversees the National Weather Service, which compiles data used by AccuWeather. [The Post] reported that AccuWeather has previously supported measures to limit what the Weather Service can make public, granting private companies a chance to create their own value-added products using the same information." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: There's a reason Trump, allegedly a chronic sexual harasser, nominates people like Myers.

Andrew Kaczynski & Paul LeBlanc of CNN: "Stephen Moore, who ... Donald Trump announced last month as his nominee for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, has a history of advocating self-described 'radical' views.... In speeches and radio interviews reviewed by CNN's KFile, Moore advocated for eliminating the corporate and federal income taxes entirely, calling the 16th Amendment that created the income tax the 'most evil' law passed in the 20th century. Moore's economic worldview envisions a slimmed down government and a rolled back social safety net. He has called for eliminating the Departments of Labor, Energy and Commerce, along with the IRS and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. He has questioned the need for both the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Education. He has said there's no need for a federal minimum wage, called for privatizing the 'Ponzi scheme' of Social Security and said those on government assistance lost their dignity and meaning. In other interviews and appearances, Moore repeatedly said he believed capitalism was more important than democracy.... Moore has been a fierce critic of the Federal Reserve and its chairman Jerome Powell. In 2015, he called for abolishing the Federal Reserve and returning to a gold standard (Moore told CNN's Erin Burnett on Thursday he changed his mind on the gold standard. He told CNN's KFile on Friday he no longer believed in abolishing the Federal Reserve)."

Heidi Przybyla & Julia Ainsley of NBC News: "Senate Democrats are demanding the Department of Justice disclose the full results of an investigation into whether U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta is guilty of 'professional misconduct' in his handling of a sex crime prosecution against billionaire Jeffrey Epstein over a decade ago. In a letter obtained by NBC News, Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., are asking the DOJ to 'make public all findings' from its probe into Acosta's handling, as a former U.S. attorney, of a plea agreement in the Epstein case. The agreement allowed the wealthy financier and philanthropist to plead guilty to lesser charges in state court rather than face federal sex trafficking charges involving more than three dozen underage girls."

Catherine Garcia of the Week: "In just two years, Fox News host Sean Hannity went from inviting Julian Assange to fill in for him on his radio show to scrubbing all references to the WikiLeaks founder from his Twitter stream.... The Washington Post's Aaron Blake argues this could all just be a coincidence, saying Hannity's cleansing of all things pro-Assange and WikiLeaks 'appears to have taken place as part of a mass deletion -- not in response to Assange's arrest today.' Tweets about Assange and WikiLeaks may have gotten the boot, but Hannity did elect to keep about eight million references to Jussie Smollett, Hillary Clinton's emails, and 'collusion delusion.'"

Ben Collins of NBC News: "Katie Bouman, a researcher who helped create the first image of a black hole, quickly gained internet fame Thursday for her role in the project after a photo of her went viral.... Bouman, a postdoctoral fellow who will soon be an assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology, noted in a Facebook post Wednesday that 'no one algorithm or person made this image' and published a photo of the many people she worked alongside.... Bouman's public recognition -- much of it applauding an example of a woman at the forefront of a major scientific effort -- drew attention from misogynist communities on the internet. Some users congregated on Reddit and created videos questioning Bouman' contribution that were then uploaded to Instagram and YouTube. By Friday, falsehoods claiming it was not Bouman but a male colleague who deserved credit for the black hole image overtook legitimate coverage in search results on YouTube and Instagram." See also story linked under Infotainment. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: It's worth remembering that a lot of Trump's appeal is to pathetic troglodytes like this: men who can't handle successful women AND who can't handle sciency stuff.


The Commentariat -- April 12, 2019

Arrested Developments

Ken Vogel & Katie Benner of the New York Times: "In an indictment that seized the attention of the capital's K Street lobbying corridor, Gregory B. Craig, a White House counsel in the Obama administration, was charged on Thursday with lying to the Justice Department and concealing information about work he did in 2012 for the government of Ukraine. The indictment of Mr. Craig, 74, stemmed from an investigation initiated by the office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. The charges represented a continuation -- and an expansion -- of a new focus on a long-neglected law governing foreign influence operations in the United States, which the Justice Department has begun prioritizing in part because of scrutiny related to Mr. Mueller's investigation.... The work was steered to Mr. Craig and his firm by Paul Manafort...."

Eileen Sullivan & Richard Pérez-Peña of the New York Times: "The United States has charged WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of conspiring to hack a computer as part of the 2010 release of reams of secret American documents, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday, putting him just one flight away from being in American custody after years of seclusion in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. The single charge, conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, was filed a year earlier, in March 2018, and stems from what prosecutors said was his agreement to break a password to a classified United States government computer. It carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and is significant in that it is not an espionage charge, a detail that will come as a relief to press freedom advocates. The United States government had considered until at least last year charging him with an espionage-related offense.... The conspiracy charge against Mr. Assange unsealed Thursday is not related to the special counsel's investigation into Russia's election influence.... He was detained partly in connection with an American extradition warrant after he was evicted by the Ecuadoreans.... Mr. Assange will have the right to contest the United States extradition request in British courts." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Ronn Blitzer of Law & Crime: "While the public was already aware of Assange's role in publishing military documents leaked by Chelsea Manning, the indictment includes some revelations regarding Assange's own alleged criminal activity. Here are the major points. 1. Assange allegedly helped Manning hack government computers.... 2. Assange's help was meant to hide Manning's role in leaks.... 3. Manning thought she was done leaking, but Assange encouraged her to do more.... 4. The indictment appears to solve the free speech problem." (Also linked yesterday.)

... See Trump's response to Assange's arrest under Trump Scandals, below. ...

... Rachel Weiner, et al., of the Washington Post: "... through the years, the case [against Assange] languished. Some prosecutors reasoned that Assange was arguably a publisher, if a capricious one. Concerned that proving a criminal case against him would run up against the First Amendment and, if successful, set a precedent for future media prosecutions, the Obama administration chose to put the case aside. In 2017 -- after WikiLeaks exposed CIA hacking tools and stirred political chaos by releasing Democratic campaign emails -- the government began to take a more aggressive tack. Under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, prosecutors dusted off the investigation and discussed how the anti-secrecy organization's founder could be charged without running afoul of press freedoms. Under the federal law governing computer crimes, prosecutors faced a deadline to file charges within eight years of the 2010 disclosures that put him in their crosshairs. The single-count indictment unsealed in Alexandria federal court Thursday shows they did so just under the deadline.... Analysts said focusing narrowly on [cracking a government password] is a deft way of fending off criticism that the case puts news organizations in legal jeopardy."

Brian Melley of the AP: "Attorney Michael Avenatti has been charged in a 36-count federal indictment alleging he stole millions of dollars from clients, did not pay his taxes, committed bank fraud and lied in bankruptcy proceedings. Avenatti, 48, was indicted late Wednesday by a Southern California grand jury on a raft of additional charges following his arrest last month in New York on two related counts and for allegedly trying to shake down Nike for up to $25 million. The attorney best known for representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against ... Donald Trump said Thursday on Twitter that he will plead not guilty to the California charges." Mrs. McC: Other than that, Avenatti would have made a great president! (Also linked yesterday.)

The Usual Trump Scandals, Ctd.

Jonathan Allen of NBC News: "... Donald Trump said Thursday that he knows 'nothing about WikiLeaks' hours after the arrest of the organization's founder, Julian Assange, and two-and-a-half years after he frequently cited its information dumps about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign. 'I know nothing about WikiLeaks,' Trump told reporters at the White House, where he met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. 'It's not my thing. I've seen what's happening with Assange.' Later Thursday, during a White House event with World War II veterans, Trump said, 'I don't know much about it.'... At a[n October 2016] rally in North Carolina, Trump said, 'we love Wikileaks.'" Mrs. McC: Someone on MNSBC calculated that Trump favorably mentioned WikiLeaks 100 times during the 2016 campaign. ...

Comey Knocks Barr. Zolan Kanno-Youngs & Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "The former F.B.I. director James B. Comey said on Thursday that he knew of no electronic surveillance aimed at the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election, defending the bureau after Attorney General William P. Barr asserted a day earlier that the bureau spied on the campaign as part of the Russia investigation. 'When I hear that kind of language used, it's concerning because the F.B.I., the Department of Justice conduct court-ordered electronic surveillance,' said Mr. Comey, who oversaw the inquiry until President Trump abruptly fired him in May 2017. 'I have never thought of that as spying.'... 'I think spying did occur,' Mr. Barr said [during testimony].... Mr. Barr's statement lined up with that longstanding talking point used by Mr. Trump and his allies.... Mr. Trump said again on Thursday that he believed 'there was absolutely spying into my campaign. I'll go a step further: In my opinion, it was illegal spying, unprecedented spying, and something that should never be allowed to happen in our country again,' Mr. Trump said. 'And I think his answer was actually a very accurate one.'" ...

... MEANWHILE. Matt Shuham of TPM: "Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended Attorney General William Barr's handling of special counsel Robert Mueller's final report in an interview with The Wall Street Journal Thursday. Referring to Barr's initial four-page summary of Mueller's mammoth report, Rosenstein told the Journal that the attorney general was 'being as forthcoming as he can, and so this notion that he's trying to mislead people, I think is just completely bizarre.'" Mrs. McC: Huh. This is Rosenstein covering his own ass, of course. I can't access the WSJ report, but I'm going to guess Rosenstein didn't defend Barr's under-oath claim that the FBI & other agencies were "spying on the Trump campaign" inasmuch as Rosenstein himself signed off on at least two FISA requests to surveil Trump campaign operatives. ...

     ... Update: Lawrence O'Donnell said Rosenstein would not comment to the WSJ about Barr's use of the word "spying." ...

... Josh Marshall of TPM: "Barr is ... repeatedly playing word games like this ['spying' debacle]. He issues a supererogatory exoneration of President Trump and then claims he had never meant to do that. He'd like to release the whole Mueller Report. But the rules just make it really hard for him to do that. He very clearly used the word 'spying' and then said he needed to make sure it hadn't happened. That was to give the President his talking point. Then he or his staff tell the Times that he didn't mean to imply anything by that. He just meant 'spying' as a synonym for surveillance.... This is obviously not true. Yet the Times passes it on as though it were a good faith explanation of what Barr was thinking.... Robert Costa of the Post [says] that Republicans are themselves wondering what Barr is up to. The explanation they're being given? Well, it turns out he's actually not a career prosecutor. So he's just not really in tune with DOJ practices and policies and traditions. They [MSM] simply can't grasp their way toward the obvious explanation. He's a bad actor, using his office for the purpose of defending the President as opposed to enforcing the law. He's a crook. But he's a smart one." --s ...

... Caroline Kelly of CNN: "Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Wednesday it was 'both stunning and scary' that Attorney General William Barr would tell lawmakers that Donald Trump's 2016 campaign was spied on.... 'I was amazed at that and rather disappointed that the attorney general would say such a thing. The term 'spying' has all kinds of negative connotations and I have to believe he chose that term deliberately.'" (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare: "Attorney General Bill Barr's statements [Wednesday] on supposed 'spying' by the FBI on the Trump campaign before the Senate Appropriations Committee were indefensible. They were at once indecipherable and contentless, on the one hand, and incendiary, on the other hand. I am not one of the many people looking to think ill of Barr. Indeed, I have taken a lot of heat recently for being willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on the specific issue of his production of a redacted version of the Mueller report. That said, his comments today were reckless. They will play into gross conspiracy theories. They are also unfair to the individuals whom Barr suggested had engaged in some sort of unspecified wrongdoing.... Asked if he had any evidence of improper collection, he responded, 'I have no specific evidence that I would cite right now.' But, he said, 'I do have questions about it.' When the attorney general 'has questions' about the conduct of his department, the proper thing to do is not to dangle those question in a congressional hearing in a fashion bound to stir up conspiracy theories." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Justin Baragona of the Daily Beast: "Reacting to Attorney General William Barr's shocking claim that he believes 'spying did occur' on the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said Wednesday night that this was further proof the Republican Party establishment was beholden to Fox News and its top star.... 'This is a classic demonstration of the Fox News-ification of the Republican Party,' Toobin exclaimed. 'That even an establishment figure like Bill Barr, someone who comes out of the George Herbert Walker Bush administration, talks like Sean Hannity.... There's already been an inspector general's investigation, so I don't know what he's going to investigate, but you know, his use of this term shows how much the paranoid lunacy of the right wing is now moved right in to the Department of Justice.'... This claim that the Obama administration used the FBI and intelligence agencies to spy on the Trump campaign has been pushed by President Trump and his allies for over two years now, starting with Trump's infamous tweet -- and unfounded claim -- that he 'found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: And, please, let's not give Barr the benefit of the doubt & buy his claim -- which he made under oath Wednesday -- that he had no idea "spying" was a loaded term. It may be occurring to you about now that Jeff Sessions was a more honorable AG than Barr.

Lock Them Up. David Cay Johnston in The Daily Beast: "I know why Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Charles Rettig, the IRS commissioner, are so cautious [about not outright refusing to release Trump's taxes]. They don't want to be removed from office and sent to prison for five years just for doing Trump's bidding.... It will for sure shock Trump, who claims that 'the law is 100 percent on my side.' The exact opposite is true. Under Section 6103 of our tax code, Treasury officials 'shall' turn over the tax returns 'upon written request' of the chair of either congressional tax committee or the federal employee who runs Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation. No request has ever been refused.... There is, however, a law requiring every federal 'employee' who touches the tax system to do their duty or be removed from office.... [It specifies that they be fined not more than $10,000, or imprisoned not more than 5 years or both.]... The crystal-clear language of this law applies to Trump, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Mnuchin and Rettig, federal employees all.... There are no qualifiers in Section 6103 that shield Trump from delivering, in confidence, his tax returns to Congress. No wiggle room at all." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The problem is, of course, who would enforce the law? Bill Barr? I don't think so. It's possible there's a prosecutor somewhere out there in the hinterlands who would respond positively to a formal complaint from Johnston and/or others, but I wouldn't count on it. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see what "advice" the DOJ gives Mnuchin, who had written to Rep. Richard Neal that he is "consulting" with Justice on release of Trump's returns.

Michael Kranish of the Washington Post: "While much attention has focused on the question of whether the Trump campaign encouraged or conspired with Russia, the effort to target [Bernie] Sanders supporters has been a lesser-noted part of the story. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, in a case filed last year against 13 Russians accused of interfering in the U.S. presidential campaign, said workers at a St. Petersburg facility called the Internet Research Agency were instructed to write social media posts in opposition to [Hillary] Clinton but 'to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.' [Besides tweets urging readers to back Sanders,] any thousands of other tweets, with no direct reference to Sanders, were also designed to appeal to his backers, urging them to do anything but vote for Clinton in the general election.... The effort to promote Sanders as a way to influence the U.S. election began shortly after he declared his candidacy in spring 2015, according to Mueller's indictment of the Russians."

Edmund Lee & Andrew Sorkin of the New York Times: "The owners of The National Enquirer are in talks to sell the tabloid to Ronald W. Burkle, a supermarket magnate with ties to President Bill Clinton, according to two people.... The deal could still fall apart.... Mr. Burkle has been a regular in the gossip pages and on the A-list benefit and party circuit.... An acquisition of The Enquirer by Mr. Burkle, a longtime Democratic donor, could raise eyebrows in Washington, given President Trump's fondness for the tabloid, which he has praised on Twitter."

The Vindictive Administration. Rachel Bade & Nick Miroff
of the Washington Post: "White House officials have tried to pressure U.S. immigration authorities to release detainees onto the streets of 'sanctuary cities' to retaliate against President Trump's political adversaries, according to Department of Homeland Security officials and email messages reviewed by The Washington Post. Trump administration officials have proposed transporting detained immigrants to sanctuary cities at least twice in the past six months -- once in November, as a migrant caravan approached the U.S. southern border, and again in February, amid a standoff with Democrats over funding for Trump's border wall. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's district in San Francisco was among those the White House wanted to target, according to DHS officials. The administration also considered releasing detainees in other Democratic strongholds. White House officials first broached the plan in a Nov. 16 email, asking officials at several agencies whether members of the caravan could be arrested at the border and then bused 'to small- and mid-sized sanctuary cities,' places where local authorities have refused to hand over illegal immigrants for deportation.... After the White House pressed again in February, ICE's legal department rejected the idea as inappropriate and rebuffed the administration." ...

... The Vengeful President* & His Evil Sidekick. Evan Perez of CNN: "Trump personally pushed Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to follow through on the plan [to dump detainees on the streets of sanctuary cities].... Nielsen resisted and the DHS legal team eventually produced an analysis that killed the plan....White House senior adviser Stephen Miller urged senior DHS officials to make the plan a reality, the source said.... Miller was angered that DHS lawyers refused to produce legal guidance that would make the plan viable.... DHS officials believe that the legal standoff is one reason why Miller has pushed for the firing of John Mitnick, the general counsel for DHS, who is still with the department. A separate DHS official confirmed there was such a proposal. 'These are human beings, not game pieces,' the official said." ...

Government Data Blow Hole in "Wall". Noah Lanard of Mother Jones: "In January ... the White House began pushing a new talking point. Seventeen thousand criminals had been arrested at the southern border in the previous year, Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen all said.... [A]ccording to previously unreleased government data obtained by Mother Jones, the government was vastly exaggerating the number of criminals arriving at the southern border.... Criminals are nearly three times as likely to be caught by Customs and Border Protection officers at the country's northern border.... [O]f the foreigners convicted of crimes in the United States or abroad who were stopped by CBP at ports of entry from October 2016 to February 2019, 43 percent arrived at the northern border, 42 percent at airports or ports, and just 15 percent at the southern border, according to a CBP spokeswoman.... Taken together, the new data suggests ... CBP officers and Border Patrol agents actually stopped fewer than 9,000 criminals at the southern border last year, not 17,000." --s...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Definitely time to build a 5,525-mile wall between the U.S. & Canada. And close all international airports.

... Trump Taps Albence to Run Immigrant "Summer Camps." Hamed Aleaziz of BuzzFeed News: "The Trump administration has tapped Matthew Albence to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the wake of the sudden resignation of its former leader. Albence, a career official and former ally of former ICE acting director Thomas Homan, has risen quickly under the administration and is seen as an official with the type of hardline approach that ... Donald Trump may appreciate.... Albence became better known after his appearance on Capitol Hill on July 31 during which he said that family detention centers were best described as 'more like a summer camp,' to the shock of some advocates and politicians."

Trump Tweets Lou Dobbs' Fantasy Poll. Adam Raymond
of New York: "President Trump's approval rating is 43 percent according to a new poll from Georgetown. His disapproval is 52 percent and his unfavorable rating is 55 percent. On Wednesday's episode of Lou Dobbs Tonight, the Fox Business host and Trump favorite got those numbers wrong [and emphasized Trump's "soaring" approval rating]. And on Thursday morning, Trump tweeted" out the fake graphic, which claimed Trump's actual unfavorable rating of 55 percent was his favorable rating. Fox Business later issued an on-air correction; Trump did not delete his tweet. (Also linked yesterday.)

You paid your taxes & Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, didn't (actually he probably paid personal taxes, but Amazon paid zip): ...

... Thanks, Trump! Kathryn Kranhold of the Center for Public Integrity in an NBC News post: "At least 60 companies reported that their 2018 federal tax rates amounted to effectively zero, or even less than zero, on income earned on U.S. operations, according to an analysis released today by the Washington, D.C.-based think tank, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. The number is more than twice as many as ITEP found roughly, per year, on average in an earlier, multi-year analysis before the new tax law went into effect. Among them are household names like ... Inc. and ... Netflix Inc., in addition to ... Chevron Corp...., Eli Lilly and Co., and ... Deere & Co. The identified companies were 'able to zero out their federal income taxes on $79 billion in U.S. pretax income,' according to the ITEP report, which was released today. 'Instead of paying $16.4 billion in taxes, as the new 21 percent corporate tax rate requires, these companies enjoyed a net corporate tax rebate of $4.3 billion, blowing a $20.7 billion hole in the federal budget last year." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Benjy Sarlin of NBC News: "Companies with profits over $100 million would face new corporate taxes under a proposal released Thursday by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. The 2020 presidential hopeful said her 'real corporate profits tax' is aimed at companies that report large annual gains but pay little in taxes thanks to a variety of tax credits and deductions that are available to lower their overall bill." (Also linked yesterday.)

Samantha Michaels of Mother Jones: "Earlier this month, President Donald Trump threw a party to celebrate one of his only bipartisan victories, the First Step Act, which is supposed to reduce the size of the federal prison population.... Now there's another key indication that the First Step Act isn't being implemented as criminal justice reform groups and some lawmakers intended.... On Monday, the Justice Department announced that the Hudson Institute, a conservative DC-based think tank whose leaders have espoused harsh views on incarceration, would choose the members of an independent committee to help develop a risk assessment tool -- a crucial component of the law.... Now lawmakers of both parties who backed the First Step Act are alarmed at the Justice Department's latest move.... 'I'm a little bit worried that we just let a fox in the chicken coop here,' Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said[.]" --s

All the Best People, Ctd.

Coral Davenport of the New York Times: "The Senate on Thursday voted to confirm David Bernhardt, a former lobbyist for the oil and agribusiness industries, as secretary of the interior. The confirmation of Mr. Bernhardt to his new post coincided with calls from more than a dozen Democrats and government watchdogs for formal investigations into his past conduct. Senators voted 56-41, largely along party lines, in favor of Mr. Bernhardt's confirmation. Three Democrats -- Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia...; Senator Krysten Sinema of Arizona; and Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico -- supported Mr. Bernhardt, as did one independent, Senator Angus King of Maine.... Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said: 'It still amazes me. Donald Trump campaigns on cleaning up the swamp and he does exactly the opposite when in office. An oil and gas lobbyist as head of the Department of Interior? My God. That's an example of the swampiness of Washington if there ever was one. And when are Donald Trump's supporters going to understand this?'"

"An Inflection Point." Burgess Everett & Eliana Johnson of Politico: "As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asked Republicans this week to head off problematic nominees before ... Donald Trump officially picked them, the Kentucky Republican singled out Ken Cuccinelli. Floated for the job of Homeland Security secretary, the former Virginia attorney general runs the anti-establishment Senate Conservatives Fund.... McConnell remarked Tuesday that the group had cost the GOP seats in 2010 and 2012 by guiding the party away from more electable candidates.... In addition to confronting Trump on his purge at the Department of Homeland Security and his threat to deploy auto tariffs and keep existing levies, GOP senators hope they can persuade the president to avoid nominating Cuccinelli or Kris Kobach, another immigration hard-liner, to lead DHS. They also want Trump to drop plans to nominate Herman Cain [see related stories linked below] to the Federal Reserve and are considering whether to challenge Stephen Moore's nomination to the Fed. . We're trying to do everything we can to send the message before they send these people up here,' said a Republican senator who 20 seconds later lamented a separate problem: Trump's 'trade nightmare.'... It's an inflection point, with Senate Republicans weighing how hard to try to contain the president." ...

     ... Rebekah Entralago of ThinkProgress: "Nineteen leaders of conservative groups sent a letter to President Donald Trump Thursday, urging him to select Ken Cuccinelli to lead the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Cuccinelli, a former attorney general of Virginia, is a staunch conservative with a significant track record of racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric.... Cuccinelli appeared on a conservative radio show in early 2012 to discuss the Occupy Wall Street movement and, in doing so, compared immigrants to rats.... In 2015, the former Virginia AG appeared on another conservative radio show and claimed former President Barack Obama was encouraging an 'invasion.'... Like Trump, Cuccinelli has opposed birthright citizenship, which grants U.S. citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants born in the country.... More recently, Cuccinelli supported the president's decision to deploy troops at the U.S.-Mexico border." --s

Herman Cain, who if nominated for a Fed position would first be vetted by the Senate Banking Committee, called members of that committee "a bunch of yahoos." Pretty good PR move. He also "compared the right to health care to the right to own a Cadillac, and said God would decide when it was time to stop using fossil fuels." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Update: The Yahoos Revolt. Jim Tankersley of the New York Times: "Herman Cain's chances to win confirmation to the Federal Reserve plummeted on Thursday as at least four Republican senators indicated they would not back President Trump's choice to fill a Fed seat. Those defections would be enough to defeat Mr. Cain in a divided Senate, should Mr. Trump follow through with his plans to formally nominate him. Mr. Cain, a former pizza magnate whose 2012 presidential run was upended by claims of sexual harassment, is currently undergoing a background check and President Trump has said he will wait for that to be completed before officially nominating him to the seven-member Fed board. Senator Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota, told reporters on Thursday that he 'would vote no' if asked to confirm Mr. Cain. Three other Republican senators -- Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah and Cory Gardner of Colorado -- have also said publicly that they would not support Mr. Cain." ...

... So Then... Tara Palmeri & Katherine Faulders of ABC News: "Herman Cain is expected to withdraw his name from consideration for the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors, amid growing pressure from Republican senators on the White House to remove him from consideration, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter."

Katherine Krueger of Splinter: "On Wednesday morning, Fox News used its biggest megaphone to amplify an attention-starved congressman's [Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas)] bad faith charge against Rep. Ilhan Omar: that, in remarks before the Council on American-Islamic Relations, she characterized the Sept. 11 attacks as some people did something. That this is a willful misreading of her fuller point -- that all Muslims in America have faced violence, intimidation, and discrimination as a result of the actions of a small group of extremists -- shouldn't surprise you." The New York Post -- which, like Fox, is owned by Rupert Murdoch, splashed its notorious front page with a photo of the Twin Towers burning on 9-11, accompanied by the caption, "Here's your something." "... this narrative around Omar's remarks is proving her exact point -- bigots began widely equating terrorists with all Muslims after 9/11, but ask us not to do the same if the terrorist is white -- so cutting off Omar's remarks to make it seem like she was minimizing the attacks fits an Islamophobic narrative already entrenched on the right. Omar's response to fellow congressman Dan Crenshaw correctly accused him of 'dangerous incitement.'? ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: None of us should be surprised by the right's attacks on Omar. For more than eight years, these bigots hinted or said outright that President Obama -- who was not a Muslim -- was a Jihadist bent on destroying the good ole EwEssAy. Would you expect them to do less to an actual Muslim?

Joe Romm of ThinkProgress: "Imagine a world where 85% of all electricity comes from renewable sources, there are over one billion electric vehicles on the road, and we are on track to preserve a livable climate for our children and future generations. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reported this week that such a future is not merely possible by 2050, but thanks to plummeting prices in key clean energy technologies, the cost of saving the climate has dropped dramatically. In fact, according to IRENA's new report, the most cost-effective strategy to achieve a 'climate-safe future' ... is an accelerated energy transition to renewables and energy efficiency coupled with electrification of key sectors like transportation. This Renewable Energy Roadmap (REmap) scenario 'would also save the global economy up to USD 160 trillion cumulatively over the next 30 years in avoided health costs, energy subsidies and climate damages.'" --s