The Wires
The Ledes

Monday, March 18, 2019.

NBC News: “Heavy rain and melting snow that overpowered the Missouri River forced hundreds of families out of their homes in the Midwest and forced the base that is home to U.S. Strategic Command to sharply scale back operations on Sunday. At least three people are confirmed to have died in what the National Weather Service called 'major and historical river flooding' along parts of the Missouri and Mississippi river basins.”

TPM: "Fox News has hired former interim DNC chairwoman Donna Brazile as a contributor, the network announced Monday. According to the press release, Brazile will offer political analysis on Fox News and Fox Business News. A source close to the situation told TPM that Brazile will not play any role related to the debate or town hall process."

New York Post's Page Six: "Brian Williams could come back from TV news exile, Page Six is told. The anchor was booted from the 'NBC Nightly News' in 2015 after it was revealed that he’d embellished some stories with fictional details — and sent to the relative Siberia of 11 p.m. on sister station MSNBC. But despite his tarnished reputation and graveyard-adjacent time slot, Williams has made his '11th Hour With Brian Williams' show a legit hit, beating CNN and Fox News for three months straight. Now 30 Rock insiders say Williams could move to a more prominent time slot, possibly replacing vet Chris Matthews at 7 p.m." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Despite his less-than-liberal views, Williams' 11 pm newscast is really pretty good. He's a pro. Another pro at MSNBC who impresses me is Richard Liu. The other night, a feed from Los Angeles went dark, and within 90 seconds, Liu got himself on the air & conducted a full segment (with Ken Dilanian as one of the last-second guests) with what I would guess was zero prep. Years ago, when I was not much younger than Liu appears to be now, I worked for a national news network, and I had actual nightmares that I might get stuck on-air with no copy. (I was not an on-air personality, but I could have got stuck with an on-air spot during a strike.) I could not have done then what Liu did this week.

Everybody liked this Oscar moment:


Cartoon by R.J. Matson. Thanks to forrest m. ... The Verge has the complete list of Oscar winners.

Ars Technia: "Excavations at two ancient quarry sites in western Wales suggest how ancient people probably quarried some of the stones now standing at Stonehenge. The 42 stones in question are some of the smaller parts at Stonehenge, relatively speaking: they still weigh two to four tons each. They're called the bluestones, and they came all the way from western Wales [about 180 miles from the Stonehenge site]. Chemical analysis has even matched some of them to two particular quarries on the northern slopes of the Preseli Hills. One, an outcrop called Carn Goedog, seems to have supplied most of the bluish-gray, white-speckled dolerite at Stonehenge. And another outcrop in the valley below, Craig Rhos-y-felin, supplied most of the rhyolite. University College London archaeologist Michael Parker Pearson and his colleagues have spent the last eight years excavating the ancient quarry sites, and that work has revealed some new information about the origins of Stonehenge.... The ancient quarry-workers left behind mudstone wedges and stone hammers, which they would have driven into the cracks between the pillars to carefully pry them apart.”

The dollhouse of Petronella Oortman, in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.Emily Landau in the New York Times: "The whole point of a dollhouse is that it’s not to be played with. It’s untarnished by the workaday furniture we get for our real homes, the Sears dining tables and cheap Ikea Billy bookcases. And for many people, it’s the only place where ludicrously opulent décor is attainable, where you can go all out on mother-of-pearl doorknobs or Versailles-worthy brocade chaises without losing your savings or your dignity." Mrs. McC: I think Laudau helps explain why I have so enjoyed moving from a mansion-sized house to one that is one-tenth the size of the "mansion."

The Los Angeles Times has the full list of Oscar nominees here.

NBC Sports: "Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martínez, and Mike Mussina have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America as part of the 2019 class. The results were just announced on MLB Network. Rivera received votes from every single writer who submitted a ballot, becoming the first player ever to be unanimously inducted into the Hall of Fame. Halladay and Edgar Martínez each received 85.4 percent of the vote and Mussina appeared on 76.7 percent of ballots. Rivera, 49, spent all 19 of his seasons in the majors with the Yankees. He was initially used as a starter, but quickly moved to the bullpen, becoming the greatest closer of all-time. He racked up 652 saves — the most in baseball history — during the regular season along with a 2.21 ERA anda 1,173 strikeouts across 1,283 2/3 innings. He saved his best work for the postseason. Rivera appeared in 96 postseason games, saving 42 saves in 47 opportunities with a 0.70 ERA and a 110/21 K/BB ratio in 141 innings. Rivera won five championships, five Rolaids Relief Awards, as well as MVP awards in the World Series, ALCS, and All-Star Game. He made the AL All-Star team 13 times."

Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: If you're a shut-out Trump Shutdown victim tooling around the Internets with nothing to do today, let's assume that some day some time, Trump will de-furlough you and you can get back to work enthusiastically serving the American people in your appointed capacity. In case Trump has rendered you a bit rusty in the area of job skills, Conan here provides some useful tools that may help you get to work on time, even on casual Friday:

ABC News: "Breathtaking drone video of a pod of friendly, playful dolphins joining a surfer as he took to the waves near the coast of Ventura, California, is making the rounds on social media and bringing smiles -- and wow's -- to viewers. ABC station KABC-TV's meteorologist Kimi Evans met the drone's owner Craig Badger, who shared the footage, and spoke to surfer Alden Blair.... The video has been seen more than 3 million times on social media." ...

NBC Suits Are Such Geniuses. New York Times: "After a drawn-out negotiation period, NBC and Megyn Kelly have formally agreed to part ways. The network and the onetime cable news star reached a final agreement on Friday, nearly three months after she wondered aloud on-air why it was inappropriate for white people to dress up in blackface for Halloween. NBC and a representative for Ms. Kelly declined to reveal the details of the exit package. But according to two people familiar with the negotiations, Ms. Kelly was paid the outstanding balance on her contract, a figure that amounts to roughly $30 million. At the time of the separation, Ms. Kelly was in the middle of a three-year, $69 million contract with the network."

Constant Comments

 

Editor-in-Chief:
Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

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

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

Wednesday
Mar062019

The Commentariat -- March 7, 2019

Late Morning Update:

** GOOD GRIEF! Judge T.S. Ellis gives Paul Manafort a sentence of only 47 months when the sentencing guidelines were 19-1/2 to 24 years. No link. Manafort spoke briefly before the sentencing and expressed no remorse but said the last couple of years had been difficult for his family and him.

The Last Parse (Maybe). Lucien Bruggeman of ABC News: "Michael Cohen ... asked one of his attorneys last summer to inquire with an attorney representing the president about receiving a pardon, Cohen's spokesman Lanny Davis told ABC News Thursday.... Cohen, at the time, was part of a joint defense agreement with the president and many of his advisers. 'Prior to Michael Cohen's decision to leave the "Joint Defense Group" and tell the truth on July 2, 2018, Michael was open to the ongoing "dangling" of a possible pardon by Trump representatives privately and in the media,' Davis said. 'During that time period, he directed his attorney to explore possibilities of a pardon at one point with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani as well as other lawyers advising President Trump. But after July 2, 2018, Mr. Cohen authorized me as a new lawyer to say publicly Mr. Cohen would never accept a pardon from President Trump even if offered,' Davis said, adding, 'That continues to be the case.' Davis' revelation appears to contradict testimony Cohen provided to the House Oversight Committee last week. 'I have never asked for it, nor would I accept a pardon from President Trump,' Cohen told the panel in his opening statement. Davis pointed to nuances in Cohen's testimony.... 'But the sentence was also literally true,' Davis argued. '[Cohen] never asked President Trump for a pardon. His lawyer explored the disingenuous "dangle" repeatedly floated by Rudy and Trump in one meeting and never followed up.'"

The Last Flip-Flop (Maybe). Cristina Marcos of the Hill: "The House is expected to vote Thursday on a resolution broadly condemning hate in the wake of freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) speaking critically of Israel. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced at a closed-door whip meeting that the resolution would come up later in the day. Legislative text is expected to be released Thursday morning."

The Last Lie for the Next Hour (Maybe). Jordan Fabian of the Hill: "President Trump on Thursday doubled down on his assertion he did not break the law when he involved himself in a scheme to pay two women who alleged in the lead-up to the 2016 election that they had extramarital affairs with him. 'It was not a campaign contribution, and there were no violations of the campaign finance laws by me. Fake News!' Trump tweeted."

"Nothing Ever Happened." Noah Bierman & Chris Megerian of the Los Angeles Times: "The president's legal team has prepared a roughly 80-page counter-report that could be released in whole or in part depending on what Mueller alleges [in his anticipated report], according to Rudolph W. Giuliani.... For example, Giuliani said, if Mueller mentions the notorious June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York involving three top Trump aides -- his son Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign chairman Paul Manafort -- and a Kremlin-linked lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton, 'we would point out that nothing ever happened and it never went anywhere.'"

Opheli Lawler of New York: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen "Nielsen's responses seemed to indicate that the secretary was either not aware of the severity of the treatment of migrants in the United States -- particularly children -- or she was intentionally giving misleading answers to obfuscate the endless reports of abuse against Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Patrol.... 'There was no parent who has been deported to my knowledge without multiple opportunities to take their children with them,' Nielsen said. Nielsen's statement directly contradicts multiple news reports detailing traumatic deportations of parents who were separated from their children at the border and may never be reunited. Later, when being questioned by Representative Lauren Underwood, about the research showing that family separation can be traumatizing for children, Nielsen again claimed to be unaware of the specific effects of Trump's zero-tolerance policies."

~~~~~~~~~~

The Biggest Loser. David Nakamura, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Trump proclaimed in a freewheeling speech to a conference of conservatives last weekend that 'America is winning again.' But his administration has been on a pronounced losing streak over the past week. Trump is losing ground on top priorities to curb illegal immigration, cut the trade deficit and blunt North Korea's nuclear threat -- setbacks that complicate his planned reelection message as a can-do president who is making historic progress.... Yet as he has struggled to fulfill some of his signature campaign promises, Trump has consistently blamed others for his woes. He has criticized the administrations of Barack Obama and George W. Bush for not reforming the immigration system or reining in North Korea. He has railed at Democrats for failing to support his proposed border wall and implored them to ratify new trade deals. And he has even attacked fellow Republicans, obliquely slamming former House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) during a Rose Garden news conference last month for not having pushed faster to get a deal on the wall.... 'Not my fault I inherited this mess, but we're fixing it,' he said during the [CPAC] speech."

The Trump Scandals, Ctd. -- I Beg Your Pardon Edition

Rebecca Ballhaus of the Wall Street Journal: "Michael Cohen ... directed his attorney [Stephen Ryan] last spring to inquire about the possibility of a presidential pardon, weeks after federal agents raided his properties, Cohen's lawyer said Wednesday.... In testimony before the House Oversight Committee last week, Cohen said: 'I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from Mr. Trump.' Lanny Davis, a lawyer for Cohen, said Wednesday that in the months after the FBI raid, Cohen was open to a pardon from the president. 'During that time period, he directed his attorney to explore possibilities of a pardon at one point with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani as well as other lawyers advising President Trump,' Davis said. He referred to the discussions with the president's lawyers as the 'ongoing dangling' of a possible pardon.'" This is a short version of the WSJ report. The full, firewalled report is here. ...

     ... Robert Costa of the Washington Post, in a tweet, writes that Lanny Davis told him that Ballhaus's story "has it right."

... Mary Jalonick & Eric Tucker of the AP: "Asked about the pardon issue Tuesday evening, another Cohen attorney, Lanny Davis, said his client was speaking carefully during his public testimony. He acknowledged on MSNBC that Cohen 'was certainly looking at the option of a pardon' before he decided to come clean and turn on Trump. But since then, Davis said, Cohen has been clear that he wouldn't accept a pardon." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: It's pretty hard to square Cohen's sworn public testimony with Davis's assertion here. Asking one's attorney to "inquire about the possibility of a pardon" sounds a helluva lot like "asking for a pardon." I suppose one could argue that "exploring" the possibility of a pardon, while mulling one's options, is not exactly the same as asking for a pardon -- kind of like the young man who asks his girlfriend, "Would you consider marrying me?" & claims later when he gets cold feet that it was an academic question, not a proposal. But that is splitting hairs. In any event, it would seem it was not Trump who was "dangling a pardon" in front of Cohen but Cohen who was "dangling cooperation/lying" in front of Trump. Unless there are some mitigating factors. ...

     ... One possible mitigating factor: who was paying Cohen's lawyers? digby: "Cohen and his legal team at that time [April - May 2018] had an unusual relationship. The Trump Organization had agreed to pay both the law firm representing him and the special master who had been assigned to review the thousands of documents seized in the raids on Cohen's office and homes to remove those that would involve attorney-client privilege. The bills piled up quickly and Trump reportedly balked at paying them (of course,) so Cohen's attorneys decided to leave the case last June. By July, Cohen had hired new lawyers and had decided to cooperate. Those few weeks in which they were all sharing information is when Cohen's lawyer, Stephen Ryan, allegedly spoke to Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, about a pardon. Ryan isn't talking.... [AND] Those search warrants were served on Michael Cohen on April 9. Just 10 days before that, the New York Times had reported that Trump attorney John Dowd had discussed pardons with the lawyers for Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, so the issue was already in the air when Cohen got nabbed." ...

... Michael Schmidt, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump's lead lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, said Wednesday that lawyers for several people facing scrutiny from the Justice Department ... had contacted him to see whether the president would pardon their clients. Mr. Giuliani declined to identify the lawyers who broached the subject with him or their clients. He made his statement in response to questions about Mr. Trump's former lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, who has told federal prosecutors in Manhattan about pardon discussions last year that involved Mr. Giuliani and a lawyer who was expressing interest in representing Mr. Cohen, according to people briefed on the matter.... Mr. Giuliani ... said he always insisted to defense lawyers that Mr. Trump would not consider granting pardons until the investigations were long over.... 'I would say with a few lawyers: You shouldn't make any decision based on the assumption of a pardon,' Mr. Giuliani said in recounting the discussions.... Mr. Cohen recently provided information to federal prosecutors in Manhattan about the pardon discussions as part of his effort to assist the authorities and potentially reduce his lengthy prison sentence." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: In an interview with the New York Post in November 2018, Trump said, "It was never discussed, but I wouldn't take it off the table," regarding a pardon for Paul Manafort. "Why would I take it off the table?"

... Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "Michael Cohen has claimed to the House Intelligence Committee that he discussed the subject of a pardon with President Trump's attorney Jay Sekulow, bringing another of Trump's representatives into an ongoing dispute over precisely who opened discussions about the matter. Under penalty of perjury, Cohen alleged to lawmakers that he discussed pardons with Sekulow in addition to Rudolph W. Giuliani, another of Trump's lawyers, according to four people familiar with Cohen's testimony who spoke on the condition of anonymity.... Cohen appeared before the committee for about eight hours Wednesday, concluding a closed-door interview that began last week.... The people ... declined to provide specifics, including the dates or substance of his alleged conversations with Sekulow and Giuliani." ...

     ... ** The WashPo story has been updated, with Robert Costa added to the byline. New Lede: "Michael Cohen's former legal team reached out to President Trump's lawyers seeking a pardon, Cohen's current attorney said late Wednesday, largely settling speculation about who initiated conversations about the matter but raising new questions about whether Cohen was honest in his public testimony to Congress last week.Cohen's lawyer Lanny J. Davis said in an interview that Cohen directed his former attorney, Stephen Ryan, to contact Trump's representatives after they 'dangled' the possibility of pardons 'in their public statements.'" Also: "On Wednesday, Cohen gave the House Intelligence Committee documents that purportedly illustrate how the president's lawyers edited his 2017 statements to Congress.... The committee has not made those documents public. According to people familiar with what's contained in the documents, the changes were plentiful.... But one of these people said that the changes were not substantive and that there had been no direct changes made to Cohen's original claims about the timeline along which Trump pursued the real estate project in Russia." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: IOW, the "new & reformed" Michael Cohen is still telling tales under oath. Other than "a leopard doesn't change its spots," I don't get it. There is zero upside to his falsely volunteering he didn't ask for a pardon & very little downside to staying silent on the matter or admitting upfront that he did consider continuing to conspire with Trump but ultimately decided not to do so. ...

... ** Eliana Larramendia, et al., of ABC News: "In the weeks following the federal raids on former Michael Cohen's law office and residences last April..., [Cohen] was contacted by two New York attorneys who claimed to be in close contact with Rudy Giuliani, the current personal attorney to Trump, according to sources with direct knowledge of the discussions. The outreach came just as Cohen ... was wrangling with ... whether to remain in a joint defense agreement with the president and others, or to flip on ... [Trump]. The sources described the lawyers' contact with Cohen as an effort to keep him in the tent.... The sources ... said the two lawyers first reached out to Cohen late in April of last year and that the discussions continued for about two months. The attorneys, who have no known formal ties to the White House, urged Cohen not to leave the joint defense agreement, the sources told ABC News..., and also offered a Plan B. In the event Cohen opted to exit the agreement, they could join his legal team and act as a conduit between Cohen and the president's lawyers.... The sources tell ABC News that during the multiple conversations between Cohen and the attorneys, there was no explicit discussion or offer of a presidential pardon for Cohen. But the sources said there was an implicit message that if Cohen hired these lawyers, it could preserve or increase his chances of a pardon down the road...." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Read the whole story, especially if you'd like some insight into how mobsters work. These unnamed attorneys (Biscuits & Books?) are cutouts for a cutout (Rudy). ...

... Manu Raju & Jeremy Herb of CNN: "Michael Cohen on Wednesday provided the House Intelligence Committee with new documents showing edits to the false written statement he delivered to Congress in 2017 about the Trump Organization's pursuit of the Trump Tower Moscow project into the 2016 campaign season, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter. The documents Cohen provided are intended to further explain his public testimony last week, in which Cohen said that ... Donald Trump's then-personal lawyer Jay Sekulow made changes to his statement to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, and that it was reviewed ahead of time by lawyers like Abbe Lowell, an attorney for Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner....It's unclear what Cohen's documents show was specifically changed in the statement. Cohen is testifying Wednesday behind closed doors at the House Intelligence Committee." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Nicholas Fandos & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "Michael D. Cohen on Wednesday provided new documents to the House Intelligence Committee that he said illustrated changes made at the request of President Trump's lawyers to a knowingly false written statement that he delivered to Congress in 2017.... Mr. Cohen ... brought multiple drafts of his 2017 statement along with emails with Mr. Trump's lawyers about its drafting, hoping to back up claims that he made last week at an open hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee ... [when he] testified that there were 'changes made, additions' to the original written statement, including about the length of negotiations over a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign.... Two of the people familiar with the documents and Mr. Cohen's testimony ... said that at least some of the changes appeared to play down the knowledge of ... Ivanka Trump, about the project."

Anita Kumar of Politico: "... Donald Trump's strategy on congressional investigations has amounted to a two-pronged strategy: dodge requests -- and attack, attack, attack. The White House launched a fire-breathing public relations response to House Democrats while the Trump administration has refused or delayed turning over documents in 30 investigations by a dozen different committees, according to House Democrats." (Also linked yesterday.)

Jim VandeHei & Mike Allen of Axios: "Even without seeing Robert Mueller's report, or knowing what prosecutors with the Southern District of New York have unearthed, or what congressional investigators will find, we already have witnessed the biggest political scandal in American history." VandeHei & Allen draw parallels -- where they exist -- to historic scandals.

Carol Lee of NBC News: "Former White House chief of staff John Kelly said he disagreed with some Trump administration policies -- particularly on immigration -- but dodged questions Wednesday about the president reportedly intervening to secure top-secret security clearances< for his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Kelly, in an appearance at Duke University, did not deny reports that ... Donald Trump circumvented the usual process to grant the security clearances or that he later wrote a memo outlining his concerns about it. He simply said he believes any such conversations with the president would be privileged and that he's not at liberty to discuss security clearances.... Relatively subdued and cautious, Kelly landed some gloved swipes on his former boss -- at one point saying if [Hillary Clinton] ... had won the presidency and asked him to serve, he would have worked for her." Lee cites numerous instances where Kelly said he disagreed with Trump.

Joshua Partlow, et al., of the Washington Post: Juan "Quintero, 42, was so trusted by the Trumps that he had not one but two jobs working for the family. He was a greenskeeper at the Trump National Golf Club Hudson Valley in Hopewell Junction, N.Y., where he would work eight-hour shifts on weekdays. Then he would put in five more hours each day as a contractor at the 171-acre hunting retreat called Leather Hill Preserve, which serves as a private weekend playground for President Trump's sons and the property's co-owners. He also was an immigrant from Mexico who had crossed the border more than two decades ago and was working illegally in the United States. In January, Quintero lost his golf course job after 18 years of employment -- part of a purge of undocumented workers from Trump's businesses amid revelations that the company relied on illegal labor for years.... Gone, too, was his side job at the hunting retreat.... Quintero said he never directly told Eric Trump about his immigration status. But he said he remained employed by the hunting lodge for more than a year after not providing the owners with a Social Security number when they sought to issue him a debit card." (Also linked yesterday.)


Trump Hides CIA Killings. Charlie Savage
of the New York Times: "President Trump on Wednesday weakened a rule that required the government to annually make public its estimates of civilian bystanders killed in airstrikes outside conventional war zones -- increasing the secrecy that cloaks one of the most contentious aspects of the fight against terrorists. In an executive order, Mr. Trump revoked a disclosure requirement that President Barack Obama imposed in July 2016. The change was the latest in a series of ways that Mr. Trump has dismantled the architecture that Mr. Obama built over time to constrain the use of drone strikes and commando raids targeting Islamist militants in places like tribal Pakistan and rural Yemen.... Mr. Trump's executive order noted that since 2016, Congress has enacted a law that separately requires the Pentagon to issue annual reports about bystander deaths from all of its operations.... Still, the law ... does not extend to airstrikes by the C.I.A., which has carried out its own drone campaign...."

Ana Swanson & Jim Tankersley of the New York Times: "The United States trade deficit in goods ballooned to its largest level in history, reaching $891.3 billion in 2018, despite President Trump's repeated promise to reduce that figure. The gap between the goods that the United States sells to China and what China sells to America rose to a record $419 billion, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That gap has been a particular source of ire for Mr. Trump, who has imposed steep tariffs on Chinese goods to try and slow imports into America. In December, the overall goods and services deficit rose to $59.8 billion, up 19 percent from the previous month. It was the highest monthly trade deficit in a decade. The trade deficit, or the gap between value of goods and services imported into the country and exported out of it, expanded mainly because of the strong American economy, which allowed Americans to purchase more from abroad. A strong dollar, which weighed on American exports, and a continued shortfall in American savings also helped to buoy the metric." (Also linked yesterday.)

Zolan Kanno-Youngs & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "In her first congressional appearance since Democrats took control of the House, [Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen] Nielsen was defiant in the face of criticism of the administration for its treatment of migrant families at the border, especially its decision last summer to separate children from their parents.... Democrats demanded that Ms. Nielsen address the chaos that followed the family separation decision, the deaths of migrant children in federal custody and Mr. Trump's claim of a national emergency at the border that he has said requires construction of a border wall.... 'Ou capacity is already severely strained, but these increases will overwhelm the system entirely,' Ms. Nielsen told members of the House Homeland Security Committee. 'This is not a manufactured crisis. This is truly an emergency.'... Ms. Nielsen applauded the president's demand for a wall. She also urged lawmakers to pass legislation that would allow the indefinite detention of families and to more easily turn back claims of asylum by migrants from Central America, who have been arriving in record numbers at the southern border." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... This is the Trump administration. Nielsen argues with Democratic committee members about the definition of "cage." Watch to the end:

... Julia Ainsley of NBC News: "Customs and Border Protection has compiled a list of 59 mostly American reporters, attorneys and activists for border agents to stop for questioning when crossing the U.S-Mexican border at San Diego-area checkpoints, and agents have questioned or arrested at least 21 of them, according to documents obtained by NBC station KNSD-TV and interviews with people on the list. Several people on the list confirmed to NBC News that they had been pulled aside at the border after the date the list was compiled and were told they were being questioned as part of a 'national security investigation.'" ...

... Tom Jones, et al., of NBC 7 San Diego: "In addition to flagging the individuals for secondary screenings, the Homeland Security source told NBC 7 that the agents also created dossiers on each person listed. 'We are a criminal investigation agency, we're not an intelligence agency,' the Homeland Security source told NBC 7 Investigates. 'We can't create dossiers on people and they're creating dossiers. This is an abuse of the Border Search Authority.'"

Joshua Eaton of ThinkProgress: "The FBI failed last year to complete 276,000 gun background checks within a three-day time window meant to prevent the sale of firearms to individuals not legally allowed to own them, data obtained by ThinkProgress showed. The data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has not been previously published, shows how many gun background checks in 2018 took longer than three business days. If a background check is not completed within three days, federal laws allow a gun dealer make the sale anyway, even though many gun dealers -- including some large retailers -- choose not to." --s

Fred Barbash of the Washington Post: "Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross acted in 'bad faith,' broke several laws and violated the constitutional underpinning of representative democracy when he added a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, a federal judge ruled Wednesday. In finding a breach of the Constitution's enumeration clause, which requires a census every 10 years to determine each state's representation in Congress, the 126-page ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco went further than a similar decision on Jan. 15 by Judge Jesse Furman in New York. The Supreme Court has already agreed to review Furman's narrower decision, with arguments set for April 23, but may now need to expand its inquiry to constitutional dimensions.... Unable to find any expert in the Census Bureau who approved of his plan to add the citizenship question, Seeborg wrote, Ross engaged in a 'cynical search to find some reason, any reason' to justify the decision. He was fully aware that the question would produce a census undercount, particularly among Latinos, the judge said. That would have probably reduced the representation in Congress -- and thus in the electoral college that decides the presidency -- of states with significant immigrant populations, notably California. Because census data is used to apportion distribution of federal funds, an undercount would also have cheated these same jurisdictions, the judge said." ...

... John Bowden of the Hill: "A federal judge [Richard Seeborg] ruled against the Trump administration Wednesday, blocking the Commerce Department from adding a question on citizenship to the 2020 U.S. Census. In a ruling, a judge for the Northern District of California wrote that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross's search for a plausible reason to add a citizenship question to the census fell under the umbrella of an 'arbitrary and capricious' decision by the government.... 'Moreover, Secretary Ross's conclusion that adding the citizenship question would enable the Census Bureau to obtain more "complete and accurate data" in response to the [Justice Department's] request is not only unsupported, it is directly contradicted by the scientific analysis contained in the Administrative Record,' Seeborg continued." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Brian Feldman of New York: "Democratic members of Congress today put forward legislation to reinstate rules upholding the principle of net neutrality. The Save the Internet Act of 2019 is a brief piece of legislation that restores the Democrat-controlled FCC's Open Internet Order of 2015, and throws out the Republican-controlled FCC's 2017 undoing of said regulation." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Sheryl Stolberg & Glenn Thrush of the New York Times: "House Democratic leaders have put off a vote on a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and bigotry after a backlash from rank-and-file lawmakers who said Representative Ilhan Omar, whose comments gave rise to the measure, was being unfairly singled out. Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat, told reporters on Wednesday morning that the language of the resolution was still being drafted and no date for a vote had been set. But by Wednesday afternoon, the uproar over Ms. Omar had spread beyond the House, to the White House and the Senate. As House Democrats questioned why their leaders had not moved earlier to condemn President Trump for his own racially charged comments, Mr. Trump weighed in on Twitter. Seeking to exploit divisions among Democrats, he ... [wrote,] 'It is shameful that House Democrats won't take a stronger stand against Anti-Semitism in their conference. Anti-Semitism has fueled atrocities throughout history and it's inconceivable they not act to condemn it!'... But Mr. Trump has been accused repeatedly of trafficking in anti-Semitic tropes." ...

... Adrienne Masha Varkiani of ThinkProgress: "Republican lawmakers continue to criticize Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) after recent comments she made about Israel, which many say involved rhetoric playing on anti-Semitic tropes. But it seems few remember that Republicans have a poor track record when it comes to anti-Semitism, voting in February to reject one of their own proposals that would have condemned it.... In February, 177 House Republicans voted against a bill that included a motion to combat anti-Semitism -- an amendment they had introduced themselves.... The amendment was tacked onto a bill that would end U.S. military assistance for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.... In the end, every Democrat voted in favor of the amendment, which unanimously passed. And nearly every House Republican voted against the final bill[.]" --s

Maggie Astor of the New York Times: "The House Oversight and Reform Committee is investigating allegations of voter suppression in Georgia under Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who has since become governor. The investigation was revealed in letters that the committee's Democratic leaders sent on Wednesday to Mr. Kemp and his successor as secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger. The letters instructed Mr. Kemp and Mr. Raffensperger -- both Republicans -- to provide by March 20 a wide range of documents concerning voter roll purges; holds placed on voter registration applications; polling site changes and closings; and other voting-related issues. The committee also requested all documents related to the potential conflict of interest Mr. Kemp faced in administering an election in which he was a candidate." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This investigation is something the Justice Department should be doing (and should have begun, on an expedited schedule, well before the election). But no. I hope the committee ends up sending a criminal referral against Kemp to the DOJ & the referral lands on the desk of a career attorney.

#McSallyToo. Yvonne Sanchez of the Arizona Republic: "A year after saying she was sexually abused in high school, Sen. Martha McSally revealed during a congressional hearing Wednesday that she was raped by a superior officer while she was in the Air Force. McSally, an Arizona Republican, said only that an attack happened and implied that it occurred early in her military career that spanned more than two decades. The personal disclosure came during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel intended to prevent and better respond to sexual assaults in the military in the future. McSally has been a tireless advocate for the military, which she says should include a system that protects women and men who have faced sexual assault and abuse."

Presidential Race 2020

Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "The Democratic National Committee has decided to exclude Fox News Channel from televising any of its candidate debates during the 2019-2020 cycle as a result of published revelations detailing the cable network's close ties to the Trump administration. In a statement Wednesday, DNC Chairman Tom Perez cited a story in the New Yorker magazine this week that detailed how Fox has promoted President Trump's agenda. The article, entitled 'The Making of the Fox News White House,' [also linked here Monday] suggested that the news network had become a 'propaganda' vehicle for Trump.... Numerous networks, including Fox, have submitted proposals to the DNC to televise one of the 12 scheduled debates, which will start in June. So far, the organization has only awarded rights to the first two — to NBC (along with sister networks MSNBC and Telemundo) and to CNN." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Here's an edited, condensed transcript of David Remnick's interview of Jane Mayer. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Update. Tal Axelrod of the Hill: "President Trump on Wednesday responded to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) refusing to let Fox News host a Democratic primary debate by threatening to 'do the same thing' with other networks during the general election. 'Democrats just blocked @FoxNews from holding a debate. Good, then I think I'll do the same thing with the Fake News Networks and the Radical Left Democrats in the General Election debates!' Trump tweeted Wednesday." Thanks to Ken W. for the link. Ken sez Trump is "still a little confused about the limitations of his role" in operating & promoting state TV while squelching competing networks. ...

Michael Kranish of the Washington Post: "Kamala D. Harris was [San Francisco]'s top prosecutor, running to become California's elected attorney general, when a scandal stunned her office and threatened to upend her campaign. One of Harris's top deputies had emailed a colleague that a crime lab technician had become 'increasingly UNDEPENDABLE for testimony. Weeks later, the technician allegedly took home cocaine from the lab, possibly tainting evidence and raising concerns about hundreds of cases. Neither Harris nor the prosecutors working for her had informed defense attorneys of the problems -- despite rules requiring such disclosure. Harris 'failed to disclose information that clearly should have been disclosed,' Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo wrote in a scathing decision in May 2010.... Now this episode, which undercut Harris's image as a polished leader and raised questions about her management style, has taken on new relevance as the senator seeks the Democratic nomination for the presidency."

Steve M. anticipates a scenario in which voters overwhelmingly elect Trump's Democratic opponent, Trump refuses to accept defeat, and McConnell, Fox "News" & Trumpbots back up Trump. Mrs. McC: I know this sounds doomsday conspiracy nuts, but Steve describes what increasingly seems like a plausible scenario. I can't forget that my second thought at learning of Antonin Scalia's death was, "Ah, Obama gets another Supreme Court pick."

A view of Aaron Schock's Congressional office.... Andy Kravetz & Chris Kaergard of the Peoria, Illinois, Journal Star: “After four years, legal twists and turns that rise to the level of either high comedy or incredible drama, the public corruption case of former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock is over. The Peoria Republican, who resigned from office four years ago amid allegations of fiscal misconduct, entered a plea on behalf of his campaign committee to a Federal Election Commission violation for inadequately keeping paperwork. Schock himself didn't plead to anything. The committee, as an entity, was found in violation. To be dropped were what's left of nearly two dozen allegations against him claiming years of misconduct. His plea isn't typical for federal court. Instead of a conviction, Schock entered a program known as 'pretrial diversion.' A $25,000 fine was levied and the period of supervision under the pretrial diversion is to last for six months. Also Schock, 37, must repay his main campaign committee and the IRS money as outlined in the agreement." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Luke Barnes of ThinkProgress: "Ever since the violent 'Unite the Right' rally that rocked Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, the far-right has been on the defensive.... One group, however, responded to the increased scrutiny by hiding its overt far-right sympathies and attempting to rebrand itself as a GOP-friendly organization -- actively encouraging its members to join local chapters of the Republican Party. 'Identity Evropa leadership *strongly* encourages our members to get involved in local politics,' the group's leader, Patrick Casey, wrote in November 2017 message, obtained by the autonomous media collective Unicorn Riot. 'The GOP is essentially the White man's party at this point ... so it makes far more sense for us to subvert it than to create our own party.'" --s

Kate Briquelet of the Daily Beast: "Famed attorney Alan Dershowitz was accused of involvement in billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein's alleged sex-trafficking ring by an attorney for one of Epstein's victims, who claimed in federal court on Wednesday that the release of sealed documents will prove it. Paul Cassell, who represents Virginia Roberts Giuffre, told the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that the testimony of other witnesses will show Dershowitz's involvement in the alleged trafficking of 'his close friend Jeffrey Epstein.'... The hearing came nearly two weeks after a Florida judge ruled federal prosecutors violated the law when they inked a non-prosecution deal with Epstein in 2007 -- and concealed that agreement from more than 30 of Epstein's victims. The Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the secret deal, which was handled by Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta, who was U.S. Attorney in Miami at the time. Dershowitz ... was one member of Epstein's legal team that helped broker the unusual non-prosecution agreement. For his part, Dershowitz and his lawyers are also requesting the court release the trove of documents to the public — but they say it's in order to prove his innocence."

** Jessica Glenza & Oliver Milman of the Guardian: "A century-long war to remove lead from Americans' daily lives has been successful on some fronts, but a lack of regulation, political will and funding has meant the contamination of drinking water remains a public health crisis.... Even low levels can impair a child's IQ, academic achievement and ability to pay attention. US studies have shown lead-exposed children are more likely to be aggressive, leading to bullying, truancy and even jail.... Elevated levels of lead have been found in schools across the US in the wake of the toxic water scandal that has roiled Flint, Michigan, since 2014.... Across the US, four in 10 school districts did not test for lead in the previous 12 months, a 2017 report by the US Government Accountability Office found. Of the 43% of districts that had tested, which cover 35 million students, more than one-third found lead.... Estimates of how many billions of dollars it would take to gradually remove lead from schools vary widely, but experts believe the investment could save as much as $84bn annually -- the estimated cost of healthcare, education and incarceration of children harmed by lead annually." --s

Tuesday
Mar052019

The Commentariat -- March 6, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "The Democratic National Committee has decided to exclude Fox News Channel from televising any of its candidate debates during the 2019-2020 cycle as a result of published revelations detailing the cable network's close ties to the Trump administration. In a statement Wednesday, DNC Chairman Tom Perez cited a story in the New Yorker magazine this week that detailed how Fox has promoted President Trump's agenda. The article, entitled 'The Making of the Fox News White House,' [also linked here Monday] suggested that the news network had become a 'propaganda' vehicle for Trump.... Numerous networks, including Fox, have submitted proposals to the DNC to televise one of the 12 scheduled debates, which will start in June. So far, the organization has only awarded rights to the first two -- to NBC (along with sister networks MSNBC and Telemundo) and to CNN." ...

     ... Here's an edited, condensed transcript of David Remnick's interview of Jane Mayer.

Brian Feldman of New York: "Democratic members of Congress today put forward legislation to reinstate rules upholding the principle of net neutrality. The Save the Internet Act of 2019 is a brief piece of legislation that restores the Democrat-controlled FCC's Open Internet Order of 2015, and throws out the Republican-controlled FCC's 2017 undoing of said regulation."

Joshua Partlow, et al., of the Washington Post: Juan "Quintero, 42, was so trusted by the Trumps that he had not one but two jobs working for the family. He was a greenskeeper at the Trump National Golf Club Hudson Valley in Hopewell Junction, N.Y., where he would work eight-hour shifts on weekdays. Then he would put in five more hours each day as a contractor at the 171-acre hunting retreat called Leather Hill Preserve, which serves as a private weekend playground for President Trump's sons and the property's co-owners. He also was an immigrant from Mexico who had crossed the border more than two decades ago and was working illegally in the United States. In January, Quintero lost his golf course job after 18 years of employment -- part of a purge of undocumented workers from Trump's businesses amid revelations that the company relied on illegal labor for years.... Gone, too, was his side job at the hunting retreat.... Quintero said he never directly told Eric Trump about his immigration status. But he said he remained employed by the hunting lodge for more than a year after not providing the owners with a Social Security number when they sought to issue him a debit card."

Manu Raju & Jeremy Herb of CNN: "Michael Cohen on Wednesday provided the House Intelligence Committee with new documents showing edits to the false written statement he delivered to Congress in 2017 about the Trump Organization's pursuit of the Trump Tower Moscow project into the 2016 campaign season, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter. The documents Cohen provided are intended to further explain his public testimony last week, in which Cohen said that ... Donald Trump's then-personal lawyer Jay Sekulow made changes to his statement to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, and that it was reviewed ahead of time by lawyers like Abbe Lowell, an attorney for Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.... It's unclear what Cohen's documents show was specifically changed in the statement. Cohen is testifying Wednesday behind closed doors at the House Intelligence Committee."

Zolan Kanno-Youngs & Michael Shear of the New York Times: "In her first congressional appearance since Democrats took control of the House, [Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen] Nielsen was defiant in the face of criticism of the administration for its treatment of migrant families at the border, especially its decision last summer to separate children from their parents.... Democrats demanded that Ms. Nielsen address the chaos that followed the family separation decision, the deaths of migrant children in federal custody and Mr. Trump's claim of a national emergency at the border that he has said requires construction of a border wall.... 'Our capacity is already severely strained, but these increases will overwhelm the system entirely,' Ms. Nielsen told members of the House Homeland Security Committee.... Ms. Nielsen applauded the president's demand for a wall. She also urged lawmakers to pass legislation that would allow the indefinite detention of families and to more easily turn back claims of asylum by migrants from Central America, who have been arriving in record numbers at the southern border."

John Bowden of the Hill: "A federal judge [Richard Seeborg] ruled against the Trump administration Wednesday, blocking the Commerce Department from adding a question on citizenship to the 2020 U.S. Census. In a ruling, a judge for the Northern District of California wrote that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross's search for a plausible reason to add a citizenship question to the census fell under the umbrella of an 'arbitrary and capricious' decision by the government.... 'Moreover, Secretary Ross's conclusion that adding the citizenship question would enable the Census Bureau to obtain more "complete and accurate data" in response to the [Justice Department's] request is not only unsupported, it is directly contradicted by the scientific analysis contained in the Administrative Record,' Seeborg continued."

A view of Aaron Schock's Congressional office. ... Andy Kravetz & Chris Kaergard of the Peoria, Illinois, Journal Star: "After four years, legal twists and turns that rise to the level of either high comedy or incredible drama, the public corruption case of former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock is over. The Peoria Republican, who resigned from office four years ago amid allegations of fiscal misconduct, entered a plea on behalf of his campaign committee to a Federal Election Commission violation for inadequately keeping paperwork. Schock himself didn't plead to anything. The committee, as an entity, was found in violation. To be dropped were what's left of nearly two dozen allegations against him claiming years of misconduct. His plea isn't typical for federal court. Instead of a conviction, Schock entered a program known as 'pretrial diversion.' A $25,000 fine was levied and the period of supervision under the pretrial diversion is to last for six months. Also Schock, 37, must repay his main campaign committee and the IRS money as outlined in the agreement."

Ana Swanson & Jim Tankersley of the New York Times: "The United States trade deficit in goods ballooned to its largest level in history, reaching $891.3 billion in 2018, despite President Trump's repeated promise to reduce that figure. The gap between the goods that the United States sells to China and what China sells to America rose to a record $419 billion, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That gap has been a particular source of ire for Mr. Trump, who has imposed steep tariffs on Chinese goods to try and slow imports into America. In December, the overall goods and services deficit rose to $59.8 billion, up 19 percent from the previous month. It was the highest monthly trade deficit in a decade. The trade deficit, or the gap between value of goods and services imported into the country and exported out of it, expanded mainly because of the strong American economy, which allowed Americans to purchase more from abroad. A strong dollar, which weighed on American exports, and a continued shortfall in American savings also helped to buoy the metric."

Anita Kumar of Politico: "... Donald Trump's strategy on congressional investigations has amounted to a two-pronged strategy: dodge requests -- and attack, attack, attack. The White House launched a fire-breathing public relations response to House Democrats while the Trump administration has refused or delayed turning over documents in 30 investigations by a dozen different committees, according to House Democrats."

~~~~~~~~~~

The Trump Scandals, Ctd.

The Double Life of Donald Trump. Peter Baker & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "On a busy day at the White House, President Trump hosted senators to talk about tax cuts, accused a Democratic congresswoman of distorting his condolence call to a soldier's widow and suffered another court defeat for his travel ban targeting Muslim countries. And at some point on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, Mr. Trump took the time to sign a $35,000 check to his lawyer, who had made hush payments to prevent alleged sexual misconduct from being exposed before the 2016 presidential election. It was one of 11 occasions that Mr. Trump or his trust cut such checks, six of which were provided this week to The New York Times.... The dates on the newly available checks shed light on the parallel lives Mr. Trump was living by this account -- at once managing affairs of state while quietly paying the price of keeping his personal secrets out of the public eye.... On the same day he reportedly pressured the F.B.I. director to drop an investigation into a former aide, the president's trust issued a check to [Michael] Cohen in furtherance of what federal prosecutors have called a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws at the direction of Mr. Trump."

President Obama, from what they tell me, was under a similar kind of a thing, didn't give one letter. They didn't do anything. They didn't give one letter of the request. Many requests were made. They didn't give a letter. -- Donald Trump, yesterday, lying in front of wounded veterans

According to Linda Qiu of the New York Times, the Obama administration turned over 10,000 pages re: "Fast & Furious," more than 300,000 pages on Solyndra, 125,000 pages on Benghaaazi! and 1.3 million pages on the IRS/Lois Lerner hoohah. When Trump tells an incredible whopper, as opposed to a standard whopper, he sometimes modifies it with a "people say" qualifier, as he does here. He thinks this absolves him, & if queried about the same matter later, he keeps it up: "I don't know; that's what they tell me." -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie ...

... Jordan Fabian of the Hill: "President Trump on Tuesday signaled the White House will not comply with a barrage of congressional investigations, accusing Democrats in the House of launching the probes to hurt his chances of winning reelection in 2020. 'It's a disgrace to our country. I'm not surprised that it's happening. Basically, they've started the campaign. So the campaign begins,' Trump told reporters at the White House after signing an executive order on veterans' suicide prevention." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The "disgrace to our country," obviously, is the long list of Trump's criminal & corrupt acts that have made the investigations necessary. ...

... Rachel Bade of the Washington Post: "The White House has rebuffed House Democrats' request for documents pertaining to the security clearance process, a move that drastically increases the chances of a subpoena from the House. In a letter to House Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), White House Counsel Pat A. Cipollone said the committee request for the information was 'without legal support, clearly premature, and suggests a breach of the constitutionally required accommodation process.' Rather, Cipollone said his staff would brief the panel and allow them to view documents related to their investigation. That offer has not been sufficient for committee Democrats in the past.... In a statement, Cummings rejected the White House lawyer's assertion that Congress does not have jurisdiction over security clearance matters. 'There is a key difference between a president who exercises his authority under the Constitution and a president who overrules career experts and his top advisers to benefit his family members and then conceals his actions from the American people,' Cummings said. 'The White House's argument defies the constitutional separation of powers, decades of precedent before this committee, and just plain common-sense....'" ...

... Colin Kalmbacher of Law & Crime: "Congressional Democrats are calling for a criminal investigation into presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner over several allegedly 'false statements' he made to federal investigators in service of obtaining his long-sought-after Top Secret security clearance. Representatives Ted Lieu (D-California) and Donald Beyer (D-Virginia), addressed a two-page letter to Attorney General William Barr. The investigatory request relies upon recent news reports which claimed that ... Donald Trump demanded his then-chief-of-staff John Kelly to overrule various federal authorities -- including top officials in the intelligence community -- and gift Kushner the security clearance.... 'Taken together with previous reports that Mr. Kushner omitted contacts with more than one hundred foreign persons on his clearance forms -- including the Russian Ambassador -- we request that the Department of Justice open an immediate investigation to determine if Mr. Kushner is criminally liable for his false statements.'... The letter notes that House investigators are currently addressing the security clearance issue but goes on to specifically request a 'concurrent criminal probe' from the Department of Justice in order to 'safeguard our national security secrets and ensure our laws are being upheld.'" ...

The president had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband's clearance. -- Ivanka Trump, in an ABC interview ...

... ** Pamela Brown & Kaitlan Collins of CNN: "... Donald Trump pressured his then-chief of staff John Kelly and White House counsel Don McGahn to grant his daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump a security clearance against their recommendations, three people familiar with the matter told CNN. The President's crusade to grant clearances to his daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner, rankled West Wing officials. While Trump has the legal authority to grant clearances, most instances are left up to the White House personnel security office.... But after concerns were raised by the personnel office, Trump pushed Kelly and McGahn to make the decision on his daughter and son-in-law's clearances so it did not appear as if he was tainting the process to favor his family, sources told CNN. After both refused, Trump granted them their security clearances.... The latest revelation also contradicts Ivanka Trump's denial to ABC News three weeks ago, when she said her father had 'no involvement' regarding her or Kushner's clearances." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: In the next sentence, CNN's "sources" haul out the sexist Dumb-Blonde defense: "Several sources told CNN it is feasible that she was unaware of the red flags raised during her background check process, as well as the President's involvement in it." The defense also is ludicrous. Ivanka is a federal official, and her job requires her to be truthful in her public statements. A correct answer could have been, "Not to my knowledge." A better answer would have been, "I'm not aware that my father had any involvement in securing my husband's clearance or mine, but I'll find out and let you know what I've learned." Democrats should call for her resignation, as well as her husband's. ...

     ... Justin Baragona of the Daily Beast: Anderson Cooper & Maggie Haberman can't figure out WTF Ivanka does in the White House. Haberman said she doubts Ivanka had no idea her father got her the clearance. As to why she "needs" it, Haberman speculated, "I think that there is an addictive quality to having access to this kind of information. What exactly Ivanka Trump needs to do with that information is unclear." Dear Donald, Since you're handing them out like campaign fliers, please send me a top-secret security clearance. I too think it would be cool to be "briefed." Thanks, Mrs. Bea McCrabbie ...

... Jordan Fabian: "President Trump on Tuesday attacked Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), accusing the House Judiciary Committee chairman of attempting to 'harass' his associates in a wide-ranging probe into Trump's administration, campaign and businesses. 'Nadler, Schiff and the Dem heads of the Committees have gone stone cold CRAZY. 81 letter sent to innocent people to harass them. They won't get ANYTHING done for our Country!' he tweeted. The president also referenced House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who on Monday made a sweeping request for documents and interviews related to Trump's conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump said Democrats are ramping up their investigations 'now that they realize the only Collusion with Russia was done by Crooked Hillary Clinton & the Democrats.'" (Also linked yesterday.)

Thomas Elfrink of the Washington Post: "In a half-dozen tweets and retweets sent right up until midnight [Tuesday], Trump took aim at [billionaire activist Tom] Steyer and two of his most familiar targets: Hillary Clinton and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Trump saved his most direct ire on the night for the billionaire, though, who has made removing Trump from the White House the centerpiece of his ambitious political agenda. Although Steyer was believed to be considering a bid for the Democratic nomination in late 2018, he laid those rumors to rest in January. Steyer, whose super PAC, NextGen America, poured $61 million into the 2018 midterms, instead announced plans to spend $16 million targeting incumbent Republicans in 2020 who back Trump. The 61-year-old former hedge fund manager also said he plans to embark on a national town hall tour to press his view that Trump should be impeached.... Steyer responded to Trump's latest broadside by calling him 'the most corrupt president in American history.'"

Andrew Desiderio of Politico: "Three key House chairmen on Monday formally asked the White House and the State Department for documents and witness interviews related to ... Donald Trump's communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The leaders of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees are giving White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo until March 15 to turn over 'all documents and communications, regardless of form and classification, that refer or relate to any communications between President Trump and President Putin, including in-person meetings and telephone calls.'" (Also linked yesterday.)

Jeff Toobin in the New Yorker: "... Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, has hired a veteran prosecutor with experience fighting Russian organized crime to lead his investigation of the Trump Administration. Last month, according to a committee source, Daniel Goldman, who served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York from 2007 to 2017, joined the committee's staff as a senior adviser and the director of investigations. The hiring of Goldman, who will be joined by two other former federal prosecutors on Schiff's staff, underlines Schiff's decision to conduct an aggressive investigation of the Trump campaign's ties to Russia during the 2016 Presidential campaign." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: If Goldman's name sounds famililar, it's because until recently, he was an NBC analyst.

William Rashbaum & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "New York State regulators have issued an expansive subpoena to the Trump Organization's longtime insurance broker, the first step in an investigation of insurance policies and claims involving President Trump's family business, according to a person briefed on the matter. The subpoena was served late Monday on the company, Aon, one of the largest insurance brokerage firms in the world, as part of an inquiry by the New York State Department of Financial Services. It came just days after Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump's formerfixer and lawyer, indicated in congressional testimony that the Trump Organization inflated the value of its assets to insurance companies." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Matt Zapotosky, et al., of the Washington Post: Michael "Cohen has privately claimed that a pardon was dangled to him by Trump's representatives, people familiar with the matter say -- though he has been unspecific about the timing or substance of the talks. Two others familiar with the events said it was Stephen Ryan, Cohen's lawyer at the time, who raised the issue of a pardon. Within weeks of the raid, Ryan and Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of Trump's personal lawyers, discussed the subject, people familiar with the matter said.... Cohen told lawmakers [in sworn testimony last week] that he had never asked for, nor would he accept, a pardon from Trump.... Cohen has not alleged that he was offered an explicit quid pro quo that would tie a pardon to his cooperation with law enforcement, [a] person said. The person said Cohen felt that Trump's team was using innuendo and suggestion to imply there would be a benefit for his loyalty. 'It was very vague,' the person said. The topic of pardons came up when Cohen testified privately last week before the House and Senate Intelligence committees. Precisely what Cohen alleged there remains unclear."

Caitlyn Oprysko of Politico: "A federal judge reprimanded Roger Stone on Tuesday over possible violations of a court-imposed gag order that could ultimately land him in jail. She also gave the longtime associate of ... Donald Trump a week to explain why the re-release of a book he wrote critical of the Russia investigation wasn't previously disclosed. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman in her five-page order also accused the eccentric GOP operative of using court filings to promote his book, a signal the appointee of President Barack Obama is far from pleased with how Stone has handled the gag order imposed last month that restricts him from commenting in any substantive way about his case." ...

... Dan Mangan & Kevin Breuninger of CNBC: "Two websites used by ... Roger Stone to raise funds for his defense against criminal charges lodged by special counsel Robert Mueller and in civil cases have been deleted. At least one of those deletions apparently occurred after CNBC reported Sunday that the Republican operative might have violated the terms of his judicial gag order by posting an image on his Instagram account asking 'Who framed Roger Stone.' Another of Stone's websites, which itself was titled whoframedrogerstone.com, has also been deleted."

Caitlyn Oprysko: "One of ... Donald Trump's former White House lawyers said this week that special counsel Robert Mueller is an 'American hero' [citing Mueller's military service] and that the probe he is leading is not a 'witch hunt,' rejecting the president's repeated characterizations of the Russia investigation and the man leading it. In an interview on ABC News' 'The Investigation' podcast published Tuesday, Ty Cobb disputed many of the president's complaints about Mueller and his team.... He also said at least on the matter of Russian collusion, Trump would likely be exonerated." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Marc Fisher of the Washington Post: "In 2011, days after Donald Trump challenged President Barack Obama to 'show his records' to prove that he hadn't been a 'terrible student,' the headmaster at New York Military Academy got an order from his boss: Find Trump's academic records and help bury them. The superintendent of the private school [Jeffrey Coverdale] 'came to me in a panic because he had been accosted by prominent, wealthy alumni of the school who were Mr. Trump's friends' and who wanted to keep his records secret, recalled Evan Jones, the headmaster at the time. 'He said, "You need to go grab that record and deliver it to me because I need to deliver it to them."' 'I was given directives, part of which I could follow but part of which I could not, and that was handing them over to the trustees,' [Jones] said. 'I moved them elsewhere on campus where they could not be released. It's the only time I ever moved an alumnus's records.'" ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "... what's perhaps more notable is just how exhaustive the effort to bury Trump's academic records seems to have been. It's apparently something that spanned two different presidential campaign cycles and was undertaken almost immediately as Trump began talking about Obama's grades.... It's hardly the first example of Trump attacking others for things that could just as easily get turned around on him. But it does appear a particularly rich one." ...

     ... Mrs McCrabbie: It's easy to see Trump is dumb as a post today, but that doesn't mean he was a terrible student a half-century ago. His extraordinary efforts to hide his grades, however, is all the evidence we need that he was near the bottom of his class. Also too, we must not forget that Trump's demand that President Obama release his grades was a super-racist attack. He told the AP, 'I heard he was a terrible student -- terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard? I'm thinking about it, I'm certainly looking into it. Let him show his records." Trump just could not believe or accept that a black person was a better student than he, & his presumption was that Obama was admitted to prestigious schools under affirmative action programs but then couldn't keep up with the white people. Disgusting. ...

     ... Update: Although Trump has claimed, "I became one of the top guys at the whole school," Marc Fisher was on MSNBC Tuesday night and said that fellow students at New York Military Academy said Trump's grades were mediocre. However, since Trump's transcripts are "buried," Fisher can't confirm this.

Bribing POTUS. Alex Raymond of New York: "Prior to April 29, 2018, the date on which T-Mobile and Sprint announced plans to merge into a new telecom giant, T-Mobile executives had spent two nights at the Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C. In the ten months since, they've spent at least 52 nights at the property, which is owned by the Trump Organization. In a letter to Congress last month, the company admitted to spending around $195,000 at the downtown D.C. hotel since the merger announcement, according to the Washington Post. T-Mobile says the increase was not meant to sway regulators deciding whether to approve the merger." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Hey, if Donald Trump isn't worried about that emoluments thing, why should T-Mobile? And just to make sure word got back to Donald that T-Mobile was paying tribute, its CEO John Legere was spotted hanging in the hotel lobby wearing "a black-and-magenta hoodie with a T-Mobile logo over a bright magenta T-shirt with another T-Mobile logo."

Grace Sparks of CNN: "Nearly two-thirds of registered voters think ... Donald Trump committed crimes before assuming the presidency, according to a new poll taken in the days after former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen testified to Congress. According to a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday, 64% of registered voters said Trump had committed crimes before entering office and nearly half of voters -- 45% -- think he committed crimes while serving as President.... When asked directly if they believe [Michael] Cohen or Trump more, 50% of all registered voters chose Cohen and 35% chose Trump.... Almost 3 in 5 voters wanted Congress to do more to investigate Cohen's claims about Trump's unethical and possibly illegal behavior." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: These results are especially amazing in view of the fact that nearly half of the "questioning" of Cohen during public House testimony was Republicans yelling at him for being a convicted liar.


Caitlin Dickerson
of the New York Times: "For the fourth time in five months, the number of migrant families crossing the southwest border has broken records, border enforcement authorities said Tuesday, warning that government facilities are full and agents are overwhelmed. More than 76,000 migrants crossed the border without authorization in February, more than double the levels from the same period last year and approaching the largest numbers seen in any February in the last 12 years." ...

... Kate Smith of CBS News: "ICE officers have released 12 of the infants that were being held at a rural Texas detention center, where immigrant advocates claim they dealt with dirty water, limited baby food and a lack of medical care. The release comes just days after immigration advocates called on the Department of Homeland Security to 'intervene immediately.' In an email Monday, ICE said there were 16 infants younger than a year old held at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas as of Friday, March 1. The status of the remaining four babies is unclear. ICE also said there was another infant under the age of one detained at the Texas Karnes detention center. Both facilities are about an hour away from San Antonio, the nearest metropolitan center. All the mothers and their infants were released to friends and family members who were were 'ready to buy them a bus or plane ticket and receive them in their home,' said Katy Murdza, the advocacy coordinator at the American Immigration Council's Dilley Pro Bono Project."

About That Excellent Trump-Kim "Summit." Courtney Kube, et al., of NBC News: "North Korea is pursuing the 'rapid rebuilding' of the long-range rocket site at Sohae Launch Facility, according to new commercial imagery and an analysis from the researchers at Beyond Parallel. Sohae Satellite Launching Station, North Korea's only operational space launch facility, has been used in the past for satellite launches. These launches use similar technology to what is used for intercontinental ballistic missiles. 'This renewed activity, taken just two days after the inconclusive Hanoi Summit between ... Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, may indicate North Korean plans to demonstrate resolve in the face of U.S. rejection of North Korea's demands at the summit to lift five U.N. Security Council sanctions enacted in 2016-2017,' the analysts said." ...

... Julia Davis of the Daily Beast looks at how Moscow is viewing the failed "summit." They're pretty much all laughing at Trump as a weak leader -- one pundit called him the "acting president*" -- and congratulating Li'l Kim for manipulating Trump into showing up for the fake summit.

Martin Crutsinger of TPM: "[S]o far this budget year, the total deficit is 77 percent higher than the same period a year ago. The Treasury Department said Tuesday that the deficit for the first four months of this budget year, which began Oct. 1, totaled $310.3 billion. That's up from a deficit of $175.7 billion in the same period a year ago.... Individual income taxes withheld from paychecks total $818 billion for the October-January period, down 3 percent from the same period last year. Corporate income taxes total $73 billion over the four-month period, down 23 percent. Revenue, however, is up is in tariffs -- border taxes collected on imports -- which totaled $25 billion in the October-January period, up 91 percent from the same period a year ago.... The border taxes are not paid by the countries where the goods are being produced but rather by the U.S. companies importing the products into the United States. Those costs are generally passed on to American consumers." --s

** E. A. Crunden of ThinkProgress: "The Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to weaken or dismantle climate efforts would increase CO2 emissions by more than 200 million tons annually, taking a severe toll on public health, according to a new report released Tuesday by the nonpartisan State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at New York University's (NYU) law school." --s

Lloyd Grove of The Daily Beast: "[The current] White House ... prizes petty vengeance over thoughtful political strategy, according to half a dozen longtime Republican consultants and strategists interviewed for this article; they say Donald Trump's White House operates as a cult of personality, insisting on lockstep loyalty above every other consideration -- even at the expense of competent political practice. 'There's no sophistication. They are not trying to pick winners and losers at all. They are not getting involved in the races. They are simply vengeful,' said Republican consultant Susan Del Percio, echoing the assessments of other GOP strategists[.]" With examples. --s

All the Best People, Ctd. Casey Quinlan of ThinkProgress: "A Republican [Shannon Lee Goessling] whose career has been defined largely by a record of opposition to LGBTQ and immigrant rights ... is being considered to lead the Office on Violence Against Women. She has also made claims that women owning guns protects them against violence, which is not supported in research.... A number of women's rights groups have opposed her nomination and said her record signals that she would be an ineffective advocate for women, especially due to her history of inaccurate claims about gun use and violence against women." --s

Burgess Everett & Marianne Levine of Politico: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his GOP caucus ... are about to accelerate their ability to unilaterally approve many [judicial] nominees in dramatic fashion. The Senate is on track to confirm the 34th Circuit Court judge of Trump's presidency in the next week and the GOP has three more ready for floor action; that would give Trump roughly 20 percent of the Circuit Court seats in the country after just two years in office. At this rate, McConnell and Trump could leave few, if any, vacancies there for a potential Democratic president in 2021. Even more alarming for Democrats, the GOP is also preparing to pull the trigger on the 'nuclear option' and change Senate rules once again with a simple majority to allow much quicker confirmation of lower court judges in the coming months. 'The committee is working to put [judges] out on the floor and as soon as they come to the floor the leader's making it a priority to move them,' said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, McConnell's top deputy." --s

Brianna Ehley of Politico: "Sen. Rand Paul on Tuesday railed against government-mandated vaccines, suggesting they infringe on personal rights, during a congressional hearing on immunizations' role in protecting the public from preventable diseases like the current measles outbreak sweeping parts of the country. Paul (R-Ky.), a doctor, said he and his children are vaccinated and that he believes the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks. 'But I still do not favor giving up on liberty for a false sense of security,' Paul said during the Senate health committee hearing, where he was the only lawmaker to raise doubts over vaccinations." Mrs. McC: Never mind the rights of all the children & adults the unvaccinated may infect. ...

... Sam Stein of the Daily Beast: "Paul didn't just make the case that vaccines should be voluntary, however. He used his platform at the hearing to affirmatively push the perception that they are potentially problematic. 'It is wrong to say that there are no risks to vaccines,' said Paul. 'Even the government admits that children are sometimes injured by vaccines.'... Shortly after Paul spoke..., Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) offered to 'give some color to what Senator Paul said.' He then proceeded to go through cases of individuals who ended up with terrible diseases simply because they didn't think getting vaccinated was important. A physician himself, Cassidy noted that the only requirement with regards to vaccination was that a children get them before entering the public school system. Addressing Paul without looking at him, Cassidy concluded: 'If you are such a believer in liberty that you do not wish to be vaccinated then there should be a consequence and that is that you cannot infect other people.'" ...

... Michael Brice-Saddler of the Washington Post: "An 18-year-old from Ohio who famously inoculated himself against his mother's wishes in December says he attributes his mother's anti-vaccine ideology to a single source: Facebook. Ethan Lindenberger, a high school senior, testified Tuesday before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and underscored the importance of 'credible' information. In contrast, he said, the false and deep-rooted beliefs his mother held -- that vaccines were dangerous — were perpetuated by social media. Specifically, he said, she turned to anti-vaccine groups on social media for evidence that supported her point of view. In an interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday, Lindenberger said Facebook, or websites that were linked on Facebook, is really the only source his mother ever relied on for her anti-vaccine information." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Yes, but now Mother Lindenberger can bolster her Facebook claptrap with the expert support of U.S. Senator & Self-Certified Doctor Rand Paul.

Paul Waldman in the Washington Post: "In what is surely the most shameful decision of her current term as speaker, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has decided that the time has come for the House to rebuke Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) for things she didn't actually say, and ideas she didn't actually express. In the process, Pelosi and other Democrats are helping propagate a series of misconceptions about anti-Semitism, Israel, and U.S. political debate.... In one of the tweets that got people so worked up, Omar said, 'I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee.' You'll notice she didn't say or even imply anything at all about Jews. She said that she was being asked to support Israel in order to have the privilege of serving on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which was true.... Here's the truth: The whole purpose of the Democrats' resolution is to enforce dual loyalty not among Jews, but among members of Congress, to make sure that criticism of Israel is punished in the most visible way possible.... When the most prominent advocates for Israel are people such as Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin, 'dual loyalty' loses any meaning as a slur against Jews." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie Mea Culpa: Like many people, I believed reports I read that Omar had accused fellow House members of being loyal to a foreign country -- Israel. According to Waldman, she did not say or write that. ...

... ** Eric Levitz of New York: “While explaining her frustration with the way allegations of anti-Semitism can be used to suppress 'the broader debate of what is happening with Palestine,' the Democratic congresswoman said, 'I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.' Many American Jews took exception to this remark. And not without reason. Omar's intentions were ambiguous.... I've seen no compelling evidence that Omar is an anti-Semite, rather than a critic of Israel who is (understandably) frustrated with the extraordinary power that Likud wields in D.C.... Meanwhile, virtually all of her colleagues routinely say -- in prepared remarks, as a matter of principle -- that America should continue to abet the race-based oppression of Palestinians in Israel.... Unlike the vast majority of her colleagues, Omar has the temerity to insist that Palestinians are full-fledged human beings, entitled to political freedom and equality before the law.... Omar's remarks about Zionists were insensitive and counterproductive. But her colleagues' enthusiastic support for the subjugation of Palestinians is something much worse."

... Heather Caygle, et al., of Politico: "A vote on a resolution condemning anti-Semitism in response to controversial comments by Rep. Ilhan Omar is set to slip past Wednesday amid intensifying pressure from the left both inside and outside the House Democratic Caucus. An array of progressive groups declared their support for Omar, while both the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Progressive Caucus -- two of the most important factions among House Democrats -- wanted more time to review the situation, lawmakers and aides said."

Michelle Lee of the Washington Post: "Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)’s chief of staff helped establish two political action committees that paid a corporation he ran more than $1 million in 2016 and 2017, federal campaign finance records show. Brand New Congress LLC, the corporation owned by Saikat Chakrabarti, was also paid $18,880 for strategic consulting by Ocasio-Cortez's congressional campaign in 2017, records show. The following year, he worked as a volunteer to manage her campaign, according to his LinkedIn profile. The arrangement, first reported by conservative outlets, left hidden who ultimately profited from the payments -- a sharp juxtaposition with Ocasio-Cortez's calls for transparency in politics. She has called dark money 'the enemy to democracy.... On Monday, a conservative group filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that the PACs failed to properly disclose their spending.... It is unclear whether [Ocasio-Cortez] had knowledge of the payments to Chakrabarti's corporation."

Presidential Race 2020. Michael Bloomberg, in a Bloomberg opinion piece, says he will not seek the Democratic nomination for president. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Monday
Mar042019

The Commentariat -- March 5, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Michael Bloomberg, in a Bloomberg opinion piece, says he will not seek the Democratic nomination for president.

William Rashbaum & Ben Protess of the New York Times: "New York State regulators have issued an expansive subpoena to the Trump Organization's longtime insurance broker, the first step in an investigation of insurance policies and claims involving President Trump's family business, according to a person briefed on the matter. The subpoena was served late Monday on the company, Aon, one of the largest insurance brokerage firms in the world, as part of an inquiry by the New York State Department of Financial Services. It came just days after Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump's former fixer and lawyer, indicated in congressional testimony that the Trump Organization inflated the value of its assets to insurance companies."

Jordan Fabian of the Hill: "President Trump on Tuesday signaled the White House will not comply with a barrage of congressional investigations, accusing Democrats in the House of launching the probes to hurt his chances of winning reelection in 2020. 'It's a disgrace to our country. I'm not surprised that it's happening. Basically, they've started the campaign. So the campaign begins,' Trump told reporters at the White House after signing an executive order on veterans' suicide prevention." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The "disgrace to our country," obviously, is that Trump has made the investigations necessary.

Jeff Toobin in the New Yorker: "... Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, has hired a veteran prosecutor with experience fighting Russian organized crime to lead his investigation of the Trump Administration. Last month, according to a committee source, Daniel Goldman, who served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York from 2007 to 2017, joined the committee's staff as a senior adviser and the director of investigations. The hiring of Goldman, who will be joined by two other former federal prosecutors on Schiff's staff, underlines Schiff''s decision to conduct an aggressive investigation of the Trump campaign's ties to Russia...." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: If Goldman's name sounds famililar, it's because until recently, he was an NBC analyst.

Andrew Desiderio of Politico: "Three key House chairmen on Monday formally asked the White House and the State Department for documents and witness interviews related to ... Donald Trump's communications with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The leaders of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees are giving White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo until March 15 to turn over 'all documents and communications, regardless of form and classification, that refer or relate to any communications between President Trump and President Putin, including in-person meetings and telephone calls.'"

Jordan Fabian of the Hill: "President Trump on Tuesday attacked Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), accusing the House Judiciary Committee chairman of attempting to 'harass' his associates in a wide-ranging probe into Trump's administration, campaign and businesses. 'Nadler, Schiff and the Dem heads of the Committees have gone stone cold CRAZY. 81 letter sent to innocent people to harass them. They won't get ANYTHING done for our Country!' he tweeted. The president also referenced House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who on Monday made a sweeping request for documents and interviews related to Trump's conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump said Democrats are ramping up their investigations 'now that they realize the only Collusion with Russia wa done by Crooked Hillary Clinton & the Democrats.'"

Caitlyn Oprysko of Politico: "One of ... Donald Trump's former White House lawyers said this week that special counsel Robert Mueller is an 'American hero' [citing Mueller's military service] and that the probe he is leading is not a 'witch hunt,' rejecting the president's repeated characterizations of the Russia investigation and the man leading it. In an interview on ABC News' 'The Investigation' podcast published Tuesday, Ty Cobb disputed many of the president's complaints about Mueller and his team.... He also said at least on the matter of Russian collusion, Trump would likely be exonerated."

~~~~~~~~~~

The Trump Scandals, Ctd. -- Predicate to an Impeachment

Manu Raju & Jeremy Herb of CNN: "House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler on Monday announced a sweeping investigation into ... Donald Trump's campaign, businesses, transition and administration, a probe that would lay the groundwork for Democrats if they choose to pursue impeachment proceedings against the President. The Judiciary Committee on Monday sent letters to 81 people and entities -- including the White House, the Justice Department, senior campaign officials, Trump Organization officials and the President's sons -- marking the start of a broad investigation that will tackle questions including possible corruption, obstruction of justice, hush-money payments to women, collusion with Russia and allegations of the President abusing his office and using it for personal gain. They are demanding responses within two weeks." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "In the two months since they took control of the House, Democrats have begun investigating members of the president's cabinet, his businesses, his campaign, his inaugural committee and his ties to key foreign powers, including Russia and its attempts to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. But Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the Judiciary Committee chairman, made clear on Monday that the new majority intends to train its attention on actions at the heart of Mr. Trump's norm-bending presidency -- actions that could conceivably form the basis of a future impeachment proceeding.... In a statement released Monday, Mr. Nadler said that it was imperative to 'begin building the public record' of what he has contended are Mr. Trump's abuses." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Josh Kovensky & Allegra Kirkland of TPM: "We've taken the list of 81 witnesses and separated them out investigation-by-investigation, witness-by-witness. Below are the topics covered." --s ...

... Fortunately, the White House is responding in its usual measured manner: Democrats are harassing the President to distract from their radical agenda of making America a socialist country, killing babies after they're born, and pushing a 'green new deal' that would destroy jobs and bankrupt America.... The Democrats are more interested in pathetic political games and catering to a radical, leftist base than on producing results for our citizens. The Democrats are not after the truth, they are after the President -- Sarah Sanders (no link)

... Jill Lawrence of USA Today: "The impeachment process has begun. If you want to quibble, think of it as the pre-impeachment process. Whatever you call it, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler is not fooling around.... This isn't overkill, it's playing catch-up. What we're seeing now is the oversight and scrutiny that should have started on Day One of this administration. It's also laying the foundation for impeachment.... The list of alleged and potential misdeeds grows by the day. There are at least 17 law enforcement investigations that we know of into Trump's administration, transition, campaign, inauguration, foundation and business, and that is on top of multiple new and ongoing Capitol Hill investigations. [Michael] Cohen's public and private testimony last week gave Congress many new avenues to follow up, including new leads on the Trump Tower Moscow project and possible insurance fraud by the Trump Organization. Cohen also said he was talking to federal prosecutors in New York about another investigation into Trump wrongdoing but couldn't disclose what it was." ...

Michelle Goldberg: "In 1983, the married sociologists Gladys Engel Lang and Kurt Lang published ... a book that sought to explain how Americans, in less than two years, went from overwhelmingly re-electing Richard Nixon to largely supporting his impeachment. The Watergate scandal, after all, wasn't a complete surprise. There was evidence of a White House connection to the break-in before the 1972 election; a George McGovern campaign ad featured a montage of damning Watergate headlines while a narrator intoned: 'This is about hidden funds. This is about deception. This is about the White House.' But somehow, the story didn't stick. 'The problem it signified was outside the range of and remote from most people's immediate concerns,' the Langs wrote. The details were confusing, 'their import difficult to fathom.'" Goldberg goes on to equate what House Democrats are doing now with what the Nixon-era Ervin Committee & House Judiciary Commitee did then. ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I don't think that's it. Rather, I suspect that we enjoy watching "great men" topple. It's no accident that Oedipus Rex has been a favorite (off & on) for nearly 2,500 years. I think plenty of people voted for Bad Boy Donald because they were tired of Hillary Clinton's boring, predictable competence. Just as people thought of Nixon as "Tricky Dick," so they knew Trump was a gaudy, shady character who made his money bloviating, stiffing contractors & duping people into buying his crummy products. He's the kind of huckster people want to watch go down in flames. Do I think most Trump voters were fully aware of these motivations? Nope. But I think that unacknowledged impulse is how the amorphous "public" can go from "loving" a candidate to hating a president*. Poll-wise, the same thing has happened to most recent presidents. The anomaly is Bill Clinton, who became more popular after events bore out everyone's worst expectations.

Matt Shuham of TPM: "... Donald Trump ordered his chief of staff and top economic adviser to pressure the Justice Department to intervene against AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner in 2017, according to a New Yorker report. The Justice Department eventually did intervene, unsuccessfully. In late summer 2017, The New Yorker reported, a few months before the Justice Department formally filed suit to block the deal, Trump ordered Gary Cohn, then his chief economic adviser, to pressure the Justice Department to oppose the acquisition. The magazine, citing an unnamed 'well-informed source,' reported that Trump told White House chief of staff John Kelly and Cohn in an Oval Office meeting: 'I've been telling Cohn to get this lawsuit filed and nothing's happened! I've mentioned it fifty times. And nothing's happened. I want to make sure it's filed. I want that deal blocked!' According to the same source, Cohn, who announced his resignation in March 2018, told Kelly on the way out of the meeting: 'Don't you fucking dare call the Justice Department. We are not going to do business that way.'... The same New Yorker report, which focused on the relationship between Fox News and the President, also revealed that a Fox News reporter uncovered Trump's hush money payment to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign, but that Fox News blocked the publication of the story. An executive reportedly told the reporter: 'Good reporting, kiddo. But Rupert [Murdoch], wants Donald Trump to win. So just let it go.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... If proven, such an attempt to use presidential authority to seek retribution for the exercise of First Amendment rights would unquestionably be grounds for impeachment. -- George Conway, husband of Kellyanne Conway

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd." Ronn Blitzer of Law & Crime: "The [New Yorker] article states that reporter Diana Falzone spent much of 2016 working on the story, and 'had obtained proof that Trump had engaged in a sexual relationship in 2006 with a pornographic film actress calling herself Stormy Daniels.' Falzone had also reportedly uncovered information related to the nondisclosure agreement that Daniels later signed, and how her attorney had worked with then-Trump attorney Michael Cohen.... Falzone was reportedly ready to go with this story in October 2016, but it never saw the light of day, despite having confirmation from Daniels' former manager and ex-husband, in addition to emails between Cohen and Daniels' former attorney. After getting the run-around from different editors, Falzone's article was eventually shot down for good by Ken LaCorte, who was the head of FoxNews.com, the New Yorker reported." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

Matthew Yglesias of Vox argues that Fox "News" is far more influential than any "fake news" generated on social media: "Jane...Mayer['s New Yorker piece on Fox News killing the Stormy Daniels story] adds critical new insights into the arc of change at the network during a period when CEO Roger Ailes was deposed and then died, vice president Bill Shine left to become White House communications director, and the company's owner Rupert Murdoch has restructured his media holdings and prepared to pass the baton to his son.... Fox's propaganda broadcasting matters. It's a somewhat underexplored topic in political science research, but the information that's available suggests that right-wing propaganda broadcasting -- led by Fox but also including Sinclair Broadcast Group -- has a decisive influence on American politics.... [W]hile fake news is obviously not desirable, the evidence for its practical impact has been relatively slight compared to the evidence that mass opinion has been manipulated by traditional television broadcasting." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I don't have an answer, but it's been clear for a long time that liberals, Democrats & traditional media must begin to educate the public on the danger Fox, Sinclair & other right-wing media pose. Media Matters is great at pointing out the Fox "News" lies of the day, but even I don't read Media Matters, so you can bet Fox viewers aren't checking to see what-all crap they're taking in on Fox. One thing ordinary citizens can do is shame Fox viewers. When your neighbor says he heard it on Fox, just tell him flat-out that Fox isn't "news"; it's right-wing propaganda. And the network is making a fool out of her.

Brett Samuels of the Hill: "An attorney representing Michael Cohen broached the idea of a pardon for the longtime Trump associate during a conversation last year with lawyers for the president, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. The news outlet reported that Stephen Ryan allegedly discussed the possibility of a pardon with Trump attorneys Jay Sekulow, Rudy Giuliani and Joanna Hendon. The conversations reportedly took place in the weeks after the FBI raided Cohen's home, hotel room and office while the group reviewed seized files that may have qualified for attorney-client privilege. Ryan hinted that Cohen would consider cooperating with prosecutors if he did not receive a pardon, according to The Wall Street Journal.... Trump's attorneys rejected the idea of pardoning Cohen at the time, The Journal reported, but Giuliani left the door open to a pardon down the road. The former New York City mayor has consistently said the president is unlikely to pardon associates amid ongoing investigations. There's no indication Cohen himself knew of the conversations or personally requested a pardon, The Journal reported."

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Attorney General William Barr will not recuse himself from overseeing ... Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign, a Justice Department spokeswoman said Monday.... Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said Monday that Barr had decided to assume the role overseeing Mueller's inquiry and that the department's ethics team concurred.... Barr's confirmation for a second stint as attorney general was complicated by the disclosure that he had written a 19-page memo last June expressing deep skepticism about aspects of Mueller's investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. During his confirmation hearing, Barr refused to say whether he would recuse from any role in Mueller's probe." ...

... Buh-bye. Morgan Chalfont of the Hill: "Former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has left the Department of Justice. A Justice Department spokesman told The Hill that Whitaker's last day was Saturday but did not expand on the circumstances surrounding his departure or his plans after leaving. It is unclear where Whitaker might go, including whether he might seek another role in the Trump administration."

Dan Mangan: "Special counsel Robert Mueller on Monday notified a federal judge about an Instagram post by ... Donald Trump's friend Roger Stone that could be in violation of the judge's strict gag order on Stone. The filing by Mueller cited CNBC's story on Sunday detailing the post by Stone, which contained an image of him under the words "Who framed Roger Stone.' Mueller did not ask Judge Amy Berman to find that Stone broke her gag order."

Andy Kroll of Rolling Stone: "The family of Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee staffer whose unsolved murder in 2016 spawned a wave of conspiracy theories, has notched another legal victory against the proponents of baseless theories about Rich. On Monday, pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi retracted a nearly year-old column published on the website Infowars, run by another notorious conspiracy peddler, Alex Jones, that promoted the unfounded claim that Rich and his brother participated in the hack of the DNC and leaked documents to WikiLeaks. In addition to the retraction, Corsi apologized to the Rich family. Around midday Monday, Infowars formally retracted the column and published an apology that mirrored Corsi's.... Corsi's apology and retraction came after a series of negotiations between lawyers for Corsi and [Seth's brother] Aaron Rich...."


Glenn Kessler
, et al., of the Washington Post: "Powered by his two-hour stemwinder at the Conservative Political Action Conference on March 2 -- which featured more than 100 false or misleading claims -- President Trump is on pace to exceed his daily quota set during his first two years in office. The president averaged nearly 5.9 false or misleading claims a day in his first year in office. He hit nearly 16.5 a day in his second year. So far in 2019, he's averaging nearly 22 claims a day. As of the end of March 3, the 773rd day of his term in office, Trump accumulated 9,014 fishy claims, according to The Fact Checker's database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president. Trump's performance at CPAC is emblematic of his version of the truth during his presidency -- a potent mix of exaggerated numbers, unwarranted boasting and outright falsehoods. His speech helped push March 3 to his fourth-biggest day for false or misleading claims, totaling 104."

Erin Banco & Betsy Woodruff of the Daily Beast: "The Trump administration is still actively working to make a deal to send U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, according to two U.S. officials and two professional staffers at federal agencies.... American energy businesses are still hoping to cash in on Riyadh's push for energy diversification.... Professional staff and officials in the administration told The Daily Beast they are still concerned about the possible connection between efforts by private businesses to engage with Saudi Arabia on nuclear energy and the quiet, ongoing discussions between senior U.S. officials and Riyadh about a deal. Those government-to-government conversations, some of which took place in Riyadh, have often excluded professional staff and taken place behind closed doors, according to two individuals.... Jared Kushner met with MBS and other members of the Saudi government in Riyadh this week.

D. Parvaz of ThinkProgress: "President Donald Trump came back from his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi without striking any kind of agreement. And since he returned, he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been blaming that failure on almost anyone.... [T]he president ... blamed the North Koreans for wanting too much.... North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho ... said that Pyongyang had 'offered a realistic proposal' [and] only asked for a partial removal of U.S. sanctions.... In an interview with USA Today published on Sunday, [Mike] Pompeo was either unaware of that statement or in denial about it ever happening. National Security Adviser John Bolton ... [said] the talks collapsed owing to North Korea's unpredictability.... Trump took to Twitter on Sunday to blame 'the Democrats' for interviewing Michael Cohen[.]" --s

"The Cowardly Bully." Paul Krugman: "According to multiple news organizations, the U.S. and China are close to a deal that would effectively end trade hostilities. Under the reported deal, America would remove most of the tariffs it imposed last year. China, for its part, would end its retaliatory tariffs, make some changes to its investment and competition policies and direct state enterprises to buy specified amounts of U.S. agricultural and energy products. The Trump administration will, of course, trumpet the deal as a triumph. In reality, however, it's much ado about nothing much. As described, the deal would do little to address real complaints about Chinese policy, which mainly involve China's systematic expropriation of intellectual property. Nor would it do much to address Donald Trump's pet although misguided peeve, the imbalance in U.S.-China trade. Basically, Trump will have backed down. If this is the story, it will repeat what we saw on the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump denounced as the 'worst trade deal ever made.' In the end, what Trump negotiated -- the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement, or U.S.M.C.A. -- was very similar to the previous status quo. Trade experts I know ... call it 'Nafta 0.8': fundamentally the same as Nafta, but a bit worse." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This is Trump's MO, and he may, to a certain extent, know what he's doing. He has a major Trumpertantrum which makes a flawed or bad situation worse, then declares victory. Since he's actually doing nothing productive, these feints allow him to pretend he's busy saving the nation from some disaster brought on by incompetent and/or malevolent previous administrations. He can count on at least 30 percent of voters buying his bull and another 30-60 percent having no idea whether he's right or wrong. It's shameful retail politics, so it's Trump.

Sheri Fink & Caitlin Dickerson of the New York Times: "An average of 2,200 migrants a day are now crossing the nation's 1,900-mile border with Mexico, many after grueling journeys that leave them injured, sick or badly dehydrated. Yet most of the nation's Customs and Border Protection facilities along the border lack sufficient accommodations, staffing or procedures to thoroughly assess health needs or provide more than basic emergency care, a situation that has led to dangerous medical oversights.... A New York Times review of records and dozens of interviews with migrants, agents, researchers and health workers suggest that some of these deaths were not anomalies, but rather signs of entrenched problems that have repeatedly put detainees with medical conditions at risk."

Tierney Sneed of TPM: "It's been well over a year since President Trump's bogus voter fraud commission was disbanded. But the administration is still fighting in court efforts to get it to turn over certain internal documents from the commission to a Democratic member [Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap] who sued to have access to them." --s

David Dayen of The Intercept: "A remarkable report from the Pentagon's inspector general released this week reveals that TransDigm Group, a parts supplier, 'earned excess profit' on nearly every parts contract it made with the Defense Department. Pentagon procurement officials responded to the report by vowing to seek $16.1 million in voluntary refunds from TransDigm, the approximate amount of excess profits on $26.3 million in contracts.... Three Democrats — Reps. Ro Khanna of California, Tim Ryan of Ohio, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts -- requested the audit to see whether TransDigm was reaping excess profits in procurement." --s ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This report is a good example of why I'm never enthusiastic when the president (or president*) & Congress want to spend billions more on "our great military." We might have "the greatest military force the world has ever seen," but we have been paying for it with $400 hammers since we got our first tax statement.

Tracy Jan of the Washington Post: "Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson says he intends to leave his post at the end of President Trump's term. Carson made his remarks in a segment airing Monday evening on Newsmax TV, a conservative news outlet. In his two years leading HUD, Carson has dialed back civil rights enforcement at the agency and suspended Obama-era rules that had been aimed at fighting housing segregation and discrimination."


Jordain Carney
of the Hill: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday said that he expects a resolution blocking President Trump's emergency declaration to pass the Senate, but he does not believe lawmakers will be able to override a veto. 'I think what is clear in the Senate is that there will be enough votes to pass the resolution of disapproval, which will then be vetoed by the president and then in all likelihood the veto will be upheld in the House,' McConnell said while speaking to reporters in Kentucky.... McConnell added that while he was supporting Trump's emergency declaration, he was 'hoping he wouldn't take that particular path.' 'Yeah I am,' he said, asked if he was concerned about the precedent set for a Democratic president. 'That's one reason I argued obviously without success to the president that he not take this route.'" ...

... Sheryl Stolberg & Emily Cochrane of the New York Times: "... while a veto is highly unlikely to be overturned, the congressional majority that forces it will stand as a powerful rejection of the tactics Mr. Trump has used to fulfill his top campaign promise to build a wall on the southern border -- and will apparently be the first time since passage of the National Emergencies Act of 1976 that Congress has voted to overturn an emergency declaration."

Sarah Ferris, et al., of Politico: "Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top Democrats will take floor action Wednesday in response to controversial remarks by Rep. Ilhan Omar about Israel, the second such rebuke of the freshman Democrat from party leaders in recent weeks. Pelosi and other senior Democrats have drafted a resolution to address the controversy, which ballooned over the weekend following a public clash between Omar and senior Jewish lawmakers. The resolution, which began circulating to members Monday night, comes after a backlash from top Democrats who accused Omar of anti-Semitism for referring to pro-Israel advocates' allegiance to a foreign country.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: While I agree Omar went too far in questioning her colleagues' allegiance to the U.S. (which is a violation of House rules), what about President Trump's claiming that some members of Congress who are immigrants -- here he did not name but likely was referring to Omar -- "hate our country"? Same difference, as we say in the South. As for anti-Semitism, let's look at Jim Jordan. (Rabid-Ohio)...

... Dan Mangan of CNBC: "House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., on Monday blasted Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio for an 'inane AND anti-Semitic' tweet that spelled billionaire hedge-fund operator Tom Steyer's last name with a '$.'... Steyer, whose father was Jewish, has been a prominent donor to Democratic candidates as part of his goal to have President Donald Trump impeached." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... ** MEANWHILE. Lamar White of the Bayou Brief: "Only a week before [Rep. Clay Higgins' (R-La.) remarkable performance as the clueless bartender for the Michael Cohen hearing], one of the congressman's top aides, District Director Jerod Prunty, tendered his resignation after being charged and arrested with two counts of 'pandering,' which, as it is apparently being applied in this situation, is a euphemism for human trafficking. The state's most recent iteration of the statutory definition of pandering dates back to 1978; it provides for significant civil penalties and mandatory jail time." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This is the gist of the new part of the story, but for your own enjoyment you might want to read the whole post. I would say White is a great writer, but really, Brother Higgins gave White all his material.

Presidential Race 2020. Shane Goldmacher of the New York Times: "Hillary Clinton ... said officially on Monday what has been unofficially clear for months: She is not running for president again in 2020. 'I'm not running,' Mrs. Clinton told a New York City television station, News 12. 'But I'm going to keep on working and speaking and standing up for what I believe.'"

Mark Stern of Slate: "[T]he First Amendment's Establishment Clause prohibits the government from funding religious exercise and limits its ability to fund religious facilities.... Yet in 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court flipped the First Amendment on its head by ruling, for the first time ever, that the Constitution sometimes requires the government to provide public funds directly to a church.... And on Monday, Justice Brett Kavanaugh announced his intention to demolish the remainder of that wall by invalidating laws that bar government subsidization of religion.... Although the Supreme Court declined to hear [the case at issue,] Morris County, Kavanaugh wrote separately to condemn New Jersey's 'pure discrimination against religion.'... [Sam] Alito and Neil Gorsuch joined his opinion." --s

Supremes Rebuff GOP Whiners. Lee Davidson of the Salt Lake Tribune: "The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ended five years of legal battles by the Utah Republican Party to quash a 2014 election law that allows candidates to qualify for the ballot by collecting signatures and/or through the caucus-convention system. Justices refused to hear the party's challenge of that law, called SB54, rejecting the party's arguments that it unconstitutionally interferes with its right to choose how to select its own nominees."

Idiocracy. Ben Collins of NBC News: “A book that pushes the conspiracy theory Qanon climbed within the top 75 of all books sold on Amazon in recent days, pushed by Amazon's algorithmically generated recommendations page. 'QAnon: An Invitation to the Great Awakening,' which has no stated author, ranked at No. 56 at press time.... The book claims without evidence a variety of outlandish claims including that prominent Democrats murder and eat children and that the U.S. government created both AIDS and the movie Monsters Inc.... Adherents of the Qanon conspiracy theory falsely believe that the world is run by a Satanic cabal helmed by ... Hillary Clinton, and that President Donald Trump and Special Counsel Robert Mueller are secretly working in tandem to eliminate the cabal.... The book ... is currently No. 9 in all books about politics, and No. 1 in all books about 'Censorship.'..." --s

Apoorva Mandavilli of the New York Times: "For just the second time since the global epidemic began, a patient appears to have been cured of infection with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. The news comes nearly 12 years to the day after the first patient known to be cured, a feat that researchers have long tried, and failed, to duplicate. The surprise success now confirms that a cure for H.I.V. infection is possible, if difficult, researchers said.... Both milestones resulted from bone-marrow transplants given to infected patients. But the transplants were intended to treat cancer in the patients, not H.I.V. Bone-marrow transplantation is unlikely to be a realistic treatment option in the near future. Powerful drugs are now available to control H.I.V. infection, while the transplants are risky, with harsh side effects that can last for years. But rearming the body with immune cells similarly modified to resist H.I.V. might well succeed as a practical treatment, experts said."

Damian Carrington of the Guardian: "The number of heatwaves affecting the planet's oceans has increased sharply, scientists have revealed, killing swathes of sea-life like 'wildfires that take out huge areas of forest'. The damage caused in these hotspots is also harmful for humanity, which relies on the oceans for oxygen, food, storm protection and the removal of climate-warming carbon dioxide the atmosphere, they say.... In the longer term, the number of heatwave days jumped by more than 50% in the 30 years to 2016, compared with the period of 1925 to 1954.... 'This [research] makes clear that heatwaves are hitting the ocean all over the world.... The ocean, in effect, 'is spiking a fever,' said Prof Malin Pinsky, at Rutgers University[.]" --s

Way Beyond the Beltway

Al Jazeera: "The body of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was likely burned in a large oven at the Saudi consulate general's residence in Istanbul, an Al Jazeera investigation revealed. New details of the writer's murder by a Saudi assassination team were reported in a documentary by Al Jazeera Arabic that aired on Sunday. Turkish authorities monitored the burning of the outdoor furnace from outside the premises as bags believed to be containing Khashoggi's body parts were transferred to the Saudi consul's home after he was killed inside the consulate a few hundred metres away. Al Jazeera interviewed a worker who constructed the furnace who stated it was built according to specifications from the Saudi consul." Mrs. McC: Of course Saudi officials concocted this elaborate plan without the knowledge of the Saudi royals. You could ask Donald Trump.

Kati Pohjanpalo & Frances Schwartzkoff of Bloomberg: "Almost daily revelations are exposing the breadth of suspicious activity that has enmeshed banks that had previously been bywords for probity.... The ... reports are part of a broader OCCRP investigation into what it calls the Troika Laundromat. It's the fourth such scheme that the group has uncovered with the help of news media. The others were the Proxy Platform, the Russian Laundromat, and the Azerbaijani Laundromat.... A picture is forming of Nordic banks that, often via their Baltic units, became hubs for Russian criminals who channeled funds to the West." --s

Juliette Garside & Caelainn Barr of the Guardian: "A charity run by Prince Charles received donations from an offshore company that was used to funnel vast amounts of cash from Russia in a scheme that is under investigation by prosecutors, the Guardian can reveal. Money flowing through the network included cash that can be linked to some of the most notorious frauds committed during Vladimir Putin's presidency. In all, it is estimated that $4.6bn (£3.5bn) was sent to Europe and the US from a Russian-operated network of 70 offshore companies with accounts in Lithuania. The details have emerged from 1.3m banking transactions obtained by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and the Lithuanian website 15min.lt. Shared with media partners including the Guardian, the data represents one of the largest ever banking leaks.There is no suggestion that end recipients of funds were aware of the original source of the money, which arrived via a disguised route." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Canada. Ian Austen of the New York Times: "Another minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada quit in protest on Monday over accusations that [Trudeau] and his aides tried to influence a criminal case against a multinational Canadian company accused of bribing the Libyan government. The unexpected resignation, by Jane Philpott, who led the treasury board, inflames a growing political crisis that has already cost Mr. Trudeau his former justice minister and his top aide.... With a federal election looming seven months away, Mr. Trudeau must now not only salvage his reputation as someone who promised an open approach to politics, but may be in peril of losing control of his position as leader of the Liberal Party, which would end his time as prime minister."

Vatican. Elisabetta Povoledo of the New York Times: "Pope Francis announced on Monday that he would open archives from the pontificate of Pius XII, possibly allowing historians to shed light on the actions of the pope during World War II, in particular his response to the Holocaust. Some critics of Pius XII maintain that he was shamefully silent during the Nazi massacre of Jews during the war, while others claim he saved thousands of lives by tasking the Roman Catholic Church with assisting victims of persecution." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Venezuela. Ana Herrero & Rick Gladstone of the New York Times: "Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader who defied a travel ban and left the country more than a week ago, returned Monday in what could turn into a new showdown with President Nicolás Maduro." (Also linked yesterday.)

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