The Wires

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June 20: New York Times: "You may be hunched over your phone right now, worrying about reports that young people are growing horns on their skulls from spending too much time hunched over smartphones.... Recent articles by the BBC and the Washington Post have cited a 2018 study in the journal Scientific Reports saying that these bone growths have been turning up more often than expected in people aged 18 to 30. The study suggests that 'sustained aberrant postures associated with the emergence and extensive use of hand-held contemporary technologies, such as smartphones and tablets,' are to blame.... Experts give the report mixed reviews." ...

     ... Update. Uh, it seems one of the authors of the "scientific study" is a chiropractor called David Shahar, who used his own patients as subjects of the study AND, according to Quartz, is "the creator of Dr. Posture, an online store that advertises information and products related to forward head posture. One section tells users how to 'look and feel your best in three easy steps,' which include watching a video by Shahar, downloading at-home exercises, and sleeping with a Thoracic Pillow, which Shahar has trademarked and sold for $195." So hunch over, pick up your phones, & call your friends with the good news that the "study" is more likely a marketing scam than a warning about another dire effect of cellphone use. Thanks to safari for the link.

 

Nick Schager in the Daily Beast: "Premiering on Netflix and in select theaters on July 24, The Great Hack is the most enraging, terrifying and — I don’t use this term lightly — important documentary of the year. Directed by Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim..., its subject is the Cambridge Analytica data scandal—a story that’s galling on the surface, and infinitely more bone-chilling when one considers its far-reaching ramifications. That’s because Cambridge Analytica’s deceptive and criminal relationship with, and conduct on, Mark Zuckerberg’s social media platform had world-altering consequences: helping launch the Brexit movement, and successfully aiding the election campaign of Donald Trump.” 

Guardian: “The businessman Arron Banks and the unofficial Brexit campaign Leave.EU have issued a legal threat against streaming giant Netflix in relation to The Great Hack, a new documentary about the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the abuse of personal data. The threat comes as press freedom campaigners and charity groups warn the government in an open letter that UK courts are being used to 'intimidate and silence' journalists working in the public interest. In a joint letter to key cabinet members, they call for new legislation to stop 'vexatious lawsuits', highlighting one filed last week by Banks against campaigning journalist Carole Cadwalladr.”

AP: "MAD, the long-running satirical magazine that influenced everyone from 'Weird Al' Yankovic to the writers of 'The Simpsons,' will be leaving newsstands after its August issue. Really. The illustrated humor magazine — instantly recognizable by the gap-toothed smiling face of mascot Alfred E. Neuman — will still be available in comic shops and through mail to subscribers. But after its fall issue it will just reprint previously published material. The only new material will come in special editions at the end of the year."

Hill: "The Democrats beat the Republicans in a high-scoring 14-7 win Wednesday [June 26] night in the 58th annual Congressional Baseball Game. It was the Democrats' 10th win in 11 years."

New York Times: "... the Library of Congress has named [Joy Harjo] America’s new poet laureate. She will take over for Tracy K. Smith, who has held the position for two years.... Harjo, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, is the 23rd poet and first Native person to be selected for the role."

New York: "The mass of the metal 'anomaly' beneath the moon’s largest crater is five times greater than the big island of Hawaii, and according to a new study from scientists at Baylor University, it could contain metals remaining from an ancient asteroid impact, weighing in at around 4.8 quintillion pounds."

New York Times: "A skeleton in Siberia nearly 10,000 years old has yielded DNA that reveals a striking kinship to living Native Americans, scientists reported on Wednesday. The finding, published in the journal Nature, provides an important new clue to the migrations that first brought people to the Americas. 'In terms of peopling of the Americas, we have found close to the missing link,' said Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen and a co-author of the new paper. 'It’s not the direct ancestor, but it’s extremely close.'... The DNA of [a group scientists call] the Ancient Paleo-Siberians is remarkably similar to that of Native Americans. Dr. Willerslev estimates that Native Americans can trace about two-thirds of their ancestry to these previously unknown people.”

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

Mrs. McCrabbie: This actually seems crazy to me:

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

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

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

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

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

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

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

Tuesday
Jul092019

The Commentariat -- July 10, 2019

Afternoon Update:

Katie Rogers, et al., of the New York Times: "Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta on Wednesday publicly defended his role in overseeing the prosecution of Jeffrey E. Epstein for sex crimes committed in Florida over a decade ago, bucking a growing chorus of Democratic calls for his resignation." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Reporters & commentators on MSNBC -- including Julie Brown of the Miami Herald, Tom Winter of NBC News & former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance -- quickly dispensed with Acosta's arguments. Despite Acosta's excuse-making, I was struck as I watched (a good part of) the presser, how much better a speaker (in two languages! [tho he had to get help with a few Spanish words like "entrevista" (interview)]) how so much more intelligent he is than Trump.

David Sanger of the New York Times: "Ask members of the Washington diplomatic corps about the cables that Sir Kim Darroch, the British ambassador who resigned Wednesday, wrote to London describing the dysfunction and chaos of the Trump administration, and their response is uniform: We wrote the same stuff.... ... 'As one ambassador, who is still serving and therefore spoke on the condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday, 'it could have been any of us.' With a few exceptions -- including the ambassadors from Israel and the United Arab Emirates, who have supported Mr. Trump's every move -- foreign diplomats in Washington these days describe living in something of a black hole.... The Trump administration has almost reveled in keeping foreign diplomats in the dark."

Acosta Is Making a Career of Protecting Child Sex Traffickers. Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "Alexander Acosta, the US labor secretary under fire for having granted Jeffrey Epstein immunity from federal prosecution in 2008, after the billionaire was investigated for having run a child sex trafficking ring, is proposing 80% funding cuts for the government agency that combats child sex trafficking. Acosta's plan to slash funding of a critical federal agency in the fight against the sexual exploitation of children is contained in his financial plans for the Department of Labor for fiscal year 2020. In it, he proposes decimating the resources of a section of his own department known as the International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB). The bureau's budget would fall from $68m last year to just $18.5m. The proposed reduction is so drastic that experts say it would effectively kill off many federal efforts to curb sex trafficking and put the lives of large numbers of children at risk.... [Rep. Katherine] Clark [D-Mass.] grilled Acosta about the proposed cuts in April, when he presented his departmental budget to the House appropriations subcommittee. On that occasion, she said, she found him 'rude, dismissive, challenging'."

Sharon LaFraniere of the New York Times: "In a legal victory for President Trump, a federal appeals court panel on Wednesday ordered the dismissal of a lawsuit alleging that profits earned by his Washington hotel while he is in office violate the Constitution. A three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., found that the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia had no legal standing to sue Mr. Trump.... [Another] case, brought by Democrats in Congress, is continuing, although the administration is fighting that one as well." ...

... Jacqueline Thomsen of the Hill: "Lawyers for more than 200 Democratic members of Congress have served subpoenas to President Trump's businesses as part of their lawsuit alleging Trump is violating the Emoluments Clause. The Democrats said in a press release that they have issued 37 judicial subpoenas to Trump's private businesses, including the Trump Organization, seeking information on payments from foreign governments. The announcement came just hours after the Department of Justice (DOJ) asked a federal appeals court to block the lawsuit from advancing, following a district judge's ruling last month that the proceedings could move forward."

~~~~~~~~~~

I have been reading the front section of a major newspaper nearly every day for more than half a century, and I cannot ever recall U.S. news being so constantly ridiculous and crazy. Donald Trump is running a massive shit show that may be unprecedented in world history, much less American history. -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie, Witness to History

Sad Breaking News @7:04 am ET. Kyle Balluck of the Hill: "The British ambassador to the U.S. who called President Trump 'inept' in leaked cables will resign." Related stories linked below.

** Annie Karni & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "... speaking Tuesday to reporters in the Oval Office, the president distanced himself from [Jeffrey] Epstein, noting that he 'knew him like everybody in Palm Beach knew him.' But Mr. Trump added: 'I had a falling out with him. I haven't spoken to him in 15 years. I was not a fan of his, that I can tell you.'... Mr. Epstein was ... never a dues-paying member of the Mar-a-Lago club, according to an official at the Trump Organization. But as a guest of a guest, he was treated like a close friend by [Donald Trump].... Once when Mr. Trump visited Mr. Epstein at his Palm Beach home, [Roger] Stone wrote, he later seemed to joke about the scene of underage girls he witnessed there. 'The swimming pool was filled with beautiful young girls,' Mr. Trump later told a Mar-a-Lago member, according to Mr. Stone. '"How nice," I thought, "he let the neighborhood kids use his pool."'... And in Manhattan, they attended many of the same dinner parties.... [On another occasion, in what] was supposed to be an exclusive party at Mar-a-Lago [in 1992]..., other than the two dozen or so women flown in to provide the entertainment, the only guests were Mr. Trump and Jeffrey Epstein.... Through a mutual appreciation of wealth, women and years of occupying adjacent real estate in Palm Beach and on Page Six, the lives of the two men routinely intersected for decades -- until the connection turned from a status symbol into a liability, and Mr. Trump made sure to publicize the fact that he had barred his onetime friend from his clubs."

Barr to Protect Trump from Epstein, After All. Chris Strohm of Bloomberg News: "Attorney General William Barr won't recuse himself from involvement in the new charges filed against Jeffrey Epstein by federal prosecutors in New York, according to a Justice Department official. Barr made the decision on Tuesday after consulting with career ethics officials at the department, said the official, who asked not to be identified discussing a sensitive matter. Barr considered whether he would have to recuse himself from the case because Epstein previously hired lawyers from a law firm where Barr had worked. But Barr has recused himself from any retrospective review of the Justice Department's 2008 decision letting Epstein avoid prosecution on federal sex-trafficking offenses and the decades of prison time that he could have faced if convicted." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Chris Smith of Vanity Fair: "Trump's politicization of the DOJ is gaining new momentum and depth.... Yet as much as Trump seems to care about the citizenship question, he cares far more about protecting himself.... Matthew Miller, a Justice Department spokesman under President Obama [says,] 'Now he's got an A.G. who will talk publicly about the Democrats 'spying' and spin the Mueller report to help the president.' One big question that flows from that is, What does it mean for the Southern District of New York's investigation into the Trump Organization?' And the SDNY's investigation into Trump's role in paying off Stormy Daniels. And the office's probe of Deutsche Bank, which loaned Trump more than $2 billion over the course of 20 years. And its attempts to track the $107 million raised by Trump's inaugural committee. 'The SDNY presents the greatest ongoing legal threat to Trump and his people,' says Mimi Rocah, a former chief of the office's organized crime unit...'The fear is that Trump doesn't even need to say it out loud anymore, because Barr is so protective of him,' Rocah says. 'It would be ridiculously naïve not to be concerned.'" --s

... Glenn Thrush & Patricia Mazzei of the New York Times: "Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta on Tuesday faced fresh calls to resign, and rising pressure from inside the Trump administration, over his role in brokering a lenient plea deal over sex crimes for the New York financier Jeffrey E. Epstein as a federal prosecutor in Miami more than a decade ago. Mr. Acosta, 50, said this week that the plea agreement, in which Mr Epstein served 13 months in jail after being accused of sexually abusing dozens of young women and girls, was the toughest deal available in a complex and difficult case.... Congress&'s top Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, called for his resignation, as did The Miami Herald, which uncovered the details of the plea deal.... Mr. Trump, in remarks while he met with the emir of Qatar, said on Tuesday that he felt 'badly' for Mr. Acosta and praised him as 'an excellent secretary of labor.'... But he said the White House would look into the matter 'very carefully.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: You may have noticed that once again, Trump feels "badly" for a man who victimized women (or allowed them to be victimized) but expresses no sympathy at all for the female victims, in this case young girls.

... Jordain Carney of the Hill: "Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday said that Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta should resign over a 2008 plea deal involving financier Jeffrey Epstein and that if he doesn't, President Trump should fire him. 'I am calling on Secretary Acosta to resign,' Schumer said during a Senate floor speech. 'It is now impossible for anyone to have confidence in Secretary Acosta's ability to lead the Department of Labor....'" (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... MEANWHILE, at the Palace. Eliana Johnson & Burgess Everett of Politico: "... Donald Trump and Senate Republicans are moving quickly to back up beleaguered Labor Secretary Alex Acosta. But pressure is rising from other corners of the White House, with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney privately urging the president to dismiss him. Mulvaney told Trump on Monday that the continuing drip of damaging information surrounding the 2008 agreement Acosta struck to keep billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein from a heavy jail sentence would hurt the administration, according to two people familiar with the conversation. Mulvaney also may be seizing on an opportunity to try to depose a frequent antagonist who has frustrated some conservatives in the White House and business leaders on the outside." ...

... Annals of Journalism, Ctd. Tiffany Hsu of the New York Times: "Months ago, [Miami Herald investigative journalist Julie K. Brown] published a meticulously researched series of articles about a secret plea deal, engineered by a current member of President Trump's cabinet, that helped [Jeffrey] Epstein evade federal charges related to the women's accusations. Her work identified some 80 alleged victims and earned a slew of journalism prizes, including a George Polk Award in the category of Justice Reporting.... Geoffrey Berman, a federal prosecutor, said at a news conference that his team had been 'assisted by some excellent investigative journalism.'... She got to work in 2017, shortly after Mr. Trump nominated Alexander Acosta to be secretary of labor.... Ms. Brown discovered that, in 2007, Mr. Acosta led a team of federal lawyers who secretly negotiated a deal that granted the financier immunity from federal sex trafficking charges. In February, a federal judge ruled that prosecutors had violated federal law by keeping victims in the dark about the plea deal." ...

     ... Read the whole report. And here's a slobber-soaked spitball from me to Doucheowhiz for this petty dreck: "In April, the lawyer and social commentator Alan Dershowitz, who helped broker Mr. Epstein's plea deal, wrote a public letter to the administrators of the Pulitzer Prize urging them not to reward [Brown & her collaborator Emily Michot] what he called 'fake news and shoddy journalism.'"

Jacqueline Thomsen of the Hill: "The Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled that President Trump cannot block Twitter users from his official account, finding that the practice is discriminatory. The ruling upholds a lower court ruling that also found Trump cannot block the Twitter users.... The judges wrote 'that the First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise‐open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees.' The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University had brought forward the lawsuit on behalf of seven people who had been blocked by Trump on Twitter." (Also linked yesterday.)

Judge Furman Has Had Enough of DOJ's Crap. Michael Wines & Katie Benner of the New York Times: "A federal judge in New York on Tuesday rejected the Justice Department's request to switch its legal team midway through a case challenging the Trump administration's effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The sharply worded order, by United States District Judge Jesse M. Furman, may further hobble an already struggling battle by the administration to save the citizenship question.... On Sunday, the Justice Department said it was replacing the legal team defending the citizenship question. It offered no explanation for the change, which came in the middle of a prolonged clash over whether the administration's arguments for adding the question could be believed. But on Tuesday, as a new team of lawyers began to notify the court of its appearance in the case, Judge Furman barred the old lawyers from leaving until they met a legal requirement to satisfactorily explain their departure and show that it would not impede the case. He excepted only two lawyers on the team who had already left the department's civil division, which was overseeing the lawsuit.... The American Civil Liberties Union and other plaintiffs led by New York Attorney General Letitia James had asked the judge on Monday to block the Justice Department's reassignment of the case without providing a reason for the withdrawal." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Can hardly wait to see the fake explanation for leaving the fake case. ...

... Makini Brice & Sarah Lynch of Reuters: "Meanwhile on Tuesday, a U.S. House Democrat who oversees funding for the U.S. Census Bureau said he would not support money being spent to reprint forms if the Trump administration won court approval to include the citizenship question. 'Amending the form could potentially cost hundreds of millions of additional taxpayer dollars,' Representative José Serrano, who chairs the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee, said in a statement."

Rowena May, et al., of the Guardian: "Transatlantic tensions over the British ambassador's leaked criticisms of Donald Trump have grown into a diplomatic crisis after the US president attacked Sir Kim Darroch as 'a pompous fool' and his commerce secretary postponed planned trade talks with Liam Fox. A day after Trump said he would no longer deal with Darroch following the release of UK diplomatic memos calling him 'incompetent', 'inept' and 'insecure', he used his Twitter feed to attack the diplomat, who he described as 'wacky' and 'very stupid'. The president also volleyed a series of insults at Theresa May, calling her 'foolish' and saying her Brexit plan had been a disaster because she ignored his advice. The controversy escalated further as Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary and Conservative leadership candidate, responded by calling the president's language 'disrespectful and wrong'." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Trump keeps proving & re-proving that Darroch's assessment was spot on, as the British say. BTW, I heard on the teevee that Grumpy Trumpy disinvited Sir Kim from a White House dinner party Monday night but that the State Department is still working with the British ambassador.

... Rebecca Falconer of Axios: "The U.K.'s ambassador to the U.S. has the 'full support' of the prime minister, a spokesman said in a statement to news outlets. He made the comment after President Trump said he'd 'no longer deal' with ambassador Kim Darroch over leaked cables showing he criticized Trump." (Also linked yesterday.)

Daniel Dale of CNN: "... Donald Trump shared a fake quote from former Republican President Ronald Reagan on Twitter on Monday. Trump passed along a tweet from an obscure account that called itself 'The Reagan Battalion,' which appeared to be impersonating a well-known conservative account of the same name. The copycat account had fewer than 300 followers at the time Trump promoted it. Its tweet read: 'Dear weak Conservatives never forget that you are no match for "we the people," and our president.' Attached to the tweet was a photo of Trump and Reagan shaking hands -- with a supposed Reagan quote superimposed on top. 'For the life of me, and I'll never know how to explain it, when I met that young man, I felt like I was the one shaking hands with the president,' the supposed quote read. 'Cute! Trump wrote in his own tweet above the photo....While the photo is real, the supposed quote is fake. Ronald Reagan never said [that] of Trump.... The fake Reagan quote has been debunked by fact-checkers since 2016, when it began spreading in pro-Trump circles on Facebook." Twitter suspended the account after Trump promoted the fake quote. (Also linked yesterday.)

I have never met a young man with more potential than Donald Trump. He is destined for greatness. I am sure Her Majesty the Queen will come to admire him & summon him to Buckingham Palace for his wise counsel. -- Winston Churchill, 1963

France is destroyed, but the United States will prosper under a great Germanic leader called Drumpf 200 years hence. -- Napoleon, 1817

In the year 2020, the leader of a great American nation will erect a great wall around the mighty mass of the far-off promised land. He will close otheboarders on land and close all beaches to protect his great land. -- Nostradamus, 1559

Nicholas Fandos & Katie Benner of the New York Times: "The Justice Department is seeking to discourage Robert S. Mueller III's deputies from testifying before Congress, potentially jeopardizing an agreement for two of the former prosecutors to answer lawmakers' questions in private next week, according to two government officials familiar with the matter. The department told the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees last week that it was opposed to the testimony and had communicated its view to the two former members of Mr. Mueller's team, Aaron Zebley and James L. Quarles III, according to a senior congressional official familia with the discussions. A Justice Department official confirmed that account and said that the department had instructed both men not to appear.... Both Mr. Zebley and Mr. Quarles have left the Justice Department and are now private citizens, meaning that the department most likely cannot actually block their testimony. But the department's view -- depending on how strongly it is expressed -- could have a chilling effect on two longtime employees and give them cover to avoid testifying."

Adam Goldman, et al., of the New York Times: Michael Horowitz, the DOJ's inspector general, "who is expected to release a much-anticipated report of his findings [on the Russia investigation] in the coming weeks, is believed to be weighing whether to recommend that the Justice Department tighten rules for any future counterintelligence investigations of a presidential campaign, which was a novel dilemma in 2016, according to people familiar with aspects of his investigation.... At the center of Mr. Horowitz's current investigation is [Christopher] Steele and how the F.B.I. used his reporting in its investigation of the Trump campaign.... The primary focus of the inspector general's inquiry is the role that Mr. Steele's information played in investigators' effort to obtain court permission to wiretap Carter Page, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser." ...

     ... Natasha Bertrand of Politico: "Christopher Steele, the former British spy behind the infamous 'dossier' on ... Donald Trump's ties to Russia, was interviewed for 16 hours in June by the Justice Department's internal watchdog, according to two people familiar with the matter.... Steele was initially reluctant to speak with the American investigators because of the potential impropriety of his involvement in an internal DOJ probe as a foreign national and retired British intelligence agent.... The interview was contentious at first, the sources added, but investigators ultimately found Steele's testimony credible and even surprising. The takeaway has irked some U.S. officials interviewed as part of the probe -- they argue that it shouldn't have taken a foreign national to convince the inspector general that the FBI acted properly in 2016."

Pete Williams of NBC News: "Federal prosecutors have notified a judge that they no longer plan to put Michael Flynn on the stand when his former business partner goes on trial in Virginia next week -- not because they don't need his testimony but because they no longer believe he's telling the truth.... After saying for months that Flynn would testify, prosecutors notified [Federal District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan] July 3 of an abrupt change. They will not offer him as a witness and will instead argue that he was a co-conspirator, they said.... Sullivan, who will decide Flynn's sentence, ordered the government to explain how the change of heart by prosecutors will affect Sullivan's sentencing decision."

Natasha Bertrand: "The House Intelligence Committee came out swinging Tuesday night against Felix Sater, after a lengthy interview with the former business associate of ... Donald Trump. The closed-door appearance was expected to cap a protracted back-and-forth between Sater and the committee, which has rescheduled his testimony several times since he was first slated to appear in March. But in a rare statement after the interview, a committee spokesman accused Sater of being uncooperative and obstructing the panel's investigation by withholding documents and testimony in defiance of a subpoena. 'While we do not typically comment on closed interviews, given Mr. Sater's public comments that he has fully cooperated with the Committee and answered every question asked of him, we must correct the record,' spokesman Patrick Boland said. 'Mr. Sater has not fully cooperated with the Committee, and he will remain under subpoena until he does so.'"

Nicholas Fandos: "The House Judiciary Committee will vote [Thursday] to authorize a bevy of new subpoenas on the Trump administration's practices of separating families from their children at the border and on President Trump's possible obstruction of justice, summoning some of the biggest names to surface in Robert S. Mueller III's investigation.... Among the targets are Jeff Sessions, the former attorney general; Michael T. Flynn, the president's first national security adviser; John F. Kelly, the former White House chief of staff; Rod J. Rosenstein, the former deputy attorney general who appointed Mr. Mueller; Corey R. Lewandowski, Mr. Trump's former campaign manager, and David J. Pecker, who as the head of American Media took part in a hush money scheme.... The committee will also authorize subpoenas for Jared Kushner...." (Also linked yesterday.)

Another Sickening Report. Jacob Soboroff & Julia Ainsley of NBC News: "The poor treatment of migrant children at the hands of U.S. border agents in recent months extends beyond Texas to include allegations of sexual assault and retaliation for protests, according to dozens of accounts by children held in Arizona collected by government case managers and obtained by NBC News.... The reports from the Yuma CBP sector describe ... unsanitary and crowded conditions but go further by alleging abuse and other misconduct by CBP officers. President Trump has pushed back against reports of poor conditions for children, and Kevin McAleenan, acting secretary of DHS, which oversees CBP, has said the reports are 'unsubstantiated.' In a statement about the Yuma allegations, a CBP spokesperson said, 'U.S. Customs and Border Protection treats those in our custody with dignity and respect and provides multiple avenues to report any allegations of misconduct. ... The allegations do not align with common practice at our facilities and will be fully investigated....'"

China Steps on World Stage. Juan Cole: "China is openly blaming the Trump administration for the breakdown of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), according to the official Xinhua News Agency.... The [Foreign Ministry] spokesman also rebuked Iran for tinkering around the edges with the terms of the nuclear deal.... Xinhua called Iran's decision to enrich uranium to 5% instead of the 3.5% cap set in the JCPOA a 'symbolic countermeasure.' This comment is correct. You can't do anything with uranium enriched to 5%. You only need to enrich to 3.5% for reactor fuel. You'd have to enrich to 95% to make a bomb.... So enriching to 5% is just a symbolic way of tweaking Trump.... The editorial concluded, 'To prevent the situation from spiralling out of control, fully and effectively implementing the Iran nuclear deal is the only realistic and effective way to ease the tensions and eventually solve the Iran nuclear issue.'" --s

Rupam Jain of Reuters: "The U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan wound up on Tuesday the seventh round of talks he has held with the Taliban in Qatar, after signs of progress in efforts to end the longest war the United States has ever fought. The U.S. envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, met Taliban officials briefly a day after a delegation of Afghan citizens and the militants agreed on a 'roadmap for peace', in particular a joint call to end civilian casualties in the 18-year war." (Also linked yesterday.)

Mrs. McCrabbie: Just yesterday we came across a report that Mitch McConnell had never copped to his slave-holding ancestors. Well, all has changed! And in such an evolved and honorable way:

I find myself once again in the same position as President [Barack] Obama. We both oppose reparations and we both are the descendants of slave owners. -- Mitch McConnell, to reporters, Tuesday

Presidential Race 2020. Caitlin Oprysko of Politico: "Billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer announced he will mount a bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president on Tuesday, an about-face after saying earlier this year he would not run." (Also linked yesterday.)

Paul Demko of Politico: "A panel of federal appeals judges aggressively questioned whether Obamacare can survive during Tuesday afternoon oral arguments in a case that could upend the 2010 health care law. Two Republican appointees on the three-judge panel frequently interrupted attorneys to question whether the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate is unconstitutional and if not whether the entire law could stand without it. The ACA's future appeared murky after two hours of oral arguments at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but it's not clear if the judges were ready to uphold a federal judge's earlier decision invalidating the law.... Meanwhile, the judges seemed confused by the Trump administration's legal position. The Department of Justice supports the lower court ruling against the entire ACA, but at the same time it has argued that some provisions of the law -- which the DOJ hasn't specified -- should remain.... The lone Democratic appointee on the three-judge panel was silent throughout the hearing. The judges gave no indication on when they might rule on the case." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: My, my, these Repubican judges surely sound as if they want Democrats to win every federal election in 2020. ...

... Mass Murder, GOP-style. Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress: "An estimated 24,000 Americans will die every single year, who otherwise would have lived, if Obamacare is ultimately struck down.... [The Fifth Circuit's decision] could amount to one of the most significant mass killings in American history." Millhiser the nonsensical arguments the two Republican judges appeared more than ready to accept.

David Koenig of the AP: "H. Ross Perot, the colorful, self-made Texas billionaire who rose from a childhood of Depression-era poverty and twice ran for president as a third-party candidate, has died. He was 89. Perot, whose 19% of the vote in 1992 stands among the best showings by an independent candidate in the past century, died early Tuesday at his home in Dallas surrounded by his devoted family, family spokesman James Fuller said." (Also linked yesterday.)

Way Beyond the Beltway

Israel. Barak Ravid of Israel's Channel 13 News in Axios: "Israel's newly appointed minister of education, Rafi Peretz, said at a cabinet meeting on July 1 that the rate of intermarriage among U.S. Jews is 'like a second Holocaust,' according to three people who were in the room.... Peretz, a former chief rabbi of the Israeli army, is the leader of a bloc of ultra right-wing religious parties. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was personally involved in forming this political bloc, which also includes the Jewish supremacist 'Jewish Power' party. If Netanyahu wins the upcoming elections, Peretz will likely stay on as education minister." (Also linked yesterday.)

Saudi Arabia. Stephanie Kirchgaessner of the Guardian: "Officials in Saudi Arabia privately complained about the kingdom's low ranking on an influential press freedom index, less than one year after the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi by a Saudi murder squad. Campaigners at Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Saudis aired their dismay at a series of unprecedented meetings with government officials in Riyadh...The RSF meetings, which included exchanges..., were kept secret because RSF said it had hoped that Saudi Arabia might release the [30 currently jailed] journalists during Ramadan, but no such actions were taken." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Gee, I can think of some things the Saudis could do to improve their ranking, but none of them is lobbying the rankings organization.

News Ledes

New York Times: "In a memorable speech, [Megan Rapinoe, co-captain of the World Cup champions,] lauded her teammates, spoke of the politics of division and equal pay and let forth a profane tribute to New York City. 'This is my charge to everyone: We have to be better, we have to love more and hate less. Listen more and talk less. It is our responsibility to make this world a better place,' Rapinoe told the crowd. The ceremony came after the team rolled up Broadway, cheered by thousands and showered in confetti. The team, which defeated the Netherlands, 2-0, on Sunday in the World Cup final in Lyon, France, traversed the Canyon of Heroes, a stretch of Broadway from Battery Park to City Hall." Includes video.

New York Times: "Rip Torn, who made his reputation in the works of Tennessee Williams and played roles as diverse as Walt Whitman, Richard Nixon and Judas Iscariot before earning his greatest fame as a gruff, bullying producer on one of the most acclaimed television comedies of the 1990s -- but who remained dogged by his reputation as an out-of-control troublemaker -- died on Tuesday at his home in Lakeville, Conn. He was 88."

Monday
Jul082019

The Commentariat -- July 9, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Daniel Dale of CNN: "... Donald Trump shared a fake quote from former Republican President Ronald Reagan on Twitter on Monday. Trump passed along a tweet from an obscure account that called itself 'The Reagan Battalion,' which appeared to be impersonating a well-known conservative account of the same name. The copycat account had fewer than 300 followers at the time Trump promoted it. Its tweet read: 'Dear weak Conservatives, never forget that you are no match for "we the people," and our president.' Attached to the tweet was a photo of Trump and Reagan shaking hands -- with a supposed Reagan quote superimposed on top. 'For the life of me, and I'll never know how to explain it, when I met that young man, I felt like I was the one shaking hands with the president,' the supposed quote read. 'Cute! Trump wrote in his own tweet above the photo.... While the photo is real, the supposed quote is fake. Ronald Reagan never said [that] of Trump.... The fake Reagan quote has been debunked by fact-checkers since 2016, when it began spreading in pro-Trump circles on Facebook." Twitter suspended the account after Trump promoted the fake quote.

I have never met a young man with more potential than Donald Trump. He is destined for greatness. I am sure Her Majesty the Queen will come to admire him & summon him to Buckingham Palace for his wise counsel. -- Winston Churchill, 1963

France is destroyed, but the United States will prosper under a great Germanic leader called Drumpf 200 years hence. -- Napoleon, 1817

In the year 2020, the leader of a great American nation will erect a great wall around the mighty mass of the far-off promised land. He will close otheboarders on land and close all beaches to protect his great land. -- Nostradamus, 1559

Rupam Jain of Reuters: "The U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan wound up on Tuesday the seventh round of talks he has held with the Taliban in Qatar, after signs of progress in efforts to end the longest war the United States has ever fought. The U.S. envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, met Taliban officials briefly a day after a delegation of Afghan citizens and the militants agreed on a 'roadmap for peace', in particular a joint call to end civilian casualties in the 18-year war."

Barr to Protect Trump from Epstein, After All. Chris Strohm of Bloomberg News: "Attorney General William Barr won't recuse himself from involvement in the new charges filed against Jeffrey Epstein by federal prosecutors in New York, according to a Justice Department official. Barr made the decision on Tuesday after consulting with career ethics officials at the department, said the official, who asked not to be identified discussing a sensitive matter. Barr considered whether he would have to recuse himself from the case because Epstein previously hired lawyers from a law firm where Barr had worked. But Barr has recused himself from any retrospective review of the Justice Department's 2008 decision letting Epstein avoid prosecution on federal sex-trafficking offenses and the decades of prison time that he could have faced if convicted." Related story linked below.

Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "The House Judiciary Committee will vote [Thursday] to authorize a bevy of new subpoenas on the Trump administration's practices of separating families from their children at the border and on President Trump's possible obstruction of justice, summoning some of the biggest names to surface in Robert S. Mueller III's investigation.... Among the targets are Jeff Sessions, the former attorney general; Michael T. Flynn, the president's first national security adviser; John F. Kelly, the former White House chief of staff; Rod J. Rosenstein, the former deputy attorney general who appointed Mr. Mueller; Corey R. Lewandowski, Mr. Trump's former campaign manager, and David J. Pecker, who as the head of American Media took part in a hush money scheme.... The committee will also authorize subpoenas for Jared Kushner...."

Jacqueline Thomsen of the Hill: "The Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled that President Trump cannot block Twitter users from his official account, finding that the practice is discriminatory. The ruling upholds a lower court ruling that also found Trump cannot block the Twitter users.... The judges wrote 'that the First Amendment does not permit a public official who utilizes a social media account for all manner of official purposes to exclude persons from an otherwise‐open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees.' The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University had brought forward the lawsuit on behalf of seven people who had been blocked by Trump on Twitter."

Jordain Carney of the Hill: "Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday said that Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta should resign over a 2008 plea deal involving financier Jeffrey Epstein and that if he doesn't, President Trump should fire him. 'I am calling on Secretary Acosta to resign,' Schumer said during a Senate floor speech. 'It is now impossible for anyone to have confidence in Secretary Acosta's ability to lead the Department of Labor....'"

Rebecca Falconer of Axios: "The U.K.'s ambassador to the U.S. has the 'full support' of the prime minister, a spokesman said in a statement to news outlets. He made the comment after President Trump said he'd 'no longer deal' with ambassador Kim Darroch over leaked cables showing he criticized Trump."

Caitlin Oprysko of Politico: "Billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer announced he will mount a bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president on Tuesday, an about-face after saying earlier this year he would not run."

David Koenig of the AP: "H. Ross Perot, the colorful, self-made Texas billionaire who rose from a childhood of Depression-era poverty and twice ran for president as a third-party candidate, has died. He was 89. Perot, whose 19% of the vote in 1992 stands among the best showings by an independent candidate in the past century, died early Tuesday at his home in Dallas surrounded by his devoted family, family spokesman James Fuller said."

Barak Ravid of Israel's Channel 13 News in Axios: "Israel's newly appointed minister of education, Rafi Peretz, said at a cabinet meeting on July 1 that the rate of intermarriage among U.S. Jews is 'like a second Holocaust,' according to three people who were in the room.... Peretz, a former chief rabbi of the Israeli army, is the leader of a bloc of ultra right-wing religious parties. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was personally involved in forming this political bloc, which also includes the Jewish supremacist 'Jewish Power' party. If Netanyahu wins the upcoming elections, Peretz will likely stay on as education minister."

~~~~~~~~~~

Arden Farhi & Kathryn Watson of CBS News: "President Trump touted his administration's environmental stewardship in a speech in the East Room Monday. It's a topic the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates bring up almost daily, but not one Mr. Trump often addresses. But [Trump] ... did not mention climate change.... In his speech, the president claimed his administration is working diligently to improve the environment, insisting the environment and economy go hand-in-hand. The environment can't be strong without a strong economy, Mr. Trump said. The president did tout the importance of forest management to prevent fires in California [Mrs. McC: get out the vacuum cleaner!], and blasted the 'Green New Deal.'" ...

... Gaslight! Rebecca Leber of Mother Jones: "There were so many lies strung together in...Trump's environmental speech from the White House on Monday, it's a challenge to fact-check." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Every word was a lie, including "and" and "the." Here's a ferinstance Leber cites: "'From day one, my administration has made it a top priority to make sure America has among the very cleanest air and cleanest water on the planet,' Trump said. 'We want the cleanest air. We want crystal clean water. And that's what we're doing.' This statement is wrong not just because Trump has rolled back so many environmental protections in half a term, but because the US does not actually have the cleanest air and water in the world. Pick your pollution, and the US has often trailed behind other wealthy countries -- 10th on overall air quality and 29th on water and sanitation, according to Yale's Environmental Performance Index. Switzerland is number one."

"Donald Trump: Not That Smart!" Nick Martin of Splinter: "... Donald Trump may not be a 'super genius' after all. On Monday, the Washington Post published an interview with James Nolan, an 81 year old former admissions officer at the University of Pennsylvania who played a role in ferrying Trump from Fordham University to Wharton, Penn's acclaimed business school. Nolan was a longtime friend of Fred Trump Jr., Donald's older brother, and in 1966..., Nolan ... said Fred called him up to beg the now-president's way into the school. Since then, three of Trump's children have followed in his footsteps -- Donald Jr. and Ivanka went to Wharton and Tiffany went to Penn for undergraduate.... Trump has bragged that his degree from the school is 'like super genius st[u]ff' and that it's 'the hardest school to get in.'... Nolan made clear that during his sit-down with Trump, it was clear he wasn't dealing with a particularly smart individual. 'It was not very difficult,' Nolan told the Post.... The acceptance rate for transfer students was around 40 percent.... 'I certainly was not struck by any sense that I'm sitting before a genius. Certainly not a super genius.'"

... But He Is a Thin-skinned Bully! Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Trump lashed out on Monday at Britain's ambassador to the United States, saying the White House would no longer deal with him after the publication of confidential cables in which the ambassador, Sir Kim Darroch, disparaged Mr. Trump's administration as 'clumsy and inept.'... 'I do not know the Ambassador, but he is not liked or well thought of within the U.S. We will no longer deal with him.' Mr. Trump's statement came close to declaring Mr. Darroch persona non grata -- an extraordinary breach between the United States and one of its closest allies.... Mr. Trump's criticism, delivered in a pair of midday tweets, escalated the tensions between the United States and Britain that erupted after the cables were published on Saturday by a British tabloid, The Mail on Sunday. The president broadened his criticism to include Prime Minister Theresa May, whom he accused of botching Britain's negotiations to leave the European Union."...

The good news for the wonderful United Kingdom is that they will soon have a new prime minister. While I thoroughly enjoyed the magnificent State Visit last month, it was the Queen who I was most impressed with! -- Donald Trump, in a tweet Monday

Wow! I'll bet Queen Elizabeth is thrilled to hear she impressed Donald Trump. -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

... Peter Ricketts in the Guardian: "The scandal surrounding the reporting from British ambassador Kim Darroch in Washington is not that he was sending home his unvarnished analysis: that's what good ambassadors have done for centuries. It's that someone inside the British system deliberately amassed a stash of his assessments, then chose the moment of maximum impact to leak it. This was not a spontaneous decision to make public a single document: it required premeditation and therefore an agenda.... Some people in the system are abusing their access to national security information to pursue political goals without any thought for the damage to the county's interests or reputation." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Leakers always have motives. Sometimes their motives are altruistic, but probably more often than not their objectives are self-serving. I suspected from the git-go that the leaker here wanted to embarrass the current government for the purpose of promoting a right-winger like, say, Boris Johnson. And Trump, who favors Johnson, was more than willing to go along, exacerbating the embarrassment into an international incident. I'm hardly alone in this suspicion ...

     ... Robert Mackey of The Intercept: "Donald Trump's tweet, lashing out at Britain's ambassador to the United States, Kim Darroch, for writing private assessments of the American president's shortcomings ... was so predictable, it looked to some observers like the intended outcome of a plot, hatched in London, to depose the ambassador in Washington by leaking his confidential briefing notes on the 'uniquely dysfunctional' administration of a man unable to brook criticism.... Speculation as to what that agenda might have been was fueled by the fact that the collection of confidential memos from Darroch to senior officials in London was turned over to Isabel Oakeshott, a pro-Brexit journalist who is known to be close to Nigel Farage and his most important financial backer, Arron Banks." --s ...

... Here's the front page of today's Times of London, to which unwashed refers in today's Comments:

... Lee Moran of the Huffington Post: "The front cover of Tuesday's edition of The Times of London has gone viral for what many people believe is trolling of ... Donald Trump."

Kyle Cheney & Andrew Desiderio of Politico: "The White House has blocked a third witness who provided crucial testimony to special counsel Robert Mueller from describing the chaos she witnessed in the West Wing as ... Donald Trump sought to assert control over the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. 'The White House has directed that I not respond to this question because of the constitutionally-based executive branch confidentiality interests that are implicated,' former top White House aide Annie Donaldson repeated more than 200 times in written responses to the House Judiciary Committee, according to a transcript released Monday.... Donaldson provided some of Mueller's most compelling evidence: voluminous contemporaneous notes describing an atmosphere of chaos in the West Wing as Trump careened between damaging revelations in the Russia probe."

Jesse McKinley of the New York Times: "As the battle over President Trump's federal taxes intensifies in Washington, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York signed a bill on Monday to allow congressional committees to access the president's state tax returns. The bill requires state tax officials to release the president's state returns for any 'specified and legitimate legislative purpose' on the request of the chair of one of three congressional committees: the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Committee on Taxation.... The Ways and Means Committee ... has said previously that it remains focused on pursuing Mr. Trump's federal tax information.... Legal challenges could await; Mr. Trump has previously said that he is ready to take the fight over his federal tax returns to the Supreme Court. But there have been several amendments made to the New York bill to address potential legal concerns, according to the bill's supporters, including broadening its focus to cover an array of public officials, federal executive branch employees and political party leaders." ...

... Arthur Delaney of the Huffington Post: "Congressional Democrats could get some of ... Donald Trump's personal tax information thanks to a new law signed Monday by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) ― but they don't seem terribly interested.... State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D), who authored the New York bill, told HuffPost he received no input from congressional Democrats while drafting the bill and hasn't heard from anyone on Capitol Hill about getting the documents. 'I can understand why they would want to test the federal waters first,' Hoylman said. 'But if they don't want to wait for the court challenge and the appeals process to complete itself, they could take advantage of this route New York has provided them today.'"

Tami Abdollah of the AP: "The Justice Department on Monday challenged a federal judge's decision to allow a case accusing ... Donald Trump of profiting off the presidency to move forward, asking an appeals court to take up the case instead. Justice lawyers asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to overrule a federal judge and instead allow for a mid-case appeal or to dismiss the case outright, calling the case dealing with a Revolutionary War-era clause 'extraordinary.' The government lawyers also want the court to suspend legal discovery recently approved by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, which would force Trump-related entities such as his New York and D.C. hotels, Trump Tower, the Trump Organization, and Mar-a-Lago Club to turn over business tax returns, receipts and other documents."

Caitlin Oprysko of Politico: "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday unveiled a new Commission on Unalienable Rights, a panel he said is aimed at providing him with 'an informed review of the role of human rights in American foreign policy.' The panel will be headed up by Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard law professor and ... a social conservative who has been a prominent anti-abortion voice, which could lend credence to the concerns among human rights activists that the commission is a ploy to undercut LGBTQ and women's rights under the guise of religious liberty." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: When a Trump administration official suddenly shows an interest in "human rights," you can bet his plan is to curtail them.

Blatant Corruption. Scott Bronstein, et al. of CNN: "In the summer of 2017, Arizona developer Mike Ingram's proposed housing and golf course project in the desert was facing a road block because of a decision by the Department of the Interior. A field supervisor for the US Fish and Wildlife Service had determined that it was 'reasonably certain' that threatened and endangered species could be harmed. But that decision suddenly changed following a secret breakfast meeting at a Montana hunting lodge between Ingram -- a donor to President Donald Trump and co-owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks -- and David Bernhardt, then the Trump administration's deputy Interior secretary. Following the meeting, which did not appear in Bernhardt's official calendar and has not been previously reported, the field supervisor says he was pressured to reverse his decision.... The meeting is one of at least 11 interactions Ingram had with top officials at the Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency during the Trump administration[.]" --s

ObamaCare in Jeopardy. Again. Abby Goodnough of the New York Times: "A federal appeals court panel will hear arguments Tuesday on whether a federal judge in Texas was correct in striking down the Affordable Care Act, a case with enormous stakes not only for millions of people who gained health insurance through the law but for the political futures of President Trump and other candidates in the 2020 elections.... The case ... was filed by a group of Republican governors and attorneys general against the federal government, which carries out the law. But the Trump administration refused to defend the full law in court and this spring said it agreed with the ruling that the law's requirement for people to buy insurance was unconstitutional, and that as a result, the entire law must be dismantled. That has left a group of 21 states with Democratic attorneys general to intervene to defend the law, along with the House of Representatives, which entered the case after Democrats won control of the chamber last fall." The appeals court is questioning whether or not the Democratic attorneys general & the House even have standing to defend the law. ...

... Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times: "As they push a federal court to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Trump administration lawyers are arguing the law is no longer workable because Congress eliminated a penalty on people who don't have health insurance. But for months, senior administration officials and lawyers have been making the exact opposite case in other settings, a review of government reports, court filings and public statements made by Trump appointees shows. In fact administration officials, including White House economists, this year repeatedly have hailed the strength of insurance marketplaces created by the 2010 law. And in stark contrast to their claims in federal court in New Orleans, they have stressed that the 2017 legislation eliminating the so-called mandate penalty has had little to no impact on markets and consumers, let alone on the broader healthcare law, often called Obamacare or the ACA.... University of Michigan law professor Nicholas Bagley, who has closely tracked litigation related to the healthcare law, said federal courts are usually reluctant to pry too deeply into inconsistencies in how government officials justify their actions. The Trump administration, however, is testing the limits of this restraint, he said. 'Courts can get pushed to the point where they say this is too much to swallow.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: For an even better explanation of this doubletalk, see Akhilleus's commentary yesterday. See also Ian Millhiser's post linked below. And you wonder why DOJ attorneys are jumping ship.

Katie Thomas & Katie Rogers of the New York Times: "A federal judge ruled on Monday that the Trump administration cannot force pharmaceutical companies to disclose the list price of their drugs in television ads, dealing a blow to one of the president's most visible efforts to pressure drug companies to lower their prices. Judge Amit P. Mehta, of the United States District Court in the District of Columbia, ruled that the Department of Health and Human Services exceeded its regulatory authority by seeking to require all drugmakers to include in their television commercials the list price of any drug that costs more than $35 a month. The rule was to take effect this week."

Jessica Holdman of the Charleston, S.C., Post & Courier: "In a visit to South Carolina on Monday, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said the Trump administration will present a legal work-around that will allow a question on citizenship to be added to the 2020 Census. Speaking to reporters after a scheduled stop at a federal prison, Barr said, 'I think, over the next day or two, you'll see what approach we're taking and I think it does provide a pathway for getting the question on the census.' He did not provide details in his brief remarks. Barr also expressed little concern for the pending testimony of former special counsel Robert Mueller to federal lawmakers next week on his investigation into U.S. election interference by the Russian government.... 'It seems to me the only reason for doing that is to create some kind of public spectacle,' Barr said. 'If (Mueller) decides he doesn't want to be subjected to that, the DOJ will certainly back that.'" Mrs. McC: Sounds like Barr went to South Carolina to threaten the rule of law & Congressional oversight. ...

... Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress: "Late last month, the Supreme Court determined that the Trump administration lied about its real reason for wanting to add a question to the 2020 census form asking if each respondent is a U.S. citizen. Less than two weeks later, as a team of lawyers led by the ACLU laid out in a remarkable brief filed in a federal district court, Trump's Justice Department is entangled in an entirely different web of deceit. The brief, moreover, references a forthcoming motion for sanctions against the government attorneys who litigated this case.... Ultimately, the fate of any sanctions against these lawyers -- and of the citizenship question itself -- is likely to be decided by Chief Justice John Roberts." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I think we now know why the lawyers on the case quit & Bill Barr had to come up with a new "team" to pursue the cases. ...

... Andrew Desiderio & John Bresnahan of Politico: "House Democratic leaders plan to move forward with criminal contempt proceedings against Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for defying congressional subpoenas for documents related to the 2020 census, senior Democratic aides said Monday. Being held in contempt by Congress will be an embarrassment for the Trump administration officials but it won't lead to many tangible consequences."

Juan Cole: "The United States is already at war with Iran, squeezing its economy down to nothingness. If another country tried to do this to the US just on a whim and with no UN or international-law basis, the US would certainly launch a war over it.... Trump did this to Iran despite Iran's adherence to the 2015 nuclear deal or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).... In 2019, Iran's economy under US sanctions will shrink an incredible 6%. Aljazeera English reports that 'the rial, plummet[ed] by about 60% over the past year. Inflation is up to 37% and the cost of food and medicine has soared by 40% to 60%, according to EU figures.' Note that Trump's sanctions are unilateral. They haven't even been approved by Congress, and are actively rejected by the United Nations Security Council." --s

Mehdi Masan of The Intercept: "The New York Times interview [by MoDo, of Speaker Pelosi criticizing the progressive wing] is yet another reminder for liberals and leftists that if they want to oppose Trump, they have to oppose Pelosi too. Think I'm exaggerating? Consider three recent -- and shameful -- episodes. First, the rape allegations [by E. Jean Carroll] against the president.... Pelosi's response to a reporter who asked her for comment a whole six days later? 'I don't know the person making the accusation ... I haven't paid that much attention to it.'... This, my dear liberals, is your (feminist) champion. Second, the crisis at the border [when] ... Pelosi 'capitulated to Republicans and Democratic moderates and dropped her insistence on stronger protections for migrant children'... Third, Trump's tax returns.... Trump lawyers are citing Pelosi's refusal to impeach him as [one of] their defense[s] in court.... Pelosi has become a Trump enabler too." --s

Red Badge of Honor. Corky Siemazsko of NBC News: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said recently he opposes paying government reparations to the descendants of American slaves, has a family history deeply entwined in the issue: Two of his great-great-grandfathers were slave owners, U.S. census records show. The two great-great-grandfathers, James McConnell and Richard Daley, owned a total of at least 14 slaves in Limestone County, Alabama -- all but two of them female, according to the county 'Slave Schedules' in the 1850 and 1860 censuses." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: It seems McConnell, who has boasted about a number of his ancestors & relations, has kept secret his slave-holding forebears.

Presidential Race 2020

Elana Schor of the AP: "Rep. Eric Swalwell on Monday became the first candidate in the crowded 2020 Democratic presidential primary to exit the campaign, saying he would run for reelection to his California congressional seat next year. Swalwell, 38, announced his exit in his home district, describing his decision as 'the beginning of an opportunity in Congress with a new perspective' influenced by his 3-month-long presidential bid. The four-term congressman's White House effort never progressed significantly with voters, a fact Swalwell acknowledged on Monday...." Mrs. McC: Or, as a headline in the confederate Washington Free Beacon put it, "Swalwell to Announce He Ran for President."

Holly Otterbein of Politico: "Donald Trump's campaign is injecting itself into a battle to lead Pennsylvania's Republican Party -- a race with serious implications for the president's reelection hopes.... The fight for the state's vacant Republican chairmanship was triggered when Val DiGiorgio resigned from the position two weeks ago amid a scandal involving racy texts and allegations of sexual harassment. The episode set off fierce jockeying and backbiting within the state GOP.... They argue that Trump's advisers are unnecessarily taking sides in a local feud and could exacerbate longstanding power struggles within the state GOP." --s

** Presidential Election 2016. "The True Origins of the Seth Rich Conspiracy Theory." Michael Isikoff of Yahoo! News: "In the summer of 2016, Russian intelligence agents secretly planted a fake report claiming that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was gunned down by a squad of assassins working for Hillary Clinton, giving rise to a notorious conspiracy theory that captivated conservative activists and was later promoted from inside President Trump's White House, a Yahoo News investigation has found.... Over the course of the next two and a half years, the Russian government-owned media organizations RT and Sputnik repeatedly played up stories that baselessly alleged that Rich, a relatively junior-level staffer, was the source of Democratic Party emails that had been leaked to WikiLeaks. It was an idea first floated by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.... At the same time, online trolls working in St. Petersburg, Russia, for the Internet Research Agency (IRA) -- the same shadowy outfit that conducted the Russian social media operation during the 2016 election -- aggressively boosted the conspiracy theories." Among those pushing the fake story along were Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, Sean Hannity, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow, & Fox "News."

Senate Races 2020

Kansas. Lachlan Markay of The Daily Beast: "Kris Kobach's U.S. Senate campaign is off to an inauspicious start. The former Kansas secretary of state, a Republican, officially declared his candidacy in a filing with the Federal Election Commission on Monday. But the filing misspelled his first name. The campaign amended the error an hour later. Kobach is running to replace retiring Republican Sen. Pat Roberts." --s

Kentucky. Daniel Desrochers of the Lexington Herald-Leader: "Former Marine Corps fighter pilot Amy McGrath announced Tuesday that she wants to challenge U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November 2020, ending months of speculation about whether she'd try to take out one of the most powerful political figures in the country. In a three-minute video on social media and on the MSNBC show Morning Joe, McGrath touched on familiar themes from her failed 2018 bid to defeat U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington -- her military service, healthcare, gridlock in Congress -- while painting a bullseye on McConnell, blaming him for the dysfunction in the nation's capital."


Ali Watkins & Vivian Yang
of the New York Times: "Federal prosecutors unsealed the new charges on Monday accusing [Jeffrey] Epstein, 66, of running a sex-trafficking operation that lured dozens of underage girls, some as young as 14, to his Upper East Side home and to a mansion in Palm Beach, Fla., according to an indictment. Mr. Epstein, 66, is accused of engaging in sex acts with minors, some as young as 14, during naked massage sessions, then paying them hundreds of dollars in cash, the indictment said. He also asked some of the girls to recruit other underage girls. 'In this way, Epstein created a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit in locations including New York and Palm Beach,' the indictment said." The indictment, via the NYT, is here. (This is an update of a story linked below.) Mrs. McC: In a press conference, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said he would ask the court that Epstein be detained because he is "an extreme flight risk." Berman also acknowledged that "investigative journalists" were instrumental in bringing the new charges. Epstein will appear in court later today. ...

     .... CNN liveblogged Berman's presser. ...

     ... Update: Michael Sisak & Jim Mustian of the AP: "Epstein, who was arrested Saturday as he arrived in the U.S. from Paris aboard his private jet, was brought into court Monday in a blue jail uniform, his hair disheveled, and pleaded not guilty. He was jailed for a bail hearing next Monday, when prosecutors plan to argue that the rich world traveler might flee if released." ...

... Timothy O'Brien of Bloomberg: "In an interesting twist, the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan has pu its public corruption unit in charge of the Epstein case -- not, as might be expected, its human-trafficking team (although the latter unit is being consulted reportedly). It's likely, at least in part, that the case is being handled by corruption prosecutors because of a controversial and lenient plea deal struck between Epstein and federal law enforcement officials [led by Alexander Acosta] in Florida back in 2008.... For a while Trump was more than just a casual acquaintance of Epstein. The financier was a member of Trump's Palm Beach club, Mar-a-Lago, and the men dined at one another's homes.... Although a court filing says Mar-a-Lago eventually dumped Epstein from its ranks after he approached an underage girl there, Trump has generally spoken about Epstein fondly -- to me and to others. During the 2016 presidential campaign, an unidentified young woman filed a suit against Trump in which she alleged that he raped her when she was 13 at a party at Epstein's Upper East Side townhouse in Manhattan. Trump denied the claims and the woman later dropped the suit because, her lawyer said, she was intimidated by death threats." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: O'Brien hypothesizes that Epstein may try to flip, which could make things "uncomfortable" for Trump. ...

... ** Ali Watkins: "A trove of lewd photographs of girls, discovered in a safe inside the financier Jeffrey Epstein's Manhattan mansion the same day he was arrested, is deepening questions about why federal prosecutors in Miami had cut a deal that shielded him from federal prosecution in 2008.... The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said late Monday night that Mr. Acosta should resign because of the 'unconscionable agreement' that he made with Mr. Epstein in 2008." ...

... Christine Zhao of Newsweek: "Attorney General William Barr on Monday announced his recusal from the high-profile Jeffrey Epstein case because his former law firm once represented the convicted sex offender.... Following Barr's comments, several prominent people following the case, including Frank Figliuzzi, a former FBI Assistant Director for counterintelligence, noted that Barr's headmaster father, Donald Barr, had once hired Epstein to teach at the private Dalton School in New York." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Seems to me Barr recused himself to inoculate himself against any efforts by Trump to get him to quash the case against his dear old friend Epstein & against the obvious implication that Acosta minimized the case for corrupt reasons. ...

... Julia Arciga of the Daily Beast: "Former President Bill Clinton said Monday he knew nothing about Jeffrey Epstein's 'terrible crimes' and tried to downplay the time he spent on the billionaire's private plane. In a statement issued hours after Epstein was arraigned on a sex-trafficking indictment, Clinton said he took 'a total of four trips' with the financier in 2002 and 2003 -- to Europe, Asia and Africa. It's not clear how many flights were involved in each trip or how that number would square with flight logs that reportedly show Clinton on 26 flights on Epstein's plane between 2001 and 2003. Gawker reported in 2015 that the logs also appear to show Clinton on a 2002 domestic flight between Miami and Westchester County, with Epstein also on board.... The statement said Clinton made 'one brief visit' to Epstein's apartment in New York -- alongside a 'staff member and his security detail' -- in 2002. The two men also met at Clinton's Harlem office 'around the same time' as the apartment visit, the statement said.... As The Daily Beast reported, a former charity of Epstein's, the C.O.U.Q. Foundation, donated $25,000 to Bill and Hillary Clinton&'s charity in 2006 and was recently listed among past and present donors on the Clinton Foundation's website."

... New York Times Editors: "Even in the relatively sterile language of the legal system, the accusations against Mr. Epstein are nauseating.... In addition to short-circuiting federal charges, the plea agreement [Alex Acosta engineered in 2008] killed an F.B.I. investigation and granted immunity to any' co-conspirators.'... Mr. Acosta and his former team members [should not] be allowed to wave off the tough or awkward questions that are likely to arise going forward." ...

... Vicky Ward, in the Daily Beast, details her reporting on Epstein for Vanity Fair in 2002, including the part where then-editor Graydon Carter excised the part of her story that covered the accusation that Epstein had molested a teenaged girl." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The title of Ward's profile of Epstein, BTW, was "The Talented Mr. Epstein," a riff on the 1999 film "The Talented Mr. Ripley," based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith. Ripley is a liar & a fraud, who murders people when they threaten his schemes. The film got mixed reviews, but it's one of my faves. ...

What is so amazing to me is how his entire social circle knew about this and just blithely overlooked it.... All mentioned the girls, as an aside. -- Vicky Ward, to Michelle Goldberg ...

... Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times: "The Epstein case is first and foremost about the casual victimization of vulnerable girls. But it is also a political scandal, if not a partisan one. It reveals a deep corruption among mostly male elites across parties, and the way the very rich can often purchase impunity for even the most loathsome of crimes.... Among the mysteries of the Epstein case are why powerful prosecutors of both parties treated him with such leniency." Read the whole column for the particulars. ...

Matthew Haag of the New York Times describes Epstein's luxury Manhattan townhouse.

... Annals of "Journalism," Ha Ha Ha. Maxwell Tani & Andrew Kirell of the Daily Beast: "Famed attorney Alan Dershowitz is a frequent Fox News guest, but for some reason the network never seems to ask him about his involvement in a high-profile case that continues to make news. On Nov. 28, 2018, when the Miami Herald revealed that, in 2008, convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein's lawyers, a group that included Dershowitz, had pressured then-U.S. attorney Alexander Acosta -- now serving as Donald Trump's labor secretary -- into negotiating a sweetheart plea deal for the billionaire financier, who was accused of molesting more than 100 underage girls. Since that news broke, Dershowitz has appeared on Fox News a total of 27 times. Not once has anyone on the network asked him about his client or his connection to the secret plea deal a judge has since declared illegal."

David Corn of Mother Jones: "While Americans feel 'an increasing alarm' about climate change, according to a survey conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, scientists have been coping with this troubling data for decades -- and the grinding emotional effects from that research are another cost of global warming that the public has yet to fully confront.... Are scientists, then, canaries in a psychological coal mine? Is understanding their grief important because their anxiety could become more widespread within the general population?" With lots of interviews with climate scientists. --s

Rosanna Xia of the Los Angeles Times: "Miami has been drowning, Louisiana shrinking, North Carolina's beaches disappearing like a time lapse with no ending. While other regions grappled with destructive waves and rising seas, the West Coast for decades was spared by a rare confluence of favorable winds and cooler water.... Blinded from the consequences of a warming planet, Californians kept building right to the water's edge.... More than $150 billion in property ;could be at risk of flooding by 2100 -- the economic damage far more devastating than the state's worst earthquakes and wildfires. Salt marshes, home to shorebirds and endangered species, face extinction. In Southern California alone, two-thirds of beaches could vanish." --s

Moira Donegan in the Guardian: "The talent pool for female soccer players in America appears bottomless.... The US has found itself with a huge number of phenomenally talented female soccer players: how did we get them? In large part, we got them through policy, in particular the Education Amendments Act of 1972. Shepherded into law by Congresswoman Patsy Mink of Hawaii, the title IX provision of the act was a response to feminists' push to close a loophole in the Civil Rights Act of 964 that allowed federally funded schools, colleges and universities to discriminate by sex.... Taken as a whole, title IX's success in creating discrimination-free educational environments for women and girls is spotty at best. But the athletic non-discrimination provision has been a massive success in encouraging American girls to play sports." --s

Way Beyond the Beltway

Philippines. Hannah Ellis-Peterson of the Guardian: "The president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte is carrying out a 'large-scale murdering enterprise' and should be investigated by the UN for crimes against humanity, according to a new Amnesty report into his so-called war on drugs." --s

Sunday
Jul072019

The Commentariat -- July 8, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times: "As they push a federal court to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Trump administration lawyers are arguing the law is no longer workable because Congress eliminated a penalty on people who don't have health insurance. But for months, senior administration officials and lawyers have been making the exact opposite case in other settings, a review of government reports, court filings and public statements made by Trump appointees shows. In fact administration officials, including White House economists, this year repeatedly have hailed the strength of insurance marketplaces created by the 2010 law. And in stark contrast to their claims in federal court in New Orleans, they have stressed that the 2017 legislation eliminating the so-called mandate penalty has had little to no impact on markets and consumers, let alone on the broader healthcare law, often called Obamacare or the ACA.... University of Michigan law professor Nicholas Bagley, who has closely tracked litigation related to the healthcare law, said federal courts are usually reluctant to pry too deeply into inconsistencies in how government officials justify their actions. The Trump administration, however, is testing the limits of this restraint, he said. 'Courts can get pushed to the point where they say this is too much to swallow.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: For an even better explanation of this doubletalk, see Akhilleus's commentary below. See also Ian Millhiser's post below. And you wonder why DOJ attorneys are jumping ship.

Ali Watkins & Vivian Yang of the New York Times: "Federal prosecutors unsealed the new charges on Monday accusing [Jeffrey] Epstein, 66, of running a sex-trafficking operation that lured dozens of underage girls, some as young as 14, to his Upper East Side home and to a mansion in Palm Beach, Fla., according to an indictment. Mr. Epstein, 66, is accused of engaging in sex acts with minors, some as young as 14, during naked massage sessions, then paying them hundreds of dollars in cash, the indictment said. He also asked some of the girls to recruit other underage girls. 'In this way, Epstein created a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit in locations including New York and Palm Beach,' the indictment said." The indictment, via the NYT, is here. (This is an update of a story linked below.) Mrs. McC: In a press conference, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said he would ask the court that Epstein be detained because he is "an extreme flight risk." Berman also acknowledged that "investigative journalists" were instrumental in bringing the new charges. Epstein will appear in court later today. ...

     .... CNN liveblogged Berman's press conference.

Juan Cole: "The United States is already at war with Iran, squeezing its economy down to nothingness. If another country tried to do this to the US just on a whim and with no UN or international-law basis, the US would certainly launch a war over it.... Trump did this to Iran despite Iran's adherence to the 2015 nuclear deal or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).... In 2019, Iran's economy under US sanctions will shrink an incredible 6%. Aljazeera English reports that 'the rial, plummet[ed] by about 60% over the past year. Inflation is up to 37% and the cost of food and medicine has soared by 40% to 60%, according to EU figures.' Note that Trump's sanctions are unilateral. They haven't even been approved by Congress, and are actively rejected by the United Nations Security Council." --s

Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress: "Late last month, the Supreme Court determined that the Trump administration lied about its real reason for wanting to add a question to the 2020 census form asking if each respondent is a U.S. citizen. Less than two weeks later, as a team of lawyers led by the ACLU laid out in remarkable brief filed in a federal district court, Trump's Justice Department is entangled in an entirely different web of deceit. The brief, moreover, references a forthcoming motion for sanctions against the government attorneys who litigated this case.... Ultimately, the fate of any sanctions against these lawyers -- and of the citizenship question itself -- is likely to be decided by Chief Justice John Roberts." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Hmmm. I think we now know why the lawyers on the case quit & Bill Barr had to come up with a new "team" to pursue the cases.

Moira Donegan in the Guardian: "The talent pool for female soccer players in America appears bottomless.... The US has found itself with a huge number of phenomenally talented female soccer players: how did we get them? In large part, we got them through policy, in particular the Education Amendments Act of 1972. Shepherded into law by Congresswoman Patsy Mink of Hawaii, the title IX provision of the act was a response to feminists' push to close a loophole in the Civil Rights Act of 964 that allowed federally funded schools, colleges and universities to discriminate by sex.... Taken as a whole, title IX's success in creating discrimination-free educational environments for women and girls is spotty at best. But the athletic non-discrimination provision has been a massive success in encouraging American girls to play sports." --s

David Corn of Mother Jones: "While Americans feel 'an increasing alarm' about climate change, according to a survey conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, scientists have been coping with this troubling data for decades -- and the grinding emotional effects from that research are another cost of global warming that the public has yet to fully confront.... Are scientists, then, canaries in a psychological coal mine? Is understanding their grief important because their anxiety could become more widespread within the general population?" With lots of interviews with climate scientists. --s

Rosanna Xia of the Los Angeles Times: "Miami has been drowning, Louisiana shrinking, North Carolina's beaches disappearing like a time lapse with no ending. While other regions grappled with destructive waves and rising seas, the West Coast for decades was spared by a rare confluence of favorable winds and cooler water.... Blinded from the consequences of a warming planet, Californians kept building right to the water's edge.... More than $150 billion in property could be at risk of flooding by 2100 -- the economic damage far more devastating than the state's worst earthquakes and wildfires. Salt marshes, home to shorebirds and endangered species, face extinction. In Southern California alone, two-thirds of beaches could vanish." --s

Philippines. Hannah Ellis-Peterson of the Guardian: "The president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte is carrying out a 'large-scale murdering enterprise' and should be investigated by the UN for crimes against humanity, according to a new Amnesty report into his so-called war on drugs." --s

~~~~~~~~~~

The Counterfactual World of Trump & Troupe. Emily Cochrane of the New York Times: “President Trump and his top immigration officials on Sunday contested reports that migrant children were being held in horrific conditions in federal detention facilities, as the administration argued that the government was enforcing oversight standards even as it struggled to house and care for an influx of migrants.... Speaking to reporters, Mr. Trump called the report about the Clint facility a 'hoax.'... The Times said in a statement that it stood by the article." ...

... Chris Rodrigo of the Hill: "President Trump on Sunday accused the media of reporting 'phony and exaggerated accounts' of conditions at migrant detention centers along the border in the wake of two bombshell reports from the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) watchdog. 'The Fake News Media, in particular the Failing , is writing phony and exaggerated accounts of the Border Detention Centers,' Trump tweeted.... The reports from the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) covered the conditions at facilities near El Paso, Texas, and in the Rio Grande Valley. The government watchdog found severe overcrowding, migrants being held too long and dirty conditions at many of the facilities. A group of lawyers who visited a Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas, made similar claims about the treatment of migrants. The Trump administration has denied reports and images of the conditions in detainment facilities." Mrs. McC: Sunday afternoon, Trump gave a chopper presser in which he elaborated on his phony charges. I'll get a report on that when one becomes available. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Quinn Owen of ABC News: "Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said he did not accept reports of unsanitary conditions and limited food and water at U.S. Border Patrol stations, calling the situation at the border 'extraordinarily challenging' for the department, in an interview on ABC's "This Week" Sunday.... For months, McAleenan has raised alarms about the potential for disastrous conditions on the southern border while maintaining his agency has upheld government standards for housing detainees, despite evidence to the contrary. He said on Sunday that the food and water at one facility in Clint, Texas, that has faced scrutiny were 'adequate' and that migrants in holding centers had access to showers and clean living quarters.... Conditions were so severe at facilities in the Rio Grande Valley that one CBP manager described it to federal investigators as a "ticking time bomb" in the report made public this past week." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Camilo Montoya-Galvez CBS News: "The Trump administration's top official at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said immigration authorities are ready to identify, detain and eventually deport approximately one million undocumented immigrants with pending removal orders. 'They're ready to just perform their mission, which is to go and find and detain and then deport the approximately one million people who have final removal orders,' Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli said on 'Face the Nation' on Sunday, referring to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) branch charged with removal operations. Cuccinelli, an immigration hardliner who took the helm of the agency last month, said it is within ICE's discretion to determine who among those with final orders of deportation will be targeted in operations, suggesting the full pool of approximately one million immigrants might not face deportation after all." ...

... Catie Edmondson of the New York Times: "Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have mined state driver's license databases using facial recognition technology, analyzing millions of motorists' photos without their knowledge. In at least three states that offer driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants, ICE officials have requested to comb through state repositories of license photos, according to newly released documents. At least two of those states, Utah and Vermont, complied, searching their photos for matches, those records show.... [Harrison Rudolph of Georgetown Law's Center on Privacy and Technology, said,] 'This is a scandal.... States have never passed laws authorizing ICE to dive into driver's license databases using facial recognition to look for folks.... These states have never told undocumented people that when they apply for a driver's license they are also turning over their face to ICE. That is a huge bait and switch.'" The story was first reported by The Washington Post.

Fox "News" Program-Director-in-Chief Unhappy with Weekend Lineup. Bianca Quilantan of Politico: "... Donald Trump took a swipe at Fox News on Sunday, saying the network ... 'is now loading up with Democrats & even using Fake unsourced @nytimes a "source" of information.'... '@FoxNews is changing fast, but they forgot the people who got them there!' he said [in a tweet].... 'Watching @FoxNews weekend anchors is worse than watching low ratings Fake News @CNN, or Lyin' Brian Williams (remember when he totally fabricated a War Story trying to make himself into a hero, & got fired. A very dishonest journalist!) and the crew of degenerate Comcast (NBC/MSNBC) Trump haters, who do whatever Brian & Steve tell them to do,' the president said, presumably referring to executives Brian Roberts and Steve Burke." ..

Oh, and this: "During a live broadcast from France [aired on Fox 'News'] after the U.S. women's soccer team won the Women's World Cup, the crowd was heard loudly chanting 'F[uck] Trump' behind correspondent Greg Palkot." Thank you, soccer fans.

Mike Balsamo of the AP: "The Justice Department is shaking up the legal team fighting for the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 census but offered no specifics on why the change was being made. The change announced Sunday comes days after the department vowed to continue to try to find a legal path forward to include the question on the census. ...

... Michael Wines, et al., of the New York Times: The DOJ "offered no explanation for the en masse change, which came on the heels of an extraordinary week in a yearlong clash over the issue that has raised concerns about whether the department's arguments for adding the question could be believed. And it strongly suggested that the department's career lawyers had decided to quit a case that at the least seemed to lack a legal basis, and at most left them defending statements that could well turn out to be untrue.... The change in the legal team appeared to signal even deeper problems for the administration's effort to put the question on the next census, a proposal that critics have assailed as an ill-disguised plot to manipulate the final head count in ways that would benefit the Republican Party." Read on. The "Justice" Department seems to be in nearly as big a mess as the White House, but largely because many career lawyers won't make crap arguments to defend crap policies. ...

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. A Citizenship Question Too Hard for the Sunday Shows. Alex Kaplan of Media Matters: "Most of the Sunday morning news shows ignored ... Donald Trump's efforts to force a question about citizenship status into the 2020 census.... Of those that didn't, none engaged substantively at all with Trump's admission [that the question was needed to give Republicans a big boost in reapportioning Congressional districts].

Aw, Another Crack in the "Special Relationship." Emma Anderson of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Sunday blasted Britain's ambassador to Washington [Kim Darroch], saying he was not a 'big fan' after reports of leaked memos in which the diplomat called Trump and his administration 'dysfunctional' and 'inept.' 'The ambassador has not served the U.K. well, I can tell you that,' Trump told reporters in New Jersey.... The Telegraph, a British newspaper, reported that Trump aides have called for Darroch to be fired since the leak." ...

     ... Update. "It Is, of Course, a Matter of Regret." Michael Holden & William James of Reuters: "Britain said on Monday it had contacted Washington to express regret for the leak of confidential memos in which its ambassador described ... Donald Trump's administration as 'dysfunctional and 'inept'.... 'Contact has been made with the Trump administration, setting out our view that we believe the leak is unacceptable,' Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman told reporters. 'It is, of course, a matter of regret that this has happened.' Trade minister Liam Fox, who is visiting Washington, told BBC radio he would apologize to Trump's daughter Ivanka, whom he is due to meet." Mrs. McC: French may be the language of diplomacy, but the Brits are veddy, veddy good at using it to twist the knife a little deeper. I'm hearing delighted snickers at Ten Downing Street. We are so amused.

Mary Papenfuss of the Huffington Post: “An artist blasted by the Anti-Defamation League for creating a 'blatantly anti-Semitic cartoon' has been invited to the White House by ... Donald Trump. Cartoonist Ben Garrison proudly tweeted his invitation to join a 'Social Media Summit' this coming Thursday at the White House.... Trump's Social Media Summit is expected to address the president's complaints that social media platforms' policies against threats and hate speech are blocking conservative voices.... Two years ago, Garrison created an inflammatory cartoon depicting Jewish billionaire philanthropist George Soros using puppet strings to control then-Gen. H.R. McMaster, who was serving as Trump's national security adviser at the time, and retired Gen. David Petraeus. The image was a nod to an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that a secretive international Jewish cabal controls the world. In the cartoon, Soros is being controlled by a hand labeled the 'Rothschilds,' a famous Jewish banking family. The ADL wrote at the time that the 'thrust of the cartoon is clear: McMaster is merely a puppet of a Jewish conspiracy.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

David Kirkpatrick & David Sanger of the New York Times: "Iran said on Sunday that within hours it would breach the limits on uranium enrichment set four years ago in an accord with the United States and other international powers that was designed to keep Tehran from producing a nuclear weapon. The latest move inches Iran closer to where it was before the accord: on the path to being able to produce an atomic bomb." Mrs. McC: Thanks, Trump! (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

If the Bees Die, We Die. Sam Fossum of CNN: "The US Department of Agriculture has suspended data collection for its annual Honey Bee Colonies report, citing cost cuts -- a move that robs researchers and the honeybee industry of a critical tool for understanding honeybee population declines, and comes as the USDA is curtailing other research programs. It's also another step toward undoing President Barack Obama's government-wide focus on protecting pollinators, including bees and butterflies, whose populations have plummeted in recent years."

Robert Burns of the AP: "The four-star admiral set to become the Navy's top officer on Aug. 1 will instead retire, an extraordinary downfall prompted by what Navy Secretary Richard Spencer on Sunday called poor judgment regarding a professional relationship. The sudden move by Adm. William Moran may add to the perception of turmoil in the Pentagon's senior ranks, coming less than a month after Pat Shanahan abruptly withdrew from consideration to be defense secretary after serving as the acting secretary for six months.... Moran had been vetted for promotion to the top uniformed position in the Navy, nominated by ... Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate in May to succeed Adm. John Richardson as chief of naval operations and as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.... [Officials said] Moran ... recently [took] public affairs counsel from Chris Servello, who ... was accused of making unwanted sexual passes while dressed as Santa at [a 2016 Navy Christmas] party.... Servello had previously worked for Moran as a public affairs officer."

Jim Mustian & Desmond Butler of the AP: "A federal grand jury in New York is investigating top Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy, examining whether he used his position as vice chair of ... Donald Trump's inaugural committee to drum up business deals with foreign leaders, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press and people familiar with the matter.... The Brooklyn probe appears to be distinct from an inquiry by Manhattan federal prosecutors into the inaugural committee's record $107 million fundraising and whether foreigners unlawfully contributed. It followed a request last year by Democratic U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut that the Justice Department investigate whether Broidy 'used access to President Trump as a valuable enticement to foreign officials who may be in a position to advance Mr. Broidy's business interests abroad.'"

Jamie Ehrlich of CNN: "Newly independent Rep. Justin Amash, the only congressional Republican to have publicly argued that ... Donald Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct, told CNN that high-level party officials have thanked him behind closed doors for his stance on impeachment proceedings against Trump. 'I get people sending me text messages, people calling me, saying "thank you for what you're doing,'" Amash told CNN's Jake Tapper in a wide-ranging interview on 'State of the Union' Sunday....In the same interview, Amash said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should start impeachment proceedings against Trump. 'From a principled, moral position, she's making a mistake. From a strategic position, she's making a mistake,' Amash said." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Edward Helmore of the Guardian: "Congressional approval for funds for the Trump administration to spend at the southern border has triggered open warfare between a 'squad' of high-profile progressive House Democrats and party leaders they accuse of caving to a White House determined to mistreat migrant children.... On Saturday [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi [said] in a New York Times interview, [with Maureen Dowd, also linked in yesterday's Commentariat] taking aim at The Squad for voting against 'our bill'. 'All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world,' she said. 'But they didn't have any following. They're four people and that's how many votes they got.' In a tweeted response, [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said: 'That public "whatever" is called public sentiment. And wielding the power to shift it is how we actually achieve meaningful change in this country.' She also defended her use of social media. The progressive-moderate split is becoming more evident and bitter." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.);

Presidential Race 2020. Because We Need Another Billionaire Prez. Daniel Lippmann & Daniel Strauss of Politico: "Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmental activist who toyed with a 2020 presidential run before deciding against it, has told people he plans to announce that he's entering the race for the Democratic nomination, according to three people familiar with his plans. Steyer had said in January that he was passing on a 2020 run."

Ali Watkins & Vivian Wang of the New York Times: "Federal prosecutors appear to have resurrected a federal sex crimes case against the billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein by focusing on accusations that he sexually assaulted girls at his mansion in Manhattan -- more than a decade after a widely criticized plea deal shielded him from similar charges in Florida.... Mr. Epstein is charged with using his vast network of contacts and associates to bring a constant stream of underage girls to his Manhattan townhouse, one law enforcement official said. He is accused of shuttling the girls between the townhouse and his home in Palm Beach, Fla., paying them in cash and urging them to recruit other underage girls to visit his home.... [Epstein's New York City] mansion, which runs along East 71st Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues, has been called one of the largest townhouses in Manhattan. It contains at least seven floors and covers 21,000 square feet."

Julie Brown of the Miami Herald: "Jeffrey Epstein spent a second night in a New York jail cell Sunday, with a federal indictment expected to be unsealed Monday, charging him with sex offenses involving underage girls he and others allegedly trafficked in New York and Florida, sources have told the Miami Herald.... Although details of the case remain undisclosed, there are indications that others involved in his crimes could be charged or named as cooperating witnesses.... Epstein's arrest could open a window to expose other influential people who knew about or participated in his crimes. The question is what evidence or information does Epstein have against them and how might he use it?" ...

... Vivian Wang: "The case [against Jeffrey Epstein] could shed new light ... on the extent to which officials who have been linked to Mr. Epstein -- including, most notably, President Trump and his labor secretary, Alexander Acosta -- knew about or downplayed them.... [Epstein's] circle of friends and acquaintances included many high-profile figures, including Mr. Trump, former President Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew of Britain and Leslie Wexner, a business mogul who owns Victoria's Secret and other retail brands. Mr. Clinton flew on Mr. Epstein's private plane dozens of times, according to flight records, and Prince Andrew has attended parties with Mr. Epstein. Mr. Trump told New York magazine in 2002 that Mr. Epstein was a 'terrific guy' whom he had known for 15 years. 'He's a lot of fun to be with,' the president said at the time. 'It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.'... One of Mr. Epstein's accusers, Virginia Giuffre, said in court documents that she was recruited to give Mr. Epstein massages while she was working at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump's Florida resort. Mr. Epstein has been photographed with Mr. Trump at Mar-a-Lago.... Federal prosecutors in Miami initially drafted a 53-page indictment against Mr. Epstein. But in 2008, those prosecutors -- led by Mr. Acosta, then the region's United States attorney, and now Mr. Trump's labor secretary -- struck a deal with Mr. Epstein's lawyers that allowed him to avoid federal charges.... Mr. Acosta's office also agreed to help shield the deal from public scrutiny, according to The [Miami] Herald." ...

Here are Trump, Melania, Epstein & Ghislaine Maxwell at Mar-a-Lago in February 2000. According to Julie Brown of the Herald, Maxwell, heir to a British publishing fortune, "could be charged or named as cooperating witnesses.... [She] has been accused of working as Epstein's madam.... Maxwell has denied the claim and has never been charged":

... From the Small World (of Sleazebags) Department. Todd Neikirk of the Hill Reporter (May 4): "In 1973, [Attorney General William] Barr's father Donald, the headmaster at Manhattan's Dalton School, hired [Jeffrey] Epstein as a calculus and physics teacher.... Epstein had not earned a college degree ... [and] was only 20 years of age.... During ... Barr's confirmation hearing..., Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) ... asked Barr about the lenient sentence given out to billionaire pedophile, Jeffrey Epstein.... The future Attorney General told Sasse that he would look into the matter." Thanks to MAG for the lead. ...

... AND "Look into the Matter," He Did. Frank Rich (in a tweet July 6): "Little noted was that William Barr's Justice Dept a week ago upheld Jeffrey Epstein's secret wrist-slap 2007 Florida plea deal, engineered by fellow Trump cabinet member Alex Acosta."

Spencer Kimball of CNBC: "Deutsche Bank announced Sunday that it will pull out of global equities sales and trading, scale back investment banking and slash thousands of jobs as part of a sweeping restructuring plan to improve profitability. Deutsche will cut 18,000 jobs for a global headcount of around 74,000 employees by 2022. The bank aims to reduce adjusted costs by a quarter to 17 billion euros ($19 billion) over the next several years. The German bank's decision to scale back investment banking comes just two days after investment banking chief Garth Ritchie stepped down by 'mutual agreement.'... The German lender once sought to compete with America's big banks on Wall Street, but has been pummeled by scandals, investigations and massive fines stemming from the financial crisis and other issues in recent years.... Deutsche has come under renewed scrutiny in the U.S. over its business relationship with ... Donald Trump."

Way Beyond the Beltway

Greece. Matina Stevis-Gridneff of the New York Times: Greece's "Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, a former firebrand leftist, was defeated in a landslide [Sunday]. Greeks turned instead to the resurgent center-right New Democracy party led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a Harvard-educated former banker and son of a 1990s prime minister. His party secured almost 40 percent of the vote and a comfortable majority of 158 seats in the 300-seat Parliament.... It is a reminder that even as Britain moves to leave the European Union, voters in other parts of the bloc appear committed to sticking with it."

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