The Wires

The Ledes

Monday, December 11, 2017.

Washington Post: Simeon "Booker, the Washington bureau chief of Jet and Ebony magazines for five decades, died Dec. 10 at an assisted-living community in Solomons, Md. He was 99 and had recently been hospitalized for pneumonia, said his wife, Carol Booker. Few reporters risked more to chronicle the civil rights movement than Mr. Booker. He was the first full-time black reporter for The Washington Post, serving on the newspaper’s staff for two years before joining Johnson Publishing Co. to write for Jet, a weekly, and Ebony, a monthly modeled on Life magazine, in 1954."

New York Times: "... the prince, Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, is the mystery buyer of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting 'Salvator Mundi,' which fetched a record $450.3 million at auction last month, documents show. The revelation that Prince Bader is the purchaser, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times, links one of the most captivating mysteries of the art world with palace intrigues in Saudi Arabia that are shaking the region. Prince Bader splurged on this controversial and decidedly un-Islamic portrait of Christ at a time when most of the Saudi Arabian elite, including members of the royal family, are cowering under a sweeping crackdown against corruption and self-enrichment."

Politico: "PBS announced on Monday that CNN International correspondent Christiane Amanpour would be the interim replacement for Charlie Rose after he was fired and his long-running interview show was canceled over multiple allegations of sexual harassment.... 'Amanpour on PBS' will begin airing on New York’s PBS station on Monday and will roll out to other stations beginning Dec. 11."

Variety: "Netflix has reached an agreement to resume production on 'House of Cards' season 6 — the show’s final season — in early 2018, according to chief content officer Ted Sarandos. Production of 'House of Cards' season 6 was suspended in October, following sexual assault allegations against star Kevin Spacey. Season 6 of the political thriller will be eight episodes, starring Robin Wright, Sarandos said. The final season will not include Spacey, as previously announced. Each of the previous season have comprised 13 episodes."

In reaction to the horrors of what happened in Charlottesville, which is named after this queen, her ancestry is very relevant. -- historian Mario De Valdes y Cocom, on Queen Charlotte of Britain's biracial heritage ...

... Washington Post: "When Britain’s Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle announced their engagement Monday (Nov. 27), Twitter erupted with the news that the newest princess in the royal family would be bi-racial. 'We got us a Black princess ya’ll,” GirlTyler exulted. “Shout out to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Their wedding will be my Super Bowl.'... But Markle, whose mother is black and whose father is white, may not be the first mixed-race royal. Some historians suspect that Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III who bore the king 15 children, was of African descent. Historian Mario De Valdes y Cocom argues that Queen Charlotte was directly descended from a black branch of the Portuguese royal family: Alfonso III and his concubine, Ouruana, a black Moor.” The report on Charlotte's heritage is fascinating.

... Mrs. McCrabbie: One of the best things about Southern white bigots is that, slavery being what it was, they're very likely to be less than 99 & 44/100ths percent pure white. For instance, these two young fellas have facial features that are remarkably similar:

But, um, one of them is David Duke & the other is Jesse Jackson. Separated at birth? Give Duke a 'fro, & he'd easily pass for African-American. Maybe a hood kinda relaxes curls.

Guardian: Britain's "Prince Harry is to marry his American actor girlfriend Meghan Markle in spring next year, Clarence House has announced. 'His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales is delighted to announce the engagement of Prince Harry to Ms Meghan Markle,' it said in a statement on Monday."

 

The full Neiman's Christmas book is here, with some items costing less than $35K.

New Yorker: Thomas Hargrove, a retired journalist, is developing an algorithm to solve serial murders. Interesting & not a bit nutty. Hargrove's research suggests that the number of serial killers still out their doing their jobs is much greater than police departments realize (or will admit -- serial killers are bad for local tourism). Also too, the percentage of murders that get solved has dropped precipitously in the last half-century.

Donaldo da Trumpo. Guardian: "On Wednesday, a long-lost Leonardo da Vinci painting sold for $450.3m, rocking the art world.... On Thursday, that same art world was given a reality check, when a sketch by the less celebrated Donald Trump sold for just $6,875 at an auction in Los Angeles. Trump’s untitled piece, which depicts the Manhattan skyline, barely cleared its minimum price of $5,000.... The president took on his project in 2009 for a charity event. Trump seems to have used either pencil or ballpoint pen for the piece, which measures 8in x 5in. The sketch shows what appear to be skyscrapers, alongside something representing the Empire State Building. Nate D Sanders, the auction house handling the sale, presented the sketch in a 15in x 18in frame, along with a signed photo of Trump."

New York Times: "After 19 minutes of dueling, with four bidders on the telephone and one in the room, Leonardo da Vinci’s 'Salvator Mundi' sold on Wednesday night for $450.3 million with fees, shattering the high for any work of art sold at auction. It far surpassed Picasso’s 'Women of Algiers,' which fetched $179.4 million at Christie’s in May 2015. The buyer was not immediately disclosed." ...

... New York Times critic Jason Farago calls the painting "a proficient but not especially distinguished religious picture from turn-of-the-16th-century Lombardy, put through a wringer of restorations.... The painting, when purchased at an estate sale in 2005 for less than $10,000, was initially considered a copy of a lost Leonardo, completed around 1500 and once in the collection of Charles I of England. [Some experts still think it's a copy.] Over time, its wood surface became cracked and chafed, and it had been crudely overpainted.... Cleaned by the conservator Dianne Dwyer Modestini, the painting now appears in some limbo state between its original form and an exacting, though partially imagined, rehabilitation."

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. Des MacHale (often misattributed to H. L. Mencken)

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

Thursday
Nov302017

The Commentariat -- December 1, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Breaking @ 9:40 am ET: Eileen Sullivan & Adam Goldman of the New York Times: "... Michael T. Flynn is expected to plead guilty on Friday to lying to the F.B.I. about a conversation with the Russian ambassador last December.The plea would be the latest indication that Mr. Flynn was cooperating with the special counsel’s investigation...." This a 2-graf story at this point; expect expansion. ...

     ... New Lede: "President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the F.B.I. about conversations with the Russian ambassador last December during the presidential transition, bringing the special counsel’s investigation into the president’s inner circle. Mr. Flynn, who appeared in federal court in Washington, acknowledged that he was cooperating with the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into Russian interference in the 2016 election. His plea agreement suggests that Mr. Flynn provided information to prosecutors, which may help advance the inquiry....

     "Mr. Flynn’s admissions in his plea deal could deeply undercut the arguments made in January by Mr. Trump and his aides that they were not fully aware of Mr. Flynn’s discussion with Russians about sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration over the election meddling. In fact, the documents say multiple members of the team coordinated the specifics of Mr. Flynn’s outreach to Russia and knew that the conversations were about sanctions."

... Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post: "Former national security adviser Michael Flynn was charged Friday with making a false statement to the FBI about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, marking another monumental development in the wide-ranging probe of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.  Flynn was expected to enter a plea at 10:30, according to the special counsel’s office. The charge relates to false statements Flynn made to the FBI on January 24, four days after President Trump was inaugurated, about his meeting with Kislyak during the transition." ...

     ... New Lede. The link now leads to a story by Carol Leonnig & others: "Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and court records indicate he was acting under instructions from senior Trump transition officials in his dealings with the diplomat. Flynn’s admission to the charge Friday in federal district court in D.C. could be an ominous sign for the White House, as Flynn is cooperating in the ongoing probe of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election. His plea revealed that he was in touch with senior Trump transition officials before and after his communications with Kislyak — rebutting the idea that he was a rogue operator.... Days after former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was indicted, Mueller’s investigators warned Flynn’s lawyers they planned to indict Flynn and also could charge his son, according to the two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations. Flynn’s lawyers, [Robert] Kelner and Stephen Anthony, provided a proffer of what information Flynn could provide and then Flynn met with Mueller’s team." ...

... CNN has readable copies of the court filings. ...

... Josh Gerstein & Theodoric Meyer of Politico report on the courtroom proceedings. ...

... Flynn to Grab Trump by the Facts. Brian Ross, et al., of ABC News: "Retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn has promised 'full cooperation' in the special counsel’s Russia investigation and, according to a confidant, is prepared to testify that Donald Trump directed him to make contact with the Russians, initially as a way to work together to fight ISIS in Syria." Thanks to Akhilleus for the link. ...

... Quid Pro Quo. Casey Michel of ThinkProgress: "... Flynn lied about asking Kislyak to 'refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia' in late December.... Those sanctions, authorized by the Obama Administration, expelled some 35 Russian intelligence operatives and shuttered a pair of U.S.-based Russian compounds – all in response to Russian interference in the U.S. presidential campaign. However..., Russian President Vladimir Putin opted not to respond to the sanctions, saying the Kremlin would refrain from 'any further steps' at the time. Immediately thereafter, Trump took to Twitter to praise the Russian president for his decision. 'Great move on delay (by V. Putin) - I always knew he was very smart!'" ...

... Eli Lake of Bloomberg: "... Michael Flynn's guilty plea Friday for lying to the FBI is alarming news for Donald Trump. But the first person it's likely to jeopardize will be the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. One transition official at the time said Kushner called Flynn to tell him he needed to get every foreign minister or ambassador from a country on the UN Security Council to delay or vote against the resolution [condemning Israeli settlements]. Much of this appeared to be coordinated also with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose envoys shared their own intelligence about the Obama administration's lobbying efforts to get member states to support the resolution with the Trump transition team." The incident is cited in the charging documents released today. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Perhaps this explains why the FBI recently interviewed Kushner. ...

... Staff Sequesters Trump. AP: "The White House has cancelled a scheduled opportunity for reporters to question ... Donald Trump about former national security adviser Michael Flynn's guilty plea. The public White House schedule had said that reporters would be allowed to document part of Trump's meeting with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj." ...

...

Since [Flynn] is only pleading to relatively minor offenses and ones that are easily proven, it will be impossible to claim that he’s suffering a monstrous injustice. This makes a pardon unlikely, and it also makes it hard to attack the Special Counsel or to justify firing him. It also makes ... Trump look bad for trying repeatedly to shut down both the FBI and the congressional investigations. In order to build an obstruction of justice charge against the president that will stick and have bipartisan resonance, it’s absolutely necessary that there be an underlying crime. Flynn has now pled guilty to crimes, and he’ll testify about other crimes. Not since John Dean decided to cooperate with the Watergate investigation has a president had worse news than this.... [Flynn] will provide evidence that implicates Trump and probably his sons and son-in-law, too. Without that kind of testimony, Flynn never could have gotten off so lightly."

Jonathan Swan of Axios: "President Trump is giving a speech Wednesday recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, according to two sources with direct knowledge." Mrs. McC: Because nothing says "Merry Christmas" like causing another huge upheaval between adherents to two other major religions.

Seung Min Kim, et al., of Politico: "Senate Republicans said Friday they have enough votes to pass their massive tax overhaul, even as they frantically rewrote the multi-trillion dollar legislation behind closed doors. “We have the votes,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared as Republicans emerged from a caucus meeting on the latest round of changes to the legislation." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Maybe it's worth noting that two of the supposed "men of principle" who just decided to vote for a tax bill "paid for" with the deficits they claim to so abhor -- Bob Corker & Jeff Flake -- are not running for re-election. That is, they have no reason to kowtow to their betters in the donor class. In addition, both have been highly critical of Trump. Nope, they're doing this to Americans for some reason that does not involve principle, money-grubbing or fidelity to the president. Maybe they're hoping for career moves into high-paying lobbying firms. I don't know. Anyhow, lumps of coal all around for the McScrooge party. ...

     ... Update: Now Corker says he'll vote against the bill. I can't keep up.

Fahrenthold & friend in happier days.That's Just Ducky. Rachel Bade of Politico: "Rep. Blake Farenthold used taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment claim brought by his former spokesman — the only known sitting member of Congress to have used a little-known congressional account to pay an accuser, people familiar with the matter told Politico. Lauren Greene, the Texas Republican’s former communications director, sued her boss in December 2014 over allegations of gender discrimination, sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment. Greene said another Farenthold aide told her the lawmaker said he had 'sexual fantasies' and 'wet dreams' about Greene. She also claimed that Farenthold 'regularly drank to excess' and told her in February 2014 that he was 'estranged from his wife and had not had sex with her in years.' When she complained about comments Farenthold and a male staffer made to her, Greene said the congressman improperly fired her.”

Radio Television Digital News Association: "The nation’s largest retailer [WalMart] Wednesday removed from its website a controversial t-shirt that threatens journalists, shortly after RTDNA and its Voice of the First Amendment Task Force sent a letter to the company’s top executives requesting its removal. The shirt, featuring the words 'Rope. Tree. Journalist. SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED,' had been offered for sale on Walmart.com by a third-party seller, Teespring.com, which also offers on its site a coffee mug featuring the slogan.... UPDATE: Less than 24 hours after Walmart removed the shirt from its website, Teespring.com, the third-party seller that had been offering the shirt on Walmart.com removed it from its site as well." Mrs. McC: Nice that these fine retailers realized (with prodding) that hanging reporters does not reflect the spirit of the season.
 

*****

News on the Senate's GOP tax bill, which is expected to pass today, is further down the page.

National Christmas Tree Lighting attendance 2016, 2017.... Red Painter of Crooks & Liars on crowd size -- seems to be a Trumpian problem for some reason. Painter reposts some tweety commentary. Thanks to Patrick for the link. See also his commentary below. ...

Mike Allen, official Washington gossip: "White House officials expect Trump to be even more outrageous and cocksure in coming months.... Officials tell us Trump seems more self-assured, more prone to confidently indulging wild conspiracies and fantasies, more quick-triggered to fight than he was during the Wild West of the first 100 days in office.... We just witnessed the most unthinkable 96 hours of Trump's reign: He called for a probe of the chairman of NBC News, a boycott of CNN, global skepticism of CNN International, and a public contest to crown the king of Fake News. He told friends that the 'Access Hollywood' tape may have been doctored, and that former President Obama may have been born abroad. He re-tweeted conspiracy theorists. He unapologetically circulated videos aimed at demeaning an entire religion, Islam. He sent his press secretary out to argue it doesn't matter if the tapes are fake, because the threat is real.... Elected Republicans, at least in public, seem fine with it all. They chuckle and say it's simply Trump being Trump. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and his staff seem fine with, or at least resigned to, this reality. No one who matters is doing anything but egging him on." (Also linked yesterday.) Exhibits which followed publication of Allen's post appear below. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The world will go out with a bang, not a whimper. ...

... Michelle Goldberg: "By the end of the day [Wednesday], Trump had been condemned by Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, to which he responded by going after a different Theresa May on Twitter, dragging an obscure woman who at the time had six followers into the limelight. In another tweet, he insinuated that the TV host Joe Scarborough killed an intern in 2001, when he was a congressman. This came after news reports informed us that Trump is still a birther and that he no longer admits that the voice on the infamous 'Access Hollywood' tape is his own.... Reports from the administration all suggest an increasingly unhinged and chaotic president.... This should be seen as an emergency situation. But now that Republicans are about to get their tax cuts, they appear to have decided that it doesn’t matter whether the president is sane.... If you think 2017 was bad, imagine an America without allies fighting another two-front war, this one involving nuclear weapons, under the leadership of the most hated president in modern history, while a torture apologist [Tom Cotton] runs the C.I.A.... If everything goes up in flames, we can’t say we weren’t warned." ... Thanks to Marvin S. for the link. ...

... Bandy Lee, in a letter to the editor of the New York Times: "I am the editor of 'The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.' We represent a much larger number of concerned mental health professionals who have come forward to warn against the president’s psychological instability and the dangers it poses. We now number in the thousands. We are currently witnessing more than his usual state of instability — in fact, a pattern of decompensation: increasing loss of touch with reality, marked signs of volatility and unpredictable behavior, and an attraction to violence as a means of coping. These characteristics place our country and the world at extreme risk of danger." ...

... Lindsey Graham used to think so, too. Not any more:

... Exhibit A. Josh Dawsey, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Trump has told others that a government shutdown could be good for him politically and is focusing on his hard-line immigration stance as a way to win back supporters unhappy with his outreach to Democrats this fall, according to people who have spoken with him recently. Over the past 10 days, the president has also told advisers that it is important that he is seen as tough on immigration and getting money for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.... Trump’s mixed messages on a partial government shutdown could hamper the ability of congressional Republicans to negotiate with Democrats, whose support they need to pass spending legislation in coming weeks. Many Republicans said this week that a shutdown is an unwelcome possibility they hope to avoid. Even inside the White House, aides fret about the possibility, saying it would not poll well."

of CNN: "After ... Donald Trump retweeted anti-Muslims videos on Wednesday, multiple State Department officials said the department communicated to the White House that there was concern that protests could happen at US embassies. Officials feared that the tweets, which appeared to depict Muslims engaged in different acts of violence, would spark a reprise of the violent protests at US embassies in the Middle East which are already on high security alert. Protests erupted in September 2012 following the publication of an anti-Muslim video on the internet. Embassies were on alert throughout the day, although no incidents have been reported thus far, the State Department officials said." ...

... Stephen Castle of the New York Times: "Pressure was growing in Britain on Thursday to withdraw President Trump’s invitation for a state visit, as trans-Atlantic tensions increased over his decision to share far-right videos, and then to rebuke Prime Minister Theresa May after she criticized his actions. The dispute has become an acute embarrassment for the British government, which on Thursday insisted it still enjoys a “special relationship” with the United States, and for Mrs. May, who has worked hard to cultivate close ties with Mr. Trump, only to be drawn into a public argument with him." ...

... Juan Cole: "Once upon a time, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sent Ike Eisenhower as the Supreme Allied Commander to stage D-Day at Normandy Beach along with allies and save Britain from fascism. On Wednesday, our nazi president Donald J. Trump tried to press fascism on Britain, pissing all over the graves of the 34,137 US service personnel who lost their lives in the Battle of Normandy and northern France, fighting Nazism.... Last year, a man influenced by Britain First killed British member of parliament Jo Cox for being insufficiently fascist. Her widower, Brendan, tweeted, 'Trump has legitimized the far-right in his own country; now he’s trying to do it in ours.'” --safari

Exhibit B. Peter Baker & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "The White House has developed a plan to force out Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, whose relationship with President Trump has been strained, and replace him with Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director, perhaps within the next several weeks, senior administration officials said on Thursday. Mr. Pompeo would be replaced at the C.I.A. by Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas who has been a key ally of the president on national security matters, according to the White House plan. Mr. Cotton has signaled that he would accept the job if offered, said the officials, who insisted on anonymity to discuss sensitive deliberations before decisions are announced. It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Trump has given final approval to the plan...." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Exhibit C. Update. Michelle Kosinski & Sara Murray of CNN: "Reports that the White House has a tentative plan to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that emerged Thursday were an effort to express ... Donald Trump's deep displeasure and publicly shame his secretary of state, a source with direct knowledge of the White House's thinking said Thursday. The hope from the White House, the source said, is to push out the plan to replace Tillerson and then 'wait for him to punch out.'" ...

     ... Josh Marshall: "That is hardly surprising given President Trump’s way of doing business for decades. But there’s more to it than that. This new report [from CNN] at least suggests that the initial news reports this morning were false.... [Government officials] don’t usually lie in the morning and then say in the afternoon 'Yes, we were lying. Ha ha.'” ...

     ... Mrs. McC: Marshall blames the media for "false reporting." I don't. If several usually-reliable, and probably high-level, sources tell you Secret A, those sources, at the very least, believe Secret A. Trump himself may have misled the sources. The Tillerson-is-leaving-soon story is an old one, and it would make sense for the administration to have an exit plan in place. And, since Trump can't take rejection, it's not even slightly surprising that he would try to frame Tillerson's departure as one he orchestrated. He may believe that now, whether it's true or not. ...

... Josh Rogin of the Washington Post: "Since well before the White House plan to replace Secretary of State Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo became public Thursday, Pompeo had been informally preparing to take over in Foggy Bottom, reaching out to potential candidates for positions and collecting ideas." ...

... Spencer Ackerman of The Daily Beast: "The Central Intelligence Agency is set to receive an advocate of waterboarding, sweeping surveillance powers, jailing journalists, and conflict with Iran as its next director. A combat veteran and first-term Arkansas GOP senator, Tom Cotton has wasted little time building his twin reputations as one of the Senate’s hardest hardliners and friendliest Donald Trump allies.... Now, following months of whispered reporting, White House chief of staff John Kelly has developed a plan to transition Cotton over to the Central Intelligence Agency directorship." --safari: It's reportedly Kelly, the racist "adult" in the room, manoeuvring Cotton into the CIA head. Too much Kool-aid? ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: As Ackerman reports, qualified interrogation officers find Cotton appallin. “Glenn Carle, a retired CIA operations officer with interrogation experience, called Cotton 'wholly unfit to be CIA director. 'Those of us with some knowledge and objectivity have pointed out endlessly that torture does not work, is illegal, is unnecessary and harms the perpetrators of it, Carle told The Daily Beast. 'Tom Cotton at present remains clueless about torture. He seems to base his beliefs on the efficacy of torture on B-movies and dog-eared Tom Clancy novels,' added former Navy interrogation-resistance instructor Malcolm Nance, who has been waterboarded and calls it torture.” ...

... Dan Friedman of Mother Jones: "In [Tom] Cotton, who reportedly wants the CIA job, President Donald Trump would install at the intelligence agency one of the most vocal supporters of his efforts to dismiss the Trump campaign’s suspected collaboration with the Kremlin in an effort to interferein the 2016 election...Cotton has repeatedly leapt to defend Trump administration officials over their contacts with Russians...Cotton has pushed the notion that Trump is tougher on Russia than Obama was.... Rejection of the intelligence community’s conclusions might be standard operating procedure for Trump partisans. It would take on a different significance coming from the head of the CIA." --safari

Aram Roston of Buzzfeed: "The White House and CIA have been considering a package of secret proposals to allow former US intelligence officers to run privatized covert actions, intelligence gathering, and propaganda missions, according to three sources who’ve been briefed on or have direct knowledge of the proposals. One of the proposals would involve hiring a private company, Amyntor Group, for millions of dollars to set up a large intelligence network and run counter terrorist propaganda efforts, according to the sources.... Another proposal presented to US officials would allow individuals affiliated with the company to help capture wanted terrorists on behalf of the United States.... The proposals sound like a convoluted movie plot, but two of the sources familiar with the project say discussions have been held recently with top national security officials." --safari: Whose campaign dollars are massaging this insanity?

The Trump-Russia Scandal

** It's Called "Obstruction of Justice." Jonathan Martin, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump over the summer repeatedly urged senior Senate Republicans, including the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to end the panel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to a half dozen lawmakers and aides. Mr. Trump’s requests were a highly unusual intervention from a president into a legislative inquiry involving his family and close aides. Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, the intelligence committee chairman, said in an interview this week that Mr. Trump told him that he was eager to see an investigation that has overshadowed much of the first year of his presidency come to an end. 'It was something along the lines of, "I hope you can conclude this as quickly as possible,’” Mr. Burr said.... In addition, according to lawmakers and aides, Mr. Trump told Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, and Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri and a member of the intelligence committee, to end the investigation swiftly.... This past summer, Mr. Trump also contacted Senator Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican who in August introduced a bipartisan bill limiting the president’s power to dismiss special prosecutors — a measure widely seen as aimed at protecting Mr. Mueller from Mr. Trump. In an interview this week, Mr. Tillis said the president 'just asked me where my head was.'”... Republicans played down Mr. Trump’s appeals, describing them as the actions of a political newcomer unfamiliar with what is appropriate presidential conduct." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Really? Trump is just a newbie & can't be expected to know you don't secretly strongarm senators to get them to quit digging into your illegal shenanigans? Their argument that Trump is too ignorant to be president is mighty self-defeating. P.S. Note the tenor of Trump's "request" to Burr. It's framed much like his "request" to Comey -- the guy he fired for not laying off Mike Flynn. ...

... Manu Raju, et al., of CNN: "Blackwater founder Erik Prince testified to House lawmakers that he met the head of a Russian investment fund earlier this year -- but he insisted it was not part of an effort to set up a Russian backchannel with the Trump administration, multiple sources told CNN.... Prince insisted he did not have the meeting at the request of the Trump administration.... Multiple sources said the roughly three-hour meeting was hostile, as Prince repeatedly expressed his disdain for the panel.... Prince's testimony is being was conducted in a closed session, but the committee plans to release a transcript of the interview." ...

** Reuters, via RawStory: "U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to answer questions on Thursday during a closed congressional hearing about whether President Donald Trump ever instructed him to hinder the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, a Democratic congressman said.... Representative Adam Schiff, the committee’s top Democrat, told reporters he was troubled by Sessions’ refusal to answer what he believes are essential questions. 'I asked the Attorney General whether he was ever instructed by the president to take any action that he believed would hinder the Russia investigation and he declined to answer the question,' Schiff said after the hearing." --safari ...

... Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post: "Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has reached a bail deal with prosecutors led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, agreeing to secure his release with four properties worth $11.6 million, forgo foreign travel and limit his travel within the United States. In a six-page court filing backed by more than 150 pages of financial documentation, Manafort’s lawyers agreed to a forfeiture of the homes held by Manafort, his wife and with their daughter if he fails to appear in court to face charges of money laundering and fraud in connection with his work advising a ­Russia-friendly political party in Ukraine."


Poor Mercenaries. Betsy Woodruff
of The Daily Beast: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions has a new group of critics: former officials at Blackwater, the military contracting firm that was sold and renamed after its connection to the killings of more than a dozen Iraqi civilians in 2007. That’s because in the ten years since those deaths in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, the Justice Department has taken an aggressive and sometimes unorthodox approach to prosecuting four former Blackwater contractors for those killings. And that aggressive stance is continuing under Sessions.... The founder of Blackwater, Erik Prince, is set [to] testify before the House intelligence committee on Nov. 30 as part of its Russia probe. And that gives the dispute an additional dimension. Two key players in the unfolding Trump-Russia drama are now at odds.... 'Jeff Sessions is a big, giant wussy and never has there been a more spineless, worthless guy holding that chair than him,' said one former Blackwater official." --safari

Julia Lurie of Mother Jones: "Kellyanne Conway is spearheading the Trump Administration’s efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a press conference Wednesday. Conway will 'coordinate and lead the effort from the White House,' according to Sessions.... Conway has 'zero background' on drug policy, says Keith Humphreys, a Stanford psychiatry professor and former Obama drug policy advisor, adding that it’s unclear what this position entails.... Trump has yet to install a drug czar, or the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which typically leads the White House’s drug policy efforts.... Conway seems to share Trump’s reluctance to allocate significant funding to combat the opioid epidemic.... Solving the opioid epidemic, she declared, 'takes a four-letter word called ‘will.'" --safari: Sounds like an attempt at reputation washing to me. Sorry Conjob, sulphur doesn't wash off so easily. You're tainted for life. 

Remember Puerto Rico? Mark Hand of ThinkProgress: "It’s been more than two months since Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico — 70 days, to be exact — and government officials on the island and federal agencies in Washington still haven’t figured out how to handle the never-ending crisis.... The neglect means that, 10 weeks after Hurricane Maria struck, almost 50 percent of Puerto Ricans are still without power and at least 10 percent still do not have access to safe drinking water. Puerto Rico’s governor has pledged to restore power to 95 percent of the island’s residents by mid-December. But that’s overly optimistic, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which expects to reach just 75 percent by the end of January." --safari

GOP Tax Bill

Greg Sargent on Trump's huge betrayal of the white middle class he courted by making as his central argument his promise to end the cabal of wealthy elites to rig the tax system in their favor. "Now Trump and the politicians, working together, are set to pass a tax plan that will lavish enormous benefits on people like Trump — and in key ways further rigs the system on their behalf." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Erica Werner, et al., of the Washington Post: "The Republican plan for a massive tax overhaul slammed into late-stage drama on Thursday as party leaders scrambled to prevent several members from derailing the entire effort.... The tension played out during a tense 62-minute standoff on the Senate floor, as Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) refused to vote with their colleagues until they had assurances that more changes could be made to the bill. Corker and Flake had just been informed that their proposed “trigger,” a mechanism to raise taxes if economic growth came in slower than projected, would not be allowed by the Senate’s parliamentarian. So they demanded the bill be fundamentally changed to add tax revenue back into the packag.... The debate is now expected to spill into Friday night." ...

... Seung Min Kim & Colin Wilhelm of Politico: "Senate Republicans are still scrambling to win over enough votes to pass their massive tax code overhaul, with major changes to the bill still up in the air and debate pushed into Friday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the next vote in the tax debate will come at 11 a.m. Friday, as work continues behind the scenes to win over skeptical deficit hawks and other swing votes. Multiple GOP senators leaving the chamber after a dramatic late afternoon vote said a key proposal for deficit hawks — a trigger to raise tax rates if sufficient economic growth did not materialize — would not pass procedural muster and would need to find something else to satisfy the bloc of deficit hawk holdouts, led by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).... Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the floor Thursday, 'These changes and the way the majority leader is handling this make it impossible for any independent analyst to get a good look at the bill and how it would impact our country.'” ...

... Alexander Bolton & Naomi Jagoda of the Hill: "Senate GOP leaders have agreed to roll back $350 billion in tax relief in response to a procedural ambush by deficit hawks led by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) that nearly killed the GOP tax-reform bill. Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (Texas) told reporters after a round of intense discussions on the floor, 'We have an alternative, frankly, tax increase we don’t want to do to try to address Sen. Corker’s concerns.' Cornyn said the details of the proposal are being worked out. Corker had insisted on a trigger proposal that would have rolled back tax relief in case economic projections fell short of expectations. But the Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday afternoon that the trigger would not pass procedural muster.... Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) said the estimated reduction in tax relief would be $350 billion over a decade.”

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Well, pardon my gradeschool arithmetic teachers, but they never taught me how $350BB could sometimes equal $1.5TT. These senators must have had way better teachers. ...

...

The Treasury Department’s inspector general is examining whether political considerations interfered with Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s promised analysis of the Republican tax proposal. 'It’s a top priority,' Rich Delmar, counsel to inspector general Eric Thorson, said Thursday in an email.... In a letter early Thursday, Senator Elizabeth Warren [D-Mass.] asked Thorson’s office to review whether Treasury resources were used to research the tax plan, and why no analysis has been released to the public or Congress. Mnuchin has repeatedly pledged that the Republican proposal would pay for itself through economic growth, and that his department would provide detailed analysis to support those statements. But, with the Senate preparing to vote on the tax overhaul this week, Mnuchin has yet to deliver the analysis. 'Either the Treasury Department has used extensive taxpayer funds to conduct economic analyses that it refuses to release because those analyses would contradict the Treasury Secretary’s claims, or Secretary Mnuchin has grossly misled the public about the extent of the Treasury Department’s analysis,' Warren ... wrote in the letter.” ...

... "Failure Is Not an Option." Amber Phillips of the Washington Post: "The small business lobby. AARP. The medical community. More than half (52 percent) of Americans. Democrats in Congress. They all oppose a tax bill Senate Republicans are hurtling toward passing.... So then, why the rush to pass it? Because, this: 'Failure’s not an option,' said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) in the halls of Congress on Wednesday.... In the breath before, Graham had indicated he'll take pretty much anything that can remotely be called a tax bill.... Republicans have come to the conclusion something is better than nothing. That's really the driving force that could unify about 10 senators with competing concerns about the bill." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Evidently the tax bill is the reason Donald Trump isn't a kook any more. AND let's bear this in mind: Congressional Republicans could have written a tax bill that did nothing more than lower the corporate tax rate & close the loopholes that render the corporate rate uneven & far lower than it pretends to be anyway. To make the cut more popular, they could have thrown in a modest cut for middle-class taxpayers that would not have busted the budget. They would have gotten Democratic votes on it, too. Everybody would be impressed & happy that Republicans actually can get things done. But they're too fucking greedy to do the right thing. Or the responsible thing. Or the simplest thing.

... "The Lies John McCain Is Telling Himself." Addy Baird of ThinkProgress: "In his statement announcing he favored the bill Thursday, [Sen. John] McCain attempted to paint the bill as having gone through regular order, saying, 'I am pleased that this important bill was considered through the normal legislative processes, with several hearings and a thorough mark-up in the Senate Finance Committee during which more than 350 amendments were filed and 69 received a vote.' But that’s simply not true. While it has had a thorough mark-up, the bill has had not a single public hearing, keeping the bill hidden from the people whose lives will be affected.... The other problem ... is that the senator has long painted himself as a deficit hawk. Just last week he told Politico, 'I’m always worried about the deficit.' The framework for the bill allows for $1.5 trillion in higher deficits over the next 10 years, but McCain said Thursday that he doesn’t actually care.” Mrs. McC: McCain also seemed to suggest in his statement that a tax bill didn't have the same importance as a healthcare bill. But, as Baird points out, this particular tax bill "repeals Obamacare’s individual mandate, a move the Congressional Budget Office says would leave 13 million more people uninsured in the next ten years and premiums would increase 10 percent." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Assuming that the House & Senate can reconcile their competing bills, the only upside I see for Medlar & me is that our taxes actually will go down because in the recession/depression that is likely to follow in a few years, all of our investments will tank & the only income we'll have to report is the reduced Social Security pension the GOP allow us. Also, too, I hear pet feed producers are now making cat food that is safe for humans to eat. ... BUT ...

... Landon Thomas of the New York Times: "One of the longest stock-market booms in history continued its gravity-defying ascent Thursday, with investors cheering the prospect of deep corporate tax cuts and the rollback of government regulations under President Trump. The Dow Jones industrial average eclipsed yet another milestone, closing Thursday above 24,000 for the first time. And the Standard & Poor’s 500 index logged its 13th straight month of gains, the longest such streak in history." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Apparently investors read nothing but the Wall Street Journal editorial pages & know nothing about the history of tax cuts for the rich. Hint: cuts that "help" the wealthy & hurt everybody else cause recessions. The crash of 2008 was a direct result of the Bush tax cuts -- and those cuts, unlike the current tax cons, did not raise taxes on the poor & middle class. The way it works is pretty simple: if people can't afford to buy stuff, they don't. These bills will be particularly hard on the housing industry -- one of the biggest drivers of the economy -- because they cut out or reduce the deduction on property taxes & the mortgage deduction -- both of which help ordinary people buy more expensive houses. Add Trump's hard line on immigration, plus the country's low birth rate & ageing population -- immigrants & young people buy houses -- & you've got a severe recession in the making. This is just common sense; it's hard to understand why the masters of the universe & their GOP puppets are so stunningly ignorant. ...

... ** Paul Krugman: "... there’s no precedent for this frantic rush to pass major legislation before anyone can figure out what’s in it or what it does. And there’s a world of difference between normal political spin ... and the outright lies that have marked every aspect of the selling of this thing. [Steven] Mnuchin said his department had a study showing great effects on growth; that was a lie. Donald Trump says the bill is 'not good for me'; that’s a lie. Senator John Cornyn said, 'This is not a bill that is designed primarily to benefit the wealthy and the large businesses'; that was a lie. Senator Bob Corker said he wouldn’t support a plan 'adding one penny to the deficit'; that was a lie.... The rot is wide as well as deep.... Just about every G.O.P. member of Congress, including the sainted John McCain, is willing to put partisan loyalty above principle, voting for what they have to know is terrible and irresponsible legislation." Read it all. ...

... Adam Cancryn & Sarah Ferris of Politico: "... the $1.5 trillion tax package could trigger eye-popping cuts to a slew of federal programs, including Medicare. Unless Congress acts swiftly to stop it, as much as $150 billion per year would be cut from initiatives ranging from farm subsidies to student loans to support services for crime victims. Medicare alone could see cuts of $25 billion a year. And the specter of those cuts has thrust Congress into a high-stakes game of political chicken.... The far reach of the Republican tax plan is the consequence of limitations placed on Congress under the 'pay-as-you-go' rule. The decades-old law, revamped during the Obama presidency, requires Congress to offset the cost of each piece of legislation or risk spending cuts painful to both parties. Lawmakers have repeatedly voted to waive this rule, a total of 16 times, for major bills like the Obama-era stimulus and multiple tax cut packages under George W. Bush." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Um, that's the crux of the plan, isn't it? Give tax cuts to the rich, then take way even more programs from the middle-class & poor?


Louis Nelson
of Politico: "An Army veteran has accused Sen. Al Franken of groping her breast during a 2003 USO tour in Kuwait, the fifth woman to come forward with accusations against the Minnesota Democrat in the last two weeks. Former military policewoman Stephanie Kemplin told CNN Franken put his hand on her breast during a photo opportunity, keeping it there for five to 10 seconds, which she said was long enough that he should have noticed if it was a mistake." (Also linked yesterday.)

Elise Viebeck & Dave Weigel of the Washington Post: "House Democratic leaders called on Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) to resign Thursday, increasing pressure on the veteran lawmaker to leave office amid multiple allegations that he sexually harassed female aides. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her three deputies, including the House’s highest-ranking African American, Rep. James E. Clyburn (S.C.), said Conyers must step down, after one of his accusers detailed her experience on national television."

Kyle Cheney of Politico: "Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) announced Thursday that he won’t run for reelection in 2018, following a string of stories about him sending lewd texts and nude photos and videos to women. Barton, the ninth most-senior member of the House, told the Dallas Morning news in an interview, 'There are enough people who lost faith in me that it’s time to step aside.' Local GOP leaders had begun calling for Barton to step down in recent days." (Also linked yesterday.)

Justin Fishel of ABC News: "The Congressional Office of Compliance secretly paid close to $100,000 in taxpayer funds to settle sexual harassment claims from at least two young male staffers who worked for disgraced former Congressman Eric Massa, multiple sources with direct knowledge of the matter told ABC News. The claims were settled after Massa, a Democrat from upstate New York, resigned in 2010 amid a pending ethics investigation into allegations he groped and sexually harassed members of his staff."


**Abraham Lustgarten
of ProPublica: "In the United States, outdoor burning and detonation is still the military’s leading method for dealing with munitions and the associated hazardous waste. It has remained so despite a U.S. Senate resolution a quarter of a century ago that ordered the Department of Defense to halt the practice 'as soon as possible.'... Federal records identify nearly 200 sites that have been or are still being used to open-burn hazardous explosives across the country.... The facilities operate under special government permits that are supposed to keep the process safe.... Yet officials at the Environmental Protection Agency, which governs the process under federal law, acknowledge that the permits provide scant protection." --safari: Read on to see how your gov't treats its underlings...

...Here's a link to the map to see if a cleanup site is near you. --safari

Senate Race

... Avery Anapol of the Hill has the backstory. ...

... Here's the follow-up video, which Kimmel mentions. Mrs. McC: I found the bit more disturbing than funny. ...

... Brian Lawson of WHNT (Huntsville, Alabama): "The Campaign Legal Center (CLC), a non-partisan watchdog group, has filed an IRS complaint against the Foundation for Moral Law, the non-profit founded by [Roy] Moore and currently headed by his wife. The CLC says the foundation illegally promoted Moore's campaign. The Campaign Legal Center's Brendan Fischer explains, 'We noticed the Foundation for Moral Law, a charity that he founded, that is currently led by his wife, was particularly active in promoting his candidacy.' But Fischer said federal law bars charities from supporting political candidates.... This is the second time the CLC has raised alarm about Moore's campaign practices. They previously complained that Moore failed to disclose income he made from speeches, as evidenced by the fact that they didn't match his state ethics disclosures. The Moore Campaign later amended the federal disclosures." ...

... Trump's Finest. Brad Reed of RawStory: "Rev. Bill Atkinson, a pastor who sang for Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore at a recent campaign event, was convicted of obstructing an investigation into whether his son molested children at an orphanage his family owned in Honduras. Alabama.com reports that Atkinson in 2012 'was found guilty of obstruction and conspiracy for ordering two of his children to destroy a hard drive of a digital video recorder, which held evidence that incriminated' his son, William James “Will” Atkinson IV, of child molestation." --safari


Shawn Boburg
of the Washington Post: "Project Veritas, a conservative charity that uses deceptive techniques to make undercover video recordings to embarrass its targets, is at risk of losing its ability to raise money in New York because it did not disclose that its founder had a criminal record, New York regulators said Thursday. The organization has until Dec. 14 to explain why it failed to disclose James O’Keefe’s 2010 criminal conviction and had other omissions on records submitted to the state, according to a letter the New York attorney general sent to the charity Wednesday." ...

... Joseph Bernstein & Kendall Taggart of BuzzFeed: "The Mercers, secretive billionaires who are among President Trump's most powerful donors, also helped to fund Project Veritas, the controversial activist organization, tax filings obtained by BuzzFeed News show. Gravitas Maximus LLC — a Mercer investment vehicle through which he also funded the conservative outlet Breitbart — gave $25,000 to Project Veritas, according to a nonpublic portion of a 2012 tax form. The family's involvement has not previously been made public."

Beyond the Beltway

Vivian Ho of the San Francisco Chronicle: "A jury handed a stunning acquittal on murder and manslaughter charges to a homeless undocumented immigrant whose arrest in the killing of Kate Steinle on a San Francisco Bay pier intensified a national debate over sanctuary laws. In returning its verdict Thursday afternoon on the sixth day of deliberations, the Superior Court jury also pronounced Jose Ines Garcia Zarate not guilty of assault with a firearm, finding credence in defense attorneys’ argument that the shot that ricocheted off the concrete ground before piercing Steinle’s heart was an accident, with the gun discharging after the defendant stumbled upon it on the waterfront on July 1, 2015....

     ... Exhibit D: "President Trump, who has cited the case in his effort to build a border wall, said on Twitter, 'A disgraceful verdict in the Kate Steinle case! No wonder the people of our Country are so angry with Illegal Immigration.'” ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Trump's remark, besides being a careless subversion of the American jury system, is also nonsensical. The jury did not consider Garcia Zarate's immigration status in making its determination. Unlike you & I, presidents & lawmakers have to be careful to show respect for the courts. When President Obama criticized the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, he did so "with all due deference to separation of powers." Oftentimes when a court ruled against an Obama administration order or rule, the administration would release a statement saying it "disagreed" with the court's decision. Obama did not use incendiary phrases like "disgraceful verdict."

Meet Your Confederates. Jesse Paul of The Denver Post: "A southeast Colorado Republican appointed to the state legislature this week has apologized for Facebook posts that were critical of African Americans and Muslims and which drew concerns from top state party officials. 'I would like to apologize for the comments or posts on Facebook that have been found offensive and racist,' Judy Reyher said in a statement emailed to The Denver Post. 'However, the fact of the matter is, I am not a racist.'... In an interview with the newspaper, Reyher also questioned whether former President Barack Obama was born in the U.S. (an idea that has been debunked), and said that 'the black community and the Democrats are the most racist group of people that exist,' and that black people 'hate white people with a passion.'" --safari

Wednesday
Nov292017

The Commentariat -- November 30, 2017

Late Morning Update:

Seung Min Kim of Politico: "Sen. John McCain said he will back the GOP tax overhaul, providing a major lift to the bill's prospects." Mrs. McC: The Senate bill will pass. I don't see any three GOP senators ready to stop it. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Assuming that the House & Senate can reconcile their competing bills, the only upside I see for Medlar & me is that our taxes actually will go down because in the recession/depression that is likely to follow in a few years, all of our investments will tank & the only income we'll have to report is the reduced Social Security pension the GOP allow us. Also, too, I hear pet feed producers are now making cat food that is safe for humans to eat.

Peter Baker & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "The White House has developed a plan to force out Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, whose relationship with President Trump has been strained, and replace him with Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director, perhaps within the next several weeks, senior administration officials said on Thursday. Mr. Pompeo would be replaced at the C.I.A. by Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas who has been a key ally of the president on national security matters, according to the White House plan. Mr. Cotton has signaled that he would accept the job if offered, said the officials, who insisted on anonymity to discuss sensitive deliberations before decisions are announced. It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Trump has given final approval to the plan...."

Mike Allen, official Washington gossip: "White House officials expect Trump to be even more outrageous and cocksure in coming months.... Officials tell us Trump seems more self-assured, more prone to confidently indulging wild conspiracies and fantasies, more quick-triggered to fight than he was during the Wild West of the first 100 days in office.... We just witnessed the most unthinkable 96 hours of Trump's reign: He called for a probe of the chairman of NBC News, a boycott of CNN, global skepticism of CNN International, and a public contest to crown the king of Fake News. He told friends that the 'Access Hollywood' tape may have been doctored, and that former President Obama may have been born abroad. He re-tweeted conspiracy theorists. He unapologetically circulated videos aimed at demeaning an entire religion, Islam. He sent his press secretary out to argue it doesn't matter if the tapes are fake, because the threat is real.... Elected Republicans, at least in public, seem fine with it all. They chuckle and say it's simply Trump being Trump. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and his staff seem fine with, or at least resigned to, this reality. No one who matters is doing anything but egging him on." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The world will go out with a bang, not a whimper.

Greg Sargent on Trump's huge betrayal of the white middle class he courted by making as his central argument his promise to end the cabal of wealthy elites to rig the tax system in their favor. "Now Trump and the politicians, working together, are set to pass a tax plan that will lavish enormous benefits on people like Trump — and in key ways further rigs the system on their behalf."

Kyle Cheney of Politico: "Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) announced Thursday that he won’t run for reelection in 2018, following a string of stories about him sending lewd texts and nude photos and videos to women. Barton, the ninth most-senior member of the House, told the Dallas Morning news in an interview, 'There are enough people who lost faith in me that it’s time to step aside.' Local GOP leaders had begun calling for Barton to step down in recent days."

Louis Nelson of Politico: "An Army veteran has accused Sen. Al Franken of groping her breast during a 2003 USO tour in Kuwait, the fifth woman to come forward with accusations against the Minnesota Democrat in the last two weeks. Former military policewoman Stephanie Kemplin told CNN Franken put his hand on her breast during a photo opportunity, keeping it there for five to 10 seconds, which she said was long enough that he should have noticed if it was a mistake."

 

*****

Let This Sink in. Eileen Sullivan & Dan Bilefsky of the New York Times: "President Trump shared videos supposedly portraying Muslims committing acts of violence on Twitter early Wednesday morning, images that are likely to fuel anti-Islam sentiments popular among the president’s political base in the United States.... Mr. Trump retweeted the video posts from an ultranationalist British party leader, Jayda Fransen, who has previously been charged in the United Kingdom with 'religious aggravated harassment,' according to news reports.... British politicians were quick to condemn Mr. Trump’s tacit endorsement of the videos. The office of Theresa May, the British prime minister, said, 'It is wrong for the president to have done this.'... David Lammy, a member of Parliament for the Labour Party, echoed that statement on Twitter. 'Trump sharing Britain First. Let that sink in. The President of the United States is promoting a fascist, racist, extremist hate group whose leaders have been arrested and convicted. He is no ally or friend of ours.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Nico Hines of the Daily Beast: "Donald Trump retweeted an apparent snuff video to his 40 million followers Wednesday morning, with footage depicting what looked like a brutal murder carried out by an Islamist mob that had been posted by a far-right British political activist.... Two of [Jayda] Fransen’s other videos — which were also retweeted by the president — were apparently aimed at inciting religious hatred. One was titled 'Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!' and the other was 'Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!' According to Dutch media, the teen seen bullying the kid on crutches turned out not to be a Muslim or an immigrant." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

The world needs to start calling out this president for what he truly is, and making it clear that he and his country cannot be respected while this radicalisation continues.... The world must not remain silent while the US president promotes extreme right wing politics in other countries. -- Gloria, in yesterday's Comments

... Fake Is Good, After All. AND Mrs. Huckleberry tells reporters it doesn't matter whether or not the videos are real. "The threat is real," she said. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Update. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "The White House that complains almost daily about 'fake news' doesn't care if these videos are fake news as long they serve real purposes. Sanders just tacitly endorsed the concept of propaganda, and she said it out loud.... The White House just publicly sanctioned the use of false information to further its political goals.... That's a hell of an standard operating procedure. It's even more remarkable that it was acknowledged publicly." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Maxwell Tani of Business Insider: "... Donald Trump on Wednesday called for the Morning Joe' host Joe Scarborough — as well as MSNBC's president, Phil Griffinto be fired, citing an unfounded conspiracy theory about the 2001 death of an intern in Scarborough's congressional office. Trump's tweet mentioned NBC's firing on Wednesday of the longtime 'Today' show host Matt Lauer after receiving a complaint that Lauer had engaged in 'inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.' 'So now that Matt Lauer is gone when will the Fake News practitioners at NBC be terminating the contract of Phil Griffin? And will they terminate low ratings Joe Scarborough based on the 'unsolved mystery' that took place in Florida years ago? Investigate!' Trump wrote. Trump was referring to a longtime obsession of online conspiracy theorists: the death in 2001 of an aide to Scarborough, a Republican congressman from Florida at the time, named Lori Klausutis. Authorities said they found no evidence of foul play — a medical examiner said that because of a heart problem, Klausutis lost consciousness and collapsed in Scarborough's district office, hitting her head."

Greg Sargent: Trump "is trying to render reality irrelevant.... He’s asserting a species of power — the power to evade constraints normally imposed by empirically verifiable facts, by expectations of consistency, and even by what reasoned inquiry deems merely credible. The more brazen or shameless, the more potent is the assertion of power. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This technique works on Trump's bozo base; they are either too dumb to discern fact from fiction, or they don't care as long as Trump keeps promising to give them some bit of whatever it is they want. But it should be clear by now that it does not work on those whom he attacks with his brazen lies.  ...

... Lachlan Markay, et al. of The Daily Beast: "On Wednesday morning, the president of the United States was condemned by 10 Downing Street and praised by David Duke. Those responses — inconceivable for any other White House occupant prior — came after a series of angry tweets and retweets, in which President Donald J. Trump promoted explicit anti-Muslim propaganda, floated a conspiracy theory about MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, called for the sacking of his enemies at NBC, and potentially undermined his own 'travel ban' case to the delight of plaintiffs currently suing the administration.... All this happened before 10:30 a.m. ET.... What set Wednesday’s digital outbursts apart is that they had the potential to spark far more serious international and diplomatic disputes.... [F]ew people inside the White House seemed to express much concern over the president’s tweets on Wednesday" --safari ...

... New York Daily News Editors: "After his latest spasm of deranged tweets, only those completely under his spell can deny what growing numbers of Americans have long suspected: The President of the United States is profoundly unstable. He is mad. He is, by any honest layman’s definition, mentally unwell and viciously lashing out.... Occam’s razor, and the sheer strangeness of Trump’s behavior, leads us to conclude that we are witnessing signs of mania." The editors go on to discuss some of Trump's other cruel & dishonest tweets -- like his attack on Joe Scarborough. ...

Hey, look, I’m president. I don’t care. I don’t care anymore. -- Donald Trump, at a speech yesterday in Missouri

... Philip Rucker & Ashley Parker of the Washington Post: "Trump has internalized the belief that he can largely operate with impunity, people close to him said. His political base cheers him on. Fellow Republican leaders largely stand by him. His staff scrambles to explain away his misbehavior — or even to laugh it off. And the White House disciplinarian, chief of staff John F. Kelly, has said it is not his job to control the president. For years, Trump has fired off incendiary tweets and created self-sabotaging controversies. The pattern captures the musings of a man who traffics in conspiracy theories and alternate realities and who can’t resist inserting himself into any story line at any moment." ...

     ... AND, according to Rucker & Parker, two of Trump's harshest GOP Congressional critics -- Sens. Lindsay Graham & Jeff Flake -- called Trump's retweeting the anti-Muslim videos "not helpful." Not helpful? Playing golf is not helpful. Promoting incendiary fascist, nationalistic, racist content for the purpose of inciting hatred & turmoil is intolerable & INSANE.


Matt Apuzzo
of the New York Times: "... Jared Kushner met this month with investigators working for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, and answered questions about a meeting with a Russian ambassador during the presidential transition, according to a person briefed on the investigation. The questions focused on a meeting in December between Mr. Kushner, the ambassador and Michael T. Flynn, who at the time was the president’s incoming national security adviser, the person said on Wednesday. Prosecutors also asked Mr. Kushner about other interactions between Mr. Flynn and the Russian government, the person briefed on the investigation said."

Kara Scannell, et al., of CNN: "Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team has postponed an anticipated grand jury testimony linked to his investigation into Michael Flynn amid growing indications of possible plea deal discussions."

Manu Raju of CNN: "Donald Trump Jr. has agreed to meet with the House Intelligence Committee as soon as next week, giving lawmakers their first opportunity to question President Donald Trump's eldest son over his contacts with Russians during the campaign season, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the matter.... Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina told CNN Wednesday that his panel planned to interview Trump Jr. in December." The House testimony, or chat or whatever, "is expected to occur behind closed doors." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Manu Raju & Jeremy Herb of CNN: "President Trump's longtime associate Roger Stone was in contact with a New York radio personality who had conversations with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during the 2016 campaign season, according to sources familiar with the situation.The radio host, Randy Credico, is the individual Stone referred to as an intermediary between him and Assange.... On his radio show, Credico has had both Assange and Stone appear as guests, and he met with Assange in person earlier this year.... Credico received a subpoena this week to appear Dec. 15 before the House Intelligence Committee, something Credico's attorney Martin Stolar says he 'certainly' plans to comply with.... Credico, who says he backed Green Party candidate Jill Stein in the election and supports liberal causes like legalizing marijuana, wouldn't say whether he would answer the committee's questions, citing First Amendment protections as a journalist."


Dan Vergano of BuzzFeed: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday announced that pollster Kellyanne Conway, 50, counselor to ... Donald Trump, would oversee White House efforts to combat the opioid overdose epidemic.... But ... the administration still hasn't named someone to head its Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), or released a strategy to combat the crisis (one is promised in February), or requested any money from Congress to fill the depleted national public health emergency fund — now down to $66,000 — to pay for its health emergency declaration." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This is kinda perfect inasmuch as Conway always acts as if she's popping something. ...

... Eric Levitz: "Conway is a career pollster and pundit, best known for managing Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and telling brazen lies on cable news. She has no experience in public health. And it is not immediately clear whether she will be abandoning her surrogate duties to devote herself to her new assignment."


John Wagner
of the Washington Post: In St. Charles, Missouri, "... President Trump on Wednesday pitched the Republican tax plan as a boon to his working-class supporters, even as independent analyses have indicated that the wealthy and corporations would be the biggest beneficiaries. 'Our focus is on helping the folks who work in the mail rooms and the machine shops of America, the plumbers, the carpenters, the cops, the teachers, the truck drivers …. the people that like me best,' Trump said in remarks to an enthusiastic, invitation-only crowd of about 1,000 at a convention center in a state that he carried comfortably in last year’s election.... During his remarks..., Trump suggested that the GOP efforts were widely popular. 'We have tremendous support for this plan, tremendous,' he said.... Several recent polls show that more Americans oppose than support the Trump and GOP tax plans.... Trump also said that he would not fare well under the plan — a contention that independent analyses have disputed...." ...

This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing, believe me. This is not good for me. . . . I think my accountants are going crazy right now. — President Trump, remarks on tax plan, St. Charles, Mo., November 29

When you add it up, Trump would have saved $42 million on his 2005 taxes under the House bill and $35.1 million under the Senate bill. A big part of the savings is from elimination of the alternative minimum tax, and of course we do not know how often he was subject to it. But the fact that the president has refused to release his tax returns should not allow him to make claims about his taxes without offering documented proof. The information we do have — the partial 2005 return — shows his claim of losing a fortune on the tax bill is poppycock. -- Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post 

... Linda Qiu of the New York Times rounds up more of the lies Trump told yesterday in Missouri: "He is wrong that 'for years, they haven’t been able to get tax cuts, many, many years since Reagan.'... He falsely called the current plan the 'biggest tax cut in the history of our country, bigger than Reagan.'... He falsely suggested that the stock market was previously flat. He inaccurately suggested the plan wouldn’t help the wealthy.... He exaggerated when he said a 3.3 percent growth was the 'largest increase in many years.'”... Mrs. McCrabbie: I guess Missouri is the "tell-me state" now.

... ** Thomas Kaplan & Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "The Senate moved closer to approving a sweeping overhaul of the tax code on Wednesday, voting to begin debate on the tax bill as Republican leaders continue trying to secure the votes for final passage. The procedural vote, which passed 52 to 48 along party lines, put the Senate on track for a final vote later this week. The push by Senate Republicans to pass an ambitious tax overhaul now enters a critical and politically delicate phase. Republican leaders still lack firm commitments from enough of their members to ensure passage later in the week, and significant changes were still being discussed on Wednesday." ...

... James Hohmann of the Washington Post: "Outside groups on the right are furiously mobilizing against an agreement that Republican leaders made with Bob Corker [Tuesday] to get the tax bill through the Senate Budget Committee. The Tennessee Republican negotiated a budget deal in September that the tax cuts cannot increase the national debt by more than $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years. Now he’s concerned about various gimmicks and overly rosy assumptions in the bill that would almost certainly mean the true impact on the debt is far greater than that. So the retiring senator has been pushing in recent days to include a 'trigger' that would automatically increase taxes down the road if the bill fails to generate the level of economic growth that Republicans leaders keep publicly predicting. It’s not clear what exactly GOP leaders promised Corker, who declined to share specifics with reporters.... In addition to Corker, the compromise is being crafted to win over other on-the-fence Republicans like James Lankford (Okla.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Jerry Moran (Kan.).... Despite the rift, the sense in the Capitol is that there is real momentum toward getting this done. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) appeared ready to fall in line after a private meeting with Trump [Tuesday]." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Andy Rosenthal of the New York Times: "Susan Collins and some other senators who had hinted they might oppose the Republican tax bill giveaway to the super rich are changing their tune. Apparently, President Trump assured them over lunch that he’s going to fix the bill.... One of the few certainties in these uncertain times is that no one can rely on anything Trump says. But these senators believe him now? The only other option is that they know Trump’s pledges to 'fix' the tax bill are insincere and they are conning their constituents and the rest of America." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This is the same president* who has told at least 1,600 lies since coming into office & has proved to be willing to say anything to get his way. And, as John Wagner of the WashPo reported (linked above), he told several more whoppers about the tax plan Wednesday. Nice to know Collins & Corker are feeling so much better about screwing their constituents. They have no shame. ...

... New York Times Editors: "This is how Senate Republicans compromise these days: They could make their enormously unpopular tax bill, which lavishes benefits on corporations and wealthy families, more generous to real estate tycoons and hedge fund billionaires to win over a couple of lawmakers who say the legislation doesn’t do enough for small businesses. Even by the collapsing standards of Congress this is astounding. The change demanded by the two unhappy senators — Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Steve Daines of Montana — would further lower the tax bills of people like President Trump who earn most of their income through limited liability companies, partnerships and other 'pass through' businesses that do not withhold taxes on the money passed along to their owners. About 70 percent of all pass-through income goes to people in the top 1 percent of Americans who receive any income whatsoever." ...

... Sarah Kliff of Vox: "The Senate tax bill is really a health care bill with major implications for more than 100 million Americans who rely on the federal government for their health insurance. The bill reaches into every major American health care program: Medicaid, Medicare, and the Obamacare marketplaces. These are expected outcomes based on two significant policy changes in the bill. First, the bill repeals the individual mandate, a key piece of Obamacare that requires most Americans get covered. Economists expect its elimination to reduce enrollment in both the Affordable Care Act’s private marketplaces and Medicaid by millions. The money saved will be pumped into tax cuts for the very wealthy. The bill also includes tax cuts so large that they would trigger across-the-board spending cuts — including billions for Medicare. The last time Medicare was hit with cuts like this, patients lost access to critical services like chemotherapy treatment." ...

... Gary Koenig & Maxim Shvedov of the AARP: "Like the House tax bill, many taxpayers age 65+ get some tax relief under the [Senate Finance Committee] bill. But others end up paying higher income taxes than they pay today and the number doing so rises sharply over time. That impact is in addition to the potential negative effects of cuts to programs like Medicare that would result from the tax bill—effects that the analysis does not cover." ...

... ** Peter Goodman & Patricia Cohen of the New York Times: "... as the [tax] bill has been rushed through Congress with scant debate, its far broader ramifications have come into focus, revealing a catchall legislative creation that could reshape major areas of American life, from education to health care.... Many [experts] view the legislation not as a product of genuine deliberation, but as a transfer of wealth to corporations and affluent individuals — both generous purveyors of campaign contributions." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: In addition to all the tremendous ills Goodman & Cohen lay out, I predict the bill will worsen the "American character," if there be such a thing. Why do as President Obama suggested -- "work hard & play by the rules" to get ahead -- when the government purposely has stacked the rules against you? Zillions of Amercans will become little Trumpies, McConnells & Ryans  -- lying, sneaky, sanctimonious grifters who live by the GOP motto: "Do unto others before they do unto you."

E.J. Dionne: "Great nations and proud democracies fall when their systems become so corrupted that the decay is not even noticed — or the rot is written off as a normal part of politics. President Trump has created exactly such a crisis. He has not done it alone. The corrosion of norms and values began long before he propelled the nation past the edge, and his own party is broadly complicit in enabling his attacks on truth, decency and democratic values. In fact, Republicans are taking full advantage of the bedlam Trump leaves in his wake.... They dare not take on Trump because doing so might derail the pursuit of what are now their party’s only driving purposes: court packing, the care and feeding of the privileged, and the gutting of federal social services and regulation. This, too, is a form of corruption.... The longer this president is in power, the weaker our country will become."

Senate Races

Mrs. McCrabbie: Now don't tell me Republicans don't have some great Americans running for the Senate: How about a guy who just got out of the federal pen for indirectly causing the deaths of 29 employees? How about a guy who is an accused pedophile who has been removed from his state's high court twice for defying federal court rulings?

Adam Raymond of New York: "Don Blankenship, the disgraced coal baron who was released from federal prison in May, will run for the U.S. Senate in West Virginia, local news is reporting. The former CEO of Massey Energy filed Tuesday to run in the crowded Republican primary.... If people in the rest of the country know Blankenship, it’s likely because of his 2015 conviction for conspiring to break mine-safety laws, leading to the 2010 disaster at the Upper Big Branch Mine. Twenty-nine men died in an explosion there, but Blankenship refused to shoulder any of the blame. While in prison, he wrote a 67-page booklet in which he claimed to be an 'American political prisoner' and arguing that the deadliest mine disaster in four decades was caused by natural factors. The federal government has disputed that claim.

Addy Baird, et al. of ThinkProgress: "Alabama Republican Senate Candidate Roy Moore co-authored a study course, published in 2011 and recently obtained by ThinkProgress, that instructs students that women should not be permitted to run for elected office. If women do run for office, the course argues, people have a moral obligation not to vote for them. The course is also critical of the women’s suffrage movement, which in 1920 secured some American women the right to vote." --safari ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This view alone -- not to mention all his other abhorrent views & his alleged behavior toward teenaged girls -- renders Moore unfit for public office. For starters, what he's suggested is blatantly unconstitutional. But never mind; Alabama voters are ready to put him in the Senate where he'll take an oath of office he has no intention to uphold. ...

... Beth Reinhard, et al., of the Washington Post: "The failed effort by conservative activists to plant a false story about Senate candidate Roy Moore in The Washington Post was part of a months-long campaign to infiltrate The Post and other media outlets in Washington and New York, according to interviews, text messages and social media posts that have since been deleted. Starting in July, Jaime Phillips, an operative with the organization Project Veritas..., joined two dozen networking groups related to either journalism or left-leaning politics."


Brandy Zadozny
of the Daily Beast: "In a previously unreported comment to the now-defunct Maximum Golf magazine, Donald Trump singled out a 'young socialite' at his club at Mar-a-Lago by telling a reporter, 'there is nothing in the world like first-rate pussy.' The remark never made its way to print, as a top editor of the magazine forbade the reporter from putting it in the publication [and changed the word 'pussy' to 'talent']. But the former journalist who wrote the article, Michael Corcoran, and another editor, both confirmed that it was said by Trump as Corcoran followed him around at his Florida golf club for a profile.” Among Trump's guests that weekend in 2000 were "now-disgraced pedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein and his society gal-pal Ghislaine Maxwell — who have since been accused by dozens of women of running what amounted to a 'sex slave' ring." ...

... Margaret Hartmann: "And Fox News’s Tucker Carlson recalled that Trump once responded to quip about his hair by saying 'But I get more pussy than you do.' Yet, the New York Times reported yesterday that when the campaign first learned of the Access Hollywood tape’s existence, 'Mr. Trump said the words described by the newspaper did not sound like things he would say....' In recent days we’ve learned he now denies that he ever bragged that when you’re famous you can 'just start kissing' beautiful women or even 'grab ’em by the pussy' – though the comment is on tape, and he later admitted it was him and apologized.”

Rod Meloni of Channel 4 Detroit: "Sources told Local 4 that [Rep. John] Conyers [D-Mich.] will not seek re-election for a new term in the wake of the [sexual harassment] scandal, which continues to grow. Two sources close to the Conyers situation told Local 4's Rod Meloni that the congressman won't resign. It's his intent to announce in January that he won't run for re-election in 2018."

Ellen Gabler, et al., of the New York Times: "On Wednesday, NBC received at least two more complaints related to [Matt] Lauer, according to a person briefed on the network’s handling of the matter. One complaint came from a former employee who said Mr. Lauer had summoned her to his office in 2001 and then had sex with her. She provided her account to The New York Times...." (This is the Jim Rutenberg story, linked yesterday, & substantially updated.) ...

... Ramin Setoodeh & Elizabeth Wagmeister of Variety: "As the co-host of NBC’s 'Today,' Matt Lauer once gave a colleague a sex toy as a present. It included an explicit note about how he wanted to use it on her, which left her mortified. On another day, he summoned a different female employee to his office, and then dropped his pants, showing her his penis. After the employee declined to do anything, visibly shaken, he reprimanded her for not engaging in a sexual act. He would sometimes quiz female producers about who they’d slept with, offering to trade names. And he loved to engage in a crass quiz game with men and women in the office: 'f[uck], marry, or kill,' in which he would identify the female co-hosts that he’d most like to sleep with. These accounts of Lauer’s behavior at NBC are the result of a two-month investigation by Variety, with dozens of interviews with current and former staffers. Variety has talked to three women who identified themselves as victims of sexual harassment by Lauer, and their stories have been corroborated by friends or colleagues that they told at the time." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: So now we know why NBC fired Lauer. It was not a "pre-emptive action," as Jim Rutenberg speculated in yesterday's New York Times; rather, it was a response to the heads-up the network got from Variety's reporters. And, according to Variety, the suits have known about Lauer's behavior for a long time -- and did nothing: "Several women told Variety they complained to executives at the network about Lauer’s behavior, which fell on deaf ears...." That's the way it always was; we'll see if the recent firings of celebrities & other accused sexual abuserss represent a sea change or if this is a PR blip of limited duration. ...

     ... Update: AND Elizabeth Drew (article linked below) adds that, "An apparent instigator of the swift action against Lauer was that his employers had become aware that The New York Times and others had been circling Lauer in recent weeks, asking questions about his behavior. This suggests that some outlets have been more concerned about bad publicity — which can lose them precious advertisers...." ...

... digby reflects on Lauer's sexist handling of what was billed as a campaign forum featuring separate interviews of Hillary Clinton & Donald Trump. "Some of us watched it unfold in real time, appalled and shell-shocked. After it was over we were told that it was all her fault for being a 'terrible candidate' despite the fact that she still won the popular vote by a substantial margin even as she faced the headwinds of am unpredictable demagogic circus clown from hell who sucked up all the oxygen, an FBI director who lived in his own world, foreign hacking and other interference on Trump's behalf and a media that was led by people who commonly treat professional women like chattel and seemed determined to see her humbled come hell or high water.... After the fact the overarching narrative was that she lost because she didn't coddle insecure white men enough in her campaign. How very convenient.... I guess there's some justice that some of these men are paying a price for their more blatantly sexist behavior. But that pig is still in the oval office and ... he might just get us all killed."

Noir Guy. Jeff Baenen of the AP: "Garrison Keillor, the former host of 'A Prairie Home Companion,' said Wednesday he has been fired by Minnesota Public Radio over allegations of improper behavior. Keillor told The Associated Press of his firing in an email. In a follow-up statement, he said he was fired over 'a story that I think is more interesting and more complicated than the version MPR heard.' He didn’t give details of the allegation. 'It’s some sort of poetic irony to be knocked off the air by a story, having told so many of them myself, but I’m 75 and don’t have any interest in arguing about this. And I cannot in conscience bring danger to a great organization I’ve worked hard for since 1969,' Keillor said. Minnesota Public Radio confirmed Keillor had been fired, saying it received a single allegation of 'inappropriate behavior.'”(Also linked yesterday afternoon.)  ...

... Here's the statement from Minnesota Public Radio. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: If some of youse guys are genuinely shocked by all of the men accused of "inappropriate behavior," step back & think of your mothers, wives, daughter, female friends, etc. For any of us women who were not shut-ins all our lives, the only surprise is that the suits are bothering to fire their high-profile "talent." Until very recently, it was the victims who got the ax. I speak from personal experience. ...

... With Friends Like These. So last night, the Washington Post published one of Keillor's regular columns for the paper. You may have seen it already. In the column, Keillor defends Al Franken. For Franken to resign, Keillor wrote, "is pure absurdity, and the atrocity it leads to is a code of public deadliness. No kidding." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Elizabeth Drew in the New Republic: "Washington is the land of opportunity for sexual conquest, with members of Congress working late nights (yes, they often do) or traveling with aides on supposedly essential business. And, finally, it’s a city stuffed with people who have power over others.... To my mind all of these complaints [against Al Franken] aren’t remotely grounds for ejecting Franken from Congress.... It seems to me that a major factor in the issue of who should be punished is: Does or did the harasser have power over his victim(s)?... Latter-day Savanarolas pronouncing “zero tolerance” in Washington aren’t living in the real world."


Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Kristine Phillips
of the Washington Post: "Tony Hovater, the white nationalist and Nazi sympathizer featured in a controversial New York Times article this weekend, said he lost his job and would soon lose his home following a swift backlash over the article. Hovater, a 29-year-old Ohio resident, told The Washington Post on Wednesday that he has been fired from his job and that he and his wife, Maria, are in the process of moving out of their home in New Carlisle, Ohio, for financial and safety reasons. They could no longer afford to pay the rent, he said, and somebody had published their home address online.... Hovater said that he, his wife and his brother-in-law were fired Monday. All three worked at 571 Grill & Draft House, a small restaurant in New Carlisle[, Ohio]." The restaurant confirms the firings. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Don't worry, Tony. the presidunce* will probably appoint you-all to high-level jobs at HHS or wherever. In Trump's view, you're "very fine people." Anyhow, thanks, New York Times!

Way Beyond the Beltway

... For the most bizarre -- and macabre -- political story of the week, we go to the Hague where a televised sentencing hearing for a Croatian war criminal is going on: ...

... Mike Corder of the AP: "A convicted war criminal from Croatia swallowed what he said was poison and died Wednesday after a United Nations court in the Netherlands upheld his 20-year sentence for committing crimes against humanity during the Bosnian war of the 1990s. In a stunning end to the final case at the U.N.’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, former Croatian general Slobodan Praljak yelled, 'I am not a war criminal!' in a courtroom and appeared to drink from a small bottle. Medical staff at the tribunal in The Hague rushed to Praljak’s side before he was taken to a local hospital, where he died, tribunal spokesman Nenad Golcevski told reporters at the court. The courtroom where the dramatic scene unfolded was sealed off. Presiding Judge Carmel Agius said it was now a 'crime scene' and that Dutch police could investigate." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) 

Tuesday
Nov282017

The Commentariat -- November 29, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Let This Sink in. Eileen Sullivan & Dan Bilefsky of the New York Times: "President Trump shared videos supposedly portraying Muslims committing acts of violence on Twitter early Wednesday morning, images that are likely to fuel anti-Islam sentiments popular among the president’s political base in the United States.... Mr. Trump retweeted the video posts from an ultranationalist British party leader, Jayda Fransen, who has previously been charged in the United Kingdom with 'religious aggravated harassment,' according to news reports.... British politicians were quick to condemn Mr. Trump’s tacit endorsement of the videos. The office of Theresa May, the British prime minister, said, 'It is wrong for the president to have done this.'... David Lammy, a member of Parliament for the Labour Party, echoed that statement on Twitter. 'Trump sharing Britain First. Let that sink in. The President of the United States is promoting a fascist, racist, extremist hate group whose leaders have been arrested and convicted. He is no ally or friend of ours.'” ...

... Nico Hines of the Daily Beast: "Donald Trump retweeted an apparent snuff video to his 40 million followers Wednesday morning, with footage depicting what looked like a brutal murder carried out by an Islamist mob that had been posted by a far-right British political activist.... Two of [Jayda] Fransen’s other videos — which were also retweeted by the president — were apparently aimed at inciting religious hatred. One was titled 'Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!' and the other was 'Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!' According to Dutch media, the teen seen bullying the kid on crutches turned out not to be a Muslim or an immigrant." ...

... Fake Is Good, After All. AND Mrs. Huckleberry tells reporters it doesn't matter whether or not the videos are real. "The threat is real," she said. ...

     ... Update. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "The White House that complains almost daily about 'fake news' doesn't care if these videos are fake news as long they serve real purposes. Sanders just tacitly endorsed the concept of propaganda, and she said it out loud.... The White House just publicly sanctioned the use of false information to further its political goals.... That's a hell of an standard operating procedure. It's even more remarkable that it was acknowledged publicly."

Greg Sargent: Trump "is trying to render reality irrelevant.... He’s asserting a species of power — the power to evade constraints normally imposed by empirically verifiable facts, by expectations of consistency, and even by what reasoned inquiry deems merely credible. The more brazen or shameless, the more potent is the assertion of power. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This technique works on Trump's bozo base; they are either too dumb to discern fact from fiction, or they don't care as long as Trump keeps promising to give them some bit of whatever it is they want. But it should be clear by now that it does not work on those whom he attacks with his brazen lies. 

Manu Raju of CNN: "Donald Trump Jr. has agreed to meet with the House Intelligence Committee as soon as next week, giving lawmakers their first opportunity to question President Donald Trump's eldest son over his contacts with Russians during the campaign season, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the matter.... Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina told CNN Wednesday that his panel planned to interview Trump Jr. in December." The House testimony, or chat or whatever, "is expected to occur behind closed doors."

James Hohmann of the Washington Post: "Outside groups on the right are furiously mobilizing against an agreement that Republican leaders made with Bob Corker yesterday to get the tax bill through the Senate Budget Committee. The Tennessee Republican negotiated a budget deal in September that the tax cuts cannot increase the national debt by more than $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years. Now he’s concerned about various gimmicks and overly rosy assumptions in the bill that would almost certainly mean the true impact on the debt is far greater than that. So the retiring senator has been pushing in recent days to include a 'trigger' that would automatically increase taxes down the road if the bill fails to generate the level of economic growth that Republicans leaders keep publicly predicting. It’s not clear what exactly GOP leaders promised Corker, who declined to share specifics with reporters.... In addition to Corker, the compromise is being crafted to win over other on-the-fence Republicans like James Lankford (Okla.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Jerry Moran (Kan.).... Despite the rift, the sense in the Capitol is that there is real momentum toward getting this done. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) appeared ready to fall in line after a private meeting with Trump yesterday."

Noir Guy. Jeff Baenen of the AP: "Garrison Keillor, the former host of 'A Prairie Home Companion,' said Wednesday he has been fired by Minnesota Public Radio over allegations of improper behavior. Keillor told The Associated Press of his firing in an email. In a follow-up statement, he said he was fired over 'a story that I think is more interesting and more complicated than the version MPR heard.' He didn’t give details of the allegation. 'It’s some sort of poetic irony to be knocked off the air by a story, having told so many of them myself, but I’m 75 and don’t have any interest in arguing about this. And I cannot in conscience bring danger to a great organization I’ve worked hard for since 1969,' Keillor said. Minnesota Public Radio confirmed Keillor had been fired, saying it received a single allegation of 'inappropriate behavior.'” ...

... Here's the statement from Minnesota Public Radio. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: If some of youse guys are genuinely shocked by all of the men accused of "inappropriate behavior," step back & think of your mothers, wives, daughter, female friends, etc. For any of us women who were not shut-ins all our lives, the only surprise is that the suits are bothering to fire their high-profile "talent." Until very recently, it was the victims who got the ax. I speak from personal experience. ...

... With Friends Like These. So last night, the Washington Post published one of Keillor's regular columns for the paper. You may have seen it already. In the column, Keillor defends Al Franken. For Franken to resign, Keillor wrote, "is pure absurdity, and the atrocity it leads to is a code of public deadliness. No kidding." ...

... Okay, Absurd. BUT for the most bizarre -- and macabre -- political story of the week, we go to the Hague where a televised sentencing hearing for a Croatian war criminal is going on: ...

... Mike Corder of the AP: "A convicted war criminal from Croatia swallowed what he said was poison and died Wednesday after a United Nations court in the Netherlands upheld his 20-year sentence for committing crimes against humanity during the Bosnian war of the 1990s. In a stunning end to the final case at the U.N.’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, former Croatian general Slobodan Praljak yelled, 'I am not a war criminal!' in a courtroom and appeared to drink from a small bottle. Medical staff at the tribunal in The Hague rushed to Praljak’s side before he was taken to a local hospital, where he died, tribunal spokesman Nenad Golcevski told reporters at the court. The courtroom where the dramatic scene unfolded was sealed off. Presiding Judge Carmel Agius said it was now a 'crime scene' and that Dutch police could investigate."

*****

I hope we get through this. -- Fleeting Expletive, in yesterday's Comments

Mike DeBonis, et al., of the Washington Post: "The Republican push to rewrite the tax code gained momentum Tuesday after a Senate panel advanced the measure and several wavering lawmakers signaled that they are leaning toward backing the bill. Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee unanimously voted to send the party’s tax package to the Senate floor, setting up a final vote as soon as this week. The measure moved forward when two GOP senators on the committee who had threatened opposition, Sens. Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Ron Johnson (Wis.), instead supported the legislation. Corker said he had reached an agreement with GOP leaders that would limit the tax plan’s impact on the debt. Johnson, who has repeatedly threatened to vote against the bill because he says it favors corporations over other businesses, said he continued to have concerns but voted to 'make sure this process moves forward.'” ...

... Toluse Olorunnipa of Bloomberg: "Major companies including Cisco Systems Inc., Pfizer Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. say they’ll turn over most gains from proposed corporate tax cuts to their shareholders, undercutting ... Donald Trump’s promise that his plan will create jobs and boost wages for the middle class. The president has held fast to his pledge even as top executives’ comments have run counter to it for months. Instead of hiring more workers or raising their pay, many companies say they’ll first increase dividends or buy back their own shares." ...

... Ezra Klein: "The Senate GOP tax bill is remarkable in how many problems it creates, in how certain those problems are compared to the relatively uncertain benefits the bill intends to deliver, and — importantly — in how easy the whole thing would be to fix. Start with how the bill is paid for. It isn’t. These are deficit-financed tax cuts." Klein goes on to list some of the known problems the bill creates. ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Do any GOP members of Congress ever read this stuff? The most cursory check of the headlines would tell them their tax scam is a tax scam. You have to assume they know it & don't care.

New York Times: "The two top Democrats, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, said their party will skip a planned meeting with Mr. Trump and congressional leaders that was scheduled for this afternoon after the president posted on Twitter this morning that he was meeting with 'Chuck and Nancy' to discuss ways to avert a government shutdown and wrote 'I don’t see a deal! 'Given that the President doesn’t see a deal between Democrats and the White House, we believe the best path forward is to continue negotiating with our Republican counterparts in Congress instead,' Mr. Schumer and Ms. Pelosi said in a statement.” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: Here's the full TrumpenTweet: Meeting with 'Chuck and Nancy' today about keeping government open and working. Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes. I don’t see a deal! So Trump tells three big fat defamatory lies about the Democratic leaders in one tweet (oh, hooray for 280 characters) as prelude to a negotiation, apparently thinking this will cow Chuck & Nancy. Um, no. ...

     ... Update. Nobody Wants to Sit with Donald. Jordan Fabian of the Hill: "President Trump tore into Democratic leaders on Tuesday for skipping a legislative strategy session at the White House. Trump said he is 'not surprised' that Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) decided not to attend.... 'Now it’s even worse. Now it’s not even talk. Now they’re not even showing up to the meeting,' Trump said.The president spoke at the White House, flanked by two empty chairs with placards for Schumer and Pelosi. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) sat at opposite ends of a long table inside the Roosevelt Room."

George Hunter of the Detroit News: "A former staffer of U.S. Rep. John Conyers said the veteran lawmaker made unwanted sexual advances toward her, including inappropriate touching, adding to allegations by other unnamed former employees that have prompted a congressional investigation. Deanna Maher, who worked for him from 1997 to 2005, told The Detroit News that the Detroit Democrat made unwanted advances toward her three times. Maher is the second former Conyers staffer to go public with accusations about the veteran lawmaker." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Lissandra Villa & Paul McLeod of BuzzFeed: "Former Michigan Rep. Candice Miller, a Republican who chaired the committee that oversees the Office of Compliance for four years, says she consistently refused requests to settle sexual harassment claims — including one that appears to match the details of a complaint against Rep. John Conyers.... 'I was not going to be approving spending taxpayer dollars to protect members of Congress who were behaving like dogs. Let them pay for it out of their own darn pocket,' she said.... The payment [to Conyers' accuser] appears to have been made by designating the woman as a 'temporary employee' for three months, despite her being banned from the office, rather than through a treasury fund set up to handle cases like Conyers’." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie : That is, it appears Conyers used a subterfuge to pay off the woman. That sounds like misuse of taxpayer funds to me: he paid her for working while she wasn't working. ...

... Elise Viebeck, et al., of the Washington Post: "The political future of Congress’s longest-serving member, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), appeared precarious late Tuesday as leaders pressured him to resign over allegations he sexually harassed multiple female aides. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and members of the Congressional Black Caucus encouraged the veteran lawmaker to step down as soon as this week after a fourth accuser came forward Tuesday morning, according to a senior Democratic aide...." ...

... Deirdre Walsh & Manu Raju of CNN: "Several Congressional Black Caucus members are in talks to get veteran Rep. John Conyers to resign amid allegations of sexual misconduct, several Democratic sources told CNN on Tuesday."

The Madness of King Donald. Maggie Haberman & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Shortly after his victory last year, Donald J. Trump began revisiting one of his deepest public humiliations: the infamous 'Access Hollywood' tape of him making vulgar comments about women. Despite his public acknowledgment of the recording’s authenticity in the final days of the presidential campaign — and his hasty videotaped apology under pressure from his advisers — Mr. Trump as president-elect began raising the prospect with allies that it may not have been him on the tape after all.... 'We don’t think that was my voice,' Mr. Trump told [a Republican] senator [in January].... Since then, Mr. Trump has continued to suggest that the tape that nearly upended his campaign was not actually him.... Mr. Trump’s falsehoods about the 'Access Hollywood' tape are part of his lifelong habit of attempting to create and sell his own version of reality.... In recent months, they say, Mr. Trump has used closed-door conversations to question the authenticity of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. He has also repeatedly claimed that he lost the popular vote last year because of widespread voter fraud...." ...

... Josh Dawsey, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Trump has expressed certainty that the special-counsel probe into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia will be finished by the end of the year, complete with an exoneration from Robert S. Mueller III, according to several friends who have spoken with him in recent days. Trump has dismissed his historically low approval ratings as 'fake' and boasted about what he calls the unprecedented achievements of his presidency, even while chatting behind the scenes, saying no president since Harry Truman has accomplished as much at this point." ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: Dr. Marvin S., who is an expert on this kind of behavior, has been writing for more than a year that Trump isn't lying, that he believes these fantasies. If you didn't believe Marvin then, you should believe him now. ...

... Jonathan Chait is coming around: "The prevailing interpretation of Donald Trump, shared by all his enemies and many of his allies, is that he is a con man.... But new reporting has opened up a second possibility: The president has lost all touch with reality.... He does not merely tell lies in order to gull the public, or to manipulate allies. He tells lies in private that he has no reason to tell.... If Trump actually has the ability to convince himself of his own lies, it would suggest a possibility far more dangerous than even his critics have previously assumed. He might be in the grip of a mental health issue, or at least one more serious than mere sociopathy. And the mutterings that he might need to be removed from office through the 25th Amendment could grow more serious than many of us expected." ...

... Steve M. has a different take, but the effect is the same: "I think Trump gaslights himself. I think he tells himself that he's never done anything to embarrass himself, and that any setbacks in his life were just traps set sadistically for him by people who resent his success and his brilliance. This isn't dementia. It's a sort of Zen -- he's banished the notion of real truth from his mind in favor of the notion that a superior being can make truth whatever he wants it to be, not just for the suckers but for himself. I think he really believes what he tells himself. And that's terrifying."

... digby: "You might wonder how this can go on. Who knows? But at least they'll get their motherfucking tax cuts."

Mark Landler, et al., of the New York Times: "North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday that flew both higher and longer than previous such launches, a bold act of defiance against President Trump after he put the country back on a list of state sponsors of terrorism. The president reacted cautiously to news of the launch, stating, 'It is a situation that we will handle.' But Defense Secretary Jim Mattis expressed greater concern, emphasizing what he said were technical advances on display in the 53-minute flight, which began when the missile was launched northeast of the capital, Pyongyang, and ended nearly 600 miles to the east, when it landed in the Sea of Japan. 'It went higher, frankly, than any previous shot they’ve taken,' Mr. Mattis said in the White House....” ...

... Anna Fifield of the Washington Post: "North Korea launched what appears to be another intercontinental ballistic missile, the Pentagon said Tuesday, with experts calculating that the U.S. capital is now technically within Kim Jong Un’s reach. The launch, the first in more than two months, is a sign that the North Korean leader is pressing ahead with his nation’s stated goal of being able to strike the United States’ mainland and is not caving in to the Trump administration’s warnings. The missile logged a longer flight time than any of its predecessors."


Mike Flynn Was Corrupt from the Git-Go. Greg Jaffe
, et al., of the Washington Post: "The week after President Trump’s inauguration, national security adviser Michael Flynn forwarded a memo written by a former business associate and told his staff to fashion it into a policy for President Trump’s approval, according to two people familiar with the exchange. The proposal — to develop a 'Marshall Plan' of investment in the Middle East — was being pushed by [IP3,] a company that Flynn had advised during the 2016 campaign and transition. The firm was seeking to build nuclear power plants in the region.... To push the idea 'in the first week of the administration without any policy process made no sense,' said a person familiar with episode... 'It was a business proposal in the form of a policy paper.'... A White House official said the National Security Council staff handled Flynn’s apparent conflict of interest appropriately. 'They did their best to tamp it down,' the official said. IP3 said in a statement that the company never paid Flynn and that he did not accept its offer to serve as an adviser, despite his statement on the disclosure form that he held such a role.” ...

... Sam Thielman of TPM: "Flynn's proposal was simple and brazen..., the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. Flynn’s plan to promote his former colleagues’ business interests in the Middle East while serving in the Trump administration was previously known — what wasn’t known is how far he managed to get with it. The [plan]...: Flynn’s business associates would build and operate dozens of nuclear plants worth hundreds of billions of dollars in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East.... [Yesterday], the Journal reported that Flynn ... instructed his colleagues on the National Security Council to draft a plan for approval by the president based on memos from the group of retired military officers now working in the private sector. Since Flynn’s resignation, Flynn’s old business partners have sought out other avenues to get approval for the project, valued at $250 billion — including Jared Kush[n]er. The White House told the Journal 'nothing came' of the meetings with Kushner." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Clearly, Flynn -- like his boss -- saw the White House as a big ole cash register. Public service, my ass. AND you have to wonder what-all Wonder Boy Kushner did to help out. Maybe nothing. Maybe not nothing. ...

... Erin Banco of the Intercept: "Shortly before Donald Trump’s inauguration, Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater and head of Frontier Services Group, traveled to the Seychelles, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, and met with a Russian official close to President Vladimir Putin. According to the Washington Post, the meeting between the Russian and Prince, who presented himself as an unofficial envoy of Trump, took place 'around January 11' and was brokered by Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, to establish a backchannel between the president-elect and Putin. The identity of the Russian individual was not disclosed, but on January 11, a Turkish-owned Bombardier Global 5000 charter plane flew Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, to the Seychelles, flight records obtained by The Intercept show.... The RDIF is a $10 billion sovereign wealth fund created by the Russian government in 2011.... While it is legal to do business with RDIF in certain circumstances, there are several nuanced restrictions that if ignored or overlooked can easily lead to a violation." ...

... Billy House of Bloomberg: "The House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday afternoon interviewed the translator who attended a controversial meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer at the height of the presidential campaign. The closed-door interview with Anatoli Samochornov was confirmed by a congressional official familiar with the committee’s agenda." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: On the surface, Trump & his friends in Congress had a great day yesterday: Trump won the CFPB battle & the Senate Budget Committee passed the abominable snow job on a party-line vote, with the help of Republicans supposedly on the fence. BUT the Russia investigation keeps chugging along even as Donnie Delusional is checking his mail for that "complete exoneration" letter from Bob Mueller.


More Nazi Sympathizers. Luke Barnes
of ThinkProgress: "Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai is going on the offensive in his attempt to allow corporations to carve up the internet for cash. On Tuesday Pai claimed that tech companies were being hypocritical by advocating for net neutrality while they 'block or discriminate against content they don’t like' — specifically conservative content...He singled out Twitter, claiming that the company had a 'double-standard when it comes to suspending or de-verifying conservative users’ accounts as opposed to those of liberal users.' 'But the unspecified 'conservatives' that Pai was referring to weren’t conservatives at all — they were neo-Nazis and white supremacists." --safari

The Mooch Bows out Gracelessly. Maggie Astor of the New York Times: "Anthony Scaramucci, whose brief tenure last summer as White House communications director ended after a profane phone call to a New Yorker reporter, resigned on Tuesday from an advisory board at Tufts University after several weeks of conflict with students. Mr. Scaramucci said he was stepping down from the advisory board of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy to spare Tufts, his alma mater, unnecessary scrutiny. But he stood by his threat to sue The Tufts Daily, a student newspaper, and one of its writers if the writer did not apologize for critical op-eds published this month."

Annals of Journalism, Ctd. Jason Schwartz of Politico: "Adding fuel to its growing feud with ... Donald Trump, CNN told Politico it will be boycotting the White House Christmas party for the media this year. 'CNN will not be attending this year's White House Christmas party,' a CNN spokesperson said. 'In light of the President's continued attacks on freedom of the press and CNN, we do not feel it is appropriate to celebrate with him as his invited guests. We will send a White House reporting team to the event and report on it if news warrants.'” ...

... The "Trump Effect". Patrick Wintour of the Guardian: "A tweet by Donald Trump accusing CNN of purveying 'fake news' has been seized on by Libyan media to challenge a report by the US broadcaster which suggested modern day slave auctions were being held in the country... [I]n a sign that the US president’s persistent attacks on the credibility of American news outlets has a real world effect, the broadcaster Libya 218 used the tweet to question the credibility of the CNN video." --safari

Richard Oppel of the New York Times: "Dozens of Air Force service members charged with or convicted of serious crimes were never reported to the federal gun background-check database as required, Air Force officials said on Tuesday. The revelation came after the Air Force disclosed that it had failed to report the domestic violence conviction of Devin P. Kelley, the gunman who opened fire at a church in Texas this month. Under federal law, Mr. Kelley’s court-martial conviction for domestic assault should have prevented him from purchasing at a gun store the rifle he used in the attack, as well as other guns he acquired over the past four years.... Air Force officials say they are reviewing the results of the inquiry to date to assess whether to take any punitive action against personnel who failed to report Mr. Kelley’s conviction. The Air Force review is only one part of a wide-ranging investigation into the background-check reporting process underway inside the military and the Justice Department in the aftermath of the church massacre."

Spencer Hsu & Thomas Heath of the Washington Post: "A federal judge refused to block President Trump’s choice of budget director Mick Mulvaney from serving as acting director of the prominent federal consumer watchdog agency on Tuesday, denying a request by Leandra English, the No. 2 official at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to serve in his stead. In denying English’s request for a temporary restraining order, U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly acknowledged that the case raised consitutional issues. Former CFPB litigation counsel Deepak Gupta, who represented English, said she would weigh her next step."

Adam Goldman & Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "A former militia leader from Libya was convicted on Tuesday of terrorism charges arising from the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed a United States ambassador and three other Americans. But he was acquitted of multiple counts of the most serious offense, murder. The defendant, Ahmed Abu Khattala, 46, was the first person charged and prosecuted in the attacks, which took on broader significance as Republicans and conservative news outlets sought to use them to damage the presidential ambitions of Hillary Clinton, who was then the secretary of state. Yet the seven-week trial in federal court in Washington received relatively little attention from such quarters. Mr. Khattala was convicted on four counts — including providing material support for terrorism, conspiracy to do so, destroying property and placing lives in jeopardy at the mission, and carrying a semiautomatic firearm during a crime of violence — but acquitted on 14 others. He faces life in prison. The mixed verdict showed the difficulty of prosecuting terrorism cases when the evidence is not clear-cut." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: You might think confederates didn't really care about the deaths of four Americans. So those seven (or was it eight?) House investigations were about nothing more than pilliorying a political arrival? I'm so shocked.

Sam Levin of the Guardian: "Federal prosecutors targeting anti-Trump protesters are relying on video evidence from Project Veritas, a far-right group under fire this week for allegedly trying to dupe the Washington Post with a false story of sexual misconduct. The US attorney’s office submitted the footage in court on Tuesday as part of an ongoing trial against activists who protested Donald Trump’s inauguration and now face conspiracy and rioting charges that could lead to decades in prison.... The video comes from Project Veritas’ infiltration of a meeting where activists discussed plans to disrupt inauguration activities. The use of Project Veritas footage is the latest example of prosecutors relying on evidence linked to controversial far-right sources. The US attorney’s office has also submitted video from the Oath Keepers, a rightwing militia group that has been present at 'alt-right' rallies." --safari

The Washington Post on Monday published a report about a woman who falsely claimed Roy Moore sexually assaulted her as a teenager — and who appeared to work with Project Veritas, an organization that uses deceptive tactics and secretly recorded conversations in an effort to embarrass its targets. Shortly after the investigation was published, Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe tweeted a video of what he called his 'confrontation' with one of the authors of The Post investigation, Aaron C. Davis. The video was heavily edited.... In the full version of the video, O’Keefe repeatedly declined to answer questions about the woman and her affiliation with Project Veritas.... Project Veritas’s edited version leaves out most of The Post’s questions...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Wow! Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times: "NBC has fired its leading morning news anchor Matt Lauer over a sexual harassment allegation, the network’s president for news said in a memo to staff on Wednesday. 'On Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer,' Andrew Lack, the NBC News president, said in the memo. He said the allegation against Mr. Lauer 'represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company’s standards. As a result, we’ve decided to terminate his employment. While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over 20 years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.'... The “Today” staff learned the news shortly before going live.... The move by NBC represents one of the few examples of a company taking pre-emptive action over sexual harassment complaints before any allegations had become public.” ...

     ... AND This: "Mr. Lauer’s dismissal was seized upon by President Trump, who went on to ask in a tweet when executives at NBC and Comcast, the network’s parent company, would 'be fired for putting out so much fake news.'”

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Great photo with Rutenberg's article: Lauer interviewing Hillary Clinton during the campaign. Lauer was roundly criticized for going hard on the girl candidate while letting off the deranged candidate -- named directly above -- with softball questions.

Joe Romm of ThinkProgress: "Prices for new wind and solar plants continue to plunge at an astonishing pace. Driven by steadily improving technology and the use of auctions to set prices, the cost of solar and wind dropped 25 percent this past year — and even more in some key emerging markets like China, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance data. That drop comes on top of an 80 percent reduction in the previous 10 years, which is why building new renewable energy sources is now cheaper than just running old coal and nuclear plants, as a new analysis recently detailed." --safari