The Wires
The Ledes

Monday, March 18, 2019.

NBC News: “Heavy rain and melting snow that overpowered the Missouri River forced hundreds of families out of their homes in the Midwest and forced the base that is home to U.S. Strategic Command to sharply scale back operations on Sunday. At least three people are confirmed to have died in what the National Weather Service called 'major and historical river flooding' along parts of the Missouri and Mississippi river basins.”

TPM: "Fox News has hired former interim DNC chairwoman Donna Brazile as a contributor, the network announced Monday. According to the press release, Brazile will offer political analysis on Fox News and Fox Business News. A source close to the situation told TPM that Brazile will not play any role related to the debate or town hall process."

New York Post's Page Six: "Brian Williams could come back from TV news exile, Page Six is told. The anchor was booted from the 'NBC Nightly News' in 2015 after it was revealed that he’d embellished some stories with fictional details — and sent to the relative Siberia of 11 p.m. on sister station MSNBC. But despite his tarnished reputation and graveyard-adjacent time slot, Williams has made his '11th Hour With Brian Williams' show a legit hit, beating CNN and Fox News for three months straight. Now 30 Rock insiders say Williams could move to a more prominent time slot, possibly replacing vet Chris Matthews at 7 p.m." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Despite his less-than-liberal views, Williams' 11 pm newscast is really pretty good. He's a pro. Another pro at MSNBC who impresses me is Richard Liu. The other night, a feed from Los Angeles went dark, and within 90 seconds, Liu got himself on the air & conducted a full segment (with Ken Dilanian as one of the last-second guests) with what I would guess was zero prep. Years ago, when I was not much younger than Liu appears to be now, I worked for a national news network, and I had actual nightmares that I might get stuck on-air with no copy. (I was not an on-air personality, but I could have got stuck with an on-air spot during a strike.) I could not have done then what Liu did this week.

Everybody liked this Oscar moment:

Cartoon by R.J. Matson. Thanks to forrest m. ... The Verge has the complete list of Oscar winners.

Ars Technia: "Excavations at two ancient quarry sites in western Wales suggest how ancient people probably quarried some of the stones now standing at Stonehenge. The 42 stones in question are some of the smaller parts at Stonehenge, relatively speaking: they still weigh two to four tons each. They're called the bluestones, and they came all the way from western Wales [about 180 miles from the Stonehenge site]. Chemical analysis has even matched some of them to two particular quarries on the northern slopes of the Preseli Hills. One, an outcrop called Carn Goedog, seems to have supplied most of the bluish-gray, white-speckled dolerite at Stonehenge. And another outcrop in the valley below, Craig Rhos-y-felin, supplied most of the rhyolite. University College London archaeologist Michael Parker Pearson and his colleagues have spent the last eight years excavating the ancient quarry sites, and that work has revealed some new information about the origins of Stonehenge.... The ancient quarry-workers left behind mudstone wedges and stone hammers, which they would have driven into the cracks between the pillars to carefully pry them apart.”

The dollhouse of Petronella Oortman, in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.Emily Landau in the New York Times: "The whole point of a dollhouse is that it’s not to be played with. It’s untarnished by the workaday furniture we get for our real homes, the Sears dining tables and cheap Ikea Billy bookcases. And for many people, it’s the only place where ludicrously opulent décor is attainable, where you can go all out on mother-of-pearl doorknobs or Versailles-worthy brocade chaises without losing your savings or your dignity." Mrs. McC: I think Laudau helps explain why I have so enjoyed moving from a mansion-sized house to one that is one-tenth the size of the "mansion."

The Los Angeles Times has the full list of Oscar nominees here.

NBC Sports: "Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martínez, and Mike Mussina have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America as part of the 2019 class. The results were just announced on MLB Network. Rivera received votes from every single writer who submitted a ballot, becoming the first player ever to be unanimously inducted into the Hall of Fame. Halladay and Edgar Martínez each received 85.4 percent of the vote and Mussina appeared on 76.7 percent of ballots. Rivera, 49, spent all 19 of his seasons in the majors with the Yankees. He was initially used as a starter, but quickly moved to the bullpen, becoming the greatest closer of all-time. He racked up 652 saves — the most in baseball history — during the regular season along with a 2.21 ERA anda 1,173 strikeouts across 1,283 2/3 innings. He saved his best work for the postseason. Rivera appeared in 96 postseason games, saving 42 saves in 47 opportunities with a 0.70 ERA and a 110/21 K/BB ratio in 141 innings. Rivera won five championships, five Rolaids Relief Awards, as well as MVP awards in the World Series, ALCS, and All-Star Game. He made the AL All-Star team 13 times."

Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: If you're a shut-out Trump Shutdown victim tooling around the Internets with nothing to do today, let's assume that some day some time, Trump will de-furlough you and you can get back to work enthusiastically serving the American people in your appointed capacity. In case Trump has rendered you a bit rusty in the area of job skills, Conan here provides some useful tools that may help you get to work on time, even on casual Friday:

ABC News: "Breathtaking drone video of a pod of friendly, playful dolphins joining a surfer as he took to the waves near the coast of Ventura, California, is making the rounds on social media and bringing smiles -- and wow's -- to viewers. ABC station KABC-TV's meteorologist Kimi Evans met the drone's owner Craig Badger, who shared the footage, and spoke to surfer Alden Blair.... The video has been seen more than 3 million times on social media." ...

NBC Suits Are Such Geniuses. New York Times: "After a drawn-out negotiation period, NBC and Megyn Kelly have formally agreed to part ways. The network and the onetime cable news star reached a final agreement on Friday, nearly three months after she wondered aloud on-air why it was inappropriate for white people to dress up in blackface for Halloween. NBC and a representative for Ms. Kelly declined to reveal the details of the exit package. But according to two people familiar with the negotiations, Ms. Kelly was paid the outstanding balance on her contract, a figure that amounts to roughly $30 million. At the time of the separation, Ms. Kelly was in the middle of a three-year, $69 million contract with the network."


The Commentariat -- March 14, 2019

Afternoon Update:

I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump -- I have the tough people, but they don[t play it tough -- until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad. -- Donald Trump, to Breitbart "News," Monday ...

... So It Begins. Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star: "... Donald Trump has issued what seems to be a warning of armed pushback against his political opponents, telling a right-wing website on Monday that 'it would be very bad, very bad' if his supporters in the military, police and a motorcycle group were provoked into getting 'tough.' Trump uttered the remark in an interview with Breitbart News, a right-wing website that supports him. It came, according to Breitbart, as Trump was arguing that 'the left' plays politics in a 'tougher' and more 'vicious' manner than the pro-Trump right even though 'the tough people' are on Trump's side."

Andrew Desiderio of Politico: "The House on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling on the Justice Department to make special counsel Robert Mueller's findings and full report public and available to Congress. The 420-0 vote came after a fiery debate on the House floor, during which some Democratic lawmakers were admonished for their criticisms of ... Donald Trump.... Four Republicans -- Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Paul Gosar of Arizona, and Thomas Massie of Kentucky — voted 'present.'"

Stupid Republican Tricks. Erica Werner, et al., of the Washington Post: "A trio of GOP senators crashed the White House to plead with President Trump to compromise with congressional critics of his border emergency declaration, but the president rejected their entreaties as the Senate headed toward a showdown vote Thursday.... Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he showed up at the White House on Wednesday night with Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), interrupting Trump as he dined with first lady Melania Trump. They discussed how to satisfy GOP concerns on the emergency declaration but reached no agreement.... 'With Trump everything is possible,' Graham said. 'Rabbits being pulled out of a hat are just everyday business.'"


... Thanks to forrest m. for the reminder.

The Great National Farce, Ctd.

Michael, Since you jumped off the phone rather abruptly, I did not get a chance to tell you that my friend has communicated to tell me that he is meeting with his client this evening and he added that if there was anything you wanted to convey you should tell me and my friend will bring it up for discussion this evening. I would suggest that you give this invitation some real thought. -- Robert Costello, in an e-mail to his client Michael Cohen

Decryption: "my friend" = Rudy Giuliani; "his client" = Donald Trump; "anything you wanted to convey" = pardon ...

... "Sleep Well Tonight, You Have Friends in High Places." Ben Protess, et al., of the New York Times: "... federal prosecutors have requested the emails and documents from [attorney Robert J.] Costello [-- who represented Michael Cohen regarding a presidential pardon --] according to a copy of the request, which cited an investigation into 'possible violations of federal criminal law' but offered no further detail. The request, sent last week, was for any documents related to Mr. Cohen as well as any bills Mr. Costello had sent him.... Before he pleaded guilty and began assisting federal prosecutors last summer..., Cohen ... spoke with [Costello,] who agreed to reach out to the president's legal team on his behalf.... Costello had about a dozen conversations with Mr. Trump's lead lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, according to emails and documents reviewed by The New York Times and interviews with people involved in the matter. In one email, the discussions were characterized as a 'back channel of communication.' During one of the conversations last April, Mr. Costello ... asked whether Mr. Trump might put a pardon 'on the table' for Mr. Cohen.... Mr. Giuliani told Mr. Costello that the president was unwilling to discuss pardons at that time, Mr. Costello said..., and they did not discuss it again.... In one of the emails, sent by Mr. Costello in April 2018 after a conversation with Mr. Giuliani, he assured Mr. Cohen, 'Sleep well tonight, you have friends in high places.' He added, in a postscript: 'Some very positive comments about you from the White House. Rudy noted how that followed my chat with him last night.'&" ...

... digby: "Why would a joint defense agreement require a 'back channel' I wonder?" ...

... Gloria Borger & Jeremy Herb of CNN: "Cohen, in his closed-door congressional testimony, has provided these emails in an effort to corroborate his claim that a pardon was dangled before he decided to cooperate with federal prosecutors, according to sources familiar with his testimony. But the attorney who wrote those emails, Robert Costello, told CNN that Cohen's interpretation of events is 'utter nonsense.' Costello said that Cohen asked him to raise the issue of a pardon with Giuliani.... A source with knowledge of Cohen's thinking at the time disputes Costello's version of events and insists it was Costello who was pushing his relationship with Giuliani. Another source familiar with the emails said that Trump's legal team was trying to keep Cohen in the fold as a way to keep him quiet, hinting that a pardon could be in the mix at some point.... 'There was never a doubt and they are in our corner,' Costello wrote [to Cohen]. 'Rudy said this communication channel must be maintained. He called it crucial and noted how reassured they were that they had someone like me whom Rudy has known for so many years in this role.'... The morning after Costello's first email was sent, Trump tweeted about Cohen. 'Most people will flip if the Government lets them out of trouble, even if ... it means lying or making up stories. Sorry, I don't see Michael doing that despite the horrible Witch Hunt and the dishonest media!' the President tweeted."

Sharon LaFraniere of the New York Times: "Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman who was sentenced last week to nearly four years in prison, was ordered on Wednesday to serve an additional three and a half years for conspiracy, closing out the special counsel's highest-profile prosecution. Judge Amy Berman Jackson of Federal District Court in Washington sentenced Mr. Manafort, 69, on two conspiracy counts that encompassed a host of crimes, including money-laundering, obstruction of justice and failing to disclose lobbying work that earned him tens of millions of dollars over more than a decade. 'It is hard to overstate the number of lies and the amount of fraud and the amount of money involved,' Judge Jackson said of Mr. Manafort's case. She added, 'A significant portion of his career has been spent gaming the system.'" (Also linked yesterday.)

... Darren Samuelsohn & Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Paul Manafort's prison sentence was upped to seven-and-a-half years on Wednesday morning, bringing an end to Robert Mueller's most public legal battle and capping a spectacular fall for the globetrotting GOP consultant and former chairman of the Trump campaign. It's the longest sentence by far for anyone ensnared in Mueller's nearly two-year-old probe. Manafort's punishment reached its final length after U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Wednesday gave Manafort an additional roughly three-and-a-half years in prison for a series of lobbying and witness tampering crimes he pleaded guilty to last fall. Manafort also must serve nearly four years for his conviction in a jury trial for financial fraud crimes in Virginia.... Manafort issued a full-throated and blunt apology on Wednesday shortly before his second -- and final -- prison sentence was set to be handed out. But it appeared his appeals were falling on deaf ears.... Judge Amy Berman Jackson swiftly upbraided Manafort's penitence, though, insinuating that it was insincere and hinting that she believed Manafort had previously calibrated his statements to appeal to ... Donald Trump for a pardon -- the only way out of a multi-year prison sentence at this point for the former Trump campaign chairman.... 'Saying I'm sorry I got caught is not an inspiring plea for leniency,' Jackson said." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Judge Amy Berman Jackson made a series of strong statements before sentencing President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, on Wednesday. But one in particular struck at the core of Trump's personal defense in the Russia investigation. She said the no collusion' mantra is bunk. Manafort's legal team had suggested repeatedly in its sentencing memo that the fact that Manafort hadn't been found to have colluded with Russia should be a mitigating factor when it came to how much time he would serve in prison. But Jackson not only rejected that argument in sentencing him to 43 additional months in prison; she rejected the entire argument behind it. 'The "no collusion" refrain that runs through the entire defense memorandum is unrelated to matters at hand,' she said. 'The "no collusion' mantra is simply a non sequitur.'... The "no collusion" mantra is also not accurate, because the investigation is still ongoing.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: So then Manafort's attorney Kevin Downing walked out of the courtroom & said on the courthouse steps that "Judge Jackson conceded that there was absolutely no evidence of any collusion in this case." I guess its okay if an "officer of the court" flat-out lies about a judge's remarks if your message is not to her but to a corrupt President*. But protesters, who shout-checked Downing, didn't agree. ...

... Dana Milbank: "President Trump and Manafort have been using their public statements to coordinate with each other with the rhythm of synchronized swimmers. Trump praises Manafort for not flipping on him, and Manafort's lawyers dutifully repeat Trump's mantras -- that there was 'no collusion' between the campaign and Russia.... The judge was wise to the signaling. After [Kevin] Downing suggested Wednesday that Manafort's manifold crimes wouldn't have been prosecuted 'but for a short stint as a campaign manager in a presidential election,' [Judge Amy] Jackson unloaded on him.... 'The elements of remorse and personal responsibility were completely absent,' Jackson said, describing [Manafort's] continued 'dissembling at every turn' and his 'willingness to win at all costs.' Manafort ... then was wheeled away -- to await relief from another man who dissembles at every turn, exercises no personal responsibility, shows contempt for the law and seeks to win at all costs." ...

... Darturnorro Clark, et al., of NBC News: "... Donald Trump picked up the refrain in remarks to reporters at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, saying, 'today, again, no collusion. The other day, no collusion. There was no collusion.' Both judges, however, did not say there was no collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia, but rather that the issue had nothing to do with the charges against Manafort. Asked whether he would pardon Manafort, Trump told reporters, 'I have not even given it a thought, as of this moment.' But the president also said he feels 'very badly' for his former campaign chairman." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... ** Franklin Foer of the Atlantic: Felicity "Huffman and [Paul] Manafort are spiritually connected, and the fact they are packed together above the fold today is more than an accident of timing. They are twin avatars of an elite that acts with impunity." Read on. Special shoutout to Anthony Kennedy.

... ** William Rashbaum of the New York Times: "Paul J. Manafort ... has been charged in New York with mortgage fraud and more than a dozen other state felonies, the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., said Wednesday, an effort to ensure he will still face prison time if Mr. Trump pardons him for his federal crimes. News of the indictment came shortly after Mr. Manafort was sentenced to his second federal prison term in two weeks; he now faces a combined sentence of more than seven years for tax and bank fraud and conspiracy in two related cases brought by the special counsel, strong> Robert S. Mueller III. The president has broad power to issue pardons for federal crimes, but has no such authority in state cases." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

** A Clear-cut Case of Attempted Obstruction of Justice. Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee said Wednesday that former acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker 'did not deny' that President Trump 'called him to discuss the case' against his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, as well as personnel decisions regarding the personnel at the federal prosecutor's office bringing the case against him. Speaking to reporters after a two-hour meeting with Whitaker, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) presented Whitaker's closed-door comments as a contradiction with his public testimony from February, during which Whitaker said Trump never expressed his dissatisfaction with Cohen for pleading guilty to various financial crimes and lying to Congress. When asked at that hearing whether he had ever discussed the Cohen case with Trump, Whitaker refused to answer the question. But Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.), who was also present for the interview, strongly disagreed with Nadler, calling it an 'interpretation' -- and insisting that Whitaker 'said he did not talk with the president about Mr. Cohen at all, and had no conversations with the Southern District of New York.'... According to Nadler, Whitaker did not refute the assertion that he was 'directly involved in conversations about whether to fire one or more U.S. attorneys.' Nadler also said that Whitaker did not deny having been 'involved in conversations about the scope' of the recusal of the SDNY's lead prosecutor, U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman, from Cohen's case -- and whether the prosecutors 'went too far in pursuing the campaign finance case in which Trump is Individual-1.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Inasmuch as the New York Times reported on February 19 that "several American officials" had "direct knowledge of call" between Trump & Whitaker about Berman's "unrecusing" himself, it's obvious there are witnesses to the call. Whitaker had previously denied such a conversation in his public House testimony. And "On Tuesday, after The Times article published, Mr. Trump denied that he had asked Mr. Whitaker if Mr. Berman could be put in charge of the investigation. 'No, I don't know who gave you that, that's more fake news,' Mr. Trump said. 'There's a lot of fake news out there. No, I didn't.'" ...

... Jonathan Chait: "This is a really, really big deal.... As Alex Whiting explained, the argument for why a president can pardon his own subordinates is that it's a public act, and the voters can examine the facts and look at whether the president acted corruptly in issuing the pardon. 'As long as it remained secret,' he notes, 'it could be done without incurring any of the political downstream consequences that come with actually pardoning someone.'" ...

... BUT, But, What about the Garth Brooks Defense? "Friends in Low Places." Asawin Suebsaeng of the Daily Beast: "In an email to The Daily Beast, Costello said that he was not hinting at a Trump pardon when he talked about sleeping well at night. Instead, he was referencing a song by music star Garth Brooks.... And, he added, there were documents that could confirm as much. 'This statement: "Sleep Well tonight, you have friends in high places" was a tongue-in-cheek reference to a Garth Brooks song, to a client whose state of mind was highly disturbed and had suggested to us that he was suicidal. We were simply trying to be decent human beings. There is no hidden message.' In fact, the popular 1990 single that Brooks recorded is titled, 'Friends in Low Places.'" ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: I listened to as much of "Friends in Low Places" as I could stand (before it dawned on me I could search the lyrics), and there's nothing in it about "sleeping well tonight." It's one of those sad country and Western songs where a guy crashes his ex-girlfriend's classy party & makes an ass of himself. The song most definitely would not cheer up a "suicidal" person.

Martin Longman of the Booman Tribune: "On days like this, it's hard to believe that anyone will remember what Nancy Pelosi had to say about impeachment. But I do wonder how much evidence of criminality the American people can absorb at one time."

Tiptoeing around Ivanka. Annie Karni of the New York Times: "The president's eldest daughter and top White House adviser was notably absent from a blitz of document requests that the House Judiciary Committee sent earlier this month to 81 individuals and organizations linked to the president. House Democrats have been cautious about targeting Ms. Trump and the other Trump children as they investigate the president, worried about triggering a backlash. But a close read of the document requests suggests they aren't exactly tiptoeing around the first daughter, either. Of the 81 document requests sent, 52 individuals and organizations were asked to turn over documents related to Ms. Trump or her business interests.... The inquiries related to Ms. Trump follow a side track: They ask for documents related to any financial benefit that Ms. Trump or her businesses reaped from foreign and domestic governments after the 2016 election. 'She'd be in violation of the Constitution if she was getting any business deals from foreign governments,' said Richard W. Painter, who served as chief ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush."

Carrie Johnson of NPR: "One of the most prominent members of special counsel Robert Mueller's team investigating Russia's attack on the 2016 presidential election will soon leave the office and the Justice Department, two sources close to the matter tell NPR. Andrew Weissmann, the architect of the case against ... Paul Manafort, will study and teach at New York University and work on a variety of public service projects.... The departure is the strongest sign yet that Mueller and his team have all but concluded their work."

Ian Austen & Selam Gebrekidan
of the New York Times: "President Trump announced on Wednesday that the United States was grounding Boeing&'s 737 Max aircraft, reversing an earlier decision by American regulators to keep the jets flying after a second deadly crash in Ethiopia. The Federal Aviation Administration had for days resisted calls to ground the plane even as safety regulators in some 42 countries had banned flights by the jets. As recently as Tuesday, the agency said it had seen 'no systemic performance issues' that would prompt it to halt flights of the jet." (Also linked yesterday in an earlier draft.)

Elham Khatami of ThinkProgress: "For the third consecutive year, President Donald Trump's fiscal 2020 budget proposal, released Monday, would eliminate the federal agency tasked with leading service and volunteering programs like AmeriCorps and Senior Corps. Trump is the first president who has sought to get rid of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) since the agency's inception in 1993.... CNCS, which operates on a $1.08 billion budget, mobilizes millions of volunteers and delivers grants to nonprofit organizations to address critical community needs, such as tutoring and mentoring, disaster relief, and opioid addiction support." --s

Joe Romm of ThinkProgress: "Coal production will drop nearly 8 percent in 2019, and then another 4.5 percent in 2020, according to a new Trump administration analysis. But over the same two years, total renewable power generation will rise 30 percent, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected on Tuesday. So despite campaigning on a pledge to save the dirtiest of fossil fuels, President Donald Trump is overseeing a collapse in both domestic coal production and coal generation." --s

Trump's Latest Screw-the-Workers Plan. Terri Gerstein in Slate: "... a new rule proposed by the Trump administration last week ... would leave millions of workers unprotected, compared with a far better Obama-era rule that ... Donald Trump's Labor Department has helped undo.... The proposal ... would leave millions of people unprotected, well over half of those who would have been covered under the Obama proposal."

Oliver Holmes of the Guardian: "The US has dropped its description of the Golan Heights from 'Israeli-occupied' to 'Israeli-controlled' in a state department report, the latest sign of approval towards Israel's disputed claim to land it captured from Syria. World powers have long called on Israel to rescind its authority of the strategic region and labelled the occupation as illegal under international law." --s

Karoun Demirjian: "The Senate voted Wednesday to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, its latest rebuke of the Trump administration's continued embrace of the Saudi monarchy despite growing frustration among lawmakers with its actions on the world stage. The 54-to-46 vote marks the second time in recent months that the Senate has rejected the United States' continued participation in Saudi Arabia's bombing campaign against Yemen's Houthi rebels, waged in the name of holding back Iran's expansion in the region. But the Saudi-led effort, which has at times targeted civilian facilities and prevented aid shipments from getting to Yemenis, has been faulted by human rights organizations for exacerbating what the United Nations has deemed the world's worst humanitarian catastrophe.... The resolution must still be taken up in the House, where members passed a nearly identical resolution to end U.S. participation in the Yemen war earlier this year. It is unlikely, however, that either chamber would have the votes necessary to resuscitate the measure if President Trump vetoes it."

Erica Werner, et al., of the Washington Post: "The Senate prepared Wednesday to rebuke President Trump over his national emergency declaration at the U.S.-Mexico border, after Trump rejected a GOP compromise aimed at curtailing presidential emergency powers in the future. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who was leading the compromise efforts, announced plans to defect and vote for a resolution to nullify Trump's emergency declaration when it comes to the floor on Thursday. Lee made the announcement shortly after hearing directly from Trump that his legislation was not acceptable."

Jay Michaelson of The Daily Beast: "A dramatic congressional hearing [Wednesday] revealed proof that Donald Trump's controversial 2017 decision to dramatically shrink two national monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. was a gift to the energy and mining industries.... [N]ow we know that the government official tasked with drawing the final map was told to exclude certain coal-rich areas from the monuments, that secret meetings were held between the Department of Interior and uranium mining interests before the sham public process even began, and that now-EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler was among the lobbyists involved in the secret deals.... [In] March 2017, then Utah Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) had provided the Trump administration with a revised map of Bears Ears, in an email -- obtained by The New York Times ... saying that it would 'resolve all known mineral conflicts.' The final map, adopted in December 2017, was almost identical to Hatch's map.... Remarkably, it's possible that none of this is illegal." --s

Carol Anderson in a New York Times op-ed: "The Republicans would have the nation believe that the threat to our democracy is from voter fraud, where someone impersonates someone else to cast an illegal ballot or multiple ballots to 'steal elections. But the chance of voter fraud occurring is, at best, 0.0000044 percent. The real theft of American democracy happens through election fraud and voter suppression. And Republicans are the thieves.... The only thing that will save us is a restored Voting Rights Act." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Restoring the VRA is an excellent first step, but it's past time for this country to make voting rights a Constitutional guarantee.

Presidential Race 2020

... Matt Flegenheimer & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Beto O'Rourke, the 46-year-old former Texas congressman whose near-miss Senate run last year propelled him to Democratic stardom, announced his candidacy for president on Thursday, betting that voters will prize his message of national unity and generational change in a 2020 primary teeming with committed progressives. His decision jolts an early election season already stuffed with contenders, adding to the mix a relentless campaigner with a small-dollar fund-raising army, the performative instincts of a former punk rocker and a pro-immigrant vision to counteract President Trump's. Yet Mr. O'Rourke also comes to the 2020 race with few notable legislative accomplishments after three terms in the House representing El Paso. And in a primary so far defined by big-ticket policy ideas, like the economic agendas of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Mr. O'Rourke enters without a signature proposal that might serve as the ideological anchor of his bid."

... KTSM El Paso: "Beto O'Rourke is running for President of the United States. The former El Paso Congressman will make the announcement on Thursday morning, but he confirmed via text to KTSM Wednesday afternoon that he is seeking the Democratic nomination."

Michael LaForgia, et al., of the New York Times: "Federal prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into data deals Facebook struck with some of th world's largest technology companies, intensifying scrutiny of the social media giant's business practices as it seeks to rebound from a year of scandal and setbacks. A grand jury in New York has subpoenaed records from at least two prominent makers of smartphones and other devices, according to two people who were familiar with the requests.... Both companies had entered into partnerships with Facebook, gaining broad access to the personal information of hundreds of millions of its users. The companies were among more than 150, including Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Sony, that had cut sharing deals with the world's dominant social media platform. The agreements, previously reported in The New York Times, let the companies see users’ friends, contact information and other data, sometimes without consent. Facebook has phased out most of the partnerships over the past two years."

Isn't This Chummy? TMZ: "As Lori Loughlin traveled from Vancouver to L.A. Tuesday night to surrender to federal authorities in the college bribery scandal -- which got her daughter, Olivia Jade, into USC -- Olivia spent the night on the yacht of the Chairman of USC's Board of Trustees ... but she's off the boat now, TMZ has learned. We've learned 19-year-old Olivia was on Rick Caruso's yacht in the Bahamas. Caruso's daughter, Gianna, Olivia and several other friends were spending spring break in the area." ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: On the other hand, look how the rich kids turn out when their parents don't cheat to get them into a nice college. (The Daily Intelligencer call the headline of the story "the platonic idea of a New York Post headline.")

Annals of "Journalism," Ha Ha Ha

"Rupert's Bitch." Aida Chávez of The Intercept: "Tucker Carlson, who recently branded himself as a leading anti-elitist, had previously labeled himself as an 'out-of-the-closet elitist,' and separately said that he is '100 percent [Rupert Murdoch's] bitch.' The two quips are part of a trove of newly unearthed recordings from 2008 to 2011 that haven't previously been reported." --s ...

Meet the Powerful Media Mogul Who Would Silence Tucker. Eli Rosenberg of the Washington Post: "Madeline Peltz works the night shift at the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters for America. Given the timing of that particular shift, one of her main responsibilities is watching Tucker Carlson's 8 p.m. show on Fox News.... After many Carlson-watching hours, the 24-year-old researcher developed a working theory, which she outlined on the nonprofit's website: that Carlson is using his platform on Fox News to introduce white-nationalist ideas to the mainstream, making him a uniquely prominent 'mouthpiece for white supremacy.' Peltz dug into his recent past and discovered a trove of ... misogynistic, racist and homophobic remarks Carlson made, the audio of which Media Matters published this week. In response, Carlson ... cast himself as the victim of 'the great American outrage machine'a mob of power-seeking organizations and people he says are waging a political war to censor him. In reality, credit for the tapes' publication is due to Peltz: a 20-something in her first adult job who lives in the basement of a D.C. house she rents with five other people, a few cats and a dog named Noodles."

Fiona Harvey
of the Guardian: "Sharp and potentially devastating temperature rises of 3C to 5C in the Arctic are now inevitable even if the world succeeds in cutting greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris agreement, research has found. Winter temperatures at the north pole are likely to rise by at least 3C above pre-industrial levels by mid-century.... Such changes would result in rapidly melting ice and permafrost, leading to sea level rises and potentially to even more destructive levels of warming." --s

Rick Rojas & Liam Stack of the New York Times: "Allegations of sexual abuse trailed John Capparelli, a former priest, for decades, resurfacing in the years after the Archdiocese of Newark removed him from ministry. There were the lawsuits from accusers, and last month his name was included on a list published by the Roman Catholic Church in New Jersey that identified priests who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse. On Saturday, Mr. Capparelli was found fatally shot in his home in Nevada, and the authorities there said that his death was being investigated as a homicide." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Beyond the Beltway

Ali Winston, et al., of the New York Times: "Francesco Cali, the reputed boss of the Gambino crime family, was fatally shot outside his home on Staten Island on Wednesday night, a senior police official said. Mr. Cali, 53, was shot six times, the official said." Mrs. McC: This is what happens to real Mafiosi, Donald. Lucky for you, you're just a cheap copy.

Way Beyond

Britain. Stephen Castle of the New York Times: "Having twice thrown out Prime Minister Theresa May's plan for Britain's withdrawal from the European Union, the fractious British Parliament defied her again on Wednesday, worsening the power vacuum atop British politics just 16 days before the exit is scheduled to take place. Parliament voted to oppose the prospect of a disorderly 'no-deal' exit from the bloc, doing it in a dramatic and unexpected fashion that undercut the already-battered Mrs. May's dwindling authority and negotiating leverage. And the breakdown of discipline in her own Conservative Party renewed speculation that her own cabinet could try to force her from power. No other prime minister in recent British history has been so unable, repeatedly, to work her will in Parliament."

Iran. Iliana Magra of the New York Times: "Iran has faced international condemnation after one of the country's most prominent human rights lawyers, detained for eight months, said she had been sentenced to a total of 38 years in prison and 148 lashes, according to her husband. Security agents arrested the lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, at her home in June last year. The government offered no explanation, but at the time Ms. Sotoudeh was defending women who had been arrested after removing their hijabs, or head scarves, in public protests. She received the European Union's most prestigious human rights award, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, in 2012, while serving a previous prison sentence." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Reader Comments (16)

Always a follower, never a leader.

Despite the fact that Boeing is an American company whose planes have been falling out of the sky, Trump waited until pretty much the rest of the world grounded the 737 Max to act. Even then it was more than likely a comment from someone on Fox that finally prompted him to get off the dime. Leadership with Trump is more a case of reaction to some possibility that he might look weak or stupid or ineffective than any sense of moral or ethical responsibility. Always the follower.

March 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

"Leadership with Trump is more a case of reaction to some possibility that he might look weak or stupid or ineffective..."

--- Akhilleus

And yet, try as he might, he always does. One failure, one gaffe, one rejection (which began with a 3 million vote loss in his vaunted greatest election victory ever) after another. No wonder the Pretender is so desperate for loyalists, sycophants, and his personal TV network which mostly avoids saying what a major fuckup he is.

Narcissist or not, a little voice deep inside that pile of flesh must whisper "loser" over and over again.

I can't summon any sympathy but the man must be just plain miserable...he does look miserable....which is only fair because at times he has the same effect on me.

March 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

Jexodus: A movement to convince Jewish millennials that they are
actually Republican and should vote for the trump. Jexodus national
spokesperson is Elizabeth Pipko, a religious Jew and part-time
model with close ties to president* trump's 2020 reelection campaign.
Wonder if they'll buy it. The few Jewish people I know are definitely
not going to be convinced that they are Republican. -millennials-
And happy Pi day to everyone, March 14 (3.14).

March 14, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterforrest.morris

A neuroscientist's take on this week's college admission scandal.

Well said, but I wouldn't have used "pity" in the concluding line. Don't think that's the best word to describe these folks. Maybe "pitiful."

March 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

Am wondering if a lawyer can be held accountable for lying to the public in a blatant manner? Probably not, but how 'bout them lies told by Manafort's lawyer both times he spoke to the public post sentencing hearings? I guess if no one is personally harmed, so what... gaacchh.

March 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJeanne

Running down today's infotainment, er, uh, actual real life, seems like there's been a marked shift of some kind.

There's been a culmination of two years of thousands upon thousands of lies, with lies preceding those lies with more lies, that has led us to Manafort rat scratching at the walls of his cell, and more goons lined up for their sort.

It's (always) too early to say, but it feels like a small spring has sprung in Trump's giant concrete wall of fake reality, built with clay, strawmen, mixed with hardened bullshit. That sound of frenzy is the stamp of wet feet of fellow fraudsters running for cover from the impending cyclone at their nearest legal office.

We've reached the concrete stage where the consequences of lying about lies just got deadly serious. The clear plan to continue lying doesn't seem so viable as of yesterday.

March 14, 2019 | Unregistered Commentersafari

Jonathan Chait, in his article (linked above) makes the following statement which I find exceedingly odd:

"Whether it’s legitimate for the president to use this power to pardon criminals who committed crimes on his behalf, or might have otherwise testified against him, is a subject of intense debate."

How, and in what universe, is there any (serious) debate about this? A president pardons a former crony or operative who carried out criminal acts at his direction and wants to ensure his silence. There's a debate about whether is okay or not? By whom? Don't answer that. I know by whom. But there really is no way to logically support such a course of action. Yes, a president has the power to pardon individuals, but he or she is also bound by the rule of law (or used to be). Is there actually a contention about whether a president can use this power to save him or herself from legal jeopardy?

(Just imagine the Krakatoan eruption if Hillary had won and tried to pull this stunt.)

Well, then again, people out there contend that Trump is a great president, so there ya go.

March 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Here's someone who has an interesting perspective on the sentencing of Manafort and the prison system altogether. Mugambi Jouet (teaches at McGill U.) says:

" Human beings do not belong behind bars. If more Americans denounced draconian punishments as a matter of principle, if they were warier of prisons than of prisoners, a social shift on mass incarceration might be within reach."

I have problems with his premise that someone like Manafort should not die in Prison–-given his age the sentencing was too draconian. I'd agree with his arguments if I believed in the basic goodness of all people; sadly I do not. I do, however, think his stance on our prison system is correct.

In the tony town of Greenwich, Ct. parents shell out $ 200-250 an hr. for private tutoring. Our children, especially those from the well-heeled–-are pressured to perform. The scandal revealed yesterday shows the desperation and the despicable methods that parents will go to––for their children–– or for themselves? What a pitiful display!

So Beto is in. I wish he had waited, although I recall feeling that way about Obama initially. There are too many throwing their hats into the ring, I fear. Can you imagine what these campaigns will be like–-sheer stage crowding–-maybe even a fist fight or two.

And I just love the ending of Media Matter's Madeline Peltz story:

In reality, credit for the tapes’[Tucker's] publication is due to Peltz: a 20-something in her first adult job who lives in the basement of a D.C. house she rents with five other people, a few cats and a dog named Noodles.”

March 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Self-driving planes?

So far, not a great argument for self-driving cars is it?

And I'm wondering why all the fuss for this college admission scandal? In Pretenderworld what wrong with a little affirmative action for the rich?

Wouldn't be surprised to learn there was a so-far unreported call from the White House to the Justice Dept. telling them to back off. They're making rich folks look bad.

March 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

The Garth Brooks Defense is funny.

Although there is certainly a possibility that Michael Cohen is a die-hard country music fan, what are the odds that an urban creature like Cohen who has lived his entire life in New York and worked in Manhattan since graduating law school, is a huge Garth Brooks fan, at least enough of a one to get what Costello suggests was a "secret handshake" sort of communication. And not only that, but if Cohen was that huge of a Garth Brooks fan, and was intimately familiar with the song "Friends in Low Places", wouldn't he think it odd that Costello was trying to calm his fears by suggesting he hit a bar and start drinking heavily?

This sounds like he got this idea from Giuliani. It has "Rudy Whacky" stamped all over it.

March 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus


Peltz probably had to have Noodles and the kitties leave the room when she was listening to Carlson's tapes. They're such impressionable little things.

March 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Given that this is Pi Day (thanks, Forrest), it's instructive to note that we are not the only Americans who live in an age where scientific and mathematical facts are open to jiggering and convenient re-interpretation.

A certain Edward Goodwin, back in 1897, convinced the Indiana state legislature to take up a bill he wrote changing Pi from 3.14159 (a pesky ol' number, anyway) to 3.2.

The reason? Goodwin was trying to come up with a solution for the ancient geometry challenge of squaring a circle (an impossibility). Since Pi wasn't working in it's Archimedean state, he simply changed it. Presto! Circle squared. Nothin' to it.

The legislature was all set to go along until a mathematics professor, Clarence A. Waldo, from Purdue, wised them up to the chaos that would ensue from a re-calibrated Pi. Just think of all the circumferentially challenged students coming out of Indiana. Gadzooks!

If only Waldo were still around to explain things like global warming to certain modern day circle squarers in congress. After his lecture, they could all have a nice piece of Pi.

March 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Akhilleus: So mathematics forces us to lament anew, "Where's Waldo?"

March 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Waldo's got his finger in the Pi.

March 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Message to Akhilleus:

Yesterday you were kind enough to mention an Updike novel I shouldn't read. I feel impelled to tell you that I grew up with Updike in the sense that I discovered him at a tender age when he also was that tender. Being a literature major I have read hundreds of novels both foreign and domestic but Updike was like a touchstone––I have a whole shelf in my library devoted to his works. When Bush the second took the mantle I delved into everything political and historical. I haven't read a novel for years. My point, yesterday, was that perhaps I need to get back to that. A tonic, as it were, to cleanse the dirt we find ourselves covered in.

March 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe


I get what you mean entirely. I went through my own Updike phase when I was in my 20’s and early 30’s. I wholly agree with your assessment. For years I was much more inclined toward non-fiction, history, science, philosophy, but never completely abandoned fiction.

Certain writers I return to every few years. I’ve been revisiting that tendency recently, thinking that with a finite amount of time and so many books still unopened (finite is not a word in the lexicon of a twenty something), it behooves me to move on. But I still find myself calling on those old friends, much the same as when I think it’s time to listen to something new but find myself popping Schubert’s C major Quintet into the CD player. Again (still love that ending!).

So pick up one of your favorite Updikes again. The real fun comes in seeing how much more you’ll likely get out of it now than when you were 20 or 25.

March 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus
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