The Ledes

Sunday, July 15, 2018.

New York Times: France won the World Cup, beating Croatia 4-2.

 

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

July 13: Washington Post: "A salmonella outbreak linked to a popular Kellogg's cereal has infected 100 people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday. The agency is urging consumers to avoid Honey Smacks, a sugary puffed wheat cereal which has been the subject of a recall by the company since mid-June. At least 30 of the 100 have been hospitalized, while no deaths have been reported, the CDC said. 'Do not eat Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal of any size package or with any "best if used by" date,' it wrote."

Welcome to the Bank:

The Mounties Always Get Their Man -- and Woman -- especially when the pair are the ones mimicking the Keystone Kops. This is real CCTV footage of a young couple who -- allegedly -- tried to use stolen credit cards at an Alberta, Canada, convenience store. The WashPo has more details. These comical suspects, BTW, are not teenagers; they're in their late 20s. Super-size for best viewing. There's an action-movie moment near the end, so don't tune out too soon:

There will be an answer. Best #CarpoolKaraoke evah:

     ... You're welcome. ...

... Matthew Dessem of Slate: "The only fly in the ointment is the knowledge that, demographically speaking, this video will make a lot of horrible people happy."

AP: "ABC, which canceled its 'Roseanne' revival over its star's racist tweet, says it will air a Conner family sitcom minus Roseanne Barr this fall. ABC ordered 10 episodes of the spinoff after Barr agreed to forgo any creative or financial participation in it. In a statement issued by the show's producer, Barr said she agreed to the settlement in order to save the jobs of 200 cast and crew members. ABC said Thursday that the new series has the working title 'The Conners' and will star John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, Sara Gilbert and other 'Roseanne' co-stars."

NAFTA No, NAFSA . North American Free Soccer Agreement. Washington Post: "The World Cup is returning to the United States, and this time, Mexico and Canada are along for the wild ride. A North American joint bid won the rights Wednesday to host the 2026 edition of the celebrated soccer tournament, defeating Morocco and bouncing back from an unfathomable U.S. defeat to Qatar in voting for the 2022 event eight years ago. The member associations in FIFA, the sport’s governing body, favored the North American effort, known as the United Bid, in a landslide vote, 134-65."

... Washington Post: "It was Justify’s moment, after all. In a dazzling display of power and durability, the late-blooming colt who didn’t race as a 2-year-old proved Saturday he couldn’t be worn out as a 3-year-old, thundering to victory in the Belmont Stakes to claim a place in history as the sport’s 13th Triple Crown champion. After a 37-year drought in which the feat seemed impossible, Justify became the second horse in four years to achieve it, tutored, like 2015 predecessor American Pharoah, by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Before Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, which Justify won by 1¾ lengths over surprise second-place finisher Gronkowski in a 10-horse field, the massive chestnut colt with the white blaze had won the Kentucky Derby by a 2 1 /2-length margin, becoming the first since Apollo in 1882 to win the classic without running as a 2-year-old. Two weeks later, Justify weathered torrential rain and a blanket of fog to win the Preakness Stakes, setting himself up for the Triple Crown bid."

Masha Gessen of the New Yorker on "The Americans." Mrs. McC Spoiler Alert: If you haven't seen the show's finale, & you plan to, see it before reading Gessen's post.

You may want to cut the sound on this video so you don't go nuts before you get to move overseas:

Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I found this on a political Website, so that's my excuse. Juliana Gray in McSweeney's: "The Incel Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." It begins,

"Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like an equal redistribution of sexual resources.
Let us go, through certain half-considered tweets
and form tedious arguments
about entitlement.

"In the room the women come and go
Talking of Maya Angelou."

Read on. Incels, in case you don't know,  (a portmanteau of 'involuntary' and 'celibacy') are members of an online subculture who define themselves as being unable to find a romantic or sexual partner despite desiring one, a state they describe as inceldom. Self-identified incels are almost exclusively male and mostly heterosexual," according to Wikepedia.

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

Monday
Jul022018

The Commentariat -- July 3, 2018

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Trump Sez Photo-Op Stopped War. "All of Asia Is Thrilled." John Wagner of the Washington Post: "President Trump said Tuesday that the United States would be at war with North Korea without his efforts and that conversations with the nation's leaders are 'going well' -- an assessment at odds with recent reports that North Korea is working to conceal key aspects of its nuclear weapons program. The president's comments in a morning tweet followed a report Saturday in The Washington Post that U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that North Korea does not intend to fully surrender its nuclear arms stockpile and instead is considering ways to conceal the number of weapons it has and its secret production facilities. In his rosy assessment, Trump claimed that 'only the Opposition Party' and the news media are presenting a different picture of his efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula in the wake of his June 12 summit with North Korea leader Jim Jong Un."

Feds Debunk Trump Lies. Again. Shawn Boburg & Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post: "Federal prosecutors concluded an 18-month investigation into a former congressional technology staffer on Tuesday by publicly debunking allegations -- promoted by conservative media and President Trump -- suggesting he was a Pakistani operative who stole government secrets with cover from House Democrats. As part of an agreement with prosecutors, Imran Awan pleaded guilty to a relatively minor offense unrelated to his work on Capitol Hill: making a false statement on a bank loan application. U.S. prosecutors said they would not recommend jail time.... The agreement included an unusual passage that ... cleared Awan of a litany of conspiracy theories.... The case has highlighted Trump's willingness to lobby for specific outcomes of federal criminal investigations and to suggest a coverup by his own Department of Justice. Trump also attempted to tie Awan to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee server -- a breach that intelligence agencies have concluded was directed by Russia."

Erica Green, et al., of the New York Times: "The Trump administration will encourage the nation's school superintendents and college presidents to adopt race-blind admissions standards, abandoning an Obama administration policy that called on universities to consider race as a factor in diversifying their campuses, Trump administration officials said. The reversal would restore the policy set during President George W. Bush's administration, when officials told schools that it 'strongly encourages the use of race-neutral methods' for admitting students to college or assigning them to elementary and secondary schools. Last November, Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked the Justice Department to re-evaluate past policies that he believed pushed the department to act beyond what the law, the Constitution and the Supreme Court had required.... As part of that process, the Justice Department rescinded seven policy guidances from the Education Department's civil rights division on Tuesday."

It's a Day Ending in "Y." Scott Bronstein, et al., of CNN: "EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and his aides have kept 'secret' calendars and schedules to overtly hide controversial meetings or calls with industry representatives and others, according to a former EPA official who is expected to soon testify before Congress. A review of EPA documents by CNN found discrepancies between Pruitt's official calendar and other records. EPA staffers met routinely in Pruitt's office to 'scrub,' alter or remove from Pruitt's official calendar numerous records because they might 'look bad,' according to Kevin Chmielewski, Pruitt's former deputy chief of staff for operations, who attended the meetings.... The practice of keeping secret calendars and altering or deleting records of meetings could violate federal law as either 'falsifying records' or hiding public records...."

... Here's Mean Mom Kristin Mink & her young son politely confronting Public Servant Scott Pruitt. Mink has a list, & it's accurate. (Now, doesn't it seems so-o-o-o-o unfair that the White House kicked Scotty out of its staff dining room?) Story linked below:

Marcy Wheeler reveals that she informed the FBI about a person she "believed had already done real damage to the United States as part of the Russian attack.... It infuriates me to observe (and cover) a months-long charade by the House GOP to demand more and more details about those who have shared information with the government, at least some of whom were only trying to prevent real damage to innocent people, all in an attempt to discredit the Mueller investigation.... This investigation is not, primarily, an investigation into Donald Trump. It's an investigation into people who attacked the United States. It's time Republicans started acting like that matters."

... There are few House members more culpable than Jim Jordan. ...

Corky Siemaszko of NBC News: "Rep. Jim Jordan, the powerful Republican congressman from Ohio, is being accused by former wrestlers he coached more than two decades ago at Ohio State University of failing to stop the team doctor from molesting them and other students. The university announced in April that it was investigating accusations that Dr. Richard Strauss, who died in 2005, abused team members when he was the team doctor from the mid-1970s to late 1990s. Jordan, who was assistant wrestling coach at the university from 1986 to 1994, has repeatedly said he knew nothing of the abuse until former students began speaking out this spring. His denials, however, have been met with skepticism and anger from some former members of the wrestling team. Three former wrestlers ... said it would have been impossible for Jordan to be unaware; one wrestler said he told Jordan directly about the abuse." Thanks to PD Pepe for the link; see her comment in today's thread.

Michael Grynbaum of the New York Times: "Ali Watkins, the New York Times reporter whose email and phone records were secretly seized by the Trump administration, will be transferred out of the newspaper's Washington bureau and reassigned to a new beat in New York, The Times said on Tuesday. Ms. Watkins, 26, had been the subject of an internal review by The Times after revelations that she had a three-year affair with a high-ranking aide on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which she covered for several news organizations before joining The Times in December. The aide, James Wolfe, 57, who handled classified material for the committee, was arrested last month as part of a leak investigation in which the Justice Department also seized Ms. Watkins's communications...." Mrs. McC: Seems like a no-brainer.

*****

This Russia Thing, Etc., Ctd.

Trump Plans Secret Meeting with Putin. Kevin Liptak of CNN: "... Donald Trump plans to meet one-on-one with Vladimir Putin at the start of their July 16 summit in Helsinki, Finland, according to a person familiar with the plans, before allowing other aides to join the highly anticipated encounter with the Russian leader." Mrs. McC: This is such a good idea, because no one will suspect they're up to no good.

Uh-Oh. George Stephanopoulos of ABC News: "Michael Cohen -- ... Donald Trump's longtime personal attorney and a former executive vice president at the Trump Organization -- has always insisted he would remain loyal to the president.... But in his first in-depth interview since the FBI raided his office and homes in April, Cohen strongly signaled his willingness to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York -- even if that puts President Trump in jeopardy. 'My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will,' Cohen told me. 'I put family and country first.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Kate Riga of TPM: Michael Cohen "even went so far as to candidly break with the President's position on special counsel Robert Mueller's probe, saying 'I don't like the term "witch-hunt." As an American, I repudiate any foreign government's attempt to interfere in our democratic process and I would call on all Americans to do the same.' 'Simply accepting Putin's denial is unsustainable,' he continued. 'I choose to believe our intelligence agencies.'... Cohen then hinted heavily that he has information to share on two hot-button and possibly damning episodes for the President: the infamous Trump tower meeting when 'dirt' on Hillary Clinton was promised, and the $130,000 hush money payout made to Stormy Daniels during the election. On both questions, whether Trump knew of the meeting and if he had requested or promised to reimburse the payment, Cohen cryptically refused to answer -- for now." ...

... Betty Cracker of Balloon Juice on the news that Elliott Broidy has chosen to discontinue hush money payments to Shera Bechard (story by Paul Campos linked yesterday): "If in fact Trump rather than Broidy knocked Bechard up and subsequently paid for her abortion, that could prove awkward as the Trump administration seats an anti-choice judge on the Supreme Court. I mean, there's no mass of hypocrisy too large for white evangelicals to swallow in ritual idolatry for their absurd and lumpy Orange Calf, but damn." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: For what it's worth, I think the Cohen interview & Broidy story are tied. Campos couldn't figure out why Broidy would decide to breach his agreement. BUT IF (1) Broidy had received a heads-up that Cohen was about to sing, & (2) Trump was "the real father" in the Bechard affair, THEN Broidy has little incentive to keep paying out on the Bechard charade, since Cohen -- who most likely knows the real story -- would soon be blowing up the Broidy-daddy hoax. It shouldn't make much difference to Broidy who spills the beans -- Bechard or Cohen. ...

     ... Update: Michael Rothfeld of the Wall Street Journal, who has investigated these payoff cases, told Chris Hayes that he doesn't think Trump had any involvement with Bechard, & the story really is about Broidy & Bechard. ...

... Justin Wise of the Hill: "More than 1.3 million documents related to FBI raids of ... Michael Cohen were turned over to the federal government on Monday, according to The New York Post. The report says about 22,000 more documents are being examined by the Trump Organization and must be handed over by Thursday." ...

... Jason Leopold & Anthony Cormier of BuzzFeed: "BuzzFeed News has obtained documents reconstructed by the FBI [after Michael Cohen shredded them]. A close examination shows that the records are a combination of documents that prosecutors already had, handwritten notes about a taxi business, insurance papers, and correspondence from a woman described in court filings as a 'vexatious litigant' who claims she is under government surveillance.... The clearest page documents a payment that has already been reported: a $62,500 wire transfer from March into a First Republic Bank account controlled by Cohen. This would fit with a series of payments reportedly from the Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy."

Emma Loop of BuzzFeed: "The head of the top congressional committee investigating Russian election interference says that the panel has been in 'weekly' contact with lawyers for former British spy Christopher Steele, the author of a dossier alleging years of links between ... Donald Trump and the Kremlin. [Sen. Richard] Burr [R-N.C.] Burr said in October that the committee had 'hit a wall' in its attempts to investigate the dossier's explosive claims and that efforts to interview Steele had been unsuccessful." The committee is seeking to interview Steele.

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "A pair of legal filings suggesting that special counsel Robert Mueller's office is almost-but-not-quite ready to set a sentencing date for former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn have prompted a federal judge to order Flynn and lawyers for both sides to make an unexpected trip to court next week. The hearing set for next Tuesday would be the first court appearance for Flynn since last December...."

Jeff Horwitz & Maria Danilova of the AP: Konstantin "Kilimnik, an elusive figure now indicted alongside [Paul] Manafort on witness tampering charges, was far more involved in formulating pro-Russia political strategy with Manafort than previously known, according to internal memos and other business records obtained by the AP.... Kilimnik -- who special counsel Robert Mueller believes is currently in Russia and has ties to Russian intelligence -- helped formulate Manafort's pitches to clients in Russia and Ukraine, according to the records." Kilimnik has continued to help Manafort as recently as April of this year. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Craig Timberg, et al., of the Washington Post: "A federal investigation into Facebook's sharing of data with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica has broadened to focus on the actions and statements of the tech giant and now involves three agencies.... Representatives for the FBI, the SEC and the Federal Trade Commission have joined the Department of Justice in its inquiries about the two companies and the sharing of personal information of 71 million Americans, suggesting the wide-ranging nature of the investigation, said five people.... The questioning from federal investigators centers on what Facebook knew three years ago and why the company didn't reveal it at the time to its users or investors, as well as any discrepancies in more recent accounts...."


Alice Ollstein
of TPM: "A federal judge in Washington ruled Monday that the Trump administration is violating its own policy by uniformly denying parole to asylum-seekers who have passed their 'credible fear' interviews -- a key step in the asylum process. In the decision, the court sided with the immigrants who brought the class action and ordered the Trump administration to restore the practice of granting fair, individual parole hearings to asylum-seekers who have passed that initial threshold.... Under the Trump administration, [U.S. District Judge James] Boasberg wrote, 'parole rates have plummeted from over 90% to nearly zero' and the Department of Homeland Security has shifted from individually considering whether each asylum-seeker should be granted parole until their hearing to uniformly denying such requests." --safari ...

     ... The Washington Post story, by Spencer Hsu, is here. "A federal judge in Washington on Monday ordered the U.S. government to immediately release or grant hearings to more than 1,000 asylum seekers who have been jailed for months or years without individualized case reviews, dealing a blow to the Trump administration's crackdown on migrants." ...

... Abigail Hauslohner & Andrew Ba Tran of the Washington Post: "As the national immigration debate swirls around the effort to discourage illegal immigration by separating families at the border, the Trump administration is making inroads into another longtime priority: reducing legal immigration. The number of people receiving visas to move permanently to the United States is on pace to drop 12 percent in President Trump's first two years in office, according to a Washington Post analysis of State Department data. Among the most affected are the Muslim-majority countries on the president's travel ban list -- Yemen, Syria, Iran, Libya and Somalia — where the number of new arrivals to the United States is heading toward an 81 percent drop by Sept. 30, the end of the second fiscal year under Trump."

Howard Lavine & Wendy Rahn, in a New York Times op-ed: "Contrary to received wisdom..., the immigration issue did not play to Mr. Trump's advantage nearly as much as commonly believed. According to our analysis of national survey data from the American National Election Studies (a large, representative sample of the population of the United States), Hillary Clinton did better in the election than she would have if immigration had not been so prominent an issue. In fact, a liberal backlash seems to have contributed to Mrs. Clinton's victory in the popular vote count.... We found that Mr. Trump did only slightly better than his Republican predecessors among anti-immigration whites. Among pro-immigration whites, however, Mrs. Clinton far outpaced John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.... We think that Mr. Trump's explicit appeals to intolerance are likely to help Democrats more than Republicans."

Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Trump has written sharply worded letters to the leaders of several NATO allies, including Germany, Belgium, Norway and Canada, taking them to task for spending too little on their own defense and warning that the United States is losing patience with their failure to meet security obligations shared by the alliance. The letters, which went out last month, are the latest sign of acrimony between Mr. Trump and American allies as he heads to a NATO summit meeting next week in Brussels that will be a closely watched test of the president's commitment to the trans-Atlantic alliance after he has repeatedly questioned its value and claimed that its members are taking advantage of the United States."

Trump Doesn't Care if the Markets Tank. Matthew Belvedere of CNBC: "Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC on Monday that there's no level on the downside in the stock market that would alter the way ... Donald Trump approaches trade." Mrs. McC: What this means is that Trump & his family don't have much money in the markets. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Ginger Gibson of Reuters: "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's largest business lobbying group and customarily a close ally of ... Donald Trump's Republican Party, is launching a campaign on Monday to oppose Trump's trade tariff policies. The new campaign, detailed first to Reuters, will provide an analysis of the financial hit each U.S. state stands take from potential retaliation to Trump's tariffs. It argues that Trump is risking a global trade war that will hit the wallets of U.S. consumers." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Paul Krugman: "... the scale and the motivation behind the Trump tariffs -- their obviously fraudulent national security rationale -- are something new. They amount to rejecting the rules of the game we created; the E.U., in its warning, bluntly calls U.S. actions 'disregard for international law.' Sure enough, Axios reports that the Trump administration has drafted legislation that would effectively take us out of the W.T.O.... There are no grown-ups in this administration, which basically makes policy by temper tantrum." ...

... OR, maybe the grown-ups have so little power, they've been reduced to making secret 7th-grader FART jokes. Update: s/b "2nd-grader FART jokes." (Thanks, Patrick!) ...

... Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg: "[Regarding Donald's FART]..., political scientist Brendan Nyhan made the crucial point: There are actually two perfectly plausible explanations. The ridiculous title could be just another sign of an administration that routinely botches basic tasks.... But it's equally possible it was a malicious effort to undermine the policy by someone in the White House or an executive-branch agency. So to summarize: The president ordered something inept; he's not going to get what he wanted; and everyone in the administration has egg on their faces over it.... Meanwhile, he'll just keep ordering people to do things that (most of the time at least) will never happen, while the few competent people he's somehow managed to put in place will continue to do things in his name whether he likes it or not. I could add a fart joke, but the whole thing really isn't very funny." --safari ...

... Unwashed suggests an intellectual discourse on the subject:

** Mary Papenfuss of the Huffington Post: "Donald Trump is continuing to hammer Harley-Davidson over the motorcycle company's plans to relocate some production overseas to dodge European tariffs triggered by the president's trade war. What Trump isn't mentioning is that the president and his family own businesses abroad and that most Trump products are produced in foreign factories.... Import records revealed that Trump shirts, suits, sports coats, eyeglasses, home goods -- such as furniture, lighting fixtures and mirrors -- and hotel amenities including shampoo, towels and laundry bags were all made abroad.... White House senior adviser and Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump has not manufactured a single product for her business operations in the U.S. She relies exclusively on low-wage workers in foreign factories in countries...." Read on. Thanks to Akhilleus for the link. See also his comment in yesterday's thread.

Jonathan Chait: "'As the commander-in-chief, as the president of this great country, what can you do to bring us together?" [Maria Bartiromo] asked [President Trump in an interview aired Sunday].... 'Our people are so incredible,' he replied..., but ... Trump immediately made clear was a reference limited to the people who voted for him: 'Do you know, there's probably never been a base in the history of politics in this country like my base. I hope the other side realizes that they better just take it easy.'... Trump is being invited to cast himself as the president of the entire country, but he is so ingrained in his gut-level partisanship, he can't manage to utter the required bromides."

Maybe Trump Is Making America Great Again. Michelle Goldberg: "It's too soon to tell whether America will survive Trump in any recognizable form. But if it does, it will be because women ... have realized that no one is coming to save democracy for us, and they have set out to rescue it themselves.... The Resistance has burrowed deep into electoral politics at every level, from school board on up."

Katrin Bennhold of the New York Times: Donald "Trump's Ancestral Village Abounds With His Relatives. Few Will Admit It. 'Practically half the village is [related to Donald Trump],' chuckled Kallstadt[, Germany]'s mayor, Thomas Jaworek, before quickly adding: 'I'm not.' Both of Mr. Trump's paternal grandparents, Friedrich and Elisabeth Trump, were born in Kallstadt, home now to 1,200 inhabitants." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Lachlan Markay & Asawin Suebsaeng of The Daily Beast: "In the aftermath of last week's deadly assault on Annapolis, Maryland's Capital Gazette newsroom, President Donald Trump seemed annoyed. In conversations with those close to him, the president casually aired a complaint and a prediction -- that 'the fake news' would 'unfair[ly]' try to blame him and his demagoguing of the adversarial news coverage for the mass shooting, according to two advisers...." --safari (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

My prediction is that we will see levels of cowardice and cynicism that will be awe-inspiring. As long as Trump doesn't start offending the evangelical base or step on a land mine when it comes to Israel, they're going to let him do whatever he wants.... It will be easier for Trump to hurt the people he promised to hurt than to help the people he promised to help. -- Faiz Shakir, ACLU political director, ca. February 2017 ...

... ** Joel Lovell in the New York Times Magazine: "In the 15 months that followed the [2016] election, the A.C.L.U.'s membership went from 400,000 to 1.84 million. Online donations in the years before averaged between $3 and $5 million annually. Since then, it has raised just shy of $120 million.... A big chunk of the money that the A.C.L.U. has raised has gone toward hiring more lawyers.... Since Trump took office, the A.C.L.U. has taken 170 'Trump-related legal actions.'... In March 2017, the A.C.L.U. launched [a] new platform, called PeoplePower.org..., a system, with proper infrastructure and resources and personnel, from which you could call people to action and which other groups could tap into.... The second major initiative, which the A.C.L.U. started last October in Lawrence, Kan., was a voting rights campaign called Let People Vote.... This focus on voting rights eventually led the A.C.L.U. to what has been its most controversial transformation: getting directly involved in electoral races."

Monetizing Melanie. Andrew W. Lehren, et al., of NBC News: "Since her husband took office Melania Trump has earned six figures from an unusual deal with a photo agency in which major media organizations have indirectly paid the Trump family despite a requirement that the photos be used only in positive coverage.... Donald Trump's most recent financial disclosure reveals that in 2017 the first lady earned at least $100,000 from Getty Images for the use of any of a series of 187 photos of the first family shot between 2010 and 2016 by Belgian photographer Regine Mahaux.... [The agreement is] very unusual for the wife of a currently serving elected official. More problematic for the many news organizations that have published or broadcast the images, however, is that Getty's licensing agreement stipulates the pictures can be used in 'positive stories only.'" Several news organizations took the pictures off their Websites when they learned of the for-profit agreement. Mrs. McC: The whole Trump family is incredibly sleazy. But you knew that. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Jen Kirby of Vox: "This photo deal adds to the list of ethics concerns about the Trump administration, and whether the president and those in his orbit are profiting from his presidency."

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "In an interview with Fox airing Sunday and Monday, Trump doubled down on his past rhetoric about sending the issue of abortion to the states, which is another way of saying overturning Roe.... Trump said he would 'probably not' ask potential nominees directly about Roe -- given that such litmus tests are frowned upon -- but then he reiterated his past view of how this issue would play out. '"Maybe someday it will be to the states,' he said. 'You never know how that's going to turn out.... The Roe v. Wade is probably the one that people are talking about in terms of having an effect, but we'll see what happens. But it could very well end up with states at some point.' 'We'll see what happens' is Trump's default when he doesn't want to commit to something but welcomes speculation about that thing. It's what he said right before he fired FBI Director James B. Comey -- but also about many things that didn't come to fruition. It can be a threat or just Trump not having a good answer." ...

... Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post has a message for Susan Collins: "... it's almost certainly true that a nominee able to pass muster with the Federalist Society and Trump is, in fact, going to vote to overturn Roe.... It should not be more complicated than this: Voting for a nominee on the Trump list (either the original 20, or the wider 25) opens the door to the criminalization of abortion.... [Collins also said Sunday she] "'strongly disagreed with [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's] decision to not proceed with a vote on President [Barack] Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland,' but of course she ratified that strategy when she voted for Justice Neil M. Gorsuch." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Sarah Nechamkin of New York: "In the wake of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement -- and in light of Trump';s vow to replace him with someone who would overturn Roe v. Wade -- all eyes are on Susan Collins.... In an attempt to remind Collins of how high the stakes are, women have started sending wire coat hangers to her office to serve as a visceral reminder of what happens when abortion becomes illegal." --safari

Gardiner Harris of the New York Times: "The Trump administration is softening its earlier demand that countries like China, India and Turkey end all imports of Iranian oil by Nov. 4, as a top State Department official on Monday said the United States would allow reduced oil flows, in certain cases.... [The] announcement was a delicate attempt at reassuring oil markets and allies that sanctions are not likely to hit them this fall -- even if Iranian oil continues to flow around the world, as is likely the case." ...

... Juan Cole (May 28th) has more on the open defiance of the Trump administration vis-à-vis Teheran's trading partners, specifically Iraq, China, Russia, and Turkey. --safari

Juliet Eilperin, et al., of the Washington Post: "Two of Scott Pruitt's top aides provided fresh details to congressional investigators in recent days about some of his most controversial spending and management decisions, including his push to find a six-figure job for his wife at a politically connected group, enlist staffers in performing personal tasks and seek high-end travel despite aides' objections. The Trump administration appointees described an administrator who sought a salary that topped $200,000 for his wife and accepted help from a subordinate in the job search, requested aid from senior EPA officials in a dispute with a Washington landlord and disregarded concerns about his first-class travel."

Whistleblowers reveal that Scott Pruitt had up to three calendars, depending on the level of conniving and corruption he wanted to reveal to the public. --safari

... Amanda Arnold of New York: "In today's edition of Members of the Trump Administration Getting Heckled at Restaurants, Scott Pruitt was confronted by a rightfully angry mother at a D.C. restaurant, where she slammed the EPA Administrator for his disregard for the environment and urged him to resign.... In a statement to Splinter, [Kristin Mink] said she chose to bring her toddler to the table with her to send Pruitt the message, 'you are wrecking the earth THIS KID, every kid, will inherit.'... To conclude her message, she urges Pruitt to resign before his scandals push him out.... Mink says that Pruitt left soon after being confronted.... Long live incivility." -- safari: The tactical pants were no match against an informed citizen.

All the Best People, Ctd. Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones: "Writing as BamainBoston, [Trump judicial nominee Brett Talley] commented on everything from race to abortion. He disparaged Muslims, joked about statutory rape, and, most notably, wrote approvingly about Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. He defended the 'first KKK' as something entirely different than the racist, violent organization it's known as today.... In his prolific comments on TideFans.com, Talley ... expressed extreme views on a number of subjects.... After outcry about the comments and his general lack of qualifications for the job -- Talley had never tried a case -- he withdrew from consideration for the judgeship in December. But ... he ... continued working as deputy associate attorney general at the Justice Department's Office of Legal Policy, where he oversaw the judicial nominations unit that advises the president and attorney general on the selection and confirmation of federal judges and conducts the vetting, interviewing, and evaluating of nominees. This spring, he moved to a more junior position at the Justice Department, as an assistant US attorney."

Dylan Scott of Vox: "We told you months ago to watch Massachusetts's Medicaid drug pricing proposal, which would have allowed the state to create a drug formulary and thus exclude certain drugs from its coverage as a way of negotiating lower prices from drug makers. It was an important test for the Trump administration, an up-or-down decision about how far it was willing to go in its promise to bring down drug prices. We now have our answer: thumbs down. The Massachusetts plan is not something Trump officials are going to approve.... But there was something about the Trump administration's [refusal] letter that struck experts who have been watching the Massachusetts waiver as odd: They didn't really explain very clearly why they wouldn't approve the state's proposal." --safari

Mark Hand of ThinkProgress: "Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) released draft legislation on Monday that could severely undermine the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a hugely popular law that has helped save the bald eagle and thousands of other species from extinction. The proposed legislation would shift key authority for conserving threatened and endangered species away from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to individual states. States would be granted authority to write species recovery goals, habitat objectives, and other criteria for delisting at-risk animals and plants under the ESA. Many states, however, lack the resources to protect imperiled wildlife and plants. State governors, who often oppose protections for endangered species, also would be granted the power to veto scientific decisions about those protections." --safari ...

     ... Mrs. McC: I don't see how this even makes much sense. You can't kill 'em in Kansas but you can kill 'em in Oklahoma? Are we going to put up little endangered-species warning signs at state borders so little Kansas critters won't accidentally wander into Oklahoma & get zapped?

Petula Dvorak of the Washington Post: "Years before Jarrod Ramos sued the Capital Gazette for defamation, before he targeted a specific columnist at the Capital with hateful emails and online threats, before he was charged with killing five people in the small Annapolis newspaper's office last week, one [woman] was living that nightmare every day.... The threats she detailed in court years ago forced her to move out of her hometown, to leave everyone behind, for her own safety. If you dig deep enough, this is the root of a number of mass shootings. Whether it's domestic violence or a failed marriage or a guy who got turned down in high school, a twisted, misogynistic streak helps fuel the violence. The examples abound[.]" When the woman brought suit against Ramos for harassment, Eric Thomas Hartley, then of the Capital Gazette, wrote about it, and Ramos sued the paper for defamation. He lost the suit. "There's the pattern: abuse, denial, embarrassment, rage." ...

... Matt Stevens & Daniel Victor of the New York Times: "The man suspected of fatally shooting five people in an Annapolis newsroom last week sent a letter to the Capital Gazette's lawyer announcing that he planned to go there 'with the objective of killing every person present,' a copy of the letter shows." The letter was postmarked the same day as the mass murder. ...

... Most Hateful President Ever. Danielle Ohl of the Balitmore Sun: "... Donald Trump has declined a request from Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley to lower American flags in honor of the fatal shooting of five employees of The Capital newspaper last week.... Gov. Larry Hogan ordered Maryland state flags to be lowered to half-staff from Friday through sunset on Monday." ...

     ... Update. Politico: "... Donald Trump on Tuesday ordered that flags be flown at half-staff to honor the five victims of the Capital Gazette newspaper shooting in Annapolis last week.... The president's order comes after the Democratic mayor of Annapolis, Mayor Gavin Buckley, told the Capital Gazette that the White House denied his request Monday to lower the flags." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Is the Bully-Boy-in-Chief losing his nerve? This is the second time in two weeks Trump has bowed to embarrassing press, the first being his so-called "reversal" on separating migrant families.

Trumpbots Don't Read. Alex Shephard of the New Republic: "Donald Trump is excellent at selling books that trash him; mediocre at selling books that praise him.... [His own inability to read more than 280 characters at a time] hasn't stopped Trump from tweeting frequently about books -- as long as they're about him or his administration, or by close allies.... These tweets inevitably create sales bumps, but not huge ones.... But there is one area where Trump is great at selling books. Consider the cases of Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff and A Higher Loyalty by James Comey. Trump attempted to trash both books -- highly unflattering portraits of his administration -- on Twitter. So far they are the year's two best-selling titles...."

Brett Samuels: "A record-low number of people in the U.S. consider themselves  either extremely proud or very proud to be Americans, a poll released Monday found. Gallup found that 47 percent of citizens are 'extremely proud' to be Americans, while 25 percent are 'very proud.' Both numbers mark new low points since Gallup started polling on the question in 2001." --safari

Dominic Patten of Deadline: "Already facing rape and criminal sex act charges and a potential 25-years behind bars, Harvey Weinstein today was hit with even heavier legal weight from the Manhattan D.A. -- that could see him in jail for life. 'A Manhattan Grand Jury has now indicted Harvey Weinstein on some of the most serious sexual offenses that exist under New York's Penal Law,' said District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. today." (Also linked yesterday.)

Adam Baidawi of the New York Times: "The highest-ranking Catholic official to have been found guilty of concealing sexual crimes against children was sentenced to 12 months in detention by an Australian court on Tuesday. The official, Philip Wilson, the archbishop of Adelaide, was sentenced a month after being found guilty of failing to report child sexual abuse. Archbishop Wilson is expected to serve his sentence under home detention, if a court agrees to the arrangement. After his conviction, the archbishop gave up his duties but refused to resign. He was convicted of covering up abuse by a priest, Jim Fletcher, in the state of New South Wales in the 1970s."

Beyond the Beltway

Bruce Shreiner of TPM: Kentucky "Gov. Matt Bevin's administration is cutting dental and vision coverage for nearly a half-million Kentuckians after his Medicaid overhaul plan was rejected in court. The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services calls the cuts an 'unfortunate consequence' of Friday's ruling by a federal judge.... Bevin's administration sought to place the blame squarely on the judge. The ruling means there is no longer a 'legal mechanism' in place to pay for dental and vision coverage for about 460,000 Medicaid beneficiaries, the state's health and family services cabinet said in a weekend statement." --safari (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Osita Nwanevu of Slate: The Rhode Island Democratic party endorsed alt-right, NRA-backing Trump-supporting Republican bigot Michael Earnheart over Moira Jayne Walsh, a sitting progressive member of its state house. "The state Democratic Party also declined to endorse progressive Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, who won in an upset primary victory against House Majority Leader John DeSimone in 2016, and progressive state senator Jeanine Calkin." Mrs. McC: Rhode Island politics are infamously corrupt, but this is over the top. The Rhode Island primary is September 12. Be careful who you vote for.

Way Beyond

Katrin Bennhold & Melissa Eddy of the New York Times: "Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany struggled to keep her government together on Monday, after her rebellious Bavarian interior minister first threatened to resign, then backtracked, and finally gave her a second ultimatum on creating a hard border with Austria to stem the flow of migrants. The clash between the chancellor and the minister, Horst Seehofer, who is also the leader of the Bavarian conservatives in Ms. Merkel's coalition, escalated late Sunday, after eight hours of talks failed to resolve a standoff over a policy that would affect relatively few migrants but has become deeply political. Failure to end the stalemate could topple Ms. Merkel's government and even end her long run as chancellor." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... New Lede: "Chancellor Angela Merkel, who staked her legacy on welcoming hundreds of thousands of migrants into Germany, agreed on Monday to build camps for those seeking asylum and to tighten the border with Austria to save her government. It was a spectacular turnabout for a leader who was once seen as the standard-bearer of the liberal European order but who has come under intense pressure at home over her migration policy."

News Ledes

Washington Post: "Arvid Carlsson, a Swedish pharmacologist whose research on chemical signals in the brain resulted in a leading treatment for Parkinson’s disease and earned him a Nobel Prize, died June 29. He was 95."

Washington Post: "The rescue of 12 members of a boys' soccer team and their coach trapped in a northern Thailand cave could take months, the navy said Tuesday, as officials weigh the best extraction options after a dramatic nine-day search.... The boys, aged between 11 and 16 and their 25-year-old coach, went missing on June 23. They were exploring a cave complex in a forest park in northern Thailand, close to the border with Myanmar. Local and international rescuers, including a team of Thai navy divers and cave experts, had spent days trying to locate the team, but muddy waters complicated their efforts and blocked access to the chambers of the cave complex. The search for the boys gripped the nation and the world, and it ended Monday evening when two British divers found the team on a dry patch in one of the flooded chambers."

Sunday
Jul012018

The Commentariat -- July 2, 2018

Afternoon Update:

Lachlan Markay & Asawin Suebsaeng of The Daily Beast: "In the aftermath of last week's deadly assault on Annapolis, Maryland's Capital Gazette newsroom, President Donald Trump seemed annoyed. In conversations with those close to him, the president casually aired a complaint and a prediction -- that 'the fake news' would 'unfair[ly]' try to blame him and his demagoguing of the adversarial news coverage for the mass shooting, according to two advisers...." --safari

Uh-Oh. George Stephanopoulos of ABC News: "Michael Cohen -- ... Donald Trump's longtime personal attorney and a former executive vice president at the Trump Organization -- has always insisted he would remain loyal to the president.... But in his first in-depth interview since the FBI raided his office and homes in April, Cohen strongly signaled his willingness to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York -- even if that puts President Trump in jeopardy. 'My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will,' Cohen told me. 'I put family and country first.'" ...

... Betty Cracker of Balloon Juice on the news that Elliott Broidy has chosen to discontinue hush money payments to Shera Bechard (story by Paul Campos linked below): "If in fact Trump rather than Broidy knocked Bechard up and subsequently paid for her abortion, that could prove awkward as the Trump administration seats an anti-choice judge on the Supreme Court. I mean, there's no mass of hypocrisy too large for white evangelicals to swallow in ritual idolatry for their absurd and lumpy Orange Calf, but damn." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: For what it's worth, I think the Cohen interview & Broidy story are tied. Campos couldn't figure out why Broidy would decide to breach his agreement. BUT IF (1) Broidy had received a heads-up that Cohen was about to sing, & (2) Trump was "the real father" in the Bechard affair, THEN Broidy has little incentive to keep paying out on the Bechard charade, since Cohen -- who most likely knows the real story -- would soon be blowing up the Broidy-daddy hoax. It shouldn't make much difference to Broidy who spills the beans -- Bechard or Cohen.

Jeff Horwitz & Maria Danilova of the AP: Konstantin "Kilimnik, an elusive figure now indicted alongside [Paul] Manafort on witness tampering charges, was far more involved in formulating pro-Russia political strategy with Manafort than previously known, according to internal memos and other business records obtained by the AP.... Kilimnik -- who special counsel Robert Mueller believes is currently in Russia and has ties to Russian intelligence -- helped formulate Manafort's pitches to clients in Russia and Ukraine, according to the records." Kilimnik has continued to help Manafort as recently as April of this year.

Trump Doesn't Care if the Markets Tank. Matthew Belvedere of CNBC: "Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC on Monday that there's no level on the downside in the stock market that would alter the way ... Donald Trump approaches trade." Mrs. McC: What this means is that Trump & his family don't have much money in the markets. ...

... Ginger Gibson of Reuters: "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's largest business lobbying group and customarily a close ally of ... Donald Trump's Republican Party, is launching a campaign on Monday to oppose Trump's trade tariff policies. The new campaign, detailed first to Reuters, will provide an analysis of the financial hit each U.S. state stands take from potential retaliation to Trump's tariffs. It argues that Trump is risking a global trade war that will hit the wallets of U.S. consumers."

Katrin Bennhold of the New York Times: Donald "Trump's Ancestral Village Abounds With His Relatives. Few Will Admit It. 'Practically half the village is [related to Donald Trump],' chuckled Kallstadt[, Germany]'s mayor, Thomas Jaworek, before quickly adding: 'I'm not.' Both of Mr. Trump's paternal grandparents, Friedrich and Elisabeth Trump, were born in Kallstadt, home now to 1,200 inhabitants."

Monetizing Melanie. Andrew W. Lehren, et al., of NBC News: "Since her husband took office Melania Trump has earned six figures from an unusual deal with a photo agency in which major media organizations have indirectly paid the Trump family despite a requirement that the photos be used only in positive coverage.... Donald Trump's most recent financial disclosure reveals that in 2017 the first lady earned at least $100,000 from Getty Images for the use of any of a series of 187 photos of the first family shot between 2010 and 2016 by Belgian photographer Regine Mahaux.... [The agreement is] very unusual for the wife of a currently serving elected official. More problematic for the many news organizations that have published or broadcast the images however, is that Getty's licensing agreement stipulates the pictures can be used in 'positive stories only.'" Several news organizations took the pictures off their Websites when they learned of the for-profi agreement. Mrs. McC: The whole Trump family is incredibly sleazy. But you knew that.

Jennifer Rubin has a message for Susan Collins: "it's almost certainly true that a nominee able to pass muster with the Federalist Society and Trump is, in fact, going to vote to overturn Roe.... It should not be more complicated than this: Voting for a nominee on the Trump list (either the original 20, or the wider 25) opens the door to the criminalization of abortion.... [Collins also said Sunday she] "'strongly disagreed with [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's] decision to not proceed with a vote on President [Barack] Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland,' but of course she ratified that strategy when she voted for Justice Neil M. Gorsuch."

Bruce Shreiner of TPM: "Gov. Matt Bevin's administration is cutting dental and vision coverage for nearly a half-million Kentuckians after his Medicaid overhaul plan was rejected in court. The state Cabinet for Health and Family Services calls the cuts an 'unfortunate consequence' of Friday's ruling by a federal judge.... Bevin's administration sought to place the blame squarely on the judge. The ruling means there is no longer a 'legal mechanism' in place to pay for dental and vision coverage for about 460,000 Medicaid beneficiaries, the state's health and family services cabinet said in a weekend statement." --safari

Katrin Bennhold & Melissa Eddy: "Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany struggled to keep her government together on Monday, after her rebellious Bavarian interior minister first threatened to resign, then backtracked, and finally gave her a second ultimatum on creating a hard border with Austria to stem the flow of migrants. The clash between the chancellor and the minister, Horst Seehofer, who is also the leader of the Bavarian conservatives in Ms. Merkel's coalition, escalated late Sunday, after eight hours of talks failed to resolve a standoff over a policy that would affect relatively few migrants but has become deeply political. Failure to end the stalemate could topple Ms. Merkel's government and even end her long run as chancellor."

Dominic Patten of Deadline: "Already facing rape and criminal sex act charges and a potential 25-years behind bars, Harvey Weinstein today was hit with even heavier legal weight from the Manhattan D.A. -- that could see him in jail for life. 'A Manhattan Grand Jury has now indicted Harvey Weinstein on some of the most serious sexual offenses that exist under New York's Penal Law,' said District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. today."

*****

Charles Blow: "Trump is like a drug dealer who has addicted his followers to fear and rage and keeps supplying it in constant doses. His supporters have become rage-junkies for whom he can do no wrong." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Blow has got that right. So one should not be surprised that, "Researchers found a geographic relationship between support for Trump and prescriptions for opioid painkillers." ...

People who reach for an opioid might also reach for ... near-term fixes. I think that Donald Trump's campaign was a promise for near-term relief. -- Dr. Nancy E. Morden

Christopher Dickey of The Daily Beast: "[A]s of this moment we still have a system of government that might save us from the increasingly dangerous trends of the Trump era. But the moment is fast approaching when that will no longer be possible.... History is full of precedents.... But ... There are cautionary ones all around us in the present. From Venezuela and Nicaragua to Turkey and Egypt to Russia and the Philippines we've seen presidents use their initial popularity to tear apart the institutions that might have checked their power.... The real estate shyster in [Trump] does not believe in a nation of laws, but of lawyers who, if you pay them enough, will allow you to do just about anything. The messianic huckster that he's become just makes up 'facts,' then finds to his amusement that his faithful followers believe them. The innate bigot in him believes minorities should remain minorities, and preferably powerless ones, forever. And, perversely, as a 'reality' television star he discovered he could stitch all those elements together and people would find them, yes, entertaining." --safari

The TrumpenCourt. Jeff Toobin of the New Yorker: "The whole purpose of Trump's Supreme Court selection process has been to eliminate the possibility of nominating someone who might commit Kennedy's perfidies of moderation.... [Here's] what, if such a nominee is confirmed, a new majority will do. It will overrule Roe v. Wade, allowing states to ban abortions and to criminally prosecute any physicians and nurses who perform them. It will allow shopkeepers, restaurateurs, and hotel owners to refuse service to gay customers on religious grounds. It will guarantee that fewer African-American and Latino students attend élite universities. It will approve laws designed to hinder voting rights. It will sanction execution by grotesque means. It will invoke the Second Amendment to prohibit states from engaging in gun control, including the regulation of machine guns and bump stocks. And these are just the issues that draw the most attention." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Perhaps the most sickening part of all this is that Trump isn't nominating wingers out of any ideological belief. He's doing so, as Toobin writes, because "He recognized that evangelicals and their political allies would overlook his vulgar demeanor if he pledged to give them the judges they wanted." Trump is taking away the rights of ordinary Americans for his own personal benefit & for no other reason. ...

... E.J. Dionne: "When Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced his retirement, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) quickly tweeted: 'This is the fight of our lives.'... The future of abortion rights is central to the coming battle. But so are civil rights, corporate power and our democratic capacity to correct social injustices. Conservatives should not be allowed to distract attention from the aspects of their agenda that would horrify even many who voted for Donald Trump." ...

The existing Court's assault on voting rights, collective bargaining, and religious liberty is awful enough -- just imagine how bad working people will have it if another right-wing justice joins the Court. This is a red alert moment for the American people -- we need all hands on deck to stop the Court from taking a vicious, anti-worker, anti-women, anti-LGBT, anti-civil rights turn. -- Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Ct.) ...

... Heather Long of the Washington Post: "Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a key swing vote on President Trump's next Supreme Court pick, said Sunday that she would not vote for any judge who wanted to end access to abortion in the United States by overturning Roe v. Wade. 'I would not support a nominee who demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade,' Collins said Sunday on CNN's 'State of the Union,' adding that Roe v. Wade established abortion as a 'constitutional right.' In another appearance, on ABC News's 'This Week,' Collins said that any judge who wants to overturn Roe has an 'activist agenda' that she thinks goes against the fundamental tenets of U.S. law and the Constitution." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Hear Susan talk. Hear Susan hem and haw. See Susan fold. ...

... A Reminder of What Janus Was Really About. Noam Scheiber of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court decision striking down mandatory union fees for government workers was not only a blow to unions. It will also hit hard at a vast network of groups dedicated to advancing liberal policies and candidates.... onservatives have acknowledged as much.... Even President Trump took notice of the justices' ruling, declaring on Twitter that it was a 'big loss for the coffers of the Democrats!'" ...

... **Micro-targeting Death to Unions. Lee Fang & Nick Surgey of The Intercept: "Just moments after the Janus vs. AFSCME ruling came down, several conservative think tanks launched campaigns to leverage the pivotal Supreme Court decision as a means of starving unions of funds and eventually disbanding them altogether.... [T]he advocacy groups will launch decertification campaigns to nullify certain unions in certain jurisdictions.... The well-funded effort is being coordinated by the State Policy Network, an organization that steers a national patchwork of right-wing think tanks to advance policies favored by business lobbyists and GOP donors.... Not all public sector union members are expected to want to opt-out, so the organizers of the campaign developed methodology to target those who might be most sympathetic to withholding union fees." The article lays out the right-wingers' vicious strategy --safari

Obama Derangement Syndrome. Saritha Rai of Bloomberg: "... Donald Trump's plan to ban spouses of high-skill visa holders from working will likely push 100,000 people out of jobs and negatively affect the visa holders and their employers, according to a new research study. The Trump administration has been tightening the rules for H-1B visas, which allow foreign workers to take jobs in the U.S. for several years, and plans to revoke the ability of spouses to work as part of the effort.... The U.S. began allowing spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in 2015, under the preceding Obama Administration." --safari ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: My guess is that the majority of married H-1B visa holders are men; thus, this fits in well with Trump's misogynistic policy preferences; most of the spouses will be wives, rendered powerless by their inability to earn their own incomes. Shooing out quasi-Roe supporter Kennedy is part of the same inclination.

Elliot Spagat of the AP: "Border Patrol arrests fell sharply in June to the lowest level since February, according to a U.S. official, ending a streak of four straight monthly increases. The drop may reflect seasonal trends or it could signal that ... Donald Trump's 'zero-tolerance' policy to criminally prosecute every adult who enters the country illegally is having a deterrent effect. The agency made 34,057 arrests on the border with Mexico during June, down 16 percent from 40,344 in May, according to the official.... The June tally is preliminary and subject to change. Arrests were still more than double from 16,077 in June 2017, but the sharp decline from spring could undercut the Trump administration's narrative of a border in crisis."

Cruelty for Cruelty's Sake. Paloma Esquivel & Brittny Mejia of the Los Angeles Times: Trump "Administration officials have said repeatedly that asylum seekers who don't want to be separated from their children should present themselves at a port of entry.... But court filings describe numerous cases in recent months in which families were separated after presenting themselves at a port of entry to ask for asylum. This happened even when asylum seekers carried records, such as birth certificates or hospital documents, listing them as the parents of their children, according to interviews and court records."

On June 29, I linked to these two stories: (1) ... Jonathan Swan of Axios: "President Trump has repeatedly told top White House officials he wants to withdraw the United States from the World Trade Organization, a move that would throw global trade into wild disarray, people involved in the talks tell Axios...." (2) ... Axios Update: "Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo Friday that it's an 'exaggeration' to say President Trump wants to withdraw the United States from the World Trade Organization...." ...

... So Now This. Jonathan Swan: "Axios has obtained a leaked draft of a Trump administration bill -- ordered by the president himself -- that would declare America's abandonment of fundamental World Trade Organization rules.... The draft legislation is stunning. The bill essentially provides Trump a license to raise U.S. tariffs at will, without congressional consent and international rules be damned.... 'It would be the equivalent of walking away from the WTO and our commitments there without us actually notifying our withdrawal,' said a source familiar with the bill." Includes text of draft bill. ...

... Massive Trump FART Smelt 'Round the World. Kate Lyons of the Guardian: "A report that Donald Trump is looking to walk away from the World Trade Organisation and instead adopt a United States Fair and Reciprocal Tariff Act, or Fart Act, has been greeted with loud amusement on Twitter." Mrs. McC: I'm wating for Sarah Sanders' scowly-face answers to reporters' questions about the FART Act. Hey, it's only a draft. Thanks to unwashed for the link.

Brett Samuels of the Hill: "President Trump on Sunday refused to back down on his administration's tariffs against U.S. allies, arguing that the European Union is 'as bad as China' in its trade policies. Trump appeared on Fox News's 'Sunday Morning Futures,' where host Maria Bartiromo asked if he'd considered teaming up with U.S. allies to combat China's trade policies. 'The European Union is possibly as bad as China, just smaller. It's terrible what they do to us,' Trump said." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Washington Post: "President Trump told Maria Bartiromo on Fox News that he wants to 'wait until after the election' to sign any new agreement with Canada and Mexico and seemed to indicate there won&'t be an end soon to the ongoing trade battle brewing between the United States and its neighbors." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Alanna Petroff of CNN: "Canada has retaliated against US steel and aluminum tariffs by slapping its own penalties on American exports. The Canadian government confirmed Sunday that it has imposed tariffs on US exports worth 16.6 billion Canadian dollars ($12.5 billion). More than 40 US steel products attract tariffs of 25%. A tax of 10% has been levied on over 80 other American items including toffee, maple syrup, coffee beans and strawberry jam. The response from Canada is designed to be proportional, with the new taxes being based on the amount of steel and aluminum shipped last year from Canada to the United States."

Donald Beats Dead Horse. Emily Stewart of Vox: "The Republican tax cuts aren't even a year old, nor are they particularly popular with voters. And already, President Donald Trump is talking about more of them. In an interview with Fox News aired on Sunday, Trump promised a second tax cut plan would be on the way by October. He said the proposal would be aimed at the middle class -- then offered an example of reducing the corporate tax rate further.... Beyond the promise to reduce the corporate rate..., Trump didn't offer specifics on what this new potential legislation might do.... The [Washington] Post estimates that additional 1 percent decrease to the corporate tax rate would result in an additional $100 billion in tax cuts over the next decade." --safari

Brett Samuels: "President Trump on Sunday blamed his opponents for the division in the country, warning that those who have spoken out against him should 'take it easy.'... 'Because some of the language used, some of the words used, even some of the radical ideas, I really think they're very bad for the country. I think they're actually dangerous for the country,' he added." (Also linked yesterday.)

Brian Wingfield, et al. of Bloomberg [July 1]: "U.S. President Donald Trump's administration backed off an assertion he made earlier indicating he persuaded Saudi Arabia to effectively boost oil production to its maximum capacity, which would have threatened to blow up a fragile truce agreed by OPEC and inflamed the Saudi-Iran rivalry.... The White House statement aligned with one by the state-run Saudi Press Agency saying that the king and Trump, in a phone call Saturday ... stressed the importance of maintaining oil-market stability.... The agency didn't say the leaders agreed and didn't make any reference to 2 million barrels.... If the Saudis had agreed to Trump's request..., Iran's OPEC governor Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, said in an interview..., 'There is no way one country could go 2 million barrels a day above their production allocation unless they are walking out of OPEC.'" --safari ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: So just another phony boast to hookwink his cult. ...

... Anthony Dipaola of Bloomberg [July 2]: "The U.S. president tweeted on Saturday that the Saudi king had agreed to raise production to cut the cost of oil for consumers. While the White House later backpedaled from his assertion, Trump on Sunday compounded the pressure, demanding that OPEC stop what he called its manipulation of the oil market and insisting the group pump more.... 'Saudi Arabia is under massive pressure,' said Jaafar Altaie, managing director of consultant Manaar Group in Abu Dhabi.... Trump's comments could also complicate the planned sale of shares in Saudi Arabian Oil Co.... The initial public offering is the centerpiece of the kingdom's strategy to diversify its economy away from oil.... The U.S. president's involvement ... 'furthers the impression there's a lack of independence in the company and makes it look like Trump is setting Saudi oil policy' [Altaie said]." --safari

Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn of Mother Jones: "President Donald Trump on Sunday lashed out at Democrats and activists who have called for abolishing or replacing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.... 'You get rid of ICE, you are going to have a country that you're going to be afraid to walk out of your house.'... [H]e said in a tweet that without ICE, 'crime would be rampant and uncontrollable.'" --safari

Paul Campos in LG&$: "The Elliott Broidy-Shera Bechard-Donald Trump saga has suddenly taken a very weird twist: Broidy is backing out of the NDA he entered into with Bechard last fall. That agreement required him to make eight $200,000 payments over two years. The first payment was made on December 1st, 2017, and the third was due [Sunday]. Broidy is refusing to make it[. According to the Wall Street Journal,] 'A lawyer for Mr. Broidy ... said Ms. Bechard's lawyer at the time of the agreement, Keith Davidson, improperly discussed the hush-money agreement with another lawyer, Michael Avenatti, who has replaced Mr. Davidson in representing Stephanie Clifford....'"... If the last thing Broidy wants is for people to be discussing his supposed affair with Shera Bechard, this is an extremely strange way of pursing that goal. By claiming the agreement is void, Broidy gives Bechard the legal right to do whatever she wants with her story -- whatever it may actually be."

Ian Kullgren of Politico: "White House national security adviser John Bolton on Sunday downplayed reports suggesting that North Korea is trying to conceal parts of its nuclear weapons program.... 'We're very well aware of North Korea's patterns of behavior over decades of negotiating with the United States.'..." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... David Sanger & William Broad of the New York Times: "President Trump's national security adviser [John Bolton] said on Sunday that North Korea could dismantle all of its nuclear weapons, threatening missiles and biological weapons 'in a year,' a far more aggressive schedule than the one Secretary of State Mike Pompeo outlined for Congress recently, reflecting a strain inside the administration over how to match promises with realism.... [Pompeo's] approach [is] fraught with risk, and runs contrary to what Mr. Bolton, before entering the government, and Mr. Trump had said the North must do: dismantle everything first, and ship its bombs and fuel out of the country. If the North is permitted to keep its weapons until the last stages of disarmament, it would remain a nuclear state for a long while, perhaps years."

Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "Littered among tens of thousands of [EPA] emails that have surfaced in recent weeks, largely through a public records lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club, are dozens of requests for regulatory relief by industry players. Many have been granted. In March 2017, for example, a lobbyist for Waste Management, one of the nation's largest trash companies, wrote to two top EPA appointees seeking reconsideration of 'two climate-related rules' affecting business.... The EPA subsequently delayed a rule targeting methane emissions from landfills until at least 2020."

Ron Nixon of the New York Times: "Ronald D. Vitiello, a senior Border Patrol official, will serve as acting director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, the Trump administration announced on Saturday, in a move that comes amid calls by some activists and politicians for the agency to be abolished.... He will replace Thomas D. Homan, the current acting head of ICE, who retired this month. The Senate must approve a full-time director for ICE, with Mr. Vitiello now viewed as the leading candidate." (Also linked yesterday.)

Nicole Acevedo, et al., of NBC News: "U.S. District Judge Leo T. Sorokin of Massachusetts ordered that the Federal Emergency Management Agency cannot end its Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program until at least midnight Tuesday, meaning those depending on the aid to pay for hotel and motel rooms should be able to stay at least until check-out time Wednesday.... The national civil-rights group that filed a lawsuit Saturday seeking the restraining order said the end of the FEMA assistance would lead to Puerto Rican evacuees being evicted. The temporary restraining order affects around 1,744 people...."

"Monetizing Poor People." I Never Could Stand Tim Geithner. Peter Whoriskey of the Washington Post: "Mass-mailing checks to strangers might seem like risky business, but Mariner Finance occupies a fertile niche in the U.S. economy. The company enables some of the nation's wealthiest investors and investment funds to make money offering high-interest loans to cash-strapped Americans. Mariner Finance is owned and managed by a $11.2 billion private equity fund controlled by Warburg Pincus, a storied New York firm. The president of Warburg Pincus is Timothy F. Geithner, who, as treasury secretary in the Obama administration, condemned predatory lenders.... The company's other tactics include borrowing money for as little as 4 or 5 percent -- thanks to the bond market -- and lending at rates as high as 36 percent, a rate that some states consider usurious; making millions of dollars by charging borrowers for insurance policies of questionable value; operating an insurance company in the Turks and Caicos, where regulations are notably lax, to profit further from the insurance policies; and aggressive collection practices that include calling delinquent customers once a day and embarrassing them by calling their friends and relatives...."

Katie Moeller, et al., of the Idaho Statesman: "Refugee families at a low-income apartment complex were attacked Saturday night by a man who stabbed nine people -- more than any other attack in Boise's history, police said. Four of them suffered injuries that police called life-threatening. A 30-year-old man was quickly taken into custody at gunpoint, police said. All of the victims were taken to a hospital. Boise Police Chief Bill Bones hinted that some victims may be children...." ...

     ... Update. Ruth Brown, et al., of the Idaho Statesman: "A brutal attack at a Boise apartment complex on Saturday started with the interruption of a 3-year-old girl's birthday party and ended in the stabbing of nine people, six of whom were children. Timmy Kinner is accused of stabbing them randomly after he was asked to leave the low-income apartment complex ... on Friday.... Boise Police Chief Bill Bones said Kinner has an extensive criminal record in multiple states, including charges for violent crimes, weapons and drugs."

Ericka Guevarra of Oregon Public Broadcasting: "Jason Erik Washington, the man killed by armed Portland State University officers early Friday morning, had a valid concealed carry permit at the time of his death. Two of Washington's colleagues and at least one witness say Washington, 45, was black. Keyaira Smith, a witness who took video of the moments leading up to Washington's death, told OPB that he was 'trying to be a good Samaritan' by breaking up a fight."

Avi Selk of the Washington Post: Politce arrested Shane Ryan Sealy, who claims to be a former high school teacher, for pulling a gun on immigration protesters at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama. A few minutes earlier, an Episcopalian priest was leading a prayer; she said, "We pray for the children of this nation and all nations..." At that point, Sealy yelled, "WOMP, WOMP!" "parroting former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who had uttered the same sound on Fox News several days earlier during a discussion about migrant children being seized from their parents at the border.... [Sealy] was initially arrested for possessing a gun within 1,000 feet of a protest. But he would later be booked into jail on misdemeanor charges of menacing and reckless endangerment." Mrs McC PS: That arming teachers idea is looking so sensible.

Conservative "Intellectuals". Martin Cizmar of RawStory: "Conservative activist Dinesh D'Souza retweeted an anti-Semitic message to promote his upcoming movie, Death of a Nation. The movie argues that Donald Trump is the second coming of Abraham Lincoln. The tweet ... shared the trailer to the movie with the hashtag #BurnThejews. D'Souza retweeted it and then later deleted his retweet when he was called out on it. D'Souza said that he had not seen the hashtag." --safari ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I'll bet Donald's daughter & son-in-law are very, very proud of the old man for pardoning D'Souza, whose racist bigotry is far worse than his corruption. His racism, BTW, is psychopathic; D'Souza is Indian American.

Beyond the Beltway

E. A. Crunden of ThinkProgress: "Environmental activists are slamming two controversial bills signed into law Friday by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), arguing that they will give polluting companies the ability to undermine state environmental guidelines.... The two bills signed by Snyder will allow for oversight of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), which is meant to serve as a watchdog for environmental issues throughout the state.... Both laws have been dubbed 'polluter panels' bills based on the leeway they give to industries known for poor environmental practices." --safari

Way Beyond

Azam Ahmed & Paulina Villegas of the New York Times: "Riding a wave of populist anger fueled by rampant corruption and violence, the leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador was elected president of Mexico on Sunday, in a landslide victory that upended the nation’s political establishment and handed him a sweeping mandate to reshape the country. Mr. López Obrador's win puts a leftist leader at the helm of Latin America's second-largest economy for the first time in decades, a prospect that has filled millions of Mexicans with hope — and the nation's elites with trepidation." ...

... Melanie Schmitz of ThinkProgress: "López Obrador, a former mayor of Mexico City and left-wing nationalist who ran for president in 2006 and 2012, has drawn the support of Mexican voters with his populist policies, many of which mirror those of President Trump.... López Obrador has proposed a policy similar to Trump's 'America First' agenda.... [He] is also an ardent critic of Trump's foreign policy, slamming the U.S. president's proposal for a border wall.... He also has slammed Trump’s family separation policy ... as 'arrogant, racist and inhuman.'" --safari

"Ghetto Children." Ellen Barry & Martin Sorensen of the New York Times: "Denmark’s government is introducing a new set of laws to regulate life in 25 low-income and heavily Muslim enclaves, saying that if families there do not willingly merge into the country's mainstream, they should be compelled. For decades, integrating immigrants has posed a thorny challenge to the Danish model, intended to serve a small, homogeneous population. Leaders are focusing their ire on urban neighborhoods where immigrants, some of them placed there by the government, live in dense concentrations with high rates of unemployment and gang violence.... Starting at the age of 1, 'ghetto children' must be separated from their families for at least 25 hours a week, not including nap time, for mandatory instruction in 'Danish values,' including the traditions of Christmas and Easter, and Danish language."

Justin McCurry of the Guardian: "Japan has set itself on a diplomatic collision course with Australia and other anti-whaling nations amid reports that it plans to push for the partial resumption of commercial whaling later this year. The country's delegation to a meeting of the International Whaling Commission ... in Brazil in September will attempt to alter voting rules that would make it easier to resume for-profit whaling, media reports said.... Commercial whaling was banned under a 1986 IWC moratorium, but Japan has continued to hunt whales legally in the Southern ocean every winter for what it claims is 'scientific research.'... Japan faced criticism in May after reporting that its heavily subsidised whaling fleet killed 122 pregnant whales during its annual 'research' hunt in the Southern Ocean last winter." --safari

Saturday
Jun302018

The Commentariat -- July 1, 2018

Late Morning Update:

Brett Samuels of the Hill: "President Trump on Sunday refused to back down on his administration's tariffs against U.S. allies, arguing that the European Union is 'as bad as China' in its trade policies. Trump appeared on Fox News's 'Sunday Morning Futures,' where host Maria Bartiromo asked if he'd considered teaming up with U.S. allies to combat China's trade policies. 'The European Union is possibly as bad as China, just smaller. It's terrible what they do to us,' Trump said." ...

... Washington Post: "President Trump told Maria Bartiromo on Fox News that he wants to 'wait until after the election' to sign any new agreement with Canada and Mexico and seemed to indicate there won't be an end soon to the ongoing trade battle brewing between the United States and its neighbors."

Brett Samuels: "President Trump on Sunday blamed his opponents for the division in the country, warning that those who have spoken out against him should 'take it easy.'... 'Because some of the language used, some of the words used, even some of the radical ideas, I really think they're very bad for the country. I think they're actually dangerous for the country,' he added."

Ian Kullgren of Politico: "White House national security adviser John Bolton on Sunday downplayed reports suggesting that North Korea is trying to conceal parts of its nuclear weapons program.... 'We're very well aware of North Korea's patterns of behavior over decades of negotiating with the United States.'..."

Ron Nixon of the New York Times: "Ronald D. Vitiello, a senior Border Patrol official, will serve as acting director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, the Trump administration announced on Saturday, in a move that comes amid calls by some activists and politicians for the agency to be abolished.... He will replace Thomas D. Homan, the current acting head of ICE, who retired this month. The Senate must approve a full-time director for ICE, with Mr. Vitiello now viewed as the leading candidate."

Heather Long of the Washington Post: "Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a key swing vote on President Trump's next Supreme Court pick, said Sunday that she would not vote for any judge who wanted to end access to abortion in the United States by overturning Roe v. Wade. 'I would not support a nominee who demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade,' Collins said Sunday on CNN's 'State of the Union,' adding that Roe v. Wade established abortion as a 'constitutional right.' In another appearance, on ABC News's 'This Week,' Collins said that any judge who wants to overturn Roe has an 'activist agenda' that she thinks goes against the fundamental tenets of U.S. law and the Constitution." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Hear Susan talk. Hear Susan hem and haw. See Susan fold.

*****

Cass Sunstein, in the New York Review of Books, reviewed three books that recount life in Nazi Germany, two of which are first-hand reports. The title of Sunstein's review is "It Can Happen Here," and the writings he reviews makes that evident. But he hedges in his conclusion: "With our system of checks and balances, full-blown authoritarianism is unlikely to happen here, but it would be foolish to ignore the risks that Trump and his administration pose to established norms and institutions.... Those risks will grow if opposition to violations of long-standing norms is limited to Democrats, and if Republicans laugh, applaud, agree with, or make excuses for Trump -- if they howl with the wolf." Mrs. McC: At any rate, the content of the writings he cites is chilling, & I'm going with "it can happen here." Right now, our "system of checks and balances" seems to be limited to the press & to the people they write about in the next linked stories.

Brent Griffiths of Politico: "Protesters gathered in front of the White House and across the nation on Saturday slammed the Trump administration's separation of migrant families, the latest mass demonstration to push back on the president and his administration. Marchers chanted 'families belong together,' the name of the rally in Washington and in events that were scheduled to take place in more than 750 cities across the country. The protest was organized by the liberal organization MoveOn.Org, the Americans Civil Liberties Union, The Leadership Conference and National Domestic Workers Alliance." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... The New York Times story is here. Here's the Guardian's main story. The Guardian liveblogged protests around the U.S. (Liveblog also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Saturday opened a new front in the immigration debate, diverting attention away from his administration's treatment of undocumented immigrants to a broader fight over the federal agency charged with detaining and deporting them. In a pair of tweets from his private golf club in Bedminster, N.J., Trump forcefully defended the performance of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and lambasted Democrats as pushing a 'radical left' agenda to abolish it, even though only a handful have publicly supported doing so. 'To the great and brave men and women of ICE, do not worry or lose your spirit,' Trump wrote in one tweet. 'You are doing a fantastic job of keeping us safe by eradicating the worst criminal elements.' In an interview on Fox News set to air Sunday, Trump suggested that the issue would hurt Democrats in the midterm elections because ICE helps eradicate violent gangs. Trump's public support of ICE came as tens of thousands marched in cities across the country to protest a 'zero tolerance'...." ...

... Brent Griffiths: "... Donald Trump falsely claimed on Saturday that he never encouraged House Republicans to vote for an immigration bill, despite tweeting such an encouragement three days earlier [IN ALL CAPS]." ...

... ** Tal Kopan of CNN: "... newly reviewed court filings show that the byzantine system that has resulted in thousands of children separated for weeks and months from parents elsewhere in government custody ... was always the design.... A government attorney admitted in court just days before the border-wide initiative was unveiled in early May that there was never a plan for parents like her to be proactively reunited with their kids. And an analysis of the purported success of the pilot shows that the Department of Homeland Security's justification that the program worked as a deterrent was likely based on dubious data."

Chris Rukan, in the Washington Post, tests Donald Trump's performance against many of George Washington's 110 rules of civility (which he copied as a boy from a late-16th-century list of rules compiled by Jesuits). Here's the compleat list.


Peter Berman, in a New York Times op-ed: "... there is another reason to withhold confirmation [of a new Supreme Court justice] that both Republicans and Democrats should be able to agree on: People under the cloud of investigation do not get to pick the judges who may preside over their cases. By this logic, President Trump should not be permitted to appoint a new Supreme Court justice until after the special counsel investigation is over, and we know for sure whether there is evidence of wrongdoing. True, that point is unlikely to stop Mr. McConnell or his colleagues. But it highlights the real risk involved in letting a deeply compromised president shape a court that may one day stand between him and impeachment." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: There's an obvious problem with this argument: any time there's Republican Congress & a Democratic president when a Supreme Court vacancy arises, Republicans will open up an "investigation" of the president (if they didn't already have several such "investigations" going) & claim they can't possibly confirm a new justice who might have to rule on issues relating to what they perceive as presidential misconduct.

Stanley Reed & Mihir Zaveri of the New York Times: "President Trump tweeted on Saturday that he had once again leaned on Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, to increase production by as much as 2 million barrels a day. Since May, Mr. Trump has put pressure on the Saudis and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to increase supplies through tweets and other messages.... In recent weeks, worries about declining oil exports from Iran have been pushing up oil prices. Analysts say that Saudi help in making up for lost Iranian crude oil will be crucial to Mr. Trump's efforts to put pressure on the government of Iran while not forcing prices up too high to cause political damage in the United States." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Nahal Toosi of Politico: "The Trump administration is barreling ahead in its high-stakes nuclear diplomacy with North Korea even though it lacks a full-time envoy to oversee the negotiations. Currently, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is serving as the point man on the administration's effort to convince North Korea to give up its atomic arsenal. But some lawmakers and former officials are urging ... Donald Trump to put a special representative in charge, arguing that Pompeo can't give the topic the explicit, sustained attention it requires. The calls for an envoy come as Trump aides remain coy about details of their strategy to deal with the isolated Asian country. There have been no formal talks announced since Trump held a much-ballyhooed June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

This Russia Thing, Etc., Ctd.

Trump Is Working Overtime to Destabilize Western Alliances. Josh Rogin of the Washington Post: "During a private meeting at the White House in late April, Trump was discussing trade with French President Emmanuel Macron. At one point, he asked Macron, 'Why don't you leave the E.U.?' and said that if France exited the union, Trump would offer it a bilateral trade deal with better terms than the E.U. as a whole gets from the United States, according to two European officials. The White House did not dispute the officials' account, but declined to comment.... This is an instance of the president of the United States offering an incentive to dismantle an organization of America's allies, against stated U.S. government policy. Trump has been publicly trashing the E.U. and NATO since his campaign, but the pace and viciousness of his attacks have increased.... Of course, Trump's opinions closely track those of Putin, including on the status of Crimea, aid to Ukraine and Russia's interference in the U.S. elections. Overall, Trump's attack on the E.U. and the U.S.-Europe relationship is a huge strategic windfall for Russia." ...

Margaret Talev & Toluse Olorunnipa of Bloomberg: "... Donald Trump left the door open to recognizing Russia's annexation of Crimea, telling reporters that such a move would be up for discussion when he meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin next month. 'We're going to have to see,' Trump told reporters Friday on Air Force One when asked if the U.S. would accept Russia's claim on the territory it seized from Ukraine in 2014.... 'I'll talk to him about everything,' Trump told reporters when asked if he would speak with Putin about Crimea. 'We're going to be talking about Ukraine, we're going to be talking about Syria, we'll be talking about elections, and we don't want anybody tampering with elections.'" ...

... Chris Riotta of the (U.K.) Independent: "Russia's state-owned television shows have mocked the outcry over the country's alleged hacking of the US 2016 presidential election ahead of an upcoming summit between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.... A Russia 24 ... analyst ... [said] Americans viewed the alleged hacking as 'aggression against the country' and believed the Russian government 'caused some trouble there.' 'What trouble did we cause?' he asked. 'We just elected Trump, that's all.'" ...

... Jonathan Chait: "The more we learn, the more clearly the pattern of behavior in the [U.S. & U.K.] becomes similar, and the more suspicious the denials of Putin's partners grows. In both countries, the right-wing pro-Russian populists indignantly insist there is no more incriminating information to be found beyond what was known at any given moment, even as the bounds of what is known at any moment continues to expand.... At this point, it seems virtually certain that Russia did use [British financier Arron] Banks ... as a pass through to covertly finance the Brexit referendum."

Julianne Smith & former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) in a Hill opinion piece: "Two years after the Russian government attempted to undermine the 2016 presidential election, the United States still does not have a comprehensive strategy to address the threat posed by foreign interference in our democracy. Successive U.S. administrations of both parties and Congress have neglected this threat and left Americans exposed to foreign manipulation."

Washington Post: According to Trump punker John Melendez, the Secret Service came calling at his home after Melendez's call to President* Trump, a call in which he posed as Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). The Post still has not verified the call. The podcast is here; the actual conversation with the president, president* or "president" is about 7/8ths of the way in.


Eric Lipton
of the New York Times: "The chief ethics officer of the Environmental Protection Agency -- the official whose main job is to help agency staffers obey government ethics laws -- has been working behind the scenes to push for a series of independent investigations into possible improprieties by Scott Pruitt, the agency's administrator, a letter sent this week says. The letter is the first public acknowledgment that Kevin S. Minoli, who has frequently defended Mr. Pruitt's actions since he took over the agency in February 2017, is now openly questioning whether Mr. Pruitt violated federal ethics rules."

Congressional Races

Maureen Dowd discusses the primary win of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Mrs. McC: I supposed this was my favorite graf: "The Democrats wandered the capital, looking stunned. It finally seemed to be sinking in that if you insist on putting up presidential candidates who leave voters cold, really bad things can happen." I've been saying this for a long time, but no one seems to be able to convince the Democratic leadership that "boring" & "ethically-compromised" are not compelling attributes for presidential candidates. This is all the more mystifying inasmuch as the last Democrat to win the top job was exciting & about as honorable as a politician can be. Rather, Democratric leadership in 2016 copied exactly the same playbook that had failed in 2008: backing the very same boring, ethically-compromised candidate.

Patrick Svitek of the Dallas Morning News: "Despite nine candidates on the ballot, Republican Michael Cloud drew enough support to win Saturday's special election to fill former U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold's seat, sparing the GOP a runoff in the 27th District. With all precincts reporting, Cloud led Democrat Eric Holguin 55 percent to 32 percent, according to unofficial returns. Cloud, a former chairman of the Victoria County GOP, needed to finish above 50 percen to avert a runoff later this summer. The special election determined who finishes Farenthold's term, which ends in January. Both Cloud and Holguin are their party's nominees in November for the full term that starts after that." Mrs. McC: Pajama Boy never will be truly replaced.


Everton Bailey
of the Oregonian: "A Portland man fatally shot early Friday outside a sports bar near Portland State University by campus police officers was a U.S. postal worker and father of three daughters who served in the Navy and married his high school sweetheart, friends say. They identified the man as Jason E. Washington, 45.... [Two witnesses] said Washington wasn't involved in the fight and was trying to break it up. A[nother] witness also told Oregon Public Broadcasting that the man wasn't fighting and was shot after a holstered handgun he was carrying fell onto the ground and he appeared to be trying to pick it up. After the officers yelled that there was a gun, there was no apparent hesitation before the gunfire, the witness said." Mrs. McC: Washington was black; both officers appear to be white.