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

Click on the picture to see larger image.... Low Society News. AP: "... Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were among the guests as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin’s) married a Scottish actress. Mnuchin exchanged vows Saturday night with Louise Linton at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington. Mrs. Trump wore a pink blush dress" CW: which, if you follow Reality Chex, you will know was enhanced by some really costly baubles that remind the bride of Grace Kelly or happy times or something.

New Yorker: "In a paper in the journal Nature, an international team of researchers announced that they have pushed back the date of the earliest human remains to three hundred thousand years ago. And the specimens in question were found not in East Africa, which has become synonymous with a sort of paleoanthropological Garden of Eden, but clear on the other side of the continent — and the Sahara — in Morocco." -- CW ...

Washington Post: "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus took a final, bittersweet bow Sunday, staging its last three shows [in Uniondale, N.Y.,] after 146 years of entertaining American audiences with gravity-defying trapeze stunts, comically clumsy clowns and trained tigers." -- CW 

Guardian: "Pippa Middleton [sister of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge --] has married James Matthews in what has been called the society wedding of the year, in front of royalty, family and friends." -- CW

Washington Post: "Two months before Monday’s [May 8] announcement that Sinclair Broadcast Group would pay $3.9 billion for Tribune Media and add to its dominance as the nation’s largest owner of local TV stations, a top executive at Sinclair beamed a short commentary piece to many of the company’s 173 stations.In the segment, which looks like it belongs in a newscast, Sinclair vice president for news Scott Livingston stands before a wall of video monitors and warns that 'some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think.' He accuses the national media of publishing 'fake news stories' — a direct echo of President Trump’s frequent complaint — and then asks viewers to visit the station’s website to share 'content concerns.' The piece was a 'must-run,' meaning news directors and station managers from Baltimore to Seattle had to find room for it.... While partisan coverage is a familiar staple of cable networks — Fox News on the right, MSNBC on the left — it remains mostly unheard of in broadcast TV, where it has generally been accepted that public airwaves should be used in the difficult-to-define public interest.” -- CW 

CNN: "21st Century Fox and the private equity firm Blackstone are in talks to launch a bid for Tribune Media, one of the nation's largest television broadcasting companies, a source with knowledge of the matter said Sunday. The deal currently under discussion would see Blackstone and Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox forming a joint venture. Blackstone would provide the cash for the acquisition while Fox would add all its owned-and-operated television stations to the joint venture." -- CW 

New York Times: "Prehistoric humans — perhaps Neanderthals or another lost species — occupied what is now California some 130,000 years ago, a team of scientists reported on Wednesday. The bold and fiercely disputed claim, published in the journal Nature, is based on a study of mastodon bones discovered near San Diego. If the scientists are right, they would significantly alter our understanding of how humans spread around the planet." -- CW 

If you're curious as to how realistic the New York City apartments of TV sitcom characters are -- in terms of what the characters could reasonably afford -- the Washington Post checks out several of the hovels & dream rentals of a number of shows. Kinda fun. CW: My husband & I (he paid the rent) had a fairly spacious two-bedroom with a galley kitchen (dishwasher included!) & dining room plus teensy closets on Washington Square in the 1980s & '90s. NYU owned the building & helped considerably with the rent.

Politico: "Comedian Hasan Minhaj will be this year's entertainer for the White House Correspondents' Dinner later this month, the association's president announced on Tuesday. Minhaj is a stand up comedian and senior correspondent on 'The Daily Show,' where he has performed caustic bits on ... Donald Trump, liberals and others in between. Minhaj has Washington experience already, having performed as host of last year's Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner." -- CW 

AFP: "After months of uncertainty and controversy, Bob Dylan finally accepted the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature at a jovial, champagne-laced ceremony on Saturday, [April 1,] the Swedish Academy announced. The academy, which awards the coveted prize, ended prolonged speculation as to whether the 75-year-old troubadour would use a concert stopover in Stockholm to accept the gold medal and diploma awarded to him back in October." -- CW 

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Wednesday
May312017

The Commentariat -- May 31, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Trump to Pull U.S. from Paris Climate Deal: Andrew Restuccia & Josh Dawsey of Politico: "President Donald Trump is planning to pull the United States out of the Paris climate change agreement, a White House official said Wednesday morning -- only to have Trump himself revive the suspense less than an hour later. The withdrawal would fulfill a Trump campaign promise but would be certain to infuriate America's allies across the globe. It would threaten to destabilize the most comprehensive pact ever negotiated to blunt the most devastating effects of climate change.... Trump declined to make it official, at least not yet. 'I will be announcing my decision on the Paris Accord over the next few days. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!' he tweeted Wednesday morning." ...

     ... Akhilleus: As usual, no one seems to know what's really going on, except that it's bound to be something bad. According to the Politico report, Steve Bannon (big surprise) is pushing for ditching the climate accords. The reason? So that the economic blight sure to follow any effort to address climate change won't "...hobble Trump's energy agenda". Wait.... Trump has an energy agenda? Besides letting Big Gas and Oil screw the public?

The Trump Reset Won't Work. John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "The latest Trump Administration reset has begun, or so we are being asked to believe. On Tuesday, Mike Dubke, the White House communications director, confirmed that he was leaving his job after just three months. There is also talk of the Administration setting up a 'war room' to deal with the Russia scandal, and assembling an all-star legal team to defend President [Donald] Trump. Names like Ted Olson and Paul Clement, two former Solicitors General, are being bandied about. And rumors continue to circulate about who else will be coming or going. The potential exit of Sean Spicer, the White House spokesperson, has been the subject of whispers for weeks. According to Politico, on Monday Trump met with his former campaign aides Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie. What does it all amount to? Unless someone at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue can find a magic potion capable of changing the President's character and behavior, nothing much. To put it in business terms, the White House's problem can't be resolved by firing the marketing team and hiring some external consultants. The problem is the obvious shortcomings of the primary product, Donald J. Trump. -- Akhilleus

Comey Again? Natasha Bertrand of the Business Insider: "Former FBI, CIA, and Justice Department officials say they are baffled by reports that a fake Russian document affected former FBI Director James Comey's handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server. CNN reported Friday that Comey had known that the document -- a memo purporting to show collusion between Loretta Lynch, who was then the attorney general, and the Clinton campaign -- was fake. That has raised questions about why he used it as justification to skirt the Department of Justice and hold a press conference last summer in which he skewered Clinton for her 'careless' use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. 'In cases where there is intelligence suspected of being false, the correct procedure is to investigate,' said Scott Olson, a recently retired FBI agent who ran the agency's counterintelligence operations and spent more than 20 years at the bureau." ...

     ... Akhilleus: Maybe Comey wasn't faked out by the Russians. Maybe he realized he had just been given the chance to keep Clinton out of the White House.

Bruce Vielmetti & Fatima Hussein of USA Today: "A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday in favor of a transgender student who challenged a Wisconsin school district's policy limiting his bathroom usage. In September, U.S. District Judge Pamela Pepper granted Ashton Whitaker, 17, a senior at Kenosha Tremper in Kenosha, Wis., permission to use the boys' bathroom. Kenosha Unified School District appealed the ruling, arguing that the harm to other students, particularly boys using the bathroom, outweighs any harm to Whitaker. A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit disagreed with the district. Judge Ann Claire Williams wrote, 'The harms identified by the school district are all speculative and based upon conjecture, whereas the harms to Ash are well‐documented and supported by the record. As a consequence, we affirm the grant of preliminary injunctive relief.'" ...

     ... Akhilleus: And the decision was unanimous. Screeching haters and Bible beaters don't always win.

Trump Buddy and Fan of Rape and Murder Gives a Trump-like Response. Vincent Bevins of the Washington Post: "President Rodrigo Duterte returned to his home city of Davao on Wednesday to celebrate the 119th anniversary of the Philippine Navy, and used the occasion to attack Chelsea Clinton for criticizing his comments about rape. 'When your father, the president of the United States, was screwing Lewinsky and the girls there in the White House, how did you feel? Did you slam your father?' he asked, in a reference to Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern with whom Bill Clinton had a sexual entanglement. Chelsea Clinton had attacked Duterte for saying that he would take responsibility for crimes committed by soldiers under his recently imposed martial law in the southern Philippines, even if they 'raped three women.' 'Not funny,' Clinton commented on Twitter, before going on to respond to another user that 'Duterte is a murderous thug with no regard for human rights. It's important to keep pointing that out & that rape is never a joke.'" ...

     ... Akhilleus: I don't know what actually went on between Clinton and Lewinsky, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't rape at the point of a gun, as Duterte suggests his guys can do under martial law. Has Trump weighed in on this? Will we get another bullshit tweet about how it's "inappropriate" for his pal Rodrigo to joke about rape? Not to mention that Chelsea Clinton was 15 when the Clinton-Lewinsky entanglement began. One particularly disgusting aspect of this sordid story is the large number of yelping Confederates actually defending Duterte in the comments to the WaPo article. I suppose anyone, no matter how scurrilous, is okay as long as they attack a Clinton. These are the core Trump voters, by the way.

Because There IS no Good Answer: Tom O'Connor of Newsweek: "A high-ranking State Department official appeared to become flustered Tuesday after he was questioned about the U.S.' support for Saudi Arabia, despite the oil-rich kingdom's rejection of democratic ideals. Stuart Jones, who was appointed as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq by former President Barack Obama in 2014 before assuming the title of assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs in January, took a long, silent pause after an Agence France-Presse reporter asked the official how President Donald Trump could criticize Iran's democracy, while standing next to Saudi Arabian officials." ...

     ... Akhilleus: It really doesn't matter what his answer was. Here's a sentient being who has to stop and think about whether there is any good reason why the Current Occupant is sucking up to a tyrannical monarchy at the same time as he rips America's democratic allies. There isn't.

Not Sure I Believe This, but...Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic: "As Sean Hannity hyped a conspiracy theory about the murder of a Democratic National Committee staffer last week, touting it with the zeal of a true believer without citing evidence that justified that belief, the combative Fox News host declared himself under fire and in need of backup. Lashing out at what he called 'Twitter snowflakes' and 'the liberal effort to silence me,' he took particular umbrage at a campaign by the progressive group Media Matters for America to pressure his advertisers, an effort he called liberal fascism. 'They hope to get me fired,' he wrote. 'Rush, O'Reilly, Beck, Imus, & now me.'... What's different today are the growing number of people on the right doing what they've seldom if ever done before: taking Hannity and his ilk seriously enough to criticize them. For decades, most movement conservatives either liked Fox News and right-wing talk radio, or persuaded themselves that their excesses and pathologies didn't matter. Populist talkers were there to energize the GOP's base. Insofar as they did so with dishonest rhetoric, it would only benefit more sober politicians and intellectuals." ...

     ... Akhilleus: Friedersdorf often, in my opinion at least, gives Confederates far too much credit and is way too forgiving of their most heinous sins. Maybe I don't give them enough credit, but the proof is in the short-fingered pudding, as one might say. Confederate perfidy and intellectual cowardice and dishonesty have given us the worst president in American history. And this, not very long since they gave us (with the help of a snickering, colluding Supreme Court) the previous worst president in American History, so fuck 'em all and the horses they rode in on. Hannity is just another lying Confederate thug. They're just figuring this out?

Clothes to Die For! Matthew Rosza of Salon: "Two Chinese activists who were investigating a factory that supplies Ivanka Trump's fashion brand have gone missing, while a third was arrested, according to a report by the Associated Press. All three men were associated with China Labor Watch and in the midst of an investigation into alleged labor abuses committed by the Huajian Group factories in a pair of southern Chinese cities, Dongguan and Ganzhou. The activists include Hua Haifeng, whose wife Deng Guilian claims that police told her he was arrested on suspicion of illegal surveillance, as well as Li Zhao and Su Heng. Although Abigail Klem of the Ivanka Trump brand claims that the company requires its manufacturers to 'comply with all applicable laws and to maintain acceptable working conditions,' China Labor Watch claims that its three activists had been compiling evidence of a number of labor abuses at their aforementioned factories." ...

     ... Akhilleus: The Trump Way. Bloomberg News alleges, per a China Labor Watch report, that Princess I pays her workers a little over a $1 an hour. Such a deal. Bathroom breaks are not included, however, in their 12 to 18 hour work days (six days a week). Is this how the Trumps are making America great again? No wonder they can afford $50,000 jackets. I wonder how much the Trump association drew the sort of attention from the Chinese that got those activists jailed and who knows what else. Think she'll speak up on their behalf? Think a dollar an hour will allow her workers to indulge in champagne popsicles on their one day off?

*****

The President* "Speaks". Elle Hunt of the Guardian: "Just after midnight in Washington, Donald Trump tweeted: 'Despite the constant negative press covfefe.' [Link fixed.] That was it. No more. Just that word 'covfefe' left hanging there.... The tweet had been active on Trump's account without comment or clarification for two hours at time of writing. It had been retweeted 61,000 times and received more than 75,000 favourites, and climbing. That it had not been immediately deleted was confusing to users, who leapt to speculate what, exactly, Trump might have meant." --safari: Includes some pretty high quality snark from Twitter.

Bullshitter-in-Chief. Matthew Yglesias of Vox: "As the Princeton University philosophy professor Harry Frankfurt put it in a famous essay, to lie presumes a kind of awareness of and interest in the truth -- and the goal is to convince the audience that the false thing you are saying is in fact true. Trump, more often than not, isn't interested in convincing anyone of anything. He's a bullshitter who simply doesn't care.... Critically, though bullshit plays a genuine functional role for the Trump regime, there is no particular reason to believe its adoption as Trump's primary rhetorical mode is a strategic choice. Trump is wildly unfit for the presidency in obvious and well-known ways, including, critically, a total lack of knowledge of or interest in any area of public policy. Trump lacks the knowledge to govern, the patience to learn how to govern, or the humility to admit it. Consequently, he bullshits." --safari ...

... Elizabeth Preza of RawStory: "Donald Trump is 'emotionally withdrawing' and gaining weight as the FBI investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and the Russian government creeps closer to the Oval Office." --safari: Turns out being a corrupt, divisive, asshole President is bad for your mental and physical health.

Andrew Restuccia & Josh Dawsey of Politico: "President Donald Trump's effort to fill hundreds of vacant jobs across the federal government has hit a new snag: Russia. Potential hires are paying close attention to the expanding investigations, which have now begun to touch senior Trump aides, with some questioning whether they want to join the administration.... According to the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, the White House has announced nominees for just 117 of the 559 most important Senate-confirmed positions. That trails the records of Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, who had each nominated about twice as many people by this point in the first year of their first terms." --safari

Jonathan Chait of New York: "The most innocent explanations of Donald Trump's shadowy relationship with Russia have grown increasingly fanciful, while the most paranoid interpretations have grown increasingly more plausible.... If the president did have an objective on his trip to Europe -- a premise that, it goes without saying, cannot be assumed -- it was to crack up the American alliance with Western Europe. That happens to have been Russia's primary diplomatic objective since the end of World War II.... However laughable Kushner's defense of his undisclosed outreach to Russia, it is more believable than the administration's response to CNN's explosive report that Moscow believed it had leverage over Trump himself.... And, most amazingly, the defense does not even deny the Russians have leverage over Trump. Trump's lawyers had insisted he did not owe money to Russian lenders 'with a few exceptions.' The administration's defense rewords that claim to 'virtually no financial ties at all.' How big a loophole is that 'virtually'? That's for him to know and you not to find out." --safari ...

... Josh Marshall: "This morning we heard news that investigative committees in the House and Senate have made broad document requests to Michael Cohen, longtime Trump Organization lawyer and Trump operative.... This is a very bad sign for Donald Trump and Michael Cohen. In simple terms, whatever happened during the 2016 campaign, if I wanted to understand Donald Trump's ties to Russia, the countries of the former Soviet Union and money from those countries and emigres from those countries, there's no single person I'd want to look at more closely than Michael Cohen.... Cohen is a much bigger deal in this whole story than I think is broadly realized. I'm not surprised the investigative committees are interested in him. Federal investigators are too." --safari ...

... Darren Samuelsohn & Austin Wright of Politico: "Michael Flynn has now agreed to provide some documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of its investigation into Russia's meddling in the presidential election. The decision by President Donald Trump's former national security adviser comes after initially refusing last week to comply with an initial subpoena.... Flynn is expected to begin providing documents on a rolling basis by June 6, the source said." --safari

Margaret Hartmann of New York: "With few ties to Trump and so little name recognition that he never made it into an SNL sketch, White House communications director Michael Dubke made an excellent scapegoat for the troubled administration. However, it seems Dubke's resignation announcement on Monday only intensified the fear among top White House staffers that they may fired from the job they appear to hate.... White House strategist Steve Bannon actually seems to be thriving in this even-more-cutthroat version of Trump's White House. The Times said he appeared 'reinvigorated,' and is trying to convince the president that he needs to revamp his administration and focus more intently on nationalist policies.

Greg Price of Newsweek: "Jared Kushner, who is also a senior adviser to the president, allegedly told a former editor of the newspaper he once owned that the billionaire real-estate mogul didn't believe his own 'birtherism' claims [link added], and only made them to charge up Republicans because they are 'stupid,' GQ reported. During a discussion on how to cover Trump, the former New York Observer editor, Elizabeth Spiers, claimed she told Kushner that she had serious problems with Trump's repeated claims that Obama was not born in the U.S., to which Kushner allegedly told her: 'He doesn't really believe it, Elizabeth. He just knows Republicans are stupid and they'll buy it.'" --safari

Benjamin Haas of the Guardian: "A labour activist working undercover investigating abuses at a Chinese factory that makes Ivanka Trump shoes has been detained by police and two others are missing, raising concerns the company's ties to the US president's family may have led to harsher treatment. Hua Haifeng was being held by police on suspicion of illegal surveillance, his wife Deng Guilian said. Hua had worked for labour rights organisations for more than a decade and was investigating a factory in southern Guangdong province for New York-based rights group China Labor Watch.... Two other men, Li Zhao and Su Heng, had investigated a factory in Jiangxi province that assembles Ivanka Trump shoes and were still missing on Wednesday, said Li Qiang, executive director of China Labor Watch. He believes they have been detained by police or are being held at the factory." --safari: Think Ivanka will call for their release? Don't hold your breath.

Laurel Raymond of ThinkProgress: "Federal officials, under orders by President Donald Trump, have drafted a rule to roll back the Obama-era mandate that birth control be included under all employer insurance plans. The final shape of roll back is still uncertain: The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) website says that it is reviewing the 'interim final rule' to relax the requirements on preventative services. The rule change is specifically aimed at accommodations for religious organizations, some of whom have strongly objected to requirements that they include birth control coverage under their insurance for employees.... In 2013, the mandate saved women $1.4 billion on birth control pills, and since the law went into effect, there has been a nearly 5 percent uptick in birth control subscriptions, according to the NWLC. The increased access to contraceptives has also correlated with a sharp drop in unintended pregnancy and abortion rates." --safari

German Lopez of Vox: "On Tuesday, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Kenosha Unified School District in Wisconsin violated the rights of a trans student, Ash Whitaker, when it refused to let him use the boys' bathroom.... The ruling has big implications: If existing federal law and the 14th Amendment shield trans people from discrimination, then it's not just Whitaker's rights that are protected here, but all trans students'. And if bans against sex discrimination in particular apply to trans people, then it's not just students' rights that are protected, but all trans people who face discrimination in other settings where sex discrimination is banned." --safari

Way Beyond the Beltway

Sune Engel Rasmussen of the Guardian: "Scores of civilians have been killed after a massive explosion in a highly secure diplomatic area of Kabul left at least 80 people dead and wounded more than 360, the Afghan public health ministry has said. The attack is the deadliest in the Afghan capital since an Isis suicide bomber killed nearly 100 people at a protest last summer, and one of the largest to hit Kabul since the 2001 intervention." --safari

Bonnie Malkin of the Guardian: "A university in Belgium has apologised after students were sent an email suggesting that women wear low-cut tops to their graduation ceremony. The Brussels Free University posted the apology on Facebook after the offending email, sent out by the medical faculty, was circulated online. The email advised that 'from an aesthetic point of view, it is preferable if young women wear a dress or a skirt and a nice low neckline.' Male graduates, it said, could wear a suit." --safari

Tuesday
May302017

The Machinations of the "War Room" Disinformation Campaign

This video with Joy Reid is a perfect example of Bannon's Putinesque disinformation campaign that was so hyped upon Trump's return from dancing with autocrats and sowing distrust with our allies. Trump's "War Room" to push back against the Russian probe was widely reported four days ago. Since then, we're seeing signs of its awakening. It offers a perfect, real-time study in the Art of Deception by some of the slyest artisans in the business.

The disinformation pipeline is clear: Dig up dirt in the corners of the internet, spread the filth among the bottom feeders, then use its rising "popularity" as proof it deserves attention by the MSM. Here, it's the Wall Street Journal's columnist and Trump propagandist Kimberely Strassel who tries to smokebomb viewers' thoughts re: Kushner by hyping an obscure Breitbart (Bannon) article claiming alleged false equivalencies from the Obama administration (thanks, Obama!).

Here, Joy Reid and the other guests push back on the disinformation and try to set the conversation back on track. But the Trumpers and GOP loyalists settling in to Fox & Friends are getting 5 Kimberely Strassels all chumming the waters with actual fake news. Since the administration can't be honest and claim the damaging stories are factually false, their master strategy is blatantly lie, obfuscate, and cry "Fake News" until the news cycle (hopefully) moves on....

...Trumpist Twitter Bots Awaken. Travis Gettys of RawStory: "A two-year-old report on 'Obama's secret outreach to Russia' hit the top spot on the conservative Drudge Report after hundreds of bot accounts flooded Twitter with links to the article.... The original Bloomberg report largely disappeared from Twitter after interest died down a few weeks after its publication, but it began recirculating over the weekend. Two posts appeared to have been shared directly from the Bloomberg site early Saturday morning and Sunday evening, but then a deluge of posts using the same phrasing and tags burst forth starting at 12:48 a.m. and continuing every two or three minutes for the next 11 hours. Many of those accounts, at least in the early hours of the social media push, display the distinctive traits of bots -- with highly unbalanced posting-to-followers ratios, inscrutable account names, few public interactions and almost no original content phrasing." --safari (Also linked yesterday)...

...The initial revealings of the War Room's "Alternative Facts" campaign bring to mind the Steve. M. post linked earlier by Marie about Steve Bannon's supposed "messaging savviness": "Bannon might not actually change what most Americans are talking about. What he's skilled at doing is changing what right-wingers are talking about. And maybe that's worth it to Trump, because he seems to believe he can save his presidency as long as 80+ percent of Republicans still support him without question."...

...Trump's administration and the GOP in general have moved so far right (just look at all the legislation they're proposing) that they seem incapable of messaging to the center or 'independents', let alone the scary lefty communists. Democrats don't even merit conversation (again, look at Congress). So the question remains: Can this obfuscation campaign endure for years on end, only messaging to the Loyalists who hold the keys to their reelection? Bannon, et al. are one trick ponies. Seems like we're going to find out. --safari

Monday
May292017

The Commentariat -- May 30, 2017

Trump Is a Dunce: "Show Me the Pictures." Philip Rucker & Ashley Parker of the Washington Post: "President Trump consumes classified intelligence like he does most everything else in life: ravenously and impatiently, eager to ingest glinting nuggets but often indifferent to subtleties.... The president interrupts his briefers with questions but also with random asides. He asks that the top brass of the intelligence community be present, and he demands brevity. As they huddle around the desk, Trump likes to pore over visuals -- maps, charts, pictures and videos, as well as 'killer graphics,' as CIA Director Mike Pompeo phrased it.... Yet there are signs that the president may not be retaining all the intelligence he is presented, fully absorbing its nuance, or respecting the sensitivities of the information and how it was gathered.... Trump's standing among career intelligence officers remains strained. He has continued to disparage their motives and work.... And Trump's reaction to the disclosure that he shared highly classified information with Russian officials was to declare it his 'absolute right' to do so and lash out at leakers -- making clear that he still sees his own intelligence services as adversaries." -- CW ...

     ... CW: This report is very much in line with a medical study I linked last week that documented the drastic deterioration of Trump's verbal skills. I thought it was a "killer study," (thanks, Pompeo), but no Reality Chex readers remarked on it.

"The Fake News Is Coming from Inside the White House." Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "To believe Donald Trump, you must believe two largely contradictory things. You must believe that there are a slew of leakers in the executive branch who are providing damning details to the press illegally, and who must be rooted out and punished.... You must also believe that the press makes up imaginary leakers simply to slowly and incrementally report false stories that are tangentially embarrassing to the president.... Trump, unlike most politicians and, frankly, most people, will nonchalantly argue two logically inconsistent points at the same time." Bump makes his case. Read on. -- CW ...

... Yastreblyansky: "Any serious investigation of White House leaking would implicate Trump and all his friends, and that's why there won't be one. Which in turn is sort of why Trump has now abandoned that weird oscillation between calling them leaks (implying the stories are true) and calling them fakes (implying they're false). He's finally come to understand that every time he refers to leaked information he's lending credence to what's being said. Calling it fiction is all he's got left. Incidentally, Kurt Eichenwald [of Newsweek] says every single time Trump has called 'fake news' on a story since Election Day the story turns out to have been true.... Since the emperor is now calling #fakenews on the recent revelations on Jared Kushner's Russian connections ... we can be pretty sure it's true. Of course it's also confirmed by National Security Advisor McMaster and Homeland Security Secretary Kelly coming out to say it's not a big deal, which is wrong, but reality-based." Emphasis added. -- CW ...

... Olivia Nuzzi of New York has more along the fantasy-based line. She also reminds us of Trump's favorite "anonymous source": "many people" and "everyone." as in "Many people are saying...," a long-favorite introductory clause to a number of Trump's whoppers. -- CW

Eli Watkins of CNN: "... Donald Trump condemned the racially charged Portland, Oregon, train stabbings on Monday, tweeting that they were 'unacceptable.' 'The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them,' read the tweet from the official @POTUS account. Trump had not previously commented on the matter." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... CW: No, Donald, failing to give up your seat on a crowded train to a heavily-pregnant woman is "unacceptable." Stabbing three people, two of them to death, for defending teenaged passengers against hate speech is far beyond horrific.

The NYT Takes a Less Credulous Shot at Reporting Jared Kushner's I-Spy Games. Matthew Rosenberg, et al.: "Jared Kushner ... was looking for a direct line to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia -- a search that in mid-December found him in a room with a Russian banker whose financial institution was deeply intertwined with Russian intelligence, and remains under sanction by the United States. Federal and congressional investigators are now examining what exactly Mr. Kushner and the Russian banker, Sergey N. Gorkov, wanted from each other. The banker is a close associate of Mr. Putin, but he has not been known to play a diplomatic role for the Russian leader. That has raised questions about why he was meeting with Mr. Kushner at a crucial moment in the presidential transition, according to current and former officials familiar with the investigations.... The White House has not denied the [Washington] Post report, which specified that Russian communication centers at an embassy or consulate in the United States were discussed as hosts for the secure channel.... The reasons the parties wanted a communications channel, and for how long they sought it, are also unclear.... In March, Mr. Gorkov said in a statement that his December meeting with Mr. Kushner was part of the bank's strategy to discuss promising trends and sectors with influential financial institutions in Europe, Asia and the United States." -- CW ...

... Betsy Klein of CNN: "Two of ... Donald Trump's closest aides, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, are keeping their heads down.... They are both 'focused on their work,' an administration official told CNN Monday.... In Washington on Sunday afternoon, Ivanka Trump was spotted outside the White House, chatting with lawyer Marc Kasowitz before boarding an SUV together." -- CW ...

... As Diane pointed out yesterday, apparently Ivanka's "work" includes tweeting a sensitive Memorial Day message: "Make champagne popsicles this #MemorialDay." As Betsy Klein reports, "One meme, which many circulated on Twitter, featured text that reads: 'Remember our sacrifice by making champagne popsicles.'" Klein does note that Ivanka Trump "posted a more typical Memorial Day message on her personal Twitter account. 'Today we honor the men & women in our armed forces who have lost their lives to protect our freedom,' she wrote. 'Thank you for your service #MemorialDay.'" -- CW ...

... Thanks to Islander for linking this Los Angeles Times op-ed by Andrew J. Bacevich on what Memorial Day has meant to him. ...

... Return on Investment. David Sirota in International Business Times: (republished by the Raw Story): "New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker -- a potential 2020 White House contender and recipient of major campaign contributions from Jared Kushner and others in the Kushner family -- declined to endorse his party's call for the White House to revoke the security clearance of the president's son-in-law... Kushner and other donors affiliated with Kushner Cos. delivered more than $41,000 to Booker's Senate campaign in 2013, according to data compiled by PoliticalMoneyLine.com. Politico reported that Ivanka Trump hosted a fundraiser for Booker during that election.... Booker has in the past made headlines taking stances at odds with others in his party.... More recently, Booker cast a pivotal vote against Democratic legislation to allow Americans to buy lower-priced prescription drugs from Canada." --safari...

... Saba Hamedy of CNN: "Arizona Sen. John McCain is not pleased aboutreports that Jared Kushner proposed setting up a secret communications channel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin. 'I don't like it," the Republican lawmaker said Monday in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's '7:30.'... 'I know that some administration officials are saying "well, that's standard procedure." I don't think it's standard procedure prior to the inauguration of the president of the United States by someone who is not in an appointed position. And I think that (former FBI Director James) Comey we now know took action that he did in regards to then-candidate (Hillary) Clinton because of some false news that was being put out by the Russians. I mean, this becomes more and more bizarre. In fact, you can't make it up.... It's the Russians who tried to destroy the fundamental of democracy and that is to change the outcome of an American election.'" -- CW ...

... David Ignatius of the Washington Post: "Most analysts agree that it's appropriate for presidents and their senior aides to use secret contacts to advance U.S. foreign policy goals. And it's fairly routine for incoming administrations to have get-acquainted talks with foreign governments, too. Such back channels can add stability and predictability in foreign relations. What's not okay is when an incoming administration seeks to undermine the policies of the incumbent. We have 'one president at a time.' That's not just a political truism but a matter of law, enunciated back in 1799 in the Logan Act, which prohibits private meddling with official policy during a dispute.... And it's not okay, either, for any citizen, even the son-in-law of the president-elect, to propose contacts that would use the communications tools of a foreign intelligence service to evade detection." CW: Ignatius's point is similar to one I made in yesterdays' Comments thread & one which Josh Marshall made clear last week in a post. It isn't rocket science.

** Digby in Salon: "If the president's trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel was farcical, his European stop left the world order shaken." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... CW: One thing you learn from reading about the Idiots Abroad is that they don't think they need to be briefed because they already know what's important: here was Trump "explaining" to the Belgian PM that the EU sucked because it took so long to get permits for his European golf resorts. Here was Gary Cohn, head of Trump's National Economic Council (who would be expected to know broadly about, um, economicky things), saying again & again that the U.S. negotiates trade deals with individual E.U. countries (which was certainly true in 1957) but hasn't been so for decades. This explains why these idiots (thanks, Gen. McMaster!) think it's fine for Jared the Boy Wonder to establish secret communications with Russian spies. ...

... Scott Bixby of the Daily Beast: "Trump's insistence upon returning stateside that the 'trip was a great success for America'..., came as a surprise to European allies.... Citing Trump's silence on threats of Russian aggression in the region, his disinterest in committing to deterrence efforts, and his six-against-one stance athwart the enactment of the Paris Agreement, Western leaders left the NATO and G7 talks resigned to the assumption that the era of America intervening on its allies' behalf is over. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, recovering from the geopolitical whiplash of meeting with both Barack Obama and Trump in the span of three days, told a Bavarian crowd on Sunday that Europe's ability to rely on outside protection was 'over, to a certain extent....' [President Emmanuel Macron of France] dismissed Trump's antics as the 'diplomacy of public invective'.... 'When it comes to diplomacy, President Trump is a drunk tourist,' a State Department official told the Daily Beast.... But far more concerning, the official said, was Trump's 'arrogance' in threatening to single-handedly thwart the Paris Agreement, which obliges member states to slash carbon emissions to combat global climate change. Trump's reality-show declaration that he'll make a final decision on his commitment to the accord 'next week!' is, in the official's terms, 'an abdication of American leadership.'" (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... CW: Back in the Kremlin, Buffalo Vlad must be pleased with how effectively he has pulled the strings of President Howdy Doody. (Update: Okay, Vlad is in France now, where he has not been nearly as adept at pulling Macron's strings -- link below.)...

...President Peacemaker. Jack Moore of Newsweek: "President Trump reportedly lashed out at Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in their meeting in the West Bank city of Bethlehem last Tuesday. 'You tricked me in D.C.! You talked there about your commitment to peace, but the Israelis showed me your involvement in incitement [against Israel],' he allegedly said to Abbas, according to Israel's Channel 2 broadcaster, which cited a U.S. official present at the meeting. It said the Palestinian delegation were shocked by the outburst.... Trump is earning a reputation for lecturing world leaders." --safari

Eli Watkins: "Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday that former FBI Director James Comey would have been 'incredibly incompetent' if he took actions based on email he knew to be fake. Graham said in an interview on CNN's 'State of the Union' that Comey told the Senate and House select committees on intelligence about such an email, but never indicated it was fake." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

The "Final Rule": Keep 'em Barefoot & Pregnant. Robert Pear of the New York Times: "Federal officials, following through on a pledge by President Trump, have drafted a rule to roll back a federal requirement that many religious employers provide birth control coverage in health insurance plans.... On its website, the White House Office of Management and Budget said it is reviewing an 'interim final rule' to relax the requirement, a step that would all but ensure a court challenge by women's rights groups.... Last week, Senator Patty Murray of Washington and 13 other Democratic senators warned Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, to cease efforts that could 'undermine access to affordable preventive services, including contraception, for women.'" --CW

The People of Trumpsylvania Are Not Liking the Dear Leader's Budget. Lorraine Woellert of Politico: "The administration's proposed federal budget cuts are, in effect, local budget cuts that ignore the economic realities of the communities that voted for Trump." Even confederate politicians are caterwauling. CW: I am truly sorry for the decent people who live nearby & must suffer along with the Trumpbots. But to Trump backers, I can only say "Boo-fucking-hoo, you dumbassed suckers. We toljaso." -- CW ...

... And Here Trump Thought He Was Writing the White People's Budget. Juliet Eilperin, et al., of the Washington Post: "The Trump administration is planning to disband the Labor Department division that has policed discrimination among federal contractors for four decades, according to the White House's newly proposed budget, part of wider efforts to rein in government programs that promote civil rights.... The proposal to dismantle the compliance office comes at a time when the Trump administration is reducing the role of the federal government in fighting discrimination and protecting minorities by cutting budgets, dissolving programs and appointing officials unsympathetic to previous practices." -- CW ...

... More on the White People's Budget. Jonathan Blitzer of the New Yorker: "he Trump Administration's proposed budget ... was distinguished by its call for deep cuts to the social safety net. But the document wasn't all cuts: it included a significant boost in spending on immigration enforcement.... In an appendix buried on page five hundred and forty-four of the budget, the Administration also proposed changing a law so that the government could withhold federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities, places where local law enforcement resists coöperating with federal immigration authorities.... The Administration's ultimate goal is to force local authorities to hold people whom they've arrested but not charged with a crime for an extended period, so that ICE agents have time to cross-check whether an individual has legal status to be in the country. Such a hold is known as a detainer request, and local officials argue that these requests hurt their efforts to build trust with immigrant communities." -- CW

Beyond The Beltway

AP: "A group of Democratic state representatives on Monday accused a Republican of threatening to 'put a bullet in the head' of a fellow lawmaker on the Texas House floor, as a raucous protest against a new state immigration law unfolded in a public gallery and legislators confronted each other.... At an afternoon news conference, the Democrats said Republican Matt Rinaldi, from suburban Dallas, made the shooting threat towards Poncho Nevarez, a Democrat from the border town of Eagle Pass. Several Democrats said Rinaldi also bragged about 'calling [ICE]' on protesters who interrupted a floor session, leading to a near-scuffle between Rinaldi and Democrat Cesar Blanco. The Democrats said Rinaldi's comments about shooting came during a second altercation, moments later. In a statement posted on Facebook on Monday afternoon, Rinaldi said Nevarez had 'threatened my life on the House floor after I called [ICE] on several illegal immigrants who held signs in the gallery which said "I am illegal and here to stay"'" -- CW ...

... Gus Bova, et al., of the Texas Observer: "A Texas Republican threatened to 'put a bullet in one of his colleague's heads' during a scuffle on the House floor over the state's new anti-'sanctuary cities' law on Monday, the final day of the regular legislative session. Representative Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, made the comment to Representative Poncho Nevárez during a dispute that began when Rinaldi told two Hispanic lawmakers that he called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Senate Bill 4 protesters at the Capitol." -- CW

Scott Allen of the Washington Post: "Denver Post publisher Mac Tully and editor Lee Ann Colacioppo issued a statement on Monday that sportswriter Terry Frei is no longer an employee of the newspaper one day after he tweeted that he was 'very uncomfortable' with Japanese driver Takuma Sato winning the Indianapolis 500 during Memorial Day weekend.... Frei was named Colorado sportswriter of the year four times." -- CW

**Delirium. Jason Wilson of the Guardian: "As tensions continue in Portland following the racially charged murder of two men on Friday, the top Republican in the city said he is considering using militia groups as security for public events.... On Monday, Donald Trump issued a belated message of condolence. Asked about the president's tweet, Portland mayor Ted Wheeler told the Guardian: 'Our current political climate allows far too much room for those who spread bigotry. Violent words can lead to violent acts. All elected leaders in America, all people of good conscience, must work deliberately change our political dialogue.' Multnomah County GOP chair James Buchal, however, told the Guardian that recent street protests had prompted Portland Republicans to consider alternatives to 'abandoning the public square'. '... if they need to have a security force protecting them, that's an appropriate thing too.' Asked if this meant Republicans making their own security arrangements rather than relying on city or state police, Buchal said: 'Yeah. And there are these people arising, like the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters.'" --safari: I literally had to reread the article twice to attempt to understand the GOPers' logic. Hire white supremacists to protect people from racism.... They've literally lost contact with reality. Astounding.

Way Beyond

Alissa Rubin & Aurelien Breeden of the New York Times: "France's newly elected president, Emmanuel Macron, came out of his first meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Monday with a message of stark challenge, promising French military reprisals for any use of chemical weapons by Russia's allies in Syria and saying he would closely monitor the curtailing of civil rights for gay people in Chechnya. Against the gilded backdrop of the Palace of Versailles, Mr. Macron and Mr. Putin pledged to work with each other to fight terrorism. But their body language was at times tense, and the sometimes confrontational tone of the meeting was made clear in Mr. Macron's comments afterward during a joint news conference, where he signaled his intent to play a forceful role on the global stage and not be cowed by other world leaders. With Mr. Putin standing beside him, he accused two news organizations with ties to Russia of acting as 'organs of influence' rather than as true outlets for journalism. And he publicly warned the Russian leader that the use of chemical weapons was a 'red line' for France." -- CW

Trump Unites German Political Parties. Adam Taylor of the Washington Post: "As they campaign against each other ahead of national elections in September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her chief political rival, Martin Schulz, find themselves united in opposition to President Trump. Speaking at a beer hall rally in Munich on Sunday, Merkel suggested that the era when Europe could rely on the United States may be coming to an end and that the continent 'really must take our fate into our own hands.'... Rather than criticize his rival or her Christian Democratic Union-led government for the strained relationship with Trump, Schulz has passionately offered support. In video published by the Deutsche Welle news agency on Monday, a visibly angry Schulz can be seen railing against Trump, who he said 'believed he could inflict humiliation in Brussels.'" -- CW

News Ledes

Washington Post: "Gen. Manuel Noriega, the former Panamanian dictator, has died at the age of 83. The onetime American ally was toppled from power in a 1989 U.S. invasion and spent more than two decades imprisoned on drug dealing and conspiracy convictions." This is a breaking news story @ 1:50 am ET, & will be updated. -- CW ...

     ... Update: The New York Times obituary for Noriega is here.

TMZ: Golfer Tiger Woods issued a statement regarding his DUI arrest early Monday morning in which he claimed, "I want the public to know that alcohol was not involved. What happened was an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications." However, TMZ sez, "We're told the officer smelled alcohol on Woods' breath and at that point Woods became 'arrogant.' We're told the officer asked him to blow into a breathalyzer but he refused. In Florida that means automatic arrest and license suspension." See also yesterday's News Ledes. -- CW

Sunday
May282017

The Commentariat -- May 29, 2017

Santa Fe, New Mexico, National Cemetery. My father, a World War II veteran, and my mother are buried here. They were both Anglos, but it appears to me that at least half of the veterans' graves are marked with Hispanic names. (Somebody should tell President Bone Spurs J. Racist. Not that the patriotic sacrifices of Latino men and women would mean squat to him.) -- Constant Weader

Afternoon Update:

Eli Watkins of CNN: "... President Donald Trump condemned the racially charged Portland, Oregon, train stabbings on Monday, tweeting that they were 'unacceptable.' 'The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them,' read the tweet from the official @POTUS account. Trump had not previously commented on the matter." ...

     ... CW: No, Donald, failing to give up your seat on a crowded train to a heavily-pregnant woman is "unacceptable." Stabbing three people, two of them to death, for defending teenaged passengers against hate speech is far beyond horrific.

** Digby in Salon: "If the president's trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel was farcical, his European stop left the world order shaken." -- CW ...

     ... CW: One thing you learn from reading about the Idiots Abroad is that they don't think they need to be briefed because they already know what's important: here was Trump "explaining" to the Belgian PM that the EU sucked because it took so long to get permits for his European golf resorts. Here was Gary Cohn, head of Trump's National Economic Council (who would be expected to know broadly about, um, economicky things), saying again & again that the U.S. negotiates trade deals with individual E.U. countries (which was certainly true in 1957) but hasn't been so for decades. This explains why these idiots (thanks, Gen. McMaster!) think it's fine for Jared the Boy Wonder to establish secret communications with Russian spies. ...

... Scott Bixby of the Daily Beast: "Trump's insistence upon returning stateside that the 'trip was a great success for America'..., came as a surprise to European allies.... Citing Trump's silence on threats of Russian aggression in the region, his disinterest in committing to deterrence efforts, and his six-against-one stance athwart the enactment of the Paris Agreement, Western leaders left the NATO and G7 talks resigned to the assumption that the era of America intervening on its allies' behalf is over. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, recovering from the geopolitical whiplash of meeting with both Barack Obama and Trump in the span of three days, told a Bavarian crowd on Sunday that Europe's ability to rely on outside protection was 'over, to a certain extent....' [President Emmanuel Macron of France] dismissed Trump's antics as the 'diplomacy of public invective'.... 'When it comes to diplomacy, President Trump is a drunk tourist,' a State Department official told the Daily Beast.... But far more concerning, the official said, was Trump's 'arrogance' in threatening to single-handedly thwart the Paris Agreement, which obliges member states to slash carbon emissions to combat global climate change. Trump's reality-show declaration that he'll make a final decision on his commitment to the accord 'next week!' is, in the official's terms, 'an abdication of American leadership.'" ...

     ... CW: Back in the Kremlin, Buffalo Vlad is pleased with how effectively he has pulled the strings of President Howdy Doody.

Eli Watkins: "Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday that former FBI Director James Comey would have been 'incredibly incompetent' if he took actions based on email he knew to be fake. Graham said in an interview on CNN's 'State of the Union' that Comey told the Senate and House select committees on intelligence about such an email, but never indicated it was fake." -- CW

*****

Bye-Bye, Jared? Mallory Shelbourne of the Hill: "Administration officials close to President Trump are reportedly pushing White House adviser Jared Kushner to take a leave of absence amid recent reports that he is under FBI scrutiny." -- CW ...

... Glenn Thrush, et al., of the New York Times: "Over the past week, Mr. Kushner, who at age 36 occupies an ill-defined role somewhere between princeling and President Trump's shadow chief of staff, has seen his foothold on that invaluable real estate shrink amid revelations he is under scrutiny in a federal investigation into whether there was collusion with Russian officials during the presidential campaign.... In a statement Sunday night, Mr. Trump said..., 'Jared is doing a great job for the country.... I have total confidence in him. He is respected by virtually everyone and is working on programs that will save our country billions of dollars. In addition to that, and perhaps more importantly, he is a very good person.' But in recent weeks, the Trump-Kushner relationship, the most stable partnership in an often unstable West Wing, is showing unmistakable signs of strain." Read on. The funny part is Trump's being all upset about Kushner family "profiteering" off Trump's name. Hey, only Trump and maybe Ivanka get to do that. -- CW ...

... Jared Kushner, Double Agent, Ctd. Abby Phillip of the Washington Post: "The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), said Sunday that White House senior adviser Jared Kushner's security clearance should be reviewed in light of revelations about his meetings with Russian officials before President Trump took office.... 'If these allegations are true and he had discussions with the Russians about establishing a back channel and didn't reveal that, that would be a real problem in terms of whether he should maintain that kind of security clearance.'" -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

...Walter Shapiro in the Guardian: "[I]n all his fantasies about conquering Washington at Donald Trump's side, [Jared] Kushner undoubtedly never imagined being ensnared in an FBI investigation...Even under the benign theory that Kushner thought that a secret back channel was like a small boy's tin-can telephone, his life in the coming months and maybe years will be a study in misery.... Whether it is an appearance under oath on Capitol Hill or the inevitable FBI interview, every sentence Kushner utters will bring with it possible legal jeopardy...He may put on a brave front in public and encourage the current rumors that he and Ivanka are tiring of Washington, but for Kushner the high adventure of a senior White House post ended abruptly during last week's European grand tour." --safari...

...About Jared's "I Forgot" Defense. Darren Samuelsohn of Politico: "Now that Trump's current and former aides and allies officially know a probe exists, they're responsible for preserving all available information that might be relevant.... Hanging over them all: Any failure to keep track of emails, messages and other records could expose them to criminal charges down the line.... Another wrinkle that could cause headaches for Trump staffers: the lack of available materials from the Trump campaign.... Trump's campaign, said a former senior aide, didn't do much in the way of establishing a backup plan to preserve those digital records. 'You'd be giving us too much credit,' said the former staffer. 'The idea of document retention did not come up. The idea of some formal structure did not come up.'... In March, The Associated Press reported that White House counsel Don McGahn instructed White House staff in late February to save all materials that could potentially be relevant for investigations into Russia's interference in the 2016 election. The AP report noted that the memo also applied to materials belonging to White House staffers who worked on the campaign.... Under U.S. criminal law, documents must be preserved once an individual is aware they may become relevant to an investigation, even if there's no formal notice one has begun." -- CW

... Cristiano Lima of Politico: "Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Sunday that he and the intelligence community were 'very concerned' about reports that White House adviser Jared Kushner discussed establishing secretive back channels with the Kremlin. 'I will tell you that my dashboard warning light was clearly on, and I think that was the case with all of us in the intelligence community, very concerned about the nature of these approaches to the Russians,' the former intelligence chief told Chuck Todd on NBC's 'Meet the Press.' While Clapper declined to confirm or corroborate reports that Kushner ... discussed creating communications channels with Russia that would have evaded U.S. monitoring, he said the reports are troubling given Russia's history of seeking to undermine American democracy." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Abby Phillip & Max Ehrenfreund of the Washington Post: "... foreign policy experts and former officials told The Washington Post such a request of the Russians would be inappropriate unless carefully coordinated with the Obama administration, which was in office at the time. They said any secret communications could have left Kushner vulnerable to manipulation by Russian officials.... The meeting with the Russian ambassador occurred when Kushner was not yet a government employee, and the effort's secrecy gave the appearance that he and other senior Trump aides were not sharing their moves with the Obama administration." -- CW ...

... Abby Phillip: "Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, the lone administration official to speak out publicly about reports that Jared Kushner sought a back channel to communicate with the Russian government, defended the move, saying it was a 'good thing' for the U.S. government." CW: Kelly is proving to be a reliable asshole. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Cristiano Lima: "Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly on Sunday denounced the leaking of classified foreign intelligence as 'darn close to treason.' British officials briefly suspended intelligence sharing with the U.S. on Thursday after information relating to their investigation into the Manchester terrorist attack last week was leaked to the press. On Friday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he took 'full responsibility' for the leaks, which the British attributed to the United States." CW: That's funny, because Kelly thinks setting up secret communications with Russian spies, the better to subvert U.S. policy, is a "good thing." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... ** Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. And the Judith Miller Award Goes to.... Doug of Balloon Juice: "The New York Times' crush on Jared Kushner has taken a strange turn. On Friday night, after the Washington Post broke the story of Kushner's request for a back channel with Moscow, the Times ran a piece assuring everyone that the back channel was 'to discuss strategy in Syria and other policy issues, according to three people with knowledge of the discussion.' Although it wasn't obvious, the subtext of the whole article was 'calm down everyone, it was for legitimate purposes.' It turns out the same people who fed this load of shit to the Times also tried to feed it to the Post but the Post wouldn't run it unless the three people agreed to be described as Kushner surrogates." -- CW

Avi Selk of the Washington Post: "As the FBI continues an investigation of Trump's top associates and as he reportedly considers a White House staff shake-up, the president's attorneys have urged him to lay off his habit of aggressive and impulsive tweeting -- lest it make matters even worse for him. So what did Trump do upon returning to his embattled White House? He went on a Twitter rant, of course." Read the whole article. -- CW ...

... Rebecca Savransky of the Hill: "President Trump on Sunday said he believes many of the recent leaks coming out of his White House are made up by the 'fake news' media. In a series of tweets, the president focused on news reports that include the words 'sources say.'" CW: Wait a minute. Trump used to claim the leaks came from horrible Obama administration holdovers. Now it's just reportorial fiction-writing? So it's not all Obama's fault? (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... MEANWHILE. Matthew Nussbaum, et al., of Politico: "... Donald Trump has been aggressively working the phones since returning this weekend from his foreign trip, talking to friends and outside lawyers as he obsesses over the deepening investigations into his aides and Russia. Two White House officials said Trump and some aides including Steve Bannon are becoming increasingly convinced that they are victims of a conspiracy against Trump's presidency, as evidenced by the number of leaks flowing out of government -- that the crusade by the so-called 'deep state' is a legitimate threat, not just fodder for right wing defenders. Still, Trump and his aides are starting to take the probes more seriously, seeking to establish a communications team dedicated to dealing with questions around the probe and beefing up his legal representation. And they've become more rattled by the idea that they don't know where the scandals are headed.... On his 'big foreign trip,' as he called it, Trump repeatedly talked about Russia and the ongoing investigation, according to an ally close to the White House. 'The more people talk to him about it, the more he obsesses about it,' said one outside adviser who is close to the president." -- CW ...

...Trumpist Twitter Bots Awaken. Travis Gettys of RawStory: "A two-year-old report on 'Obama's secret outreach to Russia' hit the top spot on the conservative Drudge Report after hundreds of bot accounts flooded Twitter with links to the article.... The original Bloomberg report largely disappeared from Twitter after interest died down a few weeks after its publication, but it began recirculating over the weekend. Two posts appeared to have been shared directly from the Bloomberg site early Saturday morning and Sunday evening, but then a deluge of posts using the same phrasing and tags burst forth starting at 12:48 a.m. and continuing every two or three minutes for the next 11 hours. Many of those accounts, at least in the early hours of the social media push, display the distinctive traits of bots -- with highly unbalanced posting-to-followers ratios, inscrutable account names, few public interactions and almost no original content phrasing." --safari...

     ...safari: Could this be the brainchild of the powerful White House "war room"? Bannonopts for the ol' Soviet Sidestep, providing the loyalists with their obscurantism fodder.

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: Most experts on the Constitution "say the president is immune from prosecution so long as he is in office.... [But] the text of the Constitution did not directly answer the question." -- CW

Alison Smale & Steven Erlanger of the New York Times: "German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Europe's most influential leader, has apparently concluded that the United States of President Trump is not the reliable partner her country and continent have automatically depended on in the past. Clearly disappointed with European leaders' inability to persuade Mr. Trump to publicly endorse NATO's doctrine of collective defense -- or to agree to common positions on Russia, climate change or global trade -- Mrs. Merkel said on Sunday that traditional alliances were no longer as reliable as they once were, and that Europe should pay more attention to its own interests 'and really take our fate into our own hands.'" -- CW: Merkel is right. And Trump has damaged -- perhaps permanently -- the U.S.'s relationship with its NATO partners. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... The Damage Trump Has Done. Henry Farrell in the Washington Post: "... Merkel is suggesting that the Americans aren't really in, and, by extension, Germany and Europe are likely to take on a much more substantial and independent role than they have in the past 70 years.... Merkel's rhetoric is clearly intended to imply that as the transatlantic relationship grows weaker, the European Union will grow stronger.... [Allies] will not want their security to entirely rely on a country that can elect a president as erratic as Trump is and hence will start to hedge their bets. If the current U.S. administration has decided that it no longer needs to rely on allies as much as in the past, those allies are deciding that they cannot rely on the U.S. anymore and are starting to forge their own arrangements, which will diminish the U.S. ability to influence their actions and decisions." -- CW ...

... Rebecca Savransky: "House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Sunday blasted President Trump after a speech he gave last week scolding NATO allies for not paying their fair share for defense. 'President Trump's brash and condescending lecture to NATO leaders disrespected our closest allies and dishonored the common defense pact that has been a guarantor of global security for nearly seven decades,' Pelosi said in a statement." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Trump's Generals. Missy Ryan & Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post: "Current and retired military officers not only hold positions at the highest ranks of government but also fill senior staff jobs in the White House that have traditionally been the purview of civilians or experienced diplomats.... The shift in staffing reflects Trump's faith in the nation's warriors and his delight in shows of military force.... To some analysts, the heavy presence of military officers on the NSC, many of whom helped forge the Bush administration's do-or-die response to a spiraling insurgency in Iraq, is a much-needed corrective inside the White House.... Other experts worry that the officers' immersion in the wars of the past 15 years have made it hard for them to take a broad view of U.S. power and influence in the world that extends beyond armed conflict...." -- CW...

...Martin Pengelly of the Guardian: "Secretary of Defense James Mattis said on Sunday the US had 'accelerated' its tactics against the Islamic State, moving from a policy of 'attrition' to one of 'annihilation'.... The retired Marine Corps general also said 'civilian casualties are a fact of life in this sort of situation', adding: 'We're not the perfect guys, but we are the good guys. And so we're doing what we can.'" --safari...

     ...safari: Great news guys! Trump finally revealed his yuge secret plan for the War on Terror: Complete Annihilation! We'll kill every single ISIS member without creating a single new one, then nation-build Trump skyscrapers throughout the former "caliphate", providing jobs and fattening the Prez's pockets.

Thomas Ricks in Politico Magazine: "I no longer believe in the 'adults in the room' theory of containing President Trump and the similarly erratic and ignorant people around him. The prime reason I have come to believe I was wrong was the experience of watching Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump's second national security adviser, make a series of statements.... I fear that McMaster has confused protecting the president with protecting the country.... I don't see McMaster improving Trump. Rather, what I have seen so far is Trump degrading McMaster.... Effectively, we have no president.... Aside from a few of his pet subjects, such as immigration, Trump seems to have almost no effect on the workings of the federal government." Ricks thinks it better if Trump keeps flailing along, playing president but doing nothing. -- CW ...

     ... CW: The trouble is, Trump & His Motley Crew are doing something, & every something they do is terrible. Moreover, Congress is aiding & abetting the administration. So I don't entirely agree with Ricks, but his POV is well-worth reading. ...

... ** Paul Krugman: "... Trump reportedly disdains exercise of any kind except golf. He believes that raising a sweat depletes the finite reserves of precious bodily fluids, I mean energy, that a person is born with, and should therefore be avoided. Many years of acting on this belief may or may not explain the weird and embarrassing scene at the G-7 summit in Taormina, in which six of the advanced world's leaders strolled together a few hundred yards through the historic city, but Trump followed behind, driven in an electric golf cart. More consequential, however, is Trump's false belief that lifting environmental restrictions -- ending the supposed 'war on coal' -- will bring back the days when the coal-mining industry employed hundreds of thousands of blue-collar Americans.... As one analyst put it last week, coal 'doesn't really make that much sense anymore as a feedstock,' given the rapidly falling costs of cleaner energy sources like natural gas, wind and solar power. Who was that analyst? Gary Cohn, chairman of the National Economic Council -- that is, Trump's own chief economist.... Am I suggesting that the world's most powerful leader might put the whole planet's future at risk so that he can keep telling politically convenient lies, which will soon be exposed in any case? Yes." Read it all. Time for the Pulitzer committee to recognize Krugman. -- CW

Jill Lepore of the New Yorker: "Roger Ailes died recently, at the age of seventy-seven, during a week when the ground shook beneath a stumbling Donald Trump. The two men were in many things near: in age and appetites, in temper and coarseness. They were also in many things far apart: in intelligence and energy, in talent and purpose. Ailes was formidable, Trump brittle.... And yet at times it has seemed as if the two men were Humpty and Dumpty, tumbling off a wall that they'd built together, to divide one half of the country from the other.... Ailes ... will be remembered as a television producer who understood better than anyone how to divide a people. And Trump's Presidency, long after it ends, will stand as a monument to the error of a strategy of terror." -- CW

Trump Buys Mar-a-Lago, Commandeers Its Coat of Arms. Danny Hakim of the New York Times: "The British are known to take matters of heraldry seriously, and Mr. Trump's American coat of arms [-- which he slaps all over his properties --] belongs to another family. It was granted by British authorities in 1939 to Joseph Edward Davies, the third husband of Marjorie Merriweather Post, the socialite who built the Mar-a-Lago resort that is now Mr. Trump's cherished getaway. In the United States, the Trump Organization took Mr. Davies's coat of arms for its own, making one small adjustment -- replacing the word 'Integritas,' Latin for integrity, with 'Trump.'" In the British Isles, Trump's attempts to display Davies' coat of arms have run afoul of several entities that oversee coats of arms. In the U.S., Davies family members have wanted to sue Trump over his usurpation of their family crest but have decided against it because of the costs involved. CW: Every single thing about Trump is fake. Every. Single. Thing.

Nora Caplan-Bricker in Slate: "Late last month ... the Department of Homeland Security launched a new database in which anyone in the country, or indeed anyone in the world, can find the names of immigrants deemed by our government to be 'alien offenders.'... The database ... appears well-calibrated to help Trump and [Homeland Security Secretary John] Kelly achieve their real aims, which are to project an image of immigrants as gun-toting gangsters and to make the case for the president's pointless border wall.... In risking people's safety for some anti-immigrant P.R., the administration may be breaking the law.... U.S. immigration law prohibits anyone in government -- including the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security themselves -- from disclosing information about an immigrant who is applying for ... visas or green cards [granted to victims of crimes like trafficking --] to someone other than 'a sworn officer or employee of the Department ... for legitimate Department, bureau, or agency purposes.' [Kelly's data base, called VINE,] which makes crucial details available to anyone, anywhere, with an internet connection, appears to fail those criteria." -- CW

Beyond the Beltway

Therese Apel of the Jackson, Mississippi, Clarion-Ledger: "Homicide suspect Willie Corey Godbolt told The Clarion-Ledger he intended to commit 'suicide by cop' after a shooting rampage in Brookhaven and Bogue Chitto that left eight dead, including a Lincoln County deputy and two boys. 'I ain't fit to live, not after what I done,' a handcuffed Godbolt, 35, who had gotten into an argument with his estranged wife over their children, told The Clarion-Ledger. Authorities from multiple agencies took Godbolt into custody in Brookhaven Sunday morning. He has been charged with one count of capital murder and seven counts of first-degree murder." -- CW

Way Beyond

Anna Fifield of the Washington Post: "North Korea launched a new short-range ballistic missile, similar to a Scud, on Monday morning, and it flew about 280 miles to land inside Japan's exclusive economic zone. This launch is North Korea's third in three weeks and its 12th this year, underscoring Kim Jong Un's determination to advance his regime's technical capabilities and his continued defiance of the international community." -- CW

News Ledes

NPR: "Through nearly four decades, five presidential administrations and seemingly countless Super Bowls and World Series, NPR listeners could depend on at least one thing in the ever-unpredictable world of athletics: Frank Deford. A mainstay on Morning Edition, the Hall of Fame sportswriter was public radio's scholar of sports for some 37 years before hanging up his cleats earlier this year. Deford died Sunday at the age of 78 at his home in Key West, Fla., his wife confirmed to NPR. He leaves behind an astonishing 1,656 commentaries for NPR." -- CW

WPTV (West Palm Beach, Florida): "Golfer Tiger Woods was arrested on charges of driving under the influence early Monday morning in Jupiter.'" -- CW

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