The Wires

Public Service Announcement

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Commentariat -- May 23, 2019

Afternoon Update:

Glenn Thrush of the New York Times: "If Mr. Trump's preplanned Rose Garden explosionproved anything, it is that the president is willing to sacrifice his own stated policy agenda [link fixed] to keep 'presidential harassment' front and center, and that the speaker, who wants to focus on policy, is leveraging decades of hard-won political capital to keep her party from pursuing an impeachment path that she believes could cost House Democrats their majority in 2020 and keep Mr. Trump in the White House.... For now, she is guided by two political goals: protecting the 40 newly elected Democratic members, who largely come from moderate or conservative districts, and avoiding Mr. Trump's traps. And Wednesday was a good day for her.... But even Ms. Pelosi's closest allies wonder how long she can hold the line against impeachment if the president continues to ignore the House's demands."

Morgan Gstalter of the Hill: "Calls for President Trump to resign began circulating on Twitter on Thursday morning, mocking the president for throwing a '#TrumpTantrum' and walking out of a meeting with Democratic leadership this week.... The official Twitter account for The Democratic Coalition, an anti-Trump super PAC that targets Republican officials and candidates, began circulating calls for Trump to resign over the incident.... The #TrumpMustResign hashtag quickly gained momentum online, with more than 60,000 people using it on Twitter."

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post: "This is not the work of an orderly mind. President Trump stormed into the Cabinet Room 15 minutes late Wednesday morning and news conference -- or, more accurately, a 12-minute parade of paranoia.... People often describe him as 'unraveling,' but that implies he was once fully knitted.... At the moment, he seems to be transparently mad."

Andrew Martin of Bloomberg via Yahoo!: "A Chicago banker who lent millions of dollars to Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was charged by prosecutors with bribery for seeking a post in the Trump administration in return for $16 million in loans. Stephen Calk was appointed to a post as economic adviser to Donald Trump's campaign in summer 2016, days after his bank approved a $9.5 million loan, federal prosecutors in New York said. Months later, after Trump was elected president, Calk was recommended for a position in the Trump administration while loans worth more than $6 million were awaiting approval at Calk's bank, they said. Calk presented a list of positions he wanted, ranking them from secretary of the Treasury on down to 19 ambassador posts beginning with the U.K. and France, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday. A former U.S. Army helicopter pilot, Calk, 54, faces a single count of financial institution bribery."

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue Uses More Cash to Paper over Trump's Disastrous Trade Wars. Jeff Daniels & Christina Wilkie of CNBC: "The Trump administration announced a $16 billion trade aid program for American farmers that includes a three-prong trade aid package for American farmers who have been hurt by the U.S. trade war with China. The centerpiece of the program is cash payments totaling $14.5 billion to producers of a variety of crops as well as dairy and pork producers impacted by retaliatory tariffs. U.S. tariff revenue collected by the Treasury would be used to support the payment program, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture."

Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "A top Democratic official on Wednesday canceled a planned fund-raiser for an anti-abortion congressman [Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.)] that had prompted an outcry among progressives, raising the question of whether there is room left in the party for lawmakers who oppose abortion at a moment when numerous Republican-controlled states are trying to effectively outlaw the procedure. The decision by Representative Cheri Bustos of Illinois, the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, underscored the extent to which support for abortion rights has become a central litmus test for Democrats in the aftermath of President Trump's two appointments to the Supreme Court."

Mayor Pete Takes on Cadet Bone Spurs. Scott Bixby of the Daily Beast: "... on Thursday morning, [Pete] Buttigieg brought up his own military service in a newly aggressive way, telling a reporter during a live event that ... Donald Trump faked a disability to avoid serving in the Vietnam War -- a pointed reference to the long-disputed diagnosis of bone spurs that kept Trump from serving. Buttigieg, himself a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, was responding to a question from The Washington Post's Robert Costa about potentially debating the president.... 'I have a pretty dim view of his decision to use his privileged status to fake a disability in order to avoid serving in Vietnam,' Buttigieg replied.... '... this is somebody who, I think it's fairly obvious to most of us, took advantage of the fact that he was the child of a multi-millionaire in order to pretend to be disabled so that somebody could go to war in his place.'"

The part of Rachel Maddow's Wednesday opening segment that begins at about 10:35 minutes in is particularly good. Maddows shows how former presidents Nixon & Clinton, when facing the threat of impeachment, kept on keeping on, as opposed of course to our Fake President*, who announced he would not work with Congress until they stop doing their oversight job:


The Trump Scandals, Ctd.

John Fritze & Michael Collins of USA Today: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused ... Donald Trump of having a 'temper tantrum' over Democratic investigations Wednesday and suggested his Rose Garden blowup was about politics more than infrastructure. ''Sadly, the only job the president seems to be concerned with is his own,' Pelosi wrote in a letter to lawmakers released to reporters. 'He threatened to stop working with Democrats on all legislation unless we end oversight of his administration and he had a temper tantrum for us all to see.' Trump disputed that characterization in a tweet late Wednesday. 'This is not true. I was purposely very polite and calm, much as I was minutes later with the press in the Rose Garden,' Trump wrote. 'Can be easily proven. It is all such a lie!'"

Trump Goes Nuts. Peter Baker & Katie Rogers of the New York Times: "President Trump abruptly blew up a scheduled meeting with Democratic congressional leaders on Wednesday, lashing out at Speaker Nancy Pelosi for accusing him of a cover-up and declaring that he could not work with them until they stopped investigating him. He then marched out into the Rose Garden, where reporters had been gathered, and delivered a statement bristling with anger as he demanded that Democrats' get these phony investigations over with.' He said they could not legislate and investigate at the same time. 'We're going to go down one track at a time,' he said.... When [Pelosi] and Senator Chuck Schumer arrived at the White House, Mr. Trump was loaded for bear. He walked into the Cabinet Room, did not shake anyone's hand or sit in his seat, according to a Democrat informed about the meeting. He said he wanted to advance legislation on infrastructure, trade and other matters, but that 'Speaker Pelosi said something terrible today and accused me of a cover-up,' according to the Democrat. After just three minutes, he left the room before anyone else could speak, the Democrat said." (Also linked yesterday.) ...

     ... Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Once again, Nancy easily boxed Donnie into a corner. No one thought Democrats & Republicans would get together on an infrastructure bill, but before today, that impasse appeared to be a function of partisan gridlock. Now, by declaring that he couldn't work with Congress at all while oversight investigations continued, Trump took 100 percent ownership of the barren landscape. It is not Democrats who can't do two things at once; it's Trump. He boasted about it. Chuck Schumer walked into the scheduled meeting-that-wasn't with a 35-page infrastructure plan. The administration had nothing, although Democrats had previously asked him -- and Trump agreed -- to prepare his own plans for financing infrastructure projects. Many voters are aware that Congress is always investigating stuff; that's part of their mandate. Trump has announced he can't do anything while Congress is doing its job. For the next 17 months, he has nothing left to do but lock himself in the residence & watch Fox "News." Nancy whupped him. ...

... Trish Turner, et al., of ABC News: Trump was angry that just hours earlier, Pelosi, after a hastily-called Democratic caucus meeting on members' growing calls for impeachment, said, 'We believe that no one is above the law, including the president of the United States, and we believe the president of the United States in engaged in a cover-up.'... The president, according to sources, was mad from first thing Wednesday morning and the Pelosi remarks about a 'cover-up' pushed him over the edge. He then demanded to speak to cameras.... Senior level administration sources tell ABC News some aides close to the president tried to stop him for marching to the Rose Garden for the last-minute press conference.... But the president may have played into Pelosi's hands. Instead of attention aimed on how she is trying to hold her caucus back from impeachment -- a step Democratic leaders think could imperil their chances of taking down Trump at the ballot box in 2020 -- Pelosi and Schumer could change the focus to the president's behavior." ...

... Earlier That Same Day ... Caitlin Oprysko of Politico: "... Donald Trump complained Wednesday that the fresh push from some congressional Democrats for impeachment proceedings amounts to 'presidential harassment,' bemoaning ahead of a Democratic Caucus meeting that lawmakers 'are getting zero work done.' 'Everything the Democrats are asking me for is based on an illegally started investigation that failed for them, especially when the Mueller Report came back with a NO COLLUSION finding,' dismissing their efforts as a fishing attempt in order to bolster an impeachment inquiry,' the president wrote on Twitter. 'Now they say Impeach President Trump, even though he did nothin [sic] wrong, while they "fish!"'" Mrs. McC: In other words, he ranted all morning long. ...

... Mrs. McCrabbie: A couple of weeks ago, Nancy Pelosi remarked that Trump "is almost self-impeaching." Pundits couldn't figure out what she meant. Well, now Trump has done the show to Pelosi's tell: he has publicly announced that he will not carry out his sworn Constitutionally-mandated oath to faithfully execute the Office of President"; that is, that he will abdicate. Lawrence O'Donnell views Trump's refusal to perform his duties as yet another impeachable offense. ...

... Justin Wise of the Hill: "CNN host Jake Tapper on Wednesday fact-checked what he called 'lies' and 'flat out misleading' statistics displayed on a sign President Trump used to complement his criticism of Democrats and special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.... He takes issue with the poster's inclusion of the statements, 'No Collusion' and 'No Obstruction.' Tapper notes that while Mueller did not find sufficient evidence to conclude a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Moscow took place, that it did identify numerous links between the two. 'Mueller specifically said that collusion was not a legal term and the report was not going to address it all,' Tapper said, going onto note that Mueller made no conclusive determination regarding obstruction of justice. 'And if you read the report, Mueller in detail describes at least 10 instances which may have constituted obstruction. And Mueller clearly leaves itup to Congress to proceed,' he said." ...

... Steve Benen of NBC News: "First, Trump's infrastructure plan was already dying due to Republican opposition. Even his White House chief of staff has said he's against Trump's plan. By walking away from today's meeting, the president is obviously trying to blame Democrats for the fact that Trump couldn't even get his own party to sign on.... Second, we already know the president's excuse -- he won't work with lawmakers investigating his scandals -- is demonstrably false. Indeed, Trump sat down with Democratic leaders three weeks ago to work on an infrastructure deal, and there were several ongoing congressional investigations underway at the time.... Telling Democrats the legislative process will end unless they end all oversight isn't much of a threat. Mitch McConnell has already derailed the legislative process, and if every investigation of Trump's scandals were to end today, the infrastructure plan would still have no chance of success." ...

... Snark Attack. Cristina Cabrera of TPM: "'I knew he was looking for a way out,' Pelosi said [after Trump walked out of the scheduled meeting].... 'We were expecting this.' [Kellyanne] Conway then asked Pelosi if she had 'a direct response' to Trump's complaints. The House Speaker told Conway that she was going to respond to the President, not his staff, the Times reported. 'Really great,' Conway shot back. 'That's really pro-woman of you.'" ...

... Oops! Grant Stern of the Washington Press: "It would appear that President Trump admitted that he lied in written answers given to Special Counsel Robert Mueller during his appearance at the White House [Wednesday] morning[:] 'You heard so much talk about phone calls made that my son made to me from this meeting ...' Trump continued, seemingly referring to the infamous June 9th, 2016 meeting where his son Don Jr met indicted Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. 'Of the three calls, that were so horrible, that he had a meeting and called me, and had the meeting after and he made two more calls.'... That statement is pivotal because it directly contradicts the story that Trump gave under oath to Special Counsel Mueller in response to the prosecutor's questions about who knew what when, over events that the Senate Intel Committee's investigation is still probing. Don Jr. is set to testify to that panel early next month. 'Trump just admitted he received a call from Don Jr., before "the" meeting which corroborates Michael Cohen's testimony to Mueller,' says attorney and MSNBC legal contributor Katie Phang. 'It's now fair to say that Donald Trump and his son have lied about the elder Trump knowing about this meeting happening, and why it happened.'... The Mueller Report concluded ... that there was no documentary evidence of [Donald Senior's] knowledge that Don Jr. had met with the Russians." Emphasis original. ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Stern appears to be right. Unfortunately, Trump's syntax is so hopelessly garbled that I think he can wiggle out of the accidental admission.

Never-Trumper Rick Wilson of The Daily Beast: "I've been a deep skeptic of impeachment as a political strategy, putting me solidly in the Nancy Pelosi go-slow camp. I've argued time and again that the smart play is IIABN: Impeachment in All but Name.... Can you make an impeachment case for obstruction based purely on the released information in the Mueller Report? Absolutely. Are you there yet politically? Nope.... I feel your pain and frustration, but unless you convict him in the Senate and destroy his political future, you're not fucking anyone; you're just enjoying a masturbatory revenge fantasy.... It's a damn good week.... The arc of this story is moving the right direction. Keep doing the things that work, Democrats. Impeachment is the end goal, not the first step, and you're closing in." --s

** Emily Flitter of the New York Times: "A federal judge on Wednesday rejected President Trump's request to block his longtime lender, Deutsche Bank, from complying with congressional subpoenas. Judge Edgardo Ramos of United States District Court in Manhattan issued his ruling after hearing arguments from lawyers for Mr. Trump and his family, as well as two Democratic-controlled congressional committees. 'I will not enjoin enforcement of the subpoenas,' Mr. Ramos said, and added that he thought it was unlikely Mr. Trump and his family would win in a trial. The ruling was the second setback this week for Mr. Trump's efforts to prevent the release of his financial records.... The decision came the same day the New York legislature passed a bill that would allow Congress to obtain Mr. Trump's state tax returns from the state."

Leigh Ann Caldwell & Alex Moe of NBC News: "A key congressional committee has already gained access to ... Donald Trump's dealings with two major financial institutions, two sources familiar with the House probe tell NBC News, as a court ruling Wednesday promised to open the door for even more records to be handed over. Wells Fargo and TD Bank are the two of nine institutions that have so far complied with subpoenas issued by the House Financial Services Committee [chaired by Maxine Waters (D-Calif.)] demanding information about their dealings with the Trump Organization, according to the sources."

Eric Tucker of the AP: "It was Michael Cohen's numerous contacts with a Russia-linked company and a sudden flow of foreign money into a bank account he controlled that led federal investigators to look into whether the money might be part of a plan to lift U.S. sanctions on Russia, according to court filings unsealed Wednesday. Five search warrant applications, from the early stages of ... Robert Mueller's Russia investigation in 2017, were made public in response to requests from The Associated Press and other media organizations.... Investigators were especially curious about deposits of about $500,000 from an account linked to an investment management firm, Columbus Nova, LLC. The warrants tie that firm and the holding company that controls it to Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch with ties to ... Vladimir Putin.... Prosecutors said Cohen exchanged over 230 phone calls and 950 text messages with the CEO of Columbus Nova between Nov. 8, 2016, and July 14, 2017. There were no text messages or telephone calls before Election Day in 2016, prosecutors said."

Naomi Jagoda of the Hill: "Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday said that the department is trying to find out who wrote a draft IRS memo that found that the agency has to provide tax returns to Congress unless executive privilege is invoked." Mrs. McC: Hmm, sounds like an actual witch hunt. (Also linked yesterday.)

Alexander Nazaryan of Yahoo! News: "... Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., called on former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to testify on Capitol Hill about his involvement in Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump presidential campaign.... 'I think he should be brought before' the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees, and we are taking steps along that regard,' said Schiff. The remarks came in a conversation with MSNBC host Ari Melber, who interviewed Schiff as part of the annual Ideas Conference of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.... A Harvard-trained lawyer, Schiff chose his response to Melber carefully. 'It would be more than reasonable to infer that I think it's fully appropriate for him to come and testify before Congress,' he said. Schiff said he specifically wanted to know the circumstances under which Rosenstein wrote the Comey memo, and whether he was aware that Trump was planning to use that document as a pretext to fire the FBI director. Schiff also wondered if writing that memo should have led to Rosenstein recusing himself from the Russia investigation -- or, at the very least, to an official ethics opinion about his involvement." ...

... Ha Ha. Naomi Lin of the Washington Examiner: "House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., doesn't believe Attorney General William Barr should remain the country's top law enforcement officer, comparing him in colorful terms with President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. 'I hesitate to call him the AG -- he's really more the personal attorney to the president,' Schiff told the Center for American Progress' 2019 Ideas Conference in Washington, D.C. 'I think Bill Barr has all the duplicity of Rudy Giuliani without the good looks and general likability.'"

Kyle Cheney of Politico: "The House Intelligence Committee has postponed a potential vote to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress, citing efforts by the Justice Department to comply with their demand for access to ... Robert Mueller's files. 'The Department of Justice has accepted our offer of a first step towards compliance with our subpoena, and this week will begin turning over to the Committee twelve categories of counterintelligence and foreign intelligence materials as part of an initial rolling production,' committee chairman Adam Schiff said in a statement Wednesday. 'That initial production should be completed by the end of next week.'" (Also linked yesterday.)

Jim Mustian & Larry Neumeister of the AP: "Michael Avenatti, the attorney who rocketed to fame through his representation of porn star Stormy Daniels in her battles with ... Donald Trump, was charged Wednesday with ripping her off. Federal prosecutors in New York City say Avenatti used a doctored document to divert about $300,000 that Daniels was supposed to get from a book deal, then used the money for personal and business expenses. Only half of that money was paid back, prosecutors said. Daniels isn't named in the court filing, but the details of the case ... make it clear that she is the client involved. Avenatti denied the allegations on Twitter.... Avenatti was previously charged in New York with trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike by threatening to expose claims that the shoemaker paid off high school basketball players to steer them to Nike-sponsored colleges. And in Los Angeles, he's facing a multicount federal indictment alleging that he stole millions of dollars from clients, didn't pay taxes, committed bank fraud and lied during bankruptcy proceedings."

When an Ignoramus Met a Wily Pro. John Hudson & Josh Dawsey
of the Washington Post: "Former secretary of state Rex Tillerson told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Russian President Vladimir Putin out-prepared President Trump during a key meeting in Germany, putting the U.S. leader at a disadvantage during their first series of tête-à-têtes. The U.S. side anticipated a shorter meeting for exchanging courtesies, but it ballooned into a globe-spanning two-hour-plus session involving deliberations on a variety of geopolitical issues, said committee aides, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity.... 'We spent a lot of time in the conversation talking about how Putin seized every opportunity to push what he wanted,' a committee aide said. 'There was a discrepancy in preparation, and it created an unequal footing.'... Trump countered his former aide, saying in a statement that he 'was perfectly prepared for my meetings with Vladimir Putin. We did very well at those meetings.'... In the past, Trump has downplayed the importance of preparation, saying his gut instinct and ability to read a room are paramount for a successful summit."

S. V. Date of the Huffington Post: "Donald Trump's golf habit has already cost taxpayers at least $102 million in extra travel and security expenses, and next month will achieve a new milestone: a seven-figure presidential visit to another country so he can play at his own course.... And, notwithstanding Trump's campaign promise that if elected he would not play golf at all, the White House has done preliminary work for Trump's visit to his resort on the west coast of Ireland next month, according to Irish media and government sources, even though no official meeting with Irish leaders is planned in the capital, Dublin. Late Tuesday afternoon, the White House announced that Trump would meet with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in Shannon, just 30 miles by air from Trump's golf resort in Doonbeg.... The $102 million total to date spent on Trump's presidential golfing represents 255 times the annual presidential salary he volunteered not to take.... While Republicans and Trump himself frequently criticized former President Barack Obama for his golf outings, Trump has spent more than twice as many days on the links, to date, as Obama did at the same point in his first term. And because Trump has insisted on dozens of trips to New Jersey and Florida to play at his resorts there, taxpayers are spending more than three times as much as they did for golf by the same point in Obama's term." ...

     ... Mrs. McCrabbie: Obviously the reason Trump chooses to play at his own courses is to garner free advertising for the resorts connected to them. See Emoluments Clause. President Obama often played at public courses.

AP: "The Pentagon on Thursday will present plans to the White House to send up to 10,000 more troops to the Middle East, in a move to beef up defenses against potential Iranian threats, US officials said Wednesday. The officials said no final decision had been made yet, and it was not clear if the White House would approve sending all or just some of the requested forces. Officials said the move was not in response to any new threat from Iran but was aimed at reinforcing security in the region. They said the troops would be defensive forces, and the discussions include additional Patriot missile batteries, more ships and increased efforts to monitor Iran." --s

Missy Ryan & Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post: "Acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan has mandated new restrictions on the way the Pentagon shares information with Congress about military operations around the world, a move that is straining ties with key Republican and Democratic lawmakers. In a May 8 internal memo..., Shanahan lays out the criteria for when Pentagon officials may provide congressional offices or committees information they request about operational plans and orders. The memo comes as lawmakers from both parties complain that the Trump administration has withheld information that prevents them from executing their constitutionally mandated oversight role. Some lawmakers are also concerned about whether Shanahan has allowed the military to be drawn too deeply into President Trump's immigration agenda." (Also linked yesterday.)

Donna Borak of CNN: "Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday rebuffed claims by House Democrats that his refusal to comply with a congressional request for ... Donald Trump's personal tax returns is a violation of the law.... 'I have been advised I am not violating the law. I would have never done anything to violate the law. Quite the contrary, I was advised had I turned them over I would be violating the law.' [Mnuchin said during a Congressional hearing.] Trump's top finance chief was repeatedly pressed by House Democrats over his decision last week to refuse to turn over Trump's tax returns under an obscure law that specifies the Treasury secretary 'shall furnish' the information requested by the heads of the tax-writing committees.... Mnuchin also repeatedly denied any political interference in his decision-making around the tax return issue, stating that he didn't discuss the matter with anyone inside or outside of the White House, including the President himself." Mrs. McC: Mnuchin also refused to answer a Congresswoman's repeated question as to whether or not he had directed the IRS Commissioner to refuse to honor the request for returns. ...

... Andrew Jackson Forever Until 2028! Tucker Higgins of CNBC: "The redesign of the $20 bill featuring Harriet Tubman will no longer be unveiled in 2020, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday. The unveiling had been timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. Mnuchin said the design process has been delayed and no new imagery will be unveiled until 2028. 'The primary reason we have looked at redesigning the currency is for counterfeiting issues,' Mnuchin said in response to questions by Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., during a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee. 'Based upon this, the $20 bill will now not come out until 2028. The $10 bill and the $50 bill will come out with new features beforehand.'... The Tubman design was announced in 2016 by former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew following a 10-month process in which the department sought input from the public." Mrs. McC: Apparently Mnuchin can't produce new currency & stonewall Congressional investigations at the same time. Akhilleus, in yesterday's Comments, had some choice observations on Mnuchin's decision to dump the Tubman bill. ...

... Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "Mr. Mnuchin, concerned that the president might create an uproar by canceling the new bill altogether, was eager to delay its redesign until Mr. Trump was out of office, some senior Treasury Department officials have said. As a presidential candidate in 2016, Mr. Trump criticized the Obama administration's plans for the bill. That April, Mr. Trump called the change 'pure political correctness' and suggested that Tubman, whom he praised, could be added to a far less common denomination, like the $2 bill. 'Andrew Jackson had a great history, and I think it's very rough when you take somebody off the bill,' Mr. Trump said at the time." Mrs. McC: Yes, Jackson had a "great history" if you look favorably upon slavery ("at the time of his death in 1845, Jackson owned approximately 150 people who lived and worked on the property") and genocide.

Alan Pyke of ThinkProgress: "Transgender and gender non-conforming people could soon be barred from federally funded shelters, after the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced plans Wednesday to scrap recently added regulator protections. HUD&'s rulemaking would rescind the Equal Access Rule that currently requires shelters that wish to segregate clients according to their gender to modify their structures accordingly -- rather than turn people away.... Less than 24 hours prior, [Ben] Carson testified to House members that he was 'not currently anticipating changing the rule.'" --s

Liz Crampton of Politico: "The Agriculture Department is moving nearly all its researchers into the economic effects of climate change, trade policy and food stamps -- subjects of controversial Trump administration initiatives -- outside of Washington, part of what employees claim is a political crackdown on economists whose assessments have raised questions about the president's policies.... [E]mployees claim the department's leadership, including [Agriculture Secretary Sonny] Perdue, turned against the research service after an estimate early last year suggested that the Republican-backed tax plan would largely benefit the wealthiest farmers.... Neil Conklin, a former senior administrator at ERS [Economic Research Service] under the George W. Bush administration, said the agency stands to be fundamentally changed by the relocation. 'This is going to be very destructive of the agency, as certainly as we'’ve known it,' Conklin said." --s

Presidential Race 2020

Jonathan Easley of the Hill: "A new poll finds that a strong majority of voters believes that President Trump does not deserve a second term in office. A Monmouth University survey released Wednesday found that only 37 percent of voters believe Trump should be reelected, while 60 percent said they think it's time to have someone new in the White House. That's the highest percentage of voters saying they're eager for change since Monmouth first began asking the question in November. The numbers come weeks ahead of Trump's expected official launch for his 2020 reelection campaign." Mrs. McC: He surely did not help his case with that Rose Garden meltdown Wednesday.

Matthew Schwartz of NPR: "President Hillary Clinton? That would have been the result of the 2016 presidential election -- if the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact were in effect. With a state Senate vote Tuesday, Nevada is close to becoming the latest state to sidestep the Electoral College when it comes to electing presidents. According to the National Popular Vote organization, which oversees efforts to persuade states to join the compact, 14 states and the District of Columbia have agreed to pledge their 189 electors to the winner of the national popular vote -- regardless of which candidate won the state. Nevada, with its six electoral votes, would bring the total to 195. Once 270 electors are pledged, the compact would kick in. The effort is part of a national movement to neuter the Electoral College and give more weight to the popular vote. Democrats in particular have been stung by the Electoral College, which effectively gives disproportional voting power to smaller, rural states that tend to vote Republican. In addition to President Trump, George W. Bush also won the White House without winning the popular vote."

Congressional Race 2020. Jonathan Oosting & Melissa Burke of the Detroit News: "The powerful DeVos family of West Michigan is ending its longtime support of U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, the libertarian Republican who has repeatedly clashed with ... Donald Trump. The family has not made any political contributions to Amash this cycle, and 'they have no plans to do so,' said family spokesman Nick Wasmiller. The GOP megadonors decided to cut ties with Amash before his latest dust-up with the president and assertion Trump engaged in 'impeachable conduct,' Wasmiller told The Detroit News."

Beyond the Beltway

Boycott Georgia. Adrienne Masha Varkiani of ThinkProgress: "A growing number of filmmakers and production companies are announcing they will not do business in Georgia following the state's decision to enact a six-week abortion ban.... The majority of production companies doing business in Georgia however, have yet to take action..., waiting to see whether the ban will actually take effect.... On Monday, a Democratic lawmaker in California proposed a bill offering tax breaks to production companies that relocate from states with 'strict abortion bans,' like Georgia and Alabama." --s

Virginia. Mel Leonor & Michael Martz of the Richmond Times-Dispatch: “A months-long investigation into a racist yearbook photo that appeared on Gov. Ralph Northam's 1984 medical school yearbook page could not 'conclusively' determine who is in the photo or how it ended up there. The report also says the current and previous presidents of Eastern Virginia Medical School had known about the photo for years, but chose not to publicly disclose the information. Both leaders declined to release the photo or alert Northam about it, arguing that they did not want to influence the political process, according to the report.... A team hired by EVMS released its much-anticipated, 55-page report Wednesday, shedding some light into the culture at EVMS at the time, but delivering little about the photo, which depicts a person in blackface and another in a Ku Klux Klan robe."

Way Beyond

Israel/Palestine. Oliver Holmes & Quique Kierzenbaum of the Guardian: "Israel plans to name a new settlement after Donald Trump on land it captured from Syria, as a token of gratitude to the US president for recognising its contested claim to the occupied territory. Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has said he would press his next government, which he is still in the process of formingto approve the naming of the new community in Heights." --safari: Will the illegal settlement pay licensing rights?

United Kingdom. Fear of Milkshakes. Ellie Cambridge of the British tabloid Sun: Brexit super-advocate & Friend of Trump "Nigel Farage reportedly refused to get off his Brexit Party campaign bus after people gathered round it carrying milkshakes. His bodyguards were keen to avoid another splattering days after he raged at them for letting a protester douse him with a caramel shake in Newcastle.... According to Kent Live, the ex-Ukip leader did eventually get off the bus, but stayed close to the vehicle as he spoke to supporters.... The milkshake incident comes today despite McDonald's branches in Edinburgh posting signs saying that milkshakes and ice creams would not be for sale ahead of Brexit party rallies. The fast food chain claimed police had asked them not to sell shakes or ice cream to stop any embarrassing splatters."

Reader Comments (13)

So Kellyanne Conway wants to criticize the Speaker for not being pro-woman enough? Is that why Conway lies through her teeth every day to protect and serve a pussy-grabbing, misogynistic serial philanderer? Now that’s pro-woman, right Kellyanne?

In some ways you really have to hand it to Republicans. Chutzpah like you read about. They’d lie about murder to St. Peter at the pearly gates then attack him for letting in a Democrat who fibbed about eating a cookie when he was five.

May 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus


Here's Colbert, Meyers & Cordon having fun with the Lazy Lion in the Rose Garden.

I find myself shouting at the pundits who at times talk as though Trump is a normal human being that by chance has become the president. "He seems to think he can do whatever he wants" said with incredulity. WHAT! YOU JUST FIGURED THAT OUT?

I think it was Rachel last night who listed all the congressional business–-laws passed–- both Nixon and Clinton managed to achieve while they were both under impeachment inquiry. For some–-and there appear to be many–-who still think (pretend) that Trump is playing a fair hand of cards and is not bonkers will continue believing this charade to the end, but if this CHEAT continues flouting his duties due to the investigations then the end is gonna come quicker than we thought and those cards stuffed up his sleeve will come tumbling forth forthrightly. Amen.

May 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

I see two races being run, the electoral and judicial, with the Pretender's and the country's fate over the next two years in the balance.

Can the Pretender pack the courts (ah, Kate whereever you are, yes!, the Supremes) with his pet ninnies fast enough to avert or forestall what now seems the likely 2020 electoral outcome?

On the judicial front, one of the Pretender's problems: The Federalist Society acolytes who provide most of the Pretender's court nominees tend to be avowed and unimaginative Originalists, and the Constitution, while ambiguous on many points, is pretty clear on the separation of powers, something the Pretender clearly has no truck for.

Yesterday's tantrum and the recent court decisions, which also energized the Pretender's tizzy, are cases in point.

I'd like to see the Pretender gone tomorrow, but watching him twist in the political winds does have its satisfactions.

Best case: He will remain in office long enough for all the seamy details of the steaming pile of corruption on which he has built his life to become public knowledge and no lawyerly wall he attempts to build will be big enough for him to hide successfully behind.

May 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

Crazier than we thought?

It would be interesting to know what Trump truly thinks and believes. Was his outrage yesterday at Nancy Pelosi's true statement that he is orchestrating a cover-up manufactured? Was it real? Or was it just for show, another bit of Trumpian stage management?

In other words, does he truly believe he is completely innocent of all charges and that there is no cover-up going on? Maybe he tells himself that no one gets to know anything about him he doesn't want to allow. Maybe he believes that there is nothing wrong with breaking the law because he's The Donald and he's always broken laws, and don't people get that? What's the problem?

All the lies seem to point in another direction (that he's fully aware of his myriad transgressions and can't bear for all those horrible lesser people, those not anywhere near his level of wonderfulness, to be able to lord it over him) but what if the lies are mostly instinctual. He lies. That's the way it is. He's always lied. Truth is overrated and it doesn't make you rich, he has always believed. He basically says as much in those ghostwritten books (which he likely has never read). Lie to people and you make money. This is what Daddy taught him. But Donald has brought it to a level never before seen in American politics, outside of the truly deranged.

But even if there's a tiny bit of truth to the idea that he believes no one has a right to question him and that he's doing nothing wrong, then he's a whole helluva lot crazier than I thought he was.

Which presents two roads leading to the same conclusion. Either he's a scheming, manipulative liar who fully understands the depth of his lawlessness and just doesn't give a shit. Or his megalomania and delusional state of mind put him completely into the bonkers category. Whichever it is, he's gotta go.

But given the very real possibility that he truly is psychologically unstable, I mean unstable to the point of being unable to tell right from wrong, we've been very lucky so far. I'm betting that guys like Putin (see article linked above), after talking with Trump for a couple of hours, must come away aghast at what a moron he is (in addition to the immense schadenfreude he must experience by being able to run circles around the president of the country he has worked his entire adult life to destroy) Another reason Putin will work hard to make sure his puppet stays right where he is.

But schemer or sicko, he has to go.

May 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Jill Lepore has a nifty piece that's fun to read re: poltical candidate's memoirs. According to her the two of our newest "runs for the presidency" people who actually wrote their own books were Warren and Mayor Pete, and adds that both are the best written.

When Obama wrote "Dreams of My Father" his dream of becoming president was far in the future and at the time the book did not sell well, but after he threw his hat in the ring and after he became president the book brought him millions which he used to pay off his student loans–-believe it ot not! His second book was again a best seller and again was written by him alone.

Lepore examines all the 2020 candidate's books and does some slicing and dicing. Here's an example of Joe Biden's youthful recalls:

"Kids in Scranton, Pennsylvania, mocked Joe Biden because of his stutter; so did his seventh-grade teacher: "Mr. Bu-bu-bu-Biden," the nun taunted, until Biden's mother went to school and told that nun that if she ever spoke to Joey that way again she would rip that wimple right off her head."

Now that's the price of the book right there. Reminds me of some of Akhilleus's tales of Sister Praxedes aka Prick Prack.

What's interesting about these memoirs , to me, are the childhood memories and how they shaped the authors. What is also interesting are bits and pieces of other notables who have books whose author is another but the notable's name is on the cover. Here's Edwin Meese, who served as AG under Reagan and was paid a quarter of a million dollars for his book, talked about how much he enjoyed the writing process but actually never wrote a page of his "Witness to History..." Lepore gives us many more like this including Trump and Reagan and the latter's book, "An American Life" was written by two dozen people: As Reagan, himself said, "I hear it's a terrific book! One of these days I'm going to read it myself." Ya gotta love him for that.

All of our 2020 candidates write about what it was like hearing that Trump had won the election and how that was a changing point in their lives. Warren had gone into the kitchen to get the popcorn and beer but when they turned on the T.V. "It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion."

Lepore ends with this:

"The train came, and the train crashed. And it's still off the rails, and the tracks still need repairing, rail by rail, tie by tie, word by word."

May 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

The logical dissonance is breaking my brain. The 85%+ of Republican voters approving of our now daily Presiduncel* whine should be knocked off the voter rolls or poll taxed for extreme abuse of their American citizenships. No objective observer could believe that this orange national embarrassment is anywhere near "leadership" quality for our nation. Yesterday's spectacle was, again, the equivalent of mopping the driveway with our flag covered in used motor oil.

Let's run down a few of the mealy-mouthed brain farts coming out hot from Cadet BoneSpurs in just the past 24 hours:

So Mr. "I got the best people, believe me" slams Rex Tillerson for being "dumb as a rock" and "totally ill-prepared" for his Sec. of State position....
Well, why the fuck would you appoint him them, eh? Obama's fault probably.

Impossible Putin could out prepare me, because I don't trust my intel agencies, demand info. come in "light bright" form so it's interactive and I get to spell out the words myself (also handy for Twitter spelling later), and no one outsmarts my fat gut and my very smart brain.

The Democrat party is a band of weak wussies, but their anal probes hurt so bad I can't think sideways.

I wrote the "Art of the Deal" but I can't deal with the formidable Chuck & Nancy.

I'm the mos...people are saying that, I'm the most transparent President in the history of the country, but I'm fighting every subpoena, dropped the daily press briefing for fear of the press, and I'm going broke on hiding my taxes, even dropping the bullshit audit pretense.

I'm the most productive Presidunce* in history, but can still only point to my unpopular tax cut as the one thing I actually did.

I don't do coverups but you can't talk to anyone who testified in the Mueller report, you can't see my taxes, and I paid Stormy Daniels off behind the scenes for transparency's sake.

May 23, 2019 | Unregistered Commentersafari

The Long Republican Shutdown

So nothing gets done while the Little King's lawlessness is investigated, as it should be. Just perfect. More of the same: nothing. That's the goal of both Trump and McTerrapin. Do nothing. The only thing McConnell has done is race Trump's Nazi judges and executive appointments through like he's angling for a good pole position in the Indy 500. Anybody who thinks turtles can't move fast hasn't been paying attention to how quickly phalanxes of unqualified and hyper-partisan rubber stamp judges have been flung onto federal benches.

But actual legislation? Not so much.

Now Trump has basically said he's taking his ball and going home, where he'll hold his breath until he turns blue, so there. But he's being mature and polite, to hear him tell it.

Yeah, sure. Okay.

Just imagine what he'd be like if he had to undergo the meat grinder Republicans like McTerrapin put Clinton through for lying about a blowjob. That top would be blown so fast it would hit escape velocity and end up attached to a window of the International Space Station where it would be reported as an alien life form sighting.

But seriously, Trumpy can't stand to do anything as long as valid investigations continue apace. Of course, if he wasn't stonewalling like a crook, the investigations would be over in record time. And so would he, so there's that. Back when Confederates were peeking down Clinton's underpants, he was still doing his job.

"It’s a striking difference compared to 1998 and 1999, when then-President Clinton still worked with GOP leaders on legislation, even after they impeached him.

Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said, 'I voted for the articles of impeachment. That was on a Friday. On the following Thursday Clinton called me about some inconsequential bill, wanted to know if we could move it along. Never mentioned the impeachment trial.'

'We went on about our business,' Lott added."

This is no liberal pundit saying this. This is Trent ("If we coulda stepped on them nee-groes a lot more, we'd be better off today") Lott!

In the meantime, Senator Obsequious Boot Licker (aka Lindsey Graham), says that while Democrats want to play games, Republicans will just have to "keep governing". Hold on a sec...


Yeah, like they've been doing.

Republicans, since taking over while Obama was president, have done the least amount of work of any congresses in history. They have set new all-time congressional records for obeying the second law of thermodynamics (systems devolve toward dysfunction and chaos). Hey, at least there's one law they're okay with.

Here's just a couple of examples according to a Pro Publica/WaPo report (this was as of November, 2018. It's gotten a LOT worse since then.):

"Committees meet to consider legislation less than ever. As recently as 2005 and 2006, House committees met 449 times to consider actual legislation, and Senate committees met 252 times; by 2015 and 2016, those numbers plummeted to 254 and 69 times, respectively, according to data compiled by the Policy Agendas Project at the University of Texas."

And Lyin' Ryan (remember that fraud?) set new records for closing off any discussion of bills outside of Republican leaders:

"[Ryan] has instead set records for most closed rules...The U.S. House passes rules of debate for most important legislation considered, outlining how many amendments can be considered. The majority uses a 'closed rule' when it forbids any amendments, except for those recommended by the committee chairman....[this way] leaders eliminate any chance for rank-and-file amendments. Ryan closes off discussion four times as often as former speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) did 20 years ago."

How's that for a resume line? "Worse than Gingrich".

And then, of course, there's McTerrapin, a traitor like you'd read about in 19th century potboilers. All he lacks is the mustache to twirl. He has called fewer votes in the Senate than any majority leader in recent history (I haven't checked the 18th and 19th centuries yet). Mostly, he's become Trump's personnel rubber stamp.

"The result is a Senate that is primarily there to confirm the president’s selections — 'personnel business,' according to McConnell. More than 55 percent of roll call votes now come on nominations, up dramatically from a decade ago when those votes accounted for less than 10 percent of Senate action."

I guess this is what Lindsey Graham means when he sniffs that Republicans will just have to keep "governing" while Democrats do nothing but investigate.

And to top it off, here's another bald-faced Republican lie. When asked about the lethargic, indolent Republican congress, one of McTerrapin's flacks, spokesman Don Stewart, proclaimed that "This has been the most accomplished Congress in decades."

He didn't say which decades, so I'm guessing he meant those decades before the United States existed.

Historians who look at the twentieth century have taken to referring to the period beginning with WWI and running up to the end of the Cold War as the Long War. With a few years of middling peace in between, it was an era of devastating international conflict and turmoil starting with machine guns on the Marne and ending with nukes siloed in Lithuania and Kansas.

If we look at the last decade or so of Republican rule, what we have is pretty much a series of shutdowns and Confederate manufactured gridlock. We're currently in the Trump-McConnell phase of the Long Republican Shutdown.

Closed for business. Try back in 2020.

May 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

So much disgraceful, disgusting stuff going on in the world! Trump. Russia. Trump. Barr. Trump. Mueller. But here in Maine things get down to dealing with critical issues on a local governmental level according to the Portland Press Herald " The existing ordinance, first enacted in March 1999 and amended in 2004 and again last year, also forbids " “fondling, mingling or caressing... "

"SKOWHEGAN — Tipping strippers during exotic dance shows in Skowhegan got the OK from selectmen last week, but with a caveat — gratuities couldn’t be solicited by a dancer or paid by a patron while the dancer is performing. .

Ah, well...a break from the swamp.

May 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMAG

@MAG: Skowhegan -- seems like a nice place.

May 23, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

@MAG: thanks–-nothin like local humor.

May 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

I am not a mother, but I have friends who are. They tell me that the best response to a misbehaving tantrum-ing child (or puppy) is to turn your back on him/her and walk away. Couldn't we have a time out for the baby in the Oval Office. Please. Just a day or two? Maybe he could go on vacation until he gets impeached. Please. He is beyond insufferable. He didn't want the job and we don't want him.And the idea of an intervention? Good luck. The whole family is so twisted. Who would initiate? Barron?

May 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNJC


Does that mean that, were Skowhegan laws to be transferred to the federal stage, Trump, McTerrapin, Gohmert, Graham, et al. couldn't be paid until they finished dancing? What a horrible thought. I might have to pay them to stop after 10 seconds. Just imagine McTerrapin twerking to "Fly Robin, Fly". Barf bag! Stat!

We might save some money there, though. I'm guessing most of those waggly fat asses would have a heart attack after jiggling on a non-Fox stage for more than a few minutes. Plus, I'm not sure Dancer Trumpy (aka Madame Frisky Orange) could refrain from soliciting payment for his "performance". "Officer, arrest that strumpet!"

Then again, I'm not entirely convinced that any but the most sodden Skowhegan patrons would fork over a plugged nickel to such an overweight, sad, sagging hulk with a pheasant plumed golf club sticking out of his ass, never mind consider fondling, mingling, or caressing.

If there's any fondling to be done, it will be by Madame Frisky Orange as (s)he tries to pick the pockets of inebriate Evangelicals.

Same as he's doing right now!

Fly robin, fly, up, up, to the sky! (See? EZ lyrics for Trump to remember.)

Twerk away, Donnie.

May 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@ Akhilleus: No! No! I can't look! It would be quite the achomlishment for Orangey Trumpet to perform in the style of a Chippendale dancer. Don't put that image in my mind!

@Bea McCrab: Years ago I got lost on my way to Moosehead Lake and ended up in the outskirts of Skowhegan. ..not exactly a garden spot.

May 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMAG
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