The Wires

Public Service Announcement

July 27: NBC News: "If your information was compromised during the massive 2017 Equifax data breach, you could be entitled to up to $20,000." The article provides info on how you can claim your share of the restitution fund. Mrs. McC: I might give it a crack. I know my personal info was compromised during the period of the Equifax breach, but I'm not sure Equifax was the source of the breach. So I might give this a crack. 

Washington Post: "the 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships were no different — especially Sunday night, the final night of the two-day [U.S. Gymnastics Championships]..., [Simone] Biles aced a skill no other woman (and only two men in the world) has successfully landed in competition — a triple-twisting, double somersault that capped the first tumbling pass of her floor routine like a cymbal crash":

 

Washington Post: White Southern plantation visitors who pay good money "to learn about the history of life on a plantation" are very upset guides mention slavery. Mrs. McCrabbie's recommendation: put on your MAGA caps & hoop skirts, watch the first 10 minutes of "Gone with the Wind," & practice saying "Fiddle-dee-dee."

Here's one for contributor Jeanne. "Margaret Atwood joins Deborah Treisman to read and discuss 'Corrie,' by Alice Munro, from a 2010 issue of the [New Yorker] magazine":

Nick Schager in the Daily Beast: "Premiering on Netflix and in select theaters on July 24, The Great Hack is the most enraging, terrifying and — I don’t use this term lightly — important documentary of the year. Directed by Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim..., its subject is the Cambridge Analytica data scandal—a story that’s galling on the surface, and infinitely more bone-chilling when one considers its far-reaching ramifications. That’s because Cambridge Analytica’s deceptive and criminal relationship with, and conduct on, Mark Zuckerberg’s social media platform had world-altering consequences: helping launch the Brexit movement, and successfully aiding the election campaign of Donald Trump.” 

Guardian: “The businessman Arron Banks and the unofficial Brexit campaign Leave.EU have issued a legal threat against streaming giant Netflix in relation to The Great Hack, a new documentary about the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the abuse of personal data. The threat comes as press freedom campaigners and charity groups warn the government in an open letter that UK courts are being used to 'intimidate and silence' journalists working in the public interest. In a joint letter to key cabinet members, they call for new legislation to stop 'vexatious lawsuits', highlighting one filed last week by Banks against campaigning journalist Carole Cadwalladr.”

AP: "MAD, the long-running satirical magazine that influenced everyone from 'Weird Al' Yankovic to the writers of 'The Simpsons,' will be leaving newsstands after its August issue. Really. The illustrated humor magazine — instantly recognizable by the gap-toothed smiling face of mascot Alfred E. Neuman — will still be available in comic shops and through mail to subscribers. But after its fall issue it will just reprint previously published material. The only new material will come in special editions at the end of the year."

Hill: "The Democrats beat the Republicans in a high-scoring 14-7 win Wednesday [June 26] night in the 58th annual Congressional Baseball Game. It was the Democrats' 10th win in 11 years."

New York Times: "... the Library of Congress has named [Joy Harjo] America’s new poet laureate. She will take over for Tracy K. Smith, who has held the position for two years.... Harjo, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, is the 23rd poet and first Native person to be selected for the role."

New York: "The mass of the metal 'anomaly' beneath the moon’s largest crater is five times greater than the big island of Hawaii, and according to a new study from scientists at Baylor University, it could contain metals remaining from an ancient asteroid impact, weighing in at around 4.8 quintillion pounds."

New York Times: "A skeleton in Siberia nearly 10,000 years old has yielded DNA that reveals a striking kinship to living Native Americans, scientists reported on Wednesday. The finding, published in the journal Nature, provides an important new clue to the migrations that first brought people to the Americas. 'In terms of peopling of the Americas, we have found close to the missing link,' said Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen and a co-author of the new paper. 'It’s not the direct ancestor, but it’s extremely close.'... The DNA of [a group scientists call] the Ancient Paleo-Siberians is remarkably similar to that of Native Americans. Dr. Willerslev estimates that Native Americans can trace about two-thirds of their ancestry to these previously unknown people.”

Thursday
Jan102019

The Commentariat -- January 11, 2019

Late Morning Update:

Niall Stanage of the Hill: "Rudy Giuliani says President Trump's legal team should be allowed to 'correct' special counsel Robert Mueller's final report before Congress or the American people get the chance to read it. The claim, made in a telephone interview with The Hill on Thursday evening, goes further than the president's legal advisers have ever gone before in arguing they have a right to review the conclusions of Mueller's probe.... 'As a matter of fairness, they should show it to you -- so we can correct it if they're wrong,' said the former New York City mayor.... 'They're not God, after all. They could be wrong.'" Akhilleus explains, in commentary below, why this is only fair.

*****

What It Would Be Like if Cliff Clavin Were President*:

... Lee Moran of the Huffington Post: The new-fangled Twitter machine is not buying Trump's history of the prehistoric invention of walls & wheels (which Trump asserts were both developed in medieval times, so you know, no Roman walls, no chariot races).

*****

We lose 300 Americans a week, 90% of which comes through the Southern Border. These numbers will be DRASTICALLY REDUCED if we have a Wall! -- Donald Trump, in a tweet yesterday evening

Huh? (I think he might be writing about death-by-imported-drugs, but there's no way to know.) -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie ...

... Michael Tackett & Julie Davis of the New York Times: "President Trump traveled to the border on Thursday to escalate his demands for a wall with warnings of crime and chaos on the frontier, as the partial government shutdown neared a milestone Day 21 and Senate Republican efforts to break the impasse collapsed in Washington. On Friday, the shutdown will tie the longest in the nation's history. But the White House only dug in harder. 'No wall, no deal,' Vice President Mike Pence declared in a briefing with reporters on Capitol Hill. 'We're going to keep standing strong, keep standing firm.' In a sign of growing unease, some Senate Republicans came off the sidelines to try to hash out a deal that would reopen the government as Congress worked toward a broader agreement tying wall funds to protection for some undocumented immigrants and other migrants. But before those negotiations could gain momentum, they collapsed; Mr. Trump let it be known privately that he would not back such a deal and Republicans failed to come to consensus among themselves, much less with the Democrats. 'It kind of fell apart,' Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said, wearing a dejected expression. 'I have never been more depressed about moving forward than I am right now. I just don't see a pathway.'" ...

Today is Thursday. That means @realDonaldTrump is lying, again. Hard for Democrats to negotiate with @POTUS when he makes stuff up, changes his mind on a whim and lies repeatedly. -- Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), in a tweet, referring to Trump's claim he never said Mexico would directly pay for the wall ...

... David Nakamura of the Washington Post: "It was a foundational promise of Donald Trump's historic presidential campaign: Mexico would pay for his 2,000-mile border wall. But as he desperately fights for $5.7 billion in taxpayer money for the project, Trump now claims he never said Mexico would directly foot the bill. 'Obviously, I never said this, and I never meant they're going to write out a check,' the president told reporters Thursday.... He did say it -- at least 212 times during his campaign and dozens more since he took office. And he put it in writing -- in a March 2016 memo to news outlets that was then posted on his campaign website. Specifically, Trump threatened to cut off billions of dollars in remittance payments from Mexican nationals in the United States to families in their home country. That, he proclaimed, would pressure the Mexican government to cough up 'a one-time payment of $5-10 billion' for the wall.... But 2½ years later, with the parts of the federal government shut down for three weeks in a budget impasse over Trump's wall, the episode illustrates how his routine application of falsehoods, exaggerations and lies in service of political combat has come back to burn him.... The Republicans who controlled Congress over the past two years never made funding the wall with taxpayer money a priority." ...

WH pool report from the border: 'Sean Hannity has special access here. He huddled with Bill Shine and Secretary Nielsen and is following along on Trump's tour, only standing with the staff and federal officials as opposed to the press corps.' -- Jon Passantino, in a tweet

This is going to kill Hannity's sterling journalistic reputation. -- Anonymous Wag who writes the headlines for New York's "Daily Intelligencer" writes (no link)

... Michael Tackett: "President Trump left Washington on Thursday on a trip to McAllen, Texas, that he did not want to take to discuss a crisis on the border that Democrats say does not exist. Their disagreement has led to a protracted shutdown affecting vast swaths of the federal government that have nothing to do with the construction of a wall between the United States and Mexico.... The president left Washington with no additional negotiations scheduled with congressional leaders. In remarks to reporters on Thursday, Mr. Trump left open the possibility of declaring a state of emergency, which could allow him to bypass Congress to fund the wall. Asked if he would make such a declaration, an action that would likely face legal challenges, Mr. Trump said: 'If this doesn't work out, probably I will do it. I would almost say definitely.'" Mrs. McC: McAllen? How about McAlamo? (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

I'm a professional at technology. -- Donald Trump, on the South Lawn yesterday

sometimes Trump reads things on a iPad that he calls 'the flat one' -- Tara Palmeri, August 28, 2018 ... Via New York (no link)

... Erica Werner & Josh Dawsey of the Washington Post: "The White House has begun laying the groundwork for a declaration of national emergency to build President Trump' border wall, including searching for unused money in the Army Corps of Engineers budget, two people with knowledge of the preparations said Thursday. Such a declaration would be certain to set off a firestorm of opposition and would undoubtedly be challenged in court. But it could also be a way out of the current impasse, allowing Trump to cite action on his long-promised wall even without Congress granting his funding demands, and potentially paving the way for the government to reopen.... The administration is specifically eyeing a disaster spending bill passed by Congress last year that includes $13.9 billion in funding that has been allocated but not actually spent for a variety of projects...." ...

     ... Shifting $$ from Real Emergencies to Trump's Fake Emergency. Courtney Kube & Julia Ainsley of NBC News: "The money was set aside to fund projects all over the country including storm-damaged areas of Puerto Rico through fiscal year 2020, but the checks have not been written yet and, under an emergency declaration, the president could take the money from these civil works projects and use it to build the border wall, said officials familiar with the briefing and two congressional sources.... Under the proposal, the officials said, Trump could dip into the $2.4 billion allocated to projects in California, including flood prevention and protection projects along the Yuba River Basin and the Folsom Dam, as well as the $2.5 billion set aside for reconstruction projects in Puerto Rico, which is still recovering from Hurricane Maria.... Democrats in Congress are likely to submit legislation to block the money from being reallocated." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Can't you just see Trump's beady little piggy eyes light up when his factotums tell him he could divert money from Puerto Rico (brown people) & California (brown people & Democrats) to build a racist monument against more brown people?

... Matt Ford of the New Republic: "Two provisions in federal law could give Trump the off-ramp he seeks. One allows him to order the Army Corps of Engineers to work on construction projects deemed 'essential to the national defense' during a declared emergency, while another allows the president to spend defense-related funds on those projects without a specific appropriation from Congress. In essence, Trump would be robbing the Pentagon to pay for the wall.... The phrase 'state of emergency,' especially when invoked by a president who shows little interest in preserving democracy, rightly sends a chill down spines. It's virtually synonymous with dictatorship and illiberal putsches.... 'Of the 58 times presidents have declared emergencies since Congress reformed emergency-powers laws in 1976,' The New York Times notes, 'none involved funding a policy goal after failing to win congressional approval.'... Lawfare's Quinta Jurecic noted earlier this week that, dismal optics aside, Trump may be on relatively safe constitutional grounds when his actions reach the courts.... The lawmakers of an earlier age thus made an egregious oversight: They assumed that future presidents would use these extraordinary powers in good faith, to address genuine national emergencies. The Trump administration is a monument to their lack of foresight." ...

... digby: "I don't think even Trump's unqualified judges would buy this nonsense.... A fake emergency that allows Trump to expressly ignore the most important congressional prerogative -- the power of the purse -- in pursuit of a policy that is only supported by a minority of the country for what is clearly political purposes is a very, very serious abuse of presidential power. It's possible they will let him get away with it in the end, of course. We are in the Twilight Zone. And after all, congress has abdicated their duty many times before, setting up the inevitable moment when a president would blatantly abuse the power he was given. But if the courts can't bring themselves to check that power in this instance, we are probably permanently on the road to a new, more autocratic, America. God help us when there's a real crisis." ...

... Marco Thinks Ahead. Ed Kilgore: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) isn't worried that Trump will abuse his power by declaring a fake national emergency to fulfill a ridiculous campaign promise; Marco is worried that Trump's fake emergency could set a precedent for a future real Democratic president to declare a real national emergency for a real critical situation. For instance, Marco muses, "If today, the national emergency is border security ... tomorrow the national emergency might be climate change." ...

White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization -- how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization? -- Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), in an interview with the New York Times ...

... First, There Was Steve King. Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: "... Mr. Trump's preoccupation with the wall and anti-immigrant politics reflects how he has embraced the once-fringe views of [virulent anti-immigrant Rep. Steve] King [R-Iowa], who has used racist language in the past, promotes neo-Nazis on Twitter and was recently denounced by one Republican leader as a white supremacist.... Early in Mr. Trump's term, the president invited Mr. King -- who was long snubbed by establishment Republicans like the former House speaker John A. Boehner -- to the Oval Office. There, the president boasted of having raised more money for the congressman's campaigns than anyone else, including during a 2014 Iowa visit, Mr. King recalled in an interview with The Times. 'Yes, Mr. President,' Mr. King replied. 'But I market-tested your immigration policy for 14 years, and that ought to be worth something.'" ...

... Robin Opsahl of the Des Moines Register: "Rep. Steve King denied allegations that he supports white nationalism and white supremacy Thursday after a recent New York Times article tied the controversial Iowa Republican to further white nationalist rhetoric.... 'I want to make one thing abundantly clear; I reject those labels and the evil ideology that they define,' King said. 'Further, I condemn anyone that supports this evil and bigoted ideology which saw in its ultimate expression the systematic murder of 6 million innocent Jewish lives.' King also said he still identifies as 'an advocate for Western civilization's value' and a 'Nationalist.' Mrs. McC: Uh, King did not deny he made the pro-white-supremacist remark, cited above, to the NYT.

Rachel Bade & Heather Caygle of Politico: "House Democrats are weighing a lawsuit if ... Donald Trump pulls the trigger on a national emergency declaration to build his border wall, with party leaders eager to stop the president from doing an end run around Congress.... Democrats would likely have standing to challenge the administration for usurping their authority for what they view as a phony emergency.... Even if they sue, House Democrats are also likely to hold hearings on the president's decision.... Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas told Politico Thursday, 'I'm from the border, there's no crisis there.' If Trump felt there was a real crisis, he continued, 'why is he not paying the border patrol, CBP officers, ICE agents, everybody on the border, to handle the crisis?'" ...

... Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) plans to object to the Senate adjourning for the week Thursday afternoon amidst a 20-day government shutdown, according to Senate sources. Kaine and his fellow Senate Democrats want to ratchet up pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who earlier in the day blocked a Senate vote on House-passed legislation to reopen government agencies not connected with the partisan standoff over the border wall[, a move that angered Democrats]. 'Why would the Senate leave town this weekend before voting to reopen the government?!' Kaine tweeted on Thursday afternoon." ...

... Mitch: Funding the Government Is a "Political Stunt." Clare Foran & Ted Barrett of CNN: "In a testy back-and-forth exchange on the Senate floor, Senate Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, called for the Senate to take up legislation advanced by House Democrats to reopen shuttered parts of the federal government and argued that parts of the federal government not related to the border wall should be reopened immediately as negotiations continue over the border wall. [Mitch] McConnell objected to the move, saying that 'political stunts are not going to get us anywhere.'... The move by Senate Democrats to attempt to force a vote on spending bills amounted to an effort to put pressure on Senate Republicans amid the ongoing government shutdown and highlight the legislation passed by the new House Democratic majority to reopen government." ...

... Everything Is Going Very Smoothly:

Tonya Riley of Mother Jones: "On Thursday afternoon, approximately 2,000 federal workers and contractors from across the country braved icy winds and freezing temperatures to gather outside of the DC headquarters of the AFL-CIO to protest the ongoing effects of the government shutdown on their lives and work. 'This lockout is yet another manufactured crisis looking to score political points,' AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka told the crowd. 'Workers are fed up. We are tired of being the ones who are always being hurt. And we are not going to take it.' Tomorrow, as the shutdown approaches 21 days, 800,000 full-time workers and millions of federal contractors will go without another paycheck if the government does not reopen. If the shutdown continues into Saturday, it will be the longest in US history." ...

... Marissa Lang of the Washington Post: "Hundreds of furloughed federal workers, contractors, union representatives and supporters gathered [near the White House] in the brisk wind and bitter cold Thursday to demand government leaders 'end this shutdown.' Leaders of the National Federation of Federal Employees said they hoped that bringing federal workers to the president's doorstep would show him whom the shutdown has hurt most. President Trump, though, wasn't there to see them, having left earlier in the day to visit the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

Great Wall of Trump. Via NBC News.

... Jacob Soboroff & Julia Ainsley of NBC News: "... Donald Trump has repeatedly advocated for a steel slat design for his border wall, which he described as 'absolutely critical to border security' in his Oval Office address to the nation Tuesday. But Department of Homeland Security testing of a steel slat prototype proved it could be cut through with a saw, according to a report by DHS. A photo exclusively obtained by NBC News shows the results of the test after military and Border Patrol personnel were instructed to attempt to destroy the barriers with common tools. The Trump administration directed the construction of eight steel and concrete prototype walls that were built in Otay Mesa, California, just across the border from Tijuana, Mexico.... Testing by DHS in late 2017 showed all eight prototypes, including the steel slats, were vulnerable to breaching, according to an internal February 2018 U.S. Customs and Border Protection report." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Todd Frankel of the Washington Post: "It would take an estimated 10,000 construction workers more than 10 years to build the kind of 1,000-mile wall President Trump has said he wants. Even the more modest $5.7 billion in wall funding Trump directly requested during a prime time Oval Office address Tuesday to address what he called 'a growing humanitarian and security crisis' would take an army of 10,000 workers more than two years to build and yield only 230 miles of barrier, according to estimates. And even at 1,000 miles long, the steel-slatted border wall would still be too small to be a boon for U.S. steelmakers. The full version of Trump's envisioned border wall -- featuring rarely tested heights cast over almost unimaginable distances -- would cost at least $25 billion.... [Trump's] steel tariffs add about $1 billion to the estimated $25 billion border-wall project price tag...." Frankel notes that not only the material, but also the length, of the Great Wall of Trump keeps changing: from 2,000 miles to 700 to 1,000. Mrs. McC: And that doesn't count the time it would take to condemn any lands along the route not already owned by the federal government. I don't think the figure cited includes the costs of property & litigation. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Speaking of Which.... Nomaan Merchant of the AP: "Congress in March funded 33 miles ... of walls and fencing in Texas. The government has laid out plans that would cut across private land in the Rio Grande Valley. Those in the way include landowners who have lived in the valley for generations, environmental groups and a 19th century chapel. Many have hired lawyers who are preparing to fight the government if, as expected, it moves to seize their land through eminent domain. The opposition will intensify if Democrats accede to the Trump administration's demand to build more than 215 new miles of wall, including 104 miles in the Rio Grande Valley and 55 miles near Laredo. Even a compromise solution to build 'steel slats,' as Trump has suggested, or more fencing of the kind that Democrats have previously supported would likely trigger more court cases and pushback in Texas. Legal experts say Trump likely cannot waive eminent domain -- which requires the government to demonstrate a public use for the land and provide landowners with compensation -- by declaring a national emergency." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

This Russia Thing, Etc., Ctd.

Maggie Haberman & Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "Michael D. Cohen, President Trump's former personal lawyer who implicated him in a scheme to pay hush money to two women claiming to have had affairs with him, has agreed to testify before the House Oversight Committee next month and give 'a full and credible account' of his work for Mr. Trump. Mr. Cohen's decision to appear before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Feb. 7 sets the stage for a blockbuster public hearing that threatens to further damage the president's image and could clarify the depth of his legal woes." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Evan Perez, et al., of CNN: "As special counsel Robert Mueller wraps up his Russia probe, investigators have focused on conflicting public statements by ... Donald Trump and his team that could be seen as an effort to influence witnesses and obstruct justice, according to people familiar with the investigation. The line of questioning adds to indications that Mueller views false or misleading statements to the press or to the public as obstruction of justice.... Mueller hasn't addressed the issue publicly, but prosecutors have dropped hints that they view public statements as possibly key in influencing witnesses. Court filings from the plea of Michael Cohen ... included allegations related to false public statements -- not usually considered illegal since they aren't made directly to investigators. A December sentencing memo filed by Mueller's office notes that Cohen's lies were amplified in public statements, 'including to other potential witnesses.' The memo said this was done partly 'in the hopes of limiting the investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election....'" ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: While Mueller's team is hunting around for evidence of obstruction, they might peel their eyes on Trump's firing of Jeff Sessions (for failing to "protect" him), his appointment of Matt Whitaker & his nomination of Bill Barr. More on Barr below. (Don't miss Noah Feldman's column on Trump/Barr/Bush I.)

Matthew Choi of Politico: "... Donald Trump on Thursday denied any knowledge of his former campaign chairman's sharing of polling data with a Moscow-linked associate, distancing himself from a possible tie to the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election." Mrs. McC: Kinda reminds me of when Trump denied any knowledge of" the payment to Stormy Daniels. ...

... Sara Murray & Katelyn Polantz of CNN: "Special counsel Robert Mueller sought information directly last year from one of Donald Trump's campaign pollsters who is also a former business associate of Paul Manafort's. Mueller's team met with pollster Tony Fabrizio in February 2018, an interview that has not been previously reported and takes on new significance after Manafort's attorneys revealed Tuesday that Mueller's team is still interested in how Manafort shared polling data with his Russian intelligence-linked colleague.... In a filing Tuesday, Manafort's attorneys [failed] to redact the fact that prosecutors knew Manafort shared polling data related to the 2016 presidential election with his Russian intelligence-linked associate Konstantin Kilimnik while Manafort was running Trump's presidential campaign.... Fabrizio's involvement with Mueller is intriguing because he's one of the few people in Manafort's orbit with knowledge of the inner-workings of the Trump campaign as well as Manafort's Eastern European connections.... Fabrizio worked on Ukrainian elections with Manafort and went on to serve as the Trump campaign's chief pollster beginning in the spring of 2016."

Ken Vogel, et al., of the New York Times: "... at least a dozen Ukrainian political and business figures ... made their way to ... [Donald Trump's] inauguration.... Most ... [also] attended meetings and orchestrated encounters at Trump International Hotel with influential Republican members of Congress and close allies of President Trump. Representing a range of views, including a contingent seen as sympathetic to Moscow, they positioned themselves as brokers who could help solve one of the thorniest foreign policy problems facing the new administration -- the ugly military stalemate between Russia and Ukraine and the tough sanctions imposed on Moscow following its seizure of Crimea.... Federal prosecutors have asked witnesses about how some of the Ukrainians gained access to inauguration events, whom they met with while they were in the United States, and what they discussed -- including questions about various peace plan proposals [some of which were clearly pro-Russia].... As recently as last month, prosecutors were asking witnesses about illegal foreign lobbying related to Ukraine. Another subject of questions has been whether foreigners from Ukraine and other countries used straw donors to disguise donations to the inaugural committee."

Benjamin Siegel & Allison Pecorin of ABC News: "Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin appeared on Capitol Hill Thursday afternoon to defend the Treasury Department's plans to lift sanctions on companies tied to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, pushing back on Democrats' suggestions that the administration is going easy on Russia.... 'This was -- stiff competition, mind you -- one of the worst classified briefings we've received from the Trump administration,' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters. 'The secretary barely testified, he answered some questions but he didn't give testimony. They had an intelligence briefing which I wont go into, and then they read a document which was unclassified, wasting the time of members of Congress.' Mnuchin pushed back on that characterization, saying he answered more than half of the questions and deferred to the department's technical efforts who accompanied him to the briefing. He also said he would give Congress an 'appropriate amount of time to review' the potential easing of sanctions, leaving the door open to delaying the move."

Bill Barr Drops His Shutdown Excuse. Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "Attorney general nominee William P. Barr tried Thursday to assuage Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats' concerns that he might be too biased to oversee the special counsel's Russia probe, but the lawmakers said they would need to see public proof to back up his closed-door assurances before they could consider backing his nomination. 'The Mueller probe is the big issue for me ... he reassured to some extent. The hard questions have to get asked in the public and get on the record,' Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the panel's ranking Democrat, said of her Thursday morning meeting with Barr. 'These meetings are different; they really are just people to people ... what matters is what happens in the committee and what's said on the record.' Feinstein is one of five panel Democrats who were expected to meet with Barr on Thursday, after several complained that they were being iced out of his schedule and being told it was because of the partial government shutdown. Barr begins his public confirmation hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... ** Noah Feldman of Bloomberg: "The most significant single act of Barr's career in the Department of Justice was to advise President George H.W. Bush to pardon six officials from Ronald Reagan's administration, including Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, for crimes associated with the Iran-Contra affair. At the time, Barr was -- you guessed it -- attorney general. His recommendation gave Bush the cover he needed to issue the pardons. And Bush needed the cover. The investigation led by independent prosecutor Lawrence Walsh was closing in on the president himself.... Issuing the pardons killed Walsh's investigation -- and saved Bush. When the targets of the investigation were off the hook, Walsh had no leverage to continue.... When the pardons came, Walsh went on ABC's 'Nightline' and said that Bush had 'succeeded in a sort of Saturday Night Massacre.'... The architect of this pardon strategy was Barr.... All this background about Barr and pardons is so important because it's a lesson for Trump on how he can address the Mueller investigation.... Barr could give Trump the same cover that he gave Bush." Thanks to safari for the lead.

Update: Josh Marshall of TPM: "The New York Times issued a major correction early [Wednesday] afternoon. They now say that Paul Manafort had his Ukraine-based fixer Konstantin Kilimnik send polling data not to Oleg Deripaska but to Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, two Ukrainian oligarchs who were major financial backers of deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Manafort's longtime client. This is a pretty big difference and a major error by the Times. But I'm not sure it really changes the big picture.... Why do these two need campaign data from the Trump campaign? Why is that a thing of value that will get them to pay up their alleged debts [to Manafort]? Akhmetov is a metals and mining magnate in Ukraine. The answer seems obvious." --s (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)


** Ben Hubbard
of the New York Times: "The United States began withdrawing its troops from Syria on Friday, an American military spokesman said, a first step in President Trump's plan to remove American forces from one of the Middle East's most complex battlefields.... Mr. Trump said last month that he wanted the troops out in 30 days. But after discussions with others in his administration, the timeline was lengthened, while diplomats sought to find a way to protect the United States' Kurdish allies from a Turkish attack and to get Turkey to take over the fight against the jihadists. As recently as Sunday, Mr. Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, said that the pullout was conditional on circumstances that could leave American forces there for months or even years."

Declan Walsh & David Sanger of the New York Times: "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laid out his vision for America's role in the Middle East on Thursday, telling a university audience in Cairo that 'the age of self-inflicted American shame is over' and that the United States would pursue a more activist policy, despite President Trump's decision to pull troops out of Syria. Mr. Pompeo's prescription was short on specifics, beyond bolstering alliances with Arab autocrats loyal to Washington. Instead he painted a picture of a Middle East cast into chaos by President Barack Obama, and that can only be rescued by crushing Iran. He advocated a policy of containment of Iran's power, pressing for allies in the region to isolate the country. He vowed to 'expel every last Iranian boot' from Syria, but offered no plan to achieve that goal at a moment when the American force of 2,000 troops is scheduled to withdraw. And in an unusually explicit and personal attack on a former president's foreign policy, a decade after Mr. Obama delivered a landmark speech at another Cairo university, Mr. Pompeo excoriated Mr. Obama for 'fundamental misunderstandings' about the region that 'underestimated the tenacity and viciousness of radical Islamism.'" ...

... Linda Qiu of the New York Times fact-checks Pompeo's speech (because it definitely needs fact-checking): "... Pompeo&'s criticism of the Obama administration's response to Iran's 'Green Movement' was exaggerated, and his claim that the Trump administration has been 'clear' about withdrawing troops from Syria ignored clearly contradictory statements."

Heather Long of the Washington Post: "Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell ... predicted the economy is not going to plunge into a deep downturn this year. 'I don't see a recession' in 2019, Powell said Thursday in an interview at The Economic Club of Washington D.C. 'The U.S. economy is solid and there's good momentum going into this year.' Several prominent economists and investors have said there's a heightened chance of a recession by 2020. Larry Summers, a Harvard professor and former Treasury Secretary under former President Bill Clinton, said earlier this week that he thinks there's 'better than a 50/50 chance' of a recession in 2020. Powell stressed the Fed is 'watching' the situation closely and monitoring potential cracks in the economy. His biggest concern is weakening growth in China and Europe, although he warned a prolonged U.S. government shutdown could become a drag on the economy."

Eliana Johnson & Gabby Orr of Politico: "The White House is reaching out to political allies and conservative activist groups to prepare for an ailing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's possible death or departure from the Supreme Court -- an event that would trigger the second bitter confirmation battle of ... Donald Trump's tenure. The outreach began after Ginsburg, 85, on Monday missed oral arguments at the court for the first time in her 25 years on the bench. The justice ... announced in late December that she underwent a surgical procedure to remove two cancerous growths from her lungs." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: If any other administration did this, you might say they were being prudent. But actually you wouldn't say anything, because you wouldn't know about it. In real administrations, plans to find a replacement for an ailing justice would not leak to the press, just as newspapers do not leak the names of living persons for whom they have prepared obituaries (although it does happen). ...

... Paul Campos in LG&$: "Ginsburg made a horrible decision by not retiring in 2014, as did Breyer, so this has nothing to do with holding women to different standards than men, despite the evidence-free claims people make in that regard. Ginsburg is obviously under more scrutiny in this regard because of the increasingly obvious precariousness of her health. She has a moral obligation to stay on the Court through the end of next year, even if that means outsourcing most or even all of her work to her clerks." ...

... Tucker Higgins of CNBC: "Top doctors with experience performing pulmonary lobectomies expect Ginsburg to be back on the bench in less than six weeks, with more than enough time to return for the court's February sitting."

**Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress: "In 2016, then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a law whose main purpose appears to be trolling the libs. Just over two years later, this law could provide the Republican-controlled Supreme Court with the vehicle it needs to kill Roe v. Wade -- and the Court could decide to hear a challenge to this law as soon as Friday. The case is Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky.... It's an obviously unconstitutional law. It's the kind of law you get if you hand the legislative power over to the editors of Breitbart News. But then something unexpected happened.... Both of the men the serial-sexual-predator-turned-president placed on the Supreme Court took gratuitous swipes at abortion rights while they were lower court judges. There are almost certainly five men on the Supreme Court right now who believe that the Indiana law is constitutional." --s (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Beyond the Beltway

Adeel Hassan of the New York Times: "Republicans in the third-most-populous county in Texas [-- Tarrant County --] voted overwhelmingly against the removal of one of their party leaders from his post on Thursday. The vote ... was over whether Dr. [Shahid] Shafi's Muslim faith disqualified him from the job. The vote -- and the bitter clashes leading up to it -- came as Democrats have been heralding the arrival of the first two Muslim women in Congress last week." The vote was 139 to 49....

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: One of the arguments expressed against Shafi was that, as a Muslim, he can't represent ALL of Tarrant County because, presumably, a majority of Tarrant County residents are Christians or nominal Christians & they are skeert of Muslims. Isn't it funny how Christians can "represent" people of all other faiths or no faith, but non-Christians cannot represent Christians? Is there some teeny flaw in that "logic"?

Reader Comments (15)

The wheels are officially off. We're just grinding on the wheel axels now, sparks flying everywhere and fishtailing out of control, cheered on as it lurches forward by 80+% of Republicans.

Thanks GOP.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered Commentersafari

The imminent arrival of future Attorney General Barr is so dispiriting.

We're getting anecdotal news now of how he has a long history of friendship with Mueller. Apparently they went to some weddings together. Their wives are peachy American pie church-goers together. Maybe we'll find out he likes to teach kids basketball, à la Kavanaugh. Such swell products of Americana.

Lots of window washing and mass bleaching of the bloody record before he gets before the Committee to obfuscate and patsy to the inquisitors about his fidelity to Mueller. I've no doubt he'll give them meek assurances to Mueller's investigation. His arrival is too late to squash the goods on the Trump Criminal Entreprise and its links to the "Russer" thing. The cats out of the bag, so they bring in the bagman.

Barr's number one reason of being today, his role in the Washington ecosystem, is getting high-profile conservative criminals out of jail, via the pardon power. If he can mass pardon all of the Iran-Contra bad actors without consequence, with its mountain of evidence and criminality, what's to stop him now with the imminent implosion and subsequent explosion of Trump's criminal network? NOTHING. That's what. Nothing. No one.

No matter the crimes. No matter the treachery. No matter the treason.

He'll pardon the whole lot. Take a big fat pay check from some shell company in the Virgin Islands and retire back to his LazyBoy chair, chuckling at his easy it is wipe the slate clean when his party gets too enmeshed in their fever dreams. Sure, he's "best buds" with Meuller. He'll let him finish his fancy report. Then cut the legs out from under the investigation. And when he sees Meuller again at Church? He'll just give him that little smirk that says "don't hate the player, hate the game, bro."

To justice as it was intended, Barr's the grim reaper. To Trump Org. and his minions, he's Fabio riding in on a white horse.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered Commentersafari

Barr's part in the Bush I pardons of the Iran-Contra miscreants should alone disqualify him for any future position in the Department of Justice, even that of bathroom attendant.*

My memory of the raft of Bush's self-serving pardons as the investigation got uncomfortably close to him forever immunized me from any temptation to hold Poppy in high regard. Unlike his son, he did cut a fine figure, but he was still a crook, just as were Nixon and Bush II, if one considers (and one should) the tens, hundred of thousands of lives each was responsible for ending in the name of American (their own) interests.

These men have buckets of blood on their hands.,...and so, apparently does Barr.

*With maybe one exception? If the Department of Justice has a dungeon, he should be in it.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

@safari & Ken: Lordy, lordy, I do hope you both are wrong. I'm waiting for Barr's confirmation hearing to watch how he'll handle all the piercing questions from the Dems whose teeth have been sharpened and their claws given a brand new manicure.

Rachel had a surgeon on her program last night who does the kinds of operations that RBG had and said she should be fine and dandy–-takes a bit of time to get your strength back and after all, he added, she is 85––"I once did that same operation on a man that was 105."

Pompeo is a poop! Or a prop-man or a bullshitter who thinks he can whistle his happy tune and no one is going to check on him?

I fail to understand why Trump doesn't follow my advice: Come out with hands spread saying, "I have given this a lot of thought–-a lot of thought–-and since I no longer can bear to see my fellow Americans suffer from this shut-down, I am going to open up the government. I will still fight for my WALL but first things first–-I will open up the government and I want everyone––everyone! to remember that the Democrats would do NOTHING to help those poor Americans suffering from the shutdown."

And the Lord came down from on high and blessed his teeny tiny widdle rotten soul and smiled bigly.

Wouldn't that make sense? He could save face and throw the Dems under the bus at the same time. If he does the Emergency business he's in for more problems and it would not open up the government which NEEDS to be operational –-things are already reaching dire situations.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

A few Friday frittatas.

Looks like someone woke Rudy up from his nap. He's been quiet for a few weeks but now all of a sudden he's yapping again. My favorite yap so far: Trump should be allowed to "correct" the Mueller report.

Hold on. Hahahahahahahahahahaha...Sure. Like I should be able to add a few zeros to whatever I get back from the IRS. "Hey guys, I just 'corrected' my returns. Hope it's okay." I'm sure there are plenty of students who would love to be able to "correct" reports they get from the teacher before they go home to mom and dad. "Little Donnie is a shit (scratch, scratch, scratch) the best student I've ever had." So we'd get "We have found absolute evidence of collusion (scratch, scratch, scratch) no collusion." Good try Rudy. Why don't you go back and take another nap now, that's a good boy.

The Barr situation should be (would be, in a world not run by sycophantic Trump toadies) a clear and resounding NO WAY. Let's say you're hiring a guy to take care of your very nice, ultra expensive sports car. It's not like they found evidence that this guy cheats at cards or enjoys the occasional doobie. What they've found is that he steals very nice, ultra expensive sports cars. And smashes them into concrete barriers, then sets them on fire. In fact, that's all he does.

Pompeo's speech in Cairo is yet another attack on the last real president, Obama. It seems that the Trumpy CHOM has no ideas of their own except to go against whatever the previous administration put into place. And let's not overlook the head-spinning that must be going on in the Middle East as Pompeo is bragging about American muscle and sticktoitivity (per my 7th grade teacher). As Pompeo is promising that America will be there to kick ass, (and not apologizing for shit) Fatty is heading for the door (and mumbling that Turkey or maybe Lichtenstein, or somebody, can take care of ISIS). Reminds me of that old Groucho Marx song
"Hello, I must be going. I cannot stay, I came to say, I must be going. I'm glad I came but just the same, I must be going...I'll stay a week or two, I'll stay the summer through, but I am telling you, I must be going." Tra-la. At least with the Marx Brothers in charge, you'd have consistency.

Wingers are freaking out over AOC's suggestion of a return (return, which means not something new and never before heard of, as some are saying) to a more equitable tax structure in which the lazy one percenters (ie, not "job creators" but wealth accumulators) pay their fair share. "It's RADICAL!" they scream. How much more radical is it for Trump to tell the wealthy that they don't have to pay anything? Radical, my ass. The Trumpy Disaster is the most radical scam in American history. AOC is offering a partial corrective to a generation of Confederate destruction of fairness in the tax code.

Fatty now claims he never said Mexico would pay for the wall. Hmmm. He being an "expert in technology" (*chortle*), he should realize that there are things like video, not to mention the fact that he sez Mexico will pay for the wall right on his little tweety page. Moron. What's next? "I never said I'd build a wall! Democrat party lies!"

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Dogmatic High Water Mark

Reading through a book on medieval and Renaissance thought by the French philosopher Émile Bréhier, I came across his discussion of the multiplicity of Christian sects flourishing (and knocking heads) from late antiquity through the middle ages (and, in fact, long after). The battle of orthodoxies and heresies are interesting even today as an example of philosophical differences in a group being settled over time to correspond to something we might call the winning side, whose arguments may have succeeded either through popular acceptance or been applied by fiat and force. We tend to look at history as a straight line, but as Thomas Kuhn pointed out in his "Structure of Scientific Revolutions", it just ain't so. Ideas bounce around and are refuted or supported, buffeted by fads and either floating to the top or sunk by other more infectious or (in the case of science) more reliable paradigms.

As a sidebar, one of the more intriguing ideas I ran across involved a schism stemming from the Church of Carthage (I'm tempted to say that even the best ideas coming out of Carthage tend not to end well). The Donatists were unique in the early church for seeking to put in place a rigorous test for priests. As Bréhier puts it, they held that "...the validity of a sacrament depended on the spiritual state of the priest who conferred it." This meant that clergy were required to have superior moral qualifications in order to properly serve the community. The more mainstream sects saw this as a deal breaker since it would necessarily restrict the spread of the faith by insisting that only those without fault be given Holy Orders. And as things turned out, the church decided that this was not gonna be very practical. The outcome? Child molesters. Maybe Carthage had that one right.

In any event, after a few hundred years and a lot of shake and bake, the church establishment came to a general agreement about issues of dogma and structure and rules for its members. There were bumps along the way, but pretty much until Martin Luther came along, apostasies were kept to a minimum.

While reading this I thought about Steve King. I know, that was a leap. But here's the thing. Just as the church (or any large organization), over time, shook out the various sects and differing points of philosophy and dogma, a similar action occurs in political parties. Right now, after fifty or sixty years of internal evolution, the Republican Party has pretty much decided on its victorious dogma. Opposing opinions are right out. And the primary tenets are racism, more money for the rich, hatred for all they see as enemies, and a tight connection to evangelism, but not in the form of any sort of moral instruction. The connection is purely political. King, and his white supremacy and ignorance, is emblematic of the current state of right-wing politics in America, just as surely as Trump. Policy decisions are based on ideology, not practical considerations of what's best for the country.

At this point everyone realizes that Trump did not spring out of the ground as a surprise to everyone. He was (and still is, at least for now) a useful idiot who propounds and advances the most virulent strains of the modern confederacy. He would be nothing without the timely establishment of what matters most to Republicans. Equality is not one of those things. Neither are inclusiveness, or tolerance. In its own way, the modern Republican Party has agreed to go along with a modern version of the Donatists. If you are not a perfect (or nearly perfect) avatar of their most strident and virulent beliefs, you don't fit and will not be allowed to advance.

As with any longstanding organization, it becomes more and more difficult for the center to hold over time. But in the meantime, much damage can be done.

R's will hold on to Trump for as long as they can, until his idiocy becomes less useful. They know no other way. But it's just possible, as happened with the church, that power and influence will wane and eventually dissipate. If recent history offers a window into the future, it's clear that things aren't looking so good. By demanding dogmatic loyalty from its members, the Republican Party has created a situation in which competence and smarts are kicked to the side of the road for knee-jerk ideological purity. We just lived through two amazing years in which they ruled every major branch of government and got nothing but a tax cut out of it. (Although they have been frighteningly successful in advancing more incompetent, but loyal members of the sect to positions of lifetime judicial power.)

The original confederacy had its high water mark at the end of Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg. It wasn't over the next day, but the good times didn't roll much longer. Maybe the present confederates will suffer a similar fate. We can only hope. As many walls as Fatty can put up, there will be no stopping the demographic changes that are already taking place. And few of these new Americans will be signing up to support those who have vilified and denounced them or left their friends and family members to die in the desert, or decided that more prisons were necessary to keep them at bay.

Maybe Steve King will lead the final charge. Meet you at The Angle, Steve.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Rudy may be on to something, with the idea of having DOJ allow the WH to review and "correct" the draft Mueller report. Just like the General Accounting Office does with draft reports on federal agency activities.

What the GAO does is to provide the agency with the draft report and ask for corrections, on deadline. Then, it accepts corrections of undisputed facts, but for all other suggested edits it puts them in an appendix, writing "here's what the agency wanted to change, and here's why we're not changing and they are wrong."

That tends to keep agencies from submitting specious BS.

And often, even when the agency is right, the GAO calls it a matter of opinion and says they're wrong.

If DOJ did something like that, everybody could see the WH gloss attempt. Fun!

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

@Ak, see The Guardian for an article titled "Brought to Jesus - the evangelical grip on the Trump administration."

Sorry for no link because I'm at the airport on my phone.

p.s. I thanked the TSA agent for being there at the checkpoint. She said she really appreciated me saying that.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterunwashed

Time on my hands, so submitted a rare comment to Brooks who wants to see capitalism fettered by the magic arrival of some undefined moral overseer.

I thought David was smoking again.

"A major problem with this argument, David, is that capitalism itself doesn't care. It never did and it never will.

We should not be surprised when its a- and im-moral heart attracts and rewards those with no social conscience. That, too is not new. It always has and always will.

Much as I'd like to blame him for all its evils, capitalism's socially destructive behavior did not begin with Ronald Reagan, who while he did manage to place temporarily a sunny face on its usual depredations, hardly created its engine of destruction.

The primary counter to capitalism's nasty tendencies here in the United States was that once we destroyed the native cultures and took their lands, we could distribute immense wealth in land and resources to millions of mostly white people who had nothing. That redistribution, probably the greatest in history, kept the lid on for a time.

Now , in the Age of Trump, when we're hurrying to distribute public land and wealth to the already wealthy, the the lid is off."

@Patrick

You think the Pretender's GAO is still Deep State enough to do the job?

I like your idea, but I worry.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

I hope that some of the Dems ask Barr about any Russian contacts he has had in the last few years. A lot of people connected to Trump seem to have a few, the last AG included.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRAS

Wait, wait. I just saw that Fatty believes that walls weren't created until the Middle Ages.

Sooo....all those prehistoric walls must have come later? How does that work?

As an ancient Greek myself, I can say that the Trojan War would have been over in a heartbeat if it weren't for the walls surrounding the city of Troy (real walls built ca. 8th C BCE). And I'm pretty sure those walls were up a looooong time before I dragged the body of Hector around them in my wheeled chariot (he was such a buzzkill!).

In fact, the earliest wheels were used in Mesopotamia (ie, IRAQ) around 3200 BCE. Walls were found in the same neighborhood from about 8,000 years earlier. Oops.

I thought this schmuck had a huge brain and was the smahtest evah. He's not even as quick as a fourth grade glue sniffer in a medically induced coma.

A true indicator of how truly stupid this asshole is can be determined by the fact that he has no problem making shit up on the fly. I guarantee you, were some truly smart person on the hook without some verifiable facts, they would never just make shit up that could be so quickly and easily refuted, leading to the ineluctable conclusion that they were liars. Or idiots.

But Fatty doesn't care. He still believes that anything he sez must be accepted as the god's truth.

And please explain to me what this means: "I looked at every single car out there, even the really expensive ones that the Secret Service uses, and believe me they are expensive. I said, do they all have wheels? Yes."

Huh?

Then: "The wheel is older than the wall, you know that? And there are some things that work. You know what? A wheel works and a wall works."

And assholes work. So what? I like peanut butter. Can you skate?

And even if the wheel were invented first, what in the holy hell does that even mean? Except to a moron.

And congressional Republicans still treat this imbecile as the Glorious Leader?

Maybe they were invented before the wall too. And collapsed in some earthquake or mudslide.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Unwashed,

Thanks, man. I'll check that out when I get a chance. It's pretty clear that the pull goes both ways. Recently, Jerry Falwell, Jr. read evangelicals the riot act, saying that god would consider them sinners if they didn't support a serial adulterer, liar, traitor, and career crook.

Um...well, shit. I don't even know WHAT to say to that.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Akhilleus: Constantine -- who had a political interest in centralizing the church & putting down schisms -- did a lot to defeat the Donatists. But I think "Saint" Augustine was worse. A bishop faithful to Rome, Augustine employed a theological argument to justify using violence against Donatists (and other "heretical" sects). His "theological" position was of course political as well, and it was a powerful argument that more-or-less solidified Rome's "ownership" of the Church. I realize most people hold Augustine in high regard. But I don't.

When you write, "apostasies were kept to a minimum," you're right. But they were "kept to a minimum" by force.

January 11, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Marie,

You know whereof you speak. Bréhier goes into detail about Augustine's vendetta against the Donatists, they (and he) being African, and he deciding that there wasn't room enough on the continent for both of them. I must say I've always found Augustine an interesting character but a bit of a prig, for one who led such a louche life early on. He was also an ambitious bastard. The Bishop of Hippo was no slouch when it came to ladder climbing, and no doubt putting down the Donatists put him in solid with the high and mighty.

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Youse guys are so esoteric—. I dunno. All I know is...I hate Mike Pompeo. (Among others...)

January 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJeanne
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