The Ledes

Sunday, January 20, 2019.

Hill: "A fire Sunday morning in Northeast Washington, D.C., damaged studios for Fox News, C-SPAN and MSNBC, and forced 'Fox News Sunday' to relocate its broadcast to a local affiliate's studio. Washington, D.C., Fire and EMS tweeted that an electrical fire broke out in the 8th floor television studio, but that nobody was injured. Steve Scully, the political editor for C-SPAN, tweeted shortly after 7 a.m. that  the Fox News and C-SPAN studios sustained 'extensive damage,' and MSNBC's studio took on 'extensive smoke and water damage.'"

New York Times: "Heavy snowfall, high winds and a dangerous mix of rain and sleet were expected to hit swaths of the Northeast on Sunday, prompting officials to warn of icy roadways and power outages from a vast winter storm that had been pummeling the Great Plains and the Great Lakes. The storm, which complicated travel on Saturday and busted plans for the three-day weekend across much of the country, had already caused problems from Kansas, where the governor declared an emergency, to Chicago, where a United Airlines plane slid off a concrete surface. Flights have been canceled by the thousands, and rapidly dropping temperatures on Sunday in parts of the Northeast would freeze anything wet, creating 'extremely dangerous' conditions on the roadways."

USA Today: "John Coughlin, a two-time U.S. pairs champion who was suspended Thursday evening by the U.S. Center for SafeSport and U.S. Figure Skating, died Friday, according to a Facebook post from his sister.... Kansas City police confirmed Coughlin's suicide.... Coughlin, 33, was a fixture at skating competitions and rinks around the country as a coach, TV commentator and a rising star within both USFS and the International Skating Union, the sport’s worldwide federation.”

The Wires
The Ledes

Saturday, January 19, 2019.

AP: " Forensic experts attempted to separate and count charred heaps of corpses in central Mexico on Saturday after a massive fireball erupted at an illegal pipeline tap, killing at least 66 people. More than 85 other people on Saturday were listed as missing as relatives of the deceased and onlookers gathered around the scene of carnage. Just a few feet from where the pipeline passed through an alfalfa field, the dead seem to have fallen in heaps, perhaps as they stumbled over each other or tried to help one another in the moments after a geyser of gasoline shot into the air Friday. The leak was caused by an illegal pipeline tap in the small town of Tlahuelilpan, about 62 miles (100 kilometers) north of Mexico City, according to state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex."

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.

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."

New York Times: "The Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and the novelist MacKenzie Bezos announced on Twitter Wednesday that they are getting divorced after 25 years of marriage. In a statement posted on Mr. Bezos’s Twitter account, the couple said they had been separated for a long period of time, but planned to remain involved as 'parents, friends, partners in ventures and projects.' According to a 1999 profile in Wired, the two met when they both worked at D.E. Shaw, a New York-based hedge fund, before moving in 1994 to Seattle, where Amazon is headquartered. They have four children.... As is the case in any celebrity split, the financial details of the divorce are sure to be complicated despite the couple’s vow to “remain cherished friends.” According to Forbes, which publishes an annual list of billionaires, his net worth is estimated at $137 billion and he is the richest man in the world. While much of his wealth is tied up in Amazon stock, Mr. Bezos, 54, the company’s chief executive, is also the owner of several companies, including The Washington Post and Blue Origin, a space travel company."

Here's a list of the Golden Globe winners, via Market Watch. CNN has posted highlights on a liveblog & currently has a whole buncha links to related stories on CNN Entertainment. And if you're in it for the red carpet, there's this:

New York Times : "Archaeologists have discovered a well-preserved, 4,400-year-old tomb of a royal priest and his family in Egypt, in a 'one of a kind' find, the Egyptian authorities announced on Saturday. The tomb was unearthed in Saqqara, a city south of Cairo and a vast necropolis from ancient Egypt. The discovery dates from the rule of Neferirkare Kakai, the third king of the fifth dynasty of ancient Egypt, according to Khaled al-Anani, Egypt’s minister of antiquities. The fifth dynasty governed for less than two centuries, from 2,500 B.C. to about 2,350 B.C., according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The tomb had remained untouched, said Mostafa Waziri, the secretary general of Egypt’s supreme council of antiquities, according to Reuters."

"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."


The Commentariat -- May 16, 2018

Afternoon Update:

** Matt Apuzzo, et al., of the New York Times write a fascinating account of the first days of the FBI's Russia investigation in the summer of 2016.

Veronica Stracqualursi of CNN: "The White House on Wednesday downplayed comments by national security adviser John Bolton, who recently invoked Libya's decision to denuclearize during the Bush administration as a model for US policy on North Korea, potentially placing a planned US-North Korea summit in jeopardy. Hours earlier a North Korean official said Bolton's remarks were indicative of an 'awfully sinister move' to imperil the Kim regime. North Korea stunned Washington on Tuesday by threatening to abandon talks between ... Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un if Washington insists on pushing it 'into a corner' on nuclear disarmament.... In April, Bolton suggested that the White House was looking at Libya as an example of how it will handle negotiations with North Korea to denuclearize. 'We have very much in mind the Libya model from 2003, 2004,' Bolton said on Fox News.... Press secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday that she hadn't 'seen that as part of any discussions so I'm not aware that that's a model that we're using....'" ...

... Mark Landler, et al., of the New York Times: "The White House brushed aside threats by North Korea on Wednesday to cancel an upcoming summit meeting between President Trump and the North's leader, Kim Jong-un, saying it was still 'hopeful' the meeting will happen -- but that Mr. Trump would be fine if it did not.... American officials acknowledged that the North appeared to be seeking to exploit a gap in the administration's messages about North Korea -- between the hard-line views of the national security adviser, John R. Bolton, and the more conciliatory tone of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.... The president has shifted between a hard-line and more conciliatory tone in his statements about the North, although in recent days he has expressed excitement about a potential breakthrough with Mr. Kim. He has not yet responded to the warning Wednesday issued by the North's first vice foreign minister, Kim Kye-gwan, which took direct aim at Mr. Bolton. People close to the White House said the uncoordinated nature of the statements reflected the newness of the president's national security team, but also the fact that Mr. Trump was distracted by the swirl of legal issues around him...." ...

... The Bolton Plan. Joshua Keating of Slate: "In several interviews, [John] Bolton has cited former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's 2000 decision to abandon his nascent nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief as a model for the 'complete denuclearization' of North Korea. As Bolton well knows, North Korea has specifically cited the Libya example as a reason why it should pursue a nuclear deterrent: 11 years after giving up his weapons program, Qaddafi was lying dead in a roadside ditch following a Western military intervention. It's hard to imagine a choice of precedent from Bolton that would raise more red flags with the North Koreans. Of course, that may be exactly why Bolton cited it. Bolton has advocated pre-emptive military action against North Korea and has sounded highly skeptical about the recent diplomatic opening.... So, a national security adviser who seems to view these talks as a dangerous waste of valuable time has been making statements that seem perfectly tailored to either scuttle the talks or make meaningful progress at them impossible. Judging by North Korea's outburst this week, the strategy -- if that's what it is -- is working."

Ben Mathis-Lilley of Slate: "It's amazing how many countries appear to be trying to bribe our President right now." Mathis-Lilley cites China, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia & India, & a few others, plus those who book the Trump International Hotel. "European heads of state, who are generally governed by laws prohibiting bribery, have treated Trump like a typical U.S. president, making the case to him via formal diplomacy.... He's generally ignored them in favor of developing buddy-buddy relationships with a number of authoritarians whose countries are friendly toward the Trump Organization and the people in its orbit. All in all, it's really starting to seem like Trump's promise to create a 'blind trust' that would completely insulate him from his business interests has not been entirely effective in its implementation. Sad!"

Steve Eder, et al., of the New York Times: "President Trump's financial disclosure, released on Wednesday, revealed for the first time that he paid more than $100,000 to his personal attorney, Michael D. Cohen, as reimbursement for payment to a third-party.... A footnote in the disclosure said that Mr. Cohen had requested reimbursement of the expenses incurred in 2016 and Mr. Trump had repaid it in full in 2017. It did not give an exact amount of the payment but said it was between $100,001 and $250,000.... The 92-page disclosure covers only calendar year 2017.... It also provides much less specificity than his tax returns, which he has refused to make public. Still, the disclosure provides the first extended look at the performance of Mr. Trump's Washington hotel, which opened in September 2016 and has become a magnet for lobbyists and Republican aides. The hotel is one of his best performing properties, and the disclosure listed revenues of $40.4 million. And Mr. Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, which has become known as the Winter White House, saw revenues of $25.1 million.... Individual performance aside, there are broader signs that the business is retreating somewhat during the first part of Mr. Trump's presidency." ...

... Eric Levitz of New York: "On Wednesday, Donald Trump formally acknowledged that he had repaid Michael Cohen for expenses the latter accrued during the 2016 presidential campaign; which is to say, the president tacitly admitted that, in October 2016, at Trump's behest, his personal attorney paid a porn star not to publicly detail her (alleged) affair with Trump. This admission would appear to implicate the Trump team in a campaign-finance violation: Assuming Trump's motivation for paying Stormy Daniels $130,000 not to go public about their (alleged) relations was at least partly because of political concerns, then Cohen's payment to her would constitute a loan to the Trump campaign -- one far larger than federal election laws allow."

Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "The Senate Intelligence Committee has determined that the intelligence community was correct in assessing that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election with the aim of helping then-candidate Donald Trump, contradicting findings House Republicans reached last month.... The committee's review is not yet complete: On Wednesday, panel members huddled behind closed doors with former intelligence chiefs to discuss their impressions and conclusions. Former Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., former CIA director John Brennan, and former National Security Agency director Adm. Mike Rogers were in attendance. Former FBI director James B. Comey also was invited." ...

... Justin Miller of the Daily Beast: "The Senate Judiciary Committee said Wednesday that the Russian government apparently used the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump's presidential campaign in 2016. Documents suggest the Kremlin used the NRA to offer the campaign a back channel to Moscow -- including a potential meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin -- and might have secretly funded Trump's campaign, the committee said. One of the Russians named in the report even bragged she was part of the Trump campaign's communications with Russia, The Daily Beast reported last year. The NRA spent a record $30 million on Trump and the FBI is reportedly investigating whether any of the money came from Russia. U.S. law prohibits foreign money to be spent on elections. Two Russian nationals figure prominently in the alleged scheme: Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of the Kremlin's central bank, and his then-deputy Maria Butina." ...

... Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Here are some key findings [of the Senate Intelligence Committee report released Wednesday]. 1. Trump Jr. was clearly anxious for dirt on Hillary Clinton... 2. Trump Jr. says President Trump may have personally influenced misleading explanations about the meeting... 3. Trump Jr. says he doesn't recall whether a key call with a blocked phone number was his father... 4. Goldstone suggests Veselnitskaya was pitched as having Russian government connections... 5. Meeting attendees say no valuable information was provided... 6. Goldstone vented about the meeting being 'an awful idea' after investigators grilled him..."

Donald to Donald: "With Friends Like You...." Michael Birnbaum of the Washington Post: "At the outset of a summit of European leaders..., European Council President Donald Tusk ... ripped into what he called 'the capricious assertiveness of the American administration' over issues including Iran, Gaza, trade tariffs and North Korea. In comments to reporters and a subsequent tweet, he suggested the White House had lost touch with reality. He said Europe didn't need enemies when it had friends like the United States. And he exhorted European leaders not to be reliant on Washington.... Europeans are increasingly exasperated by the way Trump is steering U.S. policy, objecting not only to his stances but also to what they say is erratic policymaking that switches on the whim of Fox News programmers. The shifting desires make it nearly impossible to negotiate with the White House, many diplomats say, because they cannot strike a bargain to get close to what Trump wants when he doesn't know it himself."

Will Hobson & Cindy Boren of the Washington Post: "Michigan State has agreed to pay $500 million to settle lawsuits filed by 332 alleged victims of disgraced former sports physician Larry Nassar, both sides announced Wednesday, ending the university's involvement in litigation over the former Olympic gymnastics doctor's rampant sexual abuse of girls and women under the guise of medical treatment."

Bill Hutchinson of ABC News: "A wave of teacher revolts sweeping the nation is set to hit North Carolina on Wednesday as thousands of educators are expected to swarm the state's capital in a quest for higher pay and more money for education. The scheduled one-day walkout has prompted school districts across the state to cancel classes for Wednesday, leaving more than 1 million students with an unexpected day off. The labor action is the latest in a string of teacher uprisings across the country this year that have prompted strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona. Educators in Kentucky and Colorado have also taken action, staging walkouts and sick-outs in hopes of pressuring lawmakers to stop a decade of cuts in education funding the teachers say have hurt students. In Puerto Rico, thousands of teachers walked out of classes in March to protest the cash-strapped government's plan to shut down more than 300 schools this year as the unincorporated U.S. territory struggles to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria in September."


The New York Times reports results for the Pennsylvania primaries. ...

... Trip Gabriel of the New York Times: In Pennsylvania, "It was a night of major victories for female candidates in a state dominated by men from Congress to the Statehouse. Women showed strength in nearly every region, from the liberal eastern suburbs to the conservative southwest. Democratic women won competitive primaries in two safe Republican districts in western Pennsylvania. Madeleine Dean, [a] state House member; Chrissy Houlahan, [a] veteran; and Mary Gay Scanlon, [a] lawyer, each won in Philadelphia suburban districts that they are now favored to carry in November, according to results from The Associated Press. Their primary victories raise the likelihood of women cracking the state's all-male congressional delegation of 20 after midterm elections."

Nebraska results, courtesy of the New York Times, are here. "Gov. Pete Ricketts and Senator Deb Fischer, both Republicans, are running for re-election in Nebraska, a deep-red state where they will probably prevail in November." Idaho results are here. Oregon results are here.


CBS News/AP: "North Korea on Wednesday canceled a high-level meeting with South Korea and also threatened to call off a historic summit next month between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un due to ongoing military exercises between the South and the U.S., South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported. Pyongyang has long claimed those exercises are invasion rehearsals. The surprise declaration, which came in a pre-dawn dispatch in North Korea's state media, appears to cool what had been an unusual flurry of outreach from a country that last year conducted a provocative series of weapons tests that had many fearin the region was on the edge of war. It's still unclear, however, whether the North intends to scuttle all diplomacy or merely wants to gain leverage ahead of the planned June 12 talks between Kim and Trump." ...

... Choe Sang-Hun of the New York Times: "North Korea abruptly postponed high-level talks with South Korea on Wednesday to protest a joint South Korean-United States Air Force drill, and warned that the historic summit meeting between North Korea's leader and President Trump next month could be jeopardized. The news injected sudden tension and uncertainty into what had been months of warming relations on the Korean Peninsula. It came weeks before North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, who has raised the possibility of relinquishing his nuclear weapons, is scheduled to confer with President Trump in what would be the first meeting between leaders of both countries." Mrs. McC: The joint AF drill is held annually, so not exactly a surprise to the North. (An earlier version of this report was linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... ** New Lede, with Mark Landler also on the byline: "North Korea threw President Trump's planned summit meeting with its leader, Kim Jong-un, into doubt on Tuesday, threatening to call off the landmark encounter to protest a joint military exercise of the United States and South Korea. The warning, delivered early Wednesday in North Korea via its official government news agency, caught Trump administration officials off guard...." ...

     ... Newer Lede: "North Korea threw President Trump's planned summit meeting with its leader, Kim Jong-un, into doubt on Wednesday, threatening to call off the landmark encounter if the United States insisted on 'unilateral nuclear abandonment.'"

May 9:

... Jeremy Diamond & Kevin Liptak of CNN: "... earlier this year, just weeks before the Winter Olympics in South Korea that served as a critical diplomatic opening with Pyongyang, the President [Trump] ordered his top national security officials to prepare to evacuate the families of all US military personnel living in South Korea, four current and former administration officials said. The order was a provocative step that, had it been fully implemented, would have heightened tensions with North Korea and could have sent the region spiraling closer to war."

New York Times: "The death toll in the protests [in Gaza] on Monday, in which Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinian demonstrators, reached 60 overnight and one person was reported killed on Tuesday. The center of Gaza City was calm after the militant group Hamas, which rules the territory, called for a general strike. The number of protesters was a fraction of what it had been the day before as Hamas scaled down the demonstrations but held out the threat of military action." ...

... Carol Morello of the Washington Post: "The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday said Israel had reacted with restraint in its military response to protesters at the Gaza border, and dismissed suggestions the violence was caused by the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. Nikki Haley told the Security Council that Hamas, backed by Iran, had incited the violence by urging protesters over loudspeakers to burst through the fence separating the borders and flying kites into Israel with Molotov cocktails attached." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Steve Erlanger of the New York Times: "After a series of decisions by President Trump that have split the trans-Atlantic alliance, European foreign ministers have begun a scramble to contain the fallout to their own interests, global institutions and stability in the Middle East. But even the initial steps of Europe's effort to devise a separate strategy and save the nuclear accord with Iran showed that the allies might now be working at cross-purposes with the United States, further straining years of international consensus. That was demonstrated on Tuesday, as European foreign ministers met in Brussels with their Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to try to preserve the deal that constrained Iran's nuclear program. Mr. Trump

... AP: "The Trump administration is designating the head of Iran's central bank as a terrorist and hitting him with sanctions intended to further isolate Iran from the global financial system. The Treasury Department accuses Valiollah Seif of helping transfer millions of dollars to Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militant group. Seif is the governor of the Iranian central bank. He's being named a 'specially designated global terrorist.'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Hey, Iran, instead of yelling "Death to America" & grousing about the U.S.'s violation of the international nuclear accord, I suggest you spend half a billion backing the Trump Tower Tehran. All will be, as Daddy-o Trump would say, "cool."

Heather Long of the Washington Post: "Just about everything is odd about President Trump's recent tweet that he wants to help Chinese technology company ZTE 'get back into business, fast' because its failure costs 'too many jobs in China.' It's odd that Trump, who campaigned on saving millions of U.S. jobs, suddenly says he cares about a few thousand Chinese jobs. It's odd that Trump, who championed 'America First,' is worried about a single Chinese firm. It's odd that Trump, who has spent months berating the Chinese for stealing U.S. intellectual property, is coming to the rescue of a Chinese telecom firm that's trying to compete with American companies such as Apple. It's odd that Trump, who wants a strong U.S. military and business climate, is ignoring a House Intelligence Committee report from 2012 that concluded that ZTE 'cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence and thus [poses] a security threat to the United States and to our systems.' It is odd that Trump, who has put extensive sanctions on Iran and North Korea, seems to be willing to forgive ZTE, a company that admitted it illegally shipped telecom equipment to Iran and North Korea. Trump's own Commerce Department punished ZTE in April for 'egregious behavior,' including repeatedly lying to the U.S. government. And it's especially odd that Trump, who loves to win, appears to be caving so easily. Relief for ZTE is one of China's top demands in the ongoing U.S.-China trade skirmish." ...

... Helaine Olen in the Washington Post: "When President Trump tweeted on Sunday about ZTE, the Chinese telecom company, he initially left more than a few pundits and reporters puzzled. The tweet seemingly demanded that the Commerce Department reverse -- or substantially cut back -- a ruling that U.S. firms could not do business with ZTE for seven years, as a result of findings that the company was selling goods to North Korea and Iran. As it turns out, the South China Morning Post reported last week that a real estate development project in Indonesia, containing a number of hotels, homes -- and let's not forget the golf course -- bearing the Trump name, received $500 million in loans from the Chinese government.... As Norm Eisen, a former Obama administration ethics chief, tweeted out: 'This is a violation of the Emoluments Clause. A big one. See you in court Mr. Trump[.]'..." ...

... Matt Yglesias of Vox breaks down the particulars of the Trump-Indonesia deal & Trump's decision to pull back on ZTE sanctions. "Trump's tweets ... aren't [just] picking a side in an internal disagreement about trade policy.... They appear to involve overruling his whole national security team's assessment of ZTE's role in the world. And it happened with no explanation, no background briefing, and seemingly no consultation with the relevant officials.... Way back in January 2017, Trump attorney Sheri Dillon reassured the public that 'no new foreign deals will be made whatsoever during the duration of President Trump's presidency.' She was, obviously, misleading people about that and doing so on behalf of Trump.... Many Republicans in Congress are clearly aware that something fishy is happening with ZTE. But while they have extensive oversight powers that could be used to check Trump's conflicts of interest, they uniformly decline to use any of them...."

This Russia Thing, Etc., Ctd.

** Rosalind Helderman & Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "A music promoter who promised Donald Trump Jr. over email that a Russian lawyer would provide dirt about Hillary Clinton in June 2016 made the offer because he had been assured the Moscow attorney was 'well connected' and had 'damaging material,' the promoter testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Rob Goldstone told the committee that his client, the Russian pop star and developer Emin Agalarov, had insisted he help set up the meeting between President Trump's son and the lawyer during the campaign to pass along material on Clinton, overriding Goldstone's own warnings that the meeting would be a bad idea. 'He said, "it doesn't matter. You just have to get the meeting,"' Goldstone, a British citizen, testified. The intensity with which Agalorov and his father, the billionaire Aras Agalarov, sought the Trump Tower meeting, which has become a key point of scrutiny for Congressional inquiries and Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, was revealed in more than 2,500 pages of Congressional testimony and exhibits that were released by the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday morning." ...

The committee's staff interviews reveal that top Trump campaign officials were frustrated and angry that the meeting did not produce enough damaging information on their opponent. Their efforts to conceal the meeting and its true purpose are consistent with a larger pattern of false statements about the Trump campaign's relationship with Russia. -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.), ranking member of the Judiciary Committee

... Conspirators Tried to Coordinate a False Story. Elana Schor of Politico: "Attorneys for Donald Trump Jr. sought to coordinate public statements for attendees of a June 2016 meeting between a Kremlin-connected lawyer and top Trump campaign aides after news broke of the controversial sitdown, according to transcripts released Wednesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The 2016 meeting at Trump Tower — attended by Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and indicted former campaign chairman Paul Manafort -- was billed as an opportunity for Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya to share damaging information about Hillary Clinton.... Even before reporting revealed the meeting, the new transcripts show that his lawyer had begun reaching out to multiple participants to get their accounts straight regarding the day in question.... The judiciary panel's 10 Democrats, in their joint response to the transcript release, noted that interviews turned up signs of dejection among the Trump allies present about the meeting's lack of more coherent negative material on Clinton." ...

... "I Don't Recall." Mary Jalonick, et al., of the AP: "Donald Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he couldn't remember whether he had discussed the Russia investigation with his father, according to transcripts released Wednesday of his interview with the panel. The committee released more than 1,800 pages of transcripts of interviews last year with Trump's son and others who met with a Russian attorney at Trump Tower ahead of the 2016 election. Trump Jr. deflected multiple questions during the interview, including whether he discussed the Russia probe with his father. He also said he didn't think there was anything wrong with attending the Trump Tower meeting in which he was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton."

** Nicholas Fandos & Michael Schmidt of the New York Times: "The White House official had a startling assertion: He thought he had received an email in the first half of 2016 alerting the Trump campaign that Russia had damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Testifying behind closed doors on Capitol Hill in late March, the official, John K. Mashburn, said he remembered the email coming from George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the campaign who was approached by a Russian agent, sometime before the party conventions -- and well before WikiLeaks began publishing messages stolen in hackings from Democrats. Such an email could have proved explosive, providing evidence that at least one high-ranking Trump campaign official was alerted to Russia's meddling, raising questions about which advisers knew and undercutting President Trump's denials of collusion. But two months after Mr. Mashburn testified, investigators for the Senate Judiciary Committee have not found any such message. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was also searching for similar emails, according to a person familiar with a request for documents that his investigators sent to the Trump campaign. The campaign, which has examined its emails and other documents, also cannot find the message, and officials do not believe it exists."

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "A federal judge on Tuesday rejected an attempt by Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman, to get an indictment against him dismissed by claiming that special counsel Robert Mueller's appointment was flawed. In a blow to Manafort's defense, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that Mueller's prosecution of the longtime political consultant on charges of money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent for Ukraine was 'squarely' within the authority that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein granted to Mueller last May."

M.J. Lee of CNN: "A Qatari investor referenced in a series of tweets from Michael Avenatti this week confirmed to CNN through a spokesperson on Tuesday that he did attend meetings at Trump Tower in December 2016. The stated reason: Ahmed Al-Rumaihi wanted face time with Trump transition officials. 'Mr. Al-Rumaihi was at Trump Tower on December 12, 2016. He was there in his then role as head of Qatar Investments, an internal division of QIA, to accompany the Qatari delegation that was meeting with Trump transition officials on that date,' said a spokesperson for Sport Trinity, a company that Al-Rumaihi co-owns. 'He did not participate in any meetings with Michael Flynn, and his involvement in the meetings on that date was limited.'" The story will be updated. (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Chris Massie & Andrew Kaczynski of CNN: "... Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, claimed in a January 2017 interview that the Trump Organization had no recent relationship with Russia, months before admitting he had personally pursued a business deal there on behalf of the company during the 2016 presidential campaign. A day after CNN broke news about the so-called dossier in January 2017, radio host Sean Hannity asked Cohen whether anybody 'within the campaign or around Donald Trump,' had spoken to 'anybody in Russia,' Cohen replied, 'No.' 'There's no relationship'" Cohen told Hannity in the January 11, 2017 appearance. 'The last time that there was any activity between the Trump Organization -- actually, wasn't even really the Trump Organization, it was the Miss Universe pageant, it was held in Moscow,' Cohen said, referring to the pageant held in 2013. Cohen's answer ignored his own work dealing with Russia on behalf of the Trump Organization during the 2016 presidential campaign."

Caroline Johnson of the Washington Post: "The Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis announced Wednesday that a top lawyer who co-signed a $1.2 million contract to hire ... Michael Cohen was stepping down in June. Felix R. Ehrat, group general counsel of Novartis, is retiring 'in the context of discussions surrounding Novartis' former agreement with Essential Consultants, owned by Michael Cohen,' the company said. 'Although the contract was legally in order, it was an error,' Ehrat said in a statement. 'As a co-signatory with our former CEO, I take personal responsibility to bring the public debate on this matter to an end.'"

Matt Ford of the New Republic: "Americans are drawn to bold figures who rise above politics and clean up Washington. Trump played to that cultural bias during the campaign, portraying himself as an outsider whose wealth would insulate him from corruption and empower him to 'drain the swamp.' But it's Mueller, if anyone, who fits this cultural archetype. Over the past twelve months, the former FBI director has upheld the best traditions of the American civil service, rightly becoming an icon for the rule of law in an era when the concept itself is under siege."

Matthew Rosenberg & Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "The Justice Department and the F.B.I. are investigating Cambridge Analytica, the now-defunct political data firm, and have sought to question former employees and banks that handled its business, according to an American official and other people familiar with the inquiry. Prosecutors have questioned potential witnesses in recent weeks, telling them that there is an open investigation into Cambridge Analytica -- which worked on President Trump's election and other Republican campaigns in 2016 -- and 'associated U.S. persons.' But the prosecutors provided few other details, and the inquiry appears to be in its early stages, with investigators seeking an overview of the company and its business practices.... It was not clear whether the investigation is tied to the inquiry being led by Robert S. Mueller III...."

No Apologies Genes. Katie Rogers
of the New York Times: "White House officials reiterated their position on Monday that a morbid joke an aide made about John McCain -- an 81-year-old, six-term Republican senator with brain cancer -- is not the sort of thing that warrants an apology on behalf of this administration. This decision led colleagues and relatives of Mr. McCain to wonder what sort of situation would. It has also drawn consternation from some Republicans, who are waiting for more lawmakers to back up their colleague and demand an apology from the White House. So far, they've heard little.... [The White House's] combative ethos has stood firm amid an assortment of insults and missteps." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... When Our Leaders Are Gutless Wonders. Seung Min-Kim of the Washington Post: "For six days straight, Republican senators had publicly rallied to the defense of their longtime colleague battling cancer, Sen. John McCain, who was the target of a crass joke by a White House aide calling him irrelevant because 'he's dying anyway.' But in a long luncheon Tuesday with President Trump himself, none of the Senate Republicans in attendance brought up the McCain smear -- or the steadfast refusal by Trump and the White House to apologize for it."

Katrina vanden Heuvel in the Washington Post: "In recent weeks, the Trump administration has announced policy proposals that appear to serve little purpose other than cruelty." Vandel Heuvel makes out a list of some of these policies, a few of which have received little press, like this one: "... the Labor Department is apparently planning to roll back child labor protections that limit the hours that teenagers can spend performing dangerous jobs, such as operating chainsaws and trash compactors. The agency risibly described its proposal as an effort to 'launch more family-sustaining careers by removing current regulatory restrictions.'..." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Betsy Woodruff of the Daily Beast: "A proposed rule could make it much harder for undocumented immigrant children who come to the United States to stay with their relatives. Currently, when unaccompanied children arrive at the border -- the bulk of whom flee violent, dangerous countries and look for asylum in the U.S. -- they usually go into the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS then tries to find parents or relatives who can care for them while their immigration proceedings move forward.... And if HHS can't find sponsors for the children, they stay in foster care or shelters. Last week, however, the Department of Homeland Security proposed a rule that would have Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) check the immigration status of sponsors looking to care for these children.... Because the relatives of undocumented children are sometimes themselves undocumented, immigrant rights advocates warn that the new rule could put some potential sponsors in fear of deportation, discoucouraging them from coming forward to take in unaccompanied children." ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: Don't worry, kids. HHS is ready for you!:

... Nick Miroff & Paul Sonne of the Washington Post: "The Trump administration is making preparations to hold immigrant children on military bases, according to Defense Department communications, the latest sign the government is moving forward with plans to split up families who cross the border illegally. According to an email notification sent to Pentagon staffers, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will make site visits at four military installations in Texas and Arkansas during the next two weeks to evaluate their suitability to shelter children. The bases would be used for minors under 18 who arrive at the border without an adult relative or after the government has separated them from their parents."

Eric Geller of Politico: "The Trump administration has eliminated the White House's top cyber policy role, jettisoning a key position created during the Obama presidency to harmonize the government's overall approach to cybersecurity policy and digital warfare. Politico first reported last week that John Bolton..., Donald Trump's new national security adviser, was maneuvering to cut the cyber coordinator role, in a move that many experts and former government officials criticized as a major step backward for federal cybersecurity policy.... Rob Joyce, Trump's first coordinator, who came from the NSA, left the White House on Friday and will return to Fort Meade. Cyber policy experts, lawmakers and former officials had urged Trump to replace Joyce and not to abolish the position."

Annie Snider of Politico: "Scott Pruitt's EPA and the White House sought to block publication of a federal health study on a nationwide water-contamination crisis, after one Trump administration aide warned it would cause a 'public relations nightmare,' newly disclosed emails reveal. The intervention early this year -- not previously disclosed -- came as HHS' Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry was preparing to publish its assessment of a class of toxic chemicals that has contaminated water supplies near military bases, chemical plants and other sites from New York to Michigan to West Virginia. The study would show that the chemicals endanger human health at a far lower level than EPA has previously called safe, according to the emails." ...

... NEW. Anthony Adragna of Politico: "EPA's inspector general said Tuesday it would look into Scott Pruitt's use of nonpublic email accounts, bringing the number of federal probes into the EPA administrator's behavior to an even dozen. Specifically, the inspector general said it would look into whether Pruitt is properly preserving email records as required under federal law and whether the agency is properly searching all of his accounts in response to public records requests."

NEW. Jeremy Herb of CNN: "The Senate Intelligence Committee voted 10-5 closed doors Wednesday to advance Gina Haspel's nomination as ... Donald Trump's CIA director pick, advancing the nominee to a full floor vote where she looks all but assured to win Senate confirmation. Two of the committee's seven Democrats have said they are supporting Haspel, including Virginia's Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the panel. Haspel currently has more than enough support to win confirmation, as Warner was one of three Democrats to announce Tuesday that they were voting for her, bringing the total to five."

Jeremy Herb & Manu Raju of CNN: "Gina Haspel..., Donald Trump's pick to be the next CIA director, says in a new letter that the CIA should not have conducted then-President George W. Bush's interrogation and detention program where waterboarding and other brutal interrogation tactics were used on detainees. In the letter to Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Haspel takes a position she wasn't willing to state publicly last week, writing that the interrogation program 'is not one the CIA should have undertaken.'" (Also linked yesterday.) ...

... Karoun Demirjian & Shane Harris of the Washington Post: "Gina Haspel appears to have secured enough votes to be confirmed as the country's next CIA director after stating in a letter to a top Democrat that the agency never should have detained terrorist suspects and employed brutal interrogation techniques against them. In announcing his support for Haspel, Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) said Tuesday that he had asked her to write down her views because he believed that in one-on-one meetings she had expressed greater regret, and more resolute moral opposition to the agency's interrogation program than she had communicated during her confirmation hearing last week." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Charlie Savage of the New York Times reports on several differences between Gina Haspel's testimony & written answers to questions vs., you know, facts.

All in the Family. Justin Sink & Toluse Olorunnipa of Bloomberg: "... Donald Trump nominated Gordon Hartogensis, a self-described entrepreneur who is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao's brother-in-law, to lead the federal agency that pays worker pensions when employers terminate their retirement plans.... In making the announcement, the White House did not provide biographical information about him or answer questions about his relationship to Chao and McConnell, who are married. Hartogensis is married to one of Chao's sisters, according to a person familiar with the matter." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Joe Pinsker in the Atlantic: The University of Pennsylvania will not talk about its most famous graduate: Donald Trump. The school has not invited Trump to give a speech, nor has it granted him an honorary degree, although "Gerald Ford and Joe Biden both delivered commencement speeches while in office, and Barbara Bush and Hillary Clinton did while their husbands were.When I reached out to Penn, the school declined to discuss Trump. (Wharton, one of Penn's four undergraduate schools, and the one from which Trump graduated, did the same.)" Before Trump entered politics, the school favored him with awards & mentions & even appointed him to the Board of Overseers in 1987. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

"Not an Onion Story." Jennifer Bendery of the Huffington Post: "A month after abruptly resigning from Congress in an apparent effort to avoid more fallout from sexual harassment allegations, former Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) already has a new job: lobbying his former colleagues on port issues. Farenthold announced Monday on a Corpus Christi radio show that he landed a new gig at the Calhoun Port Authority in Port Lavaca, Texas, as reported by Caller Times. He is now the port's full-time legislative liaison, and his job responsibilities include increasing the port's visibility with federal lawmakers and the Trump administration." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... John Parkinson of ABC News: "Former Rep. Blake Farenthold, the disgraced Texas Republican who resigned last month in the aftermath of a sexual harassment settlement, has secured his next paid gig -- as a government lobbyist. But even though he's going to be raking in a reported six-figure salary, Farenthold told ABC News that he has no intention of repaying an $84,000 sexual harassment settlement funded by taxpayers.... After Farenthold resigned on April 6, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he fully expected Farenthold to repay the settlement to the U.S. Treasury. The House Ethics Committee even released a statement urging Farenthold to uphold his promise to repay the settlement. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has also demanded Farenthold cover the costs for a special election to fill his seat in the 27th district, though Farenthold has also signaled he will not cover that expense either.... [Farenthold's] annual salary will be $160,000.10, just under the $174,000 he was paid in the House, according to Charles R. Hausmann, port director at the Calhoun Port Authority." ...

     ... BTW, Farenthold is reportedly fairly wealthy in his own right.

Scott Shane & Adam Goldman of the New York Times: "In weekly online posts last year, WikiLeaks released a stolen archive of secret documents about the Central Intelligence Agency's hacking operations, including software exploits designed to take over iPhones and turn smart television sets into surveillance devices. It was the largest loss of classified documents in the agency's history and a huge embarrassment for C.I.A. officials. Now, The New York Times has learned the identity of the prime suspect in the breach: a 29-year-old former C.I.A. software engineer who had designed malware used to break into the computers of terrorism suspects and other targets. F.B.I. agents searched the Manhattan apartment of the suspect, Joshua A. Schulte, one week after WikiLeaks released the first of the C.I.A. documents in March last year, and then stopped him from flying to Mexico on vacation.... But instead of charging Mr. Schulte in the breach, referred to as the Vault 7 leak, prosecutors charged him last August with possessing child pornography, saying agents had found the material on a server he created as a business in 2009 while he was a student at the University of Texas." Schulte received a conditional prison release in September 2017, but re-incarcerated in December for violating the terms of his release. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Oops! A Bump in the Road. Paul Sonne of the Washington Post: "The Air Force is offering $5,000 for leads on the whereabouts of a box of explosive grenade rounds that its personnel accidentally dropped on a road in North Dakota while traveling between two intercontinental ballistic missile sites -- the facilities scattered across the U.S. heartland that stand ready to launch nuclear warheads at a moment's notice. Airmen from the 91st Missile Wing Security Forces team were traveling on gravel roads May 1 in North Dakota when the back hatch of their vehicle opened and a container filled with the explosive ammunition fell out, according to a statement from Minot Air Force Base. On May 11, the Air Force sent more than 100 airmen to walk the entire six-mile route where the grenades were probably lost, according to a statement from the local Mountrail County sheriff. But two weeks after it was lost, the box of explosives still hasn't been found." Mrs. McC: Are you feeling safer now?

Josh Gerstein: "Disparaging remarks that ... Donald Trump made about Latinos and Mexicans surfaced Tuesday at a key appeals court hearing on the Trump administration's bid to end the program protecting so-called Dreamers -- immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. As a three-judge 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel considered whether to lift an injunction ordering the federal government to continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Judge John Owens repeatedly raised the question of whether racial bias played a part in the Trump administration's decision to wind down DACA.... None of the three judges who heard the appeal Tuesday announced a clear position on the case. But Judges Kim Wardlaw and Jacqueline Nguyen both appeared to lean in favor of upholding the injunction."

Emily Steel of the New York Times: "Attempting to put to rest a drama that has plagued Fox News since the summer of 2016, the network's parent company has reached a roughly $10 million settlement to resolve a group of racial and gender discrimination lawsuits involving 18 current and former employees, according to a document viewed by The New York Times and three people briefed on the deal."

Beyond the Beltway

Julie Bosman & Mitch Smith of the New York Times: "A day after prosecutors dropped a felony charge against Gov. Eric Greitens, Missouri lawmakers had a message for the governor on Tuesday: Don't celebrate quite yet. Mr. Greitens has, for now, survived a legal battle over a felony invasion of privacy charge stemming from accusations that he took an explicit photograph of a woman with whom he had an affair, without her consent. But in the Republican-dominated Missouri Legislature, where Mr. Greitens, a Republican, has few friends and many adversaries, the threat of impeachment has only intensified. Legislators declared that the dismissal of the criminal charge against Mr. Greitens would not deter them in their plan to continue investigating the governor and, if necessary, remove him from office, something no Missouri Legislature has done before."

Way Beyond

Griff Witte of the Washington Post: "A month after [Hungarian PM Viktor] Orban won a crushing electoral victory, the government is moving quickly to make good on his vow of 'revenge' against perceived enemies. The targets of his wrath, meanwhile, are actively preparing for the crackdown to come within this European Union and NATO member. A human rights group expects to be banned from assisting or even speaking about refugees. A progressive university is planning a possible retreat into exile. And the country’s foremost advocate for a liberal alternative to Orban's self-proclaimed 'illiberal democracy' -- funded by billionaire George Soros -- is all but conceding defeat.... That will cheer Orban, who has made the Jewish investor his personal nemesis and national boogeyman in recent years." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Reader Comments (15)

Unpredictable asshole authoritarian sees Nobel possibility slipping away. “I’ll kill that little Rocket Man if I don’t get my bling” says a miffed Trump.

And so much for that bullshit about total denuclearization. I’m sure Donaldo believed that his superior “deal making” abilities (wink, wink) had already cowed Kim into giving up his nukes, half his army, and his hair styling secrets, but you don’t get the W until you actually play the game. As usual, Trump wants credit for things he says he says he’s going to do.

May 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

I'm having trouble deciding which is the biggliest mystery of the day.
Meghan Markle's father may or may not walk her down the aisle.
Kim Jong Un may or may not meet with the president*.
I may or may not win an Olympic gold medal in the high dive
competition. If only I could swim and didn't have that height thingy.

May 16, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterforrest morris

I think we have reached the point where it's crystal clear that Trump and his cronies/family decided that a presidency would be great for bus-in-ness. What a coup! I liked how Katrina vanden Heuval coined it: "The brutality of policy," and the Rev. William Barber description: "the deeper moral malady." His Poor People's Campaign is set to flood the country and I dearly hope it makes an impact.

And here in my neck of the woods we had tornado warnings late yesterday afternoon. We hunkered down in the cellar until the all clear signal, but the damage from the severe winds took down many of our trees. We have lived in this area for decades and this is the first time we had tornado warnings. Other parts of the east coast were hit harder. I wonder how climate change deniers explain all the freaky climate changes on our planet. Maybe god's will will do it for them?

And @AK: We always knew little Kim was a lot smarter than Boozo who thinks he can weasel his way into deals and dangerous liaisons without a wit or a sweat––such a twit!

May 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

From Savage's NYT article on Haspel, near the end:

Haspel wrote "... one of the “hard lessons” she learned at the Counterterrorism Center was “the need to foster a culture of questioning in the work force in which junior officers feel comfortable challenging the process to make sure C.I.A.’s activities adhere to the highest standards.” "

That's pretty weak. Junior officers in the USG's professional services (military, intelligence, diplomacy, development, law) are always encouraged to "challenge the process", but are expected to address their "challenges" to their immediate superiors. Who often have a hard time moving those challenges up. The problem is not ethics or perception or acquiescence at the bottom, but in bringing the problems to the senior policy makers.

During the Viet Nam war, the State Department established the "Dissent Channel" to allow anyone, including more junior people, to address policy differences directly to the Secretary. It allowed discreet, no harm no foul dissent to reach the senior policy makers. It was rarely used because in most cases people actually were able to air their policy differences at lower levels.

A fairly large number of employees signed a Dissent message to Secretary Tillerson early in 2017, who immediately allowed it to go public, after which the WH and State PA people announced that people who disagree with the President should get on board or get out.

So ... Gina is supporting a value which has not been a problem in the community, but will she address a problem that has existed, i.e. allowing dissent to affect policy makers when dissent counters the WH?

We'll see. Because in this admin, everything leaks, whereas in prior ones most who "lost" arguments felt that they had had a fair hearing and accepted decisions. In this administration, its is not going to work that way. No one has incentive to abide. worse, no one knows what a decision looks like.

May 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

A friend just sent this to me and it's good enough to pass on here. This friend has expressed her utter despondency at our political situation––has trouble sleeping, feels depressed and angry at the same time. This piece helped her get a grip––at least temporarily.


May 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

@Forrest: What? there's a wedding coming up? Geez, some publications have been filled with Meghan/Harry stories for what seems forever. Got so lost in the deluge of sweet fairy tales about the dress, about the page boys (who's in, who's out), the page girls, the old friends who weren't invited, the runaway dad, etc... I was almost certain they HAD already married and had kids who will be starting school in the fall!

May 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

I look forward to reading Dahlia's piece-- I'm sure we are all like that: angry, disspirited, depressed, agitated, whatever... And it gets wearying. Forrest: your description of the high dive brought back vivid memories of grade school, when we lived in Chapel Hill (dad getting PhD--)and the whole town went to swimming lessons at the university pools. Someone "made" me go off the indoor high dive, and I can still feel the terror, the anxiety, the daring to finally do it, and the ensuing SMACK as I landed on my stomach, reaching the side in tears. It's amazing what memories choose to stick around in vivid color, isn't it? So sad that the night Dolt45 was elected will be eternally one of those moments... Very disappointed that Warner has turned coat and is rewarding (never mind punishing) a torturer, who would do it again in a heartbeat if the occasion presented itself.

May 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJeanne

In case RC readers have not seen it, here is a clear explanation of the state of play with regard to US/North Korea:

May 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKeith Howard


Forget Bolton. Trump needs some special help. PD is right. Kim plays him like a kazoo. And I'm thinking, what with Trumpy's predilection for shady, racist characters with a tendency to criminal activity and self-enrichment, he might want to enlist the help of none other than Uncle Duke.

Longtime fans of Doonesbury no doubt recall when Uncle Duke was sent to China as an ambassador by Gerald Ford (he attended an opera in Beijing at which the overture was automatic weapons fire--one of my favorites). Before that he was governor of American Samoa where he mostly did drugs and stashed money in foreign accounts. Duke, upon hearing that he was going to China suggested that he was picked because he knows "how to work with minorities". Which, he reminds his Samoan assistant, is important because the "Chinese are an especially tricky people".

Sounds like just the guy to help Trump in Korea.

Most people believe that Duke was based on Hunter Thompson, who apparently hated the idea of being turned into a comic strip character. But over the years it appears that Duke morphed into someone with a much closer resemblance to a guy who has been all over the news lately, another greedy conniver who has worked for Trump (don't they all?). I'll give you a hint. He made a bundle serving as a consultant to foreign dictators and is now under investigation by one R.M.

The perfect guy for Trump.

May 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus


Internal dissent has to defy organizational gravity, and that's a tough job. By their very nature, organizations push down on lower level employees, and since an organization's purpose is usually to maintain. or increase profit or power or secure the leaders' position, any boat- rocking that might interfere with those ends is an almost certain path to the exit door.

Yes, we do have the mechanisms you mention which in my experience often act as little more than social safety valves to relieve building internal pressure, and at a higher level, our whistler blower laws intended to punch holes in the organizational armor big enough to let a little sunlight in. But the many stories about whistle blowing ending badly for the blower would give great pause to anyone intending that kind of organizational disloyalty. Whistle blowers can expect to be treated as Snowdens.

I would cite only this case, back in the local news because this judgment against Burlington Northern--there's been more than one-- has just been upheld by a federal court.

BNSF is considering taking this case all the way to the Supremes. No doubt, in management's mind, any whistle blower win sets a bad precedent. Can't have those underlings (particularly union leaders) getting in the way of profit....or subverting hierarchical givens. In top-down organizations (as most are) dissent, well-meaning, fact-based or not, is the ultimate uppity.

As I write this, I'm thinking that since the Pretender is very much top down, obviously corrupt and emotionally unstable, the pressure in the White House must be immense, giving rise, I'd posit, to the informal pressure relief mechanism of constant leaks.

Could that pressure soon build to the level of a piercing and prolonged whistle?

Again, one can hope.

May 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

The Lithwick piece PD suggests contains a tidbit I missed. (I was about to add "somehow", but the tidal wave of horrible shit unleashed from the dark, dirty, feces stained Trump White House is so overwhelming that it's impossible to keep up with all the outrages, which is just the way they like it.)

The FDA, an agency operating, we hope, on scientific findings and fact with the goal of presenting truthful estimations about substances we put in our bodies, has been instructed that any and all televisions there MUST be tuned to Fox, an enterprise based on lies spouted by fact and science deniers, and cannot, under any circumstances, be turned to any other frequency.

So the official media propaganda arm of the dictator Trump and the Party of Traitors is now the only source of televised information allowed to researchers, writers, administrators, and scientists at the FDA.

But this is also the same administration that tries to shove reports vital to public health into a drawer and keep them there under lock and key, so how long before the FDA and all other government agencies are instructed that they cannot under any circumstances consult papers, research, books, or any other source that has not been cleared by the Confederate Thought Control Commission.

Outrage is too anodyne a word. It has lost all force under the daily barrage of moral vacuity, greed, and mindless stupidity.

May 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Conclusion: collusion.

There's really no other way to play this out. The Trump campaign went to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from Russians. They were looking for Russians to help them win the election.

Are we to believe that because the Trump Tower meeting didn't go the way they expected (ie, no dirt on Hills), that they threw up their hands and said "Well, Jesus, that was a bust. Let's forget all about getting help from Putin"?

And just because they didn't get anything doesn't give them a pass either. If you ran into a bank with a bandanna over your mouth, dark glasses, and a gun, went up to a teller, gave him a note saying "Give me all your money" and discovered that there was nothing in the drawer, would the cops just say "Well, hell, since you didn't actually get any money, we'll let you go."

Russia wanted to help Trump and hurt Clinton. They called Trump's people, they came to get help.

Maybe it's not textbook collusion (no Anthony Kennedy quid pro quo money changing hands for a bag of hanging chads), but who could look at the facts and say Trump (or his people) had no interest in Russia helping him win. Nor can he say he got no help at all.

Unfortunately, nothing will come of this. But it will--and should--drop a nice big shit stain on the Trump presiduncey.

May 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Akhilleus: I'm not at all convinced the FDA tuned to Fox story is true. The memo was apparently written & sent by a "customer service representative from the FDA's Office of Facilities in response to a group of employees." As far as I can tell, whoever this CS rep was, s/he didn't provide any documentation of said "order," & the FDA denies the administration ordered that all the TVs at the White Oak campus of the FDA be tuned to Fox "News." I think this was just some low-level employee's idea. That low-level employee may very well be one of the many Trump-installed minders/stooges, but that doesn't mean the Presidunce or one of his top people sent down the order.

This reminds me of the urban legend where a bunch of students are sitting around watching TV in the common room & a couple of guys come in & say they have to take the TV away for repair, & all students let them walk away with a perfectly good TV.

Those FDA scientists who are good with the TVs tuned to Fox "News," like the legendary gullible students, seem to be caving to "authority" where no such authority exists.

May 16, 2018 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

"Pssst...pssst...hey, Donnie, c'mere. Ya know that thing we told you about? How 'bout you take care of that for us. Here's a hundred mill. More to come. Thanks, pal."

Just as there's no doubt that Trump was helped by the Russians, and WANTED that help, there is also no doubt about how absolutely crooked this guy is. There isn't even a pretense of honesty. The guy has hung a sign on the White House that says:

"If you here to see the president* with a bribe, get in the Xpress line. He'll see you right away. If you are here on any business other than expanding his bank account, go to Union Station. Get on the seventh train to Kalamazoo. Once there, learn Swedish. Then, go to Sweden. See Olaf the bootmaker. Tell him Donnie sent you. Learn to make leather soles from reindeer skins. First, however, you have to hunt the reindeer and kill it with your bare hands. After that, go back to Kalamazoo. Learn Swahili. Go to...."

An article in Slate puts it this way:

"In light of the news that entities controlled by the Chinese government will contribute $500 million to an Indonesian development project that includes several Trump-branded properties, it’s worth taking a step back and marveling at how many powerful foreign groups and individuals appear to be attempting to influence the U.S.’s distinguished president by giving money or favors to his chintzy real-estate company and/or sketchy pals." To use the more colloquial, and accurate word, bribery.

The writer goes on to state that European countries, to their detriment, are still treating Trump like a bona fide president and not the cheap, chiseling, greedy grifter he is. Too bad for them. They think actual, ya know, diplomacy, will have an effect.

But no...

"He’s generally ignored them in favor of developing buddy-buddy relationships with a number of authoritarians whose countries are friendly toward the Trump Organization and the people in its orbit.

All in all, it’s really starting to seem like Trump’s promise to create a “blind trust” that would completely insulate him from his business interests has not been entirely effective in its implementation. Sad!"

May 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Didn't see names of the three R's, but here's this on the Senate net neutrality vote.

May 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes
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