Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative February 2017 news and views
President Trump, center, Vice President Pence, lefty, House Speaker Ryan at State of Union address on Feb. 28, 2017 (Jim Lo Scalzo / Pool image via AP)
Washington Post, Winners and losers from Trump’s big speech, Chris Cillizza, Feb. 28, 2017. This may have been the best speech Trump has given since he entered politics in June 2015, and people rooting for his imminent demise may be disappointed.
Washington Post, Jeff Sessions dismisses DOJ reports on police abuse without bothering to read them, Radley Balko, Feb. 28, 2017. In a briefing with reporters yesterday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he’s still deciding whether or not to implement reforms for the Chicago Police Department. The reforms, suggested by the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, were part of a blistering report on the city’s police agency that was published at the tail end of President Obama’s second term. This section from the Reuters write-up of the briefing jumped out at me:
Sessions said he had seen summaries of both the Chicago report and the report that the Obama Justice Department completed on police in Ferguson. “Some of it was pretty anecdotal and not so scientifically based,” Sessions said.
Of course, the summary for any study will be anecdotal, and not particularly heavy on data. That’s the whole point of a summary. Asked by The Huffington Post whether he had read the Civil Rights Division’s investigative reports on the police departments in Chicago and Ferguson, Missouri, Sessions conceded he had not. But, he said, he didn’t think they were necessarily reliable.
“I have not read those reports, frankly.” Just to be clear, the U.S. attorney general is currently deciding whether to continue to enforce civil rights reforms suggested by the Civil Rights Division of DOJ in Chicago and Ferguson — but he’s apparently pondering that decision without having read the reports supporting those reforms. He only read the summaries. Not surprisingly, he found that the summaries lack data. As summaries tend to do.
Washington Post, Maiden address filled with numerous inaccuracies, Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Feb. 28, 2017.Here’s a round-up of 13 of the more notable claims in Trump's first address to Congress.
Around the Nation
William Liebenow with John F. Kennedy during the 1960 presidential campaign. Both skippered PT boats during World War II.
New York Times, William Liebenow, 97, Dies; PT Boat Skipper Rescued Kennedy, Daniel E. Slotnik, Feb. 28, 2017. Under the cover of darkness on Aug. 7, 1943, Lt. William Liebenow skippered his patrol torpedo boat into enemy waters in the South Pacific. His mission was to rescue the sailors of PT-109 who had survived for days on inhospitable islands after a Japanese destroyer had rammed their boat, splitting it in two and killing two crewmen.
Among the 11 crew members who survived the sinking of PT-109 was a bunkmate of the lieutenant’s, the boat’s 26-year-old skipper, John F. Kennedy. Tales of Kennedy’s heroism in the aftermath of the attack became a part of his legacy, chronicled in books like Robert J. Donovan’s “PT-109: John F. Kennedy in World War II” (1961) and a film adaptation, “PT 109” (1963), which starred Cliff Robertson as Kennedy.
Mr. Liebenow, who was awarded the Bronze and Silver Stars for his wartime exploits, died on Friday at his home in Mount Airy, N.C. He was 97. His daughter, Susan Liebenow, said the cause was complications of pneumonia.
Washington Post, Kellyanne Conway kneeled on a couch. The Internet went insane, Lindsey Bever, Feb. 28, 2017. The counselor to the president was apparently perching on the furniture to snap a photo of President Trump with leaders of the nation's historically black universities and colleges.
Washington Post, The Conway picture is only a small error in Trump’s swing-and-a-miss black college event, Philip Bump, Feb. 28, 2017. It’s the photo that’s getting all the attention: Kellyanne Conway, senior adviser to President Trump, sitting with her feet up on a couch in the Oval Office on Monday, reviewing photos on her phone in comfort as a crowd of people join the president for a photo behind his desk. Most people who see that won’t know who those people are or what they’re doing there. The story of the meeting for many will be that Conway is inappropriately at ease in the most important room in the country — a critique that was levied at President Barack Obama shortly after he took office in 2009 and held meetings without wearing a jacket.
But the administration’s flub on that meeting runs much deeper.
The people gathered around Trump’s desk are all representatives of historically black colleges and universities, HBCUs. They were at the White House for a “listening session,” in the formulation of the White House press office, there to share “expert insights on policy issues impacting their individual campuses.” A readout from the event suggests that they discussed “how to create a better partnership between the Trump Administration and HBCUs.”
Events like this are the lowest-hanging fruit for a politician. Come in, listen for a bit, take a photo, move on. It’s rarely the case that such events create new policy, but it’s probably even rarer that they end up creating a media firestorm. It’s like the Trump team stepped up to the plate in a game of tee-ball, and somehow ended up spraining an ankle while hitting into a double play.
Washington Post, A tale of two speeches: The contradictions of Trump’s presidency, Dan Balz, Feb. 28, 2017. From “American carnage” in his inaugural address to Tuesday night’s “renewal of the American spirit,” the president is attempting a perpetual juggling act, stoking anti-establishment anger among voters while sounding notes of optimism and playing nice with the establishment Republicans he needs to enact his agenda.
New York Times, Trump Learns That a Health Overhaul Is ‘So Complicated,’ Robert Pear and Kate Kelly, Feb. 28, 2017 (print edition). President Trump, meeting with the nation’s governors, conceded Monday that he had not been aware of the complexities of health care policy-making: “I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”
The president also suggested that the struggle to replace the Affordable Care Act was creating a legislative logjam that could delay other parts of his political agenda. Many policy makers had anticipated the intricacies of changing the health care law, and Mr. Trump’s demands in the opening days of his administration to simultaneously repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement made the political calculations far more complicated.
Governors of both parties added still more confusion on Monday when they called for any replacement to cover all the people already benefiting from the landmark law.
Mr. Trump suggested that the struggle to replace the Affordable Care Act was creating a legislative logjam, potentially stalling other parts of his agenda.
Washington Post, FBI once planned to pay former British spy who authored Trump dossier, Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman, Feb. 28, 2017. The agreement to pay Christopher Steele, who compiled a controversial dossier on behalf of Trump’s political opponents, ultimately fell apart but shows that U.S. investigators considered him to be credible on the president’s alleged Russia ties. Trump has derided the dossier as “fake news.”
Washington Post, Trump signals openness to a dramatic compromise on immigration reform, Abby Phillip and Philip Rucker, Feb. 28, 2017. The president said he is open to a plan that could provide a pathway to legal status — but not citizenship — for potentially millions of people who are in the United States illegally but who have not committed serious crimes. It would be a softening from the crackdown on undocumented immigrants that Trump promised during his campaign and that his more hard-line supporters have advocated.
Washington Post, The White House’s Politico slime job, from start to finish, Erik Wemple, Feb. 28, 2017. Politico reporter Alex Isenstadt paid a certain price for his Sunday scoop about White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s treatment of his underlings in the White House communications office. Under the headline “Sean Spicer targets own staff in leak crackdown,” Isenstadt and colleague Annie Karni documented how Spicer, with the assistance of White House lawyers, asked his colleagues to submit to a “phone check” in an apparent effort to snuff out leakers.
Hours later, the Washington Examiner published a short hit piece on Isenstadt: “Claim: Reporter laughs at Trump aide’s emotion over SEAL death.” If that headline sounds a bit confusing, well, it’s more straightforward than the story itself. Using information from anonymous “White House officials,” the Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard reported that Isenstadt had somehow run afoul of common decency in reporting his story. The moment arose as Isenstadt was asking Spicer in a telephone call late last week about a tip he’d received that a White House aide, Jessica Ditto, was reduced to tears after Spicer had criticized her work.
Tampa Bay Times, Rubio is asked to leave Tampa office over disruption from weekly protests, Tony Marrero, Feb. 28, 2017. The owner of Bridgeport Center notified Sen. Marco Rubio's office on Feb. 1 that it will not renew its lease. The reason: The rallies have become too disruptive to the other tenants and a costly expense for the company, said Jude Williams, president of America's Capital Partners.
Rubio (shown in a file photo) is now faced with the prospect of going without a brick-and-mortar office until a new location can be found. Rubio's annual lease expired in December and he has been renting on a month-to-month basis since then working to negotiate a new agreement, according to his office. The staff needs to leave Suite 530 by Friday and does not have a new location lined up. Negotiations with another building recently fell through.
A variety of progressive groups who oppose President Donald Trump's agenda have gathered at least once a week at the building, lining up on the sidewalk along Kennedy to wave signs and shout messages.
Rubio's seven statewide offices have been lightning rods for demonstrations. Gatherings in front of the Tampa office have surpassed 150 people.
Washington Post, Trump to propose 10 percent spike in defense spending, massive cuts to other agencies, Abby Phillip and Kelsey Snell, Feb. 27, 2017. Trump vows more spending on defense, infrastructure with cuts in other areas to pay for it. President Donald Trump on Feb. 27 said he would propose a budget that would ramp up spending on defense, but seek savings elsewhere to pay for it. "We're going to do more with less and make the government lean and accountable," Trump said in a meeting with governors.
President Trump will propose a federal budget that dramatically increases defense-related spending by $54 billion while cutting other federal agencies by the same amount, according to an administration official. The proposal represents a massive increase in federal spending related to national security, while other priorities, especially foreign aid, will see significant reductions.
According to the White House, the defense budget will increase by 10 percent. But without providing any specifics, the administration said that most other discretionary spending programs will be slashed to pay for it. Officials singled out foreign aid, one of the smallest parts of the federal budget, saying it would see “large reductions” in spending.
Washington Post, Trump spending plan that makes good on campaign vows puts GOP in a quandary, Abby Phillip and Kelsey Snell, Feb. 27, 2017. The president’s proposed budget would increase defense-related spending by $54 billion and cut virtually the same amount from other federal agencies while preserving Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — setting up a potential clash with Republicans in Congress who insist those entitlement programs must be overhauled to ensure the government’s fiscal health.
WhoWhatWhy, Trump Designates Agency “Hit Squads” To Cut Most Regulations, Celia Wexler, Feb. 27, 2017. Last Friday, while the mainstream media were focused on Trump’s press secretary excluding reporters from a briefing, Trump was making real news: signing an executive order smoothing the way for cutting most federal regulations, jeopardizing public health and safety.National Press Club, Pelosi and Schumer decry Trump administration's first 40 days, Lorna Aldrich, Feb. 27, 2017 (Photo by Noel St. John). President Donald Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer (Noel St. John) Feb. 27, 2017Trump has done little in his first 40 days in office, charged the top two Democratic Congressional leaders at a National Press Club Newsmaker event Feb. 27. And even that little, they said, has favored the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.
The appearance by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) at the Newsmaker was billed as a "prebuttal" for the president's joint appearance before a nationally televised joint session of Congress Feb. 28. "The first month of a Trump presidency is less of a bang and more of a whimper, Schumer said, "but what he has done so far has shifted the burden off of the special interests and onto the working families."
Pelosi deplored the Trump administration's "brutal agenda to target vulnerable populations and instill fear." The "cruel deportation dragnet," as she termed Trump's executive order to increase the number of undocumented immigrants prioritized for deportation, is an attempt by the administration to deflect attention from its failure to advance its job agenda and from questions about its relationship with Russia.
Around the Nation
Washington Post, Hundreds allege sex harassment, discrimination at Kay and Jared jewelry company, Drew Harwell, Feb. 27, 2017. The class-action lawsuit against Sterling Jewelers, an American retailing giant behind the Jared the Galleria of Jewelry and Kay Jewelers stores, alleges female employees were routinely groped, demeaned and urged to sexually cater to their bosses to stay employed, according to just-released testimony.
Washington Post, Justice Department changes course in high-profile Texas voter-ID case, Sari Horwitz, Feb. 27, 2017. The federal government filed a motion seeking to drop its claim that the Texas law, one of the strictest in the country, is intentionally racially discriminatory. Lawyers said in Monday’s filing that rather than litigate the question, the administration wants to give state lawmakers an opportunity to adjust the rule. (Attorney General Jeff Sessions is shown in an official photo.)
Huffington Post, Supreme Court Reviewing Facebook Ban For North Carolina Sex Offenders, Mary Papenfuss, Feb. 27, 2017. Defense attorneys argue that broad prohibition violates client’s right to free speech. Sex offenders in North Carolina not only have to register with their local communities once they’ve served their time, they also have to stay off Facebook and other social media sites for 30 years. But the Supreme Court will hear arguments Monday on whether or not the law violates the constitutional right to free speech. The case concerns Lester Packingham, now 36, who was convicted of a felony in 2010 for having a Facebook account.
Washington Post, Could the White House Easter Egg Roll go the way of the correspondents’ dinner? Petula Dvorak, Feb. 27, 2017. Look out, Easter Bunny. You may be next. President Trump hasn’t embraced many of Washington’s traditions. No Alfalfa Club dinner; no White House Correspondents’ Association dinner; no active first lady; no visits to D.C. schools, businesses or restaurants (except the one in his hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue); no trips to Camp David; and very few weekends even spent in Washington.
DC Opinion: 'Right Turn'
Washington Post, Sean Spicer’s tailspin, Jennifer Rubin, Feb. 27, 2017. Sean Spicer, who is already the subject of “Saturday Night Live” parodies and has become infamous for his rants, verbal pratfalls and jaw-dropping spin, seems to be heading for the distinction of worst press secretary in the history of Western civilization.
Spicer has become more useless with each passing day, because what he says too often isn’t true. Unlike with Kellyanne Conway, the press cannot very well refuse to put Spicer on air, but it can confront him on his inaccuracies and refuse to take virtually anything he says at face value. Perhaps Trump’s relations with the press might improve with a better, more credible press secretary.
Spicer is becoming a Frank Burns-like figure — disliked and disrespected by superiors, peers and subordinates alike. He has given ammunition to critics to take the Russia investigation away from the CIA and lawmakers and hand it to an independent prosecutor or commission. He is so lacking in credibility as to diminish, if not eliminate, his utility in conveying the views of the White House or basic facts about what is going on. Any replacement likely would have similar problems, but at least he/she might not be responsible for trying to poison the well of an ongoing investigation into whether the White House is compromised to Russia.
SouthFront, Open Letter Concerning Wikipedia Suppression of SouthFront Information, Staff report, Feb. 27, 2017. A few days ago Wikipedia announced intention to remove its entry on SouthFront (more here), explaining an issue by the pro-Russian position of the project and, by way of issuing an official reason, that the information about the project mostly cites the SouthFront site.
In this respect, the SouthFront wants to openly state the following.
1. The SF team is independent, as it is not financed by anyone other than its audience. This gives the project the ability to promote its own views. 2. Participants in the project have never denied their sympathies toward some steps of current foreign policies of the Russian Federation. It would be interesting what kind of independence Wikipedia itself can lay a claim to, if a point of view is being de-facto declared as unacceptable simply because it doesn’t comport to the MSM agenda or exhibits supposed “pro-Russian” bent.
Associated Press via Washington Post, Father of dead Navy SEAL refused to meet Trump, Staff report, Feb. 26, 2017. The father of a Navy SEAL killed during an anti-terrorism raid in Yemen is demanding an investigation into its planning and criticized the Trump administration for its timing. Bill Owens told The Miami Herald in a story published Sunday that he refused to meet with President Donald Trump when both came to Dover Air Force Base to receive the casket carrying his son, Chief Special Warfare Officer William “Ryan” Owens.
“I want an investigation,” said Owens, a retired Fort Lauderdale police detective and veteran. “The government owes my son an investigation.” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday she believes the president would support an investigation.
Politico, Sean Spicer targets own staff in leak crackdown, Annie Karni and Alex Isenstadt, Feb. 26, 2017. The push includes random phone checks overseen by White House lawyers. Press secretary Sean Spicer is cracking down on leaks coming out of the West Wing, with increased security measures that include random phone checks of White House staffers, overseen by White House attorneys. The push to snuff out leaks to the press comes after a week in which President Donald Trump strongly criticized the media for using unnamed sources in stories and expressed growing frustration with the unauthorized sharing of information by individuals in his administration.
Last week, after Spicer (shown in a screen shot) became aware that information had leaked out of a planning meeting with about a dozen of his communications staffers, he reconvened the group in his office to express his frustration over the number of private conversations and meetings that were showing up in unflattering news stories, according to sources in the room.
Upon entering Spicer’s office for what one person briefed on the gathering described as “an emergency meeting,” staffers were told to dump their phones on a table for a “phone check," to prove they had nothing to hide. The campaign to sniff out a series of damaging leaks, which Spicer is convinced originated from his communications department, has led to a tense environment in the West Wing. During meetings, the press secretary has repeatedly berated his aides, launching expletive-filled tirades in which he’s accused them of disclosing sensitive information to reporters and saying that they’ve disappointed him.
Washington Post, Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, asks: Who will be the next Snowden? Margaret Sullivan, Feb. 26, 2017. Ellsberg believes whistleblowers are the best defense against a government obsessed with secrecy — but he fears there aren’t enough of them.
Common Dreams, The FBI's New FOIA Policy Is a Big Step Backward, Fiona Morgan, Feb. 26, 2017. The FBI is planning to take a big step backward for government transparency. As of March 1, the Bureau will no longer accept Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests via email. Anyone seeking public records from the FBI will have to use a new online portal — or send requests via fax or snail mail.
Online FOIA portals may seem like a good idea in theory, but government agencies make them difficult to use — with way too many burdensome requirements. The Freedom of Information Act gives us a legal right to request public records, which allow journalists and watchdogs to hold the government accountable. FOIA requests uncovered harmful covert operations like COINTELPRO — an FBI program designed to dismantle civil rights groups, among others — and also exposed government surveillance of Black Lives Matter activists.
Our friends at MuckRock, which helps journalists and others access public records, raised the alarm when the terms of service of the new FBI portal came to light. These include arbitrary restrictions that aren’t consistent with the law:
Requests can’t be longer than 3,000 characters. Individuals aren’t eligible for the reduced fees available to media outlets, meaning that freelance journalists and others will have to pay extra when filing requests. Memos, emails and other internal communications appear to be off-limits to requesters — a restriction that undermines government transparency.
While these terms of service might be improved going forward, the FBI has shown that it can and will arbitrarily change them without public comment. MuckRock founder Michael Morisy told us he’s concerned about what this step backward signals for government transparency. “The FBI is a hugely important agency, and if the FBI gets away with it, we worry that a lot of other agencies will follow suit.”
Politico, Judge won't dismiss Bergdahl case over Trump's verbal attacks, Josh Gerstein, Feb. 26, 2017. President Donald Trump's flurry of campaign-trail attacks on alleged Army deserter Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl don't require that the charges against Bergdahl be tossed out, a military judge has ruled. Defense lawyers for Bergdahl had argued that candidate Trump's frequent denunciations of Bergdahl as a "dirty rotten traitor" amounted to "unlawful command influence" that made it impossible for the soldier to get a fair trial at an upcoming court martial. Col. Jeffrey Nance ruled that Trump's comments were political rhetoric that could not be expected to impact Bergdahl's trial.
Washington Post, Tom Perez becomes first Latino to lead Democratic Party, David Weigel, Feb. 25, 2017. In a close race, the former labor secretary defeated Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) — who had been the choice of the party’s liberal wing — for chairman of the Democratic National Committee. After the vote, Ellison called for unity, saying, “We don’t have the luxury to walk out of this room divided.”
Former labor secretary Thomas Perez was elected the first Latino chair of the Democratic National Committee on Saturday, narrowly defeating Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) at the end of a contentious battle over the fate of the beleaguered party in the age of President Trump.
Perez’s victory concluded the first contested race for the DNC leadership since 1985, a contest the party had extended by a month to allow more debate. It put in place the Democratic leadership that will navigate thousands of state and local elections — where the party hopes to reverse the losses of the past six years — and a 2020 presidential race that could divide the party again.
Washington Post, Reagan, Trump and the swift transformation of the GOP, Dan Balz, Feb. 25, 2017. Reagan espoused American exceptionalism and a nation seeking to defend freedom around the world. Trump looks inward and appears to begrudge the responsibilities of leading the world that previous presidents, Republican or Democrat, have embraced.
Supreme Court Appointment
Politico, Trump adviser: Democrats should 'move on' from Garland SCOTUS snub, Josh Gerstein, Feb. 25, 2017. The White House has a message for Democrats still harboring bitterness about the treatment of President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland: get over it. "If I was a Democratic senator who was angry about the way Judge Garland was treated, I would move on," an adviser to President Donald Trump, Leonard Leo, said in an interview set for broadcast on C-SPAN Sunday.
Leo, who played a key role in the process that led to Trump's selection of Neil Gorsuch (shown in an official photo) for the same Supreme Court vacancy, insisted it's time for both sides in the judicial confirmation wars to lay down their arms.
Democrats will surely look skeptically on Leo's suggestion that a truce be called at a moment when Republicans control both the White House and the Senate, but Democrats ultimately have little power to control the outcome: if they try to obstruct Gorsuch's confirmation, Republican leaders in the Senate will likely kill off the filibuster altogether and approve Gorsuch's nomination along party lines.
Leo, on leave from his post at the conservative Federalist Society in order to work with the White House on Gorsuch's confirmation, said he considers a filibuster a possibility in part due to Democratic voters' anger over the outcome of last November's presidential election.
During the interview, conducted by the author of this blog and by Wall Street Journal Supreme Court reporter Jess Bravin, Leo said he expects the Justice Department will release some records about Gorsuch's work as the principal deputy associate attorney general for two years under President George W. Bush. A group advocating for greater transparency and term limits for justices, Fix The Court, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington to press for disclosure of records of Gorsuch's work from 2005 to 2006, before he joined the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeal.
Trump Fights Media
Roll Call, President Escalates Feud with Media, Will Skip Annual D.C. Gala, John T. Bennett, Feb. 25, 2017. President Donald Trump used a Saturday tweet to announce he will not attend this year’s White House Correspondents Association Dinner, his latest salvo in his simmering clash with the media. By using the social media site, the president took the news directly to the public and went around the press in another symbolic jab at media outlets. He made the announcement one day after his White House excluded some organizations, including CNN, Time and CQ Roll Call, from a “gaggle” with Press Secretary Sean Spicer, and after Trump lambasted the press as “enemies of the people.”
Washington Post, Megadonor family that helped fund Trump’s rise is part owner of Breitbart News, CEO reveals, Elise Viebeck and Matea Gold, Feb. 24, 2017. The far-right media outlet’s financial backing from the Mercers further cements the family’s status as some of the most influential financiers of the Trump era. Breitbart News Network, the far-right media outlet that heralded President Trump’s rise and was once led by his top White House strategist, is owned in part by a wealthy conservative family that poured millions into propelling Trump into office, the company’s chief executive acknowledged Friday.
The site’s financial backing from the Mercers further cements the family’s status as some of the most influential financiers of the Trump era. The news comes as Breitbart has enjoyed a higher profile within the White House press corps.
The Mercers’ investment in Breitbart has been previously reported by The Washington Post and other news outlets, but the family’s role as partial owners of the organization has never been officially confirmed. Larry Solov, Breitbart’s president and CEO, shared the company’s ownership information with a panel of congressional journalists as part of a process to get Capitol Hill press credentials for Breitbart reporters.
Solov said that he is also an owner of the company. The largest share is owned by Susannah Breitbart, the widow of site founder Andrew Breitbart, who died in 2012. Solov would not reveal which members of the Mercer family were investors. “I can’t say more than ‘the Mercer family,’ ” Solov told the Standing Committee of Correspondents, the group tasked with approving credentials that grant reporters access to certain areas in the Capitol restricted to the general public. “That’s all I can specify right now.”
More Leaks (Or Call It Reporting?) Targeting Trump
Washington Post, White House sought to enlist key intelligence officials, lawmakers to counter Russia stories, Greg Miller and Adam Entous, Feb. 24, 2017. The calls were orchestrated after unsuccessful attempts by the White House to get senior FBI officials to speak with news organizations and dispute the accuracy of reports of alleged contacts between members of Trump’s campaign team and Russian intelligence operatives.
Trump Rallies Conservatives
Washington Post, Trump gives wide-ranging speech at CPAC, blasts media, John Wagner and David Nakamura, Feb. 24, 2017. President Trump told the audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference that “you finally have a president” and promised that the Republican Party would “be the party of the American worker.”
Washington Post, White House blocks CNN, N.Y. Times from news briefing hours after Trump slams media, Callum Borchers, Feb. 24, 2017. On Day 36 of the Trump presidency, CNN did not break into regular programming to show the daily media briefing by Sean Spicer. That’s because the cable network and other news outlets — including Politico and the Los Angeles Times — were not invited into the session, where cameras were barred.
Washington Post, Trump repeats false GOP talking point on Obamacare, makes 12 other dubious claims, Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Feb. 24, 2017. We examine the president’s statements in the order he made them at the conservative summit.
Associated Press via Washington Post, White House chief of staff asked FBI to dispute Russia reports, Julie Pace, Feb. 24, 2017. White House chief of staff Reince Priebus asked a top FBI official to dispute media reports that President Trump’s campaign advisers were frequently in touch with Russian intelligence agents during the election, a White House official says. White House chief of staff Reince Priebus asked a top FBI official to dispute media reports that President Donald Trump’s campaign advisers were frequently in touch with Russian intelligence agents during the election, a White House official says.
The official said that Priebus’ request came after the FBI told the White House it believed a New York Times report last week describing those contacts was not accurate. As of Thursday, the FBI had not stated that position publicly and there was no indication it planned to.
The New York Times reported that U.S. agencies had intercepted phone calls last year between Russian intelligence officials and members of Trump’s 2016 campaign team. Priebus’ discussion with FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe sparked outrage among some Democrats, who said that the chief of staff was violating policies intended to limit communications between the law enforcement agency and the White House on pending investigations.
“The White House is simply not permitted to pressure the FBI to make public statements about a pending investigation of the president and his advisers,” said Michigan Rep. John Conyers, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.
Palmer report, Why the FBI ratted out Reince Priebus for obstructing justice in Donald Trump’s Russia scandal, Bill Palmer, Feb. 24, 2017. Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus recently tried to pressure FBI Director James Comey into helping scuttle the investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal, and Comey said no. We know this because the incident leaked to the media today. Based on who would have had knowledge of the incident, the leak almost certainly had to have come from Comey or his deputy or someone close to them in the FBI. And they’ve chosen to rat out Priebus for a reason.
The FBI could have simply said no to Reince Priebus (shown in a file photo) in private, and then gone about its business continuing with the investigation, and we would never have known the exchange happened. But instead the FBI made a point of informing the American public today about Reince’s actions, which appear to have been illegal. By publicly ratting Priebus out over the matter, it appears the FBI is laying the groundwork for whatever action it intends to take against him next.
Is this the part where the FBI now tries to get Priebus to flip on Trump? As best anyone can tell, Priebus violated the law merely by contacting the FBI at all, as there are only four people in the White House who are allowed to do so, and he isn’t one of him (Rachel Maddow laid out the Nixon-related history of these rules in depth on her Thursday evening show). And that’s before getting to the matter of Priebus having apparently committed obstruction of justice by asking the FBI to help scuttle an investigation. If Trump told Priebus to lean on the FBI, or even if Trump was aware Priebus was doing it, then Trump is also guilty of obstruction of justice.
SouthFront, Syrian War: Turkey Seized Al-Bab. What Now? Staff report, Feb. 24, 2017. On February 23, Turkey-led forces made a major breakthrough in their operations in northern Syria, recapturing al-Bab, Qabasin and Bzaah from ISIS. The Free Syrian Army and the Turkish army launched a fierce attack against ISIS units in the center of al-Bab and overrun the terrorist group’s defenses. As result, ISIS commanders decided to withdraw their units from eastern al-Bab and the nearby areas. So, Turkish forces took control of Qabasin and Bzaah almost without clashes.
Thus, Ankara achieved one of the main goals of its Operation Euphrates Shield, prevented Kurdish YPG forces from linking up the YPG-held areas along the Syrian-Turkish border. According to available information, pro-Turkish militants and the Turkish army would not push further to central Syria. A demarcation line between Turkish forces and the Syrian army lays at Tadef.
The US-backed Kurdish forces, also promoted as the Syrian Democratic Forces, have liberated a large number of villages from ISIS terrorists in the province of Raqqah. US-backed forces have taken over 40 villages east of the ISIS stronghold of Raqqah.
The “White Helmets” symbol, expropriating the name of “Syria Civil Defense”
Consortium News, Syrian War Propaganda at the Oscars, Feb. 24, 2017. The Western-backed war in Syria, like the invasion of Iraq, was so smothered by propaganda that truth was not only the first casualty but has been steadily suffocated for five years, now reaching the Oscars, says Rick Sterling. The Netflix movie “The White Helmets” may win an Oscar in the “short documentary” category at the Academy Awards on Sunday. It would not be a surprise despite the fact that the group is a fraud and the movie is a contrived infomercial.
Awarding “The White Helmets” an Oscar would fit with the desire of Hollywood to appear supportive of “human rights,” even if that means supporting a propaganda operation to justify another bloody “regime change” war in the Middle East. Much of what people think they know about the White Helmets is untrue. The group is not primarily Syrian; it was initiated by British military contractor James LeMesurier and has been heavily funded (about $100 million) by the U.S., U.K. and other governments. The White Helmets are not volunteers; they are paid, which is confirmed in a Al Jazeera video that shows some White Helmet “volunteers” talking about going on strike if they don’t get paid soon.
Still, most of the group’s heavy funding goes to marketing, which is run by “The Syria Campaign” based in New York. The manager is an Irish-American, Anna Nolan, who has never been to Syria. As an example of its deception, “The Syria Campaign” website features video showing children dancing and playing soccer implying they are part of the opposition demand for a “free and peaceful” Syria. But the video images are taken from a 2010 BBC documentary about education in Syria under the Baath government.
There is also something almost dated about the Academy selecting this infomercial as an Oscar finalist, let alone the possibility of giving it the award. It’s as if the Syrian propaganda narrative of “good” rebels vs. “bad” government was still viable. In the case of the White Helmets, they were literally made into “white hats” bravely resisting the government’s “black hats.”
Yet, we now know that the propaganda around the “noble” rebels holding out in east Aleppo – with the help of the White Helmets – was largely a lie. The rebels mostly fought under the command structure of Al Qaeda’s Nusra affiliate and its fellow jihadists in Ahrar al-Sham. A video shows White Helmet workers picking up the corpse of a civilian after execution by Nusra/Al Qaeda and celebrating the extremists’ battle wins.
Western “human rights” groups touted not only the White Helmets but the “moderate rebels” who we now know were largely a P.R. cover for the terrorists and jihadists, as well as an excuse for the U.S. and its allies to funnel in weapons that were then turned over to the extremists.
Steve Bannon at a 2013 Tea Party rally in Washington, DC (C-SPAN 3 photo)
Washington Post, Steve Bannon: Trump administration is in unending battle for ‘deconstruction of the administrative state,’ Philip Rucker, Feb. 23, 2017. Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s reclusive chief strategist and the intellectual force behind his nationalist agenda, said Thursday that the new administration is locked in an unending battle against the media and other globalist forces to “deconstruct” an outdated system of governance.
In his first public speaking appearance since Trump took office, Bannon made his comments alongside White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus at a gathering of conservative activists. They sought to prove that they are not rivals but partners in fighting on Trump’s behalf to transform Washington and the world order.
“They’re going to continue to fight,” Bannon said of the media, which he repeatedly described as “the opposition party,” and other forces he sees as standing in the president’s way. “If you think they are giving you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken.”
Atop Trump’s agenda, Bannon said, was the “deconstruction of the administrative state” — meaning a system of taxes, regulations and trade pacts that the president and his advisers believe stymie economic growth and infringe upon one’s sovereignty. “If you look at these Cabinet nominees, they were selected for a reason, and that is deconstruction,” Bannon said. He posited that Trump’s announcement withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership was “one of the most pivotal moments in modern American history.”
Washington Post, Trump’s America will be on vivid display at annual CPAC gathering, David Weigel and Robert Costa, Feb. 23, 2017 (print edition). A new nationalist energy that President Trump has encouraged in the Republican Party has already embroiled the lead-up to this year’s gathering in controversy, with an inflammatory speaker's invitation rescinded.
Washington Post, Alt-right leader expelled from CPAC after organizer denounces ‘left-wing fascist group,’ David Weigel and John Wagner, Feb. 23, 2017. Conservative organizer calls alt-right groups 'left-wing fascists.' Richard Spencer, a founder of the alt-right movement that seeks a whites-only state and that strongly backed Donald Trump for president, was expelled from the Conservative Political Action Conference after being criticized from its main stage, then giving interviews to a growing crowd of reporters.
“People want to talk to me,” Spencer told NBC News from outside the Gaylord National Harbor complex. “They don’t want to talk to these boring conservatives. They want to learn about ideas whose time has come, not whose time has passed.”
Spencer, who has frequently attended CPAC without incident, became a minor media sensation during and after the 2016 election. One of the first speeches at this year’s conference challenged the media to stop referring to the alt-right as conservative.
“There is a sinister organization that is trying to worm its way into our ranks,” said Dan Schneider, the executive director of the American Conservative Union, which runs CPAC. “We must not be deceived by [a] hateful, left-wing fascist group.”
Politico, Justice Department reverses directive to phase out private prisons, Bianca Padró Ocasio, Feb. 23, 2017. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Thursday the Justice Department would "rescind" the department's previous directive to scale back the use of private prisons.
"I hereby rescind the memorandum dated August 18, 2016, sent to you by former Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates, entitled 'Reducing our Use of Private Prisons.'" Sessions (shown in an official photo) wrote in a directive sent to the acting Federal Bureau of Prisons director Thomas Kane.
"The memorandum changed long-standing policy and practice, and impaired the bureau's ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system," Sessions added.
The new directive withdraws Yates' memo, which had asked the prisons bureau to "substantially reduce" its use of private prisons "in a manner consistent with law and the overall decline of the Bureau's inmate population."
New York Times, An Alarmed Base Prods Democrats Into an All-Out War, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Feb. 23, 2017. After the election, Democrats debated whether to confront Mr. Trump or seek compromise, but riled-up liberals have pushed party leaders into a fight. Reduced to their weakest state in a generation, Democratic Party leaders will gather in two cities this weekend to plot strategy and select a new national chairman with the daunting task of rebuilding the party’s depleted organization. But senior Democratic officials concede that the blueprint has already been chosen for them — by an incensed army of liberals demanding no less than total war against President Trump.
Immediately after the November election, Democrats were divided over how to handle Mr. Trump, with one camp favoring all-out confrontation and another backing a seemingly less risky approach of coaxing him to the center with offers of compromise.
Now, spurred by explosive protests and a torrent of angry phone calls and emails from constituents — and outraged themselves by Mr. Trump’s swift moves to enact a hard-line agenda — Democrats have all but cast aside any notion of conciliation with the White House. Instead, they are mimicking the Republican approach of the last eight years — the “party of no” — and wagering that brash obstruction will pay similar dividends.
Defense of Media
Washington Post, ‘Greatest threat to democracy’: Commander of bin Laden raid slams Trump’s anti-media sentiment, Kristine Guerra, Feb. 23, 2017. William H. McRaven, a retired four-star admiral and former Navy SEAL, slammed President Trump’s characterization of the media as “the enemy of the American people,” calling that sentiment the “greatest threat to democracy” he’s ever seen.
McRaven, who was commander of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command, organized and oversaw the highly risky operation that killed Osama bin Laden almost six years ago. The admiral from Texas (shown in a file photo from his military service) had tapped a special unit of Navy SEALs to carry out the May 2011 raid on the elusive terrorist’s hideout, a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, The Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock reported shortly after bin Laden’s death.
CNN, Melania and Ivanka's plastic feminism cover up Trump's misogyny, Jill Filipovic, Feb. 23, 2017. In his press conference last week, in which President Trump ranted and raved that he wasn't ranting and raving, he answered a question about his wife, Melania. "That's what I call a very nice question," he said, apparently relieved to stop talking about his own policies, before saying the first lady feels very strongly about "women's issues" and "women's difficulties."
Trump didn't specify what these "issues" and "difficulties" might be. One presumes that, despite the phrasing, he probably meant things like equal pay and health care. He then swiftly regressed into thin-skinned indignation, complaining that despite the first lady's strength as an advocate for women, "she gets so unfairly maligned."
Open Government Initiatives
American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), ASNE releases 'budget' for Sunshine Week 2017, Staff report, Feb. 23, 2017. [Notes: 'Budget' is a term among news editors denoting events expected to become news stories. JIP Editor Andrew Kreig is a member of ASNE and is organizing a Sunshine Week event March 16 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The keynoter will be the congressionally appointed former Assassinations Record Review Board Chairman John R. Tunheim (shown in an official photo), now chief federal judge in Minnesota. He and other speakers will discuss the historic scheduled release in October by the National Archives of the final 3,600 secret documents about the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. More details of the forum will be published here soon.]
Federal data is disappearing from websites. Concerns are growing about whistleblower protections. The public is faced with inconsistent access to information like police dashcam video. Attacks on the First Amendment continue.
This year, more than ever, ASNE and multiple media partners will use Sunshine Week, March 12-18, to hold government officials accountable for their transparency, or secrecy, around public records. For 12 years, our Sunshine Week coverage has championed the public's right to information and revealed threats to those rights. This year, we will extend that week of focus to coverage throughout 2017.
ASNE is partnering with The Associated Press, Associated Press Media Editors, Gannett, McClatchy, The Dallas Morning News and the Minneapolis Star Tribune on coverage available to all during Sunshine Week and thereafter. ASNE's First Amendment Committee leaders Joyce Terhaar, executive editor of The Sacramento Bee, and Robyn Tomlin, managing editor of The Dallas Morning News, are spearheading this special reporting project.
Washington Post, ' Al-Qaeda is eating us’: Syrian rebels are losing out to extremists, Liz Sly and Zakaria Zakaria, Feb. 23, 2017. The biggest surviving rebel stronghold in northern Syria is falling under the control of al-Qaeda-linked extremists amid a surge of rebel infighting that threatens to vanquish what is left of the moderate rebellion. The ascent of the extremists in the northwestern province of Idlib coincides with a suspension of aid to moderate rebel groups by their international allies.
The rebels now face an existential choice — to join the radical groups and risk being annihilated from the air by Russian and U.S. warplanes, or to unite to confront al-Qaeda and its allies and risk defeat on the ground by the better-armed and highly motivated Islamist militants.
Turkey, the rebels’ closest ally, is offering a third option: to leave the Idlib area entirely and head east to join the Turkish-backed operation, known as Euphrates Shield, underway against the Islamic State — a rival of al-Qaeda. As Turkey presses to convince the United States that it can muster a force strong enough to provide an alternative to the Syrian Kurds to participate in the battle for the Islamic State’s capital of Raqqa, it has been heavily recruiting support among the moderate rebels of Idlib.
But Idlib rebels do not want to surrender their territory to the jihadists to go fight on a different front, said Capt. Mohanned Junaid of Jaish al-Nasr, another U.S.-backed group that last week lost an estimated 69 members in a massacre of moderate rebels by one of the al-Qaeda affiliates.
Washington Post, Tillerson, Kelly head to Mexico amid deep strains in bilateral ties, Antonio Olivo, Feb. 23, 2017. As Mexico vows to fight Trump’s immigration order, Tillerson and Kelly seek to cool tensions. The visit by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly comes a month after a heated volley of tweets between President Trump and Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, over who should pay for a wall on the southern U.S. border prompted Peña Nieto to cancel a White House visit.
The Twitter fight sparked concerns about a trade war between the countries after a Trump administration official implied that a 20 percent tax on goods from Mexico would be one way to force the country to pay for the wall. And this week, tensions intensified after Trump signed an executive order that would dramatically expand the pool of undocumented immigrants who would be deported to Mexico. Against that backdrop, the two sides plan to discuss Thursday how to move forward in day-to-day relations, which include $1.5 billion in daily commerce.
Immigration Policy: Visas
Washington Post, How today’s visa restrictions might impact tomorrow’s America, Samuel Granados, Feb. 23, 2017. Although the visas issued to countries included in the executive order represent less than 1 percent of total visas, the impact on the U.S. talent force could be significant. Iran, which is included in the restricted list, ranked 10th in the number of U.S. doctorates awarded to noncitizens in 2015.
Washington Post, Trump’s America will be on vivid display at annual CPAC gathering, David Weigel and Robert Costa, Feb. 22, 2017. A new nationalist energy that President Trump has encouraged in the Republican Party has already embroiled the lead-up to this year’s gathering in controversy, with an inflammatory speaker's invitation rescinded.
Washington Post, Thousands of emails detail EPA head’s close ties to fossil fuel industry, Brady Dennis and Steven Mufson, Feb. 22, 2017. David Weigel and Robert CostaThe release comes days after the former Oklahoma attorney general was sworn in as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Huffington Post, Facebook Donates Some $100,000 To CPAC, Reminding Users Again That It’s Not Liberal, Ryan Grenoble, Feb. 22, 2017. Not going to help Mark Zuckerberg’s standing at Burning Man either.
Washington Post, State Department sidelined in first month of Trump presidency, Carol Morello and Anne Gearan, Feb. 22, 2017. A White House often wary of the foreign policy establishment and struggling to set priorities on the fly has sharply curtailed the department’s level of public engagement and official travel while relegating new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to a largely offstage role.
Washington Post, The next DNC chair will have a huge opportunity — and a huge burden, E.J. Dionne Jr., Feb. 22, 2017. The next leader will have to organize the party’s discontent into a potent electoral force. The most striking aspect of the vast and swiftly organized movement against President Trump is how little it had to do with the Democratic Party. Whoever is elected to chair the Democratic National Committee this weekend should draw two conclusions from this, and they are in tension.
First, the anti-Trump effort, while broadly motivated by a progressive worldview, is diverse in both philosophy and experience. Trump incites antagonism from the center and the left. Those protesting him include citizens who have long been engaged in politics but also many recently drawn to activism by the sense of emergency this dreadful administration has created.
Second, Democratic leaders need to organize this discontent into a potent electoral force at a time when the very words “party” and “partisanship” are in disrepute, particularly among young Americans who are playing a key role in the insurrection. Democrats will not be up to what has become a historic responsibility if they indulge their tendencies toward heaping blame on the factions they oppose (“It’s Hillary’s fault” vs. “It’s Bernie’s fault”) or relishing the narcissism of small differences.
Whoever prevails will have an unusual opportunity and a large burden. The grass-roots vitality Trump has unleashed against him in just a month is already close to matching the positive enthusiasm Obama nurtured during his 2008 campaign. The hard part will be convincing the newly mobilized that the Democratic Party knows what to do with their commitment.
Trump Russia Probe
Palmer Report, Trump-Russia: Republican Senator Susan Collins sides with Democrats on Intelligence Committee, Bill Palmer, Feb. 22, 2017. Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, is now publicly leading the charge in her committee’s investigation into Donald Trump and Russia. She’s calling for a number of remedies, ranging from hauling in Michael Flynn for questioning, to subpoenaing Trump’s tax returns if necessary — and shifting the balance of power of the committee.
In so doing, it appears Senator Collins has sided with the Democrats on the Senate Intel Committee, handing the Democrats control of the Trump-Russia investigation. There are eight Republicans on the committee, along with six Democrats and one Independent who is aligned with the Democrats. Whatever transpired behind closed doors during the committee’s meeting on Friday afternoon with FBI Director James Comey, it must have been enough to prompt Collins to decide that she wants a serious investigation. Her vote, along with the six democrats and one independent, are enough to take the committee in that direction.
Susan Collins is now publicly calling for Michael Flynn to testify before her committee about Trump-Russia, and she’s threatening to subpoena Donald Trump’s tax returns if it ends up being necessary to get to the bottom of it, as spelled out in this new Politico report. This represents a major shift in events. As recently as last week, the only known progress being made on Trump-Russia was through leaks from the intel community to the media.
Deference To States On Transgender Student Rights
Washington Post, Trump administration rolls back protections for transgender students, Sandhya Somashekhar, Emma Brown, Moriah Balingit and Robert Barnes, Feb. 22, 2017. The reversal means that the nation’s public schools no longer must allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity. The move drew immediate condemnation from gay and transgender rights advocates, who accused President Trump of violating past promises to support protections.
Washington Post, President Trump is losing his war with the media, Aaron Blake, Feb. 22, 2017. It's pretty clear what President Trump is doing by going after the media. He sees someone who is tough on him, with a lower approval rating, and he sets up a contrast. It's like making yourself look taller by standing next to a short person. “You have a lower approval rate than Congress,” he needled reporters at last week's news conference, making clear he had done the math.
Except maybe it's not really working. A new poll from Quinnipiac University suggests that while people may be broadly unhappy with the mainstream media, they still think it's more credible than Trump. The president regularly accuses the press of “fake news,” but people see more “fake news” coming out of his own mouth. The poll asked who registered voters “trust more to tell you the truth about important issues.” A majority — 52 percent — picked the media. Just 37 percent picked Trump.
Washington Post, Trump administration seeks to prevent ‘panic’ as it outlines broader deportation policies, David Nakamura, Feb. 21, 2017. The Department of Homeland Security tried to allay fears in immigrant communities after it publicly released wide-ranging new guidelines that allow federal authorities to take stronger enforcement actions against illegal immigrants, saying the directives are not intended to produce mass deportations.
"We do not need a sense of panic in the communities,” a DHS official said in a conference call with reporters to formally release the memos to the public.
“We do not have the personnel, time or resources to go into communities and round up people and do all kinds of mass throwing folks on buses. That’s entirely a figment of folks’ imagination,” said the official, who was joined on the call by two others, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to answer questions. “This is not intended to produce mass roundups, mass deportations.” (The actions are taken under retired Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general shown in a file photo.)
Immigrant rights groups have expressed concern that the new policies will lead to widespread enforcement raids and abuses by federal authorities as they seek to ramp up deportations of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. The memos are intended as an implementation blueprint for DHS to follow through on three executive orders Trump signed in January to pursue construction of a border wall, beef up patrols along the southern border with Mexico and escalate enforcement inside the country.
After deportations reached a record high of 434,000 in 2013, pressure from immigration advocates prompted the Obama administration to implement new guidelines that focused enforcement on hardened criminals. The number of people deported in 2015 was just over 333,000, the lowest number since 2007.
Washington Post, Riots erupt in Sweden’s capital just days after Trump comments, Max Bearak, Feb. 21, 2017. On Feb. 20, riots broke out in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood in the northern suburbs of Stockholm. The riot comes two days after President Trump implied that immigrants had perpetrated a recent spate of violence in Sweden.
The neighborhood, Rinkeby, was the scene of riots in 2010 and 2013, too. And in most ways, what happened late Monday night was reminiscent of those earlier bouts of anger. Swedish police apparently made an arrest around 8 p.m. near the Rinkeby station. Word of the arrest prompted a crowd of youths to gather.
Washington Post, Trump prepares rollback of rules on climate, water pollution, Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson, Feb. 21, 2017. His planned executive orders are aimed at curtailing Obama-era policies. Although implementation will take time, it signals that the new administration is determined to promote fossil-fuel production.
Pitch.com, CIA Director Mike Pompeo has a Kramer portrait in his Wichita home, David Martin, Feb. 21, 2017. CIA Director Mike Pompeo (or someone close to him) is apparently a Seinfeld fan. A Kramer poster hangs in a bedroom of his Wichita home. Pompeo served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives before President Trump asked him to lead the CIA. No longer bound to a congressional district, Pompeo and his wife, Susan, are auctioning off their sprawling ranch home in northeast Wichita.
The real-estate company handling the March 18 auction posted images of the house, which backs up to a private pond. In one of the four bedrooms, a print of the portrait of Cosmo Kramer hangs on the wall. Kramer sat for a portrait painted by one of Jerry's girlfriends, played by Catherine Keener, in an episode from Seinfeld's third season.
Washington Post, Trump names Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as national security adviser, replacing the ousted Michael Flynn, Staff report, Feb. 20, 2017. “He is highly respected by everyone in the military, and we’re very honored to have him,” President Trump said of the Army lieutenant general, McMaster, 54, whose position does not require Senate confirmation. Retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who has been serving in an acting capacity as national security adviser, will be the chief of staff on the National Security Council.
Both men were among four candidates whom White House aides said Trump had planned to interview this weekend to replace Flynn, a retired general and early Trump political supporter. Flynn was asked to resign last week amid allegations that he discussed U.S. sanctions with a Russian official before Trump took office and then misrepresented the content of that conversation to Vice President Pence and other administration officials.
Trump’s first choice of a replacement — retired Navy Vice Adm. Robert Harward — turned him down, compounding the embarrassment surrounding the episode.
Trump’s bid to move forward with a replacement comes as his fledgling administration is seeking a reset on several other fronts. The president has pledged to issue a new executive order this week replacing his now-frozen directive on immigration, which has come to symbolize his struggle to translate ambitious campaign promises into policy.
Artist's portrayal of fatal airport poisoning in Malaysia of North Korean leader's half-brother (Graphic by Daily Mail)
Fox News, Video showing apparent poisoning of Kim Jong Un's half-brother surfaces, Wire and staff reports, Feb. 20, 2017. The first video footage showing the apparent poisoning of the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un's half-brother emerged Monday, showing a woman rush up to the man from behind, before holding something over his mouth.
The security camera footage, obtained by a Japanese TV network, was often grainy and blurred. It also appeared to show a second women approaching Kim Jong Nam from a different direction before the attack at an airport in Malaysia. This image provided by Star TV on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, of closed circuit television footage from Monday, Feb 13, 2017, shows a woman, left, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, who police say was arrested Wednesday in connection with the death of Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (Star TV via AP).
After the first woman held something over the man's mouth for a few seconds, both women turned and calmly walked off in different directions.
Breitbart Advocate of Pedarast Sex With Boys Dis-invited From Keynoting Conservative Convention
Washington Post, CPAC disinvites Milo Yiannopoulos amid uproar over video of the right-wing speaker, David Weigel and Robert Costa, Feb. 20, 2017. “Due to the revelation of an offensive video in the past 24 hours condoning pedophilia,” an organizer of the Conservative Political Action Conference said, the Breitbart editor’s booking was canceled. Yiannopoulos took to Facebook to defend himself against criticism of remarks he made last year.
See also: IfYouOnlyNews, Conservative conference imploding after keynote speaker Milo Yiannopoulos encourages pedophilia video, Jameson Parker, Feb. 19, 2017. The largest conservative conference of the year – known as CPAC – is in the process of self-immolation after the invited keynote speaker, professional bigot Milo Yiannopoulos was recorded not only defending pedophilia but actually encouraging it. In a hangout session recorded and posted online, the Breitbart writer is seen explaining to the group (including one person inexplicably wearing a wrestling mask) why raping children isn’t always bad. His justification was horrific.
“Due to the revelation of an offensive video in the past 24 hours condoning pedophilia,” an organizer of the conservative conference said, the appearance was canceled. Simon & Schuster also announced that it will not publish his book, for which he was given a $250,000 advance. Yiannopoulos defended himself against criticism of remarks he made last year.
More Breitbart Influence At White House
Washington Post, A Trump adviser’s move from the fringes of Washington to the West Wing, Greg Jaffe, Feb. 20, 2017. Sebastian Gorka, a former Breitbart News editor, occupies a senior job in the White House, and his controversial ideas — especially about Islam — drive the president’s populist approach to counterterrorism and national security.
Trump & News Media
Washington Post, Has the White House press office’s silence become a weapon in its war with the media? Paul Farhi, Feb. 20, 2017. An eye-opening sentence has appeared in several important news stories about the Trump administration in recent days: The White House did not respond to requests for comment. Not “the White House declined to comment” or “We’ll get right back to you.” But no response at all when reporters have asked for the White House’s take on developments.
At a time when President Trump has declared the news media the “enemy of the American people,” the official silence from the White House has left some journalists wondering whether the non-responses are mere indifference or a strategy to discredit journalists by pointing to flaws after publication instead of beforehand.
For its part, the White House — which, yes, responded to this story — blames reporters for not trying hard enough to get the White House’s side of the story. In the same forum, Haberman, wrote, “I email his press office almost every day, and Sean Spicer and [assistant press secretary] Sarah Huckabee refuse to respond to my emails.” She also tweeted, “Taxpayer[-funded] press office that has hours to devote to focusing on palace intrigue stories and profiles does not respond to routine q’s.”
The official silence has left some journalists wondering whether the non-responses are mere indifference or a strategy.
New U.S. War Looming With Invasion of Syria?
Ron Paul Institute, Trump’s ISIS Plan: Another US Invasion? Ron Paul, Feb. 20, 2017. Ron Paul is a retired Texas Republican congressman with libertarian policies. Just over a week into the Trump Administration, the President issued an Executive Order giving Defense Secretary James Mattis 30 days to come up with a plan to defeat ISIS. According to the Order, the plan should make recommendations on military actions, diplomatic actions, partners, strategies, and how to pay for the operation.
As we approach the president’s deadline it looks like the military is going to present Trump with a plan to do a whole lot more of what we’ve been doing and somehow expect different results. Proving the old saying that when all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail, we are hearing increasing reports that the military will recommend sending thousands of US troops into Syria and Iraq.
This would be a significant escalation in both countries, as currently there are about 5,000 US troops still fighting our 13-year war in Iraq, and some 500 special forces soldiers operating in Syria.
The current Syria ceasefire, brokered without US involvement at the end of 2016, is producing positive results and the opposing groups are talking with each other under Russian and Iranian sponsorship. Does anyone think sending thousands of US troops into a situation that is already being resolved without us is a good idea?
In language reminiscent of his plans to build a wall on the Mexican border, the president told a political rally in Florida over the weekend that he was going to set up “safe zones” in Syria and would make the Gulf States pay for them. There are several problems with this plan.
Associated Press via Washington Post, Russia’s ambassador to United Nations dies in NYC at 64, Edith M. Lederer and Jennifer Peltz, Feb. 20, 2017. Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, a veteran diplomat known as a potent and personable voice for his country’s interests as he sparred with his Western counterparts, died suddenly after falling ill Monday in his office at the mission. Vitaly Churkin, 64, was taken to a hospital in New York, where he died, Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov, told The Associated Press. His cause of death wasn’t immediately known.
He had been Russia’s envoy at the United Nations since 2006 and was considered Moscow’s great champion at the U.N. Diplomatic colleagues from around the world mourned Churkin as a powerful and passionate voice for his nation, with both a deep knowledge of diplomacy and a large and colorful personality. He was the longest-serving member of the Security Council, the U.N.’s most powerful body.
President Trump (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr)
SouthFront, Whither Bellingcat in the Age of Trump? Staff report, Feb. 20, 2017. Elliott Higgins’ infamous Bellingcat organization which is attempting to position itself as an independent investigative institution focusing on international conflicts and crimes against humanity has made yet another effort to make itself relevant in the MH17 shoot-down saga by claiming it has identified the Russian officer who, presumably singlehandedly, brought the Buk launch vehicle from Russia into the Donbass, though apparently forgetting to take along such niceties as target surveillance radars, ammunition supply vehicles, or battery command units without which a single isolated launch vehicle has very limited usefulness.
This “investigation” was performed in the usual Bellingcat fashion: by slapping together related and unrelated, dated and undated, photographs and social media posts which may or may not have originated on the Donbass, but which, thanks to a few Sherlock Holmes-like logic somersaults, indubitably confirm Russia’s guilt. Which is an unsurprising conclusion, since literally every single investigative project Bellingcat has ever undertaken has let its to the same discovery – if things go bump in the night, if there are monsters under the bed, you can be sure Vladimir Putin is behind it.
That Bellingcat was one of the many visible manifestations of the Hydra-headed intelligence “deep state” was never in doubt. While most Western NGOs hew closely to the official ideology of the day, Bellingcat’s eagerness to provide propaganda fodder for the current US or NATO talking points is in a league of its own.
The Trump Administration’s nascent efforts to improve relations with Russia naturally put into question the future of an instrument of a hybrid war against Russia such as Bellingcat. Given the intimate relationship between Bellingcat and the international intelligence “deep state,” Bellingcat’s future will be one of significant indicators of the state of relations between the Trump Administration and his domestic “Fifth Column.”
Fox News, Reince Priebus Defends Trump's Press is the "Enemy of the American People," Chris Wallace, Feb. 19, 2017. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (shown above in a file photo) joined Chris Wallace for a somewhat heated exchange over the media coverage being biased against President Donald Trump.
Washington Post, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace warns viewers: Trump crossed the line in latest attack on media, Amy B Wang, Feb. 19, 2017. Fox News anchor Chris Wallace cautioned his colleagues and the network's viewers Sunday that President Trump's latest attack on the media had gone too far. “Look, we're big boys. We criticize presidents. They want to criticize us back, that's fine,” Wallace said Sunday morning on “Fox & Friends.” “But when he said that the fake news media is not my enemy, it's the enemy of the American people, I believe that crosses an important line.”
Meanwhile, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus also appeared on “Fox News Sunday,” where he and Wallace sparred over the president's words. Priebus defended Trump by saying that he was not talking about all news but about “certain things that are happening in the news that just aren’t honest.”
Wallace pressed Priebus and argued that the president was not referring to individual stories. “You don’t get to tell us what to do any more than Barack Obama did,” Wallace said after continued arguments with Priebus. “Barack Obama whined about Fox News all the time, but I got to say, he never said that we were an enemy of the people.”
Huffington Post, The falsehood-prone president now faces the problem of selling Americans on something important, S.V. Date, Feb. 19, 2017. The Republican leader of the United States Senate was asked last week if he believed the Republican president’s denial that his campaign colluded with the foreign power that was trying to help him win. Mitch McConnell’s answer: “I have no idea.”
His office later said that McConnell misunderstood the question ― that he thought he was being asked if he personally knew whether Trump’s campaign had colluded with Russia. Regardless, McConnell’s four words represent the new president’s problem in a nutshell. Having made falsehoods a staple of his public discourse, Donald Trump now faces enormous hurdles in getting even his erstwhile allies to put their names behind his credibility.
Trump has made untrue statements about the size of his inauguration crowd, the “standing ovation” he received at CIA headquarters, the “millions” of “illegal” votes cast in the November election, the murder rate, the news coverage given to terror attacks, and, just Saturday at his Florida “campaign” rally, about the amount of vetting refugees trying to enter the country must undergo and about a nonexistent terror incident in Sweden. That’s just a partial list, and he’s only been in office a month. Of course, given his track record with veracity, should Americans take him at face value?
“They should not, because the president and most of his senior advisers are serial liars. It’s that simple,” said Eliot Cohen, a senior State Department official under Bush and a participant of his National Security Council. “I cannot believe a word that comes out of the president’s mouth, the spokesman’s mouth, the vice president’s mouth, because, frankly, he’s morally compromised now, too.”
Breitbart Advocate of Pedarast Sex With Boys Invited To Keynote Major Conservative Convention
IfYouOnlyNews, Conservative conference imploding after keynote speaker Milo Yiannopoulos encourages pedophilia video, Jameson Parker, Feb. 19, 2017. The largest conservative conference of the year – known as CPAC – is in the process of self-immolation after the invited keynote speaker, professional bigot Milo Yiannopoulos was recorded not only defending pedophilia but actually encouraging it. In a hangout session recorded and posted online, the Breitbart writer is seen explaining to the group (including one person inexplicably wearing a wrestling mask) why raping children isn’t always bad.
His justification was horrific. “This arbitrary and oppressive idea of consent, which totally destroys the understanding that many of us have of the complexities and subtleties and complicated nature of many relationships.”
The relationship he was specifically referring to was talking about an adult having sex with a 13-year-old boy. Even the guy in the wrestling mask seemed embarrassed to be a part of this.
Yiannopoulos went on to suggest that boys who are raped as kids might experience a sexual awakening from the ordeal and might grow to enjoy it. This, again, is the logic rapists use to explain away their crimes.
CPAC has yet to officially drop Yiannopoulos. It’s hard to feel bad for the conference organizers. The conservative mecca has long been home to some of the most vile Republican ideologies out there. Guest speakers are oftentimes selected specifically for their willingness to support homophobia and other “conservative values” not in line with America in the 21st century. Despite that, many Republican politicians flock to the conference each year to suck up to the ultra-conservative right.
This is what they are getting this year: Both Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Ted Cruz have agreed to also speak at the event.
Milo Yiannopoulos was most likely selected for his recent dabbles into transphobia and bullying. He was very publicly banned from Twitter in 2016 after he went on a racist campaign against actress Leslie Jones, whom he insisted was barely literate and looked like a man. On a speaking tour around the country, he’s several times targeted individuals within the trans community and encouraged his fans to harass. For these efforts he was to be honored at the “family values” conference.
Yiannopoulos was also recently on an episode of Real Time with Bill Maher where he and host said liberals were being too sensitive and he tried to argue that he was merely “trolling.” Watching the video above, it does not appear that he is just “trolling” or “joking” or “being provocative” – it looks like he is entirely serious about his stance on child rape.
Update: Washington Post, CPAC disinvites Milo Yiannopoulos amid uproar over video of the right-wing speaker, David Weigel and Robert Costa, Feb. 20, 2017.
Washington Post, Bannon molded Breitbart into a far-right sledgehammer. How will it be wielded in the Trump era? Manuel Roig-Franzia and Paul Farhi, Feb. 20, 2017. A few days after Stephen K. Bannon was named chief strategist in President Trump’s White House, one of his best-known proteges praised him on British television.
“I am a gay Jew and he made me a star,” Milo Yiannopoulos, the frequently profane Breitbart.com columnist and cyber provocateur, told a Channel 4 interviewer in November.
While Bannon (shown in a current Time Magazine cover) oversaw the Breitbart News Network, Yiannopoulos built an enthusiastic fan base for his caustic writings. One article proclaimed that birth control makes women “stupid and unattractive” and argued against contraception because “we need the kids if we’re to breed enough to keep the Muslim invaders at bay.” To him, most women are “hysterical hypercritical harpies towards their boyfriends and husbands the vast majority of the time.”
New York Times, Mar-a-Lago’s Members, With a Front-Row Seat to History, Nicolas Confessore, Maggie Haberman and Eric Lipton, Feb. 18, 2017. Demand for membership, and its price, have risen at Mr. Trump’s Florida resort, raising concerns about access that only the superwealthy and influential could obtain. On any given weekend, you might catch President Trump’s son-in-law and top Mideast dealmaker, Jared Kushner, by the beachside soft-serve ice cream machine, or his reclusive chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, on the dining patio. If you are lucky, the president himself could stop by your table for a quick chat. But you will have to pay $200,000 for the privilege — and the few available spots are going fast.
Virtually overnight, Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s members-only Palm Beach, Fla., club, has been transformed into the part-time capital of American government, a so-called winter White House where Mr. Trump has entertained a foreign head of state, health care industry executives and other presidential guests.
But Mr. Trump’s gatherings at Mar-a-Lago — he arrived there on Friday afternoon, his third weekend visit in a row — have also created an arena for potential political influence rarely seen in American history: a kind of Washington steakhouse on steroids, situated in a sunny playground of the rich and powerful, where members and their guests enjoy a level of access that could elude even the best-connected of lobbyists. Membership lists reviewed by The New York Times show that the club’s nearly 500 paying members include dozens of real estate developers, Wall Street financiers, energy executives and others whose businesses could be affected by Mr. Trump’s policies. At least three club members are under consideration for an ambassadorship. Most of the 500 have had memberships predating Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, and there are a limited number of memberships still available.
William I. Koch, who oversees a major mining and fuels company, belongs to Mar-a-Lago, as does the billionaire trader Thomas Peterffy, who spent more than $8 million on political ads in 2012 warning of creeping socialism in America.Another member is George Norcross, an insurance executive and the South Jersey Democratic Party boss, whose friendship with Mr. Trump dates to the president’s Atlantic City years, when Mr. Norcross held insurance contracts with Mr. Trump’s casinos, and Mr. Trump wrangled with the state’s Democratic leaders over tax treatment of the properties. Yet another member is Janet Weiner, part owner and chief financial officer of the Rockstar energy drink company, which has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying federal officials to avoid tighter regulations on its products.
Washington Post, Trump attempts to reset after a rocky start in White House, Jenna Johnson and John Wagner, Feb. 18, 2017. The president had a let-Trump-be-Trump news conference this week, and today he returns to comfortable ground outside Washington by hosting a campaign rally. He is also bringing in fresh advisers and planning to issue a new version of his now-frozen travel ban.
Washington Post, Administration is weighing a ‘streamlined’ version of travel ban, DHS secretary says, Michael Birnbaum and Lena H. Sun, Feb. 18, 2017. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said a “tighter” version of the ban would allow passengers on U.S.-bound flights into the country while those who have not yet boarded a plane would be barred.
Washington Post, Pence praises NATO at security summit but is silent on E.U., Michael Birnbaum and Ashley Parker, Feb. 18, 2017. The vice president offered a robust embrace of U.S. commitments to Europe and was critical of what he called the “Russian efforts to redraw international borders by force.”
Washington Post, Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is steadfast — and surprising, Kimberly Kindy, Sari Horwitz and William Wan, Feb. 18, 2017. The judge grew up in a high-profile Republican family and became infamous for penning fierce attacks on campus protesters at Columbia University. He has subscribed to the same judicial philosophy as the late Antonin Scalia, whom he would replace. But Gorsuch (shown in an official photo) has also established deep and enduring relationships with liberals. The simple writing style of his opinions reflects his conviction that the law should be understandable to everyone.
Washington Post, Norma McCorvey, ‘Jane Roe’ of Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, dies at 69, Emily Langer, Feb. 18, 2017. When she filed suit in 1970, McCorvey was not looking for a sweeping ruling for all women but simply the right to legally and safely end a pregnancy that she did not wish to carry forward. The Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 in 1973 that the constitutional right to privacy includes the choice to terminate a pregnancy. McCorvey later became a born-again Christian and a rallying figure for antiabortion activists.
Huffington Post, A Mild-Mannered Woman From Washington Is The Democrats’ Deadliest Weapon, Michael McAuliff, Feb. 18, 2017. President Trump’s nominees have not fared well going through Sen. Patty Murray’s HELP Committee. Andrew Puzder never made it.
Palmer Report, Nineteen of Donald Trump’s White House staff and advisors have been fired or resigned this week, Bill Palmer, Feb. 18, 2017. When Donald Trump promised he’d drain the swamp, he didn’t tell us he meant he’d be getting rid of his own people. While the public’s focus has been on Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who resigned on Monday due to his role in the Trump-Russia scandal, it turns out Flynn is just one of nineteen of Donald Trump’s White House staff and advisors have been fired or resigned this week – and the list is growing by the day.
The mass exodus from the White House this week has gone far beyond Michael Flynn’s infamous resignation. On Thursday, six others White House staff members – including at least one who was personally loyal to Trump himself – were fired and escorted out of the building after they were flagged by the FBI. Also on Thursday, ten members of the White House Advisory Commission all resigned in protest of Trump’s racist policies. But the bloodbath was just getting started, and it grew stranger on Friday.
First came the news on Friday that HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s top advisor Shermichael Singleton had been fired without Carson’s knowledge and escorted out of the building after it was discovered that Singleton had previously criticized Donald Trump during the course of the campaign. And then White House National Security Council Director Craig Deare was also fired on Friday for making fun of Trump behind his back.
But wait, there’s more In addition to the above-named nineteen people who were fired or resigned from Donald Trump’s White House this week, there have also been other notable recent departures. Michael Flynn’s top deputy Robin Townley was forced out of the job by the CIA last week. And then there’s the case of White House chief information security officer Cory Louie, who was fired and escorted out of the building two weeks ago, and mysteriously hasn’t been heard from since. Can the last one out of the White House turn out the lights?
IfYouOnlyNews, Conservative conference imploding after keynote speaker Milo Yiannopoulos encourages pedophilia video, Jameson Parker, Feb. 19, 2017. The largest conservative conference of the year – known as CPAC – is in the process of self-immolation after the invited keynote speaker, professional bigot Milo Yiannopoulos was recorded not only defending pedophilia but actually encouraging it. In a hangout session recorded and posted online, the Breitbart writer is seen explaining to the group (including one person inexplicably wearing a wrestling mask) why raping children isn’t always bad. His justification was horrific.
“This arbitrary and oppressive idea of consent, which totally destroys the understanding that many of us have of the complexities and subtleties and complicated nature of many relationships.”
The relationship he was specifically referring to was talking about an adult having sex with a 13-year-old boy. Even the guy in the wrestling mask seemed embarrassed to be a part of this. Yiannopoulos went on to suggest that boys who are raped as kids might experience a sexual awakening from the ordeal and might grow to enjoy it. This, again, is the logic rapists use to explain away their crimes.
CPAC has yet to officially drop Yiannopoulos. It’s hard to feel bad for the conference organizers. The conservative mecca has long been home to some of the most vile Republican ideologies out there. Guest speakers are oftentimes selected specifically for their willingness to support homophobia and other “conservative values” not in line with America in the 21st century. Despite that, many Republican politicians flock to the conference each year to suck up to the ultra-conservative right.
This is what they are getting this year: Both Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Ted Cruz have agreed to also speak at the event.
Milo Yiannopoulos was most likely selected for his recent dabbles into transphobia and bullying. He was very publicly banned from Twitter in 2016 after he went on a racist campaign against actress Leslie Jones, whom he insisted was barely literate and looked like a man. On a speaking tour around the country, he’s several times targeted individuals within the trans community and encouraged his fans to harass. For these efforts he was to be honored at the “family values” conference.
Yiannopoulos was also recently on an episode of Real Time with Bill Maher where he and host said liberals were being too sensitive and he tried to argue that he was merely “trolling.” Watching the video above, it does not appear that he is just “trolling” or “joking” or “being provocative” – it looks like he is entirely serious about his stance on child rape.
The question now is: Does CPAC hate the LGBT community so much that they will stand by Milo?
White House Disputes Draft Memo Claiming Planned Activation of 100,000 For Alien Round-up
New York Post, Trump team considers deploying National Guard for immigrant roundup, Daniel Halper and Bob Fredericks, Feb. 17, 2017. President Trump may mobilize as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up illegal immigrants, according to a new report — though the White House immediately called it “false.”
The Associated Press said it obtained a draft memo that outlines a Trump administration proposal under consideration to mobilize troops in 11 states to round up unauthorized immigrants. According to the wire service, the 11-page document calls for the unprecedented militarization of immigration enforcement as far north as Portland, Oregon, and as far east as New Orleans, Louisiana. If the proposal is implemented, governors in the affected states would have final approval on whether troops under their control participate, AP said.
But White House spokesman Sean Spicer (shown in a file photo) branded the report “false” moments after the AP broke the story. “That is 100 percent not true. It is false. It is irresponsible to be saying this. There is no effort at all to round up, to utilize the National Guard to round up illegal immigrants,” he said, before admonishing the media. “I wish you guys had asked before you tweeted,” he added, though an AP reporter noted that the wire service had asked multiple times before publishing the news but got no response.
He hedged when pressed about where the draft statement came from if not the White House. “I don’t know what could potentially be out there, but I know that there is no effort to do what is potentially suggested. It is not a White House document,” he said.
The AP said that governors in the affected states would have a choice whether to have their guard troops participate, according to the memo, written by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. While National Guard personnel have been used to assist with immigration-related missions on the US-Mexico border before, they have never been used as broadly.
The memo is addressed to the then-acting heads of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and US Customs and Border Protection. It would serve as guidance to implement the wide-ranging executive order on immigration and border security that Trump signed Jan. 25, the AP said. Such memos are routinely issued to supplement executive orders.
The draft memo says participating troops would be authorized “to perform the functions of an immigration officer in relation to the investigation, apprehension and detention of aliens in the United States.” It describes how the troops would be activated under a revived state-federal partnership program, and states that personnel would be authorized to conduct searches and identify and arrest any unauthorized immigrants. The draft document has circulated among Homeland Security staff over the last two weeks. As recently as Friday, staffers in several different offices reported discussions were under way, according to the AP.
If implemented, the impact could be significant. Nearly half of the 11.1 million people residing in the US without authorization live in the 11 states, according to Pew Research Center estimates based on 2014 Census data. Under current rules, even if the proposal is implemented, there would not be immediate mass deportations. Those with existing deportation orders could be sent back to their countries of origin without additional court proceedings. But deportation orders generally would be needed for most other unauthorized immigrants.
Global Financial Frauds
Financial Post, Famous Swiss bank whistleblower wonders why Canada gave up so easily on $1 billion in unpaid taxes, Claire Brownell, Feb. 17, 2017. Bradley Birkenfeld is a former employee of the Swiss bank UBS who blew the whistle on tax evasion at the bank in 2008 that led to charges for employees and billions is recovered unpaid taxes in the U.S. Not so in Canada, though, says Birkenfeld, where he estimates the Canada Revenue Agency could have collected as much as $1 billion from the scandal. John Cetrino for National Post
In 2008, three years after blowing the whistle on widespread tax evasion facilitated by Switzerland’s largest bank, Bradley Birkenfeld started sending faxes to Canada. At the time, Birkenfeld, a former UBS AG private banker who resigned in 2005 after approaching management with concerns that it was breaking U.S. law, was working with U.S. authorities, providing information about how UBS helped American clients evade taxes by secretly holding their undeclared assets overseas.
Other countries have used his information to recover billions of dollars in unpaid taxes from UBS clients, slap the bank with hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and conduct dramatic raids on the homes of key employees. But even with information from the famous whistleblower on their desks, Canadian authorities didn’t take any legal action against the bank or its employees. “I said, ‘Look, you’ve got to act on this, this is serious stuff. It’s the same thing that’s going down in America,'” Birkenfeld said. “The information that was provided to them should have made them jump at it.”
In addition to contacting the Canadian Department of Justice, Birkenfeld said he sent anonymous faxes to two offices of the Canada Revenue Agency with the names and contact information of UBS Canada bankers, the amount of Canadian assets under management by the bank, and $1 billion in taxes clients should have paid. Nine years later, however, things haven’t worked out the way he hoped.
In an emailed statement, the CRA said 3,000 UBS clients have made voluntary disclosures to the tax agency since 2009, with disclosures and audits resulting in the collection of more than $270 million in unreported income. But that’s only a quarter of the amount Birkenfeld said Canada could have recovered with the help of his information.
Neither UBS nor its employees have faced any Canadian penalties to date. Most of the $270 million the CRA managed to get came years after receiving the information and only after stepping up measures to combat offshore tax evasion in 2013.
“The signal Canada gives to individuals who bypass the fiscal and legal systems is, if you cheat and you’re caught, Canada will treat you easily,” said Alain Deneault, a professor at the University of Montreal and author of Canada: A New Tax Haven. Birkenfeld is shown above with the cover of his memoir published last fall, Lucifer's Banker.
Roll Call, Despite Email Flap, Scott Pruitt Confirmed to Head EPA, Bridget Bowman, Feb. 17, 2017. Senators voted 52 — 46 to confirm Pruitt; Court order unsealing records prompted calls to postpone vote. The Senate continued powering through its Cabinet confirmation march on Friday, approving the nomination of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, despite questions surrounding the appropriateness of his contact with the fossil fuel industry.
Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia bucked their party to confirm Pruitt. Indiana Democrat Joe Donnelly said on the floor early Friday that he could not support the nomination of Scott Pruitt “who has sued the EPA to stop the sale of [ethanol] and who praised the erosion of a policy designed to strengthen our energy security and to promote homegrown Hoosier biofuels.” Donnolley noted, however, he would not be in attendance for the vote.
GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine was the only Republican to vote against him. Another Republican, Arizona’s John McCain, skipped today’s Senate session for a security conference in Munich, Germany.
Washington Post, Trump is urging the Justice Department to investigate his perceived opponents. That’s unusual, Greg Sargent, Feb. 17, 2017. How far is President Trump willing to go in directing that the government’s investigative machinery be used to go after his opponents, real or perceived?
Charlie Savage and Eric Lichtblau [at the New York Times] have a good piece this morning that raises this question, by seizing on an important passage from Trump’s unhinged press conference on Thursday. Trump said this: “I’ve actually called the Justice Department to look into the leaks. Those are criminal leaks….It’s a criminal act.” Now Trump has called on the Justice Department to investigate those leakers. As Savage and Lichtblau put it:
"No law forbids a president from making a criminal referral to the Justice Department, but it is unusual for a president to direct the agency to open a criminal investigation into his perceived opponents or to talk publicly about having done so. The White House, under presidents of both parties, has generally restricted direct contact with the Justice Department about prospective investigations to avoid the appearance of politicizing law enforcement."
Typically, if an agency believes that classified material from its own records was improperly disclosed, it will make a referral to the Justice Department, which decides whether to open an investigation.
That bolded part captures something more significant than its deftly understated tone first indicates: Trump is directing the Justice Department to investigate his “perceived opponents.” As I have argued, this is what distinguishes Trump’s vow to go after leakers from that of his predecessors, particularly the Obama administration, which did go after them very aggressively: Trump is going after leakers who harmed him politically. (The Times piece also details other ways in which the current context is different from the Obama years.)
Unz Review, The Deep State Targets Trump, Pat Buchanan, Feb. 17, 2017. When Gen. Michael Flynn was forced to resign as national security adviser, Bill Kristol purred his satisfaction, “If it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state.” To Kristol, the permanent regime, not the elected president and his government, is the real defender and rightful repository of our liberties.
Yet it was this regime, the deep state, that carried out what Eli Lake of Bloomberg calls “The Political Assassination of Michael Flynn.”
And what were Flynn’s offenses? In December, when Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats, Flynn spoke to the Russian ambassador. He apparently counseled the envoy not to overreact, saying a new team would be in place in a few weeks and would review U.S.-Russian relations. “That’s neither illegal nor improper,” writes Lake.
Washington Post, A group that thinks jihadists will destroy America says it now has a ‘direct line’ to the president, Abigail Hauslohner, Feb. 17, 2017. ACT, based in Virginia Beach, has pushed to promote a nation free of all Islamic influence and says it now has the ability to affect the direction of the country. Trump advisers — including chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and former national security adviser Michael Flynn — have supported the group or its views. Some civil rights activists have called ACT a "fringe" hate group akin to white supremacists.
American Mirror via YouTube, John McCain shares insider info with prankster posing as Ukrainian PM, Kyle Olsen, Feb. 17, 2017. McCain told him he was sending a letter to President Trump. For the second time in a week, a Russian comedian has released a prank call with a top member of the U.S. Congress. “Hello Mr. Prime Minister, how are you?” Arizona Sen. John McCain told a man known as Vovan, who was posing as Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman.
After exchanging pleasantries, the prankster said he wanted to talk about U.S. sanctions on Russia. McCain (shown in an official photo) told him he was sending a letter to President Trump, urging him to send “lethal weapons” to Ukraine to fight Russia. The senator told the prankster he would do “everything I can to be of assistance” to push Trump to support his country.
“I have to be very frank with my friend, the prime minister. I do not know what the president is going to do,” McCain said. McCain said his allies in Congress would fight legislatively if Trump attempts to ease sanctions on Russia. “But I have to tell you, my friend, I cannot predict what this president will do. That’s why we must keep the pressure on.”
Earlier this week, Vovan posted on his Facebook page a similar conversation with California Congresswoman Maxine Waters. The comedian, posing as Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, and Waters discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia and Donald Trump’s position on them. He went on to tell Waters that he has “good relations with Ms. Clinton.”
TPM, Chris Christie: Trump Made Me Order Meatloaf At The White House (AUDIO), Kristin Salaky, Feb. 17, 2017. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) may not be a part of President Donald Trump's White House team like he'd hoped, but that doesn't mean he's done taking orders from the President. Christie said that when he visited the White House on Tuesday, Trump made him order meatloaf, while everyone else was free to order what they wanted.
Christie regaled the tale during an interview with a New York sports talk radio show. He briefly explained that when visit the White House, you can order what's on the menu or anything else you'd like. Christie told the hosts that Trump invited those in attendance to order whatever they'd like, but informed Christie that he'd be having meatloaf because it's "fabulous."
"This is what it's like to be with Trump," Christie said. "He says, 'There's the menu, you guys order whatever you want.' And then he says, 'Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Christie said he went along with Trump's orders because he is the President and also that he eats there all of the time and knows what is good. Christie pushed back as hosts told him the incident was "emasculating." When one pointed out that Trump didn't tell Christie's wife Mary Pat what to order because it would be "disrespectful," Christie said he would have been fine with that too.
Capital Associated Press via Salon, Jason Chaffetz is still investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails, Matthew Daly, Feb. 17, 2017. The House Oversight leader is seeking criminal charges against the man who set up Hillary's email server. The Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, who has refused Democratic requests to investigate possible conflicts of interest involving President Donald Trump, is seeking criminal charges against a former State Department employee who helped set up Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday asking him to convene a grand jury or charge Bryan Pagliano, the computer specialist who helped establish Clinton’s server while she was secretary of state. Pagliano did not comply with two subpoenas ordering him to appear before the oversight panel. The GOP-led committee later voted to hold him in contempt of Congress. Earlier this month, Chaffetz met with Trump at the White House and agreed not to discuss oversight. He has rebuffed calls for his panel to look into Trump’s businesses and possible conflicts.
New York Times, Labor Nominee’s Role in Sex Case Could Draw Scrutiny, Barry Meier, Feb. 17, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/17/business/alexander-acosta-jeffrey-epstein-case.html?_r=0 For R. Alexander Acosta, President Trump’s new pick for labor secretary, renewed attention on a salacious lawsuit may not come at a great time. A decade ago, Mr. Acosta, the United States attorney in Miami at the time, played a role in what critics said was a lenient plea deal given to a wealthy New Yorker, Jeffrey E. Epstein, who was accused of paying underage girls for sexual massages.
Now, as senators consider Mr. Acosta’s nomination for a cabinet position, the sordid details of Mr. Epstein’s case are set to receive another public airing. The setting will be a federal courtroom in Manhattan, where a trial is expected to start in the spring in a defamation lawsuit brought against one of Mr. Epstein’s associates, Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of the British publishing mogul Robert Maxwell.
The lawsuit was filed in 2015 by Virginia L. Giuffre, who said she was one of Mr. Epstein’s victims. Ms. Giuffre has accused Ms. Maxwell of helping to procure underage girls to engage in sexual activities with Mr. Epstein. In the suit, Ms. Giuffre contends that Ms. Maxwell has defamed her by calling those accusations “untrue” and “obvious lies.”
As part of the agreement, Mr. Acosta’s office agreed not to bring federal charges against Mr. Epstein or any of his potential co-conspirators, court papers show.
The deal has since been denounced by critics as an example of the way that prosecutors buckle to pressure brought by high-powered lawyers on behalf of a wealthy client. Mr. Acosta has defended the agreement as the toughest one prosecutors could get based on the evidence they had at the time.
As a cabinet nominee, Mr. Acosta may soon face questions about that decision. And Ms. Giuffre and her lawyers have not shied away from publicity. In 2014, Ms. Giuffre, whose maiden name was Virginia Roberts, accused Mr. Dershowitz, the lawyer, of having sex with her when she was a teenager, an allegation he adamantly denied. The accusation led to a series of legal actions between Mr. Dershowitz and Ms. Giuffre’s lawyers that were settled last year.
Washington Post, How a Time magazine cover artist captured the chaos of the Trump presidency, Michael Cavna, Feb. 17, 2017. The assignment came in as a brief: Think “Trump in a hurricane.” And in a creative whirlwind, artist Tim O’Brien had just days to turn around an illustration. The result — a striking portrait of the president — is this week’s Time magazine cover, which features the caption “Nothing to See Here.”
Washington Post, Donald Trump’s combative, grievance-filled press conference, annotated, Aaron Blake, Feb. 16, 2017. A solemn President Trump turned his Thursday afternoon announcement of a new labor secretary nominee into a screed against the media and large-scale defense of his first four weeks as president. It was remarkable. Trump hit all the usual points: The polls, the electoral college, the media, etc. He even said that he inherited a "mess" four separate times. There were grievances galore. Below is the transcript, which we'll update as it comes in, along with our analysis and annotations.
New York Daily News, Here are President Trump’s most memorable lines on a variety of topics at his sprawling press conference at the White House on Thursday, Adam Edelman, Feb. 16, 2017.
“To be honest, I inherited a mess. It's a mess at home and abroad.”
“What a mess.”
“I see stories of chaos yet it is the exact opposite.”
Ivanka and Melania Trump will share 'the First Family Office'
“This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.”
“There has never been a president that has done so much in such a short period of time… And we haven’t even started the big work yet.”
“The leaks are absolutely real ... the news is fake.”
Trump Transition: EPA, National Security Advisor, Family
Washington Post, On eve of confirmation vote, judge orders EPA nominee to release thousands of emails, Brady Dennis, Feb. 16, 2017. In a lawsuit brought by an advocacy group, the judge gave Scott Pruitt until Tuesday to release his communications with fossil-fuel companies, making it unlikely they will come to light until after he would be sworn in to his new position.
Washington Post, Flynn in FBI interview denied discussing sanctions with Russian ambassador, Sari Horwitz and Adam Entous, Feb. 16, 2017. Michael Flynn, who resigned as the national security adviser this week, contradicted the contents of intercepted communications collected by intelligence agencies, current and former U.S. officials said. The Jan. 24 interview potentially puts Flynn (shown in an official photo from his military career) in legal jeopardy, as lying to the FBI is a felony, but any decision to prosecute would ultimately lie with the Justice Department.
Washington Post, Trump’s pick to replace Flynn turns down offer, people familiar with decision say, Jenna Johnson and Adam Entous, Feb. 16, 2017. Retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward, who would have replaced Michael Flynn, couldn't get a guarantee that he could select his own staff, according to someone close to the president with knowledge of the discussions.
CNN's Jake Tapper quoted Harward (shown in an official photo) as telling a source that the circumstances of the job were like a "shit sandwich."
Trump's Leak Plumber?
Washington Post, Trump looking at billionaire to lead review of U.S. spy agencies, John Wagner and Renae Merle, Feb. 16, 2017. Stephen A. Feinberg has been a major donor to Republican candidates and has served on Trump’s economic advisory council. His prospective mission: Find the leakers.
President Trump is considering tapping New York financier Stephen A. Feinberg to lead a broad review of U.S. intelligence agencies at a time when the new president has cast aspersions on their work and integrity. A role for Feinberg, a co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management, has not been finalized, but he is someone whom Trump greatly respects and admires, said administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a possible move that has not been announced. Trump and Feinberg are longtime friends.
The appointment of Feinberg, a prospect first reported by the New York Times, would send shock waves through the intelligence community, a frequent target of Trump’s ire both as a candidate and now as president.
Tainted Labor Secretary Nominee?
New York Daily News, Labor Secretary nominee Alexander Acosta gave ‘sweetheart deal’ to sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, Christopher Brennan, Feb. 16, 2017. President Trump’s pick for Labor Secretary is likely to face scrutiny for the “sweetheart” deal he gave to billionaire convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. The President named Alexander Acosta as his labor choice Thursday, after previous nominee Andy Puzder backed out over scrutiny of issues including alleged violence in his marriage.
Acosta, the law school dean of Florida International University, is also likely to face controversy for his record as U.S. attorney in Miami from 2005 to 2009. His office prosecuted Epstein, a billionaire financier who admitted to state charges of soliciting prostitution from a 14-year-old, and signed off in 2008 on the plea deal to not pursue federal charges in exchange for the state pleas. Epstein served 13 months of an 18-month sentence, though federal statutes against transporting minors for the purposes of sex carry minimum penalties of 10 years.
Two victims in the federal case unhappy with the deal have since sued the feds, saying that their rights under the Crime Victims Rights Act had been violated because they had not been in the loop about the details of a plea deal. A 2014 court filing shows letters from an Epstein lawyer to Acosta in 2007 telling him not to contact the victims in the case, and that lawyers in Acosta’s office waited months after an agreement with the billionaire was reached.
Lawyers for the victims say that the letters show a “conspiracy between the Government and Epstein's attorneys to conceal.”
“There is good reason to believe that if the prosecutors had exposed their dealings to scrutiny by Jane Doe #1 and Jane Doe #2, they would not have reached such a sweetheart deal,” attorney Bradley Edwards wrote in one filing. The suit, filed in 2008, is still ongoing, though a settlement conference was held last summer.
“Our judgment in this case, based on the evidence known at the time, was that it was better to have a billionaire serve time in jail, register as a sex offender and pay his victims restitution than risk a trial with a reduced likelihood of success,” Acosta wrote in a 2011 letter, according to the Sun-Sentinel. The U.S. Attorney's Office in South Florida told the Daily News that it would not comment.
The White House did not immediately respond to questions about Acosta's involvement with the Epstein case. Before the former Bear Sterns executive was prosecuted, Epstein was connected to powerful people including former President Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew. The registered sex offender also knew Trump, and the future President was quoted in New York magazine in 2002 as saying “I've known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy … He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.” An unidentified Trump associated told Politico in 2015 that the President and Epstein were never particularly close.
Politico, Trump’s Labor nominee oversaw ‘sweetheart plea deal’ in billionaire’s underage sex case, Josh Gerstein, Feb. 16, 2017. President Donald Trump's new nominee for secretary of labor, Alexander Acosta, could face a grilling in the Senate over claims that — while he was the top federal prosecutor in Miami — he cut a sweetheart plea deal in 2008 with a billionaire investor accused of having sex with dozens of underage girls. As the U.S. attorney for Southern Florida, Acosta agreed not to file any federal charges against the wealthy financier, Jeffrey Epstein, if he pled guilty to state charges involving soliciting prostitution and soliciting a minor for prostitution.
Epstein ultimately received an 18-month sentence in county jail and served about 13 months — treatment that provoked outrage from alleged victims in the case. Soon after the deal was cut in 2008, two women filed suit claiming that the decision to forgo federal prosecution violated a federal law — the Crime Victims Rights Act — because they and other teenagers Epstein paid for sex were never adequately consulted about the plea deal or given an opportunity to object to it.
Acosta is not a party in the suit, which names only the federal government as a defendant. In 2015, lawyers for the women demanded Acosta submit to a deposition in the case. The motion was withdrawn last year as settlement talks in the case went forward, but the case remains pending.
"There is good reason to believe that if the prosecutors had exposed their dealings to scrutiny by Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2 and other victims, they would not have reached such a sweetheart plea deal," the alleged victims' attorneys wrote in a court filing last year.
Acosta acknowledged to the media in 2011 that he came under extreme pressure from Epstein's high-powered defense team, which included legal heavyweights such as Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, former Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr and Florida criminal defense attorney Roy Black.
NBC News, Trump to Announce Alexander Acosta as New Labor Secretary Pick, Peter Alexander and Ali Vitali, Feb. 16, 2017. President Donald Trump is set to announce Alexander Acosta as his new pick to head the Department of Labor, less than a day after his first choice for the job, Andy Puzder, withdrew from consideration. Acosta served as assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division under President George W. Bush, selected by the president in August 2003.
Acosta was a member of the National Labor Relations Board and also served as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division. Most recently, he was the dean of Florida International University College of Law.
If confirmed, Acosta would be the first Hispanic in Trump's cabinet. Puzder, Trump's first pick withdrew after struggling to gain traction for his nomination.
According to Wikipedia:
Acosta is a native of Miami, Florida, where he attended the Gulliver Schools. He received a bachelor's degree in economics from Harvard College and a law degree from Harvard Law School. Following law school, Acosta served as a law clerk to Samuel Alito, then a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, from 1994 to 1995. Acosta then worked at the Washington, D.C. office of the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, where he specialized in employment and labor issues.
While in Washington, Acosta taught classes on employment law, disability-based discrimination law, and civil rights law at the George Mason University School of Law. From 1998 to 2000 Acosta was a senior fellow at the socially conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center.
He has served in three presidentially appointed, senate-confirmed positions. He was a member of the National Labor Relations Board, appointed by G. W. Bush, from 2002-2003, where he participated in or authored more than 125 opinions.Following the NLRB, he was Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice on August 22, 2003; becoming the first Hispanic to hold the rank of Assistant Attorney General. He also served as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division. More recently, Acosta served as the U.S. Attorney for Southern District of Florida, and was the longest serving U.S. Attorney in the District since the 1970s.
While Acosta served as U.S. Attorney, the Southern District prosecuted a number of high-profile defendants, including Jack Abramoff for fraud, José Padilla for terrorism, and Charles “Chuckie” Taylor Jr. for torture, (the first torture case of its kind in the U.S.).
The District also targeted white collar crime, prosecuting several bank-related cases, including one against Swiss bank UBS. The case resulted in UBS paying $780 million in fines, and for the first time in history, the bank provided the United States with the names of individuals who were using secret Swiss bank accounts to avoid U.S. taxes.
Other notable cases during his tenure include the corruption prosecution of Palm Beach County Commission Chairman Tony Masilotti, Palm Beach County Commissioner Warren Newell, and Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne; the conviction of Cali Cartel founders Miguel and Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela, for the importation of 200,000 kilos of cocaine, which resulted in a $2.1 billion forfeiture; and the white-collar crime prosecutions of executives connected to Hamilton Bank.
Heavy News.com, R. Alexander Acosta: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know, Brendan Morrow, Feb. 16, 2017. Alexander Acosta is Donald Trump’s pick to be the next U.S. secretary of labor, the president announced in a press conference today. This comes after Trump’s original pick for labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, withdrew his name from consideration. According to Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs, the other finalists for the position were Catherine Templeton, former secretary of Labor, Licensing and Regulation for South Carolina; Joseph Guzman, a professor at Michigan State University; and Peter Kirsanow, a private attorney and a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Here’s what you need to know about Alexander Acosta.
Miami Herald, Trump’s labor pick is FIU law dean and a former Miami U.S. attorney, Jay Weaver, Patricia Mazzei and Nicholas Nehamas, Feb. 16, 2017. When the Justice Department named R. Alexander Acosta the new U.S. attorney in South Florida in 2005, he was largely an unknown to federal prosecutors in Miami. Many viewed him with suspicion because he had never tried any criminal cases, and some feared he would carry the torch of the arch-conservative bosses that President George W. Bush had picked to run the Justice Department — John Ashcroft and his successor, Alberto Gonzales.
Acosta, who grew up in Miami, had lost touch with his roots after attending Harvard University and pursuing a career in Washington. But the Republican gradually reconnected with South Florida, won over his skeptics and gained the respect of leaders in the local legal and law enforcement establishment. On Thursday, President Donald Trump nominated the 48-year-old Acosta, currently the dean of Florida International University’s law school, to be his labor secretary. The smarts and pragmatism Acosta displayed in his legal career, his friends and allies say, will likely help pave the way for his Senate confirmation.
“He has had a tremendous career,” Trump said. “He will be a tremendous secretary of labor.” Trump made the announcement from the White House East Room. Acosta could not be reached for comment Thursday, and his voice mail was full.
Trump’s initial choice to lead the Labor Department, fast-food executive Andrew Puzder, failed to gain enough support in the Republican-led Senate and withdrew his nomination Wednesday.
Things look more promising for Acosta. Miami lawyer Jeffrey Sloman, a Democrat who worked as Acosta’s first assistant in the U.S. attorney’s office from 2006-09, described him as a “brilliant and creative leader who I think will have broad support from both sides of the aisle.”
Acosta, who is Cuban American and Republican, would be the first and only Hispanic in Trump’s Cabinet, and the third Cuban-American Cabinet secretary in history, after Mel Martinez and Carlos Gutierrez. Acosta’s full name is Rene Alexander Acosta; he goes by Alex. He’s married to Jan, has two children and lives in Coral Gables.
Praise for Acosta’s nomination poured in from South Florida’s congressional delegation Thursday. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who dined privately with Trump on Wednesday night, called Acosta a “phenomenal choice.”
“I look forward to his confirmation hearing, where I’m confident he will impress my colleagues and secure the support necessary to be the next secretary of labor,” Rubio said in a statement.
Miami’s three Republican members in Congress — U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen — extolled Acosta’s experience and personality. “He is a man of great principle, integrity, and courage, and I am confident he will do an excellent job serving our nation,” Diaz-Balart said in a statement released even before Trump formally nominated Acosta.
Acosta has already been confirmed by the Senate three times in his career but his record, in a bitterly divided Washington, will now be intensely scrutinized. His work as the Justice Department’s top civil-rights attorney in a 2004 Ohio voting rights case could be a likely target. It was raised by critics opposing him as a candidate for the law school dean at the University of Florida. His office also signed off on a controversial deal not to prosecute billionaire Palm Beach financier Jeffrey Epstein, who socialized with Trump, on sex trafficking charges.
Trump's Press Conference, Family
Washington Post, Donald Trump’s combative, grievance-filled press conference, annotated, Aaron Blake, Feb. 16, 2017. A solemn President Trump turned his Thursday afternoon announcement of a new labor secretary nominee into a screed against the media and large-scale defense of his first four weeks as president. It was remarkable. Trump hit all the usual points: The polls, the electoral college, the media, etc. He even said that he inherited a "mess" four separate times. There were grievances galore. Below is the transcript, which we'll update as it comes in, along with our analysis and annotations.
Washington Post, Trump family’s elaborate lifestyle, a ‘logistical nightmare,’ comes at unusual cost to taxpayers, Drew Harwell, Amy Brittain and Jonathan O'Connell, Feb. 16, 2017. Barely a month into the Trump presidency, America’s new first family is straining the Secret Service and security officials, stirring financial and logistical concerns, and costing far beyond what has been typical for past presidents.
President Trump on Time Magazine's Feb. 27 cover
Trump versus Critics
Huffington Post, Trump Administration Increasingly At Odds With U.S. Intelligence Community, Nick Visser, Feb. 16, 2017. “The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by ‘intelligence’ like candy.” Multiple reports this week have cast the administration of Donald Trump as being increasingly at odds with U.S. intelligence agencies, including the National Security Agency and the FBI, just weeks into his presidency and mere days after the fall of national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that intelligence agencies may be withholding sensitive information from the president over fears it could be leaked. The news organization, citing unnamed former and current officials, said that the withheld information could include intelligence gathering methods, such as “the means that an agency uses to spy on a foreign government.” The sources said such decisions to keep information under wraps would be connected to Trump’s apparent fondness for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Washington Post, Admit it: Trump is unfit to serve, E.J. Dionne Jr., Feb. 16, 2017. Let’s not mumble or whisper about the central issue facing our country: What is this democratic nation to do when the man serving as president of the United States plainly has no business being president of the United States?
The Michael Flynn fiasco was the entirely predictable product of the indiscipline, deceit, incompetence and moral indifference that characterize Donald Trump’s approach to leadership. Even worse, Trump’s loyalties are now in doubt. Questions about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and Russia will not go away, even if congressional Republicans try to slow-walk a transparent investigation into what ties Trump has with Putin’s Russia — and who on his campaign did what, and when, with Russian intelligence officials and diplomats.
Washington Post, Chaffetz’s toadyism may haunt the House GOP, Jennifer Rubin, Feb. 16, 2017. One can only marvel at the toadyism of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) — who previously recommended gutting the ethics office — in demanding a full-scale investigation by the Justice Department inspector general into leaks but resolutely resisting any investigation into President Trump’s breached hotel lease, his conflicts of interest, his ties with Russia and his recent receipt of a trademark from China — just after reaffirming the One China policy — which is indisputably an “emolument” from a foreign government.
Huffington Post, Trump Asks African American Reporter To Set Up A Meeting For Him With ‘The Black Caucus,’ Christina Wilkie, “Are they friends of yours?” Feb. 16, 2017. President Donald Trump on Thursday asked an African American reporter at a press conference to set up a meeting for him with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, adding, “Are they friends of yours?”
The exchange began when April Ryan, White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks, asked the president if he would hold meetings with black caucus members to help craft his urban development policy. “Well I would. I’ll tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting?” Trump said. “Do you want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours?”
“No, I’m just a reporter,” replied Ryan, adding that she did know some members of the group. “Set up the meeting, let’s go, set up the meeting,” Trump said. “I would love to meet with the black caucus. I think it’s great, the Congressional Black Caucus. I think it’s great.”
During the same rambling, bizarre press conference, the president claimed he is “the least racist person.”
Ryan is one of the longest-serving members of the White House press corps, and author of The Presidency in Black and White. Last week, she reportedly had a heated exchange with White House communications staffer Omarosa Manigault. “She stood right in my face like she was going to hit me,” Ryan told the Washington Post, referring to the aide. Minutes after the press conference ended, members of the Congressional Black Caucus responded on Twitter to Trump’s exchange with Ryan.
SouthFront, Wolves of Wall Street In A Trumpster Paradise, Leon Tressell, Feb. 16, 2017. At his inauguration, President Trump repeatedly promised the American people that power would be handed back to them. He attacked the so called Establishment which was blamed for so many of the problems facing ordinary Americans. The Washington swamp of corruption would be drained.
At the moment the world’s media are covering everything Trump does or says in great detail. However, few column inches are spent on the dire problems facing America that will undermine Trump’s presidency. Let us be clear, Trump’s presidency will fail to drain the swamp of corruption in American society and will fail to bring back millions of manufacturing jobs to rust belt towns.
NBC Today Show, Former Trump adviser Roger Stone: I had no contact with Russian officials, Eun Kyung Kim, Feb. 16, 2017. Former Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone rejected claims he had any involvement with Russian intelligence officials during or after the 2016 presidential campaign and said he welcomed a “fair, unbiased investigation” to clear his name. “Categorically, positively not,” he said when asked Thursday on TODAY whether he had any regular dealings with Russians officials. he New York Times named Stone as one of several Trump advisers under investigation for possible interaction with the Russians during the election campaign.
Stone told TODAY he has never been contacted by the FBI or any other law enforcement agency about a possible probe, including the investigation into Russia's electronic hacking into the Democratic National Committee as a way to disrupt the presidential election. “They’d be pretty bored if they wanted to look at my e-mails or transmissions because they won’t find anything of this nature. I have no Russian clients. I’ve never been in touch with anyone in Russia," said Stone, who said he welcomed an inquiry into the matter.
“I would like any fair, unbiased investigation so that we can clear the air on this once and for all,” he said. The report is just one of the latest controversies that have surfaced in connection with the resignation of Michael Flynn as national security adviser because of his conversations with Russian leaders back in December, before Trump took office. tone said the leaks that have been coming out of the White House have not helped calm the situation. He blamed the stories on a power struggle between Trump loyalists and those with allegiances to the Republican party.
"I generally think that in the newest administration, you should hire as many experienced, capable people who are supporters of yours and who are loyal to Donald Trump from the beginning," he said.
“There are room in the departments for people who are just Republicans, but the leaking that is coming out of the White House is a manifestation of the fact that there are people who have been hired who, very sadly, are not loyal to the president.”
PaulCraigRoberts.org, The Trump Presidency: RIP, Paul Craig Roberts, Feb. 16, 2017. Has Donald Trump overestimated his presidential power? The answer is yes. Is Steve Bannon, Trump’s main advisor, politically inexperienced? The answer is yes. We can conclude from the answers to these two questions that Trump is in over his head and will pay a big price.
How large will the price be? The New York Times reports that US “intelligence agencies…sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.”
Former National Security Agency (NSA) spy John Schindler tweeted on Twitter that a senior intelligence community colleague sent him an email stating that the deep state had declared nuclear war on Trump and that “He will die in jail.”
Around the Nation
Tallahassee Democrat, 12 arrested in high-profile sex sting, Karl Etters, Feb. 16, 2017. Each day, law enforcement officials routinely run operations to snare child predators. For the past week, though, those operations in North Florida netted a dozen men — eight in the Tallahassee area — seeking to engage in sexual acts with who they thought were teens.
One was a college student. One, Michael Chmielewski, was the manager of the Florida House of Representatives page and messenger program who oversaw hundreds of teenagers each legislative session since he was hired in 2012. Another was, Dayton Cramer, a retired Army colonel and high-ranking attorney with Florida State University, while another was a retired doctor from Washington State who investigators say was a documented child predator.
What they all had in common was when they made contact with someone they thought was a teen, in reality, they were communicating through email, text, chat rooms and internet ads with undercover officers.
FBI Director James Comey (left to right), CIA Director John Brennan, Director of U.S. National Intelligence James Clapper, DIA Director and U.S. Army Lt. General Michael Flynn, and National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen testify before Congress on Feb. 4, 2014 (file photo).
SouthFront, Opinion: Opening Salvos of Coup Against Trump, Brian Kalman, Feb. 16, 2017. U.S. Intelligence Services continue to undermine the democratically elected president they are pledged to serve. Rogue elements of the U.S. intelligence services are waging a clandestine war against the very president they are pledged to serve, in a blatant effort to refute the will of the American people and continue the disastrous policies of the Obama administration.
This organized act of treason is abhorrent and should both frighten and enrage the American people. We are witnessing an out of control group of unknown conspirators, utilizing the vast resources of the nation’s intelligence apparatus, much of it incompatible with the proper functioning of a free society, to undermine and overthrow the highest members of the executive branch.
Woman sought for questioning in suspected political assassination of North Korea's Kim Jong-nam in Malaysia
News.com (Australia), Mystery woman suspected of killing Kim Jong-nam captured on CCTV, Victoria Craw with wires, Feb. 16, 2017. A woman who was arrested over the death of Kim Jong-un’s brother reportedly said she was asked to spray him as part of a “prank.” The woman carrying a Vietnamese passport was arrested overnight following the death of Kim Jong-nam in Malaysia. Malaysian police confirmed Doan Thi Huon, 28, was arrested after being positively identified from CCTV footage and that she was alone at the time of the arrest.
According to a reporter from Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily newspaper, the woman told police she was urged on to carry out the prank by four men. She then said the men ordered her to spray the liquid on Kim Jong-nam while her companion covered his face with a cloth.
But she claims she could not later find the men or her companion and returned to the airport on Wednesday, where she was arrested, Fairfax reported. Malaysian police are yet to comment on the report.
The woman’s arrest comes as North Korea objected to an autopsy being performed on the body of the slain man.
Police said they are looking form a “few” foreign suspects in addition to the Vietnamese woman already being questioned. The half-brother to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un died after reportedly being targeted with a chemical spray in the airport at Selangor, near Kuala Lumpur.
Details about the killing remain unclear but South Korea’s spy agency said it was believed to be a North Korean operation due to Kim Jong-un’s “paranoia” about his brother. Malaysian investigators are scouring surveillance video for clues as to what happened in the extraordinary death that comes after a purge of many top level officials in South Korea, including Kim Jong-un’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who was killed in 2013.
Washington Post, Airport assassination of half brother focuses new attention on North Korean leader, Anna Fifield, Feb. 16, 2017. The plot, complete with a honey trap and a public poisoning, has focused new attention on Kim Jong Un, the 33-year-old leader of North Korea, suggesting he will stop at nothing to keep power.
High Rate of 9/11 Fatalities Among First Responders?
The Chief (New York City news for civil servants), 9/11-Related Diseases Continue to Take Toll: 4 Firemen This Year; 126 From FDNY, 100 Cops Long-Term Casualties Of WTC Exposure, Bob Hennelly, Feb. 16, 2017. More than 15 years after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, the families of the city’s first-responders continue to lose them to illnesses they contracted working on the rescue, recovery and clean-up of Lower Manhattan that went on for several months after the Twin Towers collapsed.
Earlier this month, retired Firefighter Robert Newman became the latest member of the fire service to die from a 9/11-related cancer. According to the Uniformed Firefighters Association, Mr. Newman, who was 70 when he passed, was the fourth firefighter to succumb this year.
Dr. Cyril H. Wecht (WhoWhatWhy image)
WhoWhatWhy, Dr. Cyril Wecht on JFK’s Murder: A “Coup d’état in America,” WhoWhatWhy Staff, Feb. 16, 2017 (Video). Acclaimed forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht spoke recently about the Kennedy assassination. He laid out his case for doubting the official explanation — and asserted that this horrific event was nothing less than the overthrow of the government.
Washington Post, Senate Democrats unify around bipartisan congressional probe of Trump-Russia links, Karoun Demirjian and Sean Sullivan, Feb. 15, 2017. Democratic lawmakers agreed to push forward with an ongoing Senate Intelligence Committee investigation despite pressure from some members of the party calling for an independent commission.
Washington Post, Do voter identification laws suppress minority voting? Yes. We did the research, Zoltan L. Hajnal, Nazita Lajevardi and Lindsay Nielson, Feb. 15, 2017. The Justice Department just got a new boss: Jeff Sessions. He is raising alarms in the civil rights community. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is concerned about his “record of hostility” toward the Voting Rights Act and the enforcement of civil rights. The NAACP-Legal Defense Fund lamented that it is “unimaginable that he could be entrusted to serve as the chief law enforcement officer for this nation’s civil rights laws.” No one knows for sure how Sessions will perform as attorney general — the former Republican senator from Alabama did, after all, once vote to renew the Voting Rights Act, in 2006 — but for many his record is deeply troubling.
OpEdNews, The Dangerous Role the Intel Community is Playing in Trump's Demise, Rob Kall, Feb. 15, 2017. It is very likely that by 2018 Donald Trump will have been deposed and replaced by President Pence.
Trump is a florid, out of control malignant narcissist who, every day, proves his profound pathologically exacerbated incompetence.
But I fear that the process which leads to his removal from the White House will be a demonstration of deeper, darker malevolence which American and the world must face -- a dangerously interfering, manipulating intelligence community that is willfully influencing elections and balances of power. We've always known that the CIA has been involved in taking down.
What we are experiencing now is an intelligence community auto-immune response. Like a cancer that destroys the body it exists within, it is becoming clear the intelligence community is attacking and sabotaging the democratic institutions and values of the United States just as it has done to Iran, Nicaragua.
Dennis Kucinich told Fox News that the most significant factor in General Flynn's resignation is the fact that the intelligence agencies "intercepted a phone call by Flynn with the intent of upending any positive relationship between the US and Russia — which benefits the military industrial intel access can cash in."
Politico, FBI releases files on Trump apartments' race discrimination probe in '70s, Josh Gerstein, Feb. 15, 2017. The FBI has released nearly 400 pages of records on an investigation the bureau conducted in the 1970s into alleged racial discrimination in the rental of apartments from President Donald Trump's real estate company. The files detail dozens of interviews the bureau conducted with Trump building tenants, management and employees, seeking indications that minority tenants were steered away from housing complexes.
Most of those interviewed said they were not aware of any discrimination. However, some of the records recount the stories of black rental applicants who said they were told no apartments were available, while whites sent to check on the same apartments were offered leases. The records, posted on the FBI's Freedom of Information Act website, include a 1974 interview with a former doorman at a Trump building in Brooklyn.
A supervisor "told me that if a black person came to 2650 Ocean Parkway and inquired about an apartment for rent, and he, that is [redacted] was not there at the time, that I should tell him that the rent was twice as much as it really was, in order that he could not afford the apartment," the ex-doorman said.
The Trumps and their company entered into a consent decree settling the litigation in 1975. The agreement contained no admission of wrongdoing, but required the Trump firm to institute a series of safeguards to make sure apartments were rented without regard to race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
Eurasia Review, Trump’s Ties To The Past And The Resurrection Of The Left, James Petras, Feb. 15, 2017. U.S. President Donald Trump is deeply embedded in the politics of the deep state structure of American imperialism. Contrary to occasional references to non-intervention in overseas wars, Trump has followed in the footsteps of his predecessors.
While neoconservatives and liberals have raised a hue and cry about Trump’s ties to Russia, his ‘heresies’ over NATO and his overtures to peace in the Middle East, in practice, he has discarded his market humanitarian’ imperialism and engaged in the same bellicose policies of his Democratic Party presidential rival, Hillary Clinton.
Because he lacks the slick ‘demagogy’ of former-President Obama and does not slather his actions with cheap appeals to ‘identity’ politics, Trump’s crude, abrasive pronouncements drive young demonstrators into the streets in mass actions. These demonstrations are not-so-discretely supported by Trump’s major opponents among the Wall Street bankers, speculators and mass media moguls. In other words, President Trump is an icon-embracer and follower, not a ‘revolutionary’ or even ‘change agent.’
Raw Story, ‘He will die in jail’: Intelligence community ready to ‘go nuclear’ on Trump, senior source says, David Edwards, Feb. 15, 2017. U.S. national security officials are reportedly ready to “go nuclear” after President Donald Trump’s latest attack on the intelligence community. In a series of tweets on Tuesday and Wednesday, Trump insisted that the “real scandal” was not that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn lied about his contact with Russia. Instead, the president blasted what he said were “un-American” leaks that led to Flynn’s ousting.
New York Times, Trump Aides Spoke to Russian Intelligence, Intercepted Calls Show Contact During 2016, Officials Say, Michael S. Schmidt, Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo, Feb. 15, 2017 print edition). Trump aides and associates made repeated contact with senior Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, current and former U.S. officials told the Times. The officials said that, so far, they had not seen evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia on the hacking of the Democratic National Committee or to influence the election.
Newsmax, White House Signals Trouble for Petraeus, John Gizzi, Feb. 15, 2017. In Tuesday's press briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer referenced President Trump’s “real concern” that “security secrets are leaking out,” possibly signaling trouble for Gen. David Petraeus' chances of securing the national security adviser position left vacant after Gen. Michael Flynn's departure. “We have an issue where classified information, of which this would be, is handled in such a way that it is being given out,” Spicer told reporters. In 2012, Petraeus resigned as CIA director following his admission of an extramarital affair with his biographer while a U.S. Army general. He eventually pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information.
“The amount of leaks that are coming out of people that are entrusted with national security secrets and classified information are leaking it out,” Spicer said, “[are] a real concern for this president.” When Trump is “talking on the phone with a world leader, that when he's making key decisions that are in the interest of protecting this country, that we have to wonder whether or not people who work for our government, who are entrusted with classified information and decision-based materials are leaking that information out,” the president’s top spokesman stressed.
The downplaying of Petraeus as a possible head of the National Security Council comes at a time speculation is mounting that President Trump will turn to retired Vice Adm. Robert Harward to succeed Flynn. Harward formerly served as the No. 2 officer at Central Command under Gen. James Mattis.
CNN, Paula Broadwell: Petraeus has paid his price, slams 'double standard,' Eli Watkins, Feb. 15, 2017. Paula Boadwell called on people to move on from the scandal that caused former CIA Director David Petraeus to resign and ultimately plead guilty to federal charges. Broadwell, who was at the center of the scandal that brought Petraeus down, made her comments in an interview Tuesday with CNN's Anderson Cooper as reports have come in saying the former four-star general and intelligence chief could become the next national security adviser following the ouster of retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn.
"I say it's been five years, and everyone involved in this situation has taken responsibility for their actions and suffered the consequences and has tried to move forward," Broadwell said. Broadwell's name made international headlines in the beginning of former President Barack Obama's second term. Petraeus had resigned, citing an extramarital affair, which was eventually confirmed to be with Broadwell. She was working on a biography about him and was a credentialed journalist with the Department of Defense. An investigation over the affair revealed Petraeus shared sensitive information with her. As part of a plea deal, he received two years probation.
The Department of Justice declined to bring any charges against Broadwell over the incident, but she said she was still waiting for the military to resolve her case. "It's been a very difficult process for me and my family to kind of endure this long investigation, and you know, it's been over five years," Broadwell said. Petraeus is set to remain under probation until April.
Trump Justice Department
Huffington Post, Trump’s Russia Scandal Means Sessions And His Justice Department Now Face A Choice, Jessica Schulberg, Dana Liebelson and Ryan J. Reilly, Feb. 15, 2017. The attorney general has indicated he doesn’t think he needs to recuse himself from the investigations. Less than a week on the job as U.S. attorney general, Jeff Sessions faces a potentially explosive situation: He was a top adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, but he’s now overseeing the agency investigating members of that campaign.
The FBI is also separately examining intercepted communications between the Russian ambassador to the U.S. and former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who served with Sessions as a member of the Trump campaign’s national security advisory council. The FBI interviewed Flynn (shown in a file photo) days into the Trump presidency, according to The New York Times, and reportedly had concerns about whether he was entirely forthcoming. Lying to the FBI is a felony. If the FBI investigation into Flynn’s conduct turns up wrongdoing, Sessions could be responsible for signing off on the prosecution.
Independent, Hillary Clinton campaign manager to FBI: 'Why didn't you send a letter about Donald Trump's ties to Russia?' May Bulman, Feb. 15, 2017. Robby Mook asks why FBI released information about Ms Clinton's use of a private email server but nothing on allegations of Trump administration's contact with Russian officials.
Roll Call, Report: Puzder to Back Out of Labor Secretary Nomination, Staff report, Feb. 15, 2017. Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. head lacked confirmation votes. Andrew Puzder, President Donald Trump’s nominee for Labor secretary, is apparently backing out of the confirmation process. According to CNN and other media outlets, the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which runs the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s chains, had been heavily criticized since being picked in December, and decided to withdraw his nomination. Among the critiques were allegations of domestic abuse, financial conflicts of interest, his employment of an undocumented immigrant, and worker complaints filed against his company.
Washington Post, Stephen Miller’s ‘cringeworthy’ campaign speech for student government, Rosalind S. Helderman, Feb. 15, 2017. Now a policy aide in the Trump White House, as a student at a Santa Monica high school he was booed off stage following over-the-top remarks.
Foreign Policy, Trump Is Showing How the Deep State Really Works, Marc Ambinder, Feb. 15, 2017. America's intelligence agencies aren’t operating outside the law – they’re using the vast power they’ve acquired within it. The who, what, where, and why of the Trump administration’s first major scandal — Michael Flynn’s ignominious resignation on Monday as national security advisor — have all been thoroughly discussed. Relatively neglected, and deserving of far more attention, has been the how.
The fact the nation’s now-departed senior guardian of national security was unmoored by a scandal linked to a conversation picked up on a wire offers a rare insight into how exactly America’s vaunted Deep State works. It is a story not about rogue intelligence agencies running amok outside the law, but rather about the vast domestic power they have managed to acquire within it.
We know now that the FBI and the NSA, under their Executive Order 12333 authority and using the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as statutory cover, were actively monitoring the phone calls and reading text messages sent to and from the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. Although the monitoring of any specific individual is classified TOP SECRET, and cannot be released to foreigners, the existence of this monitoring in general is something of an open secret, and Kislyak probably suspected he was under surveillance.
But a welter of laws, many of them tweaked after the Snowden revelations, govern the distribution of any information that is acquired by such surveillance. And this is where it’s highly relevant that this scandal was started by the public leaking of information about Mike Flynn’s involvement in the monitoring of Kisylak.
The way it’s supposed to work is that any time a “U.S. person” — government speak for a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, even a U.S. company, located here or abroad — finds his or her communications caught up in Kislyak’s, the entire surveillance empire, which was designed for speed and efficiency, and which, we now know, is hard to manage, grinds to a halt. That’s a good thing. Even before Snowden, of course, the FBI would “minimize” the U.S. end of a conversation if analysts determined that the calls had no relevance to a legitimate intelligence gathering purpose. A late night call to order pizza would fall into this category.
But if the analyst listening to Kislyak’s call hears someone identify himself as an agent of the U.S. government — “Hi! It’s Mike Flynn” certainly qualifies — a number of things have to happen, according to the government’s own rules
In this case, there were three sets of communications between Flynn and Kislyak, at least one of which is a text message. The first occurs on Dec. 18. The last occurs on Dec. 30, a day after sanctions were levied against people that the Russian ambassador knew — namely, spies posing as diplomats.
Sometime before January 12, the fact that these conversations had occurred was disclosed to David Ignatius, who wrote about them. That day, Sean Spicer asked Flynn about them. Flynn denied that the sanctions were discussed. A few days later, on January 16, Vice President Mike Pence repeated Flynn’s assurances to him that the calls were mostly about the logistics of arranging further calls when Trump was President.
Here we have to leave the realm of reasonable conjecture, but the best explanation might be the easiest: incompetence or ineffectiveness from the White House counsel and an inability to foresee the real world consequences of their own decisions by White House principals. The country’s intelligence agencies, by contrast, were far more clear-sighted in the use of their prerogatives and power.
Trump & Media
Washington Post, ‘Morning Joe’ has blacklisted Kellyanne Conway. And that’s not all, Callum Borchers , Feb. 15, 2017. MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski said Wednesday that she refuses to book Kellyanne Conway on “Morning Joe” — and that wasn't even the harshest thing Brzezinski and co-host Joe Scarborough said about the counselor to the president.
“We know for a fact she tries to book herself on this show,” Brzezinski said. “I won't do it, 'cuz I don't believe in fake news or information that is not true. And that is — every time I've ever seen her on television, something’s askew, off or incorrect.”
The declaration that Conway (shown in a file photo) is not welcome on “Morning Joe” is not very surprising. When CNN refused to put the former Trump campaign manager on its Sunday political talk show earlier this month, Brzezinksi tweeted that CNN was “not the first.” Wednesday marked the first time that she revealed a blanket ban on appearances by Conway, however.
Even more damning than their blacklisting of Conway was the way the “Morning Joe” hosts characterized her — as an attention seeker who texts TV producers in a constant effort to get on air, so she can speak for a White House where she actually isn't in the know. “She's in none of the key meetings,” Scarborough said. “She goes out and books herself often. … I don't even think she's saying something that she knows to be untrue. She's just saying things, just to get in front of the TV set and prove her relevance because behind the scenes — behind the scenes, she's not in these meetings.”
Without making an explicit reference, Brzezinski and Scarborough offered a description of Conway that recalled her character on the latest episode of “Saturday Night Live.” In the sketch, Conway (Kate McKinnon) stalks CNN anchor Jake Tapper (Beck Bennett) and holds a knife to his throat until he agrees to let her back on television.
The Conway caricature on “SNL” is desperate to be on TV, and the real-life Conway is, too, according to “Morning Joe.”
Fox News Suspected of Extortion In Harassment Case?
Former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros
New York Daily News, Feds may be probing Fox News in undisclosed criminal investigation, Stephen Rex Brown, Feb. 15, 2017. The office of Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is conducting an investigation relating to possible violations of federal law at Fox News, an attorney alleged in court today Wednesday. Attorney Judd Burstein — who is representing former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros in a suit against the network and its ex-chairman Roger Ailes — said one of his other clients received two subpoenas Monday to testify before a federal grand jury.
“I was told by the U.S. Attorney's office there is an ongoing criminal investigation, relating to these allegations, all of these allegations,” Burstein said, referring to the avalanche of sexual harassment claims that resulted in Ailes’ departure from the network he built. The subpoena noted “alleged violations of criminal law by Fox,” Burstein said. He said the securities unit was leading the investigation.
Burstein added that in light of the criminal investigation, he believed Tantaros could sue the network for extortion and racketeering. He declined to reveal any details regarding his other client who had received the subpoena. He expected Tantaros would receive one, as well. An attorney for Fox News, Andrew Levander, said the network had not received a subpoena and would cooperate with one.
Trump Foreign Policy
Washington Post, Ahead of Netanyahu meeting, White House official says U.S. won’t insist on two-state solution, Anne Gearan and Ruth Eglash, Feb. 15, 2017. President Trump wants to produce peace between the Israelis and Palestinians in what he calls “the ultimate deal.” An administration official said the U.S. won’t insist on two states as the only outcome.
SouthFront, Syrian War Report: Al-Nusra And Its Allies Suffer Heavy Casualties In Daraa, Staff report, Feb. 15, 2017. 200 members of the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) have been killed or injured during clashes in the Syrian city of Daraa, according to the Hezbollah media wing in Syria. In turn, pro-militant sources claim that up to 100 pro-government fighters were killed in the area. The situation in the city of Daraa remains tense amid victorious reports from both sides. However, it’s clear that the militant offensive has stalled.
Pro-Turkish militant groups and the Turkish Army are losing ground under the pressure from ISIS terrorists in the city of al-Bab in northern Syria.
Harvard Political Review, The Alabamafication of America, Drew Pendergrass, Feb. 14, 2017. The 2016 presidential election looked, more than anything else, like an Alabama election. Donald Trump’s relentless appeals to populist conservative ideas echo decades-long trends in the South. The current worries about Trump’s irresponsible governing style are similar to concerns Alabama commentators have been expressing about their often-demagogic leaders since before the 1940s. To understand the Trump administration, in which Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions will likely serve as attorney general, we should look to Alabama, and the reasons why the state government is teetering toward collapse.
Leaders in all three branches of Alabama’s government are either under investigation or have been recently removed from office. After using his position to obtain over $1.1 million in financial favors, Mike Hubbard, the former speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, was convicted of 12 felony corruption charges in July 2016. He has been described by many as “the most powerful man in Alabama,” a state where the governor has relatively little authority and the legislature holds all the cards — a simple majority is all that is required to override most vetoes. The Hubbard trial was full of fireworks, including testimony from former Governor Bob Riley, but ended in a sentence of only four years in prison.
Washington Post, Ryan goes door-to-door on the Hill to try to salvage plan for Obamacare repeal, replacement, Kelsey Snell and Mike DeBonis, Feb. 14, 2017. With Republicans sharply divided, lawmakers question whether the health-care law can be effectively gutted by the House Speaker’s self-imposed deadline in March.
Daily Beast, Trump Looks Ready to Outdo ‘Deporter-in-Chief’ Obama, Betsy Woodruff, Feb. 14, 2017. ICE agents rounded up hundreds of undocumented immigrants in an ‘enforcement surge’ — and they appear to be casting a wider net than before. Last week, for America’s undocumented immigrants, President Trump’s crackdown began. Over the course of several days, the Department of Homeland Security conducted an “enforcement surge” in the biggest cities throughout the country — New York, Los Angeles, Chicago — as well as smaller localities, arresting hundreds of undocumented immigrants and then moving to deport them as quickly as possible.
According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), federal agents picked up more than 680 people. That in and of itself isn’t necessarily shocking. Though the raids generated protests in L.A. and significant media coverage, they aren’t a first by any stretch—during the Obama administration, ICE agents targeted women and children fleeing violence in Central America, and arrested more than 2,000 people in one nationwide operation. Immigrant-rights activists nicknamed Obama the Deporter in Chief because of the millions of people his DHS deported.
National Security Resignation
Huffington Post, Donald Trump Says Michael Flynn’s Scandal Is Less Important Than Who Leaked It, Alana Horowitz Satlin, Feb. 14, 2017. Flynn resigned on Monday amid allegations that he lied about his relationship with Russia.
Washington Post, Trump’s team initially was skeptical about details of Flynn’s contacts with Russia, Karen DeYoung, Abby Phillip and Jenna Johnson, Feb. 14, 2017. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn repeatedly brushed aside the suggestion that he discussed sanctions imposed by the Obama administration with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., two officials familiar with the White House talks said. The denials kept him afloat until a report in The Post last Thursday quoted Flynn as saying he couldn’t be sure that he hadn’t discussed sanctions.
Washington Post, From a phone call at a Caribbean resort to a forced resignation, Greg Miller, Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima, Feb. 14, 2017. The sequence connecting Flynn’s call and his dismissal came to involve two presidents warily passing power, the leaders of national security agencies including the FBI and CIA, and incoming and outgoing transition officials who regarded one another with significant distrust.
Washington Post, Senators from both parties pledge to deepen probe of Russia and the U.S. election, Sean Sullivan, Karoun Demirjian and Paul Kane, Feb. 14, 2017. The consensus comes at a tense moment when Republicans were already finding it difficult to defend the president after a tempestuous start to his term that has stoked frustration, fatigue and fear on Capitol Hill.
Washington Post, 10 unanswered questions after Flynn’s resignation, James Hohmann, Feb. 14, 2017. What, if anything, did Trump authorize Flynn to tell the Russians before his inauguration? And why was Trump planning to stand by Flynn?
Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn
Washington Post, Embattled national security adviser Michael Flynn resigns, Greg Miller and Philip Rucker, Feb. 14, 2017. The resignation comes amid reports that Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence by saying he did not discuss sanctions with a Russian envoy. In his resignation letter, Flynn defended his conversations with the ambassador but said he had “inadvertently” briefed Pence and others with “incomplete information.” Keith Kellogg, a decorated retired Army lieutenant general, was appointed acting national security adviser.
Washington Post, Pence learned Flynn misled him 2 weeks after Trump, others knew, Abby Phillip, Ellen Nakashima and Jenna Johnson, Feb. 14, 2017. Vice president sought details about Russia contacts after reading ‘media accounts’
Pence’s inquiry happened Feb. 9, around the time The Post published an account detailing the degree to which national security adviser Michael Flynn had been in contact with the Russian ambassador to the United States on the issue of sanctions, according to Pence’s spokesman. Trump was briefed on the matter Jan. 26, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said.
Flynn resigned Monday night due to an “evolving and eroding level of trust” that has created an "unsustainable" situation, Spicer said.
Trump says the ‘real story’ is ‘illegal leaks’
Washington Post, 10 unanswered questions after Flynn’s resignation, James Hohmann, Feb. 14, 2017. What, if anything, did Trump authorize Flynn to tell the Russians before his inauguration? And why was Trump planning to stand by Flynn?
Washington Post, Justice Dept. warned that Flynn could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail, Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Philip Rucker, Feb. 14, 2017. The acting attorney general informed the Trump administration late last month of her concerns, current and former U.S. officials said. They also said that although they believed Pence was misled, they couldn’t rule out that Flynn was acting with the knowledge of others in the transition.
The message, delivered by Sally Q. Yates (shown in an official photo) and a senior career national security official to the White House counsel, was prompted by concerns that Flynn, when asked about his calls and texts with the Russian diplomat, had told Vice President-elect Mike Pence and others that he had not discussed the Obama administration sanctions on Russia for its interference in the 2016 election, the officials said. It is unclear what the White House counsel, Donald McGahn, did with the information.
Two officials said a main topic of the relevant call was the sanctions.
National Review, Say No To David Petraeus for National Security Advisor, David French, Feb. 14, 2017. He did his country a great service, but he also broke the law. If Donald Trump doesn’t understand now, he will eventually. Integrity and truth ultimately do matter, and if he wants to be a successful president, he’s going to have to appoint people to high office who won’t violate the public’s trust. That means appointing more men like Neil Gorsuch and James Mattis. And it means keeping David Petraeus out of the White House.
Vice President's Status
Washington Post, Pence is above the fray, but is he out of the loop? Robert Costa and Ashley Parker, Feb. 14, 2017. The vice president (shown in an official photo) has largely managed to avoid the infighting at the White House by keeping his head down and soldiering loyally forward. But his influence within the West Wing has come increasingly into question given how he little knew about about the Michael Flynn situation.
Washington Post, Pence learned Flynn misled him 2 weeks after Trump, others knew, Abby Phillip, Ellen Nakashima and Jenna Johnson, Feb. 14, 2017. Vice president sought details about Russia contacts after reading ‘media accounts’
Pence’s inquiry happened Feb. 9, around the time The Post published an account detailing the degree to which national security adviser Michael Flynn had been in contact with the Russian ambassador to the United States on the issue of sanctions, according to Pence’s spokesman. Trump was briefed on the matter Jan. 26, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said.
Huffington Post, Hillary Clinton Absolutely Burns Michael Flynn With A Single Tweet, Ed Mazza, Feb. 14, 2017. Michael Flynn resigned as President Donald Trump’s national security advisor on Monday night, and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton (shown in her Twitter photo) retweeted a suggestion for a new line of work... at Domino’s Pizza.
Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., had spread conspiracy theories on social media about Clinton, former President Barack Obama and more. The younger Flynn helped spread the debunked #PizzaGate conspiracy theory in which Comet Ping Pong, a Washington, D.C., pizza place, was supposedly at the center of a pedophilia ring linked to the Clinton campaign. He was fired from the transition team as a result.
Now that the elder Flynn is also out of work, former Clinton aide Philippe Reines sent a tweet suggesting the pizza gig. Clinton retweeted Reines, and added: "Philippe's got his own way of saying things, but he has a point about the real consequences of fake news..."
RNC Crowd Chants ’ Lock Her Up!’ as Gen. Mike Flynn Trashes Hillary Clinton at Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 (2:43 min.)
Huffington Post, Michael Flynn Led ‘Lock Her Up’ Chants At The RNC Last Summer, Ed Mazza, Feb. 14, 2017. Now, critics say he’s the one who may have broken the law. This clip isn’t aging well for Michael Flynn, who resigned as President Donald Trump’s national security advisor late Monday. At last summer’s Republican National Convention, Flynn led “lock her up” chants aimed at Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Now, however, critics say he’s the one who may have broken the law over allegations that he discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador before Trump’s inauguration. The claims prompted “lock her up” to trend on Twitter early Tuesday.
If true, analysts say Flynn could have violated the Logan Act, which prevents private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments.
Washington Post, Lying took down Flynn, but the administration seems to think it’s just fine on Sunday talk shows, Margaret Sullivan, Feb. 14, 2017. If lies were taken that seriously in the Trump administration, we might be living on the right side of the looking glass. But they aren’t. And we aren’t.
Washington Post, A conspiracy theory-spreading website now has a seat in the White House briefing room, Callum Borchers, Feb. 14, 2017. The Gateway Pundit’s debut in the White House briefing room on Tuesday caused plenty of consternation among journalists but ended without the hoax-spreading blog’s correspondent, Lucian Wintrich, being called on to ask a question or pulling any of the media-trolling stunts he threatened in a New York Times interview a day earlier.
Gateway Pundit founder Jim Hoft said at the pre-inauguration DeploraBall last month that he had been informed by Donald Trump's transition team that his site would receive a White House press credential. Though Hoft is an unreliable source of information, this particular claim turned out to be true. He and Wintrich snapped photos in the briefing room on Monday, ahead of Trump's joint news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the East Room, and Wintrich covered his first news conference in the briefing room on Tuesday afternoon.
Conservative writer and radio host Erick Erickson, who founded the Red State blog, criticized the inclusion of the Gateway Pundit in White House briefings. In a tweet, Erickson recalled the time that Hoft tried to pass off a photo of the crowd at the Cleveland Cavaliers' 2016 championship parade as an image of Trump supporters waiting in line outside a campaign event.
The Hill, Report: Trump campaign aides were in contact with Russian intel officials, Staff report, Feb. 14, 2017.
Around the Nation
Roll Call, Jason Kander May Have Made a Big Mistake, , Nathan L. Gonzales, Feb. 14, 2017. Missouri Democrat hits national stage with potential long-term consequences.
Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn has resigned. CNN reported late Monday that former CIA Director David Petraeus (shown in an official photo) is due in for an interview Tuesday. Petraeus was fired by President Obama in 2013 following his sharing classified information with his mistress and biographer. This followed also the deaths of four Americans at a State Department facility in Benghazi, where the CIA was engaged in covert operations.
Retired Gen. Keith Kellogg (shown in uniform) was named acting national security advisor. Other sources report other names include retired Admiral Robert Harward, a former Navy SEAL and deputy commander of CENTCOM.
Washington Post, Justice Dept. warned that Flynn could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail, officials say, Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Philip Rucker, Feb. 13, 2017. The acting attorney general told the Trump White House late last month that national security adviser Michael Flynn (shown in an official photo from his military service) had apparently misled senior administration officials, including then-Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador and as a result was potentially vulnerable to blackmail, current and former U.S. officials said.
Trump advisors, from left, Stephen Miller, Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner, Reince Priebus (file photo)
Foreign Policy,The Kremlin Is Starting to Worry About Trump, Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes, Feb. 13, 2017. Vladimir Putin's entourage cheered the outcome of the U.S. election – until they saw exactly what they were dealing. It’s true that Trump’s accession opens up the possibility of “normalizing” Russia’s relations with the West, beginning with a reduction or even elimination of sanctions. It also validates many of Russia’s ideological criticisms of the liberal order and may perhaps foreshadow policy reversals that Moscow has long hoped for: from Washington’s disengagement from the Ukraine crisis to its dissolution of the Cold War Western alliance. Russians also celebrate Trump’s unfiltered stream-of-consciousness diatribes as signaling a welcome end to America’s hypocrisy and condescension.
But Trump’s revolution is also ushering in a period of turmoil and uncertainty, including the likelihood of self-defeating trade wars. Still traumatized by the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia’s present leadership has no appetite for global instability. With Trump in the White House, moreover, Putin has lost his monopoly over geopolitical unpredictability.
Roll Call, Treasury Secretary Confirmed Despite Outrage From Democrats, Bridget Bowman, Feb. 13, 2017. Banker, Hollywood producer Steven Mnuchin approved after long battle. The Senate continued pushing through President Donald Trump’s Cabinet Monday by backing financier Steven Mnuchin to be secretary of the Treasury, despite howls from Democrats who characterized the producer of such Hollywood fare as “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” as a villain who feasted on unfair foreclosures.
Steve Mnuchin (shown in a file photo), a former Goldman Sachs banker and executive producer of films like “Keanu” and “Collateral Beauty,” was confirmed to be the next Treasury Secretary with a vote of 53-47. Democrats strongly opposed Mnuchin, who also served as the finance chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign. They raised concerns about his role as chief executive of OneWest Bank during the home mortgage crisis. But lacking any significant opposition among Republicans, Mnuchin was able to be confirmed.
“We are currently in the midst of the longest transitional leadership gap at the Department of the Treasury in our nation’s history. The Senate has never left Treasury without a confirmed Secretary in between administrations for this long,” Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch said ahead of the vote. “These tactics do absolutely nothing to help American families seeking greater opportunities and economic growth. They don’t help us fix our broken tax code, reform our failing healthcare system, and empower businesses and job creators to grow and expand.”
Hatch, a Utah Republican, has been among the loudest advocates for Trump’s agenda. Much of the Democratic opposition was driven by Mnuchin’s time leading OneWest Bank, a financial institution that critics said had a long track record of predatory lending, particularly regarding foreclosures. “The American people don’t suffer from the same collective amnesia that Wall Street and its allies in Congress have about how devastating the crisis was to our country,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said. “As the people we represent know, and Mnuchin’s bank proves, when we turn the reins to Wall Street, it’s working families who pay the price.”
Gateway Pundit boss Jim Hoft, left, flashed the okay sign, sometimes used as a hate symbol, at the White House Briefing Room podium with Gateway's White House correspondent Lucian Wintrich to celebrate the latter's first day as a White House correspondent. Wintrich, with little journalistic experience and part of the gay conservative cadre surrounding the president, calls President Trump "Daddy" in his columns
Media Matters, A Dangerous Troll Is Now Reporting From The White House. Staff report, Feb. 13, 2017. (Media Matters is a liberal advocacy group founded by former conservative activist David Brock, who chronicled his political evolution as a gay man in the 2002 book Blinded By the Right.)
The Internet’s most hapless political blogger now has his own White House correspondent -- a regular contributor with little reporting experience but ample ties to “alt-right” harassment -- sitting in the White House press briefing room.
At the January 19 “Deploraball” event before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Gateway Pundit founder and “dumbest man on the internet” Jim Hoft announced that his outlet would have a White House correspondent with the Trump administration, and that Lucian Wintrich would fill the position. On February 13, Hoft posted a "reader alert" that Hoft and Wintrich will be attending the day's White House press briefing. Hoft confusingly wrote, "Please look for us and keep your fingers crossed that one of us is asked a question."
Hours later, Hoft tweeted a photo of himself and Wintrich standing behind the lectern in the White House press briefing room, displaying a hand signal associated with the racist “Pepe” meme. The tweet itself also included the hashtag "Pepe" and a frog emoji, commonly understood to invoke the hate symbol.
Hoft’s political blog has often served as the single source for completely unfounded reporting that nonetheless catches fire in the right-wing internet world, until it becomes what Kellyanne Conway might deem an “alternative fact.” The frequency with which he posts hoaxes and complete fabrications as fact suggests Hoft either has a reckless and total disregard for the truth or is so incompetent he cannot separate fact from fiction.
The Gateway Pundit’s new White House correspondent is now attending press briefings, and it’s unclear how “brand strategist and digital creative” Lucian Wintrich, who frequently refers to the new president endearingly as “daddy,” will approach this responsibility. If his past actions and social media persona are any indication, Wintrich will follow the Gateway Pundit formula for irresponsible and dangerous reporting, and perhaps even more explicitly incite harassment from his new White House platform.
Wintrich is a “gay conservative mouthpiece” primarily known as the artist behind a “Twinks4Trump” photography exhibit that debuted at the GOP convention last summer. He explained that he aims to be “the first rational voice that the American people have had in White House press in ages.” He recently wrote on social media, "I don’t consider myself a journalist, I consider myself the future of journalism.”
See also: Los Angeles Times, How 'Pepe the Frog' went from harmless to hate symbol, Jessica Roy, Oct. 11, 2016.
Washington Post, At least four GOP senators are on the fence about Labor nominee Puzder, Ed O'Keefe, Feb. 13, 2017. The high level of public concern over Andrew Puzder (shown in a file photo), a restaurant executive, is notable given that Republicans have for the most part supported Trump’s Cabinet picks even before their confirmation hearings.
WAVY-TV, Judge grants injunction against Trump travel ban in Virginia, Staff report, Feb. 13, 2017. A federal judge has granted a preliminary injunction barring the Trump administration from implementing its travel ban in Virginia, adding another judicial ruling to those already in place challenging the ban’s constitutionality. Herring requested a preliminary injunction on the portion of Trump’s order that temporarily bans entry of lawful permanent residents and visa holders from seven majority-Muslim nations.
Last week, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the states of Washington and Minnesota in refusing to reinstate the ban, opening the possibility that the case could advance to the U.S. Supreme Court. On Friday, a federal judge in Virginia also seemed inclined to rule against the administration in a different challenge.
Washington Post, Trump turns Mar-a-Lago Club dinner table into open-air situation room, David A. Fahrenthold, Feb. 13, 2017. Trump’s meal with Abe is latest incident to raise security questions. The president was dining with the Japanese prime minister on the club's terrace Saturday night when news broke that North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile. But the “Winter White House” — as dubbed by Trump staffers — where the leaders and staffers dealt with a national-security crisis is very different from the actual White House, where security is tight and people are tightly screened.
The president not only reportedly discussed a national security incident in a public room as waiters cleared plates but also used phone flashlights to help read documents on a candle-lit patio, according to a media report.
White House Staff
Washington Post, In Stephen Miller’s world, reality is beside the point, Jennifer Rubin, Feb. 13, 2017. White House adviser Stephen Miller appeared on the Sunday morning television circuit on Feb. 12, saying, "the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned," on CBS's Face the Nation. Senior presidential adviser Stephen Miller had a memorable Sunday on four talk shows.
“Memorable” is not a good thing in this case. It was bad enough that he declared on CBS, “The president of the United States has accomplished more in just a few weeks than many presidents accomplish in an entire administration.” (William Henry Harrison survived only 31 days in office, James A. Garfield about 3 months, but 2 of 44 prior presidents does not make for “many.”)
Washington Post, Kellyanne Conway: Michael Flynn has the ‘full confidence of the president,’ Abby Phillip, Feb. 13, 2017. The senior White House official's comment comes amid growing concerns about the national security adviser's communication with the Russian ambassador on U.S. sanctions before Trump took office.
Around the Nation
CBS Philly, Jeffrey Sandusky, Jerry Sandusky’s Son, Charged With Child Sexual Abuse, Natasha Brown, Feb. 13, 2017. Jerry Sandusky’s son has been arrested on over a dozen charges of child sexual abuse. Jeffrey Sandusky, 41, the adopted son of Jerry Sandusky (shown above in a file photo), is being held on $200,000 bail at Centre County Prison. He was arrested Monday by Pennsylvania State Police. He is facing 14 charges, including child sexual abuse, statutory sexual assault, and child pornography.
Police say they began an investigation into Jeffrey Sandusky (shown in a mug shot) in November 2016 when a child claimed to have received text messages from him asking for naked photos. Police say Jeffrey Sandusky was dating the child’s mother at the time and was living with them for about five years. The child’s father notified police after the alleged explicit messages were shared with him.
According to the criminal complaint, a second child was also allegedly abused in 2013. Jeffrey Sandusky was asked to leave the home over the alleged abuse. The alleged victims are 15- and 16-year-old girls. Jeffrey Sandusky is a corrections officer at a state prison near state college. He is one of Jerry Sandusky’s six adopted children. Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State football coach, is serving a 30- to 60-year sentence in Greene State Prison on a 45-count conviction for sexual abuse of 10 boys, and he is currently pursuing an appeal in county court near State College.
See also: Penn State Abuse Scandal Costs Approach Quarter-Billion Dollars and Washington Post, Jerry Sandusky’s son charged with sexually assaulting a child, Cindy Boren.
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), one of two leading candidates along with former Labor Secretary Tom Perez for the post of Democratic National Committee chairman
Washington Post, DNC chair candidates say Hillary Clinton lost because she talked too much about Trump, James Hohmann, Feb. 13, 2017. Many Democratic leaders remain in a state of denial about the lessons of the election. They have only been in the wilderness for a few weeks now, and Clinton won the popular vote. The mass protests of the past four weekends and Trump’s sagging popularity have added to their overconfidence that they’ll easily win again in 2020.
Every leading contender to take over the Democratic National Committee believes Hillary Clinton focused too much on attacking Donald Trump at the expense of articulating an affirmative case for holding the White House.
During their final showdown before the chairman’s election in Atlanta on Feb. 25, there was consensus that the party’s problems derive mainly from subpar organization and communication – not anything fundamental.
Washington Post, Gerrymandering is the biggest obstacle to genuine democracy in the United States. So why is no one protesting? Brian Klaas, Feb. 10, 2017. There is an enormous paradox at the heart of American democracy. Congress is deeply and stubbornly unpopular. On average, between 10 and 15 percent of Americans approve of Congress – on a par with public support for traffic jams and cockroaches.
And yet, in the 2016 election, only eight incumbents – eight out of a body of 435 representatives – were defeated at the polls.
If there is one silver bullet that could fix American democracy, it’s getting rid of gerrymandering – the now commonplace practice of drawing electoral districts in a distorted way for partisan gain. It’s also one of a dwindling number of issues that principled citizens – Democrat and Republican – should be able to agree on. Indeed, polls confirm that an overwhelming majority of Americans of all stripes oppose gerrymandering.
PressTV, Trump so 'erratic' that world leaders cannot trust his words: Analyst, Feb. 13, 2017. Trump’s handshake with Abe was against Japanese traditions. US President Donald Trump is “so erratic in his statements” that world leaders cannot trust any of his assurances, says an American investigative journalist in Washington says. Wayne Madsen, an author and columnist specializing in intelligence and international affairs, was commenting on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the United States this weekend, during which Trump assured his guest that Washington was “100 percent” behind Japan in the face of any threat from North Korea.
“Trump says anything in the joint news conference or sole news conference, it has to be taken with a grain of salt because Donald Trump is so erratic in his statements,” Madsen said in an interview. “And of course he’s going to say he backs Japan a 100 percent until he meets the Chinese president and then he will probably say I back him 100 percent, and then of course the issue is who backs more who over the issue of disputed islands between China and Japan,” he stated.
“I don’t think any world leader should really pay attention to the statements of Donald Trump because Donald Trump would change his mind within a few minutes,” he noted. Madsen also said that Trump’s rather exuberant handshake with the Japanese leader was against Japanese social traditions.
During their meeting at the White House on Friday, Trump would not let go of Abe’s hand, yanking him back several times, which caused the prime minister to show his discomfort. Trump, seemingly indifferent to the rather dispirited reaction of Abe, tweeted later, “I shook hands, but I grabbed him and hugged him because that’s the way we feel. We have a very, very good bond — very, very good chemistry.”
Washington Post, As Flynn faces growing pressure over Russia contacts, Trump remains silent, Philip Rucker, Adam Entous and Ed O'Keefe, Feb. 12, 2017. “The knives are out” for President Trump’s national security adviser, an administration official said, after reports that Michael Flynn misled administration officials about his discussions with the Russian ambassador.
Scrutiny is mounting and neither Trump nor his advisers have publicly defended Flynn (shown in a military photo). Pence spoke to Flynn twice on Friday — once face to face and once by telephone, according to an administration official who declined to characterize the contents of those discussions.
“Flynn is running out of friends, no question,” a different administration official said. “The broad consensus in the White House is that he lied. The vice president feels like he lied. In a position that needs to be no drama, it’s nonstop drama. I would be very surprised if he lasts much longer.”
Palmer Report, If Michael Flynn isn’t fired over Russia on Monday, it means Donald Trump is going down with him, Bill Palmer, Feb. 12, 2017. It’s now Sunday night. Donald Trump is back in the White House after his ill timed Florida vacation. The weekend headlines have been dominated by the Russia scandal, which he had surely been hoping had gone away. The current controversy all centers around National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn, a guy Trump doesn’t even like, and who could easily be scapegoated. So if Flynn isn’t fired tomorrow, it’ll mean that Trump can’t fire him – which will mean that Trump is going down with him.
To underscore how much of a liability Flynn has suddenly become, he’s been caught lying about having colluded with the Russian ambassador before and after Election Day, meaning that the current sanctions revelation is just the tip of the iceberg; eventually we’ll see headlines about how Flynn definitively colluded with Russia to rig the election. And Mike Pence has now been dragged into the scandal, because he previously vouched for Flynn that the sanctions had not been discussed with Russia – and now Pence’s office is implying that Flynn lied to him. On top of it all, Trump’s own newly appointed CIA Director Mike Pompeo has responded by denying security clearance yesterday for Flynn’s top deputy. The entire Trump administration, sans Trump himself, is now trying to march Flynn immediately to the door.
Washington Post, Trump friend critiques Reince Priebus: ‘It’s pretty clear the guy is in way over his head,’ Philip Rucker, Feb. 12, 2017. Newsmax Media CEO Christopher Ruddy said he spoke with the president Friday and recommended that Trump replace his chief of staff. He told CNN that Priebus (shown in a portrait by Gage Skidmore) does not understand how federal agencies operate, and he said three Cabinet secretaries later praised his criticism.Huffington Post, John Podesta Says ‘Forces Within The FBI’ Wanted Hillary Clinton To Lose, “I think to this day it’s inexplicable that they were so casual about the investigation of the Russian penetration of the DNC emails.”
Huffington Post, Trump Adviser Defends President’s Lies On Voter Fraud, Despite Providing No Evidence, Marina Fang, Feb. 12, 2017. “The president of the United States is correct, 100 percent.” After President Donald Trump last week repeated the false claim that massive voter fraud kept him from winning the popular vote in November, his senior adviser Stephen Miller on Sunday attempted to defend the statement ― without providing any evidence. “It’s very real, it’s very serious,” he said on ABC News’ “This Week.”
Host George Stephanopoulos repeatedly pressed Miller to back up his claim, but Miller wouldn’t.
Washington Post, The next GOP assault on voting rights, E.J. Dionne Jr. Feb. 12, 2017. With Jeff Sessions as attorney general, conditions are right for the gutting of the basic rules of democracy. The Senate rejected Sessions as a judge 31 years ago. But now that he is our chief law enforcement officer, holding him accountable for how he vindicates or undermines civil rights and voting rights is a central task. So is rallying against all efforts in Republican-controlled states to pass new laws restricting the franchise, as many of them already have. The Department of Justice can’t be counted on to stop them.
And the struggle for democracy is also at stake in the fight over President Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow last week of “an eerie feeling” he had when he spoke with Gorsuch.
“Here was a judge, well-groomed, intelligent, very polite, very, very articulate, who wouldn’t give his views on anything,” Schumer said. This reminded him of someone else.
“Justice [John] Roberts, then-Judge Roberts, assured us he would call balls and strikes,” Schumer said. “He gets in office, and his court does Citizens United, a huge break with precedent that ruins, ruins the politics of America. He repeals, basically, the Voting Rights Act by eliminating Section 5 . . . and I am very worried that Judge Gorsuch is similar.”
NBC Entertainment, Jake Tapper: Saturday Night Live, Feb. 12, 2017. Kellyanne Conway (Kate McKinnon) tries to win back Jake Tapper's (Beck Bennett) trust in a take-off of the film Fatal Attraction.
Huffington Post, Kate McKinnon Plays Jeff Sessions On ‘SNL’ Because She Can Be Literally Anyone, Carla Herreria, Feb. 12, 2017. No one in the White House is safe from McKinnon.
Washington Post, SNL’s Donald Trump takes his executive order frustrations to ‘The People’s Court,’ Elahe Izadi, Feb. 12, 2017. “Saturday Night Live” guest host Alec Baldwin appeared as President Trump only once during the latest episode, and it was to take his displeasure with a federal court’s decision on his immigration order to a reality TV show.
“Mr. Trump, you understand that this is a TV court, right?” asked the host of “The People’s Court,” played by Cecily Strong. “That’s okay, I’m a TV president,” Baldwin-as-Trump responded.
The episode had considerable buzz with Baldwin setting an SNL record. The actor has now hosted the show 17 times. But Baldwin has been a constant presence this season, as his scathing Trump impersonation has elicited numerous critiques — usually via Twitter — from the president himself, including when Trump was a nominee and the president-elect.
“I don’t think that his imitation of me gets me at all, and it’s meant to be very mean-spirited, which is very biased, and I don’t like it,” Trump told “Today” show host Matt Lauer in December.
Free Market Shooter via SouthFront, Alleged Pro-Al-Qaeda Spy Ring – Is This Why Rex Tillerson Cleaned State Department? Staff report, Feb. 12, 2017. Shortly after Trump took office, and before Rex Tillerson was even confirmed as Secretary of State, a slew of State Department officials were removed from their positions (or were forced to resign) as part of an effort to “clean house” at the State Department. The whole affair was haphazardly covered by the media, especially by Jeff Bezos’s blog, which insinuated that the departures were “an ongoing mass exodus of senior Foreign Service officers who don’t want to stick around for the Trump era.”
Further analysis revealed that the officials were actually removed from their positions shortly after Tillerson (shown in a file photo) visited the State Department office in Foggy Bottom prior to his confirmation: “Any implication that that these four people quit is wrong,” one senior State Department official said. “These people are loyal to the secretary, the President and to the State Department. There is just not any attempt here to dis the President. People are not quitting and running away in disgust. This is the White House cleaning house.”
And, just a few weeks after the fact, it appears we know why Tillerson was so quick to purge existing staffers: he just didn’t trust them. It also appears his mistrust was more than justified.
On January 29th, United States Special Forces executed an operation inside Yemen, against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), with the aim of gathering intelligence and killing leaders of the group. The raid was planned under the Obama administration, but the decision to execute the raid was “punted” to Trump, using the pretext of waiting for a “low loom” (moonless) night to execute the raid with maximum secrecy:
While the operation had been proposed, it was never green-lighted. Obama felt going ahead on the mission would mark a “significant escalation” in Yemen and should be left to the next administration to decide. Though the Trump administration attempted to push the raid as a success, at very best, the mission was anything but, resulting in the death of Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens, as well as injuries to three other servicemen. While the commandos did everything necessary to maintain the element of surprise, it appears as though AQAP adversaries on the ground had advance warning of the attack.
While most know about the Yemen raid, most do not know about the dismissal of the three Aman brothers, Abid, Imran, and Jamal Awan. On February 2nd, they were abruptly removed from their positions of managing information technology for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Though they were initially suspected merely of stealing equipment, a connection with the previously-hacked computers of Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) revealed something far more sinister:
Three members of the intelligence panel and five members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs were among the dozens of members who employed the suspects on a shared basis. The two committees deal with many of the nation’s most sensitive issues and documents, including those related to the war on terrorism.
As Mad World News reported, the Aman brothers were hired by the Obama administration, and access to top secret information regarding military operations. The committees they allegedly worked for had access to “the most sensitive and secretive government intelligence, including covert anti-terrorism activity… including the Yemen operation.”
Washington Post, Republican green-card holder who voted illegally in Texas gets 8 years in prison, Amy B Wang, Feb. 11, 2017. Rosa Maria Ortega's attorney is arguing that the sentence is unusually harsh and meant to appease those “swept up in the Trump hysteria." A permanent U.S. resident living in Texas has been sentenced to eight years in prison for illegally voting, a punishment that will probably result in the woman’s deportation after she completes her sentence.
On Wednesday, a Tarrant County, Tex., jury convicted 37-year-old Rosa Maria Ortega (shown in a mug shot) on two felony charges of illegal voting, for casting a ballot as a non-citizen in 2012 and 2014. Ortega is a green-card holder who was brought to the United States from Mexico when she was an infant, her attorney said.
The decision was hailed by some — including Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), who prosecuted the case — as a sign the state intends to crack down on voter fraud. President Trump has alleged, without evidence, that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton because 3 million to 5 million illegal ballots were cast against him. Though his claims about widespread voter fraud have been debunked, that has not stopped Trump from resurrecting them, most recently this past week while speaking with senators in New Hampshire.
WhoWhatWhy, The Politics of Authoritarianism in the Trump Era, Jeff Schechtman, Feb. 11, 2017. We need to understand the authoritarian impulse, but we also need to put it in the context of modern democratic politics. While we all seem to be rushing out to buy copies of 1984, It Can’t Happen Here and Hannah Arendt’s classic Origins of Totalitarianism, we should bear in mind that what we have to fear today is very different from what was going on during the interwar period that gave rise to Nazisim. The situation today is not analogous to that period, according to political scientist Jeffrey Isaac in this week’s WhoWhatWhy Podcast.
Isaac tells Jeff Schechtman that while our constitutional system may help protect us, we have to fight back through traditional political institutions, and through resistance and civil disobedience, of which the country has a long history.
Washington Post, DNC chair candidates try to move past primary, adopt ‘resistance,’ David Weigel, Feb. 11, 2017. Saturday's “future forum” marks the last gathering before the party elects its new leaders. On Saturday afternoon, Thomas Perez, the former secretary of labor running to chair the Democratic National Committee, told his supporters to be proud of the unifying race they had run.
“We have existential threats. We are a united Democratic Party,” Perez told organizers who had just finished their boxed lunches. “It’s so disappointing for some in the media, because there’s no chair-throwing. Nobody’s going to ask you about the size of your hands.”
Moments later, when Perez (shown speaking in a Justice Integrity Project photo last June) went outside to talk to DNC members, a supporter of Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) hounded him. As reporters watched, and staffers delicately blocked his path to Perez, the man shouted about an appearance in Kansas where Perez had accidentally called the 2016 primary “rigged,” accusing the candidate of “lying” to pander to supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Saturday’s “future forum” was the last DNC gathering before Feb. 25, when Democrats will gather in Atlanta to elect new leaders. Over six public debates and a stream of TV interviews, the leading candidates had found themselves in combative agreement, arguing for a party that invests more in every state, disagreeing only about who should get them there.
The meeting here did not resolve that and showcased how the elongated race has delayed the final reckoning over the party’s 2016 primary result and the test of whether Democrats can channel the protests against President Trump breaking out every weekend.
White House Staff
Washington Post, How the 31-year-old behind Trump’s travel ban forged his conservative identity in liberal Southern California, Rosalind S. Helderman, Feb. 11, 2017. Stephen Miller, a top adviser to President Trump, was one of the leading advocates of the executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority nations, and he wrote some of Trump’s most strident campaign speeches. As a young conservative in liberal Santa Monica, Calif., Stephen Miller clashed frequently with his high school, often calling in to a national radio show to lambaste administrators for promoting multiculturalism, allowing Spanish-language morning announcements and failing to require recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
In the years before he became a top adviser to President Trump and a leading West Wing advocate for the executive order temporarily halting entry into the United States from seven majority-Muslim countries, Miller was developing his skills as a culture warrior and conservative provocateur eager to condemn liberal orthodoxy — particularly on matters of race and identity. Like Trump, Miller forged that identity while immersed in liberal communities, giving him cachet with fellow conservatives for waging his battles on opposition turf.
He produced a canon of searing columns on race, gender and other hot-button issues and, at Duke, became known to Fox News viewers as a leading defender of the white lacrosse players wrongfully accused of raping a black stripper. By his late 20s, Miller was a key aide to then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), helping to torpedo a long-sought goal of immigrant advocacy groups to put millions of unauthorized Hispanic immigrants on a path to citizenship.
Trump Mocks Dems
Huffington Post, Trump Resurrects ‘Pocahontas’ Dig Against Elizabeth Warren, Mary Papenfuss, Feb. 11, 2017. “Pocahontas is now the face of your party,” he tells Democratic senators at meeting to build support for his Supreme Court nominee.
Washington Post, A restive, active and aggressive base is a gift — and a challenge — for Democrats, David Weigel and Karen Tumulty, Feb. 11, 2017. Three weeks into President Trump’s term, Democrats have almost entirely adopted the demands of their base, which has rallied against Trump with fervent intensity. They’re hopeful that the new activism more closely resembles the Tea Party movement, which embraced electoral politics, than the Occupy Wall Street movement, which did not. But will it lead the party to electoral gains?
Washington Post, Activists plan to hold town hall in Rep. Comstock’s district — with or without her, Jenna Portnoy, Feb. 11, 2017. Barbara Comstock, the only Republican representing Northern Virginia in Congress and a possible candidate for Senate next year, has preferred to keep the activists at arm’s length. After asking Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) for weeks to hold a town hall to discuss the Trump administration, a group of her constituents have declared they will hold a Comstock town hall — with or without her.
The push is part of a national wave of protests around the country aimed at President Trump’s policies — including his executive order to temporarily bar refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States — and Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act. In nearly every Virginia congressional district, Facebook groups have sprouted up for activists, many of them new to politics, to discuss strategy for flooding the offices and social-media accounts of elected officials.
Like tea party protesters following the passage of the health-care law in 2009, liberal activists say they want to question members of Congress face to face about their positions and their votes on Trump’s Cabinet nominees. Some have organized local groups under the moniker “Indivisible,” a name taken from a guide prepared by former Hill staffers that offers tips about how to organize against Trump. Comstock, the only Republican representing Northern Virginia in Congress and a possible candidate for Senate next year, has preferred to keep the activists at arm’s length.
She held a “telephone town hall” Wednesday night that lasted about an hour and 15 minutes. Although she said during the call that more than 6,000 constituents were listening in, only about a dozen were able to speak to the congresswoman.
After the call, some participants expressed frustration about the inability of callers to follow up on what they considered vague and repetitive answers.
“People are furious,” said Kristen Swanson, an artist and teacher from Loudoun County and one of the organizers behind the effort to have Comstock appear in person at a town hall. “We’re not trying to ambush her; we just want to talk to her.”
Washington Decoded, Looking for Faust in Texas, John McAdams, Book review: "Faustian Bargains: Lyndon Johnson and Mac Wallace in the Robber Baron Culture of Texas" by Joan Mellen (Bloomsbury. 359 pp. $37), Feb. 10, 2017.
The “Faustian bargains” in the title of Mellen’s latest book are the pacts she believes three Texans implicitly made with Lyndon Johnson, to serve Johnson’s corrupt purposes in return for his sponsorship and patronage. But unlike Goethe’s Faust, there was no redemption at the end for any of them.
RealClearPolitics.com, Trump Pays Top West Wing Advisers $180,000, Alexis Simendinger, Feb. 10, 2017. President Trump expanded the number of top advisers in the White House and raised their wages compared with his predecessor, President Obama, according to White House officials and government records. The top salary Trump pays his White House aides is $179,700 a year, compared with $176,461 during Obama’s final year in office, according to information from a Trump spokeswoman and a report submitted to Congress last year by the Obama White House.
White House aides who earn nearly $180,000 – more than the basic salary paid most House and Senate lawmakers – include Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Counselor Kellyanne Conway, Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor Stephen Bannon, and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
The president, whose staff structure is notable for competing power centers and opaque lines of authority, named at least 27 “assistants to the president,” according to a White House spokeswoman. After verifying a staff list with a Trump deputy, RealClearPolitics counted 28 senior advisers. Despite repeated questions over several weeks, White House aides did not iron out the discrepancy as of Thursday.
By law, the nation’s chief executive can appoint 25 senior advisers at the top federal pay scale set annually in the White House Office. Wages for “assistants to the president” are tied to the Office of Personnel Management’s Executive Level compensation ladder. Obama appointed 25 aides with the coveted “assistant to the president” title, which designates the senior-most level of authority under the president and vice president.
Washington Post, The new normal at GOP town halls: Crowds lobbing hostile questions at lawmakers, Kelsey Snell, Paul Schwartzman, Steve Friess and David Weigel, Feb. 10, 2017. Massive demonstrations by constituents are an early indication of how progressive opposition movements are mobilizing. The size and tone of the crowds are feeding Republicans’ worries and Democrats’ view that the GOP agenda, coupled with President Trump’s tone and missteps, have activated voters who may have sat out previous elections.
Republicans in deep red congressional districts spent the week navigating massive crowds and hostile questions at their town hall meetings — an early indication of how progressive opposition movements are mobilizing against the agenda of the GOP and President Trump.
Angry constituents swarmed events held by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.). They filled the rooms that had been reserved for them; in Utah and Tennessee, scores of activists were locked out. Voters pressed members of Congress on their plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, on the still-controversial confirmation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and even on a low-profile vote to shutter an election commission created after 2000.
Washington Post, Ex-Baylor president Ken Starr could get Trump administration position, Des Bieler, Feb. 10, 2017. Ken Starr, known for his role in the Monica Lewinsky investigation during Bill Clinton’s presidency and, more recently, for leaving high-level positions at Baylor University amid the football program’s ongoing sexual-assault scandal, is reportedly close to joining President Trump’s administration. Starr is among a handful of candidates in the running to be named ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom at the State Department.
"It’s my understanding that it’s his job if he wants it,” a person described as familiar with the vetting process told Foreign Policy.
The job entails monitoring the persecution of religious minorities, and under Trump, it is expected to focus on Christians who are under duress in majority-Muslim countries. Starr (via the Baylor Lariat) has called “education and religious liberty” his “two abiding passions.”
Starr (shown in a Baylor file photo) was president of Baylor from 2010 until May 2016, when the school released a findings-of-fact report by Pepper Hamilton, an outside law firm hired to investigate allegations of rape and other abuses committed by football players and not adequately responded to by the athletic department staff and other university officials. In the wake of the report, head football coach Art Briles was fired and Baylor announced that Starr was being demoted to chancellor. He resigned from the school a few days later.
In its report, Pepper Hamilton said it found that “the University’s student conduct processes were wholly inadequate to consistently provide a prompt and equitable response under Title IX, that Baylor failed to consistently support complainants through the provision of interim measures, and that in some cases, the University failed to take action to identify and eliminate a potential hostile environment, prevent its recurrence, or address its effects for individual complainants or the broader campus community.” It also found “examples of actions by University administrators that directly discouraged complainants from reporting or participating in student conduct processes, or that contributed to or accommodated a hostile environment.”
Washington Post, Rosie O'Donnell Gives Her Twitter Avatar a Steve Bannon Makeover, Greg Miller, Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima, Feb. 10, 2017.
Atlantic, Conflict Over Trump Forces Out an Opinion Editor at The Wall Street Journal, Rosie Gray, Feb. 10, 2017. The departure follows weeks of reports of tension on the paper's news side about how to cover Trump. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial features editor has left the paper following tensions over the section drifting in a pro-Donald Trump direction.
News of the departure of Mark Lasswell, who edited op-eds for the Journal, comes as the paper’s internal tensions over Trump have begun to spill into public view. The reliably hawkish, pro-trade, small government conservative Journal op-ed page has been challenged by the rise of the populist, nationalist Trump movement. The Journal’s opinion pages have been a showcase for the intra-right divide over Trump, featuring Trump-sympathetic writers like Bill McGurn alongside anti-Trump columnists such as Bret Stephens. Lasswell appears to be a casualty of that divide, and his dismissal a victory for the pro-Trump faction on the editorial staff.
According to two sources with direct knowledge of the situation, Lasswell was in effect phased out over a period of months from the paper. He took a book leave during the election following conflict with his boss Paul Gigot, the editorial page director, about the extent to which the page should run material sympathetic to Trump.
According to a source close to Lasswell, the relationship between Lasswell and Gigot broke down in June when Gigot blocked Lasswell from publishing op-eds critical of Trump’s business practices and which raised questions about his alleged ties to Mafia figures. Lasswell asked Gigot for a book leave for the remainder of the election. Gigot, who had been critical of Trump, took a “sudden turn” on the candidate, the source said. In a note to staff on July 5, Gigot announced Lasswell’s leave.
White House Staff
Washington Post, How Steve Bannon’s views were shaped by his Navy service during the Iran hostage crisis, Michael Kranish and Craig Whitlock, Feb. 10, 2017. The failed rescue in 1980 was one of the defining moments of Bannon’s life, providing a searing example of failed military and presidential leadership — one that he carries with him as President Trump’s chief strategist. He has said he wasn’t interested in politics until he concluded then-President Jimmy Carter had undercut the Navy and blown the mission. (Bannon is shown in a recent Time Magazine cover photo.)
Washington Post, Good news: In two years, we’ll have a new president. Bad news: If we make it that long, Kathleen Parker, Feb. 10, 2017. Enough Americans, including most independent voters, will be so ready to shed Donald Trump and his little shop of horrors that the 2018 midterm elections are all but certain to be a landslide — no, make that a mudslide — sweep of the House and Senate. If Republicans took both houses in a groundswell of the people’s rejection of Obamacare, Democrats will take them back in a tsunami of protest.
Once ensconced, it would take a Democratic majority approximately 30 seconds to begin impeachment proceedings selecting from an accumulating pile of lies, overreach and just plain sloppiness. That is, assuming Trump hasn’t already been shown the exit.
Washington Post, Angry Utahns pack Chaffetz’s home state town hall, Staff report, Feb. 10, 2017. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) got a frosty reception in his home state on Feb. 9, at a town hall. Angry constituents packed a high school auditorium, grilled the high-ranking congressman with questions and peppered him with boos and chants while protesters amassed outside.
Washington Post, White House considers rewriting immigration order, Matt Zapotosky, Philip Rucker and Rachel Weiner, Feb. 10, 2017. After an appeals court declined to reinstate the travel ban, the administration is weighing whether to restore some aspects of the executive order or replace the ban that affects seven Muslim-majority nations with other face-saving measures. Government lawyers could alternatively wage a battle in the lower courts to address more squarely whether the president’s directive violates the Constitution.
Washington Post, Sweeping immigration enforcement raids occur in at least 6 states, Abigail Hauslohner, Lisa Rein and Sandhya Somashekhar, Feb. 10, 2017. A Homeland Security spokeswoman said the actions were “routine.” However, they appeared to signal a departure from Obama administration policy, which prioritized criminals. The raids, which appeared to target scores of undocumented immigrants, including those without criminal records, mark the first larges cale episode of immigration enforcement inside the United States since President Trump’s Jan. 26 order to crack down on the estimated 11 million immigrants living here illegally.
It also appeared to signal a departure from the Obama administration’s prioritized immigration enforcement against criminals. Trump has pledged to deport up to 3 million undocumented immigrants with criminal records.
Word of the raids quickly circulated among immigrants, activists and on social media, creating such widespread panic in immigrant communities that a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said the department had decided to take the unprecedented step of confirming some details of the raids while the raids were ongoing.
Gillian Christensen, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), confirmed that ICE agents this week had raided homes and workplaces in Atlanta, the Los Angeles area and two other cities that she declined to identify, as part of “routine” immigration enforcement actions. ICE does not use the term raids.
But immigration activists said Friday that they had documented ICE raids of unusual intensity in the last 48 hours in Vista, Pomona and Compton, Calif.; Austin, Dallas, and Pflugerville, Texas; Alexandria and Annandale, Va.; Charlotte and Burlington, N.C.; Plant City, Fla.; the Hudson Valley region of New York; and Wichita, Kan.
There were also reports of ICE checkpoints, targeting immigrants for random ID checks, in North Carolina and in Austin.
Politico, CIA freezes out top Flynn aide, Kenneth P. Vogel and Josh Dawsey, Feb. 10, 2017. The agency denied a security clearance for a key aide to the National Security Adviser — ratcheting up tensions between Flynn and the intel community. A top deputy to National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was rejected for a critical security clearance, effectively ending his tenure on the National Security Council and escalating tensions between Flynn and the intelligence community.
On Friday, one of Flynn’s closest deputies on the National Security Council, senior director for Africa Robin Townley, was informed that the Central Intelligence Agency had rejected his request for an elite security clearance required for service on the NSC, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation. One of the sources said that the rejection was approved by Trump’s CIA director Mike Pompeo (shown in an official photo) and that it infuriated Flynn and his allies.
Politico, Sidney Blumenthal taken in by Fred Trump campaign ads that appear to be fake, Peter Sterne, Feb. 10, 2017. A pair of racially charged videos that purport to be campaign ads created for Donald Trump's father in 1969 appear to be well-produced hoaxes, according to a Politico review of YouTube records and those of the group that posted them. Long-time Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal referenced the videos in a recent essay about Trump published in the London Review of Books. But the videos were not actually created by Fred Trump's campaign, because the campaign never existed.
Associated Press via San Francisco Chronicle, UN chief: Tanzanian to lead Hammarskjold air crash review, Edith M. Lederer, Feb. 10, 2017. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appointed Tanzania’s former chief justice to review potential new information, including from South Africa, on the mysterious 1961 plane crash that killed U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold.
U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Friday that Mohamed Chande Othman, who recently retired as Tanzania’s top judge, would lead the review which former U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon called for in August and the General Assembly requested in a resolution adopted on Dec. 23.
Washington Post, Appeals court rules 3 to 0 against Trump on travel ban, Greg Miller, Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima, Feb. 9, 2017. Previously barred refugees, immigrants can continue entering the U.S. The judges rejected the argument that President Trump’s order should be reinstated for national security reasons and forcefully asserted their ability to serve as a check on his power. Trump reacted angrily on Twitter, posting just minutes after the ruling, “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”
Washington Post, National security adviser Flynn discussed sanctions with Russian ambassador, despite denials, officials say, Greg Miller, Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima, Feb. 9, 2017. National security adviser Michael Flynn privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials, current and former U.S. officials said.
Flynn’s communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were interpreted by some senior U.S. officials as an inappropriate and potentially illegal signal to the Kremlin that it could expect a reprieve from sanctions that were being imposed by the Obama administration in late December to punish Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 election.
Flynn on Wednesday denied that he had discussed sanctions with Kislyak. Asked in an interview whether he had ever done so, he twice said, “No.”
Washington Post, Jared Kushner quietly pulls strings on U.S.-Mexico relations, Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker and Joshua Partlow. Feb. 9, 2017. Back-channel talks by Trump’s son-in-law — now a White House adviser — reveal him to be almost a shadow secretary of state, operating outside the State Department and National Security Council.
Washington Post, Trump agrees to follow one-China policy in a call with President Xi Jinping. Feb. 9, 2017. Earlier, Trump questioned that bedrock policy, President Donald Trump held an “extremely cordial” conversation with China’s Xi Jinping late Thursday evening and agreed, at Xi’s request, to honor the one-China policy, the White House said in a statement. The policy forms the bedrock of the U.S.-China diplomatic ties, but has been publicly questioned by Trump, causing tension with Beijing.
Supreme Court PR Trick?
Huffington Post, Trump's Supreme Court nominee calls president's attack on judge 'demoralizing,' Cristian Farias, Feb. 9, 2017. U.S. Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch reportedly said remarks President Donald Trump had made about the federal judge who had blocked his executive order were "disheartening."
Washington Post, It’s not impossible that Trump orchestrated the whole Gorsuch leak episode, Chris Cillizza, Feb. 9, 2017. Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, criticized the chief executive's attacks on the federal judge who put his travel ban on hold late last week. Gorsuch reportedly called those attacks “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”
On its face, this is a remarkable story. The man whom Trump picked to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court is turning on the president just a week after he was nominated.
But dig a little deeper and the conspiracy theories begin to seem, well, not so conspiratorial. The whole story originated with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) after a meeting with Gorsuch. Blumenthal said that during the meeting Gorsuch had used the words “disheartening” and “demoralizing” to describe Trump's comment. He said that he then asked Gorsuch if he could publicize those comments and Gorsuch said he could.
You can see why people might raise an eyebrow. After all, what better way for Gorsuch to overcome Democratic senators' skepticism about him than to show some independence from Trump? What better signal that he recognizes the clear separation between the executive branch and the judicial branch? Even if you don't believe in conspiracy theories, you'd be hard-pressed to come up with a better scenario to help establish Gorsuch as his own man, not beholden to the president.
New Alabama Senator Replaces Sessions
Washington Post, Meet Luther Strange, the man replacing Jeff Sessions in the Senate, Amber Phillips, Feb. 9, 2017. On the same day that Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions was sworn in as U.S. attorney general, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) appointed one of the state's most-watched Republican politicians to fill Sessions's now-vacant U.S. Senate seat: Luther Strange. Strange, the sitting Alabama attorney general, has been groomed for this job for decades, insiders say, and if he can win election in 2018, he could hold it for decades to come.
But, it's Alabama, so there's always political intrigue afoot. In appointing Strange, 63, to the Senate on Thursday, Bentley has in some ways appointed his political foe. And that has put the embattled governor on the defensive back home. Here's what you need to know about the next senator from Alabama and how it could change the state's politics:
Washington Post, Sen. John McCain initially referred to the raid as a "failure" but later dialed back his criticism, John Wagner and Karoun Demirjian, Feb. 9, 2017. President Trump lashed out at Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Thursday, saying that the senator’s negative assessment of a deadly raid in Yemen last month “emboldens the enemy!” McCain initially referred to the raid as “a failure” but later dialed back his criticism, saying in a statement Tuesday that some objectives were fulfilled in the mission but that he would “not describe any operation that results in the loss of American life as a success.”
Another White House Gaffe? Ethics Scandal?
Washington Post, Conway ‘counseled’ for touting Ivanka Trump’s products, White House says, Drew Harwell, Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman, Feb. 9, 2017. White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not elaborate on the counseling, but experts have said Kellyanne Conway may have broken a key ethics rule Thursday morning when she told TV audiences to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff.”
Washington Post, Conway may have broken key ethics rule by touting Ivanka Trump’s products, experts say, Drew Harwell, Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman, Attorneys with expertise in ethics laws said Kellyanne Conway’s endorsement directly conflicted with rules designed to separate government policy from private business dealings. President Trump’s official counselor, Kellyanne Conway, may have broken a key ethics rule Thursday morning when she told TV audiences to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff.”
Federal employees are banned from using their public office to endorse products, regulations state. Conway, speaking to “Fox & Friends” viewers from the White House briefing room, was responding to boycotts of Ivanka Trump merchandise and Nordstrom’s discontinuation of stocking her clothing and shoe lines, which the retailer said was in response to low sales and which the president assailed as unfair.
Said Peter Schweizer, who has worked closely with Trump aide Stephen K. Bannon and wrote the book “Clinton Cash,” which was critical of donations to the Clinton Foundation: “They’ve crossed a very, very important bright line, and it’s not good. To encourage Americans to buy goods from companies owned by the first family is totally out of bounds and needs to stop.
Washington Post, Spicer claims he ‘clearly meant Orlando’ after citing mystery Atlanta terrorist attack three times, Katie Mettler, Feb. 9, 2017. The incident drew comparisons to Kellyanne Conway's “Bowling Green massacre.”
Labor Secretary Tom Perez, now a contender for the Democratic Party national chairmanship, speaks at the National Press Club on June 22, 2016 (Justice Integrity Project photo)
Intercept, Tom Perez Apologizes for Telling the Truth, Showing Why Democrats’ Flaws Urgently Need Attention, Glenn Greenwald, Feb. 9, 2017. The more alarmed one is by the Trump administration, the more one should focus on how to fix the systemic, fundamental sickness of the Democratic Party. That Hillary Clinton won the meaningless popular vote on her way to losing to Donald Trump, and that the singular charisma of Barack Obama kept him popular, have enabled many to ignore just how broken and failed the Democrats are as a national political force.
In Tom Perez’s conduct, one sees the mentality and posture that has shaped the Democratic Party: a defense of jobs-killing free trade agreements that big corporate funders love; an inability to speak plainly and without desperately clinging to focus-grouped, talking-points scripts; a petrified fear of addressing controversial issues even (especially) when they involve severe human rights violations by allies; a religious-like commitment never to offend rich donors; and a limitless willingness to publicly abase oneself in pursuit of power by submitting to an apology ritual for having told the truth.
One can spend all of one’s time and energy denouncing Donald Trump. But until the systemic causes that gave rise to him are addressed and resolved, those denunciations will do little other than generate social media benefits and flattering applause from those already devoted to opposing him. Focusing on and attempting to counter the fundamental flaws of the Democratic Party is not a distraction from #TheResistance; it is a central priority, a prerequisite for any kind of success.
Related news: Sacramento Bee, California’s John Burton backs Keith Ellison for DNC chair, Christopher Cadelago, Feb. 7, 2017. California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton waded Tuesday into the race for Democratic National Committee chairman, endorsing Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., over his rivals, including former Labor Secretary Tom Perez.
Deep State Intrigue
WhoWhatWhy, Dark Shadows: Iran-Contra, Secret Wars & Covert Operations, Part 3, Doug Vaughan, Feb. 9, 2017. From Watergate to Iran-Contra to the present, official lies have justified public crimes. When exposed, crimes unpunished to protect deeper secrets create an alternate reality in which the propaganda of power secures impunity for the powerful.Feb. 8
Washington Post, As court weighs travel ban, Trump calls opposition ‘disgraceful,’ Matt Zapotosky and Robert Barnes, Feb. 8, 2017. In a speech to law enforcement officials in Washington, Trump defended the immigration order a day after three federal appellate judges lobbed critical inquiries at those challenging and defending the plan that blocks the entry of people from Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Syria and Yemen. Trump appeared to describe the legal challenges as “horrible, dangerous and wrong.”
The panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on Tuesday aggressively questioned a Justice Department lawyer about what he considered the limits on the president’s power and what evidence Trump relied upon in temporarily barring refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
But the panel similarly interrogated Washington state’s solicitor general, who is challenging the president’s directive, over what evidence he had to demonstrate religious discrimination and whether a lower-court judge’s freeze on the ban was too broad.
Around the Nation
WJLA-TV (Washington, DC) via KOMO, Gay man hospitalized after alleged attack in Washington by men who cited 'Trump America,' Staff report, Feb. 9, 2017. A gay man is recovering after being attacked in Logan Circle, allegedly by four men who cited 'Trump America' last week, D.C. police have confirmed with WJLA. According to the police report, the man was walking his dog near the corner of 13th St. and Vermont Ave. NW in Logan Circle at around 7 p.m. Wednesday.
According to the report, four white men between 20-30 years old, approached him, with one suspect saying "Hey Snowflake!" followed by, "This is what a Trump America looks like, f****t!"
The suspects then allegedly started throwing things at the man. After reportedly hitting the man with the objects they were throwing "countless times in the face and head," the suspects allegedly ran away. When WJLA called the man's home Thursday, the person who was assisting him said he suffered a pretty severe concussion from the beating. After initial treatment, the man's concussion reportedly flared up and he returned to the hospital.
New Republic, Democratic Collapse Under Obama, Inside the Fall of Obama’s Grassroots Army, Micah L. Sifry, Feb. 9, 2017. The untold story of Obama’s biggest mistake — and how it paved the way for Trump. He built a grassroots machine of two million supporters eager to fight for change. Then he let it die. This is the untold story of Obama’s biggest mistake—and how it paved the way for Trump.
The grassroots discontent that Obama had harnessed so skillfully in 2008 would soon belong to the right. "Obama’s army was eager to be put to work. Of the 550,000 people who responded to the survey, 86 percent said they wanted to help Obama pass legislation through grassroots support; 68 percent wanted to help elect state and local candidates who shared his vision. Most impressive of all, more than 50,000 said they personally wanted to run for elected office.
But they never got that chance. In late December, Plouffe and a small group of senior staffers finally made the call, which was endorsed by Obama. The entire campaign machine, renamed Organizing for America, would be folded into the DNC, where it would operate as a fully controlled subsidiary of the Democratic Party. Plouffe stayed on as senior adviser, and put trusted field organizers Mitch Stewart and Jeremy Bird in charge of the new group. Bird says the OFA team was never even told about the idea for Movement 2.0. “None of these documents were even shared with us,” he says. “I’m not sure the senior staff on the campaign even knew they existed.”
Obama unveiled OFA a week before his inauguration. “Volunteers, grassroots leaders, and ordinary citizens will continue to drive the organization,” he promised. But that’s not what happened. Shunted into the DNC, MyBO’s tools for self-organizing were dismantled within a year. Instead of calling on supporters to launch a voter registration drive or build a network of small donors or back state and local candidates, OFA deployed the campaign’s vast email list to hawk coffee mugs and generate thank-you notes to Democratic members of Congress who backed Obama’s initiatives. As a result, when the political going got rough, much of Obama’s once-mighty army was AWOL
Republicans, on the other hand, wasted no time in building a grassroots machine of their own—one that proved capable of blocking Obama at almost every turn. Within weeks of his inauguration, conservative activists began calling for local “tea parties” to oppose the president’s plan to help foreclosed homeowners. FreedomWorks, an antitax group led by former Representative Dick Armey, and Americans for Prosperity, funded by the Koch brothers, quietly coordinated hundreds of nationwide demonstrations designed to look like a spontaneous populist uprising. When members of Congress went home for the summer to hold town hall meetings with their constituents, they were confronted by well-organized and disruptive protests over health care reform. The grassroots discontent that Obama had harnessed so skillfully in 2008 now belonged to the right."
Politico, Trump blasts Nordstrom for dropping Ivanka’s clothing line, Aidan Quigley, Feb. 8, 2017. President Donald Trump blasted luxury department store line Nordstrom for dropping his daughter Ivanka Trump’s label. “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.
Nordstrom announced Feb. 5 that they would stop carrying Ivanka Trump’s label due to its performance. “We've said all along we make buying decisions based on performance," Nordstrom said in a statement to The Associated Press on Feb 3. "We've got thousands of brands — more than 2,000 offered on the site alone. Reviewing their merit and making edits is part of the regular rhythm of our business."
Nordstrom had issued an internal statement in support of immigrants following Trump’s executive order temporarily barring immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries just three days before dropping Ivanka Trump’s line. The move also comes amid a #GrabYourWallet hashtag calling for a boycott of all Trump products.
Huffington Post, Jeff Sessions confirmed as attorney general, Ryan J. Reilly and Michael McAuliff, Feb. 8, 2017. The vote for his confirmation broke mostly on party lines. And take a look at Sen. Elizabeth Warren's tweetstorm saying she'll persist after Sessions' confirmation.
InfoWars, Leaked Docs: Brock Conspires with Facebook, Google to Shut Down Conservative Media, Jerome R. Corsi, Feb. 8, 2017. Radical left launches scorched earth policy against free speech.
Privacy and Security
CityLab, Cellphone Spy Tools Have Flooded Local Police Departments, George Joseph, Feb. 8, 2017. Major cities throughout the U.S. have spent millions on mobile surveillance tools—but there are still few rules about what happens to the information they capture.
The cell phone surveillance tools your local police department may have on hand "The majority of these departments have at least one of two main types of digital-age spy tools: cellphone interception devices, used to covertly track or grab data from nearby mobile devices, and cellphone extraction devices, used to crack open locked phones that are in police possession and scoop out all sorts of private communications and content."
Oval Office Business Announcement
Washington Post, The unanswered question in Trump’s announcement of a $7 billion Intel investment, Ana Swanson, Feb. 8, 2017. Intel's chief executive said the company made the announcement in response to President Trump's business-friendly policies on taxes and regulation. Some analysts question whether the company would have made the investment anyway.
Washington Post, Defense, intelligence officials push back on proposal to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as terrorists, Karen DeYoung, Feb. 8, 2017. Senior officials have cautioned the White House that a proposed executive order could endanger U.S. troops in Iraq and the overall fight against the Islamic State, and would be an unprecedented use of a law that was not designed to sanction government institutions.
The order would direct the State Department — in charge of the designation process — to move toward declaring them terrorist organizations. Designating the Revolutionary Guard — a force of more than 100,000 that fields an army, navy and air force, in addition to wielding significant economic power — would mark the first time the Foreign Terrorist Organizations law has been applied to an official government institution.
Created by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini after the 1979 Islamic revolution as a counterweight to the suspect loyalties of the Iranian military, the Revolutionary Guard is both the guardian of internal security and a conventional fighting force that has been deployed overseas, including in Iraq and Syria.
Reuters, Erdogan, Trump agree joint action against Islamic State in Syria: Turkish sources, Tulay Karadeniz and Humeyra Pamuk, Feb. 8, 2017. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed in an overnight phone call on joint action against Islamic State in the Syrian towns of Raqqa and al-Bab, both held by the militants, Turkish presidency sources said on Wednesday.
U.S.-Turkish differences during former President Barack Obama's administration impeded the U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State, and closer coordination could mean faster progress towards freeing swathes of northern Syria from IS. Erdogan (shown in a file photo) now hopes that relations with Washington, strained by the presence in the United States of a cleric he blames for an attempted military coup last year and by U.S. support for Kurdish militia in Syria, can be reset under Trump.
Truthout, Trump's Hard Line on Iran Will Give Saudis Free Hand in Yemen, Gareth Porter, Feb. 8, 2017. Thousands more Yemeni children will likely die of hunger due to Trump's unreserved support for Saudi Arabia's war. The Trump administration's truculent warning last week that it was putting Iran "on notice" over its recent missile test and a missile strike on a Saudi warship off the coast of Yemen appears calculated to convince the American public that the current administration is going to be tougher on Iran than the Obama administration was.
Al.com, Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman on his return says he feels 'like a refugee,' Kent Faulk, Feb. 8, 2017. Former Gov. Don Siegelman waved to sign-toting supporters gathered at a Birmingham street corner Wednesday afternoon as the silver Jaguar carrying him slowly passed by. Siegelman, 70, still wearing his gray prison shirt with his prison registration number 24775-001 on it, had been met at the Birmingham-Shuttleworth airport by friends, family members and longtime supporters shortly before then. He had been released earlier in the day from the federal prison at Oakdale, La., where he was serving a sentence for a bribery conviction.
"I feel like a refugee coming into New York," Siegelman said as he was greeted friends and family at the airport.
His daughter immediately stepped forward to stop her dad's comments. "Dad, dad, you are not allowed to speak to the media. You'll go straight back to prison. Zip it. Zip it. Zip it." Siegelman told his daughter that he wasn't speaking to the media. "I'm speaking to my friends. There's a big difference." A family spokesman had previously said that Siegelman would not be able to speak, or have interviews, with reporters while on home detention.
Siegelman's daughter, Dana Siegelman, had said before her father arrived that "it will be a raw and wonderful reunion ... I am just happy he is home," she said. Pam Miles, a long-time friend of Siegelman who worked on his 2006 campaign, said: "Don has kept the faith." Miles emailed with Siegelman daily and received the occasional phone call and letter.
Al Qaeda chief targeted in deadly Yemen raid is now taunting Trump
NBC News, Yemen Raid Had Secret Target: Al Qaeda Leader Qassim Al-Rimi, Cynthia McFadden, William M. Arkin and Tracy Connor, Feb. 7, 2017 (video 2:51 min.). The Navy SEAL raid in Yemen last week had a secret objective — the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who survived and is now taunting President Donald Trump in an audio message. Military and intelligence officials told NBC News the goal of the massive operation was to capture or kill Qassim al-Rimi (shown above in an al Qaeda photo), considered the third most dangerous terrorist in the world and a master recruiter.
But while one SEAL, 14 al Qaeda fighters and some civilians, including an 8-year-old girl, were killed during a firefight, al-Rimi is still alive and in Yemen, multiple military officials said. On Sunday, al-Rimi — who landed on the United States' most-wanted terrorist list after taking over al Qaeda's Yemen affiliate in 2015 — released an audio recording that military sources said is authentic.
"The fool of the White House got slapped at the beginning of his road in your lands," he said in an apparent reference to the Jan. 29 raid. It's not clear whether al-Rimi was at the al Qaeda camp but escaped when SEAL Team 6 and United Arab Emirates commandos descended, whether he happened to be elsewhere, or whether he was even tipped off. The White House, the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command had no comment on Monday, but issued a series of denials on Tuesday.
The Pentagon's chief spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, disputed that al-Rimi was the target of the raid. "I can tell you it's not true," he said, adding that the military "never had any hope, intention or plan" of killing or capturing the AQAP leader in the operation.
WhoWhatWhy, Donald J. Trump and the Deep State, Part 2, Peter Dale Scott, Feb. 7, 2017. The world’s richest are now more likely to be Internet billionaires than traditional “captains of industry.” However, these young mavericks are still trying to shape the world in a way that suits them. With regard to the deep state, the players may have changed, but the game remains the same.
Washington Post, Republicans vote to rebuke Elizabeth Warren, saying she impugned Jeff Sessions’s character, Paul Kane and Ed O'Keefe, Feb. 7, 2017. In an extraordinarily rare move, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Democrat had breached Senate rules by reading past statements from Coretta Scott King and others critical of Sessions, a senator who is Trump’s attorney general nominee. "She was warned. She was given an explanation,” McConnell said of Warren. “Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Video: After being rebuked, Warren reads Coretta Scott King's letter about Sessions just outside Senate chamber.
Washington Post, Department of Defense looks to rent space in Trump Tower, Drew Harwell, Feb. 7, 2017. The Pentagon said the move is needed to support the president at his New York residence. But it also could directly funnel government money into Trump’s business interests.
Trump Blames Media, Judge For Terror Attacks Kill Americans
Washington Post, White House blames media for under reporting 78 terrorist attacks, Staff report (video), Feb. 7, 2017. President Trump lashed out at the media for terrorist attacks that he said are "not even being reported," and the White House followed up by releasing a list of 78 terrorist attacks that it says are "under reported." Here's a look at what's on the list, and what's not.
Washington Post, Trump plays the terrorism blame-game, preemptively accusing courts and media, Philip Rucker, Feb. 7, 2017. The president’s approach is in keeping with how he ran his campaign, looking for scapegoats at nearly every turn. The move is not without risk.
Washington Post, Largely and glaringly missing from Trump’s list of terrorist attacks: Non-Western victims, Katie Mettler and Derek Hawkins, Feb. 7, 2017. In 2015, nearly three-quarters of all deaths from terrorist attacks occurred in five countries — Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria, according to the State Department. The White House chose not to include any attacks from Iraq, Nigeria and Syria on its list.
Washington Post, Trump’s loose talk about Muslims gets weaponized as court prepares to hear arguments about travel ban, Fred Barbash and Derek Hawkins, Feb. 7, 2017. The states of Washington and Minnesota, which sued to block President Trump’s order, are citing his inflammatory rhetoric as evidence that the government’s claims — it’s not a ban and not aimed at Muslims — are shams.
Roll Call, Pence Casts Historic Tie-Breaking Vote to Confirm DeVos, Bridget Bowman, Feb. 7, 2017. For the first time ever, the vice president (shown in a file photo) was called to Capitol Hill to break the tie on a vote to confirm a member of the Cabinet.
Roll Call, Puzder Employed Undocumented Housekeeper, Niels Lesniewski, Feb. 7, 2017. Labor nominee has paid back taxes. Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder (shown in a file photo) said Monday evening that he had employed a housekeeper who did not have the proper documents to work in the United States.
“My wife and I employed a housekeeper for a few years, during which I was unaware that she was not legally permitted to work in the U.S.,” Puzder said in a written statement Monday. “When I learned of her status, we immediately ended her employment and offered her assistance in getting legal status. We have fully paid back taxes to the IRS and the state of California and submitted all required paperwork.”
The admission should not impact his confirmation hearing, said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which will hold the confirmation hearing. “Based upon what I’ve learned, since Mr. Puzder reported his mistake and voluntarily corrected it, I do not believe that this should disqualify him from being a cabinet secretary.” His hearing was delayed for the fourth time last week and has yet to be rescheduled.
It’s unclear when Puzder employed the undocumented housekeeper or whether the revelation is the reason behind the delay in his confirmation hearing. Puzder is the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which owns burger chains Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.
The Office of Government Ethics has yet to review Puzder’s review of his finances. An FBI background check also has not been completed. Puzder isn’t the first Trump Cabinet nominee to have issues with not paying taxes on a household employee. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, the staunch conservative nominated to become President-elect Donald Trump’s budget chief, failed to pay more than $15,000 in federal payroll taxes for a past household employee, he told the Senate Budget Committee in a questionnaire.
Author Publishes Cutting-Edge Report
Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Trump chief adviser was aide to two CNOs during the largest pedophile crime in U.S. naval history, Wayne Madsen, Feb. 7, 2017 (subscription required.) Wayne Madsen is an investigative reporter, prolific op-ed writer for U.S. and international publications, and author of 15 books, most recently The Almost Classified Guide to CIA Front Companies, Proprietaries & Contractors (2016), a 350-page encyclopedia of known CIA partners in the private sector.
Melania Crushes Blogger Who Claimed She Was Escort and Complains In New Suit About 'Missing Out' On Millions As First Lady
Washington Post, Maryland blogger to pay ‘substantial sum’ to settle Melania Trump libel lawsuit, Dan Morse, Feb. 7, 2017. First lady Melania Trump has settled her defamation lawsuit against a Maryland blogger, who agreed to apologize to the Trump family and pay her a “substantial sum,” her lawyers said in a statement they released Tuesday morning.
“I posted an article on August 2, 2016 about Melania Trump that was replete with false and defamatory statements about her,” the blogger, Webster Tarpley, said in the statement provided by Trump’s attorneys. Tarpley, 71 of Gaithersburg (shown in a file photo), did not immediately respond to requests for comment. One of his attorneys, Danielle D. Giroux, confirmed that a settlement had been reached.
The blogger’s article in August, reported about unfounded rumors that Melania Trump once worked as an escort. “I had no legitimate factual basis to make these false statements and I fully retract them,” according to comments attributed to Tarpley by the Trump attorneys in their statement.
“I acknowledge that these false statements were very harmful and hurtful to Mrs. Trump and her family, and therefore I sincerely apologize to Mrs. Trump, her son, her husband and her parents for making these false statements.”
Washington Post, Melania Trump missed out on ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ to make millions, lawsuit says, Tom Hamburger, Feb. 7, 2017. An attorney for first lady Melania Trump (shown above in a file photo) argued in a lawsuit filed Monday that an article falsely alleging that she once worked for an escort service hurt her chance to establish “multimillion dollar business relationships” during the years in which she would be “one of the most photographed women in the world.”
The suit — filed Monday in New York Supreme Court, a state trial court, in Manhattan — against Mail Media, the owner of the Daily Mail, said the article published by the Daily Mail and its online division last August caused Trump’s brand, Melania, to lose “significant value” as well as “major business opportunities that were otherwise available to her.” The suit said the article had damaged her “unique, once in a lifetime opportunity” to “launch a broad-based commercial brand.”
“These product categories would have included, among other things, apparel accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed on Trump’s behalf by California attorney Charles Harder.
Neither Harder nor the White House responded to requests for comment late Monday. Harder has represented several high-profile clients, including wrestler Hulk Hogan, who won a $140 million invasion of privacy verdict against Gawker last year.
The suit filed Monday did not spell out a plan by Trump to market her products during her tenure as first lady, but mentioned that her reputation had suffered just as she was experiencing a “multi-year term” of elevated publicity. The suit says the Daily Mail article “impugned her fitness to perform her duties as First Lady of the United States.”
A similar suit had been filed against Mail Media and a local blogger in Maryland.
A Maryland judge recently dismissed the case against the Daily Mail on jurisdictional grounds. On Tuesday, the law firm representing the first lady said she had settled with the Gaithersburg blogger, Webster Tarpley, who agreed to apologize and pay her a “substantial sum,” said a statement from the law firm representing Melania Trump.
Editor's Note: Part of the context of the disputed commentary last summer was front page reports in New York tabloids showing nude photos of Melania Trump from her early modeling days, claims that she did not have legal immigration status to work as a model, refusals by the Trump campaign to comment in detail on the allegations, and high-profile claims by the campaign and its surrogates of sexual misconduct and degeneracy against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and her aides.
Washington Post, Melania Trump ‘has no intention’ of profiting from public position, representatives say, Tom Hamburger, Feb. 7, 2017. The declaration came a day after the first lady alleged in a lawsuit that a 2016 article by a British news company had hurt her “unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to build a profitable brand.
Conservative Columnist's Opinion
Washington Post, Trump must stop lying or Americans will think he is nuts, Jennifer Rubin, Feb. 7, 2017. Speaking to the U.S. Central Command on Monday, President Trump went off his prepared remarks to make a truly stunning claim: The media was intentionally covering up reports of terrorist attacks. “You’ve seen what happened in Paris, and Nice. All over Europe, it’s happening,” he said to the assembled military leaders. “It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.”
Washington Post, Congress has the power to obtain and release Trump’s tax returns, George K. Yin, Feb. 7, 2017. George K. Yin is a professor of law and taxation at the University of Virginia and a former chief of staff of the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation. Though our new president may not realize it, Congress has the power to obtain his tax returns and reveal them to the public without his consent, including returns under audit. As just urged by Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.), legislators seeking information on President Trump’s possible conflicts of interest should immediately exercise this authority rather than wait for the passage of new veto-proof legislation — a highly uncertain prospect — that would have the same effect.
The ability of Congress to disclose confidential tax information was added to the law almost 100 years ago. Since the Civil War, when it began requiring taxpayers to submit private information to the government to comply with the tax laws, Congress has struggled to balance the privacy interests of taxpayers with the public’s right to know. Eventually, Congress decided that tax information should remain confidential except in two situations. First, it authorized the president to determine whether any tax information could be disclosed. And, in 1924, it gave the same power to certain congressional committees.
Washington Post, Is the former White House photographer trolling Trump with photos of Obama? Avi Selk, Feb. 7, 2017. While some relive Obama’s presidency through Pete Souza’s Instagram account, others look for a hidden message.
Washington Post, DeVos confirmation expected to be narrowest vote ever of a Cabinet nominee, Emma Brown, Feb. 7, 2017. Hours before Vice President Pence was likely to break a tie in the vote for Betsy DeVos as education secretary, Democrats took to the Senate floor in a last-ditch effort to persuade one more Republican to break party ranks and derail the confirmation. But as the hours wore on, it became increasingly clear that their effort would likely fail.
Trump White House
Fox News’ anchor Bill O’Reilly interviewing President Donald Trump
Consortium News, Castigating Trump for Truth-Telling, Robert Parry, Feb. 7, 2017. President Trump says much that is untrue, but he draws some of Official Washington’s greatest opprobrium when he speaks the truth, such as noting that senior U.S. officials have done a lot of killing. Gaining acceptance in Official Washington is a lot like getting admittance into a secret society’s inner sanctum by uttering some nonsensical password. In Washington to show you belong, you must express views that are patently untrue or blatantly hypocritical.
For instance, you might be called upon to say that “Iran is the principal source of terrorism” when that title clearly belongs to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf state allies that have funded Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the Islamic State. But truth has no particularly value in Official Washington; adherence to “group think” is what’s important.
Similarly, you might have to deny any “moral equivalence” between killings attributed to Russian President Vladimir Putin and killings authorized by U.S. presidents. In this context, the fact that the urbane Barack Obama scheduled time one day a week to check off people for targeted assassinations isn’t relevant. Nor is the reality that Donald Trump has joined this elite club of official killers by approving a botched and bloody raid in Yemen that slaughtered a number of women and children (and left one U.S. soldier dead, too).
Huffington Post, “Want to give his name? We’ll destroy his career,” Trump said, to laughter, Sam Levine, Feb. 7, 2017. President Donald Trump threatened to “destroy” the career of a Texas state senator after a Texas sheriff accused the lawmaker of getting in his way by promoting asset forfeiture reform. “Want to give his name? We’ll destroy his career,” Trump told Sheriff Harold Eavenson of Rockwall County, Texas. Trump’s comment was met with laughter and Eavenson declined to give the official’s name.
Washington Post, Five books to understand Stephen K. Bannon, James Hohmann With Breanne Deppisch, Feb. 7, 2017. Trump’s chief strategist looks to Sun-Tzu and Hindu scripture, trying to learn the right lessons of Vietnam. Not even three weeks into his job as President Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon has become a bigger boogeyman on the left than Karl Rove or Lee Atwater ever were. “Saturday Night Live” depicted him as both the Grim Reaper and the real president. Nancy Pelosi calls him “a white supremacist.” Others describe him as a modern-day Rasputin.
The crude caricatures obscure the complex intellectual influences that motivate the 63-year-old, who ran Breitbart News before joining the Trump campaign last summer. He’s been an officer in the U.S. Navy, earned his MBA from Harvard and succeeded as an investment banker, including at Goldman Sachs. Everyone who has ever worked with Bannon describes him as an intense bibliophile who is deeply familiar with history, from Europe to ancient Greece, and the literary canon.
Privacy and Security
RayMcGovern, NSA Veteran Bill Binney Spreads Some Truth Around, Feb. 7, 2017. Former NSA Technical Director William Binney gave an excellent interview to WBAI radio’s Randy Credico on January 31. What Bill has to say should be REQUIRED LISTENING for those who feel a need for a cogent explanation, in understandable, non-technical language, of how NSA has been playing fast and loose with the Bill of Rights.
Bill says the snooping has progressed to the point where the initials NSA now stand for “New Stasi Agency,” because NSA has become the East German Stasi (secret police) on steroids. Those who have seen the 2006 Academy Award winning “The Lives of Others” (Das Leben der Anderen) are likely to have a fuller understanding of the scarcely believable capabilities of today’s NSA and the effects that Stasi-like monitoring are already having on society. (For those who have not seen this film, it may be time you do.)
Randy Credico’s questions tease out the brutally succinct comments that are “typical Bill Binney,” dealing with questions – some of them naive — raised over recent months and years. Why should I care about “parallel construction?” for example; or “What, me worry? I have nothing to hide.” Binney tackles these head on. Ray uses some of the highlights – like “parallel construction” for further comment below:
Binney’s segment runs from minute 33:30 to 58:20. (It is preceded by an interesting interview of UK Ambassador Craig Murray – also worth a listen.)
Around the Nation
Washington Post, A Christian school said it helped troubled kids. It covered up sex abuse instead, lawsuit says, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Feb. 7, 2017. In many ways, the children were the perfect victims — at-risk youth with a history of disobedience, hundreds of miles from home. The children shipped to Miracle Meadows boarding school usually arrived with a long list of behavioral problems.
Some had been diagnosed with ADHD, bipolar or oppositional defiant disorders that had frustrated schools and family members for years. Others had been given a choice by a judge: Miracle Meadows or jail. So school administrators, in particular Susan Gayle Clark, who started the Salem, W.Va. school affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1988, ruled with “an iron fist.” But the strict discipline often crossed the line into abuse, investigators found.
Worse, court documents filed last week say, a “culture of silence and secrecy” covered up years of physical and sexual abuse.
SouthFront, “Crimea was always Russian!” France’s Marine Le Pen schools CNN, Sergey Gladysh, Feb. 7, 2017. In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, France’s National Front party leader and presidential front-runner, Marine Le Pen (shown above in a file photo), said that Crimea was always Russian. Here is how the conversation went:
Amanpour: Does it not bother you that a big country broke international law and invaded and annexed a small country?
Le Pen: There was a coup d’etat in Ukraine…(interrupted)
Amanpour: That’s what you think?
Le Pen: It’s not just what I think, it’s the reality. There was a coup d’etat. There was an agreement among different nations and the next day this agreement was broken and some people took power…(interrupted)
Amanpour: After the invasion and the annexation…Yes!
Le Pen: There was no invasion of Crimea…(interrupted)
Amanpour: But they [Russia] annexed Crimea! It was part of Ukraine! And the French were part of the deal that guaranteed the independence of Ukraine in 1994.
Le Pen: Crimea was Russian. It has always been Russian.
Clare Boothe Luce as ambassador to Italy, 1953-1957 (Library of Congress photo from Carl Van Vechtan Collection)
National Security Archive, CIA Covert Aid to Italy Averaged $5 Million Annually from Late 1940s to Early 1960s, Study Finds, Dr. Ronald D. Landa (former State Department official), Feb. 7, 2017. Previously Unpublished Draft Defense Department History Explores U.S. Policy toward Italy, Spotlights Role of Flamboyant Envoy, Clare Boothe Luce. CIA covert aid to Italy continued well after the agency’s involvement in the 1948 elections – into the early 1960s – averaging around $5 million a year, according to a draft Defense Department historical study published today for the first time by the National Security Archive at the George Washington University.
The study, declassified in 2016, focuses on the role of Clare Boothe Luce as ambassador to Italy, 1953-1957.
The author also concludes that the Eisenhower administration, faced with the possibility of civil war in Italy or the Communist Party coming to power legally, was "willing to intervene militarily only if the Communists seized power forcibly and then only in concert with other European nations." (President Eisenhower is shown at his White House desk.)
Today's posted document was written by Dr. Ronald D. Landa, formerly with the State Department's Office of the Historian and the Historical Office of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. It is one of three draft studies he prepared for the latter office that were intended as chapters in a monograph on United States policy toward Europe during the Eisenhower administration. The Archive will be posting the other two studies – on U.S. policy before and during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution – as well.
Claims of Genocide In Syria
Washington Post, Rights group says Syria has secretly executed thousands of political prisoners, Liz Sly, Feb. 7, 2017 (print edition). Many of those executed at Sednaya prison between 2011-2015 were ordinary people who joined in the peaceful protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an Amnesty International report said. They were given cursory trials lasting just minutes, and then were hanged.
Syria, Provides Zero Proof, Moon of Alabama, Feb. 6, 2017. A new Amnesty International report claims that the Syrian government hanged between 5,000 and 13,000 prisoners in a military prison in Syria. The evidence for that claim is flimsy, based on hearsay of anonymous people outside of Syria. The numbers themselves are extrapolations that no scientist or court would ever accept. It is tabloid reporting and fiction-style writing from its title “Human Slaughterhouse” down to the last paragraph.
There are several difficulties with this report.
Most of the witnesses are identified as opposition figures and “former” officials who do not live in Syria. Some are said to have been remotely interviewed in Syria but it is not clear if those were living in government or insurgent held areas.
It is well known that the Syrian insurgency is financed with several billion dollars per years from foreign state governments. It runs sophisticated propaganda operations. These witnesses all seem to have interests in condemning the Syrian government. Not once is an attempt made to provide a possibly divergent view. Amnesty found the persons it questioned by contacting international NGOs like itself and known foreign-financed opposition (propaganda) groups.
Democratic Party Leadership Race
Sacramento Bee, California’s John Burton backs Keith Ellison for DNC chair, Christopher Cadelago, Feb. 7, 2017. California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton waded Tuesday into the race for Democratic National Committee chairman, endorsing Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., over his rivals, including former Labor Secretary Tom Perez. Burton, who leads the largest bloc of DNC voters, said in a statement that Ellison is committed full-time to organizing field efforts in key states.
“And I agree with him that Democrats must do a better job to motivate voters across the nation, including championing working families and their issues,” said Burton, pointing to overwhelming feedback from activists who back Ellison. “Keith knows that elections aren’t won in Washington, D.C. He understands the investment and support state parties need and will help foster a strong bench of candidates, effective field operations and open communication between the National Democratic Party and every state, especially those that need it the most.
New York Daily News, Woman claims her marriage of 22 years ended over husband’s Donald Trump vote, Jason Silverstein, Feb. 7, 2017. Donald Trump Casually Threatens To ‘Destroy’ The Career Of State Lawmaker. One woman says President Trump made her single again. A retiree in Washington State told Reuters she called it quits with her husband of 22 years because he voted for Trump — something she saw as a “deal breaker.”
“It totally undid me that he could vote for Trump,” said Gayle McCormick, 73, a retired California prison guard who called herself a “Democrat leaning toward socialist.” “I realized how far I had gone in my life to accept things I would have never accepted when I was younger.”
Professor Erwin Corey on Smothers Brothers (Uploaded on March 30, 2008)
People Magazine, Comedian Irwin Corey, 'The World's Foremost Authority,' Dies at 102, Mike Miller, Feb. 7, 2017. Irwin Corey, who Lenny Bruce once called “one of the most brilliant comedians of all time,” has died at 102. A classic “comedian’s comedian,” Corey died on Monday at his home in Manhattan, NY his son Richard confirmed to NPR.
Billed as “the world’s foremost authority” and nicknamed “professor,” Corey was known for delivering quirky one-liners and slapstick routines as a wild-haired, faux professor dressed in a beat-up tuxedo and spaghetti tie. Corey was a master of double-talk comedy and would make fun of academic pretenses by spouting strings of multisyllabic science-words in long nonsensical dialogues, often beginning with the word “however.”
“However, today we must all be aware that protocol takes precedence over procedure,” began one of his jokes. “Marx, Groucho Marx, once said that religion is the opiate of the people. I say that when religion outlives its usefulness, then opium will be the opiate. Ah, that’s not a bad idea.”
National Press Club, Institute names journalism veteran Kiely as 2017 Press Freedom Fellow, Julie Schoojsch, Feb. 7, 2017. The National Press Club Journalism Institute, the non-profit affiliate of the National Press Club, has named veteran journalist Kathy Kiely as its 2017 Press Freedom Fellow. The Press Freedom Fellowship was established in 2016 to shine a light on barriers to press freedom abroad and in the United States and to leverage the Club's unique presence and resources to highlight global press freedom issues.
Kiely has been a journalist for 40 years and a member of the National Press Club for more than 30. She has served as Washington bureau chief for the Houston Post and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, a White House correspondent for the New York Daily News and a congressional correspondent for USA TODAY.
Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump ( Club for Growth/screenshot)
Center for Public Integrity, Secret money fueling pro-Betsy DeVos ad campaigns, Carrie Levine, Feb. 6, 2017. Conservative groups making final push to save Trump's education secretary pick. Groups like the Club For Growth, have produced campaign-style advertisements in a bid to boost Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump's pick for education secretary. Only 100 U.S. senators — not the general public — will vote to approve President Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees.
But that’s not stopping several conservative organizations from launching ad blitzes promoting Trump’s Cabinet picks — most notably Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for secretary of education, who critics have panned as a wealthy partisan hack with no practical experience in public education.
Two conservative nonprofit groups in particular, the Club for Growth and America Next, are pushing back hard, producing broadcast television ads supporting confirmation of DeVos, a GOP megadonor and staunch advocate for charter schools and school vouchers. Both Club for Growth and America Next are nonprofit groups organized under Section 501(c)(4) of the federal tax code. That means their primary mission has to be social welfare, a category that includes issue advocacy ads that don’t specifically seek to influence a political election.
Such groups aren’t required to reveal their donors, which means the public has no way of knowing who is paying for the pro-DeVos ads.
WhoWhatWhy, Donald J. Trump and the Deep State, Part 1, Peter Dale Scott, Feb. 6, 2017. On the campaign trail, Donald Trump attacked Wall Street, but now he plans to roll back the recent reforms of the financial sector. This action confirms the importance of his connections to big money, both new (often self-made) and old (mostly institutional). When the uninitiated think of the “Deep State,” they tend to imagine a group of men getting together in a room, smoking cigars and plotting world domination. But the Deep State is not one coordinated network of people controlling the government from the shadows.
Instead, it refers to individuals and groups that have the resources to shape the direction of the world to their benefit and don’t hesitate to make use of them. At times, the interests of different factions of the Deep State collide. That often happens when the direction of the world is rapidly changing, as is the case now after the election of Donald Trump.
Nobody knows this better than Peter Dale Scott, the foremost expert on the US Deep State. Below, you will find a new introduction to the paperback version of The American Deep State: Big Money, Big Oil, and the Struggle for U.S. Democracy, Updated Edition (copyright 2017), (with permission of the publisher, Rowman & Littlefield. All rights reserved). This is Part 1 of a two-part series.
Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman's Release Expected Wednesday
Al.com, Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman to be released from prison Wednesday, friend says, Kent Faulk, Feb. 6, 2017. Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman is to be released from federal prison this week after serving about six years for a bribery conviction, a former aide told Al.com today. Siegelman, 70, has been told that he will be released Wednesday, Chip Hill, a friend and former aide to Siegelman stated in an email. "He will be on very restricted supervised probation for an initial period of time," Hill stated. "This is expected to be about six months."
"Following that, he (Siegelman) will be on unsupervised probation for an extended, but not yet specified, period of time," Hill stated. "Immediately after returning home, he will report to an assigned probation officer who will provide him with much more detailed information about what restrictions he will have, including specifics regarding media access."
"Naturally, his family and many friends are very excited about his release and very much look forward to seeing him," Hill stated. Siegelman's official end of sentence is Aug. 8.
Siegelman was convicted by a federal jury in 2006 on charges he sold a seat on a state health regulatory board to HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy in exchange for $500,000 in donations to Siegelman's signature political issue, his 1999 campaign to establish a state lottery. He was convicted on a separate obstruction of justice charge that he tried to hide money he received from a lobbyist. Former U.S. District Court Judge Mark Fuller originally sentenced Siegelman to 88 months in federal prison, but in 2012 reduced it to 78 months.
Justice Integrity Project Editor's Note: This site has reported extensive documentary, whistleblower and other evidence that Siegelman, Scrushy and others were subjected to a Deep State-style frame-up with bipartisan complicity of Justice Department, court and other officials and a largely apathetic and ineffective mainstream media. More specifically regarding one point in the above article excerpt, Scrushy has argued that donations at issue were not his and were not so high as $500,000.
Profile of Conservative Author J.D. Vance
Washington Post, ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ made J.D. Vance the voice of the Rust Belt. But does he want that job? Karen Heller, Feb. 6, 2017. The best-selling memoirist is a little uncomfortable representing the tens of millions who voted for Trump. Here is J.D. Vance, a long way from Middletown, Ohio, arriving at the gilded Fifth Avenue temple of the University Club, a massive pile of excess born of robber-baron lucre and standing in the shadow of its glass-and-steel successor, Trump Tower.
Vance has no tie. The club requires that he wear one. He is offered a scrawny, wrinkled navy number, possibly a Brooks Brothers reject, that looks as though it has collected lint through several society seasons. That Vance is the night’s honored speaker, at a benefit for socioeconomically disadvantaged students, which he himself was not a decade ago, makes no difference. Rules are rules.
None of this is lost on Vance, 32, a proud product of Appalachia, the Marines, Ohio State and Yale Law. The son of a mother who married five times and took to hard drugs. Whose father left the home by the time his son had started walking and gave him up for adoption when J.D. (for James David) was 6, to be raised by his mother, his maternal grandparents and a parade of stepfathers. (She’s clean now, and he’s back in Vance’s life.)
Seven months ago, Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis exploded into the national political conversation. Although Donald Trump gets not a solitary mention in the book, the novice author’s timing proved exquisite.
Protests Against Trump, Staff
Washington Post, Omarosa and her bridesmaids went shopping — and an ugly, political scene erupted, Helena Andrews-Dyer, Feb. 6, 2017. "These fat ladies won't stop following me," our source recalled Omarosa telling staffers in the department store's cosmetics section. On Saturday, Omarosa Manigault, a White House communications director, was spotted at the posh Tyson’s Corner Center in Virginia, shopping for bridesmaids’s dresses. The former “Apprentice” villain, who announced her engagement to Florida pastor John Allen Newman last summer and will appear in an episode of TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress,” was with a cohort of five bridesmaids.
Washington Post, Virtually all Senate Democrats poised to vote against remaining Cabinet picks, Ed O'Keefe, Feb. 5, 2017. Near-unanimous opposition to a first-term president’s Cabinet picks is rare and hasn’t happened in recent history. But those votes are expected to happen with little or no Democratic support. Only Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) has announced plans to support Sessions. As of Monday, no Democrat has announced support for DeVos, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), nominated to lead Health and Human Services, or Steven T. Mnuchin, nominated as treasury secretary. They all are scheduled for up-or-down votes in the coming days.
Near-unanimous opposition to a first-term president’s Cabinet picks is rare and hasn’t happened in recent history. But it comes amid a growing furor among progressive groups calling on Democratic lawmakers to oppose all of Trump’s nominees and policies. A CNN poll released on Sunday showed that just 59 percent of Democrats approve of their party’s leaders, a sign that die-hard partisans want lawmakers to serve as a more aggressive check on Trump.
Trump Travel Order
Washington Post, Opposition to Trump travel ban grows as key court decision looms, Matt Zapotosky and Brian Murphy, Feb. 6, 2017. Ten former high-ranking diplomatic and national security officials, nearly 100 Silicon Valley tech companies, more than 280 law professors, and a host of civil liberties and other organizations have formally lent their support to the legal bid to block President Trump’s immigration order.
The new voices demonstrate the broad opposition to Trump’s now-frozen order, which had temporarily barred refugees and people from seven Muslim majority countries from entering the United States. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals could decide on Monday whether to restore the ban, which a lower court judge had brought to a halt.
A decision Sunday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit preserved a lower judge’s order to temporarily halt the ban — and based on a schedule the court outlined, the stop will remain in place at least until sometime on Monday. The Justice Department said it would not elevate the dispute to the Supreme Court before that.
Washington Post, Kerry, Kerry, Panetta, ex-CIA officials tell court that Trump order will ‘endanger troops in the field,’ Fred Barbash, Feb. 5, 2017. The six-page joint declaration was addressed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in support of the temporary order blocking implementation of Trump’s ban on entry for travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The executive order was blocked by a U.S. district court judge, prompting the government to appeal in what is becoming an unprecedented battle over executive power.
The declaration came as the state of Washington, which initially sought the restraining order, formally responded to the administration’s appeal. The government’s brief is due later Monday.
While the declaration by the officials is not part of the formal briefing in the case and judges have no obligation to read it, it is clearly meant to counter the government’s argument that continuing to block Trump’s executive action will cause great harm to the nation’s security. It perhaps also has the public relations function of responding to Trump’s Twitter claim that Judge James L. Robart was putting the “country in such peril” and that he and the court system should be blamed “if something happens.”
The basic theme of the declaration was that it is Trump’s order, not any judge’s ruling, that is putting the country in peril.
Two-Way Street? Media Doubts on White House Cred
Huffington Post, Kellyanne Conway’s Credibility Questioned After ‘Bowling Green Massacre’ Flub, Michael Calderone, Feb. 5, 2017. Television news executives are beginning to think twice about booking White House counselor Kellyanne Conway for segments over concerns her credibility has been too damaged. Not all bookers are pulling the plug on putting the close Trump aide on their shows. Her proximity to the president remains a draw despite the dubiousness of some of her claims. But recent statements in which Conway invented a terrorist attack that she blamed the media for not covering, along with citing “alternative facts” when pressed on baseless White House claims, has forced some to reassess her utility on air.
The White House did not offer Vice President Mike Pence as a guest on CNN’s “State of the Union” even though he was appearing on the four other major Sunday shows. The snub followed a Politico report that the White House was “freezing out” CNN, which Trump increasingly attacks for being “fake news.” A CNN spokeswoman said the White House offered Conway as a substitute, but the network declined.
On Sunday night, New York Times columnist Jim Rutenberg wrote that CNN didn’t only turn down Conway because of the Pence factor, but also due to “serious questions about her credibility” inside the network.
Expert's Books Extolled On JFK Foreign Policy, Murder Revelations
Assassination Archives and Record Center (AARC), Publication Spotlight: Essential New Works by Dr. John M. Newman, Alan Dale, Feb. 6, 2017. Important new works by Dr. John Newman: Where Angels Tread Lightly; Countdown To Darkness: The Assassination of President Kennedy, Volume II; and JFK and Vietnam, Second Edition.
The first in a series of volumes on the JFK assassination, Where Angels Tread Lightly: The Assassination of President Kennedy, is a unique scholarly examination of historical episodes that go back to WWII, the Office of Strategic Services, and the early evolution of the CIA — up to and beyond Castro’s assumption of power in Cuba in 1959. This book is a groundbreaking investigation of America’s failure in Cuba that uncovers the CIA’s role in Castro’s rise to power and their ensuing efforts to destroy him. This work retraces the paths taken by many of the key players who became entangled in the CIA’s plots to overthrow Castro and the development of the myth that Castro was responsible for the assassination of President Kennedy. With rigorous scholarship and the brilliant insight of a trained textual records interpreter and document forensic specialist, Dr. John M. Newman sheds new light on the multiple identities played by individual CIA officers. Where Angels Tread Lightly deciphers the people and operations that belong to a large number of CIA cryptonyms and pseudonyms that have remained, until now, unsolved.
The second volume in a series on the assassination of President Kennedy, “Countdown to Darkness,” describes events during a dangerous quickening of the Cold War. The book’s first chapter contains new revelations about how Oswald was a witting false defector to the USSR in a CIA plan to surface a KGB mole in the CIA. The race for a long-range delivery system for nuclear weapons came to its final, unexpected, and unstable conclusion — the “missile gap” favored the United States, not the Soviet Union. The European colonial empires were collapsing in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, spawning Cold War hot spots, where Moscow and Washington rushed in to fill the void. The inevitable consequence of Castro’s revolution played itself out as communism established itself — armed to the teeth by the Soviet Bloc by early 1961 — a few miles from the American underbelly. This book reveals how deeply the Eisenhower Administration was in denial about the entrenched Castro police state, the complete penetration of all anti-Castro groups by Cuban intelligence, and the convulsive spectacle of the exiled Cuban leaders.
JFK and Vietnam, Second Edition
The publication and suppression of JFK and Vietnam was a watershed event in 20th Century American history. The book revealed, for the first time, how President Kennedy’s opposition to sending U.S. combat forces to Vietnam led those favoring intervention to concoct a false story of battlefield success to prevent a complete withdrawal from Vietnam. The book detailed the intense struggle that erupted in the administration over the president’s decision to withdraw from Vietnam in the fall of 1963.
JFK and Vietnam exposed how President Johnson ordered key changes be made to a National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM 273) two days after the assassination, opening the door to the direct use of conventional American military forces in Vietnam. In 1992, JFK and Vietnam received high praise from Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus Reviews. It was favorably reviewed by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. in the New York Times Book Review. Elsewhere the book caused a media firestorm with proponents of conflicting views making absolute declarations in opposition to Dr. Newman’s basic thesis: Kennedy was opposed to U.S. intervention in Vietnam and was withdrawing the U.S. advisors at the time of his assassination in November 1963.
The National Security Agency attempted, unsuccessfully, to block the publication of JFK and Vietnam. Shortly after publication, the publisher, Warner Books, suppressed the book. Six months later, the Galbraith family intervened with Time Warner Inc., and the copyrights were yielded back to the author. JFK and Vietnam, second edition (2017), represents the continuation of Dr. John M. Newman’s research, progress in his understanding and perceptions, and describes the fascinating sequence of events that unfolded following publication in 1992, including the consequential relationship that was formed between Dr. Newman and former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara following the book’s debut. That relationship led McNamara, after 25 years of silence, to publish his memoir on the Vietnam War, In Retrospect. In its original form, JFK and Vietnam was a landmark work that illuminated the false calculations, mistakes, manipulations, deceptions and intrigue which led to the Vietnam War. A quarter century later, JFK and Vietnam, second edition, expands upon and adds to what so powerfully defined its original impact.
Endorsements for "JFK and Vietnam
“This commanding essay in critical history is the most authoritative account anywhere of President Kennedy’s Vietnam policy–and it is fascinating reading as well.” — Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Special Assistant to President Kennedy
“A brilliant, meticulously researched and fascinating account of the decision-making which led to America’s long agony in Vietnam. Mr. Newman has added to our history–and hopefully our modesty–as we approach the decisions of the future.” — William E. Colby, former director, Central Intelligence Agency
“This great book brought to light the dark mystery of John F. Kennedy’s decision to withdraw from Vietnam. Celebrated on first publication, JFK and Vietnam has been confirmed by many new sources, witnesses, papers and tapes. This new edition is a triumph of history over evasion.” — James K. Galbraith, The University of Texas at Austin.
Trump on U.S. Personnel: 'We've got a lot of killers'
Washington Post, GOP senators blanch at Trump’s latest defense of Putin, whom Bill O’Reilly called a killer, Mike DeBonis, Feb. 5, 2017. A trio of Republican senators reacted sharply Sunday to President Trump’s latest apparent defense of Russian President Vladimir Putin, rejecting Trump’s suggestion in an interview that America cannot claim moral superiority to Putin’s Russia. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (shown in an official photo) rejected any comparison between the U.S. and Russia, citing the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea, its invasion of Ukraine and its interference in the U.S. presidential election.
Trump’s remarks came in an interview with Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly (shown in a file photo) that was previewed Saturday and is set to be broadcast in full Sunday evening before the Super Bowl. In the clip, Trump repeated his past praise for Putin, saying, “It’s better to get along with Russia than not,” which prompted O’Reilly to press him: “But he’s a killer, though. Putin’s a killer.”
“There are a lot of killers,” Trump said. “We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?”
A-specto via SouthFront, What Is Behind The Koch Brothers’ Partnership With Donald Trump? Dmitry Minin, Translated by Valentina Tzoneva, Feb. 5, 2017. The president of the USA is oriented towards the development of the real sector of the economy. Some figures from Trump’s camp deserve special attention. They are rarely mentioned, the Koch brothers, for example.
Charles and David Koch are co-owners of the largest private company worldwide – the Koch Industries, employing 100,000 people. The shares of the two brothers in the company are valued at $94.2 billion dollars. They have been for a long time one of the main donors to the conservative wing of the Republican Party. The field of activity of the Koch brothers covers oil processing, manufacture and servicing of equipment for the oil industry, the operation of pipeline networks, wood processing, production of electronic components for these and other industries.
As a team, the brothers exceed Bill Gates’ wealth, whose fortune is estimated at 87.4 billion dollars (84.2 to January this year, author’s note). The confrontation between the Koch brothers and Bill Gates in a sense reflects the main economic struggle in modern America: between the real and the virtual sector. The sharpness of this confrontation determined the heated political passions that appeared on the surface. It is sufficient to say that according to The New York Times, financial-industrial groups associated with the Koch brothers were planning to spend $ 900 million for the elections in 2016! So high were the stakes in the recent and perhaps most challenging for America presidential campaign.
Clearly, the Koch brothers “authorized” the new CIA director, Mike Pompei. At one stage, he was the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Kansas Policy Institute, a think tank of the Koch brothers, located in the hometown of Pompei, Wichita, where the headquarters of Koch Industries is located. The campaign, leading to the election of Pompei in the House of Representatives in 2010, was funded mainly by the Koch brothers. Head of election headquarters during the campaign was a former lawyer of Koch Industries, and the future CIA director was supported by the same organization, “Americans for Prosperity”, closely linked to the Tea Party.
By itself, the organization which originally bore the ambiguous name “Citizens for a healthy economy” is one of the leading conservative movements in the United States and has over 2.3 million members. Aside from the Koch brothers, it was financed by such giants as ExxonMobil, Phillip Morris, General Electric and others. AFP advocates for freedom of entrepreneurship and decrease in taxes and government spending.
Considering the fact that the business of the Koch brothers is one of the main pollutants in the US, it is not surprising that AFP actively opposes all possible theories of the “green.” The first President of the AFP was Congressman Ron Paul, known for his statements in support of the development of cooperation with Russia. In recent interviews, Paul welcomed the determination of Trump to follow this path, but doubts that the “shadow government” will allow him to do so. Much, however, depends on how the new team of Trump will work.
Supreme Court Nominee
Washington Post, Trump’s blasts at a federal judge raise questions for Gorsuch on independence, Robert Barnes, Feb. 5, 2017. Democrats ask whether the Supreme Court nominee would be able to stand up to the president who picked him.
Boston Globe, Appeals court rejects Trump challenge on travel ban, Wire and staff reports, Feb. 5, 2017. A federal appeals court denied early Sunday the Justice Department’s request for an immediate reinstatement of President Trump’s ban on accepting certain travelers and all refugees. The Trump administration had appealed a temporary order restraining the ban nationwide, saying late Saturday night that the federal judge in Seattle overreached by ‘‘second-guessing’’ the president on a matter of national security.
Washington Post, Alec Baldwin returns as Trump on SNL, where an evil Bannon is actually president, Elahe Izadi, Feb. 5, 2017. President Donald Trump (Alec Baldwin) calls Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (Beck Bennett), Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto (Alex Moffat) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Kate McKinnon). Is this how every “Saturday Night Live” cold open will go during the rest of the Donald Trump presidency — cramming jokes from an unbelievably busy news week into a 4-minute takedown?
This week, there were references to the “Bowling Green massacre” (more on what that is, or rather isn’t, here). “The Apprentice” ratings came up — just as they did during the real life National Prayer Breakfast. Even Frederick Douglass got a mention as “a very important up-and-comer.”
Washington Post, Melissa McCarthy was the perfect choice to play White House’s Sean Spicer on SNL, Elahe Izadi, Feb. 5, 2017.
Around the Nation
KIRO 7 (Seattle) / Cox Media Group, #DressLikeAWoman erupts after Trump order to female staffers, Shelby Lin Erdman, Feb. 5, 2017. A new Twitter storm is erupting over a directive President Donald Trump allegedly gave to his female staffers. Trump is apparently enforcing a dress code among his employees, directing females to “dress like women,” according to MSN, which attributed the comment to Axios.
Twitter has lit up with tweets from women, posting pictures of professional women dressed in a variety of clothing, including Supreme Court justices, scientists, doctors and fire fighters, to name a few.
Media: Lawsuit Alleges 'Fake News'
RT, Russian tech expert sues BuzzFeed over Trump dossier ‘fake news,’ Feb. 5, 2017. BuzzFeed and members of its team have been sued by Russian tech expert Aleksey Gubarev over false accusations contained in an unverified story and a dossier that claimed to expose links between President Trump and the Russian government. Two lawsuits, filed in the state of Florida and in London, UK, seek to collect financial and reputation damages over fake news reporting contained in BuzzFeed’s January 10 story that has been viewed nearly 6 million times.
The story, based on a 35-page dossier, accused XBT Holdings, owned by Russian tech wiz Aleksey Gubarev, of “using botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs, steal data and conduct ‘altering operations’ against the Democratic Party leadership” in 2016.
2016 Election Tactics
Washington Post, In the use of Twitter ‘bots,’ conservatives trump liberals, Craig Timberg, Feb. 5, 2017. One research team found that “highly automated accounts” supporting President Trump — a category that includes both bots and cyborgs — out-tweeted those supporting Democrat Hillary Clinton by a margin of 5-to-1 in the final days before the election. Daniel John Sobieski, 68, climbed the stairs in his modest brick home and settled into a worn leather chair for another busy day of tweeting. But he needn’t have bothered. As one of the nation’s most prolific conservative voices on Twitter, he already had posted hundreds of times this morning — as he ate breakfast, as he chatted with his wife, even as he slept — and would post hundreds of times more before night fell.
The key to this frenetic pace was technology allowing Twitter users to post automatically from queues of pre-written tweets that can be delivered at a nearly constant, round-the-clock pace that no human alone could match. In this way, Sobieski — a balding retiree with eyes so weak that he uses a magnifying glass to see his two computer screens — has dramatically amplified his online reach despite lacking the celebrity or the institutional affiliations that long have helped elevate some voices over the crowd.
Sobieski’s two accounts, for example, tweet more than 1,000 times a day using “schedulers” that work through stacks of his own pre-written posts in repetitive loops. With retweets and other forms of sharing, these posts reach the feeds of millions of other accounts, including those of such conservative luminaries as Fox News’s Sean Hannity, GOP strategist Karl Rove and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), according to researcher Jonathan Albright.
Stephen Bannon & White House Power Struggles
Steve Bannon at a 2013 Tea Party rally in Washington, DC (C-SPAN 3 photo)
WhoWhatWhy, Steve Bannon and the Road to the White House, WhoWhatWhy Staff, Feb. 4, 2017. Steve Bannon, former executive chair for the alt-right Breitbart News and CEO of the Trump presidential campaign, is now White House Chief Strategist and sits on the National Security Council (NSC). How did this man come to such prominence? Bannon is a graduate of Harvard Business School, Navy veteran, former Goldman Sachs banker, and Hollywood producer.
He rose to fame in the wake of the Tea Party revolution which originated as a right-wing protest to the Wall Street bank bailouts during the ’08 financial crisis. The video of Bannon speaking at a 2010 Tea Party rally in New York City is instructive. Bannon rails against the bipartisan crony capitalism of Washington, the favoritism shown to Wall Street, and the destruction of the middle-class. Though he denies the threats of global warming and a health care crisis, much of his populist rhetoric could be applauded by the Occupy Movement or the Bernie Sanders Revolution if they were in attendance. He notes: “In the last 20 years, our financial elites and the political class have taken care of themselves and led our country to the brink of ruin.”
Bannon, like President Donald Trump, is a paradox. He is a wealthy Ivy League-educated investment banker with connections to Wall Street and Hollywood that the populist right so despises, yet he has effectively used strong rhetoric against such targets to mobilize a significant number of the US population to back a billionaire Manhattan real-estate tycoon turned reality TV star running on a populist “America first” platform.
Washington Post, Inside the White House-Cabinet battle over Trump’s immigration order, Josh Rogin, Feb. 4, 2017. On the evening of Saturday, Jan. 28, as airport protests raged over President Trump’s executive order on immigration, the man charged with implementing the order, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, had a plan. He would issue a waiver for lawful permanent residents, a.k.a. green-card holders, from the seven majority-Muslim countries whose citizens had been banned from entering the United States.
White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon (shown in a file photo) wanted to stop Kelly in his tracks. Bannon paid a personal and unscheduled visit to Kelly’s Department of Homeland Security office to deliver an order: Don’t issue the waiver. Kelly, according to two administration officials familiar with the confrontation, refused to comply with Bannon’s instruction. That was the beginning of a weekend of negotiations among senior Trump administration staffers that led, on Sunday, to a decision by Trump to temporarily freeze the issuance of executive orders.
The confrontation between Bannon and Kelly pitted a political operator against a military disciplinarian. Respectfully but firmly, the retired general and longtime Marine told Bannon that despite his high position in the White House and close relationship with Trump, the former Breitbart chief was not in Kelly’s chain of command, two administration officials said. If the president wanted Kelly to back off from issuing the waiver, Kelly would have to hear it from the president directly, he told Bannon.
Editor’s Note: Prior to publication of this column, The Post sought comment from the Department of Homeland Security but not from the White House. We should have done both. After publication, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told The Post that Stephen Bannon did not travel to see Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on the evening of Jan. 28. – Fred Hiatt
New York Magazine, Report: Steve Bannon Had to Be Reminded He Wasn’t the President Amidst Travel Ban Infighting, Chas Danner, Feb. 4, 2017. Chief White House strategist Steve Bannon tried to order Department of Homeland Security secretary John Kelly to not issue a waiver exempting green card holders from President Trump’s travel ban executive order, according to a new report in the Washington Post.
Alhough some in the White House have tried, there is virtually no way to spin the disastrous rollout of the travel ban as a success — unless confusion, mass protests, and inner-circle backstabbing was the desired outcome. Several reports have indicated that the travel ban order was hastily and incompetently written, barely reviewed, and implemented and communicated with next to no planning. So far, the blame seems have landed on the Trump administration’s Breitbart wing. And while there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of Bannon or Miller’s influence diminishing, there are at least some indications that other White House cabinet members are pushing to confront them.
Then again, it’s also important to realize that, as The Atlantic’s Rosie Gray points out, most of these unnamed Trump officials are leaking negative stories about Miller and Bannon in an attempt to limit their influence in the White House. Understanding that, the fact that they are being widely and specifically scapegoated for the travel ban fallout likely illustrates how powerful they have already become.
Immigration 'Ban' Case
Washington Post, After court acts, U.S. moves to admit people previously banned, Matt Zapotosky, Lori Aratani and Justin Jouvenal, Feb. 4, 2017. A federal judge in Washington state on Friday temporarily blocked enforcement of President Trump’s controversial ban on entry to the United States, and airlines planned to begin allowing passengers from banned countries to board, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Following the ruling, government authorities immediately began communicating with airlines and taking steps that would allow travel by those previously barred from doing so, according to a U.S. official. At the same time, though, the White House said in a statement that the Justice Department would “at the earliest possible time” file for an emergency stay of the “outrageous” ruling from the judge. Minutes later, it issued a similar statement omitting the word “outrageous.”
“The president’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people,” the White House said.
The president, however, was less cordial on Twitter. “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Trump posted in a Saturday morning tweet. He also claimed that “certain Middle-Eastern countries agree with the ban.”
“They know if certain people are allowed in it’s death & destruction!” he posted. (Trump is shown in an image by ABananaPeeled.com, licensed under DMCA.)
The federal judge’s ruling, which was broader than similar ones before it, set up a high-stakes legal confrontation between the new president and the judicial branch over his temporary ban on entry by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries as well as refugees. In his opinion, U.S. District Judge James L. Robart wrote that “fundamental” to the court’s work was “a vigilant recognition that it is but one of three equal branches of our federal government.”
Huffington Post, Trump Inches The U.S. Closer To Constitutional Crisis, Jessica Schulberg and Sam Levine, Feb. 4, 2017. The president’s smear of a federal judge who temporarily halted the travel ban undermines judicial independence and could encourage defiance. The morning after a federal judge (shown in an official photo) temporarily blocked enforcement of a travel ban targeting seven Muslim-majority countries, President Donald Trump did what he often does when faced with a challenge: He launched a personal attack on Twitter at someone he saw as an opponent.
Washington Post, State Dept. reverses visa revocations; Homeland Security to follow ‘standard policy,’ Robert Barnes, Matt Zapotosky and Anne Gearan, Feb. 4, 2017. “Individuals with visas that were not physically canceled may now travel if the visa is otherwise valid,” a State Department representative said of people coming to the U.S. The move follows a ruling by a federal judge temporarily blocking enforcement of the travel ban.
Washington Post, President: Opinion of ‘so-called judge’ will be overturned, Amy B. Wang, Feb. 4, 2017. Trump’s tweets ripped into the decision of a federal judge to temporarily block enforcement of the travel ban.
Washington Post, How protesters plan to get under Trump’s skin wherever he goes, Perry Stein and David A. Fahrenthold, Feb. 4, 2017. The Saturday evening march will begin at Trump Plaza, a high-rise apartment building. President Trump actually hasn’t owned the place since 1991. Fine. It still has the name. It’s a good place to start. From there, the marchers will head south, walking along the Intracoastal Waterway that separates West Palm Beach from ritzy Palm Beach island. They’ll stop, on police orders, when they reach the bridge across from Mar-a-Lago.
And then, the plan is to wave signs and glow sticks. The hope is that they’ll be visible across the dark water and the great green lawn of the club, from up in the private apartment that is now the “winter White House.” If Trump sees those green lights, then he’ll know that his critics have followed him home.
Washington Post, Trump’s strategy of stoking fear helped get him elected. Now it’s how he plans to govern, Karen Tumulty and David Nakamura, Feb. 4, 2017. Fear has been a theme for Trump at key moments, such as his speech at the GOP convention that conjured “terrorism and lawlessness,” and his inaugural address with its image of “American carnage.” It’s a stark contrast to the ways other presidents lifted the country.
Washington Post, Trump’s do-it-himself approach just suffered a big setback, Aaron Blake, Feb. 4, 2017. A federal judge’s ruling against the travel ban represents a rare rebuke of presidential authority that could portend plenty of legal fights over Trump's powers in the months and years to come.
Washington Post, You can learn a lot about Steve Bannon by watching the films he made, Ann Hornaday, Feb. 2, 2017. Critic's Notebook: The first two weeks of the Trump administration suggest that it’s Bannon’s movie, and now we’re in it.
Washington Post, Donald Trump Jr. stumbled while trying to make a mark in the business world, Shawn Boburg and Robert O'Harrow Jr. The president’s son supported start-up firms launched by a partner from Utah. But the businesses tumbled, leaving behind lawsuits, unpaid taxes, and angry investors and lenders. See also: Documents confirm that as president, Trump still benefits from his businesses.
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Montgomery Advertiser,Tensions spill over at Alabama Democratic Party meeting, Brian Lyman, Feb. 4, 2017. The dividing line at Saturday's State Democratic Executive Committee was the table where the Democrats’ executive committee sat, facing about 150 people in the Embassy Suites ballroom. At many points during the three-hour meeting, the executive committee suggested the party's county chairs held Democrats back. Alabama Democratic Party chairwoman Nancy Worley at one point suggested during a speech that county organizations allowed “the strangest and most unusual people” to run for elected office and leadership positions.
Joe Reed, the chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference whose allies largely control the party structure, went further, saying the state couldn't take complete responsibility for you "at your local county chapters.” Those comments provoked anger for many people in attendance, a number of whom blame Reed and Worley's leadership for Democratic reverses around Alabama. Ann Green, the chairwoman of the Etowah County Democratic Party, stormed out of the meeting during Worley’s speech.
Trump Trust Still Allows Presidential Control?
New York Times, Trust Records Show Trump Is Still Closely Tied to His Empire, Susanne Craig and Eric Liptop, Feb. 3, 2017. Just days before his inauguration, President-elect Donald J. Trump stood beside his tax lawyer at a Midtown Manhattan news conference as she announced that he planned to place his vast business holdings in a trust, a move she said would allay fears that he might exploit the Oval Office for personal gain.
However, a number of questions were left unanswered — including who would ultimately benefit from the trust — raising concerns about just how meaningful the move was.
Now, records have emerged that show just how closely tied Mr. Trump remains to the empire he built. While the president says he has walked away from the day-to-day operations of his business, two people close to him are the named trustees and have broad legal authority over his assets: his eldest son, Donald Jr., and Allen H. Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer. Mr. Trump, who will receive reports on any profit, or loss, on his company as a whole, can revoke their authority at any time.
What’s more, the purpose of the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust is to hold assets for the “exclusive benefit” of the president. This trust remains under Mr. Trump’s Social Security number, at least as far as federal taxes are concerned.
Boston Globe, Judge halts Trump’s immigration order nationwide, Staff report, Feb. 3, 2017. A U.S. judge on Friday temporarily blocked President Donald Trump’s ban on travelers and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries after Washington state and Minnesota urged a nationwide hold on the executive order that has launched legal battles across the country.
U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle ruled that the states had standing to challenge Trump’s order, which government lawyers disputed, and said they showed their case was likely to succeed. ‘‘The state has met its burden in demonstrating immediate and irreparable injury,’’ said Robart (shown in an official photo). Trump’s order last week sparked protests nationwide and confusion at airports as some travelers were detained. The White House has argued that it will make the country safer.
Washington became the first state to sue over the order that temporarily bans travel for people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen and suspends the U.S. refugee program. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said this week that the travel ban significantly harms residents and effectively mandates discrimination. Minnesota joined the suit two days later.
After the ruling, Ferguson (shown in a colored, official photo) said people from the affected countries can now apply for entry to the U.S. ‘‘Judge Robart’s decision, effective immediately ... puts a halt to President Trump’s unconstitutional and unlawful executive order,’’ Ferguson said. ‘‘The law is a powerful thing — it has the ability to hold everybody accountable to it, and that includes the president of the United States.’’
Gillian M. Christensen, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, said the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation. Federal attorneys had argued that Congress gave the president authority to make decisions on national security and immigrant entry.
The two states won a temporary restraining order while the court considers the lawsuit, which aims to permanently block Trump’s order. Court challenges have been filed nationwide from states and advocacy groups. Up to 60,000 foreigners from the seven majority-Muslim countries had their visas canceled because of the executive order, the State Department said Friday. That figure contradicts a statement from a Justice Department lawyer on the same day during a court hearing in Virginia about the ban. The lawyer in that case said about 100,000 visas had been revoked.
Boston Globe, Federal judge in Mass. won’t extend order halting Trump immigration ban, Maria Sacchetti and Milton J. Valencia, Feb. 3, 2017. In a swift decision, a federal judge refused Friday to extend a restraining order that had halted the implementation of President Trump’s controversial immigration ban in Massachusetts.
US District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton said in a 21-page order issued late Friday afternoon that he was sympathetic to the American Civil Liberties Union’s claims that immigrants could suffer irreparable harm from the ban, but he found that the government’s “likelihood of success on the merits weighs most heavily in the decision.” “Because plaintiffs have not demonstrated that they are likely to succeed on the merits of any of their claims, an extension of the restraining order at the present time is not warranted,” the judge said.
Washington Post, Justice Dept. lawyer says 100,000 visas revoked under travel ban; State Dept. says about 60,000, Justin Jouvenal, Rachel Weiner and Ann E. Marimow, Feb. 3, 2017. More than 100,000 visas have been revoked as a result of President Trump’s ban on travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries, an attorney for the government asserted Friday in federal court in Alexandria, Va.
The number came out during a hearing in a lawsuit by two Yemeni brothers who arrived at Dulles International Airport last Saturday and were quickly put on a return flight to Ethiopia because of the new restrictions. While the government is working to resolve that case and return the brothers to the United States, lawyers at the hearing addressed the broader impact of the ban.
The 100,000 figure was immediately disputed by the State Department, which said the number of visas revoked was roughly 60,000. A spokeswoman said the revocations have no impact on the legal status of people already in the United States. If those people leave the United States, though, their visas will no longer be valid.
Washington Post, Trump administration sanctions Iran on missile test, Carol Morello and Anne Gearan, Feb. 3, 2017. The sanctions are the first action taken by the Trump administration since the vow to put Iran “on notice.” The sanctions were imposed on several Iranian officials and entities involved in procurement of material for the missile testing, which the administration said was not part of the 2015 nuclear deal.
Earlier Friday, Iranian officials responded to the Trump administration by calling the warnings and reports of new sanctions “provocative.” Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, posted on Twitter that Iran is “unmoved by threats.” The comments from Iran came before the official announcement of new sanctions but reflected the escalating tensions between the two sides over the past few days. A senior Iranian cleric, Ahmed Khatami, said Friday that if the White House expanded sanctions on Iran, it would be “a clear violation of the nuclear deal.”
“This is not the first time that an inexperienced person has threatened Iran,” Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying Thursday. “Iran does not need permission from any country to defend itself.” Speaking to reporters, Velayati brushed off what he called Trump’s “baseless ranting” and pledged that missile tests would continue as Iran sees fit.
Huffington Post, A Reckless Slide Toward War With Iran, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (Connecticut Democrat), Feb. 3, 2017. Since the inauguration, the White House has taken several ham-handed escalatory steps that bring into question whether Trump and his most radical advisors are begging for war with Iran. This would be a disaster of epic scale, perhaps eclipsing the nightmare of the Iraq War.
Republicans and Democrats need to start viewing President Trump’s actions and words as a possible accidental or intentional prelude to major conflict, and taking steps to counter this dangerous slide to war.
The descent began with last Friday’s executive order barring Iranian citizens from entering the United States. Potentially the most dangerous result of the order was to empower the most hardline clerics in Iran — threatening not just our own security, but our ally Israel’s as well.
The danger of including Iran comes in the message it sends to Iranians and its potential to tip the political balance inside Iran to forces that are deeply antithetical to the United States and Israel – the kind of people who actually could start World War III.
The Iranian people, especially the growing numbers of young people in the country, do not hate the United States. They regularly get fed anti-American garbage by the regime, but the young men and women who will inherit Iran largely admire America. This tilt toward the West is what caused the relative moderate Hassan Rouhani to be elected president. It is also what brought Iran to the negotiating table, resulting in the landmark nuclear agreement committing Iran to give up its pathway to a nuclear weapon.
Huffington Post, Don’t Let Flynn’s Dangerous Fantasies Drive Us To War With Iran, William Hartung, Feb. 3, 2017. Even as rumors were flying that Mike Flynn had been outmaneuvered by Steve Bannon in the fight to see who would have the most influence over a Trump foreign policy, Flynn made a cameo appearance at yesterday’s White House press briefing to speak on his favorite topic: Iran. In his brief remarks -- barely a minute long -- Flynn denounced what he described as “Iran’s destabilizing behavior across the entire Middle East” and said that the Trump administration was “officially putting Iran on notice.”
On notice for what? Trump officials wouldn’t say exactly, but when asked if the U.S. would take military action, a senior administration official said “we are considering a whole range of options.”
Flynn’s remarks were prompted by two events - an unsuccessful Iranian test of a medium-range ballistic missile and a missile attack on a Saudi ship by Houthi forces in Yemen. Neither event poses an imminent threat to the United States or its allies in the region. Iran’s missile test may be controversial, but it does not violate its commitments under the multi-party agreement that curbs Tehran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon. And despite Saudi and Trump administration suggestions to the contrary, the Houthis are an indigenous movement with longstanding political and economic grievances, not a proxy force directed by Iran. Threatening military force over either of these events is dangerously counterproductive.
Roll Call, Grassley Outlines Timeline for Confirming Trump’s SCOTUS Nominee, Niels Lesniewski, Feb. 3, 2017. Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley is laying out his plan to get Judge Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court before the Easter recess. The Republican from Iowa has a roughly six week timeline for getting Gorsuch, the 10th Circuit appellate judge from Colorado who was named Tuesday night by President Donald Trump, as his choice to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the highest court.
“I’m not saying absolutely six weeks because you always try to be accommodating to the minority as long as they are reasonable, and so we have to work things out, but it kind of works out to be about six weeks,” Grassley said in an interview with Roll Call. He anticipates only one day of the senators questioning Gorsuch (shown in a file photo) in full view of the klieg lights and television cameras, with three days of hearings overall.
Grassley said in the interview that he had a “very excellent” relationship with Feinstein, who replaced Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont as ranking member this Congress with the Vermonter moving over to lead the minority on Appropriations. Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York has already set forth that Gorsuch should need 60 votes to be confirmed. “Requiring 60 votes has always been the right thing to do on Supreme Court nominations, especially in these polarized times, but now — in this new era of the Court, in this new Administration — there is an even heavier weight on this tradition,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.
Washington Post, Trump to order financial regulatory rollbacks starting with Dodd-Frank, Fred Barbash and Renae Merle, Feb. 3, 2017. The administration would also move against a regulation, known as the “fiduciary rule,” designed to force retirement advisers to work in the best interest of their clients. The actions represent the first effort by President Trump, who has packed his administration with Wall Street veterans, to unravel Obama's landmark response to the 2008 financial collapse.
Salon, Former Obama official: Trump’s deadly Yemen raid wasn’t planned under Obama’s watch, Matthew Rozsa, Feb. 3, 2017. More and more keeps coming out about the operation in Yemen President Donald Trump’s first major military operation, a Navy SEAL raid in Yemen that left multiple civilians dead as well as American Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, may not have been as extensively planned under Obama’s administration as Team Trump initially suggested.
Colin Kahl, who served as a national security official under President Barack Obama, fired off a series of tweets on Thursday arguing that while the Defense Department had discussed Yemeni raids with Obama in a general fashion, the specific raid attempted by the Trump administration was not brought up.
The raid, which was postponed until a moonless night would give the military an advantage, resulted in the deaths of numerous civilians, including women and children. The military claims it was a success in terms of gathering valuable intelligence about terrorism.
Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis, a captain in the Navy, told The Washington Post that “this was an operation that for reasons of the calendar had a date when it was most optimally conducted. That date happened to fall after January 20th, and that’s when we sought the authority for and received the authority for proceeding with it.” He also denounced claims by The New York Times that the mission had been compromised, saying, “we have nothing to suggest that this was compromised.”
Washington Post, Bannon film outline warned U.S. could turn into ‘Islamic States of America,’ Matea Gold, Feb. 3, 2017. A 2007 document points to “enablers” aiding radical Islam’s rise in the United States, including media and government agencies. Washington Post, You can learn a lot about Steve Bannon by watching the films he made, Ann Hornaday, Feb. 2, 2017. Critic's Notebook: The first two weeks of the Trump administration suggest that it’s Bannon’s movie, and now we’re in it.
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DailyMail, Korean grandmother, 83, is 'punched in the head by woman, 27, screaming white power' in downtown LA — but it is NOT being investigated as a hate crime, Hannah Parry, Feb. 3, 2017. An elderly Korean grandma claims she was attacked in downtown Los Angeles by a woman screaming 'white power.' Officers were called to Korea town at around 2:30 pm on Wednesday after reports the 83-year-old woman had been assaulted.
Alexis Duvall, 27, allegedly punched the grandma in the back of her head, knocking her to the ground. The victim told investigators, via a translator, the unprovoked attack came out of nowhere. Witnesses say they heard her yelling 'power is power', 'white power' and the N-word, the LA Times reports.
White House Chronicle, A Primer for Steve Bannon on the Media, Llewellyn King, Feb. 3, 2017. No, Steve Bannon, counselor to President Trump (and shown in a file photo), the media is not the opposition. Nor is it a monolithic structure acting at the behest of some unseen hand, in conspiratorial unison.
I am of the media and have been for 60 years. In fact, long before it was known collectively as the media.
We are an irregular army, an array of misfits, disciplined by deadlines and little else. We eat irregularly, are sustained on coffee and, at times, something stronger. We love what we do and we do it in the face of shifting threats, from death on the front lines of war, to the excesses of owners and the difficulty of making a living at it. We do the same job and do our best, whether it is for the smallest newspaper, newsletter or some great news outlet, like The Washington Post. John Steinbeck said, “No one does less than his best, no matter what he may think about it.” So do we.
Why, then, is the media seen as monolithic, conspiratorial and of one mind? I will suggest it is because of an immutable law of the work that is beyond explanation, but is indestructible and essential: news judgment. It is to journalism what perfect pitch is to musicians. You have it or you do not; and while it can be cultivated, it cannot be inculcated.
We are the messengers, but we do not write the message. Our essential job is to keep a wary eye on authority: Here’s looking at you, Steve.
Protests Against Trump
Washington Post, More companies back away from Donald Trump under pressure from customers, James Hohmann, Feb. 3, 2017. Companies are caught between a rock and a hard place, with President Trump on one side and their customers on the other. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick quit President Trump’s 15-member council of business leaders yesterday, and Disney CEO Bob Iger let it be known that he won’t attend a meeting at the White House today because of a scheduling conflict. Nordstrom announced last night that it will stop selling Ivanka Trump’s name-branded line of clothing and shoes after an extended boycott by an anti-Trump activist group called “Grab Your Wallet."
The retailer said the first daughter’s products are being dropped because of poor sales. In early December, Nordstrom had 71 Ivanka items for sale on its web site. Right now, just four are left. And they’re all being sold at a clearance discount. We’ve obviously written a lot about companies bending to pressure from Trump, especially defense contractors like United Technologies, Boeing and Lockheed. But firms that depend on retail sales will perhaps care more about pressure from their customers than from White House heavies.
Washington Post, Eric Trump’s business trip to Uruguay cost taxpayers $97,830 in hotel bills, Amy Brittain and Drew Harwell, Feb. 3, 2017. Although the Trumps have pledged a division between business and government, they will nevertheless depend on the publicly funded protection granted to the first family as they travel the globe promoting their brand.Feb. 2
Trump White House Escalates Anti-Iran Rhetoric
The Intercept, Press Secretary Sean Spicer Falsely Accuses Iran of Attacking U.S. Navy Vessel, an Act of War, Zaid Jilani and Alex Emmons, Feb. 2, 2017. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer asserted at Thursday’s press briefing that Iran had attacked a U.S. naval vessel, as part of his argument defending the administration’s bellicose announcement that Iran is “on notice.”
National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday said he was “officially putting Iran on notice” following the country’s ballistic missile test and an attack on a Saudi naval vessel by Houthi rebels in Yemen (the Houthis are tenuously aligned with Iran’s government but are distinct from it).
The White House press corps wanted to know what being put “on notice” entailed, and Spicer responded by claiming that Iran’s government took actions against a U.S. naval vessel, which would be an act of war. “I think General Flynn was really clear yesterday that Iran has violated the Joint Resolution, that Iran’s additional hostile actions that it took against our Navy vessel are ones that we are very clear are not going to sit by and take,” he said. “I think that we will have further updates for you on those additional actions.”
Major Garrett of CBS News quietly corrected him, saying “a Saudi vessel,” and Spicer then responded almost inaudibly: “Sorry, thank you, yes a Saudi vessel. Yes, that’s right.” He did not in any way address his false claim that it was an Iranian attack, however.
President Trump's Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch's college yearbook portrait at Columbia University was illustrated with the quotation above attributed to President Nixon's Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Gorsuch, son of a Reagan cabinet member, founded and edited a conservative newspaper in college
Daily Mail, Trump's Supreme Court pick Neil Gorusch founded and led club called 'Fascism Forever' against liberal faculty at his elite all-boys DC prep school, Alana Goodman, Feb. 2, 2017. Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch founded and led a student group called the ‘Fascism Forever Club’ at his elite high school, DailyMail.com can reveal. The club was set up to rally against the ‘left-wing tendencies’ of his professors while attending a Jesuit all-boys preparatory high school near Washington D.C.
The name may be inconvenient for a Supreme Court nominee facing a tough confirmation battle. However it also shows the depth of Gorscuch’s right-wing credentials – and his penchant for mischief while attending his exclusive prep school in the 1980s. President Donald Trump nominated Gorsuch, a 49-year-old U.S. appellate judge, to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Tuesday.
Gorsuch founded the ‘Fascism Forever Club’ during his freshman year at Georgetown Preparatory, a now-$30,000-a-year private Jesuit school that is one of the most selective in the United States. He served as president until he graduated in 1985, according to his senior yearbook.
Washington Post, Fighting Gorsuch is hopeless. Democrats should do it anyway, Eugene Robinson, Feb. 2, 2017. Senate Democrats should use any and all means, including the filibuster, to block confirmation of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. They will almost surely fail. But sometimes you have to lose a battle to win a war.
This is purely about politics. Republicans hold the presidency, majorities in the House and Senate, 33 governorships and control of the legislatures in 32 states. If the Democratic Party is going to become relevant again outside of its coastal redoubts, it has to start winning some elections — and turning the other cheek on this court fight is not the way to begin.
Washington Post, You can learn a lot about Steve Bannon by watching the films he made, Ann Hornaday, Feb. 2, 2017. Critic's Notebook: The first two weeks of the Trump administration suggest that it’s Bannon’s movie, and now we’re in it.
Washington Post, Steve Bannon’s first major play is shaping up as a full-blown fiasco, Greg Sargent, Feb. 2, 2017. Steve Bannon got his Time magazine cover Thursday, and the accompanying piece offers an account of his astonishingly rapid consolidation of power inside the Trump White House. As the article details, Bannon’s fingerprints are all over Trump’s new immigration ban, making this a test case of sorts as to what the disruptions that Bannon (shown in a file photo) and President Trump promised will produce in the real world.
Bannon, Time reports, continues to relish the massive blowback unleashed by Trump’s executive order — which bans refugees and migrants from seven Muslim-majority countries — as proof that he is doing something right. He’s shaking the elites to their core (he didn’t even attend the exclusive Alfalfa Club dinner!!!), which, he crows, heralds the birth of a “new political order.”
But, for all of Bannon’s bravado, the better interpretation of what’s going on is that Bannon’s first major effort to translate Trumpism into policy reality is a full-blown disaster.
Sports Recruiting Scandals
Washington Post, Baylor rape scandal involves recruiting ‘hostess’ program. These things still exist? Will Hobson, Feb 2, 2017. The NCAA passed a rule to move such groups out of athletic departments in 2004, but recent scandals illustrate their persistence -- and perils. The latest lawsuit against Baylor University alleging rampant rape committed by football players with impunity has again cast attention on college “hostess clubs,” groups of women often selected for appearance and personality to greet prized high school football recruits when they visit campus.
More than a decade after the NCAA changed its rules to discourage the once-common groups, now viewed on many campuses as archaic, they continue to feature prominently in sexual-assault and recruiting scandals in college sports. In the lawsuit filed Friday against Baylor, in which plaintiff Elizabeth Doe claims she was gang-raped by two football players in April 2013, Doe says she joined the football hostess program “Baylor Bruins” when she arrived at the Baptist university’s Waco, Tex., campus in the fall of 2012.
The Intercept, The CIA’s New Deputy Director Ran a Black Site for Torture, Glenn Greenwald, Feb. 2, 2017. In May, 2013, the Washington Post’s Greg Miller reported that the head of the CIA’s clandestine service was being shifted out of that position as a result of “a management shake-up” by then-Director John Brennan. As Miller documented, this official – whom the paper did not name because she was a covert agent at the time – was centrally involved in the worst abuses of the CIA’s Bush-era torture regime.
That CIA official’s name whose torture activities the Post described is Gina Haspel. Today, as BuzzFeed’s Jason Leopold noted, CIA Director Mike Pompeo (shown in an official photo) announced that Haspel was selected by Trump to be Deputy Director of the CIA.
This should not come as much of a surprise given that Pompeo himself has said he is open to resurrecting Bush-era torture techniques (indeed, Obama’s CIA Director, John Brennan, was forced to withdraw from the running in late 2008 because of his support for some of those tactics only to be confirmed in 2013). That’s part of why it was so controversial that 14 Democrats – including their Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, Sheldon Whitehouse and Tim Kaine – voted to confirm Pompeo.
Washington Post, Trump warns Israel: New settlements ‘may not help’ achieve Middle East peace, Abby Phillip and Karen DeYoung, Feb. 2, 2017. The White House’s pushback on new or expanded settlements in the West Bank signals that the new administration will seek some continuity with past presidents, and it came after Trump named a strong proponent of settlements as his ambassador to Israel.
Huffington Post, How Donald Trump Destabilised, Australia's Prime Minister With One Phone Call, Josh Butler, Feb. 2, 2017. Malcolm Turnbull (shown in a file photo) is now in a serious jam. President Donald Trump reportedly eviscerated Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on their short phone call last week, and in the process, seriously rocked the administration of a man who holds government by just one seat.
In the dying days of Barack Obama's presidency, Australia and the United States agreed to a deal to essentially swap refugees. In exchange for an as-yet-undisclosed number of refugees from Central America, Australia would send refugees from their Pacific Ocean immigration facilities on Nauru and Manus Island to the United States.
Australia's policy of mandatory detention for unauthorised immigration arrivals has drawn outrage worldwide, with reports from the detention facilities — deaths, sickness, injury, sexual assault, protests, even refugees self-immolating and attempting suicide -- becoming a millstone around the government's neck in recent years. Turnbull (shown in a file photo from a visit to the Pentagon, trumpeted the refugee deal as a win, helping to settle some of the thousands of refugees and detainees on the islands in a new country (Australia's hard-line immigration policy means boat arrivals will "never settle in Australia").
SouthFront, Moscow Charges Top FSB Cybersecurity Officials With High Treason. What Is Going On? SouthFront, Feb. 2, 2017. While the Kremlin is actively accused by the West of committing ‘hacking attacks of the Russian intelligence’ on organizations and resources, the situation with cybercrime and scandals in the area of information security inside Russia is not better. In December of the last year, the Internal Security Directorate of the Federal Security Service (ISD FSB) arrested four persons, who were allegedly accused of the crime of high treason. Recently, names of the three detainees became known:
Politico, Suit: U.S. threatened to deny landing to Swiss flight if Trump travel ban passenger aboard, Josh Gerstein, Feb. 2, 2017. U.S. officials implementing President Donald Trump's travel ban executive order threatened to deny landing to a Swiss Airlines flight earlier this week if an Iranian scientist who had received a U.S. professional exchange visa was allowed on board, a federal lawsuit contends. Papers filed in connection with the suit filed by Iranian genetic researcher Samira Asgari also show the Justice Department is taking a narrow view of a federal court order limiting the impact of Trump's executive decree, rebuffing immigrant lawyers' position that the judicial order issued early Sunday in another case requires the government to tell airlines to allow some travelers onto flights bound for Boston.
PaulCraigRoberts.org, From MAD to Madness, Paul Craig Roberts, Feb. 2, 2017. A book that Western peoples need to read is the just published by Clarity Press memoir of Paul H. Johnstone with an introduction by his daughter Diana, From MAD to Madness. One of the realities that emerges from Paul Johnstone’s memoir is that doctrine is more convincing than evidence. Intelligence is formed from beliefs, so controlling beliefs is the key to intelligence. Anyone who reads this book will clearly understand that whatever President Trump’s shortcomings, ending the orchestrated conflict with Russia would be the greatest gift to humanity.
Paul Johnstone worked for two decades in the upper echelons of US intelligence — Air Force Intelligence, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Office of the Secretary of Defense — devising ways to estimate the military capabilities of potential enemies. The task of estimating the damage from nuclear war eventually brought the realization of the futility of nuclear warfare and the irrationality of war in the nuclear age. Nevertheless, this stark realization did not stop the preparation for nuclear war, which continues today.
One of the realities that emerges from the memoir is that doctrine is more convincing than evidence. Intelligence is formed from beliefs, so controlling beliefs is the key to intelligence. Beliefs are controlled by those with the largest stake in them. The military/security complex, as President Eisenhower warned insouciant Americans, has a great stake in having an enemy whose motives can be misrepresented in the interest of budget and power.
Throughout the orchestrated Cold War, misrepresentation was the fact. When the Soviet Union collapsed, a new enemy had to be created — “Muslim terrorism.” This enemy proved to be an insufficient justification for a $1,000 billion dollar annual budget, so the “Russian threat” was recreated. The problem with creating threats is that the threat can become a real one, in which case the price of power and profit for the military/security complex can be the nonexistence of life on earth.
Johnstone’s memoir explores the history of this double-edged sword. The rising tensions cultivated by the Clinton/Bush/Obama regime between the two major nuclear powers is the most irresponsible act of government in human history. Anyone who reads this book will clearly understand that whatever President Trump’s shortcomings, ending the orchestrated conflict with Russia would be the greatest gift to humanity.
This deathbed memoir by Dr. Paul H. Johnstone, former senior analyst in the Strategic Weapons Evaluation Group (WSEG) in the Pentagon and a co-author of The Pentagon Papers, provides an authoritative analysis of the implications of nuclear war that remain insurmountable today. Indeed, such research has been kept largely secret, with the intention “not to alarm the public” about what was being cooked up.
While remaining highly secret – so much so that Dr. Johnstone himself was denied access to what he had written – these studies had a major impact on official policy. They contributed to a shift from the notion that the United States could inflict “massive retaliation” on its Soviet enemy to recognition that a nuclear exchange would bring about Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD).
Politico, White House nixed Holocaust statement naming Jews, Josh Dawsey, Isaac Arnsdorf, Nahal Toosi and Michael Crowley, Feb. 2, 2017. The State Department wrote a message that recognized Jewish victims, but the White House used its own that didn’t. The State Department drafted its own statement last month marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day that explicitly included a mention of Jewish victims, according to people familiar with the matter, but President Donald Trump’s White House blocked its release.
The existence of the draft statement adds another dimension to the controversy around the White House’s own statement that was released on Friday and set off a furor because it excluded any mention of Jews. The White House has stood by the statement, defending it as an “inclusive” message that was not intended to marginalize Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
According to three people familiar with the process, the State Department's Office of the Special Envoy on Holocaust Issues prepared its own statement for International Holocaust Remembrance Day that, like previous statements, commemorated Jewish victims.
Instead, the White House’s own statement drew widespread criticism for overlooking the Jews' suffering, and was cheered by neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer. A White House official said there was no ill intent, adding that the White House didn’t see State’s draft until after issuing its own statement and told State not to release its version because it came after 7 p.m. And the official said the White House didn't ask the State Department to craft their own statement.
The White House’s explanations for omitting Jews in its statement haven’t quelled the controversy and in some cases made it worse. Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks originally defended the omission to CNN saying, “we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered.” Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said he didn’t regret the wording.
New York Times, Donald Trump’s Longtime Doctor Says President Takes Hair-Growth Drug, Dr. Lawrence K. Altman, Feb. 1, 2017. President Trump takes medication for three ailments, including a prostate-related drug to promote hair growth, Mr. Trump’s longtime physician, Dr. Harold N. Bornstein, said in a series of recent interviews. The other drugs are antibiotics to control rosacea, a common skin problem, and a statin for elevated blood cholesterol and lipids.
Dr. Bornstein, who spoke by telephone in four interviews over the past month, also said that Mr. Trump takes a daily baby aspirin to reduce the risk of a heart attack. Over all, he pronounced Mr. Trump healthy and his medical care “as exactly up to date.” Dr. Bornstein granted the interviews after The New York Times asked him to discuss his role in Mr. Trump’s care and to clarify and expand on earlier statements he made about his patient’s health during the presidential campaign. In recent decades, The Times has interviewed presidents, presidential candidates and their doctors about their health. At 70, Mr. Trump is the oldest person to become president.
Dr. Bornstein, 69, has a private practice on the Upper East Side of New York, was educated at Tufts University for college and medical school, did his fellowship in gastroenterology at Yale, and was Mr. Trump’s personal physician since 1980. He said that he had had no contact with Mr. Trump since he became president, and that no one from Mr. Trump’s White House staff had asked for copies of the medical records that he has kept for the last 36 years, or called to discuss them.
At times in the interviews, Dr. Bornstein was moody, ranging from saying that Mr. Trump’s health “is none of your business” to later volunteering facts. He also meandered, referring to his longtime study of Italian and stories about medical schools floating cadavers to an island off the waters of New York. He said he liked the attention he got from friends now that he was publicly known as Mr. Trump’s doctor but disliked “the fun made of me” by the news media and strangers who have thrown objects at his office window and who have yelled at him on Park Avenue.
“If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency,” Dr. Bornstein wrote. He offered scant medical evidence for his prediction beyond saying Mr. Trump had no significant illness and nothing that required treatment outside of his office. Eight months later, Dr. Bornstein stirred controversy by saying he wrote the letter in five minutes while a limousine sent by Mr. Trump waited outside.
More on Trump Transition
Time Magazine, Is Steve Bannon the Second Most Powerful Man in the World? David Von Drehle, Feb. 2, 2017. Most modern Presidents chart their opening moves with the help of a friendly think tank or a set of long-held beliefs. Donald Trump's first steps had the feel of a documentary film made by his chief strategist and alter ego Stephen K. Bannon, a director who deploys ravenous sharks, shrieking tornadoes and mushroom clouds as reliably as John Ford shot Monument Valley.
Act I of the Trump presidency has been filled with disruption, as promised by Trump and programmed by Bannon, with plenty of resistance in reply, from both inside and outside the government. Perhaps this should not be surprising. Trump told America many times in 2016 that his would be no ordinary Administration. Having launched his campaign as a can-do chief executive, he came to see himself as the leader of a movement--and no movement is complete without its commissar. Bannon is the one who keeps the doctrine pure, the true believer, who is in it not for money or position, but to change history. "What we are witnessing now is the birth of a new political order," Bannon wrote in an email to the Washington Post.
Washington Post, Obama’s team worked for months on a Syria plan. Trump’s team swiftly tossed it, Adam Entous, Greg Jaffe and Missy Ryan, Feb. 2, 2017. To the incoming Trump administration, President Obama’s plan to take Raqqa from ISIS was so incremental and risk-averse that it was almost certain to fail. “We found huge gaps in it,” said a senior Trump administration official. “It was poor staff work.”
Washington Post, Trump’s unorthodox speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, Chris Cilizza, Feb. 2, 2017. Speaking at an event that continues a tradition dating back decades, President Trump talked about how the show “The Apprentice” has declined since Arnold Schwarzenegger took his place and said of Vice President Mike Pence that “on the scale of zero to 10, I rate him a 12.”
Washington Post, Why is Donald Trump so fixated on Arnold Schwarzenegger? It might have to do with Ivanka, Emily Heil, Feb. 2, 2017. Trump’s trolling of Schwarzenegger from the dais of the religious event should seem remarkable. But given the president’s repeated, typically unsolicited, mention of the former California governor’s relatively low ratings (unprompted, he brought Schwarzenegger up three times in this interview with our colleague Karen Tumulty), it’s actually not so surprising. Which is, in the president’s own parlance, “sad!”
Here’s one “Rosebud”-like possibility for Trump’s obsession: Trump badly wanted his daughter, Ivanka, to take over the job hosting “Celebrity Apprentice” after NBC severed ties with him following his campaign-trail comments about Mexican immigrants, according to one person who spoke to the president about the matter.
OpEdNews, Jonathan Simon on Voting Counts, Joan Brunwasser, Feb. 2, 2017. My guest today is Jonathan Simon, election integrity activist, co-founder of Election Defense Alliance and author of Code Red: Computerized Election Theft and The New American Century. We haven't talked much since the election. You recently posted "Donald Trump Warned of a Rigged Election . . . Was He Right?"Where would you like to start?
Trump plans a "major investigation" into the "voter fraud" that he says cost him a popular-vote victory. . . Now, just about every morning greets us with some new depravity, but this one is particularly rich. He's going to find the millions of illegals that took it upon themselves individually to complete voter registration forms or impersonate their neighbors or dead people (and one can already hear the shoulder joints popping as arms are twisted to find them or else), but at the same time he (and the Republicans in control of the electoral apparatus) blocked every attempt to look into the concealed, computerized counting process that produced the razor-thin swing state victories that overrode the popular vote and put him in office.
Poltico, Maryland judge dismisses Melania Trump's libel suit against Daily Mail, Josh Gerstein, Feb. 2, 2017. A judge has dismissed a libel suit First Lady Melania Trump filed in Maryland last year over a Daily Mail online article that suggested she worked as an "escort" years ago in her native Slovenia. Montgomery County Circuit Judge Sharon Burrell accepted arguments that the Mail's "Mail Media" U.S. affiliate had too few ties to Maryland to be sued there. She also said there was no indication that production of the offending story had anything to do with the state.
The article the Mail published last August discussed Melania Trump's modeling career and the then-recent publication of nude photos of her from decades earlier. It also referred to reports in a Slovenian magazine that a modeling firm she worked for was run by someone who also provided escorts.
In September, Trump sued Mail Media and Maryland blogger Webster Tarpley for $150 million over the Mail story and a similar blog post published earlier by Tarpley. During the hearing, Mail lawyer Kelli Sager revealed that the first lady filed a separate suit in a London court over the print edition of the article. That suit names the parent company of the Mail.
Washington Post, Trump to McConnell: ‘Go nuclear’ if Democrats block high court pick, Sean Sullivan, Ed O'Keefe and Karoun Demirjian, Feb. 1, 2017. The president told conservative activists that if Senate Democrats filibuster Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination, Republicans should end a longstanding tradition and change the rules to permit confirmation with a simple majority vote. As his nominee for the Supreme Court embarked Wednesday on his first round of meetings on Capitol Hill, President Trump ramped up pressure on Republican leaders (such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, shown in a Facebook photo) to use all tools at their disposal to confirm him — including tearing up the rules of the Senate if Democrats try blocking Judge Neil Gorsuch.
A partisan battle was underway in the chamber that will decide the fate of Gorsuch, as Republicans rallied around him and some Democrats voiced heavy skepticism. Trump’s comments injected fresh uncertainty into that fight.
Speaking with conservative activists supporting the nomination during a White House meeting as Gorsuch held a series of Senate meetings, Trump said that if the gridlock of recent years persists in the Senate, Republicans should change the rules of the body to permit the confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee with a simple majority vote. “I would say, ‘If you can, Mitch, go nuclear.’ Because that would be an absolute shame if a man of this quality was put up to that neglect. I would say it’s up to Mitch, but I would say, ‘Go for it,’” Trump told reporters at the White House.
Washington Post, Democrats are in real danger of overplaying their hand right now, Aaron Blake, Feb. 1, 2017. President Trump's first 12 days in office have been marked by controversy, division (even among Republicans) and uncertainty. His nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court on Tuesday night was the antithesis of all that. In the 49-year-old Gorsuch, Trump picked a man who by all previous standards checks the boxes of a Supreme Court nominee and would be tough for Democrats to block. (I emphasize by all previous standards, for reasons we'll get to.)
And yet, Democrats are girding for perhaps their biggest fight yet — one that has no guarantee of measurable success and plenty of downside. Put plainly: Democrats don't have much of a hand in Washington right now, and going hard at Gorsuch risks overplaying it.
Washington Post, Senate committee approves 2 Cabinet nominees with no Democrats present, Kelsey Snell, Ed O'Keefe and Sean Sullivan, Feb. 1, 2017. Senate Republicans moved aggressively Wednesday to push through several of Trump’s Cabinet nominees, the latest round in an escalating showdown with Democrats trying to thwart President Trump’s administration. Republicans lashed out angrily at Democrats trying to stall the president’s nominees at the committee level, suspending the rules to push through votes on two nominees, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) for secretary of health and human services and Steven T. Mnuchin (shown with a flag) to lead the Treasury.
The GOP move comes after Democrats walked out of hearings on Tuesday, denying Republicans the necessary votes to approve Trump’s nominees for a vote in the full Senate. Democrats planned to replicate that approach Wednesday to slow consideration of Trump’s pick of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Yesterday, rather than accept anything less than their desired outcome, our Democrat colleagues chose to cower in the hallway and hold a press conference,” Hatch said Tuesday in a statement. Republicans fumed Tuesday after Democrats walked out of the scheduled committee votes and used other committee rules to slow consideration of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) as Attorney General.
There is [nothing] Democrats they can do to prevent final confirmation of any of Trump’s picks but ... focus their energy Wednesday on slowing or disrupting committee action on Trump’s picks to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Justice even as Republicans took s
Trump’s selection of Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court was met with fierce resistance from some Democrats, though it’s unclear whether they will have the 60 votes needed to block his confirmation. Republican leaders said they hoped to vote on Gorsuch in April before the two-week Easter recess.
New York Times, Runner-Up Didn’t Make It to Supreme Court, but He Did Get to Altoona, Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman, Feb. 1, 2017. For Judge Thomas M. Hardiman, the road to the Supreme Court ended in Altoona. This week’s high court runner-up — who helped pay for his education by driving a cab — drove east from his office in Pittsburgh shortly after noon on Tuesday, just as White House officials were whispering that he was heading toward Washington to an “Apprentice”-style finale with Judge Neil Gorsuch where President Trump would announce his first Supreme Court pick.
Around the Nation
CNN, Berkeley protests of Yiannopoulos caused $100,000 in damage, Madison Park and Kyung Lah, Feb. 1, 2017. Protests that erupted at UC Berkeley ahead of a planned Wednesday appearance by right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos caused $100,000 worth of damage to the campus, the school said Thursday. The university blamed "150 masked agitators" for the unrest, saying they had come to campus to disturb an otherwise peaceful protest.
Two Berkeley College Republicans "were attacked while conducting an interview" on the campus on Thursday, UC Berkeley also said in a prepared statement. The attackers, who were not affiliated with the university, were taken into custody by UC Berkeley police. Administrators decided to cancel the Wednesday event about two hours before the Breitbart editor's speech. UC Berkeley said it removed him from campus "amid the violence and destruction of property and out of concern for public safety."
Black-clad protesters wearing masks threw commercial-grade fireworks and rocks at police. Some even hurled Molotov cocktails that ignited fires. They also smashed windows of the student union center on the Berkeley campus where the Yiannopoulos event was to be held. At least six people were injured. Some were attacked by the agitators -- who are a part of an anarchist group known as the "Black Bloc" that has been causing problems in Oakland for years, said Dan Mogulof, UC Berkeley spokesman.
More than 1,500 protesters had gathered at Sproul Plaza, chanting and holding signs that read: "No safe space for racists" and "This is war." The violent protesters tore down metal barriers, set fires near the campus bookstore and damaged the construction site of a new dorm. One woman wearing a red Trump hat was pepper sprayed in the face while being interviewed by CNN affiliate KGO. She was able to respond that she was OK after the attack.
As the scene spiraled out of control, university police warned protesters to disperse and issued a lockdown for campus buildings. "We condemn in the strongest possible terms the violence and unlawful behavior that was on display and deeply regret that those tactics will now overshadow the efforts to engage in legitimate and lawful protest against the performer's presence and perspectives," UC Berkeley said in a statement.
"While Yiannopoulos' views, tactics and rhetoric are profoundly contrary to our own, we are bound by the Constitution, the law, our values and the campus's Principles of Community to enable free expression across the full spectrum of opinion and perspective," it stated.
As police dispersed the crowd from campus, a remaining group of protesters moved into downtown Berkeley and smashed windows at several local banks. No arrests were made throughout the night.
Baylor Lariat, Baylor Bruins speak out after recent lawsuit alleges 52 rapes, Kalyn Story, Feb. 1, 2017. The lawsuit alleges that 31 Baylor football players committed at least 52 acts of rape, including five gang rapes, between 2011 and 2014. In a Wall Street Journal article from October 2016, Baylor regents said they were aware of 17 reports of sexual assault against 19 football players, including four gang rapes, since 2011.
After a former Baylor Bruin filed a lawsuit Friday against the university suing for Title IX violations and negligence, other former Bruins have spoken out detailing different experiences they had as Bruins.
The lawsuit, filed by Elizabeth Doe, claims Baylor had a “show ’em a good time” recruiting policy, which included making Baylor Bruins available for sex with recruits, taking recruits to strip clubs, recruiting based on implied promises of sex and using alcohol and drugs in the recruiting process.
Baylor alumna Ashton Bremer was a Bruin at the time the lawsuit alleges the “show ‘em a good time” policy was used and said her experiences were nothing like the ones described in the lawsuit.
“I’m not saying that anybody lied about what happened, but I know that that year I was a Bruin and my best friends were Bruins and we were never even, nothing like that was even insinuated,” Bremer said.
Bremer said the Bruins had weekly meetings where all rules were reiterated, rules like not allowing recruits to take anything out of the recruiting room — not even a pen, which she said could be considered a gift from the university.
The lawsuit alleges that 31 Baylor football players committed at least 52 acts of rape, including five gang rapes, between 2011 and 2014. In a Wall Street Journal article from October 2016, Baylor regents said they were aware of 17 reports of sexual assault against 19 football players, including four gang rapes, since 2011.
The lawsuit describes the Bruins as “a football ‘hostess’ program with the purpose of using attractive female students to escort recruits and their families to campus events and football games on official visits to Baylor.”
Tenley Gummelt was a Baylor Bruin in 2011 and made a Facebook post expressing her gratitude to the Bruins and confidence in the organization’s integrity.
“Point blank, the women involved with Baylor Gold and Baylor Bruins were held to a high standard, and were expected to behave above reproach, during their time in and out of the organization,” Gummelt wrote in her Facebook post. “The things being described in that article are horrendous, and would never have been encouraged by the leaders of those organizations.”
Baylor interim President David Garland sent a statement to the Baylor community on Saturday night outlining the changes Baylor has made in response to the sexual assault allegations.
“Our hearts are heavy at the thought of anyone experiencing sexual assault within our community,” Garland wrote. “Any such acts are reprehensible and unacceptable. The university remains committed to eliminating all forms of sexual and gender-based harassment and discrimination within our community.”
The Baylor Bruins social media pages have not been active since 2015. On Baylor’s website under student organizations, the Baylor Bruins link diverts to the Baylor Alumni Network page.
“Baylor had an unofficial policy of looking the other way when there was sexual intercourse between the Bruins and the football players,” the lawsuit claims, which is against Baylor’s student code of conduct which does not condone sex outside of marriage.
“It was suggested that we did things that I certainly didn’t do and I know my friends didn’t do, so I was really kind of shocked by that,” Bremer said. “It [dragged] our name through the mud, so that infuriated me.”
Us Weekly, First Lady Melania Trump May Stay in NYC Permanently and Never Move Into the White House, Staff report, Feb. 1, 2017. President Donald Trump may have 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue all to himself. Though Donald, 70, and his wife Melania announced in November that the first lady would relocate from New York City to Washington D.C. once their 10-year-old son Barron finished up the school year, a family insider reveals in the new issue of Us Weekly that may not happen. "They will reevaluate toward the end of the school year if they will keep this arrangement or if Melania and Barron will move to Washington," says the source. "They could go either way right now. They will ultimately do what's best for Barron." Find out more in the video above, and detailed below.
Though living 200 miles apart is unprecedented for a president and first lady, it suits the fiercely independent Donald just fine. When ABC News anchor David Muir asked January 25 if not having Melania, 46, or Barron around left him feeling lonely, he responded, "No, because I end up working longer. And that's OK."
Mother Jones, Trump on Black History Month: Frederick Douglass "Has Done an Amazing Job," Inae Oh, Feb. 1, 2017. He also praised Omarosa. During a listening session at the White House to honor Black History Month on Wednesday, President Donald Trump praised Frederick Douglass, who died in 1895, as "somebody who's done an amazing job" and whose work is "being recognized more and more." The remarks immediately called into question whether the president knew who the abolitionist actually was.
Washington Post, Trump administration says it’s putting Iran ‘on notice’ following missile test, Karen DeYoung, Feb. 1, 2017. The Trump administration said Wednesday it was “officially putting Iran on notice” that it is paying attention to what it called “defiance” of nuclear agreements with its test launch of a ballistic missile. The launch, along with Tuesday’s attack by Houthi rebels on a Saudi warship off the coast of Yemen, “underscore what should have been clear to the international community all along about Iran’s destabilizing behavior across the Middle East,” said Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s national security adviser.
Flynn read the Iran statement at the regular White House press briefing and did not take questions. In his first media appearance since the inauguration, Flynn recalled that Trump during his campaign criticized the nuclear deal — negotiated by the Obama administration with world powers, Iran and the United Nations — “as being weak and ineffective.”
“Instead of being thankful to the United States for these agreements,” he said, “Iran now feels emboldened.” The brief statement, calling the missile launch “provocative,” did not outline any actions the administration intends to take. Iran’s launch Sunday of a medium-range Khorramshahr missile ended in failure, with the missile reportedly traveling about 600 miles before exploding in the air.
In a Tehran news conference Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif did not confirm the launch but said that “the missile issue is not part of the nuclear deal.” Iranian missiles are “not designed for the capability of carrying a nuclear warhead,” he said. “Our ballistic missile was designed to carry a normal warhead in the field of legitimate defense.” The agreement, which took effect a year ago, prohibits development of ballistic missiles as part of a nuclear weapons program that the accord was designed to prevent. Differences of opinion on whether the launch is a violation of the agreement rest on interpretation of the strength of the nuclear deal and of Iran’s intentions.
Washington Post, On call with Australian prime minister, Trump badgers and brags, Greg Miller and Philip Rucker, Feb. 1, 2017. ‘This was the worst call by far’: Trump badgered, bragged and abruptly ended phone call with Australian leader. President Trump blasted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refugee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials.
About 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump suddenly ended it. At one point, Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladimir Putin — and that “this was the worst call by far.”
“This is the worst deal ever,” Trump fumed as Turnbull attempted to confirm that the United States would honor its pledge to take in 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center. Australia is seen as such a trusted ally that it is one of only four countries that the United States includes in the “Five Eyes” arrangement for cooperation on espionage matters. Members share extensively what their intelligence services gather and generally refrain from spying on one another.
Washington Post, Senate confirms Rex Tillerson to become secretary of state, Anne Gearan, Feb. 1, 2017. The confirmation places an oil executive at the helm of what President Trump has promised will be an “America first” foreign policy. The 56-43 vote announcements of support from three Republicans who previously expressed reservations about Tillerson (shown in a file photo).
Roll Call, GOP Leaders Move to Shore Up Shaky DeVos Nomination, Jason Dick, Feb. 1, 2017. Education nominee moves up in the floor queue. Senate Republican leaders scrambled the floor schedule Wednesday to shore up the shaky nomination of Betsy DeVos to be Education secretary, after two of their colleagues said they could not support her. “I was trying to get to yes. I couldn’t,” said Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who moments of earlier joined Susan Collins of Maine in telling their colleagues on the Senate floor that they would vote no on DeVos’ nomination.
With the 52-48 partisan breakdown of the Senate, the loss of Murkowski and Collins meant that, assuming all other Republicans supported DeVos, Vice President Mike Pence could break a 50-50 tie and confirm her. However, GOP plans to consider the nomination of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions to be attorney general got in the way. After the Senate dispensed with the expected confirmation of Rex Tillerson to be secretary of State, Republican leaders were expected to turn to Sessions next, whose nomination was approved 11-9 by the Judiciary Committee earlier Wednesday.
But if Sessions were confirmed, as expected, then that would have put Republicans down one senator. The loss of the Murkowski and Collins votes meant DeVos might have only been able to garner 49 votes, meaning her nomination would have fallen, 49-50.
Washington Post, Eli Broad, billionaire philanthropist and charter school backer, urges senators to oppose DeVos, Emma Brown, Feb. 1, 2017. Eli Broad, a billionaire philanthropist from California and major backer of charter schools, is urging senators to oppose the nomination of Betsy DeVos as education secretary, saying that she is unqualified for the job.
Raw Story, Reuters orders reporters to cover Trump like an authoritarian regime: Expect ‘physical threats,’ David Edwards, Feb. 1, 2017. The Reuters news agency this week recognized the challenges of covering Donald Trump’s presidency by comparing it to authoritarian regimes like Egypt, Yemen and China. “It’s not every day that a U.S. president calls journalists ‘among the most dishonest human beings on earth’ or that his chief strategist dubs the media ‘the opposition party’,” Reuters Editor-in-Chief Steve Adler wrote in a message to staff on Tuesday. “It’s hardly surprising that the air is thick with questions and theories about how to cover the new Administration.”
Politico, White House ices out CNN, Hadas Gold, Jan. 31, 2017. Trump administration refuses to put officials on air on the network the president called 'fake news.' A CNN reporter, speaking on background, was more blunt: The White House is trying to punish the network and force down its ratings. “They’re trying to cull CNN from the herd,” the reporter said.
Administration officials are still answering questions from CNN reporters. But administration officials including White House press secretary Sean Spicer (shown in a file photo) and senior counselor Kellyanne Conway haven't appeared on the network's programming in recent weeks.
(Update: On Wednesday, the day after this article was published, the White House made Dr. Sebastian Gorka, a Deputy Assistant to the President for national security available for an interview.)
Spicer, speaking at an event at The George Washington University on Monday, denied that CNN is being frozen out, pointing out that he’s answered CNN’s questions in the regular daily briefings. But, he added "I'm not going to sit around and engage with people who have no desire to actually get something right."