The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW

Here's a Houzz feature on Frederick Douglass's D.C. home. Since it's not far from Donald Trump's new (temporary) digs and is every bit as fancy, the Trumpster might want to pay a visit to someone who's done such "an amazing job" that he's "getting recognized more and more." SCROTUS may be surprised to discover that Mr. Douglass is not at home. Too bad, because if Mr. Douglass weren't dead, he could have showed Donaldo his portrait, which for some time was owned by W.E.B. Du Bois (or DeBois or whatever).

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

Rosie O'Donnell's new Twitter profile pic. Thanks to Unwashed for the link. -- CW 

CNN: "The book publisher Penguin is printing more copies of George Orwell's dystopian classic '1984' in response to a sudden surge of demand. On Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning the book was #1 on Amazon's computer-generated list of best-selling books. The list reflects hourly book sales. The 68-year-old novel appeared on the list on Monday, hovered around the #6 spot for much of the day, rose to #2 by Tuesday afternoon and then hit #1." -- CW 

The Netherlands Welcomes Trump, in his own words. Thanks to Haley S. for the link:

... CW: We're the laughingstock of the world. But, like us, others have to laugh so they don't cry or scream or hunker down in a suvivalist's crouch.

Los Angeles Times: "The nominations for the 89th Academy Awards were revealed this morning in Los Angeles. 'La La Land' did what 800-lb gorillas are supposed to do: dominate the Oscar nominations tally, pulling down 14, including actor, actress, director and picture. Ava Duvernay’s '13th' joins 'O.J.: Made in America' among best documentary feature nominees, continuing our ongoing conversation about race in the United States. Speaking of which, with Viola Davis, Dev Patel, Octavia Spencer, Denzel Washington, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris and Ruth Negga getting acting nominations, the 89th Academy Awards will definitely not be so white." This article includes a complete list of the nominees.

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday
Feb032017

The Commentariat -- February 4, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Josh Gerstein & Eli Stokols of Politico: "Confronting the most serious setback of his young administration, Trump took to Twitter to complain about at the Seattle judge who halted his controversial executive order before heading to Trump International Golf Resort in West Palm Beach to hit the links. 'The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!' Trump tweeted, after writing several other tweets defending his immigration stance." CW: As I wrote earlier, this is another instance of an authoritarian president undermining a Constitutional body charged with checking his actions. 

The President's attack on Judge James Robart, a Bush appointee who passed with 99 votes, shows a disdain for an independent judiciary that doesn't always bend to his wishes and a continued lack of respect for the Constitution, making it more important that the Supreme Court serve as an independent check on the administration. With each action testing the Constitution, and each personal attack on a judge, President Trump raises the bar even higher for Judge Gorsuch's nomination to serve on the Supreme Court. His ability to be an independent check will be front and center throughout the confirmation process. -- Sen. Chuck Schumer, Saturday

John Dawsey, et al., of Politico (Feb. 2): "The State Department drafted its own statement last month marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day that explicitly included a mention of Jewish victims, according to people familiar with the matter, but ... Donald Trump’s White House blocked its release. The existence of the draft statement adds another dimension to the controversy around the White House’s own statement that was released on Friday and set off a furor because it excluded any mention of Jews." -- CW 

*****

Nicholas Kulish, et al., of the New York Times: "A federal judge in Seattle on Friday temporarily blocked President Trump’s week-old immigration order from being enforced nationwide, potentially reopening the country’s door to visa holders from seven predominantly Muslim countries and dealing the administration a humbling defeat.... The federal government was 'arguing that we have to protect the U.S. from individuals from these countries, and there’s no support for that,' said the judge, James Robart of Federal District Court for the Western District of Washington, an appointee of President George W. Bush, in a decision delivered from the bench.... The White House vowed late Friday to fight what it called an 'outrageous' ruling, saying it would seek an emergency halt to the judge’s order as soon as possible and restore the president’s 'lawful and appropriate order.'... Shortly before the Seattle ruling, a different federal judge, Nathaniel M. Gorton in Boston, ruled in favor of the government by declining to extend a temporary halt to the order in that jurisdiction. Judge Gorton ... was appointed to the bench by the first President George Bush.... But that ruling was soon rendered moot, at least for now, by the Seattle ruling.” --CW ...

     ... CW: When some judges really did issue "outrageous" orders against President Obama's executive orders, Obama spokespeople said the administration "disagreed" with the court order or were "disappointed" by it. Trump, by contrast, seeks to delegitimate the court system. They are posing yet another serious threat to Constitutional order. ...

     ... Update. Josh Gerstein of Politico: "'At the earliest possible time, the Department of Justice intends to file an emergency stay of this outrageous order and defend the executive order of the President, which we believe is lawful and appropriate,' White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a written statement. 'The president’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people.' Spicer's statement was reissued about 10 minutes later to remove the word 'outrageous.' No explanation was given for the modification, but such intemperate language toward the judge's order could have landed government lawyers in hot water.... The judge ruled from the bench and quickly followed up with a written order. It appears to shut down all significant aspects of Trump's order that had immediate effect, including the suspension of entry into the U.S. of citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, as well as the 120-day halt to refugee admissions, an indefinite stop to admission of refugees from Syria. The order also rejects Trump's effort to give Christians in those countries priority in the refugee program." -- CW ...

... Alan Yuhas of the Guardian: "After a federal judge in Seattle ordered a temporary halt on Donald Trump’s travel ban for refugees and people from seven predominantly-Muslim nations, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reportedly told US airlines that they could board travelers who had been barred." -- CW ...

... AP: "Legal battles are playing out across the United States as opponents of Donald Trump’s travel ban on citizens from seven predominantly Muslim nations take their fight to court."

of the Washington Post: "Over 100,000 visa have been revoked as a result of President Trump’s ban on travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries, an attorney for the government revealed in Alexandria federal court Friday. The number came out during a hearing in a lawsuit filed by attorneys for two Yemeni brothers who arrived at Dulles International Airport last Saturday. They were coerced into giving up their immigrant visas, they argue, and quickly put on a return flight to Ethiopia.  That figure was immediately disputed by the State Department, which said the number of visas revoked was roughly 60,000." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

(... Mother Jones: "The New Yorker has revealed the cover for its upcoming issue which will feature an image of Lady Liberty with her flame extinguished, a powerful illustration that comes amid the continued fallout from President Donald Trump's executive order banning refugee resettlement and travel from seven Muslim-majority countries." -- CW)

... Rosina Ali of the New Yorker: "On Thursday, thousands of Yemeni-Americans turned out at a rally in Brooklyn, outside Borough Hall, to protest President Trump’s anti-Muslim travel ban. Seemingly every person in the crowd had a story to tell about how the ban affected him or her personally, and every story was one of separation." -- CW ...

... They Don't Know WTF They're Doing, Ctd. Another Reason Not to Let the Steves Write Executive Orders. Danny Vinik of Politico: "... immigration lawyers who have read [Trump's Muslim-ban] order carefully are now increasingly concerned that one of its provisions could have much wider repercussions, affecting literally every foreign visitor to America, from tourists to diplomats. The little-noticed section ... calls for the government to develop a 'uniform screening standard and procedure' for all individuals seeking to enter the United States. As written, it appears to require all visitors to go through the same vetting measures, regardless of where they come from or how long they intend to stay.... That wording is about as broad as it can get, lawyers said, and if taken literally would include every single foreigner coming to the United States.... If interpreted as broadly as it’s written, 'It would basically shut down tourism,' said Stephen Legomsky, the former chief counsel for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services during the Obama administration.... Instead of making the country safer, [immigration experts] said, a uniform screening standard would waste limited resources on low-risk travelers, potentially allowing more high-risk ones to fall through the cracks." -- CW ...

... Josh Rogin of the Washington Post has (at least a version of) the inside story on how the Trump administration settled the green-card issue, a story that includes a Saturday-night confrontation between Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly & Steve Little-Lenin Bannon. Kelly put Bannon in his place, reportedly politely. Rogin's story further emphasizes the falsity of Steve Miller's LOL claim that implementation of the Muslim ban all went down with hardly a hitch. -- CW 

"The Populist" at Work. Screwing the Populace. Ben Protess & Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Trump moved to roll back the Obama administration’s legacy on financial regulation on Friday, announcing an array of steps to undo rules enacted to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis and turning to the Wall Street titans he had demonized during his campaign for advice. After a White House meeting with the business executives on Friday, Mr. Trump signed a directive calling for a rewriting of major provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, crafted by the Obama administration and passed by Congress in response to the 2008 meltdown, the White House said. A second directive he signed is expected to halt and possibly require an overhaul of an Obama-era Labor Department rule that requires brokers to act in a client’s best interest, rather than seek the highest profits for themselves, when providing retirement advice." Emphasis added. -- CW  (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

Frankly I have so many people, friends of mine, that have nice businesses, they can’t borrow money because the banks just won’t let them borrow because of rules and regulations and Dodd-Frank. -- Donald Trump, on why he's rolling back Dodd-Frank ...

... Juliet Kleber of the New Republic: "What’s remarkable (although perhaps it shouldn’t be at this point) is the brashness with which he is using policy to enrich his friends looking for big speculative investments. George W. Bush might have joked that the elite were his base, but he never openly cited his fellow 1 percenters as the justification for his policies.” -- CW ...

... Mark Sumner of Daily Kos: "For over a year, Donald Trump repeatedly stated that his vast wealth made him immune to outside influence and warned against the power of a particular Wall Street firm [Goldman Sachs].... But now that Trump has installed Goldman Sachs alumni in every corner of the White House, it’s time for him to show his independence by … rolling over with his belly to the sky.... What could be more reassuring than the phrase 'dismantle much of the regulatory system put in place after the financial crisis'? After all, it’s not as if those regulations were put there exactly to keep the crisis from happening again. But wait. It gets better.... Donald Trump is going to make sure that Wall Street can keep lying to clients and feeding off retirees.... The basic idea was to make sure that when people were investing in retirement funds, the experts they paid to advise them and manage those funds were actually working for the people who were supposed to be their clients, rather than fattening themselves at their client’s expense. Naturally, Wall Street hated this rule.... Donald Trump is doing absolutely everything in his power to make his administration the second coming of Hoover and W rolled together." -- CW  (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Erin Ryan of the Daily Beast: "Making it easier for banks to screw the public and financial advisors to screw their clients aren’t the promises that filled Trump rallies with truck-driving, g-droppin’ white folk from the middle of the country. But, then again, Trump’s words and actions have always been divergent, and his voters have always been willing to buy Trump’s man-of-the-people snake oil over facing his con-man reality. Every time regulators have given them a chance, bankers and financial institutions have proven they’re not to be trusted to operate in the interest of the economy as a whole without sensible oversight. Why would this time be different?" -- CW ...

... John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "Although Trump campaigned as an economic populist, his brand of populism was simply old-school Reaganomics — giveaways to the rich and pro-corporate deregulation — rebranded with a nationalist and protectionist twist. After the election, Trump stocked his Cabinet with Wall Street billionaires and mega-millionaires — Wilbur Ross, Steve Mnuchin, [Gary] Cohn — who had benefitted personally from the lax regulatory regime that was in place before 2010." -- CW 

The Most Corrupt President Ever, Ctd. Susanne Craig & Eric Lipton of the New York Times: "... records have emerged that show just how closely tied [Donald] Trump remains to the empire he built. While the president says he has walked away from the day-to-day operations of his business, two people close to him are the named trustees and have broad legal authority over his assets: his eldest son, Donald Jr., and Allen H. Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer. Mr. Trump, who will receive reports on any profit, or loss, on his company as a whole, can revoke their authority at any time. What’s more, the purpose of the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust is to hold assets for the 'exclusive benefit' of the president.... 'I don’t see how this in the slightest bit avoids a conflict of interest,' said Frederick J. Tansill, a trust and estates lawyer from Virginia.... 'First it is revocable at any time, and it is his son and his chief financial officer who are running it.'... Representative Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, the ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform who has called for a congressional investigation into the lease, said he remained unsatisfied that Mr. Trump had addressed his conflicts. 'This is smoke and mirrors,' he said of the new documents.” -- CW ...

... Amy Brittain & Drew Harwell of the Washington Post: "When the president-elect’s son Eric Trump jetted to Uruguay in early January for a Trump Organization promotional trip, U.S. taxpayers were left footing a bill of nearly $100,000 in hotel rooms for Secret Service and embassy staff.... The Uruguayan trip shows how the government is unavoidably entangled with the Trump company as a result of the president’s refusal to divest his ownership stake. In this case, government agencies are forced to pay to support business operations that ultimately help to enrich the president himself.... 'This is an example of the blurring of the line between the personal interest in the family business and the government,' said Kathleen Clark, an expert on government ethics and law professor at Washington University in St. Louis." -- CW ...

... Missed This One. Trump Loses $6MM Case. Josh Gerstein (Feb. 1): "A federal judge has ordered a golf club owned by ... Donald Trump to refund nearly $6 million to members who said Trump's team essentially confiscated refundable deposits after taking over the country club in 2012. U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth A. Marra ruled that the Trump National Jupiter Golf Club violated the contracts with members by retaining the fees and locking out many members who had declared their plans to resign.... Trump is not personally a defendant in the case, but he did sit for a deposition last year that was played at a bench trial in the case last August. Trump's son Eric testified live at the trial.... A lawyer for the Trump Organization, Alan Garten, said an appeal is planned." -- CW 

** Brian Beutler of the New Republic: "The bigoted undertones of Trump’s Mexico policy and the overtones of the [Muslim] ban are self-evident. But they are not incidental to the Fortress America that Trump hopes to create by keeping immigrants, refugees, and imports out of the country. If anything, the economic and security justifications for these policies are incidental, while the racial antagonism and scapegoating runs through the entirety of the agenda. Trump essentially promised us during the campaign that he would attempt to turn America into a white ethno-state, and now he’s making good on his promises.... Across a range of issues, the overall thrust is that Trump is implementing a program of white chauvinism, just as he said he would. His hostility toward Muslims, refugees, and Mexico is just the beginning." -- CW ...

... Paul Waldman: Donald Trump "sincerely believes that every other country is 'taking advantage' of the United States, which we know because he says it quite often. In his worldview, there's no such thing as a real alliance. Everyone is out for themselves, and the only question is whether you're getting screwed or you're the one doing the screwing.... So what happens when that first real crisis comes? There are any number of situations we could imagine where the smart thing to do is defuse tensions, pull back, or give our adversaries the opportunity to save face.... Does Trump have the psychological capacity to act carefully, maybe even to put aside what his ego is telling him in order to do what's in the best interests of the country?... Our fates will be in the hands of a man who can't get through a conversation with the prime minister of Australia without flying off the handle." -- CW 

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "The federal government announced Friday that it was dispatching Bureau of Indian Affairs agents to help clear Dakota Access Pipeline protesters from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.... Acting assistant secretary of Indian affairs Michael S. Black said the agency had sent 'enforcement support and will assist' the tribe 'in closing the protest camps within the Standing Rock Reservation boundary.'... In response to a directive from President Trump, this week the acting secretary of the Army, Robert Speer, ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite review of an easement for the pipeline to run under Lake Oahe." CW: "was a registered member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota." President Obama appointed him director of the Bureau in 2010. He is acting director because, as a political appointee, he resigned in November.

Loveday Morris of the Washington Post: "President Trump is 'foolish' and has ignited the 'flame of jihad' with a raid in Yemen in which civilians were killed, al-Qaeda said Friday in its first official comments on the new U.S. administration.... Civilian casualties provide easy fodder for extremist propaganda, and Trump’s ­comments indicating that he will heavily bomb Islamic State ­militants who have caused ­nervousness for some in the ­region.... Analysts have also expressed fears that policies such as Trump’s travel ban on seven ­majority-Muslim countries could fan international extremism and stoke anti-American sentiment, causing more danger to the ­United States, rather than ­protecting it. On online forums and social media, Islamist ­militants have hailed the ban as proof that the United States is at war with Islam. " -- CW 

Julian Borger & David Smith of the Guardian: "The Trump administration has announced sanctions on a dozen companies and 13 individuals, including Iranian and Chinese nationals, in response to a January missile test by Iran and the country’s support for Houthi rebels in Yemen. Earlier on Friday Donald Trump had accused Iran of 'playing with fire'. 'They don’t appreciate how "kind" President Obama was to them. Not me!' he said in an early morning tweet. Sanctions experts said the new measures appeared to be in line with the Obama administration’s approach of incrementally expanding sanctions as procurement and influence networks are uncovered, but a senior Trump administration official said the decision to impose the new sanctions had been triggered by the 29 January Iranian test of a medium-range ballistic missile, and that they were 'initial steps' taken while a broader review of policy towards Iran was under way." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Be Afraid, People. Be Very Afraid. Karen Tumulty & David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "... stoking fear — a strategy that helped get Trump elected — is emerging as a central part of how he plans to carry out his governing agenda....[After a] machete-wielding man was quickly shot and arrested Friday morning by French police and soldiers.. Trump tweeted, 'A new radical Islamic terrorist has just attacked in Louvre Museum in Paris. Tourists were locked down. France on edge again. GET SMART U.S.,'... There were no injuries, except a slight cut to the scalp of a soldier. Trump’s reaction to the Egyptian attacker ... also stood in stark contrast to his public silence on the killing of six Muslim worshipers five days earlier at a mosque in Quebec City.... Channeling and amplifying fear can be an effective campaign tool, but Trump’s critics say it is a dangerous way to lead a country.... Playing upon the nation’s anxieties about what might happen also stands as a stark contrast to how presidents have lifted the country out of actual crisis in the past.... 'If he frightens people, it puts him in the driver’s seat. He’s in control,' said historian Robert Dallek. 'These are what I think can be described as demagogic tendencies.'” -- CW ...

Of course if [the machete-wielder] was in the US he could have easily gotten a gun even if he was mentally ill. -- Marvin S., in today's thread

Gail Collins: "The big DeVos vote is next week. After listening to her flounder around in a hearing, two Republican senators said they just couldn’t bring themselves to support her, so it looks like it’ll come down to 50-50. All eyes will turn to Mike Pence. Who will become the first vice president since the founding of the republic to break a tie on a cabinet nomination. And you thought Donald Trump was just babbling when he promised to make history. Pence is looking more and more like the Big Man in the administration. Conservatives who see their president as a large, scary spending machine follow Pence’s every move with adoration. The religious right is counting on him to keep a chief executive with a history of crotch-grabbing on the straight and narrow when it comes to their agenda. And Republicans in Congress realize he’s the only member of the top team who could get through a phone conversation with the prime minister of Australia without causing an international crisis." -- CW ...

... Here's One pence Lost. Glenn Thrush & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "The two most influential social liberals in President Trump’s inner circle — daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushnerhelped kill a proposed executive order that would have scrapped Obama-era L.G.B.T. protections, according to people familiar with the issue. A third, Gary D. Cohn, the chairman of the president’s National Economic Council, a Democrat who was brought to the West Wing by Mr. Kushner and reflects the socially liberal and economically conservative views of many Wall Street power brokers, privately told aides to the president that he was disturbed it was even being considered.... The draft order, circulated by religious conservatives allied with Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, was one of about 250 edicts that have been sent to federal agencies for vetting." -- CW  

Paid Anarchist.Jonathan Chait: "Donald Trump's ... administration continues to broadcast autocratic views on politics. It is worth highlighting some of these statements simply because a kind of discourse that once would have been considered shocking has quickly become routine. This morning, Trump repeated one of his favorite authoritarian tropes by insisting that protesters against him have been secretly paid — 'Professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters,' he ranted on Twitter. Kellyanne Conway, meanwhile, insists that protests are not democratic. 'There’s nothing peaceful and nothing democratic about folks who are out there just trying to re-litigate the election and protesting things they know nothing about,' she tells Sean Hannity. The election result, in Conway’s view, settled all political questions, and any protest against Trump’s policies is therefore undemocratic.... The Trump administration believes the proper time for public criticism and accountability ended with the campaign. The survival of American democracy will hinge upon whether it gets the chance to put its beliefs into practice." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... CW: I'm surprised so many thugs & anarchists had time to write into Reality Chex to share their experiences of the Women's March. You'd think they would all have been out shopping, spending the money George Soros or somebody paid them (to travel for miles at great personal inconvenience to stand out in the elements) to protest things they know nothing about. Seriously, Trump & Co. are not just undermining democracy; they are also insulting millions of exemplary American citizens, the vast majority of whom are also voters.

"Bowling Green Massacre." Two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized, and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre. Most people didn’t know that because it didn’t get covered. -- Kellyanne Conway, on Chris Matthews' show, yesterday 

Conway was on her way to a Four-Pinocchio rating when, about an hour and a half after The Fact Checker sent her a query about her remarks, she tweeted that she meant to say 'Bowling Green terrorists.'... Here’s what Conway got wrong in her original statement: There was no massacre in Bowling Green. The discovery that former Iraqi bomb makers had been admitted as refugees was widely covered. They were not 'radicalized’ after they came to the United States. -- Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Bannon Has Long Had an Anti-Muslim Obession. Matea Gold of the Washington Post: Ten years ago Steve Bannon wrote a treatment for a "documentary-style movie ... that envisioned radical Muslims taking over the country and remaking it into the 'Islamic States of America,' according to a document describing the project obtained by The Washington Post. The outline shows how Bannon, years before he ... helped draft last week’s order restricting travel from seven mostly Muslim countries, sought to issue a warning about the threat posed by radical Muslims as well as their 'enablers among us.' Although driven by the 'best intentions,' the outline says, institutions such as the media, the Jewish community and government agencies were appeasing jihadists aiming to create an Islamic republic. The eight-page draft, written in 2007 during Bannon’s stint as a Hollywood filmmaker, proposed a three-part movie that would trace 'the culture of intolerance' behind sharia law, examine the 'Fifth Column' made up of 'Islamic front groups' and identify the American enablers paving 'the road to this unique hell on earth.'” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Jud Lounsbury of the Progressive provides some background on the other Steve -- Stephen Miller -- who co-wrote the Muslim ban. Miller is a young man, but he has a history of extreme Muslim hatred that makes Trump & Bannon seem like the pictures of tolerance. -- CW 

Julie Davis of the New York Times: Melania Trump ... vanished from public view days after her husband’s swearing-in two weeks ago. And it raised new questions about what role, if any, she plans to play as first lady.... It was not until Wednesday that she named Lindsay Reynolds, who worked in the White House under President George W. Bush, as her chief of staff, a position that most first ladies fill before Inauguration Day. Mrs. Trump has still not filled other crucial positions.... Unanswered requests for White House tours, traditionally run by the first lady’s office, have been piling up by the thousands, according to people familiar with the process.... She is far behind the curve compared to where modern first ladies have been by the time their husbands are inaugurated, in a quite unprecedented way,' said Myra Gutin, a professor at Rider University who specializes in first ladies. 'We are in uncharted territory here.'” -- CW  (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

** Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker: "From 2003 to 2005, Gina Haspel was a senior official overseeing a top-secret C.I.A. program that subjected dozens of suspected terrorists to savage interrogations, which included depriving them of sleep, squeezing them into coffins, and forcing water down their throats. In 2002, Haspel was among the C.I.A. officers present at the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, an Al Qaeda suspect who was tortured so brutally that at one point he appeared to be dead. On Thursday, the Trump Administration announced that Haspel would become the C.I.A.’s new deputy director. It appears that the debate about torture in the President’s mind, if there ever was one, is over. Haspel, a career C.I.A. employee, took part in another of the agency’s darkest moments: the destruction, in 2005, of video tapes of the interrogation of Zubaydah and a second suspect, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, at whose torture she was present, three years before. Because Haspel’s new job is exempt from congressional confirmation, it’s doubtful she will ever have to publicly answer questions about her role in what amounts to America’s dirty war.... Some Democrats in the Senate, like Ron Wyden, of Oregon, have sent letters of protest. It’s noble of the senators to try, but I doubt they will have much effect." ...

    ... CW: Yeah, but, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who led the team that wrote the Senate's thorough -- and shocking -- torture report, should raise a major stink over Haspel's appointment. 

Another Trump Mob Connection. Russ Buettner & Noam Scheiber of the New York Times: "Decades before President Trump nominated him to be labor secretary, Andrew Puzder went to battle with federal labor regulators in a Las Vegas courtroom. The year was 1983, and Mr. Puzder was working at a law firm owned by a famous mob lawyer and casino owner whom the Labor Department accused of squandering $25 million from his union workers’ pension funds on sham investments. It fell to Mr. Puzder to lead the defense, which he framed in aggressively antigovernment terms. In his opening statement, Mr. Puzder told the jury it was not his boss’s fault for not paying back the money — it was overzealous regulators in Washington who had killed off a good business deal by intervening before his investments could succeed.... As it turned out, Mr. Puzder’s arguments in the case foreshadowed positions he would take after leaving the practice of law to become chief executive of a fast-food company. He has repeatedly argued that labor regulations stifle economic growth. He has indicated his preference for machines over people because they do not take time off or file lawsuits. And a recording recently surfaced of him referring to his employees as 'the best of the worst.'” -- CW  

Susanne Craig: "Vincent Viola, a billionaire Wall Street trader and President Trump’s nominee for secretary of the Army, withdrew his name on Friday night from consideration for the job, according to a senior administration official. Mr. Viola, who is also an owner of the Florida Panthers hockey club, pulled out of the appointment after concluding that distancing himself from his business would be too difficult, the official said. In addition to being the majority shareholder in Virtu Financial, he has a number of other business interests, including a majority stake in Eastern Air Lines." -- CW 

Making America Sick Again, Ctd. Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The number of people who signed up for health insurance in the federal marketplace that serves most states dipped this year to 9.2 million, the Trump administration said Friday, as consumers struggled with confusion over the future of the Affordable Care Act. That represents a decline of more than 4 percent from the total of 9.63 million people who signed up through HealthCare.gov at this time last year. The numbers do not include activity in the 11 states that run their own online marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act... . State reports suggest that they have signed up about three million people. Veterans of the Obama administration said President Trump’s opposition to the health law and his efforts to undermine it had taken a toll. People may also have been influenced by signals from Congress that the law would soon be repealed. And some consumers may have been put off by the termination of their health plans, which was caused by an exodus of major insurers from the market in many states." CW: Thanks, GOP! 

The Party's Over. Michael Grynbaum & Katie Rogers of the New York Times: "The White House Correspondents’ Dinner has gone from a hoary ritual to the apex of Washington’s social calendar.... But like many Washington traditions, things are changing now that President Trump is in town. The New Yorker is canceling the kickoff party that it usually holds at the W Hotel.... Vanity Fair is pulling out of co-sponsoring the dinner’s most exclusive after-party.... Coupled with plans by the comedian Samantha Bee to hold an alternative event on the night of the dinner — scheduled for April 29 — the moves are a sign that the arrival of Mr. Trump is turning off the Hollywood and New York boldface names who flocked to see President Barack Obama at the event in years past. And it underscores the awkward nature of the press corps throwing a splashy dinner while covering an administration that has been outwardly hostile to the news media." -- CW 

Ginia Bellafonte of the New York Times: "During her eight years in the Senate, [Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)] has amassed a record far more liberal than her earlier political dealings would have predicted, reversing her position on guns, being a co-sponsor of the Dream Act and challenging the military on sexual assault issues, but it is now, in this explosive moment, that her transformation has come into high relief." -- CW 

Way Beyond the Beltway

Ashifa Kassam of the Guardian: "Hundreds across Canada gathered around mosques to form protective barriers – described by organisers as 'human shields' and 'rings of peace' – as Muslims in the country marked their first Friday prayers since a gunman shot dead six men who were praying at a Quebec mosque.... The idea was inspired by a group of Muslims in Oslo, said [Yael] Splansky..., the rabbi behind the effort.... In 2015, as Jewish communities across Europe were reeling from antisemitic attacks in France and Denmark, Muslims organised to stand guard around the synagogue in Oslo while those inside offered Sabbath prayers." -- CW 

Thursday
Feb022017

Realty Chex Contributors Issue Reality Chex

In yesterday's Comments thread, two Reality Chex contributors linked to stories that follow up on earlier items. While each of these story threads may be minor when compared to Trump's daily megablunders, each points, in its own way, to larger issues surrounding this president & the government he is supposed to run.

Brain Fog. The first, er, hair-raiser comes from PD Pepe, who links Ann Brenoff's post in the Huffington Post: "In a snicker-worthy disclosure by ... Donald Trump’s longtime personal physician, readers of The New York Times learned Thursday that the leader of the free world takes a small daily dose of the drug finasteride ―  otherwise known as Propecia ― which is used to treat male-pattern baldness.... With the revelation that Trump is taking finasteride, many rushed to warn of possible side effects ― including mental confusion and permanent sexual dysfunction.... 'The FDA-approved pill has been called into question, with emerging research and a slew of lawsuits suggesting that finasteride may be more dangerous than previously believed,' reported Men’s Journal. 'Users report that its side effects — inability to orgasm, painful erections, chronic depression, insomnia, brain fog, and suicidal thoughts — can last long after patients stop taking the pill.' Since 2011, at least 1,245 lawsuits have been filed against Propecia’s manufacturer, Merck, alleging that the company didn’t sufficiently warn users of sexual and cognitive side effects. Patients and physicians reportedly call the effects 'Post-Finasteride Syndrome' because, they say, symptoms often persist after discontinuing the drug. The National Institutes of Health has added PFS to its rare-diseases database."

The drug also may explain Dr. Bornstein's perpetually odd behavior: "Bornstein, 69, said he takes finasteride himself and credited it with helping maintain his own shoulder-length hair.”

Oddly, the New York Times article, written by a medical doctor -- Lawrence Altman -- did not mention the side effects of finasteride, something I wondered about when I read the story. Instead, Altman used his allotted space to discuss Dr. Bornstein's unhappy experiences at the Trump inauguration. (He has a back problem! he was in pain! He couldn't find anywhere to sit!) Altman's report is a little like a doctor giving you a presription but not telling you it could ruin your life forever. Altman did the public a service by revealing the medication Trump takes, but he left it to others to tell the public that the medication may help explain the POTUS's incompetence & bizarre behavior.

The side effects of finasteride may give us a clue as to why Trump has found it necessary to brag about his sexual prowess & physical endowment. His boasts are defense mechanisms he uses to cover for his inability to get it up. Of course, Trump's possible sexual impotence and his efforts to hide it are of much less importance than is the enhancing effect the drug may have on his personality disorders. If Bornstein were not a quack, he would recognize the drug's possible contributions to the deterioration of his client's mental & physical health.

Meanwhile, Aaron Blake of the New York Times makes a strong case that Trump & Bornstein purposely hid Trump's use of finasteride. "In the initial letter, Bornstein only disclosed that Trump takes '81 mg of aspirin daily and a low dose of a statin.' There was no mention of any other medications, though the letter didn't necessarily say these were the only drugs he was taking. But in [Trump's] interview with [Dr,] Oz, Oz seemed to be led to believe that the statin was the 'only' drug Trump was taking, and Trump didn't correct him.... Trump was clearly given two opportunities to disclose these drugs — three, if you include his first medical letter — and he declined in each case."

Why the secrecy? Charitably, one might argue that it was because Trump was sensitive about his hair loss. More likely, though, Trump has known for a long time the effects of the drug (something any person who was experiencing erectile dysfunction or other symptoms would notice), and he didn't want journalists, doctors, pundits & the public discussing his physical & mental disorders. Let's see if there are any real White House journalists who will pepper press secretary Sean Spicer with questions about Trump's usage of finasteride. We all know Trump is nuts. We have a right to know if he's too nuts to govern, what with finasteride apparently having irreversible effects. We have a right to know if the POTUS has a rare disease which limits his ability to govern.


THEN THERE WAS THIS. A few days ago, Haley S. linked to a TPM post that suggested a convoy of military Humvees was driving on a public highway & the lead vehicle was flying a Trump flag. A local activist organization had obtained video that captured the convoy on the road, the huge flag waving in the breeze. A number of local media inquired into the matter because military regulations prohibit the display of political paraphernalia. However, for two days, the Pentagon punted or outright misled reporters:

Andrew Wolfson of the Louisville Courier-Journal, January 30: "A Defense Department spokesman, Maj. Jamie Davis, who examined images of the four-truck procession for the Courier-Journal, said he doesn't think it belonged to any service branch — and that the vehicles may have been military surplus."

Contributor Patrick saw the video & noted "that the convoy vehicles have no license plates, just the stencil-paint numbers at the top of the cab rear." If the Humvees were privately-owned, obviously they would have had to be licensed.

Never mind that. Morgan Eads of the Lexington Herald-Leader (Jan. 31) got the definitive denial from the Pentagon: "A convoy of Humvees seen flying a Trump campaign flag in Louisville on Sunday were not active military vehicles, according to the Department of Defense. The vehicles were probably used by the military at one time, but are no longer being operated by current U.S. military members, Department of Defense spokesman Maj. Jamie Davis said Tuesday.... 'These are not U.S. military vehicles,' Davis said. 'They are Humvees, but there’s no unit designator on there. In the Army, if we go out we have our vehicles identified.'... The 'Trump' flag would also not be flown on an active military vehicle, Davis said. Some military vehicles will have an American flag or a unit flag, but never a flag endorsing an individual."

Okay then.... Well, not okay. Andrew Wolfson (February 1): "The Navy is investigating whether the mysterious convoy of military vehicles seen flying a Donald Trump flag Sunday in Louisville were, in fact, its trucks. Lt. Mary Kate Walsh, a Navy spokeswoman at the Pentagon, said Tuesday that it would be 'strange for us to have Humvees' but that the Navy Facilities Engineering Command, which controls the motor pool, is investigating."

In yesterday's Comments, Haley flagged an update. Andrew Wolfson, in USA Today (February 2): "The military convoy seen flying a Trump flag in Louisville on Sunday belonged to a Navy Special Warfare unit, and the flag was 'unauthorized,' a Navy spokeswoman said. Lt. Jacqui Maxwell of the Naval Special Warfare Group 2 in Virginia Beach, Va., said a command inquiry is underway.... A Department of Defense spokesman said Monday he thought the trucks were military surplus and being driven by private citizens. But experts on military transport said they were equipped with expensive technology, including ballistic glass, that wouldn’t be seen on a decommissioned vehicles, and that they probably belonged to the Navy SEALs or other special operations forces. The trucks also bore numbers that match those used by the Navy. Some motorists said they were alarmed by military units flying the flag of a national leader rather than the country, which they said is reminiscent of a fascist government or banana republic."

To add insult to injury, whatever military personnel mounted the Trump flag on the Navy vehicle, they are part of the SEALs unit: the very unit Trump betrayed by sending them into a raid in Yemen without adequate inteligence and preparation. One auxiliary troop was killed in the raid, as were some Yemini civilians, including a child or children.

Jamie Davis is not a Trump appointee. He's been the Pentagon spokesman since at least last May. Yet if Eads got his quotation right, Davis was perfectly willing to mislead the public: "These are not U.S. military vehicles," he said, according to Eads. That's a denial, not a hedge, a maybe, or an I-don't-know. If Wolfson had taken Davis at his word, that would have been the end of the story. But he pressed on. Wolfson is a reporter among thousands whom Steve Bannon said should "keep [his] mouth shut and just listen for a while.... The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country."

On the surface, this seems to be a minor issue: some Trumpbot jamokes violating military regulation in service of a president who showed careless disregard for the safety of their unit. But the larger picture is one of a system that is willing (1) to lie to the public for its own convenience, and (2) to shut down a free press determined to get at truths large & small.

So thanks to PD & Haley for their part in passing along these truths. If the New York Times won't do it fully, if the Pentagon won't do it, and if the Trump administration certainly won't do it, the rest of us have to keep doing our part, no matter how small it may seem in the short run. In the long run, it is up to us to reweave the tatters of our unraveling democracy.


Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/news/state/article129774089.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/news/state/article129774089.html#storylink=cpy
Thursday
Feb022017

The Commentariat -- February 3, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Ben Protess & Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Trump moved to roll back the Obama administration’s legacy on financial regulation on Friday, announcing an array of steps to undo rules enacted to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis and turning to the Wall Street titans he had demonized during his campaign for advice. After a White House meeting with the business executives on Friday, Mr. Trump signed a directive calling for a rewriting of major provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, crafted by the Obama administration and passed by Congress in response to the 2008 meltdown, the White House said. A second directive he signed is expected to halt and possibly require an overhaul of an Obama-era Labor Department rule that requires brokers to act in a client’s best interest, rather than seek the highest profits for themselves, when providing retirement advice." Emphasis added. -- CW  ...

... Mark Sumner of Daily Kos: "For over a year, Donald Trump repeatedly stated that his vast wealth made him immune to outside influence and warned against the power of a particular Wall Street firm [Goldman Sachs].... But now that Trump has installed Goldman Sachs alumni in every corner of the White House, it’s time for him to show his independence by … rolling over with his belly to the sky.... What could be more reassuring than the phrase 'dismantle much of the regulatory system put in place after the financial crisis'? After all, it’s not as if those regulations were put there exactly to keep the crisis from happening again. But wait. It gets better.... Donald Trump is going to make sure that Wall Street can keep lying to clients and feeding off retirees.... The basic idea was to make sure that when people were investing in retirement funds, the experts they paid to advise them and manage those funds were actually working for the people who were supposed to be their clients, rather than fattening themselves at their client’s expense. Naturally, Wall Street hated this rule.... Donald Trump is doing absolutely everything in his power to make his administration the second coming of Hoover and W rolled together." -- CW  

of the Washington Post: "Over 100,000 visa have been revoked as a result of President Trump’s ban on travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries, an attorney for the government revealed in Alexandria federal court Friday. The number came out during a hearing in a lawsuit filed by attorneys for two Yemeni brothers who arrived at Dulles International Airport last Saturday. They were coerced into giving up their immigrant visas, they argue, and quickly put on a return flight to Ethiopia.  That figure was immediately disputed by the State Department, which said the number of visas revoked was roughly 60,000." -- CW 

Julian Borger & David Smith of the Guardian: "The Trump administration has announced sanctions on a dozen companies and 13 individuals, including Iranian and Chinese nationals, in response to a January missile test by Iran and the country’s support for Houthi rebels in Yemen. Earlier on Friday Donald Trump had accused Iran of 'playing with fire'. 'They don’t appreciate how "kind" President Obama was to them. Not me!' he said in an early morning tweet. Sanctions experts said the new measures appeared to be in line with the Obama administration’s approach of incrementally expanding sanctions as procurement and influence networks are uncovered, but a senior Trump administration official said the decision to impose the new sanctions had been triggered by the 29 January Iranian test of a medium-range ballistic missile, and that they were 'initial steps' taken while a broader review of policy towards Iran was under way." -- CW 

Jonathan Chait: "Donald Trump's ... administration continues to broadcast autocratic views on politics. It is worth highlighting some of these statements simply because a kind of discourse that once would have been considered shocking has quickly become routine. This morning, Trump repeated one of his favorite authoritarian tropes by insisting that protesters against him have been secretly paid — 'Professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters,' he ranted on Twitter. Kellyanne Conway, meanwhile, insists that protests are not democratic. 'There’s nothing peaceful and nothing democratic about folks who are out there just trying to re-litigate the election and protesting things they know nothing about,' she tells Sean Hannity. The election result, in Conway’s view, settled all political questions, and any protest against Trump’s policies is therefore undemocratic.... The Trump administration believes the proper time for public criticism and accountability ended with the campaign. The survival of American democracy will hinge upon whether it gets the chance to put its beliefs into practice." ...

     ... CW: I'm surprised so many thugs & anarchists had time to write into Reality Chex to share their experiences of the Women's March. You'd think they would all have been out shopping, spending the money George Soros or somebody paid them (to travel for miles at great personal inconvenience to stand out in the elements) to protest things they know nothing about.

Bannon Has Long Had an Anti-Muslim Obession. Matea Gold of the Washington Post: Ten years ago Steve Bannon wrote a treatment for a "documentary-style movie ... that envisioned radical Muslims taking over the country and remaking it into the 'Islamic States of America,' according to a document describing the project obtained by The Washington Post. The outline shows how Bannon, years before he ... helped draft last week’s order restricting travel from seven mostly Muslim countries, sought to issue a warning about the threat posed by radical Muslims as well as their 'enablers among us.' Although driven by the 'best intentions,' the outline says, institutions such as the media, the Jewish community and government agencies were appeasing jihadists aiming to create an Islamic republic. The eight-page draft, written in 2007 during Bannon’s stint as a Hollywood filmmaker, proposed a three-part movie that would trace 'the culture of intolerance' behind sharia law, examine the 'Fifth Column' made up of 'Islamic front groups' and identify the American enablers paving 'the road to this unique hell on earth.'” -- CW 

Julie Davis of the New York Times: Melania Trump ... vanished from public view days after her husband’s swearing-in two weeks ago. And it raised new questions about what role, if any, she plans to play as first lady.... It was not until Wednesday that she named Lindsay Reynolds, who worked in the White House under President George W. Bush, as her chief of staff, a position that most first ladies fill before Inauguration Day. Mrs. Trump has still not filled other crucial positions.... Unanswered requests for White House tours, traditionally run by the first lady’s office, have been piling up by the thousands, according to people familiar with the process.... She is far behind the curve compared to where modern first ladies have been by the time their husbands are inaugurated, in a quite unprecedented way,' said Myra Gutin, a professor at Rider University who specializes in first ladies. 'We are in uncharted territory here.'” -- CW  

"Bowling Green Massacre." Two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized, and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre. Most people didn’t know that because it didn’t get covered. -- Kellyanne Conway, on Chris Matthews' show, yesterday 

Conway was on her way to a Four-Pinocchio rating when, about an hour and a half after The Fact Checker sent her a query about her remarks, she tweeted that she meant to say 'Bowling Green terrorists.'... Here’s what Conway got wrong in her original statement: There was no massacre in Bowling Green. The discovery that former Iraqi bomb makers had been admitted as refugees was widely covered. They were not 'radicalized’ after they came to the United States. -- Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post 

*****

Mark Landler, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump, after promising a radical break with the foreign policy of Barack Obama, is embracing key pillars of the former administration’s strategy, including warning Israel to curb construction of settlements, demanding that Russia withdraw from Crimea and threatening Iran with sanctions for ballistic missile tests. In the most startling shift, the White House issued an unexpected statement appealing to the Israeli government not to expand the construction of Jewish settlements beyond their current borders in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Such expansion, it said, 'may not be helpful in achieving' the goal of peace. At the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki R. Haley declared that the United States would not lift sanctions against Russia until it stopped destabilizing Ukraine and pulled troops out of Crimea. On Iran, the administration is preparing a set of economic sanctions that are similar to what the Obama administration imposed just over a year ago. The White House has also shown no indication that it plans to rip up Mr. Obama’s landmark nuclear deal, despite Mr. Trump’s withering criticism of it during the presidential campaign.... With Iran, Mr. Trump has indisputably taken a harder line than his predecessor.... In an early morning Twitter post on Thursday, Mr. Trump was bombastic on Iran. 'Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile,' he wrote. 'Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the U.S. made with them!' In a second post, he said wrongly, 'Iran was on its last legs and ready to collapse until the U.S. came along and gave it a life-line in the form of the Iran Deal: $150 billion.'” -- CW ...

... This story has been incorporated into the one above (same link). Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Trump, who has made support for Israel a cornerstone of his foreign policy, shifted gears on Thursday and for the first time warned the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold off new settlement construction. 'While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal,' the White House said in a statement. The White House noted that the president 'has not taken an official position on settlement activity,' but said Mr. Trump would discuss the issue with Mr. Netanyahu when they meet Feb. 15, in effect telling him to wait until then.... Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition government seemed to take Mr. Trump’s inauguration as a starting gun in a race to ramp up its construction in the occupied territory.... The shift in [the White House's] position came hours after Mr. Trump met briefly with King Abdullah II of Jordan, who raced to Washington to appeal to the new president not to forgo Arab concerns over Israeli policy. In particular, Jordan has been concerned about Mr. Trump’s promise to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem...." ...

     ... CW: The shift also comes hours after Rex Tillerson became Secretary of State. It seems possible Tillerson actually listened to a few career State Department experts on Israel -- people left after Trump's purge of those holding top jobs at State. Most likely, though, Trump's change of policy was the result of Abdullah's pleas, inasmuch as Trump is infamous for basing decisions on the last person who talked to him. Update: The reporters in the expanded story mention Tillerson's possible influence, along with that of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

The world is in trouble, but we’re going to straighten it out, O.K.? That’s what I do — I fix things.... Believe me, when you hear about the tough phone calls I’m having, don’t worry about it. Just don’t worry about it. -- Donald Trump, at a prayer breakfast Thursday ...

Trump has a habit of saying "believe me" as prelude to a pile of bull. This particular "believe me" is the first indication we've had that Trump realizes, on some level, that he's not up to the job. -- Constant Weader ...

... ** Steven Erlanger of the New York Times: "Like much of the world, the European Union is struggling to decipher a President Trump who seems every day to be picking a new fight with a new nation, whether friend or foe. Hopes among European leaders that Mr. Trump’s bombastic tone as a candidate would somehow smooth into a more temperate one as commander in chief are dissipating, replaced by a mounting sense of anxiety and puzzlement over how to proceed.... Few anticipated that he would become an equal opportunity offender. He has insulted or humiliated Mexico, Britain, Germany and Iraq; engaged in a war of words with China and Iran; and turned a routine phone call with the prime minister of Australia, a staunch ally, into a minor diplomatic crisis. With the possible exception of NATO, where he has softened his tone, Mr. Trump has expressed disdain for other multilateral institutions such as the European Union. His praise has been reserved for populists and strongmen, like Nigel Farage, the former leader of the U.K. Independence Party, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and, of course, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.... Against this forbidding backdrop, some European leaders are urging their counterparts to recognize that Mr. Trump may represent a truly dire challenge, one that threatens to upend not only the 70-year European project of integration and security, but just about everything they stand for, including liberal democracy itself." -- CW ...

... Daniel Boffay of the Guardian: "The European parliament’s main political parties are making an unprecedented attempt to block Donald Trump’s likely choice as ambassador to the European Union from EU buildings, describing him as hostile and malevolent. In a startling move that threatens a major diplomatic row, the leaders of the conservative, socialist and liberal groups in Brussels have written to the European commission and the European council, whose members represent the 28 EU states, to reject the appointment of Ted Malloch.... When recently asked by the BBC why he was interested in moving to Brussels, Malloch replied: 'I had in a previous career a diplomatic post where I helped bring down the Soviet Union. So maybe there’s another union that needs a little taming.'... In another letter, published in the Guardian, 52 European figures affiliated with the European council on foreign relations have called on EU leaders meeting for a summit in Malta on Friday to stand up to Trump over his executive order on immigration." --safari ...

... Jane Perlez of the New York Times: "President Trump’s combative phone call with Australia’s prime minister over a refugee agreement has set off a political storm in that country, one that threatens to weaken support for a seven-decade alliance with the United States just as many Australians say they want closer ties with China. Enthusiasm for the alliance in Australia, one of America’s closest partners..., had already been under pressure from China, with which Australia conducts the most trade. Reports that Mr. Trump had scolded Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Saturday, before abruptly ending the call, are likely to further undermine confidence in the United States, Australian analysts said. 'Trump is needlessly damaging the deep trust that binds one of America’s closest alliances,' said Professor Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College at the Australian National University in Canberra. 'China and those wishing to weaken the strongest alliance in the Pacific will see opportunity in this moment.'” -- CW  ...

... Republican Leaders Try to Clean up Trump's Mess. Paul Kane of the Washington Post: “'No, I don’t think Australia should be worried about its relationship with our new president or with our country, for that matter,' [Speaker Paul] Ryan said [in response to a question from Stephanie March of the Australian Broadcasting Corp. at his weekly news briefing]. 'I know your country well. I met with your leaders continuously over the last number of years. So, no, Australia is an important and essential ally. It’s going to continue to be.' Ryan’s bid to reassure Australia came within minutes of Sen. John McCain’s announcement that he had called Australia’s ambassador, Joe Hockey, to tell him his nation is 'one of America’s oldest friends and staunchest allies.' Later in the day, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) tweeted: 'Just got off the phone with Ambassador @JoeHockey. We discussed the important and long-lasting alliance between our two countries.' It was an extraordinary new role for the House speaker and the chairmen of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, respectively: cleaning up after the leader of their own party. On Thursday, those duties involved trying to shore up diplomatic lines of communication with America’s longest-standing ally in the Pacific Rim.” -- CW 

** David Edwards of Rawstory: "Ian Berman, vice president of the conservative American Foreign Policy Council think tank, reported that the White House turned off its recording equipment during President Donald Trump’s call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Following the call with Putin on Saturday, the Kremlin published a readout of the hour-long conversation that suggested the Russian president was pleased with Trump’s tone.... But while the Kremlin produced a detailed 10-paragraph readout of the call, the White House released only a vague one-paragraph statement saying that Trump received a 'congratulatory call from Russian President Vladimir Putin.'" --safari ...

     ... safari: This is some seriously nefarious shit. If this is indeed corroborated, it should shut down government until we get a serious explication. With so much scandal already linking him to Putin, this is another step too far. ...

     ... CW: And as contributor Patrick has pointed out regarding past instances, this is another case of Trump's letting the leader of a country unfriendly to the U.S. get the upper hand in characterizing the content of a phone conversation he's had with Trump. ...

... ** Paul Krugman: "... while there may be an element of cynical calculation in some of the administration’s crisismongering, this is looking less and less like a political strategy and more and more like a psychological syndrome.... What we’re hearing sounds like a man who is out of his depth and out of control, who can’t even pretend to master his feelings of personal insecurity. His first two weeks in office have been utter chaos, and things just keep getting worse — perhaps because he responds to each debacle with a desperate attempt to change the subject that only leads to a fresh debacle.... Thanks, Comey." -- CW 

Dan Lamothe of the Washington Post: "The Pentagon and the White House on Thursday defended the execution of a U.S. Special Operations raid in Yemen that killed civilians along with a Navy SEAL, saying there was sufficient intelligence to carry it out and that it had been planned for months. But a former Obama administration official disputed the White House’s version of events, saying the raid carried out Saturday was never briefed to former president Barack Obama.... [According to Trump press secretary Sean Spicer,] Obama administration officials approved a plan for an operation during an interagency meeting Jan. 6..., and decided it would be best to carry it out in the dark of a 'moonless night.'.... That meant waiting until after Trump took office.... Colin Kahl, a national security official in the Obama administration, disputed [’s description of the planning Thursday evening. Kahl, in tweets shared hundreds of times, said that the Defense Department worked up a general proposal that asked for the authorities to do raids in Yemen, but that the mission carried out Saturday was not specifically a part of that. Obama did not make any decisions because he thought it represented an expansion of the war in Yemen and believed the Trump administration should assess how to proceed, Kahl said. 'In a nutshell, Trump and his team owns the process and the ultimate decision — and the consequences,' Kahl tweeted." ...

     ... CW: It's going to get harder & harder for the Clown Show to wriggle out of their banana-peel pratfalls with a shrug & "Everything Is Obama's Fault." ...

... Austin Wright & Jeremy Herb of Politico: "A Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee is asking for an 'urgent briefing' on the SEAL Team Six raid in Yemen this past weekend that resulted in the deaths of a U.S. service member and civilians on the ground, possibly including an 8-year-old girl.  Approving the raid was one of the first life-or-death decisions for ... Donald Trump — and Democrats are raising questions about what may have gone wrong. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), who served in a Marine combat unit in Iraq, sent a letter Thursday to House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) requesting a briefing from the Trump administration 'on the planning and execution of this mission as well as on the decision-making process that preceded its approval.'” -- CW ...

of Reuters: "U.S. Central Command said in a statement that an investigating team [reviewing the Yemen disaster] had 'concluded regrettably that civilian non-combatants were likely killed' during Sunday's raid. It said children may have been among the casualties.... U.S. military officials told Reuters that Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations. As a result, three officials said, the attacking SEAL team found itself dropping onto a reinforced al Qaeda base defended by landmines, snipers, and a larger than expected contingent of heavily armed Islamist extremists." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Quit Picking on Crooked Businesses. Jim Puzzanghera & Michael Memoli of the Los Angeles Times: "President Trump will take aim at financial regulations on Friday, ordering a review of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law that could lead to major changes and suspending a conflict-of-interest rule for retirement advisors before it goes into effect this spring, according to a senior administration official." -- CW 

of the Washington Post: "President Trump is considering how to allow Americans to opt out of complying with federal policies and regulations on the grounds of religion, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday, a move that critics said could open the door to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender or gender identity.... Spicer’s comments, which came on the same day Trump told the audience at the National Prayer Breakfast that his administration 'will do everything possible to defend and protect religious liberty in our land,' could signal a sea change in how the federal government balances protections for gay, transgender and reproductive rights against individuals’ religious objections. Administration officials are considering a proposed executive order, a draft of which was obtained by The Washington Post, that would provide individuals and organizations wide latitude in denying services, employment and other benefits on the basis of their religious beliefs, though Spicer emphasized that Trump had no immediate plans to issue a directive on the issue." -- CW ...

... Ed Kilgore of New York: "As many observers feared, when Donald Trump announced at the beginning of this week he would keep in place an Obama executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ folk by federal contractors, plans were already under way to issue a new 'religious liberty' order that would negate the earlier gesture. Now Sarah Posner has found and written up the actual draft order that is kicking around Trumpland.... In effect the order would (so far as the federal government’s regulatory power reaches) let conservative Christians create their own parallel society where it is still 1972, and abortion is illegal, birth control is discouraged, and anyone who is not heterosexual can be openly discriminated against." Read on. Smells like pence. --safari ...

... Emma Green of the Atlantic: "Trump is championing an agenda of religious nationalism. Along with key White House staffers like Stephen Bannon, he believes America represents a set of values, rooted in the country’s religious identity. While there’s little evidence that Trump himself is religiously devout, he has benefited from affiliations with largely white evangelical leaders such as Jerry Falwell Jr.... And he’s doing this through fear. In his comments at the prayer breakfast, Trump gave a graphic description of Christians being murdered overseas: 'They cut off the heads, they drown people in steel cages,' he said.... 'We have seen unimaginable violence carried out in the name of religion,' he said, 'acts of wanton abuse of minorities, horrors on a scale that defy description.' The fundamental threat to religious freedom, he said, is terrorism." -- CW ...

... Paul Waldman: "This White House is embarking on a long-term project that goes way beyond an executive order here or there. What they're after is nothing less than a rollback of American diversity. There are some promises Trump is not going to keep — remember when he was going to stick it to Wall Street? Ha ha, no. But the central promise of the Trump campaign, the one that got all those white voters in key states out to the polls, was a pledge to wind back the clock to an earlier time, sometime around the 1950s or 1960s. It was a time when the steel mills and coal mines were humming, when a man was a man and a woman knew her place, and when you didn't have to worry that you'd go down to the supermarket and have to hear people speaking Spanish, let alone Arabic." -- CW 

James Downie of the Washington Post: During the campaign, Trump promised "to break with GOP orthodoxy and support the government — especially Medicare — negotiating drug prices directly with the pharmaceutical industry, saving billions. In typical Trump fashion, he overestimated those savings, but the stand against the industry was nevertheless an important symbol, particularly to older voters.... It turns out that it took only one visit from the pharmaceutical industry to get Trump singing a different tune.... Instead of getting tough with these companies, Trump is offering tax cuts to businesses that already make billions in profits every year.... If Trump’s opponents are serious about reversing him in 2018 and 2020, though, these are the sorts of things they need to capitalize on." -- CW  

Jeff Zeleny & Elizabeth Landers of CNN: "A full week has passed since ... Donald Trump said he would sign an executive order opening a Justice Department investigation into his unsubstantiated claim that millions of people voted illegally in November. The Oval Office signing was abruptly canceled last Thursday and never rescheduled. The White House hasn't talked about it since.... A senior administration official told CNN that the voter fraud investigation is no longer a top priority for the President, insisting it's not off the table, but not expected anytime soon. The President has repeatedly claimed without evidence that 3 to 5 million people -- mainly undocumented immigrants -- committed voter fraud in his race with Hillary Clinton. He lost the popular vote to Clinton by nearly 3 million votes." ...  

     ... CW: Drat. I was really looking forward to hearing the testimony of Trump's election-fraud "expert," a loon who BTW, is registered to vote in three states (which wouldn't matter except that Trump falsely claims that multi-state registrations are proof that millions of people voted more than once for Hillary Clinton).

Tim Egan: "Don’t count on Republicans, who waved their pocket copies of the Constitution at the most inconsequential executive orders of President Obama, to come to the rescue. Their patriotism is entirely situational. The fate of the republic may hinge on how much Trump decides to emulate [Andrew Jackson,] the slaveholding, Indian-hating, Constitution-violating man staring at him from that portrait in the Oval Office. Jackson is too close for comfort." -- CW 

Josh Dawsey et al., of Politico: "A feeling of distrust has taken hold in the West Wing of Donald Trump's White House and beyond, as his aides view each other and officials across the federal government and on Capitol Hill with suspicion. The result has been a stream of leaks flowing from the White House and federal agencies, and an attempt to lock down information and communication channels that could have serious consequences across the government and at the Capitol, where Trump tries to implement and advance his agenda.... The starkest manifestation of the paranoia has played out with Trump's executive orders, as many key players were left in the dark as the White House forged ahead with sweeping, controversial policies.... Inside the White House, several Trump staffers said they were shocked at the number of leaks coming out of the operation having not worked in the Trump orbit before. 'People are just knifing each other,' one of these people said." --safari

On the Cover of Time Magazine. David Von Drehle in Time's cover story on Steve Bannon: "Act I of the Trump presidency has been filled with disruption, as promised by Trump and programmed by Bannon, with plenty of resistance in reply, from both inside and outside the government.... Having already helped draft the dark and scathing Inaugural Address and impose the refugee ban, Bannon proceeded to light the national-security apparatus on fire by negotiating a standing invitation for himself to the National Security Council. His fingerprints were suddenly everywhere.... Yet Bannon's prominence in the first 10 days of the Administration -- and the scenes of confusion and disorder that are his disruptive hallmark -- has rattled the West Wing and perhaps even dismayed the President. According to senior Administration officials, Trump hauled in some half-dozen of his key advisers for a brisk dressing-down. Everything goes through chief of staff Reince Priebus, he directed." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Greg Sargent: Steve Bannon "continues to relish the massive blowback unleashed by Trump’s executive order — which bans refugees and migrants from seven Muslim-majority countries — as proof that he is doing something right. He’s shaking the elites to their core..., which, he crows, heralds the birth of a 'new political order.'...  The Bannonite belief in disruption as an end in itself renders impossible any self-scrutiny or acknowledgment of error, in a kind of endless feedback loop (the consequences of which could become much more dire over time).... But, for all of Bannon’s bravado, the better interpretation of what’s going on is that Bannon’s first major effort to translate Trumpism into policy reality is a full-blown disaster...." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Inae Oh of Mother Jones: "House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has added her name to a growing list of Democrats to denounce Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump's chief strategist, as a 'white supremacist' — a label she repeatedly used on Thursday to criticize Bannon's recent appointment to the National Security Council." --safari

Bowling Green Massacre = Another Alternative Fact. Kim Hjelmgaard of USA Today: "Kellyanne Conway ...  pushed back Friday against claims she defended the White House's refugee ban with an assertion that appears to be factually indefensible. Appearing on MSNBC's Hardball TV program on Thursday night, Conway referred to the 'Bowling Green massacre.'... 'I bet it’s brand new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre,' Conway said. 'Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered.' However, early Friday Conway said ... in a tweet that links to an ABC News article, she meant say 'Bowling Green terrorists.' In the tweet, Conway linked to a mainstream news item from 2013 despite complaining ... that the mainstream media didn't cover the episode.... Either way, it seems likely that the incident Conway refers to didn't get covered in the way she initially described it because there is an overwhelming consensus that there was no massacre at all. In fact, her use of the phrase "Bowling Green massacre" suggests she came down with another case of the 'alternative facts.' Two Iraqi men who lived in Bowling Green, Ky., were indicted in 2011 and are serving life sentences for using improvised explosive devices against U.S. soldiers in Iraq and also for attempting to send weapons and money to Al-Qaeda in Iraq for the purpose of killing U.S. soldiers.... But there is no mention of anything that resembles — in any way — violent offenses that can be characterized, even informally, as a 'massacre' or terrorist attack in Bowling Green." See also Akhilleus's comment in today's thread. ...

    ... CW: The USA Today site has been messed up since at least some time yesterday evening, but the pages are still readable. ...

... Here's Another One from the Trump Department of Alternative Facts. It's All the Protesters' Fault. Margaret Hartmann of New York: "In the past week, President Trump’s immigration executive order has sparked confusion worldwide, as well as large protests at airports across the U.S. and resistance from hundreds of government employees.... However, Stephen Miller, the young adviser who reportedly crafted the order along with Steve Bannon..., Thursday ... said that, considering the large bureaucracy involved, 'it is hard to envision a smoother rollout from an implementation standpoint.'... While the Washington Post put the number of those affected by the travel restriction at around 90,000, like others in the White House, Miller emphasized that only 109 people were detained for extra screenings at airports, 'not counting, obviously, people who were turned away overseas.' 'The reality is that, for virtually the entire country, the only disruption that occurred was the disruption created by protesters,' Miller claimed.” -- CW 

Brady Dennis & Chris Mooney of the Washington Post: "Senate Republicans on Thursday again used their majority to suspend committee rules and push through another Trump administration nominee, Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, bypassing Democrats who for the second day had refused to show up for a vote on his nomination.... Committee Republicans approved Pruitt’s nomination 11-0 on a roll call vote and sent it on to the full Senate despite the objections of Democrats, who had already boycotted a Wednesday session in a show of solidarity against someone who has repeatedly sued the EPA in recent years." CW: Aren't Democrats making a mistake in boycotting these hearings? Several Democrats, including Al Franken & Elizabeth Warren, so eviscerated Betsy DePrivatization that her confirmation is now in question. Democrats certainly could have gone to town on Pruitt, proving him unfit for the office, although it's true they will (probably; who knows with Mitch) have other chances to flay Pruitt, Mnuchin & Price on the Senate floor. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Gabriella Paiella of New York: "First Lady Melania Trump filed a lawsuit against the Daily Mail’s parent company, Mail Online, and Maryland blogger Webster Griffin Tarpley back in September — and, as of Thursday, the suit against the Mail has been dropped.... Montgomery County Circuit Judge Sharon V. Burrell dropped the charges, ruling that Mail Online — a British company — did not have enough of a connection to the state of Maryland for the lawsuit to take place there. Last week, Judge Burrell ruled that Trump’s case against Tarpley will move forward as planned." CW: I find this suit disgraceful. 

Kelsey Snell & Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post: "Two top Republicans long expected to lead the Senate’s role in repealing the Affordable Care Act said publicly this week that they are open to repairing former president Barack Obama’s landmark health-care law ahead of a wholesale repeal, which has been a GOP target for eight years. Coming one week after a closed-door strategy session in which Republicans expressed frank concerns about the political ramifications of repealing the law and the practical difficulties of doing so, statements this week by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) brought into public view the political and policy challenges the GOP is facing." -- CW ...

... Anna Edney, et al., of Bloomberg provide evidence that Hatch & Alexander are following a suggestion by GOP pollster Frank Luntz, who suggested at the recently (secretly recorded) Republican retreat that "repair" polled better than "repeal & replace." CW: Nothing cynical at all about this appearance of "softening" on ObamaCare.

Reuters: "The U.S. Senate voted on Thursday to repeal a regulation aimed at cutting water pollution from coal-mining waste, in the first successful use of a law known as the Congressional Review Act in more than 15 years. In a vote of 54 to 45, the Senate approved a resolution already passed in the House of Representatives on Wednesday to kill the rule intended to keep water sources in areas of mountaintop removal coal mining clear of waste. The resolution now goes to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it quickly." --safari ...

... Alex Guillén of Politico: "The Senate voted Thursday to send President Donald Trump a measure that will kill the Interior Department’s stream protection rule, a key coal mining regulation that was finalized only in December. The Congressional Review Act resolution passed by a vote of 54-45, just one day after the House approved it. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia), Claire McCaskill of Missouir [sic], Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota joined every Republican except Maine’s Susan Collins in voting for the measure." --safari ...

What This Country Needs Is More Crazy Old Coots with Guns. Tim Devaney of the Hill: "The House on Thursday struck down an Obama-era regulation that could block some recipients of disability benefits from buying guns. The House voted 235-180 to roll back a rule that required the Social Security Administration to report people who receive disability benefits and have a mental health condition to the FBI’s background check system. The database is used to determine eligibility for buying a firearm." -- CW 

Small Victory. Caty Enders of the Guardian: "Thursday morning, US congressman Jason Chaffetz announced that he would withdraw a bill he introduced last week that would have ordered the incoming secretary of the interior to immediately sell off 3.3m acres of national land. House bill 621 had ignited a firestorm of indignation from conservationists but also from hunters and fishermen, who contribute to the $646bn generated by outdoor recreation across the US each year...In his statement, Chaffetz did not mention a second piece of legislation he introduced last week, the Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act (HR 622), which would strip the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service of its law enforcement capacity." --safari

David Ferguson of RawStory: "On Thursday, a House Oversight Committee hearing regarding Russian attempts to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election erupted in a shouting match between committee chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA). According to TheHill.com, the committee was debating whether they should pursue a public investigation into last year’s cyber attacks on U.S. political organizations including the servers of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC)." --safari

Kurt Eichenwald of Newsweek: Supreme Court nominee Neil "Gorsuch, [even though he is eminently qualifed to serve,] unfortunately, must be sacrificed on the altar of obscene partisanship erected by the Republicans in recent years. Temper tantrums designed to undermine the Constitution for naked political purposes cannot be rewarded. Our government cannot survive the short-term games-playing that has replaced fidelity to the intent of the Founding Fathers’ work in forming this once-great nation.... in a decision that will go down as one of the greatest abuses of the Constitution in this nation’s history, the Senate’s Republican majority, under the leadership of their unprincipled majority leader, Mitch McConnell, declared they would not give [President Obama's nominee Merrick] Garland hearings, would not examine his qualifications and would not take a vote.... So what should the Democrats do? Fight.... The end game: Force Trump to re-nominate Garland. Filibuster every nominee until he does." Thanks to Diane for the link. ...

     ... CW: I have thought from the git-go that if Trump were such a great negotiator & really wanted to exert his power over both the Senate & the public, one very smart step would have been to re-nominate Garland, who is a moderate judge & would, under normal circumstances, be acceptable to normal Republicans (should there be any in the Senate). That would show McConnell, Grassley, et al., who was boss & who wouldn't put up with their crap. But Trump isn't very bright, something he proves every day. He is the most unpopular new president in recent history, millions have protested against him, nobody showed up for his inauguration. Yet, instead of taking a corrected course to gain some public support, Trump chose to shove an ultra-conservative Supreme Court nominee in the country's face. ...

... Wilfred Chan of Fusion on "what Neil Gorsuch was like in college." CW Hint: bloviating activist fascist. But polite!

Jennifer Medina of the New York Times: "A federal judge has dealt another blow to President Trump’s executive order barring some foreigners from coming into the United States, in a ruling that added to the confusion over the legality of the immigration measure. Using more sweeping language than previous court rulings, Judge André Birotte Jr. of United States District Court here issued a temporary restraining order on Tuesday evening requiring the government to allow in people with valid immigrant visas from the seven majority-Muslim countries Mr. Trump sought to block.... Unlike some other cases, Judge Birotte’s ruling seemed to apply throughout the country, not just to Los Angeles International Airport. And while other orders had blocked the deportation of travelers, Judge Birotte explicitly wrote that the government could not detain them or block their entry into the country." CW: Birotte is an Obama appointee. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

CW: Contributor D.C. Clark has published links to two pieces on the March for Science -- here and here -- which will be held in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere on April 22, Earth Day. The second link provides organizing info. & a sign-up bubble. Trump will be/has been successful in squelching some dissent, and we must push back at every opportunity. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Beyond the Beltway

Nina Agrawal of the Los Angeles Times: "... a bill introduced last month in the North Dakota legislature could make the obstacles to protest even more formidable. The bill, still in committee, would make it legal for drivers to run over protesters who are standing in a roadway, clearing drivers of any liability, as long as their action was 'unintentional.' The bill is just one of a raft of new pieces of legislation that have been introduced around the country to discourage or criminalize protest — even as large demonstrations over environmental issues, police shootings and the policies of President Trump have been surging across the country. Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia and Washington are all considering legislation that would variously impose stiffer civil and criminal penalties for protesters and award law enforcement broad discretion in dealing with them." ...

     ... CW: Agrawal doesn't address the issue, but I doubt some of these laws could pass Constitutional muster. So far, we still have a First Amendment. Unfortunately, a few protesters may be murdered by "accidental" drivers before courts rule against them. 

The Purge, Ctd. David Edwards of RawStory: "Republican lawmakers in Hawaii have reportedly booted state Rep. Beth Fukumoto (R) out of her position as House Minority Leader because she participated in the Women’s March against President Donald Trump. Fukumoto told KHON that she was bullied by her colleagues and is now considering switching parties.... In an address on the state House floor, Fukumoto revealed that Republicans had asked her to agree to never criticize Trump again." --safari

Way Beyond

Kit Gillet & Jon Henley of the Guardian: "Romania’s prime minister has refused to repeal decrees that critics say will free corrupt officials from jail early and shield others from conviction, despite international condemnation and the biggest popular protests since the fall of communism.... In the largest demonstrations since the fall of communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu in 1989, up to 300,000 people braved subzero temperatures to participate in protests across 50 towns and cities, including 150,000 in the capital. There were shouts of 'Thieves' and calls for politicians to be locked up. On Tuesday night the government passed an emergency ordinance that would, among other things, decriminalise cases of official misconduct in which the financial damage is less than 200,000 lei (£38,000). The decree is due to take effect in a little over a week." --safari

Angelique Chrisafis of the Guardian: "French presidential candidate François Fillon is fighting for his political life after an anti-fraud investigation into payments made to his wife for an alleged fake job as a parliamentary assistant was extended to look at roles he gave his children. Pressure on Fillon intensified after video footage emerged of his wife denying she had ever been his parliamentary assistant – contradicting his defence...Newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné has alleged that Fillon payed his wife, Penelope, who is British, about €830,000 (£700,000) of taxpayers’ money as his parliamentary assistant for more than a decade when he was an MP...On Thursday investigators widened their preliminary investigation to look at Fillon’s employment of two of his children as assistants when he was serving in the French Senate. He told French TV last week that he had hired his children for their expertise as lawyers. But it emerged that they were in fact students at the time, and had not qualified as lawyers. They were paid €84,000 between them from public funds, the Canard Enchaîné alleged." --safari

Trumpism: Approved and Adopted by Nationalist Bigots Everywhere! Kim Wilsher of the Guardian: "A French broadcast journalist has complained of being violently thrown out of a press conference after he tried to question the far-right Front National presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen. Paul Larrouturou was with a crew from the TF1 news programme Quotidien at the conference in Paris, when he attempted to ask Le Pen about allegations that she used European parliament funds to pay staff of her political party. Two security guards can be seen on film pushing him out of the door as he holds his microphone to Le Pen. One of the guards hits the camera as a member of crew films the assault.... Quotidien journalists have been told they will be personae non gratae at an FN rally in Lyon this weekend." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

    ... Akhilleus: How Trumpish. By the way, as with most right-wing aggression, the perpetrators are too cowardly to simply admit that they like beating up on anyone who pisses them off. The word from Le Pen's brownshirts is that they had nothing to do with Larrouturou being bodily bundled off for daring to ask their boss a question she didn't like. Sounds like [Donald] Trump ordering his thugs to take people out of his rallies and reminding everyone that if he had his way, they'd be pounded into jelly. But, oh, it wasn't Trump's fault. It was the person being beaten up by his creeps and supporters. He or she was to blame.

Thursday
Feb022017

The Commentariat -- February 2, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Trumpism: Approved and Adopted by Nationalist Bigots Everywhere! Kim Wilsher of the Guardian: "A French broadcast journalist has complained of being violently thrown out of a press conference after he tried to question the far-right Front National presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen. Paul Larrouturou was with a crew from the TF1 news programme Quotidien at the conference in Paris, when he attempted to ask Le Pen about allegations that she used European parliament funds to pay staff of her political party. Two security guards can be seen on film pushing him out of the door as he holds his microphone to Le Pen. One of the guards hits the camera as a member of crew films the assault.... Quotidien journalists have been told they will be personae non gratae at an FN rally in Lyon this weekend." ...

    ... Akhilleus: How Trumpish. By the way, as with most right-wing aggression, the perpetrators are too cowardly to simply admit that they like beating up on anyone who pisses them off. The word from Le Pen's brownshirts is that they had nothing to do with Larrouturou being bodily bundled off for daring to ask their boss a question she didn't like. Sounds like [Donald] Trump ordering his thugs to take people out of his rallies and reminding everyone that if he had his way, they'd be pounded into jelly. But, oh, it wasn't Trump's fault. It was the person being beaten up by his creeps and supporters. He or she was to blame.

of Reuters: "U.S. Central Command said in a statement that an investigating team [reviewing the Yemen disaster] had 'concluded regrettably that civilian non-combatants were likely killed' during Sunday's raid. It said children may have been among the casualties.... U.S. military officials told Reuters that Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup preparations. As a result, three officials said, the attacking SEAL team found itself dropping onto a reinforced al Qaeda base defended by landmines, snipers, and a larger than expected contingent of heavily armed Islamist extremists." -- CW 

Brady Dennis & Chris Mooney of the Washington Post: "Senate Republicans on Thursday again used their majority to suspend committee rules and push through another Trump administration nominee, Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, bypassing Democrats who for the second day had refused to show up for a vote on his nomination.... Committee Republicans approved Pruitt’s nomination 11-0 on a roll call vote and sent it on to the full Senate despite the objections of Democrats, who had already boycotted a Wednesday session in a show of solidarity against someone who has repeatedly sued the EPA in recent years." CW: Aren't Democrats making a mistake in boycotting these hearings? Several Democrats, including Al Franken & Elizabeth Warren, so eviscerated Betsy DePrivatization that her confirmation is now in question. Democrats certainly could have gone to town on Pruitt, proving him unfit for the office, although it's true they will (probably, who knows with Mitch) have other chances to flay Pruitt, Mnuchin & Price on the Senate floor.

Jennifer Medina of the New York Times: "A federal judge has dealt another blow to President Trump’s executive order barring some foreigners from coming into the United States, in a ruling that added to the confusion over the legality of the immigration measure. Using more sweeping language than previous court rulings, Judge André Birotte Jr. of United States District Court here issued a temporary restraining order on Tuesday evening requiring the government to allow in people with valid immigrant visas from the seven majority-Muslim countries Mr. Trump sought to block.... Unlike some other cases, Judge Birotte’s ruling seemed to apply throughout the country, not just to Los Angeles International Airport. And while other orders had blocked the deportation of travelers, Judge Birotte explicitly wrote that the government could not detain them or block their entry into the country." CW: Birotte is an Obama appointee. ...

... On the Cover of Time Magazine. David Von Drehle in Time's cover story on Steve Bannon: "Act I of the Trump presidency has been filled with disruption, as promised by Trump and programmed by Bannon, with plenty of resistance in reply, from both inside and outside the government.... Having already helped draft the dark and scathing Inaugural Address and impose the refugee ban, Bannon proceeded to light the national-security apparatus on fire by negotiating a standing invitation for himself to the National Security Council. His fingerprints were suddenly everywhere.... Yet Bannon's prominence in the first 10 days of the Administration -- and the scenes of confusion and disorder that are his disruptive hallmark -- has rattled the West Wing and perhaps even dismayed the President. According to senior Administration officials, Trump hauled in some half-dozen of his key advisers for a brisk dressing-down. Everything goes through chief of staff Reince Priebus, he directed." -- CW ...

... Greg Sargent: Steve Bannon "continues to relish the massive blowback unleashed by Trump’s executive order — which bans refugees and migrants from seven Muslim-majority countries — as proof that he is doing something right. He’s shaking the elites to their core..., which, he crows, heralds the birth of a 'new political order.'...  The Bannonite belief in disruption as an end in itself renders impossible any self-scrutiny or acknowledgment of error, in a kind of endless feedback loop (the consequences of which could become much more dire over time).... But, for all of Bannon’s bravado, the better interpretation of what’s going on is that Bannon’s first major effort to translate Trumpism into policy reality is a full-blown disaster...." -- CW 

CW: Contributor D.C. Clark has published links to two pieces on the March for Science -- here and here -- which will be held in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere on April 22, Earth Day. The second link provides organizing info. & a sign-up bubble. Trump will be/has been successful in squelching some dissent, and we must push back at every opportunity.

*****

Mark Landler of the New York Times: "President Trump vowed Thursday to overturn a law restricting political speech by churches, a potentially huge victory for the religious right and a gesture to his political base. Mr. Trump said his administration would 'totally destroy' the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits churches from engaging in political activity at the risk of losing their tax-exempt status. Repealing the law would require approval by Congress.... Speaking to a gathering of religious leaders, the president also defended his immigration policy, brushed aside concern about his harsh phone calls with foreign leaders, and ridiculed Arnold Schwarzenegger for his poor ratings in replacing Mr. Trump as host of 'Celebrity Apprentice.'... 'I want to just pray for Arnold, for those ratings,' he said.” -- CW: I wonder if Jesus will take time out of his busy eternity trying to save refugees from Donald Trump to do something about Arnold's ratings. Check Nielsen ratings to determine the power of Trump's prayer.

Anne Gearan of the Washington Post: "President Trump is advancing a combative and iconoclastic ­foreign policy that appears to ­sideline traditional diplomacy and concentrate decision-making among a small group of aides who are quickly projecting their new 'America First' approach to the world.... Even before the [Muslim] order Friday, Trump’s first days in office were marked by actions and statements that former U.S. officials and some foreign diplomats saw as intentionally confrontational, such as a public spat with the Mexican president and dismissive comments about the European Union.... The White House also issued a scathing indictment of the United Nations last week, vowing to strip some U.S. funding and condition other money on reform and compliance with U.S. objectives." -- CW ...

     ... New Lede (with Erin Cunningham added to the by-line): "President Trump and Iran traded sharp statements Thursday, with Trump amplifying warnings over Tehran’s missile tests and a top adviser to Iran’s leader saying it was not the first time an 'inexperienced person has threatened' his country." ...

... Trump Hangs Up on Australian PM. Glenn Thrush & Michelle Innis of the New York Times: "A phone call between President Trump and the Australian prime minister is threatening to develop into a diplomatic rift between two stalwart allies after the two men exchanged harsh words over refugee policy, and Mr. Trump abruptly ended the call. The phone call last Saturday between Mr. Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull turned contentious after the Australian leader pressed the president to honor an agreement to accept 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center. Late Wednesday night, Mr. Trump reiterated his anger over the agreement on Twitter. He called the agreement a 'dumb deal' and blamed the Obama administration for accepting it but then said that he would 'study' it. The tweet was posted after The Washington Post reported details of the phone call.... The flare-up — and conflicting characterizations of the call from Mr. Trump and Mr. Turnbull — threatened to do lasting damage to relations between the two countries and could drive Canberra closer to China...." -- CW ...

... Trump Does Not Have the Temperament to be POTUS. Greg Miller & Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief — a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies.... Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refu­gee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it. At one point, Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin — and that 'this was the worst call by far.' Trump’s behavior suggests that he is capable of subjecting world leaders, including close allies, to a version of the vitriol he frequently employs against political adversaries and news organizations in speeches and on Twitter.... The characterizations provide insight into Trump’s temperament and approach to the diplomatic requirements of his job.... The depictions of Trump’s calls are also at odds with sanitized White House accounts.” -- CW ...

... Kristen Gelineau of the AP: "For decades, Australia and the U.S. have enjoyed the coziest of relationships, collaborating on everything from military and intelligence to diplomacy and trade. Yet an irritable tweet President Donald Trump fired off about Australia and a dramatic report of an angry phone call between the nations' leaders proves that the new U.S. commander in chief has changed the playing field for even America's staunchest allies." -- CW ...

You have a bunch of bad hombres down there. You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it. -- Donald Trump, to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, in a phone call last week ...

... Simon Tisdale of the Guardian: "The question of how to handle Donald Trump is proving to be a major headache for governments around the world.... The shared fear, reflected across the international community, is that everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. The explosive row between Trump and Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, is a prime example of how things can suddenly go south. Ignoring the possible negative impact on a key US strategic alliance, Trump told the Australian leader a refugee resettlement agreement, made by Barack Obama, was a 'dumb deal', then reportedly hung up." Leaders of some countries -- Russia, Israel & China are exploiting Trump's weaknesses. -- CW ...

... Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic: "Dishonor and distraction. That is what Donald Trump brought the United States Wednesday when news broke that he inexplicably lashed out at the prime minister of Australia in a phone call.... The story in the conservative Telegraph at one point characterized Trump as having a 'tantrum.' And the image Trump has projected to the world is bullying disloyalty. After all, there is no country that has stood by the U.S. like Australia.... Just as Trump was throwing his tantrum, the press was reporting on his top adviser, Stephen Bannon, bloviating a few months back about how 'we’re going to war in the South China Sea.'... The mix of Trump’s incompetence and Bannon’s casual bellicosity endangers America. It strains its alliances.... Republicans should plan for what exactly happens if Trump loses the faculty to govern. We’re only a week in and he is failing the easiest of tests.” -- CW ...

... CW: Remember all those raving alarmists -- myself included -- who, during the presidential election cycle, were running around hair-on-fire predicting the maniacal, ingorant Trumpster would cause chaos here and abroad? Aah, we underestimated him.

Eric Schmitt & David Sanger of the New York Times review the disastrous raid in Yemen that left an American commando and at least one Yemeni child dead. "As it turned out, almost everything that could go wrong did.... Mr. Trump on Sunday hailed his first counterterrorism operation as a success, claiming the commandos captured 'important intelligence that will assist the U.S. in preventing terrorism against its citizens and people around the world.'... Typically, the president’s advisers lay out the risks, but Pentagon officials declined to characterize any discussions with Mr. Trump." -- CW 

Matt Hamilton, et al., of the Los Angeles Times: "A speech by conservative firebrand and Milo Yiannopoulos was canceled at UC Berkeley on Wednesday amid violent protests that prompted President Trump to suggest cutting federal funding to the university.... 'If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?' Trump wrote on Twitter.... The larger UC system, for which Berkeley is the flagship campus, receives billions of dollars from the federal government to fund a variety of programs, notably research, student aid and healthcare programs.... Yiannopoulos, 32, writes for Breitbart News ... and he is an avowed supporter of President Trump. He’s also a flamboyant provocateur who has been denounced for propagating racism, misogyny and anti-Islam views, but he styles himself a champion of free speech." -- CW ...

... Doug Lederman and Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed: Trump threatened to cut off federal funding for UC Berkeley after "Berkeley police canceled the speech by Milo Yiannopoulos after... 'an apparently organized violent attack and destruction of property' forced them to evacuate Yiannopoulos to protect him and the hundreds of protesters and audience members... Berkeley [officials] blamed the violence -- which included fires, the throwing of Molotov cocktails and fireworks thrown at officers -- on a 'group of about 150 masked agitators who came onto campus and interrupted an otherwise nonviolent protest.' The much larger group of nonviolent protesters appeared to include many students and faculty members." -- I'd wager that these masked violent protestors were Trump/Bannon agitators trying to give Trump a reason to bring his brand of "law and order" to California. -- LT ...

... Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post: "The early days of Donald Trump’s presidency have been marked by an aggressive and unapologetic effort to banish dissent. Less than two weeks in, there are a growing number of examples of a give-no-quarter approach: Trump’s blistering language in firing the acting attorney general who refused to defend his controversial immigration order; his press secretary’s declaration that career diplomats 'either get with the program or they can go;' his chief strategist’s labeling of news media as an 'opposition party' that should 'keep its mouth shut.' The pattern — and particularly efforts to shut down discordant voices within the government — is raising alarms. 'The whole thing is scary,' said David Boaz, executive vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute. 'They have no appreciation for the Constitution, much less the unwritten norms of liberal democracy.'” -- CW

Nolan McCaskill of Politico: "... Donald Trump endorsed stripping the 60-vote threshold required to confirm Supreme Court nominees, encouraging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to 'go nuclear.' Trump said if he sees the same gridlock that has marked Washington for the past eight-plus years with his nominee to the high court, he’ll encourage the so-called 'nuclear option.'” CW: Uh, which party is it that's almost wholly responsible for gridlock?

Frederick Douglass ... is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice. -- Donald Trump, at an event intended to kick off Black History Month, Wednsday

Louis Nelson of Politico: "Sitting in the Roosevelt Room on Wednesday for what was billed as a listening session to mark the start of African-American History Month..., Donald Trump took the occasion to once again criticize the media for covering him unfairly.... Last month we celebrated the life of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., whose incredible example is unique in American history. You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago when somebody said I took the statue out of my office. And it turned out that that was fake news from these people,' Trump said during his introductory remarks, gesturing at the pool reporters who had been allowed in to view the start of the meeting. 'Fake news. The statue is cherished ... but they said the statue, the bust of Dr. Martin Luther King, was taken out of the office. And it was never even touched. So I think it was a disgrace. But that's the way the press is, very unfortunate.'” (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...  

     ... CW: This is the Liar-in-Chief latching onto one quickly-corrected reporting error to smear the entire media. Even Dr. King is only a prop for Trump's petty, petty grievance, something no other person in high office would give a second thought. It isn't his tiny hands or his tiny dick that pose the problem; it's his tiny, twisted brain. Cartoonists should start drawing Trump with a teeny, pointed head & a fat, bulbous body, the latter of which they could just trace from photos. ...

... German Lopez of Vox: At the Black History Month breakfast, Trump "spent a lot of time talking about himself, how CNN is “fake news,” how much everyone loves him, and how he did so well with the black vote (which he lost by more than 10 to 1 to Hillary Clinton). One sentence about how great Martin Luther King was, followed by 10 about how a journalist misreported a story about Trump. So when talking about one of the most important men in US history, Trump pivoted his speech to make it all about himself and how he’s so misunderstood by the media. It doesn't stop there.... [Lopez goes on to cite other instances during Trump's remarks that were are about Trump the Magnificent.] Presidents are supposed to feel the full weight of history and its heroes and villains — to learn from what they did, to gauge the consequences of the office’s actions, to keep himself in check, and so on. That Trump can’t even properly reflect on much of that history when he’s explicitly tasked with the opportunity to do so is a very bad sign." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Dana Milbank: "Trump’s Black History Month celebration was a carefully choreographed assembly of black administration officials and Trump supporters. It was billed as a 'listening session,' but the press was brought in only for Trump’s talking. He was seated between [Ben] Carson and Omarosa Manigault, one of his former contestants on 'The Apprentice' and now a White House official." Who knew that Trump was going to suggest that an American hero who died in 1895 was still doing "an amazing job" and was probably thrilled to learn the POTUS appreciated his most recent work? Well, you did. At least you knew Trump would say something "amazingly" stupid about black history because he knows nothing about it. Milbank accuses Trump of not checking his notes, but I'll bet he saw the one in big, bold letters that said, "Be sure to mention Frederick Douglass." And he did. Trump is your crazy Uncle Fred. Except Fred doesn't have the nuclear codes. -- CW ...

... Shari Weiss of GossipCop: Celebrities react to Donald Trump's "listening" breakfast.(Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

New York Times Editors: "Last week, an executive of the Trump Organization, Eric Danziger, said it would open Trump-branded hotels in the 26 largest metropolitan areas in the country, up from five. The business, he said, would focus its expansion domestically for 'the next four or eight years.'”... Consider the Trump Hotel. Mr. Trump has a 60-year lease on the property with the General Services Administration. That contract states that no elected federal official 'shall be admitted to any share or part of this lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom.' That unambiguous clause exists to prevent corruption and self-dealing by government officials. Since Mr. Trump officially violated the lease when he assumed office, the agency is clearly obligated to cancel the lease or require that it be sold to another hotel operator.... Mr. Trump’s lawyers preposterously contend that because he was not an elected official when the lease was signed, he hasn’t broken it. Aside from violating the lease terms, Mr. Trump is very likely violating the emoluments clause by holding on to the hotel.... Congress ought to demand that the G.S.A. uphold the terms of the hotel lease and shame Mr. Trump into selling his other businesses.... If he continues to reduce the most powerful office in the world to a marketing scheme, ethical public servants, in Congress and across the government, can’t stand by and watch." -- CW 

Arthur Neslen of the Guardian: "Donald Trump will work towards the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency – and any employees cleaving to the Obama era should be 'very worried' by the prospect of Scott Pruitt taking over the agency, a key aide of the president has told the Guardian. In an ... interview, Myron Ebell – who headed up Trump’s EPA transition team, said ... [that] a campaign stump pledge by Trump to scrap the EPA in its entirety was 'an aspirational goal' that would be best achieved by incremental demolition rather than an executive order...." --CW 

Lawrence Altman of the New York Times: "President Trump takes medication for three ailments, including a prostate-related drug to promote hair growth, Mr. Trump’s longtime physician, Dr. Harold N. Bornstein, said in a series of recent interviews. The other drugs are antibiotics to control rosacea, a common skin problem, and a statin for elevated blood cholesterol and lipids.... Dr. Bornstein said he also took finasteride and credited it for helping maintain his own shoulder-length hair and Mr. Trump’s hair.... The disclosure that Mr. Trump uses a prostate-related drug to maintain growth of his scalp hair ... appears to solve a riddle of why Mr. Trump has a very low level of prostate specific antigen, or PSA, a marker for prostate cancer.... [Bornstein] said that he had had no contact with Mr. Trump since he became president, and that no one from Mr. Trump’s White House staff had asked for copies of the medical records that he has kept for the last 36 years, or called to discuss them.... At times in the interviews, Dr. Bornstein was moody, ranging from saying that Mr. Trump’s health 'is none of your business' to later volunteering facts. He also meandered [into unrelated topics]." -- CW 

To Russia, With Love. Gardiner Harris of the New York Times: "Rex W. Tillerson, the former chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil, was confirmed by the Senate on Wednesday in a 56-to-43 vote to become the nation’s 69th secretary of state just as serious strains have emerged with important international allies. The votes against Mr. Tillerson’s confirmation were the most in Senate history for a secretary of state, a reflection of Democratic unease with President Trump’s early foreign policy pronouncements that threaten to upend a multilateral approach that has guided United States presidents since World War II." -- CW 

CW: According to the Daily Mail -- and one should always be suspicious of words that follow "according to the Daily Mail" -- "Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch founded and led a student group called the ‘Fascism Forever Club’ at his elite high school.... The club was set up to rally against the ‘left-wing tendencies’ of his professors while attending a Jesuit all-boys preparatory high school near Washington D.C." Scott Lemieux in LG&$: "And to think that this little boy would grow up to be nominated by an illegitimately elected white nationalist in part to provide the fifth Supreme Court vote for upholding vote suppression laws."

Senate Judiciary Committee Celebrates Black History Month by Promoting Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post: "The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday voted 11 to 9 to advance the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) as attorney general. He is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate by the end of the week. Republicans, who need only a majority vote to approve him, control 52 of the Senate’s 100 seats, and Democrats have thus far failed to persuade anyone on the other side of the aisle to oppose Sessions." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Emma Brown & Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said Wednesday that they intend to vote against the confirmation of President Trump’s education secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos, giving Democrats two of at least three Republican votes they would need to block her appointment.... Both of the nation’s largest teachers unions mounted campaigns against her immediately after her nomination, but opposition broadened after she stumbled over basic education policy questions during her Jan. 17 confirmation hearing. Parents and teachers have flooded the Senate’s phone lines and email inboxes in recent weeks, urging senators to vote against DeVos." -- CW ...

... Emma Brown of the Washington Post: "Eli Broad, a billionaire philanthropist from California and major backer of charter schools, is urging senators to oppose the nomination of Betsy DeVos as education secretary, saying that she is unqualified for the job. 'At the risk of stating the obvious, we must have a Secretary of Education who believes in public education and the need to keep public schools public,' Broad wrote in a letter Wednesday to Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). '“With Betsy DeVos at the helm of the U.S. Department of Education, much of the good work that has been accomplished to improve public education for all of America’s children could be undone.'” --CW 

Kelsey Snell & Dave Weigel of the Washington Post: "Senate Republicans pushed through committee two of President Trump’s Cabinet nominees on Wednesday morning, reacting angrily to Democratic stalling tactics to disrupt a series of confirmation hearings the day before. In a rare move likely to further stoke partisan tensions, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) suspended his committee’s rules to advance Steven Mnuchin as treasury secretary and Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) as secretary of health and human services. [There were no Democratic senators present.] Their nominations now head to the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote, although it is unclear when that will occur. By about 10:45 Wednesday morning, Senate Democrats also had not shown up at an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing to consider Scott Pruitt, Trump’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Notice: There Will Be No Oversight in the Drumpf Administration. Steve Mufson of the Washington Post: 'An email from the Trump transition team on the evening of Jan. 13 instructed all transition team leaders to 'reach out tonight and inform' the inspectors general in their agencies 'that they are being held over on a temporary basis.' [That is, they would lose their jobs.]... Inspectors general..., by bipartisan tradition have open-ended appointments regardless of party....The email shows that the effort to replace the inspectors was not limited to a handful of agencies, but that it was intended to take aim at inspectors general across government departments. Moreover, the email ... suggests involvement at a more senior level of the transition.... House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said that the White House had told him the phone calls to inspectors general were a 'mistake' and the work of a 'junior person.' The inspectors general were later told to disregard the initial calls.” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Beyond the Beltway

Sam Levin of the Guardian: "North Dakota police have arrested 76 people at Standing Rock one day after federal officials suggested that the government could soon approve the final stage of construction of the Dakota Access pipeline.... The arrests occurred after a group of activists, who call themselves water protectors, established a new camp near the pipeline construction.... Malcolm Frost, US army chief of public affairs, said in a statement on Wednesday that the government was acting on Trump’s order 'to expeditiously review requests for approvals to construct and operate the Dakota Access pipeline in compliance with the law'.” -- CW

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