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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

The New York Times embeds the February 23 late-nite's show responses to the latest political news.

Washington Post: "A newfound solar system just 39 light-years away contains seven warm, rocky planets, scientists say. The discovery, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, represents the first time astronomers have detected so many terrestrial planets orbiting a single star. Researchers say the system is an ideal laboratory for studying distant worlds and could be the best place in the galaxy to search for life beyond Earth.... The newly discovered solar system resembles a scaled-down version of our own. The star at its center, an ultra-cool dwarf called TRAPPIST-1, is less than a tenth the size of our sun and about a quarter as warm. Its planets circle tightly around it; the closest takes just a day and a half to complete an orbit and the most distant takes about 20 days.... TRAPPIST-1 is so cool that all seven of the bodies are bathed in just the right amount of warmth to hold liquid water. And three of them receive the same amount of heat as Venus, Earth and Mars, putting them in 'the habitable zone,' that Goldilocks region where it's thought life can thrive." -- CW 

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

Politico's Late Nite Jokes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday
Jan302017

The Commentariat -- January 30, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Jen Kirby of New York: "According to [New York] Governor Andrew Cuomo's office, at least six people were still being held at JFK Airport as of late Sunday night, of the approximately 50 people who were initially barred from entering the country when the order went into effect. Early reports suggest that one person still remained in custody as of Monday morning, and at least two people had been deported back to their home countries of Iran and Sudan. Still, given the confusion of the rollout there's still some doubt about the total number of detainees. A volunteer attorney told WCBS 2 that Customs and Border Patrol were not fully complying with judges' orders to turn over the names of those being kept. 'There's no transparency to the process,' New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman said on CBS This Morning, who, along with 16 other attorneys general, is planning to challenge the orders." -- CW

Impeachable Offense? David Post of the Washington Post. "The places where the Trump Organization has done business are exempted from the ban. Even Saudi Arabia, for goodness' sake! The one country we know for certain has allowed, if it did not actively encourage, emigrants who attacked the United States on 9/11. But Trump has business interests in Saudi Arabia, and a guy shouldn't have to give up his business interests just because he's going into 'public service,' now should he? This adds up to malfeasance of the highest order. Can we now stop the debate about whether Trump's business interests might influence his policymaking, and move on to the more important question, which is how do we protect ourselves from this despot and start the work of getting him removed from office? (Emphasis WaPo) Akhilleus: If Confederate "leaders" in congress have anything to say about it, and they do, the answer will always be "No". ...

... Richard Painter & Norman Eisen in a New York Times op-ed: "President Trump omitted from his ban a number of other predominantly Muslim nations where his company has done business. This adds further illegitimacy to one of the most arbitrary executive actions in our recent history, and raises significant constitutional questions.... The arbitrary and discriminatory nature of this order is bad enough; but if the president is also considering payoffs to the Trump organization, it's much worse.... It appears that immigrants from countries that can afford to do business with the Trump organization are free to come and go from the United States." -- CW

Dartagnan of Daily Kos explains Kellyanne Conway's attempt to politicize and deligitimize Donnelly's order: "A Fascist state cannot and will not accept its actions being fettered by the Courts.... The Courts, particularly the Federal Courts, are going to be our last line of defense against this regime, and in fact they are the last line of defense for the American Republic. Trump's people just demonstrated they are well aware of this." LT: First they came for the press, then they came for the courts.

Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times: "On Friday, a group of people whom the new president of the United States counts 'among the most dishonest human beings on earth' gathered in a church in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn to say goodbye to one of their own, Wayne Barrett, an investigative reporter. A rare lung disease took Mr. Barrett's life just one day before the inauguration of Donald J. Trump, who, as it happened, was one of the many powerful figures Mr. Barrett bedeviled the old-fashioned way, with obsessively focused reporting and, whenever possible, the kind of documented facts that made it hard for politicians to claim it’s sunny when it's raining." -- CW

Ian Austen & Craig Smith of the New York Times: "A man was in custody on Monday after a mass shooting in a mosque in Quebec City that killed six men and wounded eight others, Canadian officials said. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the episode a 'terrorist attack on Muslims.' The attack, on Sunday evening, shook Canada, where mass shootings are uncommon. The country has also become known as a beacon for refugees fleeing warfare and terrorism in Muslim-majority nations." -- CW

*****

"It's Working Out Very Nicely," Ctd.
"A Massive Success Story on Every Single Level."

Trump shows off executive order barring refugees as pence & Mattis cheer him on. Remember this photo. It's a picture of disaster.

Only 109 people out of 325,000 were detained and held for questioning. Big problems at airports were caused by Delta computer outage, protesters and the tears of Senator Schumer.... [Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly] said that all is going well with very few problems. MAKE AMERICA SAFE AGAIN! -- Donald Trump, in two tweets Monday morning ...

Trump Creates International Crisis in First Week of Presidency. Peter Baker of the New York Times: "Travelers were stranded around the world, protests escalated in the United States and anxiety rose within President Trump's party on Sunday as his order closing the nation to refugees and people from certain predominantly Muslim countries provoked a crisis just days into his administration. The White House pulled back on part of Mr. Trump's temporary ban on visitors from seven countries by saying that it would not apply to those with green cards granting them permanent residence in the United States. By the end of the day, the Department of Homeland Security formally issued an order declaring legal residents exempt from the order. But the recalibration did little to reassure critics at home or abroad who saw the president's order as a retreat from traditional American values. European leaders denounced the order, and some Republican lawmakers called on Mr. Trump to back down. As of Sunday evening, officials said no one was being held at American airports, although lawyers said they believed that dozens were still being detained." -- CW ...

... Trump Reality TV Introduces New Show, "Amateur Hour Starring Steve Bannon." Michael Shear & Ron Nixon of the New York Times: "The global confusion that has ... erupted [since Trump signed his Muslim-ban order] is the story of a White House that rushed to enact, with little regard for basic governing, a core campaign promise that Mr. Trump made to his most fervent supporters. In his first week in office, Mr. Trump signed other executive actions with little or no legal review, but his order barring refugees has had the most explosive implications.... Stephen K. Bannon, the chief White House strategist, oversaw the writing of the order, which was done by a small White House team, including Stephen Miller, Mr. Trump's policy chief.... Mr. Bannon, who believes in highly restrictive immigration policies and saw barring refugees as vital to shoring up Mr. Trump's political base, was determined to make it happen.... White House officials in the meantime insisted to reporters at a briefing that Mr. Trump's advisers had been in contact with officials at the State and Homeland Security Departments for 'many weeks.' One official added, 'Everyone who needed to know was informed.' But that apparently did not include members of the president's own cabinet [like John Kelly, Secretary of Homeland Security & Jim Mattis, Secretary of Defense]." See more links to commentary on "Steve's Amateur Hour" below, beginning with the Thrush/Haberman NYT story. -- CW ...

... Edward Helmore & Alan Yuhas of the Guardian: "Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents defied the orders of federal judges regarding Donald Trump's travel bans on Sunday, according to members of Congress and attorneys who rallied protests around the country in support of detained refugees and travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries. On Sunday afternoon, four Democratic members of the House of Representatives arrived at Dulles airport in Virginia on word that people had been detained and denied access to lawyers. 'We have a constitutional crisis today,' representative Don Beyer wrote on Twitter. 'Four members of Congress asked CBP officials to enforce a federal court order and were turned away.'... 'As far as I know no attorney has been allowed to see any arriving passenger subject to Trumps exec order at Dulles today,' [Damon] Silvers[, counsel for the AFL-CIO,] tweeted on Sunday evening.... 'Rogue customs and Border Patrol agents continue to try to get people on to planes,' Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, told reporters on Sunday morning at JFK airport...." -- CW ...

... Nick Baumann of the Huffington Post: "... for more than two centuries, the nation's courts have had the last word on what's legal and constitutional -- and what is not.... But there was little indication that the Trump administration has fully complied with the court orders -- or that Trump's inner circle even believed the administration had to do so. 'Saturday's ruling does not undercut the president's executive order,' a senior White House official told NBC News midday Sunday in reference to the Brooklyn judge's decision. 'All stopped visas will remain stopped. All halted admissions will remain halted. All restricted travel will remain prohibited.' CBP officials refused throughout the weekend to obey the Virginia judge's order to allow lawyers access to detainees at Dulles. 'It's not going to happen,' they told attorneys who hoped to represent the detained people.... 'I have received reports from attorneys in CA that agents are continuing to deny or delay entry to America to visa holders and others,' Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) tweeted shortly before 8 p.m. Sunday." -- CW ...

... They Answer Only to Trump. Betsy Woodruff of the Daily Beast on "An executive agency defying the ruling of a federal judge, and a U.S. senator [Cory Booker] trying -- unsuccessfully -- to make that agency comply." The agents reportedly would not even speak to Booker: "Instead, Booker wrote questions on a piece of paper which he handed to police officers, and those officers gave the paper -- along with a copy of [Judge] Brinkema's ruling -- to CBP officials. Those CBP officials then wrote out their answers to the senator's questions, according to the source." -- CW ...

... The Guardian is liveblogging developments." -- CW ...

... Brady Dennis & Jerry Markon of the Washington Post: "Even as administration officials tried to clarify the reach of Trump's action..., the exact limits of its scope and legal questions over its constitutionality remained unresolved. So did the question of whether the administration would comply with orders from federal judges to temporarily halt the travel ban.... Trump issued a statement late Sunday afternoon that offered little clarity, even as he defended his executive order.... 'To be clear, this is not a Muslim ban, as the media is falsely reporting,' Trump said in the statement. 'This is not about religion -- this is about terror and keeping our country safe. There are over 40 different countries worldwide that are majority Muslim that are not affected by this order.'" CW Translation: It's all the media's fault. ...

My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months. -- President Trump, statement on executive order, January 29

So what's the difference with Trump's action? First, Obama responded to an actual threat -- the discovery that two Iraqi refugees had been implicated in bomb-making in Iraq that had targeted U.S. troops.... Second, Obama did not announce there was a ban on visa applications.... Third, Obama's policy did not prevent all citizens of that country, including green-card holders, from traveling to the United States. Trump's policy is much more sweeping.... -- Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post

... Greg Miller & Missy Ryan of the Washington Post: "Though cast as measures meant to make the country safe, the Trump administration's moves during its first week in office are more likely to weaken the counterterrorism defenses the United States has erected over the past 16 years, several current and former U.S. officials said. Through inflammatory rhetoric and hastily drawn executive orders, the administration has alienated allies, including Iraq, provided propaganda fodder to terrorist networks that frequently portray U.S. involvement in the Middle East as a religious crusade, and endangered critical cooperation from often-hidden U.S. partners -- whether the leader of a mosque in an American suburb or the head of a Middle East intelligence service.... 'Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism,' Republican Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and John McCain (Ariz.) said Sunday in a statement.... In tweets Sunday, Trump said, 'The joint statement of former presidential candidates John McCain & Lindsey Graham is wrong -- they are sadly weak on immigration. The senators should focus their energies on ISIS, illegal immigration and border security instead of always looking to start World War III.'" -- CW ..

... Mallory Shelbourne of the Hill: "Democratic lawmakers will host a rally on Monday evening at the Supreme Court to protest ... Donald Trump's recent executive order imposing a temporary ban on nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the United States.... 'We are witnessing an historic injustice unfold, and we must keep the pressure on, [House Minority Leader Nancy] Pelosi said in [a] letter [to House Democrats]. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday said Democrats are considering legislation to overturn Trump's order, but will need Republicans to be on board." -- CW ...

I named my daughter -- her middle name is Emma -- named for Emma Lazarus. -- Sen. Chuck Schumer

... Mallory Shelbourne: "'These orders go against what America has always been about. The orders make us less humanitarian, less safe, less American,' [Sen. Chuck] Schumer said. 'We're demanding the president reverse these executive orders that go against what we are, everything we have always stood for,' he said. Choking back tears, Schumer, called the order 'mean-spirited and un-American.' 'We're here today to deliver a vociferous 'no' to the president and the misguided executive orders that are shocking to a majority of Americans and are inflicting wounds on this country,' he said." See also Trump's Monday morning complaint, near the top of this page, on how Schumer's tears are to blame for the "big problems at airports." -- CW ...

... Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Democrats vowed Sunday to introduce legislation to reverse President Trump's orders implementing a travel ban from certain countries, with at least one senator saying the moves should lead to slower consideration of the president's top Cabinet nominees. 'These orders go against what America has always been about. The orders make us less humanitarian, less safe, less American,' Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said during his regularly scheduled news Sunday morning conference in New York as he announced that his colleagues were working on new legislation." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Tom Cotton Likes It! Jordain Carney of the Hill posts a list of Republican members of Congress who oppose, have "concerns" and who support Trump's order, with their statements. -- CW ...

... Joby Warrick of the Washington Post: "Jihadist groups on Sunday celebrated the Trump administration's ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, saying the new policy validates their claim that the United States is at war with Islam. Comments posted to pro-Islamic State social media accounts predicted that President Trump's executive order would persuade American Muslims to side with the extremists. One posting hailed the U.S. president as 'the best caller to Islam,' while others predicted that Trump would soon launch a new war in the Middle East." -- CW ...

It really is a massive success story in terms of implementation on every single level. -- Anonymous Trump Official ...

... Extreme Weirdness: Anonymous Officials Give Press Conference. Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: "On Sunday evening, the White House organized a briefing for reporters with two senior administration officials who agreed to explain the president's executive order -- but only on the condition of anonymity.... Their overarching message: Everything is going exactly according to plan, nothing has changed since the order was signed, and the news media need to calm down their 'false, misleading, inaccurate, hyperventilating' coverage of the 'fractional, marginal, minuscule percentage' of international travelers who have been simply 'set aside for further questioning' for a couple hours on their way into the greatest country in the world." -- CW ...

... Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "With what by legal standards was lightning speed, the judicial branch responded to President Trump's immigration order on Saturday night, telling the president that he had moved too fast in barring people from seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering the United States. But the court orders, from judges in at least four cities, were just the initial steps in litigation that may last for years. The orders were provisional, aimed at maintaining the status quo. They were limited in scope, applying only to people on their way to the United States or already here. They did not rule on the larger question of whether Mr. Trump's executive order was lawful. They were a signal that the federal judiciary stands ready to assess the limits of presidential power over immigration policy. But they gave only the most preliminary hints about whether the courts will strike down part or all of Mr. Trump's executive order." -- CW ...

... Greg Sargent: "In coming days, I'm told, the American Civil Liberties Union is likely to file a lawsuit that is designed to overturn the entire executive order.... The new lawsuit will likely rely, among other things, on Trump's own words to show that the measure is intended to achieve a similar discriminatory effect, albeit in a manner designed to pass legal muster.... A lawsuit might be able to get the underlying mechanism declared unconstitutional, blocking it from continuing or expanding. This is also why the extraordinary show of national and global opposition we've seen is so critical. Intense media scrutiny has revealed the utter incompetence and recklessness of the measure's drafting -- and the profound folly of the underlying idea itself.... All this has forced the Trump White House to back down in some respects." -- CW

... Brian Stelter of CNN: "The American Civil Liberties Union said it received $24.1 million in online donations over the weekend. In a normal year, the activist group makes about $4 million a year in online donations. In one weekend, it raised six times as much money.... The donations came from 356,306 people, many of whom had never supported the group before." -- CW ...

... Ted Hesson of Politico: "States and cities will find it easier to turn away even those refugees the Trump administration admits to the U.S. under the executive order issued Friday. The order evolved from a proposal that candidate Donald Trump described as a 'total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States' -- though President Trump says of the final version, 'This is not a Muslim ban.'... A less-discussed provision in the order goes further, calling for the secretary of Homeland Security to 'devise a proposal' to give state and local governments 'greater involvement in the process of determining the placement or resettlement of refugees in their jurisdictions.'... In late 2015, 31 Republican governors said they would not allow Syrian refugees into their states, and then-Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana moved to block the expenditure of federal funds to resettle Syrian refugees there. But a federal district court barred Pence from doing so, and in October the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision, saying Pence's actions constituted discrimination on the basis of national origin. Three months later, Trump is exploring alternative ways to give states the leverage that Pence, now vice president, was previously denied." -- CW ...

... Rebecca Savransky of the Hill: "Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) said in an interview on Saturday that President Trump had previously asked him about legally implementing a 'Muslim ban.' But Giuliani then disputed the notion that the president's sweeping executive order barring refugees and people from seven predominantly Muslim nations amounts to a ban on Muslims." CW: So the executive order isn't the totally legal Muslim ban; that's coming later. Good to know. ...

Today, this airport stands open to the commerce of all the peace-loving peoples of the world.... There's a wide-open welcome for all men and women of good will to come and go freely, to wipe out unfounded suspicions, and to nurture and develop the growth of good will and of greater international cooperation. . . . It actually is a compulsion, upon all of us, to see more of the other citizens of the world. I hope it will lead them, and us, to learn to know each other better. -- New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey (R), twice the GOP presidential nominee, at the dedication of Idlewild Airport, now JFK International Airport, July 31, 1948

... Trump Picks Priebus as Humble Pie Eater. Michael Shear of the New York Times: "A top White House official appeared to reverse a key part of President Trump's immigration order on Sunday, saying that people from the affected countries who hold green cards will not be prevented from returning to the United States. But the official, Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, also said that border agents had 'discretionary authority' to detain and question suspicious travelers from certain countries. That statement seemed to add to the uncertainty over how the executive order will be interpreted and enforced in the days ahead.... He defended Mr. Trump's order, saying it had been carried out smoothly and was protecting Americans from terrorist threats. On Saturday, a day after the order was issued, airports were marked by scenes of confusion and protest as officials tried to interpret the order, including how to handle green card holders. Around the globe on Saturday, legal residents of the United States who hold valid green cards and approved visas were blocked from boarding planes overseas or detained for hours in American airports." CW: New Rule: Whatever. P.S. It's all going great. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "Republicans on Sunday showed signs of growing restiveness over President Trump's refugee policy, in its substance and the confusion over the way it was carried out, including one prominent senator [-- John McCain --] who said it served as propaganda for the Islamic State.... Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, likewise conceded problems with the order's rollout and called for a re-evaluation of the White House’s unilateral effort.... A handful of Republicans, including Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Senator Susan Collins of Maine, had offered similarly cautious criticism of the measure on Saturday." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Blake Hounshell of Politico: "Now, what was meant as a bold assertion of presidential prerogative and a down payment on his promise to 'eradicate radical Islamic terrorism from the face of the Earth' has dealt President Trump his first political defeat, and energized his opponents after a week of demoralizing developments." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Pictures from the Revolution. Chas Danner of New York: "Protests against President Trump's anti-immigrant executive actions -- particularly the one on Friday that banned refugees and citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S. -- expanded and spread on Sunday. These followed numerous large protests at American airports on Saturday...." Danner posts photos of demonstrations around the country. -- CW ...

... Jonathan Chait: "... the events of the last two weeks, both of which have seen massive nationwide protests against the new presidency, suggest ... it is Trump who does not understand this country. And it is Obama's vision of the country that will ultimately win out.... Trump ... represents the death rattle of a declining vision of American retrenchment, and Obama represents the future." -- CW ...

... Christian Leaders Protest Trump's Order. Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times: "The executive order [Donald Trump] signed on Friday gives preference to refugees who belong to a religious minority in their country, and have been persecuted for their religion. The president detailed his intentions during an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network on Friday, saying his administration is giving priority to Christians because they had suffered 'more so' than others, 'so we are going to help them.' But if Mr. Trump had hoped for Christian leaders to break out in cheers, that is, for the most part, not what he has heard so far. A broad array of clergy members has strongly denounced Mr. Trump's order as discriminatory, misguided and inhumane. Outrage has also come from some of the evangelical, Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant leaders who represent the churches most active in trying to aid persecuted Christians.... Christian leaders who defended Mr. Trump's executive order were rare this weekend." -- CW ...

... How Theodore Geisel, a/k/a Dr. Seuss, responded to the first "America First" movement. People who see the parallels to Trump's "America First" hoo-hah are sharing Dr. Seuss's criticisms on social media today. -- CW ...

... Washington Post Editors: "THE EXECUTIVE ORDER that President Trump signed on Friday calling a temporary halt to travel to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim nations -- and indefinitely blocking refugees from the world's largest humanitarian crisis, in Syria -- is an affront to values upon which the nation was founded and that have made it a beacon of hope around the world. George Washington declared in 1783 that the 'bosom of America is open' not only to the 'opulent and respectable stranger' but also 'the oppressed and persecuted.' Now Mr. Trump has slammed the door on the oppressed and persecuted in a fit of irrational xenophobia." -- CW (Also linked yesterday.)

Politico: "... Donald Trump said Monday morning that he's chosen a nominee to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat and will announce it on Tuesday. 'I have made my decision on who I will nominate for The United States Supreme Court. It will be announced live on Tuesday at 8:00 P.M. (W.H.),' he tweeted." CW: Since Trump had previously announced he would make public his decision on Thursday, it's a fair assumption that this is intended to create a national uproar to distract attention from the international uproar over his not-a-Muslim-ban.


William Booth
of the Washington Post: "On Saturday evening, Israel's prime minister tweeted his praise of President Trump's decision to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. 'President Trump is right,' Benjamin Netanyahu wrote. 'I built a wall along Israel's southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea.'... A few hours later, Trump retweeted Netanyahu's praise.... Mexico's Foreign Ministry 'expressed to the government of Israel, via its ambassador in Mexico, its profound astonishment, rejection and disappointment over Prime Minister Netanyahu's message on Twitter about the construction of a border wall.'... The Israeli lawmaker -- and aspirant to the premiership -- Yair Lapid called Netanyahu's wall tweet a 'grave mistake.' He said the premier stuck his 'crude foot' into a divisive issue that is tearing America apart." -- CW ...

... Paul Krugman on the Mexican standoff: "The White House press secretary created a diplomatic crisis while trying to protect the president from ridicule over his foolish boasting. In the process he demonstrated that nobody in authority understands basic economics. Then he tried to walk the whole thing back. All of this should be placed in the larger context of America's quickly collapsing credibility.... Everyone, from small nations who thought they were protected against Russian aggression, to Mexican entrepreneurs who thought they had guaranteed access to our markets, to Iraqi interpreters who thought their service with the U.S. meant an assurance of sanctuary, now has to wonder whether they'll be treated like stiffed contractors at a Trump hotel. That's a very big loss. And it's probably irreversible." -- CW

The Trumpster Breaks Another Record! Jennifer Calfas of the Hill: "A majority of Americans disapprove of President Trump's work during his first week in the White House -- breaking a record of how long it generally takes the majority of Americans to disapprove of a president. On Saturday, 51 percent of Americans disapproved of Trump, a Gallup poll found. The poll tracks daily approval ratings for Trump by surveying 1,500 Americans. It took just eight days to reach these ratings. It took at least several hundred days for the majority of Americans to disapprove of past presidents." -- CW ...

... "A Dangerously Isolated President." Benjamin Wallace-Wells of the New Yorker: The most unpopular president ever has isolated himself from the public & from the government he runs, even from some of the advisors of his own choosing. His "inner circle" may be two people: Steve Bannon & Jared Kushner, neither of whom knows squat. "At times, the only figure in the room may be Trump himself, with the blue glow of his television screen." -- CW ...

** Ezra Klein: "... the one moderating force we thought might restrain Trump -- public opinion -- has been tossed aside. And so we are getting the worst of Donald Trump. We are getting his anger, his resentment, his grievances, his obsessions, and his fears, channeled by an increasingly embittered circle of loyalists and hacks. Abandoned by the center and hated by the left, he is finding his cheers far on the right. Faced with a bureaucracy that fears him and institutions that frustrate him, he is retreating to the people and places that tell him what he wants to hear, because that is all he will believe." CW: This is a long piece in which Klein well-documents his thesis & provides pretty good interpretations of what we've been seeing in Trump & Co. Tyler Cowen's insight (Cowen may be a lousy economist but he's right about Trump-Spicer), which Klein embeds, was particularly useful. Thanks to Lisa for the link.

Glenn Thrush & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "The whirlwind first week of Donald J. Trump's presidency had all the bravura hallmarks of a Stephen K. Bannon production. It started with the doom-hued inauguration homily to 'American carnage' in United States cities co-written by Mr. Bannon, followed a few days later by his 'shut up' message to the news media. The week culminated with a blizzard of executive orders, mostly hatched by Mr. Bannon's team and the White House policy adviser, Stephen Miller, aimed at disorienting the 'enemy,' fulfilling campaign promises and distracting attention from Mr. Trump's less than flawless debut. But the defining moment for Mr. Bannon came Saturday night in the form of an executive order giving the rumpled right-wing agitator a full seat on the 'principals committee' of the National Security Council -- while downgrading the roles of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence, who will now attend only when the council is considering issues in their direct areas of responsibilities. It is a startling elevation of a political adviser.... Former White House officials in both parties were shocked by the move." -- CW ...

... David Rothkopf of Foreign Policy, in a Washington Post op-ed: "A president who has no national security experience and can use all the advice he can get has decided to limit the input he receives from two of the most important advisers any president could have [-- the chairman of the Joint Chiefs & the director of national intelligence].... Even as he pushed away professional security advice, Trump decided to make his top political advisor, Stephen K. Bannon, a permanent member of the [National Security Council].... I do not know of another situation in which a political adviser has been a formal permanent member of the council. Further, Bannon is the precisely wrong person for this wrong role.... He has no business being in a position of responsibility in any government.... Organizing the NSC this way does not reflect well on national security advisor Michael Flynn...." -- CW

E.J. Dionne: "In [Steve Bannon's] ideal world, the media would remain silent, which is pretty much its posture under autocratic regimes.... And given the administration’s de facto Muslim ban, both ill-considered and cruel, silence is not an option for any Americans -- whether inside or outside the media -- who want to stand up for our best traditions.... Reporters may indeed seem 'oppositional' when they confront an administration that, day after day, shows so little regard for fact or truth. But this is not the media's problem. It's Trump's.... Calmly pointing out the obvious may be the most damaging thing my reporting colleagues do to the Trump administration. Doing so won't make them partisans or oppositionists, no matter what Bannon & Co. say. They'll be patriots, and they'll be doing their jobs." -- CW

Governed by Morons. Madison Kircher of New York: "[Sunday] night, Sean Spicer retweeted a video from satirical news publication the Onion. 'You nailed it,' Spicer tweeted, along with the video which listed 'Five Things to Know About Sean Spicer.' Except it seems like maybe Spicer -- who remember, as White House press secretary, is partially in the business of watching videos and reading tweets -- didn't watch the video or read the Onion's tweet as carefully as he could have ... since they declare Spicer's 'role in theTrump administration will be to provide the American public with robust and clearly articulated misinformation.'" --safari (Also linked yesterday.)

Extreme Non-Vetting. Caitlin Emma of Politico: "Several of Donald Trump's hires at the Education Department have used Twitter and Facebook to share their unfiltered opinions about African-Americans, transgender people and 'fat chicks.'... The social media posts and histories of these workers have prompted questions about how thoroughly the Trump administration is vetting political appointees as it races to stand up a new government. To date, it has filled only a tiny percentage of the jobs that require Senate confirmation and named even fewer of the nearly 4,000 political appointees spread throughout the federal government...." -- CW

Way Beyond the Beltway

Derek Hawkins, et al., of the Washington Post: "Gunmen attacked a suburban Quebec City mosque as worshipers were finishing their prayers Sunday night, killing six and wounding at least eight.... Government officials wasted no time calling it an act of terrorism. A spokeswoman for the Sûreté du Québec, the Quebec provincial police, said that two suspects had been arrested who remained unidentified. Authorities provided no possible motive as they took the first steps of their investigation. Police do not believe at this time that others were directly involved in the attack." -- CW

Saturday
Jan282017

The Commentariat -- January 29, 2017

Trump Picks Priebus as Humble Pie Eater. Michael Shear of the New York Times: "A top White House official appeared to reverse a key part of President Trump's immigration order on Sunday, saying that people from the affected countries who hold green cards will not be prevented from returning to the United States. But the official, Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, also said that border agents had 'discretionary authority' to detain and question suspicious travelers from certain countries. That statement seemed to add to the uncertainty over how the executive order will be interpreted and enforced in the days ahead.... He defended Mr. Trump's order, saying it had been carried out smoothly and was protecting Americans from terrorist threats. On Saturday, a day after the order was issued, airports were marked by scenes of confusion and protest as officials tried to interpret the order, including how to handle green card holders. Around the globe on Saturday, legal residents of the United States who hold valid green cards and approved visas were blocked from boarding planes overseas or detained for hours in American airports." CW: Whatever. P.S. It's all going great. ...

... Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "Republicans on Sunday showed signs of growing restiveness over President Trump's refugee policy, in its substance and the confusion over the way it was carried out, including one prominent senator [-- John McCain --] who said it served as propaganda for the Islamic State.... Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, likewise conceded problems with the order's rollout and called for a re-evaluation of the White House's unilateral effort.... A handful of Republicans, including Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Senator Susan Collins of Maine, had offered similarly cautious criticism of the measure on Saturday." -- CW ...

... Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Democrats vowed Sunday to introduce legislation to reverse President Trump's orders implementing a travel ban from certain countries, with at least one senator saying the moves should lead to slower consideration of the president's top Cabinet nominees. 'These orders go against what America has always been about. The orders make us less humanitarian, less safe, less American,' Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said during his regularly scheduled news Sunday morning conference in New York as he announced that his colleagues were working on new legislation." -- CW ...

... Blake Hounshell of Politico: "Now, what was meant as a bold assertion of presidential prerogative and a down payment on his promise to 'eradicate radical Islamic terrorism from the face of the Earth' has dealt President Trump his first political defeat, and energized his opponents after a week of demoralizing developments." -- CW ...

... Washington Post Editors: "THE EXECUTIVE ORDER that President Trump signed on Friday calling a temporary halt to travel to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim nations -- and indefinitely blocking refugees from the world's largest humanitarian crisis, in Syria -- is an affront to values upon which the nation was founded and that have made it a beacon of hope around the world. George Washington declared in 1783 that the 'bosom of America is open' not only to the 'opulent and respectable stranger' but also 'the oppressed and persecuted.' Now Mr. Trump has slammed the door on the oppressed and persecuted in a fit of irrational xenophobia." -- CW

Governed by Morons. Madison Kircher of New York: "Last night, Sean Spicerretweeted a video from satirical news publication the Onion. 'You nailed it,' Spicer tweeted, along with the video which listed 'Five Things to Know About Sean Spicer.' Except it seems like maybe Spicer -- who remember, as White House press secretary, is partially in the business of watching videos and reading tweets -- didn't watch the video or read the Onion's tweet as carefully as he could have ... since they declare Spicer's 'role in the Trump administration will be to provide the American public with robust and clearly articulated misinformation.'" --safari

*****

It's working out very nicely. You see it at the airports, you see it all over. We're going to have a very, very strict ban and we're going to have extreme vetting, which we should have had in this country for many years. -- Donald Trump, to reporters, Saturday

Michael Shear & Alan Feuer of the New York Times: "A federal judge blocked part of President Trump's executive order on immigration on Saturday evening, ordering that refugees and others trapped at airports across the United States should not be sent back to their home countries. But the judge stopped short of letting them into the country or issuing a broader ruling on the constitutionality of Mr. Trump's actions.... Judge Ann M. Donnelly of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, who was nominated by former President Barack Obama, ruled just before 9 p.m. that implementing Mr. Trump's order by sending the travelers home could cause them 'irreparable harm.'" CW: Trump has been in office barely a week and already the courts are acting against him. That must be a record. ...

... Judge Donnelly's order is here. ...

... Jerry Markon, et al., of the Washington Post: "And only minutes after the judge's ruling in New York City, another came in Virginia when U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema issued a temporary restraining order to block the removal of any green card holders being detained at Dulles International Airport for seven days. Brinkema's action also ordered that lawyers have access to those held there because of the president's ban.... As the day progressed, administration officials confirmed that the sweeping order also targeted U.S. legal residents from the named countries -- green-card holders -- who happened to be abroad when it was signed. Also subject to being barred entry into the United States are dual nationals, or people born in one of the seven countries who hold passports even from U.S. allies such as the United Kingdom. The virtually unprecedented measures triggered harsh reactions from not only Democrats and others who typically advocate for immigrants but also key sectors of the U.S. business community. Leading technology companies recalled scores of overseas employees and sharply criticized the president. Legal experts forecast a wave of litigation over the order, calling it unconstitutional. Canada announced it would accept asylum applications from U.S. green-card holders." -- CW ...

... Dahlia Lithwick of Slate: "In San Francisco, the massive crowd at the airport chanted 'let the lawyers in.' At JFK in New York, lawyers hunched on the floor over their laptops, filing emergency habeas motions. In Philadelphia and Chicago and at Washington Dulles, the crowds asked for nothing more than this: Let the lawyers speak to their clients.... [Judge Leonie] Brinkema further ruled that those detained under the Trump ban were to be granted access to lawyers. (As of this writing, those held at Dulles Airport still have not been allowed access to lawyers.) This was the first time the judicial branch has been allowed to opine on the fact that Donald Trump is President of the United States. It may also signal the possibility that if real, grown up lawyers aren’t vetting White House orders, they should probably think about doing that." -- CW ...

... The Guardian is liveblogging world-wide reactions to Trump's travel ban. -- CW ...

To those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada. -- Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, in a tweet ...

... Nicholas Kulish & Manny Fernandez of the New York Times: "President Trump's executive order closing the nation's borders to refugees was put into immediate effect on Friday night. Refugees who were airborne on flights on the way to the United States when the order was signed were stopped and detained at airports. The detentions prompted legal challenges as lawyers representing two Iraqis held at Kennedy Airport filed a writ of habeas corpus early Saturday in the Eastern District of New York seeking to have their clients released. At the same time, they filed a motion for class certification, in an effort to represent all refugees and immigrants who they said were being unlawfully detained at ports of entry." CW: Even if you're meaner than a junkyard dog -- but not as mean as Donald Trump -- your heart has to ache for these people, who already have been through so much. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Marcelo Rochabrun of ProPublica: "Since the order's travel ban applies to all 'aliens' -- a term that encompasses anyone who isn't an American citizen -- it could bar those with current visas or even green cards from returning to the U.S. from trips abroad, said Stephen Legomsky, a former chief counsel to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under President Obama. 'It's extraordinarily cruel,' he said." -- CW ...

... Brooke Seipel of the Hill: "Those who hold dual nationality in the seven countries banned from entering the U.S. by President Trump will also be barred from entering the country, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday. The Journal said it got an advance look at a statement by the State Department that the refugee ban extends beyond just citizens of Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Libya and Yemen, but also to people who may originally come from those countries but have a passport from another nation or dual nationality." -- CW ...

They're just signed tweets. -- Bill Maher, on Trump's executive orders

... Chaos Happens. Evan Perez, et al., of CNN: "Trump's unilateral moves ... encapsulate the pitfalls of an administration largely operated by officials with scant federal experience.... The result was widespread confusion across the country.... The policy team at the White House developed the executive order on refugees and visas, and largely avoided the traditional interagency process that would have allowed the Justice Department and homeland security agencies to provide operational guidance, according to numerous officials who spoke to CNN on Saturday. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Department of Homeland Security leadership saw the final details shortly before the order was finalized, government officials said. Friday night, DHS arrived at the legal interpretation that the executive order restrictions applying to seven countries ... did not apply to people with lawful permanent residence, generally referred to as green card holders. The White House overruled that guidance overnight, according to officials familiar with the rollout. That order came from the President's inner circle, led by Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon." -- CW ...

...and Bannon is one step closer to fulfilling his dream. Ronald Radosh of the Daily Beast: 'I'm a Leninist, Bannon proudly proclaimed,... Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that's my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today's establishment." -- LT

... No, No. It's All Good. Do Not Be Distracted by Reality. Jake Tapper of CNN: "Amid the chaos and confusion of President Donald Trump's new executive order on immigration and refugees, sources tell CNN that White House policy director Stephen Miller spoke with officials of the State Department, Customs and Border Patrol, Department of Homeland Security and others to tell them that the President is deeply committed to the executive order and the public is firmly behind it -- urging them not to get distracted by what he described as hysterical voices on TV." -- CW ...

... Mark Stern of Slate: "There are serious constitutional problems with Trump's executive order as a whole, including its preference for one particular religion (Christianity) and its denigration of another (Islam). The courts will debate these questions over the coming months. But for [refugee detainees], there is a more immediate concern: a complete and total lack of due process. As a chilling American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit filed Saturday demonstrates, Trump's executive order has led to the flagrantly unconstitutional detention of perfectly legal immigrants whose lone crime is their national origin and religion. It is not just morally wrong. It is illegal." -- CW ...

... Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times: "The reaction on Saturday to President Trump's ban on refugees entering the United States ... was swift, certain -- and sharply divided. The order drew sharp and widespread condemnation Saturday from Democrats, religious groups, business leaders, academics and others, who called it inhumane, discriminatory and akin to taking a 'wrecking ball to the Statue of Liberty.' Thousands of professors, including several Nobel laureates, signed a statement calling it a 'major step towards implementing the stringent racial and religious profiling promised on the campaign trail.' Protesters gathered at airports to demand the release of people who were being held on arrival while immigration officials tried to determine whether they were barred by the executive order. And around the world, allies and critics alike voiced concern about what the new American policy could mean." -- CW ...

... Brook Seipel: "New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) sent state officials to protect the massive groups of demonstrators gathering outside John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday evening in protest of President Trump's immigration ban. 'I have directed the Port Authority, the Department of State, and my Counsel's Office to jointly explore all legal options to assist anyone detained at New York airports, and ensure that their rights are protected,' Cuomo said in a statement. Massive crowds have gathered at New York's JFK airport in protest of Trump's executive order calling for a temporary immigration ban that led to the detainment of several refugees at the airport":

This is the humanity, this is the soul of America. This is what pushed me to move, leave my country and come here. -- Hameed Khalid Darweesh, an Iraqi refugee who worked for the U.S. military for 10 years, after his release from Trump detention, speaking of the protesters at JFK ...

... Eli Rosenberg of the New York Times on how the JFK protest grew. -- CW ...

... James West of Mother Jones: "First Lady Melania Trump's own immigration attorney, who has also represented the Trump Organization in numerous immigration cases, condemned President Donald Trump's so-called 'Muslim ban' on Saturday afternoon, during an interview on MSNBC. 'How can we turn our backs on these individuals" New York lawyer Michael Wildes said, adding that he thought the legal disputes over the executive order would eventually be taken up by the Supreme Court.... Wildes has previously represented Trump Models, President Trump's New York modeling agency, and secured visas for models appearing in Trump's Miss Universe pageants." Thanks to Ophelia M. for the link. -- CW ...

... Matt Zeller in a Washington Post op-ed: "With his latest executive order and immigration ban, President Trump has shut the door on thousands of foreign interpreters, our wartime allies, who have served alongside our military since 2001. As a combat veteran who has served in the U.S. Army, this action deeply disappoints and angers me.... Our allied military translators are quite possibly the most vetted individuals aligned with our military.... These men and women have served our country honorably -- in some cases, for more than a decade. A decade of combat service to America, fighting alongside Americans, wearing the same uniforms, bleeding their blood for our country.... This ban leaves thousands of our wartime allies to fend for themselves against the very enemies we asked them to fight.... Friday's order means the enemy wins, and we have turned our backs on our own ideals." -- CW ...

... Dylan Matthews of Vox on cruelty as public policy. "For all his false insistence that he opposed the war in Iraq, [Donald Trump] sees no American duty to help its victims pick up the pieces over a decade later. Gerald Ford -- hardly a great man, but a decent one -- looked at a region America had destroyed and offered mercy. Donald Trump looks upon another region we destroyed and offers nothing. Nothing, that is, but cruelty." -- CW ...

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.... First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Congress shall make no law showing respect for religions except the established Christian religion, or prohibiting the free exercise of Christians to impose their beliefs on all citizens of these United States.... -- GOP translation

... Trumps' Muslim Ban Exposes GOP "Leaders." Ryu Spaeth of the New Republic: "The ban is extremely instructive, dispelling a lot of the cant that clouds American politics. We now know, for example, that Vice President Mike Pence does not actually consider such a ban unconstitutional or even offensive, which is how he described it in 2015.... We also know that Speaker Paul Ryan didn't really mean it when he said, 'This is not who we are as a party or a country.' Apparently it is.... That the U.S. will now prioritize Christian refugees over Muslim ones also belies the idea that the United States, and the Republican Party in particular, cares about religious freedom." -- CW ...

Trump Doesn't Know WTF He's Doing. I guess I understand what his intention is, but unfortunately the order appears to have been rushed through without full consideration. You know, there are many, many nuances of immigration policy that can be life or death for many innocent, vulnerable people around the world.... I urge the administration to halt enforcement of this order until a more thoughtful and deliberate policy can be reinstated. -- Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.)

It's unacceptable when even legal permanent residents are being detained or turned away at airports and ports of entry. -- Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Az.) ...

... Kelsey Snell, et al., of the Washington Post: "Facing intense criticism and dramatic news coverage of chaos and protests at airports worldwide, several congressional Republicans on Saturday questioned President Trump's order to halt admission to the United States by refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) were not among them. Ryan was among the first lawmakers on Friday to back Trump's order, and his office reiterated his support on Saturday.... Ryan's defense and McConnell's silence, some critics said, amounted to a moral failing that made them complicit in a humanitarian crisis." -- CW ...

... Worse Than Cowards. Steve M.: "For the most part, Republicans are saying nothing, even though a number of them -- Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Mike Pence -- denounced the idea when Trump first raised it in late 2015.... They just don't care about the people affected by the ban. All they care about is what Republicans have focused on for years: power for themselves and tax and regulatory cuts for their donors. Nothing else matters.... That's not cowardice. It's amorality, which is worse." -- CW ...

...and a Party Without Conscience. Joy-Ann Reid at The Daily Beast: "As far as Ryan and Jason Chaffetz, Trump's self-appointed congressional masseuse -- the preening Marco Rubio and the cynical Mitch McConnell are concerned, the country can burn, so long as they get their tax cuts for the super-rich, their oil company friends can rip apart the American heartland unimpeded by environmental concerns, and their insurance company pals get to wriggle out of covering people with pre-existing conditions.... Far from acting as a check or balance on the White House, the Party Men and Women of the Grimacing Old Party are content to fiddle while the amateur administration descends into chaos." -- LT

... CW: C'mon, Barack. You said you'd weigh in on the important stuff. ...

... BUT ISIS Likes It! Mike Giglio & Munzer al-Awad of BuzzFeed: "... many of the fighters living in ISIS territory believe the Trump administration will be good for them, the current and former members said. One reason they cited for this optimism was Trump's divisiveness within America, which they believed would weaken the country.... ISIS also sees Trump as an ideal enemy for propaganda purposes, the former and current members of the group said, believing that his campaign's heated rhetoric about Muslims will help the extremist group with recruitment by reinforcing its central narrative that America and the West are at war with Islam.... ISIS believes it can exploit the controversy surrounding Trump's remarks and proposals on Muslims." -- CW ...

... It's Just a Bigot Thing. Scott Shane of the New York Times: "... the president's directive is unlikely to significantly reduce the terrorist threat in the United States, which has been a minuscule part of the overall toll of violence since 2001.... Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, no one has been killed in the United States in a terrorist attack by anyone who emigrated from or whose parents emigrated from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, the seven countries targeted in the order's 120-day visa ban, according to Charles Kurzman, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina.... Many experts believe the order's unintended consequences will make the threat worse.... There was a random quality to the list of countries: It excluded Saudi Arabia and Egypt, where the founders of Al Qaeda and many other jihadist groups have originated. Also excluded are Pakistan and Afghanistan, where persistent extremism and decades of war have produced militants who have occasionally reached the United States. Notably, perhaps, the list avoided Muslim countries where Mr. Trump has major business ventures. Nor did the list include the European countries where disenfranchised Muslim communities have become hotbeds of militancy...." -- CW ...

... Caleb Melby, et al., of Bloomberg: "President Trump['s] ... proposed list doesn't include Muslim-majority countries where his Trump Organization has done business or pursued potential deals. Properties include golf courses in the United Arab Emirates and two luxury towers operating in Turkey." CW: Just a coincidence, people. Nothing to see here. ...

... ** Rosalind Helderman of the Washington Post: "The seven nations targeted for new visitation restrictions by President Trump on Friday all have something in common: They are places he does not appear to have any business interests.... Without divesting from his company, as bipartisan ethics ­experts had advised, Trump is now facing questions about whether he designed the new rules with his own business at least partly in mind.... Earlier in the week, Norm Eisen..., a former ethics adviser to Barack Obama, tweeted: 'WARNING: Mr. Pres. your Muslim ban excludes countries where you have business interests. That is a ­CONSTITUTIONAL VIOLATION. See u in court.'"; -- CW

David Smith & Alan Yuhas of the Guardian: "A day of whirlwind diplomacy for Donald Trump on Saturday, including calls to five world leaders including Russian president Vladimir Putin, was overshadowed by a global backlash against his ban on refugees. The 'congratulatory call' with Putin lasted an hour, the White House said in a short statement, and ranged from discussion of 'mutual cooperation' to defeat the terror group Isis to negotiating an end to the Syrian civil war.... In the Kremlin's more detailed account, Trump and Putin discussed 'partnership' on a wide range of international issues, including wars in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran's nuclear program, the Korean peninsula and the simmering war in Ukraine, where Russia has supported separatist rebels since 2014. Cooperation in Ukraine would represent a stark turn in US policy, which has supported Kiev and imposed punitive sanctions against prominent Russians for the Kremlin's role in the crisis." See also Patrick's comment in today's thread on the White House's handling of phone-call readouts. -- CW ...

... Trump Picks Bannon as Shadow President. Philip Rucker & David Filipov of the Washington Post: "President Trump on Saturday ordered the Pentagon to devise a strategy to defeat the Islamic State and restructured the National Security Council to include his controversial top political adviser [Steve Bannon!] as he forged a partnership with Russian President Vladimir Putin in their first official phone call.... The changes affirm the ascent of Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart, a conservative website that is popular with white nationalists, who has emerged as Trump's political consigliere and the keeper of the president's populist flame. Bannon has already been playing a major role in directing Trump's foreign policy, administration officials say, and joined the president in the Oval Office on Saturday for his calls with Putin and several other world leaders." -- CW ...

... What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Keith Pickering of Daily Kos: "In the latest move designed to make sure he only gets advice from his political sycophants, while avoiding all interaction with anyone who might be nonpartisan, Hair Twittler today removed the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from the Principals Committee of the National Security Council. Added as a regular member was the Assistant to the President and Chief Strategist, who is, of course neo-Nazi and avowed Leninist Steve Bannon.... Also added as a regular member: Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. The chairmanof course is wild-eyed conspiracy theorist Mike Flynn.... All decisions on national security will now be made by political operatives, while career professionals in the intelligence and military communities have been deliberately excluded from the process. Every single member of the NSC PC is now political; there are no career professionals left." -- CW

"Love and Tolerance Throughout the World." Alan Yujas: "The White House has defended its omission of Jews and antisemitism from a statement remembering the Holocaust by saying that Donald Trump's administration 'took into account all of those who suffered'.... 'Together,' [Trump said in the statement], 'we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world'.... Later on Friday, Trump signed an order suspending the entire US refugee program for 120 days and the Syrian refugee program indefinitely." -- CW ...

... John Podhoretz, a frequent & strident conservative critic of Donald Trump, points out that Trump's omission of the Jews in his statement on the Holocaust was deliberate, and it has a history. Thanks to Haley S. for the link.

Stocking the Swamp. Isaac Arnsdorf of Politico: "President Donald Trump's much-hyped ban on administration officials becoming lobbyists removed some of President Barack Obama's ethics rules instead of strengthening them. Trump's ethics pledge, issued as an executive order on Saturday, includes a five-year 'lobbying ban' that falls short of its name, preventing officials from lobbying the agency they worked in for five years after they leave, but allowing them to lobby other parts of the government. The order also lets lobbyists join the administration as long as they don't work on anything they specifically lobbied on for two years. Obama's order from 2009, which Trump revoked, blocked people who were registered lobbyists in the preceding year from taking administration jobs.... Trump's transition initially considered a tougher ethics pledge prepared by [presidential ethics lawyers Norm] Eisen and [Richard] Painter but abandoned the proposal after Vice President Mike Pence took over the transition team from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie." ...

     ... CW: So mike pence is even sleazier than Chris Christie. ...

... CW BTW: If you're pining for a Trump impeachment & conviction (as I am), look at the great men (no women, of course) in line to take over:

  • Vice President (Mike Pence)
  • Speaker of the House of Representatives (Paul Ryan)
  • President pro tempore of the Senate (Orrin Hatch)
  • Secretary of State (Rex ExxonMobil Tillerson*)
  • Secretary of the Treasury (Steve Robber-Baron Mnuchin*)
  • Secretary of Defense (James "Mad Dog" Mattis)

       * Not confirmed. ...

@realCrazyOldMan. Rebecca Morin of Politico: "President Donald Trump on Saturday railed against the New York Times and the Washington Post on Twitter, continuing his longstanding assault on media outlets.... 'The failing @nytimes has been wrong about me from the very beginning. Said I would lose the primaries, then the general election. FAKE NEWS!' Trump tweeted at 8:04 a.m. 'Thr coverage about me in the @nytimes and the @washingtonpost gas been so false and angry that the times actually apologized to its.....' he wrote in another tweet containing several spelling errors a few minutes later. '...dwindling subscribers and readers.They got me wrong right from the beginning and still have not changed course, and never will. DISHONEST'"... It is unclear as to what prompted Trump's criticism...." -- CW ...

... CW: Herein lies one of the many problems of having a delusional president: reality doesn't affect him in the slightest. So Facts: innocent people left in airport limbo, press criticism, "massive" protests, the governor of New York basically defying the POTUS, back-to-back court losses. Assessment: That's fake news. "It's all working out very nicely."

** The Trump Show. Derek Thompson of the Atlantic in a New York Times op-ed: "After winning with the instincts of a media impresario, [Donald Trump] will lead using the strategy of a media empire.... Now in the White House, President Trump is poised to enact his agenda through extraordinary means — by broadcasting an alternative reality in which he seeks a monopoly on his own narrative and facts. It is 20th-century strongman meets 21st Century Fox.... The White House wants to establish a political media monopoly, which seeks dominion over its own set of facts, by demonizing critical news sources (even those within the government) and promoting sycophantic alternatives.... If he succeeds, the Trump Show will be worse than reality television. It will not be reality at all." -- CW

Trump's "Voter Fraud Expert" Is Just a Fraud. Jon Swaine of the Guardian: "The conservative activist cited by Donald Trump as an authority on voter fraud owes the US government more than $100,000 in unpaid taxes, was once accused of lying about his qualifications, and has faced several allegations of ethical impropriety. Gregg Phillips's unfounded claim that three million people vote illegally in the US was championed in a tweet by Trump on Friday morning, as the new administration prepares to launch what he says will be a major inquiry into the integrity of American elections." Swain relates some of Phillips' stunts. CW: Trump's collection of con-artist buddies just jeeps growing. ...

... John Nichols of the Nation: "Wisconsin's gerrymandering was so extreme that, two months ago, a federal-court panel struck down Wisconsin legislative maps as unconstitutional. [Gov. Scott] Walker's Republican state attorney general appealed immediately, setting up a fight that will eventually be resolved by a US Supreme Court that legal experts say may finally be prepared to rule on behalf of competitive elections.... On Friday [a three-judge panel of a federal appelate court] ... enjoined Wisconsin officials from using existing maps in 'all future elections.' At the same time, the judges ordered Walker and the state legislature to draw new legislative-district maps by November 1, 2017." --safari

David Barstow of the New York Times: "As a businessman, strong> Donald J. Trump was a serial fabulist whose biggest-best boasts about everything he touched routinely crumbled under the slightest scrutiny. As a candidate, Mr. Trump was a magical realist who made fantastical claims punctuated by his favorite verbal tic: 'Believe me.' Yet even jaded connoisseurs of Oval Office dissembling were astonished over the last week by the torrent of bogus claims that gushed from President Trump during his first days in office. 'We've never seen anything this bizarre in our lifetimes, where up is down and down is up and everything is in question and nothing is real,' said Charles Lewis, the founder of the Center for Public Integrity...." -- CW

Dan Morse of the Washington Post: "A Maryland judge ruled Friday that first lady Melania Trump's libel suit against a political blogger can go forward, rejecting the blogger's argument that her action was brought in bad faith as an effort to curb his right to free speech. The ruling paves the way for Trump to pursue defamation claims against Webster Griffin Tarpley in Montgomery County Circuit Court. Tarpley, who publishes Tarpley.net from his townhouse in Gaithersburg, wrote last summer that Trump was 'reportedly obsessed by fear' over possible revelations that she allegedly once worked as a high-end escort, according to court records. Soon afterward, he retracted the story and apologized for any duress the story may have caused." CW: Freedom of the press does not including making mistakes & correcting them. I don't give a damn what Melania Trump did in her youth, but I hope it comes out that the allegations are true. (Also linked yesterday.)

Richard Just, in a Washington Post op-ed, argues that the Trump presidency begs for a revival of Phil Ochs' haunting protest songs:


Dave Philipps of the New York Times: "Roughly 4,000 troops helped clean up [Enewetak Atoll in the mid-Pacific] between 1977 and 1980.... Most did not even wear shirts, let alone respirators. Hundreds say they are now plagued by health problems, including brittle bones, cancer and birth defects in their children. Many are already dead. Others are too sick to work. The military says there is no connection between these illnesses and the cleanup. Radiation exposure during the work fell well below recommended thresholds, it says, and safety precautions were top notch. So the government refuses to pay for the veterans' medical care. Congress long ago recognized that troops were harmed by radiation on Enewetak during the original atomic tests, which occurred in the 1950s, and should be cared for and compensated. Still, it has failed to do the same for the men who cleaned up the toxic debris 20 years later. The disconnect continues a longstanding pattern in which the government has shrugged off responsibility for its nuclear mistakes." -- CW

Richard Perez-Pena: The accuser of Emmett Till, "... Carolyn Bryant Donham, spoke to Timothy B. Tyson, a Duke University professor -- possibly the only interview she has given to a historian or journalist since shortly after the episode -- who has written a book, 'The Blood of Emmett Till,' to be published next week. In it, he wrote that she said of her long-ago allegations that Emmett grabbed her and was menacing and sexually crude toward her, 'that part is not true.' The revelations were first reported on Friday by Vanity Fair." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Beyond the Beltway

Jon Wilcox of the Victoria (Texas) Advocate: "Flames engulfed the Victoria Islamic Center, destroying the building in the predawn hours Saturday as congregation members watched from the curb, overcome with emotion." CW: While there's no evidence of arson yet reported, my suspicion is that the fire's proximity in time to Trump's Muslim ban is not coincidental. I'm not suggesting that Trump urged his bigot base to burn down mosques, but a president's Islamophobia has consequences beyond his own cruel actions.

Friday
Jan272017

The Commentariat -- January 28, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Nicholas Kulish & Manny Fernandez of the New York Times: "President Trump's executive order closing the nation' borders to refugees was put into immediate effect on Friday night. Refugees who were airborne on flights on the way to the United States when the order was signed were stopped and detained at airports. The detentions prompted legal challenges as lawyers representing two Iraqis held at Kennedy Airport filed a writ of habeas corpus early Saturday in the Eastern District of New York seeking to have their clients released. At the same time, they filed a motion for class certification, in an effort to represent all refugees and immigrants who they said were being unlawfully detained at ports of entry." CW: Even if you're meaner than a junkyard dog -- but not as mean as Donald Trump -- your heart has to ache for these people, who already have been through so much.

Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times: The accuser of Emmett Till, "... Carolyn Bryant Donham, spoke to Timothy B. Tyson, a Duke University professor -- possibly the only interview she has given to a historian or journalist since shortly after the episode -- who has written a book, 'The Blood of Emmett Till,' to be published next week. In it, he wrote that she said of her long-ago allegations that Emmett grabbed her and was menacing and sexually crude toward her, 'that part is not true.' The revelations were first reported on Friday by Vanity Fair." -- CW

Dan Morse of the Washington Post: "A Maryland judge ruled Friday that first lady Melania Trump's libel suit against a political blogger can go forward, rejecting the blogger's argument that her action was brought in bad faith as an effort to curb his right to free speech. The ruling paves the way for Trump to pursue defamation claims against Webster Griffin Tarpley in Montgomery County Circuit Court. Tarpley, who publishes Tarpley.net from his townhouse in Gaithersburg, wrote last summer that Trump was 'reportedly obsessed by fear' over possible revelations that she allegedly once worked as a high-end escort, according to court records. Soon afterward, he retracted the story and apologized for any duress the story may have caused." CW: Freedom of the press does not including making mistakes & correcting them. I don't give a damn what Melania Trump did in her youth, but I hope it comes out that the allegations are true.

*****

Michael Shear & Helene Cooper of the New York Times: "President Trump on Friday closed the nation's borders to refugees from around the world, ordering that families fleeing Syrian carnage be indefinitely blocked from entering the United States, and temporarily suspending immigration from several predominantly Muslim countries.... Mr. Trump also ordered that Christians around the globe who are seeking entry into the United States should be granted priority over Muslims, for the first time establishing a religious test for refugees." CW: Leaders of ISIS & some other terrorist groups are probably delighted. Drumph is one nasty bigot. ...

... Make that One Fat-assed Nasty Bigot:

Thanks, sort of, to MAG for the pic.... Carol Morello of the Washington Post reports more details and commentary on the executive order. -- CW ...

The fact that President Trump's order appears designed to specifically limit the entry of Muslims evokes horrible memories among American Jews of the shameful period leading up to World War II, when the United States failed to provide a safe haven for the vast majority of Jews in Europe trying to escape Nazi persecution. Most ultimately perished in the Holocaust. -- J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami, in a statement ...

... Nahal Toosi of Politico: "The order, which has been expected for several days, would be historic in scope if fully implemented, and could have serious implications for Americans traveling abroad. Civil rights groups, Democratic lawmakers and others say it amounts to a cruel and counterproductive ban on Muslims who wish to enter the United States, and that it will damage America's long-time standing as a haven for the oppressed and vulnerable. At least one organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said it would file a lawsuit against the government on behalf of at least 20 people affected by what it called the 'Muslim Ban.'" -- CW ...

... The text of the order here. ...

... Trump Doesn't Know What He's Doing, Ctd. David Bier, of the Koch-funded Cato Institute, in a New York Times op-ed: "... the order is illegal.... The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 banned all discrimination against immigrants on the basis of national origin, replacing the old prejudicial system and giving each country an equal shot at the quotas. In signing the new law, President Lyndon B. Johnson said that 'the harsh injustice' of the national-origins quota system had been 'abolished.'... While courts rarely interfere in immigration matters, they have affirmed the discrimination ban.... Some discretion? Sure. Discretion to rewrite the law? Not in America’s constitutional system." -- CW ...

... Trump Doesn't Know What He's Doing, Ctd. Isaac Arnsdorf & Alex Byers of Politico: "Trump ... has caused alarm in the European Union with a line in his executive order on immigration instructing agencies to exclude foreigners from privacy protections, threatening to undermine years of intense negotiations over the sharing of commercial data and law enforcement information. Trump's aides didn't consult agency officials who hashed out those agreements before he signed the order ... -- another example of the White House taking action without the usual vetting that past presidents used to avoid a problem exactly like this one.... The EU treats the agreements as treaties." -- CW ...

... Christian Zealots Give Helping Hand to Muslims Immigrants. D'Oh!. Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress: "Scalia's ideological ally, Justice Samuel Alito, is likely to get an unexpected reminder of the consequences of sticking sweeping language into a Supreme Court opinion without first considering all of its implications -- much to the chagrin of President Trump. Trump signed an executive order on Friday barring many Syrian refugees from entering the United States indefinitely. Yet, in an interview with the Christian Broadcast Society's David Brody, Trump suggested that he would give special treatment to refugees who are Christian.... A handful of scholars have argued, however, that immigrants seeking admission into the United States are not protected by the First Amendment. It's an interesting argument, and one that could prove quite vexing for the Supreme Court if it were not for two other developments --  a federal law [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)] placing additional limits on the federal government's ability to place burdens on people's faith, and a broadly worded decision by Justice Alito.... So Hobby Lobby severed RFRA from the body of cases interpreting the First Amendment. That would include any case law suggesting that immigrants seeking entry into the United States don't enjoy protection from religious discrimination. RFRA limits Trump's ability to discriminate against Muslim refugees, and he has Justice Alito to thank for it." --safari ...

... Susan Svrluga of the Washington Post: "Thousands of leading academics, alarmed by an executive order signed by President Trump on Friday afternoon instituting 'extreme vetting' of refugees with a goal of keeping radical Islamic terrorists from entering the country, have signed onto a petition denouncing his action.... By Friday evening, 11 Nobel laureates and thousands of other academics -- many well-known scholars, including Fields Medalists, John Bates Clark medalists, members of the National Academy of Sciences and at least one MacArthur Fellow -- had signed on. By early Saturday morning, a 12th Nobel laureate had joined the list. They were getting about 10 emails a minute, and 15 to 20 volunteers were working to add signatures, an organizer of the effort said Friday evening." -- CW ...

... Paul Owen et al. of the Guardian: "Donald Trump is facing mounting criticism from world leaders and aid organisations after ending his first week as president with a ban on all Syrian refugees entering the US and a halt on arrivals from a string of predominantly Muslim countries.... The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) and International Organization for Migration (IOM) called on the Trump administration to continue offering asylum to people fleeing war and persecution, saying its resettlement programme was vital...The Council on American-Islamic Relations announced it would be filing a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the order 'because its apparent purpose and underlying motive is to ban people of the Islamic faith from Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States'." --safari ...

... Declan Walsh of the New York Times: "Across the Muslim world, the refrain was resounding: President Trump's freeze on refugee arrivals and visa requests from seven predominantly Muslim countries will have major diplomatic repercussions, worsen perceptions of Americans and offer a propaganda boost to the terrorist groups Mr. Trump says he is targeting.... In interviews with dozens of officials, analysts and ordinary citizens across Muslim-majority countries, there was overwhelming agreement that the order issued Friday signaled a provocation: a sign that the American president sees Islam itself as the problem." -- CW

... NeoCons Lick Their Chops. Juan Cole: "Trump's shameful halt to the admission of refugees for 6 months and his 3-month pause in allowing entry to the US from seven countries is being advertised as driven by security concerns. The countries targeted are Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Libya, Sudan, and Yemen What is remarkable to me is how much this list resembles the one drawn up by the Bush administration, only in that case Bush intended to overthrow their governments and risk plunging them into instability.... The similarity in the hit list suggests a fatal inertia across administrations in policy-making.... The rationale for targeting these countries, militarily or visa wise would be hard to defend now.... So it seems that the actual situation is the opposite from the one advertised by Trump. These are not countries that pose a danger to the US. They are countries to which the US poses the risk, of instability and millions of displaced, when the US comes knocking." --safari

David Nakamura of the Washington Post: At a press conference with British PM Theresa May, "President Trump said Friday that he continues to believe torture methods can be effective to combat terrorism, but he pledged to defer over whether to implement such tactics to Defense Secretary James N. Mattis, who has opposed them.... May said at the news conference that she expects economic sanctions imposed by the United States and European countries on Russia to remain in place until Moscow abides by an agreement to halt hostilities in Ukraine. Trump, who is scheduled to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin, is reportedly considering lifting those sanctions as he pursues a better working relationship with Moscow." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... New York Times reporters liveblogged the presser. Always entertaining. -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Ashley Parker of the Washington Post: "Even with British Prime Minister Theresa May standing at the lectern just to his right Friday, the new president used his first joint news conference with a world leader to underscore that while his campaign message may have been 'America first,' his actual guiding philosophy is more 'Trump first.' On a host of issues, from Russia to torture to Brexit, Trump cast his policy positions almost entirely in terms of personal -- not foreign -- relations.... Never one to miss a branding opportunity, Trump -- who has turned over management of his holdings to his adult sons but retains ownership of the company -- also managed to plug his golf course, Trump Turnberry. 'I happened to be in Scotland at Turnberry cutting a ribbon when Brexit happened and we had a vast amount of press there,' Trump said." -- CW

Mexican Standoff. Kirk Semple of the New York Times: "Mr. Trump and President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico spoke by phone on Friday, both leaders said. 'With respect to the payment for the border wall, both presidents recognized their clear and very public difference between their stances on this very sensitive issue,' the Mexican president's office said in a statement. 'The presidents also agreed for now to not speak publicly about this controversial issue.'" -- CW: Ha ha ha ha ha. Let's see how long Trump sticks to that promise. Does "speak" include "tweet"? (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

David Gibson of Religion News Service in USA Today: In a statement remarking on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, President Trump forgot to mention Jews. -- CW ...

     ... Martin Longman in the Washington Monthly: "Trump would probably get more benefit of the doubt if one of his chief advisers hadn't objected to sending his children to school with 'whiny brat' Jews or if David Duke were a little less of a Trump enthusiast.... This is admittedly a bit of a nitpick and small potatoes compared to a lot of other outrages that are surfacing hourly at this point, but it's something to keep an eye on. It could be meaningful and signal other changes in standard American practice, or it could just be nothing at all." -- CW

John Cassidy of the New Yorker: "Outrage is evidently what [Trump strategist Steve] Bannon intended to produce. A former Goldman Sachs investment banker and Hollywood producer who remade himself as a leading figure in the alt-right, he enjoys playing the role of provocateur and bomb thrower.... What's new isn't that we have a President who uses the media whenever he can. It's that, simultaneously, he has made demonizing the press a central part of his political strategy. During the campaign, Trump's attacks on the 'dishonest media' fired up his base and kept him in the news. Now, judging by Bannon's remarks, the aim is to portray the media as a political adversary rather than an independent monitor, so that when damaging stories appear the Administration can dismiss them.... As Trump's Presidency gets under way, marches and protests provide an essential reminder that, although he rallied an impressive number of alienated and dispossessed white voters, the majority of Americans rejected him, and still reject him. They are the real opposition, and they are too many for Trump and Bannon to silence." --safari

Charlie Savage, et al., of the New York Times: "On the campaign trail, Mr. Trump boasted he had no government experience and, in his first week in the White House, it sometimes showed. Orders were signed without feedback from the agencies they would affect. Policy ideas were floated and then retracted within hours. Meetings and public events were scheduled and then canceled. Advisers to the president made decisions without telling one another. The president called for an investigation looking at voters registered in more than one state, unaware that it would include his chief strategist, press secretary, treasury secretary, daughter and son-in-law. And Congress often appeared to be an afterthought. Whatever the stumbles, Mr. Trump expressed satisfaction with the debut of his presidency and the White House released a list of accomplishments under the headline, 'President Trump's First Week of Action.'" CW: That's the punchline: Trump seems to think he's doing a good job. ...

... Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post: "Week One of the Trump administration was among the most alarming in the history of the American presidency.... Trump ... outdid his petty obsession with crowd size with his delusional obsession with popular-vote fraud, first behind closed doors with incredulous congressional leaders, then for all the world to watch in his ABC interview. What was once delusional ego-salving now appears headed for official inquiry. This is ominous not only for the implicit threat of imposing new and unnecessary obstacles to voting, but also because it means that no one neither American citizens nor foreign leaders, can believe the president of the United States when he makes an assertion." Here's something funny: apparently that jerk Jason Chaffetz (RTP-Utah) plans to do something about it. He's "weighing legislation to require presidents to undergo an independent medical examination, including for mental health." -- CW ...

... Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker: ",,, the single most striking thing about [Trump's] matchlessly strange first week is how primitive, atavistic, and uncomplicatedly brutal Trump's brand of authoritarianism is turning out to be. We have to go back to [George Orwell's novel] '1984' because, in effect, we have to go back to 1948 to get the flavor.... Trump's lies, and his urge to tell them, are pure Big Brother crude.... Trump is pure raging authoritarian id. And so, rereading Orwell, one is reminded of what Orwell got right about this kind of brute authoritarianism -- and that was essentially that it rests on lies told so often, and so repeatedly, that fighting the lie becomes not simply more dangerous but more exhausting than repeating it. Orwell saw, to his credit, that the act of falsifying reality is only secondarily a way of changing perceptions. It is, above all, a way of asserting power." ...

     ... CW: Earlier this week, I mentioned that power was the purpose of Trump's lies, something many people, including journalists & pundits, don't seem to realize. Of course the biggest lie Trump told this week was not about the size of the crowd who watched him take the oath of office, but the oath itself.

Trump Administration Issues More Threats to Other Countries. "We're Taking Names." Somini Sengupta of the New York Times: "Issuing a stark warning to allies and rivals abroad, the incoming ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, said on Friday that the Trump administration would project 'strength' and hold accountable those who do not back the United States. 'You're going to see a change in the way we do business,' Ms. Haley said in her first remarks at the United Nations headquarters. 'Our goal with the administration is to show value at the U.N., and the way we'll show value is to show our strength, show our voice, have the backs of our allies and make sure our allies have our back as well.' 'For those who don't have our back,' she added, 'we're taking names; we will make points to respond to that accordingly.'" -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Mike DeBonis & Sari Horwitz of the Washington Post: "In a private meeting with congressional Republicans this week, Vice President Pence vowed that the Trump administration would pursue a wide-ranging probe of voting rolls in the United States to examine whether millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election as President Trump has charged.... The vice president's comments, captured in a recording obtained by The Washington Post, give the clearest indication yet of how the Trump administration intends to investigate whether 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally in the 2016 general election, an unsupported claim Trump has made. In the recording, Pence invoked a study that Trump has falsely claimed shows widespread voter fraud." --CW

Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post: "Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) told Rachel Maddow on her MSNBC show Thursday night that no Democrat will vote to confirm Betsy DeVos, the Michigan billionaire tapped by President Trump to be his education secretary. He also said Democrats were actively looking for Republicans to vote against her." -- CW (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Gail Collins: "One of the most disturbing things about the Trump administration is its antipathy toward public schools. Perhaps you remember the president's mini-rant in his inaugural speech about an 'education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.' Well, Trump's choice for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, is responsible for Michigan's charter school boom, which currently costs the state about $1.1 billion a year. A 2014 investigation by The Detroit Free Press found myriad examples of 'wasteful spending and double-dipping.' Thanks in large part to DeVos's lobbying in the Legislature, there's virtually no oversight. So much for the young and beautiful students." --CW

Rachana Pradhan & Paul Demko of Politico: "The Trump administration has reversed plans to scrap all Obamacare outreach in the finals days of the law's enrollment period, a day after the move sparked outcry from the law's supporters and health insurers. HHS officials on Friday said automatic phone calls and other online and digital outreach -- including Twitter messages and emails -- would continue through the Jan. 31 deadline for obtaining coverage.... Obamacare supporters have taken to Twitter and other social media platforms to encourage enrollment, and insurers also expressed alarm that the Thursday decision could result in higher prices and more unstable markets.... 'Let's be clear: President Trump and Republicans are creating Trumpcare by sabotage -- and they are going to have to answer to every family who loses coverage, faces more uncertainty, or has to pay more in health care costs as a result,' Democratic Sen. Patty Murray said in a statement earlier on Friday." -- CW ...

... Robert Pear & Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "Congressional Republicans, meeting behind closed doors this week in Philadelphia, expressed grave concerns about dismantling the Affordable Care Act on the urgent timetable demanded by President Trump, fretting that, among other things, they could wreck insurance markets and be saddled with a politically disastrous 'Trumpcare.' An audio recording of a session at their annual retreat, obtained by The New York Times, shows Republicans in disarray, far from agreement on health policy, and still searching for something to replace former President Barack Obama's health care law. While their leaders pitched their belief that the Affordable Care Act remains the Democrats' burden, some backbench Republicans expressed skepticism." -- CW ...

... Republicare! Steve M.: "A report by The Washington Post's Mike deBonis suggests that the pressure (after seven years) to actually produce an alternative to Obamacare is freaking Republicans out...[I]f [Republicans] do cough up some plan or other, I hope Democrats avoid the temptation to call it "Trumpcare." It should always be called 'Republicare.' For years, Democrats have failed to make the case that the problems in this country are problems created by the Republican Party -- not by 'Washington' or 'gridlock,' and not by a current Republican Party leader who might happen to be unpopular. Democrats' unwillingness to attack the entire GOP explains why Republicans always make very quick comebacks after periods of unpopularity...It's going to happen again if everything terrible that's about to take place in America is blamed exclusively on Donald Trump." Besides, Trump DOESN'T care. --safari ...

... Jonathan Chait: "Numerous [GOP] members expressed fears about the backlash they would face by snatching coverage from 20 million Americans. They have spent eight years promising to implement something better, and the Republican Party is still gawking at a whiteboard trying to figure out step one." --safari

Seung Min Kim, et al., of Politico: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan are drawing a hard line against easing sanctions on Russia, issuing stern warnings ahead of President Donald Trump's first official communication with Vladimir Putin since his inauguration last week. 'I'm against lifting any sanctions on the Russians. These sanctions were imposed because of their behavior in Crimea, eastern Ukraine and now we know they've been messing around in our elections as well,' McConnell said in an interview with Politico on Friday. 'If there's any country in the world that doesn't deserve sanctions relief, it's Russia.'... Pressure is mounting on McConnell and Ryan to allow votes on bills that would make it harder for Trump to lift the sanctions -- measures that would represent an act of defiance toward a president determined to improve relations with Moscow. McConnell declined to comment when asked by Politico about legislation to codify existing sanctions into law ." -- CW

Butt Out, Drumpf. -- McConnell. Burgess Everett & Seung Min Kim of Politico: "After engineering a nearly year-long Supreme Court blockade, Mitch McConnell now wants Democrats to swallow President Donald Trump's high court nominee hook, line and sinker. And a day after Trump urged McConnell to kill the filibuster if Democrats mount a sustained resistance to his high court pick, McConnell had this to say to the new president: That's not your call. 'That's not a presidential decision. That's a Senate decision,' McConnell told Politico in an interview Friday.... 'What I've said to him, and I've stated publicly and I'll say today: We're going to get this nominee confirmed.' Trump is planning to announce his nominee next week." -- CW

Julie Zauzmer & Sarah Bailey of the Washington Post: "Thousands of abortion opponents gathered in cold, blustery weather near the Washington Monument Friday and heard Vice President Mike Pence tell the annual March for Life that the Trump administration is determined to advance the fight against abortion.... He said that 'next week President Donald Trump will announce a Supreme Court nominee who will uphold the God-given liberty enshrined in our Constitution in the tradition of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia.'... Pence was the first U.S. vice president to address the rally in its history." CW: I'm not sure why abortion foes chose the nation's most prominent phallic symbol as a place to gather, then thrilled to have a little prick as keynote speaker, but maybe you have some ideas. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Paul Waldman: "It's a near-certainty that Trump won't be able to get Mexico to pay for any wall. So what he'll do is just find a way to claim that he did, just as he's now claiming that he won the popular vote and had the biggest inaugural crowd in history. All it will require is some tiny thread to hold on to.... And in the end all that will matter to the president himself and to his supporters yearning to feel like they're respected and honored and feared once again is that Trump will be able to proclaim, 'I built the wall, and Mexico paid for it!' So what if it's not remotely true? It isn't like that has stopped him before." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Beyond the Beltway

Will Hobson of the Washington Post: "A federal lawsuit filed Friday alleged that at least 31 football players at Baylor University committed at least 52 'acts of rape' over four years -- including five gang rapes, two of which involved 10 or more players at the same time, some of whom videotaped the rapes on their phones and passed the recordings around to teammates. The lawsuit, filed by a Virginia woman who alleges that she was gang-raped by two Baylor players in 2013, is the latest fallout in a sexual-violence scandal that has embroiled the Baptist university in Waco, Tex., for more than a year. Baylor's president, athletic director and head football coach all lost their jobs last year after an independent investigation found that athletic department leadership left women on campus at risk by discouraging victims from reporting assaults and keeping accusations against Bears players quiet." CW: The ousted president is Ken Starr.

Way Beyond

Andrew Kramer of the New York Times: "The authorities in Moscow are prosecuting at least one cybersecurity expert for treason, a prominent Russian criminal defense lawyer confirmed on Friday, while a Russian newspaper reported that the case is linked to hacking during the United States presidential election.... Kommersant, a Russian newspaper, first reported Wednesday on what the Russian news media are calling a purge of the cyberbranch of the F.S.B. that was conducted in early December. It reported that the Directorate for Internal Security, the agency's internal affairs bureau, arrested Sergei Mikhailov, a deputy director of the Center for Information Security, the agency's cybersecurity arm, and Ruslan Stoyanov, a senior researcher at a prominent cybersecurity company, Kaspersky Lab. Novaya Gazeta, a respected Russian opposition newspaper, reported Friday that the internal investigation led to two other arrests, and that all of the detentions were related to American investigations into Russian hacking during the election.... Some analysts [suggest] that the Russian government may be signaling that it might, however indirectly through a treason trial, reveal details of election hacking, which have the potential of damaging the administration of Mr. Trump." -- CW

Reuters: "New commercial satellite imagery suggests North Korea has resumed operation of a reactor at its main nuclear site that is used to produce plutonium for its nuclear weapons program, a US thinktank said on Friday. Washington's 38 North project, which monitors North Korea, said previous analysis from 18 January showed signs that North Korea was preparing to restart the reactor at Yongbyon, having unloaded spent fuel rods for reprocessing to produce additional plutonium for its nuclear weapons stockpile.... A 38 North Korea report last week said operations at the reactor had been suspended since late 2015...Trump's defense secretary plans to visit Japan and South Korea next week and concerns about North Korea are expected to top his agenda." --safari...

...Just for a little reminder. Charlie Campbell of Time (Jan. 4): "China has hit back at Donald Trump's claim that Beijing isn't doing enough to rein in rogue state North Korea, cautioning the U.S. President-elect not to 'escalate' an already tense situation on the Korean Peninsula through his liberal use of social media. On Monday evening, Trump took to Twitter to deny North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's claim that his nation was in the 'final stage' of developing a nuclear-armed ballistic missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland." --safari

A Peek Into Our Future. Peter Prengaman of the AP in Time: "The lead federal prosecutor in a massive corruption investigation roiling Brazil says that recent developments could double the size of the case, a staggering possibility given that the probe has ensnared many of the country's elite, threatens to bring down President Michel Temer and is expanding to other Latin American countries.... What started as an investigation into money-laundering has morphed into a corruption scandal so large that it has shocked Brazilians long accustomed to graft in politics. Investigators say more than $2 billion in bribes were paid out in a kickback scheme." --safari

News Lede

New York Times: "John Hurt, a British character actor who vanished inside dozens of roles, from Shakespeare to science fiction, including John Merrick, the hideously deformed title character in the 1980 film 'The Elephant Man,' has died. He was 77. -- CW

Friday
Jan272017

The Commentariat -- January 27, 2017

Afternoon Update:

David Nakamura of the Washington Post: At a press conference with British PM Theresa May, "President Trump said Friday that he continues to believe torture methods can be effective to combat terrorism, but he pledged to defer over whether to implement such tactics to Defense Secretary James N. Mattis, who has opposed them.... May said at the news conference that she expects economic sanctions imposed by the United States and European countries on Russia to remain in place until Moscow abides by an agreement to halt hostilities in Ukraine. Trump, who is scheduled to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin, is reportedly considering lifting those sanctions as he pursues a better working relationship with Moscow." -- CW ...

... New York Times reporters liveblogged the presser. Always entertaining. -- CW

Mexican Standoff. Kirk Semple of the New York Times: "Mr. Trump and President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico spoke by phone on Friday, both leaders said. 'With respect to the payment for the border wall, both presidents recognized their clear and very public difference between their stances on this very sensitive issue,' the Mexican president's office said in a statement. 'The presidents also agreed for now to not speak publicly about this controversial issue.'" -- CW: Ha ha ha ha ha. Let's see how long Trump sticks to that promise. Does "speak" include "tweet"?

Trump Administration Issues More Threats to Other Countries. "We're Taking Names." Somini Sengupta of the New York Times: "Issuing a stark warning to allies and rivals abroad, the incoming ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, said on Friday that the Trump administration would project 'strength' and hold accountable those who do not back the United States. 'You're going to see a change in the way we do business,' Ms. Haley said in her first remarks at the United Nations headquarters. 'Our goal with the administration is to show value at the U.N., and the way we'll show value is to show our strength, show our voice, have the backs of our allies and make sure our allies have our back as well.' 'For those who don't have our back,' she added, 'we're taking names; we will make points to respond to that accordingly.'" -- CW

Julie Zauzmer & Sarah Bailey of the Washington Post: "Thousands of abortion opponents gathered in cold, blustery weather near the Washington Monument Friday and heard Vice President Mike Pence tell the annual March for Life that the Trump administration is determined to advance the fight against abortion.... He said that 'next week President Donald Trump will announce a Supreme Court nominee who will uphold the God-given liberty enshrined in our Constitution in the tradition of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia.'... Pence was the first U.S. vice president to address the rally in its history." CW: I'm not sure why abortion foes chose the nation's most prominent phallic symbol as a place to gather, then thrilled to have a little prick as keynote speaker, but maybe you have some ideas.

Paul Waldman: "It's a near-certainty that Trump won't be able to get Mexico to pay for any wall. So what he'll do is just find a way to claim that he did, just as he's now claiming that he won the popular vote and had the biggest inaugural crowd in history. All it will require is some tiny thread to hold on to.... And in the end all that will matter to the president himself and to his supporters yearning to feel like they're respected and honored and feared once again is that Trump will be able to proclaim, 'I built the wall, and Mexico paid for it!' So what if it's not remotely true? It isn't like that has stopped him before." -- CW

Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post: "Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) told Rachel Maddow on her MSNBC show Thursday night that no Democrat will vote to confirm Betsy DeVos, the Michigan billionaire tapped by President Trump to be his education secretary. He also said Democrats were actively looking for Republicans to vote against her." -- CW

*****

"Chaos & Confusion." Making America Poor Again. Michael Shear, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump's decision to build a wall along the length of the United States' southern border with Mexico erupted into a diplomatic standoff on Thursday, leading to the cancellation of a White House visit by Mexico's president and sharply rising tensions...l. Mr. Trump appeared to embrace a proposal by House Republicans that would impose a 20 percent tax on all imported goods. The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, told reporters that the proceeds would be used to pay for the border wall, estimated to cost as much as $20 billion. But a furious uproar prompted Mr. Spicer to temper his earlier remarks, saying the plan was simply 'one idea' that might work to finance the wall. If Mr. Trump does eventually announce his support for the tax plan, it could have a broad impact on the American economy..., by sharply increasing the prices of imported goods or reducing profits for the companies that produce them. Other nations could retaliate, prompting a trade war that could hit consumers around the globe. Retail businesses could see their tax bills surge.... Moreover, the tax would not be paid by Mexico. It would be paid by companies selling Mexican goods in the United States. Some might raise prices, imposing the cost on consumers, while others might be forced by competitive pressures to absorb the tax, reducing their profits. Many economists ... predict that the value of the dollar would rise.... The sense of chaos and confusion about the tax issue added to the fallout from Mr. Trump's conflict with [Mexican President Enrique] Peña Nieto.... In remarks at congressional Republicans' retreat in Philadelphia, Mr. Trump portrayed the decision to cancel the meeting as his own and issued a stern warning to Mr. Peña Nieto about the consequences of refusing to cooperate with him on financing the wall." ...

     ... CW: Not surprisingly, the Ignoramus-in-Chief has no idea WTF he's doing. None. The entire concept of the wall -- Trump's signature calling card -- is an unforced error with global consequences. Idiot. See also comments near the end of yesterday's thread. ...

... Keith Bradsher, et al., of the New York Times: "Such a tax could hit retailers the hardest if it takes full effect, with their heavy reliance on products as varied as microwave ovens from China and T-shirts from Bangladesh. But few sectors of the American economy and few consumers would be unaffected.... The tax 'would be a boon for producers but it would be a negative for consumers -- it's going to hit the pocketbooks of his supporters the hardest,' said Ed Hirs, a managing director of Hillhouse Resources, an oil and gas company based in Houston.... And the timing could not be worse: Retailers, particularly apparel companies and department stores, have struggled more than other sectors of the economy to recover from the recession.... But David French, senior vice president of government relations at the National Retail Federation, said that retailers would have no choice but to raise prices. 'I really hope everybody understands that what they're really talking about is a 20 percent tax on the U.S. consumer,' he said on Thursday. 'That's like building the wall and having the U.S. consumer pay for it.'" -- CW ...

... Paul Krugman: "Mr. Trump is much more enthusiastic about punishing people than he is about helping them.... He appears serious about his eagerness to reverse America's 80-year-long commitment to expanding world trade. On Thursday the White House said it was considering a 20 percent tariff on all imports from Mexico; doing so wouldn't just pull the U.S. out of NAFTA, it would violate all our trading agreements.... He sees international trade the way he sees everything else: as a struggle for dominance, in which you only win at somebody else's expense.... Taken together, the new regime's policies will probably lead to a faster, not slower, decline in American manufacturing.... And the biggest losers, as with health care, will be white working-class voters who were foolish enough to believe that Donald Trump was on their side." -- CW

... Ha! Azam Ahmed of the New York Times: "The president of Mexico said on Thursday that he was canceling his scheduled meeting with President Donald J. Trump in Washington next week, rejecting the visit after the new American leader ordered a border wall between the two nations.The move by Mexico's president, Enrique Peña Nieto, brings to a head the simmering tensions that have been building for months between the two leaders. After calling for dialogue in the face of Mr. Trump's vows to build a wall, Mr. Peña Nieto ultimately bowed to public pressure in Mexico to respond more forcefully to his northern neighbor." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... "Donald Trump's Mexico Tantrum." New York Times Editors: "Less than a week into the job, President Trump on Thursday raised the specter of a trade war with America's third-largest partner, Mexico, as the White House warned that the United States could impose a 20 percent tariff on Mexican imports. This absurd threat, issued as a proposal to cover the cost of a border wall, came just hours after President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico canceled a visit to the United States. The visit was supposed to improve the relationship between the two countries, deeply strained by Mr. Trump's relentless scapegoating of Mexicans during his presidential campaign. But Mr. Peña Nieto decided he'd heard enough after Mr. Trump issued executive orders on Wednesday to begin rounding up unauthorized immigrants and building his border wall. The tariff tantrum was the latest in a head-spinning torrent of lies, dangerous policy ideas and threats from the White House since Mr. Trump was sworn in last Friday.... Americans would pay for the wall, not Mexicans." -- CW ...

... What Happened While Kevin Drum Was at Lunch. Sad! -- CW ...

AP: "The Border Patrol chief has been forced out a day after Donald Trump announced an ambitious plan to build a wall at the Mexican border and hire 5,000 Border Patrol agents, a US official told the Associated Press. Mark Morgan told senior Border Patrol agents about his ouster during a brief video conference on Thursday morning, saying he was asked to leave and that he decided to resign rather than fight the request, according to the official.... Morgan leaves office only seven months after being named the first outsider to lead the agency since it was founded in 1924. From the start, he clashed with the Border Patrol's union, which endorsed Trump early and forcefully during the presidential campaign. The National Border Patrol Council had advocated for an insider to lead the agency and sharply criticized Morgan at almost every turn.... The former official said Morgan ... had not attended a gathering at the homeland security department with Trump and the newly appointed homeland security secretary, John Kelly. During that visit, Trump singled out the union's president, Brandon Judd, while pointedly avoiding mention of Morgan. Judd served on Trump's transition team." -- CW

Karen DeYoung & Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "President Trump began this week to reshape the U.S. role in the world, laying the groundwork, in a series of planned and signed executive actions and statements, for the 'America first' foreign policy on which he campaigned. Already, Trump has mandated construction of a border wall with Mexico and a clampdown on local immigration enforcement. Other directives drafted but not yet signed would halt all refugee admissions and entry into the United States of citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries deemed terrorist hotbeds; declare a moratorium on new multilateral treaties; and mandate audits of U.S. funding for international organizations, including the United Nations, with a view toward cutting U.S. voluntary contributions by 40 percent. Additional pending orders, copies of which were obtained by The Washington Post, call for a review of cyber capabilities and vulnerabilities, in advance of what is expected to be greater use of offensive powers; and direct the Pentagon to quickly develop plans to reduce spending on items not deemed 'highest priority,' while ramping up programs to expand the armed forces and modernize the U.S. nuclear deterrent.... If implemented, these initiatives and other steps Trump has previewed will usher in a new era of American foreign policy, after decades of bipartisan agreement that the United States has a responsibility to spread democracy and stand up for the oppressed, and that it would prosper when a united, free world prospered." -- CW ...

... Anyhow, Good Luck, Prime Minister May. Steven Erlanger of the New York Times: "Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain will meet President Trump on Friday in Washington.... Normally, American presidents go on to British leaders about 'the special relationship' with a sort of patronizing politeness. But Mr. Trump has already put Mrs. May's teeth on edge with his cheerful support for a British withdrawal from the European Union, commonly known as Brexit, which she opposed but must carry out. She has not appreciated his warm relationship with those like Nigel Farage, the former leader of the anti-immigrant U.K. Independence Party, who despises Mrs. May's Conservative Party and who Mr. Trump has suggested would make a fine ambassador to the United States.... Still, with Britain planning to leave the European Union in two years or so, Mrs. May needs to show Britons they have big friends out in the world beyond Europe, and the United States is already Britain's single largest trading partner, not counting the European Union itself." -- CW ...

... CW: Apparently, for Trump & Co., the "special relationship" does not necessitate correctly spelling the Prime Minister's name. In three separate memos, the White House misspelled "Theresa." It turns out there is a "Teresa May" -- the White House's spelling -- and she's a sexy model. Side-by-side photos at the top of the story. I'd guess the only reason Trump is meeting with Theresa May is that he Googled Teresa May. Thanks to MAG for the lead.

David Filipov of the Washington Post: "President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will finally hold their first official conversation on Saturday, Putin's spokesman said Friday. The phone conversation will come after months of speculation about Trump's warm words for Putin amid allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election.... Concerns about Trump's evident admiration for Putin have mounted amid the conclusions by the U.S. intelligence community that the Kremlin interfered in the U.S. election on his behalf, as well as revelations about Trump's long history of doing business in Russia. Trump has denied any business involvement in Russia, despite his repeated efforts to build luxury properties in Moscow, a beauty pageant he hosted there there and his benefiting from heavy investments from Russians in his properties around the world." -- CW

Steve Benen: "When Donald Trump spoke to the New York Times about his transition to presidential life, he mentioned a surprising detail: Trump is still using 'his old, unsecured Android phone, to the protests of some of his aides.' It's a curious choice. In case anyone's forgotten, for over a year, the political world decided that the single most important story in the United States in 2016 was Hillary Clinton's use of an unsecured email server, which could've been vulnerable to a cyber-attack (which, by all appearances, never happened). Trump repeatedly attacked Clinton over her I.T. practices.... The New York Times added that the president's use of an old smartphone 'raises concerns that its use could be exposing him and the nation to security threats.'" Thanks to Nisky Guy for the link. -- CW ...

... Lily Newman of Wired: "The headlining concern around Trump using Android is that he's likely not protected against phishing attacks or malware. All it takes is clicking on one malicious link or opening one untoward attachment -- either of which can appear as though it were sent from a trusted source -- to compromise the device. From there, the phone could be infected with malware that spies on the network the device is connected to, logs keystrokes, takes over the camera and microphone for surreptitious recording, and more." CW: No doubt the phishers of Trump are busy today.

Ali Watkins & Chris Geidner of BuzzFeed: "A draft executive order reviving Bush-era detention and interrogation policies that circulated on Wednesday is a revised version of the 'most comprehensive' executive action on the topic proposed for the first 100 days of a Mitt Romney White House. The original text of the document was prepared in September 2012 by then-presidential candidate Romney's legal and policy advisers as a potential executive order, according to a source familiar with the document who provided it to BuzzFeed News.... Most of the text that appears in the Trump document appears in the 2012 document as part of a package of options, 'ranging from the narrowest (Option 1) to the most comprehensive (Option 2)....' The Trump camp draft presents, with minor adjustments, the Romney-era draft's Option 2 ..., the only one that explicitly makes reference to detention and interrogation programs run by the CIA.... Among the minor changes to the Trump version are a prohibition on transferring detainees out of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and a small language change to include the fight against ISIS, which didn't exist by name in 2012." ...

     ... Steve M.: "Trump's policies are scary, but nearly all of them are long-time Republican policies." The "black-hole" proposal is but one example. "The Wichita Eagle is reporting that extremist Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach is claiming a role in both Trump's voter-fraud probe and his anti-immigration executive orders. Kobach, of course, was a top Romney adviser on immigration in 2012, a year when Romney backed 'self-deportation' and Arizona's 'papers, please' law and opposed the DREAM Act.... Trump seems to be at the extreme edge, but he's where many Republicans, including some we were said to have 'cried wolf' about, have been all along." -- CW ...

     ... CW: Quite right. The Never-Trump crowd was far more alarmed by Trump's crude style than by his proposed policies. Romney would not characterize immigrants as "rapists" and "criminals" in such broad strokes (even if he might say so "in quiet rooms," but he would urge them to "self-deport." Jeb Bush thinks Betsy DePrivatization is a great pick for education secretary. Bob Gates , who in September declared Trump "beyond repair," promoted Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state. If there was anything they didn't like about Trump's stated policy proposals, it was that they were "too liberal" -- like his probably fake promises not to cut certain social safety net programs.

I had a massive amount of people here. They were showing pictures that were very unflattering, as unflattering -- from certain angles -- that were taken early and lots of other things.... Now, the audience was the biggest ever, but this crowd was massive.... This crowd was massive. -- Donald Trump, to ABC News anchor David Muir, as he showed Muir a photo on a White House wall depicting the "massive crowd" ...

... "Trump Pressured Park Service to Find Proof for His [False] Claims about Inauguration Crowd." Karen Tumulty & Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "On the morning after Donald Trump's inauguration, acting National Park Service director Michael T. Reynolds received an extraordinary summons.... In a Saturday phone call, Trump personally ordered Reynolds to produce additional photographs of the previous day's crowds on the Mall, according to three individuals who have knowledge of the conversation. The president believed that the photos might prove that the media had lied in reporting that attendance had been no better than average.... Trump also expressed anger over a retweet sent from the agency's account, in which side-by-side photographs showed far fewer people at his swearing-in than had shown up to see Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009.... For Trump, who sees himself and his achievements in superlative terms, the inauguration's crowd size has been a source of grievance that he appears unable to put behind him. It is a measure of his fixation on the issue that he would devote part of his first morning in office to it -- and that he would take out his frustrations on an acting Park Service director.... The Park Service does not release crowd estimates." ...

     ... CW: The primary purpose of all federal agencies henceforth is to "prove" Trump's delusions and propaganda agenda. Meanwhile, as Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon says, "The media should keep its [sic.] mouth shut." (Story linked below.) Trump & Co. are as dangerous as many expected. ...

     ... CW Note: I understand that Trump has a poor command of the English language, but his phrase "a massive amount of people" is telling. People are individual entities, so the accepted construction is "a massive number of people." You might say you have "a massive amount of work" to do, "work" being singular, and that breaks down to "a massive number of tasks," since "tasks," like "people," is plural. To Trump, however, the supporters who attended his inauguration are not individuals but a clump -- albeit a smaller clump than he imagines.

Another Journalist Seeks Polite Ways to Describe Crazy Old Man, Ctd. Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: "The way President Trump tells it, the meandering, falsehood-filled, self-involved speech that he gave at the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters was one of the greatest addresses ever given.... Trump brushed off the suggestion that it was disrespectful to deliver Saturday's speech -- which included musings about magazine covers and crowd sizes -- in front of a hallowed memorial to CIA agents killed in the line of duty. The lengthy interview, which aired late Wednesday night, provided a glimpse of the president and his state of mind on his fifth full day in office. It revealed a man who is obsessed with his own popularity and eager to provide evidence of his likability, even if that information doesn't match reality." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Greg Sargent tallies the lies Trump told in his interview with David Muir of ABC News. See related links in yesterday's Commentariat. And Sargent is only counting the big ones. -- CW (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post has the complete annotated transcript of the interview here. CW: I find it easier to read than watch. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... ** Glenn Kessler runs down many of the lies Trump told in his first week as president. CW: It is a long, astonishing list for anyone, much less the POTUS, in whom Americans are supposed to put their trust. Unpresidented.

So Much for the Quaint Concept of the Fourth Estate. Bannon to Media: "STFU." Michael Grynbaum of the New York Times: "Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump's chief White House strategist, laced into the American press during an interview on Wednesday evening.... 'The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for awhile,' Mr. Bannon said during a telephone call. 'I want you to quote this,' Mr. Bannon added. 'The media here is the opposition party. They don't understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.'... He repeatedly describ[ed] the media as 'the opposition party.'... 'That's why you have no power,' Mr. Bannon added. 'You were humiliated.'... On the telephone, Mr. Bannon spoke in blunt but calm tones, peppered with a dose of profanities.... Mr. Bannon mostly referred to the 'elite' or 'mainstream' media, but he cited The New York Times and The Washington Post by name." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... John Finer of the Atlantic: "What is different about the Trump administration's approach to the press is that it has not just advanced an alternate version of important events, but rather it appears to be signaling an assault on the very legitimacy of the press as an independent actor in American public life.... Without recent precedent, he is also laying the groundwork to influence highly sensitive policy discussions by taking on the intelligence community, whose job is to frame those debates for national security decision-makers.... The United States has always distinguished itself from more autocratic powers like Russia and China, or from our partners in th Middle East, by the protections we provide our press, and by our aspiration to preserve some autonomy from political interference for the analysis of our intelligence agencies. If Trump prevails in these fights, he could do more than simply enact his agenda; he could alter aspects of our political culture in ways that will be difficult to reverse." -- CW

... Hunter of Daily Kos: "What can we infer from this extended rant? Chiefly, that Donald Trump's obsession with his victory, inauguration numbers and supposedly vicious press coverage isn't happening in a vacuum. He and his chief strategist are egging each other on; it's a shared obsession. And that means it's very unlikely that saner heads in the party are going to talk Trump down, no matter how alarmed Trump's fellow Republicans are about his erratic and obsessive behavior. All indications suggest Bannon's influence is, at least as of this moment, dominating Trump's behavior." -- CW ...

... Steve M.: "This chest-thumping is meant to intimidate, but in reality it's laughable.... A couple of questions for you, Stevie. You want the mainstream media to 'shut up'" -- and yet you're asking the MSM to quote you. Isn't that a contradiction? Shutting up would mean not publishing anything, including your words of spittle-flecked rage.... And if you want to be quoted in the MSM, why, if you say the MSM has 'no power'? Also, too Bannon called Grynbaum, not the other way around, & he said he had been a life-long reader of the powerless,, superfluous NYT. -- CW

More White House Voter Fraudsters Who Must Have Voted for Crooked Hillary. Matea Gold & Alice Crites of the Washington Post: "Jared Kushner..., Trump's son-in-law and one of his closest White House advisers, is registered to vote in both New Jersey and New York, while White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is on the rolls both in Virginia and his home state of Rhode Island, according to elections officials and voting registration records. Their dual registrations offer two more high-profile examples of how common it is for voters to be on the rolls in multiple states -- something Trump has claimed is evidence of voter fraud. With Kushner and Spicer, The Washington Post has now identified five Trump family members or top administration appointees who were registered in two states during the fall election. The others are chief White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon; Tiffany Trump, the president's youngest daughter; and Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin, as first reported by CNN." -- CW

I would be the best for women, the best for women's health issues. -- Donald Trump, August 2016, in one of numerous similar statements

Apparently, being subjected to violent attacks is the best thing for women's health. -- Constant Weader ...

... Jess Zimmerman of New York: "A series of upsetting interactions between Donald Trump and his First Lady, caught on video during inauguration festivities, has spawned a wave of speculation about the health of their union, along with the hashtag #FreeMelania.... Meanwhile, Trump -- the man Melania supported, willingly or no, all the way to the White House, albeit from ten steps behind -- proposes to eliminate the Office on Violence Against Women, which administers grant programs intended to reduce domestic abuse and sexual assault and improve treatment of victims. OVW's proposed 2017 budget is $489 million -- a mere 0.01 percent of the federal budget. Like many of Trump's proposed cuts, this one is not pragmatic but ideological. It saves almost nothing, but it sends a message: Violence against women is not something we care about.... Donald Trump may be abusing his wife; we don't know, and we probably never will. But we know for an absolute fact that he is endangering the millions of women who experience intimate-partner violence every year." ...

     ... CW: You might want to click on the link, which Zimmerman provided. It's clear to me how Trump treats his wife, even in the best of circumstances.

Dionne Searcey, et al., of the New York Times: "Direct American aid to carry out abortions was already prohibited [before Donald Trump signed an order yesterday re: aid to health organizations around the world], but the rule Mr. Trump revived goes further. It requires not only hospitals or clinics to refrain from providing advice or information on the benefits and availability of abortion. It also requires any international organizations supporting those clinics to stop promoting abortion or advocating abortion rights anywhere in the world -- even if they use non-American money to do so. Experts say the rule has cut American aid to groups offering a wide range of services, not just abortion, during previous Republican administrations that have adopted the policy. But this time, they say, the impact could be much bigger. The wording in the Trump order extends the restrictions to all American global health aid, an $8.5 billion pot of money, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a research organization. More than half of that money goes to programs for H.I.V. and AIDS, including services for women of reproductive age, the analysis found. An additional 9 percent goes to maternal and child health care, which is partly aimed at promoting safe pregnancies. By contrast, the last time the rule was in place, under President George W. Bush, it applied only to family planning money, an amount that is currently around $520 million, the analysis found." CW: See also Gail Collins' theory that this was all mike pence's bright idea. Linked yesterday. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Josh Rogin of the Washington Post: "Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's job running the State Department just got considerably more difficult. The entire senior level of management officials resigned Wednesday, part of an ongoing mass exodus of senior foreign service officers who don't want to stick around for the Trump era. All are career foreign service officers who have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations.... 'It's the single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember, and that's incredibly difficult to replicate,' said David Wade, who served as State Department chief of staff under Secretary of State John Kerry." CW: BTW, Rogin refers to Tillerson as secretary of state, but I don't think he's been confirmed yet. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Update. Eric Levitz of New York: "... on Wednesday, the Trump administration forced out four senior-level management officials at the State Department.... The Washington Post's Josh Rogin had written that the officials may have resigned at their own volition. But a deliberate housecleaning is actually more consistent with Rogin's dispatch.... All four of the career officers had submitted letters of resignation shortly after Trump's inauguration -- a longstanding tradition that empowers the new administration to select its own staff, should it wish to. However, presidents usually do not accept those resignations until successors have been found and confirmed. Trump's hasty housecleaning leaves a void at the department...." Thanks to PD Pepe for the link. -- CW

Hey, Trump's top lawyer, White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn, is a plagiarist, too! McGahn filed his first brief for the administration, and "a chunk of more than 300 words, essentially the entire analysis, is a word-for-word reproduction of" a brief filed by another party. The author of the first brief said he had worked with McGahn, but others say the identical filings are "unusual" or "at the very least, bad form." -- CW

Beyond the Beltway

We, the People, Should STFU. Charles Pierce: In the Laboratories of Democracy, legislators are coming up with quite a few novel ways to squelch democracy, particularly when it comes to peaceful protest. You could run over protesters with your car "accidentally," or lock 'em up, or disperse them "by all means necessary." -- CW

Way Beyond

Peter Beaumont of the Guardian: "Israeli detectives have interviewed Benjamin Netanyahu for a third time as part of a series of investigations into his conduct in office. Amid reports in the Israeli media that police are close to deciding whether to indict the prime minister, in a post on Facebook he accused his perceived enemies in the media and politics 'of an attempted coup by undemocratic means'." -- CW

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