The Wires
The Ledes

Monday, October 15, 2018.

CNBC: "Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen has died from complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Vulcan Inc. said Monday on behalf of his family. Allen passed away Monday afternoon in Seattle at 65 years old, Vulcan said." ...

     ... Allen's New York Times obituary is here.

Royal Watch:


... The Guardian has a story here.

Another British royal wedding at Windsor: Princess Eugenie & Jack Brooksbank. Pix here; story here.

Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I can't tell you how many times I could have used this guy. But he/it really should have set the drywall a millimeter or two off the concrete floor to keep the drywall, well, dry:

... Jon Fingas of Engadget tells the story of Drywall Man.

A Toke Before They Croak. Guardian: "For decades, seafood lovers have struggled with a confounding ethical dilemma: how do you balance out the delight of a lobster dinner with the discomfort of boiling one alive, generally regarded as the proper way to prepare the crustacean delicacy?... Sedating lobsters by blowing marijuana smoke on to them sounds like the type of idea you might come up with while smoking a bit of grass yourself, but Charlotte Gill, owner of Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound in Southwest Harbor, is convinced it can help to ease the pain lobsters might feel while being boiled alive. An animal rights supporter who has owned the restaurant for seven years, Gill told the Mount Desert Island publication that she’s long struggled with the ethical implications of her line of work. After conducting an experiment in which she 'hot-boxed' a particularly aggressive lobster named Roscoe, she came away convinced the high significantly mellowed him out. 'The animal is already going to be killed,' she said in the interview. 'It is far more humane to make it a kinder passage.'”


Here's the Los Angeles Times' Emmy page. ...

... New York Times: "'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' won five [Emmys] on Monday night, including best comedy series, and “Game of Thrones” picked up the award for best drama. HBO and Netflix tied with 23 Emmys each. See a full list of winners here. Talk of #MeToo was largely absent from this year’s ceremony, with no one mentioning Leslie Moonves from the stage. Read our critic’s review of the show, which he said lacked diversity. See red carpet photos."

Guardian: "A pair of ruby red slippers, produced for Judy Garland to wear in the Wizard of Oz, have been discovered by police over a decade after they were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minneapolis [sic, Minnesota]. The discovery ends years of intrigue and scandal surrounding the whereabouts of the shoes. The slippers were recovered during an undercover operation in Minneapolis, the FBI revealed in a news conference today. Their lead came in summer 2017 when an individual approached the company that insured the slippers, claiming he had information about the shoes and how they could be returned. It quickly became clear he was attempting to extort the slippers’ owners and police were contacted.

There will be an answer. Best #CarpoolKaraoke evah:

     ... You're welcome. ...

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


The Commentariat -- December 5, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Medlar's Sports Report. Rebecca Ruiz & Tariq Panja of the New York Times: "Russia's Olympic team has been barred from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The country's government officials are forbidden to attend, its flag will not be displayed at the opening ceremony and its anthem will not sound. Any athletes from Russia who receive special dispensation to compete will do so as individuals wearing a neutral uniform, and the official record books will forever show that Russia won zero medals. That was the punishment issued Tuesday to the proud sports juggernaut that has long used the Olympics as a show of global force but was exposed for systematic doping in previously unfathomable ways. The International Olympic Committee, after completing its own prolonged investigations that reiterated what had been known for more than a year, handed Russia penalties for doping so severe they were without precedent in Olympics history."

More Sad! News for Trumpelthinskin. Rebecca Savransky of the Hill: "No tweets by President Trump made Twitter's list of the year's most retweeted posts. But three tweets by former President Barack Obama made the list. Obama's tweets on 'The 9 Most Retweeted Tweets of 2017' include one with a Nelson Mandela quote that says: 'No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion.' The tweet received 1.7 million retweets and 4.6 million likes."

Mark Landler & David Halbfinger of the New York Times: "President Trump told Israeli and Arab leaders on Tuesday that he plans to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a symbolically fraught move that would upend decades of American policy and upset efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Mr. Trump is expected to announce his decision on Wednesday, two days after the expiration of a deadline for him to decide whether to keep the American Embassy in Tel Aviv. Palestinian officials said Mr. Trump told the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, that the United States would move the embassy to Jerusalem. Jordan said the president gave a similar message to King Abdullah II. American officials, however, said such a move could not occur immediately for logistical reasons.... Mr. Trump is expected to sign a national security waiver that would authorize the administration to keep it in Tel Aviv for an additional six months. Still, Mr. Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital -- and to set in motion an embassy move -- is his riskiest foray yet into the thicket of Middle East diplomacy."

Steven Arons of Bloomberg: "Special prosecutor Robert Mueller zeroed in on ... Donald Trump's business dealings with Deutsche Bank AG as his investigation into alleged Russian meddling in U.S. elections widens. Mueller issued a subpoena to Germany's largest lender several weeks ago, forcing the bank to submit documents on its relationship with Trump and his family, according to a person briefed on the matter, who asked not to be identified because the action has not been announced.... Deutsche Bank for months has rebuffed calls by Democratic lawmakers to provide more transparency over the roughly $300 million Trump owed to the bank for his real estate dealings prior to becoming president. Representative Maxine Waters of California and other Democrats have asked whether the bank's loans to Trump, made years before he ran for president, were in any way connected to Russia. The bank previously rejected those demands.... Handelsblatt reported the subpoena earlier on Tuesday." ...

... Josh Marshall: "This is a critical development. As we've discussed before..., all major banks have for years refused to do business with Donald Trump. The exception is Deutsche Bank, which is of course not a US bank but does substantial business in the US and is on the scale of other big banks that have refused to do business with the now President. Why Deutsche Bank still works with Trump (they financed most of the DC Trump hotel project, for instance) is a basic question running through the Russia story.... Lots of Russian money goes through Deutsche Bank and indeed the bank has been repeatedly fined for Russian money laundering. The Deutsche Bank subpoena is certainly about probing the President's financial ties to Russia.... This is the kind of move Trump has suggested might provoke him to fire Mueller." ...

... Stephen Collinson of CNN: "... Donald Trump's legal defense against Robert Mueller's unrelenting special counsel investigation is beginning to look as chaotic as his early days in the White House. A sequence of reflexive tweets and comments about the Russia probe from the White House and Trump's legal team has spectacularly backfired, suggesting that the administration was knocked off balance by news of Michael Flynn's plea deal and raising questions about whether its struggles reflect a deteriorating legal position for the President."

Elise Viebeck & Dave Weigel of the Washington Post: "Facing multiple allegations of sexual harassment, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) resigned as Congress's longest-serving member on Tuesday, becoming the first lawmaker to step down as Capitol Hill grapples with allegations of inappropriate behavior by lawmakers. Conyers, who represented the Detroit area for 52 years, yielded to mounting pressure from Democratic leaders ... as a growing number of female former aides accused him of unwanted advances and mistreatment. He has denied wrongdoing. From a hospital in Detroit, the 88-year-old congressman said he was 'putting his retirement plans together' and endorsed his son John Conyers III to replace him. Another Conyers family member has already declared his intention to run for the seat, raising the specter of an intrafamily contest.... Now that Conyers has resigned, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) will call a special election to replace him." ...

... The Party of Gross Old Pervs. Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post: "One can criticize the unapologetic manner in which [Conyers] left and the cheesy effort to install his son, but the important point is that the Democratic Party forced him out.... The contrast with the GOP, which stood behind President Trump even after the 'Access Hollywood' tape and now has thrown its full support behind an accused child molester, could not be greater -- or more toxic -- for the GOP. To be blunt, one party has adopted a zero-tolerance position (with Sen. Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, set to go before the ethics committee) and another party opens its arms to people it believes are miscreants."

When have we ever given protection to a food? -- Justice Sonia Sotomayor, oral arguments, Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, December 5 ...

... Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who almost certainly holds the crucial vote in the case of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, sent sharply contradictory messages when it was argued Tuesday at the Supreme Court.... The case, which pits claims of religious freedom against the fight for gay rights, has attracted extraordinary public attention and about 100 friend-of-the-court briefs.... Tuesday's argument, which lasted almost 90 minutes instead of the usual hour, appeared to divide the justices along the usual lines."

David Faber of CNBC: "Disney and Twenty-First Century Fox are closing in on a deal, and it could come as soon as next week, according to sources familiar with the matter. CNBC has been reporting that Disney has held talks with the Rupert Murdoch-controlled media company to acquire its studio and television production assets, leaving Fox with its news and sports assets. Fox is also talking with CNBC parent company Comcast, but the talks with Disney have progressed more significantly. The deal contemplates the sale of Fox's Nat Geo, Star, regional sports networks, movie studios and stakes in Sky and Hulu, among other properties. What would remain at Fox includes its news and business news divisions, broadcast network and Fox sports." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Oh, crap. And here I was hoping that Hannity & Dobbs would have to appear on-air in Mickey Mouse costumes.


NEW. Nick Miroff of the Washington Post: "The number people caught trying to sneak over the border from Mexico has fallen to the lowest level in 46 years, according to Homeland Security statistics released Tuesday that offer the first comprehensive look at how immigration enforcement is changing under the Trump administration. During the government's 2017 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, U.S. border agents made 310,531 arrests, a decline of 24 percent from the previous year and the fewest overall since 1971. The figures show a sharp drop in arrests immediately following President Trump's election win, possibly reflecting the deterrent effect of his rhetoric on would-be border crossers, though starting in May the number of people taken into custody began increasing again. Arrests of foreigners living illegally in the United States surged under Trump. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers made 110,568 arrests between Trump's inauguration and the end of September, according to the figures published Tuesday, a 42 percent increase over the same period during the previous year."

Julie Turkewitz of the New York Times: "President Trump said he would dramatically reduce the size of a vast expanse of protected federal land in Utah on Monday, a rollback of some two million acres that is the largest in scale in the nation's history. The administration said it would shrink Bears Ears National Monument, a sprawling region of red rock canyons, by about 85 percent, and cut another area, Grand Staircase-Escalante, to about half its current size. The move, a reversal of protections put in place by Democratic predecessors, comes as the administration pushes for fewer restrictions and more development on public lands." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Although Trump's main goal in shrinking the monuments is to help his mining/robber baron friends, I suspect he's happy with the side benefit: disrespecting Native Americans. Before Trump clipped its ears, Bear Ears contained "some 100,000 objects of archaeological significance, including grave sites, ceremonial grounds, ancient cliff dwellings." Trump said he was shrinking the site because "some of the places in the original monument ... 'are not of significant scientific or historic interest.'" Odd how Trump is all excited about saying "Merry Christmas" but he shows no respect for Native American religious traditions? You might think he privileges one faith over others. Which would be unconstitutional.

The Russia Report

Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "President Trump said Monday that he feels 'very badly' for his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, because his false statements to the FBI have 'ruined his life.' Trump, who tweeted over the weekend that he fired Flynn from his White House job because he had lied to the FBI as well as to Vice President Pence, told reporters Monday morning that Flynn's undoing was 'a shame' and 'very unfair.' 'I feel badly for General Flynn,' Trump said on the South Lawn of the White House, as he boarded Marine One ahead of a trip to Utah [Mrs. McC: to destroy a national monument]. 'I feel very badly. He's led a very strong life, and I feel very badly.'... 'I will say this: Hillary Clinton lied many times to the FBI,' Trump said. 'Nothing happened to her. Flynn lied, and they destroyed his life. I think it's a shame. Hillary Clinton, on the 4th of July weekend, went to the FBI, not under oath. It was the most incredible thing anyone's ever seen. She lied many times. Nothing happened to her. Flynn lied, and it's like they ruined his life. It's very unfair.'... White House spokesmen did not immediately respond to a request to substantiate Trump's allegation that she had 'lied many times' to the FBI." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: That might be because there is no evidence to substantiate Trump's allegation, as Jim Comey testified last year. It's just another of those made-up charges that Trump says "people will believe." Not sure if Trump is trying to appeal to Flynn in hopes Flynn will keep some secrets, or if Trump is laying the groundwork for a pardon of Flynn so he no longer has incentive to testify against Trump & others, or both.

Kara Scannell of CNN: "The White House's chief lawyer told ... Donald Trump in January he believed [-- based on his conversations with Acting AG Sally Yates --] then-national security adviser Michael Flynn had misled the FBI and lied to Vice President Mike Pence and should be fired, a source familiar with the matter said Monday.... Despite McGahn's recommendation that Trump fire Flynn, the retired lieutenant general was kept on. Flynn was forced out in mid-February after news outlets reported about Yates' warning to McGahn." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Greg Sargent: Trump's attorney John "'Dowd is basically arguing that as the chief law enforcement officer, Trump has the authority to block investigations into himself, his allies and into his friends, and nothing he does can be construed as obstruction of justice,' Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman, told me this morning. 'The logical extension of all this is that Trump can try to remove Mueller and it would be entirely legitimate.'... Trump is amplifying a narrative that his media allies have banged away at in recent weeks, one designed to goad Trump into going full authoritarian. The basic idea is that Mueller and the FBI are themselves corrupt -- Clinton is not being investigated, but Trump's campaign is -- so the only way to set things right is to close down Mueller's probe. If Miller is correct, then Dowd's new quote may telegraph an argument that might be used to justify this, and Trump's vow to bring the FBI 'back to greatness' can also be read as a hint at this possibility.... Multiple GOP lawmakers have said Mueller's probe should be allowed to proceed. But that isn't enough. We should all do our part to ensure that they are pressed on whether Trump will face actual consequences if he tries to prevent that from happening." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "To be clear, this is a Trump lawyer effectively trying to knock down one of two major pillars of the Russia investigation -- to exempt his client completely from being held liable for his actions in (roughly) half the investigation.... [While some lawyers saw some merits in Dowd's argument], [o]thers were blunter, arguing that Dowd's case is bogus and entirely self-serving. Michael Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina's School of Law called it 'absurd.' 'The president is obliged to faithfully execute the law, and that includes in circumstances where he or his friends are involved,' Gerhardt said. 'He must also comply like every citizen is obliged to follow the laws in everything else he does ...." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Sean Illing of Vox rounds up more Constitutional scholars who write that, just because the president has the power to do something doesn't mean he has the right to commit a corrupt act. That is, he has the power to fire federal officials who serve at his pleasure, but it is unlawful to fire them for a corrupt purpose -- like, um, protecting himself & his friends. Mrs. McC: As MAG points out in today's thread, Trump has already admitted -- to top Russian officials, no less -- that "Firing 'Nut Job' Comey Eased Pressure From Investigation." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Hey, Even Jeffbo Agrees! Kyle Cheney of Politico: "In 1999, [Jeff] Sessions -- then an Alabama senator -- laid out an impassioned case for President Bill Clinton to be removed from office based on the argument that Clinton obstructed justice amid the investigation into his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. 'The facts are disturbing and compelling on the President's intent to obstruct justice,' he said, according to remarks in the congressional record.... More than 40 current GOP members of Congress voted for the impeachment or removal of Clinton from office for obstruction of justice. They include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell -- who mounted his own passionate appeal to remove Clinton from office for obstruction of justice -- Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, who was a House member at the time." ...

... Brian Beutler of Crooked: The press had adopted the White House's defense that "there is no evidence Trump & his campaign colluded with Russia." "This framing gets things almost completely backward: There is more than enough evidence to say definitively that the Trump administration colluded with Russia, and there is every reason to believe the plot encompassed criminal activity, even if that activity remains invisible for now.... After repeatedly communicating to Russia (in public and in private) that they welcomed interference in the election, Trump and his aides cast public doubt on whether the saboteurs were Russians at all. When Trump went on to win the election after benefiting from this interference, members of his inner circle, through Michael Flynn, secretly connived with Russia to subvert the countermeasures the American government had undertaken as penalties for Russia's interference." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... McFarland Caught Lying to Congress. Michael Schmidt & Sharon LaFraniere of the New York Times: "An email sent during the transition by President Trump's former deputy national security adviser, K.T. McFarland, appears to contradict the testimony she gave to Congress over the summer about contacts between the Russian ambassador and Mr. Trump's former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn. Ms. McFarland had told lawmakers that she did not discuss or know anything about interactions between Sergey I. Kislyak ... and Mr. Flynn, according to Senate documents. After the hearing, Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, asked her in writing: 'Did you ever discuss any of General Flynn's contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak directly with General Flynn?' I am not aware of any of the issues or events as described above,' Ms. McFarland replied.... But emails obtained by The New York Times appear to undermine those statements. In a Dec. 29 message about newly imposed Obama administration sanctions against Russia for its election interference, Ms. McFarland ... told another transition official that Mr. Flynn would be talking to the Russian ambassador that evening." ...

... ** Josh Marshall reprints McFarland's full memo (via Michael Schmidt) & writes a long piece on the Trump administration's plans for a partnership with Russia: "As Mike Isikoff reported back in June, pretty much from day one in office, Trump administration officials began tasking State Department officials with drawing up plans for [a] rapprochement.... This touched off a panicked effort by career officials and Obama administration hold overs to slow down these efforts and warn key leaders on Capitol Hill of what was happening and what was being planned. But the preparation for this effort began immediately after the election, way back on November 9th.... As McFarland clearly understood[, the administration's deal with Russia] had to become a fait accompli before the full story emerged. Indeed, if the Trump Team could get in place before most of the information was revealed it might never become known at all since they would take over the key agencies doing the investigating. The urgency of [Flynn's] reaching out to Kislyak was to make sure a rapprochement was still possible by late January." ...

... Tierney Sneed of TPM: Ben Cardin (Md.), "the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is calling for KT McFarland to 'clarify' testimony she gave the committee on what she knew about former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn's conversations with the Russian ambassador before she receives a floor vote confirming her as an ambassador to Singapore." Mrs. McC: Will Republicans confirm McFarland after she flat-out lied to their faces on a significant matter the Senate was investigating? I just don't think she is going to Singapore, unless it's on a tourist visa. ...

... Josh Marshall: "... the nature of Flynn's calls, specifically that they dealt with sanctions, were known widely among Trump's top advisors: McFarland, Conway, Bannon, Miller, Priebus and certainly others.... This is ... based on the Flynn plea agreement and contemporaneous pool reports which detailed which top advisors the transition team said were with the President on the days in question handling the foreign policy transition.... Trump's top advisors knew the true nature of the calls and repeatedly lied about it to reporters. This is the only plausible read of the the current evidence. They allowed Pence's false statements to stand for weeks, which amounts to a furtherance of those lies.... This was a cover-up, a string of publicly verified deceptions that went back to the beginning of the month." --safari ...

... Looking for an example of Marshall's assertion that the White House had engineered a cover-up? Let's check in with Chris Hayes:

... Paul Manafort Is Dumber Than Dirt. Chris Megerian of the Los Angeles Times: "Paul Manafort ghost-wrote an editorial about his political work in Ukraine, violating a court order, according to a new court filing from the special counsel's office. The allegation was disclosed Monday as the reason the special counsel was backing out of a deal on bail with Manafort's lawyers. The deal would have loosened the terms of house arrest for ...[Manafort]. Manafort wanted to be allowed to travel among a few states in return for agreeing to forfeit $11.6 million in property if he missed a court appearance. The special counsel's office ... said Manafort helped draft the editorial in recent days, working with a Russian who has ties to that country's intelligence services." Mrs. McC: Nothing like pissing off the judge who controls your fate. ...

... Rosalind Helderman & Spencer Hsu of the Washington Post: "Federal prosecutors asserted Monday that a longtime associate of Paul Manafort, the former chairman of President Trump's campaign, has been 'assessed to have ties' to Russian intelligence -- the first time the special counsel has alleged a Trump official had such contacts. The statement came as prosecutors working for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III withdrew their support for a joint bail deal filed last week that would have released Manafort from home detention and GPS monitoring while he awaits trial on charges including money laundering and fraud." ...

What about mikey? Matthew Nussbaum of Politico: "As the White House contends with questions about who knew about former national security adviser Michael Flynn lying to the FBI, people close to Vice President Mike Pence are trying to make clear that ... Donald Trump's No. 2 knew nothing at all.... Their story has been consistent, even as it has left outside observers wondering how Trump's running mate and transition head could have known so little." ...

... McKay Coppins of the Atlantic profiles mike pence in a long piece titled "God's Plan for Mike Pence." Here's a nice outtake: "Within hours of The Post's ["Access Hollywood"] bombshell, Pence made it clear to the Republican National Committee that he was ready to take Trump's place as the party's nominee.... Republican donors and party leaders began buzzing about making Pence the nominee and drafting Condoleezza Rice as his running mate.... [Mike & Karen Pence were] appalled by the video.... Karen in particular was 'disgusted,' says a former campaign aide. 'She finds him [Trump] reprehensible -- just totally vile.'" ...

... ** Asha Rangappa  in a Hill op-ed, outlines how the Trump transition team crippled U.S. diplomatic power against Russia both before & after the inauguration. "Focusing on whether the Trump campaign and transition team broke the law misses the bigger picture. By secretly sabotaging a measure designed to protect America's sovereignty in the face of a foreign attack, these individuals acted against the interest of the United States and aided our adversary. Now they are the stewards of the country and its institutions. Whatever happens in a court of law, that is what should concern us all." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Carrie Johnson of NPR: "President Trump may have been involved with a change to the Republican Party campaign platform last year that watered down support for U.S. assistance to Ukraine, according to new information from someone who was involved. Diana Denman, a Republican delegate who supported arming U.S. allies in Ukraine, has told people that Trump aide J.D. Gordon said at the Republican Convention in 2016 that Trump directed him to support weakening that position in the official platform. Ultimately, the softer position was adopted. Denman is scheduled to meet this week with the House and Senate Intelligence committees to discuss what she saw, said two sources familiar with the briefings.... 'I dispute [Denman's] recollection of events,' [Gordon] said in messages with NPR.... The Obama administration also vowed support for pro-Western forces in Ukraine and supplied them with vehicles and other military equipment, but stopped short of weapons." ...

... Laura Jarrett & Evan Perez of CNN: "A former top counterintelligence expert at the FBI, now at the center of a political uproar for exchanging private messages that appeared to mock ... Donald Trump, changed a key phrase in former FBI Director James Comey's description of how ... Hillary Clinton handled classified information, according to US officials familiar with the matter. Electronic records show Peter Strzok, who led the investigation of Hillary Clinton's private email server as the No. 2 official in the counterintelligence division, changed Comey's earlier draft language describing Clinton's actions as 'grossly negligent' to 'extremely careless,' the source said. The drafting process was a team effort, CNN is told, with a handful of people reviewing the language as edits were made.... The shift ... [in language] reflected a decision by the FBI that could have had potentially significant legal implications, as the federal law governing the mishandling of classified material establishes criminal penalties for 'gross negligence.'" ...

... Adam Goldman & Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, defended his work force in an email on Monday, a day after President Trump said on Twitter that the agency's standing was the 'worst in History' and its reputation was in 'Tatters'. In a message to the F.B.I.'s 35,000 agents and support staff that was provided to The New York Times, Mr. Wray said that he was 'inspired by example after example of professionalism and dedication to justice demonstrated around the bureau. It is truly an honor to represent you.' He did not mention Mr. Trump by name.... A White House spokesman traveling with the president on Monday would not answer questions about the president's tweets." ...

... James Hohmann of the Washington Post: The president of the FBI Agents Association & Jim Comey are defending the agency on Twitter against Trump's tweeted assertions that the FBI is "in tatters" & the new director must "clean house." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

** Matthew Cole & Jeremy Scahill
of the Intercept: "The Trump administration is considering a set of proposals developed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a retired CIA officer -- with assistance from Oliver North, a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal -- to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials and others familiar with the proposals. The sources say the plans have been pitched to the White House as a means of countering 'deep state' enemies in the intelligence community seeking to undermine Trump's presidency. The creation of such a program raises the possibility that the effort would be used to create an intelligence apparatus to justify the Trump administration's political agenda.... Some of the individuals involved with the proposals secretly met with major Trump donors asking them to help finance operations.... The White House has also considered creating a new global rendition unit meant to capture terrorist suspects around the world.... According to two former senior intelligence officials, Pompeo has embraced the plan and has lobbied the White House to approve the contract." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: We had better hope that unnamed CIA spokesperson is right, & this is one big left-wing wet dream of a conspiracy theory, because if there's any truth to the notion that Trump plans to establish his own, privately-funded deep state, this country is in even bigger trouble than we knew. ...

... Aram Roston of BuzzFeed reported a similar version of this tale on November 30. Mrs. McC: One of the major companies reputedly involved in the plot works out of -- wait for it -- Whitefish, Montana, that nice little home town of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, neo-Nazi Richard Spencer & other fascists, & the owners of that two-person electrical contracting firm that ripped off Puerto Rico.

Frances Sellers of the Washington Post: "The defamation suit filed in January in New York State Supreme Court by [Summer] Zervos, a short-lived contestant on 'The Apprentice,' has reached a critical point, with oral arguments over Trump's motion to dismiss scheduled for Tuesday, after which the judge is expected to rule on whether the case may move forward. If it proceeds, Zervos's attorneys could gather and make public incidents from Trump's past and Trump could be called to testify.... By turning personal and branding the women [who accused him of sexual trangressions] liars, Trump has perhaps unwittingly played into a cutting-edge strategy in the legal pursuit of sexual misconduct -- claims of defamation.... 'An allegation of defamation against somebody who can seem flamboyantly reckless with the truth may have a higher probability of sticking,' said Naomi Mezey, a law professor at Georgetown University."

Nahal Toosi of Politico: "The State Department has warned American embassies worldwide to heighten security ahead of a possible announcement Wednesday by ... Donald Trump that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The warning -- delivered in the past week via two classified cables described by State Department officials -- reflects concern that such an announcement could provoke fury in the Arab world...."

Jim Tankersley
of the New York Times: "A Republican requirement that Congress consider the full cost of major legislation threatened to derail the party's $1.5 trillion tax rewrite last week. So lawmakers went on the offensive to discredit the agency performing the analysis. In 2015, Republicans changed the budget rules in Congress so that official scorekeepers would be required to analyze the potential economic impact of major legislation when determining how it would affect federal revenues. But on Thursday, hours before they were set to vote on the largest tax cut Congress has considered in years, Senate Republicans opened an assault on that scorekeeper, the Joint Committee on Taxation, and its analysis, which showed the Senate plan would not, as lawmakers contended, pay for itself but would add $1 trillion to the federal budget deficit. Public statements and messaging documents obtained by The New York Times show a concerted push by Republican lawmakers to discredit a nonpartisan agency they had long praised. Party leaders circulated two pages of 'response points' that declared 'the substance, timing and growth assumptions of J.C.T.'s "dynamic" score are suspect.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: This is not only the GOP's own rule; it also their own committee. If Democrats take control of either house & propose a bill that the JCT estimated went $12 over the "revenue-neutral" rule, Republicans will be screaming to the hills. The only consistency in Republican philosophy is that rules are for thee but not for me. ...

... The GOP "War on Economics." Jonathan Chait: "After having spent years browbeating the Joint Committee on Taxation into incorporating 'dynamic' models that assume tax cuts bring faster economic growth, [Republicans] ignored reports which found the Republican plan would not produce nearly enough to pay for itself.... The fiscal effects of tax policy is a field of research, like climate science, where the Republican Party has dismissed the academic consensus and instead resided in a fantasy world.... After 2007, the 'Bush Boom' that conservatives had been celebrating as proof of the brilliance of their tax-cutting scheme was revealed as a bubble, which collapsed. Then in 2012, they predicted that the expiration of the Bush tax cuts on high incomes would cause the economy to slow, but instead it accelerated. The intellectual case for supply-side economics grows weaker and weaker. Yet the supply-siders control of the party remains as firm as ever." --safari ...

... **More Morons! Eric Levitz of New York: "While Republicans were manically outlining their plans to take from the poor togive to the Trumps, they also, accidentally, nullified all of their corporate donors' favorite deductions.... This is a big problem. The Senate bill brings the normal corporate rate down to 20 percent -- while leaving the alternative minimum rate at ... 20 percent. The legislation would still allow corporations to claim a wide variety of tax credits and deductions -- it just renders all them completely worthless. Companies can either take no deductions, and pay a 20 percent rate -- or take lots of deductions ... and pay a 20 percent rate. With this blunder, Senate Republicans have achieved the unthinkable: They've written a giant corporate tax cut that many of their corporate donors do not like.... McConnell's mistake has two big implications. First..., it means the Senate will almost certainly have to vote on a tax bill again before [this] one goes into law.... Second..., McConnell is going to need new revenue." --safari ...

... Ian Millhiser of Think Progress: "Appearing on CNBC Monday, Harvard economist and former Obama and Clinton administration official Larry Summers warned that if the Senate tax bill becomes law, about 10,000 people will die every year who otherwise would have lived. If anything, his estimate isn't pessimistic enough.... The reason why is that the bill repeals the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate ... which can cause entire insurance markets to collapse.... The Congressional Budget Office estimates that, if the individual mandate is repealed, 13 million fewer Americans will be insured by 2027.... [E]stimates vary regarding how many people will die if this many people lose their health insurance. One oft-cited study ... looked at how mortality rates declined in Massachusetts after that state enacted Obamacare-like reforms in 2006. It found that 'for every 830 adults gaining insurance coverage there was one fewer death per year.'... That's 15,600 people who will die every year, thanks to the Senate tax bill." --safari ...

... Paul Krugman: "... it's not at all surprising that [Congressional Republicans] were willing to enact a huge tax cut for corporations and the wealthy even though all independent estimates said this would add more than $1 trillion to the national debt. And it was also predictable that they would return to deficit posturing as soon as the deed was done, citing the red ink they themselves produced as a reason to cut social spending. Yet even the most cynical among us are startled both by how quickly the bait-and-switch is proceeding and by the contempt Republicans are showing for the public's intelligence." ...

... The Gilded Age, Ctd. Dylan Scott of Vox: "Here's a grim picture of the state of the American economy: The CEO of Dollar General explained to the Wall Street Journal why things are looking up for his company. Dollar General, with about 14,000 stores across the country and a $22 billion market value, targets customers making $40,000 a year or less. They are expanding, CEO Todd Vasos told the Journal. Why? 'The economy is continuing to create more of our core customer,' Vasos said." --safari: I thought all those irresponsible leeches were wasting their last pennies on booze, women, and movies...? ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Sorry, safari. It turns out those reprobates are buying cheap toothpaste & diapers for the kiddies.

Oh, Did We Mention? ... Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "With government funding set to expire at the end of Friday, Republicans are aiming to buy more time so they can negotiate over a long-term spending package. The task is complicated by a feud between President Trump and Democrats, whose votes Republicans need to secure passage, and measures on the politically fraught issues of immigration and the Affordable Care Act." ...

     ... Mrs. McC: Yeah, yeah, the federal government could be kaput by the end of the week, but hey, the IRS promised me a check in the mail & wiped out the bill they sent me last week, so what do I care? Sure, I might miss the next Social Security check, but Medlar was only going to use it to booze around with loose women at the movies. I've got leftover cat food, so I'll just whip up a few casseroles & we'll be fine.

Senate Race

Richard Fausset, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump on Monday strongly endorsed Roy S. Moore ... prompting the Republican National Committee to restore its support for a candidate accused of sexual misconduct against teenage girls. Mr. Trump's endorsement strengthened what had been his subdued, if symbolically significant, embrace of Mr. Moore's campaign. At Mr. Trump's direct urging, and to the surprise of some Republican Party officials, the national committee, which severed ties to Mr. Moore weeks ago, opened a financial spigot that could help Mr. Moore with voter turnout in the contest's closing days. 'Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive Tax Cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama,' Mr. Trump posted on Twitter on Monday...." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: The GOP's failure to get a single Democratic vote has nothing whatever to do with the fact that Republicans completely shut out Democrats from their secret meetings & accepted no input whatsoever from them. I should note that when Democrats controlled the government, they took pains to include Republicans in the process. No, both sides don't do it. ...

... The Week: "Moore tweeted the news of the coveted endorsement and quoted the president as saying, "'Go get 'em, Roy!'" Mrs. McC: Oh, he will, Donald. As long as they're very young, female & good-looking.

... Stephanie McCrummen of the Washington Post: Debbie Wesson Gibson, one of the women who said Roy Moore dated her when she was a teenager, has found in a high-school scrapbook a note Moore wrote her. Moore originally admitted to knowing Wesson Gibson but now to dating her. He later said he did "not know any of these women, did not date any of these women and have not engaged in any sexual misconduct with anyone." She also found a note (which she wrote in her scrapbook that Moore had given her $10 as a graduation gift. "On a page titled 'the best times,' she had written: 'Wednesday night, 3-4-81. Roy S. Moore and I went out for the first time. We went out to eat at Catfish Cabin in Albertville. I had a great time.' She had underlined 'great' twice." Wesson Gibson & her family continued their friendship with Moore for several years.

Yamiche Alcindor
of the New York Times: "Representative John Conyers Jr., who faces allegations that he sexually harassed former employees, plans to announce Tuesday that he will not seek re-election, according to a family member.... Mr. Conyers, the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, will make the announcement by calling into a local radio show on Tuesday morning, Ian Conyers, a Michigan state senator, said in a phone interview early Tuesday. Ian Conyers, 29, the grandson of Mr. Conyers's brother, said he now planned to run for the seat held by his 88-year-old great-uncle, a Democrat who represents the Detroit area." ...

... Todd Spangler of the Detroit Free Press: "Another former staff employee of U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, came forward late Monday to publicly accuse the congressman of sexual harassment, saying he once slid his hand up her skirt in church. Attorney Lisa Bloom, who is representing Marion Brown, the former staffer who first accused Conyers, 88, of sexual harassment, on Monday night made public on Twitter an affidavit from Elisha Grubbs making many of the same accusations. Conyers, who is being called on by many of his Democratic colleagues to resign, is expected to have an announcement about his future at 10:15 a.m. Tuesday in Detroit."

Steven Zeitchik of the Washington Post: "HBO host John Oliver hammered Dustin Hoffman about allegations of sexual harassment and the actor fired back with a ferocious defense, as a seemingly benign screening became an explosive conversation about Hollywood sexual misconduct on Monday night.... [Oliver was hosting] an anniversary screening of the film 'Wag the Dog.' [He alluded] to an allegation made by Anna Graham Hunter last month that Hoffman groped her and made inappropriate comments when she was a 17-year-old intern on the set of the 1985 TV movie 'Death Of A Salesman.'... Approximately halfway through the hour-long talk, Oliver brought up the issue to Hoffman, saying he found the actor's statements about the matter wanting. Nearly the entire rest of the discussion was then dominated by Oliver, Hoffman and the subject of sexual harassment."

Adam Liptak
of the New York Times: "The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the third version of the Trump administration's travel ban to go into effect while legal challenges against it continue. The decision was a victory for the administration after its mixed success before the court over the summer, when justices considered and eventually dismissed disputes over the second version. The court's brief, unsigned orders on Monday urged appeals courts to move swiftly to determine whether the latest ban was lawful. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have denied the administration's request to allow the latest ban to go into effect."

"Capitalism is Awesome" Ctd. Sarah Kliff of Vox: "There are 141 million visits to the emergency room each year, and nearly all of them ... have a charge for something called a facility fee. This is the price of walking through the door and seeking service. It does not include any care provided.... Most hospitals do not make these fees public.... That's why Vox has launched a year-long investigation into emergency room facility fees.... A new Vox analysis reveals ... the price of these codes has increased sharply since 2009.... We found that the price of these fees rose 89 percent between 2009 and 2015 -- rising twice as fast as the price of outpatient health care, and four times as fast as overall health care spending." --safari

Way Beyond the Beltway

David Filipov of the Washington Post: "Russia on Tuesday named Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and seven affiliated news services as foreign agents, in retaliation for similar U.S. moves against the English-language Russian network RT. The Justice Ministry published a list of nine outlets, which includes Russian-language subsidiaries of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that cover the Caucasus region of Russia, Crimea, Siberia, and two predominantly Muslim regions in central Russia, Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. The ban also includes Current Time TV, which is produced by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and Factograph a website produced by Radio Liberty."

Reader Comments (13)

CVS and Aetna merger: Are we going to get single-payer via corporate consolidation?

December 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNiskyGuy

And here it comes, folks, your all-new Confederate Supreme Court! Wingier than ever!

As legal challenges proceed against Trump’s racial profiling travel ban, the court blithely says, “Oh, what the hell. Let him do it.”

And those now believing that their opinion about Trump’s culpability under the law is solid should think again. Don’t forget that Nixon was finally brought low because a unanimous Supreme Court told him to hand over the tapes, expletives not deleted. The Gorsuch Court (it remains to be seen whether this is a bad court, a Roberts Court, or an egregiously terrible court, a Gorsuch Court) cannot be counted upon to set politics aside if the little king’s fate ultimately rests upon its decision(s).

There is an awful feeling building up in me that the Gorsuch Court could absolutely side with an authoritarian prick who claims to be above the law.

December 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Akhilleus: Yours is not exactly an irrational fear. I would hope that Roberts & Kennedy, along with Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor & Kagan would hold the opinion that the president is not above the law. But it's quite possible that Kennedy will retire & Trump will replace him with a younger version of John Dowd, someone pledged to the notion (at least while a Republican is in the White House) that the president is the law & therefore cannot break it even if he has his own private security forces sweep his enemies in Congress off to rendition sites.

Trump is making us either nuts or remarkably prescient.

December 5, 2017 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

As the White House turns and churns out its venomous poison, when Republicans are hell bent on passing a tax bill that severely hurts millions of people not making those millions, when our country appears to be taken over by crooks and liars, I don't think it an exaggeration to say we are at this time in history being totally fucked. (see possibility of some "deep state" maneuver above).


Yesterday I was humming the song from "Oliver" "Where is love?" and suddenly I thought of the other great song, "Food, glorious food" that all those orphans were singing––gruel for the kiddies while the fat cats were dining on sumptuous suppers. We dig up Dickens when we want to zero in on villains and moral lessons. Looks to me we gots lots of Bill Sikes and Fagans in that party of greed and grab. Where is the love, indeed!

P.S. "Trump is making us either nuts or remarkably prescient."

I'll go with "nuts" and Dowd should be hoodwinked, fired or disbarred

December 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

So is anyone surprised at the proposed SALT (state and local tax) repeal?

The red states haven't been carrying their weight for years; they have had their grubby hands out for decades now eagerly accepting alms from the generous blue states they say they revile. They just want more of what they've been getting all along.

There's purification and there's clarification, and we're getting a lot of both. With Republicans in power at all three (and soon to be four) branches of government, all the nastiness they might have kept partially under wraps is now out in the open. In their tax bills, they're even codifying it.

Repugnants really have no problem with predation of any kind, do they? (Because predation is capitalism's essence?). Financial (see Grassley and Hatch, the House and Senate tax bills and Mulvaney as head of the CFPB), sex (Moore and his support by the Pretender himself), environmental (Bears Ears and Bristol Bay), and they are so boorish they refuse to take responsibility for any of the messes they and their policies create (the administration is revoking Obama rules that require corporations clean up their own mining sites).

Then there's all that Russia stuff, which I know is not much mentioned on Faux news, but that has such a stench of corruption that it has to reach into even the most isolated parts of the deepest red states.

The arrant corruption of one of our political parties is now all out in the open, so apparent I'm wondering. (hoping in vain"?) if it might prove too much for even the most racist and misogynist of the Pretender's supporters, or if they will just go along with it all because sheer nastiness is their only reason for living.

As it is for their current leaders.

December 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

Hmmmm, wonder if the prospect of the SALT loss is a temporary smoke screen? Tax reform isn't actually a done deal yet. Could be that the authors will tease with the restoration of SALT, might even shave a few percentage points off the higher tax cut benefit for the rich...see, how caring they are. (See Trump's reversal statement on the corporate tax rate just hours after it passed,).

See how accommodating the Republicans are!
They sorta gives some while they takes $um from the rest of us.

December 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMAG


And while we're talking about the Gorsuch Court, we cannot overlook the way the little king and his cronies in RWW are filling the federal courts with unqualified lackeys ready and willing to reshape the federal judiciary in ways never before seen in this country.

An article in The New Yorker examines the processes in play right now. Confederates at the Federalist Society, extreme right-wing dedicated to reconstituting the legal system in this country to align it with extreme ideology, are working on a plan to help Trump pack the courts. Not just pack the existing seats, but to create new seats in order to expedite the transition to a judiciary designed to support and propel far right schemes.

"[The] stated premise [of the plan] is straightforward: to create 'a sufficient number of new judges that would help change the balance of power … back to a conservative majority' and would clean up the 'damage done to the rule of law' by Obama’s appointees. How many new judges? Thirty to fifty per cent more than we have today, [Steven G.]Calabresi [author of the Federalist scheme] suggests, and he would like them right away, please—before Democrats have a chance, in 2018, to take back the Senate." (More Obama Derangement Syndrome at work.)

A court system owned by the right, in addition to a far right-wing deep state (a real one, not the imaginary one envisioned by delusional wingers) would pretty much bring an end to the United States as it is now.

Jeff Shesol the author of this article reminds readers that a previous attempt at court packing by FDR was met by a stern rebuke from members of Senate Judiciary Committee, seven out of ten were Democrats. Their primary objection was that such a plan would remake the legal landscape, making us a country of men, not laws. The question now is, would the craven, tremulous Republicans controlling the current committee do the same were Trump to attempt to put the Federalist judicial heist in motion to overwhelm the federal courts with Confederate lackeys?

You all know the answer to that one.

Remember, Trump sees himself as some sort of demigod, a Miles Gloriosus ("Stand aside everyone. I take large steps!") whose immense greatness will change the country forever. He will stop at nothing in order to aggrandize himself at the expense of every figment of normative behavior. And think of this: none of his scurrilous calculations would be possible without a supine, compliant Confederate congress.

December 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Would be interesting to know if there's a breakdown by race of immigration enforcement arrests. I'll google later today but don't have much hope that Homeland Security is providing that sort of data, at least not in the detail one would need to detect any (ahem!) disproportionality.

My cynical side would also expect that arrests will rise now that harvest season is over.

December 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

The private security/rendition plan is absolutely insane, and if Pompeo is seriously supporting it then he would be removed immediately in a normal world. You think the very unprincipled Erik Prince wouldn't sell off any secrets to the highest bidder, even against American interests? And you think Tom Cotton would be cool with this idea? Of course he would. I'm sure Russia and all of our enemies are supporting this plan 100% too. And given that every person in the current administration lies in every breathe, and that multiple reports have written about it, I have a hard time believing this to be some "fever dream" of the left.

Speaking of "fever dreams", what in the fuck was Paul Manafort thinking by conspiring with a Russian colleague to ghost write some article and plant it in the U.S. media. Does the poor senile man not have any American friends? Does he only have Russians on speed dial? Maybe nobody answers his calls anymore. That'd be understandable. That POS has been forever tainted by old Donny's ball sack. Another one bites the dust. And did he somehow think now that he was charged Mueller's team would just stop investigating him, knowing that Manafort's entire being is molded in deceit and skullduggery?

Manafort deserves to be sitting this out in a cold, hard cell dressed in an orange jumpsuit so every morning he gets dressed and stares down in dismay he can be reminded of the orange buffoon that got him stuck in the slammer.

December 5, 2017 | Unregistered Commentersafari

NYT: Jerusalem to Be Recognized as Israeli Capital, Trump Says.

I got it wrong. I thought Trump was trying to destroy America. Apparently he wants to destroy the whole world.

December 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

Can we expect a flurry of tweety-thingies ripping the "failing" IOC and castigating the Olympics, in general, as "weak", "sad", or any of the other tiresome go-to insults favored by the Man Without a Thesaurus, on the heels of Russia being told to tell its story walking?

Being such a Russophile, or perhaps that should be a Vladophile, Trumpskayev better get on the stick and promise to cut off funding for any Olympic endeavors unless his pal Vlad is allowed to enter his doped-to-the-gills athletes. But probably he'll save that threat for the summer Olympics which feature far more blah competitors than the mostly white winter variety.

In the meantime, he can get himself in shape for the coming government shut down battle (which he believes would be a good thing for him personally, never mind about the country; I mean, what's more important?) by having one of his Olympian sized 4,000 calorie lunches of two Big Macs, fish filet sandwiches, some KFC fried chicken, and a bag of Oreos.

Surely Karma awaits with something excruciatingly special for this clown. My fervent wish is that he doesn't keel over before experiencing defeat and humiliations galore, as Inigo Montoya puts it.

December 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@MarvinS: Trump has been looking for a war to call his own. Makes me think the Russians are enjoying the havoc they have provoked in the States from Flynngate to Twitter-inanities and the outrageous brazen lies. "Ivan, this is even better than we ever imagined when we screwed with the election. Da."

@Ak: Total and complete humiliation. Yessssssssssss!
Even better than impeachment.

December 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMAG


It's likely (VERY likely) that Russian ratfuckers are thrilled with the success of their Very Excellent Trumpian Adventure. It's like mороженое (ice cream) on top of an orange hairpiece.

(When I was in the Soviet Union, I was informed, quite often, strangely enough, that their ice cream beat our ice cream by leaps and bounds, and was the BEST in the world--a very Trump thing to say. Me? I thought it was fair to middling for store bought stuff. Ben and Jerry's it ain't.)

I'm guessing at the start, it was a "Let's see how far we can go" but actually succeeding in cajoling an American presidential candidate--and later president* to have their backs after they ratfucked the election was probably more than they could have hoped for.

Or was it?

Maybe Comrade Putin assured them that Comrade Trumpskayev would be doing the Cossack Dance in a trice in order to keep his peachy pate above water, Большое спасибо (thank you very much).

But now that their Cossack Dancing клоун is freaking out, it could be До свидания!

But we'll have to see. Trumpskayev's Confederate товарищ horde in Congress will be hard pressed to question his treason so long as they get what they want.

Making America great. Again.


December 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus
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