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New York Times (September 22): In March the Department of Justice described criminal cases involving nearly $700 million lost [to fraud] in the previous year by about two million people. The ones hit hardest by this kind of fraud are over 70, and they experience an average loss of $41,800, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reports.... Some of the newer tactics for defrauding older people focus on Social Security, grandparenting and employment searches." ~~~

~~~ Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I have received a number of calls recently warning me I was about to lose my Social Security card, an eventuality that is highly unlikely. I have always just hung up on these automated calls, but yesterday, I decided to bite. When the "real person" came on the phone, he identified himself as a Social Security officer, certainly breaking the law right there. "Really?" I said. "How are you going to prove you're a federal government official and not a scammer?" He immediately hung up. Maybe this gang of crooks will stop calling me (tho probably not).

New York Times: "Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo have both won this year’s Booker Prize, it was announced at a ceremony on Monday, after the judges for the literary award rebelled against its rules. 'We were told quite firmly that the rules state you can only have one winner,' Peter Florence, the chairman of the Booker judges, said at a news conference. But the 'consensus was to flout the rules and divide this year’s prize to celebrate two winners.' Evaristo, who won for her novel 'Girl, Woman, Other,' is the first black woman to win the Booker Prize. 'I hope that honor doesn’t last too long,' she said in her acceptance speech. Atwood, who won in 2000 for 'The Blind Assassin,' was considered a front-runner this year for 'The Testaments,' the sequel to her 1985 dystopian classic, 'The Handmaid’s Tale.'”

We are amused:

The Hollywood Reporter has a list of this year's Emmy Award winners.

The End of the Amtrak Dining Car. Washington Post: "Amtrak says it is reinventing its dining service on long-distance trains, killing the traditional dining car to create more 'flexible' and 'contemporary' dining options. The carrier says the change, starting this fall on the one-night routes east of the Mississippi River, is driven by the desire to save money and lure a younger generation of new riders — chiefly, millennials known to be always on the run, glued to their phones and not particularly keen on breaking bread with strangers at a communal table. With the transition, Amtrak is doing away with the traditional onboard kitchen, switching to serving prepackaged meals and easing restrictions on the traditional serving times. The change allows the railroad to cut costs associated with cooking aboard and keeping up with the white-tablecloth service that was once known to rival high-end restaurants and clubs." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: I realize many of you are too young to have experienced this, but once upon a time, traveling by train & plane was glamorous. People dressed up to travel, and those who had train roomettes dressed for dinner. My then-husband & I once had a roomette when we traveled from Juarez to Mexico City, & the experience was absolutely fabulous; so was the cuisine in the dining car. Now, it's sensible to dress in the most comfy clothes in anticipation of getting squished into a teeny "economy class" airline seat. The photos accompanying the WashPo story show people wearing casual dress in the white-tablecloth dining room, & the men are too gauche to remove their billed caps. P.S. to American tourists: nobody more messes up a photo of an historic site than a bunch of yahoo sightseers ambling around in their sloppy travel outfits. Then:

CNN: "The US Navy has finally acknowledged footage purported to show UFOs hurtling through the air. And while officials said they don't know what the objects are, they're not indulging any hints either. The objects seen in three clips of declassified military footage are "unidentified aerial phenomena," Navy spokesperson Joe Gradisher confirmed to CNN.The clips, released between December 2017 and March 2018 by To The Stars Academy of Arts & Sciences, appear to show fast-moving, oblong objects captured by advanced infrared sensors.In footage from 2004, sensors lock on a target as it flies before it accelerates out of the left side of the frame, too quickly for the sensors to relocate it. Two of the videos, both from 2015, contain audio from US fighter pilots attempting to make sense of what they're seeing."

New York Times: "A solid 18-karat gold toilet, titled 'America' by its creator, Maurizio Cattelan, was stolen early Saturday [September 14] from an exhibit at Blenheim Palace, the Oxfordshire birthplace and family home of Winston Churchill.... The artwork is based on a common Kohler toilet and was created by a foundry in Florence. The work’s value was not disclosed, but [Guggenheim artistic director Nancy] Spector described it as 'millions of dollars’ worth of gold.'... The police said in a statement that they were investigating the burglary and that a 66-year-old man had been arrested but not charged. The toilet has not been recovered. Jess Milne, a detective inspector, noted that the toilet had been plumbed to the building, so the theft 'caused significant damage and flooding.' He said the police believed a 'group of offenders' using at least two vehicles was behind the theft." the Hill's story is here.

Modern Art. CNN: "Hillary Clinton's emails ... have become art -- and the former secretary of state herself went to take a look.The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee looked through printed copies of her emails and sat at a replica of the Oval Office's Resolute Desk during a visit Tuesday to an art exhibit in Venice, Italy, titled 'HILLARY: The Hillary Clinton Emails,' according to the exhibit's creator and curators. 'Hillary Clinton spent an hour yesterday reading her emails at my exhibition of all 62,000 pages of them in Venice,' American poet and artist Kenneth Goldsmith tweeted Wednesday. 'She is pictured here at a replica of the Oval Office Resolute Desk, stacked with her emails.' Francesco Urbano Ragazzi -- the collective name for two men who are working as the exhibit's curatorial team -- told CNN that Clinton came in for a private tour of the exhibit Tuesday morning."

... Related Washington Post story here.

     ... Thanks to NJC for the lead.

Thursday
Oct102019

The Commentariat -- October 11, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

Trump Rewardss Guy Who Fired Yovanovitch. Morgan Chalfant of the Hill: "President Trump plans to nominate John Sullivan, currently the No. 2 State Department official, as U.S. ambassador to Russia, the White House announced Friday.... The announcement came just as former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch told Congress ... told Congress that Sullivan told her Trump had 'lost confidence' in her and 'no longer wished' for her to serve as ambassador." Mrs. McC: Shouldn't Trump have nominated Rudy?

Yovanovtich Unloads on Trump Regime. Sharon LaFraniere & Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times: "Marie L. Yovanovitch, who was recalled as the American ambassador to Ukraine, testified to impeachment investigators on Friday that a top State Department official told her that President Trump had pushed for her removal for months even though the department believed she had 'done nothing wrong.' In a closed-door deposition that could further fuel calls for Mr. Trump's impeachment, Ms. Yovanovitch delivered a scathing indictment of his administration's conduct of foreign policy. She warned that private influence and personal gain have usurped diplomats' judgment, threatening to undermine the nation's interests and drive talented professionals out of public service. According to a copy of her opening statement obtained by The New York Times, the longtime diplomat said she was 'incredulous' that she was removed as ambassador 'based, as far as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.'... 'Today we see the State Department attacked and hollowed out from within,' she said. She said the allegations that she was disloyal to Mr. Trump, circulated by allies of Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, were totally 'fictitious.'" The Washington Post story is here. ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: As we know, two of the guys responsible for sliming Yovanovitch -- Lev & Igor -- are sitting in the slammer today (unless either or both came up with $1MM bail) and a third -- Rudy -- is sweating like a man in a Turkish bath. Wouldn't it be nice if SDNY -- which Giuliani once ran -- indicted him? ~~~

     ~~~ Oh, Look. Evan Perez of CNN: "Rudy Giuliani's financial dealings with two associates indicted on campaign finance-related charges are under scrutiny by investigators overseeing the case, law enforcement officials briefed on the matter said. The FBI and prosecutors in Manhattan are examining Giuliani's involvement in the broader flow of money that have become the focus of alleged violations that are at the center of the allegations against Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, the sources said. The sources did not say that Giuliani was a target of the investigation. Giuliani told CNN he is not aware of any law enforcement scrutiny on his financial dealings with the men and he said he has not been interviewed by the FBI in the investigation."

Donald Trump's Idea of Appropriate Presidential* Rhetoric. He was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama's ass. -- Donald Trump, at a rally in Minnesota last night, speaking of Joe Biden

** Darren Samuelsohn & Josh Gerstein of Politico: "... Donald Trump lost a key court decision in his bid to block a subpoena from House Democrats pressing to see his financial records. The 2-1 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit stems from a case where Trump sued to block Democrats from seeing a vast trove of materials as Congress probes Trump over potential conflicts of interest and payments from foreign governments. 'Contrary to the President's arguments, the Committee possesses authority under both the House Rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena,' Judge David Tatel wrote in an opinion joined by Judge Patricia Millett. The 66-page opinion against Trump issued by the two Democrat-appointed judges backs up Congress by citing a long history of lawmakers using subpoenas to demand information in connection with investigations. It leans on more than two centuries of history, including Watergate-era precedent that 'strongly implies that Presidents enjoy no blanket immunity from congressional subpoenas.' At issue is a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee subpoena issued in mid-April seeking financial records from Trump's longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, related to work it did for the president before and after he took office." ~~~

     ~~~ Update: The Washington Post story is here. The New York Times story is here.

Zachary Warmbrodt of Politico: "A federal appeals court revealed Thursday that Deutsche Bank does not have copies of ... Donald Trump's tax returns that House Democrats are seeking in an investigation of his finances. The disclosure came as judges ruled against a coalition of media companies that had asked the court to unseal an unredacted letter from Deutsche Bank identifying whose tax returns targeted by the House subpoenas were in its possession." ~~~

~~~ Shane Croucher of Newsweek: "A former Deutsche Bank executive who reviewed President Donald Trump's tax returns reportedly said it is 'not normal' that the institution no longer holds copies of those records.... David Enrich, finance editor at The New York Times, posted to Twitter a screenshot of his conversation with the unnamed executive in which they expressed surprise that Deutsche told a federal appeals court it did not have the president's tax returns anymore. 'Holy f**k,' the executive wrote, per the screenshot. 'The circumstance could be that they returned any physical copies or destroyed any physical copies under an agreement with a client and cleansed their servers. Not normal though.'" --s

Wesley Morgan of Politico: "Defense Secretary Mark Esper urged his Turkish counterpart Thursday to halt Turkey's unfolding cross-border offensive against Syrian Kurdish militias, Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said today. Esper and Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar 'spoke by phone where they discussed the situation in northeast Syria,' Hoffman said in a statement. 'As part of the call, Secretary Esper strongly encouraged Turkey to discontinue actions in northeastern Syria in order to increase the possibility that the United States, Turkey and our partners could find a common way to deescalate the situation before it becomes irreparable.'" ~~~

~~~ MEANWHILE. Wesley Morgan: "The Pentagon is sending about 2,000 more troops to Saudi Arabia, including squadrons of fighter jets and air defense missile batteries, Defense Department officials said Friday. Defense Secretary Mark Esper authorized the deployment of two fighter squadrons, two batteries of Patriot missiles, a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system, and an Air Force headquarters unit 'at the request of U.S. Central Command,' Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement." Mrs. McC: Sorry, Kurds, while you were fighting & dying for our shared objectives, you forgot to take time out to give Trump a golden orb.

Kyle Cheney, et al., of Politico: "Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S ambassador to Ukraine, arrived Friday to testify as part of the House's impeachment inquiry, after the State Department had previously sought to block officials from appearing before lawmakers. Her appearance is a breakthrough for House Democrats seeking firsthand details about ... Donald Trump's efforts -- both directly and through his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani -- to pressure Ukraine's leaders to investigate his 2020 rival, former vice president Joe Biden.... Yovanovitch is still a member of the U.S. Foreign Service despite being recalled as ambassador. It's unclear if the State Department sought to block her from testifying."

Ryan Broderick of Buzzfeed: "If you're struggling to make sense of ... Donald Trump's obsession with Ukraine, the best place to look is inside the mind of a lawyer working for him, Rudy Giuliani ... and the near-constant stream of Spygate fanfiction he's been spewing online for the last six months.... Spygate's central (false) claim is that the Obama administration embedded a spy in Trump's 2016 presidential campaign for political purposes.... This is the petri dish in which Giuliani has been growing his ongoing investigation." Includes an explainer on "spygate." --s

Martyn McClauglin of The Scotsman: "The US president's Turnberry resort ran up losses of more than £10.7m last year, meaning that since he took over the historic property in 2014, it has lost nearly £43m.... It comes as Mr Trump's most prestigious overseas resort is at the centre of a Congressional investigation into US Defence Department spending and patronage." --s

Katie Lobosco of CNN: "Education Secretary Betsy DeVos violated a court order to stop collecting on the debts of some former Corinthian College students and now a judge is weighing sanctions or finding her in contempt of court. 'I feel like there have to be some consequences for the violation of my order 16,000 times,' said US Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim at a hearing held Monday in San Francisco, according to an audio recording released by the court. The Department of Education has said that more than 16,000 borrowers were incorrectly informed that they owed a payment on their debt, according to a September court filing. About 1,800 had their wages garnished and more than 800 were mistakenly subject to adverse credit reporting.... 'I'm not sending anyone to jail yet, but it's good to know I have that ability.'" --s

William "Wild Bill" Pendley.** Sarak Okeson of DCReport: "William Perry Pendley, the attorney now running the Bureau of Land Management, oversees federal coal leases despite pushing for a fire sale of coal leases more than three decades ago that led to a federal probe in which he was referred for possible criminal prosecution.... Interior Secretary David Bernhardt ... plans to move BLM headquarters to Grand Junction, Colo., where the agency will share an office building with oil and gas companies that it will regulate. The move and Pendley's appointment are widely viewed as an effort to force out employees much like the forced relocation to Kansas City, Mo., for researchers at the Department of Agriculture. The bureau has not had a Senate-confirmed director since Trump took office. Bernhardt sidestepped the Senate confirmation needed for the appointee who runs the BLM and appointed Pendley as acting director.... Just before Trump took office, then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell released a review of the coal leasing program with recommendations on how to make it more competitive, but her successor, Ryan Zinke, squashed that." --s ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Do see Akhilleus' discourse on Pendley in today's Comments.

Matthew Taylor & Jonathan Watts of the Guardian: "The Guardian today reveals the 20 fossil fuel companies whose relentless exploitation of the world's oil, gas and coal reserves can be directly linked to more than one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the modern era.... The top 20 companies on the list have contributed to 35% of all energy-related carbon dioxide and methane worldwide, totalling 480bn tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) since 1965." --s

Arizona. AP: "Paul Petersen, the Republican assessor of Arizona's most populous county, was charged in Utah, Arizona and Arkansas with counts including human smuggling, sale of a child, fraud, forgery and conspiracy to commit money laundering.... Petersen served a two-year mission in the Marshall Islands for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.... He was later recruited by an international adoption agency while in law school.... Prosecutors say Petersen used associates [in the Marshall Islands] to recruit pregnant women by offering many of them $10,000 each to give up their babies for adoption.... Women got little to no prenatal care in Utah, and in one house slept on mattresses laid on bare floors in what one shocked adoptive family described as a 'baby mill.'... Petersen charged families $25,000-$40,000 per adoption and brought about $2.7 million into a bank account for adoption fees in less than two years, according to court documents. Petersen's Mesa, Arizona, home is worth more than $600,000 and located in an affluent, gated community."--s

Wisconsin. Patrick Marley of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "A paralyzed Wisconsin lawmaker [Rep. Jimmy Anderson of Fitchburg] lashed out at his Republican colleagues Thursday, saying accommodations they gave him after a months-long fight were short of what he needed.... On a 61-35 party-line vote, the Assembly adjusted its rules to allow those with disabilities to phone into committee meetings. Democrats opposed the rule because it didn't include everything Anderson wanted, such as a ban on overnight sessions.... In a floor speech, Anderson described months of therapy he has had to go through after he got ulcers from spending too much time in his wheelchair during an overnight session in December. Republicans held the overnight session so they could pass lame-duck laws limiting the powers of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.... Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester [R]...for months refused to change the rules and accused Anderson of 'political grandstanding.'" --s

~~~~~~~~~~

Greg Miller & Gregg Jaffe of the Washington Post: "At least four national security officials were so alarmed by the Trump administration's attempts to pressure Ukraine for political purposes that they raised concerns with a White House lawyer both before and immediately after President Trump's July 25 call with that country's president, according to U.S. officials and other people familiar with the matter. The nature and timing of the previously undisclosed discussions with National Security Council legal adviser John Eisenberg indicate that officials were delivering warnings through official White House channels earlier than previously understood -- including before the call that precipitated a whistleblower complaint.... At the time, the officials were unnerved by the removal in May of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine; subsequent efforts by ... Rudolph W. Giuliani to promote Ukraine-related conspiracies; as well as signals in meetings at the White House that Trump wanted the new government in Kiev to deliver material that might be politically damaging to ... Joe Biden. Those concerns soared in the call's aftermath.... Within minutes, senior officials including national security adviser John Bolton were being pinged by subordinates about problems with what the president had said to ... Volodymyr Zelensky.... Concerns about the call and events leading up to it were profound even among Trump's top advisers, including Bolton and then-acting deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman.... It is not clear whether Eisenberg took any action ... after the warnings he received.... Eisenberg likely would also have played a leading role in the White House efforts to prevent the nation's intelligence director from turning over [the] whistleblower complaint about Trump's Ukraine call to lawmakers." ~~~

     ~~~ A CNN summary of the WashPo report is here and includes some additional reporting.

Trump, Inc. -- The Criminal Enterprise, Ctd.

I don't know those gentlemen. -- Donald Trump, on Igor Fruman & Lev Parnas, Thursday afternoon

Thank you President Trump !!! Making America great!!!!!!incredible dinner and even better conversation. -- Lev Parnas, in a tweet, May 1, 2019

The Ukraine Gang Meets at the White House. Pence, Fruman, Parnas, Trump, Giuliani.

~~~ The most recent photos of two of the guys pictured above are commonly called mugshots:

Lev Parnas & Igor Fruman. Photo credit: Alexandria, Virginia, Sheriff's Office.

~~~ ** Tom Winter & Allan Smith of NBC News: "Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, two foreign-born donors who gave money to a political action committee supporting ... Donald Trump, were arrested Wednesday night and face charges tied to campaign-finance violations, two law enforcement officials confirmed to NBC News.... Federal prosecutors said that Parnas and Fruman had one-way tickets to leave the U.S. when they were arrested by the FBI at Dulles airport in Washington, D.C., Wednesday night.... Fruman and Parnas worked with Rudy Giuliani..., Giuliani has previously said, as part of his dealings in Ukraine that involved efforts to encourage the nation to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.... The indictment details an elaborate scheme to help other foreign nationals, including one unnamed Ukrainian government official and a person who is described as having 'Russian roots,' gain access to U.S. politicians and government officials through campaign contributions in order to advance business and personal financial interests.... Fruman and Parnas are charged with making $325,000 in illegal straw donations to a Trump super PAC, according to the indictment, as well as giving $15,000 to a second committee.... At [a] press conference [Thursday], investigators said the probe was ongoing. ...

"The indictment also details a push by Parnas and Fruman to oust then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, whom Trump recalled from her post earlier this year. The indictment alleges that Parnas met with a congressman identified in the charging document as 'Congressman-1' in mid-2018 to get assistance in the effort. According to the document, the efforts to oust Yovanovitch were at least partially on behalf of an unnamed Ukrainian official. Multiple senior U.S. law enforcement officials told NBC News that 'Congressman-1' is former Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas.... While he was still in office, Sessions wrote a 'private' letter in May 2018 to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Yovanovitch.... The Associated Press and the [Wall Street] Journal previously reported that Sessions' letter ... asked for Yovanovitch to be removed.... A senior administration official said Attorney General William Barr has been aware of the investigation into Parnas and Fruman since shortly after he came into office in February." Emphasis added. (This is an update of a story linked yesterday.) ~~~

      ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Donnie, Rudy, Linda McMahon, Sean Spicer, et al., take heed: "... investigators said the probe was ongoing." ~~~

~~~ When the indictment itself says that this conspiracy involved others known and unknown, there are others that are being investigated and likely may be charged. And I would warn all of these people -- including Rudy Giuliani -- that when I read this indictment and the level of detail and specificity, I smell not only human informants, but I also smell a wiretap or some form of electronic surveillance. -- Former FBI counterintelligence official Frank Figliuzzi on MSNBC Thursday ~~~

      ~~~ Chandelis Duster of CNN: "Rudy Giuliani lunched with two associates at the Trump International Hotel in Washington on Wednesday just hours before the duo was arrested at a Washington-area airport, according to the Wall Street Journal.... The group [-- Parnas & Fruman as well as two associates, David Correia & Andrey Kukushkin --] faces two counts of conspiracy, one count of false statements to the Federal Election Commission and one count of falsification of records. The four are alleged in the indictment unsealed by New York federal prosecutors to have conducted a scheme beginning in March 2018 to evade campaign finance laws." Mrs. McC: I wonder if the FBI picked up the lunch chit-chat amount Rudy, Lev & Igor? BTW, besides Rudy, former Trump attorney John Dowd is/was representing Lev & Igor.~~~

~~~ Paul LeBlanc of CNN: "Rudy Giuliani was planning to fly to Vienna, Austria, Thursday night, the same city where his two associates were headed to before they were arrested the night before, according to interviews he gave to The Atlantic and The Wall Street Journal. Giuliani ... shared his travel plans with Elaina Plott of The Atlantic the day before an indictment unsealed on Thursday revealing that two of his associates, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, were detained at Dulles International Airport on Wednesday evening.... By Giuliani's account, the three of them would've been in the same city at the same time but [Giuliani] would not be [meeting with Fruman & Parnas there]." Mrs. McC: Maybe Giuliani is going to the opera. Benjamin Britten's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is being performed. ~~~

     ~~~ David Corn of Mother Jones: Parnas & Fruman's "first big donation was a $325,000 contribution in May 2018 to what the indictment calls 'Committee-1,' which media reports have identified as the America First Action SuperPAC. This outfit is chaired by [Linda] McMahon, [Trump's first Small businss Administrator,] and [Sean] Spicer is listed on its website as the group's 'senior adviser and spokesman.'... To recap: We have two fellows looking to score a big deal in Ukraine and eager to win sway within the ruling Republican Party handing loads of money to Republicans.... The indictment notes that 'at and around the same time' Parnas and Fruman were making their promise to funnel significant money into [Pete] Sessions' campaign, Parnas met with Sessions and sought his 'assistance in causing the U.S. Government to remove or recall the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.' Parnas' efforts to remove Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch 'were conducted,' the indictment says, 'at least in part, at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials.' As these two wheeler-dealers were trying to land a major energy deal in Ukraine, they were also trying to do the bidding of Ukrainian officials in the United States, using campaign contributions to affect US policy." ~~~

     ~~~ The original Wall Street Journal story on the indictment is here (as a "courtesy," a pop-up read). (Also linked yesterday.)

     ~~~ Eileen Sullivan, et al., of the New York Times: "Two associates of the president's private lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, who helped fund efforts to investigate one of President Trump's political rivals, were charged with violating campaign finance laws in a new criminal case that touched on their work in Ukraine and alleged financial ties to Russia. The F.B.I. arrested the two men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who are also important witnesses in the House's impeachment inquiry, as they were trying to board a Frankfurt-bound flight with one-way tickets on Wednesday night at Dulles International Airport in Virginia..... Their effort is already the subject of an impeachment inquiry, and the new indictments suggest the first criminal implications of the shadow foreign policy being pushed by Mr. Giuliani on behalf of the president.... Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman illegally funneled money through a company they set up to mask themselves as its sources, then gave the money to the pro-Trump super PAC, America First Action, the indictment said. Prosecutors said Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman, along with two other men indicted on Thursday, David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin, also funneled money with ties to Russia to state and federal candidates in exchange for potential influence, according to court papers.... Mr. Parnas had been scheduled to participate in a deposition with House impeachment investigators on Capitol Hill on Thursday, and Mr. Fruman on Friday. Neither had been expected to show up voluntarily.... Hours after the indictment was unsealed, House impeachment investigators ... issued subpoenas compelling them to answer questions about their work with Mr. Giuliani in Ukraine." (This is an update of a story linked yesterday.) ~~~

~~~ Headline of the Daily Beast's story: "Rudy's Ukraine Henchmen Arrested on Campaign-Finance Charge." (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

~~~ But they were supposed to be so concerned about corruption! -- New York "Intelligencer" (no link) ~~~

Fraud Guarantee. Mrs. McCrabbie: Ken Vogel of the NYT sez one of Parnas's fake companies is called Fraud Guarantee. Kinda perfect, huh? Parnas said Giuliani was working for the aptly-named Fraud Guarantee, a company that paid Rudy hundreds of thousands of dollars for said "work." Where did Fraud Guarantee get all that money to pay Donnie's consigliere to twist the arms of Ukraine officials to lie about Joe Biden? It's hard to imagine, but do you suppose Rudy's soldiers also were crossing palms of said officials to manufacture dirt on Biden, using money from the darkest of international sources? If so, surely Donnie had absolutely no idea what was going on. ~~~

     ~~~ Update. Ken Vogel of the New York Times on the relationships among Giuliani, Parnas, Fruman & others: "Mr. Giuliani dispatched Mr. Parnas and ... Igor Fruman ... to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, where, despite fending off creditors at home, BuzzFeed reported, they ran up big charges at a strip club and the Hilton International hotel. Their mission was to find people and information that could be used to undermine the special counsel's investigation, and also to damage former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.... Over the past year, the two men connected Mr. Giuliani with Ukrainians who were willing to participate in efforts to push a largely unsubstantiated narrative about the Bidens."

Rudy very much knows what's happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that. The other thing, there's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. -- Donald Trump, to Volodymyr Zelensky, July 25 ~~~

~~~ Richard Hasen in Slate: "The news of Thursday's indictments of two associates of Rudy Giuliani's ... shows that foreign interference in American elections is a feature and not a bug of the Trump campaign and presidency. And the connections to the emerging Ukraine scandal show that the corruption runs deep in this administration.... More interesting than the details of the petty influence-peddling efforts are the allegations in the complaint that the purpose was to further the bigger political goals of the co-conspirators.... The apparent goal was to move [U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch] out of the way so Giuliani, on Trump's behalf, could pressure Ukraine prosecutors to dig up or fabricate dirt on Joe Biden and his son Hunter. All of this is at the center of Congress' impeachment inquiry of the president.... Trump's own Department of Justice alleges that there was a foreign influence effort to have her removed backed by a foreign national and undertaken by two people who Trump's own former attorney [John Dowd] has said were working on behalf of Giuliani and Trump. We also know that the president raised the ambassador's removal directly before bringing up the Bidens with the Ukrainian president." ~~~

~~~ Pompeo Dismissed Yovanovitch for Doing Her Job. Adam Geller & Mary Jalonick of the AP: "The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was removed from her post after insisting that Rudy Giuliani's requests to Ukrainian officials for investigations be relayed through official channels, according to a former diplomat who has spoken with her. The ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, is scheduled to testify before congressional lawmakers on Friday as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Democrats say they expect her to appear despite the White House's position that no administration officials cooperate with the probe." Mrs. McC: Whom to trust? Yovanovitch or the Three Stooges Rudy, Lev & Igor?

Josh Dawsey & Karoun Demirjian of the Washington Post: "Political appointees in the White House budget office intervened to freeze aid to Ukraine despite some career staffers raising concerns that the move was improper, people briefed on the matter said. Acknowledging some of the concerns, White House budget aides eventually disclosed to other government officials that the money was being frozen outside of the normal 'apportionment' process. But they didn't give officials at the State Department or other agencies a reason the money was being withheld, or who had initially made the decision to freeze it, after substantive discussions about whether the move was legal. The unorthodox steps were carried out in connection with Michael Duffey, associate director of national security programs at the Office of Management and Budget.... Both acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and acting OMB director Russell T. Vought said the move was acceptable."

Matt Stieb of New York: "On Thursday afternoon, Rick Perry was subpoenaed by the House committees responsible for the impeachment inquiry into President Trump's attempt to pressure the Ukrainian government into investigating Hunter Biden, requiring the Energy secretary to hand over the requested documents by October 18.... The subpoena requires Perry to forfeit all documents related to the Energy Department's role in the July 25 call, as well as all evidence of 'all meetings or discussions' with Giuliani."

** Gordo Returns! Alayna Treene of Axios: "U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland is expected to testify next Wednesday before the House committees investigating President Trump and Ukraine, despite being blocked by the State Department from appearing at a closed-door deposition this week, 4 congressional sources tell Axios.... One source familiar with the rescheduling tells Axios that after the State Department pulled the plug on Sondland's testimony, Republicans close to Trump encouraged the president to let the ambassador come before the committees. Trump's allies believe Sondland's testimony will be helpful to their side.... After the State Department blocked Sondland's testimony, Trump tweeted that he didn't want the ambassador 'testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court, where Republican's [sic] rights have been taken away, and true facts are not allowed out for the public.' Sondland was subpoenaed hours later by the committees. Later that day, the White House sent a letter informing House Democratic leaders that the Trump administration will not participate in their impeachment inquiry...."

Josh Lederman, et al., of NBC News: "Fiona Hill, who was until recently ... Donald Trump's top aide on Russia and Europe, plans to tell Congress that Rudy Giuliani and E.U. ambassador Gordon Sondland circumvented the National Security Council and the normal White House process to pursue a shadow policy on Ukraine, a person familiar with her expected testimony told NBC News.... Hill plans to say that Giuliani and Sondland side-stepped the proper process for accessing Trump on Ukraine issues..., including circumventing John Bolton, who was Trump's national security adviser until September."

Jo Becker, et al., of the New York Times: "During a contentious Oval Office meeting with President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in 2017, Rudolph W. Giuliani pressed for help in securing the release of a jailed client, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader, as part of a potential prisoner swap with Turkey. The request by Mr. Giuliani provoked an immediate objection from Mr. Tillerson, who argued that it would be highly inappropriate to interfere in an open criminal case, according to two people briefed on the meeting. The gold trader, Reza Zarrab, had been accused by federal prosecutors of playing a central role in an effort by a state-owned Turkish bank to funnel more than $10 billion worth of gold and cash to Iran, in defiance of United States sanctions designed to curb Iran's nuclear program. But at the White House meeting in early 2017, Mr. Giuliani and his longtime friend and colleague, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, pushed back on Mr. Tillerson's objections. Rather than side with his secretary of state, Mr. Trump told them to work it out themselves, according to the two people briefed on the meeting.... [At the beginning of the meeting,] Mr. Trump asked Mr. Giuliani to tell Mr. Tillerson what he wanted, which prompted Mr. Tillerson's objections.... After the prison swap failed, Mr. Zarrab became a key witness and testified that in 2012, Mr. Erdogan, then Turkey's prime minister, had ordered that two Turkish banks be allowed to participate in the sanction-evasion scheme.... Mr. Zarrab pleaded guilty in October 2017 to the charges, and became a key witness in federal criminal cases prosecuted in New York...." ~~~

~~~ The Washington Post's account, linked next, damns Trump's role more forcefully than the Times account & agrees with Bloomberg's account, a summary of which was linked here yesterday. ~~~

~~~ Josh Dawsey, et al., of the Washington Post: "Trump urged Tillerson in an Oval Office meeting to try to craft a diplomatic 'deal' to stop the U.S. case against Reza Zarrab on corruption charges in exchange for concessions from Turkey. At the time, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was personally lobbying Trump to get the charges dropped. Trump, in turn, repeatedly raised the topic with Tillerson -- including directly in the Oval Office meeting, according to people with knowledge of the episode.... 'There was no such meeting where Tillerson got angry,' [Rudy Giuliani told the Post]. 'There was no such meeting as the one you described.' Asked about his meetings with Trump and other officials about Zarrab, he declined to answer. 'You're not my prosecutor,' he said.... In rare cases, U.S. criminal prosecutions have been halted or altered to achieve to an overriding diplomatic goal, but such decisions are usually rigorously studied by the State and Justice departments, with extensive consultation with the prosecuting U.S. attorney's office. Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney in New York whose office launched the investigation of Zarrab, said Trump's efforts to intervene in the case did not appear to follow that protocol."

Adam Raymond of New York: "'They suck,' President Trump tweeted Thursday in response to a Fox News poll that found 51 percent of voters backing his impeachment and removal from office. The low energy insult was directed at Fox News's pollster, but there's little doubt that Trump thinks the network sucks too. In several tweets Thursday, he lashed out at the network for not properly praising him and gave a shout out One American News, the obsequious right-wing propaganda network that's been trying to win Trump's affection for years. 'From the day I announced I was running for President, I have NEVER had a good @FoxNews Poll,' Trump tweeted. 'Whoever their Pollster is, they suck. But @FoxNews is also much different than it used to be in the good old days. With people like Andrew Napolitano, who wanted to be a Supreme Court Justice & I turned him down (he's been terrible ever since), Shep Smith, @donnabrazile (who gave Crooked Hillary the debate questions & got fired from @CNN), & others, @FoxNews doesn't deliver for US anymore. It is so different than it used to be. Oh well, I'm President!'" (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

~~~ Maggie Haberman & Katie Benner of the New York Times: "Attorney General William P. Barr met privately Wednesday evening with Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul who is one of President Trump's frequent confidants but whose Fox News is viewed by the president as more hostile toward him than it used to be. The meeting was held at Mr. Murdoch's home in New York, according to someone familiar with it. It was unclear if anyone else attended or what was discussed. Aides to both Mr. Murdoch and Mr. Barr declined requests for comment on the meeting.... Mr. Trump believes that the network has become more critical of him, and he has grown increasingly critical of Fox News, denouncing some anchors and reporters he does not consider to be friendly to him...."

Doing the Backstep Shuffle. Justin Baragona of the Daily Beast: "Michael Pillsbury, an outside adviser to ... Donald Trump on China trade policy, told Fox Business Network's Lou Dobbs on Wednesday night that he pressed the Chinese government on issues surrounding former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter.... 'I tried to bring up the topic [of Hunter Biden] in Beijing,' he said. 'Just tell me what happened with Hunter Biden. I have never seen them get so secretive in my life.'... Pillsbury later told the Financial Times that he actually received 'quite a bit of background on Hunter Biden from the Chinese' during his visit to Beijing last week. The Trump ally, however, quickly backed away from this claim, denying to C-SPAN that he said this to FT. The reporter on that story, meanwhile, shared the email Pillsbury sent him confirming he received intelligence on Biden's son from China.... Later Thursday morning, Pillsbury told McClatchy that while he did receive information from the Chinese related to Hunter Biden, it was merely publicly available documents that were already in circulation. He also insisted he never talked to Trump about this and he only asked for the info as research for a book he was working on."

Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "Michael McKinley, a career diplomat and senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has resigned his position amid rising dissatisfaction and plummeting morale inside the State Department over what is seen as Pompeo's failure to support personnel ensnared in the Ukraine controversy."

Can This Marriage Be Saved? Quint Forgey of Politico: "Conservative attorney George Conway encouraged ... Donald Trump's closest aides in the West Wing to resign, specifically swiping at White House counsel Pat Cipollone for his response to House Democrats' impeachment inquiry. 'If you can't have a positive effect on him, and I don't think anybody can, yeah,' Conway told Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, when asked whether he would advise members of the president's 'inner circle' to quit.... 'The only people I think who should ... who may have to stay, would be people in the national security area, who can at least have some moderating or blunting effect,' Conway said, accusing White House lawyers of attempting 'to protect Trump' from allegations related to his controversial phone call in July with Ukraine's president. Deflecting a potential query about his wife's [Kellyanne Conway] role in the administration, Conway told Bharara: 'Not going there. But I think my position is clear.'" (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

~~~ George Conway & 16 other Watergate special prosecutors in a em> Washington Post op-ed: "We ... believe there exists compelling prima facie evidence that President Trump has committed impeachable offenses. This evidence can be accepted as sufficient for impeachment, unless disproved by any contrary evidence that the president may choose to offer.... In reaching these conclusions, we take note of 1) the public statements by Trump himself; 2) the findings of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation; 3) the readout that the president released of his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky; 4) the president's continuing refusal to produce documents or allow testimony by current and former government employees for pending investigations, as well as for oversight matters; and 5) other information now publicly available, including State Department text messages indicating that the release of essential military aid to Ukraine was conditioned on Ukraine's willingness to commence a criminal investigation designed to further the president's political interests."

Cameron Joseph of Vice: "House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Thursday that he' return campaign donations from a pair of Ukrainian-Americans working with Rudy Giuliani to boost President Trump after the two men were arrested for allegedly violating campaign finance laws. McCarthy (R-Calif.) and the National Republican Congressional Committee, House Republicans' main campaign organization, received substantial donations from Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman...." Mrs. McC: Do you suppose those big campaign contributions have anything to do with the reason McCarthy told Scott Pelley of "60 Minutes" that Trump had done nothing wrong in that phone call with Zelensky (and didn't bother to read the rough transcript of the phone call even though he had gone on national TV to discuss it)? ~~~

~~~ Samantha Gross & David Smiley of the Miami Herald: Florida "Gov. Ron DeSantis [R] said Thursday that his political committee will return a $50,000 donation received last year from two South Florida businessmen [Fruman & Parnas] who were arrested Wednesday and accused of funneling illicit contributions into state and federal campaigns.... In June of 2018, they gave the Friends of Ron DeSantis political committee $50,000 through a company called Global Energy Producers. They made the contribution one day before Trump endorsed DeSantis for Florida governor.... U.S. Sen. Rick Scott's [R] victory fund -- a political committee assisting his run last year for U.S. Senate -- also received a $15,000 donation last year from Fruman. A spokesman for Scott did not respond to requests for comment." Mrs. McC: Because Scott is super-corrupt.


Mehmut Guzel
of the AP: "Turkish forces pushed deeper into northeastern Syria on Friday, the third day of Ankara's cross-border offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters that has set off another mass displacement of civilians and met with widespread criticism from the international community. There were casualties on both sides and Turkey reported its first military fatality, saying a soldier was 'martyred' in the fighting. Earlier, at least six civilians were killed in Turkey and seven civilians have been killed in Syria since Ankara this week launched the air and ground operation into Syria's northeast. The invasion came after ... Donald Trump opened the way by pulling American troops from their positions near the border and abandoning U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish fighters."

Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post: "President Trump has come under increasing pressure, from within and outside his administration, to take action in response to Turkey's escalating offensive and reports of significant casualties in northern Syria, amid apparent differences of opinion about what should be done. 'Some want us to send tens of thousands of soldiers to the area and start a new war all over again,' Trump said early Thursday on Twitter. 'Others say STAY OUT and let the Kurds fight their own battles. I say hit Turkey very hard financially with sanctions if they don't play by the rules.' In a later tweet, echoed in comments to reporters as he departed for a political rally in Minneapolis, Trump altered the set of available options, saying, 'Send in thousands of troops ... hit Turkey very hard financially ... or mediate a deal between Turkey and the Kurds.'... Separately, a senior Trump adviser described the president as indecisive and said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney had warned him that he was getting 'boxed into a complete corner' by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. People discussing the sensitive situation did so on the condition of anonymity. At the United Nations Security Council, both the United States and Russia, for different reasons, refused to approve a European-proposed resolution condemning Turkey's action." ~~~

~~~ Haley Byrd of CNN: "Republican Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois is going further than many of his fellow GOP lawmakers in criticizing ... Donald Trump's shift in Syria strategy, declaring he no longer supports Trump altogether because of the move. In an interview with radio station KMOX, Shimkus, who is not seeking reelection in 2020, condemned Trump's decision. 'It's terrible. It's despicable,' he said. 'I'm heartbroken. In fact, I called my chief of staff in DC and said, "Pull my name off the I support Donald Trump list." We have just stabbed our allies in the back,' Shimkus added. 'This has just shocked, embarrassed, and angered me.'"

You said Kurds weren't 'with us' at Normandy? Could you address your entire family's legacy of avoiding military service starting with your grandfather who was expelled from Germany for avoiding military service? -- Anonymous, suggested question to Cadet Bone Spurs, in today's Comments ~~~

~~~ Siobhán O'Grady of the Washington Post: "... Wednesday, Trump tried to play down the U.S. partnership with the Kurds..., saying 'they didn't help us in the Second World War. They didn't help us in Normandy.'... The Kurds do not even have their own nation-state, living instead largely between Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Armenia. 'It's a weird framing that doesn't really make sense historically or politically,' said Djene Rhys Bajalan, an assistant professor of Middle Eastern history at Missouri State University.... 'Numerous people who didn't have nation-states weren't necessarily at Normandy but participated either directly in the war or in terms of providing materials and labor for the war.' Some Kurdish fighters were among them. 'They didn't have a state, so they couldn't act as a state, said Jordi Tejel, a professor of history at the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland... Still, he said individual Kurdish fighters from across the region did join other armies, fighting alongside the British and the Soviet Union's Red Army. There were Kurds who sympathized with the Nazis, seeing them as an anti-colonial alternative to the British or French, Tejel said. But others went to great lengths to counter Nazi influence in the Middle East."~~~

~~~ Holmes Lybrand of CNN: "The US never called on the Kurds to aid in the invasion of Normandy or in the war at all. The experts who spoke to CNN did say that every time, however, that the US has asked for Kurdish aid, the Kurds have come." The New York Times has a story here.

Paul LeBlanc, et al., of CNN: "Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was pranked by two Russians pretending to be Turkey's minister of defense in an August phone call, his office said on Thursday. A spokesperson for Graham confirmed to CNN that the South Carolina Republican spoke with Russian pranksters Alexey Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov in a conversation he thought was with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.... According to audio of the call provided to Politico, Graham calls the Kurds a 'threat' to Turkey -- a label that appears to contradict his public statements in recent days regarding ... Donald Trump's decision to pull American troops out of the way of a Turkish invasion of Syria." ~~~

~~~ Natasha Bertrand of Politico: "Graham also mentions Trump's personal interest in a 'Turkish bank case' in the call that appears to refer to a U.S. case involving Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader and client of Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that Trump had asked then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in 2017 to help persuade the Justice Department to drop the Zarrab case.... In the hoax call, Graham suggested that the president would try to help Erdogan regarding that case as best he could.... According to a memo written in 2016 by former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, [Zarrab] was 'engaged in a massive bribery scheme... paying cabinet-level [Turkish] governmental officials and high-level bank officers tens of millions of Euro and U.S. dollars' to facilitate his [money-laundering] transactions.... 'Your YPG Kurdish problem is a big problem,' Graham told the pranksters. He was referring to the Kurdish People's Protection Units, a group that began fighting ISIS as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces in 2015 -- with support from the U.S. -- but is considered a terrorist group by Turkey because of its push to establish an autonomous state for the Kurds on the Turkish-Syrian border. 'I told President Trump that Obama made a huge mistake in relying on the YPG Kurds,' Graham continued. 'Everything I worried about has come true, and now we have to make sure Turkey is protected from this threat in Syria. I'm sympathetic to the YPG problem, and so is the president....'... The pranksters, Alexey Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov..., [have] suspected ties to the country's intelligence services...." (See related story, linked above.)

Presidential Race 2020

Tom Elfrink of the Washington Post: "As President Trump has lobbed unsubstantiated and false claims of international corruption at former vice president Joe Biden and his son, he's often turned to one source for ammunition: conservative author Peter Schweizer. So when the New York Times ran an op-ed on Wednesday written by Schweizer about Biden and his son Hunter, the Democratic presidential candidate's campaign cried foul. In a letter sent to New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet, Biden's campaign called Schweizer a 'discredited right-wing polemicist' and suggested the op-ed was part of a larger pattern of 'journalistic malpractice.' 'Are you truly blind to what you got wrong in 2016, or are you deliberately continuing policies that distort reality for the sake of controversy and the clicks that accompany it?' Kate Bedingfield, Biden's deputy campaign manager, wrote in the Wednesday letter, which was posted by CNN's Oliver Darcy.... The Times defended its work in a statement sent to The Washington Post, noting that the opinion section operates separately from editorial news coverage of the Democratic candidate.... 'The op-ed makes an argument that nonpartisan government watchdogs would make, arguing in favor of a law that would prohibit self-dealing by those with government connections,' [a Times spokesperson said]." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Even if the Schweitzer op-ed was innocuous (and the headline -- "What Hunter Biden Did Was Legal — And That's the Problem" -- suggests it was not, a spot on the NYT op-ed page gives Schweitzer status; "Schweizer's work has appeared in many prominent newspaper and journal, including the New York Times..." will appear in book and magazine blurbs. ~~~

     ~~~ Steve M. applauds the Biden pushback: "Joe Biden often seems like Mister Magoo. As he obliviously makes his way through our political landscape, he believes he spots opportunities for warm cross-party relationships. The rest of us, who can actually see what's going on..., know that every Republican we see hates us, hates Biden, hates all his fellow Democrats, and wants 'the Democrat Party' to be stripped of political power nationwide.... Biden has always talked as if he doesn't understand any of this. However, someone on his staff clearly does[.]... What's great about the letter is that it not only defends Biden against Schweizer's partisan attack but ties the decision by the Times to publish the op-ed to the paper's awful coverage of Hillary Clinton during the last presidential campaign (of which Schweizer's work was an integral part)[.]"

"Buttigieg Defuses Protesters." Lisettle Rodriguez, et al., of ABC News: "Nine Democratic presidential candidates brought their campaigns to Los Angeles on Thursday night for a town hall focused on LGBTQ issues, the biggest of its kind so far focusing on this particular topic, and hosted by CNN. The only openly LGBT candidate on stage, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg was interrupted by protesters who were calling attention to the murders of black transgender women at the top of his time, but he acknowledged their concern. 'I believe, or would like to believe, that everybody here is committed to ending that epidemic, and that does include lifting up its visibility and speaking to it,' Buttigieg said. It's not clear why they chose Buttigieg's time to protest. Buttigieg also said he’s mindful of the fact that his experience as a gay white man has been different than that of a 'black gay woman that I also do not understand.'"


Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Bedbug Won't Bite. Ashley Feinberg
of Slate: "New York Times opinion columnist and man who thinks it's deeply important to engage in open debate Bret Stephens has backed out of an upcoming scheduled event at George Washington University, where he was set to discuss civil discourse online with professor Dave Karpf. The discussion would have put a bow on a highly public back-and-forth Stephens instigated a month and a half ago, but at the last minute, Stephens insisted that the event be closed to the public. When Karpf disagreed, Stephens pulled out entirely.... In one of his columns (titled 'The Dying Art of Disagreement'), Stephens decried what he sees as a modern desire to avoid uncomfortable conversations[.]"

News Ledes

CNN: "Firefighters were scrambling to battle the Saddleridge Fire after it grew to 7,542 acres on Friday and was only 13% contained, said officials with the Los Angeles Fire Department. Since it started Thursday, the blaze has spread rapidly into northern Los Angeles neighborhoods and was moving north toward Santa Clarita, fueled by strong Santa Ana winds, with gusts around 60 mph. At least 25 homes -- many in the Porter Ranch area -- have been destroyed, but mandatory evacuations have been called for about 23,000 homes in the affected areas, Police Chief Michel Moore and fire officials said. This is just one of the several blazes in Southern California fueled by one of those fires has left at least one person dead, and many parts of the region are under red-flag warnings -- meaning there's a high risk of fire -- into Saturday afternoon."

New York Times: "Abiy Ahmed, the prime minister of Ethiopia, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, for his work in restarting peace talks with neighboring Eritrea, ending a long stalemate between the two countries. Mr. Abiy, 43, broke through two decades of frozen conflict between his vast country, Africa's second most populous, and Eritrea, its small and isolated neighbor. When he became prime minister of Ethiopia in 2018, he made it clear that he wished to resume the stalled peace process, doing so in close cooperation with President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea." Mrs. McC: It seems so wrong that a handsome, youngish black guy robbed our Great American President* of the prize, just as our GAP* & his crime family are being exposed in sundry corrupt conspiracies.

AP: "Hot, dry winds sweeping into Southern California raised concerns that the region's largest utility could widen power shut-offs Friday to prevent its equipment from sparking wildfires, as a new blaze swept through the San Fernando Valley's northern foothills. Southern California Edison turned off electricity to about 20,000 people in Los Angeles, Ventura, San Bernardino and Kern counties but warned that thousands more could lose service as Santa Ana winds gained strength. A wildfire fueled by Santa Ana winds broke out after 9 p.m. in Los Angeles along the 210 Freeway and jumped the highway. Flames also crossed the 5 Freeway. The highways were closed because of heavy smoke. The Saddleridge fire, which started in Sylmar, had consumed more than 4,600 acres by 3 a.m. Friday, fire officials said.... Because of the dangerous weather in the forecast, PG&E cut power Wednesday to an estimated 2 million people in an area that spanned the San Francisco Bay Area, the wine country north of San Francisco, the agricultural Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada foothills. By Thursday evening, the weather had eased and the number of people in the dark was down to about 510,000."

Reader Comments (19)

Just imagine the field day Fox and the right-wing echo chamber would be having if two foreign born friends of Obama were arrested on charges of screwing with elections. Apoplexy galore. But since they’re FrODs (Friends Of Donald), it will be deep state this and deep state that and the Bidens and Hillary and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and blah, blah, blah. All trying to harm the Dear Leader.

October 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

That’s pronounced “FrauDs,” right?

October 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNiskyGuy

NiskyGuy,

You got it. The FrODs are all frauds. And worse.

October 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Here's Rachel's excellent breakdown on Twiddle Dee and Tweedle Dum along with their best bud Rudy and even thinks she knows why the three were going to Vienna:
https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow/watch/criminality-taints-giuliani-role-in-trump-ukraine-scheme-71040069699

At Trump's rally yesterday when he was ranting about Joe Biden, he said, "Biden kissed Obama's ass." He also called others disparaging names as is his customary way of being presidential. Gosh––and I thought presidents were supposed to set good examples when they opened their traps. The fact that this fool has completely turned this on its head is just another nugget to put in the coffers of "Trump's Terribles" pronounced as Ter-reebles" from the Greeks who knew a thing or two about tragedy.

October 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterP.D. Pepe

Just an observation.

No matter which Democrat wins in 2020 (at this point I just can't see Treason Boy winning again--at least without massive fraud at the polls--but go with it for the nonce), butt hurt confederates in congress and the media will go on the attack and stay there.

Evidence of an unpaid parking ticket 20 years ago will trigger Benghazi-like investigations. If it turns out that the next Secretary of Defense and the CEO of a defense contractor happened to both be at the same baseball game a decade ago, charges of cronyism and conspiracy will fly like bats out of a guano draped cave.

Moscow Mitch will convene another "One Term Attack" meeting. Fox will dig into their family tree and see if they can find a former friend who felt snubbed at a neighborhood barbecue. It will never end. They will go at this person hammer and tong. And it won't matter that their Glorious Leader brought it all down on himself--WITH THEIR HELP AND SUPPORT!--vengeance will be the order of the day. Or year. Or years, that is.

Hatred and outrage are mother's milk to the base on the right and it that hatred will be siphoned off by Fox and everyone else. And once again, they'll be the victims of a sochalist party who wants to make sure black people and gays and uppity women are treated as well as white supremacist males. Horrors!

So, that's my prediction. We'll get a sneak peek as we get closer to the election. Because as I've always noted, wingers can rob a bank and shoot a dozen innocent people running out the door with nary a squeak out of much of the media, but let a Democrat run a stop sign, and there'll be calls for the electric chair.

October 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Those guys I had dinner with, the guys helping my lawyer Rudy in my plan to screw Joe Biden? Those guys I had my picture taken with and said were really good guys?

Don't know them. Never met them before.

October 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

But here's the thing...we will now get to observe, for the umpteenth time, the Donald Way.

Step one: Deny (Okay, we got that. "I never met those gentlemen")

Step two: Attack (on the way)

Step three: Tacit admission but accept no responsibility

Step four: Admission with CYA qualifications, again accept no responsibility

Step five: Conspiracy time (everyone's out to get me because I'm so great. Those wonderful gentlemen were just trying to help me against the deep state...)

Step six: Find someone else to blame

Step seven: New scandal

Happens every time.

October 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Ak: Where’s the number for the grandiose delusional statement

October 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

Oh I see . Buried Jin no. 5

October 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

I see where Crazy Rudy met his two Ukrainian operatives, now guests of the feds, at Trump's hotel in DC hours before they were arrested by the FBI. What with all the foreign connivers, Republican chiselers, assorted crooks, gangsters, con artists, and Fox brown nosers hanging around the place, dropping cash, peddling or buying influence, working up dirt on Fatty's enemies, and plotting against the Constitution, it's become the Bada Bing of the Trump Crime Family. All they're missing are the stripper poles (and they may be upstairs, who knows?).

October 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

@Akhilleus: Actually, there are stripper poles already in evidence. According to BuzzFeed (referenced in Ken Vogel's report above), Frick & Frack "ran up big charges at a strip club and the Hilton International hotel [in Kiev]." This story has everything!

October 11, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Whew! Good thing Bret wasn't shunned at Martha's Vineyard cocktail parties. That would be fodder for a decade.

October 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

William Perry Pendley (see story linked above). Another complete loon appointed by Fatty (acting, natch) to run the Bureau of Land Management, who also wants to extirpate the entire operation, root and branch (what's with appointing people to run departments who (A) hate the work that department does, (B) hate the people there, and (C) want to destroy it?

But not only is Pendley a lunatic, he's also a science hater, climate change denier, frighteningly ignorant bigot, and a supporter of treasonous assholes like the Bundy Crime Family. He also doesn't believe government can own land, ergo his desire to sell off all government lands to his pals in the various extraction industries.

And not for nothin', but can a temporary appointee, who hasn't undergone a millisecond of Senatorial investigation, really dismantle a federal department? Force everyone to pick up and move on his say so? And not just move, but move in with the enemy? Corporations dedicated to its destruction?

Where do they find these people? And what's with that mustache? If the picture wasn't in color, you'd think it was a Daguerreotype from 1850 of some crackpot desperado with a name like Plug Nickel Pete, the Backstabber. Oh wait, it IS a picture of a crackpot desperado.

Pendley believes Muslims are satanic and that immigrants are disease ridden scum. No wonder Trump loves this guy.

Day by day, step by step, Trump is tearing apart the nation, remaking it in his own foolish,foul, fetid, hate-filled image.

October 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Here's a chilling piece by Jacob Bacharach : "Ellen DeGeneres & the American Psychopath (and it ain't Fatty). So if you are plum tired out by today's numerous newsy bits and pieces and are trying to untangle that great spider's web of intrigue and criminality, just tuck this piece away for a rainy day––it's worth a read.

https://www.truthdig.com/articles/ellen-degeneres-and-the-american-psychopath/

October 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterP.D. Pepe

@Ak Dems will have a VERY big decision post-election (given they don't blow it), on the scales of Obama's withering instead of blowing up the notion of Too Big To Fail banks.

The next administration is going to have an entire horde of treason, corruption, nepotism, and clientelism to clean up. Here's the question: do they slowly dismiss them all, citing regs and norms and whatever diplomatic talk they can gin up and hold a "look to the future" hatuna-matata position, or do they put Kamala Harris as DOJ AG and place a mass order of hand cuffs?

Maybe they can clear out the migrant kids, send them to their sponsor families like we've always done, and shove the whole lot of corrupt Republican officials into the kiddie cages? They can't bitch about conditions because Faux News says it's like being on vacation.

We all know the Gym Jordans and #MoscowMitch McConnells will whine and bitch and moan about unfairness and dither on their talk shows about the mean Dems whether they get pursued for law-breaking or not. We might as well send a serious message that criminals get put in jail and perp walk all the goons in front of the teevee.

Bust out the evidence and let the chips fall where they may. I think Biden would turn the other cheek, while Warren would declare bounty hunting season.

October 11, 2019 | Unregistered Commentersafari

@Akhilleus: Whatevah do you mean? (See new photo above.)

October 11, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Marie Daguerre,

Good job. Wild Bill must have left his shootin' arns home that day.

October 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Safari,

I think you're right. Biden probably would want to let bygones be bygones. That is, when he's not pretending to be gay. Jeez. What was that about? It's like someone coming up to me, pretending to be Irish, wearing one of those silly St. Paddy's Day hats and saying "Begorrah, me laddie, could ye be pouring me a drop o' the craythur?" It's weird and borderline insulting.

You're okay with gay people? Great. So just say that. You don't have to pretend to be putting the moves on Anderson Cooper. Maybe someone else could pull that off (Robin Williams?), but not Biden. Weee-eerd.

(Although I'll admit (PD), it's better than yukking it up with a war criminal.)

He's not gonna win.

October 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Re. The Above NYTimes’ “Pizza Man” Article

Mr. Hakki Akdeniz, who happens to be a Kurd, could not better exemplify what Emperor Summa Cum Loudly is not, never was and would (could) never even imagine to be.

October 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterHattie
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