The Wires
The Ledes

Sunday, September 15, 2019.

New York Times: "Juanita Abernathy, who helped organize the Montgomery bus boycott and took part in other pivotal protests at the outset of the civil rights era alongside the Rev. Dr. Ralph Abernathy, her husband and a leader of the movement, died on Thursday at a hospital in Atlanta. She was 88."

Public Service Announcement

September 5: Washington Post: "State and federal health officials investigating mysterious lung illnesses linked to vaping have found the same chemical in samples of marijuana products used by people sickened in different parts of the country and who used different brands of products in recent weeks. The chemical is an oil derived from vitamin E. Investigators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found the oil in cannabis products in samples collected from patients who fell ill across the United States. FDA officials shared that information with state health officials during a telephone briefing this week, according to several officials who took part in the call." The NPR story is here.

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.

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.”


The Commentariat -- September 11, 2019

Late Morning/Afternoon Update:

The Plot Thickens. Mulvaney's Fingerprints Found at the Scene. Peter Baker, et al., of the New York Times: "The White House was directly involved in pressing a federal scientific agency to repudiate the weather forecasters who contradicted President Trump's claim that Hurricane Dorian would probably strike Alabama, according to several people familiar with the events. Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, told Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, to have the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration publicly disavow the forecasters] position that Alabama was not at risk. NOAA, which is part of the Commerce Department, issued an unsigned statement last Friday in response, saying that the Birmingham, Ala., office was wrong to dispute the president's warning.... The White House had no immediate comment on Wednesday, but [a] senior administration official said Mr. Mulvaney was interested in having the record corrected because, in his view, the Birmingham forecasters had gone too far and the president was right to suggest there had been forecasts showing possible impact on Alabama." The Hill summarizes the NYT story. ~~~

     ~~~ Suspected "Mastermind" Professes Innocence. Caitlin Oprysko of Politico: "... Donald Trump denied that his chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was acting on his orders when Mulvaney reportedly directed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to pressure a federal agency to rebuke scientists who had contradicted Trump's hurricane claims. 'No, I never did that -- I never did that,' Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Wednesday, dismissing the entire scandal as 'a hoax by the fake news media.'... On Wednesday, House Democrats piled on when they announced an investigation into reports that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had come under pressure by Ross to issue a statement disavowing the NWS Birmingham tweet. Democrats on the House Science Committee and its oversight subcommittee on Wednesday demanded the White House and Commerce Department turn over any documents relating to an unattributed Sept. 6 statement put out by NOAA in which the agency chastised NWS Birmingham...." ~~~

     ~~~ ** Update. "Mastermind" Nabbed! Andrew Freedman, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Trump told his staff that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration needed to deal with a tweet that seemed to contradict his statement that Hurricane Dorian posed a significant threat to Alabama as of Sept. 1, in contrast to what the agency's forecasters were predicting at the time, senior administration officials said. This led chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to call Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to tell him to fix the issue, the officials said.... Mulvaney then called Ross but did not instruct him to threaten any firings or make any punitive threats, officials said. He simply told Ross that the agency needed to fix the matter immediately, leading to a new statement that was issued Friday, Sept. 6. The New York Times reported some elements of these events earlier Wednesday."

Lee Moran of the Huffington Post: "... Donald Trump drew ire on Twitter Wednesday morning with the way he marked the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Trump shared a photograph of himself and first lady Melania Trump, their backs to the camera, with the caption: 'We Will Never Forget.' However, it wasn't his first post of the day. That honor went to a rant about China and his trade war. Critics on Twitter also called out Trump's now-canceled plan to meet with Taliban leaders close to the anniversary of 9/11, and recalled his history of making insensitive and untruthful statements about the attacks. 'Except when we invited the Taliban over for a photo op,' tweeted attorney George Conway, the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and a frequent Trump critic."

Jan Hoffman of the New York Times: "Purdue Pharma and its owners, members of the Sackler family, have tentatively reached the first comprehensive settlement with lawyers representing thousands of municipal governments, tribes and states nationwide that are suing the pharmaceutical industry for the devastation resulting from the opioid epidemic. The company is expected to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy imminently. The settlement, which was described by two people involved in the negotiations, involves the dissolution of Purdue Pharma as it now exists, the formation of a new company that will continue to sell its signature opioid, OxyContin, with the proceeds going to a public beneficiary company that will pay the plaintiffs. Purdue Pharma also will donate 'rescue' drugs, several of which are in development, for addiction treatment and overdose reversal. The Sackler family will pay $3 billion in cash over seven years. The settlement does not include a statement of wrongdoing." The Washington Post story is here. Mrs. McC: This is a breaking story, and I can't find a firewall-free story but will look again later.

Brandon Ambrosino in Politico Magazine: "One day after Politico published a piece in which Jerry Falwell Jr. denied visiting a Miami Beach nightclub in July 2014 and alleged that any images showing such were 'photo-shopped,' a new trove of photos showing Falwell at the club has been released. Seth Browarnik, the owner of World Red Eye, a photography company that documents Miami's bustling nightlife scene, says he was unaware how many photos he had of Falwell until Falwell alleged that his site's images were manipulated -- prompting Browarnik to explore his photo archive to prove otherwise. On Tuesday, Browarnik published the newly unearthed photos on his website,, along with a strongly worded 'rebuke' of Falwell's claim of photoshopping."

CBS 17 Raleigh-Durham: "North Carolina House Republicans called a surprise vote and overrode Gov. Roy Cooper's budget veto on Wednesday morning, Cooper said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon. The vote was taken while Cooper was at a 9/11 memorial event. According to a tweet by State Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Mecklenburg), almost half of the House members were absent when the vote was taken, which resulted in a 55-9 tally. Jackson said Democrats were specifically told by Republicans that no votes would be held in Wednesday's morning session." Emphasis added.

Morgan Winsor of ABC News: "In commemoration of the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the U.S., the victims and survivors, as well as the first responders and volunteers who risked their lives to save others, will be honored Wednesday at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, which was built where the twin towers once stood. All those who lost their lives in the attacks will have their names read starting around 8:40 a.m. local time during a ceremony at the museum that is only open to victims' families but will be streamed online. There will also be six moments of silence throughout the ceremony: two for the moments when the planes hit each tower, two for when each tower collapsed, one for the moment when a third hijacked plane struck the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, and another for when a fourth plane crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania."

Matthew Chapman of RawStory: "On Tuesday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) discovered, via a search of government records, that the government spent nearly $600,000 in limousines to ferry Vice President Mike Pence and his fellow travelers across Ireland. The cost was so expensive because although Pence was officially visiting Dublin, he insisted on staying at President Donald Trump's property in Doonbeg -- on the other side of the island." --s

Justin Baragona of The Daily Beast: "During a Monday morning Fox News appearance, former deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland reacted to the Trump administration's scuttled peace talks with the Taliban by suggesting the United States shouldn't be concerned with 'civilian deaths' in Afghanistan in the future, calling for a large-scale bombing campaign if any Americans are killed 'anywhere in the world.'... McFarland's desire to see Afghanistan civilian deaths comes on the heels of Fox News contributor Joey Jones calling for the execution of detainees any time an American soldier is killed overseas. 'The first thing I would do today, is every time one of our soldiers dies overseas during these talks, I would go down to Guantanamo and I would execute a Taliban captive,' he said during a Fox & Friends appearance on Saturday." --s

Josh Kovensky of TPM: "Where in the world is Rudy Giuliani? With news that three House Committees are investigating the Trump attorney's efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to look for dirt on Joe Biden, it's a question worth asking.... TPM has gathered reporting on Giuliani's foreign adventures since taking office, consolidating them in one map that reveals the extent of his global peddling." Includes map. --s

Lee Fang of The Intercept: "In recent years, Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialist megadonor to Republicans and libertarian causes, has carefully recalibrated his public image, releasing a variety of statements to assert that he supports immigration and opposes President Donald Trump's blatant scapegoating of undocumented immigrants and foreigners. At the same time, however, Koch's sprawling political network's in-house technology company has mined consumer data to motivate Republican voters with dehumanizing messages that depict immigrants as an invading army of criminals and potential terrorists." --s

David Kay Johnston: "While White House reporters investigate who added a Sharpie line to a hurricane map, a huge global story is developing that bodes badly for the economic welfare of Americans for decades to come. China is using Trump's gratuitous trade war to expand its economic, diplomatic and military influence. And it is succeeding, diminishing America's influence, especially in the Western Pacific and India. The long-term cost to America in lost opportunities and ultimately diminished economic growth will be catastrophic.... Trumpian efforts to decouple the world's two largest economies has become a hot topic in Asia. The simple truth is that China no longer needs America to buy its goods." --s

Emanuel Stoakes of the Guardian: "Leaked communications suggest that the UN's migration agency is censoring itself on the climate crisis and the global compact on migration, following pressure from the US government." --s

Justin McCurry of the Guardian: "The operator of the ruined Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant will have to dump huge quantities of contaminated water from the site directly into the Pacific Ocean, Japan's environment minister has said -- a move that would enrage local fishermen. More than 1 million tonnes of contaminated water has accumulated at the plant since it was struck by a tsunami in March 2011[.]" --s

BBC News: "Boris Johnson's suspension of the UK Parliament is unlawful, Scotland's highest civil court has ruled. A panel of three judges at the Court of Session found in favour of a cross-party group of politicians who were challenging the prime minister's move. The judges said the PM was attempting to prevent Parliament holding the government to account ahead of Brexit. A UK government appeal against the ruling will be heard by the Supreme Court in London next week."


Allyson Chiu of the Washington Post: "After hosting a rally in North Carolina with Vice President Pence earlier this week and then blasting out endorsements for two GOP candidates running in special elections there, President Trump closely tracked the returns on Tuesday night. When it became clear that both men vying for open House seats had won, the president took to Twitter in triumph. In a flurry of tweets sent well into early Wednesday morning, Trump celebrated the 'TWO BIG VICTORIES' and boasted about his influence on the results -- while also taking time to bash the 'Fake News' and share a photo suggesting a third term for himself." The Hill's story is here. ~~~

~~~ Mrs. Bea McCrabbie: Oops! I didn't know there were two open House seats in North Carolina to be decided Tuesday. Washington Post: "Two special elections [were] held Tuesday in North Carolina to fill the state's vacant U.S. House seats -- one in North Carolina's 3rd District, the other in the 9th District. The 3rd District covers most of North Carolina's coastline, including the Outer Banks. The 9th District stretches along the South Carolina border, including portions of the Charlotte and Fayetteville metro areas. Both districts voted for Donald Trump in 2016." Results are on the linked page. Politico has the results here. ~~~

     ~~~ Update: The Republican Dan Bishop is the winner in the 9th District. The AP has declared Republican Greg Murphy the winner in the 3rd District. WashPo: "The 3rd District seat became vacant in February, when Rep. Walter Jones (R) died at age 76. He had represented the state since 1995; his father, Walter B. Jones Sr., was a House member from North Carolina from 1966 until his death in 1992." Jones Sr. was a Democrat. ~~~

     ~~~ Richard Fausset & Jonathan Martin of the New York Times: "Dan Bishop, a Republican state senator, scored a narrow victory on Tuesday in a special House election in North Carolina that demonstrated President Trump's appeal with his political base but also highlighted his party's deepening unpopularity with suburban voters. Mr. Bishop defeated Dan McCready, a moderate Democrat, one day after Mr. Trump made a full-throated plea for support for the Republican at a rally on the conservative end of a Charlotte-to-Fayetteville district, which the president carried by nearly 12 points in 2016. With most votes counted on Tuesday night, Mr. Bishop was ahead by about two percentage points, according to The Associated Press.... Mr. Bishop's win came only after outside Republican groups poured over $5 million into the district.... Mr. Bishop, 55, a Charlotte lawyer, is perhaps best known statewide for sponsoring the so-called bathroom bill that required transgender people to use restrooms that corresponded with the gender on their birth certificate. He boasted of his ndorsement from the National Rifle Association, and he repeatedly attacked Mr. McCready by lumping him with the more left-leaning elements of the Democratic Party." The Charlotte Observer story is here. ~~~

     ~~~ Tal Axelrod of the Hill: "Republican state Rep. Greg Murphy is projected to win the special election Tuesday in North Carolina's 3rd District for a seat vacated following the death of Republican Rep. Walter Jones Jr. earlier this year. Murphy bested Democrat Allen Thomas, the former mayor of Greenville, in the coastal North Carolina district by about 20 points with 75 percent of the district's precincts reporting. The district, which backed President Trump over Hillary Clinton by over 23 points in 2016, was expected to remain in Republican hands."

You Can't Fire Me; I Quit. As the Mustache Curls ... Trump Lies Again. Peter Baker
of the New York Times: "President Trump announced on Tuesday that he had fired John R. Bolton, his third national security adviser, amid fundamental disagreements over how to handle major foreign policy challenges like Iran, North Korea and most recently Afghanistan. 'I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House,' the president wrote on Twitter. 'I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for his service.' Mr. Bolton offered a different version of how the end came in his own message on Twitter shortly afterward. 'I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, "Let's talk about it tomorrow,"' Mr. Bolton wrote, without elaborating. Responding to a question from The New York Times via text message, Mr. Bolton said it was his initiative. 'Offered last night without his asking,' he wrote. 'Slept on it and gave it to him this morning.'" The NPR report is here. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ~~~

~~~ Aaron Blake of the Washington Post: "... two key things call into question [Trump's] version of how it went down.... Just an hour before the announcement, the White House announced that Bolton would be appearing at a 1:30 p.m. news conference alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. If Bolton was on his way out as of Monday night, why did the White House press office not seem to know about it at 11 a.m. Tuesday? [Bolton's] tweets Monday night and Tuesday didn't indicate anything had changed, and shortly after Trump's tweets, he chimed in by saying, 'I offered to resign last night and President Trump said, "Let's talk about it tomorrow."'... After [the Daily Beast] quoted White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who backed up Trump's account, Bolton responded in a text: '[White House] press secretary statement is flatly incorrect.'" (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

~~~ Brian Bennett of Time: "As ... Donald Trump prepared in recent weeks to meet in person with Taliban negotiators at Camp David and with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in New York later this month, National Security Advisor John Bolton grew increasingly frustrated. And on Monday, during a conversation between Bolton and the President, the two men reached their limit with one another.... Bolton, a life-long hawk, had tried to steer the President toward a hard-line foreign policy. As Trump embraced the idea of meeting with two of America's most ardent adversaries, Bolton objected increasingly vocally, according to several administration sources familiar with their discussions. Then on Monday, Trump and Bolton spoke to try to clear the air. Bolton brought up the fact that he was left out of a meeting on the Afghanistan negotiations.... As the discussion progressed, it began to spiral outward into Bolton's broader questions about Trump's willingness to meet with Iran's president." ~~~

~~~ John Hudson of the Washington Post: "The ouster of national security adviser John Bolton on Tuesday removes a hawkish ideologue whose mastery of bureaucracy and disdain for the foreign policy establishment empowered President Trump to make some of his most dramatic policy shifts and undo President Barack Obama's most prized national security achievements.... When it came to unwinding previous U.S. policies Trump viewed as a nuisance, Bolton eagerly executed for the president over the objections of career diplomats and defense officials.... But ... Bolton's appetite for military confrontation and regime change clashed repeatedly with the views of Trump.... During Bolton's tenure, Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and held a high-profile summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.... But the president's desire to end America's long-standing military conflicts and strike deals with longtime U.S. adversaries ... exposed sharp differences between the two men.... In June, following Trump's decision not to order a military attack on Iran after it downed an unmanned U.S. drone, Bolton was 'devastated,' said one U.S. official familiar with the matter.... Days before his resignation, Bolton had argued harshly against an emerging deal with the Taliban to withdraw U.S. troops in exchange for a promise that the militant group would not allow the country to become a staging ground for terrorist attacks on the United States." ~~~

~~~ When Outsized Egos Collide. Eliana Johnson of Politico: "Ultimately, it was hearing media accounts about how Bolton had advised the president to scuttle a meeting with Taliban leaders at Camp David that proved a breaking point for Trump, according to sources in and out of the administration. In the president's telling, he had taken his own counsel in arriving at the decision to call off the meeting and end the negotiations, and he was infuriated to hear Bolton credited with influencing his decision." ~~~

~~~ Carol Lee, et al., of NBC News: "As ... Donald Trump began losing confidence in national security adviser John Bolton, whom he fired on Tuesday, he reached out to the man he had fired to give Bolton the job: retired Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. In phone calls to McMaster -- the first of which took place last fall -- Trump told his second national security adviser that he missed him, according to two people familiar with the conversations. It's a sentiment the president has also expressed to White House aides, they said. Trump has solicited McMaster's advice on various national security challenges, even asking McMaster whom he should nominate to lead the Pentagon, they said." (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

~~~ New York Times Editors: "Regardless of who has advised Mr. Trump on foreign affairs ... all have proved powerless before a zest for chaos.... Even when Mr. Trump has pursued worthy goals -- trying to persuade North Korea's dictator to give up his nuclear weapons, negotiating with the Taliban so American troops can leave Afghanistan -- his mercurial, impatient, crisis-driven approach has often backfired, no matter who was advising him.... Mr. Boltons departure seems unlikely to make the American national security apparatus any less dysfunctional, with many top positions vacant and allies confused about whom to deal with.... The White House may be in turmoil, alliances may be trembling and adversaries may be seeking advantage, but that all just amounts to more drama, more suspense, more television coverage -- all of it with Donald Trump at the center." ~~~

~~~ Tucker Unmasks Bolton! Josh Feldman of Mediaite: "Fox News' Tucker Carlson has been publicly critical of John Bolton on numerous occasions, so it's no surprise that he opened his show [Tuesday] night declaring that his leaving the White House is 'great news for America.'" At some point during his monologue, Carlson said, "... Bolton himself fundamentally was a man of the left. There was not a human problem John Bolton wasn't totally convinced could be solved with the brute force of government. That's an assumption of the left, not the right. Don't let the mustache fool you. John Bolton was one of the most progressive people in the Trump administration. By the way, naturally, once he was ensconced there, Bolton promoted Obama loyalists within the National Security Council...." Thanks to Ken W. for the lead. ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Hard to know if this is just plain ole Charles Boyer gaslighting or if Tucker is delusional & thinks everyone who disagrees with him must be a leftist or if he is knowingly trying to erase the meanings of common political labels.

~~~ MEANWHILE.... Robert Legare of CBS News: "Michael Flynn, President Trump's former national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI..., was back in federal court Tuesday, with his legal team accusing federal prosecutors of engaging in 'egregious government misconduct' that warranted their dismissal from his case.... Against the wishes of Flynn's attorney Sidney Powell, Judge Emmet Sullivan set a sentencing date for December 18, exactly a year after Sullivan first delayed Flynn's sentencing to allow for further cooperation with the government." ~~~

     ~~~ Zoe Tillman of BuzzFeed News has more on Tuesday's court proceedings.

Jeff Stein, et al., of the Washington Post: "President Trump has ordered White House officials to conduct a sweeping crackdown on homelessness in California, citing the state's growing crisis, according to four government officials aware of the effort. The talks have intensified in recent weeks. Administration officials have discussed using the federal government to get homeless people off the streets of Los Angeles and other areas and into new government-backed facilities, according to two officials briefed on the planning. But it is unclear how they could accomplish this and what legal authority they would use. It is also unclear whether the state's Democratic politicians would cooperate with Trump, who has sought to embarrass them over the homeless crisis with repeated attacks on their competency." The CBS Los Angeles story is here. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ~~~

~~~ Charles Pierce of Esquire: "First of all, there is absolutely no way this is a federal issue. As the Post points out, this is part of the administration*'s re-election strategy to delegitimize those places guaranteed to vote against him in 2020. The rubes at the rallies love horror stories about The Big Bad Cities and The Big Bad People who live there.... The administration* is putting together a re-election strategy aimed at convincing people that large portions of this country should not count, and many of those people do not need much convincing. It is developing a list of Shithole Cities and Shithole States that it can use to scare the good country people out of their votes, their health care, and, ultimately, the money. The cynicism of this is almost breathtaking." ~~~

~~~ digby has an excellent post in which she reminds us of the history of Trump's impetus -- Tucker Carlson! -- to clean up the "filth" in U.S. cities. digby predicted a few months back that Trump would demonize the urban "liberal establishment" to frighten his base voters. In case you weren't aware of it, "Trump cleaned up homelessness in Washington, D.C." Just ask him.

Weird News. Jim Sciutto & Marshall Cohen of CNN: "... Donald Trump has privately and repeatedly expressed opposition to the use of foreign intelligence from covert sources, including overseas spies who provide the US government with crucial information about hostile countries, according to multiple senior officials who served under Trump. Trump has privately said that foreign spies can damage relations with their host countries and undermine his personal relationships with their leaders, the sources said. The President 'believes we shouldn't be doing that to each other,' one former Trump administration official told CNN. In addition to his fear such foreign intelligence sources will damage his relationship with foreign leaders, Trump has expressed doubts about the credibility of the information they provide. Another former senior intelligence official told CNN that Trump 'believes they're people who are selling out their country.' Even in public, Trump has looked down on these foreign assets, as they are known in the intelligence community. Responding to reports that the CIA recruited Kim Jong Un's brother as a spy, Trump said he 'wouldn't let that happen under my auspices.'" Thanks to Ken W. for the link. See also Ken's comment in today's thread. (Also linked yesterday.) ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: I suppose this is reflects Trump's disdain for the U.S. intelligence community, but it could be something more sinister: he doesn't want U.S. spies to find out what he is doing to curry favor with strongmen around the world -- shades of Christopher Steele. As Ken suggests, it's a head-scratcher.

Marc Bennetts, et al., of the Guardian: "The CIA Russian spy drama currently gripping Washington has taken a new turn as Russian media reported that a suspected US mole inside the Kremlin was a member of Vladimir Putin's administration who disappeared in 2017 and was initially thought to have been murdered. Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, confirmed the man, Oleg Smolenkov, had worked for the Kremlin but played down his importance, insisting he was a low-level employee who had been fired two years ago."

The Trump White House Screws up Everything. Alanda Goodman & Steven Nelson of the Washington Examiner: "One of the people President Trump honored for his heroism during a mass shooting in an El Paso Walmart last month was arrested by the Secret Service during his visit to the White House on Monday due to an outstanding criminal warrant, law enforcement officials told the Washington Examiner. Police say his tale of heroics does not match video evidence. Chris Grant, 50, was shot in the ribs and a kidney during the Aug. 3 rampage that claimed 22 lives. He was not present for a White House ceremony Monday, but his mother Minnie Grant, 82, accepted a signed certificate on his behalf. Grant said in a series of interviews that he sought to spare fellow shoppers by picking up bottles and throwing them at the gunman, with at least one hitting or nearly striking him. A Gofundme account raised $16,917 on his behalf.... 'Nobody bothered to check with us,' said El Paso police spokesman Sgt. Enrique Carrillo. 'They would have been informed, as I am telling you now, that our detectives reviewed hours of video and his actions did not match his account.... His statements were inconsistent with what was revealed on video,' Carrill said." (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

Patricia Mazzei & Frances Robles of the New York Times: "A former top administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency was arrested on Tuesday in a major federal corruption investigation that found that the official took bribes from the president of a company that secured $1.8 billion in federal contracts to repair Puerto Rico's shredded electrical grid after Hurricane Maria. Federal authorities arrested Ahsha Tribble, FEMA's former deputy administrator for the region that includes Puerto Rico, and Donald Keith Ellison, the former president of Cobra Acquisitions, prosecutors in Puerto Rico announced. They were accused of conspiring to defraud the federal government, among other charges. A second FEMA employee, Jovanda R. Patterson, who worked as a deputy chief of staff in Puerto Rico under Ms. Tribble and was later hired by Cobra, was also arrested, said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez Vélez, the United States attorney for Puerto Rico. Ms. Tribble and Mr. Ellison had a 'close personal relationship,' Ms. Rodríguez Vélez said, in which Mr. Ellison lavished Ms. Tribble with gifts in exchange for her to use her influence inside FEMA to give Cobra an advantage.... Mr. Ellison and Ms. Tribble traveled together and stayed in the same room, Ms. Rodríguez Vélez said.... President Trump has repeatedly cast Puerto Rico's leaders as incompetent and corrupt. Tuesday's arrests, however, did not involve any Puerto Ricans, but rather a longtime federal employee now serving under the Trump administration." The Hill has a summary of the Times report here. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

AP: "The head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) appeared close to tears on Tuesday, as he both defended the administration and thanked a local weather office that contradicted Donald Trump's [Mrs. McC: false] claims about Hurricane Dorian threatening Alabama. Neil Jacobs, the acting administrator, told a meteorology group a Noaa statement that criticized the Birmingham-area forecast office after it disagreed with the president was meant to clarify 'technical aspects' about Dorian's potential impact. 'What it did not say, however, was that we understood and fully support the good intent of the weather office, which was to calm fears in support of public safety,' said Jacobs.... 'This is hard for me,' said Jacobs, his voice choked." ~~~

     ~~~ Mrs. McCrabbie: Since Jacobs chose not to resign, he at least should have included his support for fellow meteoroligists in his initial statement. Instead, he knocked them: "The Birmingham National Weather Service's Sunday morning tweet spoke in absolute terms that were inconsistent with probabilities from the best forecast products available at the time."

Last year, Matt Ford of the New Republic suggested that the Trump Organization be nationalized: "Only by placing the Trump family business in public hands, I argued, could lawmakers restore some confidence in the integrity of American governance." Alas, it turns out that here in Upside-down World, the Trumpies more or less turned Ford's suggestion on its head: "Trump's business properties now operate as de facto outposts of the U.S. government.... The Trump Organization and the federal government blend together in some sort of unholy corporate merger. It may be the most successful hostile takeover in history."

Rick Newman of Yahoo! Finance: "President Trump says he is 'winning big time, against China.' But his trade war is causing measurable damage to the U.S. economy, with the pain likely to worsen. Forecasting firm Moody's Analytics estimates that Trump's trade war with China has already reduced U.S. employment by 300,000 jobs, compared with likely employment levels absent the trade war. That's a combination of jobs eliminated by firms struggling with tariffs and other elements of the trade war, and jobs that would have been created but haven't because of reduced economic activity. The firm's chief economist, Mark Zandi, told Yahoo Finance that the job toll from the trade war will hit about 450,000 by the end of the year, if there's no change in policy. By the end of 2020, the trade war will have killed 900,000 jobs, on its current course. The hardest-hit sectors are manufacturing, warehousing, distribution and retail."

As a group, the smartest political observers in the U.S. are black women. -- Mrs. Bea McCrabbie

>Trump's approval rating among black women in today's new @CNNpoll is 3% (!) -- Ryan Struyk, in a tweet

#MoscowMitch. Erin Banco of the Daily Beast: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last month blocked a measure that would have used Treasury Department funds marked for Appalachian development to help pay for coal miners' health care and pensions in his home state of Kentucky. But just a few months earlier, McConnell successfully steered near-identical Treasury funds for Appalachia to bankroll a Kentucky aluminum plant connected to an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.... [That is,] McConnell worked to keep money out of coal miners' hands -- even as h maneuvered to steer federal funds to the Russian-linked plant."

Presidential Race 2020. Brett Samuels of the Hill: "President Trump on Wednesday lashed out at a new Washington Post-ABC News poll showing him trailing five Democratic presidential candidates, dismissing it as a 'phony suppression poll.' The president sent three tweets complaining about the poll just minutes before he was scheduled to participate in a moment of silence marking the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.... The president also claimed he 'hasn't even started campaigning yet,' despite the fact that he's held several rallies in recent months in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, North Carolina and elsewhere and officially launched his reelection with a rally in Florida in June.... Wednesday's poll showed former Vice President Joe Biden leading Trump in a hypothetical matchup by 16 percentage points among adults surveyed. It also showed Trump trailing Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) by 12 points, 11 points and 10 points, respectively. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) leads Trump by 6 percentage points, according to the poll."

Congressional Race 2020. Griffin Connolly of Roll Call: "Former Rep. Darrell Issa signaled over the weekend that he intends to run for Congress in Rep. Duncan Hunter's district if he is not confirmed to a position in the Trump administration by winter. Issa and Hunter are both Republican. Issa, 65, represented San Diego County for 18 years before retiring at the end of his ninth term earlier this year. His 49th District seat flipped to the Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections, with Rep. Mike Levin handing GOP candidate Diane Harkey a 12 percentage point loss. With Hunter facing trial in January on federal corruption and campaign finance crimes just weeks before the California primaries, Issa has told the California Report that he intends to run for Hunter's seat in the 50th District to prevent the Democrats from picking up another longtime GOP stronghold in Southern California. 'There's nothing wrong with his voting,' Issa said of Hunter. 'But he is injured in a way that, according to most polls I've seen -- all polls I've seen -- he cannot win reelection. And as a Republican, I don't want to lose a seat that is clearly a seat that we need to have to get back in the majority.'..."

Rachana Pradhan of Politico: "The number of Americans lacking health insurance ticked up slightly last year, marking the first annual increase in the uninsured rate in nearly a decade, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday. The uninsured rate rose from 7.9 percent in 2017 to 8.5 percent last year, as experts said the Trump administration's efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act were partly to blame." Thanks, Trump! (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)

It's a Conspiracy! Hill: "Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. told Hill.TV on Tuesday that he has begun sharing information with the FBI in what he alleged was a criminal conspiracy against him by former board members at the school. Falwell said ... that in the coming days the FBI will review university documents at the Lynchburg, Va., campus. He accused former colleagues of stealing school property in the form of emails and then sharing them with reporters in an effort to damage his reputation. 'Our attorneys have determined that this small group of former board members and employees, they're involved in a criminal conspiracy, are working together to steal Liberty property in the form of emails and provided them to reporters,' Falwell Jr. said. The accusation follows a Politico story published Monday that detailed a 'culture of fear and self-dealing at the largest Christian college in the world.' The story cited internal Liberty University emails, which Falwell Jr. and his attorney's allege were stolen in a coordinated effort."

Beyond the Beltway

California. Kate Conger & Noam Scheiber of the New York Times: "California legislators approved a landmark bill on Tuesday that requires companies like Uber and Lyft to treat contract workers as employees, a move that could reshape the gig economy and that adds fuel to a yearslong debate over whether the nature of work has become too insecure. The bill passed in a 29 to 11 vote in the State Senate and will apply to app-based companies, despite their efforts to negotiate an exemption. California's governor, Gavin Newsom, endorsed the bill this month and is expected to sign it after it goes through the State Assembly, in what is expected to be a formality. Under the measure, which would go into effect Jan. 1, workers must be designated as employees instead of contractors if a company exerts control over how they perform their tasks or if their work is part of a company's regular business. The bill may influence other states." The Business Insider story is here.

Way Beyond

Israel/Palestine. David Halbfinger of the New York Times: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said Tuesday that he would move swiftly to annex nearly a third of the occupied West Bank if voters returned him to power in the election next week, seizing what he called a historic opportunity from a sympathetic White House to give Israel 'secure, permanent borders.' His plan to annex territory along the Jordan River would reshape the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and would reduce any future Palestinian state to an enclave encircled by Israel. Mr Netanyahu's rivals on the left and right largely greeted the announcement, made in the heat of a campaign in which he is battling for survival, as a transparent political ploy." CNN's story is here.

News Lede

Dallas Morning News: "T. Boone Pickens, legendary energy executive, philanthropist, ardent Oklahoma State University supporter and one of America's most famous entrepreneurs, died peacefully Wednesday of natural causes at his home in Dallas. He was 91." Pickens' New York Times obituary is here.

Reader Comments (13)

Had to check this in print. Heard it on the TV, but thought I must have heard wrong, but there it was.

"Fox News host Tucker Carlson opened his primetime show Tuesday night by celebrating the ouster of National Security Adviser John Bolton, claiming that the hawkish neo-conservative was actually a “man of the left” and a progressive." Fox News

Have to wonder if Bolton is a leftist...what does that make me?

September 10, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

Hey Ken––remember the great sketch with Richard Pryor and John Cleese calling each other names? At one point Cleese calls Pryor "nigger, nigger" and Pryor comes back with "Honkie, Honkie"; maybe you can call yourself a Lefty-Lefty.

As Bolton bolts Pompeo is smiling cuz he be the last man standing tall beside the Great One. Let's go back to the winter of 2016 when Trump was jumping rope through the primaries and Mike was determined to stop him. At this time he was pushing for Rubio to make a last stand in Kansas. At one of the rallies Pompeo cited Trump's boast that if he ordered a soldier to commit a war crime the soldier would do it and he warned that Trump, like Obama, would be "an authoritarian President who ignored the constitution." But he went on to say that American soldiers don't swear an allegiance to any President because they take an oath to defend our constitution––"as will Marco and me and all conservatives, as Republicans, as Americans " and the crowd roared.

But after Trump won somehow Mike sweet talked himself into the Trump administration and became CIA director––for one year before he replaced Tillerson as SOS. Perhaps Mike can easily transform himself because he's an Evangelical Christian who keeps an open Bible on his desk and has said it's possible that God raised up Trump as a modern Queen Esther, the Biblical figure who convinced the King of Persia to spare the Jewish people. So given this turn-about adoration Pompeo is the perfect lackey for Mr. Wonderful–-"whatever you say, I'm for it!" As a former senior W.H. official told Susan Glasser who did the New Yorker story on Pompeo:"

"There will never be any daylight publicly between him and Trump––Pompeo is among the most sycophantic and obsequious people around Trump," Another chap, a former American ambassador said:

"He's like a heat seeking missile for Trump's ass"

And Bolton's out and Mike is in and has his eyes on the prize.

September 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

@PD Pepe: Did you mean this skit with Pryor & Chevy Chase?

September 11, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

Ah, Marie––such a sleuth you are–-Yes, that is exactly the sketch I was thinking about; memories fade so it's Chase instead of Cleese but Pryor is fabulous as always. Thank you.

September 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

I really don't care which version of the Bolton departure is true, I'm glad he's gone. That said, I imagine Trump will find somebody even worse to appoint; maybe in "acting" capacity? I'm thinking Stephen Miller, but I'm sure there are hundreds of thousands of Trump supporters I've never heard of, with no experience or background whatsoever, and a few of them might be worse than Bolton. It's a high bar, but I'm sure Trump will find a way to clear it. Maybe add another "acting" appointment to Mick Mulvaney's load? Let's see, he's head of OMB and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and he's also the President*s Chief of Staff (acting?). I'm sure he can handle a few more offices.

September 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterProcopius

I see the Pretender is calling for negative interest rates to both boost the economy, theatened by his trade policies, and possibly to re-finance American debt along the way.

Admit that after some reading this morning on the subject am still confused about this negative interest thing, which seems akin to defying gravity, but think I understand enough of what I've read to conclude that the idea is just another Pretender plan to gouge the public, living high on other people's money and resources.

While the R's paint liberals like myself (and John Bolton?) as being addicted to handing out "free stuff," it would seem that it's the Right that has become maestros of the free stuff scam, the real raiders of the public and private purse.

How to make a multi-trillion dollar debt you have created go away? Go lower, even negative with your interest rates, which also effectively lowers the dollar's value, and your prodigality vanishes.

It's magic.

Wonder what my hard money, Goldwater conservative father would think.

September 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

@Ken Winkes: Yeah, this is just Trump's way of demanding that his serf Jay Powell get the Fed to help him with re-election, which I'm sure Trump considers the appropriate tribute Powell should pay for having the honor of being appointed by Trump. It's never going to happen when employment is high & the economy is doing all right. In fact, it has never happened in the U.S. even during the Great Bush Recession (altho the Feds did seem to find some other clever ways to give our money to the banks).

Also too, Drumpf would profit personally from lowered interest rates to the tune of millions in reduced loan repayments because the repayment schedules on some of his mega-loans are pegged to the prime rate.

The whole Powell-bashing gambit is designed to profit Trump, politically & personally. Trump couldn't care less about how ordinary Americans are faring in his economy. Yet millions still love him. Some are masochists, I guess, but most are ignoramuses.

September 11, 2019 | Registered CommenterMrs. Bea McCrabbie

So, wait...John Bolton is a liberal? According to...Tucker Carlson?

First, this has nothing to do with language or labels or ideology. It has to do with a culture of fawning obsequiousness on the part of running-dog boot lickers like Carlson. If it displeases the little king, servile little rodents like Carlson denounce the offending party in the most insulting terms and said offender is hereafter banished from the glorious presence, never to be spoken of again.

I'm sure it pleases the little monarch of mayhem mightily to have so slavish a servant to besmirch those who earn his scorn.

For a moment, I was thinking that Carlson (and others equally odious) might be a bit like the Larry Lefferts character in Edith Wharton's "Age of Innocence". Lefferts is the keeper of the Book of Manners, a ruling from him of poor judgement or bad manners on the part of a member of old money New York society could be devastating. The huge difference is that at least in Wharton's New York social scene there WERE rules, rules that everyone understood implicitly.

At Versailles de Trumpy, there are no rules, at least not as such. There is only one rule: please the little king. Even if that means keeping up with the sometimes hourly changes in his childish needs, desires, hatreds, and schemes.

And this is what sniveling little humbugs like Carlson seek to do.

So, John Bolton, a liberal? Not in this or any other universe. It all has to do with quickly insulting one who has earned the displeasure of a mentally unstable, treasonous pig.

September 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Forgot to mention that I watched a part of the hearings on gun control. The passion from the Dems is so gratifying but sadly it didn't move one Republican who all voted no on the first item which was tightened back ground checks and a ban on assault weapons. Luckily there are more Dems than R's on the committee and this first bill was passed. Will it sit like an old apple, shrivel up and be discarded like the others? what's it gonna be you rat fuckers? Talking to you Mitch and Fatty.

And speaking of rats: This is fascinating: Giant African Rats are trained to detect deadly land mines in Cambodia ( with video)

September 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

When you read the boast that Trump has "cleaned up homelessness" in DC, do you, in your mind's eye, see humanitarian assistance to the most abject in our society? Do you see the opening of clean, well run shelters, medical assistance, counseling, job training?

Yeah. Me neither.

What I do picture is Trump's brownshirts rounding up the homeless, shoving them into garbage trucks and dumping them all outside the district limits. Either that, or maybe imprisoning a bunch and declaring the rest unclean or members of a caste of untouchables.

Humanitarian treatment of the poor, the destitute, the sick, the homeless is not a part of Trump's Amerika. Neither, apparently, is it considered a part of the Evangelical Bible readers who support him wholeheartedly, despite what the Bible says about the treatment of such people.

And it doesn't matter how many of these people consider themselves good Christians. Connection with Trump stains everyone and everything.

September 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

I came across this blog post Pay to Play with a link to this
Intercept article about raising funds for the DCCC and how much money members of congress need for a chairmanship or help to get their legislation to the floor. Isn't government great?

September 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRAS

For those following the $10 million suit filed by One News Now Network against Rachel Maddow and MSNBC for defamation, this the original reporting from "The Daily Beast."

Reportedly, the Pretender thinks highly of ONNN.

No wonder.

Putin's tentacles are everywhere. They're certainly wrapped tightly around the Pretender.

September 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

The law often requires vandals to fix what they've broken, so why not this?

But this time it won't be the vandal who pays.

It will be taxpayers.

Don't call it an Iran bailout, but one for the Pretender.

September 11, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes
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