FBI Logo

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

March 29

Are U.S. Wars Expanding With No Endgame?

New York Times, U.S. War Footprint Grows, With No Endgame in Sight, Ben Hubbard and Michael R. Gordon, March 29, 2017. In places like Yemen, Syria and Iraq, the United States is deepening its involvement in wars while diplomacy becomes largely an afterthought.

Senators Vow Full, Fair Probe of Russia's Links With Trump, His Advisors

New York Times, Senate Panel Vows Full Investigation of Trump’s Russia Ties, Matt Flegenheimer and Emmarie Huetteman, March 29, 2017. The top Republican and the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee distanced themselves from a flagging House effort and vowed to take the Trump-Russia inquiry “wherever the intelligence leads.”

Trump Alleged To Be Longtime Russian Puppet

Palmer Report, Download the comprehensive seventeen page Palmer Report on Trump-Russia, Bill Palmer, March 29, 2017. Donald President Donald Trump officialTrump’s Russia scandal has become so vast and complex, with new pieces of the puzzle arriving from all direction, that it’s become difficult to keep track of the pieces long enough to figure out how they fit together. As we head into the Senate Intelligence Committee hearings on the scandal, I’ve stepped back and assembled a 17-page document which ties all the pieces together and explains how we got to this point.

The Palmer Report on Trump-Russia begins with the financial bodyblow which Donald Trump suffered in 2008, leaving him unable to continue borrowing money from U.S. banks, and making him vulnerable to Vladimir Putin and Russia. My report goes on to document how the Kremlin built Trump back up over the next several years by using a carrot and stick approach of secretly laundered money and carefully orchestrated blackmail. I document how, by the time Trump entered the 2016 election, his newfound status as a Russian political puppet was a natural extension of his existing status as a Russian financial and societal puppet.

Trump Supreme Court Pick Seen Lacking 60 Votes

Washington Post, Gorsuch’s nomination is on track to irreparably change the Senate — and further divide the country, Paul Kane​, March Neil Gorsuch29, 2017. There is a sense of raw politics in Democrats’ growing opposition to Neil Gorsuch (shown in a file photo), because liberal anti-Trump activists are pushing Democrats to oppose every Trump move.

Sens. Roger E. Wicker (R-Miss.) and Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.) are not usually partisan firebrands, particularly on presidential appointments.  Now, with about 10 days left in the showdown over President Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, both Wicker and Carper have turned dour in their outlook for what the battle means for the Senate — and the country.

Washington Post, Here's a count of Democratic votes to block Gorsuch's nomination, Amber Phillips, Darla Cameron and Kevin Schaul, March 29, 2017.

Inside The Trump White House

Washington Post, From ‘Apprentice’ villain to West Wing’s highest-ranking African-American: The paradox of Omarosa Manigault, Vanessa Williams, Manigault appears to have President Trump’s ear, and some black political observers see her as an important ally in a White House that is overwhelmingly white and male. Others see her as a cover for the president.    

Anti-Abortion Activists Face Felonies For Secret Videos

Washington Post, Two activists who filmed undercover videos of Planned Parenthood are charged with 15 felonies, Samantha Schmidt, March 29, 2017. California prosecutors said the two violated the privacy of health-care providers by recording confidential information without consent. The two antiabortion activists who mounted a hidden-camera investigation against Planned Parenthood officials have been charged with 15 felony counts of violating the privacy of health-care providers by recording confidential information without their consent.

In announcing the charges against David Robert Daleiden and Sandra Merritt on Tuesday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the duo used manufactured identities and a fictitious bioresearch company to meet medical officials and covertly record the private discussions they initiated. “The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s Constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society,” Becerra said. “We will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations.”

The criminal complaint alleges that on 14 occasions, between October 2013 and July 2015, Daleiden and Merritt filmed people without permission in Los Angeles, San Francisco and El Dorado counties. The activists face a felony count for each person covertly recorded, and an additional felony charge for criminal conspiracy to invade privacy. The charges mark a major turning point in a case that had drawn national attention from both sides of the abortion debate and led to investigations — but no charges — against Planned Parenthood in 13 states.

The secretly recorded conversations dropped during the politically tumultuous summer of 2015, amid a crowded field of Republican presidential contenders, and turned Daleiden into the biggest star of the antiabortion movement. The heavily edited videos attempted to discredit Planned Parenthood, long a target of the right, and galvanized conservatives’ efforts to pull funding from the women’s health organization and other family planning programs.

Politico, Appeals court backs injunction on sharing undercover anti-abortion videos, Josh Gerstein, March 29, 2017. A federal appeals court has upheld an injunction barring anti-abortion activists from distributing secret recordings of abortion providers and their employees-part of a set of recordings targeting Planned Parenthood and abortion providers. The appeals court decision came one day after California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced criminal charges against two of the anti-abortion activists involved for allegedly violating state laws against recording of "confidential" conversations.

Around the Nation: New Jersey's 'Bridgegate'

New York Times, 2 Christie Allies Are Sentenced in George Washington Bridge Scandal, Nick Corasanitti, March 29, 2017. Bridget Anne Kelly, a former top aide to Gov. Chris Christie, was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Wednesday for her role in closing access lanes to David Wildstein and Bridget Kellythe George Washington Bridge as a form of political retribution against a mayor who refused to endorse Mr. Christie for re-election in 2013. (She is shown in a file photo with David Wildstein, a friend of Christie's in high school who achieved success in the Christie administration and turned state's witness.)

Earlier on Wednesday, Bill Baroni, 45, a former top official at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was also sentenced to two years in prison. Ms. Kelly, 44, who was Mr. Christie’s deputy chief of staff, and Mr. Baroni, 45, had been found guilty by a federal jury last fall of conspiracy and fraud following a seven-week trial. While the sentencing drew to a close the most public investigation and trial surrounding the trial, questions still remain about who was involved, and in particular, what Mr. Christie knew and when he knew about it.

GOP House Sells Off Your Privacy Rights

New York Times, How the Republicans Sold Your Privacy to Internet Providers, Tom Wheeler, March 29, 2017. Tom Wheeler (shown in an official photo) chaired the Federal Commission Commission as an appointee of President Obama after leading as president the National Cable Television Association and CTIA, each a major trade association of powerful communications companies, including the three named below.

On Tuesday afternoon, while most people were focused on the latest news from the House Intelligence Committee, the House quietly voted to undo rules that keep internet service providers — the companies like Comcast, Verizon and Charter that you pay for online access — from selling your personal information.

The Senate already approved the bill, on a party-line vote, last week, which means that in the coming days President Trump will be able to sign legislation that will strike a significant blow against online privacy protection. The bill not only gives cable companies and wireless providers free rein to do what they like with your browsing history, shopping habits, your location and other information gleaned from your online activity, but it would also prevent the Federal Communications Commission from ever again establishing similar consumer privacy protections.

Another Trump White House Conflict Scandal?

Palmer Report, Steve Bannon is a paid foreign agent of the Egyptian government, Bill Palmer, March 29, 2017. Earlier this month Donald Stephen BannonTrump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn admitted that he had been a paid foreign agent of the government of Turkey while he was working for the Trump campaign. Then Monica Crowley, who was nearly named Trump’s Deputy National Security Adviser, acknowledged she’s a paid pro-Kremlin foreign agent (link). Now, according to the Daily Beast and USA Today, Trump’s White House Chief Strategist is accused of having been a paid foreign agent of Egypt.

Global News

Washington Post, E.U. plunges into messy divorce as Britain gives formal notice to leave, Griff Witte, March 29, 2017. Britain is the first United Kingdom flagfull member of the E.U. to announce it is exiting the bloc, a reversal after decades of growing European integration. The move instantly plunged both Britain and the 27 other E.U. nations into two years of what will almost certainly be messy and acrimonious negotiations over the terms of divorce.

March 28

Russian Influence Probes

Sally Yates

Washington Post, Trump administration sought to block Yates from testifying to Congress on Russia, Devlin Barrett and Adam Entous​, Russian FlagMarch 28, 2017. According to letters reviewed by the Post, former acting attorney general Sally Yates (shown above in an official photo) was told earlier this month by the Justice Department that the Trump administration considers much of her possible testimony to be barred from a congressional hearing because the topics are covered by the presidential communication privilege. The administration's position is likely to anger Democrats who say the House investigation is being damaged.

Palmer Report, Donald Trump and Devin Nunes can’t stop Sally Yates from testifying for Senate Intel Committee, Bill Palmer, March 28, 2017. Donald Trump has decided that he must stop former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates from testifying in his Russia scandal at all cost, and so he’s used his stooge Devin Nunes (R-CA) to ensure that Yates can’t testify before the House Intelligence Committee. This has required Nunes to set himself on fire, sinking both his career and the committee he chairs. But remarkably, none of this will stop Yates from simply testifying in a different venue.

Trump appears to have baited Nunes (shown in an official photo) into leaking classified intel and compromising himself, simply so that the resulting debacle would create an opening where Trump could then nudge Nunes into canceling the remainder of the House Intel Committee hearings before Sally Yates could testify.

Trump appears to have no real sway over the Senate Intel Committee, which has been running its own parallel investigation into his Russia scandal. The Senate committee has been treating the probe with the utmost seriousness, presumably due to eight of its fifteen members (six Democrats plus Independent Angus King plus Republican Susan Collins) wanting a serious investigation. The committee has pored over binders of classified Trump-Russia intel at CIA headquarters (link), and Collins has publicly threatened to subpoena Trump’s tax returns if it becomes necessary.

Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Russia: Trump & His Team’s Ties, Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15 and shown in a file photo), is the Ranking Member of the CIA Subcommittee of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, March 28, 2017. Despite Russia’s harmful national interests against the U.S., and its human rights violations around the world, President Trump and his team are directly and indirectly tied to Russia. The New York Times reported that members of Trump’s 2016 campaign and other Trump associates had frequent contact with senior Russian intelligence officials throughout the campaign. In addition to these questionable communications, here are a few other associates with ties to Moscow:

Palmer Report, FBI arrests ten people in New York City with alleged ties to Donald Trump and Russian mafia, Bill Palmer, March 28, 2017. FBI logoThe FBI and NYPD Joint Organized Crime Task Force have arrested ten men in New York City today on charges of running a racketeering conspiracy as part of an organized crime effort. What’s notable is that these men and their crime family have alleged ties to the Russian mafia and to Donald Trump – raising the question of whether this move was made as part of the FBI’s ongoing investigation into Trump and Russia.

Around the Nation: Alabama's Violent Prison

New York Times, An Alabama Prison’s Unrelenting Descent Into Violence, Campbell Robertson, March 28, 2017. Even in a state with some of the nation’s most troubled and overcrowded prisons, St. Clair Correctional Facility stands out for its history of violence.

SPRINGVILLE, Ala. — The door opened and there stood a man with knives in both hands. Michael McGregor recognized him immediately. Since Mr. McGregor had arrived at the prison the day before, the man had twice propositioned him for sex and asked if he wanted to buy a knife.

Mr. McGregor, 52, with a long but mostly nonviolent record — some bad checks, a stolen car, a couple of two-decade-old minor robberies — had been unnerved enough to request a move to a different part of the prison. No, he was told. Not right now. He returned to his cell, shut the door behind him and tried to sleep. Now here was the man beside him. The door locks at this prison, he later learned, were all but useless. The man, he would also learn, had been convicted of jail rape before.

 Global News

President Trump (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr)President Trump (Gage Skidmore file photo via Flickr)

New York Times, Trump Risks the Planet, Editorial board, March 28, 2017. Reversing President Obama’s climate policies will raise emissions and undercut America’s claim to leadership on the issue of global warming.  Only 10 weeks into his presidency, and at great risk to future generations, Donald Trump has ordered the demolition of most of President Barack Obama’s policies to combat climate change by reducing emissions from fossil fuels.

Washington Post, Panic spreads in Iraq and Syria as reported civilian deaths rise sharply in U.S. strikes, Loveday Morris and Liz Sly, March 28, 2017. As ground forces and a U.S.-led coalition close in on the Islamic State’s two main urban bastions, families describe cowering in basements for weeks as bombs rained down around them while others desperately try to flee before an offensive begins.

Runaway Constitutional Convention?

Center for Media and Democracy via Truthout, Kochs Bankroll Move to Rewrite the Constitution, Alex Kotch, March 28, 2017. (Billionaire Charles Koch is shown in a file photo.) A Constitutional convention, something thought impossible not long ago, is looking increasingly likely. Under Article V of the US Constitution, if 34 state legislatures "issue a call" for a constitutional convention, Congress must convene one. By some counts, the right wing only needs six more states.

There are two major legislative pushes for a convention at the state level. One would attempt to engineer a convention for a balanced budget amendment only, and the other tries to secure an open convention for the purpose of limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government. But once a convention is underway, all bets are off. The convention can write its own rules, resulting in a wide-open or "runaway" convention that can make major changes to the constitution and, some argue, even change the number of states required to ratify those changes.

Overturning Americans' Privacy

Washington Post, House votes to wipe away landmark Obama-era Internet privacy protections, Brian Fung, March 28, 2017. The sharply Donald Trump Logo Make America Great Againpartisan vote led by Republicans marks a pivot toward letting Internet providers collect and sell their customers' Web browsing history, location information, health data and personal details such as Social Security numbers. The bill, already approved by the Senate, heads to President Trump.

Media

Huffington Post, Watch Bill O’Reilly Snicker While ‘Apologizing’ For Mocking Maxine Waters, Ed Mazza, March 28, 2017. Right-wing talker (shown in file photo) Bill O'Reillymade a sexist, racist insult about the congresswoman’s hair.

March 27

WhoWhatWhyWhoWhatWhy, Why FBI Can’t Tell All on Trump, Russia, Russ Baker, C. Collins and Jonathan Z. Larsen, March 27, 2017. The FBI cannot tell us what we need to know about Trump’s contacts with Russia. Why? Because doing so would jeopardize a long-running, ultra-sensitive operation targeting mobsters tied to Putin — and to Trump. But the Feds’ stonewalling risks something far more dangerous: Failing to resolve a crisis of trust in America’s president. WhoWhatWhy provides the details of a two-month investigation in this 6,500-word exposé.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation cannot tell us what we need to know about Donald Trump’s contacts with Russia. Why? Because doing so would jeopardize a long-running, ultra-sensitive operation targeting mobsters tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin — and FBI logoto Trump. But the Feds’ stonewalling risks something far more dangerous: Failing to resolve a crisis of trust in America’s president. WhoWhatWhy provides the details of a two-month investigation in this 6,500-word exposé.

Reporters: Jonathan Z. Larsen is the former editor of The Village Voice, whose reporting team included the late Wayne Barrett and Robert I. Friedman. These people and the paper produced many of the important early investigative reports on Donald Trump and on the mob. Larsen is now a senior editor and board member of WhoWhatWhy. Russ Baker, a former investigative reporter for The Village Voice, is Editor-in-Chief of WhoWhatWhy. C. Collins is a WhoWhatWhy reporter.

New York Times, Senate Committee to Question Kushner on Meeting Russians, Jo Becker, Matthew Rosenberg and Maggie Haberman, March 27, 2017. The president’s son-in-law (shown in a file photo) faces questions about meetings he arranged with the Russian ambassador, including a sit-down with the head of Russia’s state-owned development bank. Senate investigators plan to question Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and a close adviser, as part of their broad inquiry into ties between Trump associates and Russian officials or others linked to the Kremlin, according to administration and congressional officials.

Sergey Kislyak 2016The White House Counsel’s Office was informed this month that the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, wanted to question Mr. Kushner about meetings he arranged with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak (shown in a file photo), according to the government officials. The meetings, which took place during the transition, included a previously unreported sit-down with the head of Russia’s state-owned development bank.

Palmer Report, Donald Trump attacks House Intel Committee after realizing Devin Nunes can no longer protect him, Bill Palmer, March 27, 2017. Yet another layer of Donald Trump’s insulation from his Russia scandal has been stripped away, and an angry Trump appears to know it tonight. House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes was supposed to act as a failsafe if his committee began investigating Trump. But now Trump has realized that the bumbling Nunes has made things worse not better. And so now Trump is publicly attacking the House Intel Committee in dishonest fashion.

Russian FlagDevin Nunes was given classified intel by someone last Tuesday evening, in inappropriate fashion, which revealed some kind of surveillance of Donald Trump’s transition team with regard to Russia. Nunes improperly delivered the evidence straight to Trump, then told four or five different contrasting versions of his story to the public. He’s made things even worse for Trump, and now there’s mounting pressure for Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation altogether. Of course that would allow the House Intel Committee to pursue an honest investigation into Trump-Russia. Accordingly, Trump has now begun attacking the committee.

Trump Insiders: Conflicts?

Huffington Post, White House Announces Jared Kushner Is Now Responsible For Everything, Jason Linkins, March 27, 2017. Donald Trump really needs to meet some new people. (Son-in-law Jared Kushner shown in file photo.)

Trump DC Agenda

Washington Post, Divisions threaten Trump’s hope of winning his next big battle: Taxes, Damian Paletta, March 27, 2017. The Trump Donald Trump Logo Make America Great Againadministration is planning a more assertive role in overhauling the tax code than it did with the failed effort to replace the Affordable Care Act, with some advisers working on a blueprint instead of letting Congress dictate details. But congressional Republicans and some within the administration do not agree on who should be in charge of the effort.

Supreme Court Nomination

Washington Post, Gorsuch may fall short of votes needed for smooth Supreme Court confirmation, Ed O'Keefe and David Weigel, March 27, Neil Gorsuch2017. A threatened filibuster by some Democrats on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch potentially dashes Republican hopes for an easy victory after the stinging defeat of the party's health-care bill.

Paul Ryan

New York Times, Paul Ryan, Brought Down to Size, Editorial board, March 27, 2017.  “Look, I’m a policy guy.” That was Paul Ryan’s line before last Friday, when the health care bill he designed in secret went down without a vote, his own party showing what they thought of his policy.  Time and again when he was asked about President Trump’s attacks on immigrants or the courts, his ties to Russia or his claims of massive election fraud, the speaker of the House would say he was too busy working on his agenda, “A Better Way,” to think about all that nasty stuff.

That Mr. Ryan (shown in a file photo) failed on the policy promise that Republicans have been running on for eight years makes it clear that if he is the policy wonk of the Republican Party, then the Republican Party has no policy. And with a health care plan that would have stripped 24 million Americans of basic care and drastically hiked premiums for people over 60, it seems that they don’t much care what Americans need or want.

Media

Daily Beast, Breitbart Denied Capitol Hill Permanent Press Credentials, March 27, 2017. On Monday morning, the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery denied Breitbart's request for permanent press credentials for the Hill, stating that they needed “more answers” before considering the right-wing website's request again. The committee discussed a request letter sent to them by Breitbart’s Larry Solov late on Thursday said to show White House chief strategist Steve Bannon had severed ties from Breitbart as of November.

Intelligence Claims

Washington Post, Nunes admits meeting on White House grounds with source of Trump surveillance documents, Karoun Demirjian, Greg Miller and Philip Rucker​, March 27, 2017. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes later cited the classified documents in leveling the unproven charge that spy agencies improperly used their surveillance powers by gathering and sharing information about President Trump and his transition team. Today’s revelation is likely to fuel suspicions Nunes coordinated his activities with the White House.

Washington Post, Devin Nunes is making it very hard for Republicans to claim they can run an impartial investigation on Russia, Amber Phillips, March 27, 2017. News that the chair of the House Intelligence Committee is briefing the White House on his investigation has raised alarms with ethics experts. 

Patribotics, Boris Epshteyn Named in July FISA Application; Did Nunes Obstruct Justice? Louise Mensch, March 27, 2017. On November 7th, I reported at Heat Street that the FBI had obtained a FISA warrant covering the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. I reported that the FISA warrant had been granted after an earlier, failed application to the court in the summer named Trump and “at least three other men, who have either formed part of his campaign or acted as his media surrogates."

Those names, sources said, were Donald Trump, with Paul Manafort and Carter Page (two men that had formed part of Trump’s campaign) and Boris Epshteyn, who at the time I reported, the eve of the election itself, had only acted as Mr. Trump’s media surrogate.

Billions For Koch Brothers In Windfall From XL Keystone Pipeline?

OpEdNews, TrumpCare dies, XL flies -- and the secret winner is, Greg Palast, March 27, 2017. When RyanCare-TrumpCare finally ended up face-down in the swimming pool, triumphalist Democrats whooped and partied and congratulated themselves on defeating the Trump-Ryan monstrosity. But deep in their counting house, counting their gold, three brothers cackled with private jubilation.

David and Charles Koch (shown in a file photo) knew the day was theirs. Joining them in the celebration was Brother Billy, William Koch, who will share in their $21 billion windfall that the President arranged for them only hours before TrumpCare crashed -- when Trump announced his State Department had formally approved the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Let's start with that $21 billion. The XL Keystone Pipeline would take the world's heaviest, filthiest crude from Canada's tar sands, and snake with it all the way down to Texas.

Now here's a question I never hear from our sleep-walking media: Exactly why are we sending oil all the way across the United States to Texas. I mean, doesn't Texas already have a little oil? In fact, Texas is drowning in oil, choking in it. But the Kochs' Texas refinery can't use much local crude. The Koch Industries Flint Hills refinery on the Texas Gulf Coast was designed specifically to crack only the world's "heaviest" (i.e. filthiest) crude. If the XL Pipeline is complete, the Kochs can suck down Canada's cheap cruddy crude for a minimum savings of $1.27 billion in a single year.

Trump Orders Radical Reversal On Climate Controls

Washington Post, Trump order to take major step to wipe out Obama’s climate record, Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis​, March 27, 2017. President Trump is set to sign a executive order that would instruct federal regulators to rewrite key rules curbing U.S. carbon emissions and lift multiple other environmental rules. The order sends an unmistakable signal that just as President Barack Obama sought to weave climate considerations into every aspect of the federal government, Trump is hoping to rip that approach out by its roots.

Puppet State?

Washington's Blog via Global Research, Trump = Obama = Bush = Clinton On Four Core Issues, Admin, March 27, 2017. On a superficial level, Trump and Bush couldn’t be more different from Clinton and Obama. Indeed, pollsters say that many people voted for Trump because they wanted change … Just like they voted for Obama because he promised “hope and change” from Bush-era policies.

But beneath the surface, Trump, Obama, Bush and Clinton are all very similar on four core issues: More War; Lap Dogs for Wall Street / Making the Rich Richer; Spying On Americans; Supporting Dictators Who Support Terrorism. Postscript:  If you think that the presidents are more different than we’re giving them credit for, then you must conclude that they have been overridden by other forces. In that case, you may wish to consider whether the Deep State and big banks have more power than democratically-elected officials.

Labor Nominee's Committee Vote Scheduled Thursday

Bureau of National Affairs, Acosta Inching Closer, Chris Opfer and Ben Penn, March 27, 2017. When Bernie Sanders was a no-show for a Alexander AcostaCabinet confirmation hearing, that was a telling sign that the volume in the room would be muffled. Indeed, outside of a heated exchange between Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and labor secretary nominee Alexander Acosta (shown in an official photo) last week, the nearly three-hour affair was, dare I say, cordial.

That sets up a Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee vote Thursday in which I’m predicting Acosta will advance to the Senate floor with the support of at least a few Democrats. Acosta’s chances were likely boosted by what he didn’t say at his hearing rather than by anything he did say. As one source described his performance – “artfully evasive.”

Sure, we received a few signals on how Acosta feels about the overtime rule, the skills gap and the gig economy. But as predicted, he hid behind pending litigation on the overtime and fiduciary rules – as well as a Trump executive order to reconsider regulations – to avoid showing his hand. I suppose Ted Cruz was serious when he slipped into his introductory remarks that Acosta’s a good poker player. Six HELP members either didn’t speak or didn’t show, and most of the others fled the room without taking advantage of a second round of questions. (Was there anything else happening on the Hill last week?) Maybe something revealing will come to light when Acosta submits written responses to questions for the record. Let us know what you're keeping an eye out for at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or on Twitter: @ChrisOpfer and @BenjaminPenn.

Around the Nation: Prison Death Cover-up?

Huffington Post, Officials Ruled Inmate’s ‘Boiling’ Death An Accident. But Documents Show They Omitted Key Details, Matt Ferner, March 28, 2017. Internal reports and photos from the investigation of Florida inmate Darren Rainey’s 2012 death were reviewed by the Huffington Post.

The June 2012 death of Darren Rainey, an inmate at the Dade Correctional Institution in South Florida, attracted national attention after other inmates claimed he was burned like “a boiled lobster” after about two hours in a shower that guards had modified to punish prisoners.

A Florida prosecutor issued a 101-page report earlier this month that cleared guards of any wrongdoing in Rainey’s death. The prosecutor, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, called Rainey’s death an accident resulting from his schizophrenia and heart disease and from confinement in the shower room.

But a trove of official documents reviewed by The Huffington Post indicates that some information from police, the prison and emergency services was not included in the prosecutor’s final report, which raises questions about the circumstances surrounding Rainey’s death. A review of the documents was permitted by a person with close access to the investigation who asked not to be identified sharing non-public information.

Immigration

Politico, Trump travel ban case could be on fast track to appeals court's full bench, Josh Gerstein, March 27, 2017. The full, 15-judge bench of a federal appeals court is considering taking up the legality of President Donald Trump's revised travel ban executive order. A federal judge in Maryland blocked a key part of Trump's directive earlier this month, prompting the Justice Department to appeal the injunction to the Richmond-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Global News

Times of Israel, 22 ultra-Orthodox men arrested for sex assaults on women, minors, Stuart Winer, March 27, 2017. Police suspect community leaders were aware of alleged crimes against dozens of victims but preferred to deal with matter internally.

March 26

President Obama smiles in talking with advisors Sept. 18, 2015

Washington Post, 2 months since he left office, Obama is having a post-presidency like no other, Krissah Thompson and Juliet Eilperin​, March 26, 2017. The 44th president (shown in a file photo) has attempted to stay above the Washington fray and emphasized the need for a new generation of political leaders to step up. But — instead of settling into a quiet life after the White House that most of his predecessors enjoyed — Barack Obama is preparing to throw himself into the highly partisan issue of redistricting, with the goal of reversing the electoral declines that Democrats experienced under his watch.

Trump Insiders: Conflicts?

New York Times, An Investor and an Adviser: Icahn’s Dual Roles Raise Flags, Eric Lipton, March 26, 2017. The billionaire Carl Icahn is advising on regulations, including pressing for a change in an E.P.A. rule that has cost an oil refinery he’s invested in millions of dollars.

Around the Nation

Kentucky Sports Radio, Let UK End UNC’s Mockery of College Sport, Jonathan Miller, March 26, 2017. There’s something uniquely special about this afternoon’s Elite Eight matchup between the University of Kentucky Wildcats and the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. Arguably, the two best remaining teams in the NCAA tournament square off, reprising their thrilling December contest, perhaps the best college game played all year, and certainly one of the most fun to watch.

There’s also something uniquely disturbing about today’s contest. The University of North Carolina simply should not be playing today. Their postseason presence — following an almost-championship run last year — makes a mockery of undergraduate athletics. More than two years after revelations surfaced that the school had engaged in the most morally offensive institutional misconduct in the history of college sports, the team plays on, without even a hand check on the wrist. 

UNC’s academic scandal poisoned institutions all across campus, and the injustice lives on. Over nearly two decades, more than 3100 UNC students enrolled in a series of sham African and Afro-American Studies classes. They were awarded As and Bs, even though they never had to take a test, or even to show up in class. According to an independent report, commissioned by the University, the scam was perpetuated by a conspiracy among faculty members, administrators, and academic advisers, the point of which was to keep athletes eligible to play by steering them to classes in which the only requirement was a single paper…that was never read.

Global News

Global Research, US Expands De Facto Syrian Invasion, Tony Cartalucci, March 26, 2017. The recent expansion of US military forces in Syria follows a predictable, singular agenda targeting this nation for decades – and more specifically – during the most recent and ongoing conflict which began in 2011 amid the US-engineered “Arab Spring.”  The UK Independent in its article, “US marines sent to Syria to help assault on Isis’ Raqqa stronghold,” would report that: "Hundreds of US marines have arrived in Syria armed with heavy artillery in preparation for an assault on Isis’ de-facto capital of Raqqa." However, the presence of US troops in Syria is entirely unsolicited by the Syrian government and constitutes a clear violation of Syria’s national sovereignty under international law.

March 25

Washington Post, Health-bill failure imperils Trump’s congressional agenda, John Wagner, Damian Paletta and Sean Sullivan, March 25, 2017. The stunning collapse of the Republican proposal leaves few prospects for the president to score a quick victory on tax reform, construction projects or a host of other issues despite complete GOP control of the government.

New York Times, Trump Becomes Ensnared in Fiery G.O.P. Civil War, Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman, March 25, 2017. President Trump ignites a lot of fights, but his failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the biggest defeat in his short time in the White House, was the result of something else: a long-running Republican civil war that humbled a generation of party leaders before he ever came to Washington. A precedent-flouting president who believes that Washington’s usual rules do not apply to him, Mr. Trump now finds himself shackled by them.

Washington Post, Why Republicans were in such a hurry on health care, Matt O'Brien, March 25, 2017. Why were Republicans rushing to vote on a health-care plan that they'd barely finished drafting, that budget scorekeepers hadn't had a chance to fully evaluate, and that, insofar as people did know about it, was widely despised?

President Donald Trump officialIn part, it's because their plan was so unpopular and because it got more unpopular the more people learned about it. But it's also because only by rushing to reshape a full sixth of the American economy without knowing exactly how they would be reshaping it would Republicans be able to use health care to pave the way for the rest of their agenda, including tax reform. In other words, the GOP didn't want to let a detail like tens of millions of people losing their health insurance get in the way of two tax cuts for the rich.Here's what we knew about the Republican plan.

The latest version that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office had a chance to analyze would have, over the course of 10 years, cut taxes by $1 trillion, disproportionately benefiting the rich; cut Medicaid spending by $839 billion, exclusively harming the poor and sick; and cut the Affordable Care Act's health insurance subsidies by about $300 billion, mostly hurting older people of modest means.

Add it all up, and the CBO estimated that 24 million people would have lost their health insurance as a result.

Not only that, but premiums would have increased 15 percent to 20 percent more than they otherwise would have in the next four years before so many older people were priced out of the market that premiums would have started to come down, and deductibles, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, would have been an average of $1,550 higher. In short: The GOP would have made insurance more affordable for younger people by making it unaffordable for older people and worse for everyone.

New York Times, Boris Epshteyn, Trump TV Surrogate, Is Leaving White House Job, Maggie Haberman, March 25, 2017. Boris Epshteyn, an official in the White House press office who had a contentious relationship with television producers and was once a frequent presence on TV himself, is leaving his job, according to three people with knowledge of the move.

The departure was treated with some mystery. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, would not comment on the reason Mr. Epshteyn (shown in a cable appearance), an old friend of President Trump’s son Eric, was expected to depart the post. A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said only that officials were exploring other opportunities in the administration for Mr. Epshteyn, who at one point was on cable news as many as seven times a day promoting Mr. Trump during the presidential campaign. Mr. Epshteyn, known for his argumentative, badgering style on TV, was a spokesman for the presidential inaugural committee. He grew up in Moscow, and met Eric Trump at Georgetown University.

March 24

Trump, Republicans Lose Health Care Repeal

New York Times, Facing a Mutiny, G.O.P. Pulls Health Bill, Robert Pear, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Jennifer Steinhauer and Thomas Kaplan, March 24, 2017. Major Setback for Trump in First Big Legislative Clash. House Republican leaders, facing a revolt among conservatives and moderates in their ranks, pulled legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act from consideration on the House floor Friday afternoon in a spectacular defeat for President Trump on the first legislative showdown of his presidency.

Paul Ryan

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan conceded, “We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.”

Mr. Ryan (shown in a file photo) had rushed to the White House shortly after noon to tell Mr. Trump he did not have the votes for a repeal bill that had been promised for seven years — since the day President Barack Obama signed his landmark health care act into law.

House Republican leaders pulled legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act from consideration on the House floor. Moments later, President Trump told The Times he blames Democrats, not Paul Ryan, for the defeat.

Washington Post, ‘We just pulled it,’ Trump tells The Post amid GOP revolt, Mike DeBonis, Robert Costa and Ed O'Keefe, March 24, 2017. Move comes as Ryan struggled to win support, moments before scheduled House vote on health bill. It was a dramatic acknowledgment that Republicans are so far unable to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The decision came a day after President Trump delivered an ultimatum to lawmakers — and the defeat represented multiple failures for the new president and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

In one stunning defection, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) announced at midday that the health care bill is “currently unacceptable” and that changes made late Thursday to placate conservatives “raise serious coverage and cost issues.” Another moderate, Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) — who had met with Trump on Wednesday night — said he would vote against the bill. So did Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), a longtime Ryan ally who represents a competitive Northern Virginia congressional district.

'Pizzagate' Advocate Alex Jones Apologizes

Washington Post, Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones apologizes for role in promoting baseless ‘Pizzagate’ claims, Paul Farhi, March 24 Alex Jones2017.Alex Jones, the conspiracy-loving media personality, apologized Friday for his role in promoting “Pizzagate,” the baseless viral story that a Washington pizza restaurant was the locale of a child sex-abuse ring run by Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman, John Podesta.

In a surprising and rare bit of backtracking, Jones (shown in a file photo) posted a six-minute video on his website, “InfoWars,” in which he read a prepared statement formally distancing himself and his site from what became a textbook story of fake news run amok.

He addressed his apology to James Alefantis, the owner of Comet Ping Pong, the restaurant that was the supposed locale of the alleged conspiracy last year. “I made comments about Mr. Alefantis that in hindsight I regret, and for which I apologize to him,” Jones said. “We relied on third-party accounts of alleged activities and conduct at the restaurant. We also relied on accounts of [two] reporters who are no longer with us.”

Jones, a staunch supporter of Donald Trump during the presidential campaign, offered no comment or apology to Clinton or Podesta for outlandish statements about their alleged involvement in the abuse of hundreds of children.

Jones didn’t say what prompted his apology but it may have been motivated by a letter Alefantis wrote to him in February. The timing of Jones’s apology suggests he was concerned about a potential lawsuit. Under Texas law, the Austin-based Jones had to retract or apologize for the stories by Friday — one full month after receiving Alefantis’s letter — to avoid exposing InfoWars to punitive damages in a libel suit.

March 23

Around the Nation

Vdare, Was Boston Bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev Working for the U.S. Deep State? James Fulford, March 23, 2017. Michele McPhee, an Emmy-award nominated reporter with the ABC News investigative team, writes that he[Tsarnaev] felt ‘double crossed’ and that he turned on America for failing to keep up its side of the bargain after he worked for them.

In Maximum Harm, McPhee says that as a result the federal government played a ‘direct role in creating the monster that Tamerlan Tsarnaev became.’ She argues that they recruited Tamerlan as an operative in late 2010 and that he was the ‘perfect candidate’ because he was ‘broke, desperate for citizenship and with a new wife and a baby to take care of, he spoke fluent English, Russian and a dialect of Chechen.’

Tamerlan was not jailed for his involvement in a triple murder in 2011 because he was ‘too valuable as an asset working for the federal government on a drug case with ties to overseas terrorism.’ Tamerlan was also providing them with intelligence on the mosque he attended and its ties to Al Qaeda.

Maybe Todashev was a Chechen/Russian double agent working for Kadyrov and Putin? (His dad was a pretty high-ranking government official reporting to the mayor of Grozny who was appointed by Chechen strongman Kadyrov who was appointed by Vlad.)

Even the long Daily Mail story leaves out interesting details like Tamerlan’s Uncle Ruslan’s CIA connections. Maybe Tamerlan saw himself as a triple agent working for Putin and the CIA and the Chechen Islamist rebels?

Another issue was where Tamerlan got his money from. On Tamerlan’s death certificate the Medical Examiner listed ‘Never Worked’ as his occupation but he drove a Mercedes.

McPhee told DailyMail.com that she believed that the CIA were running Tamerlan while he was in Russia and that the FBI were in charge of him when he returned to America, citing sources she had spoken to. McPhee writes: ‘Surely to stop Tamerlan at the airport for additional screening based on his physical profile alone – he was a dark-skinned Muslim male with a long beard – or because he was leaving a terrorist hotbed would have been insensitive racial profiling. 

‘But the idea that a man whose name was on two terrorist watch lists somehow managed to clear customs because government officials claimed his name was misspelled on those lists is inconceivable.Well, never attribute to malice etc. The reporter admits she doesn’t have proof. But the whole Tsarnaev story has always been insanely screwy. To get something this messed up, it helps to have the government involved. The more outrageous the atrocity, the more likely that agents provocateur and deep state officials have embarrassing ties.

Health Insurance Vote

Washington Post, Trump delivers ultimatum: Pass health bill Friday or he’ll move on, Mike DeBonis and Juliet Eilperin, March

Paul Ryan

23, 2017. President Trump delivered an ultimatum to House Republicans on Thursday night: Vote to approve the measure to overhaul the nation’s health-care system on the House floor Friday, or reject it and the president will move on to his other legislative priorities.

The president, through his aides, signaled that the time for negotiations was over with rank-and-file Republicans who were meeting late at night on Capitol Hill to try to find common ground on the embattled package crafted by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) (shown above).

The move was a high-risk gamble for the president and the speaker, who have both invested significant political capital in passing legislation that would replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act. For Trump, who campaigned as a skilled dealmaker capable of forging a good deal on behalf of Americans, it could either vindicate or undercut one of his signature claims.  If the measure fails, it would mean that Obamacare — something that congressional Republicans have railed against for seven years — would remain in place.

New York Times, Where House Republicans Stand on Bill, Staff report, March 23, 2017. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan is still trying to build a majority to pass the bill, which had been scheduled for a vote on Thursday. Among House Republicans, 146 are voting yes and 47 are undecided on the health care bill. 11 have concerns or lean no. 33 are voting no. The bill will fail if 23 or more vote no.

Supreme Court Nomination

Washington Post, Schumer: Democrats will filibuster Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination, Ed O'Keefe, Robert Barnes and Ann Neil GorsuchE. Marimow​, March 23, 2017. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said in a Senate floor speech that Gorsuch “was unable to sufficiently convince me that he’d be an independent check” on President Trump. The filibuster will make it likely that the judge will struggle to find the support needed to clear a 60-vote procedural hurdle.

Other Washington News

New York Times, Congress Moves to Cut Obama’s Internet Privacy Rules, Cecilia Kang, March 23, 2017. The Senate voted to overturn regulations that required telecom companies to ask permission before tracking users’ behavior, beginning a repeal of Obama-era regulations.

London Terror Attack

Washington Post, London attacker was British-born and known to MI5; Islamic State claims responsibility, Karla Adam and Brian United Kingdom flagMurphy, March 23, 2017. The lone attacker who carried out a deadly rampage in central London was once investigated for possible extremist links but was “not part of the current intelligence picture,” Theresa May said. She did not name the suspect who left three people dead — two mowed down by his SUV on the Westminster Bridge and a police officer stabbed outside Parliament — before he was killed by police.   The lone attacker who carried out a deadly rampage in central London was a British-born man once investigated for possible extremist links, but was “not part of the current intelligence picture,” Britain’s prime minister said Thursday.

Trump Speaks Out

Time, Donald Trump Time Interview, Time Staff, March 23, 2017. President Trump spoke with Time Washington Bureau Chief Michael President Donald Trump officialScherer on March 22 for a cover story about the way he has handled truth and falsehood in his career. This is a transcript of the exchange, with some minor edits. The transcript does not include requests he made of his staff during the interview, or a comment he made after asking to go off the record.

Daily Beast, Trump Defends Parroting JFK-Cruz Conspiracy, Staff report, March 23, 2017. In a new interview published Thursday, President Donald Trump defends and doubles down on many of the falsehoods that he has repeated throughout the 2016 campaign and his presidency. Notably, Trump defended parroting a baseless attack on Ted Cruz’s father — that he was somehow involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy — by saying it was “in a newspaper.” The charge was first brought to the forefront, though, by the National Enquirer, a supermarket tabloid known for peddling hoaxes and conspiracies.

“I was referring to a newspaper. A Ted Cruz article referred to a newspaper story with, had a picture of Ted Cruz, his father, and Lee Harvey Oswald, having breakfast,” Trump said in an interview with Time, adding: “I’m just quoting the newspaper.”

In the interview, Trump also stood by his unsubstantiated claims that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election, that U.S. Muslims were cheering on the 9/11 terror attacks, and that President Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower.

Big Trouble For Former Trump National Security Advisor Flynn?

Wall Street Journal, Ex-CIA Director: Mike Flynn and Turkish Officials Discussed Removal of Erdogan Foe From U.S., James V. Grimaldi, Dion Michael Flynn fileNissenbaum and Margaret Coker, March 24, 2017. Retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, while serving as an adviser to the Trump campaign, met with top Turkish government ministers and discussed removing a Muslim cleric from the U.S. and taking him to Turkey, according to former Central Intelligence Agency Director James Woolsey, who attended, and others who were briefed on the meeting.

Palmer Report, Michael Flynn tried to pay fellow Donald Trump adviser to commit crime on U.S. soil on Turkey’s behalf, Bill Palmer, March 24, 2017. Michael Flynn recently admitted to having been a paid foreign agent of Turkey while he was a Donald Trump campaign adviser, and Michael Flynn fileit’s since come to light that both Trump and Mike Pence knew about it when they made him the White House National Security Adviser. But according to the Wall Street Journal, a new claim from a former Trump campaign adviser paints an even darker picture of Flynn which involved conspiring with Turkey to carry out crimes on United States soil.

Long-retired former CIA Director James Woolsey was an adviser to Donald Trump’s campaign. He eventually quit during the transition period, diplomatically suggesting that his role had run its course. But he’s now publicly disclosing something which may have been a factor. Last summer Michael Flynn brought Woolsey along to a meeting with representatives from the Turkish government, where they discussed theoretical plans for abducting Turkish dissident Fethullah Gulen from his home in Pennsylvania and shipping him back to Turkey.

During the same meeting, Flynn tried to hire Woolsey (shown in a file photo) as a consultant to his firm, in the name of furthering this plot against Gulen. Woolsey now says he was taken aback by what he overheard at the meeting, and he suspected that even the discussion about abducting Gulen was a crime. So he refused Flynn’s money, and instead he reported the meeting to the federal government. Presumably, Woolsey was not aware at the time that Flynn was being paid half a million dollars by Turkey, and that any money he would have received from Flynn would likely have come from Turkey as well.

Troubled Jewish Teen Arrested In Anti-Semitic Rampage

New York Times, Suspect in Threats to U.S. Jewish Centers Is Arrested in Israel, Isabel Kershner, Adam Goldman, Alan Blinder And Richard Pérez-Peña, March 23, 2017. Israeli authorities said the suspect, a Jewish dual Israeli-U.S. citizen, used “advanced camouflage technologies” to mask the origin of his threatening calls to Jewish institutions in the United States and elsewhere. A months long wave of bomb threats against Jewish institutions in the United States that sparked evacuations, heightened security and fears of rising anti-Semitism, gave way to an unexpected twist on Thursday: the person responsible for many of the threats, law enforcement officials said, was half a world away, in Israel, a Jewish teenager.

An intensive investigation spanning multiple countries culminated on Thursday in the arrest of the 18-year-old suspect, who holds dual Israeli and American citizenship, and his father. The teenager’s lawyer said he suffered from a brain tumor that could affect his behavior.

The surge in threats over the last few months — well over 100 sent to Jewish community centers, schools and museums since the start of the year — coincided with an increase in hate crimes against a number of groups, from scrawled swastikas to homicides, feeding worries about a new era of bigotry. American and Israeli officials refused to say how many of the threats the Israeli suspect had made, and some recent anti-Semitic acts were apparently committed by others, like threats against Jewish centers for which a Missouri man was charged, and the vandalizing of Jewish cemeteries.  The father denies any knowledge of the threats, his lawyer said. The judge imposed an order of silence forbidding Israeli authorities to release either man’s name.

Read more ...

Subcategories