The Wires

Mrs. McCrabbie: This actually seems crazy to me:

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

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

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

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

Guardian: "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have introduced their newborn son to the world and revealed he is to be called Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. The name was announced shortly after the Queen met her eighth great-grandchild for the first time at Windsor Castle, where earlier the couple showed him off to the cameras."

Guardian: “The Duchess of Sussex has given birth to a baby son, weighing 7lbs 3oz. Mother and child were both doing well, Buckingham Palace announced. The Duke of Sussex was present for the birth, which happened at 5.26am on Monday. The child is seventh in line to the throne, and an eighth great-grandchild for the 93-year-old Queen.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

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

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

Wednesday
May082019

The Commentariat -- May 9, 2019

Afternoon Update:

Sheryl Stolberg & Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that the United States was in a 'constitutional crisis' and warned that House Democrats might move to hold more Trump administration officials in contempt of Congress if they continued their refusals to comply with committee subpoenas.... Ms. Pelosi said Democrats would bring the contempt citation [against AG William Barr] to the floor for a vote of the full House 'when we are ready.'" ...

     ... Katherine Tully-McManus of Roll Call goes in search of the Capitol jail: "Speaker Nancy Pelosi resurfaced one of the Capitol's most enduring mysteries when answering a question about whether Democrats might imprison Trump administration officials who defy Congress: the House jail.... 'We do have a little jail down in the basement of the Capitol, but if we were arresting all of the people in the administration, we would have an overcrowded jail situation. And I'm not for that,' Pelosi said Wednesday at a Washington Post live event.... Capitol Police officers from multiple divisions told CQ Roll Call that no House jail exists, though Capitol Police headquarters on D Street Northeast does have a holding facility.... There once was a cell in the Capitol basement to hold those in contempt, but it is long gone.... A senior House Democratic aide told CQ Roll Call that the sergeant-at-arms could use existing spaces in the Capitol to hold someone, as has been done in the past." Mrs. McC: More like a "gaol," then.

Annie Karni of the New York Times: "President Trump said on Thursday that he would leave it up to Attorney General William P. Barr to decide whether Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, may testify before Congress on the Russia investigation. His comments were a seeming reversal, since Mr. Trump wrote over the weekend on Twitter that Mr. Mueller should not be allowed to appear before Congress. Mr. Barr has told lawmakers that he has no objection to letting Mr. Mueller talk to them. In a surprise, 45-minute news conference in the Roosevelt Room, his first since the release of the special counsel's report, Mr. Trump also said he was' pretty surprised' that his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was subpoenaed to testify in front of the Senate about his contacts with Russians during the 2016 campaign.... 'My son is a good person,' Mr. Trump said. 'My son testified for hours and hours. My son was totally exonerated by Mueller.'... Mr. Trump, who for months has been advised not to personally attack Mr. Mueller, described him on Thursday as 'somebody that is in love with James Comey.'... He also appeared to hedge on claiming that the Mueller report cleared him of obstruction of justice, telling reporters that the findings showed that there was 'no collusion and, essentially, no obstruction.'" ...

... Caitlin MacNeal of TPM: "The President ... went off on several tangents related to Trump Jr.'s involvement in the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer. Trump worked in references to a favorite Republican target -- the dossier compiled by a former British intelligence officer -- as well as phone calls Don Jr. made to an unknown number while planning the infamous meeting." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: It depends upon what your definition of "a good person" is, I guess. But Mueller definitely did not "totally exonerate" Junior.

Alan Rappeport & Ana Swanson of the New York Times:"President Trump said on Thursday that the United States would raise tariffs on $200 billion of worth of Chinese goods on Friday morning and begin the process to tax nearly all of China's imports as he accused Beijing of trying to renegotiate' a trade deal. But Mr. Trump, who made his comments ahead of a pivotal meeting between United States and Chinese officials on Thursday afternoon, suggested an agreement could still be within reach, saying he had received a 'beautiful letter' from Chinese President Xi Jinping and would probably speak to him by phone.... Mr. Trump's toughened stance toward China has rattled American businesses.... The tariffs that would go into effect on Friday include many consumer products that Americans rely on from Beijing, like seafood, luggage and electronics."

Eileen Sullivan & Benjamin Weisner of the New York Times: "The United States has seized a North Korean shipping vessel that was violating American law and international sanctions, the Justice Department announced Thursday, a move certain to escalate tensions already on the rise between the two nations because of recent North Korean weapons tests. Prosecutors said the carrier ship, the Wise Honest, was being used to export North Korean coal, a critical sector of the North's economy that the United States and the United Nations have aggressively imposed sanctions on in an effort to force Pyongyang to end its nuclear weapons program."

Tara Palmeri of ABC News: "Ahead of the second summit in Hanoi, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un requested as part of the agreement between the countries moving forward that the U.S. send 'famous basketball players' to normalize relations between the two countries, according to two U.S. officials.... The request was made in writing, officials said, as part of the cultural exchange between the two countries, and at one point the North Koreans insisted that it be included in the joint statement on denuclearization. The North Koreans also made a request for the exchange of orchestras between the two countries."

Ben Popken of NBC News: "A co-founder of Facebook called for the government to break up the tech giant in an op-ed article Thursday in The New York Times. 'The Facebook that exists today is not the Facebook that we founded in 2004,' Chris Hughes, who started Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg in their Harvard dorm, told NBC News after the op-ed was published. 'And the one that we have today I think is far too big. It's far too powerful. And most importantly, its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is not accountable,' Hughes said.... In response to the op-ed article, Nick Clegg, the company's vice president of global affairs..., [said,] 'Accountability of tech companies can only be achieved through the painstaking introduction of new rules for the internet. That is exactly what Mark Zuckerberg has called for. Indeed, he is meeting Government leaders this week to further that work.'"

~~~~~~~~~~

The Trump Scandals, Ctd.

Sheryl Stolberg of the New York Times: "House Democrats, infuriated by President Trump’s stonewalling, are struggling to mount a more aggressive campaign to compel him to cooperate with their investigations -- a push that could include a threat to jail officials, garnish their wages and perhaps even impeach the president. With Mr. Trump throwing up roadblocks on practically a daily basis ... Democrats and their leaders are feeling a new urgency to assert their power as a coequal branch of government. Some who previously urged caution are now saying impeachment may be inevitable."

** Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to recommend the House hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over Robert S. Mueller III's unredacted report, hours after President Trump asserted executive privilege to shield the full report and underlying evidence from public view. The committee's 24-16 contempt vote, taken after hours of debate that featured apocalyptic language about the future of American democracy, marked the first time that the House has taken official action to punish a government official or witness amid a standoff between the legislative and executive branch. The Justice Department decried it as an unnecessary and overwrought reaction designed to stoke a fight." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Trump Orders Total Cover-up of Document That Totally Exonerates Him. Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "President Trump asserted executive privilege on Wednesday in an effort to shield hidden portions of Robert S. Mueller III's unredacted report and the evidence he collected from Congress. The assertion, Mr. Trump' first use of the secrecy powers as president, came as the House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote Wednesday morning to recommend the House of Representatives hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena for the same material." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Noah Feldman of Bloomberg: "Barr already had a chance to redact anything from the Mueller report that in his judgment would've violated executive privilege -- when he did the redaction in the first place. But Barr didn't redact anything at all from the report on the basis of executive privilege.... In other words, Barr has already effectively determined that nothing in the Mueller report needed to be redacted for executive privilege reasons.... Trump already waived executive privilege when he told McGahn that he could speak to the Mueller team. Ordinarily, you can't invoke a privilege once you've already waived it.... As that battle plays out, just remember that the words 'executive privilege' occur nowhere in the Constitution. The doctrine is a judicial construction, based on the logic of the separation of powers, with the goal of making sure the president can do the people's work."

Bob Brigham of the Raw Story: "Hours after the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Attorney General Bill Barr in contempt for defying a subpoena, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who chairs the House Permanent Committee on Intelligence, [announced his committee had just subpoenaed Barr].... 'For the last month and a half, the Committee has engaged the Department of Justice in a good faith effort to reach an accommodation of our requests for all of the foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information related to the Special Counsel's investigation, and the Mueller report and its underlying materials,' Schiff said. 'The Department has repeatedly failed to respond, refused to schedule any testimony, and provided no documents responsive to our legitimate and duly authorized oversight activities.'" ...

... Greg Sargent of the Washington Post: "President Trump has now formally exerted executive privilege over the redacted portions of the Mueller report and its underlying materials -- defying a House subpoena for those materials, and confirming once again that Trump will exercise maximal resistance to any and all oversight and accountability. This march into treating the House as fundamentally illegitimate is going to make it harder and harder for Democrats to resist launching an impeachment inquiry. In an interview, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif) -- the chair of the House Intelligence Committee -- said that if things continue on their current course, it will escalate the chances that 'we end up in a constitutional confrontation' and will add to 'the weight behind an impeachment process.'... As former prosecutor Mimi Rocah put it, this has the makings of a constitutional crisis, because 'the head of the Justice Department' is helping to block congressional investigations into the president 'regardless of law or merit.'" ...

... Felicia Sonmez of the Washington Post: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that President Trump is 'becoming self-impeachable,' pointing to his efforts to fight all subpoenas from congressional investigations and prevent key aides from testifying before Congress. 'The point is that every single day, whether it's obstruction, obstruction, obstruction -- obstruction of having people come to the table with facts, ignoring subpoenas ... every single day, the president is making a case --- he's becoming self-impeachable, in terms of some of the things that he is doing,' Pelosi said at a Washington Post Live event." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Sheryl Stolberg: "Even after President Trump sued him last month to keep his business records secret, Representative Elijah E. Cummings kept his cool and urged Congress to move slowly on impeachment. But with Mr. Trump manning a full-scale blockade of Democrats' access to documents and witnesses, the ordinarily careful Democrat is, like the rest of his caucus, growing impatient. 'It sounds like he's asking us to impeach him,' Mr. Cummings, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and a top lieutenant to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said in an interview last week. Ticking off all the ways Mr. Trump is stonewalling Congress, he added, 'He puts us in a position where we at least have to look at it.' Mr. Cummings's remarks, which have been echoed by Ms. Pelosi, represent a significant shift for top Democrats, who have been trying to maneuver carefully around the impeachment issue.... Mr. Cummings called the White House effort to block multiple lines of inquiry 'far worse than Watergate.' He sees a 'constitutional crisis' that even the founding fathers did not envision...." ...

... Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "President Trump's wholesale refusal to provide information to Congress threatens to upend the delicate balance that is the separation of powers outlined in the Constitution. Earlier administrations fought isolated skirmishes over congressional subpoenas. Mr. Trump, by contrast, has declared an all-out war on efforts by House Democrats to look into his official conduct and business dealings.... In a 1927 decision arising from the Teapot Dome scandal, concerning government corruption, the Supreme Court said that congressional inquiries were 'an essential and appropriate auxiliary to the legislative function.'... Raymond W. Smock, who served as historian of the House from 1983 to 1995, said it was one thing for Mr. Trump to assert a privilege and another for him to presume to decide what was a legitimate legislative purpose. 'That is part of the arrogance the Trump administration is exhibiting all up and down the line,' Mr. Smock said." ...

** Ken Dilanian of NBC News: "The Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr. to answer questions about his contention that he had only limited knowledge of a project to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, a source with direct knowledge tells NBC News. The committee, led by Republicans, is nearing completion of its investigation into Russian election interference.... Trump Jr. testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2017. He said he was only 'peripherally aware' of the Moscow development proposal, which was kept secret from voters. Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who was pursuing the project..., testified that he briefed Trump Jr. and his sister Ivanka Trump about the project 'approximately 10' times.... According to the Mueller report, Trump [Sr.] authorized and remained interested in the Moscow project, which was described as 'highly lucrative.' Trump Jr. was not charged by special counsel Robert Mueller over his Senate testimony, after months of speculation that such charges were possible." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Mark Mazzetti & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "The committee is particularly interested in the younger Mr. Trump's account of the events surrounding the Trump Tower meeting -- as well as his role in his father's efforts to build a skyscraper in Moscow -- and comparing the testimony to his previous answers to Senate investigators in 2017.... The decision to subpoena the president's son is an aggressive move, and appears to have come after discussions broke down about whether the younger Mr. Trump might appear voluntarily before the panel.... The subpoena was issued more than two weeks ago, one person said...."

Rachel Frazin of the Hill: "The New York State Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would allow state prosecutors to pursue charges in some instances in which a person received a presidential pardon. Under the legislation, 'a prosecution is not considered to have occurred if a person has been granted a reprieve, pardon, or other form of clemency for the offense by the President' and other conditions are met.... The bill was created to get rid of a loophole that would make it more difficult to prosecute someone who had received a pardon. The state Assembly has not scheduled a vote on the measure...." (Also linked yesterday.)

Jordyn Hermani of Politico: "Former FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday that the bureau' doesn't spy' and that he 'had no idea' why Attorney General William Barr used that language to describe agents' investigation of ... Donald Trump's 2016 campaign. 'I have no idea what [Barr's] talking about. The FBI doesn't spy. The FBI investigates,' Comey said on 'CBS This Morning.' 'The Republicans need to breathe into a paper bag. If we had confronted the same facts with a different candidate, say a Democrat candidate ... they would be screaming for the FBI to investigate, and that's all we did.'" (Also linked yesterday.)

Walter Shapiro, in the New Republic, enjoyed reading the New York Times' story (linked yesterday) about Trump's glorious business career: "Trump's dazzling failure helps explain how he and the Republicans have given the nation an era of nearly $1 trillion in annual deficits, despite the buoyant economy.... No coverup lasts forever -- and..., sooner or later, Trump's more recent tax returns will be made public.... Trump implicitly acknowledged the accuracy of the Times' tax reporting when he tweeted early Wednesday morning, 'You always wanted to show losses for tax purposes ... it was sport. Additionally, the very old information is a highly inaccurate Fake News hit job!' In his tweets, Trump claimed that his red-ink bookkeeping was all real estate gamesmanship, even though the Times' story pointedly declared, 'Depreciation cannot account for the hundreds of millions of dollars in losses Mr. Trump declared on his taxes.'... The case against Trump's reelection should be built around his bilious, maladroit, lawless presidency rather than his long-ago billion-dollar business failures." ...

... Josh Barro of New York: “You can't lose over a billion dollars if you don't have over a billion dollars to begin with. You can do things that cause over a billion dollars in losses.... Therefore, while we have now learned that Donald Trump reported over a billion dollars in losses over a decade on his tax returns, I object to the widespread characterization of him having 'lost' that much money himself. The math just doesn't add up.... The story I find most plausible is that Trump was claiming credit on his taxes for losses actually borne by other people or entities, such as banks that loaned money to him or his businesses and did not get paid back in full." Trump may have been able to do this through a tax loophole which Congress closed in 2002. "The primary lesson of Trump's massive reported losses from 1985 to 1994 is not that he was a comically bad businessman, but that he was comically undertaxed."

The Emperor Strikes Again. Dana Milbank: "For the past 21 years, I have had the high privilege of holding a White House press pass.... But no more. The White House eliminated most briefings and severely restricted access to official events. And this week came the coup de grace: After covering four presidents, I received an email informing me that Trump’s press office had revoked my White House credential.... It was part of a mass purge of 'hard pass' holders after the White House implemented a new standard that designated as unqualified almost the entire White House press corps, including all six of The Post's White House correspondents. White House officials then chose which journalists would be granted 'exceptions.' It did this over objections from news organizations and the White House Correspondents' Association.... The White House press office granted exceptions to the other six [Wash Po reporters], but not to me. I strongly suspect it's because I'm a Trump critic.... There's something wrong with a president having the power to decide which journalists can cover him." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This is banana-republic serious. Trump has done all he can to undermine the Congress. He is treating the Supreme Court as an ally (and who knows what he'll do if the courts order him to comply with Congressional subpoenas?), and now he is shutting out the "fourth branch of government," the press. ...

... Paul Farhi of the Washington Post has more on the White House's "new rules." Mrs. McC: Not surprisingly, it's a hot mess.

Say, let's milk this one for another day:

Jerry Ianelli of the Miami New Times: "Giancarlo Granda, the former Fontainebleau pool attendant whose business bizarrely received $1.8 million in loans from famous evangelist Jerry Falwell Jr., wants the world to stop calling him a 'pool boy.' He finds the term demeaning. And, perhaps more notable, he officially denies knowing anything about alleged 'racy' photos referenced in a Reuters story published yesterday.... [Reuters reporter Aram] Roston[, who wrote the racy photos story,] was also the reporter who broke the news that Falwell Jr. had mysteriously loaned Granda's business a ton of money and that [Michael] Cohen was aware of a lawsuit involving Falwell and Granda. Reporters have, ahem, speculated that Granda was the Floridian who had obtained said photos and that Cohen might have leveraged the scandal to get Falwell Jr. to endorse the infamously lecherous and not-at-all Jesus-like Trump in 2016.... Everything about the Falwell Jr. story is extremely weird. To summarize: In 2012, Granda was working as a pool attendant at the luxurious Fontainebleau in Miami Beach. While Granda was employed there, Falwell Jr. and his wife Becki stayed at the resort and, according to court records, 'befriended' Granda. From there, Granda grew very close to the Falwell family: According to court filings first reported by Roston, Granda, along with Falwell's son Trey, bought a hostel ... in Miami Beach and has been managing it ever since. (A Politico reporter even stayed there and implied the place was gay-friendly, which would be pretty darn hypocritical for the infamously homophobic Falwell family.) The Falwells also reportedly flew Granda around in a private jet and even took him to meet Trump."


Hate-Monger-in-Chief. The Mass Murder of Immigrants Is Funny. Matt Stieb
of New York: At a rally in Panama Beach, Florida last night, Trump said, “'You have hundreds and hundreds of [migrants] and you have two or three border security people that are brave and great -- and don't forget, we don't let them and we can't let them use weapons.... We can't. Other countries do. We can't, I would never do that. But how do you stop these people?' An audience member ... [shouted]. 'Shoot them'..., which caused the president, and [many] ... crowd members, to laugh. 'Only in the panhandle can you get away with that statement,' Trump said.... Trump's response, of course, provides a tacit endorsement of the audience member's call: If the president says you have gotten away with a horrendous statement, one might assume the behavior was okay."

Ana Swanson & Keith Bradsher of the New York Times: "President Trump taunted China on Wednesday morning, saying in a tweet that Chinese negotiators were attempting to drag out trade negotiations until a 'very weak' Democrat was back in the White House and insisting he would be happy to keep tariffs on Chinese exports rather than make a deal. 'The reason for the China pullback & attempted renegotiation of the Trade Deal is the sincere HOPE that they will be able to "negotiate" with Joe Biden or one of the very weak Democrats, and thereby continue to ripoff the United States (($500 Billion a year)) for years to come,' Mr. Trump said on Twitter Wednesday morning.... 'Guess what, that's not going to happen! China has just informed us that they (Vice-Premier) are now coming to the U.S. to make a deal. We'll see, but I am very happy with over $100 Billion a year in Tariffs filling U.S. coffers...great for U.S., not good for China!' he added.... But Mr. Trump appears ready to impose higher tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods on Friday morning, regardless of whether the talks get back on track." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Stephen Castle of the New York Times: "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday made a blistering attack against China as he stepped up pressure on Britain, warning that American intelligence sharing could be risked by the involvement of a Chinese company in a new British telecommunications network. Speaking in London, Mr. Pompeo argued that China posed such a range of economic and security threats that the world now faced 'a new kind of challenge, an authoritarian regime that's integrated economically into the West.' 'China steals intellectual property for military purposes,' he said. 'It wants to dominate A.I., space technology, ballistic missiles and many other areas.' The question on the table in Britain is whether the government should allow Huawei, a Chinese company considered a security risk by the United States, to help build some of the next-generation, 5G cellular network in Britain."

Wesley Morgan of Politico: "Former national security adviser H.R. McMaster accused some of his former White House colleagues on Wednesday of being 'a danger to the Constitution' because they are either trying to manipulate ... Donald Trump to push their own agenda or see themselves as rescuing the country from what they view as the commander in chief's bad policy choices.... He said others whom he declined to identify by name had very different agendas.... He declined to offer his opinion of his successor, John Bolton. Nor did he assess Trump directly."

** "The Gravedigger of Democracy." digby: "You might think that it makes no sense that members of Congress would go along with [turn(ing) the presidency into a (Republican) unitary executive office], seeing as it directly interferes with their own constitutional prerogatives.... But it turns out that the modern Republicans are loyal to their party above all else, and no one personifies that dedication more than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.... Recall that McConnell blithely announced after Barack Obama's election that his top priority was to see to it that Obama was a one-term president. He forced the Democrats to change the filibuster rules when he blocked 79 of Obama's judges, beating the previous record. (That would be the 68 judicial nominees that had been blocked in the entire history of the United States.) McConnell ... hen refused to even hold hearings for Merrick Garland, Obama's choice to fill Antonin Scalia's seat on the Supreme Court. Since Trump's election, McConnell has been dutifully jamming through hundreds of judicial appointments at breakneck speed.... On Tuesday, McConnell surpassed himself." Read on.

Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times: "An investigation into U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz [R] will proceed, the Florida Bar said Wednesday, meaning the Panhandle Republican could face discipline for allegedly intimidating ... Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen. A grand jury-like panel called the Grievance Committee will next decide whether there is probable cause that Gaetz's tweet broke the state Supreme Court's rules for lawyers. Gaetz, one of Trump's top allies in Congress, is licensed to practice law in Florida.... The complaint against Gaetz stems from a menacing tweet he sent on Feb. 27, the eve of Cohen's testimony before a House committee. Gaetz wrote: 'Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends? Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she'll remain faithful when you're in prison. She's about to learn a lot...' He has since deleted the tweet, but not before it went viral. Legal experts compared it to intimidation of a witness."

Presidential Race 2020. Whatever Happend to Howard Schultz? Matt Stieb: "We're still 18 months out from the presidential election, and yet the campaign process already includes distant memories like Howard Schultz's 2019 winter media blitz. In January and February, the billionaire and former Starbucks CEO aggressively toured the TV-news talk circuit, where he was barraged with questions about why he should pursue an independent run if it would pull business-minded centrists away from the Democratic nominee. But as of early May, the Schultz pre-campaign has gone dark. Aides who spoke to the Daily Beast say that Schultz has not given up on his presidential ambitions, but Schultz hasn't appeared in public since a visit to Arizona to discuss border security in late April. Recently scheduled events in Utah, San Francisco, and Dallas were canceled, and Schultz has cut down on his social-media presence.... Schultz spokesperson Erin McPike told the Daily Beast, he has been quiet recently because he is 'taking a break while he is recovering from back surgery.'"

Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post: "A new survey finds white Republicans are far more likely to be put off by foreign language speakers than their Democratic counterparts. According to Pew Research Center, 47 percent of such Republicans say it would bother them 'some' or 'a lot' to 'hear people speak a language other than English in a public place.' Eighteen percent of white Democrats said they would be similarly bothered. Aside from politics, age and education are the major predictors of linguistic discomfort."

Annals of Journalism, Ctd. Sam Roberts of the New York Times: "Robert Pear, a reporter whose understated demeanor belied a tenacious pursuit of sources and scoops during his 40 years at The New York Times covering health care and other critical national issues, died on Tuesday in Rockville, Md. He was 69."

Beyond the Beltway

Rhode Island. Some School Board Members Really Hate Kids. Elisha Fieldstadt of NBC News: "Students at a Rhode Island school district who owe money on their lunch accounts will have the sole option of a sunflower butter and jelly sandwich until they are able to pay their balances, the district announced Sunday. Warwick Public Schools, which has more than 9,000 pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, said the district-wide policy will go into effect on May 13.... Warwick School Committee chairwoman Karen Bachus told NBC News that the sandwiches are served with the vegetable of the day, a fruit and milk. Public schools in Rhode Island are mandated by state law to provide lunches to students."

Tuesday
May072019

The Commentariat -- May 8, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Ken Dilanian of NBC News: "The Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr. to answer questions about his contention that he had only limited knowledge of a project to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, a source with direct knowledge tells NBC News. The committee, led by Republicans, is nearing completion of its investigation into Russian election interference.... Trump Jr. testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2017. He said he was only 'peripherally aware' of the Moscow development proposal, which was kept secret from voters. Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who was pursuing the project..., testified that he briefed Trump Jr. and his sister Ivanka Trump about the project 'approximately 10' times.... According to the Mueller report, Trump [Sr.] authorized and remained interested in the Moscow project, which was described as 'highly lucrative.' Trump Jr. was not charged by special counsel Robert Mueller over his Senate testimony, after months of speculation that such charges were possible."

** Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday to recommend the House hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to turn over Robert S. Mueller III's unredacted report, hours after President Trump asserted executive privilege to shield the full report and underlying evidence from public view. The committee's 24-16 contempt vote, taken after hours of debate that featured apocalyptic language about the future of American democracy, marked the first time that the House has taken official action to punish a government official or witness amid a standoff between the legislative and executive branch. The Justice Department decried it as an unnecessary and overwrought reaction designed to stoke a fight."

Felicia Sonmez of the Washington Post: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that President Trump is 'becoming self-impeachable,' pointing to his efforts to fight all subpoenas from congressional investigations and prevent key aides from testifying before Congress. 'The point is that every single day, whether it's obstruction, obstruction, obstruction -- obstruction of having people come to the table with facts, ignoring subpoenas ... every single day, the president is making a case -- he's becoming self-impeachable, in terms of some of the things that he is doing,' Pelosi said at a Washington Post Live event."

Rachel Frazin of the Hill: "The New York State Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would allow state prosecutors to pursue charges in some instances in which a person received a presidential pardon. Under the legislation, 'a prosecution is not considered to have occurred if a person has been granted a reprieve, pardon, or other form of clemency for the offense by the President' and other conditions are met.... The bill was created to get rid of a loophole that would make it more difficult to prosecute someone who had received a pardon. The state Assembly has not scheduled a vote on the measure...."

Trump Orders Total Cover-up. Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "President Trump asserted executive privilege on Wednesday in an effort to shield hidden portions of Robert S. Mueller III's unredacted report and the evidence he collected from Congress. The assertion, Mr. Trump's first use of the secrecy powers as president, came as the House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote Wednesday morning to recommend the House of Representatives hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena for the same material."

Jordyn Hermani of Politico: "Former FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday that the bureau' doesn't spy' and that he 'had no idea' why Attorney General William Barr used that language to describe agents' investigation of ... Donald Trump's 2016 campaign. 'I have no idea what [Barr's]) talking about. The FBI doesn't spy. The FBI investigates,' Comey said on 'CBS This Morning.' 'The Republicans need to breathe into a paper bag. If we had confronted the same facts with a different candidate, say a Democrat candidate ... they would be screaming for the FBI to investigate, and that's all we did.'"

Ana Swanson & Keith Bradsher of the New York Times: "President Trump taunted China on Wednesday morning, saying in a tweet that Chinese negotiators were attempting to drag out trade negotiations until a 'very weak' Democrat was back in the White House and insisting he would be happy to keep tariffs on Chinese exports rather than make a deal. 'The reason for the China pullback & attempted renegotiation of the Trade Deal is the sincere HOPE that they will be able to "negotiate" with Joe Biden or one of the very weak Democrats, and thereby continue to ripoff the United States (($500 Billion a year)) for years to come,' Mr. Trump said on Twitter Wednesday morning.... 'Guess what, that's not going to happen! China has just informed us that they (Vice-Premier) are now coming to the U.S. to make a deal. We'll see, but I am very happy with over $100 Billion a year in Tariffs filling U.S. coffers...great for U.S., not good for China!' he added.... But Mr. Trump appears ready to impose higher tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods on Friday morning, regardless of whether the talks get back on track." ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: Forgot to mention this: Janna Herron of USA Today: "The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 450 points Tuesday and had its worst performance since Jan. 3. The other two top gauges of U.S. stocks, the Standard & Poor's 500 and the Nasdaq, notched their sharpest declines since March 22. Major U.S. stock indexes fell sharply for a second straight day after ... Donald Trump threatened a huge increase in tariffs on Chinese goods in two tweets over the weekend."

~~~~~~~~~~

Billion-Dollar Loser

** Russ Buettner & Susanne Craig of the New York Times: Over a ten-year period, from 1985 to 1994, “Mr. Trump appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer, The Times found.... His core business losses in 1990 and 1991 -- more than $250 million each year -- were more than double those of the nearest taxpayers in the I.R.S. information for those years.... [Ten] years of tax information obtained by The New York Times ... -- printouts from Mr. Trump's official Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts, with the figures from his federal tax form, the 1040, for the years 1985 to 1994 -- represents the fullest and most detailed look to date at the president's taxes, information he has kept from public view.... In 1985, Mr. Trump reported losses of $46.1 million from his core businesses -- largely casinos, hotels and retail space in apartment buildings. They continued to lose money every year, totaling $1.17 billion in losses for the decade.... Over all, Mr. Trump lost so much money that he was able to avoid paying income taxes for eight of the 10 years. It is not known whether the I.R.S. later required changes after audits.... Depreciation cannot account for the hundreds of millions of dollars in losses Mr. Trump declared on his taxes." ...

... Susanne Craig & Russ Beuttner list five takeaways from Trump's tax data: 1. Mr. Trump was deep in the red even as he peddled deal-making advice[.]... He recorded $42.2 million in core business losses for 1987, [the year he published The Art of the Deal]. "2. In multiple years, he appears to have lost more money than nearly any other individual taxpayer[.]... 3. He paid no federal income taxes for eight of the 10 years[.]... 4. He made millions posing as a corporate raider -- until investors realized he never followed through[.]... 5. His interest income spiked in 1989 at $52.9 million, but the source is a mystery[.]... public findings from New Jersey casino regulators show no evidence that he owned anything capable of generating that much interest. Nor is there any such evidence in a 1990 report on his financial condition...."

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Maybe, like me, you don't think reading about taxes is much fun, but reading about Trump's "picaresque career," as the Times put it, is actually rather satisfying, even as it is an outrage to those of us who pay our taxes & thus contribute to the orderly administration of the nation. ...

... In case you were thinking, "At last, something to convince the rubes Trump is a really bad guy & a total fraud:

... digby predicts, "I don't think his base will care. They'll just think that he's the greatest businessman in the world because even though he was losing more money than anyone in the country and conned everyone he partnered with, he lived like a king and dated beautiful women and eventually became president of the United States. He's an American success story. What a guy." ...

... With a Little Help from Fox "News." "The Best Accountants in the World." Justin Baragona of the Daily Beast: "Moments after The New York Times published a blockbuster story reporting that President Trump's tax returns from the 1980s and '90s revealed his businesses suffered over a billion dollars in losses during that time, Fox News framed the news as Trump brilliantly gaming the system in order to avoid paying income taxes.... Fox News correspondent Ed Henry interrupted a segment with Fox News contributor and conservative columnist Marc Thiessen to break the news. Highlighting the key points of the report, such as the massive business losses and Trump not paying income taxes for eight of ten years, Henry tossed to Thiessen for his take.... 'I always thought that the reason why Donald Trump doesn't want his taxes released is nothing to do with any corruption or illegality,' he stated. 'It's because they are going to show he is not as rich as he says he is. Because when you do your taxes, your incentive is to minimize your income as much as possible to pay the least amount of taxes.' Thiessen added: 'So Donald Trump has the best accountants in the world they are going to minimize his income.'" ...

... SO Then. Morgan Gstalter of the Hill: "President Trump lashed out at The New York Times early Wednesday after a report on his businesses losses, labeling the newspaper's story a 'highly inaccurate Fake News hit job!' Trump took to Twitter to defend himself, writing that real estate developers in the 1980s and 1990s were entitled to 'massive write offs and depreciation which would, if one was actively building, show losses and tax losses in almost all cases.'... 'Sometimes considered "tax shelters," you would get it by building, or even buying,' Trump tweeted. 'You always wanted to show losses for tax purposes ... almost all real estate developers did - and often re-negotiate with banks, it was sport.' The president concluded by saying the 'very old information' released by the Times was meant as a 'highly inaccurate Fake News hit job!'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: So it's "highly inaccurate" & "Fake News," but Trump expends most of his outrage energy defending the "very old information." He doesn't seem to understand the concept of "internal contradiction" or "inconsistent statements."

Jesse McKinley of the New York Times: "As the standoff over President Trump's federal tax returns deepens in Washington, New York State lawmakers say they intend to advance a bill on Wednesday to allow congressional committees to see Mr. Trump's New York State returns. State Senator Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat, confirmed on Tuesday that the State Senate had enough votes to ensure passage of a bill allowing the commissioner of the New York Department of Taxation and Finance to release any state tax return requested by a leader of one of three congressional committees for any 'specified and legitimate legislative purpose.' A tax return from New York -- the headquarters of the president's business empire and his home state -- could contain much of the same financial information as a federal return, which Mr. Trump has steadfastly refused to release."

New York Times Editors: "As to whether Congress may obtain a president's tax returns, there is no ambiguity: Federal law empowers the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee to submit a written request to the Treasury Department, which oversees the Internal Revenue Service, for 'any return or return information.' The Treasury secretary then 'shall furnish' the requested information to the committee so that it may conduct its legislative functions. Perhaps that statute is not clear enough for Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The secretary on Monday rebuffed just such a request.... The Treasury secretary cited no authority for this stonewalling, which is consistent with the Trump administration's broad resistance to congressional oversight and the president's push to quash any investigation into his finances." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Jonathan Chait: "Keeping Trump's Tax Returns Secret Is an Insanely Huge Security Risk.... It's hardly a mystery why Trump is desperate to keep his tax returns secret. The most innocent narrative they might possibly reveal is that he's a horrible businessman who relied on handouts from his father. The question is why anybody else would buy this story. Perhaps the most explosive finding in Robert Mueller's investigation is that Trump was secretly negotiating a building deal in Moscow that promised profits of several hundred million dollars, with no risk. Russia habitually gives out sweetheart deals to its overseas political partners, structured in the form of putatively legitimate investments that disguise simple bribes.... What the Times reporting underscores is how utterly vulnerable Trump must have been to an offer like this.... This is a man who was handed hundreds of millions of dollars, flushed it down the toilet, and was desperate to maintain his image of wealth and success. You couldn't invent a more inviting target for a foreign intelligence service to manipulate."

Yeah, This Is a Constitutional Crisis

Barr Threatens to Withhold EVERYTHING. Olivia Beavers of the Hill: "The Justice Department is threatening to asked President Trump to invoke executive privilege over the Mueller report if the House Judiciary Committee goes through with its threat to vote on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt. Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd in a letter on Tuesday told Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler(D-N.Y.) threatened to turn to the presidential power on the eve of the contempt markup before his panel, a move that is certain to deepen the agency's feud with Capitol Hill." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: So I guess Billy Boy doesn't consider a contempt of Congress citation to be a badge of honor.

Nicholas Fandos, et al., of the New York Times: "The White House stepped in on Tuesday to stop Donald F. McGahn II, the former White House counsel, from handing over documents subpoenaed by House investigators because President Trump may want to assert executive privilege over them. The current White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, instructed the House Judiciary Committee to redirect to the White House its requests for the records, which relate to key episodes of possible obstruction of justice identified by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel. His move was certain to enrage Democrats who are increasingly at odds with the Trump administration over access to witness and records that they say they need to conduct legitimate investigations. 'The White House provided these records to Mr. McGahn in connection with its cooperation with the special counsel's investigation and with clear understanding that the records remain subject to the control of the White House for all purposes,' Mr. Cipollone wrote in a letter to the committee's chairman, Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Trump either gambled or was assured that Mueller would not indict him for any of his bad acts, which probably figured into his decision to take his then-lawyers' advice to allow White House staff like McGahn to cooperate with Mueller. Now, as the stakes rise to impeachment, he is cutting off all, or nearly all, cooperation. ...

... SO Then. Morgan Chalfont of the Hill: "House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday threatened to begin contempt proceedings against former White House counsel Don McGahn if he does not comply with a congressional subpoena for documents and testimony. In a letter to McGahn's attorney William Burck, Nadler wrote that the committee would have 'no choice but to resort to contempt proceedings' if McGahn does not provide testimony before the committee or submit a privilege log laying out documents withheld from production as a result of assertions made by the White House.... Nadler has demanded McGahn testify publicly before the committee on May 21, however Trump has given every indication he will look to assert executive privilege in order to block his former adviser's appearance." ...

... "Case Closed." Kyra Phillips, et al., of ABC News: "... Sarah Sanders doubled down Tuesday on the administration's recurring policy of stonewalling what they perceive as oversight outreach from congressional committees.... Over the weekend..., Donald Trump tweeted that ... Robert Mueller 'should not testify' before Congress.... 'I think that's a determination to be made at this point,' Sanders said, when asked whether Trump has explicitly instructed the Justice Department to keep Mueller from testifying. 'But that's the president's feeling on the matter and the reason is because we consider this as a case closed as a finished process.'"

... Martin Longman in the Washington Monthly finds many reasons why McGahn's decision to accede to Trump's claim of executive privilege is legally baseless. "Officially, the president is not considered a 'client' of the White House counsel. Historically, there is no executive privilege granted to requests involving congressional inquiries of presidential wrongdoing. Ordinarily, any claim to executive privilege would be waived with respect to matters in which the White House counsel has already cooperated and provided information. When I add this all up, the effort to prevent McGahn from cooperating with Congress seems both wrong on the merits and doomed to failure in the courts.... But these norms and precedents were established ... before a hard conservative majority controlled the Supreme Court. They developed before the Department of Justice was headed by a man determined to run interference for a criminal president.... The House of Representatives will have a better case in court if it can unambiguously argue that it is seeking this information because it applies to 'legislative proceedings by the U.S. Congress against the President due to allegations of misconduct while in office, such as formal censures or impeachment proceedings.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I would add one more element to Longman's argument: Trump himself has waived executive privilege by tweeting about his conversations with McGahn, claiming that contrary to the Mueller report's publication of McGahn's statements to investigators, "As has been incorrectly reported by the Fake News Media, I never told then White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller, even though I had the legal right to do so. If I wanted to fire Mueller, I didn't need McGahn to do it, I could have done it myself." This assertion implies McGahn lied to investigators, which would subject him to criminal charges. At the same time, firing Mueller constitutes obstruction of justice, so the Congress has an obligation to try to find out who was lying here: Trump or McGahn. We can guess the answer to that with a 99% chance we're right.

Adam Edelman of NBC News: "FBI Director Chris Wray said Tuesday that he would not describe the federal government's surveillance, such as that conducted on ... Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, as 'spying,' as Attorney General William Barr has. During a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing, Wray was asked by committee member Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., about Barr's statement last month that 'spying did occur' on the Trump campaign.... Barr had also said he was "reviewing the conduct" of the FBI's Russia probe during the summer of 2016.... 'I was very concerned by his use of the word spying, which I think is a loaded word,' Shaheen said. 'When FBI agents conduct investigations against alleged mobsters, suspected terrorists, other criminals, do you believe they're engaging in spying when they're following FBI investigative policies and procedures?' 'That's not the term I would use,' Wray replied. 'So I would say that's a no....' Asked if he had 'any evidence that any illegal surveillance' into the Trump 2016 campaign occurred, Wray said he did not." Mrs. McC: Barr is Wray's boss. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

735 Prosecutors Agree: Trump S/B Subject to "Multiple Felony Charges." Mrs. McCrabbie: As of 10:30 pm ET Tuesday, 735 former federal prosecutors have signed a letter stating that "the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice."

Katelyn Polantz of CNN: "Special counsel Robert Mueller's prosecutors didn't want former FBI Director James Comey's memos released because they feared that ... Donald Trump and other witnesses could change their stories after reading Comey's version of events, according to an argument they made in a January 2018 sealed court hearing. The newly released record gives a rare glimpse into the Mueller team's concerns.... A court order on Tuesday forced the Justice Department to provide a transcript of the hearing to CNN as part of a lawsuit over access to the Comey memos.... Mueller's plea to keep the memos under seal coincided with negotiations with Trump's legal team over a potential interview with the President at Camp David, planned for the days following the court hearing and which ultimately fell through. At the time of the late January hearing, several other witnesses to the Comey developments had already spoken to Mueller.... Shortly after the meetings with Comey, Trump and the White House had publicly contradicted the FBI director's story.... Redacted versions of the Comey memos became public in April 2018 after Congress received copies of them. Mueller, in his final report on his investigation, wrote that he had "substantial evidence" to corroborate Comey's version of what happened."

"Case Closed." Mitch Got the Talking Points. Catie Edmundson of the New York Times: "Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, called on Congress on Tuesday to move on from the Mueller report and issued his own verdict from the Senate floor: 'Case closed.'... Mr. McConnell's speech pointed up the profound gap between the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-controlled House. House Democrats are locked in an escalating fight with President Trump, who is trying to slam shut House investigations of all sort." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Jonathan Chait: "During the 2016 election, CIA director John Brennan informed congressional leaders that Russian intelligence was interfering in the election in an effort to help Donald Trump win. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed the conclusion, and depicted it as a frame-up. 'You're trying to screw the Republican candidate,' he charged, warning that he would refuse to sign a bipartisan statement warning Russia to back off. If blocking Russia meant hindering the Trump campaign, McConnell wasn't interested. [In his floor speech yesterday, McConnell suggested that] to continue pursuing the massive evidence of corruption and misconduct in the Mueller report would somehow help Putin. If Americans 'remain consumed by unhinged partisanship,' McConnell said, 'and keep dividing ourselves ... Putin and his agents need only stand on the sidelines and watch as their job is done for them.' Note here that McConnell is again denying the same thing he denied in 2016: that Russia intervened not just to 'divide' Americans but specifically in order to help Trump win." ...

McConnell, Putin's Accomplice. Aaron Rupar of Vox: "McConnell, who arguably did more than anyone to prevent the Obama administration from providing a bipartisan warning about Russia's interference efforts in the months before the 2016 election, mocked Democrats for abruptly awakening to the dangers of Russian aggression.' 'Maybe stronger leadership would have left the Kremlin less emboldened,' McConnell said, referring to Obama. 'Maybe tampering with our democracy wouldn't have seemed so very tempting.'... Following McConnell's speech, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer took to the floor and [said], 'In the run-up to the 2016 election, when the Obama administration sought to warn state election officials about foreign meddling and designate election systems as, quote, critical infrastructure, Leader McConnell reportedly delayed for weeks, watered down the letter from congressional leaders, and pushed back against the designation. Yeah, I'd want to sweep this under the rug if I'd did that.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This point is not mentioned often enough. Every time the names McConnell & Mueller or McConnell & Russia are mentioned in the same sentence, McConnell's interference in the 2016 election should be mentioned.

... Marianne Levine of Politico: "Sen. Dick Durbin suggested Tuesday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wasn't putting election security legislation up for a vote because Republicans benefited from Russian interference in the 2016 election.... 'There are two possibilities,' Durbin said. 'He really doesn't believe it, he doesn't think the Russians were involved in 2016. He ignores the Mueller report and our intelligence agencies or in the alternative feels the Russians were on the side of the Republicans in 2016 and just might be again in 2020.'"

... On the Senate floor, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) answers Mitch:

... Here's the long version, where Warren really lays into McConnell, then goes on to read parts of the Mueller report. Kinda reminds me of those 1950s high-tech teevee shows, where some guy read the Sunday funnies to the kiddies:

** Aram Roston of Reuters: "Months before evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr.'s game-changing presidential endorsement of Donald Trump in 2016, Falwell asked Trump fixer Michael Cohen for a personal favor, Cohen said in a recorded conversation reviewed by Reuters. Falwell, president of Liberty University, one of the world's largest Christian universities, said someone had come into possession of what Cohen described as racy 'personal' photographs -- the sort that would typically be kept 'between husband and wife,' Cohen said in the taped conversation. According to a source familiar with Cohen's thinking, the person who possessed the photos destroyed them after Cohen intervened on the Falwells' behalf.... Cohen ... recounted his involvement in the matter in a recording made surreptitiously by comedian Tom Arnold on March 25.... The Falwells enlisted Cohen's help in 2015, according to the source familiar with Cohen's thinking, the year Trump announced his presidential candidacy.... 'I actually have one of the photos,' he said, without going into specifics. 'It's terrible.'... Cohen helped persuade Falwell to issue his endorsement of Trump's presidential candidacy.... Falwell's backing helped galvanize evangelicals and persuaded many Christians concerned about Trump's past behavior to embrace him as a repentant sinner." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This is hilarious. Evangelicals decided to look sideways & vote for the thrice-married admitted pussy-grabber who is 100 percent Bible-illiterate because evangelical preachers, most prominent among them Falwell Junior, endorsed him. But then it turned out that Junior there endorsed him because (although Cohen says this isn't true) Trump & his fixer had covered up a sexual indiscretion of Falwell's. As if this story could not be more perfect, Cohen claims he kept a piece of the evidence. Everything about Trump -- and everyone in his circle -- is phony and corrupt.

Juliegrace Brufke of the Hill: "House Democrats are threatening the salaries of Interior, Commerce and Justice Department staff if they block ongoing committee investigations. House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) sent letters Tuesday calling for eight current and former Trump administration officials to provide information for two of the panel's investigations, cautioning that officials who block the interviews from taking place could see their salaries withheld ... 'pursuant to section 713 of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act....'" Mrs. McC: Some of the obstructionist officials named in the report would appear to be individuals who may need those salaries.


David Sanger
of the New York Times: "Iran's president declared on Wednesday that the country would stop complying with two of its commitments under the Iranian nuclear deal, pushing the growing confrontation between Washington and Tehran into new and potentially dangerous territory. The announcement by President Hassan Rouhani came exactly a year after President Trump withdrew entirely from the 2015 agreement, which limited Iran's capacity to produce nuclear fuel for 15 years.... Starting on Wednesday, [Rouhani] said, Iran would begin to build up its stockpiles of low enriched uranium and of heavy water, which is used in nuclear reactors -- including a reactor that could give Iran a source of bomb-grade plutonium. If the Europeans fail to compensate for the unilateral American sanctions, he said, Iran will resume construction of the Arak nuclear reactor, a facility that was shut down, and its key components dismantled, under the deal."

Faith Hassan, et al., of the New York Times: "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo scrapped a visit to Germany on Tuesday to make an unannounced trip to Iraq, pressing Iraqi leaders about what he called the increased dangers to Americans there from Iran's forces and allies. Mr. Pompeo said he also used the four-hour visit to push what he described as Iraq's need to avoid dependence on neighboring Iran for power supplies including electricity. The diversion to Iraq by Mr. Pompeo, who was in the midst of a four-day European tour, added to what is an escalating American effort to ostracize Iran, which the Trump administration has sought to vilify as the chief destabilizing force in the Middle East."

Betsy Woodruff & Adam Rawnsley of the Daily Beast: "On Sunday, the National Security Council announced that the U.S. was sending a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Gulf in response to 'troubling and escalatory' warnings from Iran -- an eye-popping move that raised fears of a potential military confrontation with Tehran. Justifying the move, anonymous government officials cited intelligence indicating Iran had crafted plans to use proxies to strike U.S. forces, both off the coast of Yemen and stationed in Iraq. National Security Adviser John Bolton also discussed the intelligence on the record.... But multiple sources close to the situation told The Daily Beast that the administration blew it out of proportion, characterizing the threat as more significant than it actually was. 'It's not that the administration is mischaracterizing the intelligence, so much as overreacting to it,' said one U.S. government official briefed on it."

Jonathan Swan of Axios: "President Trump's longtime friend and close adviser, David Bossie, is, for now at least, a persona non grata in Trumpworld.... Two days after Axios published an investigation of Bossie's fundraising, the president personally authorized the Trump campaign to issue an extraordinary statement that, without naming Bossie, effectively called for the authorities to investigate Bossie's group...." ...

... Asawin Suebsaeng & Lachlan Markay of the Daily Beast: "On Monday morning, Donald Trump was incensed over a report that one of his highest-profile supporters, David Bossie, had been engaged in apparent financial self-dealing under the guise of re-electing the president. And as he stewed, Trump began telling those close to him that Bossie's alleged scheme was brazen and egregious enough to warrant a swift, public response.... The drafting of the [campaign] statement [condemning but not naming Bossie] began only after extended internal griping by the president, according to four people with knowledge of his complaints."

In short order, the entire planet could be like a crime scene with the gigantic carbon footprints of Trump and his industry donors all around the body. -- Akhilleus, in yesterday's Comments

Post-Mortem. Stupid, Evil Liberals Did It. Matt Stieb of New York: "Last Thursday, former Trump campaign adviser Stephen Moore spent the morning telling reporters that his contested nomination for the Federal Reserve Board would not be withdrawn, claiming the White House was 'all in.' By lunchtime, Moore was all out.... On .. [a] radio show, hosted by former White House deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka, Moore blamed 'liberals' for the 'campaign' that led to his canceled nomination. 'Why did they run this campaign against me? Because they were terrified of me,' Moore said. 'We always have this debate: Are liberals just stupid, or are they evil?' he asked. 'I don't know -- after this, I think they're stupid and evil.'... Pointing the blame at liberals for souring his nomination ignores the consensus of economists who viewed the attempted appointment as a political stunt.... But ultimately it was Senate Republicans -- who made it obvious that Moore would not muster the votes to pass -- who voided his nomination." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I suppose most of us are inclined to at least entertain the idea that someone else is responsible for what was our own failure, but Moore demonstrates how this tendency can be carried to ridiculous -- and obvious -- extremes.

Miriam Jordan of the New York Times: "A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that the Trump administration can continue to enforce a policy that returns asylum seekers to Mexico while they wait for an immigration court to decide their cases. The ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit allows the government to continue enforcing the policy, formally called the Migration Protection Protocols, while the legal issues of the case are being decided. It was an unusual victory for the Trump administration in the liberal-leaning court, though the judges did not rule on the merits of the case."

Mike Spies of the Trace in the New Yorker: "In July of 2018, as the National Rifle Association was in the throes of a financial crisis, a half-dozen of the organization's accountants produced a document detailing what they believed to be the most egregious issues that needed to be addressed by its audit committee -- a small group of N.R.A. board members tasked with conducting fiscal oversight. The accountants' one-and-a-half-page memo ... details a range of questionable transactions and business arrangements involving several top N.R.A. venders and executives. It offers new details on the financial mismanagement occurring inside the organization.... As the depths of the gun group's fiscal problems have become public, its leadership has attempted to blame Democratic politicians and overzealous regulators for throwing it into a dire financial state. Last month, the N.R.A. also blamed Ackerman McQueen, a public-relations firm that, for almost four decades, has meticulously crafted the organization's identity.... The N.R.A.'s relationship with Ackerman seems to be the most prominent example of an organizational culture that is marked by secrecy, self-dealing, and greed, and has cost the N.R.A. hundreds of millions of dollars through bloated payments, lavish deals, and opaque financial arrangements."

Beyond the Beltway

Colorado. Jack Healy & Liam Stack of the New York Times: "Eight students were shot at a school near Columbine High School in Colorado on Tuesday afternoon and two schoolmates were in custody, according to the Douglas County Sheriff's Office. Sheriff Tony Spurlock said the suspects were both students at STEM School Highlands Ranch, a charter school near Denver that serves more than 1,800 students from kindergarten through 12th grade.... Eight students had been taken to area hospitals and 'several' were in critical condition, the sheriff said, although local hospitals described their conditions as less dire." ...

... Kirk Mitchell, et al., of the Denver Post: "A student shot at the STEM School in Highlands Ranch has died, according to Denver7, and law enforcement officials have reported eight students were injured in the gunfire that erupted Tuesday afternoon inside the school. Two male students, one who is an adult and one who is a juvenile, are in custody, Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said. The suspects went 'deep inside the school' and engaged in two locations, he said. The suspects used at least one handgun but it was unknown what other weapons might have been used."

Florida. CBS4 Miami: "Gov. Ron DeSantis [R] said Tuesday he will sign a controversial measure that would require repayment of financial obligations before felons' voting rights are restored.... Democrats and many other Amendment 4 supporters say the legislation is too restrictive and would block people from being able to vote, with some comparing the need to fully pay restitution to a poll tax.... Critics ... contend [the bill] would create unjustifiable barriers to voting.... The [ACLU] ... is exploring legal options to challenge the bill."

Texas. David Montgomery of the New York Times: "As Trooper Brian Encinia angrily threatened her with a stun gun from just outside her car window, Sandra Bland recorded the encounter on her cellphone, shown in a newly released, 39-second video that has prompted Ms. Bland's family to call for a renewed investigation into her arrest and death nearly four years ago. Ms. Bland, a 28-year-old African-American from the Chicago area, was taken into custody in southeast Texas following the confrontational 2015 traffic stop and was found hanging in a jail cell three days later in what was officially ruled a suicide.... Cannon Lambert, a lawyer who represents the Bland family, said the video, by showing Ms. Bland with a cellphone in her hand, seriously undercut the trooper's claim that he feared for his safety as he approached the woman's vehicle.... Mr. Encinia was indicted on a charge of perjury -- the only criminal charge arising from the case -- after grand jurors accused him of making a false statement in his claim that he removed Ms. Bland from her car to more safely conduct a traffic investigation. But the charge was later dismissed on a motion by prosecutors in exchange for the trooper's promise that he would never again work in law enforcement." Includes video.

Monday
May062019

The Commentariat -- May 7, 2019

Afternoon Update:

Nicholas Fandos, et al., of the New York Times: “The White House stepped in on Tuesday to stop Donald F. McGahn II, the former White House counsel, from handing over documents subpoenaed by House investigators because President Trump may want to assert executive privilege over them. The current White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, instructed the House Judiciary Committee to redirect to the White House its requests for the records, which relate to key episodes of possible obstruction of justice identified by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel. His move was certain to enrage Democrats who are increasingly at odds with the Trump administration over access to witness and records that they say they need to conduct legitimate investigations. 'The White House provided these records to Mr. McGahn in connection with its cooperation with the special counsel's investigation and with clear understanding that the records remain subject to the control of the White House for all purposes,' Mr. Cipollone wrote in a letter to the committee's chairman, Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York."

New York Times Editors: "As to whether Congress may obtain a president's tax returns, there is no ambiguity: Federal law empowers the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee to submit a written request to the Treasury Department, which oversees the Internal Revenue Service, for 'any return or return information.' The Treasury secretary then 'shall furnish' the requested information to the committee so that it may conduct its legislative functions. Perhaps that statute is not clear enough for Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The secretary on Monday rebuffed just such a request.... The Treasury secretary cited no authority for this stonewalling, which is consistent with the Trump administration's broad resistance to congressional oversight and the president's push to quash any investigation into his finances."

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Trump either gambled or was assured that Mueller would not indict him for any of his bad acts, which probably figured into his decision to take his then-lawyers' advice to allow White House staff like McGahn to cooperate with Mueller. Now, as the stakes rise to impeachment, he is cutting off all, or nearly all, cooperation.

Adam Edelman of NBC News: “FBI Director Chris Wray said Tuesday that he would not describe the federal government's surveillance, such as that conducted on ... Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, as 'spying,' as Attorney General William Barr has. During a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing, Wray was asked by committee member Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., about Barr's statement last month that 'spying did occur' on the Trump campaign.... Barr had also said he was "reviewing the conduct" of the FBI's Russia probe during the summer of 2016.... 'I was very concerned by his use of the word spying, which I think is a loaded word,' Shaheen said. 'When FBI agents conduct investigations against alleged mobsters, suspected terrorists, other criminals, do you believe they're engaging in spying when they're following FBI investigative policies and procedures?' 'That's not the term I would use,' Wray replied. 'So I would say that's a no....' Asked if he had 'any evidence that any illegal surveillance' into the Trump 2016 campaign occurred, Wray said he did not." Mrs. McC: Barr is Wray's boss.

Catie Edmundson of the New York Times: "Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, called on Congress on Tuesday to move on from the Mueller report and issued his own verdict from the Senate floor: 'Case closed.'... Mr. McConnell's speech pointed up the profound gap between the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-controlled House. House Democrats are locked in an escalating fight with President Trump, who is trying to slam shut House investigations of all sort."

In short order, the entire planet could be like a crime scene with the gigantic carbon footprints of Trump and his industry donors all around the body. -- Akhilleus, in today's Comments

~~~~~~~~~~

The Trump Scandals, Ctd.

** Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "The Treasury Department said on Monday that it would not release President Trump's tax returns to Congress, defying a request from House Democrats and setting up a legal battle likely to be resolved by the Supreme Court. Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, wrote in a letter to Representative Richard E. Neal, Democrat of Massachusetts and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, that Mr. Neal's request for the tax returns 'lacks a legitimate legislative purpose' and that he was not authorized to disclose them. The decision came after weeks of delays as Mr. Mnuchin said that his department and the Justice Department needed to study the provision of the tax code that Democrats were using to seek six years' worth of the president's personal and business tax returns." ...

     ... Mrs. Mcrabbie Note to Steve, you arrogant prick: Congress, being the legislative branch and all, decides what constitutes "a legitimate legislative purpose." Plus which, there's a law that sez the IRS must turn over tax returns to the Congress upon request. Plus which, for the last half-century, every other major party presidential nominee has released his (or her!) tax returns. We all want to know what Trump is hiding. And you have to show us.

** Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "More than del>370 450 former federal prosecutors who worked in Republican and Democratic administrations have signed on to a statement asserting special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's findings would have produced obstruction charges against President Trump -- if not for the office he held. The statement -- signed by myriad former career government employees as well as high-profile political appointees -- offers a rebuttal to Attorney General William P. Barr's determination that the evidence Mueller uncovered was 'not sufficient' to establish that Trump committed a crime.... 'We emphasize that these are not matters of close professional judgment,' they [wrote].... To look at these facts and say that a prosecutor could not probably sustain a conviction for obstruction of justice -- the standard set out in Principles of Federal Prosecution -- runs counter to logic and our experience.' The statement is notable for the number of people who signed it -- 375 as of Monday afternoon -- and the positions and political affiliations of some on the list.... Among the high-profile signers are Bill Weld, a former U.S. attorney and Justice Department official in the Reagan administration who is running against Trump as a Republican; Donald Ayer, a former deputy attorney general in the George H.W. Bush Administration; John S. Martin, a former U.S. attorney and federal judge appointed to his posts by two Republican presidents; Paul Rosenzweig, who served as senior counsel to independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr; and Jeffrey Harris, who worked as the principal assistant to Rudolph W. Giuliani when he was at the Justice Department in the Reagan administration. The list also includes more than 20 former U.S. attorneys and more than 100 people with at least 20 years of service at the Justice Department -- most of them former career officials. The signers worked in every presidential administration since that of Dwight D. Eisenhower." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Here's the full statement, with a list of signatories which is being updated. BTW, the list is searchable, if you're looking for your favorite prosecutor. Update: Looks as if the number of signatories is up to 566 as of 5:30 am ET Tuesday. ...

... Kevin Drum: "It's not even a close call. This is the mirror opposite of what happened to Hillary Clinton. In his press conference, James Comey said that case also wasn't a close call. Clinton might have made some mistakes, but it was clear that she didn't knowingly violate any laws. But that made no difference to Republicans. The chanted 'Lock her up' regardless, just as they'll refuse to do anything about Trump even though he is guilty. Hell, Trump is straight-up retweeting white nationalists these days and Republicans won't even suggest that maybe he should stop. Still, if DOJ won't prosecute, Congress can still initiate impeachment proceedings. What else should be done in the case of a president who, unquestionably and deliberately, has serially violated the law and shows no signs of stopping?" ...

... Martin Longman in the Washington Monthly: "If Pelosi stands in the way, she'll be putting 'our whole system of justice at risk.' At least, that's what these ... former prosecutors are saying." ...

Nicholas Fandos & Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "The House Judiciary Committee will vote Wednesday to hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress, after the Justice Department appeared to miss a Monday deadline to negotiate the delivery of Robert S. Mueller III's full report, along with key evidence collected by the special counsel. Democrats said the vote could still be avoided if the Justice Department changes course, but Monday's announcement sets up another dramatic escalation in a growing dispute between the legislative and executive branches. If the full House follows suit and votes to hold Mr. Barr in contempt of Congress, it would be only the second time in American history that a sitting member of a president's cabinet has been sanctioned by lawmakers that way. The Judiciary Committee's chairman, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, said the vote would occur at 10 a.m. A 27-page report accompanying the vote notice on Monday recommends that Mr. Barr 'shall be found to be in contempt of Congress for failure to comply with a congressional subpoena.'" The report includes a good summary of the Republican House's holding former AG Eric Holder in contempt. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Kyle Cheney & Andrew Desiderio of Politico: "The Justice Department on Monday tried to head off a contempt of Congress proceeding against Attorney General William Barr, offering House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) the chance to negotiate about the committee's subpoena for special counsel Robert Mueller' unredacted report. In a letter to Nadler, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd invited the chairman to a negotiation session on Wednesday to discuss an' acceptable accommodation' that would potentially give more lawmakers access to a less-redacted version of the report, in addition to 'possible disclosure of certain materials' cited in Mueller's report.... Nadler said he would put the contempt proceedings on hold if the Justice Department engages in a 'good-faith' effort to give Democrats access to the requested information."

Amber Phillips of the Washington Post: "In an interview published in the New York Times over the weekend, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accused President Trump of something remarkable: She feared he would not be willing to give up power peacefully in 2020 if the election were close.... Like clockwork, Trump showed the world the very next day why Pelosi had reason to be privately worried about this for years.... Trump tweeted Sunday that his first two years were 'stolen' (actually, he originally said they were 'stollen' before he fixed his tweet) by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation.... I guess we need to say this: Giving a president extra time to be president because there was a legitimate investigation related to his conduct is a remarkably undemocratic idea." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: What is really remarkable is that Trump is laying the groundwork not to leave office under any circumstance other than over his cold, dead body. He had previously said he would enlist his buddies on the Supreme Court to intervene if Congress tried to impeach him, even tho the Court has no authority to rule on impeachment. He has already claimed the 2016 vote count was rigged, & he really won the popular vote. If by some nearly-impossible chance the Senate were to convict & remove him from office or if he should lose the Electoral College in 2020, I think it's highly likely he would look for ways to combat either result. Even if he manages to serve a full two terms, I think he'd ask for the stollen & try to stay on after January 2025. And perhaps he could. By then, he would certainly own the Supreme Court. I'm not crazy; I'm looking at leading indicators. ...

... Chris Cillizza of CNN: "... Trump has a long record of making wholly unsubstantiated claims about election results. And that includes doing so in an election -- 2016 -- in which he won! It's not much of a stretch then to imagine that Trump, if he does come up short in the 2020 election, wouldn't be willing to simply go quietly into that good night.... If you think that's overstating things, it's worth noting that Trump has repeatedly 'joked' about changing the Constitution to allow him to serve more than two terms as president." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: AND there's this, which I'd been thinking about as well. Steve M.: "... Trump is a lifelong resident of New York City -- a place where the two mayors who preceded the current mayor [Giuliani & Bloomberg ]both sought to sidestep the law and have their terms extended. One [Bloomberg] succeeded." ...

... ** Dahlia Lithwick of Slate: "... the notion that Democrats should somehow circumvent a president who evinces no respect for the law by persuading him that this time he lost for realz strikes me as demented. Donald Trump won't accept a 2020 presidential election loss, whether it's by a large margin or a small one, for the same reason he never accepted his 2016 popular vote loss -- None of this is news to Nancy Pelosi, but unfortunately, putting one's faith in the elections system makes even less sense today than it did in 2016. As Jamelle Bouie observes, we are now in the epicenter of an all-out vote suppression crisis that has become an all-out democracy crisis.he doesn't like it, and so he won't let it be true.... Time and time again, people who had access to both information and power opted to take the less draconian path because they believed that there would still be a free and fair election and that Trump would not win it. We know how that turned out.... The Rule of Law still matters, and we shouldn't abandon it because this small problem of Donald Trump might go away in 2020." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Lithwick seems to be seeing reality a lot more clearly than is Pelosi.

Michael Tackett & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Two people close to Mr. Trump said he had been moving toward an objection to Mr. Mueller testifying over the last few days as a counter to the call from some Democrats to impeach Mr. Barr for how he handled his own testimony last week to Congress." ...

... Michael Balsamo & Jonathan Lemire of the AP: "Special counsel Robert Mueller was expected to step down days after concluding his investigation in March. Yet he remains a Justice Department employee -- and the department won't say why. That's just one of the complications at play in the high-stakes, secret negotiations over whether Mueller will testify before Congress. Whatever role Mueller now has, keeping him on the Justice Department payroll offers one clear advantage to ... Donald Trump's administration: It makes it easier for Attorney General William Barr to block Mueller from testifying before Congress.... As a private citizen, Mueller could decide whether to accept an invitation to appear or, if he declines, whether to attempt to resist any effort to subpoena him.... The president stewed for days about the prospect of the media coverage that would be given to Mueller, a man Trump believes has been unfairly lionized across cable news and the front pages of the nation's leading newspapers for two years, according to three White House officials and Republicans close to the White House. Trump feared a repeat -- but bigger -- of the February testimony of his former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, which dominated news coverage and even overshadowed a nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam." ...

... Update. Staff Says Trump Doesn't Know What He's Doing. Darren Samuelsohn, et al., of Politico: "When ... Donald Trump contradicted his own attorney general and declared on Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller 'should not testify' before Congress, he caught his inner circle by surprise. A day later, more than a dozen people from Trump's close orbit downplayed in interviews the prospect that the president's weekend tweet about Mueller should be taken as an official warning. Trump does not actually intend to assert executive privilege and block the special counsel from testifying as soon as next week, they said, before the one House committee with the power to begin impeachment proceedings against the president. Like so many other controversies ignited by Trump's social media feed, this one may be more bluster than a live-wire legal showdown."

Jordyn Hermani of Politico: "Donald Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen said Monday that 'there still remains much to be told' about the president, as his feud with his ex-boss continues. Cohen ... did not elaborate. He heads to federal prison in Otisville, N.Y., Monday to begin a three-year sentence for a series of tax fraud and lying charges." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: So Michael Cohen is in jail now, & the guy who directed Cohen to commit some of the illegal acts that landed him there is sitting in the Oval Office.

Jason Leopold & Anthony Cormier of BuzzFeed News: "The Department of Justice on Monday released a new version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report..., shedding light on why significant portions of the 448-page document were redacted.... The new version was released by the Department of Justice in response to a Freedom of Information Act request and a subsequent lawsuit filed by BuzzFeed News and separately by the Electronic Privacy and Information Center.... This new version of the report clearly states which information was withheld because it would interfere with ongoing law enforcement proceedings, which 'would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions,' and which was withheld on national security grounds.... BuzzFeed News and EPIC will now have the opportunity to challenge the legitimacy of the redactions and argue ... that overwhelming public interest compels the disclosure of additional information in the report."

Josh Marshall: "I need to return to the fact that the country's biggest paper reported this week that the President's personal lawyer [Rudy Giuliani] is conducting unofficial diplomacy abroad, apparently mixed with his own private business and investments, in which he offers friendly treatment from the President of the United States in exchange for those governments targeting the President's political enemies. This was reported and it wasn't the biggest story of the week.... The stakes are much higher, the danger much greater, when the colluding candidate is also the President of the United States [who] ... is already on to entirely new kinds of corruption and bad acting made possible by holding the presidential bundle of powers.... In this particular case it's Rudy Giuliani with the now-outgoing government of Ukraine and Joe Biden and his son....[T]his effort to get the government of Ukraine to whip up investigations into Biden ... is almost certainly just the tip of the iceberg. This requires tons more attention." -s


Kevin Freking
of the AP: "... Donald Trump has pardoned a former U.S. soldier convicted in 2009 of killing an Iraqi prisoner, the White House announced Monday. Trump signed an executive grant of clemency, a full pardon, for former Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna, of Oklahoma, press secretary Sarah Sanders said. Behenna was convicted of unpremeditated murder in a combat zone after killing a suspected al-Qaida terrorist in Iraq. He was paroled in 2014 and had been scheduled to remain on parole until 2024. A military court had sentenced Behenna to 25 years in prison. However, the Army's highest appellate court noted concern about how the trial court had handled Behenna's claim of self-defense, Sanders said. The Army Clemency and Parole Board also reduced his sentence to 15 years and paroled him as soon as he was eligible."

Ana Swanson & Keith Bradsher of the New York Times: "President Trump's top economic advisers on Monday accused China of reneging on previous commitments to resolve a monthslong trade war and said Mr. Trump was prepared to prolong the standoff to force more significant concessions from Beijing. Mr. Trump, angry that China is retreating from its commitments just as the sides appeared to be nearing a deal and confident the American economy can handle a continuation of the trade war, will increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods on Friday morning, his top advisers said.... Mr. Trump's decision to potentially upend an agreement that many expected to be finalized this week in Washington appears to be a political calculation that staying tough on China will be a better proposition in the 2020 campaign." ...

... CNBC: "Stocks fell on Monday after ... Donald Trump said that the U.S. will hike tariffs on goods imported from China, but managed to recover a good chunk of those losses around late-morning trading. At 11:13 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 235 points while the S&P 500 traded 0.9% lower. The Nasdaq Composite pulled back 1%. The Dow was down as much as 471 points, while the S&P 500 traded down 1.2% at its lows. The Nasdaq was briefly down 2.2%." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... CNBC Update: "Stocks recovered the bulk of their earlier losses on Monday as investors bet China and the U.S. will still strike a trade deal despite ... Donald Trump's threat to hike tariffs on Chinese imports over the weekend. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the day down just 66.47 points at 26,438.48, while the S&P 500 closed 0.4% lower at 2,932.47. Th Nasdaq Composite was down 0.5% at 8,123.29."

Andrew Desiderio of Politico: "The leaders of the House Foreign Affairs and Financial Services Committees are accusing the Trump administration of violating a law requiring a report on human rights abuses in Russia. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Foreign Affairs panel, and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the Financial Services chairwoman, on Monday said the Trump administration is four months late to a deadline requiring a report on the U.S. government's efforts to impose sanctions on human rights abusers in Russia." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: So surprising. In their long conversation last Friday, Don should have asked Vlad if there were any human rights abuses in Russia; then he could tweet the answer to Engel & Waters. Job well-done.

Steve Holland of Reuters: "At a ceremony in the sun-splashed White House Rose Garden, Trump made the 43-year-old [Tiger] Woods the fourth, and youngest, professional golfer to receive the nation's highest civilian honor, [the Presidential Medal of Freedom,] after Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Charlie Sifford." See yesterday's Commentariat for context.

Climate Change May Alarm You, But Pompeo Sees Opportunities! Davis Richardson of the (New York) Observer: "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared at the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Finland to discuss the United States' commitment to the Arctic region. While much of the secretary's speech addressed the growing threats of Russia and China in the region, he also called the Arctic's melting ice caps 'new opportunities for trade' -- despite warnings from scientists that the shrinkage is caused by climate change and could become irreversible. 'Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade,' Pompeo told the room. 'This could potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as 20 days. Arctic sea lanes could come before -- could come [sic] the 21s century Suez and Panama Canals.'"

Alan Pyke of ThinkProgress: "Mortgage lenders will find it easier to discriminate against prospective borrowers under the latest quiet sabotage of financial industry rules proposed by the Trump administration. The new rollbacks take a two-pronged approach to undermining a relatively new system that's helped journalists and watchdogs identify prejudicial lending practices they characterize as modern-day redlining. During the Obama administration, the CFPB played an instrumental role in earning settlements against banks accused of racial discrimination. These changes would do harm to the agency's continued ability to be a cop on this particular beat." --s

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Eight former top lawyers for the House of Representatives are backing a House lawsuit seeking to block ... Donald Trump from spending billions of dollars of federal funds on a border wall without any specific authorization from Congress. Attorneys who served a bipartisan set of speakers over the past four decades filed a brief Monday urging U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden to rule that the House has standing to pursue the border wall suit and that the dispute is a proper one for the courts despite the reluctance of many judges to weigh in on fights between Congress and the president."

Lee Fang of The Intercept: "Rep. Ed Royce, a senior Republican who, at the time, chaired the Foreign Affairs Committee, gave a speech on the House floor in November 2017 imploring his fellow lawmakers to maintain support for the Saudi Arabian-led war in Yemen.... Royce had received talking points earlier that day from a lobbyist retained by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, according to federal disclosure forms, in order to undermine congressional opposition to the Yemen war.... On Thursday, the Senate is scheduled to attempt to override President Donald Trump's veto of the War Powers Act resolution calling for an end to U.S. support for the war in Yemen.... The talking points provided to Royce are among the many hidden ways in which Saudi money has quietly influenced the debate." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Royce, facing strong opposition in his Orange-LA counties California district, announced his retirement in 2018.

Presidential Race 2020

Enthusiasm, Curbed. Chuck Todd, et al., of NBC News: "Democrats had two advantages that fueled their midterm victories in November 2018 -- an edge in enthusiasm and success with independent voters. Six months later, just one of those advantages remains. In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 75 percent of Republican registered voters say they have high interest in the 2020 presidential election -- registering a '9' or '10' on a 10-point scale -- versus 73 percent of Democratic voters who say the same thing. That's quite a change from the 2018 cycle, when Democrats held a double-digit lead on this question until the last two months before the election, when the GOP closed the gap but still trailed the Dems in enthusiasm." ...

... Eli Yockley of the Morning Consult: "Joe Biden's stock continues to rise among the Democratic primary electorate. Morning Consult's latest 2020 tracking data measured an increase of 4 percentage points from the previous week in the share of voters who picked him as their first choice for the party's presidential nomination. It gives the former vice president a 10-point bump in the two polls conducted since he launched his bid for the presidency last month, an upward swing unmatched by any other candidate in the race. Four in 10 likely Democratic primary voters ranked Biden as their first choice in the primary, up from 36 percent in the prior week, cementing his early status as the front-runner amid attacks on his progressive bona fides from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Therein, IMO, lies both cause & effect of Democratic voters' drop in enthusiasm. If Biden is the Democrats' candidate, it will be 2016 all over again. Hillary Clinton & her pals like then-DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz put their thumbs on the scale in 2016; now it looks as if the rank-and-file may be doing that job for Biden, even as the field this time around is filled with interesting, competent candidates. Odd. Of course, it's early days.

The Party of Deplorables. Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones: "For people who really believed President Donald Trump could be toppled by a significant primary challenge in the 2020 election, a new poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal should set them straight: 90 percent of Republicans polled think Trump is doing a great job as president... [N]early 70 percent of Democrats think the [Mueller] report failed to clear the president of wrongdoing, while only 11 percent of Republicans see it that way.... Trump's signature domestic achievement, his massive tax cut bill, remains highly unpopular ... even less popular with voters than Obamacare[.]" --s

Congressional Race 2020. The White People's Rifle Association. Kate Riga of TPM: "Carolyn Meadows, the new president of the National Rifle Association who harkens from Georgia, was dismissive of freshman Rep. Lucy McBath's (D-GA) victory in her 2018 race, saying McBath only won due to her status as a 'minority female.' 'There will be more than one person in the race, but we'll get that seat back,' Meadows said of the sixth district seat, per the Marietta Daily Journal. 'But it is wrong to say like McBath said, that the reason she won was because of her anti-gun stance. That didn't have anything to do with it -- it had to do with being a minority female. And the Democrats really turned out, and that's the problem we have with conservatives we don't turn out as well.'" ...

     ... Caitlin MacNeal of TPM: "... McBath responded with a series of tweets about her campaign's focus on gun control.... McBath noted that she was pushed to run for Congress after her son was murdered and that it was central to her campaign, pushing back on Meadows' argument that McBath didn't win due to her push for gun control."

Congressional Race 2018. Matt Shuham of TPM: "A staffer [Lauren Creekmore] for former Rep. Scott Taylor's (R-VA) 2018 re-election campaign has been indicted on election fraud charges, though the special prosecutor investigating the scandal said in a press release Monday that his ongoing probe has been hampered by 'the lack of cooperation of key individuals.'... Taylor's campaign had engaged in signature forgery ... to get former Democratic congressional contender on the ballot as an independent.... TPM broke the news in August that Taylor had personally tried to bury the signature forgery story." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Taylor lost his re-election bid in 2018 to Democrat Elaine Luria.

Juan Cole: "Avery Thompson [of] Popular Mechanics reports that in the month of April for the first time in US history, the country produced more electricity with renewables than with coal.... Back in 2010, burning coal provided the world 45 % of its power generation. In 2018, that figure had drooped to 27 percent. At the same time, the share of renewables in power generation in the US has grown to 18% (including hydro)." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: That's progress in spite of Trump, his EPA, his Energy Department, his Interior Department, & the rest of his irresponsible, antediluvian administrative apparatus.

Joshua Specht, in the Guardian, has a long read on how: "Exploitation and predatory pricing drove the transformation of the US beef industry -- and created the model for modern agribusiness." --s

Kyla Mandel of ThinkProgress: "Around the world, nature is in decline at an unprecedented rate and many of Earth's ecosystems face a catastrophic level of risk, according to a new report summary released Monday by the United Nations. This 'ominous' trend is due entirely to human activities.... While the risk of one million species going extinct has already grabbed headlines around the world, the report summary contains a slew of other stunning facts. Here are some of the numbers you may have missed." --s

"Annals of Journalism," Womp Womp Edition. Josh Kovensky of TPM: "Infamous alt-right troll Chuck Johnson's website GotNews filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last month, according to a California federal court filing from the closed-down site.... The troll site must supply the list of creditors by Wednesday, and that list will offer a peek into who thought it was a good idea to finance Johnson." --s ...

... Anna Merlan of Splinter: "Recently referred to as a 'race-baiting troll' by the Boston Globe, Johnson's GotNews was a hive of misinformation, and outlandish, often provably false claims. Over time, both the site and Johnson's personal Facebook page -- now also deleted -- were increasingly filled with addled racist propaganda and Holocaust denialism; among other things, Johnson questioned whether six million Jews really died during the Holocaust and said on Reddit that he agreed 'about Auschwitz and the gas chambers not being real.') Johnson was also the first person banned for life from Twitter after he tried to raise funds to 'take out' black civil rights activist DeRay McKesson, comments which both the site and McKesson took as a threat.... What was more outlandish than any of Johnson's claims, however, was his increasingly less-fringe place in Washington D.C. political circles." Mrs. McC: Read on. The Trump administration is filled with wackos, starting at the tippy-top, of course.

Silvia Borrelli of Politico: "A top Catholic Cardinal objected to Steve Bannon's plans to create a training school for nationalists in a former Carthusian monastery.... [Bannon] wants to set up the alt-right academy at Trisulti Charterhouse in Collepardo, around 70 kilometers southeast of Rome. But according to a letter obtained by Politico, Cardinal Renato Maria Martino raised objections to using the monastery for political purposes. He wrote to Benjamin Harnwell, Bannon's close associate in Italy who is spearheading the project, on January 29, 2019 demanding that there be no 'distortions or modifications' to the original plan. The original idea was to create an apolitical Catholic study and training center.... Locals in Collepardo, the closest town to the Trisulti abbey, marched in protest at Harnwell's and Bannon's plans in March. The scheme was also challenged last month by Italy's Democratic Party leader, Nicola Zingaretti, who is also the governor of the Lazio region, where the monastery is located." ...

... Matt Stieb of New York: "... Cardinal Martino isn't the only authority to contest Bannon's pivot to create a 'gladiator school for culture warriors.' The Italian culture ministry has reportedly told lawyers to determine if there are grounds to cancel the authorizations given to [Bannon's lovely project], with possible irregularities in the paperwork." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: In Italy, there are many ways to skin a cat: if the locals don't like you -- and they don't -- good luck with getting building permits for even the most insignificant repairs. This is an historic site, & you'll need permits to replace a broken roof tile or do minor electrical upgrades. Under the circumstances, crossing palms just might not work out for you. You & your crazy buddies could find yourselves plotting in the dark while raindrops keep falling on your heads.

Beyond the Beltway

Tennessee. Joel Ebert & Natalie Allison of the Tennessean: Tennessee "House Speaker Glen Casada's top aide has a history of sending sexually explicit text messages and making inappropriate advances toward former interns, lobbyists and campaign staffers, according to documents obtained by the USA TODAY Network - Tennessee. Copies of text messages sent from a cellphone number associated with Cade Cothren, 32, show Casada was included on some of the staff member's derogatory comments toward women. The texts also show Casada, R-Franklin, participated in some of the sexually charged messages objectifying women.... Revelations about Cothren's inappropriate sexual advances and text messages come after Casada's chief of staff admitted to using cocaine in the legislature's office building. Cothren is also facing scrutiny over racist text messages.... In recent days, Casada repeatedly has vouched for Cothren, including Monday.... Update: Cade Cothren announced his resignation Monday night, following the publication of this story."

Way Beyond

China. Lily Quo of the Guardian: "[M]ore than two dozen Islamic religious sites that have been partly or completely demolished in Xinjiang since 2016, according to an investigation by the Guardian and open-source journalism site Bellingcat that offers new evidence of large-scale mosque razing in the Chinese territory where rights groups say Muslim minorities suffer severe religious repression.... In the name of containing religious extremism, China has overseen an intensifying state campaign of mass surveillance and policing of Muslim minorities.... Researchers say as many as 1.5 million Uighurs and other Muslims have been involuntarily sent to internment or re-education camps, claims that Beijing rejects." --s

Israel-Palestine. Isabel Kershner of the New York Times: "A tentative cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in Gaza appeared to have taken hold Monday morning, bringing a short but deadly bout of cross-border fighting to an end as abruptly as it had started. At least 22 Palestinians, including militants and children, were killed in Gaza over the weekend, and four Israeli civilians died in the fighting." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Dov Waxman in Informed Comment: "Dead on arrival. That's what almost every expert predicts will be the fate of the Trump administration's long-awaited peace plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As the author of the new book, 'The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: What Everyone Needs to Know,' I share this view.... About the only thing the Trump administration's peace plan has going for it is the fact that nobody expects it to succeed. With expectations so low, there's less risk that the likely failure of the plan will trigger another round of Israeli-Palestinian violence." --s

Myanmar. Simon Lewis & Shoon Naing of Reuters: "Two Reuters journalists jailed in Myanmar after they were convicted of breaking the Official Secrets Act walked free from a prison on the outskirts of Yangon on Tuesday after spending more than 500 days behind bars. The two reporters, Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, had been convicted in September and sentenced to seven years in jail.... They were released under a presidential amnesty for 6,520 prisoners on Tuesday. President Win Myint has pardoned thousands of other prisoners in mass amnesties since last month."

Russia. Henry Meyer & Ilya Arkhipov of Bloomberg: "[P]ockets of disquiet rarely seen in the Vladimir Putin era are now putting ... depressed towns in the Russian hinterland on the political radar. The catalyst ... is health care. Doctors and other hospital staff in the region have been leading protests over the president's broken promises of better pay and the threat of clinics closing.... Nationwide support for Putin is stable [above 60 percent] after falling dramatically last year.... Concern, though, that traditionally loyal sections of the population are turning against the authorities raised an alarm in the government.... Protests used to be confined to the big cities. Now they're in the Putin heartlands.... Federal statistics released in March showed that more than a third of Russians can't afford to buy two pairs of shoes a year." --s