January 2017 News Reports


 

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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative January 2017 news and views

 

Jan. 31

President Trump, Judge Neil Gorsuch, wife Louise Gorsuch (NBC News)

President Trump announces Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, with his wife Louise Gorsuch (NBC News Photo)

NBC News, Trump Nominates Federal Appeals Court Judge Neil Gorsuch to Supreme Court, Pete Williams, Jan. 31 2017. President Donald Trump said Tuesday night that he will nominate Neil Gorsuch, a federal appeals court judge in Denver, to succeed Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court. Gorsuch, who currently serves on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, was appointed in 2006 by George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate on a voice vote.

Trump made the announcement in a prime-time event from the East Room of the White House, after a day of speculation. The president called the power to nominate Supreme Court justices the most important one behind national defense. "Millions of voters said this was the single most important issue to them when they voted for me for president," Trump said. He said Gorsuch possesses "outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline."

A widely respected judge, he had the backing of two conservative legal groups that advised former President Barack Obama and included his name on a list of potential nominees.

Washington Post, Trump picks Neil Gorsuch, judge seen as similar to Scalia, for Supreme Court, Robert Barnes, Jan. 31 2017. Nominee is favorite of conservative legal establishment President Trump selected Colorado federal appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nominee on Tuesday, opting in the most important decision of his young presidency for a highly credentialed favorite of the conservative legal establishment to fill the opening created last year by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Gorsuch prevailed over the other finalist, Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania, also a federal appeals court judge, and Trump announced the nomination at a televised prime-time event at the White House.

U.S. Supreme Court SealTrump broke tradition by entering the White House ceremony by himself, rather than alongside his nominee. He declared that after “the most transparent” judicial selection process in history, he had delivered on a campaign promise to “find the very best judge in America” for the court.

Gorsuch, 49, said he would strive to be independent and impartial, and that he would “follow the law” to its rightful outcome. A judge who personally agrees with the outcome of every case, Gorsuch said, is probably a “bad judge.”

Gorsuch and Hardiman, 51, emerged from a list of 21 as Trump’s most likely choices. A third person on the shortlist — U.S. Circuit Judge William H. Pryor Jr. of Alabama — saw his chances diminish as some Senate Republican leaders have said his confirmation would be difficult. By comparison, Gorsuch was confirmed a decade ago to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver on a voice vote.

Sally YatesNational Law Journal, Trump's AG Pick Once Told Yates to 'Say No' to Improper Demands, Vanessa Blum, Jan. 31, 2017. Sally Yates (shown above in an official photo) answered questions during her 2015 confirmation hearing that seemed to herald her dramatic departure. The irony? It was Sen. Jeff Sessions doing the asking.

Huffington Post, Donald Trump Is Treating His Supreme Court Decision Like ‘Celebrity Apprentice,’ The two judges in the running are headed to the capital, Cristian Farias, In a move that should surprise no one, President Donald Trump is reportedly bringing the two expected finalists for Justice Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court seat to Washington to create a sense of intrigue ahead of Tuesday’s primetime reveal.

Donald Trump One Rose To Give Satirical photoOr “to build suspense,” as CNN’s Pamela Brown put it in her report on Tuesday. “This is all an extraordinary measure ... to keep the selection private ahead of tonight’s announcement,” Brown said of what increasingly looks like a piece of political theater. (One satirist compiled the photo entitled "He has only one rose to give.")

Finalists Neil Gorsuch and Thomas Hardiman ― both of whom are highly respected in conservative circles ― are either in Washington or en route for the 8 p.m. announcement, according to CNN. Trump has already said he’s made his choice. So is the purpose of this arrangement to give the president one last sit-down with the nominee just to make sure?

Under normal circumstances, a president’s choice for the Supreme Court is shrouded in secrecy. The chief executive meets with the candidates in the days leading up to the nomination and may not make a decision until moments before the announcement. But there’s no precedent for this kind of spectacle, and no apparent reason for bringing both candidates to town for the announcement. The White House has announced the event will be broadcast live on Facebook.

Justice News Around the Nation

Washington Post, ‘God, please help me’: Inmate claims jailers raped her, refused medicine and left her ‘catatonic,’ Samantha Schmidt, Jan. 31, 2017. Inmate claims jailers raped her, withheld medicine. A Cincinnati woman claims she was raped by at least two corrections officers and denied essential epilepsy medication during a harrowing 11 days in jail. The inmate was so desperate for help that she attempted to write the words on her jail cell wall, in her own blood: “God, please help me.”

On her final day in the jail, she was found naked in her cell, crying and mumbling, asking for her mother to hold her, according to a lawsuit she brought Friday. The inmate, a 38-year-old Cincinnati woman, claims that during her 11 days in the Warren County Jail, at least two corrections officers raped her. On one occasion, they assaulted her with so much force that they “shattered” her shoulder bones.

In the lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, the woman sued two corrections officers — one by name, one as a John Doe — along with seven nurses, including the jail’s health services administrator.

The woman was held at the jail in May 2013, after turning herself in on a four-year-old warrant for deception to obtain drugs. The lawsuit alleges the jail’s nurses refused to give the woman her prescribed medicine for her epilepsy, causing her to experience seizures and withdrawal, leaving her debilitated in her jail cell. Incapacitated and unable to defend herself, her jailers allegedly Tased her, took away her clothing, turned off her running water and forced her to drink out of the toilet.

Jeffrey Harvey, David Parker and Kenneth Fenske

Jeffrey Harvey, David Parker and Kenneth C. Fenske (Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General)

Washington Post, Prosecutors: Boy sexually abused at ‘furry parties’ by ‘network’ of men, Ben Guarino, Jan. 31, 2017. Investigators cracked open what they alleged to be a secret group of child abusers, a pedophile ring or “network” that centered on a boy subject to repeated sexual abuse, the Pennsylvania Attorney General said in a statement. Some of the men involved wore animal costumes. On Friday, police arrested a 57-year-old man named Kenneth C. Fenske in Pennsylvania’s Bucks County. Fenske, prosecutors said, would dress up in a red fox suit at “furry parties” before allegedly raping the young victim.

“Furries” are members of a subculture who take on identities based on anthropomorphic animals, called fursonas. It may involve wearing mascot-like costumes. The attorney general’s office noted that a subset of furries do so as a “sexual fetish.” (Others arrested in the case include Jeffrey Harvey, 40, and David Prker, 38,

Keys To Trump Victory: The Analysis Continues

Washington Post, Why even let ’em in?’ Understanding Bannon’s worldview and the policies that follow, Frances Stead Sellers and David A. Fahrenthold, Jan. 31, 2017. In November 2015, Stephen K. Bannon — then the executive chairman of Breitbart News — was hosting a satellite radio show. His guest was Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), who opposed President Obama’s plan to resettle some Syrian refugees in the United States.

“We need to put a stop on refugees until we can vet,” Zinke said.

Bannon cut him off. “Why even let ’em in?” he asked.

Bannon said that vetting refugees from Muslim-majority countries would cost money and time. “Can’t that money be used in the United States?” he said. “Should we just take a pause and a hiatus for a number of years on any influx from that area of the world?” In the years before Bannon grabbed the world’s attention as President Trump’s chief White House strategist, he was developing and articulating a fiery populist vision for remaking the United States and its role in the world.

 

Roger Stone: The Making of a President

Breitbart, New book published today: Roger Stone’s ‘The Making of the President 2016’: How Donald Trump Rode the Wave of Alternate Media to Become President, Jan. 31, 2017. On Nov. 8, 2016, Donald John Trump was elected the forty-fifth President of the United States. This is a singular accomplishment that can only be attributed to the talent, energy, and foresight of Donald Trump himself. Trump’s sprint across eight states in the closing days led to the greatest upset since 1948, when President Harry S Truman barnstormed across the country by train, breaking all railroad speed regulations, making six or seven stops per day, and ensuring his victory over New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey.

From Roger Stone (shown in a portrait): The physical energy that Trump expended going down the stretch was indeed Herculean. There is no question that his final push into Wisconsin, Michigan, and returning to western Pennsylvania, was an act of pure will that, while Clinton was already celebrating, propelled him to victory. The 2016 election was the first in which the mainstream media lost its monopoly over political media coverage in the United States. The increasingly vigorous alternative media, whose reporting standards are superior to the networks and the cable news behemoths, is where more and more voters are getting their information.

Roger StoneTrump’s skillful courting of the conservative media, like The Daily Caller, Breitbart News, WND, and InfoWars, made Trump the first presidential candidate to reach these disaffected and highly motivated Americans effectively. At the same time, Trump’s relentless attacks on the media as “unfair” and “dishonest” came right out of the Nixon playbook, where both Nixon and Trump exploited the resentment of the biased media, so hated by their supporters.

Trump’s willingness to challenge openly the media outlets that went after him kept them somewhat honest in their coverage of his campaign but the relentless cable news networks’ attacks on him were unlike anything I have seen in the nine presidential campaigns in which I worked. The media dropped all pretext of objectivity. Their motives and tactics were naked.

Most of this would largely backfire. American voters have finally become hip to the fact that the media and the political establishment work hand-in-glove to conceal many facts from the American people. The voters no longer believe the media.

Donald Trump is his own strategist, campaign manager, and tactician, and all credit for his incredible election belongs to him. I’m just glad to have been along for the ride. I wanted him to run for President since 1988 and had served as chairman of his Presidential Exploratory Committee in 2000, as well as serving as a consultant to his 2012 consideration of a candidacy.

I have worked for Trump with the Trump Organization, the Trump Shuttle, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, and several political explorations over a forty-year period. He is perhaps the greatest salesman in US history, with the spirit of a promoter and the infectious enthusiasm of an entrepreneur who likes making money and winning.

Trump waged the first modern “all communication” campaign, eschewing polling, expensive television advertising, sophisticated analytics, and all of the traditional tools of a modern presidential campaign.

At the same time, Trump’s campaign was centered around a “set piece rally,” just as Richard Nixon’s campaign had been. That Trump ran as the candidate of “the Silent Majority,” appealing to forgotten Americans, running as the law and order candidate and in the end, the peace candidate, was not accidental. Trump’s campaign was much like Nixon’s. He understood that politics is about big issues, concepts, and themes, and that the voters didn’t really care about wonkish detail. If they had, then Newt Gingrich would have been president.

Although there are similarities between Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980 and Trump’s ascendancy to the presidency, Trump’s election is less an ideological victory and more a manifestation of a genuine desire for a more competent government. Like Nixon, Trump is more pragmatic, interested in what will work, as opposed to what is philosophically pure. He’s tired of seeing America lose. He is exactly the cheerleader the country needs.

Like Truman’s whistle-stop events, Trump rallies became the focal point of his entire campaign, amplified by the cable news networks that carried his rally speeches around the clock. He drew enormous crowds and voters found him funny and genuine. All the while, his trusted press aide Hope Hicks was booking as many one-on-one interviews into his schedule as humanly possible. There was literally a time when you could not turn on the television without seeing and hearing Donald Trump. The cable networks of course did it for the ratings. The fact that Trump was unrehearsed, un-coached, and unhandled, meant that voters found him refreshing and authentic.

Trump Transition

Washington Post, Democrats boycott confirmation hearings for Price and Mnuchin, blocking votes, Ed O'Keefe, Karoun Demirjian and Sean Sullivan​, Jan. 31, 2017. The move effectively stalls the confirmation process. Democrats called it a protest against two ethically comprised nominees.

Moving DC Residential Sections To Maryland?

Washington Post, GOP House chair: Maybe we should cut off part of D.C. and send it back to Md., Jenna Portnoy, Jan. 31, 2017. Republicans on a House committee on Tuesday voted to forge ahead with broad plans to review the District’s laws and local spending, signaling a potentially unprecedented level of involvement from Congress into the affairs of the nation’s capital.

Jason ChaffetzWhile some Republicans struck a conciliatory tone with respect to the city, Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform committee, said members are bound by constitutional “duty and obligation” to oversee the minutiae of District affairs. At one point, he suggested exploring the idea of Maryland absorbing the residential areas of the District, sending the committee into a tizzy.

“I really would love to explore the idea of retroceding the residential areas into Maryland so that not only do you have a member of Congress, but you have two senators a state legislature, a governor,” Chaffetz (shown in an official photo) said. “If you want full representation, I’m very sympathetic to that. I think there’s actually a way to do that.”

Global News

Fox News, Pentagon believes attack on Saudi frigate meant for US warship, Lucas Tomlinson and Jennifer Griffin, Jan. 31, 2017. Suicide bomb attack may have been meant for American warship. The Iranian-backed suicide attack targeting a Saudi frigate off the coast of Yemen on Monday may have been meant for an American warship, two defense officials told Fox News. The incident in question occurred in the southern Red Sea and was carried out by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

Two Saudi sailors were killed and three were wounded. At first the ship was thought to have been struck by a missile. U.S. defense analysts believe those behind the attack either thought the bomber was striking an American warship or that this was a “dress rehearsal” similar to the attack on the USS Cole, according to one official.

Unz Review, "Taking Down" British Officials, Philip Giraldi (former CIA analyst), Jan. 31, 2017. Israel conspires against the Mother of Parliaments. A quite incredible story out of England has not received much media coverage in the United States. It concerns how the Israeli Embassy in London connived with government officials to “take down” parliamentarians and government ministers who were considered to be critical of the Jewish State. It was also learned that the Israeli Embassy was secretly subsidizing and advising private groups promoting Israeli interests, including associations of Members of Parliament (MPs).

The story is interesting on several levels, particularly given the recent furor in the U.S. over allegations that Russia has been interfering in American politics. United Kingdom flagBy way of comparison, though no evidence has been provided to support the claim, Russia allegedly arranged for a hack into the Democratic National Committee server to obtain factual information potentially embarrassing to the Hillary Clinton campaign. The information was then made public and may have influenced how some Americans voted.

Compare that to what has been going on meanwhile in Britain, where an Israeli Embassy diplomat named Shai Masot, “an officer in the Israel Defense Forces and…serving as a senior political officer at the London Embassy,” was meeting with Maria Strizzolo, a senior British civil servant who was formerly chief of staff to Conservative parliamentarian and ardent Zionist Robert Halfon. Masot is certainly an intelligence officer under diplomatic cover.

Masot and Strizzolo’s candid discussion, which was secretly recorded by al-Jazeera, related specifically to getting rid of Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan, regarded as a supporter of an independent Palestinian state.

To Masot’s additional query “Can I give you some MPs that I would suggest you would take down?” Strizzolo suggested “…if you look hard enough, I’m sure there is something that they’re trying to hide…a little scandal maybe.” Another alleged pro-Arab member of Parliament Crispin Blunt was also identified, with Strizzolo confirming that he was on a “hit list.”

It was also learned that Masot had been secretly subsidizing and advising two ostensibly independent groups, the parliamentary Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) and the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI). Masot did, however, express concern that Israel’s control over incoming parliamentarians was not quite what it used to be: “For years, every MP that joined the parliament joined the LFI. They’re not doing that any more in the Labour Party. CFI, they’re doing it automatically. All the 14 new MPs who got elected in the last elections did it automatically.”

Jan. 30

Trump Immigration Order Controversy

Washington Post, Trump fires acting attorney general who refused to defend immigration ban, Matt Zapotosky, Sari Horwitz and Mark Berman, Jan. 30, 2017. White House says ousted official had ‘betrayed’ the Justice Dept. President Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates Monday night, after Yates ordered Justice Department lawyers Monday not to defend his immigration order temporarily banning entry Dana Boenteinto the United States for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees from around the world.

In a press release, the White House said Yates (confirmed 84-12 in 2015) had “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.” The White House has named Dana Boente, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, as acting attorney general. Boente (shown in an official photo) told the Washington Post that he will agree to enforce the immigration order.

Justice Department logo

Washington Post, Acting attorney general orders Justice Dept. not to defend immigration order, Mark Berman and Matt Zapotosky​, Jan. 30, 2017. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, a holdover from the Obama administration (shown in an official photo), said she is not convinced that the travel order is lawful. President Trump seeks to play down effects of executive order amid upheaval,

Sally YatesIt was not immediately clear who would defend the president’s order in the Justice Department’s place. Trump blamed “big problems at airports” on other factors, including demonstrators and an airline’s technical problems. Former president Barack Obama became the latest high-profile voice to weigh in on the issue, offering his first public criticism of his successor while backing the protests.

Washington Post, Angry Republicans lash out at Trump for not consulting them on travel ban, Sean Sullivan and Kelsey Snell​, Jan. 30, 2017. The disarray underscored the increasingly strained relationship between the new president and congressional Republicans, with some key GOP aides saying they felt the administration was moving too swiftly and without respect for critical protocol for vetting executive actions that have been in place for decades. After travel ban, Democrats all but abandon their promise to find common Bob Corkerground with Trump. President Trump’s temporary ban on refugees and other foreigners has significantly deepened fissures in his already fragile relationship with congressional Republicans, as GOP leaders on Capitol Hill complained angrily Monday that they were not consulted before the order was issued.

At least a dozen key GOP lawmakers and aides said Trump’s order took them by surprise, even as the White House insisted that it collaborated with Congress. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s political team sought to reassure donors and other supporters that the temporary ban on travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries does not amount to a “religious test.” And a steady stream of Republican lawmakers released carefully tailored written statements expressing concerns about the order.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) (shown in an official photo) said Monday that he was not briefed before the order was signed.

President Donald Trump officialWashington Post via Richmond Times-Dispatch, President seeks to minimize impact of his immigration order in a series of tweets, Mark Berman, Brady Dennis and Jerry Markon​, Jan. 30, 2017. Trump blamed “big problems at airports” on other factors, including demonstrators and an airline’s technical problems. Critics remain concerned over the exact limits of the ban's scope, legal questions about its constitutionality and whether the Trump administration will comply with orders from federal judges to temporarily halt the travel ban.

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainPresident Trump continued Monday to adamantly defend his immigration order temporarily banning entry into the United States for migrants from seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees from around the world. In a series of tweets, Trump sought to minimize its impact on travelers following confusion, angst and two days of protests that have erupted across the country since he signed the order. His comments came after White House officials, responding to the widespread uncertainty about the order, held a briefing with reporters Sunday evening to argue that the order’s rollout was “a massive success story.”

Earlier that day, Trump sought to clarify the exact reach of his ban, saying in a statement that his action “is not a Muslim ban.” But questions remain over the exact limits of its scope, legal questions about its constitutionality and whether the Trump administration will comply with orders from federal judges to temporarily halt the travel ban. Intense protests cropped up in airport terminals from coast to coast on Saturday and Sunday, meaning both weekends of Trump’s presidency so far have been marked by heavy public demonstrations against him.'

[Trump and his aides keep justifying the entry ban by citing attacks it couldn’t have prevented]

Roll Call, Trump Immigration Order Aggravates Nomination Wars, Niels Lesniewski, Jan. 30, 2017. The Senate should buckle up for a rough week. The bipartisan concern and outrage over President Donald Trump's executive order restricting access of immigrants from seven countries has likely ended any chance there will be smooth confirmation of additional members of the president's national security team.

Washington Post, Trump’s hard-line actions have an intellectual godfather: Jeff Sessions, Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, Jan. 30, 2017. The quiet senator from Alabama — Trump’s nominee for attorney general Justice Department log circular— has become a singular power in the new Washington, with his aides and allies accelerating the president’s most dramatic early moves, including the controversial travel ban.

Washington Post, Obama, in a rare move for an ex-president, breaks silence to criticize Trump on immigration, Juliet Eilperin, On Jan. 18, President Barack Obama told reporters in his final news conference that he would comment on his successor’s actions only at “certain moments where I think our core values may be at stake.”

He managed to stay quiet for less than two weeks. Obama, who is still on vacation with his family after leaving office this month, issued a statement through his spokesman Monday encouraging Americans to publicly protest President Trump’s move to ban citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries — as well as refugees from across the globe — from entering the United States.

He also contested Trump’s claim that Friday’s executive order was based in part on decisions made during his administration, including identifying the same seven countries as harboring terrorism threats and slowing the processing of visas for Iraqis after evidence surfaced that two Iraqis seeking resettlement had been linked to terrorist activity in their homeland. “With regard to comparisons to President Obama’s foreign policy decisions, as we’ve heard before, the President fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion,” Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis said in a statement.

Washington Post, Conservative Koch network could serve as potent resistance in Trump era, Matea Gold and James Hohmann, Jan. 30, 2017. In their first formal break with the administration, top network officials condemned the travel ban on some refugees and immigrants, calling it “the wrong approach.”

The weekend gathering of wealthy donors who help finance the conservative Koch network was supposed to serve as a celebration of the policy victories within reach now that Republicans control Washington: a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a rollback of environmental regulations, perhaps even a corporate tax overhaul.

But with President Trump already embroiled in chaos and controversy, the conservative financiers assembled at a desert resort here were also forced to contend with a new uncertainty: whether the new president will be an ally or an obstacle.

In their first formal break with the administration, top network officials on Sunday condemned Trump’s travel ban on some refugees and immigrants, calling it “the wrong approach.” Some here expressed alarm that Trump has staked out positions anathema to the network’s libertarian principles, targeting individual companies that produce goods abroad and indicating possible support for a border tax on imports. And the network’s chief patron, billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, who pointedly declined to back Trump in the presidential campaign, warned in stark terms of the potential perils of the anti-establishment mood that gave rise to Trump.

Washington Post, The number of people affected by Trump’s travel ban: About 90,000, Glenn Kessler, Jan. 30, 2017. President Trump and his aides love to cite a small number and a big number in order to minimize the impact of the president’s executive order suspending the visas of citizens of seven countries. But these figures are incredibly misleading, so let’s go through the math. The real number is about 90,000. (Moreover, the data does not include potentially tens of thousands of people who are dual-citizens, such as Dutch-Iranians or German-Iraqis, who also are impacted by the order. The administration appears to have carved out exceptions for dual-nationals from The United Kingdom and Canada, but not other countries.)

"Only 109 people out of 325,000 were detained and held for questioning.” — President Trump, tweet, Jan, 30, 2017

“Remember we’re talking about a universe of 109 people. There were 325,000 people that came into this country over a 24 hour period from another country. 109 of them were stopped for additional screening.” — White House press secretary Sean Spicer, press briefing, Jan. 30, 2017

Trump Protests

London Review of Books, Trump: The First Ten Days, Eliot Weinberger, Jan. 30, 2017. In previous eras of protest – civil rights, the Vietnam War, the Iraq War – the injustice was continuing but static. There was, in a sense, no news, only more of the same. What is new in the Trump era is his uncanny knack for provoking new outrages – so far, multiple ones on a daily basis – which open new fronts for protest and galvanise more groups. The major media – in both a response to the open hostility of the Trumpistas towards them as well as the commercial calculation that anything Trump makes good television – and social media will keep fervour alive.

This matters. Republicans are undoubtedly terrified of the 2018 elections. They have let loose Godzilla on the land and they own the rubble.

More important, the passivity and complacency of the Democratic politicians and their voters have met their consequences and cannot go on. We thought we were living in a country enlightened enough to elect someone like Obama as president; that, despite Republican obstructions, things were generally improving and demographics ensured a progressive future. Trump has pitched us into icy water and, as Jesse Jackson said the other day, you have to keep kicking to stay afloat.

Supreme Court Prospects

National Law Journal, Trump's Sister, 'High' on Hardiman for SCOTUS, Doesn't Always Agree With Him, Marcia Coyle and Tony Mauro, Jan. 30, 2017. Donald Trump's sister, federal appeals Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, might be "high" on her colleague Thomas Hardiman as a potential U.S. Supreme Court justice. But Barry and Hardiman are hardly ideological soulmates. By no means an exhaustive search, here are some highlights from cases in which Hardiman and Barry found common ground — and from those disputes where they didn't see eye to eye.

Trump Transition: Gutting EPA?

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainWashington Post, Trump transition leader’s goal is two-thirds cut in EPA employees, Joe Davidson, Jan. 30, 2017. Myron Ebell, the former head of President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency transition team, has suggested cutting the agency's workforce by 5,000.

Global News

USA Today, Police say suspect held in Quebec mosque shooting, Adam Kovac and Greg Toppo, Jan. 30, 2017. A suspect was in custody Monday in connection with the shooting deaths of six people at a mosque, an incident the Canadian prime minister labeled as terrorism. Authorities here identified two men being held in the mass shooting — a very rare occurrence in Canada — but said only one man was a suspect and the other is considered a witness.

Quebec City court clerk Isabelle Ferland named the two men as Alexandre Bissonnette and Mohamed el Khadir, but police declined to say which one was the suspect. At a press conference on Monday afternoon, a police spokesperson said the two are being interrogated but declined to discuss any possible motive. He did confirm the two are Canadian citizens who reside in Quebec. A suspect was in custody Monday in connection with the shooting deaths of six people at a mosque, an incident the Canadian prime minister labeled as terrorism.

Media News

Washington Post, Huffington Post editorial staffers ratify collective-bargaining agreement, Erik Wemple, Jan. 30, 2017. That was quick. Just a month ago, staffers at the Huffington Post went on a tweet binge expressing their displeasure that management, in their ongoing talks to bang out a collective bargaining agreement, advanced a proposal with no pay raises. Today the Writers Guild of America East is announcing that the Huffington Post editorial staffers have almost unanimously ratified a collective bargaining agreement. What about pay? “The contract guarantees that no unit member will receive less than a 3% per year increase, and many will receive substantially more,” reads a release from WGAE, which also represents digital editorial types at Vice, Gizmodo Media Group, Fusion, The Root, ThinkProgress and Salon.

National Public Radio, CNN Beefs Up Investigative Reporting, David Folkenflik, Jan. 30, 2017. CNN is embarking on what it characterizes as a major new initiative in investigative reporting as executives pull together accomplished reporters into a single unit and promise to hire at least a dozen more.

"CNN needs to be an organization that breaks news, not just an organization that covers breaking news or talks about breaking news on television," Andrew Morse, the executive vice president of editorial for CNN/U.S. and general manager of CNN digital worldwide, told NPR. "There's no better way to do that than to invest in investigative reporting." The legendary investigative reporters Carl Bernstein and James Steele, both Pulitzer Prize winners, will serve as contributing editors to advise the team on their work and executives on hiring.

Freedom of Information

Columbia Journalism Review, What makes a good FOIA request? We studied 33,000 to find out, Nicholas Dias, Rashida Kamal and Laurent Bastien, Jan. 30, 2017. Every journalist has ideas about what makes a good public records request. But surprisingly few people have actually tried to systematically analyze how requests can be written to improve their chances of success. To fill this vacuum, we analyzed more than 33,000 Freedom of Information Act requests and identified a few characteristics that were typical of those that were fulfilled.

The requests were made to five federal agencies that publish to FOIAonline.gov: the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Commerce, Customs and Border Protection, the Department of the Navy, and the National Archives and Records Administration. All were filed between 2011 and 2016.

We defined success as the receipt of all records requested, as defined by the agency. There was no straightforward relationship between wait time and any of the characteristics we considered, so we factored it out as a measure of success. For the requests we examined, the full-grant rate across all five agencies was around 23 percent. That’s the same success rate for requests across all federal agencies, according to Max Galka of FOIA Mapper, a project funded by the Knight Foundation that outlines the record systems of federal agencies.

Requesters in our sample typically waited around 142 days, or a little more than four months, to get responses. Less than 39 percent of requests received responses within 28 days, which is the longest amount of time an agency could spend fulfilling a request while still meeting FOIA’s 20-business-day time limit. That’s a pretty bleak picture. So, how can you improve your chances?

    • Brevity isn’t always beneficial
    • Not all conventional advice was helpful
    • EPA requesters know what they’re doing
    • There are ways to unravel agencies’ records systems
    • Our nation needs good FOIA requesters

Jan. 29

Immigration Policy, Protests

Washington Post, Trump asked for a ‘Muslim ban,’ Giuliani says — and ordered a commission to do it ‘legally,’ Amy B. Wang, Jan. 29, 2017. Former New York mayor Rudy W. Giuliani said President Trump wanted a “Muslim ban” and requested he assemble a commission to show him “the right way to do it legally.” Giuliani, an early Trump supporter who once had been rumored for a Cabinet position in the new administration, appeared on Fox News late Saturday night to describe how Trump's executive order temporarily banning refugees came together.

Rudy GiulianiFox News host Jeanine Pirro asked Giuliani (shown in a file photo) whether the ban had anything to do with religion. “How did the president decide the seven countries?” she asked. “Okay, talk to me.”

“I'll tell you the whole history of it,” Giuliani responded eagerly. “So when [Trump] first announced it, he said, 'Muslim ban.' He called me up. He said, 'Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.' "

Giuliani said he assembled a “whole group of other very expert lawyers on this,” including former U.S. attorney general Michael Mukasey, Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Tex.) and Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.).

“And what we did was, we focused on, instead of religion, danger — the areas of the world that create danger for us,” Giuliani told Pirro. “Which is a factual basis, not a religious basis. Perfectly legal, perfectly sensible. And that's what the ban is based on. It's not based on religion. It's based on places where there are substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists into our country.”

Reince Priebus (Gage Skidmore)Others, including Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (shown in file photo), have insisted it is not a ban on Muslims, but rather one based on countries from which travel was already restricted under Barack Obama's administration.

Washington Post, Jihadist groups hail Trump’s travel ban as a victory, Joby Warrick, Jan. 29, 2017. In social-media postings, Islamic State supporters see the order as validation for their claim that the U.S. is at war with Islam.

Mitchell_McConnellRoll Call, Congress Reacts to Trump Ban on Refugees, Bridget Bowman, Jan. 29, 2017. McConnell said tighter vetting is good, but highlighted need for Muslim allies. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (shown in an official photo) offered some skepticism of President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily barring refugees and immigrants from certain countries, but declined to offer a “blanket criticism” of the order.

Washington Post, Trump’s travel ban is a gift to Iran’s rulers, Hadi Ghaemi, Jan. 29, 2017. President Trump’s travel ban on Iranians is a gift to the Islamic republic and its hard-line rulers. It will not deter terrorism on U.S. soil. Not a single terrorist involved in the 9/11 attacks or other fatal terrorist attacks in the United States since then has been of Iranian origin. Instead, Trump’s policy is a collective punishment of a diverse and changing nationality, and will ironically serve the purposes of Iran’s hard-line rulers.

Huffington Post, Court Temporarily Blocks Parts Of Trump’s Syrian Refugee And Travel Ban, Cristian Farias, Jan. 29, 2017. In addition to New York, federal judges in Virginia, Seattle and Boston sounded off against the ban. Late Saturday night, a federal judge in Brooklyn temporarily halted parts of President Donald Trump’s sweeping executive order that aimed to block the entry of Syrian refugees and impose a de facto ban on travelers coming from several Muslim-majority countries.

The American Civil Liberties Union, immigrants’ rights groups and refugee relief organizations had filed the action in federal court Saturday morning on behalf of two Iraqi nationals who were detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, asking for a declaration that the order is unconstitutional and requesting an injunction to prevent its implementation against other travelers who may be equally harmed.

The initial ambiguity of Saturday’s ruling underscores the crazed process by which Trump’s executive order was implemented and litigated ― all within a span of a day. And it portends even more high-pitched court battles ahead, including a likely trip to the Supreme Court, which is presently short one member.

Trump Changes National Security Council Staffing

Wall Street Journal, Donald Trump Shuffles National Security Council, Carol E. Lee and Peter Nicholas, Jan. 29, 2017. Executive measure adds Steve Bannon while removing Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Dunfordchairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. President Donald Trump added his top adviser and strategist Steve Bannon to the National Security Council while removing the Director of National Intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as he signed a trio of executive measures on Saturday.

General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. (shown in uniform) is the 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the  nation’s highest-ranking military officer, and the principal military advisor to the President, Secretary of Defense, and National Security Council. Retired U.S. House member Dan Coats, 73, a Republican from Indiana, is the president's nominee to become Director of Dan CoatsNational Security, succeeding retired Gen. James R. Clapper.

Washington Post, Questions multiply over Bannon’s role in Trump administration, Karen DeYoung, Jan. 29, 2017. President Trump’s elevation of his chief political strategist to a major role in national security policy, and a White House order banning refugees from certain Muslim-majority countries from U.S. entry, appeared to come together as cause and effect over the weekend.

Stephen K. Bannon — whose nationalist convictions and hard-line oppositional view of globalism have long guided Trump — was directly involved in shaping the controversial immigration mandate, according to several people familiar with the drafting who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The order, which has ignited sweeping domestic and international backlash, came without the formal input of Trump’s National Security Council, the committee of top national security aides designed to ensure the president examines all policy issues from different perspectives.

In Trump’s case, the NSC has not yet been fully formed. Key department heads, including the secretary of state, have either not been confirmed or had little chance to be briefed by those under them.

Washington Post, The danger of Steve Bannon on the National Security Council, David J. Rothkopf, Jan. 29, 2017. David J. Rothkopf is chief executive and editor of the FP Group, which publishes Foreign Policy magazine. He has written two histories of the NSC, “Running the World” and last year’s “National Insecurity.”  Trump’s travel ban is bad. His NSC shake-up might be even worse.

Stephen BannonFirst, he essentially demoted the highest-ranking military officer in the United States, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the highest-ranking intelligence officer in the United States, the director of national intelligence. In previous administrations, those positions or their equivalent (before the creation of the director of national intelligence, the CIA director occupied that role) held permanent positions on the NSC.

Even as he pushed away professional security advice, Trump decided to make his top political advisor, Stephen K. Bannon (shown in a file photo), a permanent member of the NSC. Although the White House chief of staff is typically a participant in NSC deliberations, I do not know of another situation in which a political adviser has been a formal permanent member of the council.

Trump & Media

Washington Post, Trump considers the media his enemy. We shouldn’t treat him as ours, Fred Hiatt (Washington Post editorial page editor), Jan. 29, 2017. Our answer must be professionalism, not partisanship.

JFK-Related Mystery: Famed Reporter's 'Overdose'

New York Post, Manhattan DA’s office probing death of reporter with possible JFK ties, Susan Edelman, Jan. 29, 2017. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office is looking into the mysterious death 51 years ago of newspaper writer and “What’s My Line?” star Dorothy Kilgallen, who was investigating the JFK assassination, the Post has learned. The stunning development comes after a new book, The Reporter who Knew Too Much, suggests Kilgallen was murdered to shut down her relentless pursuit of a Mafia don linked to JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald.

Dorothy Kilgallen book cover by Mark ShawJoan Vollero, a spokeswoman for DA Cyrus Vance Jr., confirmed that a staffer has read the book, and reviewed a letter from author Mark Shaw citing new leads, medical evidence, and witnesses overlooked when Kilgallen, 52, died suddenly on Nov. 8, 1965 at the peak of her career.

“I’m hopeful DA investigators will probe any records available and interview witnesses still alive today who can shed light on what happened to this remarkable woman,” Shaw told The Post, which featured his findings last month. Kilgallen, who wrote a widely syndicated column for the New York Journal-American, was the only reporter ever to interview Jack Ruby, who shot Oswald, and published Ruby’s closed-door testimony to the Warren Commission before its official release. Her enemies ranged from Frank Sinatra to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

The morning after Kilgallen appeared on the hit TV game show, she was found dead in her Manhattan apartment, naked under a robe and still in make-up. The Medical Examiner ruled it an accidental mix of booze and sleeping pills.

But Shaw contends Kilgallen was drugged. He cites a powdery residue on a glass by the bed, and records obtained from the National Archives showing two additional barbiturates in her system. “There was no evidence that Kilgallen was a drug abuser,” Shaw said Saturday. “Despite the odd death scene and heavy doses, there was no investigation.”

Former ME toxicologist Dr. Stephen Goldner told Shaw the Mafia controlled the Brooklyn ME’s office, which inexplicably conducted the Kilgallen autopsy even though her death occurred in Manhattan.

Weeks before her death, Shaw learned, Kilgallen bought a gun for self-protection and planned a second trip to New Orleans to investigate Mafia don Carlos Marcello. “If the wrong people knew what I know about the JFK assassination, it would cost me my life,” she confided to hairdresser Charles Simpson, one of several witnesses who gave videotaped interviews unearthed by Shaw.

Global News

Guardian, Theresa May, Trump and the travel ban: her position could not hold, Anushka Asthana, Jan. 29, 2017. Downing Street viewed the PM’s trip to the US as a triumph, but it has swiftly become more of United Kingdom flagan awkward memory. “Divisive, unhelpful and wrong.” That was how Theresa May described Donald Trump’s suggestion that Muslims should be banned from the US in December 2015, when he was still fighting to be the Republican candidate for the presidency and she was home secretary. The prime minister now faces a thorny dilemma: how to remain dignified alongside her desire to build an economic relationship with the US that can help Britain navigate its post-Brexit journey.

Jan. 28

President Trump officialWashington Post, Trump order barring refugees and some migrants causes chaos, outrage, Jerry Markon, Emma Brown and David Nakamura​, Jan. 28, 2017. Widespread confusion as some flying into the U.S. are detained at airports. Entry to the United States is being refused to legal residents — including people with so-called green cards — from seven mostly Muslim countries who were abroad when the order was signed Friday. The virtually unprecedented measures triggered harsh reactions from not only Democrats and others who typically advocate for immigrants but also key sectors of the U.S. business community. President Trump, speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, said, “It’s not a Muslim ban, but we were totally prepared. You see it at the airports, you see it all over. It’s working out very nicely.” 

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainAs President Trump’s order targeting citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries reverberated across the world on Saturday, it became increasingly clear that the controversial measure he had promised during his presidential campaign was casting a wider net than even his opponents had feared. Confusion and concern among immigrant advocates mounted throughout the day as travelers from the Middle East were detained at U.S. airports or sent home. A middle-of-the-night lawsuit filed on behalf of two Iraqi men challenged Trump’s executive action, which was signed Friday and initially cast as applying to refugees and migrants.

But as the day progressed, administration officials confirmed that the sweeping order also targeted U.S. legal residents from the named countries — green-card holders — who happened to be abroad when it was signed. Also subject to being barred entry into the United States are dual nationals, or people born in one of the seven countries who hold passports even from U.S. allies such as the United Kingdom.

Legal experts forecast a wave of litigation over the order, calling it unconstitutional. Canada announced it would accept asylum applications from U.S. green-card holders.

Mike PenceWashington Post via Boston Globe, Judge blocks deportations mandated by Trump’s order, Jerry Markon, Emma Brown and David Nakamura, Jan. 28, 2017. Judge Ann Donnelly of the US District Court in Brooklyn granted a request from the ACLU to stay deportations of those detained on entry to the United States following President Donald Trump’s executive order. After a brief hearing in front of a small audience that filtered in from a crowd of hundreds outside, Donnelly determined that the risk of injury to those detained by being returned to their home countries necessitated the decision.

Washington Post, Pence, who called Muslim ban ‘unconstitutional,’ now applauds Trump’s order, Avi Selk, Jan. 28, 2017. The vice president and Defense Secretary James Mattis — two people who once criticized such a ban — stood behind the president as he established “new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States.”

Washington Post, Refugees, migrants held at U.S. airports challenge Trump’s executive order, Emma Brown and David Nakamura, Jan. 28, 2017. Travelers with valid visas en route to the United States on Friday were detained at U.S. airports and restricted from entry after President Trump’s executive order. One Iraqi man has been released from New York’s JFK airport with no explanation.

Huffington Post, It begins: refugees detained at airports, Staff report, Jan. 28, 2017.

Global News

Washington Post, Trump orders ISIS plan, talks with Putin and gives Bannon national security role, Philip Rucker and David Filipov, Jan. 28, 2017. Calling for a strategy to defeat the Islamic State, the president also restructured the National Security Council to include his controversial top political adviser, Stephen Bannon. He spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and vowed to join forces to fight terrorism. 

Jan. 27

A Brave New '1984' For Our Times?

Aldous Huxley Quotation

New Yorker, Orwell's '1984' and Trump's America, Adam Gopnik, Jan. 27, 2017. Donald Trump’s lies, and his urge to tell them, are pure Big Brother crude, however oafish their articulation. As the British author New Yorker logoAnthony Burgess pointed out a long time ago, [George] Orwell’s modern hell was basically a reproduction of British misery in the postwar rationing years, with the malice of Stalin’s police-state style added on. That other ninth-grade classic, Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” where a permanent playground of sex and drugs persists in a fiercely inegalitarian society, seemed to me far more prescient, and so did any work of Philip K. Dick’s that extrapolated forward our bizarre American entertainment obsessions into an ever more brutal future in which Ken and Barbie might be worshipped as gods.

Donald Trump buttonAn unbidden apology rises to the lips, as Orwell’s book duly climbs high in the Amazon rankings: it was far better and smarter than good times past allowed us to think. What it took, of course, to change this view was the Presidency of Donald Trump. Because the single most striking thing about his matchlessly strange first week is how primitive, atavistic, and uncomplicatedly brutal Trump’s brand of authoritarianism is turning out to be. We have to go back to “1984” because, in effect, we have to go back to 1948 to get the flavor.

There is nothing subtle about Trump’s behavior. He lies, he repeats the lie, and his listeners either cower in fear, stammer in disbelief, or try to see how they can turn the lie to their own benefit.

And so, rereading Orwell (shown in a file photo), one is reminded of what Orwell got right about this kind of brute authoritarianism — and that was essentially that it rests on lies told so often, and so repeatedly, that fighting the lie becomes not simply more dangerous but more exhausting than repeating it. Orwell saw, to his credit, that the act of falsifying reality is only secondarily a way of changing perceptions. It is, above all, a way of asserting power.

When Trump repeats the ridiculous story about the three million illegal voters — a story that no one who knows, that not a single White House “staffer,” not a single Republican congressman actually believes to be true — he does not really care if anyone believes it, even if, at some crazy level, he does, sort of. People aren’t meant to believe it; they’re meant to be intimidated by it. The lie is not a claim about specific facts; the lunacy is a deliberate challenge to the whole larger idea of sanity. Once a lie that big is in circulation, trying to reel the conversation back into George Orwelllthe territory of rational argument becomes impossible.

And so CNN’s Jake Tapper, to his credit, may announce boldly that the story is false from beginning to end — but then he is led by his own caution and sense of professionalism to ask Trump whether, if he sees it as true, there ought to be an investigation into it.

Tapper, like everyone else, knows perfectly well that a minimally honest investigation would turn up no proof of this absurdity at all. But that, of course, is the trap, the game.

Watch: there will be a “commission” consisting of experts borrowed from Breitbart; it will hold no hearings, or hold absurdly closed ones; or hold ones with testimony from frequent callers to “The Alex Jones Show” — and this clownish commission will then baldly conclude that there is, indeed, widespread evidence of voter fraud. And Trump will reassert the lie and point to his commission’s findings as his evidence.

Trump Transition

CNN, Poll: 36% approve of Trump's job performance, David Wright, Jan. 27, 2017. President Donald Trump enters office facing low job approval ratings and skepticism from voters, according to a new Quinnipiac Donald Trump for President logoUniversity poll released Thursday. The survey found that 36% of American voters approve of Trump's handling of his job after his first week, while 44% say they disapprove. By comparison, former President Barack Obama received a 59%-25% approval rating in the first Quinnipiac poll taken after his inauguration in 2009.

Washington Post, Why many of Trump’s early promises will never actually happen, Ashley Parker and Sean Sullivan, Many of the sweeping actions President Trump vowed this week are impractical, opposed by Congress, or full of legal holes. This reality underscores his chaotic start, which includes executive actions drafted by close aides rather than experts and without input from the agencies tasked with implementing them.

Trump, however, does not seem to realize the limited power of his executive orders and has made public signing ceremonies a trademark of his first week. “President Trump needs to go back to civics class because he can direct his employees to do various things, but he cannot repeal a bunch of laws through his executive orders because he needs congressional consent — and the executive orders themselves say that,” said Rena Steinzor, a professor at the University of Maryland’s law school.

Daily Howler, Is Trump some version of mentally ill? Bob Somerby, Jan. 27, 2017. On Tuesday evening, the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof appeared on CNN with Don Lemon. In his second segment with President Donald Trump officialKristof, Lemon played tape of Trump press secretary Sean Spicer discussing Trump's claim that 3-5 million illegal votes were cast in November's election. Kristof:

Should we journalists use the word “lie” to describe President Trump’s most manifest falsehoods? That debate has roiled the news world. The Times this week used the word “lie” in a front-page headline, and I agreed with that decision, but there’s a counterargument that lying requires an intention to deceive — and that Trump may actually believe his absurd falsehoods. So in 2017 we reach a mortifying moment for a great democracy: We must decide whether our 45th president is a liar or a crackpot.

Roll Call, Is There a “Red Line” for Congressional Republicans With Trump? Patricia Murphy, Jan. 27, 2017. Little evidence of standing up to Trump so far. I’ve tried to imagine the moment this week when President Donald Trump told House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a group of invited congressional leadership that the only reason he lost the popular vote was because of three to five million illegal immigrants voted for Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump at GOP debate Aug. 6, 2015Or when he said Berhnart Langer, whom Trump described as a friend, had been turned away from voting in Florida, while people who appeared to be Latin American were allowed to vote. (Langer later said he never tried to vote, never told Trump that story, and is not a friend of Trump’s.)

Did Ryan and McConnell just ignore the man talking nonsense in hopes that the president, who occupies the same body, would come back soon? Did they share panicked glances, like brothers at a dinner table who know dad’s not OK anymore?

Washington Post, Behind closed doors, Republican lawmakers fret about how to repeal Obamacare, Mike DeBonis, Jan. 27, 2017. Republican lawmakers aired sharp concerns about their party’s quick push to repeal the Affordable Care Act inside a closed-door meeting Thursday, according to a recording of the session obtained by the Washington Post. The recording reveals a GOP that appears to be filled with doubts about how to make good on a long-standing promise to get rid of Obamacare without explicit guidance from President Trump or his administration.

Senators and House members expressed a range of concerns about the task ahead: how to prepare a replacement plan that can be ready to launch at the time of repeal; how to avoid deep damage to the health insurance market; how to keep premiums affordable for middle-class families; even how to avoid the political consequences of defunding Planned Parenthood, the women’s health-care organization, as many Republicans hope to do with the repeal of the ACA.the Trump administration appears to be moving ahead with repeal. On Thursday, the White House ordered federal health officials to immediately halt all advertising and other outreach activities for the critical final days in which Americans can sign up for 2017 health coverage through Affordable Care Act marketplaces.

Of particular concern to some Republican lawmakers was the plan to use the budget reconciliation process — which requires only a simple majority vote — to repeal the existing law, while still needing a filibuster-proof vote of 60 in the Senate to enact a replacement.

Washington Post, Trump’s erratic first week was among the most alarming in history, Ruth Marcus, Jan. 27, 2017.   It was unlike any other that the country has witnessed. There have been scarier weeks for the country, certainly — the Cuban missile crisis and the Sept. 11 attacks. There have been more tragic ones — the Sept. 11 attacks again, the terrible toll of wartime, the horror of four presidential assassinations. But the first week of the Trump presidency was alarming in a different way, because the frightening part involved the president’s own erratic, even bizarre, behavior.  

Washington Post, In Trump’s mind, it’s always ‘really sunny.’ And that’s terrifying, Dana Milbank, Jan. 27, 2017. My biggest fear is that the president cannot tell truth from lies. The most worrisome moment for me in a very ominous week was not President Trump’s bizarre rant about crowd size, his bogus claims about election fraud or his moves toward bringing back torture, blocking refugees and provoking a trade war with Mexico. The most troubling moment was when he spoke about the weather.

Really sunny? I was there for the inaugural address, in the sixth row, about 40 feet from Trump, and I remembered the exact opposite: It began to rain when he started and tapered off toward the end. There wasn’t a single ray of sunshine, before, during or after the speech. Was my memory playing tricks on me?

This disconnect from reality is my biggest fear about Trump, more than any one policy he has proposed. My worry is the president of the United States is barking mad.

White House Chronicle, Trump Takes Washington in a Storm, but Why the Hurry? Llewellyn King, Jan. 27, 2017. It is a good thing for politicians to honor their campaign promises. In that, President Donald Trump is acting in an exemplary way. But does he have to do it so fast?

In a campaign ideas and ideology dominate, details languish. But once office is won, especially the highest office in the land, there is time to contemplate not just the journey but the best route. There is a vast amount of know-how and knowledge to be tapped that might, on consideration, temper the ideas of the campaign. For example, the president, before commanding the hiring of 5,000 more U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, might have learned how difficult it is to recruit and train these men and women. He might have taken note that there are 1,200 vacancies along the border right now, despite strenuous recruiting efforts.

Trump loves to make a grand entrance. He showed that with his stately ride in the company of his wife, Melania, down an escalator in Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York City before announcing his candidacy on June 16, 2015. It was dramatic: the quintessential Trump, showman and grandstander. His entrance into Washington has been louder and splashier — almost as though it is a finale, not an opening. The city is reeling, the world is agog and the Republicans — to say nothing of the president’s Cabinet nominees — are in the dark about his policies; where his head is at?

Washington Post, In Venezuela, we couldn’t stop Chávez. Don’t make the same mistakes we did, Andrés Miguel Rondón (a Venezuelan citizen and native, now working in Spain as an economist), How to let a populist beat you, over and over again. Donald Trump is an avowed capitalist; Hugo Chávez was a socialist with communist dreams. One builds skyscrapers, the other expropriated them. But politics is only one-half policy: The other, darker half is rhetoric. Sometimes the rhetoric takes over. Such has been our lot in Venezuela for the past two decades — and such is yours now, Americans. Because in one regard, Trump and Chávez are identical. They are both masters of populism.

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainThe recipe for populism is universal. Find a wound common to many, find someone to blame for it, and make up a good story to tell. Mix it all together. Tell the wounded you know how they feel. That you found the bad guys. Label them: the minorities, the politicians, the businessmen. Caricature them. As vermin, evil masterminds, haters and losers, you name it. Then paint yourself as the savior. Capture the people’s imagination. Forget about policies and plans, just enrapture them with a tale. One that starts with anger and ends in vengeance. A vengeance they can participate in.

That’s how it becomes a movement. There’s something soothing in all that anger. Populism is built on the irresistible allure of simplicity. The narcotic of the simple answer to an intractable question. The problem is now made simple.

The problem is you.

How do I know? Because I grew up as the “you” Trump is about to turn you into. In Venezuela, the urban middle class I come from was cast as the enemy in the political struggle that followed Chávez’s arrival in 1998. For years, I watched in frustration as the opposition failed to do anything about the catastrophe overtaking our nation. Only later did I realize that this failure was self-inflicted. So now, to my American friends, here is some advice on how to avoid Venezuela’s mistakes.

Litigation, Controversial Coverage of Melania Trump

Politico, Melania Trump wins round in libel suit over blogger's 'escort' claims, Josh Gerstein, Jan. 27, 2017. Judge mulls whether to dismiss Daily Mail from case as lawyer reveals first lady is suing newspaper in a London court. First lady Melania Trump prevailed Friday in the first round of a $150 million libel suit she filed against a Maryland blogger over a Sharon Burrellreport he published last summer about claims that Trump worked as a "high-end escort." Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Sharon Burrell  rejected arguments from lawyers for blogger Webster Tarpley (shown in a file photo) to dismiss Trump's suit for failing to meet the "actual malice" standard for public figures. The judge (shown in a file photo) also turned down Tarpley's effort to dismiss the suit under a Maryland law aimed at quickly shutting down bad-faith lawsuits intended to intimidate people speaking out on issues of public concern.

Webster Tarpley"The court finds the plaintiff has stated a claim for defamation," Burrell ruled after hearing arguments on the issue in a Rockville courtroom. "The court believes most people, when they hear the words 'high-end escort,' that describes a prostitute. There could be no more defamatory statement than to call a woman a prostitute."

However, at the conclusion of a roughly two-hour-long hearing, it was unclear whether the first lady would be allowed to proceed against another, deeper-pocketed defendant in the Maryland suit -- the New York-based corporate affiliate of London's Daily Mail newspaper. That outlet published a similar account to Tarpley's last August.

An attorney for Mail Media, Kelli Sager, argued Maryland was the wrong place for a New York resident like Trump to sue a New York company, Sager also disclosed that Melania Trump is also suing the parent company of the Daily Mail newspaper in a London court for libel over the same article that appeared on the Mail website.

Melania Trump Twitter photoBoth Tarpley and the Mail retracted their articles after receiving complaints from Trump's lawyers. A lawyer for Tarpley, Danielle Giroux, insisted that Tarpley wasn’t vouching for the truth of the allegations he aired, but simply publicizing the fact that there were rumors that had a potential to impact the presidential campaign. “He did not say that Melania Trump was a high-class escort. What he said was there are rumors about that,” the attorney said. "He's writing about the rumors and that, itself, is newsworthy."

However, Trump attorney Charles Harder said it was evident from Tarpley’s post that he was endorsing the accuracy of the claims, particularly by referring to them as “widely known.” Giroux said Harder was wrong on that point. She insisted journalists covering matters of public concern are entitled to publish facts they haven’t personally verified.

“A reporter does not have to publish only statements that he knows are true,” she said. "They are not required to do an investigation."

Burrell said Tarpley's bid to end the case under Maryland's Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation law (sometimes called a SLAPP law) failed because there was no indication the suit was brought in bad faith. The judge also seemed skeptical that such salacious claims were deserving of the highest level of legal protection given that Melania Trump was the wife of a candidate and not a candidate herself.

Melania Trump New York Post"The interests affected are arguably not that important because the plaintiff wasn't the one running for office," Burrell (shown in a file photo) said.

Giroux also labeled as “rhetorical hyperbole” Tarpley’s claim that the escort rumors, the publication of nude modeling photos of Trump and other events led her to have a "mental breakdown" that drove her from the campaign trail. Melania Trump showed up for an initial hearing in the case last month, but was not present in the courtroom Friday.

The closest thing to celebrities there were Harder and Sager, two well-known Los Angeles litigators who often do battle in high-profile fights involving celebrities and the media.

Editor's Note: The Daily Mail and Tarpley reports came during a period in the campaign last summer when the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post, among other major tabloids, were running seemingly nude photos of Melania Trump such as the Post's cover shown here from her days as a model. The published photos included some showing her apparently naked and involved in sexual poses with another woman.

Daily Mail, Mexican Vanity Fair slings mud at the Trumps by republishing 'unflattering' article about Melania, Jennifer Smith, Jan. 27, 2017. Mexican Vanity Fair has republished an old article about Melania Trump which accused her Slovenian father of crimes and revealed she had an illegitimate half-brother amid ongoing strife between the country's president and Donald Trump.

The article was originally published in GQ last year by Juilia Ioffe and contains claims the first lady's father, Viktor Knavs, was looked into for tax evasion. It also revealed Melania's illegitimate half-brother Denis Cigelnjak and alleged that Viktor, who fathered him before marrying Melania's mother, asked his mother to abort him.  Melania Trump slammed the article as being full of inaccuracies in April last year when it was published by GQ. She said Ioffe was 'a journalist who is looking to make a name for herself' and said she had subjected her parents to 'unfair scrutiny.'

Global News: United Kingdom

Washington Post, Trump meets with British leader, pledges to defer to defense secretary on ‘torture,’ David Nakamura​, Jan. 27, 2017. ​President Trump said he continues to believe torture methods can be United Kingdom flageffective to combat terrorism but pledged to defer over whether to implement such tactics to Defense Secretary James Mattis, who has opposed them. “He will override,” Trump said in a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May at the White House.

Global News: Syria

Guardian, Boris Johnson signals shift in UK policy on Syria's Assad, Patrick Wintour, Jan. 27, 2017. Foreign secretary says UK accepts Syrian leader should be allowed to run for re-election in event of peace deal.

SouthFront, Over 2,600 Laid Down Arms In Wadi Barada Northwest Of Damascus, Staff report, Jan. 27, 2017. Over 2,600 militants have laid down arms in the Wadi Barada area near Damascus. Those who refused to do this are leaving to the Idlib province with their families. However, some Jabhat Fatah al-Sham units are still hiding in the mountains area.

Syria FlagThe Russian state-run news agency “TASS” cites Colonel Alexander Blinkov, Spokesman for the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Warring Parties in Syria: “The local population in the Wada Barada valley is returning to a peaceful civilian life,” he said. “Steps are currently being taken as part of the first stage of a comprehensive reconciliation plan in this area. To date, more than 2,600 people have already legalized their status. Hardcore opposition members who refused to surrender weapons are leaving for the Idlib province with their families with the assistance of the Syrian authorities.”

The militants who are filing to adjust their legal status have joined self-defense units. "The population continues to receive humanitarian aid and basic necessities, such as food packages and medicines,” Blinkov stated.

SouthFront via YouTube, South line of defense of Deir ez-Zor combat footage of Syrian Arab Army versus ISIS, Produced by Alexander Nomerkov, Jan. 27, 2017 (4:53 min.).

Around the Nation

Roll Call, Anti-Abortion Marchers Describe New Optimism in Era of Trump, Stephanie Akin, Jan. 27, 2017. Pence, Conway, tell March for Life crowd that Trump will support their cause. 

Al.com, Bentley attended Trump inauguration with Rebekah Mason, her husband, Erin Edgemon, Jan. 27, 2017. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley released the names of four of the five people who accompanied him on state aircraft to last week's inauguration of President Donald Trump. Those names include Jon Mason, director of Serve Alabama, and Mason's wife, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, who was Bentley's suspected former mistress and an ex-adviser to the governor. Also on the aircraft were legislative director Wesley Helton; Zach Lee, the governor's liaison to cities and counties; and an unnamed special guest, Bentley said.

The visit to Washington D.C. was a working trip, Bentley said. Jon Mason was brought along to speak with national leaders on how to revitalize faith-based organizations, the governor said to a group of journalists following his address at the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama's annual luncheon. Bentley declined to release the name of his special guest.

Bentley's office previously declined a request from AL.com for a passenger list from last week's inauguration trip. "Governor Bentley utilized the state aircraft to travel to the official function of attending the Presidential Inauguration. Also attending were Governor's Office staff and guests," said Yasamie August, the director of communications for the governor, in the statement to AL.com

The logs will be posted, August said, "at the appropriate time required by the (state) statute."

The Hill, Fox Philadelphia anchor suspended for saying Conway 'good at bull----,' Joe Concha, Jan. 27, 2017. A Philadelphia television morning show host was suspended Thursday after saying President Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway was "good at bullshit."

JFK Assassination Revelations

JFKFacts.org, Secret JFK document #3: the DRE/AMSPELL file, Jefferson Morley, Jan. 27, 2017. Among the 1,100 secret CIA documents related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is an 86-page file of the anti-Castro group, Directorio Revolucionario Estudantil (DRE). The group, commonly known as the Cuban Student Directorate, had a curious double role in the JFK assassination story – a role that the CIA chose to conceal from both the Warren Commission in 1964 and the House Selection Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in the late 1970s.

The deception was not minor: CIA-funded DRE was the first organization to call public attention to accused assassin Lee Oswald–before JFK was killed. What the CIA hid from JFK investigators was its secret financial relationship with the front group used to publicize Oswald’s pro-Castro activities. The DRE was an instrument of the CIA. Known inside the agency by the code name AMSPELL, the group’s leaders met regularly in 1963 with George Joannides, the chief of psychological warfare operations in Miami. According to other CIA records, Joannides gave the group $51,000 a month in 1963, the equivalent of $150,000 today.

Courthouse News via AARC, Center Seeks CIA Documents on Plots to Kill Hitler, Castro, Eva Fedderly, Jan. 27, 2017. A research foundation dedicated to unearthing information about political assassinations sued the Central Intelligence Agency for not providing documents related to plots to assassinate Adolph Hitler and Fidel Castro. The Assassination Archives and Research Center sued the agency in the federal court in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 25. It contends the CIA is obligated to provide it with the documents it requested, and by not doing so, it is violating the FOIA.

Jan. 26

Washington Post, Trump begins push to reshape U.S. role in the world with ‘America first’ theme, Karen DeYoung and Philip Rucker, Jan. 26, 2017. Directives that have been drafted but not yet signed would halt all refu­gee admissions and entry into the country of citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries; declare a moratorium on new multilateral treaties; and mandate audits of U.S. funding for international organizations, including the United Nations.

Supreme Court Prospects

Judges Neil Gorsuch, William Pryor and Thomas Hardiman (left to right)Judges (and reputed Trump leading contenders for nominate to the current U.S. Supreme Court vacancy) Neil Gorsuch, William Pryor and Thomas Hardiman (left to right)

Center for Public Integrity, Trump likely to choose millionaire jurist for Supreme Court vacancy, Kytja Weir and Chris Zubak-Skees, Jan. 26, 2017. All three of President Donald Trump’s likely nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court appear to be millionaires, just like the majority of their potential colleagues already on the nation’s highest court and many of Trump’s other picks for senior positions.

Those reportedly on Trump’s short list to fill a vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia are all federal appellate judges: Judge Neil Gorsuch of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Thomas Hardiman, based in Pittsburgh, and 11th U.S. Circuit Court Judge William Pryor, who works in Birmingham, Alabama.

Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning that he plans to make his pick on Thursday, Feb. 2. So what do we know about the possible nominees? The Center for Public Integrity reviewed the three judges’ annual financial disclosures, including those covering 2014 — the most recent immediately available — that were gathered by the National Law Journal. To be sure, the judges’ financial situations could have changed since then.

Only Hardiman appeared to own stock directly in companies, a potential “mousetrap” for judges due to the potential for conflicts of interest with their caseloads. Such financial holdings can lead to recusals that could have dramatic effects in a court where decisions are often split 5 to 4. In a 2014 investigation, the Center for Public Integrity found 24 cases in which federal appellate judges owned stock in companies before them yet did not step aside, a violation of federal law. Five of the cases were subsequently reopened.

Here’s what to know about Trump’s possible Supreme Court picks. To find disclosures about a particular business or topic, type search terms in the box (for example, "eBay") and hit return. Or, scroll down to read the profiles and click on the disclosure links below.

Social Media As Tool For Trump Victory -- And Problems?

Washington Post, Why a tweeting president is so bad for our politics, Michael Gerson (former speechwriter for President George W. Bush), Jan. 26, 2017. All political leaders, presidents in particular, dream of using technology to avoid the media filter and speak directly to the American people. But in politics, Twitter has dramatic limits and can become a disturbing substitute for disciplined thought.

"Psychologist Michal Kosinski developed a method of analyzing people’s behavior down to the minutest detail by looking at their Facebook activity — did a similar tool help propel Donald Trump to victory?"

Das Magazin via AntiNote, Trump Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself, Hannes Grassegger and Mikael Krogerus (translated by Antidote), Dec. 3, 2016 in German, posted in translation on Jan. 22, 2017. Psychometrics and the (counter) revolution in marketing that is helping bring fascism to power around the world.

AntiNote: The following is an unauthorized translation of a December 2016 article that caused quite a stir in the German-language press. Das Magazin (Zurich) occupies a respected position within the German-language cultural and literary media landscape, functionally similar to (though perhaps not quite as prominent as) The New Yorker, and this work by investigative reporters Hannes Grassegger and Mikael Krogerus got a lot of attention—and generated some controversy, for apparently having scooped the English-language media with sensational observations about 2016’s most sensational story, the campaign and electoral victory of a fascist dictator in the United States.

Perhaps for this reason, the article has not appeared in translation in (or even had its investigative threads taken up by) English-language media outlets, even after nearly two months. Antidote presents, therefore, our own preemptive translation to fill this gap. We trust the skill of the reporters who wrote it and the veracity of their claims (which are verifiable by anyone with a search engine—we have embedded links where appropriate), and we question why this particular synthesis of public information is not being made available to non-German-speaking readers by outlets with more reach and respectability than us dirty DIY dicks.

On the occasion of this article’s authorized wider release in English, should that come to pass, we will consider removing this post if we are asked nicely. Until then: Enjoy!

Trump Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself

By Hannes Grassegger and Mikael Krogerus for Das Magazin (Zurich) (Originally on Dec. 3, 2016.

Psychologist Michal Kosinski developed a method of analyzing people’s behavior down to the minutest detail by looking at their Facebook activity — did a similar tool help propel Donald Trump to victory?

...

The world has been turned upside down. The Brits are leaving the EU; Trump rules America. And in Stanford the Polish researcher Michal Kosinski, who indeed tried to warn of the danger of using psychological targeting in a political setting, is still getting accusatory emails. “No,” says Kosinski quietly, shaking his head, “this is not my fault. I did not build the bomb. I just showed that it was there.”

Trump Transition

Washington Post, In first major TV interview as president, Trump obsesses over his popularity, Jenna Johnson, Jan. 26, 2017. The lengthy interview revealed a man fixated on his following and eager to provide evidence of his likability, even if that information didn't match reality. The way President Trump tells it, the meandering, falsehood-filled, self-involved speech that he gave at the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters was one of the greatest addresses ever given.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logo“That speech was a home run,” Trump told ABC News just a few minutes into his first major television interview since moving into the White House. “See what Fox said. They said it was one of the great speeches. They showed the people applauding and screaming. … I got a standing ovation. In fact, they said it was the biggest standing ovation since Peyton Manning had won the Super Bowl, and they said it was equal. I got a standing ovation. It lasted for a long period of time.”

The most powerful man in the world continued: “You probably ran it live. I know when I do good speeches. I know when I do bad speeches. That speech was a total home run. They loved it. … People loved it. They loved it. They gave me a standing ovation for a long period of time. They never even sat down, most of them, during the speech. There was love in the room. You and other networks covered it very inaccurately. … That speech was a good speech. And you and a couple of other networks tried to downplay that speech. And it was very, very unfortunate that you did.”

Trump brushed off the suggestion that it was disrespectful to deliver Saturday's speech — which included musings about magazine covers and crowd sizes — in front of a hallowed memorial to CIA agents killed in the line of duty. He insisted that the crowd was filled with “the people of the CIA,” not his supporters, and could have been several times larger than it was. Had a poll been taken of the 350-person audience to gauge the speech's greatness, Trump said the result would have been “350 to nothing” in his favor.

The lengthy interview, which aired late Wednesday night, provided a glimpse of the president and his state-of-mind on his fifth full day in office. It revealed a man who is obsessed with his own popularity and eager to provide evidence of his likability, even if that information doesn't match reality.

Mike PenceWashington Post, Pence, a longtime hero for the antiabortion movement, will join the March for Life, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Jan. 26, 2017. Organizers consider it a historic move: President Ronald Reagan made a video for the march in 1988 and President George W. Bush called in to the march in 2008 — but no president or vice president has spoken at the event before. (Vice President Michael Pence is shown in an official photo.)

Washington Post, Yet another Trump official with curiously familiar words, Dana Milbank, Jan. 26, 2017. President Trump is never at a loss for words. So why do so many people in his orbit seem to have trouble finding theirs? Melania Trump lifted from a speech that had been delivered by Michelle Obama. Monica Crowley backed out of a senior position on Trump’s National Security Council after evidence of plagiarism was found in her book, columns and PhD dissertation. And now we have another case of curiously repetitive prose — by none other than the man who just became Trump’s White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn.

On Nov. 19, 2015, McGahn, then a partner with the firm Jones Day representing the Trump campaign, filed a brief with the Federal Election Commission that looked like a cut-and-paste of a brief filed by another respondent 15 days earlier. A chunk of more than 300 words, essentially the entire analysis, is a word-for-word reproduction of the other brief.

The filings, made public by the FEC last week on the eve of the inauguration, are a postscript to one of the stranger tales of the campaign: the hiring of actors, reportedly for $50 apiece, to cheer at Trump’s June 2015 kickoff event at Trump Tower, and the campaign’s alleged failure to pay the firm that helped organize the event, Gotham Government Relations. The Trump campaign paid up after a complaint was filed with the FEC alleging an in-kind contribution to Trump from Gotham. The FEC decided the remaining stakes — a few months’ worth of interest on $12,000 — did not merit action. After Trump’s victory, Gotham announced it was opening a Washington office.

Washington Post, Trump’s foreign policy revolution, Charles Krauthammer, Jan. 26, 2017. The president’s isolationist agenda breaks from 70 years of precedent. JFK’s inaugural pledged to support any friend and oppose any foe to assure the success of liberty. Note that Trump makes no distinction between friend and foe (and no reference to liberty). They’re all out to use, exploit and surpass us.

No more, declared Trump: “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America First.”

Imagine how this resonates abroad. “America First” was the name of the organization led by Charles Lindbergh that bitterly fought FDR before U.S. entry into World War II — right through the Battle of Britain — to keep America neutral between Churchill’s Britain and Hitler’s Reich. (Then came Pearl Harbor. Within a week, America First dissolved itself in shame.)

Not that Trump was consciously imitating Lindbergh. I doubt he was even aware of the reference. He just liked the phrase. But I can assure you that in London and in every world capital they are aware of the antecedent and the intimations of a new American isolationism. Trump gave them good reason to think so, going on to note “the right of all nations to put their own interests first.” America included.

Washington Post, The end of Sarah Palin is here, Chris Cillizza, Jan. 26, 2017. A look at the former candidate for vice president over the years. Remember how former Alaska governor Sarah Palin was going to use her political celebrity to build an army of like-minded politicians via her political action committee? Yeah, not so much. Michael Beckel of the Center for Public Integrity flagged for me this news: Palin has officially shut down Sarah PAC as of the end of 2016. Kaput. Donezo.

But, that's not even the real story. Again, via Beckel: In the 2016 election cycle, Palin's Sarah PAC spent $830,000 on consultants and just $82,500 in donations to other candidates — a.k.a its ostensible purpose. The shuttering of the PAC coupled with the clear signal its spending sends — this was always for and about Palin — should put to rest any talk to the contrary.

Washington Post, The leaks coming out of the Trump White House cast the president as a clueless child, Chris Cillizza, Jan. 26, 2017.  All White Houses leak. Sometimes the leaks are big, sometimes small. But Donald Trumpthere are always people willing to talk to reporters about the “real” story or about why the chief executive made a mistake in regards to some decision he made. That said, I've never seen so much leaking so quickly — and with such disdain for the president — as I have in the first six days of Donald Trump's presidency.

Roll Call, Trump Seems to Embrace Key GOP Tax Proposal, John T. Bennett and Lindsey McPherson, Jan. 26, 2017.President’s Fly-In to GOP Retreat a Warm Affair, Jan. 26, 2017.  President Donald Trump appeared to endorse a key House GOP tax proposal as he continued his opening-week charm offensive Thursday, also telling Republican lawmakers he stands “shoulder-to-shoulder” with them. And the new chief executive, during his first domestic trip since being sworn in last Friday, predicted this Congress will be the “busiest” in decades.

During his first six days as America’s 45th president, the reality television star and businessman has flashed both his bombastic campaigning style and a warm, joke-cracking persona in social and business meetings. So it was an open question which Trump would arrive in Philadelphia to address his fellow Republicans, on whom he will depend to pass his policy agenda.

What GOP members got was the charmer-in-chief. Rather than blast Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto for canceling a meeting at the White House next Tuesday over a flap stemming from Trump’s border wall executive order, he claimed the decision to scrub the session was mutual. His press secretary, Sean Spicer, revealed more details about how Trump intends to pay for his border wall.

Virginia Professor Quoted as Both Denying and Claiming Illegal Voting Fraud

WGNT (Norfolk, VA), ODU professor wants President Trump to stop citing, misquoting his research, Anthony Sabella, Jan. 26, 2017. Jesse Richman, an associate professor of Political Science at Old Dominion University, has a message for President Donald Trump and his administration. "I wish he'd stop citing my research, frankly," he said.

This comes following the president's latest claims that non-citizens voting at the polls could have influenced the outcome of November's popular vote when nearly 3 million more people cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton. During his Tuesday press briefing White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer alluded to the possibility when talking with reporters about voter fraud. "I think there's been studies.There's one that came out of Pew in 2008 that shows 14 percent of people voting were non-citizens," Spicer said.

Richman tells News 3 that Spicer was not only confusing another study with his own from 2014, but also exaggerating the numbers. He says while his study did find evidence that some non-citizens do vote...it's not nearly enough to make up the difference in the most recent popular vote. "Maybe 100,000 (ballots), maybe a little more to the Hillary Clinton margin. Not insignificant, but on the other hand, way below the kind of levels of fraud that Trump is alleging," said Richman. Richman believes an investigation into voter fraud would prove that.

Washington Times, Trump argument bolstered: Clinton could have received 800,000 votes from noncitizens, Rowan Scarborough, Jan. 26, 2017. Hillary Clinton garnered more than 800,000 votes from noncitizens on Nov. 8, an approximation far short of President Trump’s estimate of up to 5 million illegal voters but supportive of his charges of fraud. Political scientist Jesse Richman of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, has worked with colleagues to produce groundbreaking research on noncitizen voting, and this week he posted a blog in response to Mr. Trump’s assertion.

Based on national polling by a consortium of universities, a report by Mr. Richman said 6.4 percent of the estimated 20 million adult noncitizens in the U.S. voted in November. He extrapolated that that percentage would have added 834,381 net votes for Mrs. Clinton, who received about 2.8 million more votes than Mr. Trump.  Mr. Richman calculated that Mrs. Clinton would have collected 81 percent of noncitizen votes. “Is it plausible that non-citizen votes added to Clinton’s margin? Yes,” Mr. Richman wrote. “Is it plausible that non-citizen votes account for the entire nation-wide popular vote margin held by Clinton? Not at all.” Still, the finding is significant because it means noncitizens may have helped Mrs. Clinton carry a state or finish better.

Mexican Immigration

Mexican flag

Huffington Post, Mexican President Cancels Meeting With, Donald Trump After Border Wall Order, Roque Planas, Jan. 26, 2017. President Enrique Peña Nieto has said Mexico will not pay for a wall on the U.S. border. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto (shown in an official photo, with his country's flag above) announced Thursday that he canceled a meeting with President Donald Trump that had been scheduled to take place on Jan. 31 in Washington.

Enrique Peña Nieto Mexican president official portrait Peña Nieto had faced intense pressure from legislators to take a firmer stand against Trump by passing on the meeting, after Trump signed an executive order Wednesday moving forward on the construction of a wall along the Mexican border ― while continuing to insist that Mexico will somehow pay the multibillion-dollar cost. In a series of tweets, Peña Nieto said he lamented the Trump administration’s decision to insist on Mexico paying for the proposed border wall, a condition the Mexican president has long said he would not accept.

“This morning, we have informed the White House that I will not attend the work meeting scheduled for next Tuesday with @POTUS,” Peña Nieto wrote.

Washington Post, House GOP warns D.C. mayor not to use tax money defending illegal immigrants, Aaron C. Davis, Jan. 26, 2017. House Republicans with oversight of the nation’s capital are taking aim at D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s plan to use taxpayer money to defend illegal immigrants from deportation. The mayor received a letter Wednesday from Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Idaho), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), head of the subcommittee for District affairs, warning Bowser (D) that her plan appears to violate federal law and that the committees are investigating.

Bowser this month joined leaders from Chicago, Los Angeles and New York in announcing that the District would set up a legal-defense fund to represent illegal immigrants targeted for deportation under policies of President Trump. The fund, Bowser said, would “double down” on the District’s status as a “sanctuary city.” D.C. police are already instructed not to ask about immigration status, and city corrections officials provide only limited help in identifying nonviolent criminals to federal agents for deportation.

Bowser said the $500,000 fund would take the city beyond being just a sanctuary, providing initial funding for the District to defend its estimated 25,000 illegal immigrants. The efforts, she said, would include hiring lawyers to conduct seminars for illegal immigrants to know their rights with federal agents, and to represent city residents in deportation proceedings and in applying for asylum.

The District’s complicated financial relationship with the federal government, however, means that D.C. may have less latitude than cities in the 50 states to carry out the plan. Because D.C. is a federal territory, local lawmakers cannot spend any of the city’s local tax revenue — which tops $7 billion annually — in ways that conflict with federal spending rules. And a decades-old federal law known as the Immigration and Nationality Act says that no taxpayer money can be used to assist illegal immigrants in fighting deportation.

Chaffetz and Meadows cited the law in their letter and ordered Bowser’s office to turn over all documents related to the planned fund, including any internal legal documents drafted to defend the mayor’s proposal, as well as a list of outside organizations that could receive grant money from the fund.

Washington Post, These towns pushed for tough laws targeting undocumented immigrants. They all failed, Chico Harlan, Jan. 26, 2017. Foiled by court rulings or challenges with enforcement, the experiences of several communities show how illegal-immigrant measures can leave lasting and bitter racial divisions while doing little to address the underlying forces that often determine where newcomers settle.

JFK Assassination Revelations

DC Dave, Book Review of FBI Agent's Courageous Memoir of JFK Assassination Probe Whistleblowing: 'From an Office Building with a High-Powered Rifle,  David Martin, Jan. 26, 2017. Most people who have done any reading at all on the assassination of John F. Kennedy have heard of Joseph A. Milteer. He is the right-wing activist who was recorded on November 9, 1963, by an informant for the Miami police Don Adams book coverdepartment predicting the JFK assassination, which would take place on November 22. Here we have the words of counsel Robert Tanenbaum of the House Select Committee on Assassinations in a transcription of that committee’s hearings, published March 9, 1977:

In substance, what Milteer says is that the President is going to be killed. He predicts the exact manner in which the President is going to be killed. He says it is going to be from an office building with a high-powered rifle that can be disassembled, and that shortly after the assassination the police are going to arrest someone to allay public concern.
 
Don Adams, former FBI agent and authorMost people have likely not heard of Don Adams (No, not the late comedian and actor who played Maxwell Smart on Get Smart, but he was in a similar line of work as Smart.). Adams was the FBI agent first sent to investigate Milteer four days after the recorded assassination prediction, which had been immediately passed on to the FBI.

Then, after the assassination, he was sent to locate Milteer and to interview him.  Later, Adams would be involved in other aspects of the investigation. The subtitle of his 2012 book, From an Office Building with a High-Powered Rifle (TrineDay), is “A report to the public from an FBI agent involved in the official JFK assassination investigation.”

The public should pay heed to it. It is a rare thing, indeed, when a government participant in a cover-up, particularly one from the FBI, breaks ranks with his colleagues and tells the world, from his own first-hand knowledge, that a cover-up has taken place.

Voting Fraud?

Brennan Center for Justice, Voting Fraud Inquiry? The Investigators Got Burned Last Time, Michael Waldman, Jan. 26, 2017. For days President Trump has promoted the absurd notion that three million to five million people voted illegally in the presidential election. On Wednesday morning, Mr. Trump went further.

When a president demands an investigation of voter fraud, what could go wrong? Based on recent history, a lot. Little more than a decade ago, the Justice Department made investigating and prosecuting voter fraud a major priority. When top prosecutors failed to find the misconduct and refused to make partisan prosecutions, they were fired. In the fallout, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was forced to resign in the biggest Justice Department scandal since Watergate.

It seems like an odd bit of history to try to repeat — unless the goal is to clear the path for voter suppression. From left, the ousted United States attorneys Carol Lam, David Iglesias, John McKay and H.E. Cummins in 2007 at a hearing of Senate Judiciary Committee. Mr. McKay was dismissed after refusing to pursue voter fraud allegations he found baseless. CreditDennis Cook/Associated Press

Let’s begin with the underlying fact: There is no epidemic of voter fraud. After Mr. Trump claimed the election was rigged, election officials from both parties, scholars, journalists and experts noted thatthere was simply no widespread fraud. Mr. Trump’s lawyers even confirmed this in their own court filings in recount efforts in Michigan.

There was no extensive voting fraud in 2002, either, when President George W. Bush’s attorney general, John Ashcroft, made finding it a top priority for the Department of Justice. And the federal prosecutors kept coming up empty. After years of trying, they had charged more people with violating migratory bird laws than voting statutes.

The White House was agitated by this failure. In October 2006, President Bush told Mr. Ashcroft’s successor, Mr. Gonzales, that he had heard about fraud in Albuquerque, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s aide, warned Mr. Gonzales he had “concerns” about voter fraud.

Trump Family Claims Against Obama Foundation

New York Observer, The Obama Foundation Launches With Lobbyists and Wall Street at the Wheel, Michael Sainato, Jan. 26, 2017. So far, it seems to be following the in the footsteps of its flawed predecessor, the Clinton Foundation. JIP Editor's Note: The New York Observer was owned (reportedly until recently) by Jared Kushner, son-in-law to President Trump and now a seriior advisor in the White House)

Immediately following his presidency, Barack Obama has begun marketing the Obama Foundation, which appears to use the same oligarchic formula that Bill and Hillary Clinton implemented in the Clinton Foundation in order to peddle their own influence and grow their personal wealth under the pretense of philanthropy. The Obama Foundation’s Board of Directors closely resembles the make-up of the Clinton Foundation’s board in that it relies on corporate lobbyists and financial industry insiders over philanthropy experts.

Barack Obama Hillary WH patio 7_29-13.jpgDonald Trump’s ascendence (sic) to the presidency was enabled by the mistrust that the Obama administration placed in American voters by allowing donors and corporate lobbyists to exponentially increase their power in government. Rather than oppose this takeover, Obama welcomed it from the outset of his presidency. The structure of his Foundation is set up in a way to perpetuate this neo-liberal partnership with the top one percent rather than run on the ethos of the Democratic Party at its strongest point, when it collectively opposed financial power instead of allying with it.

Former UBS President and prolific donor to Obama’s presidential campaigns, Robert Wolf, is a board member of the Obama Foundation. While Wolf was running UBS and Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State, Hillary helped UBS settle a lawsuit with the IRS after the bank paid Bill Clinton $1.5 million in speaking fees. UBS then increased their donations to the Clinton Foundation to $600,000. (Obama and Clinton are shown in a 2013 White House photo meeting on the White House patio.)

Jan. 25

E&E News via Scientific American, Trump Administration Orders EPA to Remove Its Climate Change Web Page, Niina Heikkinen, Jan. 25, 2017. The move adds to concerns that the administration will promote a denial of fundamental science within its agencies. The Trump administration has instructed U.S. EPA to get rid of mentions of climate change from its website, Reuters reported late yesterday. Communications staff were told to remove the agency's webpage on climate change, according to two unnamed EPA staff members. The move adds to concerns that a Trump administration will promote a denial of fundamental science within its agencies.

Editors Note: An EPA official said on Wednesday that Trump administration officials were reviewing the content of the agency’s website but had no immediate plans to remove the content on climate change, news reports said.

Claims of Illegal Immigrant Voting

Washington Post, Trump seeks ‘major investigation’ into unsupported claims of voter fraud, Jenna Johnson and Matt Zapotosky, Jan. 25, 2017. President Trump plans to ask for a “major investigation” into Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoallegations of widespread voter fraud as he continues to claim, without providing evidence, that he lost the popular vote in November's election because millions of illegal votes were cast, according to tweets posted Wednesday.

The White House has yet to provide details, but Trump said in back-to-back tweets that the investigation into “VOTER FRAUD” — Trump used all capitals for emphasis — would cover “those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal” and “those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time).” “Depending on results,” Trump tweeted, “we will strengthen up voting procedures!”

Daily Howler, Falsehoods, Misstatements and Lies: Fact Checker appears in Washington Post, Bob Somerby, Jan. 25, 2017. Over at the Washington Post, Glenn Kessler has long been in charge of the paper's Fact Checker site. Kessler's lieutenant is Michelle Ye Hee Lee. She fact-checks recent statements by Sean Spicer and Donald Trump, and quickly bungles her task.

Lee begins by quoting Sean Spicer's latest misstatement: "The White House on Tuesday reiterated President Trump’s false contention that he lost the national popular vote because of 3 million to 5 million illegal votes, as yet another untruth swelled into a distraction that threatens to undermine his first week in office."

That statement by Spicer was rich with bungling, as we'll note below. But Lee's first paragraph is bungled too. Specifically, we refer to her assertion that Trump's recent (unfounded) contention is "false." Nothing Lee says, in a full-length piece, justifies that assertion.

Donald Trump at GOP debate Aug. 6, 2015LEE: Spicer said that a Pew study from 2008 showed that “14 percent of people who have voted were not citizens.” He probably was referring to research by Old Dominion University professors, using data from 2008 and 2010, that was published two years ago by the Monkey Cage, a political sciences blog hosted by The Washington Post. They found that 14 percent of noncitizens in the 2008 and 2010 samples said they were registered to vote.

Uh-oh! Lee doesn't seem to have noticed. But she and Spicer give vastly different accounts of what those professors said. According to Lee, the professors said that 14 percent of noncitizens in their samples said they were registered to vote. According to Spicer, the professors said that 14 percent of people who voted in the past were noncitizens.

Those are vastly different statements! If we apply Lee's account of what the professors said to November's election, it would mean that roughly 1.5 million illegal votes were cast. (Fourteen percent of the nation's estimated 11 million unauthorized residents.) But uh-oh! If we apply Spicer's formulation to last November's election, it would suggest that roughly 19 million illegal votes may have been cast! (Fourteen percent of the 136 million total votes.)

The original post on the Monkey Cage now includes an editor's note at the beginning of the article saying that it inspired three rebuttals and a peer-reviewed article saying the findings were biased.
Good God! Based upon that account, we'd start by rolling our eyes and saying this:  These professors today!

Based upon that account, it sounds like the two professors thoroughly bungled their research. Beyond that, it sounds like the Washington Post also bungled, when it allowed the Monkey Cage to report such bungled work.

Building a Wall?

Mexican flagWashington Post, Trump moves to start ‘immediate’ construction of border wall, David Nakamura​, Jan. 25, 2017. Draft order would begin ‘extreme vetting’ of immigrants and visitors, halt resettlement of Syrian refugees. The president signed an executive action that calls for work to begin quickly on the wall he promised as a candidate between the United States and Mexico. He also signed an order to triple the number of immigration officers and crack down on sanctuary cities. It remained unclear how Trump’s directive would accelerate construction of the wall or pay for the added enforcement tools and border control agents.

Washington Post, Why Trump can’t simply build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border with an executive order, Jerry Markon and Lisa Rein, Jan. 25, 2017. President Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border cannot be built with only the executive order he signed Wednesday and its construction will require congressional approval, border experts and former federal officials said. While Trump can start the wall by shifting around existing federal funds, he will need Congress to appropriate the $20 billion — and perhaps significantly more — required to complete the massive structure, the experts and former officials said.

Gen. John F. Kelly Homeland Security“How is he going to fund it? You need money!” Rand Beers, a former acting Department of Homeland Security secretary in the Obama administration, said Wednesday. “He’s got to have the money. And you can’t reprogram all that money without congressional authorization.”

Trump’s order, signed during a visit Wednesday to the Department of Homeland Security, mandates that DHS Secretary John F. Kelly “immediately plan, design, and construct a physical wall along the southern border.’’ Kelly, shown in a file photo, is a retired four-star Marine general whose son was killed in combat in Afghanistan. Kelly, 66, who led the United States Southern Command, had a 40-year career in the Marine Corps.

It is vague about funding, ordering Kelly to “identify and, to the extent permitted by law, allocate all sources of Federal funds’’ for the project. But the order appears to acknowledge that congressional approval will be needed to finish the structure, saying Kelly also should “develop long-term funding requirements for the wall, including preparing Congressional budget requests for the current and upcoming fiscal years.’’ Overall, more than $7 billion has been spent to build what is now about 650 miles of Southwest border fencing — costing nearly $5 million per mile in some spots — nearly half in Arizona.

Trump Transition

Washington Post, Draft White House order calls for review of both CIA interrogation policies and use of ‘black site’ prisons, Greg Miller​, Jan. 25, 2017. A copy of the document obtained by The Washington Post would revoke former president Barack Obama’s decision to end the CIA program that used methods widely condemned as torture. The policy review could also authorize the reopening of “black site” prisons overseas. It was unclear whether President Trump would sign the document.

CIA LogoThe document, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, would revoke a 2009 decision by then-President Barack Obama to end the CIA program and would reinstate a 2007 order issued by President George W. Bush that allowed a modified version of the “rendition and interrogation” operation to continue.

The draft, labeled “Detention and Interrogation of Enemy Combatants,” notes that the United States has “refrained from exercising certain authorities critical to its defense” in the war against terrorism, including “a halt to all classified interrogations by the Central Intelligence Agency.”

Members of Congress denounced the draft order, which was first reported by the New York Times on Wednesday. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said that Trump “can sign whatever executive orders he likes. But the law is the law. We are not bringing back torture in the United States of America.”

state departmentWashington Post, Trump administration choosing to replace several senior State Department diplomats, Anne Gearan, Jan. 26, 2017. Several career Foreign Service officers were informed this week that they will not be asked to stay on in senior or sensitive posts that are under direct White House control. Officials at the level of assistant secretary and above were affected, State Department officials said.

Although the diplomats were not technically fired, the Trump administration opted to remove a number of top officials in charge of the State Department’s 13 divisions responsible for policy, security and other matters. Those positions may be filled either by Foreign Service officers or outside policy experts. In past administrations, many have remained in their posts when the White House changed hands. All career diplomats running those offices, called bureaus, had submitted pro forma resignations that were effective upon the end of the Obama administration, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

Associated Press via New York Times, Several Senior Diplomats Resign as Trump Admin Takes Shape, Staff report, Jan. 25, 2017. A handful of senior U.S. diplomats are resigning their posts during President Donald Trump's first week on the job, creating more high-level openings that the new president must fill.

Victoria NulandState Department Undersecretary for Management Patrick F. Kennedy, a career foreign service officer, planned to retire effective Friday, the State Department said. He was joined by two assistant secretaries, Joyce Barr and Michele Bond, who both resigned Wednesday. Gentry Smith, who directs the Office of Foreign Missions, was also departing.

The four join a growing list of long-serving diplomats declining to stay on into the Trump administration. That list includes Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, and Gregory Starr, the assistant secretary for diplomatic security. (Reuters reported last week that Nuland, shown in an official photo, was on a list of officials the incoming Trump team had asked to stay on.) Starr retired on Inauguration Day.

Although none of the officials has linked his or her departure explicitly to Trump, many diplomats have privately expressed concern about serving in his administration, given the unorthodox positions he's taken on many foreign policy issues. Trump has yet to fill many top diplomatic jobs, including the deputy secretary roles. His nominee to be secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, is expected to be confirmed by the Senate next week.

Washington Post, Trump announces new White House ethics team, Drew Harwell and Tom Hamburger, Jan. 25, 2017. President Trump announced the addition of a team of ethics lawyers to the White House counsel’s office Wednesday, hours after his family business announced it was hiring a longtime Republican lawyer to ensure the Trump Organization minimizes conflicts of interest. The double-barreled announcements drew some criticism for a president who enters office with more potential conflicts of interest than any previous chief executive, but also praise for the new compliance staff. At the White House, the team will be led by Stefan C. Passantino, an election-law expert in private law practice who will have the title of deputy assistant to the president for compliance and ethics matters.

President Donald Trump official“It is a strong, experienced group of lawyers, but their client has dealt them an impossible hand,” said Norman Eisen, who served as ethics counsel to former president Barack Obama and is now part of a lawsuit accusing Trump of violating a constitutional provision barring presidents from taking payments from foreign governments. Trump, Eisen said, “has brought a blizzard of conflicts to the White House” that seem likely to overwhelm the new team.

Earlier in the day, the Trump Organization named Bobby Burchfield, a veteran GOP lawyer who has advised both Bush presidential teams, to serve as an outside ethics adviser. George A. Sorial, a 10-year Trump company executive, will serve the internal role of chief compliance counsel, the company announced.

Burchfield, a partner in the Washington office of law-firm giant King & Spalding, will have the authority to approve or push back against any of the Trump company’s new domestic deals. “Certain transactions cannot be undertaken” without his approval, the company said. “Given Bobby Burchfield’s long-standing role in Republican party efforts, he does not fit the definition of what would be considered an independent ethics adviser,” said Fred Wertheimer, founder of the good-government group Democracy 21. In addition to his work with presidential candidates, Burchfield is also chairman of Crossroads GPS, the nonprofit arm of the GOP super PAC American Crossroads founded by Karl Rove.

OpEdNews, The Demise of the Left, Paul Craig Roberts, Jan. 25, 2017. The European and American left, which traditionally stood for the working class and peace (bread and peace) no longer exists. The cause championed by those who pretend to be the "left" of today is identity politics. The "left" no longer champions the working class, which the "left" dismisses as "Trump deplorables," consisting of "racist, misogynist, homophobic, gun nuts." Instead, the "left" champions alleged victimized and marginalized groups - -blacks, homosexuals, women and the trans-gendered. Tranny bathrooms, a cause unlikely to mobilize many Americans, are more important to the "left" than the working class.

Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Podcast via OpEdNews, Video/Audio Interview Paul Craig Roberts, Rob Kall (at left above), Jan. 25, 2017. (69:54 min.) Your site was, along with my site, OpEdNews, listed by PropOrNot, which the Washington Post highlighted, as a Russian "propaganda" site. What is your response and what are your thoughts on that? What did you think of the election: primaries, general, the role of the media, of Russia, of Comey and intelligence agencies? You wrote another article about the left. Talk about the left, progressives, liberals, Democrats.

Global News

CNN, Rep. Gabbard met with Prs. Assad in Syria, Jake Tapper, Jan. 25, 2017 (6:47 min. video.). Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) just returned from a secret trip to Syria and told Jake Tapper in a CNN Exclusive said any reconciliation would have to involve Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. 

Whistleblower Alert?

National Law Journal, Whistleblower Lawyers on Alert as Trump Establishes Message Control, C. Ryan Barber, Jan. 25, 2017. News blackouts. Gag orders. Deleted tweets. The early days of President Donald Trump's administration swiftly raised questions about the scope of speech restrictions on federal civil servants. As the White House took control of the public messages delivered through the government's official communication channels, not uncommon for presidential transitions, whistleblower lawyers predicted they'd be busy the next four years. But they also said it was too early to gauge whether the apparent early resistance from purported agency employees would translate into litigation or other legal action that tests workplace protections in the federal bureaucracy.

Protests Against Trump, GOP

Huffington Post, Former CIA Deputy Director Philip Mudd Slams ‘Disgusting’ Trump Speech, Staff report, Jan. 25, 2017. “You almost want to cry.” A former deputy director of the CIA ripped into President Donald Trump on Tuesday for what he called a “disgusting” speech at the agency’s headquarters.

CIA LogoTrump used his speech Saturday in front of the Memorial Wall, where stars represent agents killed in action, to attack the media, boast of his inauguration crowd and brag about his intellect. Later, he also crowed about the standing ovation he received ― which was actually due to the fact he never told the crowd to sit.

“You almost want to cry,” Philip Mudd, now a counterterrorism analyst for CNN, told Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday night. “There’s a sense of outrage, but there’s also such a sense of sadness. Those aren’t stars; those are people.” He added:

“We have a president who has to talk about how many times he’s been on the Time magazine cover in comparison to a football player. He’s got to talk about how many people showed up at his inauguration. He’s got to talk about how many people in the CIA enjoyed his speech. That’s what we get to honor the people who lost their lives.”

Mudd said Trump should have used the speech to talk about the future of American security and honor those who sacrificed themselves in the line of duty. “It’s disgusting, Wolf, I don’t know what else to say. You can’t do that if you’re the president.” Mudd, who had previously slammed the Trump transition effort as a “clown show,” is the latest former agency bigwig to openly criticize the president’s speech.

Washington Post, Maybe Trump isn’t ‘lying,’ Jennifer Rubin, Jan. 25, 2017. CNN’s Jake Tapper provided the best evisceration of President Trump’s claim that massive voter fraud, namely millions of illegal immigrants casting votes, threw the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. The media, understandably, try to understand why Trump would tell such an easily debunked falsehood. Why lie when he is president anyway, by virtue of the electoral college? Why get this badly off track?

The supposition among pundits, elected officials and political insiders is that Trump, like his argument over the inaugural crowd size, “lies” to make himself feel better. His staff salutes, repeats his lies and then gets bashed. What if, however, he thoroughly, “honestly” believes his crazy, unsubstantiated claims? When he denies saying something, what if he honestly does not, cannot recall statements that now come back to haunt him?

USA Today, 7 Greenpeace protesters unfurl 'Resist' banner atop crane near White House, Mary Troyan and Doug Stanglin, Jan. 25, 2017. Seven protesters from the environmental group Greenpeace climbed a 270-foot crane Wednesday at a construction site in downtown Washington and unfurled a "Resist" banner visible from the White House to demonstrate opposition to President Trump. Greenpeace spokesman Travis Nichols said the huge yellow and orange banner with the word "Resist" is a continuation of protests that started with Trump's inauguration last week.

"The activists from around the country are still in place, calling for those who want to resist Trump’s attacks on environmental, social, economic and educational justice to contribute to a better America," the environmental group said in a statement.

The protesters took over the crane at mid-morning near 15th and L Street NW, about four blocks north of the White House. Two protesters hanging from the 70-foot by 35-foot banner swayed in the wind, waving at the police helicopter that flew by. They also appeared to be providing ballast to keep the banner from folding up into the wind and obscuring their message.

Truthout via Buzzflash, The Heritage Foundation: A Heritage of Propaganda as News, Bill Berkowitz, Jan. 25, 2017. During the Trump transition, staffers from the Heritage Foundation were quite active developing policies and pointing out potential nominees for government positions. That was only foreplay.

Not since those halcyon days of the George W. Bush administration have folks at the Heritage Foundation been this giddy. If you are looking to understand where the underpinning of the Trump Administration's deregulation, tax breaks for the wealthy, Obamacare repeal and replace alternatives, climate change denial, and privatization agenda will be coming from, look no further than the Washington D.C. based Heritage Foundation, America's most influential right-wing think tank.
 
Almost every day for eight years, The Daily Signal, Heritage's e-mail newsletter, sounded the alarm about the Obama administration's misdeeds and the wrongheadedness of liberal policies. Now Heritage, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, has pivoted to providing a broad-based agenda for Team Trump.

Politico, Trump hit with $2 million suit by contractor on D.C. hotel, Josh Gerstein, Jan. 25, 2017. An electrical contractor is suing President Donald Trump's Washington hotel for $2 million over what the contractor contends are unpaid bills for "nonstop" work performed to open the luxury lodging at the Old Post Office Building last year. The suit filed in D.C. Superior Court by Laurel, Maryland-based AES Electrical, also known as Freestate Electrical, contends that the company was instructed to rush work on electrical and fire alarm systems at the hotel in advance of a visit then-candidate Trump made there for a "soft opening" in September and again for the "grand opening" of the hotel in October. A nearly $3 million lien filed against the hotel by a plumbing and heating contractor, Joseph J. Magnolia Inc., appears to have been resolved.

Justice System

JFKFacts.org, What JFK records are most pertinent to the case? Jefferson Morley, Jan. 25, 2017. The best summary of the still-secret JFK records comes from Rex Bradford, president of the Mary Ferrell Foundation site. Read more here. The president can have a lot of influence over JFK records. Read about that here. He writes:

I am determined to get these records online even if they only come out in the Archives in paper form. Expect to hear more on this topic too, including a way interested researchers can help. Given the number of records here, it may be very helpful to pre-identify "high value" documents to be obtained and electronically published as soon after release as possible. I plan to put up a page on the MFF site that will allow interested researchers to participate in identifying those high-value records

Jan. 24

Mike PompeoTrump Transition

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Confirmation vote for Pompeo for CIA reminiscent of Iraq war vote, Wayne Madsen (former Navy Intelligence officer, NSA analyst and author of two books on the CIA), Jan. 24, 2017 (Subscription required for column, with excerpt used here by permission). In the U.S. Senate, some votes have more impact than others. That was certainly the case with the January 23 Senate vote to confirm Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS, and shown in an official photo) as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Washington Post, The first days inside Trump’s White House: Fury, tumult and a reboot, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Matea Gold, Jan. 24, 2017. The turbulence and competing factions that were a hallmark of Trump’s campaign have been transported to the White House. Nearly a dozen senior officials and other Trump advisers and confidants, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity, describe private conversations and moments.

Washington Post, FBI Director James Comey to stay on in Trump administration, Matt Zapotosky, Ellen Nakashima and Sari Horwitz​, Jan. 24, 2017. Comey (shown in an official photo), who is under investigation for his handling of the Hillary James ComeyClinton email probe, has told people he has been asked to stay in his post in the Trump administration, people familiar with the matter said.

Huffington Post, Trump Signs Executive Orders On Keystone XL, Dakota Access Pipelines, Alexander C. Kaufman, Jan. 24, 2017. President Donald Trump signed executive orders on Tuesday to push forward the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, opening new fronts in his looming war with environmentalists. Keystone was rejected in 2015 by former President Barack Obama after a seven-year review. Trump’s orders clear the way to continue building Energy Transfer Partners’ 1,172-mile Dakota Access project, which has been stalled since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers halted construction in December amid massive protests led by the Standing Rock Sioux.

Washington Post, Trump to order building of border wall, crackdown on sanctuary cities, Jerry Markon and Robert Costa, Jan. 24, 2017. The plan to sign executive orders Wednesday regarding the border represent the president’s first effort to deliver on perhaps the signature issue that drove his campaign: his belief that illegal immigration is out of control and threatening the country’s safety and security.

Washington Post, Activists planning to disrupt inauguration were infiltrated by conservative group, Peter Hermann​, Jan. 24, 2017. D.C. police confirmed that secret video recordings made by a group called Project Veritas led to the arrest of one man and foiled an alleged acid attack at the DeploraBall in downtown Washington. In the weeks leading up to President Trump’s inauguration, a small group of activists threatening to disrupt the event were trying to keep the details secret. D.C. police detectives were working hard to learn the plans and head them off.

What neither authorities nor the activists apparently realized was that a conservative group headed by James O’Keefe, called Project Veritas, had already infiltrated key meetings of groups of suspected agitators. A D.C. police spokesman now confirms that a secret video recording made Dec. 18 by one of O’Keefe’s operatives led to the arrest of one man and foiled an alleged plot to spread acid at the DeploraBall for Trump supporters at the National Press Club. It was not clear whether the alleged plotters ever obtained the acid.

Law enforcement authorities said they think that the successful penetration of DisruptJ20, an umbrella organization for a number of groups who police said sought to wreak havoc at the inauguration, forced the group to abandon plans to try to shut down Metro trains and blockade entrances into the District, according to two law enforcement officials with knowledge of the investigation.

To O’Keefe, who for years has targeted liberal groups with undercover stings, the arrest validates his group and their controversial methods. Project Veritas has been criticized for selectively editing videos, but its reports also led to the dissolution in 2009 of ACORN, an advocacy group for housing, and the resignation of Democratic political operatives caught discussing instigating violence at Trump rallies.

“I’ve spent years trying to fight the mainstream media that doesn’t view me as a journalist,” O’Keefe said in an interview. “This is the first time that a video we shot has led to an arrest. It legitimizes what we’re doing. It’s a new era for us.”

A spokeswoman for DisruptJ20, Lacy MacAuley, and one of the group’s leaders, Legba Carrefour, did not respond to interview requests. A police arrest affidavit says DisruptJ20 argued that its leaders were aware that the group had been infiltrated and had fed the undercover reporter intentionally wrong information. D.C. police said they arrested Scott R. Charney, 34, of Northwest Washington on Jan. 19, the day before the inauguration and hours before the DeploraBall in downtown Washington. Charney lists himself on LinkedIn as a sales associate as well as a foreign-policy analyst who has worked for several think tanks.

Democratic Opposition

Washington Post, Seeking discord between Trump and GOP leaders, Democrats to unveil Trump-size plan, Ed O'Keefe and Steven Mufson, Jan. 24, 2017. Democrats consider talk of a $1 trillion infrastructure plan as a way to piggyback on Trump’s vows to repair crumbling roads and persuade him to adopt ideas that would put him at odds with GOP leaders, who have done little to embrace what would amount to a major new government spending program.

SouthFront, My Job Will Be ‘To Shut Other White People Down’ – Candidate For US Democratic National Committee Chair, Staff report, Jan. 24, 2017. Some members of the US Democratic Party have found who is guilty for Hillary’s failure during the US Presidential Election 2016. It’s “white people.”

Sally Boynton Brown, a woman running for chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), said Monday that if she is chosen to lead the party her job will be to “shut other white people down.” “My job is to shut other white people down when they want to interrupt,” she said during a DNC candidate forum, adding that democrats must provide “training” teaching Americans “how to be sensitive and how to shut their mouths if they are white.” Sally Boynton Brown is the executive director of the Idaho Democratic Committee and now she is running for the chair position in the DNC.

Washington Update

Huffington Post, White House: Donald Trump Believes Lie That Millions Voted Illegally, Christina Wilkie, Jan. 24, 2017. White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday confirmed that President Donald Trump believes millions of people voted illegally in November’s election, despite a total absence of evidence to support this view.
 
Washington Post, U.S. prosecutors offer unspecified plea deal in Comet Ping Pong pizza case, Spencer S. Hsu, Jan. 24, 2017. Federal prosecutors said they have offered a plea deal to a North Carolina man accused of commandeering a Washington pizza restaurant with an assault-style rifle on Dec. 4, but they did not describe the deal’s terms at a brief federal court appearance Tuesday. Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, of Salisbury, N.C., pleaded not guilty Dec. 16 to a federal charge of interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition and to two D.C. offenses: assault with a dangerous weapon and possessing a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence.

Roger Stone: The Making of a President

Skyhorse Publishing, New Book: "The Making of the President 2016: How Donald Trump Orchestrated a Revolution" by Roger Stone, Jan. 24, 2017. The definitive look at how Donald J. Trump shocked the world to become president. Trump pulled off the greatest upset in American political history despite a torrent of invectiveness and the dismissal by the mainstream media. Here is the first definitive explanation of how the “silent majority” shifted the election to Trump in reliable Democratic strongholds — Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan — thus handing him the presidency.

In The Making of the President 2016, Stone, a longtime Trump retainer and confidant, gives us the inside story of how Trump almost single-handedly harnessed discontent among “forgotten Americans,” Roger Stonedespite running a guerrilla-style grassroots campaign to compete with the smooth-operating and free-spending Clinton political machine. From the start, Trump’s campaign was unlike any seen on the national stage — combative, maverick, and fearless. Trump’s nomination was the hostile takeover of the Republican party and a resounding repudiation of the failed leadership of both parties, whose policies have brought America to the brink of financial collapse and endangered our national security.

Stone (shown in a file photo) outlines how Trump skillfully ran as the anti-open borders candidate as well as a supporter of American sovereignty, and how he used the globalist trade deals like NAFTA to win more than three of ten Bernie Sanders supporters. The veteran adviser to Nixon, Reagan, and Trump charts the rise of the alt-conservative media and the end of the mainstream media’s monopoly on voters.

This is an insider’s view that includes an examination of opposition research into Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton’s crimes; the struggle by the Republican establishment to stop Trump; and how Republicans underestimated him. Stone chronicles Trump’s triumph in three debates where he skillfully lowered expectation levels but skewered Mrs. Clinton for the corruption of the Clinton Foundation, her mishandling of government email, and her incompetence as Secretary of State.

Global News

Benjamin Netanyahu smile TwitterWashington Post, Israel approves huge expansion of settlements in response to Trump presidency, William Booth​, Jan. 24, 2017. Israel approved the construction of 2,500 housing units in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, just two days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (shown in a file photo) spoke with President Trump, who has signaled more accommodating policies toward Israel and has called for moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

Fox News, Decision looms on Assange extradition to Sweden, Greg Palkot, Jan. 24, 2017. Swedish authorities are getting closer to either indicting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on rape charges stemming from an incident in August 2010 or letting it drop, Fox News has learned. A decision could come in a matter of a few months, an eyeblink in the context of an international saga that has dragged on for 6½ years. The latest development follows a November interview a Swedish prosecutor conducted with Assange at his self-imposed exile in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, an interrogation many say was long overdue.

“If I was in charge, I would have tried very hard to have him interviewed in a very, very early possible period,” former Swedish prosecutor Sven-ErikAlhem told Fox News. While no one knows exactly what evidence Swedish prosecutors have, experts told Fox News the third-degree rape case against Assange, which included consensual sex at the time, could be a difficult charge to make.

The sexual-assault case is separate from Assange’s controversial work with WikiLeaks, which has included publishing millions of sensitive documents that the Pentagon claims put American service members and intelligence operatives in danger and emails that rocked the 2016 presidential campaign. Assange’s supporters have claimed the sexual assault case was brought to silence him. Assange himself has claimed that Washington has manipulated the case to get him to the U.S. to face alleged espionage charges.

Unz Review, The Neocon Lament, Nobody wants them in Trump's Washington, Philip Giraldi, Jan. 24, 2017. There is no limit to the hubris driven hypocrisy of America’s stalwart neoconservatives. A recent Washington Post front page article entitled “‘Never Trump’ national-security Republicans fear they have been blacklisted” shares with the reader the heartbreak of those so-called GOP foreign policy experts who have apparently been ignored by the presidential transition team.

Daily Mail, 'I trick stupid men into stripping naked then performing SEX acts on Skype,' Simon Parry, Jan. 24, 2017. Chilling confession of 'Sextortion Queen' in Philippines who uses striptease and sordid sex-texts to blackmail Westerners online. The alleged boss of a blackmail 'Sextortion' gang has revealed how she tricks 'stupid' men into stripping off via webcam - and revealed the vile secrets of her trade. Maria Caparas-Regalachuelo, who is accused of using girls as young as 13, boasted that it takes just 30 minutes to trick western men into getting naked then performing a sex act via Skype.

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SouthFront, Russian Strategic Bombers Strike ISIS For 3rd Time In Deir Ezzor, Staff report, Jan. 24, 2017. Six Russian Tu-22M3 strategic bombers have delivered airstrikes on ISIS positions in the area of the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor for the 3rd time in a row. The Tu-22M3 strategic bombers took off from an airfield in Russia and flew over the territory of Iraq and Iran to conduct airstrikes.

Jan. 23

CBS News, Sources say Trump's CIA visit made relations with intel community worse, Jeff Pegues, Jan. 23, 2017. U.S. government sources tell CBS News that there is a sense of unease in the intelligence community after President Trump’s visit to CIA headquarters on Saturday. An official said the visit “made relations with the intelligence community worse” and described the visit as “uncomfortable.”

Authorities are also pushing back against the perception that the CIA workforce was cheering for the president. They say the first three rows in front of the president were largely made up of supporters of Mr. Trump’s campaign.

CIA LogoAn official with knowledge of the make-up of the crowd says that there were about 40 people who’d been invited by the Trump, Mike Pence and Rep. Mike Pompeo teams. The Trump team expected Rep. Pompeo, R-Kansas, to be sworn in during the event as the next CIA director, but the vote to confirm him was delayed on Friday by Senate  Democrats. Also sitting in the first several rows in front of the president was the CIA’s senior leadership, which was not cheering the remarks.

Officials acknowledge that Mr. Trump does have his supporters within the CIA workforce, many of whom were interspersed among the rank and file standing off to the president’s right. There were about 400 members of the workforce who RSVP’d for the event out of thousands who received an invitation in their email late last week.

Officials dismiss White House claims that there were people waiting to get into the event.

Intelligence sources say many in the workforce were stunned and at times offended by the president’s tone which seemed to evolve into a version of speeches he’d used on the campaign trail.

New York Times video, Jan. 23, 2017.

Washington Post, The traditional way of reporting on a president is dead. Trump’s press secretary killed it, Margaret Sullivan, Jan. 23, 2017 (print edition).​ The presidency is not a reality show, but President Trump on his first full day in office made clear that he’s still obsessed with being what he once proudly called “a ratings machine.” He cares enough about it to send his press secretary, Sean Spicer, out to brazenly lie to the media in his first official briefing.

President Donald Trump officialSean Spicer’s remarks about the audience for Trump’s inauguration were full of falsehoods, and they should inspire journalists to dig in and pay far more attention to actions than sensational tweets or briefing-room lies. Anyone — citizen or journalist — who is surprised by false claims from the new inhabitant of the Oval Office hasn’t been paying attention. That was reinforced when Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway told “Meet the Press” Sunday that Spicer had been providing “alternative facts” to what the media had reported, making it clear we’ve gone full Orwell.

White House press briefings are “access journalism,” in which official statements — achieved by closeness to the source — are taken at face value and breathlessly reported as news. And that is over. Dead.

Spicer’s statement should be seen for what it is: Remarks made over the casket at the funeral of access journalism. As Jessica Huseman of ProPublica put it: “Journalists aren’t going to get answers from Spicer. We are going to get answers by digging. By getting our hands dirty. So let’s all do that.”

Donald Trump New York Daily News Jan. 21, 2017President Donald Trump's Second Day (New York Daily News, Jan. 22, 2017)

New York Times, Foreign Payments to Trump Firms Violate Constitution, Suit Will Claim, Staff report, Jan. 23, 2017 (print edition).​ A team of prominent constitutional scholars, Supreme Court litigators and former White House ethics lawyers intends to file a lawsuit Monday morning alleging that President Trump is violating the Constitution by allowing his hotels and other business operations to accept payments from foreign governments.

The lawsuit is among a barrage of legal actions against the Trump administration that have been initiated or are being planned by major liberal advocacy organizations. Such suits are among the few outlets they have to challenge the administration now that Republicans are in control of the government.

In the new case, the lawyers argue that a provision in the Constitution known as the Emoluments Clause bans payments from foreign powers like the ones to Mr. Trump’s companies. They cite fears among the framers of the Constitution that United States officials could be corrupted by gifts or payments.

The suit, which will not seek any monetary damages, will ask a federal court in New York to order Mr. Trump to stop taking payments from foreign government entities. Such payments, it says, include those from patrons at Trump hotels and golf courses; loans for his office buildings from certain banks controlled by foreign governments; and leases with tenants like the Abu Dhabi tourism office, a government enterprise.

“The framers of the Constitution were students of history,” said Deepak Gupta, one of the lawyers behind the suit. “And they understood that one way a republic could fail is if foreign powers could corrupt our elected leaders.”

The president’s son Eric Trump, who is an executive vice president of the Trump Organization, said the company had taken more steps than required by law to avoid legal exposure, such as agreeing to donate any profits collected at Trump-owned hotels that come from foreign government guests to the United States Treasury. “This is purely harassment for political gain, and, frankly, I find it very, very sad,” he said in an interview on Sunday.

The president’s lawyers have argued that the constitutional provision does not apply to fair-market payments, such as a standard hotel room bill, and is intended only to prevent federal officials from accepting a special consideration or gift from a foreign power. “No one would have thought when the Constitution was written that paying your hotel bill was an emolument,” one of the lawyers, Sheri A. Dillon, a partner at Morgan Lewis, said at a news conference this month. The legal team filing the lawsuit includes Laurence H. Tribe, a Harvard constitutional scholar; Norman L. Eisen, an Obama administration ethics lawyer; and Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine. Among the others are Richard W. Painter, an ethics counsel in the administration of George W. Bush; Mr. Gupta, a Supreme Court litigator who has three cases pending before the court; and Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University law professor and former congressional candidate who has been studying and writing about the Emoluments Clause for nearly a decade.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit is a liberal group known as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which until recently was controlled by David Brock, a Democratic Party operative and fervent supporter of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Mr. Eisen now serves as chairman of the organization’s board, and Mr. Painter is vice chairman. he lawsuit may run into trouble, other legal experts said, given that CREW, as the organization is known, must demonstrate that it would suffer direct and concrete injury to give it standing to sue. The group says it has suffered harm by having to divert resources from other work to monitor and respond to Mr. Trump’s activities. For example, the group said, it has answered hundreds of questions from news organizations.

Trump Transition

Washington Post,, Trump signs order to withdraw U.S. from Trans-Pacific Partnership, Ylan Q. Mui, ​Jan. 23, 2017. President Trump began recasting America’s role in the global economy Monday, canceling an Donald Trump for President logoagreement for a sweeping trade deal with Asia as one of his first official White House actions.

The move was largely symbolic but served to signal that Trump’s tough talk on trade during the campaign will carry over to his new administration.

Washington Post, President halts hiring of many federal workers, Juliet Eilperin, Jan. 23, 2017. He signed an executive order that he said would affect all employees “except for the military.” Trump promised a hiring freeze during his presidential campaign that also included exemptions for public safety and public health.

Washington Post, Trump names his Inauguration Day a ‘National Day of Patriotic Devotion,’ Abby Phillip, Jan. 23, 2017. President Trump has officially declared the day of his inauguration a national day of patriotism. Trump's inaugural address on Friday frequently referred to patriotism as the salve that would heal the country's divisions.

“When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice,” Trump said from the steps of the Capitol after being sworn in as president. Later that day, Trump's press secretary, Sean Spicer, said that naming a national day of patriotism was among the executive actions that Trump took in his first few hours as president.

New York Times, Trump’s Cabinet So Far Is More White and Male Than Any First Cabinet Since Reagan’s, Jasmine C. Lee, Jan. 23, 2017. President Trump’s cabinet is shaping up to have a smaller percentage of women and nonwhites than the first cabinets of Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George Bush. If Mr. Trump’s nominees are confirmed, women and nonwhites will hold five of 22 cabinet or cabinet-level positions. He has not yet named the nominee for one additional position. “Donald Trump is rolling back the clock on diversity in the cabinet,” said Paul Light, a professor at New York University’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

Number of white men in the first cabinet of each president: Donald J. Trump 17; Barack Obama 8; George W. Bush 11; Bill Clinton 10; George Bush 12; Ronald Reagan 17.

Five members will also be in some of the lowest-ranking positions. None of them are in the so-called inner cabinet, the four positions in place since George Washington’s presidency: the attorney general and the secretaries of state, Treasury and defense (formerly called the secretary of war). The cabinet members below are listed in order of presidential succession. The inner cabinet comes after the vice president, House speaker and president pro tempore of the Senate.

Huffington Post, Donald Trump signs abortion restriction surrounded by men, Amanda Terkel, Jan. 23, 2017. It seems like women might be interested in this policy too. On Monday, surrounded by other white men, President Donald Trump signed an anti-abortion executive order that has far-reaching consequences for women’s reproductive health access worldwide. rump reinstated the Mexico City policy, also known as the global gag rule, which was first put in place by President Ronald Reagan in 1984.

It prohibits giving U.S. funding to international nongovernmental organizations that offer or advise on a wide range of family planning and reproductive health options if they include abortion ― even if U.S. dollars are not specifically used for abortion-related services.

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainThe United States spends about $600 million a year on international assistance for family planning and reproductive health programs, making it possible for 27 million women and couples to access contraceptive services and supplies.

None of that money is spent on performing abortions. The Helms amendment has prevented U.S. tax dollars from funding overseas abortions since 1973. Proponents of the global gag rule believe the policy is nevertheless still necessary, arguing that Helms isn’t strong enough by itself.

The executive order is one of the first Trump has signed since taking office. Sitting in the Oval Office Monday, he also signed ones freezing federal hiring and withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

A pan of the people standing by his side showed that there were few, if any, women present. rump’s executive order has severe implications and could be deadly for women and girls in developing countries and conflict zones, who often resort to dangerous methods of ending their pregnancies when they lack access to safe abortion. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 21 million women a year have unsafe abortions in developing countries, accounting for about 13 percent of all maternal deaths.

The policy is rescinded and reinstated based on which party is in power. President Bill Clinton did away with it, President George W. Bush put it back and then President Barack Obama rescinded it again when he took office. Trump’s Cabinet is more white and more male than any president’s first Cabinet since Reagan (as reported by the New York Times in Trump’s Cabinet So Far Is More White and Male Than Any First Cabinet Since Reagan’s).

JFK Vigil ad Jan. 23, 2017 Washington Times Page A-13Call for State Crimes Investigation

Washington Times, Invitation and Challenge to Every American: Peaceably Assemble for Truth: JFK to 9/11, Jan. 23, 2017. Full page ad in Washington Times (shown at right).

Global News

TeleSur Empire Files, Post-Soviet Russia, Made in the U.S.A., Abby Martin interview with Mark Ames, Jan. 23, 2017 (27.13 min.). The increased aggression towards Russia from US politicians and media is made more clear when taking into account the real history of the post-Soviet period. The hidden story of Boris Yeltsin’s presidency explains how deeply the US government, along with Western capitalist institutions, cheered, shaped and exploited the country after the fall of the Soviet Union, paving the way for the political system they all condemn today.

To uncover just how much the US Empire has interfered in Russia’s political evolution, Abby Martin interviews Mark Ames, an American journalist who spent a decade reporting from Yeltsin’ and Putin’s Russia and witnessed the country’s transformation from an American “colony” to it’s “number one threat.”

Unz Review, Karl Rove's Prophecy, Karel van Wolferen, Jan. 23, 2017. In a famous exchange between a high official at the court of George W. Bush and journalist Ron Suskind, the official – later acknowledged to have been Karl Rove – takes the journalist to task for working in “the reality-based community.” He defined that as believing “that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” Rove then asserted that this was no longer the way in which the world worked:

“We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” (Ron Suskind, NYTimes Magazine, Oct. 17, 2004).

Karl Rove (Jay Godwin/Wikimedia Commons)This declaration became popular as an illustration of the hubris of the Bush-Cheney government. But we could also see it as fulfilled prophecy. Fulfilled in a manner that no journalist at that time would have deemed possible. Yes, the neoconservatives brought disrepute upon themselves because of the disaster in Iraq.

Sure, opposition to the reality Rove (shown in a Jay Godwin photo via Wikimedia Commons) had helped create in that devastated country became a first rung on the ladder that could lead to the presidency, as it did for Barack Obama.

But the neocons stayed put in the State Department and other positions closely linked to the Obama White House, where they became allies with the liberal hawks in continuing ‘spreading democracy’ by overthrowing regimes. America’s mainstream news and opinion purveyors, without demurring, accommodated the architects of reality production overseen by Dick Cheney.

But the question does reappear in one’s thoughts: do the politically prominent and the well-positioned editors, especially those known for having once possessed skeptical minds, actually believe it all? Do those members of the cabinet or parliament, who can get hot under their collar as they decry the latest revelation about one or other outrage committed by Putin, take seriously what they’re saying?

Not all of them are believers, I know that from off the record conversations. But there appears to be a marked difference between the elite in government, in the media, in prominent social positions, and ordinary people who in these recent times of anguish about populism are sometimes referred to as uneducated. Quite a few among the latter appear to think that something fishy is going on. This could be because in my experience the alert ones have educated themselves, something that is not generally understood by commentators who have made their way through the bureaucracy of standard higher education.

Jan. 22

Inauguration Views from Washington Monument for Donald Trump (left, 2017 Reuters staff photo) and Barack Obama (2009)

Inauguration Views from Washington Monument for Donald Trump (left, 2017 Reuters staff photo) and Barack Obama (2009)

New York Daily News, Reuters editor defends photo of sparse National Mall during President Trump's inauguration, Nicole Hensley, Jan. 22, 2017. A Reuters editor defended his photographer’s disputed image of an underwhelming crowd to witness President Trump's inauguration, the same photo that enraged the new administration the following morning. Jim Bourg, who assigned a photographer to scale the Washington Monument for a sky-high view of the swearing-in ceremony, slammed “inaccurate talk and allegations” he found circulating among his own Facebook friends.

“Only one news organization had a still photographer atop the Washington monument for the inauguration and I assigned him to be there,” Bourg wrote in a Facebook post Sunday night. “This photo by Reuters News Pictures staff photographer Lucas Jackson was taken at 12:01:18 p.m. on Friday and not much earlier as many people are trying to claim.”

The stark image, when compared to the plentiful crowds former President Obama drew during his 2009 inauguration, drew the ire of White House spokesman Sean Spicer. The two photos were taken within a half hour of each other during their respective inaugurations.  A combination of photos taken at the National Mall shows the crowds attending the inauguration ceremonies to swear in President Trump, left and former President Obama, right.

Fishbowl DC, Your Intention to Always Tell the Truth?’ Corinne Grinapol, Jan. 23, 2017. White House press secretary Sean Spicer today held his first Trump White House press briefing, but it was not his first appearance in front of the press since President Trump took office. That would have been Saturday when Spicer, flanked on other side by visual aids depicting the Trump inauguration, berated the press while spouting incorrect numbers on WMATA (subway and bus) ridership for this inauguration, and inaugurations past. Spicer proceeded to list the arithmetic: TV ratings+streaming+YouTube+Facebook that made the “most-watched inaugural” statement true. 

Donald Trump inauguration crowd size 2017 (right) compared to Barack Obama size 2013

Donald Trump inauguration crowd size 2017 (right) compared to Barack Obama size 2013

NBC News, Kellyanne Conway: WH Spokesman Gave ‘Alternative Facts’ on Inauguration Crowd, Alexandra Jaffe, Jan. 22, 2017.​ Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, said the White House press secretary gave "alternative facts" when he inaccurately described the inauguration crowd as "the largest ever" during his first appearance before the press this weekend.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer gathered the press to deliver a five-minute statement Saturday in which he issued multiple falsehoods, declaring erroneously the number of people who used the D.C. metro on Friday, that there was a change in security measures this year and that "this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe."

Kellyanne Conway Gage Skidmore photo"These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong," Spicer said Saturday.

However, crowd size experts told the New York Times they estimated Trump's audience at fewer than 200,000 people, and widely distributed side-by-side photographs showed the stark contrast between the comparatively sparse crowd for Trump's inauguration and the record-setting crowd for Obama's first.

Asked on "Meet the Press" why Spicer used his first appearance before the press to dispute a minimal issue like the inauguration crowd size, and why he used falsehoods to do so, Conway (shown in a file photo) pushed back. "You're saying it's a falsehood and Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that," she told NBC's Chuck Todd. She then went on to echo Spicer's claim on Saturday that it wasn't possible to count the count, despite Trump's team's accompanying insistence that it was the "largest audience."

"I don't think you can prove those numbers one way or another. There's no way to quantify crowd numbers," Conway said. Conway also suggested that Todd's insistence on asking why Spicer delivered a demonstrably false statement could affect the White House's treatment of the media. "If we're going to keep referring to the press secretary in those types of terms I think we're going to have to rethink our relationship here," she said.

Politico, Conway: Trump is 'not going to release his tax returns,' Connor O’Brien, Jan. 22, 2017.​ President Donald Trump will not release his tax returns, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Sunday. In an interview on ABC's "This Week," Conway described the issue of Trump releasing his taxes as an attempt to re-litigate the presidential campaign, where the Republican New York real estate mogul bucked longstanding tradition by not making his tax returns public.

"The White House response is that he’s not going to release his tax returns," Conway said. "We litigated this all through the election. People didn’t care," Conway said. "They voted for him, and let me make this very clear: Most Americans...are very focused on what their tax returns will look like while President Trump is in office, not what his look like."

Washington Post, Trump uses Twitter to comment for first time on Women’s March, John Wagner, Jan. 22, 2017.​ President Trump weighed in for the first time on the massive protests against his presidency Donald Trump and Mike Pence logothat took place in Washington and around the globe, stating sarcastically on Twitter on Sunday morning that he was “under the impression that we just had an election!”

“Was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote?” the president tweeted. Later he said, “Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy.”

is tweet came in response to more than 1 million people gathering Saturday for the Women’s March on Washington and at other rallies in the United States and abroad, all meant as a rejoinder to his inauguration the day before. Trump and his aides remained silent about the protests on Saturday.

New York Magazine, U.S. Border Agents Rejected Some Canadians Headed to the Women’s March, Catie L'Heureux, Jan. 22, 2017.​ As an estimated 200,000 people traveled to Washington, D.C., this week for the Women’s March on Saturday, U.S. border agents reportedly denied members of at least three groups of would-be protesters coming from Canada and sent them home. Each group was refused U.S. entry on Thursday, after sharing their plans to attend the Women’s March.

In a statement to The Guardian, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection refused to discuss the incidents because of privacy reasons. “We recognize that there is an important balance to strike between securing our borders while facilitating the high volume of legitimate trade and travel that crosses our borders every day,” it read, “and we strive to achieve that balance and show the world that the United States is a welcoming nation.”

Sean Spicer

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (Screen shot) Jan. 22, 2017

Washington Post, Sean Spicer held a press conference. He didn’t take questions, Chris Cillizza, Jan. 22, 2017. Or tell the whole truth.

NBC News, Ex-CIA Boss Brennan, Others Rip Trump Speech in Front of Memorial, Andrea Mitchell and Ken Dilanian, Jan. 22, 2017. Donald Trump traveled to CIA headquarters Saturday to offer reassurance to the workforce after he spent weeks criticizing American intelligence, but his unscripted, self-referential remarks before a wall of stars memorializing fallen officers are drawing criticism, including a pointed denunciation from the agency's recently departed director.

John Brennan official photo"Former CIA Director Brennan is deeply saddened and angered at Donald Trump's despicable display of self-aggrandizement in front of CIA's Memorial Wall of Agency heroes," Nick Shapiro, a former aide to John Brennan at CIA, told NBC News' Andrea Mitchell. Brennan, Shapiro said, believes Trump "should be ashamed of himself." (Brennan is shown in an official photo.)

Trump was greeted with cheers by the CIA officers who volunteered to be there to greet him on a Saturday.

But the wall of 117 stars in the CIA lobby is a revered place, and presidents who have spoken there tend to do so carefully and with a close attention to their subject — usually the sacrifices of the CIA officers and their families.

Trump expressed support for the CIA, but he also veered into political territory, denouncing the news media, boasting about the size of his inaugural crowds, and even discussing his own appraisal of his intellect. "And then they say, 'Is Donald Trump an intellectual?'" Trump said. "Trust me, I'm like a smart person. A former senior CIA officer told NBC News he was embarrassed, watching the remarks, which he called a "free-wheeling, narcissistic diatribe."

Los Angeles Times, Rex Tillerson, Trump's pick for secretary of State, wins key support from GOP senators, Tracy Wilkinson, Jan. 22, 2017. Rex Tillerson, the ExxonMobil CEO who is President Trump's pick for Rex Tillerson Exxon Mobile (Small)secretary of State, has overcome a major hurdle on his way to Senate confirmation. Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who had resisted Tillerson's appointment, said on Sunday they have decided to support his nomination. They had previously suggested that Tillerson's close ties with Putin might disqualify Tillerson (shown in a file photo) as America's top diplomat.

Washington Post, Defense attorneys allege police trapped and then arrested protesters, Peter Hermann and Michael E. Miller, Jan. 22, 2017.​ D.C. officers arrested 230 people during Friday’s demonstrations, but they can’t tie individuals to acts of vandalism, the lawyers say.

Washington Post, Man arrested in connection with assault on officer during Friday’s demonstrations, Faiz Siddiqui, Jan. 22, 2017. D.C. police arrested a 30-year-old Florida man Saturday in connection with Friday’s anti-inauguration demonstrations in which several officers were injured, authorities said Sunday. Police said Dane Powell, of Largo, Fla., was charged with assault on a police officer while armed. Powell allegedly threw at rock at officers, knocking one unconscious, then fled.

The incident occurred about 2 p.m. Friday at 12th and K streets NW, as dozens of demonstrators gathered near Franklin Square and police in riot gear blocked off multiple streets, authorities said. According to an incident report, Powell was seen throwing “what is believed to be a stone” at officers. Police said one officer was knocked unconscious when a rock hit his helmet. After Powell fled, police reviewed video footage and continued to search for him Saturday, eventually learning his identity, police said. Officers eventually found him in front of the Fifth District Police Department and arrested him, police said.

National Press Club, On POTUS And Spicer Comments Towards Journalists, Jeffrey Ballou, Jan. 22, 2017. The following statement is attributed to Jeff Ballou, president of the National Press Club.

"The National Press Club welcomes a healthy discussion and debate on the stories of the day. However, it's absurd and unacceptable to insult and impugn the motives of credentialed journalists for accurate reporting. Additionally, the National Press Club is alarmed by reports that several media outlets who have regularly been credentialed to cover the White House and Congress were denied credentials related to the inauguration. We do not expect or anticipate the White House to like every story written about it. We do expect and anticipate that journalists will be free and able to cover this or any other administration."

Founded in 1908, the National Press Club has 3,100 members worldwide and is a strong advocate for Press Freedom.

Global News

Politico Magazine, America, You Look Like an Arab Country Right Now; Welcome to the club, Karl Sharro, Jan. 22, 2017.

Dear America,

We have been watching the drama of your presidential elections with much interest and curiosity for some time now. It’s hard not to notice the many similarities between our own countries and yours.

From fiery inauguration protests and bitter disputes about crowd size, to the intelligence service’s forays into politics and the rise of right-wing extremists, it appears that you are traveling very much in our direction — and at the same time, like us, becoming a curiosity for foreign correspondents trying to explain what’s happening in your region to the world. You might be distraught about where you are headed, but we aren’t! Perhaps this will be an opportunity to put our differences aside and recognize how similar we are.

Washington Post, Czech Republic recruits cyber troops to combat pro-Russia disinformation, Anthony Faiola, Jan. 22, 2017.​ In the Czech Republic, the tug of war for influence between Moscow and the West has lurked just below the surface since the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Social Media As Tool For Trump Victory -- And Problems?

"Psychologist Michal Kosinski developed a method of analyzing people’s behavior down to the minutest detail by looking at their Facebook activity — did a similar tool help propel Donald Trump to victory?"

Das Magazin via AntiNote, Trump Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself, Hannes Grassegger and Mikael Krogerus (translated by Antidote), Dec. 3, 2016 in German, posted in translation on Jan. 22, 2017. Psychometrics and the (counter) revolution in marketing that is helping bring fascism to power around the world.

AntiNote: The following is an unauthorized translation of a December 2016 article that caused quite a stir in the German-language press. Das Magazin (Zurich) occupies a respected position within the German-language cultural and literary media landscape, functionally similar to (though perhaps not quite as prominent as) The New Yorker, and this work by investigative reporters Hannes Grassegger and Mikael Krogerus got a lot of attention—and generated some controversy, for apparently having scooped the English-language media with sensational observations about 2016’s most sensational story, the campaign and electoral victory of a fascist dictator in the United States.

Perhaps for this reason, the article has not appeared in translation in (or even had its investigative threads taken up by) English-language media outlets, even after nearly two months. Antidote presents, therefore, our own preemptive translation to fill this gap. We trust the skill of the reporters who wrote it and the veracity of their claims (which are verifiable by anyone with a search engine—we have embedded links where appropriate), and we question why this particular synthesis of public information is not being made available to non-German-speaking readers by outlets with more reach and respectability than us dirty DIY dicks.

On the occasion of this article’s authorized wider release in English, should that come to pass, we will consider removing this post if we are asked nicely. Until then: Enjoy!

Trump Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself

By Hannes Grassegger and Mikael Krogerus for Das Magazin (Zurich) (Originally on Dec. 3, 2016).

Psychologist Michal Kosinski developed a method of analyzing people’s behavior down to the minutest detail by looking at their Facebook activity — did a similar tool help propel Donald Trump to victory?

...

The world has been turned upside down. The Brits are leaving the EU; Trump rules America. And in Stanford the Polish researcher Michal Kosinski, who indeed tried to warn of the danger of using psychological targeting in a political setting, is still getting accusatory emails. “No,” says Kosinski quietly, shaking his head, “this is not my fault. I did not build the bomb. I just showed that it was there.”

Jan. 21

Washington Post, Flynn is creating the most military-heavy National Security Council of the modern era, Josh Rogin, Jan. 21, 2017. President Trump is filling the government’s national security leadership with Donald Trump and Mike Pence new logoformer military officials and businessmen, rejecting the policy and academic types both parties have traditionally relied on. But the militarization of the Trump foreign policy team is even more concentrated on the White House staff led by national security adviser Michael T. Flynn — and it has observers both inside and outside the administration concerned.

Guardian, Canadians traveling to Women's March denied US entry after sharing plans, Ashifa Kassam, Jan. 21, 2017. After telling border agents their plans to march, group’s cars were searched and phones examined, and each person was fingerprinted and had their photo taken. Would-be protesters heading to the Women’s March on Washington have said they were denied entry to the United States after telling border agents at a land crossing in Quebec their plans to attend the march.

Montrealer Sasha Dyck was part of a group of eight who had arranged online to travel together to Washington. Divided into two cars, the group – six Canadians and two French nationals – arrived at the border crossing that connects St Bernard de Lacolle in Quebec with Champlain, New York, on Thursday. The group was upfront about their plans with border agents, Dyck said. “We said we were going to the women’s march on Saturday and they said, ‘Well, you’re going to have to pull over’.”

What followed was a two-hour ordeal. Their cars were searched and their mobile phones examined. Each member of the group was fingerprinted and had their photo taken. Border agents first told the two French citizens that they had been denied entry to the US and informed them that any future visit to the US would now require a visa. “Then for the rest of us, they said, ‘You’re headed home today’,” Dyck said. The group was also warned that if they tried to cross the border again during the weekend, they would be arrested. “And that was it, they didn’t give a lot of justification.”

Trump Accused Of Lies

Huffington Post, Trump And His Press Secretary Flagrantly Lied On Their First Full Day In Office. That Matters, Nick Baumann, Jan. 21, 2017. Thankfully, some reporters are calling them out on it. On Saturday, President Donald Trump’s first full day in office, he gave a speech at CIA headquarters in which he lied about the size of the crowd at his inauguration and falsely claimed that he had never feuded with the U.S. intelligence community. Hours later, his press secretary emerged from the West Wing, lied about the size of the inaugural crowd and took no questions.

The most important news here is not the crowd size, or whether Trump feuded with America’s spies (he did), or even that the president and his press secretary lied. Politicians lie. What’s remarkable is that the president and his administration chose to lie, repeatedly, on their first full day on the job, about a relatively trivial ― and easily checkable ― matter.

Huffington Post, It Sure Looks Like More People Showed Up For The Women’s March Than Inauguration, Staff report, Jan. 21, 2017. Organizers of the event upped their crowd estimate from 200,000 to 500,000. Photos from President Donald Trump’s inauguration Friday appear to show a much smaller crowd than the one at the Women’s March on Washington Saturday. Trump said his inauguration would have “an unbelievable, perhaps record-setting turnout.” Photo comparisons of the crowds that turned out for Trump and former President Barack Obama clearly show that Trump didn’t set a record. (Obama was estimated to have almost 2 million people at his 2009 inauguration.)

Claims of Fake News

Wayne Coste demonstrator Jan. 21, 2017

Connecticut-based engineer Wayne Coste, an advocate of truthful official research about the causes of 9/11 attacks in 2001, protests current official reports with a sign on Pennsylvania Avenue Jan. 21, 2017 in Washington, DC (Personal photo).

New York Times, With False Claims, Trump Hits Media on Crowd Turnout, Intelligence Rift, Julie Hirschfeld Davids and Matthew Rosenberg, Jan. 21, 2017. On his first full day in office, President Trump and his press secretary, Sean Spicer, opened a bitter war against the news media. They falsely claimed that Mr. Trump drew “the largest inaugural crowd ever” and that journalists invented the rift between him and intelligence agencies.

Trump Protests

2017 Women's March, Jan. 21, 2017 (Photo by Jim Fry of Voice of America from VOA HQ via Twitter)

2017 Women's March, Jan. 21, 2017 (Photo by Jim Fry of Voice of America from VOA HQ via Twitter)

Washington Post, Sea of pink-hatted protesters vows to resist Trump, Perry Stein, Steve Hendrix and John Woodrow Cox, Jan. 21, 2017. The rally was provoked by the election results and participants wanting to take a public stand against Donald Trump’s presidency.

Roll Call, Hundreds of Thousands of Marchers Flood the National Mall, Staff report, Jan. 21, 2017. The rally was provoked by the election results and participants wanting to take a public stand against Donald Trump’s presidency. Related news: Boston Globe, Tens of thousands pour into Boston Common for Women's March, Evan Allen, Jan. 21, 2017. Boston Common is awash in pink hats, protest signs, and a sea of demonstrators speaking out against hostile rhetoric and violence directed at immigrants, Muslims, and others during the presidential campaign and election. Speakers at the Boston demonstration include leading Massachusetts Democrats such as US Senator Elizabeth Warren, Attorney General Maura Healey, and Mayor Martin J. Walsh.

Law Newz, And So It Begins, Trump Botches First Libel Bully Media Attack, Susan Seager, Jan. 21, 2017. The Trump transition team launched its first legal attack on the mainstream media this week, just days before the inauguration of President Donald Trump. And botched it. The move signals that President Trump will likely continue his 30-year history as a libel bully who sends empty threats to journalists and sometimes sues them, only to lose his libel cases in court.

The Trump transition team and a law firm launched the attack by issuing a public retraction demand to CNN over its supposedly “false” report about Sen. Tom Price’s (R-Ga.) controversial stock purchases, a first step toward filing a defamation lawsuit. But the retraction demand ended up confirming the key facts in the CNN report. And the law firm — the global firm Dentons — quickly withdrew its letter after realizing that CNN is a client and threatening its own client presented a conflict.

In another signal that Trump will continue his bullying ways, it was revealed this week that Michael Cohen, Trump’s aggressive personal lawyer, will continue to work for Trump in a private capacity. Cohen is known for threatening a Daily Beast reporter in 2015. 

A look at Trump’s past libel lawsuits and other suits against the media provides a preview of what is to come with President Trump and his administration. Trump and his companies have filed seven libel lawsuits against journalists and critics over the past 30 years – without winning a single one filed in a public court. Start with Trump’s orangutan birther lawsuit against HBO talk show host and political humorist Bill Maher over a joke.

Washington Post, Police say protesters who destroyed property on Inauguration Day were part of well-organized group, Peter Hermann, Keith L. Alexander and Michael E. Miller, Jan. 21, 2017. Scores of demonstrators charged with rioting in the District on Friday were well organized, ready to confront police and prepared to violently disrupt the inauguration, according to some of the protesters and organizers.

Details of the disturbances in a four-square-block area downtown that led to more than 230 arrests began emerging after protesters made their first court appearances Saturday, a process that continued through the evening as defendants were brought into D.C. Superior Court in batches of 10. Most faced a felony charge of rioting, which carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence.

The preparation undertaken by protesters included arriving armed with hammers and crowbars, police said in court filings that also said officers moved in to make arrests after windows were broken on storefronts and a city emergency vehicle, and a parked limousine was set on fire shortly before President Trump’s swearing-in ceremony.

Before protesters took to the streets, leaders of an umbrella organization for the demonstration operated a detailed website, designated a media spokesman, had “street” medics to tend to injured demonstrators and said in news releases that the group included protesters who were willing to be arrested.

Commentary on Trump Inaugural Address

Washington Post, Is this what we’ve come to, America? Dana Milbank, Jan. 21, 2017. Our country’s ideals are earning boos and jeers. President Trump had yet another chance to affirm national unity in his inaugural address Friday, and yet again he went the other way, delivering a modified version of his campaign speech, angry and divisive.

But are things so far gone that Trump supporters in the crowd thought it appropriate to chant “lock her up!” when Hillary Clinton was announced? Or that they would jeer Schumer’s reading of the poignant letter of Maj. Sullivan Ballou, who said, a week before he fell at Bull Run, that he was “willing to lay down all my joys in this life” for his country?

Here’s what else they booed:

“Today, we celebrate one of democracy’s core attributes, the peaceful transfer of power,” Schumer said. “And every day, we stand up for core democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution — the rule of law, equal protection for all under law, the freedom of speech, press, religion.” If such ideas earn jeers in Trump’s presidency, the American carnage is only beginning.

Washington Post, Trump’s funeral oration at the death of Reaganism, Michael Gerson, Jan. 21, 2017. Michael Gerson is a former speech writer for GOP President George W. Bush. When the new president says the government is the problem, he means all government but himself. After every major Trump speech or event, the person I was before it seems desperately naive. I have been a consistent Trump critic, but my expectations are never quite low enough.

In Trump’s speech, there are just two uncorrupted actors: the people and the president. The only thing that Trump asks of citizens is to support him. So this really leaves only one actor who actually acts — a leader who claims to embody the general will. When Trump asserts, “We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth,” who is the “we”? It is the “forgotten men and women” and the single leader who has not forgotten them.

Trump’s inaugural speech is a funeral oration at the death of Reaganism, and of conservatism more broadly. In his first inaugural, Ronald Reagan declared government to be “the problem.” When Trump says that government is the problem, he means all government but himself.

Around the Nation: Presidential Assassination Research

On-Target with Larry Sparano, 2017: Opening the Files, The Year We Learn the Truth about the Kennedy Assassinations? Host Larry Sparano (shown in file photo) interviews Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., J.D. (video interview, 24:45 min.), Larry SparanoJan. 21, 2017. Forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht has never believed the official government “conclusions” concerning the deaths of JFK, RFK, and Dr. Martin Luther King. He is now leading an effort to make sure the U.S. government releases long-awaited records that can provide vital information regarding who and what was behind those assassinations.

See also, On-Target with Larry Sparano, New Push for Release of JFK Assassination Records (Video Interview), Host Larry Sparano interviews Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, Nov. 21, 2016. It’s Dr. Cyril Wecht in labbeen 53 years since the nation’s 35th president was gunned down in broad daylight in Dallas. And during those years a curtain of darkness has hidden information and records which could reveal the full story of what happened on that tragic day in November. Listen to Dr. Cyril Wecht (shown in lab) explain how he and others hope to pierce a government-imposed black-out on the murder of John F. Kennedy – and why finding the truth still matters, more than five decades later.

Global News

SouthFront, Dozens of Killed Syrian Soldiers Discovered in One of Aleppo’s Schools, Staff report, Jan. 21, 2017. The Syrian authorities have discovered dozens of bodies of Syrian servicemen, massacred by militants of the Levant Front in eastern Aleppo. Militants of the Levant Front, also known as Jabhat al-Shamiyah, massacred Syrian servicemen in Aleppo city, the Permanent mission of Syria to the UN reported.

According to a letter to the UN secretary general, after the liberation of the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo, the Syrian authorities found 23 corpses in Muhaddassa school, located in the of Es-Sukkar area of the city. “The school was used as headquarters of the Levant Front armed group,” or its Dawn of Islam Brigade, which is considered as a “moderate opposition” force by governments of some states.

Twenty of those killed were identified. Later, another 37 bodies were found. Their identification is currently being conducted.

Russian TUM Strategic Bomber (based in Russia)SouthFront, Russian Strategic Bombers Purge ISIS Manpower And Equipment In Deir Ezzo, Staff report, Jan. 21, 2017. Six long-range supersonic strategic bombers from the Russian territory hit ISIS targets in the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement on January 21. The bombers (one shown in a file photo) destroyed ISIS camps, weapon depots and military equipment.

“On January 21, 2017, six long-range Tu-22M3 bombers took off in Russia and delivered a group air attack against Daesh targets in the Deir ez-Zor province….Intelligence data confirms that the targets were successfully hit,” the statement reads. Russian fighter jets scrambled from the Khmeimim Air Base in Syria, providing air cover to the  bombers. The bombers conducted airstrikes against ISIS terrorists in Deir Ezzor amind heavy clashes between government troops and terrorists in the city.

Since yesterday, the army has launched a number of counter-attacks aimed retake points from ISIS units and to link up the Deir Ezzor Airport with the rest of the government-held pocket. However, government forces were unable to secure the gains and retreated to the previous positions.

Jan. 20

Trump Inauguration

Donald Trump, Mike Pence, wives Melania and Karen at Inaugural, Jan. 20, 2017

Donald Trump, Mike Pence, wives Melania Trump and Karen Pence at Inaugural, Jan. 20, 2017

Donald Trump Inauguration covers New York Daily News and PostThe two largest New York City tabloids had nearly identical covers to report President Trump's Inauguration

Washington Post, President pledges new era of ‘America first’ and says ‘the people’ will rule again, David A. Fahrenthold, Philip Rucker and John Wagner​, Jan. 20, 2017. The 45th president’s speech struck an Donald Trump Pointing Finger Gage Skidmore DMCAunusually pessimistic tone — especially for a man taking office at a time of broad economic prosperity. Donald Trump (shown in a file photo by Gage Skidmore) said “wealth, strength and confidence had dissipated” because of jobs lost overseas and promised that “a new vision will govern our land.”

Washington Post, Trump’s inauguration speech transcript, annotated, Aaron Blake​, Jan. 20, 2017. Here's the full text of the president's inaugural address, with our analysis and highlights.

Washington Post, A most dreadful inaugural address, George F. Will, Jan. 20, 2017. Twenty minutes into his presidency, Donald Trump, who is always claiming to have made, or to be about to make, astonishing history, had done so. Living down to expectations, he had delivered the most dreadful inaugural address in history.

George Will Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s White House counselor, had promised that the speech would be “elegant.” This is not the adjective that came to mind as he described “American carnage.” That was a phrase the likes of which has never hitherto been spoken at an inauguration.

Oblivious to the moment and the setting, the always remarkable Trump proved that something dystopian can be strangely exhilarating: In what should have been a civic liturgy serving national unity and confidence, he vindicated his severest critics by serving up reheated campaign rhetoric about “rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape” and an education system producing students “deprived of all knowledge.” Yes, all.

American System, At Inauguration, Trump Evokes “American Carnage” in Speech Bereft of Conciliatory Gestures, Webster G. Tarpley, Jan. 20, 2017. Promise to Defend Forgotten People Contrasts with Cabinet Choices; Sen. Schumer Reviled by Crowd, Undercutting GOP Argument of Civic Pageant; Nuclear Football and Biscuit Transferred; Executive Orders Against Obamacare and Dreamers Loom; Dangers of “Positive Thinking.”

Trump Policy Initiatives

Washington Post, Presidency will usher in a dramatic shift, David A. Fahrenthold, Philip Rucker and John Wagner​, Jan. 20, 2017. President-elect Donald Trump has promised to undo some of the most significant pieces of President Obama’s legacy — including his signature health-care law. But Trump also enters office with a significant amount of uncertainty, since he has repeatedly contradicted other Republicans — and himself — on major issues.

Washington Post, Trump signs executive order that could effectively gut Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, Ashley Parker and Amy Goldstein, Jan. 20, 2017. President Trump signed an executive order late Friday giving federal agencies broad powers to unwind regulations created under the Affordable Care Act, which might include enforcement of the penalty for people who fail to carry the health insurance that the law requires of most Americans.

The executive order, signed in the Oval Office as one of the new president’s first actions, directs agencies to grant relief to all constituencies affected by the sprawling 2010 health-care law: consumers, insurers, hospitals, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, states and others. It does not describe specific federal rules to be softened or lifted, but it appears to give room for agencies to eliminate an array of ACA taxes and requirements.

Lllewellyn King photo and logoWhite House Chronicle, The Left Should Stop Whining and Start Influencing Trump, Llewellyn King, Jan. 20, 2017. Through the nation and across the world the liberals, the centrists, the traditionalists and the orthodox are in shock: Donald J. Trump is America’s 45th president and they don’t like that one bit, or like him at all.

I have some advice for those who are beating their breasts and crying, “The sky is falling!”: Get over it, and get to work.

Trump is the man. Those who fear his changes ought to start using the man’s own tool: leverage. According to The Washington Post’s Robert Costa, who covered Trump’s presidential campaign, and interviewed him again last week, the president has no particular ideology. But he gets ideas from Steve Bannon, his senior counselor and chief White House strategist. The forces opposed to Trump would do better to focus their fire on Bannon. Criticize him, even ridicule and revile him, but endeavor to get the message straight to Trump.

How can one direct invective at those around Trump, but speak to him directly? The tool for reaching Trump is television.

Betsy DeVos C-SPAN

Betsy DeVos testifying during her confirmation hearing. Former Senator Joe Lieberman introduced DeVos to the committee (Photo credit: C-SPAN)

WhoWhatWhy, Does Betsy DeVos Mean the End of Public Education in America? Jeff Schechtman, Jan. 20, 2017. Just How Out of the Mainstream is Trump’s Chosen Education Secretary?  Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick to head the Department of Education, has long sought to end free public education and replace it with vouchers and for-profit charters — even though 85% of American kids attend public schools.

WhoWhatWhyShe and her family have spent a considerable amount of their $5 billion fortune trying to spread God’s kingdom in their Michigan schools and have created the largest voucher system for religious schools. Separation of church and state in education is not something that DeVos believes in.

Diane Ravitch, Ph.D., a former Assistant Secretary of Education and long-time education historian, author and professor, points out in this week’s podcast that DeVos is so far out of the mainstream that even charter groups, like the Massachusetts Charter Movement, are opposing her nomination. Dr. Ravitch tells host Jeff Schechtman that while DeVos can do considerable damage to our nation’s education system as well as staff and teacher morale, she won’t be able to do much about Trump’s long-time whipping post of Common Core.

ProPublica, With Trump in Office, Feds May Alter Course in Texas Voter ID Case, Jessica Huseman, Jan. 20, 2017. DOJ lawyers look to adjourn a hearing next week, and some expect them to wind up Pro Publico logoabandoning their argument that the Texas voter ID law discriminates against minorities.

Katehon, Trump’s Declaration of War, Paul Craig Roberts (shown in a file photo), Jan. 20, 2017. President Trump’s brief inaugural speech was a declaration of war against the entirety of the American Ruling Establishment. All of it. Trump made it abundantly clear that Americans’ enemies are right here at home:  globalists, neoconservatives and other unilateralists accustomed to imposing the US on the world and involving us in endless and Paul Craig Robertsexpensive wars, politicians who serve the Ruling Establishment rather than the American people, indeed, the entire canopy of private interests that have run America into the ground while getting rich in the process.

If truth can be said, President Trump has declared a war far more dangerous to himself than if he had declared war against Russia or China. The interest groups designated by Trump as The Enemy are well entrenched and accustomed to being in charge. Their powerful networks are still in place.  Although there are Republican majorities in the House and Senate, most of those in Congress are answerable to the ruling interest groups that provide their campaign funds and not to the American people or to the President. The military/security complex, offshoring corporations, Wall Street and the banks are not going to roll over for Trump. And neither is the presstitute media, which is owned by the interest groups whose power Trump challenges.

Trump made it clear that he stands for every American, black, brown, and white. Little doubt his declaration of inclusiveness will be ignored by the haters on the left who will continue to call him a racist just as the $50 per hour paid protesters are doing as I write.

So along with the globalists, the CIA, the offshoring corporations, the armaments industries, the NATO establishment in Europe, and foreign politicians accustomed to being well paid for supporting Washington’s interventionist foreign policy, Trump will have arrayed against him the leaders of the victimized peoples, the blacks, the hispanics, the feminists, the illegals, the homosexuals and transgendered.  This long list, of course, includes the white liberals as well, as they are convinced that flyover America is the habitat of white racists, misogynists, homophobes, and gun nuts.  As far as they are concerned, this 84% of geographical US should be quarantined or interred.

Trump Protests

Washington Post, Inauguration protesters vandalize, set fires, try to disrupt Trump’s oath, as police arrest more than 200, Theresa Vargas, Taylor Hartz and Peter Hermann, Jan. 20, 2017. Protesters made themselves heard in the nation’s capital Friday, leaving a trail of damage along some city blocks, disrupting security checkpoints at President Donald Trump’s inauguration, and clashing with police as Trump supporters tried to celebrate.

As people poured into the city to watch Trump sworn in as the 45th president, they encountered protesters across the area throughout the day. Many of the demonstrations were nonviolent, with people holding signs that spoke to their causes and concerns. One protest even took on a carnival atmosphere, with puppets, stilt walkers and a giant inflatable elephant wearing a sign that read “racism.” But other groups tried to disrupt the day’s events by burning flags, throwing bricks and rioting en masse, leading to injuries and 217 arrests by Friday evening.

Washington Post, Protesters block entrances to inauguration, set fires, vandalize, Theresa Vargas, Taylor Hartz and Arelis R. Hernández​, Jan. 20, 2017. Demonstrators who had promised to shut down the city were successful at several checkpoints. Elsewhere in D.C., officers in riot gear used concussion grenades to break up the crowd.

KIRO-TV (Seattle), Man shot on UW campus during protest, suspected shooter arrested, Staff report, Jan. 21, 2017. A man was shot Friday night on the University of Washington campus during a protest for a controversial speaker, and the suspected shooter turned himself in claiming self defense, police said. A large crowd packed the Red Square area of campus Friday night protesting a speech by controversial Brietbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos. Police were blocking the entrance to Kane Hall, and investigators said bricks and paint were thrown at officers.  

Medics received the shooting report at 8:26 p.m., after Yiannopoulos' speech began in Kane Hall, but while a large crowd of protesters remained outside. UW students were alerted to the suspected shooters arrest early Saturday morning. He was being questioned early Saturday morning by UW police, who are handling the investigation.

The shooting victim is 34 and suffered a life-threatening gunshot wound to the abdomen, Seattle police said. He was in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center, and was previously identified by authorities as a 25-year-old. On Saturday morning, hospital officials said the victim was in critical but stable condition.

FishBowl DC, Journalists Remember Wayne Barrett, Corinne Grinapol, Jan. 20, 2017. When it was reported yesterday that investigative reporter Wayne Barrett had died at the age of 71, perhaps no sentiment better summed it up than this tweet from Jeff Greenfield" "The wrenching irony that the reporter who dug longest and deepest into Trump dies on Inauguration Eve."

Like Greenfield, many considered Barrett the ultimate authority on Trump’s dealings, and during the election and after many made the pilgrimage to his Brooklyn home to talk to him about the subject he knew so thoroughly.

Jennifer Gonnerman, writing in the New Yorker, put the number who visited him at more than 60. When Gonnerman visited him the day after the election, Barrett dismissed the idea offered by Hillary Clinton in her concession speech, of considering Trump with an open mind. “You don’t look at him with an open mind,” he told her. “You look at him with all the information you can assemble, and you try to get him to not do the terrible things he promised.”

Trump was not the only subject of Barrett’s work, who in his almost four decade career at the Village Voice produced major investigative pieces on figures like former New York mayor Edward I. Koch and Rudolph Giuliani.

Trump Finances, Conflicts

ProPublica, Trump Promised to Resign From His Companies — But There's No Record He’s Done So, Derek Kravitz and Al Shaw, Jan. 20, 2017. To transfer control of his companies, the president has to submit filings in Florida, Delaware and New York. We spoke to officials in each of those states. At a news conference last week, now-President Donald Trump said he and his daughter, Ivanka, had signed paperwork relinquishing control of all Trump-branded companies. Next to him were stacks of papers in manila envelopes — documents he said transferred “complete and total control” of his businesses to his two sons and another longtime employee.

Pro Publico logoSheri Dillon, the Trump attorney who presented the plan, said that Trump “has relinquished leadership and management of the Trump Organization.” Everything would be placed in a family trust by Jan. 20, she said.

That hasn’t happened.

To transfer ownership of his biggest companies, Trump has to file a long list of documents in Florida, Delaware and New York. We asked officials in each of those states whether they have received the paperwork. As of 3:15 p.m. today, the officials said they have not. Trump and his associates “are not doing what they said they would do,” said Richard Painter, the chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush. “And even that was completely inadequate.”

ProPublica’s questions to the transition team were referred to an outside public relations firm, Hiltzik Strategies, which declined to comment. The president’s team did not allow reporters to view documents, which they said were legal records separating Trump from his eponymous business empire. Dillon’s law firm, Morgan Lewis, has not released the records and they declined further comment, saying it doesn’t comment on client issues.

Washington Post, For Trump’s wealthy appointees, death may be certain but taxes aren’t, Allan Sloan, Jan. 20, 2017. If the estate tax is repealed, they and their heirs could defer capital gains taxes forever. There are times when two seemingly unrelated tax policies intersect to create windfalls for fortunate people who are in the right place at the right time.

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainThat is likely to be the case when it comes to calculating the tax benefits that will go to the billionaires and other very rich people joining the Trump administration. Among those who stand to benefit but haven’t been identified until now is Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, even though he’s not taking a formal government job. No, this isn’t going to be another screed on the tax code provision that provides a temporary tax break to high-net-worth people who take government positions and have to dispose of some of their holdings to avoid conflicts.

Rather, Cezary Podkul of ProPublica and I want to show you how combining this tax break with repeal of the estate tax — a cherished Republican goal that could be achieved this year — can turn a temporary tax benefit into permanent tax avoidance, enriching the appointees and their heirs.

We’re dealing with substantial money here: At a minimum, tens of millions of deferred capital gains taxes; at a maximum, hundreds of millions. We can’t tell until we analyze filings that appointees haven’t yet made with the Office of Government Ethics. One wild card is their holdings outside of the publicly traded companies with which some of them are associated, because we don’t know what they would have to sell, how much of a gain they would have and how much in capital gains taxes they could defer. Rex Tillerson, for example, owns $28 million to $100 million in land and securities other than ExxonMobil, according to a Dec. 31 report he filed with the ethics office that listed more than 400 holdings.

Transition Sidelights

Huffington Post, Donald Trump Already Redecorated The Oval Office, And Of Course The Curtains Are Gold, Janie Campbell, Jan. 20, 2017. The president does love gold. His love of gold is well known, and we aren’t just referring to money. President Donald Trump has already redecorated the Oval Office at the White House, CNN reported Friday night, and photos show the room’s reddish curtains have been replaced with gold-hued drapes.

“They always change the carpet; he changed the carpet. It’s a sunburst pattern,” CNN’s Erin Burnett noted Friday evening, while Time’s Zeke Miller reported the rug is actually from the George W. Bush era. Among other updates, a bust of Winston Churchill is back in the spot where former President Barack Obama replaced it with a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. Correction: Time Magazine, the "pool reporter" for the press corps regarding the move, later issued a correction stating that the King bust remains and its reporter did not see the bust because security personnel were in the sight line.

Donald Trump book by Brandon Christopher Hall

Washington Post, Book about Trump for sale at National Museum of American History is riddled with falsehoods, Ian Shapira, Jan. 20, 2017. Birtherism? It was Hillary Clinton’s fault. Russian hacking of the DNC? No proof it was Moscow. The Smithsonian gift shop is charging $50 for the “richly illustrated memory-book.” The $50 book about Donald Trump is displayed at the very front of the National Museum of American History’s gift shop, its red-white-and-blue cover featuring the newly inaugurated president’s signature stare-and-hair.

The Trump book, written by Brandon Christopher Hall, a 25-year-old from Atlanta, might not meet their standards for accuracy. Or the standards of the Smithsonian museum, a publicly funded repository of 3 million artifacts — “all true national treasures,” the museum says — that include Thomas Jefferson’s Bible and Abraham Lincoln’s top hat.

Politico, What happens to White House visitor log under Trump? Josh Gerstein, Jan. 20, 2017. President Barack Obama's team is arranging to make sure the last batch of White House visitors are disclosed to the public, but incoming President Donald Trump hasn't indicated whether he will keep up the practice as he takes over.

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainSince Obama took office in 2009, the White House has been voluntarily publishing a visitor log online, releasing the data about three months after the visits take place. That delay poses a curious problem: given the change of power taking place today, about 110 days-worth of data is stuck in limbo.

Officials with the Obama White House and the National Archives-which is assuming legal custody of Obama's presidential records-say they're improvising a fix that will allow the remaining records to go public soon without waiting the five years or more before a former president's records typically begin to be released. Most of Obama's records are being moved to Hoffman Estates, Ill. as Obama's presidential library is constructed in Chicago.

Kennedy History, Biographry

Independent, Pablo Larraín’s 'Jackie': She is a big part of the reason why a half century on we are still talking about JFK and why films are still being made about him, Youssef El-Gingihy, Jan. 20, 2017. 'Jackie', starring Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy, has a timely release on the day of Trump's inauguration and with 2017 being the centenary of JFK's birth and the release of the rest of the assassination files, it couldn't be more topical. The timing of Pablo Larraín’s Jackie is propitious. Not only was the film released on the same day as the Trump inauguration – an ominous portent for the incoming President – but it is shaping up to be a Kennedy year. 2017 is the centenary of JFK’s birth and October marks the date for the release of the remaining assassination files although the tantalizing possibility of a smoking gun appears to be slim to none.

Global News

Palmyra Roman Theater March 2016 BBC
The Roman Theater's pillared portico is shown here intact in March 2016

BBC, Syria: IS destroys part of Palmyra's Roman Theater, Staff report, Jan. 20, 2017. Militants from the Islamic State group have destroyed part of the Roman Theater in the ancient city of Palmyra. Syria's antiquities chief said the tetrapylon — a group of four pillared structures which were mainly modern replicas — has also been ruined.

The jihadists recaptured the UNESCO-listed archaeological site in December from government troops. The head of the UN cultural body said the destruction was "a new war crime."

Its director general, Irina Bokova, said what she described as "cultural cleansing by violent extremists" had resulted in "an immense loss for the Syrian people and for humanity." IS destroyed other monuments after it first seized Palmyra in May 2015. The group held the site and nearby city known locally as Tadmur for 10 months.

USA Today, More than 100 al-Qaeda militants killed in airstrike on Syria training camp, Jim Michaels, Jan. 20, 2017. U.S. warplanes and armed drones launched an airstrike against an al-Qaeda training base in Syria, killing more than 100 militants, the Pentagon announced Friday. The Shaykh Sulayman Training Camp in Idlib Province has been in operation since 2013, according to the statement from Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.

The strike was part of the U.S. counterterrorism operations, which are aimed at al-Qaeda and other terror groups around the world. Thursday’s strike was conducted in western Syria, not far from where Russian and Syrian regime forces have operated. “The removal of this training camp disrupts training operations and discourages hardline Islamist and Syrian opposition groups from joining or cooperating with al-Qaeda on the battlefield,” Davis said in the statement.

Express, Sweden Crumbling: Demands for military intervention as thugs turn Malmo into 'no-go zone,' Lizzie Stromme, Jan. 20, 2017. Sweden Democrats have demanded soldiers should be sent to Malmo to reestablish law and order as violent thugs have turned the city into a ‘no-go zone.’ Launching a seething attack on the red-green parties in Malmo, Magnus Olsson said it was time to call in the military to end the surge in violent crimes that have been sweeping the city. Painting a blake picture of Sweden’s third largest city, the opposition politician blasted Malmo has lost enough of its citizens to shootouts, grenade attacks and murders.

Speaking to Expressen, Mr Olsson also said there was a great lack of police officers in Sweden, which means officers could benefit from the armed forces’ resources. He said: “There is a great lack of police officers in Sweden and Malmö. For this reason, it is perhaps time to let the military and police to stand together to reestablish order in the country."

On New Year's Eve, police were forced to admit the city was not safe as migrant gangs sent fireworks into crowds and chanted "jihad" in front of terrified locals. Swedish police last year issued a report where it detailed incidents from more than 55 areas which it branded as “no-go zones” as it detailed brutal attacks on police, sexual assaults, children carrying weapons and general turmoil sweeping across the country.

Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, Tehran Building Collapse: Investigators Must Consider Explosives, Jan. 20, 2017. At approximately 11:30 AM local time yesterday in Tehran, an iconic 17-story high-rise known as the Plasco Building tragically collapsed after being on fire for some 3 ½ hours. It is not yet known how many firefighters and civilians were killed, but early reports say that anywhere from 20 to 50 are feared dead.

Based on preliminary analysis of many videos of the collapse, Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911Truth) — a nonprofit that represents more than 2,750 architects and engineers who are calling for a new investigation of the 2001 World Trade Center disaster—strongly urges President Rouhani, Iranian authorities, and the people of Iran to thoroughly investigate the possible use of explosives in the Plasco Building's shocking demise, and to act swiftly and decisively to preserve the physical evidence.

Let us be clear: It is impossible to know at this early stage what caused the structure to suddenly come crashing down. But, as with any proper forensic investigation, no plausible scenario should be ruled out — especially when the available data seem to support that scenario.

Democracy Now! Naomi Klein on Trump Election: "This is a Corporate Coup d’État," Amy Goodman, host, Jan. 20, 2017. Journalists Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, and Lee Fang of The Intercept talk about the role of corporations inside the Trump administration and the inauguration.

Jan. 19

Transition Controversies

Donald Trump Bild Interview Jan. 16, 2017

Donald Trump (Portrayed  at Trump Tower in New York City during Bild Interview Jan. 16, 2017)

New York Times, Associates of Trump Scrutinized Over Links to Russia, Michael S. Schmidt, Matthew Rosenberg, Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, Jan. 19, 2017. American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort (shown in a file photo), current and former senior American officials said.

Paul ManafortThe continuing counterintelligence investigation means that Mr. Trump will take the oath of office on Friday with his associates under investigation and after the intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian government had worked to help elect him. As president, Mr. Trump will oversee those agencies and have the authority to redirect or stop at least some of these efforts.

It is not clear whether the intercepted communications had anything to do with Mr. Trump’s campaign, or Mr. Trump himself. It is also unclear whether the inquiry has anything to do with an investigation into the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computers and other attempts to disrupt the elections in November. The American government has concluded that the Russian government was responsible for a broad computer hacking campaign, including the operation against the D.N.C.

The counterintelligence investigation centers at least in part on the business dealings that some of the president-elect’s past and present advisers have had with Russia. Mr. Manafort has done business in Ukraine and Russia. Some of his contacts there were under surveillance by the National Security Agency for suspected links to Russia’s Federal Security Service, one of the officials said.

New York Times, Trump Hotel Seen as a ‘Minefield’ of Potential Scandal, Eric Lipton and Susanne Craig, Jan. 19, 2017. From the moment he is sworn in, Mr. Trump may be in violation of a lease with the federal government. With sirens blaring, a fleet of limousines and security personnel raced down Pennsylvania Avenue twice in less than the last 24 hours to deliver Donald J. Trump to inauguration events. But he was not heading to the White House. He was going to Trump International Hotel.

It was a telling destination for those visits Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon. Perhaps more than any other location in Mr. Trump’s real estate empire, this 263-room hotel epitomizes the convergence of Donald Trump the global businessman and Donald Trump the president-elect.

Conflicts that for months have been theoretical are now about to become real — most immediately a possible challenge by the federal government. It owns the building that houses Mr. Trump’s hotel and has granted him a 60-year lease. From the moment he is sworn in as president at noon Friday, Mr. Trump may be in violation of that lease, given a provision that appears to prohibit federal elected officials from renting the Old Post Office building, the Pennsylvania Avenue landmark that houses the hotel, from the government.

Washington Post, Trump is putting the wolves of Wall Street in charge of America’s economy, Steven Pearlstein, Jan. 19, 2017. Don’t be fooled: Trump’s advisers aren’t great businessmen.

Washington Post, Trump supporters, opponents clash outside ‘DeploraBall’ in downtown D.C., Clarence Williams, Jan. 19, 2017. Anti-Trump protesters jeered and screamed at supporters of the president-elect outside the “DeploraBall” at the National Press Club on Thursday night, in one case throwing an object that struck a counter-protester in the head.

D.C. police closed the 1300 block of F Street NW to motor vehicles as hundreds of demonstrators filled the roadway. Some protesters raised their middle fingers, and shouted obscenities and terms such as “racist” and Nazi” to those attending the celebratory ball on the eve of Trump’s inauguration.

A small group of protesters in hoods and black masks set a fire in the center of the street. Another fire was set in a trash can. A different group used a floodlight and stencil to project the phrases “Bragging about Grabbing a Woman’s Genitals” and “Impeach the Predatory President” onto the side of the Press Club building. Others inflated a 15-foot-tall white elephant with a banner attached that said “racism.”

Officers deployed chemical spray at the crowd multiple times, starting around 9 p.m., after protesters began throwing trash at Trump supporters who were leaving the building. During an earlier clash, a man was struck in the back of the head by a thrown object, causing him to bleed. About a half-dozen D.C. police officers surrounded him and escorted him behind police lines.

At one point, two men became embroiled in an angry exchange with protesters, with each side shoving and shouting at each other. Police in riot gear separated the men from the crowd, then walked the length of the sidewalk outside the Press Club building to clear protesters away. The DeploraBall drew attention on social media earlier this month, in part because several of the people who were said to be attending are known for being online provocateurs, contributing to conspiracy-theory websites and sharing views with the alt-right, an extremist movement of mostly young men seeking a whites-only nation.

But the organizers say they are simply fans of the president-elect and in no way connected to the alt-right, which has come under intense scrutiny since a number of its members flashed Nazi salutes at a Washington conference last month.

Trump Transition

Donald Trump for President logoWashington Post, Treasury pick defends foreclosure practices, ties to offshore entities, Ylan Q. Mui​, Jan. 19, 2017. The hearing for Steven Mnuchin took a sharply combative turn even before the nominee began speaking. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) accused the nominee of using loopholes in international tax law to shield millions of dollars from taxation, and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) interjected with a suggestion that Wyden take a Valium.

Stephen MnuchinWashington Post, Treasury nominee initially omitted more than $100 million from disclosures, Democratic memo says, Ylan Q. Mui and Ed O'Keefe​, Jan. 19, 2017. Steven Mnuchin (shown in a file photo) initially failed to disclose his interests in a Cayman Islands corporation as well as more than $100 million in personal assets, according to a memo by Democratic staffers on the Finance committee that was obtained by the Washington Post.

Huffington Post, Trump Sought Military Equipment For Inauguration, Granted 20-Plane Flyover, Jessica Schulberg, Jan. 19, 2017. “It’s very Red Square,” said Stephen Kerrigan, who oversaw the past two inaugurations. Part of being a great president is showing off America’s military strength, according to President-elect Donald Trump.

The military “may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue,” Trump told the Washington Post in an interview published Wednesday. “That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I mean, we’re going to be showing our military.”

Donald TrumpTrump spoke about his vision of military parades in vague terms, suggesting it was something he might oversee in the future. But according to several sources involved in his inaugural preparations, Trump has endeavored to ensure that his first day as commander-in-chief is marked by an unusual display of heavy military equipment.

During the preparation for Friday’s transfer-of-power, a member of Trump’s transition team floated the idea of including tanks and missile launchers in the inaugural parade, a source involved in inaugural planning told The Huffington Post. “They were legit thinking Red Square/North Korea-style parade,” the source said, referring to massive military parades in Moscow and Pyongyang, typically seen as an aggressive display of muscle-flexing.

Washington Post, Trump adviser cancels veterans’ ball, citing ‘security reasons’ — but money was an issue, too, Emily Heil, Jan. 19, 2017. Organizers of a glitzy inaugural ball for military veterans canceled the event late Wednesday, citing “security reasons and events beyond our control,” according to its website. But what led to the unraveling of the Veterans Making America Great Again gala, which was slated for Friday night, is a bit murkier.

The soiree was being put together by Florida businessman Luis Quinonez, a member of President-elect Donald Trump’s Hispanic Advisory Council. Quinonez’s name had been mentioned as a top candidate for the post of veterans affairs secretary, though he ultimately withdrew his name, citing health problems. (According to the Military Times, Quinonez had also been in a legal dispute over child-support payments that could have clouded his confirmation process.) A source with knowledge of how the ball fell apart says financial issues were its downfall.

The Atlantic, The Donald Trump Cabinet Tracker: A day before his inauguration, President-elect Donald Trump has filled out his Cabinet, Russell Berman, Jan. 19, 2017. Trump on Thursday morning announced the nomination of former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue as secretary of agriculture, completing a search that took the duration of his presidential transition.

Perdue, who served as governor from 2003 to 2011, grew up on a farm in Georgia and earned a doctorate in veterinary medicine. “Sonny Perdue is going to accomplish great things as Secretary of Agriculture,” Trump said in a statement. “From growing up on a farm to being governor of a big agriculture state, he has spent his whole life understanding and solving the challenges our farmers face, and he is going to deliver big results for all Americans who earn their living off the land.”

As Molly Ball reported, the delay in naming a leader for the USDA had unsettled the agriculture industry. Perdue has been seen as a leading contender for weeks, but Trump reportedly scrambled to try to find a Hispanic candidate or a woman for the post. The department oversees not only rural and farm policy but the nation’s food-stamp program.

Rick Perry at NPC July 2, 2015 Noel St. John

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, speaking at the National Press Club in 2015 as a presidential candidate (Photo by Noel St. John, used with permission)

Washington Post, Rick Perry expresses ‘regret’ for pledging to abolish Energy Department, Steven Mufson and Sean Sullivan, Jan. 19, 2017. Rick Perry, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to run the Energy Department, parried questions about climate change at his confirmation hearing Thursday morning, reversing his earlier skeptical stance but still balking when pressed to declare it a crisis.

Testifying before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Perry also expressed contrition for campaigning in 2012 on the promise of doing away with the agency. “My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking,” Perry said in his opening statement. “In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination.”

After addressing the defining moment of his national political career, Perry brought up the politically sensitive topic of climate change, saying he believes the climate is changing and “some of it” is caused by “man-made activity.” He added: “The question is how we address it in a thoughtful way that doesn’t compromise economic growth.”

White House Clemency Update

White House, The Reinvigoration of the Clemency Authority, Neil Eggleston, Jan. 19, 2017. With today’s action, the President has granted more commutations than any president in this nation’s history. Today, the President granted commutation to 330 individuals. The President has now granted commutation to a total of 1,715 individuals, including 568 people who had been sentenced to life in prison. The vast majority of these men and women are serving unduly long sentences for drug crimes. With today’s action, the President has granted more commutations than any president in this nation’s history and has surpassed the number of commutations granted by the past 13 presidents combined. The President set out to reinvigorate clemency, and he has done just that.

In 2014, the President directed officials at the Department of Justice to undertake an ambitious effort: encourage federal inmates serving sentences imposed under outdated laws to apply for clemency. With assistance from the Clemency Project 2014 and volunteer attorneys throughout the country, federal inmates applied for clemency in staggering numbers. The Deputy Attorney General and the Pardon Attorney – and their respective offices – worked vigorously to review these applications. Less than three years later, the President has now granted commutation to more than 1,700 individuals, the overwhelming majority of whom were serving sentences under outdated and overly harsh drug sentencing laws. Many of these individuals were assisted by Clemency Project 2014, and many will be assisted by the Stanford Justice Advocacy Project in their reentry efforts. The President’s vision could not have been realized without this support.

To the President’s 1,715 commutation recipients and 212 pardon recipients – you have been granted a second chance because the President sees the potential in you. After reviewing each of your stories, the President concluded that you have taken substantial steps to remedy your past mistakes and that you are deserving of a second chance. You and your stories have been essential to the President’s successful exercise of his clemency authority. Stories of rehabilitation and growth, of families reunited, and lives turned around – these are the stories that demonstrate why our nation is a nation of second chances. As the President has written to you, your example will influence whether someone in similar circumstances will get his or her own second chance in the future.  Make the President proud with how you use your second chance.

Chicago Sun-Times, Obama’s pardon list overlooks a grave injustice, Mary Mitchell, Jan. 19, 2017. Abraham Bolden, 82, has steadfastly maintained he was falsely charged with soliciting a bribe after he complained Abraham Bolder (recent)about other Secret Service agents. In the last days of his historic presidency, Barack Obama has used his executive clemency powers to show mercy to several controversial figures, including Chelsea Manning, a transgender U.S. soldier who was convicted of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks. On the other hand, one Chicago man whose plea for a pardon seemed destined to be granted has apparently been overlooked.

Obama Transitions

The Atlantic, One Last Trip With Joe Biden, Steve Clemons, Jan. 19, 2017. How the vice president spent a few of his closing days in office. When I boarded Air Force Two for Vice President Joe Biden’s final overseas mission, he had four days left in office. His leverage was diminishing by the hour, with every new question at a Trump nominee confirmation hearing, with every new @RealDonaldTrump tweet.

There was no chance of a miracle at that point, a few days away from Vice President-elect Mike Pence getting Biden’s keys to Air Force Two—to somehow rid Ukraine of its debilitating corruption, pull off a Cyprus deal, or stand between Kosovo and Serbia and neutralize the tension between them for good. It’s hard to shame Russian President Vladimir Putin or to inspire him to spiff up his behavior if the president-elect seems to accept Putin just as he is. And of course, there’s Iraq.

state departmentReuters, Senior U.S. spy, diplomats leaving despite being asked to stay on, Arshad Mohammed, Warren Strobel, John Walcott, Lesley Wroughton, Jan. 19, 2017. A top U.S. intelligence officer and two senior diplomats are leaving the government despite appearing on a Jan. 17 list of those asked to stay on under President-elect Donald Trump, current and former U.S. officials said on Thursday.

Victoria NulandPrincipal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Stephanie O'Sullivan, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Cathy Novelli and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland (shown in an official photo) have told colleagues they are stepping down, the sources said. All three appear on a partial Trump transition team list of political appointees who had been asked to stay on. The list, seen by Reuters, is dated 10 a.m. on Tuesday Jan. 17. It was not clear whether the partial list seen by Reuters was the same as the more than 50 people Trump plans to keep.

A transition spokesman on Thursday told reporters Trump had asked more than 50 people to stay in critical government posts. He named some of these including Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work and Acting Under Secretary of Treasury Adam Szubin. Transition spokesman Sean Spicer said these were some of those staying on until a replacement can be named.

National Security Research, Controversies

News Corp Australia, (news.com.au), 12 million pages of declassified CIA files are now available online for everyone to view, Matthew Dunn, Jan. 19, 2017. For 17 years, the US Army’s “Project Stargate” explored the use of psychokinesis, ESP and telepathy for military and domestic intelligence applications. While explored in 2004 book and 2009 film, The Men Who Stare at Goats, very few details of the program had ever been easily accessible to the public.

CIA LogoThis all changed when the CIA posted a vast cache of close to 12 million pages of declassified documents online, which include information on UFO sightings, Nazi War Crimes, Project Stargate and other once-secret files. The information was first released in 1995 when then-President Bill Clinton ordered all documents with “historical value” that were at least 25 years old to be declassified.

However, the documents were only physically accessible from four computer terminals at the National Archives in Washington, DC.  In 2000, the CIA released the documents on its electronic records search tool CREST, but the files were still only available by physically attending the Archives. Following a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in 2014, the CIA said it would post the 930,000 documents online in entirety, but claimed it would take six years to scan every page.

CIA information management director said the agency was able to complete the project quicker than expected, with the official giving assurances that nothing had omitted and the half-century of data was published in entirety. “Access to this historically significant collection is no longer limited by geography,”  he said in a press release.

“We’ve been working on this for a very long time and this is one of the things I wanted to make sure got done before I left. Now you can access it from the comfort of your own home.” While the obviously extensive cache of documents would take a long time to examine, news.com.au has picked out some of the highlights found during a quick perusal.

New York Review of Books, Was Snowden a Russian Agent? Charlie Savage, Jan. 19, 2017 (Feb. 9, 2017 print issue).

How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft    
by Edward Jay Epstein
Knopf, 350 pp., $27.95

Snowden, a film directed by Oliver Stone

One evening in the fall of 2015, the writer Edward Jay Epstein arranged to have dinner at an Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side with the director Oliver Stone. At the time, Stone was completing Snowden, an admiring biopic about the former intelligence contractor Edward J. Snowden, who disclosed a vast trove of classified documents about National Security Agency surveillance programs to journalists in June 2013 and had since been living as a fugitive in Russia. Epstein was working on a book about the same topic, which has now been published under the title How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft.

Epstein and Stone had a history of rivalry when it came to interpreting another important historical event: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Early in his career, Epstein wrote three books about that topic. The first, Inquest (1966), poked holes in the rigor of the Warren Commission’s official investigation. The second, Counterplot (1969), brought a skeptical eye to the investigation by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, who pursued the theory that the Central Intelligence Agency orchestrated the president’s murder. And the third, Legend (1978), pointed readers to the conclusion that Oswald’s image as a mixed-up loner with half-baked Marxist ideas was an operational cover story — a “legend” — and that he had been a Soviet intelligence agent. (After the Soviet Union collapsed, the opening of the KGB’s archives did not corroborate the theory that Oswald had actually been a trained intelligence agent.)

Stone waded into those same murky waters with his 1991 movie JFK, which used a fictionalized version of Garrison’s investigation as a means to explore the theory that a right-wing conspiracy, spanning the CIA and the military-industrial complex, had been responsible for Kennedy’s death.

Now, years later, the two men once again found themselves eying each other as they circled the Snowden saga.....It would be eye-glazing to compile a comprehensive list of Epstein’s doubtful “facts,” but one more is worth scrutinizing because Epstein hangs such heavy weight on it: the allegation that Snowden brought files with him to Russia, despite his denials.

Justice System

Washington Post, Mexican drug lord Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán extradited to U.S., Joshua Partlow and Matt Zapotosky, Jan. 19, 2017. The notorious kingpin, who was recaptured a year ago after his second escape from a Mexican prison, is wanted in the United States for drug trafficking and other crimes.  ​

Politico, Obama files parting appeal to protect drone secrecy, Josh Gerstein, Jan. 19, 2017. President Barack Obama has pulled back the curtain on aspects of the U.S. drone killing program, but as he prepared to leave office this week his administration made a legal move to prevent a judge from pulling the curtain back even further.

Last July, a federal judge in New York issued a 191-page legal opinion resolving an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit demanding dozens of Justice Department, Defense Department and CIA documents relating to the use of armed drones to kill individuals abroad. U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon's ruling appears to have largely favored the government's right to keep the records under wraps.
However, McMahon seemed to accept the ACLU's arguments for disclosure in a few areas and she accused the government of "chutzpah" over some of its contentions. Because the government declared much of her opinion "top secret," it's difficult to assess. On Tuesday, government lawyers appealed McMahon's ruling to the 2nd Circuit.

Time, The Real Ethics Test for Donald Trump Lies in This Little-Known Rule, Scott Amey and Danielle Brian, Jan. 19, 2017. (Amey is General Counsel and Brian is the Executive Director at the Project On Government Oversight.) Since the election, Donald Trump has been sending mixed signals on his pledge to crack down on influence peddling in Washington. On one hand, he’s floated a five-year ban on executive and congressional branch employees becoming lobbyists and a lifetime ban on certain Defense Department officials going to work for Pentagon contractors. Speaker Paul Ryan has described this ban as “dangerous,” but we think it’s a pretty good idea.

On the other hand, it looks like Trump is ripping up one of the most effective ways to prevent cronyism in the Beltway. It’s called Executive Order 13490, titled, “Ethics Commitments By Executive Branch Personnel,” signed by President Obama in 2009.

Of the ten ethics agreements for Trump nominees published by the independent Office of Government Ethics (OGE), not one of them references EO 13490, which requires, among other things, “all appointees entering government” to agree that they will not, for a period of two years from the date of their appointment, “participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to [their] former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts.”

Around the Nation

Washington Post, A new mayor promised to fix a Texas city. Instead, he resigned after just 37 days on the job, Lindsey Bever, Jan. 19, 2017. Just a little more than a month after taking office, a Texas mayor has announced his resignation on social media following a series of pointed questions about his personal and professional background.  Corpus Christi Mayor Dan McQueen said Wednesday on Facebook that he was stepping down. “Consider this my resignation,” he said in the post, according to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. “I resign immediately. The city can no longer deal with such differing views and divisiveness. I step down from my position as Mayor, in order to allow the council and city to regain focus on success.

“Sorry, they are now into my ex-wives and kids. Nothing good will come from that mess.” Although it’s not exactly clear which specific incident led McQueen to his decision, he reportedly had been expressing frustration about the local media’s questions. The Caller-Times reported that it “came on the heels of questions about his stated educational background, his chief of staff hire and a series of Facebook posts that took aim at fellow council members, city staff and the local media.”

Jan. 18

President Obama and Vice President Biden, undated White House photoPresident Obama and Vice President Biden (White House file photo)

Washington Post, President Obama is leaving office on a very high note, Scott Clement and Emily Guskin, Jan. 18, 2017. Barack Obama leaves office Friday with six-in-10 Americans approving of his job performance, capping a steady rise that vaults him above the average final mark for modern presidents, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds.

Obama's high-note finish comes with plenty of dissonance, including persistent pessimism about the nation's direction and deep divisions after Donald Trump's victory in last year's presidential race after campaigning strongly against Obama's policies.

Yet Americans grew significantly more positive about Obama's presidency through the acidic 2016 campaign as perceptions of the economy improved. The president's approval ratings were underwater in July 2015, when 45 percent approved and 50 percent disapproved of his performance. But his overall approval grew a steady 50 percent by January of 2016, and rose again to 56 percent in June, never falling below the mid-50s through the fall campaign.

The latest Post-ABC poll shows Obama hitting 60 percent approval with 38 percent disapproving — his highest mark since June of his first year in office, when 65 percent approved of him. The latest poll finds 61 percent approve of Obama's handling of the economy, while a smaller 53 percent approve how he has handled the threat of terrorism and 52 percent rate him positively for handling health care.

WLIS / WMRD (1420 and 1150 on the AM dial in Connecticut), The Phil Mikan Show, Jan. 18, 2017. Longtime Connecticut talk show host Phil Mikan (shown in a file photo) interviewed Justice Integrity Project Editor Andrew Kreig for an Phil Mikanhour about the incoming Trump Administration and related developments. These included the project's column on "fake news" and the public's anger towards existing institutions fueled in part by pervasive public relations techniques involved in government affairs and reporting.

Anniston Star, Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, Editorial board, Jan. 18, 2017. Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman wasn’t among the 273 people given pardons or commutations Tuesday by President Barack Obama. That’s highly disappointing. In his final days in the White House, Obama has commuted the sentence of a leaker of government secrets (Chelsea Manning) and pardoned a retired Army general (James Cartwright), and he has commuted or pardoned a growing list of people who were serving overly harsh drug-related sentences.

Siegelman, however, still sits in a Louisiana cell after being convicted on federal corruption charges in 2006. He’s not due for release until August. The charges against the 69-year-old former Alabama Democratic governor are spurious and tainted by political motivations. The case against Siegelman — which involves a seat on a state health regulatory board given to former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy and a donation to a statewide lottery effort — simply doesn’t hold up. That he was convicted and sentenced to nearly seven years in federal prison is absurd.

PaulCraigRoberts.org, Remember Don Siegelman, Paul Craig Roberts, Jan. 18, 2017. I hope that President Obama commuted Manning’s unjust sentence not as a sop to transgenders, but as a sign that a bit of humanity still remains in the outgoing war criminal president. Manning did his duty and reported US war crimes by releasing the astounding video of US troops murdering innocent people and journalists walking along a street and then murdering a father and his two young children who stopped to help the wounded left on the street by the US helicopter gunship or drone or whatever the murder device was. The video reveals US troops playing video kill games with real people.

Barack Obama head shot Aug. 4, 2014Manning’s reward was to be held for two years in solidary confinement in torture-like conditions, which little doubt left Manning fundamentally impaired. This illegal and unconstitutional treatment was followed by a kangeroo trial in which Manning was convicted and sentenced to 35 years in prison for doing his duty.

Julian Assange, also falsely accused and mistreated, must not turn himself over in exchange for the commutation of Manning’s sentence, or he will suffer the same fate. Any truth-teller who falls into the hands of the US government is doomed. The US government hates nothing worse than it hates the truth.

Obama’s failures as president would fill an encyclopedia.

Obama might have destroyed the Democratic Party by his failure to commute the sentence of falsely charged and falsely convicted Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Indeed, Obama could have ordered a US Justice Department investigation that almost certainly would have resulted in prison sentences for the Republican Alabama politicians, Republican US attorneys, Republican federal judges and Republican operative Karl Rove who participated in one of the most obvious frame-ups in human history.

More than 100 Democratic and Republican former attorneys general and officials condemned the prosecution of Siegelman as politically-inspired prosecutorial misconduct. Yet Obama did nothing. By doing nothing for Siegelman, Obama demonstrated to every Democrat that they were on their own if they won elections in Republican political strongholds.

Washington Post, For family of slain DNC worker, a tragedy is compounded by false conspiracy theories, Manuel Roig-Franzia, Jan. 18, 2017. Seth Rich, a 27-year-old Democratic National Committee staffer, wasn’t just another D.C. murder victim. He was a meme in the weirdest presidential election of our times. 

Trump Transition

Washington Post, Cabinet nominees confront growing ethical questions, Karen Tumulty, John Wagner and Ed O'Keefe, Jan. 18, 2017. President-elect Donald Trump’s choices to lead Donald Trump for President logocommerce, health and human services and the Office of Management and Budget face the kinds of problems that have torpedoed Cabinet-level nominees in the past. But it’s far from likely that Trump’s picks will buckle under political pressure.

Huffington Post, Trump Will Let Obama’s Top Federal Prosecutors Stick Around, For Now, Ryan J. Reilly, Jan. 18, 2017. President-elect Donald Trump will allow U.S. attorneys appointed by President Barack Obama to remain in their roles for the time being, a Justice Department official said Tuesday evening. The news about the future of the nation’s top federal prosecutors came less than 72 hours before Trump’s swearing in at noon on Friday. Before the announcement, officials in several U.S. attorneys’ offices told the Huffington Post they had received no guidance from the incoming administration on whether they were expected to resign when Trump became president. That changed on Tuesday.

“Currently serving U.S. Attorneys and U.S. Marshals were informed today that they are able to stay in place after January 20th while the process for identifying and confirming successors is further determined,” Wyn Hornbuckle, a DOJ spokesman, said in a statement. The Executive Office for United States Attorneys informed the officials of the decision, he said.

The incoming Trump administration also asked Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates to serve as acting Attorney General, effective noon on Friday, until Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) is confirmed as AG, Hornbuckle said. Attorney General Loretta Lynch will vacate the position Friday.

Washington Post, With Obama leaving, congressional Republicans move to gut D.C. laws, Aaron C. Davis and Jenna Portnoy, Jan. 18, 2017. With the threat of President Obama’s veto removed, congressional Marco Rubio officialRepublicans are moving quickly to introduce legislation gutting the heavily Democratic city’s gun-control measures, undoing a physician-assisted suicide law and banning the use of local tax dollars to provide abortions for low-income residents. (Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) filed legislation to roll back the District’s gun laws.)

Global Research, “Color Revolution” against Donald Trump, Michel Chossudovsky, Jan. 18, 2017. The Disruptj20.org campaign is calling for the disruption of the inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20, 2017: The organizers of the engineered protest movement are funded by powerful corporate interests, they are supported by US intelligence. The objective is not to undermine the racist right wing agenda of Donald Trump as conveyed in the video below. Quite the opposite.

Election Recount

WhoWhatWhy, Stein Camp Believes Recount Price Tag Was ‘Jacked Up’ to Discourage Audit, Oliver Ortega, Jan. 18, 2017. A member of Jill Stein’s team told WhoWhatWhy the inflated price tag Wisconsin election officials slapped on last year’s recount was part of an effort to dissuade the Green Party candidate from having the state’s presidential election audited. “They were trying to discourage us from doing the recount, so they jacked the price way up,” Rick Lass, a Stein campaign advisor, told WhoWhatWhy after it was revealed that the recount ended up costing a lot less than officials had projected. “We aren’t very pleased with the process.”

WhoWhatWhyA lot of eyebrows were raised when the state of Wisconsin asked Stein to pay $3.5 million upfront to fund the recount. After all, as WhoWhatWhy reported, a previous statewide recount had been a lot less expensive. It turns out that the skeptics were right.

The final cost of the Wisconsin recount came in at just over $2 million, state election officials announced last week. Inflated from an initial $1.1 million estimate just days before the filing deadline, the exorbitant fee was one of several obstacles the Green Party faced in its recount campaign across three battleground states — in addition to cynical press coverage, challenges from Donald Trump’s legal team, and obstructionist judges.

The difference will be returned to the campaign. In total, Stein’s camp raised $7.3 million from 161,000 donors for the recount effort in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, more than what the Green Party nominee had received during her past two presidential runs.

Wisconsin was the only state where a full recount moved forward: courts in Michigan and Pennsylvania blocked the Green Party’s efforts there, highlighting the difficulty of auditing the vote in the three states where Trump’s margins were slimmest and polls predicted a Clinton win.

Besides the exorbitant filing fee, Wisconsin’s recount was marred by the fact that many counties simply ran their ballots through the same optical vote scanners they’d used originally. Election integrity experts warn that such machines are susceptible to hacking — via malware inserted by portable media, for instance, though there are many different methods — and only a paper audit could ensure accuracy.

“Asking the same hardware and software the same question again should give you the same answer,” said Philip B. Stark, a professor of statistics at the University of California-Berkeley and one of six election integrity experts who submitted affidavits at the time in favor of a mandated hand-count. “That’s why you need to check it using a different method.”

Around the Nation

WSFA-TV (Birmingham), President rejects Siegelman pardon request, Jan. 18, 2017. The attorneys for former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman say his application for a pardon has been denied by President Barack Obama. Siegelman was sentenced to more than six years in prison following his corruption conviction. After initial time spent in a federal facility, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals approved his release from prison in 2008 pending his appeal of the conviction. He was returned to finish his sentence in September 2012 as his appeal options dwindled.

Siegelman's attorneys shared the letter from the White House with us. Read it below:

The application for pardon of your client, Mr. Don Eugene Siegelman, was carefully considered in this Department and the White House, and the decision was reached that favorable action is not warranted. Your client’s application was therefore denied by the President on January 18, 2017.  Please advise your client accordingly.

Don SiegelmanUnder the Constitution, there is no appeal from this decision. As a matter of well-established policy, we do not disclose the reasons for the decision in a pardon matter. In addition, deliberative communications pertaining to agency and presidential decision-making are confidential and not available under existing case law interpreting the Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act. If your client wishes to reapply for pardon, your client will become eligible to do so five years after the date of the release of the petitioner from confinement. Generally, a pardon petition should not be submitted by a person who is currently incarcerated, on probation, parole, or supervised release.

However, you may submit a petition for commutation of sentence any time after one year from the date of the President’s denial of the most recent request. To reapply for a pardon or commutation, a person must complete and submit a new application form that contains current information in response to all questions. Resubmitting the prior application form that was previously denied is not an acceptable form of reapplication.

In a court case in which the Office of the Pardon Attorney (OPA) defended its long-standing practice of declining to release lists of names of persons whose clemency applications have been denied, the federal courts of the District of Columbia rejected OPA’s arguments and ruled that lists of the names of persons who have been denied executive clemency by the President are not protected from public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). See Lardner v. Department of Justice, 638 F.Supp.2d 14 (D.D.C. 2009), affirmed, Lardner v. United States Department of Justice, No. 09-5337, 2010 WL 4366062 (D.C. Cir. Oct. 28, 2010) (unpublished). Accordingly, your client should be aware that as a result of the Lardner decision, OPA now is obliged to release existing lists of the names of persons who have been denied executive clemency by the President to anyone who requests such records pursuant to the FOIA.

Washington Post, Mexican drug lord Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán extradited to U.S., Joshua Partlow and Matt Zapotosky, Jan. 18, 2017. The notorious kingpin, who was recaptured a year ago after his second escape from a Mexican prison, is wanted in the United States for drug trafficking and other crimes. With sirens blaring, a fleet of limousines and security personnel raced down Pennsylvania Avenue twice in less than the last 24 hours to deliver Donald J. Trump to inauguration events.

But he was not heading to the White House. He was going to Trump International Hotel. It was a telling destination for those visits Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon. Perhaps more than any other location in Mr. Trump’s real estate empire, this 263-room hotel epitomizes the convergence of Donald Trump the global businessman and Donald Trump the president-elect.

Conflicts that for months have been theoretical are now about to become real — most immediately a possible challenge by the federal government. It owns the building that houses Mr. Trump’s hotel and has granted him a 60-year lease. From the moment he is sworn in as president at noon Friday, Mr. Trump may be in violation of that lease, given a provision that appears to prohibit federal elected officials from renting the Old Post Office building, the Pennsylvania Avenue landmark that houses the hotel, from the government.

Washington Post, Whistleblower suit alleges widespread problems at bank run by Treasury nominee Mnuchin, Ylan Q. Mui, Jan. 18, 2017. Whistleblowers connected to the California mortgage lender once run by Treasury secretary nominee Steven T. Mnuchin have accused the bank in federal court of mishandling more than a thousand applications for loan modifications during his tenure -- potentially costing many borrowers their homes.

Stephen MnuchinOne of the whistleblowers, Andrew Mitchell, worked at OneWest for three years and was responsible for processing mortgage modification requests. In a lawsuit filed in 2014, Mitchell said he aired his concerns directly with Mnuchin (shown in a file photo) and other top OneWest executives but that the issues were not resolved.

The case is currently under review by the Justice Department, which is required to assess all complaints brought under the federal False Claims Act, commonly known as the whistleblower law. Court records show the DOJ is slated to determine whether to prosecute the case by the end of March -- well after President-elect Donald Trump’s administration hopes to have Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) installed to lead the agency and Mnuchin confirmed as Treasury secretary.

Wilbur Ross

Daily Beast, Hillary Clinton’s Would-Be West Wingers Have Nothing to Lose, Eleanor Clift, Jan. 18, 2017. Staffers who want to stay engaged in politics are deciding whether to join ‘the resistance or the rebirth,’ Several Democrats slated for jobs in the West Wing if Hillary Clinton had won the election are in limbo now, coming to terms with their regrets and trying to figure out what to do next in Donald Trump’s strange new political world.

Jake Sullivan, who would likely have been Clinton’s national security advisor in the White House, is returning to Yale, his alma mater, where he had been teaching in the law school before going to work for the Clinton campaign full time.

Staffers who want to stay engaged in politics are deciding whether to join “the resistance or the rebirth,” says Bill Burton, co-founder of the pro-Hillary super PAC, Priorities USA Action. He cites the New Democratic Redistricting Commission (NDRC) launched by former Attorney General Eric Holder to promote Democrats across the country to win key races before the next round of gerrymandering, when congressional districts are redrawn.

News reports Tuesday noted that the Clinton Global Initiative had been shut down, fulfilling promise made by President Clinton last year in advance of the election. “It was a huge enterprise to get all of those commitments,” says a former CGI staffer, confirming that the shutdown was in the works in expectation of Clinton winning the election.

An arm of the Clinton Foundation, CGI was an annual meeting hosted by President Clinton where donors from around the world made pledges to further its programs. “They planned to do that (shut it down) in any case because of questions where the commitments were coming from,” says the former staffer.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, A brand name even a terrorist could learn to love, Tod Robberson, Jan. 18, 2017. Starting Friday, terrorists around the world will have a treasure trove of new ways to attack America by proxy and enrage the newly inaugurated president, Donald Trump. As of Inauguration Day, the long list of international buildings and resorts bearing the Trump brand name could replace U.S. embassies and military installations as major targets of opportunity.

It’s the Trump name on these properties that offers the best rationale for the president-elect to divest quickly and completely, before the fire sale begins. But what if one of the Trump Organization’s buildings came under a high-profile attack? Would President Trump be tempted to deploy U.S. troops and military assets in response?

Congress could, and should, have a major problem with that. It is not the U.S. military’s job to react when a private business comes under attack abroad, regardless of who owns it. There’s also the issue of sovereignty. The United States cannot just barge militarily into any country it wants. The leaders of Turkey and the Philippines have spoken openly about downgrading military cooperation to escape U.S. domination. Panama, which endured eight decades of U.S. military occupation until the handover of the Panama Canal in 1999, is in no mood to have U.S. forces return.

Which is to say, the new president would be largely powerless to act if a high-profile attack occurred on a big foreign building bearing the Trump name.

Democracy Now! Scahill: Blackwater Founder Erik Prince, the Brother of Betsy DeVos, Is Secretly Advising Trump, Amy Goodman interview of Jeremy Scahill, Jan. 18, 2017. The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill has revealed Betsy DeVos’s brother, Erik Prince, the founder of the mercenary firm Blackwater, has been quietly advising Trump’s transition team, including helping vet Cabinet picks. On election night, Prince’s wife, Stacy DeLuke, even posted pictures from inside Trump’s campaign headquarters. We speak to Scahill about his latest piece, "Notorious Mercenary Erik Prince Is Advising Trump from the Shadows."

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about Betsy DeVos’s brother, Erik Prince, who you’ve been talking about, the founder of Blackwater. In July, he spoke to Steve Bannon, who at the time was the head of Breitbart News, the white supremacist, white nationalist news site; Steve Bannon, who’s now Trump’s senior adviser. Prince said Trump should recreate a version of the Phoenix Program, the CIA assassination ring that operated during the Vietnam War, to fight ISIS.

ERIK PRINCE: It was a vicious, but very effective, kill/capture program in Vietnam that destroyed the Viet Cong as a military force. That’s what needs to be done to the funders of Islamic terror. And that would be even the—the wealthy radical Islamist billionaires funding it from the Middle East and any of the other illicit activities they’re in.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Erik Prince. The significance of what he’s saying here, Jeremy?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, you know, remember, Erik Prince views himself as the rightful heir to the legacy of "Wild Bill" Donovan, who was the head of the agency that was the precursor to the CIA. And, you know, immediately after 9/11, Erik Prince became very, very close to a number of people within the CIA and also Dick Cheney and Dick Cheney’s office. And they jointly came up with this idea that Erik Prince could run a kind of off-the-books hit squad that could roam the world conducting assassinations for the United States, and there would be no effective paper trail and no ability for Congress to engage in any oversight. Now, Leon Panetta, who was Obama’s CIA director early on in Obama’s term, said, "Oh, we shut down that program, and no one was ever killed." I don’t believe that for one moment.

Huffington Post, Wilbur Ross, Trump’s Commerce Pick, Fired Undocumented Household Worker Before Confirmation Hearing, Amanda Terkel, Jan. 18, 2017. The employee had worked years for Wilbur Ross (shown in a file photo).

President Obama accepts Nobel Peace Prize from Com. Chair. Thorbjorn Jagland, Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 2009 (WH Photo)President Barack Obama uncomfortably accepting the Nobel Peace Prize from Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 2009. (White House photo)

Consortium News, Obama’s Bombing Legacy, Nicolas J.S. Davies, Jan. 18, 2017. President Obama has joked he still doesn’t know why he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, but his record of waging war was no joke to thousands at the receiving end of U.S. bombs. As President Obama leaves office, much of his foreign policy record remains shrouded in the symbolism that has been the hallmark of his presidency. The persistence of Obama’s image as a reluctant war-maker and a Nobel Peace Prize winner has allowed Donald Trump and his cabinet nominees to claim that Obama has underfunded the military and been less than aggressive in his use of U.S. military power.

President Barack Obama uncomfortably accepting the Nobel Peace Prize from Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 2009. (White House photo)

Nothing could be further from the truth, and their claims are clearly designed only to justify even more extravagant military spending and more aggressive threats and uses of force than those perpetrated under Mr. Obama’s “disguised, quiet, media-free” war policy.

The reality is that Obama has increased U.S. military spending beyond the post-World War II record set by President George W. Bush. Now that Obama has signed the military budget for FY2017, the final record is that Obama has spent an average of $653.6 billion per year, outstripping Bush by an average of $18.7 billion per year (in 2016 dollars).

In historical terms, after adjusting for inflation, Obama’s military spending has been 56 percent higher than Clinton’s, 16 percent higher than Reagan’s, and 42 percent more than the U.S. Cold War average, when it was justified by a military competition with a real peer competitor in the Soviet Union.  By contrast, Russia now spends one-tenth of what we are pouring into military forces, weapon-building and war.

Washington Post, Scott Pruitt wants to switch direction for federal environmental policy. That may be hard to do, Patrick J. Egan and Megan Mullin, Jan. 18, 2017. Environmental policies are pretty Scott Pruitt EPAwell-entrenched. Good luck turning them around. (Nominee Scott Pruitt is shown in a file photo.

Global News

South Front, Terrorists Blow Up tunnel under Damascus: 2 Syrian Generals & 7 Officers Killed, Staff report, Jan. 18, 2017. Terrorists of the Jaysh al-Islam coalition have blown up a tunnel in the northeastern suburb of Damascus, killing nine officers of the Syrian Army, including two generals. The 300-meter-long tunnel was dug under a building of the headquarters of a mechanized brigade and blown up when representatives of the command were there.

Atlantic Council, Trump Said What? A closer look at some of Donald Trump’s foreign policy positions, Rachel Ansley, Jan. 18, 2017. US President-elect Donald Trump’s comments about NATO, the European Union (EU), and Russia have rattled US allies as they look for indicators as to how the United States will engage with the international community and establish its role in the world.

Jan. 17

Obama Transition

President Obama speaks at Cabinet meeting Jan. 14, 2014 (White House Photo)

President Obama speaks at Cabinet meeting Jan. 14, 2014 (White House Photo)

White House, President Obama Has Now Granted More Commutations than Any President in this Nation’s History, Neil Eggleston, Jan. 17, 2017. Today, 273 individuals learned that the President has given them a second chance. With today’s 209 grants of commutation, the President has now commuted the sentences of 1,385 individuals – the most grants of commutation issued by any President in this nation’s history. President Obama’s 1,385 commutation grants – which includes 504 life sentences – is also more than the total number of commutations issued by the past 12 presidents combined. And with today’s 64 pardons, the President has now granted a total of 212 pardons.

Today, 209 commutation recipients – including 109 individuals who had believed they would live out their remaining days in prison – learned that they will be rejoining their families and loved ones, and 64 pardon recipients learned that their past convictions have been forgiven. These 273 individuals learned that our nation is a forgiving nation, where hard work and a commitment to rehabilitation can lead to a second chance, and where wrongs from the past will not deprive an individual of the opportunity to move forward. Today, 273 individuals – like President Obama’s 1,324 clemency recipients before them – learned that our President has found them deserving of a second chance.

Washington Post, Obama commutes sentence of Chelsea Manning, soldier in WikiLeaks case, Ellen Nakashima and Sari Horwitz​, ​Jan. 17, 2017. The Army private who had been sentenced to 35 years in prison for disclosing secret diplomatic and military documents to WikiLeaks will be set free in May. Obama also pardoned retired Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, who admitted to lying to the FBI in a probe of a leak of classified information about a covert U.S.-Israeli cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear program. Manning was among 273 pardoned or granted commutations on Tuesday.

The president’s dramatic, last-minute clemency actions for Cartwright and Manning were surprising for an administration that has brought more leak prosecutions than all previous ones combined. Obama took office pledging to bring a new era of transparency to government, but during his eight years, his administration has presided over at least nine leak cases.

But officials said the president thought that in Manning’s case, seven years behind bars was enough punishment and that she had been given an excessive sentence — the longest ever imposed in the United States for a leak conviction. The administration has contrasted her case with that of Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency contractor who leaked classified documents in 2013 and then fled the country, pointing out that Manning did not try to avoid facing the U.S. justice system for her crimes.

Republicans immediately blasted the White House’s decision, saying the commutation would encourage others to leak sensitive documents. Manning, 29, will be set free in four months, on May 17, instead of in 2045, under the terms of Obama’s commutation.

Washington Post, Along with Chelsea Manning, here are the other people who received pardons and commutations from Obama, Julie Vitkovskaya, Jan. 17, 2017. President Obama granted commutations to 209 people and pardoned 64 others Tuesday. Among them was Chelsea Manning, a U.S. soldier who was convicted of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks. Obama also shortened the sentence of Gen. James Cartwright, who was convicted of a federal felony charge for giving false statements to the FBI during an investigation into a cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear program.

Washington Post, After pressure from Bernie Sanders, Puerto Rican independence activist wins commutation, David Weigel, Jan. 17, 2017. Oscar Lopez Rivera, a Puerto Rican independence activist convicted 35 years ago of a conspiracy against the U.S. government, will be freed from prison after President Obama commuted his sentence.

Although lower-profile than the pardon of Chelsea Manning, the U.S. soldier convicted of giving classified information to WikiLeaks, the Rivera pardon has another distinction — it was personally campaigned for by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). In May 2016, before the Democratic primary in Puerto Rico, Sanders drew attention to Lopez Rivera’s imprisonment. It didn’t rise to great prominence as an issue, and Hillary Clinton easily won the primary.

Around the Nation

Washington Post, Former ‘Apprentice’ contestant sues Trump for defamation for denying alleged groping, Rosalind S. Helderman, Jan. 17, 2017. An attorney for Summer Zervos said she will drop the suit if Trump admits wrongdoing.

Washington Post, Secret Service agrees to pay $24 million in decades-old race-bias case brought by black agents, Carol D. Leonnig, Jan. 17, 2017. Agency admits no wrongdoing in the settlement, which was pushed by Obama administration officials as the first black president prepares to leave office. The Secret Service agreed Tuesday to pay $24 million to settle a two-decade-old case in which more than 100 black agents alleged that the agency fostered a racist culture and routinely promoted white agents over more qualified African Americans, according to documents filed in court and interviews with representatives of both sides.

As part of the deal, which is the result of a push in the waning days of the Obama administration, the agency admits to no wrongdoing or institutional bias. But the payments to the agents — including lump sums as high as $300,000 each to the original eight plaintiffs — are intended to remedy the sting of the discrimination the agents say they suffered and the job opportunities they lost, according to interviews with representatives from both sides.

Trump Transition

Donald Trump for President logoWashington Post, 18 million would lose insurance with repeal of Obamacare, study says, Kelsey Snell​, Jan. 17, 2017. If Republicans repeal major portions of the Affordable Care Act without a replacement, millions of people would lose their health insurance in the first year, according to a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The CBO report provided updated estimates to a 2015 plan that Republican leaders have said they expect to closely model for an upcoming measure.

Trump Opposition

Huffington Post, More Than 50 Democratic Lawmakers Are Boycotting Donald Trump’s Inauguration, Jennifer Bendery, Jan. 17, 2017. “I will not be celebrating or honoring an incoming president who rode racism, sexism, xenophobia and bigotry to the White House.” Here’s the list of House Democrats planning to skip the inauguration in protest or, in a handful of cases, for vague reasons. So far, no senators have said they plan to boycott it.

Washington Post, Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education pick, lauded as bold reformer, called unfit for job, Emma Brown, Moriah Balingit and Ed O'Keefe, Jan. 17, 2017. The Senate education committee was deeply divided over ­President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary at her confirmation hearing Tuesday evening, with Democrats attacking Betsy DeVos as unfit for the job and Republicans defending her as a bold reformer.

Betsy DevosDeVos, a Michigan billionaire (shown in a file photo), repeatedly told skeptical senators that she looked forward to working with them to improve the nation’s schools. But she sidestepped several issues important to Democrats and their allies: She declined to commit that she would not work to privatize the nation’s public schools, called Sen. Bernie Sanders’s ideas about free college tuition “interesting,” and said she could not promise to uphold the Obama administration’s guidance to K-12 schools and colleges on handling allegations of campus sexual violence.

Global News

Washington Post, Britain’s May promises clean break from Europe in Brexit speech, Griff Witte, Jan. 17, 2017. The prime minister says Britain cannot be “half-in, half-out” of the United Kingdom flagEuropean Union.

SouthFront, Syrian War Report: ISIS Developing Advance In Deir Ezzor, Staff report, Jan. 17, 2017. On January 16, ISIS terrorists split the government-held pocket in Deir Ezzor into two separate parts, capturing Wadi An Nishan, Jiraiya, the al-Maqabis production area and the workers area. This move allowed ISIS units to encircle the strategic Deir Ezzor Airport controlled by Syrian army troops.

The close deployment of ISIS tactical units and vehicles equipped with anti-aircraft guns reportedly does not allow aircraft to operate from the Deir Ezzor Airbase, cutting off air movement of supplies there. Local sources report a high number of Russian and Syrian airstrikes against ISIS targets – over 100 only on January 17. However, the situation is very complicated for pro-government forces.

 

Martin Luther King Day Federal Holiday Jan. 16, 2017

Martin Luther King at NPCIn Memoriam: The Justice Integrity Project Readers Guide To The MLK Assassination: Books, Videos, Archives, May 26, 2016. The Justice Integrity Project presents a "Readers Guide to the MLK Assassination" of key books, videos, documents, websites and other archives most relevant to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s murder on April 4, 1968.

See also: Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Enhanced By Historic Discovery, Jan. 18, 2016. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is forever enhanced by discovery of a 24-minute recording of his first meeting with the national media, which occurred during a 1962 speech that was the first ever by an African American at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. His photo on that occasion is above.

Jan. 16

Global News

NATO logo

Washington Post, Europe leaders shocked as Trump slams NATO and E.U., raising fears of transatlantic split, Michael Birnbaum​, Jan. 16, 2017. European leaders took a tough line on President-elect Donald Trump’s comments that the European Union is bound for breakup and NATO is obsolete, raising the prospect of an unprecedented breach of transatlantic relations once Trump comes to office.  

European leaders said Monday that they may have to stand alone without the United States once Donald Trump enters office, raising the prospect of an unprecedented breach in transatlantic relations after Trump’s comments that the European Union is bound for a breakup and that NATO is obsolete.

Doanld Trump London Times interview Jan. 16, 2017Trump said in a weekend interview with the Times of London and Germany’s Bild newspaper that the 28-nation European Union was a vehicle for German interests and said that he was indifferent to the bloc’s fate. He also said he was committed to European defense even as he expressed skepticism about NATO’s current configuration.

Trump’s attitudes have alarmed Europe, which is facing a wave of elections this year in which anti-immigrant, Euroskeptic leaders could gain in power. Most mainstream leaders had committed to working with Trump after his inauguration Jan. 20, even as they expressed hope that he would moderate his views once he took office.

Angela Merkel (Shown in Flickr photo by Glyn Lowe at Photoworks)His hard line has created the grim realization in Europe that they may now have to stand alone, without their oldest, strongest partner.

“We Europeans have our destiny in our own hands,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin. She pledged to work with Trump whenever it would be possible. (Merkel is shown in a file photo via Flickr photo by Glyn Lowe at Photoworks.)

Mediaite, Clinton Global Initiative Plans to Shut Down Following HRC’s Election Loss, Ken Meyer, Jan. 16, 2017. It would seem that the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) will be coming to an end, due to plans to lay off its last group of employees in the next few months. The Clinton Foundation issued a WARN filing with the New York Department of Labor, saying that 22 CGI employees will lose their jobs due to the “discontinuation of the Clinton Global Initative.” This has reportedly become the subject of a significant dispute within the Foundation in terms of how the layoffs ought to be handled.

During the election, revelations about the Clinton Foundation invited concerns about “pay-to-play” practices at the State Department. The CGI was engulfed in these condemnations, with critics saying that wealthy foreign donors could influence Hillary Clinton and the government through their contributions. Clinton’s team argued that the Foundation contributed to a variety of international charity projects, though it remained a subject of criticism throughout the election.

The New York Observer reported, The Clinton Foundation Shuts Down Clinton Global Initiative, that the CGI has seen a decrease in foreign donations while suggesting that contributors were more interested in Clinton access than charity. It is worth noting that the Observer is owned by Jared Kushner, who is both son-in-law and upcoming senior adviser to President-Elect Donald Trump.

Huffington Post, These are the eight richest men in the world. They hold the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population — 3.5 billion people, Staff report, Jan. 16, 2017.Just eight super-rich men hold the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population, according to an analysis from the charity Oxfam released Sunday night.

Six of these billionaires, from Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people, are American entrepreneurs: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Rounding out the list are Carlos Slim, the Mexican tycoon, and Amancio Ortega, the Spanish founder of a retail conglomerate that includes clothing chain Zara. Together their net wealth ― assets minus debts ― amounts to $426 billion.

SouthFront, Military Situation In Deir Ezzor As ISIS Spits Government-Held Pocket Into Two (Map Update), Staff report, Jan. 16, 2017. The map shows a military situation in the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor after ISIS broke Syrian army defenses and split the government-held pocket into two separate parts.

Trump Transition

Washington Post, Donald Trump may have just destroyed the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare, Paul Waldman, Jan. 16, 2017. When even the most committed Republicans came around to support Donald Trump for President logoDonald Trump in 2016, they made a kind of bet. It wouldn’t matter much that Trump had no apparent fealty to conservative ideology or that he was a complete ignoramus about policy, because he’d be leaving all that boring stuff to them. The Republican Congress would pass its agenda, he’d sign whatever they put in front of him, and they’d all live happily ever after.

But now it’s not looking so simple. In fact, Trump just dealt a huge blow to their top priority: repealing the Affordable Care Act. Accomplishing repeal without causing the GOP a political calamity is an extremely delicate enterprise, and the last thing they want is to have him popping off at the mouth and promising things they can’t deliver. Which is what he just did:Crowley to forgo post in Trump White House.

Washington Post, GOP national-security experts fear Trump has blacklisted them, David Nakamura, Jan. 16, 2017. Those who signed two public “Never Trump” letters during the campaign, which called Donald Trump’s candidacy a danger to the nation, believe they have been put on an “enemies list” as the president-elect, who has virtually no experience in national security and foreign policy, fills positions in his administration.  

One letter, with 122 names, was published by War on the Rocks, a website devoted to national security commentary, during the primary season in March. The other, with 50 names, including some repeat signatories, was published by the New York Times during the general-election campaign in August.

Washington Times, Crowley to leave Trump team, Stephen Dinan, Jan. 16, 2017. GOP foreign policy adviser Monica Crowley said Monday she will relinquish the senior job she’d been poised to take in the Trump White House.

Monica CrowleyMs. Crowley, who had been tapped to be senior director of strategic communications at the National Security Council, had been dogged in recent weeks by questions about whether she lifted portions of her past written work from other writers. Her move seemed designed to keep that from becoming a distraction as the Trump team prepares to take office.

Crowley (shown in a file photo) was to have worked for National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general. “The NSC will miss the opportunity to have Monica Crowley as part of our team. We wish her all the best in her future,” Gen. Flynn said in a statement.

A report by CNN earlier this month found passages in Ms. Crowley’s 2012 book What the (Bleep) Just Happened closely tracked with others’ work. A separate story by Politico, a website for political insiders, said it found more than a dozen instances of what it deemed plagiarism or insufficient attribution in her 2000 dissertation. HarperCollins, the publisher of the 2012 book, withdrew the digital version of the book from circulation last week amid the accusations.

Jan. 15

Observer, The Clinton Foundation Shuts Down Clinton Global Initiative, Michael Sainato, Jan. 15, 2017. On January 12, a WARN notice was filed with the New York Department of Labor — the main office of the Clinton Global Initiative would be closing.

The Clinton Foundation’s long list of wealthy donors and foreign government contributors during the 2016 elections provoked critics to allege conflicts of interests. Clinton partisans defended the organization’s charitable work, and dismissed claims that it served as a means for the Clintons to sell off access, market themselves on the paid speech circuit, and elevate their brand as Hillary Clinton campaigned for the presidency. Editor's note: The Observer is owned by Jared Kushner, who is both son-in-law and upcoming senior adviser to President-Elect Donald Trump.

Trump Transition: Foreign Policy

Reuters via Huffington Post, Trump Wants To Cut Russia Sanctions In Return For Nuclear Arms Deal, Staff report, Jan. 15, 2017. The President-Elect also criticized Moscow for its role in Syria. President-elect Donald Trump will propose offering to end sanctions imposed on Russia for its annexation of Crimea in return for a nuclear arms reduction deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he told The Times of London.

Trump, in an interview with the newspaper published online on Sunday, was deeply critical of previous U.S. foreign policy, describing the invasion of Iraq as possibly the gravest error in the history of the United States and akin to “throwing rocks into a beehive.”

Donald Trump buttonBut ahead of his inauguration on Friday as the 45th U.S. president, Trump raised the prospect of the first major step towards nuclear arms control since President Barack Obama struck a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia in 2010.

“They have sanctions on Russia -- let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia,” the Republican president-elect was quoted as saying by The Times.

“For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that’s part of it. But Russia’s hurting very badly right now because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are gonna benefit.”

The United States and Russia are by far the world’s biggest nuclear powers. The United States has 1,367 nuclear warheads on deployed strategic missiles and bombers, while Russia has 1,796 such deployed warheads, according to the latest published assessment by the U.S. State Department.

Trump has vowed to improve relations with Moscow even as he faces criticism he is too eager to make an ally of Putin, a former KGB spy who rose to the top of the Kremlin in 1999. The issue has faced renewed scrutiny after an unsubstantiated report that Russia had collected compromising information about Trump.

Washington Post, Pence: Trump campaign did not have contact with Russia, Abby Phillip, Jan. 15, 2017. Vice President-elect Mike Pence denied Sunday that the Trump campaign had any contacts with Russia Mike Penceduring the campaign. Repeatedly pressed on the issue on "Fox News Sunday," Pence (shown in an official photo) eventually answered directly, saying, "Of course not."

"Why would there be any contacts between the campaign" and Russia, he said. He added that questions about contacts with Russia during the campaign were part of an attempt to cast doubts on the legitimacy of Trump's election.

Trump Transition: Domestic Policy

Washington Post, Trump vows ‘insurance for everybody’ in plan to replace Obamacare, Robert Costa, Jan. 15, 2017. In an interview with The Post, the president-elect declared that his plan for replacing the health-care law is all but finished. While he declined to reveal specifics, Donald Trump said he would force drug companies to negotiate directly with the government on prices for Medicare and Medicaid, and warned Republicans about slowing his agenda.​

Washington Post, Trump’s administration will regulate Trump’s businesses, raising prospect of conflicts, Rosalind S. Helderman, Drew Harwell and Tom Hamburger, Jan. 15, 2017. The president-Donald Trump for President logoelect’s refusal to divest from his vast holdings means, according to ethics experts, that government officials could feel pressure to keep the boss and his businesses’ bottom line happy.

Washington Post, A hellscape of lies and distorted reality awaits journalists covering President Trump, Margaret Sullivan, Jan. 15, 2017. The past teaches plenty about what to expect from Trump, “the gaslighter in chief,” who punishes reporters for doing their jobs and will relentlessly manipulate reality if it means a better public image.

Washington Post, Priebus to Obama: ‘step up’ and tell Democrats to stop questioning Trump’s legitimacy, Mike DeBonis, Jan. 15, 2017. The incoming chief of staff called John Lewis’s remarks about Trump “insanity” and rejected comparisons to the president-elect’s own well-publicized doubts about Obama’s eligibility to serve.

Washington Post, Priebus warns ethics chief to ‘be careful’ discussing Trump’s business conflicts, Abby Phillip, Jan. 15, 2017. Donald Trump's incoming White House chief of staff warned the director of the Office of Government Ethics on Sunday to "be careful" about criticizing Trump's handling of his business conflicts.

Walter ShaubEthics office Director Walter Shaub (shown in an official photo) last week criticized Trump's plan to shift ownership of his businesses to his sons, and his office has sought to influence Trump on the issue on Twitter for several weeks. "The head of the government ethics ought to be careful because that person is becoming extremely political," Priebus said on ABC News's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

New York Post, Trump’s friend ‘fell in love’ with dog she offered for White House, Aaron Short, Jan. 15, 2017. Donald Trump might be the first pet-less president in 150 years, ­after a plan to have him adopt a goldendoodle dog fell through. Lois Pope, a Palm Beach, Fla., philanthropist and a longtime friend of the president-elect, believes a pooch belongs in the White House and began searching for a hypoallergenic breed for Trump once he won the election.

Donald Trump for President logo“Every president has had a first dog, and he did not have a dog,” said Pope, 83, whose husband, Generoso Jr., founded The National Enquirer and left her $200 million after his death in 1988. “I wanted to find a dog with a great disposition, and I didn’t want a small dog. He’s a guy who is 6-foot-2. He doesn’t want a small dog.”

Pope chose one with a burnt-orange coat — similar in color to Trump’s mane — that is part golden retriever and part poodle. She named the 8-week-old pup Patton — after Trump’s favorite military hero — and sent him an ownership certificate.

Martin Luther King's Murder & Hidden Investigative Records

Martin Luther King injustice quotationJFKCountercoup, Honor MLK by Releasing the Records on his Assassination, William Kelly, Jan. 15, 2017. We honor MLK on Martin Luther King Day — Monday, January 16 — by taking a day off from work and making it a day of public service — volunteering to do an unpleasant task that will make for a better world.

But this year, 2017, is special because of the expected release of the remaining sealed government records on the assassination of President Kennedy. Among those records are the files of the House Select Committee on Assassinations that also investigated the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. — documents that remain sealed.

Media & Intelligence Services

OpEdNews, Europe's Courageous Journalism Voice Has Passed Away, Paul Craig Roberts, Jan. 15, 2017. On January 13, Udo Ulfkotte died, reportedly of a heart attack. Ulfkotte had been an editor at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitzung. He published a courageous book — Journalists for Hire: How the CIA Buys the News — which he said that the CIA had a hand on every significant journalist in Europe, which gave Washington control over European opinion and reduced knowledge of and opposition to Washington's control over European heads of state. Essentially, there are no European governments independent of Washington.

Courage, once plentiful in Europe, is today hard to find. Charles de Gaulle was the last head of a major European state that maintained independence from Washington. Today we find independence in Marine Le Pen and perhaps in the president of Hungary. But for the most part West and East European heads of state are Washington's vassals committed to Washington's wars.

Washington Post, News briefings could be moved from White House, Priebus says, Mike DeBonis, Jan. 15, 2017. Incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said Sunday that news conferences traditionally held in the White House briefing room could be moved to a larger space, not in the White House, to allow for “more press, more coverage from all over the country.”

Reince Priebus (Gage Skidmore)Priebus (shown in a Gage Skidmore photo) spoke on ABC’s “This Week” hours after Esquire magazine published a report that suggested that the media could be permanently evicted from their longtime space in the White House itself to other buildings nearby. In that report, incoming White House Communications Director Sean Spicer acknowledged there has been “some discussion about how to do it.”

“The only thing that’s been discussed is whether or not the initial press conferences are going to be in that small press room,” Priebus said Sunday, calling the 49-seat briefing room “very, very tiny” and suggesting a larger space in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building — located just west of the White House — could better accommodate scores of reporters who want to cover the Trump administration.

“You can fit four times the amount of people in the press conference, allowing more press, more coverage from all over the country,” he said. “Some of this is getting way out of whack, and I think people should be encouraged that we have so many people who want to participate.”

He did not mention evicting journalists from their workspace in the White House, located steps from the West Wing offices of the president and senior administration officials. The Esquire report quoted an anonymous “senior official” referring to the media as “the opposition party” and saying: “I want ’em out of the building. We are taking back the press room.”

Jeff Mason, a Reuters reporter who chairs the White House Correspondents’ Association, said Sunday he is meeting with Spicer to get more details about Trump’s plans. He noted that the White House briefing room is already open to all reporters who request access. “We support that and always will,” he said. “We object strenuously to any move that would shield the president and his advisers from the scrutiny of an on-site White House press corps.”

Huffington Post, Trump’s Rift With Press Will Grow If Reporters Are Kicked Out Of White House, Michael Calderone, Jan. 15, 2017. The Trump campaign blacklisted news organizations. Now the transition team is considering moving journalists from the briefing room. Donald Trump’s team is considering moving press conferences out of the White House briefing room, where they’ve been held for decades, in a potential change that has alarmed journalists just days before the start of the new administration.

The incoming press secretary has discussed no longer televising daily briefings, a practice that began in the 1990s, or even holding the briefings in a different way. He’s also talked about switching up the briefing room seating arrangement, a process overseen for decades by the White House Correspondents’ Association. During the 2016 race, Trump’s campaign blacklisted nearly a dozen news organizations, including The Huffington Post; kicked journalists out of events; forced them into a “press pen”; and condoned the manhandling of a reporter. The candidate’s press-bashing was likened to that of authoritarian leaders. He ditched reporters and routinely ridiculed them on stage and on Twitter, behavior he’s continued since winning the presidency.

Supreme Court

U.S. Supreme Court Eight Members 2016Above the Law, Supreme Court Update: Trump Has Started Interviewing SCOTUS Candidates, David Lat, Jan. 15, 2017. On Saturday afternoon, here in cold and snowy New York, President-elect Donald William Pryor, Jr.Trump interviewed Judge William Pryor (shown in an official photo) of the Eleventh Circuit for the open seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. The opportunity to meet with PEOTUS to talk about SCOTUS must have lifted Judge Pryor’s spirits, in the wake of the loss of his beloved Crimson Tide in Monday’s football championship.

The news of a Trump/Pryor meeting, while notable, is not surprising. At last week’s press conference, Trump said that SCOTUS meetings are underway and we should expect a nominee within two weeks of inauguration day. And Judge Pryor, beloved by conservatives, sits at the top of the Trump SCOTUS list. (Lists of likely contenders here and here to fill the vacancy and join the eight current justices portrayed above.) Could Trump pick someone not on the list? There was one promising possibility:

“After his [post-election] talk with Trump, Texas senator Ted Cruz and his chief of staff, David Polyansky, then sat down with Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, who sounded him out about his interest in filling the Supreme Court vacancy created by the late Antonin Scalia. Cruz — widely considered one of the best Supreme Court litigators of his generation — swatted down the idea, according to four people to whom he has relayed the conversation.

Ted CruzThat meeting took place on November 15. A few days earlier, on November 11, my colleague Joe Patrice had written a column entitled Why Donald Trump Must Nominate Ted Cruz To The Supreme Court. Great minds think alike?

Alas, Cruz (shown in a photo) declined — mainly because, well, he still wants to be president. As one of his friends told Politico, “Who knows what’s gonna happen eight years from now? Ted would be a young man…. [T]hat’s another negative to being a Supreme Court justice, it’s a lifetime commitment…. Ted wasn’t ready to lay down his sword and pick up a pen for the rest of his life.”

With Cruz out of contention, Trump is presumably sticking to his list. Aware of other shortlisters who have met or are meeting with the president-elect? Drop me a line, by email (subject line: “SCOTUS”) or by text message (646-820-8477). It would be great to know who else has made the final round (without having to camp out by Trump Tower in the cold). 

Jan. 14

WhoWhatWhy, Ruminations on the Greatest Mystery Never Solved, WhoWhatWhy Team, Jan. 14, 2017. Getting to the Truth WhoWhatWhyIs Really Difficult: JFK Assassination Research Challenges. More than 50 years after the assassination of JFK, questions of who, what, and why remain unresolved. Despite valiant efforts by a dedicated research community, the obstacles remain formidable.

At a recent JFK research conference in Dallas, Russ Baker addressed some of these challenges and how to move forward.“There is a tremendous debt owed to this amazing bunch of people who do this stuff selflessly their whole lives … This may be the greatest revelation out of the whole thing if nothing else, the fundamental goodness, decency, and tenacity” of truth-seeking investigators in the U.S. and around the world, Baker said.

Washington Post, U.S. attorney in Baltimore is Trump’s pick to be deputy attorney general, Sari Horwitz and Ellen Nakashima, Jan. 14, 2017. Rod Rosenstein (shown in an official photo) headed the office for the District of Maryland under Rod Rosensteinboth Bush and Obama. 

Washington Post, A reassuring choice for deputy attorney general, Jonathan H. Adler (professor at Case Western University School of Law), Jan. 13, 2017. Rod J. Rosenstein would be a good choice for deputy attorney general. CNN and other news outlets are reporting that President-elect Donald Trump will nominate Rod J. Rosenstein to be deputy attorney general, the No. 2 position in the Justice Department. Rosenstein would be a fabulous choice for this position, and one that should be completely free of controversy.

Rosenstein currently serves as the U.S. attorney for Maryland. He was first appointed to this position by President George W. Bush in 2005 and retained in this position by President Obama. Prior to his appointment as U.S. attorney, Rosenstein served as the principal deputy assistant attorney general for the Tax Division in the Justice Department and as an assistant U.S. attorney. He also served in the Office of the Independent Counsel and as counsel to Deputy Attorney General Philip B. Heymann during the Clinton administration. Rosenstein is admired and respected on both sides of the aisle.

Rosenstein is also a veteran of the judicial confirmation wars. Bush nominated Rosenstein to an open seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in November 2007. At that point, the seat had been open for nearly seven years, but the Senate was in no rush to act. The Post praised Rosenstein as a “worthy nominee” and pointed out the hollowness of the arguments against him. No matter. The Senate never held a vote on his nomination, leaving the seat open for the next president to fill.

Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. October 29, 2016. (Flickr Gage Skidmore)Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. October 29, 2016. (Flickr Gage Skidmore)

Consortium News, The Scheme to Take Down Trump, Daniel Lazare, Jan. 14, 2017. The U.S. intelligence community’s unprecedented assault on an incoming U.S. president – now including spreading salacious rumors – raises questions about how long Donald Trump can hold the White House, says Daniel Lazare.

Is a military coup in the works? Or are U.S. intelligence agencies laying the political groundwork for forcing Donald Trump from the presidency because they can’t abide his rejection of a new cold war with Russia? Not long ago, even asking such questions would have marked one as the sort of paranoid nut who believes that lizard people run the government. But no longer.

Thanks to the now-notorious 35-page dossier concerning Donald Trump’s alleged sexual improprieties in a Moscow luxury hotel, it’s clear that strange maneuverings are underway in Washington and that no one is quite sure how they will end.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper added to the mystery Wednesday evening by releasing a 200-word statement to the effect that he was shocked, shocked, that the dossier had found its way into the press. Such leaks, the statement said, “are extremely corrosive and damaging to our national security.”

Jan. 13

WhoWhatWhy, The Death of a Journalist Who Knew Too Much, Jeff Schechtman, Jan. 13, 2017. Was Dorothy Kilgallen Murdered? What Was She About to Learn?

Gareth PorterConsortium News, Mainstream Media’s Russian Bogeymen, Gareth Porter, Jan. 13, 2017. The mainstream hysteria over Russia has led to dubious or downright false stories that have deepened the New Cold War, as Dr. Gareth Porter notes regarding last month’s bogus tale of a hack into the U.S. electric grid.

In the middle of a major domestic crisis over the U.S. charge that Russia had interfered with the U.S. election, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) triggered a brief national media hysteria by creating and spreading a bogus story of Russian hacking into U.S. power infrastructure.

DHS had initiated the now-discredited tale of a hacked computer at the Burlington, Vermont Electricity Department by sending the utility’s managers misleading and alarming information, then leaked a story they certainly knew to be false and continued to put out a misleading line to the media.

Even more shocking, however, DHS had previously circulated a similar bogus story of Russian hacking of a Springfield, Illinois water pump in November 2011. The story of how DHS twice circulated false stories of Russian efforts to sabotage U.S. “critical infrastructure” is a cautionary tale of how senior leaders in a bureaucracy-on-the-make take advantage of every major political development to advance its own interests, with scant regard for the truth.

Trump Transition

Real Clear Politics, Trump's Honeymoon Over Before It Starts, Alexis Simendinger, Jan. 13, 2017. Forget about the honeymoon. Donald Trump will move into the White House bolstered by less public support and goodwill than his recent predecessors enjoyed, and his weaker standing will impact governing choices he faces, according to experts.

Donald Trump for President logoWhy is that important? Because the president-elect has an ambitious but vaguely detailed agenda he wants to enact before the end of the year. He has no domestic governing experience, and no international training as a representative of more than 300 million people or as a commander of the U.S. military.

A Quinnipiac University survey this week found that 51 percent of the public disapproves of Trump’s transition performance. Gallup reported a month ago that respondents were evenly split (48 percent approved and 48 percent disapproved) when asked how they thought Trump was handling his preparations to govern.

That split contrasted with the three presidents before the incoming 45th commander in chief. Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton each climbed above 65 percent in job approval during their transitions into the White House (Obama, the first African-American president, soared to 75 percent).

Washington Post, Carson pushes increased private-sector role in HUD programs, Jose A. DelReal and David Weigel, Ben CarsonJan. 13, 2017. Ben Carson on Thursday detailed his vision for the Department of Housing and Urban Development: one that integrates government assistance programs with “holistic” solutions and greater involvement of businesses and faith groups.

Carson, speaking before a generally friendly Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, repeatedly suggested that the private sector should play a larger role in addressing poverty and systemic inequities, investing in “human capital” as a means of increasing quality of life and profits.

Carson’s testimony marked his most extensive comments on housing and urban development. Urban policy experts were closely parsing Carson’s remarks and responses to lawmakers for clues about his vision on the government’s role in housing policy, which he rarely spoke about publicly before his nomination.

TPM, Chaffetz Demands Ethics Chief Testify In House Following Criticism Of Trump, Caitlin MacNeal, Jan. 13, 2017. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the chair of the House Oversight Committee, sent a letter to the director of the Office of Government Ethics on Thursday demanding that he sit for an interview with the committee about his public statements on Donald Trump.

Jason ChaffetzChaffetz's letter follows public remarks from the office's director, Walter M. Shaub Jr., during which he criticized Trump's plans to separate himself from his business as inadequate. Chaffetz (shown in an official photo with a flag ) focused on a series of tweets published by the Office of Government Ethics in November praising Trump for divesting, even though the President-elect had not made any such announcement, and encouraging Trump to make a clean cut from his business when he takes office.

The tweets also revealed that the ethics office had discussed divestiture with the Trump transition team.

In his letter, Chaffetz said he was concerned that the Office of Government Ethics (whose director Shaub is shown in a photo) Walter Shaubwas "blurring the line between public relations and official ethics guidance." He said that the tweets about Trump's plans to address potential conflicts of interest were confusing since they made it unclear whether the office approved of Trump's plans.

World Crisis Radio, Chaos in the Health Care System: Congress votes on Friday the 13th, Webster G. Tarpley (shown in file photo), Jan. 13, 2014 (1 hour, 13 min.). Excerpted from Tarpley comments: We are now in uncharted territory, chaos in the health care system…Thousands of lives will be lost. How many thousands? I don’t know.

If you don’t have any health care you better get some. Get yourself into Obamacare right now so that you’ll have something in your hand to negotiate with or stake a claim. You’ve got a little time, not a lot, maybe weeks.

Webster TarpleyThe [Republican] promise was “Repeal and Replace.” There is no "replace" and there can’t be, given the ideology of a tribe of extreme ideologues, the Republican Party. There cannot be a replacement if you’re going to have the obligation of hospitals to treat people who come to the hospital with no insurance. There’s also the problem of pre-existing conditions. Republican ideology prevents any effective answer to those two problems. 

You're heard of the scare tactic of rising insurance rates. Remember, the increases in premiums and deductibles are being done by whom? Obama? No. They are being done by private insurance companies. The Republicans try to hide this important fact.

We're not really fighting here for the perpetuation of Obamacare. The original sin was to give power to those people instead of "Medicare for All" at a cost of about $150 a month per person, with subsidies for the truly destitute.

Alleged Russian Pressure On Trump

NBC News, John Lewis: ‘I Don’t See Trump as a Legitimate President,’ Matt Rivera, Jan. 13, 2017. In an exclusive interview with NBC News' "Meet the Press," Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) said he does not believe Donald Trump is a "legitimate president," citing Russian interference in last year's election. Asked whether he would try to forge a relationship with the president-elect, Lewis said that he believes in forgiveness, but added, "it's going to be very difficult. I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president."

Rep. John Lewis officialWhen pressed to explain why, he cited allegations of Russian hacks during the campaign that led to the release of internal documents from the Democratic National Committee, and Hillary Clinton's campaign co-chairman, John Podesta. "I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton," Lewis (shown in an official photo) told NBC News' Chuck Todd.

Trump appeared to acknowledge this week that Russia did engage in hacking during the campaign, but he has vigorously argued that any foreign interference had no impact on the election's outcome. 

Washington Post, Senate Intel chiefs promise investigation of Trump-Russia ties as House Democrats accuse FBI director of stonewalling, Staff report, Jan. 13, 2017. Democrats are furious with FBI Director James Comey for refusing to say whether the FBI is probing alleged ties between president-elect Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. Senate Intelligence Committee leaders announced late Friday that they would look into allegations of links between Russia and the 2016 political campaigns as part of a broader review of the intelligence community’s report on Russian hacking.

Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-Va.) said that their investigation, announced on Tuesday, would review “any intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns” — a scope that includes allegations of ties between president-elect Donald J. Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.
Their announcement came as additional House Democrats called for FBI Director James B. Comey’s resignation, following a closed-door briefing from spy chiefs about Russia’s alleged election-related hacking in which they say Comey stonewalled members about whether the FBI is investigating links between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin.

Democrats accused Comey of being “inconsistent” for refusing to confirm or deny whether or not the FBI was investigating the alleged ties, despite his willingness to frequently update Congress on the status of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. They described the exchange with Comey as “contentious” and even “combative,” while leaders accused him of using a double standard.

“One standard was applied to the Russians and another standard applied to Hillary Clinton,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who one member described as “just outraged” at Comey’s resistance to questions. Pelosi “really let Comey have it” during the meeting, the member said, who spoke on background because the meeting was classified.

Telegraph, Britain dragged into Donald Trump 'dirty dossier' row amid claims Whitehall knew of the file, Gordon Rayner, Claire Newell and Ruth Sherlock, Jan. 13, 2017. Britain has been dragged into the frantic United Kingdom flagrow over the “dirty dossier” on Donald Trump after it was claimed that the Government gave the FBI permission to speak to the former MI6 officer who compiled it.

Sources in the US have told The Telegraph that Christopher Steele, a former spy, spoke to officials in London before he handed the document to the FBI and met one of its agents. The document, which contained allegations of lurid sexual behavior by Mr Trump in Russian hotels, was leaked earlier this week, and Britain now finds itself caught in the crossfire of accusations between Russia and the US.

On Thursday Russia publicly accused MI6 of “briefing both ways” against Russia and Mr Trump and suggested Mr Steele was still working for the Secret Intelligence Service. 

Mr Trump has angrily rejected the information in the dossier as “fake” and the involvement of a former MI6 officer is unlikely to help Britain’s intelligence-sharing relationship with the US when he becomes president later this month.

Sir Tony Brenton, a former British ambassador to Russia, described the dossier as looking "pretty shaky". He told Sky News: "For example, it claims that the Russians began to cultivate Donald Trump five years ago. "If they did that they showed remarkable prescience because at the time he had nothing to do with American politics." Mr Steele was hired to find information on Mr Trump by a Washington-based consultancy that was being paid by Republican opponents of the president-elect – the BBC claimed they were acting on behalf of fellow nominee Jeb Bush – and, later, by Democrats.

Moon of Alabama, "35 Pages" Attack Against Trump Fails, Anonymous, Jan. 13, 2017. The tale about the fake accusations about Russian influence on the U.S. presidential election becomes more gripping by each day. They are part of a larger war between various groups of the "elites" but also include infighting between U.S. government organizations.

We know that there was heavy Ukrainian influence on the side of Clinton in the election and in the current smear campaign against Trump and Russia. But it certainly wasn't Ukraine alone that is behind this. There are more international connections.

The "former" desk officer for Russia in the British MI6 Christopher Steele was the one who prepared the 35 pages of obviously false claims about Russian connections with and kompromat against Trump. There are so many inconsistencies in these pages that anyone knowledgeable about the workings in Moscow could immediately identify it as fake. Putin personally started working on Trump five years ago when Trump had no political role or hope whatsoever? A Trump associate met Russian officials in Prague even though he has never been in the Czech Republic?

Even the second, more official handover to the FBI still did not result in the hoped for publication of the allegations. But by that time Clinton was widely expected to win the election anyway so no further steps were taken.

Donald Trump Pointing Finger Gage Skidmore DMCAAfter Trump (shown in a Gage Skidmore photo) unexpectedly won the election a new effort was launched to publish the smears. The Director of National Intelligence decided (or was ordered to) "brief" the President, the President elect and Congress on the obviously dubious accusations. It was this decision that made sure that the papers would eventually be published. The attack was a deep state attempt to stage a coup against Trump.

Trump has deliberately rattled the members of the deep state with his brazen criticism of U.S. intelligence findings about Russian hacking. Deep government does not stand idly by, as David Runciman wrote recently in the London Review of Books, and allow itself to be shat upon by newcomers. The president-elect has enemies in profusion on the inside who are practiced at the art of the leak. They may have had no official role in this attempt to stage a coup against Trump before he’s even inaugurated, but they must be cheering BuzzFeed’s naughtiness as they sharpen their knives for his administration.

This blog reported and warned a month ago of such "elite" coup attempts. (See also: Moon of Alabama, The "Elite" Coup Of 2016, Anonymous, Dec. 15, 2016. There is an "elite" coup attempt underway against the U.S. President-elect Trump. The coup is orchestrated by the camp of Hillary Clinton in association with the CIA and neoconservative powers in Congress. The fight has since become more intense.)

Obama Actions

President Obama headshot white House

Counter-Punch, The President Who Wasn’t There: Barack Obama’s Legacy of Impotence, Jeffrey St. Clair, Jan. 13, 2017. Barack Obama was in Brasilia on March 19, 2011, when he announced with limited fanfare the latest regime change war of his presidency. The bombing of Libya had begun with a hail of cruise missile attacks and air strikes. It was something of an impromptu intervention, orchestrated largely by Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and the diva of vengeance Samantha Power (shown in an official photo), always hot for a saturation bombing in the name of human rights.

Samantha PowerObama soon upped the ante by suggesting that it was time for Qaddafi to go. The Empire had run out of patience with the mercurial colonel. The vague aims of the Libyan war had moved ominously from enforcing “a no-fly zone” to seeking regime change. Bombing raids soon targeted Qaddafi and his family.  Coming in the wake of the extra-judicial assassination of Osama Bin Laden in a blood-spattered home invasion, Qaddafi rightly feared Obama wanted his body in a bag, too.

Absent mass protests against the impending destruction of Tripoli, it fell to Congress to take some tentative steps to challenge the latest unauthorized and unprovoked war. At an earlier time in the history of the Republic, Obama’s arrogant defiance of Congress and the War Powers Act of 1973 might have provoked a constitutional crisis. But these are duller and more attenuated days, where such vital matters have been rendered down into a kind of hollow political theater.

All the players duly act their parts, but everyone, even the cable news audience, realizes that it is just for show. The wars will proceed. The Congress will fund them. The people will have no say in the matter. As Oscar Wilde quipped: “All the world’s a stage, badly cast.”

Intercept, Obama Opens NSA’s Vast Trove of Warrantless Data to Entire Intelligence Community, Just in Time for Trump, Alex Emmons, Jan. 13, 2017. With only days until Donald Trump takes office, the Obama administration on Thursday announced new rules that will let the NSA share vast amounts of private data gathered without warrant, court orders or congressional authorization with 16 other agencies, including the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Department of Homeland Security.

The new rules allow employees doing intelligence work for those agencies to sift through raw data collected under a broad, Reagan-era executive order that gives the NSA virtually unlimited authority to intercept communications abroad. Previously, NSA analysts would filter out information they deemed irrelevant and mask the names of innocent Americans before passing it along.

The change was in the works long before there was any expectation that someone like Trump might become president. The last-minute adoption of the procedures is one of many examples of the Obama administration making new executive powers established by the Bush administration permanent, on the assumption that the executive branch could be trusted to police itself.

Gateway Pundit, CIA Coup? Ex-Spook: Langley ‘Taking Traitor Trump Out Now,’ Kristinn Taylor, Jan. 13, 2017. Former spook John Schindler pronounced on Twitter Thursday night that the CIA is trying to take out President-elect Donald Trump before he is sworn in as president next Friday, January 20. Schindler has long accused Trump of being a Russian stooge.

Schindler’s bio for his Observer column reads, “John Schindler is a security expert and former National Security Agency analyst and counterintelligence officer. A specialist in espionage and terrorism, he’s also been a Navy officer and a War College professor. He’s published four books and is on Twitter at @20committee.”

Schindler made his comment about the CIA in reaction to a report by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius that an Obama administration offical told him Trump’s national security adviser retired Lt. General Michael Flynn made several calls to Russia’s U.S. ambassador the day last month that President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for allegedly interfering in the presidential election to benefit Trump.

Global News

Serena Shim (Courtesy photo)

Michigan-born reporter Serena Shim died following car crash in Turkey in 2014, but her legacy is celebrated at Arab American National Museum in Michigan. Shim is described as a hero

Middle East Eye, From war zones to museum: The legacy of Serena Shim, Mark Mondalek (shown in a file photo below), Jan. 13, 2017. Artifacts from the celebrated career of journalist and foreign correspondent Serena Shim were recently put on display at the Arab American National Museum (AANM), a Smithsonian Institution affiliate, in Dearborn, Michigan. Shim, who was originally from Detroit, spent her professional career overseas, broadcasting from such places as Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Ukraine.

Mark MondalekShe was most well-known for her fearless reporting on the presence of the Islamic State (IS) group and al-Qaeda-affiliated militants operating freely along the Turkey-Syria border. “The Arab American National Museum is thrilled to accept the artefacts donated by the family of Serena Shim into our permanent collection, and to display them with other recent donations,” said Elyssa Bisoski, AANM’s curator of collections. “The museum tells the story of Arab Americans, starting with the earliest immigrants, and Serena’s exhibit helps bring that story into the modern day.”

The glass-covered exhibit at AANM -- the first and only museum in the United States devoted to Arab American history and culture -- features various press ID cards that belonged to the late Lebanese-American reporter, along with her passport, driving permit and tablet. “She is being commemorated back where she was born and raised, for the work that she did abroad,” said Shim’s mother, Judith Poe. “To see her in a museum today speaks volumes about all that she was able to accomplish in her life.”

Shim died in October 2014 while covering a siege by IS militants on the Syrian-Kurdish border city of Kobani for Iran’s PressTV, after a car crash in southeastern Turkey. She was 29 years old. Shim grew up in the Detroit suburbs of Dearborn and Livonia. After high school, she moved to Lebanon, settling near south Beirut in her father’s hometown of Bourj el-Barajneh.

She was in Syria when the peaceful uprising began in 2011, and later went undercover inside Turkey to confront the state’s complicity in the conflict. She found herself in uncharted territory as a correspondent just six days into her new assignment after discovering that the Turkish National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) was actively inquiring about her location.

Shim’s employer advised her to go public immediately and disclose the entire disconcerting affair during a live telecast. Evoking her past reports as evidence, she ruminated on what the MIT’s interest in her might have been, citing her firsthand reportage on IS and al-Qaeda-affiliated militant groups crossing freely into Syria from the Turkish side of the Bab al-Hawa border via “World Food Organisation trucks” and other non-governmental organisation covers.

Two days later, the rental car that Shim was riding in was involved in a car crash in Turkey’s Sanliurfa province. Her family found the circumstances of the accident suspicious and alleged foul play by Turkish authorities. She died allegedly of heart failure a half-hour after arriving at the hospital.

Jan. 12

Washington Post, Democrats can’t win until they recognize how bad Obama’s financial policies were, Matt Stoller, Jan. 12, 2017. He had opportunities to help the working class, and he passed them up. President Obama can’t place the blame for Hillary Clinton’s poor performance purely on her campaign. On the contrary, the past eight years of policymaking have damaged Democrats at all levels.

Recovering Democratic strength will require the party’s leaders to come to terms with what it has become — and the role Obama played in bringing it to this point.

Two key elements characterized the kind of domestic political economy the administration pursued: The first was the foreclosure crisis and the subsequent bank bailouts. The resulting policy framework of Tim Geithner’s Treasury Department was, in effect, a wholesale attack on the American home (the main store of middle-class wealth) in favor of concentrated financial power. The second was the administration’s pro-monopoly policies, which crushed the rural areas that in 2016 lost voter turnout and swung to Donald Trump.

Alleged Russian Blackmail Scandal

Washington Post, Justice Department inspector general to investigate pre-election actions by department and FBI, Matt Zapotosky and Sari Horwitz, Jan. 12, 2017. The Justice Department inspector general will FBI logoreview broad allegations of misconduct involving the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email practices and the bureau’s controversial decision shortly before the election to announce the probe had resumed, the inspector general announced Thursday.

The probe will be wide ranging — encompassing the FBI’s various public statements on the matter, whether its deputy director should have been recused and whether FBI or other Justice Department employees leaked nonpublic information, according to a news release from Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz.

Lawmakers and others had called previously for the inspector general to probe the FBI’s pre-election actions when it came to the Clinton probe, alleging that FBI Director James B. Comey bucked long-standing policies with his communications about the case and that information seemed to have leaked inappropriately — perhaps to former New York City mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

Washington Post, A British ex-spy was identified as the Trump dossier source. Now he’s hiding, Karla Adam, Jan. 12, 2017. Christopher Steele apparently caught wind that his identity could be made public and hit the road. But not before arranging for his neighbor to look after his cats.

Radar Online, ‘Forgery!’ Donald Trump Spy File Is ‘Bogus,’ Security Expert Claims, Sharon Churcher, Jan. 12, 2017. See the typos and other 'tell-tale signs' the shocking new document could be a fake. The dirty dossier claiming Russia hatched a blackmail plot against Donald Trump is a “forgery,” according to a former US intelligence expert who has analyzed the 35-page document for RadarOnline. Wayne Madsen, who worked in disinformation analysis at the US Navy’s Washington DC telecommunications command, told Radar exclusively that he believes the dossier that surfaced online Tuesday night is a crude attempt to discredit the President-Elect.

Russian Flag“The entire script is more Austin Powers than James Bond,” Madsen told Radar. The dossier, which contained countless sleazy allegations about the President-Elect “appears to be a hybrid,” Madsen claimed, “in which genuine U.S. and/or British intelligence information – such as what appears to be a standard report on Russian cyber-targeting – has been thrown together with bogus material in an attempt to make the entire document appear authentic.”

According to reports, the document supposedly was prepared by a former British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, and details alleged collusion between Trump and Russian operatives. But Madsen told Radar that he believes that the header on the dossier, labeling it “Confidential/Sensitive Source,” is an immediate giveaway that it is a hoax.

Alleged Trump Conflicts of Interest

Washington Post, After his rebuke of Trump, federal ethics chief called to testify before House lawmakers, Lisa Rein, Tom Hamburger and Mike DeBonis, Jan. 12, 2017. Walter M. Shaub Jr. (shown in a photo) has been in Walter ShaubRepublican crosshairs for his rebuke of Donald Trump’s plan to separate his business empire from the presidency. (The office is described here.)

New York Times, Trump’s Business ‘Separation’ Plan Does Nothing of the Kind, Editorial board, Jan. 12, 2017. First, if Mr. Trump continues to own the businesses, he will continue to receive payments they earn from dealings with foreign governments. Most if not all of these payments will violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which expressly forbids anyone in public office from receiving any gifts, salary or profits of any kind from transactions with foreign governments without the consent of Congress. Apart from exceptions already set forth in the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act, Congress, even though now controlled by Republicans, has shown no appetite for making further exceptions.

Absent such consent from Congress, President Trump will be in violation of the Constitution as of next Friday with respect to, among other things, loans from foreign-government-controlled banks, leases of Trump office space to foreign-government-controlled companies, foreign governments and diplomats renting rooms in Trump hotels and any investments that are made alongside foreign sovereign wealth funds. The plan announced on Wednesday does nothing to fix this problem because if President Trump still owns the businesses, or he is the beneficiary of a trust that owns the businesses, he receives the economic benefit — the “emolument” — from all of these transactions.

Trump Transition

Washington Post, Obamacare is one step closer to repeal after Senate advances budget resolution, Kelsey Snell and Mike DeBonis, Jan. 12, 2017. The Senate voted 51 to 48 early Thursday to approve a Donald Trump for President logobudget resolution instructing House and Senate committees to begin work on legislation to repeal major portions of the Affordable Care Act. The House is expected to take up the legislation Friday.

Senate Democrats made a late-night show of resistance against gutting the Affordable Care Act by forcing Republicans to take politically charged votes against protecting Medicare, Medicaid and other health-care programs. The measure narrowly passed without the support of any Democrats.

Washington Post, CIA nominee says he would defy Trump if ordered to resume such techniques as waterboarding, Karoun Demirjian and Joby Warrick​, Jan. 12, 2017. During his confirmation hearing, Rep. Mike Pompeo told senators that as CIA director he would not only commit to cross the president-elect, but that Donald Trump would expect him to do so. Pompeo also told senators that he considered the intelligence community’s report on Russia to be “sound” as an analytical product.

Mike PompeoRep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) said Thursday he would “absolutely not” comply with any orders from Donald Trump to start using enhanced interrogation techniques again. During his confirmation hearing, Pompeo told senators that as CIA director, he would not only commit to cross Trump, but that the president-elect would expect him to do so. Trump said during his campaign that he would consider resurrecting interrogation techniques like waterboarding.

CIA Logo“You have my commitment that every day, I will not only speak truth to power, but I will demand that the men and women … who live their life doing that will be willing, able, and follow my instructions to do that each and every day,” Pompeo (shown in official photo) said.

Washington Post, Politics has always been post-truth. Trump’s just honest about it, Barton Swaim, Jan. 12, 2017. Barton Swaim is the author of "The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics."  What does President-elect Donald Trump really mean when he praises Russian President Vladimir Putin? No one knows yet; perhaps Trump doesn’t even know.

But it’s curious, isn’t it, that so many of his critics take his flattery to be genuine expressions of his attitude, when everything else about his speech and conduct suggests that he often does not mean what he says. That’s not quite the same thing as saying he’s a liar. If Trump is a liar, he is an unconventional one. His inventions and madcap exaggerations seem intended less to deceive than to scandalize and provoke.

Atlantic, A ‘One-Stop Shop’ for the Alt-Right, Rosie Gray, Jan. 12, 2017. The white nationalist leader Richard Spencer is setting up a headquarters in the Washington area. Richard Spencer, one of the best-known leaders of the white nationalist movement that has adopted the name “alt-right,” has—by his standards—been laying relatively low lately. Spencer’s never shied away from the media, but an outbreak of Nazi salutes caught on video by The Atlantic at his organization’s conference in November caused an overwhelming uproar, making Spencer a target within his own movement and threatening his carefully cultivated image as the alt-right’s approachable face.

Add to that a planned neo-Nazi march against Jews in Spencer’s town of Whitefish, Montana, stemming from his feud with a local woman whom he accused of harassing his mother, a dilletantish congressional-run trial balloon, and getting banned from Twitter for a while, and it hasn’t been the best couple of months for Spencer. Meanwhile, the movement he takes credit for naming has been riven by internal feuds over “Hailgate.”

This month, Spencer’s rebooting again: He is renting a “hub” for the alt-right movement in a townhouse in Alexandria, Virginia. Spencer and Jason Jorjani, the editor-in-chief of Arktos, a publishing arm associated with the alt-right, have bought the domain name altright.com. Spencer and Jorjani met at the conference for the National Policy Institute, Spencer’s innocuously named think tank, where attendees gave Nazi salutes as Spencer shouted “Hail Trump” from the stage. They quickly formed a bond, and are now joining forces to brand themselves as the intellectual leaders of the alt-right.

Trump, GOP Policy Proposals

Washington Post, Deportation force ‘not happening,’ Paul Ryan tells undocumented family, Mike DeBonis, Jan. 12, 2017. The House speaker (shown in an official photo) said he was working to find a “good, humane solution” for immigrant Paul Ryanfamilies protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Washington Post, House GOP leaders attempt to quell concerns before key vote to begin unwinding Obamacare, Mike DeBonis, Jan. 12, 2017. House Republican leaders attempted to quell concerns of a skittish rank and file before a key vote Friday to begin unwinding the Affordable Care Act. The assurances came after lawmakers across the GOP’s ideological divides sounded anxious notes this week about advancing legislation that would repeal Obamacare without firm plans for its replacement.

Congressional Actions

Washington Post, New feds could be fired for ‘no cause at all’ by Trump under planned legislation, Joe Davidson, Jan. 12, 2017. Feds should put on their body armor now. A range of Republican proposals on federal hiring, firing and retiring will have them under fire during the Trump administration. One flying under the radar poses a fundamental threat to the purpose of the civil service. It would essentially dispose of federal employee due process rights. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) considers his bill “a tool for … President [-elect Donald] Trump to use in draining the swamp.” In the process, it would eviscerate civil service protections for all new federal employees. His deceptively named “Promote Accountability and Government Efficiency Act” says staffers hired one year after enactment or later “shall be hired on an at-will basis.”

Intercept, Cory Booker Joins Senate Republicans to Kill Measure to Import Cheaper Medicine From Canada, Glenn Greenwald, Jan. 12, 2017. Bernie Sanders introduced a very simple symbolic amendment Wednesday night, urging the federal government to allow Americans to purchase pharmaceutical drugs from Canada, where they are considerably cheaper. Such unrestricted drug importation is currently prohibited by law.

The policy has widespread support among Americans: one Kaiser poll taken in 2015 found that 72 percent of Americans are in favor of allowing for importation. President-elect Donald Trump also campaigned on a promise to allow for importation.

The Senate voted down the amendment 52-46, with two senators not voting. Unusually, the vote was not purely along party lines: 13 Republicans joined Sanders and a majority of Democrats in supporting the amendment, while 13 Democrats and a majority of Republicans opposed it. One of those Democrats was New Jersey’s Cory Booker, who is considered a rising star in the party and a possible 2020 presidential contender.

Democratic Action Plan on Gerrymandering

OpEdNews, Holder on Redistricting: Chair of the Newly Formed National Democratic Redistricting Committee, Marta Steele (author of Grassroots, Geeks, Pros and Pols), Jan. 12, 2017. Former Attorney General Eric Holder this morning announced the formation of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), to combat gerrymandering, euphemistically referred to as "redistricting." Holder will head the group, supported by soon to be ex-president Obama, among many others, including Congressman Mark Schauer (D-MI) and representatives of the Democratic Governors Association.

Eric Holder NPC Noel St. John 2 Feb. 17, 2015The event was held in a crowded room at DC's Center for American Progress (CAP). It consisted of Holder's announcement and discussion of NDRC's formation followed by a one-on-one follow-up interview by CAP president Neera Tanden. She compared this country's map of electoral districts to a "complicated jigsaw puzzle" and the many blatant partisans drawing them up as "kids guarding candy jars." These districts are drawn up at every level from federal (congressional) to state to city to town.

The basic stimulus for the formation of NDRC, said Holder, was the upcoming US census, on the basis of which, every 10 years (most of the time) electoral districts are drawn up. Quoting Tom Paine at least, among many others who have reiterated the statement, Holder said that "voting is a basic right without which all others are useless." We all know that lives were sacrificed or at least offered up to spread the franchise as far as it can go: beyond property-owning white men to all white men to women to Native Americans and to blacks, the most sinuous path of all, the one most often threatened and interfered with, by gerrymandering among many other devices I have written about before.  (see my book "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols . . . " [Columbus: CICJ Press, 2012]).

Holder (shown in a file photo by Noel St. John) called the recent 2016 election the worst impediment to voting rights so far, hardly reflecting the voters' choice, which was adamantly reflected in HRC's popular vote total that exceeded Trump's by nearly 3 million votes. Something is rotten, rippled through the audience.

The former Attorney General noted a fact most of us are aware of: that in 2012 Democratic Representatives amassed 1.4 million more votes than did Republicans, and yet the latter occupy a "huge majority" of the seats. Those up for grabs every two years are few. Incumbents retain their seats 97 percent of the time, with only 10 percent of the seats in realistic contention, according to CAP. Politicians choose their constituents rather than the inverse situation that democracy requires. In 2014 Democrats lost 1,000 elected positions to the GOP.

Holder pinpointed gerrymandering as the principal cause and a dire situation that has attracted the attention of President Obama and should in turn involve all of us who want to fight for fair elections. We can participate at many levels, including joining the politics dance ourselves by running for office. As Obama noted in his farewell speech the other day, all it takes is a clipboard and some signatures [and chutzpah, he didn't add].

CIA Favorability poll January 2017

CIA Favorability poll January 2017 (NBC News / Wall Street Journal Poll)

NBC News, Democrats Now Give the CIA Higher Marks than Republicans Do. That’s a Really Big Shift, Carrie Dann, Jan. 4, 2017. President-elect Donald Trump has spent the weeks since the election openly questioning the Central Intelligence Agency's assessments about Russian interference in the fall contest, prompting his foes to laud the apolitical and fundamentally patriotic mission of America's intelligence officers.

President Obama speaks at CIABut as with so many other U.S. institutions, public perceptions of the intelligence community have a whole lot to do with politics. While the CIA still remains relatively popular — much more so than Congress or either political party — the past two decades have shown significant fluctuation in how Republicans and Democrats view the agency, according to polling conducted by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.

And for the first time since the survey asked about the CIA back in 2002, Democrats now have a more positive view of the nation's foreign intelligence agency than Republicans do.

In the wake of Trump's unvarnished skepticism about the CIA's assessment that Russia did act to influence the outcome of the election in his favor, a December NBC/WSJ poll showed that 29 percent of Republicans view the CIA positively, compared to 24 percent who view it negatively (Net favorability of +4 percent.) But for Democrats, it was 46 percent positive, 14 percent negative (Net favorability of +32 percent). (President Obama is shown in a file photo speaking at CIA headquarters.)

War On Pornography?

Huffington Post, A Porn-Free America? Republicans Pledge Expurgation Of ‘Public Health Crisis’ That Is ‘Destroying The Lives Of Millions,’ Jesse Jackman, Jan. 12, 2017. The war on pornography has begun. And while it may seem insignificant compared to some of Donald Trump’s plans for his first 100 days in office, it nevertheless represents a very real threat to a sui generis prerogative of every American consumer: the right to enjoy adult films.

On July 16, 2016, Trump signed “The Children’s Internet Safety Presidential Pledge,” drafted by the anti-pornography organization Enough is Enough. The eight-page document, which is popular with the Republican Party’s conservative base, purports to shield children from “dangerous [online] content and activity,” but more generally calls for the establishment of “a Presidential Commission to examine the harmful public health impact of Internet pornography on youth, families and the American culture.” By signing the pledge, Trump ― who has appeared in three softcore porn videos and who opened the first casino strip club in Atlantic City in 2013 ― aligned himself with the position that pornography is a public health hazard, an assessment with which most scientists and public health specialists disagree.

Cuba Policy & Immigration News

Washington Post, Obama ending special immigration status for migrants fleeing Cuba, Karen DeYoung, Jan. 12, 2017. The new policy eliminates a temporary parole period that allowed Cubans to enter the U.S. while waiting for a green card. The change applies to those entering by land or by sea.

Global News

Unz Review, Risks And Opportunities For 2017, The Saker, Jan. 12, 2017. I submit that 2017 will be the “Year of Trump” because one of roughly three things will happen: either Trump will fully deliver on his Donald Trump and Mike Pence logothreats and promises, or Trump deliver on some, but far from all, his threats and promises or, finally, Trump will be neutralized by the Neocon-run Congress, media, intelligence community. He might even be impeached or murdered. Of course, there is an infinity of sub-possibilities here, but for the purpose of this discussion I will call the first option “Trump heavy”, the second one “Trump light” and the third one “Trump down.”

Before discussing the possible implications of these three main options, we need to at least set the stage with a reminder of what kind of situation President Trump will be walking into. I discussed some of them in my previous analysis entitled “2016: the year of Russia’s triumph” and will only mention some of the key outcomes of the past year in this discussion. They are: 1) The USA has lost the war against Syria. 2) Europe is in a state of total chaos.

Freedom Award For Biden

President Obama and Joseph Biden Farewell Jan. 12, 2017

Vice President Joe Biden hugs President Barack Obama after being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction during a tribute in the State Dining Room of the White House, Jan. 12, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Huffington Post, Obama Awards Biden The Presidential Medal Of Freedom In Surprise White House Tribute, Marina Fang, Jan. 12, 2017. He called Biden “the best vice president America has ever had.” Biden Joe Biden(shown in a photo), already teary during the tribute, began crying when the award was announced. “I had no inkling,” Biden said, taking the podium after Obama awarded him the medal.

Obama honored Biden’s lifetime of public service, including his decades in the Senate and eight years as vice president. He pointed to Biden’s championing of the Violence Against Women Act, his diplomacy, his “cancer moonshot,” and his “It’s On Us” campaign to combat sexual assault on college campuses. “That’s a pretty remarkable legacy, an amazing career in public service. It is, as Joe once said, a big deal,” Obama said, pausing between the “big” and the “deal."

Elites Worried?

Bloomberg Business Week, Davos Wonders If It’s Part of the Problem, Jan. 12, 2017. Kenneth Rogoff can pinpoint the moment he started to grow concerned Donald Trump would be the next U.S. president: It was when Rogoff’s fellow attendees at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting last January said it could never happen.

The repeated failure of business and political elites to predict what’s coming — last year, that included the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union — doesn’t strike those returning this month to the Swiss Alps as very funny. After a year in which political upsets roiled financial markets and killed off the careers of once-dominant Davos-going politicians, the concern for delegates attending this year’s meeting isn’t that their forecasts are often wrong, but that their worldview is.

Elites Cleaning Up?

DeSmog Blog, How Donald Trump Kingmaker-Billionaires Robert and Rebekah Mercer Have Poured Millions Into Climate Science Denial, Graham Readfearn, Jan. 12, 2017. When it comes to climate science denial, some names come easily and deservingly to mind. There’s oil giant ExxonMobil — a company that contributed millions of dollars to organizations that told the public there was no risk from burning fossil fuels.

There are the oil billionaire Koch brothers — Charles and David — and their ideological zeal against government regulations that drove them to pour vast amounts into groups spreading doubt on the realities of human-caused global warming. But a name that has not yet reached those heights of climate science denial infamy — but likely should — is the Mercer family.

A DeSmog analysis of Federal Electoral Commission returns shows Robert Mercer, the reclusive hedge fund manager, has donated $30.1 million to politics since January 2015 (a further $2.3 million has come from daughter Rebekah and wife Diana). Some $15 million of Robert Mercer’s money went into the Make America Number 1 super-PAC that was headed by Rebekah Mercer and that bankrolled the final months of Donald Trump’s campaign. One source told The Hill: “The Mercers basically own this campaign.”

But DeSmog has found the Mercers have also pumped at least $22 million into organizations that push climate science denial while blocking moves to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Trump too refuses to accept the evidence that climate change is caused by humans and has consistently called the issue a hoax. Before diverting to Trump, the Mercers' cash was backing Senator Ted Cruz, who made climate science denial a main feature of his speeches.

Those positions on climate change, challenged by every major scientific institution in the world, are identical to those of the groups and individuals the Mercers have been handsomely funding through their own family foundation. Climate science denial also fits well with Robert Mercer’s reported investment in Breitbart — the hyper partisan media outfit that calls climate change a hoax. Many see Breitbart as Trump’s very own propaganda vehicle — the Trump Pravda.

Steve Bannon, Breitbart’s former chief, was picked by Trump (or, more likely, by the Mercers) to lead his campaign. The controversial figure will be Trump’s chief strategist.

Very little is known about what the Mercers think about climate change or, for that matter, anything else.  Both father and daughter avoid media interviews.
But Rebekah has been described as the most powerful woman in GOP politics and is a pivotal member of the Trump team. Rebekah also runs her father’s charitable foundation.

So, the best way to get a handle on what the Mercers think, is to see where they spend their millions. DeSmog has analyzed the Mercer Family Foundation’s tax returns since 2005 and finds some $22 million has gone to groups pushing climate science denial. Across the board, the groups funded by the Mercers have misrepresented climate science, promoted fossil fuels, denigrated renewable energy, and pushed to strip powers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Chicago-based Heartland Institute has received $4,988,000 from the Mercers, cashing its first $1 million check in 2008.

Jan. 11

Trump Transition

Associated Press via Las Vegas Sun, GOP concerns about deficits, debt disappear in Trump era, Andrew Taylor, Jan. 11, 2017. For decades, congressional Republicans have pushed to slash the budget and Donald Trump for President logoreduce the size of the federal government, especially during the eight years Democratic President Barack Obama was in office.  Now that Republican President-elect Donald Trump is poised to take charge, deficits and debt just don't seem to matter to the GOP.

The first significant piece of legislation under unified Republican rule is a budget measure that, as a prerequisite for a speedy repeal of the Affordable Care Act, endorses deficits adding almost $10 trillion to the debt over the coming decade.

Soon to follow is the health repeal measure itself, which could erase more than $1 trillion in "Obamacare" taxes that the party has previously held onto in earlier budget plans to keep its promise to balance the budget.

Republicans will also turn to a huge, $1 trillion-plus spending bill to wrap up unfinished Cabinet agency budgets. It's likely to carry Trump priorities — billions of dollars for a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and even more for the Pentagon.

Trump and incoming top White House officials such as his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, are making it clear that the new administration doesn't support tackling the financial problems of the huge benefit programs that are the biggest drivers of future debt, Social Security and Medicare. A more pressing priority is a huge infrastructure spending plan.

Washington Post, Senate grills secretary of state nominee about his friendships with autocratic leaders, Ed O'Keefe and Anne Gearan​, Jan. 11, 2017. Longtime ExxonMobil executive Rex Tillerson is set to spend Rex Tillerson Exxon Mobile (Small)much of the day answering questions about his leadership of the oil giant, where he amassed a personal fortune of approximately $400 million, and the deals and relationships he forged in Russia and the Middle East. Tillerson has said that he would separate his business background from his new role.

Washington Post, Trump outlines plan to shift assets, give up management of his company, Drew Harwell, Jan. 11, 2017. But Trump's commitment will not resolve what federal officials and ethics advisers say is his most key conflict: His continuing ownership of his business, the Trump Organization.

Huffington Post, Black Dem: Testifying Last In Sessions’ Hearing Is Like Being Sent To ‘Back Of The Bus,’ Jennifer Bendery, Jan. 11, 2017. Who makes John Lewis wait to talk about civil rights? The chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus slammed Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Wednesday for making black lawmakers wait until the end of a hearing to testify against U.S. attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, comparing it to “being made to go to the back of the bus.”

Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), who leads the 49-member caucus, joined Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights icon, on the final panel in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Sessions’ nomination. Committee chairmen often let lawmakers testify first in hearings, as a courtesy, before members of the public. In this case, Grassley opted not to do so. That meant lawmakers had to wait to lodge their opposition after public testimony was heard. This didn’t sit well with Richmond.

A Grassley spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on why CBC members were scheduled last. But a Politico reporter said Grassley told her it was just the way it worked out.

Alleged Russian Blackmail Scandal

New York Times,I Think It Was Russia,’ Trump Says About D.N.C. Hacking, Michael D. Shear and Jonathan Weisman, Jan. 11, 2017. President-elect Trump conceded for the first time that Russia was behind the hacking of Democrats during the presidential campaign. But at the news conference he vigorously denied the swirl of allegations about his ties to Russia. For the first time, President-elect Donald J. Trump concedes Russia likely meddled in the election.

■ Mr. Trump says he will present a replacement for the Affordable Care Act very soon.

■ A news conference descends into a circus.

■ The president-elect presents his plan to distance himself from his businesses.

Washington Post, Trump cites Kremlin statement to deny reports of Russia ties, asks, ‘Are we living in Nazi Germany?’ Abby Phillip, Jan. 11, 2017. The president-elect charged via Twitter that his “crooked Donald Trumpopponents” were trying to undermine his electoral victory. He accused the intelligence community of leaking the information to get in “one last shot" at him. ​

Wall Street Journal, Christopher Steele, Ex-British Intelligence Officer Said to Have Prepared Dossier on Trump, Bradley Hope, Michael Rothfeld and Alan Cullison, Jan. 11, 2017. Former spy is director of London-based Orbis Intelligence Ltd. A former British intelligence officer now working for a private security-and-investigations firm produced the dossier of unverified allegations about President-elect Donald Trump’s activities and connections in Russia, people familiar with the matter say.

Justice Integrity Project editor's note: UK authorities issued a DA-Notice warning to journalists not to identify any former intelligence officers reputedly involved. A DA-Notice (Defense Advisory Notice) — called a Defense Notice (D-Notice) until 1993 — is an official request to news editors not to publish or broadcast items on specified subjects for reasons of national security. The system is still in use in the United Kingdom.

McClatchy News, Russian tech expert named in Trump report says US intelligence never contacted him, Kevin G. Hall and Tim Johnson, Jan. 11, 2016. A Russian venture capitalist and tech expert whose name and company are mentioned in the now-notorious document alleging connections between the Donald Trump campaign and Russian hackers says no intelligence officers have ever contacted him about the accusations, which he says are false.

A report compiled by a former Western intelligence official as opposition research against Trump was made public Tuesday when BuzzFeed posted its 35 pages. The document included unsubstantiated claims of collusion between the Trump campaign team and the Kremlin. It also alleged that global tech firm XBT Holding, with operations in Dallas, was instrumental in the hack of leaked Democratic Party emails that embarrassed Hillary Clinton and fellow Democrats.

XBT, owner of Dallas-based enterprise-hosting company Webzilla, is run by a successful Russian tech startup expert, Aleksej Gubarev. In a phone interview from Cyprus, where he said he’d lived since 2002, Gubarev said he was surprised to see his name in the report. “I don’t know why I was there,” Gubarev said, adding that perhaps a competitor sought to discredit him. “I still don’t understand the true reason for this report.”

The salacious innuendoes in the periodic reports about Trump’s personal life dominated social media headlines. The mention of Webzilla and Gubarev was among the more specific allegations: that XBT and affiliates “had been using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct ‘altering operations’ against the Democratic Party leadership.”

Donald Trump at GOP debate Aug. 6, 2015Gubarev said he operated 75,000 servers across the globe and got real-time information if there had been hacking or illicit activity tied to his businesses. There is no evidence of that, he said, adding that no one has contacted him. “I have a physical office in Dallas. Nobody contacted me,” said Gubarev, adding that 40 percent of his business is handled over the servers it runs in Dallas and the United States accounts for about 27 percent of his global business.

A federal law enforcement source told McClatchy that the document was being examined as part of a broader FBI inquiry into Russia’s influence on the U.S. election but wouldn’t characterize its credibility. A source familiar with the former Western intelligence expert who compiled the dossier told McClatchy that the ex-spy has extensive experience in tracking activities in the Kremlin.

The report alleges that Gubarev and another hacking expert were recruited under duress by the FSB, the Russian intelligence-agency successor to the KGB. Gubarev said he had not been threatened or blackmailed, nor had his mother, who lives in Russia. Gubarev’s Facebook page shows his wife, Anna Gubareva, and him on the bow rail of a fast-moving luxury yacht. His profile picture shows him behind the wheel of a vintage convertible Citroen. He is the public face of a number of tech companies around the globe.

XBT offers an array of tech services, from dedicated hosting of servers and cloud-based storage to developing apps for mobile phones and offering virtual private servers. His company advertises specialized services to software developers, advertisers, gaming companies and electronic-commerce enterprises. It also operates data centers in Russia, Asia, Europe and Dallas.

If law enforcement wants to talk with him, Gubarev said, his door is open. “I’m ready for any investigation. I’m ready to cooperate with everybody, he said.

Washington Post, After the Trump dossier, James Comey is running out of excuses, James Downie, Jan. 11, 2017. James Downie is The Washington Post’s Digital Opinions Editor. The rash of stories on Donald James ComeyTrump and Russia published Tuesday leave many questions unanswered. The allegations, as sensational as some are and as damning as others are, are just that: allegations. Intelligence agencies (not to mention countless news outlets) have sought to verify them for months now, with little or no success. The fact remains that we know little more now than we did last week about Trump’s ties to Russia and whether Vladimir Putin’s government has compromising information on the president-elect.

There is one thing we do know, though: FBI Director James Comey’s intervention in the election last October — controversial at the time — looks completely indefensible now.

Comey (shown in an official photo) understands that the FBI weighing in publicly on open investigations, when charges are still being proved, is unwise. Doing so puts those being investigated at the mercy of innuendo and rumor. Yet Comey ditched this rule when he notified Congress 11 days before the election that the FBI was looking into whether there were previously unrevealed emails from Hillary Clinton on a laptop belonging to her aide’s estranged husband. (It should also be noted that this followed months of anti-Clinton leaks from Rudy Giuliani’s friends in the FBI’s New York field office.)

In other words, while Comey stayed silent about new accusations against Trump, he piped up about a big nothing-burger against Clinton.

Intelligence Claims: Anti-Trump

Mediaite, No, That Trump/Russia Dossier Isn’t an Elaborate 4chan Hoax, Alex Griswold, Jan. 11, 2017. Despite rumors being spread on pro-Donald Trump and alt right websites, there is no evidence that the document posted by Buzzfeed detailing a supposed link between Trump and Russia is an elaborate 4chan hoax. Townhall, for example, published a piece titled “Did 4Chan Troll The CIA?” which was later picked up by the Drudge Report alongside posts from conspiratorial and alt-right sites. By Wednesday, it was gospel among the Trump faithful that 4chan was behind it all.

But the notion that 4chan was the source for the memo or any of the information in it is more than just baseless – it’s easily disproved. The supposed “proof” for the 4chan genesis theory was a November 1 post on 4chan’s /pol/ board in which an anonymous user claimed he gave Republican “Never Trump” operative Rick Wilson a fake story about Trump and Russian spies.

Intelligence Claims: Pro-Trump

The Intercept, The Deep State Goes to War with President-Elect, Using Unverified Claims, as Democrats Cheer, Glenn Greenwald (shown in file photo), Jan. 11, 2017. The serious dangers posed by a Trump presidency are numerous and manifest. There are a wide array of legitimate and effective tactics for combating those threats: from bipartisan congressional coalitions and constitutional legal challenges to citizen uprisings and sustained and aggressive civil disobedience. All of those strategies have periodically proven themselves effective in times of political crisis or authoritarian overreach.

Glenn Greenwald The InterceptBut cheering for the CIA and its shadowy allies to unilaterally subvert the U.S. election and impose its own policy dictates on the elected president is both warped and self-destructive. Empowering the very entities that have produced the most shameful atrocities and systemic deceit over the last six decades is desperation of the worst kind. Demanding that evidence-free, anonymous assertions be instantly venerated as Truth — despite emanating from the very precincts designed to propagandize and lie — is an assault on journalism, democracy, and basic human rationality. And casually branding domestic adversaries who refuse to go along as traitors and disloyal foreign operatives is morally bankrupt and certain to backfire on those doing it.

Beyond all that, there is no bigger favor that Trump opponents can do for him than attacking him with such lowly, shabby, obvious shams, recruiting large media outlets to lead the way. When it comes time to expose actual Trump corruption and criminality, who is going to believe the people and institutions who have demonstrated they are willing to endorse any assertions no matter how factually baseless, who deploy any journalistic tactic no matter how unreliable and removed from basic means of ensuring accuracy?

All of these toxic ingredients were on full display yesterday as the Deep State unleashed its tawdriest and most aggressive assault yet on Trump: vesting credibility in and then causing the public disclosure of a completely unvetted and unverified document, compiled by a paid, anonymous operative while he was working for both GOP and Democratic opponents of Trump, accusing Trump of a wide range of crimes, corrupt acts and salacious private conduct. The reaction to all of this illustrates that while the Trump presidency poses grave dangers, so, too, do those who are increasingly unhinged in their flailing, slapdash, and destructive attempts to undermine it.

Almost immediately after it was published, the farcical nature of the “dossier” manifested. Not only was its author anonymous, but he was paid by Democrats (and, before that, by Trump’s GOP adversaries) to dig up dirt on Trump. Worse, he himself cited no evidence of any kind, but instead relied on a string of other anonymous people in Russia he claims told him these things. Worse still, the document was filled with amateur errors.

Global Research, Britain’s Involvement In CIA Bid To Block Trump’s Inauguration Is Truly The Funniest Fake News Story Yet, Graham Vanbergen, Jan. 11, 2017. Read the article (These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties To Russia) if you wish -- as it is typical of the made-up nonsense we should expect nowadays that has not only not been verified in any way but, as you’ll see, been totally trashed by the originators of fake news in this so called ‘post-truth era.’

United Kingdom flagThe dossier is in fact a series of memos and, according to Buzzfeed News, it “includes specific, unverified and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives, and graphic claims of sexual acts documented by the Russians.” A number of mainstream outlets only posted the two most damning pages but Buzzfeed News went on to publish the entire 35 page document. One can only speculate what it was that motivated Buzzfeed to publish fully unverified documents.

One utterly laughable accusation, I kid you not:  “Trump’s personal obsessions and sexual perversions,” are that when staying at the Ritz Carlton Moscow hotel, in order to defile a bed in which Obama had stayed in previously, he employed “a number of prostitutes to perform “golden showers” (urinating) show in front of him.”

The dossier, confirmed by all the press has been “compiled by a person who has claimed to be a former British intelligence official.” No-one has been able to confirm the authenticity or credibility of who this ‘former’ Brit Intel officer is.

Meanwhile, in another related story that some might consider to have a degree of impact on the veracity of the entire dossier, (and to be fair, British Intelligence are good at ‘dodgy dossiers’), a post on Reddit via 4Chan claims that the infamous “golden showers” scene in the unverified 35-page dossier, allegedly compiled by a British intelligence officer, was a hoax. It was apparently fabricated by a member of the chatboard as “fanfiction,” then sent to Rick Wilson, who proceeded to send it to the CIA, which then put it in their official classified intelligence report on the election. You literally could not make this up.

The Guardian went today with the lead headline “FBI chief given dossier by John McCain alleging secret Trump-Russia contacts.” It’s first paragraph reads thus: "Senator John McCain passed documents to the FBI director, James Comey, last month alleging secret contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow and that Russian intelligence had personally compromising material on the president-elect himself. The material, which has been seen by the Guardian, is a series of reports on Trump’s relationship with Moscow. They were drawn up by a former western counter-intelligence official, now working as a private consultant.”

Obama Legacy

PaulCraigRoberts.org, Obama The War Criminal, Butcherer of Women and Children, Paul Craig Roberts, Jan. 11, 2017. Dr. Roberts (shown in a file photo) is a conservative scholar who was assistant Treasury Secretary during the Reagan administration responsible for certain national securities duties among other things and later associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. There is no doubt that US President Barack Paul Craig RobertsObama is a war criminal, as are his military and intelligence officials and most of the House and Senate.

Obama is the first president to keep the US at war for the entirety of his eight-year regime. During 2016 alone, the US dropped 26,171 bombs on wedding parties, funerals, kid’s soccer games, hospitals, schools, people in their homes and walking their streets, and farmers tilling their fields in seven countries: Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan.

What does the administration have to show for eight years of illegal military interventions in seven countries, none of which comprised a danger to the US and against none of which the US has declared war? Terrorism was created by US invasions, no wars have been won, and the Middle East has been consumed in chaos and destruction. Worldwide hatred of the United States has risen to a record high. The US is now the most despised country on earth.

Media

Raw Story, Bernstein rips ‘propaganda minister’ Kellyanne Conway: ‘One of the great anonymous sources of our era,’ Elizabeth Preza, Jan. 11, 2017. Famed journalist Carl Bernstein tore into Kellyanne Conway Wednesday over her callous dismissal of CNN’s reporting, calling the incoming counselor to the president “a propaganda minister.”

On his eponymous show, Anderson Cooper hammered Conway over her refusal to accept a CNN report regarding ties between Russian intermediaries and Donald Trump’s inner circle. as well as allegations that the Russian government has incriminating information about the president-elect. Conway and members of the Trump team are pushing back hard against CNN’s reporting after BuzzFeed leaked the unverified dossier Tuesday night. At a press conference Wednesday, Trump conflated CNN and BuzzFeed’s separate reports, at one point shouting at CNN’s Jim Acosta, “You are fake news!”

Jan. 10

Around the Nation

Barack Obama head shot Aug. 4, 2014Washington Post, In stark farewell, Obama warns of threat to U.S. democracy, Juliet Eilperin and Greg Jaffe​, Jan. 10, 2017. The president returned to his home town in Chicago to lay down a critical mile marker of his presidency, seeking to address both the past and the future. The president (shown in a file photo) used his farewell speech in his home town of Chicago to defend his imperiled legacy and press a broad, optimistic vision for the country that seems more divided than ever.

Washington Post, Dylann Roof sentenced to death for Charleston church slayings, Kevin Sullivan​, Jan. 10, 2017. The 22-year-old (shown in a mug shot) was convicted last month Dylann Roofof 33 counts of federal hate crimes for killing nine black parishioners during a massacre inside a Charleston church. The same jury that found him guilty deliberated for just under three hours before deciding his sentence. 

Claims Of Trump Scandal

BuzzFeed News, These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties To Russia, Ken Bensinger, Miriam Elder, and Mark Schoofs, Jan. 10, 2017. A dossier making explosive — but unverified — allegations that the Russian government has been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” President-elect Donald Trump for years and gained compromising information about him has been circulating among elected officials, intelligence agents, and journalists for weeks.

Donald TrumpThe dossier, which is a collection of memos written over a period of months, includes specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives, and graphic claims of sexual acts documented by the Russians. CNN reported Tuesday that a two-page synopsis of the report was given to President Barack Obama and Trump.

Now BuzzFeed News is publishing the full document so that Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government.

Russian FlagThe document was prepared for political opponents of Trump by a person who is understood to be a former British intelligence agent. It is not just unconfirmed: It includes some clear errors. The report misspells the name of one company, “Alpha Group,” throughout. It is Alfa Group. The report says the settlement of Barvikha, outside Moscow, is “reserved for the residences of the top leadership and their close associates.” It is not reserved for anyone, and it is also populated by the very wealthy.

The documents have circulated for months and acquired a kind of legendary status among journalists, lawmakers, and intelligence officials who have seen them. Mother Jones writer David Corn referred to the documents in a late October column. Harry Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson tweeted Tuesday that the outgoing Senate Democratic leader had seen the documents before writing a public letter to FBI Director James Comey about Trump’s ties to Russia. And CNN reported Tuesday that Arizona Republican John McCain a gave “full copy” of the memos to Comey on Dec. 9, but that the FBI already had copies of many of the memos.

A dossier, compiled by a person who has claimed to be a former British intelligence official, alleges Russia has compromising information on Trump. The allegations are unverified, and the report contains errors.

Washington Post, BuzzFeed’s ridiculous rationale for publishing the Trump-Russia dossier, Erik Wemple, Jan. 10, 2017. It’s a cliche for editors: Let readers decide for themselves. It is most commonly uttered in reference to public policy debates or investigative revelations, when arguments have been presented and facts are well established.

Vladimir Putin PortraitToday BuzzFeed has plopped the term into a very different context. In a story with three by-lines — Ken Bensinger, Mark Schoofs and Miriam Elder — the news division of the popular website published a dossier of allegations pertaining to Donald Trump and Russia. It describes attempts by Russian officials to cultivate Trump and gather compromising material on him. The existence of the document isn’t a scoop: Mother Jones’s David Corn before the election discussed some of the material, and CNN today scooped a story under the plain-language headline, “Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him.”

To its credit, BuzzFeed notes prominently that the “allegations are unverified, and the report contains errors.” In fact, that qualification comes in the sub-headline. To its discredit, the BuzzFeed story offers this motive for publishing the allegations: “Now BuzzFeed News is publishing the full document so that Americans can make up their own minds about allegations about the president-elect that have circulated at the highest levels of the US government.”

Americans can only “make up their own minds” if they build their own intelligence agencies, with a heavy concentration of operatives in Russia and Eastern Europe. CNN pointedly declined to drop the document’s details on the public: “At this point, CNN is not reporting on details of the memos, as it has not independently corroborated the specific allegations.”

Though the dossier started out as opposition research, funded first by groups connected to Trump’s GOP primary opponents and later by those on the Democratic side, as reported by CNN — and it is the work of a former British intelligence operative. It has evolved into essentially a government document — something that reporters might seek via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A synopsis of the dossier has been presented both to President Obama and to President-elect Trump.

Guardian, FBI chief given dossier by John McCain alleging secret Trump-Russia contacts, Julian Borger, Jan. 10, 2017. Donald Trump and his inner circle ‘have received a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals’, a report dated June 2016 alleges. Senator John McCain passed documents to the FBI director, James Comey (shown in an official photo), last month alleging secret contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow and that Russian intelligence had personally compromising material on the president-elect himself.

James ComeyThe material, which has been seen by the Guardian, is a series of reports on Trump’s relationship with Moscow. They were drawn up by a former western counter-intelligence official, now working as a private consultant. The Guardian has not been able to confirm the veracity of the documents’ contents, and the Trump team has consistently denied any hidden contacts with the Russian government.

Trump’s transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but late on Tuesday, Trump tweeted: “FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!” He made no direct reference to the allegations.

Zero Hedge, 4Chan Claims To Have Fabricated Anti-Trump Report As A Hoax, Tyler Durden, Jan. 10, 2017. In a story that is getting more surreal by the minute, a post on 4Chan now claims that the infamous "golden showers" scene in the unverified 35-page dossier, allegedly compiled by a British intelligence officer, was a hoax and fabricated by a member of the chatboard as "fanfiction", then sent to Rick Wilson, who proceeded to send it to the CIA, which then put it in their official classified intelligence report on the election. Here is 4Chan's explanation of how the story came to light (edited for removal of extra punctuation):

polacks mailed fanfiction to anti-trump pundit Rick Wilson about trump making people piss on a bed obama slept in....he thought it was real and gave it to the CIA....  >the central intelligence agency of the united states of america put this in their official classified intelligence report on russian involvement in the election....donald trump and obama have both read this pol/acks fanfiction....the cia has concluded that the russian plans to blackmail trump with this story we made up....just let that sink in what we have become.

PaulCraigRoberts.org, Don’t Count On Trump Being Inaugurated, Paul Craig Roberts (shown below), Jan. 10, 2017. The latest “explosive” fake news is that “multiple US officials with direct knowledge” told CNN that they have “classified documents” that Russia has compromising documents on Trump that would allow them to blackmail the US President. The documents consist of memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative “whose past work US intelligence officials consider credible.”

Paul Craig RobertsAccording to antiwar.com “the dossier claimed several figures in the Trump campaign were in league with the Russian government during the campaign, and that Russia had been conspiring with them to groom Trump as an ally for ‘at least five years.’ It also claims exchanges of information between Trump and the Kremlin for ‘at least eight years,’ . . . The dossier names former Trump adviser Carter Page, his personal lawyer Michael Cohen, as well as incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn as having personally and repeatedly met with Kremlin officials on anti-Clinton leaks.”

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn is the former Director of the Defense Intellience Agency. If such a high level US intelligence official is repeatedly meeting with Kremlim officials and the CIA has to learn about it from memos written by an unidentified former British intelligent agent, the CIA is totally incompetent.

The dossier claims that in Russian hands are videos of “wild sex parties” staged by Trump on his numerous trips to Moscow. And it gets wilder. The New York Times also ran with the story but did state that there was at the present time no confirmation for the story.

Consider these three questions:

  1. How would a former British intelligence operative get such extraordinary documents from Russian intelligence?
  2. If he had such documents, why would he hand them over instead of selling them to Trump for a major fortune?
  3. Why would such a crazy story be on CNN and in the New York Times unless the ruling establishment intends to use it to block Trump from the presidency?

What this elevation in wild charges tells me is that the CIA’s effort to sell Trump on the Russian hacking did not succeed, and the CIA has escalated its attack on the president-elect. Here are the URLs to the CNN, New York Times, and Antiwar.com reports.

Washington Post, Intelligence chiefs briefed Trump and Obama on unconfirmed claims Russia has compromising information on president-elect, Greg Miller, Rosalind Helderman,Tom Hamburger and Steven Mufson, Jan. 10, 2017. A classified report delivered to President Obama (shown in a file photo) and President-elect Donald Trump last week included a section summarizing allegations that Russian intelligence services have compromising material and information on Trump’s personal life and finances, U.S. officials said.

Barack Obama head shot Aug. 4, 2014The officials said that U.S. intelligence agencies have not corroborated those allegations, but believed that the sources involved in the reporting were credible enough to warrant inclusion of their claims in the highly classified report on Russian interference in the presidential campaign.

Trump, however, replied Tuesday night with a Tweet declaring: “FAKE NEWS - A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”

A senior U.S. official with access to the document said that the allegations were presented at least in part to underscore that Russia had embarrassing information on both major candidates, but only released material that might harm Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton — a reflection of Russian motivation that bolstered U.S. spy agencies’ conclusion that Moscow sought to help Trump win.

Trump Transition

Charles Grassley R-IOWashington Post, Sessions says he would recuse himself from Clinton matters, Matt Zapotosky and Sari Horwitz, Jan. 10, 2017. If confirmed as attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions would recuse himself from any Justice Department investigations of Hillary Clinton’s email practices or her family’s charitable foundation, he said.

Under questioning from Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) at his confirmation hearing Tuesday, Sessions (R-Ala.) acknowledged that his campaign-trail comments about the inquiries “could place my objectivity in question,” and he said unequivocally that he would recuse himself.

Jeff Sessions“We can never have a political dispute turn into a criminal dispute,” he said. The assertion was an early highlight of the hearing, as the future of the Clinton investigations has long been a source of public speculation since Donald Trump was elected president.

Washington Post, Trump names vaccine skeptic Robert Kennedy Jr. to lead commission on ‘vaccine safety,’ Abby Phillip and Lena Sun, Jan. 10, 2017. The newly formed commission suggests that the president-elect continues to believe a widely discredited theory that vaccines cause autism. Donald Trump asked Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a proponent of a widely discredited theory that vaccines cause autism, to chair a new commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity, according to Kennedy.

Donald Trump for President logoThe stunning move would contradict established science, medicine and the government’s position on the issue. It comes after Trump — who has long been critical of vaccines — met at Trump Tower with Kennedy, who has spearheaded efforts to roll back child vaccination laws.

Washington Post, This new poll has all kinds of bad news for Donald Trump, Aaron Blake, Jan. 11, 2017. A new poll from Quinnipiac University suggests that Trump has reverted to his pre-election standing, with Americans having major concerns about his temperament and the direction in which his presidency will lead the country. Trump’s continued controversies seem to have put him right back where he was before he won the election.

Quinnipiac is the first high-quality pollster to poll on Trump twice since the election. And while its poll in late November showed his favorable rating rising from 34 percent to 44 percent, that number has dropped back to 37 percent, which is about where it stood for much of the campaign. That’s tied for Trump’s worst favorable rating in a poll since his election. And a majority — 51 percent — now have an unfavorable view of him.

Fishbowl DC, Following Discovery of Plagiarism, HarperCollins Pulls Monica Crowley’s Book, Corinne Grinapol, Jan. 10, 2017. Before she was chosen by Donald Trump to serve as senior director of strategic communications for the National Security Council, Monica Crowley was an author and conservative commentator, appearing on Fox News and contributing to publications like the Washington Times. It turns out she was also a plagiarist.

Monica CrowleyA report by CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski and his KFile crew “found upwards of 50 examples of plagiarism from numerous sources, including the copying with minor changes of news articles, other columnists, think tanks, and Wikipedia,” in Crowley’s 2012 book, What The (Bleep) Just Happened. The report showed dozens of side-by-side comparisons of the book’s text alongside the sources from which they appear to have been lifted.

In response, HarperCollins issued a statement today saying that the book “will no longer be offered for purchase until such time as the author has the opportunity to source and revise the material,” although it did also say that the book had “reached the end of its natural sales cycle.” This was not Crowley’s first instance of plagiarism. A Politico investigation also discovered that Crowley (shown in a file photo) plagiarized parts of her Ph.D. dissertation, showing, as did CNN, the side-by-side comparison of the passages in question.

The Trump transition team is standing by their pick, choosing to focus – in a statement issued to CNN prior to the publisher’s announcement it was pulling the book – on the fact that the book was published and that it was popular, as well as claiming that the investigations were politically motivated: "Any attempt to discredit Monica is nothing more than a politically motivated attack that seeks to distract from the real issues facing this country."

Over at PressThink, journalism professor Jay Rosen had some thoughts on that statement: "It goes from zero to 60 on the politicize-everything dial, signaling to Trump supporters that there is nothing here about authorship, publishing, standards, or trust, nothing that might transcend politics, just political combat in another form: a CNN investigation."

Media News

Huffington Post, Fox News Secretly Settled Bill O’Reilly Sexual Harassment Case: Report, Willa Frej, Jan. 10, 2017. He allegedly pursued a sexual relationship with a fellow anchor in 2011. Fox News settled a sexual harassment case involving anchor Bill O’Reilly in the days following Roger Ailes’ departure from the network last summer, several news outlets reported. Juliet Huddy, a former Fox on-air personality, alleged that O’Reilly (shown in a file photo) “pursued a sexual relationship with her” in 2011, according to a letter from her lawyers obtained by The New York Times. Lawnewz.com first reported the settlement Monday.

Bill O'Reilly“When she rebuffed his advances, he tried to derail her career,” the letter said. “He invited her to his house on Long Island, tried to kiss her, took her to dinner and the theater, and after asking her to return a key to his hotel room, appeared at the door in his boxer shorts.” A second top network figure, Fox News co-president Jack Abernethy, also reportedly sought retaliation against Huddy for not wanting a personal relationship with him.

She was offered a “high six figures” sum in order to stay quiet, people briefed on the agreement told the Times. 21st Century Fox and O’Reilly’s lawyer, meanwhile, disputed the allegations. Huddy left the network last September.

New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman tweeted Tuesday that there may have been several secret settlements at the network. Fox News has been engulfed by sexual harassment scandals for several months, even resulting in the departure of Ailes, the network’s former chairman and the man many credit for its explosive growth and popularity.

New York Times, Clare Hollingworth, Reporter Who Broke News of World War II, Dies at 105, Margalit Fox, Jan. 10, 2017. From a single gust of wind, Clare Hollingworth reaped the journalistic scoop of the century. Ms. Hollingworth, the undisputed doyenne of war correspondents, who died on Tuesday in Hong Kong at 105, was less than a week into her first job, as a reporter for the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, on that windy day in 1939.

Driving alone on the road from Gleiwitz, then in Germany, to Katowice, in Poland — a distance of less than 20 miles — she watched as the wind lifted a piece of the tarpaulin that had been erected on the German side to screen the valley below from view. Through the opening, Ms. Hollingworth saw, she later wrote, “large numbers of troops, literally hundreds of tanks, armored cars and field guns” concealed in the valley.

The date was Aug. 28, 1939, and her article, published the next day, would become, as the British paper The Guardian wrote in 2015, “probably the greatest scoop of modern times.” On Sept. 1, Hitler’s forces invaded Poland, marking the start of World War II.

CIA JFK Secrets Scheduled for Release?

JFK Facts.org, Secret JFK document #2: James Angleton’s testimony, Jefferson Morley (shown in a file photo), Jan. 10, 2017. On January 22, 1976. retired CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton testified in secret session with Jefferson Morleythe Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Activities, otherwise known as the Church Committee. Forty two years later, the 74 page transcript of Angleton’s testimony is still a state secret, according to the Mary Ferrell Foundation’s comprehensive listing of still-classified JFK material. Angleton’s testimony, scheduled to be released in October of this year, could not be more important to JFK assassination scholarship

Jan. 9

Trump Transition

Washington Post, Trump scrambles to avoid conflicts between public, business interests, Drew Harwell and Rosalind S. Helderman, Jan. 9, 2017. Despite expressing initial reluctance to separate from his business Donald Trump for President logoempire, the president-elect has taken steps to unwind some potential tension points. But the approach is unlikely to eliminate every ethical pitfall.

Washington Post, Days before hearings, ethics reports for four Trump nominees not yet public, Michael Kranish and Abby Phillip,  Jan. 9, 2017.The lag in the release of the reports underscores concerns from the Office of Government Ethics that it is being rushed to approve the documentation.

The Hill, Exxon subsidiary did business with Iran under Tillerson: report, Mark Hensch, Jan. 9, 2017. A subsidiary of Exxon Mobil Corp. did business with Iran while President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of State was a top executive there, according to a new report. The oil giant also conducted deals with Sudan and Syria during Rex Tillerson’s tenure, USA Today reported Monday. All three nations were under U.S. sanctions as state sponsors of terrorism at the time.

Rex Tillerson Exxon Mobile (Small)USA Today, ExxonMobil and Iran did business under secretary of State nominee Tillerson, Oren Dorell, Jan. 9, 2017. ExxonMobil did business with Iran, Syria and Sudan through a European subsidiary while President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of State was a top executive of the oil giant and those countries were under U.S. sanctions as state sponsors of terrorism, Securities and Exchange Commission filings show.

That business connection is likely to surface Wednesday at a confirmation hearing for ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson (shown in a file photo) before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The sales were conducted in 2003, 2004 and 2005 by Infineum, in which ExxonMobil owned a 50% share, according to SEC documents unearthed by American Bridge, a Democratic research group.

Washington Post, Attorney general nominee to press image of tough lawman at confirmation hearing, Matt Zapotosky and Sari Horwitz​, Jan. 9, 2017. ​Sen. Jeff Sessions will cast himself as an old-school law enforcer who will remain fiercely independent of the president who appointed him, according to a copy of his prepared remarks.

National Press Club, HHS Secretary Burwell praises Affordable Care Act, discusses its future, Julia Haskins, Jan. 9, 2017. Coming up on her last few days as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Sylvia Burwell spoke at a National Press Club luncheon Jan. 9, extolling the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and warning against its repeal without a comprehensive, timely replacement.

Deep State Analysis

WhoWhatWhy, Deep History and the Global Drug Connection, Part 5: CIA In Latin America, Jan. 9, 2017. Introduction by Russ Baker: In this final excerpt ("US Responsibility for the Flood of Heroin in the World"), Peter Dale Scott focuses on CIA drug ties into Latin America and shows that, by working with the drug underworld, the national security state also ends up harming….national security.

Peter Dale ScottProfessor Peter Dale Scott (shown in a file photo) sees what the rest of us miss. His decades-long investigation of the connections between the hugely lucrative and unstoppable global drug trade and the national security apparatus is unparalleled. The details are also highly complex and a challenge to absorb. Nevertheless, they demand our attention. In this final excerpt from his new book, Scott focuses on CIA drug ties into Latin America, and finishes off with the argument that in choosing to tolerate and even work with the drug underworld, the national security state also ends up harming….national security. This is Part 5 of a 5-part series. 

Excerpt from Peter Dale Scott's American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2014, citations omitted):

Here is yet another fact that is so alien to our normal view of reality that I myself find it hard to keep in mind: US backdoor covert foreign policy has been the largest single cause of the illicit drugs flooding the world today.

WhoWhatWhyIt is worth contemplating for a moment the legacy of CIA-supported drug proxies in just two areas — the Golden Triangle and the Golden Crescent. In 2003, according to the United Nations, these two areas accounted for 91 percent of the area devoted to illicit opium production and 95 percent of the estimated product in metric tons. [Add in Colombia and Mexico, two other countries where the CIA has worked with drug traffickers, and the four areas accounted for 96.6 percent of the growing area and 97.8 percent of the estimated product.]

The CIA’s covert operations were not the sole cause for this flood of opium and heroin. But the de facto protection conferred on sectors of the opium trade by CIA involvement is clearly a major historical factor for the world crime scourge today.

When the CIA airline CAT began its covert flights to Burma in the 1950s, the area produced about 80 tons of opium a year. In ten years’ time, production had perhaps quadrupled, and at one point during the Vietnam War the output from the Golden Triangle reached 1,200 tons a year. By 1971, there were also at least seven heroin labs in the region, one of which, close to the CIA base at Ban Houei Sai in Laos, produced an estimated 3.6 tons of heroin a year.

Afghan opium production has been even more responsive to US operations in the area. It soared from 200 metric tons in 1980, the first full year of US support for the drug-trafficking mujahideen Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, to 1,980 metric tons in 1991, when both the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to terminate their aid. (54)  After 1979 Afghan opium and heroin entered the world market significantly for the first time and rose from roughly 0 to 60 percent of US consumption by 1980. (55) In Pakistan there were hardly any drug addicts in 1979; the number had risen to over 800,000 by 1992. 

Global News

Ted CruzWashington Post, Against China’s objections, Ted Cruz and Texas governor meet with Taiwanese president, Amy B Wang, E.J. Dionne Jr., Jan. 9, 2017. ​The meeting (with Cruz shown in an official photo) is likely to irk officials in Beijing amid already heightened tensions between the U.S. and China.

Around the Nation

The American Conservative, Hillbilly Energy: J.D. Vance and the forces that elected Trump, Rod Dreher, January/February issue. Editor's note: This article from the January/February 2017 issue hasn't yet been published online. For now, it's just available to subscribers.

Opening: In late June, Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance's memoir of his tumultuous childhood lived on the border between Appalachia and the Rust Belt, appeared in bookstores, attracting little notice. A month later, an interview Vance did about the book with The American Conservative went viral, melting down this magazine's internet server three times and propelling the book to the No. 1 slot on the New York Times bestseller list.

Media Shakeups

Washington Post, Longtime D.C. TV anchor Maureen Bunyan out at WJLA, possibly ending her career, Paul Farhi, Jan. 9, 2017. TV station owner Sinclair Broadcast Group has decided not to extend WJLA news anchor Maureen Bunyan’s contract, signaling what could be the end of her decades-long presence on Washington’s airwaves.

Bunyan, 71, is a pioneering figure in TV news; she was among the first African American women in the nation to anchor a local evening newscast. She has appeared almost continuously over the past 44 years as a reporter and anchor on local stations, first at what is now WUSA, Channel 9, and since 1999 on WJLA, Channel 7.

She will join a growing list of TV news veterans who have been ousted by Sinclair as part of a broad cost-cutting strategy implemented since it bought WJLA, NewsChannel 8 and seven other stations from longtime owner Allbritton Communications of Arlington in mid-2014. Sinclair, the nation’s largest owner of TV stations with 173 outlets, declined to comment about Bunyan on Sunday. She also had no comment.

Jan. 8

New York Times, Jeff Sessions, the Grim Reaper of Alabama, John J. Donohue,John J. Donohue III III and Max Schoening, Jan. 8, 2017. John J. Donohue III (shown in a file photo) is a professor and Max Schoening is a student at Stanford Law School. When Jeff Sessions was Alabama’s attorney general, he supported the death sentence for a Ku Klux Klan member convicted of lynching a black teenager. Mr. Sessions, whose confirmation hearings for attorney general begin on Tuesday, points to this to rebut the charges of racism that have followed him for decades.

Yet we learn more about Mr. Sessions’ legal mind-set from a look at the 40-plus death sentences he fought to uphold as Alabama’s attorney general from 1995 to 1997. He worked to execute insane, mentally ill and intellectually disabled people, among others, who were convicted in trials riddled with instances of prosecutorial misconduct, racial discrimination and grossly inadequate defense lawyering. Mr. Sessions’ eager participation in an unjust Alabama capital system makes him a frightening prospective civil rights enforcer for the nation.

Jeff SessionsMany of the people Mr. Sessions worked to execute had received abysmal representation at trial. Although Mr. Sessions (shown with a flag in an official photo) participated in a capital system stacked against defendants, his main policy concerns seemed to have been that Alabamians were being executed neither quickly enough nor for enough types of crimes. He promoted a bill seeking to eliminate a stage of the capital appeals process and another to execute people convicted twice of drug trafficking. Neither passed.

Mr. Sessions’ support for the death penalty, even in troubling circumstances, remains unwavering. Last August, he praised Mr. Trump’s 1989 newspaper ads calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York, which appeared shortly after five black and Latino teenagers were charged with raping a white jogger. The men, known as the Central Park Five, were exonerated in 2002 and awarded a $41 million settlement, but for Mr. Sessions, the ads proved that Mr. Trump “believes in law and order.”

Surely, Mr. Sessions isn’t to blame for all the flaws in Alabama’s capital system that pervaded the cases he litigated, many of which involved horrific crimes.

But his pursuit of executions in spite of racial bias, defendants’ mental disabilities and other injustices raises concerns about how he will oversee federal capital prosecutions, and shows his lack of commitment to due process and equality. Mr. Sessions’ ugly record in Alabama makes clear that his nomination to be the attorney general should be swiftly rejected.

President Obama President Barack Obama walks out of the Oval Office to the White House Colonnade, May 19, 2016. (White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama walks out of the Oval Office to the White House Colonnade, May 19, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Politico, Obama taps longtime aide to oversee presidential records process, Josh Gerstein, Jan. 8, 2017. President Barack Obama has selected his close aide Anita Decker-Breckenridge to act as his representative in the process that will lead to many of his White House records becoming public in future decades. A letter Obama sent to the National Archives in July authorizes Decker-Breckenridge to convey Obama's wishes about which of his presidential files can be made public and which should be kept under wraps for a period of time.

The letter, released to Politico on Friday under the Freedom of Information Act, also indicates that Obama is exercising his rights to put many of those records off-limits for 12 years after he leaves the presidency later this month. While the move could be seen as at odds with Obama's frequently-stated commitment to transparency, it's a step other recent presidents have also taken before leaving the White House.

Decker-Breckenridge, currently Deputy White House Chief of Staff for Operations, started out as a driver and secretary for Obama in 2003, when he was a state senator. She helped with his 2004 U.S. Senate bid, managed many of his offices in Illinois after he won that job and aided in organizing his 2007 announcement of his campaign for the presidency. Obama's notice dated July 26, 2016, means that if he were to die or become incapacitated before 2029, Decker-Breckenridge would retain discretion over which advice and appointment-related records should be made public. 

Trump Transition

Washington Post, Trump confidants may face tangle of potential conflicts as presidential advisers, John Wagner and Ylan Q. Mui, Jan. 8, 2017. With confirmation hearings set to start for Cabinet nominees, ethics experts are raising alarm about others with Donald Trump for President logothe president-elect’s ear, including billionaire investor Carl Icahn, Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, who stand to profit as members of a “shadow Cabinet.”

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn will have the ear of President-elect Donald Trump as an adviser focused on cutting government regulations. But Icahn also stands to benefit if his advice is taken: It could make the energy companies and others in which he has a stake more profitable.

Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who’s a major figure in her father’s business, has been present at transition meetings and is expected to continue to counsel him at the White House. So, too, is her husband, Jared Kushner, who has a web of business interests of his own that could be impacted by Trump administration policy.

And another Trump intimate — his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski — is making no secret of his desire to profit on his continuing closeness to Trump, setting up a new lobbying firm with an office just a block from the White House.

Washington Post, Mattis urged Iran strike over U.S. troops deaths in Iraq, Greg Jaffe and Adam Entous, Jan. 8, 2017. Gen. James Mattis’s falling-out with the Obama administration over Iran offers perspective into how he will lead the world’s largest military as Defense Secretary and the advice he will bring during sensitive Situation Room debates.

The Iranian-supplied rockets were raining down on Gen. James N. Mattis’s troops throughout the spring and summer of 2011 with greater and greater intensity. Six American soldiers were killed by a volley in eastern Baghdad in early June. A few weeks later, three more Americans died in a similar strike, driving the monthly death toll to 15. It was the worst month for U.S. troops in Iraq in more than two years, and Iran’s proxies were vowing more rockets and more bloodshed.

Mattis, shown in an official photo and James Mattisthe top American commander in the Middle East, was determined to send a clear message to Tehran to stop it. His proposal, crafted with the support of the ambassador and the senior American commander in Iraq, was to hit back inside Iran, said current and former senior U.S. officials, who took part in the debate.

One option was a dead-of-night U.S. strike against an Iranian power plant or oil refinery, said the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive operations.

Mattis’s proposals quickly reached the White House, which had a different view of how to curb Iran’s increasingly aggressive behavior. To President Obama, a U.S. strike on Iranian soil would only inflame a volatile situation and widen a conflict that he had promised to end. Others in the White House worried that Mattis’s proposal risked starting yet another war in the Middle East.

The battle over how to respond to the mounting American casualties in summer 2011 reflected the deepening divide between the president and his top commander in the Middle East.

Now Mattis will play a different role for a new commander in chief. As President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Pentagon, Mattis will oversee a force of nearly 1.3 million active-duty troops scattered across more than 150 countries. He will serve a president who has questioned the impartiality of America’s intelligence agencies and has moved in often puzzling ways to embrace longtime adversaries, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has emphasized the value of unpredictability over careful deliberation and raw power over diplomacy.

Washington Post, Republicans don’t want to hurt ‘real America.’ By repealing Obamacare, they will, E.J. Dionne Jr., Jan. 7, 2017. Any vote to repeal Obamacare without a plan is a vote to deprive many of their health insurance.

Fake News Controversies

Washington Post, It’s time to retire the tainted term ‘fake news,’ Margaret Sullivan, Jan. 8, 2017. Co-opted by conservative media, the label is misleading and useless.

Around the Nation

Fox 61-TV (Hartford), Skakel's release reversed,but will he go back to prison? Al Terzi and Jenn Bernstein interview legal expert Jim Bergenn, Jan. 8, 2017 (9:46 min. video). The Connecticut Supreme Court announced Dec. 30 that it was reinstating the conviction against Michael Skakel that was overturned in 2013. The case was about if Skakel was properly represented in the murder trial accusing him of murdering Greenwich teen Martha Moxley with a golf club in 1975. Both Skakel and Moxley were 15 at the time, and lived across the street from each other.

He was convicted in 2002, and he was granted a retrial in 2013 by a state Superior Court due to "inadequate representation." In February 2016, the state Supreme Court heard an appeal from the state prosecutors, who thought Skakel received appropriate representation to meet his constitutional rights. The court agreed, in a 4-3 ruling, with the state, and now the initial conviction will stand. 

Skakel's case garnered nationwide media attention due to his connection to the Kennedy family. The late Robert F. Kennedy's wife, Ethel, is Skakel's aunt. Robert Kennedy Jr. has previously said he thinks his cousin is innocent, and that two other men committed the crime.

The appeals process began in 2013 when Hubert Santos, Skakel's attorney for the appeal to the state Supreme Court, claimed Skakel's original trial attorney, Mickey Sherman, didn't do enough to pursue the possibility of a different suspect, which he claims is why Skakel was convicted. That led to Skakel being ranted a retrial. The state appealed the granting of a retrial, and the state won, meaning the original conviction will stand. Editor's Note: The defense has applied for reconsideration, and the judge who wrote the Supreme Court's decision has resigned.).

Global News

Strategic Culture Foundation, Crowdfunding Terrorism Through Halal Certifications, Wayne Madsen (shown in file photo), Jan. 8, 2017. Although it is well known that the Wahhabist governments, royal families, and top businesses of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain directly finance jihadist terrorists in Syria, Iraq, and countries around the world, many consumers are unaware that percentages of their purchases of Muslim "hala"» (imam-certified) food products eventually end up in the hands of jihadist organizations. Halal refers to any food product that can be eaten by observant Muslims. Anything other than halal is «haram» and prohibited for Muslims. Haram includes pork, blood, or meat from approved animals but which have been strangled or slaughtered with blunt knives.

Even if a small percentage of imams who certify products as being halal are passing the profits on to terrorist organizations, it potentially represents a large amount of money. Malaysian studies have valued the worldwide halal food industry as between $600 billion to $2.1 trillion. Halal certifications are usually paid by food companies at set annual rates.

Considering all the firms worldwide that pay such fees to imam halal certifiers, this amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars. Some halal certifiers have become quite wealthy from the halal certification scheme. Halal certifiers have also been quite secretive about who receives donations, with some admitting only that the funds go to Islamic madrassa schools and mosques. However, many of these madrassas and mosques are linked to the Wahhabis.

Some Muslims have opined that halal certification is nothing more than a money-making scam, with the most ridiculous aspect being halal certification for dog food. It is ironic that the same imams who declare dogs to be "unclean" animals also willingly charge pet food manufacturers to certify food for the "unclean" beasts to be halal. Yet, the practice continues with fees charged for halal "stamps" on food, in some cases, indirectly propping up various jihadist groups with large sums of ready cash.

Strategic Culture Foundation, US Aristocracy Panics that Maybe Trump Is Serious, Eric Zuesse, Jan. 8, 2017. Donald Trump is being significantly opposed by both parties regarding his foreign policies, even though his domestic policies are being opposed on a far more partisan basis, by Democrats, and have a higher chance of congressional passage than his international initiatives do. The "realignment across the board within American political parties" is actually a realignment only in the field of foreign policy — not at all in domestic policy.

Jan. 7

Trump Transition

Washington Post, Ethics office warns that Trump, GOP are rushing Cabinet confirmations, Ed O'Keefe and Sean Sullivan​, Jan. 7, 2017. The director of the Office of Government Ethics said Saturday that plans to Donald Trump for President logoconfirm Donald J. Trump’s top Cabinet choices before background checks are complete are unprecedented and have overwhelmed government investigators responsible for the reviews. 

Washington Post, Democrats seek to delay confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, citing unfinished ethics review, Emma Brown, Jan. 7, 2017. Democrats are pushing to delay next week’s confirmation hearing Betsy Devosfor Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary (and shown in a phjoto), until a federal watchdog agency finishes reviewing her background and financial investments for possible conflicts of interest or other ethics concerns.

Washington Post, As attorney general, Sessions could play major role on immigration,  Matt Zapotosky and Sari Horwitz, Jan. 7, 2017. Long before Donald Trump chose him to lead the Justice Department, the senator from Alabama opposed efforts to reform the system in ways that might help those who entered the country illegally.

Washington Post, Donald Trump Jr. backs the ‘Hearing Protection Act,’ an effort to ease restrictions on gun silencers, Michael S. Rosenwald, Jan. 7, 2017. The president-elect’s son — who is joining gunmakers to tout legislation easing restrictions — says silencers would protect shooters’ ears. Critics worry that the devices could aid criminals.

Fake News Controversies

OpEdNews, A Case Study in the Creation of False News, Paul Craig Roberts, Jan. 7, 2017. For many weeks, we have witnessed the extraordinary attack by the CIA and its assets in Congress and the media on Donald Trump's election. In an unprecedented effort to delegitimize Trump's election as the product of Russian interference in the election, the CIA, media, senators and representatives have consistently made wild accusations for which they have no evidence. The CIA's message to Trump is clear: Get in line with our agenda, or we are going to mess you over.

It is clear that the CIA is warring against Trump. But the CIA's media assets have turned the facts on their head and are blaming Trump for having a negative view of the CIA. Now that the story is Trump taking on the CIA and not the CIA taking on Trump, the case can be built against Trump.

Around the Nation

Washington Post, Game wardens killed a deer — in front of the family that kept it as a pet, Karin Brulliard, Jan. 7, 2017. Faline entered the Mcgaughey residence on the morning of Dec. 19, ate three cookies and then left to wander around outside. By that afternoon, she had been fatally, and purposely, shot by local authorities while her caretakers watched.

Faline was a mule deer. But was she a pet, a wild animal — or something in between? That question is at the heart of a dispute between the Mcgaughey family and wildlife officials in Kansas, where they live. To the Mcgaugheys, Faline was tame but free, and she did not deserve to die. To wildlife authorities, the deer was a socialized wild animal that could have harmed people and spread disease to other animals.

Global News

Guardian, Israeli diplomat caught on camera plotting to 'take down' UK MPs, Ian Cobain and Ewen MacAskill, Jan. 7, 2017. Shai Masot is recorded discussing how to discredit MPs in comments described by Israeli embassy as ‘unacceptable’ An United Kingdom flagIsraeli embassy official has been caught on camera in an undercover sting plotting to “take down” MPs regarded as hostile, including foreign office minister Sir Alan Duncan, an outspoken supporter of a Palestinian state.

In an extraordinary breach of diplomatic protocol, Shai Masot, who describes himself as an officer in the Israel Defence Forces and is serving as a senior political officer at the London embassy, was recorded by an ­undercover reporter from al-Jazeera’s investigative unit speaking about a number of British MPs.

The Israeli ambassador, Mark Regev, apologised to Duncan on Friday. An Israeli spokesman said Regev made clear that “the embassy considered the remarks completely ­unacceptable.”

Israel FlagThe Israeli embassy said Masot “will be ending his term of employment with the embassy shortly.” Masot declined to comment or to elaborate on what he meant when he said he wanted to “take down” a number of MPs.

Masot had been speaking to Maria Strizzolo, a civil servant who was formerly an aide to another Conservative minister. Also present was a man they knew as Robin, whom they believed to be working for Labour Friends of Israel, a pressure group. In fact, Robin was an undercover reporter. The recordings form the basis of four half-hour documentaries that al-Jazeera is to broadcast from 15 January.

Strizzolo, discussing with Masot how to discredit MPs, said: “Well, you know, if you look hard enough, I’m sure that there is something that they’re trying to hide.” Later she added: “A little scandal, maybe.”

Jan. 6

Scandalous and Deadly 'Mistake' By Defense Department?

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Barack ObamaTruthDig, Report Points to a Pentagon Plot to Subvert Obama’s Syria Policy, Gareth Porter, Jan. 6, 2017. Airstrikes by the United States and its allies against two Syrian army positions Sept. 17 killed at least 62 Syrian troops and wounded dozens more. The attack was quickly treated as a non-story by the U.S. news media; U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) claimed the strikes were carried out in the mistaken belief that Islamic State forces were being targeted, and the story disappeared.

Ashton CarterThe circumstances surrounding the attack, however, suggested it may have been deliberate, its purpose being to sabotage President Obama’s policy of coordinating with Russia against Islamic State and Nusra Front forces in Syria as part of a U.S.-Russian cease-fire agreement. Normally the U.S. military can cover up illegal operations and mistakes with a pro forma military investigation that publicly clears those responsible.

But the air attack on Syrian troops also involved three foreign allies in the anti-Islamic State named Operation Inherent Resolve: the United Kingdom, Denmark and Australia. So, the Pentagon had to agree to bring a general from one of those allies into the investigation as a co-author of the report. Consequently, the summary of the investigation released by CENTCOM on Nov. 29 reveals far more than the Pentagon and CENTCOM brass would have desired.

Thanks to that heavily redacted report, we now have detailed evidence that the commander of CENTCOM’s Air Force component attacked the Syrian army deliberately. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter (shown in an official photo) and the military establishment had a compelling motive in the attack of Sept. 17 — namely, interest in maintaining the narrative of a “new Cold War” with Russia, which is crucial to supporting and expanding the budgets of their institutions....

When the commander of the Central Command’s Air Force component, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigan (shown in a file photo in uniform), was asked about the JIC at a press briefing Sept. 13, he seemed to suggest that opponents of the provision were still hoping to avoid cooperating with the Russians on targeting.

Gen. Harrigan’s strike worked like a charm in terms of the interests of those behind it. The hope of provoking a Syrian-Russian decision to end the cease-fire and thus the plan for the JIC was apparently based on the assumption that it would be perceived by both Russians and Syrians as evidence that Obama was not in control of U.S. policy and therefore could not be trusted as a partner in managing the conflict. That assumption proved correct.

Claims of Russian Hacking, Propaganda

Washington Post, Declassified report says Putin ‘ordered’ effort to undermine faith in U.S. election, Greg Miller​ and Adam Entous, Jan. 6, 2017. Russia carried out a comprehensive cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential election, an operation ordered by Russian President Vladi­mir Putin that “aspired to help” elect Donald Trump by discrediting his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in a report released today. The report depicts Russian interference as unprecedented in scale.

The report depicts Russian interference as unprecedented in scale, saying that Moscow’s assault represented “a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort” beyond previous election-related espionage.

The campaign was ordered by Putin himself and initially sought primarily to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, “denigrate Secretary Clinton” and harm her electoral prospects. But as the campaign proceeded, Russia “developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump” and repeatedly sought to elevate him by “discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him.”

The document represents an extraordinarily direct and detailed account of a long-standing U.S. adversary’s multi-pronged intervention in a fundamental pillar of American democracy.

Trump emerged from a briefing on the report by the nation’s top intelligence officials Friday seeming to acknowledge for the first time at least the possibility that Russia was behind election-related hacks. But he offered no indication that he was prepared to accept U.S. spy agencies’ conclusion that Moscow sought to help him win.

Alisa Shevchenko Personal-photoThe Guardian, Young Russian denies she aided election hackers, Shaun Walker and Sam Thielman, Jan. 6, 2017. White House claims Alisa Shevchenko was involved in hacking the US election but in an interview she says authorities misinterpreted facts or were fooled. Alisa Shevchenko: ‘I am now de-facto blocked from the world’s major information security market.’

Alisa Shevchenko (shown in a personal photo) is a talented young Russian hacker, known for working with companies to find vulnerabilities in their systems. She is also, the White House claims, guilty of helping Vladimir Putin interfere in the US election.

Russian FlagHer company was a surprise inclusion on the US sanctions list released last week, alongside top officers in Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency and two well-known criminal hackers. The company “provided the GRU with technical research and development,” according to the fact sheet released by the White House. No further details were given. In addition to the sanctions, the US expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the country, and said it would take further, non-public measures in response.

The former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden, who currently lives in Russia, wrote on Twitter: “Few techs doubt that Russians could have a hand in hacks, but public policy requires public evidence.”

After a week in which Russian interference in the election – apparently with the goal of helping Donald Trump to victory – has dominated the news agenda, Shevchenko has spoken out to decry the sanctions against her. Shevchenko told the Guardian she was furious at her company’s inclusion on the list, and denied ever having knowingly worked for the Russian government. She communicated via encrypted email, from a location she said was “a wild countryside area a few hours away from Bangkok”.

In answers that were defiant, and occasionally abrasive, she decried the “insane level of hysteria around the entire ‘Russian hacking’ story.” She suggested that the US authorities were guilty either of “a technically incompetent misinterpretation of the facts” or had been fooled by a “counterfeit in order to frame my company”. Those who could have had an interest in framing her could include competitors, US intelligence or Russian intelligence, with the goal of screening the real culprits, Shevchenko said.

Trump Transition

Huffington Post, Donald Trump Admits U.S. Taxpayers Will Pay For The Wall, Claims Mexico Will Reimburse Costs, Christina Wilkie, Jan. 6, 2017. This doesn’t sound like his campaign promise. President-elect Donald Trump said on Friday that he intends for U.S. taxpayers to fund the construction of his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. That money, Trump tweeted, “will be paid back by Mexico later."

Donald Trump for President logoThe tweet Trump wrote on Friday morning followed multiple reports detailing how members of his transition team have been working with congressional Republicans to come up with a way to use taxpayer dollars to pay for building the wall. Trump claimed he needed to use congressionally appropriated funds to build “the Great Wall for [the] sake of speed.”

But making U.S. taxpayers foot the bill for the border wall would violate one of Trump’s central campaign promises, and a pledge that Trump reiterated at countless rallies, when he would ask the crowds, “Who’s gonna pay for the wall?!” and get chants of “Mexico! Mexico! Mexico!”

Washington Post, A resurrected House rule lets Congress slash pay for civil servants, Editorial Board, Jan. 6, 2017. House Republicans caused an understandable furor this week when they proposed to gut the House ethics office and then reconsidered. That two-day debacle diverted attention from another baleful “reform” that did succeed. Members of Congress awarded themselves the power to slash the annual pay of any federal employee to as low as $1, thereby essentially telling government workers to forget about civil-service protection: Their jobs now may rise or fall on political whim.

USA Today, Trump must expose Obama-era power grabs: Columnist, James Bovard, Jan. 6, 2017. Opening the books on the outgoing administration would be a booster shot for democracy. President-elect Donald Trump will face pervasive doubts about his legitimacy from the day he takes office. His opponents will likely portray him as governing in unprecedented and reckless ways. The best response to such charges is to open the books and expose how the Obama administration commandeered far more power than most Americans realized.

Trump should follow the excellent precedent set by President Obama. In 2009, shortly after he took office, Obama released many of the secret Bush administration legal memos that explained why the president was supposedly entitled to order torture, deploy troops in American towns and cities, and ignore the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on warrantless, unreasonable searches. The disclosures signaled a new era in Washington and helped give Obama a reputation as a champion of civil liberties.

Turnabout is fair play. Trump should quickly reveal the secret memos underlying Obama’s “targeted killing” drone assassination program.

It is vital for a Trump White House to compel disclosures because the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has become largely a mirage. While Obama boasted of “the most transparent administration in history,” federal agencies slammed the door on routine requests — especially from the media. The Associated Press reported in 2015 that the Obama administration “set a record again for censoring government files or outright denying access to them” under FOIA. Federal agencies were also hit by a record number of lawsuits contesting FOIA denials in 2015.

Washington Post, Third lien on Trump hotel brings alleged unpaid bills to over $5 million, Jonathan O'Connell​, Jan. 6, 2017. The rush to get the D.C. hotel open on time meant 12-hour days for weeks, a contractor says, but resulted in $2.1 million in allegedly unpaid work. Workers from AES Electrical apparently went all out to make sure Donald Trump could open his luxury hotel on the day he wanted.

The AES filing brings the total of allegedly unpaid bills on the hotel to more than $5 million. Washington-area plumbing firm Joseph J. Magnolia Inc. and Northern Virginia construction company, A&D Construction, are seeking $2.98 million and $79,700 respectively.

Around the Nation

Mother Jones, Why Tom Perez Is a Strong Competitor Against Keith Ellison in the Democratic Party Race, David Corn, Jan. 6, 2017. This isn't an establishment vs. progressive clash. Progressive Democrats gazing upon the fight for the leadership of their party ought to be delighted. The two leading candidates for chair of the Democratic National Committee—Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Labor Secretary Tom Perez—are each battle-hardened and experienced progressives with much to offer their partisan comrades.

Yet the contest for the DNC's top post has widely been cast as a clash between wings of the party, with Ellison as the champion of the insurgent left and Perez as the candidate of the establishment. That depiction misrepresents the face-off and fixates on the wrong question: who has better progressive street cred?

With the Democrats deep in the hole—a minority in both houses of Congress, out of the White House, holding only 16 governor slots and merely 31 of 99 state legislative chambers, and lacking a deep bench or a flock of rising stars—the tussle for DNC chief ought to focus on who can best do the nuts-and-bolts job of rebuilding the party from the ground level.

Washington Post, Fort Lauderdale airport shooting suspect had visited FBI office in Alaska last year, Mark Berman, William Wan and Sari Horwitz, Jan. 6, 2016. An Iraq War veteran who had complained that the government was forcing him to watch Islamic State videos pulled a gun from his checked bag and opened fire Friday afternoon at Fort Lauderdale’s international airport, killing five people and injuring eight, authorities said.

The bloody rampage at a quiet baggage-claim area sent people scrambling through the terminals and across the airfield at one of the country’s busiest airports, shutting down all flights for hours while paramedics and federal and local law enforcement officers flooded the scene. The alleged gunman, identified by authorities as 26-year-old Esteban Santiago of Anchorage, was apprehended unharmed. Santiago was in federal custody Friday night following a lengthy interview by Broward County sheriff’s deputies and FBI agents. He will face federal charges, officials said.

Politico, North Carolina man set to plead guilty in hacking of CIA Director John Brennan, Josh Gerstein, Jan. 6, 2016. A North Carolina man is set to plead guilty Friday morning to being part of a hacking ring that John Brennan CIA Official Photoharassed a series of senior U.S. Government officials, at one point breaking into the personal email account of CIA Director John Brennan (shown in an official photo). Justin Liverman, 24, known online as "D3F4ULT," is scheduled to appear in an Alexandria, Va. federal courtroom to plead guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, according to court records.

Officials accused the Morehead City, N.C. man of being part of a loose-knit group of hackers known as "Crackas with Attitude." Messages the "Crackas" obtained from Brennan's America Online email account, including a sensitive government security clearance application, were posted online by WikiLeaks in October 2015. That's the same pro-transparency website that roiled the U.S. presidential campaign last year by releasing nearly 60,000 emails hacked from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's personal Gmail account.

Human Rights News

The Indicter, Over A Quarter Million Read The Indicter Magazine In 2016, Marcello Ferrada de Noli, Jan. 6, 2016. Dr. Marcello Ferrada de Noli (shown in a file photo), is editor-in-chief of The Indicter and a Marcello Ferrada de Nolilongtime medical school professor and human rights activist based in Sweden and Italy. Justice Integrity Project Editor Andrew Kreig is a member of The Indicter's editorial board.

Julian Assange once suggested that the best defense mechanism of Sweden’s media might be the Swedish language, which few elsewhere in the world understand.

The Indicter, most of whose audience is located in the US and other English-speaking countries (see map down-below), has established itself as a rare window through which the secrets of Sweden’s elites can be seen from abroad, as shown by this annual report of our nearly 300,000 site visitors and our compilation of articles.

The Indicter 2016 viewersWe analyze and share geopolitical-relevant news about Sweden that otherwise would remain known only by a self-affirming Swedish governing class and commentariat (which we have termed a "Duck Pond" of complacency). Conversely, we give interested Swedes an insight on the international opinions about Sweden, which the state-owned and mainstream media restrict.

The few media sites that published in English from Sweden are financed by the Swedish state and are devoted to a pro-NATO agenda of biased news despite Sweden's ostensibly neutral status.

Global News

Washington Post, WikiLeaks proposes tracking verified Twitter users’ homes, families and finances, Brian Fung, WikiLeaks wants to start building a list of verified Twitter users that would include highly sensitive and personal information about their families, their finances and their housing situations.

“We are thinking of making an online database with all 'verified' twitter accounts & their family/job/financial/housing relationships,” WikiLeaks tweeted Friday. The disclosure organization, run by Julian Assange, says the information would be used for an artificial-intelligence program. But Twitter users immediately fired back, saying WikiLeaks would use the list to take political vengeance against those who criticize it.

Twitter “verifies” certain users, such as world leaders, nonprofit organizations and news outlets, with a blue check mark beside their names so that other users of the service can be confident about the posters' identities. WikiLeaks, which has a verified Twitter account, did not say whether it would subject itself to the scrutiny it was proposing.

Asked by journalist Kevin Collier why it needed to build a database of dossiers, WikiLeaks replied that the database would be used as a “metric to understand influence networks based on proximity graphs.” But the proposal faced a sharp and swift backlash as technologists, journalists and security researchers slammed the idea as a “sinister” and dangerous abuse of power and privacy.

SouthFront, Russia Pulls Out Admiral Kuznetsov Battlegroup From Syrian Waters, Reduces Military Presence In Country, Staff report, Jan. 6, 2017. The Russian Navy is returning the Admiral Kuznetsov heavy Russian Flagaircraft-carrying missile cruiser and its battlegroup from the Mediterranean to its home base in Russia’s Severomorsk.

Warplanes from Admiral Kuznetsov’s deck carried out 420 sorties, destroying 1,252 terrorist targets in Syria. Admiral Kuznetsov is returning to its home base as Russia begins reducing its military presence in the country. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial pullout of military forces from Syria after negotiating a ceasefire deal with Iran and Turkey.

Unz Review, Russian Interference in the Election: A Media Hoax? Stephen J. Sniegoski, Jan. 6, 2017. The mainstream media’s narrative that the Russian government interfered with the United States election, and that this interference invalidated, or at least tainted, Trump’s election has culminated in President Obama taking a series of measures against Russia, which consist of: imposing sanctions on the GRU and the FSB (the two major Russian intelligence organizations), four officers of the GRU, and two Russian individuals who allegedly used “cyber-enabled means to cause misappropriation of funds and personal identifying information;” expelling 35 diplomats and intelligence officials; and closing two Russian compounds in Maryland’s Eastern Shore and Long Island, New York.

Like other common memes — such as anti-Semitism, racism, and sexism — used to silence debate, the exact meaning of Russian interference in the election is unclear — and Obama’s inclusion of a number of extraneous issues in his explanation for taking retaliatory action against Russia muddles the issue even more.

The reference to Russian interference in the election includes a composite of alleged Russian misdeeds — “fake news,” computer hacking, and manipulating voting machines – which are usually lumped together but are actually quite different and should be analyzed separately since the combination approach only serves to obfuscate the issue. Of course — and this probably would not be shocking to most readers of this essay — many of those who promote the idea of Russian culpability are not really concerned about pursuing a Socratic search for truth but instead want to anathematize Putin’s Russia and/or delegitimize Trump’s election victory.

First, let me take care of the most extreme claim — that Russian hackers manipulated election results to make Trump president. This would be a nearly impossible task since voting machines are not attached to the Internet, and it was never pointed out how the Russians could do this on any significant scale. Nonetheless, Hillary Clinton was urged by “a group of prominent computer scientists and election lawyers” to demand a recount in three states — Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania — in which Clinton seemed to be slightly ahead in pre-election polls but which were won by Trump by narrow margins. The group claimed to have statistical evidence that the vote had been altered.The basis of this claim, however, was quite flimsy since it simply rested on an analysis that showed that in Wisconsin counties with electronic voting machines, Clinton received 7 percent fewer votes than in counties with paper ballots or optical scanners. It was then assumed that the same thing could have occurred in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

There was a recount in Wisconsin in which Trump increased his victory margin by 131 votes; a total of 2.976 million ballots were cast. The recount was requested by Green Party candidate Jill Stein who covered the estimated $3.5 million cost of the endeavor.[5] Similar efforts by Stein to get recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania were blocked in the state courts because of her lack of standing by the laws of those states—not having any chance of winning herself, she could not be considered an “aggrieved party.” Hillary Clinton’s campaign did not make official efforts to get recounts in any states. With Trump’s victory in Wisconsin surviving the recount, he had garnered a majority of the electoral votes, which would make him President unless there were a far higher number of faithless electors than turned out to be the case. Nonetheless, half of Clinton’s voters still think Russia hacked the election day voting.[6]

Jan. 5

Trump Transition

Washington Post, Republicans run the spread offense to ram through Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees, James Hohmann, Jan. 5, 2017. By scheduling six confirmation hearings for the same day, the Senate GOP is working to prevent any one Donald Trump nominee from dominating a news cycle. The gambit is very likely to succeed.

Donald Trump for President logoIt’s no coincidence that Republican committee chairmen scheduled hearings for some of the president-elect’s most controversial and polarizing nominees next Wednesday. Trump, after putting it off repeatedly, will also finally have his first press conference since the election at the same time. And Mitch McConnell plans a budget vote-o-rama, including votes related to the repeal of Obamacare. This will further distract the press and the public.
 
The GOP leadership’s approach will minimize unflattering process stories and prevent Trump’s nominees from receiving the kind of full airing and scrutiny that they would otherwise. It’s the political equivalent of running a no-huddle offense in the first quarter and throwing a lot of deep balls when you know the defense is outmatched. The other side’s best safety is still recovering from a pulled hamstring, and the defensive coordinator is distracted by the head coaching job he’s going to take next season. The odds are that Team Trump will score a bunch of touchdowns.

Jeff SessionsIn fact, the conventional wisdom inside the Capitol right now is that all of Trump’s picks will get confirmed, no matter how many red flags several have in their backgrounds. Here are the six hearings now set for next Wednesday:

Secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson. Trump’s pick for CIA director, Mike Pompeo. Education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos. Attorney General nominee Jefferson Beauregard Sessions (shown in a file photo). John Kelly’s confirmation hearing to run the department of homeland security. Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to become Transportation secretary.

Because Harry Reid myopically went nuclear in 2014, all these folks can now be confirmed with just 50 votes.

New York Times, In Break With Precedent, Obama Envoys Are Denied Extensions Past Inauguration Day, Jan. 5, 2017. President-elect Donald J. Trump’s transition staff has issued a blanket edict requiring politically appointed ambassadors to leave their overseas posts by Inauguration Day, according to several American diplomats familiar with the plan, breaking with decades of precedent by declining to provide even the briefest of grace periods.

The mandate — issued “without exceptions,” according to a terse State Department cable sent on Dec. 23, diplomats who saw it said — threatens to leave the United States without Senate-confirmed envoys for months in critical nations like Germany, Canada and Britain. In the past, administrations of both parties have often granted extensions on a case-by-case basis to allow a handful of ambassadors, particularly those with school-age children, to remain in place for weeks or months.

Mr. Trump, by contrast, has taken a hard line against leaving any of President Obama’s political appointees in place as he prepares to take office on Jan. 20 with a mission of dismantling many of his predecessor’s signature foreign and domestic policy achievements. “Political” ambassadors, many of them major donors who are nominated by virtue of close ties with the president, almost always leave at the end of his term; ambassadors who are career diplomats often remain in their posts.

Intelligence Agency Controversies

The Hill, Trump rips media for saying he is in 'agreement' with Assange, Rebecca Savransky, Jan. 5, 2017. President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday morning criticized the media for saying he sided with Donald TrumpWikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and against the U.S intelligence community. "The dishonest media likes saying that I am in Agreement with Julian Assange - wrong," the president-elect tweeted Thursday. "I simply state what he states, it is for the people ... to make up their own minds as to the truth. The media lies to make it look like I am against 'Intelligence' when in fact I am a big fan!"

See also: Huffington Post, Trump Tweets He’s A ‘Big Fan’ Of Intelligence As Congress Begins Russia Hacking Probe, Dustin Volz and Patricia Zengerle, Jan. 5, 2017. Trump is due to be briefed by intelligence agency chiefs on Friday on hacks that targeted the Democratic Party. President Obama will be briefed on Thursday.

Washington Post, Russia meddled in U.S. election, Clapper says, rejecting Trump’s view, Ellen Nakashima and Karoun Demirjian​, Jan. 5, 2017. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper James Clappertestified in a Senate hearing that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election consisted of hacking and the spreading of traditional propaganda and “fake news.” The testimony comes as President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly voiced skepticism that Russia interfered in the election.  The country’s top intelligence official said Thursday that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election consisted of hacking, as well as the spreading of traditional propaganda and “fake news.”

“That’s classical tradecraft that the Russians have long used,” said Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. (shown in an official photo), testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on foreign cyber threats, and especially Russian hacking and interference in the election.

Baltimore Sun, DNC and Podesta emails were leaked, not hacked, op-ed writers say, William Binney and Ray McGovern, Jan. 5, 2017. It has been several weeks since the New York Times reported that "overwhelming circumstantial evidence" led the CIA to believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin "deployed computer hackers" to help Donald Trump win the election. But the evidence released so far has been far from overwhelming.

The long anticipated Joint Analysis Report issued by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI on Dec. 29 met widespread criticism in the technical community. Worse still, some of the advice it offered led to a very alarmist false alarm about supposed Russian hacking into a Vermont electric power station. Advertised in advance as providing proof of Russian hacking, the report fell embarrassingly short of that goal. The thin gruel that it did contain was watered down further by the following unusual warning atop page 1: "DISCLAIMER: This report is provided 'as is' for informational purposes only. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not provide any warranties of any kind regarding any information contained within."

FBI logoAlso, curiously absent was any clear input from the CIA, NSA or Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Reportedly, Mr. Clapper will get a chance tomorrow to brief an understandably skeptical Donald Trump, who has called the briefing delay "very strange," even suggesting that top intelligence officials "need more time to build a case."

Mr. Trump's skepticism is warranted not only by technical realities, but also by human ones, including the dramatis personae involved. Mr. Clapper has admitted giving Congress on March 12, 2013, false testimony regarding the extent of NSA collection of data on Americans. Four months later, after the Edward Snowden revelations, Mr. Clapper apologized to the Senate for testimony he admitted was "clearly erroneous." That he is a survivor was already apparent by the way he landed on his feet after the intelligence debacle on Iraq.

Mr. Clapper was a key player in facilitating the fraudulent intelligence. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld put Mr. Clapper in charge of the analysis of satellite imagery, the best source for pinpointing the location of weapons of mass destruction — if any.

When Pentagon favorites like Iraqi émigré Ahmed Chalabi plied U.S. intelligence with spurious "evidence" on WMD in Iraq, Mr. Clapper was in position to suppress the findings of any imagery analyst who might have the temerity to report, for example, that the Iraqi "chemical weapons facility" for which Mr. Chalabi provided the geographic coordinates was nothing of the kind.

William Binney worked for NSA for 36 years, retiring in 2001 as the technical director of world military and geopolitical analysis and reporting; he created many of the collection systems still used by NSA. Ray McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years; he briefed the president's daily brief one-on-one to President Reagan's most senior national security officials from 1981-85.

Russian Election Interference Claims

RealClearPolitics, Sen. Tillis: We Are Living In A Glass House Throwing Rocks Complaining About Election Interference, Ian Schwartz, Jan. 5, 2017. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) addresses the history of U.S. Thom Tillisinterference in foreign elections at Thursday's hearing on possible Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Tillis (shown in a file photo) said the U.S. is living in a "big glass house," responding to Sen. Graham's "rocks" comment, and noted that the U.S. has "been involved in one way or another" in at least 81 different foreign elections since the end of World War II. Tillis said:

"There has been research done by professors up at Carnegie Mellon that has estimated that the United States has been involved in one way or another in 81 different elections since World War II. That doesn't include coupes or the regime changes, some tangible evidence where we have tried to affect an outcome to our purpose. Russia has done it some 36 times.

"In fact, when Russia was apparently was trying to influence our elections, we had the Israelis accusing us of trying to influence their election. I'm not here to talk about that but I am here to say that we live in a big glass house and there are a lot of rocks to throw and I think that is consistent with what you said on other matters."

See also: Guardian, FBI ‘Granted FISA Warrant’ Covering Trump Camp’s Ties To Russia, Louise Mensch, Nov. 7, 2016. Two separate sources with links to the counter-intelligence community have confirmed to Heat Street that the FBI sought, and was granted, a FISA court warrant in October, giving counter-intelligence permission to examine the activities of ‘U.S. persons’ in Donald Trump’s campaign with ties to Russia.

Washington Post, U.S. intelligence captured Russian officials’ communications celebrating Trump’s victory, Adam Entous and Greg Miller, Jan. 5, 2017. Senior officials in the Russian government celebrated Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton as a geopolitical win for Moscow, according to U.S. officials who said that American intelligence agencies intercepted communications in the aftermath of the election in which Russian officials congratulated themselves on the outcome.

The ebullient reaction among high-ranking Russian officials — including some who U.S. officials believe had knowledge of the country’s cyber campaign to interfere in the U.S. election — contributed to the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Moscow’s efforts were aimed at least in part at helping Trump win the White House. The classified document, which officials said is over 50 pages, was delivered to President Obama on Thursday, and it is expected to be presented to Trump in New York on Friday by the nation’s top spy officials, including Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. and CIA Director John Brennan.

New York Post, The left and right are having a meltdown over Russia, John Podhoretz, Jan. 4, 2017. John Podhoretz is editor of "Commentary" and was a speechwriter for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. In this time of weird reversals, Democrats and liberals who scoffed at Mitt Romney’s 2012 assertion that Russia was our primary adversary have become so convinced of Vladimir Putin’s perfidy, they sound like the Cold Warriors of old. Meanwhile, our incoming president continues to extend the benefit of the doubt to Russia when it comes to cyber-mischief, even going so far as to get in a public kerfuffle with America’s intelligence agencies and accuse them of rescheduling a briefing on Russia out of rudeness or lack of preparation.

CIA Funding of Media

JFKFacts.org, Literary (CIA) agents at work, Jefferson Morley, Jan. 5, 2017. In Literary Agents: Rethinking the legacy of writers who worked with the CIA, Patrick Iber of the New Republic delves into the role of the CIA in the culture Cold War. He doesn’t specifically mention the role of Cord Meyer and James Angleton but they were probably the two CIA officials most responsible for CIA cultural funding between 1954 and 1967, Iber captures what was most problematic about the CIA’s role, something I will touch on in my forthcoming Angleton biography.

“In 1966, The New York Times confirmed suspicions that the CIA was pumping money into “civil society” organizations: unions, international organizations of students and women, groups of artists and intellectuals. The agency had produced the popular cartoon version of George Orwell’s anticommunist classic Animal Farm in 1954. It flew the Boston Symphony Orchestra on a European tour in 1952, to counter prejudices of the United States as uncultured and unsophisticated. It promoted the work of abstract expression."

Federal Employee Targeting?

Washington Post, House Republicans revive arcane 1876 rule that could slash pay for federal workers to $1, Jenna Portnoy and Lisa Rein​, Jan. 5, 2017. Opponents and supporters agree that the move puts agencies on notice that their work is now vulnerable to the whims of elected officials.

U.S. Civil Rights

President Obama makes point at staff meeting May 18, 2016President Barack Obama makes a point during a meeting with senior staff in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, May 18, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Washington Post, Obama’s lawyers are set to empower Trump, Shirin Sinnar, Jan. 5, 2017. Shielding the executive branch from human rights lawsuits is dangerous considering the incoming executive. At various moments, President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to torture terrorism suspects, ban Muslims from entering the country, banish more prisoners to Guantanamo Bay and round up millions of undocumented immigrants.

The Obama administration opposes all of these policies and has taken some steps to make it harder for Trump to achieve them. Yet two days before Trump’s inauguration, President Obama’s Justice Department will argue to the Supreme Court that victims of federal policies related to immigration and national security should not be able to sue government officials for damages — even if those policies were clearly unconstitutional.

In the final case of the Obama administration, lawyers for a president avowedly committed to the rule of law will empower a successor threatening to demolish it.

Shirin Sinnar is an associate professor at Stanford Law School. She co-authored an amicus brief in "Ziglar v. Abbasi."  

Global News

SouthFront, US-Led Coalition Does Not Bomb ISIS Oil Production Facilities in Syria – Russian MoD, Staff report, Jan. 5, 2017. The US-led coalition did not target oil production facilities, seized by the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic, said the spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, Major General Igor Konashenkov. “Miraculously, only oil fields captured by ISIS -- allowing the militants to earn tens of millions of dollars every month on illegal oil sales and recruit mercenaries from all over the world -- did not come under the US bombardment,” Konashenkov said.

He also commented on a statement of CIA Director John Brennan Tuesday that Russia is using a “scorched-earth policy” in Syria, which “led to devastation and thousands upon thousands of innocent deaths,” while “that’s not something that the United States would ever do in any of these military conflicts.”

“I would also like to remind [John Brennan] that international wars of the past decades unleashed by the US thanks to false CIA data in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya have all been started, continued, and finished with a destroyed economic infrastructure of these states by the US Air Force,” the major general said, adding that it was “doubtfully a coincidence” that US companies close to the CIA and the Pentagon had “always” received contracts to rebuild these damaged infrastructures.

SouthFront, Syrian War Report: Conflict Is Heading To Its Turning Point, Staff report, Jan. 5, 2017. The ceasefire agreement, which came into effect on December 30 and was the first step to negotiations in Syria FlagAstana on the settlement of the Syrian conflict, remained shaky across Syria. The intensity of clashes observed in the provinces of Aleppo, Hama, Daraa and Quneitra was much reduced. Clashes continued in Eastern Ghouta and in Wadi Barada near Damascus.

It can be explained by limitations of Turkey’s influence on militant groups in these areas: Ankara had not been able to push the so-called “moderate part” of the opposition to separate itself from Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra). So, both militants and government forces continued offensive operations against each other there. The Syrian army and its allies are now especially interested in the liberation of the Wadi Barada area because it will allow them to secure the water supply line to the Syrian capital.

Center for Public Integrity, Barack Obama's ambassador legacy: plum postings for big donors, Will Donald Trump similarly reward his political patrons? Dave Levinthal and Chris Zubak-Skees, Jan. 4, 2017. President-elect Donald Trump has begun nominating the people who he wants to represent U.S. interests abroad.

But even Trump, who despite his "drain the swamp" mantra has been rewarding major campaign donors with prime positions in his cabinet, will find it difficult to match President Barack Obama's legacy of sending top political patrons to the world's poshest capital cities, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis. (The practice has been embraced by Democratic and Republican presidents alike for generations.)

During his second term, Obama named 31 campaign "bundlers" — supporters who raised at least $50,000 to fund his presidential campaigns — as ambassadors. Obama tapped nearly all of these bundlers to serve in Western European nations or other highly developed and stable countries such as Canada and New Zealand.

Another 39 of Obama's second-term ambassador nominees are political appointees who either gave his campaign money or are known political allies. They, too, largely enjoyed postings to wealthy and peaceful nations — Ireland, Denmark and Australia, for example — or high-profile countries such as China and India.

Jan. 4

Trump Plans Major Intelligence Overhaul?

Wall Street Journal, Donald Trump Plans Revamp of Top US Spy Agency, Damian Paletta and Julian E. Barnes, Jan. 4, 2017. President-elect works with advisers on restructuring Office of the Director of National Intelligence. President-elect Donald Trump, a harsh critic of U.S. intelligence agencies, is working with top advisers on a plan that would restructure and pare back the nation’s top spy agency, people familiar with the planning said, prompted by a belief that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has become bloated and politicized.

Donald Trump Pointing Finger Gage Skidmore DMCAThe planning comes as Mr. Trump has leveled a series of social media attacks in recent months and the past few days against U.S. intelligence agencies, dismissing and mocking their assessment that the Russian government hacked emails of Democratic groups and individuals and then leaked them last year to WikiLeaks and others in an effort to help Mr. Trump (shown in a Gage Skidmore file photo) win the White House.

One of the people familiar with Mr. Trump’s planning said advisers also are working on a plan to restructure the Central Intelligence Agency, cutting back on staffing at its Virginia headquarters and pushing more people out into field posts around the world. The CIA declined to comment on the plan.

“The view from the Trump team is the intelligence world [is] becoming completely politicized,” said the individual, who is close to the Trump transition operation. “They all need to be slimmed down. The focus will be on restructuring the agencies and how they interact.”

CIA LogoIn one of his latest Twitter posts on Wednesday, Mr. Trump referenced an interview that WikiLeaks editor in chief Julian Assange gave to Fox News in which he denied Russia had been his source for the thousands of emails stolen from Democrats and Hillary Clinton advisers, including campaign manager John Podesta, that Mr. Assange published. Mr. Trump tweeted: “Julian Assange said ‘a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta’—why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!”

Mr. Trump has drawn criticism from Democratic and Republican lawmakers and from intelligence and law-enforcement officials for praising Russian President Vladimir Putin, for attacking American intelligence agencies, and for embracing Mr. Assange, long viewed with disdain by government officials and lawmakers.

“We have two choices: some guy living in an embassy on the run from the law…who has a history of undermining American democracy and releasing classified information to put our troops at risk, or the 17 intelligence agencies sworn to defend us,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.). “I’m going with them.”

But for Mr. Trump and some of his supporters, the accusations of Russian hacking and the criticism of WikiLeaks are seen as an effort to delegitimize the president-elect’s victory.

Trump Transition

Washington Post, Donald Trump nominates Wall Street lawyer, Jay Clayton, to head SEC, Trump to tap Wall Street lawyer Jay Clayton to head SEC, Renae Merle, Jan. 4, 2017.  President-elect Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he will nominate Wall Street lawyer Jay Clayton to head the Securities and Exchange Commission, placing another financial industry insider in a key position in his administration.

As chairman of the SEC, Clayton would help police many of the same large banks he has spent decades representing, including Goldman Sachs and Barclays. He also would play a key role in Trump's efforts to dismantle parts of 2010’s financial reform legislation, known as the Dodd-Frank Act. Clayton brings “decades of experience helping companies navigate complex federal regulations” and would “play an important role in unleashing the job-creating power of our economy,” according to a statement issued by Trump’s transition office announcing Clayton's nomination.

The nomination immediately drew rebuke from progressive groups, which have been critical of Trump's track record of nominating Wall Street insiders for high-level positions, despite being critical of the industry during the presidential campaign. Trump has nominated Steven Mnuchin, a 17-year veteran of Goldman Sachs, to be Treasury secretary, and Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, worked on mergers and acquisition deals for the bank. Last month, Trump said he would appoint Gary Cohn, Goldman Sachs' president and chief operating officer, to lead the powerful National Economic Council.

Associated Press via MSN, Reality TV's Omarosa hired for Trump's White House outreach, Julie Pace and Julie Bykowicz, Omarosa Manigault is getting hired. A memorable contestant in the first season of "The Apprentice," Manigault is expected to join President-elect Donald Trump's White House staff, according to two people familiar with the decision. Her job is expected to focus on public engagement.

Manigault was one of Trump's most prominent African-American supporters during the campaign and has been working with his transition team. Her effusive praise of Trump has at times drawn criticism. "Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump," she said in an interview for a PBS "Frontline" documentary about the presidential campaign. "It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe."

Manigault, who prefers to use only her first name, made it through nine weeks of "The Apprentice" before Trump directed his infamous tagline, "You're fired," at her. She was portrayed as a cut-throat contestant during the season. She returned to Trump's "Apprentice" franchise several times and has appeared on other reality TV shows. Manigault said she has stayed close to Trump over the years and served as his campaign's director of African-American outreach.

Last month, she shepherded NFL legends Ray Lewis and Jim Brown into a Trump Tower meeting with the president-elect. Afterward, Lewis posted a photo of himself and Manigault on his Facebook page, writing, "Was great meeting Omarosa and the team ... very impressive and passionate."

This will be Manigault's second season at the White House. She worked in the office of Vice President Al Gore during the Clinton administration. The Trump transition team did not respond to inquiries about Manigault's role. The two people familiar with the decision insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the hiring process publicly. Manigault previewed her hiring during the Fox News New Year's Eve coverage, according to news reports, saying her title would be "huge."

Global Research, U.S. Foreign Policy and the Campaign to Destabilize the Trump Presidency, Michel Chossudovsky, Jan. 4, 2017. Obama has formally accused Moscow of interfering in the US elections on behalf of Donald Trump. These are serious allegations.  Whereas the sanctions are  directed against Russia, the ultimate intent is to undermine the legitimacy of president-elect Donald Trump and his foreign policy stance in relation to Moscow.

According to the US media, the sanctions against Moscow were intended to ”Box in President-elect Donald J. Trump” because  Trump “has consistently cast doubt” that Putin was involved in the alleged hacking of the DNC. In an earlier report on Kremlin meddling, the NYT (Dec. 15) depicted Donald Trump as “…a Useful Idiot”… an American president who doesn’t know he’s being played by a wily foreign power." (Emphasis added.)

But the accusations against Trump have gone far beyond the “Box in” Narrative. The unspoken truth pertaining to Obama’s Executive Order is that the punishment was intended for Trump rather than Putin.

The objective is not to “Box-In” the president-elect for his “unfamiliarity with the role of intelligence.” Quite the opposite: The strategy is to delegitimize Donald Trump by accusing him of high treason.

Russian FlagIn recent developments, the director of National Intelligence James Clapper has “confirmed” that the alleged Russian cyberattack constitutes an “existential threat to our way of life.”

“Whether or not that constitutes an act of war [by Russia against the US] I think is a very heavy policy call that I don’t believe the intelligence community should make,” said Clapper.

That “act of war” not by Russia but against Russia seems to be have been endorsed by the outgoing Obama administration: several thousand tanks and US troops are being deployed on Russia’s doorstep as part of Obama’s “Operation Atlantic Resolve” directed against the Russian Federation.

Are these military deployments  part of Obama’s “act of retribution” against Russia in response to Moscow’s alleged hacking of the US elections?

Is this a “fast-track” procedure on the part of the outgoing president with the support of US intelligence, intended to create political and social chaos prior to the inception of the Trump administration on January 20th?

According to Donbass DINA News: “A Massive US military deployment [on Russia's border] should be ready by January 20.” And insanity could potentially unleash World War III.

Meanwhile the “real story” behind hacking is front page news. The mainstream media is not covering it. The ultimate intent of this campaign led by the Neocons and the Clinton Faction is to destabilize the Trump presidency. 

Prior to the November 8 elections, former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Leo Panetta had already intimated that Trump is a threat to National Security. According to The Atlantic,  Trump is a “Modern Manchurian Candidate” serving the interests of the Kremlin.

Election Recount Insider Analysis

Columbus Free Press (Ohio), The Real Story of the Recount, Bob Fitrakis, Jan. 4, 2017. Bob Fitrakis, Ohio Green Party Co-Chair and the Federal Elections Commissioner in Jill Stein’s Shadow Cabinet served as legal counsel for Jill Stein’s 2016 recount campaign. Jill Stein’s multi-state presidential recount was unprecedented. The idea originated from a group of computer scientists represented by attorney John Bonifaz, who after analyzing the U.S. computerized voting system found it to be vulnerable to hacking and manipulation. Social scientists and statisticians deemed some of the 2016 election results to be improbable. Election integrity volunteers and attorneys stepped up to help sort it out.

Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate, agreed to ask for recounts in three states: Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The donation page went online the afternoon before Thanksgiving. The recount was quickly financed in a few weeks by 150,000 small donors at the grassroots level across the political spectrum.

But if you were watching Fox News or reading Facebook during the recount you would think Stein, with a suspicious and nefarious agenda, was at best working undercover for the Clinton campaign or at worst, involved in a political payola campaign scam to enrich herself.

In reality, she was using the U.S. State Department and U.S. Agency on International Development (USAID) standards of election integrity that every democratic country on the planet is held to – except the United States.

That standard is simple: If there is a significant mismatch between exit poll numbers and official vote totals, it is assumed something is amiss. In the case of this November’s presidential election, 13 states had exit poll-vote total mismatches that raised red flags with discrepancies that were far outside the margin of error. Twelve went for Trump and one for Clinton.

In the Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida exit polls, Clinton was ahead but Trump won the official vote count. In fact, in 24 out of 28 states there was a shift to Trump. This wouldn’t happen except once in every 52,440 presidential elections. Statisticians predict that this should be more evenly divided between the two candidates. All three states chosen for the recount admitted errors in their official vote counts, all in Trump’s favor.

Media & Trump Transition

Rupert MurdochFishbowl DC, Donald Trump Reportedly Asks Rupert Murdoch to Suggest Names to Lead the FCC, Corinne Grinapol, Jan. 4, 2017. In the last two paragraphs of a piece in which New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman contemplates who will take Megyn Kelly‘s place in Fox News Channel’s prime-time lineup (a “pro-Trump conservative,” probably) is a far more important, and troubling, issue. The impetus, it turns out, for creating a thick chunk of pro-Trump programming is business, not ideological. A source told Sherman that Donald Trump asked Rupert Murdoch for his suggestions for FCC Chair.

Put another way, Trump is asking Murdoch to choose the person he’d like to head the regulatory body that regulates Murdoch’s business, as well as those of his competitors.

Washington Post, Internet providers are pushing for a repeal of Obama-era privacy rules, Brian Fung, Jan. 4, 2017.The rules, which were passed in October, are meant to keep firms such as Comcast and Verizon from abusing the behavioral data they collect on customers. That information includes your Web browsing history and the content of your emails.
 
President Obama, Joe Biden, May 6, 2015

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talk in the Oval Office before their weekly lunch, May 6, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Washington Post, Obama to huddle with Democrats on protecting his signature health care law, Juliet Eilperin and and Amy Goldstein​, Jan. 4, 2017. Obama’s rare visit to Capitol Hill, 2 ½ weeks before Donald Trump assumes the presidency, marks the start of his administration’s final push to defend its achievements before handing over the reins of power in Washington.

WLIS / WMRD (1420 and 1150 on the AM dial in Connecticut), The Phil Mikan Show, Jan. 4, 2017. Longtime Connecticut talk show host Phil Mikan (shown in a file photo) interviewed Justice Integrity Project Editor Andrew Kreig for an Phil Mikanhour about the incoming Trump Administration and related developments.

These included the project's column on federal judicial and prosecutor nominations, public anger towards officials, and a discussion of the pervasive public relations techniques involved in government affairs and reporting.

Washington Post, How Julian Assange evolved from pariah to paragon, David Weigel, Joby Warrick, Jan. 4, 2017. Once vilified by the right, the founder of WikiLeaks is now seen by some as a hero of transparency.

Jan. 3

Trump Transition

Federal Employee Targeting?

Federal News Radio, Blast from the past: House reinstates rule targeting agency spending, employee salaries, Nicole Ogrysko, Jan. 3, 2017. Members of Congress brought back a longtime relic from previous congressional sessions Tuesday afternoon that could have major implications for federal employees during the appropriations process.

The House of Representatives voted on party lines and approved the rules package for the 115th Congress. It reinstates the “Holman Rule,” a little-known provision that allows lawmakers to bring an amendment on an appropriations bill to the House floor that may “retrench” agency spending, reduce the number of federal employees in a particular agency or cut the salary or “compensation of any person paid out of the Treasury of the United States.”

Five lawmakers from the national capital region say reinstating the rule would allow any member to bypass traditional order and make significant changes to agency functions or personnel. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), along with Reps. John Delaney (D-Md.), Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and District of Columbia Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) wrote in opposition of the rule.

“We see this as an end-around, a surgical tool intended to reach deep into the federal budget to cut away programs and employees who run afoul of the Majority’s ideology,” a spokesman for Rep. Beyer’s office told Federal News Radio. “Functionally, a member could effectively remove an individual by reducing their salary or defunding their program. This is even more concerning given reports of transition team members requesting names of federal employees doing work on specific projects.”

The Holman Rule essentially lets House lawmakers make changes to a federal employee’s salary or position without input from the appropriations committee. Members can debate these amendments on the House floor for a limited time.

“Reviving this rule means lawmakers will be able to vote to cut the pay and jobs of individual workers or groups of workers without getting input from the agencies where these employees work,” said J. David Cox, national president for the American Federation of Government Employees, in a statement. Longtime federal employees may recognize the Holman Rule as a familiar provision. It was last included during a congressional session in 1983. The rule itself dates back to 1876 and has been a part of the rules package on occasion since then.

Wall Street Journal, Time for a Rigorous National Debate About Surveillance, Mike Pompeo and David B. Rivkin Jr., Jan. 3, 2017. Post-9/11 measures have been weakened or discarded. A coherent new approach is needed. America is in a long war against a resilient enemy capable of striking the homeland, but U.S. intelligence capabilities are falling short of meeting the threat.

Mediaite, CNN Panelist to Trump: ‘Why Not Stay Silent’ as ‘Intelligence Community Has Information’ on You, Justin Baragona, Jan. 3, 2017. During a panel discussion on President-elect Donald Trump’s adversarial CIA Logorelationship with the intelligence community over the issue of Russian hacking, which continued this evening with a mocking tweet from Trump, CNN presidential historian Timothy Naftali suggested Trump should be careful.

Why? Well, because the intel community likely has some dirt on the incoming POTUS. After host Don Lemon brought up Trump’s tweet this evening where he claimed his meeting with intelligence agency heads was delayed while labeling the Russian hacking as “so-called,” Naftali said it was a “bad idea” taking them on.

“The intelligence community has information about him that I’m sure he would like not to be released,” the historian explained. Naftali noted that there was probably no “great secret there” but it “doesn’t make sense for Donald Trump to make adversaries” in the intelligence community. He further asked, “Why not stay silent?”

Washington Post, More than 1,100 law school professors oppose Sessions’s nomination as attorney general, Sari Horwitz​, “We are convinced that Jeff Sessions will not fairly enforce our nation’s laws and promote justice and equality,” states the letter signed by professors from 170 law schools. More than 1,100 law school professors from across the country is sending a letter to Congress on Tuesday urging the Jeff SessionsSenate to reject the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for attorney general.

The letter, signed by professors from 170 law schools in 48 states, is also scheduled to run as a full-page newspaper ad aimed at members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will be holding confirmation hearings for Sessions (shown in an official photo) on Jan. 10-11.

“We are convinced that Jeff Sessions will not fairly enforce our nation’s laws and promote justice and equality in the United States,” states the letter, signed by prominent legal scholars including Laurence H. Tribe of Harvard Law School, Geoffrey R. Stone of the University of Chicago Law School, Pamela S. Karlan of Stanford Law School and Erwin Chemerinsky of the University of California, Irvine School of Law.

Washington Post, It started with a little online venting. Now the Women’s March could be the biggest inauguration demonstration, Perry Stein and Sandhya Somashekhar, Jan. 3, 2017.  Teresa Shook never considered herself much of an activist, but when the election results became clear, she asked her friends how to create an event page on Facebook for a march. By the time she went to bed, 40 people were on board. Now, more than 100,000 have said they plan to attend what has become a focal point for activists opposing Donald Trump’s agenda.

TPM, Trump To Nominate Robert Lighthizer As US Trade Representative, Caitlin MacNeal, Jan. 3, 2017. Donald Trump on Tuesday morning announced that he will nominate Robert Lighthizer to be the United States trade representative. Lighthizer supports Trump's trade agenda and was an early supporter of the President-elect. He served as deputy U.S. trade representative under President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

Criticism of Obama Justice Record

Black Agenda Report Radio, Obama’s Pardons Distract from the Horror of Mass Black Incarceration, Glen Ford, Jan. 3, 2017. Americans imprison big, but they pardon very small. President Obama set a record by giving clemency to 1/2000th of the 2.3 million U.S. prison inmates. The Brennan Center recommends release of 40 percent of inmates. But the Black Is Back Coalition calculates that even release of twice that many – 80 percent – would still maintain mass incarceration at 1973 levels.

The whole damn system has to go, for Black folks to even get close to justice. President Obama, a master of public relations, now has bragging rights for having granted clemency to a record number of federal prisoners – 1,176 of them, at last count, more than those set free by the past 11 presidents, combined. Looking at the number from a different angle, Obama released only one out of every
two thousand of the nation’s 2.3 million prison inmates, the largest incarcerated population in the world, both in raw numbers and in the proportion of U.S. society
living behind bars. In other words, Obama’s clemencies, like all other presidents’, are statistically meaningless and morally and politically distractive. But, of course, that’s what Obama’s good at – distracting people.

The incompetent, lazy and white supremacist corporate media forget, or never reported, that for several years the Obama administration delayed the release from prison of five times as many inmates as he pardoned: about 6,000 federal prisoners convicted under the old crack cocaine laws. A federal appeals court wanted to
let them out, ruling that they were covered by a prison reform bill, but President Obama successfully argued to keep these men and women in prison. Several years later, Obama staged a huge public relations extravaganza, releasing many of these same inmates, supposedly out of the goodness of his heart.  It was two years too late. Some never got out.

The Brennan Center for Justice released a study last month that concluded the U.S. could set free 39 percent of its prison population with no threat to public safety. The Brennan researchers argue that you can’t make a dent in the mass incarceration system unless whole categories of prisoners are made eligible for immediate release. They say 25 percent of the prison population should, instead, have been sentenced to drug treatment, community service, probation or a fine. Another 14 percent of inmates have already served enough time in prison, and are no longer a risk. Together, that comes to almost 40 percent of the prison population -- one and a half million people, about half of them Black.

GOP House Members Reverse Vote Gutting Ethics Oversight

Roll Call, House GOP Rolls Back Ethics Office Changes, Rema Rahman, House Republican leaders on Tuesday reversed a rule change that would have limited the independent Office of Congressional Ethics from investigating wrongdoing by members in the 115th Congress. The decision was made at a closed-door meeting, according to several lawmakers in attendance. The move came before the House was to vote on a package of rules changes on the first day of the new session.

Paul RyanWashington Post, Defying Ryan, House Republicans vote to rein in independent ethics office, Mike DeBonis and Karoun Demirjian, Jan. 3, 2017. The move to place the Office of Congressional Ethics under the oversight of the House Ethics Committee stands to please many lawmakers who have been wary of having their dirty laundry aired by the independent entity, but some Republicans (including Speaker Paul Ryan, shown in an official photo) feared that rolling back a high-profile ethical reform would send a negative message as the GOP assumes unified control in Washington.

Politico, What is the Office of Congressional Ethics and why does it matter, Kyle Cheney and John Bresnahan, Jan. 3, 2017. House Republicans’ sudden move to gut their own independent ethics watchdog is in jeopardy following a rebuke from President-elect Donald Trump on the first day of the 2017 session. But their closed-door vote to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics — the most sweeping Congressional ethics reform of the last decade — is the result of years of building tension between lawmakers and investigators they’ve accused of overzealous pursuits.

Donald Trump Logo Make America Great AgainThe Office of Congressional Ethics, established in 2008, was the House’s answer to a string of ethics scandals involving members and staff — most notoriously the sweeping bribery conspiracy engineered by lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The office was envisioned as an independent check on Congress’ power to police itself. Though it would feature no subpoena power, the office’s most important bludgeon was its ability to make public any reports that the House Ethics Committee decided not to pursue. Since its create, OCE has launched more than 100 inquiries and dismissed about two-thirds of them.

Republicans have moved to gut the already-limited power that OCE has to investigate members. It would be renamed the Office of Congressional Complaint Review and fall under direct oversight of the bipartisan House Ethics Committee.

The new office would have to halt any investigation if the Ethics Committee makes a written request to shut it down. Anonymous tips to the office would no longer be accepted, and any investigations that turn up potential criminal activity would be halted immediately and referred to the Ethics panel. Republicans are going to debate the amendment again in a Tuesday afternoon meeting, following Trump’s complaint. Stay tuned.

Jack Abramoff Noel St. JohnPolitico, Jack Abramoff slams GOP over House ethics changes, Shane Goldmacher, Jan. 3, 2017. Jack Abramoff, the disgraced former lobbyist whose felony crimes eventually helped lead to the creation of the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, ripped House Republicans for their move to gut the independent watchdog.

Abramoff, who emerged from prison as a self-styled ethics reformer, told Politico that the House GOP package adopted on Monday is “exactly the opposite of what Congress should be doing.” Abramoff is shown in a file photo (courtesy of Noel St. John) speaking at the National Press Club.

War, Peace and Hidden History

New York Times, Nixon Tried to Spoil Vietnam Peace Talks to Win 1968 Election, Peter Baker, Jan. 3, 2017 (print edition). Newly discovered notes by an aide to Richard M. Nixon appear to confirm suspicions that, while running for president, he was directly involved in persuading South Vietnam to resist a peace deal. Richard M. Nixon told an aide that they should find a way to secretly “monkey wrench” peace talks in Vietnam in the waning days of the 1968 campaign for fear that progress toward ending the war would hurt his chances for the presidency, according to newly discovered notes.

Richard NixonIn a telephone conversation with H. R. Haldeman, who would go on to become White House chief of staff, Nixon (shown in an official photo) gave instructions that a friendly intermediary should keep “working on” South Vietnamese leaders to persuade them not to agree to a deal before the election, according to the notes, taken by Mr. Haldeman.

The Nixon campaign’s clandestine effort to thwart President Lyndon B. Johnson’s peace initiative that fall has long been a source of controversy and scholarship. Ample evidence has emerged documenting the involvement of Nixon’s campaign. But Mr. Haldeman’s notes appear to confirm longstanding suspicions that Nixon himself was directly involved, despite his later denials.

Fernando Faura“There’s really no doubt this was a step beyond the normal political jockeying, to interfere in an active peace negotiation given the stakes with all the lives,” said John A. Farrell, who discovered the notes at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library for his forthcoming biography, Richard Nixon: The Life, to be published in March by Doubleday. “Potentially, this is worse than anything he did in Watergate.”

Through much of the campaign, the Nixon team maintained a secret channel to the South Vietnamese through Anna Chennault, widow of Claire Lee Chennault, leader of the Flying Tigers in China during World War II. Mrs. Chennault had become a prominent Republican fund-raiser and Washington hostess.

Justice Integrity Project Editor's Note: The Polka Dot File, a book last summer by former reporter Fernando Faura, linked Chenault and her reputed disruption of peace negotiations to a mysterious "lady in the polka dot dress" reportedly at the scene and otherwise complicit with the June 1968 assassination of Democratic presidential contender Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles.

Media News

Megyn Kelly Fox News PhotoHuffington Post, Megyn Kelly Leaving Fox News For NBC, Michael Calderone, Jan. 3, 2017. Her national profile increased following Donald Trump’s attacks — and also interest from competing networks. Fox News host Megyn Kelly (shown above in a screen shot) is leaving the cable news network for NBC News, the network announced Tuesday. Kelly will take on multiple roles at NBC. She’ll host a one-hour daytime talk show airing Monday through Friday and a Sunday evening news magazine show, and will contribute on breaking news stories and NBC’s coverage of major political and special events.

Global News

Syria FlagWashington Post, Syrian rebels threaten to snub peace talks amid cease-fire violations, Louisa Loveluck, Jan. 3, 2017. Syrian rebels have suspended talks over peace negotiations scheduled for later this month, accusing pro-government forces of breaking a cease-fire intended to stem bloodshed ahead of the meeting. Brokered by Russia and Turkey, the truce was to have been followed by talks between mainstream rebel factions and government representatives in the Kazakh capital of Astana.

The Indicter, New Analysis of Swedish Police Report Confirms Julian Assange’s Version in Sweden’s case, Celia Farber, Jan. 3, 2017. Author and investigative reporter Celia Farber concludes that the police reports  confirm Julian Assange’s testimony, as given to the prosecutor in her questioning conducted at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. It  has also been established that the crucial allegations against Mr Julian Assange, as have appeared in the Swedish and international media were constructed by the police and were not what the complainants really said or wished to achieve.

The IndicterIt has been discovered that it was the police, or the prosecutor’s office, which unlawfully and/or unethically leaked the “allegations” to the evening paper Expressen, which is clearly known for its declared NATO sympathies. Regrettably, but also predictably, this was an opportunity for Western mainstream media to create a scandal around the founder of WikiLeaks. Likewise, it was an occasion used by the MSM to insidiously attack the organization that had partly exposed the corruption of the governments they represent, and partly surpassed them in journalistic efficacy and objectivity.

But it was more than purely vendetta-time; it was a well-articulated campaign which started that day in August 2010 when – according to the Snowden documents– the US government asked the countries participating in the military occupation of Afghanistan under US command to prosecute Julian Assange. Sweden obeyed; others cooperated.

Nevertheless, the Afghan Logs and the Iraq Logs exposed by WikiLeaks remained published. The WikiLeaks founder did not surrender. The Assange case, already politically in its origins, turned into a spiral of increasing geopolitical dimensions.

Our position has always been that the above-described political aspect has always been present in the ‘Assange case’ and we could hardly be – in principle – interested in furthering a discussion on details pertaining the intimacy of Mr Assange or of other people around the constructed ‘legal case.’

CIA Funding of Media

New Republic, Literary Agents: Rethinking the legacy of writers who worked with the CIA, Patrick Iber, Jan. 3, 2017. Essay on New Book: Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World's Best Writers by Joel Whitney (OR Books, January 10, 2017).

CIA LogoThe struggle for academic patronage and the strained conditions of nearly all media properties have led to fewer jobs and fewer venues for substantial writing; the possibility of leading a public-facing life of the mind now seems vanishingly small, which only heightens nostalgia for the golden age of the 1950s. Yet the shadow of the CIA lurks behind the achievements of that time. The free play of ideas—the very thing that was supposed to distinguish the United States from the Soviet Union in the first place—turned out to be, at least in part, a carefully constructed illusion. What if the prominence of midcentury intellectuals, the sense that they were engaged in important political and artistic projects, is inseparable from the fact that they were useful to America’s Cold War empire?

Through such relationships, the CIA wielded undue influence on the literary landscape. Whitney makes a compelling case, for instance, that the CIA reinforced the literary prestige of white men in American letters. If other nations believed that race relations in America were poor, the agency feared, it would damage our ability to lead the “free” world. So the CIA sponsored African American voices only if their critique of U.S. society wasn’t too sweeping. And even writers it did support, like Richard Wright, found that the CIA was spying on them at the same time. “I lift my hand to fight communism,” Wright wrote, “and I find that the hand of the Western world is sticking knives into my back.” Ex-Communist Ralph Ellison, author of Invisible Man, attended some CCF events; he was the only black writer featured in The Paris Review’s “Art of Fiction” series until the 1980s.

The evidence that investigative journalists like Whitney and [Frances] Saunders have amassed should leave no doubt that the so-called “free market of ideas,” which the CIA claimed to be protecting, was distorted and undermined by the agency’s own activities. The CIA’s cultural apparatus gave intellectuals a way to advance professionally, as long as they rejected radicalism and embraced the necessity of U.S. power in the Cold War. The CIA did not create those opinions, but it amplified them and helped give its warriors the sense of being engaged in a world-historic struggle.

Jan. 2

Trump Transition

Donald Trump for President logo

Huffington Post, Pelosi Slams GOP ‘Cowardice’ on Obamacare Repeal With No Replacement, Jeffrey Young, Jan. 2, 2016. Republicans still don’t know what they want to do on health care, the Democratic leader says. Republicans are dead set on acting swiftly to dismantle the Affordable Care Act without having a new health care reform platform in place because they know their party doesn’t have a way forward, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Monday.

Donald Trump for President buttonThe congressional GOP leadership’s preferred strategy on Obamacare ― dubbed repeal-and-delay ― is to begin moving filibuster-proof legislation through Congress as soon as lawmakers return this week, with an eye toward presenting it to President-elect Donald Trump to sign right after he’s inaugurated this month.

But Republicans plan to postpone developing their own health care proposals for up to four years ― after the next presidential election ― because the party has never been able to agree on what it wants to do instead.

Nancy Pelosi To Pelosi, this signals that the House GOP leadership knows it faces major obstacles uniting its fractious caucus around what role the federal government should have in creating the conditions for more Americans to obtain affordable health insurance coverage.

“Repeal and delay is an act of cowardice on the part of the Republicans,” she said during a conference call with reporters Monday. “Where are they going to get the votes to replace? If, in fact, ideologically they’re opposed to a public role and any participation in the good health of the American people, where are they going to get the votes, unless they were to act in a bipartisan way?”

Pelosi (shown in an official photo) previously predicted Republicans would fail to even pass their repeal bill. Trump and Republicans in Congress are in full agreement that the Affordable Care Act must go, not least because they have been promising to undo the law since President Barack Obama enacted it in 2010. But during that time, the GOP has failed to coalesce around an alternative.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) released a broad framework for a new health care platform last year, and Trump’s choice for secretary of Health and Human Services, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), has authored health care reform legislation.

CNN, House GOP guts ethics panel, Deirdre Walsh and Daniella Diaz, Jan. 2, 2016. House Republicans voted Monday night in favor of a proposal that would weaken Congress' outside ethics watchdog and remove its independence. Republican Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte's proposal would place the independent Office of Congressional Ethics ― an initial watchdog for House members but without power to punish members -- under oversight of those very lawmakers.

This will now be included in a larger rules package that will be voted on in the full House of Representatives Tuesday. Goodlatte argued that changing the ethics review process "strengthens the mission" of the office and it will remain the panel to review potential rules violations. "It also improves upon due process rights for individuals under investigation, as well as witnesses called to testify. The (ethics office) has a serious and important role in the House, and this amendment does nothing to impede their work," Goodlatte said in a written statement Monday evening.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi slammed the move. "Republicans claim they want to 'drain the swamp,' but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House GOP has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions. Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress," she said in a statement Monday following the vote. Pelosi added: "The amendment Republicans approved tonight would functionally destroy this office."

But GOP Rep. Hal Rogers, the Appropriations Committee chairman, told reporters he backed the proposal because "it's the right thing to do." Rogers said there were "numerous examples" of members "who were falsely accused by this group who had to spend a fortune to get their good name ‎restored so I think there's been an abuse."

Washington Post, Trump’s inability to tolerate critics may be his biggest problem, Jennifer Rubin, Jan. 2, 2016. A single, unidentified source, according to the New York Post, says President-elect Donald Trump told Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that he likes him better than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (“he likes Schumer more than Ryan and McConnell because they both wanted him to lose”).

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoWe cannot tell if Trump actually said it, let alone meant it, let alone will mean it a week or a day from now. (Operating off a single blind source in the Trump administration would seem to be the definition of reckless, by the way.) Welcome to Trump politics — irrational, personalized, mercurial, vengeful and maybe fictionalized by media straining for insights into the new administration.

One thing we can be sure of: At some point Trump will decide Schumer is a “loser” or “the worst” or whatever childish insult comes to mind because Schumer and Trump do not share objectives. As self-evident as it may be, Trump operates in a world in which someone’s worth (whether it is Schumer or Ryan or Russian President Vladimir Putin) is a direct reflection of whether he is saying nice things about Trump. This may be one reason he relies so heavily on his children; they know better than to insult him or to challenge him in ways that prompt him to lash out.

Washington Post, Winners and losers of the biggest state political battles of 2016, Amber Phillips​, Jan. 2, 2017. By most measures, 2016 was the Republicans' year. They'll enter 2017 with near-historic majorities in Congress, governors' mansions and state legislatures, and as attorneys general, secretaries of state — you get the point. But Democrats and liberal advocates had some surprisingly major victories in 2016, especially on state referendums dealing with drugs, minimum wage and guns. Here are the nine biggest state political and policy battles, divided into categories by which side won.

Crimes Against Democracy

JFKFacts.org, Anthony Summers digs deeper on Orest Pena, Jefferson Morley, Jan. 2, 2017. A faithful reader adds to what is known about Orest Pena, the New Orleans bar owner whose testimony to Congress Anthony Summersin 1978 remains secret. The reader quotes from Anthony Summers’ useful reporting in his book, Not  in Your Lifetime.

“There was the claim of Orest Pena, a New Orleans bar owner who in 1963 himself supplied occasional information to FBI agent Warren De Brueys," wrote Summers (shown in a file photo). "Pena was to say he had seen Oswald with Agent De Brueys on “numerous occasions” and that De Brueys threatened him physically before his Warren Commission appearance, warning him to keep quiet. 

Around the Nation

AP via Las Vegas Review-Journal, Bundy friends, family protest federal monument decision,  Wire and staff reports, Jan. 2, 2017. Obama on Thursday declared the nearly 470-square-mile Gold Butte National Monument in an area across the Virgin River from the Bundy homestead, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.  The announcement coincided with designation of a more than 2,100-square-mile Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.

The local Moapa Band of Paiute Indians, conservationists and advocates praised the Gold Butte designation, which U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who is retiring after 34 years in Congress, backed. They said the area is home to threatened wildlife, such as the desert tortoise and bighorn sheep, and contains ancient rock art and artifacts, unique geologic features, rare fossils and recently discovered dinosaur tracks.

The Spectrum of St. George, Utah, reported that Carol Bundy expressed fear during the protest that the government will ban grazing in the Gold Butte area — although the U.S. Interior Department says grazing will be allowed. Bundy nephew Josey Spencer said the group hoped President-elect Donald Trump will reverse Obama’s monument declaration.

Trial is set to begin Feb. 6 in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas for the first six defendants in the criminal case stemming from the armed standoff in April 2014 that stopped a U.S. Bureau of Land Management roundup of Bundy cattle. Nineteen people were arrested last year, including five Bundy family members. Two men have pleaded guilty; Cliven Bundy and four sons are to stand trial later this year.

Bundy family members maintain the state, not the federal government, has authority over the public land where he has grazed cattle for decades. The position has roots in a nearly half-century fight over grazing policies in Nevada and the West, where the U.S. government controls vast expanses of property. Federal land managers obtained court orders to remove Bundy cattle from the land after telling judges that he failed for years to pay required grazing fees.

Global News

Washington Post, lslamic State says it carried out deadly New Year’s Eve attack at nightclub in Istanbul, Erin Cunningham and Heba Habib, Jan. 2, 2017. The mass shooting that killed 39 people was designed to target Christians as an act of vengeance for Turkish military actions, the militant group said.

SouthFront, Syrian Army Continues Anti-Terrorist Operation Northwest Of Damascus, Liberates Ayn Al-Fijah Village, Staff Report, Jan. 2, 2017. The Syrian government launched military operation in the Wadi Barada area in December, 2016 after Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and its allies poisoned the water supply line to the government-held area of Damascus.

United Nations

Middle East Eye, Why Israel Med UN Settlement Vote With Anger, Fear, Horror, Basheer Nafi, Jan. 2, 2017. No measure has so exposed the commitment of the Sisi regime to serving Israeli interests as the affair of the Security Council resolution. The UN Security Council resolution denouncing Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories was a last-minute one.

Israel FlagThe council voted on it during the final hours of 23 December, the last day of serious work at the UN prior to the end-of-year holidays. It was also the last day of serious work for Barack Obama's administration before Donald Trump takes over the White House on 20 January.

The resolution, therefore, seemed as if it was Obama's last message to Benjamin Netanyahu’s government - the same government which has resisted every Washington attempt, however small, towards achieving a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has never hesitated to manipulate America's partisan politics against the US president, such as when Netanyahu, invited by Republicans, gave his speech against the Iran nuclear deal before Congress in March 2015.

Jan. 1

Trump Transition

Donald TrumpWashington Post, GOP Congress maps plans for sweeping conservative agenda, David Weigel​, Jan. 1, 2017. When the 115th Congress begins this week with Republicans firmly in charge of the House and Senate, GOP lawmakers are ready to move quickly on an ambitious package of conservative legislation, confident that their long-delayed legislative goals are poised to become reality with Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

Trump Opposition

Huffington Post, Impeaching Trump: The process begins now, Robert Kuttner, Jan. 1, 2017. Donald Trump is wildly unfit to be president, and he will demonstrate that in ways that break the law and violate the Constitution.

Since the election, there have been three wishful efforts to keep Trump from the presidency: a recount doomed by a lack of evidence; a futile campaign to flip Trump electors; and an even more improbable drive to get the Supreme Court to annul the 2016 election. These moves, indicative of magical thinking, make Trump’s opposition look a lot weaker than it is ― at a time when the stakes for the Republic could not be higher. There will also be marches and demonstrations, but they will also look weak unless they have a strategic focus.

There is only one constitutional way to remove a president, and that is via impeachment. What’s needed is a citizens’ impeachment inquiry, to begin on Trump’s first day in office.

The inquiry should keep a running dossier, and forward updates at least weekly to the House Judiciary Committee. There will be no lack of evidence. The materials should be made public via a website. The inquiry should be conducted by a distinguished panel whose high-mindedness and credentials are, well, unimpeachable.

There needs to be a parallel public campaign, pressing for an official investigation. For those appalled by Trump, who wonder where to focus their efforts, here is something concrete―and more realistic than it may seem.

Trump has already committed grave misdeeds of the kind that the Constitutional founders described as high crimes and misdemeanors. With his commingling of his official duties and his personal enrichment, Trump will be in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which unambiguously prohibits any person holding public office from profiting from gifts or financial benefits from “any king, prince or Foreign state.”

Trump, who has entangled his business interests with his political connections at home and abroad, has already declared his contempt for these Constitutional protections. He declared, “The law is totally on my side, meaning the president can’t have a conflict of interest.” Oh, yes he can, and this president will.