Weekly Address

The President's Weekly Address

... has been cancelled due to a change in management.

The Wires

The Ledes

Friday, January 20, 2017.

Washington Post: "The world’s most notorious drug lord, Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán, was extradited to the United States on Thursday night, whisked away from the country where he built an empire that delivered tons of heroin, cocaine and marijuana to the world." -- CW ...

     ... New York Times Update: "While most Americans were turned toward Washington and the inauguration of Donald J. Trump..., prosecutors in the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn held a news conference on Friday morning detailing the charges against Mr. Guzmán, who was flown out of Mexico on Thursday afternoon and arrived that night at MacArthur Airport on Long Island.... The government’s detention memo also gave an early glimpse of the case against Mr. Guzmán. It said that prosecutors planned to call several witnesses who would testify about the staggering scope of Mr. Guzmán’s criminal enterprise: including its multi-ton shipments of drugs in planes and submersibles and its numerous killings of witnesses, law enforcement agents, public officials and rival cartel members." -- CW 

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

New York Times: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus announced on Saturday night that after 146 years of performances, it was folding its big tent forever. In a statement on the company’s website, Kenneth Feld, the chief executive of Feld Entertainment, the producer of Ringling, said the circus would hold its final performances in May. He cited declining ticket sales, which dropped even more drastically after elephants were phased out from the shows last year." -- CW 

The Washington Post publishes a series of photos of the Vice President's residence.

Los Angeles Times: "Perhaps fittingly for an industry that has been trying to console itself in the wake of a presidential election result few saw coming, the 74th Golden Globes, held at the Beverly Hilton, proved a big night for the fizzy romantic musical 'La La Land,' a love letter to Hollywood itself that is widely considered the film to beat in this year’s best picture race." -- CW ...

Marisa Kashino of the Washingtonian: "... multiple real-estate sources say [Ivanka] Trump and husband Jared Kushner will move into 2449 Tracy Pl, NW, in Kalorama. That will put the couple less than two blocks from the Obamas, who will reportedly move here post-White House." Realtors' photos of the Kushner-Trump house are here. The six-bedroom house ... sold on December 22nd for $5.5 million, though it is unclear whether Trump and Kushner bought it, or will rent it from the recent buyer." -- CW 

Daniel Politi of Slate: "Los Angeles residents got a little surprise when they woke up on the first day of the year and realized one of the city’s most famous landmarks had been vandalized to read 'HOLLYWeeD' — at least for a few hours. Police say the vandal used tarps to change the sign’s O’s into E’s. Security cameras caught the vandal — likely a man — changing the sign between midnight and 2 a.m. but police can’t tell the person’s race or height from the footage, reports KTLA. If caught, the vandal could face a misdemeanor trespassing charge." -- CW 

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

Washington Post: "The Kennedy Center Honors showcased the breadth of American music Sunday night [Dec. 4] with emotionally charged performances celebrating the gospel roots of Mavis Staples, the honeyed vocals of James Taylor and the Southern California harmonies of the Eagles. The 39th annual celebration of lifetime achievement in the performing arts also honored actor Al Pacino and pianist Martha Argerich in a three-hour party that offered a wistful goodbye to Barack and Michelle Obama, who were hosting their last Honors tribute. The sold-out audience stood and cheered for several minutes when the president and first lady were introduced."

A Night at the Opera. Los Angeles Times: "The curtain rose on Act 2 of 'The Daughter of the Regiment,' revealing the figure of a tiny woman barely visible in a large dome chair with her back to the audience. Suddenly, she swiveled around — and there was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.Cheers and prolonged applause rang out from the crowd at the Kennedy Center on Saturday night even before Ginsburg, a life-long opera lover who was making her official operatic debut, opened her mouth to speak as the imperious Duchess of Krakenthorp.... Her biggest laugh came when — in apparent reference to the bogus 'birther' campaign against President Obama — she asked whether [the character] Marie could produce a birth certificate and added: 'We must take precautions against fraudulent pretenders.' Ginsburg herself wrote her dialogue, in collaboration with ... [the] dramaturge for the Washington National Opera...." -- CW 

Bruce Springsteen performs at Hillary Clinton's rally in Philadelphia, November 7:

Washington Post: "Paul Beatty won the Man Booker Prize on Tuesday evening in London, becoming the first American ever to take home the prestigious award. His satirical novel 'The Sellout' beat five other finalists for the $60,000 prize, which also essentially guarantees substantial new sales and interest around the world. Amanda Foreman, chair of the Booker judges, called 'The Sellout' 'a novel for our times. . . . Its humor disguises a radical seriousness. Paul Beatty slays sacred cows with abandon and takes aim at racial and political taboos with wit, verve and a snarl.' Originally published last year in the United States, 'The Sellout' is an outrageously funny satire of American race relations. The protagonist, a black man whose father was killed by police, wants to reinstitute segregation in his California town. He eventually lands before the Supreme Court in a bizarre case involving slavery. 'The Sellout' also won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in March." -- CW 

Washington Post: "Comic actor, movie star and America’s best friend Bill Murray tried to sum up the emotions of being honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Sunday night [Oct. 23] at the Kennedy Center. 'My theme tonight is what is it like to be beloved,' a straight-faced Murray told the crowd at the end of the two-hour salute. 'It’s hard to listen to all those people be nice to you. You just get so suspicious.'”

Hill: Actor Bill Murray "spoke with President Obama, who congratulated him for winning this year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, a White House official said. Asked by reporters in the Oval Office if he met with Murray, Obama said 'absolutely,' but didn’t reveal what else they discussed."

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Tuesday
Jan102017

The Commentariat -- January 11, 2017

Afternoon Update:

It's like we're all the crew of the Pequod, waiting for the mad captain to emerge from his cabin for the first time to explain how his obsessions should be ours as well. -- Charles Pierce ...

Breaking His Oath of Office from Day One. Maggie Haberman, et al., of the New York Times: "... Donald J. Trump ... plans ... to turn over all of his business operations to a trust controlled by his two oldest sons and a longtime associate, top officials with his company said on Wednesday. He will donate to the United States government all profits from foreign government payments to his hotels, the officials said, describing the arrangements as voluntary measures.... The Trump Organization will also refrain from entering into any new deals with foreign partners, his legal advisers said, backing off from an earlier claim by Mr. Trump that his company would have 'no new deals' of any kind during his presidency. Instead, the Trump enterprise will have to clear any new transactions with an ethics adviser to be chosen by the president-elect in coming days. That ethics adviser will vet them for potential conflicts, using a standard that his advisers said had not yet been agreed upon. The long-promised specifics Mr. Trump’s advisers provided on Wednesday left dozens of unanswered questions about whether or how the incoming president would avoid conflicts as commander in chief.... 'He is setting up a constitutional crisis on the first day that he takes office,' said Norman Eisen, who served as White House ethics adviser during the Obama administration...." -- CW ...

... David Nakamura & Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "... Donald Trump acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that he believes Russian operatives hacked the Democratic Party during the election, but he continued to dispute intelligence reports that Moscow acted to help him win. 'I think it was Russia,' Trump said at a news conference in New York when asked who was responsible for the public leaks.... He angrily denounced news reports that U.S. officials had obtained an unsubstantiated dossier of potentially compromising personal information Russia has allegedly gathered about him, citing denials from the Kremlin that it has any such intelligence.... Trump made his remarks in his first news conference as president-elect, ending a period of 167 days since he has fielded questions from the full media contingent.... Earlier in the day, Trump had charged via Twitter that his 'crooked opponents' are trying to undermine his electoral victory. He accused the intelligence community of leaking the information to get in 'one last shot at me,' saying, 'Are we living in Nazi Germany?'” ...

     ... CW: Not Yet. But once again, Trump shows a lot more faith in Russian claims than in the American intel establishment. ...

... Ed Pilkington & Julian Borger of the Guardian: "Donald Trump unleashed a firestorm of invective against 'shameful' news outlets and the 'disgraceful' behavior of the intelligence agencies, in a feisty press conference as he attempted to demolish salacious allegations concerning his dealings in Russia.... In a bravura, boastful performance full of his trademark outstretched hands and finger-jabbing, Trump lashed out at specific news organizations, notably CNN and BuzzFeed. CNN reported that Trump and Obama had been briefed about a summary of a memo on Trump’s alleged links with Moscow but BuzzFeed went a step further in publishing extensive details of the document that claimed Russian operatives had gathered compromising material against him.... He reserved his choicest attack for the intelligence agencies who he blamed for the leak: 'It was disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that proved so false and fake to get out. That’s something that Nazi Germany would have done, and did do...,' he said." -- CW ...

... Shane Goldmacher of Politico: Donald Trump's "chaotic first news conference on Wednesday, two months after his victory shocked the world, unfolded much as his campaign did: defiant, with attacks on his opponents, memorable one-liners ('I’m also very much of a germophobe, by the way'), a deluge of news (he announced a Cabinet secretary) and some of the toughest questions elided or ignored, including on his potential ethical and financial conflicts and on new reports of alleged contact between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.... When CNN’s Jim Acosta tried to ask a question, Trump cut him off. 'Your organization is terrible,' Trump scolded. 'Don’t be rude. …I am not going to give you a question. You are fake news.'... Trump also offered up hard news that almost got buried in the spectacle, including an ad hoc announcement that David Shulkin will be his secretary of veterans affairs, and that he hopes to appoint a new Supreme Court justice in his second week in office.” -- CW ...

... The NYT liveblogged Trump's presser here.

William Arkin, et al., of NBC News: "... Donald Trump was not told about unverified reports that Russia has compromising information on him during last week's intelligence briefing, according to a senior intelligence official with knowledge of preparations for the briefing. A summary of the unverified reports was prepared as background material for the briefing, but not discussed during the meeting, the official said. During Trump's press conference Wednesday morning..., he said he was made aware of the information 'outside that meeting.'... While multiple officials say the summary was included in the material prepared for the briefers, the senior official told NBC News that the briefing was oral and no actual documents were left with the Trump team in New York. During the briefing..., [Trump] was not briefed on the contents of the summary." -- CW ...

... Scott Shane of the New York Times on what we know & don't know about the Trump-Russia dossier. -- CW 

James Downie of the Washington Post: "Though it might be nice to imagine Trump’s presidency collapsing before it’s even begun, the fact remains that we know little more now than we did last week about Trump’s ties to Russia and whether Vladimir Putin’s government has compromising information on the president-elect. There is one thing we do know, though: FBI Director James Comey’s intervention in the election last October — controversial at the time — looks completely indefensible now.... It is a shocking and disturbing double standard: staying silent on allegations against one candidate despite reams of new information, while reviving allegations against another candidate despite absolutely no new information. Doing so two weeks before Election Day compounds the terrible error." -- CW

Nahal Toosi, et al., of Politico: "Rex Tillerson had terse exchanges Wednesday with Republican Marco Rubio and other key senators during his confirmation hearing for the role of secretary of state, ducking questions on whether Russian leader Vladimir Putin is a 'war criminal' or if the U.S. should sanction Moscow. The former ExxonMobil CEO was at times astonishingly candid, even curt, at one point telling a senator 'a little of both' when asked if he was refusing to answer a question or if he didn’t know the answer. Tillerson also struggled to clarify key issues, stating, for instance, that his company never lobbied against Russian sanctions, even though public records show the oil company repeatedly talked to lawmakers and the White House about the sanctions. And Tillerson would not say that he'd immediately back out of the nuclear agreement with Iran — a stance that puts him in opposition to GOP leaders." -- CW ...

... Charles Pierce: "For whatever reason, Tillerson showed up in front of the committee woefully unprepared to be anything more than an obvious corporate titan to whom nobody has ever said no.... The basic question hanging over the entire transition team right now is whether or not anyone on it — up to and including the president-elect — is qualified and/or capable of doing the job they were elected or appointed to do. Despite the conspicuous efforts of committee chairman Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, to bail him out at every opportunity, Tillerson presented very little evidence that he is ready, in the words of Delaware's Chris Coons, "to exchange the executive suite at ExxonMobil for the seventh-floor office at State."... He faced questions from conservatives about his ties with a murderous autocrat, and from liberals about whether he and his company are complicit in destroying the planet. He handled none of them well. This might be the nomination that's in a little trouble." -- CW 

Hiroko Tabuchi, et al., of the New York Times: "Federal prosecutors announced criminal charges on Wednesday against six Volkswagen executives for their role in the company’s emissions scandal, a substantial turn by a departing administration that is trying to remake its image that it is soft on corporate crime. The Volkswagen executives include a former head of development for the Volkswagen brand as well as a former head of engine development. One of them, Oliver Schmidt, was arrested in Florida last week, but the other five are believed to be in Germany. Volkswagen also formally pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to violate the Clean Air Act, customs violations and obstruction of justice." -- CW 

*****

Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But it’s really just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own. We, the people, give it power – with our participation, and the choices we make. Whether or not we stand up for our freedoms. Whether or not we respect and enforce the rule of law. America is no fragile thing. But the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured. -- President Obama, in his farewell address ...

... Juliet Eilperin & Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post: "President Obama used his farewell speech in his home town Tuesday to defend his imperiled legacy and press a broad, optimistic vision for the country that seems more divided than ever." CW: See also Marvin S.'s pithy review at the top of today's Comments. Seems about right to me:

... The text of the President's speech, as delivered, is here. ...

... ** Jonathan Chait: President Obama's "speech devoted only the most perfunctory attention to his many accomplishments in office. Instead, he delivered a stirring call to his country to defend its democracy against a looming threat – one he never named, even elliptically, but whose identity was clear and laced with references through his speech.... And as this wise and thoughtful leader left the stage, to be followed soon by an impulsive, bullying man-child, the implications of that warning seemed to linger. To watch Obama walk away into the darkness was an unnerving sight." -- CW 

Wow! Scott Shane, et al., of the New York Times: "The chiefs of America’s intelligence agencies last week presented President Obama and ... Donald J. Trump with a summary of unsubstantiated reports that Russia had collected compromising and salacious personal information about Mr. Trump, two officials with knowledge of the briefing said. The summary is based on memos generated by political operatives seeking to derail Mr. Trump’s candidacy. Details of the reports began circulating in the fall and were widely known among journalists and politicians in Washington. The two-page summary, first reported by CNN, was presented as an appendix to the intelligence agencies’ report on the Russian hacking of the election.... The material was not corroborated, and The New York Times has not been able to confirm the claims. But intelligence agencies considered it so potentially explosive that they decided Mr. Obama, Mr. Trump and congressional leaders needed to be told about it and that the agencies were actively investigating it.... The appendix summarized opposition research memos prepared mainly by a retired British intelligence operative for a Washington political and corporate research firm. The firm was paid for its work first by Mr. Trump’s Republican rivals and later by supporters of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.... The memos suggest that for many years, the government of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has looked for ways to influence Mr. Trump.... The memos describe sex videos involving prostitutes with Mr. Trump in a 2013 visit to a Moscow hotel.... The memos also suggest that Russian officials proposed various lucrative deals, essentially as disguised bribes in order to win influence over the real estate magnate. The memos describe several purported meetings during the 2016 presidential campaign between Trump representatives and Russian officials to discuss matters of mutual interest, including the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John D. Podesta." -- CW ...

... Greg Miller, et al., of the Washington Post: "Trump ... replied Tuesday night with a Tweet declaring: 'FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!' A senior U.S. official with access to the document said that the allegations were presented at least in part to underscore that Russia had embarrassing information on both major candidates, but only released material that might harm Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton — a reflection of Russian motivation that bolstered U.S. spy agencies’ conclusion that Moscow sought to help Trump win.... If true, the information suggests that Moscow has assembled damaging information — known in espionage circles by the Russian term 'kompromat' — that conceivably could be used to coerce the next occupant of the White House.... The material was first mentioned in a Mother Jones report in October.... Several news organizations, including the Washington Post, have been attempting to confirm the core allegations without success.... Hillary Clinton’s former campaign spokesman, Brian Fallon, appealed for a congressional inquiry.” -- CW ...

     ... Here's the Mother Jones story, by David Corn, published October 31, 2016. -- CW ...

... The CNN report, by Evan Perez & others, is here. "... allegations about communications between the Trump campaign and the Russians, mentioned in classified briefings for congressional leaders last year, prompted then-Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid to send a letter to FBI Director Comey in October, in which he wrote, 'It has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government -- a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States.'" -- CW ...

... Patrick Wintour of the Guardian: "The Russian embassy in London has accused the Foreign Office of preparing to mount a witch-hunt against Moscow in the wake of allegations by the UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, that Russia has been 'up to all sorts of tricks'. Johnson had claimed that the Kremlin was behind the hack of the Democratic campaign headquarters computer during the US presidential race, the first time that the UK has confirmed US intelligence reports linking the hacks to Russia.... UK intelligence agencies are understood to have been the first to alert their US counterparts to the evidence showing a link between the Democratic National Committee hacks and Moscow." -- CW ...

... AND Wow! Again. BuzzFeed has published "a dossier, compiled by a person who has claimed to be a former British intelligence official, [which] alleges Russia has compromising information on Trump. The allegations are unverified, and the report contains errors.... The dossier, which is a collection of memos written over a period of months, includes specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives, and graphic claims of sexual acts documented by the Russians. BuzzFeed News reporters in the US and Europe have been investigating various alleged facts in the dossier but have not verified or falsified them. CNN reported Tuesday that a two-page synopsis of the report was given to President Obama and Trump." -- CW ...

... Rory Carroll of the Guardian: "An hour after CNN’s initial story, BuzzFeed went ahead and published the documents.... The decision to put the claims in the public domain forced other media outlets to repeat the allegations or ignore a story that lit up the internet. Some critics rounded on BuzzFeed, calling it irresponsible.... Ben Smith, [BuzzFeed's] editor-in-chief, followed up a few hours later with a statement that defended publication as an act of journalistic transparency in a hyper-partisan era." -- CW ...

... Here's some fun Kellyanne Conway double-speak, courtesy of Paul Campos in LG&$. -- CW ...

... The Guardian is actually liveblogging the fallout. -- CW ...

... Eric Levitz of New York has a healthy perspective on this explosive story: "None of these claims have been substantiated, and their contingency should be stressed: To believe them, one must not only trust an anonymous foreign spy who was paid to generate unflattering material about Donald Trump, but also believe the claims of Russian intelligence operatives, who may have an incentive to bluff. Nonetheless, the fact that America’s top intelligence agencies are taking these claims seriously — or, at the very least, want the president-elect to think they are taking them seriously — is big, bizarre news." -- CW ...

... Ken Vogel & David Stern of Politico: "Donald Trump wasn’t the only presidential candidate whose campaign was boosted by officials of a former Soviet bloc country. Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found. A Ukrainian-American operative who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee met with top officials in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington in an effort to expose ties between Trump, top campaign aide Paul Manafort and Russia, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation. The Ukrainian efforts had an impact in the race, helping to force Manafort’s resignation and advancing the narrative that Trump’s campaign was deeply connected to Ukraine’s foe to the east, Russia. But they were far less concerted or centrally directed than Russia’s alleged hacking and dissemination of Democratic emails." -- CW 

Matt Apuzzo & Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: "Senator Jeff Sessions, who is in line to become attorney general, said Tuesday that the law 'absolutely' prohibits waterboarding and offered no hints at any legal workaround that would allow ... Donald J. Trump to bring back the brutal interrogation tactic.... He said he did not support an outright ban on Muslim immigration and promised to defend the nation’s laws — even in areas like abortion and gay rights where he has made his opposition known over a long, conservative career.... Senate Democrats ... did not vigorously confront Mr. Sessions on allegations of racism from three decades ago. Instead, they opted to use the hearings to try to establish the early legal boundaries of a Trump administration.... Mr. Sessions ... told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he would be an independent-minded attorney general who would say no to Mr. Trump." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Matt Zapotosky, et al., of the Washington Post: "On the first day of his two-day confirmation hearing, Sessions came under tough questioning from Democrats about his conservative, often controversial views on immigration, hate crimes legislation, and matters of national security. He answered politely, though often forcefully, and often referenced his decades of experience in the Senate.... He declared he would recuse himself from any Justice Department investigations of Hillary Clinton’s email practices or her family’s charitable foundation — mindful that his previous comments 'could place my objectivity in question.'” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... The Times is doing live analysis of Sessions' testimony here. ...

... Sarah Burris of the Raw Story reprises some of Al Franken's (D-Minn.) questioning of Sessions, specifically in relation to the intel reports Trump received. CW: You'll want to read it. Or listen. Franken is an American treasure. How I wish he were Minority Leader. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "The first day of confirmation hearings for Jeff Sessions in the Senate Judiciary Committee was for the most part blandly civil.... But Senator Al Franken pretty quickly drew blood by eliciting an admission from Sessions that he might have exaggerated his involvement in civil-rights cases while a U.S. Attorney (Franken was subsequently upbraided by Ted Cruz, in a rare and unconvincing appearance as a defender of moderation and bipartisanship!). And later on, the Minnesotan clearly threw Sessions off his game by asking about the president-elect’s famous tweet about losing the popular vote only because 'millions of illegal votes' had been cast for his opponent.... If Trump was alleging voter fraud on a scale unknown since the days of Boss Tweed, wasn’t Sessions concerned about it? And if not, why not? We’re still waiting for an answer to that one." -- CW ...

... Dana Milbank: "What Sessions said at his confirmation hearing did not always align with what he had said and done in the past. It may not comport at all with what he will do as attorney general. But, at least for a day, Sessions took pains to present himself as inoffensive.... [His] assurances may amount to nothing. But for those who fear that Donald Trump will run roughshod across the federal government, the nominee’s testimony offered a slim hope that he will provide at least some brake on the new president’s worst instincts." -- CW ...

... Amy Davidson of the New Yorker has a good summation of Sessions' non-answers during Day One of his confirmation hearings. ...

... John Stanton & Nathaniel Meyersohn of BuzzFeed: "In 1986, as the Senate was considering the nomination of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions for federal judge, Coretta Scott King wrote an impassioned plea to the members of the Judiciary Committee. Sessions, whose nomination had initially seemed routine, was suddenly on the ropes after witnesses accused him of using racial slurs and using his position as a US attorney to target civil rights activists in Alabama. The letter would become a key part of the case against Sessions, who would ultimately be defeated when his home state senator, the late Howell Heflin, shocked the Senate and voted against the confirmation. The Washington Post published the full, 10 page letter from King to the committee Tuesday evening. It can be read here." -- CW 

Charles Pierce: "The confirmation hearing of John Kelly, the retired Marine general nominated to be the Secretary of Homeland Security, didn't have the whizbang of the JeffBo Sessions show next door in the Russell Building. But there was a moment when Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, asked him whether or not he believed the report in which 17 U.S. intelligence services concluded that the Russian government had monkeywrenched the 2016 presidential election.... 'With high confidence,' Kelly replied. All day, at both hearings, there was a remarkable unanimity of belief in what would have been unthinkable four years ago: that a foreign government could finagle around with an American election and, largely, get away with it. Questioning Sessions about it, Lindsey Graham even slipped up for a second, saying, '… if you think that affected the outcome of the election, which I do...' ... The correct Republican response is that, yes, the Russians were in there finagling, but said finagling had nothing to do with who got elected and how." -- CW 

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Republican plans to quickly confirm Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees were upended Tuesday amid Democratic pressure to slow down the examination of picks. The Senate Intelligence Committee announced early Tuesday that it would delay by a day a hearing for Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) to serve as CIA director. Originally scheduled to be considered amid several other nominees on Wednesday, Pompeo will appear instead on Thursday. The Senate health and education committee also announced late Monday that it would postpone its hearing with Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for education secretary, until next week." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker: "A recent paper published by the Brookings Institution notes that President Trump would be violating the Constitution 'whenever a foreign diplomat stays in a Trump hotel or hosts a reception in one; whenever foreign-owned banks offer loans to Mr. Trump’s businesses or pay rent for office space in his buildings; whenever projects are jump-started or expedited or licensed or otherwise advantaged because Mr. Trump is associated with them; whenever foreign prosecutors and regulators treat a Trump entity favorably; and whenever the Trump Organization makes a profit on a business transaction with any foreign state or foreign-owned entity.'... There are three ways in which Trump could handle his impending clash with the Emoluments Clause, but only one that would clearly avoid a constitutional crisis.... The Emoluments Clause has never been tested in the courts, but most scholars seem to agree that if Trump doesn’t take the prophylactic approach to his conflicts there is only one other anti-corruption clause in the Constitution available as a remedy: impeachment.” -- CW 

Trump Unaware of What Congress Is Doing; Ryan Unaware of What Citizens Are Doing. Maggie Haberman & Margot Sanger-Katz of the New York Times: "... Donald J. Trump pressed Republicans on Tuesday to move forward with the immediate repeal of the Affordable Care Act and to replace it very quickly thereafter, saying, 'We have to get to business. Obamacare has been a catastrophic event.'... Mr. Trump, who seemed unclear about the timing of already scheduled votes in Congress this week, demanded a repeal vote 'probably some time next week,' and said 'the replace will be very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter.' That demand is very likely impossible. Republicans in Congress are nowhere close to agreement on a major health bill that would replace President Obama’s signature domestic achievement.... 'Long to me would be weeks,' [Trump] said. 'It won’t be repeal and then two years later go in with another plan.; That directly contradicts House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s plans. Mr. Ryan ...[said] Tuesday that its marketplaces were in a 'death spiral.'... In fact, new enrollment numbers from the Obama administration undercut that claim.” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Matt Yglesias of Vox: "In a puzzling interview with Maggie Haberman and Margot Sanger-Katz of the New York Times, Donald Trump weighed-in on the legislative mechanics of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act in a way that appeared to reveal that he has no idea what’s going on.... The ... Republican Party currently has no consensus on just what the replacement should be, and it’s very difficult to see them arriving at such a consensus before February 1 — unless they somehow ram through a quickly-crafted replacement that would massively restructure the health care sector with hardly any deliberation, with potentially catastrophic consequences. The GOP’s realistic options are either to delay the entire repeal process until they have a replacement in mind (which could take months) or else they can do repeal next week and leave Americans eager to find out what, if anything, the 'terrific' alternative they’ve been promised turns out to amount to. Trump’s alternative idea is totally unworkable." -- CW ...

... Sarah Kliff of Vox: "I spent Tuesday on Capitol Hill, talking to Senate Republicans about whether they expected their replacement plans to cover as many people as the Affordable Care Act. The answers were ... not plentiful.... If Trump is serious about pursuing replacement quickly, then there is one plan he could pull off the shelf — and it was written by none other than his pick to run the Department of Health and Human Services, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA). Price is the author of the most detailed Obamacare replacement I’ve read to date, the 242-page Empowering Patients First Act." Price's plan is, not surprisingly, horrible. -- CW 

Oh, Great. Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "Donald Trump met Tuesday with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a prominent skeptic of vaccines for children, and asked him to chair a new commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity, suggesting that ... [Trump] continues to believe a widely discredited theory that vaccines cause autism.” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Donald Trump ... was voted in as the most unpopular president-elect in modern history and got slightly less unpopular in the weeks that followed, as the goodwill flowed. Even then, though, he clearly remained the most unpopular president-elect in modern history.... A new poll from Quinnipiac University suggests that Trump has reverted to his pre-election standing, with Americans having major concerns about his temperament and the direction in which his presidency will lead the country. Trump’s continued controversies seem to have put him right back where he was before he won the election." -- CW ...

... CW: I meant to link sooner Lawrence Downes' NYT editorial comment, published Jan. 9, on the layers of Trump's lies. (And, yes, Marvin S., I take your point about the nature of Trump's lies. But to those of us who receive the lies, they're still untruths, not mere dysfunctions of a crazy man's brain.) It still stuns me that Americans would entrust the presidency to a flagrantly untrustworthy man, someone who will lie to them every time he speaks or twitches his tiny Twitterfingers.

Justin Wolfers in the New York Times: Economists are bearish on Trump. "Few see useful channels for influence. Partly this reflects ... Donald J. Trump’s legislative plans. On issues like restricting trade, directly intervening to assist specific industries or corporations, targeting tax cuts to the wealthy, his agenda stands as a rejection of the advice that mainstream economist have typically offered. And partly this reflects Mr. Trump’s appointments. Few of his key economic advisers have any economics training, and the only official who identifies as an economist — Peter Navarro, who earned a Harvard Ph.D. in economics and will head up the newly formed National Trade Council — stands so far outside the mainstream that he endorses few of the key tenets of the profession.... It’s the double whammy that worries economists, that Mr. Trump’s populist pose assigns less value to economic expertise, while also creating the conditions under which it’s most likely to be needed." -- CW 

CW: Especially in view of today's news, this is mighty creepy:

We’re fortunate in that we have the greatest celebrity in the world, which is the president-elect. So what we’ve done instead of trying to surround him with what people consider A-listers is we are going to surround him with the soft sensuality of the place. -- Tom Barrack, Chair of the Trump inauguration committee, on the dearth of stars performing at the swearing-in ceremony ...

Hey, maybe the committee has been asking the wrong people to perform:

@realDonaldTrump Your staff have asked me to sing at your inauguration, a simple Internet search would show I think you're a tyrant. Bye💩💩💩💩 — Charlotte Church (@charlottechurch) January 10, 2017

... Bill Scher of the New Republic: "... there is one ... tactic that is guaranteed to rattle Donald Trump the most with the least amount of effort: Don’t watch him. That inauguration next week? Don’t watch. State of the Union? You’re better off with an early night’s sleep. Oval Office addresses? Speeches? Rallies? Press conferences? 'Exclusive' TV interviews? Pick up that book you’ve been meaning to get to instead.... A mass refusal to watch Trump on TV will deprive him of big ratings, which he routinely uses to create a false impression of widespread popularity." -- CW ...

     ... CW: In yesterday's thread, Forrest M. suggested a good plan: "Everyone leaves their TV on all day tuned to the Weather Channel. Whatever channels are showing the trump show will be killed in the ratings by the Weather Channel." 

Scott Wong & Peter Sullivan of the Hill: "Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said on Tuesday that some elements required to replace ObamaCare could be included in the earlier process to repeal the healthcare law. Ryan, however, didn’t identify specific elements or get into other details of how that process would work. The Speaker’s comments come as GOP leaders are facing enormous pressure from ... Donald Trump, centrist Republicans and conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus to tackle the repeal and replacement of ObamaCare simultaneously. 'It is our goal to bring it all together concurrently,' Ryan told reporters after meeting with House Republicans behind closed doors." OR, as Paul Waldman put it, "Paul Ryan is devolving into incoherence.... So in different pieces at different times, but 'concurrently.' Got it." CW: Sometimes the Flim-Flam man confuses his flim with his flam. Perfectly understandable. ...

... Major Healthcare Companies Frightened by Orange Twitter Bird. Robert Pear of the Washington Post: "The speed of Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act has stunned health industry lobbyists, leaving representatives of insurance companies, hospitals, doctors and pharmaceutical makers in disarray and struggling for a response to a legislative quick strike that would upend much of the American health care system.... Some lobbyists have tacitly accepted the likelihood that major provisions of the health law will be repealed, setting their sights instead on shaping its replacement. They fear that if they come out strongly in opposition to repealing the law, they will lose their seats at the table as congressional Republicans and the Trump administration negotiate a replacement.... Some companies, anxious about changes in health policy, said they were afraid to speak out because they feared that Mr. Trump would attack them on Twitter, as he has badgered Boeing, Ford, General Motors, Lockheed Martin and Toyota." -- CW 

Sheryl Gay Stolberg & Timothy Williams of the New York Times: "... the Obama administration is making a last-minute push for police overhauls in two of the nation’s most violent cities, Baltimore and Chicago, where officers have been accused of routinely mistreating African-Americans. In Chicago, where a city task force appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel concluded that 'the police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color,' the Justice Department is rushing to wrap up a sweeping investigation into police patterns and practices, prompted by the release of a chilling video that showed a white officer shooting a black teenager. The findings are expected to be released before Jan. 20, Inauguration Day.... In Baltimore, where Justice Department officials have already released a blistering report accusing the police of systematic racial bias, negotiators for the city and the Obama administration are 'getting very close' to agreement on a consent decree...." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Jack Ewing of the New York Times: "Volkswagen has reached a deal with the United States government to pay $4.3 billion to resolve a federal criminal investigation into its cheating on emissions tests, the company said on Tuesday. As part of the settlement with federal officials, the company will plead guilty to criminal charges. The deal is not yet official, as the company’s management board must still approve." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Get Ready to Gag. Emily Steel & Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "In the weeks after Roger Ailes was ousted as the chairman of Fox News in July, amid a sexual harassment scandal, company executives secretly struck an agreement with a longtime on-air personality who had come forward with similar accusations about the network’s top host, Bill O’Reilly. The employee, Juliet Huddy, had said that Mr. O’Reilly pursued a sexual relationship with her in 2011, at a time he exerted significant influence over her career. When she rebuffed his advances, he tried to derail her career, according to a draft of a letter from her lawyers to Fox News that was obtained by The New York Times. The letter includes allegations that Mr. O’Reilly had called Ms. Huddy repeatedly and that it sometimes sounded like he was masturbating.... In exchange for her silence and agreement not to sue, she was paid a sum in the high six figures, according to people briefed on the agreement. The agreement was between Ms. Huddy and 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News. The company and Mr. O’Reilly’s lawyer said her allegations were false." CW: Yeah, right. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Beyond the Beltway

Alan Blinder & Kevin Sack of the New York Times: "Dylann S. Roof, the impenitent and inscrutable white supremacist who killed nine African-American churchgoers in a brazenly racial assault almost 19 months ago, shocking the world over the persistence of extremist hatred in dark corners of the American South, was condemned to death by a federal jury on Tuesday." -- CW 

Way Beyond

The Scoop Heard 'Round the World. Margalit Fox of the New York Times: "From a single gust of wind, Clare Hollingworth reaped the journalistic scoop of the century. Ms. Hollingworth, the undisputed doyenne of war correspondents, who died on Tuesday in Hong Kong at 105, was less than a week into her first job, as a reporter for the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, on that windy day in 1939. Driving alone on the road from Gleiwitz, then in Germany, to Katowice, in Poland — a distance of less than 20 miles — she watched as the wind lifted a piece of the tarpaulin that had been erected on the German side to screen the valley below from view. Through the opening, Ms. Hollingworth saw, she later wrote, 'large numbers of troops, literally hundreds of tanks, armored cars and field guns' concealed in the valley. She knew then that Germany was poised for a major military incursion. Hastening back across the border to the Polish side, she telephoned her editor with the news, a world exclusive. The date was Aug. 28, 1939, and her article, published the next day, would become, as the British paper The Guardian wrote in 2015, 'probably the greatest scoop of modern times.'” -- CW 

Monday
Jan092017

The Commentariat -- January 10, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Matt Apuzzo & Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times: "Senator Jeff Sessions, who is in line to become attorney general, said Tuesday that the law 'absolutely' prohibits waterboarding and offered no hints at any legal workaround that would allow ... Donald J. Trump to bring back the brutal interrogation tactic.... He said he did not support an outright ban on Muslim immigration and promised to defend the nation’s laws — even in areas like abortion and gay rights where he has made his opposition known over a long, conservative career.... Senate Democrats ... did not vigorously confront Mr. Sessions on allegations of racism from three decades ago. Instead, they opted to use the hearings to try to establish the early legal boundaries of a Trump administration.... Mr. Sessions ... told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he would be an independent-minded attorney general who would say no to Mr. Trump." -- CW ...

... Matt Zapotosky, et al., of the Washington Post: "On the first day of his two-day confirmation hearing, Sessions came under tough questioning from Democrats about his conservative, often controversial views on immigration, hate crimes legislation, and matters of national security. He answered politely, though often forcefully, and often referenced his decades of experience in the Senate.... He declared he would recuse himself from any Justice Department investigations of Hillary Clinton’s email practices or her family’s charitable foundation — mindful that his previous comments 'could place my objectivity in question.'” -- CW ...

... The Times is doing live analysis of Sessions' testimony here. ...

Sheryl Gay Stolberg & Timothy Williams of the New York Times: "... the Obama administration is making a last-minute push for police overhauls in two of the nation’s most violent cities, Baltimore and Chicago, where officers have been accused of routinely mistreating African-Americans. In Chicago, where a city task force appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel concluded that 'the police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color,' the Justice Department is rushing to wrap up a sweeping investigation into police patterns and practices, prompted by the release of a chilling video that showed a white officer shooting a black teenager. The findings are expected to be released before Jan. 20, Inauguration Day.... In Baltimore, where Justice Department officials have already released a blistering report accusing the police of systematic racial bias, negotiators for the city and the Obama administration are 'getting very close' to agreement on a consent decree...." -- CW 

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Republican plans to quickly confirm Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees were upended Tuesday amid Democratic pressure to slow down the examination of picks. The Senate Intelligence Committee announced early Tuesday that it would delay by a day a hearing for Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) to serve as CIA director. Originally scheduled to be considered amid several other nominees on Wednesday, Pompeo will appear instead on Thursday. The Senate health and education committee also announced late Monday that it would postpone its hearing with Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for education secretary, until next week." -- CW 

Trump Unaware of What Congress Is Doing; Ryan Unaware of What Citizens Are Doing. Maggie Haberman & Margot Sanger-Katz of the New York Times: "... Donald J. Trump pressed Republicans on Tuesday to move forward with the immediate repeal of the Affordable Care Act and to replace it very quickly thereafter, saying, 'We have to get to business. Obamacare has been a catastrophic event.'... Mr. Trump, who seemed unclear about the timing of already scheduled votes in Congress this week, demanded a repeal vote 'probably some time next week,' and said 'the replace will be very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter.' That demand is very likely impossible. Republicans in Congress are nowhere close to agreement on a major health bill that would replace President Obama’s signature domestic achievement.... 'Long to me would be weeks,' [Trump] said. 'It won’t be repeal and then two years later go in with another plan.; That directly contradicts House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s plans. Mr. Ryan ...[said] Tuesday that its marketplaces were in a 'death spiral.'... In fact, new enrollment numbers from the Obama administration undercut that claim.” -- CW 

Oh, Great. Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "Donald Trump met Tuesday with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a prominent skeptic of vaccines for children, and asked him to chair a new commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity, suggesting that ... [Trump] continues to believe a widely discredited theory that vaccines cause autism.” -- CW

Jack Ewing of the New York Times: "Volkswagen has reached a deal with the United States government to pay $4.3 billion to resolve a federal criminal investigation into its cheating on emissions tests, the company said on Tuesday. As part of the settlement with federal officials, the company will plead guilty to criminal charges. The deal is not yet official, as the company’s management board must still approve." -- CW

 

Get Ready to Gag. Emily Steel & Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "In the weeks after Roger Ailes was ousted as the chairman of Fox News in July, amid a sexual harassment scandal, company executives secretly struck an agreement with a longtime on-air personality who had come forward with similar accusations about the network’s top host, Bill O’Reilly. The employee, Juliet Huddy, had said that Mr. O’Reilly pursued a sexual relationship with her in 2011, at a time he exerted significant influence over her career. When she rebuffed his advances, he tried to derail her career, according to a draft of a letter from her lawyers to Fox News that was obtained by The New York Times. The letter includes allegations that Mr. O’Reilly had called Ms. Huddy repeatedly and that it sometimes sounded like he was masturbating.... In exchange for her silence and agreement not to sue, she was paid a sum in the high six figures, according to people briefed on the agreement. The agreement was between Ms. Huddy and 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News. The company and Mr. O’Reilly’s lawyer said her allegations were false." CW: Yeah, right.

*****

CW: I hope some contributors will be able to watch some of the hearings this week & report back. I'm still packing & loading PODs.

White House: "President Obama will return to Chicago to deliver his Farewell Address on January 10, 2017 at 8 p.m. CST / 9 p.m. EST." -- CW 

... Kevin Drum: "Every year, there are hundreds of investments of a billion dollars by foreign companies in the US. The Fiat Chrysler announcement is entirely routine. Still, that's hundreds of opportunities every year for Trump to blather about how he's making America great again. Just keep in mind that it's all nonsense." -- CW ...

... Emily Rauhala of the Washington Post: "Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, strolled into Trump Tower on Monday to talk to Donald J. Trump about a plan to create 1 million U.S. jobs — or that’s how they sold it. Trump’s incoming press secretary said the tycoons would discuss 'how Alibaba can create 1 million U.S. jobs by enabling 1 million U.S. small businesses to sell goods into the China and the Asian marketplace.' For its part, the company pitched it as a certainty: 'Alibaba,' it said in a statement, 'will create 1 million U.S. jobs.'... So case closed on those million new gigs? Hardly." Read on. CW: I was prepared to read another stenographic report on Trump's self-proclaimed awesomeness. I sold Rauhala way short. I will say this for Trump: he is very comfortable meeting with shady characters, which is part of the president's job description.

Trump Grammar: Lie, Lied, Have Lied. Greg Sargent: "At the Golden Globes ceremony Sunday night, actress Meryl Streep tore into Trump, depicting him as a bully who takes borderline sociopathic pleasure in abusing and belittling others.... On Monday morning, Trump responded with a series of tweets.... [In the tweets,] Trump is telling two lies about a third lie.... Lie No. 1 is that thousands of U.S.-based Muslims celebrated 9/11. Lie No. 2 is that the disabled reporter’s original story backed Trump and that the reporter backtracked on it. Lie No. 3 is that Trump didn’t mock that disabled reporter (in fact, he flapped his hands around frantically after saying, 'you gotta see this guy!').... Here again we’re seeing Trump’s willingness to keep piling the lies on top of one another long after the original foundational lies have been widely debunked, and to keep on attacking the press for not playing along with his version of reality...." -- CW 

You always want to go by what’s come out of his mouth rather than look at what’s in his heart. -- Kellyanne Conway, complaining that people are judging Donald Trump based on what he says & does, speaking on CNN Monday

No, I did not make that up. Check out the link. -- Constant Weader

... Another Trivial Self-Aggrandizing Trump Lie. Diana Pearl of People: "Trump told The New York Times early Monday that D.C. shops have been selling out of gowns, with big numbers expected at the inaugural festivities — in particular, celebrities. 'We are going to have an unbelievable, perhaps record-setting turnout for the inauguration, and there will be plenty of movie and entertainment stars,' he said. 'All the dress shops are sold out in Washington. It’s hard to find a great dress for this inauguration.'... People called a few D.C. area stores that carry formal dresses and evening wear, and every store said they had plenty of inventory available for those seeking an outfit to wear to the inauguration.... In fact, Peter Marx, owner of Saks Jandel, a D.C. area boutique, told People that there have been fewer people seeking inaugural gowns. 'There’s never been less demand for inaugural ballgowns in my 38 years,' Marx [said]....” ...

    ... CW: In yesterday's thread, Patrick cited a similar WashPo "investigation." Catherine Lucey of the AP did another fact-check & found there were "red gowns a-plenty" for sale in Washington boutiques. All of the media are partisan hacks, attacking Trump for what he said instead of what's in his heart.

Staffing the Trump Administration with Racists. Ryan Mac & Matt Drange of Forbes: "An internet troll, who was once called 'the most hated man on the internet' and is banned from Twitter, is recommending candidates to serve in the Trump administration. Charles 'Chuck' Johnson, a controversial blogger and conservative online personality, has been pushing for various political appointees to serve under Donald Trump, according to multiple sources close to the ... [Trump] transition team. While Johnson does not have a formal position, Forbes has learned that he is working behind the scenes with members of the transition team’s executive committee, including billionaire Trump donor Peter Thiel, to recommend, vet and give something of a seal of approval to potential nominees from the so-called 'alt-right.'... Beyond recommending candidates, Johnson has also helped set up meetings between potential appointees and transition team members." -- CW ...

... Nobody Will Be Watching the Nukes. Ashley Feinberg of Gizmodo: "According to an official within the Department of Energy, the Trump transition team has declined to ask the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration and his deputy to temporarily stay in their roles after Trump takes office on January 20th.... Trump’s team has yet to nominate anyone to succeed them.... Appointees in key positions — like the people who make sure our nukes work — are often asked to stay on in their roles until a replacement can be found and confirmed by the Senate, helping ensure a smooth transition and allowing our government to continue functioning.... The vacancies [in the NNSA] may extend beyond the leadership roles," as there are "scores of appointees within the department." -- CW    

Drew Harwell & Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: Donald Trump is doing some things to distance himself from his business empire, but "it has become clear that Trump’s approach is unlikely to eliminate all of the potential pitfalls stemming from the complex web of real estate holdings, partnerships and merchandising agreements that make up the Trump Organization." -- CW 

Michael Kranish & Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "Key disclosure reports for four out of nine of Donald Trump’s nominees subject to Senate confirmation hearings this week had yet to be made public by late Monday, underscoring concerns from the Office of Government Ethics that it is being rushed to approve the documentation.... Even if all the reports are released just before the hearings, some ethics specialists said the process is too hurried for the public and senators to evaluate the information.... Norman Eisen, who served as an ethics lawyer in the Obama administration..., cited a letter written in February 2009 by then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that called on the Obama administration to promptly provide all ethics disclosure material 'in time for review and prior to a committee hearing.' On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) tried to use McConnell’s letter against him, sending him a tweaked copy in which he crossed out McConnell’s name as the signatory and swapped in his own." -- CW ...

... Dana Milbank on Mitch McConnell v. Mitch McConnell. Milbank provides half-a-dozen examples of McConnell's completely reversing his "principles" on major issues when it suited him. CW: My hypocrisy meter broke.

This Week with Mitch McConnell. Ed Kilgore: "This Wednesday [McConnell] is scheduling six confirmation hearings for Trump-cabinet–level employees, on the very day that debate concludes over the budget resolution that sets up an Obamacare repeal and Democrats offer a blizzard of amendments. To add to the fog, Donald Trump is holding his first press conference since winning the election on — you guessed it — Wednesday.... Mitch McConnell and his House and Team Trump allies would love to get through this week of potential controversy with the whole world focused on something, anything else. Cramming it all into one day makes that a lot more likely." -- CW ...

... MEANWHILE, Chuck Schumer is "threatening" Mitch that Democrats will "slow down" the confirmathon with procedural delays. Ooh, scary. -- CW ...

... ** Norman Eisen & Richard Painter in a Guardian op-ed: "As the former White House ethics counsels for Presidents Bush and Obama, we were involved in the submission of many presidential nominations to the US Senate for confirmation. We and others worked hard to make sure those nominees’ financial disclosure reports and ethics agreements were finalized and certified by the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) before their hearings, so that the Senate and thus the public could explore any conflicts of interest and how they were addressed. This week’s hearings for the president-elect’s cabinet are flouting that practice, and for that reason, should be postponed.... Now, in 2017, with more billionaires than ever before being nominated for top jobs in the Trump administration, [Mitch McConnell's 2009] argument for thorough review of financial disclosure and ethics agreements is more compelling than ever." Read on. -- CW ...

... More on the Rogues' Gallery/Trump Cabinet Nominees:

Noam Scheiber of the New York Times: "In announcing his intention to nominate [Betsy] DeVos [as secretary of education], Mr. Trump described her as 'a brilliant and passionate education advocate.' Even critics characterized her as a dedicated, if misguided, activist for school reform. But that description understates both the breadth of Ms. DeVos’s political interests and the influence she wields as part of her powerful family. More than anyone else who has joined the incoming Trump administration, she represents the combination of wealth, free-market ideology and political hardball associated with a better-known family of billionaires: Charles and David Koch.... Like the Kochs, the DeVoses are generous supporters of think tanks that evangelize for unrestrained capitalism ... and that rail against unions and back privatizing public services...." -- CW 

Missy Ryan & Steve Mufson of the Washington Post: In 2011, Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state & the CEO of ExxonMobil, pushed for a deal in Iraq that "defied U.S. foreign policy aims, placing the company’s financial interests above the American goal of creating a stable, cohesive Iraq. U.S. diplomats had asked Exxon and other firms to wait, fearing that such deals would undermine their credibility with Iraqi authorities and worsen ethnic tensions that had led Iraq to the brink of civil war.... The episode of petro-diplomacy illustrates Exxon’s willingness to blaze its own course in pursuit of corporate interests, even when it threatens to collide with U.S. foreign policy.: -- CW 

Maggie Haberman & Glenn Thrush of the New York Times: "Jared Kushner will become a senior White House adviser to his father-in-law, Donald J. Trump.... Mr. Kushner, whose appointment has been challenged on the basis of a 1967 federal anti-nepotism law, plans to sell some of his real-estate holdings and some other assets to his brother and a trust overseen by his mother.... And a memo late Monday afternoon at The New York Observer, for which Mr. Kushner is the publisher, revealed that his brother-in-law, Joseph Meyer, the chairman of the newspaper, would take over in that role.... Mr. Kushner will not take a salary and plans to work on issues involving the Middle East and Israel, as well as collaborate with Mr. Trump’s choice for commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, on matters involving free trade...." -- CW ...

... "Family First." As MAG wrote in yesterday's thread, Andrew Rice has a very readable, thoughtful (and longish) biographical piece on Jared Kushner in New York.

Sharon LaFraniere & Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times write a biography of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III which is as positive as one can be about a true confederate.  -- CW ...

... Kenneth Lipp of the Daily Beast: "Today Jeff Sessions claims credit for prosecuting a lynching by the Ku Klux Klan as proof that he is not a racist, but an attorney working for him claimed 30 years ago his boss wanted to drop the case.... Thomas Figures, an assistant U.S. attorney in Alabama when Sessions was U.S. attorney, [testified before a Senate committe in 1986], 'in the early stages of the [KKK] case, Mr. Sessions did attempt to persuade me to discontinue pursuit of the case,' calling it a waste of time and saying that 'if the perpetrators were found, I would not be assigned to the case,' Figures testified. [Figures was black.] 'All of these statements were well calculated to induce me to drop the case,' Figures said, 'on the other hand, none of them amounted to a direct order to drop the case.'” Figures died in 2015. -- CW ...

... Michelle Lee of the Washington Post looks into Sessions' "strong civil rights record," as described by the Trump transition team. -- CW ...

... Another Sin of Omission by the Last Confederate Soldier. Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post: "Attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions did not disclose his ownership of oil interests on land in Alabama as required by federal ethics rules, according to an examination of state records and independent ethics lawyers who reviewed the documents.... Sessions did make reference to $4,474 in oil royalty revenue in a Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire last month, but he did not describe the nature of his holdings, including rights to oil located under the federal wildlife refuge. Trevor Potter, an ethics lawyer who has advised several GOP presidential candidates, said Sessions’s ethics agreement may now need to be adjusted. 'I am troubled by any omissions,' said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Judiciary Committee. 'But this is particularly troubling because this ownership interest involves oil and gas holdings connected to a federal wildlife refuge.'”

Congressman for Sale -- The Price of Tom Price. Marisa Taylor & Christina Jewett of TPM: "Rep. Tom Price, the physician and Georgia Republican tapped for the nation’s leading health care job, has long criticized federal spending as excessive. Yet during his years in Congress, he’s worked hard to keep federal dollars flowing to his most generous campaign donors. Price has been a go-to congressman, a review of his records show, for medical special interests hotly sparring with regulators or facing budget cuts." -- CW  

Dr. (for now) Monica Crowley, Serial Plagiarizer, Ctd. Alex Caton & Grace Watkins in Politico Magazine: "Monica Crowley..., Donald J. Trump’s pick for a top National Security Council job, plagiarized numerous passages in her Ph.D. dissertation.... An examination of the dissertation and the sources it cites identified around more than a dozen sections of text that have been lifted, with little to no changes, from other scholarly works without proper attribution. In some instances, Crowley footnoted her source but did not identify with quotation marks the text she was copying directly. In other instances, she copied text or heavily paraphrased with no attribution at all.... Her thesis adviser..., Richard K. Betts, declined to comment, as did Columbia University, which has previously rescinded at least one Ph.D. for plagiarism.... Crowley's position does not require Senate confirmation." -- CW ...

... Alyssa Rosenberg of the Washington Post: "... Donald Trump’s ability to inhabit his own private, convenient reality is a firmly established part of his style right now. And one of the many insidious things about his coming presidency is his attempt to force the rest of us to live in this chaotic, unmoored realm along with him. His team’s latest attempt to disorient the public came in response to a CNN investigation that found more than 50 plagiarized passages in a 2012 book by Trump’s choice to be deputy national security adviser, Monica Crowley. The Trump transition team’s response? 'Any attempt to discredit Monica is nothing more than a politically motivated attack that seeks to distract from the real issues facing this country.' The statement is a wonderful example of how Trump’s private universe works: If it’s beneficial to him, or flattering to people in his circle, then it’s true. If it’s unflattering, then it’s not merely false, it’s the result of malicious political motivations.... Whether or not Crowley plagiarized large sections of her book is a factual question, not a partisan one."


Steven Dennis & Sahil Kapur
of Bloomberg: "A breakaway group of five moderate Senate Republicans pushed Monday to delay a bill repealing Obamacare until March -- potentially enough pressure to force the party’s leadership to comply. The step is the latest sign of some Republicans’ growing uneasiness about their leadership’s plan to repeal the law with no consensus on a replacement as part of an effort to deliver swiftly on one of ... Donald Trump’s top campaign promises. Senators Bob Corker of Tennessee, Rob Portman of Ohio, Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska offered an amendment Monday to the budget resolution that would extend the target date for the committees to write an Obamacare repeal bill to March 3 from Jan. 27.... On the House side, the new chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus said his group wants to see more details about an Obamacare replacement before voting on the budget resolution. 'We hope they would see the prudence of waiting,' Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina said Monday night." -- CW ...

... Lauren Fox of TPM: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), "a lead Republican in the fight to repeal Obamacare, said Monday night that he wanted to work in a step by step manner to repeal Obamcare once a replacement was 'available to the American people'.... The statement comes after other rank-and-file Republicans including Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) have voiced concern that Republicans are hurting themselves by not offering a replacement at the time they repeal Obamacare. From the beginning, Alexander has tried to urge his colleagues to take Obamacare repeal and replace slowly. He even warned in November that it could take 'years' to fully transition." -- CW ...

... Sarah Kliff of Vox: " One month ago, as the surprise of the election wore off and the reality of a Republican-controlled Washington sunk in, I would have predicted that Obamacare repeal was a foregone conclusion.... A month later, it doesn’t feel settled at all.... Republicans are struggling to maintain party unity on leadership’s preferred “repeal and delay” strategy.... Republican governors are trying to slow down Obamacare repeal." -- CW ...

... Jonathan Chait: "Something big is happening in the Senate right now: The Republican plan, affirmed again [Monday] by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is facing dire peril from Republican defections. Republicans need a House majority, 50 Senate votes, and soon-to-be President Trump to pass repeal and delay." Right now they don't have the Senate votes. -- CW ...

... CW: As everyone notes, Mitch is a smart, wily, conniving SOB. I think he is pushing for the repeal bill now, knowing it will fail. It's more than likely he knows the GOP approach is stoopid & would cause national economic turmoil hurt Republicans. Calling for the early vote fulfills Republican promises to destroy ObamaCare on Day One; the bill's failure will mean Mitch can shrug his shoulders & say, "I tried." This really isn't "something big"; it's SOP.


Dave Weigel
of the Washington Post: Democrats are trying to use traditional (antique) messaging techniques against Donald Trump, and surprise, surprise! It isn't working. -- CW 

Monday
Jan092017

The Commentariat -- January 9, 2017

Elana Schor of Politico: "Thirty Democrats on Monday introduced legislation in both chambers of Congress that would subject Donald Trump to conflict-of-interest laws that currently exempt the president. The bill has slim if any chance of advancing while Republicans control the House and Senate. But it gives Democrats a substantive counterattack for Trump's planned Wednesday press conference, where he is expected to discuss a long-promised plan to address potential conflicts between his private holdings and public role as commander-in-chief." -- CW ...

... John Wagner & Ylan Mui of the Washington Post: "Billionaire investor Carl Icahn will have the ear of ... Donald Trump as an adviser focused on cutting government regulations. But Icahn also stands to benefit if his advice is taken: It could make the energy companies and others in which he has a stake more profitable.Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who’s a major figure in her father’s business, has been present at transition meetings and is expected to continue to counsel him at the White House. So, too, is her husband, Jared Kushner, who has a web of business interests of his own that could be affected by Trump administration policy. And another Trump intimate — his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski — is making no secret of his desire to profit on his continuing closeness to Trump, setting up a new lobbying firm with an office just a block from the White House. With confirmation hearings set to start for Trump’s Cabinet, ethics experts are voicing alarm about several other confidants of the president-elect — dubbed the 'shadow Cabinet' by one — who might not be subject to such scrutiny and could face a tangle of potential conflicts between their personal interests and those of the public." CW: No kidding. ...

... Mallory Shelbourne of the Hill: "Lawyers have etched out a plan for ... Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to serve in the new administration, according to a report. Mike Allen said in his inaugural Axios AM e-letter early Monday that Kushner will serve as senior adviser. Kushner is reportedly now searching for members of his staff." -- CW ...

Mr. Sessions, who has suggested that judicial nominees may be committing crimes when they withhold relevant information from the Senate, now gives laughable explanations for the truck-size holes in his own résumé. He has said that there is no record of the vast majority of interviews he has given over the years, but a quick Google search disproves that.

... Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Republicans are vowing to press ahead with confirmation hearings this week for Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees despite the concerns of a federal watchdog that their complex backgrounds are slowing required ethics reviews. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Sunday that there are no plans to alter a packed confirmation calendar, but he vowed that no nominee will earn an up-or-down vote until the requisite background checks are completed by the FBI and a federal ethics office.... 'So all of these little procedural complaints are related to their frustration at having not only lost the White House, but having lost the Senate. I understand that. But we need to, sort of, grow up here and get past that.' [McConnell said].” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... David of Crooks & Liars: "Reince Priebus ... argued on Sunday that there was 'no reason' to complete background checks on ... [Donald Trump]'s cabinet appointments.... 'The fact is there's no reason.... I mean, it's the first week of January, they have all the details that they need, they have all the information that they need.'" -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Ken Meyer of Mediaite: "CNN’s Jake Tapper had Kellyanne Conway on State of the Union, where he asked the [her] ... about Donald Trump's response to the intelligence that Russia meddled with the 2016 election.... Tapper ... noted how frequently Trump cited the leaked emails obtained by WikiLeaks when he was making his case against Clinton in the election’s final months. 'How can you say that the hacking had no impact on the election,' Tapper asked, 'when Mr. Trump kept invoking WikiLeaks which was printing, publishing things that the Russians had hacked?' Conway argued Trump’s team didn’t need WikiLeaks to release their Democratic National Committee email collection in order to win. Tapper kept pressing Conway about how often the Trump campaign brought up WikiLeaks’ information, and eventually, Conway suggested that Americans should actually be infuriated that NBC received confirmation about the contents of Trump’s intelligence briefing before ... [Trump] sat down for it on Friday." Includes video. CW: Also, too, Conway just flat-out lies about the content of the intel report. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Kevin Robillard of Politico: "Kellyanne Conway and Reince Priebus ... said Sunday that ... [Donald Trump] is still considering his options when it comes to the speed of replacing Obamacare.... 'Well, it really depends what — what the piece of legislation is,' Conway said on CNN's 'State of the Union' when asked about timing. She was vague about what Trump wants in a plan, saying only that it should give Americans the ability to purchase insurance across state lines and to use health savings accounts." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Rebecca Savransky of the Hill: "Incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on Sunday suggested ... Donald Trump stands by his campaign vow not to cut Medicare. 'I don't think President-elect Trump wants to meddle with Medicare or Social Security,' Priebus said on CBS's 'Face The Nation.' 'He made a promise in the campaign that that was something that he didn't want to do.'" CW: Of course I don't trust a word any Trump spokesperson says, but if Trump does stand by his campaign promises, Paul Ryan is in for a fall. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Max Bearak of the Washington Post: "Amid promises of sweeping changes to immigration policy, ... Donald Trump and his choice for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), have tabbed the [H-1B] program for a major overhaul, and might even scrap it altogether. In the House, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is on the same wavelength. The visas bring nearly 100,000 'highly skilled' contract workers, mostly in tech and mostly from India, to the United States every year. Most stay for multiple years, and some eventually get green cards. According to federal guidelines, H-1Bs are intended to fill positions for which American workers with the requisite skills can’t be found. Whether the program always does that is intensely debated by industry lobbyists and politicians, and companies are not legally required to ensure that result.... Sessions and Issa’s legislation primarily targets large outsourcing companies, such as Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services, that receive the vast majority of H-1B visas...." ...

     ... CW: Funny, not a word about cutting the programs that allow Donald Trump to hire cheap foreign low-skilled workers for his hotels & resorts after claiming he just can't get good help from among the U.S.'s job-seekers. (Translation: he might have to pay them a living wage.)

AP: "... Donald Trump is reviving arguments about the wall he proposed for the nation's border with Texas. He criticized the media, a frequent target, in a tweet sent late Sunday, for reports that U.S. taxpayers could get stuck paying the bill. 'Dishonest media says Mexico won't be paying for the wall if they pay a little later so the wall can be built more quickly. Media is fake!'" ...

     ... CW: See more on Donald Trump's obsession with criticism below. Also too, it's very important to build a "beautiful wall" at the border when American roads & bridges are crumbling to the point of endangering the traveling public. To be fair, Trump is working on that, too: he plans to build toll roads & bridges for rich people, so the elite few can travel safely in the U.S.

Toni Clarke of Reuters: "The U.S. Senate will take its first steps toward repealing President Barack Obama's signature healthcare reform act by the end of the week, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Sunday. Speaking on CBS's 'Face the Nation,' McConnell said: 'There ought not to be a great gap' between repealing the act and replacing it and that Republicans would be 'replacing it rapidly after repealing it.' McConnell did not define what he meant by 'rapidly.' Another top Republican, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, told Fox News that it could take two years to fully replace the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare." -- CW ...

... MEANWHILE, Paul Demko & Adam Cancryn of Politico relay a repeal "doomsday scenario: Millions of people could lose their health care coverage, hospitals could hemorrhage cash and shocks to the $3 trillion-a-year health system could send ripples through the entire economy." CW: But so what? Rabid Republicans will save face by finally making good on their promise to ruin people's lives AND the economy. ...

... Paul Krugman: Now that it's a bad time to increase federal deficits, Congressional Republicans "are perfectly happy with the prospect of deficits swollen by tax cuts; the budget resolution they’re considering would, according to their own estimates, add $9 trillion in debt over the next decade.... The crucial point [about GOP tax & deficit policy] is not that Republicans were hypocritical. It is, instead, that their hypocrisy made us poorer. They screamed about the evils of debt at a time when bigger deficits would have done a lot of good, and are about to blow up deficits at a time when they will do harm." -- CW ...

... In his column, Krugman refers to the Trump-Putin administration. I guess I'll have to modify Trumpence to Trumputin. For more evidence of Trumputin, we turn to Mediaite (and thanks to Haley S. for the heads-up on this):

... Alex Griswold of Mediaite: "Fox News host Sean Hannity tweeted his enthusiastic agreement Sunday when someone tweeted at him that Americans should work together to 'make Russia great again.' Hannity was responding to a tweet from an account called 'Donnie L’il Hands,' which he apparently did not realize was mocking him and Donald Trump." Griswold has a screenshot of the three-tweet exchange. "Donnie" writes, "... All Americans must get together to MAKE RUSSIA GREAT AGAIN. Teamwork!!" and Hannity responds, "Amen!!" ...

    ... Robert Sobel of Blasting News: "Sean Hannity goes on Twitter tirade after deleting pro-Russian tweet, screenshot recovered.... After two hours of being ridiculed on social media, Sean Hannity pulled his tweet, but not before a screen shot could capture the comment.... After [Alex Griswold] Mediaite ran an article about the tweet titled "Hannity, for one, welcomes our new Russian overlords," Sean Hannity wasn't happy. 'Alex this is why the media is so dishonest,' the Fox News host wrote, before adding, 'If you took the time to read my timeline you would have figured out it was an honest mistake.' 'Are you really that lazy and biased?,' Hannity continued, while stating, 'How about you quote all the tweets about NOT trusting Putin or Russia. You are dishonest and lazy.'" CW: Not sure how it's "dishonest and lazy" to accurately relate a Twitter exchange, right down to providing the screenshots. That sounds like "reporting" to me. ...

... Assange Takes Down the U.S. Government; Installs a Tyrant. Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times: Julian Assange "belongs in jail for 'waging his war' against the United States by exposing its secrets, the conservative Fox News host Sean Hannity has said of him. An 'anti-American operative with blood on his hands,' Sarah Palin once called him. Yet last week brought the sight of Mr. Hannity speaking with Mr. Assange in glowing terms about 'what drives him to expose government and media corruption' through Clinton campaign hacks that American intelligence has attributed to Russia. And Ms. Palin hailed him as a great truth teller, even apologizing for previous unpleasantries. (Cue sound of needle sliding across record album.)... The current imbroglio over Russia, WikiLeaks and their role in Mr. Trump’s victory ... might be viewed as the realization of the vision Mr. Assange had when he started WikiLeaks over a decade ago. Mr. Assange spelled it out in prescient terms in an essay he posted online in November of 2006, the year of WikiLeaks’ founding.... In the essay he ... wrote in more ambitious terms about forcing regime change through data and technology rather than through the old, barbaric means of assassination.... He pointed to 'two closely balanced and broadly conspiratorial power groupings,' the Democratic and the Republican Parties in the United States." -- CW 

Hank Stuever of the Washington Post: "The hands-down highlight of the [Golden Globes] show came from a hoarse-voiced Meryl Streep, who accepted the association’s Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement award with sharp criticism of Trump and the cultural forces that led to his victory":

... Patrick Healy of the New York Times: "... Donald J. Trump dismissed Meryl Streep as a 'Hillary lover' early Monday morning ing after the actress, in a speech at the Golden Globes award ceremony, denounced him as a bully who disrespected and humiliated others. Mr. Trump, in a brief telephone interview, said he had not seen Ms. Streep’s remarks or other parts of the Globes ceremony, which were broadcast on NBC, but he added that he was 'not surprised' that he had come under attack from 'liberal movie people.'... Mr. Trump, as he has done many times before, grew heated in the interview as he flatly denied that he had intended to make fun of the Times reporter, Serge F. Kovaleski.” -- CW ...

... Steve M.: "This man will be president in eleven days. He has a lot to catch up on and he needs to budget his time. And yet he's more than willing to take a phone call from The New York Times after midnight to chat about an awards ceremony -- because, well, he was insulted by Streep, and responding to insults is always Priority One for the next Leader of the Free World." -- CW 

Edward-Isaac Dovere of Politico: "Trump’s win upended [President Obama's] plans for life after leaving office, and people who've been talking to him say he's been quietly sorting out how to honor the tradition of withholding criticism of his successor as he also considers how best to salvage his legacy and rebuild his party.... Already, former aides are revamping Organizing for Action, the group formed out of his old campaign structure.... And Obama has identified a few issues that would draw him out directly: a Muslim ban..., or moves that would cut back on the protections he put in place for the children, known as 'dreamers,' who were brought to the country illegally as minors and who’ve been living here since." ...

    ... CW: Notice how past Democratic presidents -- Carter, Clinton -- establish programs to help ordinary and needy people, while past Republican presidents -- Reagan, Bush, Bush -- well, don't.

Ken Roth, director of Human Rights Watch, in a Washington Post op-ed: President Obama's failure to fully confront George W. Bush’s [human rights] abuses ... leaves the door wide open for" Donald Trump penchant for "disregard[ing] human rights norms." -- CW 

Brooke Seipel of the Hill: "Celebrities, activists and others gave an emotional goodbye to President Obama in a new video by the White House titled 'Yes We Can: Your Most Memorable Moments from the Obama Presidency'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.):

Amy Wang of the Washington Post: "Against the objections of Chinese officials, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in Texas on Sunday during her much-scrutinized overseas trip.... In a statement Sunday, the senator said that he was 'honored' to meet with Tsai and that they had a 'wide-ranging discussion.'... Earlier this week, Chinese Consul General Li Qiangmin of Houston had sent Cruz a letter asking him not to meet with Tsai.... Cruz said in his statement Sunday that he had received Li’s letter — but that China’s wishes would not dictate whom he would or would not meet.... Neither Trump nor members of his transition team would be meeting Tsai while she is in the United States, Trump transition spokeswoman Jessica Ditto told the Associated Press in an email Saturday.... ;I’m not meeting with anybody until after January 20, because it’s a little bit inappropriate from a protocol standpoint. But we’ll see,” Trump said on New Year's Eve when asked about Tsai's visit.” ...  

    ... CW: Nice to know that Trump semi-vowed not do anything that was "a little bit inappropriate." But we'll see. And really, Trump has a spokesperson named Ditto? Did she change her name to get the job?

Adam Goldman & Hiroko Tabuchi of the New York Times: "The Federal Bureau of Investigation has arrested a Volkswagen executive who faces charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, two people with knowledge of the arrest said on Sunday, marking an escalation of the criminal investigation into the automaker’s diesel emissions cheating scandal. Oliver Schmidt, who led Volkswagen’s regulatory compliance office in the United States from 2014 to March 2015, was arrested on Saturday by investigators in Florida and is expected to be arraigned on Monday in Detroit, said the two people.... After a study by West Virginia University first raised questions over Volkswagen’s diesel motors in early 2014, Mr. Schmidt played a central role in trying to convince regulators that excess emissions were caused by technical problems rather than by deliberate cheating. Much of the data presented to regulators was fabricated, officials of the California Air Resources Board have said." -- CW 

AND David Mack of BuzzFeed: ""Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli Suspended From Twitter After Harassing A Teen Vogue Writer." CW: Shkreli is a creep on so many levels I'm surprised he hasn't been invited to join the Trump administration. He did ask the Teen Vogue writer, Lauren Duca, to attend the Trump inauguration with him.

Beyond the Beltway

Sam Levin of the Guardian: "Indigenous activists have set up camps in the Texas desert to fight a pipeline project there, the latest sign that the Standing Rock 'water protector' movement is inspiring Native American-led environmental protests across the US. The Two Rivers camp, located south of Marfa near the border, has attracted dozens of demonstrators in its first week to protest the Trans-Pecos pipeline, a 148-mile project on track to transport fracked natural gas through the Big Bend region to Mexico." -- CW 

Way Beyond

Michael Gordon & Eric Schmitt of the New York Times: "Russian warplanes have carried out airstrikes to support Turkey’s offensive in northern Syria against the Islamic State, an important evolution in a budding Russian-Turkish partnership. The deepening ties threaten to marginalize the United States in the struggle to shape Syria’s ultimate fate." CW: Luckily for the U.S., Donald Trump is BFFs with both Putin & Erdogan (because he has hopes for hotel-branding deals in both Russia & Turkey).

Alan Cowell of the New York Times: "Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president of Iran and a founder of the Islamic Republic, who navigated the opaque shoals of his country’s theocracy as one of its most enduring, wiliest and wealthiest leaders, died on Sunday in Tehran. He was 82. His death was announced by Iran’s state television." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Thomas Erdbrink of the New York Times: "With the death of Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Sunday, Iran’s political factions knew immediately that any space by reformers to maneuver had just significantly decreased.... Mr. Rafsanjani, a former president who helped found the Islamic republic, had been the one man too large to be sidelined by conservative hard-liners. Now he was suddenly gone, dead from what state media described as cardiac arrest — and with no one influential enough to fill his shoes." -- CW 

Informed Comment: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, under police investigation for suspected corruption, was caught on tape negotiating mutual benefits with an arch enemy, the owner of one of Israel’s largest-selling newspapers, Israeli media reported Sunday. Channel Two television said the right-wing leader had offered to limit the circulation of Israel Hayom, a free, pro-Netanyahu daily owned and published by U.S. billionaire and Republican party donor Sheldon Adelson, if the Yedioth Ahronoth daily owner Noni Mozes gave the prime minister more favorable coverage. Steps to cut Israel Hayom’s market-leading circulation could have financial benefits for Mozes, whose newspaper’s advertising revenues have been hit by its free competitor. The left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz said the conversation took place a few months ago." CW: Hard to believe that a democratically-elected leader would try to manipulate the press like this; amIright? 

William Booth of the Washington Post: "A Palestinian driver intentionally rammed his truck into a group of Israeli soldiers Sunday, killing four and wounding a dozen on a picture-postcard promenade overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City and a park called the 'Peace Forest.' The assault occurred just blocks from the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem and down the street from the United Nations headquarters. The dead soldiers — three women and one man, all in their early 20s —were part of a large group of officer cadets who were getting an educational tour." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Plagiarism Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery. Max Bearak of the Washington Post: "... Saturday, Ghanaians gathered in Independence Square in the capital, Accra, to witness ... the inauguration of Nana Akufo-Addo as the country's fifth elected president. But the moment of pride was tarnished.... Akufo-Addo had lifted lines in his 30-minute speech word for word from the inaugural addresses of two U.S. presidents. The first came from George W. Bush's speech in 2001.... And then came a line straight from Bill Clinton's 1993 speech.... The communications director for the office of the president, Eugene Arhin, took to Facebook to apologize for the 'oversight.'” CW: Maybe that will inspire Monica Crowley to apologize to her fifty (50) acts of plagiarism (in one book). But I doubt it. See stories linked yesterday. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Sunday
Jan082017

The Commentariat -- January 8, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Brooke Seipel of the Hill: "Celebrities, activists and others gave an emotional goodbye to President Obama in a new video by the White House titled 'Yes We Can: Your Most Memorable Moments from the Obama Presidency'”:

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Republicans are vowing to press ahead with confirmation hearings this week for Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees despite the concerns of a federal watchdog that their complex backgrounds are slowing required ethics reviews. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Sunday that there are no plans to alter a packed confirmation calendar, but he vowed that no nominee will earn an up-or-down vote until the requisite background checks are completed by the FBI and a federal ethics office.... 'So all of these little procedural complaints are related to their frustration at having not only lost the White House, but having lost the Senate. I understand that. But we need to, sort of, grow up here and get past that.' [McConnell said].” -- CW ...

David of Crooks & Liars: "Reince Priebus ... argued on Sunday that there was 'no reason' to complete background checks on ... [Donald Trump]'s cabinet appointments.... 'The fact is there's no reason.... I mean, it's the first week of January, they have all the details that they need, they have all the information that they need.'" -- CW  

Ken Meyer of Mediaite: "CNN’s Jake Tapper had Kellyanne Conway on State of the Union, where he asked the [her] ... about Donald Trump's response to the intelligence that Russia meddled with the 2016 election.... Tapper ... noted how frequently Trump cited the leaked emails obtained by WikiLeaks when he was making his case against Clinton in the election’s final months. 'How can you say that the hacking had no impact on the election,' Tapper asked, 'when Mr. Trump kept invoking WikiLeaks which was printing, publishing things that the Russians had hacked?' Conway argued Trump’s team didn’t need WikiLeaks to release their Democratic National Committee email collection in order to win. Tapper kept pressing Conway about how often the Trump campaign brought up WikiLeaks’ information, and eventually, Conway suggested that Americans should actually be infuriated that NBC received confirmation about the contents of Trump’s intelligence briefing before ... [Trump] sat down for it on Friday." Includes video. CW: Also, too, Conway just flat-out lies about the content of the intel report.

Kevin Robillard of Politico: "Kellyanne Conway and Reince Priebus ... said Sunday that ... [Donald Trump] is still considering his options when it comes to the speed of replacing Obamacare.... 'Well, it really depends what — what the piece of legislation is,' Conway said on CNN's 'State of the Union' when asked about timing. She was vague about what Trump wants in a plan, saying only that it should give Americans the ability to purchase insurance across state lines and to use health savings accounts." -- CW 

Rebecca Savransky of the Hill: "Incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on Sunday suggested ... Donald Trump stands by his campaign vow not to cut Medicare. 'I don't think President-elect Trump wants to meddle with Medicare or Social Security,' Priebus said on CBS's 'Face The Nation.' 'He made a promise in the campaign that that was something that he didn't want to do.'" CW: Of course I don't trust a word any Trump spokesperson says, but if Trump does stand by his campaign promises, Paul Ryan is in for a fall.

William Booth of the Washington Post: "A Palestinian driver intentionally rammed his truck into a group of Israeli soldiers Sunday, killing four and wounding a dozen on a picture-postcard promenade overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City and a park called the 'Peace Forest.' The assault occurred just blocks from the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem and down the street from the United Nations headquarters. The dead soldiers — three women and one man, all in their early 20s —were part of a large group of officer cadets who were getting an educational tour." -- CW 

Alan Cowell of the New York Times: "Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president of Iran and a founder of the Islamic Republic, who navigated the opaque shoals of his country’s theocracy as one of its most enduring, wiliest and wealthiest leaders, died on Sunday in Tehran. He was 82. His death was announced by Iran’s state television." -- CW 

Plagiarism Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery. Max Bearak of the Washington Post: "... Saturday, Ghanaians gathered in Independence Square in the capital, Accra, to witness ... the inauguration of Nana Akufo-Addo as the country's fifth elected president. But the moment of pride was tarnished.... Akufo-Addo had lifted lines in his 30-minute speech word for word from the inaugural addresses of two U.S. presidents. The first came from George W. Bush's speech in 2001.... And then came a line straight from Bill Clinton's 1993 speech.... The communications director for the office of the president, Eugene Arhin, took to Facebook to apologize for the 'oversight.'” CW: Maybe that will inspire Monica Crowley to apologize to her fifty (50) acts of plagiarism (in one book). But I doubt it. See stories linked below.

*****

David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "President Obama said in an interview that he did not misjudge the potential threats of Vladimir Putin, despite the U.S. intelligence report that the Russian president personally ordered an 'influence campaign' to meddle in the U.S. presidential elections. 'I don’t think I underestimated him,' Obama told ABC News’s 'This Week,' according to a transcript of the interview set to air Sunday, 'but I think that I underestimated the degree to which, in this new information age, it is possible for misinformation, for cyberhacking and so forth, to have an impact on our open societies, our open systems, to insinuate themselves into our democratic practices in ways that I think are accelerating.'” -- CW ...

... ** Julian Borger of the Guardian: "British intelligence reportedly provided a vital tipoff to the US in 2015 about the extent of Russian hacking on the presidential election.... The New York Times, citing 'two people familiar with the conclusions' of the report, said British intelligence was 'among the first' to raise the alarm in autumn 2015 that Moscow had hacked the computer servers of the Democratic National Committee.... Over the course the campaign, British officials were as alarmed as their US counterparts over the extent of contacts between Trump advisers and Moscow and by Trump’s consistently pro-Russian stance on a range of foreign policy issues. However, those officials now say they are in a difficult position since the election, as Theresa May’s government is striving to solidify ties with the incoming Trump administration.... Allegations about the depth and nature of contacts between the Trump camp and Moscow have been passed to the FBI but it is unclear whether they are the subject of a full investigation. There was no reference to them in the public version of the joint intelligence report on Russian interference in the election, compiled by the CIA, FBI and NSA. 'It is not surprising that the report did not reference any involvement of US persons or ongoing criminal investigations,' said Susan Hennessey, a former counsel on cybersecurity at the NSA....'The question of whether there was any criminal conduct in the United States remains a relevant open question.'” Cowichan mentioned this stunning report in yesterday's thread. -- CW ...

... "Trump Tweets a Thing." Rebecca Morin of Politico: "... Donald Trump tweeted Saturday morning that having a 'good relationship with Russia is a good thing,' adding that Russia will have far more respect for the U.S. when he is president. 'Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only 'stupid' people, or fools, would think that it is bad! We.....' he wrote. 'have enough problems around the world without yet another one. When I am President, Russia will respect us far more than they do now and.... both countries will, perhaps, work together to solve some of the many great and pressing problems and issues of the WORLD!'" -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Katie Williams of the Hill: "... Donald Trump’s skepticism of the Intelligence Community’s findings on Russian election interference has raised fears among experts that Trump will bypass intel analysts and demand that his personal team conduct its own analyses of raw data. Tossing aside career analysts can create false conclusions, critics warn — like the George W. Bush administration’s incorrect assessment that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). 'The risk is that you request raw data to support a conclusion and you avoid seeing anything that contradicts it,' Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told The Hill. 'We can already see we have a president-elect who has difficulty with facts that are at odds with the narrative that he wants to tell or diminish his achievements.'” CW: The headline is "Intel experts worry Trump will go rogue." See also Paul Waldman's post, linked yesterday. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Andrew Higgins of the New York Times: "... the absence of any concrete evidence in the [U.S. intelligence agencies'] report of meddling by the Kremlin was met with a storm of mockery on Saturday by Russian politicians and commentators, who took to social media to ridicule the report as a potpourri of baseless conjecture." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... David Remnick of the New Yorker reflects on "Trump, Putin and the Big Hack." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Judd Legum of Think Progress: "... Trump says that information published by Wikileaks, which the U.S. intelligence community says was hacked by Russia, had 'absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.' This was not the view of candidate Trump, who talked about Wikileaks and the content of the emails it released at least 164 times in last month of the campaign.... Trump described the contents of the emails released by Wikileaks as disqualifying Hillary Clinton from the presidency. Trump used Wikileaks as proof to his claims that she was corrupt and the system was corrupt  —  both the political system and the media. (The media, Trump insisted, would not cover Wikileaks.) Trump encouraged his supporters to read Wikileaks. He delighted in each new release. He marveled at the damage Wikileaks was doing to her campaign. Wikileaks, in short, was a core part of Trump’s closing argument against Hillary Clinton." -- CW ...

... Maureen Dowd: "The capital has never been more anxious about its own government. The town is suffering pre-traumatic stress disorder. This guy is really going to be president.... As Congress was officially certifying Trump’s election Friday at the U.S. Capitol — 'It is over,' Biden firmly told Democrats who had still been yearning for the miracle of a recount or redo — the intelligence services were meeting with Trump and essentially decertifying his election." -- CW 

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "The federal office overseeing ethics for executive branch employees is considering cracking down on a type of financial arrangement that allows some federal officials to avoid publicly reporting investments that could benefit them. The Office of Government Ethics published a notice this week asking for public comment on whether it may have been too lax in its treatment of discretionary trusts — a holding method for investments where the beneficiary is not guaranteed any particular payment or income. Politico reported last month that sources said ... Donald Trump's transition team were exploring the discretionary trust arrangement, although it was not clear whether Trump aides were looking into the issue on behalf of Trump, his family members or other potential appointees. Outside ethics watchdogs warned that creating such trusts could amount to an end-run around conflict of interest laws." -- CW ...

... Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Saturday called for the Senate to not hold confirmation hearings for ... Donald Trump's Cabinet picks until after the completion of an ethics screening. 'Cabinet officials must put our country's interests before their own. No [confirmation] hearings should be held until we’re certain that’s the case,' the Massachusetts Democrat tweeted.... Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) ... also criticized the timing of the planned hearings while accusing GOP lawmakers of trying to 'jam through' the nominees." -- CW ...

... Retired Gen. James Mattis will divest his stock in General Dynamics and recuse himself from matters involving the defense contractor for one year if confirmed as Defense secretary, according to an ethics agreement released Saturday by the Office of Government Ethics. The two-page document, dated Jan. 5, says the retired Marine general will also resign from the GD board of directors, divest within 90 days all stock and vested options and forfeit any non vested stock and options." -- CW ...

... Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "In a letter to Democratic senators dated Saturday, the head of the Office of Government Ethics ... warned that Republicans are trying to take the unprecedented step of holding hearings for Cabinet picks before they’ve completed requisite paperwork to ensure there are no ethical, financial or criminal concerns. Walter M. Shaub Jr., the ethics director, said it is 'of great concern to me' that several of Trump’s nominees have not completed an ethics review before hearings are scheduled to begin next week." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Ari Melber of NBC News: "The office tasked with overseeing ethics and conflicts in the federal government struggled to gain access to leaders of the Trump transition team, and warned Trump aides about making decisions on nominees or blind trusts without ethics guidance, according to new emails obtained by MSNBC. Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub emailed Trump aides in November to lament that despite his office's repeated outreach, 'we seem to have lost contact with the Trump-Pence transition since the election.' Trump aides may also be risking 'embarrassment for the President-elect,' Shaub warned, by "announcing cabinet picks" without letting the ethics office review their financial information in advance.... 'If we don't get involved early to prevent problems,' he added, 'we won't be able to help [White House staff] after the fact.' Shaub also warned that if Trump tried to create his own 'blind trust' without the ethics office, the effort could be dead on arrival." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... The Secret International Deals of Jared Kushner. Susanne Craig, et al., of the New York Times: "As Jared Kushner, Donald J. Trump’s son-in-law, prepares for a White House role, his undisclosed talks with a secretive Chinese company highlight potential conflicts of interest." It would appear Kushner has as many conflicts as Trump does, and Kushner, unlike Trumpence, would be subject to federal ethics laws if he accepts a job in the Trump administration. -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Andrew Kaczynski of CNN: "Conservative author and television personality Monica Crowley, whom Donald Trump has tapped for a top national security communications role, plagiarized large sections of her 2012 book, a CNN KFile review has found. The review of Crowley’s June 2012 book, 'What The (Bleep) Just Happened,' found upwards of 50 examples of plagiarism from numerous sources, including the copying with minor changes of news articles, other columnists, think tanks, and Wikipedia. The New York Times bestseller, published by the HarperCollins imprint Broadside Books, contains no notes or bibliography.... Trump’s transition team is standing by Crowley. 'Monica’s exceptional insight and thoughtful work on how to turn this country around is exactly why she will be serving in the Administration,' a statement from a transition spokesperson said. 'HarperCollins — one of the largest and most respected publishers in the world — published her book which has become a national best-seller. Any attempt to discredit Monica is nothing more than a politically motivated attack that seeks to distract from the real issues facing this country.'" Thanks to PD Pepe for the link. -- CW ...

... Shakezula of LG&$: "Public scrutiny of public figures – Unfair!... Those exceptional insights [Crowley] copy/pastes from other people will serve the country well. I bet past national security officials will enjoy hearing her quote them verbatim. It will be such an honor." -- CW ...

... Jay Rosen of New York University: "Two things about this response stand out. It goes from zero to 60 on the politicize-everything dial.... The statement draws HarperCollins and its accumulated reputation into the transaction.... Complication #1: HarperCollins is part of the Murdoch empire.... Complication #2: CNN had a similar plagiarism case involving one of its own: Fareed Zakaria. The network was reluctant to acknowledge any problem." Whatever pushback/stonewalling comes from the Trump team and Trump tweet-rages, "the focus will turn to HarperCollins.... If HarperCollins ... [doesn’t] comment and [doesn’t[ take action then it becomes a clear case of intimidation in the climate created by Trump.... So keep your eye on this. We may get an early read on how corruptible our cultural institutions actually are." -- CW ...

... Dr. Crowley Is a Serial Plagiarist. Doug of Balloon Juice: "... this isn't the first time Monica Crowley’s been caught stealing: ...

     ... Oh, There Will Be Stonewalling. Tim Noah in Slate (Aug. 23, 1999): "On August 9 -- the 25th anniversary of Richard Nixon's presidential resignation --the Wall Street Journal's editorial page published a Nixon apologia by Crowley headlined 'The Day Nixon Said Goodbye.' Four days later, the Journal ran an editor's note that read as follows: 'There are striking similarities in phraseology between "The Day Richard Nixon Said Goodbye," an editorial feature Monday by Monica Crowley, and a 1988 article by Paul Johnson in Commentary magazine ... Had we known of the parallels, we would not have published the article.'" Noah pointed to "Crowley's flagrant (oh, let's just say it, Nixonian) stonewalling on the matter. Crowley was quoted by the Times' Felicity Barringer as saying that 'there are clear similarities in the language. I have wracked my brain, and I can honestly tell you that I have not read' Johnson's article. I am not a plagiarist!" -- CW

AND. Jackson McHenry of New York: "In the latest master class in making it all about you..., Donald Trump took some time out of his busy schedule [Friday] to comment on how the new Celebrity Apprentice, a show which he continues to executive produce, has sunk to a new low in the ratings without him as a host. 'Arnold Schwarzenegger got "swamped" (or destroyed) by comparison to the ratings machine, DJT,' Trump tweeted, referring to himself in the third person. 'So much for ... being a movie star-and that was season 1 compared to season 14. Now compare him to my season 1. But who cares, he supported Kasich & Hillary.'... Schwarzenegger quickly responded to Trump's tweets, writing, 'There's nothing more important than the people's work, @realDonaldTrump ... I wish you the best of luck and I hope you'll work for ALL of the American people as aggressively as you worked for your ratings.'" CW: Friday was the day, you may recall, that Trump spent, first, dissing U.S. intel agencies, and second, listening to them tell him how Russia intervened in the election to help him win. But, hey, time out from the small stuff for "Celebrity Apprentice."

Annals of "Journalism," Ha Ha Ha. AFP: "German media and politicians have warned against an election-year spike in fake news after the rightwing website Breitbart claimed a mob chanting 'Allahu Akbar' had set fire to a church in the city of Dortmund on New Year’s Eve. After the report by the US site was widely shared on social media, the city’s police clarified that no 'extraordinary or spectacular' incidents had marred the festivities. The local newspaper, Ruhr Nachrichten, said elements of its online reporting on New Year’s Eve had been distorted by Breitbart to produce 'fake news, hate and propaganda'.” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Brooke Seipel of the Hill: "President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama ... held a star-studded party on Friday night that featured celebrities from the worlds of entertainment and politics." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Chico Harlan, et al., of the Washington Post: "The suspected gunman in an airport shooting rampage in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — Esteban Santiago, 26, an Iraq War veteran — has been charged with federal crimes and could face the death penalty, the Justice Department announced Saturday night. Santiago showed signs of violence and what authorities called 'erratic behavior' in the months before they said he traveled 4,000 miles from home, loaded a gun in a baggage area and killed five people in some 80 seconds.... Those sporadic run-ins now raise questions about how Santiago evaded detection as he boarded two flights — checking in a weapon — before he landed at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and allegedly fired at unsuspecting travelers." -- CW ...

... "No Time to Be Political." Bryce Covert of Think Progress: "... just last week, Florida lawmakers began rallying support for SB 140, a state bill that would repeal laws which, among other things, ban guns in airport terminals like the one where the shooting occurred. If passed, the legislation would allow those with concealed carry licenses to bring guns into passenger terminals. In the wake of the shooting, Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott (R) was already calling to keep politics out. 'It’s no time to be political,' he said." This Scott said after "he called Pence and Trump, not Obama in the wake of FLL shooting," as Jeff Zeleny of CNN noted. -- CW 

Beyond the Beltway

Max Greenwood of the Hill: "A bill banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy passed Kentucky’s state legislature Saturday after a final vote in the state House, according to The Associated Press. The legislation now heads to Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R), who has indicated he will sign it. An emergency clause in the bill allows it to take effect immediately. The ban doesn’t include exceptions for instances of rape or incest, and only permits abortions after 20 weeks if the mother’s life is threatened." -- CW 

Lynn Bonner of the Raleigh News & Observer: North Carolina "moved formally Friday to make changes to the Medicaid program with the aim of adding hundreds of thousands of people to the government insurance plan despite opposition from state Republican leaders. Gov. Roy Cooper announced earlier in the week he would seek to expand Medicaid as allowed under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The details of the plan were made public Friday evening. Republican legislative leaders are already fighting it." CW: Because low-income people do not "deserve" health insurance.

Way Beyond


Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/under-the-dome/article125085989.html#storylink=cpy

Gidi Weitz of Ha'aretz, via TPM: "Suspicions in the main corruption affair involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are backed by a tape documenting alleged contacts between Netanyahu and a businessman over mutual benefits, Haaretz has learned. At the heart of the affair, dubbed Case 2000, is alleged evidence of the businessman’s support that would help Netanyahu remain in office. In exchange, the prime minister would ensure the businessman huge financial benefits.... People who spoke with Netanyahu over the weekend, after his second police interrogation amid corruption allegations, said he was surprised by the evidence against him." Josh Marshall of TPM republished the first three grafs of the Ha'aretz story, which is firewalled. The original is here.

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