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 17, 2018

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "The Senate confirmed Gina Haspel on Thursday to be the first woman to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, elevating a career clandestine officer to the directorship despite bipartisan misgivings about her role in the agency's brutal detention and interrogation programs in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.... She was confirmed 54 to 45.... Two Republican no votes [Mrs. McC: Jeff Flake & Rand Paul] -- and opposition from Senator John McCain of Arizona, the victim of torture in Vietnam who was not present for the vote -- were more than offset by six Democrats, most of whom represent states that Mr. Trump won in 2016. Ms. Haspel also won over Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, who had led the interrogation of her record."

Mark Berman & Frances Sellers of the Washington Post: "A New York appeals court on Thursday rejected a request from President Trump to stay proceedings in a defamation suit filed by a former contestant on 'The Apprentice' [Summer Zervos] who has claimed that he sexually harassed her. The ruling on Thursday is a legal setback for Trump, who is facing multiple lawsuits focused on allegations women have made against him as well as his public comments about those women. It could open him up to discovery in the case, although he could also file further appeals to try to delay proceedings."

Anthony Cormier & Jason Leopold of BuzzFeed write "the crazy true story of Trump Moscow."

The Ever-Helpful Rudy. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "Rudolph W. Giuliani hit the airwaves of Fox News on Wednesday night to again raise the bar for what might constitute collusion.& On the same day that 2,500 pages of testimony about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting were released, Giuliani declared that collusion would require using information that was provided by the Russians. 'And even if it comes from a Russian, or a German, or an American, it doesn't matter,' he said of the opposition research that was offered. 'And they never used it is the main thing. They never used it. They rejected it. If there was collusion with the Russians, they would have used it.'... The new argument allows for the Trump team to have received information from foreign sources, as long as it wasn't utilized. We will see whether that's a distinction he's drawing for a reason. It's possible that Giuliani was just speaking loosely while trying to restate the previous company line.... But ... this is the latest episode in what has been a steady narrowing of the Trump team's denials of collusion."

Sarah Lynch of Reuters: "Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office notified a federal court in Virginia on Thursday it had filed under seal an unredacted memorandum that is expected to shed light on the scope of his wide-ranging probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The filing, made as part of Mueller's criminal case against ... Donald Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was requested by the judge...."

Every time you have that soil or rock or whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise, because now you have less space in those oceans, because the bottom is moving up. -- Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), explaining rising sea levels to a climate scientist during a House hearing ...

Lesson: Do not skip rocks while at the beach. You will cause sea levels to rise. Oops, never mind; I guess that would be a man-made cause, and there's no such thing.

... Scott Waldman in Science: "Republicans on the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee yesterday ... at times embraced research that questions mainstream climate science during a hearing on how technology can be used to address global warming. A leading climate scientist testifying before the panel spent much of the two hours correcting misstatements.... Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the committee, entered into the record an opinion piece published in The Wall Street Journal yesterday that claimed sea levels are not rising because of climate change, a view that rejects thousands of scientific studies. The piece was written by Fred Singer, who is affiliated with the Heartland Institute in Chicago, Illinois, which promotes the rejection of mainstream climate science."

Isn't This Special? Charles Bagli of the New York Times: "The company controlled by the family of the White House adviser Jared Kushner is close to receiving a bailout of its financially troubled flagship building by a company with ties to the government of Qatar, according to executives briefed on the deal. Charles Kushner, head of the Kushner Companies, is in advanced talks with Brookfield Properties over a partnership to take control of the 41-story aluminum-clad tower 666 Fifth Avenue in Midtown, according to two real estate executives who have been briefed on the pending deal but are not authorized to discuss it. Brookfield is a publicly traded company, headquartered in Canada, one of whose major investors is the Qatar Investment Authority.... The deal with Brookfield is likely to raise further concerns about Jared Kushner's dual role as a White House point person on the Middle East and a continuing stake holder in the family’s company."

Despite the disgusting, illegal and unwarranted Witch Hunt, we have had the most successful first 17 month Administration in U.S. history - by far! Sorry to the Fake News Media and 'Haters,' but that's the way it is! -- Donald Trump, in a tweet this morning

Congratulations America, we are now into the second year of the greatest Witch Hunt in American History...and there is still No Collusion and No Obstruction. The only Collusion was that done by Democrats who were unable to win an Election despite the spending of far more money! -- Donald Trump, in a tweet this morning

Wow, word seems to be coming out that the Obama FBI 'SPIED ON THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN WITH AN EMBEDDED INFORMANT.' Andrew McCarthy says, 'There's probably no doubt that they had at least one confidential informant in the campaign.' If so, this is bigger than Watergate! -- Donald Trump, in a tweet this morning ...

... Eileen Sullivan of the New York Times: "In some sense, many analysts have said, [Trump] is right: Efforts by a hostile foreign power to influence an American presidential election -- with or without the assistance or knowledge of the winning candidate -- may well be a scandal 'bigger than Watergate!'... Mr. Trump marked the Mueller anniversary with a series of Twitter posts on Thursday morning, reminding his 52 million followers that the investigation is a witch hunt.... At least one government informant met several times with two of Mr. Trump's former campaign aides, officials have said."

Brian Fung of the Washington Post: "The Senate approved a resolution Wednesday that aims to undo a sweeping act of deregulation undertaken last year by the Federal Communications Commission, issuing a rebuke to the Trump administration, which supported the FCC's move. The resolution targets the FCC's vote in December to repeal its net neutrality rules for Internet providers. If successful, the legislative gambit could restore the agency's regulations and hand a victory to tech companies, activists and consumer advocacy groups. The congressional effort comes less than a month before the rules are officially expected to expire, on June 11. And the high-profile vote could shine a spotlight on lawmakers running for reelection during a tough midterm season.... Senate supporters of the FCC rules put forward the legislation under the Congressional Review Act, a law that permits Congress to revisit -- and reject -- decisions by administrative agencies within a certain window of their approval. The resolution, or CRA for short, passed with the backing of all 49 Democratic senators and three Republicans: Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John N. Kennedy of Louisiana and Lisa A. Murkowski of Alaska.... Still, it is unclear what fate may await the measure in the House."


This Russia Thing, Etc. Ctd. -- Trump Is So Screwed
Happy First Anniversary to the Special Counsel

** "Crossfire Hurricane." 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 & elaborates on subsequent moves to keep the investigation secret. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) Among the new info, the Russia investigation began as a result of George Papadopoulos' drunken boast to an Australian diplomat, & The FBI had reason to believe Carter Page was a Russian agent who funneled info back to Russian intelligence. Mrs. McC: Rachel Maddow notes that the article includes a sorta mea culpa for the Times story, published right before the 2016 election, essentially exonerating Trump & Co. ...

... Scott Lemieux in LG&$: "This big Times story about the FBI's Russia ratfucking investigation is really the story of two fuckups that contributed to the election of Donald Trump: double standards in the FBI investigation, and double standards and completely botched stories by the New York Times.... The DEEP STATE mattered to the 2016 election, all right -- its most consequential arm was solidly behind Trump." ...

... Kevin Drum: "In the end..., all the howling over Benghazi paid off, as did Trump's endless bellyaching about the election being rigged. The result was just what Republicans wanted: The press played along eagerly with both Benghazi and Hillary's emails, while the FBI cowered in a defensive crouch over fear of Republican attacks on them. There hasn't been a more masterful game of working the refs in recent history." ...

... Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Erik Wemple of the Washington Post looks at the history of the New York Times' very own October Surprise in the context of the story linked above, where Times reporters admit the October 31 story "buried the lede." Mrs. McC: But guess what? If this Times report is a mea culpa for its Trump-friendly October 31, 2016 story, the reporters bury the mea culpa in a report that centers on the intelligence community's early investigations into Trump's collusion with Russia. Sort of perfect. I'm surprised they didn't mention their Pulitzer Prize in there alongside the "we buried the lede" admission.

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." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... 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." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... ** Louis Nelson, et al., of Politico: "The government's top ethics officer told the Justice Department on Wednesday that ... Donald Trump should have disclosed last year that he reimbursed his longtime personal attorney for a 'hush money' payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. The letter from David Apol, the acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, came as that office also released Trump's most recent financial disclosure form, a 92-page document that included the reimbursement to attorney Michael Cohen as a footnote.... 'OGE has concluded that, based on the information provided as a note to part 8, the payment made by Mr. Cohen is required to be reported as a liability,' Apol wrote to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, adding, 'you may find the disclosure relevant to any inquiry you may be pursuing regarding the President's prior report that was signed on June 14, 2017.'... As recently as April, Trump had told reporters he was not aware of the payment to Daniels.... Apol's letter to the Justice Department is 'highly unusual,' said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the non-profit watchdog group Public Citizen." ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Several experts said Apol's letter was the equivalent of a criminal referral against the POTUS*. So yeah, "highly unusual."

Ryan Grim of the Intercept: "Over the past two months, [former Qatari sovereign fund manager Ahmed] al-Rumaihi has shared details of his meetings [with Michael Cohen & another person] ... in off-the-record interviews with The Intercept.... Al-Rumaihi said Cohen asked him for an upfront fee of $1 million for his services in the midst of their conversation about a potential Qatari investment in U.S. infrastructure.... [At a early-December 2017 meeting among Cohen, al-Rumaihi & another person at a New York restaurant,] Cohen suggested that Qatar could revitalize some Midwestern towns, saying, according to al-Rumaihi, '"For example, we can find a steel factory that is about to shut down. You guys can invest. I'll give you some names to appoint as partners. You guys put in the money, we will put in the know-how, and share the profits 50-50. We can perhaps get a federal government "off-take agreement" for 10 to 15 years. It will revitalize the city, great PR, you guys will look like you're saving the city, everybody wins."'... Al-Rumaihi said he did not pay Cohen, and Cohen's since-revealed account ledger includes no payment from al-Rumaihi, or any companies connected to him." Mrs. McC: Al-Rumaihi has allowed Grim to report his side of the story. ...

... Eric Levitz: "... al-Rumaihi's account of the meeting is quite consistent with pre-existing reports about Cohen's 'aggressive' approach to selling well-heeled special interests influence over the White House. Previous reports have already established that Cohen pitched his consulting services -- at a very similar price -- to the Swiss drugmaker Novartis, among multiple other major corporations. That said, al-Rumaihi's honesty and ethical scruples have recently been called into question by a mutual business partner of Steve Bannon and the rapper Ice Cube.... All of this comes on top of the public facts that Jared Kushner's family sought Qatari financing for their financially embattled 666 5th Avenue building, and that the Trump administration gave its blessing to a Saudi blockade of Qatar shortly after the Kushners' overtures were rejected." ...

... Karen DeYoung, et al., of the Washington Post: "Michael Cohen ... solicited a payment of at least $1 million from the government of Qatar in late 2016, in exchange for access to and advice about the then-incoming administration, according to the recipient of the offer and several others with knowledge of the episode. The offer, which Qatar declined, came on the margins of a Dec. 12 meeting that year at Trump Tower between the Persian Gulf state's foreign minister and Michael Flynn, who became Trump's first national security adviser. Stephen K. Bannon, who became White House chief strategist, also attended. Cohen did not participate in the official meetings but spoke separately to a member of the Qatari delegation, Ahmed al-Rumaihi, who at the time was head of the investments division of the country's sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority.... News of the Qatar solicitation marks the first time Cohen is believed to have pitched his influence directly to a foreign government." ...

...**Josh Boswell & Ryan Parry of the Daily Mail: "...Michael Cohen, is facing claims he asked a Middle Eastern official for millions of dollars to give to 'Trump family members' in a meeting at Trump Tower weeks after the president's election victory, can reveal. Cohen is alleged to have asked Ahmed Al-Rumaihi, a former diplomat in charge of a $100bn Qatari investment fund, to send 'millions' through him to Trump family members.... The claims of a demand for 'millions' were made by a senior Kuwaiti government source close to Al-Rumaihi.... The Kuwaiti source told that following's disclosure of the court case, Al-Rumaihi called him and boasted that Cohen had asked him for money in exchange for influence in the Trump administration. The official said: 'He said Cohen told him to send millions to various members of the Trump family.' Al-Rumaihi did not do so, the official added. The Trump family members were not named." --safari: This could just be a case of Middle Eastern backstabbing with only one reported source. Let's see some evidence. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie Note: I purposely did not link the Daily Mail report yesterday because, well, it's the Daily Mail. However, the Intercept report, which cites al-Rumaihi, & the WashPo report, which cites others who were aware of the Cohen overtures, are far more credible. The Daily Mail report is single-sourced by an anonymous Qatari official, a "reporting" standard that doesn't pass muster in more reputable news outlets. Neither the Intercept nor the WashPo claims Cohen asked for millions to spread around to Trump family members. In fact, they sort of refute that idea in al-Rumaihi's claim that all Cohen asked for was $1MM for himself.

... Jonathan Chait of New York: "The Daily Mail report deepens the trouble in two crucial ways. First, it extends Cohen's scheme from domestic corporations (or, in one case, domestic corporations controlled by foreign entities) to direct overseas fundraising. Second, and more ominously, it alleges that Cohen funneled the money to Trump's family.... Now the story suggests he was enriching them, transforming the Cohen bribery story into a Trump bribery story." --safari ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: As Chait writes in the linked post, "The [Daily Mail] story's publication did not reverberate with the explosive force proportional to the scale of the allegation. The reason is that the Daily Mail lacks the familiarity and credibility of major American legacy media firms. Its occasional bombshell scoops reside in a never-never land between rumor and accepted fact. And yet there is plenty of contextual evidence to support the charge." So far, there is more "contextual evidence" that Cohen was hitting up the Qataris for himself alone. It's still possible, of course, that the Daily Mail story is correct.

... ** Ronan Farrow of the New Yorker: "Last week, several news outlets obtained financial records showing that Michael Cohen ... had used a shell company to receive payments from various firms with business before the Trump Administration. In the days since, there has been much speculation about who leaked the confidential documents, and the Treasury Department's inspector general has launched a probe to find the source. That source, a law-enforcement official, is speaking publicly for the first time, to The New Yorker, to explain the motivation: the official had grown alarmed after being unable to find two important reports on Cohen's financial activity in a government database. The official, worried that the information was being withheld from law enforcement, released the remaining documents.... The report also refers to two previous suspicious-activity reports, or SARs, that the bank had filed, which documented even larger flows of questionable money into Cohen's account. Those two reports detail more than three million dollars in additional transactions -- triple the amount in the report released last week. Which individuals or corporations were involved remains a mystery. But, according to the official who leaked the report, these SARs were absent from the database maintained by the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN." Read on, as Farrow has more on the contents of the SARs. ...

... Justin Miller of the Daily Beast: "The Michael Cohen scandal began as a six-figure payment to a porn star, but on Wednesday it exploded into an international, multimillion-dollar financial scandal.... Donald Trump's fixer took in more than $4 million in eyebrow-raising deposits to his shell company -- much of it from foreign sources."

... Shawn Boburg & Aaron Davis of the Washington Post: "A California man who says he served as a translator last year for Michael Cohen and a South Korean aerospace firm that paid Cohen's company $150,000 said Tuesday that FBI agents recently interviewed him. Mark Ko said in an email to The Washington Post that he spoke with the FBI about the arrangement 'a few weeks ago.' Ko declined to provide details about investigators' inquiries and said he was unsure whether the agents were part of the probe led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Ko's statement is the first indication that federal authorities are examining Cohen's contract with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) -- one of several companies with substantial business before the U.S. government that hired Cohen ... after the 2016 election." ...

... Hunter Walker & Brett Arnold of Yahoo! News: "Prosecutors and congressional investigators have obtained text messages and emails showing that President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was working on a deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow far later than Cohen has previously acknowledged. The communications show that as late as May 2016, around the time Trump was clinching the Republican nomination, Cohen was considering a trip to Russia to meet about the project with high-level government officials, business leaders and bankers.... In a statement to Congress, Cohen claimed he gave up on the project in late January 2016, when he determined the 'proposal was not feasible for a variety of business reasons and should not be pursued further.'"

Mark Hosenball of Reuters: "U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller has issued two subpoenas to a social media expert who worked for longtime Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone during the 2016 presidential election campaign. The subpoenas were delivered late last week to lawyers representing Jason Sullivan, a social media and Twitter specialist Stone hired to work for an independent political action committee he set up to support Trump.... The subpoenas suggest that Mueller, who is probing Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, is focusing in part on Stone and whether he might have had advance knowledge of material allegedly hacked by Russian intelligence and sent to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who published it."

Michael Schmidt, et al., of the New York Times: "The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, will not indict President Trump if he finds wrongdoing in his investigation of Trump campaign links to Russia, according to the president's lawyers. They said Wednesday that Mr. Mueller's investigators told them that he would adhere to the Justice Department's view that the Constitution bars prosecuting presidents.... Mr. Trump's lead lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, said the special counsel's office displayed uncertainty about whether Mr. Trump could be indicted. 'When I met with Mueller's team, they seemed to be in a little bit of confusion about whether they could indict,' Mr. Giuliani said. 'We said, "It's pretty clear that you have to follow D.O.J. policy."' Mr. Giuliani said that one member of Mr. Mueller's office acknowledged that the president could not be indicted. Two or three days later, Mr. Giuliani said, Mr. Mueller's office called another of the president's lawyers, Jay Sekulow, to say that prosecutors would adhere to the guidelines. 'They can't indict,' Mr. Giuliani said. 'They can't indict. Because if they did, it would be dismissed quickly. There's no precedent for a president being indicted.' But the question of whether the president can be indicted is an unsettled legal issue."

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." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Justin Miller: "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." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... 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..." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Kyle Cheney of Politico: "Top congressional allies of ... Donald Trump are calling on him to order the release of sensitive documents connected to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. In a letter to Trump, Republican Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan, leaders of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, as well as Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), urged the president to demand that Attorney General Jeff Sessions turn over the documents to Congress immediately. Included in their request is a demand for a copy of an August 2017 document detailing the scope of Mueller's probe, which would reveal the subjects of his investigation and details about the potential crimes he's examining.... It's an extraordinary request from three congressmen who have largely defended Trump from the ongoing probes, accusing top Justice Department and FBI officials of misconduct and raising questions about the legitimacy of Mueller's investigation."

Donie O'Sullivan & Drew Griffin of CNN: "Christopher Wylie, a former Cambridge Analytica employee who blew the whistle on its alleged misuse of Facebook data, told the Senate Judiciary Committee [Wednesday] that the company offered services to discourage voting from targeted sections of the American population.... After the hearing, Wylie told CNN that although he did not take part in voter suppression activities, he alleged that African-Americans were particular targets of Cambridge Analytica's 'voter disengagement tactics,' which he said were used to 'discourage or demobilize certain types of people from voting,' and that campaigns and political action committees requested voter suppression from Cambridge Analytica.... Wylie also outlined during his testimony how he believed it may have been possible for the Facebook data of American voters to have been obtained by entities in Russia. Wylie highlighted how Cambridge University professor Aleksandr Kogan -- who has told CNN he gathered information on 30 million Americans through his Facebook personality test app in 2014, which he then passed to Cambridge Analytica -- made numerous trips to Russia, in part a result of his work with St. Petersburg University."

Brian Bennett & Tessa Berenson
of Time: "With just one month until a scheduled sit-down with North Korea's leader..., Donald Trump hasn't set aside much time to prepare for meeting with Kim Jong Un, a stark contrast to the approach of past presidents. 'He doesn't think he needs to,' said a senior administration official familiar with the President's preparation. Aides plan to squeeze in time for Trump to learn more about Kim's psychology and strategize on ways to respond to offers Kim may make in person, but so far a detailed plan hasn't been laid out for getting Trump ready for the summit." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Besides, he's busy writing his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech. Oh, wait ...

... 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.... White House 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 modelthat we're using....'" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... 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...." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... 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 see 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." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: My favorite headline today: "Trump's North Korea Nobel buzz could die with John Bolton. Michael Crowley & Eliana Johnson of Politico: "North Korea's latest diatribe against the United States -- and specifically a 'repugnant' national security adviser, John Bolton -- spotlights a core tension within the Trump administration as the president seeks a nuclear deal with North Korea that he hopes might earn him a Nobel Peace Prize. Bolton is famously contemptuous of what he considers naïve U.S. diplomacy with foreign adversaries who can only be trusted to cheat and lie. Prominent on his list is North Korea itself, which he has written 'will never give up nuclear weapons voluntarily,' calling past U.S. diplomatic forays with the country 'embarrassments.'"

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!" (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

We have people coming into the country -- or trying to come in, we're stopping a lot of them -- but we're taking people out of the country, you wouldn't believe how bad these people are. These aren't people. These are animals. -- Donald Trump, at an immigration roundtable, Wednesday ...

... David Nakamura & Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: "Trump said [Oakland] Mayor Libby Schaaf's decision to inform residents of Oakland ahead of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement action amounted to 'obstruction of justice' because many of those who were targeted fled the area before federal agents arrived.... 'You talk about obstruction of justice -- I would recommend that you look into obstruction of justice for the mayor of Oakland, California, Jeff,' Trump continued, aiming his remarks at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was seated at the table.... Sessions has previously criticized Schaaf, stating her warning prevented authorities from making 800 arrests. That claim was disputed by an ICE spokesman, who said it was false and resigned in protest.... Trump's move to encourage the nation's top law enforcement officer to investigate a Democratic politician was viewed by some as an attempt to weaponize the Justice Department against his political opponents, with critics calling it an abuse of power." ...

... Julie Davis of the New York Times: "Mr. Trump's comments came during a round-table discussion with state and local leaders on California's so-called sanctuary laws, which strictly limit communication between local law enforcement and federal immigration officers, and which the Trump administration is suing to invalidate.... Mr. Trump's remarks came as the local officials invited for the event took turns praising his immigration policies and lamenting California's law, arguing that it was making it more difficult for their communities to find and deport criminals.... 'Trump is lying on immigration, lying about crime and lying about the laws of California,' [California Gov. Jerry] Brown said in a statement. 'Flying in a dozen Republican politicians to flatter him and praise his reckless policies changes nothing. We, the citizens of the fifth-largest economy in the world, are not impressed.'"

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." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Reuters via the Guardian: "Japan is considering slapping tariffs on US imports worth $409m in retaliation against steel and aluminium levies imposed by Donald Trump.... Tokyo's planned retaliatory tariffs would be the equivalent value to duties imposed by Washington via its tariffs.... Japan was the United States' fourth largest export market in 2016.... Japan is the only major US ally that did not receive exemptions from Trump's tariff decision, which came as a shock to many policymakers given prime minister Shinzo Abe's close ties with Trump." --safari

Frank Rich: "Some 40 miles away Palestinian demonstrators were being mowed down en masse, an image juxtaposed on split screen by the sight of Ivanka Trump smiling, as Michelle Goldberg has written, 'like a Zionist Marie Antoinette.' The most prominent Jews in attendance besides her and her husband were Sheldon Adelson, Steven Mnuchin, and 'Bibi' Netanyahu, who (along with his wife) is under criminal investigation in tandem with that of his ally in the White House. This Jersualem 'ceremony' will live on not as a positive step in Israeli history but as a shabby rogue's gallery panorama of mobsterism at the top of both the American and Israeli governments. The only thing missing from the picture was a sanctimonious Jared Kushner evocation of his grandparents' survival of the Holocaust.... Many American Jewish families are the descendants of Holocaust survivors. They don't merchandize that legacy to justify the alt-right, and they don't embrace anti-Semites praying for the mass conversion and/or mass extinction of Jews."

Gardiner Harris of the New York Times: "In a veiled rebuke of President Trump, former Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson warned on Wednesday that American democracy was threatened by a growing 'crisis of ethics and integrity.' 'If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom,' he said in a commencement address at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va. Even small falsehoods and exaggerations are problematic, Mr. Tillerson said. He did not mention Mr. Trump by name, although the president is prone to both."

John Cassidy of the New Yorker writes a fun column on how game theory explains the leaky Trump White House. And yeah, Trump himself created the "game."

Ellen Knickmeyer & Michael Biesecker of the AP: "Lawmakers at a Senate hearing Wednesday hammered Scott Pruitt with his toughest questioning to date amid federal investigations on his spending, bodyguards and ties with lobbyists, in exchanges that included dramatic production of a newly released internal email that appeared to contradict the embattled Environmental Protection Agency administrator. Pruitt, appearing before a Senate appropriations subcommittee, denied direct responsibility for alleged ethical missteps that have prompted about a dozen probes, including ones by Congress, the EPA's inspector general, the Government Accountability Office and the Office of Management of Budget. He stuck to his practice in a previous round of congressional hearings of deflecting blame onto subordinates at EPA, including its security agents and public-affairs workers.... Time and again, Pruitt responded to questions by saying he either couldn't recall details or was unaware of decisions made by aides."

Heather Timmons of Quartz: "The White House is discussing possible replacements for Department of Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, because Donald Trump is unhappy with how she is running the massive agency..., according to two people briefed on the situation. Names being discussed inside the White House include Tom Cotton, the senator from Arkansas, energy secretary Rick Perry, and Thomas Homan, the retiring head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, one of these people said. Cotton and Perry were also considered for the position previously.... In several negotiations since Trump was elected, Congress refused to give DHS the billions the agency requested to build his promised wall on the US's southern border. Nielsen is being blamed in the White House for the omission, one of the people briefed said. Far-right pundits have been mocking the administration this week for failing to get it done, angering Trump, this person said."

was confirmed by the commission on Wednesday, with the agency's three Republican commissioners voting in favor of and the two Democratic commissioners voting against his appointment.

Glenn Thrush & Jack Nicas of the New York Times: "The new director of the Federal Trade Commission's consumer protection unit, a watchdog with broad investigative powers over private companies, stands out even in an administration prone to turning over regulatory authority to pro-industry players. The director, Andrew M. Smith..., was confirmed by the commission on Wednesday, with the agency's three Republican commissioners voting in favor of and the two Democratic commissioners voting against his appointment.... [He] has recently represented Facebook, Uber and Equifax -- all companies with matters before the commission -- and plans to recuse himself from dozens of cases now that he has been confirmed for the post. And in 2012, Mr. Smith was also part of the legal team that defended AMG Services, the payday lender founded by the convicted racketeer Scott Tucker, whose predatory practices against impoverished borrowers eventually led to a $1.3 billion court-ordered settlement, the biggest in the commission's history. 'It's outrageous the F.T.C. would pick the lawyer for a criminally convicted racketeer's payday loan company as consumer protection chief,' said Senator Elizabeth Warren [D-Mass.]...."

Congressional Races. Gail Collins: "As a public service, today we are going to discuss the latest primary elections. And I promise there will be some sex scandals. But first -- wow, women are on the move. The big election story on Tuesday was in Pennsylvania, whose 18-member delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives is currently composed of 18 men. (Well, O.K., 16 men and two vacancies due to men who abruptly left town. As we will see, Pennsylvania is having some trouble hanging on to its representatives.)' Next year there could conceivably be seven women."

"Capitalism is Awesome", Ctd. Jessica Pishko in the Guardian: "Across the country, more state legislatures are increasing the penalties for multiple shoplifting offenses, a move that has been encouraged by the National Retail Federation, a trade group that lobbies on behalf of retail businesses. The Federation represents the interests of both small businesses -- mom-and-pop shops -- and big megastores like Walmart and Dollar Store. According to the trade publication Loss Prevention Media, 'legislation has become a primary tool used in combating organized retail crime'.... In the meantime, it appears that the new law is being used not to prosecute dangerous retail gangs, but rather to penalize those who can least afford it." --safari

Edward Helmore of the Guardian: "The first comprehensive study of the massive pay gap between the US executive suite and average workers has found that the average CEO-to-worker pay ratio has now reached 339 to 1, with the highest gap approaching 5,000 to 1. The study, titled Rewarding Or Hoarding?, was published on Wednesday by Minnesota]s Democratic US congressman Keith Ellison, and includes data on almost 14 million workers at 225 US companies with total annual revenues of $6.3tn. Just the summary makes for sober reading."...

...**"The Powell Memo", Ctd. Ed Pilkington of the Guardian: "Rightwing activists are launching a nationwide drive to persuade public-sector trade union members to tear up their membership cards and stop paying dues, posing a direct threat to the progressive movement in America. Documents obtained by the Guardian reveal that a network of radical conservative thinktanks spanning all 50 states is planning direct marketing campaigns targeted personally at union members to encourage them to quit.... The anti-union marketing drive is the brainchild of the State Policy Network (SPN), a coast-to-coast alliance of 66 rightwing thinktanks that has an $80m war chest ... funded by such billionaire conservative donors as the Koch brothers and the Walton Family Foundation that stems from the Walmart fortune.... The goal, the group said, was 'permanently depriving the left from access to millions of dollars in dues extracted from unwilling union members every election cycle'." Read on. --safari...

...Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! has more.

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." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

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." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Damian Carrington& of the Guardian: "A sharp and mysterious rise in emissions of a key ozone-destroying chemical has been detected by scientists, despite its production being banned around the world. Unless the culprit is found and stopped, the recovery of the ozone layer, which protects life on Earth from damaging UV radiation, could be delayed by a decade. The source of the new emissions has been tracked to east Asia.... CFC chemicals ... were banned under the global Montreal protocol [in 1989] after the discovery of the ozone hole over Antarctica in the 1980s." --safari

News Lede

Weather Channel: "Hawaii's Big Island was rocked early Thursday morning by an explosive eruption at the Kilauea Volcano, which sent ash and debris shooting some 30,000 feet into the air and prompted emergency officials to urge everyone near the peak to shelter in place..... Officials were hopeful that the eruption wouldn't be deadly as long as nobody was in the areas of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park that have been closed since last Friday, when the risk of a large eruption began to increase. The ash, which had been coming from the crater, Halemaumau, for days, prompted a 'red alert' for all aircraft in the area, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory announced Tuesday. Impacts to airplanes by airborne ash can be extremely dangerous, as the fine-grained particles can disrupt plane engines, according to the USGS."

Reader Comments (17)

Per HuffPost The unnamed whistleblower, who reportedly spent a career in law enforcement, told New Yorker reporter Ronan Farrow he grew worried when he was unable to find two SARs on attorney Michael Cohen’s financial dealings in the database.

...yet further down in the article there is this:

"The individuals or corporations involved in the transactions are not yet known, but the Treasury Department’s inspector general has launched an investigation—to find the source of the leak." "kill the messenger "

Shouldn't the inspector general be focusing on who pulled those SARs files in the first place instead?

May 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

@MAG: As I recall, Treasury's inspector general launched the investigation way last week when Avenatti released the SAR, so the IG presumably would not have known that other Cohen SARs had been disappeared.

But there is not much doubt top government officials are more interested in finding leakers than in dealing with whatever criminal act was divulged by the leaker. This is true across governments -- the Obama administration was relentless in its search for & prosecution of whistleblowers -- but of course the Trumpies have the extra personal incentive to keep secrets: their own criminal activity & lies.

I do think it's possible, since the leaker is reportedly a federal official, that s/he could be protected by whistleblower laws. But that's a stretch. If it turns out that the missing SARs were removed or suppressed by an intelligence agency for a lawful reason, then the leaker doesn't have much of a case. Also, if the leaker was so worried about wrongdoing, s/he might have gone to someone within the government -- the Mueller team, a member of the Fed and/or a Democratic MoC -- rather than sending the stuff to a lawyer on a quest to whack the POTUS*. That certainly suggests some motivation other than protecting the remaining Cohen SAR from disappearing.

May 17, 2018 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Though I don't fully understand why the ploy Kevin Drum writes about works so well for Republicans, the outrage, their constant throwing of hands in the air, the shouting of scandal, the prolonged hearings on everything that almost always, after months and months, fade away and produce nothing, Drum does seem to have it right. Silly as it all seems to me, the dramas Republican stage when the Dems are in power must work. Many someones must be listening and taking it all seriously.

I remember the great IRS scandal of the Obama years. Those hearings went on and on and on, but all I could gather from the perpetual noise was that some IRS folks were trying to act responsibly, to do a job made impossible by the "Citizens United" place your bribes here decision, and a job the Republican corporatists for all the obvious reasons certainly didn't want them to do.

That's what I got out of it. But there must have been millions of others who received another message entirely: that there was deep corruption in the IRS, that once again government agencies were acting against the interests of the people, that government itself was the enemy, not the guarantor of freedom, and that the only righteousness left in the world went by the name of Republican.

Bushwah! But apparently believable bushwah to those whose need to believe is so strong they will believe anything, all of which reminds me of that distinction C. S. Lewis (which I've likely mentioned before) made between good and bad literature. Simply this: Good literature appeals to good readers. Bad, to bad.

From that I can conclude only that there are millions of bad Republican readers out there, apparently still eager to lap up the silly stories their party writes for them constructed around their unvarying themes of paranoia, fear and resentment.

In short, a party of potboilers.

May 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

My head is spinning–-the machinations of all-things–corrupt–-combined with all-things–bat-shit-crazy is hard to comprehend much less keep in perspective. So to add to this happy valley venue here is Trevor Noah on fraudulent for-profit schools that are making a comeback thanks to our very own Betsy––that bitty of bounty who is doing such a bang up job of screwing our educational system.

Are we having fun yet?

May 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Oh, that sly Sen. Patrick Leahy to Scott Pruitt about his 'need' to travel first class because of threats, "...but, nobody knows who you are!" Zap!

May 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

Crazy Rudy is at it again, yelling that it's time for the Mueller investigation to be over. Sorry Rudy, investigations are over when all relevant information has been uncovered and carefully considered. As a former headline grabbing prosecutor and mayor, he probably knows that.

But Rudy has it backwards. The Mueller investigation isn't ongoing because it's a witch hunt, his boss's favorite epithet. It's ongoing because there's so much criminal activity to look into. Had Trump been just a garden variety corrupt pol, this thing would have been in the books months ago. But there's nothing garden variety about Trump corruption. We're talking layers and layers of corruption, money laundering, illegalities upon illegalities, along with collusion and treason, cover ups, a blizzard of lies, changing stories, a cast of sleazy chiselers, con artists, and grifters, dark money Russian oligarchs, mobsters, crooked consultants, and self-serving military types, big enough to fill six or seven drugstore novels.

Next time Donnie, just grab the money in the till and run your fat ass out the door. It'll all be over quickly.

May 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus


Your reference to drugstore fiction offerings (do they still have those pb laden racks children can spin just for fun?) makes me wonder why, despite what I said about the party of potboilers eager to consume unending reams of trash, Trumpots haven't so far displayed an equal avidity to follow all the twists and turns of this priceless plot.

It's, as you say, the apotheosis of bad fiction.

I should know, because I'm enjoying the hell out of it.

May 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

The Enemy Within

Lyin' Ryan scheduled a briefing this week to update members of congress on all the wonderful things the GOP and the Trumpies have done to protect upcoming elections from the sort of hacking that put Trump in the White House in the first place. It's a short list: nothing. At least nothing that matters.

With primaries already in full swing and general elections in a few months, there is little that will be done to ensure secure and trustworthy elections. And this is just the way Confederates like it. A complete overhaul of election systems in this country would take years, not weeks. It will never happen while Confederates are in charge.

At the beginning of World War II, an MIT graduate in electrical engineering and mathematics, Claude Shannon, went to work at Bell Labs. He specialized in converting mathematical abstractions into real world wonders. His work in cryptography has become legendary and for a time in 1943 he worked with Alan Turing, the British mathematician who cracked the Nazis' Enigma Code. Shannon's work was so advanced that his bosses at Bell Labs pretty much left him alone, mostly because they couldn't understand what he was doing. All they knew was, whatever he was working on, it was far ahead of its time.

What he was doing was helping to invent information technology, the digital revolution. While working on security for communications systems, he developed a rule still known in cryptography circles as Shannon's Maxim: "The enemy knows the system". In other words " ought to design systems under the assumption that the enemy will immediately gain full familiarity with them".

Voting systems in this country are anything but secure. And in addition to making sure that these systems remain insecure, Confederates have been busy with all manner of extra-technical election rigging. The list is a long one but here's one example (in addition to the widespread aggressive gerrymandering). In Iowa, a bill making its way through the legislature will make it a law that Republican names are always printed at the top of all ballots. Now this might not seem like a big deal, but they are using cutting edge weasel-ology. Research has shown that names at the top of the ballot have a distinct (ie, measurable) advantage. Even if it's only a 2% advantage, in a tight race, that's all they need.

Confederates game the system in every way possible while Democrats sit back and argue amongst themselves.

As for those insecure voting systems, there have been many attempts, some serious, some half-hearted, by Democrats and good government groups to make voting more trustworthy, but these attempts have been thwarted at all turns by Republicans who see a fair and honest election system as antithetical to their existence. The leader of that party goes so far as to get help from other countries to rig elections, to eke out that tiny but oh so important extra percentage point in order to impose control.

A slight change in Shannon's Maxim better describes the reality of voting in America today: The enemy doesn't just know the system. The enemy owns the system.

May 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

We've seen this here before, but here's the "Daily Mail" song:

and this

May 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick


Yup, there still are paperbacks in drugstores, but I haven't seen those spinning racks in a while (shades of my youth). I think CS Lewis is correct in his assessment of readers but I would add a sub-category (probably more like the dominant category) for winger readers: bad readers and non-readers, those who mainline Fox. I suppose as long as they're literate enough to read the lower thirds "Obama to blame for EVERYTHING!!! Sez Trump", they're good.

Although I'm pretty sure if a novel with a story line featuring minorities and immigrants getting theirs, and uppity broads being shown the door and shoved back in the kitchen with duct tape around their mouths, a few chapters of bombs dropping on mooslims, left-leaning FBI directors shown up as traitors, and non-Christians getting the Left Behind treatment, it'd be a best seller in TrumpWorld.

I can see the Hannity blurbs already. "An epik for our tyme!"

May 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Knee slapper of the day, from a WaPo article (linked above) about a resolution in the Senate to restore net neutrality rules currently under attack by Trump and his corporate lackey at the FCC, Ajit Pai.

"The resolution, or CRA for short, passed with the backing of all 49 Democratic senators and three Republicans: Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John N. Kennedy of Louisiana and Lisa A. Murkowski of Alaska.... Still, it is unclear what fate may await the measure in the House."

Unclear? In the House? No it's not. That's like saying the fate of millions of turkeys the week before Thanksgiving is up in the air.

May 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Akhilleus: Thanksgiving turkeys "up in the air"? Thanksgiving turkeys cain't fly. I guess that's your point.

May 17, 2018 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

What!? Sure they can. Just ask Les Nessman.

May 17, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterunwashed

Sci-unce for Dummies

I threw a rock into the sea.
Fare thee well, Miami.
I dropped a brick off of my boat.
Sure hope Brooklynites can float.
A boulder splashed and as I feared,
The state of Hawaii disappeared.
Land will soon be out of reach
So control yourself when you're at the beach.

May 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Fred Singer has been around for a long time. His last academic appointment seems to have been at George Mason University (where else?), and since long before that he's been earning his chops as a public skeptic on a variety of issues, not coincidentally I think it fair to conclude, when skepticism pays well. Over the years his consultancies have included tobacco and fossil fuel companies and a multitude of defense contractors. Though I didn't find the reference, I think he was also a public voice for Reagan's Star Wars missile defense system.

Here's an excerpt from "Wikipedia" on this well-paid crank. So glad to see he made his way into the Congressional Record again.

"The public debates in which Singer has received most criticism have been about second-hand smoke and global warming. He has questioned the link between second-hand smoke and lung cancer, and has been an outspoken opponent of the mainstream scientific view on climate change; he argues there is no evidence that increases in carbon dioxide produced by human beings is causing global warming and that the temperature of the earth has always varied.[10] A CBC Fifth Estate documentary in 2006 linked these two debates, naming Singer as a scientist who has acted as a consultant to industry in both areas, either directly or through a public relations firm.[8] Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway named Singer in their book, Merchants of Doubt, as one of three contrarian physicists—along with Fred Seitz and Bill Nierenberg—who regularly injected themselves into the public debate about contentious scientific issues, positioning themselves as skeptics, their views gaining traction because the media gives them equal time out of a sense of fairness.[51]"

And I thought Reagan got rid of the "fairness doctrine," but not to worry, Lamar Smith and his Repugnat buddies are apparently still foursquare behind it.

May 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes


Charlatans like Singer survive and prosper far outside any Darwinian court of intellectual perspicuity because of an invidious permutation of Dick Cheney’s abominable one percent doctrine as employed by baleful (and lazy) media both siders. If there is close to a one percent chance that some bullshit flim-flam could possibly have some value (in some Twilight Zone universe inhabited by drug addicts), the media will treat it as 100% accurate.

May 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

The plot has become so thick with nincompoop sons-in-law, it's become a neutron star.

May 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGloria
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