The Wires

Public Service Announcement

November 26: Washington Post: "Federal health officials said Monday that only romaine lettuce from certain parts of California is unsafe to eat and that romaine lettuce entering the market will now be labeled to give consumers information about when and where it was harvested. If consumers, retailers and food service facilities cannot determine whether the romaine was grown outside California, they should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one got sick, according to a lengthy statement from Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. FDA officials said the most likely source of contamination is from the Central Coast growing regions in northern and central California. Romaine lettuce harvested outside those regions 'does not appear to be related to the current outbreak,' the FDA said. Hydroponically grown and greenhouse-grown romaine also does not appear to be affected in the outbreak. Romaine from those sources is safe to eat, the FDA said."

... November 20: New York Times: "In a sweeping alert, federal health officials warned people not to eat romaine lettuce anywhere in the country, after 32 people in 11 states fell sick with a virulent form of E. coli, a bacteria blamed for a number of food-borne outbreaks in recent years. The notice, issued Tuesday afternoon by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said consumers should not buy or eat any kind of romaine, whether chopped or whole, and restaurants should stop serving it. Anyone who has romaine, the health agency said, should throw it out." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Okay then, guess I'll throw out that romaine. Already ate one head, and I ain't dead yet.

"The Christmas Comet Returneth." New York Times: "Look into the night sky on Sunday [December 16] and you just might see a bright, fuzzy ball with a greenish-gray tint. That’s because a comet that orbits between Jupiter and the sun will make its closest approach to Earth in centuries, right on the heels of this year’s most stunning meteor shower. 'The fuzziness is just because it’s a ball of gas basically,' Tony Farnham, a research scientist in the astronomy department at the University of Maryland, said on Saturday morning.... 'You’ve got a one-kilometer solid nucleus in the middle, and gas is going out hundreds of thousands of miles.' The comet glows green because the gases emit light in green wavelengths. The ball of gas and dust, sometimes referred to as the 'Christmas comet,' was named 46P/Wirtanen, after the astronomer Carl Wirtanen, who discovered it in 1948. It orbits the sun once every 5.4 years, passing by Earth approximately every 11 years, but its distance varies and it is rarely this close. As the comet passes by, it will be 30 times farther from Earth than the moon, NASA said.”

By George O'Keefe or somebody.Maybe the Best Gift Would Be a Spell-Check App. Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Way back in November (so Slate has had plenty of time to make corrections), someone named Angela Serratore (hope I spelled that right), wrote a post for Slate, which is featured on its main page now, suggesting gifts from small museum shops. That's a nice thought, but it would have been even nicer if the story had not misspelled Georgia O'Keeffe three times: twice as "Georgia O'Keefe" & once as "George O'Keefe." But never "Georgia O'Keeffe."

Chuck Schumer & Nancy Pelosi leaving the White House Wednesday, Dec. 12, after making mincemeat of Donald Trump.Everybody Loved Nancy's Coat! It's turns out it's from a 2013 Max Mara collection. According to Ana Colón of Glamour, "the Italian fashion house sent out a press release that not only confirmed the origins of Pelosi's coat but also announced that Max Mara would be reinstating the Glamis into its outerwear collection in 2019. 'In a variety of colorways,' no less! A spokesperson for the brand confirmed to Glamour that the decision to bring it back was inspired by Pelosi."

Isabel Wilkerson reports, in the New York Times, on Michelle Obama's book Becoming. It's quite a compelling read.

Reality Chex Bargain. Someone will pay $1 million or more for a letter written by Albert Einstein. You can read it for free. ...

... New York Times: The "God Letter," "written [in German] in 1954 by Albert Einstein ... is being auctioned this week.... He sent the handwritten letter to Eric Gutkind, a German philosopher who had written a book called 'Choose Life: The biblical Call to Revolt' that, apparently, Einstein did not much like.... Einstein wrote dozens of letters in which he mentioned God or Judaism. 'Nobody should read one Einstein letter and think that solves what he thinks about God,' Walter Isaacson, the author of the 2007 biography 'Einstein,' said in an interview.... The letter surfaced in 2008. Until then, it had apparently been in the hands of Gutkind’s heirs (he died in 1965). And it rocketed into the universe of big-money auctions, selling for $404,000 in London.... It will go on the block at Christie’s on Tuesday. Christie’s set a presale estimate of $1 million to $1.5 million."

Here's New York magazine's take on A Very Melanie Christmas:

... AND Rhonda Garelick of New York has some thoughts on why Melanie's Red Forest is so empty of holiday cheer.

Chris Hayes reviews this year's White House holiday decor:

So if you'd like to read all about Mika Brzezinski's wedding to Joe Scarborough, Emily Fox of Vanity Fair obliges. It sounds as if it was a very nice ceremony. Except, you know, Mika & Joe.

Kwitcherbitchin. Think things are bad now? They were way worse in 536 C.E. A report in Science explains.

Click on picture to see larger image.

... New York Times: "A celebrated and enigmatic painting of two men and a turquoise pool by David Hockney sold at Christie’s on Thursday night for $90.3 million with fees, shattering the auction record for a living artist and cementing a major broadening of tastes at the turbocharged top end of the market. The price for the 1972 painting, 'Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures),' easily surpassed the previous high of $58.4 million, held by Jeff Koons for one of his 'Balloon Dog' sculptures."

Jennifer Szalai of the New York Times reviews Michelle Obama's memoir Becoming.

Monday
Mar122018

The Commentariat -- March 13, 2018

Afternoon Update:

John Kelly Cleans House

Michael Shear & Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "John McEntee, who has served as President Trump's personal assistant since Mr. Trump won the presidency, was forced out of his position and escorted from the White House on Monday after his security clearance was revoked, officials with knowledge of the incident said. But Mr. McEntee will remain in the president's orbit despite his abrupt departure from the White House. Mr. Trump's re-election campaign announced Tuesday that Mr. McEntee has been named Senior Adviser for Campaign Operations, putting him in a position to remain as a close aide during the next several years. The campaign's decision underscores Mr. Trump's tolerance for -- and often encouragement of -- dueling centers of power around him. And it highlights the extent to which the re-election campaign has already become a landing pad for former Trump associates who have left the White House but remain loyal to the president.... A senior administration official said that many of the president's top aides were shocked and dismayed by the abrupt departure.... John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, has said in recent weeks that too many staff members were operating on interim security clearances because they could not pass F.B.I. background checks. A White House spokesman declined to comment on Mr. McEntee's firing." ...

... Kaitlan Collins, et al., of CNN: "... Donald Trump's longtime personal aide John McEntee was fired because he is currently under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for serious financial crimes, a source familiar with his firing told CNN. The charges are not related to the President, the source said. Minutes after news of his departure broke, the Trump campaign announced McEntee would be joining the reelection effort as a senior adviser for campaign operations.... His abrupt firing came out of nowhere and there was no warning, [White House aides] said.... He was scheduled to travel to California with Trump on Tuesday, but then he was fired." ...

... Nicole Lafond of TPM: "House Oversight Committee ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) has requested the White House hand over documents related to the firing of ... Donald Trump's personal assistant Tuesday.... Cummings addressed the letter to Chief of Staff John Kelly and scolded the White House official for the 'deficient background check process' in the West Wing. McEntee was reportedly escorted out of the White House after his firing on Tuesday and was not even given time to collect his personal belongings, including his jacket." ...

... Kevin Drum: "We've now heard from Rex Tillerson. In a wavering voice, he held a press briefing in which he thanked everyone for their contributions over the past year. He thanked State Department workers. He thanked Defense Secretary James Mattis. He literally thanked all 300 million Americans. Except for Donald Trump. He didn't thank Donald Trump." And Drum reminds us of an October BuzzFeed report: "'a so-called 'suicide pact' forged between Defense Secretary James Mattis, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Tillerson....'... I guess the suicide pact is no longer operative.... Tillerson has never denied saying [that Trump is a 'fucking moron'], but he's never admitted it either. Now that he's been fired, I wonder if he'll open up a bit about just how big a moron Trump is?" ...

"You'll Miss Him When He's Gone." Jeet Heer of the New Republic: "Some on the left are declaring Tillerson among the worst secretaries of state, ever.... But Tillerson was far from the worst modern secretary of state in terms of the actual consequences of his actions. Nothing in his short tenure matches the horrors inflicted on the world by predecessors such as Dean Rusk (the Vietnam War), Henry Kissinger (the secret bombing of Cambodia, the support for the coup in Chile) or Colin Powell (the Iraq war). In purely policy terms, Tillerson was a moderating force in the Trump White House, pushing Trump to stay in the Paris climate agreement, uphold the Iran nuclear deal, condemn Russian interference in the 2016 election, and engage in diplomacy with North Korea. On all these issues, Pompeo will be much more hawkish and closer to Trump.... The question of Tillerson versus Pompeo comes down to whether it is better to be incompetent and have the right policies (as Tillerson does) or be competent but with more dangerous policies."

... Trump Didn't Have Guts to Fire Tillerson. Ali Vitali, et al., of NBC News: "NBC News learned Tuesday from sources familiar with the situation that Chief of Staff John Kelly spoke with Tillerson by phone on Friday and told him that Trump intended to ask him to 'step aside.' In that call -- which came while Tillerson was traveling through Africa -- Kelly did not specify when that change might come. Kelly also called Tillerson again on Saturday, a senior White House official said, expressing once again the president's 'imminent' intention to replace his secretary of state. The Associated Press, citing senior State Department officials, reported Tuesday that Tillerson had been even more blindsided, saying that Kelly had warned him on that Friday call that there might be a tweet from the president coming that would concern him, but did not detail what the tweet might say or when it would post." ...

... Emily Stewart of Vox: "Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's pride might be hurt by his forced ouster on Tuesday, but his pocketbook won't be. The former Exxon Mobil CEO will still get to enjoy the millions of dollars in tax deferrals he got when he joined the Trump administration in the first place, even though he spent just a little over a year on the job. Tillerson and Exxon reached an agreement when then-President-elect Donald Trump tapped Tillerson to head the State Department. The deal outlined steps for Tillerson to sever all ties with the company to comply with conflict of interest requirements while at the same time defining what he was to do with his multimillion-dollar retirement package and hundreds of thousands of Exxon shares. As a result, Tillerson got a major tax break -- and is one of several Trump Cabinet appointees with immense personal wealth who did so. He'll continue to benefit from that arrangement even after he leaves the public sector." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Contributor Patrick wrote earlier today that Tillerson had to stay on the job for a year, & that was my recollection as well, thanks to Patrick's reminder. But Stewart writes, "... there's no requirement for how long officials remain in their posts to enjoy the tax benefit." This October 2017 story by Bill Alpert in Barron's backs up Stewart: "To dispute the tax deferral of an administration short-timer, the Internal Revenue Service would have to show that the official took office just to beat the tax code." It looks as if the one-year requirement was more rumor than truth.

... Mike Calia & Dan Mangan of CNBC: "Steve Goldstein, Rex Tillerson's top spokesman at the State Department, was fired Tuesday for contradicting the official administration account of Tillerson's firing, a White House official told NBC News. A State Department official confirmed the firing of Goldstein, who was an undersecretary of State, to NBC News, as well.... Trump announced over Twitter on Tuesday that he was replacing Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Goldstein had said soon afterward that Tillerson had not spoken directly about the move with the president.... NBC News reported that Tillerson had learned of his firing from Trump's tweet." ...

Eliza Relman of Business Insider: "... Donald Trump's controversial nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency helped implement the agency's torture program under the George W. Bush administration, a record that will make her confirmation process difficult and likely ugly. Gina Haspel, who joined the CIA in 1985 and spent most of her career undercover, oversaw the waterboarding and use of other 'enhanced interrogation techniques' - authorized by the Bush administration and later outlawed by President Barack Obama and Congress -- at a secret CIA prison in Thailand in 2002.... In 2005, Haspel signed a cable ordering the destruction of 92 video tapes of [Abu] Zubaydah's interrogations -- a decision that became the subject of a lengthy criminal investigation by the Justice Department that did not result in charges. Haspel also helped facilitate the 'extraordinary rendition program,' in which the US government handed detainees over to foreign officials, who detained and tortured them in secret prisons.... Trump repeatedly expressed his support for torture, including waterboarding, on the campaign trail." ...

... Here's the New York Times' February 2, 2017, story by Matthew Rosenberg, on Gina Haspel, which was updated today. ...

... Ed Kilgore: "In 2013, when then-CIA Director John Brennan sought to promote Haspel into the position of directing all of the agency's covert operations, Senator Diane Feinstein objected and blocked the move, citing her involvement in the illegal torture program.... Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, is already saying that her torturous background makes her 'unsuitable to serve as CIA director.' And civil liberties groups are even more determined to oppose her[.]" ...

... Nancy LeTourneau of the Washington Monthly runs down Tuesday's terminations: "Frankly, I've run out of words for what a train wreck this administration has become. People who lie are valued for their loyalty and staff who tell the truth are fired. If aides engage in financial misconduct or beat their wife, that's cool as long as they can keep it under wraps. When that becomes impossible, they're offered a job with the re-election campaign. Given the one industry where Trump excelled, perhaps the best metaphor is television. But the characters in 'The Americans' and 'House of Cards' had way to[o] much class for this crew. Even 'The Apprentice' had more structure than we're witnessing. It's like having 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey' running the White House."

At Least Trump/Kelly Didn't Murder Them. Zach Sayer of Politico: "Nikolai Glushkov, a Russian exile and former close associate of the late oligarch Boris Berezovsky, was found dead in his London home Monday night, the Telegraph reported. The death of Glushkov, who worked for Berezovsky's car company as well as Russian state airline Aeroflot in the 1990s, was confirmed by his lawyer on Russia's Business FM radio. No cause of death was given. When the oligarch Berezovsky clashed with Vladimir Putin in 1999, he fled to the U.K. and obtained political asylum. Glushkov was subsequently charged with money laundering and fraud and served five years in jail in Russia. After another sentencing for fraud, Glushkov also fled to the U.K. Last March, he was charged with allegedly defrauding Aeroflot of $122 million and was sentenced to eight years in jail. In March 2013, Berezovsky was found hanged in his ex-wife's home. Glushkov maintained that he believed the death was murder, though police said a post mortem showed no signs of a struggle." ...

     ... The lede grafs in the Telegraph story, which is firewalled: "Counter terrorism police have launched an investigation into the 'unexplained' death of a Russian business partner of Boris Berezovsky, Vladimir Putin's arch enemy. Nikolai Grushkov, 69, was found dead at his home in ... in south London on Monday evening."

Cristiano Lima of Politico: "... Donald Trump and Theresa May of Britain say that Russian officials 'must provide unambiguous answers' about the attempted murder of a former spy in southern England, according to a White House readout of a call between the two leaders released on Tuesday. The White House said that Trump expressed his 'solidarity' with May during a call on Tuesday and that he vowed 'to provide any assistance the United Kingdom requests for its investigation' of the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy, and his daughter that took place in Salisbury last week.... 'It sounds to me like it would be Russia based on all the evidence they have,' Trump told reporters outside the White House. 'It sounds to me like they believe it was Russia, and I would certainly take that finding as fact.'"

*****

"I'm Speaking with Myself...." Max Greenwood of the Hill: "President Trump said on Tuesday that he made the decision to oust Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his own, and that his now-former top diplomat would be 'much happier now.' 'As far as Rex Tillerson is concerned, I very much appreciate his commitment and his service and I wish him well,' Trump told reporter outside the White House. 'He's a good man.' Trump's comments came minutes after he abruptly announced that he had replaced Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. He said that he and [Pompeo] are 'always on the same wavelength.'" ...

... ** Peter Baker of the New York Times: "President Trump announced Tuesday that Mike Pompeo, now the C.I.A. director, will become secretary of state, replacing Rex W. Tillerson, ending his short but tumultuous tenure as the nation's chief diplomat. Mr. Tillerson found himself repeatedly at odds with Mr. Trump on a variety of key foreign policy issues. The president announced his decision via Twitter. A senior administration official said that Mr. Trump made the decision to replace Mr. Tillerson now in order to have a new team in place in advance of the upcoming talks with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader he plans to meet by May, and various ongoing trade negotiations. Mr. Trump said he will replace Mr. Pompeo with the deputy C.I.A. director, Gina Haspel, making her the first woman to head the spy agency. Both she and Mr. Pompeo would need confirmation by the Senate to take the positions." ...

... Ashley Parker & Philip Rucker of the Washington Post: "Trump last Friday asked Tillerson to step aside, and the embattled diplomat cut short his trip to Africa on Monday to return to Washington." ...

... John Bowden of the Hill: "Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is 'unaware' of the reason behind his dismissal but wishes incoming Secretary of State Mike Pompeo well, according to a statement from Tillerson's top deputy. The former Exxon executive 'had every intention' of remaining on as President Trump's top diplomat, according to a statement released Tuesday by Under Secretary of State Steve Goldstein." Mrs. McC: So Rex wants the world to know he didn't resign; Trump fired him. ...

... In today's Comments, Patrick points out the tax angle of Tillerson's barely-year-plus tenure.

This Russia Thing, Ctd.

Finally We Have a "Russia Investigation" That Is a Hoax. ...

... "No Collusion"! Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "Even as the special counsel expands his inquiry and pursues criminal charges against at least four Trump associates, House Intelligence Committee Republicans said Monday they have found no evidence of collusion between Donald J. Trump's presidential campaign and Russia to sway the 2016 election. Representative K. Michael Conaway of Texas, who is leading the investigation, said committee Republicans agreed with the conclusions of American intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered with the election, but they broke with the agencies on one crucial point: that the Russians had favored Mr. Trump's candidacy. 'The bottom line: The Russians did commit active measures against our election in '16, and we think they will do that in the future,' Mr. Conaway said. But, he added, 'We disagree with the narrative that they were trying to help Trump.'... 'But only Tom Clancy or Vince Flynn or someone else like that could take these series of inadvertent contacts with each other, meetings, whatever, and weave that into some sort of a fiction and turn it into a page-turner, spy thriller.'... The decision to end the investigation with a conclusion of no collusion hands Mr. Trump a convenient talking point even before Mr. Mueller interviews the president and possibly other key witnesses." ...

... Dan Friedman of Mother Jones: "Republicans on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence officially announced Monday night what has been evident for months: They are all done investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.... [Michael] Conaway [R-Texas] on Monday agreed with US intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the election, but, strikingly, he said the Republicans on the panel rejected the intelligence community's unanimous conclusion that Russia wanted Trump in the White House.... Democrats called the completion of the probe an abdication, but the reality is that a serious, independent House investigation never existed. Since it began January 2017, the project has been crippled by Republicans' unwillingness to defy the White House and has evidently been operating with the goal of clearingPresident Trump and his campaign.... Democrats on the committee, who have long ripped Republicans over their conduct in the probe, say they will issue their own competing report to detail the avenues the Republican majority refused to investigate." ...

THE HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE HAS, AFTER A 14 MONTH LONG IN-DEPTH INVESTIGATION, FOUND NO EVIDENCE OF COLLUSION OR COORDINATION BETWEEN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN AND RUSSIA TO INFLUENCE THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. -- Donald Trump, in a tweet, yesterday (CAPS original)

... Conservative Rick Wilson of the Daily Beast: "The Fox and Trump media enterprise today launched into a spasm of complete ecstasy as the House Intelligence Committee declared their investigation of Russian interference in our elections and their contacts with and collaboration with the Trump campaign over, done, solved. In their alternate reality, they're declaring the CASE CLOSED.... They might not want to get too far over their skis on this one because both the Senate and Bob Mueller are still taking this question seriously, as opposed to the clownish covering of Donald Trump's ample ass by the Republicans on the House Intel Committee.... House Intelligence is now officially an oxymoron. [Chair Devin] Nunes' 'investigation' has been an example of Washington at its worst, a pure exercise in protecting Donald Trump, and a low point for the Republican Party's reputation as the party of national security.... That Members of Congress who have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution and protect this nation have engaged in a sham investigation about to produce a sham report to protect a sham President is an insult to the oath they swore and itself a clear and present danger to the security of our nation.... As Fox, talk radio, and Trump-centric clickservative media chant 'case closed' Trump is already tweeting IN CRAZY GRANDPA ALL CAPS his amplification of House Intel's 'report' to convince his credulous base that the story is over and to call for the dismissal of Mueller and the end of the Senate probe." ...

... Luis Sanchez of the Hill: "Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on Monday that 'there is evidence' showing the Russians attempted to help Trump during the 2016 presidential election, contradicting a draft report from the panel. 'I certainly think there is evidence of that. I don't know that necessarily there was a full-fledged campaign to do everything that they could to help elect Donald Trump,' Rooney told host Erin Burnett on CNN's 'OutFront.' 'I think that their goal was chaos.'... Burnett pointed out that 'the intelligence community had said Moscow's intention' 'was to hurt ,' and that the Kremlin 'wanted to explicitly help Donald Trump.' Rooney responded: 'Yes, I believe there's evidence of everything that you just said.'" ...

     ... Kevin Drum: "Do I even need to tell you that Rooney is retiring this year? It's pretty amazing what Republicans are willing to say once they decide not to run for reelection." ...

... NEW. Jacqueline Thomsen of the Hill: "House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ripped Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee for deciding to end its probe into Russian election interference, saying the move is 'part of a disturbing pattern by the House GOP to obstruct and interfere with investigations into the Trump-Russia scandal.' Pelosi went after both GOP committee members and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in a fiery statement, accusing Ryan of allowing the committee 'to make a mockery not only of the investigation but the Committee itself.'... 'House Republicans have abandoned their oath to support and defend the Constitution and protect the American people,' she continued." ...

... Erin Kelly of USA Today: "The probe was ended over the objections of Democrats, who charged that key documents and testimony still have not been obtained. Republicans said they agreed with the U.S. intelligence community's January report that Russia tried to interfere in the U.S. presidential election, but did not agree that the Russians were trying to help Donald Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. The GOP majority on the House panel will show its draft report to Democrats on Tuesday before seeking approval from the full committee to release it. Democrats plan to write a separate report that will likely conclude there is strong evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin." ...

... NEW. John Bowden: "... Donald Trump Jr. defended the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election during a Fox News appearance Tuesday morning, but attacked [Democrats on] the House Intelligence Committee's investigation.... 'At Senate Intel I was impressed,' Trump Jr. said. 'You walk out of a room after, what was it, 10 hours of interviewing and you didn't know who was on who's side. Meaning, those guys actually seemed like they were trying to get to facts.'... [Junior] went on to directly blame Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, for leaking information from his testimony to the press." ...

... NEW. Tom Hamburger, et al., of the Washington Post: "In the spring of 2016, longtime political operative Roger Stone had a phone conversation that would later seem prophetic, according to the person on the other end of the line. Stone, an informal adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump, said he had learned from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that his organization had obtained emails that would torment senior Democrats such as John Podesta, then campaign chairman for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The conversation occurred before it was publicly known that hackers had obtained the emails of Podesta and of the Democratic National Committee, documents that WikiLeaks released in late July and October. The U.S. intelligence community later concluded the hackers were working for Russia. The person ... is one of two Stone associates who say Stone claimed to have had contact with Assange in 2016." ...

... Kevin Johnson of USA Today: "Despite unrelenting criticism from the White House on the course of the investigation into Russia's election interference, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein Monday offered unqualified support for special counsel Robert Mueller. 'The special counsel is not an unguided missile,' Rosenstein said in an exclusive interview with USA Today. 'I don't believe there is any justification at this point for terminating the special counsel.' Rosenstein's remarks are among the first to address Mueller's status since it was disclosed more than a month ago that President Trump sought to have the special counsel dismissed last summer. The president relented only when White House counsel Donald McGahn threatened to resign if forced to carry out the directive." ...

... Caitlin MacNeal of TPM: "Special counsel Robert Mueller is nearly done with his investigation into whether ... Donald Trump obstructed justice but may wait to publicize his findings until he has completed other parts of the Russia probe, Bloomberg News reported on Monday. Bloomberg News reported, citing unnamed current and former U.S. officials, that Mueller could finish the obstruction portion of the investigation once he has interviewed key officials like the President and his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.... Mueller may hold off on revealing his findings on obstruction so that the results don't prompt Trump to attempt to shut down the special counsel investigation or fuel other pressure for Mueller to end the probe, as Bloomberg News noted." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie Note: The Bloomberg piece is linked above. For the past several weeks, Bloomberg has placed not all, but most, of its stories behind a wall requiring sign-up, so I've tried to find secondary sources even where Bloomberg broke a story. Too bad. But their choice, not mine. ...

     ... Update: Contributor Whyte O. suggested in yesterday's thread that Bloomberg stories could be opened in "private" or "incognito" windows. He's right. Right-click on the link to the original Bloomberg story & choose "Open link in new private window" (or the equivalent in your browser).

... ** Julia Ainsley, et al., of NBC News: "Qatari officials gathered evidence of what they claim is illicit influence by the United Arab Emirates on Jared Kushner and other Trump associates, including details of secret meetings, but decided not to give the information to special counsel Robert Mueller for fear of harming relations with the Trump administration, say three sources familiar with the Qatari discussions. Lebanese-American businessman George Nader and Republican donor Elliott Broidy, who participated in the meetings, have both been the focus of news reports in recent days about their connections to the UAE and Trump associates.... NBC News previously reported that Qatari officials weighed speaking to Mueller during a visit to Washington earlier this year, and has now learned the information the officials wanted to share included details about Nader and Broidy working with the UAE to turn the Trump administration against Qatar.... Qatari officials believe Trump's verbal backing of the blockade [by neighboring nations] was a form of retaliation by his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, whose family's negotiations with Qatari investors had recently fallen apart, according to several sources familiar with the Qatari government's thinking." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Noor Al-Sibai of RawStory: "Fresh off the heels of a grand jury testimony he said he wouldn't do, former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg told MSNBC's Ari Melber that special counsel Robert Mueller questioned him about the president's alleged 'payments to women' in the wake of the Stormy Daniels scandal.... After clarifying that the questions came during his voluntary meeting with the special counsel's team and not during his grand jury testimony last Friday, the former aide conceded that it's 'pretty obvious that they're looking into this' given reports about Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's 'hush agreement' payout to adult star Stormy Daniels." --safari

Gary Baum of the Hollywood Reporter: "A prominent Los Angeles Republican power broker and fundraiser who has been linked to two ongoing political scandals is co-hosting a fundraiser for Donald Trump on the occasion of his first official visit to California as president. Elliott Broidy, the deputy national finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, is set to preside over a $35,000-per-person event for Trump on Tuesday night at an undisclosed location in Beverly Hills. Broidy and his wife, attorney Robin Rosenzweig, a discreet but powerful couple in Republican fundraising circles, have been tied through a trove of leaked documentation received by media organizations to the multibillion-dollar Malaysian graft scheme that has entangled actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Miranda Kerr, the model and wife of Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel. The documents also reveal a series of connections between Broidy and U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller's inquiry into foreign influence-peddling of the Trump administration. Two Hollywood producers, Steven J. Brown and J. David Williams, had close ties to Broidy and are connected via various business dealings -- including film projects -- to Rick Gates, an associate of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.... Broidy also has played a role in advising George Nader..., who is now being investigated by Mueller for secret meetings between representatives from the UAE and the Trump team." A long piece that describes many of Broidy's little problems. He's a perfect Friend of Donald. ...

... Jonathan Chait: "A recent spate of leaks appears to be telling us something about Donald Trump's legal team.... So, the lawyer who has been holding Trump back from taking drastic action [-- Ty Cobb --] seems to be on his way out. And Trump's lawyers are contemplating some extremely rash strategies that have about a zero percent chance of succeeding. It's difficult to know exactly what's happening behind the scenes, but these stories seem to indicate some sense of desperation is setting in." ...

... ** Mother Jones publishes "an incomplete list" [link fixed] of the "scoops in Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, a new book by Michael Isikoff, the chief investigative reporter for Yahoo News, and David Corn, the Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones." ...

... Here Are Two Items on the List. Elizabeth Preza of RawStory: "Former Donald Trump policy adviser George Papadopoulos told federal investigators Donald Trump 'personally encouraged him' to arrange a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a new book by Michael Isikoff and David Corn.... The new book also recounts former President Barack Obama's reaction to learning of allegations outlined in the salacious Trump-Russia dossier, compiled by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele. 'Why am I hearing this?' Obama reportedly asked then-national security adviser, Susan Rice. 'Why is this happening?' Former Vice President Joe Biden, upon hearing the allegations, called Trump's action 'treason,' according to the journalists." --safari ...

... ** NEW. Anthony Cormier & Jason Leopold of BuzzFeed write a fascinating -- and long -- profile of Felix Sater, all-around conman (so [former] friend of Donald) & U.S. spy. You may want to shower afterwards. ...

... NEW. Ben Mathis-Lilley of Slate: "Donald Trump’s connections to a gentleman named Felix Sater have long been one of the more tantalizing threads of the Russia -- special counsel story. Sater is a Russia-born ex-con who helped Trump raise money for real estate projects during the 2000s -- a process that, according to a disgruntled former partner of Sater’s, involved laundering money that originated in Russia. Sater, in other words, might -- might! -- have information about Trump's connections to Russians who held incriminating information about him before the 2016 campaign got underway. What a wild new BuzzFeed News profile of Sater seems to suggest, in addition to being a bonkers crazy story, is that he's also the kind of guy who would definitely sell Trump out if he thought it would be even marginally useful to him personally."

David Frum of the Atlantic explains "what would normally happen after an outrage like the attempted murder of a Russian defector and his daughter with a nerve agent, in an attack that also poisoned a British police officer and exposed as many as 500 people to neurological risk.... Except for [one of the numerous measures Frum cites] -- which happens automatically, and which only affirmative presidential action would prevent -- none of those normal actions had occurred as of this writing, more than a week after the poisoning.... At Monday's White House press conference, Sarah Huckabee Sanders rebuffed repeated questions about whether the U.S. even supported the U.K. finding of fact about Russian responsibility. As the default continues and expands, the evidence accumulates: Trump simply will not act to protect the U.S. and its allies against even Russian aggression, even on their own territory, even in the form of attempted murder. Trump's inaction speaks louder than any words. It is a confession for all to hear." See link to related story under "Way Beyond" below. ...

... David Edwards of the Raw Story: "Sarah Sanders refused to blame or even mention Russia over the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter while they were living in the U.K. During Monday's White House briefing, a reporter noted that British Prime Minister Teresa May had accused Russia of 'an unlawful use of force' after the poisoning was connected to Russia. But Sanders insisted that the poisoning was 'indiscriminate' and refused to name Russia as a suspect. 'We've been monitoring this incident closely, taking it very seriously,' Sanders opined. 'The use of a highly dangerous nerve agent against U.K. citizens on U.K. soil is an outrage. The attack was reckless, indiscriminate and irresponsible.' 'So, you're not saying Russia was behind this?' the reporter asked. 'Right now, we are standing with our U.K. allies,' Sanders said, refusing to mention Russia by name. 'I think they're working through even some of the details of this. And we're going to continue to work with the U.K. and we certainly stand with them throughout this process.' The reporter pressed, pointing out that the British government has determined that Russia provided the chemical weapon used in the poisoning. 'Like I just said,' Sanders interrupted..., 'we stand with our ally and we fully support them and are ready if we can be of any assistance.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I don't see how "we can be of any assistance" if "we" are not allowed to even say "Russia." Anyhow, no collusion. ...

... BUT Rex Is Not Cooperating. Josh Lederman of the AP: "U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cast the poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain as part of a 'certain unleashing of activity' by Russia that the United States is struggling to understand. He warned that the poisoning would 'certainly trigger a response.' Tillerson, echoing the British government's finger-pointing toward Moscow, said he didn't yet know whether Russia's government knew of the attack with a military-grade nerve agent, but that one way or another, 'it came from Russia.' He said it was 'almost beyond comprehension' why a state actor would deploy such a dangerous substance in a public place in a foreign country where others could be exposed." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: No doubt Trump hired Tillerson because of Tillerson's actual friendship with Putin (as opposed to Trump's fake one) -- and also maybe because a big guy named Rex from Texas is Trump's idea of a manly man who conveys the embodiment of "American" to the rest of the world -- but Rex from Texas often acts kinda like a normal Republican secretary of state. ...

     ... Update: Apparently Tillerson's fingering Russia was freelancing. Tillerson is out. Whatever Putin has on Trump, it's really, really damning.

Election Meddling: American Edition, via Democracy Now: "By one count, the United States has interfered in more than 80 foreign elections between 1946 and 2000. And that doesn’t count U.S.-backed coups and invasions." --safari

Today in American History. The President & the Porn Star, Ctd.

Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times: "The pornographic film actress who says she had an affair with President Trump offered on Monday to return $130,000 she received from Mr. Trump's personal lawyer in 2016 for agreeing not to discuss the alleged relationship. In exchange, the actress, Stephanie Clifford, seeks an end to her deal to keep quiet about what she says was an affair with Mr. Trump that started in 2006 and lasted for several months. In the letter, which was sent to Mr. Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, early Monday, Ms. Clifford's lawyer, Michael Avenatti, wrote that Ms. Clifford would wire the money into an account of Mr. Trump’s choosing by Friday." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

Judd Legum of ThinkProgress: "The attorney representing adult film star Stormy Daniels, Michael Avenatti, sent a settlement offer on Monday to the President.... Avenatti said that Daniels would return $130,000 to Trump -- the amount she was reportedly paid by Trump's attorney Michael Cohen -- in exchange for being formally released from the non-disclosure agreement she signed in October 2016.... If, in fact, he did not have a sexual relationship with Daniels, keeping her quiet would not likely be worth $130,000. In rejecting the offer, Trump looks like he has something to hide -- and perhaps he does. As part of the settlement, Trump would have to agree to let Daniels release 'text messages, photos and/or videos' she may have in her possession." --safari ...

... Terri Langford of the Dallas Morning News: "Texas officials are investigating whether a Dallas-area notary properly signed off on Stormy Daniels' agreement to stay quiet about her alleged affair with ... Donald Trump. The notary issue is the latest in a string of curiosities surrounding the murky deal involving Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen and the adult-film actress, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. A notary in Forney, where Daniels lives, did not sign and date the 2016 agreement, which was finalized a few days before the presidential election. She also did not provide a certificate reflecting whose signature she was witnessing, according to the Texas Secretary of State.... Texas law requires that notaries not only stamp documents, but sign and date them. They also must provide a certificate reflecting that they verified the identity of the signer or signers. In a letter to the notary obtained by The Dallas Morning News, a secretary of state employee informed the notary that the agency is examining her actions following a complaint." ...

... Josh Marshall : "What [Stormy] Daniels told 60 Minutes is more damaging than people may realize.... In many ways, having sex with a porn star is on-brand for Donald Trump. He spent decades playing up a reputation as a billionaire playboy.... But Daniels apparently says something different. I'm told that in her 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper Daniels suggests that Trump, how to say this, likes it when women aren't nice to him, treat him in perhaps denigrating ways. I think that would be very much off brand for Trump. It also puts in sharper relief why he and his lawyer seem to be fighting so hard to keep Daniels' story under wraps. It also deepens my curiosity about whether CBS will have the stomach to air that part of the story." --safari


Cecilia Kang
of the New York Times: "President Trump on Monday blocked Broadcom’s $117 billion bid for the chip maker Qualcomm, citing national security concerns and punctuating his administration's increasingly protectionist stance. In a presidential order, Mr. Trump said 'there is credible evidence' that led him to believe Singapore-based Broadcom's control of Qualcomm, which is based in San Diego, 'might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States.' The extraordinary decision by the president underscored the increasingly protectionist stance his administration has taken in recent weeks to shelter American companies and ward off foreign investment in the United States."

Gregory Smithsimon of Mother Jones: "President Donald Trump is threatening the 2020 census from every direction: Cutting its budget, scaring immigrants away from answering its questions, and prohibiting the Census Bureau from hiring the best people for the job. While we have to defend this invaluable source of data and the foundation of accurate political redistricting, we don't have to lose sight of what a strange creature the census is. The census has always reflected a Trumpian view of America, revealing our deepest anxieties about race and inequality.... Yet the census is our best source of information about the nation, and the only way to draw fair legislative boundaries. And today it is in danger." --safari

"Walls Work!" Nick Miroff of the Washington Post: "More than a year after the government's top oversight body urged the Department of Homeland Security to develop a way to measure the effectiveness of fencing and barriers along the border with Mexico, DHS has no such tool ready, even as President Trump prepares to pick the winning designs for his $18 billion border wall. Trump officials in recent weeks have dismissed criticism of their border security plan with a well-established defensive principle and simple retort: 'Walls work.' But a February 2017 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found DHS has no way to measure how well they work, where they work best or whether less-expensive alternatives could be just as effective." ...

... ** Haley Edwards of Time: "While President Obama told ICE to focus on violent offenders and recent border crossers, among others, President Trump has cast a much wider net. In early 2017, his Administration issued a series of edicts to ICE agents, prosecutors and immigration judges: any and all of the estimated 11 million people in the country illegally are now a priority for deportation.... The new policy doesn't affect only those who are in the country illegally. It upends a broad swath of American society, including the communities and families of undocumented people, many of whom are U.S. citizens. More than 4 million American kids under the age of 18 have at least one undocumented parent, and nearly 6 million live in so-called mixed-status households, sharing bedrooms with family members, like brothers and sisters, who are now targets for arrest. Every year, tens of thousands of American kids see at least one parent deported, according to the Urban Institute. It's an experience that, studies show, pushes families into poverty and leads to higher rates of PTSD and struggles at school." Mrs. McC: This is Time's cover story, & it should be. It's heartbreaking...

...Dan Simon of CNN: "James Schwab, a spokesman for the San Francisco Division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has resigned, citing what he says are falsehoods being spread by members of the Trump administration including Attorney General Jeff Sessions. 'I just couldn't bear the burden -- continuing on as a representative of the agency and charged with upholding integrity, knowing that information was false,' he told CNN on Monday.... Schwab cited Acting Director Tom Homan and Attorney General Jeff Sessions as being the purveyors of misleading and inaccurate information.... Schwab said he brought up his concerns to ICE leadership and was told to 'deflect to previous statements.'... Schwab...said he is a registered Democrat." --safari: Great opportunity to throw a shameless Republican in there.

The Family That Grifts Together ...

Anita Kumar of McClatchy News: "Ivanka Trump -- a senior White House adviser who is doing everything from lobbying the Senate on tax policy to representing her father at a G20 summit of world leaders -- will pull in more than $1 million a year from the family business that has continued to develop luxury resorts across the globe during the Trump presidency. Some of those Trump-branded developments are hiring state-owned companies for construction, receiving gifts from foreign governments in the form of public land or eased regulations and accepting payments from customers who are foreign officials. Ivanka Trump's continued relationship with the businesses affiliated with the Trump Organization creates countless potential conflicts of interest prohibited by federal law and federal ethics standards as she works as a special assistant to the president. And just like her father, she is being accused of violating the so-called emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Jake Pearson of the AP: "Donald Trump Jr. has a previously undisclosed business relationship with a longtime hunting buddy who helped raise millions of dollars for his father's 2016 presidential campaign and has had special access to top government officials since the election, records obtained by The Associated Press show. The president's oldest son and Texas hedge fund manager Gentry Beach have been involved in business deals together dating back to the mid-2000s and recently formed a company, Future Venture LLC, despite past claims by both men that they were just friends, according to previously unreported court records and other documents obtained by AP." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Erica Green of the New York Times: "After a gunman marauded through Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month, conservative commentators -- looking for a culprit — seized on an unlikely target: an Obama-era guidance document that sought to rein in the suspensions and expulsions of minority students. Black students have never been the culprits in the mass shootings that have shocked the nation's conscience nor have minority schools been the targets. But the argument went that any relaxation of disciplinary efforts could let a killer slip through the cracks. And this week, President Trump made the connection, announcing that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will lead a school safety commission charged in part with examining the 'repeal of the Obama administration's "Rethink School Discipline" policies.' To civil rights groups, connecting an action to help minority students with mass killings in suburban schools smacked of burdening black children with a largely white scourge." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: There is no circumstance in which Trump cannot find an angle to exhibit his racism.


Sari Horwitz
of the Washington Post: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Monday that U.S. attorneys will more aggressively enforce the law that makes it a crime for gun buyers to lie on their federal background checks, one of several steps Justice Department officials outlined as part of the Trump administration's response to last month's deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla. The Justice Department also will increase the presence of law enforcement officers at schools and continue to review the way law enforcement agencies respond to tips from the public, Sessions said.... Lying on a federal background check when purchasing a firearm is a felony that can be punished by up to five years in prison, but the crime is rarely prosecuted, according to current and former Justice Department officials. Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to 'swiftly and aggressively' prosecute cases against people who are prohibited from having firearms and lie on a federal form to pass the background check."

Lachlan Markay & Andrew Desidero of The Daily Beast: "The Environmental Protection Agency has blown a deadline to hand over documents to Congress pertaining to administrator Scott Pruitt's travel expenses.... A source familiar with the situation attributed the delay to the sheer volume of records being requested by the committee, and the difficulties in ensuring that the records turned over were complete and accurate." --safari...

White House Surprised a Billionaire Can Be So Stupid. Kaitlan Collins & Kevin Liptak of CNN: "White House officials were alarmed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' struggle to answer basic questions about the nation's schools and failure to defend the administration's newly proposed school safety measures during a tour of television interviews Sunday and Monday, according to two sources familiar with their reaction.... Things worsened as DeVos continued her cable television tour Monday morning.... Though the [White House] proposals don't include raising the age limit to purchase firearms from 18 to 21 -- as ... Donald Trump once suggested -- DeVos told Savannah Guthrie ton NBC's 'Today" show that 'everything is on the table.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Elisha Brown of The Daily Beast: "Education Secretary Betsy DeVos fumbled through questions about school choice during a 60 Minutes interview on Sunday night as she tried to claim that charter schools she has long advocated for improve traditional, public schools. But she couldn't say if her theory applied to her home state of Michigan when pressed by Lesley Stahl.... Recent test scores indicate that maybe DeVos should check in on Michigan. Students at many Michigan schools, particularly charter schools, are underperforming.... Michigan has the highest number of for-profit charter schools in the nation, according to a 2013 report from the National Education Policy Center at University of Colorado." --safari ...

... Philip Bump of the Washington Post: "DeVos claimed that giving students a choice of schools improved public schools. In states where more students took the choice to enroll in nonpublic schools, though, the results have been fairly scattershot. Meaning it was easy for Stahl and '60 Minutes' to introduce an example where DeVos's rhetoric clearly doesn't capture reality. That it was DeVos's home state made it all the more possible that Stahl would ask DeVos to explain the discrepancy. Yet, somehow, she wasn't ready to do so."

AFP: "The US Department of Agriculture announced Monday it is withdrawing a much delayed Obama-era rule that would have imposed more regulations on producers of organically raised livestock and poultry.... It was initially set to go into effect in March 2017. But President Donald Trump's administration first froze it along with all other new regulations, then delayed it twice, and has now called it off altogether.... The Organic Trade Association, the main group in the sector, condemned the decision. It said the administration was irresponsibly ditching regulations that had been prepared carefully and were backed enthusiastically by organic producers and by consumers." --safari

NEW. Andrew Restuccia & Ben White of Politico: "... Donald Trump is close to choosing economic analyst Larry Kudlow as his new top economic policy adviser, according to three people briefed on the internal deliberations. After souring on Kudlow because he publicly criticized the president]s decision to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, Trump is now leaning heavily toward tapping the CNBC contributor and former Reagan administration official to lead the National Economic Council, the people said."


Tracy Jan
of the Washington Post: "The Senate is poised to pass a bill this week that would weaken the government's ability to enforce fair-lending requirements, making it easier for community banks to hide discrimination against minority mortgage applicants and harder for regulators to root out predatory lenders. The sweeping bill rolls back banking rules passed after the 2008 financial crisis, including a little-known part of the Dodd-Frank Act that required banks and credit unions to report more detailed lending data so abuses could be spotted. The bipartisan plan, which is expected to pass, would exempt 85 percent of banks and credit unions from the new requirement, according to a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau analysis of 2013 data.... [Twelve Democrats] have co-sponsored the bill, which is the most significant revision of banking rules since Dodd-Frank. Five more from the Senate Democratic caucus voted last week to advance the legislation. Sponsors of the financial regulation rollbacks include 2016 vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine (D-Va.), a former fair-housing lawyer."

Congressional Race. Louis Nelson of Politico: "The chairman of Pennsylvania's Republican Party said Monday the special election in which Democrat Conor Lamb is running neck-and-neck with Republican Rick Saccone is in a 'Democrat district,' even though it was represented by a Republican for more than a decade and ... Donald Trump won it handily in 2016." Mrs. McC: I read or heard that Romney won the district by 17 points in 2012.

Senate Race. Josh Israel of ThinkProgress has a long piece on the ridiculous stupidity of Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who "is currently the frontrunner for the GOP nomination to take on Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill this November." -safari

Susan Glasser of Politico interviews "sleepy son-of-a-bitch" Chuck Todd. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Edward-Isaac Dovere of Politico: "Arnold Schwarzenegger's next mission: taking oil companies to court 'for knowingly killing people all over the world.' The former California governor and global environmental activist announced the move Sunday at a live recording of Politico's Off Message podcast [from Austin, Texas,] at the SXSW festival, revealing that he's in talks with several private law firms and preparing a public push around the effort. 'This is no different from the smoking issue. The tobacco industry knew for years and years and years and decades, that smoking would kill people, would harm people and create cancer, and were hiding that fact from the people and denied it. Then eventually they were taken to court and had to pay hundreds of millions of dollars because of that,' Schwarzenegger said. 'The oil companies knew from 1959 on, they did their own study that there would be global warming happening because of fossil fuels, and on top of it that it would be risky for people's lives, that it would kill.'” (Also linked yesterday.)

Michael Cooper of the New York Times: "The Metropolitan Opera fired the conductor James Levine on Monday evening, ending its association with a man who defined the company for more than four decades after an investigation found what the Met called credible evidence that Mr. Levine had engaged in 'sexually abusive and harassing conduct.' The investigation, which the Met opened in December after a report in The New York Times, found evidence of abuse and harassment 'both before and during the period' when Mr. Levine worked at the Met, the company said in a statement. It was an extraordinary fall from grace for a legendary maestro, whom many have considered the greatest American conductor since Leonard Bernstein."

Beyond the Beltway

Des Beiler of the Washington Post: "O.J. Simpson said that on the night his ex-wife and a friend of hers were brutally murdered, he was at the scene, 'grabbed the knife' and, the next thing he knew, he was standing in 'all kinds of ... blood and stuff.' Of course, as Simpson repeatedly claimed in a 2006 interview that aired for the first time on Sunday, his account was entirely 'hypothetical.' His comments were made as part of a promotional effort for a book, 'If I Did it,' but Fox shelved the interview after an outcry before airing it on TV 12 years later as 'O.J. Simpson: The Lost Confession?'... 'I think he confessed to murder,' Christopher Darden, one of the prosecutors in Simpson's murder trial, said of the footage that aired Sunday. Darden was part of a panel Fox convened for the TV special, one hosted by Soledad O'Brien...."

Way Beyond

Anushka Asthana of the Guardian: British PM "Theresa May has said it is 'highly likely' that Russia was responsible for the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury and warned that her government will not tolerate such a 'brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil'. In a statement to the House of Commons after chairing a meeting of the national security council, the prime minister said the evidence had shown that Skripal had been targeted by a 'military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia'. She said the substance was from a group known as Novichok.... 'Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country. Or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... NEW. Erica Pandey of Axios: "Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov has said Russia 'is not to blame' for the nerve agent attack on an ex-Russian spy in the U.K., AP reports. The denial comes as the Kremlin has also asked the U.K. to open an investigation into the spy's daughter, per Reuters, and summoned the British ambassador to Russia, per the AP." Mrs. McC: The AP stories are one-liners (the second is a tweet).

News Ledes

Guardian: "Stephen Hawking, the brightest star in the firmament of science, whose insights shaped modern cosmology and inspired global audiences in the millions, has died aged 76."

     ... Update. Hawking's New York Times obituary is here.

Reader Comments (24)

Good boy, Devin! That’s a good boy. Sit...sit, good boy. Now roll over. That’s a good dog. Now say “No Collusion”, nice and loud now, so Sean Hannity can hear you! Gooood boy!

Well, case closed, I guess. Oops, wait. I forgot the crazy grandpa all caps. CASE CLOSED!

There ya go. Much better.

March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

I, too, find it quite perplexing that the Mueller investigation is supposedly leaking that the obstruction angle has been basically finished, without having interviewed the Moron. I'm assuming that bodes quite badly for the clown in the Oval. Though, given all of the available information, especially the Lester Holt interview and the confession to his Russian pals, it doesn't take a genius to figure out he's been attempting to obstruct justice since day 1.

I'm also curious to see the medium and long-term implications of the entire Republican House of Representatives publicly rebuking the entire intelligence agency (US and our allies) on Russia's desire to see a Trump victory. You can be a complete political novice and still see that Putin would've obviously preferred a Trump presidency after all of the adulation he bestowed on the Russian kleptocracy before and during the campaign. It's as clear as day who the Russian's preferred, without analyzing a single "top secret" document. And yet these stooges still can't bring themselves to admit Putin intervened for Trump's benefit. It's astonishing how far Paul Ryan's leadership has neutered itself in deliverance to the Trump Organization. Mind-blowing. This empty suit is considered a GOP "leader". That says so much these days.

And what happens now when the Senate actually does their homework (hopefully) and find clear evidence of Putin's circle supporting Trump? Not even "collusion", which is a red-herring term in itself as it has no legal definition, but just Russians clearly trying to help Trump win? Will all the Republicans in the House just gaze at their navels while their blatant stupidity is exposed? Will they release more uninformed memos to change the subject? If I worked in intelligence, I would be furious.

Meuller has to be watching this corrupt sideshow with grave suspicions. The House has proven to everyone that they're willing to shred the rest of the dignity they still claim to have in order to coverup for the worst president* in history. Republican House reps have confirmed to Mueller's investigators that they have absolutely ZERO allies in the pursuit of the truth. If their investigation doesn't produce absolutely irrefutable evidence (unlikely, but with the Dotard, who knows?), the GOP and Faux News will bury the evidence under an avalanche of abortion bills.

March 13, 2018 | Unregistered Commentersafari

@Bea, there appears to be a bad link to the Mother Jones list. I found an extra "ht" in front of the "https..."

March 13, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterunwashed

The Think Progress (Israel) piece on Missouri R candidate for U.S. Senate is jaw-dropping (Thx Safari). The article presents facts, which clearly show that Hawley is an opportunistic liar and panderer to RWNJs. Yet it also quotes senior GOPers (such as Mitch McConnell) as saying that Hawley is the greatest, yet Hawley is stroking the Bannon crowd which is antithetical to McConnell and the GOP leadership.

In any reality-based world this guy would be toast based on his record. The fact that he is a real electoral threat to McCaskill just demonstrates that we are no longer in a reality-based world. (I know, McCaskill is no prize, but ... sheesh!)

March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

Qatar clearly has told frump et alia that they have the dope on them and to back off. Blackmail and control of US foreign policy.

March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGloria

@unwashed: Thanks. Link fixed.

March 13, 2018 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

@safari: I doubt it's Mueller's outfit that is leaking. As Jonathan Chait points out, Trump's legal team has been a veritable sieve lately, & it seems more than likely to me that the "almost finished" leak comes from there.

March 13, 2018 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Tillerson ousted. Que surprisa!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-ousts-tillerson-will-replace-him-as-secretary-of-state-with-cia-chief-pompeo/2018/03/13/30f34eea-26ba-11e8-b79d-f3d931db7f68_story.html?utm_term=.ad1c09b2072f

March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

It has been pretty clear to many that Rex T was just waiting for his year in office to pass before moving on. As it is, 13+ months and back to the ranch. Had he left before the full year, he would not be able to avoid taxes on the capital gains he took when he sold assets to avoid conflicts of interest.

So DiJiT certainly believes he did Rex a favor by letting him do the whole year.

If you were in Foggy Bottom this morning you would probably be able to hear the churchbells peeling away!

March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

@Patrick: Excellent point. I wonder if T-Rex had to sign a fail-safe non-disclosure agreement to get Trump to let him finish out the year. So no "My Year Saving the World from a Madman" tell-all? C'est dommage.

March 13, 2018 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Mike Calia 's piece on CNBC.com " agree to disagree " maybe!

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that Larry Kudlow has a "good chance" to take over as his top economic advisor.

"I'm looking at Larry Kudlow very strongly," Trump told reporters as he prepared to depart for California. "I think Larry Kudlow has a good chance."

Trump really is running the government like a game show.

Larry, c'mon down...

March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

Back in 1976 one of the big movie hits was "Network", created by Paddy Chayefsky. This film can now be seen as prophetic: Even before the rise of Trump, Aaron Sorkin, (creator of "The West Wing), claimed that "no predictor of the future–-not even Orwell–-has ever been as right as Chayefsky was when he wrote "Network." The film deals with the rise of infotainment, the decline of hard news, the birth of a culture in which we are assailed by an unending storm of images, the collapse of objective reality, and the emergence of a global market.
The character of Jensen, a tycoon, instructs Howard Beale:

"We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is is a collage of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable by-laws of business."

What this film also foreshadowed is the the politics of pure rage; Beale's protests, his televised rants, brings us front and center at this time in our lives. And now this screenplay has been adapted by Lee Hall into a play featuring the great Bryan Cranston as Beale and performed at the National Theatre, London.

Finton O'Toole who reviewed the play found it stimulating but declawed: The play leaves out much of the grittiness ––women corporative heads acting like amoral males; racism; anti-semitism, etc. The film's Beale, he says, should be terrifying:

"if his story really means anything to our times, it is not about how we must love one another but about how rage can be so dangerously satisfying and so treacherously entertaining.

At the end of this play there are video screens that show the succession of presidential swearings-in since the original film was released. from Carter to Trump. (Chayefsky wrote the script in 1972–-Nixon territory)
On the evening that O'Toole was there the audience spontaneously greeted the sight of Trump with cries of "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore!"

and O'Toole says: "One could not help but feel that some of the ambiguity of this cry was being forgotten, some essential irony lost."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The clip from "Democracy Now" was great–-We've talked about Kinzer's "All the Shah's Men" here before but it doesn't hurt to repeat what an informative and stimulating read this was. Our country's hands are caked with mud––dirty dealings in other countries was its modus operandi––we always managed to get what we wanted but the consequences came back to bite us, big time.

March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

My wife asks in response to the question Bea implies in her comment above.

What could Putin possibly have on the Pretender that is so damning? As my wife said, we already know he is a horrible, horrible man who has done awful, awful things. What could be worse than what we already know?

I couldn't answer her question. My limited imagination runs in ruts long laid down and pretty much stalls at pederasty, but ultimately I would guess it's nothing so viscerally disturbing.

I would guess rather that when we know all there is to know, it will come down to one thing only, the only thing the Pretender really cares about: money, something his own brand of limited imagination confuses with power and worth.

There's something in the Pretender's past that Putin is using to threaten the fortune the Pretender does have and/or a promise of far more if he continues to do what he's told like the good little boy.

That would mean something to the Pretend leader.

We know the country and its people mean nothing.

March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

More wonderment.

What would a "hawkish" Secretary of State look like in Trumpworld?

He can't say anything critical of or push back at Russia or Israel...or China...or Turkey...or the Philippines....

If I were one of those shithole countries burdened with brown people, or Canada or one of the few remaining European social democracies I'd duck and cover.

March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

Three recent events point to the insubstantial, evanescent, almost chimerical nature, of so-called essential Republican concerns, the sturdy planks of almost every party platform for decades: national security, a prudent approach to the national budget, and states' rights.

But here we have a party-controlled "intelligence" committee that has blithely brushed aside serious evidence that an adversarial foreign government interfered with a presidential election. Never mind whether or not there was collusion. The fact that Russia hacked its way into the election and tried to monkey with the most basic representation of American democratic values, free, open, honest, and fair elections, an attack much more damaging than a bombing run over Central Park, and the further fact that Republicans are looking the other way is proof that their long-stated interest in national security is a canard; a useful propaganda tool. When it came time for them to back up that interest, they failed miserably and are promising more failure to come.

As for their concern for a cautious approach to budgets, I give you the combination of the Trump tax cuts and budget, a combination of Yellowstone sized wells of red ink, with red pouring across the books from here to Rapture, proving they only care about budgets when Democrats are in charge.

And states' rights? Well, you'd think a hardened old Confederate slave-owner wannabe like little Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions would be your man. A guy who has the Tenth Amendment tattooed on the back of his neck. But you'd be wrong. Here again, their interest in states' rights is entirely conditional. So the Plantation owner, Massa Trumpy, sends his overseer, little Jeffrey, off to California to tell those uppity immigrant lovers that the party's over and it's time to put the chains back on.

For many, standing for something is an important thing. Whatever that might be. Those things Republicans have proclaimed as important to their very essence, for generations, can be seen, in the Age of Trump to be entirely flaccid and weightless. They trade in their most cherished beliefs in a heartbeat if they can join in the raping and pillaging of the country commenced by Trump. They believe in money and power.

And that's it.

The other stuff is nothing but molecules of hot, fetid air streaming out from the pie holes.

March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Here is an evocative editorial cartoon on today's special election in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District:
http://blogs.post-gazette.com/opinion/rob-rogers-cartoons/49435-local-election

And here is a Pittsburg Post article with the latest news on voter turnout. http://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-nation/2018/03/13/district-18-Special-election-pennsylvania-house-Conor-Lamb-Rick-Saccone-congress-tim-murphy/stories/201803120128. Note the understandable confusion among voters whose home town may be divided into several different congressional districts. As PD Pepe reminded us recently, "Chaos = control" - and, I would add, equals loss of control by ordinary voters

With respect to the picture of Mrs. Saccone appearing to be draped in a flag of the United States, is use of the national flag as an item of attire when voting now thought to be appropriate? I hope not.

March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterIslander

Ken,
What would a "hawkish" Secretary of State look like in Trumpworld?

The answer is he has to sound tough so he mimics the coward-in-chief.
Looking and acting like a serious professional doesn't do the job.

And 'Trump fires White House assistant John McEntee'.
Clearly one a day isn't enough.

March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

The state of State: a couple of things to think about...

As I read the almost nostalgic eulogies for ol' Mobil-Ex Rex, I feel obliged to point out how seriously unqualified he was in the first place. His time at State was largely an exercise in ineptness and amorphous and mostly unrealized policy goals. Granted, he was working for Trump, whom he rightly (even though he denies it) termed a moron. Remember the memo (perhaps apocryphal) instructing no one to address Tillerson or look him in the eye in the largely empty hallways at Foggy Bottom?

Those now fondly recalling the "good old days" when Rex would stand up to the Boss seem to forget that he wasn't exactly the reincarnation of Dean Acheson. The lack of clarity at State wasn't entirely due to the spinning top in the Blight House.

That being said, his successor, having been somewhat buried at the CIA for the last year or so, promises, shall we say, a much more pronounced and direct set of priorities, priorities that many seem to have forgotten. I'm reading about how good ol' Mike will come into State and whip it into shape. Well, they got the whip part right. Don't forget that Pompeo is a long-time advocate and fan of torture.

He's also a Frank Gaffney acolyte, one of the stupidest and most dangerous conspiracy theorists in the country. They both harbor feelings for Muslims (terrorist or not) as being lower than dirt and deserving of weeks of waterboarding just for existing. He's also yet another self-described Christian Warrior. He believes gay marriage is a perversion and that even though some Americans worship a different god, they stain the nation. He believes dirty mooslims are hiding under every bed in America and waiting to overrun the country with Sharia Law. He was also one of the biggest Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi screamers.

Pompeo has, at times, given off the idea that he would stand up to Trump, but Trump picked him, both for the CIA, and now for State, because they think alike. Well, I'm not sure you can call it actual thinking. It's more like visceral gut reactions based in Christianist group think, hatred, and racism.

But hey, I'm sure he'll do great at State. A veritable George C. Marshall.

March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Marvin,

And the rest of the story?

From CNN: "Minutes after news of his departure broke, the Trump campaign announced McEntee would be joining the reelection effort as a senior adviser for campaign operations."

McEntee's alleged serious financial crimes won't matter there and might even be a recommendation...and you certainly don't need a security clearance to work on the Pretender's campaign.

Putin didn't.

March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

I'm inclined to agree with Ken regarding whatever it is that Putin is using to blackmail the Coward in Chief. He's can't be shamed. I mean, look at his history. Nothing shames him, at least not the sorts of things that would shame a normal, decent person. He's a pig. But he's also extremely protective of his image as a rich mover and shaker, an IMPORTANT PERSON.

If whatever Putin has on him could, in Trump's view, harm that image, if he's shown to be a mere millionaire, and a half broke one at that, if it can be shown that he's in hock up to his eyeballs to Russian gangster banks, if it can be demonstrated that he's their little butt boy, Trump would, being bereft of all sense of proportion, happily betray his country in order to keep that information hidden. Either that, or Putin has video of Trump battling his floppy hair pieces.

Whatever it is, there can be no doubt that Trump is scared shitless of what Putin is holding over him. He behaves like a little lap dog. He can't even go on record saying that one of Putin's spies, poisoning a former spy on English soil, is not a good thing.

I don't know if Mueller has this information but it's likely that he and his investigators can make a pretty good guess knowing as much as they now know about this craven traitor.

But here's the thing. It's unlikely that anything will happen to Trump no matter what Mueller's report says. We saw that yesterday. If the Republican Party remains in power, nothing will happen. They'll sweep it all under the rug and call it fake news and invented nonsense designed to attack the Glorious Leader.

Votes matter. Which is why Trump and the Republicans are thrilled to sit back and let Putin screw us again.

So, once again, I doubt the secret is anything huge. It's not like Putin knows that Trump, or his father (or Ted Cruz's father) had Kennedy killed. It's more likely something he'd rather the world not know.

That's he's a half-broke treasonous shithead in hock to Russian gangsters, with dozens of illegal deals falling apart all over the world, maintaining the fiction that he's fabulously wealthy, and not some loser schmuck owned by Putin's pals.

March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

It's difficult to understand why, at this time, Republicans are
trashing Betsy De Vos. They were at the confirmation hearing
where it was obvious that she was toadily unqualified. The best
answer she came up with was "some schools need guns to protect
against grizzly bears". Guess the last book she read was The
Three Little Bears.

March 13, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterforrest morris

Funny if true: from WaPo story on Rexit -- "“The secretary did not speak to the president, and is unaware of the reason,” said (State Dept UnderSecretary for Public Affairs) Goldstein, who was quickly fired for contradicting the White House."

Now firing major agency undersecretaries merits only a subordinate clause!! The pace is quickening on DiJiT's bump-stock firing machine.

March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

So now we have, what....that BDSM president*?

"Oh, hurt me Stormy, call me dirty names. Whack my pee-pee!"

Wow. No wonder he's hiring seventeen new lawyers to sic on Stormy Daniels. He's even got a bunch of jamokes in Texas going over some notary's signature looking for some loophole through which he can try to squeeze his fat (freshly spanked) ass.

As I mentioned earlier, Trump has no shame. Well, about most shameful things. He doesn't care that everyone knows he has cheated on his wives with porn stars and Russian hookers and that he slips into dressing rooms to ogle underage girls in the altogether (very manly, that one), but knowing exactly what those sexual escapades entail? If it does involve a bit of the old dominance-submission scene, that would not at all enhance the image of Mr. Macho In Charge. At least not in his eyes, nor in the eyes of most MAGA Foxbots I'd reckon.

I dunno. They say this sort of thing is a favorite pastime of a lot of very powerful people (I wouldn't know, not being a Very Important Person). Hey, whatever floats your boat. But I'm sure the boys in red state back rooms probably wouldn't be very, shall we say, open minded about certain peccadilloes.

Anyway, as Marie has indicated, pay no attention to what this fool says. Watch what he does. He keeps his mouth shut about Putin for a reason. He's got a few lawyers dealing with the Russian/collusion investigation, but for Stormy Daniels, he calls out the fucking marines.

There's a reason.

Hey, maybe he can call David Vitter and ask him about his diaper-boy adventures with his hookers. They can trade notes!

March 13, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Just as an aside, there is some truly amazing journalism happening around the country these days. That the Trump administration and the fetid GOP is a rolling dumpster fire with grifters and conmen jumping in and falling off the sides certainly helps, but bravo to investigative journalists across the nation shining lights up the asses of the corrupt.

And bravo to Marie for being able to keep up with it all EVERY DAY to help make sense of our new (ab)normal.

March 13, 2018 | Unregistered Commentersafari
Comments for this entry have been disabled. Additional comments may not be added to this entry at this time.